Thursday, February 28, 2008

Work in Progress - Warm Jacket

Here is the jacket I am sewing for my Casual Workplace Wardrobe SWAP. I am using Vogue 7978 (view A). It is interfaced along the hems, both front pieces, the collar and sleeve cap. For lack of a better idea, I followed the Vogue instructions, which has me sewing the collar on the bodice and the undercollar on the facing pieces. Then you just sew the front to the facing.
At this point, it's just pinned together to see if all the pieces fit. But, I read on Stitchers Guild that the experienced sewists don't follow these steps. Ann Rowley mentioned she likes to construct the collar first, then assemble bodice & facings. That way she can steam and shape the collar better. Sure makes sense to me! So I will figure out a way to steam and shape the collar before sewing. Next time I'll remember that the Vogue instructions are often less than ideal.

Fortunately, my sewing helper did her job. She feels that pre-warmed fusible interfacing provides superior adhesion. Naturally, I appreciate her hard work to ensure that all of my interfacings were pre-warmed. :)
This is Pepper-
Happy sewing and thank so much for your support and encouragement.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

My Wedding Ensemble

This is for LauraLo- Yes, I made the blouse and I wore it on my wedding day 3 years ago. The top is made from charmeuse silk and underlined with China silk. And yes it is scrumptious to wear! The skirt is the same charmeuse silk, overlaid with the most exquisite French Chantilly lace you ever saw! I got it from G Street Fabrics in Rockville and it was ruinously expensive! (As Els once described a piece of fabric:)
The skirt is underlined with a cottom batiste and lined with the same silk charmeuse.
And the real wild card was the corset I wore. I had an amazing corset custom made for me by Jill Andrews, a draper for Center Stage Theatre in Baltimore, MD.  I enjoyed the sewing that went into my wedding outfit.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Fitting Systems - Bernina My Label

Bernina My Label (BML) is pattern-making software that generates 20 different styles based on your measurements. You can change wearing ease and make slight design details, like making a skirt longer.
One unique thing about BML is the inclusion of heights. For example, my knee is 14.25 inches in circumference and it is 19.5 inches from the floor. Each girth, as BML calls the bust, waist hip, etc., also has a height associated with it.

Once the measurements are entered, a 3D model is generated using Optitex imaging software. Optitex is an exciting player in the world of CAD pattern-making. I have to admit, it was the Optitex component that lured me to buy Bernina My Label.

Once the model dimensions have been established and saved, garments may be selected and simulated on the model. It is fun to watch the fabric drape right before your eyes. It's like animation. If you see that the garment is too tight or too loose, you can vary the style properties. Style properties are the specific measurements of the garment. Wearing ease is included and it can be changed to your preference.

The simulation of the style saves you the trouble of cutting and sewing a muslin. The 3D draping has been consistent with actual garments I have sewn.

BML comes with a user manual that is very readable and there is plenty of help (just click through the main menu at the top of the screen to locate information. Having written help manuals and created software demos in my day job, I do look for good documentation. I think the BML documentation is excellent and it has answered my questions. Also, there is a free Yahoo group , open to anyone interested in BML, and I read those posts regularly. Lots of good questions and answers come up. I am running Windows XP on my laptop and it has worked fine for me. Folks running Vista are having some issues. Mac users are able to run BML if they use software that will simulate the Windows operating system.

A representative of Bernina participates in the Yahoo user group. That is helpful!

The first step is to sew a tunic. The user is instructed to "qualify the measurements". Step by step, you compare your garment with how it was meant to be. For example, the tunic is designed so that the finished neck edge is 3/4 in. from the side neck base. The bust dart position, shoulder width, armholes , etc are addressed. My first tunic turned out very well and I have sewn several other tops and skirts that fit very well.

Most recently I sewed my first pair of pants, using the "flared pant" style. The pattern prints on regular 8.5 x 11 paper and gets taped together:

I sewed a test garment using a nice wool menswear remnant from G Street Fabrics. I sewed with a long basting stitch. The pants fit very well right off the bat! But I picked them apart becuase I did not want a flare leg.

I wanted a straight legged pant to match the style of Vogue 8044 (my wardrobe pattern for the Timmel SWAP).
As you can see below, I established the vertical grainline and horizontal balance line at the crotch to compare the 2 patterns. The BML pattern gives me more fabric at the waist to accomodate my height, more at the center back seam, more in the inner thigh and less at the outer thigh. There are similar differences on the front piece. Now I can use this information to fit Vogue patterns to my measurements if I want to make more complex Vogue styles in the future. I would not normally wear this blouse with these pants, but I wanted you to see the fit.
I feel more comfortable in tops that are a little longer. At any rate, these pants were super comfortable when I wore them to work. I did not sew the pockets or the waistband in the BML version, I followed the Vogue 8044 style. Also, I made a pantliner- a separate pair of pants made from rayon lining. That way I can sew more pants from this pattern without the time-consuming construction of a lining every time.

And check out those shoes, baby! My feet have been killing me (too much running- had to give it up). I went to the podiatrist and got orthotics. Then, I picked up a pair of MENS shoes, because none of the womens shoes could accomodate my new orthotics. SO, I am comfortable on my feet now, and I have taken the menswear look to a whole new level!

Happy Sewing!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Fitting Systems - Wild Ginger PMB

PMB stands for "Pattern Master Boutique". It is the software package for womens clothing. Wild Ginger also makes software for mens, children and formal clothing.

Last September I went to the Sewing Expo at the Expo Center in Chantilly, Virginia. I made a bee-line for the Wild Ginger booth because I wanted to move away from manual pattern adjustments to computerized pattern drafting.
My taste runs towards the classic, so I figured well-fitting simple garments made with good quality fabrics would serve me well. The system has many options for bodices, collars, sleeves, skirts, etc. After you've bought PMB, you get access to a discussion forum for members and Wild Ginger provides prompt customer service.

The first thing I sewed was a basic sloper to test the accuracy of my measurements. The basic sloper is not supposed to have much wearing ease. I was pretty happy with the sloper. I look at it now with a little more knowledge and I see a few things I'd change, but hey- it was pretty good!

The next things I sewed were Halloween costumes for my daughter and my stepdaughter. I didn't bother with test muslins and both costumes were big hits with the girls.

I was merrily experimenting and enjoying Wild Ginger PMB. I read the Wild Ginger forums often. Many of the posters are adept with the software and make very nice garments. I was quite the newbie and did not post much- I was learning the lingo and getting familiar with the functionality of the software.

After posting a comment about PMB on my favorite sewing forum , I was contacted directly by customer service from Wild Ginger. She asked for pictures of my muslin, assuming I'd need help. Um, OK. It was weird! I felt a little cyber-stalked, you know? But what the heck, I sent the pictures. Honestly, I did not understand how the different measurements affected the fit. But the customer support person did! Just by looking at the picures I sent, she could tell that I should increase ot decrease certain measurements. She was fast and her suggestions improved the fit. After seeing the corrected muslin (above) she told me to go ahead and sew some garments (and I agreed- I was tired of sewing muslins!)

Using a Zegna cotton from Michael's I sewed an unlined jacket (the "classic jacket"). Unlike the sloper, this jacket pattern includes wearing ease. The user may override the amount of wearing ease. For example you might prefer a looser fit and it is easy to enter that amount and re-draft the pattern. You can also adjust design details such as overall length, size of lapels, etc. I purposely sewed it without changing anything so that I would have a benchmark for subsequent adjustments of wearing ease and design details.

My husband, bless his heart, drenched me in compliments on this jacket. But I looked at it and felt it was not, um, flattering.
I sent these photos to Customer Service and her response was quick & her suggestions sound.

Take a look at the next jacket! This one was much better!!

She explained that I should keep 2 sets of measurements- one was just for jackets. It gave me a better sihouette at the shoulder.

So, my overall experience with Wild Ginger is that it works. I didn't mind sewing multiple muslins to get a garment I liked. And I am certainly comfortable getting help on a sewing forum and posting unflattering pictures of myself. And the speed of the customer service is impressive.
You can make anything you want using PMB. All of the basic garments are set up for you in the basic software. If there is something special you want to draft, you can do it if you know how to use the Pattern Editor feature.

The downside of PMB was the learning curve. I like pattern making, but I am a hobbyist who wants to sew clothes! (preferably NOW) and I was getting sidetracked with learning all the PMB-specific terms and concepts, and, of course all the test garments. That's a lotta printing, taping, cutting, sewing, photographing .... lather, rinse and repeat!

To some, it might be more efficient than using paper and pencil, but for me- it took up just as much time.

The truth is- I lack knowledge and skills in the fundamentals of pattern making. I gained even more respect for pattern makers; people like Kathleen Fasanella.
Having said that, I believe it is not rocket science- it is just something I haven't learned. I like it. If I ever get the time, I will sign up for classes! Wouldn't that be FUN? I take my vitamins, eat right and exercise because I want to be a peppy old lady who goes back to college when she retires.

How soon do we get to retire, anyway????!!!
Happy Sewing!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Fitting Systems - For the Fit of It

I have been reading pattern reviews since 2004, often wistfully. It is common to read a review of a gorgeous garment, with instructions such as "I did my usual sway back adjustment" or "I didn't need to do my usual full bust adjustment (FBA)" and it fit great! I didn't have any "usual" adjustments. It "usually" looked like crap.

Ready-to-wear didn't fit me all that great either, but it was passable. So, when I got serious about sewing for myself, I searched out information on fitting. Books didn't give me enough - there were so many potential adjustments! I guessed I had sloping shoulders, narrow shoulders, forward shoulders, narrow back, etc etc- I tried them, with so-so results. I found myself unable to look at a garment and diagnose the fitting problem. I needed a system!

The first thing I tried was nearly extinct; a system called "For the Fit of It" developed and taught by Shirley Cunningham in Texas. She had a wonderful reputation as a teacher going back decades. Her system required a long list of measurements whcih you would mail to her to be entered into her proprietary software that produced a list of flat pattern adjustments. Shirley is not 100% retired and I was able to track her down and buy the system. It consisted of video tapes and printed materials. The list of flat pattern adjustments was called a "Road Map".
When I received my Road Map, I applied it to a simple jacket pattern and here is the result.

Here is what it looks like traced onto plain paper. The next steps would have been to rotate the darts to get back to the original style of the jacket.

It probably took about 40 hours to watch the video tapes, read the materials and come up with this pattern. The videos and written materials provided information on all possible adjustments one might make. So I found myself wading through a lot of material to find the 15% that applied to my Road map. In the end, I had a garment that was 2 inches longer in the back than the front. As I said, Shirley is mostly retired and unavailable for support. The videos mostly show her talking. There were parts I found confusing that I wished to see what she was actually doing, not her face. So, oh well!
Eventually I got in touch with Shirley and explained the system wasn't working for me and she graciously refunded my money (it was $280! I was grateful she understood).
Even if I had the system mastered (and the 2 inch discrepancy resolved) it would have taken quite a while to alter each pattern before I could sew it. I was impressed with the concept though! Using a computer to determine differences between my body measurement and the standard body seemed a good idea. In reality it generated a LOT of changes that were counter-intuitive.
For example, in one step you might remove 1.25 inches horizontally, only to add back 1.75 inches in a subsequent step. Doh! I even took the time to analyze each one and net them together.
My Road Map went from about 40 down to about a dozen steps once I weeded out the inapplicable ones. Does this tell you something about my personality? That activity counted as fun to me. Yep. Really. :) But hey if you are reading my blog, you know what I mean.
I think the system did give me some practice in handling a ruler, pencil, scissors and rotary cutter. My husband built me a cutting table the is the perfect height to stand and work. So I did get something out of the experience.
I still had no clue as to why my garments didn't fit well around my shoulders. I don't have a picture of the muslin with the sleeve- honestly I never got past the sleeveless muslin. It didn't look good enough to inspire me to carry on

In upcoming posts, I write about other fitting systems I tried.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Casual Work Wardrobe

When you work in IT, you can wear pajamas to work and you can decorate your workspace with cardboard pirates, aquariums, jungle foliage, to name a few themes I've seen. I tend to decorate mine with a picture of my daughter from middle school and a calendar. These IT folks are a different breed than the accountants I worked with up until I joined the software implementation project 4 years ago.

The project phase is officially over and the team has dwindled down. I decided am not going back to an accounting position. I am staying in IT. I find it more creative and flexible and I have been able to work my way into a job that will not require me to manage lots of people and stress about lots of problems. Solving puzzles? Fun. That's more of what I do now.

So, I don't need the dressier clothes, I get to pick what I want to wear. I want to be comfortable.

Happy Sewing, All!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Yes, I am sewing 2 collections at the same time. Most of Downtown Date is finished and some of the remaining garments will overlap with my Workplace Casual group.
I plan to sew up lots of brown this weekend. Those patterns are tested and I'm using more of the rayon double knit I am familiar with. So, assembly line, here I come.
I'll let you know if it turns into a sweat shop!

On another note, I sure would like to set up my images (over there on the right) so that when you click, the picture pops up full size. If you know how to do that, would you please post instructions?
Thank you my friends.

Happy Sewing!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Downtown Date is Coming together

Now I really have something to wear when DH and I head downtown for a museum and lunch. In progress now is a long 8 panel skirt in a drapey menswear fabric from Michaels.
And I am planning another collection, this time based on dark chocolate brown and dark blue. I have generated a coat block from the BML software, which I'll be using as a base. Searching for the right details now .... more to come....

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Goofy Shoulders :)

Here are some good shoulders (this is T-shirt pattern #2)

But, I have to show you what happened on T-shirt pattern #1. I accidentally left the virtual shoulder pads on my model in the software. I printed out the T-shirt pattern and sewed it up - and oops!! I constructed the top in this order, 1. sew the shoulder seams together 2. applied the binding to the neckline 3. stitch the mock wrap into place creating a single front piece. 4. Side seams 5. sleeves
By the time I was finished, and noticed the shoulders, I had already applied a lotta love to the mock wrap, so I am keeping it and I am wearing it. Shoulders or not. I'll just make lots of animated poses to distract the eye.
Oh well! Every garment is an adventure.

I am so excited, my fabric order shipped today. I waited for some dark chocolate brown rayon double knit to come in. It is the same fabric as the black skirt above. Super comfortable.
I'll be sewing a collection in my favorite blues, with brown as a neutral to mix and match. yay.

Monday, February 4, 2008

I sewed some knits

Last weekend I sewed some knits. I had some tan colored lightweight rayon knit and a beefy doubleknit. I made a top with a double front and trimmed the neck with the same black I used for the skirt.
The skirt has an elastic waist and it is so comfortable! And I made a slip, too. It is REALLY simple, just another version of the skirt but shorter. Here is a close-up of how the V-neck turned out. I made a mitered corner, but don't ask me how! I had to stare hard at it then sew real fast before the idea could escape me. I actually finished the point by hand so the stitches would be invisible and make a perfect point.
Here is how it looked when I basted the two fronts together, before I added the black trim.
Oh well look at that! I uploaded a picture of how it looked when the trim was mostly on. This is the part where I stared at it real hard.
I sortof fussed it into being. I folded it until it looked the way I wanted and cut the excess fabric. Then I stitched the seam that joins the "V". (You can just barely see the fusible interfacing on the inner front.) The I trimmed away the excess and serged the edge of the black, folded it over and hand stitched.
It was relaxing and rewarding. I really enjoy getting lost in my little world of perfection and control. But- really it was a very fast project.
I used Bernina My Label pattern-making software for the T-shirt and the 8 Gored skirt.

Friday, February 1, 2008

The Psychology of Fabric Selection

I have a couple favorite vendors for fabric and my collection includes quite a few wonderful pieces. Many of them were bought pretty impulsively because they looked pretty- but I had no concrete plans. Those pieces just seem to sit for a while.
Sometimes the prices are great, sometimes they are expensive and I admit I do indulge myself (with rationalizations like "this is my only vice, so it's OK!!")
I notice that I sew a LOT of fabrics from Gorgeous Fabrics when I am testing a pattern I almost trust. I guess it is the price point - the fabrics are really cute and good quality, but not ruinously expensive. Those garments often turn out well, like Laura's Halloween costume.
When I am feeling ambitious but not 100% confident, I will sew with the fabrics I bought at last summer's big sale at A Fabric Place, or pieces from the remnant table at G Street. These are fantastic fabrics but since I got them for a song, I am not too sad if things don't turn out just right. Yet one of my favorite blouses came from a remnant I got for FREE because it was just a few very odd shaped scraps that were headed for the trash can. That's the nice thing about a garment with lots of pieces- you can sqeak it out of a minimum of fabric.
But boy am I careful with the fabrics at that higher price point! I make sure my pattern will work and I don't work when I am tired.
That is the plan for this gouping I just bought from Emma One Sock. I will be using patterns developed from Bernina My Label and each one is super quick and they fit like a dream.
I am so happy with the Bernina software and I will post more garments from it.
Above, clockwise, I will make a cardigan, a raincoat, a tunic, a skirt, another tunic, and a tank top that will work as a layer under the cardigan and one of the tunics.
It should be a fast sew.
How about you? Do you have a "psychology of fabric selection"?