Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Time To Start

At the end of February, while attending Sew Expo, I introduced myself to Gwen Spencer who will be the guest teacher at the Design Outside The Lines workshop in June. As we talked, I patted the bolt of striped linen in the image below. It was yummy. Gwen thought so too and we both bought three yards agreeing to make something to bring to the retreat as a challenge.

Challenges can be really stretching and... well... challenging. They can be exactly what you need as long as you're careful not to make them into exactly what you don't need.

The fabrics are linen. They cost far more than I normally pay which makes it too easy to start holding precious. When you hold precious, you avoid cutting the fabric for fear of making something less than the amazing images dancing in your head - for fear of wrecking it. What we've paid for a fabric or how much we love it can really get in the way of actually using it.

AND... while this is a creative challenge and a wonderful opportunity for me to express myself using a particular fabric, Gwen is an extremely talented individual. It would be way too easy - and definitely not a good thing - to let comparisons creep in and to start building up her talents and minimizing mine to the point of becoming paralyzed by indecision.

When I found myself dithering over ideas and heading in negative directions, I decided it was time to start. Because the fabric is so expensive, I wanted to make a garment that would last more than one or two seasons and...

... since virtually every spring I say something along the lines of needing a spring coat and every fall I repeat myself and...

... since making a coat is the idea that's been tickling the loudest, I'm making a coat. And then...

... because I was starting to both hold precious and run out of time, I decided to make another version of the coat I sewed last year only much shorter with a different collar, neckline, and front opening shape - something sort of the same but different. Using this coat pattern eliminated any fear of the garment not fitting. I've sewn it already. It's in my closet. I know how it fits me right now.

It is a compilation of three different patterns. The flared shape is a familiar one. The sleeves fit and hang well. I've drafted some new lines especially at the front and have a general idea of what I want to accomplish but nothing too specific yet. I'll play from there.

At first, I intended to quilt the striped linen to diaper flannel only that bothered me because I knew there'd be a lot of waste around the pattern pieces - expensive waste.. A few weeks ago, I found a very drapey, denim colored fabric in the bargain center for $2.00 a meter and realized I could quilt the flannel to the lining instead. The quilted lining remnants would be then be available to make a child size garment and the unquilted linen remnants would be available for another project - like the blouse idea currently dancing in my head. That works for me.

Last night, I cut a rectangle of the lining fabric for each of the pattern pieces and used 505 basting spray to adhere diaper flannel to the back and then...

... folded each pattern piece together with its lining sections in preparation for...

... some very soft and subtle quilting. I'm stitching from the flannel side because on the lining side the stitched lines are barely visible. The denim thread matches the fabric perfectly. The lines of stitching are about a half inch apart and the fabric seems to be retaining its softness. You can see why I wanted a plan for the remnants. Quilting these pieces is a lot of work although - LOL - I tend to like labour intensive work.

With the pants from yesterday, I simply needed to pin the crotch curve more square into an L versus a J shape and the wrinkles disappeared. I learned this alteration from Pati Palmer and her book Pants For Real People. It's called a high front low back oddity in her book. Most people call it scooping and while there is a lot of debate over to scoop or not, I can't pull the back of my pants up high enough to get rid of those wrinkles without some serious damage. I've tried every alteration I can find for this scenario, read the books, watched the videos, and this is the alteration that works for me. My behind is low and square.

Early tomorrow morning, I'm off to Calgary to visit my daughter and her husband and snuggle my grandson. It's his first birthday on Thursday. We're spending the day together while his parent are at work because - LOL - one should not have to go to daycare on their first birthday if Grandma is around to spoil you. I'll be back next week.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - getting started, not holding precious, a plan to maximize the linen fabric

Monday, April 14, 2014

Tremendously Better Than Ready-To-Wear

Early Wednesday morning, my oldest son and I are driving to Calgary to visit my daughter and her family and when we get back Howard and my youngest son will be home from their trip to Guatemala which means that tomorrow is my last day of sleeping in and moving slow before life returns to our regular routine.

This morning, I sewed the button on the Burda 8157 pants and took some mirror pictures. The pants turned out pretty good. There's a little tweaking I want to explore but that will always be the case since I love the challenge of figuring things out.

In Pants For Real People, author Pati Palmer notes that pants sewn from a stretch fabric will always have front wrinkles although I think these are - in part - LOL - due to the fact that I ate breakfast right before taking these pictures.

One of the reasons I like trouser style pants is the way the side seams hang. On me, the side seam of tighter pants will start downward and then move backward for my high hip, forward for my thighs, somewhat straight for my flat derriere, and then backward for my protruding calves. It's a wobbly line. In the past, I haven't paid much attention to my thighs but when I made the muslin for these, I realized that I needed to factor them in more.

I sewed the muslin from a woven fabric a size smaller and then decided the pants were too tight especially through the thigh so I went up a size and probably shouldn't have for this particular fabric with it's stretch factor. I ended up taking the side seam in all the way down to the hem which may have thrown the leg slightly off balance. If you look at the grading on a pant pattern, it is wider at the waist and hips and narrows toward the hem. These pants are not unwearable though. In fact, I really like them until...

... I look at this view. I was surprised to see those wrinkles below the butt. I need to do some further research but they may be caused by too long of a back crotch extension. I tried...

... taking a one inch tapered tuck out of the back crotch length and that did help but not enough to be the complete answer.

The Burda crotch curve definitely follows my shape with the shorter front crotch extension, longer back one, and downward drop so it's in the right general direction and simply needs fine tuning. I'm going to pin a tuck into the pants to shorten the back crotch extension and see how it changes those wrinkles. Unfortunately, I cut out my next pair of pants last night before I took these pictures and that's okay. I can baste them together first depending on what I learn from the pinning and tucking and... as I said... these ones are not unwearable. In fact, they're tremendously better than ready-to-wear. YES YES ! ! !

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - a clean house, two days in the studio

Friday, April 11, 2014

A Pile Of Patterns

What we think or what we know or what we believe is, in the end, of little consequence. The only consequence is what we do. - John Ruskin

... quit waiting for perfection, inspiration, permission, reassurance, someone to change, the right person to come along, the kids to leave home, a more favorable horoscope, the new administration to take over, an absence of risk, someone to discover you, a clear set of instructions, more self-confidence, the pain to go away. Get on with it already. - The Success Principles, Jack Canfield

We tend to think of books like The Success Principles as about establishing a career or making a million dollars or achieving some other more commonly accepted form of success. I think they're about far more than that. Success is individual. It is doing well in the areas that you want to do well in. For me, an area I want to achieve huge levels of success in is creativity. When I'm crabby, I feel like I'm barely making progress but when I sit back and look at all that I've achieved in the last few years especially, it's more valid that I'm making progress and that's something to celebrate.

This week, I've been making muslins. I pulled out a pile of patterns, traced the correct size, and one-by-one sewed the muslin, made notes about my observations, and then bagged the pattern, muslin, and observations up for future consideration. The muslins include three coats, a blouse, and five pairs of pants. I've come to an interesting conclusion.

Unless I am sewing a more artsy style of pant with a looser leg or unless I am making a pant with a trouser style leg, the success I want in terms of the way the garment hangs simply is not possible because I am far too curvy and not always in the right place. For instance, my derriere is flat and my calves protrude out further. There is no way to get rid of the wrinkling between the two without French seams or a horizontal seam of some kind. Horizontal seams are unusual below the butt and even a French seam would have to do a lot of curving to flow around my shape. Right now, I'm working on Burda 8157, a trouser style pant. I'm hopeful of taking this pattern forward into "real" fabric.

When there are too many curves to flow around, a form fitted garment is not nearly as flattering as showing some curves and skimming others. This is good learning. Not new. Simply a good reminder to concentrate my energy where it is most likely to succeed. I'm looking at the stack of patterns I still want to explore from that perspective. Reality is that I'm never going to be able to sew a pair of skinny or bootleg or straight leg jeans that fits me any better than RTW so I could save myself a lot of hassle and simply buy those and spend my sewing time where it is better maximized. I can see myself wearing jeans less and less often as I explore more fun and more flattering styles of pants. Or skirts.

Burda 8407 is a garment I immediately recognize as flattering to my figure and at the same time it offers opportunities to explore creativity in the way that I want to explore creativity. It seems to me that a component of success is to know the direction that you want to go in and to take action to actually go in that direction. In other words, to stop being all talk and no action. That's a lecture I have to give myself frequently. I can get bogged down in other interests and forget to push forward in this area. I've come up with five different scenarios for exploring this particular skirt pattern just from looking at the line drawing. These are good exercises in thinking creatively and now I need to take action to sew them out.

Planning has its place, but it must be kept in perspective. Some people spend their whole lives waiting for the perfect time to do something. There's rarely a "perfect" time to do anything. What is important is to just get started. Get into the game. Get on the playing field. Once you do, you will start to get feedback that will help you make the corrections you need to make to be successful. Once you are in action, you will start learning at a much more rapid rate. The Success Principles, Jack Canfield

My daughter once commented that for a person who sews as much as I do, I don't have a lot of clothing. This is true - partly because of my shifting size but mostly because I tend to enjoy following theories. I actually like figuring out the fitting skills needed to get a flat piece of fabric to fit around my curvy figure. It's a challenge. I can spend a lot of time making muslins to test theories and not nearly enough time sewing actual garments. After I finish the Burda pants muslin, I'll make one more of out of print McCalls 5592 because...

... this pattern has been the most successful jean style I've ever sewn. I spent a lot of time achieving the fit in the image above and then - of course - gained weight but that doesn't mean I can't get back there again. I think those jeans look pretty good.

Of all the muslins I've made so far, I'm not ready to take any of the pants forward but I liked all three of the jackets. The blouse has dolman sleeves and is loose through the shoulders and tight through the torso. With my previous dolman sleeve experience, you might wonder why I bothered only I've tried this garment on before and it was quite flattering. It's one of Diane's patterns and was available to try on at the Design Outside The Lines workshop. Her version was made from a very drapey fabric and had godets added to the princess seams so it was a lot curvier than my muslin is. To take the pattern forward, I'd need to do something similar and I may at some point down the road but what I really want to do right now is to work a little less on the fit aspect of sewing and a lot more on the creativity aspect. To accomplish that goal, I'm leaning toward patterns I recognize as flattering to me and my core group of T & T patterns.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - applied learning

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Grey Sweaters & Purple PJ Pants

On the weekend, through my sty induced haze, I managed to finish the grey baby garter ridge sweater. In fact...

... I made two of them. I realized fairly quickly that there was more than enough yarn to knit a second sweater for baby's older brother.

The pattern is simple, a combination of stockinette and garter stitch with the main body knit in one section and the sleeves sewn in. Several variations on the theme are dancing in my head ready to experiment with.

Here the two are side by side while blocking the underarm and shoulder seams. The boys are two years apart and - LOL - so are the sweaters. They should fit around Christmas time.

Perhaps it was the eye driving me crazy but I started and discarded two pairs of pj pants in the prissy pink floral and the lime satin before finally sewing the purple with black knit. That particular fabric has a gorgeous feel and was quite expensive only...

... when you turn and top stitch the seams, the white of the back shows through. That's so annoying. Luckily, I bought this piece on sale 70% off. It's perfect for pajamas. Knit pajama pants have become my favourite. A lot less ease is required and they bend and move when I do and this particular pair has lovely drape. Go figure - flattering pajamas - VBG.

I made another pair in a pink slinky type knit that I bought for $2.00 a meter in the bargain center. There was just enough for the pajamas and - again - they hang beautifully and are really comfortable to wear.

The toddler size mannequin arrived last week. It's not all that I'd hoped it would be in terms of a design tool because the shoulders are undefined and the neck is ultra straight as opposed to set forward on the body. Together, those two aspects distort the way the garment hangs in terms of fitting however as a way to exhibit the pieces it works quite fine.

The dust bunnies upstairs are calling out, jumping up and down, desperately attempting to get my attention and doing a fabulous job of standing out against the floor only I am going to ignore them and spend the morning in the studio and then head half an hour out of town to my friend's house for lunch and the afternoon and then - when I get back - go for dinner with my oldest son. I'm looking forward to a lovely day.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - two new pairs of pajama pants for my trip to Oregon. I shan't look shabby even at night - VBG.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Renovation Is Finished

For these two weeks that I'm home alone, I plan to ignore the regular routine, leave the alarm clock off, and sleep in if I can. My body certainly has its own internal alarm.

This morning, I slept all the way to 6:45 and - LOL - since that's over an hour past my usual wake-up time, I skipped running and blogging and went straight to journal writing because the carpet cleaners were coming.

They were the last tradesmen and other than a few touch-ups and painting the doors and trim - which frankly sounds like a lot of work - the renovation is finished. The bottom stairwell is open and bright and the washroom is updated and now enters off the hallway instead of the downstairs bedroom. It's MUCH more practical.

Best of all, I don't feel like I'm going down into the dungeon now and when I look out the studio entry, the view is open, more inviting, WAY better. The renovations took forever but the results are what I wanted and this is good. And now that all the workmen are out of my house, it's time for some serious studio play. YES YES ! ! !

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - a finished and successful renovation