Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A Small Rant

Sometimes I hate BWOF as much as I love it. BWOF has a way of making me feel like an idiot. I decided to make a quick (HA!) knit top (#135) from the August 2005 issue. I liked the tiny bit of satin trim around the neckline and bottom of the sleeve. It dressed up an otherwise plain knit shirt. I even bought satin yardage to make the bias strips – the LONG way – that’s how committed I was to this top! I read over the directions, but could not find any mention of how to finish the neckline. To me, it seemed the directions addressed how to insert the bias satin trim, but not how to finish the neckline. Given the problems everyone has with BWOF directions, I assumed the problem was Burda's fault and my mind slammed shut. I looked at the “Cutting out” section and didn’t see a neck facing listed. I read the section on the trim at least 6 times. I even posted a desperate cry for help on Stitcher’s Guild.
Then I read the instructions once more. Sure enough, a facing was mentioned further along in the directions. And when I looked at the Cutting Out section again I saw the following:

Front neckband on a fold 1x

and as a facing 1x

I will accept only partial responsibility for my stupidity. Yes, I should have read the directions more carefully. But (here comes the rant), Burda should write clearer directions. They could also use layout to highlight certain sections and not crowd everything into one teeny-tiny column! And hey, haven’t they heard of pictures! (end of rant) Of course, all of these changes would probably increase the price of a subscription. So, I better remember to read every word of the directions at least 5 times before I begin a BWOF project. Otherwise, I'll feel like an idiot.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Time Out

I'm taking very short time-out from garment sewing. My sewing room serves as a guest room and by the end of the week, I will have had to take down my cutting table to make room for overnight guests on 3 occasions. Dismantling and reassembling the table is not an easy task, so after the second time, I decided to leave it down and stop sewing for a few days. When the furlough ends, I'll decide between two projects. The first option is BWOF 01/2006 #130 pants and #131 shirt. I have fuchsia knit for the top from Vogue Fabrics and a black stretch twill from Nancy's Notions. Re: Nancy's Notions - They carry really nice fabric! I've ordered fabric from them in the past, but I'd forgotten how good the fabric quality was. They don't have anything too flashy or trendy; mostly classics and basics like knits, twills and linens. The customer service reps are also very helpful. What more could a fabric shopper want? When I started ordering fabric from other online sources, I forgot all about Nancy's Notions. Most of the fabrics are either $7.98, $8.98 or $9.98. You can certainly find cheaper or more exciting fabric at other online sources. Being an obsessive-compulsive, anal-retentive control freak, I appreciate the consistency and predictability of the pricing. More importantly, I am confident about the quality of fabric available at Nancy's Notions.

My second option is to make a white suit using Burda 8239 as the jacket and Burda 8102 as the skirt (shorter than pictured). I don't really like wearing suits and I've survived many years without one, but every woman needs a white suit. Come to think of it, I don't have a black suit either so I'd better add that to my sewing queue. I have some off-white, suit-weight fabric purchased from Jo Ann for $4.99/ yd, if I remember correctly. I wasn't thrilled with the fabric but I couldn't pass it up for the price. I won't be wearing it that often, and I wasn't interested in buying really expensive fabric.

PS: For those who asked - Artist1Lisa and Nancy W. - the outfit in my July 13 post is BWOF 05/2006 #132 & #134

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Ultimate Tote Bag

I’m taking a short break from sewing clothes. I’ve been sewing like a fiend for months and I want a little respite before I burn out! I’m doing easy projects that don’t require much thought or fitting. One of my favorite projects is my Ultimate Tote Bag. I need a large, colorful tote bag to carry toys and materials when I work with children in their homes. I was walking through IKEA and spotted the canvas fabric used in this tote. Before cutting, the fabric had really huge (about 20” diameter) polka dots and semi-circles. I placed and cut my pieces to take full advantage of the colorful shapes.

Here are some of the features:

1. I wanted the sides to be stiff enough to almost stand on their own, so I fused craft-weight interfacing to muslin, then basted the muslin to the fabric as an interlining. The big roomy front pocket is not interfaced or lined.

2. To make the bottom stiff, I made a “sandwich” with two pieces of Peltex (or Timtex) and a piece of plastic needlepoint canvas. The plastic canvas is sewn between two pieces of Peltex. I placed the sandwich between the bottom fabric and lining. My intention was to use materials that would retain their stiffness after washing. When I make another tote bag, I’ll round the corners.

3. I added a separate piece for the zipper closure. I can pull it up if I need more room. The zipper closure piece is sewn to the body using a French seam so that the top will fold into the bag when the extra space is not needed.

5. Inside pocket for small items.

I won’t divulge how many of these tote bags I’ve made. Every time I think of ways to improve the design, I make another bag. But, that’s okay because my motto is “You can never have enough tote bags.”

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Patterns from Finished Clothes: A Comparison of 2 Methods

I'm making barber smocks for my nephew. Neither my nephew nor I will live long enough for me to find a pattern for a size 5X barber smock, so I had to make the pattern using one of his smocks. I experimented with two methods to copy the pattern: The Doyle Method and The Haas Method. A comparison of the methods follows.

The Doyle Method:
Description: In this method, sections of the garment are pinned out on piece of cork and pattern paper. Then the section is traced with a needle point tracing wheel, which perforates the pattern paper. The points of the tracing wheel sink into the cork and produce holes that are clearly visible. The photo shows the sleeve pinned out on top of the paper, which is on top of the cork. I bought a 2' X 3' roll of cork at an office supply store and taped the cork to my cutting mat to prevent movement. Once the section was traced with the needlepoint tracing wheel, I removed the garment section and traced over the perforations with a pencil and added hem and seam allowances.
Pros: This method is relatively quick. If you secure the garment adequately, you get accurate lines and an accurate copy of the pattern piece.
Cons:Pinning out the sections is not as easy as it looks. My thumb was really sore after pushing the pins in the cork and cutting mat. I ended up pushing the pins in at an angle, which saved my thumb but the pieces tended to slide around a little.

The Haas Method:
Description: Sections of the garment are duplicated by covering them with masking tape. First I outlined the section with short pieces of tape. Then I filled in the section with wider, longer pieces of tape. Haas recommends that you try out different types of tape to make sure the tape doesn't ruin the fabric of the garment being copied. When the section is completely covered with tape, the garment is carefully peeled away from the tape and the tape reproduction is adhered to a piece of pattern paper and hem and seam allowances added.
Pros: You don't have to be as careful about securing the garment to a stable surface. Since the tape sticks to the garment, it doesn't matter if the garment moves during the process.
Cons: I used lots of tape! I found covering large sections of the smock with tape to be tedious and time consuming.

Conclusion: I made the front pattern piece using the Haas Method and the back using the Doyle Method. I prefer the Doyle method. I can't imagine taping a piece as large as the back of a 5x smock. Luckily, this smock didn't have any design details - no darts or tucks, no yoke, no cuffs. I wouldn't want to use either of these methods to copy a garment with design details. I retraced the Haas Method front because the taped piece was stiff and inflexible. (Added time). I walked the sleeves to see if they actually fit into the armscyes and they did! I really can't see myself making anything but the simplest pattern this way. This was an interesting experience, but I will only do this again if I have no choice.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

And now for something completely different

I have no idea what to expect from this project. It's going to be quite an adventure.
My nephew is a barber. Several months ago, he struck out on his own and became the proprietor of his own barber shop. He is a big fan of the L.A. Lakers and Oakland Raiders, so he asked me to make barber smocks using fabric with the Lakers and the Raiders logos. I said "yes". At first I was worried about finding Laker and Raider fabric, but I found and online source. The problem is he wears a size 5X. That's right -- 5X. My first plan was to find a shirt pattern and make changes so it looked like a barber smock. A good plan if you can find a mens' 5X shirt pattern; which I couldn't. Then I considered using a plus size woman's pattern as the starting point. I dismissed that idea, too. Finally, I decided to make a pattern from one of his barber smocks. I'm using Patterns from Finished Clothes by Tracy Doyle as my primary resource. There was an alternative method in an article in Threads that I may use. I love my nephew very much (we share the same birth date) and I have warm, fuzzy visions about the finished smock and my nephew's heartfelt expression of gratitude.

Let's hope I can pull this off.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Quick and Easy .......... NOT!

Even DD's prom dress didn't take this long! First of all, the pattern had more than 15 pieces! Collars, collar bands, welts, flaps, pleats -- just tracing it seemed to take 2 months. Then, life intervened right in the middle of sewing this outfit. Summer school started and I had to go back to work; DD's summer track schedule went into full gear and I had to take her to practice; DD got her first job and I had to pick her up from work - all of this using up valuable sewing time.

One of the reasons I liked this pattern was the details! And one of the reasons it took so long was the details. It has tons of top stitching that is barely visible because of the dark color. I thought about using white for the top stitching but that would have screamed "70's Leisure Suit". Another detail was the "Poacher's Pocket" on the sides. Sewing on these pockets was time consuming. Pleats were sewn into the face of the pocket, then a separate pleat piece was sewn the side of the pocket and then the pocket was sewn to the pants. And there are single welt pockets with a flap, on the back. Good thing I put myself through that little self taught Welt Workshop a while back.

The tank top was as quick and easy as the pants and jacket were time consuming. It took about one hour to sew it. The fabric is a cotton-type with a waffle pattern. The waffle pattern was the reason I bought the fabric, but the waffle pattern disappears when the fabric is pressed. I hope it comes back when the top is washed. It won't need any pressing after laundering, but it did need some pressing during construction.

When you look at this outfit, you don't see any of these details that drew me to this outfit (you certainly can't see them in my photography). No one will know they are there except me. Only I will know how much time went into this outfit and how hard I worked to make it look right. But, I'm satisfied with the results and that's all I should ask for.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Thank You, Debbie Cook!

I would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank Debbie Cook!

A few weeks ago, I had barely enough fabric for a BWOF project and I had to eliminate non-essential hem allowances to make the pieces fit on the fabric. Afterward, I went to Pattern Review and posed the question: When do you prefer to add BWOF seam allowances? Debbie's response (the 8th post in the thread) was brilliant in it's simplicity. My current BWOF project has at least 108 pieces, (well … maybe not exactly 108, but it seemed that way last night when I was laying it out!) and I was again in danger of not having enough fabric. But this time I had an advantage! I used Debbie's method of adding seam allowances and I was able to manipulate and squeeze the pieces on the fabric without worrying if I'd left enough space between pieces for seam allowances. If I mess it up, it won't be because I didn't have enough fabric!

In honor of Debbie Cook's generosity, I'd like to pass along a tip. It's not mine, but I found it to be, like Debbie's tip, brilliant in it's simplicity. This tip was published in Aug/Sept 2007 issue of Threads ( p. 20) and is credited to Saragrace Knauf of Buckeye, Arizona. "Crayola ® Erasable colored pencils are great for marking fabric. They show up well, and the lead is sturdy even when you apply great pressure. There are many colors so you can select the color that works best on your fabric. Even better, you can erase them if you make a mistake -- even after ironing." I've tested the pencils on a few pieces of fabric and Saragrace is absolutely correct -- the marks are erasable!

Thank you to all generous sewing enthusiasts who share their knowledge!