Monday, May 25, 2015

Self-drafted pin-tuck blouse, two ways

Pin-tuck blouse muslin (left) and revised version (right)
This blouse. I've had plans to make an official pattern for that top since I first made it. I even bought fabric (years ago) for the job, as encouragement. Ha.  In cleaning out my sewing room this weekend, I found a partial pattern of the blouse--just the back--and I decided it was time to knock that project off the list.  Time to break out the pattern drafting tools and my sloper!

Here's my first version, in red-orange gauze. The beauty of single gauze is that it's really cheap, very breathable (perfect for summer garments) and fairly easy to work with.  The top fits okay (despite forgetting to add seam allowance--oops--I remembered in time to use a scant 1/4"), but the neckline is a bit wonky--it doesn't lay flat on my neck, and flops open.
The main design feature are the radiating pin-tucks in the front and back.  They give shaping and some interest to an otherwise simple top.
Floppy neckline...
After this first version, I made some alterations to the pattern: neckline, sleeves (I wanted elastic gathers) and general fit.  The second version is a big improvement (though not perfect, still!) and I just adore the result!  Here's my happy face:
This fabric is double-gauze; the added thickness may explain why it still feels a little snug despite adding seam allowance and some width.  But it's very comfortable and seriously cute.
The neckline is really curved and lays so nicely.

While the first version had fish eye darts in the back, I left them out after an initial fitting.  After looking at this photo, maybe I should go ahead and sew them--they're still marked on the inside :)
It feels so nice to get this off the list!  I can't wait to wear it with some cute red shorts.
I've got one more length of gauze fabric--in sheer silk.  For that version, I may omit the front placket, and add a key hole in the back.  Time to go back to the drafting table!
My JCPenney catalog pose :)

2015 Resewlution, May garment #1+2 (I still need to do more sewing!)

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Tutorial: Heart rate monitor-sports bra sewing hack

So I understand this tutorial might help only a small slice of the population, but it feels important enough (to me anyway) that I decided to just go ahead and write it.  I don't know about you, but having a sports bra pressing in on my ribcage is bad enough without adding to it another strap of a heart rate monitor. Going up big hills on my bike (occasionally :) while wearing two elastic, compressive straps around the part of my body that needs to expand greatly...well, it just doesn't work for me.  You can buy sports bras with built in heart rate monitors, but they run $70-$100.  For a bra that isn't even pretty!  As it turns out, if you can sew, you can make your own for less than less than $25, and that's if you buy everything new.   In this tutorial, we're going to trim a heart rate monitor strap and attach it to the inside of the front of your sports bra with Velcro!  Woohoo!
First off, get yourself a cheap sports bra from Target (mine was less than $10, not on sale) or use one you have already.  I like these because I'm flat-chested, but any sports bra will do.   You'll also need a spare heart rate monitor strap that works with your monitor (or if you have a throw-caution-to-the-wind mentality, use the original strap).  I use a Garmin monitor, and replacement straps that work with both Garmin and Polar monitors (check to be sure before buying) are available on Amazon for $12.50.  You'll also need some hook and loop (Velcro).  I found an "soft and flexible" variety at Joann's, which works perfectly for this application and I would highly recommend.  The super soft loop side, which will go on the bra toward your skin, is good for when you don't want to wear the monitor
Next, identify the points on the monitor that make contact with your skin.  You do not want to cut these, so trim the strap about 1" away from these contact pads to reduce the length of the strap to just the important part. 
Mark the edge of the contact pads with a pin.
 The scratchy side of the hook and loop will go on the monitor strap so it doesn't touch your skin.
I zigzag sewed the edge of the strap because it was fraying a bit.
Caution: you will NOT attach the Velcro to this side!
This is super important: flip over the strap so the contact pads are face down.  You want to attach the hook side of the Velcro to the side of the strap that faces your bra (the side with the snaps for the monitor).  Cut a piece about 1" long and zig zag sew the Velcro to the strap, being careful not to sew over the contact pads.  I actually have no idea what would happen if you did, but I'm guessing there's electrical stuff in there that might get ruined.  Sew the Velcro to the other side in the same way.
Before sewing.  Note the attachment snaps for reference.
After sewing
Now, put on your sports bra; you want the band to be stretched before measuring the strap. Tuck the strap under the front of the sports bra band where you would want it, and mark the ends of the strap on the sides of your bra with a pin.  There isn't a lot more scary than pulling a tight bra off with pins sticking out of it, so be careful taking it off!
Then, cut strip of loop side of Velcro about 1.5".  It's good to have it longer than the hook side, to allow for some wiggle room.  Center the piece where you've pin-dicated (haha!).

Zig-zag sew around the Velcro, being sure to s-t-r-e-t-c-h the bra band while doing so, otherwise it will rip your stitches when you put it on.
See, when the band is unstretched, the Velcro gets wonky, but stretch, the Velcro is (pretty) flat!

Repeat for the other side.  And all the other bras in your collection, so they can all be heart rate monitor bras!
Voila!  Go out there and ride some hills...or go for ride with friends to get coffee....whatever  :)
By the way, I'd love to hear if this tutorial is useful to you!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Fashion Illustration

Hey, did you know anyone can learn how to draw?  On the first day of my Fashion Sketching course, we all drew our best fashion figure.  Here's mine: 
Over the semester, we've learned how to draw a 9-head fashion figure, garments and garment features, shade with markers, and render textures and patterns.  It was truly fascinating!  Here are some of my favorites:
Study in shading structured garments
Practice rendering cable knit sweater and ostrich leather skirt.
Homework (rendering textured garments) with photo reference from Prada Fall 2015
Homework (shading structured garments) with photo reference from Miu Miu Spring 2014
Last week, I submitted my final project.  I chose Prada's Fall 2015 collection as my inspiration.  I truly fell in love with this line, it has all the things I love about clothing: bright colors, structured garments and a modernized-vintage vibe.  I also adore the styling (Shoes!  Gloves! Those lucite brooches!).  So many good things.  Here's my final project (in reality, it is a large 14 x 17" board):

Here are the reference photos, from the Prada runway show:

Having spent the majority of my post-teen years immersed in science and education, it was so enjoyable to take this class.  Homework was fun!  How I wish there was an advanced class!

I have been sewing a tiny bit (black cigarette-style pants and the start of a vintage-pattern dress), but it's been slow going (and clearly not documented!).  Between this drawing class, my own teaching load, and an online teaching certification course, I haven't had loads of time to spend at the sewing machine.  But summer is coming soon!  

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Coffee date dress...finally!

I've been intending to make the Coffee Date dress by Pattern Runway for years.  Then, I finally broke down and bought the pattern, and it has taken me months to figure out what fabric to make it from.  Once I determined I'd use some less-expensive fabric to give the pattern a go, it took me ages to start.  And then once I started sewing, all the numerous fitting issues stalled me for a while.  So in short, this dress is way too long in the making!
So let's talk about this pattern.  I love the idea of this dress (fitted waist!  pockets!  kick pleat!), but I struggled with the fit a little and the end product isn't really flattering on me.   For the fit, I tried to reduce the volume of the pleats on top by essentially not grading out at the bottom of the bodice like I normally would, and instead using some of the pleat volume to "stretch" the bodice to fit the waistband (does that make sense to anyone but me? :) I think it could use even more reduction of pleating for my shape (both at the top and shirt parts).  I shortened the bodice while adjusting the paper pattern, again while sewing, and finally took in the shoulder seams by 1/2" to get the waistline to fall at the right spot and avoid a really wacky blousing effect.
I didn't care for the longish short sleeves, so they were shortened as well as removing some of the gathers at the cap.

I wore the dress to work yesterday and it's a solid, professional-type garment (I wore a cream colored cardigan with a defined waist most of the day), but I felt like it was unflattering.  The pleats below the waist are a little voluminous and don't hit quite right.  The photo above looks pretty good only because my hands in the pockets are pulling them down a little! I don't know...maybe my belly fluff is the really culprit :)
The back is fitted nicely, at least!    The back kick pleat is very cool and functional!  And I do love the pockets (especially since putting your hands in them pulls the pleating down in a slightly more flattering way :)
The fabric was a new one for me: peach skin.  I bought heaps of this pretty cheap fabric thinking it was stretchy and it most definitely is not (my fault completely!).  Benefits: wrinkle resistant, fairly easy to work with, and cheap.  I also totally love the print (and there are loads of others!).  I can imagine it being hot in the summer, it is polyester after all, but it also feels light and airy, so we'll see when it gets steamy.
I may try this pattern again, but with a ponte knit.  I have some lovely Boden dresses with a pretty similar style, but in a weighty knit. I'd love to recreate those and wear them constantly.  Anyhow, I'll wear this one again, so I guess that counts as a success!

Fun fact: I bought my awesome orange necklace from a jewelry vendor at the farmer's market in Homer, Alaska.  $6!

2015 Resewlution, April garment #1 (I need to do more sewing!)

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Pop art-inspired Shuttlecock Dress

I've been taking fashion design classes at a local community college...a class a semester, whatever I can fit into my teaching schedule, nothing too strenuous.  Anyhow, while sitting in my fashion illustration class a month ago, there was an announcement for a fashion design competition.  Well, the college athlete in me can't resist a competition, so I entered!

There were multiple categories in the design challenge and I randomly selected "Pop Art" as my inspiration.  After some research for ideas, I came upon this series of sculptures, "Shuttlecock" by artist Claes Oldenburg:
(The birdie, not the building.)
The process of designing the garment in my head took a while.  At multiple points, I was reminded quite clearly that I am actually NOT a fashion designer!  I knew it had to be made out of scuba knit (purchased from Mood here and here)----the feathers would be so much easier to manage and give a nice, stiff yet flexible look--and I knew boning would have to be involved.  How to put it all together? Yeah, that was the hard part.

The bodice is drafted from a contouring sloper bodice (to my measurements!) and is sewn with front and back darts, with a strip of velcro on the side.  The feathers involved some trial and error--in the end, each one is a double layer of scuba knit, with a strip of covered boning sewn down the length.  The top layer of the feather was randomly slashed to give a more "feather-like" appearance.  Each is attached to the bodice with a stay of 1" wide elastic.
A circle of boning at the waist is hand stitched to each feather, with a tiny snap at the side as an opening. After trying on the dress, it was clear the feathers needed to be tacked down for modesty, so the bottom layer of each feather is tacked to its neighbor.
Here is my fashion illustration of my garment--I haven't finished the course yet (still a month to go), but I've learned enough to be pretty happy with my rendition! 
Here's my Shuttlecock dress with some of the other entrants.  There were some really inventive garments (take a look at that one of the left (below), made from spoons and garbage bags, winner in the "recycled plastic" category):
The white "paper" dress on the left (below), was winner in the "yarn as inspiration" category.  The dressmaker encouraged everyone to sign or draw something on the garment.
White dress on the left (below), winner in the "transform a t-shirt" category, is all lacy on the back.
And mine, winner (out of 2 entrants :) in the "pop art" category!  Thanks to the members of the Fashion Club for organizing the whole thing--it was truly a fun and challenging experience!  
Someone needs to have a costume party, and soon!  Until then, my dress will be on display in the student center at West Valley College, if you happen to be near Saratoga!