Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Raving for Rayon Challis


As a child I enjoyed watching the A-team "I pity the fool!" and the phrase "I love it when a plan comes together" has stuck with me over the years. This dress started as a pitiful dress and was an example of a plan not coming together! Read on to see what went wrong, then right.

I was tremendously excited to see the new line of designer rayon challis by Riley Blake Designs. The prints range from bold and colorful to subtle and muted. The fabric is silky with a smooth hand and lovely drape. I fell in love with several of them with the mind to make vintage maxi dresses from patterns in my stash. I chose the Tidalwave design for my first project.

After much deliberation and consultation with a friend, I chose Simplicity 5383 from the '80's. I love the full maxi length, the square neck line, the gathered inset, shoulder ties and side seam pockets. I felt it was a perfect pattern to showcase this lovely fabric.

Rayon challis can be a challenge to work with because of its silkiness. I find it best to cut the fabric with my pattern weights, a rotary mat and cutter with a very sharp blade. These tools help me move quickly across the fabric preventing shifting as I go. 

During construction I find it best to pin aggressively to keep the layers together. and I like to use a serger to finish the seams.

I worked on this dress while video chatting with a friend as she sewed in her sewing studio miles away. I was really enjoyed the process of making this. My track record with vintage patterns has been very successful over the years. I know what size works for me in each of the big four brands and usually I have few fit issues. I tried on this dress and it was a frumpy disaster!

I made it exactly to size, but it was really wide and super long. Yes, this pattern has a lot of ease but it didn't even fit in the places that were supposed to be close to the body. I was disappointed. I put the dress in time-out and decided to rethink the project.

I considered converting it into a skirt, but in the end, I really wanted this to be a maxi dress.  I decided to modify it to work with McCalls 7405.

I have made this dress before and really like it. I thought the detail of the front inset of the original dress brought some added dimension to the overall look of my modified dress. Because there was so much excess fabric, I simply laid the new pattern on the center front and back folds of the dress and recut it. I eliminated the pockets out of resentment for the failure; I didn't want to do anymore work on it.   

The neckline casing makes it easy to adjust for more or less coverage with the back slit. 

Though the calendar is hinting at Fall, it is still Summer weather here in the Texas Gulf Coast. This lightweight fabric with the two leg vents is perfect for the heat.

I think I will use the other prints to make transitional tunics as we move into Fall. For those, I will use tried and tested patterns for guaranteed success.

Happy Sewing,

Friday, August 20, 2021

You Play Too Much!


My love for dyed or dyed look fabric continues this summer. Today, I am featuring this organic woven Denim wash fabric from Nature's Fabric. I love the mottled variations in the blues of this print. I also love that I didn't have to spend time creating the final result.

My day-to-day life during this pandemic requires simple, easy and comfortable clothing. When this fabric arrived, I knew I wanted to make something practical and fun. Little Miss saw the fabric pinned to my dress form and said it absolutely screamed a jumpsuit! I was immediately excited because I love jumpsuits, have many jumpsuit patterns, but thought I had too many. I am learning that when my pre-teen(with all the opinions) cosigns an outfit, it must be a good idea.

I hit my stash and found McCalls 7936.

I chose t make view D in size medium with the side seam pockets and the fabric belt. I extended the length of the belt by about 12". I wanted to have the option of tying it once or wrapping it obi style around the front then back.

There is no shaping to this jumpsuit so the belt helps pull in the excess fabric at the back.

This is a fast and easy project to make, the most challenging element for a newbie is the front zipper.

In this fabric, for casual styling, I sewed it without significant modification. 

When I make it again, I will make it longer, omit the belt and add back darts to pull in the silhouette.  

This will be heavy in the rotation in the coming months. It is relaxed and the cotton is perfect in this Texas heat.

Happy Sewing,

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Magnificently Marbled Knit Dress


It's no secret that I love bold prints and all the colors. Today, I bring you my newest make, a dress featuring stretch cotton jersey knit fabric by EttaVee for Riley Blake Designs. 

This fabric has a smooth hand and about a 50% four way stretch for added comfort and ease. This digitally-printed fabric features a multicolored, marbled swirl of colors. I chose the cream colorway of the four available offerings. 

I wanted a simple pattern to showcase the fabric so I chose Simplicity 9010. I love the batwing sleeve and draped open back.

The pattern is drafted for woven fabrics. To compensate for the stretch and weight of the fabric, I sized down and added the optional back ties.

There are no dart or seams for shaping in this dress. That adds to its versatility because it can also be worn with the drape in the back or front. 

The ties are tucked and the deep overlap is pinned for modesty.

This switch allows for full coverage at the back.

This is a fast and easy dress to make in this luscious fabric. It is as comfortable as a t-shirt, but with some added glam. I love it.

Happy Sewing,


Monday, June 28, 2021

Dyeing To Getaway Adventures and Giveaway!

I like most, have felt that 2020 was doing the most! The pandemic, mask-wearing, virtual schooling, social distancing and universal uncertainty, took a tremendous toll on me. Many of the plans I made were postponed or canceled. I am not usually bothered by cancelled plans because introverting is awesome. That being said, I had to work at being intentional with connecting with friends across the distance. With two of my friends in particular, I found myself having the same lament: “I wish we could get together, I can't wait until we can make plans to see each other again.

These two friends are essential workers employed in hospital emergency rooms in different states. From the very beginning, they have been in the thick of it combatting the Coronavirus. I watched their experience throughout the pandemic and was constantly moved by the solemn experiences they shared. They were among the first group to receive the vaccine and got me excited about the promise of relief to the pandemic. I signed up for and received the vaccine as soon as I was able and started to plan to visit friends. It occurred to me that these two amazing, creative, friends of mine would get along well and we should be plan a getaway for the three of us together! I facilitated a virtual introduction early in the pandemic, and knew they would get on like a house on fire. They agreed on a joint getaway!

On my own, I played around with natural dyeing techniques and shared them on Instagram.  They both expressed an interest in the projects, so I floated the idea of a “Dyeing To See You” getaway where we would play with fabric, dyes and relax as we reconnect. The stars aligned as an opportunity to collaborate with Shannon Fabrics, Oliso Irons, and Fabric Funhouse presented itself. We would get together to experiment with various fabric dyeing techniques using both synthetic and natural botanical dye processes on generously gifted Embrace double-gauze fabric.

I rented a house in a city where none of us lived in and we packed our bags. Our reconnection felt like that emotional reuniting of the sisters at the end of The Color Purple. It was wonderfully surreal to be together again. 

We dedicated the first part of our dyeing adventure to the use of synthetic dyes creating designs with various binding techniques. I pre-washed the fabric in hot soda ash bath to remove the sizing and prepare the fabric for receiving the dyes.


We followed the product instructions and prepared multiple dye baths in various colors. (All participants on this getaway are all fully vaccinated so we are not wearing masks. When we wear them in the photos, it is a safety measure when working with powdered dyes. Additionally, the dye results are shown on wet fabric. Once the fabric is color set and dried, the final colors are more muted.) 

We wanted to try all the techniques, but decided to narrow it down to a few.


With this technique, the dampened fabric was folded and wrapped with twine around a PVC pole base. The twine was wrapped around the folded fabric approximately five times before it was scrunched tightly up along the upper portion of the pole. We continued to wrap more twine and scrunch more fabric until all the yardage was secure. The ends of the fabric were secured in place and the pole was submerged in the dye and allowed to absorb the color for a few hours. It was removed from the dye, unwound and then rinsed and dried.


Solid Block Dyeing

With this technique, the fabric was draped into multiple dye pots at the same time. This produced a continuous yardage with multiple color ranges.

Parfait Ice Dye

With the fun and unpredictable technique scrunched fabric was added to a hamper in layers of fabric, ice and powder dyes. As the ice melted, it distributed the dye throughout the fabric and down multiple layers.  The hamper had holes in the bottom and was placed on the ground so the melting water drained away. We let the dye work overnight then revealed the colors and patterns.


Tie Dye

For more predictable results we also tried pressing, folding, twisting and binding the fabric with rubber bands and cable ties before submerging them in the dye baths. This allowed us to have more control over the finished shapes.


Stitch Shibori

Shapes were drawn or randomly stitched on fabric with a running stitch. The threads were pulled up to gather the fabric. The fabric was submerged in the dye bath and left to absorb. The stitch patterns create a resist in the fabric where the dye does not penetrate. The loose weave of the gauze produced a subtle pattern. Fabric with a denser weave would have a stronger pattern.


A full day and a half of dyeing with these techniques yielded tremendous results.

The second part of our dyeing adventure was a natural botanical dye workshop hosted by Talia and Michelle of Fabric Funhouse.  They are releasing a line of natural botanical dye products that are completely natural, vegan and eco-friendly. There are a wonderful range of dye possibilities available including, Madder root, Logwood, Pomegranate, Cutch, Wattle, and Quebracho Roj

For our workshop, we were taught the wonderful history of the natural dyes and the chemical combinations and intricacies involved in creating the formulas. We decided to use Logwood which gives a rich purple color. 

Talia worked on the correct calculations of dye products based on the dry weight of the fabric.

We prepared the mordant bath.

Fabric Funhouse has prepared for dyeing (PFD) fabrics in a range of substrates and they are a retailer for Shannon Fabrics gauze. For our workshop we used washed linen, knit and gauze.

While the fabric was in the mordant, we prepared the dye bath 

and chalk neutralizer bath to halt the color process once the desired color is achieved.

The prepared dye was added to the pot and brought to temperature.

After the initial fabric preparation, the damp fabrics were added to the dye bath. We tried complete submergence, minimal binding, and gradient dyeing.

Bound knit

Resist bound gauze

Gradient dyed linen

To add to the  intensity of the color, I followed the dye process with an iron dip which gives a near black color.

It was a wonderful education in this labor-intensive technique which yielded wonderful results.

Over the course of the week on Instagram, I will be sharing some of the projects I made from the fabric I dyed during our getaway. I will refer back to the techniques we used to embellish the fabric. 

In celebration of our wonderful time, enter to win one of many fabulous prizes from our generous sponsors.

 Seven lucky entrants will be chosen at random to receive one of these prizes:

  • One of Four Oliso Mini- Pro Travel Irons from Oliso 

  • One Logwood Botanical Dye Starter Kit plus 1 yard each of the following: Big Sur Canvas, Embrace Double Gauze, Kona Quilter's Cotton, and Mammoth Organic Flannel from Fabric Funhouse.

  • Three yards of Embrace Double Gauze in Snow and three yards of Aim High Arrow print (If you are not up for dyeing) from Shannon Fabrics.

Instructions on how to participate in the giveaway are on my Instagram post.

After the giveaway closes, I will recap my garments with another blog post and announce the winners of the prizes. 

Good Luck and Happy Sewing,