Saturday, January 26, 2013

Introducing...Simplicity 3343

Here's a blog post that's long overdue. Since last fall, I have been working on a tailored jacket (my first!) using vintage pattern Simplicity 3343.

Very chic, no? I embarked on this project after a chance meeting with a professional seamstress/sewing teacher while standing in line at the cutting table at Joann's. She gave me her card, and I decided to take my first formal sewing lessons. A sewing friend agreed to join me (to bring the cost of private lessons down a little), and we decided that our classes would be focused on creating a tailored jacket.

The lessons have been fantastic for making me slow down and do things properly. For one, it's the first time I've been this fastidious about transferring my fitting adjustments to the pattern. Secondly, my teacher insists we actually make the fitting changes to our muslins so we can try them on again and make sure everything is perfect. Sadly, I kinda got stuck at the muslin phase.

The photo up there is my muslin. I originally hoped it could turn into a wearable  muslin because it's nice wool that I scored off eBay last year for only $4/yard. Sadly, fitting issues with the armholes meant I would have had to recut a lot of pieces, and I just didn't have enough fabric left. SIGH. The culprit was a low armscythe...

my face and the quality of this photo both reflect the crappy-ness of this fitting issue
When I lifted my arms above about 45 degrees, the whole jacket got yanked up too. I do not like this issue at all, as I have discovered through previous forays with vintage patterns. But how to fix it? My sewing teacher put some pins in like this...

...which might have brought the sleeve in closer to the armhole and maybe fixed the angle a little. But I wore it like that for a while and it just didn't seem right. I needed MORE freedom of movement.

Too much freedom? Ripping out all those stitches sure made it feel better. It also provided maximum armpit ventilation. Plus, look how the bottom of the sleeve pulls a good three or four inches away from my body, once freed from the smothering grasp of the low armscythe.

While wearing it this way would be very comfortable, it would not be very warm or stylish. So I examined the hole I had created...

saw that it was pretty much just an oval, and decided I would make a gusset to fill the gap.

gusset pattern
I think that if I knew more about gusset drafting, this might have worked. I actually did cut this gusset in the wool fabric and inserted it, and it did greatly improve my mobility. Unfortunately, it brought the armpit of the jacket so up close and personal to my actual armpit that it was quite uncomfortable and tight. (Sadly, I have no photos of this stage) I am pretty sure that with some tweaking of the gusset shape, this could be avoided. But I searched for resources on how to do this and didn't find any readily available. In the meantime, I had wasted several private sewing class fees trying to fix this issue, while my compatriot classmate made steady progress without me. So I decided to try a different solution and just raise the armhole opening. I guess I probably should have tried that from the start, but I was enamored by the idea of vintagey gussets in a vintagey jacket.

I read that the armhole on a jacket only needs to be about 1" or maybe 1 1/2" below your armpit. I was dealing with at least 3" of space down there, so I decided to bring the armscythe up a solid 2". But I didn't want to tear apart my muslin, recut all my jacket pieces, and sew it back together. So I followed my teacher's advice and just drafted a couple pieces to fill in the gap and bring the armhole up...

You can see the drafted pattern pieces in the photo above, and how they filled in the low armhole on my muslin. Once this was accomplished, I had to redraft the sleeve so that it would fit a smaller armhole. I wasn't sure how big it would have to be so I measured the seam allowance on the original sleeve cap and the seam allowance on the original armhole. The armhole was about 90% of the size of the sleeve cap, which is eased in. In other words...

old sleeve hole seam length / old sleeve cap seam length = 0.90


new sleeve hole seam length / new sleeve cap seam length = 0.90

I already had my new sleeve hole seam length, so I calculated my new sleeve cap seam length from that. Then I futzed around with my pattern and a pencil until I came up with a new line that equaled the desired length while maintaining the same basic shape as the original (just smaller).

trying out my new, smaller armhole... in an awkward bathroom photo shoot (it's the only place with good lighting!)
Then I cut out a new sleeve (in clashing plaid) and inserted it - and it worked! The fit is much more comfortable. I have a better range of motion, and I don't feel like the armscythe is trying to cut me a new armpit.

So now I'm finally, FINALLY, going to go cut out my fashion fabric and get started. Hopefully I will have some neato tailoring photos to share soon. Later!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Binding a neckline slit - according to the pros

I went to our public library yesterday to pick up an armful of sewing manuals. I need them for an upcoming BIG project which I will reveal shortly. Here's what I came home with...

Cool Couture by Kenneth King, Great Sewn Clothes by Threads Magazine, Couture Sewing Techniques by Claire Shaeffer, and Linen and Cotton by Susan Khalje. First, let me say that the cover photos (with the exception of Shaeffer's book, maybe) are so 90s fabulous that in  my earlier sewing days I might not have even pulled these off the shelf. Appearances can be deceiving, though. Just like the dowdy Sewing Pattern Review website, behind these outdated facades is a wealth of sewing knowledge. Second, let me say that Kenneth King's book is actually from 2008... which leads me to say (in the words of lladybird) "LOL wut?"

Anyhoo, I was casually paging through these, sinking into a dorky sewing bliss, when I happened upon the answer to my question from last week - what is the proper way to finish a narrow slit in a neckline? Here is what Shaeffer has to say. You can do a rolled hem...

 Or you can use two separate binding strips like shown here:

I'm pretty sure that first picture is out of order though. Shouldn't that be the third step? Also, I'm not sure I understand how the finishing goes on the inside with this method. If you give this a shot, I'd love to see how it works.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Burdastyle Gathered Blouse - binding a neck slit

After spending all that time on my mom's robe, I wanted to kick-start my sewing for 2013 with an easy sewing project. Ha! I have yet to experience an easy sewing project, I think. Somehow I manage to complicate everything. Still, I have dreams of getting really good at a few basic patterns and being able to whip them up in a few hours. So I chose this blouse that was featured on last summer.

Looks pretty simple, right? I know that everyone complains that Burdastyle instructions suck, but I figured I could manage on my own for something straightforward like this. Unfortunately, I didn't even get to cutting the fabric without encountering issues. Check out these pattern pieces...

*blink*  *blink*

I started to add seam allowances to this piece (oh Burda... you lazy, lazy pattern publishers), but after having it in front of me for a few moments I started to wonder where the heck this piece fit in. The answer is, it doesn't. This is just an extra piece that somehow sneaked into the pdf file with the other legitimate pattern pieces. It's number sequentially along with the others, with all the trappings of a legitimate pattern piece, except it's f*-ing weird shape gave it away. Strange piece, you do not belong here. I dearly hope that some other poor pattern is not missing it's crucial, oddly shaped doohickey, causing seamstresses elsewhere to pull their hair and curse Burdastyle. But that's probably the case.

When I'm finally done with this blouse (which needs some major fitting adjustments right now), I'm going to post some pictures of how I constructed the sleeves, because I find that part a little confusing. But for now, I do have a short tutorial on how I finished the slit at the back neckline. I tried to find instructions online for doing this type of narrow slit using bias tape instead of a facing. You can waste a lot of time searching for something specific like that, however, so I gave up quickly and invented my own method. I don't know if this is a legitimate method, but I like how it turned out, so I will share.

How to finish a neck slit with bias tape

Burdastyle has you cut a slit directly down the center back of the blouse, starting at the neckline. I made mine about four inches long. Then I took my bias tape (self-made with a single fold down the middle) and pinned it to the right side of the blouse. I lined the raw edges up to the opening of the neckline slit, starting at the top and working toward the bottom, like so:

At the bottom, I folded the bias tape under at a 90 degree angle...

blurry, sorry
Then I folded another angle and pinned back up the other side...

The folds create a nice point. Next, I stitched around the slit, staying about 1/4" away from the raw edge. At the bottom of the slit, I curved the stitching and went back up the other side, going very slowly and carefully to try to keep it symmetrical and not too wide - I don't want a keyhole opening.

Then I took it over to my iron and press all the bias tape up and in toward the slit.

Pressed the little triangle at the bottom upward...

Then, I turned the bias tape to the inside of the blouse, and ironed it down.

Ooh, looks nice? Now, if you were being super fancy you could probably catch stitch this down from the inside, creating a little mini facing which is almost invisible from the outside. But this is not a super fancy blouse, so I just topstitched around the edge of the bias tape. Here is how it looks from the outside...

I'm pretty pleased with how tidy the result is. I can also see doing this with contrasting bias tape and sewing it on the wrong side first so that it will flip over and get topstitched down on the right side. It would make a nice little arrow shaped design feature.

Well, that's all I've got. If you know of another way to do this, I would be very happy to hear!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

New Year Schemes

I'm breaking down and writing a New Years Resolutions post. I tried to resist, but I can't. After reading everyone's "Best of 2012" posts and their "New Year Resewlutions," I can't suppress the itch to document my own schemes for 2013. So here they are...

1. Finish sewing my jeans and perfect the pattern.

There was a hold-up on these because I became convinced I need a walking foot to sew the stretch denim... and walking feet are expensive. I finally splurged on one for my big Christmas gift, and it's on its way in the mail!

2. Sew these guys!

Despite being continually impressed by Tasia and patterns, I have yet to sew any for myself. The blogosphere is definitely in love with her work - did you see that she has four patterns in the running for top pattern of 2012, over at Sewing.PatternReview? Yah. I can't wait to join the masses who have reviewed and raved over these patterns. As a definite pear-shaped lady, I can't wait to try out the Thurlow trousers. And I just ordered some wool for a Minoru this week. So excited! And speaking of Sewing.PatternReview...

3. Participate in a sewing contest at Sewing.PatternReview

entries in the Little Black Dress contest in November
I've begun to pay more attention to this website in the last few months. For a long time I neglected Sewing.Pattern Review because of the shabby, out-dated website design. But recently I've found myself spending more and more time over there, and I've come to appreciate it as an excellent resource, gross color scheme aside. I really love browsing the contest entries, and this year I'd like to participate in one myself.

4. Sew something for Josh

a project which has yet to materialize.... hehe... materialize
This is way overdue.

5. Sew something green!

I think the whole Pantone color of the year thing is mighty stupid. One color? For a whole year? For everybody? But I love the color they chose for this year. So I'd like to sew something emerald.

6. Do some giveaways!

"Ah, now you're talking!" says my limited readership. Yes, I have vintage patterns to get rid of. I tried selling on Etsy, but it's not worth the hassle. I would rather just give them away to loving homes. So watch out for that. Plus, this would be an excellent way to boost readership... there's always an ulterior motive.

7. Blog more

If I want more followers, I really ought to have more content. And it's not that I lack material... there are several projects I haven't blogged yet and several ideas brewing. I'm not concerned about making this blog so polished and prolific that it could be a money earner (too much effort I think) - I just need to snap a photo (whether or not the lighting is perfect) and post the damn thing. Quantity, not quality, right?

Okay that's enough. I could get carried away with other goals about being a more careful seamstress, taking my time, listening to the fabric, making muslins, blah blah blah. That's just not as fun. So there's my list! Now time to get crackin.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Happy New Year! And a stylish bathrobe

Happy 2013 everybody! With vacation over and the new year begun, I'm looking forward to kicking off an excellent year of sewing. I've also really enjoyed reading everyone else's "year in review" posts. I can't believe how prolific some people are! For example... Sewaholic releasing 10 new patterns this year? That's a lot of work! Plus, Tasia is my new favorite for releasing pants for curvy ladies. No, I haven't sewn them yet, but I own the pattern and I'm so gonna do it.

Myself, I have not been so prolific this year. But I do have a finished project to share! For Christmas I wanted to sew my mom something special, and I decided on a robe since it's something that will keep her warm and get a lot of wear.

Mom looking glamorous in her loungewear
I forget which blog I read it on, but I remember being struck by someone who pointed out that most of us spend most of our time in loungewear, often changing into our "cozies" as soon as we come home. But for a lot of people who sew, the temptation is to make pretty party dresses more often than the basics and especially more than the stay-at-home comfy clothes that we like to wear. Since we have the ability, wouldn't it make more sense to treat ourselves to really nice clothes for lounging around the house? So that's how this idea formed.

The pattern is Vogue 1060. It's supposed to be a coat pattern, but I think it lends itself very well to a robe.

I don't much care for the standard bathrobe look - it doesn't really say "elegant loungewear" to me.I think this pattern has a lot more style. It has rows of darts on the front and back for shaping. Plus, it features kimono sleeves which allowed me to make the most of my limited yardage.

wrinkly, but you get the picture
In fact, I think I was able to cut this out of only two yards of 60" wide wool, although I did have to do some piecing at the collar to make it work and use different material for the facings. The outer fabric is a medium weight felted wool which I got off eBay. It was a fantastic find. A guy sold me a bunch of pieces of wool at just $4/yard. This soft green is my Mom's color, so I knew it was destined for her.

The lining is a cotton/silk blend I found on Etsy, and the facings are silk that I bought at Vogue Fabrics in Chicago. This was my first time working with these kinds of fabrics, and I have to say.... they were a pain in the butt.

Both these fabrics were super shifty while cutting. The cream colored silk was definitely the worse of the two though. I can't believe how much it can shift off grain while still lying flat. As a result, my facings ended up way longer than the front edges of the robe that I was supposed to line them up with. I made it work by doing a whole lot of easing, but it probably would have been wiser to just re-cut them, using spray starch this time. Lesson learned. On the bright side, I think the fabrics go beautifully together, and they do make for a very luxurious feeling robe.

When I took this home to Montana for Christmas and fit it on my mom, I discovered that the dart placement was just not working for her. I ended up picking all the darts out. The directions wisely recommended using basting stitches for the darts and putting them in last, but of course I did not listen. Another lesson learned. Once the darts were out, though, the robe fit much better. We decided to leave them out entirely. It does take away some of the shaping, but it's okay to sacrifice style for comfort for a project like this. Still, I'd like to make this robe again in a larger size and use the darts. I think they really add to it.

The final challenge for this project was inserting the lining. In fact, I had to bring it back to Indiana with me to finish the job, because I ran out of time in Montana to work on it. I'm a little disappointed that there's not a place online where you can find a complete, well-illustrated guide to bagging a lining. If found several that were good, but it was only by consulting four different sources that I was finally able to put it all together. Here's the four I consulted:

That last one in particular was helpful for figuring out what the heck is going on in the area where the facing meets the lining meets the hem. I'll admit mine do not look so nice as Gigi's, but next time I'll know to look there instead of just fudging things.

the trickiest part of bagging a lining, in my opinion
Despite its imperfections, my mom was very happy with it. And I'm happy to know it will get a lot of wear on those cold Montana mornings.