Vogue Pattern Mash Up

I’m a little behind in posting,  my first make of the year was actually done in January. The North American Auto Show Charity Preview, also known as the Detroit Prom, was January 16. While still somewhat vision challenged after surgery to repair a detached retina, sewing still seemed a better option than dress shopping.

Pinterest is a source of inspiration and the embellished looks from Chanel had me spinning with ideas.  It was January 2nd before I could safely drive to Haberman Fabrics, considering it had been at least 2 months without a fabric purchase, I may have been experiencing withdrawal symptoms. It was so much fun to be back in a fabric store, so many pretty colors and textures. I had been thinking of silver or bronze metallics, until I saw a beautiful Italian wool and silk blend brocade.


The gradations of color show more in the photos, it is much more subtle in person. The brocade would become the bodice and a coordination silk shantung would be the skirt.

So two weeks before the event I have the fabric. The time crunch had me thinking, do what is familiar, now is not the time for something new. Back to my old standard for a bodice with Vogue 8849 and 8766 combined, for the fifth time.

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Deciding on the skirt took some thinking and going through the pattern stash. Vogue 8998, view D has a wonderful swishy skirt, with horsehair braid to give some extra body, I just needed to make it floor length. Another trip back to Habermans, for more silk shantung, was required to accommodate all that fabric greedy swishyness.

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Sewing with my nose inches from the needle was needed because my glasses and contact lenses didn’t really work with my slightly distorted vision. The seams may be a little crooked, but no one would see it. Making clothes with the inside as beautiful as the outside is a lovely secret, but wonky insides is a secret too.

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Now what to do for the embellishment? Fabric trims? Nothing matched up well. Craft store jewelry making supplies? The post-holiday inventory was sadly depleted. What about finding some costume jewelry to take apart? Bingo! Hello Charming Charlie. So nice of them to have all their jewelry displayed by color, they made it so easy. I bought necklaces, bracelets and earrings, ordering extra of the same from their web site.


I just had to make sure each item had holes that a needle could pass through to stitch it onto the dress. It just took a little playing to get a design. Oh, and a second trip to Charming Charlie, for a few more earrings, after deciding to add some embellishment at the waist.

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Hand stitching the jewelry pieces on with the dress on the dress form was the easiest way to work. A slow, but enjoyable process.  The bodice is underlined with silk organza and  I attached the black silk habotia lining by hand after the embellishment was finished. The skirt is lined with some silk dupioni I had in my stash. Since I did not want bulk at the waist, I created a yoke with the rest of the skirt lining based on the skirt pattern.


While making this dress I found a great blog posting from Sew Mama Sew  showing how to do pockets with french seams and I love having pockets in a dress. Take that you silk shantung, no unsightly fraying seams for you. Good thing I practice it on muslin, I did it backwards the first time.


I cheated a little in covering the horsehair braid at the hem, using plain old bias tape to cover it. All that silk and then some cheapo bias tape, but the double fold wide stuff ironed open is the perfect width to cover the horsehair. And again another secret, no one saw the inside, well, except you.


The finished dress was embellished a little less than I originally planned, but I stopped when it looked right.


The waist and sleeve had to have a touch of embellishment too.


It was a bit of a rush that night, getting ready and off to the event.


The only photos were a few cell phone shots. This is a business event for my husband, I just tag along because it raises money for local children’s charities and I love to dress up.

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They always say “the cars are the stars,” at this event but it’s also lot of fun seeing so many people so dressed up, the place was packed and the people watching was just amazing. No one knew my secrets, but we can share. I love to hear yours.





MIA from the Sewing World, Revived with Retail Therapy

There have been a few times a blogger I’ve followed stops posting, unexpectedly. I always hope they are alright and will return, but life happens. This time it was me. Things were humming along and I suddenly dropped off the face of the earth.

Multiple circle trips from Michigan to Florida and South Carolina were needed to help move my mother to assisted living and handle some of her affairs. This had me out of town frequently throughout the fall. At the same time, the many changes at work it made it difficult to keep up and I gave my employer notice. I was looking forward to more time for family and sewing, but everything came to a screeching halt in December. I thought the floaters and flashes in my left eye were due to stress, then a grey cloudiness moved into my vision. My lovely optometrist referred me to a great retinal surgeon and within days I had surgery for a retinal detachment. The surgery was a breeze, but the recovery has been long. I’ve been sewing some, but but my vision still has some distortion and I need to limit my computer time.

Since a January trip to San Francisco was planned and booked months ago, I carefully followed all the doctor’s instructions to make sure I recovered enough to be allowed to fly. There was no way I was going to miss a visit to Britex Fabrics.

My husband was attending a convention and we stayed in Union Square, conveniently located about 3 blocks from the 4 floors of Britex at 146 Geary St. The store keeps some high style company, Jimmy Choo and Chanel on one side and YSL and Valentino on the other.

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Four floors of fabric and notion nirvana. As soon as I walked in there was a familiar face. Sandra Bedzina was in the store teaching a class. What lucky students, shopping and Sandra all in one place.

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For someone not familiar with the store, is it possible to plan for a visit to a place like this and just how would one do that? Make a list, research the web site, review the existing stash? I did none of that and not having any expectations, I was a little overwhelmed. Maybe it was my deer-in-headlights look while wandering the vast sea of lovely wools and silks on the first floor, more likely it’s the frequency of dazed visitors, that had one of the very experienced sales staff suggest starting on the 4th floor and working downwards.

4th Floor – Remnants, faux fur, felt & fleece, nets & tulles, vinyl & leather

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3rd Floor- Notions & accessories, buttons & bridal, ribbons & trims, buckles & tassels, patterns & books.

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2nd Floor – Home decor, cottons & linens, rayons & polyesters, velvets & lycras, metallics & sequins

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1st Floor – Woolens, silks, brocades, couture laces, linings

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Another familiar found on the first floor. Emily Payne from Project Runway season 13, with her fabulous blue hair enhanced by the blue woolens behind her. She was to teach a draping class there a few days after my visit, wouldn’t that be fun?

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Purchases include a a floral knit for a wrap dress, rust wool for a dress with the coordinating vintage frog for a neckline detail, a plum knit lace to over lay the blue knit for, yes, another dress and purple on navy nubby sweater knit for a cardigan.  It took about 4 hours to explore the store and make fabric choices. As the kind gentleman who suggested starting on the top floor said, “Sometimes you have to visualize a garment to choose a fabric.”


Britx provides a visual feast of color, pattern and inspiration, well worth a return visit.

Some other San Francisco fabric stores recommended by fellow Ready-to-Wear-Fasters:

Satin Moon Fabrics, 32 Clement St, is a small, cute place in a sweet neighborhood. It was fun to listen to the sister/owners as they helped customers and talked about what was going on in the sewing world.  The store includes quality fashion fabric and home dec, with some patterns and trims squeezed in. They had some beautiful laces and silks, but I was thinking cotton prints for spring. Purchases – all cottons, with plans for a dress, and 2 skirts.

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Fabrix  is now at 432 Clement St. It was originally  at 101 and across the street from Satin Moon, but recently relocated down a few blocks (according to the Satin Moon sisters, it was due to updates needed to retrofit the building for required earthquake regulations). The bare bones store seems to have a rather random inventory of bolt ends and overruns, but I picked up some white silk organza and 2 silk prints for linings. The large floral is a knit that will be fun to play with the pattern placement on a dress. A great place for bargain hunters not looking for something specific.

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Since the two stores are so close together, it was worth a visit to hit them both.

Discount Fabrics, 2315 Irving St, this location has lost the lease and in May will be consolidating with their store at 201 11th St. (I didn’t bother with a photo since it won’t be there long). The rolls of fabric were crammed in barrels so tight it was difficult to move them to see the selection and many of the notions looked like they had been around for a long time. The hotel concierge suggested the neighborhood around the 11th St location could be risky.   Purchases – drapey sweater knit, paisly lining and a piece of black leather. If I have a chance to return to San Francisco, I’ll skip this store.


San Francisco offers inspiration everywhere, and leaving the cold an snow behind for a few days was wonderful.

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Just a side note: The best museum I visited was the Walt Disney Family Museum located in the Presidio, overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge. The wonderful exhibits, photos, film clips, memorbilia and art work spans Walt’s professional and private life in a very personal way. Anyone who grew up watching the Wonderful World of Disney will love it.

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My suitcase was a few pounds overweight, but maybe since my husbands suitcase was light, I didn’t get charged extra.



American Sewing Expo Part 1 – Shopping the Expo

The best thing about September in Michigan just may be the American Sewing Expo. This annual, multi day event in Novi, a suburb northwest of Detroit,  attracts sewing enthusiasts from all over Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Canada.


If you haven’t been to a sewing expo, imagine a giant show floor full of venders selling sewing machines, fabric, patterns, notions, threads, trims, and just about everything else you could want. Yes, it’s a little bit a sewing heaven. Add in all the displays, classes, workshops and fashion shows and you have a oh-my-goodness-what-do-I-do-first dilemma. This was my 6th year attending and I think I finally found my balance of time shopping vs. attending classes.

There is so much to share about the Expo, it will take two postings. First up will be shopping and some of the displays, then next week’s post will be about classes.

I was selective with my shopping this year, with a major purchase made minutes after arriving at the Expo. After decades of sewing, I finally bought a serger. I was planning on the Baby Lock Imagine, but went with the Enlighten instead. Most of the sewing machine companies are at the expo, so it can be a great place to comparison shop.

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One of the busiest booths was The McCall Pattern Company


I met  Meg, who’s posts we have been reading on the McCall Pattern Company blog. She already has a blog post from the show and photos from their fashion show on Pinterest.  It was fun to chat with her,  I enjoy reading her posts about the behind the scenes individuals who work at the smaller than most people think company. She has been working on her Ralph Rucci coat for the Sewalong and may have convinced me to give it a try.  I bought the latest issue of Vogue Pattern Magazine. I let my subscription lapse when they changed it, but now it’s back, even better and time to get a new subscription.


Can you tell the Expo had a Costume/Cospay theme?

McCall also brought along some of their designers, including David Tutera, Khaliah Ali, Joi Mahon, Katherine Tilton and of course, Gertie aka Gretchen Herst. Gertie was in the Social Media Lounge signing her latest book.  The skirt she was wearing is from the book and absolutely gorgeous. My photo doesn’t do it justice.

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She is one of the nicest people and told us she is already working on her next book, which will be dresses and include a variety of bodices and skirts. Since dresses are what makes up most of my wardrobe, I’m looking forward to it. There is a great cardigan in this book I want to try.

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I also bought a book by Emma Seabrooke on trims. I want to try some of her methods to see if they will work for trimming a Chanel style jacket. Of course I had to stock up on SewKeyesE Stay Tape, love that stuff.


There were a few booths with trims, but Trims on Wheels seemed to attract the biggest crowd. They were cheery and helpful. I bought some frogs for a coat I’m planning, along with a roll of velvet ribbon and an rose applique. The prices were great, the frogs were only $5 a piece.

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Since I had splurged on the serger,  I was less tempted by fabric this year.  At the crazy busy Vogue Fabrics booth I picked up 2 pieces of soft, medium weight Sophia knit in solid black and ivory. These should be great to try out on the new serger.  What looks like black and white tweed is a raw silk.


How often can you find nice pieces of leather? I bought a small piece of burgundy leather from Habermans, to trim a dress. They had some beautiful wool, but my stash guilt set in and I passed it by.

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The Wool House from Toronto had some gorgeous pieces, you can’t walk past their booth without touching the wool cashmere blends, but again, stash guilt.

I’m strictly a fashion sewer, but the quilters seemed to have a lot to look at and buy too.  I checked out some of the booths carrying notions and sewing gadgets, along with the Kai Scissors booth, but happy with my purchases, my shopping was done.

My timing was off and I didn’t make it to any of the fashion shows, but checked out some of the many displays. Joi Mahon had a trunk show, aren’t the black and white dresses great?

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The  1/2 scale challenge, sponsored by ASE, Designer Joi and Baby Lock,  had the theme: Fashion Icons thru the Ages.  Look at the sewing machine in the photo below, left, to get the scale of these wonderful little garments. This challenge will run again next year, with a new theme to be announced soon.

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Last year’s ASE Passion for Fashion winner, Vera Lukiy, manipulated fabric to create these dresses.

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Costume Fantasy, created by area costume designers.

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Passion for Fashion is one of the biggest events of the weekend. The finalist chosen to participate are given the theme and and funds to shop the expo on Friday morning. They complete their work on the show floor, in front of everyone, in 2 days.  How stressful is that? The runway show and judging is Saturday evening.

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The theme related to the costume/cosplay theme for the Expo. This year’s winner was the black dress below, left.

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The expo has much more to see and do, more to come next week.

Time Travel in a Pattern File

In the past week I did some wandering through part of the pattern stash accumulated by my mother. She sewed most of her life and  worked for a number of years in a small independent fabric store in Inverness, FL, now long closed.

Of course she has many, many uncut patterns, and most are from the 1990’s, not my favorite fashion years. There were some patterns I found interesting and maybe even usable.

Take these pajamas.


The copyright in the left corner shows 1995.


There’s only so much you can do with classic pajamas, the shirts are shorter now and a styles are trimmer overall, but doesn’t one of the guys in the illustration look like Ryan Reynolds? Was he around in 1995?

Nightgowns for women were a craft?


Is that because in 1994 crafting was popular and sewing wasn’t?


Or because of the hair accessory included in the pattern? I heard scrunches were making a comeback. Views A and B are a little pajama party meets square dancing, but views C and D could be made today and look current.

A basic t-shirt in 1992 had shoulder pads. The power t-shirt, for when the occasion calls for a more casual look than the power suit.


And now that the high waisted pants are back, will shoulder pads follow?


Oh look, a romper.


The New Look patterns do not have copyright dates, but this screams 90’s. You could hide a small child in those sleeves. Rompers will forever remind me of junior high gym suits, but the fuller cut of the bottom could be more flattering than more recent versions.

Another New Look pattern, and this one could be selling right now.


How cute is that red dress?

My favorite find from my stroll down pattern memory lane was a little older than the rest. My mother still had a pattern I used in 1975.


I made it in red and wore it to a Valentines Day dance in college. I loved how  the skirt moved. It  may be a little mother of the bride looking, but in such a classic style, who would think it’s nearly 40 years old.

I was hoping to find more Vogue designer gems in my mother’s stash, I know she had the original Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress pattern, because I remember making it in a red and white Maybe it didn’t survive the move from Michigan to Florida. Now it’s time to downsize again, as she will be moving to assisted living in a few weeks and an estate sale is in the future. Hopefully central Florida has some sewing fans who love 90’s fashion,


Sometimes You Find the Fabric, Sometimes the Fabric Finds You.

Decorating and organizing the sewing room has been a slow process and may never really be done, but a new chair was a must. My back was suffering from using an worn out office chair, left behind by one of my kids.  After polling some of my fellow Ready to Wear Fasters, and checking out their recommendations, I bought the TORBJÖRN desk chair from Ikea.


It fits my short legs and supports my back, but that print on the seat cushion didn’t quite match the decor of the sewing room. Of course the previous chair didn’t either, it was actually ugly as well as uncomfortable. I also picked up an additional cushion for those marathon sewing sessions.


The shape of the chair made for an easy slipcover project, allowing for comfort and color coordination. Not being sure what I wanted, I aimlessly search the various online fabric stores and settled on this.


The color and proportion seem just a little off, so it occupied various spots in the room while I mulled it over – for 3 months. Maybe that should have been a clue it was not the right fabric, I couldn’t commit.

Last week the right fabric found me. A coworker asked if I would be interested in some toile. I said yes, thinking I could always pass it on to someone else. When she brought it in the next day, I knew it would be perfect for the chair.


Ta da. Can you tell it’s the same chair?


The piping is made from a coordinating fabric I found on the JoAnn clearance shelf.


Now it’s cute and girlie and fits the room. Amazing how fast you can get something done when you have the right fabric.

The First Dress of Fall

Labor Day weekend is considered the unofficial end of summer and  the 3 day weekend was hot, muggy and rainy, perfect sewing weather.  Exchanging ideas and sharing projects with all the lovely ladies involved with the Ready to Wear Fast has been motivation to get a jump on fall sewing.

When I bought this piece of fabric at Textile Fabrics in Nashville I was thinking sheath.


It’s a poly blend and a little stiff, with a slightly rough texture, even after washing. With a little creative piecing in the skirt, and using my favorite Frankenpattern bodice, there was enough fabric for a fit and flair dress.


The bodice combines the neckline of Vogue 8849 with the lower bodice of Vogue 8766. It may be the 4th or 5th time I’ve used this bodice combination. The sleeve used is from 8849.

For fall sewing, my mantra is New Techniques, Special Details. The new technique to try for this project was stay stitching the neck line with organza selvage. Getting necklines to lay flat has been a problem for me. Some techniques I have tried include using fusable stay tape, making the neck  facing slightly smaller,  being really careful with stay stitching and of course, always understitching , but I was still seeing a slight roll. The organza idea was something I saw other sewer/bloggers doing, sorry I don’t recall the specific posts. I really should write those things down, so credit can be given.


After stitching on the organza I decided to make a slight change the neckline and added some fusable stay tape where it would need to be clipped.


I thought the organza would be too stiff for turning the curve and this fabric frayed like crazy.


The neck line seems to be laying flat, without rolling and has a nice crisp edge. The curved corners became the special details. Since it is a big print, the details needed to be subtle.  I also added the curved corners to the sleeves and pockets.


The skirt was self drafted and the pockets are a result of being a little shy on fabric and needing to piece side panels. I’d love to hear other creative solutions for not having quite enough fabric.


I suspect only my fellow sewers would recognize the creative problem solving.


The rain let up long enough to snap a few photos, but the hot muggy air and tights are not the best combination.


It may be a few weeks before this dress goes to work. This is the earliest I have ever started sewing for fall, it usually takes a cold snap to motivate me. Thank you to all for the boost. Happy National Sewing Month.

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

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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.

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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

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

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

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Love the aqua interior.

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So many fabulous cars

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50 years of Mustangs.

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Back to the Future.

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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?