Sunday, August 24, 2014

Methinks I should make another one...

Another Kay Unger dress, that is.

I picked up Vogue 1353 recently.  I've had it in mind for a while.

Beth of SunnyGal Studio posted a helpful exposé of this pattern a year ago.  Her initial review ended on a sour note, but she recently made it again so I guess she loves it after all.

And I have this.  It's a silk sari.  Luckily, the dress is lined because the sari is pretty sheer.  It's woven with a seersucker grid which livens up the plain part in the middle.  

This pattern is ideal for a border print, because the hem is completely straight.  

I have it in mind to try to cut the front neck using the rounded ochre part, and the rest of the bodice in red. But I reserve the right to change my mind. I might cut the skirt double, if I have enough fabric...

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Another FO

So I also finished the Sandra Betzina shirt (Vogue 1385).  It's not in danger of supplanting my shingle dress for favorite project status.  In time, I may come to love it.

I was apprehensive about sewing this unusual fabric (fuzzy "woollen" embroidered lace on a sheer silk base) for nothing, as it turned out.  It behaved very well, even for buttonholes.

All seams are French seams - sewn first pass with a narrow serged seam and the second pass on the sewing machine.

I ended up cutting about 8" off the bottom to make it a standard shirt length.  I have worn it as a light topper (today over this version of Vogue 1250).  I also made self-fabric tie belt for it, but so far have not actually used it.

Quoi d'autre?

I used grey silk organza for the facings as you can see on this inside-out shot.  This particular organza is quite stiff so I did not need any interfacing and the entire effect is as light/sheer as possible.

The inside-out shot also shows the darting.  If I were to make this shirt again (as I said before) I'd make that top-shoulder dart less deep and try to move some darting to the back.  The back neck could be higher/snugger and darting would help that.  I am also planning to make the sleeve cuff darts deeper - they're a little floppy.

I wonder what my stash will move me to make next?

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

It's always the way

I thought:  "It's a nice evening, I'll take pictures of my newest creation outside for a change."

So I did.

.... and ....

All the best ones are headless.

Or blurry.

Or both (almost).

Sigh.  Enjoy these not-on-me detail shots, where you can see the texture of the fabric.  It's really interesting.

This is one comfy dress.  Still my favourite.

Monday, August 4, 2014


Making the shingle dress is kind of addictive.  I could not stop sewing ...

I think getting a good fit on the base is critical.  Whatever fit flaws are in the base will translate to the shingles. I'm glad I figured out how to adjust the side seams and neckline for my figure, and I'm super glad I figured out the horizontal back waist dart before I started stacking this dress.

Yes stacked.  Bottom to top.  A layer at a time.

It was quite the process. Making this had me running from my serger (where I did a narrow rolled edge along my chosen hemline stripe) to the cutting room with my yardage and the base pieces to cut the shingles. Then back to the sewing machine to baste them in place.  It was back and forth about two dozen times.

Preparing for the next shingle 
I lengthened the dress so it's between views A and B. This meant adjusting the length of the shingles.  I added about 2" (5cm) to the bottom of the lowest shingle and 1" (2.5cm) to the middle one to keep the proportions (more or less) equivalent to the original. I did this on the fly.

I started with the lowest layer which I lengthened to match my base (actually 1cm longer, so the base will remain hidden when the dress is worn).  I basted it to the base at the sides and top.  When I was satisfied that it was lying smooth, I sewed the top down using a 3 step zig-zag stitch and trimmed off the excess above the stitching.

Next layer.  I did my narrow rolled hem, put the fabric on the cutting table (as in the photo to the right), laid the base pieces on top, figured out where the top edge of the next shingle should be (using the original shingle pattern pieces).  I cut the side edges using my adjusted base as a guide rather than the pattern piece.

Rinse and repeat.  Two more times.

Back dart - 3cm at its deepest point

The back dart is at left.  I slashed between the seam lines and overlapped the dart, sewing it closed with a 3 step zig-zag stitch.  Then I trimmed it close to the stitching on both sides.  The power mesh isn't going to fray any time soon.

I had to adjust the second shingle from the top for the back waist dart.  I was on my way to inventing the necessary technique, but on reading PR reviews, I found that JudyCook had blazed the trail, with Sarah Veblen's help.  My approach was slightly more approximate.  I pinned at the side seams and then smoothed the fabric up at the top until it was the same length as the power mesh base.  You can see, in the photo with the ruler, that the upper edge is curved where I did this.  I stitched in a straight line and trimmed off the excess.

As others have written, it's essential to do the back and front at the same time, so the shingles match at the side seams.  I still had to fudge once I was putting them together.  I just pulled out the basting stitches at the side seams, and pulled the errant shingle into place, pinned and stitched.  Stretchy fabric is very forgiving, luckily.

The side seams are thick!  At least 4 layers everywhere and 6 where the shingles overlap.   I trimmed the base and the overlapped layers too, before serging the side seams with a four thread "safety stitch".

Neck and arm openings bound.  Finished.

I will wear it tomorrow. I am pretty sure it's my new favorite dress.

Shingle dress - the base

Up next is Vogue 8904, the Marcy Tilton shingle dress.

Before getting my hands on the pattern envelope I had not realized that it is designed as a tank dress with applied layers, so that it is at least two layers of your fashion fabric everywhere.

The fabric I intend to use is striped but has a bit of a puckered texture that would undermine the intended rather sleek look of this dress.

So, I went stash-diving, looking for a smooth and stretchy fabric.  And I came up with power mesh.

Now, don't laugh too hard, people.  It's smooth and stretchy, will not show through, and will be a distinctly firm base for this sleek dress.  Might, in fact, help keep it sleek, if you get my drift.  It will not curl at the hem.  And it's not hot to wear either.  

Wow, ugly!
I studied the pattern envelope carefully and flat measured the pieces (made easy by the fact that they are not half patterns to be cut on the fold). I realized that the intended fit is below zero ease at the bust with front and back having precisely the same horizontal dimension.  At the hip, the fit is zero ease.  At the waist, it's almost baggy.

I cut based on my body measurements i.e. 10 at bust, 12 below, and added very generous seam allowances. Then I sewed it up and tried it on (inside out so I could fix the seams).

This is after I unpicked the side seams at bust level and scootched the front pieces inwards to give myself about 2cm more width.  I think I need a couple more.

I also sewed it in about 2cm at each side through the ribs to high hip.  I might sew myself a bit more room at the hip to keep it a bit looser than skin tight.

The front neck was gapping very noticeably so I sewed a dart that is approximately 1cm at the top.

And the back.  Well what do you know, even Vogue's pencil shaped model has wrinkling at the back waist.  And so, not being pencil shaped, do I.  It is completely inevitable in a single pattern piece per side dress with no darting.

I am, however, sewing a horizontal fisheye dart at the waist.  If you embiggen the photo at left you will be able to pick it out.  My goal is to remove just some of the excess.  My first attempt was a total of 2cm at CB but it wasn't enough.  Now I've taken out at least 3.5.  And there is still wrinkling, but no more than on the pencil shaped lady.

And finally, I shortened it so it is somewhere between the mini of View A and the dowdy of View B.

I will now modify the base and shingles accordingly, hoping that the more forgiving stretch of my fashion fabric won't be a  hopeless mismatch with my chosen base.  See you on the other side.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

This is magic

Purple Haze Cardigan
I have a new knitting project.  It's going to be a V-necked cardigan someday.

What's so magical?  Its perfect top-down seamlessness.  Moreover, look at the shoulder!  (Mine is a little wonkier than this one, but one can dream.) The pattern is Slanted Sleeven by Ankestrick on Ravelry. It's a contiguous pattern - contiguous knitting is a technique where you knit the back, front and shoulder/sleeve cap seamlessly and top-down. Some contiguous patterns aim at a sleeve that mimics a set-in style but this one looks more like a classic seamed knitted shoulder.  I think it's brilliant.

I'm making my cardigan with ColourMart yarns - 100% alpaca held together with a cashmere/cotton lace weight to get a deeper, richer colour (which is impossible to photograph accurately) and the right gauge.  Once the yarn is washed after knitting, it fluffs up and the knitting evens out beautifully.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Miscellaneous developments

I finished my latest knitting project.   Here it is on Ravelry.  It's a cotton top and I fear it may become an orphan.  It's too dark to coordinate with grey or black.  Why didn't I anticipate this?

This is the same cotton slub yarn I used last year for some rather more successful items.  But this is heavier.  It's knitted with four strands of the lace-weight yarn that I used single for my Ethereal top and double for my Featherweight cardigan.

Unfortunately, the tendency of this yarn to bias is not manageable at this weight.  I shall have to learn to live with a top that twists.

I went to Montreal on the weekend to meet up with some other bloggers.  Strangely, I do not have a single photo of this gathering!  Among the group were Caro (our fearless leader), VickiAnne-MarieClaire and Julie.  Heather Lou of Closet Case Patterns also joined us after work on her very last day.  Watch for more from her, coming soon!

For anyone who is interested in fabric shopping in Montreal, Caro prepared guides to two distinct fabric shopping areas in the city:  St-Hubert Street and Chabanel.  To shop Chabanel, where we went on Friday, you have to have the addresses since most of the stores are well-hidden on the 4th or 7th floor of several non-descript buildings.  Most of the businesses are not open on weekends, unfortunately.  I demonstrated remarkable discipline, picking up only two pieces.

One is tentatively earmarked for Vogue 8904 - the Marcy Tilton shingle dress.

Yikes that model is long and skinny!

I had a look at the instructions and noticed that each of the shingles is sewn on a full dress piece, so this dress has at least 2 layers of fabric on every square inch. Also, the lower edges of each shingle are supposed to be left raw.

I will look in my stash for a lightweight and smooth knit to use as a base since the fabric I bought has texture. Also, I will experiment with small hems since I have no interest in the tightly rolled edges that my jersey fabric will probably make (especially after washing).

I'll get right on that project since summer is fleeting.

Meanwhile, Vogue 1385 is in time-out.  I cut the longer length and it is practically a dress. I need to  decide how much to remove so I can wear it as a shirt (in or out).  I think I'll make a tie belt for it.  And then I need to figure out what to do about buttons. And, more to the point, buttonholes.  I don't really look forward to sewing them in this fabric.


Given the properties of my fabric, I had decided to sew French seams using a narrow serged seam in the first pass.  Imagine my surprise to see that this is exactly what the instructions say to do!  It worked very well.

The order of construction is strange.  You sew the raglan seams together, then apply the facings, and only after that do you make the darts that shape the neckline.  It is, in consequence, impossible to try this on as you are making it.  At left, I'm pinning the darts out prior to applying the facings to see if it is going to work.

(Those hairy white blobs you can see are little pieces of white paper labels holding down poorly-done tailors tacks - the only way I could think of to mark the many points that needed marking on my strange fabric.)

I made the facings from grey silk organza to avoid bulk and to keep the facing as invisible as possible.  It's not my best ever work, but will do.

As for style/fit, my only dislikes are that the armscye is pretty low and I find the transition from the pleated/ruffly front neckline to the smooth back neckline a little abrupt.  It's a bit too "coffin clothes" for my liking.

At right is the most graphic view of that.  If I was going to make this again, I would monkey with the pleat at the shoulder to make it less full, and add at least a couple more pleats at the back raglan seam and somewhere in the back neckline.  Not to add fullness or shaping, just enough to keep the effect going.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

A long tunic top

Yes, a long tunic top is what I need to wear with these.

I suppose the basic fit is better, but as usual a different fabric (lots more stretchy recovery in this RPL doubleknit) makes a world of difference to the garment.

There is still a bit of extra length in the back.  Sigh.

For my next sewing trick I'm going to try Vogue 1385.  I was drawn to this pattern when it first came out, and a couple of prolific bloggers (Margy and Shams) have made truly wonderful garments from it.  I love the pleated neck and sleeves, and the raglan sleeve seams in back.

I'm using this fabric.  It's a fuzzy yarn (probably acrylic) embroidered on a silk (chiffon?) background. I threw caution to the winds and cut it out without testing the fit first.

I'll use silk organza instead of self-fabric for the facings.

I'm hoping for a nice looking but light weight topper for the rest of the summer.

Friday, July 4, 2014

That flat seat thing

I decided to tackle the Barb Pant pattern issues while I could still remember what they were.  

Step one:  pin out the extra fabric.

It's an awful lot.  When I undid the pinning (having replaced the pins to outline what had been pinned out) this is what I was confronted with.

It's roughly 2cm of length below the back waist, and 2.5cm at the widest point of each under-seat fisheye dart.  

Step two:  draw that on the pattern piece (at right).  Hmm ... that was strangely easy.  But now what?

Step three: think.  How the heck do I get those adjustments to the outer edge?  Photo at left was an effort to see if I could use the technique that Kenneth King wrote about in issue 102 of Threads Magazine. Basically, you measure the pinned out dart at each line and then take that amount out at the other end of the line you have drawn perpendicular to the CL of the dart.  The result here (red lines show the adjusted seam lines) didn't fill me with confidence, since it would have the effect of taking horizontal width out of the CB which I am pretty sure wasn't part of my problem.  

Step four:  research.  Good old Google.  I plugged in the term "flat seat adjustment" and up popped (among many other sites) the brilliant Flickr tutorial authored by the brilliant Ann Rowley.  

All of my faithful readers will no doubt recognize this elegant lady, the winner of the first go-round of the Great British Sewing Bee.  She is a talented knitter as well as a fabulous seamstress.  Her photo exposé on the making of Vogue 8804 (the Chanel-ish jacket, my version of which is languishing for a second summer in a UFO closet of shame) beautifully illustrates all 94 (94!!) steps from the pattern instructions.  I bow down to Ann Rowley, truly.  

But I digress.  Her flat seat adjustment instructions are oh-so-simple and, miracle of miracles, they end up producing precisely the result I am pretty sure I need.  

Cutting lines
Step five:  Slice, dice and adjust. Mark one cutting at right angles to the straight of grain, through the crotch point; one running up through the waist, parallel to the grain; and one at an angle intersecting with the crotch curve.  

Adjusted pattern
The result is at right. Black marks the cutting lines, green shows how much they are overlapped.  Blue shows the original pattern piece outlines and red shows the adjusted piece.  As you can see, the crotch curve is lower and the CB seam is more vertical (less darted).  The back waist is lower and the side seam more curved.  

I followed Ann Rowley's instructions to the letter, including the amounts she said to adjust.  This had no automatic relationship with my particular figure, but it so happens that the distance between the more or less horizontal green and black lines (the fisheye dart in action) is 2.5cm, which is exactly what I needed to remove as per my pinned out darts.  The adjustment also narrows the back waist somewhat, which I needed to do anyway, so I will not add this back at the side seams.  

The question remains whether I need to take more length out at CB.  I will try sewing this pattern as adjusted to this point, having taken Ann Rowley's words of wisdom to heart:  

"The suggested size of the diagonal overlap may be adjusted but even so you're unlikely to get a totally flat smooth seat. Do remember that you need to bend, stretch and most importantly, sit down! Don't be tempted to over fit ."

Stay tuned.  

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

In the interests of science I will show you these pictures

Until last week, The Sewing Lawyer has been able to defend herself from all transient thoughts that perhaps all those other bloggers who looooooove Style Arc are probably on to something pretty good.  But when the company recently offered a digital download copy of their Barb's Stretch Pant pattern to anyone willing to subscribe to its newsletter, resistance was futile.

So how did I spend my Canada Day mid-week holiday?

Looks good from the front ...
Testing the pattern, of course!  I used some beefy and synthetic sort of double knit from deep stash.  It has 50% stretch width-wise but no lycra (I think).  It is an unfortunate colour for trousers, but this is a muslin so who cares?

The only problem is that these are seriously comfortable.  I might actually want to wear them...  But maybe not outside the house or with top tucked in.

Style Arc sent me 3 sizes (the size I chose as the best match to my measurements plus one smaller and one bigger) which was very generous, since one of the reasons I haven't been a customer was reluctance to commit to a single size.  I had chosen the size 10 because it was the closest to my hip measurement (38.6" or 98cm) but my waist is between sizes 6 and 8.  If I was making a top, I'd probably go with an 8.

In the interests of science, I did not do a single modification before cutting these out, despite the fact that the back piece didn't look like most of the pants patterns that fit me. This draft is clearly for someone who has a bigger/more projecting derrière.  Normally I'd prefer a more scooped back crotch curve with less of a big ole dart (i.e. a more straight up and down CB seam).

And the camera shows that I was right to be skeptical.  There is fabric pooling below the waistband and a lot of excess at the back upper leg.  From the side, you can see how flat I am.  

I also knew the waist would be too big and it was.  I took approximately the 5cm (2") difference between sizes 8 and 10 out by way of a side-seam dart, blending to nothing at the full hip.  I took a corresponding amount out of the waist band piece.

So what is the verdict?

Well, if I was going to make these to wear out of the house, I'd clearly have to tweak the fit. Nothing so surprising about that.

As for style, Style Arc describes these as featuring a "slimmer leg but not too slim, perfect for the office".  The leg width is pretty perfect.  I'm not sold on the pull-on stretch pants for my office wardrobe, however could definitely imagine wearing this style with a casual tunic length top or sweater.

In other news, I managed to snap this photo of the Snowbirds flying in formation over my house today on their way to Parliament Hill.  Happy Canada Day!