Everything’s Coming Up Roses

Me Made May has come to a close and I squeaked in one more make to wear in celebration of May 31st. Since it was cold, gray and rainy on Sunday, I just did a quick inside shot for Instagram and Pinterest.

The much nicer weather today was the first opportunity to get out and take better pictures of the rosy dress made with Gertie by Gretchen Hirsch cotton fabric. The border print roses are on a background of soft gray with white polka dots. I love the color. It’s sold at JoAnn Fabrics only, a chain I don’t usually frequent for fabrics, but buy plenty of notions there. I don’t know if it is all their stores or just the one by me, but there is a pretty slim selection of fashion fabric. If it’s fleece you want, they have a ton.

lower border

The top border has a line of roses dancing across in a single line, making for some fun options for pattern layout.

top border detail

One of the Gertie patterns, Butterick 6167, uses the print with the top border shirred along the upper bust line. The dirdl skirt shows off the lower border in all it’s splendor.


I wanted a tad more coverage, but still a sundress look. Having made Vogue 8998 before, I could save time on fitting the bodice and just change the skirt. Since a dirdl skirt is just rectangles, I didn’t even use a pattern. I just cut the fabric for the skirt in half, then cut the piece for the back in half again. Having the 3 pieces (one front, two back) allows for pockets in the seams and a back zipper.


The waist band has a slight curve to it, which worked with the placement on the line of roses at the top border. The front waist band was an easy placement.

Front detail

The sides meet on an upswing.

side detail

Almost got the back to overlap evenly, but not quite.

back detail

The fabric is soft to the touch and with the soft cotton batiste as the lining, the dress is feels good inside and out. The pattern called for interfacing the entire bodice, but I only interfaced the waistband.

back photo

I was trying to get some of my neighbor’s roses in the photo.

full photo

A rosy outlook for the rest of the summer.

If I had it to do again, I would have bought more fabric and made the skirt a little fuller. Also I would have moved the lower border down, so more of the gray and white dots show and less of the green leaves.

Although getting in daily photos can be trying, I will miss seeing everyone’s Me Made May posts, it was something I looked forward to each day. I found so much inspiration and so many more sewers to follow on Instagram. Seeing the kindred spirits posting from around the world was the best part.

My final week wrap up:

Day 25 – Shoe shopping in a mash up dress of Vogue Patterns 8998 and 8413 in a navy and white polka dot rayon blend.

Day 26 – Dress from Vogue Patterns 8972 in honeysuckle cotton mataelasse.

Day 25  Day 26

Day 27 – Black knit maxi skirt was the lining of a disaster dress. Threw the dress away and made the lining into a skirt.

Day 28 – Not much left in the closet. A pencil skirt from Butterick 5466 in Ralph Lauren twill from Mood.

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Day 29 – Dress made by combining skirt pattern Butterick 4136 with bodice from dress pattern Vogue 8413. Narrow collar due to not enough of the Sophia knit fabric from Vogue Fabrics.

Day 30 – Dress made last year for the Woodward Dream Cruise. Vintage 1957 reissue of Vogue Patterns 8789 in blue and white seersucker with embroidered cherries. Added petersham ribbon to make it look like a border print. Loved that belt kit.

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Day 30 dress last year with a car from the same year. Not sure why we thought it was a good idea to show the petticoat? For those not familiar with the cruise, it’s all about cars, not a boat in sight.

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Day 31 – Blogged above. The indoor, rainy day photo.


This was my first Me Made May and it was fun to be a part of something which has grown so widespread. It makes one feel much less alone in a world of non-sewers, who are not constantly thinking about patterns, fabric and planning what to make next. I wish you all lived in my neighborhood. Thank you Zo. See you next year, same time, same place.




The Lazy Cycling Culottes

I want to spend some time exploring the bike paths when I venture down to Hilton Head next month. Bike shorts are not my style or speed, I plan on leisurely (lazy) rides and wanted a practical, yet cute outfit. Luckily culottes have made a comeback, with the latest incarnation – midi style. I had visions of the longer length catching in the bike and ripping apart as I tumble off the bike, so going with knee length seemed a safer choice. The is-it-a-skirt look was appealing, so I went with Butterick 6178, version A. The top for the outfit is vintage 1964 McCalls 7584, my second time with this pattern.


The vision in my head had the culottes in blue chambray with a floral print top, but fabric karma was not with me and there was no chambray to be found. Don’t you hate it when you have a project design all worked out and something gets in the way? I’ve been seeing lots of cute chambray skirts on Pinterest and Instagram, so maybe I’ll order some and do a skirt later. This project was on a deadline to be done while my husband was off on a golf weekend. So Plan B, find a different fabric combination.


At Haberman Fabrics I found my alternatives. A navy and white (looks gray in the photo) mini checked cotton for the culottes and a striped shirting cotton for the top.

Other than yoga pants in yoga class, I don’t wear pants. I don’t like how they look on me and find them to be uncomfortable, especially for sitting. Although the culottes have a loose fit, the lower torso length could still be an issue. I’m short, but oddly long through the area called the lower torso, aka crotch depth.


Since I haven’t made any garments needing to accommodate this recently, I had to hit the books. Yep, I’m a shorty with a long lower torso. Adjustments needed.


After making a muslin, cutting out the size 12, with the size 14 crotch depth, I made the adjustment to lower the depth a little more. For my normal short person proportion adjustments, I made the waistband 1/4 inch narrower, so it didn’t go up too high on my short waist.

With my husband out of town, I spread out and moved my sewing to the family room to enjoy some rare sunshine. I may get a little sloppy when my husband is gone, but he’ll never know. The coffee table can make a good cutting table with smaller projects like the top.


The top pattern was a repeat, fitting previously done, just layout and cut. I made one minor change in the zipper, using a 14 inch zipper and adding a button and loop at the top of the back. The original pattern instructions call for a separating zipper. I don’t think I’m flexible or coordinated enough to use a separating zipper in the back of a top, even with all the yoga.

button loop

A comfortable outfit for lazily exploring the bike trails in Hilton Head Plantation.

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Me Made May Update

Day 18 – Skirt from Burda 121 my third version of this pattern in cotton from Haberman Fabrics

Day 19 – Top Simplicity 1590, skirt from unmarked pattern in silk from Chicago South Loop Vogue Fabrics

DSC_0283  Day 19

Day 20 – Skirt a hack from dress pattern Vogue 8993 in Amy Butler fabric from Satin Moon in SFO.

Day 21 – Alabama Chanin fitted dress pattern in organic cotton with back stitched reverse applique.

DSC_0108  Day 21

Day 22 – Dress Vogue Patterns 8996 in Oscar de la Renta fabric from Mood. At Habermans Fabrics, checking the drape of the cotton for my culottes.

Day 23 – Dress  Butterick 6582 Retro 1960 in a poly blend.

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Day 24 – Details blogged above


One more week of Me Made May.  I’ve enjoyed seeing everyone else’s postings, it’s been fun.



The Side Effects of Me Made May

A sharpened eye, finished UFOs , refashioning, wardrobe deficient identification and self photography fatigue – all side effects of participation in the phenomenon of Me Made May. I was warned, Zoe even mentions some of these  in her Me Made May Sign Up posting.

In my first bout of Me Made May, I thought I would be immune. As the month has progressed, I found myself contemplating what was missing from my wardrobe and spending time observing others’ makes on #MMMay15 Instagram, seeking those also afflicted with the love of pretty print dresses. Then I actually found myself pulling out a dreaded UFO. It had hung in the back of my sewing room closet, incubating for nearly a year.


The top, Butterick 5988, was actually fininshed. What! When did I do that? Have you ever had sewing memory loss?


Although it looks fine on the dress form, somehow on me it didn’t look quite right. Maybe that’s why it had been cast aside. Was it the neckline or maybe the cap sleeves? Just what could be the diagnosis? Further examination revealed it needed 4 inches amputated from the hem. Short people may need proportion adjustments. Having a top end too low on the hip just makes you look even shorter. It had to be chopped off and was instantly much cuter for it.


The skirt was a copy of a RTW skirt from Loft, hacked from Vogue 7937. I had changed it to a single back vent and added the partial yoke in the front and back.





Although the yoke doesn’t show when wearing this top, it helps the fit. The skirt needed to be taken in on the sides, a petersham waistband added and a hem. In all just an afternoon to finish the outfit. Photographing took almost as long. Michigan has an abundance of cloudy, rainy days, our pale faces are seeking the sunlight, along with a location to get some decent photos.


My affliction continues with another attempt to refashion. A skirt my sister passed along. She said it looked dowdy on her and she is four inches taller, so it really looked dumpy on me. There’s a lot of lace there, once I get it all unpicked. Darn those RTW seam finishes.


I’m also following a lot more bloggers, Instagramers and Pinterest boards now. Yikes, how contagious is this? What’s Me Made May doing for your sewing?

The weeks MMM update:

Day 11 – Skirt Burda 121 – Waverly Fabric from Satin Moon in SFO

Day 12 – Pattern Mash up dress, bodice Vogue 8766, Butterick 5982, skirt Butterick 5385. Two layers of fabric, fuschia cotton under navy & white open cut work

Day 11 Day 12

Day 13 – Skirt Burda 121 again, polished cotton from Haberman Fabrics

Day 14 – Skirt Simplicity 2315 in broadcloth, made 4 or 5 years ago.

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Day 15 –  Skirt cloned from RTW in giant peony cotton from Haberman Fabrics

Day 16  – The UFO from above

day 15 DSC_0326

Day 17 – Skirt Butterick 5041 made 5 or 6 years ago, fabric from JoAnns

Day 17



Me Made May-ness

The commitment was made.

I, Denise Dooley of sewingforward.com sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May ’15. I endeavour to wear one me-made garment each day for the duration of May 2015.

In previous years, seeing others Me Made May projects was inspiring, and I was always impressed with so many makes. This is my first year as a participant, finally having enough Me Made clothes.

Focusing lately on making more casual wear, I just made the easiest skirt ever!The Easy Knit Pencil Skirt from the Gertie Sews Vintage Casual book. No darts, no zipper. It’s 2 seams, elastic and a hem, but it can show off the right fabric.


Gretchen was wearing this skirt when she signed my book at the http://www.americansewingexpo.com/ last year. The fabric was gorgeous and it looked great on her.


Based on the measurements, I traced off an 8. The first attempt was wearable muslin, with a little twist. The fabric for the muslin was a power mesh meant to be used in shapewear. If I was going to wear this body hugging skirt, a little support was in order.

Laying out the pattern on the center fold to remove about 1 1/2 inches, I was hoping for a body firming fit.  With the side seams basted, I found the pattern had just a little more curve at the upper thigh than I do.  The waist and hips were a good fit, I just graded the seam in 1/4 inch along the thigh.


After sewing the side seams with a stretch stitch, I pressed the seams to one side and zigzagged the seam allowance down. The waist and hem were just folded over and zigzagged. Since the fabric was already all stretch, with a snug fit, I did not add elastic at the waist.


With the support wear done, I moved onto the skirt.

The fabric is a could not resist it, digital print neoprene from Haberman Fabrics. It has a nice stretch, no raveling  and is easy an easy sew. It only took 3/4 of a yard to make the fastest skirt ever.


I cut the skirt with the size eight, just grading out the 1/4 inch at the thigh. Then sewed the side seams with a stretch stitch, pressing the seams open. To finish the waist, elastic zigzagged to the inside folded over, then tacked down by stitching in the ditch of the side seams. Add the hem and the skirt is done.


This was my day 1 outfit for Me Made May.


The top was a wearable muslin of the Boatneck Top, also from the same book and almost as fast to make. I used the size 8, but my second version I cut with 1/2 inch removed from the center fold line for a better fit.

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The hardest part of Me Made May has been getting photos each day, I’m getting pretty tired of myself. 30 days of this, really? 10 days down, 20 more to go.

Day 1 – Skirt- Gertie’s Quick Knit Pencil Skirt in digital printed neoprene from Haberman Fabrics, Top – Gertie’s Boatneck Top in cotton knit from Fabric.com

Day 2 – Skirt- refashioned wedding dress, Top – vintage 1964 McCalls 7584 in stretch satin from Haberman Fabrics, Royal Oak, MI.

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Day 3 – Combined Vogue 8766 and 5982 in cotton from Satin Moon, San Francisco.

Day 4 – McCalls 5927 in Liberty print lawn from L.A.Fabrics in Toronto, Canada

Day 3  Day 4

Day 5 – Pattern Review Winter Street Dress in poly knit from Haberman Fabrics.

Day 6 – Self drafted skirt in poly-cotton from JoAnn.

Day 5  DSC_0219

Day 7 – Vogue 8993 in embroidered eyelet from Mood Fabrics.

Day 8 – Shirtwaist dress from Gertie’s New Book for Better Sewing in black chambray from Fabric.com Changed the collar to a ruffle.

day 7  DSC_0235

Day 9 – Simplicity Threads 2592 in cotton from L.A. Fabrics, Toronto.

Day 10 – Vogue 8998 in poly blend from Haberman Fabrics.

Day 9  Day 10

I’ve been posting on daily on Pinterest

and Instagram https://instagram.com/sewdooley

The best part of Me Made May has been seeing so many great makes on blogs, Pinterest and Instagram. Leave me a link if you’ve been posting.




Wedding Dress Make Over – 28th Anniversary Edition

What to do with a 28 year old, 80’s dropped waist, puffy shouldered, polyester lace wedding dress? It was fashionable in it’s time, but I hope the 80’s style never makes a comeback. Could my husband be saying, “Look, it’s Pat Benatar’s hair?”

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My first choice dress proved to be beyond my budget, this was second choice and it has served it’s purpose. I certainly didn’t plan to save it for my daughter, she has her own unique and charming style. Originally I wanted to remake it for my 25th anniversary, but didn’t quite get around to it.

DSC_0212  DSC_0214

It actually still fits, well, sort of. It’s a little snug in some places. With the low cut back, I was braless on my wedding day, but that was a much perkier time.


Yep, kept the shoes too. They fit better than the dress and are classic enough to not to scream any certain decade.

The dress had a few problems.

There was large stain, which came out of the lace after soaking in Oxiclean. On the satin it just faded, but was still visible.


The construction is pretty poor in the bodice, but at the time I’m sure I didn’t notice.


 Some of the seams were falling apart, especially on the sleeves, with no lining supporting the seaming. French seams here? Not a chance.


The skirt was in decent enough shape and it was very easy to pick open the seam to separate the skirt and bodice, still keeping the lace and lining together. The original zipper was removed and a new 7 inch zipper inserted.

Measuring out petersham ribbon to fit around my waist, I pinned it to my dress form. Then I pinned the skirt to the petersham, making 2 pleats in the front and 2 in the back, so the waistline fit to the petersham. Foldover and stitch down the petersham, add a hook and eye and it’s done. Very fast.


I wore it out to dinner at the very old school Detroit London Chop House, with a top a made from a vintage 1964 McCalls pattern. I used a blush stretch satin, the shiny side was pretty, but I’ll get more wear out of the more casual looking matte side. So no shine on this top and the lining is more of the same fabric. I could make the top and lining from only 1 yard of 60 inch fabric. The size 12 fit well, just needed a bust adjustment and I added 1 inch to the length to make sure it overlapped the waist of the skirt. Anyone else prefer the 60’s over the 80’s?


I really like the ivory and blush together, but it tends to wash out in photos.


My husband took some pictures, 9 actually. My eyes are closed in every one. After 28 years I should know better than to ask him to play photographer. This was my look for day 2 of Me-Made-May. Had to put it back on the next day for one quick photo, as the camera battery died.



The Bite of the Spring Cleaning Bug

There was no vaccine and I was not immune to the bite of the spring cleaning bug. After spending much of the fall and winter trying to sort through my mother’s years of art, craft and sewing accumulation, the bug became highly contagious, passing back and forth between my sister and I. When she bought us both copies of The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo and it became a full blown epidemic.

Since the book has been written about on many blogs, you may already know calling it “Tidying Up,” may be a little misleading. It is really about getting rid of our excess and keeping only what “sparks joy.” Instead of doing a room at a time, Marie Kondo breaks your work into categories, beginning with clothing, then books, papers, miscellaneous, and saving mementos  for last. You gather all items from each category all together, which gives you a good visual impact of just how much stuff you have. It’s is eye opening. Starting with clothing and breaking it into sub-categories, such as tops or skirts, you handle each item and evaluate if it brings you joy.  I asked myself if I was excited to wear something, or just keeping it because I thought I should. This really worked. Here is what I purged just from clothing, shoes and bags.


Yes, I even purged some things I made. Bags, jackets and skirts.

DSC_0331  DSC_0333

One of the first items I made when I returned to sewing about 5 years ago was a camel hair jacket. I was clueless about what was needed for tailoring and structure and it shows. Beautiful fabric, but sad construction. It had no joy. The dresses included two that were showing wear and the disappointing clown inspired polka dot dress which was never worn.

attept at coatDSC_0340

I barely had room in the car for all I took to Goodwill and gratefully said goodbye to my excess.


On March 31, this is how my tidy closet looked. I used to have a jumble of shoes on the floor and a mass of sweaters on the shelves. One month later, it still looks like this.  Yes, this gives me joy.

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The KonMari method for folding clothes has you fold them into rectangles and store them vertically, not stacked on top of each other. It actually makes for much less wrinkling and you can see everything.

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Maybe going slightly out of order, I’ve also completed the household linens and all the kitchen related items. The house is starting to seem lighter and more open and I do not miss anything I have eliminated.

The sewing room came next. All my fabric went into one pile, including a bunch of upholstery samples I got at work and just stuck away.


I forgot I had these silks because the closet was too full.


I had the closet stuffed, plus home dec fabric in a large wicker chest. It was hard to see what I had.

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After determining what I really wanted to keep, everything could fit in the closet and I can see it all.


The eliminated fabric, plus 50 patterns from my stash has been donated to the American Sewing Guild to use in some of their charity sewing. Eight shopping bags filled the back of my car.


It can take up to 6 months to get through you whole house with this method. Right now I am working on books. I was able to greatly reduce my amount of books, with the exception of my sewing and fashion books. Those bring me much joy, so I kept them all but one.




Forget the Planning Vacation Wardrobe

Logically, when planning a vacation wardrobe, it is a good idea to coordinate pieces around one main color, with some compatible secondary colors. After a long, dreary, cold, gray winter, logic was not invited on this vacation.

Hilton Head, South Carolina can still be a little cool in March, but it was warm and sunny enough to chase away the blues of a Michigan winter. I wanted pretty colors and florals, no shoes that went with everything and no mix and match anything.  As for tops, well there is always white.

I used this Burda skirt pattern from the Spring 2014 magazine last year, sewing two skirts at the same time, assembly line style, as blogged here. http://sewingforward.com/2014/04/29/assembly-line-skirts/ It’s an easy, unlined skirt with a back zip and slightly curved waistband.


Since leaving my job and no longer sitting for 8 hours a day, I’ve lost a little weight and needed to adjust the pattern. It was easy to change, I just cut off 1/4 inch from the center and side seams.


A little top stitching makes this appear almost like printed denim.


The white top was a quick make using the boat neck top pattern from Gertie Sews Vintage Casual. I used a very soft knit and can see getting lots of wear from this. I’ve already made it in another color and will likely make a couple sleeveless versions for summer. This is a fast and easy pattern with great results.


The cornflower blue floral is actually a home dec  fabric by Waverly, which I picked up at Satin Moon in San Francisco. I don’t usually even look at home dec fabric because I’m afraid of looking like a Von Trapp singer wearing the curtains, but I really wanted something for spring.

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The fabric for my second vacation skirt was also from Satin Moon, another floral. This one is by Amy Butler. Both these fabrics wash beautifully and resist wrinkles, a plus on vacation  (not that I did any wash there).The top is just a Target t-shirt, the scarf I found in Hilton Head. Shopping as you travel is a good option when planning an uncoordinated wardrobe.


The pattern is actually part of a dress, Vogue 8993. To make the skirt, I placed the center front on the fold, eliminating the center seam. Instead of a waist band, I faced it with petersham ribbon and skipped the pleats in the back due to lack of yardage. The pocket bags are made from white cotton left from another project.


Skirt three is my favorite. I saw the cotton print on a quick trip to Haberman Fabrics for skirt two’s petersham ribbon. The giant peonies just shouted, “Winter is over!” Peonies will always remind me of my grandmother’s garden, of course these did not have the ants crawling all over them. What is it with peonies and ants?


The skirt is almost a full circle and lined with a cotton blend I had in the stash. The little girl in me wants to twirl around in it, the middle aged mom reminds me I would likely not look cute showing off my undies.  I used a favorite ready to wear skirt to trace off a pattern. The front and back are almost the same, but the back has a center seam to allow for the zipper placement.  The only area to fit was the waist and the large pleats (2 front, 2 back) allowed for some adjusting. The waist band is just a narrow strip cut on the bias. Another easy make.



Besides my new skirts, I also took dresses made last summer, never wore anything twice and managed to get it all in one within the weight limit suitcase. The advantages of warm weather packing.

And what was I looking at off that balcony?  The view of a lovely Carolina salt marsh, so peaceful and pretty. It changes throughout the day, with the tides and light.


After vacationing in Hilton Head for 15 years, we bought the ultimate souvenir –a house.

DSC_000214 view from golf course

It will be a few years before we move there, but for now I’m getting obsessed with decorating ideas and trying to figure out where I’ll put all my sewing stuff. My husband won out of the view, it’s on a golf course. I’ll just need to find a really large painting of a salt marsh to hang in the living room.

19 view from back deck