The thoughts, sewing projects, and fabric oglings of a dedicated sewist.

Wedding Dress Work

Here's some pictures of what I've been busy with over the past few weeks.

Final bodice/yoke sketch

Cutting silk charmeuse

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Hand basting cotton batiste underlining to silk charmeuse.
Taming the Ambiance Bemberg lining with pins.

Something blue in the bustier

Satin hook & eye tape from Ebay

Up next: lace overlay

WIP: Elisalex - To Be or Not to Be?

Constructing this dress has led to a lot of ups and downs.  Last week I felt up after getting the bodice/skirt put together and trying it on.  This past weekend I added even more lines to my list:

  • Added piping to neck/back.
  • Futzed around with the sleeve to make sure it was 1.25" larger than armscye.
  • Handpicked centered zipper.
  • Too much separation at center so handpicked again.
  • Not even enough so handpicked a THIRD time.
  • Had my husband take these pictures and fought the urge to just set the dress on fire.

Oh, the wrinkles.  It actually looks okay from the front - no wrinkling.

But, oh, the back.

The dress doesn't feel at all tight and I double checked that the underlining is smooth against the fabric.  It is. After several days of deep breaths and side-long looks at the dress as it cowered on the futon in my sewing room, I think the issue is that the stretch cotton just can't stretch AT ALL even with the underlining cut on the bias.  I also think that the centered zipper doesn't look nice here.  I don't know if it's my application or the fabric (I've certainly had some practice at this stage), but I think I'm going to switch to an invisible zipper.

But what to do about this??? I'm hoping that rear bump/zipper buckle will be fixed by a new zipper.  Not sure what to do about the weird hemline .

Mostly, I'm starting to lose faith that this dress is for me.

Thoughts? Advice? Commiseration?

Iron Graveyard

Do you ever feel afraid of your iron?  I recently realized that I've been feeling that way for the past year or so.

My fear has been all about its death.  Especially death while I'm trying to meet a deadline or in the midst of a sewing marathon.  Will this be the moment that it steams its last?

My iron graveyard

When I started sewing, I had a Black & Decker iron that I purchased the year I graduated from college (1996, to be exact).  It didn't really steam worth a damn and the temperature was hard to control.  But since at that time I was sewing mainly with quilting cottons, I got by.

But on a trip to the in-laws (yes, I packed a sewing project, just in case), I tried my mother-in-law's Rowenta Focus.  It was big!  It had steam!  It was hot even at the tip!  And it had multiple temperature settings (not just hot-getting-hotter).  I was in such raptures over it that she let me take it home.

After about 18 months of heavy sewing and pressing, it died.  One day it just wouldn't get hot.  So I took out my Black & Decker again and searched on Ebay to see if I could find a used iron.  Note to everyone:  THIS WAS A BIG MISTAKE!  DO NOT DO THIS.  Okay, I got a new Rowenta (Powerglide 2) for $35, but from the moment I started using it, I knew its time was short.  It had great steam but poor temperature control.  And I could just tell it was ailing - some sort of psychic black aura that surrounded it like a shroud.  Whenever I went to press something I heard this song in the back of my head.  And I'm sure I hunched my shoulders just like the kid in the video, too.

It did hang on, surprisingly, for 6 months, but last week it, too, died.  So while I DID NOT want to spend $150 on an iron at this particular time (didn't the Sewing Godesses understand that I really wanted some pretty new labels????), I did my due diligence on Pattern Review's website and narrowed my choices down to a Reliable V100 Digital Vapor Generated iron and a gravity feed iron, Pacific PSI-5E, both available at  When I remembered that I sometimes like to iron things in front of the TV, the choice was clear and I clicked "buy" on the Reliable.

Then I waited, glad I had the Black & Decker as back-up, but I didn't really trust it with the silk for the wedding dress.  Friday, delivery day, arrived and I must have checked the front step about 30 times.  No box.  No box.  NO BOX!  Even when the tracking status on the Fedex website said "delivered", I still had no box.

And then on Saturday morning, after 17 years, the Black and Decker died.  Now I had no iron.

I tried dealing with Fedex over the weekend and they were useless.  Luckily I live in a great town and when I posted on our Facebook page that I was in need of an iron, I had two offers within 5 minutes.  On Monday I called Wawak and they were fantastic!  The woman I spoke to knew who I was from my phone number, so I never had to give her my order number (not once and certainly not SEVEN times like with Fedex) and she had a message to Fedex and a new iron on it's way to me within about 3 minutes.

And this is the big, beautiful iron that arrived on Wednesday:

Can't you just hear the stars sing?

It's heavy, so I don't have to push when I'm pressing.  It has glorious steam and heats up quickly.  And, fellow sewists, you can disable the auto shut-off feature.

It even purrs.  Listen:

We'll have to see how it lasts, but I am now armed with a jug of distilled water and I plan to treat it with love and care and hug and kiss it every day.  When it's off, of course.

I Made a Jumpsuit!

Butterick 5073, to be exact:

Butterick 5073 was my half of a barter agreement that I made with my friend, the lovely Terri Falvey.  Terri is a graphic designer and copywriter.  I wanted a new logo for my business cards, clothig labels (still working on those), and website, but didn't have the cash to pay for it.  I did have the time, however, to sew something.  We found the pattern in Maddie Mod Patterns (lots of cute patterns - you should check it out!) on Etsy and the fabric came from Girl Charlee (now sold out).  I must admit that Terri completed her side of the bargain long before (as in months) I completed my half of the bargain.  But I did indeed get it to her in time for the end of summer and transition into fall.

The collar really makes this jumpsuit.  I debated if I should follow the direction on the collar closure and finally did.  There are four hooks and eyes that close it up the back, and I sandwiched them as far as I could into the seam allowance.  I wanted to make sure that the closure was as invisible as possible from both sides (you turn the collar over), and I didn't think an invisible zipper would fold nicely.  I'm somewhat happy with the way this turned out, but any suggestions would be appreciated!

As for the WIP Elisalex dress, I did manage to squeeze in some work this weekend in spite of having a fair amount of family stuff on the schedule.  To my everlengthening list of completed tasks on this dress I can now add:

  • Received 1/8" cord.
  • Made piping.
  • Handstitched and then machine sewed piping to bodice.
  • Hand basted skirt to bodice.
  • Took out stitches and stitched again to get a better match up.
  • Repeat.
  • Repeat again.
  • Almost gave up and did it one more time for a good match.
  • Sewed in stay tape to neck and shoulders.
  • Sewed shoulder seam.
  • Sewed center back seam to bottom of zipper.
Please excuse the one-handed photos.  I needed the other hand to hold the dress closed.

Next up, more piping then sleeves and zippers!  I watched these two sections of the class at 6am the past two mornings so that I'm all ready (and now raring) to go.  For now, I'm back to wedding dress construction . . .

WIP: The Neverending Elisalex Dress

Oh, I had such high hopes for this dress.  And I haven't given up but boy, have I lost steam.

Here's where I am with my By Hand London pattern:

Rather pathetic, I know.  Not hardly much to show after starting this dress, oh, sometime back in June.

I decided to use this as my pattern for Susan Khalje's Couture Dress class on Craftsy.  I wanted to get some practice with couture techniques before starting on the wedding dress (more on that later).  Some of the problems have come from my choice of fabric, a stretch cotton sateen that I fell in love with from Fabrics and Trimmings (Etsy shop).  And then there's also my lack of experience with these techniques - yes, that.  Here's what I've done so far:
  • Made a muslin of the bodice.
  • Made alterations (little bit here, little bit there, nothing big).
  • Cut and marked (with waxed tracing paper, no less) the underlining.  I'm using a cotton batiste for the skirt, bias cut organza for the bodice (I managed to squeeze this question in when Claire Schaeffer had a lunchtime discussion on the Threads fb page).
  • Cut fashion fabric.
  • Hand basted underlining to fashion fabric.
  • Hand basted pieces of bodice and skirt together.
  • Tried on bodice with help from friend Nancy.
  • Realized that my underlining was causing some bubbles.  Unpicked and hand basted underlining again.
  • Made piping.
  • Tried on bodice and skirt together (but not attached). 
  • Wondered what the hell that barrel was doing around my legs.
  • Realized I really should have done a muslin of the skirt, too.
  • Put dress away for a while to gather more courage.
  • Fitted skirt with help from Rhonda, then took a total of something like 12 inches off in various places from the skirt (width) and another 4 inches in length (I already chopped 4 before I cut the pattern).
  • Machine stitched skirt pieces together. 
  • Stay stitched waist in skirt.
  • Finished seams allowances in skirt with lavender Snug Hug.
  • Felt happy again.  Doesn't a nice seam finish make you happy, too?
  • Basted piping to waist seam on skirt.
  • Machine stitched bodice together. 
  • Catch stitched seam allowances in bodice to underlining.
  • Went to put bodice and skirt together and the pleats in no way matched the seams in the bodice.
  • Removed piping from skirt, unpicked staystitching, and took apart pleats.
  • Unpicked shoulder seams in bodice and center back seam in skirt so that I could lay them out flat.
  • Reconfigured pleats so that they matched the seams in the bodice.
  • Decided I wanted thinner piping (not 3/16" but 1/8").  .
  • Decided that I might want piping at neckline as well as waist.
  • Ordered more 1/8" cord.

And that's where I'm at, waiting for the cord to arrive so that I can make more piping.  I'd like to have the option of wearing this dress to a wedding on September 28, so I'm going to try to blast through on the next couple weekends (providing that cord arrives).  What do you think?  Was I right to want the piping at the neckline as well as the waist?

I have had more success in my other ongoing WIP, my sewing room.  I bought a cone thread rack with some of the money from Camp Runway, and someone (the sewing fairy??) kept whispering in my ear that it would look much better if I painted it, so I did.

And then she told me that since I had ROYGBIVed the cone thread, I really should do the same with the regular thread:

But when she started whispering about the bobbins, I told her she really needed to start concentrating on that Elisalex . . .

Butterick 3485: Old, New, Borrowed, Blue

I actually made this dress about six weeks ago but didn't have time then to write about it (and I never actually took any pictures until today!).  This dress was made possible by the lovely Rhonda Buss at Rhonda's Creative Life.

Rhonda came to my house one day to help with a project (a wedding dress! yikes! that is a whole 'nother story I've got to catch you up on) and she was wearing a quirky cactus dress.  Rhonda looked  up the pattern for me when she got home: a "vintage" Butterick pattern, No. 3485, from 1994 (college years for me, so I guess that means I'm vintage, too).

Here's where Rhonda's generosity really kicked into overdrive.  She found the pattern for me in an Etsy shop, but by the time I clicked "purchase" someone else already had.  I tried to find it elsewhere with no luck.  Rhonda then offered to mail it to me so that I could trace it and a few days later it was sitting expectantly in my mailbox.  (Rhonda has a couple of posts about the dress so you can see alternative patterns here and here.)

I don't know if you've ever traced off someone else's pattern, but I was surprised at how happy that made me feel.

And really, this whole dress came about due to the generosity of others.  The fabric is Amy Butler's Alchemy Fanifare - a linen/rayon home dec fabric that sells for $18.98 on  When I was working on a clutch for Stitch magazine last winter, the editor sent me 5 yards of it because someone else hadn't wanted it for their project.  I only needed a half-yard, but Amber said to just keep the rest. So I did.  While it's home dec, it is also suitable for garments as it is not too heavy and has a nice drape to it.  When I saw Rhonda's pattern, I knew this fabric would be perfect!

It's a super simple pattern - it's really just a simple apron shape times two.  Here's the back of the envelope:

I washed and dried the fabric contrary to the recommended instructions because I wanted it nice and soft.  I didn't make a muslin of the dress and just made alterations on the fly, mainly raising the shoulder seams about 5/8" and adding back darts so that I could get a good fit in my upper back.

Next time I make it I plan to add a couple inches in length.  I feel all babydollish at this length, especially if I wear the dress with heels.  This is not necessarily a bad feeling, but not one that I want for more than 1-2 garments total.  I'm also thinking that I might lengthen the bust to waist area by about an inch so that the tie sits more at my actual waist.  When I wore this to church, someone came up to me and said, "Oh, I didn't know you were expecting!"  I don't know if this has ever happened to you, but that DID NOT feel good.  I'm going to blame it on the higher-than-usual waist that sometimes makes the fabric bunch a bit in the baby bump area.  Not on the couple pounds I gained this summer, oh no.

I lined the back bodice with silk muslin, partly because it was light and soft (the linen is thicker and a wee bit scratchy) and partly because I wanted the contrast on the tie. 

The neck and arms are finished with single fold bias tape.

The silk muslin also has a story.  About once a week or so, I scan Craigslist to see if anyone is selling fabric.  I've been lucky twice now.  I picked up this fabric (and another two half-bolts, one wool one tencel) from a woman who was selling up in order to follow her boyfriend to DC.  She lived in a garden apartment with a couple of cats and a dress form.  I felt a bit guilty because it wasn't clear that this boyfriend was going to come through (he was a week late in calling her to make arrangements).

Do you have any fabric that came into your possession in a storied way?