. . . . . . A place to contribute, exchange tips and ideas and find further info on the LDC group on Meetup.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

How to ... turn a weekend project into a week's project

Saturday, the weather forecast mentions heavy and thundery rain, hail and frequent lightning. My plans were cancelled, not due to the weather, so I had all possibilities at my fingertips, as long as it didn't include wandering outside. My eyes looked at my famous Ikea bag with fabric, went over to my desk with my sewing machine and my brain remembered the sew-along "A simple item from stash fabric" which was about to start. Still lying in my bed, my weaker self started to nag about closing the eyes and get more rest, but my fingers were already infected with the sewing bug and it finally got hold of the rest of my body, wanting to finish the skirt over the weekend.

I found a white polycotton with red polka dots which I wanted to use as the skirt part of a dress. Since I don't yet have a dress pattern, I work with body blocks rather than with commercial patterns, that fabric had to wait ... or not. I could just turn it into a circle skirt and wear it on a lovely summer day. I decided for the latter and, instead of inserting a zipper or using elastic band, I decided to use some of my buttons. It also helped that I found a similar fabric here.

The fabric itself is rather see-through, so I decided for an underlined skirt and used some of the white polycotton I bought a while ago. I used the half circle skirt pattern which Barbara helped me to make, and cut the pieces. For the back piece, I just traced the pattern onto my fabric. For the front pieces though, I folded the pattern in half, traced it and added some extra fabric for the buttons and button holes, respectively. The width of that extra fabric is the width of the buttons I used, in this case 2 cm. (More explanations on how to add a button front closure can be found here - although that tutorial is for a dress.)

My folded blue half circle skirt pattern on the fabric I want to use, the buttons are next to it. 

I then sewed together my red polka dot fabric with my white underlining, wrong sides up, just a straight line along the edge where the buttons and buttonholes will be, zigzagged it and then trimmed it. Ironing is essential, so I ironed it, flipped it over and sewed another straight line, just for effect than for anything else, two cm (my button width) from the edge. If you want to, you could add another layer of fabric or underlining for the part where the button holes will be. But since my skirt is already underlined, I decided against it.

The front layer

It turned one pm, and the weather forecast was slightly wrong. It rained a few hours, no sign of hail or thunder and then the sun was visible. Quickly sewing the back piece to the two front pieces, and all which was left were buttons, buttonholes and hems. But first it was time for socialising!

Sunday morning, and this is how you turn a weekend project into a week's project: I realised that my back piece is wrong side up, so I had to rip the side seams apart and start again. Important note to myself: You must never rush things! I spend most of Sunday evening to undo the wrong I did to my skirt. And I did the hems.

After I found my motivation the week after, and a very useful hint to start with the button holes from my fellow seamstresses at a monthly meeting, I did the button holes. And forgot to take a picture. But basically, I marked where the top and bottom button hole would be. I then put a mark on exactly half the way down and made this the centre of another button hole. I repeated that until I had no more space on my fabric and marked 9 button holes. After sewing all of them and ripping them open, I marked the middle of each button hole on the other skirt front to know where my buttons should be.

Et voila:

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Four kinds of finishing seams

This is an interesting blog posts about different kinds of finishing seams.  Four of them to be precise.  There are another few mentioned in the comments.

Do check it out: I want to be a turtle -Notionally Speaking: Finishing 

I don't agree that bias binding is a quick method, but maybe you get quicker with practice?  Love an overlocked or a French seam.  But then again the Hong Kong (bias strip) seams do look very nice!  Just make sure to use tape from a really thin fabric.  I wonder if organza would work?  Might be too slippery to work with though.

What's your favourite kind of seam finishing?

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Can I make a Dress in a Day? Part 2. Fusible interlining, amongst other things.

So to continue, there I was with my fabric, pre-washed, spread upon the table.  Looking down at it I had one of those moments and thought "This fabric is not right for this dress because the bold pattern needs a more voluminous style to show it to better advantage".
Thus Hurdle Number 1.  Do I have another fabric in my stash that will be suitable and has enough yardage?  The answer, after a good rummage, was "Yes".
But Hurdle Number 2 .  It had not been washed.  I have learned always to launder fabric in the manner in which the made-up garment will be washed before cutting out and sewing it up.  It prevents nasty horrors, such as finding the fabric shrinks or bleeds.  Into the washing machine the fabric goes and 3 hours later, (no tumble drier so I have to wait for it to dry on the line), I have it washed, dried and pressed fabric on the table.
Just to show those 3 hours were not wasted I used them to finish this dress pictured below, made in a jersey fabric with a silvery thread through the material that gives it a slight sparkle as it catches the light.  Unfortunately the silver thread is so subtle that you cannot see it in the photograph, it needs body movement or shifting light to make it catch the light and glisten.  I finished it with silver ball buttons, taken from an old dress, at the throat and at the cuffs of the straight sleeves.  The pattern is an old one that I picked up for a few p earlier this year.

It is intended to be a dress that I can take on trips away as it doesn't crease or show marks.  However much I may long to wear shimmering pale silk with voluminous ruffles in the evening, in the end I need to have something that fits with my lifestyle and budget (i.e. budget airlines with cabin baggage only and washing and drying in hotel bedrooms)  The fabric came from Brighton Fabricland and the dress cost under £8 altogether..
To get back to the original dress and  Hurdle Number 3.  The substitute fabric came from the oddments bin at "Simply Fabrics"  in Brixton for £4.  There was plenty of yardage to make the dress but it had been cut out to an odd shape, which I didn't realise until I came to spread it out to place the pattern on it.  It took me some time to work out where the straight grain lay and it was a stretchy-stretchy knit that slithered away from me.  Anyone got any tips on handling fabric like this?  Also my old and fading eyesight made it difficult to determine which way the tiny but regular motif needed to be.It took an hour and a half to get it laid out, pinned and cut (not including the inevitable tea break because I got fed up bending over)  Once cut out I could legitimately sit down and put in the tack marks for various features- where to gather, match seams etc.
Then I basted the side seams and did the gathering required on the front of the dress so I could try it on for fit.  And, Boy!, did it fit- like the finest kidskin glove, absolutely skintight.  That was fine because the stretch of the fabric meant that there was no impediment to movement but -Oh!- I shall have to hold my stomach in as the evidence of every cake that I eat during the day will be there for all to see.
So now to Hurdle  Number 4  I had forgotten that the pattern called for Vilene Bias tape or stay tape to stabilise the neck and certain sections of the armholes.  I had tried to buy this from a fairly local store but they did not have it and I forgot about getting it.  However I now thought that probably I could use some light-weight fusible non-woven interfacing instead and that, as only a small amount was needed at each point, I could use some of the little scraps that I can not bring myself to throw away that were left over from other projects.  But it did mean tracing each piece individually from the pattern to fit the required section.. Luckily, as the interfacing was fine and see-through, I could trace directly from the pattern on to the interfacing- fiddly job though.
 The tracing one of the pieces is seen below.
 The piece cut out, the middle line, just faintly visible on the piece of interfacing, is where the seam line will be.
 Applying fusible interfacing

Now many of you will know all about this but, from questions I've had from some of our members, beginners are not always sure about how to use or handle interfacing and how to apply it.  Very basically there are two types of interfacing used to reinforce or stiffen garments or, as in this case, to prevent stretch fabrics from stretching where no stretch is required.  Those types are "sew-in", where the interfacing is stitched to the main fabric,  and the other is fusible where heat from an iron is used to fuse the special backing to the fabric ( and, once that is done, there is no unpicking it!).
So, to apply this fusible interfacing, firstly I am going to iron the fabric to which I am going to apply it.  If you fuse interfacing to wrinkled fabric it is going to stay wrinkled permanently
Next, check that you have the fusible side of the interfacing against the fabric or you will get the fabric sticking to your iron instead of the fabric.  The fusible side looks a bit shiny or has small dots visible.
I've pinned the interfacing in position in the photograph below so I can lay it on the ironing board. Then I remove the pins, making sure the interfacing and fabric are flat before the iron is applied. 
Check whether your interfacing should be applied with a dry iron or using a damp cloth.  Often that detail is written along the "selvedge"  of the interfacing.  Usually you should be pressing down for a few seconds rather than using an ironing motion.  Make sure this is not going to damage your fabric, scorch or melt it.  After doing this check that the interfacing has bonded to the fabric by very gently try to pull them apart.  If it starts to separate then apply some more heat until they are firmly together.
After applying all the interfacing pieces I confess that I gave in  and abandoned the idea of trying to complete it all in one day- failure.  What happened next will be in Part 3.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Clever idea: cut your fabric, not your paper pattern!

I just came across this very clever idea of how to cut out your garment fabric pieces without having to cut your paper pattern.

Here at Tilly and the Buttons: How to Cut Fabric Without Cutting Your Pattern (Much)

Such a good idea!

My approach was that I tried to retain the smaller size lines by going around the bits that stick out at curves etc only to have to fold those bits in - just so I can keep the paper pattern intact in case I ever want to make it again in a smaller size.  And that means that I had already given up on the bigger sizes!

This clever tip allows you to keep all the sizes intact so if you have the feeling that this might become a tried and tested pattern to make over and over again, here's the best tip I've ever come across on that: trace it off!

You can mark all your other parts (that you won't cut out) like darts, notches and other markings at the same time.  So efficient, what a great use of your time!  I am all for tricks that make things quicker.  And more accurate in this case too!  Brilliant.

What I also really, really liked about it:  Tilly gives the great tip to pin the pattern to the fabric first (or set weights down) but far enough inside each piece so you can slip your carbon copy paper underneath the edges only.  When I used carbon paper I used to put the paper under the entire piece even though I was never very happy with the result.

Now why didn't I ever think of this?  It just shows that it pays off to approach something from a different angle to see if you can do it a bit different.  Particularly when you've always done them one way - like me slotting the copy paper under the paper pattern as another layer.  It was never big enough and was such a pain to move.

I'll try this the very next time I cut out a new fabric!

PS: Does anyone know what Tilly means when she refers to two kinds of tracing wheels? One 'the blunt kind', and the other the 'sharp pattern drafting kind'?  I only know of one kind and you have to be careful with it about what surface you use because this wheel can do damage.  Is there a type of tracing wheel I haven't come across yet?

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