Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A Fitting post: Watch your Back!

For some months I have been searching for examples of a particular fitting problem and recently two examples have appeared. So I can finally write this post which has been rolling around in my brain with some nice pictures to show as well as tell.

Back Waist Length !

Do you look at that measurement on the pattern envelope and just say hmmm? It is important but I don't think the measurement given is all that helpful. Mostly because we all may be short, tall or in between but what really matters for fitting is where you are tall or short. Depending where your length is really determines what you need to do with the pattern. And many need to make different changes to both the front and the back. I want to's OK! Acknowledging the issue is the first step to a solution.  Eek that sound really self-help-y which I am not. But after all, we have to laugh at the pattern measurements. Who is that mythical person of the size charts and even then, what do they change faced with the crazy amount of ease on some patterns?  
Getting a little philosophical here and straying from my point, which is that many finished garments are too long in the back bodice which causes all kinds of issues.  I am going to leave off discussing the front which could be a book or at least a very long magazine article just for the bodice front in all its 3-dimensionality.
Now you are wondering where to adjust, how much, etc. If you make a muslin I bet it will be evident if you are looking for this. Take a look at this post, scroll down to see how to mark up your muslin to see where to attach the skirt.

Example time: Here is a dress belonging to my hairstylist Lia. Cute vintage style dress she bought in Las Vegas, has hardly worn because she said it is too big across the shoulders and didn't feel comfortable. Could I fix it? OK - I had her put it on and let me see what is going on. Looked very lovely in the front. 

Pink dress front

But look at the back. Way too long in the back bodice. I put the measuring tape so you could see the horizontal line where the waistband should be. So not too big in the shoulders, the problem is elsewhere.

                       Pink back view with tapePink side view with tape2

Below is what happens when she wears the dress. When she puts it on the waist band inset fits her and settles at her waist exactly where it should. it is the smallest part of the dress fitting her smallest part. I had to pin the dress on the sides a bit to make it fit my tiny form, but it really serves to show what happens when the waist fits but the back bodice is too long. 

Pink back wrinklespink side view wrinkles

I think sewers are inclined to make the waist fit and can feel there is extra fabric in the back, so they tighten the waist area, which is fine but that serves to make the excess fabric bunch up a bit. This is an extreme example but if the back bodice is just an inch too long, then that tightening makes a lot of horizontal lines which nobody wants.  If the waist is in the right place in the back then you can make the garment actually a bit bigger  - leaving about an inch (+ or -) and you will feel more comfortable and actually look smoother/smaller.

The solution is to take out length at the bottom of the back bodice where it attaches to the skirt. In this example I actually tapered the change past the side seams forward about 2 inches into each side of the front bodice. But of course most women need length in the front bodice (see this post for some info on that score). In the photo below I just have the excess tucked and pinned so I could see how much to take away. Better, huh? The whole thing hangs nicely from the shoulders, probably way more comfortable. To accomplish this I had to take out the zipper, detach the bodice from the waist, move it and then reinsert the zipper.

Pink back view shortened

All done, and I was taking this shot of the side and saw that the back was showing in the mirror. Hey I might have to try this one again!  By the way, my tiny dress form is wearing a padded strapless bra to fill her and this dress out. I stick all kinds of different bras on my forms, or wrap a towel around the waist to change the circumference. Whatever is at hand ;)

pink dress finished

The other example that appeared recently is a real life example. When I visited my friend Elizabeth of SEWN blog earlier this month she dove deep into her closet to show me some of her makes. This lovely dress appeared. She said she didn't really wear as she didn't like the fit. I said it was gorgeous - very luscious silk - and it only had one problem which she could easily fix and then it would be perfect. So on the left, too long in the back bodice and on the right, the excess tucked into the skirt and it is fantastic. I need to nag her and see if she did the fix! 

Back waist length example E
By the way her dress is New Look 6067 which is super cute. I have had this pattern for ages but so far not gotten to it. What do you think about stripes? Risky or just right?

NL6067 pattern envelope

Up next, I don't really know. I have been searching for some seersucker to make a summer jacket but not found anything. I think I will embark on some shorts making. 90 degrees here tomorrow and time for summer clothes, yeah!

Edit 5/1/14:  after reading the comments this morning I realize that I was a bit vague about the relationship between that back waist measurement on the pattern envelope and and adjusting the pattern. I don't find it all that useful and instead look at the torso in comparison to the "average". I guarantee that if you have a full bust you will rarely need to shorten the front but the back is likely to be too long. Also if you have very good posture and hold your body very upright (good for you if you do, see Elizabeth above, very nice posture) Most pattern companies' size charts are designed for a person who is 5' 5" to 5' 6" so if you are not in that range there may be adjustments needed. I am 5' 3 and am proportionally shorter in the top half of my body as compared to the patterns. So I need to shorten the back bodice and sometimes the front. But - I am longer in the bottom half of my torso - thus usually need an adjustment for location of hip and this explains why pants that are supposed to be "below waist" are more likely at bikini level! If I am shopping for jeans and see a pair with a short 3" zipper I know absolutely those will not work on me.  Everybody has these variations and quirks and you need to think about your proportions in length as well as circumference to make the proper adjustments. 

By the way, my latest post on the Craftsy Sewing blog appeared last week. If you would like to take a look here is the link:  Copycat Clothes: How to make a pattern from a piece of clothing. Not a definite guide but a few tips if you are trying this out. 

Today's SunnyGal garden photo, the pink jasmine along the back fence is almost done blooming but when it was in full bloom the smell wafting across the yard was fantastic.

Pink jasmine 2014 1

Thursday, April 24, 2014

V8972 dress in wool crepe, completed

Have you been following the fashions of the Duchess down under? I can't get enough of the daily fashion updates. Her clothes have been fantastic and such great colors. One thing I noticed was how often her dresses had sleeves that were about elbow length (the yellow/white dress, the eyelet dress, the white with blue flowers). Kind of an interesting choice but it did look very pretty.

Today I put the finishing touches on the Vogue 8972 dress in black wool crepe, including elbow length sleeves. It is next to impossible for me to photograph a black garment like this, what is the trick? Difficult to see the seaming details.

For a nice change of pace I actually took pictures of the dress on the person it was made for.

V8972 wool crepe dress side view

Here is a slightly better look at the seaming details, I lightened up this photo so the black looks weird, the photo above is a better representation.

Janice front dress details

I am really happy with the combination of fit and the fabric we chose, despite my hesitation about sewing on black. For this wearer the style works as a fitted sheath dress. I have seen other versions that were very fitted, to the point of curve hugging but this pattern also works with a bit more ease so that it skims over the body. 
Some details on the pattern adjustments. I made two muslins as I just was not happy with the way the sleeve was fitting. In the first I made the pattern sleeve and it was really tight, both in the armhole and across the arm, even though the wearer is not particularly large in that area, in fact very petite around the upper torso. Weird. Sometimes I can just look at a sleeve and know there will be trouble and this one was definitely in that category. 
Second muslin I made a cut on gusset on the sleeve, which you can see here. This adds more room at the bottom of the armhole for movement. Also you can see in the photo at the bottom half showing my adjusted sleeve pattern that I did two other modifications. 1) widened the sleeve circumference by 3/4" from top to hem. 2) Sliced through at the sleeve cap and added about 3/8" at the front of the sleeve. These may seem like scary changes and they are not for the faint of heart in terms of setting in the sleeves. But wool crepe is very forgiving (most wools are) and I did one other adjustment to the armhole which I will show below.

sleeve comparison V8972
final sleeve V8972

The other adjustment was to change the shape of the armhole when I cut out the second muslin. The pattern originally has what I call (in my head - this is not an official designation) a sharp armhole. Where the bottom front curves sharply toward the bust, basically taking away distance across the chest. This type of armhole/sleeve combo is very likely to feel restricting and pull across the chest in an unflattering way.   
Better to show than describe.  On the left is the bodice front. The yellow thread trace is the original armhole stitch line and the blue thread trace is the one I used. Same for the bodice back on the right. 
Don't you think that swoopy shape of the armhole is trouble? I do.  In any case, by changing the armhole I did make the circumference shorter in length. And I took it up a smidge at the shoulder. So another factor to consider when making the sleeve cap larger. However I figured I could give it a try, and basted the adjusted sleeves in, rearranging the fullness several times until I was happy.  But yikes, why to they design the armholes that way???   Scroll back up to the second photo and see how smoothly the sleeve fits, and looks comfortable. Much better.....

Front and back bodice inside V8972
After I had the bodice and skirt assembled I did catchstitch down all the horizontal seams with silk thread. Takes a few minutes but with all the fusible interfacing in that area it is quick to do, doesn't show and keeps everything smooth on the inside.
The back of the dress and the seaming is a tiny bit more apparent in this photo. I didn't topstitch as the pattern indicates, that just seemed too casual for what she wanted, wearing to a charity event evening cocktail party.

V8972 back view

Another look at the front. I also changed the neckline a bit, I think raised about 1/2 inch.

V8972 close up front

All in all, I am happy with this one and glad to be finished with sewing on black fabric :).

Up next, something very light and bright!

Possible rain here this weekend - we wish! Well, it does make pulling weeds easier. 

Happy April showers sewing,  Beth

Something simple for today's SunnyGal garden photo, a small white azalea to compliment the little black dress. Lives in the shady corner of the garden. White flowers really pop at dusk, I need to find some more varieties. 

white azalea 2014

Friday, April 18, 2014

Random Threads # 6

Hey I have a new gig!  I am now writing blog posts for the Craftsy Sewing Blog. Here is my first post, 5 Advanced Sewing Techniques Every Sewer Should Know. Take a look and leave a comment there, letting me know what advanced techniques you would like to add to your sewing toolbox.

craftsy writer

You will have to wait a bit to see the finished version of V8972 dress in black wool crepe. It is about 60% completed and I am taking my time this weekend to finish it. I can happily report I had one fitting with what I can call a provisional sleeve in muslin attached to the actual wool dress and it worked out very well. So sleeve issues overcome due to something I have not used much before - a cut-on gusset. More details to follow.

New Vogue Patterns: there are a lot of dresses in the new pattern release. I was really curious to see what would be included in their new patterns after reading Shams very interesting posts on her meeting with Vogue Patterns at the Puyallup Sew Expo. If you have not been following her posts, she wrote an open letter to Vogue patterns quite a while ago, telling about her frustration with their offerings in terms of variety, sizing, interesting designers, not enough separates, etc.

In any event, this is the first pattern release after her meeting with them so of course the patterns were planned ages ago. With lots of dresses which is understandable, spring fashion often includes a lot of dresses but more separates would be very welcome. I find that I turn to Simplicity or New Look for nice tops and skirts, they seem to have a knack for making multi-version patterns of really cute separates. (example Simplicity 2451 or New Look 6150).  As for this Vogue release there are none that I really want. The one that caught my eye is V8993, a dress that is just my style but I have almost the exact same pattern in Simplicity 2174.  See, there are NO new patterns!  I bet if you go on Etsy or Ebay you could find a somewhat vintage pattern from the '70's with almost the same style lines.

So I will not be buying that Vogue pattern. Like I need another dress pattern. The one that I did think was very pretty is the featured pattern, with the scalloped hem V1398. Very sweet and definitely memorable. I really like the bodice, it could be nice if you marry that with a plainer skirt for those not wanting to look to sugary.

Speaking of dresses, are you taking a look at the fantastic wardrobe Duchess Kate is wearing on her trip down under?  I have loved everything she has worn but today's outfit made me want to run to the fabric store. White eyelet looking so pretty and cool.  Love it! Also that yellow dress, the wrap dress, the fantastic coats...I would gladly wear them all. Can't wait to see what else she has in her luggage.

In non-sewing activities it is time to get some tomatoes planted, and a few other tasks around the garden. For today's SunnyGal garden picture, the meyer lemon trees outside my sewing room window. The trees are in full blossom which means with the window open the buzz of honeybees is constant, interrupted occasionally by the zippy sound of a hummingbird. So cute and so far impossible to photograph.

Lemon and blossom 2014

Happy Easter to all,  

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Vogue 8972 Dress in black wool crepe also known as "why you need a presscloth"

This week has found me doing some early morning sewing because I am making Vogue 8972 Dress in a black wool crepe. I love wool crepe and this one, imported from Italy, is particularly nice. I went last weekend with a sewing client to Stone Mountain, and despite my pointing out all the lovely spring colors she had her mind set on a basic black dress which will last for a while and be appropriate for lots of events. How could I argue with that?

However I really don't like sewing on black, particularly one that is very matte and makes it so difficult to see the stitches.  My habit of late night sewing and black wool crepe are not a good combo, thus the early morning bright spring daylight sewing. On a different note, I am not really liking this pattern, in terms of fitting on a woven fabric. I have seen some nice versions in ponte knit or other knits and that allows a bit of leeway in fitting that a woven does not. Anyway enough grumbling, huh?

Vogue 8972 pattern envelope

But let's return to my post subtitle: Why you need a presscloth.

Wool crepe in any color but particularly the dark colors are very susceptible to getting a shine from pressing. And I think it looks terrible. I been known to recut sections of a garment if I erroneously touched iron to fabric without using a presscloth. So here I have made a few examples and brutally treated this first one, with no presscloth or trimming. Check out the result.

shine from pressing
Did you see how many seams and junctures this dress has? Then imagine every one with that shiny spot outlining the seams underneath. OK, I get very worked up about stuff like this but it is easily prevented.  First things first:

inside corner untrimmed
Trimming - my favorite little sewing task. I was saying to Elizabeth last weekend that I am a mad trimmer - every little junction and intersection is de-lumpified. Because as is, there are 4 layers of fabric at each corner there. On a waistband there can be up to 8 layers, so you can always remove some. Just like this until you have a nice little collection of 1/2 in squares littering your floor (if you are like me and let everything fall to be vacuumed later...much later).

trim example

The result is a nice un-shiny outside that is slightly flatter and blends in better with the rest of the garment. Also I was off a tiny fraction when I sewed the example on the left but you get the idea. This Vogue pattern calls for a lot of exactitude on the side seams so those diagonal lines meet up.  Stay tuned for my result. And fingers crossed. 
shine vs. no shine
Another key to good pressing on this dress is to press these seams on the edge of the pressing board. See below where I have the waist seam over the padded edge of the multi-press board and am just flattening the center of the seam, taking care not to mash the edges of the seam allowance. 

edge pressing
You can also see that I label all the pieces with chalk, particularly when using a fabric that is SO the same on either side. I immediately put chalk marks on the opposing pieces even before I remove my pattern papers. Also on pieces that can be confusing, like this waist section I find it helpful to put arrows so I know which edge goes to the upper bodice etc.  
Another thing you can see is lots of fusible interfacing. I was reading an old post on Fashion Incubator the other day and she wrote that most home sewers do not use enough interfacing. If you take apart a dress you will see fusible everywhere, on most any edge. This Vogue 8972 has a lot of bias edges so I applied knit fusible everywhere, bottom edges, top of the skirt pieces, around the neckline etc. I also think it helps maintain a crisp press on the seams and if I want to catch stitch down the seam allowances I can sew to the fusible they they will be hidden.

One last look at this multi-pressing board. It sits on any edge and has the little padded cover so it is really useful, curves, points etc. I never see them in stores but I do see them on Ebay and Etsy (look for June Tailor pressing board).  Also for this black wool crepe I did some test swatches for pressing, various press cloths, different fusible interfacings etc and found that the cotton presscloth gave the best result. The silk organza presscloth didn't keep the shine away. Interesting...
That is the cotton one on the left under the yellow spool.  I buy them at the big fabric store when they have the half off sale, they are pretty cheap and it is better than fooling around making something. 

Multi press board and cotton presscloth

That's all for now,  just a dress in pieces waiting to be put together for a fitting. When I mentioned above that I thought this dress was a bit tricky to fit, it was mostly the sleeves which are causing me trouble. But I have some ideas cooking so time and experimentation will hopefully solve this issue.

Happy spring sewing and watch your pressing!  Beth

Today's SunnyGal garden picture.  This Cecile Brunner rose bush lives next to the lemon trees and puts out masses of these tiny pink blooms, but I didn't realize it was a single bloomer or whatever they call these roses that only bloom once a season. Of course it grows like crazy, intertwines into the lemons, is full of thorns and it quite a challenge to prune. With the lemon and orange blossom scent plus the rose fragrance that side of the house is intoxicating this week.

Cecile Brunner rosebud

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Burda 6990 top repeat and sunny San Diego

Last week I spent some time in San Diego for business meetings, unrelated to sewing but I managed to fit some sewing in anyway. Since Elizabeth of Sewn blog is now a west coast girl and the only person I know in San Diego these days, I contacted her to see if she wanted to get together for some in person sewing counsel :) and she said Yes! We met last year at the Pattern Review weekend in San Francisco and have been talking and emailing ever since.

me and E

We spent a great afternoon going through patterns, fabric, checking out some of her previous makes, helping her with some fitting woes, convincing her to ditch a pattern that was trouble with a capital T, taught her a few little tricks and then we went out for a fantastic dinner. The margaritas were great, the sunsets are lovely in that part of the state and as you can see in this photo the bougainvillea is beautiful (the rose colored vine above me). It is blooming everywhere there, and hard to grow here as it gets a bit too hot and dry in my part of the bay area, although I see it in San Francisco - closer to the coast with more moisture.

I have been swamped with projects recently so have not been doing much sewing that is interesting or blog worthy however I did manage to make another raglan sleeve T-shirt using the Burda 6990 pattern I made a few weeks ago.  I got this fabric recently from Girl Charlee, my new favorite place for knits. It is a rayon jersey. 

blue green front

I know you will ask so I will show you the side view, the pattern is on the fabric so I did not do anything other than cut it out. This is the second zig-zaggy stripe fabric I have used from Girl Charlee and I really like them. I couldn't really match the stripes as they don't go all the way around but I could get the thin and thick strip motifs to match up reasonably well, just so it didn't look completely crazy.

blue green side

And a close up so you can see the colors.  I love this fabric and fear I will order any wacky stripe they put up on their site. How many do I need?  Oh well, it makes a change from my excessive use of turquoise, right?

Blue green tee close up

Up next, I have a yearning to make a seersucker blazer for spring, something in a light color which I can photograph and show all the details on collar, lapels, etc.  I have done a number of jackets but I am always slightly annoyed when I take photos and the sewing details disappear due to a dark color.

Plus I have a few examples stockpiled so will finally get around to a fitting post I have been saying I would do for a while: on bodice length. Stay tuned!

Happy Sewing,  Beth

SunnyGal garden photo: my tulips are done for spring but I did snap this one before the petals fell. I bought a few bags of bulbs at the dollar store and was amazed at the results, mixed colors and new shapes. I find plant possibilities everywhere!  good thing they don't sell fabric. 

yellow tulip