Monday, July 25, 2011

Finished: BSM 05-2009-129

This dress came as a complete surprise to me.  When I bought the fabric,  I had no idea what I was going to do with it other than make a dress.  I got lucky when I married the fabric to BSM 05-2009-129.  I really like this dress! The silhouette is good for my body type; the full skirt balances my "top-heavyness".

The only pattern alteration I made was to lengthen the bodice to accommodate my low bust line.  (Gravity and age are merciless.) I used stay tape on the front gathers.  I marked the finished length on the stay tape, pinned the stay tape to the area to be gathered and adjusted the gathers to match that length. Finally, I sewed the gathered area to the tape.  The stay tape is sheer and adds no noticeable bulk to the seam.

Sometimes the Burda way of doing things is logical and make sense to me.  Other times, the Burda way of doing things makes no sense at all.  For example,  the lining is put in with the wrong side of the dress against the right side of the lining.  The  recommended fabric is chiffon, so I'm sure the reason for this is to prevent unsightly seam allowances and darts from being visible through the sheer chiffon.  That makes sense.  However, I didn't understand why the lining was not assembled as a single unit.  The bodice and skirt are lined separately and then sewn together at the empire waist.   I haven't made lots of lined dresses so I was confused and didn't see the rationale for this method.  I wished this lining were more conventional because I wanted to try a technique in the August/September 2011 issue of Threads (Sew Invisible Zippers Like a Pro p. 60) in which the lining is attached to the zipper tape completely by machine – no hand stitching!

I used my serger to make a rolled hem on the sleeve and skirt.  Burda's instructions suggest a "closely spaced zig-zag" and  I've used this method to finish edges on other Burda projects.   It works quite well if an overedge foot is used.  It was actually faster to use the overedge foot on the conventional machine than to set up the serger for a rolled hem with woolly nylon.  I heard my serger lament, "She never uses me enough!  I can do more than sew seams with a 5-thread combination stitich!  If she loves me, she'll use me!"  So, I listened to my serger and I used it for a rolled hem on the skirt and sleeves.

And, so ends the "Season of the Dress"  I've kept the promise I made in April and sewed several summer dresses! This one might just be my favorite.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

So Long, Kincus.

So long, it's been good to know yuh;
So long, it's been good to know yuh;
So long, it's been good to know yuh.
This dusty old dust is a-gettin' my home,
And I got to be driftin' along.

(Woody Guthrie, 1940)

My favorite Fabric Row store has closed.  Everyone would agree Philadelphia's Fabric Row is not what it used to be.  I've seen the slow demise in the years I've lived in Philadelphia.  Kincus was one of the "old guard"  Fabric Row stores.  The store was owned by the same family for generations.  Several years ago, half of the sales area disappeared.   Several months ago, my favorite sales person was laid off.   Now the whole store is gone.  I'm very sad.

This means I'm going to have to change the way I buy fabric.    I used to make spontaneous trips to Kincus and other Fabric Row stores after work to pick up one or two nice pieces for an outfit.  I could take a modest amount of money to Fabric Row with no guilt.   Now, there will have to be more planned trips to the Garment District in New York, which is having it's own survival problems.  A major shopping trip to the Garment District is not a bad thing.  I've enjoyed my trips to Metro and Mood.  But, a two hour train or bus ride is not as easy as a quick trip to South Philadelphia.  I'd have to spend considerably more money in New York just to make the trip worth the time and effort.

I do my best to support independent fabric stores.  I've watched to slow death of other independent fabric stores (and other small businesses), but this one really hurts.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Finished: BSM 04/2011 #135

Elizabeth made New Look 6022, which was really cute and which was very similar to BSM 04/2011-135.  Her dress was so cute, I was inspired to try something similar for myself, knowing that I'd need a dress  with more room.  This Burda version is less fitted than the New Look version.  This dress has raglan sleeves and in seam pockets.

A cursory look at the design would make one think sewing this dress would be a no-brainer. But, noooo! Burda made things a little more difficult. The neck binding was narrow and was meant to be folded, pressed and sewn in like bias tape.  Trimming the seam allowance; sewing on the fold line and folding the binding over the edge.  A french binding would have been easier. Because the binding was so narrow, I hand basted it in place before machine stitching for a neater appearance. This is the kind a situation where an edge-stitch foot is invaluable.  The instruction said to use fusible  bias tape to hold the pleats in addition to basting them in place.  Since the seam allowance has to be trimmed off before attaching the binding, the fusible tape holds everything in place

I'm in the midst of my "sew-dresses-and-sew-up-fabrics-from-PR-Weekend-before-I-buy-any-more-fabric" phase.  I confess, I did not buy this fabric during PR Weekend, but I did order it from Vogue Fabrics by Mail in Chicago so it still counts, sort of.

The instructions specify a flat felled seam for the sleeves. I've been practicing flat felled seams, but even with the special foot my flat felled seams are a little sloppy.  So, I pressed the seam allowance to the back and top-stitched.
I like the simplicity of this dress.  The  simple design allows the fabric to stand out.  The next time I find very pretty summer dress fabric I'll use this pattern.

Tracing Tip 

Few sewers love Burda Magazine patterns more than I do.  Since Burda includes only one pattern sheet, tracing the patterns has become a challenge even for the most dedicated fan. It's easy to loose the line I'm tracing among all the other lines.  I couldn't put my hands on a usable highlighter,  the "pre-tracing" method of choice, so I used Post It ™ arrows to point out the tracing lines.  I placed them at various points along the pattern lines so that my eyes have an easier time finding the line if I happen to turn away from the pattern sheet.  Granted, a highlighter makes the lines more visible, but this method worked in a pinch.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Sew/Fit Manual

I've always preferred the Pivot and Slide method of pattern alteration over the Slash and Spread method. This method involves tracing, pivoting and sliding the pattern to make the necessary width and length changes. I first learned about this method by watching Sewing with Nancy, so naturally I bought Fitting Finesse (Zieman, 1995). For a long time Fitting Finesse was my primary resource for pattern fitting information. When Nancy Zieman published an updated version, Pattern Fitting with Confidence (Zieman, 2008), I bought that one too.  I purged sewing books a while ago and I decided to keep Pattern Fitting with Confidence, believing "newer is better" and it would be my go to source for pivot and slide pattern fitting.  I was wrong.  Fitting Finesse contained information that was left out of Pattern Fitting with Confidence. I had to re-purchase Fitting Finesse to fit a dress with princess seams.

I own several books by Nancy Zieman and I refer to them often.  But I find them a little "watered down".   I decided to search for the undiluted Pivot and Slide book and the search led me to  The Sew/Fit Manual (Oblander and Anderson, 1992).  I'm embarrassed to admit, this was another book I owned and purged some time ago. Now that I've re-purchased The Sew/Fit Manual, I've taken a more critical look at it. I think it is an excellent resource for P&S and I don't remember why I ever got rid of it in the first place.  It covers much more than either of Zieman's fitting books. In addition to step-by-step instructions on completing scores of P&S alterations, the book has several chapters on fitting theory. In fact, the actual P&S "how-to" instructions don't begin until Chapter 5, page 159.  Detailed step-by-step instructions are given for measuring and marking the pattern pieces and pivoting, sliding and tracing to make the adjustments.  Full figures, petite figures and princess style adjustments are also covered.  And if, after all this,  I still needed the Nancy Zieman seal of approval, I learned she worked with the authors on the first edition and was the first model.

I have one criticism about this book - the artwork.  Some of the faces of the drawn figures are downright scary!  (Maybe I got rid of the book to stop the nightmares. ) Others are simply amateurish. Luckily, these are just the fashion illustrations and they can be ignored.  The diagrams that illustrate the processes are clear and that is what is important.

The Sew/Fit Manual was last published almost twenty years ago. New copies are available through Hip/Line Media.  I bought a used copy from Amazon.   I hope  I've finally learned my lesson about purging books.  There is no guarantee I'll be able to replace them.

Note:  I did find one newer comprehensive source for pivot and slide.  Fitting and Pattern Alteration (Liechty, Rasband and Pottberg-Steineckert, 2010) compares P&S, the Seam Method and the Slash Method for each pattern alteration.  I would like to own this book, but it cost over $90.   I'd have to give it a good, long preview before I spent that much money.  I can't trust myself.  After spending $90  I might purge it within a few years. With The Sew/Fit Manual and two Nancy Zieman books, there is no reason for me to buy another book on Pivot and Slide.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Finished: BPF SS-2010-413

A mistake I make all too often is to arrange a bad fabric/pattern marriage.  I really loved this linen purchased during PR Weekend in Chicago and I didn't want to make a dress that didn't make me happy.  I actually put some thought into this decision.  My original plan was to sew BSM 4-11-135A with this fabric, but that would have been boring.   I realized the fabric, being a solid color, could tolerate design details like interior seams and edge-stitching.  

This is a half size pattern and is drafted for a shorter figure.  For most measurements, the difference between regular plus size and half size is no more than 3/4".  I added length above the waist to lengthen the bodice and below the waist to lengthen the hem.

Belt casing
I like Burda's unique design details and this dress had quite a few. The pattern has a belt casing in the back, a cuff at the hemline, sleeve tabs and welt pockets in the front.  I've convinced myself that the casing is subtle enough that it won't look strange if I don't wear the belt.  I think the dress is more slimming without the belt.  I was unsure about the cuffed hemline.  I decided to throw caution to the wind and include the cuff.  Somehow something went wrong when I was lengthening the dress.   The cuffed side front panels were too long and didn't match the uncuffed center front panels.  The cuff had to be eliminated.  One thing in particular I didn't like:  when drafting the patten piece for the sleeve tabs, measurements are given for a simple rectangle. In the sewing directions you are instructed to "trim one edge of tab to a point." I really wished Burda had provided that simple pattern piece.  It took a little bit of trial and error before I could draft a point of pleasing proportions.  I didn't have any other tab pattern pieces to use as a guide.   Turns out, the best looking point was a simple right angle.  You really do learn from your mistakes.  After drafting so many strange looking acute angles, I'll remember to use a right angle to draft attractive points.  I decided to eliminate the welt pockets.  The placement of the welts, in addition to the belt, called too much attention to my belly.  

I'm glad I took the time to make a good fabric-pattern match.  The fabric I loved so much is now a dress I love.