Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sewing without a plan ... and 3 ghostly garments

The Sewing Lawyer has always been mightily impressed by the entrants to the various "SWAP" contests.  That anyone completes these grueling marathons is a wonder, especially if their marriages or significant relationships remain intact.  What is this thing - a sewing "plan" anyway?  How could anyone actually settle ahead of time on pattern and fabric combos to make 11 (or whatever other double-digit number the SWAPpers aim to make) garments that would work together as a complete wardrobe?  How do they keep motivated, or even interested?  How can they stand the deadlines?

It's beyond the Sewing Lawyer.  She has occasionally read the rules and has always immediately dismissed the idea of participating.  She prefers to (mentally) endlessly reformulate a stream of projects which may or may not employ fabric, patterns and other bits from her stash, thumb aimlessly through her stack of Burda magazines and bulging pattern files, examine each and every bolt in the local fabric store to see what's new and what's deeply discounted, while waiting for inspiration to strike.  There is rarely any kind of deadline other than hoping vaguely to be able to make something-or-other before the season (or fashion) for it has completely passed.  The only advantage to be gained from not seizing the day and putting scissors to cloth is that the potential sewing disaster or fashion faux-pas is avoided, or at least put off for another day.

In the meantime, the Sewing Lawyer bumbles along making things that strike her fancy from time to time, and (mostly) turning out garments she's prepared to wear out in public, which sometimes even coordinate.

Ya, I'm exaggerating but right now it sure does feel this disorganized!  Since the last post, I've got three ghostly garments which have been slapped together to test patterns and fit to show you.  It is probably not a great idea to have this many ideas on the actual go.  One of the patterns has even been translated (well, cut out) into actual fabric!  But more on that later.

First up, I've improved the Material Things "Fearless Jacket" muslin immensely and I'm warming to the idea of actually using it to make out of my luscious lamb leather.  I took the muslin completely apart, adjusted the tissue in the places I had already identified, and recut the pieces.  I was at about size 0 (if there had been such a thing) on the MT tissue.  After sewing it together again I realized that it was still too big!  If I was at 0 before, I guess this is size -2.  In the Big 4, I would usually choose a 10 as my base size.  The new tucks are out of the side front and centre/side back seams.  The other change that needs to be made is to raise the armscye to improve mobility - the muslin looks ok while I have my arms at my side but when I raise them it's not a good look.

My second muslin is supremely uninteresting, but it's the one that's getting made first.  This is from a 1990s Burda envelope pattern which I have made before and wore to death.  I still really love the picture on the envelope.

I made a muslin only to check how much too low these armscyes are - I'm raising them by 2.5cm (1") so the answer is - a lot!

My final ghostly garment is a muslin of Vogue 1183, the second Kay Unger dress released this summer.  I could tell from the measurements printed on the pattern that this dress was going to be a snugger fit than V1182, my cocktail dress.  Before cutting out the muslin, I separated the skirt front into two so there will be princess seams instead of darts.  The back already has a corresponding seam and the bodice is princess-seamed all over the place, so this change seems natural and adds more opportunities to adjust fit.  For the muslin I cut a size 10 in the bodice and midriff, transitioning to a 12+ at the hips.

It is too snug.

Besides that, there is something strange happening at the join between the bodice and midriff at the front.  It almost feels like I need an FBA (!).  I notice that several reviewers of this dress on PR had a problem with the overlap gaping - they did need an FBA.  Mine isn't gaping so much as the leading edges of the front are pulling up on the midriff piece.

Here's another picture (in which the left neck edge is not folded under).   I'm going to mull this over some more but if you have a suggestion for how to fix this, please put it in the comments!

But the strangest thing is that the skirt front is too long on me just below the midriff, around the level of my actual waist. I've pinned out a wedge/tuck that is about 2cm deep at CF and tapers to nothing at the side seams.  You can see it better in the side view to the right.

I really like the way the midriff piece curves downward in the back.

The back fits pretty well except for the too-tightness of it.

It's also too short for my taste.  The muslin hits about 1cm above where I'd like the finished edge to land, and it includes the hem allowances!


  1. Having wasted time on a dress that just does not suit me, I've become a convert to making muslins. Your leather jacket design and the KU dress look very promising. I love the dress and may be inspired to try it.

  2. I'm not much help with the midriff, although the upper part of the midriff seems too loose rather than too snug.

    I can provide some info on the skirt length. I sometimes shorten my skirts at the front, but what I'm really doing is making the sides (and the back less so) longer than the front. That is because of my pear shape, and as you are transitioning to a larger size in the hips, I'm guessing it is the same for you. The extra curvature as you change sizes requires extra length to go over the hips. If I am drafting my own patterns, I raise the side seams of the skirt and curve the waist seam up to this higher point. If I am adjusting a garment, I take a couple of centimetres length out of the front skirt at the waist. My drafts have a different length at the back, front and sides. The back of your muslin looks lovely.

  3. I have no help to offer with the midriff fitting but I have to tell you that I'm in awe of the fact that you've made 3 muslins for 3 different projects. I would never get anything finished if I made muslins...I'm just in awe I tell you!

  4. yes bravo to the people who finished their swaps - weren't there some fantastic wardrobes ? -what a shame we can only vote for one.

    I've learned the hard way I couldn't plan a wardrobe to save myself - it's just not me. That's where craft becomes art I think - where the creative process must unfurl as it wants to.

  5. You look terrific in that ghostly dress. I think much of the topside problem is that the midriff runs way too high - I'd suggest adjusting the midriff curve so it's lower, just below the natural bust-body hinge line. At the very least, there's too much midriff there for your vertical size ;) Good luck!

  6. I love all the muslins you make, you are quite inspiring. I agree with many of the suggestions already made, one to add to the list - for the top, on the princess line above the bust, try scooping the outside piece out slightly from the bustline to the shoulder (for me, it doesn't take much, about 1/4 to 1/2 inch - that adjustment brings the side of the princess seaming in closer along the bust and sort of "realigns" things from the bustline up, I always do it with princess seams now, and it woks to help fix both gaping at the arm and neckline gaps.
    good luck. we will all watch with interest to see the finished product. It will be a beautiful dress.

  7. Funny! Informative!! Instructive!!! YES, making muslin(s) is the BEST "sewing tip" I've learned!! Looking forward to seeing your progress, Kay!
    Size -2, eh... well, I guess we can still be friends...
    Jealous in Montreal ;)

  8. I refuse to even read the rules anymore for the various contests. The time element always makes me crazy. 11 pieces? I spent more wasted time trying to come up with a wardrobe that would work and that I wouldn't get bored with before I finished. No more. Too much stress. Sewing is supposed to be fun.
    I spent yesterday tracing, damn those new pattern sheets from Burda, and deciding it wasn't going to work for me. I didn't even get to the muslin stage, and it took all day!

  9. The dress looks fine from the side, so maybe just a little bit more length where it is pullin up. Also not sure with midriff, but maybe if hips taken out a bit the midriff may not bunch. Or if lower line in midriff is where you want it then length needs to be taken out of it. Good luck, not far off.
    As to SWAPS - I don't like the way the contests are "controlled", in that you have to do certain things to qualify. You can still get a great wardrobe by doing one garment at a time.

  10. I have SWAP intentions, but have yet to really finish one. Oh, well.

  11. I took a class from Cecelia one time at the Sewing Expo and I remember her saying that she does not like tight clothing, at least for herself. I have her Fearless Cardigan Jacket pattern and have made it and really like how it turned out.

  12. I'm making the Kay Unger dress right now, and what I did to get it to work (zipper isn't in, so I don't know if I succeeded yet) is to take 3/4 of an inch off the height of the midriff piece. Based on the pattern markings, this will help the skirt hit my waist and hip where it is supposed to... We'll see...

    I don't have the patience to sew muslins and totally admire you for it...

  13. The fearless jackect is FIERCE! I love it.

  14. The "fearless Jacket" is going to be awesome. The fit is great on you!!! The dress is also a wonderful fit....congrats. And I, too, admire you making up muslins. I've only done it twice in my life, and they were both done this year!

  15. I love what you did (or are doing ) to modify the Fearless Jacket. It really will look great if you choose to use that pattern.

    I'll be looking forward to your solution to the KU front cross over problem. I got the pattern last weekend, but probably won't get around to making it until spring. I keep hoping the weather will cool off in the SE US. It is fall now, right?

    The KU dress fits on the side/underarm like it was made for you! Of course, it was, but it really looks great on the side. No changes there!

  16. Is your right shoulder further forward than your left shoulder? (Or maybe just in the photo?) Maybe that would account for the bulge in the bottom left photo of the bottom muslin. Or maybe the midriff area is being tugged out of place by the left bodice under-section?