Yay! I'm almost done with my PDF sewing pattern! This has taken me a lot longer than I really thought it would, but I've learned a lot about Adobe Illustrator in the process and I'm really hoping that my NEXT pattern goes even more smoothly!!
This is a skirt I originally designed a couple of years ago. It's a high waisted number with a waistband and pockets. The pattern will come with a pocket-less version too, which allows you to get creative with turning the darts into gathers or pleats. It zips up the back. The skirt is fitted but flares out to an a-line shape. It is shown with piping at the waist and pockets but can be made without. One thing I'm really excited about with this skirt is all the variations--you could do the pockets in a contrast fabric, omit the piping, do the pocketless version with piping, do a front center seam, etc. etc. etc.
I recently tested the pattern in my own size to test out my own directions and make sure the pieces all lined up. Here is a not-as-professional-as-I'd like photo of it:
One of the initial steps, sewing the darts on the pocket bag.
So here's the deal:
This is the FIRST EVER pattern I've released for others' use. This means that it needs to be easy to follow and put together by a normal person and not just me. Most of my patterns have weird scribbles on them, strange names that I devise to remember them by like "xover top" or "civil war shirt" and for someone else to put them together it would probably be akin to trying to write a term paper using a secret language that a five year old came up with.
So, I feel I must have some normal people test this pattern out before I can feel comfortable releasing it for sale.
Here are the criteria to be a pattern tester:
1) Be close to one of the sizes on the sizing chart below--you can ignore the bust measurement for this pattern because it's a skirt (doi!). This is NOT because the final pattern cannot be used by people who vary from this chart, but because I want to make sure the pattern fits the people it claims to. If you're an inch off in either the hips or waist but still want to be a tester that should probably be ok. Which brings me to my next point:
2) I aim to design patterns that are especially good for ladies on the shorter side with an hourglass shape. My designs are also helpful for women with padding in the abdomen and hips area. That is--ya gots pretty good endowments up top, really well endowed hips but a small true waist. As you can see from my chart, this means more than a 10" difference between your true waist and hips. And you're a lil' short. So if that's you, I wanna hear from ya!
3) You must have an intermediate level of sewing skill. I include what I think are pretty thorough instructions, but you should be comfy doing an invisible zipper, blind hem and piping.
4) You must be willing to give me constructive feedback. I am interested in knowing whether the instructions make sense, if there are any glitches with the pieces and assembly and if you have any issues with the overall fit and design (again, this is why it is important that you match the size). You receive the PDF for free and would be entitled to the updated version if substantial changes are made.
It would obviously be great if you wanted to model your finished skirt and spread the word if you are happy with it (if you're not happy please tell me--that's why it's a test!!) but you are not required to blog or spread the good news if you don't want to.
Interested?!?! Email me
and when I complete the trial version I will send it to you. I ask that you have it completed with comments within one month of receipt if possible.
Please feel free to link to this post and share if you know anyone else who might be interested! I'm especially eager to get some testers who are on the very low or very high end of the sizing chart!!
My sweet lil' (by little I mean 14 pounds!) guy Gus had a rough week. Around Sunday night I started to notice he was acting pretty funny, trying to go to the bathroom every few minutes and trying to go in some pretty odd places, at that. I thought he was just being sassy ("Watch me piss on everything, Mom!") but then I put two-and-two together and realized he probably had some kind of urinary problem.
To spare you the gory details and summarize, he was suffering from crystals in his urine. In male cats this can actually become a life-threatening problem if the crystals build up enough and block them from releasing urine. I rushed him to the pet ER on Monday night after learning this. Luckily they allowed me to take him back home with some medications. The next day I went to the regular vet who thankfully felt it was not necessary to hospitalize him and hook him up to a catheter (yikes!) He has since been on a new diet of high protein wet food and seems to be doing much better.
Here he is blocking out the daylight with his lil' mitts--could he get any more precious?!? (precious-er?)
Though these pics would not make you think it, he's back to his usual antics which include lots of chase-the-measuring-tape and "swat at Mom's ankles from under the bed." He has also taken up the position of resident paper weight for my PDF sewing pattern that I'm testing out. I didn't really ask for a paperweight because it makes the pieces come apart, but whatevs.
It's pretty stressful when your pets get sick. I'm extremely relieved that he's peeing again and back to his cuddly self!!
If you have a tom cat, you might want to consider going my way and feeding him high protein wet food, maybe even mix in some water or broth. These burly guys need a lot of fluid in their food so they don't get blocked up!!!
In my last post, I reviewed some of the typical issues that result in garments not getting worn at all or enough.
In this post I want to explore what does work and why some of my garments get worn all the time. I believe this will guide me in my sewing and designing for the upcoming year. As I mentioned in the last post, I think this is also a helpful exercise for non-sewers who are thinking about making more intentional purchases.
It's not always possible, but the easier something is to care for, the more I wear it. These knits get washed cold (I wash everything cold) and usually hung dry unless I want to tighten them up a bit. If hung, they don't wrinkle and sometimes don't even wrinkle if crumpled into a ball. I can handle that!!
2) Good coverage and fit without losing the flatter factor:
The green dress above and this black shirt do not make me feel self conscious about my body. I feel like they fit well and flatter me, without any little bulges hanging out where I don't want them.
3) Vintage inspired or cute style details while still looking modern and accessible:
The shirt above especially hits this mark. It has the 40's style puff sleeve that I love so much and the feminine shirring at the neck, but is solid black and easily paired with modern jeans.
These garments feel great against the skin and are easy to move around in without sacrificing fit or style. This rayon challis top below is soft, silky and lightweight.
What do I want to make/design more of in 2014?
Clearly, I'm on a knits kick. It just works for me. I'm addicted. Now that my foundations are perfected, I want to make more:
--Knit fit and flare tunics and dresses.
A good fitting knit dress is so easy to throw on, and my fit-and-flare, vintage inspired details make it look dressy. The "tunic" version like the black shirt above is a great way to comfortably dress up basic pants.
--Empire waist knit dresses:
an empire waist can totally change the look of the dress and can appeal to a wider range of body types, too. Plus I always have been and always will be a sucker for the grunge-era "babydoll" style, so this really appeals to that part of me.
--Basic knit shirts in cool prints.
These shirts are awesome, comfortable staples and I could make them in an array of fun ITY knits that would work even better for the cowl.
Basic skirts in twill type fabrics:
I really enjoy wearing skirts and cotton twill is one you can wear sans tights during the hot weather, or with tights/leggings when it gets cold. Some of my skirt patterns need some adjustments. The lower waisted mini above is close to perfect and will be a great addition to my wardrobe once I fix it. I can also make it in a longer length.
I have never been a maxi skirt or dress person, but I'm interested to make longer skirts, especially on summer dresses.
Adorable, sexy, fitted woven dresses:
I have moved away from sewing a lot of fitted, woven dresses because it was taking so much time and I was not able to charge enough. However I really have so many amazing designs that I've worked so hard to perfect and I don't want them going to waste. I want to make these items and I don't care if they're work appropriate or if I can sell them. ANYWAYS, I will probably be releasing a lot of these as PDF sewing patterns!! More on that later...
This princess seam bodice with sweetheart neckline dress is definitely something I want to revisit come summah-tahm!
Since the New Year, I've noticed a lot of sewing blogs talking about the concept of trying to sew items that collectively make up a wardrobe with intention (see: Lucky Lucille
, By Gum By Golly
). That is, many bloggers reflected that they made items which, while fun to sew or very cute, did not get worn very much. Maybe they didn't go with any other garments, or just weren't practical to wear.
The overall idea is that, if we're going to put the time and effort into a handmade wardrobe, we want to end up with something that is entirely useable and that we can wear most days of the week.
I think this concept also applies to those of you who don't sew, but are trying to think about creating a comprehensive, useable wardrobe in 2014, especially if you're buying handmade.
In 2013 and the past, I have made many garments that I wear constantly, and more that I never wear at all. 2013 was definitely a better year in terms of creating and sewing up practical garments that I wear on an every-day basis but I would still like to better conceptualize my handmade wardrobe with intention.Here are some of the reasons an item may not get worn:1) Care
--some of my garments need to be ironed after a wash. In some ways I don't think I can get around this because I am going to continue to use wovens to make clothing. However, I have a habit of washing it, hanging it to dry, and then by the time I want to take it off the hanger to wear it, it's 5 minutes before I need to leave for work and I don't have time to iron.
This blouse is comfortable, adorable and totally appropriate for work. However, it requires ironing and my laziness often prevents me from wearing it more.
Here's a dress that needs to be ironed and, while adorable, just feels out of place in my work setting, more so just because of my personal feeling and not because it's inappropriate for work in general.
2) Inappropriate for work: Not many of my items are inappropriate in terms of being too revealing or anything, but sometimes the aesthetic is a little too much for my workplace. It is out of place in terms of what my co-workers wear, and probably confusing for my clients. I don't think anyone else would necessarily think so, but I know I wouldn't be comfortable and when I don't feel comfortable in what I'm wearing, it ruins the whole day (and I have enough things that could potentially ruin my day at anytime already).
This is not to say that I feel I have to blend in with my surroundings because it needs to be acknowledged that I live in Vermont and even "dressed up" around here carries very different connotations than in other areas. However, I'm also not out to make a big statement about myself.
I was very happy with this dress, but it is a little too dressy for my work. I wore it to my family Thanksgiving however and felt right at home.
3) Just...not quite right. Some of my items just didn't fit quite right. In those cases I have mostly gone back and changed the pattern to fit better. Nothing is worse than meeting with people all day and worrying that a button is going to pop or that the facing in your armhole is flipping out (have I mentioned how much I loathe facings??) Other times it's just a matter of having used the wrong fabric.
I was really excited about this blouse design but it just wasn't quite right. Too tight in the stomach and really in the shoulders, and makes my boobs look way bigger than is real or desired. I have since adjusted my basic knit foundation and anticipate having much better success the second time around.
4) Too many other things to wear just to be able to wear it! Some of my skirts are easy to wear with bare legs, but get clingy with tights. This requires the use of a slip. Not to sound silly but sometimes, yanking the tights on, adding the slip and then finally getting to wear the skirt is just too big an ordeal. Other examples include having to wear an undershirt because a blouse is too sheer or I'm afraid it won't stay closed. Who wants to have to think about this stuff?!?!
So, the ideal garments for me are those that
-aren't too fussy when it comes to care
-look feminine and flattering without drawing too much attention,
-are well-fitted and
-easy to wear...though I think wearing a slip is inevitable if I don't want to bother to make linings!!
I also want to find the right balance of prints and solids. In the past I used way too many prints and nothing went together. Since my transition to using more knits, I've stuck with more solid colors. I think I can find a happy medium.
Who are you Dressing for?
I don't want to feel as if I dress solely for my job because that would be denying my personality. However, the reality is that this is where I spend a lot of my time so I do need to feel comfortable. At the same time, when I have a lot of ideas and inspiration for garments that would be more for "weekend" or "apres-work" then I am going to follow them!
I have talked a lot recently about taking sewing patterns that I had made for woven fabrics and adapting them to use with stretch knits. This post will show you how to do the same. It does require a basic knowledge of grading, which you can learn more about here.
First, you need to know what kind of knit you plan to work with. I tend to use knits that have spandex which means they tend to have great recovery. That is, when you stretch them, they bounce back--they're snappy. I use a lot of cotton/soy blend stretch knit which is quite stable. There are many varieties of knit fabrics and the one you plan to use is the one you need to build your pattern around.
I wanted to recreate my fit-and-flare, tailored woven garments but in a comfortable, pull-over knit version, so it was important to have a fabric that would have good recovery so that it could stretch over the body but then contract again to hug the body shape.
I tend to use a lot of cotton based knits with at least 3% lycra. Rayon or viscose fibers naturally have some drape. So even if they have spandex, you are likely to have some sagging fabric.
The first thing I do is to fold the piece of stretch knit horizontally, and hold it against a ruler. This means that the knit stitches are running up and down. Above you can see it hits at 5". Remember, these numbers are for reference only. You will have to use your own fabric sample and patterns to determine what formula will work best for you!!!
Then, holding it at the beginning mark, I stretch it almost as far as it will go and note the new measurement. I don't pull from end to end (you can see there is some excess to the left of the cutting mat) because that can make it seem stretchier than it is.
As you can (sort of) see, it stretched to 7.5."
One of the reasons I have tended to grade patterns too small for knits is because I expected the knit to stretch to this capacity. When I saw my friend (who is a full 4" smaller than me all around) comfortably wearing the dress that I *thought* was the size Medium, I realized I had made it waaaay too small. So now, I back off a little and stretch only a very little.
(If you're wondering where I found this fabulous bathrobe, I'm not telling!
So here I've stretched it only to about 5.5." You want it to fit snugly but you don't want it to strain.
Now, the relaxed width was 5" and stretched to 5.5." The key is not to get hung up on the actual difference in inches, but to calculate the proportion between the two. Getting a percentage will allow you to choose a grade that will shrink all of the measurements equally. This is where your 9th grade algebra comes in handy.
5.5 is what percentage of 5? (it's going to be 1.1). This means your fabric will expand to 110% of its resting measurement.
You then look at the woven pattern that currently fits you well. Let's say the waist measurement is 29" waist (get the actual waist measurement, not just the size waist it's meant to fit). You would solve this equation:
This means that a 26.36" resting measurement will expand to 29" with your fabric. I would round that up, to be safe, to 26.5.
You would then want your pattern for knits to have a 26.5" relaxed measurement for the waist. To determine the overall grade, subtract 26.5" from 29" and that would be the amount you would grade down (2.5"). If you don't know the basic concept of grading, I recommend you visit this page.
This means that, for any of your well-fitting woven patterns, you would grade down 2.5" in order to adapt them for this particular fabric. However, my style is to grade down only the vertical lines.
This reduces the width, but not the length of the garment. I do this because you are adapting this pattern for the same sized person, and while some fabrics are 4 way stretch, the biggest stretch is going to be side to side. I have used this technique with saggy fabrics like viscose and ITY and it still seems to work well.
Waist Meas (x)=Percentage of stretch
- Take your knit fabric sample, fold in half horizontally
- Mark its length
- Then, hold and stretch. Play around with the stretch until it seems like a slight pull but not overkill. Note the new measurement.
- Divide the larger measurement by the resting measurement and move the decimal over to get a percentage.
- Take a measurement from your woven pattern (the waist is easy). Use this formula:
x=Percentage of stretch/waist meas.
- Subtract X from the Waist Measurement to determine the grade, rounding up to the nearest half inch.
- Grade your pattern down by that amount, only grading on the vertical lines. See below: the new knit pattern (I later cut the waist band out so just ignore that) over the old woven pattern. I do retain the darts and I can explain that in another post).
f you want to make bigger or smaller sizes of your basic knit foundation, then grade up or down both vertical and horizontal grading lines.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I have recently adjusted the foundation from which I base many of my knit garments (but not all).
I have a set of patterns that I use for woven fabrics (which do not stretch), but adapting this to knits has involved some tinkering.
As I will discuss more in a separate post, adapting a woven pattern to knit usually involves making it smaller. At first I decided to grade the woven pattern down a full 6" on the vertical grade lines only. I arrived at the 6" mark by measuring the stretch of a sample of a typical knit I would use.
That equation led to the garments you see below (keep in mind I am sucking in haaaaaard):
The first fit-and-flare jersey dress looked good from some angles, but I quickly learned I was uncomfortable wearing it on a day-to-day basis. It was too tight around the stomach. Although I didn't think so at the time, I now realize the original foundation was too tight in the upper parts, too, around my bust, arms and shoulders. The sweetheart tee was also a little snug. Both made me appear to have a larger chest than I do. The puff sleeve is also lost. It wasn't until I did the For Love and Fashion show with Tara Lynn that I realized this foundation was not the right size for me. I asked my friend Meg to model the grey dress for me. She is a full 4" smaller than me on all measurements, and it fit her perfectly!! This led me to conclude that just because fabric can stretch doesn't mean it should! What was a perfect fit on Meg was obviously too small for me.
Below is the same style as above grey dress, but with new and improved sizing (and cut to shirt length). As a result, the stomach area is not too tight and the puff sleeve really puffs! On the old version, it was too tight around the arm and the cute 40's puff got lost. I did need to adjust the flared peplum (which would be a full skirt if made as a dress) as my foundation skirt pattern was adapted from my very tight woven pencil skirt and didn't flare away from the body enough.
The shirt still accentuates the natural waistline, but is not too snug as you can see from the side view.
I'm really happy with this adjustment.
So: interested in learning how to adapt a woven pattern for knit? Stay tuned!
I know the New Year thing is kind of played out, but the transition to 2014 has felt so positive for me thus far that I just can't stop celebrating it.
One aspect of being a small operation is that I often cannot order tons of fabric to have on hand because it's a huge investment. The plus side, however, is that I can work more closely with the customer to explore other fabric options that may be available to me. The problem is that people often don't know what else is available besides the fabric I used to make the sample.
Above are some fabrics I have access to but only for a limited time before they sell out.
I would love to sew up some of these forties-style dresses in some of these cute prints for some beautiful ladies. I am offering the dress at a bit of a discount from the current price on etsy.
The first five prints are options to purchase when you view this item on sale in my new store
on this website. The others are available, and so are many, many more, if you just contact me on Facebook or email
. There are many solids in addition to prints, if that's more your speed!
I recently adjusted my foundation for some of my stretch knit dresses. Above is the result which I feel looks and fits much better than before. This particular dress is also the result of some important skills I learned about sewing with knits and particularly ITY fabrics.
The older version of this dress (it has a different sleeve) fit ok, but the gathers weren't very pronounced and the waist stretched out when I sewed the gathered skirt.
Also, the overlapped bodice with gathers at the shoulders was a little baggy which made it awkward to wear.
I tweaked my foundation a bit when I made this dress for my friend April and it looked great on her. Recently I made the updated version to replace this one, and added a half circle sleeve.
The bodice is secure but still sexy, and the gathers are intact.
If you haven't ever sewn with ITY, allow me to cover the basics:
1) It's a 100% polyester knit and stands for "interlock twist yarn"
2) Positive qualities are that it has excellent recovery, good elasticity (varying depending on the amount of lycra) and doesn't wrinkle. It has a wonderful feel to it--silky and light, and is very comfortable to wear.
3) Negatives are that it can get scuffed easily if rubbed on velcro or gritty surfaces. Also, it is a pain in the ass to work with when you're trying to cut out a pattern. It slips and slithers around on the cutting table. It's slightly less annoying to sew with.
It's one of the few synthetic fabrics I will use and I like it for garments like this one that have draping features, like the half-circle sleeve, the soft gathers at the bust or the full gathered skirt on the dress above. The cotton knits I work with are just a little too stable for full gathers.
Tips for working with this fabric:
- I use a serger for most seams and a stretch needle, about size 11, for top stitching.
- If you are gathering fabric, do the usual thing and do one row of long, loose stitches about 1/8" from the edge, and one about 5/8" from the edge. Pull the strings simultaneously to achieve the right tension.
- When preparing to sew the gathered edge to another to join, feed clear elastic (or any elastic) into your serger and keep this running over the gathered edge as you sew.
This will keep the gathers together, preventing them from getting squashed by the presser foot. Later, when wearing the garment, it also keeps the gathers intact even as the fabric stretches, such as on this particular waistline.
Because ITY is so drapey (is that a word?), this method works really well for a gathered waist because it keeps the skirt from just pulling and sagging down, obscuring the smallest part where the natural waist is. This is what happened with the old version, resulting in more of a baby doll dress look. Not a bad look, but not what I intended for stretch fabric which I assumed would hug the small part of the waist. That is one of the differences between ITY and other, more stable knits--the nice drape also means that you have to be careful of the weight.
The elastic also sits over the gathers at the shoulder which, again, keeps them intact and also serves to stabilize the shoulder seam, from which the rest of the dress hangs.
My only issue is that my serger seam gets all messy and loopy on the bottom when I sew over the elastic. It doesn't seem to compromise the strength and I usually go over twice, but I'd like to fix this. Any ideas???
Here is my Fall for Cotton dress, just in time for the deadline! The challenge was to use 100% cotton and a vintage inspired design. I drafted this design completely from scratch. It's a close-fitting dress with a wrapped skirt that has a pleated drape detail. The top is regular with waist darts and has a cowl neck.
I probably should have hung and ironed the fabric before sewing :)
The dress has half sleeves which, while being closely fitted, are still comfortable. It is made with a cotton sateen in a rich purple hue. Because of that sheen, I think I will save this dress for "special occasions" or maybe even the "For Love and Fashion" show.
My only complaint is that the neck just didn't drape as much as I'd like. I originally drafted it transferring all dart bulk to the cowl, which resulted in an extremely deep (and just as boxy) neck on my muslin. This is more appropriate but doesn't hang well. However, I kind of like the structural look that it gives the neck.
I'm really very happy with my work. This was the first real run through of the dress (I never do muslins completely) so next time there are a few finishing details that I need to tweak. Otherwise, I think it came out great. I only wish I had more opportunities to wear this kind of dress. I also wish I had time to do my hair. I waited until the 11th hour to draft the skirt, cut it out and sew it, so I had very little daylight to work with and had to rush out to photograph it as soon as I finished!!!!
My partner and I were talking about different clothing items of mine and which ones I tend to use only around the house and which ones go to work. Many of my skimpy items go neglected except around the house because of my issues with dressing discreetly at work. He says that most women wear tight shirts with lots of cleavage at their jobs on a daily basis. He would know since he has constant interaction with the public all day.
This may be true, but I would feel totally uncomfortable with my boobs
(I prefer another word but we'll keep it PG here) dangling out for all to see. It's not that I'm particularly modest, but it's distracting to the people around you.
Most importantly, I feel that I have special considerations when it comes to wardrobe at work. I work with a wide array of individuals and we meet 1:1, often talking about fairly personal issues. I have the combined responsibility of conveying warmth, acceptance, guidance and above all a firm sense of safety and boundaries.
What about you? Do you think that social workers, teachers and "helpers" of the world have special needs when it comes to dress, or do all working women have to worry about this?
Here is my list of things that teachers/counselors/social workers/etc have to think about when dressing:
- Making the rounds to assist students/clients in a group setting: can I kneel, squat, bend and lean over in the clothing?
- Sitting with a client or student without a table in front: Does my skirt cover me and can I still shift positions if I need to? Do my pants pinch me in awkward places?
- Traversing outside the office: Can I make home visits to rural areas, walk up the street to another community agency, visit the court room or walk across campus to get the kids in these clothes?
- Standing up to give presentation or teach: Am I comfortable standing up in full view in my clothes? Or will I be tugging and adjusting constantly, distracted from my work?
- Temperature: Can I add and remove layers to compensate for faulty heating/AC systems or having to go to various locations throughout the day (in Vermont!)?
- Discretion: Is the clothing sheer? Are my bra straps showing? Is the clothing tight enough to show all my undergarments? If buttons, do they threaten to pop open? Oh yeah, and I'M GONNA SAY IT--IF MY NIPPLES GET HARD, IS IT GOING TO SHOW!??!??! (this is more of a bra shopping dilemma. Ya, we'd all love to have cute lil' lacey bras but you know we just buy the cardboard ones).
- More discretion: Is my cleavage and butt crack concealed without me having to wear a Snuggi?
- Care: If I get a few chalk stains on this fabric or sweat profusely (a regular occurrence for me) can I easily wash it, or will it sit in the "to be dry cleaned" bag for two years?
- Respect: Does the clothing make me look professional without seeming intimidating or snobby?
After considering all of this, you can see why many teachers and social workers resort to sweat suits and bring afghans and slippers to work. There isn't much room to ask the question: do I feel good in what I'm wearing? Does it reflect my style? Do I feel good about myself when I get dressed or do I feel unflattered, squashed and frumpy?
What do you think? I am I overanalyzing here?!