Friday, May 25, 2012

Fabrics - Sorted!

Confession: My favourite fabrics have spent the last year untidily heaped in an old box near my sewing machine, otherwise known as The Pile:

It was great to have my favourites on hand for random moments of inspiration, to sort through, dream, and plan my sewing queue - and just have them visible so I wouldn't forget about them!

But it was unsightly, embarrassing, and for some mysterious reason it was growing bigger and bigger.  Getting to the bottom of The Pile had become a mission.  Things were getting out of hand - The Pile had to go!

I bought three plastic bins from the Warehouse - they are about as ugly as you can get, but they will fit tidily under the bed:

When I got them home, I realised I had the wrong lids and we had to brave the horror of the Warehouse once again to exchange them!

So, I have a container for SUMMER fabrics that I hope to sew in the next year or so:

A container for WINTER fabrics that I hope to sew in the next year or so:

And I have a container for NOW fabrics - things in my immediate queue, ie there is a distinct possibility that you may spot them on this blog one day:

And if I am going to be totally honest, there is still a lot of fabric stashed under the bed.....

And more in a jumbo box out in the garden shed.....

Not to mention what I bought yesterday at Global's 30% off sale.....

Huh-hum...moving right along...

How do you store your fabrics - are they hastily stashed in boxes like the old me, or neatly stacked in ugly plastic containers like the new me?  Or do you have a more stylish solution to share?

OK, gotta go - it appears I have some sewing to do :)

Monday, May 21, 2012

Finished Dress - Check out that Tart in the Tartan!

Here it is: the dress-that-you-probably-already-know-what-it-looks-like-because-you've-seen-so-much-of-it-in-previous-posts!

It's a simple fitted dress with 3/4 sleeves and collar and cuffs in some fake leopard scraps that I recently rediscovered in my parents garage.  Someone in Australasia may still have an awesome tailored jacket made from this leopard tucked away in their wardrobe - I remember patterning and cutting the sample where I used to work about seventeen years ago!  I kept some of the small offcuts for Mum because she was into making teddy bears back then.  Thankfully she never used it - so today I get to have a luxurious collar and cuffs on my dress!

I tried to get some detail shots, but the photographer is no dressmaker...

"Make sure you get a good shot of the back vent"
"The what?"
The back vent"
"This bit" (I point to back vent, starting to get impatient as heels are sinking in mud)

Oh well - at least the back vent just made it into the shot.  (I just thought this pose needed some explaining!)

It really is late autumn here now - the leaf fall comes and goes so quickly in Auckland, you've got to grab a leaf shot while you can!

And for once I've made something seasonally appropriate!
Happy sewing!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Sewing Checks - A Magic Pat-Trick!

While I'm still on the topic of sewing checks or plaids, let me show you this little trick for sewing seams together so that they match perfectly!

I was shown this by one of the sample machinists (Pat) at my first job in the clothing industry, where I was a "design room assistant", that is in reality - the design room dogsbody!  I stayed there four years so it couldn't have been too bad - and I learnt a lot of things I still value today from those who had already spent a lifetime in the industry.  And I do a good cup of tea ;)

Here goes:
Place your pieces right sides together as you normally do when sewing a seam.  Then on the top layer turn back the seam allowance, less 1mm:

My seam allowance is 1cm, so I fold it back 9mm
Start sewing at 1cm, just inside the fold line - you will be sewing through three layers.  By sewing the seam this way you can manipulate the fabric to match the stripes or checks as you sew, and easily see and adjust for any difference in feed between the layers along the way.

This is how it looks when sewn:

I hope you can make the stitching out - this was late-night-photography.....
But look at how those blue stripes line up!
It's so easy - sort of like the old technique of slip-basting, but permanent - and by machine!  It only works if you have cut your checks out accurately of course....

And there is the disadvantage that it isn't suitable for heavy weight fabrics because there is slightly increased bulk, but for me this is far more often outweighed by the advantages of speed, accuracy, the lack of unpicking required, and the happy memories of Pat and our workroom, when using this Magic Pat-Trick.

Anyway, I hope you find it handy one day too - happy sewing!

PS - another Pat Trick here if you are interested :)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Cutting Checks or Plaids - Part 2

Once I've planned where my checks are going to match, it's time to start cutting!  

Lay the pieces right sides together, taking particular care that the checks are square, and not skewed - ie they are perfectly parallel and perpendicular to each other like they were designed to be.  Position the pattern piece in place and chalk around it:

Cut out the top layer only:

The reason for cutting only the top layer is clear when you now examine the under layer - see how most of the checks are slightly misaligned?  They need adjusting so that we will have a perfect mirror image!  Nudge the top layer of cloth with your fingers until the checks line up exactly, both horizontally and vertically:

That's better!
Now cut out the under layer, using the top layer as a guide, so you end up with two perfect mirror images.  Take care that you don't cut wider than the top layer - or cut part of the top layer either!  Check the dart markings are symmetrical too:

If you do this to all the panels as you are cutting, they will be a breeze to match when it is time to sew them up!

Are you getting tired of this fabric yet?  I hope not, because I have a handy sewing tip for checks coming up next!  Photos of the finished garment should follow soon too - I finally found time to nip into Global today and get some lining.  I got caught in a downpour on the way home though and received a thorough soaking - my lining was practically prewashed for me!

Oh, and I accidentally had my credit card on me and it purchased some new fabric before I could blink and stop it.....

Monday, May 14, 2012

Cutting Checks and Plaids - Part 1

Cutting checks isn't hard at all, so don't let that idea prevent you from giving them a go!  It does require some extra time and planning though - trying to do it in a rush isn't really a good idea!

Here are a few general tips from me:
  • Lay up your cloth, lay out the pattern pieces and decide where everything is going to match first vertically, then horizontally. 
  • Draw guidelines and match points on your pattern to remind you where everything is planned to line up - you'll spot a few random scribbles on mine!  
  • Remember that you need to match the stitching lines, not the cutting lines.   
  • When all planning is done, double-check everything!

So, where should we be matching our checks anyway?

The answer is, it depends on your check and your pattern. Sometimes you can wangle things to match everywhere possible, sometimes you just have to accept that the centre and sides are all that will match.  You are limited by the design of your check, but you are not necessarily limited by the design of your pattern - you can easily shift a dart or seam slightly, to better suit the size of your check or centre things up.  

Here's what I did as an example - I was able to match checks in the following places:

 Vertical matching:
  • CB seam (bodice and skirt) = centre of red stripe (A)
  • CF seam (bodice and skirt) = centre of red stripe (B)
  • I moved the back darts laterally about 6mm, so they were centred on a red stripe - to produce a symmetrical dart when sewn. (C)
  • I narrowed the skirt a fraction so the stripes matched vertically at the side seam (not visible here)
  • The shoulder seam couldn't be matched without adjusting the CF or CB stripe - that would have affected the skirt side seam, which I decided was a greater priority.
  • Centre of sleeve = centre of red stripe (D)
Horizontal matching:
  • CB seams (E)
  • Side seams (bodice and skirt) (F)
  • Side front seam above dart (G)
  • I increased the front dart intake slightly to enable stripes to match below the dart too (H)

  • I placed the dart along a blue stripe, but I could have adjusted the dart angle to make it fully symmetrical with the stripes matching vertically too.  (I)
  • The back and front armhole notches were positioned on a blue stripe, so the corresponding sleeve notch was too. (J) (If the sleeve head is the right shape, and the ease is the right amount, you can often match the stripes right up to the shoulder seam.  This worked on the back armhole, but the front sleeve head was steeper and it wouldn't match - mmm... it would have been good if it was the other way around!)

I'm just finishing this dress now, and promise to take photos of all the matching (and non-matching) bits so you can see the end result!  Next up - more handy check-cutting tips!

Happy sewing :)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Fabrics That Clash - Good or Bad?

I have a little surprise for you all today - I surprised myself actually!  My new dress isn't just a red tartan dress, it is a red-tartan-and-leopard-print dress!

It was originally intended to be plain red tartan, and after cutting it out I put it down on my machine - next to some remnants of leopard that just happened to be there - and the fabrics went Zing! Sew-me-together! Now!

Well, I didn't do exactly what the fabrics told me to do.  I slept on the idea first, then sewed them together ;)

But it got me thinking - mostly I err on the side of matchy-matchy, but every now and then I chance upon a crazy combination that I do like.  It may step out of your comfort zone and not be to everyone's taste, so it takes a certain confidence to pull it off.  I think that confidence comes from totally loving the mix on a personal level, having faith in your own taste and ideas - that way it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks!

Do you like to mix and match fabrics that clash?  Spots and stripes perhaps?  Maybe your thing is paisley and crochet granny squares! What are your favourite clashy combos?!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Pretty Piping

I'm a big fan of using piping as a trim on garments, and my current favourite place is to sew it into the waistline of a dress:

piping at the waistline of my Aurora Dress

Piping at the waistline of my 1950's Red Spot Dress

Gail asked if I had done a tutorial on this, right before I was about to put piping at the waistline of my red tartan dress - so here goes!

You can buy piping ready-made, but it is usually fairly cheap polyester/cotton or polyester satin stuff:

or you can buy piping cord and cover it yourself:

or do what I did - stash bust and take the cord out of some old piping you no longer want!

Next you need to cut bias strips to cover your piping cord.  I'm using self-fabric, and have marked a line 45degrees to the selvedge.  You will need a strip about 3cm wide and slightly longer than your waistline - I just plonk my ruler in place and chalk around that because it is quick and easy:

I cut this out, then remembered I was using a checked fabric, lol!  I recut the strip at the same angle as the line in the left corner, so that it passes through the same part of the check pattern along it's length  (most checks aren't actually squares, but are rectangular, so you need to cut slightly off the true bias to get this effect).

To sew up your piping you'll need a zip foot on your machine:

Wrap the fabric around the cord, right side facing out, and stitch as close as you can to the piping cord:

Voila - pretty piping!

Because I'm an accuracy nerd, I don't sew the piping into the waistline willy-nilly, but measure it against my pattern for an accurate measurement.  Chalk the piping at the CB, darts, seams and CF, remembering to skip the dart intake and seam allowances:

Now you can sew your piping to the bodice.  Stitch along the same path as the piping stitching, and match those chalk marks to the relevant seams:

Have a wee moment of admiration:

Then sew the bodice to the skirt - stitch with the bodice on top, so you can sew in the line of the previous stitching:

I usually overlock the seam allowance and turn it upwards.  Sometimes I add ribbon to it, like in the Red Spot Dress above, but this dress is having lining so that would be a waste of time! 


Nice eh?  I'm so glad I recut the binding, it was worthwhile to get it all symmetrical like this.  When it comes to checks, I am definitely a matchy-matchy person!  (by the way, I'm still working on my check-matching post - it keeps getting bigger.....)

There are so many fun things you can do with piping - edging collars and cuffs, accenting style lines, etc - and I think covering your own always looks classy.  It could be self fabric, a contrast colour, or a texture contrast like satin.  Whatever you choose, piping is simple and effective.  Are you a piping fan too?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Check Mated!

I was cutting checks today, and nearly missed this little flaw running through the middle of the fabric - can you spot it?

No?  Let's zoom in a little closer:

See that horizontal blue stripe in the middle?  It's half missing!

This was the only faulty stripe in the 3m length that I had, and because there was plenty of fabric I was able to cut around it, so it was no big deal.  But I'm glad I spotted it before I cut out the skirt panels - or my sides seams wouldn't have matched!

And speaking of matching - in my next post I'll show you how to cut out perfectly matching checks (or plaids if you prefer) - fun, fun, fun!