Sunday, 29 June 2014

June - Hello Yellow!

My birthday is in June!

Does a birthday suit seem an appropriate topic?

Here's mine:

For my birthday, Jon got me a yellow telephone.

This image is from
but - we did actually see it in a high street shop. 
I'd been pining after a yellow telephone. I saw one once and wanted it immediately. Not just because they were cute and looked like sunshine, leading me to believe you would probably have happier conversations on it. I wanted a yellow telephone so that when it rings, I can answer it and say 'Yellow!' and it will be funny even if the person on the other end doesn't realise it. Now I can. Yay!

I've always had a soft spot for yellow. Recently(ish) Will and Kate went to Australia, and Kate wore this dress:

Word is, Will's told her she looked like a banana.

I can just imagine she'd reply something along the lines of 'Yeah, I know. But watch me make this banana dress sell out.'

She wore this one in the Solomon Islands, which I like a bit more.

I'm not saying I follow the royals. I'm just saying, look, they're getting this right. I put together a bit of a board about yellow dresses. And other yellow things.

So today I'm going to go a bit crazy and make a yellow dress.

In thinking about variations for this dress, I thought I'd take my basic dress pattern (as used for the Bacon dress) and mix it up just a little bit, to show how its super easy to make two variations of the one style.

The starting point is an armhole princess line dress with a straight skirt and a sweetheart neckline.

 But seriously, this silhouette is getting a bit old so let's try something new.

I'm going to make this skirt flare from the hip like so.
And I'm going to include a pocket.
Like that!

I spent an afternoon on drafting the new style, and a day putting it together out of a cheery yellow chrysanthemum print.
Yellow is a really intense colour, and I think you really have to commit to wearing it. But the green in the print breaks it up a little, and makes it work for my colouring.

So let's see...


My Australian 'Winter birthday' is now an English 'Summer birthday'.
But it's been raining this weekend. And last weekend too. And it rained on my birthday. So it feels much the same. Jon points out that at least the place is not a desert. I don't mind. I'm bringing the sunshine with me.

Details on the drafting skirt and pocket to follow soon! 

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Copying Clothing by Taking it Apart - A Simple Stretch Garment.

I'm running out of a few basic things in my wardrobe because I've been ignoring the necessary in favour of the fun. So it seems a good time to churn out a few more t-shirts. I thought I'd run through a different method of copying since I have been meaning to copy this shirt for a while.

There's no breaking news in the idea that you can make a pattern from another garment by taking it apart. It means you know the garment will work for your body type, and it's certainly easier than copying a garment without taking it apart (although that is possible too - check out my copying a t-shirt post here).

So in a case like this shirt, which fits neatly but which I have worn to the point where the fabric has pilled and faded so much I would be reluctant to wear it again, a destructive copy is a good option.

This is a very simple overview, and does not include things like marking the position of gathers. I think this is a worthwhile thing to do as an exercise if you are new to sewing, because it helps build an understanding of how clothing works. I am tracing the pieces out onto paper. You can make a copy just by pinning the old fabric onto the new fabric if you so choose. However, if you do so, be aware that fabric 'pattern' will move and distort when you go to cut it. By tracing it onto paper, you can control those distortions, and will have a stable medium to work with as a template. It is also much less bulky to store for future makings.

Here is my shirt:

In the copy, I am going to ignore the detail at the back, which is essentially a decorative placard. That should be a straightforward detail to add in a later date.

This is a stretch garment, which will not fray. So to take the pieces apart, I cut as close to the stitching as possible. In woven garments, I prefer to unpick rather than cut.

I then trim the seam away on the opposite side, again as closely as possible so that my pieces have no seam left.

I lay the pieces out flat on paper. Here are the front and back pieces which I have folded in half.
Patterns are made as half patterns, and folding them also has the advantage of identifying any distortions in the garment.
You can see here that the arm holes don't quite line up.
Distortions will occur in garments for a number of reasons. Mass produced garments are cut in a stack, and sometimes a thick stack will mean the cuts are imperfect. Errors may have been made at the construction stage. But also, wearing a garment will stretch and pull the fabric out of its original shape.

Trace around the pattern.
And then add a seam allowance and hem around the shape. In this case, I have added a 1cm seam to the sides, and a 3cm hem. I haven't added anything on the neckline because I intend to bind the neckline. You can check out my machine binding post here.
Cut out the pieces.
And label them. I have made a note on the sleeve of the back so I can put it in the correct way. A sleeve is traced out in full because it is not truly symmetrical.

Pattern complete!
For tutorials on constructing a t-shirt, check out the tutorials page here.

When making up the new garment, I need to choose a similar fabric to the original fabric.
One important feature in stretch fabric is the percentage of stretch. Here's an easy test for stretch.

I've laid out a piece of the fabric against my ruler, and marked a point at 0 and 10cm.

I then stretch it out to see how far it can comfortably go, so that the fabric still looks good (not see through or strained looking) and springs back to its original shape. 

This fabric stretches from 10cm to 14cm comfortably. So that means it has 40% stretch, and any fabric I make this pattern in will also need to have around 40% stretch. Make a note of that on the pattern!

So that's all for this post. I'd best go make up a t-shirt or two. :)

Saturday, 7 June 2014

May - As in 'May-be It Would Be Better If Weekends Had More Days In Them'. Also, Wedding Dress Design Process


I am perfectly aware that it is June already. I just thought I should stop and say I know it looks like the theme for May was Pigs, but that wasn't my intended theme at all.

The problem I am having is too many ideas. At present I have 3 projects humming along full throttle, a couple more cut and ready to go, another 20 ideas in post it notes on my ideas board, and they just keep popping into my head too fast for me to catch them. While I thoroughly enjoy my job, (and genuinely enjoy going into work each morning) I do acknowledge that it frequently gets in the way of my blogging and sewing schedule. Also, sleep and stopping to eat on a regular basis.

I am sure a strong argument could be made for more people with more leisure time, and I believe it could be made as a case for a stronger economy. Its hardly an accident that so many of the groundbreaking scientific discoveries of the 18th century were made by gentlemen with ample time on their hands. I'd like to propose a 3 day weekend every weekend. Except on special occasions, in which case it should certainly be extended to four.

In addition, as far as the weather goes there have been some pleasant days of late. Since pleasantness is, as best I can tell, the ultimate goal of English existence, it would be a waste not getting out in about in them. It's not procrastination, it's balance.

But I do keep saying 'and I'll get back to that in another post' and then I don't.

So today I'm going to do just that, and we are looking at the design process of the wedding dress in more detail. Its a pretty thorough round up of what a design process usually looks like.

I've popped out the back and got some photos of my toiles (mock ups in cheap fabric -  French word, sounds like 'twah-l') in the back yard. I wouldn't wear them in public, but my indoor photo spot has a wall almost exactly the same colour as the fabric. It is a little unfortunate that the skirt gets a bit see through here and there, but since I'm going to be posting a bit of side boob in this post anyway, I'm coming to terms with it.

Looking at the finished product again.

The style is a full length princess line, with a sweetheart neckline and a mermaid skirt.

I can be a bit of a perfectionist, and the time frame I had for this was quite tight. So I had to limit myself to 3 toiles on this one. 3 toiles is fairly standard when I make a new design, but if I’d let my nerves get the better of me, I could have done more! 

First Toile
Working from my basic block patterns, I made a simple bodice with a long skirt on which to plan my design. I put the neckline I wanted in straight away, since that's a pretty easy change.
 It is not for walking in.

Initially I envisioned I would have a gathered sash running under the bodice and to the back, something like this...

but then I changed my mind after the second toile. Allow me to put on my thinking face.
I had decided I wanted a mermaid skirt, and put together a pinterest board of styles. I needed this to flare at exactly the right spot. I wanted variation in the position where the skirt flared out; below the knee at the front, and below the bottom at the back, so I could bring it in a cheeky bit. 

I enlisted the help of a friend, who got to draw on me throughout this process. Sarah drew in the points where it needed to flare out. I've added on here (in red) the points where she marked, the blue lines indicate where I need to split the skirt and create a seam, and the black lines represent the shape of the new skirt. 

I know it looks very crinkly in this photo! I also accidentally made one dart inside out. Luckily it didn't matter on the toile!

Of course that's the bottom half of the dress only. I aligned the new seams with the existing darts, and marked in a princess line to replace the darts.

By changing the bodice into a princess seam, I could put the bodice and skirt pieces together without a waist seam.

From here I created the pattern pieces for the second toile, making the following changes.
*Split the skirt into panels.
*Split the bodice into panels with a princess line. This meant converting a dart into a princess seam.
*Joined the bodice and skirt panels to eliminate the waist seam and create dress panels.
* Flared the skirt.

Second Toile
On the second toile I had the seams mostly as I wanted, and I liked the shape and long lines which is why I decided to leave the sash/band off. With the major elements of the design now in place, I looked at fitting (again with a little help from a friend) and pinned in to make it just that bit more snug in all the right places, and a bit looser in the right places too. I transferred those alterations to the pattern. I'm afraid I didn't get a photo of the toile before those alterations - I was in a hurry.

Here you might see the lines on the back which indicate how much to bring in on the back overall. This was where it was pinned, and then the same amount came out of the seams at the side. That allowed it to fit snugly around the curve of my back. I brought it in a bit down the side of the thigh and under my bottom. Sarah seemed thoroughly entertained by the privilege of drawing on my bottom. I've been sewing so much I've almost forgotten that is a bit of a weird thing to do.

At this point I also checked the width of the pattern pieces against the fabric and panicked, because I didn’t think I was going to have to enough room for all the pieces.  I narrowed the flair of the skirt by around 3cm per panel, and was then able to fit all of the pieces onto the fabric I had (there was a flappy experience at the shop when I found out they didn’t have any more in stock!)
Third Toile
Final test run for fitting before the silk. 

This one was much closer. Still not quite perfect, because I wasn’t thrilled with the shoulder seam, but without oodles of time for faffing, it was close enough. I wore it around the house for a bit, to check that I was able to walk and sit down without any unreasonable strain on any seams. Very important in this case in particular as silk doesn't have any give or stretch whereas cotton has a little bit. I had to be mindful that it was going to behave a bit differently. None of the seams popped, no discomfort was endured, and the skirt moved in a satisfactory way-  so it was all set to go.

Final Garment – Notes on Working with Silk.

Silk. So silk is a fussy thing. I haven’t had much experience with silk in the past (because of budgets and silly stuff like that). But nothing less will do on such an occasion. Silk needs very fine needles, and very fine pins as it is ridiculously easy to damage the fabric and leave a permanent mark. I did a bit of research around handling silk because I wanted to get it absolutely right, but then the research combined with my nothing-but-perfection-will-do made me want to hide under the doona* and not come out. In the end, I just had to jump in.

I put a new cover on the iron board, emptied the water chamber and used a pressing cloth to prevent marking. No steam.

The silk dupion that I chose held up reasonably well to pin marks (although I kept the pins in the seam allowance when I pinned it). But it frayed like crazy. I zigzagged all of my seam allowances before construction so it wouldn’t disintegrate. In addition, I employed a little couture technique here and there, and wherever I clipped the seam around a curve, I used hand overcast stitching to prevent fraying over the clipped areas. Important, because as soon as I cut it, it started to deteriorate. Next time I work with a silk dupion I think I would add a little extra to the seam allowances. If I had had all the time in the world, I would have seriously considered binding every seam.

Last Thoughts.

The design process is a circle. And every project I make, I see things that could be better or different, plus I know every tiny imperfection that no-one else even sees. This one was no different! Looking at my photos, I am still critiquing my efforts. Usually theres a period of time when I can't wear something I've made because I've critiqued it too much. It takes a few weeks of sitting in the closet before I can go back and look at it. Luckily that will not apply here. But I do feel that way a bit - and have doubted every choice and struggled for a little while to even look at the photos.

I'm getting ok with it now.

The details of the drafting really do need a whole post each. I will get to them eventually I'm sure!

(*A doona is a duvet for anyone not from the land down under. I'm not giving up this word, because it sounds like a cuddle.)