21 December 2009

2009: Sewing Year in Review

This has been my most productive sewing year ever! I made lots of clothes:

5 skirts
4 pairs of pants
10 tops
1 short coat

I know this is a short list, but really, this is the most sewing I've done ever. There are some other garments that aren't on the list because either (a) they were wadders or (b) they were epic wadders.

I purchased WAY too much fabric this year and am going on a modified fabric fast. For each piece that I buy, I have to sew two garments from another piece in the stash. Yardages don't count. =)

I will post my sewing goals for 2010 tomorrow.

Merry New Year Everyone. Be well.


My 2009 Sewing Goals

Since 2009 is coming to an end, I began to reflect on my sewing achievements over the past 12 months. In January, I started with a list of goals that I wanted to accomplish. I am happy to say that I made significant progress on all of them. Although, some will definitely have to carry over next year.

1. Update my wardrobe.

I updated my wardrobe to include clothes that better suit my figure/frame as well as styles that are much more contemporary. I don't follow fads and mostly sew what I like. I did, however, recognize that my wardrobe was seriously out of date. I had clothes in my closet from when I was in graduate school (that was almost eight years ago).

2. Make a good fitting woven blouse.

I still don't have a good fitting woven blouse, but I have learned so much in the process. I have a better idea of what pattern alterations I need to make. Needless to say, this goal will definitely carry on to 2010.

3. Purge unwanted fabric and patterns.

I did manage sell a small bit of fabric. As I review my stash, I will probably put more up for sale. My stash has gotten out of control and I need to trim it down. I don't think I sold any patterns this year. I'll have to review my pattern stash and remove the ones I don't want.

4. Make a coat.

Yup, I made a short coat and don't like it. I think it's too big in many places and very poor fitting - despite the muslin saying other things. Maybe I'll come back to this later next year.

5. Sew with a plan.

I have become better at picking items to sew. I started thinking about the clothes I already have and how I can punctuate them with new items. I also completed my first full wardrobe plan (Not Your Usual Fall Colours) on Pattern Review. It was stressful and rewarding to finish the plan. I don't know that I'll sew another 10 garment capsule (I find that too limiting), but I will definitely take the lessons learned and sew smaller, more manageable wardrobes.

03 December 2009

Month of Pants Sew-A-Long

It is December in Michigan. I need pants. Short skirts are no match for that cold Canadian arctic wind. Here are some pants patterns that are in my current mental rolodex:

Kwik Sew 3384

McCall's 3935 (OOP)

Simplicity 2700,3686, & 4965

Jalie 2608

Vogue 2812 (OOP)

I've already traced and altered McCall's 3935. I need to cut it out in muslin to check the fit. More updates soon!


02 December 2009

It's Been a While!

I hope everyone is doing well! Wow, three months. Since school started in September, blogging has been a very low priority. I have been sewing a bunch, but just haven't really had the time or energy to write about it here. Many things have happened since my last post:

1. First, my beloved dog Chelsea has been diagnosed with breast cancer. She had surgery to remove her mammary glands on one side, but there are new lumps on the other side. My vet said that chemotherapy is hard on dogs and does not want to try it. Besides, it's also very expensive. I've resolved to love Chelsea for as long as I have her.

2. I've had 3 sinus infections since August!?! What the hell, man? I gotta see a specialist about this. My allergies are seriously becoming a problem.

3. I joined and finished the PR Wardrobe contest! Wow. Ten garments in 3 months. 2009 has been my best sewing year, ever! The good-fitting woven blouse is still on the loose...

4. Work had me seriously burned out a month ago.

Anyway...I hope that I can get back on track with blogging. I have lots to share - especially for the month of December. I was so inspired by Faye's "Month of Tops," that I thought of starting a "Month of Pants" sew along. I want to try new pants patterns and would love to have some folks join in. I know many folks are in holiday-sewing mode, but if you'd like to join, let me know!

Until next time!


31 August 2009

Other Passions: Painting

I've always wanted to take a painting class and for the first time I finally did it. Even though I like my pieces, I was not terribly impressed with the course instruction. I expected to learn about techniques to painting. The instructor was nice and supportive, but left everyone to do what they wanted. This method of teaching works for some people, but not for me. I need structure and basics. Once I know what I'm doing, then let me explore. "Paint what you want." Um. Okay. That works on walls, not canvas. Though I will not take another class with this instructor or at this school, I will continue to "explore" for free at home. I have a couple of canvases, tubes of acrylic paint, and an easel. When the mood is right, I'll pick up a brush.


29 August 2009

Other Passions: Skating

In addition to sewing, I have other creative passions: roller skating, jewelry-making, ceramics, and painting. First, my absolute must-do:

Roller Skating (All skate. Roll, bounce.)

I have been roller skating for nearly 29 years. My first experience on skates was at a school field trip to the now defunct (and demolished) Wheels Roller Rink on 8 Mile in Detroit. I was in kindergarten and distinctly remember falling every time. It was also the first memory of physical body pain that I had.

My first pair of skates were bought at Kmart and were white with blue wheels. I wore them for about 4 or 5 years. My second pair of skates, also purchased from Kmart, were white with hot pink wheels. They were made by Roller Derby - a name brand in skates (so I thought...). I wore those joints until December of last year. Yes. You read that right. I have been skating on the same skates for over 20 years. This might sound like a wondrous feat. Let me tell you. It isn't! I did not realize how bad those skates were until I got some new ones! First, the boot is vinyl and was hard to break in. The plate is stationary - which makes movement very difficult. The wheels are made of rubber and have ridges. This is not good because the wheels grip the rink like mad! The bearings were old, dry, and fuzzy with lint. Bad bearings do not allow the wheels to turn at will. This means that you put a lot of unnecessary energy into moving.

I finally broke down and got new skates when I realized how bad I was damaging my knees. One day in December, I was at the rink for about an hour and had to leave. My knees were SOOO sore, I could barely walk. It was time. People at the rink kept telling me that my skates needed to be retired. They were so right.

Old and Busted

New Hotness

Here are the specs:
  • Fomac Premier wheels (REALLLY slippery. They grip nothing! I can slide on carpet.)
  • China Bones bearings (wheels keep spinning around and around and around...)
  • SureGrip Classic plate (non-stationary and allows for movement)
  • Leather Riedell boot (supple leather...mmmmmm....very easy to break in and I wear a thinpair of socks)
I freakin' LOVE these skates. It took me a few weeks to get used to the fact that they are really slippery. Yes, I fell...a few times. These skates are a HUGE improvement from the old. It felt as if I had to learn to skate all over again.

Skating is my passion and I skate at least twice per week. It's great exercise and loads of fun.


20 August 2009

New Look 6508 (jacket)

I am bad at blogging. I know this. I actually have several posts in queue, but I haven't posted them because I feel compelled to close out this one. I don't want to make a habit of starting a topic and not finishing it. I've done that once already with the woven blouse.

In my last post, I mentioned getting a jacket to fit. I started the jacket as part of a class on Pattern Review and am happy to say that after a substantial hiatus, it is almost complete. It took me a long time to finish the jacket for two main reasons: family drama and fit. I will not bother going into the details of the family drama. It's around me enough every day and I don't want this space to be invaded or consumed by it. As for fit, I thought the muslin looked really good. But, when I put on the actual garment, I saw a few problems: the bodice fit isn't that great, the shoulder seams are still too long, and the sleeves look too long and full.

At my last sewing get-together, I took it to show my friends and get their opinion. Nicole and Rachelle both had very positive things to say. They did not see any of the issues that I saw and thought I should just finish it. Here's how the jacket looks so far:

Fabric used: The fabric used a a 100% wool tweed from the Fabric Warehouse in Romulus. I love this fabric. I love it so much that I went back and bought enough to make the dress from this pattern and a pencil skirt to go with the jacket. I even went back a second time to get more of the fabric and made Simplicity 5914. More on that in another post...

Fit and size: As mentioned before, I did not do any alterations to this jacket. I simply cut a myriad of sizes and blended when needed. Thinking that the fit wasn't that great, I decided to alter the pattern for future use. Eventually, I will try this pattern again in a stretch corduroy from my stash. I am going to participate in the upcoming fall wardrobe contest on PR and don't have this pattern worked into the rotation.

Construction: All seams were sewn on my machine. I only used my serger to finish the armhole edges. I cut 2"-wide bias strips to bind the neckline. I was going to just serge and press up the lower hem. But this pattern does not have any hem allowances; which struck me as odd. After studying the instructions and consulting Shannon Gifford, we discovered that the jacket is finished by bagging the lining and thus the hem allowance is the same as the seam allowance. Since I don't like that finish on this particular garment, I will go ahead and bind the hem as well.

This is part of the reason the jacket remains unfinished. I do not know how to mitre corners and something has to be done so that the front corners look smooth.

Wearing it: I don't think I'm going to wear this jacket with a skirt in the same fabric. I think it's colour/fabric overload for me. Instead, I'll probably wear this with a pair of jeans or slacks and some nice loafers. Classic, chic, and preppy.

I hope to have this finished by the end of next week. I've checked out some videos on YouTube about mitring corners. We'll see how that goes!


20 July 2009

Which Way is the Wind Blowing? (Jackets)

Actually, the wind is calm today. Nice and not too breezy. As for sewing, it's blowing toward my first jacket. I know, I know. What about the blouse? Remember Ma and how you were so eager to show her it fit? Yes, I do. And, I will. Right now, my focus has shifted drastically (sadly?) away from the blouse. I am working on bodices, though, so that's still a good thing. After having success with fitting the maxi dress, I decided to return to fitting jackets - a feat that I attempted to master several years ago.

Why now? I'm in Shannon Gifford's Stitch 'N Flip class on Pattern Review. I have been meaning to take this class for a year now. I hesitated doing so because I did not have a jacket that fit properly. As with the woven blouse, I went through a number of patterns and countless yards of muslin.

Some time ago, I started working on McCall's 5859.
I was so inspired by the wonderful versions I saw on Pattern Review that I had to try it myself. Well, this pattern is not for everyone. Even though the short sleeves are really cute, they do not at all flatter full arms. Because I have been trying to tone my biceps, these sleeves just do not look right.

The long sleeves are just not long enough. 3/4 length sleeves, again, don't look flattering because of my height. The un-hemmed length stops right at the fullest part of my torso. Not cute.

Add to that the issue of getting the jacket to fit right and you have a recipe for lots of swearing. I got the bodice to fit, but as soon as I inserted those sleeves...

The jacket class started on 6 July and here I was, on Tuesday 14 July, frustrated and behind. Way, behind. At the point, I thought that I could go to one of the other jacket patterns that I tried. Even though I had all the pieces, I made so many changes to their un-traced papers, that rescue was definitely possible, but not likely.

I raided my pattern stash and found New Look 6508.
It's an out of print pattern from 2005. It was fresh and uncut.
The jacket has five pieces, no buttonholes, zipper or collar. In fact, according to the design, the center front stands ajar! Hot damn. It could not fit completely and I can totally pass it off as a design element. Hah!

Tracing the Pattern and Achieving Fit:

I've learned so much from my sewing friends since meeting with them. Lately, though, I have taken to heart the advice of Tina and Rachelle. Tina is a no nonsense sewer and she does whatever is necessary to get the garment to work. If lopping shit off somewhere corrects balance or makes setting the sleeve easier, or whatever, then do it. Need more room, take smaller seam allowances. Don't fret the small stuff. Just move on. Rachelle likens sewing to cooking: sure there are ingredients, but in the end you're the chef and you determine the outcome. With these thoughts in mind, I just did what felt right. I followed the wind.

I traced the pattern using a range of sizes:

  • Center Back:
    Neckline: 12
    Shoulder: 16

  • Side Back:
    Shoulder: 16
    Armhole: 16
    Side seam: 16

  • Center Front:
    Shoulder: 16

  • Side Front:
    Shoulder: 16
    Armhole: 16
    Side seam near bust: 18
    Side seam near waist: 16

  • Sleeve:
    Sleeve cap: 16
    Sleeve seam: 16

I really should have used a size 14 in the shoulders, but the pattern oddly had size 14 grouped with sizes 8 and 20. The other sizes were grouped on the same pattern. I hate it when pattern companies do that. I just do not understand the rationale behind it.

What was the result? A jacket the fits. No, really, I'm serious. I couldn't believe it. The only thing I will need to do is take a slightly bigger seam allowance near the top of the center front-side front seam. The shoulder seam is too long, as suspected. I didn't do the petite adjustment. I didn't raise the armhole. I didn't do an FBA. Is it perfect? I don't know. Is it better than the McCall's jacket? Indeed. I'll have to have the PR experts assess the fit. The jacket is comfortable and I can move my arms. T he shoulder princess seams fall over my bust and the centers front are in their proper position. I will need to tweak the seam allowance on the princess seam a bit, but that's it. Just a tweak.

I will post pictures soon. My camera's batteries are low and my camera is really fussing about it.

An update on the jacket progress is forthcoming, too. I completed the bodice and just need to set the sleeves. I am making some design changes that are not a part of the pattern. I should have this jacket knocked out in a day or two.

Until then,


12 July 2009

A Maxi Dress for Mini Me

The Maxi Dress is all the rage this summer. Every store has one in some form: woven or knit. When perusing store or pattern catalogues/websites, I would always pass them up because I thought they were too voluminous and would overwhelm me because I am short. That thought was quickly dismissed when I first saw Adrienne's first and second versions of Simplcity 3803 on Pattern Review.

Although I think Adrienne is taller than me, I just loved the way the dress looked. Since reading her review and those written by others, I decided to give the dress a try. Unfortunately, Simplicity 3803 is out of print. Since I couldn't find another dress that I liked as much, I checked Simplicity's It's Sew Easy line of patterns. I was so excited to find the exact same design in Simiplcity 2638.

If I ever wanted to sew the backless view (not shown in S2638), altering the pattern should be simple. It looks as if I can end the back piece at the top of the zipper and extend the shoulder piece so that it can be tied around the neck.

Fitting the dress:

  • Pattern Sizing:
    The pattern ranges in size from 6 to 16 with finished bust measurements of 33.5 to 41 inches. The total amount of design ease is 3 inches. To avoid the need for a huge full bust adjustment, I cut a size 16 all around - against the recommendation by many fit folks and books. In retrospect, I probably should have gone with the 14 or 12 in the neck, shoulders, armhole, and back.

  • Adjusting the Pattern (for a full bust):

  • I made a 2-inch full bust adjustment by the slash-and-spread method (a la FFRP). I drew line 1 parallel to the grain line (just to the left of the right-most notch) and followed it up to the armhole stitching line. Line 2 was drawn from the side seam stitching line toward the apex, meeting line 1. Line 3 was drawn from the center front toward line 1, perpendicular to the grainline. I rotated the newly formed horizontal bust dart to the empire waist seam as more gathers. Here is a picture of the final pattern piece:

    To accommodate the extra width added at the empire waist seam, I added the same amount to the front midriff section. When I made the muslin, I very quickly saw that this extra width on the midriff section was NOT needed. Even after gathering so that all of the notches matched, I still had an extra 2 inches of width. So I removed the width and returned the midriff piece back to its original shape.

  • Other Adjustments:

  • The muslin revealed a few things. The armhole and neckline were both too low and showed my bra. The back is finished with a zipper and an approximate 3-inch split from the top of the zipper to the neck. The split seemed to hunch up and gape. To remedy these issues, I added about 1/2 inch to the bottom of the armhole, tapering to nothing. I did the same to the neckline, tapering to nothing as I approached the shoulder seam. I did a small high-round back alteration by slashing and spreading the back by about 3/8 to 1/2 inch.

    I'll speak more on why some of these adjustments were probably unnecessary later. I keep forgetting to make one crucial adjustment at the start of the fitting process.


Whenever you make several adjustments to a pattern, it is important that you keep detailed records! Sure, that's easier to say than do! When cutting out the fashion fabric, I forgot to lengthen the back piece so that its side seam matched the front. I realized this only when I started to put the pieces together. Fortunately, the extra length was so small that I could just ease the front to fit the back. I sewed a single basting stitch and gathered the front ever so slightly. The gathers pretty much pressed out when I steamed them.

The instructions seemed arcane when it came to attaching the midriff to the bodice. You are supposed to attach the bodice to the interfaced front/back midriff combo, then attach the lining piece to that. I have no idea why the construction is done this way, but surely there's got to be another way. I had to read that section a couple of times before it made any sense.

The instructions also have you treat the bodice lining and front pieces as one when you gather the lower edge. At first, I thought this would be too much fabric to gather and that the gathers would be bulky and uneven. I was surprised to find that indeed it wasn't and the gathers went in well. I suspect that the difference in fabric weight contributed to the ease in success. If both fabrics were of the linen weight, gathering probably would have been more difficult.

With the exception of the small difficulty I had with the instructions, for the most part they are pretty good.

Near the end of the construction process, I made a serious gaffe while finishing the edges on my serger. Sometimes this happens and sometimes it doesn't. While finishing the edge of one seam, I wasn't careful enough in preventing fabric from maneuvering itself under my serger knife and cut a huge gash in one of the skirt pieces. To fix it, I just took some scrap fabric and fused it to the opening. Because the print is so busy, you can hardly notice the fix.

Trying on the Dress:

As this picture shows, from a distance everything looks good.

But up close, it's a different story. The bodice gaped horribly. Anyone a couple of inches taller than me (which is pretty much...everyone) could, with no effort, see all down my dress. I had to fix this.

So, I picked everything apart. I took a bigger seam allowance at the center front, re-fit, and sewed everything back together again. At my second fitting, the gape was still there, but not as bad. At least this time, you had to exert some effort to see down my dress. My friend Melody pinned out darts on both fronts so that the bodice would lie flat against my chest. (If you look closely at the "finished" garment pictures, you can actually see the pins. =) I don't have pictures of me wearing the dress after I sewed the darts.)

With the pins now in place, I was faced with the daunting task of having to pick the dress apart...again. Knowing me and how my patience with some things can go from all to none in a nanosecond, I took Melody's advice and just picked apart the area surrounding the darts. (Duh! Why didn't I think of that?!) I carefully marked the darts with chalk, picked the area around them, sewed them with my sewing machine, and slip-stitched the opening back together. Below is a picture of the left side of the newly altered front. Can you spot the dart? You may have to click on the image to get a closer view. The matching was done totally by accident. Believe me, I was not trying that hard. =)

Things I learned about fitting from sewing this dress:

  • Earlier I mentioned that there is an adjustment I need to make on every bodice pattern. My neglect in not doing this first causes me problems every damn time. I only remember it AFTER the fact. What is it? I need to do a petite adjustment between the shoulder and bust area. Because I am proportionally short, mostly all bodices are too long in this area. Had I done this adjustment first, I would not have needed to raise the armhole or neckline. They both would have been in (or very close to) the correct position from the jump. I also probably would not have had the gaping issue either.
  • The 2-inch FBA was too large on this size 16 pattern. I should have started with a size 12 or 14 and did a bigger FBA. Though I don't have pictures, trust me when I say that the back of the dress is...um...roomy.
  • The skirt on this dress is ginormous! I recognize that part of this is due to the design. But, again, I should have started with a smaller size skirt. The center back seam is more than 1.5 inches!

  • I'm getting better at understanding how changing one part of a pattern can affect the fit of another. Fitting the bodice for this dress has actually motivated me to return to the McCall's empire waist blouse. I took a break from that pattern because of the sleeve issues I was having.
Conclusion: This was my first dress and I am content with the results. I have learned so much about fitting and have a new perspective with which to forge on. I am eager to continue on the path to good fitting bodices. As for the dress, it is very comfortable and cool to wear.

29 June 2009

Asymmetric Skirt: Vogue 7880 (OOP)

I just love this skirt. To date, I think it is my most favourite sewn garment. The construction, although tedious, was fun. The fabric was a joy with which to work. All the topstitching, pressing, serging - everything about putting this skirt together was a complete delight. As a result, I got this fabulous skirt that flows effortlessly and drapes wonderfully. Can't you tell that I'm excited?? Here's my pattern review:

Pattern Description (taken from the pattern envelope): Partially lined, fitted skirt in three lengths has left side zipper closure. A: shaped overskirt. B: front belt and tabs with purchased rings, shaped hem. C: stitched hem and shaped front and back. I sewed view B.

Pattern Sizing: The pattern ranges in sizes from 8 to 18. I started with a size 18 according to my hip measurement (41") and the pattern envelope. Let this be a lesson in always checking the finished garment measurements first! The 18 had a finished measurement of 46". Yeah, it was big. I ended up sewing larger (~1") seam allowances at the waist and hip.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes and no. It looks like the drawing with the exception of the front band & buckles - I did not include them. The length on the model suggests the skirt stops just below the knee. My skirt stops just above my ankles. Soooo...either the model is tall or...ahem...the model is very tall. There aren't any lengthen/shorten lines on the pattern. Well, actually, I don't recall seeing any lengthen/shorten lines. So, if you decide to make this pattern and feel the model is...ahem...very tall, then you will have to determine what pieces need adjustments. Since there are about 13 pieces, this can be a daunting task and may not be worth it. Personally, I like the length just as it is - even though it is supposed to rest at my knees.

Were the instructions easy to follow? The instructions are very thorough and should be followed exactly. When I first started cutting out the 100+ pieces (okay...so there aren't really 100 pieces...but there were a lot), I seriously questioned the layout. Assuming that the designers knew what they were doing and that I didn't, I proceeded as instructed. I'm glad I did. Everything fit together nicely. If you attempt this pattern, just make sure you carefully label everything.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I liked the funky asymmetric hem and drape. I saw Melody's version of this skirt and had to try it myself.

Fabric Used: I used a dark blue linen-rayon blend that I found in the red-tag section of JoAnn's. I think I paid $2 or $2.50 per yard. Let me tell you, this linen-rayon blend was really nice to sew. I do not know how it will hold up in the long run, but for now it was a dream. It holds a press well and drapes wonderfully.

For the front and back stays, I used a dark blue quilter's cotton solid (from stash). It is very comfortable and doesn't cling like polyester.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: I didn't make any alterations except to take larger seam allowances to account for cutting the wrong size. The instructions have you turn under the hems twice and topstitch. Nah, I didn't do that. Instead, I serged the edges, pressed under 1/2", and topstitched. I also used an invisible zipper instead of a regular one. I loathe zippers of any kind in a side seam because I always get a strange pucker that I do not know how to fix. Since this one didn't turn out too bad, I am encouraged to try another one again.

Would you sew it again? If I sew this again, I will probably try view A.

Conclusion: It's a good pattern and I enjoyed sewing it. I wore to see a play with a friend and got a few compliments.

More pictures:

Question: What other type of top would look good with this skirt? Share your suggestions. Thanks!

09 June 2009

Still here...

I'm still here. Unfortunately, I haven't worked much on the blouse since my last post. Family drama has somewhat put a damper on my sew-jo. I say 'somewhat' because I have still been sewing, but only easy projects or projects that don't require much thought. I made two skirts: Vogue 7880 and Kwik Sew 2954. I will post reviews on Pattern Review as soon as I take some pictures. Hopefully I can get that done this weekend.

I am still on a quest to getting M5522 to fit. I made three muslins of this pattern and as of yet, the second muslin produced the best results. With that in mind, I think I will re-trace the muslin pieces and make those my pattern pieces and cut out some fashion fabric.

Thanks for following. I hope everyone is well!


11 May 2009

Look Ma, it Fits! (Part II)

I am humbled and thrilled to see that people actually take the time to read what I write. For that matter, I apologize for taking so long to post. Many things happened (end of school, family drama, new semester of classes I am taking, not teaching) in a short period of time and I became quite busy and unmotivated. Thank you for reading!

Now that I have regained some sanity, I am ready to continue detailing how I am close to finally getting a woven blouse to fit. In the mini-update, I said that I would address:
  1. reasons why I chose to tackle McCall's 5522
  2. how I made the FBA on the front pattern piece and other alterations.
  3. how sewing the same pattern with some of my sewing friends has provided wonderful enlightenment and many a-ha moments
  4. revelations about how fitting sleeves is a royal pain in the ass and reasons why this blouse is on its way to becoming sleeveless, for the summer at least.
So that this post isn't insanely long, I will talk about items 1 and 2 and save the others for the next post.

1. Reasons Why I Chose to Tackle McCall's 5522

Let's consider the details. The pattern has an empire waist seam, princess seamed front and back lower sections, gathers at the bustline, gathers at the sleeve cap, and a separate front band for the buttons. The pattern also has separate pieces for different cup sizes. With this many features, I thought it offered the most options in perfecting the fit.

In past attempts, full bust adjustments (FBAs) always yielded massive amounts of width at the waist - some of it necessary, but most of it excessive. With separate pieces for the front/back upper and lower sections, I could do any size FBA and not have to significantly alter the waist sections. In order to keep the empire waist seam length the same on the upper and lower sections, I can just adjust the gathers accordingly.

The separate piece for the front band gives me the chance to add up to 1/2" of extra width if needed later on in the construction process. With this extra piece, I can cut it as wide or narrow as I'd like and use no less than 3/8" as a seam allowance if necessary.

Because I am short-waisted, I can lower the empire waist seam as much as needed to ensure that the seam is sitting in the right spot beneath my chest.

The gathers on the sleeve cap allow me the opportunity to camouflage any changes made when fitting the sleeves. They also hide my hit-or-miss skill at setting in sleeves. =)

2. How I Made the FBA on the Upper Front and Other Alterations

To make the FBA, I used the slash & spread method. I drew a vertical line parallel to the grainline through my marked bust point, and two diagonal lines: one toward the armscye and the other toward the intersection of the side seam and empire waist seam. Pretty much, this is the standard Fit for Real People (FFRP) method for making an FBA on a bodice. The size of the FBA was 5/8" which would give an extra 1 1/4" across the top. To reconcile the newly created bust dart, I closed it and rotated the dart to the gathers. Here is a picture of the final pattern piece:

Because I am petite, I have to shorten the length between the armscye and bust. I did this right on the muslin by removing 5/8" of length on the front and back.

Before I made this alteration, the front gaped horribly above my chest. Unfortunately, I do not have any pictures. Believe me when I say, what you see here is a HUGE improvement.

So far, so good, yes? At this point in the sewing session, I was ecstatic! I mean, really, I can button (pin) the centers front. The waist isn't too big. The shoulder line follows my shoulders beautifully and the back looks great. What could go wrong? I mean, really? What?

The SLEEVES. Damn it! Mind you, I have never, EVER, ever ever ever (cue Smokey from Friday when he met "Janet Jackson") gotten a woven blouse to fit this good, so I had no idea what to expect with the sleeves. Sigh. Over the past year, I learned that I had narrow shoulders - revealed by other garment fittings. So, I lopped off 5/8" measuring from the edge of the shoulder seam, tapering to nothing along the armscye. I did this on both the front and back shoulder pieces. I neglected to make the same adjustment to the sleeve cap, set the sleeves anyway, and got this as the result:

I don't know what happened, but this was SO not right. I don't know if not making the same adjustment to the sleeve cap would have prevented this atrocity, but I didn't investigate. Instead, I put sewed the lopped pieces back to the front and back and reset the sleeves.

Whew, ok. Much better! All is well in the universe as long as I stand just...like...this. Don't try to do anything adventurous...

Grrr....damnit! Ok. So, I can't lift my arms up, nor put them out in front me, comfortably. A couple people on Pattern Review suggested that the cause of the discomfort was a too-low armscye. I was perplexed about this, as I thought I remedied that with the 5/8" reduction in length between the shoulder and bust. But, ok. I submit. In another sewing session, I attempted to raise the lower part of the armhole up 1/2". I think I also took out 5/8" from the sleeve cap to mimic the length reduction done on the bodice. I'll have to check the muslin to be sure. Anyway, here's what the muslin looked like then:

I still think I need a bit more width in the upper chest area. I remember the muslin being a bit tight there.

So, this is pretty much where I am right now. A few weeks ago, I transferred my muslin alterations to the paper pattern, cut a new upper front, back, and sleeves, and sewed it up. I don't know if something went wrong in my transfer, but the newest muslin was just like the one with the hunched shoulders. The shoulder seam stood away from my shoulders and the top was tight across the chest. Sigh. So, what I'll do is just trace the pattern pieces that produced the four pictures above and go from there.

Whew! More details to come... Comments/suggestions are always welcomed!



14 April 2009

Look Ma, it Fits! (Mini-Update)

I am still working on getting that woven blouse to fit. I have been really busy and short on time to post Part II of this series. I have made significant progress and hope to get some details up soon. School is almost over and I will have more time to devote to this project.

In the meantime, below is a quick summary of what's to come in Parts II and III. I'll discuss:
  • reasons why I chose to tackle McCall's 5522
  • how I made the FBA on the front pattern piece
  • how sewing the same pattern with some of my sewing friends has provided wonderful enlightenment and many a-ha moments
  • revelations about how fitting sleeves is just a pain in the *ss and reasons why this blouse is on its way to becoming sleeveless =)
Until next time,


24 March 2009

Look Ma, it Fits! (Part I)

I think I got it! For my next few blog posts, I am going to chronicle my journey to finally getting a woven blouse to fit. First, let me start with some background history.

For the past two years, I have been working tirelessly on trying to get a woven blouse pattern to fit. You see, I am small framed with a big chest - not quite Dolly Parton big, but big enough to have significant issues with woven blouses and jackets.

I have tried to fit a number of blouse patterns:

as well as a few now out-of-print jacket patterns:
  • Simplicity 4698
  • Butterick 4463
  • Simplicity 4954.
With each try, came several muslins, intense frustration, and a shot to my sewjo that would take weeks to heal. I even took a class from a certified Palmer-Pletsch fit instructor in Richland, MI (about 2 hours west of me). The purpose of the class was to take the McCall's basic fitting shell pattern and fit it to me. The class was spread over two days for six hours each day. I won't say that the class was a waste of time and money, but I already knew most of what we covered and had already tried some of the techniques many times on my own. I did learn that I have narrow and forward shoulders, a slight high round back, and a swayback - issues, said the instructor, that will most likely require adjustment in every pattern. I'll comment more about these revelations in a later part of my series of posts.

Selecting the right pattern size has been somewhat of a problem with me. In almost every fit book I read (and I read a lot of them), it was always recommended that one purchase patterns according to the high-bust measurement. This way, you can ensure proper fit in the neck and shoulder area. The problem with that is the full bust area is so small, that I end up needing a substantial adjustment to accommodate my chest. Conversely when I tried to fit both a jacket and blouse pattern according to my full bust measurement, I found that the neck, shoulder, and armhole were too big.

Previous attempts at altering the pattern using a full bust adjustment created a number of challenges:
  1. massive darts that were next to impossible to reconcile,
  2. insufficient width at bust level despite the huge dart,
  3. too much newly-added length in the high-bust area,
  4. too much newly-added width in the waist area.
Below are some examples of two separate fittings of McCall's 5471. The first two photos show a muslin made in November 2008. I cut a size 14 (D cup) and adjusted from there. As you can see, there is too much length in the HB area and too much width in the waist area. Plus, the shoulder line looks too long.

The next muslin was made in April 2008. Here, I cut a size 18 (D cup) and adjusted from there. There is pulling at bust level and bunched fabric at the nape of my neck. Plus, the collar is larger than perhaps it should be.

As I study these pictures again, it occurs to me that the November muslin was made after having taken the fit class in October 2008. The April muslin was made long before I took the fit class and executed with knowledge learned on my own. Despite the pulling at bust level, the April version appears to fit much better. How about that? Based on these pictures, it looks as if multi-cup patterns should be selected according to the FB measurement in the chest area and perhaps a smaller size in the armhole, shoulder, and neck area.

Following now are some photos of my attempts to fit Simplicity 4077. This is the pattern that I attempted to fit as part of the class I took in October.

I started with a size 14 and altered from there. As you can see, some of the fitting challenges I mentioned earlier are everywhere. In no way is this pattern even close to looking half-way decent! I mean really, this thing is just awful!

Needless to say, after having several defeats with the fit demon, I gave up. Wait! I am a quitter. I just know when I've had enough. I took some time away from the blouse and sewed some pillowcases, pants, and a skirt. I made several knit tops and started working on my bedroom curtains.

Once I had time to reflect and refocus my energy, I forged ahead with another attempt at fitting. This time, I tried Kwik Sew 3620. This fitting wasn't as bad as the first...few. For this pattern, I cut a size medium in the neck, shoulder, armhole and morphed out to a large at the bust, waist, and hips. I did an unconventional 5/8" FBA. Instead of slashing and spreading a la Palmer-Pletsch, I drew a box around the dart and moved that portion of the pattern out 5/8". I did this so as to avoid the additional waist fabric created with regular FBAs. This method did not work at all. The shoulder area was just all wrong and poorly fitting.

As you can see, despite the attempt at fitting the centers front still don't meet. SIGH. What's a girl to do?!

Be on the look out for Part II!



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