Sunday, July 31, 2016

Deja vu

You know you look at patterns too much when you can tell that you've seen something before.

Currently in their catalog

Out of print
But before you think that I scoured the internet to find the OOP pattern, the reason I found it was because of Meine Nähmode, a German magazine that republishes Simplicity and New Look patterns. It's a great (and cheap!) way for me to obtain these patterns, although they don't always print every view and only some of the sizes, and of course I have to trace them. Oh, and the instructions are in German. But for €5.50 (about $6) I get 13 patterns.

The magazine doesn't identify which envelope patterns they reprinted but they use the pictures from Simplicity and New Look, so with a little searching I can figure it out. I then copy some of the Simplicity or New Look info into the pattern library I keep on OneNote so that I can reference it later. Since I have hundreds of patterns available through the pattern magazines I collect (along with some envelope patterns), I periodically go through my pattern library and copy info on the garments I like into a separate section. Both of these shirts were reprinted in Meine Nähmode - the OOP one in 2013 and the newest one in 2016. When I went to add the new shirt pattern to my "summer woven shirts page" I found the duplicate. But honestly when I saw that striped shirt in the latest Meine Nähmode issue I knew I'd seen it before, and I was right!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Ready to cut the fabric...or am I?

I'm happy with my muslin for the Knipmode tunic, so I'm ready to cut out the pattern pieces in my fabric. Or not. I've never really liked cutting the fabric. It's so final. I've ripped out many a knitted piece with hardly a second thought when things weren't going right, but you can't do that with fabric.

And before you take scissors or rotary cutter to the fabric, there are a number of things you need to do first if you want to assure success.

Prepare the fabric:

Thinking I was ready to cut, I spread out the fabric so that I could get it straighten and folded, and the first thing I noticed was that it was all creased from being stored. Step one: it needed to be pressed (don't iron back and forth - that distorts the fabric). I often don't prewash my fabrics unless the end result will be washed in warm or hot water and dried in the dryer or the fabric got dirty or something. I wash all my clothes in cold water and hang them to dry so I'm not worried about shrinking. Also, I have sometimes wound up with terribly distorted and off-grain fabric after prewashing, not to mention a ton of wrinkles.

Examine the fabric:

While ironing pressing, I had a good chance to really look at the fabric. Examining the fabric is always a good idea, in case there are flaws you need to work around. Or writing on the fabric. Not on this piece, but when I was looking at another piece of fabric I have, I was shocked to see that someone had written a number in ink pen and rubber stamped something right in the middle of the piece. It was a long-ago purchase from an online vendor and way to late to do something about it, but a lesson learned to look at your fabric as soon as you buy it or before if you're at the store.

Check for direction:

Another reason for looking over the fabric is to identify if there is a nap or direction. I've failed that one twice.

Right side vs. wrong side:

Which side of the fabric is the right side? Honestly, when you're the designer you can choose whichever side you want. There is no right side.

My fabric is a thin cotton voile, with embroidery over dotted Swiss. One side has the raised bumps of the dots, the embroidery is more vibrant and consists of chain stitches. The other side has the image of the dots, the embroidery is more subdued and is all straight stitch. Both sides would look good, so I couldn't decide. Since I've never sewn or worn dotted Swiss, I didn't know which side was intended to be the right side. A quick internet search showed that most garments are sewn with the raised-bump side (didn't find any the other way actually). I also went so far as to see if there was a picture with the invoice from when I bought the fabric to show which side was "right". Since I'm lazy and don't delete emails of stuff like that, I actually had an email. From 2007.  Yes, this has been in my stash for quite a while. There was no picture but it did show that I paid $18/yard for the fabric. Now I really don't want to mess this up, however I think it's better to use $36 dollars worth of fabric than to just store it.

Lay out the fabric:

Straighten, straighten, straighten. This step seems to take me forever because I fuss a lot with the fabric. If the selvedge is good, then I use it to help keep things straight, but sometimes it's wavy and bad. I often use the repeating motif pattern but sometimes it's printed crooked, intentionally or not.

The fabric I'm using today is a perfectionist's dream - all those little Swiss dots to line up! It's a good thing too because the embroidery designs aren't perfectly placed.

Matching patterns and repeats:

With plaids and stripes you know you'll need to be careful laying out the pieces so that things line up, but this may also be the case with prints that have repeating motifs.

The embroidery on my fabric has a definite repeat in both directions, and I decided that my tunic would look best if I maintained the same vertical placement from front to back.

Will all the pieces fit?

This is a two-part step. 1) Make sure you have all the pattern pieces and 2) make sure they all fit, taking into account any requirements for direction, pattern matching, and the number of pieces. There have been times where I cut two when I needed four, flipped a piece around the wrong way, or failed to cut something on the fold (like yesterday!). If you're using the suggested pattern layout then you're probably ok, but I always seem to do a creative pattern layout to squeeze my pieces into the fabric that I have. Or in the case of knits, I like to cut pieces out whole instead of on the fold. Still I should consult the pattern layout.

Today I had to get creative. The embroidery on my fabric doesn't extend all the way to the edges and using the suggested layout would not work. Fortunately I found a way to make everything fit. Whew!

Are there any extra non-pattern pieces to cut?

This is generally not an issue for envelope patterns but magazine patterns that you have to trace (and maybe pdf patterns too?)  almost always leave off pattern pieces that are just squares or rectangles and instead give you the dimensions you need to cut. Another reason to look at the pattern layout even if you're doing you're own thing.

One last check.

Are there any fabric motifs in less than desirable locations? Double check the direction. Look for any pattern pieces on the floor.

Take a deep breath and...

Go have a cup of tea. Eat a cookie. And decide to go blog about how many things you need to do before you can start cutting out. And now it's time for dinner, so tomorrow then.

Ready to cut...or not.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Sewing for fit

Making clothes that fit is one of my major reasons for sewing. But most of what I've sewn over the years has been out of knit fabric, or it's loose fitting, or pajamas - not much call for fit. I did make this Burda jacket/cardigan thingy, which was my first attempt at doing a full bust adjustment (FBA) on a pattern. It sort of worked but wasn't perfect.

My latest project is a tunic top from the May 2016 Knipmode (second project out that issue!). I'm using an embroidered fabric I bought a long time ago from Gorgeous Fabrics, and since I really like the fabric and brought it from my stash in the US all the way to Germany in my suitcase, I want this top to be wearable. So I'm making a muslin first so that I can make corrections for fit before I cut into the fabric.

First, let me say that tracing Knipmode patterns is a real challenge. Some time last year they started publishing every pattern in every size, from 34 to 54. I love that there no longer is a plus range - just sizes and women large and small can sew the same cute clothes. But, the downside to this is that eleven sizes are crammed onto the pattern sheet. Needless to say the lines can get a bit crazy to follow. First I study the pattern lines, making sure I know what each piece looks like and the location of any notches or marks, and then I put down sticky notes to help guide me. But it's still hard to find the lines under the tracing paper.

The first and only thing I've made from Knipmode so far was the knit top from this same issue. For that top I went by my measurements and traced and cut a size 44 with no changes (and no muslin). It came out a bit big in the upper chest, something I've had happen with Burda patterns as well. So for this tunic top I traced a 42 in the upper chest, a 44 in the mid region and blended to a 46 in the hip. Then I cut out a muslin of the front and back and quickly sewed it together, anxious to see how a 42-44-46 combo worked for me straight off the pattern. I've always heard "the drag lines point to the problem" and it's true - they were like an arrow to my "boobs". No surprise that I needed an FBA. I also needed to lower the bust dart and take in the center back seam in the upper back. You can see some of my messy adjustments on the pattern.

I did cut out one sleeve in muslin - I didn't want to waste any more of my muslin (expensive to buy here) so I only cut one. But it's important to check the fit with a sleeve because the extra weight on the shoulder can change the way the neck and chest fit.

I'm pretty satisfied with the fit now, so I think I'll proceed with cutting into my good fabric...but tomorrow because it's super hot today and hotter in the afternoon.

Oh, and there's another good reason for making a muslin first: catching stupid mistakes. When I traced the pattern, I assumed there was a center front seam and added seam allowances to the center front. I cut out the muslin assuming a center front seam but then I looked at the pattern layout in the magazine and saw that it was supposed to be cut on the fold. Instead of looking at my pattern and seeing that I had added seam allowances, I thought I'd made a huge mistake and cut at the fold line. To correct my "error" I needlessly sewed an extra strip to the front pattern pieces to make up for the "missing" seam allowance. Still not realizing the error, I made the adjustments to the pattern for the FBA (even with the erroneously added fabric at center front, I still needed one). Then I cut out a new muslin of the front piece - with the fold at the cut edge - still not seeing the seam allowances I'd added at center front! I blame the heat. Thankfully I finally caught the mistake. I stitched out the seam allowance on the muslin and the top fits better without that extra 1 1/4 inches. Imagine that.

So I think I'm good to go. No more mistakes...I hope.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

"Free" patterns

UK magazines from the news stand are fun. The fashion magazines, like Glamour, Elle, Marie Claire often are packaged with a tube of lipstick, an eyeliner, or some other sort of beauty item - I once bought a magazine that came with a nice tube of L'Occitane hand cream. The knitting magazines often come with knitting needles or a handy notion. Cross stitch magazines can come packaged with a tiny project. I was visiting Edinburgh, Scotland over the weekend and came across this sewing magazine in the airport news stand that came packaged with two McCalls patterns:

I don't know that I would pay £8 (about $10.50) for a magazine I knew nothing about and couldn't even leaf through (since it was encased in a plastic wrapper), but the patterns sold me. Not that I need more patterns. These patterns are ones that I would actually sew, though I have to grade up since I don't think I had an option to buy a different size. The 66-page magazine is not bad either. There are short little pieces with newbie sewing advice - but useful as reminders for seasoned sewers too, both garment and non-garment sewing projects, analyses of some McCalls and Butterick patterns, and one feature article. The sewing ads are also useful and may introduce me to some new online sources. This issue also came with a printed pattern for a jersey dress, which you can also download for free when you register at

German magazines sometimes have some freebies packaged with them, but not to the extent that I've seen UK magazines. It's fun to buy one every now and then but I do have to watch myself and not buy a magazine just because, you know,  free stuff.