Saturday, April 26, 2014

Week in Review

This week was just right for reviving my neglected Week in Review - too many things I wanted to share and could not write a separate post about.


Rhonda, for featuring me in The Wednesday Showcase. If you don't know Rhonda's blog you should definitely check it out. She is a pattern wizard, and I have been following her blog for a while now.


I completed my Craftsy Hand Embroidery saga and am now signing up, yay, for their brand new Crewel embroidery class. Crewel is normally worked with wool I figured out, but there are also some awesome new, very Crewel stitches, and I feel this type of embroidery is going to look wonderful on a hat like this  one.

If you are like the blouse, it's a Burdastyle pattern
from their February 2009 Issue, Model # 120A

In addition, I am taking a Creative Brand Series classes on Creativebug. It's rather pricey, even at $99, which includes a discount for subscribers, and, I must say, I have mixed feelings about the class. I will write about it in a separate post. The point is, I want to try turn blogging and sewing into something more professional, and this class will hopefully help me figure out the best way to do it.


Rhonda has found a great free summer hat pattern, which, in turn, I thought, would be a perfect piece to embellish with crewel embroidery - this is not a priority though. I also loved her version of this free Tessuti top pattern. Oh, well, you just have to go over to Rhonda's blog and subscribe to it.

Finally, thanks to Rachel, for sharing great tips for stress-free sewing. Check it out, it's so relevant!

YOU ASKED FOR... e-mail subscription option - it's added. Thanks for the feedback!


I got to catch up on my Burdastyle project, I've changed my mind about lining, I will try to post updates this week if sewing will go according to the plan.

Our Straight Skirt Draft-Along is nearing the end and I have two more posts planned: on splitting darts and side seam placement. Stay tuned.

I really wanted to participate in a Terrific Tank contest on, but I am afraid I won't have enough time to finish the Alabama Chanin tank I  picked for this challenge. I have started working on it nevertheless, since it is so easy to pick up and hand sew in the evening when kids are in bed and sewing machine noise is out of question.

Have a great Sunday, everyone!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Yay, I finished my hand embroidery class

Readers, you cannot imagine how I feel today! It feels so good to finish this class. A whole new set of skills that I learnt and can now use in my sewing projects. I love embroidery and I will definitely continue learning. If you haven't followed my work-in-progress posts, I was taking a Craftsy Hand Embroidery class, by an excellent instructor Jessica Marquez.

Here is my Fill Stitches sampler, the final sampler you do in this class, as you see I have experimented with the density of stitches, and shapes of the leaves (I like the grey one most). 

Flat Stitches Sampler, Lesson 2

Looped Stitches Sampler, Lesson 3

Knotted Stitches Sampler, Lesson 4

Crossed Stitches Sampler, Lesson 5

Fill Stitches Sampler, Lesson 6

In the last two lessons, Jessica shows how to embroider on knits and how to design your own embroidery patterns. Now I just need to find more embroidery classes and start applying the skills I learnt. Are you taking this class too? 

P.S. I forgot to add that I was using Finca cotton embroidery floss, which I bought in New York's City Quilter. They got a nice selection of embroidery materials as well as some resources. The latter, though, are more expensive than on Amazon. Hope this helps new embroider recruits among my readers :)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

SSDA 8: Calculating Darts

Readers, these are our final calculations. They may seam a little complicated now, but once we will be doing our real measuring session it will all become clear and easy. I will organize calculations on one sheet with measurements, so you will have only a few clear steps.

The purpose of this post is to explain the logic behind this patternmaking approach, as well as to close the darts chapter with final calculation.


  • we measured depth (intake) and length of front, side and back darts. 
  • we checked the sum of all dart intakes against the difference between the hip and waist circumference (in ideal world these two values should be equal)
  • we clarified some terminology: dart depth for the measured value, and dart intake for the final calculated value (we differentiate this terms only for our process, normally they mean the same thing)

so far, so simple, right?


  • calculate relative error (a concept from high school math that helps reduce measurement error)
  • calculate final dart intakes taking into consideration the relative error calculation. To simplify calculations, I use abbreviations which appear in brackets next to the corresponding term.

Do bear with me, it is still simple I promise.

RELATIVE ERROR (or how to reduce measurement error for darts)

Darts are little tricky to measure, that's why we introduce the relative error calculation (Er): (a) to make our final values more accurate and (b) to integrate the error margin (e) that we got by comparing the sum of measured dart depths (DD) with the difference between the hip and waist circumference (DI).

Er = DI / DD


All we need to do now is multiply the measured dart depth (FD, BD, SD) for each dart by the calculated relative error (Er). FI, BI, SI stand for the corresponding front, back and side intake.

FI = FD x Er
BI = BD x Er
SI = SD x Er

We are finished with all the measurements, readers! I hope I managed to write it in an easy and coherent manner, however, if you notice any errors or typos please do let me know in a comment. What's left before the final drafting is determine the side seam placement, or, in other words, the front and back width. I'll be happy to answer your questions about darts, and if you want, I can add a post about the logic behind splitting the darts into two or more. Just let me know

Previous Straight Skirt Draft Along (SSDA) posts:

Coming up:

SSDA 9: Side Seam Placement and the Front/Back Width Controversy
SSDA 10: The Measuring Session Summarized
SSDA 11: Drafting the Skirt
SSDA 12: Making a Toile and Analyzing the Fit

Monday, April 21, 2014

In search of a perfect tank

Every now and then I am overcome by an urge to participate in a collective sewing challenge. As social as blogging is, I just want to go a step further and get involved in some group project. is usually my place to go. Dozens of pages of comments on a particular undertaking is just the thing to waste your time on read and draw some inspiration for something you may or may not  make at the end. It’s probably the chatter I miss, especially since I left New York for a somewhat secluded and leisurely Cyprus. 

So, after some inactive months I logged in to patternreview again to discover a Terrific Tanks contest. It started on April 16th, I believe, and will run until the end of the month. The emphasis is on embellishment, rather than elaborate patternmaking. This week I am busy working on my Burdastyle dress, but if some time is left next week I may as well participate. Not knowing whether I will ever need this, I nevertheless went to Pinterest and pulled together loads a few inspiration images of tanks. You can check out my board, or, if you are a Pinterest abstainer, see some of them here. 

Love this back (I want to believe it is back). It is probably a two-layer chiffon, which makes finishing of the neckline and armholes more convenient. And perfect for the hot Cyprus summer!

A-dor-a-ble! A vintage lace doily, little applique, embroidery, and some basic beading! A perfect project for my newly acquired beginner embroidery skills.

A quickie, readers! All you need is a nice piece of graphic lace. The bigger the pattern, the better. I think I got some from the Mood's remnant box. In black?.. Hello stash, I am maybe coming.

simple classic tank in silk satin or crepe-de-chine. Neutral color + maxi skirt = great styling opportunity

Why make it simple, if it can be complicated? Love the twisted shoulder design and the V-neckline. It's a Burdastyle pattern.

I guess you all know where this comes from. A reverse appliqué with same-color layers. Shaping achieved through side seams and center front, and, pretty sure, center back seams. Not a week's project, but worth aspiring, sigh... Actually, no sigh - I love hand sewing, so maybe it will become a daily sofa sewing. Some pretty basket, holding work-in-progress pieces, a vintage needle and embroidery thread etui, embroidery scissors, and off you go running-stitching.

By the way, if I manage to participate, it will be my first me-made tank. Which one is your favorite?

Friday, April 18, 2014

CoutureGRAM: Underbust Stay

I thought I would make it a separate post to highlight the technique, rather than put it as a reply to your comments. You asked about the blue strip that extends from the center front between the bra cups to side seams all the way to center back.

Image: Source
What we see here is an underbust stay. This one I think is made of a max 1cm-wide elastic encased in the same fabric as the dress (you can recognize an elastic by the gathering of the silk casing). It is held in place by at least four thread chains, around the bust cup, close to side seams and in the back, over boning channels. The ends are finished with a hook and eye. This underbust stay may have been sewn ( it is not really recognizable on this image) to the garment where bust cups begin at the center front, about an inch from where they cross.

The purpose of an underbust stay is to ensure a closer fit of the bodice in a strapless dress. It provides additional support to the underwires and creates a cage effect with the vertical boning. Just note how the boning extends over bust points across underwire - this can tend to move away from the body where the underwire is placed. This is, by the way, another reason why spiral steel boning is better than rigilene for example, which is less flexible.

I can imagine this dress had a waist stay as well, but was removed at some point. All in all, quite an interesting construction we are seeing here.

Phew, I don't know how about you, but I love peeking into couture garments. I wish I had an access to a costume museum archive - I would accept any job there, just to have an opportunity to see and touch these garments. Sigh...

Happy Easter to those who celebrate, and a wonderful sunny weekend to those who don't :) 

P.S.: Thanks a million for your amazing feedback on my patternmaking and fit series. It means a lot to me!

CoutureGRAM: Dior Silk Gala Dress

Dear readers, I continue my Couturegram series and present another recent find from the web: Dior Gala Dress from Spring 1958 collection. The dress sold for a whopping $16,000 on   The purpose of COUTURERAM posts is as always to learn from great masters of couture. Enjoy!

"Robin's egg blue faille with sweetheart bodice, built-in boned net corset with hooks & eyes, full skirt over ivory silk and seven layer banded crinoline, ivory silk under skirt, self rose and bow at bodice center front and over gathers at either side of hem, back zipper" 

Image: Source
Image: Source
Image: Source
Image: Source
Image: Source

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

On My Sewing Table: Burda Peplum Sleeve Dress

Guest blogging for Burdastyle is a discipline challenge for me. I got quite a few 'unblogged' projects, a term coined by a fellow blogger Rachel Pinhero, because I never came around photographing them. With Burdastyle projects it is different. I take a lot of images and have to send them in time, no matter what. So, here is my April project, a peplum sleeve dress #112 from the February issue of Burdastyle magazine.

Fabric is chosen...

silk tweed from B&J, New York (yay, another stash busting project!)

... a muslin is sewn up (the dress doesn't pull on me, and the neckline doesn't gap, hmm...)...

By the way, the pattern is huge, so if you like the dress and want's to make it, go down at least one size smaller. I would even recommend as much as two sizes. It's worth measuring bust and hip circumferences on the pattern itself and choosing the size that corresponds to your measurements plus some ease. I went down from 38/40 (top/bottom) to 34/36. 

... adjustments are made

If you want to know more about planning process and some couture techniques I am planning to use, go over to Burdastyle Blog to read my guest post. As always, I am happy to hear your comments!

Monday, April 14, 2014

SSDA 7: Measuring darts

We discussed many possible fit issues that are direct result of incorrect measurements of circumference (waist and hips), front-back balance, as well as started talking about darts.

We also have covered how to take five measurements, waist circumference, hip circumference, and front, side and back length. It is time to finish the measurement posts with darts.

In my last post I briefly showed you the purpose of darts and how standard dart calculation can cause problems with the fit. In most patternmaking methods we are instructed to use standard values instead of measuring darts. Why? I believe there are two reasons:

  • Most common patternmaking methods are developed for ready-to-wear. They are based on adopted standard measurements, and therefore there is no need for additional measurements.
  • Dart are tricky to measure if you don't know how to do it.

Note: One modern patternmaking method that uses dart measurements was developed by Galya Zlachevskaya, a Russian pattern-maker and designer. However, her method requires taking more measurements for very accurate results. 

It is not such a crazy idea to  measure darts. Some methods ask you to measure the distance from your waist to hip on your side. How is it different from a dart length? In fact, what you measure in this case is the side dart length, from the waist to the most protruding part of your hip. That is not tricky, wouldn't you agree?

Let me warn you before starting, I am explaining every step in a great detail. This should help you take measurements yourself understanding what you are doing. The actual process of measurement taking is rather fast, and the calculations minimal. To make it even easier for 'draft-alongers', I will later include a measurement taking and calculation chart. 


I hope you are rubbing hands, readers! Let's start! This measurement should be taken as a part of the measurement taking session, but for practice you can measure only darts. You should wear some moderately tight clothing, leggings and a body-hugging T-shirt would do. You should be wearing an elastic, and for your measurements use consistently either its lower or upper edge as a reference line.  To make it easier, let's mark the most protruding parts on the back, front and side with a pin, pinned horizontally. We will be measuring only one side. If you have an asymmetric figure (indicated by the difference between the left and the right side length), logically, you will need to measure on both sides. I won't be covering asymmetric figures in this post, however, because I would like to explain the concept first.

We now have two reference points for each dart, the waist and the most protruding points in the front and the back.  What we need now is two rulers. I like 1" transparent acrylic rulers for quilters, or even better this Westcott 10ths/Metric Beveled Ruler, 12-Inch/30cm (B-65). If you don't have those you can make rulers yourself with two layers of manila folder and mark ruler units using metric system. We will be making some calculations, so using metric values makes it a lot easier.


We will be taking two measurements - Dart Depth (DD) and Dart Length (DL) - and repeat them in the front (F), left side (L)  and the back (B). For asymmetric figures, measurements are taken on both, left and right side.

Let's start with taking measurements in the back as an example. Position one ruler vertically from the most protruding part of the buttocks, toward the waist. Position the other ruler horizontally, so both rulers cross at 90 degree angle as in the illustration below. Measurement units should start from the waist and the most protruding point accordingly.
Rulers (grey rectangles) must cross at right angle, with one ruler being parallel, and the other - perpendicular to the floor. 

Write down Back Depth (BD) and Back Length (BL), and proceed with the remaining dart measurements in the same manner.

FD =                         FL =
LD =                         LL =
BD =                         BL =

TIP: Practice on a dress form, a friend or family member to gain some confidence. Make sure that the rulers cross at right angle, and that the horizontal ruler is strictly parallel to the floor.


Now, unless you are a measurement wiz, there will be an error in your measurements. In addition, when measuring darts we cannot consider the 2cm ease that we added to our waist circumference (1cm for half pattern). With darts, because the are key to the fit, only a little error is tolerable. So, at this stage we need to check how big the error is. To do so,

1. calculate total dart intake (DI). This is a more accurate value, so we will use it to calculate the error.

DI = (hip circumference - waist circumference)

Note: Your waist circumference value must include ease. Also, we divide the total dart intake by 2 because all the calculations are done for half body. 

2. add up all the dart depth values you measured, to calculate the total dart depth (DD).

DD = FD + LD + BD

I wanted to note that terms dart depth and dart intake are only nominal, to help differentiate between the different ways we measured or calculated them for this particular post series. Normally, both terms are interchangeable, with dart intake being more common. 

3. subtract dart depth from dart intake to get the error value (e)

e = DI - DD

If you measured more or less accurately the difference between the two values should be about 0.5 to 1.5cm. If not, try to re-measure yourself.

We finished the measurements, readers. In the next post, we will calculate darts, and then, determine the location of the side seam. I hope you are not discouraged by the amount of information. Please do ask questions and post comments!

Previous Straight Skirt Draft Along (SSDA) posts:

Coming up:

SSDA 8: Calculating Darts
SSDA 9: Side Seam Placement
SSDA 10: The Measuring Session
SSDA 11: Drafting the Skirt
SSDA 12: Making a Toile and Analyzing the Fit

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Sewing Mystery Series: Threaded for Trouble

Readers, I am speechless.  I came across these mostly Southern Sewing Circle mystery titles through a newsletter, books that have been actually published on Amazon. What a use of a sew-related vocabulary! Or am I the only one having fun? Look at this language feast:

Sew Deadly
Death Threads
Pinned for Murder
Deadly Notions
Dangerous Alterations
Reap What You Sew
Remnants of Murder
Stitch Me Deadly
Dire Threads
Threaded for Trouble 
Quilt or Innocence
Taken in
Knot what it Seams
Thread and Buried
Deadly Patterns 
A Custom-Fit Crime
A Fitting End

I'm pleating for mercy, readers!


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