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?




Monday Quilting: Felix The Fox Den Pillow

When we moved, I culled my sewing room. I could have brought 7 years’ worth of sewing flotsam and jetsam into our new home, but I welcomed the opportunity to purge. Oddly, I found it most difficult to part with my quilt scrap stash. I decided to keep my “blue & white” stash, my “rainbow” stash, and Lila’s baby/toddler clothes for quilting.  I also allowed myself to keep the several dozen finished blocks I discovered while culling.  Everything else was binned or re-homed.

In the process of clearing out the dross, I got excited about rendering these shards of pretty fabrics into Beautiful Things we could enjoy around the house.  I thought I’d share a bit of my weekender quilting every Monday around here, how’s that?


He keeps his skull collection on the mantel, picked up in the field and kept after cataloging and cleaning.

This is our family room/Stephen’s work-den. He works from home, too.  In our old place we shared a much smaller room for work/sewing/stashing his camping, fishing, field and painting gear. I like this room; it’s as cozy, comfy and interesting as he is. I thought it would be nice to start here with a few pillows and eventually a throw to enhance (but not change) the den-feel of his space.  Then I can move on to other rooms…

Picture 5

I found Felix the Fox on Shape Moth while looking for 6″ animal blocks.  He’s 10″ and detailed, but I still wanted to call him into being. Stephen liked him, too, so I whipped up Felix over the weekend.

As a little girl, I was a keen pillow quilter. I liked the symmetry and order of quilt blocks, and the magic of making lovely things from tiny scraps of fabric. I did not, however, have the attention span to make more than one or two of the same square, so I made pillows. My seams were variable at best, and I stuffed them without much thought for durability. Those pillows had a tendency to leak fluff through split pieced seams if I used them as pillows, very disappointing.

Now that I’m a grown up pro crafty lady, I know how to make much nicer finished pillows that I can use. With Felix, I used batting, backing, and a side zip. Like a boss:

Once I finished paper-piecing the square, I layered fusible Pellon behind Felix. It is nice and secure once fused. Pillows are a great way to use ordinary quilt batting scraps, too, though it needs to be pinned or basted. I added an extra layer of Pellon to make the center square more prominent, and added a backing fabric.

Then I pinned a bit along the brown border to secure the layers. I used a regular foot to quilt Felix, starting at the border seam. This worked fine because it’s a very small bit of quilting, fused together. I echoed the square in a sort of spiral-with-corners, using the edge of my foot to space the lines evenly. Then I traced the edges of Felix’s body and his different colors with a line of stitches. Originally, I thought I’d heavily quilt the background, but I stopped here because he seemed quite charming enough. Then I squared off the edges of the block/batting/backing sandwich.

After that, I inserted an invisible zipper along one side of the block, joining it to the pillow back. Again, I didn’t use anything special, just my regular invisible zipper foot. Then I stitched the rest of the pillow front to the back, trimmed the corners, and turned.  I pressed and steamed the whole pillow before adding the pillow form. If/when I do this again, I’ll use a longer invisible zipper because it was hard to insert the form. I won eventually, though! I used a 10″ invisible zip on a 15″ square pillow, but 12″ would be easier.


Voilà! I smile every time I see Felix, and while the second layer of batting is subtle I think it gives a nice effect, a little like embossed tin:


Do you make quilt pillows? Any tips for including the men in your life in the quilty-sewy endeavours? Have you made Felix before, or another paper-pieced animal? What was the hardest thing to let go of last time you culled the sewing room?

My 2014: Movement and Shaking It Up

Hey!  It’s been almost a year since my last post, and even longer since I lost the habit of regular updates here.  It’s been too long!

I cut my hair, lost weight, and lately I like a pink or berry lip...

I cut my hair, lost weight, and lately I like a pink or berry lip…

I had to step away, blogging became too hard to maintain as I struggled with a physical illness and mental exhaustion.  After surgery, I found it difficult to get up and get better. I opted to take my time to let life settle before poking my head back out into the world of blogging and social media. Thanks so much for your words of support during that difficult time, your notes meant more to me than I can express.  My family and I faced a lot of changes this year, most of them very good!

The biggest change we made was a move from Brisbane to a quiet house in the country, in northern New South Wales.  We were offered a chance to rent/caretake this lovely property and jumped at the opportunity.  It’s been a fantastic move for all of us, we really needed a change.

My husband is working on landcare projects, planting gardens and writing papers.

I have a big, quiet sewing room all to myself, and my daughter loves that we’re just down the road from her beloved Nan and Grandpa.

The furriest change we made this year was adopting our first pet!  This is Arya, found at the RSPCA on Lila’s birthday.  Lila loved her at first sight. Arya turned out to be one of the sweetest kitties I’ve ever known! She creeps into the edges of my sewing pictures and videos, and I’m sure will be a regular around here.

3 Hours Past

Every day now, I wake up and look out over the trees outside my window and think to myself- Stephanie, now you really are 3 hours past the edge of the world!  Get back to blogging!  I did start an Instagram account, and it’s been a really fun way to keep in touch and share a little. I keep wanting to blog the way I used to before Cake Patterns took over my life- random thoughts, experiments, little projects, meditations in a quilt, design inspiration and art/fashion history.  But I wasn’t sure- can I do that?

Last week, I took Cake on the road and worked the Brisbane Quilt & Craft Show with Kylie from Voodoo Rabbit fabrics.  Every day, I talked to people about the sewing and taught hemming, v-neck binding, and buttonholes.  I caught up with friends in the bizz and old students, ooh’d and aaah’d over the Cake clothes proudly worn to the show.  I forgot how amazing it is to interact that way, the pure magic of putting a nifty technique into someone’s head and fingertips!  I missed that.  I missed you.

It’s time to blog again. I want to hear how you are, what you’re thinking about, and open up my creative universe like I used to.  You are all so inspiring and thought-provoking; your input always encourages me to dig deeper, try harder, and to see things from another perspective. If you’ve been reading for a while, you may find that 2014 changed me, but I hope you find it’s for the better.  I’m better.

This is my most recent project!  I brought this fabric home with me from the Show, I had to have it in my life.  I didn’t do anything special- folded the fabric in half with an invisible zip in one side, stitched the rest of it closed, and made tiny gusseted corners so it sits square.  Not too shabby for half an hours’ effort, I reckon.

Well, how are you?! What big things (or small ones) happened in your 2014? What was the last thing you stitched?

Finished Object: Hummingmisu (Giveaways, Too!)

Franken cake Hummingmisu Feature

I have another dress + 23 Skidoos outfit to show you!  This is a Hummingmisu Dress, a mashup of the Tiramisu skirt with the Hummingbird top.  I’ve been wearing this one since last July and while she’s definitely one of my favorites I haven’t had a chance to share her with you.

Hummingmisu Dress

Since yesterday was Halloween and since mixing pattern pieces to make a new design is called “Franken-Patterning,” I thought I’d dress up as Franken Cake for the holiday.  I’m also wearing a rad pair of holographic snakeskin foil print leggings.  In keeping with the holiday theme, Stephen took me to a cemetery near his office for photos.   The cemetery is a bright, cheerful place and actually very interesting- not scary at all.  In fact, with all the happy plastic flowers and the generally well-kept atmosphere it feels like a vital part of the community.

Brisbane is a new world city crouching on the edge of what might be called civilization.   Sydney is the nearest large city, 920km (572 miles) south.  To the west is Perth, 4300km (2700 miles).  North is Jakarta, 5415km (3365 miles).  Wellington lies 2500km (1550 miles) east.

This region has been a destination for immigrants (voluntary and involuntary) from around the world since the mid 19th century.  Even in death, it seems to me like immigrants to Queensland cling steadfastly to their home culture rather than melting together to create a new one.  Ethnic/immigrant groups here seem to form their own tight-knit enclaves (as opposed to mixing it up) and this extends into the afterlife.  I’m an immigrant but I don’t have an enclave like that. I kind of float around being weird and mostly that works for me.

Brisbane Cemetery

There’s cemetery sections in Chinese, Cyrillic, Vietnamese, and Arabic languages (and so much more).  This seems to be by custom rather than by design.   One country follows another and eerily, the cemetery’s layout roughly mimics world geography in terms of who is neighbors with whom. Dirt or asphalt pathways mark the divides between major religions and languages.  It’s peaceful but noisy, filled with the chattering voices of native parrots and other squawking birds and the strong scent of Brisbane’s early summer blossoms.  I kept forgetting I was a just a couple miles from my house.

Brisbane Cemetery...

The graves are built up from the ground kinda like New Orleans, and each section has very distinctive headstones and styles.  Some people/families have nice little brick sheds to house their remains, and there’s several massive mausoleums larger than my house.

Some headstones had little cupboards in them with whiskey and food inside, I suppose for the afterlife.  I plan to go back and spend some time exploring when I’m dressed more like a nerdy local history buff and less like a B-grade movie monster.  The cemetery was empty, except for a couple of workmen we passed on the way out.  You can see my write-up on the dress over at sewingcake.com.


Merino LBD Giveaway Cake Patterns sm

I’m so excited to give away some gorgeous pieces of merino jersey fabric this week!  It’s my birthday, and I want to send out some gifts.  If you’d like a chance to win your own LBD Kit, head over to sewingcake and enter!  I’ll choose winners after the giveaway closes on the 7th, and then get the presents out the door- I hope in time for the sewalong!

EspressoGiveaway Feature small

That’s not all!  I’m also giving away three separate lengths of yummy merino blends that are perfect for Espresso Leggings.  As part of the giveaway, I ask you to leave me a link to an obnoxious leggings fabric.  It’s so fun, I made a pinboard of your picks and a special section on the page under “Source” to display them.  Go check it out and add your pick!

What do you think of my Hummingmisu?  Can I break out the Franken-wig every time I make a FrankenCake dress?  Pleeeeeeeease?  Have you ever visited your local cemetery, and if so, what’s it like?

Finished Object: Two-Tone Red 23Skidoos

23Skidoos Tiramisu

At last! At long last, I have my two-tone red 23Skidoo shoes!  I noticed these shoes in an American Duchess teaser way back in January 2012.  Last November, I pre-ordered them with birthday money and was one step closer to the jewel toned oxford t-straps of my dreams.  Nearly a year later they’re finished, I think my 23Skidoo project must be fashion set to “tortoise!”

23Skidoos blank

The shoes arrived, carefully packed and pristine white.  I wore them a few times this way but decided I really wanted deep red/ “light” red coloring.  Blithely, I assumed I could take the shoes to a cobbler and have them dyed.  Not so much, apparently leather dyeing isn’t done in the same way one might have bridesmaids slippers dyed.

23Skidoos in progress1

Instead, I needed to paint the shoes.  I was really unsure about this process so I took my time, roughly six months, getting up the nerve to paint my lovely shoes.  After reading/watching the American Duchess shoe-painting tutorial, I bought two little pots of Angus leather paints- red and black.  I asked Lauren how to best achieve the dark red/”light” red effect and her suggestion was to tint some of the red paint with a few drops of black for the toe and heel caps.

23Skidoos in progress

Stephen and I settled in one evening to paint my shoes.  We’re both handy, painty people so found the work pleasant and different from other projects.  We started out wiping the shoes with Ethyl Acetate to remove any oils or finishing and to allow the paint to stick.

23 Skidoo Shoes in progress

Stephen chose a 1/2″ wide, flat brush with fine bristles.  When I saw how much better it worked than the coarser brush I started with, I switched.

23 Skidoo Paint

The first few layers of paint went on a little unevenly despite the change of brush and I was a little worried!  But after layer 3 or 4, I could see the colors would even out nicely and I relaxed.  Over a few weeks, I left the shoes out where I could see them and occasionally evened out the paint here and there.

23 Skidoo Finished

Then I varnished them with acrylic paint varnish and scotch-guarded for good measure.  I really love the effect of painted leather, I’ve had painted shoes before but didn’t realize it.  It looks like a picked up a tiny scuff!  I can tidy that up, I have my paints to touch it up and then I’ll re-varnish in a more aggressive manner.  I’ll gently roll the upper part of the shoe away from the base so I can paint away those flashes of white, too.  They’re not at all obvious until I wear the shoes…

23 Skidoo from above

I know American Duchess designs her shoes to be comfortable for all-day wear, and I tested it out myself.  I didn’t go to a re-enactment or a dance event (if only!), instead I wore these to work at a show on my feet almost the entire day.  They were great, really supportive and no blisters.  In fact they were great on day 3 after the other shoes I wore ate me up on day 2.  For reference, I have wider-than-average feet and a high arch.  The sides of the shoes are cleverly made so my feet don’t look like they’re overflowing, as can happen with me sometimes.

I’m really happy with the end result, though I do want to touch up a few places and varnish more heavily.  I tend to wear red as a neutral, so red shoes suit my wardrobe.  The two shades still read as a solid shoe while the tonality gives it a little more depth. I don’t think shoe-painting is on my list of “instant gratification” projects, but it is extremely satisfying to know I can paint shoes.  I’m already thinking about the next pair of painted shoes… What about delft-tulip patterned Gibons?  Like the shoes one might find on a delft-blue porcelain figurine.. ?

Here, I’m wearing the 23 Skidoos with my brand new Penelope Tiramisu dress and a Zebra Cuban heel seamed stocking.  Serious stockings, I love them and usually wear fun stockings for work.  The gallery, fabric specs and notes can be found on sewingcake.

I’d like to say many thanks to my local coffee shop Hallowed Grounds for letting us take photos!  Stephen and I had their delicious, refreshing iced cucumber-mint-apple juice that comes served with half a mint bush this time.  It smells so good!

What do you think?  Would you ever paint shoes, or have you?  How *great* is it to finish a UFO?  Who out there wears seamed stockings?

(I know I said before I’d be letting the blog go quieter as I work more on sewingcake, but I had to show you these, I’ve been harping on them for such a long time…!)

Red Velvet Shipping, Brisbane Show and Sewing Along!

No matter what I do, I just can’t seem to find the time to blog here the way I used to. I hope you don’t think I’m either lazy or uncaring, because it’s completely the opposite!  As much as I don’t want to quit writing here, it’s become much more important to work on pattern development (cake kids!  beginners!  woven RiFFs!) and to create sewing references at sewingcake.com than to post regularly here.  I need to focus my online time at sewingcake.com and on customer service for my Etsy shop.

Red Velvet Dress Hub

I’ve been building these lovely tabbed pages on sewingcake (Red Velvet Dress hub shown) to help make it easier to find inspiration, tutorials, fit help and sewcial groups related to each pattern.  I’m excited about this  because the site is finally beginning to match the sewing reference I had in my head all this time!  It’s a relief.  I’ll be working on pattern pages for the other releases, including RiFFs, over the next few weeks and soon we’ll be very organized indeed.

I also have plenty of “pre-sewalong” references to release, most of them focusing on the fabrics I used to sew my samples.  I haven’t really shown you everything that I’ve sewn from Red Velvet Collection yet, because I’m working on things like building this super-flash Red Velvet Sewalong and Sorting page:

Red Velvet Sewalong Header 3

We’ll have three Houses for this sewalong: Esme, Pearl and Penelope.  When you receive your Red Velvet Dress pattern in the mail, it will be in an oversized pink, red, or creamy envelope.  The colors are inspired by the colors of a red velvet cake!  Once you register and confirm via email, you’ll see the page for your House with the points and rules.  The prize is a $15 off prize code for everyone who is registered in the winning house.  The Red Velvet Dress, the Espresso Leggings, and the Red Velvet Clutch (mini too) will be included as acceptable “Finished Objects” with points awarded for finished objects!

I’m really passionate about getting everyone sewing and sharing the sewing experience.  That’s why I work to create a digital sewing space on Flickr during the sewalong.  Last sewalong, I added a couple of “progress” shots for extra points and I think it was a great way to show that there’s many ways to do the same thing well.  This time, I have a daily progress shot which will be worth a point each day.  I hope this takes some of the pressure off beginners to make a pile of completed garments and lets us catch a glimpse into someone else’s sewing!

Intro Prices for one last day!

The Red Velvet Dress, the Red Velvet Clutch and the Espresso Leggings are shipping to you this week!   As soon as the paper patterns ship, the prices will rise to $20, $10 and $10 respectively.  We’ll keep sending out Red Velvet Dresses in colored envelopes for the House Sorting until we run out.

I received the Australian box of patterns today and immediately processed them so I can send them off in short order.  I love the colors, it’s like I’m sending masses of valentines to you!  We’re coordinating the shipping so that the US, UK and AU orders fly away to your sewing rooms at the same time- right now it looks like Tuesday is the Drop Day!

Brisbane Craft & Quilt Fair

Cake for Voodoo Rabbit at the Brisbane Craft & Quilt Fair

Last Friday, I was asked to demonstrate at the Brisbane Craft & Quilt Fair.  The Fair starts this Wednesday, so I had very short notice…!  It’s a five day event, a great time to network and see what’s new and have fun with other crafty and sewy people.

I’ll be demonstrating Cake with Voodoo Rabbit (that’s the place where I teach)!  This is an excellent opportunity to get out and de-mystify knits for sewy and quilty Brisbane and I’m really excited!!  Each day I’ll be demonstrating apparel sewing techniques for 5-30 minutes on the hour.   I’ll cover topics such as the basics of knit fabrics and cutting, through self-fabric binding and stabilizing to knit hems and topics relating to woven fabrics as well, like my bulletproof invisible zipper lesson and “Parts of Fabric.”  I’ll be around between demonstrations to answer questions and chat, too!

It’s very, very likely I’ll be tweeting and Facebooking to an obnoxious extent during the fair, you’ve been warned!  If you’re planning to go to the Brisbane Craft & Quilt Fair, do come by and say hello!  I’ll be the American wearing Riley Blake striped Cake.

Red Velvet Fabric Choices

I’ve had some fabric questions lately about prewashing and weights that are appropriate for the RV dress/Espresso Leggings.  I’ll work through tips and tricks about particular types of fabrics and etc over the next few weeks but I wanted to address my philosophy towards pre-washing and washing in general:

If I can’t cram it into my washing machine with like colors on warm and then throw it on the washline/in the dryer, I will almost never wear the garment.  If I am not going to wear the garment, then the time I spent sewing it was wasted.  This is pretty much the bedrock of Cake’s design philosophy- making clothes to wear while living life.

If I buy a knit (say, linen) that says dry clean only, I throw it in the wash.  If it doesn’t survive, then I wouldn’t wear it anyway.  I have yet to ruin a knit fabric doing this.  If you’re very worried about shrinkage or changing the nature of the fabric, then wash a 4″ (10cm) square of the fabric and dry it to see what happens.

Please, please ask me questions here you may have about the Red Velvet Collection, it will help me prioritize the release of visual references on sewingcake.com.

Pretty Dresses Multiplying & Full Red Velvet Size Guide

MelizzaR Red Velvet Muse

I spent yesterday fine-tuning the Red Velvet Sizing & Measurement pages and sending out the Cake Vine email and didn’t post.  Today I have several lovely Red Velvet Muse makes to show you, starting with MelizzaR!  Melizza is an experienced sewist and new mother, I’m so glad she could fit in a photoshoot for her slinky polka dotted Red Velvet Dress during naptime.

Picture 68After Melizza’s Muse Post was published, I went and read her write up of the pattern on her blog Pincushion Treats.  Surprise!  This was version #1, “accidentally” made without the midriff section.  I think this works really well, now I want to try it too!  Thank you, Melizza, I’m so pleased we got to know each other during this project!

Sewhopeful Strikes Again


You saw Sewhopeful’s lovely navy blue Red Velvet dress with a collar earlier this week.  She quickly followed this up with a happy red and white polka dotted version, I knew I had to share both when I saw them!  Without a collar or pocket, this is a very quick make.  I love this version, it must be SO much fun to wear and may be the first completed Red Velvet Dress that’s actually red.  Check out Sewhopeful’s polka dot dress write-up for insight into the way fabric and stretch influences fit, J is so methodical and thoughtful!

Red Velvet Sizing, Measurement & Alteration Page

Red Velvet Size Guide

click to view page

I had several emails about bust alterations, already!  I’m so impressed by how quickly you’re getting into this pattern, and I care if you sew and that your clothes fit.  I made this Red Velvet Sizing reference to help make this possible.

Red Velvet Size Guide

I’m also just really proud of this page, each measurement and bodice alteration is tidily tucked under a tab, with the relevant instructions section to the left.  This is where I’ve been wanting to take sewingcake.com for a while but I had to skill up first.  I have some super cool hub pages in the works for each new pattern, check out the Hummingbird Hub for a preview for what’s coming up!  I’m really, really excited!

Red Velvet Deep Bust Alteration

The page also shows two ways to approach the Red Velvet bodice fitting, I hope you find them useful.  Several emails I received expressed concern about having “low boobs,” so I prioritized the publication of these references.  It is pretty simple and intuitive to adjust the length on the bodice, whether for a Deep Bust Alteration (DBA) or Torso Length Adjustment.

0369 Front

I have some exciting news about the Red Velvet Dress, Espresso Leggings and Red Velvet Clutch paper patterns- they are starting the journey from printer to your sewing room tomorrow, which means we’ll be shipping paper Red Velvet Collection patterns from next week!  Once we start sending them out (in brightly colored envelopes for the sewalong!), the price of the Red Velvet Dress pattern will rise to $20, full price.

I want to say a big thank you to everyone who has purchased from the Red Velvet Collection!  Let’s make some awesome dresses!  Tomorrow… I have such giveaways… And some words on merino.  Did I mention I went fabric shopping for merino for giveaways earlier this week?  I totally did.

Fashionable Stitching & Structured Hems

Red-Velvet-1 Sunni

SunniS is our Red Velvet Muse today!  Many of you know Sunni from her beautiful and informative blog.  She also runs A Fashionable Stitch, a US-based online notions / haberdashery shop that stocks many of the interfacings and stabilizers that work so well with knit fabric and Cake sewing.


Sunni used a floral jersey fabric and inserted pockets into the side seams, you can read about it on her blog.  If you have Tiramisu, it’s easy to use the pocket from Tira for this!   Sunni opted to use a self-binding at the neckline edge instead of the neck facing in the pattern.  I’d been planning to stitch this option later to show how it works and she got there first!  It’s a great alternative neckline finish, though it can be more challenging than smaller or straighter bound edges.

I’m so pleased Sunni and I had the opportunity to work together on this!  Her personal style and mine aren’t the same at all, but we both enjoy a good dress pattern.  I would always notice and admire her makes during Me Made Months and on her blog before she had a shop and I started making Cake Patterns.

Do you do that?  Do you follow the makes of another sewist even if your styles aren’t at all the same?  Is that just me?

At any rate, I love what Sunni sews and what she does for the online sewing community.

Structured Hem

Picture 48

I like wider hems on narrower skirts, it gives a little more shape to the garment.  Besides, skinny hems on narrow skirts can feel skimpy and they often ripple easily.  (Fusible webbing can prevent this.)

RV Striped

My first Red Velvet dress has a wider hem with no interfacing (shown above), and it crumples in the wash.  I wanted to prevent this, so I fused some 1.5″ strips of fusible interfacing behind the hem on my next Red Velvet Dresses.  It worked well, so I used it on every other version since!  I’ve been washing and wearing them heavily for two months and the hem is eternally crisp, even fresh from the bottom of the laundry basket.

Structured Hem Visual Reference

You can see the steps to make your own structured knit hem for Red Velvet on sewingcake.com.  I show you how to cut strips from interfacing (it’s a great use of scraps) and also linked to the wide stay tape in Sunni’s shop because it is *excellent* for these hems.  I get a lot of questions about where to source tapes and stabilizers, and I’m glad to recommend A Fashionable Stitch to help you get exactly what you need.

That’s all for today, I’m pulling together more content to fill out Red Velvet on sewingcake and I hear a rumor that the patterns are being sorted and packed to be sent to me, Leila and Evie to send to you!

For tomorrow, I plan to publish the bust and bodice sizing guide as well as two vis refs for adjusting the Red Velvet bodice. Judging by the state of my inbox, we have some questions about adjusting bust length and full bust alterations!

If you have other questions or curiosities about the patterns, leave me a comment below.  It helps me prioritize publication and gives me a better idea of the kind of info and tutorials you’d most like to see.

Red Velvet Dress and Intuitive Fitting

Sewhopeful Red Velvet Muse

Today our Red Velvet Muse is Sewhopeful, she and I actually live in the same time zone!  I love Sewhopeful’s style, the way she combines good fit and excellent stitching in a way that makes the fabric sing.  Sewhopeful writes excellent sewing and fitting advice on her blog, including this in-depth exploration of petite adjustments for Cake Patterns.

I am not kidding around with my use of the word “Muse” for this project, by the way.   I thought about my Muses while I worked away on the Red Velvet drafts.  I stalked their blogs.  This kept me motivated to seek out ways to make a better sewing pattern, and I definitely read J’s post several times.

blue-side-grass - Copy

In her Red Velvet Dress blog review, Sewhopeful wrote:

“The proportional sizing guide that Stephanie has developed has been really refined and improved since I made the Tiramisu dress.  I previously had to fiddle quite a bit to adjust for my A-cup bust but this dress fitted perfectly without any adjustments straight up.  The small busted among us can rejoice! I just chose my bodice size based on my high bust measurement (35″) and then my cup size based on my full bust measurement.  For me these measurements are the same so I naturally chose the A cup sizing and it is a perfect fit.”

Keep an eye out later this week for Sewhopeful’s 2nd Red Velvet dress. It’s so cute and different we decided to include #2, too!

Mid-Construction Fit Check

REd Velvet Dress Mid Construction Fit Check

Today the Fit Check page for the Red Velvet dress went live!  I used my blue gardenia dress to illustrate what I’d consider two ends of the “fit” spectrum.   In fact, I unintentionally went up a size!  That’s ok, it’s better to have a bit too much fabric and take it out than to have a garment that’s un-wearably too small. Besides, I think it illustrates the point really well.

That point is I don’t believe good fit and fitting has to be scary or inaccessible or difficult.  I’ve taught sewing for a while now, and always hated the steep learning curve that beginners face.  When you’re a beginner, it seems like there’s a universe of new skills to learn, equipment to buy, terms to figure out.  Fit and fitting are another skill set, let alone pattern alteration.

Blue Gardenia pre-alteration

When I start work on a new design, I pinpoint the potential trouble areas (bust apexes and high hips, amirite?) and decide how to approach alteration.  As much as possible, I like to make the fitting fairly straight forward.  It’s not exactly difficult to grab a side seam and sew out the extra fabric as desired.

I catch a bit of flak around the internets (and my inbox) from people who think I should design patterns that fit “closer.”  I’m not going to do that, ever, not for dresses or tops.  You can do that easily, in your sewing room, with the fabric in your hands.  It’s simple to make a dress that clings and skims your shape alone, just the way you want.

Side Seam Alteration Blue Gardenia2

I see my role here as a designer/sewing engineer/facilitator of your sewing goals.  I make deceptively simple patterns that fit pretty well but aren’t a size.  My knit dresses and tops are created with 0 ease at the bust to accommodate the preferences of those who prefer a relaxed fit.  0 ease also unlocks a larger range of fabrics that are suitable for use with the pattern, because you can adjust the dress easily for a wider variety of fabric types and weights.

Blue Gardenia Red Velvet

Besides, like I said, it’s not terribly difficult.  Fitting this way is riskless if you use a basting stitch.  Then either rip the stitches easily or simply sew over the basting and forget about it.   I like to use a wide-ish, medium length zig-zag to baste my knits together.  That way, the basting will flex (so I can put it on) but not break (as I find straight-stitch basting does).

And don’t forget, we like Sewcial groups around here so if you run into fitting trouble don’t be shy!  Upload a photo to the Red Velvet Dress Sewcial Flickr Group (later we’ll use this space for the sewalong!!) and we’ll sort you out.  Your upload may make Future Cake even better and more intuitive.

0369 Red Velvet Dress Cake Patterns Envelope Front

Sewalong schedule, merino shenanigans, structured hems, haberdashery and measurement visual references coming up this week, and more!  :)

The Red Velvet Dress paper patterns (and Espresso and RV Clutch) are just about ready to be shipped to our distributors, this week.  Then we’ll ship our three graceful covergirls Esme, Penelope and Pearl straight to your sewing room!  Once I have the paper patterns ready to send you, the price for the paper Red Velvet pattern will go up to its full price of $AUD 20, from $16.50.

Then we’ll have a sewalong, come November.  This time we have lovely pink, red and cream oversized envelopes for your Red Velvet Sewalong sorting!

Boxy Pleat & Leggings Chic

SusanK 0369 Red Velvet Muse

SusanK is our Red Velvet Muse today, be sure to check out her post on sewingcake.com for all the usual Muses specs!  Susan has been working hard on the Red Velvet Collection behind the scenes as Cake’s editor.  She challenged me at many stages of the development process, turns around edits quickly and I really enjoyed the work we did together.

One of Susan’s first challenges to me was over the “boxy” pleat.  Pleats have the reputation of adding extra visual weight, but in the case of the Red Velvet Dress I wanted to create a smooth, sleek design feature.  And it is!  You can see above that the pleat lies flat and smooth, and the folding creates a really cool effect on Susan’s ombre stripe jersey.  (Looks like the striped dress on the pattern envelope, it’s built into the pattern!)  See more about Susan and the pleat in her writeup Nobel Pleat Prize.

Leggings Chic

5555 Front pdf

click for instant download from Etsy

The last clothing I bought retail (as far as I can recall) was a pair of black rayon leggings from Target a couple of years ago.  I remember thinking I was holding more than $6 worth of fabric in my hands, which was the purchase price.   I thought of the person who stitched them and wondered how much of that $6 went towards their wages.  I don’t guess it was much, and I remember thinking I *should* make things like that myself because they’re so simple.

click to zoom, see more!

click to zoom, see more!

Years later, I finally got around to it.  The Espressos were born a few weeks ago while I was fiddling with the Red Velvet Dress pleat and getting nowhere.  I needed a palate cleanser, and my legs were cold.  I googled leggings drafting for ease guidance and found this excellent tutorial on Etsy.  My first pair of self-drafted leggings were made from this tutorial.

Then I realized I could plot the measurements and tweak the process to create a template as a shortcut for those seeking a simpler path to great fitting leggings.   In testing, we refined some details but magically Espresso seemed to work on everyone I sent them to!

It’s very important to take good measurements for the Espresso Leggings, so I put together a measuring visual reference for you. Today I uploaded a mini visual reference about tagging, too. (more nitty-gritty fabric and technique posts from next week!)  I like the tagging, it helps me put my leggings on the right way, and it’s pretty cute.  The Espressos are quick to sew, even the first time when you make the template.  They’re extraordinarily comfortable because they’re made for your own shape (no sizes)!

I’m really proud of the Espresso Leggings Template and I look forward to seeing your makes in the Espresso Flickr Sewcial Group.  Like a shot of espresso with a slice of cake, the Espresso Leggings a great companion to all Cake Patterns- not only the Red Velvet Collection.  Espressos in a printed jersey send a jolt of energy through your wardrobe, livening up plain dresses and skirts.

Sewing leggings I know will fit is so addictive, now every jersey I see with a hint of spandex in it is a potential pair of leggings!

Trendy, crazily printed leggings can retail for $80 (Black Milk is a thing here, have you heard of them?) and are often produced under questionable ethical circumstances.

I say we take back fast fashion, sewists, and make our OWN custom-crazy legs because we can. 

Take That, Fast Fashion Espresso Leggings

Hear that, Fast Fashion?  We can sew.  We can do whatever we want.  And it’s fun.

click for instant download from Etsy

click for instant download from Etsy


Some of the links in the Red Velvet Collection instructions are not yet live, I just wanted to say that they’re going live over the next week!  It’s all in the schedule… As soon as I post new content on sewingcake, I tweet and link on Cake’s Facebook page, too.

Red Velvet Collection

Thank you so much for your support of the Red Velvet Collection, 51% of sales in the past 48 hours have been for the full collection of patterns!  I wasn’t expecting that, but I’m terribly pleased you like the little dress-universe we made for you!