Sunday, 27 October 2013

Fabric Shopping in London

I know, I've been a bit quiet lately.

I'm struggling to find the time to get all the posts up that I want to get up. As it is, my sleeve is sitting there, I'm pretty sure it's looking at me in a judgmental way. But hey, I am only one woman. I can't keep up with all the things I want to do! Christmas is getting close and I have a few gifts planned to make too, which means another demand on time. Why are the days so short?

This week I have been reading, shopping and thinking up new ideas for my next project. Or rather, attempting to prioritise my extensive list of ideas.

Finding appropriate fabric is a factor which slows me down. As usual, the clearer I am in my head about what I want exactly, the more likely I am to be unable to find it. I did recently buy three identical inexpensive scarves, because I liked the fabric and figured if I bought three I would be able to make a whole dress. The lady at the checkout looked at me kind of funny.
Bemused cashier: "You know these are the same, right?"
Me: "Yes, I know."
Bemused cashier: "It's just that most people buy different ones."
I think she found my response a little unsatisfactory. But these are desperate times.

This weekend, as something of a long awaited antidote to a general sense of cloth related melancholy, I went fabric shopping in London.

I lived in London for about 4 months. I came to the conclusion that London is a lovely place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there. It felt so busy, and to be honest I don't like getting lost in the crowd.

But Berwick street in Soho is an absolutely wonderful place.

I did not even care that it was raining.

Berwick Street has a collection of fabric and haberdashery stores like Aladdin's caves. This is the place where theatrical costumers shop, or the fashion school students in London. It has a rich history as being a key place for the rag trade, and among other things, the first place tomatoes were sold in London. There's a site here which includes a history of Berwick Street. If it interests you.

The stores along the street also include lots of retro and vintage clothing, costumes, art supplies, a comic book store, newsagents stocking high end fashion and art magazines, music (particularly vinyl) and all sorts of cafes and restaurants. There is also a market at one end of the road. And it's just near Carnaby Street and Liberty of London, with its iconic Liberty Print Fabrics.

Inside Liberty of London.

Button Cabinet!

Liberty lawns!
 It's pretty normal for fabric in this area to be around £65 per meter. And twice that is not the least bit unusual. But you can get absolutely anything you ever imagined, and a bunch of things that never even occurred to you. Japanese fabric? No problem. Heavy duty felt? Latex? Silk velvet? What colours do you fancy? Embroidered silks? Wool jersey? It's easy to get a bit giddy.

So in the interests of staying focused, I had a list - invisible zippers in particular colours, interfacing, and fabric for one upcoming project where the offerings at my local place (where fabrics are more around the £4 a metre mark) has come up disappointingly short despite watching for the last few months. I bought this.

I also purchased this fabric - a green viscose jersey. I had managed to resist on a previous occasion. There it was again, although there was much less on the roll. And I almost walked away. Then some else looked at it. She even asked for a sample. That was it. I swooped in and bought the last 1.2m on the roll. Take that design student! There is a very real possibility that I will eventually get to the stage where everything in my closet is green. I don't care.
I can't show you how beautiful this colour is. It just doesn't work in a photo.

I looked at so many beautiful wool fabrics for coats, and didn't buy any since they aren't in my budget just now.  But I negotiated with myself that I will look into this, as soon as I finish the coat I am making for winter 2012. :)

The best part of this is that I find it completely inspiring. That it may seem like we're alone in sewing for ourselves sometimes, but out there, there are people making unique individual garments at a very high level, keeping the skills alive and well. The conversations you hear in the shops reflect that, as people discuss the pros and cons of their prospective specialisations in menswear or textile design.

Here, I can be reassured that even though the chain store offerings flood the market, and it seems like there isn't an alternative, something else exists. And it gives me something to aspire to, because some people are working at such a high couture level, there is always going to be something new to learn. And I love it.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Drafting a Long Sleeve

For those of us in the northern hemisphere, the weather is getting a little cooler right now, and the sleeveless and short sleeve options aren't going to be useful for much longer. So I'm taking on the sleeves. (For you Daria!)

I had intended to have this post up on Friday. :( I've actually written it twice. When I made the pink cowl neck shirt I documented the sleeve drafting process, but I wasn't 100% happy. So being a bit of a perfectionist, I dragged my feet on it for a few days, and then started all over again. I've tested the new sleeve and it's better. I would like to have a photo, but I want to complete a few other bits first.

Anyway, here we go.

I already have, based on my t-shirt copy, a short sleeve pattern. Keep in mind that this pattern is for stretch fabric - woven fabrics are a bit different.
In my first trial, I used the narrower one, but for the second trial I used the wider one. This will depend on the stretch of the fabric, but you will want to have a wider fit than for the short sleeve because it will become narrower in the long sleeve.

I have decided to create a 3/4 sleeve, and all of the illustrations reflect that. The same rules can be applied for a full length sleeve.

I started by drawing a vertical line down my paper, longer than my arm.

I then traced my pattern piece onto the top of that, matching the line with the middle of my pattern piece.

I then wanted to mark the length. I need to measure my arm, from the seam line on the shoulder (should be the bony bit) to the length I would like my sleeve to be. If you don't have someone helpful handy, grab an existing garment with an appropriate shoulder seam and length, and measure that.

I ended up with 44cm. I measure down the line, starting at the stitching line rather than the cutting line.

I mark the desired length in, and I draw across at right angles.

Although it seems to make sense that you would just extend the existing lines down to this point, in all likelihood you will find it becomes too narrow at the bottom of the sleeve.

Measure around your wrist (or the point at which you want your sleeve to end) including a bit of wiggle room. Add 2 seam allowances.

Mark that measurement on the horizontal line, with the vertical line at the halfway mark. So in my case, because my desired measurement was 20cm, I added 2 x 1cm seam allowance = 22cm. I marked a point 11cm to the left and 11 cm to the right of the center line.

Join the top edge of the pattern piece with the corresponding point on the sleeve.

I checked the lengths of the sides and extended the back out slightly as it was about 5mm shorter.

For stretch wear, people often taper in slightly. I measured my arm from the sleeve line to the elbow. I drew in the elbow by measuring down from the seam line as before.

At this point, I want to curve into the elbow, about 1.5cm. I mark a point on each side.

And taper in using a French curve.

Take a moment to measure the piece around the bicep. If it's smaller than your bicep you might want to slash and expand your pattern piece.

Add a hem.

And cut out!

I've done all of these drawings in felt tip pen (aka markers/textas). That is so that it will show up in the photos. I don't recommend felt tip, because it rubs off on everything and you don't want that on your fabric.

Ok. So that's the sleeve pattern! Next time, we can have a look at how to put it into the shirt.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Constructing the Cowl Neckline

Ok. So if you followed the last post, you would have seen I got as far as drafting a front and back for a cowl neck shirt. These pieces are then lined up on the fold, and cut. Here is the process of assembly, with a few tips/tricks I learned along the way.

I began by binding the back neckline. I used a 4cm strip cut across the direction of greatest stretch, to form a 1cm binding. Binding tutorial here.

Lengthwise I cut my strip like this - short enough to provide support but not so short it would pucker the fabric. I can't give you an exact formula for this - there is a ratio for ribbed neckbands, but it can be a bit variable depending on the stretch of the fabric anyway. If it looks like this, its probably about right.

I completely forgot to take step by step pictures of the pink version for this part. :)

Once the back was bound, the front needed preparation too.

The inside fold of the cowl is finished before the shoulders are joined. Of course, you could leave the edge unfinished, and for many knits that won't be a problem. But I wanted to make it look polished, so I'm going to finish it. In doing this, it's important that the edge isn't distorted because that could have an impact on the way the fabric hangs. If I had an overlocker/serger, I'd just run it through. But I don't, and it's not completely necessary. After a bit of practicing on scraps (definitely worth practicing on scraps) I found this method.

I set the machine on the stretch stitch (the blue option on the dial) shown, and folded over a very small edge.
Then stitched over it. I made sure not to stretch the fabric as I went - I had to support it and almost push it under the foot. You could use a different stitch to achieve something similar if your machine didn't have the same stitch.

After the edge was pressed, using steam to correct any wobbles that formed, I got this.
And I am completely ok with it. It folds down like this, to form the nice soft edge on the cowl.

To assemble the cowl, the back shoulder is folded into the front of the shoulder. I pressed the fold and clipped into the corner to just shy of the depth of the seam allowance. This allowed me to wrap the front tightly, and means that the corners will meet where the seam is positioned.
The back neck edge is placed right into the corner.
Folded over, making sure the edge meets where the seam will be. You can see the edge of the binding sticking out here, clipped corner pulled tight.
Pinned. You could include a stabiliser here if you wanted to.
Sewn up, if the corner meets, there should be a nice smooth join when it's folded the right way.

Worked out well. :)
Once the shoulder seams are constructed, the side seams and sleeves and finishes are completed as usual.  You could also include an additional front layer, if you're concerned about the cowl moving a little too freely.  In that case, the neck edge of that front would be completed first, and it would be added into the layers at the shoulder too.

There are a couple of ways of going about adding a sleeve. There is the set in method, or the flat method. In stretch wear the flat method is faster. Here I used the set in method because I was testing the design as I went. But I will talk more on that next time! Right now this shirt can be basted up the sides for a fitting check.