Tuesday, September 29, 2009

LaFred - Athena Blouse

You know how all fashion experts say you absolutely, positively, must own a white blouse? Every season we are urged to buy the ultimate white blouse for that particular season because it is updated and, horror of horrors, you don't want to be seen walking around in last season's blouse?

How did I make it to the wizened age of fifty without owning a white blouse? I must have owned one at some point, probably in my more fashionable twenties, but I sure can't remember it. White is not a great color next to my face and I am all-too-prone to clothing stains that occur while eating over my natural "shelf" (and I don't mean my fluffy tummy). :)

Well, the time had finally arrived. I recently made some full skirts that screamed for a short white blouse. As I reported, I went to the Artistry in Fashion event last Saturday, and I bought my first LaFred patterns. I decided that the Athena blouse would be just the thing to become my white top. I liked the wing collar and the square armhole. My fabric would be a lightweight embroidered cotton with some added synthetic that gives the fabric a sheen. This fabric is very lightweight — almost a tissue weight. I had only two yards, so I had to make short sleeves, though I wanted longer sleeves. I cut the top in between the two offered lengths, though I ended up cutting it to be shorter than the short length. (I would have had enough for longer sleeves if I'd known!)

I cut a size Large, based on the 6" to 8" design ease in the pattern. Rather than my traditional 3" FBA, I made a more modest 1 1/2" FBA. When I was trying to decide where to angle the dart, I decided it might be interesting to make it parallel to the bottom of the square armhole to emphasize that design line. I also took out the waist shaping at the side seams. All my usual alterations.

Fred was an English major in college and it shows in her pattern instructions. They are clear, full of informative tips, and well illustrated. However, as the top came together (and it came together very well), I became concerned. The square armhole is deep and falls on the fullness my bust and I'm not sure I like that look. The top was fairly shapeless (I had removed the waist shaping, so no surprise there) and it was too long. The overall effect was dumpy. This pretty much happens with every top and make and it's why I have to spend so much time playing with the fit.

Since this is a fairly sheer fabric, I decided to try one of the seam finishes that Fred recommends in her instructions and it's a new one for me: A mock French seam. You sew the standard 5/8" seam, iron the seam open, fold the raw edges to the inside, and topstitch them together. I really liked this easy technique for this fabric.

Other changes:
  • I made the front a bit shorter than the back and there are slits in the side seams that begin at my waist.

  • The sleeve hem. In the pattern, the sleeves feature a "pinched cuff" hem treatment (optional on the shorter sleeve) where you pinch the fabric, pull the fold over and fasten it on a button. You can make two separate buttonholes (in thicker fabrics) or put a single buttonhole through both pinched layers (in thinner fabrics). I did neither, I just sewed the button through the layers. I don't see myself needing to button/unbutton the short sleeves. The resulting shaping at the hem makes the sleeve much more flattering.

  • The buttons. I arranged the buttons in pairs. Three pairs, to be precise. Just 'cause. :) (You might have noticed I have used these mother-of-pearl buttons before. My fabric store had them 12 for $1, so I stocked up. You will see them again, and soon. :)

I bought the pattern Saturday and had the top done on Sunday, so it really does come together very quickly as it has only four pattern pieces (front, back, facing and sleeve). Once I achieved the right length and took out some of the fullness, I decided that I love this top! The white is a soft white color, which helps. Over time, I will decide how I feel about the square armhole seam falling on the fullness of the bust, but the neckline is very flattering and the top will be very easy to wear.

Blame DD#2 for this pose. She was my photographer and she egged me on. :) You can clearly see the square armhole, at least.

I just hope I can remember not to wear it on pasta-with-red-sauce day. :)

Monday, September 28, 2009

Vogue 2949 - Sandra Betzina Jacket

A good friend pointed out that with all my new wardrobe pieces, I was missing a "go to" jacket for this coming fall/winter. She's right. Just the other day I went out, in the chilly fog, without a jacket because nothing worked with my stylin' new blouse. :)

I had some inexpensive, stable, synthetic novelty sweater knit that I wanted to use. On one side, it's an eyelash knit. The background is black and the eyelash is white. I was not liking the idea of an entire jacket featuring the white eyelash, so I decided to use the back of the fabric (which has white threads showing, and only minimal eyelash). This pattern allows the "wrong side" of the fabric to show at the collar and cuffs, where the fabric folds back, and I liked the idea of featuring the eyelash fabric in that way. A "poor man's fur" effect. (kinda sorta)

This pattern has four pattern pieces -- front, back, and two for the raglan sleeve. The collar is cut as part of the front/back pieces. There are optional facings, if you don't want the back of your fabric to show at the collar. There is also an optional flange for the back of the jacket. After reading the reviews on patternview.com, I was a bit concerned about the "mudflaps" at the back. I decided to wait and see if I liked the shorter length before cutting that piece out.

This pattern could easily be called a "Very Easy Vogue", however I managed to make it much more involved, a questionable endeavor given the cheap synthetic sweater knit I was using, but, oh well. :) I cut out a size F, given my high bust measurement, but I realized I needed to add an FBA for the extra ease. I had never done a Full Bust Alteration on a raglan style before, so I used this recommended technique on Debbie's Cutting Edge page.

To be honest, I have my doubts about this technique. Basically, you create a dart into the raglan line and then you convert that back to flare at the hem. As a small-hipped person, I am not fond of excessive flare at the hip line, but I decided to try it out. For me, the jury is still out, but more on that later. (It may take me wearing this for awhile to decide. Next time, I just may sew a dart into the raglan sleeve. It wouldn't have shown up on this fabric.)

When I cut out this fabric, it dropped schmutz everywhere. I hated all the little eyelash pieces dusting my dining table, floor, ironing board, etc, so I decided to stitch down every single raw edge. Every raw edge in this jacket was opened, turned under, and whipstitched to the main garment. I love this finish, but it took me a long time to get all those seams sewn by hand.

Once I finally had the jacket together, I did not like the hem at the back without the mudflaps. My daughter, who could see my back view better than I, agreed. Then I cut out the mudflaps -- widening them to accommodate the increased width for the FBA, and pinned them to the garment. As I feared, they looked dowdy. I like asymmetry, but on me, this looked off-balanced. My daughter agreed. She didn't like it either way and suggested I cut the flaps down. So, I chopped them in half, heightwise, but left the width. We both agreed that this length was juuuuuust right.

I love the final jacket! I had three initial concerns with this pattern:
  • I wasn't sure about the wide collar with my bustline and was prepared to cut it down. But in reality, I like it on me, though maybe that's because this is a soft, drapey fabric.
  • I wasn't sure about the mudflaps, but am happy with the shorter length.
  • I am not sure about the extra fullness at the front hip due to the FBA. Still not sure about that one. Again, a dart into a raglan might look weird under normal circumstances, but in this fabric you wouldn't have seen it.
To hem this thing, I also turned the raw edge under twice and whipstitched around the entire edge. There were 6 corners that I mitered -- 2 at the collar, 2 at the CF hem and 4 on the mudflaps. Yes, hours of hand sewing on this simple little jacket. Lucky I like hand sewing, but this was a bit much, even for me. :)

I will get loads of wear out of this jacket for the coming fall. It's perfect for the mildly chilly, foggy weather we have most of the fall and winter. I wish I could find more lovely, reasonably priced sweater knits so I could make up more of these, like in brown... :)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Report -- Artistry in Fashion 2009

Wow, I am filled with gratitude for such an amazing day. I attended Canada College's Artistry in Fashion event, a fund raiser for the college's excellent fashion department. I hadn't attended one in 17 years, so I wasn't sure what to expect.

What a treat. First, there was a designer sale. Three rooms full of wearable art, jewelry, accessories. Well, the third room mostly featured booths by Fred Bloebaum, of LaFred patterns, Loes Hinse of Loes Hinse Designs in conjunction with Casual Elegance Fabrics, who sells her fabrics, notions, and patterns, and the designer (can't remember her name) from Decades of Style. All three designers had sample garments and I tried on several of LaFred's pieces and I bought two of her patterns (Athena Blouse and Olympia Coat). There was also a purveyor of unique buttons and I bought some inexpensive and simple, but nice, black buttons for an Issey Miyake jacket I plan on making.

Then, there was a fashion show featuring the patterns from all three guest designers. Each designer introduced her pattern line, and discussed each garment, how it was made, how it might be worn, etc. Most sewers are familiar with Loes Hinse (pronounced Loose Hin'-se — I've been pronouncing it all wrong!) and Fred Bloebaum, but Decades of Style was new to me. A line of vintage-inspired patterns, most of them weren't "me", but there were two I think I may have to purchase down the road. And the designer (wish I could remember her name) was a delightful speaker who lives and breathes vintage style.

Finally, there was an Open House in the fashion department and, throughout the afternoon, the three pattern designers spoke in one of the classrooms, where student work was on display. I heard both Loes and Fred, but missed the other designer. Loes was very interesting (I learned why she doesn't prewash fabrics) and she was very entertaining as she conveyed her minimalistic aesthetic and her approach to clothing and style. For example, she explained why she likes a very thin thread that "sinks into" the fabric. She also favors a special waistband elastic. All of these notions are sold through Casual Elegance. Because her designs take a "less is more" approach, it is important that the fabric and notions are "just right." Fred talked about her various garments, how she designs them, how she produces them, and so on. It was very enlightening. She also had some gorgeous pieces to try on.

Beforehand, I had decided I wasn't going to spend money. I was going for inspiration, not acquisition. The designer sale began at 10am, but I had arrived early. I walked in the door at 10am and, by 10:10, I was writing a check. I bought a unique wool knit top by Dressed to Kill – a fabulous local designer. Yup, blew my budget in 10 minutes. :)

Most importantly, I saw sewing friends from the "old days" and reconnected. I came home juiced and hit the sewing machine right away, despite the fact that I was still recovering from the heat.

It was announced that the Artistry in Fashion 2010 event will be held on September 25th, 2010. I'm going to put it on my calendar right now. :)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Sewing Workshop - Bells Shirt

I made my first Sewing Workshop pattern! Well, the first one I can remember anyway. Years ago, when Marcy Tilton owned it, I attended many SW classes and events. Back then, Sandra Betzina often gave talks/classes there and I attended most of those, as well their designer sales (drool). Those were the days. :) After Linda Lee bought it, I attended a few events, but dropped out of sight soon after because I had my first child and stopped sewing for myself. This was (I believe) before the patterns were available.

Not long ago, I tried on a top that I just loved in RTW. Several people in the store commented how flattering it was on me, and this was in a puckered white fabric! However, it didn't fit me through the bust and was over $300, so I passed. I was so surprised when I saw the Bells and Whistles pattern – the Whistles top was identical to that boutique top! Identical!! Woot!

I had a fabric I wanted to sew into the Whistles pattern. This fabric puzzles me. I had been eyeing it in the store and it looked like shibori at first glance. However, I noticed a small hang tag on the roll that said "faux shibori" and, on closer inspection, I realized it was a seersucker fabric. It sure looks like a real shibori though, except for the seersucker part. Even the center of the motifs have a radial pucker like you would expect – it's different than the seersucker pucker. By the time I decided to buy this fabric, there was only a bit more than two yards left, and the little "faux shibori" tag had fallen off the roll.

Unfortunately, 2 yards is nowhere near enough to make the Whistles shirt, and a friend of mine told me that I should use it for Bells, which I hadn't really considered, as it's so much more fitted, shorter, and I wasn't sure I liked the style of the sleeve. Besides, I didn't have enough fabric for Bells either. It calls for 2.5 yards of 60" fabric and I had 2 yards (plus three or four inches) of 53" wide fabric (after washing). That doesn't even include the whopping big FBA (full bust adjustment) I needed to add (plus lengthening the 3 front bands to accommodate the FBA).

Nevertheless, I decided it was the shirt I wanted for this special fabric and I would make it work. It was the most challenging cutting job I've had in awhile, but I was able to manage it by cutting several pieces cross-grain. I cut out each piece single thickness to take advantage of crowding the pattern pieces as much as possible. It took forever to cut and mark all the pieces, but I was determined.

I cut out a large, based on my upper bust measurement and added 6" with the FBA. I lengthened the pattern slightly (I cut an XXL in length). I removed fullness at the hip. When I started to put the top together I realized it needed a LOT of fitting. I managed to put the bust dart one inch too low so I had to readjust that, which caused problems at the side seams, but luckily the top had extra ease so I could accommodate that. Then I realized that there was undesirable (for me) hip fullness added to the front edges of the top, not just the side seams, which I had removed at the pattern stage. So, I took another 2.5 inches from the bottom of the right front and about 5/8" from the bottom of the left front (before adding the bands). I tapered this to nothing at the waistline. I have freakishly small hips and a freakishly large waist, compared to patterns, anyway. :) I also left off the back darts.

It's been years since I've sewn a tailored shirt, but, other than my fitting issues, this one went together well. There were so many pattern pieces. There are two front pieces because it's asymmetric. There are three pattern pieces for the three front bands. And there are four different pattern pieces for the sleeves, as well as the back (one piece) and collar (two pieces). That's twelve pattern pieces for one shirt. Oh, wait, that doesn't count the decorative piece on the left shoulder. I left that off because my fabric was so busy, but that makes it thirteen pattern pieces total. :)

I added more topstitching than the pattern calls for. I topstitched the 3 front bands as well as the collar and the cuffs and sleeve bands. The pattern says that the interfacing is optional. I left it out because I still haven't bought any. (Note to self, buy interfacing) This fabric has a lot of body, though, so I felt I could get away with it. I am glad it's not in the bands, and only time (and repeated washings) will tell if I am sorry I didn't put it in the collar or sleeve cuff/bands, but so far, I am happy with it.

Floating placket buttoned:

Floating placket hanging loose:

Now that it's finished? I love love love this top, both the design and the fit. I just love that funky floating band that you can wear any way you like, and I love that the left and front bands extend below the shirt, with its flattering shirttail hem. I can't even remember the last time I wore a woven shirt that didn't ride up in the front. I'm not used to a well fitting blouse. :) Will I make it again? Yeah, probably, but not right away. I still want to make that Whistles pattern and I think I have a fabric that will work, though it's more subdued. I hope Whistles doesn't have as many pattern pieces as I hate tracing those off. :)

Friday, September 18, 2009

Anthropologie Skirt -- More Thoughts

As I attempted to sleep last night, it was weighing on me, the narrowness of my ruffle. Yes, it's just not right.

So, this morning, I got up and ripped off that ruffle. As you recall, here is the first version of the skirt:

The diameter of the inner circle of the ruffle was about 2.5", or roughly the diameter of a favorite coffee cup. (I am working at a reduced scale here.) The width of the ruffle itself was about 2", I think. It is a bit smaller than a saucer.

So, I cut another ruffle, this time the outer circle has the diameter of a salad plate (yeah, I'm done with measuring and just grabbed a plate :) The inner circle was the same 2.5", only the outer circle was wider. Here is that result:

Still too small! So, this time I grabbed a dinner plate. It seemed like an overwhelmingly large ruffle for such a small scale skirt, but I think it's much closer to the desired effect. This ruffle is about 4" inches wide, but the inner diameter is still 2.5".

So, the inspiration skirt must have a very wide ruffle indeed.

Also, I think their skirt is more pegged than mine. Therefore, it would be best to start, not with a simple A-line pattern, but with a pegged A-line skirt. A pegged skirt actually tapers in at the knee. That would give an even better facsimile of the inspiration skirt.

Yup, this stuff is fun. :)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Self Drafted -- Anthropologie Skirt

I mentioned in my blog entry on creating a cascading ruffle that Rachel was coveting a certain Anthropologie skirt, but at $158, her pocketbook, not so much. (And, boy do I hear that!)

The front:

The back:

Another front view:

With optional accessory:

OK, I think to myself, maybe if DD1 would like this skirt, I could draft it for her and then share the technique with other interested folk. So, I showed it to DD1 who promptly said "eww" or something very nearly like.

So, I abandoned that idea. But I pretty quickly decided, what the heck, why not draft it up in a small scale. I enjoy challenges like this. :)

So, here is my small scale version of the skirt. What do you think? Close enough? I think it's not too shabby for a first draft.

And here's the back

Here's how I did it.

First, you need an A-line skirt pattern that fits you. It can have one dart or two darts, or whatever. It doesn't really matter.

1. Trace off the skirt front and back. Trace it onto paper, eliminating those pesky seam allowances and trace both halves, so you have an entire front on one piece of paper, and an entire back on another. This is necessary because it is an asymmetric pattern so you have to draft the full front and the full back.

2. Next, draw in the style lines. In this case, we have a yoke that comes to a point somewhere between CF (center front) and the S/S (side seam). Your yoke seam may cut through a dart or two. It's easiest if the yoke's seam line intersects the bottom of the dart, but if that isn't possible, so be it. We will deal with that later. Then draw a line straight down to the hem from that point, parallel to the CF. (The location of your yoke point, the depth of the yoke, it's all up to you. Hold the pattern to your body and decide where you want it. This is why we draft patterns and sew in our underwear. :) )

3. We now have three pattern pieces: the front yoke, left front, and right front. Make a couple little marks where you might put a notch, so you can line up the pieces later when sewing. Cut the pattern apart on these lines. The left front is the narrow strip. That piece is pretty much done. Set it aside.

Now, before proceeding we need to talk a bit about yokes. Yokes are wonderful things. They help you achieve a nice smooth fit over an area that might otherwise have darts, like the top of a shirt or a skirt. One can remove darts by using a yoke and transfer that shaping in one of two ways: You can either shift a dart to a seam or you can convert it to flare (as in extra fabric at the hem). You may notice that my yoke cut across two darts on the left side, hit the point of the fourth dart, and was below the third dart. We will deal with that in a moment.

4. Next remove the darts from the yoke. Just remove them. For the two on the left, I folded them out, just as if they had been sewn. For the fourth dart, which ended right on the seam line, I did the same (though I actually cut one leg of the dart, overlapped to the other leg, and taped, but it's the same effect). That leaves the final (third) dart which ends just a bit inside the yoke. Well, if this ended further within the yoke, I would have to convert it to flare, but since it is close to the seam, I treat it the same as the others and cut the leg of the dart as if it ended at the bottom of the yoke. In order words, I am fudging it a bit. :)

5. The yoke is now done, except the pattern line needs to be smoothed out a tiny bit where the darts used to be. French curves are good for this, but since I don't know where my French curve is, I wing it. :)

6. That leaves the right skirt piece. First, there is the issue of the darts that were lopped off in the middle of the yoke. There are a few ways to handle this. First, the tiny remaining darts could be sewn up. Yuck. The second approach is to slash the pattern from the bottom of the dart, down to the hem, close the remaining dart, thereby opening fullness (flare) at the hem. I don't want this pencil skirt to have additional flare at the hem so I resort to option #3: ease. When I sew the yoke to this piece, I will ease in the additional fullness right where that dart would otherwise be. Ease is your friend. :)

OK, this leaves the last, but crucial, detail of this skirt. The three pleats on the right side seam. Those pleats look about and inch deep to me, meaning each requires 2 inches of fabric. If you just were to take up those pleats, without modifying the pattern, that side of the skirt would be six inches shorter than the right (because 3 pleats times two inches each = 6 inches). This does not appear to be the case, so you have to add length to that side of the pattern. But you can't just add length to the bottom of the skirt. Well, you could, but they didn't do that in the Anthropologie skirt. How do I know that? By looking at the drape. Pay attention to the drape. The pleats drape diagonally up to the left side of the skirt. Very pretty and it's no happy accident - it's built into the pattern draft.

Note: The next step involves cutting up the right front pattern piece. Before you do this, TRACE off a copy of the right front. You will use this later for your lining.

7. It is time to take the right front piece and slash and spread it. First, locate where you want those pleats to be. If I were sewing this for myself, I would be at the mirror, marking where I want the pleat to start and noting in which direction I want the drape to go. Study the original carefully and you can pretty much see how it works. Since I am making a small-scale demo, I just eyeballed the inspiration skirt and marked it on the pattern. Draw your three lines in and extend them the opposite edge of the pattern. (Note that the direction of the slashes is CRUCIAL. Do not think it doesn't matter. It does.)

8. Cut on each of those lines all the way to, but not through, the other edge. Leave a little "hinge" of paper - don't completely detach the pieces.

9. Lay the butchered pattern on another piece of clean paper. Decide how wide you want your pleats to be. If you want a 1" pleat (which looks about right to me) spread the pattern 2" wide. Repeat for each of the three slashes. When satisfied, tape it down.

10. Next, you need to smooth out the side seam. Again, a French curve helps, but I just eyeball it. In fact, smooth out both sides, because the other side is looking a bit funny too, where those "hinges" are. But take a very light hand with this, you are ever so slightly smoothing it out, a heavy hand here can change the drape and the fit.

11. Now, it's time to take care of the skirt back. Again, it should be drawn on a piece of paper, the entire thing, not just up to the CB (center back). The only thing you need to do to the back is to repeat the slash and spread for the three pleats. Make sure that you mark each pleat location so that it is at the same location as it was on the front. This is important. Draw the slash lines in the same direction. Cut all the way to the side seam, leaving a hinge. Lay it on a larger piece of paper, spread the slashed pieces to the same width as you did for the front (2" or whatever). Spread, and tape.

12. This leaves the final pattern piece: the flounce. Measure the length of the seam from the yoke point to the hem. Follow the instructions here to create the ruffle pattern. For my demo, that length was about 8" and a 2.5 inner circle was what I needed. The bottom of one of my favorite coffee cups was close enough. Look carefully at the ruffle on the inspiration piece: I think it extends ever-so-slightly beyond the hem of the skirt. So, you want it a bit, just a bit longer than the hem. In my experience, it's almost impossible not to make it a bit longer. :) Make the ruffle nice and wide. The drama of this skirt is the ruffle and it should be nice and wide. Try 6" or maybe 8" on your muslin and see how it looks. For what it's worth, I think the flounce on my demo piece is too narrow.

The pattern draft is now complete. All you need to do is add seam allowances and a hem. For my demo, I just winged it and cut out the seam allowances on the fly, (I left off the hem), but do what you are most comfortable with.

Oh, I almost forgot. What to do about the grainline for the pieces that were slashed? Well, I kept the grainline the same in relation to the hem. So the hem was cut along the same grain that it was designed for. The rest of the piece went all wonky, but this is a Good Thing, because it assists the draping effect.

I used a fairly thick, fleecy knit fabric left over from another project. It's not a terrible choice for this skirt, but not what I would use for the real thing.

Here are my steps for assembling the skirt:

1. Stay stitch the ruffle. Clip the curves every half inch or so. Attach to the right front. (Note that on the real skirt, you would cut out TWO circles, with right sides together, stitch them along the outer edge, turn inside. But, heck, you could also serge the outer edge if you have a nice fabric with drape and weight to it. Also, the portion of the ruffle which extends beyond the hem will need to be finished on all 3 sides.) Also, when you stitch the ruffle to the skirt, attach it beginning 5/8" below the top so you don't catch the edge in the yoke seam.

2. Stitch the right front to the left front. Start from 5/8" below the top. In other words, leave the first 5/8" unsewn. Makes it much easier to sew the pivot when attaching the yoke.

3. Sew the yoke to the front skirt. Stitch the first bit, up to the pivot, cut the thread, pin the final bit, and sew that. The front is now completely assembled.

4. Sew the back darts.

5. Sew the right side seam. This is the seam with the pleats. Do not sew the left side seam yet.

6. Pinch up the fabric where you have marked the pleats. (You DID mark them, didn't you? :) Stitch from the outside to secure the pleat. I sewed about 1" across the side seam, so that was 1/2" before it cross the side seam and 1/2" after. Approximately. :) Do this for all three pleats.

7. Stitch up the left side seam. I sewed up the entire seam, but you might want to insert a zipper here. Just a thought. :)

8. The inspiration skirt was lined with a poly lining. No doubt you will want to line this to make it more comfortable and lovely. Just before step 7, I told you to make a copy of the right front skirt before slashing it. Use that piece, as well as the left front, yoke, and original back pieces to cut out a lining. You may want to use the fashion fabric to line the yoke, and a silky for the rest of it. I leave that to you. :)

9. Sew on some non-functional, purely decorative buttons and call it a day.

Now, before you cut into your favorite fabric, please, please, make a muslin! If you don't like the pleat location, or depth, or whatever, that's when you want to find out. You can refine the pattern, or chuck it, and start over with your new found knowledge.

If, like me, you think this sort of thing is the Most Fun Ever, please find a local community college that teaches pattern drafting. Or buy a book and go from there. I am very rusty, very casual about my technique, but the skills I learned from my teacher (wish I could remember her name -- she had lots of industry experience) have been invaluable to me.

I hope you find this useful, Rachel. Go forth and sew. ;)

New pincushion!

I have the two bestest daughters in the universe... well, at this address, for sure. :)

My kids attend a fairly artsy high school. My 9th grader is taking basket weaving and just made her first basket. What did she make? Well, she decided I needed a new pincushion.

I just love it! She also made the velvet interior. She stuffed it with wool "so it would keep my needles sharp." Is this cool or what? :)

She's already at work on her second basket and I can't wait to see what she comes up with. :)

Technique -- Cascading Ruffle

Rachel posted a question on the Stitcher's Guild forum, asking how to recreate the flounce (or a cascading ruffle) on this $158 Anthropologie skirt.

I am reposting the information here, in case anyone finds it useful.

This is really just a run-of-the-mill circular ruffle. You need to cut a fabric donut. The inside of the donut is stitched to the edge of the skirt pattern piece.

So, the question is, how big does the donut need to be? For the best effect, you want your donut to be the correct size. Too small and you run out of ruffle. Too large and you have extra ruffle and the ruffle you do use is less "ruffly" than it could be.

What you need to do is to calculate the circumference of your inner circle to get it just right (or close enough). To calculate the circumference of your inner circle, you need to use the formula c=2*pi*r. So, if the front of your skirt (where you want the flounce to go) is 20" long, the circumference of the inner circle should be 20". So:

20 = 2 * 3.14 * r
r = 3.18"

So, for the inner circle, you need a radius of 3.18" or a diameter of 6.36". Or, to round up, you need an inner circle of about 6.5 inches. (Of course, I am not calculating seam allowance here.) Correct me if I'm wrong, but a salad plate is about 6.5 inches, isn't it? It's close enough, I'd wager. :)

I made a little demo. In my case, I grabbed a dinner plate and it made a REALLY long flounce. If I had done the math first I would have grabbed a salad plate. The outer circle represents the width of your flounce. I cut mine 4", but for that Anthropologie skirt, you'd want to cut yours wider, maybe 6" or so. You can always cut it down later if it's too wide. Mine is actually only 3.5" wide, since half an inch went into the seam allowance.

So, cut out your donut, stay stitch the edge of the inner circle, and trim the seam. Then attach. Here is my quick and dirty demo, with the flounce sewn onto a pillowcase, and I think it pretty much shows the cascades you want to achieve. It just needs more refined workmanship with better fabric.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Mrs Stylebook Summer 2009 - Top #31D

Just as I came back to sewing, I discovered Mrs Stylebook, a Japanese sewing magazine, thanks to Claudine's blog. Based on her blog and on the scans another blogger, Cidell, posted from this magazine, I. LOST. MY. MIND.

I rushed to my nearest Kinokuniya store. They had no back issues, so I contented myself with the most recent issue, which they tell me is summer 2009. This magazine has virtually no English and, unlike the European fashion sewing magazines, only a few designs have included patterns that you trace off. Most of the designs have diagrams showing you how to draft them. This suits me fine, for the most part. I am not an expert pattern drafter, but I took one year of flat pattern design 20 years ago and I can get along well enough. I typically start with a TNT (tried 'n true) pattern that has most of the features I want, and go from there. My slopers from 20 years ago no longer work and I haven't bothered to make up new ones. :)

For my first Mrs Stylebook effort, I liked the neckline detail on this top:

and here is the instructions page for that design (this is all the help you get, but it's pretty helpful):

The alterations are pretty much what you would expect: the neckline is cut down, front and back. The added neckline piece is simply a rectangle, long enough to cover the neckline and wide enough to fit the four channels for the cording, when doubled. (I cut mine about 5 1/2 inches wide and the full width of the fabric -- I cut off the excess later. My neckline was about 38" wide.) The front of the top is extended 14cm (5.5 inches) which is then be gathered back up by the four cords. (I was concerned that an additional 11" might be too much fabric for me, and it was, but I managed to fix that later.) At first I was thinking I'd use this neckline on a buttoned top, then I quickly realized that would look weird. It was no mistake that this top has no closure. :)

I started with my darted t-shirt pattern and made the changes. For my fabric, I am using a blue check fabric that I thought was cotton. I had convinced myself it was cotton because, well, it looked like a cotton check should look, to me. Even as I cut it out, trying to match the plaid, and it wiggled around horribly, I was thinking cotton. It wasn't until I sat at my sewing machine I realized that this fabric is behaving in every way like a rayon. Yup, a rayon, which means it has a lovely drape. :)

I decided I wanted to do something different for the sleeves. For one thing, I did NOT want to have to match the plaid across the sleeves, so I decided to cut them on the bias. I also decided to emulate a ruched sleeve cuff I had seen on another top. I had studied how that effect was achieved and it was more complex than I wanted to deal with, so I winged it and figured it out as I went. It worked pretty well and maybe I'll blog that technique another time. I also gave the garment a shirttail hem with side slits. I love side slits. :)

As I was sewing up the design, once again I was not liking how voluminous the top was, so I decided to sew in some relaxed darts. Two under each bust (four total) and two in the back. I also removed 4 inches in the side seam at the bust, tapered to nothing at the hem. (Frankly, I should have taken it from the hem too, but I didn't want to lose my shirttail hem with those nice slits.) The extra fullness I had added at CF to accommodate the shirred neckline needed to be tamed down. (I had worried about this when I was drafting the pattern, but it's worked out ok with my alterations.)

So here it is:

and here is the neckline detail:

and the ruched sleeves:

I need to make myself a nice blue tank to wear underneath this top. I am happy to say I have enough of this wonderful check to make a skirt. I have already started drafting that. And, no, I won't be wearing them together. ;)

Butterick 5045 - Top or "Cover Up"

I had tried on a top in a boutique that I just loved but, at over $300, was out of my current budget. I decided to copy the top and the "cover up" from this Butterick pattern is very similar in line.

1. The original top as made of a what I would call a double faced voile. It was a semi-sheer cotton but the fabric had two sides and it had a surprisingly nice drape. The front was a dark plaid and the back was solid black. I learned from the Stitcher's Guild forum that this is a Japanese fabric called "double gauze". I've trolled the internet but have only seen double gauze for sale in children's prints or solids, but, hopefully, one day it will become generally available to us sewers in grownup prints. :)

2. The original top buttoned. The right side had a large buttonhole that was pulled up to above the left breast and buttoned on a large button, forming a draped neckline. (The back of the double-faced fabric showed so it had the effect of a solid black contrast neckline.)

3. The front of the top was shorter than the back, which came almost to my knees.

Here's my version of the top, worn up (my preferred way):

and down:

I had this fabulous fabric that a friend told me reminded her of the fabric used by Babette. It's a knit, but a very unusual knit that has these wonderful permanent crinkles. I wish I bolts of this fabric in different colors. :) As it is, I have it in a microscopic black/white houndstooth which, of course, has an overall "grey" effect. Oops, another "grey" top. ;)

This pattern needed a few alterations. I cut out view B (coverup with sleeves) in an XL, which is correct for my bust measurement. I rounded the point off at the front -- this is where the buttonhole goes on the left front. I also shortened it. I cut it out of my beloved fabric, putting the front hem on the naturally rolled hem at the bottom of the fabric.

The pattern was delightfully easy to sew up. Perhaps because I love this fabric so much, I took extra care and turned under all raw edges and hand stitched them down. I hand stitched the raw edge on the front, but I left the hem raw and rolled.

As the top came together, I was disappointed with the look. I realized it was just too voluminous for me. I started playing with the fit and, in the end, I removed about 12 inches from the hip area and about 4 from the bust area. I could have removed more from the bust, but I'd already sewn in the sleeves and didn't want to disassemble it.

Also, I had cut the back too short. I was very laissez-faire when I cut the back and, oops, it was really too short. It also lacked the rolled edge of the front (I was thinking at the time that I would hem the bottom of the garment.) So I cut another strip of the rolled edge from the fabric, though I cut it in a non-rectangular shape. At the CB, the strip was maybe 6" wide, but tapered to approx 2" at the side seam. I sewed this to my back hem and got my "longer in back than front" effect. :)

On the back you can make out the seam at the bottom:

I like the finished top. Just when I got to the point where I was going to sew the buttonhole, I decided to wait. With the buttonhole I can wear the top only one way. Without the buttonhole I can wear it draped up as a top (and held closed with a pin) or down and loose as a jacket.

I found this pin in my jewelry box. I can't remember where I bought it, but it was probably at a craft or street fair and I love the whimsy of it. :)

I wish I had a lot more of this fabric, but I am content that I have a piece large enough to squeeze out a sleeveless tunic. I think it will make a good layering piece, especially with that wonderful funky pocket included in the pattern.

P.S. If you haven't clicked on the Babette link and checked out her clothing, please do! Scroll through her Fall '09 clothes, for example. Look at that skirt and top in slide 4!!! Check out that drape detail on both. Drool... Her designs make my heart sing. :D