Couture Lunacy

Exploring Fashion One Thread At A Time


Style Arc’s May Top



Finally! I went to the sewing room and just said – get over it and make something! And today I have cut this top out of a wonderful printed crinkled knit – in all sorts of bright colors (pictures later).

This top, like all of the Style Arc patterns, is very simple. The only thing I’m the teensiest bit worried about is the under-bust seam which is just a slash/gather/sew proposition. I’m supposed to begin the seam at zero and go to 1/4 inch. I hope I can start at zero! I don’t want any little pointed seams here at all. I think I can handle this.

There are only four pattern pieces. Chloe at Style Arc drafts these patterns (and the fit is fantastic!) on large pieces of blueprint type paper. There’s no cut on fold stuff going on with these patterns. I already have 6 more in my shopping cart. I will weed them out and get the two or three I absolutely must have next time I have any appreciable cash.

The nasty sewing block from hell has been broken – photos as soon as I finish!



Fashion Finds and Patterns to Make Them

It will come to no surprise to any of you that I LOVE clothes. I always have. I was pretty particular about what I would wear even at the age of 5. Mom tried to put me in ruffles and lace – let’s just say that didn’t work out so well for her. If she’d tried bright colors and clean lines, she’d have been nearer the mark.

I was browsing through some new “styles you must have” type magazine articles and I found these items.

I also found, with the exception of the seamed jacket, patterns for all of these. Yes ma’am you can make them. The only item that would require a tad bit of experience is the white jacket. And that’s not impossible for even a new sewer. It has clean, simple lines and would be lined. It is a fantastic look for wearing with anything.

These are the patterns I’ve found.



This looks EXACTLY like the tank top I found. Only it will be much much cheaper if you make it!



The marvelous jacket which also will enable you to make several for the price of one. That’s why sewing your own clothing is so much better than buying it.

And lastly



I have discussed leggings and me. We don’t mix well. I’m a bit long in the tooth for these at any rate. Also the body shape isn’t flattered by leggings. I am not, however, adverse to wearing them in the house. Or sleeping in them!

These are just a few examples of how you can make the current fashion trends for a fraction of the cost. All of the patterns are available from And their patterns FIT. They do expect you to know some sewing terms, but whatever you need to do you can find assists on their website and also on the web.



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Wear What You Sew



One rule I make for myself when I sew garments is that I must wear everything I sew. This does mean that, on occasion, I have projects I do not finish. I don’t have many. The last one was this dress made from a Marcy Tilton pattern



I like Marcy’s patterns. They are sometimes complex to put together. Like this one was, I found it easier to just put it together in my own order. The cut out was the hardest part as some pieces needed to be cut and flipped and others cocked oddly from usual pattern layouts.

I can’t find a picture of the dress I made. It must be on the other log-in I have. At any rate, let me describe this for you. I used a green/brown tie dye look jersey with a crepe feel to it. For the bottom and side panels I used one of those fabrics with ruffles stitched every inch or so over mesh. It was in a lovely brown/grey/blue and coordinated well with the main fabric. The only problem was the give in the fabrics.

I made this dress in the largest size and then found that the fabric stretched out so much my hands couldn’t reach the pockets. I worked and worked at this dress. While I was trimming the seams to finish them – the unthinkable happened. I cut a 3″ hole in the back of the dress. After all that work. I covered it with a 3″ piece of fabric sewn over the back at the top of the skirt. Okay, but not great.

Then I put the dress on. I could only think of a frump. She did advertise this as a French House Dress but it  just looked like a house dress on me. I put it away. I’m not sure if I trashed it yet or not because I love the ruffled fabric and can probably use that as a sleeve or trim for something. Probably I have enough for an overlay on a tee-shirt. At any rate, this was definitely a wadder.

Given the difficulty of the layout, the sewing instructions and the general appearance of the dress bagging, I don’t think I’ll ever do this again. If I do, it will be out of fabric with less stretch and more oomph. It can be done out of a woven, but I would need to do a FBA on this with using a woven. We’ll see. Right now I have many more choices so this will wait until I need another challenge.

Sewing beautiful clothing to me means simple clothing. Clothing with good lines that skim the body and don’t WEAR the body. I don’t want my clothes to be the first thing people see. Instead of “Look at that top” I want them to think “Wow she looks good.” I don’t want my clothes to announce my presence in the room.

Since I was 17 and blue jeans became the norm – yes blue jeans were not everyday wear until 1969 – I have been most comfortable in jeans. I do dress up occasionally if I need to for work or a special event. Then I will still wear pants, but usually black pants.  When I did antique and quilt shows I would dress artsy. I am a great fan of Flax clothing. These are remarkably simple pieces that coordinate beautifully and have that air of an artist at a gallery.

A simple jacket is absolutely a requirement in my closet. Actually more than one! This is my newest pattern just received from Style Arc in Australia



This has very simple lines but will be flexible enough to wear with jeans or dress pants. I also purchased her Diana top



to wear under the Abby cardigan. This top is simple. I do find keeping the V-neck in a shirt difficult when sewing, but a little interfacing at the V makes this a lot easier. Chloe also suggests using swimsuit elastic around the neckline to prevent stretching and this is a great idea. I have clear elastic I used in sleeves and on the shoulders to prevent those areas from “growing” so this will work well around the neckline.

Both of these patterns have infinite possibilities. They can be dressy, casual or really dressy. And Style Arc patterns are one piece – in Diana there is simply the front and the back in full size pieces. There’s no need to cut on a fold so you can place a print where you want it to be without difficulty. The instructions assume that you know how to sew. It is not that a beginner can’t do these patterns at all. These two in particular are great for beginners. It is just that you must be willing to look things up if you get lost or don’t understand a construction step. And Chloe is awesome about emailing you back if you need a bit of help. She also has sewing tutorials on the website.

Fashion week just happened in Paris. I do get quite a lot of inspiration from couture clothing. This year for me it is about color and texture. I am looking forward to incorporating some of these concepts into the patterns I make for myself. It’s scary but it’s fun. Now if I could just get the hang of the surface design thing. I’m thinking silkscreen would be best but I don’t want to use someone else’s designs. So I’m back to the drawing board! I love unique ……………..


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Working on a Top


This is not my shirt! It is, however, my fabric. I fell in love with this fabric from Elliott Berman Textiles in New York late last winter. I fussed about what to make from it. Being financially embarrassed at the time, I only bought two yards of this.

In my last post I explained a tee-shirt for which I’ve been looking. It was oversized, boatneck and with dolman-type long sleeves. I couldn’t find it anywhere. I’d seen it on Zulily (check them out they are fantastic). I decided to make my own and figured it can’t be too hard. It isn’t.

I first decided how to orient the fabric. I went with the print going sideways even though it is a bit of a stripe effect. It is so loose and flowing a print that it doesn’t make me look wider. Heaven forbid.

I then marked off what I though would be wide enough. I went with the width of the fabric, 60″. I then calculated length and went with approximately 27″. I cut two rectangles. I found the center of both and marked 8″ on either side for the neck opening. I overstitched the edges of each rectangle and then sewed the “shoulders” together up to the neck opening on both sides. Trying this on my dress form, I found the neck opening too large so I sewed a further 4″ in on each side. This makes the neck opening a comfortable 12″. I then pressed the overstitched edges of the boatneck about 5/8″ and sewed them 3/8″. This gives me a nice finish to the neckline.

My next step is sleeves. I calculated how long I want them. I want them LONG. I like the scrunchy look of super long sleeves. I then calculated width. I decided on 24″ at the top and I want to taper this to 10″ at the wrist.

I will sew the sleeve, which is dropped from the shoulder quite a bit, before I sew the side seams. Really if you do this, putting in sleeves is a snap. I hate setting in sleeves. Just like I hate zippers.

The final step will be the hem – I will probably just overstitch this and leave it. I don’t like bulky hems in a knit fabric.

This is the shirt I was looking for all those hours on Google. I made it myself! I will put up finished pictures as soon as I have them.



I Need Help Finding Something and Here’s How to Get Good Clothes Cheap

A few weeks ago I saw a really cute boxy boatneck top on It was a colorblock and it was pink over gray. It was super-oversized and had long sleeves. I want that tee. Of course, once the sale is over, it is no longer on Zulily. I have done so many google searches I’m ready to try bing.

If anyone out there has seen this or knows what brand it is – let me know. Whimper.

Thanks to a WP post I found Free People! I went to their site and yes, they are geared to skinny women, but a lot of their tops would work for any size as they too are oversized and awesome. They are kind of pricey so I will probably be doing the theft thing with a pair of scissors and my sewing machine. I love thieving styles!

Here’s how I do it. I look at the top I want to copy. I figure out what the main pattern piece elements are. I get out my trusty pattern material which costs $2.15 a yard at and I start drawing out the shapes – aided by my straight edge and a flexible french curve. I approximate the shape and fit it to my size.

Most RTW is pretty simple. You can see the shape in the top easily. I would have more trouble with pants, but I have so many pants patterns that I love I just use those and tart them up a bit.

I get inspiration from the embellishments of RTW too. There may be two or more fabrics used. As long as they’re the same weight and will hang the same, they’re good to use together. You wouldn’t mix a woven and a knit because they act different when on and one would drag the other down. I prefer fabrics with some drape and give. I find I use knits a lot for casual clothes (and dressy for jackets and pants) and woven fabrics for more classic styles. My last project, the Origami blouse, I used a crinkle cotton with a lot of give and the pattern was also oversized. This shirt is comfortable and I wore it yesterday. It’s very cool too in hot humid weather as it doesn’t cling anywhere.

Shortly I’m going to get a scanner so I can show you some of my concept drawings for clothes. I was going to use a tablet but I’m not an early adopter of new technology! Ha! Actually DS talked himself out of a $2500 tablet for digital illustration and has decided to keep his current tablet. Thankfully.

Dresses and skirts are also easy to copy from RTW. I highly recommend a draping class from Paul Gallo which is on On Craftsy you can find hundreds of garment construction classes to broaden your toolbox. The Tilton sisters have one on making tee shirts – they do a lot of surface design work and are a fun couple of people to watch. Their creative juices flow out of the computer.

If you’re like me, you have sewing patterns. In each of these patterns are components of a style that you can take and mix with another pattern to get the look you want. Don’t be afraid to mix and match! I have various patterns for tops that I change the neckline on, make longer, change the drape, add sleeves and embellishments. You can do anything to your pattern to make it yours – but I would highly recommend you trace it off onto pattern material. You never know when you might want to make another style from that pattern and you will need the original pattern intact as it was in the beginning.

All you need to make clothing from RTW inspiration is your eyes, your tools and a sewing machine. I find a dress form to be helpful too and there’s a good one that is adjustable to your measurements. I think it was $165. It has simplified my life no end. I can see what something looks like on my double and I know it will look fine on me.

Hey – if you find that shirt I’m talking about – let me know – I’m going to steal it too.


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Sewing Blind ………

I am so amazed at pattern instructions that skip something! McCalls seems to be pretty good at skipping instructions or giving wrong information as in the Hoodie that called for a 24″ zipper and REALLY needed a 28″. Honestly – I had the DAMNED cutest houndstooth zipper in black and white I

Illustration: Magnus Överengen

Illustration: Magnus Överengen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

wanted to use …………. and instead I have to use black snap tape – anyway – on to another pattern whose instructions are loopy – another McCalls.

Here’s the pattern – you’ve all seen it –

Gorgeous Silk Blouse  McCall 6605 Version B

Gorgeous Silk Blouse
McCall 6605 Version B

This is cute. So far my replica in silk is working out just as cute – however there is a nasty instruction problemo. They have you put on the collar/tie before you have sewn the shoulders together – now isn’t that kinda hard? I mean how am I supposed to do that??????????? Luckily I am not a new sewer because if I were I would be pulling my hair out and cussing McCalls up one side and down another. But this is sloppy – first the wrong notions info on the pattern for the zipper for this hoodie


And then the poor instructions on the shirt. It has me wanting to apply for a job at McCalls. As an editor/proofreader/whatever. Really folks you CAN do better.

So my day in the sewing room ended up with me having to cut out a new collar/tie as the one in the pattern for some reason isn’t long enough – I stitched it onto the neck at the back and I’m going to hand sew it over the seam and then stitch down the tie part. Much simpler than what they say to do.

I am noshing at the reins on this silk shirt – I want to cut something out to serge but I know if I put this away it will be forever until I take it out again. I have the two side seams, buttonholes, buttons and the hem on the bottom and sleeves to do and it will be finished. Hopefully tomorrow and I can go on to something new – and exciting.

Speaking of exciting – I purchased this book

fashion illustration

and it’s 608 pages of fantastic tips and drawing exercises for fashion illustration for designers – hence the weird title – and I am sketching like mad while listening to DH snore. I am enjoying this!

I finally received my 20 yards of pattern material – which is sewable – so my new patterns from this book will be reality too


I think there’s something organic about the Japanese styles. They aren’t contrived or over the top like runway clothing. The outfits in the book are wearable. Between this and Drape Drape 3 and my fledgling designs on my own – I should be set for sewing patterns for quite a while. Now for more fabric …………….

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The Dream of My Life


English: New York City skyline - seen from the...

English: New York City skyline – seen from the Staten Island Ferry Deutsch: New York City Skyline – von der Staten Island Fähre (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


There is something I have always wanted to do, ever since I was small. I can remember laying in bed at night in the 60s day dreaming about clothes. Pink and black were my theme then. Jackie Kennedy was the first lady and her fashion sense was amazing to an 11-year-old. I wanted to look good in clothes.


I read Glamour magazine and Seventeen in the late 60s. There was a school in New York City that advertised in both magazines. The Patricia Stevens School – for what? I can’t remember but I know they trained models and fashion designers. I wanted to go to that school. I wanted to live in New York City.


I hadn’t – at that point – been anywhere other than Champaign, Illinois, a hunting camp in the UP of Michigan and a swampy nasty place in Arkansas. We went to Florida when I was 3 – California when I was 6, but I don’t remember much about those trips. I had also been in Chicago – which involved a long trip, lots of traffic, my dad not minding traffic rules, the car breaking down and not finding a hotel room ————- nightmare.


I still had a picture of New York City as exciting, exhilarating and magnetic. I saw myself living in a garden apartment decorated in yellow floral fabrics with a small garden off the back. It had lots of windows. My dream did not happen, but it is still there.


I am 61 now. I am the primary caregiver for a spouse who will have to live in a nursing home as soon as we can get him into one. I have been taking care of him at home for 3 years. This past weekend my son and I crossed a line where we knew that we cannot do this anymore. It is a 24/7 job and there are aspects of it that aren’t possible for us. My son is hanging by a thread and would do almost anything to get out of this situation. He is a great help but he is ready to leave just to have a break. I am ready to leave. 


In the midst of all of this I dream. I sew and make most of my clothes. I received a serger as a gift from my son for Mother’s Day – to this point I had used my Bernina Aurora 440QE and took double steps to sew and overlock seams. My Bernina is perfect.


I have started creating my own patterns, adjusting patterns to fit and draping. I received a dress form from same son for Christmas of 2009 and I have been set free since then. It is the best tool in any sewing room.


I just purchased a book on fashion illustration. I got it two days ago and I have already sat down with my pencils (and eraser) and sketched elements of faces. I have glanced through the whole book. I am enthralled.


I am back to my dream of being a fashion designer. I will be happy even if the fashions I design are only for me. But I would be happier if they were for everyone. 


I have set a goal. Next year I will apply to be on Project Runway – how scary is that? I will make it – and if I don’t – well I will have tried.


I like the flow of the top

I like the flow of the top