Sewing Vloggers

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Is It Invisible?


Jeans all mended. 

I have really enjoyed being home since  retired. I am getting back in the  groove of household planning and organization and it feels good. Plenty of time for creativity is built into my schedule. Each day of the week has a focus and each week that focus can change based on needs and season. This week I pulled out the last of the winter clothing and planned a day to get it all washed and ironed as needed. Done! I planned the next day for the inevitable mending I found and a bit of more purging. I mentioned that to Hubs and he showed up as I sat on the couch  reading my latest Threads and handed me an extremely worn pair of jeans. He said, "these are my jeans for working outside and they are so comfortable. They have holes everywhere and I can't wear them anymore. Can you fix them?" You bet I can and I added it to my mending pile for the next day. 

Jeans crotch before mending. Left hole is the size of a quarter. Right hole is the size of a dime. 

The crotch on these jeans had the typical "ball burn" . It went right into the heavy seams. 

Pocket hole was about dime size and extending into the pocket corner. 

The fabric around the back pocket was just disappearing. It also needed repair and reinforcement. I found other little issues here and there but figured I would get through his requests first, judge the reaction and go further from there. These jeans are probably twenty years old. 

My mending tools. 

The way I wanted to mend the hole would require comfortable space to work on the sewing machine. That meant opening up the seams in the surrounding crotch area and removing some of the pocket. These are the tools I used to make this task easier. I will go left to right.

First is my box cutter blade. I use these a lot,  and their very sharp corner makes ripping serger and flat felled seams much easier. I simply lay the garment down on a flat surface and push that point into the well of the fold on the right side of the garment. I pick a little bit with the point and open up a few stitches. I then go right down to the second seam of the this double topstitching and break a few stitches inside the fold for that row of stitching. If I place my box cutter blade just right and keep the garment flat to the table, I usually can just slide the blade right down, in that well of the fold, and open both seams and the serging all in one pass. If not, the cutter blade will still let me make short work of slicing out the threads from this type of jeans seam.  Just be careful. This is not your Dad's single edge razor!  It did not take long at all to open up the seams. No slipped rips happened. 

You will often find areas of topstitching, like the bar tack at the end of the above topstitching, that will defy the blade and make it work too hard.  Forcing the blade to do what it doesn't want to could be dangerous, soooooo, I have another tool for that. It would be my pink tool, second from the left. This little number has been a great help in the sewing room since I found it at Rite Aid. It is an eyebrow shaver. Really. I saw them on sale. They come four to a pack, small money and are brilliant for shaving out threads that are stubborn and don't want to be removed by cutting or blades. You simply shave those little bar tacks a few times and boom!--the threads fall apart and you pick them out with  your tweezers or awl, third and fourth from the right.  Next in line are my Kai tiny curved scissors. They are so pointy they are dangerous. They are great to sneak into the fold and clip something that might be holding up the unsewing here. Wonderful tool and probably the most dangerous thing on the table. 

The next and last item I used to mend the pants that won't die are my flat nose little jewelry pliers. I got to the hard, thick lump of the zipper bottom area and the machine would go no further. I was able to backstitch by hand with my big needle but could not push or pull it through the rock solid denim. Saved by the pliers! I grabbed the shaft of the threaded hand needle and put its point where I wanted it to sink in to make a back stitch. I held it with the flat head pliers and pushed the fabric down the shaft to get it through the denim. I then let go, turned the  fabric over and used the pliers to pull the needle through and was able to finish off the line of topstitching over that really nasty bump of fabric under the zipper, right exactly where the former topstitching had been. 

Completed pocket mend.

More notion comments and my process:

After opening all the seams I went to the ironing board. I had a very light blue tightly woven cotton that I cut into an approximate shape larger than the hole. It would show thru the hole and I wanted it to match the area of the jeans.  It would also serve as reinforcement. I pressed it on to a piece of  Steam A Seam Lite the same size, right side to glue SAS. I then trimmed this to the size of the hole but larger by about a half inch and pinked the edges. The paper was peeled off and the sticky side and right side/blue was placed on the wrong side of the jeans over the hole. I then took a piece of woven fusible, slightly larger than the patch and pinked and pressed that into place over the patch. These two layers of patch on the inside of the pants got fused down well with the iron. 

Turn the pants over and back to the top. Now for the thread. I use regular thread for the darning part. It hides better into the fabric.  For the hole near the pocket corner,  stitches were removed so I could peel that side of the pocket back and have plenty of space to work under the machine needle. Thread color is tricky. Denim always has white warp or weft. I forget which. I start with a white thread, even on darker jeans. I go back and forth with small stitches, like 1.5, in the white thread. I sew in the direction of the twill.  I then change to something that is similar to the majority color of the jeans. In this case the palest blue I had worked. If you have any denim anywhere to practice your thread colors, do it. You will be surprised at the colors that work here. It is almost never ever what is sold for jeans colored blue thread. I tried 3 or 4 colors before I bravely tried the baby blue and it worked. Remember, best results come with sewing WITH the twill, not against it. Sometimes, however, it is unavoidable to sew against the twill. 

Now for needles and topstitching thread! This was all against common sense.  I had the exact same jeans topstitching thread in my machine as on the jeans. It was H E A V Y. I put in my size 18 topstitching denim needle. Sharp and big. You would think that was what would work, right? I sewed. I would stop my machine as it would not sew through the thick stuff.  Frustrations. I decided to try something that worked for me when I fixed a friend's  super heavy ski jacket with it's waterproof thick zipper. Same issues. I went opposite and it worked beautifully. I changed to regular thread, put in a much smaller size 14 Microtex needle, and changed my stitch to the triple stitch. The one that goes over itself 3 times.  Or is it 2? No matter. It worked like a dream. The needle went through like butter and the stitches looked fine. I find when I do this I have to make the stitch length much longer than I plan. It just always seems to short. I used a 4.5 stitch length and it looked like a 3.5. So use a shorter needle, regular thread and the triple stitch.  It would have been easy to blame my machine and say it could not handle the heavy denim layers. Wrong! Think for a minute. If you were a couple of mice squeezing thru a hole to get into a space, who would get thru the hole? The big fat mouse or the little skinny mouse?  That is my new theory for sewing heavy fabrics and it is working great. Use a smaller, sharper needle and a finer thread. Done. With the heavy triple stitch my topstitching looked pretty close to the original and if anyone is close enough to notice any difference, they deserve more than a swat from the wearer's wife!

I've always enjoyed mending, having that basket next to me while I laze away stitching in front of the tube, a rare treat. Usually it takes at the most an afternoon. It's a great feeling to see that basket empty out. I celebrated with a glass of  Pinot and felt very accomplished when I looked at that empty basket. I will  now  let it take a few months to fill up again before I have another go at it. .......................Happy Mending! Bunny

Monday, November 15, 2021

Shirring and some pattern work

I loved the Picasso-esque look of this fabric but now that it is getting made up it is starting to get a bit creepy. I still like it and it will be a convo starter for sure. 

My current project,  Butterick 5861, calls for several rows of shirring on the back bodice at the waistline. The blouse is very full with 50 inches being the bodice width there. I've never been a fan of shirring for myself. I remember shirred dresses, exactly like you see popular today, being in style in my early teens and making one. It came out fine. It made my already large young bosom look even bigger, help I didn't need.  I hated the attention it brought, which I was getting already,  but I wanted a dress like the other girls. I think I wore it once or twice and that was it. I just was not comfortable in it at all. 

Today I see the shirred yardage being sold in stores and  it doesn't take much to figure out that those elastic threads aren't going to hold up too well once they are cut into pattern pieces. I have seen some  complaints on the web, no surprise. I guess you can tell I am not a fan. I do like the gathered effect however. I gave it some thought and played around and came up with a method that satisfied my needs and concerns to use it on my current project. 

First, let's get the politics out of the way.  THIS IS NOT SMOCKING so please don't call it that. Shirring is done on the sewing machine with elastic threads, cords or skinny elastic like I did here. Smocking is done by hand and takes a great deal of skill and art. The pleats are done with a hand pleater or little transferred dots. They are pulled together by hand to fit a specific size pattern. They are perfectly lined up like soldiers and once they are the smocker may "back smock" the entire piece. This does not show from the front but sets the pleats into a certain configuration to please the smocker's aesthetic. Once that is done our smocker will further control the pleats with a carefully chosen hand embroidered design. It's not easy getting those designs to look wonderful on those perfectly placed pleats. 

Smockers spend years honing their craft. I have simplified what is a very detailed process. There are tons of tricks and techniques to SMOCKing. Today I am talking about  SHIRRING.  Could I have smocked the area on my blouse? Yes, if it had 3 to one fullness in that area, which it did not. 

This is the backside of my shirring.  The bodice back has two vertical waist darts. The elastic, 1/8th wide, goes from dart to dart.  I made straight lines with a Frixion pen. I made my darts first. Mistake! I should have made them last so I could have caught the elastic in the dart seam stitching. The pattern tells  you to do that. I thought  it be easier to stitch my way. Oh, well. It was all OK. I figured out I needed half the amount of the length flat for the elastic pieces.  So from dart to dart it was 8 inches. I  cut my lengths 5 inches but they would actually be sewn to 4 inch length, half. This gave me a half inch to play with  at each end. I would trim that off when the elastic was all stitched on.  

A half inch in from the start of the elastic I laid it down next to  my stitching line. I did a couple of 1.0 stitches back and forth to secure then lifted the needle. Make sure your threads are pulled taut when you start or you will have little nests on the right side when you are done. I changed my stitch to the triple zig zag which you can see better in the second pic. Click on it to put in a separate screen and see larger. I used a 3.5 stitch width and a .7 stitch length.  This is one of those moments when you wish for a third hand. You need to keep that line you drew flat and the elastic flat on it and stretched so that the opposite end of the elastic meets  the dart line/end of drawn line. You will stretch and stop stitching one half inch short of the end of your elastic. The goal is equal stretch all along the way.  Keeping this taut by using both hands in back and in front of the presser foot is the best strategy. It's not hard but it gets more difficult as you accumulate more rows and their puckering interferes, ie , see my uneven row.  This is however, as we say in smocking,  unable to be discerned on a galloping horse so don't fret over it.  The shirring looks fine from the outside. To finish off your line of stitching on the elastic, revert back to te 1.0 straight stitch and go back and forth for a couple of stitches a half inch before the end of the elastic and you should be good to go. When you are all done, snip your  elastic ends down to a 1/4 inch.  You could fray check them but I didn't. Don't press this but you can steam it if you want. Just hold the iron over it. It may not even need that. 

I think well done shirring looks great and it a tricky technique to master but a good one to have. It is definitely the rage right now.  Practice with some 1/8th inch elastic and the triple zigzag first and see how that works for you. I like it and I feel it is stronger than the regular elastic thread technique. 


Pattern Prep

As I started working on this project I thought maybe it would be a good idea to show a bit of how I prepped things to get started. All sewing projects require pattern work and then some. This fabric, despite its flow-y slippery-ness has been a delight to work with. It all begins with pre-treating. It has been pre-washed in cool water/delicate and line dried, the way I will treat the finished garment. I then ran it through my steam press and hung till ready to cut. So....

#1.  Pre-treat your fabrics the way you will treat them when you will wear them. Certain fabrics will require extra washing like denims and flannels to get rid of all the shrinking. 

Next comes the pattern work.  

#2. Cut out your pattern first. Don't ever cut it out with the fabric. 

One of the first things I do is true the pattern pieces. I go around the pattern and look for areas that need this help. After a while you will know where to look. What am I doing? Easiest to explain with an example. Have you ever made something and turned up the hem and it is smaller than the space you need to sew it to, like the hem edge needs to be sewn to the sleeve and the sleeve is bigger than the hem edge? Look at the example above. You can see the sleeve shape coming down at a slant. This sleeve has a 5/8th inch hem. FOLD UP THAT HEM ON THAT LINE. You will see how the edge of the pattern is short of the seam allowance. Add a bit of fusible interfacing so it will match the sleeve seam allowance when it is folded up and cut it to match. You can see  how I did that above. Love my tiny pointer! 

I made a sample. You can see the hem folded back so when that seam is sewn and you go to hem it won't fit. This is a minor discrepancy here but the deeper the hem the worse it can be as well as the more slanted the seam. 

Here you can see the fusible added on and the difference it will make. Think of the difference this would make on a sleeveless garment. Go around your pattern and look for options to true. Watch for hems, sleeveless armscyes, collar areas, etc. It will save you frustration. 

#3, True your seams. 

Another step you can take is to walk your seams where fit may be critical for you. You can do this by standing your measuring tape on edge or using a flexible ruler. If you are using a Big Four pattern or any pattern you are unfamiliar with, measure your armscye and your sleeve cap length. What  is the difference and how does that work with the design? If it is a fitted, tailored sleeve and inch, inch and a half should be all you need so if there is a lot more, take it out. You can do that by taking a tuck across the sleeve cap above the notch on grain. It will look crooked, no problem. Check your biceps and flat pattern measure your basic areas on the pattern the first time you use it. Do not trust any pattern company. How does that compare to your measurements and desired ease? NOW, and only now, decide which size you will use and then make any fitting adjustments. Failure to do this and then complaining about ease is on you. 

#4. Walk seams and Flat Pattern Measure to check ease and decide size. 

#5. Do the needed fit adjustments on the pattern. I recently learned to use removeable Scotch tape. It comes in a blue package.  Never iron scotch tape. 

#6. PLEASE, please, press your pattern paper before pinning to your fabric. No steam, ever, low heat. As Nike says, Just Do It. It makes  a difference. Respect your process. 

Now you can cut. 

This particular fabric that I used in my latest project is a viscose linen look, lightweight. It has a beautiful drape and is slippery and flow-y. I took each piece to the ironing board and sprayed it with starch around every seam edge. I did this twice; spray, iron, dry, spray, iron, dry, next piece. It made a huge, HUGE difference in handling the fabric. It really helped control the fabric from raveling and just sewed up so much more easily in the machine and serger. Big difference. I just did all the edges.  I found I did not have to serge the edges which was good as I did French Seams all over this project. This was very ravelly fabric and the starch stopped the raveling. 

#7. Pretreat your fabric pattern pieces with any further treatments that may make them easier to sew, serged edges, starching, fusing all the interfacing pieces, whatever helps. 


Hopes this helps those of you who don't have "Pattern Work " practices. A few months back Sarah Veblen had a wonderful article in Threads magazine regarding just this subject that you may want to check out. Doing the "pre check" as my husband calls it, can go a long way toward a positive sewing experience and it is the sort of thing new members of the sewing family won't pick  up from just opening a pattern. Any questions or additional hints just add in the comments. Happy Sewing......Bunny

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Vogue 1644, Kathryn Brenne


My husband's first words? " That will be great for going to lunch with the girls." I tend to agree. In the picture it looks rather tweedy and heavy but in all honesty this is one layer of pretty normal cotton, just a step above quilting cotton. I did not underline it or line except in the sleeves. I do think it desperately needs a big flower or pin or scarf as it is so nondescript but that's OK.  It went together quickly and the pattern definitely has finesse. With the princess seams and center back seam, Kathryn Brenne did not fail to take advantage and add in subtle shaping wherever she had the opportunity. She did add Dior darts to the  princess seams which I mindlessly sewed, never thinking to adjust them to my bust level. Luckily,  they pretty much camouflaged out and they did land in an area where I go narrow and do my petite adjustment so their placement didn't seem to make a big difference fitwise and the fabric texture and design hid the fact that I screwed that up. That and another bit of stupidity would have you thinking I was under the influence but in the end it all came out OK. I do love the fabric. Now for some details. 


This is Vogue 1644,  a Kathryn Brenne design. I do favor her designs. 

Vogue still appears to be holding on to it's pattern descriptions, thankfully,  and it says" Fitted jacket...unlined and has button trim with snap closures." You didn't need a masters in Literature to write that description. I would add that this design has armscye princess seams front and back and Dior darts on the center front.  The sleeve is two piece.  It is rather straight cut but I think it is fine. Others who have made it have said it was too full. I found it just right but I altered it to turn up a couple of inches and appreciated the fullness. I found these directions quite clear and logical and the only thing that took some fiddling was the eventual placement of bias strip on the back neckline. I went with it but would have done it a bit differently the second time around for a bit less bulk but it really was not a big deal. 


This is another Sevenberry fabric marketed by Kaufman.  It reads black from a distance but really is navy. You can get it thru quilting shops and online. It is heavier than quilting fabric and has the texture and weight of a light to midweight linen. Sevenberry markets it as a canvas, but maybe in Japan, where it comes from. It would not pass for canvas here. That may be a translation issue.  I really like this fabric and am wearing pants made with it as I sit here and type. They tend not to hold on to wrinkles like most cottons and that goes for a jacket that is not underlined.


I did do Honk Kong seams as well with a colorful leftover poly blouse weight . It's the gift that keeps on giving and I have used it for so many HK seams. When you consider that most lengths in blouses are fairly short, it makes sense to keep your lightweight scraps for just this purpose. Sometimes I will actually cut them up into bias strips an inch or so wide and wind them on empty thread spools. Then they are at the ready for HK seams when needed. 


This is a pretty basic top and would be good for a beginner to stretch their legs on. There is a lot of fitting opportunity here with the princess seams, Dior darts and two piece sleeves. Just remember to check where the Dior dart lands when and if you move your bust point. 

Not the greatest back view but the best I came up with all alone today. It does give you an idea of the subtle shaping to all those seams. I do believe on the next version I will pull in the shoulders and hips a bit. I always cut my hips larger but now see I need to do a ten instead of the usual 12. The rest of this garment is a 6.  I did a three inch hem on the sleeves so I could fold them up, the way I like them.  I also cut the hem off about three inches as well. The scale is close to the same look as that of the model on the envelope but  I did a deep hem on the jacket as well. I wanted that weight to help pull down that light weight cotton fabric.

Above is my big faux pas but you really can't tell. I always make sample stitchouts before I start a new project, auditioning thread, stitch lengths, tensions, etc. I grabbed what seemed like a small pile of scraps from my cutting  table and brought them to the machine for try outs. I stitched away and made my final decisions.  Time to start! Well, when I got to the part when I had to sew the side princess panel to the center front panel the first one went in just great. Where is the second princess side piece? I went crazy looking for it. Then I realized I had zipped it thru my serger over and over to test out the stitching. It was in serged shreds. Now what? I did not have a piece on grain and long enough to cut another. You can see how critical the grain is here. But I did find two pieces that would be big enough to put together and make the whole side panel. How about if I make it look like they are connected by a welt pocket? Well, I did just that and it's crazy but you can barely see the welt pocket but it's there. Saved by the welt. 

The pattern calls for 1 1/4 inch buttons, 3, down the front and snaps underneath. I decided on covered buttons and explained how I went about doing that on this blogpost. These were big snaps and they worked out well.  Reflection makes it look otherwise, but they are all square and placed on the diagonal, easy to sew. 

A peak at the inside shows the Hong Kong seams and deep hem and snaps. The princess seams were stitched and serged, no HK seams. That would have been too bulky.

Here you can see that little Dior dart higher than it should be and the larger  concave shape of the princess seam wrinkling up to fit into the convex shape of the opposing seam. This is why you don't do the HK seam on the princess seam.  This serged seam lies much flatter. 

In Conclusion:

* I will bring the shoulders and hips in just a bit the next time. 
* I will remember to lower the Dior dart next time.  
* I might underline the sleeves as opposed to lining them. I think I would underline         the whole jacket while I am at it. 
* I like the deep hem and cuffs. 
* I will style this to have some vibrant color, SOMEWHERE, PLEASE.

! I would not do buttons as big as specified but go with a one inch and probably a bound buttonhole instead. 
I will handle the back neckline with a slimmer HK seam finish next time. 

There really is not much to be displeased about with this pattern.  I would definitely recommend. I just have to find a mask, a restaurant that has enough help to be open at lunchtime (unlike my last visit with a friend where it took 3 tries to get lunch) and some girlfriends.  I think I can look a bit "ladies who lunch" as Hubs said ;)   ............................Bunny

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

The Sapphire Sewist, and thoughts


I see great work  as I cruise around the web, so very much of it but last week I was truly amazed by the efforts of one Mother of the Groom and her dress for her son's wedding. It was so impressive and she was so very beautiful in her dress. First let me tell you about Mom. She clearly knows her way around a needle but she said she hadn't sewn much in a long time. She looked healthy and happy and carried the posture and build typical of a women who had climbed the fence to the other side of menopause. Her hair was natural, a short and lovely blend of gray and light brown, done up in small curls. If I would compare her appearance to anyone, maybe Madeline Albright Now the dress she made --- it was stunning, Alencon lace in Sapphire blue, a color that lit up her skin and eyes. The style was so lovely on her and so refreshing to see. She confidently clothed herself in a skimming sheath with a defined waistline that ended at the perfect spot on her still lovely legs. She was neither thin nor athletic but she refused to layer her feminine post meno curves in the  long layers of a chiffon duster or cardi to cover up a dissatisfaction with what time had done to her body. Her biceps were soft looking, full, and no doubt strong from years of hard work and lifting up others yet she let  lined sapphire lace, using the smallest bit of ease, show off their strength. The fully lined  lace barely skimmed her arms and fit beautifully, no diagonal wrinkles anywhere. The sleeves ended  at the crease of her armpit horizontally where they met a stretch illusion mesh that perfectly matched her skin tone. If not for the style I never would have known it was there. The motifs of the lace floated unevenly from her sleeves and onto the illusion of skin. That mesh camouflaged her choice of an exposed neckline but without the starkness of a strapless bodice. This was because from the bodice upward and from her shoulders as well, were exquisitely placed appliques of the sapphire blue lace motifs. She did all this work herself and she said it was her design. Her waistline, probably wider than her hips, was bravely indicated with a belt of the same lace, about an inch wide, and a small, but lovely covered buckle., all in perfect proportion and very flattering.  It looked beautiful. Her sheath dress, while not on a slim woman, was pegged at the bottom hem. In her sewing wisdom she knew this tiny bit of shaping at the bottom of her dress would be oh so flattering and her design would have said "matronly" so loudly if it fell directly straight down from the widest part of her hips. Wow, did she know how to make her design work and flatter her mature body! I stared at her picture the longest time and could not get her image out of my head. This woman was the Mother of the Groom. She was a Sewist but admittedly, not often.  Her skills, both technical and design, were incredible. She was confident. She dressed her beautiful mature body FEARLESSLY. She was Stunning and no couturier in Paris could have done a better job of dressing her for her son's big day. She looked like a lovely and kind soul as well. She is one of the most beautifully dressed women I have ever seen and I celebrate her. When I see a sewist do work like this it just takes my breath away. This is why we try to do better. This is why we try all sorts of methods to find the best that works for the garment. This is why we sample, over and over, why we press, why we follow fashion, why we have those full length mirrors and try our clothes off and on again, over and over, why we care. I know there are many of you Sapphire Blue Sewists out there. Let's be confident about ourselves, our skills, our look, like our MOG. Let's put our knowledge to work for ourselves and hopefully by doing that we can inspire others. The Sapphire Blue Sewist  certainly inspired me and I won't forget her.


"I 'm 64 and have been sewing over fifty years. I look in the pattern books and can't find anything to make. Everything looks too young." Exact quote here from a forum I visit.  

Well, I am older than you, madam,  and I shop out of those same pattern books all the time as do many women our age  and we find plenty to sew.  You are looking at the models with their exquisitely perfect faces and figures for which they are well paid to be photographed in those pattern versions. They are young.  They are models. You and I are not. The clothing you are looking at is totally wearable with the right fabric, good fit and a positive attitude. Stop looking at the models and comparing your 64 year old self and wishing for other.  Start looking at the line drawings of the designs. They will tell you more about the pattern than anything else. Scroll thru this blog and that of the many sewists in the blog roll on the right or those of the posters who comment here. Your comment that the garments are too young for you to wear is just wrong.  Accept who you  are, where you are, and get sewing. I bet you are a wonderful, attractive 64 year old.  Excuses, excuses, excuses...........


Overheard recently on the Seamwork Podcast, which I really enjoy, BTW. It seems Sarai Mitnick, the owner of Colette patterns, has left Instagram. It is " too much of a time sucker" and just not where she is any more (paraphrase). Congratulations, Sarai! That's the best news I've heard all day. She voiced how unreal it all is and how she really didn't want to partake in that sort of artificiality, my word.  If ever I heard a millennial come of age, this was it and it was great news. You see young women like Gabby Petito get caught up in this stream of fake happiness and love  so much on social media. Sewists see perfect fit, perfect hair, makeup, even bodies,  just like the 64 year old previously mentioned. I know there are those who are not perfect but so many work so hard at being just that. It is sad. All to what? for what? My guess is it is just easier to click and post and be fake than to write anything in depth about what is important and really happening to you. Blogs take work and thought and if faked, don't last that long. IG? I can't do it either, Sarai. 


The Saphhire Sewist inspired me so. She was not a great beauty yet she was stunning. She was not young or thin. She had the body of most grandmothers, yet the confidence of a winning beauty queen. I can't help but think that what brought her to this special place were her sewing skills. She said she designed her dress and made it all her self. . She knew her body, her skills and with that knowledge was able to make one of the most beautiful clothing presentations I've ever seen. Today we are bombarded by so many unrealistic images of beauty. It is disheartening to see it. It is even more disheartening to see it presented to my granddaughters and other young women I know. We need to do better and teach our  young women what real beauty is, that the flubby, full arms that have rocked them to sleep are the most beautiful in the world and that a talented use of a needle can make them the most stunning woman in a room no matter what their shape is. We need to fight those digital images attacking them day and night and teach them beauty of being a real woman, of being a Sapphire Sewist. Let's do that, for ourselves and them........Bunny

Friday, October 29, 2021

Covered Buttons, Vogue 1644


It seems like Vogue 1644, really a simple jacket, is taking forever. It sort of is. I have been down with a nasty head cold for about a week now. It's not covid, so no worries there but it is "rhino virus". Yes, the jokes ensued and I kept sleeping. I am sewing but it definitely is slow sewing this week. These buttons are the end of it all and they are a bit of a mystery to me.

This jacket is not lined or underlined. It simply has facings and interfacing where traditionally needed. I chose to finish all the seams and hems with a Honk Kong finish. It is a Kathryn Brenne design and I really like the simple look. What I don't understand, that you can see above, is why the buttons are sewn on the front and then the actual closures are snaps inside on the facings. I just don't see a reason for this. Being the first time I used this pattern, I wanted to follow the directions, my usual MO. I thought some obvious reason would eventually pop up but none has. If anyone knows of a good explanation, please share and I thank you ahead for that. 

With all that said I needed 3 buttons. 1 1/4 inch specified and that's what I searched for. I really did not want a showy button.  The fabric color is tough. It is oatmeal and a very dark navy, easy to mistake for black but black it is not.  In the end I decided on a classic covered button in size needed.

If you've never  made a covered button you can easily find them inexpensively at the chains. This is made by Dritz and came  from Joanns'.  They have two parts, the public side which is either a flat or rounded cover with a loop and a back piece with ridges and a hole that snaps into the domed cover, just what you see above.  The domed cover has nasty little teeth inside and your job is to wrap the fabric over the dome and get it to hook onto those teeth, evenly all around and without tearing any human flesh. Sometimes this is easier said than done. I've made a lot of these over the years and you probably have too but for our newer sewists here are a few hints to save you some aggravation.

*Nothing is more disheartening than to get that fabric all pulled snug onto those little teeth over the dome in perfect fashion and when you turn your button over to admire your fine skills you realize that you can see the shine of the metal dome through your fabric. Suddenly your idea of a custom covered button looks horribly cheap and you have to start all over. To prevent that from happening cover the back of your fabric with a layer of fusible interfacing and then cut out your button cover. Your packaging will provide on the back a template to trace for your perfectly sized button cover. Trace this out after you have fused on the interfacing. I then cut my circle out with pinking shears. Now I have a sturdy piece to pull and shove on to those tiny teeth and nothing will shine thru and cheapen the look. 

* Next you will need a few tools to get this job done with minimal distress. Trust me on this. I've been there. Your next step is a pencil eraser. This is actually recommended on the back of the packaging. You will pull your circle of fabric over the button dome and using your nail try to get it stuck on a tooth or two. Next go onto the exact opposite side of the dome and do the same. I know, this is barely stuck in but that's OK. This is where your eraser comes in. Now I went thru two brand new pencil's erasers and watched them break off. Instead find a pencil with the style eraser you see above. It is PERFECT for pushing the fabric under and into the teeth. Just shove that long edge of the eraser into the fabric and push under the teeth. No ripped nails! Now  work opposite sides once a side is a bit secure, just like stapling a picture to a picture frame. Once the fabric circle is secured on 4 opposite sides by shoving in that eraser, work the eraser all around getting the fabric in nice and snug. 

* The next tool , #2, you will use is the E6000 glue. I use this for everything crafty and sewing. Nothing separates this glue once dry. Put a small dot of glue along the ridge of teeth down below. No need to go all around or near the top edge, just a blop on two opposites sides. On top of this lay your flat ridged part of the back button cover. Set it up so the little loop comes thru the hole like you see in my pictures. 

* Don't even try to push this together.  Just don't. Line up the hole nicely and grab tool number #3, the small flat head pliers. I use these for jewelry making but they come in handy for lots of things sewing. Put your button inside the flat "mouth" and give a gentle squeeze on just a side of the button. It will usually pop in the whole button. If it just pops in one side, turn it a bit and squeeze again. If it went in correctly you will hear a definite click before you are completely pressed in. Done. Leave to dry overnight before attaching to your garment. 

According to my pattern I need 3 "medium" snaps.  I am not sure what size these are. They are a half inch wide so that sounds medium to me. I need to install them on the facings under the buttons. Like I said, I don't understand why. Hope this covered button tute helps you. I do enjoy making them, sewing snaps, not so much!.....Bunny

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

So not a planner, but.............


I am not one of those sewists who does modules or plans out their wardrobes. I am one of those crazy babes who is always looking for the next shiny object. Really, isn't that just as OK? It works for me. I see a great bottomweight, I buy it and then maybe find a top fabric and pattern that will be perfect.  Or I will get seduced by a print, and will move all of creation to fit it into my wardrobe.  Bottom line, I love textiles of all sorts and I fall in love with them and fit them into my wardrobe. When I was a teen I had a neighbor who designed textiles for a manufacturer in neighboring New Bedford. I forget how this arrangement happened but my mom became very good friends with her.  Next thing I knew I was cleaning her apartment, at the age of 14, for  TONS of fabric samples, hot off the looms. She designed them and had to run samples before the company would commit to manufacture. Some made the cut, some failed. Either way, she discovered  I was an easy touch and thrilled to receive yards and yards of fabric every week, straight from the mill, her original designs. all for the price of dusting and vacuuming her home.  A little swish and and swipe in an already clean bathroom and I was had. 

I never knew what Marsha would bring me. I don't think she even knew. But it all made me happy. I would have fabulous conversations with this 50 year old about fabrics and dyes and the process and I was only 14. We would talk about her working as a very young woman in the garment district in NY city and working her way up the ladder. I remember, that as a single woman doing business in a tough industry my parents often accompanied her on dinner meetings with international contacts. She said she felt "safer".  Bottom line, I will blame the incredible Marsha Shear and her amazing design talents as well as her mentoring of a young girl who loved fabrics for the fact that I just don't do "plans".  I am ready for whatever comes in my door to be sewn and I will love it, enjoy sewing it and will make it work in my wardrobe. That gives me joy. Thank you so much, dear Marsha, for inspiring me with those amazing bags of your original designs. You so loved color.

Fabrics paired of with patterns:

I am currently working on this Kathryn Brenne pattern that I have been drooling over forever. Once again I am using the Sevenberry fabric found at my LQS and sold by Kauffman.  This version, however, is an oatmeal and navy colorway despite it looking different in the pic. It is a Japanese fabric and 100% cotton. All seams are being Hong Kong'ed with the print fabric you can see peeking out, a Nicolle Miller design. I am near done and can't wait to share with you the completed project. This is a great pattern.  I am really pleased with the fit. 

My sister came up recently for a visit and we are now both retired and both crazy garment sewists. I took her to my Local Quilt Shop, which is amazing, and has some quality fabrics for garments as well. They get more all the time and are often of high end Japanese origin. We had a blast shopping and compare notes each week since. She is up in Maine. What you see above is a cotton knit with a tiny bit of spandex that I will make into Mimi G turtleneck. I think I will need to tighten up the collar and may ditch the corner detail for the first effort. I love her details but am on the search for a basic Turtleneck. 

I fell in love with this flannel the minute I saw the deep, intense  red. I recently had seen this blouse made up so that the upper right corner of the bodice had narrow ties to the shoulder seam and there were also ties holding up fold up sleeves. I loved the casual look and look forward to making this. I know I will get a lot of wear out of this pairing. I have so many bottoms that will work along side this top. 

Another paired fabric is this Telio rather Picasso-esque rayon challis that I will turn into this floaty top below. 

This one will  happen soon as I love this print and you can see there is not much going on in that department right now. This is a really interesting pattern. 

Unpaired fabrics:

I have been holding on to this fabric for a couple years now. I think it came from Apple Annie's and I am determined to sew it up for this winter. I am considering the Kathryn Brenne top in the second photo. It is an exquisite cotton velveteen. Sigh,,,,,,,,The fit on the Brenne pattern is wonderful so I am ready to go on this one. Next.....

 This is a very fine wale, I'm guessing 21 wale, picked up at my LQS, again. It is superb quality and of course I am thinking slacks, some pleated trousers. I have already made a slouch hat out of a small amount but there is plenty left to play with. I will probably just use my Sure Fit sloper. It really is lovely. 

Another piece of corduroy, this time no wale and in a tiny blue and black houndstooth check. It will be great for slacks or a barn jacket, aka, "Shacket". This is not high on the list but it will get used soon enough. 

The SCORE of all SCORES:

In accumulating fabrics for winter sewing I am not above considering all sorts of opportunities. The blue cord above was gleaned from a local church affiliated thrift shop. I haven't gone to GoodWill in sometime as I am finding their clothing simply donated fast fashion and other than household needs, their merch just doesn't interest me. Yesterday I needed a basket. I am doing a donation for a group I belong to and wanted a big nice basket for bargain prices. I went into Goodwill, straight to where the baskets usually are and there was ONE, just one basket! Luckily it was exactly what I needed and three dollars. So what they hay, I decided to pour thru the racks. I was on my last rack and something caught my eye. 

 This garment had Asian tags on it, even a price, all of which meant nothing to me

What took my breath away, however, was the fabric. I could be wrong and the label may say otherwise but it looked like silk chiffon to me. It just did not have that poly feel at all and was light as air . It was nicely made, fully self lined and held lots of yardage in an amazing border print. 

The fabric was gorgeous, the colors saturated and if ever there was a digital print this was it so the age of this garment had to be recent. This skirt would be close to my ankles. I have been mooning over similar digital prints from Lady McElroy lately and then this jumps into my line of sight!  It was meant to be. 

It is very floaty and would make a lovely top. At the least it could be an amazing scarf or two for gifts. It won't get forgotten. 

I have much to keep me busy all winter. Did you notice how nothing is part of anything else, no plans, no modules? Did you also notice how happy it all makes me feel? Life is too short for me to structure my sewing . I could care less if I have six pieces that make 36 outfits. I want amazing. .............Bunny

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

The Academy Awards of Sewing Tutorials

In recent years I've referred so many to videos and tutorials by some of our biggest sewing experts. These are people who have been editors in Threads magazine and been  published in sewing magazines internationally. Some have had their own television programs on sewing, lovingly videotaped on our VCRs in those early days before youtube and DVRs. Several have written  excellent books on our wonderful art form, the type that are staples in our sewing spaces and that we depend on so much for clear and solid instruction. Several had done all of the above or several as with genius often goes a lot of hard work, for years and for many, decades. Year after year they amaze us with their knowledge, skill, creativity and generosity. 

As I try to help newer or returning sewists I refer back to this group of "Stars" all the time and pass their brilliance on to those who need it. As I pondered putting the work of these artists, the links they are already sharing, into one convenient page, it dawned on me that these are our "Stars" and this post is my way of giving them their much needed Academy Awards of Brilliant Sewing and Teaching. I don't have a lot here because, as with any award, this is for the best and most notable. It is also for the most helpful tutorials. How do I know they have been the most helpful? The number of views they have gotten over the years, for one. Then there are the clicks on Pinterest as well as the immediate appreciation when offered  to someone I don't even know on a forum or FB sewing group. 

Our "Stars" share some commonalities. They are all great teachers. Not everyone who can sew brilliantly is a great teacher. These people are. They reduce the issue to the simplest terms in clear language. They are all warm or funny and with personality to engage us and they are incredible at what they do. I see so many youtubers and bless 'em, they work hard and many are quite good. I will leave it at that and just say they are not in this league. 

Without further ado here is the list of  tutorials, video-ed and posted by them or shown by others giving them full credit. May we have the envelopes, please?

     #1 - "Solving the Pattern Fitting Puzzle, Part One"

               Not a day goes by when I have been on the web and a sewist screams, is frustrated, or politely asks about how to get the right size pattern. These always generate a huge response which often just confuses everything. Eventually this video from Nancy Zieman is  the answer given by someone and will suddenly generate understanding, support and clarity. There is enough testimony about her fitting techniques to start a tent revival. So, if you wear a size 16 and don't get why that size 16 pattern doesn't fit you perfectly, YOU NEED THIS VIDEO from  sewing guru, Nancy Zieman.      

#2 - "The Kenneth King Hem". 

          This is a tiny hem that is easy and quick to do. You would use this in place of a rolled or baby  hem on any lightweight fabric but particularly on chiffons, lames, fine silks, etc. It is just the answer for prom gowns and bridesmaid dresses.  Anyone can do this without frustration. Years ago this blogpost had over 50,000 hits on this technique. I stopped counting at that point. I give Professor King full credit for this.  You can link to see my tutorial on his brilliant technique. I take no credit as I had nothing to do with it's creation. I would share his original link which was up for years but is now behind a pay wall.                Kenneth King Hem

#3 - "Sarah Veblen's Neckline Binding for Knits"

          Let's face it, we have all had the floppy, stretched out knit neck binding, maybe even a lot of them. Do they ever really lay perfectly flat all the way around? Well, once you learn Veblen's method, they will! This technique is such a game changer. Seriously, you will experience perfection with her method and it is not hard. Again, Sarah shows the clarity of a great teacher and you will achieve success with this video, 

This is not your Momma's divide in quarters and stitch. Follow Veblen's method and you will be forever grateful. 

#4 - "Kenneth King's Invisible Zipper Installation"

      For years I followed a well known and respected invisible zip tutorial. It was the simplest I could find. I still seemed to get that dimple, however, at the bottom of the zip. Professor King's video will rid your inviz zip installations of that dimple ever more! Again, he is an amazing teacher and this is clear and easy. You will need a notion to help but ever since I have used this technique my zips have been smooth seams and truly invisible. This is the only way to go and I have recommended this technique to so many and have seen many other sewists do the same. Rush to watch! 

#5 - "Kathy Dykstra's French Seam Tutorial"

     Kathy Dykstra, reknown teacher of heirloom sewing, can sew as well as  teach how to sew a French Seam in all of it's glory. I have seen French seams used to the sewist's dissatisfaction on corduroy trousers and other inappropriate applications. Use them in your lighter fabrics, your viscose rayons, your lawns and batistes. Remember the goal is the smaller the better, not wide, clunky seams, as you are inserting bulk in the seam tube to make the seam strong and beautifully finished. Watch Kathy's brilliance and gifted hands as she teaches you the correct method of using and sewing beautiful French Seams.   French seams by Kathy Dykstra   I recommend this to all struggling to get their French Seams right. 

To these five techniques and to Kenneth King, Nancy Zieman, Sarah Veblen and Kathy Dykstra, congratulations!!!  You have won, in my opinion, with these techniques and your great teaching skills the Academy Awards of Teaching Sewing. You help make a new generation of sewists better and even great. You are generous and you are gifted and we so appreciate that. Thank you and may you continue to grace us with your knowledge and skill.


Saturday, October 2, 2021

I made a Tabard, Vogue 1569!


Brrrr, it was chilly and breezy the day I took these pics and my tabard was just perfect for the weather. Think of a tabard as one of the placards outside of a restaurant that lists the special of the day or something similar to get you to come in. It is a front, a back, simple like a board, and a chain or strap to hold the two pieces together and prevent them from falling apart.  I have a lot to say about this pattern.


I did View B of  Vogue 1569, the longer length, but shortened it to be just above my knees. I love long sweaters and sweater vests. The longer view has pockets as well.  This was a fun  make, mostly due to my fabric choices and I am happy with those in the end. 

This is a Sandra Betzina pattern. Some of you may remember her sewing program on HGTV in its early and golden days, "Sew Perfect". I watched every time I could and taped it when I couldn't. Sandra is a very knowledgeable sewist. What I often found is that she was delightfully "ditsy" and a bit disorganized. I love her Power Sewing books but when I read them, I want to reorganize the content. It is the same for her patterns and their progression of instruction but that's me. What can I say? They are still great patterns and books. I will give you some suggestions further on about how I would make the next one to make for a simpler construction. 

There are lots of clear illustrations here. There is also clear emphasis on specific technique. Sandra is obviously a fan of Steam A Seam and the half inch wide type is used generously in the pocket and hem instructions.  Sandra often reminds you to press and pound your seams as well. 

The pattern was dated 2017 and the tissue used was really nice. It was bright white with vivid blue ink, very easy  on the eyes. It specifies knits or wovens and has a stretch ruler on the outer envelope, why I don't know as there really is no fit here. Two different fabrics are specified. One is for the center sections of the tabard, the "boards" as I call them. The second fabric is for the side fronts and backs and their facings, what I call the "flanges". My flanges and my boards contrasted as the pattern specifies. One thing I really liked about the pattern is how the flanges shape nicely to the curve of the shoulder. They are not cut straight at all. 

sorry, odd pose and extremely lightened to show the uneven tabs.

The two "boards " are held together by tabs but those tabs are at different levels. I don't like that and would make them level on the next one.  See in the pic above. Installing the tabs is the hardest part of the construction, IMO, so they will stay where they are. 

I love this design and it's uniqueness. 


For my center panels I used the back side of a "throw", a woven cotton number depicting a scene by Thomas Kincaid of people loading Christmas trees onto wagons and his every present home with wasted lighting from within. I did not like the artwork. What drew me to the fabric was the woven floats on the back side and their colors, lovely. I did a blog post on this and how I was going to make it work and you can read it here. 

The throw is fused on the back with Fusi Knit tricot fusible to stabilize the woven throw and hide the imagery of the Kincaid design. The little dot you see is the back side of a Chicago Screw. More on that............There is no interfacing specified anywhere.  You can see the pockets. They are made with a nice quality knit from my stash that I believe is rayon. You can see the topstitching showing thru.  The flanges are made from a really nice black wool flannel. 


When the tabard was complete I tried it on and I liked it but something just was not right. I started pinching it here and there and it looked so much better with a bit of shape built in so I decided it needed darts. I decided to put them on the front and back in more of a dart at the top and a tuck at the bottom and I would put a copper Chicago screw in the middle for some intentional design punch, subtle and  major improvement. I think this was a petite issue and I needed this shape to make the 'boards" not overwhelm me.  Chicago screws are what I call wonderful whimpy rivets. They are for people who don't like rivets, like myself. They screw into places where you could use rivets and lots of bag makers use them. Chicago screws always work. Rivets can be unpredictable. You can get them from most purveyors of bag making products. 

I am going to go thru the pattern and point out some things that I thought could use some improvement or updating or organization. You be the judge. 

* Betzina suggests serging the edge of your pockets. By using a knit, I didn't have to. Knits don't ravel.

* SB recommends turning in  the  "Board" pocket edges 5/8ths of an inch, baste and topstitch. This leaves a raw edge. I serged my "board" pocket edges, turned and topstitched.    Further on when the flanges are attached the pockets are not addressed in how you sew around them, over them, thru them, whatever.  Be careful you don't sew thru them. Pin the tabard pocket edge out of the way when you attach the flanges and their facings. sew the flange to the pocket only, being careful not to catch in any of the opening on the "board" part of the pocket. 

* She has you attach the pockets to the front panel  with Steam A Seam. 

I used Acorn Seam Align. I placed down my pocket, lifted up the edge and laid down two or three dots, pressed the dots and did a few more until the pocket was pressed onto the panel. This made for an easy and stuck to the panel pocket that I took to the machine and topstitched no  problem. You can certainly use Steam a Seam tape but I found this very easy.  

* She has you trim the facing flange back to a 1/4 inch and then ditch stitch them the full length from the top side. I did not do that at all.  My flange facings were all understitched at the edge to the other flange. Then I catch stitched the flange facing to the panel the full length of the flange. I did this before finishing the hem corner. THEN, I gave the flange shoulder area a good steam press and as you can see above, or better yet, can't see, I ditch stitched in the well of the shoulder seam on the flange. It is all very secure. That little area is the only ditch stitching I did on this garment. 

* Here is how I would make big changes to the sequence of construction. 

   I would sew the collar.

   I would sew the shoulder seams of the back and front panels.

   I would sew the collar to the front and back panels. Set that aside. 

   I would completely sew together the flanges, tabs and flange facings, understitching the facings. Move the tabs to be even. When  you make the tabs, turn them so the seam is on the back in the middle, not on the edge. Topstitch the edges, not mentioned in the pattern. Be REALLY careful about the flanges, marking them clearly when you cut them out with painters tape and descriptions. It is very easy to mix them up especially if they are all black like mine were. Put "left", "right", etc. Doing it this way will make the tab installation so simple you will wonder why I mentioned it. Trust me . The way the pattern has you deal with the tab installation is like a giant, awkward burrito method. Once you have your completed side flanges all done with facings and tabs, simply attach the  outer, public flange to the front panel starting stitching from the shoulder seam down. When done, go back to the shoulder seam and stitch the flange to the back panel all the way down to the hem, just like you did in the front.  After that, do the other side of flanges, same method. 

Hems: When you get to the hems, SB has you enclose the facings and stitch around the hem and turn, like you would do a facing on most blouses. I ripped mine out after doing that. I found I got a much nicer finish by simply cutting the facing hem to about 3/4 of an inch, pressing it under and folding over the panel hems. I then hand stitched it in place and on the edge.  I ended up with a sharper edge than sewing and turning. 

In Conclusion:

I really think this is a great design. I don't think this pattern is for beginners,  but those of middle/average experience should definitely be able to handle it with a little thought as to the logical sequence of events and perhaps a bit of googling to get the best results. I really enjoyed making it and I know I will enjoy wearing it this winter. It will be perfect with a turtleneck and some leggings. I can also see it in some floaty chiffon and light linen for the summer. I think it's a great design that an experienced sewist can definitely work with and make something quite special. 

My sister came to visit for a few days this week. She just retired from a lifelong career as a high risk OB-GYN RN that included in its final days working with young moms in a covid clinic who had covid. She came to celebrate and we had a ball. She is as passionate about sewing as I am and we shopped and shopped and are ready to sew all winter with our purchases. I took her to my favorite thrift shop, my secret amazing little place in the woods that is always mobbed as a lot of people know this secret. We scored quite well but my favorite was this luscious oversized, wide and long and fringed velvet burnout scarf. It appealed to all the Janis Joplin inside my sixties soul. ....Busted flat in Baton Rouge, waitin' for a train.....................Bunny

Is It Invisible?

  Jeans all mended.   I have really enjoyed being home since  retired.  I am getting back in the  groove of household planning and organizat...