pattern

Project MyWay #7–Michael Kors Knock-off Dress

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Well, I’m back to my old ways–my daughter’s graduation ceremony was yesterday and I made this dress yesterday morning. Good thing I’m an early riser (a little too early–4 a.m. since my trip to India).  So, I made the dress, cooked the food for the graduation party, picked-up the graduation cake and was at the ceremony at 2:00 p.m.!

The dress was perfect, we’ve been having a heat wave in Chicago and it was steamy and humid yesterday so this bright, cool dress was just the ticket. The only thing I didn’t have time to do is to shop for sandals. I was craving a pair of silver sandals to go with this dress. Luckily, I bought these cute Cole Haan black patented leather thongs on sale in January (at the Saks Fifth Ave. Outlet, must’ve been from last season). They worked out fine and I was pleased to be able to walk easily with the heels and crutches.

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File this under “I’m so glad I can sew”, I made this dress with a stretch cotton that was on sale for $3.99/yard. It was 60″ wide and so the dress only took one length of fabric, about 1 1/4 yard. I used an invisible zipper and a  stretch cotton from my stash for the lining. The total cost was about $10.00. I featured the Michael Kors version of this dress in my entry titled “What to Wear”.  I tried to find it again on the web, but they must all be sold out, as I recall it was about $1,200.

I used Butterick 4778, a Nicole Miller design, which has been discontinued. Sorry to use an out-of-date pattern, but E. has been giving me a hard time about doing too much and not resting enough since the surgery (sound familiar anyone?), so I didn’t want to ask him to take me to the fabric store for a new pattern. This pattern has just the right design elements–princess seams in the front, scoop neckline in the front and square neckline in the back, very fitted and tapered at the hem. I’m sure there is something similar available in a current pattern.

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The only pattern alteration I made was to cut the dress off to street length and omit the placket, buttons and front slit. With the shorter length, I didn’t need the slit for walking room. I was really happy to do an easy project without many changes, seems like everything I’ve been making lately has been so complicated.

A perfect fit was the most important priority for this dress. As stated previously, I’m lazy and seldom make a fit sample before I cut into my fashion fabric. This time, I cut the lining first and added a generous amount to all the fitting seams; side seams and front princess seams. Then I basted the lining together and tried it on, with the seam allowances outside. I then pin fitted very carefully to my body, re-basted on the new fit lines, tried on again, just to be sure, added seam allowances to the new seam lines and trimmed off the excess fabric. I removed the basting and used the lining as a pattern for the fashion fabric. This worked great!

I followed the pattern instructions except for 3 things:

1.  I “bagged the lining”–I cut the lining 1″ shorter than the fashion fabric, after constructing the dress and the lining, I sewed the bottom hems of the dress and the lining, right sides together then pressed the finished hem in place. Because the fabric was easy to press, I didn’t need to hand hem the bottom edge.

2.  I finished the shoulder seams with a method I used when I manufactured maternity wear in the early 80’s. I made lots and lots and lots of jumpers and always lined the bodices so I could use this nice shoulder finish I learned from Sew Smart by Judy Lawrence and Clotilde Yurick (click on the picture for instructions):

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Because the shoulder strap area was quite narrow, it was a little tricky sewing the final seam. I was saved by my Bernina Open Toe Foot, it’s good at getting into small places. I took 3-4 stitches at a time, adjusted the fabric, took 3-4 more stitches, etc.

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3.  The pattern called for seam tape to stay the neckline edge. My fabric is stable and a little heavy, so I skipped the seam tape and just stitiched the neckline edges to stay them.

I’m also happy to say I finally inserted an almost perfect invisible zipper. I used this method:

1.  Basted one side of zipper, sewed that side, starting at the bottom and sewing to the top (I don’t use an invisible zipper foot, I find it easier to spread the zipper and stitch close to the teeth.)

2.  Basted other side of zipper, sewed that side, bottom to top

3. Using my regular zipper foot, I started the center back seam, beginning the stitching about 1/2″ above the end of the zipper, stitching as close as possible to the zipper stitching, for about 2″

4.  Changed back to my zig-zag presser foot to finish the CB seam

I didn’t end-up with my customary bubble at the end of the zipper–yea! At the neckline, the zipper stops were perfectly placed on both sides. From the bottom of the zipper to the hem, I did have to ease in a little extra fabric on one side. Seems like it’s almost impossible to avoid this, because of fabric creep, I expect.

I placed the zipper stops right at the 5/8″ neck seam, hoping the zipper would close perfectly without a hook and eye. I’ve seen this on RTW, but it didn’t work. It spreads a little at the top. I hate that. When a detail is at the center back, it seems to glare at you if it’s not perfect. Next time, I’ll put the zipper stops about 3/8″ below the neckline seam and use a hook and eye. (I should take my own advice in the post “How to Fix all Small to Medium Sewing Mistakes”.

This dress will come in handy all summer, for dinner out on a hot night, a casual summer wedding or cocktails at someone’s home. If I can manage to lose the last 10 lbs. I gained between being marathoner and semi-cripple (I can start swimming next week, so that will be a great help) it will be easy to take in the seams on this dress and keep that fitted shillouette.

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Project MyWay #6–Yellow Crepe de Chine Blouse

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I knew I had to have something yellow this spring, it seemed like the freshest color in all the magazines and on the runways. And, several of the sewists on the sewing blogs have been making cute yellow tops (check out, www.ericabunker.com/2008/04/ive-got-yellow-fever.html ) When I saw this beautiful silk Crepe de Chine in a sunflower yellow, I grabbed it!

For this design, I was inspired by the pleated blouses I’ve been seeing lately, like this one from Phillip Lim:

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I didn’t have any particular pleating arrangement in mind, so I chose a pattern with the shape I wanted and cut a piece of fabric long enough for the front piece and just started fooling around. I thought it would be easiest to pleat the fabric first and then cut the front pattern piece. I ended up with a 1″ pleat at the center front and 3, 1/2″ pleats on either side.

I used Simplicity 3874, view B, because I liked the neckline and the raglan sleeve. I cut if off to blouse length, folded out the front dart and omitted the empire elastic.

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Step 1, pleating the front piece:picture-090.jpg

I stitched-down the pleats to withing 6″ of the hem. This way the blouse will look good un-tucked or tucked-in.

Step 2, creating a new front pattern piece:picture-093.jpg

I took the original pattern piece and folded out the dart (that’s why the paper pattern looks so wrinkly. Don’t worry about that, just lay the pattern on the fabric and pin it as flat as possible). I put the center front of the pattern piece in the middle of my center pleat. I drew a new side seam line, following the original pattern, easing into the armhole. I drew the new bottom hem.

Step 3, completing the front pattern piece: picture-096.jpg

After drawing the left side, I folded the fabric on the center front and cut the right side, following the lines of the left side.

The back pattern piece only needed shortening, no other alterations.

Step 4, construction: I constructed the top according to the pattern directions, except for the sleeves and neckline.

The sleeve: I cut 4 sleeves and lined them, understitiching at the hem. This avoided narrow hemming the bottom of the sleeves which would have given them a fluttery look. The raglan sleeve has a curved seam in the middle. Next time, I’m going to fool around with the shape of that seam because I’ll bet that it can altered to pull the sleeve in more at the hem. It’s a nice sleeve the way it is, but I would prefer it to be a little more fitted at the hem.

The neckline: after the sleeves were finished, I tried it on and I re-cut the neckline into a broader, deeper boat shape.

The original neckline: picture-097.jpg

The outline of the new neckline: picture-098.jpg

Step 5, finishing: I struggled with this. I knew I didn’t want a neckline facing that would pop out and wouldn’t give the pleating any support, I decided on a foldover bias trim. My plan was to make a bias strip, fold it in half, lengthwise, press and then sew it to the wrong side of the neckline. This gives plenty of allowance for error and still make a nice even topstitched fold-over on the right side.

Problem was, I didn’t have enough fabric to cut the bias strip in one piece. So, I cut 2 pieces and proceeded to try to make the seams fall on each shoulder seam. Well, I don’t know if there is a computation for this, I tackled it by sewing one seam in the bias strip and pinning this seam, matching at the shoulder, then pinning the remainder of the neckband until I reached the other shoulder seam.

At this point, because the seam on the bias strip would be a diagonal seam, I didn’t know how to make the band exactly the right length. I did my best to guesstimate, then sewed the diagonal seam, but–oops! I sewed a chevron seam instead of a straight one. Of course, I’d cut off the excess, so now I had a band that was too short. I had to re-cut one side of the bias strip to create a straight seam and create a continuous band.

I knew the band would stretch a little as it was sewen to the neckline and I knew that pulling the neckline in a bit wouldn’t be a bad thing, because it would help keep the neckline from gapping at the collar bone. So I eased the neckline onto the band by going round and round with the pinning, until I had it very evenly eased and was hoping it wouldn’t pleat under the band. I sewed with the band side up to take advantage of the “creep” from the presser foot. At this point, I didn’t really care where the seams of the band hit the neckline, as long as they didn’t fall near the center front: picture-099.jpg

Voila! It worked! After sewing on the band, I trimmed the seam allowance very carefully to a consistent 1/8″, which gave me a stable, even edge on which to turn the band to the outside and topstitch carefully. Somehow, the band seams ended up symmetrically located–thank you god!

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Now, for the hem. I’ve had a wonderful top-of-the line Bernina for 15 years and I had never purchased a narrow hemming foot! The problem with narrow hemming the other way (turning and stitching, trimming and turning and stitching again) is that by the time you stitch around the hem twice on delicate fabric, it almost always starts to flutter.

I’ve been anxious to have a garment to on which to try out my new hemming foot. I also used a technique I saw on a very expensive designer silk skirt (Project MyWay #1). The skirt front was narrow hemmed, the skirt back was narrow hemmed, then the side seams were sewn. If you’re careful to have the side seams of the fronts and backs end at exactly the same place, this gets around the fact that the first half inch in of a hem using a narrow hemming foot looks horrible, as it’s hidden in the side seam.

The new foot was challenging! I went to the web to get some advice, the best I found was this article:

http://www.sleepingbaby.net/jan/Baby/hemming.html

from Jan Andrea, at Home on the Web.It has good pictures and clear instructions. Even with this great tutorial, I was still having trouble catching my stitching on the folded hem. Finally, I changed my single hole sole plate (which I always use on fine fabrics–keeps the fabric from getting shoved down into the throat plate) to the zig-zag throat plate and set my needle position to the right. This worked pretty well, though I still need some practice!:

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Conclusion, I love this top! I’m working on the jacket I featured in Spring Wardrobe ’08 Part 1…

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…it’s turning out very nicely. Of course I couldn’t find a bright print like the one here for a top, but the yellow blouse with black slacks will look great with this jacket!

Ta-ta for now!

Special Clothes

alexander-mcqueen-tunic.jpgI’m always on the lookout for pieces I can make that are at once extraordinary and classic. These are the kinds of garments that I keep for years, some of my special pieces have been in my wardrobe for 20 years. For these clothes, I don’t mind spending lots of time on construction and I purchase the best fabrics I can afford. They become my signature pieces and have a certain style that is my own.

I like to have separates instead of dresses for special occasions. Starting with a beautiful pair of black pants, a black skirt and maybe even a tuxedo in gorgeous fabrics you can mix and match infinite outfits.

I came accross this design by Alexander McQueen that has all of these elements. It’s dramatic, but wearable. It’s not really “in style” but will looks stylish for years. I wouldn’t copy this look verbatim, I’d use the fabric, the neckline and the belt and lose the quarterback shoulders and goth sleeves. At this time, I’ve no clue how I would recreate the pattern, but one of the things on my wish list is to learn to drape patterns and this might be my first project. I can see it in a beautiful silk peau de soie and I could spend months searching for the perfect belt. In fact, the best way to approach putting this together is to find the belt first and then choose the color of the fabric…

 Ta-ta for now!

Project MyWay #5–Nanette Lepore Knock-off Blouse

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Yes, I did finish the outfit I told you about in my very first post titled Welcome to The Feed Dog. I wore it with the TSE black silk skirt that I re-designed in Project MyWay #1 and my beautiful cashmere knit coat from Project MyWay #3 and my cute booties that I got on sale at Macy’s (marked way down in February). We went to the city for dinner and then to a jazz club and I looked very ou current!

This beatiful silk satin burnout fabric was in my stash, next time I’ll try it in a solid color so the details won’t get lost in the print.

I started with Simplicity 4277 and made some simple changes:

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Here is a picture of the Nanette Lepore blouse I wanted to copy:

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And here is another Nanette Lepore blouse that shows the details better:

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I wanted the cross over bodice with pleating and the sash under the bust, but the sleeves are too “girly” for me, so I wanted a simple cap sleeve.

Simplicity 4277 was a good place to start, it has the basic design of the Nanette blouse and the changes were easy to make.

For the pleats on the bodice, I slashed and spread the front pattern piece to add more ease to the front and I extended the front past center to create the cross over:

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I figured out the pleating by folding the new front pattern piece and matching it up to the top of the waistband until it fit. After cutting out the fabric, I pleated each front piece, then lined them and basted the 2 fronts together at the center front. 

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For the sash, I used a pattern piece from a dress I made a couple of years ago:

neue-mode-23326.jpg  I used the hip sash from View C and cut it to fit when I was constructing the waistband. I made the sash for the front only–from side seam to side seam. I didn’t want to deal with it in the back as it would have ended at the center back and made the zipper application very difficult.

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Speaking of zippers, I used a looooong invisible zipper and as I had mentioned, I tried the application I learned in the tutorial on Sew? I knit!–

http://sewiknit.blogspot.com/2006/03/invisible-zipper-tutorial.html

It still had a bubble at the bottom, but it was better than the zipper on my black silk skirt. I’ll keep trying…

The cap sleeve offered in this pattern is gathered at the cap. I didn’t want the gathering, so I used the set-in sleeve of view A and re-drew it into a cap sleeve. 

I then tried something new I saw on a Banana Republic dress, I put a piece of elastic at the center of the hem of the sleeve, about 2″ on either side of the center, for a total of 4″, to pull it in a little.

I love cap sleeves because they are great for summer dresses and blouses, but give a little more coverage than sleeveless tops. But cap sleeves look awful when they point straight out like wings. I find the best looking cap sleeves have plenty of ease in the cap (without being gathered) and this Banana Republic method of inserting elastic at the sleeve hem makes the sleeve nice and fitted. I always self line cap sleeves, it looks so much nicer than narrow hemming the sleeve.

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Ta-ta for now!

Project MyWay #4–Garnet Silk Crepe de Chine Blouse

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I saw a blouse like this at Nordstrom, it was around $200-$250 and I didn’t like the colors it came in, royal blue or kelly green. I couldn’t find a pattern to use to copy it, so I made my own.

I started with Butterick 4658, I’ve used this pattern as the beginning of many blouses.

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First, on the front pattern piece, I drew on a v-neckline. I  measured how low I wanted the new neckline to be and drew a a straight line from the shoulder to the center front. Then I gave the v-neck a nice curve.

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I had to shorten the back shoulder seam to match the new front shoulder seam and scoop out the back neckline too.

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Then I cut 2″ front and back facings off of the front and back pattern pieces. I added seam allowances to the facings and the front and back neckline.

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I slashed the front and added about 4″ of ease (1″ between each cut). See photo above of front pattern piece. I drew 2 parallel lines 1″ apart and 1″ from center front and slashed and spread the pattern here. I wanted to keep the shirring close to the center front.

I folded out the dart because I had plenty of ease with the new width I was adding. Then I arranged the slashed front pattern piece, with the spacing between the slashes and placed a piece of pattern material over it and traced the new front.garnet-top-front-pattern-piece-2.jpg

I shortened the sleeve 5 1/2″ to just below the elbow. I added a 2″ wide cuff, measuring my arm for the finished length.

The construction went smoothly. As always (see my post on sewing with silks in “Tutorials”) I covered my cutting table with a sheet and pinned the pattern pieces to the fabric and the sheet. This keeps slippery fabric under control. I finished the seams with pinking shears. I have a serger, but the thread showed through to the right side when I pressed the seams. The best way to finish the seams would’ve been with french seams. I marvel at and appreciate all of you who finish you garments so beautifully on the inside. But I’d never get anything finished if I were that perfect. If I’m the only one who is going to see the inside, I finish in the fastest way possible. When I’m sewing for others I make it look good inside.

I constructed the facings, understitched the neck edge and top stitched it. Then I sewed the fully constructed facing unit to the front and back, sewing with all of the raw edges together then pressing toward the garment. Turned out pretty good, if I do say so myself. In this picture you can see my pinked seam allowance at the back neckline.

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I love this hem–I first saw it at Donna Karan and the Derek Lam skirt in my Spring ’08 Wardrobe Part 1 post (in Design Inspiration) uses it too. It’s basically a cuff added to the bottom of the blouse. It eliminated the problem of narrow hemming the slippery silk fabric and it adds a little weight to the blouse and makes it hang nicely.

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I cut 2 front and back band pieces,with a finished width of 4″. I sewed the side seams and sewed them together at the bottom edge. I underdstitched and pressed the band. I sewed the band on to the bottom of the garment, sewing all the raw edges together. Then I finished the seam and pressed it toward the top. (This time I finished the seam with a zig-zag stitch–don’t ask me why!)

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The blouse looks great over skinny jeans or black slacks. And it’s great for those “fat” days!

Ta-ta for now!

Spring Wardrobe ’08 Part 5

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I love menswear–tailored jackets, slouchy pants, crisp cotton shirts. The current styles are about as far away as you can get from menswear. I want to stay true to my look, but I hate feeling like I look dated. I have a fear of looking like I’m wearing my mother’s clothes (or that I have my mother’s haircut)! So I weave a few pieces of what looks new this season in with the tailored clothes I really love.

It seems like cropped, full jackets are everywhere! There are but a few long, fitted jackets to be found. If I tone down the fullness, this is a look I can live with. I found this jacket from Piazza Sempione (a line that I love) that combines the “new” elements of a short jacket and bright color. I think the bracelet length sleeves are attractive and current looking. I’m going to put it on my list of things to make, sooner rather than later because it will be a good topper before it gets really warm.

I just purchased a bright orange silk and cotton fabric that has good body–it will be just right for this design. I went to Saks to see the details of this jacket, it has wide elastic at the cuff and a small rather pointed collar. It should be fairly easy to find a pattern that I can adapt to this style. I think it would look better with longer (ankle) tapered pants. I always prefer long and slim under short and full.

I’d better get sewing!

Ta-ta for now.

Project MyWay #3–Black Cashmere Knit Coat

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I live in the Chicago area and E jokes and says that in June we turn our furnace off and airconditioning on. Unfortunately, most springs are quite chilly and wearing a coat, especially at night is not uncommon. But I’m so sick and tired of my winter coats–I want to have them cleaned and put them away until next winter!

We have 2 good fabric stores in Chicago and Vogue Fabrics has a cashmere knit I’ve been lusting over. It’s a substantial weight (2 ply?) fine gauge knit, like you see on better sweaters. At about $55/yard I let Vogue “keep it” until I came up with a design idea.

I love, love, love this coat! The pictures don’t do it justice. When I get my dressform, I’ll try to take a better picture.

I used Burda 8009 and gave it a asymmetrical front and a stand-up collar and eliminated the front darts by simply folding them together before cutting.  (You can purchase this pattern at The Sewing Place.com) 

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I unerlined the coat with  mid-weight silk twill to stabilize the knit and give it some warmth. I attached the lining to each pattern piece, right sides together and sewed a 1/4″ seam around all sides, leaving an opening to turn. I left the armseye, sleeve and neckline edges raw. When I sewed the seams, I used a scant 1/2″ seam. I was a little worried about how it would look at the hem–lined to the edge and finished before the seams were sewn. But it worked great and was a better hem finish than anything else I could have done. And, wouldn’t you know it, I saw a similar finish on a very expensive designer skirt the other day. It was light weight silk and the hem was narrow hemmed first, then the side seams were sewn. picture-051.jpg

I lined the sleeve in the traditional way,  hand stitching the sleeve cap of the lining to the armseye.

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I added 6″ to the front edge of the left front pattern piece to create the asymmetric style. I did not add to the right front, so it does not underlap, it ends at the center front.

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I found these great passementerie buttons at M.J. Trim.com . They have lots of unique buttons and trims. The internet has made it so much easier to design clothes exactly the way you envision them instead of having to settle for what can be found in the few good fabric stores.

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This coat was so much fun to sew beacuse I took some chances and everything worked out very well as I went along. I had to put it aside for a few days to wait for the buttons to arrive and I hung it where I could see it and marveled at it often. Then it came time to make the buttonholes and for some idiotic reason, I made the top bottonhole too close to the edge (about 1/2″ from the edge, should’ve been more like 3/4″ -1″) I literally almost cried, because it was such a stupid thing to do and the rest of the project turned out so perfectly. But I followed my own advice in the Tutorial, “How to fix all small and medium sewing mistakes” and I got over it. It’s not exactly perfect, but close enough.

I’ll try to get a better pictue soon!

 Ta-ta for now!

Tailoring Tips

To achieve the best results in tailored jackets and coats, know your limitations!  Don’t try to make a fully tailored jacket in a light weight, light colored fabric;  the inside structure is sure to show through.  Fabrics with texture and subtle pattern are most forgiving.  Natural fibers are easiest to press and that is half the battle of a beautifully made garment.  If you have trouble with welt pockets, make a “fake” flap and skip the pocket.  If you can’t topstitch straight, skip it. Some details are worth the extra time they take: Understitch seams wherever you can.  Add mitered corners to reduce bulk.  Hand tape roll lines so lapels fall correctly.  Grade each fabric layer in seam allowances.  Use a damp press cloth for crisp seams (use a seam roll to prevent seam allowance show through).

Tailoring Tips

  1. My favorite tailoring book:  Easy, Easier, Easiest Tailoring by Pati Palmer and Susan Pletsch
  2.  I know fabric in  ready to wear garments is not preshrunk, so I never preshrink.  So far, I’ve never had a problem.  If this makes you nervous, have fabric steam pressed or dry cleaned before you start
  3. Steam fusible interfacing before fusing– place interfacing, resin side down on fabric, hold steaming iron 1-2″ above interfacing for 5-10 seconds.  Watch it shrink!
  4. Use Easy Knit to underline all pattern pieces;  this keeps edges of interfacing and hand stitches from showing through.  It adds body and some bulk to fashion fabric.  Mark darts on the Easy Knit, cut out the dart, and fuse.  This marks the dart perfectly on the fabric and reduces bulk in the dart
  5. For a softly tailored garment, a la Armani, use the Easy Knit method above and very lightweight interfacing
  6.  For a perfect sleeve cap:  Cut a bias strip 1 1/2″ wide and 12″ long from lambswool (the lining in neckties) or from a soft, loosely woven fabric.  Stitch the lambswol to the wrong side of the sleeve head, from notch to notch, just inside the seam line, pulling slighltly taut as you sew.  This adds a little ease so sleeve fits into armhole and gives the sleeve head a nice, rounded shape. Always stitch the sleeve into the armseye with sleeve against feed dogs and the jacket side up. A sleeve head is still needed!
  7. I like to use rayon twill lining to add some body
  8. Topstitch from 1/4” to 1/2″ from edge.  The bulkier the fabric, the further away.  Use a long stitch–6″ to 8″ per inch
  9. I found an awesome method for welt pockets at The Fashion Incubator, http://www.fashion-incubator.com/mt/archives/welt_and_paper_jig.html
  10. Use a felt, suede or ultrasuede undercollar.  My favorite method comes from an old Butterick Pattern magazine. (See instuctions in Tutorials)  Miter the corners of the uppercollar when turning under the edge
  11.  Pressing is important, but too much makes a garment look old and worn out.  I take my jackets and coats to the dry cleaners for a final press. Or, hang a jacket in the closet, sandwiched snugly between other clothes to “press” the lapel 
  12. NEVER press on the right side without a press cloth
  13. Creases can be set by spraying with a solution of 25% vinegar, 75% water, covering with a press cloth and steam pressing on cotton setting

Frequently Asked Questions

My tailored jackets look limp. Any suggestions? To duplicate the look of a hand tailored jacket with fusible interfacing, you have to use layers of interfacing. If the fashion fabric isn’t too bulky, each pattern piece should be fully interfaced with a lightweight interfacing like Easy Knit. Subsequent layers of interfacing can then be added without showing through to the right side. Fusible hair canvas, with seam allowances trimmed away, should be added to the under collar from the roll line to the neck edge, on the lapel from the roll line to the outside edge, at the hem of the sleeve, front, back and optionally across the back. The Easy Knit gives the jacket body and the hair canvas causes the lapel and collar to turn gracefully.

How can I find a good fitting pants pattern? Unfortunately, the best fitting patterns seem to be found by chance and many not so good patterns must be suffered through. A few things can increase the odds of achieving a good fit. Compare a pair of pants you love to your pattern. Try to match the width of the leg, length of the crotch and waistband/hip measurement.

Add 1″ to the center back seam, easing into the crotch. Cut the waistband in two pieces, adding 1″ to the center back. This will give you some “wiggle room” for fitting the waist. Apply the waistband and finish it before sewing the center back seam. Try the pants on, check the fit and adjust at the center back seam. (The center back seam makes the pants easy to alter if they need to be tightened or let out at a later date.)

How can I pick the best fabric for a garment? First, look at the suggested fabrics on the back of the pattern envelope. Fabrics are listed in order with the best-suited fabric listed first. If you are considering a fabric not suggested by the pattern envelope, think about the drape the design requires. Heavy, stiff fabrics are best for tailored styles that fit close to the body. Designs with gathering or fullness need fabrics that are lighter and drapey. Bias cut skirts require fabrics with some weight, so they fall gracefully.

When using stretch woven fabrics, should I use a pattern designed for knits or wovens? Patterns made to use with woven fabrics work best with stretch wovens. Patterns designed for knits generally don’t have enough ease. Designs like slim fitting pants and skirts without much fullness are a good choice. Be sure to fit as you go as you may not need as much ease as the pattern gives.

I’m having trouble with skipped stitches on my sewing machine, any suggestions? First, make sure your machine is in good mechanical shape. Clean and oil it regularly at home and have it done professionally once a year or more depending on use. Be sure to remove lint around the bobbin case and under the throat plate. Use the right needle size and type for your fabric. Size 9, 11 and 14 are most commonly used for light (silk) to heavy weight (wool) fabrics. Sharp needles are used on wovens as they pierce the fabric cleanly. Ball point needles are designed to slip through the knitted stitches of stretch fabrics. Make sure your needle is in good shape, I use a new needle every time I start a project and if I nick a needle on a pin, I replace it. This is especially important when sewing delicate fabrics. Check your thread tension – start at a medium setting and adjust up or down until stitches lock in the middle then loosen it a little when topstitching. Try not to fool with the bobbin tension, have a repairman do that if necessary. If it’s possible on your machine, adjust the pressure on the presser foot so the fabric moves through the feed dogs easily. Sometimes there is a finish on the fabric that causes skipped stitches (a good reason to pre-wash).

Pattern sizing is so confusing, how can I find my size? Patterns base their sizes strictly on measurements so they are very consistent. Compare you most relevant measurement to the pattern size; i.e. if you are making pants compare your hip measurement or a jacket your bust measurement. These measurements are the most critical for fitting and so should be as close to the pattern as possible, other measurements can then be altered. As a general rule of thumb, go up 3 sizes from your ready-to-wear size. (Don’t freak-out! It’s only a number.)

What can be done to keep facings from popping-out? I avoid facings when possible by lining the garment or using a bias strip to finish the edge. Facings stay put best when they are understitched and tacked to seam lines by “stitching in the ditch”.

Why do my hand-stitched hems look puckery? Take long, very loose stitches, almost loopy, and only catch a thread on the right side of the fabric.

Spring Wardrobe ’08 Part 1

I’ve decided to do something a little different. Instead of planning my wardrobe a day or two before I’m in need of something and then sewing it with a pattern and fabric I have on hand (no time to shop) and finishing it an hour before I’m leaving (when I could be taking a leisurely shower and carefully doing my hair and make-up), this spring I’m going to sew a little in advance.

This has some advantages:

1)  I’ll feel organized because I’ll have what I need hanging in my closet, ready to go

2)  I’ll have time to find the perfect fabric (usually online), pattern, buttons, etc. to create exactly what I see in my mind’s eye

3)  I can poke around the stores for the perfect accessories and coordinites for my outfits (shopping at the beginning of the season when the selection is best)

4) Hopefully I can inspire you with plenty of time to create similar fashions for yourselves

and some disadvantages:

1)  I work best under pressure and when I have an event in mind it’s easy to plan exactly what I want to wear

2)  What if I finally lose that last 10 lbs.? My clothes will be too big! (ha, ha–I’ve been using that excuse for years)

3)  My stash will probably grow instead of shrink, after all, you have to grab it when you see it because great fabric is hard to find!

So, to start my experiment I will first look for inspiration. I’ll start by perusing the photos from the spring fashion shows on Style.com. In addition, I have files of pictures I’ve torn from magazines and although some are from previous seasons, sometimes the styles have caught on and feel more wearable than when they were brand new. And I have the current fashion magazines which will help me find the most wearable trends. When I’m out, I’ll stop by my favorite stores to see what’s new and pick up a piece or two to get me started.

So far, this is what I’ve found:

This is from the Brian Reyes’ 2006 collection. It would be good for early spring when the temperature is still cold, but you’re ready for lighter colors and fabrics.

 This jacket is from my archive of pictures, I don’t know whose designed it. A jacket like this is one of the first things I’ll make–it will be warm with a sweater in early spring and then a good rain jacket.

Another good season spanner, this jacket and pants can be made in light weight wool that will feel less wintery when it’s snowing in April. It’s from my picture archive from Spring ’07. It’s hard to see the details in the jacket, but what I like is the silhouette, pulled in at the waist which creates a peplum look. I can see it in wool crepe or something with some stretch, like heavy wool jersey or double knit.

This outfit looks so modern–it’s from the Badgley Mischka Spring ’08 RTW collection. I always feel like some bright color and pattern in the early spring when it’s usually bleak and cloudy.

I adore this skirt from Derek Lam’s Spring ’08 RTW collection–he shows it with this ikat top–I like that too for a casual outfit. But I can really see it in a shiny fabric (silk taffeta?) with a dressy blouse.

Finally, I have to put this green trench coat on my “to do” list as I’ve been craving it since last year. I don’t know the designer, but something about the color makes it wearable with anything from jeans to dresses in any season.

I’ll start looking for fabrics for these designs and in the meantime, I’m going to make the Nanette Lepore knock-off top to go with the black silk skirt I’m altering.

Ta-ta for now.