Friday, May 31, 2013

Review - Ultimate T-Shirt Craftsy Class

I just completed watching my first Craftsy class! I've been late-to-the game, as far as Craftsy goes. But Katherine and Marcy Tilton have just released a class on Craftsy called The Ultimate Tee and I decided to check it out.

This class, which consists of more than 3 hours of instruction (over 9 lessons), is a great primer on how to sew knits. I know many sewists who are very intimidated by knits, and Marcy and Katherine are real experts on this topic. Included in the price of the class is Katherine's zipper-neck t-shirt pattern, Vogue 8793.

The class begins with a survey of different types of knits. The Tiltons explain which types of knits are easier to sew, which are "medium" difficulty, and which are the hardest to sew. They talk about pre-treating the fabric and how to care for the completed garment. In lesson 3, they cover issues related to fitting the pattern at the tissue stage, starting with how to measure the pattern. They cover how to pin fit the pattern tissue so you can work out any major fitting issues. (Additional tweaking of the fit happens in a later lesson.)

Lesson 4 is the construction lesson, starting with how to cut out the tee. The recommended type of seam and recommended stitch length are discussed, as well as thread type, needle type, and seam finishes. The importance of stay stitching the neck (and how to minimize distortion), how to stabilize the shoulders, and how to lower the neckline, are covered. The next two lessons include two techniques for sewing the neckband. First, Katherine shows her wrap-around neckband and then Marcy shows a classic binding technique. Both teachers focus on how to sew a binding that will fit the curves of the neck and not hang loosely or pull too tightly.

After the neckband sections, Katherine talks about how to refine the knit of the tee, once it's partially constructed (but before the sleeves have been added or the side seams sewn). Then Marcy shows her easy technique for setting in a knit sleeve, and how to press the armscye. I should add that Katherine and Marcy have different preferences for some aspects of construction, and they clearly explain the differences, why, and encourage you to choose the best technique for you. Katherine leads the last lesson, which discusses how to finish the t-shirt. She discusses various hemming techniques and shows both her favorite technique, and Marcy's.

For the last 10 minutes of the class, Marcy and Katherine host a trunk show. They pull from a rack of creative and artistic tees they have made and share info about each one: what interesting techniques were used, how they combined different weights of knits or different prints, how they changed the hem/side seam shaping, the use of stripes - how they varied things up. I love this section.

I should add that neither a serger, nor a coverstitch machine, are required for this class. (I do not own a cover stitch machine and often sew knits without a serger.)

Even though I am an experienced with sewing knits, I learned some useful nuggets. An "a ha" moment for me was Marcy's technique for transferring the pin alterations to the front and back of both side seams. (I have always found this step to be a pain.) Sprinkled throughout the class, they have included all sorts of useful tips, such as "how to tame a rolling edge". I find that this is often how I learn - even one or two tips can make it worthwhile.

If you have never taken a Craftsy class, you should know that you can ask questions in each lesson. You can also see the questions that other students have asked, as well as the responses from the teachers or from other students. I noticed that Katherine and Marcy are very actively answering the questions and, in some cases, going into lots of detail.

As I watched the class, I found myself obsessed by the adorable iron that Marcy and Katherine are using. I did some sleuthing and discovered that it's a Rowenta DW6080 Eco-Intelligence Iron 1700-Watt Steam Iron with 3D Stainless Steel Soleplate.I really love my Reliable V100 and don't need a new iron, but this is soooo cute! If you own this iron, or have used it, I'd love to hear your review.

Wow, it's Friday! I have a lot of sewing I'd like to get done this weekend, but we'll see how much I accomplish. I hope your weekend is a good one!

Free Vintage Pattern Drafting ebook

Would you like a very cool, vintage pattern drafting book in ebook form? And it's free?

Head on over to the blog, The Perfect Nose, and you can download it. It's a PDF file, so you can view it via any app (eg, Preview on the Mac, or Adobe Reader) that can view PDF.

I leave you with a photo that DD1 sent me a few days ago. It makes me smile.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Technique - Inserting Jumbo Zippers

Here's a short and sweet tutorial for inserting an exposed zipper into the hem of a garment. In my case, I put zippers in the hem of a pair of jeans, and also created front angled zipper pockets.

The zippers I used were 1.5" wide and 7" long - the zipper teeth are 3/8" wide. I decided that I wanted to expose 1" of the zipper.

Before you begin, make sure that you have the hem length worked out. Once the zipper is in, it will be *very* difficult to make the hem shorter, for example.

  • Change the order of sewing so that the side seams are completed before the inside leg seam, if you plan to place the zippers on the side seam. Top-stitch the seam if desired. The zipper will be inserted while the leg is flat, before the inseam is sewn.
  • Using a scrap of muslin, draw the zipper opening onto the muslin. The zipper was 7" long, but I drew the vertical lines 8" long, to accommodate a 1" hem. Draw another vertical line, exactly in the center of the first two lines. This is used for positioning the zipper opening onto the garment.
  • Lay the muslin on the outside of the garment. The raw edge of the muslin is aligned with the raw edge of the garment. You can place the zipper wherever you want, but I wanted it on the side seam. Align the center line on the muslin with the side seam and pin in place.
  • Set the stitch length on your machine to a short length, and stitch around the three edges of the outline. (If you've ever made the window for a welt pocket, the process is similar.) The picture below shows both pant legs, one on top of another.
  • Cut down the center of the "window", angling to the corners. Trim away the excess fabric.
  • Press the seams open and turn the muslin to the inside of the pant. Thread baste into place.
  • Pin the zipper into place, making sure it is centered in the opening.
  • Put the zipper foot on your machine and top-stitch into place.
  • Remove the thread basting and hem the pants as normal.

The process for inserting the zippered pockets was similar. In that case I drafted a pocket bag and put the pockets in at a 60° angle.

Before adding the pocket bag

More About Vogue Sizing

I want to talk a bit more about a subject I brought up in my Open Letter to Vogue Patterns post. This post is thanks to Anne, who commented on my pants post. In her comment, Anne wrote:

" My hips are now 34", which is a size 4 in the Big 4. Most patterns do not even go down to a size 4. "

I don't understand - 34" hips are between an 8 and a 10 in Vogue patterns.

Bless you, Anne!! When I read your comment (and at least one other person mentioned this too, but I couldn't find her comment), I was perplexed. I grabbed one of my Vogue patterns and, yup, a 34" hip is between a size 8 and a size 10, according to the Vogue chart.

It took me a minute to realize what happened, and why I wrote what I did. And then I was totally delighted!

I was delighted because this PERFECTLY illustrates the point I was trying to make about the sizing of the Big 4 (Vogue, McCalls, Butterick, Simplicity) patterns.

In these patterns, I do NOT choose my pattern size based on my body measurements. If I did, it would often result in a too-large garment, because they use so much ease.

Let me illustrate how I got to a size 4 from a 34" hip. Two of my favorite recent pants patterns are Vogue 8859 and Vogue 8837. These are, respectively, Marcy Tilton's and Katherine Tilton's skinny pants. I love them and made both last year. I ordered a new copy of each pattern because of my size change, as I had chopped up my original copies. (If I pay $20 for a pattern, I trace it off. For $3, I cut it up.)

When I open up the pattern tissue of a pattern, I first look for the finished measurements that they usually print ON the pattern tissue. I dearly wish they would put this info on the envelope/website so you would know before you order. (And, by the way, it's good to double check this measurement, because it can be wrong.)

For Katherine's pattern, the finished hip measurement for the size Small (size 8-10) is listed as 36". For me, that is more ease than I want in a skinny pant made with a stretch denim. I want zero ease. A size XS (4-6) is listed as 34" at the finished hip.

Before my recent weight loss, my hips measured 36" which, according to Vogue, is a size 12. However, I routinely made my Vogue pants in a size 6 or 8, because there was so much ease built into the patterns.

Also, if you are wondering why I always list my measurements and my sizes on my blog posts, let me tell you why. It is because I am, fundamentally, a very lazy sewist. I do not keep a record of these things, outside of my blog. I list them because I often go back to my posts to check these details. It's not about bragging, because I don't think many people would brag about a 32" waist. ;)

So, THANK YOU to Anne for pointing this out! These days I have the memory of a gnat, so I had already forgotten about the process I go through for choosing my size, which is based on finished measurements of the garment. I know how much ease I want in a t-shirt, or a blouse, or pants, so I can make a more educated decision when choosing a pattern. The faster you learn how much ease YOU want in a pattern, and understand the large amount of ease that the Big 4 pattern companies use, the more quickly you take the power into your own hands on fitting your garments.

I am eager to write some other posts for you, but I am also eager to sew. It's a dilemma, I tell you. I am working on a weekender sort of bag. I am going on a retreat soon and I need this, but I am feeling the pull to make more clothes. It's a pickle, given that my time is somewhat limited by work and other obligations. ;)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Hot Date Jeans!

Sometimes, the sooner one accepts that one is a freak and gets on with it, the better.

I accepted this fact a long time ago.

With my recent weight loss, I have found myself pining for pants that fit me. Really fit me and that do not swim around my backside. People will say to me, without much sympathy, "just make some!"

If it were only so easy. None of my TNT patterns fit me any more. I have "measured out" of most pattern lines. My hips are now 34", which is a size 4 in the Big 4. Most patterns do not even go down to a size 4. I have tried a couple, but they have a "trouser" like fit through the rear - in other words, they loosely skim the derriere region.

I do not want a trouser like fit, with no butt definition. I want a jeans-like fit. I used to go down a size in the back for a better fit, but I can't do that anymore, at least not in most patterns.

I have become a butt-less wonder. Woe is me.

Finally, out of desperation, I bought two pair of jeans on ebay. I went to the store to figure out what size I now wear in the Not Your Daughter's Jeans brand. The size 0 fit me through the hips, but I could not zip them over my ooshy-gooshy belly. Because, you see, if you have a 34" hip, you are supposed to have a 25" waist. My waist is somewhere around 32", depending on the time of day and how snugly I'm pulling on the tape measure.

In the end, I compromised on a size 2 in the NYDJ brand. These are still a bit roomy through the hip, and they also throttle me in the waist. It's nothing I can't handle, but it's not the most ideal situation.

So I decided to give the Jalie Jeans pattern another try, mostly because of the enormous range of sizes they come in. Back when I last made a pair, a couple years ago, I had traced off a size V. According to their chart, my hips are now a size Q.

That is a childrens size. The size of a 13-year-old, if you believe their chart.

Hence the freak comment.

My waist is between a size U and W on the Jalie chart. That is no problem, of course, but just a matter of a minor alteration, of several pattern pieces.

I traced off a size Q, enlarged the waist and all of the corresponding pattern pieces (mostly pockets), straightened the lower leg to remove the boot cut, grabbed some pink denim and some printed denim, and my plans for Memorial Day weekend were complete.

I first made the pink jeans. For these, I used a straight leg, but otherwise followed the pattern as designed. Wait, that's not quite true. Instead of an actual zipper, I used a mock fly and an elastic waist. Now, I know many of you scorn the elastic waistband. And if you have a waist that is several inches smaller than your hips, I understand why. But if, like me, you have a 1" or 2" difference between your waist and hips, an elastic waistband makes a lot of sense and doesn't add bulk. Believe me in this and do not scorn me.

Working on the front pockets

and the back pockets

I have to thank Margy for this excellent denim, sourced from Emma One Sock. It was listed as red stretch denim, but when it arrived, Margy didn't feel it was her red, so I gratefully inherited this lovely fabric. It it such a light red, that I call it pink, though it's more like a soft strawberry red.

I was pretty happy with these jeans, so I went back to the pattern and created a more tapered leg. For the second pair, I wanted to change things up. I wanted to use some big, bold zippers I had found locally and a wild printed black-and-white denim. (I'm not positive, but it may have come from Emma One Sock, but long ago.) I wanted to make this pair more tapered, with angled front zipper pockets and zippers at the hem. I had pinned some pants to my Pinterest Jeans board for inspiration.

This pair sewed up quickly. I had to change the order of construction around, due to the zippers, but it was not difficult.

I just love these jumbo zippers! I wish I could get more of them. They are 7" long, 1.5" wide, and the teeth are 3/8" wide.

I plan to create a tutorial showing how I inserted the zippers into the hem.

Oh, you probably want to know, are these jeans really for a hot date? No, I was joshing you. I did wear them tonight, but it was to an event at DD2's high school - she was giving her senior project presentation. Afterwards, a friend and I went out for dinner. A fun evening, but hardly a hot date. :)

Blogger Meetup - Fare Thee Well, Amy!

Thanks to Britex for the photo!

You know that I love me a good blogger meetup! And this was a great blogger meetup, though the occasion is a bit sad.

Amy, of Sew Well, has abandoned our fair city and escaped to northern climes. I hear that she wanted to be closer to Puyallup and the famous Sewing Expo. Or she is tiring of temperate weather and seeks a climate that requires more layers of clothing with opportunities to sew a larger wardrobe. Or maybe she just wanted to follow her husband to his new job.

We may never know the full truth.

The worst part is that it means we must now be deprived of one of the nicest sewists (and people) that you could ever meet.

Because Amy is a natural born organizer (and I am not), she arranged a farewell get together. Britex graciously offered to host a blogger gathering, complete with champagne toast.

After leaving Britex, we repaired to a local wine bar, for more bonding.

It was a great meetup! I have been lucky enough to attend all of our meetups since the first one that Beth, of Sunny Gal Studio organized a couple years ago.

Both Jillian and Beth have already done a great job of recapping the evening, but, I have to say, we just about closed down the wine bar with our amiable chatting.

Yes, the window of the All Saints store, next door to Britex, is full of antique Singers.

It is so nice to be among one's own kind! I think that Kelly summed it up well when she said that it's rare to be in a group of people, and mention something, like the "Colette Sew Along", and people understand what you mean!

Amen, sister. Amen.

Vanessa and I are deep in conversation. (Thanks to Jillian for this picture!)

I am very grateful for my sewing community, both in person and online. At least I can continue to keep up with Amy's activities through her blog. And, one of these days, I just may make it up to Seattle and I will have a sewing friend locked and loaded.

I also want to link to all the bloggers:

(Thanks to Jillian for this picture!)

Amy, may you find a warm and welcoming community of sewists and bloggers in your new city. I wish you all the best!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Weekend Update and PenWAG Fashion Show

Thanks to each of you for your feedback on my Open Letter to Vogue. This has generated some discussion, which is a good thing. There is another blog post you might want to check out: Robin, of A Little Sewing, wrote her own Letter to the Big Four.

Last Sunday, I attended the Peninsula Wearable Art Guild's Fashion Show. This fashion show is held every two years but it was the first time I had attended. It gave me an opportunity to wear my new Shingle dress.

The best part of the fashion show is to see people I hadn't seen in awhile. In the photo above, you might recognize some very accomplished sewists who post reviews on Pattern Review. Starting from the left, Barbara V is wearing Sandra Betzina's latest dress pattern. Ann Smith is wearing an Issey Miyake jacket, that she made awhile back. (You need an account on Pattern Review to see older reviews, but a free account works.) Dorothy K is wearing her "piano dress", which I don't believe she has ever posted anywhere - I want to rectify that right now, because this deserves to be seen.

Several years ago the De Young Museum, in San Francisco, had an Yves Saint Laurent exhibit. Dorothy was so inspired that she made a series of dresses inspired by YSL. They are all fabulous and this is one of them. Each one of those black keys on the keyboard is an applique.

Dorothy is wearing the perfect earrings to accompany the dress. These earrings, by a company called Lunch at the Ritz, are black and white and feature a dancing couple, a top-hat, white gloves, and the word STORK, a reference to the Stork Club. Perfect!

The charming dolls at my table.

Also, for the fashion show, members of PenWAG make handmade dolls. The dolls are used as table centerpieces during the fashion show, and are then auctioned off via silent auction at the end. My friend Sarah Bunje took home the intricate, jointed, colorful doll featured on the right of the above photo. These dolls have so much character!

I am glad of the 3-day weekend, but not getting quite as much sewing done as I'd hoped. Last week I was working on a dress, but I had to table it. It required a lot of tricky fitting and then I realized I didn't have enough fabric. Then I made a pair of pants, in a size 4, but wasn't happy with the loose trouser-like fit through the rear. Then I decided to make another pair of pants, using another pattern. I finished those yesterday and am making a 2nd pair. Lots of sewing happening, but not a lot to show.

Happy Memorial Day, for those of you who celebrate. Happy Monday, if not.

Friday, May 24, 2013

An Open Letter to Vogue Patterns

I came soooo close to writing this blog post about a month ago. But for some reason, I held off. Largely due to sheer laziness, I imagine, because a post like this takes a lot of thought and energy to write. But there have been rumors of a recent change in the leadership at Vogue Patterns (which actually flies under the McCalls banner, and they also own Butterick and Kwik Sew, but I mostly sew Vogue) and some of my sewing friends were talking about their satisfaction (or lack thereof) with the current Vogue product line. It got me thinking about this letter, which I had largely composed in my head weeks ago, so here goes.

Dear Vogue Patterns,

First, let me say that, after having used your patterns for my sewing life of over 40 years, I have loved your products. But it feels that, in recent years, you have lost your way. So, as a longtime customer who represents one segment of your market, let me tell you why I think that is.

Not that you asked. This is my gift to you. :)

You seem to have forgotten your customer and what she (or he) wants. I apologize, in advance, for the length of this letter. I had more to say, but I ran out of steam.

  • Fit is everything.

    Let me just say it again. Fit.Is.Everything. I can't tell you how many sewists I have met who tell me they have given up on sewing clothing for themselves because they can't get the clothes to fit. So they sew quilts, or purses, or baby clothes, or home dec items, with maybe the occasional pajama bottom.

    The basic block (or sloper) you use in your patterns is atrocious. When was the last time you updated this? You use far too much ease in most of your patterns (which are not consistent, by the way). Your shoulder is too wide for most of us - I often have to narrow it by 1-1/2" to 2". You have too much ease through the upper bodice area. Your bust point is ridiculously high - I usually have to lower it by 2". Your hips are too wide and your waist is too small, but I admit that these latter two are my own figure peculiarities. (But please keep in mind that some of us are not pear shaped.) Your crotch curve works for almost no one. No. one.

    When a poor, unsuspecting sewist has chosen to sew with one of your patterns, she is starting off at a huge disadvantage, fit wise. Are you familiar with the Australian pattern company, Style Arc? The success of that company is largely due to the RTW fit of the designs and the excellent pattern drafting. The same can be said of the Canadian company, Jalie.

    And before I leave the topic of fit, could you consider offering more fit options for pants? Maybe have a few designs that features your "classic" fit with the J-shaped crotch curve, so you don't alienate your existing base of satisfied pant sewists (if they exist). Then maybe offer a few designs with the European L-shaped crotch curve. I, for one, would really welcome a pant designed for women with no derriere, which happens to many of us in middle age.

    It would make pants fitting so much easier, if one could start with a pattern that had some of the fit issues worked out. I would find this feature to be much more valuable than built-in cup sizes, as you never offer a size large enough for my bust, and the bust point is always in the wrong place, so it's easier for me to start from scratch and do my own full bust alteration.

  • Enough with the Very Easy patterns, already.

    We are being flooded with Very Easy patterns. You seem to judge the difficulty of a pattern largely by how many pattern pieces it uses. This is often a false equivalency. In the process of reducing the number of pattern pieces, you eliminate facings, and simplify other aspects of the design, often to the point where it's not worth the effort of making it - you've lost the essence of what made the design appealing.

    When someone from the "Very Easy" target customer base (ie. a beginning sewist) chooses one of your patterns and sews it up, what usually results is a poorly fitting, boxy, shapeless, mess of a garment and good money down the drain. How about cutting back on the number of Very Easy offerings and make sure that they are stellar designs with a good fit?

  • Challenge and excite us.

    Gone are the days, at least for most of us, of sewing to save money. It has become almost impossible to sew clothing cheaper than what you can buy, thanks to the mass market globalization of clothing production. Most of us sew for two reasons (these are the reasons I sew):

    • To achieve a good fit.
    • As a way of creative expression.

    Therefore, we want to be challenged and excited by the pattern offerings available to us. While I am a member of the BMV club, and do enjoy buying Vogue patterns for $3 in those sales, I (and many of my sewing friends) are finding less and less that we want to buy.

    First, you recently dropped from offering new patterns 6 times a year to 4 times a year. This was a Bad Sign. But even worse, the patterns you offer are so repetitive. The silhouettes, the details... it reminds me of Dorothy Parker's famous quote about Katherine Hepburn: "she delivered a striking performance that ran the gamut of emotions, from A to B."

    Sewists are willing to spend money on an excellent product, as witnessed by our increased frequenting of independent pattern companies, which can't compete with your pricing, and still we buy. How about offering more variety? There is a strong niche of retro sewists, and you seem to have tapped into that market somewhat, but more of that would be welcome, I'm sure. The retro sewists are an enthusiastic bunch who really commit to their passion.

    There are many sewists interested in Lagenlook designs. You have offered some, in the past, but they were often rated "Very Easy" and didn't capture the best essence of Lagenlook in the fun details. They often were a bit "off" in the fit/style and were never shown, to advantage, on the pattern envelope. And you seem to be getting away from this look entirely, with fewer and fewer offerings. Personally, I pine for the great Lagenlook pants patterns that used to be offered by Marcy Tilton and others, but are (mostly) no longer to be found in your catalog.

    What about the plus sized sewist? She wants to be fashionable too. She doesn't want more patterns of sac dresses with ill fitting shoulders. She often has a waist and always wants to show her figure to its best advantage in stylish clothing, including career wear.

    Bring back juniors. When my daughters were in that tween stage, it was almost impossible to find stylish patterns to sew for them. I, myself, am no longer able to sew most of your pants patterns as I am now measuring into a size 4. Please bring back junior styles and sizing!

    I don't sew for a guy, but if I did, I would *hate* it. Where are the interesting patterns for men and boys?

    And why, oh WHY, do you offer endless dress patterns to the exclusion of better separates? I know we are currently in a "dress era", but really! Many of us live in separates and want fun options there, too. A wider variety of pants, please. (Did I mention I love pants?)

  • Offer more designer patterns.

    Please enlist new designers and offer us new, exciting patterns. Give us a wider range of options, and do a better job representing what is available in RTW, particularly in terms of details, and in a timely way. Don't underestimate our skills, or our desire to be challenged. Surprise us.

    And, before I leave the subject of Designer patterns: I understand that you receive the garment from the designer, and then draft the pattern using your own fitting block. You then write the instructions, using your own methods of construction, rather than the methods that may have been used by the designer. OK. But then you photograph the *original garment* for the pattern envelope. This can be rather misleading. How about having someone sew the pattern up and then photograph that garment? It would be a more honest representation of the product.

  • Details, details, details.

    Details are everything. (I know, I said "Fit is Everything", but it's both, really.) I really will buy a pattern just to get a great pocket, or a great collar or sleeve, or some other detail, but that happens so rarely these days because you just aren't offering much variety in these areas. I know sewists who buy patterns just to see how a technique is achieved, or how a pattern is drafted, especially if it's someone unconventional like Issey Miyake. Cooks will take a cookbook to bed to read. Sewists will take a pile of patterns. (That can't just be me.) Please respect us enough to up the ante. In return, we will flock to buy it.

P.S. If you want to talk, let me know. I'm open. :)

Friday, May 17, 2013

Weekend Miscellanea

First, I want to thank you for all of your wonderful feedback on my Marcy Tilton dress! I am very happy with it and have three events in the coming week where I could wear it.

Second, a couple people have asked if I have had surgery, specifically a boob job. If you really knew me, you'd know how funny this thought is. I am a Numero Uno medical weenie. I pretty much avoid medical procedures when at all possible.

My smaller bust (9" smaller than last fall) is due to diet and exercise. I have also been asked to talk more about my weight loss process. I do plan to do a post on the subject, but am not quite ready yet. And I plan to do just one post, because I want to keep this as a sewing blog. So stay tuned.

Oh, and I still maintain that this is a very flattering dress. I think it makes me look smaller than I really do.

Third, I finally succumbed and ordered the Bold & Beautiful Easy-Sew Clothes: 15 Unstructured Designs That Fit and Flatter Every Shape, and Are Simple to Make by Habibe Acikgoz. I was holding off on buying it until I could see a copy, but I read so many enthusiastic reviews, I finally went for it.

This is a paperback book containing a number of flowy, loosely fitted Lagenlook designs. Right now I am interested in sewing more body conscious clothing, so I don't plan to use the patterns (included on a CD), but I can see incorporating some of the very interesting details into other garments, such as the funky pockets and shaped facings.

Finally, I have been really dithering on what to sew next. This isn't that unusual for me in the last year or so, but since 98% of my wardrobe is now too big and makes me feel frumpy, you'd think I'd be raring to make new clothes, but not so much. I have started doing some closet purging, on a small scale. I hope that this will loosen up the process a bit.

I am thinking that my next project might be another dress. Two dresses in a row. Is that going to weird you guys out too much?

It weirds me out a bit. ;)

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Vogue 8904 - Marcy's Shingle "Wiggle" Dress

I think I've figured out why this sort of dress is called a "wiggle dress"!
For me, at least, wiggling is involved in taking it off!

This is the closest I've gotten to making a mainstream style dress in twenty years.

And I love it!

There is lots to say about this excellent pattern, so let's get started.

This dress consists of two layers of fabric, except for the sleeves. There is a base layer, and then the "shingles" are laid on top, from the bottom up, and stitched in place. I used a St John's rayon lycra striped knit that I bought from Emma One Sock some time ago. I did not have enough of the stripe (I had maybe 2.5-3 yards) for the entire dress (I made the long view, with 3/4 length sleeves) so I cut the base layer out of a solid black rayon lycra. The sleeves are a single layer of fabric.

This pattern is described as "close fitting" and calls for either a "rayon spandex" or "cotton spandex" fabric. Vogue patterns typically have the finished measurements for bust, waist and hips marked on the pattern tissue. That is not true for this pattern. So you don't know what "close fitting" means unless you measure it yourself. I never let the pattern company decide how much ease I want. I am the boss of me. ;) I am not sure why Vogue didn't include the finished measurements, but maybe they think that negative ease will scare people.

I measured the size 14 and 16 at the bust and found that they used about 1.5" to 2" of negative ease. For example, the size 16 is designed for someone with a 38" bust and the pattern tissue measured about 36.5" at the bustline. My full bust currently measures 41". I measured my best fitting t-shirt and decided I wanted to use the size 16.

If you want a looser fit, use a larger size. If you don't wear dresses, make this as a t-shirt. :)


I used a few alterations on the paper pattern:

  • The neckline is a boat neck. That does not work well on my narrow, rounded shoulders. So I changed the neckline to a jewel neck. This involved modifying 4 pattern pieces: the front, back, the front shingle and back shingle.

  • Because I chose the size based on the finished bust measurement, I didn't want to add width for my bust. Therefore, I did a vertical only FBA. I wanted enough fabric to go up and over my bust, so I added 1.5" to length at the bustline - this excess gets eased in at the bust level as I sew the side seam. This alteration involved modifying the front and the front shingle.

    The neckline alteration and the vertical FBA.

    I shortened the sleeve to 3/4" length.

    I did NOT have to reduce the shoulder seam, which is very unusual. Therefore, this pattern has a much narrower shoulder than most Vogue designs. (I usually have to pull in the shoulder seam by 1.5" to 2" on Vogue patterns.)

Once the dress was put together, I tweaked a couple of things. I like to do this during construction rather than during pattern alterations. I narrowed the sleeve by 2" so that it would hug the arm at the bottom edge. I also had to remove the considerable pear shaping at the hip. I removed about 6" from the hip, and carried this right down to the hem.


A few notes about the construction of the dress:

  • All of the edges are raw. You could, of course, hem each shingle, as well as the sleeves, but if the shingles were hemmed, it wouldn't lay in quite the same way.
  • The pattern instructs you to finish the neckline with an encased binding. I didn't do this. I used one of my favorite Marcy Tilton finishes. I've never seen her publish this anywhere, but I saw it on one of her garments several years ago and have replicated it several times. It also produces a raw edge, but it's stabilized by several thicknesses of fabric, and I think it's perfect on this dress. You can see it in detail on this blog post.
  • I was a bit leery of stitching the shingles onto the base layer. Rayon lycra can be a flimsy, stretchy beast. So after I cut out the front and back layers from the solid black fabric, I used painter's tape to mark where each shingle would go. I placed the tape 5/8" above the line marked on the pattern tissue. Then I laid the shingle so that the raw edge met the edge of the painter's tape. I used lots of pins to hold the shingle in place. I stitched the seam with a long (4), narrow (2) zig zag stitch. The tape helped stabilize any wiggling. Once the shingle was secured, I removed that length of tape and proceeded to the next shingle. I don't know if these precautions were really necessary, but they worked for me.
The front with the painters tape applied
The first two shingles attached

A couple more notes about the shingles.:

  • Before I cut out the shingles, I used a sharpie to draw a line perpendicular to the grainline on each shingle. This makes it much easier to make sure you are cutting the shingles correctly by aligning the sharpie line with the stripe. I cut each shingle out one at a time, single thickness. And I hope it goes without saying, you want a stripe that has stretch in both directions. There should be a lot of stretch *around* the body.
  • One of the lower shingles. The perpendicular grainline has been drawn with a blue sharpie.
  • As you attach a shingle, it overlaps the shingle below by about 3". This is good, so that the seams and the base layer of fabric aren't exposed as you move around.
  • Once all of the shingles are attached, you are almost done. It's easy peasy from this point on - like sewing up a giant t-shirt. However, you now have multiple layers of fabric to deal with. What I did was to sew the shoulders, then to baste the neckline layers together and try them on to make sure there was no weird bumps or wrinkling. I finished the neckline. I then basted the armscye and, once again, made sure everything laid well. I sewed on the sleeves. I then basted each side seam separately (front left, front right, back left, back right). I *then* pinned the side seams, matching stripes as well as possible, and stitched. Since there is no hemming, this is a pretty fast dress to sew.
Look Ma, No Shapewear!

I have three events in the next month where I can wear this. I really like my funky boots, but am not sure I like them with the dress. Thoughts?

Vogue 8904