Saturday, July 23, 2016

"Know When to Hold 'Em...Know When to Fold 'Em..."

The classic betting advice from an old Kenny Rogers song is true for my sewing projects as well.  Sometimes it's just good to cut your losses and move on to a more successful project.  
Last weekend I had two days of sewing and fitting at Sarah Veblen's "Choose Your Focus" workshop Sarah Veblen's class offerings  There were seven of us attending from near and far.  I had spent some of my "idle" home renovation time sewing up and marking seven different mock ups so I could pack them up for Sarah to fit on me and to give me some design and fabric choice ideas.  
I attended two of the offered days, Friday and Sunday and found it a wonderful use of my time. First of all, it made me evaluate my TNT patterns and analyze where there are gaps.  I don't sew everything I wear, nor do I want to.  I have way too many other interests to focus on that concept. My life is rather low key and casual and knit tops are easier for me to fit at home so I didn't need Sarah's help for any of those.  (Of course I am soooooo fortunate that I can easily book time with Sarah if I need tweaking something since she lives about 20 minutes from my house.)  I have pants patterns that work well enough for my lifestyle....the Elenore pull on jean is my current favorite and I have an older bootcut Burda pattern for fabrics with drape that I can rely upon.  So what I decided to focus on A) a fitted sheath dress or two nailed down as a staple.  Carolyn Diary of a Sewing Fanatic has pulled that off magnificently for years.  I had a go at it when we were Florida snowbirds but although my dresses were wearable, they weren't yet perfect. McCalls 6201 I even had Sarah fit me in a different sheath a few years ago but I didn't love love my stretch woven version when I finished it.  Vogue 8828  then B) some patterns for simple woven tops since I already have knits in my repertoire and C) maybe a fun, slightly (but only slightly :-) funky jacket.  Well, two our of three ideas came to fruition.

Here are my mock ups and the patterns I decided to focus on for those two days.  I decided that I wanted to use stretch woven fabric to do my dress fitting with Sarah.  I have a good number of stretch cottons in my "resource center" and they sew up nicely for a casual warm weather dress.  
The first pattern that Sarah pinned on me was that rather dated Burda #3247 dress but which has great bones to it.  Yes, I have to correct the shoulder slope, adjust the front darts, take out a wedge in the middle back but the waist darts were just fine and along with the back darts gave my rectangular body semblance of a nice shape.  I'll open up the neckline and it will be a very useful base pattern.
The most fun pattern was Vogue 8997 which I did as a swing dress.  Lovely lines and once I adjust those princess seams this will also be a fabulous base for all sorts of variations.  This very versatile pattern has a sheath version along with a two piece and flutter about a lot of bang for your Vogue buck!  My third success was a simple but oh so handy woven tunic top, McCalls 7357.  I have a large number of floaty silk and silky fabrics that want to become tunics and I needed something feminine without too much peasant look....which at my age turns into feudal peasant way too quickly.  Not many changes to this mock up at all so it might be a nice easy sewing project for my upcoming August sewing retreat.  

Last success was a very last minute mock up that I brought along in case Sarah had time.  It's a classic blouse pattern, McCalls 6750.
Yes, I can show you what we pinned and marked but it's rather boring:

When I signed up for Sarah's workshop I did not have any particular event in mind.  Since that date I've gotten a family invitation to my aunt and uncle's 50th anniversary at a country club in northern VA so a new dress will be perfect.  

Now, what about those things that did not work.  Oh, I really wanted Vogue 1069 in my closet.  But the mock up looked awful.  That low armhole with the sleeve gusset and my short waisted narrow shoulder very asymmetric body were a bad match.  So, with some help from Sarah, I can adapt what I do love about this pattern....the deep, long shawl collar, the shoulder princess seams, the wide full bottom....and add those elements to a fitted jacket pattern in my collection.  Knowing that makes it so much easier to say good-bye to this particular dream and drop kick this pattern out of my sewing space.

The next discard was that McCalls pattern.  I had actually already done one major fitting and alteration but still greatly disliked the huge bodice dart.  Those other two dresses were so lovely that when I put on this mock up, which was close to being moved into real fabric, I decided it was not flattering enough to bother pursuing.  Yes, I could make it "better" but the design just didn't work as nicely.  I do like the raised waist and again, can use those features and put them on a dress that works better on my body.  
Not particularly nice bust dart

I was happy with the two days of my fitting time with Sarah as well as the benefits of watching her fit other people.  Small 1/4 and even 1/8 inch tweaks can make a lovely difference in how something fits and flatters.  I had sewn up two additional dress patterns but they were rather mediocre once I had gotten fitting help on these two.  I'll tuck them away in my closet in case I want to pursue them later but right now I'm itching to get to work on these four new garments. 

The workshop finished up late Sunday afternoon and I would have loved to holed up in my sewing room all week.  But very kind friends asked us up a lake house they were renting in northern New York state.  It was a small, quiet, beautiful lake and we did enjoy time to read on the decks, kayak, take the small outboard around the lake and then have day trips to Montreal and a wonderful trail at Bear Mountain on larger Cranberry Lake.  
Cranberry Lake in New York's Adirondack Park
Meanwhile, back at home our appliances were installed and the backsplash tile set. We arrived home last night and are happy with how the project is turning out.  We are home for four days this week, then away with friends at another lake, before we settle back and start putting everything together in the new kitchen and family room.  Cleaning, organizing and decorating is in our future but at least the workmen will be gone and we can do this at our pace.  I love summer, even when it is hot like it is this week, and don't want to miss out on the great outdoor activities in Maryland.  There will be time for cabinets and drawers and pantries and curtains when the days are shorter and we want to cocoon once again.  Until then, here's hoping you have been picking good projects that fit your life and style.


  1. You are lucky for getting all that fitting help! Looking forward to seeing the "real thing" once you get around to sewing up those patterns.
    Glad that you're having such a lovely summer (and managing to stay away from the construction zone).

  2. I'm jealous of the trips to the lake. That should be wonderful this time of year. That was a great workshop that you got to go to with Sarah and it's great that she's close for ongoing advice. So glad that you got a couple of patterns fitted for you for future use!

  3. It's SO nice to get some fitting help and you made the most of it! Your trip to upstate NY sounds fabulous!

  4. Sounds like you had some valuable time with Sarah. I have taken an online class or two with her, but never met her in person. How nice for you to live so close to such great support!


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