Friday, 2 May 2014

Sewing Room Rhymes (or - Cautionary Tales for the Instruction of New and Experienced Sewists)

This is the skirt front (quite well done)
With a central feature that adds such fun
To the skirt that G sewed.

This is the central pocket back
of the skirt front (quite well done)
With a central feature that adds such fun
To the skirt that G sewed.

This is the remnant
that should have been hacked
to make the central pocket back
of the skirt front (quite well done)
With a central feature that adds such fun
To the skirt that G sewed.

This is a back all terribly chopped
To make the backing that wasn’t cropped
From the remnant
that should have been hacked
to make the central pocket back
of the skirt front (quite well done)
With a central feature that adds such fun
To the skirt that G sewed stuffed up.

This is the puddle all forlorn
Of a purple skirt that will never be worn.

And this is the sound of the howling wail
of a sewist who's just had an epic fail.


Friday, 18 April 2014

The Greatest Cape

Once upon a time, a long time ago (in 2005, to be precise), there was a woman who wanted a cape. She wanted a cape so very badly because she was living in Sydney and catching the bus to work each day and in winter she alternately froze and stifled, because bus stations are environments set up for buses, which are big and need a lot of space for the wind to whistle through. And buses are environments set up for bus drivers, who like to work in a shirt.Because anything more would be binding and maybe hide their 36 pack.

And she would sit on the stifling bus, fantasising about her perfect cape made up in a purple tweed fabric she had bought at the Vic Markets in Melbourne in the days when there was good fabric to be had there if you looked (Twenty + years ago).

So did she make the cape? Hell no because it seemed too hard because she didn't have a pattern. It seemed harder than alternatingly stifling and freezing.

Cut to 2009 and the same woman was living in Canberra, still with her untouched, folded purple tweed and she had discovered burda and an endless supply of patterns, including cape patterns! And she was walking or riding to work so a cape would have been quite useful. So did she make up one of the burda patterns, say …............. or …..............? Hell no, because, because.... ok I don't know why because.

Er -Fremantle....sack of potatoes?
Move forward to 2010 and she took her courage and equipment in both hands and set to work. And produced this (unfinished) object.

It transpires that double breasted, on a woman above a b cup, by the power of the immutable law of squares and cubes in modeling, becomes quadruple breasted. Or more. Which is just too many breasts for anyone, really.

So that attempt went into the box of shame, to be send to the bag of shame for probable burying under a tree at midnight.

Goodbye, purple fabric of youth.

Darth Vader's Summer Uniform
But undaunted, she tried again with another Burda pattern and some wool flannel from the opshop and produced this...

Which put her off the whole idea for a couple of years. Years when she could have been terrorising the galaxy. Years of riding to work when a cape would have been really useful, as well as fashion forward.

But then finally, her disgraceful opshop overcoat, affectionately known as “the horserug”, died the death and she really really needed something to wear for the looming winter. So, in her hour of need she recalled the diagram in her original pattern drafting book which started her whole cape fascination in about 1982. “It can't be that hard”, she thought, “to draft my own.”

So she took a previously used burda overshirt pattern, and lo, it was not that hard to draft her own.

And here it is. The greatest cape. Soft, warm, with pocketss(if somewhat let down by dodgy handstitching).  Made with the pride of someone's stash (via St V de P), a woollen fabric by "Jacqmar" so refined and obliging that it virtually ironed its own seams.  Thank you, mystery stash hoarder.

And this fabric would have cost a bomb back in the day.  I showed my mother the seal (which was on the selvage - yes, there was a little seal hanging from the selvage), and she in turn showed me the  Chanel-styled suit her mother made for her as a going away outfit in 1963, with the same name  woven into the selvage. Of the 50 guineas a yard fabric that made up that suit.  (my grandmother refused to waste her time on "junk" but that's a story for another day)  

OK, so  the look is a little Nanny and the Professor, but is that a bad thing? I think not. After all, didn't those stories all have a happy ending?

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

top tacks

When I think of the pattern mavens of burda fash mag I see a solemn cabal of semi-priestesses (& maybe priests) of impeccably clad stitchery who take it in strict turns to fill the pages of the mag with the customary mix of the sublime, the gorblimey and the frankly wtf.
secret burda maven meeting
And I see them as each having their own little kick in the gallop, their own idiosyncrasy, over and above the details from current fashion trends. One of them likes patch pockets and one of them likes cowl necklines and one of them likes folds that conceal welt pockets – and rather like a logic puzzle all of those ones may even be the same one. And so on.

And then one of them.... one of them who only seems to get out for the odd of them likes pointy bits. Inset pointy bits. And likes to design them into otherwise rather nice clothes.

random sample (hem)
Now inset pointy bits, as we would all admit if being honest, are the ultimate secret signal to other sewists. Come on, do admit, you know it's true. Because they are so hard to get right. And only a person pretty far gone into our funny little world would even try to do them. Because – why? There are no angles in, for example, an armpit. It's synclines and anticlines all the way through. 

And hard to do + no particular benefit in doing = talking to the cognoscenti.

And yet..and yet..sometimes those tricky bits can be sooo good. I love a pointy sixties underarm gusset. I made my first one in my early twenties from a vintage pattern which I still have and love. There's just something so Avengers about them. And then there are the situations where a dart turns into a princess seam, or a pocket (another Burda maven fave) I love that too. I love the pattern of the skirt I posted last year where a curved dart turns into a pocket and then a pointy seam. I love it but it was such a pain to do, and I mucked it up a treat.

This is particularly annoying as I tend to wear it on the Saturdays that involve getting into a fabric shop, where I waft around looking all “loving hands at home” and being given even more side eye and blatant contempt by the quilting nuns who seem to congregate in such stores. As if the standard amount I get is not enough. But that's a story for another time.

For this is but a long and digressive preamble to the meat of the matter, for I think. I hope.. that this problem of execution of these natty details is now solved. A week month or so ago I read a post from the Sewing Lawyer about her tip for matching stripes from the front.

The technique is that you fold the seam allowance under on the one piece, position it correctly on the other, then zigzag along the seam line from the front. This tacks it in place firmly and accurately, but you can still open out the tacking so as to sew a proper wrong sides together seam.

A light bulb went off in my head. This is the way to make pointy insets too. Or any other type of inset; gusset; princess seam or dart, for that matter.

So in the interests of verifying my assertions, and because I never met a sewing technique I didn't want to try anyway, I thought I'd have a little go and report back.

something like this
After making the skirt I mentioned above, I used the pattern as a base for another skirt by reshaping the front middle section into a semicircle; adding pleats and making the back match the front (rather than being a coffin skirt). I never got around to posting the test one I made, but I like it a lot and would like to make a proper one, or two for winter. The back panel was quite simple to construct because I used a narrow seam allowance, but I wanted pockets at the front and this made the front panel a brain folding nightmare.
So I decided to test my hunch by remaking it, using the narrow seam at the back for comparison, and see if tacking from the front would work in such cases. And get a new skirt out of it, hopefully.

combined pattern on fabric with front at bottom of shot
After much consideration, I carefully selected a fabric from my stash which would work for my purposes. But there it wasn't enough of it.


So, I added another experimental parameter. How would this pattern go as a one seam skirt?

It's creative solutions and lateral thinking like this that has made me the sewist I am - the proud owner a of UFO pile visible from space.

skirt back with narrow seam
post tacking -wrong side - note sitting quite flat
On the basis of this experiment I'm really excited to report that this technique is a goer. It has awe-inspiring possibilities.

I'm less happy to report that the skirt at this time is not - having run into a slight problem caused rather amusingly by my urgent desire to try the new technique on a real piece of clothing. Since I missed a couple of important pocket fixing steps in my haste, it may never become a real thing at all.

But zig zag tacking from the top is the gas! It made the front seam, with tricky wide allowances and pocket extensions, as easy as the back seam with its quilt width seam allowance.

detail of sample showing pointy end -
tacking cut but not removed
Just to test it in a range of applications I also made a few samples (after the skirt, of course, what do you think I am – methodical?).
Hopefully you can see that I'm having a little trouble folding in the end on this extremely pointy insertion
Stitching quite pointy bits is not a problem. Folding the end can be, but I think that this requires a technique refinement rather than being a dealbreaker.

I'm sold! Thank you, Sewing Lawyer!

 I also think that this could be quite a good fitting technique.  But this post will never get up if I try that first.

I will stitch the pointy gussings
I will stitch them with no fussing
And I will stitch the inset sleeve
with an ease you won't believe.
I love, I love those little pointy bits
now I know I won't have fits....

Though I do still think that armholes should be rounded.