Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Button-Down Cambie

I DID IT!! After 5 muslins and 1 other finished version of this dress, I have finally completed the button-down Sewaholic Cambie. I'm pleased as punch with it, and the fit is pretty darn good. Since it took me so long to sort the fit out, we all get to pretend that it's summer again with this one.
Let's talk fit for a moment. The fit at the back is just delightful to me, considering what a wobbly mess it was in so many previous versions. I had to put in a seam in there, rather than cut on the fold, because I had a bit of gaping up at the top. Removing that excess fabric put the fabric off grain by the neckline. A small concession for a necessary good fit.

I also split the darts and introduced one at the side, an excellent suggestion from y'all in the comments after you saw my torpedo darts. They are greatly improved, but is it just me, or are the still a little high and a smidge pointy?! A minor quibble, but I worked so hard to improve them that I was hoping it would disappear entirely! Maybe it's just a bit of wrinkliness. We did snap these photos after a very long and enjoyable pizza lunch.

My only other problem spot was the sleeve lining. I made so many changes, I had to draft a new one, and I still don't understand the ratio of sleeve to lining on this pattern. My lining ended up being a touch too big, so I've got a few pleats on the inside. An even smaller quibble! But, let's all pause for a moment to admire the fact that I got rid of that excess fabric at the arm, which is what sent me off on this fitting tangent in the first place. The pig guarding the yogurt raisins told me he was very proud of my efforts. Thank you, pig.
Now, the buttons! This dress has such a distinct shape to it that I wanted to mix it up a bit for my second completed version. The button-down front did the trick splendidly. I followed Tasia's tutorial, and I really liked the extra inside finishing detail of adding a facing that she suggested. It added a bit of extra bulk, but I didn't have to worry about any red lining peeping out and it's nice and sturdy for all those buttons. As before, I think the inside of this dress is one of the best things about it. It's just so lovely.
The fabric I got it in the Garment District when I went for Gertie's Sewing Retreat back in April. I really like the way the horizontal stripe accentuates my waist on the waistband. I might have to try that again! It was also perfectly suited for pictures at Big Top candy shop

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Finding Fabric and Patterns to Copy RTW

Here's the scenario: you see a dress, top, pair of pants, skirt, that you absolutely love in a shop. You know that if you could find the right fabric and pattern, you could easily make it yourself. It would be custom made to fit you, likely cheaper (if you don't count your time), and you get the joy of making it yourself.

Now how do you find the right fabric or pattern? Especially if a plain 'ole Google search with words fails you.

I find myself thinking this quite often, and here are the tools I have found to help me recreate a RTW (ready to wear) look.

For Fabric: Google Reverse Image Search

A close cousin to a regular Google search, this one is nice because you don't have to guess at how a designer or store might have described their fabric. 

  1. Go to Google Image search.
  2. Click on the little camera at the right of the search box that says "search by image." 
  3. Enter the URL of the image you're wanting to match, or upload an image.
  4. Once the new page loads, type in additional descriptors like "fabric" in the search box. 
This sometimes works, and sometimes produces a lot of noise.

For Fabric: The Find

The Find is a search engine that's specific to shopping, and I've noticed I'm more likely to find fabric here than Google using words. I actually discovered it because I went onto the Google Developer forums to see if there was a better way to use the reverse image search for this task, and someone pointed me to The Find. It's how I found the crane fabric for Sarah of Rhinestones and Telephones when she had a dress she wanted to recreate.

For Fabric and Patterns: Blogger Series

Several bloggers have done series around this same idea, including me. The trouble with this is it's going to be one-off, so you're more likely to serendipitously find something you'd like to recreate rather than seeking out a perfect match for what you have in mind. 

The best of these that I've found is "Make This Look" from Sew Weekly. Sadly, Mena is no longer blogging, but there's still some great stuff in there.

Some Other Sleuthing Tips 

  • If you're looking for patterns, familiarize yourself with the different names of bodices and skirts and such (I think that's useful anyway). That way you can search for features like, "gored skirt pattern." You'll find this in pattern making textbooks, and I've started to compile different line drawings of garment types on a Pinterest board.
  • If you're looking for vintage patterns, the Vintage Pattern Wiki is a great source. If you don't want to spend hours scrolling through pages of patterns, try narrowing the search down on Google by doing "site:" with a space, followed by your keyword. It will search only on the Vintage Pattern Wiki for that term.
  • Look for the designers name, and try to trace it back from there. I've emailed shops before to ask for that info if it wasn't on their sites, too. 
Do you do this, too? Do you have any tips or tricks that you've figured out along the way? 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Hunter Green Suspender Skirt

I'm still plugging away at the Cambie, but in the meantime, I thought I'd stitch up a good skirt for fall. I was dubious about how these suspenders would look on me, but I'm really digging them! I paired it with my black and white striped Coco so I'd feel extra French.

Although the suspenders turned out to be a win, this project was actually a PDF fail. Ages ago I purchased the PDF version of Madeleine from Victory Patterns. By the time I finally got around to sewing it, I couldn't find where I downloaded the PDF on my computer, and I ran out of download times to access it online. 

Never daunted, I decided it would probably just be easier to use a circle skirt pattern I drafted a year or so ago, and wing it on the suspenders. That worked out pretty well, but I'd still be interested to see their finishing instructions, because I was less than impressed with what I came up with. 

Here's what I did for the suspenders: 
  1. I folded in half a strip of fabric, sewed, and pressed it open. 
  2. On one side, I stitched the triangle point, measuring to make sure they matched. I attempted to turn it with minimal trimming, but the fabric was too thick for that so I had to trim closer.
  3. Once turned, I pressed again.
  4. I top stitched. 
  5. I used a zig zag stitch to finish the other end. The fabric was too thick to do any type of hem sort of deal. 
  6. I did my button holes. 
After step 4, my triangle end popped open on both sides (I guess I clipped it too close the second try), and I tried to salvage it by hand stitching it closed and putting a bit of fray check on it. As a result, my ends look messy and a bit lopsided. I'll just call it a distressed suspender! Maybe I had too much against me, trying to make a thick fabric come into a point like that. Anyone have any tips? 
In terms of other finishes, I did a lapped zipper at the back, and then used horsehair braid in the hem. If you haven't used it before, it's an easy way to hem a circle skirt, which can often be tricky because of the curve. On the insides it looks pretty nice, too.
Suspenders, come to find out, are also excellent for helping you to improve your posture. If I sit up straight, they sit quite nicely on me. If I slouch, it's suspenders sticking out everywhere! So I will look extra ladylike in my suspender skirt this fall!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Fitting the Sewaholic Cambie

This is the story of 5 versions of the Cambie. This one was a pickle, and I've learned a lot along the way. What follows, though, may read more like the deranged ramblings of a woman with a French curve than a fitting mastermind, but perhaps you'll learn something, too.

Version 1

My first version wasn't made straight out of the envelope, so I was already tweaking (or ruining, depending on how you want to look at it) the pattern in hopes of making it work for me. I used my sloper to fit, which if you're curious about how I do that, Threads has a great tutorial on using a sloper for fit
Whoa shoulders! That's a look.  Here's what I saw and changed: 
  • Way too much excess fabric at the shoulders. I took off 2", evenly from the back bodice and sleeve. 
  • The darts were too high, so I lowered those 1/2". 
  • I needed more at the back, seemingly all the way down including the waist, so I did a broad back adjustment. This involves drawing a vertical line parallel to CB, slashing and spreading. 

Version 2

Normally, working with my sloper works pretty well. Confident I had made the pattern changes I needed to, I moved on to the fashion fabric. How I wished I had someone else to help me fit, because I would have seen the error of my ways earlier on!

So onto the second version, which was actually a fully finished dress out of fashion fabric. I'll zero in on the places where I still had a few problems. 
Here's what I saw: 
  • That gaping at the back armscye. Oh that gaping! 
  • I needed a forward shoulder adjustment, which is hard to see in this fashion fabric. I originally thought the sleeve was more of a strap, so I left it behind my shoulder.
  • Some wobbly bits in my back, which made me think I needed a larger broad back adjustment. 
  • The back dipped (if you look closely, you'll see my belt is sitting above the waistband). I was actually seeing this frequently in the dresses I made using my sloper, and was beginning to wonder if I had traced it wrong at some point. 
  • You can't see this in the fashion fabric really, but the darts were still a touch too high. 

Version 3

For version 3, here were my changes: 
  • Did a 1 1/4" forward shoulder adjustment. 
  • I took the excess fabric at the back armscye out at the shoulder curve. 
  • I lowered the darts another 1/2".
  • I increased the broad back by 1/4". At this point, I thought I didn't need anymore at my waist (I was wrong), so I took that 1/4" out at the back darts so most of the fullness was higher on my back. 
Here's what that change looked like at the shoulder, with the green line showing you how I adjusted the curve. 
This ending up working like so. 
Welp, that didn't work. Now I couldn't move my arms at all. But I got rid of the gaping! High five.

Version 4

For version 4, I concentrated on that shoulder area. I made similar changes, but with a less heavy hand. I took a wee bit out as a dart in the area where I had a problem at the back, and made a wee bit of change to the shoulder curve. 

Now, at this point, I had pretty much fixed my gaping problem (hurray!), but I realized I had significant problems elsewhere. First off, when did those darts get so pointy? And the back is looking worse by the minute. Too tight with a little bit of gaping up at the top of CB. So I gathered up all my muslins and went to sewing club to beg for some help. 

The Trouble in the Back

This is where the epiphanies really started. Thank goodness for the incredibly talented ladies at sewing club! I saw a problem in the back, so I assumed I would need to fix it by adjusting the back bodice. Not so! The adjustment isn't always in the area where you see the problem. It might be the adjacent area that's really the issue. 

We tied a piece of string to a tape dispenser and hung it from my underarm. It then became very clear that the problem was in my front. It was pulling around so my side seam wasn't sitting straight down my side. I didn't need anymore broad back adjustments. I needed extra on my front bodice! I added it to the side seam, tapering to nothing up at the armscye.

Problems with my Sloper

Now, remember way back in version 2 in my fashion fabric, I mentioned that it was dipping in the back? Well, I found myself going down an internet rabbit hole one day, and discovered this is actually a problem with Pattern String Code slopers, where mine is from. There is a fascinating article on using Pattern String Code Slopers from Fashion Incubator that documents this issue

The gist of it is that Pattern String Codes used my CB measurement for my CF. That's not right, because I have boobs. Apparently the correct measurement would be if you take off 1" from your CB measurement, then add 1" for every cup size. I needed 2" more in length. Since this pattern has a waistband the bodice is a bit shorter, I opted to take that 2" off the back instead. 

We did this in a really crazy way. I also needed a little bit taken off my CB at the top to remove some gaping, but we wanted to keep everything else intact and I still needed my side seam to match, so taking a full 2" off there would be problematic. So we drew this crazy line across, down, and then straight again and shifted everything down 2" at a slight tilt. This kept the length I needed at the side seam, so I only had a little bit to ease it to match the front, and it fixed my gaping problem at CB. Then we trued up the side seam. Does that make sense? It was crazy, I tell you! Crazy! 
We also curved the darts a bit on the front, which tends to help get a better fit for bustier gals (this is a great trick I learned in pattern making), and shortened them again. I swear, someone is sneaking into my sewing room and lengthening these darts overnight. They never seem to be short enough. There were two other tweaks to alter the curve a bit at the bodice area where the sleeve meets that were so amazingly detail-oriented, I could only gape at my sewing club friends. Needless to say, they were things I hadn't even seen.

Version 5

So here we are on version 5. I'm getting excited now! Those darts are still way too pointy (kapow!), but I can easily adjust the angle on those (knock on wood).  I've lost the gaping at the back armscye, and my back is looking pretty good now. I see some wrinkles there at the back, but I think that's just from me pulling the muslin on and off without a zipper in it.
I am contemplating one more muslin to try to adjust those darts, and because I really wanted my second version of this to be a button down. It would be a shame to go through all these fit changes, adjust the pattern pieces to button down the front, and then discover something was off. 

What do you think? Do you spot anything I should change for V5, or would you have done things differently? One of the wonderful things about sewing to me is there's so many ways to shine the penny! So tell me your thoughts! 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Wearing History 1940s Shorts

My first pair of real jeans! I'm so pleased with how these turned out, and they were most enjoyable to sew. My friend Katy (who I sewed the sequin pants for) snapped these photos while we were in Arizona last weekend for our dear friend's bachelorette party. The scenery was just breathtaking.
I used the Wearing History 1940s Overalls pattern for these, and made a few adjustments from my overalls
  • I followed the cutting line for the playsuit length to make them short. 
  • I shortened the pockets 1" so my whole leg wouldn't be pocket.
  • I went down a size. I like my overalls loose, but not my shorts. 
  • I used the crotch shape and depth from my Freddies of Pinewood jeans, because I like the fit of those. I've got a bit of excess fabric there at the front, though, which I didn't notice on my jeans (most likely because I never pay as close attention on things I didn't make myself). That just goes to show I'm still trying to work out on the right crotch curve to fit me properly. 
The construction details are by far the best part of these shorts, although I am quite gladdened to have finally filled this hole in my wardrobe. Collecting supplies proved to be easier than expected because everything had "jean" in the name - needle, zipper, top stitching thread, buttons. The denim fabric, and all the fixings, I got at Joann's Fabric, one of the few times the chain didn't let me down.

I had read a trick long ago that you would get better tension on top stitching jeans if you put regular thread in the bobbin, and that worked out swell. I used my edge stitch foot and went very slowly and carefully. I didn't use a twin needle only because I like to try to minimize the number of new things I try on a project. The only really tricky spot I had while topstitching was at the curve at the bottom of the pocket. After 2 failed attempts, I realized it would be easiest to take a fabric pencil and mark out a line for me to follow. That did it!
I chose to do navy thread on the lapped zip rather than topstitching because I didn't want to interrupt the beautiful pocket. And of course, my damned buttonhole went array at the 11th hour. I tested it out several times before starting in on the real deal, but the moment it started going on the actual shorts, it hiccuped and fought me the whole way. 

The button is from Dritz and is a "no sew" jean button that you nail in with a hammer. It's not nearly as easy as the package looks! I stood in my garage for 20 minutes, sweating bullets, trying to get this thing in. I bent one, cursed, wiped my brow, and then managed it. 
The insides are are serged with a grey thread, which blends in very nicely. I also used a 3 stitch (is that what you call that stitch?) on all my seams to make sure they were extra sturdy. It wouldn't do to have a lovely pair of retro shorts and have them pop at the seams after a large meal. 
A smashing success, if I do say so myself! Plus, I can easily get 2 more months wear out of them before the year-end since I live in Texas! 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Elisalex Dress

Well done, Elisalex. You took me by surprise.
This Elisalex Dress from By Hand London patterns is one of my most favorite things I have ever made. It wasn't love at first sight, though, but a gradual affection that grew while I was stitching. For starters, I've never worn a tulip skirt in my life. I tend to gravitate towards the extremes in silhouettes, very full or very fitted, and a tulip skirt stands somewhere in the middle. I was determined to try something new, though, so I forged on. 

I've also never sewn a garment with upholstery fabric before, but it was on the recommended list for this pattern to support the structure of the skirt. I worried over the thickness of the fabric, at first adding in way too much ease thinking I would need it with all its heft. I also thought I'd be sweltering in the summer heat. Not so on either count. This fabric is 87% cotton and 13% rayon and it breathes surprisingly well. It's just what these pleats needed, and it ironed beautifully. 
I used my sloper to fit the bodice, and something quite odd happened that has never happened to me before. I ended up being a UK 14 in the front, and  US 14 in the back! Apparently my front half is British. I guess the By Hand London ladies have very small backs. Just to keep things balanced, I tapered the skirt in the back to a UK 14 (a US 10) after the waist. 

Like most others have noted, I also took a considerable amount of length off the skirt, just shy of 7". I debated for quite some time if I wanted to slash it in the middle and adjust the length from there, or take it off from the bottom. I went with the latter because I didn't want an abrupt shift in the volume. I thought it would be more flattering to see it gently tapering down, with a slightly less snug fit at my knees, then go from full volume to full pencil. It worked marvelously.

Also, a note on those boxed pleats... I had the darndest time getting them to stay closed at the top, which I believe is the aim. That way when they line up with the princess seam and it looks like a continuous line that eventually breaks into a pleat past the waistline. I had basted each pleat as the instructions suggest, and then I added a basted zig zag stitch to close them at the top. That did the trick.
The bodice is lined with a lightweight khaki cotton, and I used a hand fell stitch to attach is to the fashion fabric. I stitched a bit too close to that invisible zipper, though, so I ended up having to go back and adjust it after I took these photos. It was catching when I zipped it up and you can see wee bit of puckering at the top from the teeth trying to take the lining with it. 
All in all, this was my kind of surprise. My Elisalex dress hasn't stayed on that dressform for long. I'm packing it up now for what promises to be a most agreeable trip. I'm headed to Arizona for a bit of work, followed by a weekend celebrating the upcoming nuptials of one of my dearest and oldest friends. The Elisalex will be perfect for a night on the town! 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Red & White Striped Moneta

Greetings from Austin! Well, it's always "Greetings from Austin" from me, but since I've shown you this pattern once before, I thought I would also show you this spectacular postcard mural.I have loved wearing my Colette Moneta so much, that I decided to sew a second version before the summer was up. This delightful red and white stripe fabric is a bamboo jersey knit. It's so wonderfully soft!
I made two fit changes from my first version of this pattern. I shortened the bodice by 1/2", and then I took 3/4" out of the neckline where I had a bit of gaping. My seamline is right at my natural waist now, which also means my belt doesn't look like it's riding up. Much better! 
I've read quite a few folks have had problems with the gathering method on this skirt. The instructions call for you to baste elastic to the skirt, which will gather it when you are finished. I didn't have any problems the first time around, or so I thought, so I proceeded per the instructions.

With stripes, though, you can really tell when things go wonky and it definitely did. I ended up ripping it all out and sewing it again because I wasn't able to get even gathers. It made the stripes look like they were hopping all around the top of my skirt. If I were ever to make another version, I think I'd do the regular old gathers with basting stitches.
Now, I'm still trying to sort out the coverstitch on my serger, and I continued to struggle with top-stitching over the seams on this dress. The stitch just isn't even when I go over those bumps. I tried decreasing the foot pressure, and although it helped, it didn't solve the problem. I'm thinking of trying a hump jumper. There was a thread on Pattern Review that indicated it should fix the problem. 
Have you ever tried a hump jumper, sometimes called jean-a-ma-jig, or the DIY version, a stack of post-its?