Friday, December 24, 2010

Catching Up

My holiday preparations are under control and I have some time to answer reader questions.

There were a couple of questions on the Burda Curved Inset Jacket

Carolyn asked “Do you think if you had used 5/8" seam allowances on the curves that it wouldn't have lain as flat when the curves were cut? It's not that I'm disputing Burda's instructions, but rather thinking of how this would work with a big 4 pattern? Thanks

Response: I do think that when sewing a curved seam where you have to join an outward curve to an inward curve, a narrower smaller seam allowance eliminates extra fabric that has to be clipped, pinned, and manipulated while sewing. It also results in less fabric to iron flat. So all in all the narrower seam allowance probably does aid in achieving a good final result. In doing some research on your question. I found this on the Simplicity web site.

When is the seam allowance not 5/8"?
On very small pieces such as doll clothes, on small detail pieces such as belt carriers and in larger areas where you would need to trim away the excess seam allowance; we typically reduce the seam allowance to 3/8" or 1/4" to make your sewing easier.

However, I have rarely see seam allowances less than 5/8” on the big 4 patterns. I think reducing seam allowances may be one of the things a sewist will do based on their experience and confidence. It took a while for me to get away from the comfort of the 5/8 inch seam allowances used by the big four pattern companies, because that is what I “learned” in my early sewing experiences.

Barbara asked, "Did you interface all the jacket pieces? "

Response: I did not interface the jacket back or sleeve pieces. I did interface around the back neck and armholes openings as well as the sleeve and back hems. Whether to interface the back jacket pieces and sleeves is something I mentally mull over every time I make a jacket. The fabric weight and drape, and the style of the jacket is usually what determines if I interface all the garment pieces or not. I don't always make the best decision and have been know to interface pieces that are already sewn together.

Carolyn also asked about the closure on the Kwik Sew Fur Coat .

Response: There is an in-seam button hole in the seam between the collar and the jacket front. The button I chose blends in with the fur so well that even my son, who was standing 5 feet in front of me, commented he had trouble seeing it.

"42" commenting several days ago on an older post Bunka - Fundimentals of Garment Design asking “I am a little curious (not important, but fascinating) as to why so many Americans and Australians are using and in fact very much in love with Bunka Sloper? (an Asian sloper) What are the benefits of possessing this sloper? I myself are Chinese and I never knew that is it a treasure until I learned from you all through blogging.

Response: For me the motivation to use the Bunka sloper is that it is the base used to draft all the wonderful garments featured in the Ms. Stylebook and Lady Boutique magazines. And the sloper drafting instructions, which are diagrams rather than words, can be understood without reading Japanese. There are pattern drafting books available in the USA, but the garment styles included in those books are basic, limited, and are of the time the book was published. As you guessed the Bunka Asian sloper (either from the preprinted magazine insert or drafted from my measurements) still needed some changes to fit my taller, middle aged, non Asian body properly. But after making those changes, I have a sloper I can use to draft the magazine patterns.
i hope that answers all the outstanding questions.

My last bit of sewing this year was my holiday party dress. This year the dress was black. I don’t think I have ever had a black dress. I never been convinced by the Little Black Dress (LBD) marketing hype. I associate black dresses with somber occasions like funerals, or the uniforms worn by female members of choruses or orchestras. So I was a little startled to find myself gravitating towards black this year. After a little introspective thinking, I believe my color selection was driven by my state of mind and some stressful life events that occurred in Nov. and early Dec. when I was planning for the holiday parties. We were dealing with unexpected surgeries required by an elderly family member. Car repairs, insurance and legal hassles resulting from my car being hit (no injuries) by an out of control, non insured, non licensed, ESL driver. And a heavy work load. Fortunately the 2nd surgery was a success, the insurance company settled after 7 weeks of negotiations, and the work project was a resounding success.
The pattern is from a 2000 holiday issue of a Russian language version of Boutique pattern magazine. The dress is fitted, with waist inserts, cap sleeves, a scooped front and V back neckline.

I liked the fitted silhouette of the dress and came up with several options for the neckline trim. It was shown with the neckline trimmed with fur. I had an old mink collar I considered refashioning into fur trim similar to that shown in the picture. As another option I considered adding neckline flounces in a sheer sequined fabric. This idea came from a picture of a dress worn at the Melbourne Race posted by Gail
But in the interest of time, what I ultimately ended up using was a premade trim of faux jewels and sequins. It came in a curved piece that was pretty close to the dress front neckline curve, and straight yardage which I used on the back neckline. The trim was on sale for about $4.00, probably because the faux jewel fad is fading or perhaps over, but it worked for me in terms of cost and ease of application. I hand tacked the trim in place so it will be easy to remove and replace with a different trim.

The dress fabric is a lightweight wool crepe and it is lined in red and black print silk twill. It was very easy to accessorize with sheer hose and strappy sandals.

Here’s wishing everyone a happy holiday season, whatever holidays you celebrate! And a wonderful start to 2011!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Warning - Curves Ahead

I got a lot of practice sewing curved seams on my last project, which was jacket 103 from BurdaStyle Magazine Oct 2007. The magazine description: "A round bias cut insert vividly offsets the straight lines of the plaid as well as emphasizing the fitted silhouette of the short jacket. This combination of narrow lapels/reveres with an extra wide collar is also new."

I have liked this jacket since I got the issue because of the inserts and the fitted silhouette. It just took me a while to find a suitable fabric. Looking at the line drawing I was a little puzzled as to how the fitted silhouette was achieved without darts. There is only so much fitting in the bust area that can be done with curved sides seams.
To find out, I traced the patterns pieces and taped them together with removable clear tape. Because the traced pattern pieces have no seam allowances, taping the pieces together along the seams is a great way to check the accuracy of the tracing, the draft of the pattern and the silhouette. I found that some of the bust and hip shaping is done with the insert. The insert shape is not an exact duplicate of the cut out shape. The length of the curve is the same, but the shape of the curve on the insert is slightly different than the curve of the cut out. When the insert is sewn in the opening, it creates the same shape that a side bust dart and vertical bust dart would create.
Burda recommends a 3/8 inch seam allowance on all the curved seams of the jacket cutout and the insert. This is definitely a good tip, but a lot of clipping is required to get pucker free insertion.

The collar is a bit different, very wide compared to the lapel and with a collar stand only in the back neck area which makes it stand up nicely. The collar stand is yet another inset curve. And the insets have to sewn in the lining as well. Like I said, lots of curves. The wool blend fabric was purchased at Hancock’s.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Fee Fi Faux Fur

Faux fur is everywhere in fashion this fall; vests, coats, even skirts and purses. The last time I sewed faux fur was back in the 80’s when it was called fake fur, and the craft world was experiencing a make your own teddy bear craze. Anybody else remember that? I believe I still have bear eyes and joints in a closet somewhere. In September, on an unseasonably hot day when the temperature was over 100 degrees F, I was checking the upholstery flat fold table at JoAnne’s Fabrics and found all kinds of faux fur on the bottom shelf. Nice feeling, realistic looking fur at reasonable prices. After getting 2 different pieces cut to length, I was standing in the cashier’s line and noticed the lady behind me eyeing my armful of fur with a funny look on her face. I was thinking, she must wonder why in the world I am buying fur in this weather. Sure enough she finally said “That looks hot” and I just burst out laughing.
I can now say I have sewn faux fur clothing. A vest and a jacket. It was definitely a learning experience. Translation - frustrating at times, hot, and messy. Both furs had a nap, and that had to be factored in when laying out the pattern pieces, which had to be cut from single layers of the fur. The fur backing was a knit, but not one with any recovery. All curved seams had to be stay stitched to prevent distortion. I used what I think is a pair of bandage cutters (we found it in my FIL’s things when he passed away) to cut out the garment pieces. These cutters have short, narrow, pointed blades that make it easy to cut the backing without cutting the fur fibers.

Fur Fashion - Vest

Fur vests look good on celebrities that I know are smaller and shorter than me, so I thought I might be able to wear one without looking too silly.
The fur I used for my vest had long pile, about 2.5 inches,in a soft tan color with longer hairs tipped in black. It reminds me of the fur of the Husky breed of dog. I went through my patterns looking for a long vest and found Vogue 8000, a Sandra Betzina pattern.

All the shaping in this vest was done with seams. It included a side panel with inseam pockets. The pile was so long I could not sew a seam without first trimming all the fur from the seam allowance. I did the trimming at one time, working outside over an unfolded newspaper.

Once that was done, sewing went quickly. I lined the vest to the edge. I did not use the collar piece provided in the pattern.
I love my family, but the Chewbacca (hairy Star Wars character) jokes get a little old. Just for that I am not going to help rake leaves. I will supervise from the Adirondack chairs.

Fur Fashion - Jacket

The jacket fur was a soft gold leopard print with short ½ inch pile. I was inspired by these photos.
I wanted a short jacket that was loose enough to wear over a dress or top, but with a little bit of shaping. I picked Kwik Sew pattern 3531.

Kwik Sew patterns come in Small, Medium and Large (S, M, L). Depending on where your actual body measurements fall within the range of a size, the finished garment may have a little or a lot of ease. The Medium size jacket’s finished measurements (measured from the pattern pieces) were 4” larger than my body measurements, which was fine for my purposes. There were darts on the front bodice and the sleeves for a little shaping and I added back shoulder darts. Darts were easy to sew in the low pile fur.

but to make them lie flat, I cut along the dart fold line to about ½ inch from the point and opened the dart wings.
I faced the jacket front with matching synthetic suede. Well, actually I cut the front and collar facings out of the fur and blissfully sewed them to the garments pieces before I realized that was a poor decision which resulted in 4 layers of fur in the center front where the lapels overlapped. I unsewed the fur facings and replaced them with the faux suede facings, which worked much better.
I finished this jacket just in time to wear it over a dark fitted sheath dress to the company sponsored recognition dinner for DH’s 25 years of service. Here is a picture of us heading out the door.
Sorry the photographer was in a hurry and chopped the picture off, but you get the idea. I have also worn this jacket with jeans for a fun casual look.

Sunday, October 31, 2010


My sewing space was recently featured over at The Blue Gardenia Blog. It was all cleaned up when I took those pictures. Now it looks like a tornado came through. Fall fabrics and patterns lying in piles all over the place.

I wanted an easy project after the Karl Lagerfeld jacket so I picked a pile with an autumn print knit and McCall’s pattern 6163.

The dress is described as close fitting, above mid knee length, with mock wrap front gathered at left side, collar, collar band, raglan sleeve, side zipper and stitched hem.
The poly knit fabric is from JoAnne Fabric and is a print type that I have heard called “a shadow print” because it looks like the shadows of a leafy branch. When I modeled the finished dress, my husband‘s first comment was “That looks like camouflage”. Not exactly the comment I was expecting, but it got me thinking about using prints to camouflage things. This darkish random print tends to hide body bumps which is good, but it also hides style details. If I didn't know it was there, I would never noticed the collar. It turns out the print's camouflage like properties were fortuitous for another reason. I had a sewing disaster making the dress. I laid it down on the table to trim the side seams, but it wasn’t laying flat and I inadvertently sliced into the back hip area.
I didn’t have enough fabric to cut another back piece. To salvage the dress, I cut a large patch from the same part of the print and hand appliqu├ęd it over the cut, matching the print and turning under about ¼ inch seam allowance.
I turned the dress to the wrong side and trimmed away the fabric around the cut to match the edge of the seam allowances of the patch.
Then I turned the seam allowance out so I could see where my hand stitching just caught the edge of the fabric and machine stitched exactly on that line of stitches. I removed the hand stitches and pressed. Basically I inserted a circular section of fabric into the original garment matching the print, making it almost invisible. The technique was described in a Threads magazine article on insetting decorative shapes into a garment. I used the technique to patch my dress and the print helps camouflage the patch. This is a closeup picture, but to the naked eye it is almost invisible.
Wheh! I am glad I was able to pull the repair job off because I really like how the dress turned out.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Burda Style - Karl Lagerfeld Jacket

The jacket pictured on the front cover of the Oct Burda Style magazine is from Karl Lagerfeld's Spring 2010 collection. I didn't really care for it at first glance. The jacket looked bulky and stiff. It stuck out in odd places, and was not attractive on the model. But some of the styling details were unique and interesting. The extended front that is folded up and sewn to the side seam and arm hole, and the sleeve top that overlaps the jacket shoulder and are held in place with a button and in-seam buttonholes.

I kept studying the line drawing and the picture of the jacket
In those the jacket hung straight from the shoulders and skimmed the hips. It reminded me in some ways of the boxy jackets of the 60’s which often had high lapels and ¾ length sleeves. It looked like it could be wearable so I decided to make it.

The suggested fabric was ottoman. Ottoman describes a weave that has horizontal ridges. The ridges can make the fabric stiff. I did not see that the ottoman weave added anything to the jacket. So I chose a medium weight green wool flannel with a plush finish. When choosing a fabric for this jacket, it is helpful to know that there will be four layers of fabric in the side seams, the back, front and the two layers of the extended front. And in the side hem area, two more layers. A lot of fabric.

The welt pockets on the turn back piece are about an inch deep, not big enough to hold anything worthwhile. I made the welts, but they are decorative. They are sewn shut and there is no pocket bag behind them. There were no recommendations for interfacing the back. I felt it needed more structure in the shoulder areas to balance the heavier front. I added interfacing to the upper back and extended it around the arm holes. I also used wigan on the back and sleeve hems to maintain shape. I had to make my own wigan for the back hem as it is 6 inches deep. I used purchased buttons rather than covering buttons to match the jacket as Burda did. The fitting changes that I made for my body differences; I added a back shoulder dart and eased it in to the front shoulder seam. And I added an inch or so in the hip area so that the jacket hung straight down over my hips. The instructions specifically tell you not to press the hem of the jacket. I was not sure if that was just for that step of construction or in the final garment. In the photo, the bottom edge of the jacket was very crisp. I pressed the bottom of the turn back, and in addition tacked it to the front about 2 inches from the armhole and at the welt pocket. The sleeves are really cool. Here is what they look like before they are sewn into the armhole. I tried to poke my fingers through the inseam button holes so you could see where they are located on either side of the pointed top.

This is what they look like after being sewn into the armhole and folded up over the button on the shoulder.

The jacket fits fine, but it is a bit big and boxy. The shoulders are wide. I think I may need go with bigger raglan shoulder pads as the sleeves are collapsing a bit at the shoulder. It is more like a short coat than a jacket one would wear all day in the office. The skirt shown with the jacket in the magazine doesn’t fit my lifestyle. I am a little puzzled as to what to wear with this jacket. I am wearing it with a long skirt in these pictures, but I think a knee length tapered pencil shirt, or tapered pants would look better.

This pattern, and instructions, are available as a download from Burda Style.

When I went out on to get a picture of the jacket, I was surprised to see that Karl used turned back sections in numerous garments in his Spring and Fall 2010 ready to wear collections. These are two of my favorites.
Now that I have made the Burda jacket, I feel I might be able to make pattens for a similar jacket and dress on my own. The invitations to the holiday parties are starting to come in. And one specified "Dress to the nines!" Wouldn’t the black dress with the lace be fun to wear?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Accessories II

My last two accessories for the contest were purses. The first was a drawstring purse for the beach look. This was my rough design drawing.I thought bright stripes were appropriate for a beach tote. I had orange and tan denim in my stash, both of which were a nice contrast to the blue and brown of my outfit. I have always liked the look of leather trim on a linen purse so I decided to make the top and bottom of the bag out of brown leather. The leather would add contrast, but also strength in the top drawstring area and bottom. At the same time I was mentally planning this bag I was looking through my “sewing with leather” books and saw a version of this made entirely of leather. I wondered if there was any way I could make this beach bag so that it could be converted to all leather. Only the striped panel needed to be covered for it to be all leather.

Convertible garments fascinate me and I have lots of pictures in my idea file. My sons’ favorite pants for years were cargo pants that could be converted into shorts by zipping off the bottom of the pants leg just below the knee. And I like this Cynthia Rowley coat that can be converted from a knee length to waist length coat or from the coat into a vest in two different lengths. Zipper were key to the convertibility of both these garments. So I thought, what if I put one side of a zipper between the leather and the denim stripes and sewed the other side of the zipper to a leather panel that could be zipped on over the denim stripes. And if the zipper had metal teeth, it would be a nice accent on the bag, sort of like piping. And why stop with the leather zip on panel, I could make panels out of other materials like fur, tapestry or painted canvas to change the look of the bag. The most difficult part of this project was finding the zippers. I ended up purchasing the 31” open ended (separating) brass teeth zippers from Zipper Source They make zippers to your specifications. My zippers cost about $13.00 each. The other convertible part of this bag is the strap, It is made of two pieces of leather with another zipper iinserted between them. Unzip the zipper and the one strap turns into two, which can be worn over both shoulders like a backpack. I got this idea from the bag my husband uses to haul his towel, ipod, reading material and gazillion SPF sunscreen to the beach. Here are all the parts of the striped version before final assembly The brown lambskins leather used on this bag came from www.Fabricmartfabrics. They have very nice leather and you can get some great deals when they have sales. here is the finished striped version. A closeup of the purse with the leather panel zipped on
And the third version. The day before the contest deadline, I was at Hancock Fabrics buying the grommets and I stopped to look through the upholstery remnant pile. There was a 5/8 yard piece of brown and tan zebra jacquard that was perfect for another panel. In fact, my favorite version of the bag is with this panel.
A friend suggested I put together instructions for making this bag and I have started doing that. She has promised to be my pattern tester.

The second purse is also convertible. It can be worn 2 ways, hanging from a belt or across the shoulder on a chain accented strap.

My inspirations were these pictures torn from magazines. One a picture of a belt with a small purse hanging by straps, and the other a picture of small purses on chains worn around the neck.

The bag is made with a purse frame from which I bought at Hancock’s. There were no instructions in the package on how to use the frame. There was a sticker on the packaging that said "Visit our web site for project instructions". The web site had projects for other stuff the company makes, but not purse frames. Fortunately, an Internet search yielded an excellent purse frame tutorial at u-handbag Purse Frame Tutorial For this purse I used orange distressed leather from Etsy dealer SantosLeathers.
I could not find a chain of the right metal color, weight and size to use for the strap. I had an old chain necklace that was exactly what I wanted, but it was not long enough for the whole length of the strap. So I cut the necklace in half and used the chain on the end of the straps where they attach to the frame. The swivel hooks used to attach the strap to the purse frame were salvaged from a thrift store purse. I added a round leather medallion made out of contrasting brown leather to the front of the purse. I cut it out using the wavy blade of my rotary cutter and attached it to the bag with decorative stitching. I added a large brass bee as a decorative accent. The bee has personal signifigance to me. I have enough leather to make a matching belt and I plan to do that in the near future, but for now I can wear the purse on belts I already own.
These purses are so cute and I see them everywhere. Including on the cover of the Oct 2010 Burda magazine. One is shown with the Karl Lagerfield jacket which I am working on now.