Saturday, September 13, 2014

Tropical silk blouse refashion and pattern design how-to

It might seem like I have been raiding my mom's closet lately but not really. She had another item she was going to donate but I thought the fabric was beautiful so away it came with me. It was a dress that was really a top and wrap skirt. I converted the top to this little sleeveless tank as an example for a Craftsy post.

silk top2

The post for Craftsy is based on their class One Pattern Many Looks: Blouses. I thought it was a really useful and interesting class. The teacher is very clear and easy to follow the steps for the various tops she created.  I like the way that you use a basic shirt pattern (as opposed to a bodice sloper) to adapt to different tops so I have several others in the pipeline based on a basic Simplicity button front shirt pattern. You can use any basic shirt pattern so if you have one that already fits so you can use that. (Like the Archer shirt which so many have, or the Simplicity Amazing fit shirt pattern I used) Any darted front shirt pattern will work.

combined silk blouse 2
It looks like a simple top but there are some little details - the bust darts on the original shirt pattern are actually shifted to be shoulder gathers. If you are interested in all the details take a look at my post on Craftsy today. Lots of information on the pattern manipulation and more photos of the details.

There is a cowl neck blouse shown in the class, I am going to do that version using the leftover silk knit from this dress. It will be a perfect top to wear under blazer jackets. 

Coming up soon, a tunic top that I made from some very precious Milly fabric I ordered from Gorgeous Fabric. Precious as I ordered a very small amount on a whim and once it was in my hands it had to be a long-sleeve tunic top. As Tim Gunn says - I made it work.

Aloha and happy sewing, Beth

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Summer sundress with Marfy pattern repeat

Last summer I made my first Marfy pattern and while I really liked it, I thought I wouldn't use it again. Fast forward to this summer and I decided to make a very vibrant sundress for this year's birthday dress. I had a really cute semi-vintage pattern I had stalked on Etsy to finally get in my size, with a nice crisscross strap open back, but time got the better of me and I didn't have the chance to fiddle with the fit before leaving on vacation. So I remembered the Marfy pattern which I had adjusted to fit me (although it was not far off when I started) consequently that is what I used. Also I had a sundress of my mom's that she bought years ago in Hawaii which was a bit of an inspiration for the new one - which you will see if you scroll down further.
So here is this year's birthday sundress entry - and yes - same pattern as last year. Totally unplanned. I am now thinking I will use it again next year and see what I can to to make it look different.

Pink marfy dress front closer view

Totally Hawaiian style, and the fabric is cotton sateen in shades of pink and orange. Here is a closer look at the fabric and on the dress form. Once again my photos are not cooperating and the colors look kind of odd as compared to the real thing. The photo below shows the color most accurately.

pink marfy hem

A look at this year's model and the previous version side by side. In the pink version you can't see the bands across the top and I didn't put the diagonal pieces on the side as they wouldn't even show and are not necessary.

pink marfy front on formMarfy full front view 3

My mom periodically cleans out her closets and makes me take away stuff that I say "oh don't get rid of that - I really love it"  her reply is always, "well then, take it to your house!"  So now this green dress is stuck in one of my spare room closets but I wanted to show a couple of nice details.

Check out how the straps are formed from the continuous binding that goes around the front and side, meeting up in a double row at the strap and then attaching with buttons at the upper back. I think even simple summer clothes used to have pretty little details like this and fast fashion or whatever mass marketing has taken over the world has driven out the interesting details that used to be seen. Even on what I consider mid to high price range items in department stores there is a lot of sameness (just like in patterns as I mentioned a few weeks ago).

green dress frontgreen dress back

And a closer look at the bodice front and the adjustable straps attaching by button to the back bodice.

green dress bodicegreen dress back strap The ruffle at the bottom is a very Hawaiian style touch so I decided to add it to my pink dress. Other than that - a super quick dress to make as the fit was spot on. For once I had adjusted all my pattern pieces due to all that work on the muslin beforehand.

I have one other vintage Hawaiian dress from my mom to show you. I remember she had this one made at a little shop in Honolulu where she picked out the fabric and then came back the next day for the finished dress. I made this photo composite so you can see the front / back / and the matching jacket. Look at how they centered the crane motif in the center of the front and back and the small crane pattern that continues perfectly upward even when the little bolero jacket is worn. So pretty. Plus that is a seam down the center back - fantastic pattern matching for a simple polyester dress. I think it was made in the 70's.

crane composite
Another look at my Marfy sundress, front and back. 

Pink marfy dress front 1 copy pink marfy dress back

For once I am happy with the length on the first try - lately it seems I make things too long, see myself in a photo and decide it makes me look short so go back and hem again. No time for that this time so I just picked a spot and sewed on the ruffle. Used my old Singer with the ruffling foot - that is so handy.

I am just burning through some older stash fabrics this summer  - yay me! And lots more summer stuff to blog about. But there are some winter things on the horizon - a coat pattern coming my way and now I am motivated to use some wools that have been on the shelf for a while.

As for a garden photo - there are bananas growing in this garden, see if you can spot them in the first pic.
This has been a great relaxing vacation - which I really needed. Plus I am resting up in anticipation of second half of this month - lots of sewing students will be joining me soon for some serious jacket-making. Fun!

Happy September sewing, Beth

Saturday, September 6, 2014

McCall's 6513 knit top in turquoise Ikat with bonus skirt

This fabric has been on my shelf for maybe two years? Turns out having this blog is handy for remembering things, I did a quick search and see that I bought in in March of 2012 at Stone Mountain in Berkeley. So for the past three summers it has been saying "pick me, pick me!" and I finally did. I love this fabric, a super soft rayon knit that includes turquoise and white, one of my favorite color combos.

For these photos I was standing in the shade but it was very bright so perhaps the details are a bit lost. It is actually a top and a skirt: pattern repeat time again. The pattern is  McCall's 6513 which I have used previously here and here. Plus I had enough fabric to make a very simple pull-on elastic waist skirt,

McCalls 6513 Ikat top and skirt

I have found this to be a really good wrap top pattern although when I first made it I start out with my usual 12 and it was too large so had to cut it down considerably. At the time I didn't go back to adjust my pattern, darn it. So lots of basting and adjusting which is thankfully quite easy with a knit like this. Interestingly I start with 12 in most things which work out fine but in knits they are always too big so I am going to see what happens with a 10 as the starting point next time.

Originally I bought this fabric planning to make a dress but a top is way more useful. Like this, with my trusty black denim skirt (Simplicity 2152).

McCalls 6513 Ikat knit top with skirt2

OK, my hair is not red - what is going on in this picture? Also doing a rooster thing on top. Anyone else have crazy hair on vacation - and could not care less . . .that's my island attitude :)
But I do like this top with skirts, or shorts.

There was no planning in the pattern placement as I had barely enough fabric to squeeze out that skirt. Which I wanted to be slightly flared, not a circle skirt, but just not a straight skirt. I even had to use pieced together scraps to make the inside of the waistband. Which was good for an unintentionally zero-waste project! By happy accident (due to the width of the pattern piece and the print repeat) the back looks symmetrical which I like. Or at least doesn't bug by being off to one side.

McCalls 6513 Ikat knit outfit front on formMcCalls 6513 Ikat knit outfit back view on form

Here's the pattern for the top. I swear this winter I am going to make the other version, with the slightly higher draped neckline. In a smaller size to start. Although it is so similar to my favorite knit top, New Look 6150.

Mc6513 pattern

This was not my most beautiful sewing, but really, who looks closely at the hem of a print knit skirt - not me. Just a turn and stitch. But this image gives the best representation of the color. The dark is actually a navy blue but it looks like black so this top can do double duty with either. 

Ikat knit hem

Hurray for using a great fabric that has been sitting on my shelf for too long. I don't think I have bought anything since spring (when I bought the seersucker for my jacket). Plus when I was rummaging through the stash I found two wools (purchased at garage sales) which I had forgotten all about. Which are fantastic - so fall sewing has planned itself. 

But fall is NOT here yet - at least for me. 

Did I say fall - no I didn't but as you can see by my fooling around in this photo below I almost had to change before dinner so as not to be sopping wet. Actually it would have been a good laugh for everyone. 

McCalls 6513 Ikat top by pool

Let's hang on to summer for a few more weeks, can we?

Aloha, Beth

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

How to create a color block dress, starting with McCalls 5927

Color block styles always catch my eye. I seem to look at so many patterns as the possibilities for color blocking but it is not very difficult to adapt an existing pattern to make your own version. Recently I was writing a post for Craftsy and after rummaging in my remnants I came up with enough scraps of fabric to make this dress.

CB Front blog crop

It helps to be kind of short but this took very little fabric. I think there were some irregular cuts of the darker blue adding up to maybe 3/4 yard and then about 1/3 yard of the lighter blue. It is ponte knit so was about 60" wide but still - my final design was based purely on what I could do with the fabric.

Considering all that I am rather pleased with this dress. I don't have many items sewn with ponte knits, they are not really my favorite although sometimes the colors are great. And they don't show the wrinkles as this dress can attest. Shortly after finishing it I had to go to Sacramento for the day which is about an hour by car, plus it was scorching. That is the exact combo for lots of wrinkles but this dress made it through perfectly.

The details on how to adapt the pattern are all included in my post today on the Craftsy Sewing Blog so check it out if you want the details. I think it is one of my better explanations - I hope !
color block post for Craftsy

Here's a look at the back which has the same color blocking as the front. Argh, my camera drives me crazy. Does everyone else struggle to take photos for the blog or other places? And then have a zillion stupidly labeled photos in their computer which cry out for culling and organizing.  Project I never get to.

CB Back top blog crop

I started with this pattern which is a good one. It has different bodice fronts for the cup sizes but as a style with only waist darts I would be cautious with the larger cup sizes.  It has pockets in front (I have a sneaky feeling it is almost the same skirt block as this Butterick pattern. But I didn't want the pockets, mostly to conserve fabric so I changed the front to pleats and also changed the back skirt dart to pleats. I see this all the time on RTW dresses and it looks so cute plus HOW EASY to sew and look good on a variety of shapes. Note to self for future.  

McCalls 5927 pattern envJPG

Side seam color matching. If you're gonna do a color block dress the intersections have to match, right?

Color block Side seam view

And now a look at the dress on me. I don't like this photo but it was the best of a bad bunch. And it was still about 102 degrees in the shade at 6pm so no wonder, we were all feeling a bit limp that day. I actually think it is a bit tight but I was speed sewing to get the Craftsy post done. Although when I look in the mirror it doesn't seem tight. Photos can be so....informative (I was going to say cruel)

Color block on me 3

Back to the topic of patterns. WOW...........just wow.  So many great comments and lots of interesting opinions on traditional patterns, indy patterns, pricing, availability etc.  I will definitely write about this more in the coming months. Two things really stood out to me. First, now I know why people on vacation here in the US make a trip to the big box store to buy patterns at the US prices. Secondly, I can't believe that Simplicity patterns are so often unavailable outside the US. That is odd to me as they are really a basic here. In fact this morning I was looking at the Simplicity site (which is terrible, could it be any slower?) and I think I will try buying a PDF version just to see how it goes. Now my business side is driving me and I am really curious about this pattern marketplace, 

Thanks for all the comments and contributions to the discussion. 

Happy end of summer sewing (is it almost fall? that went fast)

Sunday, August 24, 2014

So what do you pay for patterns? Please tell me

What a bunch of brilliant people read and comment here!

I was slightly apprehensive to write that post yesterday regarding patterns but I am really happy that I did. Such great comments! So thoughtful and interesting. Points I had not considered or even known about. Lots of agreement with me, which makes sense if you read this blog regularly - but some other viewpoints with great explanations to back them up.  If you didn't happen to read it please do and check out the comments for some great discussion.

I really appreciate all the comments, and will circle back around to many of the points in the coming weeks. But many people wrote about the cost of patterns in other places. As I mentioned, we here in most urban / suburban United States locations have access either in superstores, local merchants or via on-line orders to Big 4 paper patterns at a very low price as compared to what is paid in the rest of the world.

And there was some real interest in my self proclaimed "pattern whisperer" role. I am looking forward to making some general and specific recommendations but first I need some info.

I want to know :

what does a pattern cost where you are? and where can you or can't you purchase them?  This is a call out to everyone, in particular if you are outside the US.  

This question has 2 components,  Product Access and Price 

Product Access

  • What do you pay or can you even purchase the following items? 
  • Are there sales when you can buy at a discount? 
  • Do you do mail order for these items? 

Price:  specifics on the various brands, at what type of store, sale vs. everyday price, how often discounted

  • Vogue Patterns     (or BMV for all 3 together)
  • McCalls Patterns
  • Butterick Patterns
  • Simplicity Patterns  
  • New Look Patterns
  • Burda envelope patterns
  • Style Arc patterns
  • Burda Magazine which includes the traceable patterns
  • Other Pattern magazines

Any other paper pattern you can purchase (Papercut, Named, Sewaholic and many more)?

I am going to presume that everyone worldwide has the same access for most of the online purchase, downloadable PDF type patterns from independent pattern designers, big or small, but perhaps that is not the case. Of course the currency exchange could make some items quite costly, so let me know that too.

Tell me all the details! 

Canada - let me know.  United Kingdom, what's the scoop?  Spain, Italy, Greece, France, I imagine a local merchant but maybe not?  Hey down under, Style Arc might ship quick around AU and NZ but can you get your hands on a Vogue pattern for a bargain price?  
Hong Kong, South Africa, Scandinavia, India, Japan and everywhere else we are sewing and blog reading the search for the mythical perfect pattern continues so I want to know how you buy and what you pay.

The reason I am asking is that after my last post I was going to recommend some good basic patterns that are quite good to fit and hopefully easy to adapt into different styles. After reading all the comments I am learning that the patterns I thought were mostly available worldwide may not be. It really suprises me that Simplicity are not available in Canada. They are missing out on business. In any case, this is mostly the reason for asking, as well as being a really informative topic for people sewing all over the world. I don't want to recommend a bunch of things that are not available widely. 

Thanks very much for sharing this info and I look forward to hearing about your pattern purchase process (whew say that 3 times fast :)

As for life here in Northern California, we did have an earthquake last night, it was a biggie but not "the big one" which we are all expecting and dreading someday. Definitely some damage in the location which was centered near Napa, so some injuries but not a lot. However they did seem to lose a lot of great Napa valley wine off the shelves, which would be funny except that earthquakes are so dangerous. In any case it was a wake-up call, in many ways including the proverbial "I thought I would bounce out of bed" since it happened at 3 am.  All is well and as a native and life-long Californian just something we live with but rarely think about. 


Friday, August 22, 2014

Grainline Maritime denim shorts and some thoughts on patterns

These shorts have already been seen in action in a previous post, but I will add the photo again. Yes, these are the Grainline Maritime shorts and my second use this summer of a independent pattern company. The first was the Tania culottes from Megan Nielsen (a complete success - I have been wearing those all the time, now I want a winter version).

eyelet top shorts on me

Once again I saw this pattern sewn up by another blogger, whose post title encapsulated everything I feel about a good pants or shorts pattern. So slight impulse purchase, I ordered/downloaded the pattern and made up a test sample. I used size 10-12-ish and it fit well, the only change I made after doing the test version was lengthening the back by adding an inch at the top of the center back tapering to zero at the side seams. Almost forgot, I did lengthen by about 3 inches. So they are short.

This fabric is leftover from my self-drafted black denim jacket that I made at the end of last summer (worn a ton). This denim is fab, stretchy, good recovery, kind of a charcoal color. And now I can have a very odd suit if I choose - jacket and shorts. Which I do NOT choose.

shorts front flat

Oh yeah, I did welt pockets. Kind of slapped them on there with not a lot of consideration for placement but they don't really show as worn with t-shirts so they are fine. 

shorts back flat

I used my serger for a change. With wanton disregard for thread color. Like it matters... 

shorts inside back
But I did take care with the welt pockets because I really don't like it when the lining or other fabric shows through at the welt opening, so I add a bit of the actual fabric on the top of the pocket lining. Like so.

shorts outside pocket

So a straightforward summer project and new pair of very useful shorts. 

Now a few thoughts about independent patterns, i.e. not the Big 4, which comprise Vogue, Butterick, McCalls (all one company really), and then Simplicity, which includes New Look also. This does seem a bit of a US-centric description as I think of Burda as equally Big, so perhaps the whole group should be the Big 5. 
I'll start with a disclaimer, or at least my impression regarding independent patterns, which is that I am probably not the target market. My real interests in sewing are tailoring, jacket and coat-making, and complex patterns with pleating or draping. These are some of the designer Vogue dress patterns I have made in the past few years. (left to right, Vogue 1117Vogue 1191, Vogue 1159). Funny they look so similar here but they are quite different.
                Korsdress close upCoral dress on form2Purple drape dress front
Pattern-wise I am always on the hunt for great coat and jacket patterns, and have had good luck with Burda and Simplicity (as well as Vogue). (left to right Burda jacket, Simplicity 2311 coat, BurdaStyle handbook coat)

                 Burda Jacket frontCoat Collar upBlue coat front
So when I say I am not the target market, my impression is that a lot of the independent pattern companies are focused on sewers who are not been sewing a long time, or want a pattern that includes a comprehensive instructions along with the pattern, possibly also a sew-along to help with the process.  There are certainly exceptions, (Sewaholic - some interesting jackets and a coat and there are plenty of other designers that have some unusually styles) although I have noticed that her recent releases are much less complex than the first ones. Don't get me wrong, there is absolutely a place for every level of sewing pattern and type of instruction included. I think it would have been really fun to join in but I learned to sew pre-internet and there was a lot of struggling along with only the instruction sheet to figure things out. However there is a lot of sameness, so many items that to my eye are so similar that it kind of confounds me (this is the business/marketing side talking).

Where there is a big gap in the pattern world is for the plus-size or curvy market. There are a lot of sewers who want to make up the styles shown in an indy pattern but the sizing is not there. (That is such a great name - I have really been enjoying reading the Curvy Sewing Collective posts) I think if I were going to create sewing patterns (which I am not) then for pure sales opportunity that would be a good area to target and design for. With new online groups like the Curvy Sewing Collective the opportunity to connect and have a built-in market is becoming evident. I know there are a few indy patterns/designers in that size range but not enough that if a new brand came along with some good social media marketing  and a variety of fit options (like cup size variation, height adjustments etc) they could really give the Big 5 a run for their money.

Getting back to the shorts I made above, the pattern was fine and went together well. As usual I didn't look at the instructions but prior to writing this post I looked through them so I could give some feedback, and to my surprise they said "all seam allowances are 1/2". What? that is unusual. So my feedback on fit is a little off, as I sewed the whole thing at 5/8". Not that it mattered and I probably should have looked before I sewed but 1/2" is kind of an odd choice. Most times when I have encountered a different seam allowance it is 3/8". Jalie, focused on knits, and Petite Plus, both have 3/8" and also are both from Canada which made me think it is more the standard metric seam allowance?  in any case 3/8" is actually better for construction but I do like the typical US 5/8" as it allows a good amount of wiggle room for fitting. Anyway - the instructions were OK, nothing particularly different and not really as good as the ones I have seen in a Simplicity or McCalls pants pattern.

Grainline definitely fascinates me as the patterns are far from unique, costly when compared to a Big 5 and only include the one item, with not a lot of variation (not including both pants and shorts in one pattern, or sleeve and collar variations).  I heard the designer interviewed on the radio show Marketplace and it was really interesting. She certainly has the background and I hope she develops some more patterns with a bit more complexity or detail as I would like to support the business.  I have not tried their woven t-pattern but have been asked by others at various sewing meet ups to diagnose issues with the fit on that pattern  Which brings me to my next observation.

Regarding a lot of indy patterns, say what you want about the excessive ease on Big 4 patterns but if a pattern does not appear to fit on the model in the bust and chest then I would be very hesitant to purchase. The bust darts need to be in the right place and be angled properly to get the most flattering fit and look. The shape of the armhole and the sleeve that fits in it is also really critical. Certainly there is fit variation in people, and a new pattern company can develop their own size scale but if there are creases and pulling across the body, or at the shoulders then the pattern looks problematic to me.

Pricing is another factor in non Big 4 patterns. Certainly I am in the US so I can buy Big 4 patterns  which have crazy list prices but are on sale between  $ 1 - $ 4 just about any week. New Look patterns are always $ 4.  Plus there is the value part of the equation, I do like buying patterns that have more than one item. A lot of the Big 4 patterns, particularly for tops, have more than one version in the envelope, sometimes as many as 3 very different versions so that is really getting more for the price. A lot of the Vogue designer patterns which are separates have a top and skirt, or a jacket and pants, possibly with variations so that another way they give you more than a single item for $ 12.

It is a matter of personal taste but I do prefer paper patterns, it is just easier to skip that step of printing, taping and either cutting out an unwieldy taped together thing or tracing from that onto other tracing paper. If I am in need of instant pattern gratification then BurdaStyle downloadable for $ 6 has been very good (wool tweed jacket above was a pdf) and with a bit of searching they have just about any basic style and plenty of interesting ones as well. However if I saw a great pattern and it was PDF only that would not be a deal breaker. Like the Tania culottes, unique and turned out very well, although that is the only pattern in that line that seemed really different from the rest of the marketplace.

As a consumer I also look for really good info on a pattern web site. Technical drawings are SO important. Not stylized, cute drawings, but the standard style of technical drawing. This is really how I am deciding on a pattern so if they are not there, or pop up in a tiny window on my laptop - then they are not going to get a good look from me. The Big 4 and Burda do a good job with these and despite some of the wacky fabrics or poses they show the technical drawings are what sells the patterns.

This post is turning out to be longer than I planned and I have a lot more thoughts on patterns. Does it deserve another post? Let me know. Colette's Laurel - I have helped a few friends with this one and whew, it took a lot of alterations to get it to fit (could have started with a similar New Look or Burda and been done in much less time).   Pauline Alice's Alameda dress, so cute, love it with my favorite cut-in armholes. plus it is a skirt/top/dress combo. Maybe next spring.  Stepalica patterns, now those are some interesting and complex looks, why have I not made one? I resolve to next year.  Lekala patterns have worked out very well for some and not others - but the idea of customized downloadable patterns really is the ultimate in pattern shopping so they deserve more testing.

Last year I was joking with my friend Elizabeth of the Sewn blog and mentioned that I love to pick out patterns, I always want to suggest them to various seamsters I meet either in person or on line. So we decided that I wanted to be a "pattern whisperer".  In fact now I have convinced myself to do another post on the basic patterns that are really adaptable, fit-able and easy to sew that I think make a good start for anyone.

Happy Friday and this weekend I am finishing up those "please copy these shorts" for someone in my family that I mentioned in the last post, plus finishing up this year's birthday dress which is a pattern repeat (yeah!) in a slight wacky fabric, not 100% sure about it but what the heck.


today's garden photo - what else this time of year but tomatoes? Yumm.

yellow tomato

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Member in Focus on Pattern

Hi everyone, and thanks for the encouragement on my last post, also known as the cute top that will never get worn. Actually I have decided to somehow change it to a sleeveless top which I will find way more wearable.

I have been on a stash-busting, repeat-pattern and get things sewn before autumn sets in binge lately. Like I need anything but I have happily cleared out a few fabrics that were on the top of the spare room dresser for ages. That is the spot where they go when I am not putting them away but planning to use. A couple of these have been there a while. But now are sewn up and even worn already.

In other news, I am the Member in Focus on this month so if you are interested in reading the interview click the image below. I was kind of surprised they asked me so I looked through the previous ones and saw a few of my friends there - people I have now met in person but first got to know via their pattern reviews such as Laura Mae and Kyle. A couple of other interviews I saw are with people who I have not yet met  - but they feel like friends who happen to live very far away, and they are Sewmanju and Carrie. Those two are always seem to make a Vogue pattern that I am just thinking about, so thank you! To me that's the really great feature of Pattern Review, to be able to put in any pattern name or number and see how its been sewn, the fabric, etc. I don't participate in anything else on the site but the reviews are invaluable.

It seems strange to do a picture-less post so here is a sneak peek at something that will appear on the Craftsy blog next week and I will also write about it here. Which also used stash fabrics, yay!  Room for more patterns!  No just kidding. I have actually become something of a minimalist when it comes to buying new patterns. My little exercise in sewing repeats has been illuminating in that regard. And I have always said there are no new patterns, repeat, no new patterns.  OK, enough about that. 

Color block Side seam view

So if you want to read about how I learned to sew and my opinions about vintage Singer machines (like I haven't already jabbered on that topic) click over to Pattern Review and take a look.

Happy summer sewing, Beth

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