Wednesday, December 31, 2008

BWOF 07•08•133: Redesigning the Sleeve

I just completed a major redesign. It's no accident if that sentence sounds like I just finished a complex home remodel. That's exactly how I feel. My goal was to change the 3/4 sleeve with drawstrings on BWOF 07•08•133 to a standard long sleeve with cuffs. It took me many hours, (spread over 3 days and interrupted by a trip to visit my sister), about 6 feet of tracing paper and about 2 yards of muslin to come up the new sleeve. Whew! To lengthen the sleeve while maintaining the seams, I used the "Pivot and Slide" method described in Fitting Finesse (Zieman, 1995) or Pattern Fitting with Confidence (Zieman, 2008). I drafted the bottom of the sleeve to accommodate a cuff using Couture: The Art of Fine Sewing (Carr, 1993).

The process was made more difficult because of the placement and number of seams in the sleeves. It would have been simpler if there were only one underarm seam. (But, nooooo!) I had to draft the bottom of the sleeve as if it had one underarm seam, include register marks so the pieces could be matched accurately, then cut it apart and tape it to match the two pieces of the sleeve.

Click to enlarge
It would have been easier if I'd just lengthened the sleeve and left off the drape for the cuff. But, Roberta Carr said the drape is necessary; who am I to argue? At this point, I haven't cut the fashion fabric nor started sewing, so I don't know how this will all work out. The muslin still looks like a sleeve after my nips and tucks, so I'm encouraged.

Several times during this ordeal process, I considered quitting and making the sleeves as shown. I also thought about asking for help from Online Sewing Buddies. But, I wanted to feel the sense of accomplishment that comes from overcoming a challenge. I got out of bed before 6 AM - on a vacation day - to work on this sleeve! That's how committed I was!

After I finished this pattern work, I took down my Christmas decorations and did the associated house cleaning. After completing both tasks, I wondered which was more difficult.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Next: BWOF 07/08 131 Pants & 133 Blouse

My next project is from the July 2008 issue of BWOF. You can't tell from the photograph, but the pants fabric is a black and white plaid with barely visible blue and pink pinstripes throughout. The blouse fabric is black microfiber. I'm going to change the sleeves on the blouse from 3/4 length to full-length with a cuff. I have two options. Transfer a sleeve from another pattern or lengthen the sleeve pieces given and add the cuff. Although it would be easier to transfer a sleeve, my preference is to lengthen the pieces because I want to maintain the the two piece sleeve. Although this task sounds easy enough, it's a new endeavor for me. Remember, I'm not used to making changes to patterns. I might have to add some more ease into the sleeve. Anyway, I've got something to keep me busy for the duration of my winter recess.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Short-Patience, Fried-Brain Vacation Project

Seven days off (eleven, counting two weekends)! My patience was short. My brain was fried. What's a sewer to do? Why, make super easy pajamas, of course.

With all the time off, I had to sew something. But, considering my short patience and fried brain, I didn't want to start anything that required much thought. In addition, I'm planning to visit my sister in the Hudson Valley (NY) during winter recess. I don't want to start something and then leave town. I liked my No-Brainer pajama project so much, I decided to make pajamas for most of the adults on my Christmas list. I liked making the gifts so much, I decided to make more pajamas for myself. I can lounge around the house wearing these and not feel compelled to put on real clothes. The bottoms are Simplicity 9330 and the 3/4 sleeve t-shirt is from Ottobre 2/2007 (#2). When I made the Christmas gifts, I bought t-shirts of Alma Maters or favorite sports teams to make the gift more personal. For me, the only requirement is the tops and bottoms coordinate - at least a little! I plan to make more of these and choose fun prints I would never wear otherwise. I can make lots and lots of pajamas in eleven days!

Parting Shot:

Merry Christmas! And a peaceful and prosperous New Year!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

BWOF 05/2006 130 Tunic & 133 Skirt

The tunic has long-sleeves with narrow cuffs. The front has a faced slit opening. I made a design change to the opening. I was going for a more dressy look so I changed the front closure from hooks and eyes to buttons an button loops. I went really wild (wink) and placed the buttons on both sides of the slit. Since the buttons were small, I made the loops really thin - made from 3/4" wide bias strips. Even use my smallest Fast Turn tube turner was too large for these loops. (I must have misplaced the smallest turner) I had to use a low tech tube turner with the fragile little hook and latch on the end.

May I say, with utmost humility, this is one of the best invisible zippers I've ever done? The secret was interfacing and basting. I've been sewing for most of my life. Interfacing the zipper area should be second nature for me. Practically every book I own recommends it. But it's a step I always neglect forget. Now that I've seen the results, I won't neglect this step again. Since I went to the trouble of interfacing the zipper area, I deciding basting wouldn't be a bad idea. After sewing the first side of the zipper with the machine, I basted the second side to insure the alignment of the waistband seams. I'm very happy with the way this zipper looks.

And if a beautifully installed invisible zipper and creative button loops weren't enough, I put hanging loops in the skirt. I saw these horizontal hanging loops in The Dressmakers Techniques Bible, a book I just purchased two weeks ago. The book is already worth the purchase price!

If I hadn't already posted my annual report, I would have included this outfit in the favorites. I'll probably start by wearing it to church on Sunday. This will probably be the last outfit I complete in 2008. I'm glad to end the year on a high note.

Parting shots (concept stolen from Summerset):

Tangi's first Christmas
The bottom of our Christmas tree is Tangi's playground. She's swatted off several ornaments and the beaded garland is best not mentioned!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Annual Report

I love Lindsay T's idea of an annual review. It really is a good idea to look back and evaluate projects.

Garments Sewn: I completed 32 garments in 2008. I'm really surprised I was so productive. I sewed more blouses and pants than anything, but my work wardrobe is blouses and pants.

Pattern Companies: No surprise here. I'm still hopelessly devoted to BWOF and Burda Plus Fashion (BPF). I can't say I will try to use different companies because I'm satisfied with BWOF and BPF.
My Favorite Projects: It seems like green was my color in 2008.

Parade of Dogs: Most dogs were deemed so because they didn't fit or they were unflattering. Considering the number of garments I completed, I had relatively few dogs.

  • Partially lined jacket with Hong Kong finish on exposed seam allowances.
Goals for 2009:
  • Make a tailored suit
  • Finish the quilt (maybe - I'm not going to stress about it)
  • Take some classes to improve and broaden my skills
  • Sew a coordinated mini-wardrobe

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Next: BWOF 05/06 133 & 130

Hopefully, my next project will look nothing like this photograph. It's not that I don't like the skirt and tunic pictured. I'm just making a few design changes. Actually, I made this outfit last year and it looked nothing like the photograph. I made a careless mistake when sewing the front opening (it's supposed to be a slit- not the Grand Canyon) and I had to cover-up the mistake with an unplanned design change. This time, my design changes to the front are intentional. The tunic pictured has hooks and eyes holding the front slit together. I'm going to have buttons and button loops instead. I'm making good on my resolution to step away from the instructions provided.

I bought the fabric on my last trip to Les Fabriques in Charlottesville. I hadn't decided to make any changes at the time I bought the fabric, so I wasn't sure what notions to buy. As I result, I didn't buy as many buttons as I needed. I looked around for buttons I liked as well as the ones I bought in Charlottesville, but I didn't find any. I emailed a picture of the buttons to my daughter and she went to Les Fabriques to get the extra buttons for me. (Thank God for daughters and email)

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Sewing with Bert and Ernie

My sister and I often compare ourselves to Bert and Ernie of Sesame Street. I'm Bert and she's Ernie. Ernie is unpredictable while Bert is just the opposite. I see Bert's personality reflected in my sewing. Usually, I stick religiously to the directions and make very few design changes in the garments I make. I focus on the technical aspects of sewing more than the opportunity for creativity it provides. I spend time indexing BWOF issues and patterns when I could be actually creating something. I'm convinced Bert is the reason I see fabric merely as "clothes-I-haven't-made-yet". Bert won't let me accumulate too much fabric or enjoy fabric for it's own sake.

It's too late to totally shed my Bert personality, but I am trying to get in touch with my inner Ernie. I'm resolving to be more creative in my sewing. I have plans to draft a different sleeve for one blouse and substitute buttons and button loops for hooks and eyes on another. I'm not going to be bound by the written instructions provided. Maybe I'll even add some tasteful embellishments where appropriate. (OMG!) In spite of their differences, Bert and Ernie have peaceably shared an apartment on Sesame Street for over 30 years. They prove technical pragmatism and creative exuberance can coexist!

What might happen if I embraced my inner Ernie? Click Bert then play the video to find out. (You may need Adobe Flash player to view the video.)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Finished: Burda Plus Fashion FW08 #403 Blouse & #404 Pants


This is a basic long sleeved blouse with a placket to hide front buttons. When I saw the front placket, I visualized a placket with which I'm familiar. This placket was a little different. It opens on the inside rather than the outside. The instructions were clear and the placket was easy to construct, but pictures would have helped remove the preconceived placket I had in mind. Burda instructions would be so much easier if pictures were included. But, I guess the confusion is part of the charm of Burda's magazine patterns. I needed a basic blouse, but the front placket treatment added a subtle, little extra design detail. i used a microfiber for this blouse. I'm ambivalent about microfiber. It looks and wears well, but it's a little … dense and I don't have as much fun fondling it. I'm amazed a fabric that feels so heavy drapes so beautifully. I've read microfibers really dull needles and it's easy to see how. The pattern had a flounce on the cuff but I chose to omit that. I made the cuff two inches wide to accommodate for the loss of the flounce. I like this pattern because it has versatility. The pattern can be altered to make a few basic styles. If I sew this again, I will probably sew it without the placket if I need a basic button front blouse. My goal has been to make more changes to patterns in order to get exactly what I want.


These pants are are classic fly-front pants with nothing to distinguish them from any other fly front pants. I've been using BWOF method of inserting the fly front, but I'll return to the Sandra Betzina method after these pants. While sewing these pants, I noticed a little funkiness in the zipper. I thought I could get away with it, but it's really evident in this picture. I'll have to get out the ripper before I wear these. Lately, my pants have been a little tight in the upper thighs. I used the alteration for increasing the thighs from Nancy Zeiman's Pattern Fitting with Confidence (or Fitting Finesse). I wish I'd lined these pants. The wool blend is comfortable next to my skin, but lining would make it even more so.

Monday, December 1, 2008

New Publications

While browsing in Borders and Barnes & Noble, I was fretting because it seemed there were no new sewing books or magazines on the market. Most of the books on the "needlearts" shelves were knitting and crocheting books - very few new sewing books. Luckily, thanks to online resources, I stumbled on some new sewing publications.

I'd heard about Stitch on Lori's Sew Forth Now podcast and looked for a copy. I found a copy at Borders and immediately picked it up. For an old sewer like me, Stitch is quite refreshing. The projects are modern and in most cases pattern pieces are included in the magazine. The cover promises "25 Contemporary Sewing Projects Inside" and the magazine delivers. It even includes full-size patterns (on a pull out sheet as in Burda World of Fashion) for three skirts. The sewing instructions for the skirts are included in a "How to" section along with instructions for fabric gift tags, a messenger bag and a Chakla Quilt. Something for everyone! I really like the messenger bag and will probably attempt it at some point. There were articles on green sewing and Natalie Chanin, author of Alabama Stitch Book, a sewer who uses handstitching and cotton jersey to create "eco-chic" clothing. The magazine should appeal new generation sewers - just what is needed to keep sewing alive.

A blurb in Stitch led me to The Dressmaker's Technique Bible by Lorna Knight (Krause Publications, 2008). It contains instructions on many basic techniques including waistbands, necklines, pockets and linings. There are also chapters on embellishment ideas - appliqué, couching, patchwork and piping. I call this book "Vogue Sewing Lite". The directions are not as detailed as those in Vogue Sewing and Vogue Sewing sometimes offers multiple options for the same task. For example, the welt pockets section in Vogue Sewing shows single welt, double welt and welt pocket with flap. In the Dressmaker's Bible, the only option is a double welt. The Dressmaker's Bible is illustrated with clear diagrams of the process and photographs of finished samples. The book is spiral bound so it's easy to have it open next to the machine. It won't replace Vogue Sewing as my "go to" resource, but it is good as a "refresher" for the various techniques included.

I purchased the Dressmaker's Bible from Amazon. Cool Couture by Kenneth King (Singer Studio, 2008) was suggested in the "customers also bought …" section. And, since I was in a book buying mood, I also bought it. King's book is as different from Knight's book as possible. King calls this book his "bag of tricks" and it is not your instructional book on basic construction techniques. The chapter on Pockets and Buttonholes includes, but is not limited to a Hidden Lining Pocket, Hidden Edge Pocket, and a Piped Welt Pocket. The samples in the photos are opulent and embellished just as you would expect from Kenneth King – true eye candy and lots of fun! My taste tends to be bland and boring conservative and classic. I'm honestly surprised that so many of the techniques appeal to me. I don't know if I will actually use any of them, but I love reading the book.

I'm happy to learn new sewing magazines and books are being published. I only have to keep my eyes and ears open to learn about them.