Category Archives: Beginner

Obsession

Ok.  I think I need help. 

Hi, my name is Elizabeth and I am a sewing addict.  Seriously.  It’s all I think about ever.  Every minute of the day.  When I’m at work, I would rather be at home sewing.  Work is getting in the way of my sewing.  It’s really starting to bother me.  I’m almost beginning to wonder if I should make a career change.  But what would I do?  I’m not good enough at sewing to be paid for it and I’m really slow.  Hmmm….  Must think about this some more.

Anyway, I took a nap with Jack today and I dreamt about making a jersey skirt with a shirred waist.  I had seen one earlier in the day and loved it.  After the nap, I thought about the Burda dress that’s been on my mind off and on for the last two months.  It’s 105 from May, 2010. 

I’ve had this beautiful ombre knit from Metro Textiles in my stash for a few months that I have had no idea how to use.  It’s been killing me because I just adore this ombre thing that’s been around for awhile.  Wouldn’t this dress look beautiful in an ombre????

Now I just need to decide how to place the ombre.  Should I have it start with the lighter blue at the shoulders going to the darker blue at the waist?  And if I do that how should I do the skirt?  I want the darker blue to make me look slimmer, but wonder if having light blue at the knees would look funny. 

What if I have the change of color go from left to right instead for the bodice only and then have it change from top to bottom on the skirt?  But then I still have to decide about the light blue at the knees issue.

Thoughts anyone?

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Reframing

 

I’ve been ruminating again on process.  How sewing is all about process.  How I abhor process and yet keep picking activities where process is the main theme.  And it got me to thinking about how I would rather skip from A to Z without learning about all the letters between.  Z being an expert sewist who makes no mistakes and never has a wadder. 

Although I intellectually understand that mistakes are learning experiences, I still want to be the person who never makes a mistake.  The one who never creates a wadder. 

But what if we reframe the term wadder so that it has a positive meaning rather than a negative one.  What if we thought of wadders as badges of honor.  As proof that we have learned something along the way.  As proof that we took some risks, that we had faith in our abilities.  I look at Carolyn who recently stepped out of her TNT comfort zone and tried a new pattern.  She didn’t like her first dress with this new pattern (although I thought it looked fab), but she’s already changed the pattern and is going to try it again. 

I have always feared failure and wadders, sewing ones or otherwise.  You see, I’m a perfectionist.  Perfectionists don’t like mistakes.  I once told a mentor of mine that I couldn’t possibly be a perfectionist because I wasn’t perfect yet.  As soon as the words left my mouth, I realized that I was one.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not a perfectionist in every part of my life.  I do pick and choose my battles.  High on my list is loading the dishwasher perfectly, but my apartment is far from neat.  I will settle for a zipper slightly off at the top, but not at the bottom.  I will jury rig a lining so that it won’t show below the hem of the fashion fabric, but take a finished garment completely apart to fix it. 

But what does perfectionism do for you?  For me?  Nothing good.  The bad it creates (anxiety, fear, disappointment), cannot be good for me.  In fact, it’s what holds me back.  It’s why I am so slow to start each new project.  It’s why I procrastinate.  It’s why I hired my teacher Thea.  I wanted her there for every project, each step of the way, so I wouldn’t ever have a wadder. 

What is there to be afraid of though?  Am I going to let my perfectionism or negativism stop me from learning?  From progressing from a beginner level to a couture level (who knows if I will ever get to that level, but I will keep trying)?

So, I am going to reframe my sewing world.  I am going to be positive.  I am going to embrace wadders for what they are, as pieces from which I learn a lot, like what not to do or how to do it better. There’s enough negativity inherent with sewing when you throw body image into every aspect, from fitting your patterns to what size you are in pattern sizing.  Why make a learning experience a negative thing? 

What do you think?  This is the question of the day.  Should we reframe the term wadder?  What should we call it?

Happy wadding everyone!

What I did on my summer vacation

Warning:  Really long and picture heavy post.  

As I mentioned in my last post, I am on vacation this week.  I always take the week of Jack’s birthday off and my parents come and visit.  We’ve had a great time so far.  Me especially.  I took advantage of every down minute I had to work with my wondrous new fabric from Elliott Berman (Lindsay T did an excellent review of this store).  I visited their showroom last Friday with Lindsay T, Carolyn, and Allison.    

at Mood fabrics

At Elliott Berman

I walked out with this beautiful, beautiful fabric by Christian LaCroix.  It’s the most expensive fabric I’ve bought to date.  Now I know a lot of sewists save their expensive fabrics for special projects, but I knew right away what I was going to make with this fabric, a pencil skirt.  This fabric needed a simple pattern that would showcase its beauty and a pencil skirt with no waistband fit the bill perfectly.  And wouldn’t you know, but I just so happen to have a pencil skirt pattern ready to go, Simplicity 2452.  

If you will recall, I wanted to tweak the pattern a bit the next time I made it, so I went ahead and added my tweaks.  I changed the side zip to a center back zip.  I changed the vent to a slit.  And then I….  

Wait, are you sitting down?  

Ok, I. DRAFTED. MY. OWN. FACING.  Did you hear that?  I drafted my own facing.  No really, I did.  Ordinarily, I would pester or hound email Thea or Karen for advice on how to do a facing.  Or I would google it for hours on end.  But not this time.  I had a deadline —  a family dinner at a French restaurant on Wednesday night.  Come hell or high water I was going to wear my Christian LaCroix skirt to that dinner.  So, I just did it.  No ambivalence.  No over thinking the problem or task at hand.  I just drafted a facing.  I laid out my skirt (at this point it was mostly constructed and I am slightly going out of order here in the telling of this tale, but that’s my prerogative, isn’t it?) and flattened it out as much as possible.  I traced the top of the skirt onto pattern paper and cut it out.  I meant to make a two inch facing, but forgot to include one of the seam allowances so it ended up being a 1.5 inch facing.  Hey, cut me some slack!  This was my first time drafting anything.  Sheesh!  I chose to add a facing to this pattern as I didn’t really like the twill tape method that I used (per the instructions) in my last skirt.  Let me tell you folks… The facing is a superior method.  My skirt feels so nice on and really sturdy.  I interfaced it as well so it’s really substantial; that waist is not gonna stretch out.  No way!  

self drafted facings

finished facing

For the other beginners out there who have no idea how to draft or prepare lining patterns, I will explain how I went about creating the lining for this skirt.  If I wasn’t adding a facing, I would just used the skirt pattern pieces and be done with it.  But I since I did add a facing, I had to deduct area of the facing from the area of the lining.  I thought about using the same method of laying out my skirt shell and copying it with tracing paper, but with the darts, it was already a 3D garment.  So what I ended up doing was the following (I didn’t have time to research another way, so if there is a better method out there please let me know):  I constructed the lining the same as the skirt, including the stay stitching and all the darts.  Then I sewed another line of stay stitching 3 inches down from the top of my prepared lining.  Once that was done, I cut a 1/2 inch above that.  That way I included my seam allowance and it was exactly where the facing left off.  When I sewed them together, they matched flawlessly.  Ta-da!  

I did ask Lindsay T for some advice in handling this fabric as I know she’s had a lot of experience with fancier fabrics and she had seen and felt the fabric in person.  She suggested that I underline it with organza.  I didn’t have any organza or time to shop for it.  So I punted and used some ivory cotton batiste I had on hand.  I cut it out exactly like the skirt pieces, no added width.  I didn’t know at that point that I could have french seamed at the same time as underlining; I found that out after I google for underlining tutorials.  Laura Lo has a great tutorial (and can I just take a minute to say how much I really miss her blog.  I love her sense of style and the great tutorials she provided and, most of all, seeing all the beautiful clothes she made).  Since my fabric was real ravelly, I knew I was going to serge the SA’s anyway.  So I serged them together with the batiste.  One note: I did construct the underlining separately from the fabric before basting.  And I pressed the darts the opposite direction of the fashion fabric.  

  

Another thing that I had to differently for this special fabric was I had to thread trace the darts as chalk or tracing paper would not work on this weave.   This worked really well, but was time consuming.   

darts are thread traced

Basically this skirt was easy to sew, but with the underlining, the facing and lining, I added a lot steps to the process.  I think with all the hand sewing I did (basting the underlining, attaching the lining to the zipper, tacking down the lining to the slit, hand sewing the hem, etc) I have over 20 hours clocked in on this skirt.  But I love it.  This is my princess skirt.  I feel so pretty wearing it.  It feels substantial.  It is the most professional garment I have made yet and I am really proud of it.  

Now for some more pictures…  

Front

The only cutting error I made was on the front, but it’s really minor and I think only other sewists will notice.  I was so careful to cut on one of the lines of the pattern for the hem, but didn’t notice or line up the diamonds in the center of the skirt.  I was more careful with the back.   

back

On Monday, I dragged took Jack to P&S Fabrics in search of suitable matching lining for my skirt.  He was a good sport about it.  I bought a lot of lining actually as it was only $2.50/yd there.  I only bought 1 yd of the lilac though as I thought I wouldn’t probably use it again.  I found some lilac stretch lace in my lace stash; it was a perfect match.  I’ve always admired Carolyn’s lace hems for her linings and wanted to try it out.   I love it and will definitely do it again and again!

lining with lace hem

I used an invisible zipper and inserted it perfectly on the first try.  I hope I’m not jinxing myself for future zippers.  My only difficulty is getting the top to be even.  Hmm… not sure what’s going on with that.  The fabric lines up beautifully though and there’s no puckering at the base, so I am happy with it.  

invisible zipper with hand stitched lining

invisible zipper, check out that fabric matching!

I forgot to mention that I used the “wrong” side of the fabric.  While I adore the much more silvery “right” side, it was just a little too blingy for every day use.  Since I want to be able to wear this to work, I used the side that had more black showing than silver.  *Sigh*  

Are you sick of the pictures yet?  

hand sewn hem

Slit interior, lining is tacked onto the fashion fabric

And now for some pictures of the skirt on me, courtesy of my sister.  Thanks Mer!  

  

  

  

If you’re still here after this long post, thank you!  I am so excited about this skirt.  It has a lot of firsts in it for me:  

  • Drafting!  Wow, still can’t believe I pulled this one off.
  • Underlining
  • Lace hem
  • Working with very fancy fabric

Thank you’s are warranted for Lindsay T, Carolyn, Karen and of course, where would I be without my fantastic teacher, Thea.  Thank you all for your patience and for sharing your expertise with me.  

I did wear my skirt to dinner this past Wednesday and love it.  I am going to wear it to Jack’s bday party too, inappropriate  though it might be for a 3 yr old gymnastics party.    😉   

Not sure what I’m working on next, still basking in the glow of this project.  Happy sewing to you though!

Pattern Review – New Look 6901

Pattern Description: Misses Six Sizes in One Just 4 Knits.  Includes one drape neck top and one mock wrap top plus skirt. I made the drape neck top as I have been coveting that kind of top for a long time.

Pattern Sizing: Sizes 8-18, I made the size 12 with a cheater FBA from Debbie Cook’s blog after a disastrously ginormous muslin in a sz 16.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes I guess. It’s just an illustration, so you don’t get a real sense of how it fits.

Were the instructions easy to follow? The instructions were pretty easy to understand even for a beginner.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I love the drape neck but wonder if it really works for a c cup size or larger. I had difficulty making it work with my girls even after the FBA; it kept draping behind them. Hard to describe though.

Still a little tight at the bust, but acceptable

The pattern has a facing for the back neck which I found really hard to work with. Sewing it completely distorted the neckline on my muslin. So for my final version, I just folded the back neck over and sewed it done. Perfectly serviceable and minimal distortion.

Back neck

The sleeve cap ease is RIDICULOUS. My sewing teacher redrew the sleeve cap for me, but it was still too big when I made the final version. I still needed to ease it in.

Fabric Used: I used a cotton lycra knit from which I have made a dress in the past. I have so much left over that I am using it for knit muslins from now on. I bought it from Gorgeous Fabrics back in the beginning of my on-line fabric days when I didn’t know how much yardage I needed for any given project. Ahh learning curves, love ’em or hate ’em?

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: For my final iteration, I traced the sz 12 for the neck and torso but moved out 3 sizes at the armscye to a sz 18 for my cheater FBA on both the front and back pattern pieces. While this seemed to help the pulling at the bust in front, it didn’t quite eliminate it altogether.  The rest of the fit was much improved from the ginormous sz 16 muslin I made: much more fitted without being too hoochie mama. Although this top does require a fair amount of sucking in the tummy to maintain a good line.   😉 

front cheater FBA

I used a blind hem stitch on the sleeves (see picture above)  and should have done the same for the hem of the shirt, but instead tried out stitch witchery. What a mess that stuff is. Due to lack of planning, I had some SW scraps on my ironing board and accidentally adhered them to my iron. What a PITA!!!! Anyway, the hem is a little wavy, but seems secure. I don’t know if it will hold up in the wash though. Guess I will find out soon enough. I really need to get on the twin needle band wagon or see if I can find a used coverstitch machined on craigslist.

I already mentioned the sleeve cap alteration and the neck band change I made above.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? While I find my final version wearable, I don’t think I will make this again for myself. This drape top does not play well with c cups and above. I might try the mock wrap top version to see how that works though. I recommend this pattern to people with b cups or smaller and you will definitely need to go down 2 sizes from their printed measurement suggestions.  I don’t think this will become a TNT for me.  On to the next pattern…

Conclusion: Cute pattern for smaller busted women. Sizing is ginormous. But instructions are easy to read and understand.

Pattern Review – Simplicity 2452

 

I just posted my review on PatternReview.com.  Here it is with added pictures of the construction of my skirt. 

 

 

 

Pattern Description: Misses’ jacket with front variations and skirt. I have made just the skirt so far but really like Jacket B and may make that in the future.

Pattern Sizing: 14-22, I made the sz 16 but took in the side seams a bit. I think the sizing on this pattern is pretty true to size. I initially made a 14 out of vanity, but my measurements said to make a 16. 

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes, but maybe not as form-fitting.

Were the instructions easy to follow? Yes, they were. I guess my ability to translate sewing pattern directions is getting better. 😉

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I liked the simplicity of the lines of the skirt. I am looking for a simple pencil skirt to use as a TNT skirt for my work wardrobe.

Fabric Used: Wool stretch suiting from Paron’s in NYC — similar to the grey stretch suiting I bought from there as well, but the hand was different from the grey. The brown suiting feels a little more synthetic. Not my fave, but fine for this project. And the color fills a major hole in my work wardrobe.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: I shortened the skirt by 1.25 inches. The pattern calls for a 1.25 inch hem allowance but that covered my knee. I have noticed that hemlines have been creeping up lately and wanted to be in synch with everyone else at my workplace. I personally think a hemline below my knee is more flattering as my thighs and knees are a little chunky, but thought I should try out the shorter length and see how I felt. I think I will keep it at the shorter length; it feels more current and less school marmish.

As for sizing, I basically made a skirt that was between a sz 14 and sz 16 based on the fact that my sz 14 muslin was too tight in a rather compromising way. I pinned out the extra width on the skirt of the sz 16 at the side seams and altered the pattern to match, about 1/4 inch on each side for a total of an inch decrease on the circumference of the skirt.

I added a lining to this skirt even though the pattern is for an unlined skirt. Rant: I understand pattern companies needing to attract new sewists by offering easy, unlined patterns but I think they’re doing a disservice to us instead. Just because we are beginners, doesn’t mean that we don’t want a finished look and a complete garment. The frustrations we endure trying to add the elements of a garment they leave out actually deter us from having a great experience. For instance, due to the vent on this simple pencil skirt, I couldn’t just drop in a lining. Why? Because you have to construct the vent of the fashion fabric at the same time as the lining so that the individual vents work together, not separately or against each other. I did not know this and constructed my vent of the skirt separately from the lining and they fought each other. I had to unpick them both and resew them, together this time, to get the vent to work properly as walking ease as intended.  

Vent from right side

Vent from inside with lining attached

 

Check out that vent!

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I am not sure if I will sew this skirt again, but mostly as a matter of taste. After making this skirt, which has no waistband, I think I know now that I prefer a waistband. I found using grosgrain ribbon (the pattern calls for twill tape, but I didn’t have any on hand) very fiddly. And I think I used the wrong size ribbon as it stuck out higher than it was supposed to, but doesn’t really show up on the finished garment when you wear it. If I were to make it again, I will insert the zipper at the center back as I think that kind of insertion is easier as it is not on a curved seam. I am not sure why, but after a day of wearing my skirt, the zipper has creeped higher than the waist band. Strange. 

sticky uppy zipper, hmmm....

Zipper inside with lining slipstitched to it

Conclusion: Good, workable skirt pattern. Instructions are good for an unlined skirt. Sizing is pretty true to pattern measurements. It’s a solid pattern, well worth checking out to see if it fits your life/tastes. 

Sneak Peek – Simplicity 2452 and New Look 6901

Full reviews coming tonight.  But until then, here’s a sneak peek at what I am wearing to work today.  I know…  I’m such a tease.

I know you’ve already seen the top before, but this is really how I want to style it.  I will be sucking in my stomach all day though.  😉 

Confession: I haven’t worn a skirt this short in a long time.  I know it’s not that short, but I don’t think my knees are my best bit, so I feel a little self-conscious.  But one must be fashionable, n’est ce pas?

P.S.  I lied in my last post about this skirt.  I said I wasn’t going to undo the vent.  Well, I did.  The perfectionist in me couldn’t leave it be.  *sigh*

Plain Vanilla

This is the skirt I’m working on right now, Simplicity 2452.  It’s part of my TNT project (the search for work wardrobe basics that fit well, look good and that I can make over and over again).  It’s a simple, no waist band, 4 dart, 3 piece, pencil skirt with vent pattern.  I’ve had my doubts about this pattern along the way, but with proper fitting and the right fabric, I think it can be a winner.  However, as my close friends and family will no doubt attest, I have this habit of complicating things.  I know.  Weird, right?  So I took this simple skirt and complicated it up by adding a lining and thinking I am really smart to add a grosgrain ribbon at the waist to stabilize it.  I’ve added linings before to patterns.  Sure it’s a lot of extra steps, but it’s relatively easy. 

Easy that is, if you use a simple, plain vanilla pattern.  I know what you’re thinking: “Didn’t she just say that this skirt was simple?”  Why yes, I did, but I also said it had a vent, didn’t I?  A vent in and of itself is relatively harmless and quite useful to have if you want to walk while wearing your pencil skirt.  But when you want to add a lining, the vent on this otherwise innocuous and simple skirt becomes quite troublesome.

I was patting myself on the back that I remembered to construct the lining with the vent going the exact opposite direction of the skirt so it would mirror image it when put together, until Thea, my teacher and I started to work on adding the ribbon and lining last night.  That’s when I realized, I should not have finished the vents on the fabric and lining independently of each other. 

Let me tell you who my nemesis is when it comes to sewing: ORDER. OF. CONSTRUCTION.  I know that eventually I won’t make these stupid mistakes, but really.  Why can’t these patterns come with lining instructions????  Is it too much to ask that someone else do my thinking for me ahead of time?  Really???  Sheesh!

Anyway, here’s my advice to the other beginners out there struggling, as I am, each step of the way.  If you’re going to add stuff and be “creative” with your patterns, you better be darn sure that those patterns are of the plain vanilla variety, at least until you have some skillz under your belt.  (Disclaimer: I love vanilla, so I mean no disrespect for this flavor. It’s actually my fave ice cream flavor.)

I am chalking this skirt up as a learning experience.  I am not undoing the vents and then sewing them back together.  I am going to wear it as is dammit.  And I am going to wear it proudly.  No one’s going to know but me and I really stitched those vents closed but good.  It would take hours of unpicking to get them apart again.  I sewed it down with several lines of stitching each to make sure they wouldn’t rip apart.  And boy am I sure now. 

In other sewing news, Thea and I figured out a work around for the Knip Mode skirt.  But I will save that story for another time. 

Until then, happy sewing!