Thursday, May 27, 2010

McCall 5041 Out Of Print

 Ok, this dress has been hanging out on my table for the last few days just waiting to be finished. Considering this is a dress I've sewn for the 5th time (the other 4 were sewn in my pre-blog days), I had way too many snaffu's this go around. For starters, I underestimated the amount of fabric I needed to cut the back panel and ended up short and having to sut the back on the bias. Boy that's never happened before!!! I didn't feel too nervous about this since poplin's a pretty stable fabric and the stretch on the bias wasn't too much.  But to keep the seams and zipper seam from stretching I stabilized the seams with stay tape. So I fixed that problem. Then I sewed in a perfect zipper on Saturday night only to cut the zipper stops off without adding less bulky new ones and the zipper came apart (eye rolling). Well at any rate, the dress is done, silly snaffu's and all, and it turned out quite nice. Here's the review....

McCall 5041

 Pattern Description:

Sleeveless princess seam dress with v-neck slit, back zipper and back split

Pattern Sizing:
I cut the size 12

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?

Were the instructions easy to follow?
Yes, super easy!

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
I love the v-neck slit and the princess seam design.

Fabric Used:
Cotton poplin in black with burgundy, pink, and white flowers.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:
I folded 1 1/4" out of the center back panels since I have a narrow back.
Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?

This is an awesome pattern. It's easy to sew and yields such chic results! It's definitely my TNT princess seam dress. I've made at least 4 others of these. Unfortunately it's OOP but it would be worth tracking down. You definitely won't be dissapointed!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The drought is over.... I've finally bought some fabric!

I've refrained  from buying fabric since I haven't seen any good deals as of late. You see I don't live in a city overrun with fabric stores where I could potentially go broke all of the time. Rather, I live where there is one Joann & one Hancock fabrics, and to be quite honest, I'm not really impressed with the selection at either store. Maybe I'm hard to please or maybe I'm looking for a store that stocks printed knits from floor to ceiling.

 So for me, fabric shopping usually happens in spells and I'm not too reluctant about buying good fabric when I see it (especially on sale) because I know that I might experience a "drought" and go weeks without buying fabric.

Well after not buying fabric for what seemed like forever, I was pretty excited when I found the pieces pictured above. The cast of characters are as follows (from left to right):

*Turquoise floral swimsuit fabric- I got this from Joann and with coupon it was maybe $6/yd and I only bought 1 1/4 yd which is more than enough for a swimsuit. I know I already have 4 other swimsuit fabrics but couldn't resist getting this one to add to the collection.

*Jacquard floral print---I got this at JoAnn's and I loved the bright colors. I've only got 1 1/4yd so I can only make a top or skirt. I wanted to make a dress but silly me didn't buy it when they had a lot of it. I think the $14.99/yd price tag (with no coupon on hand) made me squirm a little.

*Black, pink, burgundy floral stretch poplin- You know I love my stretch fabrics and the colors are great! I bought this one from and bought 3 yd clearance piece for $9 or so.

*Burgundy, pink, brown, tan floral stretch poplin- Got this puppy from and bought a 2 yd clearance piece for $8.

*Purple charmeuse with abstract prints- This was also purchased from and was about $8 for a 2 yd piece.

BTW, the middle piece has already been cut up and sewn into a delightful number I plan to wear to church and hope to review on tomorrow. Nothing encourages new sewing projects like new (and old) fabric!

So I have a quick question for you guys. Where do you normally get your fabric? Are there any online sites and any fabric warehouse (that are within a day's drive from Savannah, GA because I'm willing to travel) that you know of?  I've heard of some fabric mills in North Carolina and some fabric stores in Atlanta. And of course I have to make another NYC Garment district shopping trip (the last one was several years ago). I'll gladly take any of your suggestions and recommendations!

Happy sewing to ya:)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Wadder Alert: What NOT to do when making the Cynthia Rowley dress #2406

Let me just say this is an awesome pattern if you sew it with the correct fabric (and fit it appropriately of course). I however did not.  For starters do not use 4 way stretch knit for this dress. You know I kinda had the feeling when I embarked on this project that a stretchy knit might be problematic but I decided to give it a go anyway. So to be quite honest I'm not that suprised that this pattern didn't work for me since I picked the wrong fabric. I just didn't expect it to turn out looking like a muumuu LOL! And no, I will not post a pic because it seriously looks just like a muumuu!!!LOL! And unfortunately sewing deeper side seams wouldn't fix this since it's the fabric that's really the issue. But I don't feel like it was too much of a waste. I learned my gut instinct about my wrong fabric choice was right in addition to a few other things.

As they say hindsight is 20/20 so thinking back here are a few things I should have done:

1. Picked a lighter fabric.
This dress would have been perfect in the recommended fabrics of linen, cotton, etc--you know lighter fabrics that hold the shape of this garment well.  The 4-way knit I had stretched to fit my body and stretched this dress out of it's proper shape. A 2 way stretch knit (stretch crosswise and not lengthwise) would have been suitable as well.

2. Made a muslin.
 You know I RARELY make a muslin when sewing a knit dress. But with a design as unique as this (with the draped shoulder and open back slit) I should have.  I cut this dress in a size 12 and due to the ease of the pattern and weight and stretch of my fabric it ended up being just way too BIG. I had a feeling it would stretch somewhat but had no idea that the weight would really pull the dress down. So this "dragging" in turn distorted the shape of the sleeves and every part of the dress.

3. Shortened the back length.
I've mentioned so many times before that I have a really small back (14"L, 14"W). Why in the world I didn't think to check the back lenght before sewing this dress is beyond me. By the time this dress was nearly finished I discovered that the back opening was well beyond my back to the top of my rear! That was noooooo good indeed! Talk about scandalous.........LOL!

4. My greatest lesson learned from this project was that I need to give up watching TV while sewing. You might recall me devoting an entire post to the subject HERE.  Believe it or not this is the BEST lesson that has come from this situation and I've already noticed an increase in my productivity. So I'm not all too crushed about the loss of this project.

I plan to give this pattern a rest for now and pick up something else. I probably will revisit in the future in a nice linen or cotton fabric.  It's a great pattern and is pretty easy to sew if you don't get turned around with the sleeve directions. To be quite honest some of their directions for that were written a little confusing. But beyond that I recommend it wholeheartedly.

Saturday, May 15, 2010


I have established a TV the sewing room that is! I've been teetering with this idea for a while but it's about time I do it.

Yesterday was the last straw! I was sewing my Cynthia Rowley dress (almost done by the way) but I wasted so much time doing that and trying to watch a movie. Then I got turned around on a step (a simple one) and got sooooo frustrated and just stopped for the night. I mean I wasted a good bit of time on something so simple. I know if I had just limited my distraction I would've finished my dress last night and saved myself the added frustration.

As with anything in life, sometimes you have to sacrifice a little for the sake of the greater good. And in my case that would be faster sewn garments (wink)!

With this said I take the following pledge:

 In an effort to maximize my sewing productivity,
I, Victoria, pledge not to watch TV while
actively sewing on a project.
Instead, I will listen to classical music or audio books
and reserve my TV use for helpful sewing DVD's
or to watch when I'm doing menial sewing tasks, such as hand sewing.

Whew, I feel so much better! Nothing like a good purge! I'm curious, what things have you had to give up (or rules you've had to implement) to increase your sewing productivity?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

I Need Some More "Play Clothes"-- May/June 10,000 Hr. Challenge Goals

Whoever coined the saying "absence makes the heart grow fonder" OBVIOUSLY DIDN'T SEW! In my world, absence (from sewing) makes me NUTTY for sure!!! April was a crazy month due to my out of town work assignment to AK. I didn't hardly get to sew anything for my March/April 10,000 Hr. Challenge goals. Out of the 6-8 pieces I was planning to sew, I only managed to get following 4 items done, and one of them was a WADER.

Vogue 8593
Butterick 5225 ---WADER
Simplicity 3867
Vogue 1182 Kay Unger dress

Well I'm definitely trying to make up for it in my May/June 10,000 Hr. Challenge goals. Since the last month was so serious I figure I need some time to play. You know, time to chill out some, sew, and take things a little easy. Well if I'm going to play then I need some PLAY CLOTHES!

Here's some of the patterns I intend to tackle:
 I hope to get at least 6-8 pieces done!

I'm even planning to add a swimsuit or two! Yipee! Here are a few of my fabrics. I especially like the Girl Superhero Comic strip fabric which I've had in my stash forever! How cute would that be in a tankini!

Well this is currently what I'm working on......  Isn't this print just dizzying! That's what I love about it!

Anywho, happy sewing to you! Hope you're able to get alot of sewing done:)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Simplicity 3877

I tried so desperately to sew what I'd planned earlier this week . It seems I couldn't channel my inner kadiddlehopper (man, she can sew lightning fast and makes the cutest clothes (smile)) to get it done in record time with my SUPER congested week. I was disappointed until I began digging through some previously sewn dresses and came upon this little UFO.  I started it last year and was interrupted and never finished. It actually was going to be my Mother's Day dress on last year. Since I hadn't seen it in so long I wasn't sure it was going to work. Well after trying it I was pleasantly surprised that it fit just fine and the only thing it needed was a zipper, a hem job and a sash, three things I could definitely squeeze in this week. But you better believe that my lack of sewing on this past week, will totally be made up for in the upcoming week!

 Simplicity 3877

Pattern Description:
Misses dress with fitted princess seam bodice, skirt with godets, and sash
Pattern Sizing:
I cut the size 12
Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?
(A better front view)

Were the instructions easy to follow?
Very much so. Nothing tricky to them.
What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
I loved the mandarin collar and godets in the skirt.
Fabric Used:
100% Rayon
Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:
I didn't need to make any. I didn't follow the patterns instructions for making the sash since the wrong side of my fabric would be visible. Instead I made my own version cutting 2 pieces of fabric 4" wide by 36" long. I sewed them wrong sides together leaving a small opening for turning and sewed up the opening.
(Back View)

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
Yes, I'll definitely sew this one again as well as a few other views of the pattern. I wouldn't sew it again in Rayon. The fabric, although midweight, was not stiff enough to keep the collar erect. Maybe I should have used an interfacing of a heavier weight or rigged it by adding collars stays. I'm sure I'll think of a solution for the next time:)
This is a very awesome pattern that's easy to sew, fits beautifully, and is very comfortable to wear. It's a great pattern all around!!!

By the Way, on behalf of me and my "wee-one"....... Happy Mother's Day to all of you Wonderful Mothers. Enjoy your special day. You make the world go round for so many. Take time to enjoy yourself and be pampered. You sure deserve it!!!!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A Tribute to Dad

I know later this week we celebrate Mother's day, but I wanted to take the time to dedicate this post my Father, Richard E. Ballard, Sr and for good reason. My Father had a profound impact on my sewing endeavors. No, we didn't discuss fabrics together and he definitely didn't help me pick out patterns but he did far more than that. He encouraged me to push myself and to believe I had it in me to do what only to me seemed so complicated.

You see, five years ago, after I'd only been sewing a year or so, I had the idea to start a sewing business. Somehow it came up in conversation and I told my father that I would undertake such a venture when I had more experience under my belt, like in the next 10 years or so. Although I was only a fledgling seamstress,  I'd advanced in skill a great degree. But not to the point where I think I'd be ready for my own business. My father liked the idea but was opposed to my delay in pursuing my plans. He suggested that I not wait and go ahead with starting my business . Almost immediately I became flooded with a million reasons why such a notion wouldn't work, but I found it hard to convince my Father it couldn't be done, especially since he started his successful side photography business by reading several photography book and tinkering with one camera. (BTW: He's responsible for my profile picture on my blog). He had no formal training and nor did I, just a lot of passion, a technical brain, and a drive to learn. Despite the reluctance I felt, something  happened in me after my conversation with my father. Somehow he managed to plant a seed of hope in my heart and mind that took root.

So I set out to start my business and needless to say it was one of the scariest undertakings of my life. I cried for the first 2 months while I got everything set up. No seriously I did. I would handle all of the paperwork and repeatedly rethink my decision. I mean what was I thinking? I hadn't had any major experience and hadn't really sewn for others. Who was I to think I had anything that I really could offer. Yes, all of these thoughts of fear and doubt bombarded my mind. But then I would begin to doubt my abilities a thought of "what if" would counteract it. What if I could do it? What if Dad was right? And all the while my Dad would tell me how much he believed in me and that I should keep moving along.  Slowly but surely business picked up.  I started off  doing alterations and a couple of pro-bono gowns for clients. Once people got a look at my work the clients started rolling in and I was regularly sewing for others, doing alterations and even teaching sewing classes. I learned alot more about sewing being that I had to work with others and I look forward to learning more in the future.

I often think back to my nervous beginnings and I think about how instrumental my Dad was in giving me the gentle push I needed to start pursuing my dream.  I especially am drawn to those thoughts since it was last year around this time that my Father passed away. I don't say that to cause any sadness but to speak of the lesson that my Father taught me then that still resonates now and brings me so much comfort. You see, you can wait your whole life to do something or you can begin now. Far too often we wait until we feel ready to pursue something but in truth you may not ever "feel" ready. Sometimes you've got to pursue your dream in the midst of your fears. Or as I like to say, "Do it, even if you have to do it scared". I know this can be tough and so intimidating. But do you really want to get to the end of your life and look back only to ask, "what if"? Life is truly short , make the most of it and pursue your dreams---sooner then later, that is. My Father definitely lived his life to fullest and I intend to do the same. The seed he planted still continues to grow.....

Who in your life was instrumental in giving you the push you needed to succeed in your sewing?

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Q & A Session: Muslins & Fittings

Hey Guys,
A couple of you have asked me a couple of questions about the Vogue Kay Unger dress  I made several weeks ago for Easter and I wanted to take the time to answer them and to do so publicly in case anyone else might be interested in the answers. By no means am I an EXPERT Seamstress (not yet of course.... I've only logged 3000+ of my 10,000 hours--LOL!)  but I love to provide my personal experiences and what I know when I'm asked. And if I don't know I love to look it up and learn.

Paige said.....
Beautiful Easter dress!! Do you mind my asking, about how often do you make a muslin? Every new pattern? What do you use for your muslin? Thanks!

Well Paige, I actually do not make a muslin every time I start a new project. I used to.  When I began sewing some 6 or so years ago I didn't know what a muslin was and made it to the stage in my sewing where I began to notice not every sewing project fit right out of the envelope. For a new sewer this is so frustrating, because you begin to doubt your sewing skills.  But in truth, creating a garment is dependent upon 2 things--- how well you sew and how well you fit. If you do both fairly well, then you can create a great garment. I use a muslin (which is a trial garment) to help me perfect the fit of a pattern and make the necessary adjustments to the pattern so my sewn finished garment can fit properly. My muslin are usually the traditional bleached cotton or any other fabric that is similar in weight to the fabric I plan to sew. So if I'm sewing a knit and need to make a muslin, my muslin fabric would be a knit.

Ok, back to my story, well when I realized I had to adjust my patterns to fit,  I began seriously studing pattern fitting and tailoring.  I think I amassed a rather large collection of books on pattern fitting because of this and in a very short period of time.  I read everything I could get my hands on. I was determined to learn how to fit my clothes and even stopped sewing for a while to focus on my studying. Once I felt comfortable about resuming sewing, I began heavily relying on muslins for everything---I was young and a more nervous sewer. As I progressed in my understanding of fit and my experience with various pattern companies, I began to notice my fit issues and how to resolve them. For instance, my  fit issues are my narrow shoulders and back, my high derriere and short back. Once I became comfortable with fitting my patterns,  I began to realize that I didn't need to make a muslin for everything---I could either compare my body measurements with that of the pattern and make adjustments and/or do a tissue fitting . These were techniques I learned from reading several books such as Palmer and Pletsch's "Fit for Real People" and Nancy Zieman's "Pattern Fitting with Confidence". I've also read pattern drafting books and tailoring books. I read a whole lot.

Now I will only make a muslin in the following situations....
*When fitting a non-stretch or knit fabric
*When working with a complicated design that just can't be tissue-fitted.
*When I'm working with expensive fabrics or sewing for a special occassion.
*To test a pattern when I'm not sure if a silhouette will work on me

Truth be told I still make my fair share of fitting "faux pas" but that's just part of the sewing process. But it's the muslins and pattern measuring and fittings that drastically cut down on this.  Hope this answer helped!

Sister said...
Beautiful dress! Fits beautifully and looks RTW. Now about your back alteration - did you do this on a dress form or did you get somebody to check the back for you? I have a hard time with this and usually twist in the mirror to see the problem then work it out roughly on the dress form but can't ever get it right.

Sister, I did not do this on a dressform. Can you believe that my dressform, which is about 2 sizes smaller then me, has a wider back then me? I must really have a narrow back!!! Years ago I had a friend measure me (and I've done it recently) and I'm exactly 14" wide and 14" long in the back---just a little box. For this dress I did a muslin and evaluated the fit on my back (and yes I had to look over my shoulder in the mirror) and noticed it to be just a little wide.  I then measured the pattern to confirm this and ended up taking it in a little bit. I used to have the hardest time with this as well and sometimes still do. I recommend comparing the pattern's measurement to yours (excluding the seam allowances of course), and if you're still not absolutely sure, do a tissue fit or muslin to check it out further.

lamstu said...
I love this pattern and I *love* your dress more! I really want it, but straight, fitted skirts don't have any place in my lifestyle - do you think the skirt would look okay with some flare or fullness in the back? (Primary transportation is by bicycle and if I can't ride it in an outfit, it won't be worn.)

Lamstu, this is a very unique question (thanks for the love btw)! You're right, to ride a bike wearing this dress on, you'd have to make some serious adjustments of some kind since this dress is pretty fitted from the hips down. I'm sure you could add some fullness to the dress bottom but personally I was attracted to the dress because of the entire package--fitted dress and all. Maybe you can add a box pleat or some other type of pleat or godet that would provide the extra width you need at the dress bottom and when you stand up it will lay fairly streamline. If you really love this dress and don't want to fool around with too many changes, you could make this your only "special dress" that you could carry on your bike and change into (smile).


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