Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Bias Cut Butterfly Top Engineered from Border Print

I've finished my first Britex Blogger guest project! You can see it on the Britex blog.

There is a bounty of riches to be found on britexfabrics.com. Where should a newbie guest blogger begin?

As I love border prints, and I also have a soft spot for paisley fabrics, it didn't take me long to settle on this beautiful 100% viscose panel and border print from Italy. I made a bias, V-neck top using view C of Vogue 7906 (an out-of-print Vogue Basic Design) as a starting point.

You might ask (and rightfully so), "Is this fabric a panel print? Or is it a border print? Which is it?"

It's BOTH!

Generally, a border print is manufactured with the border placed along one (or both) fabric selvedges. This means that if you want the border to appear along a hem, for example, you have to cut the fabric across the grain.

In this case, they placed the border print from selvedge to selvedge, repeating it every 39", so you can cut the pattern on the grain and still have the border appear along the hem of your garment. (Aside from the 18" border, the rest of the 39" panel features a turquoise background scattered with what-I-think-are stylized leaves.)

However, if you know me at all, you know that I like the unexpected. I spent days (maybe weeks) deliberating on how to use this wonderful fabric. I would chose a design and then, days later, I'd reject that idea and go back to the drawing board. I made, and changed, my mind at least 5 times. There are so many ways you can use a border print. In fact, I've created a Pinterest board with all sorts of inspiration for borders and panels.

Fabric hanging from m front porch

I finally decided to use three panels of this fabric to make a top, placing the border along the neckline on a 30° bias angle, and matching the print at center front, center back, and the shoulders. Using a 30° bias, instead of a 45° bias, creates a deeper V-neckline and the causes the print to meet at a pleasing angle. (There is no such thing as the "bias police"! You don't have to use a 45° angle bias, so long as you are consistent and the fabric behaves well at the angle you've chosen.)

Have you ever heard of an engineered print? An engineered print, also called a placed print, uses a print strategically as a design element; the print is possibly even designed for use in a specific garment. I engineered the extra wide (18") printed border to create a symmetric "butterfly" effect. The sleeves are cut on the straight of grain with the border at the top of the sleeve cap.

Auditioning the border placement for the sleeve

Laying out one of the fronts. Just look at the size of that bust dart. ;)

Matching the print

I didn't want the solid fuschia edge near my face, so I cut the front to exclude the fuschia entirely.

Pattern matching at center front

The fuschia appears only at center back, where I quite like it.

Pattern matching at center back

I performed quite a few pattern alterations:

  • enlarged and lowered the bust darts
  • added small darts at the back neckline
  • drafted a back neck facing
  • removed the button front closure
  • narrowed the shoulders
  • slightly reshaped the armholes (a side effect of the bias)
  • shortened the sleeves
  • created a V-neckline

The length of the top, the shirt-tail hem, and the gently flared sleeve are from the original pattern.

When I cut the back pieces, I had an area at the hem that ended abruptly at the selvedge edge, due to the print matching.

So I patched it. I didn't have an exact match for the print, so I inserted a piece that was very close.

This floaty top is absolutely wonderful to wear in warm weather! Despite the fact that uses a woven fabric, has no closure, and uses darts for a closer fit, the bias has enough give that it pops on and off over the head. It skims the body but doesn't cling. It also flutters beautifully in the breeze.

I love it!

(Note: I am wearing the top with black denim pants that I made using Katherine Tilton pattern, Vogue 8837. Sadly this pattern (one of my favorites) is now out of print.)

Thanks to Britex for providing the fabric!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Scuba Dooba Doo! A Scuba & Ponte Knit Dress

What a delightfully quick sew! I made this dress in one day, but then, it really is like a long t-shirt, so it should be quick!

I used McCalls 6028, which I have made before, though I had to start from a fresh pattern in a larger size, so it took me an entire evening to perform all of my alterations:

  • Lowered the bust point by 2" and widened the bust point.
  • Lowered the front neckline by 1". (If you read the reviews, this pattern has a fairly high neck.)
  • Shortened the dress by about 8".
  • Lengthened the sleeve to full length.
  • Omitted the back zipper and cut the back on the fold.
  • I wanted to cut up the print as little as possible, and I wanted to preserve the curved shape at the top of the print, so I joined the center front pattern piece to the front yoke and cut them as a single unit. This created an inset corner, but I don't mind sewing inset corners - remember, I am a gusset lover! ;)
  • Widened the waistline.
  • Removed many inches from the hipline, and continued this down through the hem.
  • I drafted facing for the neckline. I cut them out of the solid black ponte and pushed them slightly to the outside to create faux piping.

The solid black fabric is a wool doubleknit. When I found this wool on sale (it was sold as a wool ponte, but it's 97% wool and 3% lycra and is your basic doubleknit fabric), I bought 10 yards of it, so this is the third or fourth project where I have used it. I just love this stuff! It is warm, but it breaths, so mixing it with the scuba knit, which does not breath, means that the final garment is comfy to wear.

I love dressing this way, especially for work: A short sheath-style dress, worn with leggings or tights, is very flattering on my busty-with-thin-legs shape. I expect to wear this a lot as the weather cools.


I don't expect to be sewing much between now and the end of August, when I leave for Minnesota. For one thing, I have a final walking challenge that starts next week - to walk 100,000 steps in 7 days. Except I will be flying on the last day of the challenge, so I have 6 days. That means a lot of walking next weekend!

It looks like I will be going to Seattle for work in early September. Unfortunately, it will be a short trip and I won't have much time for fun, but if I do have a tiny bit of time, what is not-to-be-missed? (Though, to be honest, I might take the train to Portland and then meet up with DD1, who is eager to show me the house she is renting this year at school - it's her first non-student-housing experience!)

Have a great week!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Scuba Knit

Hola! Last Sunday I finished the garment using the fabric from Britex. I expect this to be posted soon.

Meanwhile, I am having a lot of fun sewing up some scuba knit. I have been seeing a lot of scuba knit in high-end ready to wear.

But what is scuba knit?

Scuba is a double-knit fabric. Some people compare it to ponte, which is also a double-knit, but these fabrics have different qualities. Scuba knit is generally polyester and lycra, where ponte is often a blend of rayon, nylon, poly, and lycra. (Though I have seen poly/lycra ponte fabric, but my favorite generally contains rayon and nylon.)

Scuba knit is created with a very fine gauge, smooth thread and the resulting surface is generally smoother than a ponte. It also has a "sproingy" quality, similar to what you see in a neoprene ("wet suiting") fabric, but it's thinner and more malleable than traditional neoprene. It has a lot of body, and doesn't hang the way a ponte does.

Scuba, being a polyester fabric, takes dye very well and comes in beautiful prints and vivid colors. I have two pieces from Emma One Sock, but I have also seen some beautiful scuba knits on the Britex web site.

Like ponte, scuba is a dream to sew. I have seen very high end garments made from scuba knit that left the edges raw, on a hem, for example. It is also a good candidate for finishing with a binding.

Have you made any projects with scuba or seen any interesting garments made from scuba?

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Sunday Miscellany


Hey there! Happy Sunday!

Britex Project

I've been working away on a project using a beautiful fabric from Britex. Selecting my first fabric from their online store went pretty quickly. I started by looking through all of their categories, but when I came across this border print, my search was over.

Border (Panel) print from Britex

When I showed this fabric, a 100% woven viscose from Italy, to friends, some of them were surprised by my choice, feeling that it wasn't a typical "Shams selection".

Perhaps folks don't realize that I have a very soft spot in my heart for border prints, and another for paisley fabrics.

Yes, I love me a paisley and this piece is a beauty.

This fabric has the same feel and drape as a lovely rayon scarf, and it cuts "like buttah". At least five times I was sure of how I was going to use it. And then I changed my mind. Over and over and over.

Dither dither dither.

I finally decided on a project, and I hope to finish it today.

But, I'm curious, how would YOU use this fabric? (There are no wrong answers.)

Pleating at PenWAG

Yesterday I took some time off from sewing to attend PenWAG (Peninsula Wearable Art Guild). Sandra Ericson, of Center of Pattern Design, was talking about pleated fabrics and was giving a workshop on boumaki shibori pleating. I have long been interested in fabric pleating and, in the early 90s, I took a workshop on boumaki shibori pleating. Back then, I was an obsessive quilter, and I was using this technique to hand dye cotton fabrics for quilting. (I wish I could remember the teacher of that class from the early 90s, but I cannot. She was a quilter, though.)

Also, back in the 80s, when I was taking technique classes at Cañada College, I experimented with crystal pleating on fabric (for one of my classes) and really enjoyed it. For awhile now I've been wanting to get back to pleating, but I haven't had the time.

One of these days...

Cañada College

And by the way, if you are local to the Bay Area, Cañada College's fall term starts on August 18th, and they have some great class offerings in the fashion department!

Check it out!

Also, Artistry in Fashion, which benefits the Cañada College Fashion Department, is on Sept 27th. If you are local, or are visiting the area, put it on your calendar!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Misc and Minnesota Corner

Conservatory of Flowers, Golden Gate Park

Happy Saturday!

I am spending this weekend working on a Britex project. I started with a Vogue pattern and am using that as a springboard for what will become a bias top. It's fun to change patterns up and I much prefer starting with a pattern than drafting the whole thing from scratch.

Right after I learned how to draft patterns, I started drafting all of my own projects, but I quickly realized that it impacted my production. I had so many ideas and it was really slowing me down. I am much happier starting with a professional pattern and using that as a jumping off point. I know a woman who drafts patterns for a high-end coat company and that's how they work, too. (Though they begin with one of their own professionally developed patterns that has similar lines.) It's so satisfying to find a pattern that has the right "bones" (basic silhouette and major seamlines) and then go from there.

Since this top will be on the bias (and there is always some risk when working on the bias with a drapey fabric), I hope I don't mess it up. :) I am further complicating the issue by not using the true bias, so we'll see how that goes. (True bias is on a 45º angle, and I am using a 30º angle.)

Minnesota Corner

I am really looking forward to my upcoming trip to Minnesota! I truly wish I could stay longer to see more of Minnesota's lovely attractions, but I will make the most of the short time I am there. Unfortunately, I will not be able to fit in SR Harris this time, but if any of you do get there, let me know about their selection of stretch denim, particularly patterned denim. Or what about Tencel Denim? Or what about floral denim? Or textured denim? I just love interesting varieties of denim!

For those of you coming to our meet up at Treadle Yard Goods in St Paul, please do bring an item or two for show and tell. I don't want to plan a highly structured meet up, but if we need more things to talk about, I can perhaps show a technique or two. If anyone is interested, I can show how I drafted the tapered "lantern" cuff on my denim duster, for example. I'm not sure I'll get around to writing a tutorial; it's a neat technique that I really haven't seen written down anywhere and it uses minimal math. Just let me know what you'd like to see and I'll see if there's a consensus. Or maybe we just talk fabric, patterns, and projects. Mary, of Treadle Yard Goods, is generously providing some light refreshments and giving us access to her classroom. Thanks, Mary!

If you would like to go but aren't signed up, email me and I will forward your info to Alice, who is maintaining the list.

I will be visiting Ginny's in Rochester, after hearing so many enthusiastic recommendations, so I am getting in two great fabric stores on this visit!

Fall Fashion!

By the way, this weekend (yesterday and today, at least) is the Fall Fashion Event on QVC. I really enjoy seeing/hearing the fall fashion chatter as I sew. And it's been so.cold. here in San Francisco that it feels like fall already. I took the following pic this week while walking to the bus stop, wearing a wool coat - it was in the low 50s and it's a damp cold - over my floral Hawaiian print maxi dress - it was warmer in Mountain View.

I looked ridiculous, but oh well. :)

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Top with Contrast Binding

This binding detail was inspired by a top I saw in RTW. If you own a coverstitch machine or serger that can attach a knit binding, this detail would be easy peasy to construct. But even without a special machine, it's not that hard to do.

I started with a TNT pattern - the Renfew, which I've made here and here. This knit is not very stretchy in the vertical direction, so I sewed in the bust darts. (By the way, I used a version of the Renfrew where I raised the neckline a bit.)

The binding is first attached vertically to the front pieces. In the RTW garment, they then placed the fronts, right sides together, and sewed a scant 1/6th of an inch seam to attach them together. I assembled them a little differently: I abutted the bound edges and whipstitched them, by hand, from the back. Once the fronts are attached to form a single unit, then the shoulder seams are sewn and the neck binding is attached, leaving a gap of about 1".

I used a black rayon/lycra jersey for the binding and I cut the strips 2" wide. I folded them in half, the long way, with both raw edges together, and sewed them to the front with a 1/4" seam. I then wrapped the folded edge around to the back and hand-stitched it in place. This makes a nice, beefy, double binding. If you have a thicker fabric, you might prefer a single binding.

I purchased this fabric last May at Santa Fe Fabrics when visiting Santa Fe, New Mexico. This printed knit is slightly crinkled and has what can only be described as a perforated texture. Very interesting.

Unfortunately I did have one mishap during construction. When serging the armscye seam, I caught the sleeve fabric in the serger blade.


Luckily I had enough fabric to cut another (slightly shorter) sleeve, but I was already thinking of a plan B and C in case that wasn't an option. (Plan B - solid black sleeves. Plan C - some sort of elaborate patch/seaming.)

For the last two days, I've been using my long walks to head to the mall. On Friday I walked to Union Square in downtown SF, and yesterday I walked to my local mall, also in SF. I just love checking out designer RTW and the fall fashions are arriving! Woot! Fall is my favorite time of year, fashion-wise. My mojo is flowing and I wish I had more time to sew!

Nordstroms in Union Square

And, just for fun...
A very tall sculpture at work, silhouetted by the sunrise.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Grommets, Britex Blogger, Glasses, Minnesota Meetup

This is a "miscellaneous" blog post!



Thanks for all the kind feedback on my grommet coat! I wore it to work today and I do like it! The big pockets are so useful (and Pockets Are King). I was asked a few questions in the comments, so let me answer here:

Do the grommets make the coat heavy?
No. They give the coat some nice heft, but even 2 gross of grommets weighs very little.
Where do you buy grommets?
I bought mine from Seattle Fabrics, but I can also recommend Richard the Thread, who also sells white grommets. I used size 0 for the coat, except for the larger grommets on the pockets, which are size 2.
What is the difference between an eyelet and a grommet?
In my experience, an eyelet is smaller than a grommet and uses only one piece of metal. Eyelets are used on shoes for threading the laces, for example. Grommets are more heavy duty and use two pieces of metal. The backside also has a washer-type piece of metal. Both come in a variety of sizes, though grommets come in much larger sizes, intended for very heavy duty use. I googled "difference between eyelets and grommets" and found this and this. So, YMMV.

Britex Blogger

There was some nice fallout from my talk at Britex last month. They have asked me to become a Britex blogger! (You can now see the badge on my blog, which takes you to their site.) I picked up my first piece of fabric a couple weeks ago, but I haven't been able to start sewing it yet. I was going to start after finishing the grommet coat, then I realized that I didn't own the pattern I wanted to use as a springboard, so I had to order it. It's a really gorgeous piece of fabric, and I want to do it justice, so stay tuned!

Minnesota Meetup!

Minnesotans are such friendly people!

After posting that I would be spending a few days in the Minneapolis area (taking my daughter off to university), I received some nice emails. Several of those offered to arrange a meetup while I am there, and I decided to accept one of the lovely offers! However, there are limited spots available. The meetup is scheduled for Saturday, August 30th, at 3pm and will be held at Treadle Yard Goods in St Paul. Please send me email if you would like to come and I will get you on the list, on a first-come first-served basis.

THANKS to Treadle Yard Goods and to Alice M for arranging everything! I look forward to meeting some of you in St Paul!


One of my favorite doctors is the eye doctor! Why, you ask? Well, how many doctors write a prescription for fashion accessories? (If a podiatrist wrote a prescription for, say, Trippens, I would go to that doctor!) I have two new pair of everyday glasses, and one even relates to sewing!

New glasses #1 - by a brand called Fish
New glasses #2 - by Karl Lagerfeld

It might be hard to see, but the Karl Lagerfeld glasses feature (non-functioning) zippers on the sides! I love these. Here is another close up.

The zipper pull is on the left side only. I took this pic in the Google Coffee Lab and their counter features intentional coffee rings. It's a very cool effect!

And, just for fun...

One of the Google cafes is in a building that has a transportation theme. This VW bus is used by folks who want to hang out and work, or eat. I guess the tire lock is to discourage any pranks. ;)