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).

Sewing Tidbits - Chambray Tunic-1

Sewing Tidbits - Chambray Tunic-3

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.

Sewing Tidbits - Chambray Tunic-2Sewing Tidbits - Chambray Tunic-7

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 ?

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From Inspiration to Garment – Part 3 – With a commercial pattern

Dear readers,

It’s the third part of my little serie and I want to talk about those times when you feel too lazy to draft or drape the pattern! For several years now (yes, several), I have been thinking about slip dresses. I was a teenager in the 90’s so I will always be convinced that calvin klein epurated slip dresses are the coolest. Kate Moss and Rachel from Friends shaped my idea of style (for the best and the worst!!)! Twice a year, when the idea of making a bias slip would sudden become urgent, I’d frantically research patterns meant to be cut on the bias, take note of linings in some Vogue patterns and forget about it. Until next time. But not this time! Let’s look at the inspiration first, all collected on Pinterest, with of course, queen Moss:

As stated before, some Vogue patterns include a slip which is meant to be cut on the bias. Carolyn of Handmade by Carolyn made a beautiful version. I myself own New Look 6244 but it’s at my parents’ house… in France… I actually made this dress 10 years ago but purposefully ignore the bias for the lining (so stubborn) because I did not see the point. Ahem Ahem… I have to admit that in my early sewing years, I was (still am) very stubborn and I did not see the point of many things . Those things included seam finishes, easing sleeves, aligning the grain, wearing ease and many more… Slowly but surely I integrated them in my sewing for the better!Bias silk dress by SewingTidbitsOne detail, I dislike in current Vogue slips such as 1287 is the bust dart. I was convinced I could get away without one since the bias could do the minimal shaping I require. I finally decided to go with the lining of Lekala 2021. It doesn’t not specify that it’s meant to be cut on the bias, (at least Google Translate does not say so) but since I got to start with a pattern customized to my measurement, so I figured it was worth it.Bias silk dress by SewingTidbitsMy first step was to do a toile. I used regular muslin even though my silk was going to be behave differently. I figured a “skin” tight fit on my form (slightly bigger than me) in muslin would result in appropriate amount in and the 2 layers of silk would have appropriate wearing ease on me. It was a bit risky but it worked! I also used the toile to check the neckline and position and measure the straps. I had to take in 1/2″ from each side at the bust and waist, tapering to nothing at the hips and I made no changes to the neckline.

Toiling a bias slip dress today. Can't cut into my delicious silk until I sharpen my scissors… Sigh… #sewing #isew

A post shared by SewingTidbits (@sewingtidbits) on

The most challenging part for me in working with with silk is cutting, especially on the bias. It takes forever and I’m always tempted to cut corners. However, this time I did not. I lied my 23mm silk crepe from Calamo New York on a first layer of paper, aligning the selvage with the straight edge of the paper to prevent distortion. I created a “marker”, which is another layer of paper with all the pieces to be cut drawn in their cutting position. I added my “marker” on top and pinned between the pieces to avoid marking the silk. I then cut through the 3 layers.
Bias silk dress by SewingTidbitsBias silk dress by SewingTidbitsI have an important piece of information that some of you may resist. It’s OK to cut through paper with your fabric scissors! Yes… I know what the home sewing police says but really, you’ll be fine! And it will actually dull your blades a lot less than cutting wool or tweed!!Bias silk dress by SewingTidbits
I stabilized both layers of the neckline with fusible strips and attached the sides with french seams. For a reason I cannot explain, sewing went well for the first pass of the french seam but my industrial Juki refused, yes refused (!!), to go through the second one with a repeated mess of skipped stitches. I was confused and about to cry but I decided to add a layer of paper on top of the seam and tear it off after stitching and it did the trick!
Bias silk dress by SewingTidbitsFor the straps I used the method described by my friend E. on her blog. The only thing I would add would be to not be afraid to use a rather large strip of bias, such as 2.5 or 3″ as the allowance will “fill” the tube. For the hem, on top of providing the tutorial, E. gifted my ban-roll. I don’t know why I never tried before. Actually I do know why (see stubborness mentionned above) but I regret it deeply. This thing is absolutely AMAZING: perfect baby hem on silk. Every. Time.  No need to say more. I actually want to try it to hem shirts with it too!Bias silk dress by SewingTidbits
That’s it for my notes. I love love love the final dress and I wore it for my birthday (30… yikes). We went dining and dancing and I felt very comfortable in this simple yet dressed-up silhouette. I am now thinking of making a single layer one out of thicker black silk crepe. And tank tops, a lot of tank tops, I may have opened the pandora box of bias project! Do you have favorite patterns for bias cuts ? I would love to see what you recommend!

From Inspiration to Garment – Part 2 – Sewing

Dear readers,

Canadian weather seems to make me lazy, and since I’m not a very prolific blogger already, it’s getting sad around here. But here I am! As promised, I have pictures to show you of the finished chambray dress I draped in my previous post. I mentioned before that sewing your own patterns is completely different experience than sewing commercial patterns. Since you don’t have instructions it may seem counterintuitive, but it’s much easier. Steps just flow naturally. Of course you have to figure out a lot of things, but hopefully you did that in the patternmaking stage!

chambray-dress-1If you remember the original dress, it had a kind of funnel collar, which I don’t find attractive. Instead, I decided to do a “visible facing”. There may be a real name for that but I don’t know. I stole the idea from my new favorite sewing book: Sewing for Fashion Designers by Anette Fischer. I plan on doing a book review of it because I am truly impressed by it. Considering the number of sewing books I read, this is quite exceptional.

Another design change is the little turn up detail in the sleeve. The construction of the entire dress was pretty straightforward. I used a lot of my fusible tape to stabilize the neckline, the pocket opening and the zipper area. For the neckline, I dumbly interfaced the wrong side when, with my inverted, I should have done it on the right side. Oh well…

If you saw this dress on my instagram, you may have thought that I was very fitted but in fact it’s not. I love how comfortable it is, the style is relaxed and it makes it a perfect weekend dress!

chambray-dress-3

The fabric is from Rag&Bone, purchased at Mood during my last trip to New York. It does wrinkle and the sleeve style tends to accentuate the wrinkling but It doesn’t bother me for a relaxed dress. I used some of of my muslin for my pocket bags, I always think muslin is the perfect match for denim and chambray and it feels less wasteful about the whole process. I didn’t make my pocket bags deep enough for my taste, which is a recurrent issue. I always eyeball it and it’s systematically to shallow. I wonder if there is a rule of thumb out there… Any hint?

chambray-dress-2chambray-dress-5I love the upper body fit and I may iterate from this style and see what I can turn it into. I’m currently thinking and tunic/dress length without waistband of gathers to be worn with a belt. It looks clean and simple in my head and if I could sketch I would share with you. But my drawing skills are … let’s say limited (understatement…) so I guess you will have to take my word for it!

I only wish I had checked the ironing before taking the pictures because the back looks quite terrible. It looks like the waistband does not match at the zipper, when in fact, it does!! The fancy camera does not do it all, I have to put more efforts in my pictures…

chambray-dress-6 chambray-dress-7I’m trying to turn those posts in a little serie that i call “From Inspiration to Garment”. Now that I wrote it, I may lose all my interest in doing it (yes…). But in case I don’t, I like the idea of exploring different ways to draw from inspiration to make an aspirational wardrobe materialize and work in real life. Next post will be unrelated (it’s a leather one) but I will get back into it shortly! In the mean time, I leave you with a side by side comparison picture, do you think it looks close enough (except for the bad pose)? I’d love to here your approach to sewing from inspiration!

Comparaison Chambray Dress

Vogue 8379 – a wrap dress that was not sewed-along

Dear readers,

Coming back from Guatemala in March to a clean and organized sewing room had the most surprising effect. I lost all my inspiration. After a week of indecisiveness, I bit the bullet and decided to use a pattern from my stash you probably all know, since Mccalls was running a sew along on their blog. My inability to participate in social events around the sewing community is well documented un-documented. As soon as I decide to take part in a sew-along, contest or anything, my excitement for the project drops entirely. In addition, not getting many opportunities to sew during the week, when I do, I clock several hours at once. The step by step approach of sewalongs – attach the collar and next week we’ll tackle the sleeves – does not work for me. I’m more a #sewuntilyoureyeshurt and #oopsthatsleeveisinsideout kind of person. But I’ll admit it, I am weak. I did not know what to sew, I had the pattern in my stash, I love thinkingI’m copying designers. So I went for it…

vogue-8379-Sewing Tidbits
I think I wrote several time about how rarely I work with Big4 patterns and why. I will NOT use 5/8″ seam allowances on a knit. Reading the instructions, I realized there was ease in the cap sleeve. Ease in a t-shirt sleeve!! I also checked the many many PR reviews and saw that the skirt is considered very full. I draped size 8 on my form with the paper pattern. Vogue 8379 - Draping the pattern - SewingTidbits

The picture is blurry but you can see how different it looks from the illustration. I decided to redraw the side seam and remove a lot of length. The final skirt length is 20″ and the hem circumference is 74″. I was surprised to find the waistline hitting at the right spot. I assume that it should be lengthen for none petite bodies. Other than that, the bust measurement is quite high, do they believe bust level is where the circled cross is???
Vogue 8379 - Draping the pattern - SewingTidbitsI removed 1/4 where the point of the wrap at the bodice meets the waistline to prevent gaping and changed all the SA’s to 3/8″. I removed 1/4″ on each side seam of the bodice, thus a 1″ overall.

I found around 1″ of ease in the sleeve cap. To remove it, I lowered the cap by 3/8″flatten the back portion and remove about 1/2″ on each side of the underarm seam (1/4″ being due to my intake in the bodice side seam). Vogue 8379 - Draping the pattern - SewingTidbitsThe dress was sewn entirely on the serger and what took the most time was probably finding the motivation of catch stitching the facing and the hem. The good parts in my procrastination is that with 2 weeks on the form, the skirt had all the times it needed to stretch out so I could safely mark and hem without risking further stretching.

Vogue 8379 by SewingTidbitsI only did a passable job at making my catch stitching invisible and it bothers me a little. But definitely not enough to redo it! The fabric is the last piece of a black jersey which at this stage I’m not entirely sure I bought it in Paris or in NYC. I get very worried about my memory. When I hear other seamstresses with stashes 20 times the size of mine (yes, it’s small), saying that they can remember buying each piece, I’m embarrassed. My entire stash holds in one drawer and although I think I know everything I own and could mention it from the top of my head, I get surprises every time! Am I the only one? Is my memory particularly bad?
Vogue 8379 by SewingTidbits

Vogue 8379 by SewingTidbitsI didn’t like spending all this time on the pattern of what I consider a relatively basic knit dress. If you add my low sew-jo and The Old Man’s not-so-subtle-comments about spending time on dresses when I mostly wear jeans & shirts, I was about the quit several times. Even when I finished it, I was disappointed. I was planning a pathetic blog post about how I AGAIN sewed something I don’t need and how The Old Man was right. But last week I had a work cocktail and it ended up being very useful. I got a lot of compliments, including from The Old Man.

vogue-8379-10 Vogue 8379 - Sewingtidtbits

I am now convinced that this dress induced a major blogging break. Yes, I blame it on a dress 😉 . I started this review a month ago and could not manage to finish it. Final verdict: I will probably wear that dress but I can’t say that I love it. I decided to take it as a lesson. Recently I was discussing with the very smart Seamripped if we sew what we want to wear or wear what we want to sew. In that case I believe I have been wanting to make a wrap dress for a long time (blame it on the DVF patterns) but I never pictured myself wearing one. So in the future I want to take let what I want to wear (my fashion board on Pinterest VS my sewing board). If you follow me in Instagram you saw that I put it into practice twice already…

What about you? How do you decide what to sew?

A simple black Nettie dress

Dear readers,

Do you realize that as seamstresses, we tend to overanalyze our wardrobe? I mean who else spends these hours reading about the Wardrobe Architect, or every current and vintage wardrobe/style advice ever printed? I, for example, am having a massive style crush on Un-fancy. Even though her style is much much more casual than mine, and I have 0 plans to get dressed with 37 items, I am addicted to her daily remixes and the clean feeling of her pictures. And even after all our careful analyze and planning we get distracted by the latest pattern release or a nice print at the fabric store…

Finally let’s also be honest about one point: having a blog does change what you sew, because for instance neon color will pop on the screen and social media, as well as pretty prints. For some of us it’s ok, because it is actually our uniform, but for others it is not. As I am now just 1 year before 30, and I’m starting to admit that I don’t wear that many eye-popping color and prints. I will keep enjoying them on other blogs and once in a while fall for distraction bu, sewing my “birthday dress” meant sewing something that will come out of my closet every time I need to “fancy” up myself!

What can be better than a black Nettie dress from Closet Case files then ?? Nothing.wpid830-Black-nettie-dress-35.jpg wpid828-Black-nettie-dress-29.jpg wpid819-Black-nettie-dress-15.jpg

I made this dress before, so I did not change anything, except that I did not add bra cups inside. The fabric is a viscose jersey bought in Paris while I was there in June (at Sacré Coupons), and although it is very soft, it is slightly less stretchy than the printed lace I used for my previous version. Therefore, I am trying to feel what the reviewers stated about the arms being on the tight side. However, please note that I use the smallest side of the initial pattern release, before Heather corrected it.

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I have several garments to show here, including some that are not even photographed yet. Last weekend I did try the Named Shadi skirt and made 2 (knit skirts, so fast…). BUT it is this time, you know the one that comes every 8 weeks. I will be traveling to Guatemala (for rest) and Panama (for work). I have hopes to take pictures before and write blog posts during my holidays. We will see how this goes.

Now, I would really like to hear about your strategies to make clothes that suit your lifestyle and not be distracted by pretty prints and patterns releases !

 

 

Lekala 4362 – Michael Kors

Dear Readers,

I made a terrible mistake. The sign that my pinterest board has become too big for my eyes has come. When I said that I was going to make Lekala 4362 because it reminded me of a Ralph Lauren design, I was terribly wrong… It was Michael Kors. Let’s see it in pictures :

Lekala 4362
Ralph Lauren
Michael Kors, retailed for over 1400$!!

Now that I confessed my mistake, let’s look at my version, my Michael Kors knock-off very own Mickael Chors dress.

wpid766-Lekala-4362-front-main.jpg wpid768-Lekala-4362-back.jpg

The differences that you can notice with the original “inspiration” are 1/ the pleats at the shoulder and 2/ the symmetrical hem. Although number 2 is deliberate, I have to admit that number 1 is probably linked to my limited non-existant understanding of russian…

The fabric is an extremely lightweight denim bought before I moved out of NYC at Moods. I know it looks like linen but it’s not, I promise!

wpid772-Lekala-4362-front-second.jpg wpid776-Lekala-4362-closeup2.jpg

wpid774-lekala-4362-closeup.jpg

On the opposite of my Lekala experience, this pattern required quite some work before I “made it work”. First, as you know the patterns are generated automatically to fit your measurements, which I believe is fine when doing simple shapes, but becomes a bit more complicated when there are slashes and pleats and rotated darts all over… So that means WALKING ALL THE SEAMS, to make sure they match.

The good thing is that I could still trust the fit enough not to make a muslin (time is a rare luxury these days). However the bottom part did not come “exactly as expected”. On the below pictures the dress is just pinned at the sides on my form :

wpid758-lekala-4362-form-before.jpg

Hum… Not really what I had in mind so I re-draped the front skirt portion and transferred the changes to the pattern to get this :

wpid754-Lekala-4362-skirt-redraft.jpgwpid762-lekala4362-form-after.jpgI also took the back in before inserting the invisible zipper and decided to do my usual 4″ inches tapering on pencil skirts, adding a slit at the back because it was obviously too late for a vent… I drafted a lining (the front bodice lining is included, one less thing to do) and found the most luscious silk twill in my stash. I have 0 idea where it comes from but if I had to (wondering who would threaten to take my dog if I could not remember where each piece of my stash is from?? The stash police maybe…), I would bet on Paron’s in NYC.

Oops blurry... The correction is in red!
Oops blurry… The correction is in red!

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For the construction side, it went rather smoothly. I finished the lining edges to edges (the lining is a tiny bit smaller than the dress) because I hate facings. Did I tell you I hate facings? Ok, yes I probably did… But really, I HATE facings. The invisible zipper, the best one I ever sewed according to The Old Man, was inserted following the technique that I mentioned several times. Because it’s the best. Yes. It. Is.

One last thing, there is a new feature on the russian lekala website (leko-mail.net), if you click on “order” for a pattern, then under the technical drawing the last icon before the “save” button takes you to a page where you can CHANGE THE COLOR OR THE PRINT of the illustration. OMG. SO MUCH FUN!!! Go and try it for the dress I just made, and it works for all their recent patterns!

Sometimes I wonder how a company can be so advanced on their core technology (automated made to measure patterns!!) and so behind with their website designs and marketing… What do you think ? Do you enjoy this fun feature ?

Come back soon because I’ve been away from the blog for the only valid reason: I’ve been sewing a lot (well at least for my standards)… More later!

Faux Lace Nettie Dress

Close Front - Nettie Dress Side View - Nettie Dress Back View - Nettie Dress
It’s very rare that I use independent pattern companies. It’s even more rare that I decide to use them right after they are released. Unless you have been living under a rock buried under your stash the last few weeks, you have seen many many iterations of Nettie, the bodysuit pattern released by Closet Case Files. Frankly, I am not sure a bodysuit would add anything in my life (but I understand that it can be useful to others) so I had a look but did not pay all that much attention. But then, I saw this dress made by the lovely Lindsay. I did not have a choice anymore, I NEEDED IT NOW. Unfortunately, knit is NOT an easy thing to find in Port-au-Prince AND the old man tends to make those comments about new fabric purchases that cool me down a bit. So I know I had to be sneaky. And sneaky I was! When I was told that the daughter of our friends dreamt about having a mermaid tail she could swim in (more later), I happily volunteered myself, knowing that it would mean a trip to the fabric store without The Old Man. And there it was, waiting for me, lace printed knit that looks A LOT like the one Carolyn used recently or the illustration of the Nettie pattern. The worst part is that I did not even realize it was the same as the illustration until Heather pointed it out on Instagram.

Close Bottom - Nettie Dress Close back - Nettie Dress

In the same weekend, I completed my mermaid making commitments, I ignored the less-than-convinced comments from the old man about the fabric and tackled the Nettie on Sunday afternoon. By Sunday evening, after taking a nap and a break for dinner, the dress was done. The old man was so impressed that i/ he admitted he was wrong about the fabric and ii/ he wondered why my other projects are all so long. Men… But I mean COME ON, he admitted he was wrong about something, that NEVER happens.

Regarding the pattern I used the high front neckline and the lowest back. I was a bit concerned about the sizing since I had the initial version of the pattern, before Heather amended it. But I decided that my knit had enough stretch so I cut a size 4 (so if I understood correctly this size would now be a 2 and is not included in the pattern anymore) and graded out to a 6 at the hips just to be sure. I also shorthened the sleeves because I have creepy baby length arms and the cropped sleeves would have ended at my wrists…

Dressform front nettie dress Dressform Side - Nettie Dress Dressform Back - Nettie Dress

I did not really use the instructions, first because I did not use my regular machine but my serger (and I don’t baste, I hate basting) and second I prefer to construct knit flat as much as possible (except hems). That means that I joined 1 shoulder, added the neck binding, closed the second shoulder, sewed the sleeves in the armholes and closed the side seams from the bottom of the hem to the end of the sleeve. The hems were serged, turned and topstitched twice to mimic the effect of a coverstitch.

Neckbinding - Nettie DressInside Front - Nettie Dress Inside back - Nettie Dress Inside close - Nettie Dress Cup - Nettie Dress

 

I used the instructions to add the shelf bra. I am still undecided about the cups. I destroyed an old bra to steal the cups but I don’t know if they add to the silhouette or detract from it. The dress has not been taken out on a date yet so I guess that a few hours of test wearing will tell me if I like the cups or not. By the way, yes, I know this dress needs a date. I told the old man and I wore it around the house to signal my impatience so it should be coming soon. Unless we get knocked down by the epidemic of Chikungunya. And I really hope it is not the case because we are leaving to France in 10 days. I do not want to be sick, I want to be able to sneak around to by fabric and hide it in my suitcase!!

Finally, I believe that the Nettie dress requires a Vixen pose, so here it is :

Front - Nettie Dress

 

To finish on an unrelated note I changed the design of my blog. I hope you like it and that it makes reading easier! Let me know if you have comments.

What do you think about bodysuits ? Do you wear them? And more importantly, do you have to hide to buy fabric???