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

Fashion

Marfy Blouse 1 – The Pattern

I’ve resolved to complete one major skill-building sewing project each month in 2018. Full disclosure: I’ve been planning on making this one for a while. But it’s daunting, and I haven’t gotten further than the drawing board yet. So it seemed fair to make this Marfy blouse my January project.

Hopefully it will expand my skills in shirt construction generally, fitting complicated patterns and improving my buttonhole execution.

I’ve been lurking around the Marfy online catalog for a while. Every link to Marfy seems to come with a big, bold warning: FOR EXPERTS ONLY. Am I the only one who sees that as a dare?

Marfy does not make things easy. They provide only the most basic information about their designs. For my pattern, there are only two images of the blouse – both kind of weird illustrations. Add to that this description and you have the complete set of instructions.

This blouse has cap sleeves cut kimono style at the back and raglan at the front with gathers, baby collar, pockets with turned up flaps.

Approximate fabric required: 1.00 meters (1.40 meters wide)

Oh, and the pattern costs $16.00.

 

Why am I doing this? Other than the dare factor, I have a blouse that I really want to duplicate. I don’t know where it came from. It’s old. It’s wearing out. But that blouse fits so well, is so comfortable, and is so flattering that I think it might be magic. I have never seen another one like it. But this pattern comes really close. I’m hoping I can capture some of that magic and then make one in every color.

So, the game is on.

I ordered the pattern in October through the Butterick patterns website. It took a while to arrive, but one day in November I got a tiny envelope from Italy.

As advertised, the Marfy pattern was pre-cut and single size. It has no seam allowance and no instructions.

I’ve heard stories about people who can take a pattern with no seam allowance and cut their fabric pieces with the right allowance by eye. I am not one of those people. So the first thing I did was prepare a new pattern with allowances.

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Tracing a new blouse front piece with added seam allowance.

I could have added any seam allowance I liked. Since I knew I would probably need to make fitting adjustments, I went with a relatively wide 5/8.” The task was make much easier with my new pattern drafter ruler. It’s specifically designed to add seam allowances. I like it so much I got one in the 3/8″ size as well.

I traced my new pattern onto Swedish tracing paper using different colors for the cutting lines, seam lines, and markings.

When I was all done, I set up an envelope to keep everything together. I used just a regular 9×12 clasp envelope. I made the label by printing the pattern illustration onto a peel and stick shipping label.

Now that I have all of my ducks in a row, I can’t wait to dig in.

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Clockwise from upper left:

  1. The folded wax paper envelope from Marfy that contained the pre-cut pattern pieces. The Marfy envelope is on top of the 9×12 envelope I put together to store the pattern.
  2. The pattern pieces as they came from Marfy, after ironing. Grainlines, notches, and general construction information is written on each piece.
  3. My neon yellow pattern drafter ruler is on top of two pattern pieces I made from the Marfy pattern. The collar has different pieces, very slightly different in size, for the top and under-collar. This is going to be interesting!

Next time: Making a toile.

 

 

Fashion

Floral Sundress: the UFO has landed

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Art for view B Vogue 8469

Beautiful fabric, cute pattern, halfway done….  why did I ever stop working on this?  Has this thought ever occurred to you?  I have a stack of boxes in a dark corner – each one containing everything that I need to finish a sewing project.

I found myself in the mood the clear out that corner recently. This incomplete sundress from 2013 called out to be finished.  It was really a fabric-driven project.  I fell in love with the painterly, multicolored floral the minute I saw it.  I splurged and bought some yardage at the full retail price, which is unusual for me.  It seems to be a cotton poplin with a little bit of stretch.

When I cut out this dress, I paid particular attention to the bright, large scale design.  I especially made sure that the large yellow sunflowers would be placed in flattering areas.  I also thought about how the pieces would connect to each other so the design would flow in a pleasing way.  Placed incorrectly, large design elements can ruin a garment.

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Fully lined bodice

The pattern itself was yet another Very Easy Vogue, now out of print (Vogue V8469).  I added pockets and omitted the sash, but otherwise left the dress pattern alone.  I am not sure this one should have been considered “very” easy though.  It requires lining, inserting a zipper, and installing kind of fussily small elastic casing for the cap sleeves.

I cut the lining from a soft old white bedsheet. Bedsheets can really make nice lining for casual clothes. They will not shrink, and most will outlast typical fashion fabric.

When I opened the UFO* box, I found that I had cut and marked all of the pieces and finished most of the bodice.  Oh…  yeah.  I stopped working on this because the top was too small.  I don’t remember if I cut it too small, or whether I made a sewing mistake, but instead of being semi-fitted, it was crushingly tight.  The bodice side seams were still unsewn.  At the time, I couldn’t decide if I needed to insert more fabric under the arms, or whether I could make it work by just changing the placement of the side seams.  Back then, I had to make alterations by trying things on and pinning in front of a mirror. Since I made a duct tape dress form, I don’t have to do that anymore.  I put the top on duct-tape Cindy and figured out my modifications in just a few minutes.

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Overlocked seams

The fit and flare style is flattering on so many body types. You have freedom of movement and a classic silhouette at the same time.

All of the raw edges are either encased or overcast, so washing in the washing machine will not lead to annoying loose threads and fraying.

*UFO: Unfinished Object

Fashion · Travel · Useful Thing

A Minimalist Bathrobe Part 3: Putting it all Together

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Basting the belt loop with my favorite tool – painter’s tape

Once again, I can assert that sewing is a small part of garment construction. Putting the robe pieces together was a relative snap after all of the planning and preparation.

After sewing the pockets and the darts, I was ready to start putting pieces together. In the last post, I tested various seam finishes and landed on flat-felling as the best option. I love the clean lines the enclosed seams make.

Of course, nothing ever goes exactly as planned. I carefully pinned the sleeves in place and was ready to sew them, when I realized that I had pinned them right sides together (flat-felling starts wrong sides together). Rather than pull everything out, I figured it would be fine to have the sleeve cap seams on the inside and use faux-french technique to finish them. It turned out fine, I am happy to report.

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Did I just do that? Ugh! (Sleeve pinned right sides together)

I also forgot to put a loop in the neck seam for hanging the robe on hooks.  This goof I dealt with by sewing a small reinforced panel with my name tag and loop, then stitching it to the inside back neck. I used a panel because the fabric is so light and fragile that the weight of the whole garment pulling on two small attachment points would quickly lead to holes. Stitching a square creates stability by distributing the load over a larger area. Just for fun, I used the selvage to make the loop.  I just liked the way the thread frayed around the edge – and because it is the selvage, it is very stable.

I really love the finished result. I will be taking my super-light robe not just to the gym, but any time I pack a suitcase for myself.  It’s so light that I could even find room in my carry-on bag.

The whole project became much more of a technique sampler than I intended.  I hope that some of my experiments and fixes inspire you to do something you haven’t tried!

Missed the rest of the series? Start here:A Minimalist Bathrobe Part 1: Making Plaid Work and A Minimalist Bathrobe Part 2: Edge Finish and Seam Experimentation.

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Fashion · Useful Thing

A Minimalist Bathrobe Part 2: Edge Finish and Seam Experimentation

Before I started putting the robe pieces together, I tested out some ideas for seam and edge finishes. I was looking for a good compromise between durability, attractiveness, and lack of bulk.

For the raw edges, I looked at applying binding and different overcast treatments. I wanted to work with supplies I already had, so I wasn’t able to get exact color matches. I chose several bias tapes I thought might work and two colors of nylon serger thread. I liked the way the blue tape looked, but none of the others. I played with different settings on the serger to get a nice decorative edge that completely covered the raw edge (already starting to fray). While both the white and the purple were a nice match for the plaid, only the purple completely covered the edge. The purple is Wooly Nylon and the white is Guetermann’s textured nylon. The wooly fills in the edge much better than the textured. I decided to go with the purple wooly nylon edge because it was best of the less bulky overlock finishes.

 

Since raveling was going to be an issue with the material, I went ahead and finished the raw edges on all of the cut pattern pieces.  I left the edges that were going to be inside a seam unfinished while I decided how to sew them.

Next, I took some more scraps and tested out a few types of seams

Seam 1 – Bound seam

There are a number of options for what to bind the seam with.  I could make my own bias tape out of the robe fabric; I could use seams great; or, I could use a pre-made tape from a package. I already looked through the packages I had on hand when looking at edge finishes and couldn’t find a color I was happy with. Seams great would work, but for something that is going to show, it is too sheer to look right. So I moved on without even testing bound seams.

Next, using my regular sewing machine, I tried out 2 different kinds of enclosed seams.

Seam 2 – Mock French seam

I really like the way this looks from both sides.  Having two rows of stitching makes the seam more durable. The extra weight from having essentially 3 layers of fabric stitched together actually makes the seam more structural. The very lightweight fabric really is pretty shapeless, so the extra stability really helps.

Seam 3 – Flat felled seam

The flat felled seam has the same advantages as the mock french.  The main difference is that it is started with wrong sides together and trimmed and stitched from the right side. Technique aside, it’s slightly less bulky and slightly wider.  I’m familiar with flat felling from other projects, so for me, this is the easiest one to consider.

I have never used the serger for any other seam than a 3 or 4 thread overlock. I knew that I could go that route and it would be fast and easy.  I really wanted to try something else for this project though.

Seam 4 -2 Thread flatlock with serger

This seam is really fun to do.  It’s cool to make what appears to be a plain overcast edge, but then pull the two pieces of fabric apart and have them lay flat with a neat decorative join. I’m glad I tried doing the sample first, though. It just didn’t look as “finished” as the enclosed seams.  It would be really fun to use on a thicker material, like a neoprene or fleece.

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The winner: Flat felled on the regular machine.

BONUS Technique: Covered Cord

I came across a neat idea while I was browsing my copy of Serger Secrets.  One of the examples illustrates a technique where a serger can be used to make decorative covered cord. I probably never would have thought of this on my own, but now that I know about it, I am sure I will find all kinds of ways to use it.  This will definitely be the go-to choice for belt loops.

It’s super simple to do, too.  Just cut a length of gimp or thick thread. I used white crochet thread.

Set up the serger:

  • Needle position: right
  • Stitch length: 1mm
  • Stitch width: as narrow as your machine will go.  Mine is 4.5mm
  • Presser foot: a gimp foot is recommended.  I don’t have one, so I used my cording foot instead.  I think anything with a channel on the sole of the foot would probably work.
  • Thread: decorative thread in the upper looper, all-purpose in the needle
  • Stitch finger: rolled
  • Tension: set for 2 thread rolled edge

Make a few inches of chain.  Pull the chain threads towards the back of the machine. Slip the cord under the presser foot so it feeds through the channel and exits just to the left of the needle. Add the cord to the other threads and hold them together to start. Then just hit the pedal and watch it go. Magic!

Next time: putting it all together.

Find Part 1 here

Fashion · Useful Thing

A Minimalist Bathrobe Part 1: Making Plaid Work

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Step one: make a plan

Now that I have a bathing suit that I don’t mind wearing to the gym, I turned my thoughts to making swimming at the gym easier.  When I do a swim, I have to carry a bag with a minimum of a towel, swimwear, shower shoes, bathing cap and toiletries. Ideally, I would have a bathrobe to come and go from the dressing area to the showers.  I never bring one, though, because the ones I have take up too much room in the bag.

Somewhere in my past, I picked up a few yards of soft double-faced cotton.  One side is plaid, the other stripe.  I realized that reversible fabrics don’t necessarily need facings or hemmed edges.  I could use bias tape or a densely stitched overcast to neaten the edges.

I took a pattern for a short, shawl collared robe I have already made and made some modifications. I eliminated the seam allowances and hem length on all of the outer edges.  The original sleeves were slightly puffed 3/4 length, which wasn’t what I wanted. I measured the front and back of the arm opening at the seamline and wrote the numbers on my pattern. Then I looked for a simple, full-length sleeve with the same measurements.  Luckily, the first one I tried was a very close match.  The belt didn’t need a pattern, since it was just a long rectangle.  Although it added a little extra bulk, I thought it was worth it to add patch pockets, a loop at the back of the neck, and belt carriers.

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Fabric pinned to itself and taped to mat. Pattern pieces aligned to match plaid at seams. Plaid sorted!

I knew if I wanted the finished product to look good, I would have to be careful about placing my pattern pieces. There are a few things I do that make this process much easier. Before even starting, I try to choose a symmetric plaid. I think about how I want the plaid to be arranged on the garment, then make the foldline on the stripe I want to run down the center back. I lay out the doubled fabric on a large, gridded cutting mat. If the fabric is slippery or hard to align, I use blue painter’s tape to keep it aligned to the grid.  To make sure the upper and lower edges stay aligned, I pin the bottom and top together on a prominent stripe every few inches or so. It probably goes without saying that I have pre-washed and ironed first. I carefully examine the plaid and make sure the stripes align to the cutting mat’s grid in several places.  They almost never do at first, but a little patience smoothing things out always pays off.  Then I arrange the pattern pieces so they line up on the sides. Commercial patterns almost always mark the waist, so that’s a convenient place to check alignment.  Otherwise, you can use notches to match a horizontal stripe. I usually start with any piece I want to go on the foldine.

After all of that, I cut the front and back. I decided where I wanted the patch pockets to go and cut squares in the right size, again being careful to match the plaid.

In the next post, I will be trying out different types of edge and seam finishes.  See you there!