Monday, January 26, 2015

10 Core Wardrobe Pieces Illustrated

Illustrated Thumbnail Sketch of the Wardrobe 10 Core Pieces
All are Marcy patterns for Vogue.  

Each one has been kitchen (studio) tested by me.  These are pieces I make to wear everyday and for travel.
The line drawings give a clearer idea than a photo.
Many of the pieces layer over/under each other.  
Customizing each piece for your figure and fabric is essential.
Everything works with the coat.
ALL the tops work over the skinny pant.
I've designed the patterns to become part of a cohesive wardrobe that can be added to and adapted for different seasons.
Versions of all are in my wardrobe & I'm using this in planning my own spring sewing.

Yesterday I sewed a version of my new dress, got carried away in the studio, did not blog, so this is the day 7 blog.  I learned that blogging every day got me going, and I want to do more, the ideas really popped, tho probably not every day.  Thank you for your comments and suggestions and please keep them coming.  

The Coat That Goes Over Everything

The Skinny Pant

3 & 4
Distinctive Jacket & Soft Pant

 Knit Tops, Tunic or T-Shirt

Modern Cardi



Shirt/Shirt Jacket
Dress & Cardi

One of my favorite books that I re-read to is The Everlasting Meal,  eloquently written about food, not a cookbook per se, but a philosophy of cooking every day, using simple ingredients and based on using what is in the frig and pantry.
I like this same philosophy for sewing and building a wardrobe: working with what is in the closet and stash, gathering new fabrics, patterns and ideas as I find them.  
If you love to cook, you'll love this book.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Back in the Studio

Getting back in the studio
Some of you have asked about my process for pairing pattern and fabric.  
This morning I wandered out to the barn in my jammies and pulled a batch of fabrics to consider.  I take a few bolts and some swatches, then see what is in the stash and then see what works.
I'm looking at what to make for spring, for the sewing expo, maybe to wear in Paris.  

The Challenge:  To use my two newest patterns and make something to wear at the expo.

The Criteria:  
  • Must be warm and work with layers, it can be cold at the expo and cold in the spring too
  • Must work with and layer with my exiting clothes and importantly under a coat.
  • Gray and black are my fallback colors, and though I love patterns, tend to wear solid colors or very muted patterns.

Getting Started
Katherine calls this 'circling the wagons.'
I took cuts of a half dozen different fabrics, tossed them in the washer and dryer and piled them on my cutting table to audition....see below.

The pile of fabrics sits on my cutting table while I futz with the patterns.  I move things around and play with them in different light.  
This one didn't make the cut for the shirt:
The weight is perfect but when Katherine came in for a design consult, she said, 'You'll hate it', and she is right.  Too much pattern for me.  But it will make a great pair of funky little summer pants to wear with a black top.  
So plan B it is, cutting tomorrow, stay tuned!

Core Wardrobe Guide: I use this as a guideline for folding new items into my wardrobe, or at the beginning of a season or when planning for a trip.  It starts and ends with the coat or jacket....everything must work with it, the silhouette, layers, colors, textures.  

Coat that goes over everything (raincoat, winter coat, duster....)

  • Slim line pant 
  • Soft pant in a silhouette and length that flatters your figure

Knit Top/s, T-Shirt or Tunic (could be knit, bias, surplice wrap etc....) that has your best neckline, body shaping and sleeve length

Vest that fits under (or over), the coat and jacket

Distinctive Jacket that layers under the coat, over the vest and cardigan.

Modern Cardi that goes over the t-shirts and under the jacket or vest

Skirt in a shape and length that works on your figure, in your life and goes with  the above tops, jacket or coat.  

Shirt/Shirt Jacket  your version of a shirt/shirt jacket that dresses down everything, works with the t-shirts and tops --- ideal if the vest slips under or over.  Ranges from a classic shirt to jean jacket, to Miyake big shirts

Friday, January 23, 2015

Sew The Cashmere First

Cashmere Tunic
'Sew The Cashmere First'
A direct quote from Sally Peterson at a Design Outside The Lines retreat.  
We now know her as 'cashmere Sally',  a pretty cool moniker!

The phrase is really a metaphor for working with your best fabrics in the here and now.
In clearing out my stash, I came upon a gorgeous piece of cashmere knit that I'd tucked away for later.  Gwen had a t-shirt in this same fabric in her Paris wardrobe, so when I came home I cut out this tunic in the same fabric, made a bit of headway and it just sat there while I worked on upcoming Vogue patterns.

This is the only garment I've done for myself since October and it only took an hour to finish, just in time for the cold weather, and maybe for the sewing expo as it can be bitterly cold there. 

The Pattern:

I cut the cashmere on the cross grain, used the selvedge at the cuff and turned back the hem edge on the short edge on the front.
Cut a wide back center seam, trimmed the seams to as even a width as possible...the double layer on the fabric adds a bit of texture, then zig-zagged down the center of the seam line to hold it flat.
Used the twisted binding on the neck.  The twist ended up dead center...something I could NEVER have planned in advance, a happy accident.  I usually opt to place the twists asymmetrically as in the back:  see below.
Two twists in the back.
The binding was a bit challenging to do as I was using the cross grain which does not have much stretch or recovery, AND I made the band wider than I usually do, which makes it a bit more tricky to handle.  I made a sample, and lucky me, it worked the first time.  I had to apply more pull/tension in sewing to accommodate for the lack of stretch and wider band.  Wanted a wider band to fill in the neck edge and add a bit of warmth.
The selvedge edge is used at the sleeve edge.  The fabric is a double weave, so the two layers separate a bit and form an interesting edge.  I pressed the seams flat/open and topstitched to hold in place so the sleeves can be rolled up and still look finished.

Sewing Tips:
  • I am now sewing all my sleeves in the round as opposed to the flat, even in in t-shirts.   It adds a bit of finesse that really makes a difference in the way the sleeves hang.   
  • The walking foot has become my new best sewing friend when working with knits.  Thanks to the reader who wrote to explain that it is so much easier to attach the walking foot if you drop the feed dogs.  I love learning new little tricks like this!
  • I use ½" seam allowances rather than the standard fat ⅝".  On my prototype patterns there are no seam/hems allowance included.  I much prefer this, but on a commercial pattern I simply trim away on the pattern pieces.  I do ALL my cutting with a rotary cutter.
Twisted binding 
Preliminary Construction
  • Interface back shoulder seam with a 1” strip of fusible knit interfacing, with the stable/non-stretchy direction parallel to the seam to keep the shoulder seam from stretching in wearing.
  • Staystitch front and back neck edge, stitching from shoulder to center, stitching 1/2 in from cut edge.
Neckband is applied with one shoulder seam open.   Press seam allowance toward back and topstitch.  Sew the other shoulder seam after the band is applied.

  • Neck and armhole binding is a 2.5” wide strip crosswise grain---the fabric must have good recovery.  Knits which stretch out and do not recover will not work well.
  • I find it easier to measure the length of the neck and armhole, then cut a longer strip and trim any extra than to cut it to a precise measurement, as every knit is different, and it is necessary to slightly stretch the neck band when sewing it in place.  This takes a bit of practice, so make a sample so you become comfortable with the process of stretching and twisting the band as you sew.  
  • Pre-determine (approximately), where you want the placement of the twisting.  I often use 2 twists on the front, and one on the back, but you can play with different results.  Remember:  both right and wrong sides of the fabric will show.  
  • Do not press in a fold on the binding.  Fold the binding in half lengthwise and pin to get started.  Stitch with the band on top, stretching slightly.  Stretching the band will make it lie flat and hug the body.  Too tight and you’ll get puckers, too loose and the band will stand away from the neck.
  • HINT:  I only use one pin to hold the binding in place at the beginning, then keep the edges even, slightly stretching the binding while sewing----stretch with an even tension. 

Flip the band to make the twist
  • To make the twist, stop stitching at the mark, leave the needle in the cloth, raise the presser foot, and fold the fabric over in the opposite direction. (If you started out sewing with the band wrong sides together, when flipped it ends up right sides together) 
  • You’ll sew through one layer for an inch or more, then ease the fabric over, match up the band edges with the neckline and continue.  
  • Aim for consistency rather than perfection.  The twist creates an interesting and uneven, yet consistent band.  

Make a practice sample before you begin on your shirt---it took me some fumbling before I got comfortable with this technique, but the results are so worth it.

Press the seams toward the body of the garment.  Topstitch with a double needle, stitching from the right side, trim this seam as needed.  NO clipping the curve needed.  Stitch the remaining shoulder seam, press seams toward garment back, topstitch.

Now Reading:  

As always, keep your comments coming!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Way We Were & What We Wore

Last summer I received a journal in the mail with a note: 

'Found this while going through a bookcase, thought you'd like to see it, please return when you are done.'

A blank book covered in a familiar fabric, and  after a minute of head scratching, realized that I had made the cover.  When I opened the book, there were just a few photos of a trip to Europe back in the '80's that Sandra and I organized.
The trip was a bit of a disaster, we were truly innocents abroad.
Too many people in the group, a series of mis-adventures.
But still, there were moments. 
And we made all our own clothes.
Shopped for fabric.
Had custom patterns made in Paris.
Every so often I run into someone who was on this roller coaster adventure and we smile.

I remember making the bias striped skirt and knit top.
Shopping for fabric in Italy, and still loving stripes.
In Paris, I found a shop that specialized in making custom patterns which were draped directly on the body.  A group from the tour went to have patterns made.  We'd all been collecting Italian and French fashion magazines, so picked a photo to have the pattern draped.
Here, a photo of a jacket is pinned on one side of the body, while the pattern is draped on the other side using a special tissue paper.  It took about a half hour to drape the pattern which was then marked and refined without seam allowances or hems...or directions!
The shop is long gone.
The art is gone too.
Mme Berthy on the left is the pattern maker.  Of course we all wanted to learn how to do this.  She smiled, (crazy Americans), not possible any more.  She was the youngest in the shop which closed a couple of years later.  She had started as an apprentice at 15, swept the floor for 2 years while observing, then learned the craft slowly under the supervision & expertise of the older women who owned the shop.  This was the last shop of its kind in Paris and this art is no longer being formally taught.
There was a time in Paris, when every neighborhood had 'modistes', skilled custom dressmakers who could replicate the most current fashions from couture salons at a more reasonable cost.  The client would take the photo of the garment she wanted and have the pattern made as shown here, then take the pattern to her local modiste, whose skills rivaled the artisans who worked in the couture houses.  She could have her own version of a Chanel or Dior design from the current season.
With the advent of ready-to-wear manufacturing, this has disappeared.
It was such an eye opener to watch her work.  Note the leather bag at her waist where she kept her special pins.
During our visit I discovered that Mme. Berthy's son lived in San Franciso, so I arranged for her to come to The Sewing Workshop for a week, where she made custom patterns and people could come watch her work.  NOT a how-to class, but a chance to see her process.
Fascinating to witness this now lost art.
Draping a coat for Sandra who is wearing a sweater knit from leather 'yarn' found in Ialy.
I bought the gold silk lame bikini in Nice (Sandra made me do it)
Wearing a top, skirt and bag I made.
After this trip I went on to Corsica to visit my friend Martine, and actually wore the bikini.Still have it.....

Re-visiting these photos makes me realize how sewing and the clothes I've made over a lifetime are intertwined with memories and friendship.  

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A Closer Look at Shirt Vogue 9089: AKA The Dandy Shirt

I'm more of a T-shirt person, but I love to find a shirt with an interesting cut, shaping and details.
On the pattern envelope, Vogue describes it like this:

Loose-fitting shirt has collar, front bands, and seam detail. A: pleated collar, collar band, narrow hem, and stitched hem on sleeves. Collar band A, front band/sleeve facing B, and pocket A, B: cut on crosswise grain. Wrong side shows on shaped hemline; and sleeves/pocket A.
FABRICS: Broadcloth, Linen, Chambray, Cotton Shirting.

I call it The Dandy Shirt, reminds me a bit of Beau Brummel and Edwardian frock coats.
Fitted lightly in the bust, it skims the waist and flares over the hip.
The back seaming is asymmetrical, a flattering swooping line.
This is the place to watch out for when choosing a fabric and in sewing.  The curvy seams are off bias and can stretch.  DO stay stitch these seams, stitching ⅛" in side the seam line, using a regular stitch and sewing from BOTTOM TO TOP.  
If you don't you run the risk of having the pattern pieces stretch out, especially if the fabric is at all loosely woven.  This happened to me with a handkerchief linen, will post a photo of that garment at a later date.
Staystitch the neck edges too....for me, this is something I always do on any garment, any fabric.
There are 2 collar variations, one with a classic collar band with collar, and the collar has optional tucks which are stitched in at the very end. 

Version #1 Is sewn in silk, a fine broadcloth with narrow pale gray on white stripes.

My interpretation of the white shirt.
The seaming is asymmetrical and does not line up with the center back on the collar...this is intentional!
The stripes show the grain line.
I had no problem stitching these seams in the silk which was closely woven.
I love this shirt and wish I had another cut of this fabric to make a shirt for myself.
Sleeves are ¾ length, but easy to lengthen or shorten.
Version #2 is sewn in a French stretch cotton.  
A perfect choice.
Some stretch wovens are made with the stretch going lengthwise on the fabric.  In this case, cut the fabric on the cross grain.  
The seaming is not so obvious in a print.
The collar on this view is a one piece collar that can lie open as shown her or stand up.

My Photos
Version #1

I like this collar closed and worn up.  The asymmetrical tucks make it comfortable to wear and add an unexpected detail.
This cuff detail has become a signature on many of my patterns; t-shirts, tunics, coats and jackets.  It is something I first noticed in vintage clothes and I love that it allows the wearer to adjust the sleeve length.
Sometimes I cut it all in one with the sleeve, but is easy to make it in a contrasting fabric or as shown here with the stripe going a different way.
Shown with the collar worn popped up.

The print has a fine stripe, and up close the seaming detail is more obvious.
Sewing hint:  make the top buttonhole before sewing on the collar so there is no hassle with the layers of the collar in the buttonhole foot.
Why did I not think of this years ago!
Side view shows the silhouette and that the back is slightly longer and more flared than the front.

Marcy's Fabric Suggestions:  Stretch men's shirting, silks, washed silk taffeta (washing softens and adds allover crinkles), ponte or stable knit, cotton lawn, wool challis, drapey linen.  If the fabric is crisp  the flare will be emphasized.  In a drapey

I can see these cotton lawn Japanese fabrics:  Bachio, Etsuko, Chiyo, or Aiko, as they are light and drapey.  These new French stretch cottons are also perfect:  Gray Bon Mots, Taupe Bon Mots, Blue Hibiscus , Blurry Dots or Speaking Of.  These silks are good candidates too:  Chic Lit, Chatterbox, Pictionary, and Cars.  Lots of other fabrics that would work are coming in shipments arriving regularly.  Watch the New Fabrics section on the website.  I'll have many short cuts in our booth at the sewing expo too.

I will post a photo of the linen version I made for myself soon, no good photo for the moment.  When it was done I realized that it was too long on me, so shortened it about 3" at the hem, so will do that same alteration on the next version.  ....for my next version I am thinking about a knit.  Stay tuned, and do participate in the sew along for this shirt.  See below.

Sewing/Fitting Hints:
  • DO tissue fit this shirt to make sure the fit and the length are right for you.  
  • Give yourself enough ease over the bust.  If you are full busted, consider making a FBA.
  • I made both collars and decided at the last minute which one to use.
  • Make the top buttonhole before sewing on the collar.
  • I'm not only seeing this in a stable knit, but as a vest, or lengthened into a dress.  

Vogue 9089 Sew Along with Marcy
I'm going to make a version of this shirt to wear at the Puyallup Sewing Expo.
You are invited to sew YOUR version.  
If you are coming to the Expo wear your version and come to our booth and show us.
Deadline:  February 23 
Winner receives $100 in fabric, $200 in fabric if you use our fabric for your version.
e-mail photos to me at:

Love to hear your comments, questions and thoughts!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Vogue 9081 Dress + Cardi Review

by Marcy Tilton

The new Vogue pattern release came out today.  
This blog is about the Marcy dress and cardi.
is a shift dress with detail seaming paired with a little cardigan.
I call it the Block Dress.
The dress is shown on the pattern envelope is made in linen, the cardi in a knit.
Lightly fitted in the bust, loose in waist & hip, hangs straight to a band which is tapered at the hem, has an open neckline finished with a bias binding and can be made sleeveless or with a ¾ sleeve.  Knee length, but it can be lengthened or shortened either within the body or at the bottom band.  
Bear in mind that the models wearing the dress are over 6' tall.  
This version is actually TWO prints, a subtle difference that barely shows in a photo.  The two prints have similar coloring and geometric shaping.  Look closely to see....
The cardi is made in our Citrine Linen knit.
This version, also in linen, uses color blocking.
I had my heart set on white linen, used what I had on hand.  The fabric was a bit light/see through, so used a double layer in the body, single layer in the band and it worked well.
This cardi is made in a tissue weight knit, perfect for this style.

The line drawings show the blocking/seaming detail and silhouette.
Note that the hem is slightly pegged,w hich makes a flattering shape.
My Photos
My photos of the garments made for the pattern envelope.  
The fabrics are sold out, but we have some fabulous digital linens coming soon.
Linen Collection

 My Versions
These are the early prototypes I made for myself to test out the pattern.
I check the fit, the neckline, the shoulder line, how the sleeves fit, the length and on and on....

Olive and black linen for me.
I lengthened the bottom band.
Cardi is a black geometric mesh, sold out. 
The band detail takes some pfutzing but I think it makes a big difference.
I often wear the cardi unbuttoned, like that it works this way too.

This was my first version which I made as a tunic, eliminating the bottom band.
The neckline was too wide/open so we changed the pattern, but it was so hot when I sewed this I ended up wearing it and liking it.
You can change the neckline to your own liking and finish the neckband in different ways too.
Note the tiny pocket which I cut on the bias in linen.
I used the same acid green linen knit to test out the first prototype for myself.
It worked so well I used it for the pattern prototype.
After the pattern went off to Vogue, I made this version as a tunic in a knit.
I used a narrow band at the bottom.

Sewing Tips
Tiny pocket is cut on the bias.
Take care not to catch the top of the pocket when stitching.
The pocket square fits in like this.
I draw in the stitching line using a fine line chalk marker.
Reinforce the corner and clip.
Stitching lines are drawn in on the back side of the pocket square.
When cutting bias for the neck binding I like to cut a long piece, using a heavy metal ruler.
The contrast on the bias band is set into longer pieces of bias.
I cut the bias longer and wider than I think I'll need to allow for maximum flexibility in changing things around, and sometimes make more than one band.
I play around with the width of the bias and size of the contrast/s and where to position them.  I usually do 3.
No rules or pattern here, but I make test samples to test out the best design and arrangement.
Here you can see the band sewn on to the neck of the dress, and can see the 3 different colors.
I sew the band in place with one shoulder seam left open (usually the left shoulder so the stitching begins at the back.  In this photo I'm trimming to an even width, and will also trim in a straight line with the shoulder seam once the band has been wrapped and pressed in position.
In this photo (working over a ham), the band is being wrapped and pressed so it is an even width and to insure that the back side will be caught when I stitch in the ditch.  When trimming to an even width, I allowed enough to turn under the back side edge, though it can be left raw as bias does not ravel.  
Must have used this wraparound technique a thousand times; each garment and fabric are different, so I always make a sample...and in some cases take out the binding and start over.
Stitching in the ditch.  This shot also shows the shoulder seam detail.

Fabric Choices for Vogue 9081
Linen is a natural, you want something with drape and hang, but not too stiff, the fabric should skim  & slim the body, not balloon out and add bulk.  I can see the dress in a ponte, a crepe, a stretch woven, in silk, in a drapey cotton.  T-shirt type knits are too light, but are perfect for the cardi.
The cardi will work in almost any soft knit, tissue knit, microfiber, burnout, lace and mesh knits.
The dress would make a wonderful LBD.
You could combine a knit and woven in the dress too, the weights need to be compatible.
I'm going to make a version to wear at the sewing expo, fabric to be determined.
See below..............
Vogue 9081 Sew Along with Marcy
I'm going to make a version of this dress & cardi to wear at the Puyallup Sewing Expo.
You are invited to sew YOUR version.  
If you are coming to the Expo wear your version and come to our booth and show us.
Deadline:  February 23 
Winner receives $100 in fabric, $200 in fabric if you use our fabric for your version.
e-mail photos to me at:

Love to hear your comments, questions and thoughts!