Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Miranda Skirt Pattern

Here's how to make the pattern for a skirt with soft pleats on a waistband like my Miranda Skirt:


The pattern pieces are simply rectangles, so with a few measurements you can chalk it directly onto the cloth, but you can make a paper pattern first if you prefer.  It is worth doing a quick calculation to make sure your fabric is wide enough first, I needed fabric about 100cm wide for mine.

 Let's start with the waistband:
  • Waistband length = waist circumference + 1cm ease + 3cm underlap + 2cm seam allowances.  Eg if my waist is 73cm, my waistband length = 79cm 
  • Waistband width = finished width x 2 + 2cm seam allowances.  Eg, if I want the finished width to be 4cm, I cut it 10cm wide.
  • Chalk this 79cm x 10cm rectangle onto your cloth.  I like to blockfuse, so I cut this rectangle out roughly leaving a 1/2" margin, fuse it, chalk the correct measurements, then cut it out.
  • Mark a few notches along your waistband:
    • one 1cm from one end (the seam allowance)
    • one 4cm from the other end (the 3cm underlap + 1cm seam allowance)
    • one halfway between these two notches (the side seam)
    • one halfway between the side seam and the 1cm notch (the CF)
    • one halfway between the underlap and the side seam (the CB).  I like to double notch the CB so I don't have to think which is which at the machine

Now for the skirt - the front and back pieces are exactly the same.
  • Skirt length = 1cm seam allowance + finished length + hem allowance.  Eg if I want the finished length to be 60cm, I cut it about 65cm.
  • Cut 2 panels from the full width of the cloth at this skirt length, these are the front and back.  Fold each panel right sides together so the selvedges meet, and lay them up on top of each other with the foldlines and cut edges matching exactly.  
  • By cutting them together on the CF/CB fold, we only need to chalk notches for the pleats on 1/4 of the skirt, and you can then clip the notches through all 4 layers.
  • Divide your finished waistband length by 4.  Eg if my finished waistband length = 74cm, I get 18.5cm.  This is what the upper edge of your 1/4 skirt must measure excluding the pleating underlay (marked here by arrows) and the side seam allowance.
  • With 18.5cm,  I have enough space to include 3 pleats of 5cm (15cm total) with 3.5cm remaining.  I placed 2.5cm of this remainder at the CF/CB between the pleats, and 1cm at the side seam.  If your waistband length is smaller than this you might need to use smaller pleats, eg 4.5cm or 4cm pleats.  If your waistband length is larger, you can simply add the extra to the side.  If it is much larger you might want to enlarge the pleats or move them further to the side to maintain similar proportions.
  • From the CF/CB start marking your pleats and the pleat underlays, which are twice the width of the actual pleat: 
    • mark 2.5cm from the CF (in the finished garment there is a 5cm gap between the central pleats).
    • mark 10cm underlay, then 5cm for the pleat.  Do this 3 times.  If you are using 4.5cm pleats mark a 9cm underlay, 4cm pleats and 8cm underlay, etc.
    • add the extra at the side seam, in my case 1cm
    • add the seam allowance.
  • Once the seam allowance is added, you can square down to the hem, and you're done!  But before you start cutting read the next point:
  • Something else you can do is to scoop out the CF/CB waistline 1cm.  I did this as it reduces the pleats splaying apart and makes them hang better - well it did on me!  If you do this you will need to add a slight hip curve similar to that on a standard pencil skirt, as the side seam and waistline must meet at a right angle:

So there we have it!  You can easily adjust the pleats to your own taste.  Experiment with pleating the fabric on your body to find the best arrangement like I did:


With a paper pattern you can also fold the pleats into position to get an appreciation of how they will look, and at the same time you can double-check your maths by ensuring the panel fits your waistband pattern exactly!

Have fun designing your own, and happy sewing!


Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Miranda Skirt

Ta-dah!  Here is the product of last weekend:


I'm calling this the Miranda Skirt because I bought the fabric for a total bargain in Miranda, a tiny village about an hour south of Auckland.  We drove past an old building housing a second-hand store and I said: "Oooh an op-shop!" in which instance Mr p~s~c usually plants foot on the accelerator pretending it was the radio that spoke, but this was my lucky day and he said: "Do you want to stop and have a look?"

So I browsed for a while and and found a few little treasures including this fabric, that came to the princely sum of $20 - but there was no eftpos machine, and I had no cash!  A desperate search of the car produced only 20 cents.  A disappointed me went back inside to explain I would have to forget about buying anything today.

Well, the lady said I could take them anyway....
Er, are you mad sure?
"Yeah,  just deposit the money into my account when you get home....."
"Er, um, OK!"
I did worry all the way home that I would breach her trust by absentmindedly forgetting to pay, you know - it being holiday season and all, but I'm pleased to say she did get her money - and that's how I got this fabric!

I fear it is a patchwork cotton though, at only 90cm wide.  It's probably called "Autumn Leaf Flora Circles" or something...


You can see the pleats a bit better in this photo.  I fiddled around with this skirt for ages trying different pleating arrangements, in an attempt to get the most flattering for my shape.  I have quite a large waist and high hip in relation to my other measurements, and usually avoid skirts with bulk in this area, but where there is a will there is a way!  I really want some full skirts for summer - they are so quick and easy to whip up, cool to wear in the heat, and a great way to add some colour and pattern to the wardrobe - something much needed in mine!


I played around with a yoke and without a yoke, tried the pleats facing inwards and outwards, and with various spacings between the pleats.  After taking photos of all the options (very helpful for an objective view) I eventually settled on this version. There are three inward facing pleats on either side front and back, each spaced 5cm apart.  It fastens with an invisible zip and three tiny buttons and loops on the waistband:


The pattern is so easy you can just chalk it straight onto the cloth using a few measurements - I might I show you in another post, anyone interested?

This skirt is good to wear right now (high summer) with a camisole and flats, but will also be good for autumn and winter with tights and a camel cardigan, or pink or purple...  Yay, a transitional piece!

And did you notice I am semi-glamourous today - with curls?!  Yes, I made an effort and had a play with my Mum's heated rollers.  It was kinda hot today so I don't know what I was thinking, at one stage I started to feel faint so I stuck my head in the fridge to cool them down quicker, which of course happened to be when DH arrived home for lunch.  The mad housewife trend continued as two of the rollers turned into a tangled mess when I removed them (you can see one side is a bit flat looking!), and it took half an hour and all of my patience to get them out without resorting to tailors shears!

Out of focus, or soft focus?  I'll let you decide!
But I should have tried some hair spray or something because within a couple of hours my hair was back to it's usual straight!  Any highly recommended hair products readers?

Was it all worth it?  Yes, despite the torture it was fun to have curls for a few hours and it felt gorgeous - you lucky girls with natural curls!  I've had straight hair all my life and wavered between a short straight bob and long straight non-bob (apart from that 80's perm...lol)  so I felt like at totally different person!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

~tricks of the trade: a shift dress lining pattern

How often do you buy a dress pattern, vintage or modern, and wish it had a lining?  I love to line my dresses - they sit more smoothly on the body and the fabric holds its shape better, plus it just looks and feels nice from the inside!

My sixties shift dress that I sewed recently came without a lining pattern, so I'll show you how I made it - then you can give it a go yourself!

  • First trace around your dress pattern, transferring all markings like the grainline, darts and zip notch:

  • Place the neck and armhole facings in position over the shell pattern, and outline the bottom edge of each facing.  My pattern has a back neck dart, so I needed to pivot the facing at the dart apex:

  • My facing pattern looks a bit smaller than the shell pattern, but that is because I have trimmed 2mm from the armhole and neckline edges, an adjustment made for cloth allowance so the facing turns neatly to the wrong side.  
  • The lining will be sewn to the lower edge of the facing, so we need to mark a seam allowance.  Mark a line twice the seam allowance you intend to use above the bottom edge of the facing.  This will be the cutting line for your lining:

  • At the hem, mark the foldline of your shell hem - this is also the cutting line for your lining:

  • On the back lining, place an additional notch about 1" below the zip notch - the CB lining seam will be sewn up to this point:

  • Now you are done and you can cut around your pattern on the lining cut lines.  I've just shown you how to make the back here, but the front is made in exactly the same way.   I sometimes notch midway along the facing seam so I can sew those curves together accurately - just draw a perpendicular line to mark where both notches will go:


A couple of assembly notes:
  • Sew lining CB seam up to the notch-below-the-zip-notch.  When sewing the shell and lining zip allowances together, match the zip notch on the shell to the upper notch on the lining:   
  • This causes the lining zip opening to be set 1" below the zip opening on the shell, and reduces stress at this point.  This area often rips as customers try to squeeze into too small a size!  Lowering the lining seam stopped this problem for me, but sometimes I also fusetape the area to further reinforce it.
  • Hem the lining using a 1cm or 1/2" double folded hem - this will bring the lining hem to the correct length 2cm or 1" above the dress hem:

You should end up with something like this:


But hopefully you won't have a little pucker at the base of the zip like mine has!  I was a bit rough at matching my zip notches - next time I promise I'll put that quick-un-pick to use.....

Happy sewing!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Sixties Shift with Red Stitching

I finished this dress a week or so ago, and it has been patiently waiting for it's decorative stitching since:

And I'm still waiting for the perfect red shoes, so let's just pretend shall we?
I had two shades of red embroidery cotton, but one was too dark and one was too orangey, so a special trip downtown was required to get just-the-right-shade.  The hand stitching took a couple of hours to do - as long as it took to sew the whole dress!  I quite like the naivety of the stitching with the linen:


 Here's a quick reminder of the pattern, Butterick 2669 - as you can see I was 100% innovative in my colour choice:


Quick n' Easy it might have been to sew, but fitting it was a nightmare:

It would have been a much simpler plan to swing a couple of darts around on my own dress block, but that needs a refit too!  I usually wear sheath dresses more fitted, but making this as part of the Vintage Sewalong I kept with the spirit of the vintage pattern and left it semi-fitted - not quite as flattering, but loose and comfortable for summer, and you can still bend over to pat the cat:


The back is plain but I think the red stitching around the hem band adds just enough interest.  I thought of doing a handpicked zip a la vintage, but the invisible zip won:


I did make the tie belt, but let's just say the girl in the pattern illustration looks a lot better with a tie belt than I do!  Here's a nicer image to finish with:


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Some vintagy finds to share...

Some bargain fabrics...


some once-tangled trims...


a chain printed shirt, destined for downsizing...


a nautically inspired jumper...


a navy horsehair bag...


a dainty 50's style cropped cobalt cardi...


an Australian Home Journal...



 patternless, unfortunately...


but I take the hint - it is about time I returned to making my own...

Found in:
  • The Country Store, Miranda, Waikato
  • This is not a Love Shop, K Road, Auckland
  • The Paper Bag Princess, K Road, Auckland
  • a shop with no name, Grey Lynn, Auckland

What about you - have you found any vintagy treasures lately?
Are you like me - and just can't walk past an op-shop without going in?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Get Smart with Darts!

The dress I am making at the moment, Butterick 2669, has one of each of the main dart types - so time for more tricks of the trade - about darts!  Our flat pattern and fabric are only two dimensional, but with darts we introduce a third dimension so garments fit our body curves better.


Dart Types:
  • Basic dart - triangular in shape, eg the shoulder dart above
  • Contour dart - tapers at each end, eg the back waist darts
  • French dart - a combined bust and waist dart emerging from the side seam


Parts of a Dart:




Random Dart Tips:
  • Darts usually come first in garment construction - they are much easier to do on a flat piece that is unattached to other pieces.
  • The dart should point to the body part it is providing fullness for - ie the bust point, front hip, buttock, elbow tip, shoulder blade, etc...
  • The dart should end before the full prominence - ie bust darts should end about 2.5cm /1" before the bust point
  • Taper your darts - Darts help the fabric conform to our bodies curves, therefore part of the stitching line must be curved. If you like to wear cone bras like Madonna, you can stitch your dart using a rigidly straight line, but for most darts we want to stitch a straight line with a slight curve near the apex to simulate our body shape.  When you fold the fabric to sew the dart, fold well past the dart apex - this will help to visualise the shape required for a smooth continuous curve, from your dart stitching line to the remaining fold in your cloth.  The last 3 stitches are usually directly on the fold:


  • As you taper, don't be afraid to use the handwheel on your machine if you get a neater result - it's not cheating!
  • You can shape your dart to your own body contours. If you have a 'sacral scoop', then make the back darts on your skirt slightly concave to match. If you have a prominent high hip, make them slightly convex. 
  • Try to backtack inside your stitching line where possible.
  • In fine fabrics backtacking may not be the best way to finish - leave long threads and handsew them back down your stitching line instead.
  • For sheers, you might like to read this post on french seaming a dart
  • For side bust darts, you might like to read Bust Darts - Up or Down?


Marking and Sewing Darts

Here are some dart markings on commercial patterns:





Here are some dart markings on production patterns:




They're a bit different aren't they?  In manufacturing we make it easier by marking dots on the foldline of the dart, not on the dart legs.  In actual fact the cutter drills tiny holes at these points, and they become enclosed within the dart once it is sewn.  But because home sewers don't a) have a drill in their sewing cabinet, or b) have their dart point necessarily confirmed, it is best just to mark it with chalk on the inside.  This way you don't have to fuss around overlaying dots and pinning pins, you just start, well - sewing!

If you'd like to give this method a go, I'll show you how I adapted the dart markings for all three types of darts on my Butterick 2669 pattern:

Basic darts:
  • Clip 2 notches at the base of the dart legs
  • Mark one dot 1cm (or 1/2") short of the apex on the foldline:
  • To sew, fold fabric along the foldline, bringing the notches together and folding exactly through the dot at the apex:  
  • Sew from the notches directly towards the dot in a straight line: 
  • About 2cm from dot begin your taper, finishing 1cm (or 1/2") past the dot with a backtack.   
  • For a dart with a large intake you may need to begin your taper slightly further from the dot, and for a small dart begin the taper closer.  For this small shoulder dart I began to taper 1cm prior:

Contour darts:
  • Mark three dots all on the foldline
  • Two of these dots are 1cm short of the apices, and one dot is at the widest intake - in this case the waist:
  • Look how inaccurately placed the dots were on the original pattern! 
  • Measure the widest intake and halve it - you'll need this figure when you sew your dart.  This dart has 1" suppression, so I will sew it 1/2" from the foldline.
  • To sew, fold fabric along foldline exactly through all three dots:
  • Start 1cm before a dart apex, backtack on the fold, then taper slightly inwards until your presser foot is aiming at a point 1/2" (half the intake) inside your middle dot:
  • Sew straight until about 2cm from this point, then begin a smooth gradual curve through the point to about 2cm beyond it:
  • Sew straight again and taper the end of the dart as for a plain dart:
  • The finished contour dart should be a smooth curve with no angular bits:
  • Clip only if necessary.  I don't generally clip darts under 1" total suppression - but I use mainly natural fabrics that press easily into shape, disobedient fabrics like polyester might need clipping.


French darts:
  • Mark one dot 1cm short of the apex on the foldline
  • Cut away the dart intake leaving a standard seam allowance
  • Because a French dart is bias and easily distorted while sewing, it is good to have a notch halfway along the seam allowance:
  • To sew, bring the side seam edges of the dart together, and stitch as for a normal seam until you reach the point where the foldline begins:

  • When you reach the foldline, start tapering towards the dot, sew 1cm past the dot, and backtack:
  • Clip only where necessary - a French dart is on the bias and the allowances press easily into shape, so only considerable curves or fabrics like polyester will need clipping.


Shaped basic darts:
  • Some plain darts are shaped, to contour the body even more closely
  • Marking and sewing these is similar to sewing a either contour or French dart
  • An extra dot can be placed below the dot at the apex to indicate the area of additional intake, and a note is made of the amount of additional intake required when you sew, as you do for a contour dart:
  • Or, the dart intake may be cut away as in a French dart, to provide a guideline for sewing.

Simple eh?  In manufacturing everything is stripped down to the bare essentials - but once you have sewn a few darts, the bare essentials are all you need!  As you can see it takes just a moment to convert the pattern markings, and I find this method much quicker when cutting, marking and sewing, with no loss in accuracy.  Give it a go!

Thats all for now - Enjoy your sewing!