Back to School Season, or Another Excuse to Make New Clothes

Since I work in education, back to school season still means a fresh start and a new year.  My kids are grown, so instead of  searching for new markers, crayons, notebooks and backpacks, I’m trying to match up fabrics and patterns and plan fun fall sewing. This is even better than a big box of colorful new markers.


Is fall just about everyone’s favorite fashion season?  It must be the publishers of fashion magazines very favorite season.

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With almost 8 months completed on the Ready to Wear Fast, shopping for this fall is focused on fabric (and maybe some shoes). Although some stash busting might be a good idea, a few purchases are always a source of inspiration. My stash is sorted by fabric type, with most pieces on hangers.


Some of the bulkier wool pieces are folded on a bookshelf. I have a weakness for wool. Sigh.


Recent purchases have me excited to put away the summer brights and start working on the deep tones of fall. I’m really liking burgundy this fall.


The floral print, grey boucle and the ivory wool are all from Textile Fabrics in Nashville. It’s so nice of my son to move to a city with a good fabric store. It almost makes up for having him so far away, not quite, but almost.


I’m thinking cardigan jackets, either TNT Vogue 7975 or one of the Claire Shaeffer patterns. Anyone try 8991 yet?


The burgundy floral print is a poly blend.


I bought it thinking sheath, but indecision has crept in and maybe it will end up as a fit and flair dress.


The black knit with an embossed pattern is from the wonderful bolt end rack at Haberman Fabrics.


It’s a heavy weight, maybe enough for a fall coat. There seems to be an abundance of coat patterns in my stash, these are a few favorites.


Also from Haberman Fabrics is the burgundy knit and the lace for a Pinterest inspired dress.


It’s a skirt and top here, but I’ll do it as a dress with a 3/4 sleeve.


Maybe this will be a good starting point.


Planning for summer sewing helped me set some goals and stick to them. I’m hoping to do it with fall and winter too. I signed up for the Inside Vogue Patterns Coatmaking Techniques course, hoping to get past some sewing insecurities and start using more of the wool and coat pattern stashes.  Maybe some sew-a-longs or challenges will help. If anyone hears of any opportunities, please let me know. Enjoy the rest of the summer and here’s to fall.

The Woodward Dream Cruise Dress

This cruise has nothing to do with water. It’s 16 miles of Woodward Avenue, one million people and over 40 thousand vehicles. The cruising is done in cars at the 20th Annual Woodward Dream Cruise

pink car dc

This unique celebration was the first exposure to American culture for our newly arrived International students, most coming to Detroit to study transportation design at the college where I work as an Academic Adviser.  We had a group of 20 MFA and BFA students from Korea, China, India, Germany and Australia  – who had no idea what they were in for.

Of course I had to honor the event with a dress, Vogue’s vintage reissue of 8789, from 1957, view A.

vogue 8789

I tried to locate a border print, but didn’t find anything inspiring. After coming across a blue and white seersucker with pink  embroidered cherries, I used pink petersham ribbon to make my own border print.


I happened to find a belt kit at Textile Fabrics while visiting my son in Nashville months ago and this was the perfect time to try it out.


Making the belt was much easier than I expected. The belt backing is a firm plastic, which concerned me for topstitching, but it was a breeze, with no skipped stitches.  It came with silver eyelets, but I used the white which came with the pliers I bought years ago.

The buckle uses a double sided adhesive sheet to adhere the fabric to the buckle. It went on smoothly, with the back popping right on. I want to track down more of these kits, if anyone has a source.


I lined the entire dress with white cotton, which gave the bodice some body and should help eliminate too much stretching from the bias cut. To give the skirt some 1957 fullness, I added gathered tulle to the skirt lining, with a little pink surprise.


It was a fun day at the cruise

isso dream cruise

The hat is a purchase and is made from a UVA protective fabric and matched the ribbon perfectly, pure luck.

random people at dream cruisemascot at dream cruise

My boss kept taking my picture with random people on the street, the young couple was as sweet as can be.

chevy dc

Love the aqua interior.

crop of dream cruise

So many fabulous cars

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50 years of Mustangs.

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Back to the Future.

ornge car dc

Hopefully our students will start the year with lots of inspiration and don’t think all Americans are crazy.


The Waning Days of Honeysuckle

The blooms of the honeysuckle vine are fading, a melancholy sign of summer coming end. Although I’m looking forward to fall sewing, with wools and tweeds and deep earthy colors, I’m still sewing summer.

I bought 4 dress patterns from Vogue Patterns in the spring and sewed all four, no purchases languishing in the stash this year. My honeysuckle dress is V8972, a Vogue Easy Option. Love the custom fit cup sizes included.


Maybe not the best choice for someone short and curvy, but having seen some similar RTW dresses (just looking fellow RTW Fasters, no buying) I was drawn in by the waist detail.

The fabric was purchased for the project from Haberman Fabrics. I was looking for something in orange, but found the honeysuckle cotton matelassé. Could this work and not look like I recycled my bedspread? At least it washes really well.


Since this dress has so many pieces and seams, there is plenty of opportunity to tweak the fit. I used the petite markings in the waistband for my muslin, then took off some length in the bodice too. Using a size 12, I graded most of the bodice and upper waist band to a 10.

Cutting out the dress and lining can take some time, there are a lot of pieces, but it sews up surprisingly fast, even with the top stitching. Having prepared three bobbins, I used up two and most of the third. For the lining I used an orangey red Bemberg rayon.


There were a lot more blooms on the vine just a week ago, looks like summer may be fading fast.


The last blooms.


I’d like another month of summer please.


My regular in front of the closet shot.


Skirt back with the hemline slit.


Waist detail.


I’ll wear it to the office this coming week, when our new students start arriving for orientation, another sign of the fading summer. Anyone else winding down the summer sewing?


Ode to Bias Cut Collar II – Frankenpattern Edition

The term “Frankenpattern” pops up in many sewing blogs and it’s so appropriate.  We take parts from different sources and literally stitch them together. Hopefully we get the desired result and don’t scare anyone along the way.

My borderline obsession with the bias cut collar continued with a reversed collarish tie, using a combination of Vogue 8998 and a TNT Vogue 8413.

vogue 8998_frontv8413 (1)

The collar is from 8998, but lengthened and turned backwards and the skirt is from 8413. The bodice is a combination of the two, creating new pattern pieces by laying 8998 over 8413 to get the right shape and length.


The fabric was a piece in my stash of forgotten origin and content, but likely a rayon blend. It washed well, and I was careful with the iron.

I will admit to sort of winging it on the length of the collar/tie, making one side longer than other to make sure the ends were different lengths when ties


It makes for a good basic work dress, comfortable and professional looking. Sort of a good stuck-at-the-desk-all-day look.


I think I have played out the bias cut collar, at least for the time being. I have a couple more summer dresses in the works and my head is full of ideas for fall. If I could just get away from my desk.



Ode to the Bias Cut Collar

It’s beautiful drape, the feminine touch it brings to a garment, the encouragement it gives to elongate the neck and stand with grace. Could these be the reasons so many bias cut collared garments are posted in my Pinterest boards?

What ever it is, I had to make a bias cut collared dress to get over this craving. I had picked up Vogue 8998 during a previous pattern sale, just because I liked it and maybe, unconsciously, because version D has a bias cut collar.

vogue 8998_front

I found a poly blend flower print, with a nice drape on a shopping binge at Haberman Fabrics.


Since the bodice is close fitting I did a muslin, needing my usual petite adjustments, shorting the length from top of shoulder to underarm. I love the options for the cup sizes, it makes fitting the bust so much easier.  A mash up of sizes 8-10-12 with a C cup works for fit.

The back neckline felt a little low for a work dress, so I raise it about 1 1/2 inches.


The drape of the fabric was perfect for the collar.


To give the bodice more body, I lined it with a crisper cotton/poly blend. The lining is sewn in before the collar is attached and the inside of the collar is sewn by hand, which I really like. I find hand work relaxing.


The waist band allowed for more fit tweaking.


The skirt is flat in the very front and gathered on the sides.


Two inch horse hair braid helps give the hem more body.


I used wide bias tape to cover the picky horse hair,  since I was a little short on length.



It has side seam pockets too!


My first bias cut collar dress is done,  the second one, almost done, will be a front tie, bias cut collar. The ode continues.

Sewing Family History

In Spring of 2013 my mother-in-law gave me a maternity outfit she had made in 1963. No, I’m not pregnant, after seeing some of the garments I had made, she thought I could take it apart to make something new. I was flattered and a bit intimidated, it took me almost a year to finally start.

The fabric is a beautiful silk purchased in Hong Kong by my husband’s uncle, Dr. Tom Dooley, in 1958. Sadly, Uncle Tom passed away in 1961. It was not until 1963, while pregnant with her 7th child, my mother in law had it made into a long skirt and top to wear to the annual Christmas Gala at the Detroit Golf Club. Unfortunately she does not know much about the dressmaker, just someone working in a Detroit tailor shop, and I’m convinced that dressmaker was a genius.

What looks like a simple top and skirt is an amazing feat of engineering. I’m sure the term zero waste fashion did not exist in 1963, but this is an incredible use of almost every inch of the fabric. It was painful to take it apart, but it would be such a shame to let this beautiful fabric just sit in a box.


The top appears almost like an envelope, it can lie flat, but in exploring it, you find folds which can open like a pleat in some areas, allowing for an expanding belly.



The neckline appeared to have piping as a finish, but appearances can be deceiving.



The fabric had been folded over and stitched, with a satin ribbon facing. What appeared to be piping was actually part of the whole piece of fabric.  When taking completely apart, it became obvious, the only piece cut out of the fabric was what was likely trimmed away to allow the curve of the neckline to lie smoothly.

Here is the piece from the front of the top, after all stitching was removed and showing the only cut area.  The stripe is the back side of the fabric, which my mother in law said was her favorite part.


Detail of one of the pleats expanded.


The side seams and armscye facing show the selvage.


FOU WAH  Hong Kong


The full length skirt looked to be a simple, elastic waist straight evening skirt.


But it was also carefully engineered with the expandable pleating.


Looking inside the skirt shows how every inch of fabric was used, selvage to selvage.


The inside front of the skirt was stitched down at the hem for ease of walking.


A deceptively simple garment, still in wonderful condition after more than 50 years.


After taking it apart, there was 4 pieces of yardage. So far I have only used the fabric from the skirt, making a dress to wear to the 50th birthday party for my husband’s brother, who was in utero when my mother in law wore the original garment.


Someday the rest of the fabric will become a jacket, but for one night, I was the favorite daughter in law.


Skirting the Issue

Summer sewing has kept me busy, but it is so easy to procrastinate when it comes to blogging. The opportunity to do some unselfish sewing is the motivation to get back to the blog, passing along the information on a sweet project. Project Sewn’s Skirting the Issue collects handmade skirts to provide to girls in foster care, as they head back to school in the fall. This project tugged at my heart strings, reminding me how much I loved new school clothes, in particularly skirts and dresses. Remember how special you felt in the skirts that made you want to twirl in circles?


I didn’t have much in my stash that was little girl friendly, only this polka dot and floral that I always thought would combine well. Earlier this summer I made a skirt from the dot and a skirt from the floral. Now a little girl will have a skirt in the combination of the two.


This butterfly print cotton may not be too fall like, but it was too cute to resist.


And butterfly buttons!


This was the softest pinwale corduroy. I can still remember corduroy dresses my mother made for me and my sister, they were so soft to the touch.


Maybe I remember this dress so well because as the younger sister, I wore mine, then as we grew, I wore my sister’s.

I loved embellishing and may have gotten carried away with the ribbon and ruffles.  I hope these skirts can bring a smile to the girls who receive them. Selecting the patterns, fabric and embellishment and the time sewing was a more meaningful experience then writing a check. I even made up a couple of the designs.


I added one last detail to the inside.

I hope anyone who has the time can create a skirt for Project Sewn and drop me line with any similar projects.