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.
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.