Saturday, September 24, 2011

Shirt Sleeve Placket - up close look

This week I am catching up on projects I set aside in July.  I cut out and started sewing the Liberty of London cotton shirt which is based on an existing garment, posted about here and here. I rarely make shirts, in fact there are a few categories of clothing I never make for myself.  These include jeans, t-shirts, almost any kind of button front blouse or shirt, swimwear, shorts, and gym wear.  There are only so many sewing hours in a week, and being someone that for the most part has made all my dresses, suits, jackets and coats it is a pleasure to walk into a store and select a pair of jeans or a shirt to wear immediately. To tell the truth, shirts are something I should tackle.  I could make a silk blouse for a fraction of the price in the department store.  Perhaps I will, since I have now shed my fear of plackets.
I think I had a bad experience once upon a time with plackets, plus they are so fiddly, consequently I have often avoided them.  With this blouse project, there was no avoiding, so I did some playing around with placket samples and now I have a fool proof placket that looks good inside and out.
This is not an original idea but a recreation of the menswear style shirt plackets I found among the examples hanging in my closet, with a healthy dose of tips from my various sewing books.

To start, create the placket pattern.  This is a case where I don't use the pattern pieces that came witth the pattern, but draw up my own. (Of course for this project I made the pattern myself so no envelope pattern piece to ignore). Below is a sample, in muslin and the sleeve in quilting cotton, so you can see the components.  Make the placket pattern piece longer than the opening you want in the sleeve, you can cut the excess off after sewing.  The widths are noted, then the solid lines add 1/4" to the placket and are also the fold lines.  The smaller white piece starts as1" wide, fold in 1/4" each long edge, and then fold in half, plus fold back top edge 1/4".

Sample placket 3
I think that some placket fear stems from the fact that you have to slash the sleeve to create the placket.  No good can come from slashing.  OK, an exaggeration, but how many times has the slash maneuver gone wrong.  Don't get me started.  The saying - measure twice but cut once - really applies to the slash. I think also on this slash, in fact on the whole placket, it is really important to work on both sides at the same time, having them on your worktable as mirror images, so that you end up with a right and a left.  No fun to create lovely left sleeve and then another perfect left sleeve, aaargh.  

First sewing step is to apply the under placket piece, rather like a tiny seam binding. Shown below, pinned and sewn. The folded edge of this little piece is at the top of the slash, and creates a nice finish. 

Sample placket 4Sample Placket 5

Next step is to apply the upper placket piece. I neglected to take a photo of the inside, to show that the shorter side of the folded placket is matching the top folded edge of the under placket piece. The horizontal pin marks the point where the stitching will be horizontal to catch the two sides of the placket and stitch off the top of the slash point. 

Sample Placket 6

After stitching, this would end up as the left sleeve.  Please ignore my slightly wobbly stitching.  
Sample placket 7Sample Placket 8

A look at the finished placket in the Liberty cotton fabric.  It disappears which is just what I want in a sleeve placket. By using the measurements noted above, the placket pieces overlap and keep the sleeve bottom measurement as it was before it was slashed.

Liberty shirt placket

Back to the sewing room, lots to finish today.  And tomorrow a fabric shopping excursion to Stone Mountain fabrics with fellow blogger Jean of J.Kaori Designs.  Looking forward to that!

Candycane dahlia
Things in the SunnyGal garden are looking a little dreary, we are at the very dry end of summer and nothing new is blooming.  A few dahlias are still bringing a bit of color. Here is a dahlia I bought years ago in a pot and have divided many times.  I always think it would be so nice if it bloomed at Christmastime as it is peppermint candy cane colors.   

Happy start of fall sewing,

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Compare and Contrast, Vogue 1159 Donna Karan and V1191 Michael Kors Dress Patterns

When I completed my last project I had mentioned doing a post comparing that dress to one I made previously this year.  They are both Vogue Designer Patterns, knits only, featuring a front twist detail and both have a large, unusually shaped and slightly confusing pattern pieces that makes up most of the dress.  I really like both dresses, however only one is in my closet as I made the first one for a friend.   The posts received lots of comments and a few questions, so here is a comparison.

First up,  Vogue 1159,  Donna Karan pattern.   I think they should have shown the dress on the envelope in a solid color as it is quite difficult to see the design.  The front is one large pattern piece which is pleated below the waist, twisted to create a grecian style drape across the upper front and attach to the upper back piece, with a diagonal seam on the back skirt.

Purple drape dress frontVogue 1159 ptrn photoV 1159 tech drawing
On the right is my finished version of the dress. If you would like to see the original post with more info and pictures here it is.  I think this is a case where I like the outcome but it doesn't really look like the pattern envelope version.  It turned out a lot more "grecian toga" than it looks in their photo.  On the body the fit is very nice, hugs the curves and enhances the waistline.
Compare now to Vogue 1191, Michael Kors pattern.  Another knits only twist front dress that features one large front pattern piece which extends to the whole skirt, also pleated at the waist and draped across the front bodice.  Looking at the technical drawings in proximity it is really interesting how similar they are.  
Coral dress on form2V1191 ptrnV1191 tech drawing

Having just made this dress last month at the end of August I wanted a more summer look so I modified it to be sleeveless, which worked out very well and makes the pattern more useful. I also think that would be nice with cap sleeves.  For more photos and info on making this dress, here is that post.

Now let's get a little nit-picky with these patterns.

Vogue 1159 Donna Karan dress - pros and cons.
  • center front is basically open, drape crosses in front to cover, sort of. I think most would need some kind of hidden fastening or hollywood tape to prevent a wardobe malfunction, but not insurmountable.  Strategic safety pin would suffice.  
  • pattern as shown appears to have a cap sleeve, but as worn it does not really create that cap sleeve effect on the shoulder, more like a regular sleeveless dress.
  • inside of dress is finished very well, the design includes a skirt lining which calls for a knit, by using a more stable knit, it creates a Spanx-type effect in the skirt portion of the dress which I thought was genius. Really holds you in,however I sewed it into the dress inside out so my seams are showing inside, but not the worst mistake in the world.  I blame that on the instructions which are somewhat inscrutable.
  • pattern markings,which some had trouble with did not bother me. The most important section being the center front where there are many pleats came together well and lay nice and flat when finished off.  I am a fanatical pattern marker with thread tailors' tacks so with this one you just grit your teeth and mark, mark, mark.
  • no size adjustment possible, there is a bit of ease so I suggest choosing your typical bodice size.
  • the underarm area is weird, attaching the front twist closes up the side area, but it creates a very deep V at the underarm, which looks odd.  I sewed a triangular insert to raise the V and create a regular underarm side panel.  Everyone who reviewed this dress had the same issue.
Here is a look at the inside of the dress and close up of the center gather point.  The drape is pulled back and pinned so you can see the finished section.  Without the pin the drape falls nicely.
Purple knit Vogue inside outPurple knit Vogue inside CF

Next up Vogue 1191 Michael Kors Dress - pros and cons

  • center front is quite low, particular if you are shorter than the pattern is designed for.  Fortunately it is easy to raise it by extending that seam,  I added 2 inches.  This does pull the bust area tighter but as it is a knit it works.
  • with this dress it is possible to adjust the size a bit, as it has regular side seams in the bodice area so you could add a bit around the bust. I actually added a bit in the center back skirt seam to fit that area, and just eased the extra into the waist seam, worked fine.
  • the lining is only in upper portion of the dress, waist is finished with a facing.  I found that the back lining didn't want to fit to the waist, perhaps because the dress fabric was way more stretchy, so I left it unattached.  Not the most beautiful finishing but as usual, no one will be seeing the lining.  If I make it again I will add a skirt lining as in the DK dress.
  • center front gather area is kind of wonky, it doesn't really disappear under the bodice twist so I had to hand stitch it a bit to stay in place.  
  • with a very stretchy knit and no sleeves the zipper seemed unnecessary, but I think with a more stable knit it would be needed.  
Photo on the left is a look inside, you can see that I left the bodice lining unattached, it should be sewn into the same seam as the facing.  Somehow it just didn't seem to reach the seam.  Now that I am looking at it again, it might have worked fine and pulled the skirt up under the twist better.
Funny how stepping back from a project and then returning and rethinking gives a new perspective.  I am almost positive I will make this in the long sleeve version in wool jersey and then I will attach the bodice lining to see how that works.  On the right, the center front twist. There was a opening left after I followed all the instructions, so I hand sewed this closed, with a few stitches that don't show.  Where all the pleats come together it is a bit of a clump, somewhat less elegant than the pleats on the V1159.
Coral dress inside frontV1191 center front twist
I highly recommend both these patterns despite my criticisms, which are as I said kind of nit-picky.  As for difficulty level, they are both easy to sew and yet difficult at the same time.
Knits are forgiving, there is built in ease in the fabric, sizing and design so I think getting a well fitting and flattering dress is almost guaranteed.  They both have TONS of crucial markings which must be done, and both have very confusing huge "front and back" mysterious origami-like patterns pieces which cause a lot of head scratching and referring back to the occasionally enigmatic instructions. If pressed I would say that the Michael Kors dress has fewer problems, allows for some fit adjustment and could be more versatile, day or evening depending on fabric choice, and sleeveless or long sleeve.  The Donna Karan dress is much more dramatic, I think a more dressy look, and has the clever attached skirt lining but has a design issues that require a bit of improvisation in the sewing.

So now that I have made 3 knit dresses this year - yesterday was doing some web shopping for more knits.  What next, actual knitting?  No chance of that :)

I am still catching up from my unexpected break from sewing, so yesterday I cut out this blouse in the Liberty cotton fabric.  

pink dahlia 0811
Today's SunnyGal garden photo, one of my favorite flowers, which always says summer to me.  I usually buy the bag of assorted dahlia tubers, so it is fun to see what color comes up.

Happy early fall sewing to all, Beth 

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Vogue 1191 Michael Kors Twist Front Knit Dress

It has been a great Labor Day weekend here, a little sewing, a lot of relaxing and some fun birthday celebrations. Last night was dinner out with family and friends and I wore this dress which I mentioned in my previous post.  Maybe I am changing my opinion a little bit on knits, now that I have successfully sewn 3 knit items this year - more than I have in the last ten years.  My grumbling about sewing this dress did bring out a few commenters who were ambivalent about knits as well, so I can only say that perhaps there is space in my closet for another knit dress, even this very one in a winter version.

Vogue 1191, Michael Kors Knit dress, with one very big change, in that I decided to make it sleeveless.  It seemed like such a perfect summer style and this is definitely warm weather fabric, rayon knit in shades of coral.  

Pattern envelope, showing dress with sleeves, and a look at the back of the dress.  I eliminated the sleeves by making the bodice facing finish both the neckline and the armholes, and leaving the shoulder seams open until the last, sewing the shoulder seam and then hand stitching the remaining opening closed.  This is the technique I use on almost all sleeveless dresses that have a lining.
V1191 ptrnCoral dress on form3

I did love wearing this dress, and I think it will make it into the suitcase next time I go somewhere beachy - one of those dresses that you can roll up and stuff in the suitcase, and then look relaxed, cool and colorful at cocktail time.  

When I was sewing this I did have some issues with the directions and construction and I was struck by some comparisons with another dress I did this year, the Donna Karan V1159 which also has a mystery twist element that magically resolves into a very pretty front drape. I think my next post will be a "compare and contrast" of these two patterns.  
Here I am, at the end of the evening.  I had wanted to take some pictures when it was still a bit light, as this restaurant might be recognized by movie fans, another Bay Area film location (among so so many).  If you saw the movie Mrs. Doubtfire, with Robin Williams, the long dinner scene where he is bouncing between tables and trying to keep up his disguise was filmed here at Bridges Restaurant.  
Coral dress on me
Now that I see the dress in a photo maybe it could be an inch or two shorter, perhaps it is stretching a bit.  Also not crazy about the shoes but for now I am being really careful with posture, shoes, how I sit, stand, get in/out of the car and generally just doing everything possible to make sure my back issues continue to heal and not regress.  Enough said!

Since it is Labor Day here in the US I will mention something I read this morning. The article stated clothing manufacture is one of the last remaining industries that still exists primarily with human labor - that to hold two limp pieces of cloth and accurately stitch together is something the human hand can do and machines cannot. Interesting, and something to think about this weekend.

Happy end of summer sewing, Beth

Friday, September 2, 2011

V1191 Kors dress sneak peek and a birthday present to me

In my last post I asked if a designer could be a genius.  The jury is still out on that one, but testing my theory I am making Vogue 1191 Michael Kors draped front knit dress for my birthday dinner.  It is Labor Day weekend here in the US, which means my birthday falls around this time.
Some years on the actual day, causing many jokes about how my mother felt when I was born, ha ha.  Never heard those before.  But actually I have always thought it was fun to have a birthday fall on a long weekend, and usually I am on vacation, so this is the first year in about fifteen that I am at home.  Which is a good thing as I am not quite up to suitcase wrangling or long plane rides.  We are set for a lovely weekend and I have plans for a dinner out with family and friends so I am sewing this dress.  
It is fun when other bloggers give a sneak peek of their projects  - Shannon of Mushywear does this very well, and she recently used this same fabric. Great minds think alike and it is interesting to see a fabric made up in totally different styles.  Here is a look at my work in progress.
Coral dress sneak peek
That is the pattern piece pinned up behind the dress form.  With these crazy what I call mobius strip pattern pieces, I find it helpful to have the piece there to reorient myself when putting it together.
Here is the pattern envelope, I am doing one design change which is to make it a sleeveless dress as the fabric is more summer than winter and I wanted to wear it now.

V1191 ptrn
My next post will be the finished dress, including how to change from long sleeve to sleeveless.  For some reason I want to write a "compare and contrast"  since I am currently fascinated by these drape and twist dresses.  I made the Donna Karan V1159 earlier this year and these two dresses have some similarities and also big differences in construction and result.  

For my birthday present to me - a couple of books for my sewing library.  They came in the mail yesterday and I spent about at least an hour with the Pattern Magic book.  Now that is genius.  There are so many things in it I would like to try, especially the Bamboo shoot bodice, however I settled on the Twist top as a first project.  Then this morning in my blog reader - Carolyn of Handmade by Carolyn who I admire so much is wearing her version of the top.  Kind of getting me interested in winter sewing! 
PatternMagic book

The second one is Pants for Real People by Palmer and Alto.  While the photos and styles in their book series may be a bit dated, the information is fantastic and I highly recommend their fitting books.  So maybe I will finally make some pants for myself.
Pants book
Here is today's SunnyGal garden photo, actually taken in June.  This is my favorite Hydrangea, the big mop head type, which has retained its purple color since being planted there next to the front door.  

Hydrangea June 11

Happy Labor Day Weekend Sewing,  Beth