Mpressive Threadz Studio Blog

Sharing my love of sewing


Work in Progress: Chartreuse and Taupe Ensemble – Part 1

While I like making pieces, I love making an ensemble. When I made the jacket to coordinate with the chartreuse dress, I realized how much I missed creating an outfit. My first ensemble for 2013 is a coat, vest, slacks and blouse in the chartreuse and taupe color scheme.button

I’ve been working on the coat. The outer fabric is a chartreuse wool/mohair and the lining is rayon in a dark taupe color. I selected the buttons to coordinate with the brocade I am using for the vest. I splurged on everything as a treat to myself, purchasing the fabrics and buttons at Britex while I was in San Francisco in November for a business meeting.



I am using Butterick 5685 with a few changes. I moved the pockets from the side seams to the front princess seams making it easier to reach into the pockets. I also deepened the pockets because I felt the pockets were too shallow and items may easily fall out. I didn’t want a double-breasted coat so I removed 2 ½” from the front edge of the coat including the collar edge. The sleeve is one piece with no ease for the elbow. Therefore, I lengthened only the back sleeve length ½” to allow for ease in the elbow area. I increased all hems to 2” because I think a generous hem hangs better.

For a fleeting moment I thought about not doing a muslin fitting for the coat. I quickly decided not doing a muslin would be a bad idea considering how much I paid for the fabric. I would rather have a wadder in cheap cotton than one in expensive wool. I selected the size using my upper bust measurement and used the D cup pattern piece. Based on the fitting, the shoulder fit fine. I don’t like to feel confined so I added ½” at each side seam allowance, adding 1” overall to the sleeve width (bicep and wrist) and 2” overall in the bust and waist areas. I shortened the sleeve length which was too long. I made a sway back adjustment by shortening the back bodice ½” at the center back.

chartreuse swatch

“wrong” side is the swatch on the left

I liked the “wrong” side of the fabric better because I thought the texture was more visually appealing for this ensemble. Before cutting out the coat pieces, I block-fused the wool fabric with weft interfacing to stabilize it. I also interlined the coat with cotton broadcloth for additional warmth. I made custom shoulder pads for the coat using the method I blogged about previously. I didn’t follow the sewing instructions for this pattern because of the collar construction Butterick used. Sewing the collar first and sandwiching it between the coat and facing would have created bulk. Also, Butterick sew the bodice and lining together, then the lower coat and lining together, then joined the bodice to the lower coat. Instead I stitched the coat attaching the under collar, stitched the lining and front facings together attaching the upper collar, and pressed the neck/collar seams open. Then I stitched the coat to the facing/lining. Two of the buttonholes are bound buttonholes and two of the buttonholes are in-seam buttonholes. The armscye seams are wrapped in fleece, creating a subtle roll in the sleeve caps.chartreuse coat

I have plenty of hand work ahead, finishing the buttonholes, tacking seams together, hemming the coat and sewing on buttons. Here’s a picture of the coat in its current state.



Monitor vs Actual: I Still Like the Color Combination

I love to see and touch my fabrics.  I love to experience firsthand the colors and the hand of the fabrics, get a sense of the drape and let my mind just go until it settles on a vision of the outfit/design.

A few years ago, I ordered fabric online for the first time.  It was a gigantic leap for me.  I am an ex-New Yorker spoiled by the abundance of independent fabric stores in Brooklyn, Manhattan and the Bronx.  I settled in Maryland and I had a hard time settling for the stores and selections available here.  While I appreciate my local Joann Fabric store, I like fine fabrics and that’s not why Joann exists.

Deciding to give online fabric shopping a try, a whole new world opened up.  I found a beautiful brocade in chartreuse yellow and beige online at Fabric Mart with coordinating wool/silk fabric in beige and in chartreuse yellow.  All the fabrics were from the same designer line, so I was confident the fabrics would work together.  I envisioned a brocade vest, beige pants and a chartreuse yellow ¾ length coat.  I ordered beige cotton for a shirt as well.

Well, when I received the fabrics I loved the brocade, but didn’t like the beige color of the wool/silk.  Although the wool/silk was from the same designer line of fabrics, the brocade was more taupe (cool tone) and the beige wool/silk fabric had warm tones.  My eyes and brain would not accept the pairing of these fabrics and that ended the coat, pant, vest ensemble.  A year later I cut the chartreuse yellow fabric and made a sleeveless lined dress combining the bodice from Simplicity 2648 and a self-drafted gore skirt.  I finished the hem of the dress with three rows of topstitching.  I always wore a sweater with the dress.

A few weeks ago I came across the beige fabric and decided to make a jacket. I like the combination of the beige and chartreuse yellow, and decided to make the jacket to coordinate with the dress made two years ago.  Each day I worked on the jacket (Simplicity 2446) for a couple of hours letting the design of the jacket evolved as I made it.  First, the under sleeves, collar and pocket flaps were cut from the chartreuse yellow.  I added inside patch pockets to the lining so I could carry my cell phone with me during a meeting.  One day I got the idea to add chartreuse yellow shoulder inserts before putting the sleeves in.  I didn’t want plain inserts and noticed the topstitching on the hem of the dress, so I topstitched the shoulder inserts and the pocket flaps.  The next day I thought about the collar and decided to topstitch that as well.  The next day, I thought about the under sleeves which were the only place on the jacket that the chartreuse yellow had not been topstitched and I knew I would not be happy leaving the under sleeves plain.  I removed the bottom button from the sleeve vents, topstitched just the under sleeve hems, and sewed the vent buttons back on.

Now that I was happy with the design of the jacket, the hem of the dress haunted my thoughts.  Why?  I had five rows of topstitching on the jacket and only three rows on the dress hem.  The stitching on the jacket was ¼” apart and the stitching on the dress hem was ⅜” apart.  I couldn’t just add two more rows of topstitching to the dress; no, no, noooo.  It’s the little details that bug me sometimes.  I removed the middle row of topstitching on the dress and added three rows of topstitching.  Now, I was happy because ALL the topstitching matched.

While the colors displayed on my monitor when I ordered the fabrics did not match exactly the colors of the fabrics I received, the color combination in the brocade inspired me.  I never would have combined beige with chartreuse yellow, but I like the color combination and I enjoy wearing the dress and jacket.


Please, No Old Looking Jeans

Him:  Where do you buy your jeans?

Me:  Why?

Him:  You need to buy some new ones.  All your jeans are starting to look old.

My husband can be brutally honest, even when no one has asked him for his opinion.  So today I made a pair of denim trousers.  I wanted a pair that would look good dressed up or down.

I brought the fabric about a month ago for the trousers.  The fabric is Sew Classic bottomweight- 4 oz dark wash denim fabric from my local Joann Fabric store.  The fabric for the pockets and waistband facings came from my stash.

I used Simplicity 2860 which is part of the Amazing Fit line of patterns.  I cut the front a size 14 and the back a size 16.  Since I wanted a close fit, I use the slim cut.  I redrew the center front line to be on the lengthwise grain and drafted on the fly extension.  I don’t like seams in the fly area; my abdomen is not flat and I don’t need any extra bulk in that area. I drafted the front pocket and fly facing as one piece.  I tapered the pattern in at knee area by ½” on the side and inseam seams for a slightly flared look.

I used navy blue thread for the topstitching since I wanted the look of dressy trousers and not jeans.  The inseam and crotch seams are welt seams with two rows of topstitching.  The side seams plain seams stitched twice for strength.  The hem, pocket edge and waistband have two rows of topstitching.

Daughter:  You didn’t put pockets on the back?

Me:  No.  I don’t care for pockets on my butt.  I don’t put anything in my back pockets.

Daughter turns around to show me that her phone is in her back pocket.  She’s funny.  She’s barely a size 2 and I am 45 pounds heavier than her.  Seriously, I am not putting my phone in a back pocket!

I did not make a muslin to test the fit before cutting the pants.  I like the fit, but I think I will tweak it a little on the next pair.  Husband likes the new pants, so I guess I am good for a while.

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Creative Sewing – Chapter 6

I have a new battery charger. Yippee! 

I am working on the evening gown.  Today I applied the trim to the bodice, attached the bodice lining and the skirt.  I am very pleased with the look.  I will be finished soon since all that remains is installing the zipper and skirt lining and finishing the hem.  This project has been fun and I need to keep the fun going, so I need to start thinking about the next project. 

A quick note about attaching the trim, please take a few minutes to hand baste it in place.  It takes less time than picking out machine stitches.   I baste the trim in place and then do a row of machine basting using a long machine stitch. I remove the hand basting and continue with the garment construction without worrying about the trim shifting.  It may seem like extra work, but it’s worth the results.


Creative Sewing – Chapter 5

In a perfect world this post would have all the shots of creating the trim and attaching it.  But this is not a perfect world and I try not to sweat the small stuff.  The camera battery died in the midst of me taking pictures as I create the trim for the evening gown.  The battery charger has been missing in action for a couple of months.  My clutter-phobic husband placed it somewhere out of sight and since he’s never been known for having a strong memory, can’t remember where.  Yesterday, I broke down and ordered a replacement charger.  In the meantime I’ll post the pictures I do have. Once I have a fully charged camera battery, I’ll take the rest of the picture and post them.

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Creative Sewing – Chapter 4

Happy New Year!  Wishing everyone a great year of sewing!

I’ve spent the holidays enjoying family and friends and doing very little sewing.  One weekend I intended to sew the entire weekend. HA! That’s a joke.  Saturday afternoon a girlfriend called to say she was leaving work soon and invited a few other female friends over to just hangout.  Forget about sewing; I’m in my car, driving for an hour to spend a relaxing Saturday evening with friends, old and new, eating pizza and wings, drinking PD eggnog, dancing various slides and listening to some serious singing from gospel to rap, and sharing life stories.  Sunday a niece called to say she was at my sister-in-law’s house and they were about to go out to eat.  Did I want to join them?  Forget about sewing; I’m in my car, driving for 30 minutes to spend a relaxing Sunday afternoon with them, eating out, sharing life stories, and doing a little shopping.  The following weekend was devoted to our annual dinner before Christmas.  Forget sewing; this meant baking and cooking on Saturday, and a Sunday of dining, drinking, talking and laughing until midnight.  I did not try to sew the reminder of the year and I did not care.  My holidays were relaxing!

Today, I fired up the sewing machine.  I added another shaped godet to the center of the skirt back.  I did not like the look of the one godet, so I added another.  I smile at the results, which means I like the look.  I also experimented with creating a trim for the dress.  After avoiding a disaster with my Brother machine, which is why I am not 100% enamored of electronic machines with drop-in bobbins, I stitched a sample of the trim.  I smile at the results; again I’m liking the look.

I didn’t feel like getting out the better camera, so I took quick pictures using my cell phone.  I will take better shots later, but I think for now you’ll have a general idea of the trim and the godets.

Here are directions for creating the trim:

  • Cut bias strip the length needed (width = twice your seam allowance plus 1”).  Cut another strip same length and width.
  • Fold one bias strip in half.
  • Set machine to shell tuck stitch (or blindstitch or zigzag stitch).  Set tension of machine so that the bobbin  thread is pulling more than the upper thread. 
  • Stitch along folded edge so that needle hits outside the fold when it zigzags.
  • Place right side of stitched trim to right side of other bias strip, lining up cut edges.  Stitch just inside of straight stitch of shell tuck stitch or blindstitch.  When using a zigzag stitch, you’ll stitch where the needle enters the fabric away from the fold.
  • Fold down bias strip for piping, wrong sides together.
  • Trim two inner layers close to stitching.
  • Stitch close to bulge of trimmed layers, encasing the trim edges, forming piping. 

Click on the diagram to see a full-size version of the trim construction.

I really like the look of the trim, which combined ideas from my sewing machine manual and some of my sewing books.  It’s meant to be inserted in a seam just as you would a piping.  I can envision it with contrasting piping.  I definitely want to use this technique again on another garment.  I hope it inspires you.

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Creative Sewing – Chapter 3

Creative sewing also means creative patternmaking.  One of my favorite methods for making a flare skirt is using a paper rectangle to slash and spread on the fabric.  The width of the rectangle for the front skirt piece is 1/2 the width of the front waist plus side seam allowance.  The length of the rectangle is the skirt length plus waist seam allowance and hem allowance.  The fabric is folded in half.  The rectangle is slashed, but not all the way through, into four equal pieces.  I spread the strips at the hem to the width of the fabric.  You are looking at the front skirt piece in the picture with the center front on the fold of the fabric. The back skirt piece is made the same as the front piece except you use 1/2 the width of the back waist plus side and center back seam allowances.  The back skirt piece is cut with the center back at the selvage since there will be a seam at the center back.  The back for this dress will have a flared inset, which is pie shaped piece in the third picture. Needless to say, the “pattern” pieces are for use one time.