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? 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A Gingham Summer Dress

I like a good detail on a dress. It's one of the things I enjoy most about vintage garments, and I relish the chance to add them in as a home sewer. This is an Emery Dress with a button detail at the shoulder. Hardly a show-stopping detail, but I quite enjoy that it makes the dress a little more special and my own.
I ordered this fabric from Hart's soon after sewing the playsuit for my nephew. This is very similar, with a slightly larger check. It's imported from Japan (so fancy) and has a bit of texture to it and a little stiffness that make it really great for a fuller skirt. 
I lined the bodice in a lightweight cotton, and for the first time, I used a fell stitch rather than a slip stitch when attaching the lining. It was a revelation! I like hand sewing, and quite enjoy doing it on hems, but the slip stitch I've always dreaded. This is such a nice alternative, and it's still hardly visible. Here's some more shots where you can see some of the details, including the buttons at the shoulder undone. There's a lapped zip in the back, too. 

How to Modify the Shoulders for Buttons

There are two quick changes you'll need to make to the pattern before sewing if you want to replicate this detail: removing the back shoulder dart and adding the extra length for the buttons. If I had it do over, I would have swapped where I put the buttons and buttonholes, too, and put the buttons on back. 

Removing the Back Dart

First, we'll need to get rid of the back dart so it doesn't get in the way of our buttons. We'll be redistributing the dart so the one at the waist picks up the extra. Start by drawing a line connecting each of the dart tips. 

Then cut out both the darts, and leave just a smidge of paper for a pivot point above the waist dart tip. 
Close up the top dart, and fill in paper for the bottom dart. I used a green colored pencil to draw in my new dart legs. You'll just need to true-up the lines at the shoulder and waist dart now. If you haven't done it on a dart before, just tape the dart together like you're going to sew it (so the legs are pressed towards the centered), cut the line at the waist, and presto! The dart legs will jut out a bit just like they should. 
The shoulder dart at the back is very nice if you have a broad back, as I do, so keep in mind that this change might require you to do an additional broad back adjustment. I did a 1/4" one after I removed the dart. 

I'll also add you could follow a similar process to move the bust dart on the front to the waist, which would have allowed me to pattern match at the side. I like the fit with a bust dart, so I kept it, but it will botch up your pattern matching. 

Adding the Length for Buttons

This step is extra easy. You just need to add enough space for the width of your buttonhole. According to my trusty Reader's Digest Guide to Sewing, this will be the width of your button plus the height of your button. Mine was 1/2" wide, and 1/4" tall, so I needed 3/4" (or 6/8"). This will put the closure smack dab at your shoulder line. 
There you have it! And I have a handsome new gingham summer dress!