Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Birthday Blue Linen Shirt (Marathon Edition)

About two weeks before my dad's recent 75th birthday, I decided a homemade linen shirt would make a special gift.

I thought I had some men's shirt patterns in my stash, but all I could find was a vintage short sleeved number that I thought would look too old fashioned on him and two copies of a pattern (V2209) that looked like a shirt pattern but was actually a trouser pattern (Vogue, that was a very misleading picture! And why do I have two copies?).

I tried to get something other than a Vogue pattern for a change, but when I rushed in to Lincraft in my lunch break they didn't have the Burda shirt patterns I liked in stock. It's fine though, I like the pattern I got - Vogue 8889 - and it has potential to make many different flavours of shirt.  If I ever have the energy, that is.

What I wanted was a hybrid: the long sleeves of version C (picture below on the left) and the no tucks casual look of version A (picture below on the right). But with a regular button front rather than the plackets shown. And made to fit a 75 year old...

version C, V8889
version A, V8889

tech drawings, V8889

Shirts can be a lot of work even straight out of the pattern envelope, but I knew it would be a better birthday present if it actually fitted him :).  Lincraft only had V8889 in the too small size (34 - 40, whereas I think my dad should start as a 42-44 before adjustments), perfect for learning more about fitting!

My dad's partner measured him and emailed me the numbers, and then I went looking for information on fitting shirts. If you ever make a shirt and want to know how to make it really fit and how to sew all the details beautifully, I found an amazing resource - the shirt making tutorials on Pamela Erny's blog! I used this tutorial to adjust the pattern to fit dad's abdomen, and I read many other tutorials here that I didn't put into practice - sadly I just felt too pressed for time to master new tricks.

Before I go too much further, let me show you the finished shirt on dad:

Some things are good - I love this colour on my dad (behind the glasses there are blue eyes), I'm happy with my fit adjustments over the abdomen and around the neck, and my replacement of the front button placket worked. I'm also really glad that there's no weird crumples or pulling between the buttons on the shirt front - my buttons and button holes seem pretty well aligned. And negatives? Of course, always! The shoulders are a little wide, the sleeves are a LOT long, the collar points aren't pointy enough, and probably there are other fitting issues I'm not even aware of!  My dad was pretty happy with it though, and of course that's the main thing.

Oh and this is how dad's RTW shirts usually seem to fit.  I kind of like that he looks sad here (the "before" picture, of course) then happy in the shirt I made!

And now it's time for the long waffly section about the adjusting and the sewing...

If you'd like to skip the waffle and see a beautiful version of this shirt, head over to kbenco's blog, but otherwise please read on :)

The process started way before I got near the sewing machine, of course. First up I shopped my stash. The fabric I chose  is a recent purchase from The Fabric Store, and it's a medium weight linen. I'd pre-washed it as soon as I'd bought it, so it was ready to go.  

The next step was to review the pattern size against dad's measurements. My results don't always show it (I often run out of time at the end), but I tend to be an over-analyser: 
  • I read Vogue's information on what size to choose for men...
  • I checked the stated measurements on the pattern instructions for the size I was using as a starting point (size 40 - allegedly two sizes too small)
  • I reviewed Vogue's ease chart to understand how loose they meant by "loose-fitting"  (although this is the ease chart for women - I haven't found similar for men)
  • For a more accurate assessment of ease, I measured pattern pieces and added up the numbers to get the actual circumference measurements for the shirt around the chest, waist and hips as well as the neck, and compared these to the measurements in the size chart (15 cm ease in the waist - wow!)
  • I scribbled out a matrix of all these numbers against my dad's measurements so I could work out how much I needed to add where
And then it was time to think about fitting, to think about my dad' shape, and to decide where to adjust the pattern. I drafted new collar (9), collar band (10) and under collar band (11) pieces because I wanted the collar to be 9 cm longer than drafted: 7.5cm extra length and 1.5cm ease. I  widened the back and yoke by 3cm, and in retrospect I shouldn't have made this adjustment as dad doesn't have particularly wide shoulders, and doesn't have a particularly wide back (d'oh).  I modified the side back (7) and side front (8) pieces substantially, adding 2.5cm to each on the side seams at waist level, tapering to 0.5 cm under the arm and 1.5cm at the hem. I  widened and lowered the front neckline to fit the collar, and omitted the button placket (and piece (11)). And then I used this very exciting tutorial  for a 'portly' adjustment :), with the front (1) sliced parallel to the grainline, up to about chest level, then rotated to create about 5cm extra width on the hemline.

Phew! Two weeks had nearly passed - time was running out! So I quickly sewed the shirt together sans collar and sleeves, and dad got to try on this very incomplete, unfinished shirt thing on his birthday. It was a bit snug across the chest, and some of my flat fell seams and top stitching didn't look too good, so it was unpicked and sewn back together with smaller front seams and a new edge stitching sewing machine foot. 

Much better. New deadline? Dad's birthday lunch, 10 days hence.

Off to work, home to play with the kids, suggest homework, make dinner, supervise baths, put them to bed, AND collapse on the sofa... Time flew past and I didn't pick up the shirt until the Thursday night before the Sunday lunch. Everything took longer than expected, and I skipped checking the sleeve lengths :( and just sewed like a sewing maniac. On the morning of the lunch I sewed even more frantically, and learnt how to get the machine to do the buttons for me - placement per one of Mr UpSewLate's business shirts - and yay! I got to the lunch late, but the shirt was finished and even ironed.

And I'll leave you with just a couple of detail pics. The collar, where you can see that a machine sewn button looks alright:

And a sleeve placket and cuff.  I think I last sewed a sleeve placket over 20 years ago!

I'm so tired!

My current sewing project is a pleated pair of pants, and it's not going well at all! I think I chose the wrong fabric to start with - it's thick and has no drape - and I'm not really sure how pleated pants are supposed to fit, though I do suspect that the dropped front crotch, tight back crotch, and puffy hips I've currently achieved are probably not quite right... I might have to morph these pants into something else!

Anyway, thanks for reading and I hope your projects are working well :)

See you soon

- Gabrielle xxx

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Splat! Top

I am running so behind with posts. This one was going to start with 'Yesterday...', then 'A week ago...' but it's longer than that now! Hopeless ;)

So. month or more ago after the pants fitting class at Tessuti Fabrics I picked up a lovely fabric that I remembered seeing on Rachel's blog late last year - just a small remnant, but it looked like enough for a top.

I'd been hankering after a big boxy top (preferably in scuba fabric - wouldn't that be cool! Erika B has just made an awesome neoprene dress...), and I thought if I made this top a size too big with a thick fabric it might approximate the look I was after :). [Can a lightweight ponte ever approximate neoprene? Hmm? No? Oh....]

The pattern is this one, V8916, a Vogue wardrobe pattern (top, skirt, jacket and dress). The pattern shows a top made from lace, and lace and eyelet are the recommended fabrics, but the tech drawing showed potential as a basic boxy tee, and it didn't look to need much fabric.

I normally cut a size 12 in the bust in Vogue patterns, a size 10 in the shoulders and a size 14 in the waist, but to get the oversized shape I was after I cut this top out in a straight size 14.  

Back view - nothing much to say:

The house elves seem to have taken the pattern, along with half of the wearable school socks, but I remember this as being a ridiculously easy sew. As it's a stretch fabric I haven't used a centre back seam; the top doesn't need a zip or button closure. I didn't finish my seams (wait - am I allowed to admit that? is it contentious?) but I never finish t-shirt seams, and as none of my t-shirts have fraying seams I don't think I'll be starting any time soon. The neckline is just the fabric folded over and stitched down with a twin needle, as are the sleeve hem and hem, and as usual I've stabilised the shoulder seams with clear elastic held taught but not stretched. And I tried something new - something Megan at the pants fitting class recommended - instead of stay stitching I used tearaway stabiliser to keep the neckline from stretching out - it worked, but I'll need to experiment with a few more projects before I decide whether I prefer it.

The top passes the jump test - some riding up, but absolutely no constriction - and jumping always gets a smile, so I guess that's a PASS:

Here's the pattern envelope picture in case you're interested to see what a delicate beauty the top is supposed to look like. The model obviously needs to try some jumping:

I will TRY to be back soon with more backlog projects. Actually I've got even more than before because my mum's handed over two of her own sewing projects for me to keep - two very, very different tops from the same pattern!

Keep jumping

- Gabrielle xxx

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Lily's First Dress

Who's Lily? Lily is the doll my daughter got for Christmas. A sporty, wholesome looking doll, but one with no dresses. Obviously I had to make her one!

My daughter chose the fabrics for this dress - and another I haven't made yet - from my ample stash. And judging by her choices (yellow dots with yellow lining, and blue linen with a cerise lining for the as-yet-unmade dress) all the cute, girlish fabrics she didn't pick may be nearing their use by dates.  

This dress is fully lined - fancy for a doll - and the bubble skirt is a real bubble skirt, with the outer much wider than the inner skirt:

It closes with velcro in the back.

The velcro I bought seemed too wide, so I sewed it at half width, with stitches going along the velcro edge aligned with the fabric edge, and also along the half way width of the velcro. After stitching I cut the excess velcro width away, leaving some nice narrow velcro for the next dress. 

The pattern I used was this one, McCall's 6853, which is intended for standard 18" dolls. The pattern looks like good value as it includes two different chairs and a heart-shaped cushion as well as a couple of dresses, and both the dresses are appealing. The McCall's site I've linked to describes the pattern as including shoes, but it doesn't.

Which is all well and good, EXCEPT that the pattern is for an 18" doll. I'd estimated Lily to be about 18" tall when I bought the pattern, but she's an inch shorter and a lot skinnier than the average 18"-er.  It's a bit embarrassing to admit this, but I ended up taking Lily's measurements so I could grade the pattern down! Wouldn't want to make baggy doll's clothes, would we! Talk about crazy...

The pattern adjustments went well except that I'd forgotten to measure the height at which Lily's neck turned into cloth - obviously not a regular adjustment for humans but one that a doll like this will always need :).  And hence the white band you can see at the top of the dress, which perhaps you generously assumed was a high-necked singlet?

Even with an exercise in grading, I found sewing for a doll this size lot easier to do than for a Barbie!

Don't worry, normal programming is scheduled to resume shortly.

Back soon with grown up sewing!

- Gabrielle xx

Friday, 7 February 2014

Geometric Silk Top

Right now I've got a bit of a blogging backlog, and this little top isn't the first in the queue but it IS the one that was photographed yesterday. The photos were a bit of an adventure (more about that later) so this is the one that's coming first.

So, this is a little top made from a metre of silk I bought at The Fabric Store about a week ago, when I was looking for something else (oops - but I'm sure that happens to lots of people!). I love geometric prints and all things tesselation-like, and I'd just been reading Lena's tips for sewing with silk, so I was really excited to try the gelatine treatment and sew something silk in stable form. If you're wondering if the gelatine trick works, it does! I used it straight after handwashing my silk in a silk wash, and initially thought there wasn't going to be enough gelatine to do anything - the water mixed with gelatine looked and felt like regular water.

I couldn't seem to find exactly the kind of pattern I wanted for this top, and all the runners up used more than a metre, so I sort of 'drafted' something for myself - a simple loose, blocky shape drawn roughly on butcher's paper - though in retrospect I could have looked among my vintage patterns, as I've made tops very similar in shape to this before. 

Tops to fit me need a length from shoulder to hip of about 60cm, and a width from sleeve hem to sleeve hem of about 85cm - so there was no way I could fit a top with cut-on sleeves in my single metre. Time for the Puzzles Department to wake up.  I realised that I could reduce the body length by making raglan sleeves, which could fit on the fabric if rotated 45 degrees. So I drew and cut some 45 degree lines, from underarm to neckline, to make a separate sleeve pattern piece. 

Of course I should have been able to line the fabric patterns up on the seams better than this, but since I didn't think I had enough fabric to play with I didn't worry about the pattern alignment across any of the seams.  


I made some darling self-fabric bias binding for the neckline with my new clover bias binding gizmo and the odd little leftover scraps, and it worked reasonably well for a first go, and with silk.  But I left finishing the neckline till the end, by which time I'd convinced myself the top was going to be a dog - so I didn't take enough care and the stitch finish is not great. Sill-eee! 

I did manage to pay attention to the seams and hems at least. French seams throughout, and nice straight hems that follow the pattern lines. Speaking of which, isn't the fabric gorgeous?

Lately I've either been asking other people to take my photos for me (thank you kids, mother-in-law, colleagues) or taking my own photos with a timer in the privacy of my own home / balcony / garden. Now that school's back and I'm back at work, I don't feel like I have time for interesting outings, but I'm getting a bit sick of my photos of the same old brick balcony wall! 

I took my camera in to work with me yesterday, and after work walked around the city looking for a good spot: somewhere not too busy and yet good looking and light, and somewhere I wasn't likely to bump into colleagues. This little street is in the Sydney CBD, and there were cars and people going past, but not constantly.

It's been a long time since I've taken my own photos in public, and boy did I feel awkward - so much more embarrassing than doing it with a friend - but at the end I also felt exhilerated that I'd done it! Once I'd taken a few phone snaps to check which direction / view would look alright, I set up my tripod and camera with the 10 second timer, with the camera on burst mode. I took loads of photos of the buildings and walls around me, pretending that's what I was about, and every now and then I'd mosey over to where the camera was pointed and pretend I was checking things out (camera silently going click, click, click). Have you ever taken photos of yourself in public? 

Finally, I have to thank the commenters on my pants muslin post - I'm looking forward to trying out those suggestions, and I will definitely give myself some sitting down ease :)  I'm busting to get back to the pants, but first I've a shirt to make for my dad's birthday - which is on Monday - yikes!

Thanks for reading! See you soon

- Gabrielle xxx
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