Monday, August 4, 2014

Listening to Fabric

My original plan for this fabric was to make a dress.  I searched my pattern collection and Burda index for a dress with simple styling.  I thought I found one.  The  July 2014 issue of Burda Style Magazine showed a very simple dress pattern in style 129.

But, every time I went into the sewing room I heard a small whisper: "I don't want to be a dress."  Lori, at Girls in the Garden, does an excellent job of matching fabric to the right pattern.  I asked myself, "What would Lori do?" And realistically, it was a little late in the season to sew a sleeveless dress.  So, I listened to the fabric and even though I really liked the pattern, I decided against the dress in favor of a skirt.  I went back to my pattern collection and chose an oldie but goodie, Kwik Sew 3276.

Listening to fabric has always been a problem for me.  There have been countless times when I was disappointed because my fabric/pattern match-up was wrong.  

I though it was as simple as this:

But there is more to consider:

I'm okay with the drape and weight.  It's prints that give me trouble.  Many sewers can match pattern to fabric instinctively.  I need to put deliberate thought into my fabric–pattern match-ups.  But I take heart.  It's not too late.  This is a skill that can be learned.  

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Finished: KwikSew 3586

I've sewn this pattern at least 159,375 times. If I had a nickel for every time I've made this blouse, I could buy the Bernina 710 and Horn Cabinet I'm currently coveting.  Well … maybe I'm overstating the number of time I made this blouse, but it certainly feels like 159,375 times.  However, this time is noteworthy because I may have finally learned a lesson that continues to be extremely difficult for me.  I made the correct fabric/pattern match-up!  Of course, this was a no-brainer.  Oxford cloth - oxford shirt.  But, I'm still taking credit for it.

Pattern Description
Short sleeved shirt with yoke

Pattern Sizing
1x - 4x;  The design is available in Misses size range; KwikSew 3555

Fabric Used
Oxford cloth.  This cotton oxford cloth was almost as much fun to sew as linen.  It was very easy to press.

This blouse is very easy to sew, even if you haven't sewn it 159,375 times.  The instructions contain the method for sewing a standard yoke mentioned in the previous post.

I modified the "finger felling" shirt tail hem technique demonstrated by Pam Howard.  My modification involved pinning before sewing.  I didn't have the confidence to rely totally on finger felling.  When I make this shirt for the 159,376th time, I'll try to sew the hem without pinning it first.

This short sleeved shirt is certainly more successful than the last short sleeved shirt (McCall's 6932).  I wanted to re-establish a relationship with McVoguerick.  But why should I?  I get better results with other pattern companies – without making a muslin.  I gave McVoguerick a chance and they disappointed me.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Finished: McCalls 6932

Recently, I decided to relax my "All Burda, All the time" policy and reacquaint myself with the Big Four.  Big Four offered classic designs I liked that were perhaps too boring for Burda, whose designs are more contemporary and trendy.  I came to a realization during this process.  The problem is not the Big Four patterns;  the problem is me.  I don't like fitting and I refuse to make muslins.  If I'd made a muslin, I would have known the size I selected for this blouse was too big.

Pattern Description
This is a classic camp shirt.  The pattern can be used for both men and women.

Pattern Sizing

Fabric used
I used a linen blend.  I love sewing linen and this blend behaved very much like real linen.  It was easy to press and make neat corners on the pockets.  The only thing missing was the wrinkles!

Most sewers may be familiar with the method of attaching a standard style yoke entirely by machine.  With the standard style yoke, the fronts and back of the blouse are rolled up inside the yoke and the yoke facing can be sewn  entirely by machine.  The collar is sewn on after the yokes are attached.  M6932 is a blouse type yoke.  The method is different because the collar is attached to the neck seam before attaching the front facing and yoke facing units.  The  blouse unit and inside unit are constructed separately, the collar is sandwiched between the two units; then the units are sewn together at the neckline.  The front and back are rolled up into the yoke and the shoulder and back yoke seams are sewn, much like the procedure in the standard yoke.  I found directions for the blouse type yoke in Easy Guide to Sewing Blouses  (Long, 1997), part of the Sewing Companion Library (which is a great collection of books, though out of print).  I love the result, a very neat looking inside.

When I sew a Burda magazine pattern, I trace it and then I sew it.  I rarely make any pattern changes and, in most cases, I'm satisfied with the fit.  I can't follow the same procedure with McCall's, Butterick or Vogue.  Some pattern work is usually needed and I usually choose to not do it.  The resulting fit can be horrible and I don't wear the garment.  

I have decisions to make.  Do I hang on to my stubborn refusal to make muslins and end up with garments made from McVougericks that don't fit well?  I'm much happier with Burda garments that I can sew with minimal, if any alterations.  Do I resign myself to making muslins if I want to sew Big Four patterns?  Sometimes Big Four's boring classic designs are just what I want.  I have fabric for another blouse.  Do I make M6932 again in a smaller size?  Do I try another McVoguerick pattern?  Or do I return to old faithful Burda?  So many questions!  The immediate solution is not quite as bad as making a muslin. For now, I'll just have to take in the sides of this blouse.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Finished: BWOF 08-07-127 - Mom Jeans

I just about finished my Great Dress Project and I am moving on to my Great Jeans Project.  I need pants for my part-time, very casual work setting and jeans are the perfect choice.

The first challenge was finding the right pattern.  I wanted to get reacquainted with McVoguerick patterns so I chose McCall's 5894.  The fit was dreadful.  Enough said.

I went to my archives for Burda World of Fashion 08-07-127 and had better results.

Pattern Description:
Traditional 5 pocket jeans

Pattern Sizing:
European plus size range 44 - 52

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
I wanted a TNT standard 5-pocket jeans pattern because I intend to make several pair for work.  I will be using this pattern again.

Fabric Used:
Cotton twill:  I wanted the look of 5-pocket jeans, but not necessarily in denim.

One thing, perhaps the only thing I liked about the McCall's jeans pattern was the fly treatments.  The fly facing was sewn on, not a cut-on extension and the finished fly looked like RTW jeans.  BWOF used the same fly treatment and I was equally happy with the results.  The usually confusing BWOF instructions were easier to understand because I was familiar with the process from the McCall's pattern,   in addition, Angela Wolf demonstrates a traditional fly in her Jeans Craftsy class.  I'm not sure Wolf's demonstration is exactly what BWOF was try to say.  Since BWOF instructions are not illustrated, Wolf's Craftsy class was indispensable.

On the waistband, I made a few changes in the order of construction.  The waist band had two separate sections: an inner waistband and an outer waistband.  I took advantage of this feature and sandwiched the belt loops between the two waistband pieces.

One of the fun things about sewing jeans is finding a design for the back pockets.  I chose a West African symbol known as Musuyidie (moo zoo EE DEE YEH).  It's a symbol that removes evil.

Although I want to expand my options and use McVogerick patterns  more,  this project reminded me why I turned away from those patterns.  For both the McCall's and BWOF patterns,  I selected the size according to my hip measurements and sewed both  patterns without alterations.  The difference in fit was astonishing.  No, the BWOF fit isn't perfect and yes,  there are wrinkles in the BWOF jeans. Purists would find much to change, but I'm satisfied. I can live with a few wrinkles.

Monday, June 16, 2014

OCD Sewer's Tip #1

I like to make pattern-fabric assignments as soon as I get the fabric in the sewing room.   But it can take many weeks, if not months, for me to get around to actually sewing the fabric.  So I had to come up with a way to remind me what pattern has been assigned to which fabric.  Enter Avery labels!

I print the pattern information and line drawing on Avery labels and stick the label to the fabric.

What could be easier!  Yes, I could stick just the pattern number on the fabric, but the technical drawing provides information and inspiration.  Two months from now, I won't remember that V8792 is a t-shirt with diagonal seams. If the picture is on the label, that won't be a problem.  I can also prioritize using the labels.  It's easier to decide what blouse I want to make by just looking at the technical drawings and fabrics together.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Declaring Victory

"When Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept for there were no more worlds to conquer."

I know how Alexander the Great must have felt.  I conquered Burda Style Magazine patterns and now I'm asking myself, "What next?"  For me,  Burda Style Magazine patterns were the most difficult patterns out there.  I was determined to conquer the vague, poorly translated instructions and lack of illustrations.  My plan of attack was to adopt an "All Burda – All The Time" assault.  I rarely sewed patterns from other companies.
 Burda was definitely my pattern company of choice.  Now that I can sew Burda Style Magazine patterns without trepidation, I am declaring victory.  Mission accomplished. I am ready to relax my "All Burda" restriction.

Vogue 8857
Vogue 8792
I've always loved the design details included in Burda Style Magazine patterns.  I sew plus size patterns and Burda Style often had designs and design details that were not available on McVoguerick's plus size patterns.  But sometimes, I want something simple like a plain short sleeved blouse.  I found Vogue 8857 to fill that need.  I wanted a t-shirt, but not your every day t-shirt.  Vouge 8792 was perfect.   Burda has so many more options when it comes to dresses.  However, I was inspired by a dress chosen by Carolyn at Diary of a Sewing Fanatic .  (Who hasn't been inspired by Carolyn?)   I wonder how many perfectly good patterns I never saw because I was obsessed with beating Burda Style into submission?

There is a downside to my re-acceptance of McVoguerick patterns.  Now, there is the chance that I will begin buying patterns that I never get around to sewing.  I might begin stalking Jo-Ann's pattern sales.  I was just beginning to have a pattern stash when I launched my attack on Burda.  As a matter of fact, avoiding a huge pattern stash was one of the reasons I went "All Burda".  I still love Burda Style Magazine patterns, first and foremost.  Now that I've conquered them, I feel free to use a wider variety of patterns.  Maybe the next world I try to conquer will be Marfy Patterns!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Wedding Addendum

When I posted about DDs wedding dress, I didn't have a picture to show the bustling.  I now have a picture to show that feature.

That's it – no more wedding stuff!  I promise!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Finished: BSM 05-10-138

I had to sew this dress in small doses.  I fell out of love with the dots and the fabric was silky and hard to control.  The dress was not as much fun as it could have been.

Pattern Description
Dress with high waist, bust pleats and sleeve pleats.

Pattern Sizing
European plus range: 44 - 52

Fabric Used
Silky polyester.  The fabric was a little unruly during cut-out.  I had to cut the front bodice lining twice because the fabric moved so it was impossible to line up the dart legs.

Pattern Alterations or Design Changes
I've learned it's best to raise the necklines in most Burda Style patterns.  I raised the neckline one inch.

The bodice front is underlined.  I used self-fabric as the underlining.  Because the fabric was so slippery, I used a walking foot to keep the fabric together and prevent the top layer from "growing".  My walking foot is my most underused and under appreciated foot.  There have been times when I should have used it, but I didn't consider or even remember it.

To install the zipper, I used a technique found in 10-20-30 Minutes to Sew (Nancy Zieman, 1992)  The technique in the book uses a conventional zipper, but it works just as well with an invisible zipper. Using this method, the facing is sewn to the zipper tape by machine rather than by hand.  It's a good looking finish.

The sleeve is finished with a bias band.  Since the fabric was so slippery, I basted rather than pinned the band in place.  The result was a neatly sewn narrow band.
The bust pleats are a little funky.  They provide ease in the bust area that I don't need.   I looked at another review for this dress on Pattern Review.  One of us had our pleats going in the wrong direction.  I won't say which one of us had the pleats going in the wrong direction, but I will say the other sewer didn't appear to have the same bust funkiness I had.
Dare I say it?  Making a muslin would have shown this to me.  But I wouldn't have known how to adjust it anyway, so why bother?  (Bad attitude.  I know.)

This dress is not one of my favorites.  I like the silhouette, but once again, I could have made a different fabric choice.  The weight of the fabric is appropriate for the pattern.  It's light weight for summer, but the color says fall.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Finished: BSM 07-2012-135

Should I let an interesting design detail make me lose my good sense?  I think I look best in full skirts, but can a novel feature, like exposed darts, inspire me to change my mind?  You bet it can! I normally wouldn't wear a dress with an obvious waist either.  But, if exposed darts can make me forgo a full skirt, they can make me wear a dress with an obvious waist.

Pattern Description: Short sleeved dress with exposed darts.

Pattern Sizing:  European plus range – 44 - 52
What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?  I loved the exposed darts

Fabric Used:  Linen.  I love sewing linen even though it wrinkles like crazy.  But what fabric makes a better summer dress than linen?

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:  I raised the neckline.  Sometimes I think the designers at Burda have a fixation on cleavages.  (Do they bottle feed or breast feed in Germany?)  The original design had exposed darts at the hemline.  I omitted these darts because I didn’t want a tapered skirt.  I wanted as much fullness in the skirt as I could possibly get.

Construction:  I ordered two rolls of Swedish Tracing Paper and they arrived just as I was tracing this pattern.  Since I had to alter the plunging neckline, I decided to try the STP.  Using the STP, I was able to sew the darts in the bodice and draft the new neckline and facing while the darts were sewn.  I don’t think it would have been as easy if I’d traced the bodice on the artist’s tracing paper I normally use.

The exposed darts are the main design feature of this dress.  In addition to the exposed darts on the front and back, the sleeves have darts rather than easing.  The darts are made exactly like any other dart.  The only difference is they are sewn with wrong sides together.  The dress was very easy to sew together.  Thanks to Burda’s excellent drafting, the bodice and skirt fit together perfectly.

The sleeves edges are finished with a facing rather than a hem.  I'm sure there is a reason for this, but I don't know what that reason might be.  Perhaps the length of the sleeve makes a facing a better option than turning up a hem allowance.  I think it looks classy.

I am really enjoying making dresses.  One of the reasons I like Burda Style Magazine patterns is the variety of dress styles offered.  I had far too few dresses in my closet and I glad to add this dress to my wardrobe.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

I'm So Glad I Can Sew!

In high school and again in college, I took a photography class as an elective.  Back then, I believed I would pursue photography as a hobby. It would have meant having a dedicated room in which to pursue the hobby and spending lots of money on supplies.  (Sounds a lot like sewing, doesn’t it?)  In those days you needed chemicals to process photographs.  These days, it’s easier to practice photography because you don't need darkrooms, enlargers, or dangerous chemicals.  Now that I’m semi-retired, I’ve decided to rekindle my interest in photography.  I bought myself a digital SLR camera for Mother’s Day and enrolled in classes for digital photography and Photoshop Elements. 

The digital photography class is held in downtown Philadelphia.  I hate driving in downtown traffic and paying exorbitant parking fees.  And, I wasn’t happy about carrying a conspicuous camera bag on public transportation.  I searched my tote bag stash and found reusable grocery bags I sewed years ago.  This grocery bag was the perfect size for carrying the camera bag and a notebook to class.  There was one problem: the fabric I used made it look like a grocery bag.   

So why does all of this make me so glad I can sew?   I had a very specific need and I was able to fill it by sewing.  I bought some really fun home dec fabric from JoAnn and sewed another, more suitable bag.  If I hadn’t sewn this bag, I probably would have bought an expensive Vera Bradley tote bag.  (Vera Bradley has become my go-to source for tote bags).  Sewing this bag was so much more fun and economical.  I’d seen the bird fabric in JoAnn and I often wished I had a project in which to use it. 

Camera bag tucked neatly inside 
This bag has features I really like and make it a perfect “camera bag”.   Plastic mesh canvas is inserted into a sleeve and placed in the bottom of the bag. 

This provides more support for the camera (or groceries) than just the fabric.  Also, The corners and bottom of the bag are sewn to give the bag definition. 

During construction, I used a technique I first saw demonstrated by Louise Cutting.  She recommends pressing a seam open whenever seam allowances have to be pressed back on themselves.  This prevents the seam from rolling to one side or the other.  This technique was perfect for attaching the facing to the top of the bag.

I was so excited about making this camera bag, I decided to make two of them.  JoAnn’s Waverly Home Dec fabrics were on sale and I had a 50% off coupon for the second fabric.

When I make the second bag, I may put velcro in the top to keep it closed.

The directions for sewing this bag are here: