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coat, top, and Lola pants

September 17, 2014

We actually got a cool front last week that made me decide to put away all the really high summer clothes – the sleeveless white shirts, light colored pants, and the like. What was left (air) made me realize I actually NEEDED to get cracking on the autumn 6-pak.

CLD_PS_coat_edited-1The first item, started a while back, was the coat from Cutting Line Design’s Pure & Simple pattern. I had made this before in a short length and knew there was no fitting work to be done, so it got to go first. This is a fairly quick and uncomplicated sew. The only difficult part was making the corded loops for the pocket buttons.

There has been some discussion on the 6-pak thread about what makes a good piece for the scheme. Many words have been used to describe the quality…”basic”, “cake, not frosting”, “simple”,”boring”….as you can see, this piece fits the description. Solid fabric with just a tiny ribbed texture and simple style. However, I don’t think this jacket will hardly even see the inside of the closet. It will probably live on a peg beside the door, so I can grab it whenever I go out.

The coat as designed has three panels that you can add/subtract/adjust to get the length you want. I used the top two and lengthened each piece by an inch to get this fingertip length. The waistline seam is topstitched and has two pockets inserted which have button and loop closures. Unlined.

BS_10_07_122_blueItem two was another piece that needed no fitting since the first version was made recently. It’s a top from BurdaStyle, July 2010, #122. This time I was able to make the 3/4 sleeves and did not cut up my fronts by mistake. I really, really liked this pattern and wanted another right now, so here it is. The original 6-pak plan called for two knit tops, which I still plan to make.  The color and style of this shirt fits right in with the plan.

This time I used a mid-weight linen. The color is royal blue. No style changes to the pattern, just the usual fitting adjustments.

And, TA-DA, I also completed a pair of pants! I’ve wanted to make Style Arc’s Lola pants for a long time, but dreaded fitting a new pants pattern. Since the Lolas are on the slim side, I was afraid I was in for an ordeal. As it turned out, they weren’t hard to fit at all.

No photos of the pants, sorry. Pants pinned to the dressmaker’s dummy don’t give any information at all, and pictures of me wearing the pants never seem to turn out. I will write about them, anyway.

When tracing the pattern, I was dismayed when I saw the teeny-tiny crotch points on these. So I got out my all-purpose pant pattern to compare, and lengthed the back crotch point a couple of inches. Lengthened the front one, too, for good measure. I also lengthened the center back seam by adding a wedge right at the top of the crotch curve. Then I added 5/8 inch seam allowances because I need the insurance.

Style Arc Lola_edited-1

Style Arc instructions are as cryptic as Burda’s, and I could not follow their steps for constructing the pocket. It seemed like a straightforward operation, so I just did it my way, but some error must have crept in because I ended up with the pants fronts not matching the waistband. A couple of pleats solved that, and they are really invisible because of the gathers. I’ll just leave the pockets out next time.

I did understand their waistband instructions, and followed them, but think it would be easier everlastand neater to make the rows of topstitching last, instead of before attaching the waistband to the pants, which is what they have you do. I also want to turn in the edges of the waistband casing instead of just serging it on. It may be an old-fashioned home sewing technique, but I like the clean finish better. I do like the little flat panel in the center front…and it makes me laugh because it reminds me of boxing trunks.

There is optional elastic at the hem of the back leg. I put this in because it’s cute.

Verdict: I like these pants A LOT and will make them again as soon as I find suitable fabric. Fabric choice is important for these – you want something lightweight, but with a good drape, and also with a good substantial feel because they are pants and you don’t want your pants to feel flimsy. I used a mystery fabric that is probably a poly-rayon, in a dark gray, so they are nice and boring for the 6-pak.

As it turns out, I don’t think I needed all the crotch point extensions and will reduce them next time. Not all the way down to the original pattern specs, though. That just looked like there was no way to get a body in there.

The other pair of pants for this 6-pak were already made, so all that’s left is one more jacket (gray) and two knit tops to complete the original plan.

fall 6-pak

August 1, 2014

Each season there is a nice wardrobe-building sew along on Artisan’s Square. It’s the brainchild of ejvc, whose blog is here, and includes lots of posts on the topic. Each season you sew six items, mostly neutrals, and if you actually complete your six-paks, you end up with a very functional closet full of things that work together. At the beginning of this thread on Artisan’s Square, you can read her prescription for this fall. Fall 6-pak.

I have often joined up, but usually punk out after about 3 or 4 items. I think I’ve finished the whole 6-pak maybe twice. Still, even 3 or 4 planned items that go together are handy to have.

Once again, I’m inspired to give it a try. I even have a plan.

Fall 6-pak_edited-1

Colors are charcoal, indigo, a lighter indigo, and dusty plum. The Burda trousers are already made. The Pure & Simple jacket is a TNT, and there are no worries about fitting the other jacket – this is view B and I have already made view A which fits just fine. The Lola pants and Helix Tee have been sitting out cluttering up my work space for a long time, waiting to be fitted and made. The second top has not pattern selected for it – I’m waiting until the fall issue of Ottobre Woman comes out to see if they have something new that fits with this collection.

This plan is not very ambitious, which gives me hope that it can be completed.

Another attraction of this particular plan is that I already have all the fabrics except for the charcoal jacket, and that should not be difficult to find. This is the fabric stack.

fall 6-pak fabrics

top to bottom:

dusty plum knit of unknown content….a flat fold purchased off a bargain table

blue “Parisian knit” from Marcy Tilton

indigo cotton/spandex with a narrow rib woven in. I bought this stuff for pants and later realized that the ribs would make a noise when I walk, like corduroy. Much better as a jacket.

charcoal drapey poly blend for the Lolas. Polyester is not good for summers here, but OK for fall.

Not pictured is the indigo denim that has already been made up as Burda pants, and the charcoal jacket fabric that I will shop for. Something with some texture would be nice.

I’d like to say a few words about the Burda pants pattern. It’s from the Fall 2008 Plus magazine, number 404, but I believe it also appeared in the regular BurdaStyle mag. It may even be offered as a PDF. For my pear-shaped figure, these pants have been a super substitute for jeans. They have a narrow leg, for a close fit, but the line from hip to ankle is straight. When I look at the line drawings in Burda and they show a cut that hugs the thighs down to the knee, and then goes straight or flares from there, I know those are unflattering to me. This cut seems to be unusual for a close-fitting pant.

Other features that make this pant a winner: there are a total of four darts in the back, excellent for fitting and eliminating a gap at the back waist. And note that the waistband in back is in two pieces. This also helps with fitting because the waistband is attached before stitching the center back seam. You can sew the crotch most of the way, leaving an opening at CB, then try the pants on and pin fit the center back so that it snugs up to your waist. Then sew the CB of the pants and the waistband all in one swoop. Alter the waistband facing to match the waistband and stitch it last.

This method of construction also makes future alteration easy. You can easily open up the waistband to take in that center back seam if you lose weight. If you leave fat seam allowances, you also could let the pants out in the back if needed.

I still had to do some fitting with this pattern, but it was a much better starting point than most patterns. You may not be able to find this exact pattern, but if you have full hips and rear and a relatively small waist, look for the same features when considering pants patterns. I think they will make fitting easier for you.

burda 404

Here is the line drawing again, along with the schematic of the pattern pieces, to illustrate what I wrote about.

two tops

June 29, 2014

There are a couple of tops to share with you. Both are old patterns, but not so terribly dated.

First up, Sewing Workshop’s Tribeca.

This is one of the first Sewing Workshop patterns I ever bought, so it must be at least 8 years old or so. I made it once before, but in a very sober color and a smaller (boo hoo) size.

SW_tribeca

 

This was a fabric-generated project. I think it came up in a search for chambray on Fabric.com, and it was described as having two different sides. When it arrived, I was happy to see it was actual double cloth – two layers of gauze-like cotton attached to each other with tiny “stitches”. You can barely see the blue attaching threads on the white side of the fabric. It aged for a few months while I thought about patterns that would take advantage of the double-sidedness, and eventually the old Tribeca was my choice.

Tribeca has no facings – the outside edges are turned and stitched with tiny little miters at all the corners. It also has a ton of darts. Shoulder darts, two bust darts (including a curved frenchy dart), back darts, and elbow darts shape and control the fullness in this shirt. The buttonholes are reinforced with little backing squares to make up for the lack of facing support. Directions call for french seams everywhere. The double cloth was a little heavy for real french seams, so I made flat fells – grading the layers inside the seam.

Sleeves were a little long, but they look nice rolled up so that’s not a problem.

I doubt I will make it again, as there is something about the shoulder that just isn’t right in either version, despite my comparisons to TNTs and tweaking. It’s not enough to keep me from wearing this, but I don’t think it is worth my time to try to fit and sew again. This will work nicely as either a shirt or lightweight jacket.

Claire Kennedy in her blog recently drew attention to a BurdaStyle pattern that is now available as a download. I recognized it as one I had noted as a possibility for me back when it appeared in the magazine – in the July 2010 issue.

BS_10_07_122_drawingIt’s style #122 – here’s the line drawing.

 

And here it is, made up in handkerchief linen.  BS_10_07_122You can see that I had to make use of some “design opportunities”. This was originally supposed to be long sleeved like the pattern. However, the upper bodice and attached sleeve is such a large piece, that you have to do single layer cutting. So I cut one side, unpinned the fabric, then flipped the pattern piece and cut out the opposite side. Set the pattern piece aside with the second fabric piece still attached. Can you guess where this story is going?

After most of the main pieces were cut out,  I grabbed the biggest scrap I could find for the collar stand. Yes, the “scrap” was one of the bodice/sleeve pieces that wasn’t attached to the pattern tracing. This is not the first time I’ve done this….some corrective action needs to be worked into my cutting procedures.

So now you know why the sleeves are short and the left front is pieced. I don’t mind it this way, but would still like a long-sleeved version!

I recently adjusted the measurements on my sewing dummy but it truly is only good as a clothes-hanger now. That bust seam really does go across the fullest part of the bust (there’s a dart built into it). You can see where the bust apex is on the dummy. Not an adjustable measurement.

Other notes on the pattern – the sizes ended at 44, but this was easy to scale up to a 46. The collar stand is loose in front when it is buttoned up, and when it is not buttoned it falls away from the neck in a relaxed way. Also, that stand is very narrow and consequently a pain to sew. I’ll probably  make it a little wider when I make my long-sleeved shirt just to make the sewing experience less stressful.

BS_10_07_122_BACKHere’s the back view – when I make this again, I may put a pleat in the lower back piece at the center, or a couple of small pleats at the side, just to give a little extra ease over the seat.

Next up is a pair of pants in a black and white cross-woven cotton to go with the white shirt. When I hung this in the closet, I realized that I have a couple of white tee shirts, but did not have a white woven shirt. This will probably get a lot of wear, as white shirts are a good thing to have.

I realize I’ve been slow with the blog postings lately, and feel guilty because in the meantime I’ve been enjoying everyone else’s blogs. Partly it’s because I have had computer problems, and partly because I don’t need to sew as much now that office wear is not required. The computer has been replaced, and I am slowly learning to use the new platform since the replacement is a mac. The differences between it an my old windows machine are just enough to be a little aggravating, but a little time (and a few time outs!) will get me over that.

Happy sewing, everyone!

sorry, not a sewing post

May 29, 2014

These photos are here so they can be shared with a sewing buddy who has jewelry-designing chops. They are beads that have been sitting around a long time and may finally be turned into something.

lapis kind of cube-like beads – two 16 inch strings

IMG_0213

 

and a single 16 inch string of graduated garnet beads. The paper background has a quarter inch grid, for scale.

IMG_0212

One sewing related note – I did purchase some of the Kaufman Essex cotton/linen blend today and it is destined to become a pair of loose and cool summer pants. Seems like the perfect weight for such a project.

Sure Fit results

February 27, 2014

The thing about working on fit is that you can’t just slap the results up on your off-the-rack sewing dummy and take photos with any meaning. You have to stage a shoot and you have no unpaid interns to do all the prep work or even snap the shutter for you.

Since the last post, I made many more muslins to complete my Sure-Fit dress blueprint.  I omitted the skirt portion to speed things along and strictly worked on the bodice. Selecting the right dart size took care of my issues in the front. The back, which looked like this…..

back blog…took more work. Glenda gave me some very helpful advice, which included adding a shoulder dart. I was amazed at how much of a difference that made. It cleared up issues that I thought were length-related. I am not as swaybacked as I thought.

I also worked on my sleevecap and armscye and eventually got them wrinkle-free, but they were also over-fitted and not right to wear. Even though I would very much like to understand the mysteries of sleeves, I was tired of making muslins, so I borrowed a sleeve and armscye from Ottobre and called it finished.

I then used my blueprint to fit and adapt a basic blouse from the first Ottobre Woman issue. I had made it before and knew that it fit better than average. Now I knew that it could fit even better. I checked the shoulder slope and pitch, waist length, dart placement, and pattern widths against my blueprint and adjusted them where needed – most of the work needed to be done to the shoulder. Here’s the blouse made from the adjusted pattern.

front

front

back

back

There’s still some room for improvement, but this is better than I was doing before. I also happen to know that one of the creases is due to a cutting error. I can do a little pin fitting on this blouse, refine the block a bit more, and give it another go. This is where the intern would have been useful, giving a little artful pull here and there so that all would hang right.

I also used the blueprint to modify the shoulders on the Cutting Line Designs Anything But Ordinary top. I had made this top before and was not happy. Here it is, much better – a simple, breezy, casual top.

CLD ABONow, my unpaid intern/stylist, had I had one, would have advised me to wear darker foundation garments before shooting. But I’m not going to do it over.

Lastly, I used the blueprint to adjust the shoulders and compare widths to make a block for a basic sleeveless knit top based on an Ottobre pattern. I also used it to modify the Style Arc Abby cardigan, so I have a little twinset.

knit block_Abby Cardi

By the way, the pants that you can’t see very well in these photos are Style Arc’s Jasmine pants. I was not too happy with these when I finished them, but after they hung around for a month or so I finally decided to wear them. Evidently the time out improved my attitude, because now I like them well enough to go back and fine-tune the pattern to use again.

Reviews of the Jasmine pants often mention that the pants poke out where the V of the back yoke meets the center back seam. This is why:

style arc jasmineI sewed up the CB following the line indicated by the ruler to avoid the pointy poke.

Speaking of Style Arc, I have some thoughts on home garment sewing in general that have gelled because of working with some of their patterns lately. Style Arc seems to me to kind of replicate the RTW sewing experience in their styles, terminology, and assembly methods. I can’t cite anything as a real fact, but I believe I’ve read that Chloe Parker, the woman behind Style Arc, has a background in RTW and is bringing her expertise to pattern design for home sewers.

What follows here is not knocking Style Arc at all. I like and buy patterns from them. One of their features is small seam allowances – like a quarter or 3/8 of an inch, as opposed to the 5/8 inch that has long been a standard for home sewing patterns. Many home sewers are very enthusiastic about the narrow seam allowances and wonder why the other pattern companies are so old fashioned as to retain wider ones.

To me the wider seam allowances make more sense. I do not sew in a production environment, where consistency is a primary goal – that is, where the garment is being made by the thousands, and it’s important to have every size 12 be exactly the same as every other size 12. Narrow seam allowances help with that kind of accuracy. And they save fabric, too.

But I’m not trying to make identical multiples of a garment. I won’t use “couture” to describe what I’m doing, but it is “custom” work, like custom dressmakers used to do. I may make the same pattern a few times, but it’s going to be in different fabric each time, which means that I might need to let out the seams a bit. Can’t do that when the seam allowances are 1/4 inch.

Also, I’m not making a garment to a set of pre-determined size 12 specifications. I fit as I sew, and need to have enough fabric to work with. It also means that my construction steps might be different, since there are some options I want to keep open until the very end. That’s not always the most efficient (as in fast) way to sew.

Funny that 3/8 of an inch can cause you to think about what you are doing, why, and who your tribe is.

My resolution to the seam allowance question comes from becoming used to Burda and Ottobre magazine patterns. Leave ‘em off. Trace the patterns without seam allowances, then add whatever you need when cutting. Makes for easier pattern alteration, style changes, and fitting. For me, that more than compensates for the few minutes it takes to chalk them on.

front

Sure-Fit dress kit

January 19, 2014

WARNING: No finished garments to be seen here…only ugly fitting photos, which I’m posting so I can share them on the forums with Sure-Fit experts.

This year I want to work on developing the fitting blocks mentioned a few posts back. And co-incidentally I started reading threads on the Sure-Fit system on both Stitcher’s Guild and Patternreview. The goal of Sure-Fit meshed perfectly with my desire for personalized blocks, so I purchased their Dress Kit. Even though I don’t wear dresses, this is the kit to use for fitting tops and tees. They also have a shirt and pants kits that are of interest.

With Sure-Fit you actually draft your own pattern using the template they provide. In the past I’ve tried drafting from scratch, but got myself so confused that it was not productive. The template was really good for reducing that confusion and I’m pretty pleased with this muslin which is my starting point. Based on the feedback I hope to get from the forums and from Glenda, Ms. Sure-Fit herself, I’ll be fine-tuning the block and learning how to use it to modify patterns.

Here follow the ugly photos. If you are of a sensitive nature, avert your eyes and click away now. If you have a strong stomach, bear in mind that the blocks have very little ease. I used an old sheet to make these up. Possibly a slightly stouter material might have been better. Even though the bodice feels pretty good, there are a lot of wrinkles that might be due to limp and flimsy fabric.

front blogThe front looks like I might need to redraft a larger dart. Based on the instructions, I drafted for a C even though I buy a D in foundation garments. The bodice feels like it fits, but the wrinkles appear to tell a different story. I believe the pulls below the waist indicate the need for more room in the rear. You can see how the side seam pulls to the back in the next photo.  I would open up a wedge in center back to fix, but this is something I want to get Glenda’s feedback on, and see how she would alter.

right blogLooks like the back is too long, and I need to shorten the sleeve just a little above the elbow.

back blogThe back. This is where I really need some help.

Now forget you ever saw this.

OTM shoulder alteration

November 24, 2013

I was asked how I altered the shoulder on the Of The Moment jacket so I’ve put together some diagrams to show my process. I think the pictures are clearer than photos, even if they aren’t exactly to scale. Got to add a disclaimer: I am no expert, and YMMV!

typical T shape

typical T shape

The problem – I have sloping shoulders and patterns that have the kimono-type T shape don’t do me any favors. They end up with excess draping under my arms. It’s the nature of these styles to have some of that draping, but too much is overwhelming. One solution would be to wear shoulder pads. I’ll do that for dressier versions, but don’t like to wear shoulder pads for everyday.

So…here goes. The blue is an approximation of one of the OTM front pieces, with the center front and the underarm dot marked. I didn’t draw the sleeve piece, but it joins the fronts and backs with very very little, if any, shaping to the sleeve cap and armscye. It’s basically a kimono T-shape that just happens to have the sleeve as a separate piece.

OTM

OTM

Pinkie represents the Paco Peralta asian jacket that I have made before and like the way the shoulder fits on me.

Paco pattern that has a shoulder slope

Paco pattern that has a shoulder slope

First I copied the portion of the OTM pattern that includes the end of the shoulder seam and the underarm dot. This is to be able to position the underarm dot correctly later on – so that the sleeve will still fit.

a little tracing

a little tracing

Now I laid the OTM pattern piece over the PP pattern I’m copying from. Align the center fronts and shift up or down until the points at which the neckline and shoulder seam intersect are on the same latitude.

patterns overlaid

patterns overlaid

Trace the shoulder line.

altered shoulder

altered shoulder

Lastly, get the little tracing and lay it on the altered pattern piece to determine the new location of the underarm dot.

white dot shows the new location

white dot shows the new location

The differences between the patterns are exaggerated for illustration purposes. They weren’t that extreme in reality.

Repeat with the back and the other front piece and you are ready to go. I hope this is of help!

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