Friday, January 20, 2017

Oh Hi, 2017, Come On In

Okay, I wasn't going to write about the New year transition. I personally had a bad year and just couldn't wait to see the back of 2016 (I know I'm not the only one!) However, I feel I have to acknowledge the end of one year to truly appreciate the beginning of another.

Since May, I've been in a holding pattern professionally and an apathetic funk emotionally. Physically, I swear I can feel each sign of age and deterioration going on in my body.

Good news is that before the holidays I finally sought help and am slowly pulling myself together. My biggest hurtle right now is not focusing on the decisions that have brought me here. Hindsight has revealed them not to be the best but they were the decisions I made with "the information I had at the time".

One thing that helps me immensely is my love of sewing. Unless, of course I am paralyzing myself with indecision and procrastination for fear of making a mistake. Which, by the way, seems to be the old strategy for running my life that did not work. So I need to change that in order to get back on track. Some of my best and worst experiences, jobs, and relationships seemed to just "happen" without any direct action from me. I have made the mistake of letting my day-to-day life and its circumstances lead me to and fro instead of actively leading the way.

I have some goals for the new year but I'm not making any resolutions. In fact, some of my goals are so basic as to be laughable but when you have been brought low, those are some of the hardest to accomplish. Goals like getting appropriate sleep (I have a bad habit of actually going to bed in the early hours of the next day), eating healthy, and caring about my appearance (I kept putting off fixing a cracked tooth, I don't know when was my last professional haircut, and sometimes I let my gray roots get ridiculous.)

I need to put myself back together again and hopefully you will see signs of the progress here on the blog, whether my sewing output increases or my posts start to reflect more interests and experiences outside of sewing. I'm looking forward to learning a new way of thinking (and reacting) after all these years of my dreams feeling out of reach.

I guess I could say that my overall theme for 2017 is To Be Better.

P.S. One of my smaller goals might involve participating in my first PR weekend!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Cosy Knit Cardigan - McCall's 7254

Pattern: McCall's 7254 (2015)

Pattern Description: Unlined close-fitting cardigan with self-lined fronts extending into collar and back peplum.

Pattern Sizing: Sizes Y (XS-M) and Z (L-XL) Because of my measurements I assumed I would need to use a combination, M for the bust and L for waist and hips.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing it? Yes, very much. I was extremely pleased with the accuracy of the pattern images.

Were the instructions easy to follow? Yes, this a very straightforward pattern. A beginner could easily produce a well made garment.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I was really interested in the fact that this cozy design could also stand in for a casual blazer.

Fabric Used: Navy cotton interlock from Hancock Fabrics liquidation sale ($2.60 per yard, orig. $12.99), Gutermann 100% polyester thread in Navy #272, Pellon EK130 Easy-Knit fusible tricot interfacing, vintage* Wright's Trims non-shrink seam binding in Navy #55.

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made: I debated on which pattern combination to buy and during a $1 pattern sale I went ahead and bought both size groups. The idea was to use the upper bodice pieces from the size M and blend them with the size L pieces for the peplum.

First, I pencil traced the size M onto the larger size pattern in case I would need to taper from one size to another. Noticeably, the sleeve patterns for the two size groups are completely different in cap height and armscye curves so I could only choose which sleeve works best after I selected the correct bodice. Therefore, I only cut out the pattern pieces in the Large size. Then from the fabric I cut the bodice pieces and stitched them together to see if I would even need to use the smaller size pieces.

Liking the fit, I chose to cut size Large for everything but I did shave a bit from the bodice armscye; cutting halfway between the M and L sizes, because the shoulders seemed a bit wide.

I interfaced the collar facing and loved how the interlock was transformed, it achieved a sleekness and body. The only issue was when I was basting the facings to the collar at the raw edges, unless I slowly smoothed out the unfaced side the edges stretched or contracted and would not match.

All the seams in this pattern are finished with two rows of stitching 1/4" apart, trimmed close, and the seam allowances are pressed to one side using steam and a pressing block. For a non-fraying knit this makes for a great finish to the project.

Before the final trim and pressing.
This cardigan can be fastened to more resemble a jacket but I think I will leave it this way. I am very happy with how it turned out.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? Yes! I love the feel of this cardigan, especially the interfaced foldover collar/peplum. I actually find myself petting it. The only way it could be better is if I had block fused the back bodice piece with the same knit interfacing.

Check out that smooth peplum.

I love this cardigan. I will probably make this again but I will shorten the main bodice length by two inches. I would like the back peplum seam to hit right above my derriere instead of getting hung up on it.

There are similar designs to this pattern out there in the indie world like the Mouse House Creation Julia and the Style Arc Fiona cardigans, but I chose this one because I am more familiar with Big 4 pattern instructions and these McCall's patterns only cost me $2!!

Julia and Fiona

Note the strong resemblance to the Fiona.
* Thanks, Allie J!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Winter White Twist Top - Butterick 5429

Pattern: Butterick 5429 (2009)

Pattern Description: Long sleeve top with front neckline twist, dropped shoulders, and stitched hem.

Pattern Sizing: Size BB (8-10-12-14) I made a size 8 after noting when I made it before that the pattern ran large.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Not really, as it was not as fitted as the illustration would have you believe.

Were the instructions easy to follow? Yes, very.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I was intrigued by the twist detail at the center front. I liked the idea of a very simple top but with interest. However,  when I made the pattern the first time I found the pattern illustration deceiving. The top did not have a close fit at the waist, in fact, it resembled a square with no waist shaping.

Fabric Used: Winter white Ponteroma knit for $3 per yard (orig $15) from Hancock Fabrics liquidation sale.

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made: Because I have made this before, I used a altered pattern closer to a size 8, actually two sizes smaller than the pattern would have me make according to my measurements. However, since I was also making this in a stable ponte instead of cotton jersey like the last top I added 1/4" to each width-wise seam when I cut it out.

This is the second time that I've made this top so I have an adjusted pattern now. However, if you are working from the original you may wish to remove some of that extra fabric hanging beneath the twist. I suggest you scoop out the front seam, curving in from the bottom of the open twist to one inch at the middle and and then back out to the hem, blending out to the original seam.

I found it much easier to hand stitch the twist loop edges because they would show when wearing.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? Yes, with my adapted pattern this is now one of my TNT patterns. I have now made it in three different fabrics; nylon/spandex blend, cotton jersey, and ponte. I still recommend it to others because of the design but strongly suggest that a muslin be made first.

This could also be quite interesting with a different color, a sheer fabric, or a similar but different sized print in the upper bodice/sleeve area.

Conclusion: An easy but interesting top that can be had if you are willing to do a little work.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Working On The Duster Trail...with New Look

The image in my head for the last six years.
In 2010, decided to make a duster coat to enhance my professional wardrobe and wrote about my goal here. I even tried to muslin the coat at the time. If you remember (HAH, I barely remember, it was 6 years ago!), my original pattern choice of Vogue 7714 was much too large for me, even after coming down a few sizes. The photograph of the view I wanted was extremely misleading (though you could see the truth in the others) and the actual wearing ease on that pattern was ridiculous! It was so large that I was able to reuse and cut another pattern out of those same muslin pieces! I needed some more fabric only because the new pattern had two back pieces instead of one. I tried it on and it looked good even though the bust darts were in a very awkward position.

I really liked that pattern, New Look 6656, and every 5 months or so, I would try it on again and still be happy. However, I could never get myself motivated to cut it out of my final fabric, a polka dot moleskin, which I think over time developed mythic status in my stash. In the mean time, I gained weight and inches and that muslin became no longer relevant.

So, just a few weeks ago I cut that old pattern New Look 6656 and another new option, New Look 6270, out of a queen size sheet with the goal of completely finishing the duster THIS year.

The illustrations above (an altered New Look 6656 sketch) are what I wanted the final garment to look like and include the must-have details: an a-line shape, collarless, no closures, bust darts, waist definition, a back seam for sway-back shaping, and a length about 30-32" from base of the neck.

Each of these two patterns more or less had these details but the shaping of some elements were different (like the side and back seams) and that was the reason I needed to make them both up to see which would work better.

In both patterns, the front armholes were identical and the sleeve pieces had the same general shape and cap height.Though both patterns had back seams they had some room added to the upper back that seemed to allow for a slight dowager's hump. If anything, my back would require a straighter line there. Perhaps my posture is more erect than the average woman because both muslins bagged out unattractively in that area when sewn up as designed.

New Look 6270 was shown on the pattern cover in a sheer fabric; therefore, the picture was not a good indicator of its suitability for my fabric, a more substantial moleskin print. Using the printed pattern measurements I cut it first as size 16 all-over, eventually coming back to reducing everything above the waist to a size 14. Even then, the front and back were extremely wide. In fact, the front lapels overlapped by inches when there was no overlap intended in the design.

To see video of this jacket in motion, check here on my Instagram.

As you can see, altering this pattern to fit my goal of a sleek jacket would have been too much of a job. I'm still a fan of the maxi-dress in the pattern so I hope its sizing and ease will be more accurate.

New Look 6656 had a more structured design allowing for facings; however, the illustration made the shoulders seem like they might be too wide. I cut this one in size 14 at the shoulders moving out to a size 18 at hips. Comparing the pattern pieces, New Look 6656 was more nipped in under the bust; however, like 6270 it also allowed for a strange protrusion at the upper back (see at right). I cut that off leaving the back straight above the slight swayback shaping. I found the back neckline uncomfortably high on my neck so also ended up cutting the neckline and facings in a size 12.

To see video of this jacket muslin in motion, check here on my Instagram.

This muslin in motion* fit much better, I found the shoulders fine, the back was not too wide and there was adequate ease for the hips and bum. The sleeves for this design were meant to be cropped or otherwise extended with a contrasting cuff. I added the cuff to the main sleeve pattern piece and cut my sleeve out at full length.

As you can see, the muslin worked out beautifully and matches the shape of the inspiration garment shown below by Calvin Klein.
Calvin Klein colorblock jacket
I can't wait to cut my long-stashed fabric and sew this beauty up. It's been a long time coming!

*I was trying this on during the last week of the Presidential campaign and as my father filmed me we could not miss how much this jacket resembled the similar ones worn by Hillary Clinton. Sigh.