Going Moto: How many zippers does it take?


How many zippers does it take to call a jacket, ‘moto’? My version has only three zippers. If I gifted it to a biker chick, would she look happy, or mortified?

These are the important questions I asked myself as I finished this cropped jacket. Perhaps three zippers is just not enough. After all, more zippers means more edge – – all those teeth – – all that metal! I’m guessing most biker chicks would look at a three zippered jacket and laugh.  Still, I’m calling my look, ‘moto’. It’s got more zippers than anything else I own.

Zipper one….


Zippers two and three…


As you can see by the intense look on my face, I am freakishly serious about these zippers (?!). I made this little jacket because I’ve been yearning for layers. The weather here is just cold enough in the early morning to force the ‘coat or no coat’ issue, so I decided to make a cozy, cropped jacket with some color to throw on with jeans, skirts, even a dress. And, since one of my unfulfilled dreams is to be accused of being ‘edgy’, I used the extra zippers in my notions stash to try to give my jacket a bit of a ‘moto’ look.

It was easy to find inspiration for my jacket. This fall, fashion designers are giving us yet another chance to channel our inner rocker with lots of versions of ‘moto’. Here’s a painted version by Tibi.
Here’s an interesting take on the look, a lace version by Christopher Kane.
 Here’s my ‘three zippered’ look.
For my ‘moto’ inspired jacket, I used a red ponte I had in my stash (yahoo!), and leather trim left over from my moto skirt I made last year. The pattern I chose was Butterick 5958, a fitted lined jacket with princess seams and a side front exposed zipper. It didn’t have zippers on the sleeves, but the shape was perfect so I went for it anyway. I didn’t have a lot of fabric, so I chose to make the collarless version. 5958
The ponte was easy to work with, and the front zipper went in easily. I trimmed the front opening with a piece of black leather to give it a bit of a ‘pop’ (I love black and red together!). The pattern was easy to follow.
When it came to the zippers at the cuff, I ad-libbed a bit by inserting seven inch ‘sport’ zippers at the seams. In order to figure out where to place the zippers, I had to first determine the perfect length for the sleeve and the depth of the sleeve’s hem, so that the zipper opening would be placed at the wrist. This meant I had to put the sleeve into the jacket before inserting the zippers, so that I could judge the length correctly. As a result, I had the entire jacket to move around my machine as I inserted the zippers into the sleeves. Total nightmare!
 Okay, it would have been MUCH easier to have inserted the zippers before the sleeve was in. I think (?) I should’ve just measured my arm length vs. the sleeve length and then, just gone for it (?). But I was too chicken. If I’d made the pattern before (or a muslin version but I didn’t – – I’m my own worst enemy!), I could’ve avoided this cumbersome step. But alas, I did none of those things, so I tortured myself. The sleeve zippers turned out okay, but I wouldn’t recommend my messed up process to anyone!
I like the jacket and know I’ll get a lot of wear out of it. If I had to do it again (and I just might make another with leather, or denim or something for a edgier look.  Hope Springs Eternal!), I’ll add pockets and zippers there too, maybe go with the collared version of the pattern, and add some metal snaps to jazz things up a bit. I might also check out some other patterns. I know Linda, at Nice dress, Thanks I made it, sewed a cool moto jacket (see it here!) with zillions of zippers that turned out so cute.
Red seems to be one of my ‘fall’ colors this year. I suspect that in a few weeks, my jacket will coordinate with the color of the leaves outside!
If anyone has a moto jacket pattern to recommend, give a shout. Happy sewing, and thanks for stopping by!

Seeing Red!! An embellished version of Simplicity 3833

IMG_1136s This This Fall, there’s a new kid in town, the Little Red Dress. While the Little Black Dress and the Little White Dress have always been favorites of mine, there’s something fierce and unexpected about a red dress. For one thing, you can’t be a shrinking violet if you’re wearing red at a party. You will be noticed. You might feel a bit powerful, too.

I decided to make this dress from red because when I looked at my Fall wardrobe, only one word came to mind – Somber! Everything I saw was gray or black.  Eeek! Is there anything worse? I decided it was time to find a new favorite color. Then, I met this fabric. True love! It was the most perfect shade of red; not too orange or pink, but a true, cardinal red.

My lovely cardinal fabric became the back drop for embellishment, courtesy of the second round of the Pattern Review Sewing Bee. We were asked to make the fabric our own by using surface embellishments. It took me a few days to get my head around that one (clock ticking, ticking, ticking). But once I got used to the idea, the embellishments used by Italian designers, like Dolce and Gabbana came to mind. Inspired by their swoops and swirls, I decided to try my hand at it.

IMG_1438Because I suspected the trim and appliqué would be heavy, I decided to make my dress from a medium weight rayon (woven) with some body and weight. I’m glad I did that, because the finished dress is surprisingly heavy.  Just think what the royals have to deal with, given the size of their medals and jewels!
Dress Pattern: I used Simplicity 3833 for the bodice but added self drafted sleeves because I wanted them to be bell-shaped to match the a-line shape of the dress’s lower bodice. The embellishments on the sleeves are meant to match the themes on the dress bodice. I highly recommend this pattern. It’s really fun and easy to sew. The curved seam between the upper and lower bodice gives it a unique look, I think. I chose an a -line style because the skirt is wide, a nice blank slate for embellishments.

IMG_0928The embellishments:
  • Before constructing the dress, I made a template of the swirled pattern, so that the design would be consistent on both sides of the upper and lower bodice which I knew would be tricky.
  • Then, I transferred the finished designs to the right side of the fabric with basting stitches. Nightmare. I could have used one of those lovely invisible ink marking pens, but I discovered with a test swatch, that the ink didn’t disappear on this fabric. Since I knew I’d make mistakes, I didn’t dare use one.
  •  Following those markings, I laid the trim onto the fabric pieces, adjusting the curves as I went so that the swirls wouldn’t look forced.  This took forever as it had to be done in stages – – so that the curves of the swirls would be remain perfect and symmetrical. I hand basted each trim to the fabric to keep it from shifting, before using my machine to secure it with a appliqué stitch.
  •  I created the appliqué flowers and trim from lace, then appliquéd those embellishments to the center of the swirls.
The best part of this project, was deciding where to put the embellishments so that my figure would be (ahem) enhanced by the design.  I created the swirl design templates with the a-line shape of the dress in mind. The largest swirls were put at the center of the upper and lower bodice to create a focal point for the eye. The secondary swirls were placed at the side of the a-line skirt to draw attention to that shape, while also (hopefully) adding a slimming line to the design. The design of the front embellishments are carried through to the back of the dress in a continuous line.
Part of the fun of this project was creating the design templates, then applying the design to the fabric in stages. This was a long process, but it was fun to do this in layers. Each time I added a new line of embellishment, the dress took on a new look, so the design sort of ‘evolved’.
One challenge I didn’t expect was locating the right trim for the embellishments. To make the design have a bit of energy, the trims needed to be of varying weights and styles. I drove all over Portland, looking for trim and bought everything I saw. So, Portland-ites – – there’s nothing left for you!   If I had to do it again (with more time), I’d probably have ordered some interesting trims from other sources for more variety.
 Ultimately, this was a fun challenge and because of it, I now have a new special occassion dress. And sewing with a color as vibrant as Cardinal was definitely inspiring. I’m determined to add some color to my fall wardrobe, maybe some jade, a bit of gold, a touch of fuchsia? Lots of warm, vibrant colors.  I’m excited to start sewing with some lovely prints too!
How is your fall closet? Happy sewing and thanks for stopping by.

PR Sewing Bee Round 1 – The Good News and The…Other News

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Some might say I’m crazy, but this year, I entered the Pattern Review Sewing Bee, a contest that contains four challenges, each a week in length. As a rule, I don’t usually get too excited about competitions, but I decided to try this one to push myself a bit. It’s time to try something new, I told myself, and to learn a few things in the process.  Sounds good, eh? Still, I waffled, until the specifics of Round 1 were announced. The first challenge was to make a fitted blouse. And wouldn’t you know, I already had fabric in my stash for another peplum blouse. Is that destiny or what?!?

For my contest entry, I used Butterick 6097, a fitted blouse with a peplum I made here and here. This time though, I wanted to try something different. Since my fabric was a linen that had a denim look, I decided to use french seams and double topstitching to play up to the ‘jeans’  vibe of the fabric.


The french seams turned out to be essential as this linen blend unraveled every time I even looked at it. I overlocked in some places too. I thought sewing all the topstitching would drive me crazy, but once I got into it, I couldn’t stop. Really. I went a little berserk. I put those double yellow lines everywhere.

To fasten the front, I used snaps instead of buttons. For those who haven’t tried inserting snaps, it’s really quite fun! You get to pound them in with a hammer. The first time is a bit…well, scary, since a screw up leaves a hole in your fabric that’s too big to deny, but then, you relax right into it. The noise made my poor cat a little insane though.


Once the shirt was done, I posted photos on the PR website, wrote my review and waited. And waited. If you haven’t taken a look at all of the gorgeous shirts entered in the contest, you really should. They were all amazing. I can’t imagine how the judges decided who would go forward to the next round. But, as luck would have it, I passed muster and am moving ahead. Yahoo! That’s the good news.

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The Other news? Well, here’s the description of Round 2’s challenge. To quote: “In this round you will add surface embellishments to existing fabric to make a piece of fabric (or fabrics) something truly unique. You will then make a garment out of the fabric(s) that you embellished. Because the embellishment process may take additional time, participants will have TEN days for this round.”

Say what?!?  My first reaction was, WTF! My second reaction was, ‘how much wine did I have the night I decided to enter this contest’? After a good night’s sleep and a nice long bike ride this morning though, I’ve settled into the idea of this challenge. Sure, I’ve never applied a surface embellishment (whatever that is LOL) to anything other than a bit of make up on my face, but hey. There’s got to be a first time for everything. And, with any luck, something like inspiration will strike in the next 24 hours (the clock is ticking here, brain!). I will swing into action and it will be fun. (Yes, this is a pep talk :))

A few of my favorite bloggers also entered the PR Sewing bee. You might want to check out their lovely makes – –  Saturday Night Stitch, Gray all Day, Thanks I made them, to name a few.

I hope you’re enjoying our lovely fall, and are finding inspiration everywhere you look. Happy sewing and thanks for stopping by!

In defense of the polka dot; Vogue 9128

When it comes to polka dots, I’m a true fan. To me, they’re a fun, easy-to-wear print; a timeless, classic look that’s fun and light. 
So when I spied the polka dots on this cotton knit at Mill End, I couldn’t wait to throw that bolt of fabric in my shopping cart. Imagine my surprise when the woman standing next to me scoffed at my choice. “Polka dots!” she exclaimed. “I hate those things. They send women back to the fifties every time someone wears them.” Well, as you can see, I ignored the hater and bought those dots anyway.  But she made me think even more about those innocent-looking circles of color.
Of course, one of the reasons I love polka dots is their history. Some well known vintage fashion moments included polka dots.
Marilyn Monroe made history when she wore this bikini in the fifties.
Elizabeth wore them too.
And here’s Katherine Hepburn in polka dot pajamas. I’d love to channel her when I wear my dots!

There’s no denying that those dots do have a decidedly fifty’s vibe, a time when women struggled, many without  the choices we enjoy today.
But leave it to Zooey Deschanel, a successful woman who loves polka dots and full skirts and peter pan collars, to sum it up so well.
Or…Polka dots! 
My polka dot tee is Vogue 9128, a pullover top (close-fitting through the bust) with neck binding, front seam detail, and a peplum with shaped hemline. I decided to make this pattern when I noticed it included details that are a bit unusual for a tee-top, like front seams and the fun peplum. I made the long sleeved version because I wanted a transition top, something lightweight enough for warm afternoons, but with long sleeves to protect on cool fall mornings.
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As most tees are, this was quick to put together. I love the way the peplum is constructed, (attached to the center front panel).  The seam lines at the bust are great too and the curve is so gradual, it isn’t tricky to sew at all. One note about fitting – – the pattern isn’t designed so that you can modify the waist length with a mid-bodice adjustment. For me, this wasn’t a problem as the waist was positioned correctly for my shape ( a minor miracle, since I almost always have to do a waist adjustment.) But if you’re long waisted, you might want to take extra care to figure out if the fit will be right for you.
 Here’s a back view of the contrast.
What do I like most about this pattern? You know me – – it has options! You can mix and match fabrics by using contrasting solids or patterns or both. And it’s a great stash /remnant buster because it only takes 5/8 of a yard of fabric to make the contrasting panels.
It’s highly likely that I will make this top again, as the pattern just screams to be color-blocked. I probably won’t use polka dots again, although, to be honest, I do have another remnant in my stash (LOL). So, how do you feel about polka dots? Love, hate, or just so-so?
Happy sewing, and thanks for stopping by!

A Manly Shirt that you can sew in a day

IMG_4632The last thing I sewed for my son was a vampire cape, black satin (of course) with a stand-up collar and red lining. That was awhile back. So when he said he would like a new shirt, I jumped at the chance to sew for My Only.

Of course, once committed, I worried. The fabric…the pattern…what to choose…how to choose. After all, we do want to please, right? But then, one day while traveling through the lovely town of Sisters, Oregon, he agreed to wander through a fabric store with me. That’s when I knew things were going to be OKAY. In his usual decisive fashion, he found a fabric he liked in record time. One store. Five minutes of browsing. Choice Made!! (If only I could shop like that.)

IMG_4641The fabric that caught his eye was a nice white cotton, decorated with colorful bicycles. Since he’s heading to Washington D.C this fall to be a congressional intern, he was all over this fabric. Bicycles to him meant – – Bicycle Commuters! Alternative Transportation Policies!

The fabric choice was easy. Finding a pattern? Not so much.
 Did you know there are zillions of men’s shirt patterns out there? Perhaps, I’m the only clueless one, but I just have to say, I was shocked at how many choices there were. The Big Four offered many, which is great and (almost) to be expected, but many Indie pattern designers are in on this too, which means there are so many possibilities, you can’t help but find something that works. Honestly, when it comes to sewing pattern options, the choices are endless. Isn’t it a great time to sew?
IMG_4637 Back shot of the yoke
At first glance, many of the versions looked similar. On closer examination though, you find there are subtle differences in the cut of the bodice, the collars, even the sleeve cuffs!! Then, when you try to pair the patterns to the needs of the man you are sewing for, things can get rather….mmmm….complicated. If you quiz that man, you might be as surprised (as I was) to discover that, although they seem to be fashion novices, they are VERY interested in shirt design. They have very specific needs. It can’t be too boxy, but not too fitted either, or too baggy because then you can’t tuck it in if you want to. And don’t make it too long, or all that fabric will be in the way, but don’t make it too short either. The pressure!
After looking at a million and one patterns, and reading the many helpful opinions posted on Pattern Review.com (thanks to all!), I finally settled on McCalls 6044. This shirt has a back yoke, which gave it a bit of interest. Also, the pattern received High Marks from those who were sewing for guys who liked a slim fit, but also had an athletic build (This seems to be the key to success – -whether or not your guy likes a slim fit or a loose fit).
Bullseye! The pattern was perfect. The only variations I made was to take the curve out of the yoke seam and to add collar buttons. Also, I added french seams so that the shirt would survive through many, many washings.
This pattern is a winner!  The shirt is cut so well, it works alone, or under a jacket. And the pattern is very straightforward and easy to sew. The only modification needed was to take in the side seams a little. This I can do!!  And the best news of all, from cut-out to final press, it was only about six hours (much less if you don’t have fitting issues, or if you just finish with an overcast stitch instead of french seams).
When all was said and done, the shirt fit, the fabric passed muster, and I believe this shirt will actually be worn on Labor Day to a barbecue. The shirt is a versatile style that looks good all by itself, or under a jacket. How great is that?
Thanks for stopping by. And Happy Labor Day weekend – –  I hope you find time for a bit of sewing!