Thursday, 20 June 2019

Quant, Dior and family in London

David and I had a brief break in London this past weekend. We had originally hoped to visit Cambridge but Alison et al were going to the Lakes to watch her father in law do the Iron Man challenge. Joanne was able to come from Cambridge  to London to meet up with us. In the end, Alison and Steven called off their trip to the Lakes and Alison and the boys came down to Helen's on Saturday evening.

On Friday, I visited the Mary Quant exhibition at the V&A. I am a little too young and lived too far away from anywhere to have been a Mary Quant girl. Then I was a student and couldn't afford the prices. I do remember buying a Mary Quant lipstick which I loved and I probably have her to thank for introducing tights long enough for my long legs - and of course I did wear mini skirts and dresses. I didn't wear her platform shoes though as I didn't need the extra height.

I really liked some of the designs. I was surprised by how expensive some of these clothes were - it made sense as to why I never bought them. Interestingly, I’ve spoken to a few people since I got back, many old enough to have worn Quant clothes, and they all said they simply couldn’t afford them. I had thought that Mary Quant was aimed at the masses but it clearly wasn’t.

I had a couple of definite favourites from the exhibition and hope my photos have come out well enough.

Interestingly, while watching one of the videos, the stylish older lady next to me told me that she had been a Mary Quant model in the 60s and we had a chat about that. She looked younger than her years, that's for sure. She hasn't yet been to the Dior exhibition but was hoping to pick up tickets one morning in the daily release (tickets are sold out).

Friday evening we met Helen and Anthony who took us out to Fish! at Borough Market. I'm still recovering from dental surgery and am not allowed to eat hard food so fish seemed ideal. I ordered their classic fish pie which was delicious.

We were staying in Greenwich. I hadn't been before. We visited the various markets, saw the Cutty Sark but didn't have time to go to the astrophotography exhibition, though I’ve seen the short-listed photographs online. We walked under the Thames through the pedestrian tunnel to the Isle of Dogs.

On Saturday, I met up with Helen and we went to the Christian Dior exhibition. Helen and her friend hadn't been able to get tickets but because I'm a member with a plus guest membership, Helen was able to accompany me and we could choose our time. The early members' hour on Saturday was just too early for us though! Helen hadn't been keen to go to the Quant exhibition as she saw those clothes as everyday and she wanted to see couture clothing.

I was surprised at how much Helen enjoyed the sparkles and feathers on some of the gowns! We both really enjoyed the toile room and the dressed miniature models. I’m not showing many photos since they don’t do justice to the garments and have been shown many times before

Meantime David was looking at some of the photography exhibits

Afterwards we met Joanne and went for lunch in Chelsea at The Phene and had a nice chat over a light lunch. I was exhausted by the time we got there as we had walked from the V&A  so afterwards we took a taxi to Helen's flat. This took an hour (public transport was quoting 80+ minutes) and was proportionately much cheaper than the taxi we took from the station to our house 5 minutes away.

Anthony prepared a lovely vegetarian chilli in part to cater for my older grandson who has become pescatarian and my requirement for softer food. Alison and the two boys arrived shortly after we got back; Steven took the opportunity of their cancelled weekend to catch up on some work so didn't come through.

We had a lovely evening. Joanne had been going to stay with Helen and travel home the next day after brunch in Greenwich but decided to go back in the car with Alison.

On Sunday, Helen wanted to take her Dad out for brunch for Father's Day. She and Anthony drove to Greenwich where we had a lovely brunch in The Royal Teas. Greenwich was very busy and lots of places were full. This place was so busy - turning away lots of people and was great even if not very salubrious looking on the outside! They were then going on to Anthony's parents and we were going home.

I took the opportunity of the train journey home to do some reading (The Secrets of Colour by Kassia St Clair) Marianne pointed out some factual inaccuracies in the account of the colour orange so while I’m enjoying the book, and it appears to be well researched, perhaps I need to read it with an element of scepticism?

I also did some catching up with blog posts - I hadn't realised just how many I had missed. I'm still not caught up - probably never will be.

I’m just about to embark on a journey to learn how to use Lightroom and Photoshop which I’ve just subscribed to. I’m attending a photography club with David and over the summer there are a number of classes. Flash photography and the use of layers in Photoshop. So you need to excuse my current photos - but perhaps my future photos will be better!!

Sunday, 26 May 2019

Fabric and neckline trauma but I have battled to the finish! The do it 10 times rule.

The top

I have been struggling putting a neckline (and armhole) finish on a simple top. There is nothing to say about the top otherwise.

I did finish the top - here it is in all its imperfection! I'm wearing it to go out today though - so it's not that bad.
I think you can see the diagonal nature of the fabric from this view

The top is a vest style - scoop neck, sleeveless. I've made it before without too much difficulty. This is a pattern highly modified from the original and further modified from its last rendition (see here)

I did the last neckline differently and successfully managed to coverstitch - but this fabric was having none of it!
This time, I think my fabric is a lot to blame. It is quite stretchy, two ways, that is both horizontally and vertically. I should have guessed there would be problems as I had problems cutting it out in the first place. One of my pieces was wonky and fortunately I had enough fabric to do it over again. My fabric did not want to behave!

I made the situation more difficult than it needed to be, of course, being me, by at first assuming that the pattern on the fabric ran both horizontally and vertically. It doesn’t - it’s vertical and diagonal. This means that the straightening I thought I had done made things worse! I wish I had never touched this fabric!!

I love geometrics, rather than florals or animals etc, and this fabric really met my requirements - or so I thought. Now, I could see it far enough! I used a diagonal print once in the past when I was just starting to sew and really didn’t enjoy the experience - I thought it was me I seem to remember. I’ll know in the future.

Neckline trauma

I decided to attach a strip of fabric used as a facing around neckline and armhole. The strip was cut on the crossgrain, the greatest amount of stretch, and one layer attached right side to right side on the neckline. The raw edge of the fabric was then turned under and the whole folded over into the inside and topstitched to keep the layers together (though obviously I could have hand stitched and then nothing would have shown). This didn’t the fabric layer was somewhat too thick and heavy and didn’t lie nicely, falling forward.
This was the wide facing I originally attempted. Coverstitching something that wasn't right in the first place clearly wasn't going to work.

I therefore removed the band (for the first of several times!) even though I had understitched and overlocked.

By this time, I had a coverstitch machine - this top decided me to move in that direction. I therefore decided that I would attach to one side and simply fold over without turning in the raw edge as this would reduce the bulk. I’d then coverstitch from the right side and secure the raw edges. One layer of fabric less to contend with. Good plan. Didn’t work. The neckline just would not lie flat - it kept falling forward. Not the fault of the coverstitch machine.

I thought the band was too long and that was why the neckline was falling forward. I shortened it but this still didn’t solve the problem. In class, it was suggested to me that the fabric was causing the issue. However, I see people attaching necklines all the time so why couldn’t I do this?

I was really worried about how overworked the neckline of the top was becoming.

It was suggested that I'd be better to apply a band as my fabric was so lightweight that it wanted to fall forward even without the extra fabric weight. Next step was applying a small band, that is with the fabric attached double to the right side and the stitched edge folded back, leaving a small folded edge showing on the right side. First attempt was applied unevenly and looked really awful. I redid the band but this time it was too long again (87%). And yes, I thought it looked okay at first so went ahead with understitching and overlocking……. All that had to come out again!

I can now remove staystitching and overlocking fairly quickly - though of course I’d rather not!

I hate this fabric!!

Nevertheless, I decided I was going to persevere as I need to be able to do a nice neckline. This was now a practice piece. I understand that if you do something 10 times, you become proficient at it. We’ll see!

I spent a long time removing the bands from armholes and necklines - although I have focused on the neckline, I didn’t like the way the armhole was lying. Following advice, I trimmed the top of the shoulder by 1cm, tapering down front and back. I steamed the edges of armholes and neckline  in the hope of restoring some shape and stay stitched. Originally the armholes had been finished with a hidden facing strip.

Now, I had never previously staystitched a knit. Do you? When I asked advice of one of my groups, they were divided. One lady said I needed to staystitch while others didn’t. I had nothing to lose, so I staystitched but I would love your view on this.

I left the top sitting without band of any kind, just the sleeveless back and front of the top (oh - the hem is finished, all coverstitched in cream and looks lovely!!).

Blackwood cardigan number 4

In the meantime, I used the fabric to cut out another Blackwood cardigan. No major trauma though I definitely prefer a slightly beefier fabric. My bands which should have been identical weren’t and I had to sort that

I used a slightly modified pattern from the tester piece I made earlier in the year (see here), by adding some waist shaping and slightly shortening the sleeves, plus adding a little extra biceps ease.

I said earlier that if you repeat something 10 times, the methods stick, and you become proficient. However, I was reading a blog post the other day (sorry can’t remember whose it was) which suggests that if you repeat you become sloppy. YES! THIS! The only issues with the cardigan were my fault entirely. I used the wrong pattern pieces. I mislaid the instructions and decided I didn’t really need them. I won't go on. All’s well that end well! I didn’t topstitch around the band to hold down the seam allowances as I decided to wait until I had finished the top to have a matching finish. In the end I decided it really wasn’t necessary at all.

Back to the top

I cut the top armhole bands and neckline band to 80%. This figure came up repeatedly when discussing bands though I know it’s not really possible to rely on a formula - but it does give you somewhere to start from. I don’t have the ability to simply feel the correct stretch. Not yet anyway! I was concerned to see how long they were - my neckline must be very stretched from the starting point. I decided to have an exposed band - very narrow on the armholes and wider on the neckline. The reason I wanted narrower on the armholes was that originally they had a concealed band.

In order to apply evenly, I really need to mark the fabric. This time, I not only marked the pieces in quarters - I used eighths! I successfully attached the bands - YAY! I did have a couple of hiccoughs but got there in the end. So the bands are not a completely even width but I guess that’s not going to be the first thing people look for!

I had now intended to turn the raw edges to the inside and top stitch using my coverstitch machine from the right side. My coverstitch machine was perfectly happy with this - however, I am not sufficiently experienced, and my stitching was rather too wonky. I don’t (yet) have a clear foot for the machine and I couldn’t see exactly where the stitches were falling. I was trying to stitch so close to the neckline that in the cream thread the problem was readily visible.  I couldn’t use the neckline band edge as a guide as my band was uneven. I didn’t like the effect of stitching further away. After some thought, I decided I was going to use navy zigzag as this fitted in with my zigzag headache-inducing fabric. I used my edge stitch foot and experimented to see where I wanted it.

I was then left with the issue of the seam allowances, which of course wanted to expose themselves. I felt I had two choices (by now excluding the possibility of a coverstitch finish) - namely 1) trimming close to the stitching and just leaving raw or 2) overlocking the raw edges. I decided eventually to go with 2) thinking that I could always trim narrower if this didn’t look right. I think it’s okay.

Finished top

I said earlier that this piece had become an experimental top to give me experience in attaching a nice-looking neckband. I haven’t done it 10 times as yet but feel a lot more confident. I have a few more times to practice and get better if not perfect.

The top isn’t perfect. The armbands and neckline bands are uneven. I think this comes from a combination of stretched overworked fabric and the extra I trimmed off the armholes. I can deal with that in the future - here I was much more interested in getting the neckband to lie flat against my chest. It does, so that is success.

David thinks the shoulders are too narrow - and I’m inclined to agree. I don’t think that extra centimetre needed to come off, after all. I think the trimming was a little uneven, too - but of course, I’ll alter the pattern and it will be even next time. I also think the armholes don't match each other and that there is too much fabric at the front from halfway down (where I stopped trimming as it happens)

Otherwise, I’m pretty happy with it as I feel it fits well (enough) and feels comfortable.

Coverstitch questions

I would have to assemble the top differently to use a binder on my coverstitch machine (I think that one shoulder is left open?). I hadn’t realised that. I don’t have a binder as yet, but am considering. One thing that puzzles me is that people don’t stretch the binding fabric when applying by binder so I’m not sure how they get it to lie flat - it always looks so great. Any comments? Top stitching using the coverstitch machine is possible on the straight and in the round. However, it likes an even hemline!

A new twin set

I like the top and cardigan together - my 4th twinset! Because the cardigan is navy and white, I can wear with different tops, including plain navy and plain white of course. I wear a lot of navy and feel this set will be used a lot. I think it looks pretty good and is very ‘me’. I thought I had taken more photos than these but this is all there is.

Sunday, 21 April 2019

A promise fulfilled! Years in the making - and finally finished

In the garden today - the blossom that became synonymous with sewing her wedding dress is in full bloom this weekend.

I think she may like it

As you may realise, if you have previously read my blog, I had been guddling around making different toiles of pleated skirts for Helen, using plain fabric or checked fabric (but not the real tartan) for a while (a long while!) and Helen hadn’t really liked any of them - or at least wanted to make changes. I had originally wanted to use a pattern but came to realise that modifying a pattern to fit the pleat depth I wanted in the pleated skirt was much more work than working the traditional way of setting out the size of pleats you wanted in the fabric.

So, last week, I bit the bullet. I had just sent another toile which was too big in size 12. I don't have a decent photo of it on Helen. The previous one had been in my view a bit neat in the size 12 - both big 4 patterns.

Too small imo in the 12

I had been looking at modifying the pattern but eventually decided against this. I’ve tried 5 different commercial patterns, I think … Helen told me that she wants all of the skirts, she can’t decide. So I had to decide for her. She brought all the toiles I've ever sent her home with her this weekend. She didn't want to get rid of them for sentimental reasons but I've encouraged her to leave them and say goodbye as they performed their function.

We didn't like a circular skirt with tartan

It was too big, anyway

This one ended up too big - and she didn't like the deep contour waistband

Helen said she really liked just about the first toile I made except it was too long and too big. I had done that on my own without a pattern. A full pleated skirt. See blog post here - from December 2015!

She does wear this skirt and has kept it. I offered to take in and shorten but she decided against that. She's keeping it.

So I decided to make a short full  pleated skirt by just folding the pleats how I wanted and using the proper tartan. Normal 1.25" waistband. Although the tartan was very expensive as we got it specially woven and we had to buy 30 metres to boot, it isn’t doing anything by lying in storage, is it? I said to David that I wanted to make a skirt and if it didn’t work out, so be it - we still had many metres left. I have previously blogged about the tartan's story. Here is one post

I looked at the real tartan. I asked the mill which wove it (Lochcarron of Scotland) what pre-treatment it might require before being cut - answer none but dry clean it later. The tartan has been lying rolled in a bolt for many years and it was off grain as it lay but I think that was due to the storage. I think that some better pressing and steaming might have helped that more than I did.

I took a piece of fabric and folded it in a number of ways to see the effect and gave Helen a choice. In a man’s kilt, the end result is such that you are looking at a recreation of a full pattern repeat over several pleats.  - but this means that the pleats are narrow and numerous. Helen didn’t want her skirt as heavy (and bulky) as that so our pleats are simply folded to get a pleasing effect.

The mill had also said that they use the selvedge for the hem edge and told me how to identify the right from the wrong side - both questions I had asked. On Instagram, I had asked about the hemming treatment and most suggested using the selvedge. So that’s what I did.

This meant of course that the fabric was cut cross grain. The skirt is so short, that not even half the width of the fabric was used. I needed about 3 metres in length.

I asked Helen to resend me her measurements so I would be working to the correct size. These measurements were 3 cms less than she had told me previously - no wonder the last skirt was too big! So 68cms.

The first part went very well. I worked out that I needed 17 pleats to meet Helen’s hip measurement plus a 1 cm ease allowance ( as per Aldrich’s Metric Pattern Cutting) - total 100cms. Last time, I got into difficulty with the zip but didn’t worry too much as that was a toile. Aldrich didn’t give me any help but there was a little help to be had from my other tome by Helen Joseph Armstrong - sadly I misunderstood the instructions. There were a couple of issues - firstly, they didn't specify right or wrong side of fabric, though that may not have mattered - but more significantly, the terminology they used literally changed from one page to the next (and was different from Aldrich’s terminology). I tried a few different lengths. To cut a long story short, when I came to sew the skirt in the round (there was only one seam, left side, where the zip goes), the seam and zip were visible rather than being hidden in the folds of the leading pleat as they should have been.

Pleats laid out for hip size. The other side is very green - very different. Sadly, this skirt is not reversible because of the zip though the next one might be made with the green dominant

Positively, I was now able to work out for myself what was necessary. I had insufficient fabric at one side and too much at the other. I decided to add in a piece of fabric to the short side and this worked okay. I tried to work out if it was okay before cutting the fabric but this proved a lot more difficult than it sounds! A lot of calculation and experimentation. So now there are two seams. Never mind - you can't see them.

Before I put the zip in though, I had to reduce the waist to the correct size. I used Aldrich’s method of snugging the pleat over after it is formed. By this method, the pleat is pretty straight up from the hem to about 5” below the waist, at which point it turns towards the pleat to one side, reducing the distance between them.

I tried a couple of times and then was reasonably happy that I had got the size right. It was a little too big for MIssy, Helen's body double created for her wedding nearly 3 years ago now (waist 66 cms) as I could pinch an inch and I was concerned it could be too big for Helen. Of course there is a difference between a real live human and a model in any case.

Helen was here for the Easter weekend and I had said that I’d have the skirt to a point where she’d try on and I’d adjust if necessary, then add the waistband.  I even had the waistband prepared - cut on the straight of grain.

It was going to be a little difficult or rather time consuming to reduce the pleats further - but YAY! it  wasn’t necessary. The skirt fitted - near enough.

I gave Helen the choice of green or black top stitching - she chose green - and I topstitched each pleat through all layers, except the leading pleat, which was decoratively top stitched.

I then added the waistband, slightly easing in the skirt. I trimmed and graded the internal seam allowances really well. When I had made the waistband, stitching right side of band to right side of skirt, I turned over and secured by stitching in the ditch from the front, using the green thread.

It was looking good!

I wanted to get the skirt finished for Helen going home todyt, so when I had problems trying to put in a buttonhole, I decided to forego that. I have bought a new thing for my machine which is supposed to help with this issue which I assume is due to the thickness and unevenness at the edge of the fabric  but I haven’t used it yet and this wasn’t the time to try!

The skirt is lovely. There are a couple of issues - the leading pleat doesn’t lie nicely so I am going to add some poppets down the edge (I tried hooks and eyes but didn’t like the effect). Secondly, the skirt is up a bit at the back. Helen has a very flat stomach but has more fullness at the rear. Next time I could take that into account. Interestingly, it was something that Lyn, my sewing tutor, brought up when I was looking at patterns for pleated skirts - back and front were the same.

So despite a couple of relatively minor setbacks this last week, I finally have the skirt that Helen requested 10 years ago (at least). This was before I sewed and originally we were going to get a skirt made up.

I enjoyed the process. There is actually very little machine sewing - a lot of careful measuring, hand basting, pressing. I found it therapeutic. It only took a week.

Today, I sewed some poppets along the leading pleat edge to help it lie flatter  and then sewed a label into the skirt. This was one of the ones Helen gave me a while back - I haven’t used them much as they are rather big but it worked fine here.

Sunday, 7 April 2019

A top, a bodysuit and a pleated skirt

I've been trying to get some UFOs finished and repairs and alterations done. That's been successful. None are worth posting about, but I feel a sense of contentment, of a job well done. They include hems being let down and sewn up to make the trousers longer, buttons sewn on etc. I told you they were boring.

I had intended to focus on my trouser fitting (oh yes, that!) but I am actively losing weight so I'm going to put off for a bit. I'm delighted to say that (some of) my golf crops fit me again! (Well, they will all do by next month!) That's useful as I was going to rush and try to make some - or at least some skorts. I have a nice pattern. 

It was suggested to me that I should making skorts for a bit in view of my ongoing weight loss for a bit. I agree. I did make up the top shown in this set (skorts, top and jacket - I'd like to make them all) but find it a bit tight, especially at the hips; this older Kwik Sew pattern 3232 clearly had less ease than a lot of the big 4 patterns. It's also a bit short so I'll redo. 

It doesn't look too bad from the front

You can see how tight it is on Madame

On the whole though I prefer a top with sleeves and a collar, a polo shirt,  for golf, at least. I'm going on a girls’ golfing holiday next month. I'm looking forward to it but as I've only played a few holes so far had better get some practice in. Thankfully, my foot appears to be standing up to the strain of rotation on it.

I've cut out a slightly modified pattern for the Nettie body from Closet Case Patterns. I modified by giving my derrière a little more coverage (length) and cutting further up at the front. The original design is like a short and I prefer higher at the front and sides. The stretch in the fabric I'm using is a little less than I'd thought and the bodysuit will likely be a lot more comfortable in half a stone's time! I'll move on with it and hope to use my coverstitcher for the bands.

Yes, I'm using the same fabric as for the KS top

Again, rather too tight in the rear

Easter is quite close now and I'd hoped to have Helen's tartan skirt ready for fitting. Mmm. Not sure about that. I cut out a toile of a different style to see if it's more successful and easier than modifying the last pattern. Hopefully I can send it to her early next week. I need to get the tartan out from storage though to measure the set and see how much I need to vary the pleat placement on the pattern. I have lots of fabric and while I don't want to waste it on an unsuccessful skirt try, it wouldn't be disastrous, and I really need to use the real fabric.

The toile is from a 1991 pattern - Butterick 5712. Helen said she liked it, based on the pattern photos. There is one with two pleats front and back and the other with more. I decided to go with a shorter two pleat version, view B; I shortened by 4". The advantage of this pattern is that the sizes change only at the side seams, where there are no pleats. I found altering the size in the full pleated skirt I made her previously extremely difficult, and it was still not the perfect size. Pleats are quite difficult to adjust for a female waist, as I found out! Because all the adjustment is at the side, I can more closely match Helen’s shape. Assuming she gives me the thumbs up for the overall style, I will actually FINALLY get around to cutting into the fashion fabric - that is the medium weight pure wool tartan that we had to get specially woven. I can do the front and back (which are the same!) and adjust the side seams after she gets here at Easter.

Now, I know that a pattern isn’t needed for a kilt type skirt, like the last toile I made, but I didn’t really like the pattern - and Helen requested all sorts of changes that I didn’t feel up to making. This pattern is simpler. The thing I particularly like is that there is a lot of fabric cut away behind the pleat to reduce bulk - that was certainly an issue with the previous full pleated skirt. It’s important when the wool I’m using, although labelled ‘medium’ is actually pretty heavy for dressmaking. It should be pretty easy to adjust the pleat pattern width to match what I need for my tartan. I think I know how to do that.

I made up a toile and realised that, in deciding to make a size larger than I thought would be needed, to allow for later fine tuning, I’d be likely to put Helen off. It was much too large for Missy. So I unpicked my beautifully put in invisible zip and remade in a smaller size. According to the sizes Helen sent me, this should work although some tweaking for actual hip shape is likely to be necessary.

The pattern specifies a centre zip, but I have used a concealed zip in the toile. I need to think in advance of the type of zip to use as that will affect the waistband. I narrowed this waistband to 1” - the pattern is about 1.5” but otherwise didn’t alter length. Lyn advised against a centre zip. So either the concealed zip used here, or a lapped zip… The waistband is slightly different for these two types.

Many will ask why I've done as much on a toile - it really helps me to see where things might go wrong and when I need to do things and in what order. Helen might end up wearing it as she has with previous toiles. I also hope to be able to use the selvedge at the bottom of the fabric to avoid a bulky hem, so that would mean the pattern would have to be shortened further. Actually, on the toile, that’s the bit I’m finding most difficult. The instructions are fine, I just don’t see how to make up to a high standard and finish the cut fabric - they advise cutting into the seam edges as you make up the hem. If I manage to use the selvedge, that won’t be necessary, though. If I can’t use the selvedge, perhaps a thinner bias facing hem would be a better idea? What do you think?

The key issue is going to be finishing seam edges, which I haven’t done for this toile. I think I’m going to do a simple zigzag edge. Any other thoughts? I also need to consider a lining.

It’s ready to be posted off to Helen. I put it on Missy but had to pull in the waist at the back as Missy is 2” smaller than Helen around the waist. Do you like my new hem clips? I found then very useful when pinning up the 2” hem on the skirt.

Not much else to say at the moment!

Quant, Dior and family in London

David and I had a brief break in London this past weekend. We had originally hoped to visit Cambridge but Alison et al were going to the L...