And this is why we pay more for better fabrics

There’s a story behind this fabric. Some years ago, Groupon had an offer for a local fabric warehouse which I had never visited. It was a great little Groupon, so I snapped it up, plugged in the address to my GPS, and headed to the warehouse. It’s a massive place, three floors and multiple rooms on each floor. It took me half the day to get through the main floor, and that was as far as I got.

Chicagoans will know the place by this description: it’s messy, overwhelming, and the selection is half-treasure, half-trash. I’ve purchased some beautiful silk crepe there of a nice quality and weight, for a shockingly cheap $7/yard. I’ve also purchased some poly silky that ended up in the garbage, literally, after the pretreatment washing. (That one still surprises me. I’m usually a better judge of fabric and can avoid mistakes like that one.) There really is buried treasure in this warehouse, but the accent should probably be on the word “buried.” Everything is a cut above the quality usually offered at big box retailers, but beyond that, quality varies. A lot.

In any case, on that particular shopping day, I needed to find enough fabric to use up the groupon. This would not normally be a problem for me, but it was my first time in this warehouse. I didn’t quite have the lay of the land, so to speak, and I spent far too long wandering around with my jaw open, trying to figure out how to navigate the rows and rows and rows and rows of fabric. And rows. And rows. It’s really disorganized, though you do start to get the vague impression that evening fabrics are sort of located in one room, more or less, and day wear in another. The home dec stuff is definitely segregated from the garment fabrics. Some things are on shelves, some on steel posts, some heaped in baskets, some leaning against walls or laying on the floor. You’ve never seen so many bolts under one roof before.

I found the $7/yard silk crepe and a really pretty pink brocade that day. And I also found the fabric to make into this.


Simplicity 1716, FrankenView

This is a red rayon-lycra blend that turned rubbery after a wash in cool water. Rayon can get rubbery like that sometimes, but usually cold water doesn’t affect it that way. Usually, it’s in response to steam — not all rayons are comfortable with exposure to steam. So I don’t know what happened here, It’s possible that the cool setting on my older washing machine wasn’t all that cool — this prewash happened right before the dang thing died, so anything is possible. But the rayon was definitely altered after that washing, as can sometimes happen with rayons.

So the weight and drape of the fabric was affected. I’d originally though to make a skirt with this fabric, something fluid with gores, maybe. But that idea went out the window after the prewash. And then I was never really sure what to make, but last month’s stash sewing contest inspired me to pull out this fabric and find something to do with it.

Enter Simplicity 1716.


I wanted something that resembled view F, the version shown in the lower left corner drawing. But that version has a shaped hem and ruching on the side seams, so I ended up playing mix-and-match with several pattern pieces to get the finished garment. I made a FBA, and I ended up hacking off the long sleeves to make 3/4 sleeves because the fabric over my wrists was just irritating. I knew I would always be pushing up those sleeves and figured I could put an end to that with the scissors!

My only real regret with this top has to do with the way the back neck facing is applied. Normally, we apply facings last, after shoulder seams are finished. But with this draped cowl, there is no front facing piece. The cowl is self-facing. The back neck facing piece is still applied after the shoulder seams are stitched, meaning that you have this awkward bit where the back neck facing, the shoulder seams, and the cowl front are joined. I didn’t like that, but it didn’t bother me enough to rip it apart and re-do it.

I really like the final garment, even though the fabric is not so great. It feels a little sticky and dense in the final garment, but I wear this one frequently. The color is good, and the fit is good, and the rayon actually drapes nicely at the neckline. I like it so much that I’ve already made it again. The second time, I attached the back neck facing before sewing the shoulder seams, and the finish is ever so much neater. I’ll show you the second version someday!

The main lesson in this garment is that it’s often worth it to buy a better quality fabric and treat it carefully. I ended up with something wearable, but that might be more due to luck than to selection or skill.

Have you ever accidentally turned rayon into rubber?



Farmers Market, I Am Ready for You!

Today is the opening day of the farmer’s market in my little community. I don’t know if that makes it the number-one happiest day of the year, but it’s certainly in the top ten. Not only does this mean that we’re maybe safe from winter weather (maybe – it does snow in May sometimes, but only sometimes), but it also means the beginning of good summer meals. I mean, the difference between a summer tomato from the farmers market and a winter tomato from the grocery store — are these even the same vegetable? And how about a peach that ripened on the tree versus one from the grocery store that crunches like an apple when you bite into it. Ugh. That crunchy hard peach is an insult to real peaches everywhere.

So today it was slim pickings — asparagus, mushrooms, eggs, but I arrived too late for rhubarb, sob. Next week! My favorite farmer from Michigan assures me he’ll have early strawberries next week, too, and told me to get there early. I remember last year, the first week he had strawberries, they were completely sold out by 10:00 a.m. So I’ll be setting my alarm for sure. This same farmer has the best eggs, too, and so tonight’s dinner will be an egg white omelet with asparagus and a bit of porcini mushroom. Yum. I already can’t wait for dinner.

I do most of my grocery shopping at the area farmers markets, to the point that the farmers know me and remember to point out things they know I’ll like. That makes it extra fun. I know it’s almost like a cliche to rave about farmers markets, but I’ve been a proud addict for decades, since back when I practiced law in Indianapolis and they started a weekday market in the little street next to the city-county building. I still remember (with incredible longing) these tiny plums we used to get there, about the size of grapes with very small stones. Best. Plums. Ever. I used to gorge on them while reciting the William Carlos Williams poem, “This Is Just to Say” —

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

Because really, if ever there were plums that deserved a poetic tribute, it was those tiny plums from the farmers market in Indianapolis.

Anyway. Forgive me. I tend to get a little overwrought on the first farmers market day of the year. *ggg* It’s no coincidence that I finished this sundress in time for the opening. I cut it out a couple weeks ago with this happy, anticipatory image of walking around the park with a summer breeze catching the hem, towing my little red wagon behind me. (This one with, yes, the drink carrier for my coffee cup — this little wagon has proved to be a most worthy investment.)


This dress is very loose and billowy, a trapeze shape with a mullet hem. It’s very simple, just a center front seam, center back seam, side seams, and bust darts. Sometimes the simplest shapes are the ones that require the most fitting, though. I labored over this one. I think the key to a good fit with a shape like this is in the shoulders and upper bust. If you nail the fit there, the rest of the dress can be loose but it won’t appear oversized. So I tinkered quite a lot with the shaping in that area, and I ended up taking it in about 2″ in the shoulders and 3″ in the upper bust.

I wanted something loose and breezy because I’ve been dealing with medication changes since about October, and each change causes a change in weight. I’m up, I’m down, and it’s driving me a little crazy. So I thought a dress like this might help me cope while we get things stable again. Right now, I’m probably up about 16 or 17 pounds from where I was when we started with all this tinkering (but last week, I was only up 11 — really, the fluctuations are frustrating), and as we all know, every stone (14 pounds) is a size. But I know my shoulders won’t change shape much, so a dress that’s fitted well through the shoulders and loose everywhere else might still be wearable after I’m out of this phase.

Here’s a view of the side to show off the hem shaping.


As I was snapping some side views, I started thinking about how I might tinker with that waistline after things are stable again. The pattern, Simplicity 1621, has a tank top version of this same piece with elastic at the high waist, and I might add some elastic later.


I originally purchased this pattern to make the jacket from some black silk organza. It was pure coincidence that I was thinking about this black and gold batik from The Needle Shop and spotted this mullet dress — and just like that, my planned black and gold batik kimono became a sundress.

The sizing on this pattern is S, M, L, etc., instead of numbered sizes. I normally expect a Medium to be the equivalent of a 12-14, which is just where I am now — 12 on a normal day, 14 when I’m puffy. But this one is a little different, and the medium is a 14-16. That’s why it required so much tinkering in the shoulder shaping. It was definitely as broad as a loose 16 should be, but I wanted more of a 12 in that area.

The only other adjustment was my standard FBA. I didn’t even shorten them length. If I make this one again — and I might, in a smaller size out of a knit fabric instead of a woven — I might narrow the shoulder straps a bit. I don’t think they’re too wide, necessarily, but I think they would look fresher and more modern if they were just a bit narrower.

There’s something almost tiger-like about that print, don’t you think? Here’s a better view of the print.


It’s batik, black over a sort of marbled gold and brown in a pattern of circles and lines, but from a distance, it almost has an animal print vibe. I like animal prints, so I’m good with that. I don’t ordinarily wear these autumnal gold and brown shades — and looking through the photos, I realized that my standard silver jewelry looks wrong with this, so I’ll probably wear some black onyx earrings with it next time. And I think there’s enough black in the print that the golden tones don’t wash me out, but maybe that’s wishful thinking. I’ll wear the dress in either case!

What’s your favorite thing from the farmers market?


Cutathon, the first batch of summer projects

I don’t know about you guys, but I find cutting and sewing to be two very different types of activity. Each feels like a separate sort of creative process. They’re both satisfying, but because of the differences between them, I want a different mood and a different mindset for each.

When I’m cutting, it feels a bit like puzzling through a planning stage. I trace all my patterns, and then I make alterations on the tracings based on the actual measurements at certain critical points like shoulder and bust and waist. So a lot of decisions have to be made here that will affect the final garment. How much wearing ease do I want, and wear do I want it? I’ve been sewing long enough that I don’t have to really ponder these decisions most of the time, but sometimes these can be tricky calls.

This is also where I’m learning how a particular fabric will behave. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been sewing or how many times you’ve knit with other versions of a fabric. No two rayon jerseys, for example, will behave in exactly the same way. Cutting the fabric lets me start to get to know it and think about how I might need to adjust the construction methods to accommodate different characteristics.

So I like cutting, but it feels more cerebral than sewing, which I find almost mindlessly soothing by comparison. And this is one of the main reasons I tend to cut things in clusters, several projects at once. When the mindset is there, and I have a bit of time for it, it makes more sense to knock out a bunch of cuts at once. And as long as I’m pulling out the mats, French curves, tracing materials, etc., I might as well make good use of them.

This past weekend, I cut out three new projects for summer. The first is a white mesh baseball jacket. The cuffs, collar, and front band will be in white cotton ribbing. I had to do quite a lot of puzzling and thinking to figure out how to adjust the pattern to accommodate the mesh — eliminating the lining and pockets, for example — but for the most part, this pattern is better suited to this task than any other jacket pattern I looked at. This will be one of those things I can toss on over jeans and a tee or over a sundress, and it will work easily with any casual style. Side note: I’m really taken with mesh lately. Don’t know why. Mood had some really nice ones and I snapped up two, this white one and the black bonded mesh knit I used to make the tunic I blogged about last week. This white mesh is heavier, with a denser drape, and I think the cotton ribbing will give it good structure.


I also cut a cotton batik sundress with a mullet hem. This one required a bit more pattern adjustment prior to cutting — it’s really, really loose. I wanted it sort of skimmy and loose, rather than just a big cotton sack, so I tried to narrow it through the shoulders and reshape the upper bust. I’ve already started sewing this one, and I still need to take it in a bit through the shoulders, but it’s going to work out pretty much as planned. I love this print, a deep stash length from the Needle Shop. I usually shy away from browns and golds, but this one had to come home with me as soon as I saw it.


Finally, I cut a jersey maxidress in a striped knit from Fishman’s that was originally intended for a much different project. I’d thought to make one of those folded, crossover drape front blouses with it, but then I tried one on in the store to see how it would look on my figure. It was awful. I looked pregnant and drowning in fabric. So I decided to make a summer maxi out of this fabric instead.


This had to be cut in a single layer to make sure the stripes matched just so. My trick for cutting patterned fabric is to always cut in a single layer and lay the first piece on top of the fabric to cut the second piece. This guarantees that all the matching points will match. In this case, because everything had to be cut on the bias, it took a little extra time and care, but my cutting trick always works pretty well. If you look closely here, you can see the white outline of the pattern piece under the first bodice piece that I already cut. It’s a little hard to see because the patterns are matched along the cut edges.


And then, after cutting, this is how the two bodice fronts look, right side up and side by side.


That’s a pretty good match. I’ll have to be careful during seaming to make sure the stripes align properly, but it shouldn’t be too hard to make it work.

So this is my first batch of warm-weather sewing for the year, yay! I can tell I’m antsy for summer because every time I look at my pattern stash, the sundresses are the only things that appeal to me. Nothing beats an easy, soft summer dress! I can’t wait to wear them!

Are you ready for some heat waves?


The Not-so-simple skirt

Okay. So, last year, I fell in love with a bit of silk taffeta at Fishman’s Fabrics, as you do. (If you’re ever able to go fabric shopping in Chicago, Fishman’s would be my first recommendation, and the Needle Shop would be my second. Amazing stock.) Take a look at this gorgeous stuff.


Gingham is hot right now, and this is a nicely weighted silk taffeta — light enough to rustle and swish, but stiff enough to support a good shape in a circle skirt. The taffeta has embroidered silk organza leaves, painted flowers, and beading in an allover pattern atop the gingham. It’s an unusual fabric, and I knew it struck just the right mix of evening and casual to be perfect to wear to the theater. So I snapped up three yards, and here is the first garment, using 1.5 yards of the length.


I used Simplicity 1200, a very simple three-quarter circle skirt with only three pieces — front, back, waistband.


This should have been a super easy skirt to make, but there were two complicating factors. First, my sewing machine hated the beading on this fabric. It’s been a while since I’ve worked with an embellished fabric, and I had a different machine the last time. (That was a gold sequined knit used to make play clothes for my then five-year-old niece, who is now fourteen. Been a while!) That old machine, a wrought iron Singer with a motor that could stitch through tree branches, wouldn’t have balked at a few tiny seed beads.

But now I have a new and wimpy Singer. It cries and shivers and looks for the nearest fainting couch if I ask it to sew through more than two layers of fleece. These beads? A tragedy of Sarah Bernhardt proportions.

I wanted to do French seams because of course I did. I love French seams. Why wouldn’t you use a lovely French seam on a weightless, swishy taffeta like this? But this meant sewing each seam twice, with a machine that pouts if you ask it to handle any extra thickness. So I had to painstakingly clear each seam allowance of all those teeny tiny seed beads.


Those beads were sewn in, which made the task much easier. I just inserted my seam ripper into the thread between the bead and the raw edge and slice the bead free. I had to be careful not to pick up any threads from the taffeta along the way, but this is a good taffeta, dense and smooth, so it was relatively easy to avoid that particular problem.

I’m still finding these tiny beads everywhere in my sewing room.


Under the sewing machine! Ack!

There were a few spots that French seams were impractical, such as at the zipper, so I used Hug Snug on those raw edges. You know about this stuff, right? It’s perfect for this kind of taffeta because it’s almost weightless and wasn’t going to create any drag on any of the seams. Plus it’s inexpensive and it comes in lots of pretty colors and the rolls are enormous. I get mine from Wawak. A lot of people want to use a two-step stitching process, but I find it works fine to just wrap the edges, pin it, and sew away.


Wrapping the raw edge of the hem in one step

You’ll notice I’m using a standard presser foot there. That’s because I already cleared that raw edge of the beads. But in other places, such as the waistband, I used a zipper foot. This was because not all the beads fell into a seam allowance and could not be cleared. The zipper foot provided fewer opportunities for my machine to scream and die and get all tangled up on itself as it encountered a bead — the feed dogs and the surface of the presser foot just could not navigate those beads smoothly. So a zipper foot has a smaller area of contact with the feed dogs, and this cut down on problems. I also very carefully marked every bead that was likely to come up against the presser foot, and I stitched very carefully when I came upon them.


Look closely where the point of the seam ripper is aimed. That bead is about to take a direct hit from the presser foot.

So, that was the first complication — all those beads required careful handling, and it could take as long as 30 minutes to clear a single seam of beads. Normally, on a similar fabric with no beads, I could have inset the zipper and finished the invisible zipper seam in that same 30 minutes. So this skirt was slow going, but worth it, I think.

The other problem I ran into was with the waistband piece. For some reason, it ended up about an inch shorter than the waistband circumference. That was a headscratcher. I checked the pattern pieces, and I don’t appear to have lopped off the end of the waistband during cutting, but it was definitely too short. So the pattern might have been misprinted? Don’t know. I checked the pattern reviews, and the only review of this pattern notes that the waistband is very tight. So it’s something in the pattern. This detail alone would prevent me using this pattern again. I didn’t want to tear apart the taffeta seams, so I added very small darts to the waistband to draw the waist in, with the result that the waist is even tighter than it would have already been. I normally cut my waistbands around 28 or 29 inches, depending on the fabric and width of the waistband, and this one is a nudge over 27″ in an unrelenting fabric. So I’m not best pleased by that, and it might end up being a little uncomfortable to wear, but I’ll just have to wear the high spanx under this skirt. Sigh. And no dessert at any pre-theater dinners!

In any case, I’m please with the skirt, and the remaining yard and a half will be some kind of top. I keep going back and forth between a princess seamed tee with a scoop neck (simple to make, which given the beads, might make a huge difference), and a corset type vest thing to wear over a blouse.  I think a corset in this fabric would be stunning, but those require such precise tailoring, and this might not be the fabric for that kind of project.

Have you ever worked with embellished fabrics? Did you develop any special techniques to handle them?


In which I am a puffy gray blimp

This bit of lounge wear makes me laugh at its sheer ridiculousness, but despite it being wildly unflattering and adding a good two dress sizes to my appearance, I have worn it every day since it came off the machine on Tuesday.


Simplicity 1731

I made a size medium, which turns out to be very big for a medium. I want to say the bust measures about 45″ or 46″ — really, much bigger than I would ordinarily sew for myself. But I wanted to be able to pull on this thing over whatever I happened to be wearing — in this photo, it’s sweat pants and a worsted sweater, not that you can see them. But that ought to give you an idea of how big and roomy this is: big enough to wear over bulky clothes and still look loose. I swear, it adds 20 pounds to my frame.

And I don’t care how puffy and huge and silly it looks. This thing is so incredibly warm and cozy that I have been wearing it nonstop around the house since I finished it. I come in from the cold, take off my wool topcoat and boots, and zip into this thing. My house is cold (though we just had new windows installed on the two front rooms, and the house is appreciably warmer now — still cold, just no longer igloo cold, more like the interior of a refrigerator than the interior of a freezer). So I’ve sewn quite a few fleece garments here recently in a desperate attempt to stay warm without wearing a hat and coat — which I’ve been known to do. I really do hate this house.

In any case…

The pattern is Simplicity 1731, a gigantic unisex all-sizes thing for small children through very large men. It covers everyone in the family, even the dog, in a warm blanket of fleecy goodness. See for yourself.


Check out the shape of the hood on the dog’s romper. See how pointy it is? The human versions are pointy like that, too, and that’s really my only issue with this pattern. Next time, I’ll change the shape of that hood so it’s more rounded. You know, like an actual human head.

I think I might make another one. I’m already dreading the thought of having to take this one off long enough to launder it, so a second one might be a boon to health and hygiene. Unfortunately, the only other fleece I have in stash right now is snowy white, and the thought of wearing this in white — gack. Can you imagine? I would look like this guy, except without the jaunty cap and scarf.


Not a good look. I’m willing to laugh at myself, as the gray version proves, but even I would lose my sense of humor while wearing this thing in white. So I think I’ll just make do with this one until I’m willing to go fabric shopping again. After seeing the yardage total from my recent stash inventory, that could take a while!

So that’s another 4 yards out of the stash, making my yardage-out total since 12/1/14 a little over 30 yards. That’s a good start!

What’s the silliest thing you’ve ever made for yourself?


Sewing Bee Round One — A-line Skirt

It’s been a slow week on the blog because I’ve been sick — not sick enough to stop doing All The Things, but sick enough to require naps (plural!) each day. My schedule is so tightly packed that adding naps can put me behind on all sorts of things, and in this case, the blog fell off my schedule. But I’m better now, and I have lots of good things to post over the next few days.

Starting with my round one entry into the Pattern Review Sewing Bee Contest.


The idea behind this contest is pretty simple. It runs for four weeks. In each week, a project is defined, rules are presented, and we have one week to sew the item and post the review. Each week, a winner is announced (with really amazing prizes!) and a percentage of entries are eliminated. Something like 340 people signed up for the contest, but only 141 people completed the first week project and posted the required review. As I write this, I don’t know if I will advance to the next round. The results will be posted sometime later today.

For this round, we were required to make a lined, A-line skirt with a zipper, waistband, and hem. This was a very simple project, in other words, and my first thought was that very few people would drop out on this round. A lined A-line skirt, under normal circumstances, is roughly one afternoon’s worth of work. You have side seams, maybe a center back seam, a zipper and waistband, some kind of closure for the top of the waistband, the lining, and the hems. It’s not complicated, and the fitting on such a project is usually moderate at best.

Because this style is so clean and minimal — something like a blank slate, really — I thought long and hard about what I wanted to do before I started work. I pored over my pattern collection and dug through every inch of my (not very extensive) fabric stash. Because my wardrobe is still so meager, I knew I wanted to make a basic, everyday sort of skirt, something that would be a real wardrobe builder rather than a statement piece. But I also know that a statement piece would be more likely to advance to the next round. Dilemma!

Here’s how I resolved that particular need to balance everyday wear-ability with enough pizzazz to (please, I hope) advance to the next round of this contest. I found a pattern in my stash, Simplicity 1322, that is an a-line skirt with a mock wrap front. Take a look at the line drawings.


I made view E, which has a front overlay piecing that is designed like a regular wrap skirt, but the whole thing is held together by the waistband. In other words, that vertical line down the front of the line drawing shows where the pieces overlay. I chose to use a very plain, but deliciously smooth and expensive-looking gray cotton sateen that I picked up from Mood (link to the fabric). I find that Mood’s basics, such as this sateen, tend to be reliably and consistently of a good overall quality. It has become my go-to place for this kind of fabric. I do have some local sources with decent basics, but their prices tend to be higher, so Mood is usually my first choice. I worry sometimes about ordering fabric without being able to handle it first, but while other online shops have disappointed me, Mood has not. Knock wood.

Because the sateen was so plain, I decided to add a bit of trim along the wrap front openings to give it just a touch of interest. My first thought was leather piping — I thought black leather would add a touch of toughness to a sweet a-line shape. (I love mixing a bit of grit with a bit of sugar in my outfits.)But I couldn’t find black leather piping anywhere I looked, and time was limited for this challenge, so I gave up the hunt and used a very tiny black cotton piping instead. It’s delicate, but it’s a nice touch. Here’s a shot of how it looks set into the seam. I took this picture when I was ironing the front overlay — the hem is on the right side of the photo, and the bottom edge of the fabric is the vertical edge of the front overlay piece. The black cotton piping provides just enough sharpness to make that line more evident, but it’s not so much to be obtrusive.


This skirt was unlined, so I had to add a lining. And that became the real challenge for this assignment.

Normally, a skirt lining is attached only at the waistband, and it hangs free from the waist to hem, except for maybe a bit of tacking along the zipper. That zipper tacking, by the way, serves a dual purpose — first, the zipper is a continuation of the waist opening, so it’s aesthetically pleasing to continue the seam along that opening, and second, as a matter of function, it keeps the lining from getting caught in the zipper teeth. It always shocks me to find ready-to-wear skirts with a lining left free along the zipper. This is one construction shortcut that makes me realize just how evil some garment manufacturers are — it’s as bad as this stupid current trend to eliminate hems. Rant, rant, rant, enough about that.

In this case, because the wrap front opening would move when I walk, I thought it made sense to attach the lining vertically along that opening. I chose a printed poly chiffon because I knew the lining would be momentarily visible, just in flashes, as I walk and move. But I wanted it to be clean and well-finished, not just flashy. So I really had to think through how to attach the lining to make this work. These are the steps I used.

  1. French seams along the side seams of the lining, and along the center back up to the point where I expected the bottom of the zipper to hit. I had to use French seams because this is a poly chiffon lining, and chiffon just looks neater with this sort of seam.
  2. Attach the piping to the vertical overlay seams, then attach the lining to the skirt fronts along these vertical seams.
  3. Sew the side seams of the skirt.
  4. Overlap the front overlay pieces and baste along the waist line to join the lining to the skirt. I stopped this basting an inch or so from the center back seam to make it easier to insert the zipper.
  5. Insert the zipper into the skirt fabric.
  6. Attach the waistband.
  7. Sew the lining to the zipper.
  8. Rolled hems. I had to hand-finish the lining hem where the lining was attached to the vertical front overlays. I had to pick enough of it clean from the skirt front and piping to be able to roll the hem, then I had to reattach the rolled hem to the overlay. This was a bit of a hassle, and I wish I’d thought to hem the lining before attaching it to the skirt on those vertical seams.

Here’s a view of how that skirt overlay looks when the piece moves to reveal the lining.


You can see how the bit of piping adds a nice clean edge to differentiate the printed lining and the main skirt fabric. Also, how fun is that print? Stars, you guys. I do love some stars. You can also see just a bit of clumsiness in the corner join where I had to pick apart that vertical seam, roll the hem on the lining, and reattach it to the skirt. It’s not dreadful, but it’s not perfect, either. I would call a do-over, except for one giant problem with the lining fabric. Check this out.


Could you die? Look at that mess. This fabric absolutely disintegrates along cut edges. Talk about crap. I bought this from Vogue Fabrics on Roosevelt Road (which is closing forever in a week), and while I loved the print, I HATED handling the fabric. Cutting chiffon is a bitch in any case, but I was prepared for that. What I was not prepared for was the way this textile simply could not hold itself together in any way. Handling it at all  meant that it would fray. A lot. Utter garbage fabric, and I bought plenty of it because I thought the print was so fun. (Am I the only one who has noticed the sharp fall-off in quality from Vogue Fabrics in recent years? Shopping there has become a treasure hunt — you have to sort through so much bad poly and rayon to find anything worth sewing. There are still some decent fabrics to be found there at reasonable prices, but you have to be so careful. I can’t imagine making the trip to the still-staying-open Evanston location all that often, given the way their stock has changed.)

Anyway, here is the finished skirt.


It’s very plain on the hanger, but you can see the piping along the overlay. You can’t see the lining at all when I’m just standing in the skirt, but when I walk, little flashes of stars pop up along the piped edge. It’s a fun effect, and I’m really pleased with how this skirt turned out. It will be a good everyday skirt, but it avoided being boring. And that adds a gray skirt to my wardrobe, so I can tick that off the wardrobe-building list.



Here, fishy, fishy!


This is a terrible picture, but it’s the only one we got last night. My poor mom has a little trouble with point and shoot cameras. And with phones, tv remotes, etc. — anything electronic with push buttons seems to be tricky for her. She thought she took several photos last night, but this is the only one that actually ended up on my camera, and the tail is all twisty in it.

In any case, my brother has a big Halloween bash every year, and it has quickly become the party of the year. People go to great lengths to create excellent costumes to fit the annual theme. This year, the theme was 80s movies. I went as Madison from Splash — one of the few red-orange mermaids in film and tv land. Most of them are blue or green. I wonder why? Here’s a look at the original.


I though my fabric choice for the tail did a good job mimicking this look. I used a cheap acetate satin in orange overlaid with a red glitter mesh, also very cheap, from JoAnn Fabrics. The satin was difficult to handle. It shredded along cut edges if you so much as breathed on it, and it refused to take a clean press. I sort of gave up on pressing the seams and ended up using topstitching on the waistband and leg openings to make the fabric lie properly. The pattern is Simplicity 4043, which is one of those costume patterns that’s been around forever. I made the same pattern for my niece about 7 or 8 years ago. It takes a little time, but it’s not difficult, and the results are good.

Darryl Hannah wore some bronzed, waterproof body makeup above the waist instead of an actual costume piece. I watched a little behind-the-scenes thingie on making her costume, and the makeup and fabric of the tail were specially designed to blend into each other. They used something heavy over her breasts to hide the nipples, and they glued her wig to the heavy rubbery stuff over her breasts. I settled for a flesh-colored shirt instead, and didn’t glue my blond wig to any part of my body.

The necklace turned out to be the hard part of the costume. Go figure. Here’s a glimpse of the original. It’s very hard to get a clean look at the necklace in the movie because her wig is always on top of it, but the basic idea is gaudy, with lots of shells and beads and a big gold medallion in the center.


I looked everywhere for a necklace that resembled this one, and ended up making a sort of frankennecklace with several pieces from the thrift store. The gold medallion on mine is actually a gold pin tied onto the necklace with gold cord. I used three different necklaces — one with shell coin beads, one with bronze and gold beads, and one with some gold fish dangling charms. I had to break them apart and piece them back together, and the end piece was so heavy that the joins and threads kept snapping. In the end, floral wire was the only thing that held it together safely, and then I used some gold cord to hide the wire.

All in all, it was a fun costume for a fun party. The tail took some work, but it was nowhere near as challenging as the necklace.

And now that the costume for this year is done and in the bag, it’s back to more everyday kinds of garment construction. 🙂

What will you be for Halloween this year?