Thursday, April 29, 2010

This Pattern is Officially a TNT!!

Tried 'n' True, that is! I was so excited about how the Curves shirt turned out that I went back down to the sewing room this morning and whipped out another one, using a fabulous knit I bought at Rose City Textiles in Portland, OR. Start to finish, it took me about an hour and a half. The armscye princess draft makes for quick serging assembly, and the triple coverstitch is a great finish for the hem, cuff and neckline. And now that I have finally gotten the hang of how to end a coverstitch, it's going even faster.

(Sorry for the poor picture... Had to use a tripod and self-timer because I was too impatient to wait for hubby to get home and take pictures!)
I'm wearing them with the pants I made earlier this year as part of my uniform. I also need to make more of the pants because they're really the most comfortable pair in my wardrobe.
Back view:
I love the sleeves, and the longer bodice length means I don't have to worry about it coming untucked if I decide to tuck it into my pants/skirt.

Like I Need Another Hobby...
This Saturday I'm going to venture into very dangerous territory: the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. I've never been before, but many of my friends have raved about it. My daughter also loves to knit, so I'm going to find some yarn for her. And maybe, just maybe, I'll dust off my old knitting skills and take up a different type of needle too.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Simply Satisfying Sewing: A Tale of Two Pullovers

Yesterday I had the urge to do some real simple sewing, and make myself a few knit pullover tops. These are the kind that I love to wear: three-quarter sleeve, scoop neck, not too loose. So I decided to do a little experiment: draft one with PatternMaster Boutique, and one with Curves (both from Wild Ginger).

Here's the thing: PMB is really meant for drafting patterns using woven fabrics, while Curves is meant for knits. But many people do use PMB to draft knit garments (I've done it myself). I thought it would be interesting to try them both.

The first top was drafted as a no-closure blouse, with three-quarter sleeves, armscye princess darts in the front, and zero ease all around. I didn't scale the pattern for the knit fabric.

Front view:
Not bad, but a bit on the loose side, which surprised me. And the sleeves were certainly too loose (partly my fault... I really should have checked the hem circumference setting).

Back view:
The back view shows better just how loose and floppy this top is. Not unwearable, but not quite the look I was after.

This morning I drafted the same top in Curves. I used zero ease again, and specified a 10% horizontal stretch. I also shortened the sleeves and narrowed the sleeve hem circumference.

What a difference! It's much snugger, fitting just the way I like.

Back view:
It fits a lot better in the back as well. Yeah, there's a bit of wrinkling at the waist where it rides up my hip... but I don't mind that. A bit of hip ease in the next version will fix that.

I finished the hem, cuffs and neckline with a triple coverstitch, for no particular reason other than I hadn't tried that stitch before and it seemed high time. I really do like how flat it sits against my neck!

I look forward to getting a lot of wear from these shirts... although I'll probably take in the first one before adding it to my closet.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Quick tote bag

Not every project needs to be detailed and elaborate. Sometimes, doing a really quick and easy project is satisfying and fun. This was one of them.

I found this British-themed fabric at Hancock's last week and knew a friend of mine would like it. Since she's a fan of yard sales and always carries a tote bag to haul her finds, I decided to make her a sturdy tote bag for her.

The fabric was a simple quilting cotton, which really isn't substantial enough for a tote bag. But wait! I reinforced the fabric with an iron-on vinyl coating by Therm O Web. This makes the surface of the fabric water resistant, and also adds needed stiffness. I added straps made of polyester webbing, and a contrast fabric from my stash.

The finished bag:

See? Nothing special. The size of the bag was dictated by the width of the fabric. Everything was eyeballed. I stitched down the one side seam, stitched the bottom seam, and stitched across the corners to form the bottom.

The one thing I did add was a small zippered pocket on the inside. Rather than stitch it to the outside, which would mean stitches showing from the outside, I just stitched it into the top edge, so it hangs free on the inside.

All told, it probably took me about an hour to finish the bag. I'm hoping to give it to my friend next week.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Folkwear #113: Japanese Kimono

Okay, maybe the dry spell is broken! Yesterday I went down to the sewing room and pulled out a project that had been on my "to do" list since last Fall.
A long time ago -- probably close to 20 years ago -- I made a kimono using Folkwear 113. One of the things I remember about it was the enormously long main pattern piece: the front and back was piece nearly 10 feet long!! But I really liked the resulting kimono, and wore it for years until it finally wore out.
Fast forward to last October. I was at the sewing expo in Chantilly, and came across the SewBatik booth. There, I found the most amazing fabric: extra-wide hand-dyed double-border batik! 108 inches wide!! The first thing that popped into my head was, oh boy, wouldn't this make a fabulous Folkwear kimono.
One of the great things about using this extra-wide fabric was that I could cut the body piece on the cross grain and eliminate the center back seam. Cutting was pretty straightforward, but rather than spread the fabric out on the floor (since I don't have a 12-foot table anymore), I placed the pattern piece on the fabric and traced around it with a chalk marker. It took four passes to get the whole piece marked out, but at least I wasn't crawling around on the floor like I did 20 years ago to get it laid out in one shot!
Construction is pretty straightforward, and the instructions are very well done. I started it last night and finished this afternoon; all told it took about six hours.
Here's the front view:
The back view:
And a shot of the formal sleeve. A bit of trivia for you: according to the instructions, a woman's kimono is open from the armpit to the bottom of the sleeve (see where my hand is); a man's kimono is sewn shut here.
This will be my summer robe, and it's just in time too... The weather is really warming up here, and my previous summer robe was in tatters. Here's hoping this one lasts a bit longer!
(Oh, and my husband likes it so much he wants one for himself. But I'm not sure if the fabric pattern will suit him. We shall see.)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A bit of a dry spell

I've had a bit of a dry spell in the sewing room lately. Part of the issue is that I've moved my computer upstairs into what was my son's bedroom, now that he's off at college. Since I'm not constantly exposed to the fumes from my stash, I'm not as automatically drawn to engage in a sewing project.
The second reason is that my sewing room really was a mess after finishing the Mondrian dress. So first I had to clean it all up. I've gotten that done, so am ready to start messing it up again.
The last excuse reason is that my wide-format printer was having issues, so I wasn't able to print out patterns. But my incredibly clever husband Bob figured out what was wrong with it and got it running again. He's waiting on a new part to fix some lingering issues, but for now I can print patterns. So there is a new blouse pattern waiting for me to start on it. I'm hoping to have it finished before I leave for North Carolina on Thursday, for a quick visit with my daughter at college and to see her perform in a production of "The Bacchae".

Friday, April 2, 2010

YSL Mondrian Dress: Finished!

Much to my amazement, the dress is done! I'm very pleased with how it came out; I can easily see wearing this to other events. Hmm... I've got a reception coming up at the Smithsonian... I could definitely wear it there!

The front view:

And the back view:
BTW, this back view is true to the original. A friend from the Creative Machine list (hi, Bill!) sent me a runway shot showing the color blocking of the back of the dress.

Anyway, the details: I decided against adding a lining; it really didn't need one. I was worried the fabric would be too translucent, but it's not, so why add the extra layer? Instead, I added a one-piece facing (which actually created a head-scratcher: how to sew it in completely by machine? Answer: very carefully.). And, since it's a knit fabric, I didn't have to finish the edge of the facing.

For the hem, I cut another yellow band piece and attached it to the bottom edge with a 1/4" seam, then folded it up and stitched the raw edge to the seam allowance between the outer yellow band and bottom black band. This way, nothing shows from the outside, and I didn't lose much of the yellow. In retrospect, I should have cut the yellow band about half an inch wider, but it ended up looking pretty good anyway.

There's also no zipper. I put an invisible zipper in the left side when I put the shell together yesterday, but discovered I could pull it over my head easily without the zipper, so I took it out.

I found these nice black strappy heels in my closet, and they go pretty well with the dress, so I'll be wearing them. I'd love to wear a pair of red pumps that I have, but a sore toe joint just won't let me wear something with a 3-inch heel. Darn! As for the hair, I'm going to use some of the leftover white fabric to make a triangle scarf, and bind it with the black. Very retro!

Tomorrow's weather promises to be sunny and hot, so this is going to be the perfect dress for the party!