Monthly Archives: March 2010

Slopers…

So yesterday I sat down (actually, stood up, craned my neck, twisted around in front of the mirror) and took my measurements to try and draft my own personal sloper. I used the instructions from Modern Pattern Design. They suggest having someone else help take the measurements. EVERYONE suggests having someone else help take the measurements. I suggest having someone else help you take the measurements. I still did it on my own. How wacky this makes my results remains to be seen. So far I have drawn up the front bodice sloper. I just need to do the back, and then sew up a muslin to find out how much it doesn’t fit. First impressions… well, the waist dart is WAY narrower than the one in the illustration (which I expected… I do NOT have a classic 40s feminine figure. Even if I had a corset, I don’t think I could achieve that effect… at least not without a few years to adjust to tightlacing. ANYWAY. The main surprise was the slope of the shoulder… namely, there isn’t any. Well, almost none. I mean, I know I have broad, fairly square shoulders, but these are almost perfectly straight out. So… we’ll see. I may also need to lower the armscye, but that shouldn’t be too hard. I don’t have a French curve like they suggest for smoothing the armscye and neckline curves… hopefully my skillfulness as an artist will make up for that (LOL).

Future thought… if I do manage to make this work, it would be REALLY fun to do a jacket for my husband from a personal sloper. He’s got BROAD shoulders and an itty-bitty (for a guy) waist… he tried to get a coat tailored to fit once and the tailor just threw up his hands and said it couldn’t be done.  But before I ever try that I need to find out if I even CAN make a jacket, much less a well-tailored one.

Not sure how much actual sewing I’ll get done for the next little while as the Grandmother-in-law is staying with us for a week or so and then the kids are on Spring Break and we’re heading home for even more time… but I can dream.

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Things to do

I guess I’ll get started with a list of what I WANT to do right now.

1) At Christmas I purchased a coat pattern, Butterick 5425. It’s a full-length, princess-seamed coat with collar variations (a classic lapel and a closed, round-neck), both of which I like. It’s fitted in the body and has a lovely full skirt. Just for background, I’ve been wearing full-length, wool coats since I first stole my mom’s old Hudson’s Bay coat back in highschool. And they all have two problems—they’re not quite warm enough (I live in Canada) and the sleeves are too short. Also, my current incarnation is on its last legs; the lining is giving way, as is the fashion fabric around the buttons.

The coat I WANT to make

In preparation for this, I just finished making coats for my two daughters (I’ll blog that next, I promise)… my first experiments with coats, collars, lining, underlining, and buttonholes. (Ok, I’ve lined dance vests before, but that was a rather different process than lining a coat). Next step is to start collecting my finished materials (the yardage for the full-length version is grotesque… over 8 meters of 45″ cloth (it occurs to me that measuring my cloth “yardage” in meters but my width in inches is probably a uniquely Canadian messed up sort of thing to do).) So no way am I going to be able to eke that out of old curtains or thrift-store finds. Also, I want this to be an AWESOME coat. This will require AWESOME fabric. Which I have very little guarantee of finding around here, especially at a price I can afford. It will also need and AWESOME lining, quite possibly underlining, and some kind of super-warm interfacing as well. Well…

Ok, I am getting a little ahead of myself. While I would ultimately like to make the uber-winter version of this coat, there are a lot of steps to go first. A muslin, for one, to gauge the fit. Then probably a light-weight but fully-lined version, before I attempt to stuff one up with quilting batten for warmth. The pattern I bought only goes up to size 12, which is my size, but may be a bit snug depending on how much batten I stuff inside it. Also the sleeves have a bit of gather at the shoulder, which I’m not thrilled by; it shouldn’t be TOO complicated to shorten the sleeve cap to take it out, but I’ve never done it before. No doubt it will require a sleeve-length alteration (I have monkey arms), and possibly some tweaking around the midsection, although I’m hoping to avoid that. Which brings me to my big recurring fitting issues: the long arms are matched by long legs; (I know, I know, shut up already); although I’m 5’7″, my torso-length measurements are actually petite. On top of that I have a “boyish figure” (no breasts and hips, a wide waist), which means that my bust and hip measurements fall under the size-12 range, but my waist is firmly in the 14 zone. I’m hoping that won’t be an issue with a coat pattern, but it’s possible I’ll have to grade the outer shell up for my final version, especially if I want to put a heavy interlining in.

Anyway, that is the long-term goal (I would like to have it to wear by next winter, but if not I’m sure I can get another winter’s wear out of my current coat). In the meantime a couple of other projects have suggested themselves:

2) personal sloper: I’ve been reading a lot about how constructing your personal sloper can speed up making alterations, not to mention facilitating drafting your own patterns (something I’d REALLY like to do). This is something I really should move forward on before anything else… it could help me figure out at least some of my potential pitfalls for fitting (like sleeve length)  BEFORE cutting out the muslin, which would be nice.

3)McCall’s 2324 This is an 80s dress-suit pattern I acquired in a mess of old patterns I inherited (in a rather roundabout way) from my mother-in-law.  The picture above is the best I could find on the internet… the pattern itself came to me as a scatter of still-uncut tissue leaves, missing both envelope and instructions. I love little tailored jackets like these, but I can never find them as the sleeves are always too short. Perfect for a trial-run of my full coat, right? Er, not. This is easily the most complicated pattern I’ve ever looked at (keeping in mind that my pattern experience is pretty rudimentary). It has separate pattern pieces for both the interfacing and the lining. It has 2-part sleeves! Add to that a lack of instructions of any kind? Um, well… You know, I probably will try it eventually. well, maybe just a muslin… well…

4)I also picked up a nice, U-necked, princess-seamed dress pattern at Value Village back at Christmas. I don’t have any fabric that’s crying out to me to make it, but it’s a lovely pattern (I had a dress very similar I used to love, except that… wait for it… the sleeves were too short). So that’s a possibility too, although the amount of fabric necessary for a dress seems unlikely to materialize for me in the near future.

5)Tops. It would be nice to find/buy/draft a nice top pattern or two, something I could really use in my daily wardrobe. And it wouldn’t take up as much fabric as dresses or long coats. I’ve looked at a bunch of patterns online, but most of my favourites are for knits only and knits scare me. I have a serger, but it’s in need of some TLC. Also finding nice knits is HARD.

Ok, that’s enough blathering about plans… how about a little action?

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Coats for Little Girls (Part II)

My younger daughter wanted the older pattern, McCall’s 3374, view C in particular. I was a little worried about having enough fabric, so I opted for contrasting cuffs and collar out of another, dark-brown curtain from the same hamper. Good thing I did… as it was I didn’t have enough fabric to do two facings.

Using this pattern was a little trickier than the other, mostly because the pattern wasn’t lined and I wanted the finished garment to be.  I just used the same pattern pieces, although perhaps I should have graded the sleeve lining a little smaller; it came out a bit ripply around the fold-back cuff part. I could have used the facing-pattern to subtract the facing amount from the front pattern to make a lining front, but I didn’t bother; for the one facing I did have (ran out of fabric, remember) I just pressed the inner seam back and topstitched it to the lining. I did put interfacing on both sides; I wound up fusing it to the inside of the lining on the un-faced side, which was not my best idea… the stiff interfacing really shows on the thin lining. Maybe it’ll detach with wear… if not, at least it’s not visible when the coat’s on.

Other than that it went together not at all badly.

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Coats for little girls… (Part I)

The fabric for the girls' coats

A year or so ago I received a gift-hamper that contained, among other things, some old curtains, a sort of ugly, coarse-woven, earth-tone fabric. They reminded me of burlap, though I think the fibre is actually wool (they didn’t melt when ironed on “wool” setting, anyway, and they feel rather scratchy to be cotton). “Oh,” thought I, “Fabric!” and proceeded to pick out all the hems.

I then spent a couple of months trying to come up with what on earth to do with this potentially hideous fabric. It was badly sun-bleached on one side, but the former inside was pretty much good. What to do?

And then it dawned on me: coats for my daughters.  This heavy, ugly fabric would be great in cute little retro jackets.

Unfortunately this revelation occurred right before I had to start studying intensively for my candidacy exams. Finally, just after Christmas, I actually got out to a fabric store; I bought a ton of lining, thread, some buttons, and the pattern for Simplicity 2876. An hour or so later I scored McCall’s 3374 at Value Village—so now I had everything I needed to start.

My older daughter chose the Simplicity, and wanted a short version (fortunately as it turned out, or I would’ve run out of fabric for the younger one’s). I actually whipped it up in the space of a couple of weeks, which is record speed for me. It was (I may have mentioned this before) my very first lined jacket; I also underlined the old curtain fabric. I did wind up hand-finishing the lining at the cuff and hem, as it seemed simpler than trying to figure out the instructions for finishing the sleeve lining. It worked out quite nicely, I thought, anyway. Now the weather just has to improve enough for her to wear it.

Firsts:

  • lining
  • underlining
  • buttonholes
  • iron-on interfacing
  • collar

Problems:

  • I suck at tight curves (like collars)
  • I also suck at buttonholes (and my automatic buttonholer foot wouldn’t work… the coat fabric was too thick.
  • pattern only mentioned six buttons (for the front); this particular sleeve variation should really have two more smaller ones for the tabs.

All in all, pretty happy :)

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Some Goals

I guess I’ll get started with a list of what I WANT to do right now.

1) At Christmas I purchased a coat pattern, Butterick 5425. It’s a full-length, princess-seamed coat with collar variations (a classic lapel and a closed, round-neck), both of which I like. It’s fitted in the body and has a lovely full skirt. Just for background, I’ve been wearing full-length, wool coats since I first stole my mom’s old Hudson’s Bay coat back in highschool. And they all have two problems—they’re not quite warm enough (I live in Canada) and the sleeves are too short. Also, my current incarnation is on its last legs; the lining is giving way, as is the fashion fabric around the buttons.

The coat I WANT to make

In preparation for this, I just finished making coats for my two daughters (I’ll blog that next, I promise)… my first experiments with coats, collars, lining, underlining, and buttonholes. (Ok, I’ve lined dance vests before, but that was a rather different process than lining a coat). Next step is to start collecting my finished materials (the yardage for the full-length version is grotesque… over 8 meters of 45″ cloth (it occurs to me that measuring my cloth “yardage” in meters but my width in inches is probably a uniquely Canadian messed up sort of thing to do).) So no way am I going to be able to eke that out of old curtains or thrift-store finds. Also, I want this to be an AWESOME coat. This will require AWESOME fabric. Which I have very little guarantee of finding around here, especially at a price I can afford. It will also need and AWESOME lining, quite possibly underlining, and some kind of super-warm interfacing as well. Well…

Ok, I am getting a little ahead of myself. While I would ultimately like to make the uber-winter version of this coat, there are a lot of steps to go first. A muslin, for one, to gauge the fit. Then probably a light-weight but fully-lined version, before I attempt to stuff one up with quilting batten for warmth. The pattern I bought only goes up to size 12, which is my size, but may be a bit snug depending on how much batten I stuff inside it. Also the sleeves have a bit of gather at the shoulder, which I’m not thrilled by; it shouldn’t be TOO complicated to shorten the sleeve cap to take it out, but I’ve never done it before. No doubt it will require a sleeve-length alteration (I have monkey arms), and possibly some tweaking around the midsection, although I’m hoping to avoid that. Which brings me to my big recurring fitting issues: the long arms are matched by long legs; (I know, I know, shut up already); although I’m 5’7″, my torso-length measurements are actually petite. On top of that I have a “boyish figure” (no breasts and hips, a wide waist), which means that my bust and hip measurements fall under the size-12 range, but my waist is firmly in the 14 zone. I’m hoping that won’t be an issue with a coat pattern, but it’s possible I’ll have to grade the outer shell up for my final version, especially if I want to put a heavy interlining in.

Anyway, that is the long-term goal (I would like to have it to wear by next winter, but if not I’m sure I can get another winter’s wear out of my current coat). In the meantime a couple of other projects have suggested themselves:

2) personal sloper: I’ve been reading a lot about how constructing your personal sloper can speed up making alterations, not to mention facilitating drafting your own patterns (something I’d REALLY like to do). This is something I really should move forward on before anything else… it could help me figure out at least some of my potential pitfalls for fitting (like sleeve length)  BEFORE cutting out the muslin, which would be nice.

3)McCall’s 2324 This is an 80s dress-suit pattern I acquired in a mess of old patterns I inherited (in a rather roundabout way) from my mother-in-law.  The picture above is the best I could find on the internet… the pattern itself came to me as a scatter of still-uncut tissue leaves, missing both envelope and instructions. I love little tailored jackets like these, but I can never find them as the sleeves are always too short. Perfect for a trial-run of my full coat, right? Er, not. This is easily the most complicated pattern I’ve ever looked at (keeping in mind that my pattern experience is pretty rudimentary). It has separate pattern pieces for both the interfacing and the lining. It has 2-part sleeves! Add to that a lack of instructions of any kind? Um, well… You know, I probably will try it eventually. well, maybe just a muslin… well…

4)I also picked up a nice, U-necked, princess-seamed dress pattern at Value Village back at Christmas. I don’t have any fabric that’s crying out to me to make it, but it’s a lovely pattern (I had a dress very similar I used to love, except that… wait for it… the sleeves were too short). So that’s a possibility too, although the amount of fabric necessary for a dress seems unlikely to materialize for me in the near future.

5)Tops. It would be nice to find/buy/draft a nice top pattern or two, something I could really use in my daily wardrobe. And it wouldn’t take up as much fabric as dresses or long coats. I’ve looked at a bunch of patterns online, but most of my favourites are for knits only and knits scare me. I have a serger, but it’s in need of some TLC. Also finding nice knits is HARD.

Ok, that’s enough blathering about plans… how about a little action?

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An introduction…

Hi. This is me. There are probably about fourteen million other things I should be doing right now, but I feel like sewing and I can’t, so I figure I’ll write about it for a bit.

I guess I’ll start with how I got started.

My mother sewed, not huge amounts, but I usually had a few home-made dresses around when I was little. When I was about nine I started getting into her scrap box and making clothes for my barbies. Aside from basic instruction on how to thread the machine (a glorious old Pfaff from the 60s), I taught myself. Patterns were foreign to me, as were concepts like “fitting” and “seam allowances.” Nevertheless, I developed a fair range of “fashions,” mostly using basic rectangle construction, with belts and ties for fit. Fortunately for me, Barbie doesn’t require movement ease. What I did develop (rightly or not) was the idea that I could sew.

After I outgrew the barbies, I didn’t sew much for quite a while. I did doodle a lot of costumes and exotic outfits, but nothing I thought I could ever practically make (or that anyone, including me, would wear if I did). But then, towards the end of high school, I took up bellydancing. All of a sudden there were PLENTY of ideas I wanted to sew: harem pants, circle skirts, hip-belts, covered bras, cholis.

And that was most of my sewing for the last 10 years… lots of project photos up on my dance profile at http://people.tribe.net/taran. I learned a lot—especially about seam allowances (1/4 inch may be fine for Barbie, but it doesn’t work so well for me), but it was still at a costume level. Zippers, buttonholes, seam finishing, even most patterns… all remained essentially foreign to me. A few more advanced projects, like making a shirt for my husband or a dress for one of my daughters, have met with patchy success. And while I adore a LOT of my costumes, they’re not exactly daily items in my wardrobe.

So lately, I’ve been trying to Improve Myself. I’ve been reading up on pattern-drafting and alterations. I found a copy of the “Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing” at Value Village, the first actual sewing instruction I’ve ever had (This is a lie, I learnt most of the basics from my mom… just never in a formal “this is how you do this…” kind of way). I found an awesome (if dated) text on pattern drafting online: Modern Pattern Design . Most recently, I’ve completed some cute little lined jackets for my daughters (more on that later) and I’m hoping to work up to making a gorgeous, sleek winter coat for myself. And when I do succeed in making stuff… well, I want to show it off (or cry about it). So that’s what this blog is for. ;)

I think I’ll conclude with a brief summary of where I am as a sewist (I just found that word… it’s cute, and definitely better than “seamstress” or “tailor” since I am definitely lacking in a lot of the skills required for those labels).

My main strength: naive inclination to assume that I can do whatever sewing project comes to mind.

My main weakness: lack of actual skills and techniques, not to mention the resources to do it properly.

Where I am, skill-wise?

Well, I can read a pattern. Usually I don’t have too much trouble with construction, although there’s been a few things that flummox me (shirt plackets for one). I can make minor alterations to a pattern, although I’m not especially good at predicting the outcome. I have recently been expanding my repertoire to include zippers, buttonholes, and even lining, underlining, and interfacing, not to mention pockets. I think I could get to like this interfacing thing…

My big hangups when it comes to sewing tend to stem from lack of money. I don’t have money for fabric. I don’t have money for notions. I especially don’t have money for patterns, which is why I tend to try to draft my own (emphasis on try). I also tend to take shortcuts, forget to transfer pattern markings to my fabric, and get too impatient to pin stuff. I am slowly getting better at most of these… a few months ago I actually BOUGHT some patterns and have now used them. Mostly I try to scavenge—recycling curtains or old bed-linens or the odd length of fabric found at Value Village; altering patterns my mother or mother-in-law have had lying around for ages. This is all well and good, but it only gets you so far, especially since I can’t afford (in terms of money or space) a huge stash from which I can mix ‘n match stuff.

I think my first few posts will be a mish-mash of recent projects and some older ones I’m still proud of, plus some goals. Yup, sounds good. Ok, here I go…

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