Monday, January 7, 2013

Wifes blog!

Wife has a blog now, too! We're a whole bloggy family! The dog has his own post on tumblr, the cat has a whole facebook... goodness. Its like the whole family is stuck in their technology.

Anyway, it's a knitting blog primarily, but I'm sure there will be sewing eventually.

Toile take 2

My favorite part of the busy work of sewing - tracing patterns, cutting fabric, hand stitching, etc - is listening to podcasts and books on tape. The past few days I've been going through the archive of This American Life, which I have always loved. Since I don't live in the states anymore, I can't listen to it on NPR like I used to. Now I listen to it online when it's released each week and, on days like today when I can sew for hours, stream episodes for hours while Wife does her own thing in the other room. What do you do when you have busy work? Listen to music? Watch TV? Podcasts? What are your favorites? 

So, on to sewing. Since my first Pastille toile was a major flop, I realized I need to cut different sizes and grade them out in certain places. My original thought was just to trace one size, trace another size, and grade between them in the places I need more or less room. It has to be as simple as that, right?

Yeah, because winging it has served me so well in the past.

So I decided to google "how to grade a pattern" to see what I could find. First up, this article on Threads 

1. If the grade is uneven and you're sizing up, then you can use an even grade equal to the value of the largest measurement difference. If you're sizing down, then use an even grade equal to the value of the smallest difference. This will get the pattern close to the general size you need, then you can make minor adjustments as needed.

Okay then. That would be my 14-16-18 dilemma. The 14 is perfect in one area and too small in every  other. The 16 is almost perfect all around except for the waist, where the 18 is most ideal. But the 18 is way too big in every other area. So I need the back and shoulders of the 14, the waist of the 18, and 16 everywhere else.

hmmm… Right.

After doing a little more googling, I decided to just do it the way I originally thought to: trace a 16 and an 18, grade them together at the waist, and perhaps make the back dart a little bit longer to take out some room in the shoulders. 

I had done all of this work already: tracing the pattern, cutting the fabric. I spent all day Friday tracing and cutting and most of the day Saturday sewing and had very little to show for it. I was hoping to have something wearable this time around.  Eventually I decided to cut the bodice in a 16 and the skirt in an 18. So I traced again, cut again.

For the record, this is my tracing setup: I trace onto some packing paper, which is a little heavier than newsprint but not as heavy as printer paper. It's easy to see through, though the printing on this pattern isn't very strong so I have to use some backlighting. So I tape it against our sliding glass door. Not very fun, but easier than trying to peer through paper with my fuzzy eyes.

Wife and I woke up Sunday morning and decided not to do derby because it was so early and we had to take transit pretty far to get there (we're starting out as non skating officials for roller derby). Then one of the friends we were having over came down with noro virus so only his partner came. That meant I had pretty much all day to sew! 

This time the process went a little more quickly. Probably because I've done all this work before? I traced, cut, cut some more, stitched, stitched, and stitched. Finally, after midnight, I had an almost finished garment. I should have listened to my body around 10 pm, though, when I made my first major mistake: sewing the skirt panels on backward. Ugh. I had them sewn, ironed, and pinked (because I dont have a serger and there is no way I'm doing french seams on a toile Im pretty sure isnt going to turn out) and realized I needed to rip out the seams and start again. 

I actually have a rule that if I make a mistake like that, I have to put the project away and start again later. It's one sign I'm either too hungry or too tired or not paying enough attention (which means I'm not treating it like the self-care sewing is supposed to be!) to be working on the project. 

And of course I didn't listen to myself. Oh, no.

After I ripped that seam out, I was sure I would be able to finish it - sew the neckline facing, stitch the zipper - before bed. Neckline facing went without a problem. I actually kind of enjoy facings. They're definitely not for impatient people, and holy shit is it way easier to do with a tailors ham, but in a way it's nice detail work. Its almost soothing to sit with my iron and press out the seams. Why don't I feel this way about darts? 

(side note: I think for my actual garment, I may use some light interfacing on the sleeves to give them a little more structure. I find the neckline stays a bit easier with interfacing and the same is probably true of the sleeves. Im planning to line it, so Im not sure thats necessary, but it might not hurt.)

So, the zipper. ha ha, oh zipper, you're such a funny beast. I can't count the amount of times I had to rip that jerk back because I had sewn through a part of the dress by accident. So many ridiculous mistakes that could have been avoided if I had just listened to my body. After my 5th time of screwing up the zipper, I called it a night and decided to finish it in the morning.

The garment is finished at this point, but there are so many adjustments I need to make to the fit that I might as well not have finished it at all. It's unfortunate that I basically need to do all of the work to piece together the garment and get the zipper on before I can truly tell what the fit will be like.

Today I'm back to school, so I know future progress on the dress will be a little slower. No more whole-weekend-marathon sewing sessions. Which is probably a good thing, considering some of the shoddy work on this toile. Pics and a critique of the fit soon, I promise.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Pastille #1: miserable failure

I started working on my Pastille toile on Friday. I took my time, did my measurements, and decided to cut a 14. I carefully traced each pattern piece, cut out an old bedsheet, and started stitching everything together today. I was doing so well! I was taking my time, taking breaks, going slowly. I figured this would not be a wearable muslin because the fabric I was using was splotched and faded (plus it was far too thin to be wearable without a lining or slip) but I wanted to get all of the techniques right before I cut my real fabric.

Before i even got to the zipper I realized there had been a horrible mistake. I was having the same gaping back problem everyone else has had, with one exception - my waist was at LEAST 4 inches too small. It was a bit tight around the skirt but the waist! The bust darts were a bit too high.

I decided to baste the zipper in real quick to see if I could at least try to fit it, but it was hopeless. I have no idea how I mismeasured my waist, but I did.

I remeasured, and my body is all over the place. The 14 fit my bust perfectly, except for the waist. I'll need a 16 for the skirt for more comfortable movement. And I'll need an 18! for my waist. Next time, I'll cut a 16 and grade out the waist a little bit to see if that helps. I'll probably also have to do some adjusting in the back so it doesn't gape, though I won't know how much until I've got my second toile done.

Speaking of the Pastille, I bought some acetate lining to underline my dress whenever I get the fit down. I wanted to buy Bemberg rayon, but it was FIVE times the price, and I'm broke. The acetate feels better than the other poly stuff but not quite as smooth as the bemberg. (note: bemberg rayon lining is almost double the price at Dressew than it is online at Mood. What. The. Fuck.)

Tomorrow we're at a derby scrimmage and having a few friends over, then Monday starts school again so I doubt I'll be anywhere near as prolific as I'd like to be with redesigning. Hopefully I'll have a finished toile within the week! Expect some leggings to tide you over, though. I've got some animal prints to cut into for Jungle January!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Invisible zipper foot?

I spent this morning tracing Colette's Pastille dress to make a muslin. I normally never do this, but after seeing all the trouble other sewists had with that dress, and promising that 2013 is going to be the Year of Intentional Sewing, I realized a muslin is probably a good idea. I'm also between two sizes and I didn't grade the pattern at all, so we'll see how this goes! Expect to see a light blue bedsheet refit into a Pastille dress sometime in the next few days (maybe even today, since Wife is at work and I'm not volunteering tonight!)

On that note, I realized I not only do not have any invisible zippers, but I'm not even sure I own an invisible zipper foot! Before we left for the holiday, I sold my spinning wheel in order to upgrade my sewing setup. Since I bought Wife sewing lessons for solstice, we decided it would be a good idea to have a more dedicated sewing space than just the kitchen table. Plus, I am SO over cutting on the floor.

When I organized all my notions and supplies into the drawers of the Norden Gateleg Table we bought from IKEA, I realized I have about 15 extra feet. Seriously. I have 5 regular feet, 5 zipper feet, and an assortment of other feet that I've used once or twice. Most of them have come from various machines I've owned over the years and have died on me. A few came with the cute little Elna we bought from Spool of Thread when it was 50% off (!!). Honestly, I've only ever sewn in a zipper three times, and one was hand picked.

In all that organization, I found this weird looking little foot. It's shaped like an invisible zipper foot, but it's longer than any I've seen by a few millimeters. The hole is larger. It has the grooved bottom. All signs indicate invisible zipper foot (if so, woo!) but who knows? The Elna we have has a spring loaded foot mechanism in addition to the bolt, but i haven't tried to fit the foot to the machine yet.

So, any guesses on how old this guy is? I got a whole whack of sewing supplies from my great aunt before she died, so it could be decades old. I'm not even sure what model machine it's for. 

I'm off to buy a couple zippers and perhaps some rayon lining for my real Pastille (which will be made from the soft printed twill from the previous post). I'm also going to try to fit this weird little doodad to my machine and hope that I don't have to go buy a new foot!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Hungover trip to Fabricland

Did you know that birthday cake vodka is a thing? Not like candy cigarettes, which are sweet and delicious and not really cigarettes and do not really cause cancer (unless you believe this guy). Oh no no, it exists and it's real vodka that causes real hangovers.

Wife and I went to a glamor shots themed NYE party last night (pictures will be posted, I promise). Our friend throws wonderful themed parties. Last year was Mad Men/60s themed, and we made my families version of swedish meatballs and pineapple upside down cupcakes (all veganized). This year, we made nothing to bring because we spent the entire day before traveling, which I'm pretty sure contributed to this wicked hangover.


I got an automated phone call the other day while driving my dog to the vet telling me Fabricland is having a 50-70% off sale today and tomorrow. We became members last month when I needed to buy fleece (and spring loaded scissors) to make a rag quilt for my dad. So, slightly hungover, I hauled my behind back to New Westminster after spending the night there then going home to do some fabric and pattern shopping.

Part of my goals for 2013 is to stick. to. patterns. I've done so much (failed) sewing without patterns, attempting to draft my own. I have the mind for it - I can look at shapes, do the math, coordinate the pieces, and put it all together... I just don't have the technical proficiency yet. I don't know how pieces should be shaped, how to fit garments properly, etc. So I'm going to stick with patterns for this year to grow my skills a bit.

Walking around Fabricland, it was so hard to stay away from the knits and think "I should make a dress out of this and this and this and..." without having a pattern in mind for it. I went in with 5 patterns in mind - all dresses and skirts (actually, most of them were Colette patterns) - and got fabric for 2.

I swore up and down I was going to stick to my list. I was only going to get fabric for an actual project. I had a list. I was so empowered.

I am such a sucker.

I spent $50 on 7.5 yards of fabric which isn't entirely bad. I'll get at least 3 projects out of it, maybe 4. One fabric was intended for a Meringue skirt, but I think it might be better suited for a beignet (which I think I like better, anyway, and I've already made before).

click to embiggen

The yellow is much more dark mustard and less orange in real life, though it really brings out the golden orangey tones in the speckley houndstooth printed twill next to it. The twill is going to be a Colette Pastille dress.

That zebra. Oh god, that zebra. I kept gravitating to the animals, I promised I wasn't going to get any unless it explicitly fit into a project, and then that sales person had to say "Oh you like animal prints? did you see that we have stretch lace leopard print?" why, no. No I did not. Oh god. I was able to resist until I walked a few paces away and noticed the floral stretch lace printed with zebra. One meter, I tell myself. Just one and I'll make due.

And then I got to the cutting table and my mouth said "two meters, please." Ugh, what a brat.

In other news, our friend left a gift on our doorstep when we got home this morning and it's a food dehydrator! I am mega thrilled to start using it. I'm taking a trip to costco tomorrow to pick up bulk edamame to dehydrate into quick, high protein snacks for school.

AND! Thanks to Scruffybadger, I'll be participating in Jungle January! I have so many animal prints to work through, I might as well make it a goal for this month! 

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Halloween 2011, 2012

To start off a series of posts about garments past, here are costumes from Halloween 2011 and 2012. In the spirit of just about everything I do, these were both started at the last minute (perhaps days before hand) and finished the day of an event (perhaps minutes beforehand). I think I actually skipped one or two events I would have gone to because the shark costume wasn't done. Oh well.

For my costumes, I like the idea of wearable garments that imitate or give the impression of some idea/concept/thing. I want to be able to use my costumes again if I'm going to put all the work into it. With that in mind, I came up with the cupcake costume.

Two things to keep in mind:

  1. I've never made a button down top before. Ever. I've never done sleeves, I've never sewn a shirt from a pattern, I've never looked at the actual construction of a peter pan collar. When I started making the shirt, I looked at a few technical drawings but didn't do much research beyond how to shape a sleeve.
  2. I'd never made pants before this. I once attempted pajama pants from a pattern more than 10 years ago, but never finished them.

That said, here's a cupcake:

I have no idea what the pink fabric is, but it's pretty heavy. I found it in the roll end bin at Dressew, which is where I've gotten most of my fabric, so I don't know the fiber content. It was the perfect shade and shine, though, which is why I picked it out. The brown fabric is a basic woven cotten cannibalized from a thrifted duvet cover.

The hat was made by stuffing a circle and stitching on a gathered tube with exposed seam. There are also really large sequins stitched on as "sprinkles", with elastic attached to keep it on my head (it was too heavy to just make a fascinator out of it)

I wanted the feel of soft, fluffy icing on top, so I chose a peter pan collar, gathered sleeves at the top and elastic casing at the edge, and some slight gathering underbust with a corset shaped bodice area. 

Hellloooooo, camel toe. Like I said, I hadn't made pants before this, so I made the rise WAY. TOO. SHORT. For the bloomers, I followed a youtube video (after googling "bloomers tutorial") which was really informative, but really... that rise. Dear god. I still wear these under dresses in the summer when I need something so I don't chafe. I should have redone these, but I couldn't determine the fit too well without doing the elastic casing. After having the most frustrating time feeding the elastic through, I was done with these and decided it would have to do.

You can see how ill fitting the top is here, but without a pattern and without ever having made a button down before, I'd say it's not entirely bad. It could definitely use some darts. Because the top fabric doesn't have very much movement, I added a vent... thing?

I have mixed feelings on these pieces. I'm proud that I was able to come up with these on the fly with almost no experience sewing garments, but I'm starting to realize I need to use patterns. 

For Halloween 2012, I wanted something tight, easy, and low maintenance. Taking inspiration from the Femme Shark Manifesto, I decided a shark would be perfect for the mindset I've been in.

I used a really heavy silver something (no idea what it really is) I got at an Our Social Fabric sale. It's a 4 way stretch but heavier than bathing suit material. No pattern used, just my measurements. I made a mistake on the hood because I made it too long and trimmed from the bottom - forgetting to add extra length so the front would lay flat - instead of the top. Ah well. I used a banded hem to add a little length - it was SHORT - and to give it a more snug fit at the bottom. 

The limp shark fin after I hand stitched it on. There is a small squared off hole in the seam at the top where I snaked a metal coat hanger through to give it shape.

There are my Halloween costumes! One thing I've realized after writing this: the downside of being completely self taught without books or patterns is that I don't have a feel for material except through trial and error and I don't know the technical name for anything. I suppose more research and practice will help, but expect a lot of "thingies" and "maybe?"s for a while.

First post!

First post! Awkward times! Talking to myself! What to say to an empty room?

Maybe an introduction? I'm M. I've been sewing for yearsandyears. I started out sewing small square bottomed bags and pouches, quilted totes, and various whatnots. I didn't start learning to sew clothing until recently - maybe in the past 5 years - and even now I think I'm an advanced novice, though I can sew a straight line and I'm pretty intuitive about construction. I ditched sewing for other fibery crafts - crocheting, spinning, and more recently, knitting - and moderated a major crafting website for a while. Learning other crafts taught me how look at the shape of my body and how to construct clothes without a pattern. I've never been one to work from patterns, so I've been self-teaching drafting to fit my body by looking at RTW. And guessing. A lot.

That doesn't really work out if you don't understand basic construction and technique. So.

With my first semester of grad school over, I realize I need to find a better balance between constructive (har har) self care and school work. In addition to work-goals, I've set a few self-care goals for 2013:

  1. Do not wear a single pair of jeans. I hate the way they look on me. I hate the way they fit. I hate the way they restrict my movement. 
  2. Follow up to goal 1: Make 1 skirt or dress per month, even if it takes the whole month.
  3. Complete 1 copy of every pattern I bought last year, and at least 2 patterns from each book I own. Thankfully this is mostly skirts, dresses, and knitwear.
  4. Learn how to fit to my body and find a style that works, not just trends (holy hell, baggy shirts? Look like crap on me. Need. Fitted. Waist.
  5. Actually blog. Really, the blog is motivation to complete my first 4 goals because it provides some level of accountability. Hopefully it should also help me think about what I am doing and why.

There are my goals! Wife and I are in Michigan right now visiting family. We've been here for the past two weeks and we are ridiculously excited to go home and love on our babies (of the fur variety). In addition to some clothing shopping while we were here, I also managed to snag 5 yards of matte jersey at half price. Even full price was still several dollars cheaper than most of the fabric stores in Vancouver, so I'm pretty stoked. The fabric in this blurry Photobooth picture will eventually be leggings:

Expect more posts after this one to catch up on what I made in 2011 and 2012 - which isn't much at all.