Archive for the ‘sewing’ Category

Baby Sling

September 1, 2007

I made a baby sling for my friend Bomboniera. Apparently they are all the rage with celebrities these days. I was explaining to another friend what I was making, and he nodded and said “oh yeah, like Angelina Jolie”. So Bomb, you’ll be rocking it like Ms. Jolie.

I tried to find some pictures of glamorous celebrities wearing them, but although I could find plenty of pictures of “celebrities”, I’m really not so good with the celebrity gossip, and I wasn’t entirely sure which celebrity I was looking at, or often, how celebrated said individual really was. So here’s a picture of Laura Bennett.

And here is a picture of me, modelling what I made. The sling is filled out here by a five pound bag of flour which Spouse Phor insisted on calling “Nikita”* for the duration of the photo shoot. Note also my multi-tasking as I both wear Nikita in the sling and engage in scathing political analysis of Mike Huckabee.



Summer Dress

August 28, 2007

From the NYC fabric run:

This is made from two yards of cotton gauze and about a yard of t-shirt knit. The bodice derives from my cowl neck “muslin” — the skirt is simply two rectangles sewn together with pockets inserted then gathered and attached to the bodice. More detailed construction info after the fold.


New York, New York

August 23, 2007

So I managed to sneak up to New York city last weekend, and of course, the first thing I did when I got there was to hit the garment district.

The NYC garment district is one of my favorite places to shop for fabric. The Garment District neighborhood is in midtown Manhattan, conveniently right on top of Penn Station. I’ve found the best fabric shopping to be between 36th & 39th Sts between 6th & 8th Aves.

Recommending particular stores is tricky. I generally tend to wander and weave my way through, stopping at whatever catches my eye, and rarely remembering the names of stores. And at one point, I did manage to get myself turned around and wandered into the store I’d just been in five minutes ago.

The famous store here is of course Mood Fabrics, as seen on Project Runway. It’s right in the heart of the garment district, at 225 W37th St (go on up to the 3rd floor), and it has some gorgeous things. It’s also very sensibly laid out, with fabric organized by fiber content, and unlike many of the other tiny retail stores, with price labels on the fabric. It is also, however, nowhere close to being as cheap as the storefronts at street level. Worth a visit, though, if only to eavesdrop on the catty comments by the FIT students who prowl the aisles (“Did you hear what she said to me? She was all “oh, did you make that shirt yourself?” She’s soooo bitchy!”).

So. I didn’t buy anything at Mood, but I did come back with quite a haul. First, some basics:

A couple yards of basic cotton, in a dark green and a salmon:

A black cotton knit and some light frothy gauze:

These two are going to go together, I think, into a dress with a knit bodice, and the gauze as the skirt.

A couple of my best finds came from a store with a “Going Out Of Business” sign on front. This is a black stretch velvet embossed with a floral pattern (close up at right):

I also picked up this gorgeous floral print velvet, an absolute steal at $4/yard:

And finally, the piece de la resistance, and my favorite, this divine striped brocade:

It looks very pink in the photograph, but actually, the dominant tones are from the greens and golds.

Drafting from RTW: Cowl Neck Tank

August 13, 2007

Scuse the hiatus. My computer died, so I’ve spent the last week or so figuring out what sort of machine I can get for a decent price, and then trying to salvage all my stuff from my old machine, which has a busted backlight. (The backlight shines through from the back of the monitor — which means I can still see stuff on the old machine, everything is just very dim, like I’m looking through some ridiculously dark glasses.)

Just before the computer died, I had just finished a project. The staring point was this:

It was a freebie from some golf thing Spouse Phor went to for work. It’s a men’s XXXL cotton knit t-shirt with a polo neck. Waaay to huge for him to ever wear.

Now, I wear cotton knit tanks constantly. Like they are going out of style. I must have four or five in black, at least, but a couple are getting a bit ratty and overwashed, so it’s time to add a few new ones. I figured this would make a great practice fabric for pattern-making. I’ll throw together a pattern, see if it works out, and if it does, I’ve got a great easy pattern for knit tank tops.

To make this pattern, I started by tracing around a top I already own:

You can see that I folded it half. Because knits are stretchy, if I’d have spread it out and traced both sides independently, there would have been a decent chance that the sides wouldn’t match. By folding it in half, I get a pattern that can be placed on the fabric fold line and the left and right sides will match.

I traced around the back half of the top — the front neckline is slightly lower, but happily, the back and front sides of the pattern are identical.

So now I have a basic tank top pattern, without seam allowances. The next thing I wanted to do was play around with the necklines a little. I drew another copy of this pattern, and shifted the neckline up — this, with seam allowances added, is now my back pattern piece. On the front piece, I wanted to draft a cowl neckline. To do this, you need to spread the shoulder points out to give you excess fabric for the cowl.

To make the cowl neckline, I started by tracing the armscye from just below the armpit all the way up to the shoulder seam:

I then cut around the curve. I took this curve and laid it on top of my original pattern piece. Using the armpit as a point of origin, I pivoted the curve outwards. I probably shifted it so that the new shoulder seam was about 2.5 inches away from the original seam.

It took me a few tries on the fabric until I got this just so — I basted in the side seams and chalked in the armscyes, then hand basted the shoulder seams on the back and front until I had it the way I wanted it. Once I’d figured the pattern the way I liked it, I added the seam allowances to the paper piece.

The final garment came out with a nice shape. But:

Because I was futzing around with the fabric *before* I’d properly cut my pattern, I ended up with the original logo of the shirt sitting. right. there. On my shoulder.

It says “Loretta Sanchez for Congress”. I have nothing against Congresswoman Sanchez, but I’m not sure I want to wear that over my heart, yanno?

Website Review:

August 2, 2007

I stumbled across Vintage Sewing this morning when I was looking for some information on drafting cowl necks. The site is run by a nonprofit and maintains a library of public domain sewing references, which are reproduced in full on line.

There’s some stunning stuff there. My own search for cowl neck patterns lead me to the full text of F.R. Morris’ Ladies Garment Cutting and Making. Which is an extremely comprehensive reference in itself, with some beautifully clear pictures.

The history of sewing references is also a fascinating look into the world of women and girls in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Olive C. Hapgood’s 1893 School Needlework is a classroom text for schoolgirls.

It begins:

DEAR GIRLS: You have now become old enough to prepare for woman’s duties; one of these is the art of sewing, which we will take up as simply as possible. By following the given directions carefully, you will become able to dress your dolls, assist your mothers in mending, make garments, fancy articles, etc.

Then Ms. Hapgood (well, probably not Ms., actually) dives right in. By half way through chapter two, she has the girls “honey-combing”. I’d never heard of this before, but it’s actually a very beautiful piece of fancy stitchwork:

This is schoolgirl work in the 1890s. Schoolgirls. No way am I doing handwork like that.

The site has materials from as early as the 1890s through the 50s. Wanna make yourself some gloves? Consider these basic pattern drafting instructions from How To Make Gloves by Eunice Close.

The jewels of the site, as far as I’m concerned, are of course the pattern making books. As well as the abovementioned Morris text, there’s also Harriet Peplin’s 1942 Modern Pattern Design. Between those two there’s a wealth of pattern making information that’s not only of relevance to those interested in vintage sewing, but also entirely applicable to making clothing with modern lines.

Oh. And as for the cowl neck problem that led me there in the first place. There are a variety of ways to do this, but the for the one I’m interested in, you alter the pitch of the front armscye so that the distance between the shoulders is broader, and then curve the “neckline” upward.

A picture &c. :


July 24, 2007

One of the problems that I have with both ready to wear clothing and patterns is that the arm openings are often too tight for me. This makes sense — clothing is typically cut for people who are smaller and shorter than me. I had read about a technique of inserting a gusset — a diamond shaped piece of fabric — into the armpit to allow for more room in this part of the garment, but the technique never made any sense to me.

As I was visualizing the problem, the diamond shape gusset simply wouldn’t fit into the space made when the seams at the armpit are opened up. If you open all the seams at the armpit, the shape you get resembles a cross, not a diamond — shown in red below.


If you clip the cross to make it into a diamond, you get the right shape, but the amount of fabric that you would add would be the same as you had clipped out. So the overall size of the garment would stay exactly the same.

The solution to this problem came to me this morning in the shower. Archimedes would have been proud. I had been thinking about opening all of the seams at the underarm. Then I started thinking about how you insert more space at, say, the hipline on a shirt. You open the seam, and you insert a triangle shape with the apex at the waist. A diamond, is of course, two triangles abutting each other. And the solution to this problem is to insert two abutting triangles into a seam — but only into one seam.

To properly insert a diamond gusset at the armpit, you only need to open the side seam. The piece then fits, thusly:


Unlike Archie, who was probably playing with his bathwater when he discovered the volume displacement principle, I don’t have a set of pattern-shaped pieces in my bathtub. Maybe there’s a market failure there? Floating visualization tools for patternmakers?

Fly front

July 19, 2007

Step 2 in the evolution of Simplicity 7513 is to add a fly front. Again, I’m cribbing from another pattern in my stash — this time, Vogue 7481, which is a simple pair of fly front pants (designed for stretch wovens, but we’ll ignore that).

There are two pattern pieces for the fly front — the right facing and the left facing. They look like this:

fly front facings

Instructions on putting them together below the fold.


Pants pants evolution

July 18, 2007

So my blue sandwashed silk is going to turn into pants. I’m basing the pants on the Simplicity 7513 pants, but I feel this pattern needs some tweaking to justify the fabric.

There are three things I want to do to the pattern:

  • 1. Add a side seam
  • 2. Add a fly front
  • 3. Add a separate waistband

And possibly (4) take the pattern in at the waist.

The original pattern is what is known as “one seam pants” — I’m not sure why, since there are in fact 2 seams in the pants; a crotch seam and an inseam. Adding a side seam (1) will mean that the grainline of the fabric will run down each leg rather than running down the side of the pants. This will give a better drape to the pants, and it also will allow me to add some pockets in the side seam. My original version of these pants is seriously missing pockets.

(2) I think just looks nicer, and is a prerequisite if I want to nip them in at the waist.

Adding a separate waistband will also improve the hang of the fabric, and it can be interfaced.


Fabric Geek-out: Sandwashed Silk

July 17, 2007

I recently picked up four yards of midnight blue sandwashed silk from my local fabric store’s remnants bin. It’s a gorgeous piece, and warrants some research on how to handle it.


Silk is a filament fiber, which means that unlike short spun fibers, the fibers don’t need to be twisted together to form lengths of thread. It’s extremely strong, and because the fiber filaments are triangular in shape, it reflects light, giving it a shiny appearance.

Sandwashing is when the silk is washed with abrasive chemicals which “polish” the finish of the silk. The piece that I bought was extremely, well, silky, in appearance, with a smooth glossy finish and a very soft drape. It also has the diagonal texture characteristic of a twill weave, although this is only apparent upon very close inspection.

Emma One Sock recommends washing with a tiny drop of baby shampoo. I did this, and it took off the very glossy finish. It also significantly reduced the static of the piece. Depending on your plans for the garment, you could go either way on this. If you are looking for a very dressy piece, you might want to skip washing. However, if you do wash it, you’ll get a washable garment, and my guess is that the washed product will be significantly easier to sew because it seems much less slippery.

Sewing requires a sharp, new needle. I haven’t done a pin test yet to check if the fabric self-heals from pin holes. Also, because it’s still slippery, I’ll probably cover my table with a cotton sheet when I cut.

ETA: I did the pin test. It’s fine.

Simplicity 7513 — drawstring pants

July 16, 2007

A month or so ago, my friend Grace sent me a bunch of patterns in the mail, including a couple for a drawstring pants. I wouldn’t normally buy a pattern like this for myself, since I don’t generally wear drawstring pants, but pants-sewing is a bit of a personal bugaboo for me. I figured since I had Simplicity 7513 in my stash now, I should go ahead and make it up just as an exercise. (more…)