Monday, 23 July 2012

What is Sewing Success?

How do you define a sewing success?

Exhibit 1. 
This top was made from fabric selected by my 5 year old daughter as a birthday treat and then sewn into a top (as requested) within a week of purchase, with instructions for "no ironing!" followed strictly. The fabric is from Tessuti Fabrics, and the pattern is # 151 from BurdaStyle issue 11/2010 (also made in textured Japanese cotton for summer here and in riotous winter colour here) with the gathered raised waist turned into pleats and centre back zip omitted. The bodice is lined in a soft lyocell fabric for comfort, and the whole thing sparkles and shimmers beautifully in the sunlight.

But this is a top that will not be worn because the style is wrong. Apparently 5 year olds wear tight stretchy tops; looseness is for dresses and little girls.  So that's a fail.

What about this?

Exhibit 2. 
This is a top made for Mr Upsewlate to test out a pattern I put together based on one of his favourite long sleeve t-shirts. The fabric is cheap stuff from Lincraft (and I've used it before for a quick & dirty top for myself) but soft and cottony with a nice weight. Remarkably for a cheap fabric the stripes run pretty straight (and have been matched on side seams, sleeve seams, shoulder seams as much as possible - of course). The neckband and sleeve bands are made from a coordinating rib knit.

You'd think that basing the shape on an old favourite would be smart...hmm. Apparently this top fits better than the original (now you tell me!) and feels comfortable on, but obviously the shoulders are way too broad and the sleeves are also too wide and too long. I think this will get worn but I will always be conscious of those ridiculous shoulders, so this is a fail too.

And this?

Exhibit 3.
What can I say... I think you know the answer already. I hate it on me! I do like the neckline and the shoulders / sleeves but that's it.

This fabric was an interesting remnant from Tessuti fabrics that I held onto for ages because it didn't really seem to be my style - I don't like brown and I don't wear 70s. The pattern started with the top from Vogue 1310, the recent Chado Ralph Rucci pattern, which I turned into a dress (and obviously it's not cut on the bias). I made this dress as a tester for a planned winter dress which I am now very unsure about.

It's better on my dress dummy, and the zig zags are reasonably symmetric and reasonably matched on the side seams, and the neckline and shoulders are properly stabilised with clear elastic, and the self-fabric lining matches pretty well on the zig zags too - but all that doesn't make me want to wear it. Another fail.


So I think for me sewing success is about wearability - part and parcel of that is whether it's been sewn neatly, whether the fit is decent, and whether the fabric / colours / style look good on. I don't require my sewing to look perfect on the inside so long as the imperfections aren't evident to my eye from the outside of the garment, but I don't think I'd be happy wearing noticeably wavy hems or puckered seams - I don't want people to know from 50 paces that what I'm wearing is homemade.  I don't require immaculate fit because I haven't had much experience of it to date, but I expect to get more picky as I become a better seamstress.

I see that the success / fail metric varies a lot across the sewing blogs. Some of us are happy to make something we can wear, but others are really tough on themselves.  Do you think some seamstresses are seeing errors that the rest of us don't even notice??? [That's my hypothesis....] And what about finish? Should RTW be the yardstick for garment finish, or should we be aiming for couture perfection?  I haven't ever seen couture IRL, but my David Coffin trousers book shows there can be couture seams with no finishing - so how does that reconcile with my serger ownership aspirations? Can I still justify one?

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Draped Jersey Top

As it turns out, draping is not as easy as it looks. At least not for me, at least not with drapey, stretchy jersey!

This simple looking jersey top is the result of my Saturday afternoon AND evening :-)- and the skirt is of course V1282 again.

This colour is pretty accurate - the top is a deep, purplish blue
The underlying top is a simple BurdaStyle one (2/2009-108, but I don't recall what size my tracing is), and my challenge was that simple looking drape crossing my body. Simple, simple, simple - not.

A lighter photo...
The top is made from two remnant pieces of a soft, inviting viscose/elastane fabric from Tessuti Fabrics.  Very pleasant to wear but uncooperative with my sewing machine - even with walking foot, the right stretch needle, and adjusted tension. I don't think you can see the grief it gave me so let's move on.

A close-up showing the pleats and drape
Yes, I'm smiling - my top isn't exactly as I initially envisaged, but I really like it. To be completely honest, the final (quite imperfect) drape positioning on my body is better than my original idea (which emphasised my waist quite spitefully) - but I did so much pinning, trying on and repinning that the adjusted version really should be an improvement!

In case you're interested, here's how I did it. If you are a whizz at draping you're welcome to have a giggle so long as you leave me some top tips in the comments box!

The Mechanics
Well, I started this top by cutting out a BurdaStyle fitted long sleeve t-shirt, one which I've made several times before*. I cut out so as to leave as big a single piece of unused fabric as possible for draping - this ended being roughly a square shape.  From this square shape I cut out the RHS front arm hole, side seam and shoulder slope (extended out at the same angle until I hit the top edge of my drape fabric) to match the RHS shape of the base top.

* The idea was to start with something that fitted me, but I forgot that I always adjust the sizing of this top a lot (I need it to be more pearish) when I make it. 

Next up I pinned all the bodice pieces together on my dress form - first the base front and back, then the RHS shoulder seam for the extra piece to be draped.  As I pinned the shoulder seam I pinned in place some pleats that I thought might work, with a deep fold of fabric to hopefully stop the drape from flipping open:


I roughly pinned together the side seams and RHS armhole, to be basted together before sewing the top:


and fiddled with the drape for ages before pinning it into the LHS waist area where it would meet up again with the base top and get sewn in (and trimmed):


Lots of excess fabric, but this was the idea - pleats on the side seam:

I then tried it on full of pins. The drape shown above didn't look good at all, so I played around with the angle of the drape and where on the LHS seam it landed. When I was happy with how the drape placement looked - landing a lot lower on my body - I sewed the draped pleats to the base top at the shoulder seam, then sewed the RHS armhole and side together (as pinned in photo 2 above).

Danger Zone
Next up I sewed together shoulder seams, then sewed in the RHS sleeve, then the RHS sleeve seam and RHS side seam. I tried it on again but the weight of the drape made it hard to tell if anything was changing with the fit - however, with a sleeve in place it was now obviousthat the base top didn't fit very well on the shoulders and upper bust. Grrr. Oh, and the arm scye was way too big and the sleeves baggy and saggy.

The thing is that my dress form doesn't have my shape, even when I manage to set all the dials to the right numbers. Her shoulders are much wider than mine, and somehow her posture is better or something so that she never gets fabric pooling in her upper bust area. And on a top with drapery hanging off the shoulder, you need to know your shoulder!

After a lot of mucking around and hypothesising about seams I could take in, the despairing thought "if only I could make my shoulders bigger" was met with a brainwave: shoulder pads!

I sewed up the rest of the top with the shoulder pads pinned in place, and the drape got healthier. I took the upper side seams and upper sleeve seams in, then again, and then again, and finally that fitting problem looked to be resolved.

One problem remains: my shoulder pads are not adequately supported by actual shoulders, and this makes the outermost pleat collapse somewhat:

A TNT pattern is one that fits; the BurdaStyle top needs some work before it can become one. [Note to self: narrow the shoulders and upper bodice, widen the waist!]
Draping on the dress form assumes your dress form reflects your form.  Draping on the person might be quicker and more reliable but needs a sewing friend because the pinning can be tricky with only 2 arms.

My dress form is not very pear-shaped. How can I make her shoulders smaller like mine???? 

Finally, some questions for you if you've read this far!

  1. Have you ever tried draping with knits? 
  2. Do you think you know how to do it? 
  3. If  you answered 'Yes' to 1) or 2), can you give me any tips or suggest any resources?

Monday, 9 July 2012

Troubadour Top - Yes, It Fits

This is not really a post - just some photos (finally!) to show you that my impractical "troubadour" top fits.

Yes, it really does fit - really.

And honestly, the only reasons I didn't post this sort of photo before are that I simply didn't get around to photos last weekend when it wasn't raining, and that my camera is playing up and won't take a decent photo now unless it's outside with lots of sunshine. I do empathise - I miss the sunshine in winter too.

We had sunshine today, but by late afternoon (when these photos were snapped) my camera was whiney.  I think it deliberately made the colours go a bit old fashioned... The colours on my earlier post are more true.

Anyway, IF I ever wear my exciting top to work it will be like this - with my black Vogue 1282 Donna Karan skirt and black heels.

And the sun is going down, so that's it!

See you soon!

PS Thanks for your lovely supportive comments on this top on the dress form - I'm really happy with it, so I'm going to try to keep pushing myself creatively even if it does make for some unwearable garments.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Troubadour Top (V8815)

I'm shouting from the rooftops - I love, love, love my new top!

                   Well, shouting from the deck at the sky and at the roof... same thing :-)

Don't worry, I'm not saying I did an amazing job - of course I didn't! It's just that finally I've made the sort of bold, interesting garment I would covet if I saw someone else had it.

I do love the look of these fabrics together. However... the bodice and peplum are made from leftover upholstery fabric that I originally used about 7 years ago to upholster my dining room chairs. It's a really durable fabric - the chair seats still look new - but it has absolutely NO give. You live and learn, but this is definitely not the best fabric for a fitted bodice. The sleeves are in a coordinating raw silk, another leftover or remnant from I don't know where or when - they're perfectly wearable, but I'm not going to separate them from that bodice.

I love the trim on the peplum:

I cut this from a long selvedge edge. If you look closely you'll see the stitching to hold the seams in place (this sort of fabric can be unruly).

I love the stripes matching on the not quite invisible zipper. I forgive the zipper peeking out above the waist seam. I can live with that:

I love the stripes also matching on the side seams of the bodice;  I love the curvy triangle between the sleeve and the bodice and peplum: 

But have I made myself an unwearable top?

The top is based on V8815, a non-designer (gasp!), very easy (double gasp!) pattern that came out this year (triple gasp!). This is view B, but with the sleeve length of view C.

I made a size 12 at the top, tapering out to a 14 at the waist. I'll do a full review soon on Pattern Review, but the summary version is that although I love this top, the pattern seemed a bit short waisted and a bit small. I doubt that I've put on weight in the shoulder or bust area (snort!); but perhaps the sizing on the regular Vogue patterns is a little smaller and shorter than on the designer patterns I've been sewing more of lately.

In my imagination I can wear this to work, but I am not really a troubadour or any other kind of performer. And all you sensible people will appreciate that this is not the attire that's expected in a conservative financial institution.  

See you!

PS I'll try to get some photos of this on me soon - it feels snug on but it does look to fit!

Sunday, 1 July 2012

News Flash: $1.99 Clearance Sale!

Just in case you didn't see anything about this in your email inbox (I didn't), there's a Vogue/McCalls/Butterick $1.99 sale on all out of print and clearance patterns - and it runs to 2nd July (US time). If you're a Club BMV member there's a further 30c off each pattern so they're just $1.69 each.

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