Saturday, 28 November 2015

Relative restraint at the Knitting and Stitching Show

Yesterday,  Friday, I visited the Knitting and Stitching Show in Harrogate.

Last year I remembered being in long queues for the car park and then everything else. This year I decided to travel early,  hoping to avoid the car park queue at least. We did! I thought the exhibition in general was much quieter but apparently Fridays and Sundays are always quieter than Thursdays and Saturdays . But I went on Friday last year, too. Last year we had difficulty finding a space at a table for lunch and there were long queues at the food stands - this year we had a choice of tables and no queues.

Previously I've had a good deal on tickets via Prima, as a subscriber, but couldn't find the deal this time. I thought I'd mislaid the relevant issue. I couldn't find on the website either, though.  Prima wasn't at the show so their sponsorship has ended,  I reckon. Instead, the Dressmaking Studio in association with McCall's Pattern Co. and Sew Today were there for the first time and held a series of workshops. I'm thinking of cancelling my Prima subscription as I've never made up even one of their patterns and if the discount is no longer available…

When I arrived I was greeted from one of the fabric stalls, M Rosenberg & Son , where I've bought a couple of pieces (!) in the past. The proprietor asked me if I'd used up all the fabric I bought from him previously. I replied ‘some of it’ with massive understatement and realised that I shouldn't buy ‘any more’ fabric until I've made a dent in the last lot! Or at least certainly not add to the stash.

I did buy a 1 metre piece of Japanese cotton with an owl design from  Japan Crafts. The fabric feels lovely; the owls are for my oldest daughter. I didn't go for any of the Japanese bag patterns, though. I am thinking of a bag with this. The bag with owl appliqué I'd planned to make for her didn't work out. Their fabrics were gorgeous and the Sashiko fabulous.

For the first time,  I signed up for a workshop, at the last minute true,  but I did it. I booked my tickets too late to book the classes in advance. This was ‘Dealing with Denim, Stitch, Zips and Tips’ run by Claire Tyler, whose articles I enjoy.  I had major problems sewing through the canvas on the bag I've just finished at the point where there are lots of layers and seams and a zip and hoped this would help me. It didn't actually focus on this aspect, other than suggesting flattening seams with a hammer. I’d hoped to get a better idea of how to minimise bulk. In the workshop,  we did a jeans zip in the easiest way you can imagine. Nice result, though the workshop didn't include a zip guard; easy to add,  though.  We also applied a patch pocket with contrast topstitching and Claire gave us an excellent tip for keeping the topstitching looking good and both rows pivoting at the same point. The class was worth it for that alone,  but we got a voucher to send for a McCall's pattern of our choice (except Vogue, unfortunately) too. Claire also indicated she was contactable afterwards if we needed. I did buy a few patterns from McCall’s stand as they had a selection with good, show, prices. here are two - which do you prefer? I'm making up a MOB short list. I think Ill get all the images together, at a later date, and seek opinions.
Butterick 6032 This is version B - I prefer version A with the slit neck and contrast shoulders

I like version A, top left

This is version A - I prefer version C at the bottom. This colour is close to what I was thinking of, though.

Butterick 6163 I like version C, bottom here

Vogue 9019

I like both versions but would probably go for the one with the sleeves, unless I made a jacket

I bought two independent patterns. The first was from Alison Smith. She had her Bella dress made up and I thought it looked lovely.
I had a chat with Alison and decided to buy the pattern. I will have to increase hip size but will have other modifications anyway - length for one. I have her Craftsy classes,  which are good. They are on sale for Black Friday currently; if anyone doesn't have them, it's a good time to pick them up. I did get a card for 50% off a class so I'll see what her new ones are when they come out.

The other pattern I bought was from Sew La-Di-Da Vintage; the Sweetheart.

Again, all of the patterns were made up in calico and the shape of this one,  and one other,  appealed. Although there was an offer on two patterns,  I stuck to the one. Alison was very helpful and asked me about what I was going to make it for etc and gave me some tips on using the dupion silk I am thinking of for it. She also invited me to contact her if I ran into trouble and pointed out the pattern variations possible. I'm likely to reduce the skirt width - there is no waistband but the whole dress is based on princess seams so I can reduce the panel widths to reduce the flair. At least, the line drawing on my envelope looks like princess seams but the line drawing I copied and show above doesn't so I'll need to wait and see. I'm really not 'into' vintage but the dress on the stand did look really nice.

I'd hoped to buy some bag pieces. I've finished my first bag but didn't have the right bits for it and one of the other students in class gave me them. The bag stall had a few pieces, though I thought prices were high and they didn't have exactly what I was looking for. They pointed me towards eBay for the webbing for straps as they said they couldn't compete on price with eBay vendors. I did buy some D rings and sliders, but the ones I ‘borrowed’ were nicer. Ill post a photo of the bag at a alter date.

David went with me and did all the driving,  bless him. He attended a workshop too on inkjet printing onto fabric by Ruth Brown from Stone Creek Textiles. He found this useful and interesting. We also bought the tutor’s book Digital Imagery on Fabric. So watch this space. He also purchased some felt for his Lego model landscapes. He builds these as part of his photography course.

I bought a couple of Ottobre magazines and the Singer book on sewing with specialty fabrics. I admired the silk in The Silk Route and bought a sample selection in the colour range suitable for the bridesmaids’ dresses. I looked around and admired lots of different stands but didn't buy.

I bought just a few pieces of fabric to finish my Christmas bottle bags.  That was right at the end, when I picked up my mega lap top tray, bought at the start of the exhibition and left for later pick up, and bought a lamp with magnifier, both of which were Black Friday deals. The other things I bought here were a scissor sharpener and an unpicker with a magnifying glass; I'm not sure how that will work but felt it was worth a try.

So I was relatively restrained! My hands are still painful and swollen (having test results on Tuesday coming - got loads of tests on Tuesday past) so I didn't golf today although the weather was pretty perfect for it. Never mind,  I'll catch up on some class work and some wedding work. Plans for this weekend are: modify swimsuit block Rory gave me to leotard block for H;  welt/jet pockets in waistcoat toile - this is a third toile and I need to practice welt pockets as I've never done previously and need to check exact position; continue with mood board and sketchbook for class. Hands allowing.

Earlier on,  the postman delivered Nancy Zieman’s Confident Sewing Collection and a sewing magazine,  so they feature on my to do list as well as Ruth Brown's Digital Imagery on Fabric. I will also have to do some cooking etc of course. Least said!

There's going to be a new Knitting and Stitching Show in Edinburgh next year and I'll probably attend that in preference to Harrogate. I'll see.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Missy's had a makeover!

To help with fitting Helen's wedding dress when I don't have access to her as she lives and works in London and I'm further north, I decided to use a dress form.

This was an old dress form. It had been stored, badly, for many years. It was adjustable in width at bust, waist and hip, although one of the dials was broken. There was a small vertical adjustment to the waist length,  but not enough for Helen now or me then. There were a couple of other problems. Helen is nearly 6 ft tall with the long body and legs that implies;  the model was nearer 5 ft. Although the waist length could be adjusted,  the amount available wasn't nearly enough. Also,  although adjustable, it isn't possible to adjust apex height, shoulder width etc without a lot of work. Talking about shoulders - they were not collapsible and it was difficult to get garments on. Worse still,  the glue attaching the outside cover to the form had disintegrated and lots of rust coloured powder was the result and this got on to anything I tried to try on it.

I confess I flirted with buying a new polystyrene form as recommended in our class; by that I mean I did buy it but although I bought what I thought was the correct size, the measurements were too much. Too little is workable with but not too large. I had considered sawing it in two and lengthening but too big was a deal breaker. This model now has a new home! I considered buying the smallest size but that was shorter still in the body length, too.

I mentioned my problems with the model in my blog and Mary of Cloning Couture kindly pointed me to her posts covering form customisation and made some suggestions.

So David and I decided to go ahead with the major makeover required to make Missy work. If possible.
We were basing the adjustments on numerous measurements taken on Helen's body, my previous well fitting toile for her and Rory’s tightening of that,  leading to me making a further close fitting version which didn't meet at the waist,  so obviously I did something wrong as it clearly fitted when Rory was pinning it.
The steps are cut down here as otherwise this would be an exceptionally lengthy post.

  1. Remove old cover

  2. wash body to get rid of glue residue

    She's pretty small in her native state!
  3. minimise width sizes
  4. lengthen model to maximum using adjustment available
  5. Add to body length; David lengthened the body itself by adding cardboard and aluminium tape to the bottom (this was done after the model was rotated and redone); this lengthened it about 3 inches.. Previously the marking for the position of bum fullness was below the form body. He also added to the length of the upper body by extending the whole upper torso by placing a roll of masking tape about 1 inch wide on the internal top support plate on which the torso rested. 

    The reason the glue residue is back is because we had to take apart and redo after Fabulous Fit foam had been stuck on.
  6. fill in gaps and joints with padding and aluminium tape. By this time the model was a lot taller and was beginning to feel sturdier - she had previously been very shaky. 

  7. I used parts of the Fabulous Fit system to create hip and bum contours and also bust shaping and apex position

  8. I might add that when we attached the upper part of the model to the lower part,  we got it the wrong way around!  None of us involved in the process (I took it to class and the tutor was also involved at this stage, as was David) noticed - it took someone else to query it. The tutor thought it would be fine but David and I retracted a few steps and corrected this when we returned home. When this was corrected,  David took the opportunity to reinforce the gaps from the inside too.
  9. add layers of padding (bump,  mainly) , taped with masking tape. I couldn't find the materials mentioned by Mary. 

  10. I used one of Helen's bras over an already padded bust area (Fabulous Fit pads) to add more definition to the bust area and to position the apex properly. 

  11. amount of padding and distribution based on a close fitting calico toile which I tried on the form repeatedly. Helen has never tried on my toile - this was the toile I made from the adjustments to make the previous one much tighter fitting and I think I made a mistake in interpretation as I couldn't get it to meet in the zip area. So I had to loosen it a bit. I decided against tightly fitting the back into the bum until I had Helen present.
  12. We then covered with a stretchy dress form cover, recognising that a bit of extra padding at the seat was probably required

  13. I then made a final cover from the bump again using the sizes I used earlier - closer to Helen's original toile than the extremely close fitted one. I hoped this would give a lovely smooth and pinnable final surface. (I have toiles all over the place,  they’re taking over!)

This shows the bum shaping required at right

She looks good doesn't she?
I've still to add vertical (mid and side) and horizontal bust,  waist and hip) lines. However, I've discovered that while the bust size is great with the thick bump cover, the waist is marginally too big, made worse by the seam allowance. Too small would have been okay. Also, I think I need even more bum padding. So I reckon I use the bump for bust and hip but remove from the waist area so I'll need to cover with a thinner calico cover - does that sound about right?

Obviously, a dress form can never take the place of the real body, unless it's truly custom made from some sort of body cast.  Although this isn't right and probably never can be,  it will be a useful tool for me. (I must get around to customising my own dress form!)

Yesterday (Saturday) I had an individual lesson with Rory to help me with Helen's wedding dress, and the bridesmaids dresses.  We discussed the pros and cons of the styles I had pictured and drawn in my sketchbook. We discussed materials and construction. I used Missy to drape a practice wedding dress. This was very enjoyable and I was surprised at how well I got on. I feel it was important to start,  to get out of the mental block I had. I've emailed Helen some photos as even at this early stage there is a decision to make.

I've ordered metres of practice fabric. Also, I'm going to the Knitting and Stitching Show in Harrogate next week, on Friday. Hopefully I'll be able to pick up a few useful pieces…

Helen is coming up in 3 weeks and I have a few tasks to complete before then so that we can use the next booked session with Rory to the fullest. While she's here I'll make final adjustments to Missy.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Pleated skirt - a long ago promise still not fulfilled

Some of you may be aware that my husband got some tartan specially woven. I say some - it's a lot!

This post is not going to cover our tartan sagas - I'll leave that for David. He'll post about that and our tartan silk adventure at a later date

The first time was nearly 15 years ago. The tartan had to be specially woven as his tartan is not a tartan that is woven or even appears in any of the tartan encyclopaedias. We found note of it on an Internet search (we didn't have such searches when we first sought it) and were able to get a company to weave it and make David his kilt. It cost an absolute fortune as we had to agree to the minimum print run as well as a very high price per metre. Nice tartan, though, heavyweight.

David in his kilt, casual mode.

My youngest daughter requested a mini kilt made of the tartan. This was in my pre-sewing days so we were going to have to get it made and that was another stumbling block. We felt the tartan was too heavy and were able to order some medium weight tartan from the same company. There was a long time between the request and the new order!  At least 5 years perhaps a lot longer!  This time, our minimum run was 30 metres but the cost per metre wasn't so high.

I finally thought it was time to consider making up her request. However, it wasn't clear what she wanted. She pointed out various designs. Skirts with a couple of box pleats, some with yokes but she also mentioned kilts and full pleated skirts…

When I made her a skirt recently, it's clear she's now wearing her skirts longer than she used to. She's getting older!  They're still short on her endless legs, though!

Anyway, I finally decided now was the time to try. I have Helen's measurements (I'm going to be customising a form for her next week using a tight fitting ‘moulage’) but there was no point in asking about styles as she is too busy following moving into her flat and thinking about and arranging renovations to consider the question. Originally I thought I'd make a skirt for her birthday later this month.

  • First decision - I decided to make a toile. Using tartan but not ours. A much cheaper option. Reasons - I've never tried to match a plaid - well I've just realised that's not true - the skirt above as a slight plaid effect, what do you know! Anyway, I've never made a successful pleated skirt (I did try a skirt with a front pleat way back),  and couldn't be sure that the size would fit.
  • Second decision - I decided to make a full pleated skirt.
  • Third decision - I wasn't going to use a pattern.
I looked at Winifred Aldrich’s book ‘Metric Pattern Cutting’ and also The Great British Sewing Bee ‘Fashion with Fabric’. The latter has good instructions but for a kilt. The former’s instructions are minimal and only cover the fabric folding not construction techniques. Both say to work directly on the fabric, no pattern needed.

So I worked out how to make the pleats. I folded, refolded and folded again until I thought it was looking okay. I ended up with a pleat width of approximately 2 inches. I didn't measure the main body of the pleats as I was folding with the pattern. This test tartan effectively had one plain dark green section alternating with a red striped section. The blocks were rectangles rather than squares.

My pleats were looking okay and I basted them by hand.

Next section was to reduce the width of the waist. This meant that each pleat had to be pushed over a bit more at the waistline. The calculation for how much is effectively ((hip size - waist size)/number of pleats).  To give an example, hip size 36” less waist size 24” is 12” so this amount has to be lost in the pleats - so if there are 24 pleats,  each pleat has to be narrowed by ½” at the top. These are not the actual measurements I used,  just numbers to make the concept clearer. The amount I had to lose on each pleat was somewhat larger and I had 20 pleats.

Showing the waist section; machine basting along waistline and hand-basting 3 inches down

Here came my first (known about) major mistake. I carefully adjusted each pleat, tapering out the adjustment back to zero at hip line and tacked again. Then I realised that the waistband would be fastening the wrong way around. Fortunately, I was able to turn the skirt upside down. I had to undo my tacking, recreate the waist at the other, now correct, end and release the modified waist. Then re-tack.

Looking okay.

So now I just had waistband to do. Closure. And hem.

I realised I had no idea how to do the closure. Winifred didn't help. GBSB was for a kilt not a skirt. I asked my Thursday tutor. She wasn't sure. I wondered about ‘no closure’ - I'm sure I remember having a skirt like this with just a hole inside the overlap and as my tutor said,  this is how pockets are often done. Eventually we decided I'd try an invisible zip, which in turn would be concealed under the pleat. In the meantime,  David suggested a series of hooks and eyes, hook and loop tape or poppets. I bought some hook and loop tape.

I tried the zip and it didn't work. It's possible a lapped zip could work. Not sure. The Velcro is a good idea,  I think. Although I topstitched the edge, it isn't held down so Velcro would solve that issue.

I pressed the pleats, then top stitched them down to hip level.
Before pressing

After pressing

Next discoveries:

  • I think the skirt will be too big. Not sure, as there is a lot of bulk at the waist. It's certainly too big on the dress form.
  • I don't know how long to make it.
  • The red pleats and the green pleats are not the same width.

Now I had to remember this was a TOILE or even a proper test garment,  testing out pleating etc, not a finished garment. It can't be for Helen's birthday.

So, I am going to post it as is. No waistband, no closure, certainly no hem.  If it is too big, there's no point in continuing with this particular attempt. I may get a better idea from Helen about length and style for a future attempt.

I've learned quite a lot. Particularly from my mistakes
  • How to work with wool
  • How to pleat
  • The importance of planning the whole garment before you start. I'd I had stated the pleats differently, the closure would have worked but not as I did it.
  • The confidence of working without a pattern
  • The stuck feeling when I don't have a pattern to hold my hand!
  • The sinking feeling when my tutor doesn't have ‘the answer’!
  • I'm rather to hung up on researching methods and practising on samples and over-thinking rather than just doing. This was an attempt to just do.
I photographed and then took out all the tacking. I found that the pleats had slipped open a bit at the waist, despite the 2 rows of machine basting along the waistline and the row of hand basting further below. This may make the waist bigger than I had intended.

Once the tacking was out, the pleats gape more than perhaps they should . In a kilt, the pleats are much smaller than they are here - perhaps I should have more pleats, more closely spaced if attempting this again. That would mean that the overlap for reduced waist would be smaller and more manageable and there would be a greater ability to alter for size. As things stand, to remove even just one pleat would greatly alter the size. And I might be wrong, but think I would have to remove two to get the pleats to match?

On the form, tacking still in place

On the form, tacking removed. Are the pleats too wide/

Again, although the skirt is too big at the waist on the form, I couldn't get it closed properly at the side.
You can perhaps just see the top stitching

I'm very comfortable with how I've left this. Helen may not like it at all and that's okay as I've had some practice. I rather think a skirt like McCall's 7022 would be more suitable - lighter weight and more youthful. A full pleated tartan skirt would be difficult to look after. However.  I'm happy to wait. I'm also sending another skirt toile I'd done for her.

McCall's 7022, view B - I like this view and bought the pattern after seeing it

View B

Now I need to get on with my college homework; not too taxing this week. Then I need to make our evening meal. Warming food for a miserable day,  though it has cleared up a bit.

I'd love your comments!

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