Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Sewing Workshop - Ikina Jacket, Salsa Top (#4), and Tilton Pants

It's high time I made myself an Ikina jacket. I have seen numerous sewists who sing the praises of this jacket, which is reminiscent of a cropped kimono, but for some reason, it didn't bubble to the top of my pile, partly because I didn't seem to have the right fabric on hand.

Recently I bought 3 yards of a very yummy poly/cotton/lycra brushed twill from FabricMart. Originally, I wanted to use this fabric for the Sandra Betzina jacket, but when I realized that pattern wasn't working for me, I reallocated the fabric for the Ikina.

I.love.this.fabric. One side, as shown, has a brushed surface and looks sueded and the other side is slick and shiny, so it feels as if it's self lined. It has a lovely, weighty drape and a rich, warm color. The only downside is that it doesn't want to hold a crease, so I ended up topstitching every seam and every hem. Luckily, I love to topstitch and this fabric loves to be topstitched. :)

I made three changes to the pattern:

  • I eliminated the side vents.
  • I lengthened the jacket 3". This meant I also added 6" to the front band.
  • I added a hanging pocket.

What I did not do was an FBA. I decided I didn't want to. I like this jacket as designed; I knew it would be large enough (I made an XL), and I liked the hemline a bit shorter in front. For this jacket, anyway. :)

I had been warned about one tricky aspect of this pattern – the bias front band. At least in some "wobbly" fabrics, this can be very tricky to construct. A sewist friend who has made this jacket multiple times reported that you can achieve a perfectly good result with a straight-of-grain front band. And, of course, in a knit, a bias band is not necessary. However, I really wanted to use a bias band because I like how it lays around the neck and forms a small fold-back collar (if you want to wear it that way).

I diligently followed the instructions for ironing the bias band to remove some of the stretch and to form the curve it will have on the final garment. The band is folded in half, the long way, before creating the shaping. I basted along the folded edge to keep it in place. You then trim the band to 3 5/8" wide. I marked 3 5/8" and then basted just inside the marked line.

Trimming the front band. The shaping has been applied.

My thinking was to treat the folded band as a single piece – to sew it to the jacket in one go, then trim the seam allowance to 1/4", overcast the raw edge, turn it towards the jacket (away from the band), and to topstitch. I was hoping that this would help avoid some of the problems other sewists have reported when they follow the directions, which tell you to sew one edge of the band, then turn the raw edge under and hand stitch that edge to the inside. This is tricky with bias, at least on an unstable fabric.

Well, the final result was ok. It could have been neater, but it's fine so long as no one scrutinizes it too carefully. :)

I am wearing the Ikina with my new Marcy Tilton pants (Vogue 8637), made using cream ponte I bought from Marcy Tilton.

I am not too crazy about the excess fullness at the shoulder. I'm not sure how to tweak the pattern to fix this.

My hand inserted into the spiffy hanging pocket that I added.

Hanging pocket, up close. I sewed one side into the side seam. I think you can make out the stitching at the upper left edge that anchors the pocket to the jacket.

The final item in this ensemble (and yes, I made these pieces to go together) is a Sewing Workshop Salsa blouse. This is #4 of this pattern for me. This time I made it using an Anna Sui cotton/rayon voile from FabricMart. This fabric was sold by the panel, and I fell in love with it, but decided to use it as a border print.

I purchased three panels and was able to just squeeze out this top. I changed the grain to put the front edges along the border stripe. I also put the sleeve hems along the border stripe and, yes, I intentionally cut them to use the stripe asymmetrically. This is the 4th time I've made this top but the first time I've actually finished every raw edge, using either French seams or flat felled seams. It just seemed the right thing to do with this very fragile handkerchief-weight fabric.

When the top was complete, I tried it on and it didn't fit! I quickly realized the reason – this was the first time I'd used a woven for this pattern. Twice I'd used knits and the third time a stretch woven. The top was tight across the waist, but fit me otherwise, so I added little flanges at the sides. The fronts now button to the flanges, instead of the back. This gave me an additional 3" in the waist and it's now perfect!

The flange, with the buttons sewn to the edge. This fixed the problem where it was too tight at the waist.

And, if you are observant, you will notice that this fabric has polka dots woven into it!!! swoon! :)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Ahhh... A summer weekend filled with sewing.

Ever since the first official day of summer, early last week, the weather here has turned cold and foggy. It's true San Francisco weather, where the summers are often cold and foggy. In fact, I've been turning on the heat most evenings because it's been 60 or 61 degrees in my house. Then I sit and read blogs and hear how sweltering it is in the rest of the U.S. It's been years since I've experienced a "regular" summer, like those of my childhood.

But today, on this Sunday morning, I dashed off early to the grocery store and was surprised to see gorgeous, crystal blue skies outside my door. There was actually sunlight streaming in through my kitchen windows, a rare phenomenon. There is street construction near my house, so I like to get out and back before the traffic gets bad.

I live a few blocks from the underground (yes, San Francisco has an underground, OTHER than Bart, but people don't seem to know about it) and when I returned, I saw people - men, women, and children - heading towards the underground in fair numbers, wearing Mardi Gras style beads, feathers, etc, and I realized they were heading for the Gay Pride parade and festivities. One guy, movie star gorgeous, was wearing a red feather boa over his otherwise conventional EHN-SAMBL. The sight of these happy and colorfully dressed folks put a smile on my face.

But, no running around for me. This is a serious sewing weekend, now that I've laid in some groceries. Yesterday, I finished a Marcy Tilton pant, an Ikina jacket, and I've almost finished a pair of silk PJ bottoms. Nothing ready to photograph yet, but I'm looking forward to being able to take the photos myself when ready.

I'm heading back to the sewing machine, but I hope everyone (or at least everyone in his hemisphere) is enjoying the summer weekend. Otherwise, enjoy your winter weekend. :)

Thursday, June 24, 2010


Since simultaneously returning to sewing last August and blogging about it, I have had one continuing frustration that I'm sure many sewists can relate to. Getting photos of my garments on my body. For this to happen successfully, the following had to align perfectly:

  • One of my daughters had to be around, and have the time, energy, and inclination to help me out. (Though, to be honest, various techniques of coercion were used on more than one occasion.) :)
  • I like to photograph outdoors, so the weather and time of day had to cooperate. (How often, during the winter months, was a photographer available only after dark had fallen.)
  • I had to look reasonably decent (though I sometimes slack on this requirement, if the other requirements are in place).

My kids are teenagers, both intent on attending college far away, and I sometimes found myself wondering, "It's hard enough now, but how the heck will I take pictures when they really aren't around?" Well, it turns out that the answer was easy. Far easier than I could have imagined, but I have to thank a Audi and her blog, Fashion for Nerds, who showed me the light. Audi takes great photos of her daily sartorial efforts. To do this, she says she uses a wireless remote with her Canon Digital Rebel.

Huh? Come again?

It just so happens that I use (and love) a very old Canon Digital Rebel. In fact, it was the first model released, the DS6041, which was later called the 300D. I wasn't sure a wireless remote would work with this model, but I started to do some research. The manual that came with the camera said it would work with an RC-1 or RC-5 wireless remote. More research told me that the difference between the two is that the RC-5 has the ability to take the photo immediately, where the RC-1 has the ability to take the photo immediately, or with a 2-second delay. The delay has the obvious advantage of allowing you to strike a more natural pose. I then discovered that there is a very low cost substitute for the RC-1, the Opteka RC-4 Remote Control for Canon, available from Amazon for $12.95!

I ordered the Opteka and it arrived in two days, with free shipping, thanks to Amazon Prime. The tiny remote works out of the teeny box, once you remove the plastic insert that preserves the battery. To set up the camera, push the little "clock" button on top, next to the shutter button, to put it into Self Timer mode, and make sure the camera is in Automatic mode. Set the camera on a surface and point it in the desired direction. Stand in front of the camera, push the 2S button, and assume a pose.

WHIRR... CLICK! (goes the camera, after adjusting the focus)


This is soooo easy! This changes everything! I can't think of the last time I improved my life quite so much for $12.95. :)

My next goal is to dig my tripod out of the garage, but I was delighted to find that you can buy a reasonable tripod for around $20.

I should add, the Opteka has three other buttons as well. The S, W, and T buttons in the lower box do not work with Canon DSLRs, like mine. Those are used with the Canon point-and-shoot models. I gather the S is for shoot and the W and T are for zooming in and out. I use the buttons in the upper box: the S button shoots immediately and the 2S button (my favorite) shoots after a 2-second delay.

Oh, I should also add, to take the camera out of Self Timer mode, push that little clock button again. You can tell if you are in that mode by looking at the LCD display on the back of the camera. When in Self Timer mode, a tiny clock is present in the display.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

No Jacket for YOU! (Reprise)

As you probably know, I have been on a quest for a great jacket pattern. I have been looking for something a bit fitted, or at least not greatly oversized. I really thought this Sandra Betzina jacket would work for me! A sew group friend made this jacket. I loved it on her and thought it had great potential for me, though her body type is quite different.

My first challenge was the FBA. I needed to add about 2" of fullness and distribute it through the three front darts. Based on my tissue fit of the pattern, it looked like my bust apex was located in the direction of the middle dart. Once I figured out how to slice the pattern to adjust all three darts, I added fullness to all three, but put most of it in the middle dart. I made up a muslin. (I actually used muslin for once!) I tried it on and ... it wasn't quite right. First, my bust apex actually fell between the first and middle dart, but that didn't completely account for my dissatisfaction with the muslin – I wasn't quite sure what I didn't like about it.

Last Friday morning I attended a local ASG meeting. The host, and several friends attending, are good at fitting and have a great eye, so I took my muslin along. The ten or so women remaining after the meeting quickly concluded that the three downward darts were the problem – it just wasn't a good look for me. They suggested either 3 or 5 darts that angle upwards and fan outwards. They agreed that the fit of the jacket, especially the back, was otherwise good.

I sliced and diced the pattern further, creating five upward darts that were 3/4" of an inch apart at the side seam, and fanned them to 1 1/4" apart at the tips. I decided to use black ponte for muslin #2, because I was pretty sure it would be wearable. (HAH)

When I tried on the second muslin (the basic shell was constructed, though only one sleeve was attached), I wasn't happy. Part of the problem was caused when I sewed the 10 darts: I didn't stabilize them, so they were a bit distorted. But aside from that, they just weren't quite working.

Last night I took the second muslin to my sew group meeting. The general consensus of the group was that this jacket isn't for me, though, the overall silhouette is good.

At this point, I'm going to rethink the project. Since, except for the front of the jacket, the overall design and silhouette works for me, I may just change the front to use a princess seam. Or not. Maybe I will just move on to the next pattern. We'll see. :)

The five upward pointing darts. I topstitched them, adding to the wobbliness. If this had been the only problem, I could have fixed it in my next version by stabilizing the darts, but it wasn't the only problem.


On the tangentially related subject (of jackets), yesterday I had an appointment near Union Square, so I decided to dash into Britex to see if they carried a notion a friend has been looking for. I was one or two doors away from Britex, when two jackets in a store window caught my eye and stopped me in my tracks. These jackets were absolutely beautiful and very unusual. Though I didn't have much time, I couldn't resist and I entered Harputs.

Besides selling garments from other designers, such as Yohji Yamamoto and Commes des Garcon, Harputs sells their own line of clothing. The incredibly friendly folks who work there were very excited to show me their line of clothing, which is manufactured right on the spot, upstairs, and designed by the people who work there. They have only been in this location for about 8 months. (The previous tenant of the space, evidently, was Prada.) The pride in their work was evident and the workmanship was beautiful.

I was fascinated by several of their designs, but I was particularly interested in the jacket I'd seen in the window. Their garments have cute names and are designed to be worn in a myriad of ways. But this jacket, which is a newer design and is not shown on their website, has three armholes, or rather, two sleeves and one armhole. I can't remember the name of the piece, but the right side is a fairly conventional jacket, and the left side is more of a wrap. When you slip the third armhole over the opposite arm (over the more conventional half of the jacket), the jacket front forms a soft cowl. It was absolutely gorgeous and they can make the jacket in any size, and customize it to fit, since they manufacture it right there. The price for this piece ranges from $650 to $780, depending on fabric, though all the samples I saw were black. My favorite was the black lightweight wool, underlined with a cream linen - I think it might have been a linen/rayon blend based on the wonderful drape.

I was also entertained by Lulu, Harputs' very cute mascot (a French Bulldog), who loves to visit Britex, next door, for doggie treats. :)

For more information on Harputs, check out this review, as well as yelp, but be aware that they are referring to their previous location on Fillmore. Oh, by the way, I get nothing from nobody, when I post reviews. Nada. :)

Friday, June 11, 2010

Vogue 8397 - Marcy Tilton Pants (View A)

I've been trying so hard to put a moratorium on sewing black for spring and summer but, oh well, what the heck. I still have scads of black ponte and I love to use it to test out some of the wonderful pants patterns that are available.

Today, we have Vogue 8397, a Marcy Tilton pattern that has been out for years, since 2005, I think. This pattern offers three very different pairs of pants. I recently used View C to try out a variation that Marcy posted on her website, but this time, I made View A, which is for knits only. Because this pattern has been out for years, there are many reviews on Pattern Review, but only three for view A. Most of the sewists used a fairly drapey fabric, such as jersey, but I decided to try it out using my firmer ponte knit, though I wasn't at all sure that it would work.

According to the pattern, the finished measurement for a size 12 at the hip is 43". I decided this sounded right for me, so I cut out a size 12 from the hip down to the hem, tapering out to larger than a size 14 at the waist. (This multi-sized pattern goes to 14 at its largest size, so I made it bigger – maybe more like a 16.) I traced the Trio crotch curve onto the pattern. Other than that, I made no changes. I even used the original length for the size 12, so this pattern may run a bit short.

The pants were very quick to stitch up, even with the top-stitching. (But then I like to top-stitch.) And I love them! Love love love. Definitely another keeper.

Worn here with another new top. This is my fourth Teagarden T, made from a diagonal knit. I love this pattern too! It's "my" version of a t-shirt.

Mini Britex Report

I had to go to the financial district in San Francisco today. I rarely go to the financial district, though I very often go to the nearby shopping district (Union Square). In fact, the last time I was there was several years ago when I went to the Brazilian Consulate to get a visa. But I love the financial district. It's so... alive... with all the worker bees rushing to and fro with such intense focus. I also love to observe what they are wearing, which varies from the well dressed and well coiffed women sporting gorgeous shoes, to scruffy IT types with worn jeans and overstuffed Timbuk2 bags. It's a feast for the eyes.

The company I work for has an office in that area and I had to go in for two reasons. First, to prove I am a U.S. citizen, but also to get a new photo badge. I just got a new haircut last night and, to gird myself for the photo, I decided to wear my red Teagarden T and black ponte Trios.

It didn't help. The photo was atrocious anyway. Afterwards, it was such a gorgeous day, I walked the few blocks to Britex.

I have mentioned before how Britex can make me very grumpy, mostly because of the prices. But they have been carrying a nice selection of printed knit fabrics lately. In fact, some of the fabrics are the same that are sold by Marcy Tilton and Christine Jonson, though for much higher prices. Today, though, it was nice that at least six employees recognized the fabric from my top, which I purchased from Britex, as well as the fabric from my tote, also purchased from Britex. The employees love to see their fabrics sewn up – they really know their inventory – and they were very friendly as a result.

I did end up buying one piece. A beautiful knit mesh for (gasp) $30 per yard. See, this is why I get grumpy, but I guess it's what you should expect when buying fabric from a store directly across from Neiman Marcus, two doors from the Betsy Johnson boutique, and around the corner from Dior.

I will either use the fabric to make this Marcy Tilton tunic or this Very Easy Vogue tunic. The photos for both (especially the Very Easy Vogue) are rather unflattering, but I really do like that top. I have worn the turtleneck version so much that I need to toss it. It's become very pilled and worn, but has been a great top to throw on, both at home and when I run errands.

I have mentioned that I want to make myself jackets, especially jackets that are a bit more fitted. I am working on altering this Sandra Betzina jacket with three front darts (10 darts total). I have identified that I need to add 2" to the front, distributed between the three darts, with most of the fullness in the middle dart, but I haven't quite figured out how I will do that yet. I'm hoping to get a good fit, and that this can become a TNT pattern for me.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

A Red Letter Day!

I posted my last blog entry in the wee hours of the morning and, when I woke up, I noticed that it was my 100th post and I now had 100 followers! I really really want to thank all of you who read, and post comments, on my blog. I started the blog, mostly as an experiment, and I have found I really enjoy it. Let me warn you that some personal chatter follows but, if you want, you can skip directly to the sewing bit.

There are so many benefits to blogging my sewing projects. First and foremost, I refer to my past entries all the time to remind myself how I made a particular project – especially any modifications I made, or what size I cut out, etc.

Then there are the photos. I am NOT a photogenic person. Most folks who have met me tell me I look better in person and I am mighty glad to hear it, given the atrocious pictures I take. My daughters, and particularly my youngest, tells me I am really hard to photograph because I look so stiff and... weird. It reminds me of that Friends episode when Chandler and Monica were trying to get a good engagement photo. Every time the photographer pointed the camera at Chandler, his expression became self conscious and strange, so they finally published an "engagement" photo of Monica and Joey. I can relate. It is almost impossible to find a photo of me before I started sewing because I hated photos of myself and usually was the one behind the camera.

But let me tell you about the upside of these photos. Wow, you might think you look a certain way in a mirror, even a full length mirror. But you can't really see the whole effect the way you can in a photo. All of a sudden, you can really see proportions, color, cut, etc. The photos have had a huge effect on my sewing. They have caused me to re-think my style, and what looks good on me, and have had a direct impact on what I sew. They are pretty powerful, even though I can't tell you how often I cringe when I look at them.

Finally, the biggest benefit of blogging is the community. I have met so many people and had so many great email exchanges because of my blog and my involvement in the Stitcher's Guild community. I have developed some close friendships as a result. How wonderful is that?!? I also belong to a truly wonderful sewing group, who really puts up with my foibles. Several of them read this blog and I love keeping in touch with them that way.

So, I really want to thank all of you. I know I am not as funny and adorable as The Selfish Seamstress, nor as clever and urbane as Male Pattern Boldness, and I do sometimes feel that I really need to push the bar to produce a blog worthy of anyone who might read it, so know I am grateful that you do read, and post. :)

You might know that I don't really participate in blogger awards. But I realize that those awards, in part, are a way of feeling more connected to the blogger. I try to keep my professional life and my hobby life very separate, but here are ten "facts you may not know about me", just for fun.

  1. By profession, I am a technical writer. I write primarily about the Java programming language. I like to think I can, at least, explain a process, or a product, in a clear manner.
  2. I have a degree in computer science from UC Berkeley.
  3. I do most of my writing, including the writing for this blog, directly in HTML. I am not a big User of Tools.
  4. Following my divorce, I enrolled in San Francisco State in the Masters program for Clothing and Textiles. I had a lot of undergraduate work to complete (since my original bachelors was in a very different discipline) but I had to drop out of the program about 18 months into it, because it conflicted with work. Shortly thereafter, the masters program in that department was axed. That was an extremely happy time in my life, even though I was twice the age of most of the students.
  5. I have been a vegetarian since the age of 17, when my mother unadvisedly said, "I wonder how long THAT will last!" when I told her. I love you mom, and rest in peace, but it has been 34 years, and counting. :) I was the healthiest (and weighed much less) for the few years I was vegan, but I have slipped off that mountain.
  6. I love to travel, but have done very little in the last 17 years (note: my eldest is 17), apart from a trip to Brazil 2 or 3 years ago. I once hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu – a 5-day trip on foot. After that I spent two days rafting the Ollantaytambo River, which had some class four rapids. I hate roller coasters, but I love river rafting.
  7. I like to spell and don't really use a spellchecker. I have a friend who thinks that there is a spelling gene. You either have it or you don't. She doesn't. :)
  8. One of my current favorite TV shows is Drop Dead Diva. The new season begins tonight!!!
  9. The nickname 'Shams' came about when I copied my then-fiance's favorite underwear. It was a brand called Chams that his mother bought from Marks and Spencers in London. When they changed the style, he didn't like the new underwear as well, so I copied the older style and made him several pair. He wore them to shreds. I even mimicked the style and color of the original label, but I changed Chams to Shams.
  10. In real life, my first name is Sharon. But I really like my nickname Shams and will happily answer to that. :) Have you ever noticed that there are many Sewing Sharons?

And Now for the Sewing-Related Bit

There is a thread on Stitcher's Guild discussing the pattern that I blogged about last night - Vogue 8248. I posted the photos of my black and white tops and Kathryn gave me some great insight. I just love it when someone with a good eye weighs in!

Kathryn pointed out that the wide "cuffs" on the white blouse were throwing off the balance of the top. For me, that was a "D'OH!" moment. I know the reason the pattern is drafted this way, however. This is a dolman style top, where the sleeve is cut as one with the front (or back). This type of sleeve doesn't have the fitting advantages of a set-in sleeve. If the cuff is very fitted, it's hard to, say, reach forward. However, this cuff is overly generous at the wrist, resulting in an unflattering line, so I took my remaining two buttons and made a pleat in each cuff. Sorry, I don't have photos, but I think you get the general idea. I didn't make it so tight that I can't slip it over the wrist.

I will try wearing the top this way and, if I find it is too restrictive for comfortable movement, I will just chop the sleeves off at the elbow. :)

Thanks so much, Kathryn!!! And if you haven't seen her blog, I Made This!, CHECK it out! She is AMAZING. I am in awe of her creativity, mixed with her facility with problem solving, and this beautiful package is encased in her truly generous spirit.

Vogue 8248 - Very Easy Vogue Blouse

I recently realized I need more basic blouses and this Very Easy Vogue caught my eye. It features dolman sleeves and fisheye darts, front and back. I particularly liked the notch-less collar on View A and decided it would be a good opportunity to use the technique demonstrated on Louise Cutting's Insider Techniques, Volume One DVD (published by Threads), on how to modify the draft of a collar to eliminate bulk at the center front and to cut the collar as one piece.

Nancy Zieman, Sandra Betzina, and others also teach this technique, and it's a good one. (I've been told that Nancy Zieman was the first to teach it years ago.) In fact, Sigrid recently posted a tutorial on this technique called Cutting a Collar in One Piece. And here is a Power Sewing video that shows the technique. (Just hit the Play arrow to view.)

I made the top twice. First, I used a white cotton shirting from Michael's with blue threads, in various shades, running through it. I made this top with long sleeves, as shown in View B. The second version was made from a black cotton voile from Fabrix. This fabric has wonderful woven black dots and I bought all that was left, but it was only about one and a half yards and 56" wide. Through painstaking placement, I managed to squeeze a short sleeved version from the limited yardage.

Based on the finished measurement at the bust, I used a size 20 (the largest size) and added a bust dart. (On a more close-fitting pattern, this is my standard size.)

Here is a complete list of the changes I made:

  • Changed the draft of the collar to use a single pattern piece for upper and lower collar.
  • Added a bust dart.
  • Omitted the fisheye darts on the back.
  • Replaced the fisheye darts on the front with four short tucks.
  • Added 1/4" to the side seam at the waist (for a 1" total increase).
  • Removed fabric from the side seam at the hip. (Not sure how much.)
  • Finished the side seam with slits (on the black top only).
  • Drafted a back facing.
  • On the white top, I topstitched most of the seams.
  • On the black top, I used French seams for the shoulders and center back.
  • Shortened both tops about 3". (I couldn't have squeezed out the black top if I hadn't.)

I did experience one problem when constructing the white top. The notch-less collar is designed so the top of the collar is narrower than the bottom. The bottom edge, which is wider, is sewn to the neck of the blouse. I accidentally made the collar upside-down, so I sewed the top of the collar (which is narrower) to the neck edge. This was very challenging to ease, as you can imagine, but I just thought that the pattern was poorly drafted. When the top was almost finished, I realized my error. Luckily, the poorly eased neck seam is hidden under the finished collar, and I didn't love the top (or the fabric) enough to rip it and out make a new collar, so I left it as-is. I made the collar correctly for the black version. If you look at both collars carefully, you can see that the angle of the collar on the white top is different than the angle on the black top, but I think it's quite wearable.

Here they are:

The first version, with the upside down collar, made from a slightly stiff, slightly crisp, white cotton fabric from Michaels.

On a hangar.

Collar closeup. You can see the reverse side of the fabric, with the threads running through it, just below the back facing.

Second version, with short sleeves, made from black cotton voile. I am wearing this with my cream linen/rayon/silk Trio pants.

On a hangar. The black cotton voile has more drape than the white shirting. Also, you can see the collar is right-side up.

Hem closeup. You can see the side slit right through the fabric. I may need to wear a tank under this one. :)