Sunday, July 5, 2015

exploring corsets, corselets and bra-making

Corsets are pretty interesting, aren't they? I haven't "needed" one but I've always wanted to make one and now my wish has been granted. 
This is mockup #2 - a single layer corset made from coutil.
I created the channels from the serged seam allowances.
Instead of setting in the eyelets, I used eyelet tape - quicker & easier.
I decided to start with something pretty basic so I could make my beginners' mistakes and learn the ropes. I sewed mockup #1 using a very stable shirting fabric and rigilene boning (because it is so easy to stitch it in). The fit needed only small tweaking; I drafted the pattern from the moulage I'd made. I moved on to mockup #2, this time sewn in coutil. It felt like it was almost sewing itself until it came time to attach the tips to the spiral steel boning. Oh my! It found it difficult to get the tips attached securely and if you get boning stuck into a channel, that tip will come off while pulling the boning back out. Then you need to unpick the seam to get it out take a break! While I was resting my hands and my attitude, I found some other options online. I plan to pick up some Plasti Dip at the hardware store and give that a try.

Meanwhile, I researched corselets, too. You may have seen pictures of inner corselets on couture dresses:

This is a highly customized way to provide structure to a gown.
I still think a stand-alone corset is the best option for our situation, though I was attracted to the lightness of the corselets. They can be cooler as they are sewn from cotton tulle (aka bobbinet) So I looked for and found a reasonably priced source of English bobbinet online (here) and placed my order.

At the base of my half-size dress form, there is normally a stack of fabrics. I put it away and now there is rigilene there. That's all I am doing - this summer is all about formalwear and alterations!
And, except for the buttons,  I finished my jacket!

I used the 4-ply crepe silk to line the jacket, with a rayon in the sleeves. I had also ordered silk charmeuse in this color but it must have been from a different dye lot because it was more of a periwinkle. That was a little disappointing. I decided to "make it work" with the 4-ply in the body and rayon lining in the sleeve.

The color is perfect and this is not easy to find. I looked locally - at G Street Fabrics and A Fabric Place. I couldn't even find a pale silver that looked nice to me. So! That's finished.
 Does the jacket look a little different? If so, I hope it looks better!

When I studied the photos from my last post, I did not like the way the lapels were behaving. I had cut the under layers to be 1/8" smaller to account for turn of cloth, and I pressed the heck out of it, but it still looked sloppy to me. I unpicked the seam all along on the outer collar edge, so I could get inside and remove some bulk. Once it was opened, I could see that the collar stand didn't line up properly with the roll line on the lapel - my mistake made during drafting the pattern. I removed the interfacing on the stand of the collar and I removed another 1/8" from the outer edge of the under collar. These seams had already been trimmed, so I had to stitch it all back together without handling the fabric too much, or it would have frayed into a hot mess. It all worked out beautifully because now the lapels lay open wider as I had imagined and the collar looks more graceful. Except for buttons and buttonholes, the jacket is finished.

Thank you for all the feedback on my post about skirt options! I really appreciate the opinions. I am leaning towards the knee-length full softly-pleated skirt but I am putting that off for a little while as I pursue corset experimentation.

I may still try a long line bra, which is an interesting concept, too. I've taken both of Beverly Johnson's classes on and they are excellent - I want her to teach another class and get into long-line bras!! I've made several bras, years ago, using her Pin Up Girl Classic pattern - it creates a very pretty profile. If you are interested in more information along these lines, there are a lot of good articles on

Oh - one more project! Bridesmaid dress alteration: when the teal fabric arrived, the color match was not close enough. Lesson learned: color is hard to judge from a small Pantone chip. The dress had a lining /underlayer topped with chiffon. I took a panel of fabric from the lining/underlayer. I replaced it with the wrong side of a poly satin I found locally. With the chiffon overlay, the "off" color underneath was not visible. I used the fabric I stole from the underlayer to make the gussets in the side seams. In the end, it worked.

OK, that is what I have done and that is where I am.
More to come!!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

skirt options- Mother of the Bride ensemble

It has been raining a lot lately, which makes for excellent sewing weather. My jacket is almost finished. I haven't attached the peplum yet because I wanted to take photos of skirt options - and there is a chance I'll go with a cropped jacket, skipping the peplum all together.

First up, how does my jacket look with cut-offs? Ha!
I only wear these shorts at the beach, so not an option.
I am on the lookout for silver sandals /shoes, though,
so I wore these UGGs to confirm that yes, I do like the silver shoes.

Fabric came in the mail to me this week. I ended up with more brocade because there was some staining on my original purchase. When I contacted Mendel Goldberg, they responded quickly and very graciously sent me another piece of fabric - and look at that! There is enough to make a matching skirt!

How about an A-line skirt? I suppose it could work ...

or a slim skirt? If I don't peg it, I think it could be comfortable enough.

There is something about a matching suit, isn't there?

I took this photo to see if I could imagine this with a cropped jacket, or whether the peplum would look better. To my eye, there is no clear winner - either option would work.

But that's not all - my silk came, too.
I ordered this from EmmaOneSock in color #122 and wow,
the color matches beautifully! Really, it couldn't be any better.
My thought is a very full knee-length skirt with soft pleats.
I do think the cropped jacket would work better with a full skirt.
And one more idea - how about a long skirt?

I can't say the pictures necessarily help me decide. I am pretty sure the jacket would look better with a peplum if I go with a long skirt.
Of course, pants would be nice, too, but I am going to stay traditional and wear a skirt.

Mainly, I am very happy that the hardest part of this project is behind me, and that was drafting the pattern. I can't wait to sew more jackets using this pattern as a base.

So, what do you think? It is an embarrassment of riches, right? No matter what I choose, there will be leftover fabric that can be used for other projects. And no matter what I make, I'll end up with separates that may or may not ever be worn again. That's hard to predict.

In addition to my own outfit, I have sewn up a 1st mockup of an inner corselet for my daughter's wedding gown. I used this image found on Pinterest to draft the pattern from the moulage I made for her:

I copied this - but notice there are no grainlines marked.
My experimenting will have to show me what works best.

I sure do wish there was a craftsy class for corset making. There is a lesson on moving princess seams in Suzy Furrer's Creative Darts and Seamlines class, so that got me started anyway. I ordered some rigilene to use as boning, and if that isn't effective, I'll try flexible steel which I can order from Susan Khalje's website.

And there is one more little project. My stepdaughter will be a bridesmaid in a couple weeks so she picked up her dress yesterday. It was not a happy moment, because the dress is too small. She brought the dress to me, and we quickly ascertained that EmmaOneSock sells a shade of teal that seems to match her dress perfectly (THANK YOU PANTONE COLOR GUIDES!!) Her polyester dress will have a silk gusset under her arms and to make it suit her even better, I will add sleeves. I really think I am going to add a drafting table to my sewing nook. I can't get enough of pattern drafting.

Of course, drafting a pattern is time-consuming. There are multiple muslins, after all. BUT, I like the process because it keeps moving. When I am trying to make a commercial pattern fit me, there is often a moment when it seems impossible and I consider pitching a fit, crying and giving up. But when I am drafting a pattern, it's just a matter of putting one foot in front of the other until I like the end result. I can handle that - no tears!

OK folks, that's all for now. 
Happy Sewing.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

jacket assembly

I sure do feel some relief that my jacket assembly is well underway.

Still to do: construct and attach facing/collar, attach peplum, install lining, buttons & buttonholes
Yes, the design changed and I learned something about drafting a jacket with notched lapels: it is quite time consuming to test different drafts of the notched collar. When I was working on the sleeve, it was no big deal to whip up one sleeve after another. Same thing with the bodice. But in order to test a notched collar, you need to sew a bodice and a collar and that starts to eat up time and fabric.

My first collar draft was a big fat learning experience - I had made mistakes and it was a wadder. The next one was "correct" but needed more tweaks. Since I had used an entire weekend for those 2 efforts, I was out of time. And that's OK. I love a very large collar (inspiration photo here) and I'll just have to spend more time on it when I want to get back into it. I'll tell you what, working on collars has made me really appreciate suits.

I've watched all of the recent season of Scandal, and it kinda makes me want to sew jackets. I'd wear them to work even though I work in a very casual environment. My co-workers know me well enough now to understand that it's about the sewing, and no I don't have a job interview or an important meeting today.

Speaking of Scandal, I noticed that Melly and I have the same shoulder:
See that flat angle at the top of her upper arm? Now that I have focused on fitting so much, I notice that lots of us have this. I am pretty sure it is connected to the anatomy of a forward shoulder.

When you draft your own sleeve, you decide how much ease you want in the cap of the sleeve and I chose 0 in the back, 1/4" in the front. I also drew the curve on the back half of the cap to follow the shape of my actual shoulder /upper arm. I'll show you in future pictures - I am very happy with it. Now, when you do that, you are limiting just how much room you'll have around your bicep - and that is why I go to a 2-piece sleeve. It is easy-peasy to add more ease in the seams.

Another thing I discovered is that the armhole needs to be shaped to fit. I was getting wrinkles like this in my muslin:

This needs a sloping shoulder adjustment - and if there are still wrinkles, consider shaping the armhole a little differently.
In my case, I scooped out the armhole more, which meant I needed to go back and re-shape the sleeve a little bit, and now it's the best fitting jacket I've ever had.

I LOVE DRAFTING GARMENTS FROM MY MOULAGE because it makes sense to me. When I was struggling to remove the wrinkles in the back, I just worked through the measurements and options. When I knew all of my measurements were accurate, I was able to narrow it down to the shape of the curve in the armhole and thankfully, a new shape gave the desired result.

Sewing a close fitting garment has been a challenge, since forever, and this project is giving me lots of endorphins every time I solve a weird little problem.

[After my daughter's wedding, I address the lighting /curtain situation in my sewing nook, and that will mean better pictures - sorry for the lower quality photos ever since we moved. I know a real photographer could overcome the environment, but I haven't put any time into learning that.]

In the meantime, here are a few more progress pics:

OH! Did I mention? I decided to add a peplum at the waist. Without the big statement collar and curved hem, it needed something and it does feel good to use up all the fabric I bought.  Also - 3 buttons now instead of 1. I really tried to sew bound buttonholes, but the fabric ravels and the buttonholes were less than an inch wide. So, I may run up to NYC one day to have them done at Jonathans. We'll see. I've made decent buttonholes in the past by sewing with the machine and then adding hand stitching on top of that. I don't think a true hand-worked buttonhole is within my skillset, but I'll leave that decision to another day.

For now, my next task is to get fabric for a skirt.
This silk sample is from EmmaOneSock and it looks like a very good match to my eyes.
I love the full soft pleats in the skirt I drafted when I was considering a dress, but a long slimmer skirt (or even dressy pants) would look great with this peplum jacket. A slim knee-length skirt made from the same brocade would be amazing, but they aren't really very comfortable for me to sit in. They ride up too much and I am not into displaying all that thigh. That era passed at least a decade ago, maybe more.

Thoughts? At least the construction is moving fast. That is another benefit of drafting the pattern and testing it. By the time I sat down to sew, I didn't need to spend a second thinking about the order of construction - I had already practiced on the muslins.

Having fun today? We will be celebrating Fathers Day and then I am meeting up with my daughter and her stepmom to shop for costume jewelry. I already have a string of pearls that will work and the buttons are crazy beautiful Swarovsky crystal beauties. But we'll have us some fun. Maybe I'll see some shoes and that will inform a skirt choice.

Happy Sewing all y'all!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

I need a big fancy button

Hey there sewing friends, where would you look for a big fancy button? I want to draft this jacket pattern and you need to know the size of the button in order to draft the extension. 

House of Dior - I "tried it on" using a photo editor.

Since the last time I posted, I drafted a shirtdress pattern and mocked it up in muslin:

I have taken Suzy Furrer's classes on the moulage, skirt, collars and sleeves. Armed with all that information, I drafted the entire pattern myself.

My first version of the skirt had fewer pleats, but they looked awkward, so I tried again making more generous pleats. Opulence always works for me. heh heh heh. And now the pattern is a major fabric hog. The only way I could be persuaded to purchase more metallic brocade (I only bought 2 yards) would be if I absolutely loved the design. I like it but not that much! Yes the brocade is expensive.
Here it is, by the way:

So, yeah, now I am going to draft a jacket pattern. The plan would be to make a coordinating skirt in solid color. I ordered swatches and thankfully, I found a matching shade of silk here. Hey, I've got the skirt pattern - just need the jacket!

Things I have learned:

1. Natural waist vs visual waist
The reason my past pattern-drafting efforts didn't pan out is due, in part, to placing the waist line at my natural waist. The measurement instructions were to place elastic around my waist, and then bend from side to side allowing the elastic to settle at the natural waist. My natural waist is right below my underbust measurement. In Suzy's class, she instructs you to place the waist just above the belly button. BINGO - that is where it looks best on me. It is tricky to get the proportions right when your waist is so high but you want to wear a fitted dress.

2. The wrinkles I get in the back - even in my moulage (which is supposed to be skin tight) are partly due to my high natural waist. Rather than adjust the placement of the waist to get a completely smooth moulage, I much prefer to live with the wrinkles and select styles that will work around that particular situation. [update 6/21/2015: by scooping the armhole, I got rid of some stubborn draglines that had bothered me - also these pics don't reflect the sloped shoulder adjustment. I lowered the armholes.]

3. When your smallest measurement is at empire waist level, a dress fitted closer to the belly button will ride up. I find myself pulling it down the whole time I am wearing it; it just wants to migrate to my narrowest part. Of course, I never purchased a fitted dress because retail doesn't fit me so I didn't know until now. Live and learn!

I knew I was going to invest a lot of time and energy into sewing for myself this year because of my daughter's wedding. I could have put all the effort into one couture creation using time-intensive techniques. But early on I made the decision to use my precious time on pattern-drafting. I wanted more than just one garment at the end of the day; I wanted a library of TNT patterns that could be sewn up equally well in a summery cotton or a precious brocade.

Much as I love couture techniques, I am a big fan of sewing machines and saving time. I love couture techniques, but mostly just to read about. I like to sew fast. What do you think about all this? It was a tough decision. I mean, come on - I live so close to Susan Khalje and here I am not taking a class with her for my MOB dress! But ... I am not easy to fit. It is that simple. [I am a speshul snowflake] And I need a way to clothe myself without having to pay for fittings. Oh how I envy those of you who have fitting buddies! Evidently, I would need to live in Boston or San Francisco to find free help.

ok. opinions? button sources?
I'll get started on the jacket with an assumption for the button size and then I can adjust it if necessary.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

I love to learn

"When the student is ready, the teacher will appear."

 I am not sure who said that, but it sure seems true. Certainly I have attempted pattern-making multiple times over the years, but it didn't really go anywhere. Suzy Furrer is the teacher who appeared for me (on craftsy) and now I am successfully drafting patterns, using pencil and paper, to my measurements. [Bernina My Label software gave me some great garments in the past, and I still use them] I made the bodice moulage and then I followed Suzy's instructions to make the basic bodice and made my own version of Marfy 3408:

Made from cotton pique, underlined with Siri cotton. I plan to add contrasting top-stitching by hand, but haven't gotten around to it yet. Then this will be great with linen pants on a hot day.

Then I attempted a tunic pattern. Actually, I modified the directions she gave - she said to drop the shoulder seam by 2 inches and I only dropped it by 1 inch. Don't ask me why, I somehow thought I knew better and I will go back and redraft it with a 2" drop before I sew it again. Here are my tunics:

fabric on left is from Gorgeous Fabrics, and on the right is from G Street. This is a 90 minute top - so fast and easy to sew!

If you follow me on Instagram, you've already seen these photos and I'm sorry I'm not posting better quality photos on my blog - but things have been a little haywire lately. My laptop got so sick it need to be wiped clean and have the operating system reinstalled. I lost photos, but whatever, I will take more!

So here are the things I've got going right now:

1. Drafting a skirt pattern and a shirt pattern for myself, in order to create a knockoff of a beautiful Carolina Hererra design:
only $2,690

2. Making a bustier for my daughter - I made a moulage for her and procured the Pin-Up Girl pattern from BraMakers Supply. I also grabbed The Birth of a Bustier by Kenneth King. I'll start with a boned muslin that is like a corset - meaning the boning will go over the breasts. If the effect is pleasing (slight cleavage) then we're finished. If it doesn't look good enough, I'll carve out an area for cups and insert something. I can add a power bar to the cup if necessary. I learned bra-making from Beverly Johnson's excellent manual a few years ago and purchased her craftsy classes, too. They are so good! I don't watch tv for entertainment, I watch sewing classes.

3. Altering daughter's wedding gown - it just needs to be taken in a little bit. I am so glad I was in a position to purchase the gown. I don't particularly like handling so much fabric and her gown definitely has many yards of tulle in the skirt.

4. Altering 4 bridesmaids dresses - yes I volunteered for this.

5. Making a dress for the officiant for the wedding - yes I volunteered for this.

6. Making my own dress - no I still haven't decided what to make! But the Carolina Hererra dress above is the latest contender.

Does that sound like too much to accomplish in 3.5 months? If not, where do I sign up for more?
heh heh heh

Oh right - the veil!! I forgot the veil! I already found the tulle so I just need to make the veil. Luckily my daughter is not extremely picky. For example, she wants a white wedding cake with fresh flowers stuck into it. The flower girl will wear a basic ivory dress and we'll use fabric leftovers (from hemming bridesmaids dresses) to make a sash. And every time I change my mind for my dress, my daughter just says, "I know it will be beautiful whatever you decide".

I'm really happy about my daughter's wedding for all the usual reasons (I love her fiance, etc) but in terms of my own well-being, her wedding has been a very welcome boost. Over the last few years I felt a little jaded about sewing. There weren't really any new mountains to climb. Thankfully I have a way of contributing to her wedding and I think folks will have a good time. After she has wed, I will clean up my sewing room and relax.


Sunday, May 17, 2015

my moulage, sloper and sleeve project

I have gone quite a long time without sewing anything wearable, but I'm going through lots of muslin and paper! I took a couple of Suzy Furrer's craftsy classes: Patternmaking Basics - The Bodice Soper and Patternmaking + Design: Creative Sleeves. I'm thrilled with the opportunity to learn in my free time and for the price of a bus ticket to NYC. When I first got interested in patternmaking, it was way before craftsy existed and it would have required a fair bit of time and money to travel and take a class. So, yeah, HOORAY for craftsy.

Here is my current (second take) moulage:
The sleeve and necklines are stay-stitched, but after taking it off & on several times,
the armholes and neckline stretched out a bit.

There is probably still too much length in the back, above the waist,
but that is why you make multiples. It's an iterative process to nail down the fit.
Knowing this length issue is an easy fix,
I moved on to making a sloper - so that I could move on from that to the sleeve.

The sloper is created from the moulage by adding  bit of ease. I also rotated the darts out to princess seams for my sloper:

I wanted to get through sloper so I could commence work on the sleeve.
I just wasn't happy with the sleeves from my recent muslins.
For this sleeve, I cut it off just above the elbow to save on fabric during testing.
This is my second sleeve. I learned so much drafting the first one.
Concepts clicked and the second one is pretty much
the best sleeve I've ever had.
And yes, I'll get around to addressing this fullness above my waist.
I can upload these photos to the craftsy platform to see what Suzy says.
So, yeah, another reason I am so high on Suzy's classes is the way she answers all the questions. People post all sorts of photos of their work and she gives them advice. I took another "fitting" class on patternreview a while back and the instructor didn't give individualized fitting advice. You'd have to pay more for individual consultations. Personally, I don't mind paying for personalized advice, but ... at the same time, it struck me odd that the class implied something that wasn't actually included in the fee.

Anyhoooooo, I have moved on since taking these photos and drafted my own version of Marfy 3408. I'll sew it up soon.
In addition, I am enjoying reading Make Your Own Dress patterns by Adele Margolis. Now that I have a sleeve sloper, I can make some creative sleeves.

Good times, people, good times!

Shall we daydream a bit? 

Gotta get out of the sewing room - we're headed down to Rockville for some sentimental enjoyment of the old neighborhood today. Hope your sewing is making you happy today!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

fine-tuning Marfy3408 and Lekala 5956

It was great to get constructive comments to my last post: The neckline would look better as a boatneck and the buttons can go. The sleeve length is neither short nor long - and that is a dowdy look. The torso and hips could fit more snugly.

I agree with the removal off buttons and enlarging neckline to a boatneck.
For shaping, I might add an armscye princess seam.
Based on wearing it, the shoulder seams are too wide and it's restrictive. I think one armscye is too low. I do yoga, so I notice my posture changes slightly from day to day. I better do a bunch of sun salutations on the day of my daughter's wedding so my clothes fit.

The waist and hips could be fitted more closely, and the sleeves could be longer. I'll alter the body and see how it looks before tackling the sleeve.

I had not lined the top yet, so I just took picked it apart. I removed the buttons and loops. And (not shown) I've moved the sleeves in and it is so much better.

I guess I got tired of working on Marfy 3408 because Lekala 5956 jumped into my shopping cart. And I got 30 cents off - it was $2.69! heh heh

And soon there was this:

Doesn't that look promising? I can't help myself - I need to muslin this. Don't worry little Marfy, I won't forget you.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Marfy 3408 - not ready for prime time

I sewed up another version of Marfy 3408 - and I [*am not sure I] like it.
I had enough of this fabric to sew this top twice - I needed to work out a few minor details.
So far, I am not sure this is all that great.

Here is what I did differently on this version:

  1. There was some fabric bunching under my armpits, so I lowered the armscyes/sleeves by 3/8".
  2. Added fusible interfacing in the neckline area to keep the points smooth.
  3. Used a firmer underlining - this time I used Siri which was new to me. It is the perfect weight with my loosely woven cotton fabric.
  4. Added a button closure to the back.
  5. Raised the front neckline by 5/8".
[*but it's still not right.]

It has really been a while since I have worn a top made from woven fabric like this. I remember wearing this type of thing back in the 90's - when I was still dressing more formally for work. While I am glad I am not required to wear a suit to work every day, I am also interested in exploring more woven fabrics. There is something so pleasing about the way a cotton top breathes. It is warm here today and very sunny, so I have enjoyed wearing it!

I am not digging the draglines. The sleeve has a seam in it - it is a two piece sleeve. It sure is easy to set in the sleeve because there isn't too much ease in the sleeve cap - and I was able to fit it around the bicep easily.

You know, the underlining really elevates this cotton fabric. Version #1 was pretty limp compared this version #2. It wasn't much extra work, either. Rather than going full-on couture with tracing the seam lines, and all that, I just cut everything with a 5/8" seam allowance and then serged all the pieces to the underlining. That kept the fraying under control and made the whole thing a fast sew.

I am wearing version #2. Notice the wrinkling on the neckline on version #1.
I added fusible interfacing to that area on version #2.
So I guess I can move ahead and sew up my brocade, huh? 

I guess so.  I don't sound too convinced, do I? Heh heh. I guess I just want my outfit to be PERFECT and this could still be better. Oh well, I am used to it. I have always been a perfectionist. 

Happy Sewing!

*Shortly after I clicked "publish" on this post, I looked at the photos and realized this is just not good enough. It's the fit. The construction is fine, but the fit is not.