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 · 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:

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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.

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Side view with shortened crotch pinned

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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