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What i Made: Portia Blue

portia blue 1 What i Made: Portia Blue

When it comes to outerwear, there are a lot of choices. First, there’s the blanket statement, where one can wrap themselves in a draped number; opting for patchwork or embroidery would make the look extra boho. Then there’s sporty, or a boxy silhouette equipped with a hood and extra pockets that are ideal elements for braving even the coldest cold. Or one could be a caped crusader and battle wild, wild winter just like Little Red Riding Hood with a sleeveless topper. But if you want to channel your inner savage, grab the fur fabric and be one with the pack. Shaggy, baby! Not the most flattering choice, the down jacket is still going strong. Personally, I’ll pass. The Michelin Man was never a good look. As for me, I took my own spin on 2014’s outer selection and transported back to the 1950s. With the most sumptuous vintage brocade chenille, I made Simplicity 1505.

To bring the folks who missed my in-progress post up to date, I’ll reiterate a few details that have already appeared on the blog. For those more informed readers, hang tight. We’ll get to the fun bits below.

I scored this fabric on Ebay over a year ago, winning it for a total of $28.00. Because it’s thick, textural and has a weight similar to home dec fabrics, finding a suitable pattern required a search. The silhouette couldn’t have lots of seaming or details like pockets, epaulettes and/or darts because it would detract and break up the beauty of the fabric. After several long nights on Etsy, I finally chose the one – Simplicity 1505.

Released in 1956, Simplicity 1505 pattern is a misses’ one-piece dress and coat in 2 lengths. The ensemble features a slim lined dress with a v-neckline and short kimono bodice and skirt seam. Coat may be dress or hip length. Buttons trim lower edge of kimono sleeves.

Despite the fact that it was an easy silhouette doesn’t mean construction and patterning didn’t present a few obstacles. Because I only had 2 yards and there was no more available, I had to reduce the body length by 6 inches and sleeve length by 1 inch. Even then, the facing had to be broken into 2 pieces. Also, because of the fabric’s texture, ironing was out of the question, so all interfacing was sewn in. I spent many nights and morning hand sewing hair canvas and then cutting away the seam allowances to a perfect 5/8 inch. Also due to the texture, all seams were steamed and then fingered pressed open and topstitching (including understitching) was a no no. I wrestled with pattern alignment too. I only had enough yardage to have the pattern match in one place. So while the stripes don’t align at the overarm seam, they are centered at the center front and center back. I made a muslin, in which I added back waist darts to make it less sac like, but if I had to go back, I wouldn’t have included them. The darts break up the stripes to a point where it looks weird, like a mistake. I would go back and simply take them out, but because the intake was 2” total (1” on the fold), I clipped into it and cut away the excess. Other details include a back piece made of hair canvas, neck darts to have it shape to my frame, side seam pockets and 2 snap closures at the center front and 2 faux buttons on each sleeve.

So bring it on old man winter. I’m ready for your polar vortex!

*vintage dress from Chariot Marie*

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post footer wardrobe What i Made: Portia Blue

Weekend: What’s Your Routine?

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In her book, The Creative Habit, Twyla Tharp talks a lot about routines and its effect on creativity. I start my day with the same ritual, which I don’t share often because of its eccentricity. I wake up at 4:00 AM, sometimes earlier, and after quickly checking emails, I put on my workout clothes. Sports bra, leggings and t-shirt on, I tie the laces on my sneakers and walk to the gym. For the next hour and a half, I stretch, lift weights and run. It’s a no-brainer act, but doing it the same way every morning impels me to not only live a creative day, but a creative life.

Whether conscious of it or not, everyone has their own unique routine
. While the composer Igor Stravinsky played a Bach fugue in his studio before moving onto his own work, Beethoven doodled in his notebook each morning musical ruminations he had in his head that day. There are many days I wake up and think to myself why the hell I do this? But the power I attach to my routine keeps me from going back to sleep and it induces some sort of on switch that gets me started, motivated and excited to lead a creative life, sewing included in that formula. In my feature for Coca Cola in which I documented a day in my life, it was only after I ran that I could then sew. As I wrote, “Post 10 mile run, I shower and eat a carb and protein loaded breakfast – homemade granola with bananas, dates, chai seeds and almond milk. I am now in the right headspace to sew.”

Whether it’s putting creamer into your coffee every morning or playing a certain song while getting ready, routines make us do something. At the same time, routines replace doubt and fear with comfort and stability because you know you are doing the right thing (if you’ve done it before with success, you do it again).

Do you have a routine for the day? What about a routine for sewing? Must you position your ironing board a certain way, or lay out your tools in a certain order before beginning a project?

post footer weekend Weekend: Whats Your Routine?

Bra Making: A Short Guide to Choosing Fabric

bra making 1 of 1 Bra Making: A Short Guide to Choosing Fabric

Before giving bra making a go, it’s important to have a firm understanding of how each part of a bra should function – cup, cradle and wing – because this is what will guide you when making fabric choices. Many sewers get stalled even before starting because selecting different fabrics for each section is too daunting. Stretch lace for the front? Powernet for the back? Tricot for the lining? Contrary to what many beginners think, both woven and knits can be used to make a bra, and hopefully after reading this, you’ll be comfortable and confident to choose between the two.

First concept to understand is direction of greatest stretch, abbreviated DOGS. In a woven fabric, grainline is used to indicate the direction that has the least amount of stretch, and in most cases, patterns are aligned with this line. In bra making, patterns are cut according to the direction of greatest stretch (DOGS). So, when you’re looking at a bra pattern, lines with arrows indicate the DOGS, not the grainline. To find the DOGS on your fabric, pull on the lengthwise and the crosswise. What has more stretch? That is the DOGS. On stretch fabrics, there is either a stretch in one direction, called a 2-way stretch, or a stretch in all directions, called a 4-way stretch.

With this understood, let’s walk through the parts of a bra and its function.

Band: The band must have stretch running around the body because if not, there will be no room to breath. So, the DOGS is perpendicular to the hook and eye. Also to note, the band is not stabilized in most cases (the bridge and cups are; more on that below).

Bridge: The bridge must be stable from side to side and from top to bottom. Why? Because the bridge is where the bra’s support comes from. While we allow the back to stretch for breathing, we stabilize the front so that it can support the breasts, which sit right above it. The bridge is stabilized in two ways. First, the DOGS is placed parallel to the center front, then the bridge is interfaced with tricot, fusible or something similar.

Cups: The placement of the DOGS on the cup depends on the type of support desired, and that’s a whole other post in itself. You can change the direction of the DOGS to meet a particular need, but in most cases, the DOGS on a horizontal, cross cup seam bra is parallel to the neckline on the upper cup and perpendicular to the cross cup seam on the lower cup.

Now, let’s match the performance with fabric.

Band: Remembering that the band is supposed to stretch, choose a stretch fabric such as powernet, lycra, stretch lace, etc.

Bridge: The bridge can be either a woven or a stretch fabric. Duoplex, Simplex, woven cotton, woven silk, satin, or lace are popular rigid fabrics, and stretch lace is a popular stretch fabric. Whether the bridge is a woven or a stretch, remember that it will need to be stabilized with a lining or a fusible interfacing.

Cups: Just like the bridge, the cups can be made with woven or stretch fabric, and it depends on the type of support desired. The recommended fabrics are the same as the bridge. The fabric of the bridge and the cups can match, or they can be a different fabric to add contrast.

post footer bra making Bra Making: A Short Guide to Choosing Fabric

A Coat in the Making: Simplicity 1505

a coat in the making 1 A Coat in the Making: Simplicity 1505
My strategy for cold-weather dressing is simple – stay warm, look good. Most women don’t want to sacrifice silhouette for the sake of a warm coverall, but I’m in the camp who believes that sac-like can be chic, at least when it comes to coats and jackets. Plus, it’s a daunting task trying to find RTW outerwear that doubles as a figure-flattering AND toasty topper.

It seems like there is an endless sea of sewers currently making their own iteration – Lauren and Jenny, I’m hollering at you! – and our conundrum can be summed up thusly: we’re antsy to get our warm wardrobe on lock while summer sticks around, last minute, trying to thwart our plans. Summer, I have 2 yards of antique chenille brocade on my sewing table. You’ve got to go!

I’ve joined them in their coat adventures; Simplicity 1505 is the one I’m making. It’s a vintage pattern that I spent several days muling over before purchasing, my excuse being the fabric. Over a year ago, I won the most sumptuous vintage chenille brocade on Ebay. A real showstopper. Thick and textural, its beauty will only shine in a garment with minimal seams because adding darts, pockets, button tabs or epaulettes would break up and diminish the pattern. With an overarm seam, side seams, and not much else, this pattern (Simplicity 1505) is perfect.

That doesn’t mean there haven’t been construction and patterning issues that have come up. First was yield. Because there was only 2 yards of this fabric, and I couldn’t go back and buy more, I had to shorten the body length by 6 inches and even then, I had to break the facing into 2 to fit all pieces on the fabric. I could have gone shorter, but then I’d be compromising the silhouette. I’m going for a duster type coat.

Then there’s the interior details. Because of the surface texture, ironing is out of the question, meaning sew-in interfacing was my only option. Remember that time I spent all day accurately cutting and hand sewing hair canvas? That happened last weekend. Also, I translated one of Claire Schaeffer’s dressmaking methods for this coat; my muslin became the underlining. I made a first fit sample, marking all the corrections on it. Then, I used it as my pattern piece, hand basting along all seam lines. Sure, it adds another layer to an already thick fabric, but old man winter can be brutal!

Well, that’s where I’ll leave you today, and on I go with my adventure. Below are a couple snapshots of my work in progress. Wish me luck!
a coat in the making 2 A Coat in the Making: Simplicity 1505 a coat in the making 3 A Coat in the Making: Simplicity 1505 a coat in the making 4 A Coat in the Making: Simplicity 1505 a coat in the making 61 A Coat in the Making: Simplicity 1505 a coat in the making 7 1 of 1 21 A Coat in the Making: Simplicity 1505a coat in the making 8 A Coat in the Making: Simplicity 1505a coat in the making 9 A Coat in the Making: Simplicity 1505a coat in the making 1  A Coat in the Making: Simplicity 1505

      Did you hear that I'm teaching an online bra making class? In 1 hour, I walk you through constructing a bra from start to finish, and I'll cover choosing a bra pattern, finding your size, tracing and cutting tips and construction. Click HERE to sign up now! If you can't attend the class, I will be teaching it in person this winter here in Philadelphia; EMAIL ME to be put on the waiting list.


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