Thursday, March 31, 2011

Simplicity 2283, Yoked Cowl Top

S2283 Thumbnail

I love me a good knit cowl top, so I had to give Simplicity 2283 a try for one of my Supplex piece. I was intrigued by the front shoulder yoke.

Extended Cut-On Front Facing

The key to a pleasant cowl wearing experience is an adequate cowl facing. If you have enough self-facing coverage, you can put the top on in the morning and not think about it for the rest of the day. If the facing is skimpy, you will spend every spare moment making sure the facing hasn't flipped to the outside or is otherwise visible.

The facing on this was pretty good as drafted, but it is my opinion that you can always go longer. So I added an inch in cutting. As you can see on the inside, it is securely caught into the yoke seam and there is enough length hanging down at center front that the facing is not going to flip out. I had no troubles with it while wearing for bike riding (though admittedly I was wearing a fleece the whole time other than for the photos).

As mentioned, for biking tops I want some shoulder coverage for sun protection but in general don't want a full sleeve because of, well, armpit sweating, to be graphic. Extending the shoulder here wasn't going to be easy because of the yoke. I wasn't even considering the funky sleeve until I saw SewWil's pattern review. Her sleeves are great and look breezy and comfortable, so I cut the fun little pleated sleeve.

Modified Sleeve On SewWil and on the model it looks like there is plenty of room for a breeze under the arm, but on my I found that the sleeve amounted to a giant wad of fabric in my armpit as the armscye is quite high on me.

Never one to give up, I decided to turn the sleeves into cap sleeves. I marked the pleated, finished sleeve units with arcs, stitched along my marking, and cut 1/2" away from the stitching for a seam allowance. I then sewed in the sleeves and turned under and stitched the lower part of the armscye. This gives me the shoulder coverage I want with the underarm ventilation I need. If you look closely (or not even that closely) at the photos you'll see that the sleeves are not quite symmetric. Oh well! If I do this again, though, I will fix the sleeve in the drafting/cutting process, not after it is sewn.

Back Darts

When making the back darts in my B5283 twist top, the hardest part was figuring out where, exactly, center back was. So for this project I thread-traced center back before unpinning the pattern tissue. So very uncharacteristic of me.

Having CB marked made it a lot easier to place the darts, and also made it easier to transfer those darts to the pattern tissue for next time. The shape of my darts matches the idiosyncratic shape of my body. Most of the dart volume is not at the waist but below it at my swayback, and the width of my latissimus muscles means they have to go up nearly to the shoulder to avoid a puff at the top.


Pretend I had had the sense to make sure the back was not caught up above the belt before taking this photo. But on the right side, where the belt has not taken up a fold, you can see that it sits fairly flat on my back rather than ballooning out over my swayback.

The only thing I don't like about this pattern is that it can't be turned into a dress! The cowl width in the front sort of cascades all the way down to the hemline and would not translate well to a full length piece.

Outdoor Shot

As you can see I've already tested it out! It gets the thumbs up.

I love the sweetheart look of the neckline, that the narrower cowl that is not too low cut, that the facing that stays firmly in place, and the interesting yoke. I did not interface the yoke as directed in the pattern because of the thickness of my fabric--I feared it would be way too stiff and sit awkwardly--though now that it's done I think I should have. I would recommend interfacing if you're using anything less than a double knit.

All photos are here and the pattern review is here.

Mini Wardrobe Spring 2011

And that is the last piece in my Mini Wardrobe for the PR contest. The challenge was to start with an existing piece in the closet, sew four pieces during the contest period, and end up with at least 6 outfits. I managed to pull off 8!

I started with my self-drafted black and white print dirndl biking skirt from last March.

Then I added two tops, this one and the B5283 twist top.

Next, I needed another skirt, the S2413 pleated silk organza number. Oh, and by the way, I wear biking shorts under the skirts. I'm not going around flashing.

Finally, a topper in the form of this Burda 01-2011-131 wrap sweater.

I love all these pieces individually and I love how they work together. I still have more sewing to do for the trip--more tops and more skirts, which will be fun, and more rain gear which makes me want to die. I muslined the pullover rain jacket last weekend and have not been able to motivate to cut it out this week. I need to pull up my big girl panties and just get started. Then I can reward myself with fun, bright, cheerful sewing (not that it is fun, bright, or cheerful in our persistent, endless winter; it is killing me, people).

All photos for the mini-wardrobe, showing each look as well as the disaggregated pieces, are here.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Burda 01-2011-131, Ballerina Wrap Sweater

Burda 01-2011-131 Thumbnail

We're already a third of the way through this year's BurdaStyle subscription, and this is my first garment from a 2011 magazine. Things aren't looking good for Burda. I made only 6 items out of the entire 2010 subscription. There are definitely more that I'd like to make and considering how many things I am still sewing from 2007-2009 my count will eventually increase, but that is not good odds. It is the only magazine I subscribe to so I don't feel like it's wasted money, but I really hope they step up to the plate soon.

At any rate, here's Burda 01-2011-131. I have a hip-length wrap sweater pattern that I rubbed off a RTW sweater from H&M (as seen in my trip to Turkey), but I like the ballerina vibe to this cropped sweater so I added to the sewing list for my upcoming bike trip. It's made of the heavier Tactel nylon I bought from last January for $3.50/yd and from wearing it around the house during our latest cold snap (sob!) it is a nice layering fabric.

Mark Opening I lengthened the sleeves on the pattern so that I could do another thumbhole garment. As I learned from my 09-2010-121 turtleneck (which I am coincidentally wearing today, due to the FREAKISH COLD WEATHER), while it is convenient to put the thumbhole in the sleeve seam, it doesn't necessarily work anatomically. For the sweater, I constructed the body and sleeves and sewed the sleeves to about 3 inches above my wrist. Then I put it on and marked the thumbhole placement and made a welt opening at my marking.

The first step is to pin rectangle of fabric for your welt over the marked opening, and then mark the openings on the welts (since you'll be sewing on the welt side).

Clip and Turn Welt Patch to Inside Once you have your patch in place, stitch a rectangle according to your marked opening. For a normal welt, you would only stitch the legs and not the tiny short ends, but I was going for a simplified, sturdy process here so I sewed the whole box.

Once the rectangles are sewn, clip as per usual with a straight clip down the center and Y clips into the corners, cutting as close to the stitching as possible at each corner. Turn the welt patches to the inside through your clips.

Trim Excess from Welt Patch Once you have turned and pressed your welt patches to the inside, topstitch the welt patches in a rectangle around your opening at about 1/4 inch. The goal here is to enclose the cut edges and Y clips so that they cannot ravel or deteriorate.

Once your topstitching is done, trim the welt as close as possible to the topstitching. Note that this method requires non-raveling fabric. If your fabric ravels, you'll need to finish the edges of the welt rather than trimming them to the topstitching.

Finished Thumbholes And voila! These thumbholes are perfectly placed and do not require me to spin the sleeve out of alignment to get my thumbs through them. They are neatly finished and should hold up to lots of wear. If it is at all chilly your hands get really cold while biking because they are out in front of you directly in the wind and in a fixed, unmoving position so they don't get circulation. If it is in the low 50s or below you simply have to wear gloves but I think for higher 50s and low 60s the longer sleeve and thumbhole should be sufficient warmth.

I meant to look at the instructions for this but forgot, so I don't know how Burda wants you to finish it, exactly. However, I was quite proud of my clever hemming method.

First, let me recommend fusing a light tricot interfacing along the foldline of the neckline opening edge. My knit fabric did not want to press flat there because this is a long bias line. I hemmed one of the sides three times before finally resorting to fusing and now it looks good. I couldn't face unpicking the other side, so it is not as flat.

I found the sweater to be a touch long as drafted, so I took a slightly deeper hem than planned. This allowed me to layer the hem allowances to create a beautiful finish on the inside. The deep hem rendered the tie opening somewhat superfluous; next time I probably will skip the opening.

Layering Hem Allowances at Tie Edge

To create the finish, once you have attached the tie, fold the hem allowance over the tie, and then fold down the turn-under portion of the hem. Then, fold the upper edge allowance over those layers and fold up the turn-under portion of the hem. Stitch this whole sandwich and then grade the seam allowances.

When you turn it right side out by pulling out the tie, you will already see how neat your your hem and upper edge allowances will be.

Finished Hem/Front Edge Confluence

Pin the remainder of your hem and upper edge allowances and stitch, pivoting at the confluence point where the folded edges meet. I used a twin needle so I couldn't pivot the way you can with a single needle, I just kept the lines as close together as possible. You can see how great this looks both inside and outside.

Front/Back Neckline Due to my hatred of facings, I left off the back facing and instead twin needled over clear elastic. When I went to sew down the front edge allowances, I realized that a facing would actually have looked nicer for this project. You can see the offset between my twin-needle finishing for the back and front. Had I faced the back neckline I could have had one continuous row of stitching. I don't really care, probably not even enough to use the facing next time. But something to consider if you will care.

For fitting, I found I needed to narrow the shoulders (I did 1/2 inch, it probably could have used a full inch) and add back darts.

Burda 01-2011-131

This sweater came out quite cute. When planning it, I was not sure about the cropped length. At my height (5'1.5") I have to be careful about having too many segments of clothing so I don't look squat and even shorter, particularly when taking my high waist into account. However, I think it works, particularly for athletic gear. I love the bright color and I think it will be fun to wear on my trip!

All photos are here and the pattern review is here

Friday, March 25, 2011

Pattern Giveaway Winner and Flickr Tutorial

I forgot to announce the Butterick 5451 big collar wrap dress pattern giveaway winner! It was a little hard to tell who was entering but based on my best guess of who entered the random number winner is



I recommended a while back that you regularly check your recent activity on flickr to make sure the flickr nasties haven't gotten to you. It is an easy process to block unsavory users and I make a practice of it. To be clear, this does NOT prevent them from seeing your photos. The only way to prevent someone from seeing your photos is to make them private. But that means you can't share them with the sewing community either. I have made the decision to make my photos public knowing that they can be seen by flickr nasties; you have to make your own decision.

Anyway, when I brought it up I figured I'd do some screencaps the next time the opportunity arose and lo and behold! It has arisen. As always, click on the photos to see them larger.

Check Recent Activity

When you are signed in to flickr, there is line of options across the top with drop-down menus. Click on "You" and find "Recent Activity." Clink on this and it will bring you to a list of recent comments, photo favorites, and person favorites. I like to check this anyway to see new comments--sometimes people ask questions in comments and I try to answer them.

Check Recent Activity

Look at the names of people in your recent activity. The flickr nasties are usually pretty obvious, like this most recent "Sexy Satin Lining." That's probably not someone I want aggregating my photos! I don't check out everyone who has favorited a photo because often it's clear they are fellow sewists, such as if they favorite a photo of a pattern alteration. But if the name is ambiguous or they seem to be favoriting a certain kind of photo (the turtleneck fetishists are surprisingly numerous) I dig a little deeper.

Click on Profile Clicking on the person's name brings you to their photostream. Often, the flickr nasties keep their photostreams private. Because they are realllllly into respecting privacy. Yeah, right. This one was unusual in that their photostream is public. Be ready to avert your eyes when you get to the photostream. Some of them are graphic. The blocking option is on the person's profile page, so click on "Profile."

Blocking Flickr Nasties

Once you're on the profile page, click on the option for "Block this person."

Block Page

Blocking is a two step process. First, you must click the checkbox at the bottom of the list of things blocked persons may not do. Then hit the "Block" button. Once you hit the "Block" button, flickr gives you a pop-up asking if you're sure. That way you won't accidentally block a friend. Say ok and the deed is done.

As you can (sort of) see, when you block someone they can't
-favorite you
-favorite your photos
-add your photos to their albums or galleries
-contact you through private message

They can still see your photos, but they can't collect them, they can't find you or your photos easily by looking on their favorites list (unless they bookmark them in their browser--these people are after volume and I seriously doubt they'll go to the trouble), and they can't send you a message. I appreciate flickr for creating such a comprehensive blocking system! I highly recommend you take advantage of it. You can see all these photos in my Tech Support album.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Simplicity 2413, Silk Organza Biking Skirt

Simplicity 2413 Thumbnail

I bought Simplicity 2413 for the paper bag waist tulip skirt view, but when I was considering skirts for biking I noticed that the pleated view was pretty cute. I like the size of the waistband and the width of the skirt--not crazy wide for this silk organza with plenty of body, but plenty wide to swing my leg up over a bike.

I have been wanting to make this skirt since I bought the organza from Fabric Mart last July for $3.99/yd. I've seen it listed a few times since but at over double the price, so I feel lucky to have snagged some when I did. For some reason, I only bought 1.5 yards. Dumb! I should have stocked up.

I lined the skirt with some Vera Wang rayon satin I purchased during my giant binge from last year when all the VW was $1.95/yd. This is another fabric I should have stocked up on; I think I bought only 3 yards. The quality is just outstanding. On the lining, I went back and forth on whether to have the matte side or shiny side facing out. The shiny side creates a weird interference with the weave of the organza resulting in a headache-inducing visual effect. But, I love the way the subtle shine boosts the beautiful organza so I put it shiny side out anyway, and will warn people not to look at me too closely.

Variable Front and Back Pleat Lengths The pattern uses the same piece for front and back. My front and back are not shaped the same way. I stitched down the pleats as marked for the front, but had to stitch them much further down in the back, converting them more to released darts than pleats. Otherwise, it was just way too puffy over the back, even given the intentional fullness of the silhouette. I may need to stitch down the side-most back darts further still into actual darts, as I am getting a lot of puff on my low hip (just call me Marie Antoinette), but I don't want to interfere with the bell shape too much more; as it is, I have managed to preserve it even in the back.

Waistband Elastic I found a product at G Street called "Waistband Interfacing," though it seems more like some kind of specialized elastic. I tested various interfacings on the organza and (unsurprisingly) they all showed through and looked terrible. Since I couldn't interface the waistband and wasn't sure that interfacing only the waistband lining would be enough, I thought elastic would be a good solution to keep the waistband in shape. The skirt doesn't have that elastic waist look, but it fits snugly and without discomfort. I am sold on this now!

The skirt is designed so that the zipper is sewn both to the skirt and the waistband up to the fold line. So I installed the zipper and then tacked the elastic to the seam allowance and zipper tape at each end. Then I stitched-in-the-ditch (or as close as I can get) on the outside, careful not to catch the elastic.

Fashion and Lining Fabrics as One at Zipper I sometimes treated the lining as lining and sometimes as underlining in this project. The non-zipper side seams of both fashion and lining are sewn separately in their own French seams. Then the pieces were joined at the upper edge and treated as one for pleating. While I love the look of a French seam in sheer silk, I thought the pleats would not look as nice in terms of how the parts of the print would interact.

At the zipper side seam, I sewed the zipper to the fashion and lining fabrics as one, and then French seamed the fashion and lining separately below the zipper. This requires a little finagling and a tolerance for not-quite-perfect at the transition spot, but it's a technique I've done before and it gives me what I'm looking for. I definitely wanted the lower half and the hem of the fashion fabric to hang free, but didn't want to put the zipper only in the sheer fabric because it would look ugly with the seam allowances and everything. It's not perfect, but it is acceptable, both from the outside and the inside.

Front I am so happy I finally had the chance to make this skirt! I adore the New Look silhouette, which seems to be enjoying a bit of a resurgence.

In fact, this project might have been a little *too* successful because I wore this skirt on a ride with Cidell on Saturday and was afraid of getting chain grease on it the whole time. I believe the bikes on the trip will have chain covers, and I won't be lifting it up onto a car rack or doing any maintenance, so the skirt should be safe on the trip. But at home, I think I'll stick to wearing it for non-bike occasions other than commuting (the CaBi bikes I ride to/from work have chain guards).

I'm wearing it here with yet another version of the OOP Simplicity 4509 cowl neck top. This is the last of the purple jersey I used for my Kate Middleton dress and ruffle shoulder top. I curse my fabric economy when laying out because it is *so* tedious and time-consuming, but when I pull off a hat trick of a dress and two tops--with long sleeves on both the dress and one of the tops--on a 3 yard piece of fabric (given that's yards are generous) I do feel pretty smug.

All photos are here and the pattern review is here.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Butterick 5283, Supplex Asymmetric Twist Top

Butterick 5283 Thumbnail

When Cidell and I visited NYC last November we dropped in Stretch House to pick up Supplex technical wicking fabrics for athletic clothes. It's funny to compare our purchases (mine and hers--scroll to the bottom of the post) because you can see how different our taste is in color. I've got saturated brights and she has delicate pastels.

I'll be sewing mine up in the next couple months in preparation for my bike trip. I will try not to make this the all activewear, all the time blog, but you're gonna get a lot of it.

This is the third time I've made this view of Butterick 5283, so I don't have much more to say about this project. It was my first time doing it as a sleeveless top. It has an extended/drop shoulder, which is not my favorite look for a blouse with sleeves. However, the extended shoulder is perfect for a bike top. I don't want sleeves because it can be too hot and I don't want my armpits strangled with too much fabric, but at the same time I want my shoulders covered against the sun. This is the perfect compromise!

The outer edge of the shoulder kind of sticks up. I thought it was due to my sloping shoulder but if you look at the pattern illustration you see even in the drawing that it is designed that way (this being a rare exception to the rule that you shouldn't trust a pattern with illustrations and no photo). I don't have strong enough feelings to unpick my twin needle sleeve hem and correct the shoulder slope, but for future iterations of this top I might taper that shoulder seam.

Back As drafted, this is a somewhat unfitted top, with plenty of ease at the side seams and no shaping in the back. For athletic wear I prefer more fitted clothing for better range of motion. Not that I need that much range of motion in my torso for biking, but whatever. I cut a 12 below the bust to the waist and hip, but ended up taking in the waist a total of around 2.5 inches at the side seams and an additional 1.5 inches in back darts.

I usually add a center back seam to allow for swayback correction, but I had previously made this one with back darts and decided to do the same for this version. Marking darts on yourself is hard, lol. To work with my particular shape, the darts are widest at the waist and for about 3 inches below the waist, where my swayback curvature is most pronounced. They run to the hem foldline and up to the shoulder blades. The hardest part was getting the darts evenly spaced from CB. I'm going to have to mark the pattern with these next time so they will be symmetrical!

Front The only problem I had was that I *swear* the last two times I made it I sewed the diagonal twist seam and then did the twisting, but on this one I could NOT figure out how that is possible. I had to unpick the diagonal seam, twist, and then re-sew. Odd.

I want my biking tops to be wearable, fitted tees, but the thought of having just plain sleeveless t-shirts strikes me with horror. So I've been combing my patterns for interesting but not *too* crazy knit top patterns. This one fit the bill perfectly and since I'd made it before was a no brainer to be included in the mix. One down, five to go (or more--I just made an order from FFC after swearing I'd never order from them again; we'll see about the quality of their $3.95/yd wicking knits)

All photos are here and the pattern review is here.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Butterick 5451, Big Collar Wrap Dress

B5451 Thumbnail

I love a wrap dress and I love drama, so when I saw Butterick 5451 I had to have it. I have generally liked the styles of "The Cut Line" line of patterns. It took me forever to figure out that the name means that they sell you an envelope with a pretty bare bones pattern in it (no sleeves for this one) that can be as a top, a tunic, or a dress, depending on where you cut it off.

This is one of the fabrics I bought from the bins at London Textile during PR Weekend Philly. The remnants were all $3/yd. I think this one is a double sided acetate, though I can't be sure about the fiber content. It was as bad as sewing with faux fur--every cut resulted in tiny little fibers that went *everywhere*. I've never seen any fabric like it in person. The right side is a crinkle off white with dark polka dots, and the wrong side is a smoother textured gray with off white polka dots. The two layers are bonded together at each polka dot and loose in between. I had about 2 1/2 yards of this fabric, and had to cut the undercollar of a contrast gray from stash. I sewed this dress in February to participate in the Stash Contest but just didn't get around to reviewing it! - Marc by Marc Jacobs - Silk Dots Top In using the two-sided fabric, I was loosely inspired by this Marc Jacobs top. I like the way you see both fabrics, but he doesn't go too far. Going too far is a real problem of mine. My natural instincts for matchy-matchy and cutesy-wootsy constantly require tempering by my inner grownup. My inner grownup isn't very persuasive (you should hear its response to the alarm clock).

I might have gone a little overboard here (hey, at least I didn't turn up the hem to have dark at the bottom like I was considering). I definitely wanted the collar in the dark side because it is hard for my pale self to wear cream. I figured I couldn't just have the collar on the reverse side because it would look rather abrupt, so I also planned for the ties to be dark. Then I got the idea in my head for a contrast turn back cuff, for which I used the pattern piece from BWOF 11-2007-104, a wrap top I've been wanting to make for 2 years. In the end, I might have been better doing the tie in cream, but I did enjoy making the most of this unusual fabric. I definitely wanted it to be a wrap dress so if the wind stirs the front overlap the dark side would show there, too.

Small Bust Adjustment (SBA) I started with my usual adjustments, small bust and broad back adjustment. This one started with a GIANT original bust dart, 3 inches across at the bottom. I narrowed that dart and took some width out of the crossover, per my usual SBA practice. Larger-busted ladies take note, I think this line is not drafted for a B cup.

I used the sleeve from Butterick 5321, after checking to make sure this one didn't have a cutaway shoulder. It didn't, and the sleeve fit perfectly.

Extra Length Pinned Out The pattern directions want you to finish the neckline with bias tape over the collar, which normally I would do but here I didn't want to interrupt the print. So I turned under and topstitched the outer collar.

After beautifully installing the collar, this happened. Although I shortened the crossover neckline by about an inch on each side, the neckline was a DISASTER. Unfortunately, this photo doesn't really capture the original neckline, but trust me, it was obscene and unwearable. So huge and frustrating.

So I slept on it, and the next day ripped out my beautiful topstitching, unpicked the serging (ugh) and the stitching for the collar from about 3 inches from the bottom all the way around to the other side.

Darts to Shorten Neckline Then I put three darts on each side of the neckline above the bust to shorten the neckline and added a seam at the center back of the collar, taking out two inches from each side. I was pleased with how well the darts worked. I have another dress (a Butterick too, as I recall) that I'm going to have to do this treatment on.

I had already taken out 1 inch so that is a total of 3 inches of shortening for the neckline. And it is still low. I had to sew in a hook and thread eye (thank goodness for black hooks and eyes!) to keep it closed at a work-appropriate level, which is the sewist equivalent of admitting defeat.

Opening for Tie in French Seam To make sure that I wouldn't be shedding hundreds of tiny fibers every time I wore this dress I used French seams everywhere except the shoulder. Because the fabric is kind of flimsy I wanted to reinforce the shoulder with ribbon and I didn't want to try that in a French seam, although it seems theoretically possible. For the tie opening, I used the serger the finish the opening edges before sewing and then skipped the opening on both passes of the French seam.

The hem gave me so much grief in marking. The fabric almost behaves as though it's on the bias so I pinned and hung it and then pinned again and could not get it quite right (I've never mastered the art of pinning a hem on a dress form so I was doing all this on my body). I finally declared it good enough and pressed and hemmed, because I just couldn't deal with it anymore!

Unfortunately, I am not wild about this dress. I know objectively it is cute and I got a million compliments on it when I wore it. But the neckline is still wider/lower than I would prefer and the wonky hem is fresh in my mind. There is a saggy pouchiness under the arms that I suspect is related to a small bust. But I don't think that taking in the side seams is going to help so I'm just going to have to live with the saggy bunching. I am hoping these annoyances will fade with time (they usually do).

On the plus side for this pattern, it is well-drafted. It's just not for my body. The collar installed beautifully (the first time) and I love the width of the front skirt. The underlap is very wide and there is little danger of flashing even when a gust of wind blows the overlap open.

The weather seems to be getting warmer (don't want to to jinx it!), so this is the tail end of cool weather sewing. I still have many projects in mind and I have way more warm weather than cool weather clothes, but I don't like cold weather and just can't stand sewing for it much longer!

Because the end result is a cute dress despite all its failings, I need to get this pattern out of my sewing room lest I decide to make it again, forgetting how much I hate the fit of the bodice. If I want this type of dress again I'll go back to Butterick 5320, the Maggy London puffy collar wrap dress, and use only the under-collar pattern piece to get a flat, wide collar.

So I am doing a GIVEAWAY of this pattern, Butterick 5451. To be eligible, you must have commented on my blog in the last six months. International entries welcome! I'll do a drawing next Monday, March 21 (or thereabouts). This is for the smaller size range, 8-14. The pattern is cut along the largest size line (14). I have altered the bodice as you can see in the photos but never subtracted any pattern tissue so it will only take a few moments to undo my alterations.

Apparently, though, this will be great to pull out for Fall. You Look Fab has identified black and cream as one of Fall's major trends, based on last month's runway shows. I am never this current! I made this simply because I had the fabric. But if anyone asks, I was inspired by Jason Wu, who made ample use of black and cream in his F2011 show.

All photos are here and the pattern review is here.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Patronizing the Garment District

No, not the garment district in NYC--the one in DC! LOVE the play on the name; if you really live here you call DC "The District," so it's quite a clever pun.

Garment District DC is an initiative to bring cool local retail to an otherwise empty space for a few months both to showcase local artists and to encourage permanent development. The location is fantastic, a huge space at 7th and New York Ave a half block down from new hotspot The Passenger (which shows its DC pride in its slogan "God Save the District") and across the street from the DC Convention Center.

I walk by this space every day and marvel that it hasn't been snatched up and filled with retail, so when I saw Garment District my curiosity was piqued. When I saw a room full of sewing machines, it was doubly piqued! They have been offering lessons in various techniques and there are still a few to come.

Lots of local artists have taken advantage of the venue for clothing, accessories (check out my awesome purse from L~Shandi!), jewelry, and art. I've popped in a few times and the stock turns over fairly quickly so there is always something new.

Unfortunately, this is only a temporary installation and it will end March 20. Be sure to stop by and check it out!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Cycling Rain Pants: Once, Twice, Three Times a Muslin

Get out your ice skates and check for flying pigs because I muslined not once, not twice, but thrice for my cycling rain pants. I bought 10 yards of $1/yd fabric for lining at Jomar during PR Weekend Philly, but when I got it home I realized I'd been in too much of a frenzy. It is very loud when walking and also very staticky. I put it in the giveaway bag but realized in the nick of time that it would be *perfect* to muslin these rain pants. It has no stretch or give, doesn't ease, and is impossible to pin. Very much like the Gore Tex.

I purchased the Gore-Tex from Fabric Mart last July when they had it for $9.99, so it's been in stash for a while. I leave for a bike trip in The Netherlands in early May and we have been warned to expect rain so I couldn't put it off too much longer. The Mini Wardrobe Contest is running this month on PR and I figured I'd kick start my bike sewing for the contest. The ladies on the discussion thread were very encouraging about tackling the bike pants so I decided to get them over with.

Burda 12-2007-127 Line Drawing I looked through my Burda archives for suitable patterns. Despite my triumph with the lapped zipper, I decided that trying to do my first fly front in a difficult fabric in which mistakes are strongly discouraged--every needle hole is a potential leak--which has to be lined *and* all the seams must be sealed (making the order of construction complicated) was not in the cards. So I chose 12-2007-127, a pajama pant pattern with a flat front and elasticated side and back waist.

Muslin 1.0 Front The first muslin is almost straight off the pattern sheet. My only change was to add a crotch gusset. I was pleasantly surprised by the fit and the look, which was not too Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.

I had marked the knee line on the outside so I could compare it to mine. Unsurprisingly, given my short legs, it was about 1.5 inches too low (very useful info for making future Burda pants).

The front waist was also remarkably low. The back fit fine, mostly a function of the elastic I suppose but I was surprised that I didn't need any swayback adjustment for length or volume.

Even the width of the leg was perfect. I could easily pull them on over sneakers but there wasn't any more ease than was needed to accomplish that task. I totally lucked out with this pattern!

Muslin 1.1 Side Although the knee was too low, when I sat on my bike with my leg in the most upright position, that marked knee line was halfway up my thigh. One of the PR participants had recommended a knee gusset, which makes great sense for biking clothes where the knees go through a much larger range of motion than walking or running.

Because the marked position of the knee moved a good six inches or more as I moved my leg, I added the gusset at the marked knee point rather than my knee. I reasoned that the extra volume is needed not when my leg is straight but when it is bent and therefore the gusset should be at the knee on the upswing. So while the gusset is below the knee when standing, when I raised my leg to parallel it was at the knee.

Unfortunately, when I went and sat on the bike, things changed a bit and the gusset ended up halfway up my thigh. I decided that the utility of the gusset was lost in these wild variations in position. I thought about it for a while and decided in the final version to add extra knee articulation with pleats. I had previously done a web search for cycling pants with an articulated knee. Now I did a search for rain pants with a pleated knee and lo and behold this is quite common for athletic wear. I didn't know whether to feel pleased that I'd hit upon the proper solution or disappointed that I'm not as original as I thought!

Muslin 2.0 Side On muslin 2.0, I raised the front waist. It now matches the back waist (or close enough for my taste). You can see that the waist on the rain pants is lower than on my cycling shorts, but I prefer it that way. The waistline is at a comfortable spot. Also, I don't know how comfortable the Gore Tex will be against the skin at the foldover waistband, nor the mesh lining. If I'm wearing rain pants, I will also be wearing a rain jacket, which will cover well below the pants' waistline, protecting me from the rain.

I also changed the shape of the crotch gusset for the second muslin. I am short and need a large range of motion to hike my leg up over the saddle to sit down on the bike, not to mention the discomfort of sitting on seams.

Self-Drafted Crotch Gusset For version 1.0, I had drafted a symmetrical oval shaped gusset 6.5 inches long and 4 inches wide. I was pleased that it fit into the crotch so nicely and added a range of motion, considering I'd never made anything with a crotch gusset ever and all I knew about them was from looking at a few RTW items. Note that I did not change anything about the crotch of the original pattern--just used the gusset to add space.

Anyway, the first crotch gusset was remarkably functional, but I saw that while it reached the front of the crotch area, the back ended shorter than it could. So for the second iteration of the gusset I extended the back an additional inch and a half, making more of a kite shape. It now reaches the back of the crotch area.

A downside of making pants is that you end up saying "crotch" way too much. Ick.

Muslin 3.0 and 3.1 I again marveled at how un-Stay Puft these pants are. Then I sat down while wearing the muslin and realized the reason they're so flattering is that they have about 3/4 of an inch of ease at the largest part of my thigh. I had no problem moving in these pants and they didn't pinch or feel too tight, but I just am not comfortable with that little ease in active wear. I don't know how well the mesh lining will slide over cycle shorts or yoga pants over a long ride. And also, I really never want to make another pair of these things so I wanted to be able to accommodate some weight fluctuation.

So for muslin 3.0 I added an additional 3 inches of room in the hip and thigh. Whoa. Now I got your Stay Puft right here! I had drafted the additional room to match the saddlebag curve of my thigh and boy, did it. I pinned out some extra ease to give me a flatter appearance. I still had a good 2.5 inches of ease left, so I flattened out the pattern.

At this point I had reached the end of my patience. I admit that I didn't not actually sew up another muslin with the flattened hip curve. I felt confident in my alteration and was ready to cut the Gore Tex.

Cargo Pockets At this point I'd been working all day and felt like I had nothing to show for it, so I decided to go on to the pockets. I purchased 5 inch water resistant zippers from Joann and planned to make cargo-style patch pockets large enough to hold keys, money, ID, and cell phone (divided between the two pockets). I first muslined them to get size, including pleat width. The muslin looked good, but I decided I wanted a deeper flap. I don't know how "resistant" the zips are and wanted to cover them as deeply as possible.

Once I got started on the real thing, the whole construction order issue of sealing seams revealed itself as quite the puzzle. I am using iron-on seam sealing tape rather than the brush on stuff. I think it looks nicer, I trust it to be more secure, and most importantly I don't have any outdoor space in my condo for ventilation! How I would love to have a balcony for doing toxic things... Anyway, I had planned to treat the lining and fabric as one, but then realized that I couldn't seal the zipper seams from the inside if I did that. So I had to sew the zips in, seal the seamlines, then jigger in the lining.

Once the real pockets were completed, I realized that I couldn't have the deep flaps I wanted. As the pockets are only five inches wide, with the deep flap I couldn't reach in to actually grasp the zipper pull! Luckily, the flap is just a rectangle and had sewed the zipper on one layer (gotta minimize seamlines!) so I just folded it up higher and cut off the excess at the top.

That was a 10 1/2 hour day!!!!! I was tired.

The next day I cut out the real pants (Gore Tex layer) and sewed the outseam. Not as simple as it sounds because it involved the outseam, two rows of reflective tape, and pocket placement and then sealing all the seams. That was enough for one day. I am hoping to finish them this weekend.

All photos of this work in progress are here.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Butterick 5333, Experimenting with Straight Skirts

B5333 Thumbnail

When I bought my $20/yard-most-expensive-ever-piece-of-fabric alleged Versace boucle from Golden D'Or in Dallas over the holidays, I knew this was one pattern I'd want to muslin before cutting into it. I want the skirt to be a wardrobe staple for years to come and if it turned out not-quite-right I would be very disappointed. I want something straight and fitted but not pencil, because a pencil skirt can be a little confining to walk and sit in. I also want a separate waistband that sits at natural waist. A waistband looks nicer when items are tucked (in my opinion), and natural waist is rarely "in style" but is not faddish like a high or low waist and can weather the waistline storms over the years.

For the straight skirt being such a classic, I found few patterns that fit my vision. A couple of the Butterick wardrobe patterns have skirts with two darts in front and back, which I thought might be helpful for my large belly and derriere. I chose Butterick 5333, the Mrs. Obama wardrobe as I call it, as it was clearly riffing off her famous black and white dress from the campaign.

When I had enough of the black and pink houndstooth wool left to test out the pattern I was so pleased. I have fabric I can use for muslin, of course, but for the boucle I think I'm going to get the best results if I test the pattern in fabric of a similar weight. Darts in a thick wool are going to behave differently than darts in a thin fabric.

Based on the finished measurements, I cut a straight size 12 and the fit is excellent. This was a pleasant surprise. Not the size 12 part, the fitting part.

Crooked Print at Waistline As I mentioned when reviewing the dress of the this fabric, the print is not quite on grain. In the comments, some suggested that I sew with grain instead of print. However, this is a judgment call, in my opinion, and I am more comfortable with a slightly off drape than with a crooked print. I feel that a crooked print would be much more noticeable and make me more self-conscious.

And speaking of crooked print, this is what happened when I put together the waistline. UGH!!!!! You can see where I thread-traced the line of the print. Although this skirt is wearable, it is definitely a wearable muslin for me. It's a bit of a unitasker skirt because it can only be worn with black (other ideas welcome). Life is too short to wear black, in my opinion. I wore it with this black tee and a black jacket to have a "friendly" meeting with opposing counsel (which turned out to be not so friendly!), so it is good for "less than a suit" work stuff, but not something I'll wear often. So I was loath to go to the trouble of fixing the ugliness of the print. But after letting it sit for a day I acknowledged that I would *never* wear it with the horrible print effect at the waistband and picked it out. The waistband itself was also crooked so I had to recut, but I didn't have enough fabric to recut on grain so I did it on cross-grain and had to add side seams, which adds bulk at the waistband. But it's still better than crooked.

Lapped Zipper!!!! My big excitement for this skirt was my first successful lapped zipper!!!! Yes, it deserves four exclamation points. For the dress, I inserted a centered hand-picked zipper, but felt that the centered zip wasn't perfect because the lips open up a little and the zipper can be seen. So for the skirt, I decided to try my hand at a lapped zipper.

I think I have tried one once before and it was something of which we shall not speak. So I searched the web for help and found this video tutorial from What Would Nancy Drew Wear. Note: clicking on the video launches YouTube in a separate window and then the video begins to play on *both* the blog and YouTube (at least it did for me). Turn one of them off or they will be playing a second or two off from each other and impossible to understand! The video holds your hand all the way through the process. I mimicked Lisette's moves exactly. I think I made the lap a little too large but as a technical matter, it is perfect. I was on a high for the rest of the day. And the next day I realized...a fly zip is just a variant of the lapped zip. (Right?) OMG, could I actually handle a fly zip?

Hem Lace and Lining French Seams There's not much more to say about this project. It's a skirt, for heaven's sake. I used hem lace again, though I used a machine blind stitch rather than hand hem. Sorry the pic is low quality. I lined this one in off-white rayon instead of pink because I bought a ton of the off-white and not as much of the pink and wanted to save the pink for projects I'm more excited about.

Unfortunately, this pattern is not The One. The overall fit is great and the back lies smoothly over my posterior. But the front is puffy. Yuck. I thought the double darts (for a total of four in front) would help with fit, but that is too much dartage for my front. I need a flat front or only two small darts, I think. I have a waist, but it is almost all in the back and my front is much more rectangle/apple shaped. I haven't decided if I will try to tweak this pattern or search for another. The bigger issue will be deciding what fabric to sacrifice for the next muslin!

All photos are here and the pattern review is here.


Thank you for all the nice comments on my pink cashmere sweater refashion! Several people asked about the neckline. I took a photo and added a discussion of how I finished it to the post.


Confidential to Our Heroine: I would love to comment on your posts, but I do not want to give Disqus all my personal information. I tried using my yahoo ID to sign in, but I have to share everything associated with that ID with Disqus, no opting out. Any chance of a less intrusive comment manager?

Sweater Refashion: Cashmere Goes 80s

Pink Cashmere Refashion

While we're on the subject of hot pink peplums, it seemed a good time to share this sweater refashion I did at the end of last year. When I was shopping the thrift store for suitable sweaters a couple years ago, I ran across this one. 98% cashmere and hot pink, how could I resist? At first, I planned to keep the neck tie thingy as a neck tie thingy, but move it so that the tie was to the side rather than center. The vaguely sailor-esque thing didn't do anything for me. Then I hit on the idea of using the tie as a waistband and the whole thing came together.

Pattern Layout To shape the bodice, I used the popular boatneck top Burda 02-2009-108. I actually refashioned the sweater before making my ruffle shoulder top of the pattern. I had to cut the front with a scooped neck due to the original design of the blouse, so I widened the shoulders about 3/4 of an inch to ensure the blouse didn't fall off.


I also kept the original sleevecap, as I wanted an exaggerated 80s puffed sleeve. It didn't turn out as puffy as I'd hope, but I think it still looks deliberate rather than just poorly eased and installed.

Neck Tie Becomes Waistband As mentioned, I turned the tie neck into a waistband. The tie was a different weave from the rest of the sweater, ribbed and a little thicker and more stable. Unfortunately, it wasn't woven as a straight piece but had a "bulge" in the middle. I cut it as straight as I could along the "ribs" but it also had a slight curve so that wasn't 100% possible. I gathered the peplums into the lower edge of the waistband.

Neckline Finish Several people asked how I handled the neckline without stretching it. In this case, when I cut off the tie I was careful to cut as small as possible along the stitch line. The neckline next to the tie had been reinforced in manufacturing, and so I just needed to treat it carefully to prevent stretching. To finish the neckline, I used a twin needle and was careful while sewing to position the raw edge of the neckline (down along the feed dogs) so the "zig" would be on the neckline and the "zag" would be just off it. I tried to manipulate the photo so you could see the stitching on the outside and inside; click to enlarge.

If your neckline is not finished in manufacturing, it can still be finished nicely! First, finish the edge. I recommend a zigzag over a serged finish unless you are very confident in the differential feed of your serger. If you use the serger, put it on the most gatheringest differential feed setting. Once the finish is done, you must steam steam steam to get the neckline back into shape. The beauty of working with wool is that it should steam back into a reasonable facsimile of a neckline. Once it's back in shape you can fuse it with a strip of tricot interfacing cut on the bias to keep it in shape. Then sew with a twin needle as I showed above.

Note that I don't have a coverstitch machine, so I can't say how coverstitch would perform versus twin needle.

It definitely needs a belt. The 80s styling finally got me to add a length of elastic to this belt buckle purchased from Exquisite Fabrics in Georgetown in October 2009 for $5 (the packaging makes me think it was actually from the 80s). I don't know what took me so long to make this considering it took under 5 minutes to thread the elastic through the bars on the belt and stitch it in place. I've worn it a ton since then, it is too fun!


I bought five or six sweaters to refashion in late 2009 or early 2010 and realized as 2010 was drawing to a close that I hadn't done any refashions yet that winter. When I bought the thrift store sweaters, I went for 100% wool (or cashmere in this case) only. However, I wasn't really thinking about my taste. Most of the sweaters are a thick wool and I don't see myself wearing something that bulky no matter how cute the refashion. So I think I will be doing a re-donate for most of them. However, this thinner texture is perfect for me, not to mention I love the color! The refashion isn't perfect (the waistband area is truly ugly), but with a belt to hide the imperfections it's a great go-to sweater.

All photos are here.