Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Hitting Walls -- Climbing Walls

This has not been a particularly productive sewing week. Mostly I've fussed and fidgeted over things that gave me trouble earlier. It seems, though, that the fussing is gradually moving things forward toward the finish line.

The Beige Blouse: I tackled the sleeve alterations that I had been procrastinating. I had moved the shoulder seam forward, and ended up with a twisted sleeve. I could not alter the sleeve much as it was already cut. Ultimately, after several failed attempts to figure it out, I had to pull the back portion of the sleeve cap up a fair bit to get rid of the twistedness. This was strictly trial and error, mostly error. Many bastings in and out. Many coffee breaks. I ended up eliminating most of the fullness in the sleeve cap. All-in-all, it does not look bad, especially as I am not all that crazy about full sleeves anyway, fashion not-with-standing.

I did some fashion consultation with my daughter, and decided to leave the redesigned sleeves as is, but shorten the blouse an inch or so. This is a lovely design, but definitely should not have been made in a sheer fabric - (nor modelled as such with a black bra underneath). I actually thing the muslin is a better job -- though it is also a very soft cotton, and it also is not finished yet.

What's left: Re-do the hem, hem the sleeves, buttons and button-holes. So far, this shirt has hassled me at the shoulder seams, the collar, and the sleeves - so presumably, I have a few hassles left before I can kiss it goodbye -- or should I say 'hello.'

One-Seam Pants: These were cut out in December, but not made up - waiting on a friend's pair to try on. Last week, I re-cut from Medium to Small --which took far longer than it should have, and changed from patch pockets to elephant ear ones, which were too bulky for my fabric. The EE pockets require a slit to be made in the side of the pants. This is definitely a good thing to procrastinate -- no second chances.

I got one pocket almost finished and stumbled head-long into confusion over the directions near the end. It was only about 4 hours before Louise Cutting herself answered my plea on the Stitchers forum, telling me to do what made perfect common sense. The directions on the pattern have more recently been revised to eliminate the confusion. Did you know -- there are 40,000 OneSeam pants pattern out there scattered around the world.

Now I need to decide whether to put in the second pocket or leave it at one. Personally, I like to have a pocket in pants, but only for a kleenex -- so really, why do I need two?

Without the second pocket, I should have these whipped up in a couple of hours according to some online comments. Well, maybe no the first pair.

Jean Jacket: My wonderful jacket is fully done except for the snaps. I bought snaps. I tried a test snap using a cutting board on the kitchen counter for a hammering base. The result was hideous. This is where I learned that there are decent snaps with hard little pokey things on the underneath part; and there are idiotic snaps with little round springs, and bulky unattractive underparts. I checked out some of my store-bought clothes and lo, they all have the snaps with the little pokey bits. Off to the store, only to find they have only one package left....more waiting for me! But I am glad I did not compromise on the fasteners, because I really am quite thrilled with the way it turned out.

Reversible Jacket: This will be the second jacket of my SWAP. My friend Lynn and I have been planning to take this course for awhile. It's a stippled, reversible jacket, and I am using a Saf-T-Pockets pattern, sans appliques. I have no color sense, so I went to our local quilt shop and got some assistance picking good quality cotton for the 2 sides, and the binding. Not only did the 3 patterns have to go together, but they had to go with my SWAP pieces. It is amazing how many things won't work, and how few will in a case like this. $84 later I had my fabric, but not the batting or flannel for inside the two layers. I need to talk to people about that to decide what is best. At these prices, it's good that this will end up being 2 jackets. Comparatively, my lovely jean jacket of which I am so fond, cost a maximum of $20, all bits and bobs included.

It's good to have the fabric decision made on this. The first class is Feb 9. Between now and then, I should do some checking of the pattern for fit, maybe whip up a muslin with something in the stash -- or a vest perhaps to go with the SWAP.

Monday, January 29, 2007

I was Tagged!

Five things about myself worth sharing --- Hmmmm. I wonder if I would pick the same 5 things tomorrow!

1) One husband, 4 children, 4 grandchildren -- I have always lived in Eastern Canada (the real Eastern Canada, not Toronto.) I live in Quispamsis near Saint John, NB in a beautiful area of rivers and rolling hills where today the wind chill is -27C. The ocean is 30 minutes away. The sea calls often to me -- and I answer frequently, but not this time of year.

2) Most of my travelling has been in the Maritimes and Maine, but I've made 2 driving trips across Canada, both incredible experiences. My only trans-Atlantic trip was to Egypt the first year my daughter went there to work. My husband and I drove, in October 2005, to the Grand Canyon - what a rush! For this trip we stayed off the interstates and ate in local (and sometimes dingy) diners - hence unofficially naming the trip the "Dingy Diner Tour" - not terribly fair to some of the establishments, but we got an introduction to real small-town America that was informative and often entertaining. This past fall I took a trip with tai chi friends to Costa Rica for a workshop and a tour where I sloshed in sandals through the jungle and saw my first active volcanos.

3) I volunteer as an instructor with the Taoist Tai Chi Society, which is one of my enduring passions. Our particular form of tai chi is designed for to maintain and improve health, and I can say that I am thrilled to have made it thus far with no arthritis, a disease that seriously plagued both my parents.

4) I am also passionate (in an amateurish way) about photography, though I do not spend as much time at it since I have re-invented myself as a sewist last May. My spirit is fed by nature, and by making photographs that reflect the beauty that I find in landscape and detail.

5) I am retired from my most recent job as a Community College instructor where I taught various subjects in the Academic Upgrading Department, returning to the workforce rather late in life after completing an M.Ed in Adult Education. I miss some aspects of the workplace, but I sure love being retired with my time open to pursue whatever the day brings.

Well, there you have it. I'm not sure about tagging other folks. I'm not organized enough to know who's been tagged and who has not at this point - so I will have to reflect on that for a bit. I occasionally read the various blogs from the Stitchers members, and I love to read the advice and progress we are all making with our SWAPS.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

SWAP #5: Red Jalie CrossOver Top

Finally another item completed -- and not one of the 3 previously being worked upon!

I was anxious to try my hand an another knit after getting some advice from the Stitchers group. My Jalie pattern had arrived from Julie, and with it some cotton-lycra jersey that was begging to be made into something. Unlike the Jalie T-shirt pattern, this one has a wide band sewn on the crossed edges. Since my binding attempts have been disastrous, I thought this might be a bit easier.

Combining advice and previous experience I decided to make Julie's recommended pattern, the Crossover, from the red jersey. To me, it seemed there was barely enough stretch to match the pattern recommendation, however, I decided to proceed anyway.

Jalie CrossOver - a piece of cake: I traced the pattern according to my measurements - or to be specific, my pre-Christmas measurements. I was surprised to find that it fits perfectly through the shoulders and sleeves. It is only at the waist, and through the lower back that the sizing seems a bit off. It turns out I was off by an inch in my waist measurement. Also, there are some rolls in the area of the waist that do not take kindly to snugness. On the other hand, there is enough fabric in the cut of the garment (and the extra 1.5 inches that I added for my long waist) to make crosswise wrinkles which hide some of the underlying imperfection. In retrospect I should have used a larger size for the side seams. This would mean the upper part of the sleeve would also be wider to accomodate, but that would work out all right I think.

The tracing and cutting took a couple of hours, and the sewing of this garment did not take much longer than that, though I did it in several sittings. Much of the time was spent experimenting on scraps to get settings correct on the serger, and on holding my breath hoping everything was going ok.

There were no difficulties to speak of. I used a 4-thread overlock for sewing on the band, my sewing machine for the shoulders seams because of the way the back neck is finished, and the serger for the other seams. Sometime I basted first. I hemmed the bottom as stated below on my sewing maching. Only a couple of tiny bits had to be picked out and I ended up a very happy camper -- sitting snugly by the fire.

I am pleased with this shirt in spite of its tight fit. It is comfortable, and will probably stretch a little over time. Also, I hope to shrink a little over time.

This is the first garment I made with my serger. It is also the first T-shirt type garment that actually turned out well. I think I've learned enough to handle more knits.

Some of my discoveries:
  • each knit is entirely different from its siblings, and needs a lot of experimental stitching of remnants to get the machine and the serger geared up to work with the fabric.
  • the pattern size can probably be adjusted to accomodate knits without the right amount of stretch....this I will work on as time goes by
  • for this pattern, quartering the band left one of the quarters with too much fullness. This shows on the left front. I should have followed my instinct and adjusted it before serging the band on. I can't quite figure why the other side did not seem to have the same problem. Perhaps a subtlety of how the ends of the band meet at the side seams or something.
  • I learned how to follow the ribs with a steel ruler and chalk marker to get each pattern piece on the straightest grain possible after prewashing indiscriminately. Wash and examine a square, and go from there.
  • I learned how the differential feed works on my new serger, and managed to adjust it quite well to the various seams and edges.
  • I found a stretch stitch on my machine that makes a great hem - 2 rows of straight stitches with zig-sags between. From a distance it looks kind of like a cover stitch.

I made two changes to the pattern.
  • I added 1.5 inches for waist length adding it above the waist at the long seam side, and below the V of the neck on the short seam side of the front, straight across above the waist on the back.
  • I added 2" to the sleeve length, and then added a band to the bottom the same width as the front band. This makes the sleeves actuually 3/4. The pattern is far short of a 3/4 sleeve. Also, I think this makes a much nicer sleeve finish than a simple hem.
Next time, I am making this with a stretchier knit, and I will use a larger pattern size for the side seams and the upper arm of the sleeve.

Pattern Issues:
  • There is something odd about the way the side seam at the waist sucks in where the band connects. It is most likely connected to the fact that the fabric is under stress at that point, and would not occur if it were a larger size.
  • I don't like the way the back neck is finished, with just a foldover 1/2" stitched down. It looks sloppy, and does not fit as neatly as I hoped at the shoulder edge. It would be nice if the band could be continued over the back neck. Maybe an experiment at some time, but I would hate to mess with the fit of the front in doing something to that nice band.
  • In the directions it says to match the notches when sewing on the band. I did not see any notches on the shirt front or the band, but the illustration suggest quartering each, so that's what I did. I think it would make sense to measure and mark the quarters on the pattern, then transfer those makings to the fabric at cutting time. That's my brainwave for now, anyway.

Friday, January 19, 2007

SWAP update - Progress and Procrastination

I've been sewing almost every day since the last posting, but seem to have fallen off in noting my progress.

The beige blouse is on the back burner for a bit. I need to adjust the sleeve cap to accomodate the forward shoulder adjustment, but the sleeves are already cut so I don't have much wiggle room. I've learned it's usually better to let something annoying rest for awhile before taking it up again.

Jean Jacket - Change of Plan: Meanwhile, I started work on my delicious red wool jean jacket, starting with a muslin of my red and black print. This was to have been the lining, but the fabric is quite heavy, and of course it 'sticks' when you try to put it on. Not suitable for a lining, but quite spectacular as a jacket in it's own right.

So I decided to make it 'wearable' and cut the remaining pieces - collars, bands, etc. and spent about 3 full days working on it. It was a delight to make, and I discovered topstitching thread in the process. The jacket, Vogue 7610, is a Sandra Betzina pattern. The directions are meticulous, and though there area a lot of pieces, they fit together flawlessly. I found the waist measurement to be too large and had to take in the seams in the back panels, and the side seams to make a snug fit around the bottom.

I also decided to line the jacket with a red bemberg rayon lining. It was slippery and frustrating to work with, especially since there was no lining pattern, so I made a few boo-boos in the cutting. Nothing serious though, and I think the lining adds to the overall effect.

The only difficulty with this pattern was in topstitching the front lapel portion. On all the other topstitching, I could use regular thread in the bobbin, but for the fronts, the lapel turns so the 'wrong side' is actually the visible part for the first few inches. I had a problem getting the bobbin tension adjusted so that both sides of the topstitching were good to look at. A little more practice perhaps would have avoided some ripping out. My local sewing mentor suggested writing down the settings used, and the screw position for my bobbin casing, and saving those with the pattern. I also made notes of the needle position and what foot I used as a guide for the topstitching.

All that remains of the jacket now is to topstitch the bottom band and the cuffs, and to install the snaps down the front.

Impact on SWAP: Changing jacket plans definitely changes some of my SWAP plan. The flowered jacket will not go well with the plum pants, and only so-so with the red velvet skirt. However, it frees up the red wool to be pants or a skirt. My sewing club thinks I could pull off wearing red pants. I'm not absolutely sure about that, and I know skirt would work well, but probably get worn less. Regardless, my SWAP is reordering itself. I have lots of options and have not boxed myself into a corner yet. Though I still must keep in mind Julie's advice that the "PLAN" is supposed to be in place before the sewing starts. Not my style, but definitely good advice, and something to learn from.

Two parcels of fabric arrived recently, one from Timmel's, and one from Wazoodle. I have some lovely red jersey from Julie which has some substance, and will make a great t-shirt which will not stretch out of shape. I also have some sparkly black knit from Julie which is quite stretchy, and drapes softly. Then, from Wazoodle, I have some black bamboo jersey which feels like butter - very thin and soft, and very very black. I have never heard of bamboo fabric until recently, and I'm not sure what it will turn out to be like to work with and wear. I also have some $3/m red cotton jersey from W. which I am using as muslin material to test out some T-shirt patterns.

Knits seem to be problematic for me. This picture shows my first attempt at a Jalie T-shirt, and as I was sewing on the neck band, I was already composing the email describing how I had finally created a wearable T-shirt without stretching the neck. Then I tried it on and found the neck looks absolutely awful, and is terribly stretched in the back especially. Also, I followed Jalie's directions carefully, and still the band looks lumpy and wavy on the front. Something is not working here, most likely it's me.

I am going to cut the current neck off, and put a folded band on the front which turns toward the back and is stitched on the actual shirt rather than on the band itself. I have actually done this successfully once on a tank top. Now that I have a serger, the inside won't look too, too scruffy. Nevertheless, I still need to learn how to make a neckline that is not stretched out in the sewing. This particular knit is very stretchy, possibly exacerbating the problem, but I would really like to tackle one of those nice knits from Julie, and I want to get the technique down beforehand.

The grandchildren have a snow day, so its time to get my 8-year old grandson started on his flannel shirt. I think he will become bored after the easy seams are done, but we'll see.

Monday, January 8, 2007

SWAP #5: Beige Blouse - Continued

This was a stormy day. The first snow since early December, and more like freezing rain. Nasty to be out, so my plans for the day were cancelled. One would expect to spend the day in fabulous sewing, or at least in doing chores from the back burner. However, this was not to be so. Mostly frittered it away, and then finally decided to tackle the errant BB (beige blouse) collar.

I think this collar is giving me grief because of the interfacing. It is just too heavy and inflexible for what is required to fit the collar. The muslin collar went in much more easily.

The method used is to attach the stand to the collar, then sew the outside edges of the collar together. The under-collar stand is sewed to the back neck, then the front 2 collar pieces are sandwiched between the shirt front and the turned back facing. Sounds good in theory, but there is some interesting curve matching involved.

I finally got it reasonably in place only to discover that the front facing was not hanging right on one side. Took that side out, and re-did it only to find out that the bit of shirt that extends beyond the collar in the front is not the same on both sides. More obvious in real life than in the picture. There is something funny going on at the shoulder seam on the "bad" side. Once I fix that, maybe the edge will move back enough to match the "good" side. Back to the drawing board.

The lesson from this is to start at the front and fix the collar edge in place then work to get everything else to fit right. The other lesson is to use very fine interfacing, or at least not fusible. Then, there is the lesson that if one is to put those circles of stitching to help the collar stand up in the back they should NOT be on the undercollar, as this will show when the upper collar is standing!! DUH. The circles should be at the back neck of the upper collar, where they won't show regardless of whether the collar is up or down. Also, they should be very neat compared to what I did when I was thinking they would never show at any time.

Learning is such fun!!!

Tonight I will be at my tai chi class, so will not likely get to tackle the collar again. I think it needs to be totally taken off and reapplied. I am wondering if I should cut the seam back to maybe 3/8" and work from there. I think the side partially interfaced seam allowance is part of the problem. If the whole thing is apart, I can hopefully get all the seams the same width and start over. How I hate ripping stuff out - especially when I should have been able to do it right in the first place.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

SWAP #5: Light Beige Blouse - Burda WOF

For the last couple of days I have turned my attention back to the Burda WOF shirt, Oct/06 #106. The muslin was partially done, and I had quit at the sleeves when I discovered that they were quite full at the sleeve cap, and I had done a sloppy job of gathering. Originally, this was to have been a wearable muslin, and perhaps one day I will remove the sleeves and re-do the caps. Meanwhile it has served its fitting purpose:
  1. Added 1.5" to lower the bust
  2. Added 1/2 inch to the fronts at the SA to accomodate full bust, and to the sleeve front so it will fit.
  3. Determined that the sleeve requires a very fine elastic, narrower than 1cm.
  4. Otherwise, the fit looks good.
  5. There were also a few construction details that I was able to iron out, especially around the fitting together of the collar.
Further examination of the muslin resulted in
  1. Not using an elastic at the sleeve, but simply widening it a bit at the bottom, and hemming. This looks much better than the gathered sleeve, at least in cotton
  2. Adjusting 1/2" on the back shoulder seam at the outside edge, for a forward shoulder. This seems to be something I will have to do regularly.
  3. Adding 2" to the length so the bottom of the shirt will fall at the first 1/5 point on the hip.
I made all these changes to the pattern, and discovered that I was very short of fabric. Not enough to make a collar on grain. Advice from Stitchers told me it would be ok on the cross-grain so that is what I did.

This is a fussy shirt. There are 3 tucks at each shoulder in the front, and the sleeve caps are quie full. It is intended to be made in a soft fabric, and this Swiss Dot cotton seems fine. It is a but fussy to work with however. The tucks went in smoothly, and I first sewed the shoulder seams making no adjustment to the front, just addint 1/2" to the back seam, tapered to nothing at the collar edge. The fit looked good, but arranging the sleeve became quite a problem -- probably one I should have solved before cutting them out. Essentially, I had added 1/2" to the back and made no change to the front. Where does this put the sleeve cap?? My original thought had been that the 1/2" would eat up some of the extra fullnes, but then there is the matter of keeping the grain straight. I had read a tip somewhere to baste a line parallel to the grain across the sleeve cap. This must be level if the sleeve is to fall correctly. The sleeve looked ok, but the line was not quite level.

This is where I decided to sew up the side seams and forget trying to get the sleeves in flat. When I did this, I found there were funny bumps around the shoulder area, so I undid the seams and took almost 1/2" off the front seam at the shoulder edge, tapering back about 2". This seemed to take care of the bump in the front, and should also eliminate some of the sleeve fitting questions. Not there yet.

I am planning to finish the seams of this blouse on my serger, but since I may have to take out the shoulder seams again, I did a self-fabric HongKong finish on them. I think it's a bit bulky, and may show through the shirt. But I would have to serge before putting on the collar, then if I have to take the seam out, there will not be enough of it left. The side seams and sleeve seams, I will eventually serge.

I made up the collar, remembering from before that the dots on the stand and collar are essential and have to be placed exactly to get the collar to fit onto the band. I am still not sure whether the seamline should be extended beyond the dots, or should stop there. Of ocurse, my machine decided to act up during the topstitching. An annoyance, but I dont think it shows too much -- it's where the band and collar join.

I also tried some circles of stitching at the center back of the under collar to see how it works to keep the collar up. I am not even sure this style will look good with the collar standing up in the back, but I wanted to try the technique, and it can always be folded over anyway.

I ran into some interfacing problems. I pre-shrunk the I/F but I don't think it was shrunk enough..I am a bit worried how this will come out in the wash, but I did not have any fabric leftover to re-cut, so I will just have to give it careful laundering and hope for the best.

I left the project after getting the collar ready to stitch on. I don't like to sew collars at night after several hours of work.

Next time, I'll get the collar done, and hopefully the sleeves. Then there will just be buttons and hem. I'm not sure yet what I will use for buttons, something small and dressy, or self-covered ones.