Saturday, March 31, 2012

Updated: The Tailored Suit: This Pattern Is Irritating the Crap Out of Me Right Now

I'm having a really rough go with this suit jacket muslin and sizing of most of the paper pattern pieces.

This afternoon I realized that, originally, I cut most of the pattern piece armholes incorrectly (an extension of what I discuss in the bottom portion of this post?). In a bizarrely consistent manner, on the armscye curves, I cut all of the wrong-size, mini-dotted lines (like lots of periods strung together). On the main pieces, in general, I cut the correct line for a size 6 (a similar - but different - 3 mini-dots and a dash). I don't know what on earth my brain was thinking but it was thinking in a purposeful, if crazy, way.

I'm still reviewing all of the pieces and trying to figure out which fucking tile goes with which spot on which piece so that I can print out new pieces, as necessary. At this point, I've probably cut the pattern twice in bits and pieces. This pdf pattern-idea, where you print, tape and cut 8.5 x 11 paper is extremely irritating. If only the pieces had page numbers on them, at least I would know which one to cut again. Working piecemeal, and using reference numbers that correlate with partial pattern pieces over multiple pieces of paper, is beyond horrible.

I suppose I should feel fortunate that the need to recut and tape parts of most of the pattern pieces isn't germane to the muslin (see below) cuz I fixed sizing of those pieces last week and put them together over the past few days. The finished product is WHACK as far as sleeve insertion goes. I do think that the easing method Gertie uses in her course (it involves a 1x12 inch piece of self fabric cut on the bias) will help with this. What will also help is either a) lowering the side front piece on each side slightly (.25") and / or b) reshaping the front armscye curve by cutting it down about .5". Option a) will mean that the marking lines no longer align and option b) seems weird - given that I've recut the relevant armscye curves so I know I'm working with the pattern-specified angles. I've decided to stop caring.

I don't seem to be able to fix this by getting the pattern to conform - and, trust me, I've worked constantly over hours and hours. I don't know why, despite following all the rules to a T, I've got a good inch of extra fabric between the top of the sleeve cap to the tip of the front piece. When I made this muslin I eased the sleeves using two rows of basting stitches. It wasn't optimal. I also - in willy nilly ways, did a mishmash of options a) and b) above. It taught me some things, but the muslin shoulder area is a bit of a wreck.

All of this is a preamble to some photos.

Here you can see the first muslin, with weird sleeves - but I haven't trimmed the armhole seam allowances and the pattern, per usual, is too long for my torso:

See the puffball of fabric above the waist in the shots above?

So I pinned out an inch of fabric above the waist, but below the armholes, on all of the pieces. Note: The photo below shows this done in an ad hoc manner. After I looked at these pics, I went back and repinned to ensure that the shortening was even from the bottom of the jacket. The pinning on the front of the jacket moved down so that is in line with the pin height at the back.

Now I'm trying to figure out whether or not I need to do an FBA. The front pieces close at least 2 inches over one another, but there is slightly less room as the jacket moves towards the lapels (right where the boobs are). Of course, this fabric has less than no give. My fashion fabric does have a tiny bit of width stretch. Tomorrow, I intend to release the princess seams at the bust to see what happens. If, when the seams are cut, the jacket seems to hang better, I will consider the FBA necessary and will make the alteration in the required size.

One other thing: This has no shoulder pads and I don't think I'm going to use them. I may use sleeve heads, if the bias strip and seam allowances at the shoulder don't give the garment enough shoulder structure, but I'm not looking for height in the shoulders - just definition. When I put the shoulder pads into the shoulder area, this jacket starts to look clown like on my frame, which natch, is not appealing.

Of course, I'm looking for all of your feedback. Thoughts or feelings about the fit here? Try not to focus too much on the sleeve insertion. It's a dog's breakfast. Of course, if you have some theories about why the front sleeve is too long for the armholes, I'm glad to hear about it.

Update at a ridiculously late hour: I couldn't leave it be so I've made the following adjustments (or partial adjustments) since writing this:
  • Lengthened the bottoms of each piece by 5/8" except the front pieces which I lengthened by an inch (tapering to nothing at the centre front sides so as not to impinge on the width of the final pieces. I did this cuz, once I turn up the hems, I'm concerned the jacket will be too short - having removed an inch of length above the waist. Pretty funny alteration, no? Taking out length in one spot only to add it back in another. This way, though, I'm removing the bulk where I'm short.
  • Opened the princess seams at the full bust - I need an FBA of 2.5 inches (1.25" on each side). Now I've gotta figure out how to do the princess seam FBA. Fortunately there are some great tutorials out there - and I've got Fit For Real People and I've got the Palmer Pletch DVD on fitting for a full bust. I think I should be able to get it done.
  • Removed the sleeves and now I see how well the bodice fits without them. Fortunately Sunni has provided this great link on the subject of altering a sleeve cap to fit the armhole from Casey's blog. I do remember reading this and, somewhere in my mind, I have remembered it. I intend to review the sleeve cap against the bodice pieces at the armhole to ensure the length and shape align.

Running Away

I have a lot of goals today. Goals that are competing with my headache and cramps and making me feel like curling up in a ball. Then there's the fact that my kid threatened to run away from home yesterday, because she's grounded and I wouldn't let her go to an after-school event. I do realize that, when your kid texts you at work to tell you she's running away - and she's actually at home having followed your initial edict not to stay at an event - chances are it's a bluff. But we'd had such a nice time on Thursday - a whole 12 hours of mummy-baby happiness. I don't know how to manage my anger and disappointment. Part of me realizes she's a hormonal mess without the life-skills to manage. But what about consequence?

It's her 12th birthday on Monday and I've spent all week searching out and buying her great new things she'll love (not cheap, natch), planning the cake she asked me to make with special icing, planning a shopping trip and dinner at a very nice restaurant and a trip to the movies. Furthermore, we went out for dinner on Thursday and had a great time, got ice cream, came home and did a spa. (Her hair, when occasionally clean, is the silky, thick, fluffy stuff of a shampoo commercial.) We had all kinds of real conversation. It was like a made-for-tv movie.

As the adult in this equation, I don't appreciate her behaviour. But as a human being who just keeps trying and trying and trying - who's been dealing with the tedium and challenge of parenting this child at all the stages of development - I'm tired, disappointed and my feelings are hurt.

That's all I've got, right now.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Cool Thing I Got On Etsy...

Yes, I am a bit obsessed with Etsy. I have actually spent mindless hours surfing random boutiques, endlessly amazed by the offerings. I love supporting small business and artisans. And you know I love shopping.

Here's my latest, utterly cool (and even relevant) purchase:

Purchased here

People, it was published in 1956 by the Clothing and Housing Research Branch of the freakin' US Department of Agriculture?! How bizarre and excellent is that. And it's in utterly mint condition - for $4.00 plus shipping. It's like no one ever opened this thing.

Also, the instruction is, on the one hand, entirely similar to what you will learn if you do the Starlet Suit Jacket course and, on the other hand, totally old school. They twill taped the arm holes back then. And apparently, crepe was "not appropriate" for suiting because it's too thin and drapey :-) Hand worked buttonholes (not bound, like actual buttonholes your machine would make) were all the thing.

They teach you how to make your own tailor's ham, collar press pad and sleeve press pad cuz, duh, who buys those things??

I can't tell you how much I love this quirky little booklet.

Has anyone else seen this? Do you have fun vintage tailoring books or booklets you can tell about? I have actually bought a couple of others from another vendor that haven't yet arrived but I'll be posting on them when I get them.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Today's Really Freakin' Good News...

Today, my friends, the world is looking very glass-half-full.

For starters, remember this?

Well, it arrived and I think it's terrific!

Smug Krissie

Happy Krissie

Thoughtful Krissie

Cute-bum Krissie

(I would like you to know that we took these pics after 5 pm, and I'm wilted from the day. My daughter would like you to know that she took these photos of me and the only problem she had was that my face kept looking prettier - said she - than the dress. Note: When you're tween is being lovey, a VERY occasional activity, you have to really be grateful...)

In truth, this bodice is longer than mine, but it's a great dress people, with beautiful workmanship. Run, don't walk, and get yourself a Lady Danburry original.

OK, awesome news part 2? Well, vis a vis muslin 1 of the tailored suit jacket, I do think I cut the wrong size. To wit:

See all the lines on the (left-side) curve of the LEFT side piece above? See how many more of them there are than on the curve of the right-side piece? I think that's cuz I mistakenly chopped 3 sizes off the front side and back side pieces of this pattern when cutting for muslin 1.

The back side pieces are below - in this case the right one is "correct" (I think), left side is the one I used to make muslin 1.

Keep in mind that I've badly hacked into the armsyce curves of the muslin 1 pieces. They do not resemble the original (presumed-too small) pattern pieces - so please don't get confused by that. Also, note (intriguingly) that my hack job vaguely mimics, at least in length, the unaltered second versions (the "correct" size)...

I don't know that I can blame Craftsy - though, trust me, I'd like to. I think I just got totally confused, though I'm going to review both pieces carefully again in the next few days to ensure it's not a problem with the pieces. If it is, I don't want this frustration to befall anyone else.

This would explain why:
  • The sleeve head wouldn't fit into the original bodice pieces - 2 of the 4 were 3 sizes to small?!
  • The armsyce was too small.
  • The princess seams were exceedingly justified to either side of my breasts (rather than lying close to the apex.
  • I couldn't raise my arms forward without the seams pulling.

In fact, if this is the problem, with the new pieces, I will add quite a bit of width to this pattern. Probably enough to make it the right size. Theoretically enough to obviate the need for an FBA.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Yes?

Instead, let's enjoy the moment.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Updated: Shout Out to the Experts: Tight Armscye and Upper Back

I want to give you a quick update on round one of the Suit Jacket muslin, which wends its way quickly into: "How do I fix these fucking problems I've never encountered before??" Note that I will post photos tomorrow (no time today), but I'd like to outline the situation and get the shout out going - in the interests of solving all my problems that much sooner :-)

The Facts:
  • I cut the 6 and made it up today without any alterations.
  • Note that there are no instructions, as such, for completing the muslin. It's not like a regular pattern with written instructions (except for the skirt, which isn't discussed in the course). There's an argument to be made that, if you can't figure out how to put it together without written directions, you probably shouldn't be undertaking a tailored suit jacket.
  • Having said that, I had a lot of trouble attaching the front side to the front piece - related to the top part of the front side, where it meets the side of the armscye. I attached these two pieces a number of times to better or worse effect.
  • Others have had a seemingly similar problem with the piece and a pattern error was identified on the Craftsy course. I think it was fixed before I ever cut out my pieces, and yet I too have had a problem. Either I have come up with my own issue, or perhaps the pattern wasn't fixed. I've emailed Craftsy to confirm that it was.
  • The impact of the weirdness on the side front armhole is that I couldn't get the sleeve to fit when I tried to insert it. The sleeve piece fit from its centre marker (top of the shoulder) along the back seam. However it was much too long from the centre marker along the front shoulder.
  • After trying a zillion things, I eventually just (strategically) cut part of the side front away (at the armhole). The impact is that it increased the length of the side front, so it made the sleeve fit. I know - it was probably solving one problem to create another, but I did the only thing I could figure out.

Having said all of this, the first muslin yielded interesting - if totally unwearable results.

The Good:

  • The shoulders fit perfectly.
  • The sleeves fit well.
  • The length is almost perfect. I'll need to pinch out about 0.5" from the back above the waist, but not bad at all.
  • The garment scale is a very good match for my proportions. It doesn't look clownish (which was something I feared). It looks sexy.

The Less Good:

  • I'm going to need to do a sizable FBA. I haven't got to that point yet (I need to fix other fit problems first), but I imagine it will be in the range of 4". I've made my peace with this adjustment, but of course it adds a layer of modifications to the process. Although this is necessary, I do not think it will fix the fundamental problem I'm experiencing (see below).

The Bad:

  • The arm holes and upper back are way to fucking tight. WAY. The impact of this is that I can't bring my arms forward without the sleeve seams pulling ridiculously.
  • The arms fit so high and so snugly there is no way I could wear this thing, much less line it. Muslin has no give, of course, but my fashion fabric won't have too much either.

The Questions:

  • I don't know if I created this armscye problem when I tinkered with the side front piece or whether the fit would have been even worse if I hadn't made the adjustments that I did. Do you know?
  • Is this tight back a factor of the armsyce issue or is it a sign that the size 6 is categorically too small?
  • How do I fix each of these issues arm hole and tight back?
  • I REALLY do not want to start again, having to tile all the pieces together, cut them up and then recut the 8. Even if this size is "flat out too small", do you know if there is there a way I can adjust the muslin I currently have (by marking the muslin and then transferring the alterations back onto the paper)? Or if you have a size that's fundamentally too small (presuming this might be my challenge) do you simply have to start again?
Weird Sidebar: I just had a total deja vu. Is it possible that I've had this experience before and I don't even remember it??

Thanks so much for any feedback. I will show the pics soon, but really, the problem is no more or less complex than what I've described.

Update: I don't want to get too excited, but I might have cut the pieces incorrectly - i.e. the pattern hadn't been corrected when first I printed it. I suppose it's possible that I just cut it incorrectly, though I doubt it. I'm pretty anal about those sorts of things. I won't know till I have a chance to compare my original side front and side back pieces against new ones I have printed. But I seem to recall my original pieces had only 3 size lines within my cut line on the curved sides. On my recut pieces, there are 6 lines - making these sides of each piece 3 sizes larger than my originals. You can see how that would make a huge difference to the armscye problems, tight back - and the even the amount required for an FBA (I've never needed more than an inch and a half). And would explain why lining up my side pieces with the front and back was really difficult. Oh, I hope this is the case...

Of course, if it is, I wasted a whole whack of time.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Tailored Suit: Accessories

It's never too soon to start accessorizing a suit that doesn't exist. (Is this analogous to buying adorable baby clothes while pregnant?)

I couldn't stop myself from buying this brooch on Etsy:

It may not work at all, but it called to me - and it was not expensive.

Oh, and I'm so on the fence with the plastic buttons. Though they look great, they're plastic!? Y'all have made me aware of the folly of spending zillions of hours on a project, only to cap it with plastic buttons. So...

I've called Pat of Pat's Custom Buttons and Belts (no website, but see this awesome Gertie post on the topic, which Gail so generously reminded me about) and requested a catalog. I fully intend to send her my fabric fashion scraps (at least 2" x 2" for 1" buttons) for gorgeous fabric-covered buttons. Stay tuned. (And give feedback!)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Tailored Suit: Muslin Sizing Update - Subject to Change

OK, I did some more pattern measuring. This time the areas were:
  • Shoulder seams
  • Upper chest (again, approximated on the basis of where I presume the full bust on the pattern falls - I measured up 4 inches from there...)

I won't bore you with the numerous factors I considered this time. Point is, I really don't know if I'm measuring these things the right way and, sewing goddess help me, if I don't factor in the right number of seam allowances (it's surprisingly easy to forget a few) or measure from the right spot.

I even compared the measurements I recorded in this exercise against similar measurements on a blazer that fits me perfectly (although weirdly, it seems to have princess seams in the back only, and darts in the front). The feedback is totally not aligning. I mean, even if I cut the 8 in the suit jacket, the measurement comparisons don't come close.

Gertie responded to my Craftsy comment query about upper bust sizing for a size 6 and a size 8 (remember that I wasn't even considering a 4 at that point) with this response: "What about using a smaller size with a full bust adjustment".

Interesting side note: I've had the pleasure of meeting Gertie so she knows what my real life body looks like (not that she would remember it or answer my question with that in mind, but still, I like to think she was endorsing the 6 :-)) Equally interesting, I know what her real life body looks like. Given that she's designed this pattern to fit herself perfectly, as she says, and given that she's a size 8, I'm really betting I'm a 6 with a full bust adjustment. She has broader shoulders and a slightly larger frame than me, but also smaller bust.

So here's what I'm going to do - unless I change my mind:

  • Cut the paper pattern in a size 6.
  • Muslin it without making any adjustments.
  • Pay attention to the likelihood that I'll need to revise the pattern to add (given that I'm going to keep the seam allowances at 5/8", ok, Taran? :-)), a 2" - 2.5" FBA. Making the unaltered size 6 will allow me to know how much I actually have to FBA. In the past I've always overdone it - and I've never done a larger FBA than 1.5". In truth, I may have neglected to consider that the increase has to be averaged over a certain number of seams which impact both sides of the body. I might have made my 1.5" FBA a 3" FBA by mistake. Hmmm. Food for thought.
  • If the shoulders are too large, I can always cut the size 6 paper pattern down to a 4, before I do the anticipated FBA.
  • Note that it will be very strange if I don't have to remove at least an inch of length in the waist because my waist is short.
  • I guess there's a chance in hell it will fit me right off the bat. I mean, it happened to Erika.

To those of you who think I'm an over-analytical, wheel-spinning nut-case: I concur.

The Tailored Suit: My Work Plan

I've given myself 6 weeks to make this suit. Of course, there's no prize at the end of it - except a finished suit - and one which I'd like to get some use out of before the weather gets too warm.

On the topic of warm, I'm sure this can't last, but it's like mid-June here and it's freaking the plants out. No rain - not that I'm complaining - 22C days (like 72F) i.e. nature's perfect temperature. All the idiots have started blaring music and turning the bass up. I have to clean up my back-garden and (first-season NEW!) front-garden. I'm honestly not ready for this. But I have no idea what's going to surface in the front. Yes, I chose the plants, but I have no memory of any of them, apparently. For example, I have yellow crocuses. I can't remember picking these. Maybe I didn't?! Anyway, I LOVE crocuses. For your viewing pleasure:

(Elizabeth, this is for you!)

OK, back to the schedule. Giving myself an end date also helps me to stay focused. In truth, I'm motivated by nature (no pun intended), I do not procrastinate (unless it's on spring cleaning my garden) and I love an end result.

In general, I will sew on weekends only though I will spend a LOT of time thinking about sewing / researching midweek, as per usual. Midweek sewing will occur a) when I'm so intrigued by the next step that I can't stop myself and b) when hand tailoring i.e. pad stitching up the yin yang. When I tailored my coat, the pad stitching process was quite labour-intensive. I'd hand stitch in the evenings, in front of the TV. It's totally a fun thing to do, btw.

For purposes of this work-back, let's assume that every weekend has 2 sewing days (approximately 6-8 hours per). Assume a start date of April 1.

Head start prep: I've bought all of my materials and printed/taped/cut out the pattern so I don't need to factor this into the 6 weeks. If I did still have to do this, I'd do it midweek, so it wouldn't interfere with the 6 week time line. I have also watched the Craftsy course once. I will watch it again before beginning. That takes a few hours.

Week 1: Cut the muslin fabric. Prep all materials (fashion fabric, lining etc.) and set aside. Assemble the muslin. Begin muslin fitting.

Week 2: Finish muslin fitting. Make any necessary adjustments on the paper pattern. Cut the fashion fabric and lining and interfacing etc.

Now I will be ready to begin the project proper. Note that I'm not reinventing the wheel. The Craftsy course outlines every step in making the jacket (though it doesn't walk you through making the matching skirt, also provided). In truth, the skirt seems to be a bit of an afterthought - if a nice one. It's not the kind of style I wear, though. So I'll make a pencil skirt - which has the benefit of being quite professional and should counterbalance any whimsy intimated by the jacket. It will likely my TNT. I will manage this part of The Tailored Suit project without the assistance of the Craftsy course.

One other thing - the work-back below shows the regular ordering of tailoring, which you will find presented similarly in this terrific tailoring book. Needless to say, my little outline doesn't tell you anything meaningful about how to do all of these things, which is what Gertie's course and excellent texts on the matter will be able to do.

Week 3: Create front bound buttonholes. Tailor the jacket front. Decide whether to do welt pockets. If yes, tailor the welt pockets.

Week 4: Tailor the back jacket. Make the sleeves. Make the collar. Attach collar and facing.

Week 5: Finish bound buttonholes on facing. Hem. Insert shoulder pads and lining. Complete all finishing i.e. finishing the lining, attaching buttons.

Week 6: Make the skirt. (At this point I will have decided whether I want to line it, finish it in some vintage pretty - or in a even "professional but practical" - fashion.)

Wow, that looks ambitious.

At this point in my outline, it is time to talk myself of the ledge.

Seriously though, I will aim to move through this project in the most streamlined fashion. Who knows, I may gain some time in the muslining phase (ha!). Or maybe one element of tailoring, given that I've done it before, may be finished more quickly than some others.

But what are your thoughts? If you've made this, or any other, jacket, how long did it take you? Does the timeline seam feasible if I'm working on the jacket (realistically) 20 hrs per week?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Tailored Suit: What Size is the Right Size??

OK, if there's any plus in being sick (but on the mend) - and entirely lonely - it's that I can spend the day considering math problems. Yes, I did just write that.

Insanely, I'm trying to figure out whether I should muslin the size 6 or the size 8 of the suit jacket and it's making my brain hurt. The Advil is not helping.

This post is to give a glimpse into my system for determining the right size to cut. In certain pattern brands that I use routinely (Vogue, Colette), I've got a good sense of this, but this is Gretchen's first foray into publishing a suit jacket pattern of her own design. It's uncharted territory.

Some things to consider:
  • Envelope pattern dimensions for size 6 are 36 bust / 28 waist.
  • Envelope pattern dimensions for size 8 are 38 bust / 30 waist.
  • Hips are larger than mine either way so I'm not going to worry to much about this now but I may need to grade - or widen seam allowances - at the next muslin stage.
  • My dimensions are 37.5 bust / 30 waist. (For some reason, today my bust measurement is 37 - but let's assume 37.5)

You may think it's a no-brainer, that I should cut the 8.

Important Note to readers: I'm pre-planning for my MUSLIN at this point - do not try to figure out measurements on your fancy fashion fabric. Obvs, if I get this math wrong, I can adjust the muslin and then the pattern before I cut my real fabric. I'd simply like to start at the point that will leave me with:

a) the fewest adjustments or, at least

b) the easiest adjustments.

Let's not Forget Pattern Ease...: OK, another thing to consider. I tried to figure out (sadly, without the benefit of markings that indicate full bust point) how wide the pattern actually is, in each size, including pattern ease. Y'all know that when a pattern says it's 37 bust, it's not the finished size. Depending on your comfort level with snug fit, pattern ease can take a smaller size on paper to the right size on your body. I went to the pattern and did some measuring.

Anyway, if my calculations are correct, the size 6 is actually 37.25 inches (including pattern ease) and the size 8 is 40" (including pattern ease).

I'm going to assume that waist pattern ease is in the same proportions so the size 6 actual waist is likely 29.25" and the size 8 is probably 31.25".

...Also Don't Forget Fabric Ease: Remember I said that my aubergine wool does not have a lot of give. I just gave it a tug and I'd put the stretch at about 5% tops. That's not enough to be useful. Told you natural fabric give has its advantages...

Now, let's factor in a few other key considerations:

  • The size of your seam allowances is adjustable: I tend to prefer working with 1/2 inch seam allowances. This pattern includes 5/8" seam allowances. Given that there are 16 seam allowances in this garment and 4/8 inch is 1/8 inch smaller than 5/8 inch (I know, this is torture but stick with me), this means I would gain 16/8 of an inch - or 2 inches, just by cutting the seam allowances down marginally. By shaving a bit off the SAs, which is my preference, my size 6 would become 39.25 in the bust.
  • What's the optimal amount of wearing ease?: Oh, this is one that everyone's going to have an opinion on. You should have an opinion on this! I like to wear my clothing quite snug. I'd say, at the outer edge of not "too snug", if you know what I mean. So I feel that 1.5 inches is enough wearing ease in a bodice. Most RTW jackets factor in 2-3 inches of wearing ease. One way to determine your preference is to hold the tape measure open 1-3 inches larger than your actual bust measurement and see what you think of the amount of space. Also, you have to consider what you'll wear underneath. As my wool is going to be on the warm side, I'll likely opt for a slimmer top. For what it's worth, I generally like suits worn with slim tops. Women with curves are better off wearing jackets with less ease if they want to flatter that shape. Note: Under no circumstances should the buttons pull. At that point, you need more ease.
  • Finally, to FBA or not to FBA: One of the things I don't know about this pattern - but which I've emailed to ask about - is the upper bust dimension. One's jacket doesn't only fit in waist and hips, but in the shoulders. As you no doubt know, many will tell you that this is the key indicator of fit. My upper bust measurement (the size of my torso above my breasts) is 33". That's quite a bit narrower than 37.5", yes? I must consider, should I find my assembled muslin too small, if my best alteration wouldn't be a full bust adjustment, rather than starting with a larger size. The greater the difference between the upper bust measurement and the full bust measurement, the more likely a full bust adjustment is the alteration you'll need - not going up sizes to approximate your full bust measurement. Note: This depends on SO many factors, not least of which is how the designer cuts. If Gertie designs for a wider upper chest - and I suspect she does - then the likelihood I should start small and accommodate breasts (rather than start larger and take away fabric everywhere else) is that much higher.

Fuck, this is a lot of info to take in.

Let's recap:

  1. Always do a muslin.
  2. If you want to spend an afternoon deciding which size muslin to cut, see the insanity above.
  3. Consider the following elements before and during your muslining process:
  • Pattern dimensions from the back of the envelope
  • Pattern ease (you may have to figure this out with math)
  • Fabric ease
  • Seam allowance size
  • Personal wearing ease preference
  • Upper bust measurement for which the piece has been cut (hopefully this will be available - otherwise, you kind of have to figure it out when you muslin...)

OK, where does this leave me?

I hope to hear back about the upper bust measurement on the pattern. If it's 34 or higher, I'm going to cut the size 6. I suspect it won't be lower than that, so if I don't hear back, I'll still cut the 6.

Of course, if any of my painstaking measurements du jour are inaccurate - namely my approximations of actual pattern dimension (given that there are no markers on the pattern to indicate exactly where the full bust is) then I may be in a bit of a bind. Literally.

That's why we practice on sheets first.

So, thoughts about this? How do you determine size? Do you always measure first or do you wing it? (Usually I wing it.)

PS: I'd like to point out that it has taken a number of hours for me to figure out just this little piece and I haven't even come near the proper sewing of the muslin yet?! Complicated projects are, well, freakin' complicated. I try to keep in mind that it's all sewing (even if it's taping pattern pieces, writing posts about sewing, thinking, reading etc.) That takes me from overwhelmed to productive. Do you have any tips on this?

Update: Man, this post has only been up for 10 minutes and I'm updating it?! Just reread the tips sheet from the Craftsy course and it indicates that the pattern is cut generously and that one should go with the upper bust measurement in choosing a size?! By that analysis, I'd be a size 4. I don't think I can do that. But, after all of my measuring, I'm that much more confident about cutting the 6 instead of the 8.

Updated again: Y'all know, based on your comments and the info I've discovered, that I'm probably going to a) muslin the 6 but not before b) tracing the 4. Then, if the six is ridic, I can recut the 4 reasonably easily. Yeah, it's potentially a waste of time - or a major time saver. Only time will tell. (Oooh, way to profile today's word: "time"...)

The Tailored Suit: Choosing Materials

You may recall, from this post, that I was considering a couple of different fabrics for the suit jacket:

Well, after harassing everyone I know, I opted for the aubergine wool above. Why?
  • The jacket I'm going to make is in a structured 40s-style and it has a peplum. Of the wools above, both having very high-quality, the aubergine has less drape, which will hold structure better. Don't fight your pattern, I say.
  • The aubergine wool also has a softer hand.
  • Having said this, two elements of the aubergine do concern me slightly (though not enough to prevent me from buying it): it's fairly thick (though not as thick as coating) and it has practically no give. I know, I know. Two bullets up I suggest that less drape is good. Here I am saying that a (corollary) lack of give may be undesirable. What I'm getting at is, I rarely do FBAs. Partly that's because, for whatever reason, the narrowness of my frame usually counterbalances the need for extra room in the chest. Also, I generally sew with fabrics that have a little bit of give - even the woven ones, or I sew the bodice on the bias. I will make a muslin - and I'm prepared to FBA as required, but I'd prefer not to. I hope that the fabric tension doesn't throw me from one camp into the other. Side note: Something tells me that the jacket is cut generously in the bust - just looking at its fit on Gertie (a woman with a gorgeous, small-busted figure). To close the loop on fabric thickness: I am intending to wear it for three-seasons but thickness can mess with drape and drape, on a curvy frame, is everything. I'm going to have to be careful. Here's hoping my intuition will pay off.
  • The lilac wool, while confection-y sweet, might be a bit hard to take from head-to-toe, especially as I'm making this to wear professionally.

Now, on the topic of lining, I could not decide. Here are the two, insanely beautiful options I considered:

As I just couldn't make up my mind, I bought them both. Which do you prefer??

Cerise Bemberg - this is exactly the same shade as the Ginger skirt. Freakish. Note that in this, and the lower photo, I used a flash so the aubergine is washed-out. It looks much deeper than this.

This is what I'm calling "jacquard" though, I think real jacquard is woven on top of the lining. I think this paisley is printed onto my lining. It's adds an excellent, mismatched element to the colour scheme.

You should know that the jacquard lining is not as soft as the cerise. It will not drape as supple-y (sp?) on the inside of the jacket - even though, it too is Bemberg (I think). While I think it's gorgeous, I may want the smoothest interior possible, and that cerise is like buttah.

Finally, here are the buttons options - plastic, vintage dead stock, all:

Would I prefer that these buttons were metal or glass? Um, yes. But the cerise ones will be perfect with the cerise lining. If I go with the jacquard, I'll need to reconsider whether to use the white pearl or the lilac ones.

You know I'm not one to demure on the topic of what something costs. I always want to know that detail - so allow me to overshare with you.
  • The wool was $32.00/ metre (the least expensive fabric I was considering - most were in the 40-45 dollar range). I bought 3.25m - 2 for the jacket and 1.25 for a pencil skirt. Note that, as I shorten everything, I generally don't use more than 1m for a skirt and, I suspect, I'll use about 1.75m on the jacket.
  • Buttons were under 15 bucks, and I bought 15 of them.
  • Lining was $8.50 / metre. I got 2 yards of each kind. I don't intend to line the skirt (I don't like lining, in general) but, if I do decide to, both of these linings are regular stock at the store.
  • Thread, shoulder pads, interfacing (of numerous varieties), silk organza etc. came in at about 50 bucks, all in.

Overall estimated cost to make this hand-tailored suit: $225.00.

I like to think I'm saving $600.00 - as the cost of a decent, RTW suit is approximately $850.00 (regular price).

A propos of suits and their cost: Once I spend a hundred hours on this, it will be unaffordable, regardless of what it looks like. $800 bucks for a tailored item - even an RTW one - is not unreasonable. So much time and skill, so many fine materials go into these garments. They should cost.

I've worn my Theory suit twice now. Even though the pants are not ideal in some ways (boringly complicated to get into - my issues aren't observable), I feel like a million bucks in it - and it shows. You can't put a price on the professionalism bestowed by a beautifully-fitting, tailored garment. Remember that.

So, what do you think of my options? Cerise lining or jacquard? Which buttons? Have you tailored a jacket and how long did it take? How much did it cost? Let's talk!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Tailored Suit: Getting Started

As you know, next up on my list is the Tailored Suit Challenge:

I figure, this is a good time to recap the concept behind my recent sewing projects...

It's worth restating that these are "my" challenges; I am not participating in a group project. Natch, everything I'm doing here has been done before, many times, by great bloggers and sewists - many of whom have led others in their sew alongs or challenges. No doubt, that's how I came up with my ideas :-) I am particularly grateful for the work of Collette Patterns, Gertie, Peter, Sunni - and probably many others I'm neglecting to mention right now (in my fog of spring cold sickness). Point is, there's a lot of context in "good sewing".

Why have I, at this juncture in my sewing journey, decided to take this approach?
  • I love methodology. This kind of process-driven project is how I get my kicks.
  • It's a skill-improvement extravaganza!
  • It's practical: a way to make something in the most streamlined, and probably cost-effective, fashion.
  • This may be totally inaccurate, but from palette-to-garment seems very "industry-plus" to me. It allows me to pretend I'm at my own College of Fashion Design where the curriculum is dicey but the grades really mean something.
  • It's a marketing gimmick. (What?!, you say. What need of marketing have you?) My friends, while I may not monetize this blog in any way, I greatly value your readership! Your comments, your advice, your innumerable experiences make this a community I want to live in. I'm always trying to come up with new ways to entice you to play along. This format seems to be popular - at least so far :-)
  • It's a community learning platform. While I'm not leading anything but my own process, I am committed to sharing what I learn and presenting it in a way that may be useful to someone like you or me at some point in the future. To wit: How I wish I'd seen a collation of posts about inserting zippers into bias cut skirts before I started my Ginger...
I always welcome your participation. Maybe you've been thinking of using the Craftsy online course, The Starlet Suit Jacket, to tailor your first suit. That can take you all the way to a beautiful finished garment, while you interact with an instructor and like-minded sewists. But I'm going to bitch about this thing in ways and at lengths that only I can. It's a skill, people.

Just think of it as my value-add.

Furthermore, I'm going to talk about my end-to-end process - from planning, to purchasing, to muslining and on. Having watched the Craftsy course once now, it doesn't really speak to all of those things in depth because it can't. Its job is to give you the optimal amount of information about the very-involved tailoring process, and it's awesome at that.

Now, onto the Tailored Suit Challenge itself, this version of which would not be possible without Gertie's latest Craftsy online course (The Starlet Suit Jacket).

To my friends who could care less about sewing: I promise to write about all kinds of other things too, so keep reading, ok?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Fear Factor

After reading Peter's post yesterday, I was finally shamed into inspired to reconsider my vintage machine, the Singer 185J, made in 1959 and gifted to me by my MIL. Here's an awesome vintage commercial produced by Singer to tell you about how fab it is.

For starters, I've done some research on this machine and I can tell you a few things about it:
  • It was Canadian-made in St.-Jean-sur-Richlieu (QC) NOT St. John's (NL) as many people have mistakenly supposed. Back then, mon Dieu, the suburb of Mtl. was known by its English name. Kind of contextualizes the October Crisis...
  • It came with a piece of paper sporting my MIL's measurements in 1959 (before she had kids): Bust 35.5, Waist 25, Hips 35. OMG. Note: She is widely regarded to have been a mega-hottie.
  • It's a 3/4 sized, mint-green machine and has (essentially) the same guts as the ubiquitous, early-era Singer 99, which was produced for more than 40 years. The 185J was the "modern" version.
  • It was made in "St. John's" and in Scotland. The British version was called 185K and it was a suspect shade of beige.
  • It's widely regarded to be an excellent machine - if underrated - with a strong motor (.75 amp) and a cast iron chassis. It can sew through leather and even plastic. I've seen well-preserved versions online for up to 400 bucks (and heard about those purchased for 20 bucks at thrift stores).
  • It's a "portable" model. Um, yeah. It weighs 33 pounds.

My green genie gift is not in cosmetic mint condition (pun intended) - my MIL must have worked the shit out of it, what with all the missing enamel - but it runs perfectly, especially since my husband helped me to refurbish it last year. I haven't used it much, though, cuz (honestly) I've been afraid of it. This thing is seriously hard-core. And I never used the buttonholer cuz I'm tremendously freaked out by a) wacky vintage gizmos and b) button holes. You can see my problem.

Today, though, I was so sick of being sick - and so intrigued to figure this out - that I harassed my husband into helping me set it up. It's quite a production to install the buttonholer:

You have to install that face plate on top of the regular machine plate (note the screw at foreground of photo).

You choose the stitch width with that mechanism on the side of the main piece (the beige thing at the back). The cloth clamp (the thing with the grooves) needs to be at the front-most position.

Egad, see the nicks and dings on this machine?! Sadly they're everywhere.

At some point my MIL lost the thread spool pin so she simply put a nail in the slot?! What can I say, my husband's people are practical. Totally doesn't work using a modern thread spool, which is why I've got a bobbin where the thread should go. Last night I found a plastic replacement on Amazon and bought it. Of course, the vendor won't ship to Canada so I've had to send it to my mother.

Finally, here are the buttonholes it made expertly. I used no interfacing, fyi. I was too lazy.

Ok, this is a reasonably thin wool blend (the culottes fabric), but I was still impressed at the perfect buttonholes this thing turned out first time around... These are my very first 2 attempts and they use different sized templates.

But the piece de resistance is most definitely this:

These holes go through 2 layers of medium weight denim with no stabilizing interfacing. I didn't even press the fold! I've opened the top button and the bottom one is still closed. These are the WRONG SIDE of the buttons, people.

Sometimes vintage really knows how to get it right. The buttonholer moves the fabric, not the needle. Seems like it wouldn't work as well as a modern (needle-moving) machine, but it's 100% more reliable.

I may actually have to make something with buttons now.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Challenge Is as Challenge Does

I'm sitting here feeling spring-cold hideous but I'm committed to speedy recovery, dammit. I will rest and be well by Monday, but not, I suspect, without a healthy dose of complaining in the meanwhile. It doesn't help that Inkscape is a totally counter-intuitive (to my mind) mess of a program and that collage below took me 2 hours.

Why complain, you might ask, when I have such a happy post at hand? I mean, here's where I get to tell you - nay, show you - how I set a challenge, developed the parameters, stayed within the timelines, surpassed the required output and made 7 really cute spring basics:

Indeed, I even conducted a challenge within a challenge. Wow, when I put it that way, I'm awesome!

I'm here to say that I have worn all of these garments at least once so far - and some of them a few times! Here's a run down of some of the interesting features of this challenge:
  • At the start, I owned the floral rayon jersey, the orange rayon jersey for the bonus sleeveless top and the orange double knit used to make the dress. Nonetheless, I spent quite a bit on fabric, in the scheme of things, somewhere in the neighbourhood of $100.00. Mind you, a hundred bucks for this kind of haul is miraculous, no?
  • I really like pink, cerise and orange, apparently :-) Actually, I'm starting to think that everything I make is in a variant of pink or navy.
  • Best outcome? Well, it's impossible to say! I've had very good response to everything (except the house-bound lounge pants, which no one's seen). I think the Magic Blouse may win for most intriguing but the Jalie floral blouse has been a big hit.
  • Hardest slog: Ha! It's a toss up between the culottes and the Ginger skirt. I probably gave 75 per cent of my total energy in this challenge just to those two garments.
  • Best Lesson: Where to begin? On the macro level: The right, complex challenge can keep you going for a long time. If it solves a problem, feel free to make shit up. Vintage patterns aren't necessarily more special or better-fitting than modern ones. Sometimes, the more you pin, the less you succeed. You have to be intuitive! On the micro level: Inner leg pleats that don't meet up with the waist of your culottes are a nightmare to insert and sew. Pleats that go up to your waist are a nightmare to wear. Zipper insertion on bias cut garments is a crap shoot. Bias tape is fussy but endlessly useful. I could take up 6 posts coming up with observations learned in this challenge alone...
  • Most practical new learning: Not that I didn't know this, but I can confirm that pretty "vintage" seam finishing bulky; it takes more fabric and adds twice the time required to make any given garment. I'm really happy to be able to finish something nicely without a serger, but I'm just as happy to have a serger. PS: You can still finish seams without using vintage techniques or a serger, in case you're worried. Most knits, for example, don't need any finishing to speak of, except close clipping. And pinked seams with a straight stitch will often work on wovens. I will say, though, these sorts of finishes often do not look as good. They may also be weaker than the vintage or serger methods. Which is why the sewing goddess invented lining to encase a whole whack of unfinished seams presto. Mind you, I don't much like lining.
Final Impressions:

I didn't think I'd be one of those capsule wardrobe, "sewing challenge" kind of people, but perhaps I am. This project has shown me that I have a decent attention span and the ability to put together interesting designs in coordinating fabrics and patterns. Furthermore, knowing what I was going to tackle next allowed me to bridge learning of new techniques from one project to the next, i.e., the faux Hong Kong finish on the cowl dress turned into real Hong Kong finishing on the centre back seam of the Ginger skirt. Nonetheless, I kept my bizarre, sub-optimal (self-invented cuz it's probably not even a method) wrapping-seam-binding-over-the-hem technique on the Ginger. I like the way it completely encloses, with minimal bulk, a seam that's prone to fray. Fit doesn't always work, but - in this challenge - I'm happy to say it did. By employing a combo of factors: items I've made before, use of forgiving fabrics and skill improvement, I produced a variety of items that fit well.

I'm also happy to say that it's given me confidence to tackle some tailoring next. I'm going to make the Starlet Suit Jacket with a coordinating skirt - which should be a very useful addition to my wardrobe and an great challenge. I'm going from a challenge that took 10 weeks for 7 garments (my final stats) to one that gives 6 weeks for 2 garments, most of that time to be spent on the jacket i.e. 1 piece.

So, what do you think? What have you learned from tackling a sewing challenge? Would you do it again? Will you do one, if you've never tried it before? Let's talk...

Thursday, March 15, 2012

If At First You Don't Succeed...

Lovelies, here's the final (non-bias), cerise, wool-blend, Ginger skirt:

Here's the full skirt... (The hem looks uneven in this shot but I assure you it's an illusion!)

Ooooh, pretty French seam!

And that's my seam binding treatment of the hem. I bought the mint seam binding on Etsy. And I invisibly catch-stitched the hem this time.

You have to trust me when I say that, when it's on me, the waistband (really the whole zipper area) is not crinkly (as it looks in this photo). As mentioned, my proportions are different than the dress form's. What I will say is that, next time, I'm going to make sure I tighten up the waistband at the zipper. I think it's good to have to pull a bit on the waist band to meet the zipper (and then to be sure you vertically seam very close to the zipper). Every time I make a waist band, I learn a bit more. I could also stand to press this a bit better...

And finally, the inner waistband where the zipper meets it. I Hong Kong finished the back seam around the zipper. I think it looks rather chic. You can vaguely see the black organza interfacing around the edges of the zip. I've tried to clip them closely but I guess I'll need to go back and do it again...

In truth, next time I'm buying pink serger thread and calling it a day. The finished garment will be much less bulky (not that it's noticeably so when I'm wearing it) and it'll take 3 minutes, as opposed to 3 hours, to finish seams. Nice to know I can do it though.

Coming up, a recap of the Spring Basics Palette!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


Peeps, this has been a very good day.

It's been good in so many ways: insanely beautiful weather, time to myself, productive at work. But two ways in which it's been extra good are these:
  • I have inserted the invisible zip into the new, non-bias version of the skirt. Before doing this, I cut that section along the selvedge (for extra stability) and then added silk organza interfacing along the inner seam and allowance. My friends, there is not a wave in sight. Hallelujah! (On this topic, I've come to some conclusions about inserting invisible zips without using any pins or wonder (soluble) tape. It's nervy. Stay tuned.) I still have to finish the waistband and hem this skirt but the rest of it is complete. I hope I have the energy to do it tomorrow after work
  • I won a truly awesome giveaway! And in the most unexpected way. See below for the very interesting back story but here's the Julia dress!

The Very Interesting Back Story: Recently I discovered a blog, written by a blogger who also runs a boutique for which she designs and constructs all of the clothing. A number of things have really impressed me about Lady D and her shop.

  1. She, and the people who model her handmade wares, are utterly adorable and they look great in her designs.
  2. Her ability to design and create garments is fantastic. Everything is so lovely. Clean but elegant. She's a young woman but she's not designing exclusively for the 20-something set. Her clothes are good for working women of many demographics.
  3. She wrote a post, a while ago, in which she discusses how she thinks (spatially) which fascinated me.
  4. She's an actual tailor (from a family of actual tailors!). The more I sew, the more I realize that tailoring is the direction in which I'm headed. I am not a naturally "spatial thinker" but fit and construction are everything, IMO. I sense that Lady D concurs.

Here's the thing: I didn't actually win the dress?! I wanted to win it, but some other lucky woman won the draw. Incredibly, though, this woman did not claim the dress?!?!? As I was the first commenter, indicating my interest, it was generously offered to me.

Can you get over that?

I really respect this woman's path. It can't be easy to sew for a living (though it must be very satisfying). Look at a few other beautiful - and insanely affordable - things in her shop that I am resisting:

Both of these are constructed from vintage fabric (hello, sustainability!) I can totally see a theme in my latest fashion urges. I appear to want muted florals. Hmmmm.....

Please feel free to purchase them and tell me how I've lost out :-)

So, am I a fortunate woman, or what?

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!

Sunday, March 11, 2012


If you need a gorgeous, lady, spring bag you must buy this one:

And then, please show us a photo of how terrific you look wearing it with your click-y stacked heel, Italian leather to-the-knee boots and lemon yellow sheath.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Fixing a Wavy Invisible Zipper (On a Bias Cut Garment)

OK, peeps, my crafting posse has once again come to the rescue and advised about how one deals with the abject horror of an invisible zip, on a bias cut garment, that waves and bubbles like a bitch.

You must see the comments in this post. Some serious sewists weigh in and for that I thank them all.

Then check out this great Threads article (thanks Marina).

Then check out Sunni's awesome post that I should have read - in fact I'm sure I did read - yet somehow my brain completely glossed over it. Hmmmm...

I'm going to give this zip another go. Like tomorrow. After I've had a chance to drown my sorrows a bit. That would be with booze.

Remember, if you've just experienced this zipper malfunction, don't panic! We're gonna be alright. Especially if we drink.

Shout Out to the Experts: Invisible Zipper Rippling

Egad! I've spent hours perfectly sewing in my invisible zip (everything's aligned, all the seam allowances are as they should be) and now, when I put on the skirt - which fits, btw, the zipper area is all wavy.

There's no fabric puckering, but it's like the fabric doesn't have the chutzpa to hold the zipper - which is weird cuz it's not wussy fabric and it's been working well for everything else.

I'd really prefer not to have to rip the whole thing out and start again, though I will if I must. I just don't want to spend another 2 hrs on this to find out that my next insertion yields the same results.

Some questions:
  • Should I have interfaced the seam allowances? (Again, there's no apparent weakness in the zipper and it lies beautifully flat on the ground. It's when I put it on my body that the waviness appears.)
  • Is it that the skirt, around the zip area, isn't tight enough hence the buckling? Should I sew the seam allowances smaller? The skirt fits - isn't loose as far as I can tell. Worried about making things too tight if I do this.
  • Should I just use a regular zipper because this thing needs to be more stabilized in the fabric by more stitches? If yes, can I just stitch around the invisible zipper as I would for a regular zipper? Or will that look weird?

Admittedly, I've never sewn an invisible zipper into bias cut fabric - perhaps the bias stretch is encouraging this outcome?

What do I do????

So confused. So demoralized. Please help.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


I'm won't lie. This post is going to be a little bit technical. But I'm aiming to throw in a bit of pithy philosophy as I go, in the event that it will appeal to more than 3 people.

OK, elephant in the room time, I'm here to tell you about spiral steel boning. More specifically, it's about cutting the boning wire and affixing those little caps on the end.

To remind you, this is the boning:

These are the caps:

And this is the type of tool I used to cut the boning:

Outrageously, I got my clippers (Scott calls them nips) from Leather and Sewing Supply for $4.50 (?!); the brand is utterly local. The company that makes the tool is called Can-Pro Canada (I know, ridiculous name) and, if I'm not mistaken, my gizmo is made in Etobicoke (the outer edge of Toronto). I searched high and low for a photo. (Of course, I'm too lazy to actually take one.) But I don't know how likely it is that you'll be able to get the Can-Pro brand if you live out of the city. Point is, you want nips that have that type of head on it.

Why is this relevant? Well, a lot of people will tell you that cutting the steel is very tricky. Gertie (and I think we can agree the woman is a pioneer) posted a video demonstrating the cutting process, a while back. Thing is, this video kind of freaked me out. It made the cutting - to me - look rather challenging. But, trust me, if you use the type of clippers I've shown in the photo above (not that brand, specifically), the spiral cuts really easily.

Special Secret Tip!: More to the point, the guy at Leather and Sewing Supply actually showed me how to cut with minimal effort. Because the wire is in spirals, if you clip half of any circle, it will sever the link between the two sides of wire. That means you don't need to cut clean through a quarter inch of metal. You only need to clip a couple of slender wires and voila!

Now For the Caps: A lot of people will also tell you that affixing the caps is even more difficult than dealing with the wire. In truth, they're kind of right, but I have a philosophy about this. (Disclaimer: It's my extremely-handy husband's philosophy - I'm merely buying into it.)

To affix the caps - and you have to, or the raw wire will trash your fabric - you will need little needle-nose pliers (called jewelers pliers). Hopefully, you have a life-partner that has every type of pliers on the planet. If not, just go to the hardware store and explain yourself. These things are standard issue.

Step 1: Put the cap on the raw wire end and push it down. Hold it gently with your finger as you use the pliers to smush against the wide side (along the profile of the 1/4" wire). Don't do this too high up. You don't want to crush the tip out of shape or you won't be able to keep it right up against the tip of the spiral steel boning.

Step 2: Now, against the narrow, i.e.skinny, side, gently use the pliers to smush the metal in.

Step 3: Repeat steps 1 and 2 until you have the stupid thing affixed. As you press along the width, the ends of the clips will move away from the wire. As you press the ends towards the wire, the tip will try to lift. (Takes a couple of minutes, i.e. 2-5.) Every time you think it's fixed, the cap will shift. It will aggravate you and, likely, make you question your place in the universe.

Step 4: Meditate on the nature of the activity to prevent yourself from freaking out (as you imagine that it's never actually going to work). As you gently mold the cap against the spiral, you are actually metal-working. Optimally, a machine would do this for you, and it would apply pressure to all sides of the cap on the spiral in the same proportions at the same time. Alas, you are not a machine. So you need to bring zen to the act of pushing one way, then the other, then another, until you've mushed that thing well on. It will work. Don't panic. Keep trying. Be prepared to throw out a few caps. It's all cool.

What has the world come to, I ask you, when sewing involves pliers and wire cutters? If you think of it as carpentry, it actually seems less scary, somehow.

When first I saw Gertie's post about boning, I thought: There is NO WAY I will ever be able to do this. I'm happy to tell you that I've reconsidered, and not because I'm any more skilled, but because I've decided to just take it one step at a time. It's not rocket science (she says, not having actually completed the boned bodice). When you make any garment, you follow many processes. One leads to the next. This is simply an additional step - or three.

Note to reader: I'm getting myself into the "take the long road" tailoring frame of mind.

I cannot improve upon Gertie's tutorial. It's excellent. All I can add is a bit of info about my own experience. But, peeps, inasmuch as I am a sewing novice, in the scheme of things, let me encourage you! If I can do this, you can too. And I intend to do this.

Peace out.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Crossing the Line?

Somehow I think there's a pun in that title but I can't quite figure it out...

My friends, I appear to be hanging on the sewing dark side. I am so intrigued by constructing my second version of the Ginger skirt in a cerise, light wool blend, that I came home after a busy day at work to cut out the pieces. That's after I treated the wool yesterday. And re-read, for the 8000th time, the info on how to bone the waistband the day before. And bought the boning last week.

Did I mention that I don't sew on weekdays?

You may recall I'm making this one on the bias. And that, when complete, my Spring Basics Palette will be finished as planned. (Man, I'm getting my money's worth linking to that post...) Bias cut garments need to be hung to work out any potential warps, hence my inclination to get this on my dress form today, a few days before the weekend:

I realize this looks orange but you're gonna have to trust me that it's like a supa-bright, pink-y red.

While I was cutting, I couldn't get your collective voice out of my mind (egad, that's a bit sci-fi). I had to use the opportunity to cut some bias strips, to turn into tape. I didn't let the fact that I didn't know how to cut bias strips stop me.

See, that's what's been stopping me forever. I figure, I may have undertaken the activity incorrectly, but at least now I've tried. If it doesn't work, I'll have some sense of what I've done wrong and - maybe - I'll read up more appropriately on the topic next time. In short, I made 1 inch strips on the bias (out of the fabric scraps I had left), which will, I imagine, turn into 1/2 inch bias tape when I use that gizmo and my iron to fold it over on either end.

Some of the pieces are very short. I assume that means I'll have more join marks in the tape. I'm ok with that. Seams on my bias tape seem preferable to unfinished seams. And I don't want to waste fabric by cutting long strips out of the prime meat, as it were.

Hence this:

In today's irony, I'm pretty sure I'm going to finish the Ginger seams à la française, not that I've ever done this before. Which means this not-yet-bias-tape is gonna sit in a Ziploc bag for a while. Something tells me you have to be very specific in how you attach one piece to the next, or you could join pieces cut oppositely, which wouldn't work. Is that right? And is it hard to keep grainline straight once you've thrown everything into a bag?

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Orange and Blue

Who can disagree that orange and navy are nature's perfect combination? That's how I came up with the idea to nicely finish V8413 with navy seam binding:

Doesn't hurt that I have every navy accoutrement known to the sewing goddess.

But, ah, the naivete. Here are some pieces of advice for y'all when next weighing the merits of seam binding:
  • Can't say this loudly enough - when you use a woven fabric on a stable knit, it's rough. The likelihood that your knit will get wavy is high.
  • If you remove the back zip feature of the dress (because the stretch of your knit obviates the need for it), be really careful about seam binding the waist seam. What you may not realize is that, in the absence of an opening, the waist seam needs to stretch, and it will not when you've wrapped it in a woven fabric. (A propos of this, my dress fits but I do have to smush my boobs somewhat to get the thing on.)
  • I recommend 1/2 inch seams with tape that wraps over the seam allowance by 1/4 inch on either side. Because my original seams were 3/4 inch, I had to first baste for fit, rip out the basting stitches and then and cut 1/4 inch off the vertical edges.
  • And (predominantly for me, in case I ever try to do this again):
  1. Start the 2-step attaching of binding process on the wrong side of the fabric.
  2. Use a 0 setting on your machine (centre the needle rather than right justify it).
  3. Then, the 1/2 " binding outer edge should be flush with the right side of the presser foot.
  4. Stitch the left edge of the binding to the raw edge of the fabric, about an 1/8th of an inch in from the edge.
  5. Stop stitching a bit before the end of the raw edge so that you can fold the raggedy end of the seam binding under before you finish sewing the seam.
  6. Press from the wrong side.
  7. Fold the bias tape over the raw edge of the fabric. Press it and ensure you cannot see any stitch lines where the bias tape doesn't fold over the seam quite enough. Trim the raw seam slightly, if necessary, to ensure you can close the fold without seeing any stitches from the seam you've just sewn.
  8. Stitch from the right side of the fabric about 1/8" in from the edge of the seam binding.
  9. Press the front.
  • I advise against using pins for any of this. It doesn't work, IMO. You just have to feel your tape and your seams and intuit how to keep them aligned. Believe it or not, that's easier than pinning.
  • The binding will add bulk to the inside of your garment, but not too much if you use 1/2 inch tape (about as narrow as you can go on a knit) and keep your finished seam allowances to no more than 1/2 inch. Also, tack the seam bound edges to one another where they intersect. Don't bind the raw edge of a cut on cowl. It will show through. I had to rip out the seam binding on my cowl edge. Thank goodness my knit doesn't fray or I'd have had some serious challenges finishing that seam otherwise.
Nonetheless, somehow this thing came together in the end. Not just together, but together well.

Look at how all of those seams line up like a dream!

Not gonna lie, the seam binding in the bodice is pretty scary. Partly that's cuz I was using that stupid binding foot (which really doesn't work), the seams were curved and I didn't really know what I was doing...

The reason I'm showing it to you on a hanger, not the dress form, is cuz my dress form's upper bust (just below the shoulders) is wider than my own proportions and I cannot get the woven-seamed waist over that part of the form. Fortunately my upper torso is narrower than it, and my boobs are malleable, or I wouldn't be able to put this thing on. Mind you, once on, it fits PERFECTLY!

I catch-stitched the seam bound hem to the dress.

See - I can sew pleats!

Many who have sewn this lengthen the bodice but I don't recommend it unless you are very long in the waist. The idea is that the waist seam comes up fairly high (at the upper end of the true waist). Not quite empire, but moving in that direction. Otherwise the bodice may be baggy.

I cut an inch off the bottom of the skirt and then sewed a one inch hem - and that puts it at knee length, so the thing is pretty long.

Note to new(ish) sewists: The most challenging element of this pattern (never mind seam binding) is the facing-enclosed shoulder seams. It's a very neat finish but it's tricky. Read the instructions on this as many times as you need to, to ensure you've got it covered. Last time I made this dress, I knew something was wrong, but I didn't have enough sewing knowledge to realize it was that the raw shoulder seams should have been hidden by the facing.

Something tells me it's going to be quite a while before I seam bind anything - much less a stable knit (with a woven tape) - ever again.

But all's well that ends well, yes? So what do you think?

Note: I am totally going to show this modeled - it looks very chic - but I have to wait till I don't look like a Chia Pet.