Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Shirt Spotting

Hubby wore his new shirt to work today!  I managed to snap a couple of pix before he left.  Mind you, that was at 6:00 a.m. so they're not the greatest.  He was so cute though - he went straight to the Grey Wall and stood there!  Awww.  I've told him he needs to pay attention to the fit and comfort of the shirt throughout the day, so that I can know if I need to make any further adjustments.  I do know that for future versions, I'll be making the collar points slightly shorter - we both felt they ended up a little long.

As you can see, he's quite happy with the shirt.  :-)

Here it is from the back - I think you can really see here how broad his shoulders are:

And his right shoulder is lower than his left one too, just like me!  It's like we were made for each other!!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Trans-seasonal International Dress of Friendship

I wasn't kidding about my desire to make something colorful and patterned after all that Whiteness of The Shirt.  Saturday morning I got started on a  project that's been in my mind for a long, long time.

This is a dress sewn by an American using English fabric given as a gift by a Canadian originally from South America!  Behold, Cambie #3:

with Frye Corrina Campus Wedge

If you've been reading for a while, you may remember that my dear friend Andrea came to visit last June, and when she did she brought me a very generous and lovely gift of two meters of Liberty lawn in Landis B.  This print is really incredible - it looks interestingly mottled from a distance, but up close, you see that there's an architectural theme:

Andrea chose this for me because she knows I'm interested in architecture.  This print came in a few different colorways, but this one is perfect for me - these colors go with so many things in my closet and are really perfect for any season.  I made a few different outfits to demonstrate.  Above was Summer, worn on its own with some sky-scraping Frye sandals.  Below is a look I'm hoping to be wearing very soon for Spring:

with Frye Carson Harness flats and an old green jacket I just love

But the reality is that I'll probably have to wear it this way for a while longer, a la Fall and Winter:

with Frye Fiona Moc oxfords, tights and my Exeter sweater

(Do you notice a shoe theme?)

The fabric also goes very nicely with these tourmaline earrings I made a few years ago:

hand-formed and hand-wrapped

This fabric was really interesting to work with.  It is so smooth and silky, and it must be quite tightly woven, because I could hear every needle prick going through!    Construction-wise, I made this one mostly like my first Cambie.  Cambies number 1 and number 2 were really muslins for this version - this fabric was so precious I wanted to be sure I was making the right size before cutting into it.  My first Cambie was a size 6 with no alterations, and at the time I felt it was a little loose.  So number two was a size 4 - it looks great on, but is really tighter than is comfortable for me.  The other day before cutting this dress out, I slipped on my blue Cambie again and decided that is the fit I really prefer, so this one is a straight size 6.  Really the only thing I did differently was to "unsweeten" it by making the neckline straight, and to add some fusible tricot along that edge to help with the flaring I was getting on my previous two versions.  I do think that I'll need to do a neckline adjustment in the future, although I'm probably the only one who notices the slight gape.

This time around, I decided to get a "fancy" zipper - and by fancy, I mean twice as expensive as the ones I usually buy.  Sadly, the quality ended up not being commensurate with the price - it was very stiff, and I was never able to correct the way the ends diverged from each other:

It's even too far apart to close that gap with a hook and eye!  Good color match though!  And again, no one will notice but me.  At least it's even, so it almost looks like a design feature.

I tried again to do a narrow rolled hem on my lining - with limited success!

Quite a steep learning curve with that little foot!

But despite these little flaws, I'm in love with my new dress and hope to wear it a lot.  Thank you again, Andrea, for this amazing gift!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Plain. White. Shirt.

I finished Hubby's shirt last night at about 5:00 p.m.  Big sigh of relief!  Seems like this project has taken up all my mental energy lately!  (Not to mention blog space.)

Because we were headed out to dinner and a concert, I didn't get to wash and iron it until this morning.  I admit to being a little afraid - not for any real reason, but just because it took me so much work to make this shirt.  Things mostly turned out OK though.  The little bit of sewing machine oil that got on the sleeve while I was felling it washed out (whew!).  All the pink marking pencil also washed out.

The bad news was that the fantastic interfacing I was boasting about in the last post unfused in some areas.  Here's how the cuff looked straight out of the dryer:

Bummer!  Fortunately, I was able to re-fuse all those areas.  I hope I don't have to do this each and every time I wash this shirt.  Being all cotton, it already took me longer to iron this one than his other shirts.

I'm really happy with my work on this shirt, and I think overall I did a very good job.  But for those of you who claim I do everything perfectly, here are some boo-boos.  These are things I chose not to re-do because they will never be seen:  they'll either be tucked inside the pants or under a tie.

Rolled hem.  These are so hard!

Not-quite-edge stitching!

I learned so many new techniques with this project.  Sleeve plackets:

I kept my sleeve plackets short because I shortened the sleeve so much, which made attaching the cuff rather difficult.  I might lengthen it next time, depending on how far up his arm this one goes.

Flat-felling the sleeve to the body:

Using the felling foot for the sleeve and side seams:

I lost a bunch of time with that one, because the first thing I did was to fell the two sides of the back to each other.  D'oh!  That was a drag to pick out!

I added a few things to my base pattern.  Back shoulder pleats:

Stay channels under the collar:

And I changed the collar from the one I'd done on the muslin to one with slightly longer points.  It turns out I'd used the button-down collar before.

And here's the whole thing, front and back:

Looks just like a plain white shirt, doesn't it?!  Because I iron all of Hubby's shirts every week, it was really interesting for me to go from pieces of fabric and sections of shirt on my ironing board to a completed shirt that's constructed just like the ones I buy him at the store.

So, the next question is:  does it fit the way we want it to?  Sadly, he had to work today and left before I got up, so he hasn't tried it on yet!  I'm dying to see if it fits, but also a little afraid.  I'm going to try my hardest to get him to model it for you - but if you have a man at home you know my chances of this are about 50% at best!

And now I can finally get back to working with something with COLOR and PATTERN!!  Yay!

ETA:  He tried it on, and the fit is perfect!  Double yay!!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Interfacing of Choice

There was some discussion when I posted my shirt muslin about which interfacing was best for a business shirt collar and cuffs.  I'd tried Pellon Shape Flex on the muslin and not been entirely happy with it.  At JoAnn's I bought some Pellon 950F Shir-Tailor.  And then at my local fabric shop when I was buying the shirt fabric, I asked if they had a good interfacing.

The lady at the counter produced a bolt of heavy woven fusible.  When I asked what it was called, she said, "Shirt Interfacing."  I checked the bolt itself but it was unmarked.  So I said, "I'll try a yard."

When I got started on my collar yesterday, I cut two collars and a piece of each interfacing.  I fused them to my fabric to see which one I liked better.  For me, the "Shirt Interfacing" won hands down.  It feels firm and crisp, but still allows the fabric to have some give.  (The Pellon 950F is a non-woven.)

I'm pretty sure that what I bought is the same thing as the Pro-Woven Shirt Crisp Fusible Interfacing sold by Fashion Sewing Supply.  It's about 48" wide and the characteristics match the description.  The price at my local fabric shop was $6 a yard - not nearly as expensive as I'd imagined a high-quality interfacing would be.

This morning I took a few comparison pictures for you guys who are interested.   First is a comparison of the textures, with the "Shirt Interfacing" on the left and the Pellon Shir-Tailor on the right.

The glue on the "Shirt Interfacing" is not bumpy like it is on a lot of other interfacings I've used.  Since this didn't come with directions, I had a little trouble at first getting it to fuse.  When I looked on the Fashion Sewing Supply website, I found a great instruction page and had much better luck when I followed their instructions.  

Rather than using the wool setting and pressing for 5 seconds in each place like I do with most fusibles, I used the highest setting on my iron with as much steam as I could get, and pressed for 20 seconds in each place, starting from the interfacing side.  Then I turned the piece over and did the same on the fabric side.  Finally, I kept the high heat and turned off the steam and pressed again on the fabric side.  Even with all that high heat and steam, there were some areas I had to go over again.

This next collage shows the difference in weight.  I threw in the Pellon Shape Flex I used on my muslin so you could see how much heavier this " Shirt Interfacing" is.  The Shirt Interfacing is on the left, Shir-Tailor in the middle and Shape Flex on the right.  I put a single layer of each on my very colorful guest room duvet  - notice how much color shows through on each.

I hope this is helpful for some of you.  It seems like it's not that easy to find information on interfacings and which ones to use for any given project.  That said, I think personal preference comes into play - personally I like a much softer collar on my own blouses.

Some people were also interested in whether I thought the David Coffin Shirtmaking book was worth buying and reading.  My answer is an unreserved yes.  I made my muslin with a combination of the pattern instructions and this book, but for my final shirt I'm going completely "by the book" and I think the results are really professional-looking.  Here's my collar, constructed as Coffin recommends.  Check out the built-in curve which will help it lay against the body nicely:

And here's a final sneak peek - I got as far as finishing the collar yesterday:

Not bad,  if I do say so myself!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A Nifty Tip

I've designated this "Shirt Week" here - I cleared my schedule so that I could slowly and meticulously sew Hubby's first Real Business Shirt.  (I promise not to write on this one!)  I chose a very fine, soft 100% cotton shirting - in white, because he needs a new white shirt.  But it's stressing me out!  You wouldn't believe how many times I've washed my hands while sewing this thing!  And of course I pricked my right index finger with a pin, so now I've got a band-aid on there to avoid getting blood stains on the shirt.  Yeesh!

Here's a sneaky peek at the pocket I did yesterday:

Anyway, I've spent the last couple hours putting together the collar.  (Yes, I'm slow, and making myself go even slower on this one.  Plus, there was some assorted guacamole and gingerbread cookie eating going on.  Not at the same time though.)

As I was edgestitching the collar, I was using a new tip I learned a couple weeks ago from Threads magazine - I've been using it since I read about it and it works so well, I wanted to share it with you guys.

You know how when you're edgestitching and you get to a corner, and then you pivot and start to go down the next side, but sometimes your fabric won't feed forward and the stitches get all bunched up?  Well, I learned that it's because the presser foot isn't level, like this:

See how it's angled down at the back?  This keeps the feed dogs from pushing the fabric through, and that's why the stitches get all bunched up.  The solution is super simple - just place a piece of scrap fabric under the presser foot right behind your work, like this:

Your presser foot is level and you can keep on going with no bunching!  This has worked for me every single time.  And it's one of those things that's so simple and makes so much sense, I'm wondering why I didn't think of it myself!

Did you guys know about this?  Am I late to the party again?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


I've been feeling kind of uninspired by all three of my current knitting WIPs for the last couple weeks, but almost finishing the skirt the other day lit a fire under me to get back to my Geno sweater, which I've renamed Ghia.  As I explained on my project page, in my family there's a Gino, a Tino and a Nino - but this is a very feminine sweater, so I gave it my family nickname, Ghia.  And yes, we're Italian! 

I'd finished the back about a week and a half ago, but was procrastinating about the fronts.  The pattern is a 26-row repeat, and not very easy to memorize for me.  But I've finished the first repeat, and I think it's lovely:

I've read that there are some problems with the chart for the right front.  This is the left front.  You really have to pay attention here:  there's just one chart for all the sizes, so the lace pattern isn't centered.  I'm making the smallest size and in some places, the first stitch is a yarn over.  In order to neaten up the edge for sewing later, I cast on an extra stitch at the side seam edge and am working this as a garter stitch selvedge.

As I usually do, I lined up a sticky note at the edge of my size so that I'm not distracted by stitches from the other sizes.  One of the tricky things about this pattern is that the yarn overs at the side edge are not always "balanced" by a decrease, so if you're not careful the stitch count can easily grow.  To remind me of places where I need to decrease an extra stitch to avoid this, I highlighted the yarn overs that are unbalanced.  Of course I made a mistake and highlighted one that is balanced, so I still have to pay close attention, LOL!

I put down my other sweater a few weeks ago after knitting the whole back and deciding it was too small, then ripping it out and starting over.  At that point the weather was warming up.  But now we're below freezing again!  March, why you gotta do me like that?!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Ticking Off the Boxes

Yesterday I (mostly) made that skirt I told you about a few weeks ago.  I had really meant to just make the muslin (a.k.a. the lining) but couldn't stop myself and did the whole darn thing, minus the hem!  It's exciting because this project ticks off a lot of boxes:  I used a vintage pattern, I inserted a lining where the pattern didn't call for one, I got to cross it off my sewing to-do list, and I got to remove the fabric from my stash inventory!

Here's a reminder of the pattern I used:  This is McCall's 6409, circa 1962.

Although this is a vintage pattern, it's kind of a cheat in terms of my goal of making something from a vintage sewing pattern.  I made the A-line skirt in the middle - really there's not a lot that's simpler than an A-line skirt, and I'd been looking for a nice pattern for a while when I came across this one.  It also includes a full- and half-circle skirt pattern, all in my waist size, so that's a bonus.  I was intrigued by the fact that the recommended fabric for the full circle skirt is felt.  I'm having a hard time imagining wearing a skirt made of felt!

I traced my pattern pieces well over a month ago, and took a couple pictures at the time, since it was my first time with a vintage pattern.  In the first one, you can get a good look at the shape of the hip.  I really like that curve; it seems that so many modern A-line skirt patterns have straight side seams.  This is a better fit for my shape.

It was also interesting to me that the lengthen/shorten line was at the bottom edge.  Not too surprising I guess in a skirt this full.

Otherwise, not much was different between this pattern and a modern one.  And OK - I have to admit that it feels a little weird for me to call a pattern from 1962 "vintage" given that I was born in 1964.  Yeesh!  So hard to believe that was 50 years ago!

Here's my sewing table (a.k.a dining table) yesterday, mid-skirt:

As you see, I've got my trusty lining book out to hold my hand.  It ended up being really easy and intuitive:  you make your entire skirt including the zipper but minus the waistband, and then make the lining except for sewing the side seam that has the zipper.  Then you sew the lining to the zipper on the opposite side from the fabric, so that the zipper tape is sandwiched in between the outer fabric and the lining.  I don't really know why I was getting myself into a mental tizzy about it!

I was a little amused by the instructions:  this pattern is rated as "recommended for beginners:"

But when it gets to the section for installing the zipper, it just says "Insert zipper according to instructions on package."  I guess that's how zippers came back in the day?  I do remember that actually from the '80s (the nineteen eighties!).   The pattern calls for a lapped zipper, but I'm just not a fan, so I did an invisible zipper.  I know I say this every time I do an invisible zipper, but this truly was my best one yet!

The other thing about the instructions that made me giggle was that it says this:

Wow!  Only four?  Well, no.  Each "step" has a number of sub-steps!  Liars!

Not that it mattered.  I didn't follow the instructions at all!

I didn't realize it until I was actually cutting out the fabric, but the front piece is wider than the back, which takes the side seams slightly to the back of the skirt.  I think that's a nice touch.

One thing I am following the instructions on is hemming:  for once, I'm actually letting the skirt hang for a few days so that the bias parts can relax.

I'm even going to do the measuring from the floor up.  I'm going to have to take off several inches.  I want this to hit just below the knee (like in the picture).  There's a two-inch hem allowed, but the pattern is obviously drafted for someone much taller than 5'4" - unhemmed, this hits me at the low calf.

Here's a picture of the hanging skirt.  I like how the pool designs come across as huge polka-dots.  I actually moved my pieces around so I didn't get a polka-dot on my solar plexus or "lady area."  I was proud of myself for remembering to do that!

And here's a close-up of my favorite part of the print:  check out these people, just chillaxin' with a book next to the pool:

With the lining the skirt has a nice heft and drape.  But I'm wishing I'd altered the pattern for my less-full right hip (which always plagues me).  I'd thought the skirt was full enough for that not to be noticeable, but it's not.  Live and learn!

Gratuitous dart and waistband shot.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Pay No Mind

Just claimin' my blog on Bloglovin', like the cool kids.

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Friday, March 15, 2013

A Keeper

You can tell how much I like a project by how quickly I take pictures of it.  It took a month for me to take pictures of yesterday's tee shirt, and another couple weeks to post it.

I finished this one yesterday.

(Please ignore my hair.  It was in a messy bun.  Messy being the operative word.)

This is the Pattern Runway Gorgeous Pussy Bow Blouse, sans bow.  It's described as an "easy fit blouse with bangle-length sleeves" - right up my alley.   It has a sweet little collar with separate stand, and neat little sleeve plackets.  All in all a very feminine, yet comfortable blouse.

I first made my muslin of this blouse just over a year ago.  The fit was pretty good, but a teeny bit snug in the hips and across the back.  Before I started working on this version, I extended the side seam out below the waist to the next size up, and also gave myself a quarter-inch Broad Back Adjustment.  This is the first time I've done the adjustment, although I've known for quite a while I need it (thank you, C2 Rowing) - it really does make a difference.  I could even stand a little more ease in the back, but then I'd have to ease the back shoulder with a gathering stitch.  With this small adjustment, I was able to ease the back shoulder into the front just by pulling the front shoulder more taut as I sewed - easy peasy.

Sadly, the light around here this morning wasn't good enough to give you the understanding of just how gorgeous this fabric is.  This is Robert Kaufman Baby's Breath in Vintage (even the name is fantastic!) from the London Calling Lawn line.  Liberty-esque without the pricetag, IMO!  I fell in love and bought enough to make this very blouse the instant I saw it.  I also bought it in the "Celebration" colorway:

Anyway, here are some close-up pictures so you can see the colors of "Vintage" better.

I love my little lavender buttons!

Edge-stitching courtesy of the blind hem foot!

Rolled hem - that was hard on those curves!

And you want to see my shoes, right?  Bought these years ago from Boden:

They go with both these fabrics!

So, do you guys feel all better now, since you got a smiley face today rather than a pouty one?!