Photo Tutorial - Reinforcing underarm gussests with silk organza


Warning - this post is only going to appeal to some of you.  If underarm gussets are something you're never gonna sew, then mark this post as read and we'll talk fun things later. Fun things like cake, or Froggie, or eating cake with Froggie.

OK then, I'm assuming that those of you who have stuck around are wild about gussets. After all having a better range of motion in a kimono sleeve is something to smile about.
Sewing gussets is a bit of a different story. Like fly front zippers, my brain refuses to remember all the sewing steps no matter how many times I've sewn them. The directions on the Advance pattern were a bit vague, so I cracked open a few sewing books to refresh my memory.

The book I ended up using was Gertie's original text "Gertie's new book for better sewing." Her steps included using silk organza to reinforce the seam.  I had silk organza, gussets and a camera, so I took some pictures of the process. I'm not inventing anything here, just providing a pictorial overview of the steps.  As a visual learner I though it might be helpful to others who learn the same way.

Sewing Gussets with Silk Organza
For reference - My pictures correspond with steps 5 and 6 of the Wiggle Dress pattern.

Step 1.  Mark the gusset stitch and slash lines on your bodice.  Note -You'll be sewing the silk organza to the right side of the fabric. 90% of the time you'll be transferring the sewing lines onto the right side of the fabric as well. On my project I ended up putting my marks on the wrong side because of the black background. (My chalk was hiding that day.)

Step 2.  Cut out a piece of silk organza that is a bit larger than the gusset area. Pin it over the marked lines on the right side of the fabric.

Step 3.  With a small stitch, stitch directly on top of the marked stitch lines.

Step 4. Slash on the slash line up to the tip of the stitching.

Step 5. On the right side, fold the silk organza towards the slash and press.

Step 6. Draw in the seam allowance on the gusset piece

Step 7. Pin the gusset to the bodice, matching the drawn in stitch line on the gusset with the stitched line on the bodice,

Step 8. Stitch the two pieces together by stitching directly on top of the line stitched in Step 3. Try to keep any wrinkles from getting under the needle while pivoting at the tip of the gusset.

Step 9. If the gusset is pucker free than press it with the seam allowances out like this.

Step 10. Flip the bodice to the right side and edge stitch around the gusset seam.

Step 11. Turn the bodice back to the wrong side and trim the silk organza a little smaller than the seam allowance.

The finished gusset will look like this on the wrong and right sides.

Then you've got to go sew 3 more gussets! I suggest rewarding yourself with chocolate after completing each one. Then when you're all done go have a piece of cake with Froggie. Those calories don't count.

Sewing with the Pattern Stash - The Planned Project, Advance 9441


Let me tell you a little story about a vintage pattern. Back in May of 2010 I was quickly entering the "Jubba the Hut" phase of my pregnancy.  My days were pretty much filled with lounging on flat surfaces, stuffing food in my mouth and dressing Froggie up in golden bikinis. All that was missing was a bug eyed puppet to laugh manically at my witticisms. Should have added that to my baby registry.  Anyway I filled the "non eating/regurgitating that same food" time with melodramatic groaning and surfing the internet. Several sewing blogs were on regular rotation and that is how Advance 9441 waltzed into my life.
Oh hello, just standing around being fabulous. 
Avid readers of Gertie's blog may remember that she made this pattern in 2010 out of some lovely lemon print cotton. Droooool lemon print cotton. I would have happily swiped that dress from her closet, but I was equally taken with the fashion illustration for this pattern. Does the brunette look like Audrey Hepburn or what? You can almost hear her swishing around on that giant skirt. Her crinoline must be magnificent!

If I'd been sewing at that time this pattern would have gone on the top of the "must acquire" list. In reality constant nausea sapped all my creative energy and easy knitting was all that I could mange. Then I got involved with having and feeding a small human and things like getting more than 2 hours of sleep were more important.
Through the years this pattern popped up on Etsy and Ebay semi regularly. It was always either the wrong size or more than I'd like to pay.  The pattern would get favorited and usually be purchased by someone else. Things might have remained that way if  Michelle hadn't posted her version of the dress. Oh My God! This pattern needs to be mine!  After wiping the drool off my keyboard the internet search engines were put to use.  In a twist of good fortune I found Advance 9441 in my bust size AND on sale at the ebay store Vintage4me2. (Great store BTW. They have a nice selection and the customer service is good.) And that my friends, it how this full skirted beauty is now hanging in my closet.
In my excitement of finally owning this pattern, I also acquired 4 years of rayon twill from Black Bird fabrics. Planned project is a go.....except that it sat around for a month while I puttered around with the Butterick coat. Then several other projects got sewn after that. Yeeeeep, this project was well on it's way to stash closet of forgetfulness.  To keep that from happening I made it my planned project stash bust for the month.

The style lines of this pattern are pretty simple, kimono sleeves with gussets and a full paneled skirt. Sewing the gusset area is the only part that needs intermediary sewing skills. I consulted Gertie's first book to refresh my brain on this area. (There will be a separate post about this because I was playing with the new camera.)The rest of the sewing is easy, if time consuming work.  Hemming the skirt took a whole 6 hour audio book.
This was the first time I'd ever sewn with a rayon twill, so here are a few notes about it.
- It is thicker than regular rayon, which makes easier to work with. I did not have to take any special steps, like starching, to cut out the fabric.

- Rayon is still a tricky beast and will make you do some extra basting.  For example I pinned all my waist seam joins before sewing the seam. This technique often works with well behaved fabrics, but with rayon all the joins were 1/8" off after sewing.  I had to pick out the entire seam, baste all the joins and sew the seam with a walking foot. '

- The twill weave is prone to snagging. With the black background it shows as a visible white line. Take extra care handling pinned pieces and try to seam rip from the wrong side of the fabric.

While rayon twill won't suppliant my enduring love of cotton sateen, but I don't regret purchasing it. The print is just divine.  And on that note, let's get to the pattern review.

Advance 9441 (There's a 32 bust and a 36 bust on Etsy at the moment that I'm posting this.)

Fabrics used
Rayon Twill from Black Bird Fabrics. (Still in stock as I post this.)

Pattern changes/alterations
- Dropped the bust dart 1 1/2" and shortened the front waist dart by the same amount.

- Made a 1/2" hollow chest adjustment to the front bodice.

- Lengthened the sleeve 5/8" along the shorten/lengthen line. This put the elbow dart in the correct position.

- Added 5/8" to the side seams since my waist is 30" instead of 28". I could have added less as the full skirt makes the area roomy.

- Increased the back dart intake to 2 1/8".

- Removed 1 1/2" of length off the skirt.

- The fashion illustration would leave one to believe that the hem length of this dress would fall just below the knee.  I'm an average high of 5' 6" and it hit a bit below mid calf.  In addition to the long length, the hem facing on the pattern is a whopping 2.5".  You could easily shave off some yardage reducing these two areas.

- I seem to be having bad luck with necklines lately. The front neck facing does not want to stay inside the dress.

-  Although I love this print of this rayon, it's probably too soft of a fabric for the design. The fabric recommendations included much stiffer fabric such as taffeta and pique. Both the bodice and the skirt could do with a bit more body.

- This skirt could really use two petticoats or one with a lot more volume. At this time I only had the one 35 yard petticoat to pad it out.

Husband Comment
"I like your sleeves. They only go down part way like a baseball players."

My Final Thoughts
Is Advance 9441 everything I'd hoped it would be? YES!!! It's a great kick off for my #vintageplege goal. Even though hand hemming the skirt was a half day marathon, I'd already like another version of this dress. One with the shorter sleeve length to wear during the summer months. Maybe in a lemon print, maybe.

Sewing with the Pattern Stash - The TNT


Confession - This outfit was sewn last month before I'd even given any thought to the this month's stash busting theme. It just happens to fit into one of my suggestions of sewing TNT patterns. Errr I mean that I'm soooo good at planning that I keep it secret from myself. But Frog knows...he knows everything.
Before you get ideas of bribing Frog for my dark secrets, let's talk about the two TNT patterns that I used. The first is the Nettie bodysuit, a pattern that gets worn on a weekly basis.  My wardrobe has needed a longer sleeve red version for months and I finally got around to filling that hole. There's nothing new to discuss fit or design wise here. It's the high back/scoop front version with the back and shoulder mods that were detailed in my review of the pattern.  It was also sewn in the same Lillestoff red jersey. It turned out to be exceedingly hard to find bright red cotton jersey in the middle winter.
TNT two is a little bit more fun to talk about. See I bought this Micheal Miller print, "Out to sea," last year after loving it on both Roisin and Jo. There were no exact pattern plans for it at the time, I just snagged 3 yards from Hart's fabric and stashed it. Then last month I stumbled across a lady on Instagram that was wearing a circle skirt in this exact fabric. Yes, Yes!!! That is precisely what my fabric wanted to be.

However a straight circle skirt pattern wouldn't do because of the 45" width of the fabric and the horizontal pattern motif.  I did a bit of brain storming and decided the best way to solve the problem was to use a gored skirt pattern and increase the amount of sweep to the pieces.  So I grabbed the skirt portion of the Odette dress and New Look 6056 to use for my experiment. Thanks to photographer Frog it's also been documented for you. He wears many hats and all of them at a jaunty angle.
I really like the hem sweep on New Look 6056 and wanted to add the same amount to the Odette skirt.  Before beginning the drafting, both pattern's hem lines were measured to find out the difference between them.  I found that NL 6056 hem sweep was 14.5" bigger on the half.  That meant 7.25" needed to be added to each of the Odette panels to get the same sweep. Here's how you go about doing it.

Step 1. Trace the CF panel of the the Odette skirt.

Step 2. From the hem area of the skirt measure out 7.25" and mark. I usually line the ruler up with the angle of the existing hem for now. We'll edit that later.

Step 3.  Draw in a new edge to the pattern. (Since I already have a waistband drafted for Odette the new seam was started 5/8" down from the waist edge. That way the waist circumference is not increased.)

Step 4. Next draw in the seam allowance.

Step 5. Place the Side Front pattern on top of the stitch line and mark were the bottom of the pattern falls.

Step 6. Adjust the hem sweep curve so that two pattern pieces will have the same seam length. If you have a hip curve ruler use that. You can also fudge it with a french curve.

Step 7. Trace the side front pattern piece.

Step 8. Add the 7.25" to the non side seam side edge. (The side seam has two notches for pocket placement if you get confused.)

Step 9. Draw in the new pattern edge and seam allowance.

Step 10. Place the already modified center front on top and use it to adjust the hem sweep curve like before. (Also double check that you have a seam notch that matches between the two pieces for assembly.)

Step 11. Repeat these steps to the Center Back and Side Back pieces. After you are done altering all the pieces the skirt can be sew together in the same manner as outlined in the Odette directions. Bonus you'll have pockets if using the pattern.

With the added sweep the seam lines disappear into the folds and you get the look of a circle skirt.  I was just able to squeeze out the size 12 skirt on 3 yards of fabric. The boats aren't exactly matched across the CB, but there was literally no more fabric to tweak that. Slightly irksome, but at least I can't see my backside when wearing it. ;)
So there we go, two TNT's and a little hack to start out the week.  Spring is in the air and it's going to be pretty dress sewing season soon. Can't wait!

Sewing with the Pattern Stash - The Frankenpattern


In the last post I talked about a few ways to sew with patterns that are already in the stash. Like many of you, this is an area that I have problems with. A brand new pattern often seems more exciting than a pattern bought last year. That new pattern doesn't have any "planning baggage" yet or been mentally sewn it up in my head several times.* It's new and shiny and I love it soooo much, until the next thing comes along.....and there's always a next thing. Ummmmmm, it's a bit problematic.

Since I'm the Stash busting theme host it seemed only fair to put my "money where my mouth is" and sew only stashed pattern this month. Luckily for me a really fun Frankenpattern idea popped into my head and got the ball rolling. Let me present a mash up of the Elisalex bodice and Burda 6834 flounce skirt. It's business time flamingo dancer.
Now you all know my fabric stash is large, but I have a pretty good memory about what's in there. Rarely do I stumble across something that I have no memory of purchasing.  However during this fabric cull I found 2 yards of red wool crepe that was a complete surprise. As frog is my witness I did not buy this fabric. Most likely it came from my grandmother's insanely large stash and she sneakily stuffed in a box for me. Well played grandma, well played. Also you knew what I liked and I wish you were still around to give me side eye about what I pay for fabric. Grandma didn't pay retail, she bought auction lots. Lots of them.
Grandma's wool crepe knew what it wanted, just like grandma, and told me to combine these two patterns. Not that I needed to be talked into it. Slim red dress with a fun flounce? Yes please! Since both patterns have princess line seams they were pretty easy to fit together.  Here's how I went about it.....

1.  The first version of Burda 6834 I made sits below my natural waist. It seemed prudent to add some additional length to the pattern if it was going sit higher. Two inches of length was added to all the skirt pieces at the lengthen/shorten line. (I could have gotten away with half that length.)

2. The Elisalex bodice was walked along the waist seam of the skirt to compare the princess lines seams. The skirt princess line seams were moved to match the bodice's.  The front skirt matched without any changes and the back needed a slight tweak.

3. After the princess lines were adjusted, the side fronts/backs were walked along the waist seam. A sizable amount, around 3/4", needed to be removed from the skirt side seam.

4. The skirt has an angle in the princess line as a design feature. I decided to smooth this out into a curve by adding a bit to the side front seam line and removing a little from the center front seam line.
After doing that bit of pattern making work, the two patterns matched perfectly.  I had very little trouble sewing the dress, other than some goofy mistakes sewing back skirt pieces in the wrong way. Oh the hazards of fabric with no wrong side and late night sewing. If the flounce seams hadn't lined up oddly I might have never noticed the problem.
This baby looks great in photographs, but there are a few confessions that need to be made......

1. The lining shows through.
I didn't even think to check this since there were no issues with lining my Christmas dress. It's not too noticeable in the photographs, but in real life you can clearly see it.  As fate would have it, the see through affect wasn't noticed until the entire dress was almost finished. At that point I decided it was a "design element," like a lace overlay or something.  Yeeeeah, I know the lining should be switched out but I'm not gonna do it.

2. Not all fitting changes were transferred to the pattern.
OK here's the deal. The Elisalex bodice was made in a larger size for the red roses dress in October 2013. Some time last year I'd traced a smaller size and "thought" I'd sewn it up into some garment. Wrong, the smaller size never got sewn up till now and I certainly forgot to transfer over some armhole adjustments. The armhole is very tight and lining it didn't help the situation. Oops.

3. Stretch woven and non stretch woven do need different amounts of ease.
Another big oops on my part since this fact didn't cross my mind pre cutting.  Both of these patterns had previously made with a stretch woven, but I'd forgotten that fact. When I put on the red dress there was a moment of, "Why is this tight across the back and the hips.....oh yeahhhhh no extra stretch."  In hindsight I should have muslined this dress to double check the fit in a regular woven.

4. No amount of under stitching, clipping or pressing would keep the lining from rolling out of the neckline.
I finally had to top-stitch the edge of the neckline to stop the lining from peeking out.  Growl. Having top-stitching in one location seemed odd. I decided to top-stitch the sleeve hems and skirt hem to balance out the garment.
So that's the knitty gritty on my slight fitting fails. What I should take away from this is to always muslin pattern mash-ups just to be sure. Now you know why I make all those muslins and have a quality control Frog. Wait....shouldn't he have told me to drop the armholes? Lazy frog.

Other than a bit of tightness in the arm holes, the fit isn't that far off. It's probably only something I'd be concerned with. "Oh no, it's 1/4" too tight, The Horror!" This dress is still going in the win column since it makes me want to do something like this all the time. Wheeeee dancing!
Hope everyone who is participating with the theme is having good luck so far. Many of you commented with excellent plans. May the sewing goddess bless you with plenty of machine time to crank out these projects.

*Why doesn't mental sewing result in a real garment? Science get working on that. Not like you need  to cure cancer or anything. Sewing is now your Top Priority.

March Stash Busting Theme - Sewing with patterns you already have


Come in, get comfortable, and have a slice of cake, because it's time for little announcement.  This month I am the Stash Busting Sew-a-long theme host.  *Cue Fanfare* What does this mean you might ask? Well it means I'll be "selflessly" quashing my natural tendencies to accumulate all the patterns and truck loads of fabric. Instead I'll be cheering/prodding you to sew up your fabric stash using patterns already lurking in your house. So pull out your pattern stashes and rekindle the passion that made you buy all those lovelies in the first place.

(Side note - The Stash Busting Sew-a-long is a low pressure group with the shared goal of reducing our fabric stashes. We have monthly themes but you can sew up your stash any way you want. For more details see Emily's blog post. We also have a facebook group and a flicker group if you want to join.)

Here's a couple of ways to utilize your pattern stash.

1. Finally sew a project that you've assembled all the materials for.
A new pattern releases and and you're so excited that you quickly buy fabric to go along with it. You'll start that new project right after finishing the one you're working on.  Or maybe life just gets in the way and sucks up all your sewing time.  What ever the case, that fabric/pattern is still sitting around waiting for your attention. This month is the perfect opportunity to finally make that garment.

2. Shop the stash for new pattern/fabric combinations.
Some times fabrics get bought with no real plans other than, "I'll make that into a dress," or "That print shall be mine!"  Patterns also get bought, filed and forgotten. Use this month as a reason to sort through your fabric and pattern stash.  See if any new pattern pairings come to light. Maybe you didn't have pattern X when you bought fabric Y. When you see them together an exciting new sewing project could happen. While you're at it, might as well weed out anything that doesn't thrill you anymore. Any kind stash reduction is good.

3. Whip up another TNT (Tried and True) pattern.
You love that pattern and wear it all the time.  Maybe you need another one in different color/print. Do a bit of stash diving and see what sparks your fancy.

4. Frankenpattern yourself a new garment.
Nothing really enticing you to get sewing? How about combining some patterns together? A new dress can easily be made by combining bodices and skirts.  Maybe you like the collar on one jacket but the sleeves of another.  Go ahead and mash those patterns up. Don't worry, your frankenpattern babies won't be hideous.

5. Plan your spring/fall wardrobe.
A seasonal change is right around the corner no matter what hemisphere you're residing in. It's the perfect time to sew a pattern that you ran out of time to make last year. By the time the change in temps arrives you'll be ready with some new garments.

I've sneakily done some pre-sewing along these suggestions and plan on blogging my projects related to the theme through out the month. So are you ready to make the most of your pattern stash?  Stash busters unite..... pattern power!

What about you? Do you have any tricks or tips for using patterns already in your stash? I'd love to hear about it.

A Coat for my Petticoat


At long last a sewing FO post! Sewing Goddess be praised. I've been living with this coat as a UFO for what seems like two months.  It was more like one month, but there's nothing is worse than a giant project taking up your sewing space that refuses to finish it's self.   Where is my army of sewing frogs? What do I do all this baking for if they don't show up?

The problem did not lay in the pattern or even the fabric. The problem was me.  In the past I've gleefully cranked out several coats/jackets for the blog. Usually I find them to be an enjoyable project that has a great pay off.  This time the manic desire to cut into some coating just didn't come brimming up through my pores.  It could be that "sewing a coat" has been on the mental list so long that it turned into an obligation.  It could be that the Christmas dress was a big ass project and I wasn't really ready for another one. Or it could be that it's freaking cold in my sewing area and I'd rather hide in my bedroom with some knitting needles.  Bring me a heating pad and a pie!
Now you might be asking, "Heather, if you didn't want to sew a coat, then why did you bully yourself into doing it?"  Good question and I've got three perfectly valid reasons.  Number 1 There is a lot of wool coating in the stash taking up tons of room.  Number 2 - I didn't feel like freezing my butt off outside while taking pictures of summer dresses.  Number 3 - I needed a coat that had a wide enough skirt to fit my petticoat under you do.   OK, I realize that the last sentence is a bit absurd and even Past Heather would be going, "Petticoat What?"  Let's just say this whole "retro dressing" thing is a slippery slope and soon you find yourself buying petticoats and hair flowers and LOVING IT. My petticoat gets worn semi-regularly and thus I needed a coat where it didn't awkwardly stick out the back. Nothing ruins your look faster then a "tooth paste squeezing out of the tube" look around your knees.
With the criteria "can fit a petticoat under it" only one pattern jumped into my mind.  Gertie's kimono sleeved, full skirted coat pattern, better known as Butterick 5824. Now that baby has petticoat room to spare. Heck I could smuggle drowsy Dashshounds under there and no one would be the wiser. "No your coat is barking. No yours!. Yip, yip, yip."
Ahem, where were we? Ah yes, coat planning. I've always liked the look of B5824, but it does need a whole lot of fabric. Did my stash have a length of coating long enough? I had to put my minions to work finding out. "Ohhhh Froggie, break out the tape measure cause you've got some measuring to do. Chop, chop." Turns out most of my coating lengths are in the 3-4 yard range, way too short for the pattern. I was about to abandon B5824 when, huzzah, the cobalt blue wool turned out to be 5 yards long. That's still a half yard short of the requirements, but with a little tweaking the pattern just might fit. I did a test layout and found that 5 yards would work fine if the coat was 2" shorter.

The original plan was to get this coat done in January for both Jungle January and the Gertie pattern contest McCall's was having. I'm sure that could have happened if I'd sewed the coat instead of doing a bunch of avoidance knitting. "Laa, Laa, Laa, what coat?  There is only yarn." Oh well, knowing you'll like a finished garment doesn't always make for speedy sewing. Hopefully Miz P. will forgive me for missing the wonderful Jungle January if she gets a flash of the lining.  Put on your sunglasses because snow leopard lining springs eternal.
As usual I've put all my fitting tweaks, scandalous confessions and husband input below. So read on for more coat goodness.

Butterick 5824. I used a combo of sizes 16/18, but could have easily cut a straight size 16.

Fabrics used
Wool flannel coating from Gorgeous fabrics.
Snow leopard lining also from Gorgeous fabrics

Pattern changes/alterations
1. Made the same 1/2" sloping shoulder adjustment to the kimono sleeve as I did to my Christmas dress.

2. Shortened the bodice length by 3/8".

3. Increased the back dart intake to 2 1/2".

4. Did an "on the fly" adjustment of taking in the waist at the side seams about an 1" total.

5. Instead of using bound buttonholes as the closure, I used large snaps so that there was nothing to get in the way of a belt. Also I hate sewing bound buttonholes.

6. Added some thread belt loops to the side seams.

7. Pieced the pocket so that the self fabric would peak out of the seam and not the lining.

8. Reduced the length of the coat by 2". I did not use the lengthen/shorten line. Instead the length was taken off the bottom of the hem to also reduce the hem sweep a bit.

- I did check out the sew-a-long for this pattern on Gertie's blog. Most of the coat's construction was straight forward to me so I didn't need additional hand holding. However I did appreciate some of the extra finishing tips she'd posted. For example I'd never basted down the edges of a coat and then steamed them so that they roll in the correct direction. That technique worked well and I think it makes the coat look a little more professional.

- Because of the weight of the skirt pulling on the waist, you could almost go down a waist size on the pattern.  Even with my on the fly waist alteration, the coat is still overly roomy in that location.

- I like the look of this coat with a belt on my figure. The belt gives me some more waist definition and detracts from the fact that the front closure is bulky in this fabric.

- The instructions to fuse the entire hem were followed even though it was a total pain in the ass. It probably doesn't matter in wool this thick.....but then I'm not a coat expert.

Husband Comment
"You look like cookie monster. Just kidding, it's elegant.....for cookie exchange parties."

My Final Thoughts
While I might not have been in the mood to sew a coat, I sure do love wearing it. It's all "wintertime princess" with serious twirl factor. Pretty sure you could throw this over a bath robe and strangers on the street would still ask why you are dressed up. "Because I made this coat. See, SEE!" Then they back away slowly. That's good cause I need room to twirl.

P.S.  A big thanks to everyone who nominated/voted for my blog over on Madalynne's best sewing blog series. I almost feel sheepish about getting an "award" for inheriting my father's need to be productive at all times. Still gonna put the button up though. ;)
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