Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Pie Crust Promises and Plans

Well, I reached the end of 2014 with many semi-promised makes unmade. I won't go into these in detail - but there were way too many. DH feels I need to focus on making things for myself, though he's not averse to the jacket I'm planning to make him using the lovely thick Burberry wool I bought when we were in Harrogate. I need to find a suitable pattern as I'm not up to drafting one for myself, though maybe I’ll have to as I haven't found a suitable gents' patterns on my searching (and of course DH has to approve, possibly the most difficult part!). There don’t seem to be many around. Anyone any ideas? I took a photo on my phone of a jacket that was fairly near the idea but it is so out of focus that I can't use it.

The other promises, those that I intend to honour, are New look 6048, a Project Runway summer dress with fairly full skirt, for DD2:
a tweed mini skirt for DD3 using a basic McCall’s 3830
or Style pattern (1961 or 1987 - both pretty old patterns and not on any database I found) and possibly a further, modified, New Look 6047 blouse for DD1.
I'm afraid my daughter was ill when she took this photo.

DD1 likes the blouse as she likes simple cuts. She finds it a touch low, by the sound of it, but said that she could fit a camisole underneath, so it sounds as if there is too much ease. I had done a FBA so perhaps I need to keep this but make a smaller size. She would also like it a little longer.  Our plans to visit after Christmas have also fallen through because of illness so I haven't seen the blouse on my daughter as yet and she hasn't been up to taking any different views.
I re-start my sewing and pattern cutting classes in mid January and have one more sewing bee next week. In the college sewing class, we're going to be looking at trouser skills and then make a pair of trousers, to fit. Making a well-fitting pair of trousers is something I have aimed towards. I started fitting using the Sure Fit Designs system even before I started on my current path. I made some pretty acceptable but not perfect muslins but I was actively losing weight at the time and as a result, the fit was off every time I tried it. I'm afraid I've put most of that weight back on - but not for long. I do plan to get rid of it again. In a previous class I attended, I started to make a pair of pants from a Palmer Pletsch pattern McCall's 6901, but the summer break then life events stopped me continuing - and the fit was horrendous, even after tissue fitting, so I've had no desire to pick it up again, but pick it up I will do and  either finish or jettison in the next few weeks.  I also need to finish the skirt I started making using the same McCall's 3830 pattern I'm considering for my daughter's skirt, above. Until I finish these two and finish the alterations and repairs for DD3, I'm best not to start anything else. However, I do plan to better document both my stash and my makes.
McCall's 6901. This looks slim fit - mine were most definitely not!!

My youngest daughter has long wanted a mini skirt made from our family tartan. This is not a tartan in current production (I don’t know if it ever was - certainly not in the years we tried to find it) but a few years ago my husband sourced a 'pattern' for the two tartan variants, the dress (rusty orange red) and the hunting (moss green) and a mill in the borders of Scotland willing to weave it. It cost a pretty penny as there was a minimum quantity required and each yard was pricey anyway. DH ordered the minimum quantity of double width heavy weight hunting tartan. When it was on the loom, he was called to see it and took a bottle of malt (whisky - Dalwhinnie in this case) with him to toast the tartan with the weavers. He got a kilt made from some of the tartan (there's 8 yards of tartan in a kilt) but there's a fair bit left over.
You can just see the kilt (hunting tartan) in this photo,
though the tartan itself is clearer - there's some double imaging here. I wish I had a better view.
The ghillie shirt was one of my first ever makes last year. I entered it in a Pattern Review competition for men's wear. It has never been worn since! Now that I have a modern sewing machine, I could have completed the neckline closure, which I couldn't do at the time. And the fabric would be more suitable next time around.

The tartan is really a bit heavy for a skirt for my daughter - and I have quite liked the idea of a long straightish skirt perhaps in tartan but more likely a complementary colour. Women aren't supposed to wear tartan and a tartan skirt alongside the kilt would be too much in any case. So we need to get more tartan woven in a lighter weight.  I'm not sure whether we'll choose the hunting or the dress. We haven't checked to see whether the mill is still in business but need to do so soon. It’s not really worth ordering just for a mini skirt, though, but perhaps we need to do it anyway.

I have been looking in the after Christmas sales and have bought nothing. Not a stitch of clothing. I nearly bought a pair of bargain Jaeger trousers but they were a little large in the waist, so I decided not to - I’m at my maximum weight at the moment. There was also a lovely brown leather jacket which was almost perfect - but the shoulders were a little wide for me.  The smaller size didn't accommodate my hips. I tried on and rejected quite a few other items.

This led me to realise

1.   It's not a bargain if it doesn't fit well, so I end up not wearing it

2.   Cost should not be the prime motivation in purchasing

3.   I need to consider colour more carefully

4.   I need to be sure that any new garment would fit into my wardrobe (literally as well as metaphorically!)

5.   Any garment needs also to fit into my lifestyle.

6.   I'm becoming much fussier, thinking 'I could do better than this' or asking why I should buy something imperfect to alter or tolerate

7.   I have too many clothes already.

8.   Like many, a small percentage of my clothes are worn repeatedly.

9.   I need to discard clothes before I can have more - there is literally no room for more!

Oh, and I have nothing to wear!


1.   I am going to spend on average 1 hour per day for the next month going through and culling my clothes. I am going to be ruthless.

2.   I am going to follow a plan - not sure which one yet - to identify a series of outfits I can wear with the clothes I have. I'm reading some blogs for ideas and already have a number of books including Colour Me Beautiful (I was considered a summer years ago but sometimes wonder if I've moved more to winter with my silver grey hair. I might try to get retested)

3.   I am going to identify any gaps in my wardrobe and construct a reasonable plan and timetable to fill those gaps.

4.   I'm going to bite the bullet in more ways than one and I'm going to sign up for the RTW Fast. Am I mad? I'm so slow. I'm not very proficient. Etc.  However,  I have lots of clothes so I shouldn't often be in the position of having a serious deadline (although I have always responded quite well to deadlines!). And it's not as if I can just go out and buy clothes anyway. My skills would hopefully improve dramatically over the course of the next year. I'm assuming of course that I can wear the RTW I have, can modify that which I already have to fit and can continue to purchase footwear, lingerie esp bras and jewellery. I'll check out the rules, though.

5.   I have downloaded an app to help me with the wardrobe planning

6.   Tidy and rearrange ‘sewing room’ aka dining room. A lot of my stuff was moved out for Christmas to allow full use of the dining room. Today we started to rearrange the room with a view to making the layout more sensible and I started to cull my books and magazines. There's already quite a difference. Tomorrow we'll start to move my sewing stuff back in but we plan to keep the big boxes of stash fabric elsewhere (though not sure where that is!) and I might get to start to sew early in the New Year.

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Blouse with New look 6407

In the past I've made two dresses for my youngest daughter and a dress and skirts for my middle daughter but nothing for my oldest. I offered her a choice of what she would like me to make and she chose a blouse. New Look 6407. View B

This daughter has always been slim but very well endowed above the waist, to the extent that she was eligible for breast reduction surgery but decided against it. Since breast feeding two children, she has reduced in size but still takes an F cup bra. She's size 8 - 10 UK hip ( 6 - 8 US?) but has a 39" full bust and fairly broad shoulders. She's always had problems getting blouses, although Bravissimo filled a gap. She is fairly tall about 5' 9" I think.

This year, our daughters were keen to have a handmade Christmas so I decided to make the blouse for my oldest daughter. I didn't have anything like my usual time as I only started it with a week to go and I'm rather slow but decided to try - DH stepping in to do other necessary tasks.

For the last few years, we've tried to have a get together of my 3 daughters and husband and me in London for a couple of days. This year, due to congested diaries and many life events, we weren't able to identify a time until the last weekend before Christmas, starting Sunday. The plan was we'd stay with oldest daughter and commute to London. This meant we'd deliver Christmas presents on Sunday and gave me my time limit. Unfortunately, my daughter's older son became ill and then she caught the same bug so we decided against the trip literally at the last minute, on Sunday morning. DH and I decided we'd still deliver the presents so the boys would get them on time as we didn't think posting them tomorrow guaranteed that, and not everything was postable - and we had just been ready to leave when the trip was called off.

I decided to use a turquoise cotton I had already prepared. I knew my daughter liked this although she preferred a blue I also had. As I felt I'd be making a hopefully wearable muslin, and didn't want to waste the blue which is also intended for a dress, I went with the first. I bought thread and buttons when I bought the fabric.

The first task was to work out what base size to go with. Unfortunately I mislaid (then later found again) my daughter's measurements and had to get her to self measure. I decided to use a base size 14 and do an FBA. I decided this in discussion with my college dressmaking tutor who was having 3 sewing bees between the end of term and before Christmas. I used 2 of these to work on the blouse.

I enlarged the bust but only to a DD cup, partly because the pattern had 4" ease. This still gave huge bust darts. I wasn't sure about moving the bust apex and decided to keep it as it was.

I had no real problems undertaking the pattern modifications and cutting out, though this took rather a long time. I'm very slow. I was less sure about the waist darts and had to ask advice about this. In retrospect, I wish I had overlocked all the edges at that early stage rather than try to do it later, but the tutor has advised against this saying I could overlock seams together later to reduce bulk. However, as I may have to alter at a later date, I wanted to press the seams open as advised in the pattern.

I had never previously made a blouse collar with stand. There must be an easier way! Unfortunately, I didn't have any more sewing bees left in which to ask advice. I looked at some of my books but eventually decided to follow the  pattern instructions to the letter. I read through all the instructions but must admit that until I actually carried out the steps, I wasn't clear about the process. I could do better, now that I have a clearer understanding. But I'm sure that can't be the way it's done professionally!

Apart from the collar, which took forever, everything else went together well. I did have a trip into town to pick up another reel of thread as all that topstitching took so much thread.

I'm fairly pleased with the finished blouse. I think my top stitching is rather nice. Two comments; if I was making a blouse for me, I'd want a finer fabric, perhaps a shirting weight, though the finished blouse looks better than I thought it would; secondly, I'm not happy about the internal finishing.

I marked out the button holes as per guide. These aren't quite right; I think the top one is too high although I did use the guide. As I had zero time left, I decided to go with them and cut them open. Then I found my buttons didn't fit through the holes! This was perhaps just as well as although they were a good colour match, they were a bit 'old' for my daughter - my tutor, the same age as my daughter, was clearly not keen on the original choice of two styles and chose the least bad. I found alternative buttons in my stash and am much happier with these.

So overall, a lot of firsts. I would have liked some advice on how to achieve a nicer finish but am happy that I achieved this myself. The next one will be better. I'll do some further investigation of how best to construct the collar and make some practice samples.

I don't know yet either whether this fits my daughter or whether she likes it. Way back, by the way, I bought the Perfect Pattern Parcel for boys and had plans to make for my grandsons - instead I took them shop bought jackets and pyjamas, not as Christmas presents. My daughter has told me that my older grandson is already happily wearing a khaki shirt I bought him and it fits well.

As we didn't go on our London trip, I have gained some much needed time. Every cloud has a silver lining!

I was writing in a few spare minutes at a time as I was going along but as I was rushing, there is little in the way of photos. I might get to post some more when my daughter tries it on.

Christmas is here and I actually have a few minutes to spare! What luxury! I decided just to post.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!



Got there in the end!

A number of issues have affected my Christmas preparations.

I've mentioned my mother's eye operations elsewhere. She is registered blind from age related macular degeneration and hopes to improve her sight to allow her to read large print - this would be a great Christmas present! Unfortunately she had underestimated the impact of these operations and the travelling on her elderly body. And of course, the emotional strain has been high, too. This isn't the place to discuss in greater detail, suffice it to say I've been on hand to pick up the pieces and she has stayed with me for longish periods over the last 11 weeks. This has impacted on my Christmas preparations. My mother is home again - she is fiercely (and sometimes foolishly) independent. On a side note, she's surprised that she's so tired - well I'm really tired too and I haven't had the ops and am quite a bit younger! The traveling on its own does that to me.

Last month, while sewing my black linen jacket, the bottom thread cutter on my sewing machine stopped working. My dealer had to send it off to the company as he couldn't fix it. So I was without it for a while (I still had my class machine).  I assumed it would then be okay when it was returned. Not so. First thing that happened was that the side thread cutter fell off when I tried to use it. DH put it back in. It's just a plastic piece with locating pins which snap into place. It obviously hadn't been inserted properly, I thought. I managed to sew a few rows without problem. Well, once my top thread came out of the needle. Then, later, after I had done several rows of topstitching using the triple stitch and had gone back to plain sewing, with a longer stitch length as I was tacking the pocket sides to the panel edges, I got the dreaded jammed indication on the LCD display. I managed to free the jacket eventually, with help of DH again. There were several upper thread loops wrapped around underneath. I don't know why it happened. However, DH found a small piece of plastic on the machine - broken plastic - which appeared to be part of the machine. We couldn't identify its source. However, DH then realised that the side panel had sprung apart, presumably hadn't been engaged properly and this was probably why the thread cutter fell out.

My husband phoned the dealer while I was in London, with my mother for her eye operation and he then took the machine back to the dealer, about 15 miles away. To cut a long story short, my machine is fine and the plastic didn't come from it, though the dealer agreed it is definitely a piece of machine plastic, presumably from the workshop. The thread cutter at the side is designed to come out so that's not a problem.  My confidence in the machine remains a bit dented, though. We're both rather disillusioned with what we thought was a top grade machine from a top grade manufacturer.

While my mother was with me I was less able to do any sewing - it wasn't off the agenda altogether though. I was also able to do some simple mending for her. She's very proud of my sewing and is always very encouraging. I wasn't able to start on my Christmas preparations until after we took her home, though.

I had big plans but most items are off the agenda - I'm always too ambitious! I made my first ever cushions for one daughter and have made a scissor case for another (I didn't even think about taking a picture of this). I also wanted to make everyone a 'bauble' for the tree (we have tree decorations that the children made at school and like the idea of perpetuating this with a decoration made by me) and an origami tree card. I needed to decide whether this was too ambitious a plan. Well, I knew it was but I had to decide what if anything I could do.

My college sewing tutor D decided to hold a couple of 'sewing bees' in the run up to Christmas. I went to the first and got help altering a lovely top I bought in a sale which fitted at the shoulders and bust but was too loose under the arms  - it was 2 - 3 sizes bigger than my usual size in this store. The top is a lace like decorative fabric over a stretch under layer. I finished off at home and tried it on. It fitted well and looks great! My Christmas dinner top sorted!

Also, I've never made cushions and I got some advice as I cut out and started to sew 2 cushions from elephant panels backed with velour spot upholstery fabric. I bought the elephant panels at Harrogate. They were already overlocked.  I cut out the backing pieces. I later overlocked them at home. D told me how to place the zip. I did have some problems stitching my zips and they aren't perfect but they 'will do'. They are centred zips rather than overlapped which might have been better but centred worked out better pattern-wise. I'm getting better at not being a perfectionist!  I bought a cushion insert but the first was a little small  - 69cm and slim, hollow fibre, so I replaced with a much plumper 71cm feather insert. These work well. I have enough of the spotted fabric left to make a double sided case for the 69cm insert - again, after Christmas!


I also asked advice on my wrap skirt, done under the guidance of this same tutor at college. I asked the question in an earlier post. Take it to pieces? Make no change and wear lower? Compromise? My tutor pinned it tighter at waist and hip, raising it, unfortunately, and making it shorter, but at least it will fit. This is a compromise solution. I won't have time to finish it off until after Christmas. I will make some adjustments to the paper pattern so next time should be better.

I decided not to do the Christmas baubles or origami tree. No time. I asked about topstitching the jacket front in the second sewing bee and we decided against this.  I had decided to make my oldest daughter a blouse (as promised months ago) and used the second bee to start this. D also offered additional time on the following day which suited me. I'm posting separately about the blouse but suffice it to say that I was up until after midnight of the day I had to deliver it, desperately trying to finish it.

Edited to add - my daughter loves her elephant cushions!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Black Linen Jacket

In July I went on a 3 day sewcation where I sewed a jacket Simplicity 2149  with the help of the tutor. The pattern was for an unlined jacket but I wanted to line it rather than bind all the seams and the tutor thought this was a good idea anyway. Due to time constraints the tutor drafted and cut out the lining (there was no lining pattern).  When I came to sew the lining together ready to bag it I found that the sleeves were a good bit too short and I had to add to their length. The seam doesn't show as there is a cuff. I have an earlier blog on this jacket and also a review on PR.

It was very windy that day - in fact it is today which is why we took photos inside.
I've wanted to do the jacket from start to finish by myself, however. I wanted a black casual jacket and had been unable to find one to buy so I decided to make one.  I decided to make the jacket in black linen,  which I had bought previously. I also decided to fully line it and chose red and black Paisley print lining, which I bought specially.

I measured out the pieces for the lining fabric on the existing pattern pieces, adding the necessary two seam allowances. Note to self - next time draw up separate lining pieces. This would be so much easier.

I also decided to have pockets, borrowed from another pattern Simplicity 2341.  On the other pattern,  I realised that the pockets were closed by exposed zips which I didn't fancy so decided against the zips but kept the pocket. My tutor at my regular Thursday class helped me by showing me how to make up a pattern for the pockets, which are sewn in on both sides of the princess seam. That was clever and useful. Before she showed me, I really was struggling as to how to do it, even though the jackets are similar (except this one has raglan sleeves).

I also decided to have a front zip closure, like 2341,  and bought a long black separating zipper after checking with the tutor that this would work. The other pattern has such a zipper closure.
The other change I made was to lengthen the sleeves as I felt they were a bit too short on my first jacket.

I cut out the jacket pieces without major difficulty.  The only problem was that I had to recut the sleeve bands which slipped a little as I was cutting. I cut them in class which means that I couldn't use my rotary cutter, unfortunately,  as I cut much more nicely with that.

I sewed the back of the jacket without problem and then started sewing on the side front pieces.
I then realised I needed to add the patch pockets to the front side pieces before stitching further (okay I had to unpick a bit! ). The tutor had advised sewing the bottom seam right sides together and upside down so that when folded back the pockets would be placed correctly. Another problem arose - I clearly didn't place exactly where we had made the pattern for as the pieces were not exactly the right size as they should have been.  I had taken my original jacket to class to work out where I wanted the pockets and cut the pocket pattern accordingly. Unfortunately, I didn't mark on the pattern...
Another note to self - carefully mark on pattern where I want to put pocket.
I decided to topstitch the pockets in 3 places - at the bottom of the pocket, at the top of the pocket and along the edge of the folded under flap which,  incidentally, I interfaced on the advice of the tutor.

I stitched the lining pieces together in class. The pieces lined up on one side but not the other. Even if I had wanted to, the tutor advised that it was so far out I couldn't ignore as the sleeve would twist in use. I took everything to pieces again and remeasured the segments. I found I had cut the two back sleeve pieces short - I had missed out the necessary double seam allowance, even though I had marked this on the pattern. I didn't have enough lining to recut the pieces so had to be satisfied with adding a piece to the top of each back sleeve. It won't show.

I did have a couple of other problems. I sewed one seam wrong sides together so had to unpick and resew correctly. Then I thought I had miscut the other lining pieces as once more my sides were different and didn't line up. When everything was taken apart, the measurements were equal. It is clearly difficult to match up; I haven't had experience of sewing slippy bias fabric and assume I was found wanting!

There is a lesson to be learned here - it's difficult to sew and concentrate when there is a lot going on. Perhaps it's better to put off until things are easier? On the other hand, I do find the classes an escape. Even the tutor noticed I wasn't my usual self - I found it more difficult to work things out, had to ask more and made more mistakes.

I didn't manage to finish  before our lengthy Christmas break but was well on the way. One night at home took me to the next stage.

My next task was to attach the collar. I had a few problems with this (after I had attached it and facing and trimmed seams). I topstitched around the collar and realised that I had created a right and a wrong side, attached the wrong way around. When I reread the instructions trying to sort this out, I realised that I had done the same as I did previously (and had been advised to do), which was to fold collar and understitch the seam allowance to the facing, before folding back to right side and topstitching, thus creating a right and a wrong side. Now I realised that I needed to fold over equally with no understitching, so that both sides were the same. I remade the collar to do this. I then topstitched with fewer problems than I had previously. It also had the bonus that the collar was easier to attach than it had been previously, even though my neckline (and facing) seam allowances had been trimmed, as the collar edges were equal in length now

I attached the collar and then the zip. The zip lies between the front and the self facing. My zip is quite heavy and has silver toned teeth. I had another lighter weight one with black teeth but this was shorter - I felt too short. In retrospect, I wish I had spent longer trying to source a longer black toothed zip. In addition, the end of the zip isn't black, and shows. It seems to be a thick opaque coating over the end of the zip. This was quite tough to sew through. I had to have a few attempts to line up the top of the teeth and the edge of the collar to match on both sides. It's not perfect but is acceptable.

Then I had to sew the facing to the neckline over the collar; the facing to the fronts was already attached, with the zip between the layers.

I had the lining sorted out and pinned to the facing pieces. I tried out sleeve lining length and it was okay. I still had to fold up the jacket hem and interface the seam allowance, stitch the lining to the facing where pinned, stitch the sleeve lining to the sleeve cuff seam allowance and sort out the hem area before turning the whole through an unstitched part of hem and voilĂ ! my jacket practically finished!

I reckoned just a few hours work would see me finished. I was finding it difficult to get the time, though - I wrote this part as I was sitting in the hospital out patient department waiting room waiting for my mother to complete her eye tests and other bits have been written travelling on the train - so the whole post will be rather bitsy. After we took my mother home, I decided to finish the jacket before I got on with other Christmas preparations.

I had to take the lining off the jacket (I had moved on without properly checking the steps) and trim to the length of the finished jacket hem to make sure the bagging would work properly. I once again followed Linda Lee's Craftsy tutorial 'Underneath It All', but I didn't use staystitching on the lining as a guide as I had overlocked the edges and, to be honest, just wanted to get on with it! The reason why I had to unpin everything rather than just the hem area was that I also wanted to add interfacing to the hem allowance and hadn't thought to do this earlier. I also gave my linen a good press.

I repinned, following instructions and stitched lining to facing right sides together at 1.5 cms from one hem up and around neckline and down to other hem. I then went ahead and attached sleeve lining to the seam between sleeve and cuff using the contortions recommended! Then all that remained was a little handstitching to the facing at the edges and along the bottom of the hem.

I love my red Paisley lining!


I decided not to add the short half belt at the back or the buttons at the cuff.
However, two things
1. The lining is not joined evenly - my shoulder seams don't match. I don't know how this happened as I started by matching these seams. No, I'm not taking it out again! It was perfect before I unpinned.
2. The heavy zipped front sections want to flare out. I didn't do any topstitching at edge of zip and realised that I probably should have. My attempts to do this failed as the zip teeth caused the stitching line to veer off-course. The whole is understitched so that's not the issue

Is the jacket a success?
In so far as I have managed to complete the jacket without anyone doing any of the steps for me - yes. Another attempt would be easier.
However, the rumpled look of linen isn't for me, I'm afraid. It's just too unstructured and messy in my view. I pressed well but this didn't solve the problem for me
I’m not sure that the addition of a zip helped this jacket. I think I'll branch out to another style - and maybe I'll move away from raglan sleeves. I might actually be better sewing a straight 2341. I did buy fabric and zips for this previously but decided on this occasion as I had already made 2149, I would stick with that.

It's finished!! That's the biggest win!

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Dressmaking Techniques Class

I've just finished the first term of an evening class covering dressmaking techniques.

In each 10 week term of 2 hour classes, the first 5 weeks look at specific techniques and the next 5 weeks is spent making up an item, with help from the tutor as required.

I attended the Beginners' Dressmaking Techniques. At first I thought this might be a little too basic for me as some of the people there hadn't even threaded a machine. I was offered the chance to go on the continuation class but felt it was important to learn the basic techniques to give my sewing the best foundation. My attempts started as very much self-taught forays into dressmaking, using technique books to help. This is extremely useful but at the end of the day, I like to see something demonstrated as I find it both easier to understand and to repeat.

So in the first 5 weeks, we covered zip insertion, making waistband, interfacing waistband, buttonholes, various seam types and finishes, including French seams which I had read about but never actually done, and we made a little skirt sample. In addition, the tutor covered basic machine threading and sewing (I missed this class as it happens) and how to choose and read a pattern.

We had to choose a skirt pattern, and appropriate fabric (no checks at this stage). I chose Vogue 8835, which I already had in my stash.
This isn't the same photo as my envelope front, which has 3 drawings

I did view B

This is a Very Easy Vogue pattern. It's a 'semi-fitted skirt with lined yoke, back zipper and narrow hem'. It is a mock wrap over skirt. Originally, the tutor suggested that I add the welts, though she said we would do a complete pocket, but I don't really like pockets in skirts as they just make me look bigger (especially if I actually use the pocket!) so I decided against that. I chose to do View B which is unadorned and knee length.

I chose a pure wool worsted fabric, medium weight, soft and non-itchy in dark charcoal grey. I didn't have much choice at the time but liked this and felt this is a staple colour and would fit in to the rest of my wardrobe.

Right at the start, I made a muslin of the skirt at home. However, I didn't use interfacing on the contoured waistband and when the toile proved to be a little loose there, at first I thought it could have been due to stretching, although when I later checked the pattern pieces (I had forgotten to take them to class), this proved not to be the case. The tutor suggested finishing the skirt to zip stage and then taking in the side seams as necessary. [Note to self - this is really not a good idea - my other tutor recommends making the skirt and then making the waistband to fit and this would have been a better option]

I wanted to line the skirt and my tutor agreed this was a good idea.

I cut out the fabric without much problem. Originally, I assumed that I would be overlocking my fabric edges to prevent fraying but the tutor said that as I was using lining, this would add unnecessary bulk. I chose a black/dark grey lining material. Not sure what it is, I had bought it prior to this project, but think it's an anti-static polyester. We discussed various ways to insert the lining. The skirt as per pattern is finished with a narrow hem and I could have made a narrow hem, enclosing the lining in that. However, I chose to make a lining identical to the skirt and then sew it right sides together with skirt. I then trimmed and graded and understitched the whole thing as much as possible and turned to the correct side.

I sewed the two skirt backs and two skirt fronts (overlap and underlap) together as advised. However, then the tutor thought I would be better using an invisible zip - where, of course, the seam is sown after the zip is inserted. So some unpicking.. [Note to self - this skirt might be better with a non-invisible zip as it was rather difficult to sew but this was probably partly to do with it being sewed too late]

I had to interface the yoke pieces and discussed the most appropriate type - the pattern specified sewn-in interfacing but the tutor could not see a good reason for this and in the end we chose a fusible sample that I had with me - I had taken a few types of black interfacing with me. I was rather upset, though, when the interfacing didn't go on properly - it looked extremely wavy and bubbly - even though I had followed instructions. I thought about re-doing the yoke pieces but the right side of the fabric looked okay so we decided against that.

I had to miss a class and spent some time at home finishing the lining, joining it to the main skirt and understitching.

Here, however, I made another mistake. I carefully smoothed out the lining and joined the yoke and skirt together with the lining in between. This meant that I was going to have problems inserting the zip and making the sides look nice - usually the lining is folded over the zip, staying just clear of the teeth. I wouldn't have been able to do that given the way I included the lining. However, after discussion of the various options, we decided that I would take out a few centimetres of stitching on either side, remove the lining from the seam and re-seam. [Note to self - it doesn't save time to have to unpick and redo - better to wait until next steps are clear, unless of course, I'm just following pattern][Further note to self - read reviews first! A couple make mention of order of construction if using an invisible zipper.]

Strangely, I had a lot of problems putting in the invisible zip. I had done about 4 previously and hadn't been too concerned. My machine didn't like the fabric, interfacing side down. It kept sticking, though a longer stitch length helped. I had originally hand tacked the zip in place but found it most definitely helped to machine tack. One side was very ripply (the cloth not the zip) and I had to take it out and re-do.

I tried the skirt on at that stage and felt the waistband was a little loose at the top. At first, I wasn't sure whether to taper the seam in towards the top (size is fine at high hip) or to leave and let the skirt sit a little lower than my natural waistline, which looked okay.

In the last week, I had quite a bit left to do: finish the zip and back seam and hand stitch the lining to the zip, put on the lining material used to cover the back of the yoke pieces and alter the waistband side seam - I decided I preferred this option.

In the end, a further week wasn't enough. Fortunately, the tutor decided to hold a 'sewing bee' in her own studio and I went there. Advantage was carving out the time to sew (I've been very busy - who said retirement meant not enough to do?!) and have the tutor on hand if I needed help.

I had one last decision to make - whether to top stitch waistband top and bottom as per pattern instructions or stitch-in-the-ditch between waistband and skirt. I was torn between the two but eventually decided to stitch in the ditch. I had to do this at home. My first attempt was a failure. I hadn't caught the lining properly in places. So more unpicking and I refolded the yoke lining. Relative success this time. It's not as neat as I'd like on the reverse. Another problem is that I used my blind stitch foot and found that in centre position the needle was too close at times to the offset and on one occasion actually crossed over the line and on another the needle broke. So I ended up using it set one position to the left. On my previous sewing machine I had separate blindstitch and stitch-in-the-ditch feet which were very similar. Do I need a separate foot? Or do I give up stitching in the ditch in favour of top stitching? I like both finishes but often like the simplicity of the stitching-in-the-ditch.
Worn with jumper outside skirt
I didn't do photo with blouse tucked in as waistband too large and blouse wouldn't stay in place.

The join between yoke and skirt is somewhat lumpy - I didn't press again when I realised I would be taking part again.

This shows my beautifully lined inside

Side view - I need to go an a diet today!!

I like the skirt and feel sure I will have a very wearable skirt in a useful colour. Unfortunately, it remains rather too large in the waist. As the fabric is so lovely, I think it will be worthwhile unpicking (again!) and redrawing a correctly fitting yoke which will have proportionately more taken out the top waistline edge compared to bottom upper hip edge. I've had to take tucks on the top part of a band previously when doing this kind of yoke.

I'm not sure whether to wash or dry clean in the future.

I went to Harrogate a couple of weeks ago, to the Knitting and Stitching Show, and brought back a few (!) pieces of wool fabric, all of which will fit into my wardrobe and for which I have plans. I originally wanted to get fabric to make trousers to match the jacket I made but I haven't managed that as yet - I took a sample with me but was unable to get a solid colour to match one of the flecks in the wool. There is enough left over of the jacket fabric to make a skirt so I may do that. One of the fabrics I bought will go nicely with this grey skirt, perhaps making up a jacket - but as it's a check, I don't really feel that I'm capable of that just yet. Maybe I should stick to a vest.

I've signed up for 'continuation' dressmaking techniques for next term when we'll be doing 5 weeks trouser making skills and then have 5 weeks to complete a pair of trousers. I have some lovely fabrics. I'm looking forward to this as trousers have been on my to do/wish list for a long time.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Last Day of Term in Pattern Making Class

Last Monday was the last pattern drafting class for nearly two months.

The class starred with the tutor demonstrating TR pattern making. TR stands for Transformational Reconstruction - I had to look that up as the tutor couldn't remember. The modern exponent of this method is Shingo Sato who works in Tokyo and Milan. However, the basis is removing darts by incorporating them into design lines and that is not a new technique. I follow a fabulous blog, well-suited,  from Studio Faro (http://www.studiofaro.com/well-suited) (updated link)  which does 'pattern puzzles',  taking a design and deconstructing,  to make a pattern.  One I particularly enjoyed - and even understood,  though it's beyond me actually trying to construct it as yet, was 'Pattern Puzzle - the Drape Shift Woven'.  Do have a look at the fabulous posts if you don't already know them.

The tutor demonstrated cutting apart the basic bodice and managing to get rid of the darts. Maybe I wasn't listening properly (I found I'd forgotten to take my portfolio containing my work in progress) but I didn't feel I'd grasped the essentials. My background means that I like to see things written down and like to know 'why'.

When I explained and showed to DH, he immediately grasped the concept and said the cuts would have to be through the tips of darts. The tutor hadn't said that but as I watched a couple of YouTube videos featuring Shingo Sato, this was pointed out.

(But see below)

In the class, we had the chance to try it for ourselves or continue with our top design. My usual partner S chose to try and I was able to see how she got on. She was having major problems. She wasn't cutting through the tips of darts and wasn't getting her fabric to lie flat. The tutor made some cuts to aid the process but this didn't seem to be working as the amounts were too great to ease, so equivalent amounts to the new separation amount (which would be filled in with fabric) were being added or subtracted elsewhere but this clearly changed the shape of some features eg the armhole,  where the lower almost horizontal curve was shortened by quite a bit and that amount added to the top of the almost vertical section. If I did this to a trouser crotch it would be unwearable! The tutor did say she was 'cheating'. Maybe she should also have said 'don't do this at home'? I don't think that S really has a pattern to work with and we have a 7 week break now. Obviously, I could be wrong about this. Overall, though, I was left with an unsatisfied feeling as if the topic hadn't been properly addressed. Sometimes I feel that it is better not to tackle something if it will not be done well perhaps because it is rushed due to lack of time. Maybe that was the case here.

I had somehow forgotten to take my folder which had my blocks and the work I had been doing on my bodice block in it. I was struggling with what to do with the neckline, to get a smooth and neat finish. The tutor suggested I use the standard size 12 blocks and draw out my shape to work on and she would help me work out the next steps.

So I traced the whole bodice front, changed the darts into a princess seam, and separated into front and sides. I made an additional front. I then chose a point and cut off the round neckline at an angle on one of the centre pieces and reversed the other piece and did the same.

I then drew my pleats onto the outer piece of the centre/front

The tutor suggested she thought facings had been used on my inspirational design - I'm not so sure. I want to buy the piece to check this.  Unfortunately, I haven't been successful so far but plan another trip to a different branch of the shop. However,  I do know how to draw facing pieces. The trouble is,  where the front crosses over,  there will be two layers each of fabric and fabric with interfacing. I'm concerned about bulk there.

I feel that I have worked out how to draw the pattern as far as the major pieces are concerned, which was the object of the class,  really.  Construction is not looked at. We don't work on the sleeve block until next term, which is combined with skirt block and design modification.

I bought another book following a mention on Studio Faro, in connection with gap darts. This one looks very good. It is really a textbook. 'Patternmaking for Fashion Design' by Helen Joseph-Armstrong.

There are style examples given,  then one is deconstructed completely and the reader/student taken through the process to make the pattern; however,  others are given as exercises for the student. I haven't been able to do the puzzle of one top in particular I like the look of. I'm hoping the accompanying CD might give me some answers! In the book,  which is the new large international edition, the author describes 3 flat pattern techniques - dart manipulation, adding fullness and contouring - I look forward to exploring it. Obviously,  this is on flat pattern and not on the form/body. She also describes stylelines as falling into 2 classifications - those that cross over the bust and those that do not. Those that cross over the bust replace dart legs with style seams and are dart equivalents as they absorb dart excess within stitchlines. Stylelines which don't cross bust are not dart equivalents. I have a lot of reading and practising to do! I'm looking forward to the challenge.

On the whole,  I think the pattern drafting class has been worthwhile as a basic introduction to the subject. After the full year,  however, there is no continuation to a more advanced level.  I'll have to use my books. Nevertheless, I'm looking forward to next term - and hope the dreadful road works that have been doubling my journey time will be finished.

Being retired,  I had forgotten how bad rush hour traffic can be,  before adding in roadworks on every possible route all at the same time! I live on the west side of the city and have taken to driving all the way out to the east to go through the tunnel;  to go south,  we have to cross the river by one of 3 main and 1 minor bridge (other bridges are for trains, pedestrians or taxis/buses only)  or the Tunnel. I used to live on the east side of the city and took a long time to come to terms with the tunnel as I have a touch of claustrophobia.  There used to be major traffic queues and everything came to a standstill if an ambulance had to pass through or a car broke down.  After I moved to the west,  I didn't use the Tunnel other than occasionally.  In those days there was one carriageway in each direction;  now there are two (with 7 lanes of traffic feeding in - yet there were no problems). I spoke to a neighbour today who uses the a tunnel for his daily commute and finds it well worthwhile despite living in the west as it copes well even at rush hour.

On the positive side, I've had to leave home a lot earlier to avoid the worst of the rush hour traffic and this has meant that I get to college so early that I've  time to visit the library. This week, I was interested in a book on the history of pants/trousers, a very interesting book on felting, another on fusing with a soldering iron to make designs  and a book on the everyday fashions of the thirties as pictured in Sears catalogues. I've borrowed these ones and hope I'll have some time to peruse properly. Previously I borrowed Pattern Magic, the stretch one but I'm sure I won't be going down that route!
Edited to add:
I managed to buy my "inspiration top" today. It's only comes in black,  when I would've liked a colour as black trends to drain me but,  more importantly, it doesn't fit me well. So it will be going back - but not before I've fully examined it!  
This photo was taken in a shop on my phone when I first saw the top last month, on a weekend break.
I'd hoped to see it and try on in a different colour on my return home.
On the shop model, the pleats lie nicely across the bust - on me , they are too high.
Front pieces are self faced - simply the fabric overlocked and folded by about 5cm/2", the edges being caught into the princess seams.
Self faced crossover
There are two front pieces,  joined at seam with side front pieces and simply folded over and sewn together at hem, probably using a coverstitch;  the thickness of the hem is greater but not obviously so. The back neck is bound with the same fabric - I don't know if that would be bias or not.
Back of neck showing seam binding
The side front does have a facing,  not interfaced, extending over the whole of the top of the side front and sewn into the sleeve. It is also overlocked and extends down towards bust level.
This shows me putting my hand between the layers of side front.
The fabric is 88% viscose, 10% nylon and 2% elastane . It is not very stretchy and has a reasonably firm feel. It doesn't look difficult to make and all seams are overlocked. I think I have a piece of fabric that will work well but it'll have to wait until after Christmas.
It looks as though there is an extra pleat on this compared to shop model - perhaps due to being a bigger size.

Out of focus but it's too late to take again. It's still possible to see all the overlocked seams
Thanksgiving isn't a UK celebration, though it sounds lovely and I'd rather we'd imported that than Black Friday which is beginning to catch on here,  it seems. I hadn't even heard of it until last year. In some places there were crowds,  injuries...  One headline was asking whether Black Friday would kill Christmas.  That of course is our big holiday and when we tend to eat turkey. I have decided to do a couple of Christmassy craft projects if I get time - my mother arrives tomorrow and we're going for her second eye operation to London on Tuesday,  then she'll stay with me for a week or so,  so sewing time will be very limited and I don't think I'll have time to take better photos than those taken quickly with my phone - those taken with my tablet were no good at all. I know it's already Monday in Australia and just early evening in US but it's bedtime here and I have a busy day tomorrow and a busy week following that.

Update and Continuing with Machine Embroidery Course

I haven’t been sewing anything recently. I’ve managed a few alterations and repairs and a little bit of machine embroidery - though I’ve f...