Marfy 2016-17 Catalog Sneak Peak

The latest Marfy catalog arrived yesterday. (For those of you in the US that preordered: it arrived via USPS and was in my mailbox after I got home from work. I didn’t need to sign for it.)

Some thoughts about this catalog:

  • The designs are a little simpler and less dramatic than in previous years. I am not sure if this is reflecting current trends or based upon customer feedback.
  • As usual, many dresses (especially semi-formal dresses) and a few skirt patterns. It seemed like more tops and less jackets this year. I don’t think there were any pants patterns.
  • Most of the dresses had the visual interest in the front, not the back.
  • The tops are mostly mid-hip or longer. Some of what they referred to as mini-dresses were styled with simple straight-leg pants.
  • Tons of patterns that provide opportunities for color blocking, along with combining sheers with regular fabrics.
  • Like last year, they are showing more alternate views for the patterns – necklines with and without lace-up detailing, cap vs long sleeves, with and without drapes and sleeves, solid vs color blocked, etc.
  • Quite a few oversized/boxy tops and cardigans with very deep sleeves, very similar to the Style Arc Alegra jacket/coat and Hedy dress. Obviously not for me, but someone that can carry these styles off well – like Thornberry – might be interested!
  • Prices seem to have gone up. The average dress pattern is now €19 instead of €16.
  • I noticed they’ve started to sell coordinates. So instead of selling just a jacket or just a top, they’ll sell a skirt along with it. (Perhaps this is to help justify the higher prices.)
  • Capes made up nearly half the outerwear. Most of the outerwear had fur trim.

I already placed my order with Marfy. They told me that I was the very first person to order their catalog back in December!

Below is a selection of 15 different styles from it that I posted to Instagram. Some of what I ordered is shown, and some of it is not!

#marfy

A photo posted by @clothingengineer on

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A photo posted by @clothingengineer on

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A photo posted by @clothingengineer on

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A photo posted by @clothingengineer on

All the same dress #marfy

A photo posted by @clothingengineer on

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A photo posted by @clothingengineer on

More tops bundled with skirts. #marfy

A photo posted by @clothingengineer on

I like this dress, but not in eyelet/lace #marfy

A photo posted by @clothingengineer on

#marfy

A photo posted by @clothingengineer on

Another one of the coordinating skirt suits #marfy

A photo posted by @clothingengineer on

#marfy

A photo posted by @clothingengineer on

Janome 1100D Serger and Janome CoverPro 2000CPX Tour

Long story short: my nine year old Babylock Evolve – a combination serger/coverstitch machine – broke on me one too many times. (This time the selector cam – which allows you to engage/disengage the upper looper – broke off and went missing. So now I can no longer convert between serging and coverstitch.) The dealer I bought it from – a local Babylock dealer that was an easy 15 minute drive away – has since gone out of business. My regular sewing machine repair guy took a look at it, told me what the problem was, and then said it was something he didn’t want to take on. He told me “either talk to Babylock about your options, or consider replacing it.” My dealer has always been honest and straightforward with me, so that combined with the fact that I was beyond annoyed with this machine at this point meant that I took his suggestion seriously.

My requirement list was:

  • Two separate machines rather than a combination. My father the mechanic has always told me that when given the choice between two machines that each do one task and one machine that does two tasks, go with two machines. Not only are dedicated machines probably better at what they do, but as I’ve found out less complex = less things to break.
  • No jet air threading. I personally felt like this was a very overrated feature on my Babylock, and omitting it would mean one less thing to possibly break. (I’ve also heard that when the pump goes you might be looking at a $500 repair.)
  • Janome brand. My regular repair guy is a small Janome dealer. I love my dealer (he’s been nothing but fair and extremely patient with me) so I knew I was going to buy from him rather than online or from another dealer in the state. Convenient dealer support is extremely important to me. My dealer is a short drive from work, so if I need to go there for something it is easy to stop by during lunch. I also love how normal turn-around time for repairs is only 1-2 days.
  • Excellent with knits. My new serger would be used primarily for knit construction. I have a Janome MyLock 204D. This machine is a little workhorse that very compact and great for finishing woven seam allowances (which is why I leave it set up next to my regular sewing machine), but it is lackluster when it comes to handling finer knits.
  • Automatic tension. This is something I truly loved about my Babylock. As a beginner I really struggled with adjusting the tension on my MyLock 204D. (Now that I’m more experienced I find it easier to use.) I find the automatic tension is particularly useful when it comes to sewing knits.

With these requirements in mind, I chose the Janome 1100D serger and Janome CoverPro 2000CPX. I did all the research myself online and ordered them both sight unseen (!). I know this is a big no-no for many, many people, but in my opinion all sewing machines have their little quirks and require an adjustment period. So I’m comfortable buying for features and performance alone. (I am, after all, the same person that’s owned eight cars in 12 years. I’m used to having to learn and adjust to new machinery!)

Janome 1100D

The Instruction Manual and DVD

I found the manual and DVD included with the 1100D spartan and quite underwhelming. The information is there, but it is presented in a very minimalistic fashion. When it comes to organization, amount of information, and general presentation Babylock definitely has the edge.

The DVD is also disappointing. It shows you how to thread, and that’s about it! I also had trouble playing it on my (older) Mac laptop.

Neither of these bother me because I’m experienced with sergers and sewing in general, and I prefer to be a self-learner. If you’re a beginner and/or not comfortable with figuring things out on your own, I highly recommend buying this machine from a dealership with a good support system.

General layout and features

The Janome 1100D is a stand-alone serger. I believe this and the 1200D are the only two sergers in the Janome lineup with automatic tension. I’m not sure when this machine came out, but I know it has been around for a few years now.

In addition to coming with all of the normal serger accessories (needles, threader, screwdrivers, tweezers, spool holders, a brush, etc) it also came with a waste catcher that kind of hooks on the front. You need to take it off when rethreading the machine, but holds a good amount of clippings and actually does catch most of the little bits serged off.

The 1100D has a small traditional bulb for light. For this photo I turned off all the lights in the room and tried my best to capture how the light looks in person.

Stitches and Tension Control

The automatic tension is handled at least in part by ten built-in “programs” (which are basically different stitches.) The programs are:

  1. 4-thread safety stitch (which is your basic all-purpose 4-thread overlock stitch)
  2. Wide 3-thread stitch (like the safety stitch, but uses 3 instead of 4 threads)
  3. Flatlock 3 (three-thread flatlock stitch for bulky knits)
  4. Blanket stitch
  5. Overcast 2 (two-thread overlock stitch good for finishing lightweight wovens)
  6. Flatlock 2 (two-thread flatlock stitch – good for hemming, or flatlocking lightweight knits)
  7. Narrow hem 3 (a basic three-thread narrow hem finish
  8. Rolled hem 3 (three thread rolled hem, good for pintucking and general rolled hemming on light-to-medium fabrics)
  9. Rolled hem 2 (two thread rolled hem, great for hemming very lightweight fabrics like chiffon)
  10. Stretch wrapped (a three-thread stitch for knits that’s especially stretchy)

You turn a dial on the right side of the machine until your selected program comes up.

The smaller dial on the top is what you turn to select the program you want.

When the program comes up it tells you which needle(s) to thread, the suggested differential feed/width/stitch length, if your 2-thread converter, knife, and chaining finger should be engaged or not. If you find the automatic tension isn’t behaving as well as it should, you can also adjust the top dials for further control. I find this system more intuitive than the A-B-C-D stitch selector lever on the Evolve.

If you find the tension needs a little bit of extra tweaking, you also have the option of manually adjusting the dials on the top. (I haven’t needed to do this yet.)

Threading

Before you thread the machine you turn the handwheel and match the triangle on the handwheel to the square on the side of the machine, which raises the needles to their highest position.

I really like how Janome included these markings, as they take the guesswork out of making sure the needles are raised as high as they will go. Such as simple feature that makes life a little easier.

Now you’re ready to thread. With my MyLock 204D you thread from right to left (lower looper, upper looper, right needle, left needle.) The 1100D is not as intuitive. Instead you thread in this order:

  1. Upper looper
  2. Lower looper
  3. Left needle
  4. Right needle

After you thread the machine (making sure the thread is firmly in the tension discs!) the instructions suggest hitting the tension release lever at the top and pulling all the threads for about 4″. Sometimes I do this and sometimes I do not. If I do it I give the threads each a good tug afterward to make sure they are firmly wedged in the tension discs.

I should note that unlike with my Babylock, lifting the presser foot on the 1100D does not automatically release the tension. If you want to release the tension you need to pull on the tension release lever, which is positioned at the top of the machine above the two needles.

I found this very weird at first, but after the first day I got used to it.

Like my Babylock Evolve, the 1100D takes ELx705 system needles, size 80/12 or 90/14. (The CoverPro 2000CPX also takes the same needles.) I still have a huge bundle of these from an AllBrands order I placed over three years ago.

One feature I really like on this machine is how you can tilt the needles up for threading and needle changes:

I found this a much more useful feature than the Babylock’s jet air threading ever was.

One thing I want to note about threading the left needle: there’s two thread guides/bars directly above the needles. The manual tells you to pull both threads through both guides. For the right needle I used both guides. But for the left needle, my repair guy suggested that I skip the second guide (the one closest to the needles) and put the thread directly into the needle. It has no effect on the quality of the stitch, but it seems like the threads got less tangled this way.

I forced myself to thread this machine about five times in a row, cutting the threads after sewing a sample and starting fresh each time. (It brought me back to my days as a musician when I would practice one or two measures over and over again, in order to reinforce muscle memory.) When you’re learning how to thread any new sewing machine I suggest threading it maybe five to ten times in a row for this very reason. Do this before you start working on a project, so that if you need to rethread for some reason during the project it will be a minor annoyance rather than something that causes your progress to come to a screeching halt.

Overall I found this machine is a little easier to thread than my MyLock 204D, especially when it comes to the lower looper.

The lower looper on the 1100D has a switch which puts one of the guides in a much easier position to reach after you press down on it.

After you thread the lower looper you just push the this little metal tab up to put everything back in place.

I have mixed feelings about the thread guide pole. I appreciate the solid sheet of metal rather than the bent metal loops of the Evolve. But I also prefer how the Evolve’s thread guide was firmly attached to the machine. The 1100D thread guide just pushes in. When you pull the pole up you need to hold it at the base when raising the guides, or else it pulls out entirely.

Starting to Sew

As with all other sergers, the manual recommends starting a freshly threaded serger with a piece of fabric under the foot, turning the handwheel for a few stitches to make sure everything looks good, and then at that point using the presser foot to sew. So far I have found this machine to be a little pickier than the Babylock when it comes to observing that process. The 1100D is also pickier when it comes to chaining off at the end. I’ve noticed I get the best results when I chain off with more rather than less speed.

One quirk about the 1100D is that you lift the presser foot lever up in order to lower the presser foot, and pull it down in order to raise it. Weird, right?

The presser foot down
The presser foot up

This is completely opposite of every machine I’ve encountered so far, and something I am glad the training person at the sewing machine place showed it to me before I took it home. I’ve since adjusted it it.

Other controls

Differential Feed

One thing I really like about the 1100D is how the main settings are controlled by dials rather than levers. I found with the Babylock it was very easy to accidentally hit the differential feed lever. With this one, not so much:

Stitch Width

I feel so-so about the stitch width dial. I like the location, which is all the way to the left of the machine.

As a beginner I sometimes got confused between the stitch width and length dials on my Evolve, which are right next to each other.

However, it does not turn as easily as the stitch width did on the Evolve. I would also prefer that it was numbered evenly like the Evolve’s was. This dial has 1 on one side, 7 on the other, with N (neutral or 1/4″ width) being in the middle. No numbers between.

Presser Foot Pressure

I have not needed to adjust the presser foot pressure yet. The presser foot pressure knob for both my Babylock Evolve and MyLock 204D don’t have any numbers. This one has numbers 4, 5, and 6. It turns very stiffly.

Locking the Knife

On page 62 the manual shows you how to lock the knife position in place. I don’t think either my Evolve or 204D have this. This is something you want to only do if you’re working with very heavy fabrics, like multiple layers of thick sweatshirt fleece or a bulky sweater knit. You’re instructed to unlock it as soon as you’re done serging the heavy fabric.

1100D performance

Right off the bat both my dad said “wow, that machine runs really smooth compared to your old one.” Men and their obsession with motors! It is true though.

I have found very little difference between the actual stitch quality of this and the Babylock Evolve. This really surprised me, as I’ve heard nothing but gushing about how Babylock serger stitch quality is “the best”.

Here’s a sample out of some terrible, almost tissue-weight and very stretchy rayon/lycra jersey. An evil knit that my MyLock 204D won’t sew properly. (I’ve found that while most sergers do ok with medium or heavier knits, sometimes the lighter ones trip them up.)

Looks good to me!

I rarely do things like flatlocking or narrow/rolled hems on my serger. I did some samples the day after I got this machine, and in my opinion they were pretty much identical to what my Babylock Evolve produced.

One thing I preferred about the Babylock is the shape of the presser foot was better for attaching clear elastic. The Janome doesn’t have that, which makes applying clear elastic more difficult.

1100D presser foot

Janome 2000CPX

Instruction Manual

Once again, I found the instruction manual extremely minimal, so if you’re completely new to coverstitch machines I recommend buying from a dealer with a good instructor that can show you the ropes.

If you’re more of a self-learner then I recommend checking out the Janome Inspirations CoverPro video below. It is only ten minutes long, but she packs in a lot of information into those ten minutes.

General Layout and Features

The 2000CPX is a standalone 4-thread coverstitch machine. You can do two and three needle coverstitching as well as single needle chainstitching. In addition to being useful as a topstitch for bindings, the chain stitch is also great for basting. Just hold the top thread, then pull the bottom thread, and everything comes undone in an instant!

Going from a combo machine to a dedicated coverstitch, the first thing I noticed was just how much larger the bed of the dedicated coverstitch is. It allows much more room for manipulation if you plan on using it for basting or decorative topstitching. I didn’t mind switching between overlock and coverstitch, but I did mind the limited space for coverstitching. For me this is the biggest benefit to having a dedicated coverstitch.

The 2000CPX differential feed and stitch length dials are on the right. Little diagrams help you distinguish between the two.

The presser foot pressure is controlled by a knob on the top left of the machine.

The tension controls, along with the looper thread tension switching lever (that “soft” and “tight” switch), are all positioned on the upper section of the machine.

Most of the time you’re probably going to leave the looper tension adjustment switch on “tight”. You would switch it to “soft” if you’re getting tunneling, and back to “tight” if you’re getting skipped stitches or the looper thread is too loose.

Inside the front cover there’s a handy little quick reference of suggested tensions for each stitch.

2000CPX vs 1000CPX

The 2000CPX is a new model – I believe it came out in early 2015. From what I understand, the main difference between the 1000CPX and 2000CPX is that the 2000CPX includes an additional tension setting that helps you either tighten the back stitches if the machine is skipping stitches, or loosen them if you’re experiencing tunneling. The 2000CPX seems to have differently shaped arm/bed (more squared-off than the 1000CPX). The 2000CPX also has a little LED light instead of a regular bulb.

Once again I turned off all the lights in the room so you could get an idea of the strength and spread of the light.

Since there was not much of a price difference between the two (around $100?) I decided to go with the 2000CPX for the additional tension control.

Threading

I found threading on this to be straightforward. There’s diagrams and arrows everywhere!

When it comes to threading the lower looper you pull a white knob at the bottom, and the lower looper swings out to the right:

After you finish threading the lower looper, just push the looper to the left.

After it clicks into place you’re ready to thread your needle(s).

Performance

Tension

In my opinion the Janome actually does a better job with tension than the Babylock, especially for the chain stitch. I used to also have problems with the Babylock’s wide coverstitch being slightly tunneled. This hasn’t been an issue with the Janome.

Despite sticking to Babylock’s suggestion of ELx705 CF needles, I would have problems with skipped stitches (especially on finer knits) unless I used wooly nylon in the lower looper. With the 2000CPX I can serge with regular Maxi-lock thread in the lower looper and not have skipped stitches.

Going over serged seams

Right away I noticed the difference when it came to sewing over serged seams. Instead of getting “stuck” like the Babylock did, which would result in tiny little uneven stitches and the stitching going crooked, it just sews over them nice and straight. I don’t have to clip the serged seam or anything! It just works. For bulkier knits I do stop and make sure everything is aligned properly and the presser foot lip in the front is properly placed before going over the seam.

In case if you’re wondering, I haven’t noticed a difference between the presser foot clearance on the Janome 2000CPX and Babylock Evolve.

Janome 2000CPX presser foot raised

Ending in the round

The second major difference was starting/ending in the round, which is the vast majority of my coverstitching. I printed out Debbie Cook’s coverstitching tutorial on ending a coverstitch and tried doing it many times with not much success. The Babylock seemed very picky about the position of the needle height, so most of the time I couldn’t get the tension to release properly on the first try. I would dread when it came time to end the stitching. Since I almost never succeeded at getting the threads to pull out to the back, I resorted to leaving a long tail, taking a hand sewing needle, and carefully pulling them to the back by hand (where I would then tie them off). If I wasn’t careful the stitches would start to come undone. Forget chain stitching, which makes it even easier for threads to become undone. Since everyone raved about Debbie’s tutorial (which is excellent) and I was unable to get satisfactory results, I often wondered if  I was mentally deficient.

With the Janome, I have been able to raise the needles, clip the threads, and pull them out to the back on the first try with 100% success. (I guess I’m not so mentally deficient after all.) One thing I have noticed with the Janome is that it requires a firm little “snap” motion when it comes time to release the lower looper thread, especially after chain stitching. No limp wristing! This is a tip I picked up in the Janome CoverPro Inspirations YouTube video.

Chain stitching

I rarely used the chain stitch on my Evolve. In addition to having the ending in the round issue (which is especially problematic with a chain stitch) I also found chain stitching (and sometimes coverstitching) was difficult due to the very small workspace.

With the Janome, I’m finding myself using the chain stitch all the time! The large bed makes it much easier to manipulate fabric, and the fact that I can consistently end in the round properly means that I’ll be using the chain stitch much more often for when it comes time to attach bindings. Despite the fact that I’m still waiting on my clear center guide foot to arrive, I was able to topstitch my Kendall top with the regular metal foot with relative accuracy.

The one thing I miss about the Evolve is the ability to chain off a coverstitch/chain stitch, or create thread chains using the chain stitch. With the Janome you have to have fabric under the foot for the chaining to work properly. So now when I chain stitch (or coverstitch) from the start to end of a flat piece of fabric I have start and end with a scrap of fabric.

Samples

So far I’ve sewn two projects on this machine: a couple of pairs of the Style Arc Becki yoga pants using a 4-way stretch fleece, and my Style Arc Kendall tops.

Here’s the chain stitch on the purple Kendall top. I used regular Gutermann sewing machine thread for both the needle and looper.

Here’s the coverstitched hem of the fleece yoga pants. (This was actually my first project on this machine.) I used regular Maxi-lock thread for the needles and Maxi-lock stretch/wooly nylon thread for the looper.

Conclusion

I’ve sewed up many samples and a few projects on them so far, and I have to say that my dealer did me a huge favor telling me to ditch the Babylock! These two machines surpassed my expectations, especially the 2000CPX. As a brand Janome is one of the best for delivering the most bang for the buck.

In case if you’re wondering about price: I purchased the Janome 1100D and 2000CPX for a total pre-tax amount of  $1698. My dealer also extended all servicing/warranty work and parts from one to three years. My Babylock Evolve was a floor model that was around $2000 circa 2007, and that price did not include anything other than instruction.

A Sweater Knit Style Arc Cleo

I wish I had more photos of this dress, but unfortunately the battery on my camera died before I got all the shots I wanted.

During my Christmas break from work last December I traced off a new copy of my heavily altered Style Arc Cleo pattern, altering the skirt to be A-line instead of straight. I then cut into a thick wool blend sweater knit purchased last October from Fabric Mart.

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This dress ended up taking much longer than I thought it would.

I first decided to use the gray quilted side as my right side. After putting it together and trying it on…I hated it! Due to the fabric’s quilted effect it looked stiff and frumpy. The open neckline also felt COLD. Out of curiosity I turned it inside out and put it back on. I was much happier with the effect. I decided to take apart the entire dress and start over again, using the almost-black diamond pattern face as the right side.

To fix the too-open neckline I cut a new neck band. I made the finished width 1.5″ instead of 1/2″, and used the diamond pattern as a design feature. This made the neckline feel significantly warmer.

The sleeves were also a little too short, so I finished them with a 1.5″ cuff instead of a regular hem. The hemline also ended up shorter than I wanted. In order to squeeze out the maximum length possible I made a hem facing from some black stretch lace that was laying around in my sewing area. I sewed the stretch lace facing in place using the blind hem on my machine.

After finishing the dress I took it in the darts an additional 3″ at the back waist. (I found this knit grew a little during wear.) I also let out my 5/8″ seams at the bust and sleeves.

I’ve worn this dress to work a few times. Styling it with wool tights, boots, and a silk scarf makes it a nice cozy dress for brisk winter days.

I was going to make a second Cleo, but the wool knit I had planned for it gave me quite a surprise after pre washing:

Yes. It went from 2 yards, 72″ wide, with squared-off ends, to 1.5 yards, 58″ wide, with very misshapen ends. I washed it in the machine on cold delicate and air dried (as I do for all wool knits). This is why I prewash all of my fabrics before sewing them up. Better to know before rather than after you sew.

I tried to save this knit by trying to shape it back on grain, but the problem was that the two bonded fabrics weren’t perfectly on grain when they were bonded together. For this reason it wasn’t suitable for a sewing project. Rather than throw it out, I folded it up and made it into a bed for Miss Bonnie. She loves it! Not what I had hoped for this knit, but it ended up being a solution that worked for everyone.

Style Arc Kendall Top

Version 1: a wool knit with only mechanical stretch.

I didn’t notice the left sleeve hem flipped up until after I downloaded the photos onto my computer. Oh well!

Version 2: a modal/lycra sweatshirting with 4-way stretch.

KENDALL-TOP

The Style Arc Kendall top (note: affiliate link) has a front empire seam with an oversized shawl collar. The sleeves are 7/8″ length (which is 3-4″ shorter than full length). Out of the envelope, the hem will hit most people at the low hip/upper thigh.

When I first saw this top, I thought of Burda 11/2006 #116:

Screen Shot 2016-01-20

The Style Arc top is actually quite different:

  • The Burda collar is much smaller and cut-on rather than being sewn-on and sandwiched between two bodice pieces like the Style Arc top.
  • The Burda collar is worn folded over instead of being “scrunched” like the Style Arc Kendall. (For that reason the Burda top requires you to use a fabric with two “good” sides, and topstitch the collar with a decorative stitch.)
  • The front wrap detail is set closer to the side seams for the Burda top.
  • Burda also continues the empire seam in the back rather than having a cut-on-the-fold back like the Kendall top. They also build a little shaping into this seam.

Recommended fabrics for the Kendall top are sweater knit, baby wool, and knit jersey.

The fabric I used for my first version was a wool knit. It is technically a jersey but it has the weight and beefiness of a ponte, especially after being washed. I purchased it about four years ago from Fabric Mart. (Some of us actually do use stuff from our stash!)

Picture 2

The combination of the fabric with the oversized shawl collar makes this a very cozy winter top.

Alterations:

  • Added a center back seam, which I took in 3″ at the waist.
  • Lengthened the sleeves 6″, as I wanted them full length. I ended up shortening them 1.25″.
  • 3/8″ rounded back alteration
  • 3/8″ forward shoulder alteration
  • 1/2″ swayback tuck
  • Added 4″ to the hip
  • Added 1″ to the side seams at the bust height. I ended up taking in the side seams at the bust 2″, and 1″ at the waist and hip.
  • Added 3/4″ width to the sleeves. I ended up taking them in about 1/2″.
  • Shortened the hem 3″

Overall I found this top ran a little big. It is definitely meant for a stable knit with not a whole lot of stretch (maybe around 30%?) I also found that both the hem and armholes are on the long side. The shoulders on this seem to be designed to be a tiny bit dropped.

After wearing this I have to say that I love how the collar gives the coziness of a turtleneck without the choking feeling. Almost like a built-in scarf. It is definitely more interesting than the typical sweatshirt pattern.

One thing I’m not pleased with is the pulling at the center front of the empire seam. Playing with the differential feed on my serger and giving the seam a good press afterward helped cut down on the effect of the pulling, but it is definitely still there. The Style Arc sample has it too. IMO it is a combination of fabrication, the slightly negative ease at the neckline, and the fact that you’re sewing five layers of fabric together at the center front. This pattern is meant for stable knits without a whole lot of stretch, so you can’t depend on negative ease to help support the seam.

Another quirk of this top is that the collar pushes the shoulder seam outward during movement, making it look like the shoulders are too wide when they really aren’t.

The pulling obviously didn’t bother me enough to keep me from making a second Kendall top. This time I wanted my Kendall top to be something comfortable to wear after the work day that would coordinate with the black fleece pants I practically live in during the winter. I used a modal rayon/lycra sweatshirt fleece from Fabric Mart. It is one of the Julie’s Picks fabrics for this month. (I think it is sold out by now.) I wasn’t the biggest fan in the world of the oversized rose print, but it is SO soft and cuddly and has wonderful drape.  It is the type of fabric you just want to wrap around yourself on cold days. As soon as I felt the sample I knew I wanted to use it for loungewear. I really wish this fabric was readily available in solids.

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Since this is casual, relaxed loungewear top that I want to layer over tanks I didn’t bother taking it in as much as I did for the first one. The bust/waist and sleeve width are the out-of-the-envelope width. I did end up taking in the center back seam 3″ like I did the first time, because if I don’t the back pooches out. I also shortened the sleeves an addition 1/2″ from last time, due to the fact that this fabric has 4-way stretch. Since I’m going to be wearing this over tight fleece yoga pants I didn’t bother chopping off any length from the hem. Technically I probably should have shortened it between shoulder and bust, and made that empire seam higher. I like the top anyway. It is super comfortable to wear.

For construction I did things a little bit differently the second time around.

  • I stabilized the empire seam in the front with 1/4″ clear elastic. I’m uncertain as to whether it helped or not.
  • Here’s the order of construction I used for the second top, which is slightly different from the Style Arc instructions.
    1. Sew the center back seam (if you added one like I did), then sew one set of upper bodice pieces to the back at the shoulder, stabilizing the shoulder with clear elastic.
    2. Sew the binding strip to the other set of upper bodice pieces at the shoulder. (I should have trimmed the width in half at this point, but I neglected to do so.) This is your neckline facing.
    3. Fold the collar in half. (You can press it either now or after you finish the top.) Pin the collar to the neckline of the front and back. Then pin the facings to the neckline, sandwiching the collar between the two. Sew all layers together.
    4. Attach the shoulder seam of the facing to the bodice shoulder seam. I did it by machine using a chain stitch, but it was difficult sewing in as far as I needed to. I would sew it by hand next time.
    5. Turn the bodice to the right side, and topstitch. I used a chain stitch, positioning it 1/4″ away from the collar. After I was done I trimmed the back binding piece close to the stitching. (I made it a single rather than double fold binding strip.)
    6. Pin/baste the front bodice pieces to the bodice facings, and cross the right over the left as suggested by the notches. Now pin the lower front bodice to the crossover. Serge all the layers together, incorporating some clear elastic into the seam as a stabilizer. Press the seam down.
    7. Sew the armhole seam of the upper bodice to the sleeve, then sew the side seams together in one pass, from bodice hem to sleeve hem. Hem the sleeves and bodice.

Style Arc Paris Tote Bag

I don’t normally sew handbags. (In general I’m not a craft or home decor sewer.) But lately I’ve been wanting something classier than my old nylon L.L.Bean bag. In addition to being turned off by the high prices retailers demand for genuine leather bags, I realized that I wanted something more unique than what was being offered. That’s when I decided to make the Paris tote from Style Arc (note: affiliate link).

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In case if you’re wondering, the dress is a recently completed wool sweater knit version of the Style Arc Cleo.

For this bag I used a deep brown lambskin purchased over four years ago from Fabric Mart. The lambskin was very soft and pliable, so in order to give it additional body and strength I fused the bag section with Pro-Sheer Elegance from Fashion Sewing Supply. The result is a bag that’s flexible and feels incredibly luxurious (which is what I was looking for.) I’m glad I was finally able to do something with this skin!

For the trim, handles, and base patches I used an embossed cowhide from the Etsy seller oneway52.

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This Etsy seller is kind of awesome; he had super fast shipping and noted that he included a couple of extra pieces to compensate for bad spots on some of the pieces, which means that now I have to figure out a project for the remaining leather. (Maybe coordinating zipped pouches?) Along with a business card, he also included some Sugar Babies and a pen with a light on one end in the order! Completely unexpected.

The handles are attached to the bag via leather rivets. You can see how I pinked the upper edge of the cowhide.

I ordered 6mm cap brass rivets from BuckleGuy.com, as I knew that even if my local Joann’s carried them the quality would likely be suspect. Along with the rivets I ordered a rivet setter. The rivet setter works, but you have to be very careful about how you position it. If you aren’t perfectly vertical it will set them in at an angle.

The decorative tie is also held in place by a leather rivet.

I topstitched the handles on my Janome 6500P. I used Gutermann Mara 70 thread from Cleaner’s Supply. My Janome sewed it, but it didn’t like it nearly as much as the buttery soft lambskin. I lengthened the handles a couple of inches to make them easier to slip over my winter coats.

The section where the cowhide trim is attached to the bag proved to be too much for my Janome, so at that point I switched to topstitching with my industrial walking foot machine. The cowhide was not very thick, but the sheer density of it was making the Janome struggle more than I liked.

I held the base patches in place with some scotch tape. This was a bad move; I didn’t get around to topstitching that night, so when I topstitched the next day the tape didn’t remove as cleanly as I had thought it would, and the leather was a little sticky. I had to switch to a Teflon foot in order to finish sewing the patches on. To remove the adhesive and cover up where the tape slightly damaged the surface of the lambskin I treated it with some saddle soap and leather conditioner.

To form the base of the bag you form a couple of tucks before sewing the side seam.

The zipper guards do not extend all the way to the edges of the bag. Not sure how I feel about this…

The zipper is a #5 nylon boot zipper, also from Cleaner’s Supply. The lining is a heavier gold satin poly that was part of a freebie bundle from Fabric Mart. I’m glad I finally found a use for it. It was too heavy for a blazer, but there wasn’t enough yardage for a coat.

I took a little bit of liberty with the pattern and made four instead of two pockets. My pockets are also larger than what Style Arc drafted. After all, isn’t being able to customize storage the biggest reason to sew instead of buy your own bag?

These two are for my phone, wallet, and keys.

And these two are for sunglasses and a notepad.

I bound the sides with some scraps of the lambskin leather. Between the cowhide and multiple layers of lambskin I knew better than to even attempt to sew it on the Janome, so I stitched it on my industrial.

For maximum durability I made a double instead of single fold binding.

Burda 09/2006 #114: Wrap Dress

Some quick photos of my new wrap dress after church this morning. No time today to set up nice lighting and a background, or hide my remote.

The necklace I’m wearing was a gift from my parents this morning. Isn’t it gorgeous?

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Burda 09/2006 #114 is a wrap dress with a collar, pocket flaps, shoulder epaulettes, and 3/4 length cuffed sleeves with sleeve tabs. The skirt length from the waist is about 24.5″ long. The front skirt pieces are cut from the same pattern piece, so the underlay extends all the way to the side seam. This uses more fabric than the underlays that stop just past the center front, but it makes this dress much less accident prone. The neckline is finished with a facing, but if you make it without the collar (version #115) you can finish it with clear elastic instead.

This is one of my favorite knit dress patterns. It is probably one of the most pear-friendly styles out there. It is my go-to pattern for silk  and wool jersey. It will work with just about any knit that has 2-way vs 4-way stretch. The only thing I don’t like about it is that it requires a significant amount of fabric – about 3 yards of 55″ fabric. There’s also a limited size range – 34-42 vs the more common 36-44.

For this version I used a deep gray silk jersey from Gorgeous Fabrics.

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I stabilized the shoulder seams with the 1/2″ clear elastic from Fashion Sewing Supply. Collar, shoulder epaulettes, and pocket flaps were interfaced with the lightweight Pro-Sheer Elegance, also from Fashion Sewing Supply. (I also added a square of interfacing to help support the back of the pocket flap buttons.) Buttons are the 22L fisheye buttons in Smoke from Cleaner’s Supply.

I topstitched the skirt and sleeve hems with my coverstitch machine, but otherwise this dress was constructed entirely on my sewing machine with the help of the even feed foot. Since silk jersey doesn’t have a huge amount of stretch I was comfortable using a straight stitch for the whole project. I used 1/4″ seam allowances for the collar, neckline, epaulettes, waist ties, and pocket flaps. For all other seams I used a 3/8″ seam allowance. For the front skirt edge I topstitched a 5/16″ double folded hem in place. I also sewed in some hanging loops from 1/8″ cotton twill tape to the underarm of the shoulder seam.

My main style adjustment was leaving off the sleeve tabs and cuffs. I wanted to include them, but my silk jersey didn’t have enough body to hold the shape of the cuff. (Burda used a wool jersey for their sample.) I ended up  I also omitted the topstitching from the pocket flaps, shoulder epaulettes,  and collar.

Rather than work from my old pattern (which I traced off at least three years ago) I decided to start fresh. I traced a straight size 38 and made the following alterations:

  • Lengthened between bust and waist 1/2″
  • Added 5″ width to the hips
  • Added 3/4″ width to the sleeves
  • 1/2″ swayback tuck
  • 3/8″ rounded back alteration
  • 3/8″ forward shoulder alteration
  • 1/4″ sloped shoulder alteration
  • Lengthened the sleeves 1/2″
  • Added 1″ total width to the front and back pieces at bust level
  • Added 3/4″ width to the front waist, and removed 3/4″ width from the back waist
  • Added an additional 1/2″ length to the center back hemline
  • Added 1/2″ width to the upper back

After making this I felt like the center front dipped down about 1/4″ too much, so I removed that amount from the waistline curve of the upper bodice. Overall I feel like it fits better through the bust and back than my older versions do. As you can see from the photos there’s no gaping at all at the neckline.

For next time I want to lengthen the sleeves to full length. I love the look of 3/4 sleeves, but they aren’t as practical for New England winters! I would also move the shoulder tabs about 1/4″ forward, rather than centering them directly over the shoulder seam, so that they are more visible from the front.

Back to cooking Christmas dinner! :)

Burda 12/2006 #125: PJ Set #2

My second 2015 PJ set. I can now cross “flannel pajamas” off of my fall/winter projects list.

Sleepy moo-cow flannel PJs done! Burda 12-2006-125 #burdastyle #burdastylemagazine

A photo posted by @clothingengineer on

The quilt that’s covering the futon in the above photo was a childhood sewing project of mine. It is probably around 22 or 23 years old now! (For some reason I didn’t take to sewing until after I turned 20.)

Aside from piping the collar and front facing, I made no changes from last time.

Once again I used a cotton flannel for my fashion fabric.

I purchased this fabric over three years ago. Feels good to finally get it out of my stash.

The interfacing for the collar and facings, as well as the 3/4″ elastic for the waistband, is from Fashion Sewing Supply. Piping is from Joanns. The yellow buttons are from Cleaners Supply.

My only regret with this pair is the position of the buttonholes. I positioned them exactly as they were marked on the pattern, and I think they are just a little bit too far away from the edge. I used 3/8″ buttons; I think that the markings were for 1/2″ or 5/8″ buttons.

Ottobre 5/2012 #7: Gardener Shirt

This time I went with a bias bound sleeve vent instead of a placket. Got some Golden Hour lighting going on!

Ottobre 5/2012 #7: Gardener Shirt (cotton flannel)

Ottobre 5/2012 #7: Gardener Shirt (cotton flannel)

Ottobre 5/2012 #7: Gardener Shirt (cotton flannel)

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Ottobre 5/2012 #7: Gardener Shirt (cotton flannel)
I found the neck on this VERY generously sized.

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I needed to make something to fill in my weekend flannel shirt gap. During the cold months I wear a lot of fleece jackets, but when I go out on errands I prefer the more structured look of a regular shirt. If you are tall like me flannel shirts are one of the garments where you will save money sewing vs buying. If I am vigilant about stash and fabric sales I can easily make one for less than $10, whereas flannel shirts that come in women’s tall sizes seem to be at least $35 – if you happen to be lucky enough to buy during a sale. Along with RTW flannel quality always being a wildcard, I would still have issues like too-tight sleeves and not enough hip room.

My flannel Style Arc Safari Sam is starting to get very thin, to the point of starting to develop little holes in certain spots. Rather than make another Safari Sam I decided to try something different this time, so I traced off Ottobre’s 5/2012 Gardener shirt. The simple design is well-suited for plaids and stripes.

I don’t have much experience with Ottobre. I think I made an Ottobre blouse about four years ago. I remember it being looser fitting than I thought it would be, especially through the waist. Just didn’t mesh with my style back then. That being said, Ottobre has a lot of great basics. They’re not the sexiest, formal, or most fashion-forward patterns, but they’re solidly drafted and come in a large size range (euro sizes 34-52). I think it is very cool how they use everyday people of various ages and sizes as their models rather than defaulting to the young, tall, and very slim models Burda prefers. As I was looking through my previous issues I found myself wondering why I hadn’t made more of them.

Then I remembered why:

And I thought tracing Burda was bad. #ottobredesign

A photo posted by @clothingengineer on

The lines are color coded per pattern, but unlike Burda ALL the lines for each size are solid. I found myself getting “lost” more than once, despite tracing on a bright, sunny Saturday afternoon. I think this is partially why Burda generally offers only 4-5 sizes per pattern as opposed to Ottobre’s 10. I found myself thinking wistfully about the simplicity of Style Arc and Marfy’s single size patterns.

The fabric I used was a beefy cotton flannel from Fabric Mart. It is a sturdy, durable fabric, but doesn’t have the best drape.

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At $3/yard I didn’t consider it worthwhile to do a muslin first. Since I considered it a wearable muslin some of my stitching was rather suspect in some areas ;).

I used the lightweight Shirt-Crisp interfacing from Fashion Sewing Supply for the collar and cuffs. Since I didn’t want to cut a separate placket I decided to add a placket extension to the center front, and folded it over and topstitched in place. The three layers of flannel fabric eliminated the need for interfacing.

My buttons are the pink 18L sport shirt buttons from Cleaner’s Supply. (You really can’t beat 144 buttons for $2.95!) Since I didn’t have any matching Gutermann thread in stock and was already making a trip with my mom to Joann’s this weekend, I took a chance and used Coats & Clark Dual Duty All Purpose XP thread. Normally my Janome 6500P loves to shred Coats & Clark thread, but that was not the case this time. As a precaution I went extra slow when doing the buttonholes, but for the most part it was well behaved. (Does anyone know if Coats & Clark “reformulated” their thread recently?)

I started with a base size of 38 and made the following fitting adjustments:

  • Lengthened the sleeves 2″. I knew this would be too much, but since I had little experience with Ottobre I added the extra length as a precaution. I would rather have a finished garment, especially a flannel one for the winter months, with sleeves that are too long vs too short. I’ll shorten them 1″ for next time.
  • 3/8″ rounded back alteration
  • 3/8″ forward shoulder alteration
  • 1/4″ sloped shoulder alteration
  • Added around 2-3″ width at the lower hip
  • Went up to a size 42 for the sleeve width at the bicep/elbow. (My arms and legs are always at least one size bigger than my torso.)
  • Added a couple of small darts to the back. I think I removed a total of about 1.5″ at the waist. Just a little bit to help rein in the ease.

A few notes:

  • I loved the back shoulder dart! This is something that really improves the fit if you have prominent shoulder blades.
  • I like how Ottobre tells you in the instructions where to place the first one (and how far apart to space the others) instead of just marking it on the pattern piece. I don’t know about you, but generally by the time I get to buttonholes the chalk has rubbed off…
  • Since I was working with a striped fabric with stripes of different widths and repeats, I went with a bias bound sleeve vent instead of a placket (which I normally prefer).
  • When I do a sleeve vent, I prefer to fold back the buttonhole side of the vent so the topstitching doesn’t show. This resulted in me having to reduce the size of the sleeve pleat.
  • The fit on this is roomy, but not boxy or overwhelming.  I do feel like it was less shaped through waist than what the line drawing indicated.
  • I had a hard time determining the fit from Ottobre’s photos. The model had it layered under a blazer, wore it unbuttoned with her hands on her hips, etc. Not too helpful. However, it does accurately depict that you can comfortably layer a t-shirt under it.
  • As I mentioned in the caption, I found the neck on this very generously sized. Without having much previous experience with Ottobre I have no way of knowing whether this is a design choice or if it is just the way their drafting is. Since the cuffs are also generously sized (I can slip my hand through them without undoing the buttons) I’m guessing it was the design. I should find another Ottobre blouse pattern and compare. I do found it more comfortable than the typical shirt collar. I also think it fits in with the overall roomy look.
  • I did not add length to this shirt. Out of the envelope it is nearly 28″ from back of the neck to hem.

Style Arc Tulip Dress

Full length view. (Why is it that pendants never seem to stay centered on me??)

Slash pockets
Bodice and skirt pleat detail. Notice how the skirt overlay hangs from the upper and not lower edge of the waistband.
Tulip style sleeve. Thought I would also mention that the neckline doesn’t really gape like this in person – it is just my posture in this photo.
I secured the waistband lining in place by slipstitching.
Back hem was catch stitched in place.
Hand rolled hem for the underskirt and front overlay.
Junction of where the back hem meets the front underskirt.

TULIP-DRESS

The Style Arc Tulip pattern gives you options for for different looks:

  • dress with tulip sleeves and pleated skirt overlay (which is the version I made)
  • sleeveless dress with regular crossover skirt
  • skirt with pleated overlay
  • skirt with regular crossover

The waistband is about 1″ wide and skirt length is about 21″. The overall fit is slim, but not tight. The skirt section includes slash style pockets. If you go with the pleated overly you’ll want to use a lighter weight fabric with good drape; if you want just the regular crossover look, any light-to-midweight woven should work.

The skirt isn’t lined. If you’re like me and not comfortable wearing just a single layer of thin silk on your bottom half you have two options: wear a miniskirt length slip under it, or create a hem facing for the front underskirt and underline both the front underskirt and back pieces. I wanted to use this project to learn how to do a hand rolled hem, so instead of creating a facing for the front underskirt (which would have saved a ton of time) I used it to practice my hand rolled hem skills. I’m glad I did, because my stitching on the overlay is much better!

Style Arc offered to send me this pattern free of charge, and I accepted. It wasn’t part of my fall/winter sewing plan, but I really liked the elegant and creative style and thought it would be a fun project.

I used the matte side of a silk charmeuse purchased long ago from Fabric Mart:

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For the bodice lining I used another silk charmeuse from Fabric Mart:

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For the neckline/armhole guides I used iron-on tear-away stabilizer. I also created guides from the stabilizer for the slash pockets.

Since I wanted my hand-rolled hem to look as nice as possible I used Magnifico thread from Superior Threads instead of my normal Gutermann or Mettler thread. Magnifico is a high-sheen polyester thread often used for embroidery and other decorative stitching. It glided through the silk. I also used it as my sewing machine and serger thread. (I know a lot of people love to tsk tsk serging as a seam finish for silks, but I think it looks presentable. I wound it onto two bobbins and did a three-thread overlock.)

Fitting adjustments:

  • Added a 3/4″ back shoulder dart to the bodice
  • 3/8″ rounded back alteration
  • 1/2″ swayback tuck
  • 3/8″ forward shoulder alteration
  • Added 3/4″ width to the front waist and removed 3/4″ from the back waist
  • Took in the back darts 3/4″ each, and lengthened the back skirt darts by about 1″
  • Lengthened the skirt 3″
  • Added 5.5″ width to the skirt at the hip
  • Took in the center back seam about 1″ below the waistband
  • Tapered the waistband at the bottom about 3/4″

Some thoughts:

  • The neckline is really beautiful. Wide and deep, but not too wide and deep. No gaping either. I’m definitely using it as a template for other dresses.
  • I love the look and feel of the sleeves – they give more range of motion than ordinary cap sleeves – but the front “petal” doesn’t always fall back into place after movement. Just something to be aware of.
  • I really regret not interfacing the slash pockets. Despite using iron-on tear-away stabilizer they stretched out. I fixed them the best I could, but I’m not 100% happy with how they look. I’m pretty sure it was 75% the shifty fabric and 25% my bottom-heavy figure.
  • I didn’t take in the skirt’s back darts as much as I could have, as I didn’t want to further aggravate the gaping pocket issue. It isn’t a problem with this lightweight fabric, but if I made this out of a heavier fabric – and underlined the skirt – I would definitely take them in more. I will also omit the pockets next time.

The construction of the bodice is pretty normal and straightforward. What will trip most people up are the sleeves and the skirt.

Skirt construction (pleated overlay version)

  1. First, hem both the underskirt and the pleated overlay. (For maximum control I went with a hand-rolled rather than machine stitched hem.)
  2. Sew the darts of the underskirt.
  3. Sew the left pocket to the underskirt. This is sewn like any other slash pocket.
  4. Take the overlay and pin out/baste the tucks. Then place it onto the underskirt.
  5. For the right pocket, start sewing the pocket bag to both the underskirt and overlay until point A (which is marked on the pattern).
  6. When you get to point A, clip just the pleated overlay to the seam allowance, then fold the overlay out of the way. Continue sewing the pocket to just the underskirt.
  7. Take the bit of overlay folded out of the way and press.
  8. When you sew the bottom of the waistband to the skirt, make sure you sew only the back skirt and front underskirt to the waistband. You’ll sew the overlay to the upper section of the waistband when you are ready to attach the bodice.

Sleeve construction

The sleeve pattern is a little odd-looking. There’s no underarm seam, and at first glance it may appear that the curved edge is the outside edge. Actually, that curved edge is what gets sewn to the bodice.

To construct them you first want to sew the outside (that long, straighter edge) and press.

Then you want to arrange it so the larger back “petal” overlaps the smaller front petal. Make sure you pay attention to those notches!

Baste all around to keep the two layers in place. You set it into the armhole after you attach the bodice lining to the bodice.