Tag Archives: Vogue patterns

OMG, the leather skirt!

In leather!

This is a skirt! Almost! Made out of leather!

So there is this thing that is happening this month in my life that happens to many of us eventually, being a milestone birthday of the sort that women are supposed to be too embarrassed to mention in public. I am turning 40! Instead of being properly embarrassed, I’m a bit giddy about it. OMG I’m turning 40! How amazing is that! I get to be 40! What excellent justification for a month of self-indulgence! Well except that I still have the whole single-mom schtick, so it will be more like moments of self-indulgence mixed in with days of picking up toys, signing school forms and cleaning up after dinner. Ah well.

In any case I decided that finishing the leather skirt in time for turning 40 would be a good thing to do, and allow me to wear my new leather skirt that fits on my 40th birthday, thereby making it into a Fabulous Forty kind of thing, rather than jeans-and-a-shirt Regular Forty (which will be the day following).

So the brainstorm I had while making up the sweatshirt was dual:

1) It’s leather, dough-brain. Just do lapped seams instead of regular seams and you won’t need to worry about easing or slightly mismatched seamlines.

2) Also, true the damned curves. When you stretched out the pieces to account for your high waist, it probably messed with the curves so now they don’t match and of course they bubble.

So I trued the damned curves, and yes indeed, there were some serious mismatches on those very curved side seams, and then I cut out test pieces from the stretch faux leather and sewed them together using lapped seams. And while it was not perfect (mostly because it was a test and I didn’t care if the side seams matched up or not), it was FLAT.

Once this lovely, FLAT, assembled test piece was done, I compared it and the trued pattern to the skirt sloper I made up a month or two ago. Hallelujah, the waist and low hip measurements matched, and the high hip was if anything a bit on the big side, giving me some more space to fiddle with and flatten the curved seams in front of the dress.

Hurray.

I mean I only bought this leather in, what, August?

Next step: Cutting! Out! The! Leather!

Which I did! And then I took the little leftover bits from the edges and cut out some very, very curvy pieces and sewed them together, making sure I could make them FLAT.

Which as a process, looked something like this:

Very carefully draw the seam lines on both pieces. On the top piece, draw the line on the reverse; on the bottom piece, draw it on the top. You’re not going to wash this garment so plan on the marks being permanent and choose accordingly. I used white tailor’s chalk and a felt-tip pen. With the felt tip pen on the right side of the bottom piece, I drew the seam line at 1/2″ instead of 5’8″, so that I could lap and completely cover the marks with the top piece.

bloggish-16-4

 

Cut out enough notches on the curved piece so that when the seam line is folded back, it lies perfectly flat. Test this before you start taping them together.

bloggish-20-6

 

Start with a match point, and using a small piece of double-sided tape meant for leather and with a width of ideally 3/8″ (but 1/2″ will do if you can’t find 3/8″), begin taping the folded top piece to the flat bottom piece. Fold a segment of the top, tape it to the bottom, short piece at a time, all the way around the curve.bloggish-19-5

 

When you’re done, you’ll have a nice FLAT curve, all taped together.

bloggish-21-7

Now edgestitch that curve outside of the tape so you don’t get your leather needle all gummed up from the tape.  Leather needles do not like to be gummed up.

leahter-2-1

Assembling these pieces into front and back pieces was a whole new adventure.

There was lots of skipping of stitches when joining spots with more than two layers of leather , and a metric fuckton when I sewed in the zipper. Something about two layers of leather plus zipper tape equalled very unhappy janome machine. Because leather makes permanent holes, you do not ever want to go over the same section with the machine. So I did a lot of stopping, tying off threads, carefully placing the machine needle back right in precisely the same hole I stopped in, continuing from there, repeating as required,  finishing the seam, and then going back with the hand leather needle and back-stitching pieces together through the holes that the machine made, where the stitches skipped.

I got all of the pieces sewed together into a finished skirt body, topstitching and everything. The topstitching is ok. You can’t tell from a distance, but the occasional bits of skipped stitches and then the hand-sewn replacement sections are not great. They’re not terrible. But they’re not as nice as they would be if I’d sewn them on an industrial machine that could manage to be more cheerful about sewing through multiple layers of leather.

The really key thing is this:

IT FITS.

It does! It really fits!

The side seams are close enough to matching up that I’m happy. Maybe 1/4″ off in places, but they look like they line up when you look at them from a distance. I can pull it on, do it up; the waist hits me at the waist, the hips hit me at the hips, the knee hits me at my knees.

Pulling it on is a bit of a struggle as it’s not yet lined and the leather is very soft and ‘sticky’.  So lining it is the next step. Leather tanning and dyeing agents are notoriously tough on natural fibres, so I went with poly for the petersham ribbon and the lining fabric, which is a bright multi-coloured floral that is slipper on both sides so it won’t stick to either me or the leather, fingers crossed.

leahter-6-2

Four days to finish it! Can it be done?

CAVEAT: I am not a leather sewing expert. This post is not intended to substitute for professional leather-sewing advice. In the event of a leather-sewing emergency, please consult with a leather professional.

My background here is one leather purse, put together as part of the Craftsy sewing a leather bag class, and reading some leather sewing books, and generally figuring things out as I went, otherwise.  Sewing with leather is completely different than sewing with fabric and the same tools and practices that guarantee good results with fabric will give you shit with leather (and vice versa).

Believe it or not there’s a lot more to say about the Leather Skirt Adventure, but I’ll spare you those for this post.

A double-gauze V9029, with hand-stitching

After a good, quick Linden as a palate-cleaner, I decided to do a good, semi-quick palate cleanser before getting back into anything more complicated. And by this I meant that I made another V9029, this time in a Nani Iro double gauze that I bought last fall (shame on me), and then edge-stitched by hand.

 

No smiles today. Today we are grim.
No smiles today. Today we are grim.

Yeah, well, what else was I going to do?

I bought this double gauze last year because the print was so lovely and the cotton was so soft, and I knew it was going to be a shirt, but what kind of shirt? It seemed too floaty to make into something tailored, but loose woven tunics and I are not on speaking terms.

After spending too many hours googling pictures of double gauze shirts, I confirmed that yes, almost every bit of Nani Iro sold becomes either a Grainline Scout tee or a Wiksten Tova. But looking at that sea of Scouts and Tovas, I only had eyes for the one double gauze Simplicity button-up blouse.

So I pulled out my V9029 and sewed it up again, making note of the fitting changes I wrote down on the pattern.

Grim from the side.
Grim from the side.

And I had a very Andrea brainstorm.

Because you know it was Embroidery Month, and the fabric print has that lovely hand-painted feel to it, and wouldn’t it look nice with a little hand-stitched touch? Like maybe the edge-stitching done by hand in a matching embroidery floss?

DMC 725 was a perfect match for the marigold yellow in the flowers. One strand of floss in a small needle, and to get the stitches just right, I ran my tracing wheel–hard, without the carbon paper–1/8″ from the finished edges.

bloggish-1-1

It made a lovely straight line with evenly spaced divots that I just followed with the needle, up down up down, all the way around all the pieces needing hand-stitching. It’s not quite perfect, but then for hand-stitching, you don’t want it to be quite perfect. You just want it to be close enough. It made a heavy and long enough stitch that you can see the yellow, but from far away, it just looks like a normal shirt. So just what I wanted.

Grim + Haughty, With Dog. He's so much more photogenic than I am.
Grim + Haughty, With Dog. He’s so much more photogenic than I am.

V9029 is becoming a TNT for me. The sleeves are the right length this time, the collar worked better–a bit on the big side, but no puckers underneath, and it fits fairly well through the body with no gaping and not too much ease. (For me, a successful button-up shirt is a shirt that, if I leave it unbuttoned, will fall naturally to the centre front, and this one does.)

I used the reverse of the double gauze on the under collar and inside of the collar stand, but given that it’s transparent it doesn’t add much contrast value. Still. It is a Thing that I Did.

bloggish-8-3

 

Plus the obligatory back shot:

Look! My Back!

Look! My Back!

Not bad for fit, eh? So that’s one shirt pattern pretty much nailed.

~~~~~

Photos this time were inspired by those super formal early photography portraits, where no one ever smiled and so everyone looked faintly ridiculous and/or bordering-on-postal.

The chair in the corner was clean for a change; plus, it meant I got to sit down. I like to think that Simba also enjoyed it as another chance to claim a lap as part of his expanding territory, but it’s hard to be sure.

The Next Blazer, Eventually, While Analyzing the Walking Dead

I found myself in possession of more free time and less money in February than is typically the case, which I decided was the perfect excuse to figure out my next blazer, the Vogue 8333 Claire Schaeffer pattern.

After the difficulties of working with fusible interfacing on the poly-wool blue blazer I made in the fall, I decided to go whole-hog and go the hair-canvas/pad-stitching/tailoring route. This meant many, many hours parked on my butt with a needle in my hand, and how better to spend it than feeding a new netflix addiction?

Now: I cannot in any way watch horror and I have not been able to since I was in elementary school. I know that for most people it goes the other way round, but I aged out of my ability to tolerate violence and now if I see someone bleeding and in pain on a screen, large or small, I will probably have to get up and leave the room, or at least shut my eyes and try not to listen. This is precisely why I’ve never watched the Walking Dead before (that, and the fact that I would have had to pay for it, but the blood-and-guts is the big reason), but the villain in the last season of Farscape is pissing me off so much* that I can’t finish watching it and I wanted a new show to occupy my eyeballs during workouts and hand-sewing sessions. So the Walking Dead it is.

(Pro Tip: Do not watch the Walking Dead while holding a fresh hot cup of tea in your hand, unless you want to end up wearing the fresh hot cup of tea and mopping it off the table and floor.)

Now, I am an inveterate environmentalist with a long, long history of hugging trees and espousing the virtues of various squiggly critters, and that may (almost certainly did) colour my perceptions of, well … just about everything. But. That first long weekend watching The Walking Dead non-stop convinced me that the show is a thinly-veiled metaphor for environmental collapse.

(Shocking! I know!)

I’m in good company on the metaphor bit: The Walking Dead has been analyzed as a metaphor for just about anything people don’t like, from gun control to Obama’s America (I mean, seriously. People. You may not like Obama but you are not living in a post-apocalyptic landscape of zombies and disintegrating infrastructure). But every one of those think pieces (and there are a lot of them) admitted that the metaphor broke down on one or two key points.

But environmental collapse? It works pretty damned near perfectly.

For one thing, consider that over the past several decades, we’ve been obsessed with apocalypse. The number of apocalyptic television shows, movies and books has been increasing every decade, regardless of who is in the White House or whether government spending is going up or down. We’re very good at covering them up with just about anything but environmental collapse–alien invasions, robot insurrection, massive flu epidemics, nuclear warfare, and now zombies–but we are as a society spending more and more of our time entertaining ourselves with stories about the end of the world. I’ve made this point before, but in the 1960s, science fiction was about the golden age that technology and American Values were going to unleash on the entire universe, likely populated with savages who needed a good ray gun or teleporter.  The idea of coming out with something like that now–would you watch it? Could you now suspend your disbelief on something so optimistic?

Zombies, though, make a particularly good foil for anyone who wants to think about environmental collapse without consciously thinking about environmental collapse. Think about it: zombies are the past eating the future. The dead rise up and consume their young, in zombie stories quite literally. In the environmental stories that surround us every day, our past is constantly consuming our present–the industrial revolution devouring the climate, our forests, the oceans, the collapse of all of the world’s major fisheries, the coral reefs, and so on–and we are in turn becoming the present that is devouring the future mostly through failing to grapple with it all.

I’m not suggesting that this was a conscious decision on the part of the comic book writer or the show’s creators. But I do think that these stories, of what has been done to our present by our ancestors, and what we in turn are doing to our descendants, make a very fertile ground for zombie apocalypse stories to grow in.

I would also like to lodge a formal complaint that, for the love of god, where are they getting all this gasoline from? Why are they still driving around in cars? They live in a warm climate–hasn’t a single one of them thought to steal a bicycle?

Meanwhile, back on the blazer:

I’ve been using a combination of the V8333 couture instructions, the Craftsy class on classic blazer tailoring, stuff I’ve found in various sewing books, and chocolate. I made up two muslins (one full, one half) to check the fit and it was a bit of a bear, though starting with a princess seam is the way to go if you know you’ll be doing significant adjustments to the bust. The fabric on the real version is a wool tweed I picked up at King Textiles in the fall.

Dear Readers, Behold My Mistakes:

Ouch.
Ouch.

The Craftsy class suggested using muslin for underlining, whereas the pattern suggests silk organza. The Craftsy class also self-drafted the underlining pattern pieces for the shoulders and back, and they cover just the top area, whereas the Vogue pattern has the all of the main pieces underlined, including the sleeves. And–Vogue! I’m looking at you!–the pattern layout shows the underlining pieces laid out on the straight grain, and the first third of the instructions cover the underlining pieces and fusing them to the main fabric, and then buried as a “couture tip” a third of the way through the instructions they mention maybe cutting out the underlining pieces on the bias. Not funny, Vogue. Not funny at all.

Anyway, I used muslin because it was what I had, and I cut it on the straight grain because … that was what the instructions said to do. And I’m thinking that may have been Mistake #1, because I know I underlined the pieces properly, and yet this is what the back looks like. Which if that’s not stretched out wool (or shrunken underlining) I don’t know what is.

There is seam ripping in my future, I can just tell.

Otherwise it’s gone pretty well. My pad-stitching is a thing of beauty, or more like a thingless, because you can’t see it.

Pad-stitched under collar on the right, non-pad-stitched upper collar on the left. Not bad, eh?
Pad-stitched under collar on the right, non-pad-stitched upper collar on the left. Not bad, eh? Please ignore thready bits–they will be removed before it’s done. Also, that’s not top-stitching at the edges, it’s basting, and it’s all going to be removed.

It fits well.

The collar and lapel are joined in this weird backwards way I’ve never seen before.  I’ll cover that in a future post.

I added in the shoulder reinforcement as suggested in the Craftsy class.

Taming the corners of the lapels and collars followed V8333. I tamed the corners or the lapels etc. as suggested in the V8333 instructions, and it worked pretty well too.

Nice, sharp, flat corners. Huzzah!
Nice, sharp, flat corners. Huzzah!

~~~~~

*the villain in the last season of Farscape is a woman who defeats the good guys with some scent gland in her boobs that turns them into bumbling, hormonal, ragingly lustful idiots. Say it with me now: That’s Sexist! As well as boring and gross. And it just made me lose all interest in seeing where the show ended up.

So close, and yet so far: leather skirt muslin #2

I had such high hopes for this skirt.

Goofy poses taken from Women In Clothes (ref. in below photo)
Goofy poses taken from Women In Clothes (ref. in below photo)

One of the high hopes that I had was that it would be a fun holiday skirt. But this thought, this “wouldn’t it be great to get all gussied up in nice shoes and tights and everything at the end of December?” idea, comes strictly from a determination not to know myself and the laziest inner leanings of my winter heart.

No, actually, what sounds like fun at the end of December is to put on a pair of comfy blue jeans, an old worn-in sweater, make a huge pot of english rose or dorian grey tea, put my hair in a ponytail and spend the entire day sewing, while wearing fuzzy socks. Getting gussied up and wearing a skirt and tights and nice shoes and everything means, for at least a short period of time, being cold; and I have no interest in that. (I was very cold taking these pictures, which is why I took three of them and went back inside.)

A second high hope that I had for this skirt was that the material, a lovely bright copper faux leather with a bit of stretch, would be good for muslining out my leather pencil skirt again, if only to practice leather sewing techniques on something similar. And in terms of getting the fit right, it certainly was. This pencil skirt fits. And thanks to the rayon lining, I know it’s not due to the stretch.

Not just the lighting.
Not just the lighting.

But thanks to the stretch, all those lovely interesting curvy seams bubble and hiccup like a drunk man at 2 am on a Saturday.

bloggish-20-7

(sigh)

So while I’m pretty sure the fit is fine, I’m going to have to try it again without stretch. Before I do, I’m going to take another closer look at the seamlines on the adjusted skirt pieces, because truly fixing the bubbling probably means finessing those quite a bit as well, to make sure the curves match as much as possible.

Today's crazy pose courtesy of the poses shown on pp 233-239 of Women in Clothes, which I am still very slowly making my way through. As you can see, the bubbling doesn't go away when I wear it.
Today’s crazy poses courtesy of the poses shown on pp 233-239 of Women in Clothes, which I am still very slowly making my way through. As you can see, the bubbling doesn’t go away when I wear it.

However, I did lay out my lovely leather and make sure that these pieces will fit on the skins that I have. And they will, just barely. So once I get the curves figured out, Dear Readers, I am off to the races on making a gorgeous leather skirt, that I am pretty well certain not to wear until April at least, because it is Canada in the winter time and it’s cold outside.

Postcards from the Island of Muslins

It was super exciting when I managed to finally finish the muslining/underlining/fitting/french seaming adventure that was the floral shirt. I celebrated bursting out of my self-imposed prison with a couple of speedy makes, including the beaded shirt (yes, in comparison, that was speedy), a long-sleeved shirt for Frances out of the same fabric, and some fleecey pajamas for Frances which she had been bugging me for for weeks. Both together–shirt and pajamas–took a day. And she likes both of them and wears them regularly. This is the pinnacle of mom-sewing–making things you do not need to force your children to wear.

However, I’ve made progress on the muslins:

The leather skirt.

I sewed up a test garment in old cotton/poly twill to test for fit, basted in bright yellow thread to make the seamlines extra visible. It’s a size 16, and it’s loose. Only a bit at the hips, but quite a bit at the waist, and the waist isn’t even at my waist. So for the next muslin, I’ll cut a size 14/16 at the hips and grade to a 12 at the waist, and raise the waist/hip line by about 1.5″.

Yes, that is my not-yet-decorated tree in the background.
Yes, that is my not-yet-decorated tree in the background. Also, that is me pinching out a couple of inches at the side waist, but you can’t see them because I’m pinching them out. Well done, me.

I really like all of the seamlines. It’s an interesting skirt to put together.

I got some super shiny copper faux-leather to sew the second muslin out of. It doesn’t fray, so I can experiment with some of the leather finishing techniques and practice on something less high-stakes. Should be fun.

Oh, and I got the faux leather half-price. It’s pricier than the cotton-poly twill, to be sure, but still not expensive and hopefully I’ll get something wearable out of this one.

The Suit: Pants.

I started with a muslin in bright purpley indigo poly-wool twill (not a heavy twill; a suiting weight) of Style Arc’s Willow Pants.

Yep, they're really that bright.
Yep, they’re really that bright.

They were much, much too tight.

Not the pattern’s fault. Apparently my hips are two inches bigger than I thought they were when I bought the pattern. Oops!

So I added some ease to the hips. And as with the skirt, I raised the waist by 1.5″. This may necessitate nipping it in a bit as well; I’ll have to measure and see.

I also added the pockets from the Jasmine pants to these (the Willow pants do not have pockets in their natural state), which worked out pretty well and I’ll do that again.

Otherwise, this was another successful Style Arc pattern for me. One of their differences from other pattern manufacturers is that all of the notches, match points, dart marks, etc., are done as clips in the seam allowance. There’s very little to transfer to the fabric in terms of markings afterwards. And all of the marks lined up well; it came together quite easily. I just can’t sit down in the muslin and breathe at the same time.

Fortunately I had enough of the fabric left–even after cutting out and sewing a Blazer!–that I could make another pair of pants slightly bigger. And I did. I’ll do a separate post about them later.

The Suit: Blazer!

This needs its own post. Making this muslin was a three-day undertaking, and even though it’s “just a muslin” there’s too much to pack it into a postcard. So more soon. I used Style Arc’s Sara jacket pattern and two watchings of Craftsy’s Modern Jacket Techniques class, copious pots of Dorian Grey tea, many many chocolate coated cookies, two spools of thread, and approximately half of my monthly wireless download allowance. But it ended up in this:

blog-29-7

with welt pockets! An ease pleat! A jump hem! Sleeve vents!

blog-26-6

And that’s all right.

Shirt Making Adventures III

And then I added buttons, and then it was done.

Mostly. I swear I followed the directions for the cuffs to the millimetre, but somehow they still ended up backwards. In that the continuous lap/placket looked beautiful, and everything on the cuff matched up gorgeously, and then I followed the directions for which side got the buttons and which side got the buttonholes, and now it is reversed. It’s not a big deal. Definitely one of those “no one else will ever notice it” things (except now that I’ve told all of you, all of you will notice it) but it irked me just the same.

so spoofable

And here are the requisite silly pictures, this time spoofing off of single working mom stock images. They all looked much too perky and well-rested. I also couldn’t help but notice that the eldest child featured in such a stock picture was six, and most of them ranged from infancy to three. Apparently once the child of a single working mom reaches the age of seven, they become completely self-sufficient, and we go back to our regular lives. Someone needs to tell Frances that.

So. Tired. As well as a 3/4 view of the shirt, tucked in.
So. Tired. As well as a 3/4 view of the shirt, tucked in.

None of the pictures really turned out very well. The shirt is so light and my house is so dark this time of year, that they just show this white floral blinding object in the middle surrounded by sharp shadows. You can’t make out any details. These are the best of the lot.

At any rate:

A really terrible side view. It gets dark here early now, Dear Readers.
A really terrible side view. It gets dark here early now, Dear Readers.

What I Like

The fabric. Holy cow. Incredibly soft to wear. Has a slight silky sheen and feels like silk, but presses and sews like cotton, so it’s really the best of both worlds. Plus the many, many colours means I can wear it with everything AND clash, at the same time! Brilliant.

The shoulder seams hit right where they should. The bust seams are just what I wanted; not too loose, but loose enough that the front plackets fall to the centre and stay there all by themselves. No gaping and no straining.

The sleeves are the right length. The collar looks ok, even though I mucked it up.

The underlining: the fabric is no longer sheer, but it’s still incredibly lightweight and the fabric layers work together as a single piece.

When no amount of caffeine is enough.
When no amount of caffeine is enough.

What I’ll Fix Next Time

Next time I’ll take the length out of the sleeve before cutting, and ignore the pattern directions for which side gets buttons vs. buttonholes on the cuffs.

I may change the angle of the sleeve head to give me slightly better range of motion. As is typical for tailored shirts, arm movement isn’t really great.

The front waist is a bit baggier than I’d expected. I may fix this at some point. In the meantime, I put a note on the pattern that the front seams should be taken in 1/4″ on each side below the bust. At the same time, I want just a bit more room in the back, so I’ll add a 1/4″ there.

SO. DARK.
SO. DARK. So few visible details.

Overall, though, it’s just what I wanted: a very colourful but still practical work shirt with buttons that close and stay closed. All of the pictures above were taken after wearing the shirt to work. The underlining is preventing it from wrinkling even with the cotton content. It’s comfortable all day. Huzzah!

Shirt Making Adventures II

Which begins with restocking the thread, and ends with running out of buttons.

The sleeves is underlined; the cuff is interfaced; the ruffle is neither. You can see the colour variations of each.
The sleeves is underlined; the cuff is interfaced; the ruffle is neither. You can see the colour variations of each.

My daughter had a girl guides field trip last week which was a 30 minute drive from our home, and only ran for 1 1/2 hours. Rather than drive home to sit down for 30 minutes, stand up and drive back again, I figured I would do what any sane, sensible person would, and I hung out in the closest Fabricland instead. I’m very proud of myself: I bought the thread I needed and 1m of xmas tree fabric for making gift bags, and that was it.

Thursday, I prepped the sleeves for underlining.

Friday, I underlined one sleeve.

Saturday morning, I underlined the other sleeve, and then in the afternoon I assembled the cuffs, ruffles, and sleeves.

Then I experimented with sleeve length. See, along with this strangely short torso of mine, I also have strangely short arms. So I’d cut out the size 16 of the sleeves, and figured that would give me some wiggle room to shorten them. I pin-basted the sleeves to the blouse, tried it on and yep, too long. You could see the ends of my fingers under the ruffle, but that was it. So I cut off about 1 1/2″ from the sleeve head, retraced the curve, and re-cut the notches. They’re still a bit on the long side but really not bad.

Then they were attached to the bodice with a french seam.

And then I realized that I had no buttons the right size and the right shade of off-white. It is done now, but I’ve had no chances to get photos of me in the blouse, so that will be post #3. In the meantime, a few details:

Inside of the blouse showing the front placket and the narrow hem, along with the inside of the reverse fell seam.
Inside of the blouse showing the front placket and the narrow hem, along with the inside of the reverse fell seam. It is a bizarrely tidy shirt on the inside.
The slightly messed up collar. The alterations I have to make to the shoulders and back to make it fit always make the neck opening longer, so even though I cut out the largest size of collar, it wasn't quite large enough and I had to fiddle with joining it to the shirt. I've noted that I should just lengthen it by 1.5" past the size 16 for next time.
The slightly messed up collar. The alterations I have to make to the shoulders and back to make it fit always make the neck opening longer, so even though I cut out the largest size of collar, it wasn’t quite large enough and I had to fiddle with joining it to the shirt. I’ve noted that I should just lengthen it by 1.5″ past the size 16 for next time.
And the outside of one of the french seams, just for completeness' sake, edgestitched so it stays flat.
And the outside of one of the french seams, just for completeness’ sake, edgestitched so it stays flat.
Here's the outside of the reverse fell seam over the bust curve. Nice and neat and flat and not bulky at all. Definitely the right choice.
Here’s the outside of the reverse fell seam over the bust curve. Nice and neat and flat and not bulky at all. Definitely the right choice.

Shirt Making Adventures I

I know the fabric is busy, but the shirt’s lines are actually quite good. And princess seams are super adjustable for those of us without standard-issue upper bodies.

I gave up on off-the-racks button-up shirts a long time ago. Probably around the time that, wearing a light purple button-up blouse at a work meeting for my old job at CN Rail, I looked down to see that the third button (yes, THAT button) had popped open.

Clothing manufacturers typically base their products on a b-cup. Some of them will base their models on a c-cup. Generally, if you’re talking about a knit t-shirt or a top without front closures, you can work with what’s in the stores without embarrassing yourself; but the farther over the b-cup line you go, the more you will be risking with any shirt that has buttons.

A few years ago I thought I’d struck gold with a coral-red blouse. It had lovely long sleeves with lattice smocking stitches at the top. It was soft, and had a defined waist. Best of all, it buttoned up, and stayed buttoned up! Then I got more and more into sewing my clothes and realized that the front darts were so much higher than they were supposed to be, that we might as well call them shoulder darts. Or maybe armpit darts. Bust darts, they were not. Bother.

(It’s amazing how much these previously-missed details become obvious when you start paying attention to the fit of the clothes you make yourself.)

So a current sewing priority is button-up shirts I can wear to work that will stay closed without safety pins or glue. The yellow one from the summer worked pretty well, but it’s getting colder now, and I’d like to have some long-sleeved options.

See? Very work friendly. This is the view I am making: I thought the floral would look cute ruffled up at the end of the sleeves.

Enter the silk-cotton voile I bought 50% off this summer, and a stash pattern from Vogue. I muslined it in a blue poly a month or two ago, just enough to see that the fit was pretty good, but could use some more space in the bust. (sigh) So I added another half-inch to the side-front pieces at the bust point, and graded back to the 14-line at the shoulders and the 12-line at the waist. I shortened the back-waist length by 1.5″ all the way around, broadened the shoulders by 1/2″ on each side, and widened the hips. It’s basically a melange of 12-16+ at this point, with a bit of Size 4 Petite thrown in for good measure for the length. My torso is weird.

The main fabric--already underlined, but you can see what it looks like. Honestly it's got so many colours in it I'm not sure I could clash with it if I tried. Either that or it's self-clashing.
The main fabric–already underlined, but you can see what it looks like. Honestly it’s got so many colours in it I’m not sure I could clash with it if I tried. Either that or it’s self-clashing. In person, the colours are not so opaque.

This weekend’s challenge, though, was underlining.

Yes, underlining.

I bought two colours of the voile in the summer. One was this lovely off-white floral watercolour painterly print that I thought was just gorgeous, and I got 1.5m of it. And then I got 3m of a white, both to underline the floral print if needed, and to make a separate white shirt. The voile was incredibly sheer. Soft, gorgeous, drapey, and wonderful, but sheer.

I wasn’t entirely sure I would use the white for underlining the floral, though, until I interfaced the cuff, collar and placket pieces. The white interfacing completely changed the brightness of the print, making the background much whiter, not to mention changing the opacity. There was no way I could put those together with the sheer off-white fabric. So underlining it was.

White on the reverse, showing the underlining stitches. And also the sheerness of the fabrics. They have good opacity when put together, though.
White on the reverse, showing the underlining stitches. And also the sheerness of the fabrics. They have good opacity when put together, though.

This is, to put it mildly, an incredibly tedious process for a princess-seamed blouse. There are nine pieces to underline: three on the back, four on the front, and two sleeves. Each piece was cut out twice, once in floral and once in white; they were placed together and pressed, then a hand-basted line in the middle in silk thread held them together. Each piece was then smoothed around a magazine, the edges pinned in place, then hand-basted along the edges. It took about six hours altogether, just for the body pieces (I haven’t yet done the sleeves).

BUT. The floral is now brighter, a better match with the interfaced pieces, and no longer sheer. The layers are behaving very well together and now have the weight of a fairly drapey shirting fabric. And are still incredibly soft.

Look at those colours!
Look at those colours!

The second challenge was assembling the shirt, now that there were four layers (of very lightweight fabric, but still) in each seam.

The pattern calls for french seams, which if you are sewing-uninitiated, means that you sew the seam very narrowly the wrong way, trim down the seam allowance, flip it around, press it, and then sew it again the right way at the seam line. I’m not sure how easy that is to visualize, but basically you end up with a garment inside with very neatly encased seams–no edges. It’s a fabulous finish for lightweight fabrics, but with four layers–even of lightweight fabrics–which then becomes 8 layers through the magic of french seams–I know from experience, it makes a rigid seam line that stands up underneath the garment. This is especially unattractive on the princess seam over the bust (also learned from experience).

So I did some experimenting: a french seam; a clipped french seam; a classic felled seam; a faux-french seam (in which you sew the pieces together the normal way, turn the seam allowances in on the inside and press, then sew the seam allowances together). All made with scrap fabric in a fairly drastic curve to see what would be softest, most comfortable and most attractive.

From left to right: french seam, clipped french seam, felled seam, faux-french seam
From left to right: french seam, clipped french seam, felled seam, faux-french seam

The french seam turned out bubbly and rigid, as I expected. The clipped french seam performed better, but I wasn’t convinced the clipping wouldn’t fray the fabric over time, and it was still fairly rigid.

The felled seam was the softest and the least rigid, but all of the folding and pressing made for something pretty ugly on the outside. The faux-french seam would have done better if I could have managed the sewing inside the test-bit with a better curve, but I didn’t; it was still fairly rigid. But I reasoned it was probably the best bet and I’d just have to wrestle with sewing the curves.

Until I turned them inside out, and saw that the reverse of the felled seam was actually fantastic. Neat, soft, good curve, little bulk.

reverse of felled seam on the left, reverse of faux-french seam on the right
reverse of felled seam on the left, reverse of faux-french seam on the right. Which one would you rather wear?

The front seams have now been put together with a reverse felled seam, and it’s so pretty, and behaves very well. The rest of the seams are classic french seams, then pressed down and edge-stitched to keep them flat. I’ve also finished the collar and the hem, but this is getting long enough (or too long), so I’ll save that for the next post.

Which will have to wait until I get a chance to restock on thread. French seams + edgestitching = lots and lots of thread required. I’ve used a whole spool and I haven’t even gotten to the sleeves yet.

I swear, if this shirt isn’t wearable when it’s finished, I’m going to be pissed. But so far all signs point to yes.

Vogue 8747: a fun blouse that fits

When I bought this Liberty lawn earlier this spring at my favourite local fabric store, I had in mind a Belcarra or Scout or some other kind of casual t-shirt. But the more I wore my lawn Jasmine, the more I realized: I am not a fan of pullover woven shirts.

Nothing wrong with them. But when you tend towards the top-heavy, anything big enough to pull over is going to gape at the waist, whether bias cut or no. I do like and wear my Jasmine, but tucked in for that very reason. So whatever the lawn was going to become, it had to be fitted.

I decided on this Vogue blouse, size 14D.

I’d made up a test garment in polyester crepe, but it was one of my very few wadders: the fit was fine, but the polyester just would not press properly, and on a shirt like this, press is important. So I got it far enough to determine that yes, the waist and bust would fit and I could close it, and then moved on to the cotton version. Which of course means that I had all kinds of learning experiences left to enjoy as I progress towards a wearable shirt.

No, it's not awkward to hike into the woods and take selfies of myself staring pensively off into the middle distance. Not at all.
No, it’s not awkward to hike into the woods and take selfies of myself staring pensively off into the middle distance. Not at all.

It’s the challenge I like, right? Good thing, because it challenged me.

To begin with, I have a high waist, so when I’d got the blouse sewn up together enough to try on, there was all this extra fabric on my back. As in, snug everywhere else, but baggy city on the shoulder blades. No problem! I just took the shoulder seams apart, cut a wedge shape out of the side back pieces to preserve the shape of the armysce, and took two inches off the top of the centre back, then sewed everything back up again, reshaping the curves to match what I’d cut off. In theory, this should have preserved the shape and length of the shirt portion so that the collar (which I’d already assembled) would fit; in practice, the shirt became just a smidge too long, and getting the collar to go on properly became an enormous challenge. Made doubly so by my insistence on using the serger to do this to minimize fabric in the collar.

blog-4-1It minimized the fabric all right–by slicing up portions of the shirt and collar so that I had to resew them, twice, making the collar stand now about half as tall as it should be. It’s a hot mess in there, but thank goodness you can’t see it. You can see some pleating at the top of the shirt front, due to all the sewing and resewing that I put the poor thing through.

blog-11-1And then I also moved the waist up on the pattern, but ended up making the new waist a bit too snug. (sigh) So when I first had it all made up, it was tight. Very tight. I thought I might have to wear this tucked in forever. Much to my surprise and gratitude, when I washed it to get off the markings and remove some persistent wrinkles, it loosened up. Colour me very happily surprised. Isn’t cotton supposed to shrink?

The flowers on the lawn have red centres, so I used red buttons on the front.

At the very least I now have the pattern properly marked up for next time, and it’s versatile and comfortable enough that I’m sure I’ll be making it again. It’s a simple, basic work blouse that I am currently wearing with grey dress pants, and should work under suit jackets and sweaters so I can continue to wear it as it starts to get colder. (Note, Mother Nature: in September, not now. August is still supposed to be hot. Thanks for your understanding!)

V8997: New Favourite Dress Pattern that I almost broke

Just look at this little bit of gorgeousness.

Wouldn’t you wear this if you could? You would. Unless you’re a boy, and maybe even then. It’s just fantastic, isn’t it? The bodice fit, the gored skirt with its lovely flares, the seam details on the front, the fact that it is adjustable for different cup sizes (aka no FBA required).

And yet after ordering it in the spring, it sat on my stash shelf, unloved.

Clearly this needed to be rectified while it was still warm enough to wear it.

This time I played with the saturation so that the yellow of the dress would stand out. It's not quite as interesting as I would have liked, but oh well.
This time I played with the saturation so that the yellow of the dress would stand out. It’s not quite as interesting as I would have liked, but oh well.

The yellow cotton fabric came from Downtown Fabric again, Queen W in Toronto ($8/m) and I lined it with yellow cotton batiste (more expensive than the dress fabric, alas, but I got it 50% off at Fabricland) because after making a nice cotton dress for the summer heat, I was not going to add a sticky acetate lining. The interfacing is cotton fusible. More on that below.

I absolutely freaking adore this pattern. I would marry it, if it weren’t illegal in all ten provinces. I would marry it and have little paper-human children. Paper dolls. I would have paper dolls with this pattern.

sleeves!
sleeves!

I’d already made a few Vogue shirt patterns with the cup-size adjustment things so I knew I could count on 14D fitting well, and so didn’t bother to muslin. And it was just fine! Really. I cut everything out in 14D and sewed it up, and once it was all together the only change I had to make was shortening the shoulder seams by 1/4″ because the bodice is so structured and my waist is a bit high so the whole thing was sitting a bit off my shoulders. It was an easy fix (and now I know for next time, only I’ll take it off the waist). All the seams lined up; the back is flat; the waist fits; the bodice is just right; the flared skirt is fantastic. It has pockets that sit at just the right place.

The gored circle skirt is by far my favourite part
The gored circle skirt is by far my favourite part. Because it’s gored, you could use a directional print on this dress and all parts of the print would be pointing the right way.

It took me all weekend, mind you. Saturday and Sunday. There are a ton of pieces (44, counting dress, lining and interfacing) so that’s a lot of seams and a lot of pressing. Still, for this, it is worth it.

I was within shooting distance of finishing the dress (hemming to go, and that was it) and had it on to test the fit, and I went outside to start the BBQ for dinner. Single mom, you know. And it spattered dark soot all over the front of my dress.

Bubbling all gone. Thank goodness.
Bubbling all gone. Thank goodness.

So the very first thing I had to do, once the hemming was done, was stain-treat and wash my new dress. Argh. All for a moment of carelessness. Which led me to wonder what the cotton fusible interfacing would do in the wash. Are you supposed to pre-shrink that stuff? I never pre-shrink interfacing but normally I haven’t fused it to the entire upper half of a dress. Crap. Is it going to wreck my dress when I wash it to remove the soot stains?

I pre-treated. I washed. I partially dried on the low-heat setting. And 95% of the dress was just fine, but the two side-back pieces on the bodice bubbled up horribly. Fortunately ironing on a very hot setting while the fabric was still damp (at almost midnight, Dear Readers, when I had my alarm set for six–but I had to fix it!) smoothed out almost all of it. Thank god it’s still wearable. If I had killed it before I even got a chance to wear it, I probably would have held a funeral for it in the backyard. I love it that much.

lingerie loop
lingerie loop

The shoulders are a bit wide, so I added lingerie loops into the seams to keep them over my bra straps. Just a hook-and-eye set, with the eye sewn to the shoulder seam below the sleeve, where it’s nicely hidden, and then the hook attached to a nice long cord. (Cord was handmade: knotted on to the hook with a good long tail, then stitched it on to the inner shoulder seam, small knot, and buttonhole stitches over the thread and tail all the way up to the hook, with another knot to tie it securely, and then partially threaded through the cord to hide the knot and tail. That probably doesn’t make any sense. I should have taken a picture of the process for a visual.)

I also fussed with the back closure, above the zipper, quite a bit. I added a hook-and-eye set facing both up and down, as the pattern recommends, but it was too visible from the outside (all the hook-and-eye sets I can find around here are black). I added a button with a handmade thread closure, and then moved the button over, but it still gaped too much and I couldn’t do it up easily. Then I added a hook to one side and a thread loop to the other. It’s not perfect but it’s the best of what I’ve tried so far. Anything snugger and I can’t get it done up by myself, which is kind of important.

And yes, I know the cords are rough. I’m not sure how other people get their buttonhole stitches on thread to lie so smoothly, but I haven’t yet mastered it. Fortunately, these are hidden, so who cares? And they’re tough and will last forever.

The only thing I’m not happy with is the zipper. I should have listened to my inner voice and gone with the invisible zipper–instead I used a regular one, which was hard to sew in properly with all the many layers of fabric at the waist. So it’s clunky. I’d also widen the inner shoulders a bit so that it doesn’t sit quite so far off.

Next: the sheath version with the colour-blocking in a nice, colourful, heavy-ish wool or wool-silk. I can’t wait.