THE SEWING DIVAS sewing, design, fashion

July 23, 2010

Apron, Vintage Style Customized

cross posted at The Stitchery by Mary Beth

I love strong color and I love to cook. My kitchen is full of primary colors: yellow, orange, red, green and blue. Yellow and orange are the main colors.

The dining area is attached and there the colors are more muted into pastel shades but dark blue, bottle green and red glass makes it’s presence known against a proper unbleached Irish linen table cloth and white china.

Life's Treasures

The yellow orange theme kitchen theme is based upon a wallpaper border I put up a while ago. it’s a variation of Vincent Van Gogh’s Sunflowers with lovely colors and navy background.

sunflowersKitchen Colors

The kitchen is a place of activity and high energy and when I cook I am working as quickly as possible. I cook in batches so dinners can be frozen ahead of time. I make most things from scratch, depending on how much time I have. And, well, things do go flying! The other day, after splattering cherry juice down the front of me, I wished for an apron, one with a bib on top.

I’ve never made one (that I can remember). I have aprons but they are all inherited from Mothers and Grandmothers; you know, the full skirted half apron, that, on me, makes me look “like a potato sack with a string around it” as Ma used to say.

I wanted fullness, like the sense of fullness and abundance that a kitchen should exude. I wanted “feminine, and fun, but serious fun”. I am not a cute cook. I get dirty. It’s more fun that way 🙂

I had yellow/orange cross dyed linen in the stash and some navy so the challenge was to make a full apron with as much covering on top as well as the traditional full skirt in a way that would be more flattering to my short, full body than the outline of a lampshade on two legs. Oh horrors, that is such a bad look on me! So, what did I have on hand????

Ah, the easily disastrous pattern, View D of an old McCall’s 2947:

View D McCall's 2947

Here is the result:

front Back

But I noticed the shoulder “wings” were trying to slip down my arms

Shoulder Straps Slipping Off

and that would drive me nuts. So to make sure I would want to wear this apron I made a shoulder stay Stay

that would make sure I could tolerate wearing my new kitchen “tool”. It’s set across the back of the top of the shoulders so it’s easy to get over my head without having to button and unbutton.

Full Back Front Full
I’m moving quickly when I am cooking so I’ve got to be able to throw this on without hesitation. I think it will work well, now.

The second issue for me in this basic design is the fullness of the skirt. I need no extra fullness in the tummy or at the sides. Taking a cue from the spacing of the gathers in the Anna Sui pattern I made earlier

I made an inverted pleat across the belly of the apron, allowed gathers over the pockets, smoothed the fabric at the side seams and put maximum fullness at the back. Can you see the spacing?

Spacing of Gathers

Here’s the side seam and back

Side and Back Gathers

Here’s the front inverted pleat, top stitched down on each side of the fold. This apron will not be ironed so things must be anchored and stay put. The most I’ll do is to try to smooth out those shoulder ruffles with a quick tug as the apron comes out of the dryer. Maybe.

Inverted Pleat

The peaked front of the waist band was a design detail that insisted on being part of the apron. Seriously, it demanded to be included to counteract all the straight lines of the color blocking. It made me work late.

I drew the curves and stitched them on the waistband, then pulled out the stitches and ironed the shape into the interfaced fabric. Then I could easily applique the shape onto the bib. I like it.

I’m relieved: it cute but not “cute”, decorated but not “decorated”. Hope I remember to put it on before the disasters happen!

Kitchen work

Happy Sewing and Happy Cooking

December 3, 2009

Warm Winter Sheath Secret – Tricot Lining

Filed under: Fabric,Mary Beth,sewing — Mary Beth @ 3:44 pm

(Crossposted at The Stitchery)

I made this simple sheath in the early 2000’s.  I call it my walk to church dress because it is so warm. It’s only been washed by hand, never dry cleaned.

Front of Wool Jersey Sheath

It hangs ignored in the closet for most of the year until it becomes very cold outside.

"Old Faithful" Winter Sheath

I lined this wool jersey dress with nylon tricot and the tricot lining is what makes this dress so perfect for when the temperatures are at, or below, freezing.

The substantial, low static, and inexpensive tricot, a nylon knit, is from SewSassy.  This little company is a wonderful fabric and notions source and I’ve gotten excellent advice over the phone when I’ve needed it.  If you haven’t tried this sewing source you should do yourself the favor of adding them to your list of trusted suppliers.

I am not affiliated in any way with this shop, just one who, almost 10 years ago, purchased elastic that remains fresh and stretchy and this lovely 40 denier tricot in black and champagne.

But back then I was returning to sewing after many years without a sewing machine and I didn’t use commercial patterns.  All my sewing was based on patterns designed by me and generated using the pattern drafting software and there were no how-to instructions.  I relied on the training I had from growing up with my mother; and information I could get from the software’s message board.  I don’t think I had even joined Pattern Review yet since I didn’t use patterns.

So here I had rather scratchy wool jersey from  I had never sewn wool jersey before but I knew I didn’t want it next to my skin!  The tricot would feel so much better and it would stretch!

I dove in and lined this dress by joining the tricot to the dress at the neckline (Amazing, I remembered to  under stitch)

Inside of dress at the collar band

and hand hemmed the sleeves after serging the jersey and tricot together at the cut edges (I didn’t have any way to get a correct sleeve length at the flat pattern stage, oh my! and I was in love with my very first serger, a used Janome LOL)

Sleeve Hem - What a Mess!

and hemmed the bottoms separately

Machine Hemmed with Twin Needle and Wooly Nylon!

Today, I would worry more about the construction details like thread colors, stitch length and seam techniques but back then I was hurrying to finish for a function where I needed to wear it.  I remember stitching the sleeve hems in the hotel room.  You just never know when the inside stitching will need to be gorgeous!

Little did I know back then I’d be blogging this dress so that you could make something very warm this winter if needed.  But enough of my illiterate wanderings in the sewing desert that was my life:  the point of this post is:

Tricot: it’s not your old clingy slip, anymore

November 22, 2009

Hot Patterns Free Slinky Shrug Download Simplified

Filed under: Mary Beth,Pattern Reviews,Patterns,Technology — Mary Beth @ 3:40 pm

Free Pattern HP's Slinky Shrug

The Slinky Shrug is available through yet another collaboration between Hot Patterns and the folks at  The link to download the pattern is

This could be such a quick and easy gift done in elegant fabrics 🙂 and a wonderful bed jacket for reading in bed or shoulder warmer to wear while hand sewing in a chair by the window.  Imagine how pleasing that would be for your special person to receive.

Having cut my 21st century pattern using teeth on a pattern drafting software program I might have a trick that can make it easier for you to procure this free pattern.

I downloaded the PFD file and saved it to my computer.  Then I examined my printer’s settings carefully.  We want the printer to make no amendments to the pattern size or shape.  We’ll even sacrifice some of the cutting lines to make sure nothing changes.

First, let’s make sure the printer doesn’t distort your pattern.   Turn off the page scaling!  Don’t allow any setting like  fit to printable area!  Don’t have it shrink to printable area.  Make sure all other boxes that might affect the size of the printing are unchecked.

You can print out all the 27 pages like I did

That’s 4 columns of 7 pages each, plus the cover page and 2 pages of instructions…

Or you can take the easy way out, benefit from my compulsiveness, and print only those pattern pieces you really need.

Because the page notations made by the pattern drawing software doesn’t match the page numbers that the printer will print I had to do lots of counting and recounting but I’ve printed everything out using the following commands and got all the pages needed to make up the 2 pattern pieces.  You can see my confused and confusing notations below, but please ignore them and focus instead on the shape of the pattern

The Front

and the Back.

To print the front “cover page” and instructions:   make 3 separate commands to your printer.  Have it print page 1, and then page 8, and then page 15.  Done and there is no need to tape these together although you can see I did tape the first 2 together…Sigh.

To print out the main pattern pieces (there are only two)

Back (cut 1 on fold) make 3 separate commands that your printer print pages 5 – 7, and then 13-14, and then 20-21. These pages will show you sizes 6 through 22.

You’ll need to print page 25 if you are cutting a size 26 and want the reassurance of having the line to cut on.  The cutting line for size 24 lies right on the edge of the page so it doesn’t even print out at all.

No worry, all you have to do is measure the incremental increase between the other sizes and add that much to find the cutting line for size 24 and size 26.

Butt the edges of the pages together and tape.

Front (cut two pieces) print pages 10-11,  and then 17-19, and then pages 22-25.  Tape them together and you are all done with the tedious paperwork.

Butt the edges of the pages together and tape.

Now you can cut out your main fashion fabric.

To make the ribbing cut straight pieces with the fabric stretch going the length (long wise) of the piece being cut.

Remember that the exact length may have to be adjusted to suit the “stretch” of your ribbing so cut long and stretch test!

Front ribbing piece.  Cut one piece on the fold:  11 3/4” wide x 22 3/4 for size 6, add 3/8″ for each size you go up from size 6.  So size 10 would be 23 1/2, etc

Back Hem Ribbing piece:  again 11.75″ wide, cut on on the fold.  The incremental on the back is 1/2 inch so size 6 is 8 5/8″,  size 10 is 9 5/8, etc

Cuffs pieces are 5 3/4″ wide, size 6 is 10 7/8, and sizes up by a 3/8ths increment.


All that said: I cut the pieces all extra long so I could adjust  for easing and stretching.


All seam allowances are 3/8″.  I used the serger to join the wool boucle pieces together at the shoulder seams and side seams.  It’s too easy to do it any other way.  Of course you can also cut a lining and bag the ribbing with just a little hand stitching to close it up.

And might you have trouble finding ribbing, you can also experiment with knitting some ribbing or even using a stretch fabric that coordinates with your fashion fabric.

I pretended I didn’t have my stash of rayon ribbing to use because so many of us do not (to your great relief, believe me!) and I looked around for a knit to use.

I found knit faux fur!

It has a stiffening finish on the knit side that can be loosened by steam so I steamed and stretched to match the curves of the shrug:  stretched the cut edges around the neck area and stretched in the fold area around the bodice to the hips.  I also eased in the fur through the rounded front pieces:

I used the exact widths for the cuffs and edge ribbing so you can see the results.  I cut a size 14 throughout but adjusted the lengths of the faux fur since it does not stretch as much as ribbing would stretch.

Woven wool boucle with faux fur knit

Front of Shrug with Faux Fur for Ribbing

Outside our day has turned dark and rainy so I had to seriously alter these photos to show you any details at all

So wouldn’t this pattern make some great Holiday gifts?

October 24, 2009

Vintage Menswear Pattern = Modern Knitted Jacket

Filed under: Designing,Fabric,Fashion,Mary Beth,Pattern Reviews — Mary Beth @ 2:24 pm

I had two pieces of fabric I wanted to use this Fall. One was 3 yards of 36″ wide cloque from the now closed Textile Studio and the other was 3 yards of rayon ribbing, both in a mauve-y pink.  These are difficult fabrics to work with and dictated the style, the sewing and each detail of what ever I would end up making.

The cloque would add width and visual weight to the silhouette so it couldn’t be a dress for me without making me shorter and wider than I already am.

Showing the Wrong Side of the Knitted Cloque

Showing the Wrong Side of the Knitted Cloque

It took me a long while to puzzle through how the fabric should be used, years really but I was determined this time because I craved working in this color.

But how should I use it????

It is a fairly formal fabric but my lifestyle does not call for formal anything.  I needed a pattern with simple lines and I needed a pattern that would put all that visual weight on my upper half.

I looked for a simple jacket

This vintage Le Cadran de la Mode pattern is on loan to me from Georgene’s extensive pattern collection:

Size 44 Mens Jacket American Style Blouson

Size 44 Men's Jacket "American Style" Blouson

Sheet Inserted into the Pattern Envelope

Sheet Inserted into the Pattern Envelope

The envelope contained all pieces except the collar.  It was drafted for a woven jacketing and had 2 piece sleeves.

Back of The Envelope

Back of The Envelope

The boxy shape seemed to be what I needed for this fabric and the pattern’s gathered and tabbed sides gave me the idea to use the ribbing for the lower edge and sleeves.  I had to test each design detail and machine stitch as I worked through the design of the jacket.

The  collar pattern piece (#6) is missing but is not a problem because fabrics I used for this jacket are nylon and rayon knits.  A knit ribbing collar can easily create it’s own stand and can fall nicely with little shaping from the cutting.  I measured the length of the neckline, folded the intended collar in two and cut the needed length with  a little wider flare for the collar tips.

In making up the collar from the rayon ribbing I found the tips needed to be rounded so I carefully created  the rounded ends.  Otherwise the ribbing creates an unattractive “stump” at the pointed ends.

Jacket on Form

Jacket on Form

As you can see I didn’t use all the cool pointed tabs and double welted pockets for my design.  My fabrics were the color I wanted to work with but they were not easy to sew.

The fabric choice governed the design right down to whether to use snaps or make buttonholes.  The snaps won out.

I did spend some time basting everything before using a narrow .5 zigzag stitch set at 3 mm in length to join everything together.  I also had to decrease the pressure of the presser foot by half to keep from dragging the bubbled surface of the outer fabric into lumps and bumps.

The inside is lined with pink powerdry from Malden Mills (now Polartek, LLC).  I used the silky side toward the body for easy on and off of the jacket.

Pink Power Dry Lining with Smooth Side Toward the Body

Pink Power Dry Lining with Smooth Side Toward the Body

I created a back facing to join to the front facing the pattern provided.  Both facings are interfaced with fusible Pro-Sheer from Fashion Sewing Supply and I found that pressing the fabric definitely changed it.

Fusible Interfacing Applied

Fusible Interfacing Applied

Not Interfaced nor Pressed

Not Interfaced nor Pressed

The pattern pieces had notches and circle and no seam allowances built in and interestingly enough I found that on the long, obviously meant to be straight edges the pattern pieces curved inward. I am speculating when I say that the curve may have been caused by the drag on the pattern paper when the long straight cuts were made. The straight front edges had them too, so I corrected in the layout as I worked.

The Back Has No Seam So It Was Meant to be Placed on a Fold

The Back Has No Seam So It Was Meant to be Placed on a Fold

The layout of the sleeves was done so that the straight of the grain ran parallel to the upper sleeve edges.  This is shown on the back of the envelope but the markings are not on the pattern pieces.

Layout of the Sleeves

Layout of the Sleeves

Even though I folded out 1.5″ I also cut off another 1.5″ for the cuffs.

Just Enough Drape to the Sleeves

Just Enough Drape to the Sleeves

The power dry is cut the exact same size as the knitted cloque but the weight of the cloque caused it to stretch more than the power dry, creating the blouson effect.

I did not alter the shoulders or armscye and used 1.25″ deep menswear shoulder pads to keep the “High School Sports Jacket” look to the piece

Back Showing Wide Shoulders

Back Showing Wide Shoulders

I also did not want the ribbing to ride up across the back so I did not stretch it across the bottom

I did pay homage to the original design by retaining the pointed tab at the front hem

Front Showing the Tab

Front Showing the Tab

The skirt shown here is black power dry with an elastic waist and the leggings are made using the method described here.  The leggings are made of  stretch Chantilly lace from turned inside out to tone down the silver threads in the fabric.

August 20, 2009

Vogue 1132, Fall 2009

Filed under: Mary Beth,Pattern Drafting,Pattern Reviews — Mary Beth @ 4:02 pm

A tricky, tricky pattern….  Did it attract your attention when you first saw it?  I know many liked it:  so urbane and stylish in Vogue’s envelope photo with it’s bias cut wide A-line (not circle) skirt, nipped waist  and flounced peplum.


It is offered in size 8 (bust 31.5, waist 24, hip 33.5) to size 22 (bust 44, waist 37, hip 46).

Let me start by saying that this is the hardest post I’ve ever done since I started blogging in 2006.    I have taken days to work up my courage.   I have had a total Blogger’s Meltdown and been paralyzed with fear.

This is a test.  It is not a wearable muslin.  Please don’t tell me how to fix this thing.

Just take the facts from this humiliating and public display of raw, un-photoshopped photos and determine if this is really a style that would work for you. Warning:  some photos maybe too graphic for delicate sensibilities.  Viewer discretion is advised.

First:  the skirt is 36″ long from the waist and 98″ in circumference at the hem.  That’s a whole lot of skirt for a short person and even a whole lot of skirt for a tall person.  It might work for someone who is over 6 foot tall.  I am not.  I ran up a test of my test to try to get a good length, cutting off 10 inches so it would be long but not too long and decided on this proportion for me:

Test Skirt

OK, the length is not bad but look at how the skirt front dips down? That’s because the waist band needs to be tighter to hold the skirt level at the waist. So cut it smaller than you normally would.

Also oddly, there is only one pattern piece for the front and the back. A back piece should be wider than the front by an inch or so as most people are wider across the back.

I only had an RPL (rayon polyester lycra) in a comparably sized plaid and I had plenty of it with no real plans for a serious garment. It is a bit beefier than a woven wool suiting but not by much so it became my “muslin” fabric.

Here’s the skirt:

skirt back

The plaid on the bias widens the back view…need I say more? It demands a jacket.

Here’s the jacket:

full back

Hmmmm, maybe I can stand to see it from the front???

side front

Oh , no, not so good either…well maybe a quarter turn will do?


Enough with the plaid already!

Not even adding a wide belt would help.

Perhaps done in a more muted plaid like the dark grey shown on the envelope…naw.  I don’t think that this jacket and skirt would work well together on anyone shorter than 6 foot tall and really, it’s not a good look for anyone who is over a size 2.  Oh wait, it’s not offered in a size 2.

So, to get on with this exploration and to relieve our eyes I’ll try to discuss the jacket while in some brown slacks


that’s a bit of relief from the plaid but, HMMMMM,  that peplum sticking out there…


It might lie flatter if made from a fabric with a looser weave but here’s the pattern pieces:

Peplum pieces

On top of the fact that there’s almost one and a half full circles of fabric over your behind, the jacket instructions and lining pattern piece have you line to the edge so there is an added line of stitching to stiffen those folds.

And the lining shows in the folds (you’re not warned, too bad I didn’t read the whole instruction sheet first!)

Peplum Lifted

Huh? You can’t see that in the photos on the envelope


I even have toyed with the idea of tacking the back folds into place but

what about those sleeves? They look nice and tight in the photo, even the armscye is low enough so as to compensate for the tightness of the sleeve

Sleeve Taper

but the pattern piece does not taper as much as it should to produce such tight sleeves

Sleeve Pattern piece

Refer back up to my jacket photos. I have cut an 18 and taken out an extra inch of width tapering from the elbow dart down to the sleeve hem.

Hmmm.   Somehow, it just does not look like the same outfit.

So my dear readers (I hope after these shocking photos I can still call you friends) I am going to close this chapter now.  I have mustered up the courage to post this and, if I were a rational person, I’d go on a week long vacation or a major margarita bender, which ever comes easiest, but when it comes to sewing and art, I’m just not that rational.

No loss to me of the fabric and my time is not as precious as it once was.  I’ll be all right.

I hope I have saved at least one of  you some time, fabric and effort.

sewing hugs to all 🙂

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