Saturday, November 29, 2014

Top 5 Craftsy class picks for up to $19 during Black Friday Sale

I try not to write too many Craftsy promotion posts, but this is the sale you can't miss. It's the Black Friday Sale, readers, and it lasts only until Monday! The sale I was waiting for myself to purchase a few new classes for less than a half of the initial price.

It seems only a few sewing classes were added since in the past three months. However, those few classes that were added are really good. Here are my picks:

Fitting Essentials: Customize Your Dress Form with Judy Jackson

This is probably the class that everyone was waiting for. It starts with choosing correct dress form, comparing different options available on the market, as well choosing the right size.

This class addresses many aspects of fitting that lack in other classes. Take measuring for example. Judy Jackson takes depth measurements that are crucial for proper dimensions of the final dress form. I use depth dimensions when drafting my patterns a lot, but it is the first time I see someone use it on Craftsy or in any other instruction format.

Two lessons are dedicated to the dress cover, choosing appropriate fabric, altering the pattern, cutting and fitting. Judy goes into detail about padding as well. She discusses the process for all dress form types: studio, adjustable and the foam. In the final lesson, the padded dress form is compared to the model and finishing touches are added to the cover.

It is a very good class definitely worth taking if you don't have a professional who can help you create your dress form.

Creating Any Size: Pattern Grading for Sewers with Kathleen Cheetham

How often do we stumble upon adorable vintage patterns, which are unfortunately not available in our size? Happened to me a lot. Luckily though, there is now a Craftsy course that teaches you how to grade patterns, that is create replica of a garment that is in exact proportion to the original.

Grading is a discipline of it's own, and this class is only an introduction to grading. Don't expect wonders, but it will help you understand the basic principles and grade up or down simple patterns.

The technique which Kathleen Cheetham is using for the class is cut and spread technique, and it is a foundation for advance grading. Suggested reading in class materials helps find resources that will advance your grading skills.

The presentation of grading techniques starts with multi-size patterns. Kathleen works with a bodice pattern in size range 14-24 and grades it down to size 12. The next project is a multi-size pattern for pants, which are graded two sizes up. She demonstrates how to grade crotch, fly and darts, as well as pocket and waistband.  

Single-size pattern grading is demonstrated on a skirt, which is graded up two sizes using slash and spread technique.

In the following lesson a single-size blouse is graded down one size. There is more detail in this style than in previous projects shown in the class. The blouse has more darts in bust, torso and shoulder area. Kathleen shows how to true seams and match notches, as well as how to grade facings and a collar.

Final lesson is dedicated to sleeve grading, and pattern stacking, which is a way to check if the patterns were graded correctly.

Overall, it is a great foundation class that is worth taking if you want to get acquainted with basic grading techniques, grade simple projects and, at some point, learn more about it.

Sew Better Bags: the Weekend Duffel with Betz White

I am not a bag sewer, but a nice duffel bag is something I have been looking for for a while. I like the design, with the only thing I'd potentially change is go for wider straps and use a different material, maybe adding leather for contrast details. The pattern is available for download from the class page. The class itself is very thorough without being too overwhelming.  By the way, Betz White also teaches two other classes Fab Felt Holiday Crafts and Project Upcycle, but those were rather weak in comparison.

Essential Techniques Every Knitter Should Know with Sally Melville

If you don't like knitting ignore this class. I finally picked a knitting essentials class as I can hold knitting needles again, yay. I stopped knitting eight years ago, when my first daughter was born and I got arthritis. As much as enjoyed knitting before I could not do it anymore because of the constant nagging pain. Sewing was somewhat easier in comparison, because there is no continuous strain to joints - I could take breaks from hand sewing. Now, in Cyprus, by some miracle, or because of climate change, the pain almost disappeared... What a difference it makes... In any case I am back to knitting and I am very excited about it.

As for the class, it covers gauge making, casting on, bind offs, selvages and tails, increases and decreases, seaming, picking up and knitting. Shortly, all the essential elements for a successful knitting project.  For me, it's what I was lacking in my knitting. I can knit all the intricate patterns, but I was usually off the size, the seaming was rather rough, and adding necklines by picking up and knitting didn't look good at all. With only a few lessons from this class I feel my knitting is already improving a lot and I can start making more fitted projects.

Miniature French Deserts: Macarons, Madeleines and More with Colette Christian.

Reviewing a baking class on a couture blog is probably not something you would expect. But, readers, macarons are extremely good for your sewing moral, so go sign up for it!

Two lessons are dedicated to macarons, starting with a 'basic french macaron' and, then, customizing macarons and filling them...

I bought this class for Macarons, but the true discovery were the amazing Lemon Tartlets.  Colette teaches how to make a sweet tart dough, tasty lemon curd, Italian merengue and then shows how to caramelize the merengue. This is such a yummy treat, readers, I will be making those tartlets over and over again. Besides, I have to use up lemons I regularly get from our neighbour's lemon grove.

You will also learn how to make Mocha and Citrus Madeleines and, finally, a Classic opera Cake. I haven't tried making it yet - I have never tried it actually - so there is very little I can say about it, except that the lessons cover in detail everything you need to know to create this elaborate cake.

That was it.  I hope this review will be helpful for those of you who were considering purchasing these classes. For the previous sale favorites, check out my posts from September and August.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Inspiration: Bell-shaped skirts

 I am in love with fluted skirts. I think this is a description everyone will understand, although it is also called trumpet skirt, bell-shaped skirt, mermaid skirt, peplum-hem skirt, fit-and-flare ...

Now, while there are a lot of young and slim women wearing this shape in different lengths, I think it is a great skirt for women with curves as well. My body is changing outward and I am in search for shapes that package those new curves nicely.  The flare at the hemline provides a great balance to curvaceous hips.

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I already got fabric laid out and all ready to start working on my version of the trend. It is based on my straight skirt sloper. I will be adding just a little extra width at the hem, and sew on the flounce, which is cut like a circle skirt. I will keep my hem just below the knee, and the flounce will be almost the same length as the main skirt.

What about you? Do you like this trend? Will consider sewing a similar skirt for this season. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Crossover Pleat Skirt Draft-Along 8: Tracing Front Pieces

To complete our draft-along, here is the final part - tracing the front pieces. When I posted the previous post - tracing back pieces - my husband thought it was too complicated... So I thought I will try to make it easier for you and show it step-by-step.  Judging by the amount of comments here I can only guess what reaction I have caused by these posts. Please tell me honestly if this was too much!

1. Trace the center front piece (red outline)

2. Trace side front piece (cut two as mirror image)

3. For the pleat pattern, first trace pleat depth pieces (yellow and orange outline)

4. Trace the pleat itself (purple outline)

Join traced pleat depth pieces with the pleat piece matching outside foldlines.

You should end up with 5 front pattern pieces. Notches below indicate how the pieces are connected to each other.

For the waist band, you can cut a rectangle to match the waist measure, incl. 2 cm ease. Allow for seams and the closure.

The closure on the original skirt is in the side seam. However, you can also place the zipper at center back.

I hope this draft-along was not too complicated. I would be happy to answer your questions here or on the dedicated thread on Couture Collective. And, please, do leave your feedback on this draft-along. What was done well?.. what could be improved?.. I really need your constructive input as I would like to offer more of this, also as a teacher. Thanks for following!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Crossover Pleat Skirt Draft-Along 7: Tracing Back Pieces

This (short) post will help you to trace pattern pieces and join them in correct order. Each traced piece is color coded, I am showing how to join the pieces for one half of the skirt. The other half should be done as a mirror image.

On the piece 2 (center back), you will need to join the three traced pieces (orange piece was traced on fold). The seam with two notches connects to the side back. Three notches are used for the center back seam. One notch is used to indicate side seam.

Placement of the grainlines (blue lines on the illustration) was discussed in Part Two. The center back grainline divides the pleat (the purple piece) in two equal parts. For the side back grainline divide the waistline and hem sections in half and draw the grainline through those midpoints.

Let me know if you have any questions on the Couture Collective forum, or post a comment here.

Crossover Pleat Skirt Draft-Along 6: Drafting the Front

The final drafting post is done, readers. It took me a while to find explanation to certain construction decisions, but now it's all over. The only post that I plan to upload for this draft-along is final pattern layout, including tracing individual pieces and placement of grainlines. But back to front pleats. 

The front pleats are quite different from the back pleats as they are drafted at an angle, crossing over and overlapping at center front. Additional width is given to the front pleats to allow for overlapping. 

Let's look at the pleat width first. The distance from the center front to the outside foldline of the pleat toward the side seam is the same as in the back (or 1/3 of the back (or front) waist measurement). About a half of that width to allow for the crossover at the center front on the waistline. On my skirt, the total width is 17 cm, with 5 cm used for the crossover. 

Here is the final draft of the skirt. As before, I am drawing on the master pattern which we drafted in Part One.

We start marking the front pleat width on the skirt.

On the waistline, measure 12cm  (pleat width without crossover allowance; use your calculation) to the left from the center front. Mark as point P.

Draw a line from A through P to the hemline, marking point Q. Mark the line PQ as outside foldline.

Repeat the same with the right fold for the line RS, measuring 12cm  to the right of the center front this time. Mark as outside foldline.

As next, we will draft the overlapping outside foldlines of these two pleats.

On the waistline, measure 5cm (or about 1/2 of the back pleat; use your calculation) to the right from the center front. Mark as point T.

On the hemline, measure about half of the front pleat to the left of the center front mark (J). Mark as point U. Connect point T with point U, mark as outside foldline.

Note: The angle for this foldline is chosen following design lines, not the construction necessity. I see it as the weakest point in the whole garment, as it will be most prone to distortion and dragging. However, it is possible to address this issue by choosing more stable fabric, increasing pleat depth, and introducing a seam in the inside foldline.

Repeat the same for the right outside foldline VW. Mark as outside foldline.

Inside foldlines are drafted as parallel lines to the outside foldlines. First draft inside foldlines parallel to the lines PQ and RS, measuring half of the front pleat from each line towards the center front. Mark as inside foldline / seam

For the other two inside foldlines / seams, inside the pleat measure from the point T the width of the front pleat minus 2cm, and, from that point draft a line parallel to TU.  
Repeat the same for the other inside foldline / seam, drawing a parallel line to VW.

In the final post this week I will explain how to trace pattern pieces from this master pattern, as well as look into the placement of grainlines. 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Couture-worthy garments in Burdastyle November

I like writing reviews, but considering how many people may review one and the same magazine I thought I'd go beyond my personal picks and give you an overview of the garments that can benefit from couture construction. 

So, here are my picks:

109A, Burdastyle magazine 11/2014
I like this foulard coat (#109A) a lot. The pattern mix is beautiful, and meticulous sewing will make it look luxurious. I would love to make this coat, but finding the right fabrics will be impossible here in Cyprus... Interestingly, Burdastyle suggests underlining this coat with fine mesh - first time I see it in a commercial pattern magazine. There are different underlining options to hold the structure I think. For a lightweight construction - silk organza is a good choice. For a drapier and heavier feel I can imagine using cotton batiste, or something slightly less lightweight. Or you can go even heavier and more structure with cotton flannel. I think the latter would be my favourite.

112, Burdastyle magazine 11/2014

This skirt has an unusual yoke, front pleat and a beautiful belt. BurdaStyle version is made in silk crepe-de-chine, which can be challenging because the seams that connect the yoke with the skirt are off grain. You can see puckering in these areas on the picture. In addition, the yoke looks somewhat droopy. Underlining the yoke, and the skirt, would help.  In addition, careful handling of fabric and hand basting is necessary with this style. Finally, I think, if you are reluctant to sew with silk, wool crepe is an excellent choice for this skirt as well, especially for the colder season.

105 A, Burdastyle magazine 11/2014
This blouse is very simple, but in silk it can become a staple for the office,  or formal and special occasion wardrobe. It looks excellent with these cropped pants and heels or a pencil skirt. The neckline and the back slit is finished with a facing, hems are blind stitched. There is an illustrated tutorial for this blouse in the magazine, and I see no reason to do it differently. If you choose lightweight silk you can up the game by underlining with self-fabric to give the blouse a heavier drape and hand-overcasting the seam allowances to avoid bulk.

The following six dresses are a Burdastyle take on iconic gowns from the Hollywood classics. There are only a few occasions in life when you can wear a dress like one of those below, but if you are in need of a wedding or prom dress... Making them using couture construction would be the only option for me. It would be impossible to squeeze in the techniques that you could use so I will just limit it to a very few notes about the garment.

107, Burdastyle magazine 11/2014
This dress is inspired by the dress worn by Leslie Caron in An American in Paris (1951). It requires 6.5 meters of crepe - chiffon (one of the most difficult fabrics to work with, if not the most difficult), and 2.5 of silk charmeuse to underline the main dress. More than a half of the fabric is used to cut circular flounces, which are not finished and hang more or less free, stitched to the skirt only along first few centimetres. Cutting this dress would take a while, but the effect is well worth it.

118, Burdastyle magazine 11/2014
A Ginger Alstaire dress that she wore in Swing Time (1936). The full-circle skirt is pleated giving it a great swing. I am not a big fan of the pleated and bowed collar, but love the overall silhouette - I am just a big fan of 30s fashion. The dress is made in crepe. A mix with synthetic fibre is suggested to make the pleating hold.

119. Burdastyle magazine 11/2014
Casino Royale (2006) dress worn by Eva Green. Here is a garment that doesn't use thaat much fabric, doesn't require pleating, and the crepe it is made of is not as difficult to work with. What you will need though is some skill working with boning. Susan Khalje's Bridal Couture is an excellent reference book for a garment like this.

120, Burdastyle magazine 11/2014
Now, who doesn't know this dress worn by Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman (1990)? The biggest problem with the Burdastyle version is the draping, which is much much more subtle on the original. Why not drape chiffon over crepe - it would create much finer folds?

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Berenice Marlohe wore a very similar dress as a Bond Girl in Skyfall (2012). The original has 60,000 crystals all applied by hand, and it took half a year to finish the dress. It doesn't have draping on the centre front and back, which, in my opinion, is a redundant detail in the Burdastyle version. If I was to make this dress I would eliminate the draping ( it easy - just trace lining pattern pieces) and work with beaded lace. The dress requires 2.5 m of lace, and after cutting there are always enough scraps left for a striking appliqué along the seamlines on the black crepe.

122, Burdastyle magazine 11/2014
Phew, the final and favourite one. This five-meter duchesse dress is inspired by the piece worn by Merilyn Monroe in How to Marry a Millionaire (1953). I could also make a simpler version for an evening dress, shortening the length and removing the overskirt/train. I love dreaming, you know) Boning is a must here too, but overall it is not really difficult to make. 

Ok, finally, after talking so much couture, I have an instant (!) gratification project to add. This coat is just that. Very easy to make, I would probably go for boiled wool with a print, no need to finish the seams beyond stitching close to the edge (just in case). It's an easy style for a casual stroll in the city. Love it.  

116, Burdastyle magazine 11/2014
What about you? Have you found anything interesting in the latest issue of Burdastyle magazine? What projects are you looking for now, with only a few weeks left before Thanksgiving and Christmas? 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Crossover Pleat Skirt Draft Along 5: Drafting the Back

I hope you had a happy halloween, readers. Sorry I haven't offered you any spine-chilling stories on the occasion (children kept me busy throughout the entire last week), but I enjoyed reading about Oonaballoona's post-drink? spooky encounter with a ghost.  Oona, keep it coming, pls.

... but back to the nerdy business our draft-along, readers. It takes me longer than anticipated to produce those pattern illustrations (but skills are improving, yay), and even longer to explain them properly. So, bear with me please.

In this post, I wanted to show how I drafted the back with pleats. Usually, the pleats on circular skirt are drafted as a circle segment (or a cone insert), including the entire pleat depth. In this skirt - I will stay more or less true to the original design/pattern - the visible part of the pleats is drafted as a circle segment, while the pleat depth is a simple rectangle. Those rectangles overlap creating five layers of fabric at the waistline - something to consider when choosing the skirt fabric (!)


In the back, the skirt has two box pleats which meet at center back. Each pleat is appr. one third of the back waistline circumference. It seems to be a good proportion, so I will do the same on my skirt.

The waist circumference is divided equally between the back and the front, or 35.5 cm for each in my case. There is no need to be very precise here, so I am just rounding up the result.

Pleat width = 35.5 cm / 3 ≈ 12 cm

I am drawing on my master pattern, which I drafted in my previous post. On the waistline, measure 12cm to the left from the center back. Mark as point L

Draw a line from A through L to the hemline, marking point M. Mark the line LM as outside foldline.

Repeat the same with the right fold for the line NO. Mark as outside foldline.

Since the pleats meet at center back, mark this line as outside foldlines.

I removed those additional letters from the illustration since they were overcrowding it. But the lines are marked and you can easily see how the pattern is drafted. If you notice any typos, however, let me know in a comment please.


The pleat depth in this skirt is a rectangle, not a cone as I mentioned before. In addition, each pleat depth is almost as wide as the pleat itself, so the pleats overlap.

For this step I am taking the pleat width of 11cm, leaving 1cm of the remaining pleat width for the seam allowance on one of the two inside fold lines for each pleat. Phew, I hope you can still follow me )

Working on the left pleat (to start with), on the waistline measure 11cm from I (center back) and from L, marking points I' and L'.

On the hemline measure 11cm from K (center back) and from M, marking points K' and M'.

Connect L' with M', marking the line as inside foldline/seamline.

Connect I' with K', marking the line as inside foldline.

Repeat the same with the right pleat, marking the inside fold points as I", K", N' and M'.


Trace the pattern onto a new sheet of pattern paper. Mark the inside foldlines with dashed lines.

Cut the traced pattern along the outside foldlines and center back line (five cutting lines).

Using a piece of folded tracing paper, trace each inside fold/rectangle - the fold of the tracing paper aligned should be aligned with the inside foldline. The lines at the waist and the hem will be slightly curved. Unfold tracing paper, mark the folding line as inside foldline and insert into the respective outside foldline guide, which was previously cut apart.

Cut along two inside foldlines (L'M' and N'O'), which are also seamlines that connect center back and side back pieces. These lines are marked as inside foldline/seam on the illustration.  Mark accordingly.

You will end up with four pattern pieces for the back. Mark as left center back, right center back, left side back, right side back. With so many pattern pieces it is easier to cut them on one layer of fabric, and precise labeling of pattern pieces is helpful in order to avoid mistakes.


Let's start with the grainline on the two center back pieces. Placing pleats on grain will give them some stability, so center the grainline on the pleat by drawing the line from A through mid-point between the two outside foldlines on each pleat.

On the finished side back pieces, center the grainlines using the above method as well.

I hope you can follow these instructions. If you have any questions we can discuss this part in the Couture Collective thread, or leave a comment here, and I will also copy it there.


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