Monday, October 13, 2014

Go get some fabric for 30% off!

Okay, I know this notice is coming mere hours before the end of the day, but I've been at a wedding New Orleans for a long weekend, so hopefully we can all understand the reason for the delay :) Anyhow, Britex is having a 30% off sale on EVERYTHING on the website (and in person, if you can manage to get to the city) until midnight tonight (PST).  

Here's what I bought (all for Pattern making class projects for the rest of the semester):

Leather buttons and silk lining for my upcoming jacket.
Lovely stretch wool for trousers.
Wool for a full suit.

Guys, by the end of December, I'll have drafted a skirt (done, here), lined jacket, trousers, and bathing suit.  And the final project is a full suit.  A suit!  I can't wait until I acquire the skills necessary for that!

Monday, October 06, 2014

Tutorial: Hong Kong finish + underlining in one step

A slim fit wool skirt such as the Charlotte really begs to be lined.  Adding a layer of smooth and slippery fabric makes a wool skirt more comfortable to wear (especially with tights) and extends the life of the garment. Sewing a lining is fairly simple, however, there's another technique that serves the same purpose: underlining.  

In general, underlining is used to stabilize fabric, add weight and "heft" to a lightweight fabric, or add opacity to a transparent fabric.  Using normal lining fabric, such as Bemberg, lightweight silk or even cotton batiste to underline a garment gives the same benefits of a a skirt lining, with a bit less bulk. Typically, the underlining fabric is cut to the exact size of the pattern pieces and sewn to the fashion fabric at the very edges.  The pieces are then dealt with as a single layer.  Since the seams edges will be visible on the inside of the garment, the raw edges are finished together, either with an overlock stitch or a Hong Kong finish.
Enter the combined Hong Kong finish + underlining method.  By cutting and sewing the fabric and underlining in a slightly different way, you get a beautifully finished seam and underlining all at the same time.  It takes some patience and accuracy in cutting and sewing, but the results are so worth it! Ready to dive in?  Let's get started!
In addition to everything else you need to sew a skirt, you'll also need an accurate clear ruler, marking chalk (I LOVE this Clover roller chalker) and your rotary cutter.
For this tutorial, I've made a little "mini" version of the skirt Front so the big picture is easier to see.  Start with cutting out the front and back pieces in fashion fabric.
Lay the pieces on your well-pressed lining fabric.  Use a few pins or weights to keep the fabric from shifting around.  Then, along the vertical seams only (side/ back seams), mark an additional 5/8" seam allowance.

Very carefully, cut the lining fabric using the new guidelines at the side/ back seams, and cutting at the normal cut line for the horizontal edges.  Here's what it looks like:
Now, with right sides facing, pin the side seams of the lining and fashion fabric.  Obviously, the lining fabric is wider, so they will not lie flat.
Find yourself a 1/4" presser foot and carefully sew EXACTLY 1/4" from the raw edges.  

Turn the fabric inside out.  Both right sides should now be facing out.
Wiggle the lining/ fashion fabric so that the lining fabric goes exactly around the edge of the fashion fabric without creasing the fashion fabric.  Carefully press.  

Once pressed on both edges, the fabric and underlining pieces should be even, with no bunching, pulling or creasing.  Since you haven't trimmed any of the fashion fabric from the sides, you can sew the pieces as normal, with a 5/8" seam allowance.
Sewing darts for the skirt needs a little special attention for underlined fabric.  First off, mark the dart legs and vanishing point.  Draw a line connecting the vanishing point to the middle of the dart.  This is your sewing guide.
Sew down this marked line (the middle of the dart), beginning your stitching a centimeter or so away from the vanishing point and sewing toward the raw edge.
Fold the dart along the sew line and sew as usual.
Press over a ham.

Continue sewing the skirt as usual.  If you've added a kick pleat, there are just a few more steps.  Clip the seam allowance right above the curve and finish the rest of the pleat as described in my earlier post.
For the hem, I used rayon seam binding to finish the edge and then used a blind stitch (only catching the underlining) to hem.
With a beautiful finish like this, it will be hard to keep from showing it off!  

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Tutorial: drafting a kick pleat for a pencil skirt

The Charlotte from By Hand London is a lovely high waisted, slim fitting pencil skirt, with a below-knee length.  It's a great shape for work, but with all the walking and stairs I have to do around campus, it's a tad narrow around the legs.  In this tutorial, I'll show you how to draft a simple kick pleat, which would work for any skirt or dress with a back seam and I've written the instructions to coordinate with a special underlining method which will be posted tomorrow.
Start off by tracing the Back Skirt pattern piece, but don't cut it out.   I've shown just the lower right corner of the Skirt Back, above, with the grainline, center back and cutting line indicated.
Measure 2" from the original cutting line and draw a new line the desired length of the kick pleat up from the hem (mine was 8", but could have been longer).  The main consideration for the length of your kick pleat is to ensure that it is a reasonable length below your back zipper.

Using a French curve, connect the original back seam line to the end of your newly drawn line.  If you are using the Hong Kong finish/ underlining method (and I highly suggest that you do!), your pattern is done!  If not, add seam allowance to the vertical edge of the kick pleat.   Cut two Skirt Back pieces as normal from your fashion fabric, both with the new kick pleat extension.

There will be more details shortly about the Hong Kong finish/ underlining method, but cutting the underlining fabric with this new kick pleat is a little special: add the 5/8" allowance around the vertical seams but NOT the curve connecting the back seam and the kick pleat extension.  Looks like this:
To visualize how the kick pleat will be sewn, I've drawn a circled dot to indicate where the original seam line will stop at center back, and the dashed line is where you will continue the seam along the upper edge of the kick pleat with the same 5/8" seam allowance, below.  
After sewing this seam, clip the seam allowance close to the stitching line on one side.  Fold the kick pleat extensions to the other side, with the fold (on the outside) along the center back.  
Bind the raw, curved edge with bias tape or a bit of the lining fabric.  I used the lining selvage edge for the inside, then turned and edge stitched on the right side.

Tacking down the kick pleat with a diagonal line of stitches keeps it in place a bit better.  The thread was so perfectly matched you can hardly see it!
The beautiful Hong Kong finish peeks out a bit at the edges of the kick pleat.
Now, you can get around a bit easier in your adorable new skirt!  Check back soon for details of underlining and finishing your garment seams in one step!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Month of the pencil skirt: (Part 3 of 3). The Charlotte Skirt in silk/wool tweed.

Okay, there are three posts associated with this lovely tweed skirt, but after that, I promise: no more skirts!  I'm sick of looking at my bottom half, and I'm sure you feel the same!  Don't I look grumpy about it?
This final pencil skirt is a project for Britex.  The fabric is a truly incredible silk/wool blend in a very subtle tweed pattern.  The weight and hand are glorious--perfect for a pencil skirt.  The pattern is the Charlotte from By Hand London.  I love the version with the ruffly peplum, but that just isn't going to fit comfortably into my wardrobe at this time, so I went with the basic slim fitted version.
In addition to some dart reductions at the waist, I added a kick pleat at the back.  (A tutorial for this simple addition will be posted shortly).  Maybe my stride is too long or something, but I'm not sure how a person could walk in this skirt without a back vent or kick pleat, so it was a necessity for me. And even with a kick pleat, I still can't impress the crowds with moves like this (scroll down a bit to see Shelley in action).   Alas.  Anyhoo, here's the kick pleat from the inside:
More significantly, though, is what's going on under the hood (or rather, inside the garment).  Again, I'm not sure how or why a person would make a wool skirt without some kind of slippery fabric on the inside, but I went with my standard rayon Bemberg as an underlining instead of a lining.   And instead of a standard, basic underlining, I did the most intensely satisfying sewing technique I've tried in a long time: the Hong Kong finish + underlining in one!  Underline and make beautiful seams all at the same time.  And yes, a tutorial for that will be posted after the kick pleat one.  Take a good look at the inside of this skirt:

Maybe for Halloween I'll be "inside out clothing girl" just so I can show it off.

For the hem, I took a page from Laura Mae at Lilacs and Lace and used rayon seam binding, with a hand-sewn blind finish.  (The best part of the underlining, by the by, is that you sew a blind hem to the underlining, not the wool, so it is truly blind!)
The skirt is VERY high waisted, with a wide waistband.  It hurts me to show this picture, but here's what it looks like:
The upper edge sticks away from my body a bit, so down the road, I may reduce the width of the waistband a bit.   But hidden under clothing, it doesn't look too bad!

This skirt has really opened up some blouse and sweater options in my wardrobe.  This pink sweater, for instance, is so short-waisted that it's a little revealing when I lift my arms (like to point out something on the white-board for instance).  Now, I'm fully covered and stylish, too!

Keep an eye out for my two upcoming tutorials: drafting the kick pleat and the Hong Kong finish-underlining in one.  Happy month of the pencil skirt!

Resewlution 2014: September garment #3.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Month of the pencil skirt (Part 2 of 3)

So my pencil skirt project for Pattern making II is jumping the line because it's done and due tomorrow (and thus won't be back in my hands until next week).  I sewed it today, taking a little more time than normal since the inside finish of the lining is very professionally assembled (I had to have my class notes out to remember the order of operations, and I usually don't need directions!) and there was some plaid pattern matching to manage.
But even with the extra time needed, I'm pretty darn pleased since the one thing I did not have to do during this process was make any fit adjustments.  You know, this whole making patterns to your measurement thing kind of works!  Of course, I say that even though I fully intend to take it in a bit on the sides; it fits according to our instructions with 2" ease at the hips, which is a little much for my personal preference.
This skirt style is high-waisted (no waistband, just self-facing on the inside), with front/back darts, invisible zipper, full lining (Bemberg, of course) and kick pleat.
The fabric was purchased specifically to make a skirt to go with this navy sweater with orange embroidery.  I had it in my mind that this sweater needed a PLAID skirt, and this vintage wool from Scotland fit the bill.  It's the type of weave that frays a lot, but the hand is very smooth and was a good match for this skirt style.

Overall, I'm pleased with my pattern and the final product.  Everything worked!  Again, I'll make some fit adjustments after it's been graded, but it's nice to have a good, solid skirt pattern to add to my collection.  
If it wasn't virtually guaranteed to be 80F next week, I'd love wear this for my first day of school!

Resewlution 2014: September garment #2