Moving the Needle, Vol. 01

Version 2

Today, I bring you my first, semi-weekly anchor post, Moving the Needle. It will serve as an in-blog newsletter of sorts to share what I’ve been working on and what’s been inspiring me.

This week

My needle has been moving in and out of mockups while I worked through a belated adjustment to my original trouser block. Drafting only to the knee saved fabric and time and helped me focus on solving a crotch length mystery that only showed up while walking. I love all of the anatomy lessons I’m getting from pattern drafting. Speaking of anatomy, I used the only scale in my house (the balance board of my Nintendo Wii) to confirm I’d lost 8 lbs since January. Now I know why I had to remove an extra 4cm from my skirt block in May! The discovery has me re-thinking some of the garments I’ve been planning. Elastic waists, wrap closures, and alteration-friendly seaming might be the best way to cloth my changing body.

Sew Inspired

The t-shirt dresses Carolyn made to keep cool this summer have given me ideas for adding breezy-ease to a lengthened version of my fitted t-shirt pattern. The drape and floral print of the gorgeous charmeuse dress on the Clothing Engineer blog put silk back on my fabric shopping list. A mix of vintage and modern methods (and an eye-catching African cotton print) went into this 13-step tutorial for sewing a button fly on trousers. Krista of Man Repeller’s series on styling for fuller bosoms woke me up to the layered, ruffled skirt as a real option for me; and this simple how-to stopped me from overthinking how to sew one.  Star Trek the Next Generation meets the 1940s in the best group costuming project my Halloween sewing plans have ever seen.

Quotes to Sew By

Success consists of going from failure to failure without a loss of enthusiasm. ~ Winston Churchill.

Playing dress-up begins at age five and never truly ends. ~Kate Spade


After watching this movie on Netflix about how our bodies handle over-consumption of sugar, I stopped drinking soda. My healthier, shrinking body is the excuse I didn’t need to sew more clothes.

Wanna Be Sewing: Happy Silhouettes

I’m back with more wardrobe building nonsense. My sewing mind (and scrolling finger) has been consumed with it lately. But, I think I have finally settled on some core shapes and silhouettes to go with my recently articulated core style.

I used the Wardrobe Architect challenge’s Exploring Shapes worksheet to rate the types of garments that I feel happiest wearing. I thought about each garment in terms of the elements that affect it (such as ease, length, waistline, or fullness) and how its shape can change if one of those elements varies.

Discovering which shapes rock my world and combining them into different silhouettes (outfits) was my mission. I used polyvore to assemble several four-season garments, kept the colors neutral, and left out accessories to simplify planning.

One dress, two skirts, 2 pants, four tops, and 2 toppers worth of core shapes. Each of these basics could have 3 or more variations (sleeve length, neckline shape, etc.), but for now I’m focusing on these shapes that I rated a 9 or 10 on the happy scale.

A complete silhouette includes garments and shoes. Like the fit and flare silhouette below of dress (fitted bodice, full skirt) + cropped cardigan + leggings +  riding boots that’s become my uniform this winter.

Winter Silhouette 02

But, sharing all of the shoe combinations would take days. So, I’ll leave the shoes out and just show some of the garment-only silhouettes that I’ll be building with my “happy shapes”.

Silhouette #1

{Dress (fitted bodice, full skirt) + cropped cardigan}

Basic Silhouette 01

Silhouette #2

{Fitted, elbow sleeve t-shirt + full skirt + cropped cardigan}

Basic Silhouette 1

Silhouette #3

{Fitted classic shirt + full skirt}

Basic Silhouette 03

Silhouette #4

{Dolman sleeve peplum top + pencil skirt}

Basic Silhouette 05

Silhouette #5

{Sleeveless peplum tunic + skinny jeans}

Basic Silhouette 4

Silhouette #6

(Loose-fit wrap blouse + skinny jeans)

Basic Silhouette 04

Silhouette #7

{Fitted, elbow sleeve t-shirt + leggings + long cardigan}

Silhouette 06

7 silhouettes from 12 shapes is just scratching the surface. There are a gajillion outfit possibilities for my favorite shapes. I’m still narrowing down the patterns I’ll use to sew all these shapes and silhouettes (except for the jeans, I’ll leave that to Levi’s for now), but getting this far in the process is hugely empowering. I’m even excited for this month’s closet purging task.

What are the favorite outfits or go-to silhouettes in your closet?

Wanna Be Sewing: Knit Dresses

I am starting off the year with a new, regular feature for the blog. A short break between makes to share what inspires my sewing.

Wanna Be Sewing X kicks off with a mini homage to my latest obsession: knit dresses. This winter, I am all over cute, comfy, fit, and flare.

Wanna Be Sewing: Knit Dresses
Patterns like Colette’s Moneta, Vogue 8646, or Bluegingerdoll’s Violet could get me that fabulous-frock-as-secret-pajamas look I am after. What has been inspiring your sewing this season?

Birth of a Spring / Summer Wardrobe Palette

I’m the kind of girl that likes plenty of options when faced with a choice. The cereal aisle (if I dared to stand in its void) doesn’t intimidate me at all. I just wish I had the time to catalogue it ;-). So, when I saw that the Spring & Summer 2012 Palette Challenge was announced over at The Coletterie, it was out of character for me to want to play along.

“To participate, you research and choose a color palette for creating a mini seasonal wardrobe, create a moodboard, and then spend about 8 weeks sewing as many garments as you’d like from that palette.” Sarai at The Coletterie

Those lovely constraints (which I need but often avoid) would only have me “obligated” to my color palette for a couple of months. It would also give me an opportunity to focus on a handful of patterns, say 4 or 5 garments that could be mixed and matched into two weeks worth of outfits. Limits with limits. I can work with that!

The challenge is pretty low-key and should fit nicely with The Sew Weekly’s upcoming themes, but Operation Sew Balanced needs my attention for the moment. Perhaps in a week or so, I’ll decide if I will fully participate (Flickr group, forum, etc.) or simply remain an inspired and supportive lurker.

In the meantime, here is a palette of fabrics that would inspire any mini wardrobe I might sew this season.

Palette of Fabric Prints to Inspire a Spring/Summer Mini Wardrobe

A signature floral, solids selected from a rainbow plaid, classic & cheery polka-dots, and chevron stripes for texture. (Fabric: Maywood Studio’s Calypso collection, Robert Kaufman Pimatex Basics & Remix collections).

Got any color-coordinated wardrobe plans this season?

Introducing…The “Look on the Bright Side” Dress

Last week’s Pantone Spring 2012 Color Palette Challenge gave me the chance to experiment with some colors I hardly ever wear: yellow and orange. Solar Power and Tangerine Tango to be specific. I also experimented with lining a sleeveless bodice.

The "Look on the Bright Side" Dress

The "Look on the Bright Side" Dress

The "Look on the Bright Side" Dress

The dress debuted at The Sew Weekly on Saturday. Read more about it here.

Some of the gals were kind enough to give me some styling advice for this dress, as I was pretty stumped by its brightness. I tried to default to neutral accessories, but it just didn’t work. Then, I tried Veronica Darling and Kazz’s suggestion to style it with BLACK.

Enter: store-bought crocheted shrug, 2 yards of plaid chiffon from le stash (that may just get sewn into an infinity scarf), and a skinny black belt. With these add-ons, I just may have a rockable style for this neon spectacle.

The "Look on the Bright Side Dress" with Styling Option

I’m still easing into the colors though, so it’d be ideal to have a few more looks for this dress if it’s going to do more than just brighten up my closet.

What do you think? How would you style it?

Films for Fashion: The Kennedys and Pan Am

Last week’s Mad Men challenge, multiple deadlines at the day job, and a house full of mid-stream DIY and repair projects….all nearly ate me alive. I survived (whew!), however, with renewed energy and am ready to finish my show n’ tell of 1960’s on-screen fashion.

I made a deal with myself to wrap this up before I can start watching Season 5 of Mad Men (which started Sunday and is taunting me, begging for me to buy its season pass on iTunes). But, there’s no need to overload the senses. I’ve still got goodies to share…once I do, the girls of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce can go back to inspiring my sewing.

On to the 60’s fashion-spotting….this time I turned to television dramas, beginning with the mini-series, The Kennedys, that starred Greg Kinnear as the late U.S. President (1961 – 1963), John F. Kennedy and Katie Holmes as the iconic Jackie Kennedy.

The Kennedys (2011), TV mini-series
Directed by John Cassar
Series Costume Design by Christopher Hargadon

 Movie Poster for The Kennedys

Jackie Kennedy, (or  Jackie O.) was a great representation of this fashion era. The show did well styling Katie Holmes (who’s probably much shorter in stature than the real Jackie) as the quietly clever and graceful First Lady.

Jackie Kennedy played by Katie Holmes

Jackie Kennedy played by Katie Holmes

Jackie Kennedy played by Katie Holmes

This white wool suit with wide, black leather belt is my favorite. I’ve always wanted to rock a white skirt suit without looking like I was taking myself too seriously…this one is just right.

Jackie Kennedy played by Katie Holmes

For a hot-minute, ABC got on the 60’s bandwagon (an obvious response to the popularity of Mad Men) and aired one season of the show (before cancelling it), Pan Am. It followed the lives of beautiful, well-groomed Pan Am stewardesses and their equally handsome pilots as they flew all over the world, got caught up in drama, adventure, and romance. All in perfect, 1960’s hat-and-gloved style.

Pan Am (2011), TV show
Created by Jack Orman
Series Costumes by Cortney D’Alisio, Joseph Le Corte, Antoinette Scherer, et al

 Poster for ABC's Pan Am (2011)

ABC's Pan Am

ABC's Pan Am

ABC's Pan Am

And, this one (of course), was the winner of my deepest affection. I either need to renew my wedding vows or get a divorce and re-marry (probably the same guy) so I can make this dress and walk down the ailse in it.

ABC's Pan Am

I Don’t Need No Stinking Swatches…Well, Maybe I Do

Spring / Summer 2012 Fabric Swatch Board

I was supposed to be cleaning my house. Instead, I organized my fabric closet into spring/summer sewables (including fabrics I’ve already sewn this year) and made a swatchboard — which has become so very useful to me already.

Mena has posted the themes for the next six weeks of challenges at The Sew Weekly (an update to the challenge schedule is coming later posted), so it was time to stop being surprised by my stash (“Oh! Look! I forgot I bought this!” or “What the f**k was I thinking when I bought THAT!”) and figure out what I had to work with.

This exercise woke me up to the fact that I need more solids (especially neutrals) in le stash and le wardrobe. My attraction to prints borders on obsessive, so I gotta remember to sneak in some solid colors. With all of the color-blocking going on these days, there’s plenty of options for me to sew up. The Pantone Spring Color Palette challenge is coming up, too, so I marinated on some inspiring looks to get me ready for fabric shopping.

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I think I may buy some silk yardage this year. I have a bit in inventory (mostly prints), but not enough to make some magic.