Friday, April 18, 2014

Random Threads # 6

Hey I have a new gig!  I am now writing blog posts for the Craftsy Sewing Blog. Here is my first post, 5 Advanced Sewing Techniques Every Sewer Should Know. Take a look and leave a comment there, letting me know what advanced techniques you would like to add to your sewing toolbox.

craftsy writer

You will have to wait a bit to see the finished version of V8972 dress in black wool crepe. It is about 60% completed and I am taking my time this weekend to finish it. I can happily report I had one fitting with what I can call a provisional sleeve in muslin attached to the actual wool dress and it worked out very well. So sleeve issues overcome due to something I have not used much before - a cut-on gusset. More details to follow.

New Vogue Patterns: there are a lot of dresses in the new pattern release. I was really curious to see what would be included in their new patterns after reading Shams very interesting posts on her meeting with Vogue Patterns at the Puyallup Sew Expo. If you have not been following her posts, she wrote an open letter to Vogue patterns quite a while ago, telling about her frustration with their offerings in terms of variety, sizing, interesting designers, not enough separates, etc.

In any event, this is the first pattern release after her meeting with them so of course the patterns were planned ages ago. With lots of dresses which is understandable, spring fashion often includes a lot of dresses but more separates would be very welcome. I find that I turn to Simplicity or New Look for nice tops and skirts, they seem to have a knack for making multi-version patterns of really cute separates. (example Simplicity 2451 or New Look 6150).  As for this Vogue release there are none that I really want. The one that caught my eye is V8993, a dress that is just my style but I have almost the exact same pattern in Simplicity 2174.  See, there are NO new patterns!  I bet if you go on Etsy or Ebay you could find a somewhat vintage pattern from the '70's with almost the same style lines.

So I will not be buying that Vogue pattern. Like I need another dress pattern. The one that I did think was very pretty is the featured pattern, with the scalloped hem V1398. Very sweet and definitely memorable. I really like the bodice, it could be nice if you marry that with a plainer skirt for those not wanting to look to sugary.

Speaking of dresses, are you taking a look at the fantastic wardrobe Duchess Kate is wearing on her trip down under?  I have loved everything she has worn but today's outfit made me want to run to the fabric store. White eyelet looking so pretty and cool.  Love it! Also that yellow dress, the wrap dress, the fantastic coats...I would gladly wear them all. Can't wait to see what else she has in her luggage.

In non-sewing activities it is time to get some tomatoes planted, and a few other tasks around the garden. For today's SunnyGal garden picture, the meyer lemon trees outside my sewing room window. The trees are in full blossom which means with the window open the buzz of honeybees is constant, interrupted occasionally by the zippy sound of a hummingbird. So cute and so far impossible to photograph.

Lemon and blossom 2014

Happy Easter to all,  

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Vogue 8972 Dress in black wool crepe also known as "why you need a presscloth"

This week has found me doing some early morning sewing because I am making Vogue 8972 Dress in a black wool crepe. I love wool crepe and this one, imported from Italy, is particularly nice. I went last weekend with a sewing client to Stone Mountain, and despite my pointing out all the lovely spring colors she had her mind set on a basic black dress which will last for a while and be appropriate for lots of events. How could I argue with that?

However I really don't like sewing on black, particularly one that is very matte and makes it so difficult to see the stitches.  My habit of late night sewing and black wool crepe are not a good combo, thus the early morning bright spring daylight sewing. On a different note, I am not really liking this pattern, in terms of fitting on a woven fabric. I have seen some nice versions in ponte knit or other knits and that allows a bit of leeway in fitting that a woven does not. Anyway enough grumbling, huh?

Vogue 8972 pattern envelope

But let's return to my post subtitle: Why you need a presscloth.

Wool crepe in any color but particularly the dark colors are very susceptible to getting a shine from pressing. And I think it looks terrible. I been known to recut sections of a garment if I erroneously touched iron to fabric without using a presscloth. So here I have made a few examples and brutally treated this first one, with no presscloth or trimming. Check out the result.

shine from pressing
Did you see how many seams and junctures this dress has? Then imagine every one with that shiny spot outlining the seams underneath. OK, I get very worked up about stuff like this but it is easily prevented.  First things first:

inside corner untrimmed
Trimming - my favorite little sewing task. I was saying to Elizabeth last weekend that I am a mad trimmer - every little junction and intersection is de-lumpified. Because as is, there are 4 layers of fabric at each corner there. On a waistband there can be up to 8 layers, so you can always remove some. Just like this until you have a nice little collection of 1/2 in squares littering your floor (if you are like me and let everything fall to be vacuumed later...much later).

trim example

The result is a nice un-shiny outside that is slightly flatter and blends in better with the rest of the garment. Also I was off a tiny fraction when I sewed the example on the left but you get the idea. This Vogue pattern calls for a lot of exactitude on the side seams so those diagonal lines meet up.  Stay tuned for my result. And fingers crossed. 
shine vs. no shine
Another key to good pressing on this dress is to press these seams on the edge of the pressing board. See below where I have the waist seam over the padded edge of the multi-press board and am just flattening the center of the seam, taking care not to mash the edges of the seam allowance. 

edge pressing
You can also see that I label all the pieces with chalk, particularly when using a fabric that is SO the same on either side. I immediately put chalk marks on the opposing pieces even before I remove my pattern papers. Also on pieces that can be confusing, like this waist section I find it helpful to put arrows so I know which edge goes to the upper bodice etc.  
Another thing you can see is lots of fusible interfacing. I was reading an old post on Fashion Incubator the other day and she wrote that most home sewers do not use enough interfacing. If you take apart a dress you will see fusible everywhere, on most any edge. This Vogue 8972 has a lot of bias edges so I applied knit fusible everywhere, bottom edges, top of the skirt pieces, around the neckline etc. I also think it helps maintain a crisp press on the seams and if I want to catch stitch down the seam allowances I can sew to the fusible they they will be hidden.

One last look at this multi-pressing board. It sits on any edge and has the little padded cover so it is really useful, curves, points etc. I never see them in stores but I do see them on Ebay and Etsy (look for June Tailor pressing board).  Also for this black wool crepe I did some test swatches for pressing, various press cloths, different fusible interfacings etc and found that the cotton presscloth gave the best result. The silk organza presscloth didn't keep the shine away. Interesting...
That is the cotton one on the left under the yellow spool.  I buy them at the big fabric store when they have the half off sale, they are pretty cheap and it is better than fooling around making something. 

Multi press board and cotton presscloth

That's all for now,  just a dress in pieces waiting to be put together for a fitting. When I mentioned above that I thought this dress was a bit tricky to fit, it was mostly the sleeves which are causing me trouble. But I have some ideas cooking so time and experimentation will hopefully solve this issue.

Happy spring sewing and watch your pressing!  Beth

Today's SunnyGal garden picture.  This Cecile Brunner rose bush lives next to the lemon trees and puts out masses of these tiny pink blooms, but I didn't realize it was a single bloomer or whatever they call these roses that only bloom once a season. Of course it grows like crazy, intertwines into the lemons, is full of thorns and it quite a challenge to prune. With the lemon and orange blossom scent plus the rose fragrance that side of the house is intoxicating this week.

Cecile Brunner rosebud

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Burda 6990 top repeat and sunny San Diego

Last week I spent some time in San Diego for business meetings, unrelated to sewing but I managed to fit some sewing in anyway. Since Elizabeth of Sewn blog is now a west coast girl and the only person I know in San Diego these days, I contacted her to see if she wanted to get together for some in person sewing counsel :) and she said Yes! We met last year at the Pattern Review weekend in San Francisco and have been talking and emailing ever since.

me and E

We spent a great afternoon going through patterns, fabric, checking out some of her previous makes, helping her with some fitting woes, convincing her to ditch a pattern that was trouble with a capital T, taught her a few little tricks and then we went out for a fantastic dinner. The margaritas were great, the sunsets are lovely in that part of the state and as you can see in this photo the bougainvillea is beautiful (the rose colored vine above me). It is blooming everywhere there, and hard to grow here as it gets a bit too hot and dry in my part of the bay area, although I see it in San Francisco - closer to the coast with more moisture.

I have been swamped with projects recently so have not been doing much sewing that is interesting or blog worthy however I did manage to make another raglan sleeve T-shirt using the Burda 6990 pattern I made a few weeks ago.  I got this fabric recently from Girl Charlee, my new favorite place for knits. It is a rayon jersey. 

blue green front

I know you will ask so I will show you the side view, the pattern is on the fabric so I did not do anything other than cut it out. This is the second zig-zaggy stripe fabric I have used from Girl Charlee and I really like them. I couldn't really match the stripes as they don't go all the way around but I could get the thin and thick strip motifs to match up reasonably well, just so it didn't look completely crazy.

blue green side

And a close up so you can see the colors.  I love this fabric and fear I will order any wacky stripe they put up on their site. How many do I need?  Oh well, it makes a change from my excessive use of turquoise, right?

Blue green tee close up

Up next, I have a yearning to make a seersucker blazer for spring, something in a light color which I can photograph and show all the details on collar, lapels, etc.  I have done a number of jackets but I am always slightly annoyed when I take photos and the sewing details disappear due to a dark color.

Plus I have a few examples stockpiled so will finally get around to a fitting post I have been saying I would do for a while: on bodice length. Stay tuned!

Happy Sewing,  Beth

SunnyGal garden photo: my tulips are done for spring but I did snap this one before the petals fell. I bought a few bags of bulbs at the dollar store and was amazed at the results, mixed colors and new shapes. I find plant possibilities everywhere!  good thing they don't sell fabric. 

yellow tulip

Friday, March 28, 2014

Vogue 8904 Dress, fun with stripes

Possibly I am one of the last to join in the stripey fun that is Vogue 8904, a Marcy Tilton pattern. I bought this one last year when it was first released but never got around to it in the summer.

So a year later and I am getting a jump on my summer dresses. Like I need more, ha! I just was rummaging in the closet to find another dress, so that a friend of mine could try it on (V1351, blogged here) and I was thinking it was time to purge a few - but that is tough, if I like 'em enough to keep 'em upon completion then I don't want to do that, despite few wearings.

This is the pattern that my friend Shams named the "Shingle Dress" based on the overlapping pieces that run down the entire front and back.

My verdict:  Pattern love...although I had a few doubts along the way. But once completed I am ready to make another, or maybe a top.

V8904 stripe front

Not sure how the fabric looks on whatever device you are viewing but those stripes create quite the optical illusion effect on my screen. How about a closer look? That's a bit better.  The fabric is a cotton spandex blend from Girl Charlee, my absolutely favorite website for knits. I ordered 3 yards of this and have about 1.5 remaining, so I can experiment with some other t-shirt ideas.  The description said aqua and brown stripe but the brown is very dark. In any case, another item with aqua/turquoise. I do have some other colors in the queue.

V8904 dress close up on form

Here is a look at the pattern envelope, and the back of the dress which is the same as the front. I know I say this all the time but the examples on the pattern are not the most flattering, to me they are drab and droopy. Also note on the long sleeve version those strange drag lines at the inner arm. I started to make this with elbow length sleeves but they had a weird fit - perhaps because the sleeves are cut on the crosswise grain, and in doing the quick try-on in my sewing room I decided that sleeveless was much better. 

               V8904 pattern envelope       V8904 Stripe dress back

Some construction and fitting details. I made a few adjustments for circumference on my pattern pieces adding a bit on the sides (by grading up a size at the sides only). I am not a fan of negative ease, even though I like fitted styles. I prefer a bit of ease or perhaps a better description is that I like my garments to float or skim over the body instead of stretching to fit. Adding a little on the sides worked out fine (also had to add to each overlay piece).  I got the dress front and back machine basted together and the front looked fine but the back was ... not good.  The only way to describe it is to say that the 2nd overlay from the top landed on the top of my backside and crumpled there. The horror. No photographic evidence. I kept fiddling with it for a day or so, thinking about taking a tuck from the underlining piece or some kind of swayback adjustment but that would actually make it worse. In the end I carried this along to a meeting with some sewing friends and put it on for them to judge. My friend Kathryn called it  - the troublesome shingles needed to move upwards so the bottom edges didn't coincide with my bottom.
Better to show than describe.  Here I have highlighted the original attachment seam line in red and the new improved seam line in green. It may look a bit wonky but the center of each shingle just needed to move up. You can see on the dress form that the 2nd shingle is a bit looser looking but not when worn, it settles into the waist area nicely.  And I forgot to turn around when taking photos. Duh! So you will just have to believe me.

Vogue shingle dress inside back

I used some poly knit lining that I had in my lining stash and I think the lining and the dress fabric had a slightly different degree of stretch, so that the pieces were fighting one another around the neckline and armholes. 
For the neckline and armholes I skipped the pattern piece and used my favorite knit neckline binding technique  from Threads magazine. It is kind of odd to use the lengthwise grain to make a neckline binding but it worked fine and the stripes look so good that way. Although the slight angle of the top piece is disturbing to a symmetry fanatic like me (that is intentional according to the pattern).

V8904Stripe dress neckline

The only other oddball thing was that shingle pieces at the hip were a bit too loose where the pieces ended. Not sure how that happened but I attribute that also to the difference in stretch between the lining and the outer fabric. Fix seen below. Opened seam and pulled, then restitched.  I also confess that my stripe matching at the sides was nonexistent, I purposefully chose this tiny stripe so I would not have to match it. Way too difficult with a 1/8" stripe. Who is going to see it? 
V8904 fixing side seam

So now that this one is done I am sure there will be another.  But I always say that and then never get around to it.  However this one - maybe a brighter version, Girl Charlee has so many fantastic stripes. 

Despite the photo showing me posing in the garden surrounded by daffodils and jasmine blooming in the background it is not quite sleeveless dress weather. Not for a weather wimp like me. Very soon I hope. Tomorrow is forecast to have some much needed rain, so I will put away the summer dresses for a bit longer. 

Today's SunnyGal garden photo - it has to be the striped tulip, right?  These are repeats from last year, hurray! 

Happy spring weekend sewing,  Beth 

red stripe tulip 2

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Brasilia Dress, completed

So yesterday I popped over to my friend Alice's house for some late afternoon dress photography and the first thing she said when I walked in the door was the following "That dress is really cute, turquoise is your color, I'd like one in that style,  the details don't show up until you are close up, what is that fabric?"  She manages to get in a lot of communication in rapid bursts plus she is almost always very enthusiastic about my creations. That makes her a great friend and perfect partner in my feeble attempts at photography. My attempts are feeble, hers are not.
So here is the finished dress, a very simple style that as mentioned has more detail than is apparent at first glance.  My previous post was all about the fitting on this free pattern which was designed by Rachel who writes the blog House of Pinheiro. Check that previous post for the diagram so you can see the seam shaping.

Brasilia dress finished 1

A few notes on this dress. I made a few changes for fit which are detailed in that previous post. This was sort of a test version and the fabric has no stretch whatsoever. The pattern is designed for a stretch woven, like a cotton sateen or denim with 2% lycra. With a fabric like that you can make it much more of a fitted dress and still be able to zip it, sit down etc.  So this version is not very fitted in the waist, more of a shift dress but perfect for summer. 

A closer look at the fabric. No idea of the fiber content, but probably some cotton. It has the weight of a denim and crinkles like gauze but is not that light. Plus there are the little white flecks. I bought it a while ago, at my secret thrift store where I bought a lot of other fantastic blue fabrics

Brasilia close up front

One other change I made in addition to narrowing the center front was to bring in the outside edge of the armhole at the shoulder, probably about 1/2 inch. I like a cut in shoulder in a sleeveless dress. The dress has triangular insets at the waist to create shaping in place of darts or princess seams and I kept toying with the idea of doing those in a different color but I am really glad I did not. But for a future version that is a possibility. 
I think the pattern suggests lining the whole dress but I just made some facings from the pattern pieces and had some quilting cotton that was a perfect color match so I went old school with sewn in facings, even using the pinking shears on the edge. Nothing wrong with pinking shears, after all this dress is kind of a 60's style so it goes along with that. Also I think serged edges can be a bit lumpy under certain fabrics so I avoid them most of the time. 


I didn't have a turquoise zipper in my zipper box - despite myriad other colors - so I used white which seems to blend fine.  Looking at the dress here on my form I can pinpoint one other alteration I would make if I sew it again, it is just a tiny bit big at the center back.

Brasilia back zip close up

I had to laugh when I was pulling a spool of thread from the rack, this is a small selection of the turquoise thread I have  - no doubt this is my favorite color. 

turquoise threads

While waiting on hold during a phone call today I jotted down all the items I want to sew in the next two months and it was 9 items including two dresses, a jacket, a skirt, several tops and shorts. Whew! Not to mention that I still want to recreate my swimsuit stolen by the racoon ( a story I will get to one of these days).  Hey,  I had better get busy. We are heading into my favorite time of year, summer ! Although you can see from the first picture that we have absolutely nothing to complain about here in Northern California. No polar vortex (and probably water rationing in a few months) but for now its time to get out my summer tees and sandals. 

Here is the proof. The daffodils are almost done and the tulips are going crazy. I am even thinking about tomatoes already.  
I hope the seasons are behaving wherever you are, Happy Sewing,  Beth

two red tulips

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Brasilia Dress, a fitting post

The bright yellow daffodils all over my garden are telling me that spring is here. So while I would like some stormy weather to relieve the current drought I am happy to turn to summer clothes. The most wonderful time of the year - at least to me. You can keep your wools and cozy sweater knits, I am happy to start thinking about some lightweight and floaty things for the hot months ahead. Which will include a pattern repeat from last year and you may be quite suprised to see it. But I have self-scheduled that for later, maybe May or June. Time now for Brasilia!
Did you see this dress a few months ago when Rachel of House of Pinheiro released her self-drafted dress pattern? I knew immediately that it was a dress for me.  A little bit retro reminding me of a 60's style shift dress but with a  modern fit and shaping.

Here is some info from Rachel's blog:
The pattern is free, available at one size only in a downloadable PDF format. The finished measurements are: Bust: 95cm Waist: 78.5cm Hips:103cm. The pattern has minimum ease and no seam allowances. Even if you have similar measurements, I advice you making a muslin as the pattern was design for 6ft tall ( 1.81cm)

Don't let the measurements strike fear into your heart  - this pattern is quite adaptable and even though I am not 6 feet tall I am quite near a finished dress.

So let's dive into to the alteration details - when I did a casual survey last December asking about blog post topics, fitting and pattern alteration was top of the list by far.  So this post is not filled with pretty pictures but for those of you who appreciate a good muslin analysis - get ready for some fun :)

Note that the finished measurements are listed: B: 95cm = 37.4"  W: 78.5cm = 31"  H:103cm = 40.5"
so these finished measurements are close to what is found on a size 12 Vogue pattern, at least in the ballpark. I was concerned about the 6 Ft. tall part of the equation.

Brasilia dress tech drawing
Looking at the tech drawing I thought that in addition to circumference changes - the major issue was the placement of the bust darts and the inside corner of the triangles, you want those to hit at the right spots on the body.
Here is my Muslin Version 1. I made it just as is with the pattern pieces as designed. This is my older adjustable dress form but it actually is the most similar to me in the upper body so it is useful to see how necklines will fit.  The first thing that jumps out is that the dress is way too wide across the upper body, shoulders, neckline etc. When I tried it on I thought the bust darts were way too wide, the points ended up too far away from the spot where they should be. The whole center front was too big. I suppose I should have taken a photo but use your imagination. The shaping in the back was a bit off for me, the darts are too long.  Also that slit in the lower front is where it was too tight in the hips and I was thinking I could add in the center front bottom half - but only thought that for a minute. Bad idea, as it would have put the skirt off grain and maybe caused other problems.  Another issue is the shoulder seams, they kind of wing out from the neckline and gape there also.

Brasilia muslin1frontBrasilia muslin1back

And Muslin Version 2.  Look at that nice neckline, no gaping there or at the shoulders. And no wardrobe malfunction down the skirt center front.  Back darts repositioned and shortened a bit.
The biggest change is that I actually took out from the center front making the center bust darts shorter and more proportional to my body.

Brasilia muslin2 frontBrasilia muslin2back

Here are the pattern alteration details.
1. Removed 1/2 inch from the center front piece all the way down that seam (= 1 inch total removal)
2. Added that 1/2 inch back to the side seam and then added a bit more at the waist and hip using a    TNT pattern of a fitted dress as a template.
3. Took off 1/2 inch at the shoulder on the back piece only.
4. Raised the armhole about 3/4 inch  (this is the main adjustment re: not being 6 ft. tall)

Note that I added a good bit at the hip as I don't like dresses to be super tight, I prefer to have a good 2-3 inches of ease at the hip, particularly  in a non-stretch fabric. If I made this in a knit or stretch denim I might make it smaller. It would be super cute in denim. To me everything is good in denim!

Pattern pieces adjusted Brasilia dress

Interestingly the waist of this dress was in about the right place, which just goes to show there are a lot of places on the body where you can be short and/or tall and that is why sewing is maddening at times.

In this picture of Version 2 you can see how the neckline is now smooth and laying flat. Also my handy dandy armhole fill-in patch where I pin some scrap piece in place and draw with a pen where I want the bottom of the armhole to be and then translate that back to the paper pattern. Also the remaining threads of my tailor's tacks on the bust darts, not a good look.
Brasilia muslin arm adj

Here is that change on the pattern. Slightly tricky as it overlaps the main front piece and the side piece. Also same adjustment is on the back piece, not shown here. And I rummaged through my garage sale fabric finds to come up with this textured turquoise mystery fabric, I like the color but it is not the greatest fabric in the world. All will be revealed in the next post but this may just end up being a test version. 

Brasilia dress armhole adjustment

And proof that it rained, just a little bit recently. Some groundcover Vinca that I confess I started with, ehem, cough...cuttings... yes that is what I will call them. This grows everywhere on the trails around here so some stems made their way to my retaining wall. They just flower for a few months but the purple contrast with green is so nice. 

Groundcover plants

Happy almost spring sewing, Beth

Friday, February 28, 2014

Burda 6990 raglan sleeve knit top

More pattern love for Burda. What is happening to me? I am becoming a convert to their patterns after using maybe 2 or 3 during my whole sewing lifetime. But after I made this blue coat from the BurdaStyle Sewing Handbook for myself and then made this coat using an envelope pattern, not to mention my Burda # 106 jacket I am starting to see the light regarding Burda. Who knows what will be next?  Although I do have quite a few Vogue patterns lined up in my queue so it will be a mix this spring.

As for this one, it is a simple raglan sleeve knit t-shirt, kind of a baseball jersey style and the fit was great. I decided to use a couple of rayon jersey scraps to test out the pattern and the result was perfect.

raglan tee Burda

Here is the pattern envelope. I actually went to the store intending to buy a different pattern,  Burda 6910  which is a new pattern, very similar with a slightly wider neckline, and ruching on the side seams. It also has both dress and top versions which is nice. It was out of stock so I got this one instead, Burda 6990 which is very similar. Don't be surprised if I get that out of stock one sometime soon, once I get a pattern in my mind it is a compulsion, I must buy it!

Burda 6990 envelope
I used size 38, and changed the neckline finishing a bit. The instructions were quite weird as they have you turn and press a 3/8" edge, stitch and then sew a ribbon around that edge on the inside to finish. ?? I have never seen that before and I guarantee that will end up with a wonky neckline, plus how to get it over your head? Maybe I wasn't reading it right but in any case I saw no reason to fool around with that. I used my favorite t-shirt neckline method and cut a crossgrain strip to make the neck edge. My advice is to measure on the stitching line your neckline circumference, and then cut a strip that length, and plan on making a half inch seam at the center back. So you end up stretching it a tiny bit all around and have a neck band measuring one inch less than the opening.  Watch this video on the Threads website for a really good explanation and give it a try. 

Burda tee closeup neck

The top may look a little droopy on my dressform but I decided to try to add some ruching at the center waist rather like the pattern I had intended to buy. So I spread my pattern to add some to the front pattern piece only. It worked out OK, but I think I will add a bit more next time and run the gathers in a longer section. 

Burda raglan tee length change

We are in the midst of a big rainstorm, Finally!  and everyone is thrilled. Water water everywhere - although not anywhere enough to reverse our bad drought.  Big garden news, that fluffy white cat who has made a daytime home in my yard actually caught the gopher yesterday and I intervened to put the poor little thing out of its misery. Also my misery as I hope a gopher will not be depleting my flower beds for a while, at least until the next one finds its way here. 
Today's SunnyGal garden photo, a lovely two-color daffodil to coordinate with my two-color top.

white daffodils

Happy weekend sewing, Beth
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