Testing Pipi & The Shells

Last week, I requested help testing the fun-but-odd Sea Star Tunic, part of the upcoming Tidepool Collection.  Thanks so much for your response!  Our testing in the FB group sort of broke out into a Sewalong this week, and it’s been really good to explore the design with everyone! It’s still in progress and I’m still on the fence about whether she’s a good addition to the Cake catalog, but it’s been really lovely to share the sewing through the group. More on that later!

Meanwhile, I have another pattern ready to test!  This is the Pipi Shell- the first of a series of Shell patterns.  While Sea Star is a bit of a love-it-or-hate-it design, the Shells are more like ordinary clothes.  I like that, making clothes.  I learned to sew to make costumes, pretty dresses, weird stuff I couldn’t find anywhere outside my imagination.  Somewhere along the line, I accidentally fell into sewing knits and realized how satisfying it is to stitch up little tops and things I could wear over and over and over again.
It can be really challenging to create clothing that doesn’t scream “home made” to non-sewists.  I find the simpler the garment, the harder this can be.  Part of this is due to the industrial machines/practices used to make mass-produced clothing, and part of this is the techniques and fabrics used by the sewist/pattern.  Earlier this year, I started obsessing over creating the perfect knit sleeveless top.  I spent weeks playing with different arm shapes and techniques, working to make a tank top in my sewing room that looked like clothes– but better.

Ready-To-Wear (RTW) tank tops can be problematic.  In my experience, they’re often too long or too short, the material is too thin, or the top leaves me feeling exposed.  That’s not to mention the fact that most “fast fashion” of the tank-top variety is made under questionable ethics and labor practices.  Where I live, the temperature doesn’t dip below freezing, and most of the year is pretty balmy (or gasping hot).  I researched RTW tanks for a while in scores of local shops, at all price points.  There’s no shortage of tanks around here!  I took note of necklines, arms, finishes and problem spots.  I realized that the vast majority across the brands were made from a handful of boring bases, with the variety in design coming from fabric choice and embellishments rather than interesting cuts.

Slowly, I developed the Shell concept, a set of design specs for some knit tank top patterns:

    • No bra showing– I don’t have words to express how much I hate it when my bra shows.  That means bra straps, underarm bra, any of it.  I also wanted to work on covering underarm squidge, which so often overflows RTW tanks.
    • Breezy- Like I said, it’s usually hot here, so I wanted the Shells to balance “no bra” with as much breeziness as possible.  That means low-ish backs, open necklines, and sometimes a shorter length.
    • Option for Coverage- I thought the Shells should have a plain back option, if not also a plain boat front.
    • Back Detail- I’ve always, always been a fan of nifty back details! I wanted details that were both eye-catching and integral to maintaining the structure of a low-back.
    • All the Neckline Shapes- Pipi is a curved-front v-neck, the back is steeper. Other Shells have Queen Anne, Square, Scoop and other shapes, neatly bound with self-fabric.
    • Length Options- Shells are built on Cake’s Grid Guide concept, which allows for very easy customization of length and width.
  • Easy Fitting- There’s an intuitive, particular way to adjust the base Shell to mold the armscye nicely around the arm, and it’s laid out clearly in the pattern.  I wanted this to work really well for all sizes, so Susan and I spent a few weeks batting arm-shapes back and forth.
  • Standalone/Layering- I thought the shapes should be tested and work on a variety of fabrics, from sweater knits for layering vests to cotton-spandex casual tops, to lightweight base layers.
  • Excellent Finishing- The arm holes use a very neat, easy to apply interior binding that leaves no seam bits exposed.
  • Hack Friendly- I made the Shells so it’s easy to lay one down on top of The Tee pattern to make a Tee with all the necklines!
Pipi Test10

No Bra! No Side boob!

Tall order, right?  Yes!  It was like a puzzle I couldn’t put down.   Pipi and her sisters are part of the reason I haven’t been blogging, I’ve been working to fit all those things into a little sleeveless top pattern!   I’m really delighted that Pipi (and others) are nearly complete now as patterns, and it’s time to test her on a wider variety of bodyshapes.  She’s been pre-tested quite a bit (we really obsessed over the arm shape and pulled in others to play!), but I want another solid round of testing before we release this new shape.

If you’re interested in testing Pipi with me and Susan, leave a comment on our FB page and/or message me with your FB-connected email address.  I’d like to have a dozen or so testers to work out any last kinks.  We’ll ship you a paper Pipi next week, and I’ll add you to the private Cake Testing Group where we can chat, discuss the sewing, and see what everyone is working on.

What criteria would you add to the list for your perfect sleeveless top?  What is the thing you look for and never find, your sleeveless “holy grail”?

Would You Like to Vionnet?

Hey!  Thanks for all your lovely messages and support this past week!


Madeleine Vionnet is kind of hot lately, have you noticed that?  The Vionnet label is putting out new designs, Vionnet was in the Great British Sewing Bee, and some amazing articles on her work are popping up like this one from The Culture Concept.  I think it’s about time!

click to view on the Kyoto Costume Institute digital archives- amazing resource!

As many writers have noted, Vionnet is one of the least appreciated designers of the 20th century.  She began dressmaking as an 11-year-old apprentice in Paris at the beginning of the century and was a contemporary to Chanel.  They shared a passion for designing clothes that allowed for freedom of movement and freed women from fussy, restrictive fashions.  Each forged her own route to that goal.  Much of Chanel’s work centered on uniformity (hello, inventor of the LBD), manly tailoring, and sportswear.  Her influence transformed women’s fashion and ushered in the modern age of dressing.

Vionnet handkerchief dress 1920

By contrast, Vionnet took inspiration from the flowing, sensual garments found in Classical Art.  Her gowns were soft, and her influence on modern dressing was subtler than Chanel’s but no less pervasive.  Vionnet believed that the fabric and the cut should be a beautiful enhancement of the wearer’s expression and movements:

“When a woman smiles, her dress must smile with her.”-wiki

Her designs are often described as “cut on the straight, hung on the bias.”  Vionnet achieved her vision through combining bias cut and simple geometric shapes, though she was quick to dismiss anyone who accused her of inventing the bias cut.  She was more of a doting Aunt, who also popularized the cowl neck and halter tops.  Vionnet’s dresses were also expertly finished and detailed, and she signed each dress with her own thumbprint as the label.

Months ago, I re-discovered this Threads article on Vionnet and Betty Kirke.  Betty had the chance to meet Vionnet before her death, and to rummage through her wardrobe to take patterns.  Imagine!  Betty’s book is on my reference-book-wishlist.  Reading Betty’s account of the magic of pulling on a Vionnet dress, I found myself wanting to make up a Vionnet design.  I was particularly fixated on this one:

click for source

click for source

I started out just printing the pieces from the .jpg and gluing them together- I couldn’t understand how it worked and I needed to.  The intriguing paper puzzle progressed to scale models.  I had to wonder if the twisting squares would translate well to a tunic length.  I really, really wanted to wear a design from Vionnet’s mind, if not from her fingertips.  A full-length dress from this would use a lot of fabric and be hard to handle, so I decided to try a tunic.

StephC Cake Sewing Room 1

Several muslins later, I’d balanced the hem points to my liking, made a multi-size pattern, and cut one from striped jersey.

Picture 3

I didn’t take it off (practically) for weeks, months.  I don’t know why I liked it. I don’t generally wear sheathy-sacks-with-fluttery-bits. But I loved it.  When the weather turned chilly, I wore it with leggings and a chunky sweater.  Now it’s warmer, I can leave those off if I stay out of a stiff breeze…
Sea Star Tunic 2

I really like the pintucked, cowl neckline at front and back.

Sea Star Tunic 7

It’s much prettier than the diagram, the pintucks are my own little flourish.  On the pattern, I also added in a hidden pocket.  I want to make another one just a touch smaller through the body, I think it’s just a little too wide through the front shoulders.

Sea Star Tunic 1

The pattern has sat on my computer since then, gathering digital dust.  It’s a large pattern, with two big pieces cut twice.  The cutting and the instructions are very particular, but not difficult.

They are unconventional insructions, very strange.  I told myself the pattern was too large, too weird to pursue as a pattern for release, and got to work on some other things.

Yet I found myself reaching for this tunic so often, I had to admit it had become cake to me.

I’d love to release this tunic as a pattern, but I wonder if you would like that?  I wonder if the construction is too other-worldy.  I wonder if I should make six sizes or three… I wonder if you’d feel what I do when I wear it?  I want to make another one or two for summer, and I thought it’d be a good time to try some pattern testing on the Sea Star Tunic.

Sea Star Tunic 11

If you like her or she piques your fashion-historian curiosity, if you have the time to sew her, and you’re not afraid of something a bit weird (but delicious!), let me know!  I created a secret group testing pool for the upcoming Cake Tidepool Collection, and I’d like to try this one out first. I can add you to the group via the Cake Facebook Page.

We’ll send you either a printed or .pdf printshop copy, the instructions, and I’ll be posting the construction of my next Sea Star Tunic next week for your reference.  You’ll need 1.5-2.2 m of a soft, drapey woven or knit fabric.  I made sizes 35, 45, and 55.  In theory, the bias should expand and drape to suit sizes between, but I haven’t tested this.  Would you like to help?

I was leaping around to get away from a stinging fly, and husband caught this photo, shows the motion well... and heheh!

I was leaping around to get away from a stinging fly, and husband caught this photo, shows the motion well… and heheh!

ETA: Thank you so much for the massive response for testers! We have a good solid group of varying body types and experience levels, and based on the response already I think this will definitely be a future release!  I have several other patterns that are in need of wider testing, keep an eye out here for the next few…!

If you’d like to see some other blogger riffs on Vionnet, check out Leimomi’s Chiton Dress (I soooo want one!) and Cathy’s excellent exploration of the Handkerchief Dress.  Have look at Lizzy’s charming Saiph Dress too if you haven’t already- reading her post encouraged me to go ahead and embrace my fluttery sack tunic.

eta: Fehrtrade quickly tweeted me that I’d left out her VNA top– a really wearable take on Vionnet’s cutting style!

Do you ever play with Vionnet?  Leave me a link if you’ve blogged it or want to share a particular Vionnet dress you love!

What do you think?  Want to play?




Design & Draft: Back Yokes for Denim

No post yesterday- I teach on Tuesday nights and while I could schedule a post I don’t like to.  It lacks immediacy, call me old-fashioned.  (Others who blog, do you schedule posts on a regular basis?)

For the rest of this week, I want to zero in on some denim details.  On Monday, we looked at RTW jeans-style waistbands/belt loops.

Drafting a Jeans-y Back Yoke

Tonight (this morning?), I have a new Visual Reference Guide at sewingcake.com for you.  It’s a very clear step by step guide to drafting a back yoke on the Hummingbird Skirt.  The same steps and logic can be applied to other skirts or pants, and it’s pretty clear even for someone who might not draft much but would like to add a little design interest to a plain skirt.  Take a look.

The yoke for Hbird is a similar shape, though the seam is higher on the body.  Big reveal of finished skirt on Friday!

The yoke for Hbird is a similar shape, though the seam is higher on the body. Big reveal of finished skirt on Friday!

The resulting yoke is a less-traditional shape like the yoke on the Pinkie Pants.  I like the way the seaming wraps around my body, it’s subtly unexpected.  I wrote the Visual Reference Guide so that your Hummingbird Denim Yoke seam would wrap around your body and flow into the pocket seam in a similar way.  I also wrote in how to make a more traditional V-yoke.

Meanwhile, let’s check out other back yoke treatments for inspiration:

click for source

click for source

This is a fairly ordinary back yoke.  In general, a back yoke seam is flat-felled and functions as an alternative to a back dart.  That is, it introduces a curve in the backside area.  For some very curvy bodies, a back yoke + small dart may be necessary.

click for source

click for source

Generally, the back yoke seams slope gently down toward the CB seam, a few fingerwidths higher than the widest part of the backside curve.  Cool pocket variation shown here, and click here for a useful perspective on the visual effects of pocket size.

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click for source

As with waistbands and belt loops and threads, back yokes vary widely.  I like the extra little seam here, from Armani.  Extra seaming = extra labor costs for cutting/sewing = pricier garment.

click for source

click for source

These jeans are from the same maker, Armani, and you can see they’re as different as can be from the other pair.  The wash (color), the shape and position of the yoke, and the distance between the stitches.  It’s an extra wide flat fell seam.

click for source

click for source

These lavishly embellished women’s jeans have a surprisingly straight yoke seam with a double belt loop back detail.

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click for source

This back yoke is nothing special, but I rather like the crossed belt loops and the seamed pockets.  Note the angle of the pocket flaps.

click for source

click for source

And for the finale, this quirky-cute back yoke.   I imagine it would be a pain in the neck to sew, but the result is worth it.   I rather like the pockets, too, what do you think?  I’d almost call it Art Deco style, except… it’s a denim skirt…

Read On

click for source

click for source

While I was looking around for some interesting back yokes for this post, I found a very cool article on Jeans Anatomy.

Tomorrow: Hemp-Cotton Denim Torture Testing / Sample Sewing / Denim Threads and also How to Calculate Fabric Weight

Then: The Big Reveal and Guide to Sewing with Hammers

Fabric Shopping!

Viscose with a whiff of lycra and polyester

I went Fabric Shopping today!  This warrants capital letters because I don’t often shop for fabric, and I don’t stash.  With a single notable exception (stable striped knits in natural fibers with a hint of lycra), I don’t buy fabric without an Intent.  Since my most recent Fabric Shopping event back in February, I dutifully shunned The Fabric Store.  It helps that TFS is all the way on the other side of the city.

I don’t stash, but I do deliberately buy fabrics that should go together for particular projects and collections.  This usually marks the beginning of a drafting and sewing binge that gives birth to another handful of Cake designs.  With Hummingbird, Tiramisu Second Edition, Cabarita and Bonny at the end of production, I’m “allowed” to shift my focus to the next set of Cake Patterns…

Red Velvet

Red Velvet

Last week, I went looking for some red velvet for an upcoming project.  *cough cough It’s called Red Velvet cough cough*  I found this at Spotlight.  It is 90% polyester and 10% spandex.  As a rule, I don’t work with polyester, but I’m willing to keep an open mind and challenge myself.  This was rather expensive dancewear velvet.  It’s 4 way stretch and because it’s intended for dance I assumed I could shove it in my washing machine with impunity.

This fabric is beautifully bulletproof, with  great drape and body.  I washed this on warm with reds.  I left it overnight because I’m lazy and forgetful, and then left it on the line for two days for a similar reason.  I expected expensive dancewear fabric to stand up to this kind of abuse*.  I was not disappointed.  I have the idea I want to make an indestructible cocktail dress.  Because.


I had almost given up on finding a beautiful stretch lace to go with my red velvet.  I kept finding clumpy, glumpy, gross stretch lace in bright white. I wanted something slinky and smooth and classy in a pale red.  Not pink, but a pale red.  I’d given up the search when I spotted this nylon lace today at TFS!


This lace will be underlined with a creamy organic cotton jersey.

Daywear Version


This I purchased recently from Cake retailer Strommig Designs.  I think she still has some pink/orange left, but I’m not sure about the blues.  I do know this is an extremely high quality medium weight cotton lycra knit and I plan to use it for a “daywear” counterpoint to the lacy velvety thing I have in mind…

Menswear Collection


My husband has been pestering me for new clothes for a few months.  I made the odd shirt and shorts for him, but I’ve also been squirreling away fabrics for when I roll up my sleeves to create a core wardrobe for him.

The the other day I cut a few pairs of shorts for him and we audited “his” fabrics.  Most of them were plain colored twills for bottoms in shades of brown.  I picked this up for him today, to break up the plain shorts and pants in his near future.  It’s a closely woven viscose, polyester and lycra blend and also feels beautifully bulletproof.  I kinda hoped he’d dismiss the fabric, allowing me to swoop in and claim it.  Nope, he likes it.


Here we have a lightweight striped jersey with a 5% lycra content.  I like a little Lycra in my knits, it helps the garment keep its shape and last longer.


This is a heavier viscose/lycra blend.  I wasn’t looking for a fabric like this when I went out, but I have several possible plans for this fabric…


Though the fabrics don’t “match,” I do think they coordinate well.

And that’s how I shop for fabrics!  Which do you like best?  I can’t decide, I really can’t.

Em at Tumble Weeds in the Wind recently interviewed me for Stashbusting.  She asked some interesting questions!  The first part will be live on her blog in the next day or so, do check it out.

*(in my brain expensive fabric = durable, though not always washable… but dance fabric should wash.)

Midweek Stroll: Treasure Hunting After A Storm

Cabarita Beach, NSW

This past weekend, my family and I left Brisbane in the rear view window and headed to “our” beach, Cabarita.  All this month, storms battered the dunes and stirred up the reefs just offshore.  It’s an interesting process that destroys part of the ecosystem, but also can free up resources for other species to thrive which enhances the biodiversity of the reef in the long term.

February kicked off with cyclonic storm winds (cyclone= hurricane that rotates clockwise) and has been mostly rainy and stormy ever since.  Bad luck for some misplaced reef life, but it makes for very interesting beachcombing.

Cabarita Beach Combing

We spent a soft late afternoon at Cabarita…

…building sandcastles, swimming, and seeking hidden treasure.

During high storms, the wind and tidal surge push the waves over the rocks, leaving all manner of interesting flotsam and jetsam behind.

Cabarita Beach, NSW

We found a wide range of sponges and corals, ripped from the seafloor.  I spent a long time looking at this hard sponge, and now I wish I’d brought it home with me!

We also found some of the nicest shells I’ve ever seen in nature!

Cabarita was crawling with surfers of all ages, too.

the shelled animals in this photo are the same size as the tiny one in the shell gallery above...

the shelled animals in this photo are the same size as the tiny one in the shell gallery above…

Cabarita Beach, NSW

We went to Stephen’s parents home for the night, feasted on Vietnamese food, slept late and then spent the next afternoon doing it all over again.  It didn’t get boring, in fact we all became rather like Gollum over our shell finds.   We’d been a little edgy all week, and it was nice to be out together with no worries.

Our Haul

And check out our haul!  I love the barnacles, to me they look like sea dragon molars. I’ll probably put these on the table in  a bowl, maybe the larger ones will go on our “interesting dead things” shelf.

What’s your favorite thing to do on a weekend?  The thing you wish you could do every weekend, but only manage every so often? Do you ever go “treasure hunting” for shells, rocks, plants or wildlife sightings?

Design Inspiration Poll: Circle Skirt Applique

But first- today’s two winners of the OCC Lip Tar Sample Packs:

Picture 14

Thanks for the link, Emily.

Picture 15

Hey Kate!  I wasn’t completely clear- OCC is an American brand.  But VeganBeauty.com.au is an excellent Aussie retailer!DSC07103

If you two ladies would please email me your addresses and your palette preferences, I’ll drop those in the post to you!

Circle Skirt- 5 Positions of Pavlova

During the Shipping Season as you’re all receiving your Pavlova Wrap Top & Skirt pattern, I’ll be releasing a series of drafting and techniques tutorials tailored to the Pavlova Separates.  Circle skirts are a very versatile shape- easy to sew, fun to play with.  In keeping with the off-duty ballerina flavor of the pattern, I thought I’d call these the 5 Positions.

skirt with a secure and tidy knit waistband.  click for full tutorial on sewingcake.com.  We'll revisit knits and circles more closely very soon...

skirt with a secure and tidy knit waistband. click for full tutorial on sewingcake.com. We’ll revisit knits and circles more closely very soon…

For the 5th position, I thought we could go tacky and hilarious or surreal or avante garde with some good old fashioned appliques!  I know how to execute them (and write the tutes!) but I thought I’d ask for your input on the applique design before I finalize the tutorial:

very lazy, linked to my pinboard.  click for path to source.

very lazy, linked to my pinboard. click for path to source.

How cute is this?  I love rainy days, and we could add in some pretty raindrops, too.  Or.  Some kind of bedazzler?   Why not?

click for pinboard

click for pinboard

Plain diamonds appliqued around the hem might work.  And tassels, so mischievous. Without them, it could be a cool graphic way to show off a neato printed fabric.

Picture 18

Sans rickrack, and perhaps only one bunch of flowers… What if they were dimensional?  Ooooooh…

click for full pattern photos

click for full pattern photos

These were part of a “general purpose” vintage applique pattern, aren’t they adoooooorable?  Pick these, pick these!  I want to wear skunks! (And are those little birdies… or…? sequins? )

Picture 21I noticed this applique for birds and a cage last year, and the idea has been following me around ever since….

So let me know what you’d like to see by voting below.  I’ll include a pdf template of the applique I use on my final skirt, and she’ll be revealed as the 5th Position of the Pavlova Skirt.  Sound good?  (I am not, am not, am not making a poodle skirt, though.  :))

Vote as many times as you like before the end of this week. Then I’ll get to work on that applique tutorial!

My Red Leather Bag

click for source

click for source

Last Christmas I came into a bit of money- my grandfather in law is generous around the holidays.  I always sit and think hard- what is a good gift from an older gentleman to a younger woman in the family?

Red Leather Bag 1

This is just before I went out earlier today to run errands and meet with another creative professional in the city…

This year, I chose a smart new shoulder bag.  I must have a large bag to carry around my files and samples and the international post.  I don’t drive, opting instead to avail myself of Brisbane’s excellent public transit services.   My travel habits demand a good, solid bag.

Red Leather Bag Pockets

This bag has so many pockets I can keep a mini-desk inside!  There’s plenty of room for my laptop, or dolly samples, or fabric, too!

Red Leather Inside

Excellent stitching, very durable I should think.

Red Leather Bag

I know it’s a no-no, but I definitely wear my bag like this when I’m hiking across the City center… Do you recognize my silk-cotton cummerbund belt? And the Pavlova skirt? Wear them all. the. time.

The red works for me because it’s a core color in my wardrobe.  More than half my makes are black, white, navy or red.  Here, I’m pairing the shoulder bag with my sensible red leather ballet flats.  Tell me- is it permissible to wear two shades of red or is that simply not done?

For me, this bag is a little more than a carrying case.  I’ve been schlepping Cake work all over Brisbane in a clean and smart canvas bag.  This new bag makes me feel more “together”- like a professional working lady.

What’s your everyday/work bag like?

Today’s Giveaway Winner:

Picture 6

*No one asked me to write this post, I’m just happy with my boss new bag and wanted to show her to you!

Design Inspiration: Horseshoe Necklines and the Dickey

I haven’t made a Design Inspiration post for a while!  I’ve been focusing so much on “business” work I haven’t had a chance lately to let my imagination wander as it pleases, so it was fun to take some time out earlier today to hunt vintage pattern inspiration…

I have this pattern and a favorite black dress made from it.  Very sharp.

I have this pattern and a favorite black dress made from it. Very sharp.

Dickeys are common enough in vintage sewing, in fact several of my favorite dresses feature dickeys.  A dickey uses very little fabric, and even when the entire thing is hand-sewn it takes little time to create.  It’s a small way to add interesting detail to an otherwise simple cut (or go nuts on the cut and throw in a dickey!  that works too!). It’s also a great way to use a pretty piece of fabric that might not work for an entire garment.

click for source

click for source

But first- the U-shaped neckline.  It’s steeper than a standard scoop, which perhaps allows it to reach just a little deeper- or maybe that’s a visual effect.  (Is that a roll collar on the blue?)

click for source

click for source

The envelope back description reads:

Butterick 5826; ca. 1951; One-Piece Tailored Dress: Bias Bodice. Wonderfully slim dress that will do just the right things for you. Horseshoe neckline bodice teams with a wing-collared dickey which contrasts the dress in (A). Contrast cuffs on three-quarter sleeves (A). Long sleeves (B).

I love this description, especially the phrase “horseshoe neckline..teams with a wing-collared dickey.”  I prefer “horseshoe” to “u-shaped,” don’t you?  Winged collars are easy to sew and look enchanting.

click for source-  Etsy

click for source- Etsy

This dickey-bodice combination is a little wider, and looks heavily pintucked.  I like pintucking, myself, but I think a plain or even a lace piece could look quite pretty.

I’m also fuller up top, and can say from experience that anything to break up the bulk without adding to it works really well on my figure.  These envelope ladies are a bit slimmer, but it still looks nice.

click for source

click for source

Advance 5605 carries on the pleated-dickey-tux vibe, with the inclusion of some shaped lapels.  A dickey paired with this type of collar was super popular in vintage patterns from the late 40’s to mid 50’s.  I don’t love them, but don’t hate them either.  What do you think?

click for source

click for source

Moving away from pleats, this inset/dickey from the early 60’s creates extra visual interest in a wrapped dress.  To me, this looks like “desk job/smart clothes” more than something I might wear every day…

click for source

click for source

At first glance, this horseshoe-neckline-dickey might also seem unsuitable for day wear.  But strip off the gloves, fancy fabrics and accessories.  Imagine a very lightweight dickey fabric and a simple, secure edging.  Can you see it?  Do you like it?

click for source- on sale on etsy

click for source- on sale on etsy

This dress (another Advance, I love their work) shows that the neckline works both with and without its dickey.

Simplicity 3441

This dickey, like many others, is completely detachable.  I assume with snaps sewn to the inner neckline.  The cuffs are also detachable.  I did this on my McCalls 3370 (pictured above at the top of this post, pre-blog) and it worked pretty well, though it took extra time to dress in the morning.

click for source

click for source

In fact, dickies under other names have been around for centuries.  I well remember making Elizabethan partlets for historical re-enactments and theatre.  Click here for an interesting read on men and women wearing dicki- I mean, partlets through history.

click for source

click for source

A close relative to the dickey is the bib-front.   As far as I can ascertain, the difference between a bib and a dickey is both depth and detachability.  Perhaps bibs should also be made of a similar fabric as the rest of the blouse, while dickeys are intended to replicate a layering effect?

click for image source

click for image source

This is a modern bib-front-dickey-peter-pan-collar-lace-and-rickrack thing.  Despite myself, I find it rather charming.  Perhaps green with a white contrast and pink accent, or any shirt color other than that despondent plum.

What do you think?  Have you worn/sewn dickeys before?  Did you like them?  How do you like the Horseshoe Neckline? For a look at more of my recent inspiration images, check out my pinboard.

Plans for 2013 Pt 1- 3 Hours Past and Cake and a Survey!

2012 was chaotic for me on the blogging and website-building front.  I was learning constantly, testing new ideas and mediums, and figuring out how to put everything together all at one time.  I think that shows in the blogging.

Emse on her Phone

That’s not right, not right at all.   Besides, I’m starting to understand more and more of the “computer work” involved and it’s easier for me now.   This post is to let you know what’s going on around here, and to give you a little look into The Future. I’ll start with where I see 3 Hours Past and sewingcake.com going in 2013:

Sometime in the last few months I realized I’m not really a “social” sewing blogger anymore, but I’m not really a “pro” blogger either.  Where does that leave 3 Hours Past?

Well- I have many other interests I write about occasionally besides sewing- sustainability, fashion history and design inspiration among others.  Oh!  And Finished Object posts, I love those… That’s 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World, and I like being able to connect with you clever and interesting people on topics other than the sewing.  (I’ll write Cake posts here, too, but not as frequently as in the past few months..)

Sewingcake.com will be the place I write tutorials, post videos, run sewalongs and other events, and showcase Cake Patterns.  The idea behind the sewingcake setup is that over time, as I fill in more tutorials and support for the patterns, the front page will become a “living” visual reference. (always wanted to do that with 3HoursPast…) I also want to make good use of the social media tools that many of us use to connect and share inspiration- primarily flickr and pinterest.

30 Minutes a Day Sewalong Tiramisu Headline | Cake PatternsIf you go take a look at the 30 Minutes a Day Tiramisu Sewalong page, you’ll see what I mean.  I used both types of galleries on that page, with the idea that the Flickr gallery will aid troubleshooting and the Pinterest gallery provides several options for following along with the action to make sure you don’t miss out.  (I’m also running a feed for the sewalong in the right sidebar here—->)

If you haven’t checked out the sewalong page lately then please do- I outlined how the galleries will work together and set a few “parameters” for the Sewalong.  I’ve taught far, far more classes than I have run sewalongs so for me it makes sense to run this as I would a class.  Check it out. (I’ve been writing up the posts for it this week, I’m SO excited about the Sewalong!)

Cake Patterns

Tiramisu is making wavelets through the blogs and PR as more of you get a chance to sit down and stitch with me through Cake Patterns. I love it!  Keep up the good work!

Pavlova Circus and Pre-Sale

Pavlova’s pre-sale and Circus came and went just before Xmas, and she should ship in February.  Words can not express how much easier and smoother the production process was compared to Tiramisu, and I’m really looking forward to you all having your Pavlovas.

Around shipping time, I’ll introduce you to a Cake concept that’s been brewing for a few months: “collabvertisements.”  I shipped a pretty winter wool set of Pavlova separates (the gray and ivory) to a certain historical shoe designer who has a beautiful T-strap style coming out shortly…  She’ll style and shoot the photos herself- her shoes with my samples.

I’ll also be rolling out my “5 Positions of the Pavlova Skirt” blitz- 5 distinctive skirts made from the same simple Pavlova Skirt pattern pieces.  Oh yes! 


Miniature Hummingbird Cake | 3 Hours PastHummingbird is named after my favorite layer cake, and it’s all about work clothes for professional women.

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Like Pavlova, Hummingbird is a jersey top and a woven skirt- and of course, always with pockets.  Unlike Pavlova, Hummingbird is a “meatier” concept to create a more formal ensemble.   The top is the popular and flattering peplum cut, but don’t expect your garden variety peplum from this 1940’s obsessed pattern drafter!  The cut will work with lighter fabrics as a top and also for heavier sweater knits.

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The skirt is slim cut with no gape pockets, a contour waistband and a circular cut back flounce with lapped seams.  I’m engineering the construction to be “semi-couture,” but left an escape hatch for beginners and impatient intermediates.  I’m drawing heavily on inspiration from European skirt designs from the 30’s.

hummingbirdcolorI can’t say a single word more about Hummingbird, I don’t want to spoil the surprise!

Lamington’s design happened a few months ago when my husband asked me to engineer him the ultimate Field Ecologist pants- serious cargo type pants he wears while working.  He had very particular specifications for pockets, function, and cut.

It’s a slim leg pant, but not so slim as to inhibit movement.  I included such functional details as exposed zippered pockets, adjustable waistband buckles, back pocket detailing and front pockets just deep enough for an iphone but not too deep.  I have a huge bag of rivets, buckles, zippers and all the other hardware I could locate because we’re going to be sewing with hammers!  I love that, it’s so much fun!

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That’s right- Cake is branching out into men’s patterns!  The best part about the Lamington pants is that all that optional fun stuff can be stripped away to leave a very simple but cool men’s pants/shorts pattern.  And since it’s me, and it’s Cake, we’ll draw you a simple map to sort out the design details so you can customize to your heart’s content.

I don’t know about you, but I often steal my husband’s pants.  Rest assured, I’m stealing his pants pattern too and will show you how I “girly-fy” the Lamington pants.

I’ll pair them with a solidly simple baseball tee pattern we can play with to create other kinds of specialty activewear.  Dear me, I’m excited about sewing Hummingbirds and Lamingtons together…


Last year, I asked you all to go dig out your tape measures and contribute to my Hips-to-Waist Ratio survey.  I’ve played with the data a few different ways since then as I work out the Holy Grail of pattern drafting: a women’s pants grade.  Recently Braless In Brasil asked me to dig around and answer a question for her from my data.  I will soon, I love “new” questions.  If you missed that survey before then feel free to join in.  I’m still adding numbers as they come in.

While I prepare my equations for the Lamington Pants, I’d like a “Male” data set for waist to hip ratios.  My research and experiments show me that men are much less variable in that area than women, but I would like to build my own data set to work with.  To the male sewists out there and those of you with access to a man or men- do you think you could contribute to my Male Waist to Hip Ratio survey?  I’d really appreciate it, and I’m sure it will help me build a fantastic men’s pants pattern:

As happens, I sat down to write a single post and discovered I had material for two.   In the next post, I’ll tell you what’s going on with some other Cake projects- namely the Petit Four projects and the Cake Riffs, as well as my teaching/events line-up in Brisbane for the next few months.

What do you think about all of that?  Tiramisu and Pavlova and Hummingbird and Lamington!  I’m still twiddling and refining the last two patterns, so if you have a workwear or cargo-pants “wish list” do let me know…!

Conversant In Color: Saturated Tones on the First Lady of the United States

It’s been too long since a Conversant In Color post!  I still have a few color concepts rattling around in my brain that won’t go away, so I thought I’d pick up the series by exploring the color choices of Michelle Obama, the First Lady of the United States.  It’s nearly Election Day!  I always found elections exciting times, even when I was a little kid.  While I don’t live in the U.S., I am aware that this presidential campaign has been vitriolic.  Please, let’s let that go for a little while and simply take a look at how the First Lady uses color.

Mrs Obama and I have radically different coloring, climate, and performance needs (when was the last time *I* had the Chinese Prime Minister to dinner?), but after much digging in Google Images I realized we have some similar ideas on color.   For one, she doesn’t shy away from using color freely in her wardrobe.  Naturally, she wears black and white and beige neutrals like anyone else, but for events ranging from state dinners and goodwill tours abroad to “mom-in-chief” moments and awareness campaigns, the First Lady turns to colors she knows she can rely on.

The more I looked, the more I saw that the First Lady works from a pretty tight color palette.  She does occasionally deviate from her “colors,” but these variations just show the wisdom of her stock color choices:



I like these colors together.  On her!

Orange, what looks like a full maxi skirt… Oh swoon…!



She carries herself so well- next to her, two of the world’s most powerful men (Hu Jintao, Barack Obama) look like mere politicians.  She is regal- and doesn’t deny her height by slumping over.



The lesson here- if you’re going to stand out in a crowd, then own it.  Here, the First Lady stands out for her height and skin color, two unchangeable physical attributes.  She shines in this sapphire frock.

The same dress, after hours.

Head-to-toe, every inch a lady.  The First Lady.


I gathered all these images to show the First Lady’s “go-to” color palette.  When thinking about use of color in the wardrobe, it’s easy to think of clear divisions between “warm” and “cool” coloring.  Mrs Obama’s palette does not easily fall into these categories- check out the way she wears both blue-purples and red-purples equally well.

However, it is important to note that all of the colors we’ve looked at share a common trait- they are clear and/or brilliant.  I’m no expert on dressing darker skin, but to me it seems the more saturated colors work incredibly well with her depth of coloring.  For the First Lady, the important factor in choosing color is not “warm” or “cool” as much as wearing colors as rich as her natural tones.  She also looks very well in plain color or clear abstract patterns.

This is a good trick to remember regardless of your personal coloring- try matching the saturation of the colors you wear to your natural coloring.  This may or may not suit your personality, but it’s likely you’ll discover new color-friends this way.

Gray is a great “invisibility” color for the First Lady.  A quietly flattering blending-in color, like we talked about in the Separates post.  We all need a little invisibility sometimes, right?

Out of many possibilities, I chose this dress to illustrate my point about the First Lady and her color choices.  Each individual color on this dress may well work for her- worn separately.  They’re perhaps a trifle bland for her, a little washed out.  The print is not my taste to begin with, and I’m not sure it really does the First Lady any favors.  Some have dubbed this the “slipcover dress,” but I think that’s rather rude of them.  Even if it isn’t her best look.  We can’t win them all!

First Lady Michelle Obama injects more glamor into the White House than it has seen since the days of Jackie Kennedy.  She’s not a pampered socialite, she’s not a model, she’s not a young woman in years despite her athleticism and vigor.  She’s a normal woman who does the best with what she has.  I think that’s why I admire her so much- because she’s a woman who quite obviously does the very best she can with her life and the opportunities she has.  This goes beyond clothes.

This is my current favorite First Lady dress, the one she wore to deliver a speech at the DNC last month.  Some of her words have stuck in my mind since then-

If farmers and blacksmiths could win independence from an empire…if immigrants could leave behind everything they knew for a better life on our shores…if women could be dragged to jail for seeking the vote…if a generation could defeat a depression, and define greatness for all time…if a young preacher could lift us to the mountaintop with his righteous dream…and if proud Americans can be who they are and boldly stand at the altar with who they love then surely, surely we can give everyone in this country a fair chance at that great American Dream.

Because in the end, more than anything else, that is the story of this country – the story of unwavering hope grounded in unyielding struggle.

I know it’s easy to get caught up in all the noise and conflicting opinions surrounding the election, but I keep going back to that- we can vote, we have our nation and our rights because of the struggles of those who have come before us.  This is no small thing.  People died so we can have what we have- and what are we doing with our hard-won rights?  It’s not just heros and legends who make our history, it’s the ordinary people the First Lady speaks of who looked around at their world and thought they could make it a better place.

We can make our world a better place.

At the risk of being bossy, please vote, Americans.  It’s your choice who you vote for, not mine (I voted a few weeks ago), but vote because the simple act of exercising your rights validates those unyielding struggles of which the First Lady spoke.

What do you think?  Saturated colors best on the First Lady?  Which is your favorite dress?  Did I leave one out you love?  Which one?  I have other Color concept posts, but it was fun to cyber-stalk the First Lady and tease out her color theories… Should I do someone else next?  Who?