Thursday, June 30, 2011

Tricks of the Trade: Sculpting the Perfect Scallop

Let me show you how I did the scallops on my Scallop Skirt - this way is quicker, easier, and gets better results than the methods I've seen in sewing books.

First of all you cut a straight hem, not a scalloped one!  Cut your hem and hem facing about 1cm longer than the finished edge of the lowermost part of the scallop:

It might pay to apply some lightweight fusing to the hem and/or facing to reinforce.  Some fabrics (eg loosely woven ones) will need this and some may not, and make sure the fusing does not cause unwanted stiffness.

Now chalk the outline of your scallop directly onto the wrong side of your cloth, using sharp chalk for an accurate line:

My pattern is made of card so this was easy, but if you have a tissue pattern you could make a card template from it.  Or use another transfer method like a tracing wheel and Simplicity tracing paper - do they still make that stuff?  What we are interested in is the stitching line, not the cutting line:

With your hem and hem facing right sides together, stitch along the chalk line - or more accurately, stitch on the inner edge of the chalk line right where the edge of the pattern was.  Check your stitching is accurate and that your scallops are all the same size and shape, now is the time to adjust them if they are a bit wonky!

Once your scallops are stitched the seam allowance can then be cut down to 6mm (1/4") around each scallop.

Clip into the point between each scallop with sharp scissors.  Clip to within 1mm of the stitching, or further away if your fabric is loosely woven and fraying is a concern.  You need to clip close enough for the point to turn properly though:

Now - most books will tell you to notch into the seam allowance of each scallop several times, just like I've done above - but that takes forever.  Which is OK if you have forever, but when you are impatient like me it is not.  I tried that technique to compare with my method - I found that I needed to cut tons of notches to prevent the scallop looking angular, and even then it was fiddly to turn and press to maintain the curve between the notches, and to avoid steam burning your fingers.  If I did my skirt hem that way it could take a couple of hours!

Trying again with tons of notches...

Instead I chose to do what we usually do in RTW production for convex curves -  I trimmed the seam allowance down to around 3mm (1/8") at the height of the curve, it takes 2 seconds:

The quick and easy way!

I only trimmed where necessary, leaving the full seam allowance intact near the clip.  As you trim hold the shears at an angle to automatically bevel the edges.

When you turn the scallop through, the curve practically forms itself and  is smooth and angle-free.  The raw edges of the smaller seam allowance mould themselves evenly into position. Pressing is quicker and less hazardous.  Time taken was ten minutes.

Spot the difference:

The two scallops on the left  had their seam allowances notched, and are angular in appearance.  The two on the right had their seam allowances trimmed, and are smooth.

Try it next time you do scallops, or any convex curve for that matter - collars, cuffs, jacket front hem curves - and hopefully you'll have better results like I did!

Fraying isn't usually a problem on enclosed seams like this, but the risk can be even further reduced by understitching or topstitching.  Understitching by machine isn't really possible on small scallops, but can be done by hand.  I chose to topstitch instead!

Some readers asked for topstitching hints - but I don't really have many!  My main tip would be to sew at a speed where you have good control.  For these scallops I sewed slowly and used the handwheel a lot!  For 5-6mm topstitching like this I line the edge of the fabric up with the edge of my presser foot, and watch the fabric edge rather than the needle.  It helps with straight feeding and speed if I place a finger up next to the foot/fabric edge and hold it there while sewing, a bit like a compensating foot.

Maybe some readers have topstitching tips that would help me - if so, be sure to leave them in the comments below!

And happy scallop sewing from now on!

By the way, Mother Nature has got back at me after I noted we were having a warm winter in a recent post - we awoke this morning to a chilly 6C and most skifields now have enough snow to open for the season, plus I'm now wearing my ski socks around the house...

And have you entered the Seam Allowance Guide giveaway yet?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Gadget Giveaway!

I'm sold!  Hollie sent me one of her Seam Allowance Guides to review, and for someone who operates on minimal equipment and has very few sewing gadgets to their name, I have to say I love this clever little tool!

For those of us who trace Burda patterns or any other pattern system that omits seam allowances, it is perfect  - this tool automatically measures the seam allowances for you while you cut.  It simply attaches to your scissor blades by a magnet, and you cut using the small black ring as a distance guide.

For those of us who find cutting the least appealing part of the sewing process - this is going to minimise your time at the cutting table and get you to the sewing machine sooner!

Hollie is an accomplished seamstress herself, and in designing this tool she has thought about all the important details.  I was impressed with the power of the magnet - it certainly won't fall off or shift when you are cutting around curves or anything!  The black ring can be moved incrementally along the guide, so you can cut anything from 6mm seam allowances to 3cm hem allowances:

There are spare rings enclosed and I placed two on the guide at once, partly to avoid losing one (!), but also because I cut my garments with varying seam allowances.  And if you have shears with a sloping blade Hollie hasn't forgotten you - there's an extra guide in yellow with a slanted edge - it fits perfectly on the right side of my shears:

It is even great for picking up pins!  In these pictures I am demonstrating it being used on a pattern from an Australian Home Journal which has no seam allowances - normally I would trace this onto pattern paper, add seam allowances, cut out the pattern, then lay up and cut the fabric - I can see Hollie's invention is going to save me a lot of time!

And the awesome news is that Hollie has sent me an additional five Seam Allowance Guides to giveaway to my readers around the world!  I will draw five names out of a hat on the 1st of July, unless I can figure out that random number generator thingy....

Here is all you need to do to enter:
1. Become one of the fabulous folk following this blog.
2. Leave a comment telling me why you'd love a Seam Allowance Guide in your sewing arsenal.
3. Either leave some way of contacting you (google profile, blog, etc) or check back on the 2nd of July to see if you are one of the lucky five!

Thank you Hollie for your generous offer.  And have a great sewing week all - I'm off to cut something out and play with guess what!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Scallop Skirt

I've been wanting a scalloped hem skirt for ages but never had the 'right' fabric - until I rummaged through the stash the other day and found a metre or so of some grey marl mystery fabric that I thought would be ideal. It is quite scratchy though, I fear it is some sort of polyester-made-to-look-like-but-definitely-not-feel-like-wool.  But beggars can't be choosers - it was a free acquisition, plus has the double bonus of reducing the stash.  I thought if I lined it in silk satin that might counteract the negative, and I'll just avoid touching the outsides!

It is a basic A-line with curved waistband that has a curvy inset piece highlighted with topstitching with scallops stuck on the bottom.  Initially I imagined a giant buttoned patch pocket three scallops wide, but it was so big it didn't really look right anywhere, so I abandoned that idea.  Consequently the skirt is plainer than originally intended, even with the stitching detail.  At 55cm it's a bit shorter than my usual length too, but this is a winter skirt and I kid myself I can get away with it wearing tights!

I've been onto DH all week not to mow the lawn, so I could photograph this skirt with all the fallen ginko leaves, which match my tights and new $1 bag perfectly!  The top is a Nouveau Top from my Winter 2002-ish collection - it still fits!

Here are some details - a topstitched waistband with tab detail, I wish I placed the front tabs slightly closer to the CF:

A scalloped hem with topstitching - coming up next I have a post on how to sew perfect scallops, quick and easy!

Tagua nut buttons ex some other project, and a silk satin facing/lining:

Now that I have more colour in my wardrobe, I'm really appreciating how versatile grey is.  I've usually only worn it with black, or maybe red, but it looks pretty cool with yellow, orange, pinks, purples and plums, and even emerald, cobalt and turquoise - almost everything!  I'm on the lookout for some nice orange jersey, or an orange polo neck, or maybe I should knit something orange, whatever, something orange to warm up this winter we are having.  Actually this winter is pretty warm so far, we've been hitting 20C recently and the skifields have no snow, but that doesn't stop my orange craving! Maybe orange and purple...

Do you wear a lot of grey?  If so, what are your favourite colours to wear with it?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Tricks of the Trade: A Handworked Thread Loop

For the closure on my emerald silk georgette blouse I hand worked a thread button loop:

Handworked thread loops have a nice discrete, lightweight finish and are great for delicate fabrics and areas where there is little stress placed on the closure.  They can also be worked in a straight line to form an eye for a hook, or made longer to form a belt loop at a side seam, but I'll demonstrate the loop version here.

Thread your needle with an arm's length of thread and knot the ends together so it is doubled.  Insert the needle a short distance from where you want the loop to be, exiting at one end of the loop:

Pull the thread to draw the knot between the layers, then take a couple of small stitches to secure the thread where it exits:

Insert the needle at the top end of the loop and exit at the bottom end - try to pass the thread through multiple thicknesses for extra strength, without catching the front layer so it remains invisible from the right side:

Do this 2-3 times to make a loop, stick the needle in the centre of the loop and wiggle it so all threads are the same length, and check that it fits your button.  You can still tighten or loosen it at this stage:

If you are making a bar for a hook, make this 'loop' so it lies flat on the cloth with a slight gap for the hook to pass through.

Now we blanket stitch around the loop to make it firmer - bring the needle up through the loop:

Then pass it through the loop that you have just formed:

And slowly draw up the thread being careful not to twist or knot it:

Tighten the stitch and at the same time slide it to the very start of your loop:


And keep repeating....

Keep the blanket stitches as close together as possible without overlapping.  If your thread gets twisty, drop the needle and let it swing - it will spin and untwist the thread itself.

Keep going until you get to The End:

Zig-zag the needle and thread a few times through the seam allowance between the layers to finish off, exit again at a distance from the loop, then clip the thread close to the cloth.   If your loop is the correct length, the edges at the front should butt together when buttoned like so - no overlapping or gaps!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Finished - Emerald Silk Georgette Blouse

With little practical sewing progress to report lately, it is good to accomplish one thing and feel a hint of achievement - in the guise of a new emerald silk georgette blouse:

This is the one that I hand rolled the hem of the flounce on - Burdastyle August 2009 #117 Blouse.  The fabric is sheer so I chose to cut the blouse double, with the hem on the fold, with the inner and outer side seams are sewn in one complete pass.  It is certainly opaque now - I'm even wearing a black bra underneath and you can't tell!

While the needle was threaded I hand overcast all the internal raw edges together to prevent a fraying and pressing disaster after washing - it was fun and surprisingly quick.  I blame Marina and her gorgeous blouse for inspiring this sort of behaviour in me!

Once I started hand sewing I couldn't stop, and after attaching the neck binding by machine, I understitched it by hand using a prickstitch, then fell stitched it down.  Georgette is great in that the thread disappears into the crepey crinkles so the binding almost looks like it is there by magic:

Well, until you see a close-up photograph...
I found a mis-matching-but-close-enough flat button from the button box, and worked a loop at the neck edge for the inner closure:

Then I tried it on....and it was huge.  I think this was due to my fabric rather than the pattern - it was originally hand dyed, so the crepe texture had contracted a bit, and when it was pressed it flattened out a bit and grew.

Anyway I took 2cm off the armhole and side seam from the waist up, and also raised the side seam 1cm at the underarm to cover my bra band.  At this stage I was regretting all my handwork!  However it was worth it - it's feeling a lot more like the top I originally envisaged.

I have given up on the flounce ever laying symmetrically - this fabric is so light that the slightest wisp of breeze rearranges them in an instant.  The top part is actually quite symmetrical despite how it looks in the photo, but the lower part is definitely cut slightly off grain and lays asymmetrically.  Honestly, whoever cut this should get the sack...

Maybe if I keep moving no-one will notice?!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Adding to the Procrastination Problem...

I forgot to mention in my Weekend Progress Report, that a little blue "Place Bid" sign stared back at me from the screen - three times would you believe - and I clicked on it to make it go away.  Funnily enough, look what turned up in the mailbox a couple of days later:

Yes, you would think I had enough projects, but they say you should always have a Five Year Plan, and I think that is advice worth following.

First up - Miss Vogue 7882 - a rather quirky jumpsuit pattern, still in factory folds - well it was:

I'm not sold on either of the pink jersey versions (although I do need pyjamas...), but what caught my eye was the wool herringbone sleeveless midi version.  I can actually see myself wearing this, being a polo neck and boots kind of girl. Or I could just be having a middle-age-moment?

Second up - Simplicity 1714 - a 'simple town-going basic with 3/4 kimono sleeves in two silhouettes, the sheath and the graceful flare":

The sheath version is the one I would make, currently I can only picture it in black or another dark neutral - any suggestions?  I would probably insert a zip at the CF, rather than a short CB zip that will only get my hair stuck in - ouch - and I would make real welt pockets rather than fake ones.

Third up - Australian Home Journal, December 1957 - with two pretty dress patterns.  How could I not?

At first I thought I had been conned, as it appeared all the pattern pieces weren't there.

But a closer inspection revealed that several were either doubled up or hidden within other pieces - such as this skirt yoke, which is outlined by dots on the back pattern piece sort of like elementary Join-the Dots:

There we have it - what do you think of my, err, - new new projects?  Will a midi-jumpsuit make me look like a dweeb in a tweed, or will I look like I'm straight off a Gucci catwalk!?  (Or fallen straight off, maybe even pushed...)  Help me, clearly I need steering in the right direction!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Getting all Couture-y - A Hand-Rolled Hem

There are lots of options for finishing the free edge of a flounce, but not all of them I like.  Sometimes the inside needs to look as neat as the outside.  For my current project, OK - one of my current projects, the one in emerald silk georgette, I'm getting all couture-y and sewing a hand rolled hem.  I like the finished effect which is invisible from the right side, and and visible only as a fine edge on the reverse:

It's a little fiddly, and at one hour per flounce it would multiply the cost tenfold from a garment costing perspective, but this one's just for me.  Plus it means I have a reason not to go outside and do the paint-stripping! 

I did it like this: 
I found it easiest to hold the edge like so - with my thumb folding the edge of the chiffon over slightly, and my outer fingers holding the other end with a slight tension:

Pick up one thread, and then the edge of the fold with the needle, here's a closer look:

I've taken a bit much of the fold here, it's best to take a bit less than this
and draw the needle and thread through:

You can do one stitch at a time, or stitch a few:

and then draw up the thread - as you do the fabric rolls over nicely to form a hem enclosing the raw edge and  your thread:

You can leave the hem rolled or press it flat- and I'm not sure which way is 'correct".  Rolled it gives a bit of body, but I pressed mine flat as I found the edge of the georgette draped better.  It is going to be the edge of the flounce on this top from Burda August 2009 so it needs to drape symmetrically, hopefully:

I've cut the whole top double thickness with the hem on the fold, and I think I will just bag the whole lot out. This is a good top to use up this fabric remnant that I've had for a long time - ex bridesmaids dresses 2005 to be precise! 

Have any of you already made this one?  Or the long sleeve version?

By the way I've made a new rule:  If I use up two pieces of stash, I'm allowed to buy one new piece of fabric.  How coincidental convenient that I've seen something I simply must have!