Couture Lunacy

Exploring Fashion One Thread At A Time

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The Southwestern Top

While I’ve been mooching around trying to talk myself into actually making something in the sewing room, I finally got the energy to cut something out and start on it. For once I had the right color thread to sew it! That seriously makes a lot of difference.

The pattern I used is a version of


this one by Marcy Tilton. I’ve made many tops from this pattern and I like it much better with the excess “wings” removed. With the wings on the top seemed too long and bulky in the thigh. I mirrored the side without the excess for drape, cut the pattern to match that non-draped side and then did a full bust adjustment on the top. You can see my explanation of a full bust adjustment here

Once that FBA was done, I had to “rotate the dart” because I don’t want a dart in a knit fabric that’s going to look odd. I rotated the fullness created by the FBA to the side bottom. This gives a nice shape to the top. It has a drape at the bottom creating a nice line from the bust down. It skims my stomach and hips which are definitely areas I want skimmed!

I love the fabric. I was a bit hesitant about the direction until I notice that most of the stretch is lengthwise so I had to use it in that manner. Had I tried to cut the top crosswise to have the pattern vertical, there wouldn’t have been enough stretch for the top to be comfortable.

So far I’ve done the shoulder seams to which I always add clear elastic and then fold over the seam allowance and topstitch toward the back. After that’s done I can trim the seam to neaten it up.

I cut my neckband two inches wide and sewed it into a circle. Then I did an overcast on the two edges because the fabric rolls a bit and the overcast stops it. On my Bernina this is stitch #31 and I use it a lot.

To step back a bit – the neckband needs to be shorter than the length of the neck, otherwise it won’t snap to the edge and you will get a baggy-looking neckband. Not good. On this top I first tried a band that was 75% of the length of the neck. That was too small for the style. It didn’t suite the nice flowing shirt so I cut another one 90% of the length of the neck and that’s what you see here.

The neckband of this top takes the most OMG panicky breathes while sewing. I mark the band in quarters and place pins in the marks. Then I do the same with the neck line itself. This way I distribute the stretch of the band evenly all around the neck. I have also overcast the neckline partially as a stay-stitching, but mostly because it gives a finished look inside the garment once the neckband is applied.

After stitching the neckband on, and congratulating yourself that you don’t have to take it off, all I do is press the seams down toward the shirt and “stitch in the ditch” created by the original seam. This forces the seam allowances to stay down when wearing and gives a nice finish.

I have only to put in the sleeves, sew the side seams and hem and I have a great top. This is a good three-season top because it is an ITY knit. I shudder at the thought of wearing it in 90 degree weather!

Here’s the pictures so far –

More to come ……… I’m getting new ideas ……… the more I sew, the more I want to sew ………….

I’ll show you the bottom drape once the sides are sewn up ……. you’ll be able to see the line of the top better!


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A Word About Buttonholes

There are things in sewing that scare me. Buttonholes for instance. Zippers too. Things that have to close things I guess.

I have a Bernina 440QE – this sewing machine does everything except cook supper. I love my sewing machine. It has only once given me fits enough to want to take a hammer to it. That was when I was using a dull needle on thick ponte knit. So it skipped stitches and I thought the damn thing was broken. Only took me 5 days to figure out to change the needle. 🙂

Today I had to complete my buttonholes on my purple silk shirt. I don’t know why Bernina persists in giving you a manual when I won’t look at it anyway. Shoot. I started the buttonhole and halfway through I said – oh no I don’t know how to finish this – I could have had a foot long buttonhole.

I stopped. I got out the manual. I read how to do an automatic buttonhole where the machine remembers EXACTLY how long to make the buttonhole and does it all for you after the first one. The most strenuous thing I had to do was hit the quick reverse button. I did it.

I have the placket on the shirt all pinned together so I can stick a marking pencil in the opened buttonholes and mark where to sew on the buttons. They are square little buttons

Pink Shell Button Waechter's Fine Fabrics

Pink Shell Button
Waechter’s Fine Fabrics

And in case you’ve forgotten – here’s the shirt –


This was taken before I had sewn the collar on, etc. It is quite cute. I will be happy to wear this if I get to go to work in July. We shall see how DH is doing and if I can actually leave here for 4 to 6 hours at a time. I hope I can.

Next up – something to serge. I will be so happy to get used to that machine.

Supper making calls me to the kitchen. A nice salad and a steak and hot dogs for DH. I know I’m vegetarian, but every once in a while I go nuts and have to have red meat. And steak is it. Don’t try to make me eat hamburger. Just steak.

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Decisions Decisions

Ok. I got the serger today. It’s cute. Smaller than I thought it would be – but cute. Now here’s the deal – for twice as much (ahem) I can get the top of the line Juki serger that does everything but brush your teeth. I am tempted.

However – and it’s a big however – I have never used a serger. So I’m not sure about this at all. I have resisted a serger until last week when DS offered it to me for Mother’s Day. Hey, it was free – what the hell. Since then I have been panicking. Every time he sees me he says “Now you take it easy with that Mom. Don’t try to do too much at once.” I could slap him. Really. I should have beat him as a child because now he has absolutely no respect for his poor old mother. He thinks I’m stooooopid.

So – rant – I can get the fancy one by sending this one back and putting the fancy one on layaway for three months. I just don’t know what to do. Do I get fancy one or keep this one? Is this one enough for a beginner? I didn’t buy the top of the line Bernina sewing machine – good god they’re only 12K – and I’m happy with my Aurora 440QE. But I don’t know —– the features of the MO 735 are more AND it has a coverstitch.

So dear reader – what would you do? Please comment and make up my mind. The first or the second?



My Mother's Day Present!

My Mother’s Day Present!




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Another Learning Curve!

My Mother's Day Present!

My Mother’s Day Present!

I am so excited! Today my Juki 644D Serger is arriving! My lovely one and only DS bought this for me for Mother’s Day.

First I have to tell you that I am a clutz. I do not have gumby fingers. I think I have a mechanical block of some kind. I am a late adapter, as my DS has said ………….

I have had numerous problems with sewing machines. I used my Grandma Nannie’s White sewing machine when I started. Mom had traded her machine for Grandma’s when Grandma moved to California. It didn’t zig or zag. It sewed. I don’t even think it had a buttonhole on it.

Then I got a Kenmore. We’ll just leave that there ………. and then when I was teaching beginning quilting, I went next door to a sewing machine shop and purchased an Elna Top 300. I think the guy saw me coming. That was the worst sewing machine I have ever tried to sew on. This sucker made me learn to quilt by hand and I didn’t even attempt to sew clothing. It would jam every time I started to sew – thread nests all over. It was horrid. I took it back to see if he could fix it and poof he didn’t. I gave it to Goodwill and I’m so sorry …………..

When we moved to Maine – I got a Bernina for my next birthday in January 2008. I made 4 quilts in rapid succession machine-quilting each one with the BSR. Yetch. Big king-size quilts don’t fit under the machine very well. After the quilts I branched back into sewing clothes.

My whole closet is full of tops and jackets I MADE. I wear them. I love them. I had made several that were longer with assymetrical hemlines. I took those a year later and made them into tee shirts. I love sewing on my Bernina.

Without a serger though, every seam takes two or three more steps. I started overcasting each piece of the pattern and then sewing it together. Sometimes I sew the seams and then overcast both together. Or I will do a Hong Kong seam or a french seam on a woven.

I have wanted a serger since 2010 when the local shop here started carrying Bernina. I checked on the price – and after I picked myself up off the floor – I started checking on the internet for an alternative. You can’t buy a new Bernina online.

I read where Juki actually makes the Bernina serger line and several sewists said that the machine they had looked just like a Juki. Juki sergers are much more affordable – voila! So I chose a Juki 644D! When DS told me I could choose my serger AND he would pay for overnight shipping – I was over the moon – or the sun or something!

It will be here today. I also ordered thread, knowing that you can’t sew without it. (tee as in hee). And luckily the serger comes with needles so I can see which ones to get. This one uses regular sewing machine needles. I also got a book, being a slow adapter – I will need all the help I can get. Just looking at the threading on the Juki website made my mind fitz. I can do this but maybe I will need to learn a lot first.

I’m looking forward to being able to do a rolled hem and also to sew and cut the seam all at once. DS bought me a dress form one Christmas (this is the best kid in the world) and now with the dress form, the Bernina and the serger – there is no stopping me. I might even start my own clothing line ……………… whoot!