Hold Up!

hold up!

[Stuart voice]: “Look what I can do!”

Hold Up!

Hold Up!
The Beyoncé “Hold Up” dress (here’s the original: yes, it’s amazing!) was my biggest project this Halloween. A friend saved up and went big – she not only requisitioned the dress, she acquired the hair, shoes (which were then hand-painted), and jewerly. There is nothing I like more than someone going all-out, and it was wonderful to be a part of that.

Hold Up!

Let me get right to the knitty-gritty of how (I think) the dress was originally constructed (it’s from a collection, so there is more than one version out there – which is confusing for a reconstruction effort), and how I duped it.

So, he dress appears to be made with tiered chiffon flounces, and lace appliqué on a mesh and spandex underdress. The flounces were also roughly pleated and lettuce-edged; the bottom two flounces were trimmed with lace. The dress is hardly structured at all, a lot of bare skin shows as well as the actual push-up bra. My client found the black bra herself and hand-stitched an interlining to emulate the double-strap look on the bra. I wish I’d paid more attention to that particular bra detail, as I could have done that job for her by machine; her handstitching failed at the party she was at (bras need to be very sturdy, especially for the large-busted)!

Because the dress is mostly a monochromatic garment, I had to figure out how to get four matching colors in the absolutely gorgeous yellow of the dress, and this affected my choice of fabrics. Notice in the photo at upper left a version of the dress looks warm and poppy-colored, at left – and greenish at right; you will also notice the dress appears several different colors in this post depending on the lighting I am working with. I ended up deciding to buy my 25 yards of chiffon, and dye the other fabrics to match using a local dye artist. Note that dyeing different fabrics (including fabrics with differing fiber content) is a bit of a technical challenge, and will likely involve lots of testing and different types of dye processes.

It took trial and error to get the fabrics dyed the correct color;  one nylon lace, for instance, simply didn’t take dye. My dye artist friend (Val from FiberPlay) had to do two washes to get the colors deep enough – but they were lovely and all matched, by the time she was done. Below, you see (from left, clockwise) the chiffon, spandex, mesh, and lace I used.

Hold Up!

One other major technical component was the pleating. I believe the flounces on the original garment were cut circular, not straight – which meant the pleats were formed that way as well (I think of this as sunray pleating although I’m sure it has other names). After lots of pleating research and a few phone conversations with the *amazing* Rusty at SF Pleating (415.608.1983), I opted to send Rusty labeled strips, and he pleated them all. The pleats arrived in these fabulous crepe paper bundles. Rusty was beyond amazing and I hope to work with him again!

Hold Up!

Hold Up!

Now that I had the pleated chiffon and all properly-hued fabrics, it was time to assemble! I build the mesh and spandex underdress, using carbon paper to trace my flounce positions. I then fussy-cut the lace motifs, and applied the lace to locations on the mesh underdress:

Hold Up!

The mesh needed a stabilizer to form a nice strong zig-zag stitch.

Hold Up!
All of the chiffon flounces had to be finished by serge, as chiffon likes to fray into these teeny tiny fibers. These flounces were then either edged by serge or edged by fishing line. The latter process is so fun! You wrap your fishing line around a form, use heat (boiling water or heat gun) to seal the shape of the circular culry-q’s, let cool, and feed this line into the chiffon while hemming. This process required a lot of trial and error; you have to find the right weight of fishing line – but was super fun. I’ll have to create a tutorial someday!|

After the flounces were hemmed, I applied them to the mesh in the locations I’d traced:

Hold Up!

One regret I had was not acquiring a twist-cord blank to dye. Instead I created cord from the spandex fabric, and used it for the dresses’ back-tie, as well as the three straps in the bodice.

Hold Up!
The original dress likely does not fasten by tie, but this is the most adjustable and comfortable way to go for a costume:

Hold Up!

So, obviously my friend K. stole the show at her event. It was both an honor and a privilege to get to make her something so special! And I can’t wait for my next pleated project!

Hold Up!

Nels, Brushing Teeth (13)

from morning until night!

It is a beautiful life.Nels, Brushing Teeth (13)
My basement studio space is cold, super cold, and there’s no real getting around that. I bundle up as best I can but I work long enough hours that by the end of the day my fingers are stiff and I’ve got a chill set in my bones. I come back upstairs and warm up and soon enough I’m in the hot shower for the evening.

My studio time is currently split about evenly between work for clients, pieces for the family, and gifts. Every day I feel so much gratitude this is my reality: spinning gold out of straw, able to create anything I need to. Inside a jacket: rayon challis and faux fur. Underlined (invisible!) in an ugly flannel that came from I-can’t-remember-where:

Coat With Assymetrical Snap Closure, Faux Fur Trim, Fully Lined

Just out the door this week: a dress with sweetheart top and semi-sheer overskirt – taffeta, organza, mesh, and velvet ribbon.

Organza Overskirt with Velvet Ribbon

Playing with topstitch settings, to get it just right. I love the chunky look of proper topstitching thread:

Topstitching Practice

And of course, sweet little dates with each family member (or all three!) This next week is, mercifully, the last week of the quarter: Phee will only have two remaining before they earn their AA degree. This last week Nels and I accompanied Ralph and Phee to drop them off for German class, and he and I had a lovely date on the town. Our one car is officially dead, and the other needs brakes. It’s worrisome, but I try not to worry.

Nels, A Date


autumn fires / settling in


It’s not a bad time of year to tuck in and do all of those little things. I’ve been sewing a great deal, and have even taken some time to cook. Two Thanksgiving meals right in a row this week!
Candied Pecans

Stuffing (Sourdough & Sage)

Beeps is, incredibly, almost done with another quarter at college. Inching towards graduation. Despite being perceived as rather intimidating, they seem to have a pretty solid social life these days. Meaning: I miss them, I don’t get as many cuddles as I used to. I still get them though, and I treasure each one.


I finished up a quilt I started a couple years ago!Quilt (Goldfish)
And I’ve made a few cozy robes:Robe


More snuggles.13 Years Old

And some lunch dates.Beeps


summer dress in double-gauze sew-along: supplies

A sew-along finished last month: and one coming up!

summer-dress-in-double-gauze-badgeSummer Dress In Double-Gauze: Samples

On June 15th we will be starting up our summer dress in double-gauze. I have created three versions of this lovely fit-and-flare from Bootstrap. The pattern is $2.99 and comes entirely customized to fit, with or without seam allowances, and in any print format you prefer. I’m a huge fan of Bootstrap and I have extolled their virtues time and time again!

Now, the pattern’s design sketch showcases a mid-to-heavyweight, tweedy fabric:

Custom-Fit Sewing Patterns - Fit And Flare Dress With Sleeves

However as you can see from my samples, I am showcasing in a double gauze. This makes for a casual, comfortable effect. The dress still has very feminine shaping, with a fullness in the hips and narrow waist. However, it performs like a well-loved garment that’s been washed and-re-washed and sun-dried. No wonder I’m having so many requests!

Summer Dress In Double-Gauze: Samples

Double-gauze is a wonderful fabric; it handles well, as it is cotton, and has some body and not so much drape. The fabric instantly delivers an elegance and vintage/heirloom appeal that is going to turn heads. There are so many places to get double-gauze, and I’ll be talking more about this in the set-up post for the dress sew-along. But some sources to get you way too excited interested: imagine gnats, fabric.com, fabricworm, Harts Fabric, and various Etsy shops (for your timeline, watch for where they ship from!).

June Sew-Along Sneak Peak

Summer Dress In Double-Gauze: Samples

  1. Your Bootstrap pattern
  2. Your fabric(s)
  3. 1/8 yard interfacing
  4. Invizible zipper, 20″ (y’all know I use my colorcard from Zipperstop)
  5. Matching thread

That’s it! I will be demonstrating a lovely zipper installation method, as well as several seam finishes.

Want to join us? Sign up for email updates! Easy-peasy:

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 See you on the 15th!

Kitten Sewing

Cotton + Steel Octopus Dress


Cotton + Steel Octopus Dress
Yeah, so this happened.

While fabric shopping for fabrics I need, I occasionally find the fabric I “need”. And this, a lovely Tokyo Train Ride Lawn Octopus (Teal) by Cotton + Steel, certainly qualified. Isn’t it fabulous? Also, as a lawn: very very lightweight. A perfect summer dress!

Cotton + Steel Octopus Dress
Cotton + Steel Octopus Dress

As per usual, finishing is perfect: including an invisible zipper…

Cotton + Steel Octopus Dress

and vintage buttons from my stash.

Cotton + Steel Octopus Dress

For more, you can dilly-dally through my Flickr tagset, or read my pattern review, to know more. For now – let’s just sigh at my pretty young daughter in her pretty li’l dress!

Jury’s out on the quality of Cotton + Steel fabrics. I haven’t heard anything bad yet, and I haven’t researched. They certainly have some of the loveliest designs, at least to my aesthetic. This yardage wasn’t the first, and certainly won’t be the last!

Bootstrap Fashion: Draped Sheath Dress

i can’t give you anything but love! – in silk

Bootstrap Fashion: Draped Sheath Dress
I have put together three patterns from Bootstrap Fashion in the last couple weeks, and I am impressed. For those stitchers not yet in the know, Bootstrap uses algorithms to craft a custom pattern. You measure yourself, plug your body’s specs into their fields, and receive a pattern via PDF – in whatever printer width you require! (Um, joy!)

I wouldn’t go so far as to guarantee nothing will go wrong – but in three garments of varying levels of complexity – nothing has gone wrongThe sheath dress with asymmetrical draping shown here fit my daughter perfectly!

Bootstrap Fashion: Draped Sheath Dress
Bootstrap Fashion: Draped Sheath Dress

Most people would have a hard time sewing with this fabric. But treating the silk – and the lining – appropriately yields great results.

And I made a video – my first-ever! Check it!

So, there are many ways to work with silks and what non-sewists might call “fancy” fabrics – in fact, I’m enrolled in a Craftsy course on sheers. People will fiddle with starch- or gelatin-washes to get the fabric to behave in a more paper-like fashion. And I’ve done those things – with decent-enough results (although please note: not every fabric is starch- or gelatin-friendly and not everyone will want to use gelatin). Stabilizers (wash-away, tacky or non-tacky, etc) also can help – and y’all know I’m a huge fan of using those!

However I’ve found that superior silk and sheer results can be accomplished by a few guidelines:

1. selecting the highest-quality fabric you can afford (always! honor your craft!)
2. cut pattern pieces in a single layer – without folding, ever
3. cutting via rotary (so as not to lift the fabric) and using a sheet of paper under the fabric while cutting
4. making sure the fabric is entirely supported while cutting, sewing, serging, pressing, and interfacing (in other words – that it isn’t sagging off the table)
3. using the proper needle (usually a sharp, for a sheer woven)
5. not disturbing the garment pieces after cutting; sew them as soon as possible
6. sewing slowly! take your time to really love the experience!

Bootstrap Fashion: Draped Sheath Dress
On that note: notice above, the edge I’m turning up to set a tailor’s tack. Like I said: paper works well for not just cutting, but handling. In this case, the static electricity of the paper under the fabric “glues” the fabric and keeps it from shifting while I apply these tacks. Using paper yielded pieces cut accurately and perfectly on-grain, so I was able to confidently underline with a rather annoying exciting fabric – a Bemberg rayon.

For the bodice: in every way except the neckline, the bodice is underlined. The neckline – which I created after stitching the shoulders of both shell and underlining – is stitched, graded, and understitched. Maybe you’ve asked – “but how do I get a beautiful invisible zipper installation, Black Dynamite?” Well I’ll tell you! You interface your shell, you serge-stitch that seam allowance together for a tidy 3/8″ (and hide the serge-tail at the neckline), and your zipper tape will hide the beautifully-finished seam! BOOM!

Bootstrap Fashion: Draped Sheath Dress
Bootstrap Fashion: Draped Sheath Dress

This dress pattern featured seamless cap sleeves. A baby hem was out of the question – the curve around the armscye wasn’t playing! Instead I cut 1 1/4″ bias strips and made enough length to comfortably finish both sleeves. I sewed staystitching at the seamline (3/8″ allowance), trimmed to 1/8″, then measured and finished the bias-strip binding via diagonal seam (in other words, made a tube of bias-strip). Then I pinned around the armscye, stitched, pressed, and carefully hand-tacked the bias fold to the underlining.

Bootstrap Fashion: Draped Sheath Dress
The hem – easy-peasy. I let the dress hang for a bit (keep in mind the asymmetrical draping of this dress will make a perfectly-behaved hem a bit of a challenge), then put the dress on my model – in her correct undergarments and heels –  and marked the hem, pinning the underlining to the shell. I then sewed 1/4″ from the marked hemline, trimmed off excess, finger-pressed, then flipped again to stitch a hem. Beautiful!

Bootstrap Fashion: Draped Sheath Dress
For the belt, I used a pumice-colorway sateen and tore along the grain to get the perfect strip. I used a 7/8″ grosgrain to give body to the belt, and applied snaps in a colorway that matched the dress: (OH MY I am loving oyster/bone/pumice/etc colors this summer!)
Bootstrap Fashion: Draped Sheath Dress
And of course: a hand-crotcheted belt carrier – shown here at one of the dress’ two invisible zippers. Since I don’t like the look of a zipper in the skirt of a dress, and since this bodice is quite fitted at the waist, I needed another zipper:

Bootstrap Fashion: Draped Sheath Dress
I am not even lying that I owned that invisible zipper installation – with a cheesy plastic invisible zipper foot, too! I even installed the side-seam zipper in the side with the large gathers! #bigPimpin

The dress fit is amazing. The hand, drape, and breathability of the fabric is the loveliest I’ve seen in a while. I think I might have to make myself a dress like this – then wait to get asked to a summer wedding or formal event.

All told: a success!

Bootstrap Fashion: Draped Sheath Dress
Bootstrap Fashion: Draped Sheath Dress