My Uniquely You Dress Form…

…and a blazer, because the two go hand-in-hand.

I’d been wanting a dress form for a while when I found a decorative-type dress form at a discount store last year. It looked smaller than any dress form I’d seen, and seemed close to my measurements, so I grabbed it up, thinking it would be “the one.” Well, of course once I got it home and started using it, I realized that close wasn’t good enough and that it was really too big all around, but particularly in the shoulders and bust, for me to use for any sort of fitted or draped garment. It quickly became a glorified, decorative coat rack where I tossed any project that didn’t seem to be coming together the way I wanted at any given moment.

And all the while, I researched dress forms whenever I had fitting issues with a project or got tired of trying on a piece-in-progress on a million times. Lots of research showed me that most dress forms, even those in small or petite sizes, weren’t quite small enough. Despite knowing back in November/December that I was going to be budgeting all of my holiday gift money toward a dress form, I couldn’t find “the one” and didn’t make any purchases until early February.

I ended up going with a Uniquely You dress form, which came close to fitting everything on my wishlist (and a few things that I hadn’t thought to consider but love now – it’s pin-able and “steam-on-able” in addition to being small enough to fit my clothing). These dress forms consist of two parts: a foam “base” and a fabric cover (which you buy separately to suit your sizing needs). You fit the cover to yourself, then squish the foam form into the fitted cover, giving you a finished form that more-or-less mimics your body’s measurements, if not shape.

I got the petite sized form, with the size 2 cover. As many of the other reviews have shown, she does indeed come with two torpedoes (my mom was with me when I pulled her out of the box and was ready to name her Dolly). I couldn’t resist putting the cover on her immediately, just to see how it worked with no adjustments, and then let her sit like this for a few weeks while I got up the nerve to fit the cover. Of course, I didn’t take a picture of her with the cover, but did take one as soon as she came out of the box.

It took a few tries for me to get the cover/form to match my measurements, even after very snugly fitting the cover to myself. Note: this isn’t exactly how the directions say to do it, but my way seemed to make more sense to me at the time. First, it was too big all around, so I figured I must not have fit it snugly enough and took out a smidge from each of the main seams. Then it was too small all around, so I let out the side seams. At this point, it was the right size/shape through the underbust, waist, and hips, and my mom was asking me if this was really something I was enjoying as we squished the form back into the cover for what seemed like the hundredth time (and it is definitely a two person job…I would probably still be trying to get that cover zipped onto the form if I hadn’t had help). I decided that rather than risk messing up any of those measurements that now looked right, I would use an old bra and pad out the bust to get the right shape and measurements.

Uniquely You Dressform - WithNeedleAndThreadUnlike many of the reviews I read, I didn’t need to perform surgery on the torpedo boobs to get them to fit into the cover – though I have to admit that they weren’t pretty before I added the bra. Nor did I cut off the shoulders, as I have seen others do, to reduce the shoulder width. Instead, I went with a slightly less permanent fix, by sewing a band of muslin to match my shoulder measurements and using that to reduce the shoulders from about 15.5 to 14 inches.

To give the fitted, padded, and banded form a more finished/polished look, since it would be sitting out a lot of the time, I used less than a yard of super stretchy swimsuit knit to make a final cover for the form. I draped the fabric wrong side out over the form, and working in somewhat equal increments, stretched and pinned the fabric along the sideseams and shoulders/neck of the form. Then I carefully eased the pinned fabric off of the form and used the pins as a stitching guide. After sewing along the pinned lines, I flipped it right side out and put it back on the dress form, and handsewed the bottom (so it’s easily removable, which is the one thing I’d change somehow if I were making another).

As a test, I put my just-finished jacket on the dress form and took a picture. Then had my mom take a picture of me wearing the jacket so that I could compare how the jacket hung on both. And, I think it fits both of “us” pretty similarly, so I am calling project dress form a success.

Lekala 4162 Coral Blazer - WithNeedleAndThreadThe blazer is Lekala 4162, a classic princess seamed blazer with a notched lapel and single button closure, which I’ve made a few times and seems to have become my go-to pattern for both dressy and casual jackets. This one is made with a textured jacquard knit from Fabric Mart and is lined with a coral and black polka dot ITY knit, also from Fabric Mart.

I’ve worn the blazer several times between when I finished it and when I got around to writing this post, and I’ve noticed that the lapels naturally want to break slightly higher than called for in the pattern. Since the fabric doesn’t hold a crease very well, I decided to go with it and added a second button above the first.

 

A New Fall Jacket: the “Moto-blazer”

WithNeedleAndThread-MotoBlazerI’d been wanting (to make) a moto/biker-style jacket for a while, buy hadn’t found a pattern that spoke to me, so the project kept getting bumped further and further down my “to make” list. Included in my list of wishes for my jacket were that it: have an asymmetrical but mostly straight zipper (versus a diagonal zipper), have an actually collar (not just the lapels), have traditional two-piece sleeves with no gussets, zippers, buttons, or extra seams, and that it be fitted rather than boxy, ideally with princess seams.

In other words, I wanted a cross between a classic moto-style jacket and a traditional blazer. Once I came to that epiphany, I decided to set about making my own “frankenpattern” (an oh so technical term for when you combine two or more different patterns to create one new pattern…think Frankenstein). I debated between several different moto jacket patterns before deciding on Simplicity 2056, which had the collar, lapels, and straight-off-center front that I had envisioned. For the blazer portion, I used Lekala 4162, a classic blazer pattern which I’ve made before and know fits well.

I traced the front of the Simplicity pattern onto the front piece of the Lekala pattern, lining up the shoulders and center fronts. When I cut the traced pattern out, I kept the center front part of the moto jacket and blended into the armscye princess seam lines of the blazer. In the photo below, the purple is the Lekala pattern, the teal is the moto jacket, and the red should be ignored (I traced two sizes of the moto jacket and ended up going with the smaller one – this is the larger one).

WithNeedleAndThread-MotoBlazer

In addition, I used the side front, side back, back, and sleeves from the Lekala pattern, and the collar and pocket pieces from the moto jacket pattern. About halfway though the project, I started calling my jacket a “moto-blazer,” and I think that name is going to stay with it.
Based on the pattern envelope images, I thought that the moto jacket collar may be too big for me, so I basted it on before sewing it for real. And it did turn out too big; I would up narrowing it by increasing the seam allowance along the back seamline, taking 1.5” from the corner, tapering to .75” at center back, then back out to 1.5” at the other corner. I probably could have made it smaller still, but decided to embrace the slightly oversized collar to give the jacket even more of a different look from the other jackets in my closet.

WithNeedleAndThread-MotoBlazerSince I had changed the fit of the moto jacket and was changing the pocket style of the blazer pattern, I added the pockets after I’d sewn most of the jacket, but before attaching the lining. This allowed me to determine the ideal length and placement of the pockets as they would fall when I was actually wearing the jacket. I think my pockets ended up being a bit smaller than a traditional pocket, but they work on me. And I don’t really intend to use the pockets for much, so going smaller with the pockets wasn’t an issue. This was the first time I’ve put zippered pockets in a jacket, and I initially found the idea of cutting a whole in my jacket slightly terrifying. Of course, in reality, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d built it up to be in my head and I’m glad I went ahead and put in the pockets/zippers.

After the jacket shell was mostly finished (and pockets mentioned above inserted), I decided that I really didn’t like the look of the partially exposed zipper that I was originally intending to use (the left zipper piece had no seam to be sewn into…which I hadn’t fully taken into consideration when combining my patterns as the Simplicity pattern originally called for buttons rather than a zipper on the view I used). Luckily, I had enough wiggle room (or extra ease that could be un-eased) that I was able to taper the top edge of the zipper tape, and fold the jacket fabric over the edge of the zipper tape to create a faux-seam. If/when I make this pattern again, I’d probably draft a real seam into the pattern here as I like this look much better than the exposed zipper look.

The fabric is a wool blend coating that I got from Fabric.com a few years ago. Though it’s hard to see in my pictures, it is a blend of cream/tan, olive, purple, and mustard yellow threads. I lined the jacket with purple Bemberg lining.

Zipper issues aside, I am happy with the way my new “moto-blazer” turned out and am now anxiously waiting for the weather to cool down enough so that I can wear my new jacket.

 

Burberry Brit- Inspired Outfit

Since I’ve started making my own clothes, I’ve found that I enjoy browsing catalogs/websites searching for inspiration. Back in the beginning of March, we got a thick Bloomingdales catalog in the mail (they were advertising some upcoming sale, if I recall correctly). Out of the entire catalog (which was close to an inch thick), I tore out about 6 pages of things I liked – either in color, silhouette, or style. Apparently I liked one complete outfit much more than I realized I did because it kept popping back into my head off and on for the next few weeks. Even through I’ve never been a huge fan of stripes or polka dots, these fabrics started catching my eye – in other garments, in store windows, and in fabric shops (the most dangerous place known to woman). When I saw the Barganista Fashionista challenge on Pattern Review, I knew that I had to make this outfit that had so constantly wiggled its way into my subconscious.

At the time I began this project, I couldn’t find photos of any of the three pieces online. About midway through the month, they did appear on Bloomingdales’ website. However, the blazer has the stripes going in the opposite direction (vertical rather than horizontal) and the pockets are a bit different. I like the horizontal stripes much better, so I decided to stick with the original magazine photo rather than the photos from the website.

These pieces are:
Burberry Brit White and Navy Striped Blazer: $465
White and Navy Polka Dot Sweater: $350
Navy Highcross Skinny Trousers: $325
The total cost for this outfit is $1,140

With Needle And Thread - Burberry Inspired Outfit

For my outfit, I started with the blazer, which seemed like the most time-consuming piece. Since I’ve never worked with stripes, it seemed like darts rather than princess seams would be the better choice. So, I started looking for a pattern that would suit these needs. I ended up using Lekala 5018, a classic darted blazer and making a few tweaks to make it look more like the inspiration blazer, The fabric is, I believe a cotton canvas type home decor fabric that my mom picked up at a flea market several years ago. She got a bolt that had about 7 yards for $5 ($.072 per yard). While the inspiration jacket claims to be navy stripes, the first time I saw the photo, I was sure they were teal stripes, and a perfect match for my fabric. I still like the teal stripes.

As far as the pattern goes, it fit well “out of the envelope” and I only had to make a few fitting tweaks: removing some ease from the sleeve head and narrowing the sleeve by about an inch. I also lowered the break of the lapel and curved the front hem rather than using the straight lines of the pattern. I decided not to line this jacket, and instead drafted a back facing to attach to the front facings/lapels. Even after washing, this fabric is rather stiff and bulky, so I decided to simply serge all of the raw edges around the hems/sleeves/facings. I opted against shoulder pads, going for more a dressy jean jacket type feel, and used random white buttons from my stash. This was my first time working with striped fabric, and I am fairly happy with how the stripes lined up throughout the jacket.

I had planned on making patch pockets with flaps, as in the inspiration photo, and even cut them out, but didn’t like the way they fit on my jacket, so I decided to leave off the pockets. Yay for making clothes yourself and being able to do whatever you want with the finished look.

Cost: $1.94
Fabric: $0.72 x 2 yards = $1.44
Notions: 2 3/4″ buttons from my stash, $0.55

It was harder than I thought it would be to find a white with dark dots polka dot fabric. I finally found a white polka dot cotton jersey at lowpricefabric.com. I ordered the fabric (1 yard at $4.00) on a Saturday and had the top finished the following Friday. I did deviate from the original inspiration a bit in this piece. The Burberry top was a long sleeve sweater, and since Summer is quickly coming (and it’s a relatively warm Spring), I went for 3/4 length sleeves. I used my tnt knit top pattern, NL 6735, in which I have made the armscye smaller, changed the angle of the shoulder, removed ease from the sleeve head and sleeve, raised the neckline, and removed some ease from the sideseams through the waist area. I gave my top a banded neckline, and used my coverstitch machine to hem the sleeves and bottom hem.

Cost:$4.00
Fabric: $4.00 x 1 yard = $4.00
Notions: none

In the inspiration photo, it looked like the model was wearing dark skinny jeans, so that is what I decided to make (coincidentally, dark skinny jeans have been on my ‘to make’ list for several months, so that is one thing to cross off). When the pants finally appeared online, I realized that they actually aren’t jeans, but decided to stick with my jeans anyway. The jeans were easily the most expensive undertaking for this outfit, though that’s not saying much. I used a dark denim that I bought last year from Fabric.com. The pattern is my tnt jeans pattern that I made using Kenneth King’s Jeanious class on Craftsy, and have used many times before. My pattern is a cross between straight and bootcut legs, and I wanted tapered legs. Since all stretch denims seem to stretch differently, I baste the legs on every pair before stitching the inseam/sideseam, which provides me with the perfect opportunity to tweak the seam allowances all along the leg for a custom tapered fit. I’ve found that I like a skirt/slacks zipper better than the traditional jeans zipper because the pulls are typically less bulky and are less likely to create ridges along the fly.

Cost: $11.86
Fabric: 6.98 x 1.5 yards = 10.47
notions: basic 7″ zipper and jeans button from my stash, both of which I bought in bulk several months ago, $.039

Total cost for all 3 items: 17.85
Total percent savings: 98.4%

A Sweater and New to Me Thread

I picked up this orange/red variegated sweater knit more than a year ago, with the intent to make a cardigan that could be work with a ton of different colored tops, but never got around to actually making the cardigan. Possibly because this fabric screams Autumn to me, and by the time Autumn does roll around, I want something warmer than a light knit cardigan even though I live in California, where the seasons barely change.

As I was thinking about my corduroy jeans, this fabric popped into my head and I knew I had to make something with it this season. I fell in love with this split cowl sweater pattern as soon as I saw the pictures when the McCall autumn patterns first came out. I put it on my list and picked it up the next time patterns were on sale at JoAnn. Initially, I wasn’t sure how the pattern and fabric would pair, but I figured if I didn’t like the cowl collar, I could always just make a band and hem it as a t-shirt.

I don’t know if it was the pattern or the fabric, but I had to remove a lot of fabric from the pieces. I think I ended up taking about an inch off of each side seam. Once I had the top fitting, I basted the collar on, and absolutely loved it. The angled/split cowl with the buttons gives the top just enough of a pop to make it more than just a t-shirt without being too edgy/extreme.

With Needle and Thread - M6796 Split Cowl Sweater

While I love the look of this fabric, it is certainly not the easiest knit to work with. Even my serger didn’t like it. After some googling, I found Wooly Nylon thread (also called textured nylon, stretch nylon or bulky nylon, depending on the brand of thread). I ordered some online, and it was in my machine 4 days later.

I set up the machine with the nylon thread in both loopers as well as both needles, using bobbins filled with the wooly nylon thread for two of the spools. I forgot to take before and after pictures, but the difference was pretty amazing. The fabric fed through the serger a lot easier, and looked much happier once I was done.

Since the construction/serging had gone so well, I decided not to mess with success and try hemming the top with the serger rather than setting up the coverhem machine. Of course, when I tried to do a rolled hem, the machine tried to eat the fabric. So, instead I did a 3-thread serged edge and got a much cleaner finish.

The cowl seems to shift a lot, especially in the back (and therefore bunches and doesn’t lay flat). I’m considering tacking the cowl to the shirt body in a few places to try to prevent bunching, but haven’t done it yet. Overall, I really like this pattern. Though it is fairly distinctive, I do plan to make one or two more, as I have a feeling it will look significantly different in different colors/textures.

Chocolate Corduroy Jeans

As soon as I started thinking about sewing for Autumn/Fall (way back in July), I started thinking about chocolate brown corduroy jeans. Three months later, they’re finally done. I used my TNT (tried and true) jeans pattern, but since this fabric doesn’t have as much stretch as the denims I’d used in my past few pairs, I added an extra 1/4 inch to the outseam on the front pieces. Turns out I only needed it through the hip, as I ended up taking about the same amount back out after putting the waistband on, but I’m glad I had added it.
 Corduroy Jeans - With Needle and Thread
The only other change I made was to the waistband. I ‘borrowed’ the waistband from Jalie 2561, which I plan to test in the next few weeks. Since I don’t know how the pattern will fit, I basted the waistband pieces together, then took out equal amounts from each seam until it was the right length for my jeans. I really like the way this waistband fits – it doesn’t feel like it will stretch as much as the waistbands in some of my other jeans have.
Now, I just need the weather to cool down enough for me to wear them without looking silly. Actually, on second thought, I think I’d rather have the weather stay nice and wait to wear my jeans.

My New Go-Tos – Jeans and a Top

As soon as I finished my white jeans (blogged here) in July, I realized that neutral jeans other than the typical light and dark blue denim were sorely missing from my closet. Since then, I’ve been on a mission to add more options to my wardrobe, starting with tan jeans. Much to my surprise, it was very difficult to find tan/beige stretch denim. I even contemplated buying a pair of RTW jeans in a large size and cutting them up to make mine. I ended up finding one shade of tan stretch denim at fabric.com a few weeks ago. It isn’t quite as dark a tan as I’d hoped for, and the finished jeans look a bit more spring/summer-y than autumn-y, but I’m glad they’re done and in my closet now. I must have just been looking in the wrong season, because now that I’m done, I’m seeing tan stretch denim frequently.

This is my TNT (tried and true) jeans pattern, with a contoured waistband that I borrowed from a random pattern in my stash – though I don’t remember which it was now. I think with the next pair, I’ll probably use the 3 piece, stitched waistband from Jalie 2561. Even though that puts seams in that aren’t in most jeans waistbands, it seems to give a snugger fit and to stay put without a belt. It’s rare that I wear a tucked-in shirt with jeans, and when I do, I wear a belt anyway, so no one will see the extra seams, or so I hope.

As I was making the back pockets, I had a not-so-fleeting worry that especially in my petite size, these jeans may wind up looking like school uniform pants, particularly if I ever wear them with some sort of collared shirt. So, I decided to add a bit of embroidery/ decorative stitching to the back pockets. Though with the thread I used, you can barely see it, I used one of the decorative stitches on my Babylock machine combined with a few rows of straight stitching. Regardless of whether or not anyone else notices it, I like knowing that it’s there. And just may use this same design detail on another pair when I make something with contrasting topstitching.

Also shown here is my now-several-months-old-and-never-blogged favorite short sleeve top, based on the Hot Patterns Fringe Festival Scarf Top. I omitted both center front and center back seams, as well as the scarf. To hem, I just folded up the knit fabric and ran the sleeves, hem, and neck edges through my coverstitch machine. I think I need a bit of work coverstitching in corners/vs, but that’s just an excuse to make more tops.

These are the first two items in my Autumn 6Pac collection based on the 2013 6-Piece Autumn Collection (6PAC) Sew-Along (August-October) thread on Stitcher’s Guild dedicated to 6-piece collections of basic wardrobe items, complete with seasonal guidelines. Items 3 and 4 are almost done, so stay tuned for more on them shortly.

Little Black “Go Anywhere” Dress – McCall’s 6282

I have had this fabric and pattern (McCall’s 6282) paired and sitting in my closet for several months, so this was great motivation to get it done. I knew when I saw this fabric, a black knit with a subtle floral print in a raised texture, sitting on the clearance table at JoAnn’s back in November that it was meant for this pattern.

So, when Craftster’s Little Black Dress contest came along, I knew it was meant to be. This project jumped to the top of my ‘to make’ list. And I’m so glad I did. I love my new dress.

I loved the lines and shape of the dress on the pattern envelope, but I didn’t exactly follow the pattern. I knew from holding the pattern up that I was going to need to shorten it. I also knew that the gathers, as drafted, would be far too overwhelming on me. So, I used the lining pieces as my base. I used the back lining, as is, in lining and fashion fabric. For the front, I traced the top from the main piece onto the body of the front lining piece. Sewed the neckline, sleeves as instructed. Then I basted the side and back seams so I could try the dress on. With it on, I pinned until the dress felt right, creating gathers. Marked where the gathers should start and end, then unpicked the basting and sewed the rest following the instructions. I also ended up taking another 4 inches from the bottom of the dress when I hemmed it.

My 20 year-old brother, who usually doesn’t care about my sewing saw this dress and immediately said it was the nicest thing I’ve ever made. When I got this fabric, I had thought it would make a casual dress suitable for hanging around in on hot summer days. The consensus is that this pattern/fabric combination made a dress that looks far more expensive than it actually was. Which is great, because I now have an extremely versatile dress that I can wear on a number of different occasions from interviews/work to parties. And…of course, I can now make another in casual fabric. I’m thinking some sort of fun print, but we’ll see.

This was my first time lining a dress as well as putting a zipper in a dress, and I’m calling both a happy success. I had virtually no problems putting it together. Lately, I’ve been having success with a pattern the first time I make it, as far as fit, then utterly failing with the next attempt. I have no idea why that may be, but it’s slightly unsettling. Maybe this project will be the one to break that cycle the next time I make it. And I do plan to make it again. I’m thinking of making the top-only version in a deep purple, and as I mentioned above, the dress in a colorful print for casual summer outings.