Sunday, November 27, 2016

Sewing Plans and the House

Hello All!  It's been quite a while since I have posted.  I have been focused on the house plus I have had a spell of very long days at work.  While I enjoy my temporary home, it has lengthened my commute quite a bit.  Sometimes it takes me 2 hours one way!  I get home rather late and quite tired so I have had little time for sewing.

Regardless, I do have sewing plans.  Whether I can achieve them in the near future remains to be seen.  I purchased this lovely cotton print knit at NY Elegant Fabrics.  I like the autumnal colors as well as the "dusty" look it has.  I really love how it looks against the charcoal grey corduroy I purchased at Mood Fabrics in NYC.

I have already sewn up the printed knit jersey into a long-sleeved crew neck top.  Nothing fancy. The charcoal grey fabric is absolutely beautiful.  It is a medium weight fine wale corduroy, very soft and it feels luxurious.  I want to make a pair of jean style corduroy pants out of this fabric.  However, I have decided to make a muslin first.  I have a light grey medium weight corduroy in my stash that I am using as a muslin.  If it comes out reasonably well (I hope), maybe it can be a wearable muslin.

Since I had a long 5 day weekend for Thanksgiving, I was able to draft the pant pattern and cut it out in the muslin fabric.  Back to the routine tomorrow, though, so I don't know when I will pick this up again.

I have very little spare time during the week and the time I do have I spend reviewing and preparing paperwork and answering emails regarding the house.  As I said in a previous post, I am the recipient of grant money from the State of NJ for homeowners who suffered property damage due to Hurricane Sandy.  The grant covers part of the cost for elevating the house.  Of course, it brings with it quite a lot of paperwork that needs to be reviewed and submitted within certain deadlines.   

On the left, papers filed.  On the right, papers to be filed.
The weekends I spend doing chores and running errands as well as visiting the job site and recording the week's progress.  The contractor is close to finishing up.  I am working with the power company so that the gas meters can be installed.  There's still quite a few odds and ends but we are close to finishing....just in time for the holidays!  So I foresee lots of cleaning up and packing while in the midst of Christmas I don't know when I will get sewing again - bummer.

Regardless, for those of you celebrating the upcoming holidays, I wish you all a safe and happy holiday season.

Happy Sewing!

Sunday, September 25, 2016

An Interesting Print, Laziness and Fold Over Elastic

Recently, I purchased a printed rayon knit fabric from Mood Fabrics in NYC on MPB day in August. I was drawn to the fabric because of the colors and the print.  The print looks like various photographic images of city scenes.  After I purchased it, I didn't like it because it seemed dark and somber.  Determined not to have wasted my money, I cut out and sewed this self-drafted top so now I like the fabric again.  It's unique and it fits well.

This is a print requiring thought and planning as to where certain images would be placed.  However, feelings of laziness set in, probably because I was not feeling too excited about the fabric at the time,  and I was going to cut it on the double.  Luckily, I had gotten together with a dear sewing friend who urged me to cut it single layer so I could plan where the images would go.  It took less than 5 minutes to copy the pattern so that I had both the left and right sides in one pattern piece for the front.  I am so glad she intervened!

Below is a closeup of the fabric:

You can see buildings, cobblestone streets, people walking along a sidewalk, rain falling.  Could you imagine if I had the images of people walking across my sizable chest or a red blotch?  Not good!  Crisis averted.

Before working on this top, I had seen a blog post by Anne Whalley about a beautiful dress she had made where she finished the neckline edge with fold over elastic.  I loved it.  I also had seen what a great job Kyle from Vacuuming the Lawn had done with a lace tank and skirt set she made where she used fold over elastic to finish the tank's neckline and make the straps.  I decided to give it a try.

Since this was my first time using fold over elastic, I relied heavily on my old stand by:  hand basting.  Below are the steps I followed.  I am sure there are those of you out there who can apply this with no or very little basting (practice makes perfect) but this is what worked for me for now.

As you can see from the photo below, the fold over elastic has an indentation along the middle where you fold it.  Once you fold it, one side is actually slightly larger than the other side.  This is so you can place the larger side underneath the fashion fabric and the smaller side on top, so that when you topstitch it on top, the stitching catches the larger side underneath.

1.  I placed the raw edge of the fabric on top of the larger side of the elastic with the raw edge meeting the indentation.

2.  I then hand basted it in place.  I pulled the elastic just a bit as I was basting -- this is important so that the elastic will lay flat against your body.  As I basted, I also made sure to feel and check with my fingers that the bottom side of the elastic did not shift and remained larger than the top.  Below you can see the ripples caused by stretching the elastic which will not show when you put on the garment (as long as you didn't stretch too much).

3.  I then folded the remaining elastic over to the right side and basted again.

4.  I then topstitched it close to the edge on the right side and removed all of the basting.  You can see below how the stitching caught the elastic at the bottom.

I am very pleased with this new-to-me neckline finish.  It was the first time I used it but it won't be my last!

Happy Sewing!

Saturday, September 10, 2016

A Firm Footing

Continuing from the previous post, there has been some progress on the house I am happy to say but I am eager for the house to finally be attached to the foundation.  Last weekend, I was rather worried after hearing news reports that Hurricane Hermine was making its way up the East Coast.  It would be a tropical storm by the time it would get to the New York / New Jersey area but with very strong wind gusts.  My house is up in mid-air just resting on beams, not attached to anything.  I had terrible visions of my house getting knocked off those beams.  Thank goodness that storm veered off course...whew!

So in this picture, you can see how much of the foundation has been built up thus far:

Hundreds of cinder blocks were used...

They started by creating footings:

Onto which the foundation would be built:

The house will have 6 supporting beams underneath which you see are being built here (the columns of cinder blocks):

The workers have completed most of the foundation and are now building wooden plates onto which the house will be attached to the foundation.  You can see the wooden planks on the top edge of the foundation:

So hopefully within the next week or two, my house will finally be attached to the foundation.  I will breathe a little easier when that happens!

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Lift off! We have lift off!

This post is totally unrelated to sewing.  I have not been sewing the past few weeks.  My sewing mojo has been gone.  Kaput.  I have been completely absent from the blogosphere the past few weeks as well.  But there is good house is being elevated and I had to temporarily move to a new location!

I live in a neighborhood in Northern New Jersey which was severely impacted by several storms.  My house suffered extensive damage during a N'oreaster in 2007; Hurricane Irene in 2011; and finally, Hurricane Sandy in 2012.  It was a traumatic experience each time, with the next storm worse than the previous one.

A program became available in the State of New Jersey for homeowners who suffered extensive damage during Hurricane Sandy so I applied and was accepted to receive assistance in elevating my home.  I feel so lucky to have been accepted and am extremely grateful.  It is a project that is costing six figures and the state will not pay 100% of the cost but what we are receiving is very helpful.  My husband and I decided to bite the bullet and go for it.  We want to be out of harm's way; the flood insurance premiums will decrease dramatically and the value of our home will go up.  All good things worth the temporary hassles and headaches.

Elevating a house is quite a daunting task.  It takes about 4 to 6 to 8 months to elevate a house and you cannot live in the house while this work is being done so we had to pack up and move.

So here's the house as it currently sits in mid-air!  Amazing, isn't it?!!

Here you see one of the workers guiding an iron beam through sections of the partially demolished foundation which will go underneath the house to help support it:

This is what the house looks like underneath.  The house was lifted a few inches every hour using these giant hydraulic jacks (that's what I call them anyway).  Then wooden supports were built underneath the iron beams so as to support the house while it is suspended in air:

Side view of the house.  There used to be a covered deck here (boo hoo):

My house will no longer have a basement.  That underground cavity will be filled in to ground level.  I will then have the space in between the house and the ground that can be used for storage.  However, I would only store items that I would be able to bring up next time we are threatened with another dangerous storm. 

More to come...

Saturday, July 23, 2016

A Simple Skirt

Since I am working on creating slopers for pattern-making, I have been sewing up simple basic pieces to test the slopers which actually are turning out to be quite versatile since I can combine them with many garments already in my wardrobe.  In this case, I had left over fabric from my white pants, enough to make a simple straight skirt.

Self drafted skirt.  The top is Vogue 1247 (out of print) in silk crepe de chine.
As with my pants, I decided not to add pockets so as to avoid them from showing through to the right side.  I also used the same waistband technique I used for my white pants where I cut the facing 1 1/2 inches wide, folded under 1/4 inch and topstitched.  This results in a clean waistband finish that looks like a countered waistband.  I think this will be my waistband technique go forward for white or light colored pants and skirts.  I inserted an invisible zipper at center back.

The beauty with pattern-making is that once you have a sloper that fits you, just about any pattern you draft from that sloper will fit nicely.  You only need to tweak the garment to account for fabric variables.

I used hem tape at the hem for a nice polished touch.  

I believe this ensemble is one of my most comfortable for those hot summer days.  

Happy sewing!

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Pant Leg Shape: Slim

Well, now that I have a pant pattern I am pleased with thanks to the Joyce Murphy pant block I wrote about in my last pant post,  I decided to start playing around with leg shapes.  I made a pair of white slim leg pants and overall I am happy with them.  It was more of an experiment but I ended up with a pair of wearable pants I like.

Slim leg pants drafted from pant block and self-drafted knit top

What I wanted was a pair of slim leg pants but not a jeans fit, not skin tight.  I have a pair of ready to wear pants that have a slim leg shape I really like so I measured along the knee and along the hem and compared those measurements to the pant block.  I subtracted to obtain the difference and divided by four.  I then reduced equally on each side of the leg.

I made these pants out of a white cotton sateen I purchased from Mood Fabrics.  The fabric has a little bit of stretch in them which, of course, affected the way the pants fit compared to the non-stretch woven pants I previously made.  Kyle from Vacuuming the Lawn has said that each fabric is its own universe and that is most definitely true.

Below on the photo on the left you can see there are drag lines along the leg. Granted, I had been sitting all day in the office so maybe they stretched out a little but they nevertheless fit better than the ready-to-wear pants on the right which I have actually worn out in public!  I think I will tweak the back crotch length a little for my next pair to see what happens.

On the left, pants I made.  On the right, ready-to-wear pants
The fabric was tightly woven and opaque so I did not see a need to line them for modesty which also makes them a cooler garment to wear on a hot day.  Despite the fabric's opacity, if I were to make pockets or a fly front, you could still see the pocket bag and fly front facing through the fabric which I don't like.  I therefore decided to make them very clean and simple with no pockets and an invisible zipper on the side.  I could have made pockets in beige to avoid some of the see through, but I still believe you would be able to see the impression of the pockets which I also don't like!  So they are as simple as simple can be for a pair of pants.

For the waist treatment, I originally drafted a facing instead of a waistband.  However, I again did not like how you could see the facing on the right side.  Not only that, I had serged the raw edge of the facing and you could see a ridge from the serger stitches as well.  So I took inspiration from the ready-to-wear pants.  I cut the facing to a width of 1 1/2 inches, folded under 1/4 inch and topstitched.  The result is a clean waist finish that looks like a contoured waistband:

I am happy overall with these new summer pants.  Now I need to make more but the warm sunny days are calling me....

Happy sewing!


Saturday, June 11, 2016

So Unruly

Recently, I went to visit a wonderful exhibit of American fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi's work, An Unruly History, at the Jewish Museum in New York City which is on view until August 7, 2016. This exhibit most certainly made me appreciate him as a designer as the depth of his work was quite impressive.

When you first enter the exhibit, you see a wall that looks like tiles or some type of mosaic but when you get closer, it is actually hundreds (thousands?) of swatches!

You then enter this room where you see beautiful colorful garments.  It is Isaac's mastery of color that I love the most.  The work in the exhibit is from the 1980's through current day.

--Isaac Mizrahi
How exciting it was to see hundreds of his sketches with his notes written on them!

You can see in Isaac's work how he absorbed all of the diverse cultures and religions one is inevitably exposed to living in New York City.  His design aesthetic was also influenced by nature, politics, music...basically, everything around him.

The peony is Isaac's favorite flower

Totem pole dress

Wooden bead jacket

Poppy flower.  The fabric of the dress in the background is hand painted.

Something I did not know about Isaac was his work designing puppets for children's plays.  It was so much fun to see the accompanying footage of the puppets in the productions.

Ostrich puppet

Owl puppet

Toward the end of the exhibit, there are also some short films of his early fashion shows where you see the great supermodels Linda Evangelista and Christy Burlington walking the catwalk in his designs.

If you are in New York City anytime between now and August 7, do try to visit this fabulous exhibit.   You will enjoy it!  The museum is located on 5th Avenue at 92nd Street.  Call them at 212-423-3337 for hours and entrance fees.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Pants Fit - Part II

For me, by far the most perplexing garment to fit are pants.  They must fit up and down and around as all other garments but they must also have the correct crotch curve shape and length and fit around 3 "cylinders" (the torso and 2 legs).  The fit adjustments are oftentimes counterintuitive.

Over the years, I have taken online classes and attended every pant fitting class offered in the sewing expos I have attended.  Each class offered new insights as to why pants fit and don't fit.  The most beneficial class I have taken was a 3 day workshop offered by the NJ Chapter of the ASDP (Association of Sewing and Design Professionals) taught by Karen Bengtson (member of the Colorado chapter).  You can read more about the process in my previous post.

The pants pattern was based on the methods and techniques developed by Joyce Murphy who also wrote an article in the December/January 2006 Issue 122 of Threads magazine entitled, "Adjusting Pants from Waist to Seat."  It was a fascinating article where she explained the concept of body spaces and how they relate to the crotch length and more importantly, how there are an infinite number of shapes of body spaces.  She also explained why the commonly recommended adjustments often don't work.

I am very happy with the result but I want to understand why they fit.  Below is my analysis.

Here are the Joyce Murphy pants, front view:

And most importantly for me, the back view.  There is a little bit of a wrinkling below my derriere on the left side due to my left hip being lower but it doesn't bother me:

Below are photos of a muslin based on a standard Big 4 pant pattern:
Big 4 pant pattern muslin - Front
I don't like how the front crotch fits.  There is too much fabric there and the fabric seems to hang from the bottom of the zipper opening.  I do need to take in the sides but most of the bagginess you see on the sides is actually coming from the back:

Big 4 pant pattern muslin - Back
I have a flat derriere and thin thighs.  It looks like I need less fabric around the thighs so you would think what I need is to take in some fabric along the inseams.  One instructor suggested I take in the inseams and scoop out the crotch but that didn't work.  I still had bagginess.  Here's the counterintuitive part:  I needed more fabric there!

In the photo below, I placed the Big 4 pant pattern back (the tissue) on top of the Joyce Murphy pant pattern (white paper) and you can see how the Joyce Murphy pant pattern has a longer back crotch length!

In the photo below,  the Joyce Murphy front crotch is 3/4 inch shorter than the Big 4 pant pattern front.  This smaller measurement takes away the excess fabric at the front:

Another very important factor is the crotch curve.  At the risk of over sharing, here is mine.  I obtained it using a flexible ruler.  I placed a red rubber band where my  inseam is located.  Given that I have a flat derriere, I was absolutely astonished that my shape was so round, almost a perfect circle - ha!  I did this repeatedly to make sure I got the shape right, because I just couldn't believe it, but I kept coming up with this.  The space inside the flexible ruler is what Joyce Murphy calls "body space." Everyone has their own unique body space:

So when I took the above photo and drew in "legs", the flat derriere (as well as tummy - boohoo) becomes evident.  Funny how the eye can distort reality (or is it wishful thinking)!

When I abut the front and back Joyce Murphy pattern pieces together and place the flexible ruler along the crotch, the shape matches the flexible ruler quite nicely:

Another factor at play here is the angle of the center back seam.  The more angled the seam, the more it can accommodate a curvier derriere and the opposite is true for a flat derriere.  You don't need much of an angle for a flat derriere.  Why?

A DART!!!!
In the above photo, I traced the pattern so that I have both the left and right sides of the back pattern and had them meet at the back notch since this is what you would do when you sew.  And what do you see - A DART!  If you think about men's shirts, there are no bust darts because they are flat.  Women's fitted and semi-fitted blouses have darts, because they are needed for shaping over the bust. As those of us who must make full bust adjustments know, the bigger the bust, the larger the dart.  Those who are small in this area must make a small bust adjustment, a smaller dart.

Same goes for pants!  The curvier the derriere, the larger the "dart" needs to be so a greater angle would help.  Someone with a flat derriere, like myself, needs a smaller "dart" or an angle that is at less of an angle.  I first heard of this center back "dart" in a Lorraine Henry class at an expo.

So for me, in order to get pants that fit nicely, I needed to add to the back crotch length, reduce the front crotch length, make sure the crotch curve mirrored mine and reduce the angle of the center back seam.  Whew!

There is a wealth of information out there on fitting pants and many different methods.  Finding the method that works for you requires much experimentation but most of all perseverance and patience.

Now I want to use this pant block to create pants with different leg shapes and in different fabrics.  I am sure these changes will present their own challenges, especially different types of fabric.  Hmmmm...

Happy sewing!