Monday, October 22, 2012

I've been a very bad blogger.... a roundup/update

I've been a very bad blogger indeed! I haven't updated anything since the summer, but I've been sewing away and have been very busy with it indeed recently!

I've been a bad blogger because I really want to create a good blog - like the ones I like to read. With photos of the construction process, with finished outfit photos, with detailed info and beautiful shots. I have a camera phone and no one to hold it but me... I'm going to have to figure out a way to work around this.

So anyway, here is some of the stuff I've been working on that I will (I promise!) post about very very soon:

  • How the Simplicity 2917 dress worked out (the one I'm calling the Spanish Heat dress, seeing as I wore it for the first time in Madrid) 
  • The two 3/4 circle skirts I've made
  • A remake of the Simplicity 2683 dress for my other niece - turned out a dream! 
  • An experiment in drafting 
  • A full post about the McCalls 5974 wrap dress, which I've just finished (I used the navy polka dot from my puny little stash) 

  • the quest for a go-to dress pattern for fit and flare dresses (which resulted in a shopping spree of 5 new patterns, 5 metres of polycotton for muslin making, and an investment in 10 metres of dot   and cross paper for making copies of patterns. 

I have a lot of work to do! 

Simplicity 2917, Princess seam dress, view C (sleeveless): Pattern alterations

I picked up Simplicity 2917 the other day, and I hope it will become a great little wardrobe builder. I can see it in a range of fabrics: as a light summer dress, to something suited for the office, to a sexy party dress.
The pattern runs to a 28W. Here there be monsters: My hips fill out a 32W and I am new to both sewing itself and working with patterns. Reading around some blogs and sewing forums, I've learned it's possible to take a pattern and grade it up a size or two, but the methods vary. There's cut and spread, pattern shifting, sizing up , and I'm sure a ton more, but my head can't hold them all. Plus there is my brain nagging me about the 'obvious' way to do it, which is to add extra sizes to a multisize pattern - just extending what is already on the paper.
I was going around in circles because the only way for me to see if it works is to just do it. And so I'm going with what seems logical to me: extending the multisize pattern, and then blending between the lines. I'm experimenting with a muslin/toile and I really hope it works out, but even if it doesn't it's a training ground for princess seams (they looked scary, but then I followed Gertie's tutorial - thanks!) and they are just magical. I am so pleased with how they are turning out.

Anyway, this is how I approached the pattern/sizing: 

  • the pattern runs to a 28w, and in Simplicity sizes I am:  
    • bust 26/28w
    • waist 28/30w
    • hips 32w
  • but, taking finished garment dimensions into account, I decided to cut
    • bust 26w
    • waist 28w
    • hips - stick with the 32w.
  • this means I needed to add a 32w size line to the pattern, and to blend between the lines form bust to waist to hips. 
  • test it out in a muslin/toile

I traced out and altered the pattern as follows: 

  1. I used A3 tracing paper from Easons. each of the main pattern pieces used about 3-4 A3 tracing sheets. it's sturdy but very easy to cut and mark up. I like! 
  2. Taped the pattern piece to my desk
  3. Taped tracing paper down over the top, joining the edges fully. 
  4. Traced out a 28w cutting line and notches etc all around
  5. Traced pattern markings, notches, grain line, bust waist hip lines etc. All the usual markings. 
  6. On the top of the pattern, I traced a 26W cutting line, notches etc from shoulders to waist. 
  7. I added cutting lines for a 32W:
    • I noted the difference between a 26 and a 28: in this case it was 6mm. 
    • I doubled that - 12 mm, carefully calibrated my seam gauge, and used thsi to mark a dotted line 12 mm from the size 28 cutting line. 
    • I didn't do this all around: only from the waist down the the bottom. 
    • I also left alone any lines which were for all sizes (see image below)
  • Then I blended between the lines: 26-28 from bust to waist, 28-32 from waist to hips, making sure to take note of half way points and using a French curve to smooth the lines where required. 
Note: this isn't my pattern piece, it's just for illustration. 

The pieces look like they will work, but what do I know! Time and a muslin/toile (I hate both of these terms equally) will tell. 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Favourite tutorial: take up jeans, but keep the original hem

My Other Half (OH) doesn't have much luck with jeans, and usually has to buy them long. Sporting the slouchy torn hem look was ok, even expected in his early 20s, but no longer! So one of the things I knew would be great about having a sewing machine would be taking up his jeans.
Now, I hate the home-altered look. I want the jeans to look just as they were designed, with the original thread and worn look on the hem. You can't imagine how amazing it was to find out that I can keep the  original hem and still shorten the jeans! 
There are lots of tutorials out there for this, but my favourite one is at Refashion, Repurpose, Redo...

In essence: 

  1. measure how much you want to take off the jeans e.g. they need to lose 4 inches. 
  2. half this number, fold up the jeans leg and pin. don't include the original hem in this measurement. pin around.
  3. sew as close as you can to the original hem - I used my zip foot. 
  4. cut off the excess and zig zag to finish the edge
  5. flip the hem back down, press to get it to sit right. 


  • I made the front of the jeans leg a half inch shorter than the back, so it would sit better over the instep/shoe: 
    • This meant measuring different lengths front and back. 
    • I took 4 inches from the back, so measured up 2 inches. I took 3.5 inches from the front, so measured up 1.75 inches there. 
    • On the jeans front, I pinned in the centre, then between the centres and sides, but left the sides alone. I did the same on the back. Then I pinned at the side seams, the measurement ending up half way between the other two. 
  • I almost forgot to use my jeans needle! ALWAYS USE THE RIGHT NEEDLE FOR THE JOB! 
  • Sewing over the side seams was difficult: in fact the machine wouldn't go over it. I learned after that this was because when sewing over the seam there isn't enough grip on the fabric to feed it through the machine properly because the foot was going up the 'hill' of the bulk of the side seam and wasn't parallel to the feed dogs.  A way to resolve this is to put some folded cardboard tucked under the foot of the machine to keep it level. I saw the Jean Jeanie which is a fancy bit of cardboard, but another YouTube video showed someone using two ice cream sticks stuck together. I sense an experiment. This time around though, I just skipped those bits and finished them by hand :)


P is very happy with his jeans. They look great, you can barely see the join at all :) Success! 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Note to self: settings for zig zag seam finish on denim.

Took up jeans for P tonight, first time leaving an original hem, and it was a success! I cut away the excess fabric  and quickly realised I'd have to do something to finish the seam.
I trimmed it to approx half inch, straightstitched a quarter inch from the cut edge then zig sagged over the cut edge. The setting that worked the best was the widest stitch with length set to 2, and I guided the fabric edge on the centre if the feed dog slot second from the right.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

3/4 Circle Skirt in progress!

I got the urge to start the skirt I've been thinking about for weeks. I'm going to Madrid with my family in about 2 weeks and I wanted to have something pretty to wear. I'm a plus size woman, so making a circle skirt isn't as straightforward as a lot of the online tutorials make it look: the bigger you are the more fabric you need and circle skirts require A LOT of fabric. In ready to wear, I wear approximately sizes 22-24-26 UK (bust-waist-hips), and to make a just below the knee skirt for me, I need between 90 and 96 cm square of fabric per pattern piece (depending on if it's full or 3/4 circle skirt, calculations courtesy of Patty the Snug Bug and her wonderful circle skirt calculator). For this reason, I can't fold my fabric in four and cut my pattern piece once: it's just not wide enough. Instead I need to cut separate pieces and sew them together. 

I decided to make a 3/4 circle skirt because I wanted the silhouette without too much fabric weight. I subtracted the 5.08 cm from the waist as Patty suggest, but it could have done with more - the skirt is quite big. 

Here is a picture of how it looks so far: 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Simplicity 2683: S's dress is finally done!

I'm so happy with how this turned out. I just love the colour combo, love the swish, love the sash, everything! Thanks for letting me make this for you S!
Full review here.

Fabric stash: pink and sea green paisley

Paisley stretch light 100% cotton jersey fabric.
Soft texture 100% cotton single jersey fabric.
Sold by the meter,fabric width 1.54 meters (60 inches)
Weighs approx 120 grams per meter squared
Length 5 metres
Ideas; skirt? Dress? Not sure about a top...