Sunday, August 22, 2010

Distractions...projects not Chanel

I estimate that I've spent 60-70 hours on my Nashville Chanel and I'm still not done.  I do work slowly but this is starting to feel like a marathon...without all the sweaty runners.  I need a break.  I also need some tops because I've become even bustier over the last 6 months.  All my RTW tops are not exactly work-appropriate anymore.

I'm distracting myself with these projects:

Vogue 8392 view A in a white stretch poplin from

V8392 front

Vogue 1197 view A in a navy colored "slubby" single knit from


Butterick 5495 view C in a white "slubby" single knit


Butterick 5498 view A in the navy "slubby" single knit


Butterick 5525 view C front with view A sleeves in a teal and also a turquoise "slubby" single knit


Butterick 5328 view A in a turquoise stretch poplin from

Butterick 5328 blouses front image

Vogue 8391 view B in the white stretch poplin

V8391 front

Simplicity 2601 view D (pink shirt w/ cap sleeves and collar, no ruffle) in a white stretch poplin with turquoise floral embroidery from

Simplicity 2601 front image

There is the possibility that DH and I will be moving to a new home in the next 6 months and I dread the idea of packing up all my fabric.  I decided to sew it up in bunches and the first pile I came across was the white/blues/greens purchase from  The "slubby" knit wasn't at all what I thought it would be but it is very lightweight and only $1.99/yard.  The knit is so lightweight and sheer that it almost feels like one of my sister's beloved tissue tees from J.Crew.  If so, they should be super comfortable in this dreaded Memphis heat.  I have some knit linings from Lucy Fabrics (before she stopped selling fabric).  I was planning to make some camis to wear under my blouses.  The above projects and the camis would account for 28 yards...not even a drop in the bucket.  Sigh.  To further complicate things, my classes start up again on Monday.  I'm taking twice as many credits this semester so I can graduate in December.  Hmmm, might be packing up all that fabric after all.  Ladies, don't stash fabric!!  I store mine in these 6-shelf sweater organizers.  One was so heavy it tore away from the hanger and fell on me yesterday.  It was like wrestling with a 100-pound snake!  I nearly threw out my back trying to stack it up against the wall.  Who says sewing isn't dangerous?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

How many types of sewing machine needles are there???

I used to buy the Dritz Universal needles and use them for sewing any type of fabric.  But that was before I discovered my love of silks and knits.  Then I bought Dritz ballpoint needles.  Great for knits but I was still looking for something more appropriate for my silks.  Then I bought Schmetz Microtex.  Perfect!  But why are they so much more expensive than Dritz?  Now I found Organ and Klasse needles online.  And now I'm confused. 

I understand that certain fabrics need certain types of needles.  You should also buy needles based on the weight of the fabric.  Got that too but what's with all the different brands of needles?  Is any one really better than the other?  I have Singer sewing machines.  I know I don't need to buy the Singer branded needles but I don't know that the Schmetz I've been buying are any better than the Dritz.  The Schmetz packaging is certainly nicer than the Dritz and more they are better, right?  Ugh....

I've searched high and low and it seems like it's a matter of what will work on your machine and what you like better.  There doesn't seem to be a clear consensus except that Organ is cheaper with good quality, Schmetz is more expensive but easier to find, and everything else is a toss up.  For instance, I still have a few Singer branded needles that came with my CG-590.  The "denim" needle supplied with the machine works well and fits perfectly.  The Schmetz "denim" needle won't even fit into the needle clamp...but it fits my Singer Esteem just fine and works great.  So I guess you are just S.O.L. if you buy a needle that should fit and doesn't. 

If anyone wants to sound off on this, please do because I'm lost.  In the meantime, I guess I'll stick to my plan to buy Schmetz when they are 50% off at Hancock's and JoAnn's or buy Organ/Schmetz in bulk online.  Why not buy the Dritz?  The packaging just isn't as pretty.  Weird, I know.

During my internet search, I did find several good references about sewing machine needles and even some good sources for bulk supplies.  Enjoy!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Book Review: Power Sewing by Sandra Betzina

Power Sewing by Sandra Betzina

Power Sewing Step by Step by Sandra Betzina
Published in 2000, 232 pages, hardback

The chapter headings are by garment type: jacket, vest, skirt, pants, dress, etc.

There are quite a few pictures for each technique and a thorough explanation of the technique.  If you can get past the outdated garments, you will find some great sewing techniques.  Sandra credits Margaret Islander for several of the techniques described in the book.  I actually liked those techniques the least.  It makes me wonder if I would like any of the Margaret Islander techniques.  My initial impression is that the Islander sewing techniques are geared towards fast results, not fine sewing.  I used to be all for fast results but after Susan Khalje's couture sewing class, I have a real appreciation for the sometimes time-consuming couture sewing techniques.  The results are just better in my opinion.  But I digress....  I enjoyed many of the sewing techniques presented by Sandra Betzina.

Here are a few of my favorites:
  1. Eliminating seams
  2. Armhole gaposis fix (use crowding, pulling the bobbin thread, or apply fusible twill tape)
  3. Lining vests/jackets/etc. without fashion fabric curling up (so the lining is exposed)
  4. Many examples of cutting on the bias to fix certain problems with draping, fit, or edges curling
  5. How to work with the feed dogs (keeps edges matched, easing, etc.)
  6. Blocked shaping of pants legs
  7. Underlining pants for a wrinkle-free look
  8. Add extra fabric for a protruding tummy (ease into the waistband)
  9. Why front & back inner leg seams are different lengths (pants will cup the booty nicer)
  10. Zipper in a pants/skirt pocket
  11. Petersham waist facing
  12. Tailored waistband with elasticized back
  13. Flat-fell seams on pants with in-seam pockets
  14. Fixing the hip pocket on pants so they don't gape
  15. Finding the most flattering grainline for your fabric and garment style (it's not always what the pattern suggests)
  16. Faced hems
  17. Add center front length and side seam width at bust only for better bust fit in knit tops
  18. Stabilizing the neck in knit tops
  19. Better shaped V-necklines
  20. Adjusting the sleeve cap ease
  21. Contoured shoulder pads
  22. Accurate spacing of continuous button loops
  23. Cornering with a twin needle
  24. Block fusing to keep fused facings and fashion fabric the same length
  25. Establishing roll-line memory in lapels or collars
  26. Weighted hems
Sandra gives you charts for determining ease or adjustments in tops for various cup sizes.  She has several great suggestions for making tops that fit better, now matter what your bust size is.  Most of her interfacing recommendations are for Pellon products found easily in any Hancock's or JoAnn's fabric store.  The resources section is very brief and somewhat outdated.  For each garment category, the chapter starts with an outline of all the steps for constructing that garment.  You'll never depend on the pattern instruction sheet again.

I definitely recommend this book.  When I first flipped through it, I didn't think the book was worth keeping.  I think I let the outdated garments turn me off.  Look closer.  There are many gems to be found here.

Saturday, August 14, 2010



Chanel fall 2010 RTW
(Chanel Fall 2010 RTW)

Have a nice weekend!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Progress on my faux-Chanel jacket, aka "Nashville Chanel"

I've made some progress (and some oops) on my classic French jacket I started in Susan Khalje's Couture Sewing class in Nashville this past June.

(I still haven't made a properly fitting cover for my Uniquely You dress form so don't judge the fit of the jacket.)

Nashville chanel jacket front halfway

My bust point sits quite a bit higher than the torpedo bust on this foam dress form.  Who knew something on my body was still perky?!

Nashville Chanel on Uniquely You bust point comparison

Something became obvious to me on the dress side front panels don't match the pattern direction on all the other jacket sections.

My right front (your left) is the worst side.  Do you see how crooked that is?!!

Nashville Chanel right front pattern

My left front (your right)

Nashville Chanel left front pattern

This is disappointing but I've got bigger problems if someone on the street is staring at my chest close enough to notice.

I cleaned up the neck and shoulder seams first.  This involves tons of pinning to line up the turned in edges.

Nashville Chanel neckline pinned

The neck was so much easier than the armscyes, however. For the first armscye, I used the ham to help me smooth out the shape with pins and then close with fell stitches.

Nashville Chanel armscye lining pinned

When I checked the finished look of the lining armscye, the dress form once again revealed crookedness.

Nashville Chanel inside left armscye

Turns out matching up the lining edges and pinning together while on the dress form will yield a much nicer armscye shape.

Nashville Chanel inside right armscye

Well, at least it's on the inside.

Nashville Chanel inside jacket halfway

Next up is the center front edges.  I need to attach the hook and eye closures while I'm doing that.  My boucle seems to have a much looser weave than others so I was worried about pulling/stretching.  The lining is supposed to hide most of the hook or eye so you only attach the hook or eye to the boucle.  I found a neat tip in Claire Shaeffer's Fabric Sewing Guide:  insert fusible web between the folded boucle edges.  Hmm, that might work!  More updates later.

Hand Stitches: Overcast, Blind Catchstitch, Cross Your Hand

Prepare to giggle at my expense.  I wish I could make the insides of my garment look as pretty as the outside but life's too short to fuss over tiny details.  My name is Julie and my hand-stitching looks like a 5 year-old did it.  Well, 5 years times 6...and a half. 

I realize many aficionados of the sewing arts already know about waxing thread but I wanted to share the pros of beeswax with all.  When I learned how to sew, I was taught the very basics which included cutting many corners and not one iota of information about hand sewing.  This is why my hand stitches always look amateurish and why I hate sewing unless it involves a machine.  Correction, hated sewing without a machine.  I've failed to complete so many projects because it required a hem to be hand sewn or a button to be hand sewn.  I've cursed and thrown things, all because of twisted, tangled, knotted thread.

I bought some beeswax in preparation for Susan Khalje's sewing class.  Flip the package over and there are no instructions about how to use the beeswax.  So the following video shows you how to melt the beeswax and I had a "duh" moment.  Hand sewing is no longer a huge pain in the you-know-where.  It's actually kind of relaxing.

Wax the thread first! (Fast forward to 45 seconds in this video).  You'll never curse thread again.

So I was feeling pretty impressed with myself and decided it was time to learn some proper hand stitches.  First up is the overcast stitch.  I generally use my sewing machine to zig zag the edges to keep them from raveling.  Sadly I was on a business trip sans sewing machine and in need of a hem for three pairs of pants. I did a single row of overcast stitches on the raw hem edges of all 3 pairs of pants. 

This pair of pants below has been through the washer and dryer twice since I hemmed them so I'd say I did a pretty good job of keeping the raw edges from raveling.

Brown pants overcast stitch

My overcast stitches were running vertically, instead of slanted so I hold the needle with my right hand and use my left thumb (just to the right side of the thread) to guide the thread to a slanted angle.  Claire Shaeffer recommends a second row of overcasting in the opposite direction for heavier materials.  This technique is called the "cross your hand" stitch and should look like a row of "X" stitches.  I stress should look like an "X."

Brown pants cross your hand stitch

Hmmm...not exactly right and also a waste of effort on this particular weight of cotton twill so I didn't bother trying this on the rest of the pants.

I had much better luck with the blind catchstitch.  I like invisible hem stitches and the blind catchstitch also provides some stretch in the hem.

Denim blind catchstitch

Denim blind catchstitch closeup
(Sorry about the cat hair. Darn cats!)

Brown pants blind catchstitch

For details about the function of these stitches and how to do them, check this out:
Hand Stitches (University of Kentucky)

"Cross your hand" may not be my thing but I can do a mean fell stitch!

Just my opinion....

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