Friday, December 23, 2011

Giveaway Winners and another Christmas treasure

I am speedily sewing the the last few christmas presents today.  Some of my family members may get a box with fabric and a photo, but that is nothing new.  Which usually works out better and should lead to fewer after-the-fact alterations.  
As for other Christmas preparations, my shopping is mostly done. I always have a few last minute things to get, and sometimes have lucked out with a find of something that turned out to be "the" present of the season.You know what I mean, you get everything on everyone's list, or something you think they need or could use, and then the one random present purchased on a whim turns out to be the best thing ever. If only I could go back and analyse what made that one thing such a success.  Chalk it up to serendipity, which my computer dictionary says has an origin in a fairy tale, The Three Princes of Serendip, who "were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of".  I love that.  Describes so many things I have found. 

And of things you were not in quest of, but serendipitously found, here are the results of my holiday giveaway!

For the See's Candy:    Lynne Williams in Wisconsin
For the Palmer and Pletsch tailoring book:  Ruta in ?
For the Singer Creative Sewing book:  My Summer Touch in Russia

I will be going to the post office after the holiday, so send me your mailing address at my e-mail:  sunnygalstudio (at)

Thank you so much for all your comments on the Christmas wreath I showed in my last post, which my very talented grandmother originated.  I could show you so many things she made for Christmas, she seemed to work on holiday items all throughout the year, as well as many other wonderful creations.  In today's parlance she might be called a crafter, but back then she was just like all her sisters who never sat still, were always doing something with her hands.  She was a very good knitter, but crocheting, that was her speciality. We have large lace tablecloths she crocheted, I cannot imaging the patience to finish something like that and I don't think I have ever used it.  She made blankets, hats, shawls, and even made a hot pink bikini for me when I was in my teens. My mother has some holiday tablecloths that are embroidered with red, green and gold threads, absolutely beautiful which we do use.

Here are the Christmas stockings she made for my family when my sister and I were small. I remember her knitting these, I was always amazed at the construction, with lots of little yarn bobbins wound with the different colors, and she would tell us not to interrupt when she counted the stitches to knit the names.  My stocking has my full name which only my grandmother used, so when the stocking is hung up the name kind of folds behind a bit and it looks like Ethan. My sis used to tease me that some guy named Ethan would get my presents. 
Xmas stocking
I love how Santa's beard is knit with angora. I almost want to learn to knit so I can make these stockings. . . almost.  I have a feeling this is an advanced project!
Xmas stocking closeup

Thank you to everyone who reads this blog, your comments are appreciated more than I can express. Discovering the sewing blog community several years ago has reinvigorated my creativity and multiplied my enjoyment of a favorite pursuit.  

For the new year I will be making one of the Vogue patterns that was suggested in the giveaway entries.  I have not made my final choice but I am thinking it will be something with a chic European look.  So stay tuned in the New Year!

Merry Christmas to all,  Beth

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Last day to enter the Holiday Giveaway

Holiday Greetings to all.  Today is the last day to enter my Holiday giveaway, as tomorrow I will draw the winners' names.  Here are the details:

How to enter?  I have thrown out a challenge to myself.  Is there a particular Vogue pattern that you would like to see me make?  I am game to try anything, and so far there have been some fantastic suggestions. Fitting, fabric choice, sewing techniques, I will go through all in a series of posts.  And I will try to choose something out of my usual comfort zone. 

Based on the Vogue patterns suggested so far, some of you think I lead a glamorous party filled life, but more likely is that we all (myself included) look at those fabulous patterns and wish we had somewhere to wear them!  I do love a party dress so maybe one of those will be the choice.  In any case, it has been really fun to read the comments and I look forward to sewing up something fabulous.

For one US reader, a half-pound box of See's chocolate candy, which is a west coast favorite and no holiday is complete without it.

For 2 International readers, one of these great sewing books

Here is a little Christmas nostalgia for you to see.  This is a wreath I made, based on a design my grandmother Betty first did when I was very little.  She made these holiday gift package wreaths for everyone in our family, and they were all different, based on the wrapping paper and little trinkets she put on them. When we were little we loved to look at all the little details, and the wreath usually sat on the coffee table with a big candle in the center.  One of my happiest memories is unwrapping our presents on Christmas, with us ripping open our gifts and my grandmother saying "save that paper, it is pretty and I can use it on a wreath".  Also in the summer we would collect tiny fallen pine cones that she would later spray paint gold.  

My mom still has the original wreath that my grandmother made, it is close to 50 years old and one of our family treasures, carefully wrapped up each year and put away for the next Christmas.  

So leave a comment if you would like to be entered in the drawing and let me know where you are writing from (state or country).

Happy Last Minute Holiday Sewing to all,  Beth

Friday, December 16, 2011

Silk Charmeuse blouse, Part 2 - Hidden Buttonhole Placket, plus enter the Holiday Giveaway

In my last post I started a silk charmeuse blouse but modified the pattern, Simplicity 2339, to have a hidden buttonhole placket and facing instead of an attached button front band.

Here is a look at the blouse front and the facing, with the placket pieces interfaced and then stitched right sides together.  On the right the placket is pressed toward the facing, this is the side that will get the buttonholes.  

Blue silk blouse front with facing

Now the placket has been edgestitched on both sides, just on the inside. You can see the edgestitching where the center is open at the bottom of the photo.  I think I neglected to take some photos during this process since I was working it out as I went, and not really thinking about documenting.  (in case it didn't work out!) So I can't show you the steps in between the photo above and below.  Hatty commented that she would like a tutorial on this hidden button placket, so I will try to do that soon.

Blue silk blouse hidden placket
For the buttonhole placement and spacing, I copied those from my RTW blouse.   Any shortcut at hand in December, when sewing at super speed!  
And I didn't follow my own tip which many readers have used - stitching the interfacing and then turn and press, that would have been a great edge treatment for this blouse facing. What was I thinking?  Sewing on autopilot and using scrap pieces of interfacing so the facing edge is less than lovely.  Oh well, next time.
Here is the finished placket seen from the right side. Buttonholes not cut yet. On the right is the blouse front, I ran a line of basting stitching and pinned very carefully to topstitch.

Blue silk blouse front stichingBlue silk blouse buttonholes

The finished blouse.  Look, Ma, no visible buttonholes. I can see it needs a good press.  The skirt is Simplicity 2512, a Cynthia Rowley skirt, which is crazy.  Cute on the mannequin, OK when worn if I could only stand with my backside to the wall.  One turn to the side, and it looks like an inflatable tire around the tummy and behind.  Unwearable.  I like the waistband and the fabric is just right with the blouse (scroll down to the bottom of this post for the first appearance of this fabric).  So I will be taking it apart and cutting down the skirt.

Blue silk blouse with skirt

Couple more pics.

Hidden buttonholesBlue silk blouse collar

And what about that holiday giveaway?  A random drawing from those who comment between now and Dec. 20. As I mentioned in my previous post, a box of See's Candy for a commenter in the US, and for international commenters, a choice of 2 sewing books (Palmer & Pletch Tailoring, or Singer Creative Sewing)
How to enter?  I put out a challenge to ask what Vogue pattern you would like to see me make and post about from start to finish (fabric, fitting and sewing).  You don't have to suggest a pattern if Vogues are not on your radar, just say hello and say where you are located.  Great nominations so far although a bit glamorous for my life these days - no red carpet appearances in my calender this upcoming awards season :)

Happy Holiday Sewing, Beth

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Silk Charmeuse blouse - Hidden Buttonhole Placket, plus enter the Holiday Giveaway

So back in October I was searching for the perfect blouse pattern, or at least one I liked a lot.  Once again I turned to a Simplicity Amazing Fit pattern, S2339.  Thus far I have had total success with these patterns, they do fit well, have lots of options and the multi-size pattern lets me fool around with fit very quickly.  Of course I can't just make something right out of the pattern envelope as it is designed, so I decided to create a hidden buttonhole placket.  

I have a burgundy color silk charmeuse blouse (purchased at Ann Taylor two holiday seasons ago) and I love it, wear it all the time in the winter.  I found some blue silk charmeuse on sale at and when it arrived it wasn't quite the color I expected, but very nice, classic deep sapphire blue, with a touch of Lycra.  Yeah! for the Lycra - when wearing.  Yuck - for the Lycra when sewing.  I have decided that woven fabrics with more than 2% lycra are annoying to sew,  they don't behave like wovens and want to stretch out just enough to create ripples.  But they don't sew like knits.  Really the worst qualities of both.  However if the lycra is 2% or so, that seems to be just about right and not give the problems.  Also for silk, part of the fun in sewing silk is the crisp press you can get, but that doesn't quite work with the silk that has stretch, as you will see.  Ok that is my fabric rant for today. 

Here is how I modified this pattern to include the hidden buttonhole placket.  This pattern has a sewn on placket, kind of a more casual look that is perfectly suitable for cotton shirts, but I wanted as few seams or stitching on the front.  To achieve that I added the placket to the shirt front, matching/overlaping seam allowances so that the front of the shirt had the same dimensions as if the finished blouse included the placket.  Not sure I am explaining that very well, but hopefully you can see what I did.  I also created a front facing, you can see that on the left.  Very important at this point to include the seam allowance where the facing will be sewn to the center front, you can see it marked with chalk below. 

Blue silk blouse front and facing

A look at the pattern envelope.  I do like the ruffle version, might have to try that in a cotton lawn in the spring.
Blue silk blouse pattern S2339

Here is a closer look at the placket modification, the piece they have you sew on is just incorporated into the front, plus seam allowance.

Blue silk blouse front
I created my own pattern piece for the hidden placket.  It will only have 5 buttons and the buttons start around the bustline, so it is about 12" long.  I cut two of these and interfaced completely, and then marked the buttonholes.  I used the selvedge of the fabric as the inner edge to reduce bulk and eliminate need for edge finishing.

Blue silk blouse buttonhole placket

So that is the tantalizing start to the case of my mysterious disappearing buttonholes!
Next post finishing the blouse front.

And what about that holiday giveaway?  A random drawing from those who comment between now and Dec. 20. As I mentioned in my previous post, a box of See's Candy for a commenter in the US, and for international commenters, a choice of 2 sewing books (Palmer & Pletch Tailoring, or Singer Creative Sewing)

How to enter?  I put out a challenge to ask what Vogue pattern you would like to see me make and post about from start to finish (fabric, fitting and sewing).  The suggestions so far have been fantastic and it is fun to see what others might want to make.  You don't have to suggest a pattern if Vogues are not on your radar, just say hello and say where you are located. 

So comment away !    Happy Holiday Sewing,  Beth

Sunday, December 11, 2011

SunnyGal Holiday Giveaway

Happy Holidays to blog readers and sewers everywhere.   Time for a SunnyGal Sewing Blog Giveaway! It was very popular last year so one lucky reader will receive a 1/2 lb. box of See's Candy.  Last year we had an unfortunate incident with the international mail, so the candy giveaway is limited to the USA only.  But international readers - I have something for you too, so keep reading. For some background on See's Candy, a West coast favorite, see last year's post.

Thank you so much for your comments over the past year.  I like to write multiple posts on one project and you have no idea how happy it makes me when someone comments that they are looking forward to the next post in a series. I love to sew and discovering the world of sewing blogs really energized my creativity and brought whole new way to share my enthusiasm.  For many years I worked in the corporate world, and while I mostly sewed all my clothes, that sewing was a very solitary endeavor.  After I stopped working full time I stumbled upon the pattern review sites and thus the wide world of sewing blogs.  Its a good thing that I had not found them while I was working, I would definitely have accomplished less at that job. It can be quite addictive to open up my reader and see new posts from all the great sewers.  So thank you to everyone who writes and shares their creations, daily blog reading now accompanies my morning coffee.

For international readers, 2 giveaways.  I find all kinds of sewing books at estate sales and thrift shops, here are today's choices.

Palmer & Pletsch tailoring book, these books are fantastic, I use all their fitting books for reference and this one explains lots of tailoring techniques in a very easy to follow style.  Published in the 70's but still current.

Singer Book Series, Creative sewing Ideas.  I have collected all these Singer books, the photos are really good.  This one has some clever variations on buttonholes and pockets plus tips on embellishment.

So how to enter?  I will throw out a challenge to myself. Is there a particular pattern you would like to see me make?  Let's limit it to Vogue patterns, but other than that, I am game to try anything.  I don't promise I will wear it - but I will try to make it.  Fitting, fabric choice, sewing techniques.  I will go through all in a series of posts.  And I will try to choose something out of my usual comfort zone !

Leave a comment below to enter or sign up as a follower.  (you don't have to suggest a pattern to be entered, just comment, but I think it will be fun to see what suggestions you have) 
Also when you comment, let me know your country.  Entry period will go until Dec. 20.

Up next, I finished my silk charmeuse blouse which has a hidden buttonhole placket so I will have a post about that soon.

Happy Holiday Sewing to all, Beth

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Wedding photos - Fabric Challenge Kimono Silk wedding dress

The fabric challenge is complete and the wedding photos are here.  As I described in my first post this was one of my most special projects. Susan asked me to make a wedding dress for her using some vintage kimono silk and laughingly told me she was planning a hippie wedding in San Francisco's Golden Gate park, with the guests arriving on bicycles.  I did imagine a few different scenarios, but was totally charmed when the photos finally arrived.  A lovely wedding in the park and a beautiful smile on Susan's face.

Here is Susan with her mom putting the final touches on her look.

Susan and Brian in front of the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park.  

I think this photo may be my favorite - the colors are fantastic. Wedding photography is by Tim Daw, website timdawphotography where you can see his portfolio. I did make a shawl with the remaining kimono silk, lined with ivory silk faille. As it turned out, the weather was a bit chilly that day so she wore the wrap during the outdoor ceremony.

And lastly - there were bicycles!  Susan and Brian opted not to cycle themselves, I think that was a good choice, although you can see the vehicle they are riding in appears to have 4 sets of pedals. Some of the guests did arrive in the park on their own bicycles with many in full victorian and steampunk finery.  

Can I say it?  So San Francisco!   I loved creating this dress and getting to know Susan. I wish them joy and happiness for their life together. 

If you are interested in the background on this project here are the links to the previous posts: 
first post:  with background on this vintage fabric
second post:  starting the design and fitting
third post: underlining with silk organza and completion, photos of dress

Thanks for reading, and Happy Sewing, Beth

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Fabric Challenge - Kimono silk wedding dress - part 3

Thanks to everyone for the wonderful comments on my previous posts.  This kimono silk wedding dress was so much fun to create and I did wonder if the unusual fabric and color would appeal, but the response has been wonderful and I appreciate it very much.

I will tease you with one wedding day photo of Susan and her mother.  More photos to come of the wedding in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.

Once I had the bodice assembled, it was time to figure out how to do the skirt.  When making the muslin, I seamed together 14" wide lengths of the pink cotton, in order to be working with the same type of yardage as when I used the silk, and then gathered it into the waist.  Recall that Susan wanted to be able to bicycle to her ceremony, so the skirt needed to be full.  Once she tried on the muslin, we both thought she wasn't really the gathers or ruffles type, but reserved judgement until we got to that point in our collaborative design process.  By now I had underlined the whole bodice in the silk organza and it gave the fabric such a nice weight.

This fabric was interesting to sew, and had some quirks that added to the fabric challenge aspects.  The silk is so tightly woven that it was almost impossible to get a pin through it.  I generally use long pins, probably a bit too big for fine fabrics, so I knew I would need to pull out the silk pins from my stash.  However they would not even pierce the fabric.  Amazing.  At the fabric store I bought a package of each type of extra-fine pins and tried them all out, finally found one that seemed sharp enough to get through the fabric.  On the sewing machine I used a Schmetz Microtex Sharp Needle 70/10.  My metal thimble was absolutely necessary for the hand stitching, or I would have had a punctured finger in no time.  In doing some research online I learned vintage kimonos made from this type of fabric are unstitched, completely disassembled to be cleaned and then re-sewn together.  I thought that seemed unlikely but now I understand that despite being very thin and light this fabric is unbelievably strong.

Which is a long way of saying that this fabric would not gather.  Have you ever tried to gather some heavy fabric and it would not cooperate?  Despite its light weight I tried and gave up. At that point pleats seemed the only option, so I played around on the dress form with various size pleats. Final version had the center front smooth and then large pleats taking up the fullness around to the center back.
This also served to hide the seams of the 14" panels and gave the dress a hint of kimono styling which seemed fitting.  

I had basted the skirt with pleats onto the bodice and at that point realized that it needed a bit more oomph, so I underlined the whole skirt with silk organza as well.  This gave the skirt the perfect fullness and body without being too stiff.  I can't wait to try this technique again on another dress. 

For the hem I machine stitched the organza to the pink silk, inside the seam allowance, and then turned up the hem and hand stitched it to the organza so there is no hem showing on the right side.  I didn't press the hem or the pleats to keep the soft look.  The dress was completely lined in pink bridal satin, a very heavy lining that gave it even more body.  Clothes that feel good are so nice to wear, and this dress has the added treat of making that swish-swish sound that only silk on silk provides.  Lovely!
Finished dress on the form.  This photo is the best of the bunch, when I finished the dress it was a gloomy day and the lighting was less than ideal.  As it happens, I had it about 75% percent finished when my back problems struck. I did finish the dress but I wasn't working at my full speed, in fact I stopped working on it entirely for about 5 weeks. Consequently the photography was less than ideal.  But the important thing - finishing the dress - that was accomplished.  Whew!  And Susan was as sweet as could be, considering she was anxiously waiting for her wedding dress. 

Next post, photos of the wedding.  And yes, there are bicycles!

Link to the first post on this dress, how it started,  Kimono Silk wedding dress.
Second post on this dress, design and initial construction. Kimono Silk wedding dress, part 2.

Thanks for reading.  Happy Sewing,  Beth

Friday, December 2, 2011

Fabric challenge - Kimono silk wedding dress - part 2

Sometimes procrastination is my friend.  I can tell you now that I very much procrastinated when starting and then making this dress. Sometimes there are technical issues that I seem to work out in my mind and this fabric created a lot of them. So I let my thoughts marinate, or percolate, or just stew until I come up with some solutions. 

The overriding issue in this fabric was the pattern, which was large, boldly colored and repeated every 14', which was the same as the width, so it was tricky to lay out the floral elements as a design motif in the finished dress shape.  At first I tried to cut around the floral design for the bodice pieces, so that it would not be uneven or have any bull's eye effect on the bust.  After playing around with it for what seemed like hours, I finally realized that I needed to use the floral design as a focus, in fact choose where to put it instead of trying to avoid it, and then everything flowed from that. The largest single pattern piece in the bodice was the center front, so I placed the floral element in the center front, where it would be folded into the pleats and give a symmetry to the whole dress.  Even though the bodice was composed of smaller pieces, I wanted the overall look to have the same spacing in the flower pattern as the finished skirt, so I cut the midriff pieces in mostly solid pink areas of the fabric. 

Here is a look at the side, the yellow flowers on the front and back ended up matching so well at this point, with a similar match on the other side, partly due to placement when I cut out but also just luck at the size and shape of the pattern pieces. 

Lest you think that things always go well here at Casa SunnyGal, I had a moment of horror when I had the entire dress basted together for a fitting.  Something I didn't notice when I was cutting out the bodice pieces, but there was a very slight color difference between the first yard of the bolt and the silk further inside the roll.  Maybe inside the roll it was completely protected and the first part faded over the years.  In any case, when I started the dress I was trying to conserve yardage since we weren't sure how full or long the skirt was to be, so I cut the bodice pieces from the first part of the roll.  I cut out the entire bodice, hand stitched each piece with silk organza underlining, and then sewed 5 lengths together to make the skirt.  As soon as I had finished the bodice (including basting in the zipper) I noticed that the midriff portion was a bit yellowed.  No one else could really see it, until I pointed it out, and then everyone could see it.  (everyone being my usual gang of style consultants, including sis, mom and assorted friends).
It may not appear that horrifying here, but look at how yucky and yellowish the piece on the left is, especially where it was seamed to the upper bodice and skirt.  I could see it miles away, just taunting me.  And to think that this was the first time I did a silk organza underlining.  All hand stitched.  So much work.  Sob . . .       The silk organza was lovely to work with, I ordered it from Fashion Sewing Supply, and you will see in the next post I ended up using it for the entire dress.   
That is the pink satin lining you see peeking out at the top of the strap. Since the fabric was 14" wide something had to give, so I pieced the top of the shoulders together with the pink silk fabric.  Call it a design element or something. In the scheme of things it worked out fine.
So I did the fitting.  Did not mention it to Susan.  She did not notice at all.  Anyway I knew I was going to take it all apart and re-do the midriff portions.  Which I did. So much better . . sigh of relief and lesson learned, scrutinize those vintage fabrics carefully in all types of light.
Next post, skirt portion and finished dress.  I will try to post this weekend and I do have some fantastic wedding photos to share.  
I am currently working on about a zillion (only slight exaggeration) projects but making great progress on a silk charmeuse shirt - with hidden button placket that is turning out very nicely :)

Happy Weekend Sewing,  Beth

Here is a link to the next post in this series.