Category Archives: patternmaking

quest for the perfect t-shirt

Lately I’ve been working on a lot of things for other people (ipad case! costumes! John’s socks! A dino-hood!), so my face hasn’t been around here much. I’ll still be sewing for other people a good while longer, since I have a costuming gig at the end of April, and two little nephew-boys I’m making hooded jackets for (tracing Ottobre patterns tomorrow!)

perfect_t-shirt3

But now for myself, I’ve made the first of what will be a slew of t-shirts – in the quest for the perfect t-shirt! I already had the perfect t-shirt of course, but after years of faithful use, it was falling apart. I finally took a seamripper to it, and used the pieces to trace off  new master pattern pieces. I traced off both left and right sides, averaging out the two.

Fabric: rayon jersey from Stoff og Stil, in a heathered blue.
Pattern: Self-drafted from a beloved old H&M t-shirt.
Techniques: jersey fabric, neck binding, serged seams.

This was quite a quick make! It took me 10 minutes to cut the fabric last night, and since I worked a later shift today I actually managed to sew it up in the morning and wear it to work, yey! How’s that for a productive start to the day? The fabric is a lovely heathered bluish grey, and very soft and drapey. It’s a little more substantial than the original t-shirt, which was almost a whisper thin cotton jersey, so I was a little worried it would drape differently. It’s not too far off though!

perfect_tshirt2

And of course, as a first try, there are things to be changed for future versions, which I was anticipating. I’ll be adding a couple of inches to the hem, since the slightly too narrow fit at the hips means the t-shirt rides up a little. The sleeves jut out a little more than I’d like, so I’m thinking of taking out a wedge from the center of the sleeve to narrow it. Ooo, I came across the most wonderful explanation of sleeve cap shapes on a blog, I really recommend this post in particular, and her blog in general if you have any interest in patternmaking and/or fitting. Anyways, that post shows the mechanics behind why I don’t want to narrow the sleeve too much, since the sleeve cap would get taller, and therefore more difficult to sew in flat to the armscye before sewing the side seams in one fell swoop.

perfect_t-shirt1Never mind the scratch – kittens are vicious things! No, not really, just very sharp-clawed.

Enough technical talk! I have a lovely weekend planned with what’s looking like beautiful weather, a pub quiz with colleagues, a school reunion, and a Sunday hike. Anyone else have a nice weekend planned?

refashioned custom dress

redesign_taupe_dress_before

Fabric: Original dress made in a polyester two-tone satin faced taffeta. The matching fabric I think is a satin polyester, and poly lining.
Pattern: Self drafted with princess panels, dropped waist, and sewn in belt.
Techniques: Invisible zipper, fully lined, understitched neckline and armholes, sewn in bra-loops.

redesign_taupe_after_belt

Every once in a while I take on sewing projects for customers. A month or so back, I was contacted by a lady who wanted to have her dress resewn. The strapless gown had become too small, and she wanted somthing that would be more versatile. She liked the idea of refashioning this dress – especially since she had shoes dyed to match especially. She was picturing a sleeveless dress with a straight silhouette and a dropped waist.

I sketched out a panelled dress with a contrasting sewn in waistband, keeping a bit with the original dress. The first task of this refashion was to figure out how much of the orginal dress could actually be used for the new dress – or in other words, how much dress could I make out of the original gown? It turned out, unfortunately, that all the pieces of the new dress simply could not fit on the pieces of the gown.

redesign_taupe_detail_neckline

The customer lady and I decided on supplementing with a new but matching fabric for the bodice, which made for a three-tone dress. The contrast belt in the middle is actually just the back side of the main skirt fabric! The gown had gotten some bad water stains, so even with just needing the skirt and belt from the original fabric it was a bit of a challenge cutting around the worst spots. A good thing then, that I had the wiggle room to avoid them! The dress is fully lined, with an invisible zipper at the side seam.

redesign_taupe_after_full

The customer lady was very aware of what suited her and her body, which in many ways made my job easier. She looked great in the finished dress, and I was so thrilled to see her happy with the final result!

Ireland dress, swanky and finished

Hold on peeps, this is a picture-heavy one! John and I just came back from celebrating a friend’s wedding in Ireland, and I’ve been working (well, ruminating and planning at least) on this dress for quite a while, so it’s a big sigh of relief to have it done and looking good. And so much fun to photograph in a castle (!) in Ireland! So many exclamation points!

Ireland_coupleThat’s not the castle, by the way. This is right after the ceremony at the Irish-catholic village church. Don’t we look nice!

Fabric: Mystery mustard colored fabric I got for free from a friend of a friend while living in Chicago. It has a beautiful drape to it and a subtle sheen, and I’ve taken it for a viscose rayon this entire time. When ironing it however, it smells unmistakably like polyester (though I haven’t done a burn test to confirm) – as a fabric snob (and being ok with that) I’ll chalk this up as one of the nicest polyesters I’ve met! Lining is a jaquard weave poly from Joann Fabrics.
Pattern: Self drafted with a-line full length skirt, bias cut cowl front, and v-neck back. I’m thrilled I had time to make both a bodice mock-up, and a wearable muslin ahead of time.
Techniques: Bias cut neckline drape, waist-stay, self-lined bodice, bias-tape bound armholes, and fusible seam tape at all cut edges of bodice seams.

Oh, where to start! I felt so damn swanky in this! I don’t often wear floor-length gowns, but it totally felt right for this occasion, and for this fabric. I shared this picture below a while back, of a dress from the 30′s that has been my visual inspiration for what I wanted to wear to this wedding:

wpid-20130629194618663.jpgI realized pretty quickly that as much as I wanted to take the opportunity and do a full-on replication of this dress from the 30s, I just didn’t have enough fabric to do it. And being a random mystery fabric, I certainly didn’t know where to get more! I’m ok with that though. Even if the inspiration dress is way more dramatic and stunning, I felt dramatic and elegant enough in the castle wedding setting – and looking back at this picture I’m quite amused at how similar the finished dress ended up to the super-quick draped mock-up I did back then!

The wearable muslin I made was incredible helpful. It meant that I could make the changes to the pattern, and then cut into the mustard colored fabric, confident that I didn’t have to recut, and confident that I wouldn’t have to make more alterations.

Alright, here comes construction notes – if that’s not your thing, just skip to the picture of the hat below – interspersed with somewhat non-related, pretty pictures of the finished thing (sorry about the lack of detail-shots and process, just didn’t prioritize it this time around!).

Ireland-dress_crop

So – the bodice is self lined – the front bodice cut on fold at the cowl neckline edge, and the back bodice cut twice. I spent a whole lot of time ironing on the fusible seam tape on almost all cut edges, which I did since I was terrified of stretching out seams so they wouldn’t sew together nicely! I’ve learned through some nearly failed projects that you can gather and ease a stretched out seam to the right length, but the fabric beyond the seamline is still stretched out, and will never lay nicely. Hence all the seam tape, haha! It really did make a difference though I think, and everything sewed together very nicely (in terms of seamline lengths). While making the wearable muslin I managed to iron on the fusible both too short on some seams, and too long on others. For this dress I actually ended up laying the fabric on the paper pattern, and pinning both of them to the ironing board (just with a pin straight down, vertically, into the board) to really make sure the length ended up correctly. I was quite pleased with this method!

Ireland_stair3Deer caught in headlights descending stairs in beautiful shoes, while holding glass attempting not to spill any more drinks on herself (total tally by the end of the night was 2 plus a broken glass, which was a total fluke, and a dress rinsed out in the sink that dried to look pristine).

I knew I wanted a waist-stay on this dress (you must know by now how much I adore trying new techniques and adding little touches to what I sew!), but it took a lot of internal debate on how exactly to do it! Most often the waist stay is sewn to the waistline seam-allowances, both self and lining fabric layers, and is visible from the inside. I don’t mind the waist-stay being visible, but this alternative would mean an unfinished waistline seam that I would want to bind in bias tape, which I was afraid would get too bulky with 5-6 layers right above the waist-seam, and only the 2 layers of the skirt below. Also, it would mess up having a clean zipper finish on the inside. Alternative 1 nixed.

The next alternative I considered would be to sew together all waistseam layers but the bodice lining, attach the waist-stay, and slipstitch the bodice lining to the seam. That would be better than the first alternative, but I was still worried that any little difference in the grain of the fabrics would end up pulling weirdly by being solidly attached at the waist, in addition to the issue of bulk. Alternative 2 nixed.

Irland_dress_walking

Ireland_dress_backPosing in the rose-garden, swoon! I can see the draglines from the wearable muslin ar still there somewhat (probably exaggerated a bit here), and I’m pretty sure it’s from the straps having slid down too far on my sloping shoulders. A bra sitting further in plus bra-loops keeping it anchored should fix that.

This was honestly such a long back and forth conversation in my head, where I kept forgetting why I had nixed the different options! I’m sure I considered other approaches, but what I ended up doing was to attach the skirt and bodice layers separately for the lining and the self, sewing the waist-stay to the outside layer waist seam allowance (pressed upwards), pressing the lining waist seam allowance downwards, and loosely slipstitch the seamline together at center front, center back, and at the side seam. I did that to keep the layers together where they were supposed to be, while allowing everything to move a bit too. I couldn’t get around this little oddity of having to leave a gap in the lining by the zipper, right where the waist-stay comes together with a little hook. It’s a trade off to not having exposed seams, but I’ll admit a little fiddly to avoid loosing the ends of the waist-stay, since they aren’t attached all the way to the zipper tape! Oh well. I found Tasia’s multiple posts on waist-stays very helpful, such as this one sewn fully to the waist seam allowance, and also this more traditional one.

Who knew I would have this much to say about waist-stays? Ok, moving on… sewing really was quite easy, there aren’t that many pieces to this dress. But making sure that they don’t stretch, and that they’re on grain, that is the tricky part. I had such a hard time hemming the skirt – the lining especially. I totally recommend having a second person helping you when hemming these types of long dresses! At the bridal shop I used to work at, we would mark the skirt with pins set in vertically where the fabric touched the floor. Then we hemmed a certain amount up from those marks, based on the type of fabric the skirt was made of (generally cutting at the pins and aiming for a finished hem about 3/8″ off the floor, but for chiffon you’d cut less since it tends to crawl up and shrink in length when cut). Anyways, I think my lining must have been a bit off grain because it was waaaay longer in one spot off to the side. Oops! It took several rounds of trimming but turned out ok. Having made myself very few floorlength dresses, it’s a new way of thinking for me that this dress is hemmed pretty much only for these shoes, and these shoes only! (loved, loved, loved, loved my shoes by the way!)

purple_suade_shoesMy purple suede peeptoe platform patent leather wedding shoes! Crappy cell picture, but none of the other pictures really showed these beauties.

Ireland_dress_stairs1

Ireland_dress_stair2So glamorous!

Finally, let’s admire the beautiful fascinator that my talented and lovely Sara custom-made for me! She knew the color and style of the dress I was making, and she knows me and my style. Then she took that and melded it with her aesthetics to create this smashing headpiece. I loved wearing it, and got lots of compliments on it all day long. I don’t think this outfit would have been complete without it. (Thanks Sara, you’re so lovely!)

ireland_fascinator Alright, that wraps it up! I made a mustard-colored fancy dress, I wore it, and I loved it. It’s a win.

the Ireland dress in wearable-muslin form

Phew, sorry about the delay! I took these pictures early last week, but my new camera (!) and I are stilling getting to know each other so I haven’t gotten all the technical kinks out of the editing process. My apologies too for the odd color cast going on in these pictures – it was a little dark and I can’t get the raw-files to work right now!

DSC_3601Anyways, I made a muslin for that dress I’m wearing to the wedding in Ireland (which is a long thing to call a dress. I do also call it the Ireland-dress, which makes not much, but still a little sense all things considered). I picked up this surprisingly nice polyester with its wonderfully funny color combination at Vogue in Evanston, IL on my recent trip to Chicago. I went with my friend Sara and we also found a couple of more poly fabrics that were surprisingly nice, and that’s saying something coming from a fabric snob like me. The fabric I picked up to use for a wearable muslin is a little stiffer than my real fabric, but other than that it drapes pretty similarly.

DSC_3353That’s at John’s mom’s house, and I am attaching fusible seam tape (I think that’s what it calls itself) to the back v-neck cut edge, and I learned that 1. it is 3/8″ wide, so I redrafted the pattern so the seamline is right at the edge of the seam tape, 2. that I should cut the seam tape to the right length so I don’t accidentally distort the proper length of the seam, and 3. it is almost inevitable that the un-fused seamline of the lining stretches, so to avoid bunching on the inside I will fuse the lining, understitch, and any excess width will be on the outside layer which will roll over to the outside because of the turn of cloth.DSC_3598So, the first full muslin ended up being a little big. I made a bodice muslin that my wicked skilled teacher-friend Julie helped me with, which needed an FBA, some diagonal pinching out in the back because of the v-neck, and some balancing. I’m realizing that to make  garments hang nicely on me and look balanced at the side-seams, the front needs to be wider than usual and the back narrower. Good to know!

DSC_3512I decided it would look best to take out most of the excess in this muslin in the front, so I pinched out an inch at the waist, tapering it to nothing at the cowl fold edge since I’m happy with the amount of cowling there, and how low it falls.

DSC_3526I can see the hem in the front is significantly higher than the back, but I redrafted the skirt pieces more properly than my free-form carpet and copy paper travel drafting, so I don’t think that will be a big problem. I also cut the skirt with a fair amount of extra length for hemming.DSC_3518 DSC_3558

As you can see, the back had some diagonal pulling after I pinched in the center back.  The v-neck has needed several rounds of pinches taken out, which is common for deep necks like this one. The straps were sitting a little too far out on my shoulders, so I pinned out a good 3/4″ at the v-point. That, combined with the little wedge I’ve pinned out diagonally on the left side in the picture above, will help with pivoting the shoulder seams further in.

DSC_3510The pattern is now all altered and fixed and trued up, and the *real* fabric all cut out. We’re leaving for Ireland in a few days, so….um.. chop-chop! As for this wearable muslin, it’s not really wearable at the moment, but I would really like to make it so. I’ll have to take out all the excess at the side-seams, so it won’t be perfect. But look at that fabric! Too fun to not make a proper dress out of!

traces of thread: the knits

I’ve been really exited to include knits in the collection I made; a main reason has been that not only is it a craft that I really enjoy doing, but it is also  something I strongly associate with my grandparents and their generation (both in learning handcrafts from them, but also having and appreciating handmade objects that they created).

The knit swatches for the “Geithus” lace top.

Another reason lies in the fantastic possibilities in creating your own fabric, where the choice of color and texture is almost endless. I so enjoyed being able to custom design something that felt very right for the collection, and then to be able to choose from a world of wools in all sorts of thicknesses and qualities and hues to make a fabric.

And just as a reminder of my initial sketches, of both the knit jacket and the lace knit top…


… and some pictures from the photoshoot:

Like I’ve mentioned before, the knit jacket is based on the traditional embroidered linen shirt that goes with my particular style of folk costume. As I was analyzing the shirt, I realized is was mostly made up of rectangles; the collar, the sleeves, the body, and the godets are almost all perfect rectangles.

This makes perfect sense in considering the background of these folk costumes – which is medieval every-day work clothes. At a time when cloth was made by each family on a loom, the available fabric was rectangular to begin with. In an effort to make full use of the cloth they had spent a significant amount of time making, most ancient clothes and regional folk wear around the world, is based on geometric shapes.

Though I made the first samples of this in a cotton jersey, I did make a paper pattern to help me write out the knitting pattern. And with a zero-waste pattern-making workshop fresh in my head, I drew up the pattern shapes in Illustrator. It’s easy to see the geometric shapes that way, and – if I want to challenge myself – a good starting point to make this pattern true no-waste; no fabric scraps cut away or wasted!

If I could make all these rectangles go edge to edge, and not require cutting away any fabric, it would be zero-waste! Since I made it as a hand-knit piece, I was able to knit only the shapes I needed, but it could be a nice challenge to myself to turn this into a zero-waste pattern for non-handknit fabrics.

Blocking the knit pieces into the right dimensions.

In this view it’s  a little easier to see that the pieces are mostly all rectangles, and also to see how the godet, or insert, at the shoulder functions. It is a rectangle that fits into a slit on the front and the back bodice, and is gathered at the neckline. In the original folk costume shirt I think it allows for more movement, and in my jacket it was also a place to use the honey-comb pattern.

On both the jacket and the lace top I used stitch patterns reminiscent of honey-comb. My grandfather was a beekeeper, and I wanted to bring him and my memories of him into my work somehow. I picked these two stitches from stitch libraries to be evocative of the geometric and layered texture of honeycomb, and I’m really pleased with how it turned out!

This lace top was a real test of my patience and skills and mind-power. I spent a month and 4 days on this from start to finish (according to ravelry), which included the commute on the train every day, between classes, in classes… any free moment I had! I even sat up till the wee hours of the morning before our photoshoot, because unlike a pair of pants that can be folded up to look hemmed, there really is no way of faking a finished knitted garment!

The bottom half of the top is knit in the round, and then flat, or back and forth, from the bottom of the button stand. I discovered that I had to knit slightly differently flat than in the round, which might not be the most comforting thing to realize in the middle of a garment, but I didn’t have time to worry about that!

I also used a little over 2 skeins, but with my Malabrigo yarn being hand-dyed, the colors didn’t match entirely. I solved that by alternating rows when I started a new skein, to make the transition a little less noticeably. Similarly to the knit jacket, I draped a jersey muslin on the dress form first, transferred that to paper, and then measured the paper pattern to come up with the written pattern. It was a whole lot of crunching numbers and gauge and row counts and numbers of stitches! It was also very satisfying and a lot of fun to be able to develop a real pattern for a knit garment, and my next step is to clean up the pattern so I can publish it – hopefully in the fall!

collection progress: in pieces

On this grey Sunday, with a cold  I’m trying to eradicate, I figured I’d show you how I’m doing on my final senior fashion design project.

Even though we’re well into the second (and last semester) where we make everything, I haven’t actually completed much. The patternmaking and sourcing takes quite a long while; by the time you’re ready to start sewing, you already have your fabric, your pattern, and every thing goes together quite quickly. I guess what I mean to say is that sometimes the actual sewing or creating part doesn’t take all that long, but the preparations that makes it a breeze? That’s the time-consuming part!

My only finished garment so far, a cotton twill vest with mitered dupioni silk bias binding.

A wool coat and a pair of wool flannel pants – in the early stages of construction.

A hand-knit jacket, still in pieces.

Swatches for a lace-weight knit top.

This silk gauze blouse has been living on my dining table for… ehm, three weeks now. I’m pleating the fabric, and it’s just so delicate that I don’t want to move it until I have to!

I hope you’ve enjoyed these little glimpses of a large project in process! I should start having some more completed garments soon, and that’ll be encouraging and exciting!

pocket pencilskirt in progress

I have a project in progress! My approach to my very loosely organized and ongoing stashbusting project is to figure out how to get the best use possible from a piece of fabric. What is the largest kind of garment I can make with the fabric available? What is the fabric suitable for?

The fabric-scrap I’m working with now is from a length of dark wool suiting fabric I have. I’ve already made a dress from this fabric (which I haven’t blogged about – yet!), and there really isn’t much left:

See the bodice cutout at the bottom?

I think the piece is 60″ wide, and only perhaps 25″ long at the shortest point. So there are some serious limitations in making this skirt! In the picture I laid out the first draft of the pattern I made, moving the pieces around and allowing for all the “cut 2″ and “cut on fold” pieces.

When I decided a skirt was the best use with this fabric, I realized it needed to be in many pieces to have as much flexibility as possible, moving pieces around and making them all fit on my fabric piece. I saw a skirt in a Threads magazine issue that served as inspiration, since it had a yoke waistband, vertical panels, and slanted pockets built into the construction. I drafted a pattern and crossed my fingers it would all fit in my piece of fabric! Next I sewed up a very quick muslin to check the fit.


(click for larger images)

Taking decent fitting pictures is a lot harder than I thought! And the fitting issues I noticed aren’t showing up nearly as well as I was experiencing with the muslin on. I’ll just fill you in (and help myself remember what I decided on!):

  • The waistband will be shortened. It’s 3 1/2 ” wide now I think, and it hits in a very unflattering spot. I’m shaving off half an inch or so, and I think that’ll  do the trick.
  • Something weird is going on where the yoke meets the skirt in the back. My swayback might be part of the problem, but I think the width of the skirt and the yoke is just too big. I’ll be slashing and overlapping the yoke to reduce the width there, and pinch the seams of the skirt the same amount.
  • The hip area feels a little tight in the back, so I’ll add a little ease just across the hips – about 1/8″ at each of the four seams in the back.
  • The pockets are way to low. I’ll bring them up to within a couple of inches of the yoke waistband.

I find the limitations of this stashbusting project both challenging and fun – but it does come with drawbacks. In this particular project,  since there is a very physical limit to how long the patternpieces for this skirt can be, I need to make compromises in the design, and patternmaking, and construction of the skirt. I’ll have to make a really narrow hem instead of folding it up, and also have a slightly shorter skirt than I would choose if I had all the fabric in the world.

I’m planning on adding a lining; I’m pretty sure I have enough lying around somewhere. I’ll just use the same patternpieces but add some ease, and shorten the length so it doesn’t show at the bottom. I might even add some trim at the lining hem like Gertie (link and link) and Tasia have done on some of their garments. I have some ribbon I want to use for this project, and I was thinking at the waistband, or at the lining hem. The ribbon came around a birthday present from a friend, but I thought it could make a nice little touch on the inside of the skirt!