Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Asymmetrical Cowl and Gather Dress - Construction

Hello there!

I am missing a photo for this post as it's on my camera, which I've left at home. But I wanted to get this finished by the end of the year because as irrational as it seems, the start of a new year feels like this last project should be finished, even though it marks an arbitrary position of the earth in relation to the sun as a significant point. I also know that for some of my readers, it has already ticked over. None of that is the point.

On to the making!

Starting with the prepared pattern:

I should add, put markers on the back piece side seam as well as the front. If you placed your dots to gather between 3.5cm above and below the waistline as I did, put dots 3.5cm above and below the waistline here. If you put them 4cm above and below, put them 4cm above and below. These dots are a guide - you will gather the front piece to fit between those dots and match it to line them up.

So dots on the back:
Cut out the pieces, including a binding strip for the back neckline. So that's a 4cm wide strip, folded over and cut marginally shorter than the neckline that looks like this:

To prepare the back, sew the darts and bind the neckline.
See binding options here by hand or machine option here.

To prepare the front, gather between the dots first, by using two lines of gathering stitches. The distance will match the dots on the back piece, so 7cm in my case because 3.5cm + 3.5cm = 7cm. The side seams should be the same size once the gathering is in place.

This is already sewn together - that's the missing photo. But the gathers should look like this, with 2 lines of gathering stitches.

Once that is complete, construct the cowl neckline. Despite the twist, it is exactly the same as for the simple cowl tee.

Next, add the sleeves (I used the flat method) if you want them. Then sew the side seams, hem the sleeves or arm hole, and hem the bottom of the dress. I opted to baste the side seams and try it on first, so that I could adjust the gather if I wanted to (and I did tweak it a little). Initially I made it without sleeves, and found that with the addition of sleeves it needed to be shorter to balance the garment.

I was being a bit fussy on this one, so I hand sewed my hems with herringbone / hem stitch, so that the hem is as near to invisible as possible.

It was a reasonably quick construction (hand sewing aside). I think now that I've drafted the pattern, I could probably whip another one up in a couple of hours.

See you all next year!

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Asymmetrical Cowl and Gather Dress - Adding the Asymmetrical Neckline and Side Gather to the Pattern

Two posts in one day? What kind of crazy is this? I'm doing what I can to get this done before I'm back home and packing...

This post is the third in the Asymmetrical Cowl and Gather Dress series.

At this point, to draft the asymmetrical cowl and gather, you need to have a simple cowl dress pattern sorted.

The back is exactly the same, and the sleeve (if you use one) is exactly the same as well. It's a simple process to add the side gather and create the asymmetry in the neckline.

Ordinarily, you cut patterns on the fold. Because this pattern isn't symmetrical, the front has to be cut on a single layer. 

To create the pattern, cut 2 copies of the simple cowl dress front out of paper. These will form a whole front. Mark the waistline in.

From here, join as marked by the blue lines, and cut as marked by the red lines.
You will have three separate pieces - 

Slide the right hand bodice piece up along the cut line. I moved mine upwards 15 cm.
Then take the facing, and align it with the left shoulder.
The facing will not reach the right hand shoulder now, because length has been added in the upward slide. 
Slide the right hand piece left, and rotate the facing, until the facing can reach from one shoulder to the other.
Now the gaps need filling in.

Put some paper behind the gaps and tape or glue into place.
Draw a line to connect the waist.
And cut it out.
Put a dot 3.5cm above, and 3.5cm below the original waist lines. If you're taller, you might increase that to 4cm.
The dots will mark the area you will gather on construction.

That's the front piece complete! 

Construction up next.

Asymmetrical Cowl and Gather Dress - Start with a Simple Cowl Dress

Hey there!

Hope you had a fabulous Christmas - if that is your thing, and if not, I hope you're just generally having a lovely time anyway.

It's taken me longer to get this post done than I'd hoped. Perhaps I was too optimistic. Big changes are happening here - we are moving to a new place in the new year!

We've had the real estate agents come to take photos to put this place on the market, and I've been busily getting everything super tidy and keeping it that way. Boy, does that ever cramp my style! I haven't done any sewing because the creative process generates a bit of mess. And although I acknowledge that the flat looks much more spacious when I'm not knee deep in fabric, I really don't get why anyone would want to live that way. I am deeply suspicious of anyone who doesn't have at least one hobby. And I am suspicious of show towels. I just don't comprehend them either.

Anyway, after much reflection on the best way to explain this project, and much resolve to get the silly thing finished, despite turkey-induced lethargy, I've decided to break it down into 3 parts. First, an overview of the pattern pieces and simple cowl dress, then an explanation of how I created the asymmetrical neckline and gather from the simple cowl, and finally some notes on construction.

The upshot is, there are 3 pattern pieces in the simple design, and a small strip of binding for the back neck. It consists of a front, back and sleeve pattern, and the sleeve is of course optional. The front is adapted for the 'Asymmetrical Cowl and Gather Dress', which I will explain in the next post.

I had already made the cowl shirt, and because I had done that, it was a really straight forward step to create a dress from it. Generally, if you have a stretch t-shirt pattern, it's straightforward to create a dress pattern.

Are you ready for this? Hold onto your seats and pay attention!

You need.
Simple Cowl Tee pattern.
Basic Skirt pattern.

1. Match the waistlines of your basic skirt and cowl tee shirt pieces, and trace.
Do the same for the back. I'm only showing the front, but hey, it's exactly the same process.

2. Add darts in the back (optional).

That's it. You have a basic dress with a simple cowl neckline. You can use it just like that if you want. You can add sleeves if you like - they're straight from my Simple Cowl Tee too.

If your existing tee already touches the hip, you don't even need the simple skirt pattern. You can just add length. Measure from waist to the length you want your hem to sit, add on that length, plus the hem.

You can do this with any basic t-shirt style top pattern that you'd want as a dress. Make sure it's wide enough for your hips and you'll be fine.

If that seems like too much of a struggle, I found this nifty free downloadable from ichigogirl on BurdaStyle. It is only in a size 36, and you need to stick the pieces together.
You could also grab a simple pattern like this one.
I haven't used this pattern. But I am fond of Kwik Sew, and I know that heaps the clothes my mum made from me - particularly my leotards came from basic Kwik Sew patterns adapted into a myriad of different designs - Mum and I would pick out the craziest fabrics. They have a good range of sportswear stuff, and practical simple stretch designs, and lingerie including bras - which are difficult to come by in the world of big commercial patterns.
K16013 (P016013) 
I digress. Simple cowl dress sorted?

Cool. Stay tuned!

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Asymmetrical Cowl and Gather Dress - Show and Tell!

This is my Christmas dress!

I have an asymmetrical cowl  and side gather on this one! It's red, despite the fact that red is not a great colour on me. But it's Christmas, and if I wear green, no-one will realise I'm doing something special for the season.

I have no idea what imaginary object I was holding in the photo on the left.
I love that I feel like I'm channelling Jessica Rabbit, despite the fact that it's a below the knee dress, with long(ish) sleeves and no cleavage. I think it's the glitter that does it.  

The glitter, incidentally, is absolutely everywhere. In my hair, stuck to my skin, in my laptop keyboard. I suspect it will be a permanent resident in my sewing basket from now on. I kinda don't care.

The cowl isn't a straight cowl. It's cut on an angle, which means it moves a bit differently.
I know I said I was done with cowls for a while, but then I started wondering how it would work if I cut it differently, and after many practices of folding and draping pieces of fabric thinking 'I wonder' I just had to make it. 

It drapes to the side, and crosses over. I've been playing around with it. :)

 I like this best. I found if I put a tiny stitch in the facing I can get it to open to the side rather than cross over. If I let it cross, I quite like that too but would probably want it to sit lower. So more cowls will probably happen as my curiosity gets the better of me.

I'm going to wear it with my reindeer earrings, because it's completely legit to feel sexy and silly at the same time.

Jon normally crouches down when he takes my photos. Just for fun, this is what happens when he doesn't....
Will be back soon with a breakdown of the drafting!

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Body 'Image' v Gratitude

This isn't a sewing post, so I apologise. More projects are on the way, cutting out is done and there is glitter (yes, glitter) everywhere. But I saw this today and I had to share. If you have five minutes to spare, do have a look.
The individuals who took part in this project are so very brave, and I am humbled.

To see their faces when they see themselves represented as mannequins - as modern icons of beauty and perfection, made me cry. And it got me thinking a lot as well.

Some years ago, I met a wonderful woman named Deirdre.

I can't remember the exact details of how Deirdre's leg had been injured, and to be honest that isn't the important part of the story. In any case, following a nasty accident, an attempt to repair her leg had gone wrong, or rather not as well as hoped. She had been left with one leg significantly shorter than the other. We're talking about a 10cm difference here. It had taken her a long time to rebuild the strength to walk. Deirdre's shoes had a thick platform attached to one of each pair, to enable her to stand comfortably. They looked quite odd lined up along her front door. But she didn't seem bothered by them at all.

She told me that when it first happened, and learned that her legs would not be the same length, she had been angry. Particularly at the doctors who treated her.

Then she met someone else who had had a similar surgery. He was on crutches. She asked him how long until he was going to be off his crutches.

He said that he wasn't expecting to ever be able to walk without crutches - that in his case, the doctors had been unable to repair the damage.

That changed her perspective. Instead of feeling that she had lost by having one leg shorter, she suddenly realised that it could easily have been the case that she could never use the leg again. That she wasn't unlucky at all - she was very fortunate.

Deidre's perspective gave me perspective too. If she could be happy with her mobility, despite the misfortune she had experienced, then I had no right to ever complain about my legs. Ever. Now, my legs are not my best feature. But I have two legs. They work. They are the same length. In terms of what legs are about, they are 100% on the mark. And not having the figure for skinny jeans is not a problem of any real validity. Whatever else I may feel about my body, the fact that it functions as well as it does is always a reason to appreciate it.

We (by which I mean those of us in Western cultures) talk a lot about body image. And I do believe that dialogue is important. Because we are surrounded by a lot of negative messages about our bodies.

But maybe 'body image' is the wrong phrase to use.

  1. 1.
    a representation of the external form of a person or thing in art.
    "her work juxtaposed images from serious and popular art"

  2. 2.
    the general impression that a person, organization, or product presents to the public.
    "she strives to project an image of youth"
    synonyms:public perception, public conception, public impression, persona,profilefaceidentityfrontfacademaskguiserolepartMore

You see, image is something intended for others to look at.

But the very idea behind the term 'body image', no matter how well intended our conversation may be, is that we are using our bodies for creating something for others to look at. This is probably where we go wrong - that even in those words we compare ourselves to other images - other crafted impressions.

Can we instead talk about 'body gratitude'

Can we embrace our differences (rather than flaws) as the things that make us unique? Can we celebrate our bodies' function - with all it's wobbly bits, jiggly bits, fuzzy bits, too-wide bits, too-skinny bits, too lumpy bits whatever and instead of worrying about how we think our looks stack up against others, just be grateful? Most of us simply don't have a real struggle with our bodies, no matter how we may feel in the change rooms.

And while it is perhaps a much smaller goal in all of this, can we stop worrying about dressing to hide the things we think are wrong with us, and instead dress to show the things we think are best about us?

I guess, without intending to diminish the broader topic, by making our own clothes, we have one small opportunity to step away from those external models of 'perfection'. I don't know about yours, but the stuff I make doesn't have size labels in it.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Bias Binding

Hi there!

Sally hung her bunting up for Christmas.

So I'd best get this post up too!

I'm going to have a look at making bias binding today.

I've talked about binding before on stretch garments. Bias binding is quite a bit different in that it is for woven fabric. It's a very useful thing to know about. It can be used to make straps, finish edges, finish seams. Bias binding can make the inside of your garments as beautiful as the outside! Oh and it can be used to make bunting which is my current focus. :)

The Bias.

When fabric is woven, it has threads going in two different directions - up and down, and left to right. So if you imagine the vertical threads on a loom here:
On the edges you have the selvedge, (marked in green) which is a firmer strip where the horizontal threads double back across the fabric. You will often see pin marks and brand  / designer names are printed along the selvedge.

The vertical threads are called the warp. They're the stronger threads. Generally when you make a garment, you will be aiming to have the warp threads (the grain line) running straight up and down the figure.

The horizontal threads are called the weft.
As a way to remember which is which, the weft goes from right to left.

If you pull across the warp, or if you pull across the weft, neither direction are stretchy.

However, if the fabric is pulled at a 45° angle, those threads can move and flex a little. That is the bias. Check it out - grab a tea towel, pull across and pull on diagonal corners and see the difference.

Bias cut clothing is cut on an angle. So instead of putting your skirt pattern on the fabric parallel to the selvedge (the firm edge) you put your pattern piece in such a way that the centre line of the pattern piece is on a 45° angle to the edge.

If something is cut this way, it has a little more stretch and movement than it would have if it were cut with a straight grain. This is why bias cut skirts are known for being flattering.

Bias binding is cut on a 45° so that it can be a little flexible, and curve beautifully and smoothly around edges.

Making Bias Binding

To make it, start by drawing a line 45° to the selvedge edge of the fabric. It doesn't matter which side.

You can do that by measuring with a set square or by folding (which is what I did). If you do fold, press carefully and take care not to distort the edge. You can get a feel for the movement of the fabric as soon as you fold it! Cut that piece off on the line.

You then bring this piece around the other side, and stitch it along the selvedge to make a parallelogram.  Start with a reasonably wide seam, then trim the seam so that the selvedge is removed as it can behave differently. Press it flat, and you will effectively have this.

Once you've done that, mark out the strips. I made mine 4cm wide and my binding ended up about 16mm wide. I was aiming for 2cm, but I forgot that you need to cut 4x the width plus a little bit, because the stretchiness means it distorts and becomes a bit skinnier. I chose 2cm because I will fold it over the edge, and I want 1cm showing on each side.

I marked mine out with chalk. If I had a rotary cutter and mat it would have been a bit faster! A rotary cutter is like a razor sharp pizza wheel. You can use a ruler like this, or a quilting rule and just slice off the strips. Cool, but not strictly necessary. I don't have a lot of call for one, so the occasional labour involved in cutting something like this with scissors isn't an insufferable tragedy.

I'm making 8m of bunting, so I want 10m of binding. I cut strips accordingly. And then a bit more because I got into a groove.

Because I want a continuous strip (for presumably obvious reasons) I need to connect those strips.
Being mindful of the right side of the fabric, I join them like so.

 The edges must meet at the seam! I then trim it back
 And press. Preferably before taking the photo but it's a bit late now.
Because the seam is diagonal to the strip, it wont add too much bulk in any one place. If I joined the strips straight across, there would be twice as much fabric in one spot. This way the extra bulk is distributed and keeps the join smooth.
 I repeat this a few times, and I have a pile ready to press!

To press, I first put some music on, because I'm going to be here for a while.

I fold the strip in half along the length and press lightly, as this will form a guideline for the middle.
Then I fold both sides into the middle, and use needles to hold down, exactly as I did for the stretch binding.

I press, and ease it through bit by bit, checking that the edges stay in the centre, lining up with my middle fold.
The result looks like this:

This is how purchased binding looks, although the edges often don't meet in the middle. Sometimes you will see a gap between the edges - folds over 6mm  and then a space. It will depend on the width of the binding and what it is made from.
Commercial stuff looks like this.
Then I pressed it in half again. In this respect I am taking a slightly different approach to the purchased binding. When you buy binding it will come with two edges folded in, and no middle fold. But I am going to fold my binding in half as I sew, so by pressing now I encourage it to do that easily.
Iron that too!

Once I had my fold over binding, I was ready to construct the bunting. I laid out the flags, so I could keep track of the pattern I wanted to assemble them in.

I sewed the first meter of binding on its own, with the folded edge on the right, and the open edge facing away from the machine. I want my stitches a few millimeters from the fold, so I used the edge of the foot as a guide, and moved the needle position slightly.

After the first meter, I stopped and put in my flag. I want to sandwich the raw edge in the folds of the binding.

 As I get to the end of one flag, I pick up the next. 

Take it slowly and make sure it isn't slipping! With all the pressing done it is fairly co-operative. At the end, I made another metre just of the binding. And it was done!

Be sure to wrap any remaining binding around a piece of card to keep it flat - you want to look after the creases you went to the trouble of putting in.