In the Sketchbook-December 2016

Welcome to In the Sketchbook, a monthly look at fashion design sketches that we are working on for ourselves. Sketching garments on a personal croquis is a great way for the individual couture enthusiast to move beyond the use of commercial patterns and into a world of personalized design! It can be intimidating at first, but with a little bit of practice it becomes something you look forward to. Join us for a look of what we have going on In the Sketchbook! Brought to you by Wendy Grossman of Couture Counsellor and Steph King from Siouxzeegirl Designs.

I thought it might be a nice change to take a look at some garments that are actually in development. I’ve been working on pattern adjustments for the Appleton Dress by Cashmerette Patterns. This is a classic wrap dress designed for curvy figures. I think ITY (interlock twist yarn) knit is perfect for this dress, but I had trouble finding what I was looking for. I knew all the ITY knits in my fiber archive are cut in quantities that are only sufficient for a top so I searched to see whether I had anything in rayon that isn’t too clingy. One of the “discoveries” I made was a charcoal gray knit that has been tucked away for a very long time. I thought it would be just right, so I set it aside to prewash. Then I was looking for lace for the project we’re going to talk about in a minute and I cam across this lace mesh from and had one of those aha moments.


The lace looks a bit lighter in the picture than it does in person, but I think you get the idea. To me, knit and lace is an unexpected combination, especially a knit that’s not at all dressy like this one. I immediately thought it would look great on the neck bands and ties of the Appleton dress.

img_0005-1I’ll see if I can make it work on the sleeves, but I suspect I’ll need the stretch of the knit there. I thought about putting it on the edge of the overlap piece all the way to the hem, but I think it would be too much with the tie in that area. This is why sketching out ideas helps. You see issues you didn’t think of when the design is all in your head.

While I was noodling over the Appleton Dress, I wondered what it would look like with a collar.


I like it. Maybe with contrasting fabric, maybe not.

Another project that occupied a chunk of my time this month involves lace combined with tweed. I have this fabulous salt-and-pepper tweed made of cotton(!) that I ordered from a couple of years ago. It’s very soft and should be in an unstructured garment, so I thought about using the design for my Spoonflower dress and adding ¾ length sleeves.

In contemplating collars, I wondered whether it might look nice with a collar made of lace. That started a whole quest that made me feel like Goldilocks. One lace was too much of a stark white, black did nothing for the fabric, various laces in ivory were too dense, and on and on. I kept coming back to a lace neck piece I acquired at an ASG fabric exchange several years ago. It’s the wrong shape and it doesn’t lend itself to sitting under a collar made from the fashion fabric (the sketches look like a dog with a beard), but the color and density are perfect.

 img_0008 In a mentoring session, Sarah Veblen agreed that this is the lace I should use. She advised me to draft the neckline around it and forget about making a collar. I told her I was thinking about cutting out the flower at each of the points so the piece is not quite so wide and she agreed that’s a good idea. She suggested using the flowers somewhere else, maybe even at the top to balance out the width. I need to play around with them once I get them cut. I’m going to follow Pamela Legget’s advice for cutting out the motifs: sharp scissors, good lighting, no wine.

Here’s the sketch for the dress. I think it looks like it has measles and is wearing a bib. I definitely need to work on my sketching ability in the new year.


Finally, I want to show you a sketch of a dress that I haven’t chosen fabric for yet. I sketched it using a cool new toy – um, tool – that I treated myself to. It’s the Apple Pencil, which I used with the iPad app, Paper 53. I want to use the silhouette of my Leaf Dress in a 3-season dress with sleeves. I think this will be a lot of fun to make and to wear.


That’s it for now. Be sure to check out what fabulous designs my dear friend Steph King of Siouxzeegirl Designs is showing at 10 Sewing Machines & a Serger and wish her a happy birthday while you’re over there. And, we’d love to see and hear about what you’re sketching, too.

In The Sketchbook – October 2016

Welcome to In the Sketchbook, a monthly look at fashion design sketches that we are working on for ourselves. Sketching garments on a personal croquis is a great way for the individual couture enthusiast to move beyond the use of commercial patterns and into a world of personalized design! It can be intimidating at first, but with a little bit of practice it becomes something you look forward to. Join us for a look of what we have going on In the Sketchbook! Brought to you by Wendy Grossman of Couture Counsellor and Steph King from Siouxzeegirl Designs.

I’m afraid there’s not much new in my sketchbook this month, but I have been giving some thought to sleeves. I’m taking a seminar on Victorian fashion in art this fall and this week’s topic was Dante Gabriel Rosetti and the Pre-Rafaelites. That led to a series of slides showing examples of what was known as Artistic Dress as part of the Aesthetic Movement. and I immediately started scribbling in my mini-sketchbook.

3There was a lot of volume in the sleeves, but also interesting shapes. The one at the top was full, had a band mid-way down, then was less full and ended in a cuff. I’m thinking the fullness can be scaled down and the band and cuff might be made of contrasting fabric, or the full bits could be made of mesh or lace and the band and cuff could be the fashion fabric used on the body of the garment.

The sketch at the bottom was my attempt to get the idea of the entire dress down quickly before the teacher wen to the next slide, so the arrow points to the sleeve that goes with the dress. There was contrast fabric in the goddess at the hem and the yoke at the neck. The fullness in the sleeve happened near the cuff, like a poet’s sleeve, but with a more definite shape.

The one on the right doesn’t look anything like what I was trying to capture.

2This is a sketch I’ve been ruminating about for a while. It has two different versions of an openwork sleeve I’d like to try. The one on the left is supposed to be thin bias tubes draped to hang off the shoulder seam. I have no idea whether it will work in real life. The one on the left poses the possibility of using overlapping curved strips of fabric that have finished edges. Again, very theoretical.

1One more sleeve design I’ve been ruminating about is to insert lace or mesh down the middle of a sleeve. I think this might be nice if the lace were used for the cuff and collar as well. The Haute Couture Club of Chicago is having a lace challenge in March and I’m hoping this will prompt me to actually use some of the lace I’ve been collecting, thinking about, and practicing on samples of for techniques.

Something to think about.

Be sure to visit my dear friend Steph King of Siouxzeegirl Designs at to see what amazing things are in her sketchbook this month. And if you’d like to join in on the fun, please leave a comment for one of us.

In the Sketchbook – July 2016

Welcome to In the Sketchbook, a monthly look at fashion design sketches that we are working on for ourselves. Sketching garments on a personal croquis is a great way for the individual couture enthusiast to move beyond the use of commercial patterns and into a world of personalized design! It can be intimidating at first, but with a little bit of practice it becomes something you look forward to. Join us for a look of what we have going on In the Sketchbook! Brought to you by Wendy Grossman of Couture Counsellor and Steph King from Siouxzeegirl Designs.

On this third installment of In the Sketchbook, I’m exploring combining structured fabrics with soft, drapey fabrics and asymmetry.

Earlier this month, I was getting off the elevator after a morning workout as a neighbor was getting on to go to her office. She was wearing a lovely navy linen jacket and a flowy skirt in a floral print. I thought about how nice she looked and the image brought to mind two fabric pairings I have that are waiting to become something new to wear.

Both of the soft fabrics were acquisitions from A Fabric Place outside Baltimore in May. The gorgeous sage green wool crepe was a gift from my dear friend Stephanie King, who saw how perfectly it goes with the green, peach and pink silk charmeuse. The blue-gray wool was also a purchase from A Fabric Place. It was part of an assignment during Sarah Veblen’s Design I class for me to pair a sheer floral with a “serious” fabric.

Here are the sketches.

I’m thinking asymmetric coat dress for one of the two fabric combinations. I haven’t settled on the neckline/collar yet, but if I go with the green, I thought the charmeuse would be nice as a cuff and maybe a band on the dress as well as the mock skirt peeking out from underneath the wool. If I go with the blue-gray, I’m thinking soft folds everywhere the sheer is used (but not actual ruffles). These ideas need to percolate some more.

Here is another asymmetrical design idea that’s been percolating in my brain. It was an assignment in Design 1 to come up with a “swoop” design.


The pattern work on that one will be quite the project.

Right now, I’m in relaxed summer mode with my sewing. I found some fabric in a drapey light neutral that I was thinking about making into a summer skirt. The fabric doesn’t lend itself to pleats, but I wanted a relaxed silhouette. S0, here are the ideas I sketched out as possibilities.

IMG_1883 (1)

Lots to think about.

I’d love to hear what you think about these and about what you’re sketching. Be sure to check out what’s in Steph’s sketchbook at 10 Sewing Machines & a Serger.

My Little Black Dress

IMG_0230I needed a dress for an evening wedding in New York this month and, for once, I started early.  I brought a muslin, the fabric I wanted to use and the embellishment I was thinking of using to the You Choose Your Focus workshop Sarah Veblen taught here in Chicago in February.  The details of that workshop and the design of the dress are here.

With the pattern work done, the next step was to cut and then hand baste the silk organza underlining to the black silk and wool matelassé fashion fabric. This step seemed to take forever. The fashion fabric was pretty wiggly and underlining was still a new process for me. I found myself pulling out stitches and repinning organza to fashion fabric until I thought I’d lose my mind. It didn’t help that the clock was ticking on the fashion show I was co-chairing and work got really crazy. What I now know can be a relaxing, almost meditative part of sewing was none of the above for this project.

In addition to the underlining, the bias collar is supported by soft stretch fusible interfacing, which I fused to the silk organza before basting it to the fashion fabric. The dress is lined to the edge in silk charmeuse, so I also fused interfacing to the  the area around the neck and armscyes in the shape of what would have been a facing.

Once the fabric was underlined, I loved the hand of the combination and the way it behaved. The princess seams in the bodice went together beautifully. Once those were done, I was sure the skirt seams would be a breeze. I was wrong. More about that in a bit.

The collar/neckline seam always requires directional stitching and on this dress I was concerned about getting the point at center back right. This was a bit more challenging than usual because there is no center back seam in the dress. I followed Sarah’s instructions that included careful marking of the point and machine basting then checking the placement. Once I was satisfied that things were where they needed to be, I went back over the machine basting with a normal 2.5 stitch length. After checking it again to be sure it was right, the final step was to sew at 1.1 stitch length from about an inch away from the point, stop with the needle down and pivot and then continue for about an inch on the other side.


With the part I was worried about behind me, I proceeded to sew the skirt pieces together. That’s when the trouble began. The first seam was off by more than 1/4″ by the time I got to the end, so I unstitched, steamed the pieces and made sure they matched when I repinned them. I stitched again after adjusting the tension on my machine and the same thing happened. I knew that if I couldn’t get the vertical seams to match there was no way I was going to be able to get the four-way intersections of vertical seams and Empire seams to come together. I was in a panic. All I could think to do was hand baste the seams before sewing them on the machine. I did this with one seam, saw that it worked and called it a night.

A couple of people suggested using a walking foot and Sarah confirmed that that should solve the problem. I’ve used a walking foot before and I don’t know why I resisted at first. Turns out that was the perfect solution. The walking foot is my new best friend. Here is how those four-way intersecting seams turned out.


This made me think about those new machines that have built-in even feed and I had to push those thoughts out of my head! This is not the year for a new machine

The next dilemma was the zipper. You can’t install an invisible zipper with a walking foot. That’s where hand basting was necessary. I sewed the first side of the zipper into the side seam as usual with the invisible zipper foot. I then hand basted the second side and made sure the Empire seam was aligned before sewing that side on the machine.  Here is the result.



The next step was to attach the lovely trim from Soutache. Sarah had demonstrated how to clip the net backing until it fit the shape of the neckline seam. I clipped the rest of the netting and pinned the embellishment on the dress form so the placement would conform to the dress with a body inside instead of a flat surface.


There are a LOT of beads and buttons in this trim!  I tried to sew each one before the fashion show, but I ran out of time. That’s why I needed my friends to rescue me with hemming and temporary stitching of the lining at the neck seam. After the show, I finished stitching every bead and every button to the dress and trimmed away the last of the stray netting at the edges. I then reattached the lining at the neck edge and understitched.

The dress is now ready to wear to the wedding. I’m also going to get another chance to model it in the ASG National Conference fashion show. This will be my first time in a fashion show at Conference. It should be fun.

PTPE.Haute Couture Fashion Show.2016-290

Homage Jacket Remake


As I mentioned in my last post, one of the garments I showed in the Haute Couture Club of Chicago Fashion Show was a jacket inspired by Le Bar Suit, which was part of Christian Dior’s debut collection in 1947. The fashion show segment was based on a sewing challenge we called “My Homage To…” Setting aside the ribbing and corseting of the original, I really like the idea of dressing in a suit that has feminine contours and sends the message that you don’t have to dress like a man to be dressed for business.

I call this My Homage 2.0, a reference to the admonition we used to hear from tech gurus to never buy the 1.0 version of software. They told us it’s better to wait until the major bugs are worked out and the 2.0 version is released. For those of you who are not of “a certain age,” that’s from the pre-app days when software was an investment and loading it onto your computer took forever.

I chronicled some of the frustration I had with the first version of this jacket here. For version 2.0, I made a new muslin mock-up and brought it to one of Sarah Veblen’s You Choose Your Focus Workshop last November. I made the mock-up with 1″ seam allowances (not easy to do with princess seams and muslin that doesn’t drape). My weight had been creeping up (again!) and I felt that I needed a bit more room in the bust. I also mocked up my master jacket pattern for fine tuning at the same workshop. And, just to be on the safe side, I mocked up both my 3-piece sleeve for the Homage jacket and my 2-piece sleeve for the master jacket pattern. I was leaving nothing to chance.

The fabric choice for Homage 2.0 is the lovely navy and black check wool that I had bought from Sawyer Brook back when I first started to plan this jacket. That was probably two-ish years ago.


This was the first garment that I underlined with silk organza. It was daunting hand basting the organza to all those pieces, but when it was done I was so glad I took the time to do it. The wool took on more body without being stiff and was a dream to work with.


Those tiny rows of checks required careful alignment of adjoining pieces at the hem, a full pattern and cutting from a single layer of fabric.


The jacket gets its shaping from armscye princess seams and two vertical darts in the side front panels. Additional structure comes from silk taffeta facings at the flared hem and at the neckline that are interfaced with soft stretch fusible.

The undercollar is also made of silk taffeta and has fusible interfacing.  In preparing to make this jacket I was able to clear up some confusion I had about undercollars. I knew the undercollar pattern is supposed to be smaller than the collar pattern so that the outer edge of the collar can be “favored” when pressed, as it is in the following picture.


I also knew that the undercollar typically is cut on the bias. What I didn’t realize is that only the outer edge of the pattern is trimmed 1/8 inch, not the neck edge or the short ends. The undercollar is interfaced, but if it happens to stretch during pressing because it is on the bias, it can be trimmed at the neck edge before basting the edges together and attaching to the garment.

There were two issues with this jacket that were disappointing. I used three-piece sleeves, but forgot that they had really long vents. I only had six of the smaller buttons for the jacket and three for each sleeve was not enough for the long vent. I tried to make adjustments after the fact but ran into problems and ended up making sleeves that have no vents and no buttons.

The other disappointment was that I forgot to take shoulder pads into account when developing the pattern. When I attached the shoulder pads, there wasn’t enough room even though they are very thin. So, I had to sacrifice the nice crisp shoulder line they would have given me in the jacket.

Even though I had used tailor tacks to mark where the buttons and buttonholes would be placed, the markings seemed off to me when the jacket was constructed. I re-measured and pin marked the buttonhole placement and, fortunately, all went well with those. When it came to marking the placement of the buttons, it occurred to me that instead of measuring, I might get accurate results more quickly by pinning the two front pieces together and inserting a pin in the center of the keyhole of the buttonhole, exactly where the center of the button should be.

IMG_0217I used that pin as a guide for sewing on the corresponding button. It worked like a charm.


Even with the sleeve and shoulder pad glitches, I’m really happy with the way the jacket turned out. I feel great wearing it.

PTPE.Haute Couture Fashion Show.2016-118

PTPE.Haute Couture Fashion Show.2016-119