Thursday, January 30, 2014

Sewing Pattern Mix & Match

What do you get when you merge the Tia Bodice (LN1312)  the Beatrice Skirt and Sleeve (LN1310)
and the Phantom Cuff (LN1106) ?  More style options.

I'm working on a class for the Sewing and Stitchery Expo, and the ASG conference called the "mix and match" wardrobe for patterns. So many of us  like to change patterns or tweak them just a little. Maybe you don't care for the sleeve, or you wish it had a different neckline, or you want to change the skirt etc. If you've tried to switch out pattern pieces, merging two or more patterns together, you may have seen your fair share of disappointments. Mixing brands and even styles within a brand can be really tricky. I'm going give some pointers, what to avoid, and how to do a more difficult mix with patterns to get a successful merge.

As you might guess, my patterns are simple to merge, as they are all designed to be mix and match. I'm working on making up just a few of the many mix and match options available because it's easier to love when you can see it made up in front of you.

This dress isn't finished, so I've done a rough pin together job for you as a sneak peek into what this mix and match wardrobe could look like.

This dress is a mix of the Constance Bodice (LN8404) and Tia Skirt (LN 1312) without pockets. It's   made from a dotted Challis Rayon from Mike Cannety Textiles. I think it's adorable. What do you think?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Vintage Techniques: Smocking for Skirts

My mother loves smocking, and has made several dresses using this technique over the years. We most often see this traditional and labor intensive technique on pillows, yokes, and peasant blouses. While there are many many ways to do smocking, I have never really cared for the look of it until I saw it used on these really cute vintage skirts:

So I took a look at one of my old sewing books to see if there was a quick way to get the job done by machine, and sure enough, there are several methods to get the look of smocking without ever touching a needle to hand. I gave this one a try and and it was pretty and easy to do:

smocking example
  1. To make a skirt using this smocking method, cut a rectangle of fabric about 1-1/2 to 2 times the width of your hip measurement and the length of your desired skirt plus additional for a hem and waist seam allowance. 
  2. Sew the first row of stitches 5/8 from the raw edge and another row 1/8" from the first. Continue sewing double rows of stitches 1/8" apart, with a 1/2" between each set for as long as you car to, but not past the hip. I used a standard stitch of 12 stitches per inch, but loosened the top tension so that the bobbin threads would be easier to pull. On a longer length, or depending on your machine, you may need to use a longer stitch, so test the stitch length for yourself. 
  3. Starting at the hipline, pull both threads together from each group individually, gathering evenly, and shaping each row to match your figure. Generally speaking, each succeeding row will be more tightly gathered. Do leave at least a bit of ease (1 1/2" minimum) at the hip graduating to none at the waist. 
  4. Using contrast threads and a double needle, I set my machine to do a zig zag stitch just wide enough to span the 1/8" area. Continue to sew between each 1/8" double row.
  5. Sew up the back seam, add a zipper and a waist band and a hem, and you are ready to go!
smocked skirt
I'd like to make one up, but there is no time. Let me know if you make one for yourself because I would like to enjoy  it vicariously through you.  For now, my hipless half size mannequin wears this one well :)

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Sewing Layout and Cut: Favorite Tools

I've got a really busy schedule this year, teaching classes, preparing for a fashion show, and getting new designs figured out and finished. It can take a long time, even a whole day to prepare the pattern, lay it out, cut. and mark the fabrics, overlays, laces, interfacings linings and so forth. Of course I've tried all the modern methods, and I do use a quilters mat and rotary cutter for some things still, but my favorite tools to layout and cut is a Dritz Superboard and a pair of vintage electric shears. They help me to be fast and efficient.

Favorite Tools

 The Superboard has a 1" grid that helps me with layout, especially when I can see through the fabric even slightly. I don't have to measure from the selvage or fold, I just line up my fabric to make sure it's square with the grid and then I can match my grain line arrow up with the nearest grid line and pin in place.

I pin right into the board, angling my pin inward so that it doesn't get in the way of the cutting line. It's the perfect surface for marking fabric with dressmakers carbon and a tracing wheel. Yes, at one time I used air or water erase fabric pens, but I want to make sure I make an exact copy of what's on my paper and the old vintage method is the most accurate.

Dritz Superboard
This board is fairly inexpensive and easy to find. I buy mine at JoAnn Fabrics with a 50% off coupon. In fact, I stack two on top of each other and use push pins (thumb tacks) when cutting sturdy fabrics.

vintage electric scissors
Electric Scissors are fairly plentiful at the second hand shops because, it seems, no one wants these lovely's. I have nabbed up quite a collection and tried them all, and not all are equally useful. Even at the most expensive, they run about $3.95 in my area, way less than a pair of scissors. If you are thinking of snagging a pair for yourself, and if you are able, hold it in front of you as though you were going to cut, with the bottom square to the table. If you can't see the blades, then pass them by. Some will have lights and adjustable speeds. These are of no consequence. Some will angle strangely. Pass those as well.

Can you buy them new? Of course. Nowadays, you'll be looking for a brand like Black and Decker, Sears, Dritz, or even Simplicity. They all seem to have overly large handles and strange levers as if more is better. I don't care for them, personally. I like to keep it small and simple.

In your search you may come across rotary electric shears or knifes. These are professional cutting tools for cutting many layers of fabric. They don't work so well with only only one or two layers.

I will say that it does take a little getting used to. At first it will feel awkward, and you'll go too slowly, and you won't know that a short horizontal glide will easily cut your notches for you, but after a while you'll get the hang of it and will never want to go back to cutting with scissors. 

Now you know how I get my work done and stay (mostly) efficient! Happy Cutting!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Hatmakers school: How to resize a hat pattern

Sew Chic Pattern #101 Cloche Hat
I love hats. One day I hope to get into this craft a little bit deeper, but for now, I must be satisfied with my one cloche hat pattern, developed as the third in my learn to sew teaching pattern series. Why a hat? Because no fitting is involved. Well, no fitting if you are an average 21" head, that is. So when one size does not fit all, the question is how to alter a hat pattern to fit?

When it comes to hat fit, a little bit of ease is okay, giving your head some room to breathe, but no more than 1/2" or the fit will be sloppy. Also keep in mind that the fabric you use- thin vs thick- will make a difference in the overall fit too.

For this hat, altering at the center back seam, adding or subtracting from the circumference at the bottom and tapering to nothing at the top works great. Make sure you split the difference (need to add 1" becomes 1/2" increase) and add to both ends of a cut one pattern. The brim and lining must also be altered to match. The brim is shown, but the lining pattern would be altered in the same way. Do not change the crown lining piece.

Use this same method for any hat that is shaped like a bowl. Because this hat ends at the top of the head, we don't want to alter there, only at the bottom of the cap where the circumference affects the fit. If you were working with a different hat style, say a pill box type, this alteration method would not be the best choice.

If the person you are fitting has an overall larger or smaller head, a quicker way to alter the pattern to fit is with a photocopier. This is technically against copyright law, but you have permission (with my hat pattern) to do this as long as it's for personal use only. Divide your pattern up into smaller than paper size chunks, adding cross marks at what will be your page intersections to help you match it up and tape it back together correctly. Be sure to label each section too.

 Enlarging by 2% will provide a 23" circumference, and enlarging 5% will give you 23 1/2" and increase the overall span (over the head from ear to ear) by 1/2". A reduction by the same percentage will produce similar smaller results.

Happy Hat Making!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Sewing Up the New Year & Blogger Resolutions

This is a good year to make a new goal. I like goals, but don't particularly like resolutions. Why is that? To me, resolutions feel so firm and inflexible, while goals feel friendly and flexible. I feel that as long as the effort is directed toward the objective, the goal is all but met, even if it takes a while. Because I've never been much like the rabbit of the Tortoise and the Hare Children's Fable, I very much identify with the turtle that eventually wins the race. He is constant and sure, making daily strides to make it to the end.  I like that.

Speaking of daily strides, this year I haven't been very good about blog posting.  I haven't made daily strides...nor weekly strides, or even monthly strides (!!), mostly because I don't collect ideas in advance, and I don't want  to post about topics that are already plentiful. Once my daughter told me that I should write about my work, that people want to "follow" me to see what I do and how I do it. My work life is not that exciting, trust me!

What I do need is a theme to keep me on track- not just a goal of posting on my blog, but a purpose for posting. Wednesday will be my target day of the week, and here is a schedule I think I can be excited about:

week 1 Dressmaker School
week 2 Product Review
week 3 Vintage Embellishments
week 4 Current Events
(and if there is a 5th week in the month)
week 5 Guest Post

Week one will be centered around fitting/altering/sewing techniques for the dressmaker. Week two product reviews could be about my products, vintage tools, or some other product that you and I might find useful. On week three, I will showcase a vintage garment or photo with an embellishment or detail that could be used or added to something you are making, and if need be, show you how to do it. Week four is when I can mention something I am currently doing/working on, or an event coming up. If there is a fifth week in the month, I'll look for a post worth sharing, or perhaps ask someone to write a post for us. Next week I will start with the schedule, this intro post taking up the "5th" week spot.

What do you think?  It's a lot to take in, writing every week, but with your help, may I resolve to accomplish my goal!