Friday, January 25, 2008

Grain? We Don't Need No Stinkin' Grain

When I was writing my review of this Simplicity 4074 dress it was nagging me that I couldn't remember how I arrived at the length. I am petite (i.e., short), long-waisted, and can't wear any skirts between knee and lower calf because they make me look stumpy so as a general rule I shorten skirts a lot. Normally, I fold some length out of the skirt about halfway down, and then chop a bunch off the bottom before hemming. For some reason, I couldn't remember taking any off the bottom before doing the hem finish. Now, I did do this project in two hours on a Tuesday night well over a month ago, so it's not surprising I don't have much by way of clear memories, but it was still needling me that I couldn't recall.

Then I remembered! And I remembered that when I had been making it I was like, Hoo boy, that's one for the blog.

I learned to sew from my mom. She sewed a lot when I was a kid so most of it was by osmosis rather than formal instruction. When I started doing proper sewing with real patterns (rather than hand-sewing barbie clothes) around age 13 or so, she helped me out when she was able but unfortunately she suffered from unmedicated bipolar disorder so most of the time she didn't have the patience and I just muddled through on my own rather than risk her unpredictable wrath. So there are large gaps in my sewing knowledge. In a way, this was freeing. I had no idea knits could be intimidating, for instance. If I wanted to do something I'd just wade right in and do it (except for fly fronts, which still TERRIFY me). But I was certainly doing a lot of things "wrong."

One thing of which I knew nothing was grain. I mean, I knew you folded the selvages together for cutting, but I didn't realize you were supposed to be all precise in doing so. And I didn't know there was a difference between grain and crossgrain. I just laid out my pattern pieces any which way so as to do it the most efficiently.

Joining Pattern Review and coming in contact with other sewists--which I do not do in my real life--has been a real education for me. I am not quite fastidious about grain, but I am certainly aware of it. I try to get the proper grain when folding my fabric for cutting, and now if it is at all possible I cut everything on the same grain and nap.

Well, this dress calls for 2 3/8 yards. I think I had 2, but it may have even been a generous 1 1/2 yard cut. Even shortening the skirt and the sleeves left me unable to fit all the pieces on. I was *determined* to make this dress so I took a deep breath, pretended I didn't know better, and cut the front on the crossgrain.

Since this knit, while not actually a slinky (too lightweight), has a slinky-like hand and rib I knew I could be setting myself up for disaster. Slinky is notorious for growing and growing and so there was a distinct possibility that the different components of the dress would grow at different rates and I'd end up all misshapen. That was part of the reason I did the zigzag finish on the hem. I figured it would be easy to just cut off any part that had grown and re-zigzag (instead of having to take out a hem, recut, and rehem). Well, that and the fact that I'd had to cut it to the exact length I wanted it because of my limited fabric. So far so good, though. Maybe the fabric is lightweight enough that it's not going to grow.

I'd say cutting a piece--in a knit, no less--on the crossgrain counts as slapdash.


RuthieK said...

Oh actually that's quite refreshing to hear. My knit top I finished recently was cut out on a very similar basis - with the grain running up, down and across on different pieces in order to get them onto the small piece of fabric. It can be amazingly efficient, I had teeny scraps left over afterwards.

laura said...

You touched a nerve with me!My very intelligent and talented mother suffered from manic depression while I was growing up.The answer back in the day was Valium,librium,and God knows what else.Then we all suffered through her withdrawl when she couldn't stand what the drugs were doing to her.(She only recently allowed her doctor to prescribe a mild antidepressant). Today at 72, the clothes she sews are still couture quality but mine aren't as I too just learned on my own.Mental illness is a cruel disease!

Isabelle said...

I hear you! Sometimes it is so tempting to cut on the crossgrain so that we can make a pattern in the fabric we want.
Your dress is really pretty, and I do hope it doesn't grow.

Please let me know if you need any help with your upcoming trip to Paris!
I'd be happy to meet you, too, if only for a cuppa (or a trip to a fabric shop of course. That would depend on how much free time I can afford at that time). I know we haven't been in contact much, so I hope you won't take this as completely strange. I know you from Cidell and from your pattern reviews, of course!