Monthly Archives: May 2010

Stash Envy

I wish I had a stash.

Ok, I know a lot of sewists spend a lot of time bemoaning their massive stashes and even trying valiantly (and vainly?) to whittle them down. And I do have a stash, of sorts… a whole rubbermaid tub full of bits and pieces of fabric. But a lot of them are scraps, scavenged or collected here and there over the years. A few Fabricland remnants. There’s three yards of an orange crinkle-fabric-with-lace that I got at Value Village years ago and keep meaning to make into something for my best friend (It was going to be a tiered skirt, or at least the bottom of a tiered skirt, but since it doesn’t seem to be getting there yet and neither of us is dancing right now, maybe I should make her something else. It might make a nice JJ top, but I don’t know her measurements, I don’t really want to guestimate something like that. There’s a set of nice, heavy, grey-tan curtains that would make a nice jacket or even “jeans” (I was going to use it for my coat muslin until I found that wool at VV), but they’re actually really nice curtains… I’m tempted to just keep them as curtains. If we ever get a rod, we could use them in our bedroom, or the livingroom. There’s some slinky, slithery polyesters that I’m not that interested in actually wearing (though they’d make nice costume elements). And that, really, is about it.

I guess I just think it’d be really nice to be able to sew something without going to the store. I’d like to have some linen (especially handkerchief linens, not that I’ll be able to find that at Fabricland). A whack of cotton broadcloth. Some nice knits… if I’m going to be sewing clothes  for myself, I’m going to need to come to terms with knits at some point. All my favourite RTW tops are knits. (And while I’m wishing, I wish my serger were fixed). Some denim, and other bottom-weight fabrics. This is without even getting into fabric I currently need for planned projects (stretch denim, lining etc. for the coat). A variety of interfacings and linings.

There’s a lot of notions I’d like to have in my stash, too. A real button collection (like my Grandma’s), for one. Twill tape. Fray check. A wider selection of sewing needles. Zippers (I have a few 8-inch ones that I got at Fabricland for 3/$1, but other sizes/styles). Fold-over, waistband, and buttonhole elastic. Some cute trims. I am definitely lusting over those wash-away markers, too.

I wonder if stashes are sort of like wardrobes… it fills shelves and shelves, and you still sit and stare at it and go, “I have nothing to sew!”


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Jalie Jeans Pattern!

The Jalie Jeans pattern came! The joy, the glee…

The crushing realization that I can’t afford to buy fabric for at least two more weeks, despite the Fabricland sale that’s on right now… /cry.

Ah well, at least I can read the instructions, maybe trace out my pattern, and fantasize.

Next question… should I make some trial versions for the kids?

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Going vintage…

Butterick 4918, The Little A-Line With or Without Shorts Beneath

So I may have mentioned at some point that I inherited a large chunk of my mother-in-law’s old sewing stash; in particular, after her divorce, the stuff I got had ended up in my father-in-law’s storage. When he liquidated that storage a few years ago, it came to light, and I nabbed it. Mother-in-law didn’t seem too interested in having any of it back (I checked)… so I inherited a few fabric remnants, a fair selection of thread, some random notions, and a bunch of old patterns.

Most of the patterns date to my MIL’s sewing heyday, which was the 80s (Most are also kids or babies patterns). I’m not quite willing to grant the 80s vintage status yet…  but there are a couple that are even older, and yesterday my younger daughter asked me to sew one up for her. It’s labelled as Butterick 4918. This is not the Butterick 4918 that turns up on my internet searches, which are a 1952 evening gown or a 1980s cowgirl shirt. It’s an A-line short dress with short puff sleeves and optional shorts (although the shorts portion of the pattern seems to have evaporated). From the hairstyles on the drawing I’d say late 60s; the price on the envelope is 60 cents (70 Canadian). The pattern is a kids size four, which I am hoping will fit my rather pint-sized not-quite-seven year old (I know, but the coat I made her from the rather less vintage McCall’s 3374 was also a size 4, and it’s too big. And the chest measurement looks right, which is probably more important… worst case scenario, it’s too small and we give the dress to my 3-year old niece. And then I have to figure out how to grade the pattern up for my kids).

Now, I’m not a huge fan of vintage patterns. I was scoping out some late-60s ones at my grandmother’s this spring and let them be. My basic problems are as follows: I’m not a big fan of fashions of the 60s, 70s, or 80s, and I don’t have a figure the 40s and 50s patterns would flatter (at least without major corsetry). It’s possible that I could do something nice with a drop-waisted 20s frock, but… well, unlikely. And even less likely that such a pattern is ever going to cross my path. As I mentioned above, I asked my grandma about old patterns lying around (nobody has moved out of that house since 1918… the new generations just keep on moving in), and she dug up a few, but all dating to roughly late 60s (And a little off-size, although probably close enough if I were really into making any of them). But for making them for my kids… well, I’ll give it a try. And I have to say, working off a one-size pattern is quite the treat. The seam lines are all marked; so is the direction of stitching. There’s the occasional diagram of which foot to use, not to mention an illustration of the zipper, and more match-points than you can shake a stick at. A lot of it is wasted on me (I am trying to get better at transferring pattern markings to my fabric, but I’m still pretty lazy. I need to get one of those markers that disappears in water, because otherwise I’m too tempted to use regular markers, which has had occasional disastrous effects in the past.) but I still appreciate having it there. I didn’t read the instructions, either, before I started construction, which I probably should have just for the appreciation of well-illustrated, thorough instructions. Ah, well. Also, the seam allowances are massive: 6/8″, or a full 2 cm.

Vintage A-line, child's size 4, Butterick 4918

I made one slight alteration—I lined the pattern. Mostly because the fabric my daughter chose (from that same MIL stash, actually) is really soft and drapey, and the illustrations suggest a fabric with more body. Also,

At long last, a zipper

I like lining things. This was my first zipper installation in a while (and my first on my new machine, and my first in a lined garment), so that was fun. It is not a perfect zipper, especially right at the top (I suspect some errors in my methodology… but it’s not bad (for me), and it’s nicely sandwiched between the two layers. Probably I would have benefited from reading the instructions more carefully (or any instructions)… but what’s done is done.

I dared to machine blind-hem both the lining and the shell separately. It’s my first machine blind-hem. Definitely not perfect (I could have done better by hand) but reasonable. I did a better job of easing the extra width in the lining than I thought I might on machine, so that at least was a triumph. Other triumphs include not having the lining peak out particularly at the neckline, and managing to catchstitch the lining around the sleeves (which I didn’t line) without having the outside end up totally puckered.

The original puff sleeve didn’t have an opening on the cuff, and I was a little concerned about my daughter being able to get her arm through, so I added some detailing to the back of the sleeve copied from my JJ blouse.

Back of sleeve detailing from JJ blouse

I won’t have enough length for an overlap, so I’ll do some kind of loop on one side and a little button on the other. Probably I should have embedded the edges of the loop in the cuff when I sewed it, but I’m not that organized.

All in all, a cute and surprisingly timeless little dress. Will update with photos of kid in dress (or news of a size disaster) when she gets home from school.

Edit: Kid in dress.

A vintage cutie

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JJ update

Wore my JJ blouse all day yesterday. Poopily, the crinkle in the crinkle cotton relaxed as it was worn (especially across the back) so by the end of the day the back was VERY saggy and loose. The front was still fine (and still gaping slightly :P). Not sure if I’ll try and take the back in more or just chalk it up to a learning experience… maybe I’ll see what it does after the fabric’s washed.

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More fantasizing…

Because, y’know, thinking about sewing might be even more fun than actually sewing (for one thing, you never hugely goof up just thinking about it).

Mostly about those Jalie jeans again. The pattern should be here next week sometime (5-7 days shipping in Canada… so nice to actually order from a Canadian company!). With any luck I can get out to Fabricland sometime this weekend to scope out the stretch denims… I haven’t paid much attention to them in the past. I’m thinking I may scavenge a zipper from an older pair of jeans… we’ll have to see on that front. I should fit into a Q or R size (Q is the largest kids size, R the smallest adult size)… not sure which I’ll go with; as I understand it the kids “low rise” isn’t really, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to be reducing the rise either way, so maybe it doesn’t matter. The Q is allegedly 1/2 inch too small, but I think I like my fit a little snugger than the model on the cover… on the other hand, it doesn’t have a very large seam allowance, so perhaps I should cut the R and just increase the seam-allowance from 3/8 to 5/8… that would add up to about an inch reduction over the whole thing, I think.

In terms of alterations:
1) leg length. Obvious. The inseams given for the sizes that would fit me in the hips are like 29-30″; my minimum required is like 32-33, preferably 34. ALTHOUGH, the illustrations show a heels-length jean, so it is possible that the garment inseam is already longer than the actual inseam is intended to be. Have to measure the pieces and find out, I guess.
2) tightness. I already mentioned this a bit. The problem is, in order to be tight enough for my liking once stretched out, I pretty much have to be jumping up and down and wrestling my way into the jeans when the fabric’s freshly washed. Obviously this won’t work for pinned fittings, and since every denim stretches a little differently, I don’t think I’m going to be able to make a me-fitted pattern that works for every future denim. I’m THINKING I will have to add a “fitting wear” stage (maybe before attaching the waistband?) to see how much they stretch out, and then take them in.
3) leg width. Flare, or the lack of it. Although I’m not a huge fan of skinnies (despite their current preponderance in my wardrobe) I think I’m done with the flares for a while. I want to seize the opportunity of making my own to make some “stovepipe” legs; I had a pair like this a couple of years back that I LOVED… they were snug to the calves, and then straight down from there. Like the narrowest boot-cut ever. Of course, if I manage to nail this and make my own jeans for the rest of my life, I can play around with whatever I like. But that’s my first goal.
4) waistband. The pattern recommends you cut it straight on the bias (stretchy) or, if you’re low on yardage, on the straight grain (less stretchy). However, a LOT of people seem to have back-gaping problems with this pattern (not a major issue to fix, but not improved by a straight waistband). Upon examination of all my jeans (which are all low-rise stretch denim, relatively high-end, and do not gape at the back), they ALL have a contoured waistband: the band is usually on the straight grain at the back and a slight to full bias at the front overlap part.  Now, for the record, rear-end gaposis (isn’t that an awesome word?) is usually severest in people with a big difference between hip and waist measurements. I have no such issue—my hips (ulp) are only about 7 inches larger than my waist, and quite narrow (or my waist is large… after flipping back and forth between the two viewpoints since I was 15, I’m settling on a little bit of both). BUT, I do have a bit of a swayback, and whatever fullness my bottom does possess is located directly to the rear… RTW jeans often gape on me (just not the ones I actually buy). So I am TEMPTED to try and make up my own contoured waistband for the pattern (because, y’know, how hard can it be? /sigh). Alternatively, I’m tempted to try a straight-grain and see if I can create a stretch jean that doesn’t fall down. (I doubt this is possible for jeans as low-rise as I like mine). I’m also wondering about lowering the front waist (which I will) more than the rear… I am extremely attached to a waistband that goes BELOW my pudgy parts, but I’m not especially attached to the plumber’s crack. Anyway, just a thought.

I will edit with some pics of my FAVE jeans of all time, my old Buffal City-X low-rises. I love these jeans. I think I had about five different pairs over a couple of years. Sadly, they don’t make the style any more, and I was less thrilled with the most recent pair of Buffalos I got last spring (hence my more recent foray into GUESS… with mixed success). But at the moment my camera is being poopy (again) so I’ll just post this (after like five days in the works) and get it out there.

Edit: not the best pic, but here’s an idea of the fit I’m looking for. Unfortunately I can’t get good shots of my own bottom.

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I started this post before I really got into the JJ blouse… then I was having camera issues and forgot I never finished it. Here it is, illustrated at long last:

As my obsession with making my own jeans proceeds, I’ve been reading the old Pattern Review Jeans Sew-Along. It’s going to take awhile. Then there’s the winter jeans sew-along, and there might even be one ongoing. That would be exciting… I discovered the idea of sew-alongs a couple months ago, but I’ve never done one. I have learnt a lot from reading them, though. And one thing I learned from the jeans one is that there are special sewing machine feet for edgestitching and topstitching!! Did you know that? I didn’t.

Technically a blind hem foot, this works great for edgestitching and topstitching too!

I don’t know much about feet. I used my mom’s old Pfaff (which has about a million different feet) happily for years with just the regular foot. At some point I discovered the hem roller (she has two, a narrower one and a wider one. My machine has only one, a narrow one, I think). After much experimentation (and MUCH frustration) I can often get a mostly good hem off one of these, if the fabric has a very straight edge. I used it to hem my tiered skirts, because there’s way too much fabric (like, 20-30 yards of hemline) to bother pressing (or bothering about my goof-ups). I am sure my mom must’ve showed me how to use a zipper foot because I’ve inserted at least one zipper under her tutelage, but I promptly forgot and nearly gave myself an aneurysm trying to put one in with a regular foot. It only occurred to me years—and some very sloppy zippers—later to check if there was a foot that would make it easier. Back to the tiered skirts, I had read about (but never seen) a ruffler foot… I resolved to figure out if my mother had one. I picked out the biggest, most complex and terrifying-looking foot in the box (it really is a doozie… here’s a photo of mine)… and sure enough that was the ruffler foot. A bit of experimentation and I figured out how to use it, at least roughly (for example, what looks like a 2:1 ruffle ratio in a foot-long sample can be quite a LOT different over ten yards of seam)…

And now, I was reading on the jeans threads about edge-stitch and top-stitching feet. They seem to be fairly similar. The basic idea is some kind of “rudder’ that extends in front of the foot, perhaps adjustable, so that you can guide your edge or seam straight at the rudder… and thus the stitch-line is really straight parallel to that seam or edge! Remember that temper-tantrum I had about my topstitching on the Anna top? (OK, it was the least of the issues with that top, but anyway)… So I just went and looked through the feet for my machine (as I no longer have access to my mother’s glorious cache)… and lo and behold, there is such a foot!

This is the solution! Hallelujah, choirs of angels, etc. Here’s a photo of some topstitching on what will hopefully someday be the JJ Blouse (no ruffles), showing different settings from the edge. I think I like the narrower one better, but I’m not bothered enough to go back and fix it (especially since I still don’t know how the blouse will fit). In any case they’re a great improvement over the Anna top. It’s a little fiddly in that there’s no obvious markings on the foot to allow you to adjust the rudder consistently, and the screw seems a little loose, but the results at least for a small project are FINE!

In other news, it’s the fifth of May and it has now been snowing for three days straight. We haven’t had this much snow since February. Possibly not even then. We sure needed the moisture, and I know snow’s really less of a pain then rain… but it’s May, dudes. I’d rather have rain.

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Red JJ blouse---Finished!

This might officially be my first piece of truly wearable home-made clothing. It remains to be seen how much I’ll actually wear it… I’m not usually a blouses kind of girl… but here’s hoping.

All in all… impressed with myself. Or maybe just the pattern. I was half expecting it to come out completely impossible to wear. Instead—a cute little blouse, despite my best efforts to mess things up.

Front view... slight gaping.

Nit-picking (because what fun would it be without nit-picking?):

1) there’s a slight bit of gaping at the front in the bust; it never showed during try-ons because I always had it pinned there, and in fact that’s where I was going to put my top button (there is no button at the collar)… but then when I was measuring my button locations it was easier to move it up an inch (so it was 16 inches above the bottom hem instead of 15) and put a button every four inches. That’s what I get for settling for easy mathematics :P. I can always tack a little snap in there or something if it’s really bugging me.

2) minor oopsie in the buttonhole placement on the sleeves… they’re a tad too far from the end of the band. If you notice this, you’re looking WAY too close.

Back... still a tiny bit loose, but fine.

3) hem a bit ruffly. Actually I’m fairly impressed with how this turned out, considering a) the stretchiness width-wise of my fabric, and b) how much I suck at doing narrow hems on a curve. It is no couture product, but it’s all right.

4) the back could still come in a tiny bit, maybe just a little higher up. but really, no biggie.

The interior seams are completely unfinished, since I was mostly thinking of this project as a muslin. At this point I’ll leave them as they are… if they ravel enough to really bug me I’ll try and zig-zag them at some point. I wish my serger were working.

Looking good!

All in all… pleasantly impressed. The automatic button-hole on the machine worked really nicely (though I’m still VERY glad I did the 4 or 5 test runs it took me to get the settings right. There’s always SOMETHING I forget about when I’m setting it up.


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