Sunday, December 30, 2012

A bad blogger attempts to bring you up to date

Wow, I've been MIA for the entire month of December!  Some of this is due to necessarily secretive pre-Christmas sewing.  Which really wouldn't excite you anyway, consisting mainly of pajamas.  One example at right.  I did well in my annual quest for unusual/loud/surprising prints with this urban scene.  Notice the contrast piping on the collar.  It's repeated on the pocket and cuffs.

I have also been knitting. I'm making yet another pair of socks, and this cardigan.  Mine will be black and I'm pretty sure that it will have full length sleeves since a wool cardigan with 3/4 length sleeves sort of misses the mark in the climate I live in.

Why yes, that is a kid-sized Chicago
Blackhawks hockey jersey ...
I also  sewed up a top and cardigan for myself, but my computer decided to freeze up on me as I was attempting to cut and paste all the photos.  The forced restart resulted in some interesting visual effects, as you can see.

I'll take some more pics soon, maybe even with the skirt they are supposed to coordinate with.  When it is more than a muslin, that is.

In the meantime, here is the back of the top.  For some reason, this is the only picture that survived unscathed.

If you're a very dedicated follower of patterns, you may be able to tell that this is Jalie 2682.  The fabric is an extremely stretchy wool and lycra jersey purchased many years ago at a knitting mill in downtown Hamilton Ontario.  A friend knew about weekly sales of seconds, and I snapped this up for (if memory serves) about $2 per 1.5 metre piece.  Two pieces made the sleeveless top and a coordinating waterfall cardigan.  The atmosphere of the place was positively Dickensian and I wonder if it could possibly have survived.  If anyone knows, leave me a comment.

I didn't have enough fabric to double the front, so I finished the neck edge and armscyes with the world-famous Jalie no-elastic trim finish.   This time I put the binding on the inside, like a facing, and topstitched it.  Looks just great, and as always it produces a firm and beautifully finished edge.

The delightful skirt I'm wearing with my new top is the second muslin of Vogue 1324.  For fun I thought I'd show you how the first muslin compares.
To the left is my first muslin.  It's unaltered, except that I sewed the front darts lower in an unsuccessful effort to get rid of the unattractive pooching.  

There are not too many reviews of this pattern as made up, but every one I've seen has had this tell-tale pooching at approximately crotch level in the front.  It's not a great look, IMHO.  

While the skirt is overall too tight, the main problem in the front is that there is too much length from waist to hip level in the CF piece, and there is too much width caught in the darts, which release just where the pooching is at its max, making it all so much worse.  I showed you the fix in this post.

The post-alteration front is smoother through the tummy.  I think once it's made up in my cashmere fabric (yummy) it will lie smooth and flat.  Or maybe I'm self-deluding.

The original side view shows that the skirt is too tight.  See how it cups in under my butt? I'm too old for that, and anyway I don't think such a tight skirt would be at all comfortable.

The arrow on the other side is pointing to the folds caused by too much length in front.

My adjustments add width through the thigh, making the skirt more wearable.  However, now that the skirt can fall from the waistband, other problems appear.  The back is also too long.  See how it's pulling diagonally at the upper side, drooping under my seat, and hitting the back of my knees at the hem?  If I scoop about 1.5cm off the waist seam at CB, tapering to the original point where the side seam would be, it should take care of these problems.

So I hear you thinking that I've taken all the interesting bits out of this and turned it into a ho-hum pencil skirt that looks like every other pencil skirt in the universe.  I assure you, it's still slim fitting and plenty interesting with those curved seams.  I've just altered it into the wearability range, for The Sewing Lawyer.  Besides, it will be orange cashmere when I've finished.

Friday, November 30, 2012


Wow, it was a year ago (minus one day) that I debuted the idea of refashioning this gigantic mohair sweater. What a hideous garment!

This thing sat around all summer, and through the fall, and in the end, it was a few hours of work.

Now it's a relatively sleek cowl/turtle neck, courtesy of Burda Magazine.

I used pattern #104 from the September, 2012 issue.

It's one of those sleeper patterns.  A great basic that's hidden behind other less interesting garments.  Like this jumper.

There was tons of room for the body pieces.  But it is a lucky thing that my arms are short.  The pattern has much higher sleeve caps than the original, dropped shoulder, design.

Sleeve cuffs use the original hem
I used the stockinette face of the knitted fabric.  This had been the wrong side of the original sweater.  Part of the long delay in getting this project done was caused by my worrying about the original hems which sported a few rows of 2x2 rib, then a stockinette section that rolled to the outside.  Switching faces meant that this section would be reverse stockinette that would roll to the inside.  Now I'm wondering why I thought this wouldn't look just fine.

For the turtleneck collar, I used the width of the original front hem, which was about the height of the collar Burda called for.  It rolls to the inside too.  Doesn't bother me in the slightest.

I constructed the entire thing on my serger.  The fabric is ethereal.  

Thursday, November 29, 2012

New machine

It was switching my serger back and forth from serge to coverstitch that did it.  Remember, the swimsuit?  I broke down and bought a dedicated coverstitch.  It's the Janome 1000CPX.  Does one thing with three variations, and does it well.

Of course I had to try it out right away.  Of course, I didn't pick an "easy" project.  I made a fleece yoga top from the November, 2007 issue of Burda Magazine.

It's simple enough to put together. Front, back and straps.

But the fun part was adding a jersey fabric binding at all edges.  It's the technique I wrote about here.

I had to do quite a lot of practice strips to get the hang of coverstitching through 2 layers of fleece and 3 layers of jersey.  The needles were not  consistently picking up the lower looper thread.  This is a problem because a coverstitch is an elaborate chain stitch, and any open loop means the whole shebang can pull out.  Experimentation revealed that it is important to use heavier needles and pay attention to the tension settings for heavier fabric.  Also, using woolly nylon thread in the lower looper produced more consistent results.

Anyway, this is my first effort.  Don't look too close.  I used scraps leftover from this top for the binding.

Experiment no. 1

Then I made another, using fleece scraps leftover from the jacket blogged here for the body, and jersey scraps leftover from the faux-wrap dress blogged here for the binding.  It's very cozy.  And I did a better job.  But I'm not showing you the hem.  It's not up to my usual standards.  

Experiment no. 2

They'll be nice and cozy as an under-layer for curling and skiing ... that is, if we ever get any snow.  

Monday, November 12, 2012

Quick knit top (in which The Sewing Lawyer gets grumpy about Burda)

Way, way back in the mists of time I showed you a gigantic mohair sweater, purchased with refashioning in mind.  It got put away over the summer.

In September, Burda published this cowl neck sweater/top in its magazine.

Hmmmm, I thought.  Maybe.  But what a completely unhelpful picture. What would that neckline look like if not completely distorted by a pair of sunglasses?  What's with all that probably clean, lustrous and lovely but so difficult-to-see-through HAIR?

[Reminder to Burda.  You are not a "fashion" magazine.]

Of course, there is a line drawing, which is a bit easier to read.  It looked OK.

So I made a muslin from some rayon knit.  The kind that will self-destruct in a short while, but I love the print and the colours.

Tracing the pattern revealed that the top is too long for a top and not long enough to be a dress.  I took a lot - 18cm (7") - off the bottom right away, and another 2.5cm in "hemming" (i.e. I neatened the raw edge) and it's quite long enough.

The sleeves are, quite simply, ridiculous.  I confirmed via wearing another Burda pattern (this funnel-necked top) that I really don't like sleeves that flop over my hands, even if they are sort of controlled through application of elastic at the seam.  So right off the bat, I took another 18cm of length off.  Burda says that the sleeves are intended to be approximately 5cm (2") longer than usual.  Really?  My arms are short, but not THAT short!  I am clearly not on the same "fashion" wavelength as Burda, or the hordes of people who think that sleeves are the right length if they cover the knuckles.

What else?

  • The shoulders are too broad for me (I traced the 36).  I think the quick fix for next time is to take about 1.5cm out at the CF and CB.  The quick fix in sewing was to add elastic at the back neck.  
  • The neckline is too wide.  (Oh yeah, that white thing showing at the model's left shoulder?  It's underwear of some kind.  Not for me, thanks.)  The same quick fix as above might take care of this too, for next time.
You can see both of these issues illustrated in the photo at right.  The edge of the paper is the CB as cut.  Elastic threaded through the neck facing (a strip cut on the lengthwise grain of the knit) has cinched it in to the line, which is the CB for next time.
  • The sleeves are sloppy wide though they were the right circ. at the hem.  I straightened the seam line.  
  • There is a smidge too much length through the armscye.  
  • The cowl is nice.  
So what do you think?  Should there be a next time?   

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Ready to make a splash!

Yup, The Sewing Lawyer has a new swimsuit, just in time for next week's two swim practices.  I'm very pleased with it - it's functional, feels comfortably long enough, and is snug without being too tight in any direction.

The fit and style are very similar to expensive RTW suits (i.e. Speedo, Tyr brands) except that those would have more contrast trim.  Of course, I could have jazzed my suit up as per the pattern but I didn't have any plain black or navy in 100% polyester in my stash, and refuse to consider a swimsuit with any lycra because they disintegrate far too fast.

The threads at CB are evidence
of the last basted fit 
While it's not particularly fancy, I expect this suit to be functional.  At 6AM it's only important that it covers what it needs to cover, and doesn't bind or shift.

After the adjustments I made to the pattern (detailed here), I proceeded cautiously because I figured that after adding the lining fabric to the front pieces the body would be less stretchy and after adding the elastic, the length would be less stretchy.  So I basted it together at least 3 times while in progress.

The elastic makes a huge difference to the security of the suit.  For next time, I'm going to try to remember that if the unelasticized suit feels sloppy and too long, it'll be just fine once an appropriate amount of elastic is applied.

I'm not 100% taken with the angle of the leg opening at front, but the back coverage is perfect with the width I added.

Innards - showing the front seams
My only complaint is that switching my serger from 4-thread safety stitch to coverstitch is a pain, and I had to do it about a million times.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Bring it on Sandy!

So I needed a new swimsuit, but in view of the impending "storm of the century"* I REALLY needed a new pair of waterproof pull-on pants.  I bike to work.  I really hate taking the bus, and at this time of year I don't relish getting soaked to the skin.  I can keep myself (relatively) warm and dry with the right gear and my old pants had lost their ability to keep me dry some time ago.

Enter Kwik Sew 2841.  Published, the envelope tells us, in MCMXCIX (1999), this is a reliable recipe for non-sexy pull-on pants or shorts, which I already used to make my no-longer-waterproof pants.  The pattern has front and back pockets and a drawstring waist and lower leg finish.  Last time I added the hip pockets but left off the rear pocket, and used elastic instead of a drawstring.  This time I further simplified and omitted all the pockets.

I had traced the medium, which is roomy enough to fit over jeans (as shown below), let alone tights, which are my usual bike wear.  I knew from experience that the pants generally fit me for the intended purpose, but that I wanted the pleated knee to fall a bit lower, and more length generally in the leg.  So I added about 2cm at the lengthen/shorten here lines both above and below the pleats and the finished length is exactly what I wanted.

Without further ado, I introduce my extremely uninteresting but (I hope) very functional and long-lasting Gore-tex pants (shown with my more interesting and very functional Gore-tex bike jacket).

The pants are made from single layer Gore-tex which is probably no longer made or sold - its membrane is exposed and anything made from it must be fully-lined to protect the membrane from wear.  I bought this fabric from an on-line coop a while back.  I've been very pleased with its performance in my jacket.

Knee pleats in "action"
I had some iron-on seam sealant tape which I used up on the pants.  They are lined with some sort of horrid athletic mesh from my stash.  I didn't quite have a long enough or wide enough piece, so the back crotch is pieced and there is a "decorative" band of bright yellow horrid athletic mesh at the bottom.  It's our little secret. 

The only remaining question is whether I should attempt some kind of shoe cover out of the remaining goretex, or if the X-country ski gaiters in my closet will keep the worst of Sandy's rain out of my shoes.

* For anybody who is, as of the time I write this, living in a cave, or for those who are reading this post a long time after it was written, Hurricane Sandy is now forecast to combine with some sort of early winter storm and hit the east coast of the USA sometime early in the week.  It's also supposed to track north into Canada, where it will in all probability dump lots of rain on my city.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

This could be boring

I swim regularly and a couple of weeks ago I lost my swimsuit when I absent-mindedly left it at the pool.  Who would take a used, wet swimsuit, you might ask?  I'm asking too, because someone did.

So I have fabric, a pattern, and elastic, and I'm not letting myself set foot in a store to spend money to buy more of the same, assembled into a bitty little scrap of a garment.  No-sirreee!

Instead, I spent an inordinate amount of time  assembling a muslin swimsuit from my pattern, Jalie 3134.  It took so long because my fabric (from Speedo according to the selvedge, 100% polyester, will wear like iron) has less stretch in the length than Jalie wants, so I had to guesstimate the length.  I'm wary because I used the fabric once before, to make a bodysuit, and it was too short.

Inevitably I overcompensated, and this post is intended, in part, as a personal note so I will remember what I did, should I ever decide to make this pattern out of similar fabric again.

I traced size R on top, S on the bottom, and used size V length.  I discovered that the inset on the front hip has no shaping in it and since I'm not using any contrast fabric, I have stuck the two pieces together.

I made my muslin out of slightly stretchier 100% poly and the length was fine.  Comparing the traced pattern and the pattern for my bodysuit, I found they were the same length so I added an inch of length to all pieces and cut out my suit.  So now I'm taking about half this extra length out on the fly.  I slid the centre front piece down by that amount and cut off the top and upper side and I did the same with the lower back piece.  I plan to adjust the side front in sewing, by sliding it down and cutting off the extra length at the leg edge.  I think there is enough wiggle room because of the straps to adjust the final fit once the elastic is installed.

Two more adjustments were needed for fit.  I took a wedge of approximately .5" (1.5cm) out of the inner edge of the lower back piece.  You can see why in the photo at right (published in the interests of science but with some trepidation, I must say).  Ignore the interesting moebius strap effect please.  (I'm wearing my ancient suit underneath to compare the shape and placement of straps etc.)

And to improve coverage at the side/back leg, I'm adding extra width there.  You can see the reason why at left.  That model has no butt at all.

Pink palm trees.  Probably not to be finished...

Monday, October 22, 2012

Hits and misses - the dress edition

A while ago I showed you some jackets that worked and compared one that didn't.  Here's another glimpse into The Sewing Lawyer's closet.  This time let's look at some dresses.

I think my dresses fall into three four categories.  (Bear with me, I'm making this up on the fly.)

First, there are the easy-to-throw-on and easy-to-make knits.  You know, like Vogue 1250 and McCalls 5974.  I've made them both.  Twice.  That's a lot of dress for a little investment of sewing time.

Every pattern company makes these patterns.  Knit dresses are great in warm weather.  They can look dressed up with very little effort, they're reasonably cool in the heat, and with a jacket, completely comfortable in air-conditioned "comfort" (even when frigid, as is too-often the case).

Total success.  Almost all of the time.  However, I find that many knit fabrics just don't wear very well.  These are one or two-season dresses.  A case in point is one of my current favourites, Simplicity 2369This one (Simplicity 3775) is totally past it (made in 2009).  I wish I could more reliably choose good quality knits that will look great for longer - any suggestions for me?

Second, there are woven-fabric dresses that are, like their knit sisters, easy to throw on and to wear.  Making them, however, can be a little more involved.  Unless a dress is intended to be extremely casual, I like to line my dresses.  Sometimes I underline them, and then it's a whole sewing production.

Some woven hits:

My latest Burda sleeveless dress.  I love it.  There's not much more than needs to be said.  It was wearable in the summer and now that it's cooler outside, it looks great with my latest woolly jacket.

All my self-drafted sheath dresses.  At right is a picture of the very first one I made, pre-blogging days in June, 2009. Linen.  All these are underlined with silk organza and lined with Bemberg.

And then there are those which I reach for less often.

Even if I really like them, in theory.

Case in point:  my linen trench-dress from the April, 2001 issue of Burda World of  Fashion (as it then was).  I made it in June, 2008.  I love  the colour, the style, the fit, its swishy full skirt (which is less full, if you can believe it, than Burda intended).  It looks great on, if I say so myself.

But it's very heavy.  And it's impossible to wear it with a jacket, or at least any jacket in my wardrobe.  And, being linen (and not underlined), it wrinkles.  I might have worn it a dozen times.  In total.

It's still in my closet, because I really like it (in theory).

If you have suggestions to make it more wearable, I'd love to have them.

And then, there are the complete misses.  Luckily, there are not that many.  But have a look at this.  I made Vogue 1352 (Emanuel Ungaro, 1990s) in July 2007.  I used some really lovely and drapey rayon.  I really liked the paisley print.  In theory I liked the flowy skirt and the fit of the upper body, shoulders and sleeve of this pattern.  (In truth, I might have fallen for the colour-blocking on the pattern envelope.)  But my version looked like a house dress. I did reduce the shoulders, but it needed pretty serious shoulder pads to sit properly on my body.  And I didn't fill it out. I never felt comfortable in this dress, and at some point I gave it away.

Now some of you may think that the common feature of the dresses I don't like to wear is the overall silhouette.  Front-buttoning, short-sleeved, flowing, full and long skirt.  But (she protested) I love this silhouette!  I love front-buttoning dresses with short sleeves and flowing long skirts!  At left is my version of another vintage dress pattern - Vogue 1245 (1970s Nina Ricci) which I wear quite a lot.  It looks really good under this jacket.  I made them both in August, 2006.

My conclusion?  I should avoid dresses with a big "feature" in the bodice or sleeves that makes pairing the dress with a jacket awkward.

Do you have any other thoughts?

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Fits and starts

I've changed my mind about the trim for my Chanel-ish jacket, AGAIN.  However, it's more a refinement of the idea I told you about last week using the shredded sari yarn.

Since a picture is worth 1,000 words, regard:

Before - too acid
After - different light conditions but
you can see that the turquoise
calms the trim down, colour-wise
 My husband observed that the reds and yellows in the sari yarn are too acidic for the fabric and suggested mixing in another yarn.

So I went deep into yarn stash, tried some different yarns and eventually decided that a smooth bright turquoise yarn (no bouclĂ©, no hairy bits) worked.  Best of all, it emphasizes the turquoise in the fabric and coordinates really well with my recently-completed turquoise wool dress which I will wear with this jacket, if it ever gets finished.  Win!

In other news I received V1324 in the mail recently and I have a skirt length of cashmere that wants to be this skirt.  Its calling for attention and the lovely lines of the skirt temporarily distracted me from my jacket project.

I dutifully checked the printed info on the pattern re finished dimensions at waist and hip and cut the pattern halfway between 8 and 10 at the waist and graded to a 12 at the hip level.  Then I sewed it up in lovely cotton muslin.

I destroyed the evidence of the first version by immediately letting out all the seams at the hip so I could (a) walk and (b) sit down while wearing it.  The circumference was fine at the waist and high hip.  But it's very severely pegged below the hip level.  Not a good look for The Sewing Lawyer, or probably for anyone on the hourglass end of figures who wants to be able to (a) walk and (b) sit down in their clothes.

So here's the muslin once let out.  I should say I went a bit overboard with the letting out and will be smoothing out the seams at hip level in the next muslin.  (Yes this is a 2 muslin project.)

A side view reveals a problem with the front. The darts are too large and the result is too much fabric released at around crotch level in front.

I took my muslin and the pattern pieces to my sewing group meeting yesterday and asked for ideas.  My friend Carroll commented that the front looked like it was too long and suggested that I take a horizontal tuck of about .5" at CF, tapering to nothing at the side of the piece.  This seemed to do wonders for the pooching which is not a problem of too much width, exactly.

So here are my altered pattern pieces.

I realized I could kill two birds with a single stone by slashing the pattern piece for the front horizontally just below the dart (as originally marked) and slashing through the dart before taking out the extra length.  I could maintain the straight CF line and the width of the skirt front at the waist but reduce the dart take up.

I hope you can see in the picture at right that the upper right part of the piece got shifted straight down (keeping the CF perfectly straight), while the upper left part is hinged down at an angle, making the dart smaller.  The side of the piece remains the same length.  The CF length is shortened by about .5".

To the left is the back piece which is rather strange. The pointy bit at its upper right wraps around to the front and attaches to the angled part of the front piece, above the somewhat rocket-shaped side piece.
Side piece - right side is front

I wasn't sure if it would work if I changed the angle by grading out to a much bigger size, but it seems to have been fine.

My slightly refined letting out consists of adding 5/8" (1.5cm) at each seam (split between the two pieces) which adds a total of 2.5" (6cm) at the hem.  I need the extra at the front thigh.  In the back I added the extra width lower down.

I question whether this skirt as designed is wearable by anyone who has hips/thighs thicker than matchsticks if it's made in a woven (Vogue says wool doubleknit would work but the other recommended fabrics are not stretchy).

I wonder if my adjustments are akin to those the couture fashion houses would perform to make outlandish runway clothes wearable by real people.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Sewing Lawyer in her natural habitat

Working on V8804.

In other news, I cleaned up my sewing room.  In part this consisted of bowing to the inevitable (I have too much fabric) and buying new plastic storage bins.  But I also moved many large cumbersome items out of the sewing room (small, crowded) and into the newly vacated room next door.  I'm hoping to get a handle on it all before it too becomes hopelessly crowded with stuff.

I'm liking being able to see the floor again.

But the most exciting thing is, I've fixed on how to trim my jacket.  I found the perfect yarn to fabricate my own trim.

This stuff is just amazing - it's made from shredded silk sari fabric, which is then spun somewhat haphazardly into this wild, hairy twist of glorious, vibrant colour.

Before finding it, I was toying with the idea of a single strip of fuchsia velvet ribbon.  Which, despite the colour, would have been rather restrained.  I was considering trying to ruche it or something, but I wasn't very enthusiastic.

When I saw the recycled sari yarn, I figured the fuchsia velvet ribbon could be incorporated into a rustic crocheted trim.  I tried weaving it through a chain.                                                  

Ummm no.

Then I tried adding a strip of single crochet down one side.

No again.

Then I tried a firmer chain (had to go out and buy a new fat crochet hook for the purpose).

Ah, yes, I think this may be it.

Hoping you agree!