PatternReview.com comes of age

SoundStitches spring sewingPatternReview.com has really grown up. PatternReview is the online exchange of information about sewing, most well-known for its reviews of mass-market sewing patterns. Do you remember the odd pink/peach and brown interface of yore? Perhaps you’ve forgotten, since only members can use many of the functions. The site has evolved to an all-white background. The spacing, organization and swirly bullets are all still outdated and quirky–and the About page is hidden in the footer–but it’s easy to click an interesting image from the Patterns page and begin your browsing that way. I recently searched for reviews on pressing irons, since my Rowenta crashed from the ironing board to the floor (thanks, kitty). There is no category for irons, so I searched the discussion forums.

I was delighted to meet Deepika Prakash several years ago at a sewing conference, at the beginning of home sewing stardom, and glad to see in my recent visits to PatternReview.com that sewers still find the site relevant and useful. I often look to the site to see if a pattern looks good on others with my body type, and whether the instructions provided with the pattern make sense to those with about the same sewing experience as me. Maybe I’ll see you soon in my search for a pretty spring dress pattern on Pattern Review!

Vogue 8742

Vogue sewing patterns SoundStitches sewing blog fashion knit Pacific FabricsI’m making this Vogue look from a rust color ponte knit. I didn’t have enough to make the dress, so I’m making a tunic length top to wear with leggings. So far the look is flattering — another waist/bust/hip enhancing look for most of us.

I searched for other ladies’ results online and the pictures bring home to me the importance of choosing a substantial knit. That means a relatively heavy knit, such as ones you would wear for leggings or pants. Think winter instead of summer weight, and to test in the fabric store, squeeze a good handful of fabric, and see how it regains shape and whether it releases wrinkles soon. The right knit weight glides over your body without clinging (though of course wearing a slip or smooth undergarments further reduces “panty lines”).

In today’s standard patterns that contain both a sleeved and sleeveless look in the same package, the bodice pattern piece is identical. But ready-made sleeveless aren’t like this: looks don’t end at the sleeve cap but rather finish closer to the neck. Imagine you were feeling punk-ish and decided to take an old sleeved sweater from your closet to hack off and make a sleeveless sweater from. You could simply draw a line from the armpit to the top of the sleeve and cut it off. But, it would not result in a flattering look. Ready-made sleeveless looks cup in a bit to flatter the neck, arm and body. The sleeved look on Vogue 8742 works fine, but for the sleeveless look you’ll want to cut out another seam allowance-width of fabric.

Rusty red ponte knit
Rusty red ponte knit

In addition to changing the top’s length, I haven’t used the prescribed single-fold binding. Binding, sold in packages by Wrights, is stiff because it contains polyester along with cotton, and this stiffness just isn’t compatible with knits. Instead I purchased rayon seam binding for the neck and sleeveless armholes. (Pacific Fabrics carries many colors of seam binding in its stores. See if it’s available online too.) While rayon seam binding isn’t stretchy, it’s narrow, lightweight and both edges are finished. You can sew it to the dress fabric, right sides together. Attach it before you sew the shoulder seams, and you can eliminate backstitching. (I take time to suggest this because delicate rayon seam binding easily develops holes after the sewing needle goes over the same spot twice.) The rayon gives a worthwhile professional finish and eliminates the bulk created by twice turning over thick knit.

Early on, I accidentally ruched all the way down to the hem, as designed for the full-length dress. As I work on other details, I wonder what I will do with the hem. I may take out the gathering stitches so it will lie flat at the hem.

Finally, I’ve got to make an alteration where the back of the dress meets the neck. The last time I worked on other aspects of the top, I wondered if I even need a button closure. Most women’s heads measure about 21-22 inches (53-55 cm) around, and if the knit stretches this amount around the neckline, that’s all that’s needed. I’ll need to baste to test that out, and after Thanksgiving, I hope to finish up this rust-colored gem and wear it out of the house!

Cool Fashion Graphics to Awaken Your Inner Hipster

SoundStitches Sewing Blog CoolHipsterDressThis cool free graphic comes to you from Hipster Vector, which offers free graphics that can be downloaded and manipulated with graphics programs. They can adorn your Web site, blog, or Facebook page — the creator simply asks that you credit them, and so here is the credit for Freepik. The dress comes from a set called Cool Hipster Dress Up Girl — find it at the link above, and search for others. Other free art picks include vintage signage, mustaches, goofy clothing with or without body attached, bowties and badges (the digital kind!). Lots of fun!

And here’s the whole Cool Hipster Dress Up Girl set. For Halloween, I wanna be cool hipster girl!

SoundStitches sewing blog hipster girl dress set

Jumpsuit Style

Jumpsuit from SoundStitches BlogI recently had a once-in-a-lifetime chance to visit Paris and various parts of Belgium, and this must serve as my excuse for being such a slacker this summer in terms of blogging. This post, let’s have a look at this jumpsuit I spotted in a Belgium shop. Many European shops close for lunch, so I was unable to touch and feel this jumpsuit.

At first glance, it seems that only a perfectly straight figure could pull this look off, but maybe not… If you had some extra tummy, it would be smoothed over by the drapey fabric in the waist area. The dark blue color makes this classy, not gauche, so you won’t risk the 1970s jumpsuit look at all. Overall the look is long and lean — very good for petite figures. The thin belt would look good with most figures, and offers a chance to coordinate with shoes, bag or earrings. The look is dressy — I wonder if a frayed cropped denim would make it more casual?

I haven’t noticed many jumpsuit patterns, though I know they’re out there. This would be fairly easy to make, though. It has a square neckline, likely with a facing, and wide straps at the top. I wouldn’t risk wearing a brassiere with straps here, so you’d have to like your strapless. The waist has a simple seamline. You’d want to make sure you’re laying out all pieces on straight-of-grain. I suppose there’s a side zipper, that would make getting in and out easier. Here’s a tutorial from Threads Magazine on how to insert a side zipper.

Altogether, a svelt look that’s worth a try. And I’d love to hear if you’re a fan of the jumpsuit look and where you’ve worn it!

Dream Sewing Room

(c) 2014 SoundStitches Sewing blog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I came across this free-for-reuse picture of an ideal sewing room entitled “Room for a Young Girl.” It seems to have been part of an exhibition, Festival of Britain, in 1951. I’m reminded that Britain was still recovering from the devastation of World War II; there was government of rationing of certain goods into the 1950s. In the Homes and Gardens pavilion, this bed-sitting room was designed by J.D. Binns. Imagine having a room separate from your bedroom — a sitting room! — just for sewing up your next fashion. (Oh wait, I have one of those. Alas, I’m no longer a girl, and to gain this luxury of a room I had to commandeer a room from the rest of my family!)

I suppose the exhibition was designed to show off various products available to the home sewer, including, as the description says: “Dressmaker’s stand by Siegel and Stockman, London. Electric iron manufactured by Easipower Ltd, London. ‘Pillar’ ironing table manufactured by Campbell Engineering Co. Ltd., Bromley, Kent. Portable sewing machine manufactured by The Tailor Bird Sewing Machine Co. Ltd., Sandwich, Kent.”¬† The “portable” sewing machine listed isn’t show.

The exhibition probably also intended to help those who experienced little of a post-war recovery to imagine themselves — or a daughter — living a bit of luxury. Anyway, I love the photo in all its idealism, and I hope you enjoy too!

Knits Without Fear

SoundStitches copyright 2014 Renfrew TopI had fun making the Renfrew Top from Sewaholic Patterns. My friend Claire, so much more in the know about sewing trends than I, led me to this t-shirt pattern. I’m convinced that it’s not the fitting or sewing that makes sewers avoid knits, but rather mastering the neckline.

Not wanting to use the very nice fabric Claire gave me (“But Claire, you keep it — you like stripes.” “But I have more!”), I resorted to colorblocking from smaller pieces of sweatshirt terry fabric left over from past projects. My colorblocking was partially inspired by a list of Renfrew creations blogged by Making It Well. This warm orange-red is the red that my Spring complexion can wear, and the cream is a warm contrast. It’s rather sporty combo, I think.

Regardless of whether the color combo is your thing, the real success in this top is that I chose a very substantial knit. The cream is terry with Lycra. The orange-red is all-cotton terry.

The length of the pattern’s neckband was 24″. After several stitch-ins and removals, I settled on 22″. This is simply a painful process, but thankfully the fabric was thick enough to identify the stitching to pull, and one is not always so lucky with thinner knits. Go for a long basting stitch, then if the band is right, use a shorter stitch with a bit of zigzag to allow stretch (or a serger). For the hems of all knits, I interface with a 1″ strip. This gives the top-stitched hem a crispness and keeps the hem shape over many washings.

Really, this pattern is not very different from those that the commercial pattern companies issue (such as Simplicity, McCall’s, Kwik Sew). But the great photos of Sewaholic’s top — and all the blogs with cute photos of real women wearing them — are likely inspiring the knit-phobic to give it a try. All knit T’s all have the same components: A bodice, sleeves, and neck style. So you won’t avoid the pitfalls of knit necklines if you buy a commercial pattern — there is always fitting and the challenging neckline. But after you complete a few you’ll become convinced that you need not fear the knit. My next version will be in a thinner knit, and with warmer weather ahead, I look forward to wearing it without the usual fleece or sweater over top.

Renfrew Top by Sewaholic Patterns SoundStitches 2014

Vogue 1082 Skirt with Curves

(c) 2014 Soundstitches blog skirtNot very svelt on the hanger, this Vogue 1082 skirt perked up once finished and I wore it soon afterwards to my husband’s company party. It’s made out of green checked wool blend. It’s of some vintage, and I acquired it at a garage sale. I imagine it might have been planned for a matched jacket and skirt. Have a look at the curved pieces in this skirt, which I thought would be flattering. Pieces such as these are cut on the bias, and they risk stretching. A traditional treatment, and the one described in Sandra Betzina’s instructions, is to add twill tape to all of the curved edges. Instead of buying the several yards required, I used the selvedge edges of cottons. My rationale was not only money-saving, but I believed that the selvedges would be less thick and prevent warping of the seams. That didn’t work. Lumps were visible every time on to do other fitting. I ended up removing most of my improvised twill tape. The instructions should have called for stay-stitching instead, which would have minimized stretching but avoided the lumps.

Elements that differ from one side to the other are a challenge for me. A vent, for instance, will have a lining piece different on the right side than the left. And sure enough, that vent threw me off. I will confess to sewing up the whole thing in order to wear it for an evening, complete with extra flaps on the inside to encase the vent.

I wish I had read beforehand this piece of advice from a classic book, Tailoring, by Allyne Bane, from 1968 (McGraw-Hill):

…cutting the wrong layer of lining would be a serious mistake. Because it is difficult at this time to determine exactly what ‘left side’ means, it is not wise to cut one layer of the fabric at this time. Instead, cut both layers the same and tailor-tack the cutting line.

Oh well.

I was thrilled to see that you can get your own copy of Tailoring on Amazon.com. (I got mine at a public library sale of old books.) It’s full of instructions on everything related to tailoring, and some things we don’t associate with tailoring, such as skirt construction, and of course cutting out a lining. I recommend this skirt for anyone with or without curves.

SoundStitches blog Vogue 1082