Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Finished: Blouse BSM 02-10-137 Pants BSM 92-09-132A

Backstory: Karlin's in Philadelphia used to be a great independent fabric store.  Back in the late 70s/early 80s, when I subscribed to Butterick's pattern magazine, Karlin's was usually listed on the "Where to Buy" page as a store to purchase the fabrics featured in the magazine.  But, like many other independent fabric stores, Karlin's fell on hard times.  The store remained open, but the shelves and tables were nearly empty and I seldom found anything I wanted to buy.  Lately, things have begun to look up.  New inventory appeared and the prices were more than reasonable.  I picked up the dark teal stretch twill for the pants on a day I was in town for an appointment.  I didn't find fabric for a top, but I was so happy to find something worth buying, I bought the teal twill anyway.  Then,  I went to Elizabeth's Late Summer NY Garment District Shopping Day with very specific objectives, one of which was to find blouse fabric to match the teal twill.  I found the perfect silk oxford cloth at Mood.  (Thanks, Mood!)  That's how this latest outfit was born.

Blouse: I made this pattern before - as a dress and as a blouse.  When I made the dress, I mangled the bottom of the placket.  This time, I consulted  The Sewing Book (Smith, 2009) and I got a pretty decent placket.  (Sometimes I'm amazed at how little I use all the sewing books on my shelves!)  I marked and stay-stitched the seam line before attaching the placket.  After the placket was sewn on, I carefully clipped to the corners, which were reinforced by the stay-stitching.   The fabric is silk oxford cloth.  I never knew silk oxford cloth existed, but silk comes in so many weaves, I shouldn't be surprised.  This fabric looks like ordinary oxford cloth but it has a little sheen to it.  I omitted the pleated trim around the placket and cuff. 

Pants: When I bought the fabric for the pants, I didn't realize it was only 45" wide.  I couldn't use the pattern I originally selected.  My Burda index really came in handy.  I flipped through the pages and found a pattern that required less fabric.  The pants have a simple design and their construction presented no problems or surprises.

What I Learned:  I don't have to buy coordinating fabrics at the same time.  I worry about having garments that can't be worn with anything, so I try to prevent that by buying coordinating pieces of fabric.  In this case,  I bought the two fabrics months apart and in two different states and the sky didn't fall.  Hmmmmm. I wonder if this is how stashes get started.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Guess What I'll Be Sewing!

My brother-in-law took my niece to visit her paternal grandmother in New York last weekend.  See what happens when you go shopping with Da and Gran-Gran?

I'm actually looking forward to sewing
American Girl clothes.  Jada has about 1,826 Build-a-Bears (well, it seems like 1,826.) In the interest of full disclosure, I'm pretty sure I bought the first bear (my sister still blames me) and I haven't made one outfit for any of them.  I would have had to draft a pattern for a bear!  I'm not that good yet.  But there are already so many patterns available for American Girls.  I bought a pattern as soon as I learned Jada was going to American Girl Place!  Gran-Gran is an extremely talented seamstress, so I'm sure Jada's American Girl will be the best dressed doll in North Carolina.

My own daughter never really played with dolls.  She had a couple of Barbies and a Cabbage Patch Kid but she was more into sports and science when she was doll-playing age.  I made Barbie clothes one Christmas when she was about three.   I had mixed feelings about the project because I object to Barbie on certain levels.   And, it's not easy sewing clothes for a doll with a three inch waist.  But now I finally have the chance to sew real doll clothes!  I'm so excited!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Couture Techniques Workshop

This may become my favorite sewing DVD, which is not surprising because Claire Shaeffer is one of my favorite sewing experts.  Couture Techniques Workshop: Basics really demonstrates the difference between home sewing and couture sewing.  I've heard about professors at design schools using "home sewn" as the ultimate put-down.  Now I understand why.  Home sewing, even when done by the most talented and skilled practitioners, and couture sewing are two different animals.  In the introduction, Shaeffer stated she rarely has time to make a garment using only couture techniques.  Instead, she recommends using the techniques where they will make the most difference.

Two discs are included.  Four of the seven chapters on Disc One covered various hand sewing techniques:  Basting Stitches, Permanent Stitches, Slip Stitches and Hemming Stitches.  On Disc Two, Shaeffer demonstrated marking, pressing, shrinking, stretching and how to make bars and chains. Thanks to excellent camera close-ups,  I clearly saw how various stitches are made.  Shaeffer used many couture garments to illustrate the various techniques.  In addition to her own designs for Vogue, she opened up pieces from Chanel, Valentino and other couturiers of the 60s and 70s.  Shaeffer used wool crepe to demonstrate most of the techniques.  That has always been one of my favorite fabrics and if (I mean "when") I make a jacket using some of these couture techniques, wool crepe will be my choice.

Many current and popular sewing books and videos teach how to make clothes "fast and easy".  I look for resources that teach how to make clothes "well" and this DVD does exactly that.  Using even a few of the techniques will make the clothes I sew look like expensive ready-to-wear, if not couture. I'm okay with that. This DVD inspired me to incorporate couture techniques into my home sewing and improve the quality of the garments I sew.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

An Obsessive Sewer Obsesses About Thread

Most basic books on sergers advise against trying to match looper thread to the fabric.  A more economical approach, these books say, is to buy cones of neutral colors that can blend with, rather than match the fabric.  An Obsessive Sewer like me cringes at such a suggestion.   Matching thread is the latest obsession I've chosen to indulge.

It started with the Gutermann thread sale at Atlanta Thread Supply.  When sewing woven fabrics, in addition to the conventional machine, I use the five thread stitch on my serger:  two-thread chain stitch + three-thread overlock.  I thought the 1100 yard spools (sale price - $1.85) would be a perfect way to buy matching thread to be used for the overlock stitch.   I'd have over 700 colors from which to choose.    I downloaded the color chart from the ATS site, but I didn't trust it.  The colors changed from monitor to printer and neither matched the color chart printed in the catalog.  So, I spent $18 on the Real Thread Gutermann Color Chart.  My plan was to use the Real Thread chart to select matching thread to be used for the overlock stitch and get thread for the chain stitch and conventional machine by shopping my thread stash or buying it from JoAnn.  I'd have five spools that matched the fabric and each other perfectly.

I went to JoAnn and bought regular spools of Gutermann for my next project.  When I got home, I compared the thread I'd just bought with the samples on the chart.  The label on the spool said #639, but it did not match the sample #639 from the chart on which I'd just spent $18.  I started to get nervous.  Using the chart,  I'd just selected and ordered eighteen spools (for my next several projects) and spent over $30.  What if none of the thread matched the fabrics?   I had no choice but to wait for the thread to arrive from ATS.  It was an obsessive sewer's nightmare.

I needn't have worried.  The threads I ordered from ATS matched the colors on the chart, and therefore the fabric.  The threads I bought at JoAnn did not match the chart, but more importantly, they matched the fabric.  I can't explain why the thread I bought at JoAnn's did not match the samples on the color chart.  Apparently the numbering systems are not the same.  But all of the spools  matched the fabric and my obsessive soul was happy.

Now, how would I store all of this fantastic matching thread?  The answer was in my supermarket.  I bought small square snack storage containers that are the perfect size for keeping three matching spools together among the cones of thread in a large bin. 

Now, if I could only convince ATS to have the 1100 yd spools permanently on sale, life would be perfect!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Burda Plus Fashion: FW-10-413

Pattern Description: Long sleeved blouse with front and back waist darts and notched collar.

Pattern Sizing: European plus sizes: 46 - 54

Were the instructions easy to follow?   I was concerned about the directions for the notched collar.  I remember reading on another blog how to handle this type of collar. Unfortunately, I didn't remember the blog and I had to figure it out on my own.  My solution was very simple.  I sewed the notch first and then trimmed the seam allowance rather than try to trace the seam allowance onto such a small notch.  This is the point where tracing pattern pieces was a disadvantage.   I'm sure if the pieces were already printed, the collar pattern piece would have looked just like the piece I traced.  Instead, I had to look at the notch and wonder "How the heck am I supposed to add a seam allowance to that!?!" before I realized I didn't have to add a seam allowance at all. It goes without saying: Burda directions offered little, if any, help.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I liked the collar.  I also liked the more fitted silhouette.

Fabric Used: I bought this fabric at the Fall PR Shopping day at the end of August.  According to the sales associate at Elliot Berman in NYC, this fabric is French cotton.  It had a stiffer hand than I expected in a cotton.  It reminded me of chintz and the needle left holes in the fabric.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:One of the things I love about Burda is that I usually don't have to make any pattern alterations. I might have given myself a little extra room in the belly, but it was more of a preference than a necessity.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I'd like this blouse in a solid color. I'm sure I'll sew it again.