Saturday, June 18, 2022

made my heart sing

Of course, if you've ever read my blog, you know how much I love fabrics -  textures, natural, especially linen. Occasionally I spot a piece that makes my heart beat just a little faster. Has that ever happened to you?

Recently I was shopping at Five Eighths fabric shop in Charleston SC, as I often do when visiting DD. They straddle the themes of quilting and garment making, with a strong focus on cotton. On this occasion, I had already selected my fabrics and they had been cut for me when I took one last look around.

There in the (mostly) quilting cottons, I spotted this beauty by Marcia Derse. I have made garments with her cotton designs before and knew it would work for a garment. Plus it was just so very gorgeous, I had to have it.

After checking out, I told her not to worry about putting that one in my bag - I planned to admire and pet it on the way home. 

After much consideration, I decided I would love an Esme dress, one of the patterns in Lotta Jansdotter's book Everyday Style. I had made it as a top and wear it all the time. So I was pretty sure I would love it as a dress.

I added inseam pockets which I love.

I guessed at the length and it was a little short, so I made bias facings for the hem. Bias binding on the neckline and a simple turned-up hem on the sleeves finished it off.

Of course, I added a little something on the back neckline - this time a loop from a bias tube.

I am still crazy about this fabric. 

Thursday, June 2, 2022

Remember the Plaza Jacket?

Do you remember the Plaza pattern from the Sewing Workshop? I made the pants over and over again, with and without the front pleat. They are essentially the same as One Seam Pants from Cutting Line Designs.

I made the jacket just once. I have kept it all these years and worn only occasionally. But I do love the fabric which is a tapestry-type weave, probably cotton, something I bought in the fashion district of NYC back in the early 90's. 

Stash was expanded when I visited Charleston SC recently. There is a sweet fabric shop called Five Eighth Seams there. If you are ever looking for an amazing supply of 100% cotton gingham, go there - every imaginable color and light weight corduroy to match. I want more of that!

But I also found this glorious piece of rayon challis (and a yummy Marcia Derse cotton you'll see on my blog soon). These contain so many colors that make my heart sing. I could not wait to sew the rayon challis up. 

The Plaza jacket is charming, I think. Very, very wide. Short chunky sleeves. Almost a shrug length. I'm thinking it would make a practical throw for summer air conditioning as is, right out of the pattern envelope.

For this one, I lengthened it 15" and created deep hems to add some weight. I also reduced the width of it by about 4 inches total. The pattern pieces are essentially rectangular so it was easy to make these two changes.

Rayon challis is icky to sew. I just have to be honest here. I do love the drape and the airy feel but it takes patience, I think. As you probably know, it is man-made but not synthetic since it comes from wood and other plants. Invented in the late 19th century, it was initially marketed as synthetic silk. The chemical process was improved in the mid-twentieth century. Processes for creating rayon include viscose, lyocell, and modal, as I understand it. And all are nasty for the environment.

Back to icky. I love to iron with lots of steam. Rayon becomes very unstable when steamed. Heck, it's pretty unstable just sitting on the cutting table. So a simple garment is essential, I think.

I used some flat-felled seams but mostly I serged it. I probably should have stayed with the flat-felled seams, to be honest. I became enamored of the selvedge and so used it for one front band and the sleeve hems. That too caused me a bit of grief.

I'll enjoy this little topper. I'll use it as a swimsuit cover up should the occasion arise. It will be great for air-conditioned restaurants. I love these rich colors. 


Look at it with this icy pink silk noil! Ah, on the next project.

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Deep Dive into Bias

Some months ago I volunteered to teach a class on sewing with bias to my ASG neighborhood group, City Wide Couture. I've been clipping articles and pictures and noting websites ever since.

Then I finally took the deep dive into my Threads magazines. Yep, I have physical magazines. Searching for articles on bias can be tricky, as all searching engines are limited. I did find a good one though. Using titles containing *bias* was too limiting. So I searched for the word *bias* and manually eliminated all those that simply contained the word, bias.

Charles Kleibacker Bias-cut Design

I do not have every issue but my filtering yielded plenty. So I began to read and make notes. There were a few articles about Charles Kleibacker and Madeline Vionnet. And Marcy Tilton wrote a number of articles with excellent how-to advice. Other authors touched on it here and there.

Madeline Vionnet Design

In addition I found some amazing videos from the 70's and 80's of Charles Kleibacker such as this one on cutting bias garments. What a treasure. The quality of the film is not what we're used to today and so it took me multiple viewings to understand his approach. Here are some interesting ideas that I had not considered:

  • light drapey fabrics provide *drip* and stable fabrics provide *lift* when cut on the bias. He used this idea strategically in design. Coffin notes that drip fabrics cling to curves and lift fabrics skim the curves. 
  • Avoid cutting until you absolutely must. Some seams can be basted together while the traced pattern is still a part of the yardage.
  • Pattern pieces should be mirrored as you work your way around the body.
  • Through careful thread-tracing and basting, one should *stretch like crazy* while using the sewing machine. 
  • CF and CB seams can be used to create symmetry, if desired.
Very few of the patterns available to home sewers are bias cut. Many contain bias portions. Some even involve cutting and sewing on grain, and then wearing on the bias. But these are not bias cut. Here is an example from Fashion in Harmony.

The Emerald Dress and Top from Made by Rae is one that I have purchased and used. There are very few others that are bias cut, sewn and worn. I blogged on that pattern a while back. The seam allowances for that pattern are only 0.5" but I had no difficulty, and I still love the fit and drape of both garments.

Marcy Tilton maintains that many garments can be cut and sewn on the bias, even though not designed that way. She even shows how to take a basic one-seam pant pattern and do just that in this article: Tilton, Marcy, “Bias Pants,” Threads, Number 116, Dec 2004/Jan 2005, p. 44.

In order to better understand the techniques and ideas I read, I decided to try a simple one on my own. I chose the Eureka Top from the Sewing Workshop. I have made this over and over again size M but it has always run large, so I decided to try a size XS. I decided from the get-go that I would strive to follow the advice given by the gurus but remain practical and true to my own desire for joy.

First I traced the XS pattern from the original tissue and removed the 5/8" seam allowances. Then I used a grid to mark both bias grainlines on the front and back tissues. I wanted a balanced design and so I planned a center front and center back seam on each. I also chose to redraw the neckline so that a V cut fell along the straight-of-grain. It was just too tempting to avoid. As you'll see, I used the selvedge as my neckline edge. I also lengthened the pattern by 4+ inches.

I further reduced the complexity by selecting a piece of yarn-dyed striped cotton that is identical on both sides. Charles Kleibacker recommends that every fabric be cut with nap, and that the right side be marked carefully so as to be consistent in the cutting and sewing. I did not think I needed those extra hurdles here.

Laying the fabric out single layer, I pinned the pattern tissue for 1st front piece and thread-traced on the sewing lines. Then I rough cut it with generous one-inch seam allowances.

Moving the first piece very carefully, I used it to lay out the 2nd front piece on my yardage, again carefully aligning the neckline with the selvedge. Instead of thread-tracing the stitching lines on the 2nd piece, I used transfer paper and traced the seam lines using the 1st front piece as my guide. This is similar to what CK does in his video.

Then, before cutting the 2nd front piece, I basted the center-fronts together at the stitching line. I used the Charles Kleibacker (CK) technique for basting that is also referenced on this blog for Folkwear patterns. I did have to carefully pick up both pieces as I basted to make sure the basted seam lines on the 1st front aligned with the marked seamlines on the 2nd front.

Note that the two fronts must be mirror images of each other. The same is true of the two back pieces. This is due to the fact that there are two bias grains. The two biases will hang differently depending on where the warp and weft threads are located, and will twist as you sew if the pieces are not mirrored. Continue to mirror the grain as you work your way around the body. If there are not CF or CB seams, then be sure that the front piece mirrors the back piece in terms of the bias chosen.

I rough-cut the 2nd front piece, generally following my rough-cut on the 1st front piece. I was anxious to try the CK method of machine sewing bias cut seams. He said over and over again, "Stretch like mad!"

The cool basting technique created enough give in the basted seam to allow me to do just that, stretch like mad. It was fun! I was sure it would fail but I pressed pedal to the metal with wild abandon and sewed with a typical 2.4 mm length straight stitch. 

Next I carefully cut and sewed the two back pieces in the same manner. I must confess that at this point my patience was just barely in check, but I persisted.

After sewing the center-front and center-back seams, I basted first one side seam, and then the next. Again I used the CK method for basting seams so that I could *stretch like mad* at the machine. I followed the same technique for the shoulder seams though I probably did not need to do so.

Then I tried it on. Ta-da! It fit. I could not believe my eyes. It totally fit. And the stripes even matched up creating satisfying chevrons.

At this point, I happily finished all seams with a 3-thread serger. I finished the hemline by simply folding it up an inch and using a running stitch and light gray pearl cotton thread. I finished the armholes by folding under 5/8" and stitching with a contrast pearl cotton thread. I added a bit of that to the neckline, as well as along the CF and CB seams. 

And I have worn it and washed it. No torqueing or stretching occurred.

I made another Eureka after this, using thrifted men's shirts with yarn-dyed designs. I want to make a straight-of-grain version that would be very close to this XS one on the bias for comparison. I blogged about this second experimental shirt here

Too bad I did not carefully record the original length of the bias version, but I am convinced that the process did not distort the pattern in any significant way. Here they are aligned on my cutting table. Both have been worn and washed.

How cool is that!

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Edgewater Dress

This one is a winner, I think. It is the latest pattern published by the Sewing Workshop, the Edgewater dress and skirt. I think I wear dresses more than skirts so I made the dress. I might make the skirt later.

The pattern calls for knits, except for the lower bands. I had enough of these three knits to make the dress with color-blocking, but not enough of any one of them to make an entire dress. So that decision was easy. I was not in the mood to buy more fabric. And, I'm delighted with this result.

The knits are not entirely compatible. The red, as well as the navy-and-white stripe are rayon + lycra, whereas the cheddar color is cotton + lycra. I think it works anyway. Knits are so forgiving. 

I took measurements and decided on the size S. Though I measure a size M, I chose size S. I don't like too much ease through the shoulders and bust and there is plenty of ease through the hips in a size S. I also made my usual forward shoulder adjustment. And I removed 1.5" out of the lower circumference of the short sleeve. This was to prevent the sleeves from *winging out*.

It is very easy construction, so I jumped right in after reading the instructions. I was almost ready to sew the bottom panels when I spotted a FB post showing a customer's finished dress. Amy, the poster, is 6' tall and her size M finished plenty long for her. I checked and the length difference between the S and the M is miniscule. I am 5'5". 

The pattern contains lengthen/shorten lines in two horizontal lines on the dress. I shortened the dress by 3" by spreading that over the lines (1.5" each). This created quite the jump along some seamlines, somewhat worrisome on the curved seams.

Luckily I had not sewn any side seams. I was able to lay out the pieces one at a time and recut with the adjusted pattern tissue. 

As for the curved seam, I held my mouth just right and did my best. Because these are knits, I knew that I could smoosh things pretty easily.

I thought that this dress pattern was quite similar to TSW's Memphis dress. It is similar, but it is also quite different. And I believe I like it better than the Memphis.

What a fun pattern to make. I hope I wear it a lot.