Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Ehlen Blouse, Sew Chic 1313

I'm so excited about the Ehlen Blouse, my new pattern this season, and have wanted to take you on a tour to show it off. This blouse may look simple at first glance, but there are some really nice features and techniques that may not at first be obvious, thus the reason for the "advanced" rating. I've also made some changes to the instructions that I hope you will be excited about.

Meet Ehlen A and B. A has the ties and lace for the frilly look, and for a tailored look, B has the buttons. The common features are the "v" neck, the princess seam at the bust, a front midriff yoke, a peplum, and short "peek-a-boo" sleeves - THAT I really love. They both also have a side zipper opening.

 This blouse design started with the idea of a cut-on neck scarf that could be arranged differently just using a new knot, or add in a broach, buttons, tie tacks, or any other means to create a new look. To test the wearability, I tied this cotton version with an overhand knot, and it stayed perfectly in place all day long. If you were to make it from a slippery fabric, I'm sure you could not expect the same results. 
 To stay with the theme, the sleeve band is also tied. A square knot is the most tidy. The other thing to note about this sleeve is that it's SHAPED down the center seam to give the illusion of, or make room for, a broad shoulder. A shaped sleeve and adjustable band that will fit nearly any arm is nice!

  Staying with the vintage vibe, and because it will be tied, I have not used any interfacing in my sleeve band.  The lace trim looks pretty, but it also serves as a stay for the bias and curved edges.
You could add a light weight interfacing if you wanted to.

 Reinforcing the stitching where the center front meets the ties, then clipping right up to the stitching is a really critical step. Too many times people do not clip close enough, but the fabric can't turn properly and lay flat any other way. If you fear the fabric will unravel, use a product called Fray-Check. Just a drop will do it.
 The inside of this blouse is completely lined. The front lining is cut from fashion fabric for ties that are faced with the same fabric on both sides.

View B is trimmed in bias binding, folded in half and pressed flat. Sew it in place as you would piping, but without using a zipper foot. Keeping the trim a consistent distance will be the only challenge.

"Tapering" the trim off the seam, it disappears from view
just at the last moment.

No special techniques were used to apply the trim to the sleeve, such as mitering corners. Keeping the trim narrow is the key. This band is interfaced, and is held together only with buttons. Initially I was going to make buttonholes and then I thought - Why? There was no need to "unbutton" the band. Simply try it on for fit, pin in place and add buttons. Keep it simple, right?

These blouses unzip from the bottom up the left side, exposing a beautifully lined inside. Sewing for a special needs person, continue the zipper all the way past to the sleeve. For a clean look, I have used (and the pattern recommends) an invisible zipper but an all purpose zipper could also be used.

Here's a view of the zipper from the inside.

 This photo shows how the sleeve is finished at the armscye.

The other great technique that should not be ignored is understitching at the hem. Understitching keeps the seam turned to the inside and keeps the lining from showing.
 In my classes, students said that they like the way that vintage patterns were illustrated, so I made some small changes from my usual instruction that I hope is a help to you.

Who uses a pattern layout anymore? Most people I know don't even bother with them, but for those of you who do, I have labeled the layout with the pattern number and given the number an "R" if the pattern has been reversed.

Just like many of the vintage pattern instructions, and as the steps will allow, I have only one illustration, with the seams numbered to match the written instruction. In this way, you can see how the garment is put together and arranged in 3-D rather than drawn flat. 
The sections are still organized into "STEPS", but rather than repeating the numbering, the numbers run continuously so no procedure is given the same number.

The lining can double as a "test" fit or "muslin" of the blouse before cutting into your good fabric. Formal or casual, this blouse is perfect for fine fabrics, great prints, or natural fibers. It has the details that make it special, easy to wear, and attractive for all figure types. There are so many reasons to love the Ehlen Blouse. You can pick yours up here:

I hope you've enjoyed the tour, and  I look forward to your feedback on the guide changes!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

How to Enlarge a TOO Small Dress

This weekend my son gets married, and of course I put off altering his brides dress (who likes alterations? NOT me) until the last possible moment, but it's done now, and I'm pleased with the results. I hope she is too.

This dress was the brides mother's wedding gown some 30-40 years ago, and what mother doesn't want to see their daughter married in the same dress? It was my job to alter this for another day at the Alter, and I needed to add about 5" more to the bodice width and enlarge the sleeves which were too tight. I was to maintain the integrity of the design as much as possible.

Enlarging isn't a problem as long as you have access to more of the same fabric. Purchasing anything to "match" in terms of color, fabric, style, dye, pattern, wear, age, or type is right there next to impossible. If that thought ever crosses your mind, just wipe it clean now. In this case, my extra yardage would be coming from an extra long train that was to come off.

The first thing I did was take careful and thorough measurements. There were to be no fittings during this process, (which I don't recommend - it's like driving a car blind) so with scrap fabric, I draped a bodice on my girl. It would be my "map" of her figure.

Once I was ready to begin, I first took the dress sections apart:

My plan included a princess seam at the front (the dress has only one bust dart from the waist) to add more bust shaping and increase the width. Using the bodice drape, I determined the shape of the front and side front, and where the seam would go.

Then I pinned the paper pattern to the bodice to measure it and check it against the body measurements I had taken earlier. I also also experimented with some possible options for replacing the lace at the waist.
Before determining the hem, I cut all the pieces from the bottom of the train and sewed the bodice together.

For the skirt, I determined the diameter mathematically (being a circle skirt), then I sewed a basting stitch at that point, about 2" from the raw edge, to keep the layers together. Then I trimmed away leaving a seam allowance.

With everything together, I put the dress on a mannequin and very carefully cut the skirt hem all the way around. On a circular hem, I always cut it longer than I think I want, then go around again leveling it one more time. This hem was sewn using a serged rolled hem. It's the only way to hem chiffon!

The original sleeves had a lace insert that I needed to add to the larger sleeve. To do that, I cut the fabric close to the stitching and pulled the fabric loose, leaving the stitching alone. The new sleeve had to fit into the small cuff, so it was tapered to fit.

On the back, rather than adding in a princess line in the usual spot, I just added a panel to the original side seam. I also added a dart in the back, which it didn't originally come with, to help this bodice fit better than it would otherwise. Eliminating darts is a shortcut for smaller sizes that would never look good on larger people. We need those to fit our curves!

Originally, I was going to move lace around from the sleeves or the hat to keep the original circle of lace at the waist, but once I got into this dress, I realized that they had used different lace, and even different colors, for every part of this dress. Side by side they were not going to look good together.
I did want to keep the back "ruffle" so I shaped the lace, curving the ends up to finish the edge and decided that it looked fine as a little "peplum" in the back.

Shaping the back allowed me to take a little lace to fill in the front over those double seams (the original dart and the new princess seam) and give it a natural look. I wish there had been enough lace to fill in the sides, but it still looks nice.

In working with these beaded laces, you might not know that you can sew it all by machine using a darning foot. It has a little spring on it so you can move the dress around as you sew, avoiding the beads and following the shape of the lace. To glue the beads back on that inevitably fall off, put a little glue on a disposable surface and let it sit there until it gets old and tacky and almost dry in some places. Using a pin through the bead hole, pick up your bead, tap it in the glue, then apply to the dress. It will hold much better to the dress. Holds fast, dries quickly. I like that.

And if you want to learn how to resize various areas or even a whole pattern, check out my Pattern Resizing Tutorials, Part 1: Small to Large or Part 2: Large to Small.