Monday, June 27, 2011

Patternmaking - Copy a favorite blouse

Why did I learn to copy garments?  In one word - pants!  What is more confounding than the fit of pants?  Years ago I did take a class on garment copying and have occasionally used it to remake a pair of pants or duplicate a dress.  I pick my battles carefully with this technique, as there are so many great sewing patterns so I can usually find the dress or jacket I want.  Pants are a bit more complicated to copy than a dress, but definitely do-able and so worthwhile.

This week I am re-making a blouse in a new fabric.  Here is the original, front and back. Note the touch of contrast turquoise piping along the hem - nice detail!

Blouse front originalBlouse original back

Patternmaking book cover
 The owner loves the fit and style, and really wanted me to copy instead of using a new pattern.  As it happens I was just reading this book,  Patternmaking for a Perfect Fit:  Using the Rub-Off Technique to Re-create and Redesign your Favorite Fasions by Steffani Lincecum.

I highly recommend it if you are interested in this technique.  The photos are clear, and she shows you not only how to copy a garment, but how to take that copy and redesign it to make other styles.  She copies a dress, skirt, blouse, and a handbag, using vintage items. 

I have been using something very close to her technique but learned a lot from reading the book.  This is nowhere near a tutorial but I can show you some of the steps involved in copying.
To get started, I pin the blouse together in order to divide it in half lengthwise and find the center back line which I will put on the fold.
Blouse pin sides

Next I run a thread trace down the center back line, which is folded.  Then I unpin the sides and then take some measurements to be sure the line is accurately in the center.  See bright green thread line.
Blouse center back line
Blouse measure cntr back

For the back yoke, I used a technique straight out of this book.  Previously I would have placed the tracing paper on top of the garment and then traced, but here the tracing paper is underneath the blouse, the pins hold it down and poke holes in the paper which can then be joined in a connect-the-dots manner to draw the pattern piece. 

Blouse pin tracing
Here is the finished back yoke piece, after I have connected the dots.  Then I can lay it over the blouse to re-check the dimensions.Blouse back yoke piece
Onto the collar which is one of the easier pieces to copy, because you can lay it flat with no trouble.  Following that logic, the sleeve is the real troublemaker in this process, but with some fussing it can be done.Blouse collar tracing
Non-sewing tidbit.  As I was tracing I noticed I was using this red pencil, which must be at least 50 years old.  It is from a long gone jewelry store in downtown San Francisco owned by some of my mother's Italian cousins. It was one of those upstairs stores - you had to know where it was, and had a claim to fame.  Baseball great and SF bay area native Joe DiMaggio brought Marilyn Monroe there to pick out her engagement ring.  Very thrilling for the family!

Back to sewing:  here is the front of the blouse, which has long darts.  With some fiddling and folding, it is possible to pinch the darts into the paper, you have to pivot the fabric a bit underneath in order to get the full width of the garment.

Blouse front piece trace
Here are some finished pattern pieces, with the seam allowances drawn on.  Even though I am constantly adding and dividing fractions of 1/8" in my head, I cannot bring myself to use anything other than a 5/8" seam allowance.  Oh, how that 1/2" would be so nice and even. But then I would probably sew at 5/8" and my garment would have mysteriously shrunken in the sewing.  So better to stick with the 5/8".

Blouse pattern pieces example
If you have a garment that is just right, you love the fit and want to re-create it, give it a try. I suggest starting with a skirt or a simple blouse.    

Next post - making a test blouse.

Flower feverfewHere is today's SunnyGal Garden photo which is Tanacetum parthenium, common name Feverfew.  Another plant sale purchase and I think it is so cute!  Things are looking good in the garden, the tomatoes are ripening and we are heading into the mid-summer time when there is not much garden work and mostly garden enjoyment.                                  Happy Sewing                          

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Bold Bright Color - yay or nay?

Fact about me - I am crazy for color.  All the jewel tones, bright garden greens and floral pinks, reds, yellows.  Sky blues and ocean turquoise.  Citrus, berry and deep wine red.  Sounds like something from the kitchen but actually more like a look in my wardrobe.  However today I may have gone over the color edge if that is possible.  

I bought this fabric back in the depths of winter, to use in my Etsy shop for something summery but now I am not so sure.   It has been on the shelf and every few weeks I take it out and try to decide what to make.  Summer is scooting by and the fabrics don't sew themselves so here are the results of yesterday's efforts.  It would be great to get some feedback on these items.  
Orange skirt front
Both my sister and my friend Alice shuddered slightly when I showed them the fabric, but both did say they thought it would work as a skirt, and I think they were right.  
However due to my slight obsession with dresses, this is what I made first.
Miami dress front with belt
I am really happy with the style, I always like the cut-in armholes and it can be worn with or
without the tie belt.  Maybe it is just a bit too much color + print for a dress? 
Some of my favorite places to window shop are Kate Spade, Boden and Tori Richard, who all use a lot of color and pattern.  

So what do you think about this fabric?  Just right for a skirt?  OK for a dress for the bold among us?  If you know someone wild about orange, I did list the skirt in my Etsy shop and have a few more yards available.

Edit 6/26/11:  thanks for all the great feedback, I did list the dress as well in my Etsy shop,
send your non-sewing friends that way :)

In between plenty of other projects, I am working on my Vogue 1241 Dress I mentioned in my last post.  Even though I made a muslin, and fine tuned the fit - I just couldn't bring myself to cut my nice knit fabric, so I cut out the dress in a 100% poly crepe that I got for a super discount of about $ 5 because it had holes in the fabric along the edge.  (which don't bother me but I didn't tell the store that).  So if this one sews up nicely I will move on to my other "real" fabric.

Bee balm june11Here is today's SunnyGal Garden photo. Bee Balm (Monarda) v.Jacob Cline
a plant I just bought in May at the local garden club sale which is doing very well.  I have found that the shop local philosophy applies to plants as well as veggies.  Unfortunately for the bees that were living in my apple tree - a local beekeeper came out to try and rescue, but in the end had to seal up the hole in the tree.  He thinks that there is probably a very big colony in the oak tree just behind my yard, so there are still plenty around to do their good work.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Giveaway Winner and my new projects

Using the highly technical method of writing all the names on slips of paper and mixing them up in a bowl, the name drawn is . . . Susan, who writes the blog  Knitters Delight where she posts some great garments she has sewn.  She also seems to have the knack of posing to show off her garments in a relaxed and stylish way - I shall have to study her photos as I do not have that talent.   So Susan, send me an e-mail with your address and I will send your Vintage Simplicity Sewing book to you.  I would love to see a vintage style from you this summer!

But for anyone who commented and is still interested in vintage sewing instruction - I have another find and giveaway to come later this summer.
We move along in the fashion timeline about 15 years to 1972 - practically the same book but with some additions and updates, and oh the pictures.   Instead of the scary femme fatale eyebrows of the 1958 book we have the equally frightening bell bottoms and Charlie's Angels haircuts of the 70's.    Here is just a quick peek.
Smpl Sewing book 70's cover
As this book is sitting here on my desk, I just noticed that they did some strange early photoshop morphing of her hand, so the yellow scissors appears to be growing from her finger.  Perhaps that explains her look of amazement. Not very useful, at least for Edward Scissorhands his scissors faced the other way - so he could actually use them.   

My current personal project is this Kay Unger Dress, Vogue 1241,  Not a designer I am familiar with but I really like the ruching on the side so am giving it a try.   For once I made a muslin, just in case it looked really strange on me, but even in the muslin it is quite flattering.
I am using a knit (yes, trying another knit)  it is definitely not a jersey.  Something I got on line from Fashion Fabrics Club as a remnant, a thin double knit, maybe?  In blue-white-black abstract print.

V1241 pattern photo

So this I am squeezing in between other projects.  Next week I am going to make a blouse in Liberty cotton, copying an existing ready-to-wear blouse that fits the owner perfectly so I will try to do a post on that. 

The bees are still as busy as ever in their colony in my backyard.  I have spoken to a few local beekeepers to see if anyone will take them away and they all have asked me if they are bothering anyone - well not yet, but it is darn near impossible to get near the apple tree.  
Pink GeraniumsHmm.  still pondering this one.  After all, they like the same things that I like in the garden, pink flowers and the scent of orange blossoms.  Here are some pink flowers that don't get much attention from me, but put on quite a show.    Geraniums.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Sewing Instruction from Yesteryear - a book giveaway

I have been sewing up a storm lately, in the best possible way.  After all, it is wedding season and as a guest you want to have a great dress, right?  So I have been making quite a few of those. . . at least I hope they were great.   Also in the works is an unusual wedding dress for a wonderful bride who brought me a roll of vintage Kimono silk. The wedding is not until August, so no photos until then.
Vintage Butterick 7950

Meanwhile, I noticed that it is Vintage Pattern contest time on Pattern Review.   I had every intention of giving that a whirl this year, but now I am not so sure, for a couple of reasons.
Mostly because I have plenty of other projects that take priority, but partly because I really have no need of a vintage style dress.  Unless I can convince a friend of mine that she needs this one.  She saw this in my stash, but couldn't really figure what color or fabric.  I like the short sleeve, and of course it would be great in black, very Audrey.  But I am not crazy about sewing on black.  Plus it takes about 6 yards, eek.   

A few months back I found this book at a garage sale, and then brought it home and realized I already have a copy, which I think I inherited from my great-Aunt Jo.  So how about a giveaway for any of you thinking of making something vintage this month?  Or if you just want to add to your sewing book library.
Smpl sewing book 1
This book is amazingly useful. I find all those old sewing books to be very helpful and refer to them when I am trying to figure something out.  Recently I was trying to add godets to a garment and found some good info in this book.  Godets - you don't hear that one every day :)
Smpl sewing book 6Smpl sewing book 5

The page on the right talks about combining two patterns, I don't think I have seen that in a book before.

And here they talk about turning facings and trimming - my favorite topic.
Smpl sewing book 7

Smpl sewing book 8
They are promoting a method on these old Simplicity patterns which they call "the Simplicity Unit System" of sewing,  which instructs you to treat each portion as a unit - i.e. finish the entire bodice, or skirt, or sleeves and then attach together.  Which is exactly the opposite of how I sew things.  Not that it matters.  They haven't moved on much since 1958 when this book was published as the Simplicity patterns I use lately seem to have the exact same instructions with some different verbiage. 

Saving the best for last and creating a desperate desire in all to have this book, I reveal the most helpful pages in the whole book.  The lucky winner can pore over the chart and find just the right color for your new outfit!    Really ?? Sadly my combination of brown hair and green eyes is not listed so I will have to muddle through choosing my own fabric colors. And I find the redheads kind of scary.  

Smpl sewing book 2

If you would like to be entered in the giveaway for this book, leave a comment or follow the blog and I will do a drawing on June 15.  (international is ok with me).

The sun was shining today, the jays are still sitting on their nest, and latest development is a honey bee hive in the apple tree.  So I am waiting for a local beekeeper to come over and hopefully take them away to continue their good work elsewhere.   

Happy sewing,  Beth