Friday, October 31, 2014

A Cautionary Tale

I was so excited to finish my bloomers-in-progress last night--I bound the leg placket, stitched the gusset, gathered the leg opening and attached the cuff--and then I held them up in front of me and realized what I had done.

Ten points if you can spot the mistake.  In the end, nobody's going to see them but me--I wear them under my skirts in the winter to keep warm--so unless the reversed fastening is uncomfortable, I may just leave it this way.  Changing it means picking out all those stitches (including the gusset, ugh) and I'm not sure I want to go to all that trouble.  I just can't imagine how I finished the entire cuff without noticing.  

In other news, I got a roll of Kraft paper as big as my head!

It's strong but light and somewhat see-through, so hopefully it will streamline my pattern drafting process.  The roll came in a box twice its size and was so heavy I had actual trouble getting it up the stairs on my own.

I'm also working on a short coat/heavy jacket with a hood--more news on that later.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Quilt In Progress, In Progress

All the 12" blocks are done!  It's beginning to look like a real quilt although also strangely like the Minecraft-themed Halloween fabric we sell at work.  Up next: sashes (connector strips), cornerstones (connector blocks), borders, and then I can buy the batting and start putting it all together. Since the whole point of this project is working my way through my overflowing wool stash, it seemed unwise to buy a bed-sized piece of fluffy wool and then have to find a place to put it while I finished the rest of the quilt.

I've hit a wall on the cigarette pants--there's definitely too much room in the upper thigh, even though it was perfect in the muslin--???.  Oh well.  I keep coming back to it, slowly working my way through a step or two, testing out some possible solutions and then discarding them.  I have to remind myself that this is how lots of my favorite clothes started out, and that necessity is the mother of invention.  In the meantime, it's been very satisfying to do lots of small straight seams with no fitting, no curves, no geometry.  Sometimes you just want to sew a precise 1/4" seam allowance you know?

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Constructing Cigarette Pants: Flat-Lining

I mentioned last time that I'm flat-lining these pants to finish the inside seams.  Here's how I did it!

After I cut the wool, I left the pattern pieces pinned to the fabric and laid out the whole bundle onto my underlining.  I'm using a very shifty stretch silk, kind of like a lightweight crepe, from Vogue Fabrics (where I work), so the grip of the wool was important in keeping the fabric stable so I could cut straight.  Since the silk doesn't have a visible grain, I measured up from the fold to the grainline on my pattern piece, keeping them parallel from waist to hem.

(This silk photographs really strangely, especially against my light wood table & floors--it's more of a goldenrod color, somewhere between orange and yellow.)

Then I used my tailor's chalk to mark around the outline of the pattern piece.  Instead of cutting the underlining the same size as the outer fabric, however, I added an additional 5/8" seam allowance along the vertical edges.  That extra fabric will be wrapped around the raw edge of the wool inside the seam, finishing it neatly.  You don't need it at the top and bottom, where the raw edges are already finished by the hem and waistband.

To join the two fabrics, I put the pieces together with the edges flush.  You will get a big vertical tuck of loose underlining down the center of the piece--that's what it's supposed to look like.  Sew a 1/4" seam along the vertical edges.  I line up my needle so it's exactly 1/4" away from the edge of my presser foot, then use that as a guide.

Then turn the whole piece inside out.  Don't allow the outer fabric to roll--you want the underlining to wrap around it completely, like a seam finish.

From here, you treat your underlining like the wrong side of the outer fabric: mark your dart points and any construction lines directly onto it, and sew darts and seams with both layers of fabric acting as one.  All seams will be sewn with your normal seam allowance (which for me is 1/2"), measuring from the edge of the outer fabric.  Mine is heavy weight enough that I could feel it through the silk as I was feeding the seam into the machine.  Press the seam open, and it looks just like a bound Hong Kong finish.

For this particular project, I had a few issues in the fork area--I forgot to allow any horizontal ease there, even though the crotch seam and inseam run diagonal-to-horizontal, so I had to trim the seam and do some fudging and stretching when I flipped it inside out and blah blah blah it's not as neat as I would like.  The wool is also bulky enough that the seams kind of stick out at me in the inseam, and I can't get them to press flat.  I'm going to sleep on it and see if I come up with any other options, but worse comes to worst I will rip back a few stages (I've already sewn the crotch- and outseams) and topstitch along each side of the inseams to keep them flat.  You live you learn!

P.S. Thanks to whoever returned "Quilts! Quilts!! Quilts!!!", it was worth the wait.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Drafting Cigarette Pants, Part 2

What I was fitting and re-fitting last week wasn't a pattern--it was a block, without seam allowance, hem allowance, pockets, etc.  Now, I do have a trouser block in my repertoire already.  But it's designed for wide-legged pants, and slimming down the leg is such a major alteration (requiring lots of changes to the hip, crotch, and inseam area) that there's a risk it wouldn't work out immediately.  So I thought it was much safer to work out a new block for slim fit pants, get the fit just right, and then use that block to trace off a pattern for cigarette pants.  That way I'll have the block handy if I ever make another version of these pants in the future--say, with a different pocket style, or a back yoke, or pleats instead of darts.  It's much easier to make changes to a pattern before the seam allowances have been added on (trust me, I know from experience).

I perforate the block, old school style, at any point that needs to be transferred onto the pattern (and ultimately to the fabric)--dart points, grain lines, and horizontal balance lines.  I've also perforated here along the back crotch seam because I added a 3/4" back extension, a common feature in men's tailoring that allows for alterations in case of weight gain (basically just a tuck of extra fabric along the back seam).  With pants this tight, I definitely want to have the option of letting them out a little in future.

In the pattern stage, I also add any fancy details that affect the shape of the pants, as well as allowances for sewing.  For these pants, I want a nearly-horizontal trouser pocket (like the pocket on a pair of jeans), so I've cut away a bit of the front upper hip and made pocket bag and pocket facing patterns to fit.  Then I connect the dots to transfer all the lines to the pattern, trace a 1/2" seam allowance in marker, and cut it out!  The perforations are handy for checking grain lines and marking dart points right onto the fabric with chalk or tailor's tacks.

Then it's finally (FINALLY) time to cut the fabric.  I have juuuuust enough of this herringbone wool flannel to fit the pattern pieces on grain, thank goodness.  I made a jumper dress out of it two years ago that has worn like iron and goes with everything, so I wanted to get an equally useful garment out of what was left.  It's excellent fabric--not the kind of thing you experiment on.

The other reason I spent so much time fitting the muslin is that I'm planning to flat-line the pants--that is, sew the outer fabric and underlining wrong sides together around the edge of each pattern piece, resulting in an interior seam that looks a little like a Hong Kong finish.  There's a great tutorial here on Cashmerette, and I'll post a few pictures next time to show what it looks like on a heavier fabric.  It's a good clean finish, but you have to be sure of your fit before you start because it's not easy to make alterations once the underlining is attached.

With a complicated project like this, I'm careful not to rush it--drafting, cutting, sewing, and hand-finishing all happen on separate days and usually take more than one sitting to complete.  If I go too fast I'm sure to cut something wrong (and I almost did today--forgot to allow for hem allowance on the back leg--but I caught the mistake just as I was putting scissors to cloth and just freehanded it).  Better to slow down and enjoy the ride.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Drafting Cigarette Pants

Cigarette pants!  I need some.  More to the point, I want to take on the challenge of drafting them.

I've been piecing my muslins from a bunch of 1/2-3/4 yard cuts my friend's roommate left behind when she moved (apparently she did some kind of theatrical sewing)--it's mostly muslin but some of it might have been pillowcases at one time.  I made sure to match the grainlines on each piece, which makes a HUGE difference in how the garment hangs.  (Dear self five years ago, it does so matter, I'm sorry, you were wrong.)

I usually cut a paper pattern with no seam allowances, and trace around it right onto the fabric.  I know some people thread-trace the grainlines and horizontal fitting lines but I don't have the patience for that--I just use whichever marker comes to hand first, which today was pink.

 I left the legs relatively roomy, planning to do most of the slimming down in the muslin stage rather than on paper.  I'd like to test a theory I've been developing over the course of the drafting process, which is that my legs exit my pelvis in an inward direction rather than vertically, and so--theoretically--I should need a slightly bias (angled inward) trouser leg, rather than a perfectly on-grain one.  The successful pants I've made in the past have always been full enough that I had room to move regardless, but the more ease you take away, the more accurate your draft has to be, and I'm hoping this new angle will solve some of the weird inexplicable wrinkles I always notice near the crotch when my legs are closed.  You can see it in the first muslin:

Drag lines... drag lines!  I don't intend to stand like a sailor at all times though so I need to fix this problem.

For the second muslin, I hinged out the inseam at a wider angle (technique helpfully illustrated at #2 here), a couple of inches out at the hem tapering to nothing at the fork.  I also gave the inner thigh portion of the inseam a slight convex curve, which hopefully will relieve strain on the fabric in that area and keep the pants from wearing out quite as quickly (that's the first place my pants always get holes).  First impressions are good:

There's some wrinkling around the crotch, but well within acceptable levels IMO.  Grain lines and side seams are approximately perpendicular to the floor, nothing's obviously out of whack--there's a little too much room from the knee down but we're going to do something about that now.

First I tried pinning out a vertical dart along the crease line (center grainline), tapering to nothing at the knee:

That did not work.  It was weird.  As soon as I took a step, the leg started twisting inward from the knee down, a problem I had with the last pair of jeans I made and never figured out.  I still don't understand what caused it, but it was immediately obvious that no matter how big my calves are, the solution is not to make the front narrower than the back.

Second, I tried pinning out the excess along the outer seam, which I suspected was going to be the best solution (and a test of my inward-angled-leg theory).  And it worked!  It worked so much!

I got a little overzealous and pinned out too much at first, but once I let the pins out slightly into a more gentle taper, it was perfect.  Minimal twisting, and comfortable!  I like to wear a muslin around the house for a while before I make a final decision, just to make sure I can, like, bend over to get into the dishwasher, or curl up sideways on the couch and watch TV.  And I can!  The final fabric is going to be a woolen with a bit of give to it and stretch silk underlining, so these should be very comfortable when they're all done.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Quilt in Progress

The weather gets cold, and I start digging around in my bag of wool scraps, thinking maybe this year I will get around to making that quilt I've been vaguely planning ever since my stash expanded out of its first plastic bin.  Well, a couple of rainy days at home and I've got half the main squares cut out--nothing decided yet for the connecting strips, cornerstones, or borders--and a full sketch on graph paper, which I think is pretty achievable for a first-time effort.  All squares and strips, nothing fancy.

It's gonna be big, though.  No getting around that.  But I have never let having zero experience stop me from trying something new.  (To wit, all the sewing I did between the ages of 16 and 21.)  So far, the cutting-out process has been very rewarding--I love watching my scrap pile shrink down as I harvest at least a 3" square or two out of nearly every piece.  I've also been cutting squares out of some old WIPS, all long past salvaging and probably woefully poorly drafted.  That black and white basketweave up there was going to be a six-gore skirt with kick pleats and a side zipper.  Do you know how many seams that is?  None of which I stabilized or finished beyond a quick zig-zag, so of course it was stretched out and fraying like crazy.  It's nice to give it a new home outside the drawer of crumpled disappointment.

When I'm not cutting out squares, I've been spending a lot of time reading quilting manuals from the 70s on  Books in the public domain are available to read immediately, and more recent books just require a free account to check them out and read online.  There is a book called "Quilts! Quilts!! Quilts!!!" which I am still on the waiting list for, so if you have it checked out, please return it.  I recommend Scrap Patchwork and Quilting by Marti Michell, for the practical advice, and My Mother's Quilts by Sarah Nephew for a historical perspective on Depression-era quilting.

Until next time!

Monday, August 11, 2014

This Is a Persistent Worry

Double-checking for the 20th time to make sure I don't end up with two left sleeves.