Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Spring Sewing: Rosie Top - All the Other Muslins to Come

Do not think I've lost my interest in fitting the Rosie top, though truly I am coming to hate the process (as I always do). This is fitting a woven bodice, after all.

Fact is, I ran out of the burgundy fabric. Instead I used some butterfly charmeuse, alotted for lining. It has about the same stretch and it's drapey - but in every other way it's all wrong. It was a bitch to sew, it's shiny and slippery. Ugh. Really, 90 per cent of the time, one should use stash fabric for the purpose intended.

Needless to say that the butterfly fabric version is yet another muslin. Which it would have to be, even if I liked the fabric, because the fit is nightmarish in a whole new series of ways.

Seriously, when I read posts about pants-fitting, and the fitee in question is losing her mind because the scenario (given her proportions) is so challenging, I feel nothing but empathy. That sewist's developed upper legs or wide derriere or shelf-hips or sloped waist or thick calves are analagous to my boobs (which seem to pop off the front of my chest like alien creatures as soon as a woven fabric is involved) and my super short/high armscye.

People, this is painful and I don't know how it's going to end. I can simply say that I'll keep going...

So, what happens next?

Well, I just spent 45 minutes on the phone with Fabrications (best customer service ever, not joking) ordering 5 yards of silk crepe and rayon challis (both of which have the same amount of stretch as the burgundy fabric that is, so sadly, gone). That's enough to make 3 more Rosies. Theoretically, two will be muslins and one will be a beautifully-fitted, finished garment. But I'm prepared to accept that they may all be muslins. I have to wait for my fabric to arrive before I can make another of these - a week I suspect.

(Side Note: My sister is in the wedding party of a mega bridezilla who made her buy a dress on Etsy that is a) hideous and b) horrendously fitted. My sister's hysteria, bolstered by photos that show the truth of things, has inspired me to refit the dress in advance of the upcoming wedding. Point is, as soon as that dress, and a bit of extra fabric, arrive in the post, it's going to be all sewing for others, all the time - if with short turn-around.)

What I've Learned from Muslin 4:
  • I had to lower the bust apex by another inch. Ahem. Let's not discuss this.
  • I had to do my ever-present "small bust adjustment" above my "large bust adustment". That means that, given my full bust is 38" and my upper bust is 33.5", I get a lot of fabric pooling above the full bust to the neckline. I've had to take 0.5 inches off of each princess seam above the full bust. Don't know if this will be enough but it's a start.
  • I had to adjust some seam lines - I forgot that darting the side front would shorten the armscye. Given that there's a kimono sleeve, I've just opted to shorten the back sleeve at the underarm. Of course, this might not be optimal, but we'll have to wait and see.
Potential Alterations that I won't be able to confirm till I make the next muslin (you can't do too much at one time or you can't keep everything straight):
  • I also might have a big problem - but I'm not going to know until I make this round of revisions: I might need to pull out more fabric from the armscye in a dart that, currently, goes to the bust apex - effectively spanning 2 pieces. I don't know how I'll do this on the front piece in such a way that I can actually close the dart. This would be less concerning on a garment that doesn't already have a (conflicting) princess seam joining two pieces together.  
  • I suspect I'm going to need to make the waist smaller again.
  • I might need to make the peplum longer.
  • And finally, those princess seams really are trickily positioned. I might have to realign them (closer together - by removing width from the front piece, Lord help me).
So you can see, I'm basically making my own top, with some nice bits of pattern paper from StyleArc. You can take comfort knowing that this will certainly be easier for anybody else than it has been for me.

I should disclose that I'm not looking at fitting books during this process. I find them confusing. I've come to realize that I need to make things and fit them on my body, as many times as it takes. Flat pattern alterations are meaningless to me if I can't see how they come about by draping the fabric over my own body. I'm pleased to say, though, that I've picked up a lot by reading when I'm not in the sewing fray: lowering the bust apex, for example. (Well, I'll disclose that I didn't look it up but I remembered how to cut the too-high apex out of the pattern piece (in a little box) and lower it to the desired height.)

If I choose to view this process as a weird experiment that takes a bunch of fabric, lots of time and the creative impulse, well, then I cannot lose. I promise I'll keep you posted.

Till then, I've got a knit to sew up.

Just Give In

I'm a fan girl and I don't care who knows it:

This is the latest offering from the Brooklyn Tweed collective - Wool People 7.

Honestly, I can't tell you how aspirational I find this brand. How I wish I were a minimalist knit design, former architect with roots in Brooklyn who lives off the grid in New Hampshire, but it doesn't matter because all of my sweaters are insanely warm and also chic so who needs central heat? (Yeah, I know off-the-grid peeps have heat but go with it, ok?)

These people make knitting cool. So cool.

So, today's question: Which is your fave new pattern? (I'm going with Coda, though it happens to be designed by that same woman who designed the polka dot shawl I loathed making. Mind you, it wasn't a bad pattern and the finished object is rather impressive...)

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Spring Sewing: Rosie Top - The Next Muslin

I don't know what made me think I'd only need to make one muslin of this Rosie top but, man, it is a production. By contrast, I'd rather muslin pants any day of the week...

On the plus side, it's a fascinating process. Really. My bodice proportion is SO renegade.

I'm am grateful to have just about enough of my burgundy fabric left to give it one more go - because so much of this fit is tied up in the beautiful crepe. Part of me is horrified that I may sacrifice it all to muslin but, really, this fabric is doing yeoman's work and we're in it together. Were I to use a new fabric, I'd practically have to start from scratch. Do not be misled, my next life plan is to find mega-drapey, top-weight woven (crepe - silk or otherwise) with 20-25% mechanical stretch (or lycra - I'll take lycra!). And then I'm buying it, shipping be damned.

But let's have a look at the insanity, yes?

Rosie Top modified as per dictates of muslin 2. This is the pattern for the next muslin (or wearable top?!)
Alterations as per the info provided by muslin 2:
  • I added back all the width of the original pattern at the peplum hem (the pattern refers to it as "the skirt"). Mind you, I didn't add it all back at the waist.
  • In fact, this time I had to take out an inch, over all, from the side seams at the waist. I've decided I want a fitted top, nay, I require a fitted top, so I'm going to insert a side zip at the waist. I suspect, if you are hourglass shaped and you desire a top that isn't shapeless in the waist (to allow you to get it over your bust), you're going to need to do a side zip or make this in a true knit (like ponte).
  • I lengthened the back skirt to reflect the 2 inches I removed from the back waist. It was coming up too short.
  • I lowered the bust apex by 2 inches. So much for "it's not cut high in the bust!". Note: I did dart at the armscye (between muslin 1 and muslin 2) so that raised the apex artificially - though not by 2 inches, I'm sure.
  • The full bust was ridiculously tight. When I vertically slashed the muslin, to see what would happen, I discovered I need another 2.5 inches of extra width at the apex of my bust.
  • This time, the princess seams were ridiculously wide - splayed to the outside of my breasts. I can see how someone else had this issue. If you have a small bust, chances are that all you need to do is make the front piece (top left of the photo) narrower. However, as I seem to have to add another 2.5 inches to the full bust (I know, it's insane) this makes things that much more tricky, given that I want that seam to go over the bust, or very close to it. My only recourse is to add width onto the side front piece (top centre of the photo). First I removed some volume I'd added to the front piece above the bust (unnecessary). Then I lengthened the front piece by 0.75 inch to account for the extra length required in light of the alterations of the side front piece.
  • I realize that the new bust curve on the side front piece looks insane, I'd prefer to create it over 2 seams (front and side front), as is the usual technique, but that's not going to narrow the princess seams.* I mean, it's going to be an interesting exercise in easing, if nothing else. Thing is, the waist on this is high (not empire, but definitely at the "real" waist). Given that I've got a short waist and large tits, I don't have a lot of room to maneuver. The way this will work for me is in that it will be incredibly fitted under the bust (see that dip below full bust moving towards the waist).
  • Updated to reflect further consideration: While I didn't narrow the front piece from the centre (see asterisk below), given that I'd already widened it by an inch (wherein it went from being a good width to too wide), I removed the extra inch and added it, where? Well onto that side front piece. So now it looks even more curvy insane than it does in the photo above. But the princess seam should sit where I want it to.
By the way, I have no idea of what the next muslin will reveal. I felt confident that I'd resolved the issues on the (last) garment but it was destined to become muslin 2. So, I take it, I've got to keep an open mind. What does it matter how long it takes me to fix this? If and when I do make a woven top that fits, I'll have that much more information at my access - which will only help me when next I decide to tackle a woven bodice.

In the meanwhile, that's why we have knits.


* It just occurred to me that I could have narrowed the front piece at the centre (removing inch, for example) and then adding on to the front piece side seams on either side. That would have allowed me to put the extra space on either side of the princess seam. But that seems unnecessarily convoluted. Of course, it may have displaced the volume better and would make the sewing of that insane princess seam less complicated...

Spring Sewing: Rosie Top, The Muslin

I made a muslin of the Rosie Top and it's actually very interesting.

As it happens, I might have been just as well off making the original pattern in lieu of my very altered one. It would have been better in some ways (though worse in others).

What I altered in the muslin:
  • I removed a 2-inch, horizontal wedge of fabric from the centre back.
  • Narrowed the shoulders.
  • Narrowed the waist circumference, over a variety of seams, by 6 inches.
  • I decided to forgo the facing, in favour of self-made bias binding around the neck. I loathe facing.
What I need to do next time: 
  • For starters, I have to replace a good 4 inches of the six I removed in the waist. That was a sound alteration, but I totally overdid it given that one's supposed to be able to put this on like a T shirt (and that waist seam was not going over the boobs!). Note: I'm willing to put in a side zip if it gives me a fitted look I prefer...
  • The centre back alteration worked really well. I might need to refine it (once I see how everything else plays out) but I sense that's a good plan, in general. The bias binding also works very well in lieu of facing.
  • Although the shoulder shortening is not unattractive, it does make the sleeves a bit shorter than I'd like. So I have reversed that alteration.
  • Additionally, somehow I still have to add 2 inches to the full bust circumference so I added this at 1 inch over both sides of each princess seam.
  • I also added a dart at the front armscye (on the side front piece, slanting towards the bust apex). I've discovered that this is de rigeur with woven bodices. In order to get the full bust to fit, I often need to add volume at the side bust. That's fine, but it over-impacts the armscye given that my armsyce is very high and short.
What I really appreciate about this top:
  • My disbelief notwithstanding, it's a beautifully drafted pattern. The shoulders are not wide, even as the technical drawing makes it seem that they might be.
  • It's super simple to construct. You can make and use bias binding practically as easily as cutting and sewing in the facing.
  • The bust apex isn't drafted stupidly high (like for flat-chested teens).
  • My crepe fabric is a perfect choice for this top - it has a good amount of mechanical stretch and a gorgeous drape. The colour is rich - although not one I often wear (burgundy). It sews beautifully and serges just as well.
  • You can make practically the entire thing on your serger, with the exception of top stitching a few seams. 
  • It's very neat on the inside, because it's simple.
I'm not insane. I deliberately decided to tackle this woven top very specifically. It has a back seam, to facilitate fit in the back waist. I used a drapey, naturally stretchy woven, not a thick, stiff fabric. I made a muslin (in the same fabric as the finished garment will be made in) to avoid fabric variables on the next attempt. I used a pattern with princess seams - which are relatively easy to alter to increase the full bust circumference. I used a pattern with a defined waist. Even if made to fit "loosely", the waist seam provides definition.

And, as a result, although I'm not sure that the next one will be perfect, I do hope that it's wearable.

This top is chicer than I thought it would be. It will look great with a suit or with jeans and it nicely covers the part of one's stomach that one might choose to downplay.

Today or tomorrow, I intend to finish the next version. Stay tuned for more...

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Spring Sewing: Rosie Top and Lady Skater Dress (And Another Issy)

I've got an extra long weekend and I'm trying to make the most of it, sewing-wise.

Yesterday I put together another version of the Issy top (photo to follow - I can only do so many things at once and I'm overwhelmed by the tracing and cutting and marking and sewing etc.). Alas, it was a miserable process. The finished top is wearable, but has the wrong-side look of drunken mice at work.

I have to say, I will not be making the Issy again any time soon. This is my third one. The first is a massive hit, which is why I threw caution to the wind of my crap spatial reasoning to make the second (with alterations). The second was a failure for a bunch of reasons, not least of which was alteration-related. This time, I went back to the original pattern. In my coral rayon jersey, it fits in the neck perfectly and doesn't do what the leopard-print does (neckband falls backwards slightly over time). The good news is that the issue, I believe, is in the leopard-print fabric rather than in my construction. The bad news is that, nonetheless, I had to go through the same, hideous pain this time as I've experienced in the construction of each Issy top. My brain just doesn't understand what the fuck is going on. The instructions (stupidly basic to begin with) are useless cuz I trashed them with my iron. So the whole thing is like a nightmare of endless attempts and ripping out. Doesn't make me want to wear the finished garment but I hope that I'll get over it.

On the plus side, the coral fabric is truly delicious - soft, perfectly drapey and stretchy enough to hide the worst of it.

But moving on, I have plans to make 2 other garments this weekend:

StyleArc Rosie Top

Lady Skater by Kitschy Koo
It appears that practically no one's made the Rosie - last month's free pattern from StyleArc. Admittedly I wouldn't have bought it (given that I rarely wear woven tops). On the other hand, there's no one left who hasn't made the Lady Skater...

Thoughts About The Rosie Top:

This one is truly a wild card. I have NO idea of how to alter woven bodices to achieve the desired outcome. That didn't stop me from spending 2 hours altering the size 10 down to something in the neighbourhood of a size 4 ??? May I remind you that I don't make woven tops because I'm super small in the shoulders and far less small in the bust? Thing is, I did the math (ok, potentially incorrectly) and this would be a tent in its original format. Natch, I didn't make the bust any smaller!! But I've taken 6 inches out of the waist and an inch from the shoulders. It's a loose-fitting garment but 46" at the waist (for a size 10) is absurd.

Now, I'm not hopeful. It would be stupid to be hopeful given my lack of experience with wovens and the seemingly-incomprehensible sizing of the pattern. Mind you, gotta start somewhere. And the pattern was free!

I'm going to use a crepe with some stretch, recently gifted to me by S (my fitting friend). It's very light fabric in burgundy. We'll have to see how it goes but I've got enough to make a muslin and then another version - always the best plan of attack when you don't know what you're doing with fit.

I'll go into fitting in detail once I've made the Rosie, if it isn't an abject failure, but the main thing I've done is to remove a wedge of 2 inches from the centre back waist-length. I can do this because there's a centre back seam. Effectively I just took out a horizontal dart and closed it (adjusting the base of the bodice to maintain the lines). I haven't touched the length of the front bodice because I have to assume (as with all tops), I'll need more length there to compensate for the boobs. Mind you, the side seams are the same length, front and back, so one hopes (even if the proportions are off) that the alteration is sound.

Thoughts About The Lady Skater Dress

I scarcely know what I can say about this that hasn't been said already. OK, I'm game: The envelope drawing is a real deterrent to purchasing this pattern. I'm glad that so many others have shown that it's a lovely finished garment. Furthermore, it's a pdf download. I'm more willing than some to tape 22 pages (especially if it means I don't have to trace) but the lines were somewhat off, which really offended my sense of order. I mean, it's fixable with some attention to the grain, but really... On a side note, it appears that the newly-released Colette Patterns Moneta is pretty-well the same pattern. I'm intrigued to hear about how people feel one compares to the other.

I reviewed the unaltered Lady Skater pattern against my T shirt sloper and I had to make massive changes to the armscyes and sleeves. My sleeves and armscye are actually a size 1 (smallest) while the bust and waist remain a size 4. I had to change the angle of the shoulder seam dramatically - and to cut about an inch off the depth of the armscye and sleeve head. Happily, I knew this before cutting into my fabric. Slopers for the win (we hope).

Now, thing is, the dress requires about 2 yards of fabric for the size 4, 3/4 length sleeve version. I've got a 1.5 yards of stripes. It's going to take some serious layout skill to make this happen while pattern-matching striped fabric. Having said that, my version is really more of a size 1 than a size 4. And I'm willing to fuck with the volume and grainlines of the skirt as I have to.

Ridiculously, I don't have 2 yards of any T shirt fabric in the stash. The minute I buy it, it's gone and I cannot justify buying another piece of fabric till I've used at least 8 yards of the stash. Why? Cuz it's only economical to buy 6+ yards online (re: shipping) - which is where the best of the T shirting comes from. And I don't have space for that volume in the cupboard at this point.

At any rate, please tell me what you think of these pattern choices. Do you like them? Have you made them? Did you find either completely nutty size-wise? Let's talk!

Lingerie Review: Lana by Empreinte

Spring fever is a bitch - especially in the absence of spring.* But what can I do? I'm compelled - with all the extra light and the fact that I'm biologically predisposed to have done away with hats, gloves and scarves at this point. I'm fixated on gaiety and buds and breezes (vs gales).

The whimsical bras are calling to me.

I feel it's wrong to review one favourite brand (Cleo By Panache) without giving equal attention to Empreinte, my other love. So, in an act of sombre public service, I purchased this:

Empreinte Lana
(To clarify, I purchased only the set, sadly, not that awesome body.)

Here's the thing: Empreinte does but one thing suboptimally, and that is pricing. Otherwise, there's nothing but hysterical praise for this new set.

The Details:
  • Really, I could wear this thing for 15 hours and it would still be comfortable...
  • The lift and shape are unparalleled. It's slightly less front and centre than Cleo offerings, but so natural and high. In terms of support, there is no brand that can compare. If you have heavy breasts, no problem. They'll look like clouds in this bra!
  • Where Cleo falls down (in strap width/comfort/strength and band width), Empreinte excels. The bra has 3 hooks and eyes, so the band is firm and comfortable without having to be tight in any way. The straps are invisibly padded under the fabric. They don't look thick, but they are firm and soft.
  • The materials are gorgeous. This style is very "fun" by Empreinte standards. It isn't laden with lace and sensuous, dark motifs. But that lace is still beautifully soft while being ridiculously strong. The checked fabric is silken and delicate. On this topic, I still have no idea how this brand manages to get the softest, most delicate fabrics to act like a tank.
  • The undies (I got the thong) are adorable with off-centre buttons. They are seriously well-fitting and sexy, while still being cute!
  • You might think the fabric looks a bit picnic-basket, but - I swear - it's not like that! The background colour is cream with pink undertones and the check is blush (for want of a better word). The added lace (in perfect proportion) makes this very feminine, but not "youthful" in the Cleo way. What I mean is, no worries about looking like part of the teen set.
I did learn that Empreinte has discontinued another of its best styles - the Ophelia. In the words of the SA who told me this (yeah, I did buy the Lana at full price, in store), Empreinte is making some bad choices. This is the second beautiful, deep, seriously sexy style they've cancelled in the last year. The other is the Lola. The thing is, many of the styles they've newly developed are not suited to the very deep shape they're famous for fitting. Some of the newer styles are more round (as is the popular shape in North America), with very high gores (not great if the bra is shallow and breasts are close set). They're also trying their hand at styles with fewer seams. Yeah, that may appeal to a certain crowd, but it fucks with fit - and it's so much less sexy...

Anyway, go get yourself an Ophelia while you still can. Seriously.

So, thoughts and feelings about this set? Would you wear it? Do you like it? Let's talk!

*Today is going to be sunny and 15C - woohoo!!!!!!!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Lingerie Review: Cleo Ellis

So, you know I've spent the last 3 weeks spring cleaning. It's been mainly by necessity - certainly not from natural enthusiasm. There's nothing like finding 4 sweaters with holes and a moth to change the trajectory of one's free time for a month.

In case you're wondering, yes - I have over-reacted.

But, I've also managed to cull about 40 items (conservative estimate) from my wardrobe, as I've cleaned, mended and reorganized.

Sure, I imagine, were I to count - and I'm getting almost curious enough to take on this ridiculous exercise - I'd have 20 skirts and 20 dresses and 40 sweaters and 10 pairs of jeans - for starters. But I really enjoy everything and most of it fits (except for a small collection which is a size up or a size down, just to be practical).

I'm actually rather pleased to know what's what, and to be able to see it all easily.

Disclaimer: I have always been a rather organized and tidy person (with a strong, orderly aesthetic) so my closet, while now more minimal, is really not any prettier than it was before.

One of the areas I've culled excessively is the lingerie drawer. As my body has changed over the past couple of years, I find that many of my sets are no longer as supportive as they need to be. I've also gone up approximately a cup size - so the bras that were on the smaller size in my wardrobe, are now too small. Are they wearable? Yes. Will I wear them? Not a chance.

On this topic: Stay tuned for another bra "sale" in the near future.

I mean, don't start crying for me. I still have more beautifully-fitted, gorgeous bras than any human being requires. But now the drawer seems a little bit lacking in something, how shall we say it?, new and fun.

It seems the only two brands I buy anymore are Cleo and Empreinte. Empreinte brings out the European sexpot in me (with unparalleled shape and support) while Cleo hits the fun spot.

Lots of peeps are pissed that Cleo can't seem to make a bra that even vaguely nods at neutral. I hear those angsty cries, but I LOVE the insane patterns that this brand produces again and again and again.

To wit:

Photo courtesy of Miss Underpinnings (you should read her post...)
Once I had a lot of pink in the cupboard. Now, I need some more!

Is this not perfect for spring??

This bra fits very similarly to the Melissa and the Bella - both of which I own and which I've reviewed (click on the links).

If anything, this version of the style is the best fitting of them all so far - though I have achieved very good, "boobs on a plate" fit in every Cleo bra I've bought in this size. The bands are quite tight so consider sizing up. I wear a 32 and, while I'm getting used to it, I use an extender.

You should know that not all Cleos are constructed the same. The Lucy, for example, works better for wider, bottom-heavy breasts (in the scheme of things - the line does cater to narrow roots).

But, if you have narrow roots of standard height (see the link, above, on Melissa for more about this lingo) and very projected, even-to-full-on-top breasts, this might be the brand for which you thank your lucky stars.

Did I mention that it's totally affordable? I got the set on eBay for 50 bucks, all in. Please. (It almost offsets the hysteria-inducing prices of Empreinte.)

Some Details:
  • The pattern is as gorgeous in real life as in photos.
  • The bra is comfortable - but note that the band size runs quite small in Cleo bras.
  • The fabrics are supremely supportive because there's NO stretch in them of any sort. Having said that, they can be stiff at first. The fabric is never going to be luxe. Mind you, it feels luxer than any mid-priced brand I've tried.
  • The undies are standard issue with this cut of Cleo bra. There's a boy short and a thong. Both fit nicely, but I'd size up in each - especially the thong.
  • The weakest elements of the Cleo bra persist: the straps are too thin (and not strong compared to the rest of the bra) and the back has only 2x2 hooks and eyes. This works fine for me because the band of the bra, wires and fabric (in addition to construction technique) give me adequate support. But, in a larger cup size - or in the case of heavier breasts / breasts of different shapes - both of these challenges can be significant. And they're both very resolvable! Mind you, that would involve money and the reason this brand is affordable is because it's somewhat no-frills.
  • The shape is fantastic: high, round and front-and-centre. Totally pin-up and not in any way minimizing. Mind you, bras that minimize tend to add 10 pounds (by compressing breast tissue and moving it to the side body and down towards the abdomen), so why would you want that??
  • The difference between the Ellis and the Melissa/Bella (and I'll need to wear it for a while before I understand the fit fully) is in the upper cup and the immediate centre front projection. That's why it works so well for me. My boobs jut straight out quickly from the breastbone (and are quite close set). Bras which provide immediate projection from the centre gore are my best friends! And, trust me, they're very hard to find. The lace is quite soft and open (though not stretchy like that of the Panache Jasmine). This makes it malleable for upper breast fullness, but not weak as stretchy lace can be if one's breast tissue is soft.
I'd say the fabric hand is more like the Bella than the Melissa but the fit is more like the Melissa than the Bella. Of these three bras, I sense I will continue to love the Melissa best - it's just spectacular - but I can tell that the Ellis has already edged out the Bella. The Bella is good, but it's a bit pointier and sturdier than either of the others. And I just don't dig turquoise as I thought I would.

Well there's an epic on a Wednesday afternoon. Wait till you hear what else I've bought!

Today's questions: Do you wear Cleo? Why or why not? If you wear it and you love it, is your shape similar to mine? Do you love this gorgeous pattern?? (Yeah, I know that one's leading.) Let's talk!