Sunday, October 30, 2011

I only popped in to buy a zip...

For my Red Spot Dress I needed a red 60cm invisible zip, and after rummaging through my zip stash to find everything but, I popped along to Global Fabrics to get one.

The big problem with Global Fabrics is that the counter is situated at the rear of the store, so to get there you need to pass through aisles of fabric laden tables.  Highway robbery really...

#1 - ecru silk/elastane cherry print
#2 - navy silk/elastane anchor print
#3 orange cotton voile spot
#4 berry/amethyst/chocolate silk/linen floral print
#5 black/ivory wool spot
#6 blue/turquoise/white cotton print

In keeping with my rule of buying one new fabric per two stash fabrics used, this means I need to have used up twelve stash fabrics recently.  I haven't.  Obviously that rule needs changing!

Are you a fabricaholic too?  Do you have a large stash that you are trying to sew your way through, but occasionally need a rewarding splurge on something new?

Friday, October 28, 2011

More Machine Underlining Tips

Once underlined, the only alteration I really had to do to the bodice on my Red Spot Dress was shorten the back waist.  A lot of the original wrinkles appear to be caused by Polyester-Vs-Skin static rather than the actual fit.   I've reattached the skirt with a lining and here it is so far, although it is a size too big for the mannequin:


I interfaced the facings with calico as well, partly so I could demonstrate what I mean by folding when I am machining the underlining as some of you asked.  Although I am technically interfacing these pieces, the same principle applies.

Here's the L neck facing, and you can just see that I have machine basted the neck edge.  I lightly pinned the two layers, as the spot fabric wiggles all over the place:


Now I am preparing to sew the free edge of the facing.  It is important to remove any pins from the area that you are going to sew, as it defeats the purpose of what I am about to do next:


I fold under the neck edge - this emulates how the fabric layers will sit when the facing is sewn to the garment and pressed.  Notice how the spot fabric pulls over slightly, so it can wrap around the calico at the neck edge?


That is how it wants to be - always listen to the fabric!  Now sew the edge, removing any pins before you near them and folding the edge under as you go.

To prevent the layers shifting, a bit of sewing technique is necessary.  Go slowly, sewing a few stitches at a time.  Smooth the layers as you go - a flat bed on your machine is better - and as soon as you start to see any shift raise the presser foot and let the fabric lay flat again.  Use an awl or quick-unpick in your R hand to hold or ease the top layer as you go (I'm using my L hand here so I can photograph!).  Some fabrics may be better sewn the other way up, against the feed dogs (in which case your neck edge will fold to the top):


I folded my fabric at the shoulder and CF edges too:


Once you are done lay it flat again - see the bubble in the upper layer?  It looks wrong, but really it is perfect!


See how when the neck edge is folded under - as it will be on the assembled garment - the bubble disappears?


You can still see slight bubbles at the shoulder and CF edge where I haven't yet turned them under, but the rest lays perfectly flat, which is what we want.

If you don't accommodate this ease in your upper layer, then you can get a yukky crease in your underlining or interfacing around the finished seam line.  Some fabrics need more ease than others, and my folding method eliminates the guesswork by giving you the exact amount of ease for your fabric combination.  You may not get a crease in more forgiving fabrics that meld into shape with the iron, but they will always lay better if you allow extra for the cloth folds - ever had The Case of the Flipping Out Facing?  Well your problem is solved!

OK, back to work.  Hopefully I'll get this thing dress finished this weekend so I can move on...
To more stashbusting!

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Red Spot Dress - Underlining the Bodice

Do you remember the Red Spot Dress that wasn't going too well?  Well I have been busy with my quick-unpick and now have the bodice underlined with calico.  I haven't fitted it yet, but here it is on the mannequin and it is looking a lot better:


As well as eliminating static and giving the fabric more support, I thought backing it with calico would make it more comfortable against the skin in summer - this polyester stuff* is quite plasticy!

Here's what I did:

I preshrunk the calico in a hot wash, then cut it to the pattern piece.  It is best to cut the shell and underlining together so they are exactly the same, but of course my outer fabric was already cut.  Because it had already been sewn up, and clipped, and pressed, and unpicked, it could also be slightly distorted, so I took the calico to be the correct shape.

I machine basted my underlining to the shell, one edge at a time.  Purists will say this must be done by hand, but I've never found that necessary. But you probably already know I question a lot of things in sewing books!


The dart was sewn before basting the edges together - first baste the two layers together up the middle of the dart, then sew and press the dart itself.  This means the cloth allowance around the dart is accounted for before you start on the outer edges.

Next I sewed the CB edge, then the side seam/armhole with the fabrics folded lengthwise - this gives you the cloth allowance needed when the seam allowances are turned back.  You will notice that the raw edges don't match exactly - that's the idea.

Then I basted the waistline, followed by the neck/shoulder, in the same way.  Usually some areas, like the corners, need unpicking and rebasting - just listen to the cloth and do what it says!  It's a bit hard to see, but in the above picture there are a few stops and starts where I've ripped and reset - that's OK because the stitching all gets removed in the end.  That's why you've used a long stitch length and didn't backtack - oops, did I not tell you that earlier? -  hehe!


The right side should show slight looseness, evenly all over, to allow for the cloth folds and body curvature when the garment is sewn up.  You'll see that some cut edges don't match - that's OK, the important bit is that the ease in the shell is correct.

To check that you have allowed the correct amount of ease in the shell, lightly press the turnings in.  Press just inside your basting, which should be well within the seam allowance, so no creases are pressed in the part that will show:


The two layers should behave as one:


There should be no pulling in the layers like this:


...unless you want your garment to look like that when finished!  I noticed I've got a small dimple at the side waist - I could probably leave this, but I will fix it because it is in an easy spot:


...and in the competition between me and this dress, I am going to win!

Just like the All Blacks!!!!!!!!!!

Today's Victory Parade - I was one of the 270,000!

Some fabrics are easier to work with than others - this polyester is non-forgiving, but the washed cotton presses to shape well. Together they are quite compatible and I am liking the resulting fabric.  This is what underlining is all about - changing the properties of your fabric to be more suitable for your design.  In making my Totally Unnecessary Cocktail Dress, I even underlined the stretch satin with silk organza to eliminate the unwanted stretch.

That's all for today - do you have any favourite underlining tips to add?  Do you swear by hand sewing your underlining to the shell - or do you get just as good results by machine?  And what is your favourite underlining combination?


*Can you believe this fabric is from my very first job in the garment industry?!  My employer used to allow us to have the roll ends - unfortunately they made what I used to call "old ladies clothes" (notice I don't call them that now - lol!) so there weren't a lot of suitable choices for a 24 year old.  But I did acquire this piece and later gave it to my mother.  However it sat in her sewing cupboard for years, until I reclaimed it last Christmas.  What goes around, comes around - it's very true!

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Fan Trail T-Shirt, by Sonny Boy

Last weekend while we were walking the Rugby World Cup Fan Trail on the way to the All Blacks v Wallabies semifinal, Sonny Boy was obviously contemplating something...

"Mum, you know that black T-shirt, the one that is too small for Dad, but too big for me?"
"Yeah"
"Do you think we really need it?"
"Well you will grow into it, but no, we don't really need it, it's only a T-shirt"

We walk up the road a bit further, with flag-flying cars tooting their horns as they drive by, past some colourful Wallaby supporters wearing kangaroo hats, street drummers, and a bus shelter with a local band playing garage music...

"Mum, do we have lots of sellotape at home?"
"Yes, I bought some the other day, and unless you've used it up already, it should still be there"
"Oh, cool."

Onwards we follow the growing pilgrimage to Eden Park, past the overflowing pubs, the face-painters, and through a patriotic sea of black flags, silver ferns and black rugby jerseys...

"Mum, do we have any white paint?"
"Err, yes,"  I said hesitantly, realising these three well-spaced questions were ominously connected.  "What do you want white paint for?"
"I want to make an All Black T-Shirt!"

And he explained the idea that had been brewing in his mind during our walk.  Quite simple really, and quite effective - now I want one!

All you need is an old t-shirt, sellotape, and leftover fence paint!
By the way, if you can I really recommend walking part of the Fan Trail on Sunday - it winds it's way from the waterfront downtown to the stadium at Eden Park where the final between NZ and France will be held - with a fantastic atmosphere all the way!


Go the All Blacks!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

It's Mistake Week!

Lately I've been beavering away on a Tatiana Pullover by Marlaina Bird from Interweave Crochet W2009.  I thought all was going smoothly until I laid it out to admire from a distance - I'm glad I did because one underarm is higher than the other:

Does your cat like to walk on your projects too?!
Honestly - how did that sleeve zoom up a whole pattern repeat to get way up there?  Anyway, I've unravelled the naughty sleeve and started a new one in the correct place.  This mistake comes hot on the heels of my post on this disaster red spot dress so I'm half expecting another errata this week, because don't things like this run in three's?

One great thing about crochet is that it is so quick, and this crochet lace is really enjoyable to do as each row is different.   I find it more intuitive than lace knitting too, where I practically need the chart with me at all times.  After a couple of pattern repeats, I had this one memorised and was soon experiencing chart freedom!

Oh - and don't ask me why I am crocheting a jumper when summer is almost here - sometimes I just need to make something!  

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

On Hitting the Wall, and Not Giving Up

"Fail - The Red Spot Dress" was going to be the title of this post, until I realised I was already thinking of the best way to fix this mess of a dress, and I promptly reminded myself that I don't do failure!  There is almost always something that can be done to fix disasters, I think most of the time it is just a matter of overcoming the mental obstacle.  It is no longer a 10k you are running - it is the marathon instead!

So, here's the mess so far:

Too small in waist, too long in bodice, one side of collar is misbehaving (it's in shadow here, but it's twisting)...


See through, highly static polyester that sticks to your skin like a wet t-shirt...



On Hitting the Wall, and Not Giving Up:

I think most of us are resistant to unpicking our work.  I am definitely guilty of settling for second best because it is 'only for me', but this is unwearable.


"Ouch - that wall is hard!"

I've learnt - and it took me a surprisingly long time - that unpicking mistakes as soon as they happen is the quickest and easiest option.  Sometimes I go into denial and need to force myself to do this!  Leaving mistakes and hoping for the best involves compromise all the way down the chain, and usually compounds the problem.   Which only means extra unpicking!

Not giving up makes you a better sewer too, because you learn.  You learn methods of avoiding mistakes in the first place.  You analyse and learn why the mistake has occurred, and you learn how to remedy it.  Often you need to learn new techniques to overcome new problems.  By throwing the project in the bin, you learn nothing.

And of course by not giving up you eventually succeed - you end up with a garment you can happily wear so you can swan around like these ladies:



Hopefully that's me next week!  Now, where's my quick-unpick?...

Monday, October 10, 2011

Finished (at Last) - Lace Trim Cardigan


If you are a regular reader of this blog you might recognise this item already, you may even have helped me to choose the colour of the buttons - if so, thank you for your input!  I started knitting it about a year ago, and finally have all the ends woven in, and attached the lace, and sewn on the black-rather-than-lilac buttons.


My mother gifted me this yarn a couple of years ago when I was at the height of my knitting frenzy, and I struggled what to make in such ludicrously coloured 1980's 4ply crepe Kaiapoi (remember that anyone?!) wool.  Honestly, in real life it is brighter than it looks.  I like to think that even the worst materials can be turned into something wearable - which seems to be what my blog is turning into actually - so I decided to emphasise the kitsch factor rather than fight it.  Now it is finished I think it looks very Alannah Hill!


The lace has featured on my blog before too - it was a gift from one of my bridal clients that she purchased on honeymoon in Paris.  It is incredibly beautiful, very old, and I am terrified that I will rip it every time I take this cardigan on and off.  I have stitched it on with some ease to try to prevent this happening.  I had mixed thoughts on using the lace at all, but decided it's beauty was better appreciated by others rather than just me and my trims box!

The lace trim idea came from Vogue Knitting Winter 2009/10 (#20 Lace Edge Cardi) and I used that pattern along with a similar pattern from VK Holiday 2007 (#21), added some waist shaping, and a moss stitch band rather than rib.  I was very careful sewing this one up - I used mattress stitch and lined up the side and sleeve seams stitch by stitch.  It took ages but I've decided this is worth the effort and I'm very chuffed with the result, so you get to see it here!:


In the past I have knitted a few garments in the round which avoids side seams altogether, but for this cardigan I switched back to straight needles.  There is something just nice about using them, they seem more balanced than the short circular needles for some reason - maybe it is just because I was taught on them as a kid!  

Do you knit too?  And if so do you prefer circular or straight needles?

Friday, October 7, 2011

The 1956 All Black Dress - More Pics!

So many of you asked to see some closer photos of last weeks 1956 All Black Dress on me to see more detail, so I took some today!  Here goes:

front neckline notch - R upper bodice welt - kimono sleeve


L lower skirt welt - L side invisible zip

Look- new fence pickets!  I've been priming and painting these in my spare non-sewing time, this is only a fraction of what is to be done and they take forever!!

waistline - there is a CF bodice seam and double darts on the skirt providing additional waist suppression

I looovve this pattern because it gives me a waistline that really doesn't exist!

double proof!

I've worn this dress a few times already, and although it is really comfortable the sleeves have some drag lines from my [square] shoulders. However if I eliminated this on the pattern there wouldn't be much underarm length, so perhaps kimono blocks suit sloping shoulders better anyway.  The draping doesn't bother me really - and probably disguised the looseness in the upper chest that I did not even notice until LinB (thanks Lin!) clarified the difference between Junior Miss and Miss sizing - the bustpoint is high and the waistline is almost perfect on my short waist!  I will run the front neckline-to-bust darts a bit longer when I have black thread on the machine next.

OK, I will never get around to it, if I'm honest...

Happy sewing weekend, my friends!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

My Vintage Pattern Crime

I knew I should have put it away into it's envelope...

Where it had been safely stored for the last 56 years...

I thought it would be alright, balanced carefully on the back of the sofa for a moment...

But it had no chance when an impromptu gun battle broke out between father and son....

It fluttered to the floor unnoticed as frantic to-ing and fro-ing ensued...

And was later found in this rather sad state:


I gulped guiltily as I slipped the two pieces gently back into the envelope...


I can't say I am that precious about the vintage patterns I own - I would much rather see a pattern used and enjoyed, than left laying untouched in factory folds in a collector's cupboard.  And I usually cut around the pieces.  Maybe I should trace them first, but my thoughts are that although cutting might devalue it from a collector's point of view, they are still usable for the next sewer who comes along - and after all this is who they are intended for.   Otherwise I do care for my vintage patterns and don't like to see them damaged unnecessarily, like - huh hmm - my one was.

How do you treat your vintage patterns - do you treat them with kid gloves, or just shove them back into the packet like this one?!

(by the way - I didn't do this!)


At what stage does a pattern become valuable enough to deserve The Special Treatment anyway - age, fashion relevance, or the ferocity of the bidding war?  I'd only ever pay a few dollars for a pattern because making them is my day job, but there are some very simple designs that command very high prices as The Selfish Seamstress notes today.

Don't you think it is interesting that the perceived value of vintage patterns varies so widely?  If 1 is trash and 10 is treasure, where on the scale do you sit?