Sunday, April 19, 2015

Marfy 3408: Better Safe Than Sorry!

When I latched onto brocade as my fabric of choice, it meant letting go of the dress with a cowl neckline. The reason I want brocade so much is because it says Mother-Of-The-Bride to me in a way that no other fabric does. When you are sewing a cocktail dress, it can be a bit of an insult to say "it's looking rather MOB" but when you really ARE the mother of the bride ... you WANT it to look MOB. I do, anyway.

I am in the process of sewing up a wearable version of Marfy 3408:
I'll wear it the same way - with a pencil skirt.

So I did what all good girls do and I sewed a muslin. I went down the fitting rabbit hole and by the time I was "finished", I felt more confused than ever and realized I was probably starting to over-fit. If this were any other project, I'd have sewn it and worn it and made more fitting tweaks for future projects.
hmmm, is it right? not sure!!
In addition to fitting the bodice, I was also exploring sleeve variations. In order to get sufficient ease around my bicep, I was getting too much ease in the sleeve cap, so I created a 2-piece sleeve:

The sleeve seam goes from shoulder to hem.
I really like it on my odd little shoulders (see arrow), and it provides adequate
circumference around the bicep without creating too much ease in the sleeve cap.
At this point, I decided to get expert help and made an appointment with Kenneth King. That man can draft a sleeve from scratch in his sleep, so I figured he could help me - and he did!

I went up to NYC last Thursday and the weather was amazing! A sewing friend was in town, in a very lucky coincidence, and we were able to meet for a late lunch before I had to get myself back home.

Here is the muslin I brought back from New York. 

The approach I took was to sew up an un-altered version of Marfy 3408 straight out of the envelope to take with me to see Kenneth. It really fit pretty darn well as it was, but certainly not worthy of the brocade I had purchased from Mendel Goldberg.

Kenneth quickly pinned out a bunch of small fish-eye darts here and there. I watched him transfer these adjustments back to the paper pattern. He chatted as if we were lounging by the pool sipping margaritas - while his hands were a blur. The man is amazing. It had been a while since I had seen Kenneth and he actually looked younger, not older! He told me he is engaged, so I think he's sporting the look of happiness. While I was there I asked his advice on trim. Did I want to add something around the neckline? He advised piping and I love that idea, so piping it is.

My left shoulder is about 3/8" lower than my right shoulder, so now I have more pattern pieces. It takes more time to cut, but laying out a single layer has its advantages. You use less fabric and pattern matching is easier, too.
In my magic closet, I found the perfect fabric for a test run. There is even enough for a matching skirt:
You can't see it, but there is lightweight cotton batiste underlining.
Two piece sleeve.
I bought this at G Street a few years ago to make a summer jacket.
It is cotton but I don't recall what this is called.
The weave is loose enough that underlining is required.
It's really quite lovely and perfect for my Test Run garment.
So that's it for me right now! I must admit, I am a little exhausted. All this running around can be a bit tiring, so I am looking forward to spending quiet time in my little sewing nook.

And I am quite excited about the possibilities of using this sleeve in future projects. I can picture a trim inserted in the seam, going from the neckline all the way to the hem of the sleeve. And I would like to try a more rounded sleeve, like this:

available at Saks for only $565 :)

So yep, I've got plenty to keep me happily occupied here. Maybe I'll have something to show you next time that ISN'T sewn from muslin!

Happy sewing!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Part 2: Skills and criticism

Let's talk about shoes skills. Skills! Let's get 'em! I mentioned skills in this post about changes in the online sewing community. I happen to love SKILLS and I want them. I want them, even if they are expensive, and by expensive, I mean the cost in time & effort. 

There are a few things that go into skill, so let's break it down:

Book Learning - anyone can get this necessary knowledge without getting near a sewing machine. Lots of sewing enthusiasts gather knowledge by reading blogs, discussion forums and websites.
  • Fabric - properties of various kinds of fabric
  • Terms - understanding common vocabulary 
  • Best Practices - ex. sew a sample seam on a fabric scrap to test stitching
  • Machines - learning different features and why you might want them
  • Notions - which ones save time, or give a better result?

Manual dexterity - just because you know what to do, doesn't mean you can. Sewing a beautiful bound buttonhole is a great example of this. A more general aspect of manual dexterity is the ability to handle fabric. The secret to difficult sewing is manual dexterity. If the fabric is slippery, with well-developed physical skills, you can control it. If there is a pivot point in the seam, you can navigate it. If the spaghetti straps are thin, or if the collar point is sharp - you can make it happen. This one takes 10,000 hours to achieve. Innate talent could make it happen faster, but there are no shortcuts to development of physical skills.

Experience - There is a big difference between learning from doing and learning from reading. Someone could read every FBA article under the sun, repeating what they have read, and possibly help someone else. But, someone with experience in the alteration can provide real insight and tell you WHY you should take one approach over another. Of course, doing something a million times doesn't mean you're good at it. This is the tricky and mysterious part of experience. I guess it is related to talent. Some will master the craft and build massive amounts of skill that is revealed in their work. Even when they sew something quite simple - the experience shows. Their work is gorgeous.

Another thing about experience is that it changes what you see.

I have this anecdote about book learning, dexterity and experience:
Several years ago, I took my first class with Susan Khalje, and my project used a loosely woven novelty wool in black & white plaid. When I basted the seam together, my plaids didn't match. At that time, I had decades of sewing under my belt, so the problem wasn't with my lack of manual dexterity. I sighed, took it apart and sewed it again - with the same results. I mean, it got a little better, but it still didn't match perfectly. Finally I decided, well, I did it 3 times, it is good enough! But when I showed it to Susan, she felt it could be better. Fast forward to more recent times, I sewed a double-faced wool plaid fabric and the plaids didn't match. Once again, I sewed it more than once and I picked it out more than once. But then, I did something different: I basted the seam with greater precision. On every little stripe, I sewed a tiny back-stitch. It held those plaids in alignment when I used the sewing machine to finish the seam. This was not a technique that was taught to me by anyone. It was a combination of book learning, manual dexterity and experience. 

What stands out to me, from that anecdote, is not that I finally matched a plaid. What stands out is that I saw the problem. My eyes were smarter and my attitude had shifted ever so slightly over a period of years. It's not like I was harder on myself - I was more patient and open-minded. In that frame of mind, the solution came very easily, and matching those plaids was a piece of cake. I have to wonder what I will see ten years from now? This will continue to evolve.

What does any of this have to do with the online sewing community? For several years there, no one criticized anyone else. Now there is plenty of criticism online. I believe much of the online dynamic is no different from what happens in real life. Oh, there are critical voices online? There are critical voices in real life, too. As a youngster, my local 4H club had a reputation for being too demanding, too critical - they were just a bunch of meanies! For that reason, I avoided 4H and preferred my own brand of rogue sewing. I didn't want anyone else telling me if something wasn't good enough for their lofty standards. I wanted nothing to do with criticism, because I knew what was good enough for me.

Nowadays, when I read some (certainly not all) beginner/intermediate perspectives, I consider that my eyes may see something different than what they can see. Even if I articulated myself perfectly, they might not get what I am saying. This keeps me from saying every single thing that crosses my mind. Why bother? It's all good. I remember how happy I was to sew imperfect garments and wear them at various points along my journey, so I'm not gonna burst anyone's bubble if their plaid-matching isn't the best.

I think most of you are pretty highly skilled. What goes through your mind when you see or read things that just don't add up? When is it OK to say something?

I'll go first - when someone is selling something, but they really aren't skilled enough to see how crappy their product is, I will criticize it. If the seller gets annoyed that their product is criticized, I think well honey you ought to put on your big girl panties because this is not about you sharing your passion for sewing. This is a product review. Let other buyers beware. That is true for a brand new start-up or a company that has been in business for a long time. Commerce has its own set of rules.

But if someone is sharing their projects ... no I'm not gonna remark on whether I think their skills are bad or their choices are weird. I can't see the point in criticizing someone else's skills, nor do I think it helps anything. Honestly, I think that is just mean. Of course they think it is awesome! How can I not relate? I thought my first dress (sewn from a pillow case stolen from the laundry basket; I cut out holes for neck and arms and put that bad boy on) was awesome. My mom didn't tell me what a shitty dress that was, and she didn't yell at me for taking the pillowcase, although she did tell me not to take any more. 

Thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

a new era for sewing bloggers?

Soon I'll be setting up a blog roll on the side-bar so I have one easy place to keep up with those who share my current interests. It won't be the longest list in the world, because *my interests are somewhat narrow right now. In the past, my blogroll would have included my sewing blogger friends, all the popular bloggers and small bloggers I wanted to encourage by sending traffic their way. My new blogroll marks a change in my approach.

Isn't it interesting to be a sewing blogger /sewing blog reader?! Ten years isn't really that long of a time, but in internet years, ten years is forever.

From my vantage point, here is how the last decade has played out:

  • 2005  What is a blog?
  • 2006  I accidentally set up an account on LiveJournal when I was trying to leave a comment on my daughter's blog. Well, I may as well post something on my blog, why not a sewing project? OH MY GOD - SOMEONE COMMENTED ON MY PROJECT!
  • 2007 - 2012 The Golden Years 
    • The more I blog, the more I sew; they feed each other and I like it!
    • We all seem to know of each other - we post links to one another and we comment on each others blogs.
    • I am also active on sewing discussion forums, where I can include a link in my profile. Folks come to my blog and we all sorta know each other
    • Online friendships are flourishing - I love the support and comradery
    • My interest in blog-related stuff grows
      • photography could be better, I buy a DSLR
      • try different blogging platforms, get my own domain
      • improve illustration skills
    • My passion for sewing is fueled
      • ask questions in the forums and learn from experienced women 
      • classes & lessons from Sarah Veblen (she lives near me)
      • online classes at patternreview
      • classes & lessons from Kenneth King (start going to NYC)
      • classes & lessons from Susan Khalje (she lives near me)
      • Craftsy arrives - love that platform! take more classes
    • My blog might not be the biggest or the best or the most popular, but it's pretty solid, it reflects me and I am proud of it.
    • Opportunities find me through my blog, including very unusual and unexpected options.
  • 2013 - 2014 Recalibration
    • Recognition and opportunities are nice, but ... it can be hard if things don't work out. Lean on your loved ones. 
    • Keep blogging but the initial passion and joy are hard to find.
    • Take a break when it turns into a chore.
  • 2015
    • Look around - who ARE all these new bloggers? This is interesting!
In a decade, it seemed as though there was a whole life cycle for sewing blogs. It was born, it grew, it matured and now it is ... different.

There are a couple significant differences between my cohort and the new wave of sewing bloggers:
  • Skills
  • Aesthetic
  • Monetization

I'll ponder what I want to say about this and write more in upcoming posts. Hey, it looks like I just started a series!

I am very interested in your point of view. Please comment freely. What are your observations? You don't have to agree with me - a spirited debate is more interesting than 80 comments that say the same thing, "oh that's so cute on you!" 
Although, to be honest, you can give me 80 compliments if you must. 


*Current interests (subject to change when the wind blows): 
  • working with exquisite fabrics 
  • developing TNT patterns suitable for exquisite fabrics
  • exploring Fashion, with a capital F 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Marfy Catalog Free Patterns 2014/15

I always thought of Marfy as a little bit out of reach - they have a reputation as being advanced because they come without instructions - and they are a bit pricier than most other patterns (plus you'll pay for postage from Italy). I figured now is a good time to investigate and I am so glad I did.

First of all, Marfy just isn't that difficult! If you start with a simple design, you can see there are letters marked on the pattern and they tell you where to join the seams. The patterns are already cut for you, so if you are used to working without seam allowances, it is very fast to get started. I use a rotary cutter with a little arm on it to add seam allowances during the cutting stage. (Here is a link - scroll down to check out Kathryn's excellent-as-usual-explanation.)

The wonderful thing about buying a catalog is that it comes with free patterns in a good variety of sizes (for Marfy anyway, more on that) and you can trace off whatever you like. I bought this one for only $26.24 from the McCall website and it came very fast. That works out to ~$1 per pattern? I'M IN.

Here are the 20 free patterns that came with the 2014/15 catalog:
0303 dress and 3303 cardigan
I plan to use that neckline detail on a knit top.
0348 blouse, 3348 jacket, 3349 skirt
Are you kidding me? an entire suit?! - Marfy, you got my attention - what a deal!

3355 tunic
I've been wanting to try this type of sleeve.
3365 dress
It is clear they didn't skimp on the free patterns - this is really lovely.
3367 dress
If I'd had this catalog before I ordered 3619, I could have sewn this up to check fit.
Marfy has a reputation for consistent drafting, so once you get one garment to fit,
you have a good idea if this pattern company will work for you or not.
3370 long sleeveless tunic, 3371 culottes, 3372 crossover blouse
I welcome the return of culottes - they give me happy memories of
sewing projects when I was in my early teens.
3379 tunic
I'd try this with the idea it could showcase a spectacular silk charmeuse.
I'd add a sleeve though. Momma is wearing sleeves nowadays,
when temperatures are under 100F (30C) anyway.
The higher the temperature, the less I care.
3398 tunic
3399 halter dress and 3400 tunic
3403 tunic and 3404 blouse
This could be another pattern good for showcasing a special fabric.
And finally, a real contender for Mother-of-the-Bride sewing:
3408 tunic
Building Patterns - The Architecture of Women's Clothing by Suzy Furrer
The image all the way to the left is the one I like. I can picture the brocade looking really pretty in this pattern and I'd wear it as shown, with a pencil skirt. The skirt could be sewn from the same brocade or a coordinating heavy silk. It just happens that the brocade matches very nicely with silk I own, so it is calling me a bit.

Another consideration is the comfort of the garment. When I was dressing more formally for work, I wore this type of thing often and found it very comfortable. There is something about the range of motion provided by a top and a skirt that is very appealing. I don't wear dresses often because most styles feel too constricting to me. As much as I like 3619, when I sewed up the 2nd muslin yesterday, it did feel constricting. Sorry, I have no pics of that - I was too engrossed in it to remember and I'm headed out to celebrate Easter with my family today.

So what is next? Well ... fitting that simple little tunic will be no small feat. It consists of two darts what meet at or above the bust apex. Increasing each dart by the right amount could give me a few more gray hairs and I think it would ruin the look to add side darts. I plan to give it a go, and see if it is viable. I have a couple books that will guide the way - one is pictured above, by Suzy Furrer and the other good resource would be Adele Margolis' Make Your Own Dress Patterns.  You can wish me luck on that one - I don't think I'd go to the trouble if this pattern were not free, so yeah, I am loving this Marfy catalog.

So what is the consensus on Marfy? When I search for pattern reviews, I don't find as many as I would have thought. I know LianaBecki, Leisa, poppykettle and others sew Marfy - do you think it's a brand that is sewn more by women who don't blog? I'd love to see some of the gowns! Oh that reminds me, Anne is sewing her wedding gown from a Marfy pattern. I am looking forward to seeing that - yep there is always something good happening in the online sewing community - and this is just my little niche. Have you noticed there are about a zillion sewing blogs now? It is interesting.

About Marfy sizing - my Italian size is 48, Australian size is 12 and German size is 42. Marfy doesn't make every pattern in every size! When I purchased 3443, I had to decide between a 46 or a 50, so I went with the 50. And I would like to sew something for my daughter who wears a larger size than I do - and NONE of the patterns that would appeal to her come in her size. It gives you a queasy feeling to read between the lines and think the designers expect their "younger" styles to be worn only by smaller women. I don't know what size she needs - maybe a 52 or a 54 and the only patterns in those sizes are VERY OLD LADY. It's consistent with what I see in all of the pattern companies. Young women may have plus size measurements but they sure don't want to wear loose tunics. They look better and enjoy wearing more closely fitted youthful styles. So, I will look elsewhere for patterns for her. I am glad that Stye Arc puts out patterns in a wider range of sizes. Burda sizes are pretty good for my daughter, but still a little too conservative in the Plus range. I usually like the Plus designs, but altering them to fit me is a pain, so I don't sew them often. Anyway, that's the sizing scoop on Marfy.

More to come!

muslin #2 Marfy 3619

The occasion of my daughter's wedding has a welcome side effect of boosting my sewing mojo. I am sewing a lot, and I am sewing often! When I am not sewing, I am researching matters of fabrication and fit. I am in my happy place descending into and exploring the terrain in a variety of lovely rabbit holes. By writing about the process, I learn and remember better. In this post, I want to capture the results of my fitting session with Susan Khalje.

I took a few classes with Susan a few years ago, and when I googled around for her latest activities, I learned that she is teaching locally a lot more than she did in the past. Also, she is teaching out of the family business Khalje Carpet Gallery in my old stomping grounds, Hunt Valley, Maryland. This is some major geographical luck going on here! The carpets are really lovely, too.

The adjustments to the back:

  1. Removed length in the upper back with a horizontal tuck (a dead dart).
  2. Added shoulder darts.
  3. Tweaked the vertical darts.
  4. Tweaked the position of the shoulder seams.
  5. Changed the position of the side seam on the right side - because the bodice front is asymmetrical, the alterations are not the same on both sides.
The adjustments to the front:

    1. Cut another front bodice piece, this time on the bias and pinned it in place. As we discussed in the comments to my last post, Susan felt the drape would work better if the fabric was cut on the bias, so let's give that a try.
    2. Added 2 French darts to the sides. One dart would be too big and the bigger the dart, the harder to get a smooth point when sewing it.
    3. Added a waist dart to the right front.
    4. Lowered the diagonal seam to work with my proportions.
    The sleeve:
    It's not shown here, the sleeve will have elbow darts added. 

    So ... I have found myself back in the couture sewing waters. Leisa (A Challenging Sew) was taking a class at the time I was getting in touch with Susan, so I had the good fortune to meet the group for dinner (this is my tribe! I loved meeting everyone!!) I also saw all the projects and I was pretty blown away by all the gorgeous fabrics and patterns and details. 

    This brings me to a major rabbit hole, and that is fabric. While working through the fit of this dress, I assumed use of 4-ply silk, underlined with a lighter silk. The back of the dress is really boring, so we talked about adding a yoke and adding embellishment there (beaded tulle) along with embellishments to the shoulders in the front. I am sure it would be beautiful.

    But ...
    What about brocade?

    Upon seeing all the fabulous fabrics being used by Susan's students, I had to investigate. To make a long story short, I have these 2 samples of brocades from Mendel Goldberg, where Leisa works 2 days a week. This is where fabrics have been procured for a couple of other amazing online projects (poppykettle and Goodbye Valentino). I suppose the biggest fear for a DIY dressmaker is the fear of ruining precious (and expensive) fabric, so I can clearly see why one would take the plunge knowing Susan Khalje has your back. Let's face it, Susan won't let disaster happen - she knows how to fix problems. I have seen her do it and it still influences my sewing. When I sewed that Milly Top and the final result was way too tight in the bust area, I remembered watching Susan rescue a student and it helped me think of a solution. I added a gusset under the arm to solve the problem. As she says, "There is ALWAYS a solution".

    That brocade isn't the right fabric for Marfy 3619. And that is why I am looking at more patterns, just in case 3619 isn't "the one". I'll go through some pattern options in my next post. Which is going to happen in another hour, while I am on a roll.

    More to come!

    Sunday, March 29, 2015

    muslin #1 Marfy 3619 dress

    It's time for another installment in Sewing for Mother of the Bride!

    I had a bit of a moment when I tried on this muslin of Marfy 3619. Even in this raw state, the dress feels beautiful- just the feeling you hope for when sewing for a special occasion. Now that I have this option, my first idea (the column dress) is fading fast. I like this dress better!

    It definitely needs tweaks, but I have never (I mean NEVER) sewn something straight out of the envelope and had it come this close to fitting well. This is what I usually get after measuring and altering pattern pieces before sewing the first muslin. Forgive me, but I am a little emotional at the moment! I am 5'9" (175cm) and I carry most of my height above the base of my armscye. It just surprises me to get a decent fit right away - does this mean that medium height people have to alter Marfy patterns? Is Marfy difficult for petites? I'd love to know -

    I'll shorten the back waist-neck length and narrow the back a bit under the shoulder blades.
    There are shoulder pads in place, by the way. 

    It surprised me to find that the front bodice isn't cut on the bias. I think that might work well, so I'll try it on my next muslin. With a little more give from bias cut fabric, I might not need an FBA. Then I'll tackle the sleeves. I will be using shoulder pads - that is one of the attractions of this pattern. I'd like to create a strong shoulder line with shoulder pads and perhaps embellishment on the shoulders.

    So ... about the fabric ....
    New York City isn't that far from me, and there are stores there with ultra amazing fabrics. I am talking about places like Mendel Goldberg and B&J Fabrics. The embellished tulle I bought in January is really nice ... but ... I could save it for a future project, too, couldn't I? Of course I could! We'll see how that shakes out. 

    In the meantime, I will get this pattern fitted. The first step in fitting, for me, is to take photos. I have 43 photos of me in this dress from every angle. I'll study them and then start the process which involves a lot of trying on, taking photos, taking it off and making the next tweak. I don't like to change too many things at once, so it is time-consuming. I can do it, but I am considering setting up a lesson or two with Susan Khalje. You only live once!

    Marfy 3619

    I also got the pattern for a matching jacket. I like it, but I am not even sure if I really need a jacket, you know? Maybe the dress will be awesome enough on its own.

    Here is the jacket:
    Marfy 3621

    I am not sure if I mentioned this, but the main reason I thought about wearing a long dress was to hide my feet in case I needed to wear unattractive shoes. I had been struggling for many months with foot pain and after seeing a podiatrist, I went in another direction and tried acupuncture. I am delighted to report that I am completely pain free in my feet now. I don't know how it works, but I love acupuncture.

    OK, off to make use of what remains of this weekend. I'll be back when there is progress to report. 
    Thanks for checking in on me & Happy Sewing!

    Saturday, March 28, 2015

    capsule sewing

    Every now and then I realize I HAVE NOTHING TO WEAR. I sewed a few coordinating knit tops and easy pants and things are better now!

    First up was an Alice Top by Style Arc and I lengthened the sleeves:
    I kinda love those 80's mutton sleeves.
    (I may have been barking instructions to my patient photographer here.)

     And a Tootsie Top:
    This top revealed that I NEED to master full bust adjustments.
    I am not crazy about the fit here, but it's sewn and I can wear it and I'll do better in the future! 

    Then there was the Milly Top. Now this was fun because of all those pleats. I used the gigantic dressmakers tracing paper (bought from Susan Khalje's website) and traced the lines to the wrong side of the fabric. Then I took my time pinning and went down my little perfectionists' rabbit hole, happily sewing and listening to chick lit audiobooks. That is my idea of a good time.

    To tell you the truth, I usually wear a long cotton gauze scarf with this - it keeps me warm and it hides the pulling in the armpits. You'll see what I mean in a few more pics down the page.
    I love these pants! The print is like an interesting camouflage and it has the teal and magenta colors I am enjoying these days. So fast! So easy!

    Elle pants by Style Arc
    Next up is the Amy Knit Top (with more Elle pants):

    This magenta knit top goes with the camo pants, and I like it with these denim paisley pants, too.

    I changed out the cowl. The one that came with the pattern was just a rectangle and I didn't like the way it flopped - it wasn't a pretty drape. So I looked through my various drafting books and I figured out that I wanted a curved pattern piece. I got it to work, though there was a fair amount of fudging in the process.

    If you look at the Style Arc website, someone else used this exact same fabric to make pants that look just like mine! She used a different pattern, though. 

    So yeah, let's talk about the ole FBA a little more. After finishing the teal top, it was too tight, so I added an underarm gusset to give me a little more room:
    Of course I had already serged the side seams. Yeah. So I picked them out and added in that elongated football shaped fabric. This top looks really awful on the inside now, but I don't worry too much about making the inside look just as good as the outside. As long as it is stable and the seam allowances are neatened, that is good enough for me. But the good news: that gusset was the difference between wearable and not wearable. At this point you may have guessed I don't like to sew muslins for knit tops. I figure I might mess it up, but I will learn and do better next time.

    After the teal top, I realized I had to do something. I have done traditional FBAs and they haven't always gone so well for me. So I did a "cheater FBA" on my next top. I just added an inch to the side seams on the front of the top. That meant I had to add the same to the sleeve, but it actually worked out OK.

    My next top was the Dee Knit Top. In my mind, I wanted that twist to occur at my high hip level. But I neglected to alter the top to make that happen. As you can see on the illustration, the twist does ride rather low:

    So I chopped it off and added a bit more fabric and I shirred it on the side seams:
    I added a channel to the side seam using bias binding and put some narrow elastic in there.
    I will try that twist feature on a future top - but I like this, too.
    I especially like the way my cheater FBA turned out! It was easy and effective.

    I think I better make a little list of adjustments and hang it on the bulletin board in my sewing nook. This cheater FBA needs to happen every time from now on.

    So this is my late winter wardrobe capsule. Technically, it is spring now, but March is never sunny and warm - that won't happen for several more weeks. That's why the long sleeves are necessary. I stuck with rayon knits for the tops because I love the way rayon breathes while feeling very cosy. For the Elle pants, I made 2 pairs from stretch denim and 3 pairs from rayon ponte knit. Those fabrics will stretch out and get baggy, so I like to wear them at home before the pants are hemmed and finished. At the end of the day, I take in the side seams to make them fit again. Right after washing they might be a little tight, but they relax quickly and fit fine.

    So, while I have been updating my everyday clothes, I have also been super interested in fancy stuff, too. On Thursday evening, I got to meet Leisa of A Challenging Sew.  We really hit it off! Then on Friday, I visited the Khalje Carpet Gallery where Susan has been holding her classes. [I love Maryand!] I saw all the delicious projects in the current class of The Couture Sewing School. If you aren't on Instagram, you might want to set up an account and check out @susankhalje. She is posting stuff that will make you just swoon! I'll write more soon about my latest plans for sewing formalwear. I am having with this! More to come -

    Saturday, March 14, 2015

    what is flattering anyway?

    When the garment is tight in the right places and loose in the right places, it is flattering. That is my definition of flattering.

    For so many years, I had no idea whether certain silhouettes would flatter me because I couldn't try them on to see how they looked. The shoulders were so far out of whack that I couldn't make heads or tails out of what I saw in the mirror. It took me a few years to fully understand my fit adjustments and now I can fit bodices and sleeves to myself. The world is my oyster now, right?

    I can sew this for myself if I want to:
    But just because I can, doesn't mean I should.

    I know I can successfully fit those sleeves and shoulders on myself. I am sure of that now. Having a daughter getting married is providing me with a whole new opportunity to wear things I could never buy in the past.
    Well, almost .... I don't want to go to all that trouble unless the finished garment will be flattering.

    I am going to describe my anatomical situation using pictures off the internet instead of my own muslins. I may as well preserve a little bit of privacy! My bust measurement fits nicely into the numbers on the sizing charts of patterns. But the distribution of the bust measurement causes a bit of an issue. If you wear small bands with large cup sizes, you know what I am talking about.

    When I make a bodice like this (below) there is a lot of fullness at the side. I added a line in the pic to show you what I mean.

    My back is narrow below the armscyes, and before alterations, my garments fit the way this blouse fits the model below. This model and I do not fill out the backs of our shirts in the area under the armpits.

    The overall girth measurement at the bust is fine, in terms of fitting into the garment, but it's not fine if you start looking more closely at the front and the back. Fit-and-flare styles are unsuccessful on me; to my eye they look a lot better on women who have a nice V shape in the back, and I don't have that.

    So my sartorial choices have come full circle! When I was younger and confused about how to fit myself, I just sewed things that were a little blousier. I always thought I would wear more silhouettes once I figured out the alterations, but I have revised that expectation.
    A blouson style is still better for me, like this:

    This beauty is by Carolina Herrera.
    Instead of diving into the construction of my MOB outfit, I am going to work on patterns for the silhouettes that work best for me.  I am just going to stop pursuing things that aren't right for me. I guess now is as good as time as any, right? ha ha (I will turn 58 in a couple weeks :)

    In other news, since my last blog post, I have accomplished a few little miracles! Yes I am bragging, let's get that out in the open. I figured out my crotch curve!!! It is kind of a "U" shape. I had sewn and improved the Barb pants a few weeks ago, and I was very close. When I sewed 2 more pairs of pants, the different fabrics showed me that I still wasn't quite where I wanted to be.

    I invested some time and energy into a pattern many women find useful - Eureka! Pants That Fit and while doing that I had a brilliant idea. I still had a pair of beautifully constructed pants from about 10 years ago. I keep them in case I re-gain a little weight. I realized I was re-inventing the wheel by messing around with a new pattern and all that muslin-making, so I pulled out the old pants and rubbed off a pattern from them. Perfect! All I needed to do was take in the side seams. It just goes to show that once you have the crotch curve figured out, you can lose or gain weight - but the crotch curve won't change. In addition to that old pair of pants, I have a very slim pair of pants that I bought on clearance from Lands' End. To get a pattern from those pants, I unpicked them. Once I made the pattern, I just re-sewed them and they are back in circulation. What struck me most was that both patterns have the exact same crotch curve. Now I can sew skinny pants and looser fitting pants with these 2 patterns. Yay. Or maybe I mean YAY!!!

    Also, I feel like I have developed a new method of sourcing my materials. For the last couple of years, I have started winter and summer with a pile of fabrics that coordinate. As the months roll by, I sew down the pile. Because the colors coordinate, it doesn't matter too much whether I make a top or a bottom out of any particular fabric. It all works somehow. And here is another small but very important aspect of this method - I keep buying the same solids, but in different colors. I am buying from an online vendor that carries basics and I can go back season after season and buy more colors of the same fabric. This is REALLY important to me because once I understand the properties of the fabric, I am so much better able to create successful garments. I know how much it will stretch; I know how much ease I need; I know what kinds of hems and finishes will work. This knowledge saves time, and I don't have a lot of free time. I don't put my fabrics into the closet - I keep them out where I can see them and sew them. This way I am not adding to my stash (which I have reduced significantly by giving away stuff I no longer want to sew).

    I dunno, it just feels like I have "gotten my groove" back. That's how life is - sometimes you go through a couple years that don't feel very settled, kwim? Moving and job changes certainly play into it, but other things factor in, as well. I am talking about the state of blogging, the explosion of instagram and the pleasure of Pinterest. I don't think I will ever go back to the intense amount of blogging I did from 2006 - 2012 and I don't need to! I can collect my thoughts on Pinterest and I can share my makes on Instagram. Blogging remains the place I can write a lot of words. As I have done just now :)

    OK, all y'all - Happy Sewing! I am going out to shop for shoes with chunky heels and ankle straps. Wish me luck!

    Saturday, February 21, 2015

    muslin #1 Marfy 3443 dress

    I have been sewing a lot muslins lately - this time it is Marfy 3443. This is a dress for the stepmother of the bride. She and I are approximately the same size and I modeled the dress because it looked so dumpy on my dress form. Besides, I would not ask a civilian to model a muslin. I am out of touch with the perspective of a non-sewer, but I am assuming they don't want to post unflattering pictures of themselves on the internet.

    I.LOVE.THIS.DRESS. (even though it is too big)
    It was only available in 3 sizes and I took the largest,
    hoping it would be the easiest to alter.
    I stitched up this muslin in short little increments of time here and there, which makes me feel like it almost sewed itself. This is my first experience sewing a Marfy pattern and I can guarantee you that I will sew more. These patterns come already cut out! I loved that more than I can say.

    It is Marfy #3443:

    I used a silk knit purchased from Banksville Fabrics in Connecticut for $18.99/yard, thanks to a tip from Anne the Clothing Engineer.  That is a crazy low price for silk jersey - but the fabric is a little "rustic" compared to more expensive yardage. It is nice, though, no doubt about it.

    I am also inspired by Anne's dyeing successes, so I also purchased the necessary supplies (from Dharma Trading) to dye it a dark teal green. Now, logic would tell you to dye the fabric first and then sew the dress, but I decided to go with the raw ivory color so that I could see the alterations needed. I find it much easier to see the lines of the garment when my muslin fabric is light. One way or another this dress will be wearable eventually (if all goes well, that is :) If Leigh doesn't like it, I'll make it for myself.

    It feels nice and swishy to wear.

    • I bought 3 yards and pre-washed the fabric in warm water. I didn't really have enough, so I had to cut the skirt front off-grain - but in a knit it might not matter so much.
    • This is sewn straight out of the envelope with NO ALTERATIONS at all. Size 50 (Italian sizing). It is enjoyable to sew without doing any alterations first.
    • The stretchiness of the fabric makes it hang longer than it should. 
    • I sewed up this dress in such a way that I can take it apart and alter it. There is too much length in the bodice. And I'm going to use powernet as underlining to stabilize the knit.
    • I will explore benefits of applying interfacing to the waistband.
    • I am also open to making any design changes necessary - for example I might extend that front waistband around to the back. Then I could make it snug around the waist to provide a bit more structure & support for the skirt.
    • It calls for a zipper, but it wasn't necessary.
    Obviously, I don't do full hair and makeup on Saturday mornings when I am planning to stay indoors and sew all weekend.
    So, I think this would be exquisite in a 4-ply silk woven fabric, too. If Leigh prefers that, I will sew another muslin using a woven fabric instead of a knit. Then I am sure it will need the zipper and the fitting alterations would be a little different, too. 

    So, anyhow, that is just one of a few things I have been working on. I did sew several muslins of the lace jacket for myself and I had to put them in the time-out corner.

    I set aside my MOB project because I need to re-think it. When I had the jacket fitted, it didn't function as I expected. It is a cropped jacket with the closure in the back instead of the front. If I moved my arms about, it made the jacket ride up and form creases above the bustline. Not a good look and certainly not comfortable to wear. So, I am stepping back to think about whether that is even a good plan. 

    There are so many competing issues!! For example, I decided early on that I would cover my arms. But after I struggled with the sleeves to the jacket, I wondered if it might be easier to just start doing pushups every day until September 19 and go sleeveless. I mean, really - which option is ultimately easier? I am all for staying in shape, but ... 

    So, I ordered another pattern from Marfy and I'll muslin that as soon as it arrives. Ever since we moved, I cannot find my waxed tracing paper! Well, I take that back - the only thing I can find is white waxed tracing paper and that is not too useful on ivory colored muslin fabric. How annoying - I finally caved and bought more. The good news is that I found giant waxed tracing paper on Susan Khalje's website. I wanted the big paper, anyway, so there!

    While I was on Susan's website, I gazed longingly at the schedule. She teaches in Baltimore much more nowadays and I feel like a week of sewing with other women would do me good. But alas, I am spending a fortune on all my commitments this year, so maybe next year I can go back for a class. It will be good for me in 2016, too, right?

    Happy Sewing all! Thank you so much for reading and commenting. It is so nice to be sharing again.