Saturday, December 30, 2006

SWAP #4 - Print Skirt

Finally back to sewing after the Christmas celebrations and busyness. Simplicity 9825, View D, went together easily right from the pattern. Size 16, no adjustments required. This was made in a bottom-weight cotton twill.

I had a bit of trouble straightening the grain in the fabric, and I have to wonder if it got twisted when being washed. I had sewed the ends together and put a length of at least 3m into the wash. Perhaps that is too big a piece for an agitator-type washer. I don't remember having a problem previously with the piece I cut for my jacket lining. It was a shorter length to start with, so perhaps it did not twist. Or, maybe I was not paying attention.

Anyway, after some pulling and mild cussing, the grain was in a passable state and luckily, the skirt hangs well in spite of itself.

This pattern has a wide, faced yoke at the top, and I discovered that this must be very carefully cut in order to save grief at the end. If it were necessary to make post-pattern fitting adjustments at the waist or hip, it could be quite a painful process to get facings to match the yoke exactly. The construction is similar to the plum pants waistline actually. If the side seams are taken in or let out, it would be difficult to get the exact-same seam allowances and angles on the facing. Something to fuss over, and try to get perfect on the pattern.

The skirt is eased onto the yoke, and there is a noticeable amount of ease involved. I think it is critical that the seam line be in the right place, as a even a bit narrower on the skirt side greatly increases the amount of ease to be dealt with. It could be difficult to get a smooth yoke seam in an unforgiving fabric

Twill Tape Question: The pattern suggested sewing twill tape onto the seamline when sewing the facing to the yoke. I did not do this, and it seemed to me that the twill tape would then be doubled at the edge where the facing turns back. This is edgestitched; the top of the yoke is stay-stitched; the yoke is interfaced with substantial material, so I felt the twill would be overkill. I do like the idea of something there, though, that prevents stretching at the waist. I will have to research the topic and see if the twill is supposed to be ON the seamline, or IN the seam allowance so it all turns to the back.

Research results: Julie suggests using seam binding, or a lightweight lining selvedge instead of twill on a waistline seam to reduce bulk. Now why could I not have thought of that?!

I may let the skirt hang a bit before hemming, not because it may stretch, but because I have a bit of Christmas still around my waist, and once it is gone, the skirt will drop a bit.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Plum Pants Revisited

Today I finally got around to taking some pictures of the finished pants. I wore the pants shopping, and took the pictures afterward. I was shocked to find that there are wrinkles everywhere, and not the kind you can iron out.

Also, the pants, which were very snug, (as has been previously referenced here) are now quite loose, even the waistband, which was interfaced with quite heavy pellon.

I've posted the whole lot in my SWAP photo album.

What's caused the wrinkles?
  • Hem resting on top of shoes
  • Fabric stretching out over the day
  • Grainline cutting errors
  • Needs a more substantial flat seat adjustment
  • Should have made a smaller size and hoped this would happen in the end
  • I've lost a lot of weight in the last 2 days
Next I am going to wash the pants, dry in the dryer and see if the fabric shrinks. Against my best practice, I did not pre-wash this fabric. It was inherited from my daughter, and it was a generous, unevenly cut, remnant. She probably didn't wash it either. So, in a way, this was a freebie, a good chance to practice with this pattern. Why I didn't at least pre-wash is beyond me. I totally loved these pants when I finished them.

Friday, December 15, 2006


The plum pants, Vogue 2770, [apart from the waistband problems which were entirely of my own making], went together pleasantly well from start to finish.

I worked a bit each day, and took about a week to finish them. It is Christmas after all, and there are a few other things to attend to. I think that may be a lesson, to take small chunks of time rather than working for hours on end. If you stop when something gets frustrating, the job is always easier when you come back to it the next day. If you leave when something has gone well, you have a sense of accomplishment and are encouraged to start up again in the morning, or later in the day.

Tonight I finished the waist hook and eye, and measured and put in the hems. SUddenly, I was done, but for a good pressing. I was worried about how the hem would work around the leg vents, but it was clever and neat. I followed the pattern meticulously, without trying to come up with a better way. Lesson learn over the waistband.

Pictures will come in the daylight. It's still warm out, and I can get a better picture in natural light.

What next?? Maybe the OneSeam Pants so I can get the pattern off and use it to make velour pallazzo-type pants for Christmas morning.

Or, maybe, I should just put everything away until after Christmas and look after all those other things that should be done: Cinnamon buns, miscellaneous baking, maybe even clean the house. Oh no!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Plum Pants are Percolating Perfectly

Spent a few hours this afternoon and evening working on the pants. Before breakfast I topstitched the fly front successfully, using masking tape to mark where the sewing should go. I observed that the following adjustments should be made next time around:
  • overlock the raw long edge of the fly before attaching it
  • don't forget to interface the fly facing, but more importantly, make the fly long enough to cover the bottom edge of the fly facing. Possibly cut 1/4 inch from the facing all around if it is not to be turned under (ie overlocked instead)
Seam finishes are important to me, and necessary for polyester. I really dont like the look of non-serger overlocking so I bound these seams with black tricot. I have not mastered the quick and easy way to apply it, but they look ok. Observation from doing that:
  • bind the edges of the back and front seams up to the notches BEFORE you sew the seam and BEFORE you put in the fly. Otherwise it is near to impossible to get a neat job.
I decided to put the waistband on before sewing the outside seams, as I figured there might be a fit problem at the waist, and also that I might later want to put some elastic in the back.

Afterword: This evening I got to the waistband. Discovery #1 was that I had somehow not paid enough attention to which side of the band got interfaced. This is a 3-part fitted waistband, and I had made notes on the pattern to be careful to get the sides lined up right before interfacing. There is an upside down, right-side wrong-side issue. When both sides of the fabric look the same, its possible to cut the bands so they don't match up. Well.....I had interfaced the front bands (which are different from each other) in such a way that they would not fit together with the interfacing on the back band. Not only that....but Dicsovery #2 was that all my efforts to get nice facings and do all that fussy stuff while the bands were unattached, proved to be futile, as there is no way to neatly sew them on in the zipper area with all the corners and edges already done; AND, as if that weren't enough, Discovery #3 was that the 2 layers of this fabric, especially with the grade of interfacing I used, make for a very heavy waistband in which the corners do not shape nicely, Therefore: A repair job will be necessary tomorrow:

More Afterword: (Friday) The waistband idea turned out to be a really bad one, and the pattern directions are definitely preferable, even though fitting at the waist could be tricky. As for elastic in the back, I think there must be a way to do this even by following the pattern directions. The back waistband has a few wrinkles, due I think, to the way I did the seaming 'after the fact'. Nothing too serious, as there will not likely be any tucking in of shirts.

Something to think about for the next pair. For future reference:
  • It is necessary to determine any side seam adjustement prior to cutting the waistband, and to cut the band exactly the size of the waistline.
  • Finish the edge of the waistband facing so it can be 'stitched in the ditch' instead of being folded under.
  • If elastic is going in the back, it will have to be sewed to the interfaced faced band before the facings are turned, or sewed to the facings only.

The vents at the bottom of the legs were challenging - not from a sewing point of view, but from a reading-the-directions point of view. I found them quite unclear fathoming back/front/left/right. Its one of those rotation things I cannot do well in my head. [as plainly can be seen from the waistband issue, which by the way I also messed up in the muslin] In the end, the job was quite easy.
  • I think a turned under finish on the front flap might be more attractive than overlock.
There were no major errors today, that is, up until the waistband thing, and the final try-on suggests taking in a bit at the hips, and letting out a bit at the waist and/or center back. I also need someone to check out the crotch fit, as I might consider a length adjustment above the crotch line. The pants are quite snug, but that is the style and look of the pattern. They will be quite comfy made from stretch corduroy. In the current more-poly-than-wool blend, let's just say they are not pants you would wear for a long drive.

Afterword: I let out the waist seam 1/4" on each side and lo, the crotch dropped just that little bit to result in comfort. It also seemed to help the back seam where the waist seems too low.

Time now to leave well enough alone. All that remains is the waistband fiasco, and the hems [which will be interesting around those vents] and fasteners. The side seams are done, pressed and bound, and the

The current pattern adjustment are:
  • Use size 16 throughout
  • Lower front and back crotch seam about 1/4 inch
  • Take in the back inseam about 1/4 inch [flat seat adjustment]
  • Take in outside seams at the hip [saddlebag area] about 1/4". I have no idea why this area needs to be taken in. One would think it would be the opposite.
  • Add 1/2" to the height of the back seam, tapering to nothing at the darts. Make appropriate adjustments to shape of the waistband.
  • Let out the side seams at the waist about 1/4" each side.
  • Adjust seams around the hips in the final fitting. There is a tendency to bulge just below the hip.

Saturday, December 9, 2006

SWAP #3 - Plum Pants

I didn't get sewing today until after supper, and that is not always the best time. However, I decided to cut out the plum pants. It's a Vogue Pattern, 2770. I had traced off a size 16 on Swedish tracing paper before making a muslin. When I basted it together, and tried it on, it was too small, so I cut the muslin as a size 18, using the grey striped polyester that Ali brought in the summer. By the time all the adjustments had been made, I did some measurement, it turned out I had pretty much recreated a size 16.

So, for the plum pants I decided to revisit my original tracing and make it in a size 16.

The fabric is from Ali's old stash, and matches my recent Haiku jacket in color. There was just enough left for the pants. I think it might be a wool/poly blend. Feels and acts like wool, but frays somewhat like poly, though not as bad as the muslin fabric.

The cutting went well, and the fly front was the best I have ever done. One change, the fly itself needs to have raw edges overlocked or bound before sewing it on. On pressing the front after installing the zipper, there seemed to be a bit of a shiny press mark, even though I had used a cloth -- more reason to believe a high polyester count in the fabric. It's not too noticeable, and I hope it comes out. After the fly I overlocked some critical edges, and basted the inseams for a fitting. I managed to get one side wrong side out, so I did not do any more this evening. Its good to stop when you start doing stupid things. However, in whatever fitting one can do with inseams only sewed together, it would appear that this is going to be a really good fit. Tomorrow I will sew the inseams up most of the way, baste the crotch seam and the outside seams. There may be an adjustment in the seat, but that will be it, hopefully.

Everything went well -- in the Zone as it were. It's nice when that happens. I'm looking forward to the vents at the ankles in these pants. I didn't do them in the muslin.

Friday, December 8, 2006

SWAP garment #2 - Finally DONE!

The Accursed Black Velour! After a day of rest, to let the shirt stew in its own juice for awhile, I tackled the hem this morning, with uneventful and satisfactory results, though the whole thing perhaps should be a bit shorter -- it won't be happening any time soon.

Yesterday, I visited Fabricville, and found a couple of black braids, which I purchased with the notion of decorating the neck edge and possibly removing some of the extra fullness there.

I also found a nice button to pull down the center front a bit, changing the shape, which was not overly attractive, and also using up some of the extra opening. The button, of course, precludes other neck jewellry, but that's a good thing as I don't have much of that anyway.

Both the braid and the button worked fairly well, and the shirt looks quite spiffy and quite dressy. There is a bit of a twist on the right side where the extra fullness is in the neck opening, and the shoulder seems to pull in a bit. This could be for any number of reasons from wrinkles on the underneath layer during cutting, to multiple changes in the shoulder and back seams to try to get the neck to fit. To the casual observer I think it looks fine. My summation of the major cause of the ill-fittedness and some of the many problems I had is that I used a fabric that was not recommended on the pattern. LESSON LEARNED.

Satisfaction index (maximum=10) - formerly about a 3, now about 5 with the improved neckline.

This shirt has been full of lessons, and has made me aware of several details about my own shape and also of my work habits and how I deal with frustration. What a great feeling, though, to have it done, and good enough to wear.

According to What Not To Wear, black should not be worn with bright colors, the blacks disappear, and the colors look cheap. Well, 2 of my SWAP colors and black and red, so fashion-challenged I shall remain.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

The Agony continues

Its the third day, now, and I'm still working on the shell. After much welcome advice from group members, I re-tackled the edges.

First I removed the twill tape, then cut pieces of crossgrain velour for a binding. Watched the video, clipped 1/4 inch off the seam allowance, measured , stretched, and did all the fitting fun at the neckline. The 1.5" wide velour strip would not stay together at the edges even long enough to pin it in place. Each edge rolled under itself and totally disregarded the opposing edge. I considered basting the edges together, but didn't. This strip of binding became THE ENEMY.

I toughed it out, and pinned the binding on. There is a secret to how much shorter the binding is than the neckline. I've read a few articles, watched the video, and all you can get are suggestions. Only experience tells you -- sort of like how you know when muffins are done. Anyway, the pinned neckline looked like it was going to make gatherings in the shirt fabric, so I chucked to velour strip with a MIGHTY SIGH OF DEFEAT. Thanks to input from a group member, I re-considered interfacing the neckline and folding it under.

That process went quite well. I used a light-weight pellon fusible, not the slippery knit stuff. The edges stayed put and folded under nicely. Next time I would do it before sewing together the top, as it is quite painful to get the iron on the interfacing without mushing up the shirt pieces.

I basted. The neckline looked as if it would pop out a bit, but once stitched, it seems ok. I only did one row of topstitching. Tending to leave well enough alone. One bit of one armhole has a few wrinkles. That's because, after stitching the neckline I decided to remove the basting then and there, before stitching the armholes. Somehow, I removed the basting from the armhole I had not yet sewn! I did not rebaste before stitching it. Will I never learn!

Some days are just not sewing days. However, all that's left is the hem, and with luck I'll get to that tonight. What do I like about this? I like the darts, and I like the way the back fits after the bazillion changes I made to the seam line. I'm not crazy about the neckline, and the extra fullness there annoys me. I am experimenting with a nice button at the front to hide the mistakes.

This is not a pattern I will repeat in knit -- I still like the idea of having a basic shell pattern, so I might give this one a try in a woven fabric -- with suitable modifications.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

The Agony Begins

The agony begins! And its only SWAP garment #2. The lesson is humility.

I am making a simple panne stretch velour sleeveless shell. Two days later it is still not done. I am trying to finish the neckline and armholes as simply as possible. I made something similar a couple of weeks ago, and someone suggested using Steam-A-Seam to turn under the edges, then sewing them down. I did that, and it worked fairly well, but the fabric stretched during the "Steam" part the shape has gone all wonky. This time I thought I would try to be a little more sophisticated.

My sewing mentor suggested running twill tape around the seam allowance, turning under and stitching. I thought twill was too hard for the edge and would not go around the curve very well.

The lady in the quilting shop suggested using a stretchy, clear, plastic-looking tape. Since the neckline is a bit bigger than it should be, I though that would be a good idea. NOT. Turned out awful and the machine would not sew through the tape and the velour without gathering the whole shebang into a bunch.

Lesson: Trust your mentor. Back to the twill tape option. I sewed it all onto the neckline thinking I was testing on an armhole. Turned it under, basted all in place. Tried on. The edge rolls outward and looks dreadful. Even if I sew close to the edge I think the finish will look cheap. So much for this advice.

My next option is to cut off the seam allowance and bind with self fabric, cut on the crosswise. Is this what I should have done all along?

My experience with knits is minimal. Unless I get some better advice from the forum, I will fold the binding, line up with the cut edge, stitch on with a narrow seam allowance and turn the seam down and the binding up, then stitch it down on the right side through all layers. Needless to say I am still sergerless.

Monday, December 4, 2006

SWAP garments #1 and #2

I was determined to finish a SWAP garment on Day One of the SWAP sewing time. I wanted to wear my red velvet skirt to a wedding reception Friday night, and I was able to do that. There were a few glitches in the construction, and the details of that project are posted with my SWAP photo album.

My satisfaction index for this project is about a 7.

I was away for the weekend, and yesterday (Monday) I started on garment #2. A black panne velour sleeveless shell. I had previously modified the pattern to move the bust dart so it angles up from the waist, and to lower the bust as always. It is a New Look Pattern 6483, and I have not used that brand before. I measured and drew off a size 14, with a 16 front below the armhole. This is my usual adjustment. At least as 'usual' as I can say to date.

In all due respect, the pattern is suggested for woven fabrics, not knits, so I was prepared for some possible fit problems, and thought perhaps the side or back seams would have to be taken in a bit. What I was not prepared for was that the neckline was vastly too large - even given that I had adjusted the center front to delete about a half inch of fabric at the neckline. The shoulders of the garment would have to be pull to the sides past my bra straps to make the neckline lie flat.

Fiddle-dee-dee. I poked around for awhile pulling up the shoulders, taking in the back, and trying all sorts of options to make some sort of fit. This is the part that I have most difficulty with, especially if I have worked to make fitting adjustments, then in real life (as opposed to paper fitting the pattern) things don't work out. I just don't have the experience to know what to do about fitting issues.

I had previously made a similar top from a Burda WOF pattern, and messed it up in turning under the neckline edges. Apart from that, and the resulting twistedness from the stretching, it fit quite well, and I love the look of the velour on the body. Instead of reusing that pattern, I wanted to try the version with the angled dart, and it was a spur-of-the moment thing to use the velour instead of making a muslin from a woven print.

With some help from my husband, who is not particularly handy with pins, but whose heart is in the right place, I got the shoulder seams rearranged so that everything looked as good as possible. A few more rounds of basting and re-basting finally got the back seam in place and the shoulders acceptable. There is still a bit too much fullness in the neckline, and I will likely have to design a decorative feature to hid the wrinkles. Get a lemon - make lemonade.

I love the look of this velour, and I am so glad I also have a piece of ivory in the same fabric. It will be a cowl neck top.

I learned some things about working with velour.
  • Cutting on a damp day works better than a dry day, far less static.
  • Seams do not stay even (ie edges will not stay lined up) even for basting. I had to remove the back seam and reposition everything and even with many carefully placed pins, the edges wanted to slide apart leaving one seam allowance narrower than the other. Pulling stitches from a knit is a pain, so watch this carefully, baste carefully, and sew on the SA side of the basting.
I also learned some things about my body.
  • Right shoulder is lower and much more forward - computer mouse side.
  • Right upper back is wider than the left side. Very obvious in the back armhole of the tank top. I will have to make the SA much narrower there to accomodate.
  • I already knew one shoulder seam was 1/2" longer than the other, but that does not seem to show.
  • In the last 2 garments, the twist in my torso seems to make the right side of the garment feel smaller than the left. I still have to explore this - is it true, or just sloppy seaming or off-grain cutting.
I think the next thing I should learn is not to be quite so picky. None of the above is majorly problematic. Only I would notice.

I'm now in a conumdrum about this pattern, though. Should I start over with a smaller size, should I use what I have and figure out how to reduce the neckline, should I make what I have in a woven to see how it fits in the recommended fabric. Probably all of the above.