THE SEWING DIVAS sewing, design, fashion

August 24, 2006

Slotted Seams, Skirting the Issue

Filed under: Couture Techniques,Pattern Reviews — Gorgeous Things @ 5:46 pm


In my picks to click for fall, one of the standout patterns was Butterick 4859, a skirt with a cool contrast front panel that flares gracefully out in the back. I was really excited by the design possibilities this pattern presents. You can get as creative as you like, with variations on fabric, color and print contrasts. I wanted to try something different though, and I decided to make the skirt from all the same fabric, using slotted seams with a contrast backing as an embellishment. This adds a nice, couture touch, but it’s really not that hard. Let me show you what I did, and maybe it will give you some ideas for creative use of seaming in your own garments.

Step 1, Make Your Contrast Backing

Make continuous bias strips measuring the length of all the seams you want to back, plus a little. The strips should be 1 1/4 inches wide. This is the width of two standard (5/8″) seam allowances. If you’re not familiar with how to create bias strips, there are lots of good sewing reference books that have clear instructions, especially home-dec books. I also think Sewing for Dummies has good instructions.

Step 2, Prepare the Seams

Decide which seams of your outer garment are going to be candidates for the slot/contrast. In this case, I decided to back the seams between the lower, middle and upper front pattern pieces, and the seams for the pieces that formed the flared gores. I didn’t apply this to the center back or side seams. Baste the seams to be backed together and press open, just as if you had sewn them normally. If you need to clip seams, do so carefully, since you don’t want to cut too far into the seam allowance.

Step 3, Attach the Contrast

Center the contrast strips over the basted, pressed seams, making sure you press and steam to stretch and shrink the trim to fit any curves. Baste the contrast strips to the outer garment. I keep the basting line close to the edge of the contrast fabric.
I want to add here that I did all my basting on this garment by machine. The skirt is a wool crepe. If I were making this skirt out of a silk or any other delicate fabric, I would baste by hand.

Once the basting is done, flip the fabric over so the right side is facing up, and topstitch 1/4 inch on either side of the basted seams. Use a 3mm stitch. In the case of this skirt, I used matching (black) thread. You can add a nice touch by using a thread color that matches your trim. This picture shows the final stitching on the wrong side of the garment piece:

You’re almost there!
Once your slotted seams are in place, stitch the garment together just as you normally would. When it is assembled, but before you attach any linings, facings or hem the garment, remove the basting in the slotted seams. Volia!

Here’s a picture of the finished skirt:

I’m having problems controlling the exposure on my camera, so I’ll take another picture tomorrow outside and post it instead of this one, but this gives you an idea. Here’s the back:

As I say, this takes very little effort to accomplish, but it makes a big difference. Try it on a princess seamed jacket, on the side seams of a pair of pants or on the seams of a skirt like this. Make a test seam on a remnant of fabric and you’ll see just how easy it is to add a lovely designer touch to your work.

Happy sewing!

August 19, 2006

Stalking The Ghost of Coco Chanel – Part I

Filed under: Couture Techniques,Designer Inspirations — phyllisc @ 9:28 am



The Divas are probabley getting tired of my interest in Mme. Chanel, but I have to admit ever since I first saw her work as a girl I’ve always loved it, and her designs have always made perfect sense to me.

This cardgian has been in my brain since about 2004, and I finally finished it earlier this summer. I’ve always loved those beaded sweaters from the 1950’s and I’ve seen a few that have linings, an idea I’ve always wanted to emulate. Another fascination has been the soft shape of a traditional Chanel jacket. I’ve always wanted to make a soft jacket-like cardigan, and the simple shape of the Wong-Singh Jones Nirvana cardigan from Hotpatterns is just what I was looking for.

The finished jacket is pretty simple; the exterior is beige sweater knit and black stretch velvet, the interior is beige stretch silk charmeuse, and the inside is trimmed with red Petersham where the lining and interior facings meet. The ties on the original design were replaced with beaded tassels.

In Part II I’ll show you some photos of the interior construction underneath the lining and how the tassels were made, and you can see a review on
Pattern Review,

August 14, 2006

Ultrasuede Reverse Applique

Filed under: Embellishment,Tutorials — Gigi @ 10:05 am

This is a really fun – and easy! – technique for reverse applique using Ultrasuede or real leather or suede. You can even use other non-ravelling fabrics such as felt. You will need:

*Freezer paper that has one waxed side (I use Reynolds)
*Xacto knife – I like blade #11 as it is very sharp and fine
*washable glue stick (I buy them in bulk at an office supply store)
*pencil or pen for tracing
*straight stitch or open toe presser foot
*awl

Here, I am working on a pillow for my son’s bed. He requested an old English initial. The red fabric is Ultrasuede Light, the backing fabric is an upholstery-weight microsuede.

Step 1: Cut your freezer paper to fit the fabric section you are working on. Trace a reverse image of your design onto the paper side of the freezer paper. If you have a light box you can use it – I tape mine onto a glass door for tracing.

Step 2: Press the freezer paper onto the back of your fabric or leather using a dry iron.

Step 3: Using the Xacto knife and a cutting mat (or wood cutting board), carefully cut your design out. Notice here that part of my design will be lost once the main letter is cut out. I will applique that piece back on later. Once you have finished cutting out your design you can peel off the freezer paper. If you are working on a complex design you may want to remove the paper one section at a time.


Step 4: Carefully trace around the edges of your cut out design with the glue stick. Apply backing fabric and allow to dry (I’m impatient so I hurry it along with my iron).


Step 5: Straight stitch around all edges. You may need to use the awl to hold down the very small points as you sew. Pull all thread tails to the back and tie off.

Step 6: Carefully trim away excess fabric. That’s it, you’re done!

And, thank goodness, this concludes my back-to-school sewing! While most of you were making great new clothes for your kids to wear I was making a tailored bed skirt and pillows. I have to admit, I don’t love Home Dec. sewing but sometimes that’s the only way to get exactly what you want~

August 8, 2006

Divas’ Top 3 Patterns for Fall 06

Filed under: Pattern Reviews — thesewingdivas @ 2:19 pm

The Divas have all been looking forward to escaping the heat, and what better way to think cool thoughts than to start planning a fall wardrobe. Toward that end, we have all been laboring to find our “Top 3″. Read on, and see what each Diva is using for inspiration!

Georgene says:
Hard to narrow down my picks to three. There are a lot of great patterns out there this season. The pattern company gods must have deigned to listen to the sewing supplicants looking for fashion, and fast!
I know this Threads’ trenchcoat from Simplicity is going to be at the top of quite a few lists. I love the fact that you get both single and double breasted versions in the envelope. And I know right where to go to get my leather buttons and leather covered buckle to match if I want to do a classic Burberry style version. Since its 110 in the shade right now, I’m thinking of the yards and yards of waterproofed black crinkle tulle from Japan in my stash, but I’m sure there are plenty of other candidates for this classic pattern. Even my DD who never indicates any desire to sew has decided that she wants to make a cropped black taffeta trench!

Simplicity 4044 is a home run for me – a reprint of a vintage pattern that had THE Hepburn pant I have been lusting after for years. I have the Folkwear Hollywood pant, but somehow it doesnt quite make it. Will this be the one? And the gently flared skirt in this wardrobe pattern looks like it could be used either bias or straight grain. The jacket is a gem as well,I have at least 3 fabrics in the stash that would work for this immediately. I look forward to studying the instructions, and checking out the pattern pieces. I just hope that Simplicity hasn’t ‘improved’ the pattern when they re-issued it.


Vogue 8280 is the fast track to making your version of the Roland Mouret dress that knocked everyone’s socks off recently. I’d go back and revisit some of the original photos of his dress and probably re-draft the sleeves. Or maybe not. I do know that I have been looking for a killer sheath dress pattern for quite some time now. I wonder if the skirt is really pegged like that? Well, that’s easy enough to fix if its not. I have the perfect mini Glen plaid in the stash with an embroidered flower meandering over it. I was going to make a jacket out of it, but this pattern opportunity has convinced me to give it up. And I know who to call to get my covered belt and buckle made! This could be so hot in black lace over a nude lining as well – I think I would make the long sleeve sweetheart neckline view with the pleated hem for that, maybe change the pleats to a circular flare. Change to a button front with covered buttons, add a grosgrain belt? There are lots of ways to go with this. One could even convert to a camisole top fairly easily – just ditch the pattern piece at the front armhole, cut the back straight across and add straps.

I love the Simplicity Retro pattern 4044 with a great Katherine Hepburn pant. The skirt looks like it could be either straight grain or cut on the bias, and I have at least 3 fabrics in the stash that will work for the jacket. I’m looking forward to studying the instructions and looking over the pattern pieces. I just hope that Simplicity didn’t ‘improve’ the pattern when they re-issued it.

I’m torn, however, since I can only choose the top 3 patterns for Fall, if I shouldn’t just go for Vogue 2922, the Guy Laroche trench jacket with the wide legged pant, and sort of kill 2 birds with 1 stone. I think I’ll stick with the 2 Simplicities, though, as the greater number of options for the trench and the hope of a real vintage fit seems a better choice.

Phyllis says:
This Fall I’m into the updated retro look as well, and my picks are in a similar vein as Georgene’s. Vogue 2912 is a trio of Anna Sui tops, and they really have a nice updated retro feel. View A, the sleeveless tank that buttons up the back, is already on my list – it will be in beige silk charumeuase with the neck tie and armsyce in black silk charmeuse.

Another winner for me is Simplicity 4045, an emsemble with a good variety of garments. The gathered round neck top/dress is a style I’ve been seeing in stores.


McCall’s 5189 is a funky jacket with shirring at the shoulders – there are lots of fun embellishment possibilities with this one. You could do the shirring as smocking, or you could add beads to the smocking or shirring – it’s a great jumping off point. Go to the McCall’s web site for finished-version photo on their rotisserie – the drawing doesn’t really showcase the style.

Gigi says:
There are so many interesting new fall patterns that it was really difficult for me to narrow it down to three! I too feel that the Simplicity Threads’ trenchcoat is a must-have this season. I especially like the single-breasted version as a jacket substitute over pants and a top. Since I live in south Florida and haven’t much need for a coat, I intend to make an unlined version out of a beautiful red 4-ply silk that I recently purchased from Metro Textiles in NYC. I will bind all of the seams with a Hong Kong finish in a contrasting color for a little surprise inside. With a quick change of buttons, this could work as an evening coat as well.

I have also fallen in love with Vogue 2920, the Donna Karan suit worn by Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada. It is unusual and elegant at the same time and would be suitable for many occasions. I will allow the style to do all of the speaking and choose a quiet fabric like black wool crepe. Being short, I am on the fence about the dramatic fabric flower corsage – I may have to scale it down or eliminate it altogether.

My final choice is Hot Patterns’ Weekender Sunshine Tops. I do a lot of 2-piece dressing so I’m always on the lookout for nice top patterns to add to my collection. I can see making several with short sleeves or sleeveless, both with and without the hip band. I have a nice stash of rayon/lycra jerseys that have the perfect drape for this style. For evening, I envision a sleeveless version in black matte jersey with a jeweled neckband and faux waist tie a la Hot Patterns’ It’s A Wrap.

MaryBeth says:
Versatility! I’m heartset on extending the existing wardrobe into fall and Simplicity 4070 looks to be a quick and easy way to turn shirts and pants into business casual. This pattern is rated “easy” and has no pockets (I’ll add those) so it should sew up quickly. You can make it “fem” in an elegant brocade. Make sure there is enough ease though out and that the seams are well finished so no stress will result in fraying and early demise of your new vest. Fancy weaves such as brocade are known for fraying. A tiny zigzag stitched right next to the stitching line will help to deter slippage.

I am focused (sorry, can’t bring myself to use the au courant “I’m all about…”) on the Menswear trend and will use this pattern with a worsted pinstripe, denim and at least one cotton print so that there will be many options for mixing and matching with existing pieces. Made up in different fabrics and with different neckline versions your summer blouses and shirts will take have a new life in the Fall section of your closet.

Versatility is abundant in Vogue 2925. This pattern has 4 fabulous pieces not immediately dazzling from the pattern photos and line drawings. I had to go visit this pattern in the store to truly appreciate it. There is a close fitting peplum jacket with french darts. You can use checks or houndstooth and the french darts will make a playful but subtle change in direction that doesn’t scream “Look at my bust!” the way a side bust dart will often do. The pattern envelope helpfully gives the lower edge width dimension for the peplum so you can make your size selection more easily.

The capped sleeved top for moderate stetch knits has extensions from the back that form the shoulder and attach to the front bodice in lovely gathers. Silk jersey is one of the recommended fabrics (yay!). Silk is so versatile. It is able to conform to ambiant tempertures and comfortable in many environments. The pattern continues the “soft gathers” theme at the side rather than utilizing bust darts. To subvert an election year phrase: “I approve this pattern” for the more busty figure that requires but doesn’t want a side dart. I can hardly wait to make this top.

And the skirt: ah, the skirt! It has 3 pieces but 7 seams so there is plenty of opportunity for fitting that lovely curve that extends from the side hip to the center front and back panels. Each pattern piece is flared for a great shape that falls from the lower hip.

The pants are straight legged with directions for finishing the waist with a grosgrain ribbon (although the directions call it a “grossgrain” ribbon. Don’t be fooled!) The leg style on this pant can be modified to fit your current taste.

My final “versatile” pick is Vogue 8301. Again I’ve picked a pattern with a waist-length-extending, high-hip-covering peplum. This pattern envelope gives only the waist width measurement, excluding the peplum, but I love the variety of styles available: from western-style shield vest to a military uniform with a pointed vee at the front closure. I think this would be so fun in a red wool with gold buttons. Unfortunately the sizing range for the pattern only goes up to Vogue 18 and I will have to make alterations to the peplum but the style lines draw the eye up towards the face and shoulders. It is an unlined jacket or vest with great possibilities for upping the “authority quotient” in your transition wardrobe.

It’s going to be a fun fall! I could go on and on but I’ve got some sewing to do.

Ann says:
Oy! So many to choose. I feel like saying “me too” to all the choices my fellow Divas have made. But I can’t do that, so…
First up on my list for a fall skirt is Butterick 4859. I love the fluid lines of this skirt, and the contrast insets give great options for fabric combinations. I think I would make this in wool crepe with contrast slotted seams, maybe a black wool crepe/pink silk seams for a YSL inspired look. Kashi at Metro has some great silk crepes that would make a beautiful version. I also have matte jersey that would work up spectacularly. Ah, the possibilities are endess with this skirt.


While I adore the trench coat from Threads (in fact, I already own the pattern thanks to a well-timed sale at JoAnn), I think I may first make up a car coat from Vogue 8307. This is the knockoff of an Armani design that was all over the fashion press two seasons back. I love the asymmetrical collar. I have a beautiful camel hair fabric that would look quite spectacular made up into this. And I think Vogue patterns will be on sale at JoAnn next weekend.

Last but not least, I have a whole lot of fabric in my stash that is waiting to be made up into pants. As you all know, I really like the way HotPatterns’ pants fit me. They have come out with some new patterns, the Weekender collection. I think I’ll make these up using some great stretch cotton stripe, as well as some lovely wools. I like the fact that they are cut to just below the waist. And while I probably won’t take advantage of the shorts pattern for fall (gets too chilly here in Boston to wear shorts after about September), the long pants and the cropped pants look like they would make good fall-into-winter wear.

Ah, so many other patterns that would work well too, and I haven’t even begun to think about tops. Well, back to the sewing room!

August 6, 2006

If the Curve Fits…

Filed under: Fit/Pattern Alterations,Pattern Reviews — Gorgeous Things @ 11:00 am

I just finished a pair of pants from a Simplicity pattern, 4366. It’s a basic pant wardrobe, flat front with length and leg width variations. It’s a good pattern. I figured I’d give it a go and try to use up some of the 20,000 yards of fabric in my stash. If you recall a post I wrote two months ago, “The joy of 90 degrees”, I waxed rhapsodic about the way the back of the HotPatterns pants generally fit me much better than other pattern companies. I haven’t made any other pants until this week, but I decided to take my own advice and check the back crotch curve and see how it stacks up to the HP curve, which works well for me.

Me vs. Simplicity

This photo shows an imprint of my back crotch curve that Cynthia Guffey did in a fitting class, vs. the unaltered back pattern piece of the Simplicity pants. As you can see, I am much more, um, perpendicular than the pattern is. If I make the pattern up as is, and I would have done that for demonstration purposes but it was too freaking hot, I would get a pair of pants with a saggy baggy butt. This happens to me all the time with most pant patterns. The original pattern simply has too much fabric to fit me well. So what I have to do is scoop out the crotch curve to look more like me. I used a similar approach to what HotPatterns does in their pants. Sorry, I don’t have an HP pattern to illustrate. I loaned mine to Diva Phyllis. I’ll post a picture later.

The Adjusted Pattern
Here, however, is a photo of the altered back pattern piece next to the original unaltered pattern. Note the difference. It’s astounding how much I needed to take out. But the results are worth it. Instead of looking like I’m wearing old bloomers, the pants fit very comfortably in the back:

You can map your own curve using a flexible ruler that you can buy in any art-supply or sewing store. It’s worth its weight in gold for the resultant fit. You can also use tin foil, but I find that foil tends to be too flexible and loses its shape. The flexible ruler will stay true. So, if the curve fits, use it!

You can see the complete review on Patternreview
Happy sewing.

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