Sunday, July 28, 2019

Jalie Michelle tank

Here I am again, sewing a Jalie pattern. This time it's Michelle, another one of the patterns released this year. The pattern has two views, a top and a dress. I'll leave the dress for others - I made the top.

First I made it as instructed in navy linen. The top is supremely simple - it has two pieces and they are not front and back, they are outer and inner layers. The front and back are identical. The inner layer is a long facing with the same upper shaping as the outer layer - it's just shorter. If you are using a sheer fabric, you cut four of the outer layers. In this non-see-through fabric I chose the short inner layer option.

Tucked in
The top is cut on grain. It falls a little stiffly in my linen but is very pleasing and really cool.

If making this on-grain again, I would make a modified piece for the back. I'd cut the neck line higher in back and I would consider making it a tiny bit wider. The straps are cut so that on me, they are pushed out away from the neck. This causes the centre of the piece to flare out somewhat. I'd like it to lie a tiny bit flatter at the back. However it is very wearable as is.

FYI I cut the pattern on the lines for size R through the neck and arm openings and graded out to S at the hip. This adjustment was totally unnecessary, as the top is very roomy.

Bias pattern piece
Based on how this fits I thought it would be fun to try the top cut on the bias but without any other pattern adjustments. I have lots of very light weight white linen which is semi-sheer, so after I made a full piece (tracing another half and taping it to the original at the centre line) I cut out four pieces, single layer.

Some quick on line research indicated that I should cut two layers at 90° to each other. As this site explains:

"When considering the layout of your garment it is important to remember that every fabric has two true biases, each perpendicular to the other. When the front and back of a dress are cut on parallel biases, the dress has a tendency to twist around the body. Instead, cut the front and back biases perpendicular to each other. This results in a balanced garment. If the garment has center front and back seams, the direction of the bias should alternate around the body."
Fusible "facing"

To stabilize the strap-neckline-armscye area, I cut very lightweight fusible interfacing in a facing shape and fused it on the inner layers for front and back. Then I sewed each interfaced layer to an uninterfaced piece, with the interfacing side up so the edges would stretch as little as possible during the sewing.

I made a baby hem on the outside and just serge finished the under layer a little bit shorter.

And the verdict?

The bias cut does not make as much of a difference as I expected to the look of the top. It flows a bit more over the bust, but the back is still forming a sort of fold at CB.

This is a great hot weather top!

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Still here! (and more from Japan)

Here are my kimono pants with a shirt (Jalie's Rose) made from the surprising lining from the same kimono.

Back pleat
Surprising because it's dark red cotton and the colour doesn't really figure in the fabric of the outer kimono. Also, it's the kind of broadcloth that  sticks to itself (so a surprising choice for lining anything). But waste not want not and I could and I did make another garment from the very inexpensive kimono.

The under collar is made from the kimono fabric - you can see it peeking out in the back view.

I've written about the Rose shirt pattern before and there is not much more to say about it. It's a great pattern and you should try it if you haven't already.

Then I made yet another version of the Bobbi top (also Jalie).

I now have three Bobbis. Click here for a look at the other two, if you forgot.

I bought the fabric at Tomato in Tokyo.

It's a panel print in (guessing) cotton/poly and the scale of the print is perfect for Bobbi. But the fabric is kind of stiff and doesn't have a lick of lycra in it. So it is NOT the type of fabric called for (a knit with fluid drape that does not stick to itself). For this reason, I used a stretchy white fabric (stash) for the inner facing instead of self fabric.The fashion fabric does sort of stick to the facing, but it's stiff enough that it doesn't matter very much. In the result it's quite a different sort of top from the other Bobbis I made.

I have a couple more Japanese sewing projects in mind but I've gotten out one of my knitting machines again so it may be a while later in the summer before I get to them.

Saturday, May 25, 2019


Kenroku-en Garden in Kanazawa, Japan
In the Hanamikoj Dori neighbourhood,
What a beautiful and interesting place! We had a wonderful holiday, looking at interesting gardens, visiting temples and shrines, tramping around various cities and seeing the sights, and of course, shopping.

Fabric makes the best souvenir, right? I didn't study prior to our trip or map out every single wonderful fabric shopping excursion because I knew I would not get away with dragging my husband and friends to fabric stores every day. And we were travelling around so I didn't want to increase the weight of my suitcase too much (or break out the auxiliary bag before the last minute). Also, I have a stash and augmenting it is something I try to be careful about.

But I could not resist those second-hand kimonos! (I did also buy fabric, that's for another post...)

I was especially taken with one cotton kimono - the print is made (I believe) in a process whereby the warp and weft threads are dyed before the cloth is woven. I knew this as Ikat but in Japan the technique is called kasuri. The background is clearly indigo but the print also has a medium blue, green, pale aqua and dots of bright yellow and red. The lining was red cotton broadcloth.

I bought this for the fabric, not to wear the kimono, and I took it apart almost right away. Kimonos are hand-sewn so it was pretty simple to pull out the running stitches. Kimonos are made with narrow fabric (13-14" or 33-35cm wide) and the selvedges are left intact. So once disassembled, I had lengths of  very usable, although narrow, fabric. Two body lengths were about 11 ft or 350 cm long and the sleeve pieces were 33" (85cm) long. The other parts of the kimono are narrower (the front overlap panels and the collar) but all are rectangular. There is only one cut into the fabric - a slit for the neck.

It didn't appear that this kimono had ever been laundered (apparently the process involves taking the kimono apart, washing it and then reassembling) because by the time I finished, my hands were completely blue from the indigo dye. While I had no issues washing the fabric by machine, I decided not to risk the dryer (fear of crocking because the tumbling action would turn my skinny strips into twisted ropes) and hung it out to dry. So pretty!

I decided I wanted to turn this kimono into breezy pants. At first I was toying with very wide Japanese-style pants (Hakama). But then I realized that the new Simone pattern from Jalie would be perfect, and more wearable.

Simone is one of the just-released Jalies. I had tested some of these (including Simone) before the release so I was familiar with the pattern. Its advantage for my kimono fabric is that it is designed for non-stretch wovens (this cotton has zero stretch) and the main pattern pieces are straight up and down with minimal curves.

Inside - view of added strip
When I traced my size (I chose size U based on my hip measurement, even though my waist is size S), I realized that the pants back piece was a bit wider than my fabric. No problem! I placed the side seam on the selvedge and added a narrow strip at the inseam. I was able to match the pattern so the seam is basically invisible.

To my surprise and pleasure, the front pattern piece was almost *exactly* the same width as my fabric. Minimal cutting was required, which also made me happy.

The assembly method instructed in the pattern is a bit different from what you might choose to do, left to your own devices. However, Jalie instructions are always thoughtful and I followed them with one exception. That is, when sewing pants (other than jeans) I prefer to sew the full crotch curve last instead of assembling the front and back completely, then sewing the inseams in one pass. The reason is that the pants fall better if the crotch seam allowances are not flattened by sewing over them.

To reflect the fact that my pattern pieces were two sizes bigger than required for my waist measurement, I cut the back elastic for size S and also took a slightly bigger side seam in the fronts only, tapering from near the bottom of the pocket. The completed pants are not super easy to pull on, but they are extremely easy to wear and I think they look pretty good.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Bobbi squared

I'm heading off for a two week holiday in a couple of days, so of course I had some last-minute sewing projects. (You do this too, right?)

I'll be in a place that's somewhat warmer than here, but not hot. So I was thinking layering. Knit tops are always great in that situation, and I had the Bobbi pattern from Jalie and some fabric in stash. Ready, set, GO! In what seemed like a few minutes I had a top. And then the next day I had another one. And they are both already layered!

Bobbi #1
Bobbi #2
I started with this crazy poly print. It is very soft and would probably be too hot in real heat, but in this mid-season I think it will be just the thing.

And then I threw caution to the winds and my second Bobbi is made from a somewhat less stretchy knit that has these little plastic ... blobs ... uh I mean dots all over it.

I wasn't sure how my serger and sewing machine needles would like these but they chunked through them. On the other hand it was really hard to sew over them in an actual straight line. A moderate amount of re-sewing occurred.

So this top is extremely simple. There are 4 pieces, two inner and two outer. The inner is an ingenious "facing" that is really more like a cropped snugger fitting top that connects to the drapey outer top at the neckline.

The inner top does two critical jobs. First, it prevents the loose top from gapping away from the body at the neck. There will be no unintentional cleavage displays while wearing Bobbi, even when bowing very low!

Demo at right.

The second job is similar but operates differently. With a more conventional armscye, the inner facing covers the bra and stuff so there will be no unintentional side-flashes while wearing Bobbi either.

Demo at left.

So for a simple little top, this pattern is unusually sophisticated.

Inside-out Bobbi

I made this up pretty much as instructed except for one thing. I did not turn the armscye of the under-layer under and topstitch, I used fold-over elastic instead.

For my crazy print top, I had some standard white FOE.  On the dotty top I used some strange stretchy woven tape from Mokuba. It is only 9mm wide and it took some effort to keep it folded nicely around the curves of the arm opening.

Maybe I'll get to visit Mokuba's head office - we are headed to Japan!

Friday, April 19, 2019

A couture guipure lace skirt

Find the seam...
This took an awful lot of hand sewing!

First there was the basting of the lace to the underlined and hemmed skirt pieces (as seen in the last post).

Then I sewed the darts and completed the side seams (by machine).

Then I took a deep breath and cut into the lace to separate the motifs so I could overlap them over the curves at the top of the skirt. I was worried that because the lace has such a regular pattern, the places it overlapped would be really obvious. This turned out not to be a problem at all.

Then I hand felled the edges of the cut lace, tacking it through all layers.

Tiny snaps
Back zip
Then I sewed the CB seam and hand-inserted the zipper (it would have been pretty hard to do it by machine). Then I cut the lace motifs to overlap the zip opening and also to mold around the vent at the CB hem.

I did some more hand tacking of the lace around the zipper.

I added tiny snaps so the bits of lace that overlap at CB would appear attached to the base fabric when the skirt was worn.

Lining attached at CB - all by hand
Let's see... Then I sewed the lining and basted it to the skirt, wrong sides together, at the waist edge.

I had some dark navy grosgrain in stash. It was originally meant for hat bands. It is the perfect width and colour for a ribbon facing of my skirt. I attached it by machine and checked the fit. The waist was a bit loose but I was able to ease it into the grosgrain.

The lining is attached at the zipper, down the CB seam, and at the sides of the vent.

I added a large hook and eye which are attached to the grosgrain at the CB waist.

The pattern is the one illustrated at right from the February, 2009 edition of Burdastyle.

Here are a couple more shots of the completed skirt. It's pretty comfortable!

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Using up some Aussie fabric

Remember when I went to Australia and shopped for fabric? It was months ago. Among the pieces I brought home were a length of dark navy wool jersey and some rather chunky cotton guipure lace (paisley!). Also navy. I bought enough for a skirt because the Sewing Lawyer should have a guipure lace skirt. Better late than never!

I used the Itch to Stitch Brasov top pattern for the jersey. Based on my test sew, I shortened it by about 8cm (3") and eliminated the lowest of the side seam pleats. I'm much happier with the length of this top now.

The wool isn't quite as drapey as the rayon I used for my test sew. I had to take that version in quite a bit. The shortening is the only change I made for this version.

Now, about that lace skirt.

I came across this project on the Burdastyle site - perfection! I realized I had this issue of the magazine (Feb, 2009, a good issue). I traced it and made a muslin. I decided to peg it in very slightly as I find this is more flattering in a pencil skirt.

Then I downloaded the Threads Magazine article on making a couture guipure lace skirt (Susan Khalje, October-November, 2014).

I want this thing to be wearable in my real life so the charmeuse under-layer was out - shiny and high contrast were not in the cards.  The stash contained navy wool crepe and navy silk organza that looked pretty good with my dark navy lace.

Front- thread traced darts
Skirt with lace laid overtop - hem is sewn and side seams
joined to the point where they start curving
I joked that I was winging it in making this lace skirt, but in reality I dutifully followed Susan Khalje's instructions to thread trace the darts and hip line onto my underlined base. This is necessary because you don't sew the darts until quite a bit later after the fabric has been handled a lot.

The Sewing Lawyer at work
(yes that is a head lamp)
I spent much of this weekend bent over my skirt, hand tacking the lace to the skirt base (horizontal basting lines approximately 5cm apart from hem to waist). After this, I sewed the darts and side seams and then painstakingly cut the lace and repositioned it over the curves of the darts and side seams. The cut motifs have to be invisibly hand sewed through both lace layers and the skirt base.

Lace manipulation in progress
I thought the repositioned motifs would be obvious because the pattern of my lace is so regular. Nope! Once tacked down, the shaping becomes invisible.

At left is the CB zipper with cut lace. Some of the motifs overlap the zipper and I'll sew tiny snaps on those bits to hold them down.

I'm almost finished with the lace. Then just lining and the waist finish remain.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

To arms!

A difference between Dot and my old duct tape double is the shoulders.

At right is a random photo of a project modeled by the DTD. As you can see, she had shoulder ... ah ... knobs, kind of like Venus de Milo. These resulted from the wrapping process, as we included the part of my shoulder beyond that knobby bone you measure to when measuring your shoulder length.

However Dot is neatly sliced at the point where the torso portion of the shoulder ends (if she had bones, it would be at that knobby bone). So she is a lot narrower there than I am. I figure that the relative narrowness of Dot's shoulders wouldn't support the shoulders of my projects as realistically as the DTD's shoulders did.

Bootstrap, conveniently, offers a pattern so you can make add-on arms for your dress form. In photos I had seen of this made up, it seemed to have nice round shoulders. So I bought Dot a pattern for some arms and, seizing the day, made them up (sort of).
Photo from Bootstrap page

Dot, armed

If you are paying attention, you'll notice that Dot's arms are rather short. This is for three reasons.

First, since I really only wanted the arms to help pad out her shoulder area, the forearms included in the pattern were excess to requirements. In fact, I reasoned, stuffing the wrist-length arm into in-progress sleeves might be a bit of a pain. (Not to mention that my arms are shorter than average, and Bootstrap didn't ask me about that, so the arms would have been too long.)

The second reason I cut Dot off at the elbows is that the pattern pieces seemed off to me and I couldn't rouse anyone at Bootstrap (Facebook page) to answer my query about them.

Here is a photo of the pattern pieces for the arm, laid out in the right orientation of upper and lower according to the markings on the pattern pieces, and to the match points. The thing that threw me off was the fact that the fairly pronounced curve in the lower arm pieces would fall at the front of the arm (single notches). I don't know about your arms, but I don't think mine are shaped like that.

The third reason I didn't sew the forearms was because I goofed in the cutting out process. I matched the upper arms brilliantly (click on a photo of the arms to enlarge it, and marvel at my prowess) but botched in matching the lower arm pieces, maybe because the shapes didn't make much sense to me but really because I wasn't paying close enough attention. There was already a lot going on with these arms, pattern-wise, and I didn't want either to have non-matching arms or to fuse even more fabric to cut out all four of the needed pieces again (none of them were right).

Showing the armhole plate
 and attachment yoke
So Dot has elbow-length arms. This meant I had to guess somewhat at the size of the oval piece for the end of the arms, but it turned out to be almost exactly my wrist piece plus an extra 1cm seam allowance around it.

As between the dress form pattern and the arm pattern, I'd say the making of the former is a little better explained and illustrated in the instructions. Some of the sewing steps in making the arm are a little confusing at first glance (especially sewing the armhole "plate" to the shoulder yoke attachment piece and then to the shoulder of the upper arm). Further, the final finishing where you must attach the under arm to the plate with hand stitching after the arm is stuffed and the cardboard inserted to stiffen the plate is finicky. By comparison, the dress form itself is completely done by machine and the finishing is extremely neat.

However, I am glad I made these. Next I will make an actual garment so you can look forward to in-progress photos of things worn by Dot, the armed dress form.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

My new alter ego

A while ago I mentioned that I was immersed in fitting experiments. The bit about being "immersed" was an overstatement - it took quite a while before I was able to fully realize on those experiments, as life intervened.

However, I persevered and wish to introduce you to my new alter ego, made with the Bootstrap custom-fit dress form pattern. I should call her Dot.

The idea of making this dress form to replace my aging duct tape double has been percolating in my mind for quite a while. I had seen many photos of the finished dress form on PR and on the Bootstrap Facebook page and they all looked very ... ah ... realistic, in relation to the real bodies of the people who made them. Moreover, I had a look at the pattern pieces, and a completed dress form "in the flesh" at PR weekend. These convinced me to give it a go. Then I was lucky enough to win a copy of the pattern in one of the many give-aways that weekend. All I needed was the time to get my measurements figured out, and then to make the thing.

Before ordering this pattern you do require a comprehensive set of personal measurements and you have to make some decisions about your body type. I already wrote about how I decided on the measurements but not about the body type questions.

You assess your belly protruberance on a scale of A through E. I chose B.

Then there is your buttocks shape, from "very flat" to "very curvy" (5 options). I am pretty sure I picked flat, but the website seems not to have remembered my selection, so maybe I got a pattern for an average butt - more on that below.

You need to specify your posture - I chose straight back, which seems most average to me.

And finally there is a series of choices for shoulder slope. I think I am pretty unremarkable in that department so I chose "normal".

Inside-out "skin"
So the pattern is very shapely, as you might expect. At right is an in-progress inside-out shot of the semi-finished form, clearly showing the seams.

The bust is shaped through through horizontal and vertical seams. The construction is a lot like a bra pattern. After I had sewn and pressed the seams as drafted I had a look and decided that they had drafted me as a C cup which I am definitely not. I trimmed the upper cup shape to reduce fullness, and also took a smidge out of the horizontal bust seam. This was totally non-scientific, based on my gut feelings about the amount of curvature in the seams in places where my figure is not so curved. I'm confident this was the right choice, although I notice that I could have stuffed the left boob a little firmer to fill it out somewhat more.

The belly is shaped with the "princess" seams as well as the inner structure pieces. Having specified a smallish belly, the pattern had little bumps on the princess seams, which after some consideration, I removed. Again, they just didn't look right to me.

I also noticed that the side seams were quite rounded, placing quite a lot of hip fullness just below the waist. Quite a few of the finished forms depicted in reviews and elsewhere on the internet have quite a pronounced round hip at the sides as a result of this shaping. My figure isn't like that - my fullest hip measurement is quite a lot lower. So I shaved some of the roundness off, to make the hip shape flatter and lower and to conform more to my figure.

Inner structure pieces
The non-measurement figure variables are translated into the pattern mostly through the ingenious inner structure of the dress form pattern. These pieces are shown at left.

These pieces are what convinced me that this is a genius pattern. When I made my duct tape double, I realized that while the duct tape outer shape had my dimensions, I could never stuff it to be me without distortion. This is because without inner structure, the stuffed form will always have a more or less circular cross section. However, my body is not circular in cross section. It is oval, wider from side to side than it is thick from front to back. The inner structure pieces in the Bootstrap pattern allow the finished form to avoid this problem. They basically tie the CF to the CB in a fixed shape, and this can force the dress form to be narrower front to back than it is side to side, if that is your shape. (These pieces are sewn in the centre to a casing for a pipe or tube that sits on top of the stand you have chosen.)

So in my case, as you can see, the back piece has a moderate hip and upper back curve, and the front has a slightly protruding belly. I think the pattern reverted to a "normal" rather than flat buttocks shape, and when I saw the pattern pieces I decided that they would make my dress form too deep front to back. So I shaved some off the butt area, and also off the belly.

These on-the-fly adjustments did not change the outer dimensions of the dress form - these are dictated by the dimensions of the pattern pieces which I didn't change except to distribute the fullness  differently. However, they did allow me to make my dress form more me-shaped.

I eviscerated my late lamented duct tape double to recover its stuffing. I remembered stuffing it with fibrefill from old pillows, but not with the interesting selection of 80's pantyhose (including off-white and textured ones) I found inside it. All have been repurposed - not surprisingly, the amount of stuffing was pretty well exactly right.

You have to take the stuffing process slowly to avoid creating bumpy asymmetries in your form.

I've also repurposed the stand from my old form - it consisted of a strong cardboard tube and a light stand with a heavy base. It was already the right height.

The construction of this interesting pattern was somewhat finicky but easily accomplished as the instructions, which are copiously illustrated, are really good. If you want more information on how to put the thing together, there are other resources on the internet, including a video on the Bootstrap website. I also found a pretty comprehensive four part tutorial on Kelly Hogaboom's blog.

I'm looking forward to sewing with Dot for years to come.