Monthly Archives: May 2013

Close Encounters of the 4th Kind

Big 4, that is.

I did something a little while back that, in hindsight, is new to me. I made a Big 4 stretch-knits-only pattern.

I made View E. Duh.

I made View E. Duh.

I mean, I have lots of them. I just haven’t really made any up before. (The odd kids’ pattern excepted) Not really intentionally, but just because Jalie and Kwik Sew or Burda or a few other indie patterns always seemed to have something a little more what I was going for.

But then Simplicity 1612 threw itself in my way, and, well, how could I resist?

Simplicity 1612 and Border Print

Simplicity 1612 and Border Print

I mean it, how? Especially View E done up in this gorgeous knit—drapey without being too fiddly, with a crazy-perfect border print. How could it go wrong?

Above-bust adjustment. I made it stepwise so as not to raise the neckline.

Above-bust adjustment. I made it stepwise so as not to raise the neckline.

It started well. I decided to make a 10 (I often make a 12, but I was pretty sure smaller would be better for this pattern. I made my usual changes to the bodice—shortening both between bust and shoulder, and between underbust and waist. I took advantage of the rear seam to do a swayback adjustment, and mindful of Sunni’s advice, (and some previous personal disasters) I reduced the amount of gathering at the front just a smidge.

Interfacing

Interfacing

I was worried about the crisp, cut-out appearance of the bodice, so I used lots of knit interfacing. (The pattern only called for a little right at the front opening.) I’m not sure if I used not enough or too much, but I sure didn’t get it just right…

What's right

What’s right

Ok, so off to such a good start, right? And, well, let’s start with what’s right. (Apologies for the craptacular photos, by the way—I’ve been sitting on this hoping I’d get better ones taken but it hasn’t happened yet and I figured I should just get this posted before I forget everything.) Anyway. Fit—good! Bust was at a perfect level, sizing was right on, a little bit of tweaking of the back seam helped a bit there, and overall just WOW. Look at that fabric. Love it. Long, sleek, elegant shape.

Flippy shoulder

Flippy shoulder

The devil, as always, is in the details. Worst is the neck-circling shoulder-thingy. I’m not sure if I should’ve interfaced this entire circle, or not interfaced it at all.  Or maybe done a bound edge all along the arm-area-opening. Anyway, one side flips up. The other doesn’t. The neck-band-tie isn’t stretched enough to lie flat (I matched markings and everything!) and was wavy and bubbly, so I topstitched, which wasn’t a good idea, either. I think it’s a bit wide, really, too. The bodice is lined and the princess-seams don’t tend to line up perfectly, which makes some weird ridges; I should go in and hand-stitch them together, except that hand-stitching knits just irks me. Irrational, I know, since I’m perfectly happy to hand-stitch the snot out of anything else. /sigh. I guess I’m just feeling like the whole construction and finishing of the dress is, hmm, not quite as “knit like” as I’m used to.

Back view

Back view

One last, maybe piddling, little point: scroll back up to look at the cover art. See how smooth and sleek the dress is in the back views? Ok, so I’m not perfect at back shaping, but here’s the thing. In order for a dress to hug the back like that, the front needs to be snug. At least with the way my back curves… maybe you non-swaybacked people out there have different experiences. Well, the only way to make that happen in this dress would be to totally get rid of the gathered looseness in the front. And, well, I like a little bit of looseness over my belly these days, thanks. Plus, y’know, it’s part of the design.

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Rolled hem!

On the bright side, after fighting with my serger tension issues for almost two hours, I finally managed to get it to produce a nice, stretchy, rolled hem! (I wrapped some button thread permanently between the tension discs for the needle thread. It holds them open enough that they have a normal tension, now.) I used white thread and Oona’s trick and coloured in the black areas with permanent marker, although real fabric marker would’ve been better.

Purty?

Purty?

I keep hoping that some time in the magic closet helps me forgive this dress’s flaws, because really, it’s black, who’ll actually notice them? People notice the crazy print and that’s pretty much where it stops. But so far, I notice them (especially that flippy-up shoulder!), and it’s been a couple of weeks already. Maybe I should just re-do that neck band? maybe with some FOE instead?

At least I got one Me-Made May wear out of it...

At least I got one Me-Made May wear out of it…

Grum.

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Sampling

Charmeuse! The Horror!

Yesterday, I cut. Tonight, I am sampling. Cut what? Sampling what? Poly charmeuse for the test run of what shall, Sewing Gods willing, be the wedding dress for a friend. I’ll call her Epona since I can’t find an Egyptian deity that really suits. Anyway, in case you care, some years ago Epona and I were bridesmaids at my Stylish sister-in-law’s wedding (I was actually a last-minute sub in, which is a whole ‘nother long story). So I was pretty amused a few weeks ago when Epona asked me if I would be one of her bridesmaids, again as a rather late replacement. All we need to do now is for me to have a wedding and get Stylish and Epona to be (last minute, replacement) bridesmaids, and we’d have a perfect symmetry.* Since this seems unlikely (although I did spy a GORGEOUS vintage wedding dress at the thrift store last weekend that would, possibly, be worth having a wedding for.) We’ll get to the bridesmaid’s dresses, anyway. At  the moment, I’m much more worried about the wedding dress. The final dress will be in SILK. SILK, people.

Butterick 3441

Really, as first wedding dresses go, this one is pretty training-wheels. I mean, Cation just made a freakin’ corseted Victorian evening gown for her bestie’s wedding. All I’ve been asked to provide is a slightly-amped up version of Butterick 3441, View E. This pattern was an early thrift store score that I probably wouldn’t even glance at if I pawed over it today, but Epona wanted a halter-style dress and a perusal of the current Big 4 offerings didn’t turn up anything she liked better. All I’ve done was mirror the front piece so it could be cut on the bias more easily, (did I mention I suggested cutting the skirt on the bias?) and add a bit of a train on the back. Ok, actually, I just lengthened the skirt on view “G”, which already has a train-thing going. I have a sneaking suspicion this will not work, but we’ll see when I can actually try it on her.

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The machine of choice

I have decided, after much considering, to use my White for this project, despite it needing a bit of a motor overhaul in the worst possible way. The main reason for this is this low setting on the feed dogs, which I am told is useful for slippery, silky fabrics. Like, oh, silk charmeuse.

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Adjustable feed-dog height

Despite being a zig-zagger, it also came with a straight-stitch needleplate, which is recommended for sewing with fabrics like charmeuse because it is harder for the machine to pull the fabric down into the bobbin.  Some people suggest that it also produces a better straight stitch than the zig-zag needle plate. I’m not going to re-unscrew everything to test it out, sorry.

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Straight stitch needle-plate.

Anyway, having set up the machine and selected my needle (very small, very sharp. You may now begin laying bets on how long before I break this one. I swear I am a champion needle-breaker.), I started playing around with bias seam finishes. French seams are, of course, recommended for charmeuse, and they are pretty, but a little bulky. This poly stuff does not press well at all. (Note to self: pick up some iron sole-plate cleaner before you even THINK about pressing silk… self’s iron is disgusting.)

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Seam-finish testing.

I have three different seam-finishes here, two French seams and one stitched and serged. The French seams are obviously prettier, but they are both a little more bulky. (One has the first pass sewn with the serger in an attempt to make a very narrow French seam. It’s not really significantly narrower, though it was pleasantly fast and didn’t need to be trimmed afterward. The stitch & serge one also has less puckering, although some of the stuff I’ve been reading has suggested that silk won’t be quite as evil for puckering as the polyester is? Hey, a girl can hope.

I’m not going to go into the details of the cutting techniques since it was, frankly, rather traumatic, but I’m definitely going to sandwich the final silk between layers of tissue. I didn’t want to use any of the spray-and-wash-out methods (spray starch, gelatin) since the final silk won’t really be washable.

I’m trying to decide if I should try and hunt down a walking-foot, as I’ve heard they’re helpful for these slippery fabrics, too. I did notice in my sample seams a slight tendency to creep and ripple along the French seaming, which I can correct with some attention, but this was only a foot or so of seam; the dress skirt will be much longer than that. I’ve ogled the one for my Janome several times, it’s not terribly expensive, and I’m hopeful it would fit on the White (which has the same low shank attachment and bobbin-style as the Janome).

Anyway, if all goes well, I will be fitting a bride in this by the end of the week, and I will have learned to love, or hate, polyester charmeuse.

*I feel a little awkward in my wording, here. You see, I am married, but I never had a wedding. Which by some people’s standards may mean we’re not actually married, to which I say, go jump in a lake. “Dating” stopped being an appropriate word for my relationship with my husband, oh, sometime prior to the birth of our first child.

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Oops.

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My cousin took me thrifting and fabric shopping yesterday.

I have no business buying either fabric OR patterns right now, by the way.

I am really loving that Butterick pattern at the bottom. It looks all floaty but includes an internal stay, waist stay, and boning.

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May 25, 2013 · 1:25 pm

An Un-Blogged Shrug

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Vintage Shrug, Teal

I’m pretty happy this year with keeping my Me-Made May posts off-blog—the outfit shots seem to make sense on Instagram, Twitter, and Flickr—but since I never actually blogged this little shrug, I thought I’d throw it in here. After I made my Tiramisu last winter, I had just enough of my green wool jersey (exclusive of moth holes) to squeak out another version of my vintage shrug pattern, something I’ve been meaning to do for AGES. However, I finished this one (they are very quick to make) and promptly stuffed up royally on the buttonhole. I seem to recall putting something in the instructions about making the buttonhole before you attach the neck band, but why would I read my own instructions? /headdesk. Because getting a buttonhole centred on that little band (in a knit!) after it’s attached is nearly impossible, doofus. Inserting a wee bit of interfacing inside the end of the band would probably be a good idea, too, come to think of it. Hindsight 20/20, etc. Anyway, due to this stuff-up, it languished for most of the winter until I finally bestirred myself to sew a hook and eye on (I was dreaming of a pretty black knotted frog clasp, but was far too lazy to make that happen. Yet, anyway.

Even wearable, it’s not as versatile as my cream and black versions are, because I’m still a bit hesitant in my colour pairings. I tend to only want to wear it with something black. Frankly, I tend to only wear it with this dress. But I do really like it with this dress.

Original, First clone (size medium), and second clone (size small)

I have noticed something about the shrugs—I really like them to fit SNUGLY. I never wore my first clone (or the original, for that matter) much because they were a bit loose around the body. When I graded the pattern, I made my cream version out of the size small and liked it MUCH better. Last fall some time I got up the courage to do surgery on the first (black knit) clone. I didn’t change the sleeve length, but I did take in the entire under-arm seam on both sides, just a little bit at the arm (which is quite close-fitting)  to a couple of inches off the side. This adds a seam to the hem band at the side, but made the whole thing fit just how I like it—like the picture on the right. Being able to do this alteration right at the end is handy given the way knits sometimes stretch unpredictably, too.

Of course, if what you like about the shrug is the loose, batwing look, please go for it! 🙂 And if you have a version, I’d love to hear about it, too. 🙂

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Playing Dress-Up

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What was supposed to be a quick examination of the (minor) alterations needed for my cousin’s wedding dress turned into a game of dress-up such as we haven’t had since we were ten. The kids and I squeezed her into a remarkable number of things in my wardrobe. She especially liked the Grecian Sundresses, and totally rocks the fluffy dresses. Still working on getting her to believe that sewing stuff herself might be possible. 😉

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May 20, 2013 · 3:56 pm

Shirt-tales

A long-awaited shirt

A long-awaited shirt (Also, GRASS! NO SNOW!!!!)

A long time ago, I made Tyo a shirt. And she loved it very much, but since I had made it in a pattern a couple of sizes too small, it was outgrown pretty much instantly. A replacement was mandated, but despite my best intentions, I allowed myself to be distracted with frilly dresses and fleece pants and other frivolities for, well, nearly two years at this point. I think it was Gertie’s pattern that put Tyo over the edge, though. Anyway, she marched down to the savage pit of despair that is my basement “sewing area,” dug through the chaotic array of teetering, half-unpacked boxes*, and emerged, victorious, with this fabric, which she had picked out, long ago, for a replacement shirt.

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Burda 04/13, pattern #120

The next question was, of course, the pattern. What she REALLY wanted was an enlarged version of the original pattern. It being a Lekala, this is theoretically not that hard, but I wasn’t quite prepared mentally to figure it out. She’s also been wanting a tie-front shirt, too, which seemed like a more seasonal option, anyway. So I decided I’d use this tie-front pattern from the April Burda, which I picked up a few weeks back, thinking particularly of this pattern for Tyo. Of course, while Tyo (who is nearly thirteen) is now overlapping into the lower end of women’s sizes (when did THAT happen?), this particular pattern only goes down to a 36, and really she needs a 34. And even then, about five cm less of body length. Fortunately, in the foggy recesses of my brain I remembered something about the Selfish Seamstress’s long-ago tutorial on grading down nested sizes. Actually, this wasn’t nearly as difficult as I had thought it would be. I suspect taking the time to highlight my closest line on the pattern sheet helped. Then I added seam allowances, which was basically adding back the width I had just removed, by the way. OK, I know there’s more to it, but just sayin’. For my final trick (such a good mother I am), I removed the five cm in extra length, half from the armscye area and half from the torso above the waist. I even walked my seamlines afterwards to check that they were good. I NEVER do that.

Then, I spent a slightly ridiculous amount of time pinning the major match-points on this wiggly, gauzy plaid. Seriously, I think cutting separate layers would have taken less time. It would’ve been worth it, though… except that I then proceeded to cut out both front and back with absolutely no regard for matching the sideseams. So all was basically for naught. DURRRRRR. This is why we don’t sew (cut out) late at night. *headdesk*

Sleeve

Sleeve

I opted to at least try to match the sleeve in the front armscye.  /sigh.

Closeup, with funny look. Funny looks are mandatory, it appears, these days.

Closeup, with funny look. Funny looks are mandatory, it appears, these days.

I actually think this is a ridiculously cute little shirt. I love the simple collar (even if I couldn’t make heads or tails of Burda’s instructions for sewing it, and consequently winged it and made a bit of a hash.) I love the one button above the tie, and the gathered elastic on the sleeves (even though Tyo has warned me she will probably just roll them up.) The fit is pretty decent. The shoulders are a wee bit wide (and I did measure her shoulder width!) but perhaps that’s how it’s meant to be. I can’t quite tell if the waist length ended up right since the tie kinda scrunches everything up, but I guess that means it doesn’t matter, anyway. Despite being spongy and shifty, this is a really lovely fabric to work with. Also, yes, I was too impatient to wait until I had a real button on, so she has it pinned with her Mockingjay pin.

She's a cool kid.

She’s a cool kid.

The one thing that could’ve been a bit disastrous was the long, diagonal front edge of the ties, which is a hot ripply mess just waiting to happen. Fortunately for me, this fabric was fairly amenable to being steamed back into shape, and fortunately for anyone else who tries this pattern, once they’re tied I think it doesn’t matter too much. I mentioned I made a hash of the collar (well, mostly the finish on the inside.) I also managed to snip through the outer fabric when finishing this seam, so there’s an interesting little “detail patch” in one shoulder that I forgot to photograph for you. It’s totally cute and intentional-looking. Right? Right. We’ll go with that. In an attempt to neaten up my nasty collar-innards, I stitched a white flat-fold bias tape along the shoulder/back neck seam, which worked out reasonably well, and makes for some nice stabilization in that area for this spongy fabric. My seam-finishes are nothing to write home about, serged with a bit of topstitching… except that they are, because I haven’t been able to serge anything this lightweight in aeons without wanting to tear my hair out. I came up with a stop-gap solution for my serger’s overly aggressive needle thread tension—I wrapped some sturdy buttonhole thread in between the tension discs and cut it off short. The extra thread holds the discs open just enough that they have something resembling a normal tension for the actual serger thread. Hooray! Yes, I know this is not an Approved Solution (TM), and it will probably explode without warning into a Tangle of Overlock DOOOOOOM without warning. But it’s working and I really don’t have the money to get my serger serviced AGAIN (especially since the last servicing totally failed to correct this problem and may actually have exacerbated it.)

One final face

One final face

And I think that’s all I have to say, except that this is actually only the second Burda magazine pattern I’ve sewn, ever. And I’d be totally tempted to make myself one, except that there’s no way it would look as good on me as it does on her. I would like to figure out that collar, though.

Oh, and she wants another—in red. That’s my girl. 🙂

*I have a high tolerance for functioning around mess. This is particularly unfortunate for my neat-freak husband.

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True Love

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… Is tracing, grading, and altering a Burda magazine pattern for your kid. On Mothers’ Day. 😉

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May 12, 2013 · 12:37 pm