Thursday, May 5, 2016

Random Threads # 20: thoughts on practice and a few questions answered

The end of winter always gives my sewing a boost. Not that I need one really, as long as there is a new coat or jacket pattern that I don't need but seem to sew up anyway. Speaking of which - I did a pattern test for my favorite indie pattern designer (alluded to recently) and I can't wait for her release. Since completed I have been wearing the item all the time. And learned a lesson about neutrals. But that can wait for a later post.

Back to spring sewing - I made a test version of a Burda pattern that grabbed my attention recently. As I mentioned in this post, I am trying some new-to-me silhouettes. Here is the Burda pattern, and I think the success is almost entirely due to how they placed the print in the fabric.

Burda mod style dress
So I gave it a go using some fabric that I had in the stash - which I recall buying at a thrift store. It is not the most sturdy of weave - tends to get all unravely as soon as you handle it. So I figured, oh it is a test version, just to see fit and if I like the shape. Didn't wash the fabric. Which was a slight mistake as it had a musty smell which I didn't notice when sewing but later did as it sat on my dress form. Weird! Anyway - it has been airing out in the garage for a week and the smell is gone. Should have washed it - but I thought it was just going to be for testing, and now I like it.

Pink Burda dress on me1

Unfortunately in a solid color you can't see the seaming at all, and this is one of those dresses that looks so much better in real life, moving around, than it does when standing still for a photo. Looking at that image I think it looks like a sack - but my friends said "ooo cute dress" when they saw it. So I am going to go with the live and in person feedback and ignore the photo evidence! One thing I loved about this is the neckline / armholes / upper back fit perfectly using size 38. Not a change done. Yippee! the proportions are just perfect on me. So I will definitely make it again in a print. I think in a washed silk it would be so perfect. Perhaps needs a bit of jewelry, a nice long necklace. (despite the fact that I am not much of a jewelry wearer - something about having extra things on me bugs - particularly necklaces).

pink dress 3 views

Last week I bought some silk at Stone Mountain which is a panel with a stripe effect similar to the Burda example - so perhaps I will try that. $ 11 for one yard 55" wide panel which was upstairs in their half-off section. Lots of treasures there :)

Are you a podcast junkie?  I would not be able to get through a gym workout without them but I do find them so great to listen to at other times as well. This week I have been listening to the Freakonomics podcast episodes about practice, persistence and grit. The ability to stick with things to improve your skills. How does this apply to sewing? Well the obvious point that practice, doing things until you get the hang of it, be it buttonholes, or zippers. or inserting sleeves or matching plaids. All things where you obviously become more adept with practice. But I suggest applying training methods to your sewing, like you would a sport. In tennis you do drills - how about buttonhole drills. I never go straight to making the buttonholes on a garment - whether bound ones or machine made. I always make a few practice ones in scraps - with the same interfacing as the garment, same amount of layers etc. It's a dry run for the real thing, and it is amazing how many times what I thought I would do is not how I actually did it. Or just found out little things about how the fabric behaves, or the color of thread that is best. Do tests with everything - audition the interfacing for a garment on scraps, test all the possible stitch lengths and threads for topstitching, baste the sleeves from your muslin into the actual garment just to see how they fit.  All these "drills" will pay off in the finished item.

Recent questions:  I am kind of remiss in answering questions that are left in the comments so here are a few answers.
Julie asked how to keep the V-neckline corners from flipping out on this dress and I know exactly what she means. That does tend to happen. Even more so if the neckline is too big, so first make sure it is fitted to your upper chest. Then I suggest a good interfacing, even some extra silk organza in that area to keep it flat. And under stitching really helps. You want to make sure the facing is slightly pulling the outer fabric towards your body.
Nancy asked a question about the same dress - how to keep the bra straps hidden with the cut in armholes. Since I have a lot of things with this shape, the obvious answer is a racer-back bra but I don't tend to like those. I have a little clear stretch plastic thingie which hooks the straps together, but it is kind of lumpy. So I made my own version, just some soft elastic, and a couple of snaps. The beauty of this is that you can make a bunch, not be concerned if you lose it - toss a couple in your travel bag for summer trips and also make in various colors and stretchiness for various bras or tops.
Imb09 asked about the pink and white dot fabric I made using MyFabricDesigns, and whether it was available for purchase. I haven't uploaded any of my designs as purchasable items, maybe I will do that. I have two more on the way to me, including a silk crepe de chine so I can't wait to see that in person.
Sewmanju asked me about interfacing the button band on the denim shirtdress. The pattern doesn't say to interface that area which is a bit of a worry with buttonholes. However the fabric is folded back onto itself, so you are actually creating a buttonhole on three layers of the fabric. In this situation the actual fabric is acting as a layer of interfacing. I think if you add interfacing then it becomes too stiff. I notice this on a few shirts where you fold back twice to create the button band. In a sewn-on button band there are only two layers of fabric - thus you add the 3rd layer which is interfacing.

Sewing Lessons - I have updated my sewing instruction website ( with info on remote sessions. So if you are across the globe and not able to be here in California but want to get some help with a technique, get pattern and fabric advice or get some fit feedback  - we can talk via Skype or FaceTime.

Craftsy posts - Here are a couple of my latest Craftsy posts,  the jeans alteration post was a win as I found those white jeans in just my size, except for that waist fit issue, at a thrift store for $ 5 with the Macy's tags still on! (otherwise I don't think I would bought used white jeans) Here is the jeans alteration post and here is the polished sewing post.

Craftsy posts May 2016

I have a feeling that the jeans alteration post is going to be a popular one. They recently had a post with their most shared sewing posts and I think my Craftsy post on sewing princess seams was at the top with over 19,000 shares. I'll have to ponder what I did right in that one to come up with more ideas for the future.

I am in the midst of a very involved project for my friend Heather, making her a boucle jacket and then also a dress with both the boucle and a wool double knit. This is a slow and steady project, as it has been for all her fabrics she bought at Mood in NY last summer. Speaking of Mood, I have a $ 100 credit there which was my prize for winning the Color-Block contest on Pattern Review a few months ago. I keep going to the website but so far I can't figure out what I want to buy. I need to go in person, right?

In other purchase news - I do not need to buy any more patterns but am getting so close to buying this  Burda 04/2016 # 119B dress if only I can find the right striped fabric. And today I happened to see this Burda pattern and now I want it also. Kind of basic, the shirt sleeve proportions are all wrong, but the pattern has potential and I love that drawstring waist. Hmmm, I think I can just create it on my own. And save $ 8. On the to-do list that goes.

Burda 6662 pattern env

Speaking of the Simplicity website - still horrendous. What a mess, searchablility is non-existent. I used to look at it all the time to compare/choose patterns. Weird what some companies will do.

OK - that's all for today. Saturday I will be teaching at Sips N Sews in San Francisco, a 3-hour workshop on home dec pillows. And then the following Saturday 5/14 is the UFO - Sew Lab. Bring in your unfinished or problem projects for some help to get them completed. Then Sunday 5/22 is the all day workshop to make a Summer Dress. Hope to see some of you there on any of these days.

Happy Sewing, Beth

Today's garden picture - this is a penstemon bought 2 years ago at the local junior college horticultural department plant sale. The colors are so nice and it draws in the hummingbirds.



  1. Simply AMAZING! This fabric though! Such a great patterns for sewing

  2. Yes I agree that you need to go to Mood in person!!!

  3. I JUST pulled out a team and white stripe to make that dress for my April Burda Challenge project.

    I really like the pink dress. And I love Burda. Their instructions make me sad but their patterns more often than not, just work.

    I've yet to buy anything from Mood. One day. Maybe.

  4. So cool you're offering remote sessions! I've been re-reading your craftsy sleeve tutorial last week ;o) I've recently become a podcast addict...I listen to them while I sew. I loved reading Freakonomics but am yet to add that one to my thanks for the reminder. One of my favourites is Planet Money by NPR.

  5. What a beautiful pink dress! I love it. It looks comfortable and great on you.

  6. What a beautiful pink dress! I love it. It looks comfortable and great on you.


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