Saturday, August 19, 2017

A Simple Knit Top

Honestly, I can't believe how fast time flies!  We have about 4 to 5 weeks left of summer weather here in the Northeastern U.S. before it starts cooling down.  I decided to make a simple knit T-shirt type of top which I can wear for the rest of the summer.  I almost did not blog about this top.  There really isn't very much to say about it.  The fabric is a medium weight cotton jersey from Mood Fabrics.

Due to my very busty figure, I usually make my tops a little long.  I find longer tops more flattering on me since a longer length creates a longer rectangle shape versus a boxy square.

The neckband is created from the same fabric using a technique I learned at FIT and described in a previous post.

For my figure, I need darts even in knits.  I made sure to match the stripes at the side seams all the way up to the dart.  I created the dart using the technique described in a previous post.  The stripes get distorted above the dart but that is OK with me since my arm is down most of the time.

Here is the back view.  Like I said, it is just a simple little top.  The pattern is self drafted.  If you want to make a similar top from a pattern, since it is so basic, you can find a similar silhouette by searching one of the major pattern companies or the independent pattern companies.

I hope you are enjoying the summer (for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere).  I will be savoring the rest of it.

Because I don't want to part with a photo of my back, here is a beautiful photo taken from a hike I went to in Northern New Jersey:

Franklin Lakes Nature Preserve, Franklin Lakes, NJ
Happy Sewing!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Hot Colors, Cool Dress and Lots of Work

Since summer is in full swing, I have been very much in the mood to sew with linen despite its tendency to wrinkle.  I find that if you wash linen in a washing machine and dry it on a hot setting, the linen still wrinkles but it does so softly so that is what I did.

McCall's 7562 was the inspiration for this dress.  I love the colors chosen for the sketch of View B.

However, I did not want the neckline and sleeves illustrated.  I also wanted the top orange section to be longer so that the style line did not cut me in half so to speak.

I recently received a fashion book as a gift that had pictures of shift dresses from the 1960's.  I was a toddler then but still remember my mother sewing shift dresses for me and my sister.  Nostalgia set in so I decided to make a 1960's inspired shift dress.  I drafted the top section and bottom section of the dress but I used the pockets from McCall's 7562.

I thought this dress would be one of those easy-to-make summer dresses...oh so carefree...comfortable and perfect for a hot summer day!

While the finished garment is certainly very comfortable and perfect for a hot day, it actually was a lot of work to put together.  Following is the saga...

For me, the raw edge of linen feels scratchy to my skin.  I have tried in the past finishing linen edges with a serger but it still feels scratchy.  I therefore decided to finish the edges using a Hong Kong finish.  It resulted in a beautiful finish in the inside but it did take some time to cut the bias strips (out of Bemberg lining fabric) and apply them.  Since the linen is lightweight, I also thought it would be a good idea to line the red bottom section to make sure there was no see-through.

Another issue I encountered was the bust darts.  Since I am a bit top heavy, the dress required that I make a huge dart for it to hang correctly.  However, no matter how carefully I sew a large bust dart, there is always a rather noticeable bubble that forms at the dart point.  In an effort to minimize the bubble, I tried using a technique suggested by Virginie of the blog Jazz Couture where she recommended that you fuse interfacing to the end of the dart.  I tried that but I still had a rather large bubble.  I also read in a Sandra Betzina book (don't know which one) that sewing a small piece of fabric to the end of the dart would eliminate the bubble.  I have tried that in the past as well and still got a large bubble.  I am sure each technique would work on its own were my dart not so massive.  So this time, I combined both techniques and had a much better result. Thank you Virginie and Sandra Betzina!

Now yet another issue was the large dart take-up which you can see in the above photo.  I did not want that large expanse of fabric to show on the right side so I trimmed the dart and finished the edges by hand with a blanket stitch.  I thought that serging the dart would result with a ridge showing on the right side so that is why I chose to do a hand blanket stitch.

Here is the right side of the dart freshly pressed.  In the wearing of the garment, I have noticed that the bubble has come back but it is small, not the huge bubble I had before combining the two techniques.

I noticed once I had the main pieces put together and the pockets sewn in, that the pockets flopped open.  Ugh!  What I did was fuse a piece of woven fusible stay tape along the pocket edge (the side that is facing outside).  That worked like a charm - whew!  So if any of you want to make View B of McCall's 7562, do stabilize the pocket edge along the top.  Since I wanted to make sure the tape would stay put in the washing machine, I decided to secure it with a catch stitch.  You can see I pinked the edges of the pockets...again, I did not want ridges to show through on the right side.

I did make a muslin of the dress to make sure the fit was just what I wanted.  Everything was A OK in the muslin.  I went ahead and cut out the garment and stay stitched the armholes.  I was going to use purchased pre-packaged bias tape turned to the inside because I like the clean finish it provides.  I used this technique on the neckline of my previous dress.  So I applied the bias tape, turned it to the inside and topstitched.  I tried the dress on and was horrified to discover that I had inadvertently stretched out the armholes.  You could see most of my bra!  Oh no!  What to do?


I was brainstorming with my dear sewing friend, Caryn.  (She makes the most beautiful garments.  She does couture level sewing.  She is so very talented and an inspiration to me).  She suggested using fold over elastic in red since it would pull in the armhole and add interest with the red color.  I thought it was a great idea except I was pretty sure I would not find the correct red.  Instead, I decided to pull in the armhole with basting stitches and make my own bias tape from some of the left over red fabric.  I proceeded to remove all of the bias tape I had applied, an arduous task indeed.

I fixed the stretched out armholes by sewing a running stitch by hand along the armhole edges.  You can faintly see the basting stitches in the below photos.  I then pulled the thread which created ripples (photo on the left).  I then steamed and pressed it to flatten the ripples as much as possible (photo on the right):

Then I applied the red bias tape to cover the ripples:

WooHoo!  I do love the effect of the contrast trim along the armholes (thank you Caryn!) so I applied it to the neckline as well.  I think that without the red trim, it would feel like something was missing.  It was one of those happy accidents!!

Here are the back and side views of the dress.  I used an invisible zipper at center back.

A shift dress is not the most flattering view from the side (thus the face) but overall, this dress is a great dress in vibrant colors that is cool and comfortable.  Its simple silhouette belies how much work it was to put together, but it was worth it!

Until next time, peace, love and happy sewing!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

A Fun Dress: McCall's 7562

After seeing how wonderful McCall's 7562 turned out on Dressmaking Debacles, I decided I would give it a try.  It is not a silhouette I would normally choose for myself.  It is a very loose fitting dress with a split kimono type sleeve which means there is a lot of fabric under the arms by the bust area, an area that I do not want to emphasize.

When I made the muslin, it looked like a hospital gown to me.  It was so huge and long!  I picked a Medium based on my measurements but I eventually took in 4 inches total from the sides which put me into a Small.  I also shortened it by 6 inches!  (I am short but I normally shorten by 3 inches.)  Muslins are usually very unattractive garments so I did not let the hospital gown look dissuade me.  I had purchased this beautiful fabric at NY Elegant in NYC (40th Street between 7th and 8th Avenues).  I love the print and colors.  It is a drapey rayon which I felt would be perfect for this dress.

Despite my misgivings about the silhouette for my figure, I do not regret going outside my comfort zone - something I need to do more often.  It is a very comfortable dress, perfect for those hot humid days.  I do love the split sleeves with ties.  I also love that it has inseam pockets - yay!

I think the shirt tail hem adds another element of fun and interest to this dress.  I hemmed it to knee level at the front:

But the higher shaped sides add a little pizzazz to it:

As recommended by others who have made this pattern, I omitted the center front neckline placket.  I also raised the neckline all around by 1 7/8 inches.  

What do you think of my beautiful necklace?  It was lovingly hand made by my very dear sewing friend, Vivian, who gave it to me as a gift some time ago.   She is one talented lady!  Her eye for what beads go with other beads is unbelievable.  It is the perfect necklace for this dress.  

Here you can see the very loose fitting design of this dress:

The pattern includes a neck binding piece that you attach and slipstitch but I decided to use bias tape. It is the prepackaged single fold bias tape you can find at JoAnn's.  I like the clean finish of it.

On my figure, even though the dress was loose fitting, I found I still needed to do a full bust adjustment to make it hang properly.  The full bust adjustment also reduced some of the extra fabric under the sleeve since I had to add a dart.   You can find instructions on how to make this alteration in the book by Palmer Pletsch, Fit for Real People.  The full bust adjustment always has the effect of lowering the dart too much for me so I must either redraw the dart to point to the correct spot or I must raise the whole dart.  In this case, I redrew the dart since there was no room to raise it any further due to the kimono type sleeve.  Since I butchered the pattern so much, I traced the altered pattern onto fresh paper.  

I love this dress and look forward to wearing it often during the hot humid days of summer!

Happy Sewing!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Fun with Sleeves: M7542

McCall's is running an online contest where contestants are challenged to create pattern M7542.  It is a simple basic bodice with several different versions of sleeves.  In some circles, I have read that it is the "Year of the Sleeve."  I thought it would be fun to participate so I made Version D with the flounced sleeve.

I used a striped blue and white cotton shirting fabric.  I decided to add my own little twist by lining the flounce in a solid blue cotton poplin.  I also added piping above the flounce in the same solid blue color.

McCall's M7542, Version D

It's been some time since I have made a woven top (I usually prefer knit tops) and I do need more tops in my wardrobe so this contest was just what I needed to get me working on another top.  The pattern's bodice has a boxy shape which I normally avoid but I do like how this top turned out.  

In case anyone is interested in lining the flounce, following are the steps:

First, for each sleeve I cut the flounce in each fabric of course:

I hand basted them right sides together and machine stitched with a 1/4 inch seam allowance.  I hand basted because I wanted to make sure the pieces did not shift as I handled them.  Using the 1/4 seam allowance meant I did not need to trim the seam allowance and it would make it easier for me to press the seam open.

The trickiest part was pressing the seam open.  I pulled the circles apart at the small center opening and inserted my Dritz seam roll.  I placed the seam over the end of the seam roll and pressed with a steam iron 2 inches at a time.  I did not worry about wrinkling the rest of the flounce.  I could always press out any wrinkles later.  For this important step, what mattered was making sure the seam was pressed open.

Once all of the seam allowance was pressed open, I turned it inside out from the center opening.  I pressed the edge flat making sure that the edge did not favor one or the other side of the fabric.  

I basted the center opening closed and continued with constructing the sleeve treating the flounce as one.  Once the flounce was attached to the sleeve, I pondered how to best finish the inside.  I could serge it but I did not want the serged edge to show when I lifted my arm or should the wind blow.  My solution was to cut a bias strip and bind the raw edge.

For the back closure, the pattern's instructions tells you to use a hook and eye.  However, I thought using a button and thread chain would create a more polished look.  I used a light blue button I found in my stash but I may change that in the future.

The cotton shirting has a very tight weave which made it difficult to ease the sleeves.  There is one sleeve I am not completely happy with so I will unstitch and re-attach that one (the left one).  I did not have time to finesse the sleeve because the deadline to enter the contest was today, May 7, and I needed to finish in enough time to have photos taken before my photographer had to leave.  I may make this pattern again with one of the other sleeves.  Perhaps I will make it in another cotton shirting or a fabric with a looser weave.  I may also add waist darts for more shaping but I will do so only if I use a solid color fabric or a busy all over print.  The options are endless and that's what so great about sewing!

Happy Sewing!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A Close Call

Faye from Faye's Sewing Adventures is currently having a Tops That Pop sew along.  I decided to participate so I made the below red and navy striped top.  The fabric is a cotton jersey purchased from Mood.  The fabric is medium weight and has stretch but not very much stretch.  I was originally inspired by the top made by Lori from Girls in the Garden.  It is just so cute on her!

Self-drafted knit top with Ginger Skinny Jeans
I originally made a simple fitted T-shirt top but when I put it on, I discovered that I cut the armholes in too deep (think narrow shoulder adjustment gone wild).  This resulted in the sleeve being too tight along the sleep cap and there was pulling across my upper chest since the sleeves were pulling out at that area.  The top was uncomfortable.  (This is a self-drafted pattern.  I made a mistake - oops!)

As I was considering whether to declare it a wadder, I realized that I could save the top by making it a cold shoulder top.  The armhole was just right for that type of top.  So I unstitched the sleeve cap of the sleeves and folded it down.  I basted down the sleeve cap and then topstitched from the front along one of the navy stripes.  I then cut away the excess.    For the sleeve hem, I wanted as much sleeve as possible so I folded it up by only 1/4 inch and topstitched from the right side.  This alteration alleviated the pulling across the sleeve and upper chest and now this top was suddenly a fun on trend top.

Jersey fabric curls to the wrong side and that is what the fabric was doing along the exposed armhole edge.  To prevent this from happening, I fused a strip of fusible tape along the armhole edge.  I did not want to make the armhole go in any deeper by turning it under so instead, I used a decorative stitch along the edge to further stabilize the armhole and also help keep the tape in place should it ever loosen in the wash.

I used a strip of the same fabric for the neck finish and I attached it using the technique described in a previous post.  For my figure, I always need to sew darts even for knits so I used the method described in a previous post, Sewing Darts in Knits.  I used a ball point needle and a stitch length close to 3.0.  I serged the side seams and neck band.

This top was not the look I originally wanted but I am nevertheless happy with how it turned out.  Sometimes mistakes bring about the best results!

Happy Sewing!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Ginger Skinny Jeans: A Wearable Muslin

Well, I am happy to say that I have had a great experience with the Ginger Skinny Jeans pattern by Closet Case Patterns  The muslin discussed in my previous post has resulted in a wearable muslin.

The pattern is well-drafted and the details are true to ready-to-wear.  Heather Lou, the designer and founder of Closet Case Patterns, most definitely did her research.  Despite the fact that I mostly live in jeans, there are details in ready-to-wear jeans that I never even thought of until I started working with this pattern.  Not all ready-to-wear jeans are exactly the same of course but when I pulled out my old Gap jeans, I noticed similarities with the Ginger jeans pattern.

One thing was the stitching at the top of the side seam that runs for about 6 inches or so.  Another was how the back pockets curve on the sides of the pockets closest to the center back seam.  Working with this pattern results in a ready-to-wear style of jeans but better because you make it to your liking and fit.

Below you can see the topstitching details and shaping of the back pockets:

Here are my old Gap jeans:

I knew I would be making adjustments to the pattern so I traced the leg patterns so as not to butcher the original pattern.  For this muslin, I took in the side seams and inseams since I have very thin thighs:

I have also determined there are a few more adjustments I need to make on my next pair:

1.  Take in the waistband just a little bit.  The waistband is a little loose and I like waistbands to hug me just a little.

2.  Make a large calf adjustment.  Once I get up from sitting down, they get "stuck" on my calves and then I have to pull them down.  I have the same problem with ready-to-wear but I won't have this problem with my next pair of jeans.

3.  I have excess fabric below the derriere.   There are a lot of suggestions out there as to how to remedy this.  I will be researching and pondering how best to proceed.

I have a good quality medium weight denim I purchased at Mood a long time ago which I will use to make my next pair of jeans.  But now I am in the mood for working with a different fabric...maybe stretch corduroy.  It is still chilly here in the Northeast so if I get started on them soon, maybe I could wear them a couple of times.  We'll see!

Happy sewing!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Ginger Skinny Jeans: A Muslin

Thanks again everyone for your warmth and heartfelt good wishes!  Well, I am finally sewing again.  It felt so good to sit down and sew.  I have been contemplating sewing a pair of denim jeans for quite some time.  I have seen many positive reviews on Pattern and various blogs of the  Ginger Skinny Jeans pattern by Closet Case patterns so I decided to give it a try.

I started by making a muslin from an inexpensive denim I found in New York City in one of those little fabric stores on 38th Street between 7th and 8th Avenues.  It was only $6 a yard.  Boy is it a sturdy fabric!  It is a little stiff so I pre-washed it 3 times in order to soften it and get all the shrinkage out of the fabric.  This fabric did not fade at all and it is thick and still a little stiff.  Since the bolt did not have the fabric content, I decided to do a burn test to see if I could figure out the fabric content.  The fabric did not melt and left ash which tells me it has cotton but boy this fabric is indestructible!  That's ok, though, especially for a muslin which would be stitched and unstitched and stitched again.

Speaking of unstitching, I have discovered this nifty little seam ripper by Dritz.  I purchased it at JoAnn's.  The rubber tip is amazing!  The package says you use the rubber tip to help you grab the little pieces of threads left behind after you remove a seam but I found it is wonderful in helping you massage the little holes left by the needle and that is what I value most about it.

I used a size 100/16 Singer needle with a 3.0 stitch length and regular all purpose polyester thread for the main seams.  For topstitching, I used the brown color jeans topstitching thread by Coats & Clark with a stitch length of 3.5.  I used the jeans topstitching thread on the top and the regular polyester thread in the bobbin.  I finished the seams with my serger.  I pressed the seams with a steam iron.

For the back patch pockets, I simply freehanded a topstitching design on them.  With muslins, I usually just put together the main pieces to test for fit but since so many have had a positive experience with this pattern, I took my chances and decided to cut and sew all of the pieces in the hope that I would have a wearable muslin in the end.

I decided to make the high waisted version which includes a stay for the tummy.  I made the stay out of woven pre-shrunk non-stretch cotton muslin fabric.  The pattern instructions have you interface the zipper section but I don't think that is necessary for the version with the tummy stay.  The pattern has you attach the stay all the way to the edge of the fly so I believe it can double as interfacing.  I think the stay plus the interfacing plus the fabric folded plus the zipper plus the zipper guard is just too much bulk for my taste.  I will therefore eliminate the interfacing for the next version of this high waisted jean and rely on the stay for stabilizing the zipper area.

For the front of the pant, after I was done inserting the zipper, I traced the topstitching pattern onto cardstock to use as a template.  I simply placed the cardstock on top of the front aligning the straight edge to the center front and traced around the template so I had a guide for topstitching.  I am going to use this handy little template for other pants I make in the future.

Here is the front of the jean:

Here is the back.  I attached the front to the back and discovered, as usual, an excess of fabric below the derriere at the thigh area.  I decided to take in the thigh area at both the side seams and inseams and it helped quite a lot.  I am glad the fabric was so sturdy since I stitched and unstitched the seams several times until I was happy. I used a long machine basting stitch and once I was happy with the fit, I used the regular machine stitch of 3.0.  I still have to attach the belt loops and sew up the hem:

I have large calves so the jeans are a little snug around that area, an issue I encounter with ready-to-wear jeans as well.  I let out the seam at the calf area as much as I could.  They are not tight so I can still wear them but I will definitely be making an adjustment for the next version.

So far, I have discovered this pattern to be well drafted with a good fit.  The pattern instructions are excellent although I had to get used to the illustrations having the white side refer to the right side and the shaded side refer to the wrong side.  (It is the reverse in the big pattern companies which is what I am used to.)  It is important to use stretch denim as suggested by the pattern.  Otherwise, the jeans will turn out too small.

I am pleased with how the muslin turned out.  For my next post, I will model them so you can see the fit.

I encourage anyone contemplating making jeans to try this pattern.  Just dive right in!  If you feel a little unsure, use inexpensive fabric and have a seam ripper handy.

Ginger Skinny Jeans pattern by Closet Case Patterns
Happy sewing!