Wednesday, 27 July 2016

My holy grail

My holy grail is to develop pattern blocks that I can use as Tried & Trusted garment templates.

One of the reasons why this is taking is long, is that I keep starting over.  I forget where I got to before and I was also not particularly happy with the last result so I am hoping that a do-over might be more successful.  So it’s not been going all that great.

I’ve since discovered that there are several fitting issues that I need to do adjustments for.  I start with a block that I drew to my own measurements in a pattern drafting class.  Great start but not nearly good enough – the fit is by no means close enough. Here’s all the issue I identified so far:

When using commercial patterns I usually have to move the bust dart down which is no big deal: cut out a box that contains the dart and move up or down so it points towards the bust apex.  Easy.  I have also done full bust adjustments (FBA) with abandon: this makes fit so much better for sizes that are bigger than a B cup.  I can highly recommend it.  You may need to cut a Y Line for very big cup sizes but it’s not a big deal or huge change from the usual FBA.

I am aware that I need to do an underarm adjustment that pinches out a wedge of up to 5-7cm length and possibly 1-1.5cm width – right at the top of the underarm side seam – unless I want lots more ease for arm movement, but it still looks pretty odd if there is too much fabric flapping about under the arm.  So this is a usual one.

I recently realised that I mustn’t suppress the small dart in the back shoulder: I really do need this because of my rounded upper back.  I only noticed that back looks different than I expected when I saw a photo of myself – now this issue is glaringly obvious!  Oh well, at least I know now.

I should also check if my armhole gapes at the back – if so I may need to do more of an adjustment for a rounded back by putting in darts or having a shaped back yoke that suppressed some of that gaping – I’ll need to check.

I have also become aware that two darts towards the bust are better than just the one.  It distributes the excess fabric better and is more flattering.  Best for me are darts that run into the side seam and result in an upward angled line, visually much better than downward or straight across.

And I’ve come to the conclusion that I can’t get around some major work on a swayback adjustment.  I know this from my knitting projects but hadn’t been paying lots of attention to it for my sewing.  I applied a couple of SBAs but I think I didn’t pinch out enough.

The one adjustment that I don’t think I need to do is to rotate the sleeve, i.e. changing the shoulder seam either a little forward or backward. I am exceedingly glad about this, because this feels like a major adjustment!

So these are quite a few adjustments so it’s no wonder if my efforts haven’t been all that successful so far – there is lots to do and I don’t think that I applied all of those to one block yet.  I really should.

But I was getting frustrated with my attempts at a template top that fell far short (I just hadn’t followed through on all those fitting insights yet) – then I had a thought:

Why don’t I look at Ready To Wear tops that fit me well and take some measurements?  That way I can compare those to my template top attempts and at least sense check!

Great idea, right?

I was thinking of a smart top with short sleeves that I like wearing a lot.  It is the only one that has a round neckline with a vertical slit down the front – it seems a pretty flattering style, so I am all for using that as a model.

Yeah, right…

It wasn’t until I took a really long hard look at this top, and found that it doesn’t fit at all well!  I just never noticed, good heavens.

This top is made for hips that are far bigger than mine, in fact it balloons out a lot. And the underarm adjustment of that suppressed wedge that I talked about above, that’s so very much needed!  The bust seemed to fit pretty well but the underarm area has lots of fabric that’s just not very attractive.

This top also highlights my problem area:  I am low-busted so there is excess material at the side of the front armhole.  My problem is that I don’t quite know how to get rid of that – do I need a bust dart in that area that grades out to nothing at the seam with the sleeve? That can’t be quite right, can it?

I think I need to play around with taking a bigger wedge out of the top underarm side seam from the front piece only.  This will also affect the sleeve – I may just have to slash the sleeve pattern and overlap by this much at the armhole seam.

Pattern drawing challenges!

I love them really.  They are just a lot of work and I need to be in the right frame of mind.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Useful sewing community websites

I am using
I really enjoy adding my projects and photos to this and to comment on other people's projects. It is really good fun. I never got used to the PatternReview website, I found it really cumbersome to use and can never find the actual patterns that must be represented on there. It also doesn't feel like a community as much as MSC does.

I can recommend it!

Pattern Review can only be used properly after you log in but unfortunately it isn't clear where you do that until you try to find something and a red stripe across the screen asks you to log in. It is really difficult to see. I just had another look: there is a Log In link that you need a magnifying glass for.

Fairly new is The Fold Line:

I am enjoying looking at all the different kinds of features. Just like on MySewingCircle you can befriend others. This site seems to attract more independent designers publishing their patterns.
I like their Forum the best.

I have also occasionally logged onto the - link here. This is the old bulletin board style.

What sites do you use?

Sunday, 17 July 2016

The beautiful sleeve feature of Lekala #4370

... and how to sew it!

You can get Lekala patterns via Etsy too

I think I figured it out. The instructions on how to insert the top of the sleeve into Lekala blouse pattern #4370 are not very helpful at all.

This is what it says:

"6. [...] Pin sleeve, right side together, and sew on short vertical edge from mark upwards. Snip front and back between dart lines from shoulder seam to horizontal marks. Sew section of shoulder seam, from slashed section exactly to sleeve connection line, inserting sewn section of sleeve. Serge seam allowance. Sew shoulder edge to neckline. Serge seam allowance. Lay upper section of sleeve (epaulette) on front and back, evenly distribute the width. Sew the dart of back and front with one seam, catching upper edge of epaulette. Serge seam allowance."


That makes absolutely no sense. The part that I left out (denoted as [...]) reads: "Turn lower edge of sleeve twice inside at 0.5cm and topstitch. Trim seam allowances on sleeve in corners according to marks."

Let's take that one at a time: "Turn lower edge... etc... and topstitch" must be about hemming the sleeve. 'lower edge of sleeve' equals sleeve hem, got it. I didn't do that - I don't like how double-folded hems pucker and won't lie flat. I think they are ugly and way too tricky to sew. I like my baby hems but then I am very lucky to own an overlocker: I overlock the raw edge, machine baste my intended folding line using a 0.5cm stitch length, press the seam allowance over with the iron, folding at exactly the basted stitch line (makes it easier to fold over too, it's not just a great guide) - this shrinks the seam allowance in curved bits so it's all good. Then I edge-stitch the hem by machine an even amount from the hem edge, depending on the weight of the fabric: thin fabrics closer like 1mm, and others with a bit more of a distance: 2-3mm (I haven't done this with chunky fabric, it might be better to use an inner facing [maybe out of a thinner fabric that colour matches?] instead of folding the edge in)

Next point in the left-out bit: "Trim seam allowances on sleeve in corners according to marks." - This is the bit I understood! Yay me. There are short diagonal marks within the seam allowance only in the corner between the epaulette part (I called it the rectangle at the top of the sleeve head. Okay-dokey 'epaulette' is shorter, let's go with that) and either side of the sleeve. That needs to be snipped (staying within the seam allowance, you don't want to slash into your blouse's visible sleeve fabric), otherwise those corners just won't sew well and it would look terrible even if you managed that. And yeah, stating 'trim' is not the same as 'snip' but I think that's the poor translation at work.

So far so good. Where the instructions lost me was: "Pin sleeve, right side together..." ...and my brain went: What??? What the hell is that supposed to mean?  I think the clue actually lies in "sleeve" instead of "sleeves" - I didn't catch that the first two dozen times when I read that. (And I think it should say "right sides together", there ain't just one if it's two things being put together)

Where the instructions fall down severely is that there isn't much in the way of marks on the sewing pattern. There are those diagonal marks (yep, found that, that's cool) and there are also horizontal marks that intersect the darts, both on the front and on the back piece. But there is absolutely no placement line for where that blasted epaulette is to go!  (The counter part to the sleeve notches are also missing on the front and the back piece pattern pieces. Tut. But you can wing that)

That's a really bad pattern design.

I had decided that the epaulette part would have to be stitched on top of the outer part of the front and back piece across the shoulder seam. There is no rectangular shape that the epaulette edges fit to. On the other hand there is no need to have only one layer of fabric at the top of the shoulders if it is easier to just sew one layer on top of another. I'm fine with that.

But why in god's name can't there be placement lines? That's what I want to know. It would save a lot of headache.  The other desing downfall of the pattern is that the sleeve pattern piece is not marked about which side goes towards the front and which the back. That's terrible.

I worked out that the shorter, more curved side goes towards the front, and the longer, less curved side towards the back. That works. In fact the initial curves (at the outside corners, where you sew the lengthwise sleeve edges together, the point where that seam hits the body side seam) do actually fit very well into the armhole (again: the missing notches are not desperately needed). Success!

But then... blimey! At some point you have a heck of a lot of sleevehead edge that's excessively long and that's to be fitted into the normal sized armhole? No-one said anything about gathering and the pattern drawing doesn't show that either. So how is that supposed to work?

The bit where it says "evenly distribute the width" does not express the same as 'gathering' and I decided it just means to place the width evenly across where you're going to stitch it down. But flat. Definitely flat and ungathered.

And here's where the light bulb suddenly came on: "Pin sleeve, right side together" - that's just one sleeve, and you pin one bit of this sleeve to another bit of itself! Seeing as the text continues with: "sew on short vertical edge from mark upwards", and the mark was those short diagnoal marks in the corner that were snipped, it must mean sew one of the short vertical edges (of the epaulette) to the other short vertical edge of the sleeve - in effect producing a box pleat!

Flipping heck!! Couldn't they just say so?

The flat width of the epaulette (from stitch line to stitch line) is 20.3cm. The distance of marks across the front dart to the mark across the back dart (once the shoulder seam is closed which you're not supposed to just yet) is 10.4cm - not quite half of the 20.3cm but what with turn of cloth, this works out as near as damn it: sewing right side to right side of the short vertical edge must mean that you end up with half the epaulette width!


Phew!  I think I figured this one out.  There might still be some other surprises in this project to do with the sleeves but I think I've got the most difficult puzzle solved.  Where the 'snip' and 'slash' instructions are concerned: forgive me but I don't think I'll do that. I think they ask you to cut the exact center along the length of the darts (not too far) but that leaves very little fabric on either side once you closed those darts "catching upper edge of epaulette", this could so easily fray in these areas - ruining a beautiful blouse. So the top edge of the epaulette gets inserted through the slash in the fabric between the dart legs? Why do I need to do that? Can't I just sew the upper epaulette edge to this placement line of the dart legs that are closest to the body centre? It'll keep that folded in seam allowance on top of the right side of the body fabric but that's hidden at the top of the sleeves, no-one is going to see that, at least not without gusts of wind.

"Snip" and "slash", yikes. No, I'd rather not, thanks all the same.

I shall report how I get on with the rest of this.

PS: In case you are wondering why I am going to the trouble of persevering with this very challenging pattern: not only is the drawing of the blouse very pretty but the real thing is even nicer! I am using a slightly heavyish  polycotton that drapes very nicely and those sleeves are just gorgeous!  They fall into the most amazing shape and I've not even sewn them in properly yet. I can tell from holding my 'box pleated' sleevehead to the blouse. Gorgeous I tell you!

I would love to do another version of this blouse - maybe with a back opening and a high rounded front neckline... Hmm...

Saturday, 16 July 2016

What did I do today?

I wonder if I can do a really quick post? Just to say what sewing I've done today?

I have a "new" sewing pattern, Burda 6230, I've been looking forever for this over blouse pattern with the most intriguing puzzle-pieece approach to piecing the front and back together.

I cut the pattern pieces out today and realised that this is a really old Burda (yeah, duh) so seam allowances are not included. I then spent a bit of time to tape more tissue paper behind the internal edges because those will be critical.

The sleeves of this are 10cm too long for me. Unfortunately the design doesn't allow to just chop the sleeves off (I'll write about this another time) so I've been trying to draft in a pattern hack to force them shorter and still retain the pattern feature.

I also decided to adapt the front piece a little by including a small bust dart. I then added the pinched out amount to the side seam to keep the seam the same length but introduce a little shaping. This may not work out - I need to do a toile of this area.

I also shortened the length because this pattern must have been designed with giants in mind.

Then I looked at a Lekala pattern again with a really intriguing shoulder treatment, a rectangle that gets stitched down on top of the normal shoulder area, not set in along those rectangular edges - I must post this properly. It is Lekala 4370.

I am worried that this is too tight as well so I did a FBA to allow an extra 1.5cm in each front. That should do it.  At first I thought this was waaayyyy too tight but I had mistaken the add on button band for an inner facing. Makes quite a difference, but not enough of one.

And finally on Lekala 5081 which had turned out to be too tight across the bust (I was thinner when I ordered this. Or is it meant for a zip? It is a perfect fit with one) and there was an issue of whether this is a knit or a woven pattern. It came up when I searched for woven patterns only, but said knit and stretchy on it. A pattern with a front button band AND bust darts AND sleeve plackets and cuffs? Really?
I very much doubt that.

I bought this because it looks the most like a standard blouse. Something that would be great as a design basis. If I can sort out the fit issue...

I adjusted the too long hem by pinning and trying it on several times, and then finally overlocked and cut it at the same time. The rest of this will have to wait. Like the placket and cuffs...

Hey, they are all blouses! Fab.

So I got on with several projects, and now I'm knackered and have sat down for a cup of coffee. I still need to make it because I started blogging! Duh.

Onwards and upwards after a well deserved break!

Sunday, 10 July 2016

That 'over blouse' pattern I've long been looking for

I am so excited! This is just fantastic.

I used to have a pattern for a big, over size women's blouse in a very relaxed cut. I just remembered that the blouse on the cover was in a sort of yellow fabric. And that there was something interesting going on in the shoulder area and that this pattern piece extended into the sleeves.

I couldn't remember anything else.  Only that I bought it years and years ago and it was bound to not be around anymore.  I also couldn't find it in my things. And I thought I only had the single piece of paper of the cover photo so it could have slipped in between other papers, or gotten thrown out when I came across it, and got the urge to just get rid seeing as I no longer have the actual pattern tissue.

I even looked through all my sewing patterns this morning to check again.

It doesn't help when you can't remember the name of the pattern brand either. Could it have been Style? Or one of the German brands I used to buy (decades ago), like Neue Mode, or even Ullstein? Which is a very old sewing pattern company, from the early 20th century that I believe is no longer around. I still have a couple of their patterns and you can buy some as vintage.

I spent such a long time looking for this! Today wasn't even the first time - I've been after this ages. If only I could at least find the cover photo with the number on it!

Well guess where I just found it after looking through the whole lot this afternoon while looking for another sewing pattern! Yep, the very thing.

I still have the instructions as well but definitely no pattern tissue. Darn.

The line drawing is shown, this might not be so very difficult to draw up myself - it is quite an ingenious way of cutting up a comfily big top with cut on sleeves - but I'd rather not to be honest.

So back online I went, there are even two US sellers who were parting with their copy! Crikey. Then I found a French seller who wasn't asking for huge amounts for postage - I ordered it!

Here it is, it is Burda 6230:

You can just about see the line drawing near the upper right hand corner, intriguing, isn't it! I am so happy that I found this.  I will make the pseudo pocket flaps a little less high but still with the slanted edge, I'll but it much less long but I will use raglan style shoulder pads (hello 80s!).

I'll start looking for a suitable fabric in my stash, I can't wait to get stuck in!

~ ~ ~

PS: I just remembered, when I bought this white fabric at Atlantic Silks clearance sale (they used to be in Electric Avenue in Brixton), the weight and dainty embroidered pattern made me earmark it for an over sized blouse like this. I think I'll go ahead with that idea!

I love it when a plan comes together...

This fabric has a pattern of white thread stitching

Friday, 8 July 2016

A quick project: one shoe bag assembled!

I can't believe how quick this came together, I am really pleased.

I read a Facebook post by a friend on a bag with drawstring top she made recently, and bemoaned the fact that I intended to make a bag for a pair of suede shoes I don't wear often (to prevent them getting dusty) and that I just hadn't "gotten around to it" yet, which set off alarm bells: I do that all the time, plan something so that I can firmly see it in front of my inner eye, and that seems to satisfy my creative urges: imagining things.

That's not good enough. So I thought I'd have a quick look in my mahooassive stash, and promptly found this pretty crafts fabric that I bought to make a knitting needle container (one day). So I'd rather use this now and look for another fabric that I like better for all my knitting needles. The thing is that I really love all those cute square motifs but I so beyond not fond of the green of the background colour, that I just couldn't face using this. Which was the problem.

I now realise that the fabric motifs would be great cut out and then sewn onto other fabrics so I am sure that the remainder of this fabric will serve me well. There is nothing better then getting stuck into a project because it will tell you something you didn't know before. And no amount of imagining can replace the actual doing and achieving. I ought to hang that on the wall! As a motto.

Back to the project at hand before I get even more excited about the potential of this fabric:

I put the pair of shoes onto the fabric in a position that I thought they would naturally fall into when in the finished bag. Then I measured across and up and down to make sure the piece would be large enough.

Then I sewed this into a tube, flatted that so the seam would sit at the back centre and sewed across the bottom. Then I overlocked those exposed seams. I folded the top raw edge under twice, pressed and then made the one error of the project (mistakes are great for learning, I can recommend that) - I sewed a buttonhole through all the layers of the tunnel - which of course means that I can't feed a string through the button hole opening into the tunnel: the buttonhole edges are keeping it closed. Duh.

I helped myself by threading a needle with the length of embroidery thread (for the string) and poked that through the button hole sides. Which makes the button hole completely redundant, but hey. Let's not be pernickety.

One shoe bag done and dusted. So to speak.

I might make more for other shoes, but just using a motif or two on different colour fabrics. It'll make a nice set without being too samey. I'm happy!