Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Late to the Plantain train

So the free Plantain tee pattern was released by Deer & Doe, what, like 20 years ago?  I had printed the pattern, taped it all together and then promptly slide the entire thing under the bed in my sewing room.  I don't recall the circumstances that put it there, but there it sat for months.  Months.  I finally got tired of sucking it up in the vacuum cleaner, so I pulled it out and made the darn top.  
I can't believe I wait so long.  This is a fabulous pattern.
I used the smallest size (34" bust) and shortened the torso 1/4"-1/2".   I'm not sure I've ever cut a single size for a pattern, but there seemed to be enough flare at the bottom of the shirt to accommodate my larger-than-ideal-proportions waist and hips.
Disco dancing? Sure!
The fabric is Anna Maria Horner Sealing Wax, a beautiful knit.  The fabric is pretty stable and easy to sew, not overly stretchy and is super comfortable to wear.  The print is directional, though, so I wasted a bit of fabric trying to flip pattern pieces around (oops!).
I used my new serger  to sew this one up, and here she is:
After being super duper annoyed with my machine for my last wrap dress, I impulsively bought a machine from Amazon, the Juki MO-654DE.  It's a tiny little thing compared to my 5-thread overlock/coverstitch Singer (essentially this one).  I've only used the new Juki a handful of times, but so far I'm impressed.  I chose Juki soley because it's the brand we have at school for both sergers and straight stitch machines.  I'm not scared of threading sergers (so no need for air-threading or it's price tag),  I just wanted something reliable.  It's quieter, smaller, and faster than my other serger, AND the tension isn't all messed up, so hooray!   I was happy enough to buy a bunch more knit fabric, so  I guess that  says something. :)
Anyhow, back to the tee....if you haven't tried out the Plantain pattern yet, go get it!  It's a lovely staple top and a super quick sew.

Sewing Resewlution 2014, November garment #2 (not counting the 2 pairs of undies I made today... :)

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Wrap Dress (Onion 2037)

After posting about this semi-fail dress, a reader suggested trying out the wrap dress by the pattern company Onion (I can't find a webpage, but you can purchase pattern 2037 here or here).  After dragging my feet about buying another dress pattern, I bit the bullet when I found this lovely Stenzo cotton/ lycra fabric from L'oiseau Fabrics.  It just seemed like the most perfect fabric for a Fall wrap dress.
As I expected, the pattern directions are all in Danish, with no English translation (that I could find, though I've read rumors...) and no drawings.  After extensive online research about the construction of the neckline/ wrap tie junction, a couple hints here and there helped me along (which I can't find now...ergh).
The pattern was quick and easy, and well drafted.  There are some fit adjustments I have to make for my own shape, but I can definitely see many more of these in my future (especially since I just bought a new serger...I'll make introductions when she arrives and impresses me :)  The only changes I made are to reduce the sleeves to 3/4 length.
The neckline is a wide band, which I completely love.  Feels nice and secure (reduced the length by about an inch to make sure it was snug), though it could maybe be pulled a little tighter at the back neckline--we'll see after I wash it.
There is a small opening in the side seam of the dress (I put it on the right side) and the ties wrap around twice, ending up in the back--makes a bit of a waistband in the front, which I like a lot.
I love the feel, weight and quality of this fabric.  I'll be definitely be buying more Stenzo knits...probably for another one of these dresses :)
Sewing Resewlution 2014, November garment #2

Oh, the trouser pattern and garment are done for pattern drafting class (actually,  I sewed two pairs of wool trousers this week using that pattern) and submitted for soon!  
(my sleeves are equal length, don't worry!)

Monday, November 03, 2014

Dahlia in baby wale corduroy

So I'm going to be a bit of a grump about this dress.
I jumped on Colette's pre-sale of the Dahlia dress, mostly because I always need work dresses (especially wool!) and I love raglan sleeves.  But when I received the pattern I was immediately disappointed...first off, the dress isn't lined (wool dress - lining = itchy and static-y).  Second, the neckline and sleeve hems are bound with bias tape.  I don't dislike bias binding, but on a dress suggested to be made out of wool? Third, the description definitely says 3/4 sleeves (my fave!) and this sleeve is definitely not 3/4 length.   I know, I know...look at the photos and whatnot, but descriptions are there for a reason.  Grr...
I could have drafted a lining (or used an underlining)....could have made facings instead of using bias tape....but I'm lazy (and have plenty of pattern drafting to do for class at the moment).  So, I used a baby wale cotton corduroy, which makes it slightly more acceptable to not have a lining. 
My fabric choice doesn't help this dress at all, since all style-lines are completely hidden.  My husband took one sour look and said, "That looks like a sack."  I can't say I disagree!  Even though I love the fabric,  it definitely pushes the dress firmly onto the frumpy side of the line (though extremely comfortable!  Just like a nightgown!)
My biggest gripe, though, is with the neckline.  When I first tried on the dress, it all fit nicely (with my standard pattern changes, of course: petite adjustment and small bust adjustment), except the neckline.  It was bafflingly wide!  I ended up gathering the back neckline a bit, adding darts to the top of the raglan sleeve, and adding elastic to the front neckline to pull it in even more.  Much better, but I'm not sure how it was supposed to have worked without those changes!
The dress pattern includes a back kick pleat.  This feature is completely unnecessary, since the skirt is fairly wide and certainly doesn't hinder movement.  So, since it looked a bit odd, I sewed down the seam (you can see the remnant of the pleat above).
I used Hug Snug on all the seams, which makes the inside look better in the absence of a lining.  I definitely still need some practice with this product, but I really like the outcome--it give the garment a vintage-y feel which matches the fabric pattern.
Okay, so that was a rough critique of the Dahlia pattern.  While I've liked many of Colette's other patterns, I'm definitely not a fan of this one.  I'm sure with a different fabric it could look a bit more stylish, but with all the other issues, I won't be making another.  I'd like to wear this still, so I'll be on the lookout for a scarf, or bold necklace...something to make it more modern.
Also....I'm considering chopping off the sleeves to make more of a cap style.  What do you think?

Anyone out there have any luck with the Dahlia?

Sewing Resewlution 2014, November garment #1.  Self-drafted trousers are the likely next project...

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Self-drafted blazer!

See this blazer?  I designed, drafted and sewed it myself!  And since I'm no longer actually attending lecture (conflicts with my teaching schedule), I'm using the book and my professor's office hours to get the job done!  (By the way, here she is, walking through the construction of the jacket on YouTube.  She's an amazing sewist!)

This most recent project for my patternmaking class isn't due until this Thursday, but since I had all of last Friday to sew without kids or lectures to write,  I started and finished it in about 9 hours straight  + an hour or two making adjustments yesterday and today.
The pattern itself was based on a jacket sloper, which was based on a torso sloper that was altered from a bodice sloper of my own measurements.  Phew!  It was a lot of work to even get to the point where I could start making the jacket pattern (hence my radio silence over the past few weeks)!  I based my design on this much more stylish jacket from Boden.  I liked the armhole princess lines, flap pockets, and rounded hemline.  Clearly, getting my vision into a flat pattern is going to take a little work :)

The style itself has a two-piece sleeve with semi-faux vents and is fully lined.

As for the fabrication...well...for the assignment, we were supposed to sew the jacket in muslin, but clearly that wasn't going to be worth my precious time, so I sewed it up in some vintage 100% cashmere wool I purchased last year for a steal, and silk lining fabric from Britex.  The lining is a bit on the crazy side, but I kind love it.

The buttons are leather, slightly domed with a shank, also from Britex. 

I made some fit adjustments during construction, taking the shoulders in 1/2" on each side and reducing the princess seams all around by 1/4" each.  The fit could use some additional help (reduce the chest and shoulder width more, and I think the back, too, since it seems to have some vertical lines that I only saw in these photos!).
Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to meet up with some fabulous Bay Area sewists (I'll be adding a blog list of the locals soon).  Among the very talented group was Beth, from SunnyGal Studio, a jacket sewing expert.  She gave me some excellent tips for improving the overall look of the jacket.  So, when I got home, I unpicked part of both sleeves to make them more smooth (that right one could still use some work, sorry Beth!), added sleeve heads (made out of some loose weave linen) and "clapped" as many seams and hems as I could.  
Here is my make-shift clapping tool and sleeve press board.  Yes, that's a tunnel from my son's train set--the rounded top actually works really great!
Overall, I'm super pleased with my finished product and with a few more minor tweaks, I have a great go-to blazer pattern.  And, I have enough leftover cashmere and silk for a matching skirt!  You know, so I can really work that professorial vibe.
My littlest man was "helping" with the photos!
Next up for class is drafting trousers from measurements--I'll be making the sloper, instead of modifying one like usual.  Looking forward to it!

Sewing Resewlution 2014, October garment #1.  Wow, just got that in under the wire!

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!