planning the Florida collection

I usually decide what projects to make next with a few unsurprising factors in mind. Things like the weather and what fits into my lifestyle and what fabric I have in my stash often steer my sewing in one direction or the other. The mild Texas winters have kept me from making a tailored coat for years now, yet I’ve gone out of my way to make a couple tulle skirts and one of the most sparkly sequin skirts ever simply because I wanted them. Both are equally as practical as a wool coat in Texas but here we are.

Sometimes, an event or trip comes up that requires a little more thought and planning. Next month, Ty and I are going for Florida for a long weekend at the beach. It’s a company sponsored event for select employees based on performance in 2016, and I’m so very, very proud of Ty and his hard work. We are really excited for this little vacation.

There are a few events over the course of the weekend with a specific dress code, which means it’s time to make some new clothes. I was just about to dive into spring sewing when we found out about this trip, so I rearranged my production timeline a little, added a couple of items to my project list, and I was ready to hit the ground running. Luckily, we’re going somewhere warm where a lot of what I already had planned will be appropriate.

Besides a couple billowy tops with fun sleeves to travel in (interesting sleeve details are huge this year), I need a beach cover up, a sundress or two, an outfit for an afternoon of exploring Miami, and a cocktail dress. I can hardly believe this myself, but the one item I still haven’t finalized is the cocktail dress. I have the fabric, but I can’t seem to settle on a design. But, look! I already have the shoes and handbag. That’s progress, right?! This is a floral brocade from Promenade Fabrics. And yes, it’s on the pricey side, but what else is a girl to do with her birthday money but spend it on fabric for a pretty dress?

Whenever I sit down to plan a collection, I have a process in place to help me get organized and inspired. Because this is the first group of projects for spring, it was easy to dive in and get excited for bright colors and florals and linen and ruffle tops and sundresses and all the things that make spring the best season of all the seasons. I’m doing a lot of coral and white and the Pantone color of the year, greenery. My interpretation leans a little more Kelley green than the moss green of greenery, but I’m all in for the green this year. What a fun, refreshing color. I got 6 yards of this green gingham linen (yes, it’s linen!), so I can make a dress and a top. This Butterick pattern is new for spring, and I absolutely love it. Fabric can be found at Fashion Fabrics Club.

Whenever I make a list of projects, I always include pattern numbers or other notes about the design in my design journal. Most things are straightforward, like if I’m using a commercial pattern or my own. In some cases, it’s a combination of the two, which I call “hybrid” garments. Again, still a big question mark next to the cocktail dress.

I’ve posted about Vogue 8825 twice before (here and here), and it’s such a fantastic dress that I’m making it again in coral. I have a feeling the coral dress will be my favorite. Fabric is a rayon ponte knit from Mood. (Tip: rayon/nylon ponte knits are better quality than their polyester cousins, and they feel better too.)

One of the things I love most for spring and summer is linen pants. Like many of you, it’s been a challenge to find pants that fit properly. Enter, this Vogue pattern. I’ve had it for ages, and I even cut it out in ivory linen about two years ago. Never did finish those pants (now they’re a size or two too big), but I’ll finish this pair for sure. If making pants is something you’d like to get into, I’d recommend starting with a design with a wider leg. That way, there’s less fitting to worry about. This pattern is out of print, but I found it on eBay a while back. I like it because it sits at the natural waist, which is flattering on my body type. It’s worth finding, for sure. This fabric is 100% white linen from JoAnn. These pants and a pretty top will probably be my Miami outfit.

For one of the blouses and a sundress, I’m using this gorgeous floral sateen from Fashion Fabrics Club last year (sold out). I made a dress last summer and had about two yards left over to make a top. So, I’d say that worked out well. This fabric is magical. The pattern is another oldie but goodie, McCall’s 7163, and I cut view D, because I like my shoulders and upper back covered.

The last item on my list is a swimsuit cover up, and mine will be in the form of a skirt. I have a few scars to cover up (and I absolutely have to protect my skin from the sun) so my swimwear needs are unique. I got this incredible long sleeve one piece from J. Crew (and it’s my favorite color!), so my idea for the cover up is a flowy, swishy skirt. I designed a wrap skirt a few years ago, which I think I’ll use to make the cover up. I might add elastic in the back waistband for a little extra comfort. I found this star print rayon a couple weeks ago that I think, paired with the navy suit and gold sandals, will be the cutest thing ever. I also have a red swimsuit and rash guard, so it will work nicely together. It’s almost like I planned it . . .

That’s it! I’m about halfway finished with construction for these projects, so I’m making great time. Only a few weeks to go and we’ll be beach bound!

a new partnership with HUSQVARNA VIKING®

I’m a big believer in doing things the right way, with the right tools. Creating something with your own two hands is a thoughtful endeavor, one that requires patience and critical thinking skills and discipline. It also requires the best tools and machines to help you produce a quality product. My sewing journey has taken me many places, and there have been unexpected twists and turns along the way. But what’s always been there, sitting pretty in the sewing corner of my studio, are my machines. They are a big reason why my projects turn out as nicely as they do, and I know how lucky I am to have them.

Knowing firsthand what this brand is all about and how truly magnificent their products are makes this announcement even sweeter. Today, I’m thrilled to tell you that I have partnered with HUSQVARNA VIKING®, the best in the business. Throughout 2017, I’ll be working with and demonstrating several different models from their lineup of sewing and embroidery machines. I will not only be showing you the fantastic features on each machine, but I’ll be sewing my own projects on them too. I’m totally delighted about this collaboration, and I can’t wait to show you all the incredible things these sewing machines can do.

My parents gave me a sewing machine for Christmas one year when I was 12 or 13, and I used that machine for years, getting the basics down while developing my passion and enthusiasm for sewing and design. In college, our lab was equipped with HUSQVARNA VIKING® sewing machines, which wasn’t a brand I was familiar with or had ever used. It didn’t take long to see how truly wonderful these machines are and why my school had decided to outfit our lab with them. It was around the same time that, after about 10 years on my learner machine, I was ready to invest in my first sewing machine that could do all the things I needed it to do. I remember going to JoAnn Fabrics & Crafts (where many HUSQVARNA VIKING® dealers are located) with my mom one afternoon after tailoring class, knowing exactly what model I wanted, and walking out with my very first big purchase as a young adult, a shiny, new HUSQVARNA VIKING® INTERLUDE sewing machine. I will never forget the excitement I felt carrying that box to the car and carefully unpacking my new treasure when we got home. Oh, the things I could make now! I used that machine steadily for years, all through college and beyond, sewing everything you can imagine on it: cotton dresses, silk blouses, tailored jackets and coats, canvas bags, leather accessories, and sequin skirts, just to name a few. I asked a lot from that machine, and it never skipped a beat. It was a constant companion, a reliable tool, an essential part of the design process. A few years ago, I was lucky enough to win two more machines in separate design competitions, a DESIGNER TOPAZ™ 25 and a TRIBUTE™ 140C, the 140th anniversary commemorative machine. I also have a HUSQVARNA VIKING® H|CLASS™ 200S overlock machine. I couldn’t do what I do without them.

Many thanks to the kind folks at HUSQVARNA VIKING®  for the opportunity to collaborate and show off these amazing machines. I’m so happy to be on your team! Now, let’s start sewing!

The DESIGNER JADE™ 35, the first machine I’ll be working with. Look how darling it is!

My H|CLASS™ 200S overlock machine and TRIBUTE™ 140C.

And the DESIGNER TOPAZ™ 25.

I can’t wait to show you all the projects I have planned for the year! In the meantime, have a look around the HUSQVARNA VIKING® website–I’m sure it won’t take long to find something you love! 

the stash collection: vogue 9197

I’ve had so much fun this week. It’s always rewarding to have a group of projects finished and ready to show you. Sewing clothes can be quite a process, so it’s nice when it comes full circle. Today, I’m going to chat about this striped dress, a Vogue 9197 pattern, which is the last item I’m going to spotlight from the stash collection. The other two items, the denim skirt and white popover blouse (Vogue 1486 an Butterick 5997, respectively) will have their day in the sun in the coming weeks. I’m working on another version of those items, so we’ll dedicate a blog post to each one when everything is ready.

Next week is a big week. I’m making a huge, blog-related announcement (it’s all I can do to not spill the beans right here and now!), and I’ve also got a tutorial to share and a fun “ideas” post for an upcoming collection. So, come back next week. Big things are happening!

Now, let’s talk about this dress. It’s another pattern repeat–you saw the first version back in December. Funny enough, that wasn’t even the first time I made this pattern. Last fall, when the pattern came out, I made it in a summery floral sateen with a self-drafted full circle skirt, and it remains one of my favorite pieces. The thing about this pattern is that it’s simple, versatile, and super, super flattering. The bodice is fitted with a French dart and a nice sleeve, and I appreciate the high neckline because it covers that pesky scar of mine on my lower neck. I love finding a pattern that fits well that can be translated into so many different dresses, and I went with this pattern again for this dress because I knew it would showcase the stripes in an interesting way.

I’ve had this striped sateen for something like a year and half, always having it in the back of my mind waiting for the project to fall into place. I decided to cut the bodice and sleeves with the stripes going horizontally with vertical stripes on the skirt. After playing with the fabric on the dress form, I thought it would be utterly fantastic to make this dress a maxi. You’ll notice that none of the dress is actually sewn yet. I like to pin pieces on the form to get an idea for print placement, and that’s what I was doing here. I loved the longer length, but once I actually cut the skirt pieces and attached them to the bodice, the idea didn’t translate. I tried it on and knew something was off, so I ended up ignoring it for a few days while I put my finger on what it was that bothered me so much.

I felt like the maxi length was dowdy and a little sad, so I took off about 18″ to make it midi length. To me, it feels much more youthful and fresh at that length. I’m still dreaming about a striped maxi dress though, so we’ll see what I can come up with this summer. For now, I’m pretty pleased with this cute little dress.

Before cutting the dress, I spent some time thinking about the stripe placement on the bodice. By having the navy stripe concentrated slightly above the bust, the eye goes there, which creates a nice visual–the stripes around the shoulders balance out the fullness of the skirt, and the waist is nicely cinched in. I think I could have brought the stripe down just a hair on the bodice. The white space across the bust gives the illusion of a fuller bust.

I did not use the skirt pattern from the envelope; instead, I cut three rectangles and sewed them together to make the skirt. That’s one thing that’s always, always bothered me about working with stripes: if you use a shaped skirt pattern, the print gets kind of wonky. I didn’t want that. I wanted the print on the skirt to remain vertical. I had about 2 1/4 yards of fabric left to use for the skirt, so I divided it evenly, cut it, and then sewed it just like I would a regular skirt piece. It’s a dirndl skirt, which is essentially a rectangular piece.

I used an invisible zipper and matched the stripe as closely as possible. Because it’s an uneven stripe with a painted effect, it’s next to impossible to get it to match perfectly but you can still get pretty close. To help insert my zipper in the right spot so the stripe matched, I used a double sided basting tape to hold the zipper in place. Basting works well too, but the tape is a little easier to work with. It doesn’t gum up your needle or sewing machine, and it washes out in the washing machine. Easy! (More on this tape and installing zippers later. If you’re interested in the tape, it’s called Wash Away Wonder Tape, by Dritz. Lifesaver!)

I’m happy with how well this dress turned out, but I’m even happier with the collection as a whole. The challenge of using stash fabrics to make this group of garments was a great way to start a new year. Now I’m looking forward to spring! See y’all next week!