Wise Words from Adele Margolis

If, after a reasonable try, the style you are working with does not lend itself fairly readily to adjustment, better forget it. Get a different pattern or buy another dress–that is, unless you are the terribly determined type who will admit no failure (153).

— Adele Margolis in Fit that Flatters

Ok, You Can Mess Up PJs :-(

Went shopping for fabric for hubby’s PJs today, picked out what felt like the perfect weight checked cotton, didn’t pay enough attention when the clerk measured and folded it.

After I paid and left, I realized I had been looking at the back of the fabric–which is actually a complex plaid–and the “perfect thickness” was because the fabric was doubled.

Now, I have almost three yards of wafer-thin complex plaid woven cotton with a checkered wrong side. Not what I intended to get at all. There is really nothing I can do with it at all–I’ve pondered over it, and it won’t stand up to the beating that a pair of pjs would take, even if I did manage to make plaid pjs without losing my mind.

Disappointed with myself, and shocked that I did not notice that the fabric was not what it seemed. That’s what I get for picking something that was on a bolt in the very back of a huge mound of fabrics.

There’s $12.50 wasted. And it’s too bad, because it is nice fabric. Just . . . not at all useful to me.

Now I’m going to have to find something else. Perhaps I should go mope over a couple of my knitting projects that aren’t going very well, either.

Hubby Wants Pajamas

So, I’ve been dragging my feet about finishing my t-shirt because I don’t like how it’s turning out (but I do want to finish it and take a photo for posterity). And I’m dragging my feet about starting my next top because I’m annoyed by my hips. I mean, I’m not even at my highest weight and I don’t like the idea of having to grade out two or three sizes from my bust measurement to accommodate my (so not big!) hips and bottom.

IE, it’s been a stalemate in SewingLand. So, hubby came to the rescue.

New Look 6859

New Look 6859

Turns out, he really wants pajamas. He needs pajamas. This morning, he informs me that nothing I could possibly make could be worse than his spare pair, and he immediately puts them on and models them to prove his point.

Point taken.

The pjs that he’s wearing have one hem torn off and a rip from the cuff all the way up past his knee. One pant leg flaps in the breeze as he walks around the home office, like a grey plaid flag. I really couldn’t do worse than what he’s wearing right now.

So here is the real next project: New Look 6859. I did my measuring, noting how unfair it is that he’s 6″ taller and 30 pounds heavier than me, but he’s a small and I’m a medium (grrr hips).

Anyway. Yeah. I guess getting used to the reality of my body and sewing to accommodate it is going to take a while. Knitting is much more forgiving.

Ok, back to the pajamas. I have read over the pattern (which I already own) and reviewed what new techniques I’m going to face in making it: buttonholes, pockets, elastic waistband (rather than fitted), drawstring. I found New Look’s instructions to be good overall (and loved that they pointed out that you could avoid getting your elastic caught on seam allowances by using a bit of fusible interfacing or basting stitches to anchor them).

One big omission–though I imagine most people will notice it!–is that they don’t instruct you to repeat all the steps for the front/pockets to the other front piece of the pajamas before you start to sew the fronts and backs together. Seems obvious, but on an “easy!” pattern it might have been worth including “Repeat steps 1-X for the other front piece.”

Today, hubby and I are going to see a matinee of Cinderella on Broadway. We’re going to leave early so we can drop by the Garment District and pick out some clearance cotton, an appropriate amount of elastic, and some twill tape for a drawstring.* I’m kind of looking forward to finding out what fabric he picks. Probably the cheapest available. Hopefully it won’t be Monty Python-inspired print, though that is a distinct possibility–if it’s the cheapest.

So, I am going to finish that last armhole on the Devil’s T-Shirt, but after that it’s pajama pants all the way. Elastic waistbands, drawstrings, and a man’s figure are all likely to prove less frustrating than my own, and he is certain that he’ll be happy to wear anything that I come up with.

Anything at all.

Can we get three cheers for my awesome husband, who just earned his very own tag?

* He was all for me making him pajamas out of my new muslin fabric–which is actual unbleached muslin–until I pointed out that it would probably be semi-see-through, rendering trips down the hall to the trash chute even more awkward than his current, half-demolished pjs do.

Time Machine Tuesday: Denim Pencil Skirt (Simplicity 9825)

My second sewing effort after my decade-and-a-half break was a pencil skirt, seen here:

Simplicity 9825 – A Pencil Skirt in Denim with Topstitching

It took only one muslin to get the fit, and I was satisfied with the outcome. Although I wouldn’t yet label this pattern “TNT,” I think that, with patience and a bit of tweaking, it could be.

Certainly, the line of the skirt is good, and, although I had to do some tweaking to make it fit better, it was minor. I can see myself coming back to this pattern multiple times, and I think it would look good in various kinds of fabric.

Proud of . . .

  • The burnt-orange embroidery thread that I used for the topstitching.
  • The top-stitching itself, which I kept an even length by lining the edge of the presser foot with the seam alongside which I was stitching. It worked!
  • The fabric choice: Although the photos don’t show off the color, this fabric is a lovely, dark indigo with a hint of lycra. When I brought a sample in to The Sewing Outlet to practice getting the proper setting on my new serger (ie, a lesson), the clerk admired the swatch.
  • The finishing: I serged everything on this skirt, so it looks just as nice on the inside as the outside.
  • The fact that I figured out how to fix the poor fit in the stomach area by pulling the extra fabric into the waistband (shortening the front).

Want to work on . . .

  • Actually writing down the alteration I made so I don’t have to figure it out the hard way again. Ooops.

Here’s my review of Simplicity 9825, as posted on Pattern Review.

This is my second sewing effort, made after Simplicity 5914.

Pattern Description: 
Misses’s Slim and A-Line Skirts Each in Three Lengths (six total views). The skirt is made of four panels with a back zipper, and the skirts include a broad waistband. I made “View C,” a knee length pencil skirt with stitching details down the front and around the waistband.

Detail: Topstitching

Pattern Sizing:
I sewed a size 14, and the basic fit was good. However, I did have to raise the front of the skirt into the waistband to eliminate bagginess in the tummy area. Also, the diagonal stretch lines so cruelly visible in this photograph suggest that either I have put on a little weight since I made this or I needed to make the hip area slightly wider.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?
Yes. The pattern is what it says it is! 

Were the instructions easy to follow?
The instructions were easy to follow, definitely. I am glad I made a muslin, since that’s how I discovered the need to pull the front of the skirt into the waistband to eliminate stomach bagginess.

I can’t remember if I followed the directions for inserting the zipper for this pattern; I think I again referred to the Readers Digest Complete Guide to Sewing. Nevertheless, Simplicity 9825 seemed much more amenable to having a zipper put in, and the waistband helped the process.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
The wide waistband hits right at my natural waist, rather than sitting on my hips. This cut definitely creates the illusion that my waist is smaller than it is. The skirt has a nice silhouette.

As for dislikes . . . well, it isn’t the pattern’s fault, but getting the perfect fit around the hips, especially since this garment doesn’t have much ease, wasn’t easy for a new sewer.

Fabric Used:
I used a lovely, high quality dark indigo denim (the color doesn’t show up well in the photos, perhaps because my living room is painted blue!). It has a bit of stretch to it. I accented the denim with top-stitching in burnt-orange embroidery thread (picture above). The top-stitching gives a nice, subtle, professionally-made look to the skirt.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:
As mentioned above, I had to raise the front of the skirt into the waistband to eliminate front bagginess. I chose to hem the skirt to knee-length instead of mid-thigh as pictured on the package.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
I would and I will. I already have some fantastic tweedy wool in my stash which is intended to be a work/professional version of this skirt. It only awaits me getting a bit more confident that I won’t ruin my expensive fabric with novice-errors!

I am triangle shaped (though I do have a waist about 10″ smaller than my hips). Though I think this skirt is flattering, I suspect it would not suit someone who is even more bottom heavy than I am, or who is more rectangle-shaped. As it is, I think this skirt looks best on me when I wear a top that gives my shoulders the illusion of being a bit wider.

Simplicity 9825 (View C) is what it promises to be. It matches the envelope and it’s easy to make. It’s also versatile–you could make anything from a jeans skirt to a suit skirt with it. The wide waistband is flattering and accentuates one’s waist.

For a beginner like me, S9825 offers some minor challenges (applying the waistband and facing, having had to fix the tummy). It’s also–unless I made it wrong–quite fitted, so it’s good that my denim had a bit of lycra in it. The fact that my wool tweed is NOT stretchy and I will have to be more precise in fitting it over my curves is part of why I haven’t lept to make this skirt again. However, I know that I will. This is an excellent basic pattern to own.

Color Me Beautiful Colors Me Confused



In Colors and Me, I wrote about the Color Me Beautiful fad of the 1980s and my experience as a pre-teen when my mom got my colors done. For those who didn’t read that post (or don’t remember it!), I was diagnosed as both a Summer and a Winter, in what was either a brilliant sales tactic or genuine confusion about what category I fit.

Since returning from my visit to my mother with my two “Color Me Beautiful” swatch books, I decided to follow up the color theory by getting my hands on a copy of Carole Jackson’s original book and Doris Pooser’s Always in Style with Color Me Beautiful (an expansion of Jackson’s system that acknowledged that people are often on the border between seasons and can successfully wear at least some of the shades of the “secondary” season).

The editions of the books that I got are used and deliciously 80s, but the color pages seem to be in good shape; I don’t think the swatches have deteriorated much in the years since the books’ publication. The books are actually quite detailed, each offering their own system for a complete style overhaul, and I think that they deserve book reviews (perhaps in tandem).

However, right now I’m interested in the basic question that was left unanswered all those years ago: What season am I? Winter or Summer?

Somehow, I expected that–with age and the hair-color-change from blonde to brunette/auburnish that happened during my college years–finding my season would be easy. I’m sorry to say that, even with the help of both gurus, Jackson and Pooser, I am still uncertain! My skin tone is definitely blue, which makes me one of the two categories I was assigned at age 12. As I go over the checklists and descriptions, I fit them both right down the line.



The only exception, following Jackson’s system, is related to my freckles. According to Color Me Beautiful, Winters, when they have freckles, have charcoal colored ones. But then Summers can have “rosy or charcoal brown freckles.” My freckles are golden brown, which Jackson classifies as Autumn.

So, um . . . yeah. When I check the palettes in the books, I regularly wear colors from both the Summer and the Winter palates, plus I do very well in burnt orange (what she called “terra-cotta”) and coral, which should be “warm” colors.

Jackson is rigid in her insistence that you should only be one season, and her explanation is sound: by committing to your best season of colors (rather than mixing in second-best), you raise your likelihood of looking good each and every day and ensure that your wardrobe will coordinate seamlessly. That second part is, perhaps, the most important. Limiting those colors to a bare minimum (30 swatches per season that definitely go together) means that if you follow Jackson’s system, you are much more likely to have a harmonious and versatile wardrobe.

But that doesn’t help little ol’ me, who still doesn’t know if she’s a Winter or a Summer, nor does it answer why I look good in colors that aren’t in either season’s palette.

Pooser’s Always in Style is written for people like me, people who don’t fit neatly into Jackson’s four categories, and also for those who are feeling a bit rebellious against Jackson’s meagre 30 colors and want permission to branch out. I need to look more closely at how Pooser approaches color; so far, I’ve only been able to skim these two books. However, here’s the gist:

Pooser’s system creates “flow” charts for those who are between seasons (and gives a system of analysis to help you determine which seasons you cross into from your main one). Her flow-charts group your major season’s colors on one side, the minor season’s on the other, and puts a band in the middle of good “cross-over” colors.

I have to admit that–when I look at Pooser’s Winter/Summer “Cool Chart”–I see me. Well, me without several of my favorite colors–but with many more of the ones I feel comfortable wearing. But then I think, “Perhaps this is cheating! Perhaps you like this just because it lets you do what you want, without actually facing up to what looks really good and what doesn’t!”

In addition to the color analysis, both these books are full of tips for makeup, wardrobe, and general image overhaul; I look forward to reading those sections more carefully (and trying to update them to suit the 2010s rather than the 1980s). Nevertheless, I’m left feeling a bit disappointed because I haven’t found “the answer” to what colors would suit me best. Having a system would, in fact, be nice–as long as it isn’t too restrictive.

Color analysis isn’t going anywhere; it may not be as big a fad as it was when Jackson’s book first came out, but it’s flourishing. When I search online, I find a lot of consultants–and those consultants look to be mighty expensive. Moreover, they seem to have made Jackson and Pooser’s systems even more complex, and the color palettes they sell seem to contain 60+ colors. That’s an almost overwhelming amount–and though it might ensure a flattering color, you’d have to shop with great care to have a lean, coordinated wardrobe.

It makes me wonder: If Jackson’s four season approach with her spare colors for each was too restrictive, perhaps we’ve now gone too far in the other direction?

For now, I think my best bet is to set up hubby’s photography light, cover my hair with a shower cap (Hm, I’m gonna need to get one of those . . . ), and try on the colors in my closet. I simply do not have the fabrics on hand to do a full-scale “drape” test.

I wish I had a buddy doing color analysis training so that I could be her test subject!

ETA: If I were to go by the colors in my closet that I like to wear, then I am a Summer more than a Winter. Hm. But what about the orange and coral?

Resisting a Primal Scream


I’ve been working on Simplicity 8523 (aka the Devil’s T-Shirt), so this post can be read as a primal scream. After I cut into my “fashion fabric” and sewed together the front and back, I discovered that some of my pattern alterations had changed the shape of the back. I needed to do more work (including picking apart the shoulders, restitching, and drafting a new back-neck facing) in order to get the thing to work. The good news is that I was right: the fashion fabric’s drape is better than the muslin’s, so the top is somewhat more flattering.


I don’t actually want to write an entire post about the Devil’s T-Shirt, however. That can wait for when I complete it and write my REVIEW.

So instead of talking more about my “progress,” I’ll report on my shopping last week. In a trip through the Garment District, I found some nice fashion fabrics for my next two projects: Simplicity 3750 (which looks like it will be a lot more complicated than I anticipated), and a remake of Simplicity 5914 (a simple A-line skirt).

The former will be made out of a lovely turquoise and brown paisley cotton. That top, however, calls for a contrast fabric for the tie. Since the paisley on the main fabric is a hard-to match reddish brown with easier-to-match tan highlights, I found a length of mottled quilting cotton which incorporates both shades. It has an interesting texture and seems to be of a similar weight to the paisley cotton.

I found a lovely light-blue linen for the A-line skirt: it’s sturdy feeling and detailed with embroidered flowers. Since the bolt was 60″ rather than 45″, I might have enough fabric left over to make a small top. We shall see. The day before we left for our vacation (from which we just returned) was spent in battering and shrinking this linen as much as possible. I went for three hot washes and three hot trips through the dryer. Now, it looks characteristically crinkly and comfortable.

Since my goal for my next version of Simplicity 5914 was to learn how to insert an invisible zipper, I obtained an invisible zipper foot and the proper color and length zip for my fabric. I have a T square and a set of drafter’s french curves so that I can trace patterns diligently from now on. I have bars of soap collected by both myself and hubby on our vacation and his business trip for marking fabric. I’ve . . . it seems . . . got sewing swag!

So, basically, I have two projects in the hopper, everything ready to go, and the Devil’s T-Shirt almost completed. I’m both excited (because pretty fabric and interesting patterns!) and annoyed (because if I can’t fit That Stupid T-Shirt, what am I doing sewing?).

Excited had better win out, or hubby will side-eye all my new sewing books and tools, and he’ll refuse to wrap me in paper tape.

Next Project: Simplicity 3750

Hubby took my measurements before he departed, and now I am preparing to start my next top. I went back and forth about what to do next, because I have already done three Simplicity patterns and wanted to try something different. However, I also really want this top:

Simplicity 3750

So, finally, I decided to go for it. I’ll be doing the sleeveless view for now. I’ll find out if another pattern company’s basic fit is better for me later.

I haven’t got a fashion fabric for this top yet, but I do have all the notions necessary except for bias tape, which I can make. I’m going to try to put my measurements to good use, and I’m learning from my mistakes. Therefore, the process will be:

  1. Cut around the needed pieces, but keep all the sizes uncut (done).
  2. Iron tissue, then go at the pieces with a ruler to see how the size that my measurements suggest is right for me (Size 10) actually compares to my own measurements as I move down to waist and hip, so I’ll know where to grade out to a larger size.
  4. Then, I’ll see about tissue fitting, figuring out whether the waistline of the traced pattern meets mine, and making needed adjustments.
  5. Muslin.
  6. Fix stuff.
  7. Pick out a fabric that I absolutely love and make it for real.

I have to say, I’m not feeling patient right now. I’d sort of like an easy victory. At the same time, I know that if I rush and cut the tissue, I’m going to be sorry. I’m still figuring out how my body and flat paper can be reconciled.

(And when I get the proper weight interfacing, I’ll be returning to my V-Neck shirt.)

Wish me luck.