Fashion · Fitting

Getting Started on my Designer Pattern

designer_18Last week I wrote about choosing a designer pattern from Vogue. I was between a beautiful on-trend jumpsuit and a cute pull-on dress with a tie front. The winner is…  the easy one!

Although I love the jumpsuit, I just couldn’t justify making it when I don’t have any events to bring it to.

Also, I find myself drawn to Rebecca Taylor’s style aesthetic. Her collections provide me with a lot of inspiration, featuring prominently in my Fall 2018 mood board on pinterest.

I was reluctant to cut into the silk I chose for the final version (Thanks, Mom!). So, I looked for some lightweight cottons to make a (hopefully) wearable muslin. I have plenty of sundress-worthy cottons in my stash, but it was tricky to find something that would look good from either side. In the end, I went with a sort of washed denim colored solid for the dress and a fun multicolor stripe for the lining.

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Both fabrics frayed like crazy, so I overcast the edges before sewing anything together.

I wanted to make sure that the ties fell at my natural waist, so I spent a more time preparing the pattern than usual. I added my normal long waist adjustment all the way around. The back overlay piece was a little perplexing. When I added the extra length, it completely changed the shape of the ties. I improvised a new curve to smooth it out, keeping the start and end points where they were and crossed my fingers.

I cut the pieces according to the directions with one exception. I thought it would be kind of neat to have the inside back piece be the same as the skirt lining.

Once I got to the sewing machine, I was delighted with how quickly it went together. The neckline and armholes are faced, but use bias binding for the facing instead of the more common facing pieces. I have been experimenting with this technique for a while, and actually prefer it in most cases. However, until you are used to it, it can be maddeningly confusing. If you are doing this dress and have never tried the technique, find an online tutorial and practice a bit first. It may save you a lot of seam ripping! The “very narrow hem” that I was wondering about turned out to be really easy. I like the way it turned out and will use it again on projects with lightweight fabrics. I think that some fabrics might do better with a rolled hem, though. I’ll have to test that out for the final version.

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Very narrow hem (top) and bias-faced armholes

One weird thing about the pattern is that instead of using a conventional casing for the waist elastic, you make a completely inner casing using the seam allowances. Essentially you get a casing “tube” that is only attached to the dress on one side, not both.  It works out, but probably would fail with any elastic wider than 1/4 inch. It doesn’t seem to matter that the casing is kind of free-floating.

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Inside front view shows seam allowance casing

Another technique that was new to me was reinforced stress points. You are supposed to cut small pieces of fabric and sew them to the wrong side of the overlay at each point. I departed from the instructions and chose to fuse my  little patches in place rather than sew them. I think they are probably stronger and they don’t show on the front. I used heat-n-bond lite 5/8″ tape for a quick and easy patch.

I haven’t done a lined skirt in a while, but it was the last step and there wasn’t anything unusual about it. That kind of complacency is probably what led to me putting it in inside-out. Sigh. There’s a lesson in there somewhere. I’m leaving it that way. Shhh…

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Perfect! If you don’t look too close….

The finished dress fits! The ties wound up in the right place and look good. I do think it will look much better in a silkier fabric. The overlay sleeves made with semi-crisp cotton don’t drape elegantly down the shoulders like the ones on the pattern photo. I also think it would be much better with side pockets. But those are minor quibbles. It meets my test for wearability and I have a usable pattern so I’ll call it a success.

The next one in this series will be my first ever silk dress. Wish me luck!

Until then, happy sewing!

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More nuts and bolts…

And a few more pictures from my fashion shoot/dog walk…

Hey – check out my review of Vogue 1395 on patternreview.com here.

Fashion

Last Chance Sundress V9278

V9278_aHere in the US, the kids are going back to school and cooler weather is around the corner. Oddly, we are breaking heat records here in Rhode Island and anyone with air conditioning is staying inside. Fortunately for me, that’s where the sewing machine is!

I love wearing sundresses, but somehow never got around to making one this year. It’s time.

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the elusive inspiration dress

I chose Vogue 9278 because I wanted the a Burda Style magazine pattern that was used to make a beautiful dress in the Spring Forecast section of the April/May 2018 issue of Threads Magazine. Despite an hour of effort, I could not find the Burda pattern anywhere. Vogue 9278 was one of Threads’ recommended substitutes.

The inspiration dress was described as having been made with a pastel voile. So I looked through my stash for a voile that would work. I found enough yardage of a blue and yellow geometric pattern* in cotton voile. I also had some lightweight woven in bright yellow for the lining. Stash busting!

*the fabric was a bargain find from Fabric Mart a few years ago. It’s an Anna Maria Horner quilting fabric called Diamond Mine. It turns out that Fabric Mart stopped carrying it, but you can still get the matching ribbon. I’m kind of tempted to buy some and make a matching leash for my dog. That’s not going overboard, is it? Fabric Mart does carry lots of other Anna Maria fabrics, including a few voiles – I love their bright color combinations.

You may have noticed that my dress looks absolutely nothing like the Burda dress. Apparently not all voiles are created equal. Mine has a lot more body and is almost opaque. Even so, it makes a pretty cute little slip dress. I’ll probably wear this all of the time. I don’t think I would have worn the pretty floaty one as much, although I would still love to have it. (I made View A.)

The dress was pretty simple to put together. I think Vogue was being fair this time in putting it in the very easy category. As usual, I made things more difficult than they had to be. I became a little obsessed with pattern matching. I needed those diamonds to line up! I also used an invisible zip, just because that was what I had on hand. The pattern doesn’t actually demand it.

Above: Implementing my Obsession

I think if/when I make this one again, I will build in a bra and maybe try a handkerchief hem. If I go with a heavier fabric again, I’ll also add pockets. With the lining taken out, I think it would also make cool under-dress for a mesh or chiffon cover.

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Note about pictures:

Most of the time, I use helpers to take pictures of me wearing my finished garments. This round was completely DIY. I got a new toy: a little bluetooth remote control that lets me take pictures from my phone without having to hold it ($8.49 from Amazon). I still prefer help, but I’m excited to try taking pictures a little more often. You will probably notice that I am holding it along with the dog leash in the next photo group. Sadly, the remote won’t tell you if you have hair in your face or a wrinkle in your dress. Ahem. I’m still learning, so most of the pictures are a little low-resolution. Stay with me – I plan on improving!

My dog is much more interested in fresh mulch than fashion.

More sewing coming soon!

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Check out my review on patternreview.com: Vogue 9278

 

 

Fashion · Vintage

Pinstripe Pantsuit Part 3: Button Up!

pinstripe31My fear of buttonholes has been holding me back, but I finally worked through it and finished! I don’t suffer from Koumpounophobia, but I was perversely amused to learn that fear of buttons is a thing. Apparently, Steve Jobs had it. My reluctance had more to do with a long history of messing up sewing projects on the very last step.

I chose simple dark brown buttons and brown all-purpose thread. Before starting, I needed to do a little trial and error. I haven’t used my machine to sew buttonholes in years, and I never did it often enough for it to become automatic. Rather than ruin my work, I set up a trial swatch to match the fabric and interfacing in the garment. Boy, was I glad I did!

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My “Easy to Sew” pattern gave these instructions:

Transfer buttonhole markings to garment.

Make buttonholes at markings.

So….  that helped a lot.

Next step – read my sewing machine‘s manual. The machine’s instructions were also basic, but at least gave me enough to start experimenting.

I made a swatch with the same interfacing, lining and pinstripe fabric that I would be sewing.

After much experimentation, I was finally able to consistently stitch the buttonhole I wanted. I actually had to make a second test swatch because I ran out of room on the first one.

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Here’s a full list of adjustments and additions I used.

  1. Place tear-away stabilizer under the buttonhole area.
  2. Use a walking foot.
  3. Set the stitch width to the maximum (in my case, 5mm).
  4. Run the bobbin thread through the eye of the bobbin case’s hook. This increases the tension on the bobbin thread.
  5. Increase the stitch density by adjusting the machine’s balance.
  6. Increase the presser foot pressure.
  7. Mark the vertical boundary of the buttonholes with two strips of blue tape.
  8. Insert a strip of wash-away stabilizer between the lines of tape. Use wash-away marker on the stabilizer to mark the buttonhole placement. Bonus – the lines are highly visible against the bright white wash-away.
  9. I still had problems with the long side of the buttonhole rectangle staying straight. Solution: set up the seam guide and use more blue tape to give it a “track” to follow.
  10. Make several buttonholes on the test swatch. I did not work with the actual vest until I could get three in a row exactly right.
  11. Open the holes in the test swatch sample and make sure the button fits. I used a very sharp seam ripper to cut the slots.
  12. Apply Fray Check to the buttonhole stitching.
  13. Before cutting the holes open, remove the stabilizer and place pins just inside the holes’ bartacks. The pins prevent over-cutting.

I checked and double checked my markings. Yes, I psyched myself out a little. One more triple check and I was ready to go.

Overkill? Maybe. You could make a case. But it worked!

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Why yes, those stripes do line up! So kind of you to notice.

I decided to hand-sew the buttons rather than machine-sew. The reason is that I wanted to make sure they were not attached too tightly. A too-tight button can pull through the fabric or distort the nice flat plane of the button placket.

I can’t believe it, but it’s really done!

I am so pleased with the finished outfit.

Do you have any tips for making buttonholes? Write a comment below – I would love to hear them.

In case you missed it, here is the rest of the series.

Pinstripe Pantsuit Part 1: the Pants

Pinstripe Pantsuit Part 2: the Vest

I have lots of great things planned for 2018. I can’t wait to share them with you!

Fashion

Pinstripe Pantsuit Part 2: the Vest

I haven’t actually owned a vest since the 1980’s. Looking back, that vest probably was not the best in the world. But I loved it. It was a thin, shiny black brocade with pearl buttons, no lining, and made me feel stylish and cool.

I don’t think I’m trying to relive my youth, but if I could restore some of that good feeling by making a new contemporary version, why not?

Maybe I had that in mind when I bought Simplicity 4079. It seems to have been printed in 2006 and is now out of print. However, vests are a classic wardrobe builder, so there is always something similar on the market.

Some promising looking substitutes:

Vests are also a staple in the steampunk and Victorian costume worlds, so that could be another source. Look for “waistcoats” as well as vests in your search.

All of the versions in my pattern are variations on the same lined, princess-seamed bodice. I went with the most classic. View A has four buttons, a V-neckline and comes to points in front.

The instructions were clearly written, which really helped me get through the relatively complex construction. But why is this pattern labelled “Easy-To-Sew?” I think anything with buttonholes and lining should really go into a different category. If I was a beginner and picked this up, I think I might have given up in frustration!

It would be easy enough to eliminate the false front pockets, but I think they really give the vest the menswear vibe I was going for.

Here’s a little slideshow of the pocket flaps coming together:

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Straps assembled and ready to sew

The pattern instructions did not specify whether the outside back and ties should be cut from the main fabric or the lining. I went with my gut and did the back with lining fabric and the ties in the brown stripe. As I noted before, the poly satin lining was tricky to press and really wanted to fray. I took my time with it, used a walking foot for traction and tried to handle it as little as possible. I used a press cloth and lots of steam when pressing was needed. It worked out fine and in the end, I am happy I chose the lining I did. Once enclosed in the garment, fraying is no longer an issue. I made extra sure by trimming off the excess with pinking shears. The heavier weight should pay dividends in extra durability (and of course, appearance). I went with a gold color buckle to secure the ties. The Dritz vest buckle comes in either a silver or gold tone. It’s fine, but I wish there were more options on the market. So far, the Dritz is the only one I could find.

There is surprisingly little interfacing in the vest. It only calls for one small piece under each placket. I guess the seams provide enough shaping on their own, because it seems to stay sharp even after a lot of handling. I used a fusible lightweight non-woven.

Is it just me, or is the process of turning the lining kind of like magic? The garment goes from a project to a real article of clothing in the blink of an eye. The vest was particularly satisfying in this regard, since the inside looks so different from the outside. I’m pretty sure turning linings is the closest I will ever get to making origami.

Putting it together:

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I wanted to wrap up this post with a finished vest, but unfortunately, I forgot to buy buttons. So, I’m hitting pause while I get the last bits together. I’ll wrap up soon with Pinstripe Pantsuit Part 3: Button Up!.

Click here if you haven’t yet read Pinstripe Pantsuit Part 1: the Pants.

 

Fashion

One-piece Floral Swimsuit Part 2

As I write this, the temperature has climbed above 90 degrees Fahrenheit.  Shorts and swimsuit weather is finally here so I couldn’t wait to finish my suit!

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Maillot back – sweet and simple

The suit is a simple scoop neck one-piece, fully lined with sewn-in foam cups.  This project really exemplifies why to learn to sew for yourself.  If a suit that fit this well existed in the retail market (which it doesn’t – trust me), it would probably be in the $100-$200 price range. That is the going rate for a suit that has lining in the back and uses high quality materials.  After taking the craftsy class, I have a pattern that I can use again, and the skills to branch out into different styles.  When you think about how little fabric you need, you can really splurge on something great that’s exactly what you want and still come in a lot cheaper than $100.

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Maillot side – everything fits!

Putting the pieces together was pretty fun.  I am so glad to have my duct-tape friend to help me with fitting.  It made putting in the bra cups so easy.  Using the class instructions, I pinned the foam bra cups directly to the mannequin.  Then I pulled the basted-together suit lining over it. After carefully pinning around the foam edges, I cut starbursts into the lycra over the cups until the fabric around the armholes lay flat against the body.  After carefully removing and unbasting the lining, I measured to make sure there was enough fabric around the cups to put in the elastic.  There wasn’t, so I shaved a bit off the upper edge of each cup.

Using my everyday sewing machine, a size 75 stretch needle, the walking foot, and regular polyester thread, I zigzagged the cups to the lining.  Once I cut the extra fabric away from the seams, I was pleased to see how professional it looked.

The next step was to cut the fashion fabric pieces and pin them to their lining counterparts. You could also put them together with a spray adhesive, but I didn’t want to deal with overspray mess.  I would seriously consider doing it that way if I was making a bunch at once though.

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Assembly was pretty straightforward until I got to the elastic casing.  This was my first time using “plastic elastic,” also known as clear elastic or Mobilon.  While it was very simple to zigzag into place, I did have some tension problems.  The underside is pretty messy.  Good thing it doesn’t show!

Although I really like my suit just as it is, I think it could be improved with a few more tweaks.  I wanted to raise the neckline a bit and smooth out the leg curve, so I re-re-modified the pattern pieces.  Then I made a good copy on Swedish pattern paper, so the next one should be super easy (with a lot fewer mistakes!).

Something tells me there will be a spandex stash in my sewing area’s future!

Missed Part 1?  Find it here.