Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Patrones Blusa

The Palmer Pletsch fitting class was interesting. It was held at All Brands Sew &Vac Center, the local Baby Lock, Pfaff dealer. A woman that lives near Richmond taught it. She had just returned from Oregon, newly re-certified as a Palmer Pletsch instructor. We did all the steps described in the book Fit for Real People (FFRP). She measured our high bust and full bust and told us which size of the McCalls 2718 fitting shell pattern to use. She measured very snugly and put me in a size 14 B cup. I normally use a size 16 pattern for tops .We cut out the pattern, reinforced the seam lines with clear tape, and clipped the seam allowances. Next we pinned in the darts and fitting folds, pinned the front to the back and put on the pattern for our first fitting by the instructor. My back fit fine, but the center front had a gap of 1.5 inches, so she had me do a Y seam full bust alteration. I have never done a full bust alteration. It was an interesting exercise, and it worked. I got the extra fabric in the front that I needed to make it fit well. The instructor did many of the same fitting tweaks I do myself, so that made me feel more confident about what I do on my own. After the class,I took the altered pattern home, and put it on my dress form to check that the form was still a reasonable facsimile of me. The pattern fit well and doing this helped reinforce the fitting processes that were demonstrated in the class. I also learned a great deal by watching her fit the other 5 women in the class. I realize now that the purpose of the class is to teach fitting skills that can be used on other patterns. A fabric shell made from the altered pattern is skin tight. It has no wearing ease. The class did not address how to use the fitting shell when making garments from other patterns. I need to check the book to see if it addresses this.

In continuing my preparation and research for my ASG presentation about using international pattern magazines, I decided to make a pattern from Patrones, a Spanish language pattern magazine. Some of the things I discovered from the experience: I miss having directions. 2. Online language translation sites do not work great for sewing instructions, and 3. I do not wear the same size in a Patrones pattern as I do in Burda pattern. I picked Chanel blouse, # 27 from issue 267 . It is sleeveless, with diagonal tucks over the bust, a divided collar and back princess lines. I had skipped right over the photograph, but the line drawing caught my eye. My original thought was Hmm, interesting use of tucks, not the typical horizontal or vertical tucks ones sees on blouses. My next thought was " tucks over the bust, what if they stick out like a louvered window?" That is when I went back to the photo for a longer look. It didn’t seem to be a problem on the stick person/model used in the photo. I wasn’t sure how well this would work, but I was intrigued. I used a soft cotton, very similar in feel and weight to fabric sold as "pima" cotton. It came from a table of odds and ends at Hancock. The design and fabric worked surprising well together. The tucks are on the bias so they go over curved surfaces without sticking out. Shaping is also provided by a small dart, really a repositioning of a tuck on the armhole edge, that creates an un-sewn dart underneath the other tucks. And the bottom most tuck is only caught at the ends, which makes it sort of like an accordion pleat, able to expand and contract.

I found that I like to have sewing directions, especially on styles I am not familiar with. I had questions about an odd shaped pattern piece I didn’t recognize, what kind of closure to use, and how to finish the armholes. I actually typed up the Spanish directions from the magazine and ran them through Google Translate. It really didn’t help much, except to tell me that there was a back zipper closure. I also tried to used the Spanish to English Glossary insert that was in my copy of the magazine, and my son’s Spanish dictionary. There were still some key words I couldn’t translate from any source. (lorzas and costadillo). Without directions, my sewing slows down. I have to think through every step, considering different techniques and their pros and cons. For example, on this blouse I think you were supposed to use facings on the sleeves, A facing shaped piece was shown on the layout drawing. But there was no information on how to finish the neck edge after applying the collar. I ended up using self-fabric bias strips to finish the armholes and inside neck edge and it worked well. The only alterations I made were to cut the collar height down by .75". It looked oversize when I did the first pin fit. I also enlarged the neck opening, and adjusted the collar length for the bigger opening. Based on the measurements in the magazine, I thought I would be a size 44. The patterns are in sizes 38,42,46. I think the instruction said for a size 44 cut between the size 42 and 46 lines. I also checked the measurements of the pattern pieces. I cut out the size 46 thinking it would probably be slightly big, but that I could always take it in. Hmm, the fit is rather snug. Not uncomfortable, but not how I usually wear my tops. DH liked it, which is also an indication it is rather formfitting. Next challenge… Mrs. Stylebook.
Answers to questions in recent comments:

Linda. I can ask the Palmer Pletsch instructor if she travels to teach classes. I believe she does. Also I would be glad to share the meeting topics from our fashion focused ASG neighborhood group, if you need ideas.

Kathy, Yes, I think Burda Jacket 104 could be made with a zipper inserted in the front seam. That is actually what I plan to do. The unfinished jacket and zipper are hanging in my sewing room.
Debbie, Yep, I have a built in triple stitch, in the 4 Way and 8 Way stitches. Busted on the "Have you read your machine's user guide? question.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Books and Baptisms

No sewing recently, but I did do some sewing related activities. This past weekend we had a family and friends get together. On Sat. the girls attended a quilt show. My SIL is a member of Quilters Unlimited, a very large northern VA quilt guild. Despite her very busy schedule as a middle school music teacher and mother of young children, she still finds time to sew and she always has at least one quilt in the show. I love the colors in her quilts. Always nice and bright. This year she was actually pushing herself to buy dark fabrics in an effort to push her comfort zone. After the show, we drove to the Centerville, VA, G Street fabric store. Neither I nor my shopping buddies bought a single thing at G Street! This was amazing given the size of the store and the selection of fabrics. But there were no bargains or “have to have’s”. I was also very good at the quilt festival. I kept the purchases down to three fat quarters, 2 yards of woven ikat fabric, several trims and handkerchiefs from a vintage booth, and two books. One of the books was 200 Braids to Twist, Knot, Loop, or Weave by Jacqui Carey . I have wanted this book for several years. It shows how to create decorative braids using three techniques; braiding, weaving and twisting. It contains many "to scale" pictures of completed braids, the individual cords, yarn, and bead strings used for each example, and step by step instructions. I bought the book as a source of ideas and instructions for braids that could be used to trim jackets and home decorating items, or used as handles for purses. My decision to buy it was clinched when I watched the Signe Chanel series on YouTube and saw how the Chanel jacket trims were created. Threads are unraveled from the jacket fabric and woven with other fibers to create coordinating trim. While I have no desire to replicate a Chanel jacket, I thought it was a great way to create custom coordinated trims.

On Sunday we attended the baptism of my niece and nephew. (Ages 3 & 5) They both looked very nice in their special occasion attire, but she looked especially adorable in an off white silk dress with hand smocked yoke and sleeve bands. It was made by her maternal grandmother, and was just gorgeous. She is a very girly girl and loves dresses. She danced and spun so her dress flared out around her. She looked like a mini whirling dervish. Whirling Dervish Video Some times I wish I had a girl child. Whenever I say this out loud, my brother’s eyes light up and he eagerly offers to bring her to my house for an extended stay. Perhaps a little too eagerly. But hey, I’ll try anything once.

I am signed up for a fitting class with a Palmer-Pletsch instructor next week. These instructors are trained to use the pattern fitting techniques shown in the books Fit for Real People, Pants for Real People, and Jackets for Real People. Palmer/Pletsch I am really hoping to come away from the class with a bodice sloper that I can use to make some of the patterns in the Japanese pattern magazine Mrs. Stylebook. For the ASG meeting in July, I am doing a presentation on using the patterns in international pattern magazines; Burda, Diana, Knip Mode, Patrones, Modellina, Mrs. Stylebook, etc. There is an excellent article on these magazines at Patternreview.com International Pattern Magazines . I have been using the presentation as an excuse to buy copies of these magazines. You know, for research, so I can show examples, and talk from my own experience. Unfortunately I have seen so many patterns I want to try, that I became overwhelmed and couldn't start any. I hope to get over the indecision hurdle this weekend and start a new project.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


For some reason I am very attracted to the color green right now. When I look at the pile of fabric on my sewing table, that is the color I am drawn to. My sewing project for this past weekend was a waist length jacket in a lightweight, mint green, denim type fabric.The pattern was in same BWOF magazine, July 2001, as the dress I made last week. There was a lot of top stitching on this jacket. When I used my normal top stitching method, the thread faded into the fabric. I remembered a suggestion published in Threads magazine about using a machine feather stitch and regular thread to create heavier topstitching. I tried it and loved it!

When I first read the suggestion, it took me quite a while to figure out what it was being described. So I drew a picture to go with my explanation. Click on the image below to enlarge it. Many sewing machines have built in decorative stitches and a common one is the feather stitch. It looks sort of like the quills of a feather, and is often used in hand embroidery and quilting.
At the top of the drawing are two versions that are on my Husqvarna machine. They look different in their original form, but both give the same results when modifications are made to use them for this purpose. To form the feather stitch, the needle is making a stitch forward, and then several stitches of the same length off to the side at an angle. The angle is determined by the stitch width. The wider the stitch width, the bigger the angle. When the stitch width is reduced to zero, the needle makes all the stitches forward and backward in a straight line. It makes three stitches on top of each other before moving forward to the next stitch. Using this stitch, it will take three times longer to do the topstitching, and you have to pay attention and guide the fabric, so put on some good music or a talking book. Some of you might think… why not thread three threads through a large eye needle; it gives the same effect. Yes, it does. But the construction of this jacket required sewing pieces together with a regular seam, topstitching the seam, sewing another piece to the one that was just topstitched, topstitching that seam, and so on. It was so easy to use the same needle, pressure foot (1/4 inch) and thread for all the sewing. When I needed to top stitch , all I had to do was hit a few buttons on the touch screen to choose the feather stitch and reduce the stitch width to zero.

I should pay attention to the photos in the Burda magazine. This jacket is shown paired with high waisted Bermuda shorts. After a tryon with some pants and skirts I realized it looks best worn with pants or a skirt with a high waist, and no pockets, hip yokes or other details that cause a lot of visual activity in the hip waist area. Mint green can be used in many color schemes. For me they would be 1. With creams and light browns, 2. With grays and white, and my favorite 3. teal. This fabric inspired this teal color scheme. Unfortunately my teal cropped pants have lots going on in the hip area, including fat tummy. Guess I need to make a pair of new pair of slimming pants.
No sewing this weekend. There is a family get together in northern Virginia. For those of you that have never been to this area, northern VA contains the southern suburbs of Washington, DC. Compared to where I live it is a different world, with gobs more people, cars, traffic, cultural events, museums, restaurants and… shopping. This weekend’s trip will include a visit to G Street Fabrics. Like I need more fabric! But I know you understand.