Things I made, Episode 2

Dear readers,

 

Welcome back for the second edition of Things I made! In my mind, the dress I’m showing you today is closely associated with finding out I was pregnant. I cut it before I knew, sewed it anyway right after I took the test, put it to hang and left it there without a hem because I wasn’t even sure I would ever be able to wear it (insert sad face). So I was thrilled this November when I realized I would be able to wear it for Christmas!SewingTidbits-Black Slip dress-3SewingTidbits-Black Slip dress-7

Pattern


Slipdress Pattern –  my own (based on this previous version). If you are looking for a bias slip dress pattern with spaghetti strap, I am selling one through Just Patterns
Knit top Pattern – Nettie by Closet Case Patterns.

I made this slip dress before so I don’t have much to add this time. For the top, I used the Nettie. I made it twice as a dress (here and there). This time I used the high front and back neckline, and the long sleeves. When using this pattern as a t-shirt the key is to make sure it’s long enough. My previous attempt ended up a bit short and I removed it my wardrobe. I was annoyed at having to constantly pull it down, and accidental drip of bleach on a navy stripe (deliberate mistake?) did not help its case. I really like this pattern for a skin tight look. Note to self, look for striped knit to make another one!SewingTidbits-Black Slip dress-2SewingTidbits-Black Slip dress-6

Construction


Fabric – the silk for the slip dress is from Moods and was gifted by Eira from The Pattern Line. The knit top is a merino wool jersey also from Moods!
Notions – N/A
Resources – I compiled the best sources of information I know of to for our Just Patterns slip. I has links for cutting silk, spaghetti straps, baby hems, etc. Let me know if you think anything is missing or if you have a favorite tutorial you would like to recommend.

There isn’t much to say about the slip dress, don’t let the bias scare you. With silk and such a simple shape, the longest task is usually cutting rather than the actual sewing. As long as you take your time, nothing is particularly difficult. I’ll just stress that stabilizing the neckline really makes a difference. You can choose to fuse with a stripe of thin interfacing (like I do) or stay stitch, but it’s the one step I would recommend not skipping!

The t-shirt is very simple too. To make things even easier I didn’t finish the sleeves and bottom edges. The knit is very thin, there is no with I could have done a good job without a coverstitch machine, plus I like how it just rolls.SewingTidbits-Black Slip dress-5SewingTidbits-Black Slip dress-1SewingTidbits-Black Slip dress-8

I love these 2 pieces (and the 2 in my previous post). And I particularly like that they all work together as well as with many other items in my wardrobe. Sewing garments without frills, in nice fabric and in a core “color” of your closet can be very rewarding. I can’t wait for the weather to warm up so I can wear the slip with a chunky sweater as in the picture above!

As you may have realized, I’m experimenting with a new format. My sewing blogroll counts around 300 blogs and I can divide them roughly into two categories. The ones that I read for the sewing and  the words (like Sanae Ishida, Sunnygal Studio, Sewing on the edge and many more) and the ones where I admire the pictures and try to skim through to find pattern/fabric information. Surprisingly, it’s often not that easy to find. Even more surprisingly (to me, and probably not to you) I looked at my own blogposts and realized I was completely guilty. I kept burying the most useful pieces of information in the middle of my ramblings (and typos…). So here it is, let me know what you think in the comments.

Things I made, episode 1

Dear readers,

Exactly a year ago, I was sleeping all the time and outgrowing every single piece of clothing I owned. Morning sickness, elasticated pants, it was a bad baaad time… In addition, I just had sewn garments I really liked and couldn’t wear even once. The good news in this story, is that 1/ the most wonderful little human now lives with me and 2/ I can wear those clothes now! I’m going to play catch up and show you my early 2016 sewing.

lined pencil skirt Sewing TidbitsSo first on the list is very classic pencil skirt made in black wool twill from Moods in New York City. I always mean to invest more time (and nice fabric) in wardrobe workhorses and this time I did it! I didn’t get distracted by a cute print or a pattern release! I used my own pattern, available for free here if you sign up for the mailing list. Don’t worry, there is no risk of receiving too many emails from me. I’m even worse at newsletters than I am at blogging…

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I drafted a lining for this version, which I keep hoping to also make available but time has been flying. Basically everything is ready but I should really proof it (ie. sew another skirt from it) before I spend time laying it out in Illustrator. If you are a risk taker, know how to bag a lining and want to help, email me!

I’m very happy with this garment and I’ve been wearing it several time already since I went back to work. I’m afraid there is not that much to say about this skirt, except that trying to show the vent leads to pretty awkward poses… So let’s move on to the next item!

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This one is a bias silk tank top. It’s unlined and I finished the edges with a narrow bias binding (about 1/8″ finished width). It was my first time using a bias tape maker and I did a bad job. Hopefully no one will come close enough to notice… The fabric is a lovely silk that Eira from The Pattern Line bought for me at Moods when she came to Haiti for a sew-cation. Sewing friends are the best friends!!

The pattern for this one is also my own, based it on my white slip dress. But if you are looking for a pattern to make something similar, we just released a bias tank top pattern through Just-Patterns. It features the same techniques (french seams, spaghetti straps and a baby hem). I know, I know, it’s one more shameless plug and I still haven’t taken the time to explain why this project is so important for me.I’m working on it, I promise!

That’s it for today, next time I will be back with another slip dress which you may have already seen on Instagram. I’m still debating if I should post about the maternity sewing, I haven’t been very successful apart from the 2 shirts I posted last year, we will see. It looks like I’m back to blogging more regularly. Oops, did I just jinx it by writing that? But I’m actually enjoying it again. Let me know what you think in the comments!!

The other white shirt

Dear readers,

It looks like the new blog format is working for me so far, I hope it is for you too. However it’s too soon to tell if I will be able to keep it up. It wouldn’t be the first time that I manage to maintain decent activity levels on the blog, only to let it completely go a month later… One thing I forgot to mention though is that I don’t currently plan on posting on other platforms than here and Instagram. No more PR, Kollabora (which never seemed to foster interactions or traffic anyway), Burdastyle or Thread and Needle. Traffic was never high on this blog and will certainly drop now but I kind of like the idea of a narrower little corner of the Internet, mostly with regular readers.

Squareshirt SewingTidbits-2
But let’s talk about today’s topic, another big square white shirt. Whenever I sew a white top, I kick myself for not making more. It’s so easy to be seduced by colors and prints in pretty fabric, but there are not many garments as versatile as white tops and blouses.

When I made the Ralph Pink pattern I mentioned last week, I already had in mind a crisp poplin version. Probably because of this Burda pattern (coincidentally Mokosha just posted about it, and it’s reminding me that it would probably fit my current needs) and this Everlane number :

I decided to start with my silk-blend version so that the drape would help with the extra-volume. I really like my previous version, but decided to take in the sides even more (total of 5″ on each side seam, as opposed to 3″ last time) and shorten the sleeves (3″) to account for the stiffer fabric. Unfortunately this required redrafting almost completely the front since I was reaching the sleeve cuffs in a straight line. While I was redrafting, I took the opportunity to modify the curved seam line you can see in the front. On the original pattern the front seam is purely decorative, with no shaping. But since I was going with a shape closer to the body, I included a sort of bust dart.

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I’m not sure you can see very well above but the dotted paper is my modified front pattern and the white one the original pattern. I also modified the top collar pattern to create a smaller/more current collar.

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The fabric is the most beautiful Japanese 100% cotton shirting. I found it at Mood’s and I have just no word to describe how smooth and perfect it is. It sewed well but I had a little bit of puckering that I could not completely iron out, for which I have no explanation. There is also the always tricky curved underarm seam, which was made extra difficult by the use of French seams. For this shirt, I finally  remembered to make my buttonholes and sew the buttons BEFORE hemming. No one will believe but I swear that the CF matched exactly in length before, but I am no Beth of SunnyGal Studio and I cannot explain how the lower picture happened!

Some of you may have a serious eye twitch already and believe me I do too! Let me explain how ironic the situation is. Being French (I know it’s a lame lame excuse), I’m a very critical blog reader. Lately, I kept noticing garments with the traditional closure for womenswear (right over left, ALWAYS right over left) had been avoided/omitted. It’s quite disturbing to the eye in my opinion. Well guess what happened next… I marked my buttonholes actively thinking:”Ha! You are not going to catch me making THAT dumb mistake!!” [Smirk face]. I sewed all the buttonholes , all the buttons, hemmed the shirt only to realize that I had just done it! I inverted the closure!!! Oh well…. *Shameful Face*

I really love the final garment. It fits my current needs perfectly and has been through several wash and wear cycles. I hope not to outgrow it too fast because it’s a very office friendly option in my shrinking wardrobe. I don’t have a definite word on Ralph Pink’s Sahara Shirt Pattern, like most patterns it did require a certain level modifications to match the idea that I had in mind. I did appreciate that the pattern pieces were relatively simple and went together easily.

As you can see in the inspiration pictures, a crucial aspect to modeling a square shirt is to pretend you’re about to casually perform a set of crunches.  I will comply as long as I’m not required to do the actual crunches!

Squareshirt SewingTidbits-4

That’s it for today! Hopefully I will be back soon with more pictures of recent makes. This post is proof that I CAN take pictures inside my apartment, even if they are on the boring side… Oooh tropical background of Haiti, how I miss you!! Any tips for indoor pictures you would like to share?

What is going on with all the big shirts?

Dear readers,

From the reactions to my last post, I gather that you are still around and ready to engage and that’s pretty good news! So first I would like to thank all the commenters, I think there was a great conversations going on!

One of the reasons for my lack of posting is the fact that I sewed several items I ended up disliking. In my opinion, that’s the most discouraging thing that can happen to a seamstress. You have an idea, get excited, find the fabric, the pattern, spend hours making it, try it on and….. Meh. How anti climatic is that? It doesn’t help that once I reach  construction stage, I don’t like to interrupt myself.I finish all the seams and stop to try on items only just before hemming/adding closures. I usually can get away with it because I know what shapes work on me and I spend time adjusting patterns before cutting fabric. Except these days, I have no idea of how to fit myself because….

Squareshirt SewingTidbits-1
I’m growing a little human!! That’s another reason the blog hiatus, I really really didn’t feel like being in front of a camera and all my clothes feel weird.

I used to wear fairly fitted clothes, most of the time in the smallest size available, with a defined waist. Obviously all that is gone already and I’m not sure of what’s left… I don’t really feel like wearing a lot of those tight jersey dresses that seem to be screaming “LOOK AT MY BELLY” but I’m also not use to see myself hidden in voluminous shapes. Tricky time! So I thought about big shirts:

After seeing the version made by Paprika Patterns, I decided to try Ralph Pink’s Sahara Shirt pattern. I’ve been tempted several times by his patterns, on the basis that they look “different” from most other Indies, but the sizing seemed too big for me and I struggled finding a pattern I really liked. It probably doesn’t help that not a lot of other bloggers have made his garments (with notable exception by Inna and Oona) so I wasn’t sure what to expect.

I printed the pattern, found suitable cotton-silk in the stash (same as a Vogue 1247 skirt sewn in 2014), cut the smallest size (US 0), sewed and sewed and sewed. It’s a relatively quick make, without many seams (although I used french seams everywhere), and they matched well enough. I would recommend checking the length of the front button plackets (I think they were too long) and the side seams but there was nothing truly catastrophic… Until I tried on the shirt. I could not picture myself going around the city is what looked like A GIGANTIC TENT!!


I put it away my sewing friend from the Pattern Line came over and convinced me that all it needed was taking in the sides a little. By a little, I mean 3″ on each side seams… The total reduction is 12″ (!!) tapered to nothing at the underarm. I also removed some of the extra length at the back to soften the curved hem effect. But you know what? Now, I actually really like it!

 As you can see, I didn’t lie when I previously said that blog posts would have less pretty pictures… Next time I will tell you about my iteration in white poplin (in the first picture).

In the mean time, I would love to hear your thoughts on those pattern companies that seem less popular among sewing bloggers, does it stop you from trying them out?

 

 

RTW Shirt Making – Introduction to a new series

Dear readers,

As promised, I am back with a compilation of my favorite shirt making techniques and strategy. If you want to follow along, my first recommendation is to have 1 or 2 shirts with you for reference. I prefer men’s shirts because they tend to have more elegant finishes than women’s, at similar price points.Even top of the line Banana Republic, Ann Taylor and J. Crew can be used  references (not the outlet type).

My most important disclaimer is that I do not like David Coffin’s book. I’m a bit irrational about it but I will not use it as a reference for this post.I know it’s been tremendously helpful to a lot of you, I own it and I just don’t like it. I even gave it away.

The less important disclaimer is that you don’t need to have sewn shirts before to use the techniques I will describe but you do need to have sewing experience and a good handling of your machine. I use an industrial Juki for the entire process (except the buttonholes) but there is no reason it wouldn’t work on a home machine.

If you tried my free pencil skirt pattern (see here to subscribe to the mailing list to get the latest version of the skirt and updates) you know that one of my goals is to engineer as much of the construction in the pattern as I can. It requires preparation before cutting for me it helps with clean results and make the construction a smooth process.

The next post in the series will be about pattern changes but I first want to look into the features of the shirt so that you know the changes you want to apply and the ones you don’t!

Flat-felled seams throughout

This includes side seams, underarm seam AND the armhole. Actually, the sleeve is attached first, so the underarm and the side seams are sewn at once since I prefer to attach the shirt sleeves flat.

SewingTidbits Shirtmaking - Flatfelled seams

Man Linen Shirt-3

French-seamed darts

I’m actually not sure how they are called but it’s the principle of a french seam applied to a dart. It works well for deep darts and darts that extend all the way down to the bottom (or front) of the shirt.SewingTidbits Shirtmaking - French seamed darts

Separate button band

A very common feature on my RTW shirts that I love the look of! It does require you to wok with different front left and right pattern pieces but since I cut single layer it’s really not an issue !

SewingTidbits Shirtmaking - Buttonband

SewingTidbits Shirtmaking - Button Band

Alternative pocket and placement

I will provide the pocket template I copied from a RTW shirt but I really recommend that  you go in your closet and figure out which of your shirts has the best pocket size and placement for your shirt. I’m convinced that they make a huge difference when it comes to ensuring your shirt looks more professional!

SewingTidbits Shirtmaking - Alternative pockets

2-piece sleeve placket

I think that traditional plackets are just so much nicer than the continuous bound type. For this step, I use a combination of Off-the-Cuff tutorial and and Fashion Incubator.

SewingTidbits Shirtmaking - Sleeve placket

 

Cuffs attached and top stitched in one-go

This Fashion-Incubator technique is the way I do it and I don’t think I will ever go back. I’m trying to implement it collars too but I haven’t had the same level of success yet.

SewingTidbits Shirtmaking - The Cuff

The probability of this series being too ambitious for me is real, therefore I will not attach any time frame to it! It make take a month, a year, you never know!! What I can say for now is that I’m already working on the post detailing changes to the pattern. In the mean time, I would love to start a conversation here about shirt making here, please share your favorite resources and tutorials but also the ones you tried and did not work out!!

Striped Shirt dress to close the year (among other things)

Dear Readers,

Happy New Year!! I hope that you are enjoying a pleasant and peaceful holiday season. I have disappeared for a while again, and it’s likely that it will take me a few weeks before I can make it again on the blog. Since last weekend, I moved (semi) permanently back to New York City. Over the last month, I’ve been traveling to find an apartment (the whole lease thing is soooo complicated), getting my visa, going back to France for some cheese&wine time, packing all my things and settling down. As with every move, the mixture of excitement and sadness sometimes becomes overwhelming.

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Regarding sewing, I now notice that I came to a full circle. Before coming to Haiti, I sewed and shirt dress (this one) and now a shirt dress will be the last thing that I’ve sewn there. I can say during the almost 3 years I spent in this country, I’ve improved my shirt making skills and this makes the entire process very enjoyable. One of the things that I enjoy the most about sewing shirts is that I can do it all on my industrial machine (except buttonholes) and that the inside is as clean as the outside.

Sewing Tidbits - Striped Shirtdress-4

The pattern is a lengthened version of my white shirt, which was initially derived from the Grainline Archer. Although it’s not perfect yet, it feels nice to have a pattern that can produce a decent shirt with major alterations. I do want to make some changes to future versions though :

  • While in France, I wore this dress with a sweater, tights and boots. My sleeves were not rolled-up and this is something that hasn’t happened in a while. It made me realize that i/ I was to radical when I shortened them, they are missing 1/2 to 1 inch and ii/ the cuff is way to wide, on my wrist.
  • I now find the collar a bit wide, especially in relation to the stand. I want to draft an alternative very narrow collar.
  • The length is manageable but maybe slightly on the short side, ahem ahem…
  • Finally, I’m still bothered by something that looks like an excess of length in the upper back. I pinned it out once (1 inch!!) but it would also require altering the sleeve head in some weird way which I still haven’t figured out…

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The fabric is a Japanese cotton purchased at Mood during spring trim to New York City and it’s probably the best thing out of this garment. It’s soft and strong at the same time, light but not too see-through and I have the feeling that it will age well. My main concern was using an interfacing that would not make it to heavy in the placket/collar/cuffs.

Sewing Tidbits - Striped Shirtdress-2

I do want to do a post where I round up the different tips/tutorials that I gathered over the last 3 years and that I know use as my standard for my all my shirt. I may do it before I manage to set up my sewing operation (yes, I’m serious like that). Let me know if you know of any resource that should not be overlooked!Sewing Tidbits - Striped Shirtdress-7

Finally, in January last year I had made only one resolution here, which was doubling my number of post. In 2014, I posted only 23 times so in 2015 I wanted to reach 46… …. …. (embarassed silence) …. Unfortunately, I ended up posting only 13 times… Oops!! It looks like regular blogging is just not compatible with my life, oh well…  In 2016, I will keep doing what I can and hopefully you will keep reading me! The good thing is that I can only (hopefully) improve from here!

That’s it for 2015, sewing and Haiti for now. I hope you are enjoying your loved ones and I will be back soon!

From Inspiration to Garment part 4 – Starting with a block

Dear readers,

At this stage, you may rightfully ask yourself what is going on, well I could tell you that I will explain at the end of this post, but I won’t. I’ll say it right now. I’m moving back to NYC!!! Starting 1st of January, I will change jobs and will relocate in Manhattan. On the one hand, it’s a great news. On the other hand, it means that I’m swamped at work trying to close as many processes as possible, plus organizing my move, searching for an apartment etc. Don’t expect too much sewing or blogging to happen before I’m settled…

However, since I have a significant blogging backlog and I’m never post very often anyway, you may not even notice the difference! Enough about the logistics, let’s talk about sewing! For the 4th post of the serie (see part 1, part 2 and part 3), I gathered some inspiration pictures for simple tunic dresses (all found on Pinterest, as usual) :


If you want to know more about using block patterns, you can read this post of the Fashion-Incubator. Basically, it’s about iterative designs based on an initial pattern that fits well. In the home-sewing world, it’s what we call TNT (Tried and True) patterns. The benefit is that you reduce alterations and depending on cases, can skip the toile stage. I really liked the upper body fit of my chambray dress so I started working on this version almost right afterwards (yes it was a while ago).

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For the pattern I simply took the bodice pattern of my previous version and lengthen it. I used french seams for the sides and added pockets. If you wonder about in-seam pockets and french seams, you can check out this tutorial.

My other construction change was to use bias binding as facing. It would have been quick and easy if I had used the self fabric but of course I decided to make things complicated and used some of the silk crepe remnants from my slip dress. It took a little more time but I love the contrast of the cream silk and the blue/grey chambray. I used this fabric before for a pair of Colette Madeleine pajamas. I bought it at Mood NYC back in 2013 and it’s very easy to work with. I used white thread for topstitching.  I stole the pocket pattern from my white shirt.

Sewing Tidbits - Chambray Tunic-5

Sewing Tidbits - Chambray Tunic-4

These days, I try to skip bust darts to simplify the lines for a cleaner/sharper look.  I love those simple straight silhouettes on other people but when it’s time for me to wear them I find them more flattering when belted. I have to apologize about the pictures, unfortunately The Old Man has not completely mastered the focus with my new lens!!

Sewing Tidbits - Chambray Tunic-6

Overall this project has been very cheap since everything came from stash and I made my own pattern. Regarding the fit however, I’m only 75% happy. I wish I had shaped the side seam a little to take in the waist and give more ease at the hips. I did add back darts as an afterthought to remove the excess when belted. Most importantly, I should have worn my previous version of this pattern more before using it as a block. I drafted a square angle under the arm that requires to be clipped. It’s a point of weakness for this design and I had to repair it on each side for the first dress.

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I believe that it’s the fundamental difference when you draft/drape your own pattern compared to buying patterns or RTW garments. Nobody did the testing for you!! Just like when buying a car, you have to take it for a ride before you commit! Standing straight in front of the mirror or for a 10 minutes photo session in your garden won’t give you all the insights you need to assess the fit, the durability and versatility of your design. Now let’s talk about it! How many times do you make a pattern before it becomes a block/TNT ?