Tag Archives: fabric

Making a Mess…

23 Jul

…out of matching stripes.

It’s my orange seersucker fabric, again. I only had a smallish piece, so I decided to make a top. But it’s stripes, so I wanted it to be interesting, which means bias, of course. Which is how I worked myself into a situation of squeezing a whole blouse worth of pattern onto less than a yard of fabric at angles positioned just right to match up all the stripes.

You can tell it doesn’t end well, already, right?  Oh, if only I could read my own ambitions as clearly, when starting projects, as I do when typing them up, afterwards!

I mean, it’s definitely okay: I did wear it out of the house.

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I chose the same “See and Sew” dress pattern I’d sewn up just recently, only cutting it off at the hip to make a top. (I find I don’t buy a lot of pattern tops…I quite often simply chop a dress pattern off and use the top, rather than find a whole other pattern for just a shirt.)

I wanted to use the pattern (and the center line seam) to make my stripes chevron around my body, making a “V” at both front and back. I was very careful: I even traced my fabric stripes onto the tissue paper, so that each time I turned the tissue to cut a second piece, I could match up my drawn lines to keep the stripes oriented just right.I was extra careful at the sleeves, remembering that the first time following that pattern, the pattern pieces run at an angled orientation that was contrary to what I thought, looking at the shape of the pieces. I had to pay special attention to the notches and markings to be clear where things were to go.

Which is where, in the sewing process, I had my first tip-off that things were not as planned: the stripes on the front shoulders lined up not parallel to those on the body, but perpendicular!  How did this happen?

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It turns out, the pieces cut “wrong” are the two back pieces: the largest ones of all! Where, in the front, the stripes make a “V”, I have that shape inverted, on the back side–and the side seams simply continue as matched diagonal stripes, instead of additional chevrons. And the backs are the biggest pieces, so although I had saved enough fabric to cut the sleeves again, if needed, it certainly wasn’t enough to start over again, with the backs!

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So I soldiered on, and worked with what I had, and used my messed-up-unpressed-bias tape from the other day to finish the edges (instead of lining it, as the dress pattern indicates.)  That part worked out well enough, I just pinned it fiercely.  And, as with the dress version, I removed 1″ from the top shoulder seams to lift the whole thing and make it hang better. And I omitted the vertical darts, thinking that for a top, a little more loose flow would be better than the more fitted shape of a dress.

Nonetheless, the fatal flaw of this top is not the failure to chevron: it’s the fit. 1″ removed from the top shoulder seam was not sufficient–I also took out another inch (retrofitting, picking off the bias tape and then painstakingly sewing it back on again) in the center back seam, when I discovered how it gaped, there. But even with all these inches here and there, the neckline is much too wide, and probably low, and just…baggy and wrong, all the way around.

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(I complain so much about the fit of off-the-rack clothing, and then look what I make, for myself! It’s like a hospital smock in orange plaid!)

It makes me think that this might be a problem with pattern and fit–I often size dress patterns by my bust and hip measurements, so this top is cut from the same size as my dress. But since I’m pear shaped* perhaps I’m doing it wrong. Maybe I should be selecting my pattern sizes for the fit through the shoulders, and then grading them out to another size to fit my waist and hips. Perhaps that would solve the “mess” of the overly blousey blouse.

At any rate, it was a perfect mess, to wear. I could pull it into place long enough to take a photo, but in the full motion of everyday life, I had shoulders falling off, bra straps exposed, parts riding up, other parts sagging this way and that. Unfortunately, this one’s going back on my pile of projects which still need some significant work, to make wearable.

* I know some people object to comparing people to fruit, but I personally think pears are pretty, and that it’s a fine descriptor of a phenomenon which requires no small attention, when dressmaking.

Printed fabric

21 Jul

I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole of Spoonflower.  I really want to make some fabric of my own, but it’s a bit of a conundrum:

If I’m to make my own fabric, it should be some design that isn’t available in some other form, already (i.e. houndstooth)  -> which means it’s really got to be some obnoxious print -> but when I sew things out of an obnoxious print, I am much less likely to wear them -> yet if I design my own fabric, I really want to make it into something to wear, a lot, with pride.
And around again I go. So I’ve been thinking about the question of “distinctive prints” on fabric, I was walking down the street mulling this over in my mind, in fact, when I passed the University of the Arts, with this display in the window:

It’s a “Banner” fashion assignment, where the students made clothing out of cloth repurposed from advertising banners. If that’s not a question of “distinctive prints”, I’m not sure what is.

What I think the universe is suggesting is “be bold”… I’m not sure I’m ready to sport entire faces on my chest, but I appreciate the students of UArts for suggesting the way.

Make your own biased mess

15 Jul

I got a gadget: the Clover bias maker. It’s nifty. The whole internet offers handy tutorials on the wonder of this gadget, and how it can simplify my sewing by allowing me to easily make my own bias tape at home using the same fashion fabric as the rest of my project.

I’ve had it a while, but it wasn’t until last night that I felt I had the right project for custom, fabric-matched bias tape. So I cut up my strips, stitched them end to end, and started pressing and pulling…and whee! wasn’t it fun!

All that neat, crisply pressed bias tape just spooling out of my gadget, and under the welcoming steam of my hot iron (at right).

But, you say, what’s that on the left? That, my friends, is the same freshly handmade bias tape, on one end of the strip, and how it has uncurled there by the time my Clover magic-maker and iron combination have reached the other end of my strip.

In fact, let me show you my whole piece of so-called “bias binding” so that you can get the whole effect:

Ahem.

 

Yes, there’s a reason I chose to call my sewing blog “Handmade Mess” and I’m afraid, today, that I have run into that reason once again.

It’s okay, I will persevere, as I generally do, and I think it will be perfectly useable for the project at hand. I’m just putting this up there so that you can witness: sometimes the bias maker turns out smooth, crisp lines of tape, and sometimes, with some fabrics (maybe it’s the nature of seersucker to shake out a pressed fold) or in the hands of certain inept seamstresses, it’s not as pretty a process as one might like it to be.

Failing the challenge of the little black dress

2 Jul

My “little black dress” project is coming along quite nicely, apart from one detail.
The thing is, it’s…

*ahem*…er, well, it turns out it’s brown.

Yes, brown.  You see, a while ago I bought some fabric on the internet–the first and last time I ever did so. I was looking for some “ponte knit” and it turns out that one can’t readily tell, from pictures and descriptions, what one is going to get. I mean, it was probably a pretty risky thing to start with, a poly double knit, after all! But when the fabric arrived, it was pretty uninspiring, to say the least–but it had been cheap, and I thought I could use it to practice with, for “wearable muslins” of the stretch fabric variety.
And it’s served me well–I used the blue piece to make my “Marginal Folded Skirt“. (Oh, yes: I forgot to mention I got the fabric in four colors. Four.)

One length was black, and one was a deep chocolate brown.

So I saw this dress the other day, and it was in a stretch fabric (heavier than jersey) and used strips of the fabric, raw-edged, as an all-over striping. Not hemmed, not ruffled, just stripes sewn on, with just a bit of soft irregularity…a look that could be easily duplicated, by cutting long strips of fabric by hand. And it looked really, really good. Textured, but simple. Deconstructed, but not sloppily so.

I wanted to make it, and I figured I could use the length of black double-knit to do so. When I got the fabric out, however, I discovered that I had much more of the brown than of the black. And with the stripes all over, the dress calls for essentially double the amount of fabric than is in the dress itself. I simply wasn’t going to have enough of the black, to make the dress.  But I wanted to try, anyway, so I switched to brown, instead, and here I go, sewing seam after seam of flat, ruffle-less “ruffles” on each pattern piece, in preparation for dress construction:

 

So, ah, yes: my dress, it is coming along great, except for the fact that it’s veered sharply off course from where I started, and become something else altogether, in the process.

Personal fashion from other people’s fabric

26 Jun

I got another really cool gift of fabric. This was actually a while ago, and although I quickly knew what I wanted to do with it, it’s taken me some time.

It was this great length of an African printed textile:


I was describing this fabric to someone, saying “It’s a wide stripe, with another pattern layered over that, and then gold peacock feathers printed over that…” and the other person went “Whoah….that sounds like some fabric!” and I realized that what I was describing sounded really horrible, actually.

But there it is: you can see it for yourself. It’s got wide stripes, and a pattern of lines intersecting that, and then gold peacock feathers scattered over that.

At any rate, it was originally an sarong-style wrap skirt. It was hemmed on the edges, including a kind of wide, stiff hem along one side. I almost suspect the friend who offered it to me meant it to be used as a tablecloth, or in some other home decor application, but I wanted to see it as a more shaped, fitted garment. I was limited by the yardage, though: there simply wasn’t much there, and I was going to have to (gasp!) match stripes.

I used “See and Sew” pattern B5664, which is supposed to be really easy. (It says so right on the package: “YES! It’s easy!”) but it took me a while. I averaged a single step every few days…and it’s fully lined, so once you finish one thing, you get to do it all over again.

I’m quite happy with the way it came out, I have to say. I made one alteration: the neck was too low and the neckline gapped in the back, so I took a full 1″ out of the top seam, along the top of the shoulders, lifting the whole bodice up to fit closer.

What I like best about it is that it has center seams, both front and back. I think this gives it extra curvature–instead of a straight grainline like most dresses cut symmetrically on the fold, this one has a slightly shaped center seam, in addition to the side darts. And with the 1″ lift, the waistline hits me right at the natural waist, so I think, for me, this is a pattern I can/will use again.

When I make this pattern the next time, I’m going to add a kick-pleat in the center back, to give a little extra space for climbing steeps steps, like on public transportation. But I’m keeping the rest the same.

Shift-ing into Summer

9 Jun

Turning my back on black, it’s time to bring out the color. I went back to the embroidered Indian fabric I originally bought for a skirt, in March, when the weather was still cold. I wanted more than a skirt. Plus, I haven’t been sewing in a few weeks (other projects took over my attention) so I needed something light and easy to get back into it.

I chose what is becoming my standby, my “Wear the Shift” pattern:

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I laid the pattern out right along the lace edging of the fabric, to use the fabric’s border as a hem. And since it was scalloped on both sides, I cut the strip of scallops off the opposite side to use that, as well, as a double-layered scallop. Since the lace needed to be fully lined, anyway, I attached the second strip of lace to the hem of the lining underneath.

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It’s bright, it’s summery, it’s decidedly not black, and all of that is good. However, reading sewing blogs has made me paranoid about wrinkles, and this dress definitely wrinkles. If wrinkles point out areas of poor fit, then something is surely off, here, which is troubling, because this is my custom built-for-me dress pattern that I’ve made a half dozen times. It could be the way the lace lays over the lining, or it could be the way the grain shifted slightly as I lined the pattern up by the hem rather than the true grainline…or it could be a few added pounds. It’s difficult to say for sure, except the one sure thing I am learning in this project is that “fit is hard”.

And even the old “tried and true” can throw you for a loop, when you’re getting all creative with it.

Don’t you step on my blue suede…

16 May

…skirt!

That’s what I made out of that length of ultrasuede fabric I was given.

I went over a number of different ideas for it, but in the end thought I’d get the most wear out of a skirt, and I wanted to keep the shape simple to let the color be the focus. (I even, get this, made a practice version first…but don’t worry, I won’t get in that habit.) 🙂

The pattern is Simplicity2152, and I originally made the version with the welts, but decided I liked unadorned, straight seams better.

 

 

I’m still toying with the idea of adding some additional embellishment, but I thought I’d wear it out and about, first, to test it, and enjoy it at least once this way before I take it any further. I left the hem raw, just because with ultrasuede, you can, like all the 1970’s Halston dresses left with cuffs unhemmed.