Wednesday, 14 December 2016

WIP: Sleeveless tunic with clever pockets

This is one of the unfinished objects (UFOs) that I want to include in the virtual sewalong event of the Dressmakers (LDC) group: "UFO: Alter, chuck or finish?".

When I bought YET more fabric a couple of years back, like this one that looks like brushed cotton or similar to denim, I felt that I needed to use the fabric up as quickly as possible and went with what I thought would be easy.

Use my own measurements, copy the pattern pieces off my body block and go with straight princess line seams (going straight up into the shoulder so no convex curves need pinning against concave curves). A yoke for the back to avoid needing to sew over eight layers of fabric, and a side zip.

Unfortunately this did not turn into a quick project because it's STILL not finished. Yup. Bane of my life.

I think the ideas above are not bad - they definitely make sense. It's just that I ran into some problems that I had not anticipated.

1) It is too big: the pins above show where I want to take in the princess seams so I can get at least the impression of a waist. My body block does not have much of a waist and that acts like a sack pulled over my body: it makes it appear even more dumpy than it is. Definitely needing improvement.

There  are quite a few layers of fabric, thanks to the pocket construction.  I don't feel very confident at doing a good job when I finally do take these seams in.

2) I already put the side zip in and quite well too, thanks very much, so I am really loathe to have to unpick it. Particularly as I managed to sew over the pocket layers.  Can I get away with just tightening up the princess seams or do the side seams also need cinching in?  How the heck would I then get the zip back in?

3) The pockets: I am so proud of their construction. The fabric layer that comes down from the shoulder then disapears into the pockets and becomes the inner pocket. The added piece that is the outside of the pocket will then go down to the hem.  Which means that the patterned FQ that's the pocket lining and that first fabric layer (the one running down from the shoulder) do not need to be as long as the hem. I just don't know yet how deep I want my pockets to be so I have not cut the bottom edge of both fabrics. That'll be easy.

The blue side is the right side of the fabric, the black side is the wrong side of the fabric.

4) Unfortunately I the pieces too much for the skirt part - I made these much too wide at the hem. I did not expect the fabric stiffness to turn the middle panel into the shape of a sky jump, from the bust downward: there is no dip - it looks awful. It emphasises my stomach too, horrible. This is actually the worst problem with this garment.

I have to take the flare down a lot. Unfortunately I don't know by how much and I feel anxious about messing up at this point.

5) I made a mess of the back yoke. The back neckline gapes so I just put some darts in and not at all well. I will have to unpick them. I only realised since this project that I have a rounded upper back and need small darts at the back mid shoulder point that will take the fullness out. Unless I try a dart at the centre back?  I'm not sure that this would work though.

6) I don't have a photo of the small of the back but I got that wrong too: I thought I could introduce a swayback adjustment by manipulating the shape of the middle panel of the back. And pinching a wedge out of the side panels before cutting them out. I may not have done enough of that because it hasn't worked.

I wonder if I have enough fabric left to try just the back again?  I may have to research swayback adjustments a lot more because I have the distinct feeling that I don't know enough about them yet to get them right.

So there you have it.

I put a few good ideas into this self-drafted pattern. I ran into some problems where my body block isn't good enough: namely at the waist and also regarding my swayback and my rounded upper back (my body block pattern actually has the darts drawn in - silly me decided to ignore them. Ahem).

I also ran into some problems that confounded me: how can this little bit of flare be too much?  And how do I get rid of it?

I think I would have carried on with this tunic sooner if there had been only a couple of problems. That many really put me off. The most decisive problem though is that I don't think I'll enjoy wearing this even if I do get it done.

On the other hand this tunic is a good practice piece to figure out these kinds of issues so I can use whatever I learn for future projects - I just didn't expect one single project where I get to learn quite so much!  It just all feels a bit too intense.

On the other hand and being brutally honest with myself, I might not have carried on even with just a single issue: I often grind to a halt and find it very difficult to motivate myself into picking it back up.  If I want to wear it then things are a lot easier - but if I don't feel the project, or can't visualise myself in it, then I have a huge sewing mojo problem.

Oh heck.

Trying to make up my mind about "Alter, chuck or finish?", I find myself in the "Finish" camp: I would really learn a lot and I want to see the pocket construction realised in a complete project. Even if I then give the whole thing away to a charity shop - if I don't wear it. Who knows.

I ought to decide which of the above issues I feel like tackling first - that would go a long way towards getting back into the swing of things on this project.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Simplicity 8523 changed to bias cut

This was a very interesting learning exercise: you can change a simple top from a straight fabric grain line (as intended by the pattern company) to one cut out on the bias.

It actually works!

I happened to come across an intriguing YouTube video (by Kair Bjordahl at National Sewing Circle) that discussed this, and even suggested Simplicity 8523 as an example. Which reminded me that I own this pattern and could go and have a look.

I did, I found it, and I had a go!  Nothing better than taking advantage of the sudden urge to sew. You have to go with the momentum of your sewing mojo. It would be criminal not to.

I did a full bust adjustment so it's interesting that the bias cut fabric does drag a bit at the bust. I reckon I used the wrong fabric: a polycotton that's a bit thicker than the usual thin polycottons.  I also didn't prewash the fabric so I have yet to see how the top looks after the first wash.

There is also a whole lot of bunching going on at the front of the upper arms: there are drag lines towards the apex. I often get this with pretty much everything I wear: whether shop bought or made myself. I have a feeling that I need a second dart.

I also want to see what difference another type of fabric makes.

I often have problems sewing the sleeves in. I managed a bit of puckering on the sleeve on the right.

Modern fabrics are not truly evenly woven so warp and weft behave slightly differently.  That's the reason why a bias-cut garment will not hang and drape completely symetrically. You can see this in the photo above.

Because of this bias-cut patterns often suggest a centre front and back seam, but you use up lots more fabric that way because the two pieces need to be laid so they form a V or chevron shape. That produces lots of fabric remnants in awkward shapes. You might be able to use them in applique or for patchwork.

I may also have cut the sleeve from the lower fabric layer at not quite the correct 45 degree angle. I have a feeling it may have shifted a bit. I really need to watch this more closely next time.  I lenghtened them by an inch to avoid that chicken wing look that I hate, but now realise that I could have gone with the original length.

I also had to adjust the point of the V-neck a little bit, it looked off by around 7-8 millimeter or so (just under a centimeter).  That was no problem because the pattern's V-neck was a little high and I wanted this to be lower.

The back doesn't look too bad but it is also slightly asymetrical.  I may want to cinch in the waist a touch more. I graded this out to a bigger size according to my measurements but think I overdid it a bit.

Oops, all bunched up

This was supposed to be a muslin to try this out and I will probably not wear it a lot because of the colour. I bought the fabric online with the intention of using it for patchwork but the colour is lots lighter than I expected.

This top is quite comfortbale despite the issues I described, so who knows.

I did not expect this pattern to fit me without adjustments but I had hoped it would be closer to a better fit. I knew that I might need a swayback adjustment but didn't want to bother at this stage.  It was an extremely useful learning exercise and I am pleased this fits as well as it does, even though that fit is not great.

Next time I want to use my own body block pattern to try another bias-cut top. In another fabric, hopefully something more drapey (it depends on my fabric stash: I have to use up what I've got as much as I can). And slightly shorter sleeves than these.

I will report my findings!

Monday, 5 December 2016

Delving into my sewing patterns: V1164

Following on from my previous post on my sewing pattern stash, I had the sudden urge to look at a Vogue pattern with interesting Dolman-style sleeves.  I am not at all convinced that these suit my figure but I wanted a look.

I didn't find it* and got a bit frustrated until I came across another pattern that I bought because it has raglan sleeves and wraps over at the front.  I thought this would make a great pattern to make up in all kinds of different fabrics.  Unfortunately I failed to see that this is for knit fabrics only.  Darn.  That's not what I was after at all.  I don't sew well with stretch fabrics.

This looks like it could be a really flattering style and I haven't made anything like this before. I won't find out what this will look like on me until I make it up and try it on.

For my muslin, I found a cheap pink stretch fabric left over from another project (that didn't turn out well, damn) and cut it out. And even sewed it up!  I am very pleased with that.

What I learnt from working with this fabric: there is absolutely no point for me to buy cheap and thin jersey fabrics: I hate working with them and they look saggy and cheap. And they don't wear well either because they wrinkle like mad.

I still have some fabrics that are almost as thin (in purple, grey and light pink) but I think they weren't as cheap and hopefully don't wrinkle as much. I'll have to check.  When I bought them I had visions of making long-sleeved T-shirt style tops as wardrobe staples. But if I don't enjoy working with them, nor like wearing them...

I should try those firmer knits instead. But then again I'd rather work with patterns for woven fabrics and erode my humungous stash of those. So there is no Ponte knit fabric shopping in my immediate future.

I did have to buy something for this project unfortunately: the front pieces of this need to be lined - to finish off the edges and to stablise them. I don't want to try a woven lining because I don't think it'll work and I had run out of stretch lining.  The pattern recommended stretch mesh or tricot. So I ordered a meter of light mesh. Who knows when I'll get that and if I'll still be in the mood for carrying on with this project.

The pink muslin showed that the style is promising: the V-neck looks good on me and I'll have to see how a slightly firmer fabric will behave in terms of fit around my middle and near the shoulders.

If I make this with short sleeves again I will want to lengthen the sleeves at the top by at least 1-1.5 inches.  I have enough fabric for long sleeves for the actual project. I just need that lining fabric first.

But even though I've run into this delay: it is really good to know that I made a start with a type of pattern I hadn't used before. That's exactly what I had in mind when I wrote the previous blog post

Brush strokes: mainly pink/purple and dark grey
Vogue 1164: View A in grey on the left has some darts near where the closure sits, View B in yellow doesn't. I tried the non-darted version in my cheap pink jersey fabric. The pattern of my project fabric would look a bit weird if darted so I will probably stick with View B (see 'Brush strokes' above).

Both views use the non-darted front pattern piece (2) for the lining.

*: I found the pattern since: it is V1239, Chado Ralph Rucci. This one:

I now think that this is also not suitable for me, because of the sleeves. Where they connect to the front and to the back is very odd: as far away from under the arm as may be possible to get. Very odd. Possibly an okay style for someone much less busty than me. So I will give this one a miss.
I would like to use this pattern to Frankenpattern the neckline part with another blouse pattern though (at least with rounded edges, not corners near the chin) - that line is beautiful.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

My sewing pattern stash

For years I was careful about how many sewing patterns I bought: I didn't want to accumulate yet another stash that I can never fully use.  But then pattern buying also became instant gratification in terms of seeing it and buying it.  Not so much in actually making the garment.

Which is exactly the same problem with my fabric and my yarn stash. Thank goodness I don't have aspiration to start spinning my own yarn!  But I should also mention my stash of quilting fabrics and the three wadding pieces I own. Ah well.

Interesting style, but what would it look like on me?

I really like this Donna Karan skirt (Vogue 1324) and made it in a firm knit fabric.

Going back to my sewing patterns: I particularly like to buy those that I think may only be around for a time and then get discontinued.  They often have a feature I really like or present a sewing challenge - like Dolman sleeves or eliptical side pieces for a skirt that doesn't have "side" seams as such (V1324), see photos above. Or the envelope wrap below (V8721) that I made twice, and that then turned out not to suit my shape.

Ah well. You live and learn.

Great style, not so good on me
But way too many of my patterns are just sitting around and don't get used. Another source of frustration.

I had a good thought today: I want to become more familiar with the sewing patterns I own.

When I look at a pattern I like that I may want to buy, I do compare the line drawing to those patterns I remember. I hope I haven't bought too many that are very similar - it's an easy thing to do because the fabric, colour and pattern on the pattern envelope often makes us think that we are looking at a design we don't yet have. If all patterns showed the same colour and very similar fabrics then I don't think we'd buy duplicates as often as we do.

I think I've done pretty well. I hope. If I do come across a pattern that's pretty much like another one then I can get rid of one of them - which makes me want to identify them.

My purpose for wanting to become more familiar with my pattern stash is different: I want to figure out what kinds of designs I have and how they work with my body shape.

I like wearing this top, but does it suit me?

Some time back I made about seven different versions of an easy kimono style top.  Two of them are tops I actually like to wear (like the grey one above), the others not so much. It is just not a style that's flattering on me. So I'm determined not to make any more.

I only made a muslin of this one, and threw it out straight away because it was so awful on me:

V8877: Nope, not a style for me: no bust dart

But what styles do suit me?  I'm not actually that sure.

I think anything with a low but narrow V-neck would be great. Anything that doesn't emphasise the waist. Styles with bust darts are good, those without are a definite no-no (see V8877 above). Boat necks are out, cap sleeves that are too short look awful and I like to lengthen them by at least two inches, then they're great. Trousers and skirts with flat fronts are good. Skirts that flare from the hip are wonderful.

I figured those kinds of things out.

But I do have patterns that don't necessarily fall within the above - or at least I'm not sure if they do. And it is those patterns that I would like to try out: just cut out, make up in any old fabric (I have so many!) and see how the design works for me.

It would make me use up fabric, increase my sewing mojo and allow me to learn more about what suits me.

I am very hopeful that I will sew more with the above in mind.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

State of play - colour range

Here's the 15 most recent WIPs on my Ravelry page (don't worry, I got more! But let's not mention those ones - they ought to be considered in hibernation by length of time not having been worked)

I also like petrol which is missing from these

Interesting to see what the colour range is that I use over and over. (Ignore the orange socks, they're for a friend. I should finish those so I can get them out of the WIP section?)

I was 'accused of' (no actually: it was a bemused comment) of using lots of neutrals, mainly in my sewing: there were lots (and lots, and lots) of black, grey and black and white projects. One in taupe, which is sort of a grey...

But it is difficult to find fabrics in great colours. You know: colour-colours - as opposed to neutrals, muted, or dark fabrics. It's the one reason that I managed to cut down on my spendrift fabric purchasing ways (finally) that built up that overwhelmingly massive stash that I am lumbered with. Sigh!

No point in buying yet more muted, neutral or dark fabrics when I've got plenty of 'em already, fanks very much...

I am finally using fabrics I've had for an embarrassingly long time (neither of them is so great that it was worth keeping either fabric for the 15-20 years that I dragged it around with me) - one is the aforementioend taupe fabric, the other a silver boucle that I've had a vision of straight skirts for.  Knee-length for the taupe and a maxi length for the silver grey acrylic.

I am delighted to report that the taupe skirt is done (I was thinking of appliquing onto the front, but I can live without that. It is a little tight though so not sure how much wear I'll get out of it) and the grey boucle maxi skirt is also done!  And I love wear this one!

These projects follow a black skirt, and a navy blue and grey patterned summer top. And a grey random dot jersey skirt... a silver grey dress... and before that was a black and red skirt. Hey! There was red in there! That's got to count!

So next project: it has to be any kind of garment or other project in a bright colour. To mix things up and get my sewing mojo back.