Fashion · Fitting

McCall’s M6886: Knit Dress Fitting and Tips

M6886

McCall’s pattern M6886 has a strong following. A recent search on patternreview.com found 203 reviews, with an average rating of 4.9/5 stars! It certainly warranted a closer look. It’s a pattern for a simple shaped knit dress with optional set-in sleeves, 2 length and 3 neckline options.

When my Mom recently came for a visit, we thought it would be a great choice for making her a fun new dress. I’ve never sewn garments for another person, so I was especially interested to see how well the fitting skills I developed for myself would translate.

momdress_10
Lots of color and texture

The first part is always fun: a trip to the fabric store! We considered lots of options and finally landed on a vibrant textured nylon/lycra knit. It fit the bill as a medium weight moderate stretch knit. As a bonus, it is impossible to wrinkle, making it a great fabric for traveling. Because the print was so prominent, we chose the plainest neckline and the shorter knee-length.

Before cutting into the good fabric, I tissue-fit the pattern. I started with a pattern size based on Mom’s chest (not bust) measurement. This way, the neck and shoulders already fit the way they were supposed to. With a good fit above the bust, figuring out the rest was straightforward. With the tissue pinned to my model down the center line, I taped additional pattern paper around the sides to make the front and back meet. I could see right away that I would need to make darts to fit the bust. I folded the pattern paper to make the dart and taped that in place as well. I marked her actual bust apex, waist, and hip heights. With my model standing still and straight, I drew a line perpendicular to the floor from the underarm to the knee.

momdress_6With the pattern unpinned, I set about creating new front and back pattern pieces. The perpendicular line became the new side seam. I added 5/8 inch seam allowance outside the seam line to make a new cutting line. I made the dart using a cut-and-slide technique, angling the dart to the actual bust point. I then checked to make sure the side seams matched by measuring inside the seam allowance on both sides. Whew! Finally time to cut into the fabric!

I basted the front and back pieces and checked the fit again. The fit was ok, but not great. The bust darts needed to be moved, but the back just looked loose and shapeless. We decided to add some shape with back darts. When I was happy with the new changes, I sewed them in place then transferred them to the pattern pieces.

momdress_1
Tape-marked dart
momdress_3
Sew close, but not into the tape

By pure luck, I didn’t need to make any changes to the sleeves. The only departure from the pattern was to add 1 1/2 inches to the short sleeve length.

Once all of the fitting was done, sewing the dress was fairly simple. The only difficulty I had was figuring out how to mark the darts. I tried chalk, transfer paper and marking pens in various colors, but nothing showed up. I didn’t want to do tailor’s tacks mostly because I don’t like doing them, but also because they might create snags. So once again it was blue tape to the rescue!

I carefully positioned blue painter’s tape just outside the darts’ seam lines. I pinned the fabric as I would normally for darts. I then stitched the darts, keeping the needle just “kissing” the tape edge. Bonus: the tape stabilized the fabric while I sewed, so there was no risk of stretching the darts out of shape.

momdress_2
Machine threaded with textured nylon in the bobbin

This project also marks the first time I have tried sewing with textured nylon thread. Instead of using all-purpose thread in my regular (not serger) machine, I used Maxi-Lock Stretch thread in the bobbin only. It really worked well. I thought the machine might have some difficultly with it, but I had no problems at all. The results were fantastic. All of the seams have nice stretchiness and recovery. I have no worries about any stitches breaking under a little pressure. I’m thinking about getting more in some neutral colors so I can use it in all of my knit sewing.

momdress_5
Narrow hem on neckline

The edges are all finished with a truly invisible invisible hem (I hope I never have to pick it out!). The neckline is just a 1/4 inch narrow hem.

I managed to make this simple pattern much more complicated, but it fits Mom well (if I do say so myself!). Now I have a go-to pattern for her that can be used for dresses or even tee-shirts.

Happy late Mother’s Day, Mom! You look beautiful!

sewing_sig

Fashion · Fitting

Itch to Stitch Angelia Shorts – Part 1

angelia_shorts_1_15For the past year, I have been working on putting together a collection of good basic patterns fit to my measurements. So far, I have go-to patterns for a raglan top, a dolman top, a cowl-neck pullover, a loose high-waist pant, joggers, and a workout bra-top. Since I live in shorts in the summer months, a good basic shorts pattern was the next logical choice.

The Angelia Shorts pattern from Itch to Stitch Designs seemed to fit the bill. Itch to Stitch is another independent pattern company that sells downloadable PDF patterns. Itch to Stitch PDFs are available in “copy shop” versions, which is a big time saver. When you purchase the pattern, you get it in all of the available sizes. In this case, there are 12 sizes ranging from a waist measurement of 23 7/8 to 39 inches. You can choose to turn the cutting lines for each size on or off, which really helps when you have so many sizes on one sheet.

angelia_shorts_1_16The basic shorts are slightly below waist with loose fitting legs, a waistband and front zipper fly. There are length variations starting at a 4 inch inseam and all kinds of options for pockets, belt loops, and so on.

I made a quick muslin to test just the main front and back pieces for fit. I did not worry about the closure – I just pinned the center shut.  I found that I needed to taper the sides a little and widen the darts. I transferred the changes to my front and back pattern pieces, then adjusted the waistband piece to compensate for the darts. Now I was ready to test the whole pattern.

I made my wearable muslin out of quilting cotton (Orient by Nel Whatmore). Yes, it’s a little busy, but I have to be me! I have to say that I was impressed by the instructions provided by Itch to Stitch. They don’t assume any garment sewing experience, so there are detailed steps for things like making pattern alterations and shortening a zipper. I followed the instructions closely, since I had never made a zipper fly closure before. It worked! I was not confused by any of the potentially confusing steps and I’m really pleased with how the closure turned out. Here’s a slideshow of the closure construction:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I’m really glad I made a test version, because I could see right away that I needed to make more changes. The main issue is that the crotch sits too low. I pinned out a slightly shorter crotch length and transferred the change to my pattern pieces. I feel like I am now ready to go with any of the pattern options.

angelia_shorts_1_17
Side view with shortened crotch pinned

Stay tuned for a “bells and whistles” version. In the meantime, happy sewing!

sewing_sig

Contest · Fashion · Vintage

2018 Match Your Shoes Contest Entry

1012
Simplicity 1012 View C

I spent way more time than I expected working on the Marfy blouse in January, which didn’t leave me much time to put together my entry for PatternReview.com’s 2018 Match Your Shoes Contest.

Fortunately, I already had a plan in place, so I hit the ground running when I finally started.

The black stretch fabric I used for the main color was challenging to cut. To get the best result, I used my sharpest scissors and put a fresh blade in my rotary cutter. When cutting stretch fabrics with a rotary, it is especially important to apply pressure from directly above where you want to cut. If you apply pressure at an angle, the fabric will stretch away from you as you cut. The greater the angle, the greater the distortion.

To make sure that the lace pieces would come together in a pleasing way, I first laid the lace over the pattern piece. Then I identified where the “X” stitching lines would fall. I shifted the piece until I was happy, then marked the placement with a couple of pins. I put the pattern piece on top, then cut it out. I used this process for all four lace sections. After all that, cutting the gray background fabric was a breeze!

shoe_contest_2_22
Checking the position of the flowers before cutting.

Before getting to the directions in the pattern envelope, I basted the lace and lining pieces to each other. Because my serger was ready to go, I used an overlock stitch (with the knife up) to put them together.

shoe_contest_2_23
One of the midriff pieces serge-basted

The next part was assembling the four pieces making up the front into a single piece. I have never done any quilting, but I imagine that the process is very similar. First, I sewed the top section to the right side triangle. Then I sewed the bottom section to the left side triangle. I pressed the seams open. Then I carefully pinned the two pieces so the “X” met exactly in the center. I measured twice. Then I stitched the third and final seam, pausing a few times to check and re-check my alignment. Success!

The only problem was the fabric itself. I once again needed to help the machine along by adding strips of wash-away stabilizer.

The back was made of two pieces, joined by a 22 inch zipper. So assembling the back did not require matching an “X.” Sewing those pieces was much less nerve wracking.

From this point, putting the dress together goes the same as any other back zip dress. I changed the neckline from using a facing to using bias tape, but everything else was the same as the pattern.

I put it on ready to be amazed at its awesomeness. After all, it looked great on the hanger. Alas, the fit was far from amazing. Although the fitted part of the dress (bustline and up) looked good, the loose fitting lower half was boxy and unflattering. It did not have the gentle waist curve and drape I expected from looking at the pattern illustration. Part of that was because the heavy black stretch fabric did not drape well. But I felt that the dress would be more flattering if I took in the sides a bit below the bust.

So, it was back to the sewing machine, the seam ripper and the iron. Still not happy, I added a few small darts in the back, between the waist and hip. A little while later, I had my modified style.

I trimmed the seam allowances, it hung a lot better….  but….

I still had more fitting to do. I took the sides in some more and took the darts out. Finally, it looked like I had imagined.

A quick hemming session, a final press and it was done!

shoe_contest_2_12
That’s better!

I think if I make this pattern again, I might try doing it in a mid to heavy weight knit omitting the zipper. It would be really flattering in complementary colors with topstitching. Maybe in a long sleeve version? It would also be nice in a lighter weight woven in the sleeveless view for spring and summer.

Hey – why don’t you vote for me? The voting period is from the 17th to the 22nd.

Even if you don’t vote, it’s worth taking a look at the other contest entries on patternreview.com. I’m really impressed and also have serious shoe envy.

Here is the finished look for my contest entry.

shoe_contest_2_13shoe_contest_2_10

Missed the first part of this post? Check it out here: 2018 Match Your Shoes Contest Begins.

 

 

Fashion

Marfy Blouse 2 – The Valentine Toile

velentine_toile15The Marfy blouse, my personal challenge for January, is coming together. After creating my own pattern from the pieces Marfy supplied, I was ready to make a toile (or wearable muslin) to test my construction method and make any necessary fitting adjustments.

For the toile, I chose a woven fabric from my stash that I wasn’t particularly attached to. That way, if things work out, I’ll wear it. If they don’t, I haven’t wasted special or expensive material. The striped heart pattern isn’t my usual taste, but I do like the red and white combination. Also, it might be fun to wear on Valentine’s Day.

velentine_toile18
My initial construction notes

Before I even cut into the fabric, I made notes on to sew it together. I update my notes as I go along. When I’m done, I’ll have a good set of instructions to put in the envelope with the pattern.

After washing, it was obvious that the hearts fabric was pretty flimsy. I knew it would need interfacing to give it some structure, especially in the collar and button bands. I had four different possibilities on hand, so I made test swatches of each of them to see what worked best (or if I needed to get something else).

  • Pellon SF101 Shape Flex , woven fusible: the winner. Provided nice support without stiffness.
  • Pellon 950F ShirTailor, non-woven fusible: too crisp. This one would be better for heavier fabric, men’s shirts and cuffs, etc.
  • Pellon 845F Designer’s Lite, non-woven fusible: very lightweight interfacing kept the fabric from fraying and losing shape, but added no stiffness at all. Better for silky fabrics or the body of the garment (not the collar).
  • Heat n’ Bond Lightweight, non-woven fusible: very similar support to SF101. This one would have also worked well, but since I had more of the Pellon on hand, I went with that.

Since the original Marfy pattern pieces have no seam allowance, they are ready to use as pattern pieces for interfacing.

velentine_toile19
SF101 for the collar ready to cut with original pattern piece. (Presser foot pattern weight)

Section by section, I assembled the parts of the blouse. I left out the pockets but otherwise kept to the design. I saved a little time by using the serger to overcast the raw edges instead of doing any “nice” seam finishes. As the parts started to come together, I pinned them to my duct-tape double. Once all of the components were prepared (collar, back, yoke/sleeve, and fronts), I was able to get a good idea of how the final version would fit. Some of the things I checked were the position of the darts, whether the side seams fell straight down or not, and where the hem should fall for a comfortable length.

I had expected to adjust the darts, which I did. What I didn’t expect was that I would need to let out the bottom so much. Apparently my posterior does not conform to Italian standards – who knew? Because I needed to let out more than my seam allowance would allow, I went ahead and drafted an entirely new back pattern piece. After making another back section from the new pattern, I pinned it in place on my double.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Well, it was better, but not good. I needed to pinch away about an inch horizontally across the small of the back. I made yet another pattern piece and tried again. Ideally, I would also take out a little from the center seam, but I was concerned that the stripe pattern would look too distorted if I did that. So, I went with version 3 and moved on.

Once I was done with the back, I needed to adjust the front a little bit by adding side darts.

One thing I wasn’t able to test-fit on the double was the sleeve. I had to wait until the body of the blouse was complete to see how much gathering I would need. I frequently need to adjust sleeves for myself, so I knew I didn’t want to commit to the bias tape edge until I was sure the fit would work.

velentine_toile8
And…. this is how I learned that I needed to clean the lint from under my sole plate.

The instructions for the sleeve edges were a little mysterious. The sleeve was not pictured in detail on the illustration. The pleated parts were clearly marked on the pattern, but the only detail about how to handle the sleeve edges was “Reduce to cm.” There was a pencilled in (!) number 8.5 near it. Reduce 8.5 cm? One side? Both sides? Reduce to 8.5cm? I had to guess. I measured the edge of both sleeve pieces on each side. I ran a couple rows of gathering stitches and pulled the bobbin threads until the total edge measurements were reduced by 17 cm in total (8.5 for the front, 8.5 for the back). I basted the gathers, then tested for fit. It seemed a little snug, so I let them out until I was happy, then sewed on my matching self-made bias.

The final sleeve looks pretty good, but dips a little too low. Unfortunately, there wasn’t any good way to raise the bottom of the sleeve opening once the pieces had been cut, so I did not incorporate that necessary modification to the toile. I did adjust the pattern pieces, though.

The collar was next. Finally, something that just worked!

velentine_toile5
I’m getting better at buttonholes.

Then it was time for the part I was dreading: the buttonholes. My buttonhole skills are improving, but they are far from perfect. But I think these will do unless there is a close inspection. The buttons are just old ones I found in my stash, except for the top button. I thought it would be cute to put a little red heart button at the top, so I did. I could have probably put a row of hearts down the front, but it was getting a little too cute for a grown woman already!

The blue line in center of the buttonhole is where I marked the buttonhole placement using water-soluble marker. It comes right out with water – you can take it off with a damp rag in a pinch.

I turned up a simple blind machine hem and pronounced it done!

velentine_toile7
The back is finally done and ready to hem!

I’m really glad I made a test version. Now I can cut into my “good” fabric with confidence. And I may even wear the test version for more than just Valentine’s Day.

Here are some pictures of me wearing my “wearable muslin.” Click the images to enlarge.

Missed Part 1? You can find it here: Marfy Blouse 1: The Pattern

Next time: Marfy Blouse 3: Pulling it all Together

Fashion · Vintage

Vintage-Inspired Pants Part 1

B5859 Company Photo
Inspiration photo

This year, I’m facing the change of seasons head-on. While we are still able to dip our toes in the ocean, I’m pulling together plans for fall looks. First up will be a vintage inspired high-waisted trouser.

I am making view E from Butterick 5859 – one of their Lifestyle Wardrobe patterns. The high waist is right on trend. This year, wide legs are coming back as well. Finally, trends are starting to converge with my taste!

The pattern is not that old, but unfortunately is already out of print. For those of you looking to sew your own version, you might want to try Decades of Style’s 1940’s Empire Waist Trousers, or Wearing History’s Smooth Sailing Trousers.

B5859LineArt
Line drawings from B5859 Envelope

Although the pants are described as semi-fitted, they still warrant editing to follow the wearer’s curves. The pattern has front, back, and side seams as well as darts in the front and rear; so there are 8 places to make alterations. Knowing that I would probably need to make some changes, I decided to make a quick muslin first.

One of the nice things about making a muslin is that you only have to work with the essential parts of the pattern. There is no need to bother with facings or interfacings, pockets, zippers, etc. So, I only needed to cut the front and back pattern pieces.

Last month, Craftsy.com had an all-you-can-watch for free day. I took advantage of it and watched all of the lessons in Linda Lee’s Serger & Coverstitch: Fashion Details class. My favorite take-away: use your machine’s chain stitch for temporary seams. When you are ready to take the seam out, you don’t need a seam ripper.  You just start pulling one end! I tried this with my muslin and it worked like a charm. It’s way easier than using a seam ripper and leaves no little thread “crumbs.”

vintage_pants_muslin4
Chain stitch used to baste muslin together. French curve used to smooth revised seam line (teal marker).

I’ve actually picked up a lot of tips from Craftsy classes. Sandra Betzina’s Pant Fitting Techniques class got me in the habit of cutting side seams with a 1 inch seam allowance (at least the first time you are trying a pattern). That way, you have lots of room to make changes, if necessary.

I chose a pattern size based on my largest measurement (hip). I marked the new 1-inch side seams on the onion skin, then cut out my muslin pieces. Then, I chain-stitched my pants together and checked the fit.

Fitting Round One: Torso Too Loose

I put the pants on inside-out to make pinning simple. Being careful to do both sides evenly, I pinched and pinned slight changes in the side seams of the waist and above-waist area. There was still a little gap in the small of the back, so I pinned that as well. After taking the pants off, I used the pins to draw new seam lines for the sides and center back. Just to make it more visible, I changed the color of the chainstitch thread. Then I stitched the new seam lines.

vintage_pants_muslin8
After the second fitting: green thread on changed seamlines; horizontal decrease pinned.

Fitting Round Two: Torso Good, Crotch too Low

Using a ruler, a mirror, and a little bit of guesswork, I saw that I needed to raise the crotch curve by about an inch. I started with the upper “shorten or lengthen here” line on the paper pattern pieces. I found the corresponding points on my muslin, then used them to draw a horizontal line (perpendicular to the grainline). I made two more lines, 1/2 inch above and 1/2 inch below. I pinned the top and bottom lines together to make a 1 inch reduction. I was thrilled that they looked perfect when I put them back on. Just to make sure I didn’t over-fit, I twisted, sat down, and walked around. Still good… I was done after only two rounds – that’s a record for me!

Transferring the modifications to the paper pattern was pretty easy. While I was working on it, I also removed the extra seam allowance from the sides. The last change was to modify the pattern pieces for the facings to match the new waistline.

Next time, putting it all together!

Fashion · Whimsy

Walk the Dog Raglan Tee

Planning Time
Planning is fun!

Last week, my serger died.  Let’s pause a moment and mourn its passing.

Thank you.

So I got a new one!  And this serger has a lot more bells and whistles.  Welcome to the workshop Singer 14T968DC!  The new machine can do the functions of the old serger, a Simplicity 4-thread overlock. But the new one can be converted to work as a cover-stitch machine as well.  I have been giddy to try everything since I got it out of the box.  I already had several knitwear projects cut and ready to sew, so I will be able to create useful things as I learn.

First up is a simple raglan tee.  I used McCall’s pattern M7286 (rating Easy), but any favorite raglan pattern would do.  I have always been drawn to bright red clothes and anything with high contrast and color blocking.  Something about that sharp, vivid combination of black and white with any bright color really puts me in a great mood.  So when I saw the “Where’s Fido” pattern, I immediately thought about pairing it with blocks of black or red.  Plus, the dogs in the pattern are so whimsical and cute – how could I resist?

I considered black accents, but in the end, I cut out a red neckband and short red sleeves to go with the patterned front and back.

I have been using my duct tape double to test fit clothes as I go.  I’m glad I did. On the model, I could see that the shape was a little boxier than I usually like.  I pinned some darts into the back and it looked much better.  Since the top is so casual that it could even serve as sleepwear, I chose to leave it loose and boxy.  But before I took the pins out, I made new pattern pieces for the back and front. I reduced the back by the area pinched out by the darts.  I lengthened the side seam on the front to match the new back piece. Then I traced the new pieces onto swedish tracing paper, cut them out, and put them with the rest of the (tissue) pattern pieces.  The next time I make this raglan, I will have a choice between a straight or fitted version.

Now that I have the coverstitch machine, I wish I had cut the bottom straight across. Then I could have done a completely ready-to-wear hem finish.  The shaped hemline seemed like it would be better suited to a zigzagged narrow hem though.  So I will save the coverstitch for a future project.

 

It turned out so cute, I can hardly believe it.  If only my dog had a matching leash and collar…

(getting out markers) Hmmm….