Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Cotton + Steel Dirndl & a Pocket Matching Tip

I'm in the midst of taking a suit-making class (!), and stitching a dirndl between classes has been just my speed. This one is made from Melody Miller's "I Heart Bees" for Cotton + Steel. I originally intended to add on patch pockets, but turns out I didn't have enough fabric for it. I still wanted to pass along a tip from my tailoring teacher on matching up the print, though, so there's a small tutorial here, too.

Here's your standard front, back, and side photos, plus a few "non-standard" ones just to keep you guys on your toes. There's not too terribly much to say about the construction - I did a lapped zip, used ban roll in my waistband for extra stiffness, and hand-stitched the hem.
Now that all that silliness is out of my system, let's talk about pattern matching on pockets. I couldn't find a good tip for doing this, so I asked my tailoring teacher. She said you want to use a pattern making or tracing paper (here's what I use) to roughly sketch the pattern, then use that as a template to cut. So simple! So brilliant! 

First, I cut out 2 squares that were the size of my desired pockets plus seam allowance and pinned them in place to my skirt. This gave me a chance to also test out the size and placement to see if I liked it. Turns out, these would have been too small for my tastes (if I had the fabric to actually make them). 
Then you sketch out the pattern onto your tracing paper. Be more detailed around the edges, and then just focus on the general shape in the middle. So on my edges, I actually drew the little hearts.
From here, it's smooth sailing. Take some tailor's chalk and mark the edges of your pocket on your skirt. Then you can remove the pins and use the tracing paper as a cutting template, making sure to match your pencil drawings.

I also learned a neat trick in class for attaching a pocket without topstitching. I'll post up a tutorial on that next week! 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

My Airplane Blouse: Advance 6426

Today we have an airplane blouse to match my nephew's button down! I think I've finally found the casual blouse pattern I've been hunting for, too. Here I've paired it with a gabardine circle skirt I made awhile back. I fear the day this skirt goes kaput, because I wear it almost every week. But let's focus on this blouse.
For some happy reason, vintage patterns tend to fit me better out of the envelope than modern ones do. So I only had minimal adjustments to make to the pattern after sewing my muslin:

  • I took 1" out of the side seam. I made a matching adjustment to the sleeve. 
  • I lowered the bust darts (there are 2 at the side seam) 1".
  • I pivoted the shoulder seam forward 1/4" at the armscye only. 
I didn't add sleeves to my muslin, and now that I have the finished blouse, I think I could use a small narrow shoulder adjustment as well. 

This blouse came together so quickly, which was nice after my previous attempts at a different 1950s blouse pattern. The facing has a nice shape to it so it's thicker up where the convertible collar is, then it narrows when you don't need it to be as wide. I hadn't seen that before, and I quite like it. The collar is finished with a bit of slip stitching between the ends of the front facings. 
Now, I had planned to show you the shape of the shirt untucked next to the planes at Camp Mabry. Oh, it was the perfect idea! Sadly, my camera chose that moment to start acting up with the focus again, and since my preview has also been broken, we didn't know it until I was back home. The camera shop was able to fix it this time, so luckily I didn't have to send it back to Fuji for the second time this year. So, here are some slightly blurry photos, but hopefully you can still see the wonderful shape that those tucks in the front and back give to the blouse.
I will definitely be making this pattern again! I've got a hankering for the plaid version that's pictured on the envelope at some point, and I've been saving some orange gingham for spring/summer for a blouse just like this! 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Baby Boy Sewing: Kwik Sew 3730 Airplane Button Down

My nephew is about to turn one, and I can hardly believe it! He's the sweetest, happiest little thing, and we all love him so dearly. For his upcoming birthday, I decided to sew another version of Kwik Sew 3730, this time as a button-down. He loves to spin the propellers on a little Murray Airplane Kiddie Kar from Grampy's collection, so I knew this retro airplane fabric would make him smile!
This pattern is so great for little boys, and I highly recommend it. It's got 1/4" seam allowances, which makes it very easy to whip through the serger quickly. I love sewing for Lukas, but I also know he won't be able to wear it for very long, and it will get very dirty, so cute clothes that I can make in an afternoon are ideal. 

Speaking of that Murray Airplane, looks like it's got a pilot test driving Lukas' new shirt! 
I loved this fabric so much, I ended up buying extra yardage to make another button-down for me! I'm going to try a new vintage pattern, Advance 6426. I've got a muslin done, and it's looking really good so far. So Big L and Little L will soon have matching shirts!

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!