Thursday, September 22, 2022

The Fractal 1.0

I'm wearing the sample they provide for trying out sizes.

In April, I was lucky enough to attend my second workshop at Alabama Chanin in Florence SC. It was such a fun and inspiring time with fellow sewing enthusiasts and gorgeous clothing. The price includes one kit. This time I chose the fractal dress, an interesting silhouette with 21 sections - 4 upper fronts, 4 lower fronts, 4 upper backs, 4 lower backs, 2 piece dolman sleeves, and a collar.

  • Pattern: Fractal dress, size S
  • Outer knit: brown (earth)
  • Inner knit: brown (earth)
  • Stencil: Abbie's Flower
  • Embroidery floss: Dove

There was a version of the Peacoat displayed in the AC shop with this stencil and color scheme. All of us drooled over it. 

Sample from the Peacoat on Display

The first time I attended an AC workshop, I chose the Peacoat as my project so I did not want another version of that particular pattern. Instead I chose the Fractal dress with the same stencil and color scheme.

Each kit comes with an 8x10 sample of the stenciled fabric and another 8x10 without the stencil for trying out ideas. I used negative reverse applique on my sample and concluded that I did not like that effect. (Note to self: it actually looks nice, so maybe I'll use it on a future project.)

So I returned to my trusty reverse applique. I used this in my Peacoat and enjoyed the entire process. I completed one section with that in mind before bailing and selecting a different approach.

One sleeve section, stitched double layer, nothing cut away

My 3rd and final selection was to use a single layer of the knit. Nothing will be cut away, of course. I am using a version of the back-stitch to outline the motifs. I really, really like the way that sort-of choppy back-stitch relates to the leaf shapes. At first, I worried about that choppy stitching but then I embraced it as very leaf-like. I use 2 strands of the Dove embroidery floss. 

This version of the dress is on-going. The stitching is very time-consuming and meditative. I don't want it to end! You can see how far I've progressed in the picture above. Of course, my decision to stitch single-layer presented me with another whole dress without any stenciling. How fun is that!?!

Tried out the Herringbone stitch in Dove floss

After a particularly inspiring session at my ASG neighborhood group, City-wide Couture, with our local beautiful Toni Morrison, I was anxious to try her idea of stitching wrong sides together (WST), using a decorative stitch to keep the seams pressed open. The seam allowances are only 1/4" so it's hard to keep the seams pressed open otherwise.

Feather stitch in Dove gray floss

Though I do love the Dove (light gray) floss against this dark brown, I wanted something a little different. I am surprised by how much I like this burnt orange against that dark brown. I am enjoying thinking about fall clothes and this combination fits in nicely. 

I sewed the underarm seams right sides together per usual, choosing to accent the other WST seams with my go-to elastic stitch, the feather stitch. It was such great fun. And I've decided that this is a top, rather than another Fractal dress.

Yes, it's a bit short for a top, but I think it will be fun to wear. And I'm amazed at how well it coordinates with clothes in my closet, some quite old. 

I had a great time playing dress-up with it.

With my linen Pearl jacket, TSW pattern Pearl and Opal

With my Japanese cotton vest, Cutting Line Design pattern Artist in Motion

Cotton home-dec fabric, TSW Plaza jacket

My first and last Coco jacket in silk home-dec fabric

Monday, September 19, 2022

The (Sub)urban Jacket

This was quite the snake-bit project, primarily of my own making. A while back, I admired sewing friend Charlotte's rendition of this unusual design. She described it as seriously challenging and even shared her modifications created with a Butterick pattern. I sure wish I had a picture of hers. It is fabulous with its hood and long sleeves.

In the beginning, I was optimistic, sure of myself. I even have fabric in stash that is similar to the fabric on the front of the pattern envelope. I was sure that I could do this!

Yes, the instructions were a bit of a conundrum to me but I pre-disposed myself to thinking "This will be difficult." Attitude is everything.

This is a Diane Ericson design. I do love her work. I drool over her journal entries every time one drops in my email. Much inspiration! I think to myself - I can do that too.

But I made so, so many mistakes. I don't think I can remember them all to include in this post and who wants to see all that anyway?!?

One mistake I made that tripped me up was cutting 2 of the collar/facing piece when I really needed 4. That took me for a long ride that included other related mistakes.

The design includes welt pockets, a close cousin to bound buttonholes, as I'm sure you know. I played around with some samples and decided that a real welt pocket would introduce too much bulk for my taste. I made a simple faced pocket opening and used the pattern pocket backing to finish it. And, after all, this was intended to be a wearable muslin.

(I do like this picture a lot. I like the way the flange causes the back to swing to the front)

As always, I had a limited amount of this while denim. I thought I could cut out a sleeveless jacket, keeping the hood and other details. If I had paid attention to the number of needed collar/facing pieces, I might have actually done that. Or maybe not.

When I finally sorted out the collar/facing error in cutting, I had to harvest another piece from the hood. That "other piece" turned out to be a lining piece that I did not use, as I had no intention of lining a wearable muslin. I guess that once I decided I would struggle with this, I made sure that I struggled with this.

Oh well, I did get the experience of making the hood before that debacle. No pictures of that.

I had fun decorating this separating zipper. It's just a white zipper with black permanent marker applied to it. An idea from Diane, I'm pretty sure.

I still did not have enough for 4 of the collar/facing piece. So you can see that I used the black and white print. Not bad, I said to myself. I can live with this.

The black and white was also useful for creating bias binding for the armholes. The armholes never did completely sort out for me. Perhaps they are good with sleeves, but there was a funny way that it cut away from my body at the base of the armhole. I just reshaped it to my satisfaction.

This was an interesting project and the wearable muslin idea has served its purpose. This is not a good silhouette on me. Seriously I don't think I like a boxy short vest over a longer top. And I definitely do not tuck in shirts these days. 

I'll chalk this up to a learning experience. I've got my attitude back under control.

Which of Diane's patterns should I make next? I can do this!

Saturday, September 10, 2022


A few weeks ago, a sewing friend and I made a presentation on closures to our ASG neighborhood group, Citywide Couture. So, of course, the Ericson sewing duo was central to my part.

I started with this closure idea from Diane Ericson's online journal. The pattern is the High Five, a joint production from Linda Lee and Louise Cutting. It is mostly rectangles, a super simple sewing project. I had made it as a jacket. This time I made it as a top.

The fabric is interesting, A fellow student in my Susan Brandeis class, Veronica, represents the Diamond company. She brought in her samples for the students to view. She sells to a local quilt store where I was able to find only a limited selection. 

From the limited selection, this deep burgundy with pink crosses spoke to me. I bought 1.5 yard on spec (the way I usually buy fabric). The crosses are formed with long floats on the back. This worried me for a while as they seemed to catch on everything while I was sewing. It does not seem to be a problem now that I'm wearing it. 

Per usual, I was short of fabric. So I used a remnant for the sleeves, as well as the closures. This piece was gifted to me by my then-future SIL, something he brought back from a trip to South Africa. I had enough for the sleeves and the bias strips that make up the buttons.

The "buttons" are formed by simply sewing a 3-4" strip to the spot where I button would be and then tying in a simple overhand knot. Diane suggested painting the ends to discourage fraying. I used a copper colored paint for that. It hardly shows, but was fun to do.

And, of course, I showed my fellow sewists at ASG some books by the undisputed queen of creative closure, Lois Ericson. Her publications are such a treasure trove of ideas - more than could possibly be explored in one lifetime. But she did!

The other closure I presented was the Spanish snap buttonhole as explained in this Roberta Carr publication. It has become my go-to for couture techniques since ASG Atlanta offered a class with her protege, Marla Kazell. 

As you may know, the Spanish snap buttonhole is actually just a faced buttonhole. By using a bias cut hole facing in a contrasting color, you create tiny lips that show on the inside edges of the hole. The "snap" occurs when you turn the facing to the inside and give it a snap to place it. 

It needs another faced hole on the garments back side for a truly couture look. My mastery of that part is not up to par yet. Or maybe I should find a piece of silk organza that matches the fabric better than my sample below does.

I still need to work on my bound button hole skills, someday. Right now I'd much rather spend my time on creative closure, especially closures using bias tubes.

Monday, September 5, 2022

Camp Shirt Happiness

Happiness is...

A 16 year old grandchild who loves the item you made, just for them!

First the fabric. I spotted it when I was lucky enough to visit Mulberry Silks and Fine Fabrics in Carrboro NC. Hubs and I were on our way to visit our grandson who lives in Raleigh NC. Our son plus wife and daughter rented a house there so that we all could visit and catch up. It was delightful. 

Back to the fabric. It's probably quilt weight but I don't care. I kept circling the store and returning to it. It came home with me. When I showed it to the 16 year old (SYO), there was a squeel of delight. I knew immediately it should become something for not-me. 

I wanted the print to be about foxes but it is definitely squirrels. Foxes don't climb trees, it seems. Oh well. 

Aren't the colors wonderful? We have a lot of squirrels around here but they are not this wonderful color. SYO has a sweat shirt the exact color of the fox-squirrels. 

After some consideration, I decided upon the Cutting Line Design shirt in the Easy, Ageless, Cool envelope. I had made it once before for moi and did not like it on me. But it seemed like the style SYO gravitates towards. 

Size was not a huge deal because this is a loose fitting shirt, but SYO is petite so I went with a size S. The size is just right!

The cutting of it was slow-going. I wanted to match as much as I could. I think I succeeded with the center fronts, as well as the chest pocket. I forgot to check the side seams before gifting it.

Making it was such fun. I immediately went into the zen zone. This style is simple - slightly dropped shoulder inserted flat, convertible collar, front and back facings to enclose the raw seams of the collar, side seam vents. It was totally meditative.

I made one tiny change to the pattern, converting the Louise-Cutting version of mitered corners (at the hem) to the Linda-Lee version.

I need to make another shirt now. It is so predictable and cooperative. And I love the top-stitching part, even when it doesn't show. The next time I make this, I expect I'll add a yoke. I do love that shirt detail missing from this pattern.

Before gifting it, I did try it on, just in case it got shoved into the back of the closet at SYO's house. But I do not think that will happen. SYO is pretty honest with me. And I see happiness here.