Thursday, November 20, 2014

What's Next - Gerard Coat

Ok, now I want to sew all the things, this could be my new way to plan out my sewing. #bpSewvember

After finishing my Alisha Dress (I need to take pictures!), I felt kind of stuck with what I wanted to make next.  Don't know about you, but I feel less inspired to sew when the weather gets cold, and it's been pretty nasty cold this past week - all I want to wear right now are hoodies and sweatpants.  Last night I pulled out my Fashionary for the first time and started to sketch and color some ideas, based on some cute outfits I saw on Pinterest and what was floating around in my head.

I fell in love with an oversized, tweedy wool coat I saw - the girl in the photo paired it with skinny black pants and purple Hunter rain boots, topped off with a black slouchy hat.  Maybe it's because I was freezing my butt off last night in my apartment, but a big, oversized coat feels like the perfect next to make for the impending winter weather.  And I absolutely love coats!  Living in the Boston area, I have quite a collection of coats and jackets for all weather.  Since winter seems to last forever here, a variety helps to make the winter a little more bearable.

gerard coat plan

I hemmed and hawed and looked at a lot of options, but the Gerard Coat from Republique du Chiffon is the best pattern choice I could find - the styling is just right, and I may lengthen it a bit for more booty coverage.  I'd like for this to be a coat I can wear in moderate cold weather (around the 25-30 degree mark), so I'm debating whether to use flannel or Thinsulate to interline it.  Never using Thinsulate before, I'm not sure how thick it is or how it will change the drape of the wool; I'll have to wait for my fabric from Mood to arrive to make a decision.

Hopefully the fabric will arrive by the weekend!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Learning About Lace - How To Work With a Couture Fabric

Alisha Dress sneak peek

Pssst - here's a sneak-peek of what I've been working on over the last few weeks.  When I decided to make a dress completely out of lace fabric for a friend's upcoming wedding this weekend, I didn't anticipate the challenges that would come along with working with such a, well, see-through and airy fabric! 

Ladies, there's a reason why those lace wedding dresses on "Say Yes To The Dress" are wicked expensive - sure, the name on the label inflates the price of a wedding dress, but working with lace is very time and labor-intensive, and to achieve a seamless-looking garment, there's a lot of couture sewing techniques that need to be used.  Of course, none of this occurred to me until I sat down with my sewing books and did a little reading about how to work with lace fabric.  Here's what I learned and how I made my dress.

Lace needs to be cut in a single layer

To get a seamless look, each pattern piece needs to be a full pattern piece (no half pieces) and cut on a single layer of lace.  This allows you to match up motifs when planning out how to cut out your garment so the lace pattern can continue through the garment without any interruption at seam lines.  Then, cut around the motifs that extend beyond the edge of the paper pattern, which will be appliqued on top of the joining garment piece at the seam line (this only needs to be done on the garment front pieces, not both front and back.  You'll see why later when we sew the seam).  My lace pattern was so busy that I didn't need to worry about matching up motifs.

Also, did you know that lace doesn't have a grainline?

Thread tracing on lace is hard work. #sewing #couture #fancypartydress

Mark all seam lines and notches with silk thread

After the garment pieces are cut out, seam allowances need to be thread-traced.  For my dress, I used hot pink silk thread and basted the 3/8" seam allowance line.  Silk thread is great for lace since it slides smoothly through the fabric and is easy to remove after the machine stitching is in place.  I also used tailor's tacks to mark darts and notches.  I tried to use tailor's chalk, like in the picture above, but it was too difficult to accurately mark where I needed to mark because of the openness of the fabric.

Are you with me so far?  All of this prep work took about two nights to complete, whew!

A new technique for #bpSewvember - lace appliqué seams. No ugly seam allowances showing through on my lace dress! I was super nervous about working with lace, but this is pretty easy to sew. Plus, my print is pretty busy so I didn't worry about matching u

Applique seams for a seamless garment

Since lace is see-through, seam allowances showing through is not the most ideal look.  You could sew French seams, but the seam will still be visible through the lace, and some lace is too bulky for that kind of seam treatment.  To get the illusion of a seamless garment, like in the photos above, I used applique seams.

applique seam

To explain, I'm going to reference sewing a side seam in a dress.  Layer the right side of the dress front over the right side of the dress back, lining up the seam lines - this is where the thread tracing comes in handy!  There will be excess extending from the seam allowances on the top layer because of the motifs that we cut around beyond the seam allowance.  Then, using a narrow zig zag, sew around the motifs along the seam - you may end up sewing pretty far away from the original seamline, but that's ok.  When you're finished sewing the entire seam, use your applique scissors to cut away the excess fabric underneath on the wrong side, close to the seam line.  Voila - seamless looking seam!  I also needed to cut away some of the fabric on the right side of the garment, close to the stitching.  If you've ever appliqued in quilting, sewing applique seams is a very similar technique.

I found this video really helpful when I tried to wrap my head around applique seams.  The only seams that I didn't applique for my dress were the sleeve seam, because it was so short and no one will see it unless I lift my arms up, and the armhole seam...because that would be way too hard.  If you don't want the armhole seam to show through, you could bind it with a bias strip of silk close to your skin color.

Applique seams also helped me out of a bind - I thought my muslin for the dress fit me fine in the hips, but when I sewed the side seams in my lace garment, it was too tight.  Like, I couldn't sit down!  I have my theories on why this happened (I think it had something to do with a tuck of fabric I took out in the bust/waist), but I cut open the side seam where I had fitting issues and appliqued what was essentially a lace gusset to get more room in the hips:


I can tell where I inserted the gussets (and maybe you can, too!), but you have to admit, it's pretty tricky to see where the seams are.  Applique seams totally saved this dress from being a tragic disaster.

Yes, you can insert an invisible zipper in lace

Don't get me wrong, I was sweating bullets and so nervous when I sewed my invisible zipper in the back.  I mean, what if I screwed up and got the zipper twisted?  Spoiler alert: I did!  What saved me was that I basted the zipper in first and used a contrasting thread so it would be easier to see the stitches if I needed to rip them out.  Just taking some simple precautions beforehand makes it possible to sew a zipper in a lace garment.

Here's the big question: would I ever sew with lace again?  Well now that you mention it, I have some lace in my stash for two simple blouses, but I don't think I'd jump at the chance again to make a lace garment like this knowing all of the labor and time that goes into constructing a lace garment.  Lace is not for the faint of heart, my friends!

Have you ever sewn with lace? 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Pattern Review: Minoru Jacket [Sewaholic Patterns]

minoru 1

Pattern: Minoru from Sewaholic Patterns
Fabric: Theory stretch twill from Mood Fabrics
     Zipper: Pacific Trimming
Size: 2

Jeans: Paige Denim
Boots: Nine West

Finally, I now have the jacket everyone has already made - the Minoru jacket!  After seeing some versions in person this past March at the NYC Blogger Meetup, the idea of making one of these jackets this year was solidified in my mind.  Plus, have you seen Lauren's fantastic orange version?  Yeah, I definitely needed to get on the Minoru bandwagon asap, don't know what took me so long.

Throw in a last-minute trip to NH and I had even more reason to crank out this jacket in time for the cool fall weather.  These pictures were taken on our last day in the mountains at a place called Castle in the Clouds - we went horseback riding!  It was a great way to take in all of the fall foliage.

minoru 2

I like my outwear to be versatile and neutral enough that I can wear it with a lot of different clothes in my closet, so crazy colors or prints were not an option for the fall jacket I wanted to make.  Colors like black, grey, or brown would have been good picks, but too boring...something about the styling of the Minoru made me think of military jackets, so I settled on finding on olive green color at Mood Fabrics.  Plus the fact that it was a Theory stretch twill didn't hurt either, I knew it was going to be great quality fabric for my jacket!

minoru 5

I made a few changes to the jacket, one being the double zipper I found at Pacific Trimmings.  I didn't originally intend to use a double zipper for the jacket, but it was the zipper that matched my fabric the closest.  It's really handy when I'm sitting (like on a horse!  Haha!) and makes it more comfortable instead of my jacket bunching up around my hips.

You may notice that my jacket is shorter than other Minorus...well, that's due to the zipper being cut shorter than I asked at the store.  I had no idea it was too short until I began to install it in the jacket front and saw I was short about two inches.  So, the only real solution was to shorten the jacket so it wouldn't look weird.  Also, I opted for no cuffs and lengthened the sleeves instead.

Which presented another problem: the pockets I added to the side seams became too long when I shortened the length of the jacket.  Once I sewed the lining shut it wasn't a problem, they just bunch up a little.  In retrospect, had I known this was going to happen, I would have made the pocket bags shorter/smaller.  Also, how does this jacket pattern not have any pockets?? A little patch pocket in the inside (which I didn't make) isn't going to cut it, you know what I mean?

minoru 3

I cut this jacket smaller than the typical 6 I usually cut for Sewaholic Patterns - this is one of those instances of how picking out a size based on finished garment measurements is better than going by body measurements.  Had I picked the size 6 to make, I would have wound up with a very roomy, boxy jacket, and that wasn't the look I was going for.  Also, I made the mistake of trying to pull the elastic too tight around the waist to make the jacket even more fitted, but ended up getting diagonal pull lines around the waist in the front.  After I cut a longer length of elastic and adjusted the fit, the lines went away.  So, if you're experiencing that with your Minoru, the elastic length is probably why.

minoru 6

See? Fitted, but still room to wiggle around.  I wore this jacket at the driving range a few days earlier and hit two large buckets of golf balls and had no problem swinging my driver.

minoru 4

A quick peek at the lining - I ended up bagging this lining instead of however the instructions tell you to line the jacket.  The stretch in the poly charmeuse made it pretty challenging to hem the lining, and truth be told, I need to go back and fix how I sewed it.

We went horseback riding in the NH mountains today #latergram #longweekend #NH

I'll leave you with a photo of Chris and I on horseback!  One of the guides was nice enough to take photos as we went along the trail.

 Well that's two jackets I made now for fall!  I'm currently working on a fancy lace dress for a wedding in less than two weeks (more on that to come later this week) and then I'm back on to sewing for fall.  My latest idea - an oversized leopard print wool coat.  Does fabric like that even exist?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

What I'm Working On: Style Arc Alisha Dress

alisha collage

Hold me, I'm sewing Style Arc Patterns for the first time.  I'm making the Alisha dress, and I love the fabric I'm using for the garment (black scalloped edge lace over a wine charmeuse slip dress), but I'm nervous about making it.

Why the anxiety, you ask?  Style Arc Patterns are sold single size only, and I'm not a single-size kinda gal.  Sure, I could have bought two copies in different sizes and graded the two to get a perfect fit, but at $20 bucks a pop I wasn't about to shell out $40 for a single dress pattern.  So, I went off of my hip measurement since it's the largest body measurement and bought the size 8, thinking I can grade down the bust and waist to what I need it to be.  Still...I'm nervous about doing this.

I made a toile/muslin/mock-up garment last night using the same type of slip fabric I'll be using that was leftover from another project.  Had I cut the fabric with the stretch going horizontally instead of vertically (d'oh!  Only way I could squeeze the pattern out of the fabric), I think this would have fit just fine right out of the envelope.

alisha slip1

Ummm....I had to take out part of the side seam to get this to fit over my head and shoulders, hahaha!!  Once I had it on, the bust fit just fine and there was enough ease in the waist and hips.  If I need to take in the waist and hip in the final version I'll be ok, the bust was the most important part I was worried about fitting.  Anne at Clothing Engineer is right about the bust cups - they run very small and skimpy.  I used the B cup pattern (yes, there's cup size options, a huge plus for fitting) and it didn't cover my bra when I first tried it on.  Since I'm planning on wearing this sans bra and will be adding swim cups for coverage/support in the final version, this didn't bother me.  So if you're planning on making the slip, try out the different cup pieces to get the desired coverage you need.

alisha slip2

Had to share this photo - look how much I had to rip out to get the slip on my dressform!!  This little lady is built tinier than I am, so I found it humorous that I could squeeze myself into the slip but had to rip out so much more to get it on the form for pictures.

Also, rouleau straps - any tips on making these buggers?  I used adjustable spaghetti straps in my stash for the test fit garment because I didn't want to be bothered with making real straps.  If I could find coordinating spaghetti straps for my final slip I'd use those, but the chances of that happening are slim.

Next up is test-fitting the outer dress.  I cut that out last night from a poly crepe de chine in my stash that I thought would make a cool fall dress.  Hopefully I can kick this cold this week so I can get that squared away and move on to sewing the final dress by the weekend.  I need this dress to be done in less than two weeks!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Shopping On Ebay For Sewing Accessories - Good Idea?

Sewing room

Like many sewists, I have an older, used sewing machine.  Don't get me wrong, I love my Bernina 1005 with its pastel 80's color theme and the band name "Slip Knot" etched into the casing, but having an older model makes it hard to find feet and other accessories I want/need for my machine, like a walking foot.

I'm starting my first quilt (a lap quilt), and I really don't want to hand quilt it.  Like, really really don't want to (don't even try to talk me into it, haha).  I don't like hand sewing my garments, and I can't imagine sitting and quilting for hours and hours when a machine can do it much faster.  And yes, I know machine quilting can be tricky for a beginner, but it wouldn't be anything fancy, just straight lines.  From what I've gathered, a walking foot is pretty much necessary for easy(er) machine quilting.  When I checked to see if my local Bernina dealership had walking feet compatible for my 1005 in stock, they said they could order it but it would cost a few hundred dollars.  Insane!

I took to Ebay this past weekend to see what I could find...and a lot of what I found are no-name brand walking feet that say they're "compatible" with my Bernina model.  However, I'm skeptical...heaven forbid I get one of these feet and they mess up the timing or something like that on my machine!  I've always been of the school of thought of only Bernina accessories for Bernina machines.

Which got me to do people buy sewing machines etc. on Ebay?  There's quite a few to choose from on there, like Bernina 930s, my favorite machine my mom has, and some of them have no description of the quality of condition of the machine.  I'm sure you can ask the seller...but it seems so dicey to buy something like that over the Internet without trying it out or being able to return it.

So - have you bought hard-to-find sewing machine accessories on Ebay, or even a sewing machine?  Is/was it a good idea/worth it or do you wish you'd done things differently?