Sunday, May 19, 2013

Blogger Problems--Stay Tuned for Part 3 of Challenge 1 in the GBSB Sew Along

Blogger keeps trying to log me out as I type, so rather than log back in for the 20th time (literally), I'm going to just say have a great day and we'll pick back up later on our sew along progress.  (You could always prewash and iron your fabric while you wait.)

I've also got a little trouser tutorial coming and some crafty goodness, so hopefully Blogger will behave itself tomorrow!
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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Lulu the Elephant and a String Block

Just a little peek at some of the things I've been working on...

For April, Deanna (aka Spongebobette), a member of Bee White Black, requested a string block.  She asked us to use the solid gray for the center string and then towards the centers use the red solid.  The red was to be lined up as closely as possible.  This was harder than it would seem as the strips of fabric are different widths, so you have to plan carefully to get near the same point for sewing on the red!  Each square of is 6.5 inches, making a 12.5 inch block when sewn together.

I like the bold red in the center!

I also completed this little elephant softie for my younger sister's birthday.  (I don't know what she'll name it, but we'll just call her Lulu for now.)  Lulu is made from an upcycled dress that was one of my sister's favorites.  In fact, I did a makeover on the dress once changing it from a V-neck swing dress to a cross-over faux wrap A-line dress with white piping down the overlap while also widening it at the waist.  I think she wanted to try and remake it again when that didn't fit, but I wasn't game so the dress went into the thrift shop pile.  Later, I got to thinking about it and snuck it out of the pile for repurposing into the elephant.  I've been hiding this for almost a year now!

Lulu goes well with the miniature quilt on my wall, hmm... just kidding!

Lulu is made from Simplicity 2613 like Marvin.  She's sporting a lovely 1 inch wide white satin ribbon.  Don't you love the flower around her eye?  Yeah, that's the power of fussy cutting!

Lulu the Elephant and a String BlockSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Sunday, May 12, 2013

The GBSB Sew Along Challenge 1 A-line Skirt, Part 2 Fitting

Wait!  What?  You're not shaped like a fit model with an exact ten inch difference between waist and hip?  Me neither.

The whole reason for a sew along is to make something usable, so unless you are built like the fit model used by the pattern company...deep're going to have to adjust the pattern to fit your real life body (or whomever you're making the skirt for).  Now, before you start weeping and wailing over the thought of trying to fiddle with a pattern that was obviously made for some industry ideal shape (which, by the way, is so not realistic for most women), let me assure you that a skirt is one of the easiest things to fit----really!

So, big deep breath...and exhale.  Better?  Good.  Let's get started.  I'm going to show you the basics of how I fit a skirt.  But, if you need more help, better instructions, or just want a more indepth fitting reference, I can recommend the books Fit for Real People by Pati Palmer and Marta Alto, Pattern Fitting with Confidence (used to be Fitting Finesse, I think) by Nancy Zieman, and The Complete Photo Guide to Perfect Fitting by Sarah Veblen.  I've had classes from Marta and Sarah and both are very knowledgeable on this which totally shows in the books.  I've also enrolled in Craftsy's Sew the Perfect Fit class with Lynda Maynard, which so far is quite good.  There are also fitting classes on Pattern Review from time to time, although no skirt ones at the moment.

Choosing a Size

I think this part stumps many people, especially those just starting into sewing clothes.  Pattern sizes do not coorelate to ready-to-wear sizes.  For skirts, I fit into size 6 at most stores (we all know how varied sizing can be between brands), but in patterns I usually range around a 14 depending on the company and cut of the design.  Huge difference!  So first thing to do, toss out of your head any preconceived ideas of what "size" you should be.  You are the size you are, the only reason we care at all is to know how to cut our fabric. 

This pattern gives two sets of measurements--one for your measurements (to choose a size from) and one for the finished measurements of the garment (so you'll know how loose the clothing fits).

To choose a size for skirts, ignore all that fluff about bust measurements, not needed here, go straight to the waist and hip measurements.  Remembering that this is just a starting point, find the ones that are closest to yours (they may be different sizes!) and mark that.  When I'm working with a simple skirt, I usually will opt for the hip measurement even though my waist would indicate a larger size (if your waist is bigger than your hips, you'll want to go with the size which matches closest to your waist measurement) otherwise, I'd find myself swimming in fabric around the hips making an A-line skirt more like a full skirt!  I'm no curvy girl, there's not a huge difference between waist and hip (and there's less now than used to be, lol), so I find it easier to simply adjust the waist area rather than fiddle with the shape and drape of the entire skirt. 

Maybe you fall in between "size" measurements or your waist is bigger than the "size" for your hips.  This is not unusual.

If you want to be able to keep your original intact, then I recommend tracing the pattern pieces first.  I like to use the Tru-Grid by Pellon as it is sewable, drapes more like tissue and fabric, and can be seen through for easy transfer of marks.  (Other great options include Swedish tracing paper, medical exam table paper, tracing paper...)  Once I get the originals traced off in my chosen size, and add seam allowances if needed (hello, Burda--yes, I like to pre-add the seam allowances, because I tend to forget that Burda doesn't have them already in and that makes for some very unhappy discoveries of having cut the sewing line instead), I cut generously around my tracings at the side seams (usually I leave a couple of inches extra).  Then pin along the sewing line.  (If you're using a pattern with seam allowances included, you'll want to mark this out with a pen so you have a reference line to follow.  I like to use a different color just to distinguish it from my cutting line.)  Also, pin any darts or pleats.

Now, carefully try this on over your undergarments (including slip and tights/pantyhose if you wear them normally).  You'll want to have a clip or two to hold the zipper area together so that your hands are free.  Standing in front of a mirror will help you to see any areas that aren't fitting.  Simply unpin those places and repin so that the fit is better.  Around the waist, make sure you unpin and repin in equal amounts for each side.  If the front darts are poofing funny, try taking them out or making them smaller in depth (leave the length as is).  Maybe your back darts need to be deeper (I don't have much of a booty so this is never my problem)  Also, take a look at the side seam and hem--are they straight?  If not adjust by pulling up the front or back a bit.  (By wearing a "belt" of elastic at your waist over the pattern, you'll have a reference for marking a new "waist" when done adjusting.  Mark with a pen prior to taking off the pattern.)  You may need to add width to only the front (or back) rather than both.

Here's a view of some basic adjustments (from Painless Sewing) that you can make.

At this point, I carefully take off the pattern and make a pen mark over each pin that was adjusted.  Now, make these changes to your traced off pattern.  You may need to smooth out the transition from waist to hip or the curve of the waist.  If you made your waist area larger or changed the curve of the waist, don't forget to also adjust the facing to match.

Here's a quick view of the pivot slide method for adjusting skirt width (also from Painless Sewing).

Your adjusted pattern may look a bit Frankensteined with it's additions and adjustments, but that's okay.  The point is to have a pattern that fits you perfectly which you can then use again and again.

You can see that I've added to the width at the side seam once since the original tracing and adjustment and made that same addition to the facing.  Once you've got a pattern that fits you, little adjustments for weight gain or loss are easy to make.

Once you've made your adjustments, you are ready to make your skirt.  If you still aren't sure of your adjustments, you could always make a muslin to test the pattern with real fabric.  This could be necessary if you were using something stiffer to trace your pattern on.  A muslin is also handy if your weight changes (or you're planning to change it) as you can test adjustments to that before making permanent changes to your already fitting pattern.  (I have Crohn's Disease, so regular weight change is a part of life.  Sometimes I only take in or let out a side seam a smidgen, but sometimes I need to make bigger adjustments.  And while I plan on getting into a more toned shape {aka flatten that tummy somewhat} after finally gaining some much needed weight...there's nothing wrong with having a few new skirts in the mean time.)

After some weight gain, I adjusted the pattern and tested those adjustments on my old muslin.  You can see that I still chose to leave the front darts off, but needed a bit more room at the waist for my front piece.  Much easier than doing sit ups!

While fitting the pattern adds an extra step to the process, it is well worth it to have a skirt that is fit at the waist and hips properly and already has the length you want.  Once this is done, you can focus your attention on the fun parts like choosing fabrics, embellishments and style changes!

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Sunday, May 5, 2013

The GBSB Sew Along--Challenge 1 A-Line Skirt Part 1

The Great British Sewing Bee Sew Along begins...

Watched episode 1 yet?  If you have, then you know that the first challenge involves sewing an A-line skirt from a pattern.  Contestants were to show that they could properly carrying out basic techniques such as following pattern instructions, inserting zippers, sewing darts, etc. while completing a basic skirt.  They could also embellish and personalize it as long as they did not change the basic shape of the A-line.  For the experienced sewers, it was really about perfecting technique and showing the ability to work with linings, tricky fabrics, etc. and for the less experienced, getting the zipper in correctly seemed to be the biggest challenge. 

Skirts with an A-line shape fit at the waist, skim over the hip area and continue to widen just a bit, and fall slightly out from the body----like the legs of a capital letter "A".  This is different from a straight skirt which fits at the waist, skims over the him and then continues at that same width to the hem---like the sides of a capital "H".  Pencil skirts taper in after the hip area---like a "V" and, of course, there are flared or full skirts that have more volume to them than a classic A-line, often created with gathers, godets, panels or pleating.  Let's face it, there is an infinite variety to skirts!

For this challenge, we'll be sticking with the A-line style skirt with darts and zipper.  Do you have to have a commercial pattern?  Nope.  You are certainly welcome to draft you're own.  Books such as Sew What! Skirts and classes such as Craftsy's Design and Sew an A-line Skirt (which happens to be on sale at the moment) can teach you to draft a custom pattern. 

Commercial patterns for A-line skirts abound and you can choose one of the ones listed below or find a different one.

Burda 04-2013-122
Burda 03-2013-109
Burda 11-2012-124
Burda 10-2012-121A
Burda 09-2012-116B  (I'll be making this one for a second skirt.)
McCall's 3341
Butterick 4461  (I'll be using this one for my first skirt demo.)
Colette Ginger
Simplicity 1717
New Look 6106

As you can see, there's quite a few out there, and those are just the ones I listed.  There are also vintage patterns and independent designers available.  Just make sure that, for the purposes of this sew along, it has a zipper (can be on the side or back) and darts.  There are lots of really cool a-lines out there with buttons, wraps, even elastic and there are lots of other skirt styles, but save those for another time.

Just like in The Great British Sewing Bee, you can choose your length, embellishments, fabric, lining, etc. and for this sew along, you can choose to fit the skirt to whomever you want.  That's right---it should fit the person who'll wear it!  Unlike the show, which simply used the manufacturer's sizing for a mannequin, we want to actually be able to use what we make.  Because of the need to fit the skirt to a real person (and still hold down our day jobs), we'll be taking more than the 3.5 hours allotted to the contestants.

Don't panic though---fitting a skirt is really easy!  You only need three measurements to get started:  waist (in this case not your natural waist, but where you actually wear your skirt), hip (widest spot below the waist, this may include more thigh) and length.  It is totally okay to have a friend help!  So, go pick your pattern, fabric and plan some embellishments.  Don't forget your zipper, interfacing, thread, etc..  I'm trying to use what's in my stash, so I probably won't need to shop for anything for this challenge.  (I was going to add the need to have supplies and pattern in a week, but I know many of us need to order online to get anything decent or plan trips into bigger cities, so just begin the time frame when you have your needed supplies.)

Remember, that while this is to challenge ourselves, its also about having some fun with sewing!  So go ahead and pick that crazy novelty or seasonal fabric, get out the trims, and make it fun...after all, we're making a skirt, not performing brain surgery!

Imagine hearing this next part in a British accent...

You'll have two weeks total (from the time you have pattern and supplies) to complete the challenge including fitting your model.  Your time

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Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Great British Sewing Bee--And a Sew Along!

Recently, some of us in the United States have been introduced to a BBC show called The Great British Sewing Bee.  I love the focus on sewing from an amateur contestant viewpoint.  (Also, the lack of snarky behavior from both participants and judges is refreshing after Project Runway.)  The show only has eight contestants and four episodes, so not a huge time commitment, but lots of fun to watch.  (And, let's be honest...using a fun British accent makes everything more interesting.)

Fortunately, some very thoughtful individuals have put the episodes on YouTube for the rest of us to watch.  (Warning:  The last two episodes have those annoying commercials in them.  Hopefully ones without them will be uploaded soon.)

Episode 1
Episode 2
Episode 3
Episode 4

After watching, I got to thinking.  I've always wanted to try a sew along to Project Runway, but so often their challenges don't really fit into a practical everyday sewist's life.  I mean, really, do I want a dress from the hardware store or men's stripper pants.  Nope.  No way.  But...with this show, the challenges are practical, doable, and can be done within budget.  And I can stand watching the episodes again to get details and inspiration. 

Thus, I've decided to have my very own The Great British Sewing Bee Sew Along, or The GBSB Sew Along.  I'll be taking each challenge in order but adding more time to allow for things like actually fitting the patterns to myself or a victim volunteer model (aka sisters, cousins, etc.), finding the needed clothing for alteration challenges and real life jobs.  I'm also going to try and only use from my stash, but I may need to get notions, linings, or a particular challenge fabric.  It'll definitely push me outside of my comfort zone (fly front trousers, gulp).  You can start any time, so if you're reading this a month from now, don't be shy about joining in the fun! 

Anyone want to join me?

If you do, be sure and join our Flickr group to show off your project photos, and don't forget to grab the button over there on the sidebar.

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