Our window display this month is really exciting! Each of the garments on display has benefited from Wendy’s touch — her ability to see what will put each garment over the top (paired with her ability to talk us into it!) is unparalleled! All of us have had so much fun working with her this year, we have put our garments on display, along with stories about how she helped us.
(In the window, left to right, Cathy’s Mother of the Bride outfit, Lauren’s Wedding Dress, and Melissa’s Reinvention/Embroidered Jacket)
Lauren’s Wedding Dress
Lauren says: Bob and I found that the perfect spot for our wedding had an opening in 6 months. That’s not a lot of time to plan a wedding but we thought what the hay? I needed a dress and tried one on – Candy by Monique Lhullier. It. Was. Gorgeous. But cost $10,000.00 so way out of my price range. I let it guide the color and the silhouette but made my dress entirely from Elfriede’s Fine Fabrics for under $400.
And with a week to spare.
With two 10.5 yard hems to put in by hand, I was barely done in time! When I tried it on just days before the wedding, Wendy said I needed some beads! Beads? I hadn’t thought of that! But, no way I had time! I trust Wendy totally, so I let her take my precious dress home and add some beads. Wow! It was exactly what my dress needed! How did she know that? How did she get it done so fast?
I’m so grateful that she has the strength to speak up at times like this! To say nothing of speaking such wisdom!
Wendy says: The antique bronze ribbon that finished the hip seam was beautiful, but seemed like it was missing the sparkly beads that the lace had. Lauren gave me all the extra beads she had, and I randomly sewed them on, scattering them to reflect light. Since those hips are not very big, it didn’t take long! Elfriede said, “NOW she can get married!!”
Cathy’s Mother of the Bride Outfit
Burda pattern #7183 (modified) for the jacket. Burda pattern #6834 for the skirt.
Cathy says: Deadline sewing! Life-changing events! My daughter’s wedding!
Cathy’s challenge to Wendy: my daughter is getting married in June and I want to look great while dancing at her wedding! And, since I’m also making the wedding dress, this has to be something that I can complete well BEFORE the wedding!
Wendy loves weddings! Her additional criteria were:
- a two piece dress and jacket, so that Cathy would still look great if it got hot enough to need to remove the jacket
- the same color dupioni silk for the skirt and blouse, to avoid cutting her in the middle, and would work with her coloring
- a showcase for Cathy’s needlework skills
- incorporating a gorgeous embroidery fabric that was gifted to Cathy just for this occasion
Mission accomplished! It was an awesome wedding & the garments were completed in time!
Wendy says: See photo above for the full outfit, on the left.
Combining three simple pieces for the ensemble, made the most sense to me. Placing the embroidered tulle on the jacket and blouse, balancing the amount and size of the flowers, while not making the pieces look too busy, or too overwhelming to Cathy, was the challenge. That’s all I did. She spent countless hours cutting away the tulle, turning under the edges, and hand sewing all the embroidery down!! Brava!
Reinventing a Jacket with Embroidery
Jacket Pattern: Vogue from long ago, no clues on the pattern number.
Skirt Pattern: Marcy Tilton, Vogue #9060, current pattern, made with a narrower waistband.
Melissa says: When a student gifted me with a large piece of this gorgeous embroidery, I knew I had to do something special! But, what? Since Wendy had helped me reconstruct several of my elderly tailored jackets, I thought this might be a good idea. I scooped up all my remaining still-need-to-be-brought-into-this-century jackets and brought them in for a consult.
The selection of this particular jacket was a very good combination with the embroidery! I do love this jacket now! And, the new buttons! I am celebrating that I feel free nowadays to use the fanciest buttons possible! The updated skirt moves this clearly out of the “business suit” category and into the “fun for winter” category!
Wendy helped again in the placement of the embroidery, which resulted in enough left over to pass along to Cathy for her Mother of the Bride outfit!
Note – we still have a little of it to gift to the next fortunate person, so contact us if you feel the need!
Wendy says: Melissa is such a beautiful sewer with fantastic tailoring skills. When she brought 3 or 4 of her suits from another life, another century, she was ready to dump them all, jackets with big shoulder pads, full skirts down past midi length. I howled, “No!!” Such beautifully made garments, in gorgeous wools, still have a life. We added the embroidered tulle to this one, another beaded and embroidered, scalloped edge lace to another, feather trim to another, (see “Frumpy…” below.)
The skirts got redesigned as well, one into kneelength shorts, one into a straight skirt with interesting seaming on the back….for another blog.
Blue Silk Dress With Stained Glass Window Shawl
Donna Karan, Vogue #1489
Wedding of a life-time coming up! BFF’s daughter getting married! Need something smashing!
Melissa says: My challenge to Wendy: I’m a mountain woman! I don’t have any party dresses! I need to look good at this wedding! Help!
Quite frankly, this pattern didn’t seem right to me. Although I could see that it would be great fun to make, I wasn’t convinced. I could hear what Wendy was saying…but I was worried. Trusting in her good judgement and her artist’s eye, I took the plunge and bought a gorgeous silk – all in one color!!! (No prints, only one fabric, yikes! I’m already out of my comfort zone!)
Scared to death, I boldly plunged ahead and cut the silk. That was the hardest part, up until the first try-on. I was soooo not liking this! First, I’d roll-hemmed the entire front to back ruffle by hand – ON THE WRONG SIDE! Not a good start. Then, I tried it on and felt like I was naked. Everyone in our sewing group loved it, though, so I soldiered on. I made the alterations in fit that Wendy suggested and re-hemmed the ruffle. I still was not pleased. Everyone in our sewing group loved it even more, so I gritted my teeth and sewed on. When I looked again at the pattern, I noticed that it had a knit underdress, that fit snugly, and the drapey silk wrap dress just sat on top. Voila! That really made it good for me! It makes the dress stay in place, gives me a sense of security and I love the whole outfit!
The addition of the shawl was killer-good! (Just buy 2.5 yards and seam it up the long way!)
Wendy says: I know that Melissa loves asymmetry, unusual patterns, and construction.The shapes of this dress pattern were confounding, flipping around from the front skirt ruffle to become the neckline ruffle, with lots of weird bits sewn together. In other words right up her alley! While she favors prints, this one required a solid, as the wrong side shows on alot of the dress. Add a purple underdress, and she looked spectacular!
Linda’s Rayon Blouse
Sometimes, it’s the smallest details that make everything come together! Linda loved this rayon print, but couldn’t quite figure out if it was good for her, what she should make, why it was “stuck” in her stash. As usual, Wendy put her finger on it – she suggested that Linda make it with the wrong side of the fabric on the right side of the garment. This created a better colorway for Linda and a better match to everything else in her wardrobe. Boom! This piece jumped out of the stash and into a blouse.
But what blouse? Wendy knew! Linda had purchased a blouse that, oddly-enough, fit her perfectly! Copying a pattern off the ready-made blouse (no blouses were harmed in this process) is something that Wendy excels in! That pattern is now a main-stay for Linda and is perfect for this lovely rayon!
Note the gorgeous detail that is trademark for Linda’s style: tiny hand stitches and a delicate bias facing with just a hint showing. Beautifully done!
(Just to be clear, the hand stitching wasn’t Wendy’s idea! She’s firmly in the machine-stitching crowd!)
Wendy says: Linda did such a beautiful job on this top!
Corduroy Jacket & Silk Pants
Vogue #1186, OOP, check on Ebay, as it is often available
Melissa Says: I love everything that Issey Miyake ever did, yes, even the really weird stuff. This jacket, though, is a classic beauty. With curvy seaming, and odd facings, this jacket becomes three dimensional, with great shaping. I have always loved it, so I was REALLY excited when Wendy suggested this pattern for my latest favorite fabric – corduroy with 10% CASHMERE!
The pattern is perfect for the cashmere, as it gives us ample opportunity to place the cords in every which direction, adding interest to the jacket as well as a challenge for the cutting process.
I found the perfect charmeuse lining in my stash (!) creating a stunning monochrome jacket, for once in my career. But, alas, I could not leave well enough alone, so I inserted some Japanese cotton into the facing and made matching pants in a Marcy Tilton pattern (Vogue #8712 OOP). And, the cotton gives the front of the jacket less bulk than two layers of corduroy.
See another of our blog posts (Cords gone Wild) for more on the construction of this jacket.
Wendy says: This jacket is rather tame for Melissa, but seemed the perfect way to use the corduroy wales in many different directions. Somehow if it were in a nice wool, it wouldn’t have the impact! Stitching those seams, however, was not a challenge for her skills!!
Vogue #1355 by Sandra Betzina (current pattern)
I love wearing silk pants! They are soft, comfortable, gorgeous and decadent! Throw away your jeans for everyday wear – bring in the silk pants! My challenge for Wendy on this particular topic was to find me a new pants pattern that would bring a little more fun into my pants repertoire. She found this Vogue Sandra Betzina pattern that I had completely passed over. (Note to Vogue: do we need to have everything made up in black? One cannot see the details!)
This pattern is designed for knits, so if you want to make it up in a woven (highly recommended!), then you will want to make the following adjustments:
- use a very soft and drape-y fabric
- make a size bigger than you usually make
- add vents to the bottom of the pant, so that you can get your feet in
- eliminate the side darts so that you can more easily slip them over your hips
- deleted the waistband and added enough to turn the top of the pant into a facing
I have a million versions (approximately) of this pant now! Thank you Wendy!
Diane’s Perfect Summer Dress
Vogue #8983, current pattern
Diane says: I fell in love with a rayon batik and could see it made into a summer dress – but which one? Enter Wendy. “Vogue #8983 would be perfect”, she said, “with a few modifications”. Few indeed!
- eliminate the high/low hem line
- remove the front button closure and place the center front on the fold
- insert a back zipper
- make new neckline facings now that the front facings were gone
- and finally, during a fitting, Wendy was feeling the heat of summer. She was hot, so she cut down the backneck of my dress!
The end result is that I love wearing this dress, and wouldn’t have given this pattern a second look without her inspiration and alterations!
Wendy says: When Diane described her “perfect summer dress to me” as a fit and flare, slim but not tight silhouette, with a generous skirt for the dog days of summer, I knew the pattern to use. Eliminate all the fuss and nonsense details, this pattern is a cap-sleeved-fit-and-flare dress!
P.S. Sorry for the photo, this dress looks like nothing on the hanger, but on Diane’s adorable shape, there is a waist, and the skirt twirls!
Donna Karan Jacket with Issey Miyake Pants
Jacket is Vogue #1201, Donna Karan, usually available on Ebay
Pants are Issey Miyake, Vogue #1186, usually available on Ebay
Melissa says: OH! I have fallen in love with another fabric! This is such a common occurrence, I’ve gotten to where I just figure that it’s for me to buy the fabric…it’s for Wendy to figure out what I’m going to make from it!
This is such a delicate piece of fabric, I had no idea what to make! When Wendy suggested a jacket, I was goggle-eyed at first, then all charged up! I could underline the whole thing with one of my other fabric-loves: horsehair canvas (I know, that makes me really weird, huh?)!
Wendy picked this pattern and made such great suggestions on how to fussy cut it so that the stripes would flow around the bottom, with the flowers on top. All good, so far, but oops! Not enough fabric for that big gorgeous collar! (One of the side effects of buying fabric without a plan!)
When Wendy picked a cashmere plaid, I was in heaven! It doesn’t get any better! Well, until you look at the lining! That’s the final touch of genius!
Love, love, love the whole thing. But, I have to admit, I loved the stripes too much and made the sleeves too long so that I could have a bit more of the purple stripes. Sure enough, Wendy had a cure for that, too! A little ruching and I get the best of both worlds!
The big pants are another favorite pattern! (see pattern info above with the Corduroy Jacket). These are made in a lovely wool gauze with a china silk lining. Both are still available on http://www.ElfriedesFineFabrics.com.
Wendy says: This amazing wool challis is printed as a border print with the stripes on the selvages, and a baroque paisley print in the center. Given the fabric restrictions, it was easy to see that the “peplums” of the jacket could be the stripe, so when I turned the fabric crosswise, it all made sense to Melissa. Since”plaid” is Melissa’s favorite fabric, it was a no-brainer for the collar….for me, I’d probably gone for a plushy velvet or something, but this is Melissa’s fabric, in her colors, not mine, or else she may have had a challenge on her hands!
Lia Lia Dress
Lia Lia, Vogue #1402, current pattern
Melissa says: As so often happens to me, I fell in love with this fabric. Knowing that the motifs were too big, knowing that it was a bold print, knowing that border prints are difficult to display to best advantage, still I just had to have it! Even if all I ever did was drape it over my ironing board and look at it, I just had to have it!
My challenge to Wendy was – find a pattern for me! And, she did! With her trademark phrase, “just a few changes and this pattern will be perfect,” we went to work! Here are the changes that we made:
- eliminate the side seams on the skirt, leaving just one seam in the center back, to display the border print to best advantage
- add a center back seam allowance to the bodice
- move the zipper to the center back, since the side seam is no longer there
- sew the darts as normal, on the inside, instead of on the outside, as the pattern instructs, so as to eliminate the “flippers” on the darts, the shoulder seams and the waist
- raise the neckline in the front and in the back
- eliminate the string at the back neck
- add piping to the new neckline
I notice that I respond to patterns based on the color of the fabric that Vogue has selected! Ooops! This one totally passed me by, just because black-and-white is not my colorway! So grateful that Wendy helped me with this one! I ended up with a dress so good that I could wear it to Elfriede’s summer birthday party!
This silk charmeuse fabric is still available at http://www.ElfriedesFineFabrics.com
Wendy says: I have finally learned to look beyond the pattern photos, and just look at the pattern tech sketches on the back of the envelope, which show you what the actual garment seams are doing. With this great printed charmeuse, (she bought enough fabric,) I knew the skirt seams weren’t needed, so the border wouldn’t be broken up. All the rest of the details on the pattern weren’t going to show in this abstract floral-ish print, and the print needed to be the showpiece. Again, the photo doesn’t show the fitted bodice with the graceful skirt. On Melissa it looks more like the pattern photo, with a slightly higher neckline.
Kathryn Brenne Skirt
Kathryn Brenne, Vogue #9114, current pattern
Melissa says: I’ve been comfy wearing pants, why would I want to make a skirt? Well, because they are cool in the summer and great fun to wear! To say nothing of being very feminine! But, most skirt patterns are boring, quite frankly.
My challenge to Wendy was…find me a skirt that I want to make and love to wear!
This pattern is a winner! Be sure to peek up the skirt and see how the draping is accomplished with a few ties. Very fun! If you decide to make this skirt for yourself, be sure to select a soft fabric with a lot of drape and be sure to measure the length. I had to shorten mine quite a bit.
Wendy says: Melissa’s soft, drapey rayon print was perfect for this fun, swoopy hemmed skirt! If Melissa is going to wear a skirt, it had better be fun! When she saw it in the linen as photographed, it wasn’t for her.
“Trust me ” has become my mantra with her. Just sayin’…
From Frumpy to Feathered
Melissa says: Was this frumpy or what? A perfect challenge for Wendy – can this 1980s suit be de-frumped? It’s beautifully tailored from an exquisite fabric, but, but, but…a gathered (what was I thinking?) skirt, providing enough fabric to accommodate several months of pregnancy? The jacket’s vast lapel and oversized buttons drew attention away from the football-player-sized shoulder pads, but the overall effect was a bit odd.
And, the answer is…feathers! And, a new skirt (Vogue #2984). I love both pieces now, together and separately!
Read more at our blog in the Feathered Fashions post.
Wendy says: Thank you Elfriede for finding unusual trims!! Melissa loved this feather trim, but didn’t see how to use it yet. When we added it to the large lapels, they found a home.