Sewing Vloggers

Monday, November 24, 2014

NLS #8 Dartarama! Learning About Darts

We've done much preparatory talk here. I think it's time to get into construction and often the first thing the pattern tells you to do is make your darts.

I am using a basic bust dart for our example. Remember, darts release fullness so the fabric will smoothly cover any mound of flesh. To quote just one sewing expert, Roberta Carr, "Darts that end right at the apex remove intended fullness and ease."  In other words, running the tip of a dart to the area of the highest mound of flesh removes the fullness you needed to cover the mound with no wrinkles of fabric. (It also looks uncomfortable and downright awful.)

Darts have two "legs". Darts can be in all sorts of places but 99% of the time those dart legs should be the same length.  An exception is the French dart which has a deep slant from the lower side seam to the apex. The area that the dart folds up is called the takeup.  The bigger the mound of flesh to cover, the deeper  the "takeup". So if you are using one of those larger cup patterns, the darts will have more "takeup" as the cup sizes enlarge.

Marking the dart? I like drawing in the fold line. It makes it easier to match the sewing line. Then there is the Nancy Zieman method of clipping the dart legs and matching those up to get started. I often do that as well. Fold the dart on the center fold line and pin.
I put the pin in right on the line and make sure it matches, coming out on the line on the other side.

There are different ways to stitch a dart, including a method that uses the bobbin thread only and starts at the tip! But I will stick with this more conventional method for today. Start at the side seam with tiny stitches, 1.5 or 20 spi,  to secure the seam. Then change up to your regular stitch length and stitch the seam.
 A half inch from the end stop and change your stitch length back to 1.5. I raised the presser foot so you could see what I mean here. Stitch the last few stitches right on the edge of the fold and then off the fabric. Raise the presser foot. Here is where my method differs from others.

Lift the presser foot, Pull your fabric backwards ( like you are removing the garment from the presser foot) for about an inch. Then pull it forward for about a 1/4 inch. This puts slack in the thread. Lower your presser foot.

Now take 2 or 3 of the small stitches. You are done. Remove the piece from the machine and snip your threads, which isn't done yet in the photo above. This give you a very secure dart tip. The bit of slack in the last thread move prevents any bubbling. Putting the ending stitch in the takeup of the dart prevents any chance of the threads coming undone in the wash.

Now it's time to press your dart. Press as stitched being careful not to press a crease beyond the tip of the dart. Then press the dart to the side. For bust darts, press toward the waistline. For waistline or hip darts, press toward center front or center back. Do this on the back with a piece of paper or oaktag under the dart fabric to prevent show through ridges on the front. Turn over and press over a ham to build in the shape of the dart. Let cool on the ham before removing.

Some fabrics will press and mold easier than others.  Wools shape beautifully.  "Harder" fabrics like the linen above   need to have those last few stitches on the line of the dart seam right on the fold to make sure the dart doesn't bubble up at the tip. On really deep darts which are often the case for the larger cup patterns, the darts can be trimmed to five eights of an inch, not trimming the final inch of the dart. In that case the dart is pressed open. Since the edges are bias there should be no ravelling.

ETA: Just remembered something important.  When sewing your dart you are going to do  something different from the pattern. If you sew your dart leg, continuing out in a straight line to the cut edge, you will be making the area of the seam allowance smaller than it should be. Instead, sew to the side seam or waist stitching line. At that point start stitching in a bit so that the stitching line mirrors what is below the waistline seam. This way your  seam allowance won't be tighter and smaller at the edge than at the actual stitching line. Hope this is clear.

This is my mock waistline dart. If both ends of the dart end in a point, as in a sheath dress, I sew the dart in two steps. Start at the peak which is the widest part of the dart and sew to the tip as just shown in the bust dart. Go back to that same spot  and then sew down to the other tip. Sometimes these darts end not in a point at the waistline in which case you can start stitching at the cut edge, stopping and pivoting at the peak (the widest part of the dart). With a heavy fabric I would cut the dart open ending about an inch short of the tip and press it open. But in most cases of waistline darts, the fabric is not that heavy and the dart is pressed toward center front.

You will see a definite curve to your waist darts from the right side. So the dart does not "pull" oddly or feel uncomfortable, slash the dart ON THE BIAS at the widest part, before pressing. By cutting the slash on the bias you will prevent ravelling. That could easily happen as waist darts are usually on the straight of grain.

Just a comment here on my current jacket project. One thing I found odd about the pattern was the waistline dart. It was WAY to the left of the bust apex of anyone. I did some research and waistline darts, if single darts, should always be  below the bust mound. Putting it to the side, like that pattern did, releases fabric in the wrong place. The exception to this would a design with two waistline darts. In that case each dart is equidistant  from the apex on the left and right. So once you have established the location of your personal apex on the pattern, check that any single waistline darts end directly below, not to the side. Again, the waist dart should never, never go to the apex point. Can you tell how much that aggravates me?  To move the waist dart to the proper location, simply draw a box around it. Cut the box out and move it over and tape.

Hip darts are interesting.  A full buttocks, like that of my younger days, really fits better with two darts. If you only have one and have booty, measure the takeup at the waistline seam. If it is one inch, draw in two  half inch darts instead.
 If you have generous booty AND a high padded hip, one dart is parallel to the center back and the other is parallel to the side seam.

 If your booty is "regular" size and your pattern has one or two darts, make them both parallel to the center back.  If your booty is a bit non existent but you have a padded high hip, both darts should be parallel to the side seam.

 If  you don't have much of a waist but would like to give that illusion, move the top of the darts over at an angle as shown above. Make sure the darts still point to the fullness. Jeans use this trick.

Darts can give you great fit and also provide a bit of illusion as you can tell from the last paragraph. The easiest way to change the dart angle? I like to trace the dart on another piece of paper and cut it out exactly on the stitching lines. You will have a narrow triangle of paper, somewhat of an arrow shape. Match up the tip of your arrow with the  tip on the pattern and just shift the arrow to where you want it. Trace around the arrow on to the pattern piece and you are good to go.

Darts can have shape and that will   enhance your fit as well. If you are swayback, like myself, you can curve  the rear darts by sewing the dart in a curve that curves outward an eighth of an inch at the center of the dart. This is like a concave shape and the dart leg curves out toward the garment. This will cup your swayback shape better. If you have a tummy directly below the waist or a high padded hip, shape your dart inwards in a curve about an eight of an inch at the center of the dart, a  convex shape. In this case the curve is toward the center of the dart.  Adding that 1/8th inch in either of these cases will help the dart fit better without cupping or wrinkling. The shaping seams counter intuitive but it works. With two darts across the front or back, it will give you a half inch of additional room just where you need it on your tummy.

Some patterns have shoulder darts. If you don't like this look, just run a gathering stitch and ease in the area instead. You can use steam to help shape the ease with no wrinkles. If your pattern has no shoulder dart and you have prominent shoulder blades, take a curved ruler and at the center of the shoulder seam go out 1/8th inch, ending at the regular seam at shoulder and neckline. Then ease in your back shoulder seam to fit the front. This is similar to the "cheater" bust adjustment often used in knits.

Looking forward to your comments. I do hope this dart info will help on your quest toward great fit. Fit is accomplished in bits and pieces. Put darts in your fit toolbox and your garments will not have that look of inexperienced sewing. Till the next time............Bunny

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Vogue 1385 continues

This past week and the upcoming few days are busy ones as we here in the US get prepared for Thanksgiving Day. It is my favorite holiday. What could be better? Time spent with family, no gifts or financial obligations involved, just appreciating those special people in our lives who love us the most. Throw in incredible food and fabulous flavors all in a pretty casual atmosphere, and it is wonderful. I hope all my US friends are enjoying their prep for the holiday. We got the cleaning out of the way yesterday and as we speak Salted Caramel Pecan Pie bars are in the oven. If you could just smell my kitchen right now...............

In between playing pastry chef and laundress I have been painting the pieces of my jacket. I've decided on the metallic blue dye from Jacquard. When both color samples were put on my shoulder, the silver sample had much more contrast and I wanted a bit more subtlety. The camera flash seems to pick up the metallic paint, making it sparkle more than it appears in real life. It truly is the more subtle of the two options. I am still not sure if it will button or not.

What I am doing first is marking each pattern piece, all those darts,  on the wrong side, ! Then I put down some heavy waxed paper on the cutting table. It is actually the sheet that remains after all the labels are removed from it. I get these by the ton at work as we use a lot of labels and they are very handy for making stencils or any situation where you want to block off something on fabric. One of those sheets gets taped down first to the table to prevent bleed through , then the garment piece is taped to it. On top of that is taped the stencil. which I play with to get a pleasing placement. I then place another one of those "label" sheets on the piece of fabric so no errant bits of paint make their way over.

Now I can paint. I am using the Jacquard metallic fabric dye , a stencil brush, and a shishkabob stick. The SKB stick is great for holding down tiny flaps of the stencil without getting paint on my hands. That allows me to get a sharp edge to the parts of the stencil that want to flip up. It's a pretty lacy stencil. Each piece gets two coats of dye. I did this to my samples, two coats of dye, and that worked best. Because it is a dye, the fabric stays nice and soft where it is applied. And guess what? It really dyes. I took my samples and washed them and ironed them and washed them again. Solid as a rock so I am pleased with that.  No heat setting necessary, but I ironed them anyway just for my own peace of mind. 

Another thing I did was to cover up a half inch of the seam allowances so I wouldn't' be sewing through the design. I just didn't know how the needle would react so played it safe and left the design out of the SAs. 

Right now my last sleeve is waiting for its second coat. Gotta get those pecan pie bars out of the oven first..................Bunny

Monday, November 17, 2014

NLS #7, What notions do I really need?

Here you are, just learning to sew, or maybe you are returning after having put sewing aside for several years.  What do you really need for notions to get yourself started? Well, I don't think you need that much. That big pile of measuring tools you see sheds a pall on my honesty but it's true. I think when starting out on anything new it is wise to get comfortable with a few simple tools and add from there as projects get more complicated and require more complicated tools to help you out. You don't need a ton of notions to start out. Get a few basics and add as your designs require. 

We've already discussed threads and needles and pins, so what's next? Let's start with cutting tools. At one time you would be advised what scissors to buy but today there are also cutting options that include rotary cutters and their mandatory mats and rulers. I don't think you need a rotary cutter to start. I firmly believe in laying a foundation and growing from there as time and skills accrue. So start with a good pair of shears.  Many moons ago I worked in a fabric store that carried really high quality shears. When the decision was made to discontinue the top of the line models I was able to pick them up at bargain basement prices. My scissor collection boasts TOL scissors by Wiss and Marks and Gingher that are wonderful. But truly, if you look in most scissor drawers, the pair that you see most often, gets the most use, and seems to hold is sharpness interminably are those orange handled shears from Fiskars.

An 8 inch pair won't set you back too much and they will last you a long while between sharpenings. These are basics. They are also lightweight and easy to spot in the notions drawer. If you are going to use your scissors in a class put a wine charm around the handle so you don't lose them to someone who thinks they are their's. Just about everyone has a pair of these in the drawer and they should serve you well. There are lots of other types of scissors but one pair of shears and two other suggestions I have are all you really need.  Scissors can run from five inches to ten inches long but the eight inch shears are the most versatile, IMO. 

Here are some of the different kinds of scissors that you might like as your sewing skills mature and you start sewing with more challenging fabrics;

Knife edge scissors:  These are  your basic shears as you see above. They are sometimes designed so the side that your hand goes in, as opposed to your thumb, is in line with the blade. This makes cutting our your fabric easier as the scissors can be held parallel  and next to the table while cutting. and therefore not lifting the fabric. Scissors that have the blades centered between the thumb and hand openings tend to lift the fabric as you cut and can easily give you inaccurate cutting despite the best intentions otherwise.  Look for the blades set up like you see above in the Fiskars so that one blade can be laid against the cutting surface as you cut. Many scissors come with blade covers which is nice for travelling back and forth to class, safer too! Other manufacturers are  are Kai,   Marks/Mundail   (vintage)  and Wiss. 

Embroidery scissors:  Embroidery Scissors are very sharp usually four inch blade scissors. This is the second pair of scissors of the three I think are must haves for new sewists. These are your life savers. Why? Because they unsew. You will use these time and time again to rip out your sewing mistakes. The sharper and pointier the better as they can slip under the stitches. You have to be careful with these as one slip and it is easy to mistakenly cut your good fabric. It has happened to all of us, you go to cut a buttonhole open and you put a gash across the front of your bodice on a nearly complete garment. Know you are not alone and will get over the pain in time. In the meantime, also know that you need a good pair of sharp embroidery scissors. I have several types but find I really prefer my little Fiskars.   Mary Corbet, esteemed embroideress, has a great blogpost on her embroidery scissors and all the different types which you can enjoy here. 

Paper Scissors,  Kitchen Scissors or any old junk scissors:  These can be any type of old scissors that you will relegate to all the scissor chores needed by the rest of the family. Your good scissors - HIDE THEM! Better yet, get some cheapies for the rest of the family. At one time the chains had bins of dollar pairs of scissors. Today we have Dollar stores.  I have lots of those dollar scissors hanging around for hubby to use. A good pair of Kitchen Shears is indispensable for heavy duty cutting that your fabric scissors would just faint over. Just know, the third type of must have scissors for any sewist are these, the junk drawer scissors. Make them easily accessible and you will be able to keep your precious sharpsters to your self, well hidden. ; )

Nice but not necessary

Serrated scissors:  Above is a pair of Gingher Serrated scissors. Most scissor companies make serrated scissors. Why? They make it much easier and accurate to cut fine difficult fabrics like chiffons, organzas and silks. Those little serrated edges, which you can't see here grab the fabric better and prevent it from slipping away while cutting. Get these when you get to the point of sewing a lot of silks and sheer fabrics. They are nice. 

Pelican Billed Scissors:  These are also called applique scissors. These are used to cut things that really need extra care. For example, you have done a hem on a chiffon fabric that is first folded up a half inch. Then the folded edge is zigzagged or roll edged in the serger. You now have to cut off that excess piece of chiffon right up to the zigzagged hem without cutting the skirt. These scissors will lift the chiffon and make for safer cutting. These are also great for cutting right up to the edge of machine applique and getting rid of those pokies.  The straight leg of the scissor is VERY SHARP AND POINTED. Don't use these to cut threads on the machine. Cutting threads repeatedly in the same spot will dull them over time and they won't work as well. This I personally know. Heirloom sewists use these a lot in their delicate work. These are a bit pricey but watch those coupons and deals from the chains and places like Nancy's Notions. 

There are also scissors out there that are more ergonomic and if you are dealing with something like carpal tunnel syndrome, that may be your way to go. They come under names like the Softouch  or Comfort Grip . They often don't look like traditional scissors but if they work for you and let you cut without  pain, who cares? 

Rotary cutters:  Frankly, as a brand new garment sewist, I would hold off on the rotary cutter until you have mastered cutting accurate even lines with your scissors when cutting out your patterns. Remember to trim the pattern first before pining it to the fabric and cutting it out. But if you do have some experience under your belt and are ready to handle what can be an extremely dangerous implement, go for it. 

Rotary cutters are more expensive. First you need the cutter. I like the smaller size for small curve cutting and the 45 mil size for the rest of my cutting. But you can do it all with the 45 mil cutter with practice. To use the cutter, you need the mat and if you are cutting out garments, you need a BIG mat which will go on a big cutting table.  I have used Olfa's, Fiskars, and whatever this plastic thing is that you can pick up at Joanns on sale now and then. I don't know if I bear down too hard. I  use only nice sharp blades. But I do a number on cutting mats and you can't imagine how many I have purchased over the years. Right now I am happy with the white plastic type mat from the chains, my second one of it's kind! 

Third, you need the rulers. As a newbie, do you need all of these shown above? Not really. Some are leftovers from my long forgotten quilting days. You do need a good straight edge and I love the large  5x24 Olfa ruler that has a lip to sit on the edge of the cutting mat. It really helps keep things lined up while cutting. As you get a little more discerning with your rotary cutter, I would add a Hip curve  and a Crotch curve if you can find them. I got mine at a fitting seminar I attended some thirty years ago and I would be lost without them. The crotch curve ruler just nestles perfectly into the curves of , well, crotches, armholes and necklines. A French curve will do similar. The hip curve is used for those longer, smoother curves you find on pants or skirts.  I use my triangle ruler a lot too. It is great for establishing lengthen/shorten lines at right angles to the grainline. Do you see how the cost of this rotary business is adding up? Just be forewarned about the expense.  It is fine to use scissors and never touch a rotary cutter and be an excellent sewist. Whatever works for you. What works for me is the rotary cutter at this point in time as I like it's speed and accuracy. 

Also know that a rotary cutter is a dangerous instrument. I cut off a good hunk of my finger tip and across my nail one time. Never felt a thing. That blade just zipped right through it all and the next thing you know the blood was spouting everywhere. I almost went to the ER, but managed to stick it back together. I have heard some really bad horror stories. I don't think I would use an RC if there were little ones in the house, just too dangerous IMO. I have learned that every single time you run the blade of the cutter down the fabric, you finish that run by immediately closing the blade. Realign things and open the blade again only right before you start cutting. At first it will feel odd and you  are opening and closing the blade constantly, but you shouldn't lose a finger. NEVER, EVER leave an opened blade on the table or anywhere, EVEN IF YOU ARE ALONE. Get into the habit of constantly closing that blade the second the cutting stops. If you are  at a class and see someone else leave a blade open, read them the riot act. Tell them I said so if you have to. Rotary cutters are not to be messed with in any way. can sew as well as you want without one. 

A final update, 3/23/19, on scissors and about their sharpening. It has gotten harder and harder to find a good scissor sharpener. Gingher offers sharpening, for their products only, by their in house experts for a reasonable price and you can find out more about that here. I never could find a good scissor sharpener in the 13 years I lived in New York. Since moving back to New Hampshire, a new friend who hunts a lot hooked me up with the local gun and hunt shop. Hunters NEED SHARP KNIVES. These people are hooked up with excellent scissor and knife sharpeners. I now bring my scissors to the local gun shop and he sends them to his sharpener. I have them back within a week and they are the best sharpening job I have ever had on these precious tools. My pinkers never cut that good when new and if you can sharpen pinkers, you are good! So if you need scissors sharpened, look up your local hunting resource and give them a call. They were very very reasonably priced as well. Do I like going into gun shops? No, but I'll do it for my pinkers!

More notions:

Within the blue outline here you can see a rod holding all sorts of goodies. What do you, as a new sewist,  need of these? The three rolls to the left are wigan. You definitely won't use that until you get into serious tailoring of jackets, coats, etc. But next in line, black and white, are fusible tricot tapes. I use these a lot for knit sewing. They help stabilize the hems on knit garments and give a really nice look to the finished hem. You can find them online but if you go to the chain store and in the quilting department you will find "fusible batting tape". It is the same thing and often on sale. I like keeping this on hand and stock up when on sale. This adds a nice finish to the hems of  simple knit garments that many newbies enjoy sewing. So I would have this in the cupboard. That skinny roll with the red bull clip is "Wonder Tape". I would be lost without it and as a newbie it will help you immensely. It is a double sided tape that will wash out. It is great for holding zippers, buttons, trims, hems, all in place as you sew. It's a definite must have. If you've been sewing in your zippers with pins you will see a major improvement by using Wondertape. After that are rolls of real grosgrain ribbon. The real stuff is used in couture techniques so you hold off on that until your sewing heads in that direction. 

It's nice to have a drawer, but it could be a simple cutlery tray, next to the sewing machine. I am right handed so the drawer is on my right. I keep my most used sewing notions in there and they are always at the ready. No need to waste time looking for things. Set yourself up with this configuration and it will add to your efficiency sewing. It also decreases that frustration when you have to go hunting for something. 

Guard your tools. They are precious, not for play or  cutting chicken bones. They are an investment. They allow you to work more professionally. And above all, they are yours and no one else's.

I am happy to say that Claudine of Rolling in Cloth will be a guest blogger  on our series within the next couple of weeks. Claudine is a spectacular ( no exaggeration) knitter, sewist, fabric dyer and all around sewing goddess. She is also very good at making sewing videos and has a really well done video as part of her contribution to NLS.  I know you will agree with me on this. 

When I started this series, Claudine immediately contacted me to do a guest post which hadn't been solicited. Seems she is passionate about passing along this art and feels very strongly that newer sewists should have the best information possible. With that in mind, she has put in a lot of work to provide you with a quality post and video. Stay tuned as I know you will enjoy it. If anyone else cares to do this at any time, just let me know. We are all motivated by just passing along these skills to all of our newbie and returning sewing sisters and seeing the craft continue.  Thank you,Claudine.

Just a reminder here, I don't know everything. But, I am all about passing on what I do know. I am totally aware there are many ways and opinions about sewing techniques. I welcome your input on your methods so feel free to comment about them in the comment section of the posts. So many generous commenters have added so much to our skills and understanding of each topic. I thank you all and hope you will continue to share your experiences and skills. Thanks so much......Bunny

Sunday, November 16, 2014

More play!

Today I played with stitches. On this jacket I will have no interfacing, facings or linings. But I do feel I need something to add some stability to the edges. This is felted wool, which when felted enough, should not unravel. This allows an edge to be raw but not look raw. I use a rotary cutter to trim the edges to a nice sharp finish.  I tried a variety of stitches down a strip of felted wool along the garment's edge. Some were down the middle and some sat on the edge. I will keep you in suspense, at least for the moment, on my final decision.

I was also concerned about how I would handle the darts circulating the shoulders and played with that for a bit as well.  What you see above is not my final decision but just one of several samples. I have come to a final decision for the seams and edge treatments and am close on the additional embellishment. This has really been fun so I hope it all works out in the end. Fingers crossed here!............Bunny

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Some Surface Embellishment, maybe....

Have you ever been on an Artist's Studio Tour? I have been on a few and went on one today that was really wonderful. The tours invite you (free)  into the studios of professional artists where you can discuss their work, see them working, and of course, buy their efforts. It is very inspirational and great fun. There is something about craft fairs that leaves me lukewarm the past few years. There always seems to be a sea of quilting cotton placemats for sale on myriad tables. And of course, what craft fair would be genuine without those Christmas elf crocheted toilet paper covers? Bless these people for working so hard at their craft but that type of thing just doesn't do it for me. Sometimes there are gems lurking at these craft fairs  but when they realize how talented and marketable they are, those artists jump on the studio tour bandwagon. I've never been disappointed on one of these tours as all the artists are truly professional and so talented.

Today I saw dyers, beaders, glass fusers, a young man who cut big blocks of linoleum into fabulous designs,  a couple of wonderful photographers, painters, print makers and more. It was truly inspirational.  Suddenly my purple wool jacket seemed a bit blah.

I think I have the fit worked out now with the FBA added and a swayback adjustment. I am also going to make the darts at the neck shorter which should give me more ruffle around the neck and not accentuate my sloping shoulders as much. I will also wear shoulder pads. Muslin #3 got darts and no darts. The no waist dart version hung much better on me as it did on the three other versions I have seen. I haven't seen anyone make it with the darts yet. I did add a bust dart in front as well but no waist darts will be found.

Another reason to catch one of these studio tours, if you can, is the refreshing jolt of creativity it gives you. My brain is totally refreshed and energized with ideas. Truthfully, the past couple of weeks I have been looking at my purple/blue wool and just thinking it is a sea of darkness. I've been toying with several ideas for adding surface embellishment to the jacket and today came home and played with my paints. What originally sparked me to think about painting or doing something to the fabric was this picture below of Sandra Betzina's jacket. She took out the darts and sleeve ruffles and  had this incredible fabric  that really enhanced the design. I've also noticed that all of the great versions I have seen of this jacket were prints. Who am I to argue with success?

I have this twig stencil and pulled out various types of paints to see what I would get. The one above is actually silver oil paint dry brushed on to the wool. I love painting fabrics with oil paints. I love oil paints and that smell of linseed can envelope me any time. For some reason the painting looks really clunky in the photos but it is really a finer design in real life. The one with the silver paint looks very natural, lets the wool not look painted and Hubs loved it. 

On this one I used Lumiere metallic turquoise textile paint. It was a bit clunky and I think would give a better print if I had mixed it up a bit better. I love these colors together. And last and least...........

This is white Jacquard textile paint. I mixed it with fabric medium and it really was too runny but that is why we experiment and do samples.

Which one will I pick? Not sure because I am also considering some non paint options for embellishment, maybe some fancy threads to serge the edges with or some couching. I'm still letting ideas flow and playing. I want this to be everyday wearable but not a sea of midnight. I will keep you  posted. The jacket is all cut out............Bunny

Monday, November 10, 2014

NLS #6, Mark my words!

Markers can spike a pretty controversial discussion. Seems every kind of marker, at some time, has ruined the best intentions of even the most able sewist. There are stories of marks reappearing like the Walking Dead. Some horror stories relate many many different ways to remove some despicable marker from some very expensive fabric.  Everyone has a technique. Brides with purple marks on their bustles, babies with marks appearing two hours before an heirloom portrait is to be taken, silk charmeuse marked with tailors chalk and wax permanently ironed into the silk, oyyyyy, I could go on and on but I am sure you have heard many of these near urban legends already.

Markers and marking are nothing to be afraid of. Above are all the markers I use, There is no perfect marker and the best you can do is use the proper marker for the appropriate fabric and task. Above,  you see in my marking stash wax tracing paper, Frixion pens, Chaconer marking tools, tailor's chalk, #2 "fine" mechanical pencils, Crayola washable markers, serrated and non serrated wheels to use with the wax marking paper and assorted water erasable and air erasable markers. Let's go through them one by one.

Frixion Pens:   
I love these and use them quite frequently. Frixion pens look and work like any pen. But heat will erase them. You mark, you sew, you iron it, the mark is gone. They make a fine line which is so important at times and often hard to come by with markers. One thing with all markers, ask yourself, "am I going to be sewing right over this mark?" If so, don't fret the erasing part too much. If you are tracing a pattern to embroider with  a marker and it will all be covered with your stitches, what's to worry?  Button going on top of the mark? No matter.
Back to the Frixion Pens, they are heat sensitive but they are also cold sensitive, pretty magical, So that tiny little spot that you ironed away into oblivion is really hiding in the fibers. Bring that fabric out into cold weather and the spot will come right back. However if you wash the piece after construction and with a bit of simple soaking remove the ink from the garment, it is gone and won't come back in the cold.  If you need a fine line, these are great. I use them all the time, no issues. Disadvantages: sometimes they dry out before you are ready to call them empty. I get mine at Staples but they are at any office supply place as well as notions purveyors online. They come in packs which are a better deal.

Waxed tracing paper and wheels:
This is great for marking darts, or long lines needing accuracy. There is waxed and unwaxed tracing paper. The unwaxed paper is powdery and when you lay it against your fabric the color will brush off on to the fabric. Only hitch is it is a bitch to remove. The more you rub and try to clean it off, the more it embeds. The non waxed paper is awful stuff and what is available at the chains. When you see it, keep walking. The waxed tracing paper I really like.
Let's imagine you have just cut out a sleeve. You have two sleeves right sides facing and on top is placed your pattern for the sleeve. Now it's time to mark. You slide one sheet of the paper colored, wax side up under the bottom sleeve in the stack. The color is facing the wrong side of the bottom piece. Now slide back the pattern piece and place another piece of tracing paper colored side down against the wrong side of the top sleeve in the stack. Put your pattern piece back in place. Take a serrated wheel and run it along the dart lines or wherever you have lines to be marked. It does a good fine line with usually just one pass. . Disadvantages? The wax marks will melt into the fabric once ironed, sometimes not a good thing. Other times they disappear beautifully.  Do a sample on a scrap before using. The serrated wheel can perforate your dart lines and tear the pattern piece. The wheel can also be tough on delicate thin fabrics like silk organdies and charmeuses. These papers and wheels are best used on solid medium weight fabrics like cottons, woolens, no silks. They are quick and easy to use and clear to see when sewing, giving a really sharp line. Where to get? I've been told that "Singer" tracing paper at the chains is waxed but I don't personally know that. Big sheets are available from Richard the Thread.

Wax Tailor's Chalk:
This is traditionally used in tailoring and great for marking wools. In my hand is a "sharpener". You run the edge of the tailor's chalk through that little metal piece and it will sharpen the edge, important if you need a fine line. This little sharpener holds a  piece of chalk and has a brush on the other side to brush the chalk away if desired. You can also iron the wax chalk away on woolens, Disadvantage: On silks the wax is absorbed into the silk and when ironed spreads and looks like a really nasty grease stain that will not come out. Once again, samples should be made, ironed and judged before using on your fabric. I like the way tailor's chalk feels in my hand when I sew. If nothing else, you look pretty professional when using it.

Fine point #2 mechanical pencils:

Don't swoon, but this is one of my favorite markers but it does require a bit of prep. You cannot beat a fine point mechanical pencil for a really really fine line. This is what I use, believe it or not, on most of the marking on heirloom garments. It is wonderful for marking fine linens,organdies, and voiles. How do you get it out? That's where the trick comes in. I starch the fabric well before marking. I do a light spray, iron, and repeat at least two more times. You are building up the starch layers which will make a barrier between the graphite and the fabric. These pencils also allow you to make a very visible fine line with the absolute slightest touch. Once your starch is dry, mark your linen with the slightest of touches. When the garment is complete the pencil should wash out nicely but again, the area may just be covered with a button or embroidery and no need to worry. I have marked many an heirloom garment with these pencils, my personal first choice. I know others don't agree with me on this and that is fine. Personally, I have never had an issue.

Chaconer or Chaco Liner:

These are chalk filled little containers that have a teensy serrated wheel on the end. You roll the Chaconer along and the wheel dispenses the dust and makes a really sharp line. I like these a lot. The line is clear and sharp. Disadvantage:  I don't use these on delicate fabrics because of the serrated wheel but on anything else they are quite good.  Advantage: they seem to last forever and do a great job. You can get refills for the red type, called a Chaco Liner. You can find these in the quilting department at the chains.

Other pencil type markers:

These are two pencils I like a bit. The blue washout pencil lasts a long time compared to the fine line marker type , although I am always a bit leery of washout pencils. And it's nice to have the tailor's chalk in a pencil form if that's what you are most comfortable with. Disadvantage: sometimes the leads fall out. Advantage: You don't replace them as often. 

Crayola washable markers:

It was an "aha" moment discovering these. I love these and use them quite a bit. They are great for when you want to mark squares, circles, triangles, etc. Make yourself a little "legend" on paper of the marks and their corresponding color used. It can really help when doing more complicated designs where matching is critical. And if you know any three year old who uses these you know they really are washable. Disadvantage: They won't give you a real fine line,  but often that isn't needed. As with any washout marker, do samples first that include ironing the sample. I think every sewing room should have a batch of these, and hide them from the kids!

Washout and air erasable markers:

I lumped these together because, frankly, these are the markers I use the least, unlike many sewists. The air erasable markers are only good for a limited time and if you sew in unpredictable or often interrupted fits and spurts, air erasable markers are not for you. They are temporary, sort of. There are many tales of them re appearing and the ensuing efforts to make them permanently disappear. The Mark B Gone  washout pens and others of their type disappear like the crayolas with water. Legends abound about those misfiring as well. Many claim washing them out with soap in the water actually sets them. Another urban sewing legend? The Mark B Gone does provide a really fine line which appeals to many,particularly embroiders. They are easy to "draw" with compared to other markers and therefore great for quilting and embroidery. Disadvantage: They don't last that long and need replacement more frequently than other markers. Samples need to be done to make sure  they will not come back on your fabric after the fact.

There are many options out there for marking your fabric. DO SAMPLES. Avoid unhappy accidents by testing and ironing the marker on a sample piece of your fabric. Try to get rid of it after ironing and before ironing. When you get into a sewing frenzy and start ironing and sewing it's hard to remember there is a little purple dot on the right side of the garment. Ironing could make it permanent.

My favorites and must haves: the Chaconer, the mechanical pencils, the Crayola markers, Frixion pens and the wax tracing paper and wheel.  Experiment and see what works best for you and your project.

( I have no affiliation to any of these products or vendors. Only in my dreams do people give me markers to endorse and try out. These are just my personal and honest opinions of the products based on years of use.)

Many of these products can be found at the chains, from Richard the Thread and Nancy's Notions. I am sure there are others as well. Happy marking!......Bunny

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Vogue 1835, the muslins continue!

I did not quit. I woke up this morning deciding I would give it one more try. I cut a new muslin, in the smallest size, Then I "petited" the pattern and that was it. But I am not done. Here are pics:

There is a tiny bit of pulling at the center upper back. I will let out the sleeve/back seams a tiny bit to release that issue. Making the smallest size really made a difference. I also decided, like Shams, that the sleeves would be simple straight sleeves, no ruffles!  The ruffled sleeves are lovely but they put all that volume right at my hip level. So, no way. The center back needs a swayback adjustment but nothing like before. My jacket will also be much shorter so that will help as well. This muslin does not have any back darts. I will be making this up in a felted wool which I really think will suck up some of these issues with it's softness and thickness so I am not sure if I will bother with the back darts.

The next thing I decided on was an FBA, Full Bust Adjustment and also add a dart. I think this will make a major difference. The front now looks much better than it's first muslin as you can see below before the FBA and dart.

You can see above that the center front is not meeting as it should at the bust. So a dart, and an FBA  will take care of that. You can see the opposing grains in the front sleeve/bodice seam but I think that is one of those things some felted wool will suck right up. 

Here is the new pattern piece with it's dart and FBA on the right.

On the left is the original pattern piece I messed with and once done retraced to the bodice front on the right. I worked on this puppy all afternoon but that's OK. This morning I had a plan and it was that I promised myself I would give this ONE more day of trying and that I would follow my instincts and cut the smallest pattern, petite it, and do an FBA, what I do to every pattern I make. With that strategy, the pattern only took my usual adjustments. So all this hoo hah about Betzina's different sloper and to make sure you get the pattern by your measurements is just that, hoo hah, IMO. Now to the wool and the final tweaks with some very crossed fingers....Bunny

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Give up or shut up?

OK, what's wrong with this picture? I am not taking my own advice. I have blindly fallen in love with this design, bought the pattern and cut and sewed away on my muslin, all  ignoring the aadvice I gave a couple of Mondays ago to look VERY closely at the pattern photo. I am sure you can see the issues with the Vogue picture? Now look at my horror show.

I did put in temporary raglan shoulder pads and while I don't recall it happening, maybe the one on the right slipped? Doesn't matter anyway. This is just not working. I cut a center back seam, sewed it in a curve at the waist as well as increased it. I made the underarm/side seam a quarter inch deeper. Did a sway back adjustment which you can see in the horizontal seam below the waist. And I swear I smoothed it out and was standing straight. Hubby says it looks like I was wearing a parachute. He said he didn't have the heart to tell me how bad it looked.

The side view is not any better. How can something look like it might need an FBA (see the raised front hem and diagonals pointing at the bust?) and have all that hugeness under the armpits? I have to really think about this and I don't know whether  to spit our cry. Here are my options being considered:

* Chuck the whole project and use the Anne Klein pattern I just ordered or a wrap style high necked jacket pattern I really like. 

* Chuck this muslin and start all over following my gut. That means I cut the smallest size and "petite" it and do an FBA. The problem with this option is the shirt on the model in the Vogue photo has the same issues I do, just not so much. 

* Do some funny business with the raglan sleeve at the side seam. If I "petite" the pattern which would take out upper back and front length and then open the sleeve and side seam and see where it falls maybe that will work. I just can't get excited about that at this point. 

I just took a look at Sham's fabulous version of this top and it fits her PERFECTLY. There's not a wrinkle anywhere. She and I are probably body opposites so maybe this just isn't meant for my shape? 

I am hoping a good nights sleep will provide some answers. I'll read a few fitting books before I fall asleep and see how my unconscious has dealt with it all in the morning. Do I want to be a glutton for punishment or someone who just gives up? I hate giving up, but sometimes..............Bunny

Friday, November 7, 2014

Smitten and have bitten!

I  stumbled upon this top on the internet and have fallen in love. This jacket would be perfect for my work but obviously not out of the  metallic linen shown here. I would like that, though, as well! And as my luck would have it, it's an OOP (out of print) with a big price tag through Etsy shops. Then I found it on Amazon, did the Prime click, and it will be here by Tuesday! I am not sure about fabric yet. I may do a trial run with some linen or chambray and then on to a wool or such. I have always loved swing jackets and the cut of theses sleeves is spectacular. So more Vogue Designer fun coming! Check out the yoke lines and the curve of the sleeve hems, beautiful.

More to come!........Bunny

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The felted sweater jacket Vogue 1385

My personal Richard Avedon was not around today. That meant two things. First, I had the day to myself and second, there was no one to take my pics but me. I tried the old backward mirror trick and did not do well. but I have one photo that will give you an idea of how the muslin has worked out. It actually fit rather well  with the issues being in the back. I need to do a swayback adjustment and cut a smaller size for the back  as you can well see in this awful photo taken in my basement with the only full length mirror I own. Please tell me everyone's basement looks like this. 

The front of the jacket fit not too badly . The dress form is my clone. My previous issues with Betzina patterns is in the sleeve shoulder neck area. If I cut the smallest size of her's like I cut everyone else's smallest size and then adjust, well, her patterns are so tight in that area that they are completely unwearable. This size C proves that out as the upper chest area fits quite good on myself. I don't get why. I am very narrow shouldered and this  is her equivalent of a size fourteen, something I have never even come close to in patterns. I have to adjust down those size sixes I get from other pattern companies/designers for my narrow shoulders. This one fit really smoothly in that area (eye roll). But below the black line it is large. The bust is at the apex but the width is too much. So, I will cut the size C in the neck shoulder regions, cut a smaller size for the torso, and I am also going to cut this much shorter, about 8 inches. It looks much better as a short jacket with my proportions. 

Now that the muslin is together I am firming up my other additions to the design. I think I am going to overstitch all the darts with a strip of the felted wool and a triple zigzag stitch to secure it down, all on the outside. The red lines show what I am thinking. Those are all darts. With the fabric being all one color, and no closure, the design really needs some further textural embellishiment and I think this is it. Creating your own look is an ever evolving process and this "strip dart" thing is today's brilliant idea. Tomorrow may be a whole different story. Do you work like that, creating as you go along? I always have a vision but remain totally open to change and my design ideas are ever evolving until a garment is completely finished. 

Isn't this ruffled neckline fabulous? I am also thinking of adding a center back seam to help with the swayback issues and doing the darted strip on the back as well. 

You can really see how large the torso and sleeves are in this pic. I do like those darted sleeve cuffs a lot. I am going to remove a tiny bit of ease from the sleeves but will keep the ruffle for the cuff and I plan on making them a bit shorter, more 3/4 length. 

So that is where we are in the fitting and design process for this garment. 


And what on earth is this mess above?  Some years back I picked up the perfect light for my sewing room. It was a floor lamp, had three lamps that were adjustable, and was marked "FREE" on someone's curbside. I grabbed it, brought it home, and its been in my sewing room ever since, lighting up my cutting table and photos on demand. 

Today I moved it aside to get a better picture of the garment on my dressform,  No problem. Once done with pictures, I went to move it back and the lamp moved but this busted hunk of concrete stayed behind, making it now unusable. An unplanned trip to town, twenty bucks at KMart, and I am back in business with the same type lamp I just lost. I looked at the OTT lites at Joanns but found they just weren't bright enough compared to these three lamps on a pole with full spectrum bulbs. I am back in business!!!.............Bunny

Who owned this pattern?

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