Monday, April 30, 2007

Outside of my Comfort Zone

This dress, from the May 07 issue of BWOF is haunting me. When I saw the photo on the Burda website. The first thing I noticed was the notch in the hemline. When I finally got a look at the technical drawing, I saw the "corners" , for lack of a better word, in the seams. I've never seen a detail like that, especially in a plus-size dress. Usually plus-size dresses are boring. But not BWOFs. The only problem is, (and it really isn't a problem) this dress is way outside of my comfort zone. Most of my dresses are boring, plus-size dresses. But, I can't get this design out of my mind. I am really developing a more emotional approach to my sewing. I'm buying fabric just because I like it. I'm considering dresses with unusual details. These actions are out of character for me. Maybe it's menopause induced insanity.

How to Make Sewing Patterns

Too often, I make things more difficult than they need to be. But, I usually learn something along the way, so it's not necessarily a bad thing. I discovered I could make a blouse using size 52 Burda Pattern and not do any adjustments or changes for fit (except to lengthen it, if I want). I have several Burda blouse patterns that only go up to size 50. In the past, I've pivoted and slid the bust to fit with no problem. Here's where I make things difficult -- I got the "Big Idea". Why not grade the whole pattern up to a 52 so it will fit as well as the 52's I'm now making? Because I don't know how to grade up, that's why! But I refused to let that stop me! I decided to get some information on making and grading patterns. I bought this book.

This book was originally published over 25 years ago and the artwork looks dated. The information is easy to understand, however. One of the most helpful sections has illustrations and instructions for measuring your own body. So far, I've only read the sections on drafting a straight skirt pattern. McCunn presents skirts first because they are the easiest to draft. Each step in the process is clearly illustrated and rationale explained. I appreciate knowing the reasons behind instructions rather than just being told what to do. I feel confident about drafting patterns with this book and my other pattern drafting book, Make Your Own Patterns by Rene Bergh. Both of these books are introductory and intended for the home sewer. My plan is to challenge myself and draft a pattern once school is out and I'm on vacation.

I guess I could continue to increase the bust by pivoting and sliding. It's an easy method and I've done it for years. But then, I wouldn't have learned half the things I know (about sewing and everything else) if I hadn't asked myself "Why not?" and gone off on these little "side trips".

Friday, April 27, 2007

BWOF 08-2005 #133

The pattern is typical for me -- the kind of blouse with nondescript styling I make and wear all of the time. But, it's special for a number of reasons.
  • I bought the fabric at G-Street Fabrics in Rockville, MD. For some reason I can't define, I've wanted to go to G-Street fabrics for years. For me, G Street was Mecca and worthy of a pilgrimage. But, it's two and a half hours away. I got the opportunity to go when DD and I were visiting a university in the area. It was one of the best fabric shopping experiences I've had. Every time I wear this blouse I'll remember looking for colleges with my DD and fulfilling a fabric shopping dream.
  • I really love this fabric. I usually don't have an emotional connection with the fabric I buy. This print, however, called out to me while I was roaming around G Street Fabrics. I've always liked abstract, geometric or ethnic-looking prints. This fabric has all three! And the buttons match perfectly. So well, in fact, they are hardly noticeable. I'm almost afraid this emotional attachment to fabric and buttons may turn me into (gasp) a fabric stasher.
  • With this pattern, I feel like I have finally conquered the Burda World of Fashion. Usually, there is something about BWOF patterns just idiosyncratic enough to be a problem. This time was different. I breezed through this blouse like I'd been making BWOFs all of my life. I love the styles and the fit of BWOF so I was willing to accept the unclear directions, lack of illustrations and awkward translation from German. Now, I feel empowered to attempt the more challenging "three dot" styles.
When people see me wearing this blouse, they may like it enough to offer a compliment. I'll humbly accept the compliment and remember quality time spent with my DD, the fulfillment of a sewing dream and victory over a sewing challenge.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

If at first you don't succeed .......

This BWOF blouse (04/2006-126) gave me more problems than any other blouse I can remember making. It looks so deceptively simple, but the collar had me tearing my hair out. The first time I attempted this blouse, I had problems with the collar, but somehow I was able to work them out. The second time was an unqualified disaster. But, I'm feeling confident and I may try it again. Here's why:
  • I'm on a roll. My recent BWOF projects have been successful. I haven't scratched my head or rolled my eyes over the sparse, unclear sewing instructions in my last 3 or 4 BWOF projects.
  • I've learned and accepted the value of making a muslin. I can work out any problems on muslin without risking the fashion fabric.
  • I found fabric that would work well with this outfit. I remembered that Nancy's Notions sold quality fabric. I looked through the catalog and found fabric perfect for this blouse and skirt.
  • I don't want to meet St. Peter at the Pearly Gates with this failure in my past. I want to tell St. Peter, "Yeah, I cursed and threw the fabric against the wall in a fit of unbridled anger. But, I tried again and conquered the blouse."
Even though it will be over a month before can I get to this, I just might put this project in my queue. I've declared my intentions in the public blogosphere and it will be simmering on the back burner of my mind.

Sewing with Knits

I've been buying quite a few new sewing books lately. Every once in a while I want to "kick it up a notch" and improve my skills. I don't have time to take classes so I buy books. "Sewing with Knits" by Connie Long is my latest acquisition. It is part of the Taunton Press Focus of Fabric series. I really liked "Linen and Cotton", the only other title in the series, so I decided to get this title, too.
Like the other title in this two book series, "Sewing with Knits' includes information on many techniques for many types of knits, i.e. swimsuit fabric, stretch velvet and stretch lace. Long includes techniques for both serger and conventional sewing machines. There is an entire chapter on working with swimsuit and specialty knits. Every technique is illustrated with photographs and drawings.
As I read this book, I realized it's been quite a while since I used knit fabrics. For some reason, I've overlooked knits when shopping for fabric. Now that I have "Sewing with Knits", I'm going to make an effort to use more knits.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Candlelight Valley Fabrics

Last week, I ordered fabric from Candlelight Valley Fabrics. They have a wonderful, informative web site. It's like a fabric encyclopedia. In addition to the usual information: width, content and care, they include a description of the fabric, the minimum sewing skill required, interfacing and underlining recommendations, how to prepare the fabric and even the recommend needle size! The feature I like best is the "Coordinating Fabrics" link. Clicking this link will display fabrics that coordinates with your selection. For someone who is color challenged, as I am, this feature is a godsend. If you want to see and feel the fabric before you buy, you can order big 6" x 6" swatches for $1.00 and the cost will be deducted from your next order. There is also a swatch service to which you can subscribe for $50.00 per year. I ordered lavender handkerchief linen for a summer outfit I'm planning and it arrived in less than a week. I'm very pleased with my initial purchase and the service I received.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Linen and Cotton

Susan Khalje has become one of my favorite "nationally known sewing experts". I really like the techniques she demonstrates on "Sew Much More" on DIY Network. Because DIY Network changes its schedule without notice, "Sew Much More" can disappear at any time. There is only so much storage space on the DVR and I can't record and store every episode. So, I decided to purchase books Khalje has authored. I bought this copy from Alibris, my favorite online source for books, for less than $10, including shipping.

This book is exactly what I was looking for! It contains scores of techniques seldom found on instruction sheets. For example, in Chapter 5: Sewing techniques, I found the following techniques: false French seam, slot seam, braced seam, and self-bound seam. In Chapter 8, Finishing Details, I found instructions, with a drawing, for installing a grosgrain underlay to protect the skin from zipper teeth. I wasn't aware a technique such as that existed! Khalje's book has lots of the techniques she demonstrates on Sew Much More, like the hanging loops for skirts. The book has many diagrams and drawings to illustrate the techniques. The photographs show-off the details and augment the directions. This book is published by Taunton Press and the layout is similar to Threads Magazine 10 years ago.

The subtitle of this book says it all: "Classic Sewing Techniques for Great Results". I'm going to make a point of learning and using the techniques in Linen and Cotton.

This book appears to be part of a series called "Focus on Fabric." I've found only one other title in the series; Sewing with Knits by Connie Long. For some reason, I haven't been able to find this title for less than $30 and the copies are used. If Long's book is anything like Khalje's, I may just buy it anyway!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

BWOF 12/2004 144 & 147 Part 2

I finished my Anti-SWAP - BWOF Challenge. I've always bought fabric for a specific pattern. This time, I wanted to flip the procedure and buy fabric just because I liked it. My experiment was a success. I was able to buy fabric first and I was able to match it to a suitable BWOF pattern using my newly-made BWOF Index. The blouse fabric was shiny and slippery; a bit of a problem to work with. And the solid, I suspect, didn't have one natural fiber in it. I prefer blends to 100% poly, but often you have to take what you can get.

As I said in a previous post, I really like the way the elastic was applied in this skirt. When I studied the technical drawing, I wondered how elastic could be applied with no visible casing. The method was really easy and it looks very clean. But since I suffer from an acute case of NDW Syndrome, (No Discernable Waist) and never tuck in blouses, the invisible casing will be invisible to everyone.

Now that I know it is possible to use fabric that was bought with no specific garment in mind, a whole new way of shopping has opened up to me. I can buy fabric just because I like it and know that it will get used. Now, I feel empowered to suppress my control-freak, practical side and buy fabric with my emotional side. I hope this doesn't mean I'm turning into a "Stasher", because I really don't have the space.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Fit for Real People

As my old Granny used to say, "Everything ain't for everybody." Actually, my grandmother never said that, but it's still true. Lots of people on Pattern Review love "Fit for Real People". "My Fit Bible" said one reader. " far my favorite", said another. "If I were to own only one book on fit, this would be the one", a third reader proclaimed. It's one of Pattern Review's top 15 books, for goodness' sake. Me? I was less than impressed. Admittedly, I haven't tried Palmer and Alto's methods yet, but I don't think I'll like it. It's tissue fitting! Ugh!

I will not try it in a boat.
I will not try it in a coat.
I will not try it with a fox.
I will not try it in my socks.
I will not tissue fit -- No, Ma'am!
I will not do it, Sam I Am!

First of all, you need a partner. Getting someone to help you tissue fit is like getting someone to help you move. You can only ask your closest, dearest friends and you totally understand if they say, "no!". Secondly, I tried tissue fitting once. (Once!) I sweated and ruined the pattern!!! What a mess!

The book is very easy to read and I do plan to read it throughly. Maybe after I read it, I'll be willing to try tissue fitting again. Maybe I'll be like the character in Dr. Seuss' book and discover I like Green Eggs and Ham after all!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

BWOF 12/2004-#147

My sewing motto is "All Burda -- All the Time". Of course, I use other patterns, but Burda is definitely my favorite. This skirt is why. It has what I call "The Invisible Casing". I'm sure some more experienced sewer has seen and used this treatment, but I've never seen anything like it. It certainly isn't used in any Big 4 pattern.

1 3/4 inch elastic is used in this treatment. It is sewn to the top edge of the facing before the facing is folded down. So the facing becomes the casing!

Next, the lining is sewn to the edge of the casing. All of the stitching is on the inside of the skirt. Nothing but a folded over edge is visible from the right side.
Although the instructions didn't say so, I stitched in the ditch at the darts and side seams to hold the folded down facing/casing in place. This feature will never be seen by anyone but me because I suffer from NDW Syndrome (No Discernable Waist) and I never wear anything tucked in. Luckily, tucked in blouses are not in style (are they?). Even if they were, I wouldn't wear them.

I like using BWOF and Burda envelope patterns (and other independent companies) because I often learn new and different techniques in the process of making the garment. Each new garment is a learning experience.


I read, in several other blogs, about a SWAP contest that ended recently. The contest was well underway when I learned about it and I'm not at all sure what the rules of the contest were. I surmised the participants had to complete several items, all related to a theme, by a deadline in early April. Everyone seemed to have fun completing their pieces and there was much encouragement floating around in the sewing blogosphere. I enjoyed seeing the pieces in progress and reading about the sewer's decision making processes, challenges and solutions. The camaraderie of the common goal was evident. I almost wished I were taking part in the SWAP. Notice, I said "almost."

A deadline will keep me out of any SWAP or contest. To me, deadlines are a necessary evil. I have no choice but to deal with deadlines at work, but I don't want them in my leisure. My sewing would be a different kind of activity if I gave myself deadlines. It would be too much like work.
I guess I'm a zen-existential-gestalt kind of seamstress. I enjoy the process as much as the finished product. I sew to relax and I like taking my time while I sew. I might stop at anytime during a project and start looking through patterns and BWOFs to plan a future project. I've stopped in the middle of tracing-off to listen to an interesting piece on the radio. I've sat with hand sewing in my lap while a watch a movie. That is not the way to complete a SWAP. I make no demands on myself while I'm in my sewing room. If I'm lucky enough to have a few hours to spend sewing, I don't want any self-imposed pressure to take away my joy.

Of course, I do finish my projects. After all, I expect to have something to wear at the end of the relaxing, blissful process. My deadlines are seasonal; as in "finish the outfit while it is still warm (or cold) enough to wear it." I admit, I've even missed deadlines as broad as that! But, I've spent the time indulging myself and working at my desired pace. To me, that's more important than meeting any deadline.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Saga of the Prom Dress - Chapter Two

This project was a labor of love. I love my daughter and I love to sew. I was so excited to make her prom dress. Even though the design was simple, this was the most labor-intensive project I’ve ever done. I used every tool at my disposal including my seldom-used walking foot, which I used to sew the underling to the fashion fabric. I used Bridal Couture by Susan Khalje and Claire Schaeffer’s books as references to augment the directions and include couture techniques. I did lots of basting in making this dress and it really did help. I usually pin baste, but I’m learning to love hand basting. Well, maybe I don't LOVE hand basting, but I certainly see it's advantages. Susan Khalje’s “Sew Much More” influence, I guess. I even basted the lining pieces together! Basting really helped control the slippery lining fabric.

I used many techniques to give the dress a “custom-made”, rather than a “home-made” look. The instructions did not call for underlining, but I included a broadcloth underlining to give the fabric a little more heft. According to Simplicity’s directions, the seam allowances were to serve as casing for the boning. To achieve a couture result, I used Rigilene boning and made casing from wide single fold bias tape that I pressed open, then pressed in half, and finally sewed into a tube.

I sewed the zippers in by hand using a handpicked stitch.

It’s not easy to find a tea length crinoline half-slip. So, to add fullness, I added a net ruffle between the lining and dress. I decided to pleat the net and not gather it. My daughter (who has a lean, athlete's build) is worried about looking fat. Pleats added less fullness than gathers. I placed the net at the bottom of the lining to keep the fullness away from her hips and waist.

I learned so much making this dress.
  1. Muslins are our friends. I could not have done this without one. I used to think they were a waste of time, but I certainly have changed my thinking about muslins.
  2. If I’m going to the trouble of making a muslin, I need to believe what I see. When DD tried on the muslin, it was big. I forgot how much ease is drafted into Big 4 patterns and ignored what I saw because her measurements matched the chart. I ended up having to make a second top because the first one was too big. (Good thing I always buy extra fabric.)
  3. Basting and hand sewing are also our friends. Hand sewn hems, hand-picked zippers, hand basting gave this dress a custom-made couture look.

Throughout my daughter’s life, I've looked forward to certain “Mommy Milestones”. One was getting my first “gift-made-from-macaroni” (in my case, a pencil cup). The most recent Mommy Milestone was making the dress for her first prom. It was an experience I will always remember.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Learning to Draft patterns.

I bought Make Your Own Patterns by Rene Bergh. I used my 40% off coupon from JoAnn, so the cost was only $10.77. After a preliminary reading, I think I could make a pattern for a simple pullover blouse and skirt. The book gives step by step detailed directions on drafting each line in a bodice front and back, sleeve, pants and skirt. Then, it gives directions for drafting style details like gathers at the neck, shawl collar, kimono sleeves and pleated pants. There is even a chapter on drafting a pattern for jeans. Quarter scale pattern pieces are included with directions on how to grade up the pieces. If I never draft a pattern piece, the information on grading up will be worth at least the $10.77 I spent.

This is the first book on pattern drafting I've read, so I have nothing to compare. This 127 page book isn't intended to be a definitive text on pattern drafting. I still would like a little more information on grading-up. It is a good introduction, though. Now that I've seen this introduction, I can look for the additional resources I need. After I work through a few pieces in this book, I can move up to a more "intense" text.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Evolution of a Seamstress

This photograph represents my evolution as a seamstress. The photograph shows buttonholes and the thread tracing used to place the buttonholes. There was a time when I would have used tracing paper and tracing wheel to mark the placement of the buttonholes. More than likely, the marks would have been permanent, the tracing paper would have slipped, and the markings would not have been uniformly in the center of the placket. More than likely, I would have sewn them anyway, without regard to the placement. Fortunately, I'm not that sewer anymore.

When I first learned to sew in 8th grade Home Ec., I enjoyed just “making something.” I knew nothing about fitting, seam finishes or anything more complicated than pinning pattern pieces on grain. Although I loved sewing from the start, my goal was to sew the pieces together and finish the garment as quickly as possible. I continued to sew through my high school years and my skills improved simply through repetition.

The evolution began in earnest when I came in contact with a community of sewers online. Few of my friends sew and certainly not as well as the experts I’ve “met” online. Through sewing websites, message boards and blogs, I’ve seen the work of other sewers and have been inspired. People have answered my questions, critiqued my work and offered encouragement. I've had chances to share my knowledge with beginning sewers. I’ve moved from getting pieces finished to sewing them well. Five years ago I never would have considered thread tracing or tailor’s tacks or even basting. Now, I assess techniques and use the best technique for the garment, even if it means taking more time. I’ve grateful to have discovered an online sewing community and for the part the community has played in my evolution.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

I am the Moon

You are The Moon

Hope, expectation, Bright promises.

The Moon is a card of magic and mystery - when prominent you know that nothing is as it seems, particularly when it concerns relationships. All logic is thrown out the window.

The Moon is all about visions and illusions, madness, genius and poetry. This is a card that has to do with sleep, and so with both dreams and nightmares. It is a scary card in that it warns that there might be hidden enemies, tricks and falsehoods. But it should also be remembered that this is a card of great creativity, of powerful magic, primal feelings and intuition. You may be going through a time of emotional and mental trial; if you have any past mental problems, you must be vigilant in taking your medication but avoid drugs or alcohol, as abuse of either will cause them irreparable damage. This time however, can also result in great creativity, psychic powers, visions and insight. You can and should trust your intuition.

What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.

I took the test and answered the questions truthfully but I don't think this description is anything like me. It proves that you can't believe everything you read.

PS: I saw the link on Gorgeous Things' Blog.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

G-Street Outfit

My next project is my "G Street Outfit". In February, DD and I visited Univ. of Maryland. While in the area, we took a side trip to G Street Fabrics in Rockville, MD. I'd wanted to visit G Street for a very long time and I wasn't disappointed. The store was huge and there was so much beautiful fabric! I was there with my DD, and a couple with a two-year-old -- people who have little interest in sewing. So, being considerate of my companions, I really couldn't spend the time I wanted to. But, as I was walking around the store the print just called out to me. I've always liked abstract prints. I was determined to find a solid to go with the print. I was unsure of the match, but the salesperson kept complimenting me on my selection.
The best part of the expedition was finding the buttons. G Street has an unbelievable selection of buttons. We didn't have much luck matching colors so I suggested wood buttons. I meant wood colored, but the clerk brought out the buttons in the picture. They actually are stained wood. The photo doesn't do justice to the match, but we were both amazed at how well the buttons coordinated with the fabric. Even other customers at the button counter commented on the match. The only problem was the buttons were $3.25 apiece. Seven buttons cost almost as much as the print fabric! However, as evidenced by the photo, I got past that apprehension and bought the buttons. I think they are perfect for the fabric, and that convinced me to spend over $20.00 on buttons. After all, I was in G-Street Fabrics -- a place I longed to go for years. It was one of the best fabric buying experiences I've had.
So, my G-Street outfit is my next project. I decided on the blouse pictured. I'm going to make my typical slacks with the solid. The solid is best suited for the fall, so I'm using the fabric for a long sleeved blouse. I'm afraid the weather will be too warm for the outfit by the time I finish it. But there is always next fall. My current project is progressing nicely, so there is a chance I may finish this in time to wear it. If I weren't going away tomorrow, I would finish the current project and get started on this G Street outfit. But there is a bright side. We'll be in Baltimore and I hear Michael's Fabric is another great store to visit. Maybe, I'll find fabric for a summer outfit at Michael's.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Spring Break so far

School is out and I'm on Spring Break. I've really been looking forward to this break. I can't talk about work without cursing, so I'll say no more.

I've been able to sew for the past 3 days. (long sigh) It's been wonderful. I can sew, take a long break, then sew some more. However, I can't spend my whole week like this. Tomorrow, I have to see my private clients and on Thursday, DD and I will be out of town for another college tour -- this time Hampton University in VA. I'm making good progress on the Anti-SWAP project. I wish I could finish it for church, but that isn't possible.