Monday, March 12, 2012

Take the Long View

I lost the battle, in case you were wondering. My cerise, bias cut, boned waistband, wool blend Ginger skirt is lining a bin right now. Far better sewists than I end up making totally unwearable garments occasionally. I like to think of myself as being in good company.

(Note: Para 1 was written with 24 hours of perspective. Yesterday I was so hatefully hostile I actually couldn't write.)

Let's start with the evidence, and then I'll treat you to the whole, miserable tale...

Here's the freakin' zipper outcome the second time around?! I'd already ripped out the first zipper, silk organza interfaced the seam allowance, fusible interfaced the rest of the seam allowance (even below the zipper), and reinserted, with great care, the second zipper (the first one ended up breaking after I reinserted it into the skirt so, technically, this was my third go around).

To add insult to injury, below you will see the reasonably lovely Hong Kong seamed zipper area (obscuring all of the (useless) stabilization going on underneath).

And here's the (rather nice) boned waistband. In a terrific irony, this happens to be a many-stepped piece of cake:

So, what happened?

Well, I'm grateful to advise that I'm pretty sure I know exactly what went down, which given my relative nascence in the world of sewing, is a good thing.

The FUCKING invisible zipper debacle:
  • For starters, I'm pretty pissed off with the pattern. OK, everyone loves Colette - including me - but I think that Sarai has done a disservice to novice sewists by including a bias-cut version of this Beginner pattern without the slightest bit of extra-instruction about how fucking complicated this can actually be. Let me make this entirely clear: If you are a beginner and you want to sew the Ginger skirt, more power to you - it's a great garment. But under no circumstances should you undertake the bias version until a) you've read everything here and then b) made some other stuff first - like, at least, three other skirts. And then, when you do make the bias version, expect a run for your money. It's a learning curve experience, peeps. Know that going in.
  • I'm relieved to report (like it makes any difference, in the end) that I firmly believe my wool blend was never going to hold the zipper without waving. Of course, if I'd started off the right way, I would have avoided any stretching of the zipper area to begin with. But the fabric is so drapey that, on the bias, it actually acts more like a knit (without spring back) than a woven. If the pattern had some kind of warning about types of fabric not to use, this whole situation might have been averted. Or maybe not. But it certainly would have put the blame squarely on me.
  • In fact, I've learned a brilliant lesson. You cannot use super springy, flexy fabric on a bias-cut garment. Not if you want to insert a zipper. Thing is, the apex of pull on this kind of fabric is not solely on the zipper-zone. Every seam supports the oppositional stretch of bias fabric. That oppositional stretch is particularly strong at the bottom third of the zipper.
  • Point is: I believe this fabric was never meant for a bias-cut skirt, despite my efforts to control it. The more I interfaced (which was messy), the more the waves adapted.
  • Do not try to control your fabric. You can manipulate it, gently, expertly. But if it wants to rebel you will need to be an extremely capable sewist - nay, an alchemist - to get it to conform.
Now, I may lose a battle. But the money's on me to win the war.

I came home tonight and cut out all new pieces. (I never buy twice as much fabric as I need but, this time, I got the end of a bolt so the shop keeper gave it to me for a discount. Mega-save!) Tonight, I did not cut the pieces on the bias. In fact, I cut the zipper seam on the selvedge for extra firmness. And I'm still going to organza interface - this time from the start. I've already assembled the skirt. Next I've got to insert the zipper. Maybe I'll tackle that tomorrow.

Because I know how this fabric will respond, and what seam allowances I should use, the cutting and sewing of the main pieces (including interfacing the waistband and facing) took a mere hour! Of course, that's the straight forward part.

I should mention the amazing new things I learned in this sewing experience:
  • French seams - man, these make Hong Kong seams feel like torture. So easy. So pretty. Love!
  • Boned waistband - I'll write more about this in another post, but really, this is not difficult. On this skirt I found the technique to be rather useless, but that's not the fault of the technique.
  • Proper Hong Kong seams.
  • How to make bias tape.
  • Sewing a closure into a bias cut skirt.

There's lots more to say about this but I have to eat something :-)

I'd love to know about your experiences of inserting zippers on a bias-cut garment. Tell me anything you know about either zippers OR bias cut fabric. Let's talk!

47 comments:

  1. I'm sorry to hear about your skirt! I was hoping for the win! I wonder then if any zipper was available - looking at my two bias cut skirts - no zipper exists for them - both are very small elastic at the waist. . .

    I can't wait to see your next try! Stay in the game!

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    1. I'm staying in. I had my night of wallowing in self-pity :-)

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  2. Do you know what I love the most about your posts? Your complete honesty! :)

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    1. Oh, honesty is not something I have trouble expressing :-)

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  3. Wow, you weren't kidding... that is a serious buckling. So sorry this didn't work out but I'm glad you are making another because that color is so pretty! Are you going to save the waistband? I wonder if letting the skirt hang before inserting the zipper would help? And also sewing the zipper from top to bottom on both sides? I'm guessing you did that. I don't know if you've seen this:

    http://gorgeousfabrics.com/blog/2011/12/06/there-are-no-hard-and-fast-rules-in-sewing/

    but a lightbulb went off about the nature of bias after reading that... can't say I'm a bias expert. It definitely seems to bring out the sewing crazies.

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    1. Oh, I know! I'm not saving the waistband. I can't be bothered. I let the skirt hang for 36 hours before sewing, and the seams lined up perfectly without any waves or warp. And I sewed from top to bottom on both sides. I'm going to have to check out that link!

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  4. Once again, I stand back, admiring your commitment and discipline -- and your ability to really let loose with a good bitch session followed up by some heartfelt wallowing. You'll beat this skirt into submission, I just know, and eventually you'll be wearing it with pride having learned oodles more about tailoring.

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    1. Thank you F! (Admittedly, it's easier to show commitment 24 hours after the pain.) The fabric is so beautiful and I really want that skirt!

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  5. What a lesson. I'm so glad you had extra fabric!

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  6. Groan...I have to admit that I'm with you 100%. When I did my sewalong, I used a rather stable woven fabric - no slink - but was way disappointed the first time I put the zipper in. I too admit that I'm rather distressed that the pattern directions don't call for anything else regarding the bias cut version and that it is labeled "beginner" with that bias cut version in the package. It's a little hard to swallow and I do love Colette Patterns too! It was surely a surprise as I was doing the sewalong. I remember staring at the Colette version photos on the web for what seemed liked hours only to come to the conclusion that they might have experienced the same problem because they didn't take any photos of the back end or the side of the skirt.

    I'm so sorry about your version! But I'm glad to hear that you have enough fabric to do it again with out the bias cut! More power to you! This is exactly what I would have done. Can't wait to see the un-biased version!
    xoxo, Sunni

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    1. That's so true. Honestly, I don't know what the thinking was there. The skirt is so beautifully designed that it makes the oversight that much more notable.

      I sew constantly and I've made many skirts. I can only imagine how terrible it would be for this to have been my 3rd foray into sewing, period. There are nuances a pure beginner cannot possibly understand.

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  7. I am so pleased I found your blog. It has made me feel so much better as I have not been happy with any of the last half dozen projects I have made for myself. I can make lovely stuff for my grand daughter and my daughter but for me I am never happy. After spending heaps on a new machine and so much fabric I am determined to get better so now I am off to read your previous posts. Thanks Again.

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    1. I'm sure your luck is going to change! That's kind of how it goes, right? Especially when we buy new machines to facilitate things :-) Thanks for reading and commenting!

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  8. Well, I was looking at your whole experience with expectations, because I've had exactly the same problem with a bias cut skirt recently and would like to save it.
    However, I thing you nailed a point : some fabrics just don't work. Mine is a *very* drapey, lightweight wool blend, advertised as 100% wool but suspiciously stretchy - but I only noticed that after having cut it. It grew by 8"/20cm between sewing and hemming ... *sigh*

    Anyway, the zipper is all nice and flat when it's on the front, on the side, but when placed correctly at the back, it's all wavy, despite interfacing, basting, and using a walking foot.

    Oh well, lesson learned :)
    Your positive attitude is the way to go !

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    1. I think, with that kind of growing, there's not much hope that the zipper will lie flat (not that I'm any expert). Isn't it miserably deceptive, looking at the nice, flat, well-inserted zipper? I guess we have to stay positive or we'd throw our machines out the window :-)

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  9. I love your honesty as well - a great warning for other sewists! You wouldn't think that could happen to a zip. That lovely invisible zip I was talking about? Part finished pencil skirt useless now as I transferred the adjustments from my muslin to second pattern pieces wrong (will explain all eventually on my blog). I will be showing off the lovely zip and sewing though as I don't know if I will be able to replicate them! I too am starting again.

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    1. Oh, that SUCKS! I feel your pain. Let's recognize that every new start is an opportunity.

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  10. I once made a skirt from a stretchy wool woven. Due to my waist/hip-ratio, a side zipper is always a bit on the bias (and in hindsight I should have changed it to a back zipper). I couldn't get it completely flat, but I still wore that skirt (see it in this post, bottom pic, you can even see the ripples: http://el-little.blogspot.com/2011/02/mmmf-45.html), so much even that it is now nearly worn out. I wish I had your peseverance; my imperfect garments usually stay that way!

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    1. You know, I wouldn't have noticed it if you hadn't pointed it out :-)

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  11. I'm glad too that you had enough extra fabric to make it again. SUCH a gorgeous color!

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    1. Isn't it!?!? It's like the best colour ever.

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  12. Oh, that's such a bummer that the bias version ended up being a wadder :( Is there really no way to salvage it? Maybe put in a button placket or something? Hm.

    I don't have a lot of experience with bias, nor zippers in bias, so no help there. I did want to point out that I made this skirt in denim with the single V point waistband, and put some of that cheapie plastic boning in there to hold it up, and I have been really pleased with how well the waistband stands up now. I hate it when my waistbands wilt as I bend over.

    Anyway, I'm glad you are able to try this (un-biased, trololol) for a second go-round! Yay!

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    1. You know, at this point, I'm not so psyched to try fixing it again :-) I'm on to the next version.

      I think the boning is a great idea but the fabric I'm using seems to have enough natural pertness (with interfacing). I'm interested in boning to manage the contours of my lower stomach :-) But it's good that I have learned the technique for when the right pattern presents itself.

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  13. Did you fuse a strip of interfacing to the zipper opening? That helps to stabilize. I use fusi-knit so that it's also soft.

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    1. Oh yes. And silk organza. This thing did not want to comply.

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  14. Jezo, I can't believe how dedicated and intrepid you are. I love it! How cool that you are re-making the skirt, and not letting it defeat you. I bet changing it from bias will make all the difference. I'm especially keen to hear how the zipper insertion goes. Best of luck, K. You can do it!

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    1. I'm really more tenacious than anything else. I cannot bring myself to end this now. Not when I love that fabric so much. Really give me positive vibes :-)

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  15. OMG. That zipper is a disaster(through no fault of yours). I applaud your perseverance in continuing with the skirt, if it was me I would have had set fire to the skirt and all remaining fabric in the front yard while screaming obscenities for the whole world to hear.

    I am adding to my list of things never to attempt:

    Zipper in a bias cut skirt.

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    1. I know! :-) Isn't it hilarious? It's like a tail! And I seriously considered doing exactly what you suggest you would have done. Don't let me freak you out though. Many people manage this. I do think the fabric has to be right or it's a lost cause.

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  16. Wow.. that's.. quite the ripple going on back there. I think it moved beyond ripple into faux-hawk territory. I am really glad to hear you have enough fabric for another one. It's such a pretty colour.

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    1. Ha! It's the most ridiculous thing ever.

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  17. The bias cut can be extremely tricky. I find that when I use fusible interfacing along the fold where the zipper will be installed, it stabilizes everything, so that the fabric doesn't get warped and bubbled. It's like you take the "bias" out of the fabric where the zipper needs to be.

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    1. Aieyaieyaie. I did use both fusible interfacing and organza along the fold and seam allowance. But I'd already installed the zip once at that point, without interfacing. The fabric may have stretched beyond repair in that process.

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  18. You are making me feel SO much better about my own invisible-zipper-on-a-bias-cut-ginger issues. I have two of them. I left the bias to hang overnight in one case, and for over a week in the other (total fluke - I just had no time to sew) and they have both continued to stretch out over time. As a result I have what I can only describe as a "mermaid's tail" on both skirts. I ought to re-cut the back hem, but instead I go around hoisting my skirts up at the back or sticking my bum out to attempt to hold them up properly. One of my zips got stuck at the waistband seam and I had to add hooks and eyes as a "feature". The other one has a delightful bulge like yours - and that was the expensive pure wool one. Grrr.
    In contrast, I have a non-bias Ginger which is a dream of a garment. Mutter mutter mutter.

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    1. If this can make one person feel better, then I feel less bad :-) The idea of you sticking out your bum to hold up your skirt is hilarious. Seriously, just use organza next time :-) Just finished the non bias Ginger. Fits like a dream. Again.

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  19. Eek,that is a serious zipper issue. I have never tried inserting a zip into a bias garment (or ever sewn a bias garment, yet) so I don't have any helpful advice I'm afraid!
    I will say, I think the fabric is gorgeous, well done for persevering and thanks for sharing your issues. There are a lot of bloggers who only seem to produce perfect garments so it's really helpful to see struggles that others have had.

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    1. It is really great fabric and the next version, just finished, is just what I was hoping for. I envy those constantly perfect sewists :-)

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  20. Late to the party but hey, sorry to hear about it. I haven't tried any bias cut with zipper insertion but will wisely remember your posts when I decide to tackle one. :)

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    1. Please do! And make sure, when you write your next bias cut pattern, to talk about organza interfacing :-)

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  21. Ack! So sorry to hear about this suckiness. I've never had the guts to try anything cut on the bias, so I can't really chime in, but I'm really glad that you had enough fabric to cut a new one!

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  22. Side zippers on bias are a disaster. I did a beautiful four-ply silk once, pre-stretched the fabric, put interfacing in the seam, let hang, did everything I was supposed to, and the result was pretty much exactly like yours. Supposedly they are a little more accommodating as a back zipper. I think no zipper is the only solution.

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    1. I'm inclined to agree with you right now! I haven't done a side zip on a bias garment, but I can't see how it would go any better than this one :-)

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  23. I always had this problem and blamed my own incompetence and silently suffered through three years of studying fashion design before swallowing my pride and asking for help from somebody with more experience. With knits and bias-cut garments, a perfect zip is totally possible by taking a little extra time; the solution:

    1. Pin it on a mannequin/figure form and baste your zipper before sewing.
    This is great if you have a mannequin, which I don't have at home so my alternative- find a friend who is a similar size or be like me and refuse to ask for help, pin the zipper and baste it (with difficulty and some shrieking) on yourself.

    2. Use a longer stitch length when you sew it with your machine. A little more ease = less puckering and bending.

    3. When sewing any seam (or zipper) on the bias, always start your sewing from the same end i.e. if you're sewing from the top of the zipper down, when sewing the other side also start at the top, sewing down.

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    1. Thanks for this excellent advice Lila.

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  24. I read this looking for help fixing a back zipper on a bias cut skirt. I tried inserting the stupid zipper 3 times, once I sewed it on a mannequin, and it still buckles ridiculously. My solution--a big bow I sewed at the waistband and tacked lightly around the bump in the zipper to hide it.

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