Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Next: Kwik Sew 3276

I need a "Ladies Who Lunch" outfit. I'm on my church's scholarship committee and our Annual Scholarship Luncheon is in June. I selected this Kwik Sew pattern to use with the fabric I ordered from Vogue Fabrics-by-Mail. Last year, the luncheon was held in the middle of a record-breaking heatwave. It was over 95ยบ and just walking from the car was uncomfortable and exhausting. I'm hoping the weather will be more reasonable this year. When I ordered the fabric from Vogue's swatch club, I didn't have a specific occasion in mind. But then I learned the Scholarship Committee's official colors are green and blue, and I realized the fabric would be perfect. (Do all church organizations have official colors?) I really love this fabric. This pattern, like most Kwik Sew patterns, is simple and presents no surprises. I'm looking forward to an uneventful and relaxing sewing process.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Finished: BWOF 01-09-130 Pants & 05-08-128 Blouse


Pattern Description: Same old fly front pants I always make.

Pattern Sizing: Plus size 44 - 52 (European)

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes it did

Were the instructions easy to follow? I've made fly front pants about 5,849 times by now. I didn't depend on the instructions. I used the method in Power Sewing Step-by-Step (Betzina, 2002) for the fly front. For some reason, when I read the instructions for the extended waistband they made no sense to me at all. It was like I was reading another language. So, I made it up as I went along.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? These pants have a welt pocket in the back. Now that I have successfully experienced welt pockets, I can say, without fear or reservation, they are a feature I "particularly like about the pattern". In the past I've used the method described in Pants for Real People (Palmer & Alto, 2007). This time I made them "the real way" - with two strips. BWOF's instructions were a little confusing, so I used the instructions from Professional Sewing Techniques for Designers (Cole & Czachor, 2009). After two practice runs, I was ready to put the pocket on the pants. The pocket isn't perfect, but then what is perfect in this life? I also liked the extended waist band, but I wouldn't include this feature every time I make this pattern. Both of these features I like so much are covered by the blouse anyway.

Fabric Used: "Gabardine-like" polyester. It was difficult to press this fabric without a clapper. I have more fun when I don't have to beat fabric into submission.

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made: A while ago, I made a pair of BWOF pants that were too tight in the thigh area. So, this time I made a size larger than I usually make and they are too big. I'm constantly experimenting with pants fitting.

Conclusion: These are good, basic, fly-front pants and once I work out the size and fitting issues, they could be a TNT pants pattern. Some BWOF pants fit me well in the thigh area and some are too tight. Rather than take the easy, lazy way (making a larger size), I really should make a muslin and work out the fitting issues.


Pattern Description: A short sleeved, button front blouse.

Pattern Sizing: European plus size 44 - 52

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? No, because I made a major change. See below.

Were the instructions easy to follow? I wanted to use the instructions for the bulk-free collar demonstrated in the Threads Industry Insider Techniques DVD. But, when the pattern piece is altered for this technique, it needs more fabric. I didn't have enough fabric to accommodate the change. The sleeves have a vent in the bottom and I understood the instructions the first time I read them!

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? This pattern is basic and there were no design features that called out to me.

Fabric Used: 100% cotton

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made: The original pattern was a long blouse. I'm not quite ready for that style yet, so I shortened the blouse by seven inches.

Conclusion: I wish this blouse were a little more fitted, but I'm afraid I might mess it up if I take it in. I admit, a muslin would have helped. When I look at both pieces together, they look good enough and I can live with them. But, I really shouldn't be settling for just "good enough". Isn't that why I sew -- to get clothes that are better than "good enough"?

Friday, April 24, 2009

No More Sewing Books

I shouldn't ever have to buy another sewing book. Ever. With my most recent purchase, everything I will ever need to know about sewing is already covered in somewhere my bookcase; most likely, in this book.

My newest sewing book is Professional Sewing Techniques for Designers (Cole and Czachor, 2009). (click the book to see ordering information from Amazon.com) I went to the bookstore at Philadelphia University to just look at the book. I didn't plan to actually buy it. Honest. The intended audience for this text is the design student who may not have a lot of sewing experience.The book tells students how to construct the garments after they've designed them – sort of a 500 page instruction sheet. The book goes from very basic information, such as how to layout pattern pieces on grain and sew a seam to more advanced techniques like how to make welt pockets and notched collars. The text is written from a designer's point of view, so the "why" of the techniques is addressed in addition to the "how". You learn why a lapped zipper might be a better design choice than a centered zipper in certain applications. This book is copiously illustrated! The features are shown in a variety of design sketches throughout the chapters. There are so many technical and fashion illustrations that the text isn't always on the same page as the illustration to which it refers and it's a little annoying to flip to page 132 to see an example of the gathered pocket described on page 122. While this book is written as a textbook for design students, home sewers can learn much by reading the highlighted "Important" notes and "Pattern Tips". The Pattern Tips provide drafting insights relevant to the topic. The Important Notes provide additional, sewing information to expand your skills. The end of each chapter has information on applying the techniques to difficult fabrics and criteria for critiquing your results.

This book, along with the books already in my sewing library, covers everything I always wanted to know about sewing and now, won't have to ask. I have the resources to design garments, draft the patterns for my designs, then sew them expertly. (hoo boy!) I don't need to buy another book until my skills match the level of books I already own. But, that doesn't mean I won't.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Hooray for Vogue Fabrics!!!

Vogue Fabrics is my new favorite online fabric store. Actually, it's not a new favorite – I've always been satisfied with the swatch club orders. But recently, Vogue Fabrics demonstrated good old fashioned personal customer care.

I was not entirely satisfied with the buttons I bought for my green fabric. When I couldn't find suitable buttons at PA Fabric Outlet, which has the largest selection I've seen in the area, I almost gave up. I didn't know where else to turn. Since I purchased the fabric from Vogue Fabrics Swatch Service, I went back to the source. I called the store and gave them the item number of the fabric and asked if they could search the store for a matching button. The associate promised someone would call me back, but I really didn't believe it (I can be quite cynical). I needn't have worried. Heather (not her real name), a sales associate called me back the next day and described the button she found. I couldn't visualize the button from her description so I asked if she could take a picture and e-mail it to me. By the time I got home from work, the picture was in my e-mail inbox. Two days later (excluding the Sunday) the actual buttons were in my mailbox.

When deciding how to spend my money, customer service is very important to me – more important than price in some cases. I was convinced that customer service no longer existed. But, Heather was extremely helpful and she went above and beyond in a way I haven't seen in a long time. I really appreciated the service and personal touch. I'm going to try to order more fabrics from Vogue. If I ever visit the Chicago area, I'll be sure to visit in the store in person.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Mitered Corner

I love it when I'm able to try techniques that are new to me. I love it even more when the techniques work! I used the technique for mitering corners that was demonstrated by Louise Cutting on the Threads Insider Techniques DVD (vol. 1) I bought a few months ago. Mitered corners are covered in a few of my books, but this method is a little different.

Click pictures to enlarge

Step 1
Press the allowances to the wrong side.

Step 2
Mark where the edges intersect with pins (or diagonal clips).

Step 3

Establish and mark a stitching line with a straight edge. The line must connect the pins and pass through the pressed corner (indicated on the left photo).

Step 4
Fold the corner with right sides together, bringing the pins (or clips) together.

Step 5

Pin and stitch the miter from the edge toward the corner. Backstitch at the beginning and end.

Step 6

Trim seam allowance to 1/4 ". Cut diagonally to the corner. Press the seam open.

Step 7

Turn right side out and admire the beautiful, bulk-free corner.

The process will work when the two allowances are not the same width. When the allowances are different widths, the fabric corner that forms (in Step 4) will be uneven and asymmetrical.

I'd read about this technique somewhere long ago. But, seeing it demonstrated on the Threads DVD clarified it and brought it to the front of my brain.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Next: BWOF 01-09-130 Pants & BWOF 05-08-128 Blouse

Currently, I'm working on my first warm weather project, which means it has short sleeves. Many of the blouses BWOF has been showing recently are "long blouses", but I'm shortening this blouse. BWOF is known for being "fashion forward". Next year, if everyone is wearing long blouses, I'll be ready to jump on the bandwagon. Shortening this blouse demonstrates how my sewing has changed over the years. The "old me" would have just drawn a straight line at the new length and cut off the extra. The "new me" determined the amount to be removed and measured up from the bottom at various points along the hemline, thus maintaining the subtly shaped hem. It's hard to see the shape of hem because it is more of a fitting detail than a style detail. Most BWOF blouses are a little longer in the front to account for the larger busts while keeping the appearance of a straight hem. Since I sew BWOF almost exclusively, I'm not sure if all pattern companies and all sizes have this feature. There is also a slit in the sleeve that isn't evident in the technical drawing, garment photograph or the style photograph. Sometimes the design details in BWOF are surprises.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Win Some – Lose Some

I had two shopping goals:
  1. Find green buttons for green fabric
  2. Find satin to match the yellow matte jersey I bought at G street
I thought finding the buttons would be the easier task because PA Fabric Outlet has so many buttons it makes my eyes cross. I'm very picky about fabrics that are supposed to match, so I never expected to find a yellow satin that matched the jersey. But, I found zero matching green buttons and two matching yellow satins. Go figure.

I never expected to find a knit and a satin the same color unless I settled for black or white. Finding the yellow definitely put the fabric purchase in the win column. I settled for the bone colored buttons because at least they pick up a coordinating color in the blouse fabric. I had my mind set on matching green buttons, so the button purchase was originally assigned to the loss column. But, if I open my narrow little mind, I can move the buttons to the win column, too.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

G-Street Field Trip

Several weeks ago, I had an idea. I thought it might be fun to drive the 2 1/2 hours to Rockville, MD during my spring break for a return visit to G Street Fabrics, which has always represented "Fabric Store Mecca" to me. Then, serendipitously, I learned three of my cousins, whom I seldom see because they live in Georgia, would also be in Rockville during that time. So, we had a mini-family reunion and I got to buy some nice fabric.

I went to G Street twice during my short stay in Rockville. My non-sewing cousins were with me during the first visit. Fabric shopping with people who don't sew puts a damper on things, so I went back alone the next morning while everyone else was sleeping-in and I had a much better time. I wasn't rushed and no one offered opinions on the prices I was willing to pay. (G Street is not cheap.) But, thanks to information from Cidell, I knew to visit the $2.97 tables and found some nice pieces.

The following pieces came from the $2.97 table.

A natural colored linen and a cotton plaid

A 2-way stretch ecru gabardine and a cotton print

Since I saved so much by shopping the $2.97 tables, I splurged on this matte jersey knit.

I found these when I went back the next morning.

A cotton bottom wieght and cotton shirting with subtle checks

Of course, the pattern assignments are subject to change

Several days before my trip, I read on the web-site G-Street Fabrics is moving from its Rockville Pike location. I spoke with one of the sales associates about the move. I learned all of the stores in the shopping center are moving because the shopping center is being replaced with condominiums. G Street's Rockville location is the largest fabric store I've ever seen. The sales floor has a departments that are almost as large as some entire stores I've visited in both Philadelphia and New York City. There is also room for Bernina sewing machines and sergers, patterns, classrooms on the main level and home dec fabric on the lower level. The new location will not be as large. I'm curious about how they will fit everything into a smaller space. I guess I'll have to go back after the move in this summer.

These purchases mark the beginning of my Spring/Summer sewing season. With these purchases and my patternmaking project, I should have enough to keep me busy for quite some time.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Finished: Burda 7670 Blouse & 7676 Pants

This outfit was fun to sew! Maybe it was because I was really in love with the fabric. I mean, it's red! What's not to love!

Blouse: Burda 7670

Pattern Description: From the website: "Both versions of the chic shirt/overblouse have a fashionable collar with stand added to their V-neckline. Shoulder yokes and section seams make the wearer look taller and more slender! "

Pattern Sizing: 44 - 60 (European)

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes

Were the instructions easy to follow? The instructions were very easy to follow. When sewing the yoke, I used the method from Easy Guide to Sewing Blouses (Long, 1997). This method requires no hand stitching at all.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I wanted a classic long sleeved blouse and this was it.

Fabric Used: Microfiber. I don't like sewing microfiber. It doesn't ease well, it's hard to press and the fibers are almost too dense for a needle to pass through. Using a microtex needle helped with the fabric density, a clapper helped with the pressing. I couldn't do anything to make it ease.

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made: I didn't make any alterations or changes to this blouse.

Would you recommend this pattern to others? There is no reason I wouldn't sew this blouse again. I sews up quickly if you need a blouse in a hurry.

Pants: Burda 7676

Pattern Description: From the website: "Slim-line is the buzzword for youthful narrow trousers/pants that still offer wearing comfort thanks to stretch fabrics. The upper edge of the shaped waistband just reaches to waist level. Our styling tip: The closely fitting trouser/pant legs will also fit into trendy summer boots."

Pattern Sizing: 42 - 54 (European)

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes

Were the instructions easy to follow? This pattern is rated "Easy".

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? The pants have a "jean look" without having all the usual jean design features like front pockets. I wanted to have jeans I could wear to work a still feel like I was dressed for work.

Fabric Used: Two toned denim with spandex. Now, I know why dancers wear spandex. I feel like I can really "bust a move" in these pants. When I topstitched, the fabric tended to stretch and become slightly wavy under the presser foot. I tried decreasing the pressure of the foot, but it didn't really help. Maybe a walking foot would have been more effective.

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made: I added an underlap to the mock fly front. Almost all BWOF pants with a front zipper include an underlap and I've gotten used to including it.

Would you recommend it to others? This pattern is perfect for a "quick" pair of jeans.

Conclusion: I'm happy with the way this outfit turned out. It will satisfy my desire for jeans suitable for work.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Guess What I Did!

I bought patterns! I broke my "All Burda - All The Time" rule and bought three Big 4 patterns; Vogue - to be specific! I don't even remember the last time I bought a Big 4 Pattern for myself. If Hell hasn't frozen over yet, as I feared in a previous post, it will freeze over when I actually sew these patterns.

I gave in to an impulse. But when I analyze the impulse, it makes sense. I gave up on the Big 4 because I preferred the way BWOF fits me. I was interested when I first heard about Today's Fit when they were first released and I wanted to try the patterns to see if they were really different. These patterns received favorable reviews at Pattern Review. Vogue Patterns were on sale at JoAnn's. So I bought a few. I'm not in love with most of the Today's Fit designs so the patterns I bought were very basic. I'm hopeful about the fit. According to information from Sandra Betzina's web site:

"Using realistic body measurements in 10 sizes, Vogue created garments that run true to the numbers—including increased dimensions for the waist and tummy."

The line about "increased dimensions for the waist and tummy" spoke to me! This part spoke to me too :

"Vogue created an entirely new sizing block to fit the shape of today’s woman, increasing the girth across the tummy, lowering the bust shaping, and varying the cup size from B to D."

Ouch. Maybe it spoke to me a little too truthfully.

In order to give Hell a fighting chance before it freezes over, I'm not going to start any of these patterns until I finish the BWOF projects already in my queue. Believe it or not, I'm a little excited about sewing them and I'm eager to see the results.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Pattern Drafting

Ever since Cidell enrolled in a pattern drafting class, I've been longing to do the same. There aren't a lot of pattern drafting classes around - even in a city as large as Philadelphia. The only pattern drafting classes I found were requirements for degree programs at local colleges and only for matriculating students. Philadelphia University, (formerly called Philadelphia College of Textiles and Sciences - with textiles in the name, I expected more) offered a certificate program in Industrial Sewing Methods with classes on Saturday mornings, and I enrolled several years ago. My daughter was younger then, and had soccer games and Girl Scout activities on Saturdays. After I missed most of a championship soccer game (which went into overtime and sudden death), I felt guilty and withdrew from the program. My daughter is all grown up now and I'm free to enroll again if I choose - without the guilt! In addition, the program has moved to Drexel University, which is closer to me. Back when I was enrolled, the program focused on fitting and construction, and not specifically on pattern making.

So, I am embarking on a journey to teach myself pattern making. I already own two books on patternmaking. Considering the cost of two well-known books; $99 for Patternmaking Made Easy (Amaden-Crawford, 2007) and $85 for Patternmaking for Fashion Design (Armstrong, 2005) , I can make the two books I already own work for me. Actually, the two books complement each other. Make Your Own Patterns (Bergh, 2006) is short on theory, but has clear step-by-step directions and excellent diagrams. How to Make Sewing Patterns (McCunn, 1977) has more theory, but it's line drawings are confusing. Both use the same approach - draft basic patterns according to your measurements and use the basic pattern as a template for making custom designs. The McCunn book has a section on taking your own measurements that will be particularly helpful for me, but I'll be depending more on Bergh for the actual patternmaking. I checked out How to Design Your Own Dress Patterns (Margolis, 1971) from the library. Margolis included exercises in manipulating quarter-scale pattern pieces. Manipulating the quarter-scale patterns helped me understand the theory and gain confidence. Neither Bergh nor McCunn included these exercises.

I've wanted to try patternmaking for over a year, but I finally feel ready to actually try making a pattern. I can work on patternmaking between garments. I enjoy having a long term project to work on at my leisure. And I do mean long term … I have no idea when (or if) I will finish this. My goal is to draft a simple, button-up short sleeve shirt. Yes, I know there are dozens of patterns for simple, button-up short sleeve shirts, but I want the challenge and the learning experience. I'll feel very proud if the result looks like a simple button-up short sleeve shirt when I'm finished.