July 26, 2017

A little trick...

... with a facing and an invisible zipper. 
I am finally making a dress from a lovely African wax print that I couldn't resist buying earlier this year. When I was about to attach the facing, I realized this would be a great time to show you a little trick I had to find out for myself.
It's about how to get a neat point where the top of the zipper and the neckline meet.

It is possible that this technique is explained in lots of books on sewing technique. Books which I never bothered to read in their entirety. If you did, and all this is old hat to you, please ignore the rest of this post. 
I found out about this when I was still doing wedding dress alterations. At the first store where I worked, a lot of the dresses came with invisible zippers which sometimes broke (standard strapless wedding dresses usually contain too many layers of fabric and are pulled on too tight to make invisible zippers a good idea)  and then had to be replaced.
Whenever I took out one of those broken zippers, I noticed how neat and tidy those top points were. And so square! For all my careful zipper insertion, those points always came out a bit rounded because so much material was meeting there. 
Gradually, I came to understand that the secret was all about planning ahead and making the right folds and the right stitches at the right time. 

This is how it is done (works for facings and linings):

Press back the center back seam allowances before you even start pinning the facing to the neckline. On the outside, you already attached the zipper so that pressed line is already there. Press a little more back on the facing (assuming both pattern pieces were the same width). Pin the neckline an stitch, STOPPING at the pressed line on the facing.

Press the neckline seam allowances. Clip them where necessary and press them first open and then to the wrong side of the garment. 
At the edge of the zipper, on both outside and facing, fold the neckline seam allowance down first and then fold the center back seam allowance over it. 

This gives you edges without bits of seam allowance poking out along the center back. At this point, you could hand-stitch the facing to the zipper tape. I've done that for years. But you can do it by machine without messing up that nice corner.

Flip the whole thing inside out again and pin the pressed line on the facing to the zipper tape (make sure that fold arrangement at the top stays as it is).

At the other side, on the wrong side of the outside fabric, this should give you a little fold of excess fabric. That is what you want, it is the fabric which will cover the zipper teeth on the outside of the garment. Stitch where you pinned, stopping at the neckline stitching. It doesn't really matter whether or not you sew down the neckline seam allowance on the facing but leave the outside neckline seam allowance.

Turn right side out again. You make have to pull and push a bit to get all the layers back where they belong but when you have done that, this is the result!
I'm really glad I learned this trick and I hope it will be useful to some of you as well. 

July 23, 2017

Well suited

A few weeks ago, with the last classes taught and just some meetings left to wrap up the school year, I was looking for another sewing project. And still, I felt a bit tired and didn't quite feel up to doing everything myself (something which I usually enjoy...).

After my little adventure with the Thai fisherman pants it was time for something more girly. A dress. So, I had a look at all the pretty dresses from Studio Faro's pattern puzzles (I still miss the weekly Pattern Puzzle, even though the timing was a bit unpractical for me. It was like a regular meeting for pattern making geeks!) and quickly decided to go for one in jersey.
That still left a couple of options but I decided to go with this one:

It is from 2014 and can, for that reason, only be found on the old blog. But fortunately, it's still there!  
For those of you who are not familiar with Studio Faro: it is (as far as I can tell from the blog posts and site info) a one-woman company in Australia specializing in both pattern making for fashion companies and pattern making lessons for fashion students and enthusiastic amateurs. For years, she also ran the "Pattern Puzzle" on the Studio Faro Facebook page. This meant that she would post a picture of random pattern pieces and readers would guess what it was. I found that quite addictive, and I know I'm not the only one...

And if that wasn't enough, in the week following the Pattern Puzzle, there would be a blog post showing the design and describing how to create the pattern from your own slopers. There is just one catch: these tend to be designs, ideas, experiments, not tried-and-tested projects. So there is no guarantee each one will work out well. 
If, like me, you are used to drafting your own patterns, that will be familiar territory though.

Anyway, I went to work on the Jersey Ruche Dress. An interesting design idea in which you slash and spread the front and back pieces of the fitted dress block for jersey fabrics in such a way that you can line them up to form one big pattern piece. There will just be a line of gathering where a side seam would have been (the smooth side has the one remaining side seam). And there is a set-in sleeve at the side with the shoulder gathers and a kind of raglan sleeve at the other side.
This time, I didn't try to be clever and drafted the pattern according to the instructions. I just had to fudge a bit with the main piece because my jersey block probably has a bigger waist-to-hip ratio that usual. And I planned for short sleeves instead of long ones.

Choosing a fabric wasn't that easy. I wanted to use something from my stash (should always be possible, it is huge). The pattern pieces were less big than I had feared (some of these pattern puzzles and really terrible when it comes to fabric economy, again because they are just design ideas) but not every fabric would work for a design like this. It would have to have the right hand, be soft and drape well. That means cotton was out. Cotton jerseys are lovely but they tend to have a bit of 'body', a stiffness which would not work here. And the fabric had to be light and thin enough for all those gathers. Some viscose/rayon jerseys, although they drape wonderfully, can be really heavy and get bulky when gathered. Stretch and recovery were less important in this case (although don't want to use one of those knits which only every keep on growing, ever again)
But I had something in my stash which was certainly thin enough, but maybe a bit too thin. A sort of marled grey/green jersey. A mystery blend containing (probably among other things) viscose and a tiny bit of wool.   

This fabric works really well with those gathers but it is a bit transparant. I picked those pictures in which it doesn't really show. It did in some of those I didn't choose. So, I guess this will be an indoor dress (I often like to slip on a comfortable dress when I come home from work, so having one which is only suitable for that purpose is fine with me). I thought about making a full lining but that felt like more trouble than this dress was worth. 
I did make a sort of all-in-one facing which holds the neckline and armscyes together. I decided on that after I had sewn the outside pieces. The neckline moved around in a way I didn't like: the gathers at front and back crept up and there was also kind of issue with the raglan sleeve (I forgot what that was). I made the facing for those pieces without the gathers and stabilized it with some very light-weight knit interfacing. Sewing that in helped. 

I still wonder if it would have been better to cut the neckline a little lower, or to put in denser gathering. I don't know.
Oh, and I used the rolled hem setting on my serger to hem the dress. That is often the easiest options on very flared-out hemlines, especially in thin fabrics. I had to be careful with the tension: It still had to be stretchy but I didn't want one of those "lettuce edge" hems (which are just serged rolled hems on very stretched-out edges). The result is OK but it looks like the edge of stitching is pulling a little bit if the light falls on it in a certain way. 

All in all, it's not one of my best dresses but certainly not one of the worst either. And it was fun to make, the right kind of project for the time in which I made it.   

July 19, 2017

And another one...

As I mentioned yesterday, my first pair of Thai fisherman pants was kind of nice but not really what I had expected. When I was "researching" the look, I mostly liked examples which were a bit wider (at the top of this Pinterest board of mine, you can see some). 
So, I tried again this time using this tutorial from salty*mom. This pattern has piecing in the legs and the downloadable pattern pieces are for the pointy and curved pieces which form the crotch curve and inner leg pieces. All other pattern pieces are just rectangles.

This time, I made the top piece from a double layer of fabric and I attached the ties well below the middle of its height at center back. This is because I think it looks nicer if, when folded over, the top of the top panel covers the seam which attaches it to the bottom panels. 
And I added a simple patch pocket. I miss pockets in the first version...

These are wide, really wide. They can look a bit like a skirt if I stand with my legs close to each other. And the back looks a bit odd but I don't think I did anything wrong there. It is just a feature of this kind of flat shape, I should not expect this thing to fit like normal trousers...

I hemmed at calf length because I thought that looked better with this width (I had cut these long enough for full length). They're a bit odd, but for casual summer wear, they're quite nice. 

July 18, 2017

A trouser experiment

Thank you for the nice comments on my previous post! Now that someone has brought it up, it would make a lot of sense that the combination of knitted and woven fabric is a reason why not many other people have made things like that dress. But take it from me: if you can make a simple t-shirt, you can certainly make a dress like that!

Now, on to the next thing. I kind of announced I would put two items in one post, but now I think I will save the second one for tomorrow.
A few weeks ago, while I was still working hard on all the end-of-year stuff that comes with teaching, I decided I wanted a simple, fun sewing project. Something kind of relaxing. And for some reason, I remembered Thai fisherman pants (I know I always insist on using the word trousers for trousers, not "pants" but in this case the idiom seems pretty much fixed on pants). 
I spent some time looking on Pinterest for inspiration pictures and pattern suggestions and I found a lot.

So, one Saturday morning, I used this very simple sketch as a guide and cut into some black linen from my stash. 
I went with a single layer top panel with flat-felled seams and a turn-over hem.

The end result wasn't bad but didn't quite look like these things do in most pictures.

At some point during sewing, I even wondered they might be too tight around the thighs, but they're not.

In fact, this strange shape actually allows a lot of room for movement.

This, just in case you are not familiar with this phenomenon of Thai fisherman pant, is that strange shape:

You've got the completely flat shape of a huge pair of trousers (without shaping on the crotch seam, that is why they are flat) which is wrapped around the wearers body and tied with ties attached to the center back of the top panel. After tying, you fold over the top half of the top panel, covering the ties.

There are a few different options to construct the legs and I think this is one of the simplest. I made these pretty much the way the pattern tells you to (although I may have forgotten to add seam allowance on some straight seam somewhere). Based on the result, I wouldn't recommend doing that if you wear more than, about, a Burdastyle size 38. If you do, add some width and height and go from there, or use one of the many other tutorials floating around on the internet.
The beauty of this style should be that it is truly "free-size" and this version isn't really. It still makes for a nice pair of summer trousers for me though.
Tomorrow I will show you my version of one of those other tutorials.

July 14, 2017

a super-simple dress

So, things got busy in the past two months. The end of the school year brought extra events in my teaching job, good weather meant more climbing trips and then, there was my ongoing effort to get better at route setting in the climbing hall. So, not a lot of time for sewing. I did make some simple things but didn't really find the time and/or motivation to take picture and write blog posts. Yet, that is. 
The school year has ended now so I have a bit more time on my hands and I have some projects I would rather like to show off and talk about.
I've decided to try and post about all the things I made over the this past couple of months although I can't promise long, in-depth posts and great photoshoots about all of them.

I'll start out with this super-simple dress (with E's help, I took pictures of four items today which will be in three blog posts. I didn't really have a lot time or feel like posing for pictures so I hope you can put up with fairly bad hair and the occasional weird facial expression).

It's just my favorite go-to self-drafted jersey top with the cut-on cap sleeves (it would be wrong to call it is a T-shirt because it is not in the shape of the letter T...) with a circle skirt attached to it. I shortened the top to about 10 cm below the waistline (12 at the back) and tightened the waistline a little. I cut the skirt to size to attach to that line. No zipper needed. 

Super quick to make, super easy to wear.
The top is made from black viscose/rayon jersey, the skirt from a fairly lightweight, but a bit stiff cotton. I like the way the checks on the skirt shift in angle because I just cut a full circle from this fabric an used it like that. 

In fact, making a dress like this is so simple I am very surprised I haven't really seen any others on sewing blogs and Facebook groups. Just take a tried-and-tested t-shirt pattern, find a point on you body where it is not at its smallest and where the start of a full skirt would be flattering and add a full or half circle skirt...