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Friday, November 29, 2013


Seam ripper. Friend or enemy? Frienemy?
Ick! is an exclamation you don't want coming from the sewing room, along with Ew! Yuck! Sh*t! And definitely not You rotten *!@#%!

Alas, that's what spewed from mine yesterday when I inspected the single welt pocket on the upper left front of Studmuffin's jacket, aka the breast pocket or the hankie pocket. Instead of a smooth insertion, I had a lumpy, bumpy mess.

One of my primary goals when sewing is to make things that look nice. Not perfect, mind you, just nice. If it looks nice, I am happy. (And not the-man-on-horseback-glancing-your-way-as-he-gallops-by kind of nice. More the it-passes-casual-observation level of nice.) This was not nice. The fabric around the pocket was puckery and stressed. 

I hate how welt pockets are made. The "sew two parallel lines, then cut a Y shaped hole between them and flip everything to the inside" technique makes me uncomfortable. The whole thing rests on the fabric not fraying, as there isn't any stitching on the ends to hold threads in check. There are alternate construction methods for double welts, but I haven't found any for the single welt.

An aside: Another sewing philosophy/attitude I have is: Think For Yourself. That's a rather harsh sentiment for many people, so I try to pretty it up by saying: You Are The Boss of Your Own Sewing. But they are two sides of the same coin. Just because the pattern instruction/tradition/your fav sewing guru tells you to do a something a certain way doesn't mean you have to - or should. 

Think about what you're creating. Does the suggested way make sense? The tingle of uncertainty or unease is your subconscious' way of telling you Uh-uh! No thanks! Danger Will Robinson! (The last one is from Lost in Space, a tv show I watched with annoying regularity as a child. It's amazing what sticks in your brain.)

I ignored my tingle. I know better. I know better. But I did, because who am I to poo-poo the traditional methods of tailoring. 

I'm Lady T, of course. The Boss of My Own Sewing. Once I thought about it, two alternative ways of constructing this thing popped into my mind. Two, not just one. 

Today, I have to pick out that woeful pocket. I'm hoping I can rework it, making the opening a teensy bit bigger. Otherwise I'm going to have to recut the front, fuse it, thread trace it, blah, blah, blah all over again. I'm very lucky I have enough fabric left over (barely!) to have this option. 

Who is the boss of your sewing? You? Or tradition?

Till next time,
Lady T

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Stage One - Done!

The upside-down left front jacket piece.
Interfaced with P/P Tailor, with another
layer for chest piece. Roll line taped.
Stage One is done! Yay!
Pictured is the left front piece of Studmuffin's jacket. (upside-down) 

The entire piece was interfaced with Palmer/Pletsch Perfect Fuse Tailor. An extra layer of interfacing, cut on the bias, was added as a chest piece. On custom tailoring, a third layer is usually added, but this seemed like enough structure. Time will tell.

The roll line was taped with fusible Japanese 1/4" tape. After fusing, I hand-stitched it in place. While I'm sure it would've bonded well to fabric, I'm not so sure how well it would've stayed attached to the soft, fuzzy interfacing layer below. Since Studmuffin wears jackets on a daily basis, this one (if it fits!) will see a lot of use.

The breast pocket and welt pockets were thread-traced to make them visible on the front, along with the center front line. These loose, long basting stitches were done in a jiffy by hand. I could've machine basted them, but hand basting is easier to remove and doesn't take long to do.

Little thread dots highlight The Dot (so named by Palmer/Pletsch for the uber important notched collar marking) and other necessary sewing guides. Seam notches have been marked with tiny snips in the seam allowance.

The front waist dart is pinned. I marked the legs with a pencil, which was beginning to fade, so I formed the dart right away before it disappeared. 

The lining is cut and marked. I'm all set to go.

On to Stage Two!

Till next time,
Lady T

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Fusing Interfacing

I have two hard-and-fast rules for fusible interfacing:
1. Use high quality interfacing.
2. Make double-sure every bit of the interfacing is fused onto the fashion fabric.

As long as I abide by these two rules, I've had great success. No bubbles, no regrets.

High quality interfacing isn't easy to find. Usually I have to mail order it from Pam Earny at Fashion Sewing Supply (this link takes you to the American site, I have to click on the Canadian/International section) or Palmer/Pletsch or Sawyer Brook. When I'm in Ottawa, I pick up some at Daryl Thomas Textiles.

High quality interfacing costs $$. The base fabric is often pre-shrunk. The adhesive is distributed evenly in a fine coating instead of thick beads. Inferior interfacing can make expensive fabric look cheap. High quality interfacing can make inexpensive fabric look lux. To me, it's worth every nickel.

Fusing interfacing takes time. Lots and lots of time. At least the way I fuse does.

A few years ago, Daryl from Daryl Thomas told me not to use steam when fusing interfacing to fashion fabric. I was flabbergasted - everyone knows you need plenty of steam and heat to make that sucker stick!  He said you don't want moisture forming a barrier between the fabric and the interfacing when fusing. Use all the steam you want after the initial bonding, but use a dry iron first. Even though the idea was radical, Daryl's explanation made sense, so that's what I do.

I hate the gooey residue that sticks to irons and ironing board covers when interfacing overhangs/peeks out beyond the edge of the fashion fabric. Marta Alto, in the Palmer/Pletsch Jackets for Everybody dvd, shows how to cut interfacing so it is marginally smaller than the garment piece it will be attached to. She cuts part way around the pattern, then "scoots" it over the cut section to reduce the size and finishes cutting. Marta makes it look easy, but so far I haven't tried it. I like pins, and grainlines, and knowing exactly what the finished size will be, and how much interfacing I'm using. Her way would stress me out. (Yes, I'm a control freak.)

To keep any overhanging interfacing from adhering where I don't want it, I layer the piece being fused between two pieces of paper, like a ham and cheese sandwich. 

My fuse sandwich:

interfacing, glue side facing down
fabric, wrong side facing up

The paper underneath protects the ironing board cover, and the paper on top protects the iron. When fusing, I never ever leave the iron unattended. Too risky! Scorch marks would be the least of possible problems. If left long enough, you could actually burn the paper.  (Note: This is the way I fuse. I'm not saying it's the right way and that you should do it. Try it at your own risk. And if you do, for heaven's sake, pay attention! Hot irons require due diligence!)

Before you start fusing, it makes sense to assemble test samples from scraps. Once your samples have cooled, check how well the interfacing and the fabric have bonded. Can you peel off the interfacing? Try fusing it again. Some interfacings work better with some fabrics. Once your sample has passed the fuse-ability test, check to see if the interfaced scrap has the suppleness or body you require. There are tons of different types of interfacing and another one may do the job better. 

Onto fusing the actual garment. The first pass is with a dry iron. No steam. Depending on the interfacing and the fashion fabric, it usually takes between 5-15 seconds to activate the adhesive. (Establish how long it takes when making the sample.)  Use a watch to time it - fusing is boring and it's too easy for your brain to imagine 10 seconds have passed when in reality, only 3 seconds have.

Interfacing sandwich dampened with spray
from water bottle. Iron leaves a map of
where it's pressed.

Once the entire piece has been fused, I spritz the paper with water from my spray bottle (that never gets used for anything else). The paper is visibly wet. With the iron set on steam, I go over the entire piece a second time. Clouds of steam float up. It's easy to see where you've been because the paper starts to dry.

If I'm at all concerned that I might have missed a spot, I go over it again. I really, really want the interface to bond with every fiber of the fashion fabric.

Fusing Tips
1. Lift the iron when moving it to a new location, don't slide it. Sliding may shift the fabric and/or interfacing, causing distortion.
2. Once fused, let the fabric cool completely before moving. The bond is not complete until the fabric is cold. 
3. Or use the time while the fabric is cooling to add shape. For example, while the interfaced fabric is still warm, wrap a collar around a pressing ham. As it cools, the interfacing will "set" with this shape.
4. Test scraps can be sewn together (creating a seamed edge and double layer) and used to practice making buttonholes.

Once upon a time, I avoided fusible interfacing. I hated both the end results (bubbles) and the mess (gooey bits). Now that I've figured out solutions to both those problems, I love the finished product and ease of using quality fusible interfacing. What about you? Are you a sew-in interfacing type of person? Or do you use fusible? Or do you forsake interfacing all together?

Till next time,
Lady T

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Game Plan

The subtitle for this post could be: Am I Nuts?

Answer: YES!

Recently, I finished McCall's 6172, the Palmer/Pletsch tailored jacket pattern. It turned out quite well. So well, in fact, I reached into the pile of discarded projects from the summer and pulled out a grey tweed jacket I had cut out for my Studmuffin. I hoped to keep the jacket-making momentum going and whiz through this project, lickety-split.

It's hard to whiz when jacket-making. There's so much prep work to do! You'd think having the fashion fabric cut would mean I could leap into sewing, but alas, that's not so. There's interfacing to cut, then to fuse. Then all the pattern markings to transfer. Plus cut out the lining.

Anyway, I'm almost finished the prep work. Just the lining left. So Stage One of the Game Plan is almost done.

Then it's on to Stage Two - sewing the fashion fabric and lining.

And finally Stage Three - the hand finishing. Hem work and buttons. Final pressing. 

So that's the official Game Plan. By thinking in stages, I hope not to get overwhelmed by the project. The goal is to whiz through each bit.  I'd love to be finished by the end of the week. (hahaha!) We'll see. 

Till next time,

Lady T

Odd aside: The title for this post was subliminal on my part. The Grey Cup game is on and the sound wafted over to me in a different room, settle into my brain, and influenced my thoughts. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Sew Inspiring

As you may have noticed, I've been in a sewing slump - a big, long one. For several months it seemed as if a black cloud hovered over my sewing room, its evil presence contaminating everything I touched.

When I had trouble with project after project, I realized the problem wasn't the pattern/sewing machine/instructions - it was me. My body might be in the sewing room, but my heart wasn't. So I put all the mangled bits in boxes, and didn't sew, saving bolts of beautiful fabric from eminent destruction.

This fall, I ventured back into my sewing space. While it was good to be there again, I felt I needed a little help reclaiming my creativity. Cue the Club BMV (Butterick, McCalls, Vogue) internet sale!

This is what I scooped up: 

(Note: clicking on photos makes them larger)

3 t-shirts, clockwise from bottom:
KS3766, KS3915, V8962

 Kwik Sew 3766, on the bottom, is a Kwik Start Learn to Sew pattern. This might seem like an odd choice, given I teach t-shirt classes. The appeal is it's a good basic design, with two neckline options, and easy instructions. I want to test it as a potential class pattern.

Kwik Sew 3915, on the left, has the prettiest ruched necklines. I love the detailing. It bumps the basic t-shirt to another level.

Vogue 8962, on the top, takes my breath away. The drawing on the envelope does not do it justice and doesn't even show the best part - the gorgeous back! Fortunately a photograph of the striped version was featured in their recent new pattern line-up, and I got to see it in all its glory. The stripes in the back are cut on the bias, and hang in a beautiful chevron. Drool. I lurve this one!

2 jackets with interesting style details:
V1293 (seam-lines), V8910 (bias cut)
The white Anne Klein Jacket on the left, Vogue 1293, has the most beautiful seam-lines. Unfortunately the white fabric washes them out, so they're hard to see. Much to my surprise, this is an unlined jacket! Not even in the sleeves. Alas, the pants would not be flattering on me.... 

Vogue 8910, the jacket on the right, is cut on the bias. Every main piece, including the sleeves. I have a piece of a grey wool plaid that would make me look a little lumberjack-ish if sewn on the straight of grain, so I was delighted to find this pattern.

2 peplum jackets - (left) V8865 with odd waistline zipper,
(right) V8931 the pattern I have Big Plans for

The peplum jackets! These two make my heart beat a little faster. Peplums are flattering on me. The little flounce creates shaping and makes my straight up and down torso look more feminine.

Vogue 8865, the pattern on the left, has shoulder princess seams with an optional zipper detail at the waistline. The zipper opening is weird (it opens sideways on the waist seam, not up and down along the front) yet oddly appealing. It's a "make you look twice" detail.

I have Big Plans for the one on the right, Vogue 8931, involving mottled blue/grey/green boiled wool fabric I bought from Sawyer Brook. By a fluke, the blue matches another piece of plain boiled wool I own. I see Version C of this pattern emerging from my sewing room... 

So, dear reader, have you ever had to wrestle with your muse? Has your creativity ever deserted you? How did you bring yourself out of your sewing slump? I'd love to know.

Till next time,
Lady T

Monday, May 06, 2013

Does Size Matter?

Picking which size to use on a sewing pattern is a little like playing Pin the Tail on the Donkey. Without being able to see very well, you stab at something over and over with a pin, praying you get it right in the end. (Ha! Ha! Small joke.)

I gave up expecting a pattern to fit straight from the envelope years ago. Take in, let out (usually the latter), it's all in a day's sewing now. But which do you start with - a pattern that's too big or too small? Do you pick by high bust, full bust or the biggest body measurement?

There are as many theories for picking the proper pattern size as there are sewing gurus. If it was as simple as following the pattern's size chart, we wouldn't have this controversy. 

My favorite (and the most accurate for me) is Nancy Zieman's method when using a Big 4 pattern (Vogue, Butterick, McCall's, Simplicity), outlined in her book, Fitting Finesse. For upper torso garments (shirt, jacket, coat), Nancy Z uses the cross chest measurement, from underarm crease to underarm crease. Her baseline is 14" = Size 14. With every half inch difference, the size correspondingly goes up or down. Like this:

12-1/2" = Size 8
13" = Size 10
13-1/2" = Size 12
14" = Size 14
14-1/2" = Size 16
15" = Size 18

As I said earlier, I like this method to pick a pattern size. It eliminates measurement distortions caused by narrow or wide backs. 

This past Saturday, I taught a t-shirt fitting class to members of my sewing guild. I asked my students to take a leap of faith and pick their pattern size a la Nancy Zieman.

Convincing a busty woman to go down a pattern size or two is no mean feat! They know the center front of the larger pattern strains across center front, so no way would a smaller pattern ever fit!

And they're right. It won't.

How could it? Their full bust measurement is larger than the pattern's. To make it work, more room must be added via a full bust adjustment. Sometimes a broad back alteration is needed, too.

This raises an important question. If you have to add to a pattern to make it fit, why not start with a bigger pattern in the first place? 

The answer can be found in the neckline and upper chest. A bigger pattern has a fuller upper chest. This results in gaping necklines and fabric bubbles above the high bust caused by too much material. Using a smaller pattern reduces the amount of fabric this area, letting the cloth rest closer to the body. Extra fabric is added where it is needed - the bust and sometimes the back.

Enlarging the middle of the torso is easier than shrinking the upper chest. (Reducing the collar and its seam can be a knuckle gnawing experience.) With the smaller pattern, the garment fits in the shoulder area - important when the garment hangs from the shoulders.

Is this method foolproof? Of course not. What in life is? Tweaking is needed. Sometimes lots of tweaking.

But I think it's a darn good place to start . 

How do you pick your pattern size?

                    - Lady T

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Thumb Flick Knitting

I'm a tri-lingual knitter! I can knit English (right hand holds the working yarn), German (left hand holds working yarn) and now Portuguese (yarn worn around neck and stitches are made with a flick of the left thumb).

Granny T taught me English style knitting as a child. She wanted me to knit a million little squares to sew into a doll blanket. I never got past one blue square and one pink square. It was so hard (Do I go right to left or vice versa? How come I have more/less stitches than last time? My needles fell out - again!) yet so boring (Let's undo that row, dear, you made some mistakes....) that my knitting hobby lasted only as long as my grandmother's visit. 

I picked it up again when I was 20. I started a scarf for my then boyfriend but the knitting curse befell me. Before I was finished, he was my boyfriend no more. The next two gentlemen in the boyfriend lineup thought they should get it, or better yet, have one made especially for them. The thought of having to knit 3 fine wool scarves was enough to make me throw away my needles. 

<Cue the sound of a ticking clock> Thirty-five years went by. I found out I was going to be a grandmother.... In my joy, I decided to knit a baby blanket. My friend, B.A.D. (I get such a kick out of her initials - irony at its best), showed me how to knit English style and then for fun, she taught me to knit in the German/Continental style. 

I loved the Continental style. Even though my stitch tension wasn't as even as when I knitted English style, making the knit stitch was fast and easy. The purl stitch, however, was a different story. It was awkward and slow. I gravitated to things featuring the garter stitch or knit in the round.

Two years later, realizing I had to get over my stumbling block, I decided to make a sweater requiring the purl stitch. 

With the oodles of practice, I did get faster, and "picking" the stitch was less awkward. But my stitch tension fluctuated like the temperature on a maritime spring day.

I'm a huge fan of Sally Melville's how-to series, The Knitting Experience.  In her second book, The Purl Stitch, she outlines how to purl with the yarn around the neck, taught to her as Portuguese knitting. Intriguing. 

I ran across another reference to knitting with the yarn around the neck in Maggie Righetti's book, Knitting in Plain English, only she called it Arabic knitting. (Like all styles of knitting, naming it from a geographic location is awkward because more than one nation uses it.) 

Thoroughly intrigued and more than a little frustrated with my purl stitch, I googled "Portuguese style knitting".

Isn't the internet a marvelous thing! From several YouTube videos, I was able to get the gist of it. The working yarn goes around the neck, and stitches are made with the left thumb. I tried it. It was love at first flick. 

Helpful as they were, the YouTube videos weren't quite enough; I need more information. Then I realized one presenter, Andrea Wong, had made some commercial dvds on Portuguese style knitting. Fortunately, the local public library owned them, so I swooped in and picked them up. 

Wow! Oh wow! Thumb flicking knitting is fab-u-lous!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

And the Winner is....

Final episode of The Great British Sewing Bee. What fabulous challenges! And the winner is....

Find out here:
Episode 4 - The Finals

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Episode 3

Did you enjoy the first two episodes of The Great British Sewing Bee? The third one is up. Here's the link:

As with the first two, I loved this episode. What the contestants did is amazing. There was one thing that disappointed - I think they helped one person too much. She's a sweetie and I can see why everyone wants her to do well, but it did smack of favoritism. Perhaps everyone got that kind of attention but if so, it sure doesn't show in the editing.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Sewing Shows

As you've probably guessed, I love all things sewing. This extends past the sewing room and permeates just about every aspect of my life, including television/YouTube watching.

I enjoy Project Runway. Notice I didn't say I love PR.  American tv seems to think conflict=interest to the point of artificially "enhancing" conflict if the real stuff is absent. The "personal conflict" in PR is my least favorite part of the show and I wish the producers would remove every scrap of it. It's boring and takes away from the real conflict - taming the chosen pieces of fabric and forcing them to conform to the designers' visions. 

Anyone who sews knows the struggle of bringing your vision to life. Although fabric is supposed to be inanimate, it often seems to have a mind of its own. And the fight for dominance between a commercial sewing pattern and an actual body is not for the faint of heart.

I was thrilled to catch the rumblings of a new sewing show, The Great British Sewing Bee, on some sewing blogs and hastened to find the links. 

Hurray! something new that isn't a clone of PR, like the short-lived Project Runway Canada. 

While PR's focus is to find the best designer, the Sewing Bee's aim is to find the best home sewer. (Personally, I find sewing and designing go hand in hand, so the distinction isn't as black and white as it sounds. But that's a topic for another day.) I especially like that the contestants sew 3 garments/challenges before the judges decide who to eliminate. It seems fairer that way. One horrible garment isn't going to knock you out.

If I've piqued your interest, you can follow these links to the YouTube posts for episodes 1 and 2.

Episode 1

Episode 2

Happy viewing!

              -  Lady T

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


After this past week, it's easy to see why I disappear from the blog world. The projects I've been working on have had serious glitches and I've been dithering about what to do with them. Let me give you a recent example.

Last Friday was my birthday. As Birthday Queen, I claimed the right to sew for me on my day. As I was knee deep in other things (like pattern drafting), I wanted a short, simple project. 

Silhouette Patterns #600, the basic blouse, has been in my queue for awhile. Peggy Sagers has several podcasts featuring this blouse. Have you seen her podcasts? They're great. I've learned so much from them. I'm a big fan of Peggy's.

Alas, the first basic blouse podcast, the one where Peggy demonstrates how to fit this pattern, is currently unavailable. Their broadcast technology has changed and this old one must be giving them problems. I hope it comes back, or they redo it, because it was great.

In a more recent podcast, Peggy constructs this blouse, including cutting it out, in an hour. And she isn't even rushed. When the session ended, all she had left to do were the hems and buttonholes/buttons. 

I really, really wanted to love this blouse. I knew that once I tweaked the fit, the whole series of shirt/blouse patterns would open up to me as Peggy uses the same basic block for them all. 

But this pattern is so homely on me. The neck does not come anywhere close to my neckline, it goes halfway up my throat. The garment doesn't skim my body - it hangs from me in a way that waist darts could never cure. The armscye is too low, and the sleeves seriously restrict my arm movement. 

I could adjust this pattern but would be more than tweaking. And the style of the basic blouse isn't appealing enough for me to want to put in the time. As a zippity-quick top, it was fine. For extended fitting work, not so much. 

Other patterns fit me better, with less work. As much as I admire the Silhouette philosophy, I don't seem to fit their body type. I wanted to love it. Dang.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Internet Angel

An internet angel visited me, via email. Lori A. Knowles, author of The Practical Guide to Patternmaking for Fashion Designers: Menswear (known on this blog as Patternmaking: Menswear) sent me a long email with encouragement and some numbers to help me with my draft. The armscye is now in a wearable position. Thanks, Lori!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Charting Frustration

Measurement chart = Frustration
Two measurements charts = (Frustration)2

In case you haven't guessed, I've run into a snag in drafting the first pattern block. It was coming together swimmingly (very clear instructions), until I had to form the armscye. On my draft, the location for armscye is wrong. I've double-checked my work, and it's not the drafting. Therefore it's mostly likely the measurements.

Getting accurate measurements is essential. But finding the body's landmarks is challenging, and locating imaginary locations (ie side-seams) is an exercise in self-doubt. When taking the measurements, I tried to be uber precise but it was tricky with my fingers crossed.

As I worked my way through the required measurements in The Practical Guide to Patternmaking for Fashion Designers: Menswear (aka Patternmaking: Menswear), I took comfort knowing  the book included a detailed Standard Measurement Chart in precisely the size I needed in case I messed up. 

With typical can-do! enthusiasm, my brain glossed over the fact that the Standard Measurement Chart has only 27 measurements, while the drafting chart requires 53. Alas, no one demanded a reality check and I was too full of optimism to do one.

As you've probably already guessed, I couldn't check the measurement I had taken against its counterpart in the Standard Measurement Chart because the Standard Measurement Chart didn't include it.

Annoyed with myself for not doing this sooner, I cross-checked the two charts to find out which measurements were missing. From the math, I expected they would have 27 measurements in common. By my count, they have 22 measurements in common. 

In other words, by my reckoning, the Standard Measurement Chart has 4 measurements that were not included in the drafting measuring chart. The drafting measurement chart has 31 measurements not recorded on the Standard Measurement Chart. Darn!

This made me curious. Could I draft the pattern block using the Standard Measurement Chart? 

After pondering it for awhile, I came to the sad conclusion that at this moment in time, I could not. While I can divide the full circumference measurements listed in the Standard Measurement Chart into the quarter circumference measurements required for the draft, I don't know how to extrapolate some of the others. A patternmaker with more experience most likely could, especially if they knew alternate methods of locating a body point on the paper. But I cannot. 

I'm at a roadblock. How do I proceed? Do I do my best guess? I have an idea of how to fudge it so my block draft will look more like the example (no way would the armscye work where it is presently located on my draft). I could probably correct it in the muslin/trial garment stage. Once I have the block finished and fitting properly, I won't need the measurements anymore; further patterns are developed from the block draft.

Or do I use a different drafting system to develop the block?

This is one of the flaws of self-learning. If I were in a class, with a knowledgeable teacher, the teacher would probably know how to correct my draft and deduce whether the mistake came from an erroneous measurement, a misinterpretation of the instructions, or a typo in the printed text. 

Working solo, I just have to figure it out myself. In the end, that's the best way, but man, these roadblocks are painful.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

UFO Escapes

Stud Muffin's New Shirt
Today, two garments managed to escape from my UFO (UnFinished Objects) sewing pile. A-ma-zing! Two completed garments in a single day! The fact that both were nearly finished in no way negates this miraculous occurrence. They've been "resting" in that UFO pile so long, it's a wonder they didn't disintegrate.

First to escape was the black and white striped shirt I made for Stud Muffin. The project stalled when I couldn't get my buttonholer to work reliably. (I think the problem was the lump in the chair.) After all the work I'd put in to the shirt, I wasn't going to finish it with shoddy buttonholes. No sirree!  Better to submerge the dang shirt in the UFO pile where it could be forgotten/ignored. (Punishment for being difficult?)

Under collar with its collar stay pocket
I hauled both the shirt and the buttonholer out and tried again. Success! The project almost stalled at sewing on the buttons but guilt kept me going and voila - finished shirt! 

I like the pattern play of sleeve, placket
and cuff
Stud Muffin is rather conservative and the stripe of the fabric is quite bold. I knew I had to limit the shirt's design elements or else it would not be worn. Alas, I think I restricted myself a little too much. For a striped shirt, it's rather plain. I love the sleeve placket and cuff play of patterns and wish I'd added one tiny detail on the front. Next time....

Finishing the first project felt so good, I moved on to another - pj pants that were Stud Muffin's Christmas present. Everything was done but the elastic. Can you imagine - that's where I stopped! My excuse was I wanted to cut the elastic to size, as the last pair I sewed for him are in danger of sliding off whenever he sneezes. Oops! I corralled the man, the elastic and the pj bottoms and came away with another success.
Bay City Roller pants? (I'm dating myself
with that reference.)

If all that excitement isn't enough, I started pattern drafting today. I finished the front upper torso block. I'll tackle it again tomorrow.

            - Lady T

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Measure of a Man

Taking the measure of a man has long intrigued society. 

"The measure of a man is what he does with power." Plato

"The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good." Ann Landers

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." Martin Luther King

Today I took the measure of a man - 53 of them to be precise. From marking key torso locations to rechecking the calculations, it took the better part of an hour. During that time, I was given the opportunity to take, as well, the philosophical measure of the man, my son. I'm proud to say, he's no whiner or complainer. Not once did he indicate he was uncomfortable, bored or self-conscious and I know he was all three. How could he not be? 

This bodes well for the project. A patient, pleasant client  is so much easier to work with. Especially if it's your son.

Back to the numerical measurements, which is what this blog post is really about....

The Practical Guide to Patternmaking: Menswear by Lori A. Knowles asks for 53 measurements. Ugh. So many. 

My kinder side thinks the system is very thorough. The grumpier side wonders how many of them are going to be a waste of time. In her fabulously detailed size charts, Lori Knowles lists a mere 27 measurement. When I'm drafting the patterns, I'm going to put a dot beside every new measurement I use and see if all 53 I took are used by the end of the book. 

Finding the physical landmarks on the body is a challenge, and it's nerve-wracking to know the success of the pattern draft depends upon getting them right. Where the heck is the shoulder point? Lucky is the person with bony shoulders and a clearly visible bump. What about the side seam? God didn't sew us up, so there isn't one; the poor person measuring has to take their best guess. Same with the waist; some people may have a definitive indent but lots don't (me included!). Chest, knee, ankle, elbow - those I had better luck with.

I marked my son's skin and clothes with washable markers, elastic, and chalk-o-liner, and looped a chain around his neck. By the end of the session, he looked like a toddler who'd gotten into the craft drawer and played with all the supplies. Sorry, no photos - you'll have to use your imagination.

Originally I'd planned to take both the imperial and metric measurements to keep my options open. Last night I decided to work primarily with Lori Knowles' book so I dispensed with the metric measurements. If they prove necessary, I'll torture my son with another measuring session some other time.

Tomorrow I'll inch (bad pun!) my way into the torso pattern draft.

                     - Lady T

Friday, January 11, 2013

Pattern drafting: Menswear

Mail's in! The menswear pattern drafting books I ordered have arrived. 

I bought two: Metric Pattern Cutting for Menswear by Winifred Aldrich, and The Practical Guide to Patternmaking for Fashion Designers: Menswear by Lori A. Knowles. 

Both have fabulous reviews online. But I couldn't figure which one to purchase without holding them in my hands and flipping through them, so I ordered both. Overkill maybe, but I like options. I'm about to invest hundreds of hours learning a new skill <gulp!>, so I wanted to pick my teacher(s) carefully. The reviews did not lie; both books are excellent. 

Metric Pattern Cutting for Menswear (henceforth called Metric Pattern Cutting) is from the UK, and as the title suggests, the measurements are taken in metric. As I'm Canadian, I'm used to working in metric, so this doesn't faze me. The Practical Guide to Patternmaking for Fashion Designers: Menswear (abbreviated to Patternmaking: Menswear) hails from the USA and its measurements are imperial. I'm old enough to have been taught feet and inches in school before the big metric measurement conversion in Canada, so I'm happy working in either system.

Both books have handy standard sizing charts. In Metric Pattern Cutting, there are charts for sizes UK 87-112 (US 34-44), with separate charts for young athletic figures and for mature figures. There's also a collar size chart, another that combines pants and overgarments (coats) (which I thought was an odd combo), and yet another for standard small, medium, large and extra large sizing. Finally, there is an adjustment chart for short (163-170cm/5'4" - 5'7") or tall (183-190cm/6'-6'3") figures giving the amount you need to decrease or increase in key locations. Lots and lots of charts that are basically presenting the same measurement but using different defining criteria.

Patternmaking: Menswear also has excellent charts. They have separate standardized charts for men's Regular (5'10") in sizes 34R-54R, Short (5'6") in sizes 32S-52S, and Tall (6'2") in sizes 36T-56T. The last one made me do that happy dance because that's my Big Guy's chart, which I've never found before. As well, Patternmaking: Menswear has tables for crotch extensions, hem widths, knee widths, crotch curves and arm measurements for sizes 32-54/56. There is also a short section on how to proportion the design sketches to fit taller/shorter men. Personally, I found these charts more useful for my purposes because they include my son's measurements.

A big difference between the two books is the number of basic blocks that are drafted from measurements. Metric Pattern Cutting has lots, based on garment types. For the upper torso, these are the basic garment blocks: the "flat" shirt block, the "flat"" overgarment block, the tee shirt/knitwear block, jersey overgarment block, classic shirt block, tailored shirt block, casual shirt block, basic jacket block, easy fitting casual jacket block, easy fitting overgarment block. Each block is drafted from scratch using measurements. For some blocks, you should have separately drafted sub-blocks for fitted, semi-fitted, and loose fitting garments. No doubt once done these drafts would make it super easy to whip up new designs in their categories. I've read that professional pattern makers usually start with garment blocks (like those listed above) when designing. But that's a lot of blocks....

Patternmaking Menswear drafts only 3 basic blocks from measurements: the upper body block, the fitted sleeve block, and the trouser block. Chapter 3 focuses on drafting and perfecting these three simple drafts. The rest of the book is devoted to how to use these basic blocks to design fashion garments including shirts (Chpt 4), vests (Chpt 5), pants (Chpt 6), jackets and coats (Chpt 7), and linings (Chpt 8). The basic blocks are altered to make the new patterns - sections are lowered, raised, widened, narrowed, etc and the finished pattern looks significantly different from the original basic block.

Both systems include basic wearing ease. Metric Pattern Cutting includes 1cm (3/8") seam allowances in its drafts, Patternmaking: Menswear does not include seam allowances. Both books are well written and easy to understand. Both include lots of garment drafts. An extra perk with Patternmaking: Menswear is the book's binding; inside the hard cover is a spiral coil, allowing the book to lie flat. 

I've been debating with myself about which book to use. I thought the best choice would be obvious, but it's not. 

I love the size charts in Patternmaking: Menswear and the speed of drafting just three basic patterns, then using them as the base for all other patterns. But is it too easy? Will it give good results?

Metric Pattern Cutting is more complex - numerous garment drafts, all done from measurements. I can see the value of doing it this way for a manufacturing company, but is it more work than is necessary when making patterns for one specific person? Part of me suspects the garment block system may end up with a superior product. I love high quality.

Sigh. Which one, which one?

My son comes in tomorrow to be measured. I'll take both sets of measurements, metric and imperial, as specified in each book. Then I'll make my final decision. Right now, I'm leaning towards the KISS (Keep It Simple, Sister) philosophy. 

Any thoughts? 

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Roadblocks, Detours, and Unexpected Directions

I'm not sure if this is true for everyone, but rarely do creative projects end up exactly as I envisioned them. Something unexpected happens between the start and the finish, something that stops the forward motion and makes me rethink/redo the project.

The baby blanket I'm knitting is a perfect example. Started just before Christmas, it's for a grandchild due to make an appearance any day now. Although I'm not very skilled as a knitter, I enjoy the task, and I wanted the baby to have something Nana made.

A few months ago, the ultrasound technician declared my daughter was having a girl. Since then, we've gotten in the habit of calling the unborn baby "she". Most likely the baby is female. But there's always the chance....

Knowing there could always be a surprise at the delivery, I decided to make the blanket in a unisex colour. I picked a simple pattern with a K2, P2 border that switches on every row for a decorative effect (instead of a ribbed one) and a mostly knit interior with with the occasional purl stitch vertical line to keep it from being too plain.

At the yarn store, I picked the beautiful Cascade Yarns Ultra Pima Cotton yarn in a bright shade of turquoise. Gorgeous even though it isn't a typical "baby" shade.

Decisions made, I started knitting. And something happened. 

I couldn't stay on track with the simple stitch pattern. I ripped out and tried again. Uh-huh. Within a few rows, I was off the stitch pattern again. (Roadblock!)

Something happens when I knit. I go into LaLa Land. There's something about the repetitive hand motion that makes most knitters' brains jump from the left (logic, orderly) hemisphere to the right (creative, free-thinking) side. My brain leaps to the right with such eagerness, I find it very difficult (almost impossible) to maintain the order of a stitch pattern. Even this ultra simple stitch pattern seemed to be too much structure.

Wanting to enjoy the baby blanket knitting process, I decided do make a blanket with plain knitting. (Detour!) Since I already had the beautiful turquoise yarn, I restarted with it.

Even with such a spectacular colour, the all-knit blanket seemed boring. Who wants to give their grandbaby an uninteresting blanket? 

So I decided stripes would liven things up. (Unexpected Direction!) Back to the yarn shop I went to exchange my unused hanks for other colours. Since I had already committed to the Cascade Ultra Pima yarn, I felt I should continue with the same brand to avoid further complications. 

Alas, the colour choices were not quite what I had in mind. The yellow was too mustard/gold. The coral was intense. My husband and I and the yarn store lady played around for a bit and came out with a pretty colour scheme: turquoise, white, coral, deep teal-turquoise.

I love it. I think it's gorgeous. But it's not very babyish.

If I were starting the project again, knowing it would be a striped, all-knit patterned blanket, I would not have picked this colorway because it is so far out of the realm of baby things. I'm not saying this colorway is wrong, I'm not saying I don't like it. I am saying I would not have picked it for this project.

My oh my how this blanket has evolved! It started with a slightly  bold and bright turquoise unisex yarn. The end will be far, far different....

Hope you like bright stripes, Baby!

             - Lady T

Monday, January 07, 2013

Attempting Something New

Tall Boy wearing muslin #2b
In December, Tall Boy asked me to make him a zippered fleecy. He wanted one to wear under his gear, so he wouldn't turn into a block of ice during his day-long games of Airsoft. 

Sounds like a simple project, doesn't it?

Problem is Tall Boy is so tall, he doesn't fit standard patterns. They don't even come close. To get an idea of his size, look at the nearest doorway. He would completely fill it. Mosquitoes would have a hard time squeezing through the tiny slivers of space between him and the frame. He's tall (hence his name), but pattern-wise he's even taller than he seems because all of his height is in his body, not his legs. His inseam is only 31" (same as mine!). All the rest is torso.

Knowing there wasn't a commercial pattern available, I tried to make one by cloning a sweatshirt he often wears. (Fortunately he can buy clothes in his size, even if I can't purchase patterns.) I traced, guessed, measured, and guessed some more, and finally came up with a pattern. Fortunately the local fabric store had a sale on fleece and I bought a whole bunch.

Muslin #1 went on his body. Yay! But it wasn't attractive, nor was it comfortable. It was full of grafted pieces. The armscye looked awkward. And the back was just plain wrong. My cloned pattern was a dismal failure.

So I thought. And thought. And thought. 

For Muslin #2, I took the largest sweatshirt pattern I could find and expanded it. The upper chest was much too short, so I lengthened it, front and back. Unfortunately, I couldn't just expand the sleeve head, so I redrafted the sleeve pattern completely. As I worked my way through, I tried to take what was right about Muslin #1 and morph it into the second rendition.

It turns out I added too much extra length in the upper chest and expanded the side side-seams too much width. After hemming and hawing, I recut the pieces then sewed it together one final time for Muslin 2b, which you see in the photo at the top. It's better... but not great.

I decided I need to get serious about learning pattern-making. I've dabbled in it before, enough to realize it's challenging work that takes oodles of time, patience and muslin. When sewing for myself, I found starting with a purchased pattern was so much easier, even with alterations. 

But Tall Boy does not even come close to fitting into commercial patterns. I need a better solution. It's time to take the plunge.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

In and Out

In and out. I seem to do that a lot - pop in to blogsville for awhile then pop out again. But that's not what I meant by In and Out.

The beginning of a new year is often a time of reflection. Looking back on my year of sewing and blogging, I'm shocked to see how far off I am from my goal of 52 Projects in 52 Weeks. Ouch!

This is especially weird considering how often I sew. Not quite every day, but most.

So where is the proof, aka finished projects?

You got me there....

Quite a few things go unblogged. The curtain hemming, the clothing alterations, the undies, the rejects, the unfinished.

I'm squirming a little thinking about how many projects get abandoned. Usually it's not conscious as in "I hate this, into the garbage it goes". It's more, "Oh dear, I better do x now." Or, "This project is so exciting, I'll start it now." Occasionally it's, "Oops, this is wrong. Let me think about it a bit more."

Looking back, I can see that I'm the queen of Good Intentions and an absolute lightweight at Follow-through.

Fortunately January brings the start of a new year. Yay! So out with the guilt of not doing better.

And in with the zeal of the creative spirit wanting to leap out and dance, er, sew! And perhaps a sewing plan....

Happy New Year, dear readers! I hope your creative spirit soars in 2013.

           Lady T