Friday, 17 July 2015

Notches and stay stitching

I made a quick remark in my previous post  about stuff I learnt from Beth when I was studying with her in May. It seems I have always done stay stitching incorrectly. Being self taught from the internet and from patterns, this is not unexpected. :) Regardless, today's post is about matching notches and using stay stitching as a guide to matching seam lines.

The long and short of it is:
a. stay stitch the seam line unless otherwise directed
b. when putting together two pieces of fabric the correct order is: match notches, match beginning and ending of seams, match in between, clipping the seam allowance if required. Clipping is particularly important if matching curves that do not look the same

Here are some pictures as an example. Here I am using the bodice of Vogue 1350, which I am currently making finished making since writing this. I start off with stay stitching everything:



This was a muslin, so I did the stitching again in that corner without removing the wrong lines.


Match notches, then the end of the seam. You can see here that one of the pattern pieces has a bit more ease. This is FINE! That ease is present between the notch and the seam end, so it SHOULD NOT be distributed anywhere else, since that's where it's needed.



Pin the seam, and clip so the piece that seems "shorter" matches the piece that seems "longer". Note - they're not actually different, the seam lines are the same length. If you do the clipping, then you won't be stretching the fabric.


Stitch (not over pins). In this picture you can see how the clipped fabric actually behaves.

That's pretty much it! It was a really good thing for me to learn just in time for making V1350 as well, since this dress has 4 (yes FOUR) of these really tricky corners.


And here is a sneak peek of the dress itself:


Friday, 26 June 2015

Sheath dresses, everywhere

I'm taking a break from my planned sewing to sew shift cotton dresses. Yes, you heard me. I took some sewing lessons with Beth from Sunny Gal Studio last time I was in California (already 6 weeks ago !). We spent almost all the time covering tailoring for a coat I'll be making throughout the summer - nope, still haven't started on it, 6 weeks later - but we also looked at sheath dresses, very quickly before we were done..

I left the lessons with an initial muslin, which had a bunch of things altered, and promised I'd transfer everything and try again on my own. Which I did, although it's much harder to perfect fit on your own.


This is the second version of the dress, and fitting wise it's getting closer. The first version hasn't been photographed yet.


The front looks decent, or almost decent.


There's still some gaping in the neckline, I have to take out maybe 6/8" out of it. I also want to move the shoulders in a bit. But otherwise it's fine.

The back however, is not so fine, and you can see it in this side picture.


There's still a LOT of extra height in the back, and that's after I already took out 1" with Beth and a further 1.5" on my own. Somehow it keeps coming back... I think what I'm doing is right, but in any case, it's strange there's so much extra. You can also see it in the pure back photos, despite the super busy print:



All right, now leaving aside short back length issues, may I say how much I LOVE this fabric. It's pure cotton that my mother brought back from Thailand. It came in a tube (ends sewed together), and I'm told that that's the typical sarong fabric. It's very very pretty, and you can see how I used the print in the front. I was very careful with cutting.

For this dress, I used an all-in-one facing which I drafted myself. Let me tell you - lessons with Beth are great! I learnt so much, and I certainly have a better handle on sewing together different types of curves. I mean most of what I learnt I'll apply when I make the coat, but even now, I can tell I'm sewing better.

For the hem, I wanted to keep the border print, but since this isn't a drindl I had to turn in part of the hem. There's still enough left of the border, and it more or less matches so that's pretty good.

What do you think? I think I'm getting closer with this pattern, but I still need to tinker with it a bit. I'm in the process of ordering tracing paper so I can play with it a bit more.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Vogue 1440

It seems I have not posted anything in 2 months! I did a bunch of sewing in the meanwhile, including sewing classes (yay).

I wanted to follow up on the Vogue 1440 blouse, and I think I have plenty of pictures so I might do a 2-part post. I'll do finished pictures here.

First off, a picture from the front. It is fitted through the bust, with a hidden button placket (4 buttons) and a full collar.


The fun part comes in the back:


The V at the racer back looks awesome, but it needs some faffing around with the bra, normal stuff does not work, you need one that crosses, or a strapless, or something to not show the straps. I wear it with a long sleeved body underneath, this is maybe not the best way to do this though. I'm still considering options.

The fabric is an Oscar de la Renta silk twill from Mood. It was all right to work with, and Mood's description of this fabric is accurate - the drape is more like a crepe de chine, which is why it worked for this blouse:



I managed to squeeze the blouse out of 1.5 yards (with barely nothing left). I think I cut one thing slightly off grain to do it, but I don't remember what that one thing was. The pattern asks for 2 3/4 yards in 45" fabric, so that's more than a yard less - that's great.

As mentioned in my previous post, I altered the shoulder area substantially, but otherwise didn't do much. I love the racer back, it's very unexpected - especially if you have long hair like I do. Usually the long hair covers it, and you can just see a peek from time to time.


Sadly I didn't do my best with sewing the bands on, you can see some rippling there. The blouse is fitted through the bust, and then flares out in a trapeze-like way to the hips ("tent-like" as Mr T keeps saying). The back seam ends in a little split, although it's quite small and not very visible - I don't even have a picture of it.


I don't have much else to say about this - it's a nice pattern, true to size, but I won't be making the blouse from 1440 again, since I don't need more than one of these in my life. It was a good experience while fitting though.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Vogue 1440 - muslin / marking

I got Vogue 1440 (a Donna Karan design) for the blouse.



Last weekend I set out to do a muslin. You may remember I had some questions about the lack of an FBA on my previous project - I figured it out in the meanwhile.

Vogue must have updated the pages that handle sizing on their website recently, since now they are a lot more detailed. In particular, the How to Choose Pattern Size page now specifically says always choose blouse patterns based on high bust, and adjust pattern as necessary, unless you are a B-cup or below. B-cup, by their standards, happens when the delta between high bust and bust is less than 2inches.

For me, either choice will do - but in practice choosing based on high bust seems like a better overall fit for me so far.


This particular blouse is semi-fitted through bust, giving you 4 to 5 inches of ease (5 in this case). Based on the picture above, I think this just about works without an FBA - the grain line is not perfectly straight, however when I cut it up, all I needed extra was about half an inch, which I will get from the seam allowance. Since I am making this in a very drapey silk twill, I expect that will also help.

This also means that for Vogue patterns that are fitted or very fitted through bust, I will need to make an FBA. I also expect this to be true of any semi-fitted patterns I make in stiffer fabric - like a cotton.

Other than that, you can see some pull lines on this muslin. Here's another view:


I think the reason for this is the forward shoulder - no picture of the actual shoulder, but I moved it about 4/8" forward at the side seam - this was alteration #1, and I know I need this one on most blouses so it wasn't a surprise. The other shoulder adjustment - narrow shoulders - isn't needed in this case since the shoulders on this blouse are much narrower than a usual blouse.

Then, the next thing I looked at was the underarm, which is waaaay too low:



 You can see in the picture that even if you count the 5/8" seam allowance, that's still too low. I ended up raising this by 1", I'm hoping I won't regret that I didn't raise it further. This is alteration #2.

Finally, change #3 was taking out a 2/8" dead dart on the back pieces, at the upper back - the muslin was gaping there, and there would be no sleeve to pull it in.

This is pretty much it in terms of changes to the pattern. I managed to cut everything out of 1.5m of 44" width fabric - barely. I would have cut the armhole bands and the back band from a black silk - if I had any on hand, but I didn't. Although, come to think about it, given it's no longer Sunday, maybe going to buy some wouldn't be a bad idea. Still a few days to go until I need them so I can take my time to decide.

I leave you with a picture of the cutting and tracing process. I'm finally done with it, but it took a long time - about 1.5 hours today just to do one of the two fronts.


What do you think ? Any other changes I should have made to this one? Let me know!




Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Rebecca Taylor in flowery crepe

I'm starting to be at a loss about what to call these posts you know... after hinting at this shirt for the last two posts, here it finally is.


Pretty windy the day we took pictures!

Later edit: oy, I was just looking at these pics and it seems I was wearing the blouse inside out when I took pictures since the shoulder seam is really a French seam? Oh well. S&%t happens.

I am btw massively happy with my new sewing resolution of taking things slowly. I could have rushed to finish this before a work trip last month but instead I decided to wait and do it properly when I was back, which in the end paid off. Of course, the point of failure of all resolutions (all my resolutions at least) is sustained performance, so we will see how I fare at this over the next few months, right?

But back on track, let's talk about the sewing! This is Vogue 1387, a Rebecca Taylor pattern which features two blouses:



This pattern really is a 2-in-1: there are no common pattern pieces between version A and version B. I made version B.



This is a straight size 12 - the only alteration was shortening the sleeves by an amount which I forget now, but either way I shortened them an inch too much. Hey, you live and you learn - I'm quite keen on wearing this with sleeves rolled up but my OH insists that they are fine as is. Time will tell - what do you think?



I initially made a size 14 muslin, as per pattern measurements, but that was just overall too big. I think size 12 mostly fits well, and the only thing I would change, except for my over enthusiastic sleeve shortening abilities, is narrow the shoulders - maybe something like 1/4 would be enough.

Fabric choice - silk crepe de chine as per pattern recommendation - prooved to be good as well.  I got the fabric in Britex (4th floor), but Mood also carries it for less - do what you will with that info, I'm pretty sure the one at Mood is the same fabric. I like it, and it certainly has a swish factor!



The good news is that in this style I do not need an FBA - this blouse is "loose fitting through bust". If you've read my blog for a while, you'll know I struggle with fit for tops, and the FBA is a question about most tops I make. Well, not this one - it is fine, hurray. I'm trying to understand what this means in the greater picture but for now that's good enough.



I followed instructions as written, except for finishing seams: I'm not sure what Vogue pattern writers were thinking when they suggested crepe fabric and double stitched seams on this one, but crepe de chine frays quite a lot and I don't think that suggestion was a reasonable one. I used French seams throughout instead (including sleeves). I suppose whatever fabric the original sample was made in did not fray, so double seams were reasonable? Still, I would not try that on crepe, and an quite disappointed in the instructions in this regard. They should know better, no?



I also found the instructions for the front placket a bit iffy, and that indeed is the only thing I'm unhappy with - although despite the picture below, the front actually looks even.

Sleeve placket instructions were fine and I followed them to good results - first time ever doing a sleeve placket \o/. Narrow hem as per usual Vogue instructions, with a normal machine foot- I get good results with this method so I'm sold on it. The front and back hems are finished separately before the side seams are sewn.

I used silk organza for interfacing, and it worked fine, but now I bought a bunch of suitable weight interfacing from Fashion Sewing Supply so I'll try that next time.

Will I make this again? Well, this type of blouse is right up my alley, so I might make it again.

What do you think about this one? Anything I can do to improve fit?



Thursday, 9 April 2015

Sewing plans!

I did a bit of sightseeing last week, and sightseeing is a lot like sewing... much me-time to plan and ponder and think about life, the universe and everything. Brings things into focus, but also allows for more frivolous pursuit, such as thinking about, and planning for, sewing... lots and lots of sewing.

Before any sewing plans... Check out my handmade wardrobe! The trenchcoat has been great, and my latest Belacarra as well.


I was recently traveling for work, and some fabrics made it back to Switzerland. They're mostly from Mood, and most of them are intended for very specific purposes, with some wild cards.

I'll start with summer sewing, where I have three clear projects, at least one of which I hope to tackle in the following month.

First up, I have great plans for this silk-cotton rose embroidered fabric, to make it into another V1357.


Despite not underlining and managing to stretch out the waist for my previous, winter, version, I am very happy with the waist width increase and want to tinker a bit more. I really want to make a muslin to check fit, since I did some basting / pinning with the last version to remove some pooling at the back, but looking at photos, I could do better.

Second, I got myself this Vogue 1440 pattern, and unlike the rest of the interwebs, I got it for the shirt. Yes, you read that right!


I quite dig Vogue designer blouse patterns and that racer back looks like a winner. I have this silk twill earmarked for it, and the envelope lists "crepe de chine" which has a similar drape.

Come to think of it, I have 1.6m of a nice wool suiting that would work for the jacket... maybe I'll put that on my cold weather sewing list since I wore jackets a lot to work this winter.

Third, I have Vogue 1381, a Ralph Rucci pattern that looks great and I've been planning for since last October.


I have a loose weave off-white linen for it, and I'm planning to use the blue top stitching thread that I didn't use for the trenchcoat. I also want to embroider the skirt in blue. I haven't decided what to embroider with, but I certainly want something abstract. I'm currently gathering ideas on this Pinterest board. Suggestions welcome!

In fact, I am hoping I will be able to start with this dress first, since I have another work trip coming up in May and a 12 hour flight is perfect for embroidering. We'll see how it goes, I expect fitting to be hard on this one judging by the pictures on the Vogue website and the fact that it is not a very popular dress. I'm prepared to give up if it doesn't work.


Finally, a bit of autumn sewing planning. I saw this amazing fabric used in a post on the mood sewing network by Sew Busy Lizzie, and I knew it had to become an  autumn coat. I guess the MSN does work after all!


Since it's a high contender for "most special fabric I ever bought", I want to do it justice. The trenchcoat above is great, but I made plenty of mistakes that I'm not happy with, so this time I must do better.

I'm currently working on picking a pattern for it, but I'll make sure to document everything. I'm planning to get this done slowly - target for finishing it is September.

So there you go, these are my immediate sewing plans. My last plans post was 2 months ago, and I finished 3 items out of the 8 I listed - I only posted about two so far, but I have pictures taken for the blouse too - I just need to go write!

You'll notice fewer dresses than in the past - I guess I'm not a dress person as much as a separates person, and these plans reflect that. They also reflect my desire to understand and achieve better fit. I love that I'm moving more into sewing with great fabric, this is one of the great advantages of sewing for yourself.

What do you think? Do you have any spring/summer sewing plans? Any ideas for abstract embroidery I could use?


Tuesday, 31 March 2015

On trend midi skirt

I think I talked about making one of these back in December, and lo and behold I did finish it before the winter was over. Actually I finished it in early February, wore it to an evening work event, it was fairly appropriate attire. I just didn't take pictures until now.



This was the inspiration: this year midi skirts are back, and neutral / camel was a good winter color. The summer trend seems to be soft pastels, so I'm actually making this again in this cotton from Mood for summer.

This is Vogue 1357, now out of print, which I previously made in red lace. I didn't really change much about the pattern, other than increasing the waist a bit, since I was never very happy with the previous version - it was too tight. Now, though, this one feels a bit loose, so I might take in the side seams again for the next version.


This is truly a winter skirt - I don't own one pair of shoes other than boots that work with it, although I guess some smart flat shoes would work. Except I kind of associate those with ... older age. Maybe I need to go shopping, and I might find something. :D



This is made in a medium wool suiting that I bought in Romania last winter. Sadly, the weave is actually quite loose, which I didn't realize when I started working on the skirt, so I didn't underline it, which I should have. This wouldn't be a problem, except I'm quite unhappy with the hem. Due to the lose weave, I can't do a heavy hem, I can't catch stitch a lot and also being wool, I don't really want to topstitch it. Currently it's catch stitched in some places, but... meh. It doesn't work that well.

This skirt does have some amazing lines, you can do soooo much with the line drawings:


I handled the waist like too much, and didn't stay stitch so it shaped out of shape. Being wool, I managed to make some progress in fixing it by steaming, but the back still looks rather.. gathered rather than darted in places. My previous version didn't have this problem, so it must have been me. You live and you learn, I guess. I've been much more diligent in stay stitching with both the blouse I posted about last week, and the blouse I will post about next week, both of which I made after this skirt.


I set in a lapped zipper (although I think the pattern calls for an invisible one?), because I like lapped zippers in skirts. I used this free Craftsy class for the zipper insertion - it's very clear how to do it. I topstitched the back & front yokes, because I thought they looked nice topstiched. For example, the front-to-back transition is a beautiful slanted line.


Finally, it's lined in bright yellow silk habotai. A very happy color, perfect for the winter blues. For the waistband, I changed the pattern, and did a waistband with facing instead of folding. I mostly did this to reduce bulk, and I also put in grosgrain ribbon inside the waistband for support. I attached the waistband facing (yellow habotai again) with fell stitches:

As you can see in this picture, it's fairly drapey, which is lovely, especially in this high wind we have these days around Zurich:


I really like this skirt, although I think I could have put my sewing skills to better use with it. I sadly only managed to wear it two or three times before it got too warm outside (although, given the weather now, I could easily wear it this week!). I will wear it a lot next season though, even if it probably won't be in fashion anymore by then.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Left over fabric to flowy blouse

Despite my dismal 1 post / month on average since November, I have been doing some sewing. I guess winter time is just not that sewing-inducing for me at all. I have started to get back into sewing in February, and I'm stash busting.

OK, actually I don't believe in stash busting at all, and have promptly ordered more fabric to offset the loss. I have lovely stuff that came from Mood to my friend's desk in California. More on that in the following months.

Today, I want to show you my second edition of the Belacarra:


This is all silk crepe, left over from my party dress from last year, and I obsessed over what to make with it for a long time until I settled on this pattern. It's Liberty silk crepe, and just as amazing to sew with as last time I used it. I got it at Truro fabrics but they no longer have this pattern - they have others though, this weight is the one called "Liberty crepe" (rather than crepe de chine or something else) . The brown contrast is crepe de chine, acquired from Britex. It's nice but nowhere near as nice as the Liberty one. :)

Truth be told, I'm not that enamored with the fit on this one. There are two main issues: first, there is a lot of extra fabric at the sleeve join, and the drape of the fabric makes this obvious. To be honest, I have NO idea how to fix this. The good news is that despite (or because?) the masses of fabric, it is quite comfortable to wear. I do wish someone knew how to fix.


The second issue is my own stupidity - I narrowed the hips without realizing when I did the sway back last time. This is of little consequence - it means the blouse looks a lot better tucked into my trousers, but it's still annoying as hell.


I do like the blousiness though, and I think this pattern is much better in this drapey fabric than my first version. If you're wondering what happened to that one, I managed to rip a hole in it when I was putting it on a few weeks back, so into the bin it went. Sad but true :0

Here's a side shot:


And dress form / hanger photos:



Construction wise, I used french seams everywhere. I find that I now have the patience to treat french seams properly - that is, sew right sides together, press, trim the seam, press open, then press together right-sides together, then sew, then press stitching, then press open. I never used to do that before, but I really love taking my time and doing this now. Especially with so much expensive fabric, it would be a let down to not do it properly.



I also did some edge stitching on the sleeves. I didn't follow construction instructions on the sleeves, as I thought that would result in raw edges on the inside. Instead, I did a regular cuff - press 5/8" in, stitch other side, fold / press / trim, baste pressed edge over stitched edge then edge stitch from the outside.


For the neckline, I followed instructions - it's just finished with bias (fold bias strip, sew raw edges together, trim and sew from outside):



Finally, I attached a tag:


I keep meaning to order custom-made tags, but yeah, it's lazyness inc at auxetically nowadays. So I got this paw ribbon instead.

So, what do you think of my new Belacarra? Yay or nay? Do you know what I should do to improve fit at the sleeves? Tell me, I love hearing from you!