Monday, March 30, 2009

Marlene's Trousers

I finished the first pair of trousers for my swap, and it was the first time I had used a Burda (7944) trouser pattern. So this was a fun project to tackle. First note: I do not fit Burda trousers.

This was something I had wanting to make for a long time, since my work wardrobe is casual, which has come to mean that I wear a lot of jeans. While this isn't really a bad thing, I do like wearing something a bit nicer and given the cut of jeans today sometimes I have a hard time keeping my tops tucked in. So a pair of cords that are actually at my waist was appealing.
The fabric is a navy corduroy with a tan base color. (Photographing corduroy is a challenge, so bear with me on some of the photos) I chose a cotton thread to match the base tan color on the fabric, and planned to do a lot of topstitching to give the feel of a pair of vintage-styled jeans. The pattern is actually called Marlene Dietrich by Burda, which fit well into my retro theme.

The first issue I ran into was that the rise was not nearly deep enough for me. After basting the waistband in place, it seemed that it was sitting too high as well. So I addressed the issue from two fronts: I deepened the bottom of the center seam and also shortened the darts at the back. This allowed the trousers to ride lower which was a much better fit. For good measure, I let out the side seam at the hip which gave a bit of wearing ease.

After adjusting for fit, I tried them on again, to find that with the wide waistband the trousers were 2" above my natural waist. I did appreciate the irony that in trying to avoid low rise jeans I had made a pair of high rise cords, but I knew that these would end up at the bottom of my dresser drawer if I didn't adjust the waist. First I cut 1/2" off the top of the trousers themselves. I then re-drew the waistband pieces and eliminated 3/8" on both the top and bottom. This worked well, and now the top of the waistband is a scant 1/2" above natural waist, which is a much more comfortable style for me.
Besides fit issues, I made a few design changes as well. Because I just can't leave anything alone; it's a curse. First of all, I have no idea why anyone would put pleats in a pair of trousers. Why oh why would anyone want to add fullness there? This was an easy fix, just take a tuck in the pattern tissue before cutting.
When cutting these out, I was undecided about whether to leave the cuff in the leg so I cut the full length. After I finished them, I decided to make at deep hem (5") but no cuff. I did leave the fabric though so I can adjust that later if I wish.
My third adjustment was just a change in method; instead of making a stitched buttonhole for the tab to pass through I used a bound buttonhole. Given the nature of the material, I was concerned that a stitched buttonhole would eventually unravel at the ends. Also, given that I was using contrast thread, I didn't want to add a focal point which could take away from the main detail of the trousers, the tabs.

I am very pleased with the outcome, and have already worn these to work twice so they definately fit into my 'real life' wardrobe. There were some pleasant surprises along the way, such as having the tab closure work on its own without any hidden buttons or snaps. I was worried that the off-center buttons would make the center front bow out but it lays perfectly. But after all the tweaking I probably won't make a second pair. Also, they are unique enough that they aren't the type of garment I would want three of.
Next up: the jacket. I really want to wear this one soon.

Sneaking in Sewing

It's been a busy few weeks, with more selling of wine than sewing of garments, but I was able get a few things done in the studio. After completing a black men's shirt for a customer, I made up the first of my knit tops. This was made entirely on the serger, with the exception of the hems. I love this pattern, which I purchased two years ago with some retro 70's knit. The knit sat in a pile with the pattern and some brown twill for years until I decided that I needed a new outfit for Thanksgiving last year and made up the top and skirt in a day. Makes all of that sitting in the drawer seem silly.

But I was happy to discover that the pattern fits perfectly goes together in less than an hour so I'm using it for three knit tops in my swap. For this one, I cut a wider neck with the intent of making it a boatneck. It isn't quite that wide, but works very well. Boatnecks can be difficult to pair with foundation garments. This top also has longer sleeves than the other two; more of a true short sleeve than the cap sleeve.

The neck edge binding is bias-cut self fabric which works very well. Because I had re-sized the neck, I cut the bias 1" shorter than the overall neck edge and that worked perfectly.

It had been years since I had used my double needle, but it sure came in handy. It makes such a nice finish on a knit and has just enough stretch to it that I won't have to worry about the hems popping. For the neck edge, I did a shallow zigzag with a long stitch. In all, I am pleased the the second top from this pattern was as successful as the first and will be making many more. No more store-bought tshirts for me.

Friday, March 20, 2009

moving along and making changes

I have been sewing again this week, and it feels like a vacation after working at the winery for five days straight. It's funny how you get into habits and when they change everything gets discombobulated. You do get a lot of thinking done while working on the bottling line though; I kept getting Alice's Restaurant stuck in my head while waiting for the bottles to 'come around again on the guitar' as it were. Paul didn't think that was funny but I sure did. Maybe it was the up at 5am talking.

Yesterday I got two shirts finished and shipped out the door. One was another Rick Deckard shirt, which is becoming my staple garment. However, my long saga of searching for black geometric print fabric continues, and I am sad to say that my favorite fabric so far is now on its way to Kentucky, never to be seen again. I would love to find some kind old lady who has a bolt of fabric just like they used in Blade Runner laying around her attic. Meanwhile, at least it keeps variety in the sewing.

The other shirt to go yesterday was a blue chambray work shirt, which is always an easy project to put together. It doesn't even involve a pattern (we don't need no stinkin' pattern) or much cutting; I just tear rectangles for the shirt body, sleeves, cuffs, and placket. I do cut the underarm gussets and the collar but everything else is torn. Easy to do, but there is the issue of long cotton threads everywhere until construction gets well underway. The simplicity of making these shirts is very comforting, and I'm able to churn one out in less than two hours. I had thought there were some pewter shirt buttons lying around but was mistaken, so the customer lucked out and has mother of pearl buttons on his work shirt. The blue/gray hue looks very nice with the fabric so I'm sure he'll be pleased.

Between finishing the black shirt and starting the blue, I did manage to squeeze in some sewing for me; I got the rayon knit top made. It was done almost completely on the serger so I wanted to get it finished before changing out the cones. The pictures I took came out blurry, so I'll have to retake them. Or maybe I can get someone to get some pictures of me in it tomorrow night.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Using the Stash

I have finished the second item from my swap; actually it's been done for almost a week but I got distracted by work. Very annoying, when working tries to take precedence over sewing; I'm working on how to eliminate that problem. Meanwhile, back to our regularly scheduled programming:

For this blouse, I used S7167(oop) with a few alterations. First, since I am planning to make a 1/2 sleeve jacket, I shortened the sleeve to match. When worn with the jacket, the turned cuff will turn up over the jacket sleeve.

The other alteration just, well, happened. This is one made from a stash piece of corded swiss dot. Not from my stash, mind you, but from a friend's stash. The best part of having good friends who sew is the communal nature of the stacks. It is a wonderful fabric, but being the end of a bolt (I think there was a full yard but I could be wrong), there were a few interesting bits to contend with.

First off, matching stripes was not an option. I'm not too worried about that since they are white on white so any random meetings at the seams aren't glaring at anyone. The second issue with this piece was tape residue. I didn't even notice until after I had cut out the blouse that one of the front pieces had a yellow streak on the reverse that showed through.

But never to be deterred by little things, I started looking at options to hide the icky yellow dried glue bit. After reviewing my scraps (I don't throw them out for a reason), I found a piece large enough to cut a front yoke. Because the offending mark was near the neckline, I was able to cut it off and replace it with this design detail. Yup, that's what we call this in 'the biz'. I considered inserting some irish lace in the seam, but that didn't seem to go with the style. Instead, I found a few scraps of entre-deux that matched the fabric perfectly.

So that neat yoke? Did it on purpose. Matching the stripe there was important, so I hand-basted to make sure nothing slipped in the sewing process. I then serged off the seams, and was back in business.

One note about fit; I noticed after I took this picture that there is a bit of stress at the bustline. Don't worry, my mannequin is more blessed than I and the pulling doesn't happen when I'm the one wearing the blouse.

Because I just love bias-cut stripes, I cut the sleeve facing on the bias. I really like how crisp it all turned out; I used some fusible shirtailor on the facings which worked beautifully. I need to get more.

The buttons were a perfect find too; I'm not sure why but several of my swap pieces have square or diamond buttons. Maybe I'm just drawn to unique shapes, or perhaps it's the clean lines that make me want to spice it up a bit with the buttons.

There's black thread on the serger now, which means the next thing up will be my black knit top. I can't wait; there is just something about rayon knit.

Friday, March 6, 2009

One down..

I started working on this a few days ago, but forced myself to get the 'real work' done before going back to it. I'm grouping my items by color, which is how I like to manage my work sewing as well. This keeps me from having to change out the serger cones five times a day. So since I was working on a linen/rayon shirt and a cream sheer dress this week, it made sense to finish up my linen skirt.

A few notes about fibers; when sewing on linen, I really prefer to use cotton thread. It has a similar sheen to the fabric, and allows me to use the high heat when pressing. This was particularly useful on this skirt, since it's a 'crisp' linen and needed to be steamed and smashed into submission. I like to fool myself into believing it will be less wrinkly than other linens. We all know that it means when I sit down ginormous creases will appear and refuse to go away until the skirt is washed. hmmmph.
Also on the topic of fibers, I chose organdy to interface the waist since it has a great crispness which accents the hand of the fashion fabric. Why is organdy always twisted off grain? One of those mysteries I suppose. So after yanking it the other direction and steaming it back on grain, I cut the facing pieces and then 130" of 4" bias strips for the hem facing. Because this skirt will only occasionally worn with a crinoline, I wanted to give the hem some oomph to keep it from collapsing.

Enough about fibers, on to cutting. As I have said before, this is an adapted 1949 pattern. The original was a formal skirt which showed options for either floor length or mid-calf. I think this is why the pattern has been in my files for so many years; I love the waist detail but when would I wear a floor-length skirt? To shorten the skirt, I took a 4" tuck in the pattern pieces to keep the hem width. Also, since the original is extremely high waisted, I made the 'petite' adjustment at the waist. That's something I've never needed to do before! Because this is an eight-gore skirt, I marked each piece in the seam allowance to keep them from getting mixed up. This was a trick I picked up when learning to make corsets: number each seam. So CF is 1, CF to SF is 2, SF to SB is 3, etc. I did this on the facing pieces as well.

Once I had done the basic long seams, I found that the skirt was too large at the waist by almost 8 inches. I should have measured the pattern when cutting, but relied on the printed actual size measurements instead. Better than to small I suppose, since I had used up the fabric and didn't want to go adding gores or spending more. It was an easy enough fix; with eight seams on the skirt I simply increased the seam allowance on all seams by 1/2". I tapered that out to avoid loosing the fullness at the hem. Once I had tried on the skirt, I serged the seams and finished them with an edgestitching.

The other major alteration I did to this pattern was the closure. The pattern called for a front button closure, but I just couldn't find any buttons that worked well with the fabric. Because of the print, it would have taken some pretty bold buttons to stand out, and I was afraid that would make the skirt difficult to pair with a variety of tops. Since the point of the swap is to make versatile garments, I chose instead to use a CB invisible zipper. It was easy enough to disregard the front facing, and the zipper just sits in a regular seam allowance. I did leave the back seam open until all fitting was finished so that I wouldn't have to futz with the zipper once it was in.

After trying on the skirt, I found that the waist detail was still much too high waisted; the original would have made an empire waist effect. That would actually be stunning in a velveteen with a satin blouse, and I may one day make that. But for my purposes, I took another 1/2" off the top when I applied the facing. After trimming and turning, I pressed the facing and finished with an edgestich as with the long seams.

For the hem, I used a facing instead of a turned hem. With a circle hem, it is never fun to draw up the excess and I prefer to avoid that if possible. By using bias organdy strips, I was able to steam the facing to the shape of the skirt easily. Because edgestitching is a feature on the rest of the skirt as well as my other garments, I topstitched the hem to complete the semi-tailored look.

In all, I am very pleased with this skirt. I can't wait to wear it out and show off. Next up will be my white cotton shirt since the white cotton thread is still on the machine.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

the Plan

see, I knew I would get this done. My intention was to get this done at work today, so I packed up my handy tote bag with pencils, paper, and such. But then I had to work at work today which was an odd but not unpleasant change from the normal Monday in the tasting room.

In any event, here's my final plan.

Linen Print Skirt, based on a 1949 reprint. I lowered the waistline and raised the hem to give it a more 50's look. The yellow jumper is a bright yellow cotton, with just a hint of egg yolk. These will come in handy on weekends while working in the tasting room and for Past Times events.
The trousers both have wide waistbands and pleated leg; one textured tan poplin with off-center button closure, the other is navy/tan corduroy with tab closure. These are practical for weekdays in the studio or winery when there is stocking to be done.

Three fitted shirts. Corded Swiss Dot with 1/2 sleeve and turned cuff has entre-deux detail at yoke. Green Print Silk sleeveless shirt has geometric print and fitted lower bodice with gathered yoke. Pale Green Cotton Poplin shirt will have floral glass buttons and simple tailoring.

Three knit shirts. Black shirt is made of Rayon/Spandex, and will have a boat neck with 1/2 sleeves. Orange Hemp knit and Orange/Yellow Stripe Cotton knit have scoop necklines and cap sleeves. All three are tunic length to stay tucked in while I'm lifting wine cases and working in the studio.

Green Twill Jacket is Double Breasted with topstitched details in yellow thread and matching yellow paisley buttons. While the digital photos aren't showing the color well, the jacket is the color of the print on the silk blouse, and the buttons/thread will match the yellow jumper.

Since the point of the plan is to create a wardrobe which works well no matter how you mix it, here is my mix and match plan. Keep in mind that the green cropped jacket would go with any of these.