Monday, July 23, 2012

New Look 6100: I Made Shorts!

Until today I had a grand total of one pair of shorts in my drawer: a sad pair of black nylon swim shorts that had ARMY printed on one leg. Got 'em at the thrift store when I needed some for swimming in a river last year. And haven't worn them again since!

So maybe that tells you a little about my penchant for wearing shorts; i.e., I don't have one.

But something about the photos I'd seen on some of my favorite sewing blogs, plus the drawings for New Look 6100, made me think this pattern might work for me. The contour waist, side zipper, angled pockets and, most of all, flared legs, seemed different from the other patterns I have for pants and shorts.

I really like them. The flared legs are great for my inner thigh fullness--no wrinkles! And I think the contour waistband and side zipper are so nice and clean. No fly front zipper pokes out over the round curve of my tummy. I understand the thinking that the fly front gives a nice vertical line for the eye and is therefore slimming, but a flat front just seems to work better for me.

The fabric is a cotton sateen with stretch from FabricMart and boy does it grab lint, fuzz and hair with enthusiasm! Not a good thing when the dog of the house is a Great Pyrenees.

I almost cut the size 14, as my weight has been more on the upper side of where I want it to be this last month or two. But after checking the finished garment measurements, I realized that would be just too much fullness. I cut and sewed the 12, and they feel really good, but I'm concerned about them growing through the day and feeling too roomy. Next time I might cut a smidge smaller than the 12, depending on fabric. This is all to say that the pattern seems generously sized to me.

I sewed them straight from the envelope. No adjustments. Let me repeat, no adjustments. Amazed.

Looking at the back here, I can see that I need to do something to refine the back darts, but I'm not so sure what. Suggestions welcomed!

I did not do any topstitching other than at the pocket edges. Nothing is more discouraging than laboring over beautiful topstitching and then finding out the garment is a poor fit. Next pair I'll add more topstitching.

As to the length, these are 14 1/2" from the waistband to the hem. I did not use the hem facing but turned up a double 1" hem. The finished inseam is 4", which sounds short, but doesn't look too short to me. I think it has to do with the crotch depth, too.

New Look's instructions for finishing the waist facing at the invisible zipper didn't appeal, so I went my own way, with not such good results (the top edge is symmetrical, but flares out a bit at each side). After the fact, I went searching for a good tutorial, and Sherry's very clear method is what I'll be using in the future.

It's worth noting that these go together quickly and easily: a fast, fun project. And my word, this patterns has brought shorts to the (basically) shortless.

More versions are in the planning stages! Next I'd like to try View B, which is fuller and 2" longer. I have a piece of beige linen that may get the nod. Thinking these will wind up more like culottes, which sounds fine to me!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Jalie 2681, Knit Trumpet Skirt

Canadian pattern company Jalie does a good job with its patterns, but I probably would not have ordered this one if I could have found its equivalent in the widely distributed U.S. pattern lines. But strangely, this seemed to be the best solution for an eight-gored knit skirt with the option to insert godets.  I ordered from during one of its pattern sales, which was the best deal I could find.

Jalie describes this pattern as a choice of A: short trumpet skirt, B: an A-line skirt, C: godet-inset hem, D: flounce hem, E: longer trumpet skirt. The pattern requires a fabric with 30% stretch, and it comes in sizes from tiny girl through plus-sized woman.

There are only two challenges in making a skirt like this: first, pleasing proportions (finding the right hem length and the best place to start the flare) and second, selecting a good fabric. I wanted the hem to hit right at the center of my knee, so you can see that I didn't achieve that! The longer length trumpet skirt, E, ends up being about 26", while the short trumpet skirt, A, is a very short 16". Really what I needed was about 19-20". I decided to choose A, because the taper of the flare was more gradual for the longer skirt. I added an inch to the top of A, but I should have added more like four or five inches. This would have given the length I wanted, plus I think it would have placed the flare in a more flattering position below my full thighs.

I added a wide waistband for more length, but that was not too successful because of my fabric choice. This is a ponte knit with less than 30% stretch which may or may not be Sophia knit. My eagle-eyed son spotted a bolt with over five yards on it in a thrift store. What a great find! It was only $5. Since the fabric wasn't very stretchy, I used a bit larger size than I would normally have picked (U rather than T or S), and I sized the waistband generously. Too generously, in fact, since it is loose and floppy. I have to fold it in half and pull it low on my hips. So that essentially defeated all but an inch or two of the lengthening effect.

So of the two challenges (length/flare and fabric), I haven't yet sorted out either one. I did make the longer skirt, View E, in the same ponte knit, but black (also from the thrift store, but a much smaller piece). The black skirt is very comfortable and unexciting. I tried to take a picture of it, but you know how it is with black garments: the skirt just looked like any other black skirt. The flare of the longer view is indeed more gradual, so it doesn't read like a trumpet skirt.

I would love your input on pleasing proportions and fabric recommendations! I hope to be able to make several of these skirts for daily wear and for swing dancing. The flare at the bottom is very swishy and fun. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Two More of Simplicity 1880!

My first post about Simplicity 1880 actually showed my third iteration of the dress. There are things I find better about the fit of the third dress, but I like the fabric of the first two versions much better.

The very first go-round was a brown and white polka dot poly charmeuse from Hancock Fabrics. I don't often work with fabric like this and thought it might be challenging. Quite the opposite was true--it was easy to cut and sew, frayed very little and has washed well. It does want to build up static when conditions are right, but overall it proves what I sometimes think about fabric--it's so difficult to know how well something will do until you try it.

On both this version and the next, I was so short on fabric that using the cap sleeve was the only option. I even had to use a solid brown lawn from my stash for the sleeve facings. There was no way to make a self-fabric belt, and anything else I've tried looks wrong. So no belt for this dress.

This version was pre-FBA, so the bodice has its snug spots.

The back drapes well in this fabric.

I love the color of version 2. This is a stretch cotton, similar to a shirting weight, from FabricMart. The cutting layout was carefully planned to eke out enough fabric (from a two-yard 54" wide cut--just!) for a self-fabric belt, with an adorable covered buckle from Sunni at A Fashionable Stitch. Although I love the small circular shape of this buckle, I realized after I had already started sticking the fabric to the buckle form that careful notching along the outside edge would have been a good idea. The instructions on the package don't mention this, and it would be tricky to do just right, but geometry being what it is, the outer edges of the buckle aren't as perfectly smooth as I would like.

The scarf is a recent $1 Goodwill find. I am in love with vintage rayon scarves from Japan--they have beautiful subtle color combinations and also some wonderful geometric designs.

Side view. For whatever reason, I did not have the "puffiness" issue in the back that other sewers mentioned. I always thought of myself as rather shortwaisted in back, so I don't really know how to account for this. Here again I had an acute shortage of fabric, so I couldn't self-line the sleeves. Instead I was able to make two strips of bias fabric (1 1/2" wide) to make a narrow bias facing. Turning that edge to the inside without a facing would not be a pretty way to finish such a curved hem.

Back view. The drape is not as nice as the brown and white fabric, and this fabric is no cakewalk to press.

The brown and white dress has been swing dancing, and maybe next week the coral dress will have its turn. I feel completely comfortable and secure in all of these dresses. There is no possibility of a strap showing, or the hem flying up too high or anything coming untucked. I love the simplicity and ease of it!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Burda 7831 OOP Blouse

The cute pattern photos seduced me. I thought this blouse might turn out a bit too sweet, and so it did. I'm sure I'll wear it to death despite that, as I have no other white short sleeved blouse and need one terribly!

Burda 7831 is now out of print, but still quite available on eBay and Etsy if you'd like a copy. It features a rounded roll collar, front vertical bust darts, back vertical darts, gathered short sleeves and a separate front placket.

My blouse is constructed from a tone-on-tone white stripe fabric from FabricMart Fabrics. This piece was part of a bunch of solid shirtings I ordered in the late spring. Like many of the other fabrics in that lot, this one was listed as 100% cotton but turned out to have quite a bit of stretchy lycra. It did not like to be pressed and would definitely scorch if touched with too much heat or without a press cloth. If it holds up well to washing and wearing, I will forgive its persnickety behavior during construction. If not, I will be less than thrilled with this purchase.

The few reviews I could locate on line (all of which turned out very nicely) mentioned that the construction of the collar and stand are unusual. Both the upper and the under collars are stitched to their respective stands and then these two units are stitched together along their outer edges. The other reviewers said that stitching the collar to the stand was difficult. With a 5/8" seam allowance, it most certainly would be. Much better to trim those allowances to 1/4" before sewing them together, which makes the seam quite easy to sew. I didn't even need to pin.

My collar wants to flip up in the back, and I don't know whether to fault the construction methodology or my sewing for that. Probably my sewing, darn it all.

Sizing was standard Burda, except that this blouse runs very, very short. I like a short blouse with skirts, as the proportion seems better, and I myself am short. But it really is much shorter than any other contemporary blouse--not even 20" from the shoulder to the hem. I used a size 8 at the shoulders and neck, tapering to a 10 through the waist and high hip. I always say this, but now I think I should have used a smaller size through the upper chest. The pattern goes down to a 6, so that would have been possible.

Instead of making a casing at the sleeve hem, I used pre-made bias binding as a sleeve band and gathered the middle 7" of the sleeve hem to fit the diameter of the band, which was determined by measuring the circumference of my bicep (I used a 12" band).

Here is a full length view of the blouse worn with a skirt (Simplicity 4091, which I plan to review soon):

It's a comfortable blouse that should be very useful with skirts, so I'm glad to have it. Now that I'm over the cuteness of the pattern photo, however, I think I'll experiment with a different blouse pattern with a yoke and a more conventional collar and stand construction for the next go-round. Simplicity 2339 is in the queue.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Circular Sock Machine

How is it that I didn't know about these vintage machines? Before I took up sewing I was an avid knitter. This was back in the early 1990s, before the knitting revival had taken hold. My love for knitting was absolute (I worked in a knitting shop, taught classes and could knit while reading a novel), but I developed dreadful tendonitis and had to find a new craft.

At a fiber arts fair today (my mother was demonstrating rug hooking with her club), I saw this wonderful contraption in use. Wow, so amazing. I love how it combines knitting socks (practical, beautiful, can never have too many) with an exotic 100-year-old machine.

The socks she was making were great, and I'm sorry I didn't get a photo. They have turned heels and toes and a mock ribbing pattern. Apparently ribbers are available with some of the models to make true ribbing. She made one sock in about an hour.

I want one of these machines!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Old Homeplace

My architect husband visited this old homeplace recently. He took these photos with his cell phone.

The house is perfection.

Living room with coffered ceiling, braided rugs, casement windows, comfortable chairs, old prints, a library table and, of course, a spinning wheel.

Dormitory bedroom for generations of boys.

Upstairs landing, with the obligatory Singer treadle sewing machine in an oak cabinet.

The last two shots may be my favorite spaces of all: the attic and the storage room.

Every time I look at the photos of this house, I feel the calming weight of long years. It's a whole world in green lawns, outdated bathrooms, beadboard and faded household possessions.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Feathery Fun: A Vintage-Inspired Hair Trifle

Attached to a comb, made up of stray objects from around the sewing room (plus one ostrich feather straight from China via eBay), I have no idea what to call this object, but I am looking forward to wearing it when the weather turns a bit cooler. For summer I've been relying on a huge red flower or a very fake-looking daisy to add a touch of the absurd to my swing dance coiffure.

By the way, is it not amazing that a person can buy 50 ostrich feathers from China for a mere $3.50, including postage? I'm thinking of purchasing these lovelies from the same seller. The trouble is knowing when to stop.

The turkey feather is resolutely domestic, straight from the muddy woods where my son goes to camp. Apparently I am not constrained by fears of mites, germs or other contaminants.

To make this confection, I contemplated using hot glue but decided instead to wire the various bits and bobs to the comb. This seemed more secure but also makes it possible to disassemble the whole lot for other uses in the future. I have the hardest time committing even the most random scraps to an inflexible use.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Simplicity 4546: A 3/4 Circle Skirt

With my new interest in swing dancing comes a curiosity about the properties of various cuts of skirts. Basically, I'm back to being six years old and wanting a twirly skirt. Except that, unlike when I was six, if I actually try spinning around very many times in a row I get dizzy and extremely nauseous.

Vertigo may curtail over-vigorous spinning, but it does nothing to squelch my dressmaking fervor. I would have tried this skirt as a full circle but...I was attempting to get a whole dress out of my 2 1/2 yard cut of rayon challis. With a little judicious adjusting of the angle of the skirt's side seam, I was able to cut a bodice (from a different Simplicity pattern) and version A of this skirt out of my yardage.

That skimping turned out to be for naught, as the bodice portion of the project ended up looking, well, bad. I did not like the contrasting white collar I had chosen, and the main fabric was very drab around my face. So I could perhaps have had a full circle after all, but this is more than full enough. All for the best, I'm sure.

Another reviewer on PatternReview noted of this pattern that it turned out too big in the waist on her first attempt. I had a similar experience. Since I was intending to make a dress, I measured the waist circumference at the seamline on the pattern prior to cutting out. When I tried on the basted-together cut pieces of fabric, the waist was about five inches bigger than I had measured! Yes, I did staystitch the waistline, but the stretching properties of the bias cut sections more than counteracted the staystitching.

To bring things back into line I cut a piece of rayon seam binding the desired waist measurement. After marking on the binding the center front, center back and sides, I stitched the binding to the waistline, easing the skirt to fit it. Problem solved, and there are no gathers or tucks at the seamline. It amazes me that five inches of excess ease could disappear without ill effect.

Once it became clear that the bodice was not going to work out, I added side inseam pockets, a 9" invisible zipper and a waistband (with 1" elastic inserted in place of interfacing). My husband marked the hem using our genius hem marking technique. Wow, the hem prior to marking and trimming was incredibly distorted! The difference between the lowest and highest spots was almost four inches!

As things were as short as I wanted them to be at that point, the hem was finished with a serger rolled edge.

I have no idea why I chose a black slip for this action shot, but here is how she twirls:

Monday, July 9, 2012

Simplicity 2247 Amazing Fit Dress

This dress struck me as simple to make, straightforward to fit and comfortable to wear. And it is all of those things, which is good.

It's also pretty boring. I made it last year and wore it a good many times. Today marks its first outing this year. I always think it needs something more. Sometimes I do wear it with a turquoise necklace and that helps.

2247 is one of Simplicity's multi-cup size patterns with separate pattern pieces for B, C and D cups. In the larger size range there are also pieces for DD cups. Normally Simplicity does a good job of making its patterns down to at least a size 8, but this one starts at 10. I made the 10 with the C front bodice pieces. I shortened the skirt pieces by 1" right below the waist. Those were all of my adjustments, best I can remember or tell by looking at the tissue.

I might like this dress better if I had been able to cut a size 8 in the neck and shoulder area, as I usually do.

The fabric is a Kaffe Fassett rayon challis print, bought from last year. Although I'm pretty over the print, it is an easy fabric to sew and it has held up very nicely through my not-so-gentle laundering practices.

I experimented with adding another recent make, the New Look 6559 bolero/shrug. I like the way it gives some extra shape and detail, but an extra layer of ponte knit isn't quite the thing for a warm summer afternoon.

This pattern goes down to a size 8, which was a nice fit in the shoulders and neck. On a subsequent version, I added some width to the center curved area, simply drawing a pleasing shape with a french curve. About as simple as a full bust adjustment comes!

Here is a shot of the one tricky thing about making a little jacket like this: how to finish the edge. Since this is a firm Sophia knit, I used pre-made bias tape, turned to the inside and topstitched. The pattern instructs you to serge or zigzag the edge and turn it to the inside and stitch, but perhaps we can all agree this is madness. Always looks ripply and terrible.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Simplicity 1880 Shirt Dress in Rayon Challis

When I worked in a fabric store, the other seamstresses all looked down their noses at Simplicity patterns and declared them inferior to Vogue, Burda, Butterick, McCall, New Look--in short, nearly every other mainstream pattern company (independents they had nothing to say about at all). As the voice of youth (at the tender age of 42), my protests that Simplicity's styles and drafting were now the best of the bunch went unheeded.

My fabric store days are no more, but my love for Simplicity continues to grow. The 1880 dress had so many elements that I had been looking for: yoke, front placket, waist seam, cap and pleated short sleeves and a full, but not gathered or pleated skirt. 

This is my third rendition (I hope to show the first two and future additional versions soon), and I am feeling as though I'm getting it down pat. I appreciate that Simplicity provides small sizes for most of its patterns, in this case starting at size 4 (which is microscopic). I used the size 8 at the shoulder and neck, tapering to size 10 in the waist and hips and making a 3/4" full bust adjustment on both sides (for a total of 1 1/2"). The waist length is good but nearly too short for 5'2" me, non-petites be warned.

 Here is a photo of my FBA. First I held the pattern up to my body and marked the bust point. Then I drew a line midway down the armscye to that point, and three lines through the middle of each of the three waist pleats. The pleats gained about 1/4" each. I contemplated adding to the gathers at the shoulder level but concluded that I needed the fullness lower. The extra room seems just right. 
Two things are less than perfect about this pattern for me: first, I wish the yoke were a true yoke that continues from the front to the back, rather than being two separate pieces, a front and a back with a shoulder seam. I need to look at a true yoked pattern to explore whether I could redraft this in that manner. Second, and easier to remedy, no pockets are provided. With the fullness in this skirt, inseam pockets are a good choice. I seem to always need instructions on how to add them. For the non-zipper side, I used Sigrid's very clear how to sew topstitched side seam pockets tutorial. For the left side, where an invisible zipper is installed in the seam, I used Summerset's excellent inseam pocket with invisible zipper tutorial.

The Maggie London rayon challis is a very nice quality, and as of today still available at FabricMart Fabrics.

Hurray for pockets!

Back view:

My dear partner took these pictures as we were headed out for an evening of swing dancing. Is it too sticky sweet to say that he is awesome, my husband of fourteen years?