Saturday, July 30, 2011

Simplicity 2443 - Grey and Yellow Dress

When I bought these two fabrics, I thought they would be for a skirt and top. But, I'm enjoying adding casual dresses to my closet lately, so I used the two together in a dress (Simplicity 2443) instead.

Simplicity 2443 - front view

This is an all together different look for me - different style, different colors. And, I'm not really sure what I think about it. I don't think it's the most flattering shape for me, but I think it's a pretty cute dress.

Simplicity 2443 - front view

Construction-wise, this isn't executed all that well. There are some ripples under my arms. I did make a muslin of the bodice and felt like the neckline was too low in the front for me to wear it comfortably. But, I didn't want to add a lot to the band since that would ruin the proportions. I debated about what to do for awhile and then decided to raise the neckline a bit by adding (3/8") to the band. I figured that was simple enough, but wasn't enough to make the band width very noticeably different from the rest. I also shortened the straps at the shoulder seams by 1/2".

This made the armholes too tight. I didn't notice this problem after adjusting the muslin, but the lack of finishing seams may have had something to do with it. After getting the bands attached on the real thing and noticing this problem, I took them off, trimmed 1/4 - 3/8" off the bodice under the arms and reattached the bands. But, some stretching and distorting happened in the process and even after messing with them for awhile, they still aren't looking good. I could re-do the entire bodice (I have enough fabric), but I'm not sure this is a dress I'm going to love, so I'm not sure the effort would be worth it right now. We'll see...

Simplicity 2443 - back view

And there's the racer back. I do like that part. I noticed the pulling across the shoulder blades in the muslin and added 1/2" at the center back to compensate. I guess that wasn't enough.


Alterations and changes I made:
  • Added 1.5" in length to front bodice and 1.25" in length to the back bodice
  • Shortened shoulder straps by 1/2"
  • Decreased skirt length by 1.5"
  • Added 1/2" in width to CB of bodice and bands
  • Cut waistband piece from same fabric as bodice (rather than skirt as shown for view B)
  • Cut front and back bodice twice since the fabric was thin (like adding a lining)
  • Left out zipper 

In the end, I think it's fun to have something different in my closet, but I won't be reaching for this dress frequently.

    Monday, July 25, 2011

    The Next Big Thing is Finished

    Yay! The quilt is done! I worked on finishing the binding in lots of small chunks of time last week. Some of those chunks looked like this:

    Binding the Big One

    My kids love doing workbooks. I don't require this - really, I don't. But, I'm quite happy to sit and help them while I stitch.

    So many things I love about this quilt...

    ...the stitch pattern and texture!

    The Big One - Finished

    ...the colors!

    The Big One - Finished

    ...the back (which I will want to see as much as the front)!

    The Big One - Finished

    ...the stitch pattern and texture (did I mention that already?)!

    The Big One - Finished

    ...it's both useful and beautiful!

    The Big One - Finished

    ...now that's it's done I can start thinking about the next big thing!

    The Big One - Finished

    Saturday, July 23, 2011

    Basic White Shirt

    I don't wear many blouses or shirts made from woven fabrics. For comfort and ease of fitting and wear, I generally prefer knits. But, there is one traditional button-up shirt in my closet that I do like and wear regularly. This shirt came off the clearance rack at Kohl's about 7 years and 10 pounds ago. It no longer looks good on a hanger or on me and needs a replacement.

    The reason I liked this particular shirt is because it didn't restrict my arm movement or pull across my back when I would reach for something. The armholes were cut quite high and the sleeves were pretty slim. The style was pretty classic and casual - yoke, collar and stand, bust darts in the front, vertical darts in the back, placket and cuffs.

    Since the fit wasn't so great anymore, I couldn't just use the original as a pattern. Instead, I looked for a similar pattern and figured I would just need to do a lot of tweaking. Burda 04/2010 #114 was my pattern of choice. It doesn't have back darts, but I figured those are pretty easy to add.

    Based on my measurements, I started with a size 38 and added 1" to the sleeve length before cutting out my muslin. Alterations I made to the muslin:
    • lowered the bust darts by 0.25"
    • added back darts
    • took in side seams at waist by 1" on each side
    • took a 1" horizontal tuck at back waist (converted to a CB seam with shaping)
    Basically, I was trying to make the shirt a little more fitted through the back.

    The finished shirt is very basic and I'm considering it only the second step in a bigger project of tweaking this pattern to be exactly what I want. I'll need to wear it a bit before I know what else needs to be changed. And I'll need pictures of it on me, since that highlights fitting issues so much. But, I don't have any of those right now.

    White shirt

    For now, I'm just really happy with the construction of the shirt. Other than fitting changes, I also used my muslin to test different techniques that I wanted to use to improve my shirtmaking skills. It was fun to research (mostly online) different methods and choose one or two to try. There are so many different ways to do things!

    For the collar and stand, I used Gigi's tutorial. It is a great way to get the spot at the bottom corner of the stand (where it meets the shirt center front) finished neatly. That's always the toughest spot for me.

    White shirt - collar and stand

    For the sleeve placket, I used the instructions from a Threads article in Issue #139. The instructions in Shirtmaking, by David Page Coffin are similar. This tutorial is also excellent using the same method.

    White shirt - placket and cuff

    For the cuffs, I used the instructions in Shirtmaking. It is basically the same idea as the collar stand in the tutorial mentioned above. Again, the corners come out really nicely.

    White shirt - cuff

    When I traced the Burda pattern, I added varying seam allowances based on how that part was finished or connected to another part. This was something new for me, but it makes a lot of sense, I think. Anything that is enclosed (collar, stand, cuffs, yoke) got a 1/4" seam allowance. I wanted to flat-fell the vertical seams (sleeves, sides, center back) so those were 5/8".

    White shirt - inside

    I was hoping to use Pam's tutorial for flat felling the arm scye, but I had a difficult time getting it smooth, particularly on the inside. I think it would work great for a shirt with a flatter cap. I left those seam allowances at 1/2", serged them and then topstitched. It felt a little like cheating compared to the finishes on the rest of the shirt, but I'm okay with that.

    I realize the pictures aren't all that great. The sun was so bright on the day that I took them that I could hardly see when I finished and came in the house. Looking at the white shirt in the sun was nearly blinding! I could have waited until another day, but I find white almost as difficult to photograph as black regardless of the light.

    Thursday, July 21, 2011

    Kwik Sew 3703 - (unsuccessful) Green Tank Dress

    I like tops and dresses with a racer back, but I don't have any. Recently I picked up both Simplicity 2443 and Kwik Sew 3703 to change that. The Kwik Sew looked about as complicated as a T-shirt, so I started with that one.

    I'm pretty sure that this is a good pattern and the fact that it turned out badly is all my doing. The main problem is all the puckering and puffiness around the neck and armholes.

    Kwik Sew 3703 - front view

    I may have not quartered the holes and bands properly (which is embarrassing - how hard is that, really?) resulting in needing to stretch the bands too much in some spots. And I think I probably sewed the neckband and armhole bands on in opposite directions, giving the shoulder straps a bit of a twist. I did press the seams after I stitched them, but they really would prefer to stay puffy.

    Kwik Sew 3703 - rear view

    Thankfully, I set out intending for this to be a test garment. I'm considering making View B of the pattern with this navy striped fabric and a solid navy for the contrast pieces, but I wanted to test it out first. I thought that if it was wearable, I'd use it as a swimsuit cover-up. So that's why it's hemmed so short.


    The fabric feels and sews great. I have a huge piece of it, bought on clearance somewhere sometime. The drab green color doesn't exactly call out "swimsuit cover-up!" to me, but it could have worked.

    Kwik Sew 3703 - Racer back

    Above you can see the racer back better as well as the puffy shoulder in the foreground. The back is nice. The shoulder? Not so much.

    So, I'll use this pattern again, but I'll cut the bands a smidge longer and I'll probably baste them into place before I serge them on, paying attention to the direction I'm sewing.

    And this version won't be sticking around here. I suppose I could use it for a nightgown. If I wore nightgowns. Which I don't. But, if I did, this one would be great in this current heat we're getting!

    Tuesday, July 19, 2011

    What I Did on My Summer Vacation

    I quilted! There is a lovely quilt shop near my mom's house that offers a Gammill longarm quilting machine for rent. So, I took my flimsy, quilt back and batting along when we went to visit her. Before you can use the machine, you have to take a one-on-one class where they teach you about the machine and different quilting patterns. After the instruction, you're left with some time to practice the patterns.

    I went back another day to do my quilt. A very minimal amount of the class was about loading the quilt on the machine, so most of that was new on the second visit. I don't remember exactly how all the quilt parts are put in the machine, but I do know I thought it was quite genius. The quilt back and top are attached to separate rollers that keep the fabric straight and taut. The quilt sandwich gets rolled or unrolled in order to quilt certain parts.

    Quilting on a Gammill longarm machine

    You stand at the end of the machine and move it instead of the quilt. The speed that the machine stitches is regulated by how fast you move it. So the stitches are always uniform regardless of your speed. This is very different from home sewing machines and I really liked this feature! It might be tough to go back to free motion quilting on my own machine.

    Quilting on a Gammill longarm machine

    You work from left to right across a 20" (approximately - I think the machines come in different sizes) section of the quilt. My instructor suggested I work in 18" blocks - first from top to bottom, then bottom to top, still maintaining the left to right pattern as well. When that 20" section is complete, you roll it up and start on the next one.

    Quilting on a Gammill longarm machine

    For most of the class, I controlled the machine with the upright handles. Then we got into some finer, smaller work and my instructor introduced the smaller, lower handles. (They were turned up behind the machine initially). I found it so much easier to control the machine using these. I didn't go back to the larger handles after that.

    Quilting on a Gammill longarm machine

    I used this "water" pattern over the whole quilt. It was my favorite of the ones I learned in the class and it was also the same as what was used in the quilt pattern. You can also see in the picture above where some of the finished quilt is rolled up.

    Quilting on a Gammill longarm machine

    The only part of the experience that was less than ideal was the fact that the thread kept breaking. It was a bit of a puzzlement to my instructor, but she was very patient about fixing it each time. After awhile I was able to rethread the uncomplicated part of the machine myself and get going again a little quicker. I got pretty good at securing the thread and retracing my stitches to make sure it was secure (that's what I'm doing in the picture above).

    I'm really happy with how it turned out. This afternoon I attached the binding, but I'm going to finish it by hand, so it might be awhile before I have a completed quilt to show you.

    Sunday, July 17, 2011

    McCall's 6032 - Black and White Dress

    I believe that I made this dress right after this one, which I was so happy with. Knit dresses are great for summer and I don't have very many (I have plans to change that). But, not all knit dresses are created equal. This black and white one isn't nearly as nice as the brown and white one.

    McCall's 6032

    I picked up the fabric, a rayon jersey, when it was deeply discounted awhile back. But, the quality isn't that good. I won't be surprised if it doesn't make it past the end of the summer. I stabilized the neckline and armholes with strips of interfacing in an attempt to prevent them from stretching out. To avoid a ripply hem, I fused it in place with a lightweight interfacing before twin-needle stitching it.

    I found the technical drawing on this pattern appealing. I thought the belt was caught in the midriff seam, but it isn't. It's just twisted a couple of times and caught in both side seams. I didn't want the dress to be tight, so the belt on my version doesn't stay in place - it droops down. I tacked it in place with some hand stitches and that's good enough. The print makes it hard to see what is actually going on, anyway.


    The dress is lined to the waist. This is a good thing, particularly if you make one of the views without the belt. The lining covers up the holes made for the loop that holds the gathers together. To completely finish the neckline and armholes by machine, I followed Jessica's instructions at Green Apples. The instructions were excellent - I highly recommend this method if you haven't tried it before.



    The instructions would have you put a zipper in the center back of this dress. I made sure to leave the waist seam stretchy and left the zipper out. I have no problem getting this over my head. Since I didn't need the seam for the zipper and it didn't have any shaping, I cut the CB pieces on the fold. The only other change I made was to raise the neckline in both the front and the back by about an inch.

    In the end, this dress isn't my favorite, but I will wear it.

    Thursday, July 14, 2011

    Kwik Sew 3338 / McCall's 3830 - White Top and Plaid Skirt

    Thank you for the lovely comments about the quilt top! The quilting is complete now too, but I don't have pictures to post yet. It was a really good experience using the long arm machine and I'm so happy with how it turned out. Finishing the binding might take awhile as I don't find that quite so exciting. In the meantime, I have a few projects sewn that I haven't blogged and will try to get caught up with them.

    The first two things were actually sewn several weeks ago. They are the first pieces of fabric from my NY trip that I cut into. While I really liked this plaid fabric, I didn't buy very much of it. When I decided I wanted to sew it up, I was hoping to make a paneled pencil skirt with the center panel being cut on the bias. However, when I tried to fit all the pattern pieces on the fabric, it was impossible to make it work. In the end, I made just a plain skirt using McCall's 3830.

    Kwik Sew 3338 / McCall's 3830

    I guess I'm not unhappy with it, but not as excited about it as I was hoping. The colors look a little off in these pictures (true colors here). This is a tried-and-true pattern for me, so the fit is good and it was a very quick sew.

    The top is also made from NY fabric. I was really happy with the feel of the fabric, but it was a little more transparent than I liked so I used Sherry's tutorial and doubled the front. Her instructions are very good. In the end, you have a doubled front and back with a fold at the hem. I'm quite happy to skip a hem and I like the clean finish.

    Kwik Sew 3338 / McCall's 3830

    I tend to be wary of embellishments, particularly of creating them myself. But, here I was feeling brave and decided to add strips of fabric around the neckline. I give the finished result mixed reviews, but I'm telling myself that it's good to try something different. I've worn and washed the top a few times now and the strips are much more raw-looking and curled at the edges. I think it looks better now than it does in the picture here.

    Kwik Sew 3338

    I used Kwik Sew 3338, one I've used a few times prior (pre-blog). I was pretty sure this was a good fitting pattern, but I don't think this white top turned out to be a good fit, particularly in the shoulder. I've had this problem with other Kwik Sew patterns and I think I just need to do a forward shoulder adjustment for them from now on. The shoulder seam sits to the back of my shoulder point and that leaves fabric in the sleeve to bunch up a bit on the back of my arm.

    Kwik Sew 3338 

    I also could have taken it in at the waist or graded out at the hips as it doesn't sit very smoothly through my mid-section. Even though I'm not that happy with the fit of this top, I've worn it a few times already, proving that it fills a hole in my wardrobe. I feel like I should replace it with something better. Maybe next summer...