Archive | January, 2013

Revisiting the Fabiani Coat – and I Hit The Holy Grail

30 Jan

Guys. Remember when I made this coat last year?
Coat front
This is Vogue 2925, which is one of them special designer patterns from the 70s. The pattern is really wonderful – the instructions include light tailoring, with the pad stitching and the fancy interfacing and back stay and all that good stuff. I spent about a month working on the coat, from the muslin to the finishing touches – truly a labor of love. Sadly, I haven’t worn it much this year because I’ve lost weight and it doesn’t fit me as well as it did. But, ugh, whatever about that, that’s not the point of this post.

The point of this post is that I got an email a couple of weeks ago from someone who actually made the coat when the pattern was originally released in the 70s. AND she lives in Nashville. AND she wanted to meet up.



Fabiani coat - the original!

Fabiani coat - the original!

How many times have we looked at vintage patterns and thought, “I’d love to know who made that, for what purpose, and what fabric they used.” How excited do we get when we find little scraps of fabric or newspaper clippings in the pattern envelopes, offering a little hint to the pattern’s previous life? I don’t know about y’all, but my favorite part about vintage stuff is learning the history behind the people who previously owned them. So to say that I was excited to get to hash this stuff out in real time is a bit of an understatement.

Karen, the original owner/maker of the pattern, agreed to let me take some pictures of the coat and share some information about making it. We met up at Bread & Company on Sunday afternoon and ended up chatting for over 2 hours – about all kinds of stuff, not just sewing! Although sewing stuff came up too 🙂 We brought our coats and showed them off, compared sewing notes and talked about our fabric and finishing choices. You know, basically sewer’s heaven 🙂 The pictures of Karen above were taken in 1973 – she made the entire outfit (pants and top included) for a sewing contest. Although she didn’t win (which surprised me – but hold up, bc I got pictures of the winners too ahaha), she did win the regionals and got a Singer Genie sewing machine out of it.

Fabiani coat - the original!
The coat really is a thing of beauty – I think it’s waaaay better than mine, for sure! Karen said she spent an entire summer working on it for her tailoring class, and the workmanship is just amazing. So much detail and care went into everything – all the way down to how the buttons are sewn on.

Fabiani coat - the original!
Look at that beautiful top stitching!

Fabiani coat - the original!

Fabiani coat - the original!

Fabiani coat - the original!
I love how she added piping between the lining and the coating – as well as the fabric covered snaps.

Fabiani coat - the original!

Fabiani coat - the original!

Karen also brought the pattern envelopes, as well as swatches for all the garments she made. Sadly, the coat is the only piece that still exists, but between the pattern envelopes, swatches, and those 8×10 photos, you can get a pretty good idea of how the entire outfit turned out.

Fabiani coat - the original!
Here’s the coat – with swatches for coating (which cost $25/yard in 1973! Ouch!), lining, interlining, and the horsehair interfacing.

Fabiani coat - the original!
The turtleneck, and the knit fabric.

Fabiani coat - the original!
And the pantssss!! MAN, I wish these pants still existed!!!

After seeing all this stuff (and rubbing my hands all over the coat, bc SHIT), I was really curious to see who won the contest! It would have to be something amazing to win out over a hand-tailored, wool designer coat, you know?

The winners were separated by age groups – Karen was 17 at the time, so here are the people who beat her out:
Fabiani coat - the original!
WHY OH WHY did they not include the pattern numbers?! I need that Heidi-esque Vogue coat!!

Fabiani coat - the original!
Look at the age bracket for these winners – 13-15??? How…?

CFabiani coat - the original!IMG0021
How many 10 year olds do you know who can make a suit set? Or a hooded coat?? Mind blown over here.

And here’s the best part-
Fabiani coat - the original!
Karen let me try on the coat!! Ahhhahahaha, so awesome! It actually fits better than mine does, yeah?

Fabiani coat - the original!
Of course, this post wouldn’t be complete without a picture of us both wearing our coats 🙂

So yeah, that was a pretty cool way to spend a Sunday! I just love how sewing and blogging can bring people together like that. I had a wonderful time meeting with Karen and talking shop – and trying on that coat! Oh oh, she even gave me a copy of Seventeen magazine from 1976… I’ve been flipping through it over the past few days, and the advertisements alone are just amazing. I may have some post some pictures of that, too, there are even ones for sewing patterns 🙂 Big thanks to Karen – for emailing me, for meeting up with me, and for letting me post these pictures on my blog so we could all enjoy them!

In other news, I just wanted to give y’all a heads up about a Kickstarter that my best friend, Morgan, is raising money for right now. You may or may not remember my talking about when she joined the Peace Corps and moved to Macedonia – which was hard on all of us (but duh, especially me because I need my bestie 😉 ). She accomplished a lot in the year that she was there – in addition to teaching English, she opened a dance studio and taught dance camp. She is back in the US now, but she wants to return to the ‘donia and teach another dance camp this summer, hence the purpose of raising the funds. You can read more about the cause here, and contribute to the Kickstarter here – backing starts at $1. ONE DOLLAR, PEOPLE.

And in case you were wondering how the hell this relates to this here sewing blog (other than the fact that Morgan is my Life Partner and such as), I have been promised Macedonian fabrics. Here is the piece she bought me last year (it’s still waiting to be sewn; haven’t found the perfect pattern yet!), the softest, most beautiful cotton dream fabric. And obviously I need more. So let’s pull those dollars out and help me get more of that fabric. I mean, shucks. I might even get her to buy two pieces an host an awesome giveaway!

Oh, and Morgan also promised a video teaching us how to curse in Macedonian. So there’s that, too 😉


Completed: More Thurlows, With A Side Of Skinny

28 Jan

Fair warning #1: I almost resorted to calling these the Thinlows, but I refrained. You guys are welcome.
Fair warning #2: These pictures are really really terrible and I am sorry for that. I was saving to buy a new camera because mine sucks, and then I accidentally spent the money on something else that I decided I wanted more. Actually, I’m not sorry about that part.

Skinny Thurlows
Check out my new Thurlows! We are up to six pair at this point, so I understand if you are sick of this pattern now, but y’all gotta understand that I am just in love and we’re still honeymoonin’ strong over here. My TNT! My one true love! The Thurlow!

Skinny Thurlows
You’ll notice these are a bit different, in fact they went on a bit of a diet! As much as I loved those nice flared legs in the original pattern – I’m a skinny girl at heart, at least as far as my pants are concerned 😉 I’ve hemmed and hawwed for a few months now on how to properly execute the slim-down. I probably should have hemmed and hawwed just a little bit more because honestly, these aren’t exactly my best attempt! Blame it on a combination of bad pattern, er, combinations (which I’ll get to in just a second, so put your hands down!), as well as a tricky fabric choice. It was a learning curve, that’s for sure!

Skinny Thurlows
To get the legs skinny, I ended up merging the top of the Thurlow pattern with the legs of the Clover pattern. One issue I noticed right away with my tracing – and you probably notice this right away in these pictures – was that the grainlines for each pattern were TOTALLY different. Just skewing in completely different directions. So which grainline was I supposed to choose? I took a wild guess and stuck with the Thurlow grainline. Also, SPOILER: I picked wrong; look at those crazy wrinkles and folds and off-grain madness going on – the side seams are trying to so hard to wrap around my legs! WAH! First lesson learned here: pay attention to those grainlines. They need to go straight up and down the middle of the legs, which is why each pattern was so different.

Skinny Thurlows
Mistake #2 came from my fabric choice. I really like this fabric – it’s a very soft, wool-blend felt that I picked up at the Vogue store while I was in Chicago last year. It was super cheap, feels great against the skin, and I love the color/fuzzy soft texture. However, it has waaaaay too much stretch for this pattern. I don’t know if that saved the grainline fiasco or made it worse than ever, but the massive amounts of stretch definitely contribute to how these pants hang off my legs. Also, the sizing was horribly off, due to the stretch. I kept basting and taking in the sides – I took over 1″ off each side seam. The welt pockets are now too close together as a result; and the pants are still a little loose. Didn’t think that one through, I’m afraid! Second lesson learned: no stretch on these pants, at least not without sizing down first.

Skinny Thurlows
Here’s a better picture of my fails. Wrinkles all up and down the backs of the legs, and the welt pockets are sitting in a weird spot. Oh well!

Skinny Thurlows
I don’t think they’re all bad, though. They’re quite comfortable, thanks to the stretch and how soft the fabric is. And honestly – is the fit that much worse than RTW? I dunno.

Skinny Thurlows

Skinny Thurlows

Skinny Thurlows

Skinny Thurlows

I plan on revisiting these again, as I have not yet satisfied my need for skinny pants. I think I’ve got a better grasp on the grainline issue, but if anyone has words of wisdom they’d like to share – let’s hear it!

Skinny Thurlows

And yes, I still plan on wearing these. In all their wrinkly, off-grain glory.

Oh, Vogue.

24 Jan

Nothing like some Vogue-hate to cheer me up when I’m having a shitty week, amirite. Thanks, Vogue!

Vogue 1341
I don’t get this. It looks someone tried draping for the first time and failed as hard as they could possibly fail.

Vogue 1342
True story: I check my Google search terms every day (because they are hilarious and awesome) and my very favorite one was when someone found my blog by searching “buttcrack sundress.” I always wondered what a buttcrack sundress was. Now I will wonder no more.

V1340 (1)
Vogue 1340
From the puffy darts to the shitty fit to the sad attempt at whatever is going on there with the neckline, this dress makes my heart hurt.

Vogue 1337
No comment on the dress, I just think the pose is really really funny.

Vogue 1338
Y U mad, tho?

Vogue 1347
Vogue, stop trying to make the danglies happen.

Vogue 8873
The pattern describes this as a “fitted bodice.” I don’t know about you, but nothing about that bodice looked fitted to me.

Vogue 8870
Well, that pattern placement is just tragic.

Vogue 1345

Vogue 8887
I actually don’t mind this get-up too much (except for that pants length… yikes). I just wanted to make fun of her shoes.

Vogue 8879
The fuck is going on here.

Vogue 8883
Vogue, what did we just talk about regarding those danglies.

Vogue 8891
The prettiest beekeeper you ever did see.

I’m noticing a new trend here, in that NOTHING FUCKING FITS ANY OF THESE MODELS. What the hell! I know that most fashion magazines pin back the clothing to make it tight on the models, but ffs Vogue you had these things sewn for you. Could you not size down?? Compare the actual pants to the line drawing here. Those are not supposed to be Hammer pants, contrary to what the photo would have you believe. I’m just… I have no words. No words at all.

Vogue, go sit in the corner and think about what you’ve done.

Completed: The Charlotte Skirt

21 Jan

I always keep an on-going list of wardrobe staples (Cake, if you will) that I would like to get my sew on with. Knit dresses, a lightweight denim skirt, that cycling jacket, red straight-leg trousers (Sunni, I love you but I REALLY love your pants and I’m going to copy you aaand I hope that’s ok!), white tshirts… to name a few. One of the pieces that’s been on the list for the very longest was a red pencil skirt. I dunno why I’ve put this off for so long – red is basically a neutral as far as I’m concerned, and my wardrobe is quite lacking in pencil skirts these days. Sewing boring clothes can be, well, boring – but ain’t nothing boring about a handmade staple that gets the hell worn out of it all the time, amirite.

Charlotte Skirt
I did finally make that red pencil skirt, though.

This is the Charlotte skirt I was telling y’all about last week. It’s generously sized through the hips, so those of us whose hips don’t lie can still rock our pencil skirts with minimal size futzing and fretting. It’s like, living the dream. Oh yeah.

Charlotte Skirt
I went with the plain jane, no frills view as I really just wanted a plain ol’ red pencil skirt. I based my sizing experience off the Elisalex dress and cut a 6/10, which ended up being quite a bit too big and needed some shaving down the sides. Now that I’m looking at the pictures, I might need to adjust the darts for future skirts are there is definitely some slack chilling at the front. DAMMIT. It really doesn’t look that obvious in real life.

This is a very simple pattern to construct – there are only 3 pieces! I did make a few changes – shortened the hem by several inches (I think around 4″? Ladies, watch your petite selves – this skirt is long!), added a 4″ slit for walkability, and dropped in a full lining. Adding the lining was SUPER easy, by the way – I just cut out an extra front and back piece from the lining, sewed the darts and side seams as normal, and then dropped it in the shell of the skirt before attaching the waistband. As the skirt is wool (from the flea market, yeah!), it’s limited to winter wear which means tights – which means lining is a necessity.

Charlotte Skirt
I did have a little snafu with the sizing, once I put the waistband in. And by “little snafu,” I mean the skirt was too damn small and it measured out to like 2″ smaller than my actual waist measurement. WTF?! Fortunately, my zipper had giant seam allowances just hiding beneath the lining – as well as the waistband having a nice generous overlap for snaps – so 15 minutes of quality time with my seam ripper meant the skirt was saved. !!!

Charlotte Skirt
It does have a nice rear view.
Shit, I hope I don’t attract the Flickr weirdos with this picture.

Charlotte Skirt
It seems I have run out of things to say. Here is an artsy photograph for your consideration.

What’s on your staples-to-sew list?


19 Jan

Pardon the all-caps explosion here, but I’m freaking EXCITED AS FUCK right now!

I’m going to New York City in March!! YAAAAY!!

I am SO EXCITED to finally get to meet up with my favorite sewing-land babes, Sonja and Oona, as well as *finally* lurk the shit out of Mood… as well as the entire garment district, just, in general. Omg. Omg I can’t wait !!!

I know there are at least a good solid handful of y’all who also reside in and/or travel to New York on a regular basis so here’s my relevant question… anyone interested in a lil meet-up? I’m thinking Saturday March 9th (or we could do Friday the 8th! I just figured more people would be able to do a Saturday 😉 ), meeting up for drinks or food and then checking out some fabric stores! So yeah, let me know if you’re interested – either in the comments, or shoot me an email! I had so much fun at the Chicago meet-up, I want to recreate that day with some New Yorkers! Pleaseeee!! 😉

Here is a hideously bad picture of me the last time I was in New York, in 2008. As you can see, I was very excited about Grand Central Station.

And while I have your attention, I’d like to introduce y’all to my very first sponsor:
Hellooooo, Sweet Little Chickadee! Juli’s shop is full of patterns – both sewing and embroidery – as well as some of the cutest handmade jewelry I’ve ever seen. She just added some new patterns from The Maker’s Journal – a new-to-me company who is based out of Australia and has a LOT of cute undie patterns, omg.

And check this out – she had graciously agreed to give my US readers some free shipping love! Use the code “LLADYBIRDROCKS!” to get free US shipping – US orders under $35 get free first-class mail shipping, and US orders over $35 get free priority mail shipping. Combine that with the amazing pattern sale running right now, and yeah…. you really can’t beat that with a stick. The code is good now until 1/31/13, so hurry and get yo’ shop on 🙂

If you are interested in some sweet sponsor ad love (sewing and vintage related only, pls) of your very own, holler at me via email and we’ll see if we can work something out 😉

Since we love Andrew WK here, I feel like this song is quite appropriate.

Tutorial: The Paulie Pocket Top

18 Jan

stretch yourself header
This post is part of the Stretch Yourself Series hosted by Miriam of Mad Mim and Miranda of One Little Minute. This two week series is ALL ABOUT the love of knits, so go check it out!
I’ll be showing y’all some embellishment twist on a classic, along with Jessica of A Little Gray

Here she is – the Paulie Pocket Top!
Paulie Pocket Top
I KNOW. The name of this top is totally ridiculous & tacky – but what part about my life isn’t? 🙂

Paulie Pocket Top
You will need 3 different kinds of fabric to make this – something for the majority of the shirt (in whatever yardage you need to make your top), something to line the back of the pocket with (half a yard or so should be enough), and scraps for the pocket binding. For the binding, you don’t want to use anything that is too thin/floppy, or it’s not going to sit right – try something with a bit more body, like ribbing or a cotton knit.

Don’t forget your pattern! You can download it here. The edges of the paper are part of the band pieces; the lines just didn’t transfer over during the scan.
Be sure the test square prints out to 4″x4″ (or 10cmx10cm, if you fancy). The stretch guide is there for the binding fabric – you just want to make sure the 4″ piece stretches up to the length provided (or else your binding will not fit in the cut-outs). If it stretches more or less, that is fine, but you will need to adjust your pattern pieces accordingly.

Paulie Pocket Top
Cut all your pattern pieces from the main fabric as normal. For this tutorial, I am using the Renfrew pattern. Sew the shoulder seams as instructed (you don’t *have* to sew the shoulder seams first, but I like to because it helps with pocket placement – you can pull the shirt over your head and double-check in the mirror).

Now push the back of the shirt out of your way. We won’t be touching it for the rest of this tutorial.

Paulie Pocket Top
On the shirt front, measure on both sides the distance from where you want the bottom of your pockets to hit, keeping seam allowance in mind. I usually go with 1 3/4″. Mark this with a pin.

Paulie Pocket Top
Align the bottom of the pocket template with the pin and cut from the front of the shirt only.
(pst! I know my template has different wording – while putting together this tutorial, I hadn’t decided on a ~name~ for my pattern embellishment yet ;))

Paulie Pocket Top
Give the pocket piece to your cat to play with, idk.

Paulie Pocket Top
Cut 2 pieces of pocket ribbing, using the pocket band pattern piece.

Paulie Pocket Top
Fold in half lengthwise, wrong sides together, and press.

Paulie Pocket Top
Pin the pocket band to the pocket opening on the outside of the shirt, matching raw edges, notches, and ends. The pocket band will be smaller than the pocket opening – this is good, we are going to stretch that band to fit and give our pockets a nice curve. Do not overpin this – 3 pins is plenty.

Paulie Pocket Top
Start by anchoring one end of the pocket band to the pocket edge, and stop with the needle in the down position.

Paulie Pocket Top
Sew the band to the edge, stretching the band to fit as you go (don’t stretch the raw edge of the pocket- just the band! It’s much easier if you position it so the band is on top). Sew slowly and take your time. We ain’t in a hurry here.

Paulie Pocket Top
Once the band is sewn down, you can topstitch it on your sewing machine – using a twin needle or a regular ol’ zigzag stitch.

Paulie Pocket Top
You should end up with something like this. Ain’t that fancy! Let’s put a back to those pockets so our sides aren’t hanging out in the glory of the sun – unless you’re into that kinda stuff, eh, no judgement here.

Paulie Pocket Top
Measure from the bottom of the shirt front to about an inch above the pocket band. Mine is 9.5″, which is approximately how tall I need my pocket lining piece to be.

Paulie Pocket Top
Measure that same measurement from the bottom of your shirt front pattern piece and cut that from your pocket back fabric.

Paulie Pocket Top
Finish the top edge of your pocket back fabric – this is optional as we all know jersey doesn’t exactly unravel, but it’ll make the next step a little easier 🙂

Paulie Pocket Top
Lay the shirt front over the pocket lining piece you just cut, matching all raw edges. Pin along the pocket openings and shirt bottom to keep everything in place.

Paulie Pocket Top
Now, using your fingers to feel the edge of the top of the pocket lining underneath, carefully pin across the front of the shirt so both pieces are pinned together.

Paulie Pocket Top
Flip back periodically to make sure you catch both layers.

Paulie Pocket Top
Topstitch (again – you can use a twin needle or a zigzag) along the line you just pinned. Baste the side and bottom edges together.

And that’s it! You can go ahead and sew your shirt together as instructed by your pattern – treat the pocket-ed front as one piece.

Yay for embellished shirts!

Paulie Pocket Top

Paulie Pocket Top

Paulie Pocket Top

Special shout-out to this awkward picture:
Paulie Pocket Top
No idea why I look so emo here haha

Paulie Pocket Top
There! That’s better 😀

Completed: A Very Purple Simplicity 3178

16 Jan

Y’all. Can we talk about wool crepe for a minute? I just love this shit to tiny threadbare pieces and I wish everything I made had a wool crepe option. I love the spongy texture, the glorious drape, the magical body-temperature-regularity (yay, wool!), and the COLORS. Truly, everyone should have at least one experience rolling around in a uncut length of wool crepe. Especially if it is a jewel-toned wool crepe. Ooh la la.

For my first Mood Sewing Network project, I wanted that experience to include wool crepe. I have a beautiful 1940s Simplicity pattern that I knew would look amazing done up in such a fabric. And since we’re talking about ~my first time~, I decided to go all out with my bad self and splurge on silk crepe de chine lining and satin bias tape as well. The end result is very… purple.

Simplicity 3178
The pattern I used is Simplicity 3178, which is undated but looks to be from the late 30s/early 40s. I love vintage patterns because they always have sweet little details, like the darts on the elbows that provide gentle shaping for the sleeves and the shoulder yokes that are actually pockets (!!).

Simplicity 3178
The skirt is bias cut, so I finished the hem with 1″ horsehair braid to give it a nice flare.

Simplicity 3178
The pattern gives a couple of options for finishing the neckline – I went with the double collar (self fabric on top and ivory wool crepe at the bottom) and a giant bow!

Simplicity 3178
I didn’t have to make too many changes to the pattern to get a good fit. I took in the side seams by 1/2″, tapering up to the underarm. I also removed a whopping 9″ of length from the skirt – the original pattern pieces came all the way down to my ankles! Yeech!

Simplicity 3178
I reckon the pockets are totally unnecessary, but ughhh I love those little fuckers!

Simplicity 3178

Simplicity 3178
This baby is also lined! Wool crepe really begs for a nice lining to give it some additional structure, and although the pattern doesn’t include pieces or instructions for adding a lining, it wasn’t too difficult to figure out. Unfortunately, I didn’t correctly calculate my yardages, so I didn’t have enough lining for the entire dress – which means the sleeves are not lined. I’ve noticed a distinct lack of lining in lots of dress sleeves, so this doesn’t bug me too much. Bonus plus: now you can see the pretty bias tape at the sleeve hems!
Also: lol at this hideously unflattering photo of me. IT WAS WINDY WHEN I TOOK THESE PICTURES, OK.

Simplicity 3178
The instructions do call for the sleeve slit and hems to be finished with bias tape, and then closed with a series of snaps. After trying the dress on during one of many fittings, I decided to flip the hems back to show the bias tape since the dress really needed a bit of color breakup. I pressed the cuff (wool crepe really does press so beautifully) and tacked down each side with a couple of hand stitches to keep everything in place. The neck bow is the same bias tape, just pressed completely open.

Simplicity 3178
I think the shoulders are my favorite part of the dress! Instead of using shoulder pads, I made a small stiff rectangle with horsehair interfacing and tacked that to the armholes like a sleeve head. It keeps the pleats from dropping too much and gives the dress those badass strong shoulders that were so fashionable in the 40s.

Simplicity 3178
Here you can better see the yoke pockets. I just think they are the coolest little detail! I wish they were big enough to hold my phone, but they’re just baarely too small. Hm, what do you think I could use them for? My seam ripper seems to fit 🙂

Simplicity 3178
Simplicity 3178
I worked hard to make the inside of this dress just as pretty as the outside. The yoke pockets and neck facings are lightly interfaced with silk organza, the facings are finished with satin bias tape, and I even rolled the hem lining and used tiny hand stitches to secure it. The collar is detachable – it’s current state of attachment involves basting stitches.

Simplicity 3178
Overall, I’m very happy with my dress – I love it’s snuggly wool warmth and did I mention purple? Because purple.

– Brittany of Viva Bang Bang, one of the MANY local Nashville bloggers who I’m just obsessed with (check out my sidebar; there are tons of us! WE ARE EVERYWHERE, YO), came to my house over the weekend and took a bunch of pictures of my sewing room. If you thought it looked cool before, definitely go check it out now because she made it look fucking amazing. Yay! Thank you so much, Brittany!!
– I’m sure some of y’all are into Project Runway, yes? Even if you’re not (that would be me, haha. Guilty!), you should totally watch this season because my homegirl Amanda Valentine is one of the designers and she is super rad and you should support her. I mean, they called her a bitch in the season preview. How sweet is that?! Haha!