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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.





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.


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.



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!

ready for fall

November 17, 2013
photo has been enhanced, but it's still black and hard to see

photo has been enhanced, but it’s still black and hard to see

Ready for cooler weather with 3 jackets!

First up, yet another By Popular Demand jeanish-type jacket. This one was lengthened a lot, and a little shaping was added to the sides. I’m coming to realize that my back-to-waist length must be at least 2 inches longer than this pattern line is designed for.

This is a TNT pattern, so no other refinements were needed. I did change the construction a bit in order to include an underlining that also hides the seam allowances, a variation on the stitch & flip technique.

Fabric – cotton pique. I really thought it would be nice and stable to work with. Surprise! Wrong! This stuff grew on every edge. I’ve never used pique before, so I’m not sure if that is characteristic of the weave or if I just ended up with a very “special” piece.CLD BPD black 2

Underlining – printed silk charmeuse that I bought long ago for another project that never made it to the cutting table. It works great for this little jacket, though. I’m glad to finally have it out of the stash. Stash is like compost – it fertilizes your mojo, but it’s better if you turn it over once in awhile.

I used gunmetal grey snaps from Snap Source for this jacket. These were the last of a large-ish order I placed many years back. Time to get some more as they are nice to have on hand.

CLD OTMThis one is another Cutting Line design called Of the Moment. I had muslined this jacket before and thought it looked sloppy on me, so I put it away. I really wanted to make the style work, though, so made it the first experiment in developing blocks with different shoulder fits. The original OTM design has a sleeve seam, but without any shaping. It’s essentially a straight kimono/dolman shoulder and sleeve.

I overlaid the Paco Peralta asian jacket that fits me well and altered the OTM shoulder & sleeve to match it. I’m MUCH happier with the fit of my altered version – this one now can move into the win column! Again, the pattern was lengthened at least 2 inches. For this version, I used two left fronts (as designed, the pattern has more drape to the right front, less on the left). Topstitching was done with the machine’s triple stitch using rusty orange thread, like on jeans. It only shows when you view the jacket close up, but does add a nice little detail.

The material came from Fabricker and had the nice quality of being the weight of a denim, but soft and drapey – right in the Goldilocks zone for this style. This pattern would really show off double-sided fabric, and I hope to find some to make it again.

An unusual thing about the OTM pattern is that the neck facing is the most important piece! How often does that happen? If it becomes distorted or is not sewn accurately, the mitered effect of the turnback lapel is ruined. The rest of the jacket is straight and very easy sewing.

V7975_finishedThen there is this one, the snakebit project. Finally finished after more than a year. It started life as V8804, but ended up V7975. From pattern errors to notions sourcing difficulties to design indecision to seamstress mistakes to inevitable compromise, this one dragged me through it all. Here it is – quilted lining, chain at hem, not perfect but complete at long last.

I cursed this thing so much that the negativity permeates the fabric like cigarette smoke. How do you exorcise evil spirits from a garment so that it is safe to wear? Seriously, what do you do when you are sick of something by the time you finish it?

we have a winner!

November 1, 2013

Indigotiger, come on down!  I’ll send you a message to get your snail mail address.

giveawayThe many nice comments you all left made me blush. Thanks again for reading – you make sewing and blogging both more fun!

blog giveaway

October 22, 2013

A little while ago I had a blogging milestone. I can’t remember now if it was a blogiversary or if I had reached a nice round number of followers, and I am too lazy to look it up. Whichever it was, it is time to show some appreciation to my readers. Keeping a blog is much more fun when you know that you have a larger audience than just yourself! Thank you so much to everyone who reads and especially those who comment.

Up for giveaway is a piece of 100% rayon. It has a black background with beige figures. The pattern reminds me of stylized rosebuds, but it’s abstract enough that you can probably call it waves, tribal tattoos, sand dunes, or anything you would like it to be. It is 45″ wide and two inches short of 2 1/2 yards. It has been pre-washed once.

Creases are from being folded in the stash, not a fabric flaw. They will press out.

Creases are from being folded in the stash, not a fabric flaw. They will press out.

The fabric came from Nancy’s Notions, and I think I bought it because it was a Batik Butik product. I was blinded by the brand name, because these are really not my colors. Maybe they are yours?

close up of the design

close up of the design

If you would like to have this fabric, please leave a comment on this post. I will pay postage within the continental US. If you are outside that area, we can work a deal to split the freight 50/50. Along with this deal goes a promise that next time I do a giveaway, it will be something I can ship free to anyone.

Winner will be drawn on November 1 – that’s about a week and a half off from today.

Again, thanks to every one of you for reading!


bag weekend

October 19, 2013

Over on Stitcher’s Guild, there is a sewing event this weekend wherein we will make bags and share along the way: SG Bag Event. I’ll be updating this post as I progress, and hope that subscribers to my blog won’t get beeped every time I update. If you do, I am sorry and promise I won’t make a habit of this kind of post!

I’ve tried making bags in the past, mostly from big 4 patterns, and haven’t succeeded in making anything I would actually use except for a grocery tote or two. About a month ago, I solicited suggestions from the SG membership for bags that had really good instructions because I need to be told everything about every single step and every piece of material. A decent garment sewer does not necessarily equal a decent bag or home dec sewer.

One of the suggestions was for this bag: the Two-Zip Hipster.

This is just the type of bag I had in mind.

My fabric will be some Marimekko purchased a few years ago. I wanted to make a bag back then, too! Lining fabric is leftover from a recent pair of pants.

bag1Pattern printed out (my first print and tape PDF pattern), zippers, and hardware. The pattern calls for a rectangle & slider. All I could find was a pack of two sliders, but I think that should work.

bag2At this point, I have cut out my pieces and fused the interfacing. Thank goodness for my steam press, or I might have given up already. Fusing just is not fun. I used Pam Erny’s craft-weight fusible for the outside pieces and a lightweight knit fusible for the lining pieces that get interfaced. Rocketeer is all threaded up and ready to go.

Update 1: It is a little after noon and the front, including 1 zipper, is finished. A very nice thing about this pattern is that the designer Erin has indicated in the instructions how to handle directional prints, that is, which side should go up when joining pieces. That doesn’t matter much to me with this bag, since I’ve got the printed design going every which way, but nice to know for possible future iterations.

status at high noon: the front is all together.

status at high noon: the front is all together.

Time for a break!

Update 2: The second sewing session finished the bag, so this is the only other update. This went together quickly and I’m really pleased with the result. My failures with past bag-like projects gave me really low expectations.



Finished bag!

Thoughts and observations about the pattern – There are some steps where you are sewing through a lot of layers, so a machine with enough power to penetrate is a must. My Rocketeer did a good job and had enough space under the foot to ride over the thickest parts. No hammering of seams was needed. I did take care to replace my skinny shirtmaking needle with a good stout one before beginning.

Another reason the Rocketeer was a good choice, rather than one of my straight-stitch machines: sewing in the zips and doing the edge stitching was easier because the Rocketeer lets you adjust the needle position to the right or left.

There are a few tight corners that might be easier to sew if the bag was just a little bit larger. I was after something that wouldn’t be a drag on my shoulder, and this absolutely fits the bill. Just a teeeny bit larger would be nice, though. If I make it again, I’ll scale it up a few % and reprint the pattern.

Now for some detail pictures. First, the various pockets. There is a zipper pocket on the front, and an open pocket behind that. I like having options for storing stuff on the front of my bag so I don’t have to open it up and rummage around. Inside there is another pocket that you can subdivide as you like. I made one section so that it fits my cellphone, and the other section will hold a little low-tech paper notebook and pen.


I thought about making some little bead pulls for the zippers, but didn’t like the little trial version. Unembellished zips it is.



And here it is, modelled, for scale. The strap is long enough that you can wear this as a cross-body bag, which is a feature I was looking for. You can see from the position of the slider that the strap is still not as long as it could be.


And this shows the strap in its shortest position, the way I will usually carry it. I like my bag snugged up under my arm most of the time.bag7

I’m glad that ejvc, over on Stitcher’s Guild, had the idea to stage this weekend sewalong. I’d been wanting to make a bag, and had even solicited advice about it, but probably wouldn’t have actually given it a try without the motivation of the sewalong. Now to check out everyone else’s progress!


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