Monday, July 27, 2015

Simplicity 1364 Jiffy Vintage Blouse & Guipure Lace Dreams

Simplicity Jiffy Vintage Pattern 1364 
The next couple of projects are mainly pattern and fabric testing before I cut into my recently acquired Guipure lace AKA Venice lace. This Simplicity 1364 vintage-inspired blouse is the first of two patterns I hope to eventually use. After altering the tissue pattern, I cut straight into a Kaufman retro-inspired print I purchased several years back at Stonemountain & Daughter. This print also has quite a bit of stretch; a slightly forgiving option in case some areas are tight. As you can see, it turned out to be a wearable muslin using a woven. I am not so sure if this will work with the Guipure lace without some additional altering at the armscye.

I mostly associate lace with wedding wear, but I feel that there are really many possibilities. There was leather and lace in the 90s, lace and linen has always been a classic Spring pair, and now even with torn up boyfriend jeans.

A window shopping trip this past Spring was the inspiration for my sudden "party dress" themes. I found one RTW rack at a local shop filled with white Guipure lace blouse variations. They were simple lace pieces, no lining, zippers, or buttons. The blouse was meant to be worn over our underpinnings of choice...a clever idea for the consumer, and loads of production savings for the manufacturer.
My future polyester guipure lace blouse fabric, one in white, and other in ivory.
My pattern plans for my Guipure lace blouse is a boat neckline with trumpet sleeves. My sister Judy had an emerald green chiffon dress with exaggerated trumpet sleeves that I have always adored. She wore that dress on the airplane when she immigrated from Hong Kong. I had just turned four years old at the time, and my travel dress was a pink chiffon trimmed with none other than Guipure lace. How did I remember that?

After combing through the Simplicity pattern book last week, I could not find pattern that met my style needs. I suspect trumpet sleeves are not really in fashion. Simplicity 1364 has the boat neck, and the general body cut, but the sleeves are fitted. I could live without the trumpet sleeve, but a couple of inches of ease is necessary for fabric bulk. I am not sure about the zipper insert for Guipure lace. It might end up being more work than originally anticipated.
The back has a 15 inch zipper.
I started with view A and ended up with C. BTW, I think B and C are the same.
Link to the pattern HERE.
Simplicity 1364 was cumbersome. It might have been my fault since I decided to sew Hong Kong seams on the inside. I also used an interfacing meant for men's shirt collars for the facing, which ended up being very stiff and slightly bulky. Although I love the print, I found that the stretch in the fabric slightly distorted my zipper placement. The added Spandex also made the fabric thicker, and too warm for the Summer. The fitted sleeves were tight, and my arm felt claustrophobic, which is why I sans the sleeves entirely.'s a muslin anyway! But who wouldn't want their projects to turn out the first time?
After setting the first sleeve, I felt it was tight, and the pattern a bit busy.
My unused sleeves. :-(
If I attempt this blouse a second time, I would need to adjust the armhole out. Since I have already cut the pattern down in size, adjusting up at the arms is going to be more work than I would like. Simplicity patterns are going on sale again next week, so I'm picking up another one of these patterns, and starting all over. It is really a lot easier to start fresh than try to work around an already cut pattern. For $1.99, there's nothing to lose right? Right.

Here are samples of Guipure blouses that I like. Stay tuned for more testing news...and happy sewing!

A wide short sleeve is a good option as well. But the lace
used in this cut is not really Guipure, but a whispier ribbed version.
(I just made up the word "whispier." It is not a typo.
Although I have my heart set on a boat neckline, this blouse
is pretty much right on the mark. I think I could live with a basic round neck too. 
Stay tuned...a version of this dress is debuting on my next blog post!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

A Real Summer Dress - Butterick Vintage Dress B5209 & Gusset Hack

After all the adjustments, this dress fits like a glove. I hand stitched the hem and the inside bodice lining.
I was shopping with my sister when I stumbled across this novelty Swiss Dot cotton fabric. I really fell in love with its unique, vintage nature, while my sister thought it a bit dull. It does have an odd grey and pale yellow hue, but I think it only adds to its charm.

Close-up of the bodice. I used silk organza interlining on the wide waistband. It helps hold its shape.

I cut the bodice in a size 16, but extended the waist all the way out to Size 20.
Making a vintage dress was not on my sew list this Summer, but I have become very inspired since attending the History In Fashion exhibit. I took many chances with this project, and I did have several fitting issues with the pattern. First off...I did not make a muslin. I measured and cut the pattern cold turkey. After stitching and fitting the bodice, I discovered two things: the waist was slightly too long, and its width was too small on the waist bottom and too big on the waist top. What you say? Apparently, my back is a lot more curved than I realized. Since the halter back is cut so low, the curve rested at my arch. This is how I fixed it my fitting issue...

I added a gusset in the center to widen the base of the bodice but not the top. This gave me three more inches at the base of the waist. The zipper is on the left side, so this made it easier to adjust. You can see that the added fabric gave it a unique design detail in the back. Notice how the back is more curved now? I needed this to wrap properly around the curvature of my back without bunching.

Gusset addition.
I am terrible at adding gussets, which are usually cut in a triangle. I created a simpler way to add the piece without grief. It does include a center stitch line instead of a smooth triangle. I measured out a piece of fabric, including the seam allowances. I sewed both left and right back bodice pieces to the extension. 

I have created a diagram which might help interested folks...

Then I folded the back in half at the center of the extension piece, and stitched down at an angle. This created a nice even triangle without having to mess with sewing the sharp tip of a regular gusset. Now, if you're really good at gussets, then you don't need to follow my instruction. But my gusset tips are always puckered. This method avoided the pucker, but does add a center seam. Be sure to trim the excess seam with pinking shears. 

If you are not sure about the fitting, baste the angled stitch first and try it on before sewing. This kind of gusset lets you customize your waist as long as you have made the extension piece wide enough. In my case, it was exact.  If the extension was too small, I would have had to cut another piece. Whew! (I can't believe I figured this out myself without Google.) 

This is also my first side zipper. It's not invisible (thank goodness). The zipper has to be added to the main bodice, and then I pick-stitched the lining piece to the zipper. 

Left side zipper was not that easy to put in. 
Inside lining stitched to zipper. 
The top was too big because one, I don't have fullness at the top part of my breast, which also makes for a lower breast dart, and two, the upper back curve is pretty sharp. What this means in a halter bodice is the peek-a-boo nature due to the extra space. I don't want people seeing more than necessary.

I had to adjust the dress in two ways. The first was by adding a dart at each of the back side pieces. I measured four inches from the side seam, and created a 2.5 inch dart. I had to make identical adjustments to the lining as well. See it here...

Look closely to see the dart.
Then I had to adjust the neck strap. The back of the neck strap piece is curved. I thought I was supposed attach a button, but the directions said to sew the left and right pieces together. I had difficulty doing this because of the curved pattern ends. Then after sewing them together, I realized that I needed to pull the straps up in order to fit the front bodice tighter. At this point I did not want to rip it apart because my delicate fabric was starting to fray. I just sewed the straps together at an angle, which tightened up the edge of the halter that wrapped around the breast and to the back. Then I just sewed the ugly seam down by hand. Since the seam is biggie.

Looks fine once it is back in place.
Lastly, I cut one inch off the bottom of the waistband to accommodate my shorter length. This prevented crinkling in the midsection and automatically raised the hem slightly without losing fullness at the base of the skirt. By doing this I also saved time without having to redo the gathers from the top of the skirt.

I did not pay enough attention to the neck strap instructions beforehand. If I had to do it all over, I would have adjusted and sewn down the front neck strap after completing the gusset and dart adjustment before sewing the bodice lining. This would have prevented the exposed seam.

Here is a few shots of the pattern pieces to provide a preview to folks interested in sewing this dress.

There was also the odd instruction to understitch the lining bodice, and it read "Understitch the lining as far as possible." What? As far as possible? Well, the instructions were correct. After sewing the lining bodice, there is not enough space to stay stitch the whole piece. This sorta irked me.

To line or not to line? The fabric is slightly sheer, but I don't want to add more poof to the waist gathers so I opted out. My only regret is that I did not finish the skirt seams. Overall though, I had many glitches which were due to my not paying enough attention. I don't count fitting issues glitches. I learned much about making halter dresses, and something new about the shape of my body. The result was a dress that fits like a glove!

Happy sewing!

The Cost Of Fashion

Large packages of unwanted used clothes are shipped into Haiti.
Did you know that less than ten percent of our donated clothes actually make it to the racks of Goodwill? So where does all the rest go? Besides polluting our environment by creating large landfills of clothing that do not biodegrade, giant bundles of it are shipped to Haiti. Do a search on Pepe Industry in Haiti, and you will learn about how these unwanted wears have singlehandedly destroyed the sewing trade in that country.

Our clothes
Did you know that learning how to sew our own clothes puts us in the category of "Slow Fashion" rather than "Fast Fashion?" I just learned the term "Fast Fashion" and the Pepe Industry in Haiti from a documentary called "The True Cost." It's been recently added to NetFlix, so hurry and watch it before it disappears. You can also learn more about the documentary HERE.

With fashion being very close to my heart...watching this documentary shattered it into little pieces. I was reminded that our American need for Fast Fashion from companies like H&M, WalMart and the like has wrecked havoc on Mother Earth, and continues to exploit people. Watch the video and see footage of people dying for a $20.00 blouse that many of us would not think twice about donating or tossing into the bin.

I have not been a fan of upcycling clothes, but watching this film has made me think twice, and perhaps more carefully about how else I can reuse my clothes rather than sending it to a landfill. I don't buy a lot of clothes these days, mostly because I don't need them. I've even questioned the amount of sewing I do, and how I'm contributing to the waste factor. The upside is, I couldn't make clothes as quickly as I can purchase them. What a relief.

One of the final points of the documentary that really got my goat was GMO cotton, and the amount of pesticides used on cotton fields. I've heard stories from my local organic farmers about how other farmers who acquired cotton land can't plant anything on soil due to contamination, and that it takes at least three or more years to turn the soil. We know all those pesticides are seeping into the ground water. case you're wondering about birth defects, illness, and premature death in heavily sprayed communities...they still exist.

Woman from the film suffering from pigment loss due to chemicals used for making inexpensive leather.
Buying organic fabric is a great way to put our money back into the environment and encourage farmers to stop using pesticides and GMO seeds. But not all organic is created equal. Best to avoid Soy, Bamboo, Tencel, and Modal.  Soy is almost completely ruined by GMO, so finding it uncontaminated is nearly impossible. This is why I went from regular consumption to close to zero. I recently learned that Bamboo, Tencel, and Modal fabric production use extremely harmful chemicals to turn the wood into pulp.

I have stopped using cosmetics, chemical hair dyes, nail polish, any synthetic soaps and lotions, as well as most of the harmful cleaning supplies at home. It only makes sense now that I start to become more aware of the kind of fabric that sits on my skin. I'm not throwing out what I have, but I will need to scrutinize my fabric acquisitions closely moving forward.

Hurry...and watch the film! You'll understand why I had to share it with you.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Frida Kahlo 2015 Tribute - Vogue 8894

Happy 108th Birthday Frida Kahlo!  Although her official registered date of birth is July 6th, there are rumors that she acknowledged the 7th as her birthday. I decided that this year, and for the record, her tribute would be today.

My project this year is a sombre but elegant linen black dress dress from Vogue 8894. It is a beautifully designed pattern with many wonderful design details. My favorite is the high curved front hem.

I lined the bodice with a thin China silk, and to stiffen the bottom and limit some wrinkles, I lined the skirt with black silk organza.

This dress really needs accessories. Do you like my flower? It also looks good ON the dress.
As a gag, my daughter filmed me as I was posing...and well, here it is for your amusement.

I made version B. Be forewarned that there's more ease than the photo leads on.
I decided to spend a bit more time tailoring the dress by adding the lining. I am still on the fence about the skirt bottom, and adding a China silk lining, which makes the organza the interlining. It would add a slight more thickness and weight. I might wear it once and see how it goes.

WARNING! The pattern is not foolproof. If you decide to make it, be aware of the front hem facing. It did not match the cut skirt hem curve. I had to make me own after the fact.

When these errors occur, I always wonder if it's really me or the pattern.

This is the hem facing I created by matching the skirt base curve.

Hem facing completed.
The collar facing was a bit off for me as well. One piece was too short and the other was too long, so it ended up fitting the neckline, except the neck seams did not match. Although no one can see, it still irks me when the seams are off. 

Here are some photos of the inside, as I was building the lining pieces.

After adding the China silk bodice, and the silk organza skirt.

Because the seams show on the skirt, I am thinking of adding a final China silk lining.
The dress needs a 22" invisible zipper, and to be honest, I have never put in an invisible zipper before. I did not need to look far for instructions though. Did you know that the zipper packet comes with instructions, and they work just fine? I did not need to comb through YouTube videos. This was really straightforward and painless.

The dress turned out much larger than expected. I had to take in the front bodice seam by an inch due to my C Cup mishap. The pattern has adjustable bust cup sizes, and it was a first try for me. I ended up using the C Cup to match my bra size, but it was incorrect. Given the Kimono sleeves, I could easily have left it an A Cup. This is a great pattern for C and even D cups because there is a lot of ease. 

I was tempted to nip and tuck at more places, but given that my linen fabric does not stretch, I changed my mind after giving the dress a "sit test." If ever, I am on the fence about whether to make a dress tighter, I sit down in a chair with the dress on. It's amazing what parts of my body spread after sitting. :-) 

Some final thoughts about fitting...after months and months of cutting into size 16 patterns, I am suspecting that I am not a 16 in all patterns. Duh! Vogue size 16 are too big, and McCalls can be too small. Simplicity seems to be right on, and Butterick is inconsistent. The newer Indie patterns are all over the place. I am almost a perfect 14 on StyleArc, but a 12 on top. I am somewhere between a 10 or 12 with Victory Patterns. What is going on here? All these variances make for a very grumpy sewist. 

Some more photos for your enjoyment...

Headless me.

Bodice close-up...but difficult to see because it's black.

When I first saw this...I thought of was oversized funeral dress.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

A Day At Two Museums In High Style

For my sister's birthday treat, I drove her out to San Francisco to see the High Style exhibit at the Legion of Honor. The complete exhibit was beautiful but surprisingly small for a $30 ticket. But you know me...size does not always matter. I don't plan on spoiling the exhibit here by showing you all the pictures. I will however highlight a couple of things and encourage all in the SF Bay Area to get out there and support our museums. There's still a couple of weeks left. Besides, the Legion of Honor is located in one of the most picturesque spots in San Francisco. Seriously.

My brother-in-law is taking a picture of me taking a picture of him. He is the speck next to the statue.
I am taking a picture of my brother-in-law taking a picture of my sister. :-)
Not all the displayed pieces had a 360-degree view, leaving me feeling very incomplete. As my sister sketched her favorites, I was tripping over the platforms trying to view the backs of dresses. The highlight of course were the Charles James gowns, but it were the 3D videos that stole the show for me. Attendees crowded around (myself included) for many minutes to view the genius construction of a Charles James' gown. Here is the heavy silk satin ball gown video sample, and the actual gown below.

This image was photo bombed by ghosts.

I think the unrealistic view of the perfect body really came from gowns like this.
But it's hard to complain with such beauty and genius construction.
Despite the elaborate gowns, many of which I will never sew, I did find real inspiration in two pieces...both of which I aspire to make one day. The first is this pretty number by the late American Designer Geoffrey Beene. Made in a plain weaved purple and white silk, it is the epitome of everything I consider fun and flirty. is a smock-esque dress. But look at the cool scalloped contrasting hem. I think it's totally doable no? YESSS!

Because of this dress, I was inspired to purchase a red silk flower this week at Joanns.
I wish I were able to see the back of the dress.
Geoffrey Beene passed away in 2004, which means he was still in his prime when I was growing into my future kitten-heeled pumps. He is one designer that I still remember drooling over as a fashion-crazed teenager. Another favorite design detail of mine (and Geoffrey Beene) is the empire waist. Here is a vintage Geoffrey Beene I found for sale online that caught my eye...and honestly, if I get some energy, I might make a copy.  The gown was sewn with juxtapositioned fabrics: wool jersey for the bodice, and silk satin for the skirt, collar, and cuff. Geoffrey Beene, known for comfortable and stylish wear, took his reputation further by designing gowns using sweatshirt material. Wow right?

This dress (and others) are available for purchase for $950 HERE. Not a terrible price for a vintage original.

If you want to learn more about Geoffrey Beene, HERE is a link to Wikipedia.

Another inspirational dress, and an equal favorite was the creator of the "bias cut," French designer Madeleine Vionnet (1876-1985).  Made in 1935, this gown was considered modern dressmaking. Cut on the bias, and sewn in a striking mix of magenta and fuchsia crepe silk, the gown could adorn almost every body type. It's hard to believe that this is what our grandmothers wore. This 80-year-old design can be found on every runway in every season...a sign of a true "classic."

Succulent colors, still vibrant for an 80-year-old. 
Madeleine Vionnet survived both World Wars, and lived to the ripe age of 99.  She helped transition women out of the corset, and changed the shape of the female silhouette forever. Her then innovative construction techniques are now a part of the fashion industry standards. She was known for draping her fabrics directly on an 80-centimeter mannequin...most likely the same way we drape fabric in pattern design today.

Vionnet had two fashion houses, both of which closed at the end of each World War. The first survived two years (1912-1914). The second opened in the early 1920s, and received much notoriety and success for almost two decades until she retired in 1939 at the age of 69 years old. She lived another 30 years, and maybe her longevity helped keep her legacy alive long enough for her work to be preserved. True to her aesthetics to the very end, Vionnet was more than a couturier. In my opinion, she was an artist and a feminist. Perhaps these traits kept her at odds with the ever-growing commercialization of fashion.

At her death in 1975, she left behind what few could match, but with less notoriety in form of label or branding that benefitted many lesser designers. I am sure she would not have had it any other way. Were it not for curators like Betty Kirke, and the influence of younger designers, Vionnet and her work might have fallen into complete obscurity.

You can learn more about Madeleine Vionnet in a book written by Betty Kirke, and published by Chronicle Books. This is the third edition and available on Amazon for about $100. (Expect a review of the book here shortly.) Betty Kirke is currently working on another revised edition which will include a DVD with sewing instructions and actual patterns. I cannot wait! Kirke is a retired fashion designer, and former conservator at The Museum of the Fashion Institute of Technology. Kirke was given access to Vionnet's collection before she died, which provided her with firsthand construction knowledge and insight about the designer. More on Kirke HERE.

The Vionnet brand was resurrected and taken over in 2012 by Ms. Goga Ashkenazi. It is unclear to me if she is the main designer as well. The current Vionnet brand also designs handbags as well as women's wear, and from the Fall/Winter 2015 Paris video on their website, I saw a few pieces "hint" of Vionnet, but does not evoke her true spirit. It is after all another investor acquired label using the good name of Vionnet. The same goes for Geoffrey Beene labels that still exist today.

If you did not know already, all Legion of Honor Museum tickets will also get you into the de Young Museum on the same day. We made it to Golden Gate Park with a few hours before closing, and found time to enjoy a quick lunch at the museum cafe.

"Although it's really your birthday, I feel like it's mine too!"

This is what I said to my sister while chowing down on Shepherd's pie at the de Young Museum Cafe. Besides having loads of fun at the exhibits...I also love eating at the museum. It's just one of those kooky things I find incredibly enjoyable. My particular favorite has been the Terrace 5 at MOMA in New York City, and Stanford's Cool Cafe. But I have appreciated them ALL in one form or another. If you do make it over to the de Young, look for the organic soft-serve ice cream truck sitting just outside the park. I got mine dipped in chocolate with a sprinkle of sea salt. (Sorry! I forgot an ice cream photo.)

After a satisfying lunch...there was much to browse at the de Young...even for textile lovers like me.
Here are some inspirational pieces to inspire a second museum visit in one day.

This was a wonderful inspiration for my future shrine.
But I also saw a beautiful princess adorned by a gold headpiece. 
Close-up of the above piece.
A Japanese rattan art piece. I actually see it as a hat...the obvious,
but also, the sleeves of a beautiful dress or movement in a flowy skirt.
I think this is artfully hung wood bark...but I am not certain. Sadly, I forgot to photograph the description.
It reminded me of fringe or the beads of a flapper dress.
A enormous art piece made entirely out of aluminum strips off of twist caps.
This piece was utterly breathtaking at a distance. I saw a beautiful sheath dress or an emperor's cape.
And this just says it all for me when it comes to art, textiles, and fashion... Happy sewing!