Friday, October 23, 2015

Random Threads # 16, Musings and pattern talk

Do you know that phrase "be careful what you wish for?" I'm sure you do and I feel that sentiment lately, as I always wish for summer to last all year. However - my sewing mojo has completely disappeared and I attribute that to the lack of autumnal weather. Looking back on the past few years I always seem to have some post in October mentioning how we haven't started wearing jackets or boots but this year our forecast has been extra balmy. Feels a bit Los Angeleno, eek! 80's˚F most every day and I am actually getting a bit tired of it. even though taking an after dinner walk wearing shorts and a t-shirt is very pleasant.
Oh well, check back in January when I am complaining about our admittedly not polar winter. Note for travelers - so many microclimates here in the SF Bay area so check before packing your suitcase, you could find yourself shivering as you admire the Golden Gate if you don't bring a bit of everything.
Anyway - that is a long way round to say that I feel like I have quite a few fall or winter coats and jackets, so even though I love to sew them I just can't get motivated. Recently I bought some silks so I think this fall will be a festival of shirts and blouses.

Apropos of nothing:  I am mildly obsessed with this Marfy dress pattern that I happened to see on their website. Talk about out of season! now that fall is approaching (sort of, see paragraph above). Anyway I am a sucker for a white dress and I can see that exactly as they have pictured, with the ribbon trim. Maybe I will order the PDF and put it away for spring. I had such good luck with my previous Marfy pattern - something about their proportions is very very good. Italiani e la moda, sanno quello che fanno. (they know what they are doing :) By the way they have some links on their website to sewing videos, I watched this one all the way though. While I do these pockets all the time I was kind of mesmerized by the person doing it - with no markings or tailors tacks. And as in the  couture houses I have seen on various documentaries, the person sewing is wearing what looks like a white lab coat. I like that touch - maybe I will get one to up my sewing game.

Marfy dress pattern image

Searching for something new: Not sure I am planning to enter but I saw an upcoming contest on Pattern Review titled "New to me pattern company" and thought that was a fun idea. So I have been looking....and looking, with nothing jumping out at me that I want to try. I was looking for an interesting jacket pattern, and I have already sewn Burda, Pauline Alice, StyleArc, Marfy, all the big US ones, even once made a Grainline pattern. So a new to me pattern company with an interesting jacket - so far nothing found. I saw a shawl collar jacket pattern from Waffle patterns but it didn't really thrill me or seem much different to what I already have.  Any ideas? I might have to try a blouse or shirt.

So far all pattern releases have saved me from opening my wallet - nothing I am craving that is any different from patterns I already have - yay! for both $$ and space saving. I am kind of amazed by how many independent pattern designers jump in with a new pattern that is indistinguishable from the many that are already out there. However talking with friends who are learning I see that the instructions/sew-alongs etc are helpful.  If I produced a pattern (which I am NOT) it would be like Marfy - here are the pattern pieces and sew it up! Mainly because I would be terrible at writing the instructions :)

Flat Pattern Measureing: Do you do it? I read a lot of posts where someone has sewed something by choosing a size but didn't look at the finished measurements or measure the pattern. My advice - do it.  See below, the finished garment measurements are printed on the pattern but if they weren't you can use the measure tape, be sure to omit the seam allowance if it is on the pattern and then add front and back to get circumference. I saw a lot of questions on some knit patterns recently about finished garment measurements and negative ease. If you are really questioning, mark out that number with pins on your chosen piece of fabric and then wrap it around, hips, bust, whatever area you are concerned. If you like how that fabric feels at that circumference then great but if not alter, or find a different fabric. I think doing a bit of testing your uncut fabric, draping it over your arms, or wrapping around can tell you a lot about how it will look as a finished garment and save some time and/or money by helping select the right fabric.

Vogue pattern measure

Burda Plus envelope patterns: There are a lot of hidden gems among the Burda Plus patterns, and particularly in the envelope patterns. (actually I also think there are some good ones in the Simplicity plus patterns too).  For many reasons a lot of Big 4 or indie patterns don't include all sizes and I think with a bit of searching you can find a lot of silhouettes in Burda that can be varied to emulate some of those patterns. I can't speak for all figure types but Burda plus patterns seem to have the proportions more right than others, in that the shoulders do not get so wide along with a larger bust. Anyway - just a little love from me for these patterns - I have used them for various people with good success. Also I love a multi-size pattern, so easy to grade between sizes for top half/bottom half, sleeves etc. I am now in the process of sewing this pattern for someone and it is really nice. I did adjust the neckline slightly for more coverage but will show all the pattern alteration details in a post when it is finished. I also bought the Burda 6713 blouse pattern, which also shows it as a dress. I like that Burda finds ways to create interesting details with creative necklines and dart shaping.

Burda wrap dress
Burda 6713 envelope pattern, dress or blouse

Investment in Sewing Tools: I saw a great post by Karen of Did you make that? the other day,  about which sewing tools turned out to be very good investments for her. I agree wholeheartedly about the wooden clapper, and I have waxed lyrical about the benefits of high quality interfacing many times. (My fave is from Fashion Sewing Supply, all the different types they sell, and I just noticed a sale on now ,15% off,  I will be stocking up on the ProSheer Elegance and ProTricot deluxe).

She also mentioned buying and loving the very expensive invisible zipper foot, which seems like just the thing for a lot of people. In the comments quite a few mentioned that zipper foot plus the walking foot. I wonder if that is a Bernina thing? A machine I have never tried. As I have mentioned probably ad nauseam the machine I use for anything fussy is my Slant needle Singer 401 with the sliding zipper foot, here is a link and post with details on using that foot.  I have so many interesting feet for my vintage machines, they are incredibly well made. However the only ones I use are the zipper foot, the buttonholer and once in a while the ruffling foot or the pleater. I have never quite mastered the narrow hemming foot. To tell the truth I forget about them and just plow ahead with the standard one - so far so good.

Why reading blogs is good for me:  I have very fixed ideas about what looks good, what is the right fit, colors I love or hate, styles that are gorgeous or ridiculous and thankfully everyone else in the sewing blogosphere does not have the same point of view. Wouldn't that be a boring world if everyone had the same taste?
What I am trying to say is there is a lot of stitching available to view that are things I would never choose and that is a good thing. I see colors that I don't like but realize that someone else has picked a perfect shade for their own look. I see patterns that appear crazy or shapeless or difficult to wear and come across a blog post where someone has paired that pattern with a fantastic fabric and created something beautiful and unique. I see techniques that I can't be bothered learning but find amazing and so creative. Sewing blogs (and the related websites, instagram, etc) have really helped me view fashion and sewing in a different way, all to the good.
I probably won't be dyeing any fabric, or adding grommets, felting, embellishing or otherwise manipulating fabric but I have a growing admiration for everyone who does those things. Thinking about when I learned to sew and remembering that my only audience was my family and school friends gives me a greater appreciation for every new sewer that picks out a pattern, gives it a try and posts their creation - often baring their soul regarding fit, body issues and their feelings about clothing and appearance along with their sewing triumphs and failures. I wonder if I would have been quite so willing to share my early attempts.

As for recent attempts, I am trying another pants pattern (pants are my achilles heel, my white whale, my pot of gold at the end of the rainbow) In other words, I am never satisfied at fitting myself with pants. Anyway, giving it another try with this Vogue pattern, which has back princess seams. There are a lot of good versions to see so a girl can dream, right? I will report, if not model.

Vogue 9032 pants pattern

Happy almost Halloween sewing and have a great weekend,

another garden photo remaining from my vacation, in a somewhat autumnal color scheme. I see these Birds of Paradise growing around here in my neighborhood, even though they are a tropical plant. Just have to find the right spot where they never freeze. One of these years I will give it a try.

Hawaii flowers


  1. I don't mind admitting, I am relieved to read that even an experienced seamstress like yourself struggles with a narrow hem foot. That one was a waste of money for me! I'm with you on having your conceptions and boundaries challenged via blogs - or anything in life!

    1. I just got an email from my Bernina dealer about the narrow hem foot. Thanks for saving me money, Karen! The accompanying video suggested using spray starch on your fabric. Did you try that?

  2. I just tried a rolled hem foot and on straight pieces it was fantastic, not so good on curves though! I love my invisible zip foot. Have you had a look at Lekala patterns for a jacket, I've no idea if they are any good but I'm going to try their leather jacket pattern which was used on our Great British Sewing Bee series.

  3. Have you tried Knipmode yet? You can download jacket patterns as pdf from their website, look for 'jasje'. (Or better browse the site, because the search option is rubbish)

  4. I think I'm up to 7 pairs of Vogue 9032. I adore the pattern. Even the pleated pair I made continues to grow on me.

    I sew on a "junky" Singer. At least that's how people love to describe them ;) I love having an invisible zipper foot and walking foot. Makes life a little easier.

    I too want to do the new to me pattern contest and while I don't want to try some new Indie just for the contest, I know I want to try.

    I do have a Patrones and Ottobre which I haven't sewn from...a couple of Jalies and the Sewn Square One Go Anwyhere dress. Perhaps I'll get motivated to try one of those.

    Lastly, I am so obsessed. I follow over 200 sewing (not craft, not knitting) blogs on bloglovin. So many people creating things I would never make for myself but still, it is exciting watching new garments roll off of people's machines with techniques, fabrics, fit that may not be for me but that I can completely appreciate. I love sewing!

  5. I really enjoyed this "article " . It also made me feel good to hear that such a talented sewist as you has times when the mojo is gone . I too love following many blogs - even if the garment or fabric doesn't fit my style I always pick up something new . Thank goodness for the Internet as sewing can be very lonely - friends are a click away 😍

  6. I'm saving a Seamster pattern for the contest, but I also just bought my first Sewaholic pattern. The Cypress Cape is needed for Nov 21, though, and I've forgotten the date of the PR contest.

    My clapper was made for me when I was a teen from a scapes of lumber (oak?) It's square with little divot in the side for handles... it's one of my favorite tools. I also love my long seam guide that attaches to my presser foot.

  7. Oh! I just read the Thread Theory blog and she shows an feminine adaptation of the Newcastle jacket...

  8. I'm also passionate for sewing blogs for exactly the reasons you posted. They encourage and inspire me to continue dreaming of this solitary art. I know your mojo will return as the temps cool. I just crank up the A/C in my home in hot, humid Houston, TX. Karen

  9. I do enjoy this type of post from you. I like the fitting tips. I have always been a fan of Burda and noticed too that their plus size patterns have great potential. Thinking of a new machine because my lowest level Janome has no good zipper foot for it at all! If it wasn't for Mary from Idle Fancy blog I would never tried McCalls 6696, Totally surprised myself - I like that look on me!

  10. Measure the flat pattern? Of course! Every single time. And double check with a pin fit of the garment before final sewing.

  11. Can't wait to see the neckline alterations on Burda 6946 - I just bought the pattern. It's a shame they hide such an excellent pattern design in their illustrations.

  12. "She also mentioned buying and loving the very expensive invisible zipper foot, which seems like just the thing for a lot of people. In the comments quite a few mentioned that zipper foot plus the walking foot. I wonder if that is a Bernina thing?"

    Bernina presser feet are very expensive. An industrial machine invisible zipper foot costs around $4. The foot helps, but an invisible zipper can be installed with a regular zipper/cording foot. Some people prefer the universal zipper foot, which is very narrow. If you baste, a walking foot is not necessary.

    1. I have a ball hemmer foot that I bought after reading a blog or online article. I've never mastered it. It was more expensive than my basic feet, but not much.

      Over the years I've learned that there are no magic tools. Some things do help, but there often is a learning curve.

    2. I use an industrial invisible zipper foot on my Juki straight stitch machine. Works great and only cost a few bucks. I use a cording foot for regular zippers. I baste a lot of zippers before sewing on the machine to ensure the right placement.. The ability to use good but inexpensive industrial feet is one of the reasons I bought the Juki which I love using.

  13. Good post. I really like that Burda black and white blouse. I'll have to look and see if I have it in my back issues, if not I may actually buy a Burda envelope pattern. I love my invisible zipper foot. I can put in a fly front zipper perfectly the first time, and quickly but my bette noire has been getting invisible zippers in without twisting them or not being invisible. I can now announce that I put in a perfect invisible zipper the first time! Not only did the foot help but there is a great tutorial on Colette patterns blog that finally sunk in. It's a little different from others I've seen and it made the difference.
    If course I flat pattern measure! Takes little time and saves me from possible anguish.
    I have had a fairly good tnt pant pattern but there were little things that bothered me then I screwed up the pattern. I didn't take my own advice to make all changes to a copy! I was taking Sarah Veblen's pants fitting course on PR at the time, so I decided to buy the Eureka pants pattern that she helped develop. She seemed to make far fewer alterations to this pattern than to the Simplicity pattern she also used. Not only is her class very good, but the pattern is as well and I now have a really good tnt pattern that hangs perfectly, which was one of my issues. The crotch, front and back fit perfectly. I fit this entirely by myself and my three way mirror. You end up with a very simple pattern, but it's so easy to add details and change the leg width.

  14. Great post!! I keep looking at that Marfy dress too but they sizing is quite narrow (and I don't like to grade down more than one size, call me lazy)!! I didn't know about the videos, thanks for sharing!! I think that the price of the invisible zipper foot is definitely a bernina thing.

    In my humble opinion their machines & accessories are widely overpriced. I love my invisible zipper feet. I have 2, one for my industrial juki and one for the domestic one and I would not say that each costed more that 10USD. I never got good results with the narrow hem foot but I'm now 100% converted to the ban-roll method so it doesn't matter anymore!!

    Finally, I need a clapper!

  15. Nice post Beth! I'm sure everyone has some way they prefer to ensure a good fit...however, we're always open to new ideas! I like the flat pattern measuring and plan on giving it a try!

    Maybe some time in the future I'll try another sew-a-long. I've done a few in the past and found that it some times took away my mojo! I have no idea why, maybe it was the commitment of time. Who knows...but I think the best way to get over that is to try it again and I will at some point.

    Tailor's clapper? I've seen them and know what they are and how they're used, but never thought they were that important. (I really didn't) I've always used my sleeve ham to flatten seams and hems after pressing. It seem to work okay for me, but I definitely plan on purchasing one to give it a try. Thanks for the tip!

  16. Yes, I'm a big fan of Burda too. I think Burda and Vogue were my big early-sewing career loves too! wrt a new to you pattern company, have you looked out Named patterns? from what I've seen of their designs there are some nice ones in there. I haven't tried any yet myself but a few times have been seriously tempted.
    The idea of vague pattern pieces with no instructions is rather inspiring; sounds like a nice challenge, and a promising concept. Ad-libbing can often be half the fun!

    1. Yes I have seen some interesting and fashion forward patterns by Named but the price has put me off - I love their faux fur vest look but can bring myself to buy a somewhat expensive pattern for that simple item.

  17. What a lovely chatty post. Thanks for putting your thoughts down and prompting so many other people's thoughts on patterns and additional sewing thingamajigs. It was a fascinating read like having a lovely chat with a sewing friend (of whom I have few!). Not everyone is interested in discussing different sewing feet! Don't know why ? ;-)

  18. I enjoyed this post. I thought I had already replied but I guess not. I like my invisible zipper foot and can sew in a good looking zip with it. I have a few other feet that I haven't mastered yet eg flat fell and binding feet. I don't have the narrow hem foot (Bernina) but I hear these are difficult to use. My next investments will be, I think. Serrated edge shears for silk etc (wedding sewing) can anyone recommend these ot would I be better sticking to my rotary cutter; and a clapper.
    As far as measuring - I do make toiles but haven't been so good at the measuring, though my tutor in class advocates this.
    I like everything an occasional PR contest so may well go for the new to me as I have a few patterns from companies I haven't tried yet. I've looked at some Marfy patterns in the book but am not sure I'm ready for them yet! Some great MOB patterns there though!

  19. Ooo I dig that Marfy pattern, could be super cute


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