PR Hacks - 50's Style Shirt Dress


After a month's hiatus I've got another hacking article posted over on Pattern Review. Sometimes a girl has to take a month off to sew 3 Easter dresses, you know how it is. The April post features a 50's style shirt dress hack based on McCalls 6891. In the article I talk about how to convert set in sleeves to kimono sleeves and how to redraw the neckline. Nice thing about this hack is that you can mix and match either one of those new design elements with the original pattern. You can even switch up the skirt portion for a slightly different look. Ahh shirt dresses, they are the best.  If you'd like one too then hop on over to the PR blog and read up.  

Taming the Lime Leopard


In March I had one of those fabric buying binges brought on by thoughts of Spring/Summer clothing. My stash busting spreadsheet assured me that this is an annual occurrence. Once florals and hawaiian prints start popping up I get all weak at the knees and scream,"Take my money!"  Even so there was a certain amount of guilt about adding almost 15 yards of fabric to the stash in the space of the month. What to do, what to do?  Maybe sew up some old stash into transitional clothing? Sounds like a plan. I even doubled down and choose one of the patterns that was in my "to sew" January post. Namely the Du Barry wrap blouse. Good blogger, you get all the cookies.
The Du Barry blouse was another one of those 32" bust patterns that I just "had to have" even though I'm a 36" bust.  Grading never seems easier than when you're pushing the purchase button on Etsy. But when it comes time to do the grading work I feel like a complete fraud. "Don't know what I'm doing, tra la la la la. Look over there instead." So after pulling out the pattern I waited for the usual sense of panic and dread to overtake me. Instead my brain said, "Hey we just graded that whole Hollywood pattern and it turned out fine. Just do the same thing knucklehead." It was then that I realized that maybe, just maybe, I wasn't a fraud but had learned to do a pretty good 4" grade. Huzzah!

 Incase you're wondering what my personal grading steps are I'll break out for you.
1. Trace the pattern...of course.

2. Since I'm pear shaped 1/2" is added to the waist and hip area along the side seam. In the case of 40's skirts I usually add that extra 1/2" of width down the whole length.

3. For pattern pieces on the quarter, I draw 3 grading lines and slash the spread the pattern. Two of the lines are spread 3/8" and the third is spread a 1/4".  (Was pretty pleased with myself for remembering the front blouse on this pattern is not on the quarter and needed to be slashed and spread 2".)

4. Finally I add 1/2" of extra height to the pattern along the shoulder and neckline. If there's some sort of attached neck facing, like on the Hollywood blouse, I usually walk the pattern on the seamline to see how much extra length is needed.

At this point I'll make any standard fitting adjustments for my figure and then sew a muslin.  Usually the muslin fits pretty decently and I can tinker with seam placement, lengths, etc.  The Du Barry wrap blouse was an easy fitting job since the shoulder pleats give you plenty of bust room and the tie makes the waist width easily adjustable. After the first muslin all that needed to be done was remove some of the height from the sleeve caps. Those babies were impossible to ease in without puckers.
For the fabric I choose some silk crepe de chine that had been in the stash for a couple of years. Sewing pleats in silk wasn't exactly my idea of a good time, but froggie and I got through it with a minor amount of ripping. We also learned from past mistakes and hand sewed the neckline bias binding on out of the gate. Better to do the hand stitching first thing then after you've ripped out your machine stitches 3 times. A person could go leopard blind doing a thing like that.

Du Barry 5510, blouse portion only.

Fabrics used
Silk Crepe de Chine from the stash.

Pattern changes/alterations
1. Graded the pattern up from a 32 bust to a 36 bust.

2. Did standard 1/2" forward shoulder adjustment to the shoulder and sleeve cap

3. Reduced the sleeve cap height by 1/2" because they seemed to have too much ease to set properly.

- I said on my instagram feed that this isn't a blouse made for raising your arms. Even with an at waist skirt any upward arm movement results in some bare midriff.

- The downside of a silk wrap blouse is that the ties starts to loosen as you wear it.  I haven't had a wardrobe malfunction, but do need to retie the blouse during the day.

- Put 1/4" shoulder pads in this because I've been brainwashed by the 40's into worrying about droopy shoulders.

- In case you were wondering how does this particular wrap blouse wrap, then here's a handy illustration from the instructions.
The pattern has a short tie and a long tie, the short tie goes on the blouse half that crosses in front. On the other blouse half the long tie comes out of a hole you leave in the side seam, wraps around the back and ties to the short tie.

Husband Comment
"Never seen a green leopard before but it's silky and nice."

My Final Thoughts
Despite my confession about the length occasionally causing accidental bare midriff, I've worn this blouse every week since finishing it. It just feels so elegant in both style and fabrication.  Figure I need to add a pair of high waisted trousers and high waisted skirt into the sewing list. Then I can pair them with this blouse and wave my hands in the air like I just don't care. Cause I won't because my hats are too fabulous. ;) Have a great friends. Next time we "talk" I'll have a dress that's refreshing as a tall glass of lemonade. Mmm delicious.

Stash Busting April Theme - Facing your Fabric Fears


This month I'm the hosting the Stash busting sew-a-long group theme which is "Facing your Fabric Fears." I guess this means I better pull the tricky fabric bin out of the back of the stash cave. At least froggie will get to sleep in silk all month.

For those of you who may not know the Stash busting sew-a-long group was created as a support group of sorts for those of us who felt overwhelmed by our stashes. We wanted a way to motivate ourselves to sew out of the stash instead of constantly buying new fabric.  We have a monthly theme to get the creative juices flowing but you can sew whatever you want.  Here's a link to our facebook group if you feel like joining the party.

To start off the month put together a list of tips and links to helpful tutorials for all the stereotypical tricky fabrics.

- Stiffen light weight silk fabrics, like chiffon and georgette, before cutting. My favorite method is soaking the fabric in gelatin solution as described in this Threads article. This does take a little pre-planning since the fabric will need time to dry before cutting.  What I like to do is mix up my gelation solution and put it and the fabric into a rubbermaid dish pan. (A bucket or the kitchen sink would also work fine.) After letting the fabric soak for an hour, I take it out and roll it in a towel to get rid of the extra water. Then the fabric is put on a drying rack to dry overnight. After the fabric is dry it can be pressed on low heat if any wrinkles happened during drying. Then you're ready to cut

- Cut silk out in a "paper sandwich." You've probably heard this before and I'm here to tell you that it does make a BIG difference.  Let's not talk about the time I decided to cut georgette without disaster. Grainline Studios has a nice tutorial on how she cuts using this technique. I do it the same way other than using the floor and a roll of Kraft paper. Use the sharpest set of shears you have to make everything go as smooth as possible.

- Use a new sharp needle.  You don't want to accidentally snag your fabric just because your needle's gone dull. Also make sure you're using the right size needle for your fabric weight.

- Empty out the water in your iron and use a pressing cloth. Don't take the chance of your ironing peeing all over your silk project. A press cloth is another great way of protecting your fabric.  Silk organza is my personal favorite pressing clothing because you can see through it while pressing.

- Pre-wash, pre-wash, pre-wash because rayon will shrink like nobody's business.

- Give yourself some cutting help.  Cutting rayon isn't as tricky as silk, but using some of the silk techniques can keep you from getting wonky pattern pieces.  Personally I like to stiffen rayon up with some spray starch and then cut it laying on some paper.

- Let it hang before you hem it. I've had more wonky hemlines with rayon than anything else so let it drop before doing all your hand sewing work.

- Choose a plaid line for all your matching. When I start cutting a plaid project first I mark all my pattern pieces with a horizontal like in this Grainline Studio post.  That way I know all my vertical plaid will match up as long as I place them on the same plaid line.

- When cutting pieces that are mirror images use the first to help line up the plaid on the second. For example my pattern has two back skirts to cut.  When cutting the first pattern piece I use my plaid line mark and straight of grain to line up the pattern. Then when I cut the second piece I flip the first piece on top of the pattern and use that to help line up the plaid.

- Sew with a walking foot to help match plaid along the seams.

- Get yourself some clips to use instead of pins. You can go high end and buy some Clover Wonder Clips or be cheap like me and buy some small binder clips.

- Use a leather needle and 100% polyester thread. You don't want to worry about cotton thread deteriorating on your leather project.

- Teflon or roller feet are great for sewing leather because they don't stick to the hide. You can also put some scotch tape on the bottom of a regular foot to keep it from sticking.

- Use a hammer to help flatten any seams or darts that you don't want to topstitch flat.

- Double sided tape is helpful for positioning things like zippers on welt pockets.

- The By Hand London blog put together a very comprehensive post on working with sequined fabric. Thinking I should don some safety goggles and finally sew the black sequin yardage in the stash.

- We just finished up a knits themed month in the group and Heather D rounded up a lot of great tips. Here's a link to her blog posts.

- I think of my pal Gillian as "The queen of knits." Her Lazy tips for sewing knits series is great of any newbies out there.

- Get yourself a self healing mat and a rotary cutter to make cutting out knits a breeze.

- I also highly recommend buying yourself a serger if you really like working with knits. My personal machine is the fairly economical priced Brother 104D. I've been using mine for several years and it's probably the most dependable machine in my sewing room.

That's all the tips and tricks I've run across in my personal experience. How about you guys? Do you have any great tips you like to share? Leave them in the comments section and I will have Froggie collate them for everyone's benefit.

Rosey Easter Dress


Well hello there, I blinked my eyes and suddenly the month of March was just about over. Must have been some sort of Easter candy induced coma.  My love for things coated in chocolate has no bounds other than my now too tight clothing.

Between scarfing down egg shaped treats, I got to work sewing up this year's Easter dress.  You might remember that there were two pattern contenders, Hollywood 1159 and Simplicity 4958. Well I got super cocky and decided to muslin both patterns. Then threw them in a ring and let the dresses battle it out for I mean easy sewability?  The Simplicity pattern won by not needing any sort of major alterations and by flashing it's curved sleeve hem at me. Oooo pattern eye candy, Momma likes.
There's not too much to say about this this project because it was pretty much smooth sailing from start to finish.  The bodice of the dress has V shaped waist darts that radiate from the CF and the back is gathered at the waist instead of darted. This results in a semi fitted top that cinches in at the waist and then flows out in a narrow 4 paneled A-line skirt. All of that was easy to fit and assemble.
Most of my sewing time was spent is getting smooth curves on the neckline and sleeve areas. Usually I mark my own guidelines for scallops, but this pattern helpfully included them on all the facing pattern pieces. All I had to do was transfer the punch outs onto the fabric and get stitching.
Since a strong shoulder was such a big part of a fashionable silhouette in the 40's pretty much every pattern calls for shoulder pads. This sometimes gives me 80's flashbacks of the terrifying kind. NOOOO, linebacker shoulders everywhere!!!  Right now I'm making the shoulder pad decision on a pattern by pattern basis. On this dress I did end up adding 1/2" pads because the semi fitted bodice needed a big shoulder to anchor the blousines of the design. At least that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Simplicity 4958

Fabrics used
Cotton Sateen from the Gertie/JoAnn's line from 2015. I noticed she has this fabric for sale in her Etsy shop now if you're dying to have some. I enjoyed sewing sewing it and wouldn't make padding my stash with a bit more.

Pattern changes/alterations
1. Bumped out the waist and hip 1/2" for my larger lower half

2. Made my standard 1/2" forward shoulder adjustment to the shoulder and sleeve.

3. Dropped the bust dart 1".

Nothing to disclose on this project other than this rose pattern placement being entirely accidental. I loooove it.

Husband Comment
"Hey pretty rose covered lady, I like your sleeves."

My Final Thoughts
These photos don't really do the dress justice. It was one of those days where the sun piercing my eyeballs threw off all the picture taking mojo. This dress makes me feel pretty and comfortable, but I didn't feel that translated into these pics. Next time I bring some sunglasses and pick a different location that isn't a bunch of uneven steps. Future goals right? To sum it all up, enjoyable vintage pattern to sew/wear, cotton sateen is still my favorite fabric of all time, and shoulder pads are sometimes good.  See you guys in April!

Vintage Pledge #1 - Hollywood 1032


After much blathering on about this pattern for many posts, I'm pleased to unveil my finished Hollywood 1032.  Not in red, as previously discussed, but PLAID! A lady has the prerogative to change her mind after all.
After "discovering" that Hollywood 1032 was drafted to be a blouse and skirt instead of a suit, I still wanted a jacket like feel to the blouse. Exactly how to do this didn't cross my mind until stumbling across this plaid cotton shirting. "Perfect!" I thought, "This totally reads as jackety blouse to me."

Perfect except for two things
1. The back peplum was impossible to plaid match along the side seams. If I'd started cutting with that pattern piece it probably could have been managed. Of course I started with the front like I always do because that's the area you really don't want to mess up.

2. Elbow darts and plaid are not the best mix. This honestly didn't even cross my mind until the blouse was done and I hung it on a hanger.  Ooops, weird biased plaid at the bottom of the sleeves, too late to fix that now.

But whatever, I'd probably do it again because plaid is awesome and I really like this outfit.
This was my first time sewing an unprinted pattern and it went pretty well.  Transferring pattern pieces to new paper is a bit tricky because they are hard to see through the paper. Then I got some good advice off of Instagram to put dark paper behind the patterns. What a difference this makes! You still need to do some "pattern braille" for the darts/other punch outs but it works wonders for everything else.
The pattern illustration compared to the actual drafting was mostly accurate. The only glaring difference was that the peplum length was drafted to be much shorter than drawn.  I added an 1" of length to make it match up to the illustration and because that's more flattering for my figure.  Sewing wise this one was easy to whip up after all that waffling over fabric.  I'd definitely buy more Hollywood patterns in the future. :)

Hollywood 1032

Fabrics used
Stashed Plaid cotton shirting - Originally from Fabrics and Trimmings on Etsy
Stretch wool suiting maybe from EOS.

Pattern changes/alterations
1. Graded the size 32" bust up to a 36" bust.  I used the same 4" grade described here. This worked for all the pieces other than extending the collar that becomes the back facing. Here I lucked out and was able to properly guess how much to add thanks to some notches.
BTW - It's interesting how extending the front facing and collar up to finish the back of the neck in this manner was a pretty standard drafting technique in the past.  Now it's something we only do for if there's a wrap around collar.

2. Added standard 1/2" forward shoulder adjustment to the shoulder and sleeve head.

3. Dropped the bust dart 1".

4. Added a scant 1/4" to the bottom part of the princess line seam. The placement didn't look proportionally correct on my body without it.

5. Shortened the waist length 1/2" above peplum.

6. Added 1" additional length to the peplum.

1. Don't forget about your elbow darts when you pull out a plaid. Derp.

2. Confession - I might be addicted to hug a snug and need an intervention.  It's something I'd never ever bought until the Veronica coat and now I can't stop putting it on hems. But see, so pretty.

3. I also covered shoulder pads with self fabric for the first time. All the pretty insides!

Husband Comment
"Are you going to a fancy business meeting?"  Why yes, I like to meet my donuts at the boardroom before eating them.

My Final Thoughts
Great start to my Vintage Pledge year.  I like the silhouette of both of the pieces and love that I can mix the skirt with various other tops. This should be the last "winterish" project for awhile. Look forward to lots of flora patterns in the future.

Official Vintage Pledge


Hello everyone, thanks so much for all your kind comments on McCall's 6800. The red coat is already in high rotation in the wardrobe.  I love it when modern patterns fit right in with my vintage or vintage inspired pieces. Speaking of vintage sewing, it's time for me to officially declare my vintage pledge for 2016.  Gotta have your goals written down....mostly because mommy brain seems to be a condition that you never fully recover from.

During 2016, I Heather Beckley, pledge to sew up 5 vintage patterns. This includes vintage re-issues and "true" vintage patterns.

Back in January I posted a list of three 40's era patterns to sew this year and have made a small bit of progress on that front.  So far Hollywood Patterns 1032 has been successfully graded and muslined.
 I hit a snag after realizing the fabric I'd had in mind would be too thick to work with the pattern. I'd been thinking "suit jacket" when the pattern was thinking "blouse".  Probably because the pattern envelope clearly said blouse. Ha haa, Reading!  Anyway, the blouse portion has finally been started in real fabric so you "should" see that sometime in March.

This week I've also belatedly realized that Easter is in March this year. Curses, already behind on any Easter dress sewing. Why was I not born a natural planner? Oh well, surely my speedy sewing skills can overcome any planning inadequacies. With that cocky attitude I purchased both of these dress patterns yesterday because sometimes you can't choose.
Both of these are already in my bust size so I'll only need to bump out the bottom half a bit. Seems like finishing at least one of them for Easter is doable. Cross your fingers for me. :)

Lady in Red - McCalls 6800


Ooooo what's this? Did someone finally wrestle her startitus into submission and finish something? By Grabthar's hammer I Did!  It took a lot of cookie eating, muttering crazily to myself and putting on my "Big Girl Decision Making Pants." One does need bigger pants after so many cookies.
My startitus trouble was caused by the inability to choose fashion fabric. After the muslin stage I hit a wall trying to figure out what fabric to use, get frustrated and start a new project. Then multiply that process a few more times. This problem was a new one to me because Past Heather would have solved it by shopping for more fabric. It's not that new fabric purchases are banned around here or anything. It's just that I've been trying to rifle through the stash first to make sure there isn't something appropriate. Then it seemed like it was always too much trouble to actually go look in the stash. My husband was sleeping the room or it was only 10 minutes until it was time to pick up Des or I felt too tired to pull everything out.  Those of you without dedicated sewing areas know how it is.
In the case of this project, McCall's 6800, I did know exactly what fabric to use but there wasn't quiet enough yardage. I must have spent a week and a half thinking of all the different ways to squeeze this pattern out of 4 yards.

1. Shorten the skirt length like I did on Butterick 5824.
2. Buy some faux fur to use on the collar, hem and cuffs.
3. Switch to the funnel neck option and sew the short version offered in the pattern.

All good options, unless you get stubborn and decide the coat must be sewn like you imagined it. Not living up to being a stereotypical Taurus, not at all.  Anyway, I inconvenienced everyone else in the house by putting 4 yards of 60" coating on the floor and spending a few hours working my cutting layout tetris. "No you can not have any food while I do this. The kitchen is closed....literally because I've blocked the way with fabric."

Aided by the fact that this wool coating doesn't have a visible nap, I rotated all the side fronts/backs in the opposite direction to the middle fronts/backs. Being able to nest the pieces with large skirt sweeps together freed up a lot of yardage. After that the only piece that wouldn't fit was the facings. Being so close to victory I decided to piece the facings together at the waist thereby using the two small chunks of yardage that was left. Voila, my stubbornness paid off. "HA HA! I Told You I'd Make It Work," I yelled at nobody in particular. Des just sighed and asked if he could finally have a snack now. (He'd eaten 4 things in the previous hour so don't feel sorry for him. He's got his mother's "must always be foraging" genes.)
Now that I've woven my tale of fabric cutting drama let's talk about McCall's 6800 a bit. This is one of those patterns that popped up on my radar after seeing some FO's appear on the internet. My interest was peaked enough to go have a gander at the technical drawings and Holy Cow this is Big 4 patterning done right.

1. Pattern Comes With A Two Piece Sleeve! Granted coat patterns with one piece sleeves might be my own personal pet peeve instead of a conspiracy of lazy drafting. Seriously though it's better drafting for outerwear meant to be sewn in a heavy weight fabric.

2. Collar and Hem Options Huzzah! This is the sort of thing that fills me with goodwill towards a pattern. When you're working from the block these sort of variations don't take too long to draft. But if I was trying to reverse engineer a coat with lapels to higher neckline it would be a total pain in the ass.

3. Additional Design elements. Just having the various collars and hems was swell but they didn't stop there. The pattern also comes with a button in hood or faux fur collar and a belt option. Good on you McCall's, this pattern is stuffed with ways to customize your coat.

I do have two very minor niggles about the pattern. The first is that the pocket bags are very shallow. I subbed in the ones from Butterick 5824 since they were perfect.  The second is that the button placement might be a bit too far apart.  I say might because I'm not 100% sure that my button choice isn't to blame. Anyway both of these "problems" are easy to fix and do not detract from my obvious love of the pattern.
My version is mostly View B. Instead of the waterfall hemline the straight hemline from View D was swapped in.  I also decided to put the pockets in the side seam area instead of using the front princess line seam. The pattern marks pocket placement in both locations, so that's easy peasy. You'll see in the review area that I also lucked out and didn't have to do many fitting alterations on my muslin. In fact the only Oops moment was not accounting for the weight of the skirt changing the fit around the waist.  My muslin fit perfectly, but in the heavier wool that area had lot more ease than I was looking for. This would have been slightly less of an aggravation if the lining hadn't already been sewn closed. Derp.  In these photos the side seams have been taken in about 1.25".  Afterwards I went back and took in the CB seam about 1" and moved that top button a bit.

McCall's 6800 Model is like, "I can't hear you over my sassy coat."

Fabrics used
Italian Wool Flannel coating originally from Gorgeous Fabrics. I bought mine in 2013 but they seem to stock it regularly every year. This is the same coating that I used for both Butterick 5824 and the Ottobre coat I made for my sister.

Rayon/Acetate Lining. Also a stashed GF purchase but they seem to have it/something like it still in stock.

Pattern changes/alterations
1. Blended together sizes 16 and 18.
2. Made my standard 1/2" forward shoulder adjustment to both the shoulder and sleeve.
3. Took in the back 1" spread evenly between the side back seams.

My on the fly alteration of the waist was to curve in the seam just at the waist area.  I took a total of 1.25" out at each side seam and 1" out of the CB seam.

- If you're using a medium weight wool like me I'd suggest fitting the muslin very close to the waist. The weight of the skirt will pull the waist area out giving you more ease.

- If you don't sew muslins then don't be like me and do a final fit check after sewing the bottom of the lining to the coat. You know so you don't have to rip up a bunch of hand sewing to take in some side seams.

- I am wearing a petticoat in these pictures to fluff the skirt out a bit. The coat does look nice sans petticoat but I forgot to take any pictures.

Husband Comment
"Hey princess, I like all your seams." Then he grabbed the lapels and folded them up towards my neck and asked why there wasn't a button there to secure them.  I think he must have been sneakily staring at the technical flats.
P.S - We had a disagreement that my scarves wouldn't fill in the neckline area.  Feast your eyes on the photographic evidence Steve. ;)

My Final Thoughts
You already know I think the pattern is pretty great. Lots of design options, great drafting, you can buy it on sale right now for 3.99 on the McCall's website. The only downside might be the amount of yardage you need for the longer view. If you don't have 5+ yards of coating in your stash, Gorgeous Fabrics does have all the Italian Wool Flannel Coating on sale right now for $15.00 a yard. I'm sure Fabric Mart has some even better deals on coating if you do a bit of browsing.  And with that I will stop being an enabler and leave you with the sort of twirling picture necessary when full skirts are involved. Until next time my friends.
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