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

STITCH Magazine, Spring 2014

Hey, I'm in a magazine!

Stitch Spring 2014 - see here

Here I am!  

Can you see the "Designed By Lisa Polderman"?

Well, not ME - that's a model.  But she's wearing my skirt!

The hardest part of this knit/jersey skirt was cutting and sewing the chevron fabric so that the chevrons matched up across the pleats (especially when the print wasn't quite on grain):

There's a number of lovely projects in this magazine.  The one I'm most excited about making (apart from my own!) is this interesting chevron pencil skirt designed by Tina Lewis:

If you want to buy a copy, Stitch is available at Joann's Fabrics and some independent sewing stores (but not my local Hancock Fabrics, grr-blah) as well as online.

On the Importance of Stretch


I made this top up a couple of weeks ago but had to wait to finish it because my coverstitch/serger was in the shop. One of the air threading tubes got clogged. I tried my best to clear it on my own but in the end I had to pay for a service. I don't like being thwarted by the machines . . .

I found this wool jersey at the Great Textile Discount Outlet when I went there last fall with Gail.  On a previous visit I found a teal version of this stuff, and was so excited to see it in this raspberry/violet color. You may have noticed that I have a thing for jewel tones, especially those in the magenta-fuchsia-raspberry-purple family. I love that family.

I was going to buy 2 yards of the stuff until I heard the price, "Did you say $2.95/yard?!? Then I'll take 5 yards, kind sir!"

Since I have 5 YARDS of this, I decided I could afford to whip up a quick long-sleeve version of my peplum top (drafted using bodice from Sew U Home Stretch plus slash/spread of skirt - see here for the first couple versions of this top and the steps for how I did it).  What I didn't take into consideration was that this fabric has some crosswise stretch but NO (zip zero nada nothin') lengthwise stretch.  When I first tried on the bodice (before adding the peplum) it was silly short.  Empire waist short.  So I decided this version would have a bodice band and I cut a 2.5" wide rectangle and slapped a double layer of it between the bodice and peplum. Why a double layer? I'm not sure, it just seemed like the right thing to do.

Then the sleeves ended just where I wanted, leaving nothing to hem.  (They were also a tad tight, but with a 1/4" seam allowance, there was no fixing that.) I thought about leaving the sleeves raw or doing an explosed serged/roll hem stitch.  But in the end, I went for binding the sleeves just as I did the neck (1.5" wide bias strip). I've been wanting to experiment with using the coverstitch function on my serger to finish the neck binding, and so I tried out two different versions on this top.  Stitching on both sides of seam:

And below the seam:

I think I like the stitches best when they straddle the seam line of the binding.

And now for a little accessorizing show:

Zebra belt - thrift store find

With necklace - see below for info

Infinity scarf made from leftovers from the wrap dress -
will probably end up in my Etsy shop
So the necklace is something I bartered for with my friend Julie.  She is an artist, and she makes art tile necklaces from images of her art.  You can see more of her work in her Etsy Shop - JulieFreeneyDesigns.  I love this necklace and I was so glad she asked me to hem a tablecloth for her!  (I think I got the better end of this deal.)

Lesson learned about stretch!!

Jalie 2921 - Top to Dress

I was very pleased with this dress when I first finished it, but now I'm not so sure.

I love the fabric - Italian Rayon Double Knit in Rhumba red from  It feels great, nice stretch and recovery, and a beautiful deep red color.  My regret is that I didn't make the skirt more flared when I did the whole slash and spread.

I was going for the Lady Skater look but with the Jalie 2921 top, but I kinda skimped on the spread, I think. It's wearable, but when I make this again I think I'll use a 1/2 or 3/4 circle for the skirt to give myself more twirl.

Meh twirl

So here's how I hacked the Jalie 2921 pattern to make the dress:

First, after making the magenta top, I figured out where I wanted the waist to be and then measured down from the bottom of the armscye to know where to mark on the pattern.  I then copied this onto a separate sheet of pattern paper and added an extra 3/8 in the side seams (the double knit wasn't as stretchy as the magenta fabric, but I didn't actually need it - I ended up taking the top back in once I tried it on).



Close up of front
I took my trusty Sew U Home Stretch skirt and made a copy of the front and back.  I then added four lines for spreading (so five sections total) onto the copy.

I then cut up the lines leaving 1/4" intact near the waist.  I spread each section 1 1/4 inches apart and then taped the sections in place on my cutting mat.

I placed a new sheet of paper over the top and traced out the new pattern.

And then I sewed up the bodice and the skirt and joined them at the waist.

It's fine, just not quite my vision.  Luckily, I've got enough knit fabric in my stash to try again!!

And I include these photos just for fun.  I've been experimenting with taking pictures while I'm moving (I set my camera to take five photos on the self-timer) because a good friend told me I look better in motion.  This has given me some better shots, but also some really silly ones!

Invisible hands!

Not sure what I was going for with this look . . .
Next week I'll have the Vogue 8379 wrap dress to show you that I made for a client.  I like it so much that now I want one for myself!

Jalie 2921: Scarf Collar Top

I think this was my first make of 2014 for me.  I've been wanting to make this pattern up since I saw Lauren's version last year.  I love it!

Jalie 2921 - Pattern Cover

One of the things I loved about making this top was the construction steps.  Jalie has you sew the scarf collar with the top inside it (before sewing the side seams) so that the scarf has a nice finish all the way around.  It looked a bit like a sausage when I sewed it up:

You have to remember to leave a gap in one end of the scarf so that you can turn the sausage back into a top (and then slip stitch the hole closed).  I love learning new techniques like this!

I used a super soft rayon blend fabric that I purchased from  I bought the magenta, and now I have my eye on the peacock.  Seriously, this fabric is like wearing marshmallows, without the stickiness.  It's so stretchy that I was worried about recovery, but it's not an issue - it stays in shape all day. And I've washed the top a couple times with no funny business.

See how cozy it is?!
I didn't need to do much with this pattern, fit wise.  I cut a U on top and tapered to a T at the waist/hips. I lengthened the sleeves, because I wanted something that would keep my lower arms warm. And I added clear elastic to the back neck area as well as the shoulder seams because it seemed like a good idea with the scarf. This is my first Jalie pattern and I'm sold!!

I'm not really sure about the tying the scarf into a bow.  Here's my best attempt, and it's not so hot:

This really is a bow, trust me.

 I'm much more likely to wear it in a knot (I'm capable of tying that) or loose like a tie/scarf.

I liked this pattern so much, that my second make of 2014 was a dress, using Jalie 2921 on top and my TNT Sew U Stretch skirt on the bottom.  I'll show you how I did it later this week!

The Wedding Dress

Oh, I will always remember 2013 as the year I made my first wedding dress.  In 2007 and 2009, I birthed babies.  In 2013, I birthed a dress.

Photographer: Lisa Frederick, Angel Photo

Back in the spring, the friend of a client contacted me about making her wedding dress for an October wedding.  My heart started racing the moment I read the email.  Did I have the balls to take on a WEDDING DRESS when I had never even sewn with silk? Or underlined?? Or used scissors on anything anywhere near as expensive as vintage Chantilly lace???

Photographer: Lisa Frederick, Angel Photography

Yes. Apparently, I do.

Photographer: Lisa Frederick, Angel Photography

And Kristen, the bride, clearly knows how to gamble, because she trusted me to do it.

Photographer: Lisa Frederick, Angel Photography

Of the various challenging things I have done in my life, making a wedding dress most reminded me of what it was like to train for a marathon. At each stage of the process (making a boned bustier, cutting and sewing silk charmeuse, underlining, working with lace, putting all the parts together) I wasn't sure I could actually do the next step. I would study, think about it, procrastinate, think some more, make a cup of coffee, and then overcome all my anxiety by picking up the scissors (or the needle or the boning) and willing myself into action.

Photographer: Lisa Frederick, Angel Photography

I had back up, and that helped a lot. Rhonda Buss of the blog Rhonda's Creative Life agreed to be my consultant.  She came to the first muslin fitting and she made her self available by email and phone to answer ALL of my questions.  Every single one.  And there's a good chance I asked some of them twice.

Photographer: Lisa Frederick, Angel Photography

Dress stats

  • 1.5 spools of black Gutermann thread
  • 4 yards of vintage Chantilly lace from Supreme Novelty Fabrics in Chicago
  • 80 hours of labor - here and here
  • 3 yards of silk charmeuse from Fishman's Fabrics in Chicago
  • Susan Khalje's Bridal Couture book
  • 1 yard of silk satin (Fishman's)
  • 3 sleepless nights due to deadline that could not be moved
  • Gingher serrated scissors, borrowed from a friend
  • 3 yards of Bemberg lining (
  • pair of wire cutters
  • 4 moments of feeling utterly sick with worry
  • a new found love of couture sewing
  • 3 muslins
  • 4 yards of black cotton batiste (Fishman's)
  • wrist injury (handsewing)
  • 3/4 yard Petersham ribbon for waist stay
  • waxed tracing paper from Richard the Thread
  • Vogue pattern 2237 (as a starting place)
  • 1.5 tracing wheels (the first broke, mid-project)
  • borrowed dress form
  • 37 nights of anxious sleep, spread out over 2 months
  • three irons (two died, one lived)
  • 1 Pinterest board
  • 1/2 package of royal blue bias tape from one of my thrift store hauls
  • 1 yard 1/8" piping for piping between dress and yoke
  • Couple yards of spiral steel boning (Richard the Thread)
  • gross of pins
  • 1 button
  • 1/2 yard satin hook and eye tape (Ebay)
  • The biggest runner's high you can possibly imagine.




A BIG thank you to my friend Lisa Frederick of Angel Photography for trudging out on a dreary day to take photos of the dress!  Thanks, Lady! They are beautiful!!

See more photos from the wedding on Outer Focus Photos' wedding album.  Brigette (Sullivan) Supernova does fantastic work!

Makeovers for Two 70's Dresses

I added alterations to my list of services for clients about a year ago.  I wasn't sure I would enjoy doing alterations, but I found I really do!  Alteration projects tend to be fairly quick (1-3 hours) so they balance out my longer bespoke work.  And I love how happy I can make someone by making something fit them well.

One of my clients loves 70's vintage garments.  It can be hard to find vintage items that 1) you love, 2) are in good condition, and 3) fit you well.  If you find something that meets two out of three of those conditions you are in good shape.  Carrie brought me two dresses that she had purchased from an online vintage seller. One of the dresses met two of those conditions (she loved the fabric/style and it was in good condition) and the other met only one (she loved the fabric/style).

Dress #1

This first dress was in great condition.  I love the funky print and the zipper closure and the pointy collar.

But the dress was at least two sizes too big and generally shapeless - I know 70's dress often are a bit shapeless, but this did not flatter Carrie at all.

Dress #2

Dress #2 great color/print mixing and a nice style, but it was too long, about a size too big, and something had munched on the fabric in a few places.

For Dress #1, I pinned front and back darts and took in the side seams until the fit was good for Carrie.

I marked my pins on the inside with tailor's chalk then pinned to compare/adjust to get the darts and side seams even (same length, same width, symmetrical placement).

And the sack-with-potential became a nicely fitting dress while maintained the general styling from that era:

I had to make sure that the print matched across the new darts/seamlines
otherwise the dress would look like it had had a few drinks!

Dress #2 took more work to get it into shape.  I started by shortening the dress by about four inches.  This gave me some excess fabric, and I used what I cut off the hem to patch the holes in the dress.  Then I pinned the princess seams until the fit was better for Carrie.  Taking these in was a bit more complicated because I had to open up parts of the waist and sleeve seams to adjust the princess seam properly.  

Dress length now hits just at the knee instead of mid-calf.

It was fun to work with older garments and see how they were put together.  And I'm glad that they will get to live outside of a closet again!