Tuesday, March 30, 2010

~tricks of the trade: inserting an invisible zip~

This is my method for inserting invisible zips - it's a bit different to the way dressmaking patterns describe, and I've included a few little tips and tricks that (hopefully) make things easier!

Make life easy on yourself and insert your zip as early as possible in your garment assembly.  It really is much easier to sew a CB zip into just your two back panels, than to try and sew it into a nearly completed skirt!

Here is my skirt ready for zip insertion - as you can see I have already sewn my side seam beneath the zip:

If your fabric is delicate the base of the zip around your backtack should be fusetaped for reinforcement.  For this viscose georgette you will see I have fusetaped the complete zip seam, and I still need to overlock the yoke seam before I insert the zip.

Open your zip and place it on your zip seam so right sides are together - ie, your fabric is face up and your zip is face down.  I always use 1cm seam allowances, and as the zip tape is the same width as my seam allowance I just need to line up the edges.  The pinked edge of the top of the zip should align with the top cut edge.  

Notice how I use an ordinary zip foot?  I filed my invisible zip foot in the rubbish bin years ago, as I get much better results with an ordinary one.  I can stitch closer to the zip coil - just fold back the coil and stitch in the groove - so you never see the zip from the outside.  I can also stitch closer to the end of the zip - no more gaps! 

When you near the bottom lay your seam allowances open and flat, and fold back the other side so you can locate the position of your backtack clearly.  Butt the zip coil adjacent to the backtack and stitch right down to this level.

Now you're halfway there!

Now see how my skirt has a trim along the yoke seam?  To make sure both sides match exactly when the zip is closed, I clip the zip tape exactly level with this seam.

Then I close the zip, and clip the other side exactly opposite my first clip.  Now when you sew the other side of your zip, ensure that you position your yoke seam at this clip, and voila - they will line up!

It doesn't look very exact in the photo does it?  But it is! 

I also clip the base of the zip tapes in the same manner, exactly opposite the end of the seam.  This is a trick I learnt from my sample machinist, and I found it really helps keep the zip tapes parallel. 
Now you'll need to open your zip again to sew the other side.   With your seam allowance open and your zip coils butted together, stitch the from the bottom up, making sure any notches align, and that the upper zip aligns with the upper edge, by the same amount on both sides.

Now you can slip the zip puller through the little gap at the base of your zip - you can just see it peeking through here - and zip it up!  Check everything aligns - top edge, yoke seam, no bubbles at base of zip - and you're done!

Now who said invisible zips were tricky?!

Look out for the next step soon - all about finishing the top edge and facing your invisible zip, neatly and by machine...

Monday, March 29, 2010

~cosy toes~

Last winter I made these cute little slippers, and I've just brought them out for another season to keep my toes cosy on our wooden floorboards!  I absolutely love them and will be making some more this winter in other colours.

I crocheted this pair in tan Patons Jet and ivory Cleckheaton Cocoon.  I thought I'd have enough Jet in my stash, but I had to buy another ball to complete the last 2 rows - so much for stash-busting! 

The pattern is by Lisa van Klaveren of Holland Designs, and you can find all her designs here on Ravelry, and you can see what new projects she is up to on her blog.  Lisa has several designs for grown-ups, but if you have a little girl you will be in heaven, as her baby shoes are stunningly cute - so popular in fact that she has just released a book of her own! 

So if you're a barefoot girl like me and  prefer to take your shoes off indoors, try a pair of these as an alternative to socks! 

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

~tricks of the trade: fusetape~

You'll wonder how you ever managed without fusetape - like blockfusing it solves many sewing problems!

I use my favourite lightweight knit fusible.  In the trade you'll have the luxury of getting a whole roll of fusing sliced up into lots of convenient rolls, but at home you'll need to save all your scraps of fusing and cut them yourself!  Layer them up to save time, and cut them into lengthwise strips along the grain, about 1.5cm wide.

Here I'll demonstrate fusetaping an invisible zip.  I do this to all zips on delicate fabrics for stability and reinforcement, and all zips inserted into a side seam to prevent the bias edges stretching. This is how I did it on my Skirt #108 Burda 1/2010 that I've just completed, and I also applied it to the zip edges on the yoke which were curved.  Simply press the fusetape onto the wrong side along the stitching line of your zip, extending 2-3cm beyond the zip notch. 

Then overlock any seam edges, and sew your seam up to the zip notch as if the fusetape wasn't even there.

Then insert your zip as normal.  You will find that the base of your zip is much stronger, and it will be easier to sew in your zip too - now who doesn't want that?!

Fusetape is also really useful in preventing loosely woven fabrics from 'grinning' when the seam is strained - which is not a nice look on the CB of your skirt! Just apply fusetape to your seamline before stitching and your seam will be strengthened.

Hope this helps you - and happy sewing!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

~skirt #108 burda 1/2010~

I bought the January 2010 BurdaStyle magazine! Even though I am a patternmaker, I'm using a commercial pattern - am I allowed to do that?!  I feel like I am cheating!  But if it saves time, why not, plus I can help others by blogging about it!

I used to sew from Burda and Neue Mode magazines when I was at school and so I'm quite familiar with them, and their fit was pretty good - although I must admit I have gone up a couple of sizes since!!
They don't have seam allowances, so for me they are a lot easier to work with - I trace them onto my own kraft paper, where I can easily make alterations, customise seam allowances to my favourite method or the fabric type, and I always check everything fits and add more notches - you cannot have too many notches!

So first up in this issue I have made #108 skirt.  I've made a few technique tutorials while sewing this design, so if you've seen them you'll be familiar tired of the fabric by now - a printed viscose georgette.  If you haven't seen them yet do check them out for some insider tips and techniques that will make your sewing easier:
Mitering a double folded hem
Easy French seams
I plan on doing some more tutorials on: inserting an invisible zip, facing an invisible zip, and taping a waistline - coming soon!

The upper skirt is open on the left side leaving just a single layer of georgette underneath, which I have tried but failed to demonstrate in the first photo, hence the wacky pose. It looks really nice when you are walking - shows a sheer glimpse of leg, but not too much!

To mine I added a little strip of the selvedge as a trim along the lower edge of the yoke, because I thought the selvedge on this fabric was quite cute.  I measured and aligned it to fit the pattern, and it also prevents the curved yoke seam stretching.

Be warned that this is essentially a half circle skirt, where the side seams are cut on the straight grain and the centre fronts/backs on the bias, so the bias areas will drop to a greater extent.  Technically you should level the hem.  I haven't as I have decided I quite like it - for now - but that could change and I might end up levelling it after all!  If you wish to level your hem, hang your unhemmed skirt for 2-3 days, and I would suggest handstitching a contrasting row of running stitches along your new hemline, then try on your skirt just to double check before trimming, as trimming bias areas accurately and symmetrically is very fiddly!  To be honest, this is probably the real reason I haven't levelled mine...

Another suggestion that I have for this design is to cut the under layer of the skirt 6mm shorter than the top layer, just to avoid any sneaky pieces of fabric showing from underneath. 

Overall a great skirt pattern - I think it's versatile and I will wear it a lot!

Monday, March 22, 2010

~interweave crochet, winter 2009~

Recently I purchased a copy of Interweave Crochet (W09) for the first time.  I've often scanned it at the counter in my LYS but have never actually bought one, because there wasn't anything I immediately wanted to knit (that's my magazine buying criteria!)

But this time there were 2 neat little jumpers vying for my attention and some interesting stuff on Tunisian crochet, so into the shopping bag it went.

I love this little Tatiana Pullover, by Marlaina Bird.  I already have the yarn chosen - some grey marle wool that my mother handed down to me, patiently unravelled into balls from it's previous incarnation as someone-else-in-the-family's jersey.  A little bit itchy next to the skin, it will be fine over a cute top, and will sassy up tailored trousers or a skirt. 

Last night was spent swatching and I got the required gauge, but the required size isn't there!  Neither 32" nor 39", I will have to adjust gauge to get something in between.  The lace is fun to do - I find with crochet that after one pattern repeat it is easy to follow and more intuitive than knitting.  And I'll be putting 3 buttons on the sleeve and 5 at the waist, as I just think odd numbers look better.

And the Luna Sweater, by Kim Guzman is also very me.  I haven't read the instructions yet, but a quick squizz reveals I will be learning some new techniques, as the sweater has crochet cables and is worked vertically.  Should be interesting.  No yarn is chosen yet, but there's no rush according to my queue....

And speaking of yarn...
I found some chunky in a pretty colour with tweedy flecks that I thought could be ideal for a future project that I have planned - the Cropped Jacket by Anne Farnham.  I'm trying not to do this one in charcoal!  So I excitedly bought a ball and as soon as I got home, cast on for a gauge swatch to determine it's suitability.  I kept stopping to admire it after a few rows, fondling it to assess whether the eecky acrylic component wasn't too ghastly, and trying to convince myself that the fabulous colour made up for all that, and then stopped to admire the pretty tweedy colours again, when...

Why does the ball of yarn look a different shade to my swatch?
Why does the inside of the ball have shades of fuschia in it??
And shades of red in it???

Ravelry to the rescue - A quick look at finished projects in the same yarn reveal - rainbow-like projects!!
Patons Shadow Tweed is actually a variegated yarn, and my project would end up striped!  Enter curse word! 
I am so glad I didn't take the plunge and purchase all 7 balls, and have only one ball that will probably end up as a hat. 
One day.
Too much acrylic content anyway...

Note to Patons - please make it clear on your labelling that your yarn is multicoloured, especially when it is not obvious at first sight!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

~tricks of the trade: easy french seams~

French seams are used on fine and sheer fabrics, and they give a more attractive finish than simply overlocking.   However they can be a bit fiddly and many sewers give up on them, but here is a way to get perfect seams even with the wigglyest of fabrics!

Here my total seam allowance is 10mm, so I stitch 3mm, and then 5mm from the edge.  The extra 2mm is taken up in the turn of the fabric.

Begin by stitching the wrong sides together at 3mm, this is half a foot width on my machine:
On your ironing board lay your seam flat and trim the frayed threads even, so they don't stick out of your seam later.  Trust me, it is much easier to trim them now than leave it until later!  You don't need to trim the allowance narrower, as 3mm is the exact width you want it to be.
Press the raw edges lightly to one side, remember this will be your right side when finished:
Then turn the fabric over and press the seam well from the wrong side:
Now fold your fabric right sides together so the raw edges are enclosed, and your previous stitching is right on the fold, then stitch your french seam at 5mm.  Because there are two different thicknesses under the foot the fabric sometimes wavers a bit, so I butt my fingernail up against the edge of the foot, making it really easy to sew straight:
And there you have it - a perfect french seam.  On the outside:
 and on the inside: 
 Now that's nicer than overlocking isn't it?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

~tricks of the trade: mitre a folded hem~

This is my favourite method of finishing hems on fine or drapy fabrics.  It gives a quality finish inside and out, with no ugly overlocking to be seen.  Occasionally it is necessary to hem a corner of fabric, and following are step-by-step instructions on how to neatly mitre the corner. 

Lay your corner that you wish to mitre on your table right side up, then fold it diagonally right sides together so that the cut edges meet.
Fold the upper raw edge towards the wrong side (towards you) 5mm, and fold the lower raw edge towards the wrong side (away from you) by the same amount.
Now stitch the mitre, from the hem edges that you have just folded, to the initial diagonal fold.  It is important that you stitch perpendicular to this diagonal fold.
You will have stitched through four layers of the hem allowance.  To reduce bulk in the corner, trim the excess seam allowance away diagonally, to within 2mm of your stitching.
Finger press your tiny seam allowance open, and turn hem through to the wrong side.  It should now look like this:
Repeat this for all corners that you need to mitre.  It is best not to press your corner until after the hem is sewn.  Start sewing your double folded hem, and as you approach the corner ensure your mitre sits flat and square.
Stitch to the inside corner of the mitre, I use my handwheel to ensure the needle is placed in the exact spot.  With the needle down, raise the presser foot and spin your work 90 degrees to continue the hem, ensuring the corner lays flat and square.
Once your hem is completed you can give it a press.
Voila!  Perfect corners - beautiful on the outside and the inside!
I hope you find this useful, and if there are any questions I will answer in the comments.  Happy sewing!

Monday, March 15, 2010

~tricks of the trade: blockfusing~

Blockfusing is one sewing technique that you can't afford not to learn!  It is much quicker, more accurate, with easier handling, and more professional results.  This is how we do it in the garment industry, and I was amazed that most of the apparel students coming to my workroom for work experience had never been taught this basic but vital production technique!  It is very simple - instead of cutting individual pieces and then fusing them together, you fuse them together then cut. 

I'll run through the steps with the skirt I am currently making:
(As you can see I use our wooden floor for cutting - that is fine as long as it is clean and your knees are OK, plus ours comes complete with handy grainlines that you can line your fabric up with!)

For this design I want to fuse the front yoke, the back yoke, and their facings, which are exactly the same pattern piece.  Lay your pattern out and cut a block of fabric around the pattern pieces with a margin of about 1-2cm (1/2") around the pattern.  Don't chalk your fabric at this stage. 

Next lay your blocks of fabric on your fusing, wrong side of fabric to wrong/fusible side of fusing.  Cut a block of fusing the same shape as your cloth pieces, but about 5mm (1/4") smaller so it doesn't extend over the edges and stick to your ironing board.

Then fuse your pieces together as you have them placed.  
Now pair them together and cut them out as per your pattern.  I make my patterns from kraft paper (120gms) which I can whizz around with tailors chalk, but if you are using tissue patterns it would be easier to pin and cut.

 And the result - perfectly cut yokes and facings:

Try it - you'll never look back as it will make your sewing easier!  Blockfusing is used on any part of your garment where the full pattern piece is fused - collars, cuffs, plackets, waistbands, jacket fronts, pocket flaps, facings, etc. 

A few comments on fusible interfacing:
I rarely use non-fusible interfacings, and have found that I rely on 2 main types of fusing.  The one used here is a lightweight knit and I use it on most of my garments.  It gives your fabric just the right amount of body, and is extremely versatile - I have used it here on a flimsy georgette skirt, and I also use it in tailored jackets!  For coats I use a slightly heavier weight.   
An important factor to me in selecting a fusible is that it still maintains its drape once it is fused to your fabric - some turn stiff and card-like and I avoid those.  Always test your fusing on the fabric you are applying it to - hold it up to your body as if you were wearing it and if you feel it is too stiff - reject it immediately!

If you have any questions I am happy to answer them in the comments.  Next up is a tutorial on hemming soft fabrics like chiffons and georgette, and how to mitre those corners!
Happy sewing :)

~rediscovered project~

I thought I might sew a skirt, so I rummaged through my rather large stash of fabric and found this viscose georgette with a cute optical print - a piece of unused sampling from quite-a-few years ago!   It is charcoal and denim blue - two of my favourite colours.

However, unfolding the bundle I found a few cut up pieces of mystery fabric screwed up inside...

The poor fabric, squashed up like that for years!  Curious, I pressed the pieces flat, and discovered a completely-forgotten-about dress that I had once cut.  I remember the design now - it was a good one that we made several versions of because it just kept selling out!  It could be a sassy evening dress in black ggt, or a sexy sundress in a colour or print, and my winter version was intended to be worn over a skivvy, because that's what I like to do.

I will whip it up shortly and show you how it looks in a future post, but for now I intend making a skirt out of the remaining fabric.  It's going to be relatively simple, with a yoke and a double-layered half circle skirt to the knee, but I thought as I make it up I would do a few tutorials to share some of my tricks and techniques that I have learned in my years as a designer.

So if you want to know more about mitering a double folded hem, accurate cutting and fusing, and facing an invisible zip, among other things - watch out for some posts coming soon!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

~last days of summer~

There is a distinct feel in the air now that summer is drawing to a close - the humid restless nights are now gone and we are back to sleeping under our sheets not over them, there is a definite autumnal crispness and clarity to the air, and I even slipped on a pair of socks this morning - the first time in months I have felt the need!

Brunswick Heads Beach, NSW, Australia, November 2007

So this morning when I looked at this photo from a past holiday, it automatically made me think of the last days of summer.  Maybe it's the woman walking from the golden sand to the dusky seahaze in the distance, like the transition between summer and winter.  Maybe it is the faded vintage feel, like times that have now passed.  Maybe it is both.

But whatever it is, it is like a mental switch has been flicked, and that my sights are now on autumn.  Do you feel the same - or maybe spring is arriving where you are?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

~skirt progress~

I hope a nice weekend was had by all, and you managed to find some time to sit down with needles-of-whatever-sort-you-enjoy-most in hand.

I made some progress on my Ladders and Lace skirt, which is actually the Ruffle and Pleat skirt from Interweave Knits Summer 2009, designed by Cecily Glowik MacDonald.  From the photograph you can see why I have renamed it - the pleats are not true pleats but are dropped stitches, and I have knitted a pretty lace hem for the underlay instead of a plain one.  Details on that are in this post.

This morning I finished the last few rounds of boring old stocking stitch and got to the exciting stage of dropping the stitches and making the ladders:

I have changed the proportions slightly so that the pleats begin at hip level rather than mid thigh, and so I knitted an additional 6" from cast on.  Unfortunately that means I have an equal amount of boring old stocking stitch to do for the petticoat, until I get to the skirt yoke!

I'm aiming for a knee-length skirt, and have allowed for the Cleckheaton Bamboo to drop a bit, which I am sure it will do.  It is nice and drapy and swingy - just what I wanted!

Now to finish the lace hem - a job requiring focus, as the lace stitch is performed every row.  At the rate I am going I will probably have the pattern memorised by the last repeat!

Friday, March 5, 2010

~new sock photos~

I hope you all like the new photos for my Silver Fern Socks.  The last ones were taken in a bit of a rush (on a 10 year old who couldn't keep still!) and they had a little background flare, so I am a lot happier with this series.


If you'd like to knit yourself a pair, the pattern is available on Ravelry here.  I want to knit another pair in some new yarn I have spotted in Masco Wools - Naturally Waikiwi is a wool/nylon/alpaca/possum and has a gorgeous denim blue that I can't stop thinking about.  I can also really see these socks knitted up in green, or purple, but they are also my favourite colours so that is not surprising!

Have a lovely weekend! 

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

~fair isle yoke top~

Today I finished my #6 Fair Isle Yoke Top by Fiona Ellis from Vogue Knitting Holiday 2009, so I couldn't wait to take some photos of it.  It is summer here, and I felt a bit silly wearing long sleeves and a woollen top outside in the heat, but I managed to find a patch of shade under the grapevine so I didn't faint!

Sorry about my annoyed-at-the-camera expression - the remote release was being a bit temperamental and it kind of shows!

I have square shoulders and I'm not sure raglans are designed for people like me, as there is a bit of bunching under the arm.  If I knit one again I will work on modifying this.  
At the armhole decreases the directions state to knit the stitches between in the main colour, however I tried to continue the fair isle pattern, but I was not hugely successful as the k2tog and ssk's kind of hid my efforts!  Oh well.
Also, I knitted one fewer zig-zags at the neckline, as I thought it was high enough for an Auckland winter - plus the yarn is a teeny bit itchy, and if there is one place it is going to annoy me it is at my neck! 

Overall I am pretty happy with it.  I think it is going to be a handy little pullover for winter - and all from stash materials!