Sunday, May 29, 2011

Zippers – The New Old Way

I needed a 22" navy blue invisible zipper, so I went to my local JoAnn Crafts and Fabrics. There was no 22" navy blue invisible zipper, not even a 16" navy blue invisible zipper, so I bought a regular zipper.  Yes, I could have purchased another color because only the zipper pull would be seen, but I'm too obsessive for that.    I hadn't inserted a conventional centered zipper in ages.  When I did, I basted the center back seam, pinned the zipper over the basted seam and sewed it in from the right side.   The pins sometimes prevented the zipper from being sewn smoothly, so I thought this was a good time to try something different.  I found this method in The Sewing Book  (Smith, 2009).    It uses more hand basting than I'm used to, but I have learned to "embrace the baste."

I realized I've become too dependent on invisible zippers and  I decided to work on installing conventional zippers.  I was never completely satisfied when I inserted centered zippers the "old" old way.  Even using this "new" old way, the zipper teeth show a little more than I'd like. But then I'm used to invisible zippers where the teeth don't show at all.   There is a slightly different method in The Illustrated Guide to Garment Construction (2011) that still involves basting the zipper tape to the seam allowance.  Installing zippers better is a worthwhile goal for me.  It gives me an excuse to buy Bernina's zipper foot #14, which has a guide to insure straight top stitching when inserting the zipper.  Both The Sewing Book and Garment Construction were originally published in the UK.  Maybe this is the way zippers are done over there.  This method takes a little longer, but I'm willing to sacrifice speed for a neatly inserted zipper.  I'm sure the time will come again when I can't find the invisible zipper I need at JoAnn Crafts and Fabrics.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Finished: Vogue 7636

I had three items in my queue before I added eight pieces of fabric to my small fabric cache during PR Weekend. I plan to sew two of those items before starting on my Chicago Collection.  The third piece is being pushed back for fall sewing.

The first project was Vogue 7636, a Today's Fit by Sandra Betzina blouse, which I believe is out-of-print.  I've had this pattern for quite a while.  I made the long sleeved version, but I didn't like my fabric choice, seldom wore the blouse and forgot about the pattern.  I'm glad a gave it a second look.  I like this version a lot better.

My original plan was to cut the straight hem.  When I tried the blouse on, I thought it was too short.  If I'd made a muslin, I would have known about this situation before it became a problem.  Luckily,  I had enough fabric left to cut just the shirttail bottom and use it as a separate extension.  It was just a matter of adding a seam allowance and sewing it to the bottom of the shirt.  The side and shoulder seams were finished by pressing the allowances to one side and topstitching them down.  I used the same technique to attach the extension so the horizontal seam echos the seam connecting the yoke to the front.  My hope was that it would look like a deliberate design detail and not a mistake.

Added bottom extension

Today's Fit pattern instructions are personally written by Sandra Betzina.  The instructions for the yoke were a little confusing.  Two options were presented: one that involved hand sewing and the other was sewn entirely by machine. I've used the "entirely by machine" method countless times, but the instructions in this pattern still confused me.  The instructions mentioned something about reaching through the shoulder to pin the inner and outer yokes together, but that really wasn't necessary.  I just sandwiched the front and back between the yokes as I usually do.

I particularly liked the in-seam pockets on the front.  The sewing was a little fussy, but the pockets are worth the effort.
In-seam pocket
Betzina's instructions include encasing the seams on the pocket.  Encasing the seams is what made the construction so fussy, but it was a nice touch.

In spite of the extra touches, this blouse went together quickly and easily.  I'm sure I'll be making in again.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Several times during PR Weekend, I overheard conversations like this:

"Is that Vogue 7636?"
"Yes! And you're wearing McCall 2094, aren't you! I have that pattern, but I haven't made it yet!"

I am amazed that people have the ability to recognize garments and blithely refer to them by pattern company and number!  I usually have no idea of the pattern numbers of the clothes I make.  Is it just me?  When I used Big 4 patterns, I remembered the number only long enough to find it in the drawer.  Case in point, Rose asked me about the top I was wearing and all I could say was "Burda".  She told me that was like being asked what I had for breakfast and answering "eggs".  Were they scrambled, poached, over easy – what? After searching my brain, I did remember that the issue was from 2011, possibly February, or maybe March,  and that I mentioned it in my blog.  Woefully inadequate, I know.  I can't say from now on I'm going to try to remember the names of numbers of the patterns I use.  My post-menopausal brain won't allow that  But, I will be more diligent about putting identification labels in the garments – just in case.

Monday, May 16, 2011

PR Weekend 2011: Chicago

When my daughter told her little college friends her mom was going to Chicago for a "sewing conference", they all laughed in that condescending, parents are so lame kind of way.  But I bet every one of the over 100 PR Weekend attendees had more fun than those little college kids have ever had in their short little lives.  And we didn't have to binge on alcohol to do it!!! (Although I did enjoy a very tasty sangria in the room next door!)

PR Weekend was great!  The Chicago team did and excellent job of organizing events and allowed for just enough down time to socialize and prepare for the next fun event.  The organizers added up the total yardage bought by the entire group.   I don't remember the exact number, but it was a lot.  And people bought even more fabric after the total was posted!  I did my part to contribute to the grand total by buying eight pieces.  

I just loved the way the colors undulated across this fabric from Vogue Fabrics.  I'm not sure if it's rayon or cotton, but it will make a perfect hot weather dress.  I plan to e-mail a picture to Vogue and ask about the fiber content.  I bet I'll get an immediate response.  Vogue has such great customer service.

This piece, also from Vogue, will become a dress.  It was a recent offering in Vogue's swatch mailings and I didn't order it at the time. But, I have it now!  I'm not sure about this content either, but it's a good weight for all seasons.

I love sewing linen and these two pieces, purchased from New Rainbow Fabrics, will also be dresses.  I stalked Karen Teel, one of the organizers, and dragged her back to New Rainbow so she could show me exactly where she found the blue Italian linen.

I couldn't resist this cotton knit.  It's a knit that will stay put for layout for cutting.  I bought this at The Needle Shop, which had the best atmosphere and Feng Shui of any of the stores we visited.   Every piece of fabric was cleverly displayed and visible. The store appeals to the new generation of sewing enthusiasts as well as more experienced sewers.

I wouldn't be me if I didn't get some matchy-matchy coordinating pieces.  First, I bought the sheer cotton print (along with several other shoppers!) at Fishman's Fabrics.  Later, at Vogue Fabrics, I found the bottom weight poplin and silk for a tank to be worn under the sheer cotton.

Needless to say, I am very happy with my Chicago fabrics.  My goal for the weekend was to buy fabric for dresses and I definitely did that.  One of my Online Sewing Buddies (and she knows who she is!!!) who didn't attend this PR Weekend teased me about not using bright colors or prints.  These purchases should make her take back what she said! (wink)

On Saturday, we got up close and personal with several of Angela Wolf's couture pieces from her own personal wardrobe.  I've always wondered about the quilted lining on Chanel-style jackets. Angela brought two examples and I was able to examine the nearly invisible quilting.  Angela does a lot a beading on her pieces and I already have some ideas about adding beads to a dress I'm planning.

PR Weekends are special for many reasons.  Of course, the shopping was fantastic.  We got discounts at every store.  I shouldn't have to buy any more fabric until September!   And, I love that we gave a boost to independent stores.  I'll never forget the big smile on the face of the owner of New Rainbow Fabrics.  I'm sure we made a difference in his quarterly bottom line.  Attendees spent over $1500 at Soutache Embellishments.   And I met so many amazing people!!  Cynthia and Karen were a hoot!  Cennetta gave me parenting advice.  Iris and Renee understood the awe I felt when I walked into Mood for the first time and made me salivate for Britex in San Fransisco.  Sherrill and Ody hugged me every time I saw them made me feel like I had two lifelong friends I just hadn't met yet.  I wish we could all get together more often.  Anyone who has reservations about PR Weekends should definitely attend one.  It's an incredible experience.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Illustrated Guide to Sewing: Garment Constrution

I bought this book months ago after buying and loving two other books in the "Illustrated Guide to Sewing" series.  I delayed my purchase of this book because I thought it would contain the same information as the introductory books I already own.  Well, it does and it doesn't.

The introduction says, "These instructions are no doubt more detailed and demanding than those you are used to seeing, or those you found in your pattern envelope."   These are probably the techniques my mother and grandmother used when they sewed.  That's not necessarily a bad thing.  For example, if I were sewing a blouse out of delicate lawn or handkerchief linen, I might use self fabric as an interfacing rather than a lightweight fusible.  I would use the instructions for sew-in interfacing provided in this book.  Garment Construction gives sewing instructions for five basic garments: Classic Dress, Classic Shirt, Classic Blouse, Classic Skirt, and Classic Pants (men's and women's).  First, the order of assembly is given, then detailed construction directions for things like zippers, cuffs waistbands etc.  This book is different because the techniques and methods are not the newest, fastest or easiest.    As I read the book, I thought it would be a very good supplement for a beginning sewer who is brave enough to use the patterns in Burda Style Magazine.  When BSM says "insert zip in slit", the sewer can turn to pp 108 – 109 and follow the 14 steps and detailed diagrams and instructions for a centered zipper absent from BSM instructions.  Fourteen steps to insert a centered zipper isn't intimidating.  Step 9 is simply "Close the zipper and turn the garment right side out."

I think of the methods in the book not as "old-fashioned", but as "traditional".  These are probably the methods used by professional dressmakers of the past, when "ladies who lunch" had their clothes custom made.  I wouldn't be surprised if custom dressmakers of the past saw the introduction of basting tapes and non-woven fusible interfacings as a dumbing-down of standard garment construction methods.  However, I am tempted to try some of the methods.  People use vintage patterns – why not vintage techniques?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Path to the "Perfect T-Shirt"™

1.  It all started with a trip to London Textiles.  I'd taken a few days off to celebrate my birthday and ended up at London Textiles in Cherry Hill, NJ.  I bought three pieces of knit fabrics. I'm trying to get over my reluctance to work with knit fabrics. I bought two pieces off the bolts for $8.00/yd and one piece from the remnant boxes for $4.00/yd. 

2.  On Saturday mornings, I sometimes watch "America Sews with Sue Hausmann". (I don't like it, but I watch it anyway.)   On this particular Saturday, Sue featured a product called Sew Slip which is used to make a slippery surface on the bed of the machine for free motion sewing.  I've been practicing free motion quilting and I wanted the Sew Slip, but I didn't want to wait days for an online order to arrive.  So, I decided to make phone calls to find a local seller.  

3.  The first store I called was Steve's Sew-n-Vac and they carried the Sew Slip.  Steve's recently moved to a new location and I was looking for a good reason to go there and see the new store.   Before the move, Steve's carried only quilting fabrics.  They now have a small selection of garment fabrics.  As a matter of fact,  I  noticed the same fabrics I'd bought at London Textiles and they were priced considerably higher than I paid. 

4.  I can't leave any sewing-related store without browsing around and while at Steve's, I noticed the display for Pamela's Patterns.  I looked over the selection and saw #104, The Perfect T-Shirt.  The simple pattern would be perfect for the knits I'd just bought at London Textiles.  I decided to buy the pattern and accompanying instructional DVD. 

5.  I took my selections to the register and the associate thanked me for choosing the pattern.  I thought, "Wow! What polite associates!"  Then I found out why.  It was Pamela Leggett herself of Pamela's Patterns.  We chatted about my knit issues and Pamela reiterated what everyone has been telling me; knits aren't a big deal.  According to Pamela, if you're spending more than five minutes arranging your knit for lay-out, (and I was) you're doing too much. 

6.  I sewed the Perfect T-Shirt!  Well, maybe not perfect, but pretty darn good!  Minor alterations were needed.    Pamela demonstrates a "fit as you sew" approach on the DVD.  This approach works only if you need to make something smaller.  I used pivot and slide to add an inch to the bust area and I will enlarge the jewel neckline the next time (and there will be a next time) I make this top.  This is a very basic pattern with no design details so I could focus on the actual sewing techniques.  The pattern has three neckline variations and four sleeve lengths.  The instructional DVD was helpful in that it provided demonstrations and information that is usually not in pattern sheets.  For example, Pamela recommends blocking after sewing the neck band and the hem.  I don't think I ever blocked a knit.  But it makes a big difference that is evident on the DVD and on the actual garment.   My problem with knits was that I expected them to behave like wovens.   I now respect the differences and I feel more confident about sewing knits.