I’ll Never Sew Again!! Tales of UFOs and Persistence

Mom looked at what I’d stitched and remarked, “it’s not right, tear it out and do it over.”  I wadded up the garment, threw it in the corner and announced, “I’m never sewing again!!” I recall that moment more than 50 years ago, but not the garment or its issues.

My Mom was a gifted sewist herself and she was patient with teaching me the craft at such a young age. Sewing had always been a part of her life and I think it gave her joy when I expressed an interest as well, I announced at age seven that I wanted to be a fashion designer and started with paper doll clothes made out of fabric. I was always eager to learn and proud of my makes and to this day, at 89, Mom beams when I thank her for sharing her knowledge with me.  That day long ago, she didn’t try to convenience me how much I loved sewing and to not be frustrated, she just let me stew.  It was probably one of the best lessons she ever taught me.

Obviously, I didn’t stay away from sewing for very long.  Continue reading

Never Too Old to Feel Like a Princess

What a year 2018 has been . . . a complete whirlwind!  I guess that’s what happens when you get married in the middle of it! I still can’t believe it has already been over seven months!untitled-343

I didn’t do a lot of sewing this year, but I did tackle one amazing project and it is by far one of my proudest!  Yes . . . I’m talking about the infamous wedding gown!   I’ve wanted to blog about it for some time and the Designin’ December challenge is just the opportunity to do so!

It was obvious I was going to create my own gown, but it took awhile to figure out exactly what I wanted.  I sifted through thousands of pictures for inspiration.  By most accounts, I am a senior citizen and a chubby one at that!  I didn’t want to look silly for my age and weight, but I also wanted to feel like that princess everyone dreams of feeling on their wedding day.  I wanted a big, full skirt with a train, some lace and lots of pearls and beading, it also had to have some sort of sleeve.  No strapless for me and these ta tas! I found myself constantly gravitating to the same picture.  Could I pull this look off?  I always tell my clients, go try a bunch of dresses on, see what you like, what works with your body .  .  . did I heed my own advice . . . hell no!

I knew I didn’t want white, and was actually sure I’d go with a lovely cream or ivory.  I’d made some other gowns out of silk dupioni and loved the feel and the look of it, so I went online and ordered some swatches from Mood.  On a whim, I decided to order a swatch of a dusty rose as well as a pretty lavender.  If you know me, you know my favorite color is purple!  And the second I opened my package of swatches I knew I’d found my fabric! I loved it.

It was much harder finding the lace, the only one that spoke to me was also from Mood, an exquisite three-dimensional stunner with lavender and beige chiffon petals, pearled, beaded, and intricate silver stitching. And also very expensive.  But hell, I was worth it . . . it was my wedding after all!

With all my materials in hand, it was time to actually start the process.  I hadn’t sewn much for myself recently so I had to get reacquainted with the lumps and bumps of menopause  as well as deal with some major body image issues (see some of my previous posts!).  I knew the bodice was going to be my biggest challenge. I didn’t want to completely make my own pattern, so found Butterick #6186 that gave me the bodice lines that I was looking and Vogue #1095 for that big, full skirt and train that I wanted. I know looking at them you’d never imagine they’d be a good mash up, but I could envision it in my head.20180401_151938

It took several weekends, nine muslin bodice toiles, several tears and two full ‘practice’ dresses to know I had the patterns tweaked just right for my gown. The bodice is very fitted through the bust and I wanted a nice set in sleeve and the pattern just wasn’t giving me what I wanted.  I watched several videos and determined I needed to raise my armscye a few inches and that meant my sleeve head pattern had very little curve.20180331_090122 It sure looked weird! As experienced a sewist that I am, I never imagined it would take me so long to get the fit ‘just right’ or should I say absolutely perfect.

About five weeks before the wedding, I actually started cutting out my gown.  With dupioni, I like to underline in cotton broadcloth. I also decided not to put a waist seam in the gown since I’d have a waist piece covering where the lace and dress met.  I vividly recall my anxieties that Sunday morning when I said a quick prayer took that first cut into my lace . . . there was not enough for any errors and time was ebbing away.  The bodice was seven pieces and each piece had to have the pearls and beads cut off, one by one along the seam allowance so I could sew my seams by machine.  On average, each piece took about an hour. 20180408_141054

From the beginning, even when I was thinking an ivory gown, I wanted a purple train.  A fun pop of color that is totally me and no one would know until they saw my rear going down the aisle!  My soon-to-be husband, also wanted  me to make his waistcoat and cravat. I found just the right shade of purple satin from Fabric.com for both and also ordered enough to make matching table overlays.  Yes, I’m a glutton for punishment, but that’s another story!

Where the dark purple train met the waistband, it needed a little something. I made a multi-purple silk chiffon butt flower – great term, eh?  Not as elaborate as I thought I’d do, but I didn’t want my gown to cross over into a costume.  “Scale back and edit,” was ringing through my ears . . . thank you Tim Gunn!untitled-472

Two weeks before the wedding, I hit a snag.  I had done all of my fittings by myself up until this point, but now that the gown was well under construction and the zipper was in, it was proving to be very difficult.  I knew my fiancé wouldn’t have the patience to deal with the zipper and that fluttery lace so I attempted to, once again, do it myself, zipping it part way with the zip in the front and then spinning it around my rotund girth and getting my arms in the armholes . . . Well, the zip got stuck on the thickness at the waist (the dress not mine, hahaha!!), and in my attempts to get it up or even down, it seperated.  Needless to say I was in tears and it seemed to take forever to finally get out of it!

Out came the seam ripper and a trek to the store to purchase a new zipper!  Mom was due here in a few days and I knew she could help with the final fittings as well as get it zipped for me.  Afterall, she was the one who taught me how to sew.

My gown is fully lined in china silk and I also made a foundation piece under the entire bodice. I sweat a lot so didn’t want any rings coming through on my big day.  I actually ended up with seven layers of fabric in my bodice – no moisture was going to penetrate that! The waist piece was cut on the bias and pleated in the center and stiffened with an underpiece that is interfaced.  I was so pleased how the waist held up through the entire day, kept its shape and didn’t wrinkle! The ornamentation was a pin I picked up, of all places Michael’s craft store!  I used two inch horsehair braid in the hem for the flare, as well as wore a very full petticoat that I purchased at a bridal shop underneath.  I wish the the petticoat had been even fuller to really hold the dress out like my inspiration photo.20180418_112644

I completed my gown the day before the wedding and had it professionally pressed. They were amazed I had made it myself! Of course I needed something to keep me busy on the morning of the wedding so that’s when I made my fascinator as well as covered the buttons and made the buttonholes for my husband’s waistcoat. He said it didn’t make him the least bit nervous . . . he’s a keeper!!

Blood, sweat, and tears were worth it . . . I truly did feel like a princess all day!!





TGIFF -Is it Done Yet?

Is it done yet??  That seems to be the question I keep getting over and over. Why did I tell so many people that I was making my own wedding gown!!  It’s so easy for me to talk with clients and help them create something that is just special for them!  Now my self talk has begun . . . it’s time to start on some simple garments and work with my boobs and broad shoulders so that I can make a pattern for my gown.  Once I get a few items completed, I’ll be much more comfortable drafting a muslin mock for myself of the actual gown bodice, that by-the-way, was supposed to be done weeks ago.  Truth be told, I’m not feeling that far behind or stressed, so that’s all good.  Two months Five weeks is plenty of time!   [Update – I wrote most of this post weeks ago.  I’m happy to say the toile and pattern for my gown is complete!]

From my pattern stash I pulled out a few and carefully studied how they were made in the bust.  I wanted one that had some similar lines to the bodice of my gown, and I wanted something that I could wear to work, church, or a dinner function. I decided on an ‘Amazing Fit’ by Simplicity # 1277. I’ve used parts of the Amazing Fit line with good luck with my customers, so I was hoping for the same for me.  They include pieces based on your cup size (up to DD) and have a wide range of sizes going up to a Womens 28.

I also chose this pattern because I had enough fabric . . . as I mentioned in my last post, I had a motivation picture that I’d posted to Instagram.  It was a jacket and pants that I’d designed for a Simon Mall competition a few years ago. The fabric I’d used to line that jacket was a lovely weight paisley polyester blend ‘silky’ from Jo Ann’s, called ‘Ocean.’ After my competition, I’d gone back to get more of it for a dress  for me, I liked it that much! It’s navy blue background with various shades of teal running through it, these colors are really good for me and they do remind me of the ocean. Ironically, I knew I was falling in love with Carl at the ocean and that’s where we’re going for our honeymoon. But we’ll save those stories for another time . . . and another blog post!

Motivation pic – I won the contest

I’d actually forgotten about the fabric until last year, when in a panic for one of my fashion shows I needed to come up with something, and I needed it quick. I was going to add a cold shoulder sleeve to a vest I’d already made and shown in a previous show, giving it a different and new look.  My Ocean fabric was in the right color family and since I was only going to be tacking these sleeves on for one show, they’d be usable after for my dress – if and when I got around to it!

Look at those points!!  I could be a quilter!

I pulled all my pattern pieces out, comparing them against my own measurements and determined I’d need to cut the largest size for my body but a different, smaller size for the neck and shoulders.  Patterns run so differently than off the rack, it’s hard to not be discouraged when you see the number, but it’s just a number that really means nothing . . . Or so I’m trying to convince myself!

The measuring, altering patterns, pinning, rechecking measurements, and cutting always seems to take the most amount of time, this is when you know whether your garment will fit or not.  Once cut, you can’t easily make larger, especially if it is something in the length and my torso is long and wide.  I tend to always go with the larger size and take in as needed and this pattern has a generous 1″ side seam allowance.  Since my tummy area has no defined waist, I wanted to give the illusion with a contrast for the inset pieces. I had some teal lightweight wool left over from the pants, and I already knew it matched!  The only thing I did when cutting out my dress was straighten the side seam.  I’d rather nip it in a bit for my own curves than have it too tight to start with.



Hey, I do have a waist!  And don’t you love that pocket!

I was so happy with the fit on the base of this dress that I left it behind to move on to making my bodice toile for my gown (watch for that blog post!!)  And then, thanks to my friend Rebecca and her blog post, I was inspired to complete this dress for the TGIFF Party.  I’d already inserted a muslin sleeve and knew the adjustments I needed to make to the sleeve that had been tacked on to the vest.

Muslin sleeve that had already been inserted into the dress, laid out to recut just the top from the original sleeve I’d had for my other project!  Wasn’t quite wide enough, so I added a triangle gusset in the underarm. Who’s going to be in there?

Sleeve inserted, hems and hand stitching done . . . and I’m off to work!!  And it’s completed by Friday!  20180329_084634I think I might shorten it a bit, making it more flattering.  And I wish I wasn’t such a big girl, but I do feel great in my me made!! I also love the bell sleeve with the elastic gathering at the elbow.  I know I’ll feel just as awesome in my wedding gown too!

PRO TIP:  When you’re trying to match a waist seam while inserting an invisible zipper, stitch the right side.  Zip it up. Place a pin with a colorful head, or use a chalk pencil, where the seam is. Unzip, being careful not to lose the pin!  Place that pin at the waist, pin on both sides and stitch it up.  Voilà, it matches perfectly!!





The Lessons Dad Taught Me

facebook_1497831913762A beautiful Sunday here in North Carolina . . . bright blue skies, lots of sunshine, the temperature and humidity letting you know that summer is just about here. And it’s Father’s Day. I’ve wanted to do nothing but watch sappy movies and pull the covers over my head.  I haven’t even been able to post well wishes for those great Dad’s I know on my Facebook feed.

You see, five years ago this month, I lost my Dad.  We didn’t have that close bond like a lot of daughter’s do with their fat Continue reading

What’s a Sewist?

According to Threads Magazine, Sewist: a relatively new term, combining the words “sew” and “artist”, to describe someone who creates sewn works of art, which can include clothing or other items made with sewn elements.  Sewer vs. Sewist – Threads It sure beats being a Sewer! (an underground conduit for carrying off drainage water and waste matter.)  After calling myself a ‘seamstress,’ for the past 30 plus years, this term is starting to grow on me!
I began my foray down the creative path with fabrics and my sewing machine in my youth. Designing cloth clothing for my paper dolls when I was around seven, or so my mother tells me.  Fifty years later and the passion has not waned.  Over the years I’ve made numerous articles of clothing for myself as well as sewing for others, primarily women, curvaceous women at that. I’ve taken on the aesthetic of ‘Real Women have Curves’ with a tag line of ‘Let me flatter yours!’  It’s a niche I’ve found myself very good at, being a big, curvy girl myself!!
I’m starting this venture to document all the things I create with fabric, needle and thread. There have been so many items and people, and as I get older I want something to go back to, to remember and relive these moments, some good and some not so good.  Along the way I hope to weave tales of times past, what I’ve learned, and what I can teach, share and pass on to others who are as passionate about sewing as I am. I hope you’ll follow me on this journey – what’s more amazing than taking a rectangle of cloth, cutting it into different shapes, zip it under the pressure foot of a sewing machine, stitch away, and in no time you have an article of clothing to wear!  Yep, it’s an art.
I have no professional training, I’ve read very little literature on sewing and couture, my skills have been developed over many years, with lots of patience, and a damn good seam ripper!!  I didn’t have the internet or you tube tutorials to hone my craft, very few others in my adult life even know how to thread a needle and sew on a button. For me, it’s just been practice, practice, practice. And all that practicing sure has paid off!!
 I’m heading into the studio now, but will be back soon with a lot more to share!