Gather Around

When time travel is invented, I will return to the past with advice for myself the moment before I learned to sew. I will tell me to build up my skills sewing dartless tops and skirts with elastic waistbands (that will become inevitable and welcomed after having children). I will also warn me about the horror of sewing machine needle piercing pinky finger.

Darts on the full-busted are ridiculously huge. There’s this Pac-Man wedge of fabric that’s supposed to shape my curves but it sews up bulky and pointy unless I get all couture-y (which I rarely have patience for). Strangely, I had enough patience to learn dart rotation so I can disappear the damn things altogether.

Back in the day, I first sewed this basic tank pattern into the Devil Wears Floral Top and made plans to change it up with neckline gathers.

Croquis Sketch, Simplicity 2599

Fast forward to now. I grab my beat up copy of Patternmaking for Fashion Design to learn the basics of dart rotation. Then, a little googling leads me to this tutorial which hooks me up with a step-by-step lesson on rotating a side bust dart into the neckline to create gathers. The EXACT thing I was trying to do with my pattern.

This is the result, tested out as a crop top (in attempt not to waste the fabric if my experiment failed) in polka-dotted rayon challis.

photo 1

The whole procedure feels like sorcery until you sew it up and your mind is like, “Oh, that’s all it is!” The one thing I didn’t anticipate was having to abandon my usual 1/2″ bias tape facing application for a more suitable visible binding. The linen bias binding is leftover from the Driving Men Mad Dress, but the next time I sew this top (likely as a dress), I’ll make bias binding from matching fabric.

photo 4

Right up there with dartless tops are elastic waistbands on skirts. And, the holy grail of elastic waistbands is the extra wide elastic waistband that is sewn right to the fabric in no time flat and worn on the outside for all to see.

My go-to dirndle pattern with pockets was sewn in a flowy print to 3″ stretch elastic from my stash. I love how the wide elastic makes the gathers less bulky. Ignoring that it needs to be hemmed shorter (midi length isn’t the best on me) and that this elastic is too awesome to have ever spent time as “stash”, I am liking this situation and will certainly repeat it. Say hello to the Waist No Time Skirt.

The Waist No Time Skirt

I am glad to report that after sitting at a desk most of the day and chasing a one year old around in the evening, the elastic held up nicely. No weird creases or rolling about. Perfect for those days when someone suggests the Indian buffet for lunch.

As for my time travelling plans, I don’t think I’ll risk the effects to the timeline just for selfish sewing advice. Maybe for selfish celebrity meet-cutes with Idris Elba, instead.

What about you? What might you travel back in time to say to your younger self about sewing or fashion?

Birth of a Spring / Summer Wardrobe Palette

I’m the kind of girl that likes plenty of options when faced with a choice. The cereal aisle (if I dared to stand in its void) doesn’t intimidate me at all. I just wish I had the time to catalogue it ;-). So, when I saw that the Spring & Summer 2012 Palette Challenge was announced over at The Coletterie, it was out of character for me to want to play along.

“To participate, you research and choose a color palette for creating a mini seasonal wardrobe, create a moodboard, and then spend about 8 weeks sewing as many garments as you’d like from that palette.” Sarai at The Coletterie

Those lovely constraints (which I need but often avoid) would only have me “obligated” to my color palette for a couple of months. It would also give me an opportunity to focus on a handful of patterns, say 4 or 5 garments that could be mixed and matched into two weeks worth of outfits. Limits with limits. I can work with that!

The challenge is pretty low-key and should fit nicely with The Sew Weekly’s upcoming themes, but Operation Sew Balanced needs my attention for the moment. Perhaps in a week or so, I’ll decide if I will fully participate (Flickr group, forum, etc.) or simply remain an inspired and supportive lurker.

In the meantime, here is a palette of fabrics that would inspire any mini wardrobe I might sew this season.

Palette of Fabric Prints to Inspire a Spring/Summer Mini Wardrobe

A signature floral, solids selected from a rainbow plaid, classic & cheery polka-dots, and chevron stripes for texture. (Fabric: Maywood Studio’s Calypso collection, Robert Kaufman Pimatex Basics & Remix collections).

Got any color-coordinated wardrobe plans this season?

Uh-Oh Minutes and Aha! Moments: Lab Notes on Pants Fitting

Line drawing of McCall's 6514 pants pattern

It’s been five years since I’ve attempted to sew a pair of pants. My first pair (wide legs, with an elastic waist) were fitted by following the guidelines in a comprehensive pants sewing reference book and the-most-awesome pattern alteration reference book from my library. I had a succesful pair of palazzo pants (which later proved to be a horribly pilly linen-blend fabric that ultimately made the pants unwearable) after only 1 night of pattern alterations and two muslin prototypes. I still have the original and altered pattern. But for some reason, I threw away 99% of my notes —perhaps a subconscious move of self-sabotage. Maybe I like re-learning things from scratch and have orchestrated things so I can experience life like that guy suffering from short-term memory loss in the movie, Memento…”Hey, look at that! I figured out the steps for making a pair of pants that fit!” Five years later…”Hey, I wish I knew how to make a pair of paints that fit.”

That’s kinda of what happened to me when it was time to conquer my second pair of pants for an upcoming challenge (to be revealed later)….I had only a piece of the map to  the island where they buried the Treasure of Trouser Tailoring (sorry, I have a small addiction to alliterations I’m trying to shake off). The rest was lost during my years of intermittent, aimless sewing. So, back to square one I went. Reference books…check. Muslin yardage…check. Measurement tape…check. Measurement charts…check….Pants pattern…check. Pandora set to Jim Gaffigan radio station…check (cause I’d be needing EVERY ounce of my sense of humor).

I’ll be going into the weeds of the details later on, but for now let’s just say….I know now why I waited five years to make another pair of paints. I was probably still post-traumatic from the first time I was faced with nearly SIX different pattern alterations – not all of which are self-evident at first.

Here is the chart I filled out (click it for a closer look via PDF) while measuring myself vs. the pattern pieces and below is an illustration of all of the reference points I used for the flat-pattern measuring.
Measurement Chart used for Pants Fitting

Pants Pattern Reference Points for M6514

The first muslin took two days (my longest alteration-to-muslin interval all year!). The second and third took an evening each. Halfway through evaluating the second muslin, I got worried that my fitting issues were hopeless. Thankfully, my extra nerdy, overanalytical husband wouldn’t give up on his attempt to read my wrinkles and sherlock where on the pattern to make the correction. His scientific inquiries kept my gears turning and I ultimately remembered on what page in which book the key alteration was explained. We nerded on further to come up with more efficient ways of making the length and width adjustments to save time and reduce pattern distortion.

This whole adventure put me waaay behind schedule (when am I not these days). Which means I may have to opt out of next week’s challenge so I can do the chores I’ve been neglecting. Must I really choose between having a clean house and making another garment?