Tuesday, August 30, 2016

self-drafted mini skirt

Here is my second final skirt, designed, drafted, and sewn by me. (You can see the first here, if you missed it.) I am really excited about this one - I think it's more wearable and versatile than the first, and I'm excited to sew a few more up in beautiful fall colors and wear them with tights through the colder months.

My process was pretty similar to the first. I knew I wanted something slightly 70s-inspired, a mini A-line, but I went back and forth on what details I wanted. Buttons or no? Front pockets, back pockets, both? Princes seamlines? I drew a rough technical sketch that I liked and then listed the details I would need to draft: an asymmetrical button placket for a bit of interest, just one pocket (but it's a big one), a center back seam to break things up just a little, and a yoke large enough to remove the need for darts.

Unlike the first, which was designed around my fabric, this one had lots of iteration on materials and ended up quite a bit different than I expected. I initially bought some heavy stretch denim from the fabric outlet near me, unsure if it would be a wearable muslin or my final skirt. I loved the emerald color, and before I even cut into it, I bought some gorgeous navy blue buttons to go with it from Britex. (The six buttons cost more than the fabric did!) After my first muslin (which fit amazingly well right off the bat), I began sewing it up in the denim, and I realized halfway through that this was not going to work. The fabric was incredibly stiff, and while I wanted something that would hold its shape, this was going to be uncomfortable and have almost no movement. Not what I wanted. But I loved my buttons, so I brought them up to Portland with me on a weekend trip and fabric shopped there. I found a pretty blue canvas/linen fabric (I think), and it went well with the buttons. I was a little disappointed that I didn't find anything in a pretty green, and the fabric was drapier than I'd hoped, but the buttons! And then... when the time came to actually sew the buttonholes and attach the buttons, I discovered that they were far too thick and that my buttonholes would have to be huge. This was a deal-breaker, both because my drafted (and now sewn) button placket wasn't big enough, and because the holes would be ridiculously long and probably unstable even if I'd planned ahead in my drafting. So... I ended up back at the fabric outlet and bought some boring navy buttons to match my fabric, and here we are. Despite this not being my dream fabric/button combo, I do really love the skirt. I'm excited to see how much more I love future iterations now that I have a better idea of what to look for in supplies.

those beautiful but unusable buttons.... 

Aside from my various shopping trips, this skirt felt very quick to sew up compared to the first. No finicky fabric or too-small seam allowances, straightforward serged seams inside, and very little bias to deal with. I originally interfaced only the yoke lining piece, and there was some rippling along the side of the yoke where the fabric was on the bias, but I took the yoke apart and interfaced the outer piece as well, and it was all good after that. My buttonholes went off without a hitch (always a little scary, even with help from the machine), and I figured out how to make a tidy little hem on the front corners, where the button placket meets the hem.


muslin fitting - pretty good! and you can see the outline of my massive pocket.

final production-ready pattern pieces and my to-scale technical draawing

This was a really satisfying project, and I think it'll get a lot of wear. Now to find something to do with those other buttons.....

Sunday, August 28, 2016

a self-drafted summer skirt

I've previously mentioned my patternmaking class (both here on the blog and on instagram). I started the class back in March, and after 3 months I got through all of the skirt lessons - learning lots of individual techniques, then drafting and often sewing them up in muslin and practicing fitting them. At the end of the skirts unit is a final project: designing, drafting, fitting, and sewing two real skirts using various techniques I've learned, as well as making production-ready patterns for them both. I naively expected this whole process to take a few weeks, and instead it was a solid two months (and somehow it felt even longer - halfway through the process it felt like things were just dragging on and I could tell I was procrastinating on cutting into my final fabric). But I made it, and in mid-August I "graduated" skirts and moved on to the moulage unit, which is the very start of bodices (and eventually dresses, shirts, and jackets, oh my!). I'm so excited to feel like I can draft and sew just about any kind of skirt I can imagine! It's a powerful feeling. And I also have two skirts to show for it, which I happen to like a lot. Here's the first!

This skirt was originally conceived because I had this lovely double gauze laying since after ordering it last September, but none of my patterns seemed quite right for it. I decided it would work well in a flowy summer skirt, so that was the start of my brainstorming. I wanted something more interesting than just an A-line, so I decided to add knife pleats across the center front. The rest of the skirt has princess seams, and there's a slightly contoured waistband, an invisible side zipper + matching button, and a lining that was drafted separately (sans pleats or princess seams). The front pleated panel is cut on the length grain, and all of the other skirt panels are cut on the bias for maximum flowiness. This was a bit of a gamble, but aside from some creases near the zipper and some excess fabric on one side of my back waist, the whole thing came together pretty smoothly and without much bias drama. (Fabric like this can stretch way out of shape when cut on the bias, so it's fairly easy to end up with two seams that are supposed to line up but just don't at all.)

Back to the process: I started with a sketch, and once I listed the various details that would go into it, drafting was more or less straightforward. Then I made a muslin (and was surprised by how much I liked the shape in the less drapey muslin fabric). After a few small adjustments with my teacher, I made a second muslin, this time out of a (single) gauze fabric and some cheap lining. It was slightly different from my final fabric but gave a reasonable view into the final skirt's fit and overall look.

Then it was time to cut out my final fabric, which was no longer for sale online, and I was irrationally nervous about screwing something up and ruining the fabric, so I did everything possible to procrastinate. I worked on my second skirt: drafting, making a muslin, buying fabric and buttons, and even began sewing the final garment. I got most of the way through the final pattern pieces for both (lots of notches and seam allowances and awl punches marking various details). Eventually I realized I was just stressing myself by avoiding it, so I took over the large cutting table in class one night and cut the whole thing out, including the fancy lining fabric, and things started moving again.

Construction was pretty simple from there on out, with a few small caveats (mostly lessons for the future).

  • I did french seams throughout, which look great but were time-consuming enough that I really regretted them for a few minutes while I was halfway through all 6 of them. I don't really think I care about the insides enough for the extra time to be worth it, and they do add a tiny bit of extra bulk. If I made it again, I'd just serge the raw edges and be done with it.
  • I only left myself 1/4" seam allowances for the top of the skirt and the waistband, and that was really pretty awful with gauze, which loves to fray and shift.
  • I ended up with a button that was larger than the one I drafted for, and it may be a bit comically large. It turns out drafting for a 3/4" or 1" button isn't really a common thing when you go to buy buttons (a mistake I made on both of my skirts, as it turns out).
  • And this was my first experience with a really bias-y hem, so I got to practice the "measure up from the floor" hemming technique on both the skirt and the lining, which was pretty annoying compared to just using the bottom of the fabric as a guide. 

But honestly I think the whole thing turned out okay, definitely good enough to wear in public :) And I learned a ton!

Some progress shots:
muslin #1, in actual muslin fabric (with bonus sharpie from fitting with my teacher)

muslin #2, in a very light gauze

cutting into that double gauze, eeeep!

ready to sew

french seams e'erywhere

pinning the lining up for hemming

thank goodness sewing school has dress forms, as I certainly do not.

Thanks for reading about this adventure :) Keep an eye out for my second final skirt on here soon!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

i made some bags: manhattan purse #2

This is the last bag post (for now), I promise.

This year my mom's birthday fell on Mother's Day, as it does every so often. I didn't have any exciting ideas for her, so when she asked if I could make her a purse like mine, of course I said yes! And then... work got busy (I had deadlines and my very first intern!), there was Thurlow shorts drama, and I was caught up in sewing class homework, and a full month went by before I even got started on the purse. :/

The preparation took the most time by far - picking out and ordering contrast + lining fabrics online, and then going to the fabric store to find exterior fabric and a zipper to match. And of course, cutting out all the pieces (seriously, so many!). Fortunately, I had extra interfacing and magnetic snaps left over from the first one I made. Once I got everything ready to go, I kind of breezed through the construction in a weekend morning or two, and it felt super fast this time around.

I took some of the things I'd learned with mine and incorporated them into my mom's purse, and I feel like hers is much sturdier and more professional than mine. I used a much heavier fabric for the exterior, which makes the bag feel less flimsy and also works better on the strap. I got better hardware (no d-rings!) and a strap slider, all from Britex in downtown SF, so there are none of the weird strap issues mine has.

I'm really happy with my fabric choices for this one. My mom wanted something dark and not too flashy, but I still wanted to give some interest with contrast panels, so I found this pretty abstract mountain fabric by Art Gallery Fabrics. My mom has always loved butterflies, but they felt like too much for the exterior, so they make up the lining. And the navy exterior is a sturdy mystery apparel fabric from the Fabric Outlet I go to in the Mission in SF.

I sent this to my mom in mid-July, and she seems to love it :D I don't often selfless sew, but it warms my heart when I do get around to it. Happy (very late) birthday, mom!!

i made some bags: oversized pencil pouch

Another bag for sewing class. I realized I needed a place to store a ton of sewing and drafting tools - pencils, sharpies, red colored pencils, chalk pen, eraser, tracing wheel, seam ripper, fabric & paper scissors, thread clippers... the list goes on. So a zipper pouch seemed like just the thing.

I made this bigger than a typical pencil pouch - I basically sized it to be roomy enough for my large fabric scissors, and everything else fits beautifully. I found a tutorial online to make a boxy one, rather than a flat rectangle, and I modified it a bit. I did some math to figure out how much of the length I would lose in the box shape and made my initial rectangles large enough that my scissors would still fit. I think I even traced it out of pattern paper so I can recreate the same pouch in the future if I need another.

I also sewed the outside and lining separate from each other so that there are no raw edges on the inside. This basically involved attaching the zipper as in the tutorial, and then instead of sewing one seam across both fabrics to create the bottom, I created one inside-out pouch, seams showing, on either side of the zipper (see below). I left an opening in the bottom seam of the lining fabric until everything else was finished, and then I flipped the whole bag through the hole, which was super fun. So fun that I made Tim take a video of it.

This fabric is one that I saw on instagram back when I very first started sewing, and I needed it. It's from Birch Fabrics, but all of the normal retailers had sold out and I snatched up the few yards I could find on Etsy. I had planned to make a Megan Dress with it, and then I made a Megan Dress and wasn't in love with the dress on me, and then I started questioning my ability to wear such a loud print on my body, and then before I knew it the fabric had been sitting there for a year. So I decided at the very least I could make something I'd see once a week, and I can still make something for myself with the rest if I get over my decision paralysis.

The lining is a nice golden yellow cotton that I had left over from one of my many Clemence skirts.

Even with the enclosed seams fanciness, this was a really quick sew and so useful. Hooray for instant gratification sewing projects!!

Friday, August 5, 2016

i made some bags: grainline stowe bag

Bag blog post #2! 

I really liked the look of the Stowe Bag as soon as it came out - just the right balance of simple, elegant, and useful. I decided this would be great for storing my supplies at sewing class, where I have a little locker to keep my sewing and drafting kit. I got the PDF pattern a week or two before class began, thinking I could start making it more quickly than if I ordered the printed pattern (ha!), and then I wasted about a week and another $14 gearing myself up to go to FedEx to print it on the fancy super-wide paper. But as you can see, I did indeed sew the thing, and it's been hanging out in my locker at sewing school ever since. I do get to pull it out every Thursday, so it's not totally neglected, but I'm sort of trying to find an excuse to make another that I can use more than once a week.

I bought a remnant of some sort of canvas-y home goods fabric at my local fabric warehouse and got pre-made navy bias binding to contrast it. The fabric is nice and sturdy and works well here. I was planning to make this in a beautiful canvas from someone trendy like Cotton + Steel, but my thriftiness got the best of me for my first go at this bag and I went the cheap route.

I was a little surprised by how much fabric this bag took, given its compact finished size (although in hindsight it makes sense, with the boxy shape and interior pocket panels). I also had a hell of a time figuring out how to flatten and sew down the bottom so that it stays in that nice, squared-off shape. The instructions vaguely mentioned how to do this, but I ended up googling for awhile with little luck and finally figured it out myself. This (plus lots of bias binding) meant it wasn't quite as quick of a sew as I had expected, but I think I still threw it together in an evening or two.

I don't think there's much else to say - it's a good bag and a relatively quick sew!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

i made some bags: manhattan purse

Despite huge pauses here on the blog, I do still have ambitions of blogging finished sewing projects that I've done. Newly sewn clothing has been pretty scarce around here lately (most of my time is still going into my sewing class and a little volunteer side project for a brand that I'm really excited about. And you know, my full time job). But I also have a fair amount of things I sewed last year and never photographed or just never blogged, so really I have no excuse but laziness (and busyness, for sure).

But hey! No blog apologies, I'm just going to try to pick things up a little bit. So I'm going to show you all a few bags I sewed over the course of spring and summer. I'm a very perfectionistic garment-sewer - I like clothes that fit well, and I've never been a fan of loose, forgiving outfits on my body, so anything I sew to wear takes a lot of time and iteration to get the right fit. Bags are a great break from this - the joy of just sewing a project start to finish, with no muslins, no fitting and pinching seams and ripping out stitches to resew a seam! And easy to photograph, since I can do it with no giant mirror or tripod (although this means no "action shots" for you).

The first - a lovely little purse, the Manhattan Bag from Emmaline Bags. I made the "Miss" size, which is the smaller one. It's exactly the right size for my wallet, phone, and sunglasses and pops right into my commute backpack when I head to work.

This was my first time sewing a purse, and it was pretty intimidating cutting out what felt like a billion pieces of three different fabrics and two types of interfacing. But the instructions were super clear, and the second half of construction felt really fast - everything just sort of came together into a finished purse, almost like magic.

I got a gray quilting cotton for the main body (in hindsight, I wish I'd gotten something sturdier but it works okay). The interior lining is another quilting cotton, which works fine, and I got a lovely Cotton + Steel canvas for the front panel. I agonized (slightly) over pattern placement and ended up centering the cozy pine trees and woodland creatures.

I really love the features of the purse. There's a front pocket (exterior, but sealed up with a magnetic snap when the top is down), and it's the perfect size for my phone and makes it easy to pull out. The zipper pocket on the front flap provides interesting contrast and is perfect for my transportation card (super easy to dig out even when the purse is buried in my backpack). The inside is just roomy enough to store what I need without losing anything in the bottom, and there's another interior pocket where I often end up stashing fabric scraps that I need to match thread to at the fabric store.

There are only a few small tweaks I would make if I did it again (and, spoiler: I did! As a gift). In addition to using a heavier fabric for the body, I regret some of my notion choices - the d-rings that hold the strap don't stay in place and always swing up vertically and bunch up the strap ends, and I wish I'd found a slider and made the strap adjustable. This was mostly because I ordered everything online (all from fabric.com, iirc) and options were limited, but I later went to Britex in downtown SF and had much better luck finding great metal bits for my later iteration.

Despite its imperfections, I use it almost daily since I made it in February and it's holding up great. I'm starting to think about making one (or something similar) in a nice leather, but I think it'll be awhile before I get that far through my "to sew" list, so I have some time to think about it.

Stay tuned for three (!) more bag posts, assuming I get my blogging shit together, including another Manhattan purse.