Friday, January 23, 2009

Kreativ Blogger Award

Pamela from nominated me for a Kreativ Blogger Award.
Thank you, Pamela! I am so very appreciative!

Rules and Responsibilities of the Nominees:
1. Copy the award to your site.2. Link to the person from whom you received the award.3. Nominate 7 other bloggers.4. Link to those on your blog.5. Leave a message on the blogs you nominated.

So, now that I have to choose 7 bloggers, here they are (in no particular order):

The lady with impeccable taste from
The always generous Marita from
The ever popular and talented Tany from
The delightful and full of information Lindsay from
The creative and inspiring Christina from
Geri from who always inspires me to try prints and color
The delightlful land ever creative and thoughtful adies from

I am always inspired when I visit these blogs and this is my "thank you" to them!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

McCall’s 3799: Button-Down Shirt

Plaid was big for fall, and I am late on this trend.

To be honest, I first looked into buying a plaid button-down. Why? Well, plaid is not something that I truly love to sew with. Unfortunately, the shirts I liked were way too expensive, IMO; and I did not *really love* any. So, I bit the bullet and made one. I don't regret! I wore it today and loved it!

McCall’s 3799
The front of the pattern is greatly altered.
I chose this pattern for its lady-like lines. I needed something stylish to counteract the, otherwise boyfriend-ish, fabric.

Pattern Modifications:
a/ For Fit
Petite alterations on the bodice, as marked on the pattern.
I used narrower cuff and had to lengthen the sleeves.
Shoulder extended with 0.25”
Sleeve cap narrowed with 0.5”
b/ For Style:
2.1 Front: a/ Reverse engineered the front and converted the front gathers into bust darts, and b/ Added front vertical darts
2.2 Sleeve: Kept only one pleat at the sleeve hem, removed the other 2. This reduced the sleeve circumference everywhere from the armhole to the hem
2.3 Cuff: the length of the cuff was reduced.
2.4 Lengthened the bodice at the hem and changed the shaping of the hem

I used a Ralph Lauren shirt (XL size) that used to belong to my husband, cut it up and sourced the fabric as needed. The fabric is 100% cotton, hence, has no stretch. I think that, ideally for this pattern, or for any other pattern for a fitted button-down, the fabric it should have some, albeit not excessive, crosswise stretch.
BTW, this plaid was not easy to work with: hard to see your marks on, a lot of tiny lines to match, etc. Also, having been sewn once into a shirt, there were parts of the fabric that were a bit distorted and needed special attention. I get shivers just thinking of the state of mind that brought me to!

Construction details:
Did not use the pattern instruction and cannot comment on their quality.
I have made men’s shirts for my husband and I made them with flat-felled seams and the whole shebang. I decided to not to do flat felled seams this time. Reason – matching the *darn* plaid was challenging enough!
I also had fabric constrains and had to reuse the original cuffs by resizing them, which is why they are narrower than I would have made them if I had enough fabric. That was the only reused piece though, everything else was made from scratch. Also due to fabric constraints, I used different plaid (from a different DH’s shirt) for the lining piece for the yoke.
When I make shirts I like to consult David Coffin’s “Shirtmaking.” It is the best study on shirt making that I’ve come across.
There are also a few things that I do differently. For example, I like to add a bit of shaping to the outside edge of the collar, see here:

With shirts, it is important to remember that the pieces you interface are:
- the cuff: the outward piece of it
- the collar stand: the piece closer to your neck; interfacing cut on bias
- the collar: the piece closer to you neck; interfacing cut on bias. I also like to add a second layer of interfacing on the collar: two triangles right at the pointy parts of the collar (you can see on the picture above).

Well, obviously my shirt does not look anything like the pattern and that is how I wanted it to be. The pattern, however, is drafted superbly well and some of my fit changes were driven by the fact that I should have cut s.12 but my pattern envelope only covered through s.10. This pattern is OOP, but can be found on Ebay (where I got it from, actually), and I do very much recommend it!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

My Sewing Story

When I posted about the last pair of pants I made, Dei from, Lyndsay T from, and Melodymcfarland from asked how I learned to sew and draft. So, this is how…

I am almost completely self-taught. Started sewing as a kid for my dolls – by hand, or by machine. My grandmother could sew a little and my dad would help with the machine. My first machine was a toy one that actually stitched. My first real machine was an old hand-driven Singer. It did not have zig-zag and I overcasted by hand. In high school my parents bought me a zig-zag foot-operated machine (the brand I don’t remember but I got it through a sale of Home-Ec machines).
Back then in Bulgaria the apparel stores did not offer much and there were a lot of seamstresses who sewed for profit. Many of my clothes were made by a seamstress. I wanted to be able to sew my own clothes and when I was 13-14 y.o. I made myself a pair of shorts with a side zipper and a top with dolman sleeves that came down to above the navel and tied in the back (both woven). I wore them the whole summer!

In the early 90s, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, more foreign language literature became available and I began buying Burda WOF in German. I think it was back then when I developed the habit of not reading instructions due to my not speaking German. A few years later I started buying Burda WOF in Russian, a language I well understood, but still ignored instructions. I learned mostly in two ways: 1. By observing RTW, and 2. Through the illustrated sewing courses in Burda WOF.

In college I sew a little, rarely for myself. By that time there was no shortage of capparel for sale; my time, however, was limited. I did mostly alteration and some garment sewing for profit. Immediately after college I started a fairly demanding job and did not have the time, space, or desire to sew.

In 1992 my parents bought me a basic PFAFF and I used it till I moved to the USA in 2003. I did not bring it over here because of luggage restrictions, etc. When I moved-in with my now-husband, he lived across the street from the Harold Washington library in Chicago. They had a great sewing section and I borrowed a lot from there. Those were the first sewing books I ever read! Still did not sew though! By reading all those books I not only learned the sewing terminology in English, but also became aware of all kinds of notions and techniques I have never ever heard of before. Then, my husband purchased a new condo and we needed window treatments. We decided he would get me a machine and supplies and I would make the draperies. That is how I started sewing again. It was then when I tried my first non-Burda WOF pattern - a Vogue pattern for a blazer. A year later I bought a Juki serger.

As far as drafting pants… There is a place a Chicago where a tailor teaches drafting and sewing - EWS Academy ( . You start with pants, then skirts, shirts, blazer, and a coat. I became pregnant after the skirt draft and had to stop for it was impossible to fit muslins on me and firtting on yourself was part of the instructor's process. I was too stresses to start taking classes again after DD was born, and soon thereafter we moved to Colorado. I feel grateful that I learned how to draft pants though since I wear bottoms so much!
I also like to copy RTW pieces that fit me well; I have unstitched (and then stitched back) a pair of trousers that I love to get the pattern from it.

Now, I read blogs and learn a lot from them. I also love to browse through brick-and mortar boutiques and observe the techniques used by established designers. For example, a few days ago I came across a Robert Rodrigues dress with very interesting seaming detail.
What it is:
1. The seams are stitches wrong sides together.
2. The seams are pressed flat apart.
3. A satin bias strip is cut. The strip is about 3/8” narrower than the width of both seam allowances.
4. The bias strip is stitched on the right side, in the ditch of the original seam.
You cannot see this well in the picture, but trust me, it was beautiful!
So, this is pretty much it as far as my sewing history goes.
In my sewing *now* is a button-down plaid shirt I am working on now and will post about it as soon as it is ready!