Saturday, June 25, 2011

see you on the other side!

I am a little busy these days ...

I am taking a break from sewing & blogging for just a little while.

Say goodbye to the countertop, green walls and almond appliances.
(Archie, "Have you thought of a black and white kitchen? A classic color combo!")

By the way, THANK YOU ALL for all the great suggestions to help my simple little dress.
I removed fabric from the neckline and it looks so much better!
I inserted a lining and it just needs a hem. yay.  
 Fiscal-year-end means I work all through the night on June 30, and straight through into early July. This year I am managing the whole she-bang, too.  I love my job.  And I love my hobbies, friends, family & home.  But something's gotta give!

So ...  I'll see you back here in a couple weeks.
In the meantime, Happy Sewing!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

oh, what a plain dress.

Oh, I feel stuck.  I love this very lightweight cotton lawn  fabric and felt it was was interesting enough to carry a very simple sleeveless dress.   But, when I tried it on last night, it just seemed very, very plain and boring.   I barely have any fabric left, so I can't cut a big ruffle or collar.  (I could make a small ruffle or placket, though).   My first thought is to cut a different neckline.  Make it lower?  A V-neck?  Here is the thing, I need a bolt of inspiration because it also needs an underlining.  I will have to pick apart all these seams, cut and attach a firmer underlining and then finish up. Why go to all that trouble if I am not excited about this dress?  Ideas?  Honestly, I need a quick win right now.  I am in Baltimore, and I don't have a lot of fabric or patterns with me.  Don't tell me I should just watch TV when I get home from work at night.  sigh.  That would be even more boring than finishing this dress.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Fitting Resources: Palmer/Pletsch FFRP in McCall's Patterns

As a consumer, I have studied many approaches to fitting.  I learned where my body measurements deviate from the standard measurements of RTW clothing.  If it were possible to alter RTW to fit me, I may have stopped there.  I might now be a shopaholic who alters my own clothes.  I love clothes, I love dressing well and I love saving money.                                                                               Alas, one cannot add fabric where none exists.  If the top of a dress fits, the hips are too tight.  Because there is insufficient height in the upper back, tops feel like they are choking me.  And then there are the shoulders.  A store-bought tailored jacket can't be altered for a forward shoulder.  

One of my favorite resources is Palmer /Pletsch Fit For Real People (FFRP).  The book contains a wealth of information and I could read it once a year and learn something new every time.  (I read fitting books the way one might read every Jane Austen novel once a year).  The DVD demonstrates the methods in a clear manner.  I highly recommend both.

Before plunking down any cash for the book or the DVD, you can get a taste of the Palmer /Pletsch approach by using a McCall's pattern from the Palmer /Pletsch series.  These patterns include extra instructions on common fitting adjustments.  Even better, you can easily make the fitting adjustments, because crucial information is printed on the pattern.
In this example,  the pattern pieces display markings for a full bust adjustment or rounded back.  
This is the sleeveless rouched dress with a cowl neckline (M6282) that I sewed recently.
On this overview, adjustments are identified and alteration lines are clearly marked.
There are instructions on how to make the adjustment.
Personally, I need a forward shoulder adjustment, so this is helpful.
There are also tips on working with knit fabrics.
Even just having the location of the waist marked on the pattern is a big help.  That type of landmark helps with alterations that may not be among those included.  This system, like all others, addresses the most common alterations

Feel very lucky if your alterations are common!  
The information is right here for you!

I have a couple warnings about FFRP:
  • Tissue fitting-  you don't have to buy into the whole tissue-fitting-thing in order to benefit from this book.  You may prefer to sew muslins while you are learning how to make pattern alterations.
    • A picture is worth a thousand words.
    • Just looking at the pre-altered pattern on a body "before" and the altered pattern on the body "after" shows the concept.  For example the grainlines must hang straight.
    • Seeing a cut pattern with extra tissue inserted into the enlarged area helps to reinforce that idea that, yes I must change the pattern to fit me.  I don't need to to fit into my clothes, my clothes need to change to fit me.
  • Aesthetics- using this book will not throw you back to 1990.  Nor will it impact your aesthetic. Great fit + your style =  chic.   
    • That picture might be telling a thousand words worth of scary-story.  Ignore, ignore, ignore.
    • You can use a 2011 style pattern, make it current and trendy, using the concepts in FFRP.
    • Age, shape, size & individual challenges are simply where you are.  Embrace it.

There is more in the book - much more.  For example, there is whole chapter devoted to body proportions (Chapter 9 Make a Body Map) and a whole chapter devoted to ease (Chapter 7).

I will continue to learn more about fitting for as long as I sew.  I know now that there is not just one method of fitting that meets every need.  There are many ways to approach the creation of a garment, and I need them all!  It took me longer than I expected to learn about fitting and that's why I write about it here.  

If fitting is easy for you, lovely!  Sew on! 
If fitting is difficult for you, you are not alone.

Finally, now my wardrobe is filling up with clothing that delights me.  I love wearing my clothes and I love saying "I made it!".  People are more interested in it than I would have expected.  I keep telling them, sewing is not like a foreign language - you don't have to be young to learn.  You can start any time.  
You can sew for yourself, too. 

Fabric for a new summer dress is calling to me from the cutting table-

*Happy Sewing*

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Summer Dress - McCalls 6282

I thought about calling this post "A Little Sexy on the Side" because I like the shirred seams on the side of the dress.  Hee, hee.  I finished this dress last week and I even wrote a pattern review for it.
I am loving this dress!  I have the same fabric in brown, sitting on the cutting table in case I get smart and sew another one while I remember how to do it.  Tasia, Sewholic blogger and pattern-maker, posted about making multiples from the same dress pattern.  I agree 100%!

Speaking of pattern-making bloggers, you probably already read this blog, but I am just discovering  SewLisette.  I love the styles of her pattern line for women.   I especially like her aesthetic, which I would describe as current and classic.  

I have some serious de-cluttering to do.  I mean serious!  I have let some cupboards go wild, so I am taking a break from sewing this weekend.  I hate to skip sewing, but it will feel good to get things pared down.

Happy Sewing!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Archie's button choice for Jacket #5

During construction of Jacket #5, Archie discovered the puck-like quality of the buttons and enjoyed a few nocturnal hockey games.   She mentioned the buttons were a little too heavy for that jacket anyway.
I found something a little lighter.  I chose gray attempting to make the jacket versatile.  Red probably looked better, but that's how I rolled on that one.

This post probably should be entitled "Design Changes I made to the Jalie 2680 City Coat pattern". (by the way, she did not eat the buttons.  She saved them in an undisclosed location for future hockey games)
Here you can see the buttons along with the other design changes made to the Jalie City Coat pattern.
Opinions?  I am not sure the larger buttons look any better than a smaller button would look, maybe it's even too busy?  Or too many buttons?  Archie didn't weigh in on that, so let me know your thoughts.  Another thing I am on the fence about is the princess seam crossing over the bust apex.  I think it's a great solution for anyone difficult to fit in the bust area, and my fit was definitely better after making the change.  Also this made it easy to just cut an extra piece of the center front panel and use that as a facing.  I also used the yoke as a neckline facing, which made construction a breeze.

But, maybe I could move the seams back out and add wee little darts  for bust shaping?  Opinions?

On to the collar. 
I am 100% sold on this type of collar.  It gives me the height I need and it's quick and easy to sew.  I learned about this collar when I sewed Kelly's coat in January - I used her RTW coat to make the pattern.
So that's it!  Off to work I trot!
*Happy Sewing, all*

Thursday, June 9, 2011

a chat with Denise Calhoun

How did I learn to sew?  If you about my age, I bet we learned exactly the same way!!
Barbie Dolls were involved. You can read the interview on the lovely Denise Calhoun's blog the Blue Gardenia.

Sewing can be learned at any age and get good results.  I am so impressed with the explosion of blogs by women who are basically teaching themselves with help from the internet.  My Happy Sewing Space is where I go to explore new-to-me blogs.  Debi has the longest blogroll yet!

My ten-year-old niece is interested in sewing matching outfits for herself and her American Doll.  We have plans for summer sewing lessons.  When Maggie found out, she decided to join us (yay!) and I sure am looking forward to teaching them both more about sewing!

Thanks, Denise for another opportunity to chat with you!

Set in sleeves and EASE

Here is how I set in sleeves.  First, I sew a long basting stitch around the top half of the sleeve and this is used to gather the sleeve head and create the nice rounded sleeve cap that will be eased in to the armhole.
The sleeve remains right-side-out.  The bodice is turned inside out and that's how it will stay while sewing the sleeve into the armhole.

The bottom half of the sleeve is flat against the armhole.  It's only the top half that needs to be eased into the armhole.

In this project, there was too much fabric!  It simply refused to crowd together enough to sew a flat seam.  There were puckers galore and the seam ripper was my best friend.

Next, I pinned in the sleeve imagining a different stitching line.  I pulled the sleeve cap through and imagined the stitching line further in on the sleeve cap.  This is how I shaved off some of the sleeve cap. I sewed the seam that came out nice and smooth, and trimmed away the excess.

As you can see, there was less fabric to force into the armhole when I moved the seam.  There is less fabric on the sleeve, and the same seamline on the bodice remains the same.  I trimmed off the excess sleeve cap, and then cleaned it up by serging.

This particular fabric was VERY resistant to easing.  There are areas on the stitching line of any sleeve head that are on the bias.  Any normal woven fabric would ease perfectly, especially along stitching lines that fall on the bias.

But not this fabric!!  This fabric was woven in such a way that it simply refused to ease (verb) into the armhole.   

On the other hand, this is a very comfortable jacket to wear.  A woven with lycra in it will stretch when you move.  So you can sew a closely fitted garment without worrying about enough ease (noun).

That's it.  The story of the sleeves for my bright jacket #5 of 2012.  Wow!  Maybe the next one will be easier?  Who knows?!  I'll take it as it comes :D

Happy Sewing!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

EASE /verb vs. EASE /noun

What if time travel is possible?
I know "Lost" portrayed it as a bad idea ... ignore that please ...
and think of the opportunities!

There are a couple things I would do, like go back to 1980 and buy stock in FedEx.  But before I did that, I would visit my younger self to tell Young-Robin a few very important things*.
For starters, I would talk about ease; ease as a noun and ease as a verb.

Ease as a noun:
There are your body measurements and there garment measurements.  If the garment is made from a woven fabric,  the actual garment will measure a little larger than your body.

Younger-Robin: "wait, woven fabric? aren't all fabrics woven?"
Now-Robin: "just stay with me, ok?"

Ease is the difference in measurements; the difference between body measurements and clothing measurements.

There is also such a thing as negative ease.  If you knit (or sew with knits) you will learn about negative ease.  A waistline of a knitted vest might measure less than the body measurement.

May I repeat:
Ease is the difference in measurements; the difference between body measurements and clothing measurements.

A rule of thumb:  you only need ease in the circumferences.  You need ease around your bust, your waist, your hips, your biceps.  You don't need ease from the nape of your neck to your waistline.  That measurement will be the same on your body as it is on the garment.  No matter what you are sewing, this is generally true.

Ease as a verb:

One must occasionally ease one piece of fabric into another.  For example, a sleeve head is eased into the armhole.  The stitching line on the sleeve head is longer than the stitching line on the armhole.  That extra fabric has to be eased in.  I think of it as  crowding the fabric.  That results in nice smooth sleeve cap without puckers.

Here is woven fabric:

If I tried to make this dress using a woven fabric, it would have been a very difficult and time consuming project. [I sewed it with a knit and it was easy.]

Here is what makes this dress time-consuming  (if sewn from a woven fabric):
  • Many fittings are necessary:
    • Bottom layer of the dress 
      • first fitting in muslin - determine wearing ease
      • subsequent fittings in muslin until satisfied
      • first fitting in fashion fabric
      • subsequent fittings in fashion fabric until satisfied
    • Upper layer of the dress (the ruched layer) 
      •  pin ruching to dress form until satisfied.
      • after constructing the ruched portion of the dress, baste into place, and, you guessed it
        • schedule a fitting
        • make further adjustments
        • Lather, rinse and repeat
  • Construction
    • Sew the underlayer part of the dress
    • [after fittings] pick apart the seam on the under layer of the dress, so you can permanently sew the ruched layer to underlayer.
  • Hope and Pray the person wearing the dress does not gain or lose an ounce of weight.

To make this dress from a spandex knit, well.... you can read my posts about how I did it.  It was fast, and it was easy.

In a nutshell, I made a pattern that was smaller than the body.  My pattern relied on negative ease. Spandex stretches.  Whether it was 10% smaller or 15% smaller did not matter.  Precision was not a big deal.  It stretched and it fit.

If I had understood that sooner, I would have been a much better seamstress sooner.
Oh well, no complaints.

Every fabric is different.  Even when I use a pattern that has worked for me in the past, it may turn out completely different because the fabric has more give to it, or maybe the fabric doesn't drape the same way other fabrics draped.

The answer to this conundrum is very simple:  feel the fabric.  Pull it, stretch it and wash it.  Let that little voice inside tell you what this fabric is doing.  Trust your tactile senses.  Let your hands tell you what they know.

Sewing is a sensory experience.  Your hands know the answers - listen to them.

Thanks for listening.
Especially if you are young :)
Don't wait until you are 54 to have this epiphany, OK?!


* I might also mention that everything turns out for the best, so try not to worry so much.

    Tuesday, June 7, 2011

    Jacket 5 out of 12: Woman ISO Versatile Jacket

    This jacket is a wearable muslin of my latest pattern-making adventure.  Oh, how optimistic I was on the 1st of May, as I began this new jacket!  I plunged into the creation of a new franken-pattern that would magically meet every need of my wardrobe.  This perfect jacket pattern would be easy to sew, easily dressed-up or dressed-down and fit me like a glove.  Oh yes, I was drinking the Home-Seamstress-Kool-Aid, all right.  When I had completed the pattern-work, it seemed awfully silly to sew a muslin.  I had measured and checked everything right?  I decided to cut and sew.
    Here is the happy ending:
    Bodice has a yoke and princess seams

    The collar is a trench-coat type of collar with a collar stand.
    Before, we go any further, are you wondering why there are only 3 buttons?  The answer is Archie.
    Only this cat knows where the other two buttons are.
    Moving right along, there are more buttons to be had at the local fabric shop and, thus, the jacket was finished and worn.
    There were tears, curses and time-outs along the way, but that is the subject of another post.  Til then, I wish you

    Happy Sewing!

    Sunday, June 5, 2011

    Jacket a month: an idea with more details

    There are better photos of this cute jacket online now.   And look, it is not a peplum as I first guessed.  It is a simple princess seam bodice with only one button at the waist.  Perhaps on the high side of the actual waist - one would choose the most flattering level for one's own body proportions.
    It is the angled welt pocket, pointing upwards towards a single button,  that provides the attractive waistline detail

    Very simple in the back - it doesn't look lined, does it?  Nice and cool for summer!  
    I would turn to one of my already-fitted-to-me jacket patterns and make alterations to achieve the look, but you could try Butterick 5647.  The back on B5647 is just like the back on the jacket I just finished.  (I'll post about that as soon as I have pictures!)  I like B5647's back for the shaping provided in the horizontal yoke seam and the vertical princess seams.
    To get the shorter style, I'd remove length between those dashed horizontal lines I added
    to the picture, near the waistline.  You'd keep the cute shape of the hem that way.

    Another already-fitted-to-me pattern is Vogue 8044.  It that has the same sort of lapels as the inspiration jacket.  It would be very easy for me to use that pattern, with modifications to widen and lengthen the lapels to a single button closure.  Adding welt pockets would be easy.  I'll keep mulling, but I really like this jacket!  And I have 2 pieces of fabric that are just right for this jacket.
    Hey, is that a little pucker I see near the sleeve head?

    That pucker makes me feel so good!  Why?  If I had sewn that it, would drive me crazy, but this changes my perspective.  I didn't even notice the pucker until now, so I think I will let myself off the hook next time there is a pucker in one of my own home-sewn creations.

    Happy Sewing!

    Wednesday, June 1, 2011

    Jacket-A-Month: an idea

    I would love to knock off this jacket- I have just the right fabric for it, too - a lovely cotton pique.  Perfect for the high temps & humidity we are experiencing in this part of the world.  Looks great with a little black dress; I'd wear a tank dress and shed the jacket outdoors, wearing the jacket indoors to ward off the chill of the air conditioning.  Admittedly, this lady and I have different needs.

    I used to follow politics very carefully, but over the last year or so, it fatigues me.  I am just talkin' about the jacket - OK?  You betcha!