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!

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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.

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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!

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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 :

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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!

And this is how you lose sewing focus…

I was in France. For 3 weeks. I bought fabric (of course). I came back less than a week ago and pre-washed all said fabrics (gold star for me). I started working on an apdapted Archer pattern for 1 or 2 shirts out of the new fabric.

Proof #1

Practising Plackets à la Off-the-Cuff mode...
Practising Plackets à la Off-the-Cuff mode

And Proof #2

 

Removing shoulder length...
Removing shoulder length…

And then i visited Lekala’s website and saw this :

Good by focus… HELLO RALPH LAUREN INSPIRED SHEATH DRESS!!!

I’m off to check my mailbox compulsively until the custom sized pattern arrives. It’s been 6 minutes and 48 seconds. WHY IS IT TAKING SOOOO LONG??!

More to come….

Linen dresses Part II

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Ok, so now that I confessed that I let The Old Man design one dress and that I realized that I’m not the only one after reading your comments on my last post, I can go further in my confessions. In addition to cooking for me, cleaning my wounds (a not-so-funny story in the streets of Port-au-Prince) and driving me around, The Old Man keeps a Pinterest board of LADIES outfits, for me. Yep. I said it.

I know…. Now, let’s move on to the dress. This is the second linen dress on which I worked with The Old Man. The selected inspiration dress was an Asos ponte knit number. Try to explain that ponte and linen do not behave in the same way and you will get a blank stare back at you… So I decided to keep the technical challenges for myself and try to make it work in a Tim Gunn’s manner!

Inspiration picture

 

As it is extremely difficult to show the seamlines in the pictures, I hope you will get a closer idea in the dressform shots and the inside-outs. As for my previous linen number, I used my now TNT sheath dress pattern Lekala 5166. This time I kept the center back shaping. I made the dress longer (OBVIOUSLY) and tapered the seam at the hem up to 1″ on the front and back side seams. In total that represents 4″ less in the knee area so adding a back vent was mandatory if I intended to do more than standing straight in that dress. I created the underbust seam and I closed that section at the princess seam to just keep a pleat under the bust. My other modification for the front was to extend the bottom of the side dart into a pocket. For some reason I find these type of pockets visually interesting as well as practical. If you remember I already used it in my Reiss inspired coat last year. So instead of a 1 piece front you get a front and a side panel that acts also as the pocket bag.

After the pattern work, the construction was fairly simple :

  • the upper front pieces  sewn at center front on the SA
  • on the main front a attached the pocket facing and then added the side panel and then attached to the rest of front,
  • Attach the upper front and the front together
  • Sew the back darts
  • Join front and back at shoulder seams, do the same for the front self lining and back facing
  • Insert the invisible zipper (still with the Fashion-Incubator technique), sew the center back seam (and the vent)
  • Attach the facing all around the neckline and armholes. Turn out the whole thing like a sock. I hope you are all familiar with the all-in-one facing technique. If not, I think Salme patterns did a good job at illustrating the concept.
  • Sew the side seams in 1 step, from hem to facings
  • hem, topstitch the vent and done!

You can see that I left some of the process regarding seam finishes out. I mostly used seam binding as you can see on the inside out post!

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I really like this dress and I wear it quite often even though it is a bit formal for the everyday look at my work place. Thus, it’s great for these I-have-a-meeting type of days. However the décolleté is a bit on the osé (bold?)  side…

Overall it was a great experience and I officially awarded TOM with a special advisory title on my sewing. I know it’s been a while since my last post, but in the mean time I’ve been to NY (brought fabric that you will see very soon), to Guatemala, sewed 2 pencil skirts, currently looking at relaxed wide linen pants and worked on a special project that you should be able to enjoy soon if things go according to plan. Yes, I’ve been busy…

My last word are on press cloth, I will admit to be a wild presser. I press everything heavily and I try to pretend that I don’t see the shiny marks that I am creating… But to be honest it’s bothering me more and more. Recently I read this post on Sunny Gal Studio’s blog and I think it’s time. Time to stop being lazy and start using a press cloth! In my 14 years of sewing, I had to fight my laziness many times : stop ignoring that you have to “set in” a sleeve, stop cutting double layer for silk, stop thinking it’s ok not to finish seams, etc…. Overall this is how my sewing improves, gradually and in steps. BUT I know very little about press cloth. Do I need more than one ? Is a piece of muslin ok ? Does it depend on fabric ? I will have to do some research…

What is your favorite source of information when it comes to press cloths ? And I would love to hear what was the latest step you took to take your sewing to the next level!

 

 

Linen dresses part I

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OK I know I announced a lot of posts, or at least weekly ones, but of course life/work got in the way. I’m currently enjoying freezing in the streets of NYC for a quick 5 days and then I will be off to Guatemala. I made this dress before the end of 2013, and it is sort of an experiment than could be entitled “what happens when you let your boyfriend design your dress?”.

First of all, I have to say that he is very interested in women dressing. Like we shop together, for real. He does not wait around the entrance looking like he’s trying to escape. He selects clothes on the rack, wait around the dressing rooms, gives his opinion about fit and quality of material, etc. I’ve never been so much of a group shopper but for some reason it works well and generally if I follow his advice I get a lot of compliments by strangers later… So ok I give in, a guy may have better taste than me to dress me… After doing a closet clean-out due to some weight loss and style evolutions, I talked him into defining a dress he would like to see me in.

Overall no big surprises : it’s short, it’s fitted and in a solid color… Men… He also made the specific requirement that it should be linen (and navy). Which is good because it’s the only natural fiber readily available in Haiti (at high cost though).

For the pattern I used the made to measure lekala 5166 that I used for my little 90’s dress. I altered the pattern to make a sleeveless dress (bring the underarm seam up and in), removed the back seam and its shaping so it’s a bit more loose in the waist, raise the neck line and create a placket opening, and finally lengthen it  a little. I’m sticking to my strategy of working based on Lekala patterns, and it has been very rewarding so far!

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Construction was fairly simple, I finished the seams with french seams and the front placket unbuttons down to the waist so no need for other closures. I fused the placket pieces and the opening on the dress. Unfortunately I only had white interfacing but it’s on the inside so it does not bother me too much. Since I made that dress well over 3 months ago, it got a lot of wear already. Comfortable + flattering + easy to wash = heavy rotation!!

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Overall the experiment was a total success so we tried a second time. I already have the pictures of that second (linen… again…) dress and should be able to post it soon! What about you ? Have you ever let someone else decide on all the aspects of a garment you were going to sew for yourself? Is your partner a good source of advice for clothing or does he run away when you say you are looking for constructive criticism ?

Frankenpattern making, the result of Grainline Moss and Lekala 5430

Moss Denim Mini Skirt - Grainline Studio - Lekala 5460 by Sewingtidbits

 

You guys! I took pictures! I did, and of 3 projects so get ready for some intense blog activity, because I may be reaching a post a week! I know, I know, it’s going to be INSANE!

So, first to come is the result of my frankenpattern-making from december (DECEMBER !! shame…). I did a whole construction post then, so there is not much to add.

Moss Denim Mini Skirt - Grainline Studio - Lekala 5460 by Sewingtidbits

 

As you can see, it’s VERY VERY short. I don’t know what possessed me when I decided on the length… If I remember well I chopped off at least 3″. Aaaah late night sewing, when will I learn ?? It’s a lot of (short) legs showing… But surprisingly, it does not stop me from wearing it almost every weekend. It’s like impractical cut-offs. What can I say, I like to live a dangerous life!

Moss Denim Mini Skirt - Grainline Studio - Lekala 5460
Where I hold a wooden giraffe in an attempt to fight posing discomfort…

Now, on the whole process… The construction went seamlessly (haha) except because of my own stupid, stupid mistake. Can you spot what is wrong here ?

Moss Denim Mini Skirt - Grainline Studio - Lekala 5460

That’s right, I assembled the wrong yoke and back pieces AND serged them AND topstitched them. YES BOTH OF THEM. The result looked kind of weird but I did not stop. When I realized, even though I was alone in my sewing room, I was extremely embarrassed… Of course I took a picture, so that you can all make fun of me or reassure me that it happens to everyone (while thinking, OMG this girl is kind of dumb!).

Apart from that I’m super happy with my pattern prep process, the zipper and the pockets almost assembled themselves (almost)…

Grainline denim moss skirt
Blurry rushed Iphone photo…

Denim grainline moss skirt Grainline moss denim skirt

Fabric : in my initial post, I said it was chambray and as you can all see, it’s not. It’s denim. OBVIOUSLY! I actually had to google the difference… The verdict is : denim is a twill, chambray is a plain will. So if you all knew this, you can make fun of me again.

Going back to this nice and soft denim, I do not remember where I bought it. It was 4 years ago, when I just moved to NYC and I decided to knock-off an Abercrombie gathered mini skirt. It was a disaster, skirt was never completed and very little fabric was salvaged, stored and moved to Haiti, to finally found its use 3 1/2 years later.

Moss Denim Mini Skirt - Grainline Studio

 

Lastly, I’m thinking more and more about what I sewed and what I sew. I lost some weight in the last 6 months, so I went through a closet purge assisted by The Old Man – TOM. It was a painful process, but I had to admit that I don’t wear a lot of things that I made (including quite a few that was blogged last year). The time involved makes it extra hard to remove items from the closet, even though they were worn once. So I want to plan my projects a lot more carefully now.

TOM has a very precise idea of what he likes me to wear (very decent, I promise) and I’m starting to realize that he is usually right. Currently, I’m running by him my ideas before I jump into the making and the results have been very wearable: more solid colors, natural material and focusing on a close fit. As much as I like loose shapes and interesting prints, they tend to make overpower my small frame. To give you an idea, the next posts will include 2 solid linen dresses and a shirt dress.

What about you ? Do you have an approval process before you start a garment or you jump right into what your heart (or pinterest) tells you ?

Sewing with Lekala patterns – Part III / A simple dress


Lekala dress 5166Lekala dress 5166Lekala dress 5166
Lekala dress 5166

The last time that I managed to take pictures for this skirt, I also did this Lekala 5166. BUT while I was uploading them in Iphoto, something went wrong – Iphoto quit “unexpectedly” – and the pictures were GONE. Already deleted from the camera and nowhere in Iphoto. I could have cried.

2 weeks later, I’m looking for a picture for a friend and I ended up founding the pictures of the dress in the photostream of my Iphone. My friend could not have cared less because I was trying to find for him the picture that a Haitian Government official uses as a chat profile pic where he happens to be topless with 3 rottweilers (yes it’s true… and the guy well into his 50’s). Anyway, I cared more about my dress!!

If you remember, I scared you in this post deciding to use an old school Lekala Pattern, namely Lekala 5166. IT IS scary on paper but in real life it’s just a cute fitted dress! The only change I made to the pattern (made to measure with the Lekala advanced features) was to make it shorter, waaaay shorter. I also changed the seam allowances in the back on the dress and the facings to apply my favorite invisible zipper method.

There is not much more to say apart that I LOVE THIS DRESS and I already modified the pattern to make a sleeveless version out of linen (waiting to be photographed). Next time that I will make it with sleeves I want to remove maybe 1/2″ of ease in the sleeve head as it almost puckered.

The fabric was bought in Mood NYC when I went back in June. It’s from Anna Sui, it was in the silk section but I have to admit that I never saw a silk with such a weave… As you can see on the back I paid absolutely NO attention to print matching. Should I have to? I don’t think I care (which is weird because I’m usually slightly obsessive about this kind of things)!

For the construction I mostly used my 4-thread serger as I am trying to teach myself to use it more. Since you can’t really cout on the instructions here is my order of construction :

  1. Sew the front and back darts
  2. Serge shoulder seams on the dress and the facings
  3. Serge side seams
  4. Serge underarm seam and hem the sleeves.
  5. Set sleeve in armhole, serge the finished seam.
  6. Serge Center back seams separately, attach invisible zipper, sew the back seam, attach facings to zipper and sew facing to the neck of the dress.
  7. Hem the dress
  8. DONE!!

It really is a quick one and the result quite 90’s but nice and easy to wear. The dress form shots :

Lekala dress 5166Lekala dress 5166Lekala dress 5166Lekala dress 5166
Lekala dress 5166

Did I convince you to use Lekala yet? Is print matching absolutely mandatory? But most importantly: How much 90’s is too much 90’s??