Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Monthly Roundup: April 2013

Somehow, typing "April 2013" just now made me realize how much of this year has already flown by! It's practically summer! Anyway, April wasn't my best month ever.

I sewed:
1) Ottobre 06/2012-13 pants for Logan
2) Casual Lady top for me
3) Simplicity 2814 top for me
4) Burda Magazine 10/2005-132 pants for Mitch
5) Kitschy Coo Skater dress x4 for Myra, her BFF and my niece
6) Kwik Sew 3167 camisole for me
7) McCalls 6563 skirt for me

That totals out to 10 garments. Not too shabby considering the man pants that took me nearly 2 weeks. I sewed up 18.5 yards of fabric and only purchased 3 yards, all of which I used this month! I'm kind of thrilled about that. I also sewed a Burda Magazine pattern - the man pants. Since I was so negative, I'm going to put my max fabric goal for this month at 18 yards. I think that will get me back on track for the year.
My big blog accomplishment this month was actually managing to produce a little pattern to share. It's just a sleeve, but I'm pretty pleased with it. Did you see this cute one @jm_subrn posted on Instagram?? Seriously, orange and tie dye! Love!!
I didn't get to spend nearly as much time in the Challis Chalet as I had hoped, but I did make a blouse and a skirt, both of which I'm very pleased with. Hopefully I'll get at least one challis dress made this month. I wants it.
Next month (and June as well) the big news around here will be the SwimAlong that Leila of Three Dresses Project and I are hosting. We'll get deep into the nitty-gritty of swimwear patterns, construction and all the helpful tips you'll need to successfully stitch up your own custom swimsuit. We'll be unfolding some details on our blogs tomorrow, so be sure to check back. You definitely don't want to miss this!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

McCalls 6563: 1979 wrap skirt

After all the skater dresses it was time for some selfish sewing, and I wanted to wander back through the challis chalet once more.
I know that there are some challis dresses in my future, but I've really wanted to make this skirt. The pattern is from 1979 and was a gift from a friend.
I just love how effortless and breezy these ladies look! And despite the fact that the top is a total box, I might give it a go. I love those shoulder pleats. But the skirt - I love everything about it. The midi length is my favorite for ease of wear and I love a wrap style. It even has pockets!! Really perfect.
My favorite feature is the little flounce effect in front. The front wrap is shaped at the front edge, so that it drops gently in folds from the waistband. The effect is subtle, but very graceful. It's perfect for a softly draping fabric like challis.
And I had the perfect fabric picked out! Pressed it and got ready to cut, but it just kept telling me that it wanted to be a dress. I sat and stared at it, totally stymied. It was clearly a dress, but I really wanted to sew a challis skirt. I took my dilemma to twitter, and we settled on this blue swirl print.
And I am so glad! I really love it. Pictures don't do justice to the intensity and gradations of  color. It's so intense in fact, that it is really hard to style. I was afraid I had created an orphan, until I tried it with black. All of the blue tops in my wardrobe just look pale and washed out next to it. Black holds her own.
But the final test? Awesome twirl factor!

Today's tip

As I was working on this skirt, I came across a few bias seams and hems, and initially I thought I'd discuss working on the bias (and I will, as I love bias cut garments!), but today I was impressed with how important pressing and steam are to the finished quality of the garments we produce.
By Monster4711 (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
I know that most of us are already in the habit of pressing seams as we go, but it one of those things that is easy to overlook, but which is truly essential to a professional outcome for our work. But if you don't believe me, I refer you to the lovely and talented Ann of Gorgeous Fabrics. Her treatise on pressing, "And Now, a Word from the Pressinatrix" is a lovely summary of the importance of pressing at each phase of your work. Please read it, if you haven't already.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Kitschy Coo Skater Dress Flutter Sleeve, final edition with free downloadable pattern!

Well after three trial Skater Dresses, I finally cut into the fabulous Bambi organic cotton jersey from Kitschy Coo's shop.
Myra says it is the best dress ever, and I am inclined to agree.
Could the little deers and bunnies be any cuter??? I think not.
The flutter sleeve makes me insanely happy. I'm sure y'all are tired of hearing about it, but I am pleased with how it all worked out.
It's pretty from the back, too.
So, would you like to make your own? I've put together an honest to goodness PDF pattern and tutorial for you. I considered publishing all the details in a blog post, but I thought it would be easier to have something you could just print out and keep with your pattern. So here it is...

Click here to download the pattern piece.
Click here to download the full tutorial.

This is my first time doing this, so I'm sure we'll have a bug or two. Please email me at katiedeshazer (at) gmail (dot) com if you have any trouble with the files or the pattern itself.
Now go forth! Make Flutter Sleeve Skater Dresses! And if you do, please let me know!! Send me an email or leave me a comment on this post. I'll be stalking the Kitschy Coo Flickr group with hope in my eyes.
Myra thinks these flowers will look nice with your new dress.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Skater Dress Flutter sleeve: Take 2

After I made Myra's dress, I wanted to make some tweaks to the sleeve, so I decided to make a couple more dresses. The first was for Myra's BFF, N.
Aren't they sweet? Both girls were really excited to have matching dresses. N even made the girls necklaces to match their new dresses. So cute!
In the original sleeve, I had a flounce that encircled the armscye. It was inserted just like a typical sleeve. But I really didn't like the little ruff of fabric that created under the arm, which you can see on Myra on the left.
I posted my displeasure on Instagram, and Amanda (of Kitschy Coo and the creator of the Skater Dress) suggested adding the flounce at the cap of the sleeve only and hemming the lower armscye curve. And it was perfect.
The girls are happy with their dresses and I love how sweet the sleeve makes this dress.
I think the tweak to the lower edge really made the sleeve sit nicely and flutter better.
I have a little more testing, grading and photographing to do, but if I can get this all tidied up, I'm hoping to give all of you a chance to add a flutter sleeve to your own Skater Dresses. Stay tuned!
Today's Tip
I love the way the bands for the neckline and sleeves on this pattern are put in flat and then seamed together. I think the biggest challenge with this method is in the seaming. It's so easy to get a little jog or mismatch where the edges of the band come together, but a simple trick will keep your edges perfectly aligned.
Basting before you sew is one really great way to make sure this happens, but instead of basting with a needle and thread, I like to use glue.
I use a regular washable glue stick. You can get glue sticks made for fabric, but they are about 4 times the price. So, I glue the seam allowances together prior to sewing them. I also use this trick to keep my seams aligned when sewing matchpoints together. It only takes a minute or two for the glue to form a tacky enough bond to hold together while stitching, but if you're impatient, a touch with your iron will dry it quickly. Once your edges are glued, just sew as your normally would!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Kitschy Coo Skater Dress

I think this is my 4th version of this dress, and I love it more each time. This time, I got it in my head that I wanted a flutter sleeve.
Because really, it doesn't get much girlier than that...
And seriously, how awesome is this fabric?! Y'all, I found it at the thrift store!! It was a twin flat sheet. I was so thrilled!! Two bucks and I should be able to get 2 more dresses out of it! Score!
But the sleeve. That's what this post is all about. How cute is that? This is my first attempt. I drafted it as a circular flounce, using the circumference of the armhole as the inner circumference of the flounce. I cut the hem edge as an oval, with the widest part at the shoulder point and only a narrow band under the arm. You can see that pattern piece here on Instagram.
I love how gracefully it sits at the top of her shoulder. It provides some coverage from the sun, while still being as cool as a sleeveless dress.
The thing I don't like about this version is the amount of fabric that is under the arm. Because of the way it flounces the wrong side shows and I don't think it is very attractive.
It's still a very pretty dress, and Myra really likes it, but I'm headed back to the drawing board with this sleeve. Fear not! I will prevail! And I'll show you how as well!

Today's tip
You may have noticed that I finished the sleeve with a rolled edge on my serger.
I really think this is the perfect finish for something light and airy like this - no hem bulk to weigh it down. But when I first tried this function on my serger, I had all sorts of trouble, especially on curves (and this sleeve is a big circle - all curves!). The fabric tended to miss the needles and I'd have bits of rolled hem tails hanging off the unfinished edge of my project - not pretty. I discovered that the key to keeping the fabric in the "roll" is the position of the serger knife.
On the left, you see the serger as the manual says to set it for a rolled hem - with the blade as close to the needles as possible. On my serger, this is referred to as the stitch width, which is a bit of a misnomer, since it is actually the cutting width. In the picture on the right, the blade is set as far AWAY from the needle as possible. This way, there is enough fabric for the needles to catch and actually roll under.
Here you can see how the fabric just slightly rolls under, giving the hem a teeny bit of body, without bulk or weight. If the blade is cutting close to the needle, you lose that extra oomph, and run the risk of your fabric running right off the edge of the needle.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Burda magazine 10/2005-132 man pants

I feel like there a certain "big" sewing projects that are sort of sewing milestones. For me, successfully fitting and making pants for Mitch is one of those big milestone projects.
AND I DID IT!! Ahem. Sorry for the screaming, but I am so excited to have finished this project well. They are not perfect, but Mitch likes them and I intended them to be a wearable muslin of sorts anyway, so I wasn't going for perfect.
I already talked about the fitting journey we went on in this post, so I'm not going to go there. I do want to tell you about this pattern though. It is from the 10/2005 issue of Burda magazine, so naturally it has some really interesting details. I chose it because it features a faced waist rather than a waistband. Mitch's favorite RTW pants have this feature, so I thought we'd start with something that we knew worked.
Here is the waistline up close. I did topstitch it to give a sort of waistband appearance, but you can see that the topstitching stops at the fly. Oh my goodness, that fly construction was wacky, and Burda was no help at all.
Here is how the fly looks on the inside. I truly have no idea how it all came together. The facing had to be attached to the fly and the waistline, but without covering the zip. I ended up just ripping and rearranging until it worked. Hopefully I can replicate it on the next pair... Anyway, after all the pain, I really like how clean this looks. The shaped underlap looks seriously professional and the finish is so neat. But yeah, man pants are hard.
I wish I could have done the fly first, because after all that, these back welt pockets were laughably easy. I cut the welts on the bias to avoid having to match the pinstripes because it looked snazzy. I always get nervous slashing through darts and these pants have two per pocket, but all was well.
You can see here how much fabric can affect fit. These pants are made from a heavy cotton canvas from FabricMart, and my muslins were all light cotton sheets. In the final product, we could use just a touch more room back there, and I think that all has to do with how relatively heavy and rigid this fabric is. Even without stretch, fabric makes a difference.
So while they have some imperfections that I'll tweak for the next pair, they are significantly better than the best RTW has to offer, and we are both very pleased with them. Yay for man pants!!

Todays tip:
While sewing this stiff, heavy canvas it was really hard to pin anything, but particularly when attaching the belt loops, the pins wouldn't even penetrate all those layers (and I used heavy steel corsage pins!).
Enter one of my favorite notions, Wonder Tape! Instead of pinning, I use Wonder Tape to stick on anything I need to sew down that I don't want slipping around. It's double sided, so you cut it to the length you need, stick on the sticky side and peel the backing away to reveal the second sticky side. You can see that in the top right pic. Then position your fabric, and sew! It is perfect for belt loops, pockets, zippers - pretty much anything you want to stay put as you sew it. I've even used it for small appliques. It won't gum up your machine and it washes away, so it doesn't permanently affect the drape or appearance of your fabric. If it doesn't stick well, a quick shot of steam from your iron will fuse it more securely.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Simplicity 2418, for the Challis Chalet

I really want to make a 40s shirtwaist dress out of one of my luscious lengths of challis, but Mitch's pants get priority over all the things. Still, I didn't want to miss out on the fun at the chalet, so I thought this top would be a quick project that would work well in challis.
Oh wait, did I say quick? Somehow I neglected to consider the fact that this pattern is cut on the bias. Given the inherent slippy and slidey ness of challis, cutting it on the bias is asking for trouble...
Despite the fight I had with the fabric, the resulting top is rather nice. The pattern is one I've used before, Simplicity 2418. That time I made it out of silk charmeuse. I really am a glutton for punishment.
I didn't make any fit changes from the last time I made it, so I will refer you to that post for the details on fit. I did add an inch to the length, which makes it 3 inches longer than view B and 1 inch shorter than view A.
This is really the only picture that shows the fabric well. Sorry for the crap photography. I'm without the good camera at the moment, and the iPhone isn't a fan of the overcast skies we have. Anyway, I really love the way this print plays with the bias elements of the top. The yoke is actually cut on grain, but the fabric is printed with the dominant "stripes" on the bias, so it sort of tricks the eye.
I'm still hoping to make my challis shirtwaist, but I'm glad I got at least one challis garment made this month. I know this top will be a big player in my wardrobe, if Spring ever comes to the Salt Lake Valley. You can't tell from the pictures, but snow is falling.

Before I close, I want to share an idea I've had. I feel like the sewing community has given me so much, I want to share a little back. So from here on out I'm going to end each post with a little tip that relates to the project. Some of them will probably be "duh, Katie, everyone knows that.", but hopefully I occasionally I'll share something that someone finds worthwhile. For today, I want to share my thoughts on shoulder yokes. If ever you are making a blouse or dress that has a yoke (the shaped strip of fabric that goes over the shoulder), you have an opportunity to really bring your garment to the next level by lining the yoke. I've noticed that fewer patterns include this, and it saddens me, as a lined yoke provides a beautiful interior finish, as well as providing structure in the shoulder of the garment. Lining a yoke isn't difficult and only takes a few more steps than attaching it unlined. I think it is well worth the extra effort.
Here are the steps I took to line the yoke of this blouse. I'd happily write you a tutorial, but I always use the one that kbenco wrote and I don't think I can do it any better, so I will refer you to her blog for the full process.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Casual Lady Top

I sewed something that wasn't a muslin!! I was starting to think I had forgotten how.
After fighting with the fit of Mitch's pants for 2 weeks, I wanted to quick project that wouldn't require any fitting. When Andrea released the Casual Lady top, I knew I had my project.
Not only was this the perfect, easy project, proceeds from the pattern sale benefit young mothers trying to escape the sex trade, so not only do you get a fun sewing project, you do some good as well. The pattern is designed for fairly stable knits with good recovery. I chose a mint green rib knit that while fairly beefy, probably was a little more unstable than was ideal for the pattern.
The top is very simple - just 4 four pattern pieces, and goes together very quickly. There are a few other kimono sleeve tee patterns out there, but this one is a little different in that the neckline is finished with a facing rather than a band or binding. In general, I really hate facings, particularly on knits. There I said it. But they do have their place, and look quite polished when done right.
In my case, my fabric (This rib knit has somewhat poor recovery.) made getting the neckline right a bit of a challenge. Since the knit is quite stretchy, the neckline stretched out just a little bit while sewing, even with the presser foot pressure on the lightest setting. You can see in the above photo that the neckline sticks out just a little from the dress form. Still, it looks pretty nice and I love how smooth it looks without any topstitching. The facing spans across the shoulder and is caught in the sleeve hem, which is a great way to keep it in place. It also gives the shoulder a bit of structure, which makes this a fabulous layering top. It gives a very nice line under a cardigan or jacket.
I wore my top with a bias cut linen midi skirt and belted it with my Texas rodeo belt. Cowboy boots were obviously a must! It's a very wearable, comfortable top and easily dressed up or down. It was perfect for playing at the park today!