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 The spacing, organization and swirly bullets are all still outdated and quirky–and the About page is hidden in the footer–but it’s easy to click an interesting image from the Patterns page and begin your browsing that way.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!

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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!

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

 

Hat With a View

IMG_0480_revisedNo it’s not Photoshop…it’s a hat with a fantastic view of downtown. This is a great project for your knit scraps, whether those scraps are fleece or some other mid-weight knit. I recently made a fleece hat to be given to a charity that will distribute winter items. I made it from blue polyester fleece that was used for pants — and if you’ve made pants you know there’s that wide piece off to the side of the center crotch seam that you wonder, “How can I use this?” And here’s how:

You will use six “Gothic window pane” pieces and one headband.

Draw a hat pattern — a single piece that resembles a Gothic church window. The height of the hat is up to you. Some like a “high hat”; others a low. The height of this pattern is about 8″. The width of the bottom of the “window pane” here is 5″.

Cut out six of the pattern. Leave the headband for later, because it will have a custom fit.

SoundStitches c 2013 Pin two panels (formerly, “window panes”) right sides together. You’ll need no more than four pins per panel.

Starting at the point, stitch the panels together using the smallest seam allowance you feel comfortable with, from a narrow 1/4″ to a wider 1/2″. The fluffier the fabric, the more issue you’ll have with a backstitch at the top. As long as you start at the very top, you can omit it. Same with the bottom edge — you will sew a band onto the hat anyway.

Pin and sew a separate set of cut-out panels together as above. Then do the same for the last set of two. You will have three sets of two-panel pieces.

Lay all three double panels out flat to see what length of band you need (picture below). It’s easier to measure the bottom edge for a headband now rather than after you’ve sewn all panels. The measurement tells you the circumference of the hat after only half of the seam allowances. Here you see a width of 26 inches. If you used a quarter-inch seam allowance, you would subtract another .75 inches. Please don’t get hung up on the math here: Simply remember the total width if you need to keep it simple.soundstitches sewing blog c 2013

You’ve got the width, but how about the height of the headband? I find 2.5 inches is a good guide for fluffy fleece — the headband is folded in half before it’s sewn on. Cut out a headband of 4.5 inches high and with a final width of the circumference you measured minus three seam allowances, and round down to a lower whole number. In this example, it’s 26 – .75 = 25.25 – . 25 = 25 inches. This lower number encourages the hat to squeeze a little bit over the wearer’s head instead of just sitting on top like a beanie!

You’ve left the panels in two-piece combos, so it’s time to join them up. Stitch one two-panel piece to another, then add the final two-piece panel. For the last stitch, take a wider seam allowance to avoid a hole in the top of the hat. A hole in a winter hat exposes the wearer to wet and weather — hardly the purpose of a hat! If this doesn’t make sense to you yet, I think it will when you stitch that last section; then you can make a larger seam allowance at the top of the hat. Try on the hat, and if it’s way too big, then use a wider seam allowance and trim away.

Now you only need to sew on the headband. The height and length was described above, but you’ll sew it “in the round,” so stitch wrong sides together on the short end to form the band. Then pin and sew. Voila! Winter hat.

Want to spruce it up a little bit? Cut a very small strip of contrasting fabric, no more than an inch wide and, if a knit fabric, as long as the length for the band you cut. (If you choose a woven fabric that doesn’t stretch, either cut on bias or add .5 inch to the length.) Iron strip in half so that you have a skinny strip. Sew the short edges together and press them open with your fingers. Hold your hat so that the raw edges are to the right. On top, align raw edges of contrast band in the same way. Finally, add the hat band whose short edges have already been stitched. Pin and stitch. The contrast fold will peek out between the band and the hat body, adding just a bit of pizzazz. No picture of the added detail, but below is a finished hat pick again.

IMG_0480_revised

Not Just for Lingerie

JanBones1_croppedSometimes you pay for someone to show you all the techniques you know would work, if only you took the time to experiment. This weekend, I Jan Bones, Canadian garment instructor and author of Lingerie Secrets Sewing Patterns, showed us a number of tricks in “Lingerie Finishes for Daywear.” Jan was in the Seattle area for two days for a demonstration day, which I could not attend, and a hands-on day. I attended the Sunday morning hands-on. Lingerie uses knits and lightweight fabrics, and if you’ve noticed fashions, it’s not just for underneath anymore! I learned how to construct, reinforce and reinforce a variety of treatments. I have been experimenting with making my own underthings — I’m tired of fabric that ravels and holes that erupt in side seams. So I’ve had some experience with stretching elastic to fit, which were a few of the techniques that Jan had us produce samples for. Nevertheless I learned some new tricks at this Seattle ASG-sponsored event.

 

 

My favorite techniques:

  1. Use picot edge elastic for various treatments, including encased elastic. Why use picot edge when you are going to completely cover it up? Jan says that it produces a smoother edge in which the elastic “feathers” at the edge so you don’t even feel it. I agree; it’s a comfortable finish.
  2. Serge edges, then tack them down with a narrow zig-zag stitch so that no edges are felt on the inside. This is great for nightwear. She shared a light green fleece jacket in which she used contrasting turquoise thread for the zig-zag on the outside of the garment — and it looked very snazzy.
  3. Use a test strip butted up to your fashion fabric. It really works to get the snarls out on the test strip and allows you to sew right onto the elastic, then stretch it to fit with fewers errors. I knew this! But didn’t practice it.
  4. Reinforce gathers on lightweight fabric by stitching thin polyester ribbon over the top. This could be used in the cup area of a camisole — or think about a top with an empire waist. Gathers in the lower part of the top could loosen over time. The ribbon stabilizes the gathers so the gathers don’t pull out.

Overall, this session was a great class length, and Jan Bones is a pleasant person with lots to share, and I’m sure her students to the north love her. I went home with a number of helpful samples and one of Jan’s printed guides — and I whipped out a pair of undies right then. I have more experimenting to do, but it was an inspiring day.

Sewing Books

FSoundStitches sewing booksorgive me dear readers, it has been too long since my last confession, er post. Here’s a quickie before I proceed with several planned posts. I’m back!

While vacationing in New Mexico, I discovered COAS Books in Las Cruces. “The largest bookstore in New Mexico,” they say, and stretching more than two storefronts side, it’s large by any standards. It was truly a pleasure and I pointed my daughter in the direction of the kids section and stayed in the sewing and crafts aisle with no remorse. At home, I love to say that I use the library for fiction, and my bookshelves for sewing books. So true!

Here is a pic of the recent stash of books I collected, one of which dates from 1943. I managed to bring them all back by stashing two on the plane. I’ve already finished the one named Clothing and Cloth. I say “finished” because it’s truly a book you read as opposed to glance at the pretty pictures for future projects. Clothing and Cloth is a perspective of the garment and fashion industry from a 1961 perspective, and it’s given me lots of fodder for future posts!