Sunday, 18 May 2014

Last of my sewing for a week; last winter street dress for a while (now remodelled for summer!)

It's Sunday today and I'm busy trying to get things ready to go to a 4 day golf championship tomorrow in a Hartlepool. I'm not playing golf - I'm there because of my committee role in my local Northumberland County. I basically have to wear a kind of 'uniform' by day but there is a more dressy meal on Tuesday night. I still haven't decided what to wear. I'm actually coming back early from the championship, after my input is finished, because I am needed to play golf for my handicap division for my club - we are very short of players. Again, for golf, I will have a 'team uniform'. Then on Thursday, I am playing a friendly golf match - no uniform required. On Friday, I am going to visit my mother for a few days to help her sort out paperwork and her wardrobe. I should be able to return home on Monday next week. So no sewing during that period, though when I visit my mum I might manage a trip to a fabric shop.

The weather is much warmer now, and I'm busy looking out some suitable more summery clothes and sandals. My wardrobe really needs a complete overhaul! I have resolved that if I take something out, it only goes back in if it fits and looks nice.

Today, David took some photos of me in the garden, wearing my latest, and last for a while, version of the PR winter street dress.

These first three are worn with a narrow belt

The next few show the dress without a belt.

The waistline of the dress is in the right position. I didn't modify the waistline from my last version as this fabric is much stretchier and I thought, correctly as it turned out, that the bodice would stretch down further. I hadn't anticipated, for some reason, that the dress skirt would hang lower - I think this could be doing with being a little touch shorter though it's okay and I won't change it. The fabric is a much thinner and drapier jersey as well as having more stretch (4-way) and I chose to make this version with half sleeves - basically the pattern sleeve cut off where the sleeve flounce was to be added. I was going to add a contrast plain band to sleeve and neckline, but I found that the shade of blue was just not quite right, even though they are from the same range. I eventually treated the sleeve hem in exactly the same way as the dress hem, by folding up and topstitching with a twin needle.

I should say that I cut out and started the dress at home but serged most of it in my sewing class - my serger is in for repair (hopefully that rather than being condemned!). I hadn't finished it when my class ended but I was allowed to borrow it to finish dress at home. That was nice.

For my previous versions, I attached the band to the neck using the full circle method, then turned to the inside with a hem and finished by stitching in the ditch. This worked out very well and the stitching was invisible. I had a number of problems with this dress neckline. I actually had to re-do the band 3 times. I had to make it longer than originally planned for as the bodice fabric was puckered. Not a good look! I got plenty of practice unpicking! Then, I finished my second version with stitch in a ditch, but the stitches were visible, maybe because I was now using a thread (white) which would contrast against the blue patterns, whereas previous version were in identically matching thread against plain fabric. In addition, there was still a little bit of puckering. My sewing teacher recommends that bands or elastic be cut 1/8" per 4" shorter than fabric they are to be attached to. My band, cut as per patter, was still far short of that. So I unpicked the whole thing and made a new band another little bit longer. That was better. Deepika suggests finishing the neckline with coverstitch or twin needle topstitching. This time, I elected to finish with the twin needle, to match the other hems. It looks fine, but personally I would rather not see my stitches!

I do like this dress now that I have modified it to fit. This floral version is fine for our relatively cool UK summers. Yesterday was around 22 degrees C (72 - 73 deg F). I was playing golf in full sun, in polo shirt and crops; wearing tan lotion.  The warm weather makes my aches and pains a lot less troublesome, long may it continue! Today is a little cooler and more cloudy. Since the photo session, I have continued to wear the dress and feel quite cool and comfortable in it. I have decided that I quite like knit material and will do some more.

I tried to change my photos on PR but something has gone wrong. Oh well.  I'm now going to look out some sandals and summer tops and get my bag packed. Plus I'll lay out my golf stuff for our team match as I'll be in a bit of a hurry when I get back from Hartlepool. I'm staying on Hartlepool Marina, BTW - I haven't seen that before so am looking forward to seeing it.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Two winter street dresses and further serger woes.

I've just returned from taking my overlocker in for a check to see if it is repairable. It'll be away for 7 - 10 days and of course might not be repairable or parts might not be available. The trouble is, the fault is intermittent and they're the worst to sort out. Just before I took it today, I switched it on and it appeared to be working again. I did notice yesterday that even though the display disappeared, the machine continued to work. The tensions etc are not set automatically so the display is really just an aide memoire. Nevertheless, I don't like the occasional crackling coming from it. I'd prefer for it to be repaired and have told them to go ahead if they can and it's less than a certain amount. However, I did have a look at new machines while I was at the dealer. I rather fancy the Pfaff Coverlock 4.0! The dealer, who isn't an elna agent, did comment that my machine was high quality so I certainly don't want to wish it away!

I managed to finish serging the side seams of my winter dress before I felt I had to give up with my overlocker. The dresses are finished by hemming with a double needle on the regular sewing machine. So that's two winter dresses finished  in the last two days! They are very quick to run up - even for me!

First, my middle daughter's. She wanted the maroon fabric which is why I used it for a muslin for myself - I wanted to find out how it behaved and to make sure I could follow the steps. I hadn't previously sewn a stretch dress or added neckband in the way recommended. The biggest problem is that the front waist in particular was much too low for me despite having lowered it by 2.5 inches - I hadn't lowered more than that as I wasn't sure if the knit was going to stretch down. It didn't seem to. So DD2 is fairly tall 5' 9" and rather pear shaped. I decided to redraw pattern with my measurements but used it first cut to the same lengths for her - though in a smaller size, a medium rather than the XL for me.

I didn't run into any problems making it for her. She requested that I keep the sleeves very long as that is how she likes earing them. I ended up cutting 4.5 inches off the hem as she said is was way too long for her out of the packet. well, some of that extra length came from the lowered waistband, of course. Anyway, I had shortened pattern but then had to cut a further amount off after the fabric was cut out and I was able to try it on her (neck and shoulders done at this point). This removed the pegging from the bottom of the skirt and that, combined with the waist being taken in, made it rather more of an A-line/straight shape.

She likes it, though, and went back to university wearing it today. Her exams start tomorrow. I think the skirt needed to be a size bigger. She doesn't want me to make her anything else until she loses a bit of weight she's put on recently. She has chosen the thing she wants me to make next, though.


By the time I got to my dress, I was feeling quietly confident. This is the first time I've remade a pattern and I think the process has been very helpful. Following advice, I bought a Fiskar's trimmer and this made such easy work of trimming the pattern pieces. I thought my French blue fabric was the same as the maroon - it cam from the same source. However, it handled quite differently. he first thing I noticed was that the selvedge was all over the place. I don't think the recovery is as good as the maroon. There was no vertical stretch. I had some problem with the neckband, thinking it was too loose, but after relaxing and pressing, it is actually fine. my main problem came when I accidentally sewed the back on the wrong way, outside in, so I had to unpick and re-sew. By this time, I was getting more proficient in the use of clear elastic, so the waistline is nicer than either of the other two. However, I had run out of clear elastic (I ordered some mail order and got it today but can't find locally) and definitely had to re-use the elastic I had already sewn over. That, together with the narrower elastic I was able to find locally allowed me to finish the dress. So no real problems, though my serger playing up didn't help the process!


Anyway, I love the dress. I was thinking that the front waistband was still a little too high as it goes above a belt. However, I actually prefer the dress without a belt and it lies correctly then. I've had it on all day since DH took photographs this morning - and even ventured out in it! This is a first - me actually wearing one of my garments (I've fulfilled my secret Me Made May pledge - to wear one garment outdoors in May!) I find it very comfortable and think it will be a very useful part of my wardrobe.

However, this is a winter street dress - and today was a very hot day, so this is perhaps not ideal. I will make one in floral with shorter sleeves. I won't be doing much sewing until my serger issue is resolved, though, unless I do it at class tomorrow, which could be a possibility. Otherwise, I plan to concentrate on making basic fitting garments, where I certainly don't need a serger. I'm away for the whole of next week, so my time for sewing is a bit limited, anyway.

Best wishes

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Finished burda check jacket and good news about serger; daughter's winter street dress

This morning, I photographed my finished burda check jacket to go with the dress I previously reviewed here.

I managed to get into the garden and DH took the photographs. I didn't get all the photos taken I wanted as not much later, we had huge hailstones and torrential rain, so I was lucky. It was nearly 7pm when I started to write this and the weather was lovely again.  The forecast for the next few days is rain, though. Yesterday, the golf course was closed due to the rain we've had so we didn't get to play our competition.

My checks are matched perfectly! The headache was worth it! At the front, the jacket slopes down, which is why the hem isn't straight along a line of checks; it's straight at the back and the side seams are perfect - even the interfacing is perfectly aligned. I thought we had a photo of that - but I confess that I had the dress on back to front in the first photos and had to change!! I'll need a label on the back - though the front has bust darts so it should have been obvious. I was in a bit of a hurry to get it done before the rain started again. That's my excuse!
I think the jacket looks a little large. It doesn't have fastenings. When pulled together, the size is okay and the shoulder seams are in the right place, but when left loose, it falls off my shoulders a bit and looks big. What do you think? Should I add a fastening? The sleeves appear to rotate forward. I don't know how to fix this. I didn't overlock the seam edges of the armscye as I couldn't at the time but as I used an additional row of twin needle stitching, it will be difficult to get out - and I trimmed it, too, so I don't know if I can still fix it. Any ideas or suggestions? Although I lengthened the jacket pattern by the same amount as I lengthened the dress - to keep the proportion, I felt that the jacket was too long and took off about an inch. I also had to shorten the sleeves about the same amount. I had previously lengthened the pattern, but obviously overdid it.
I posted yesterday about the demise of my overlocker. I was premature in reaching this conclusion! DH fixed it today - or at least it's working again after he had a look at it. Maybe it was going to be okay anyway. In the meantime I had been looking at reviews for overlockers and coverlockers. My serger is 5 thread but those aren't common now, unless they're convertible to coverstitch. I don't know if I need a coverstitch facility as twin needle seems fine for me. So do I need 5 threads on an overlocker, really? I do sew a lot of wovens and the 5 thread is good for those seams, but they're not, after all, necessary. I'm starting to sew with knits and 5 threads are not needed for those. I'm glad I don't have to chose just yet. Any advice would be welcome.
I finished the Pattern review winter street dress for my middle daughter. I downloaded and cut out the pattern again. I had modified the previous download for me and had already re-altered and further lengthened the torso on the pattern (L/XL) I had cut out for me so that was no use. This time I  used a trimmer which was great and made the whole process so much faster. And I didn't need to piece together all 25 pages as the pieces are more or less delineated from each other. That helped speed up the process - basically, I knew what I was doing this time!  My daughter need a 2 inch lengthening of front and back bodice. Size medium. Once the fabric was cut out, the rest was speedy. I had finished the seam edges using my sewing machine when I thought my overlocker was dead but they didn't look great. I was able to finish quickly with the overlocker today. Then I folded over the hem and finished with a twin needle. I had to cut off another few inches from the length to make my daughter happy - after it was cut out. So instead of being a 'pegged' skirt, it's more of a slight A-line as I also took in further at the waist. The waist looks better than in my version. The skirt length is about 19 inches. She still hasn't tried it on since I finished it so I don't know if it fits. She has reluctantly promised me a photograph. Once I get one (I'm not holding my breath!) I'll post. I used the maroon fabric for mine as that was what she chose - I wanted to see how it behaved - mine was intended as a hopefully wearable muslin. I also have lovely blue fabric and a floral but she stuck to the maroon. When I get around to re-doing the dress for me, I might choose the floral - not sure yet.

oh no!

While I was sewing today, my serger lost its program and then the display went blank. I got it back but the stitch setting had changed. I was able to use it again and nearly finished the jacket I was making. Unfortunately, this respite was only temporary. My serger is now dead, alas! I don't know if it's repairable. It's an old machine and parts are not readily available.
My husband suspects a power surge as I was using a new extension lead for the serger and my sewing machine. Earlier, my sewing machine also played up - I couldn't move the needle position. Even switching on and off, when usually the needle position moves, didn't change it. Then it suddenly started working again and I had no further problem.
I finished my jacket on my sewing machine - all I still had to do was serge the arm holes, so instead I stitched and trimmed. It looks pretty good and I'll post tomorrow.
I'm going to have a busy day sewing tomorrow. I want to finish the winter street dress for my daughter, who's visiting just for the weekend - and I'll have to do it without my serger. I've used the sewing machine to finish the edges but it's just not the same! It's just as well knit edges don't fray.
If my serger is declared irrepairable, I want to replace it. It's an old Elna 5Pro DC - 5 threads though I most often use just 3 to finish seams etc. I tend to sew a seam with sm then serge. Just my lack of confidence at present. I don't know what kind of serger I would get to replace the Elna, though. Thoughts?

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Check headache!

I spent the whole of my sewing class today laying out my pattern tissue pieces on my houndstooth fabric so that my checks would match. I didn't realise quite how difficult it would be!
I think I've managed a pretty good job.
Lyn checked my work before I cut. I was really scared to cut into the fabric. But I did.
I laid out and cut the back on a single layer, having drawn up the other half of the pattern.
I had drawn up an additional sleeve, front and facing. However, Lyn advised matching up using one piece and then cutting the other from that fabric piece as this was easier to match up. So it proved.
I found that I must have accidentally stretched the cloth at times as dark and light would match at start of a row but not at end. I managed in the end but it took a while.
I had to leave the class early today as I had to rush off to a golf match, so I got it cut out but will have to wait to see if it actually has worked out.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Finished winter street dress and refocusing my goals

This last week I finished Pattern Review's Winter Street Dress. This was my first completed garment from a downloadable pattern and my first knit dress. I took the opportunity of watching Deepika's video on attaching the neckband and of her tips on using clear elastic, which I had never used. I had to buy this mail order as none of my local suppliers had it. One had tape which was much narrower and I thought it would be more difficult to use, though it would have been fine at a push. I think my neckband turned out really well. I finished it with stitch in the ditch and you cant see my stitches at all.

I have done a review on Pattern Review of my dress - and have received a comment from Deepika. In my review I mentioned that the front seam joining the bodice and skirt was wavy and she suggests this was due to fabric being stretched and next time to stretch out elastic and make it a tiny touch smaller than seam. I also said I was scared to press and she said there was no problem with a pressing cloth and thought it would lie straight. This is very helpful - as were her tips, which I used. She didn't comment on my implied criticism of the pattern - namely that the pattern was drafted for a high waist when it is stated to be on the natural waistline.  Despite my alterations, the waistline at the front is still too high for me - admittedly I am rather long-waisted. In this picture, you can see the waviness in the waistline I was referring too - the back seam is better, though I'm disappointed to see how badly the pleat is lying. I need to press properly and wear a better foundation garment to take account of the weight I have put on these last few weeks - I tend to eat when I'm stressed.

Some of the problems with the dress are due to my alterations, I'm sure. I didn't have help for these and have probably not done them correctly. I've talked about the alterations I did in the review. When I came to sew up the sides skirt - underarm - sleeve, I found that the sleeve was about 5/8" on each side narrower than my bodice. I'm sure my manipulations to get around this have caused some distortion. In fact, as the sleeve is too tight at that point, I would have preferred to add to the sleeve than take away from the bodice. I think this may be why there are wrinkles there - or maybe I should have done an FBA. I'm not sure.

I've made a number of changes to the pattern and I'm going to try it again. I'm also planning to make it for my middle daughter but need to get some sizes before I attempt that. She is tall, about 5'9", I think, so smaller than me, and her torso may not be as long - I don't think it is. Younger people are quite happy, it seems, with raised waistlines - and shorter skirts. I realise I'm (getting) old!

I had hoped this dress would work for me - and maybe it would if the waistline was dropped further and if my changes to the pattern sort out the too tight armscye. Not uncomfortably tight, just more so than it should be. I feel that I really need to think about what I want to sew.

I'm having a special birthday soon and have requested a sewing course/break. I've found it very difficult to locate such a thing. If I'm travelling, any class/course needs to be on consecutive days as I don't want to be travelling back and forward each week - transport and fuel are too expensive to consider that. I'd really like to get hands-on help to create a set of slopers, but the only thing I've found is over 6 weeks at the other end of the country. I've done some emailing. I have seen one which might work, over 5 days, but it's not structured and that's what I'd really like.

I do have Craftsy classes dealing with fit and also Glenda sparling's Sure Fit Design system. Glenda is really helpful and I did start but then started to lose some weight so each time I fitted, I was a different size! Unfortunately, I've put some of that weight back on but resolve to lose it again before my birthday! I think I'm going to spend a good bit of time on these courses in the coming months.

I started this fit process as I can't get trousers/pants to fit well. I wear trousers a lot. I'm a golfer, and it's now into the new season. I'd like to have cropped trousers to wear, which fit well - golf trousers usually have a fly zip, pockets at each side and one on back and a fixed waistband. I can't really alter the ones I have as they are too short in the back crotch length, even though they are all too big for me now. I have my first important golf match on 21 May, when I wear team uniform - I can make do with what I already have but I would really love to be able to make a pair of black crops for this match. Crops or trousers, doesn't t really matter but crops are more comfortable when it's warmer. 21 May is just too soon, though. I will start on the first stage, though.

For my May Make a Garment a Month Challenge, I am going to make the jacket to go with the grey dress I previously made. I bought some lovely hound's-tooth (houndstooth?) medium weight stable knit fabric, similar to that on the pattern envelope and they should look good together.

I have already made the alterations to the pattern tissue and have made a full back piece to help me with pattern alignment. I've never used a pattern which needed matched before and I'm a bit apprehensive. A double back should help the process, as it's difficult to see the check on the reverse of the fabric. Lyn at class advised me to cut out say back first as this will help with alignment for next pieces. I'm going to wait until I get there before trying this - I need help on hand! It occurs to me that it might be best to cut out another sleeve and another front, too. The pattern doesn't llok complicated - it's all going to be in the check matching and good finishing.

The other major item which I want to sew is a jacket, but my skills need to develop further before I can consider that.

As I mentioned, the golf season has already started. I'm an official to our local County Veteran Ladies' Golf Association and I'm on duty over the next 3 days at a big competition - at least, all of tomorrow and part of both Wednesday and Thursday. I'm supposed to be playing golf on Wednesday but a filling fell out and I have to go to the dentist instead. Over the next few weeks, there are a number of events I have to attend in my official capacity - I'm away from home for 3 days in under 2 weeks and there are other one day events. So I'm not sure how much time I'll get to sew - or to blog about my sewing. Even more reason to realise I won't get those golf crops done by May 21st! It's nice to be out in the fresh air, though, especially with everything so pretty now. My rhododendrons and azelias are nearly over, daffodils are long gone, tulips nearing end and my back lawn is now a sea of pink petals. But there is still loads of colour and it's warm enough to be outside without a winter coat!! And although I still have quite a bit of pain and nerve tingling, I have actually played my first 18 holes of the season without mishap.

I need to sort out a few things for tomorrow. I'm having a very early start so need to get to bed at a reasonable time. It's 9.15pm now, so I'd like to be finished and relaxing in an hour.

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...