Thursday, February 28, 2013

Over-Dressed: My Thoughts

With so many reviews already, it was impossible to start reading Over-Dressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion with a completely open mind since I already had an impression of what the author had to say. Instead, I approached it with a question - am I part of the problem and if I am, how can I be part of the solution?

I owned sixty-one tops, sixty T-shirts, thirty-four tank tops, twenty-one skirts, twenty-four dresses, twenty pairs of shoes, twenty sweaters, eighteen belts, fifteen cardigans and hooded sweatshirts, fourteen pairs of shorts, fourteen jackets, thirteen pairs of jeans, twelve bras, eleven pairs of tights, five blazers, four long-sleeved shirts, three pairs of workout pants, two pairs of dress pants, two pairs of pajama pants, and one vest. Socks and underwear notwithstanding, I owned 354 items of clothing. Americans buy an average of sixty-four items of clothing a year, a little more than one piece of clothing per week.

Being a minimalist who rarely shops and someone who owns a limited wardrobe predominately sewn by myself, I didn't expect the book to have such an impact especially when I couldn't relate to the quote above. What I came to see is that the problem is not limited to fashion alone, it is in every area of consumerism, and we are all part of the problem and must all be part of the solution.

An abrupt reversal won't work. There's too much involved. To radically stop shopping in North America would throw many lives in other countries into deeper poverty whereas thoughtful and carefully orchestrated changes in our shopping patterns could actually raise their standard of living and improve their working conditions. For me, that means more thoughtful purchasing and better financial management to faciliate that goal.

While I dislike clutter and accumulation, the one room in my home that has the most stuff is my studio. I began to apply what I was reading to what happens there. While I might not be purchasing disposable t-shirts in every color, every season, I have been trained through the BMV club sales to not pay more than $3.99 for Vogue patterns and less for other brands. Because they are so "cheap", I have an ever growing collection of patterns many of which I have never sewn and will never sew. To stop buying patterns is not the answer. I could however buy more thoughtfully. The same is true with fabric. You could say I have a lot of clothing; it's just flat folded.

While finding quality fabric on sale at a great price is something I will continue to do because I only have so much money and I love the challenge, even before reading the book I'd been thinking about upping the quality of my fabric and about sewing a selection of classic basics that can be mixed with more artistic pieces. I will now ignore the less than best fabric no matter the price and leave it at the store while bringing home higher quality.

My goal to learn about and to sew more creative everyday wear works with a less is more and better is better objective because creative clothing is individually styled and it's never out of style to be yourself.  I'm already a proponent of slow sewing, of not rushing and of taking time to work out fitting issues and to enjoy the process. With a focus on enjoyment combined with well chosen fabrics, quality notions, and T & T patterns, I could build a wardrobe with longevity and be part of the solution.

On, there's a page about what you can do. I rarely shop so shopping less won't make much of a difference but shopping wiser would. Now when I buy RTW, I will focus on higher quality purchases especially lingerie, jeans, shoes, and bags. Perhaps I'm not hard on my clothing - or perhaps because I've sewn my garments they are of a higher quality and rarely need mending - however, after reading the book, I will make sure that any items donated to a second hand store are in excellent condition. I didn't realize that if they weren't 100%, they were sorted out and I never thought about how few women know how to sew and would be able to repair small issues. LOL - after reading the book, I polished my shoes yesterday ready for my trip!

I really enjoy refashioning and had already planned to do more. Back in 2004, I started recycling art pieces into new items like bags. Since then, zero waste has become increasingly important. I will continue with that goal with greater enthusiasm.

Also in 2004, I set a studio goal to only use what I had in stash for a year. It stretched my thinking in new directions and influenced every area of my life. I now look at used clothing as a source of buttons and fabric and I've learned that I can dye, paint, embellish, cut up, and piece together the fabric that I already have whether it's flat folded or currently in a garment shape meaning I can shop my closet both in terms of the clothing already sewn and in terms of my fabric stash. I am going to focus even harder on using what I have first.

The biggest take-away for me was to realize that the decisions I make about the number of items I buy and the level of quality I settle for has an impact on the industry and that any impact on the industry has an impact both on the environment and on lives in other countries. To shift how things are done, I need to shift how I do things by placing more emphasis on quality in my clothing and accessories, fabrics and notions, and by further developing a less is more attitude. I'm thankful that I've never had a throw-away mentality.

I'm really looking forward to your impression of the book. Remember that I'm wireless in Seattle and can't reply until Sunday.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - change is possible; change is desirable

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

THANK YOU Ruth ! ! ! ! !

Last night, I went through my closet and tried on some skirts and pants that I'd been avoiding because they were too tight and I'm happy to report that they fit again including a smaller pair of jeans. Since mid January, I've lost 7.2 pounds and gained muscle from running. I'm still enjoying it which I find strange but wonderful. 

Did you read the articles that ParisGrrl linked to on fitting RTW jeans? They were interesting and well done with really useful illustrations. One big take-away for me was that all the women had wrinkles of some kind under the butt. Apparently - and confirmed by Debbie's comment yesterday - it's normal and necessary and something for me to get over. With that in mind, a pair of well fitted, high quality, RTW jeans could do the job and I could focus on sewing other garments. It's not that I can't sew jeans. I can. But - if I can find ones that fit and flatter - my time might be better invested elsewhere like with...

... fun blouses. A search for blouses turned up a lot of knit tops, a finding that corresponded with the lack of women wearing blouses this past weekend. I wanted to check collar widths and design details and liked the look of this blouse from

A friend and I are leaving early tomorrow morning to go to SewExpo in Puyallup, Washington, USA. I'm looking forward to Marcy Tilton's and Katherine Tilton's talk and - if we have time - to some snoop shopping but only after fabric shopping. Marcy wrote in her last newsletter that they are bringing LOTS of fabric and she has incredibly yummy fabric. Some might be coming home with me.

Ruth wrote - If I were you, the first adjustment I would make would be a sloping shoulder adjustment. Then make the others. It's a lot less fiddly than the narrow back adjustment and would solve that excess fabric problem immediately.

In the eighties, I wore shoulder pads but then "everyone" wore shoulder pads in the eighties. They were in style. While I've always known my shoulders are narrow, I've never once thought of myself as having sloping shoulders possibly because my entire shoulder is never visible since I've had long hair worn down most of my life. When Ruth wrote to try the sloping shoulder adjustment first my immediate reaction was I tried that as part of the narrow back adjustment but then I thought about what she really said. She had suggested to make the shoulder adjustment FIRST and then the others. I hadn't tried that and I know that which adjustments you make in which order makes a tremendous difference so... I tried it... with pins.

Above is the blue muslin made with a narrow shoulder adjustment merged into the existing armhole. Below is the same muslin with a 1/2" tuck pinned at the shoulder tapered to the neck. What a tremendous difference AND the bonus of making these two alterations this way is that I can cut out the front and back pieces as drafted but not the sleeve piece and then sew the front and back sections together before fitting the angle of the shoulder seam. Once that's determined, I can adjust the pattern's sleeve cap to accommodate, cut out the sleeves, and continue sewing. The before cutting adjustments would be minimal and simple - mainly width and length.

THANK YOU Ruth ! ! ! This is SO SO SO easy compared to all the pattern altering gyrations I've been doing for the past several years. If you lived anywhere near me, you'd get a great big HUG and I'd be treating you to lunch with wine and dessert and a happy celebration for all the time and effort and energy and frustration you have saved me and the increased joy of sewing you have gifted me with. You have no idea - or maybe you do - how incredibly thankful I am to have a solution that could work this easily. I still need to test it with a "real" garment, no pins, but it looks like it will work. I am beyond thrilled especially because - if true - and I believe it is - doing this alteration this way will make every garment in my future so much more doable. I am tap dancing happy.

Today I have a list of things to do plus packing and I really want to test the sloping shoulder theory which means sewing beats cleaning. If I have time, I have two postings in mind to write for Thursday and Friday and will schedule them to auto post. If you see them, I had time. If not, I didn't. I won't be able to respond to any comments until Sunday. I'm travelling wireless - a hard copy book, a journal, my knitting, no computer.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - Ruth and sloping shoulder adjustments

Monday, February 25, 2013

Echoes Of Alterations Past

In Sandra Betzina's book Fast Fit is a section called Sequence For Pattern Alterations. It's intriguing to me how vastly different the results can be depending on in which order and by which method an alteration is made.

The measurements in the muslin above are the same as those used in the one below. Above, I made a narrow back adjustment from shoulder to waist and below I made a narrow shoulder adjustment using Sandra Betzina's template method. This raised the underarm point and shortened the armhole by 1/2" which is the same amount as the tuck above. The tuck at the waist is removed in the muslin below.

Once again, I love the way this muslin fits EXCEPT for the excess behind the armhole.

The pivot point is crucial when making adjustments. The green line is the original angle of the front armhole. The pink line illustrates the same angle pivoted from the middle. It came all the way out to the end shown and would have widened the front. When I saw that I realized I must have done something wrong and re-read the instructions. The black line is the same angle pivoted from the new shoulder point as instructed.

badmomgoodmom suggested comparing the draft to the armhole on a Burda pattern. In the illustration above, the bit of green at the armhole is the original seamline. The pink line is a guesstimate of how much further in I think the seamline should be. The cut edge of the paper is the seamline used for the blue muslin above. The pattern is Burda 2964. If I narrowed the shoulder width on the Burda pattern, the lines would be virtually the same. Where I need less fabric is directly behind the armhole at the underarm but with more ease than above. 

When I thought about it, I realized what was needed was a version of the narrow chest adjustment adapted to the back. For that adjustment, you cut across from the underarm, fold out the required amount, and then add the same amount to the front seam of the sleeve. This prevents the sleeve from twisting. I needed the entire armhole to move over at the back without removing all the ease and making the garment too tight at the underarm.

I picked this fabric to differentiate from the blue and didn't realize it would be so difficult to see. Hopefully you can. In the back, I made the same 1/2" narrow back adjustment from shoulder to waist as sewn with the green muslin above and then added 3/4" to the side seam at the underarm merging it to the hip and 3/4" to the back seam of the sleeve to prevent twisting and raised the underarm point by 1/2" to match with...

... the underarm point on the front which was altered using a 3/4" narrow shoulder adjustment with the template method. The bust point was not altered for this muslin because I wanted to keep the comparison consistent without adding a new detail. I'll change it for the final draft.

Adding 3/4" to the back seam of the sleeve allowed it to have sufficient width to wrap around the arm without stretching and pulling. My arms hang forward which always impacts how the sleeve hangs. If it's a short sleeve that ends above the elbow, it'll hang straight but if it's a 3/4 or long sleeve, it'll have a wrinkle from the forearm to shoulder. Sleeves with elbow darts eliminate that problem.

Marcy made a comment this past summer about a skirt and top that I was wearing noting that the back fit wonderfully and that the back always tells the story. I couldn't agree more. It upsets me when the front fits really well but the back is a mess of wrinkles. I take a lot of teasing about the degree to which I persist to resolve issues but it's important to me and what's the point of sewing your own clothes if you can't make them better than ready to wear.

In the past two days, I've sewn about ten muslins of this pattern each one with a different choice of alterations and have achieved a fit that I think is much improved on the starting point. This black and white muslin is very comfortable. It skims the body without clinging, there are no pulling points of tension, and I can easily move my arm forward and up. In the process, I've eliminated three alterations that are no longer necessary and streamlined the shoulder process. Success ! ! ! And now that I'm happy with how it fits, I can play with this pattern for a while and see what happens and then transfer the learning to another pattern.

Last fall, I figured out a T & T t-shirt pattern that works. Now with this blouse pattern, I have a wider range of top options and the information can be transferred to jackets and dress bodices. Skirts have never been  difficult to sew which could be why I love them. Pants are another issue entirely. Granted, I've lost some weight and inches but this is what the back of my jeans look like. Horrible. Howard says no one notices. I don't believe him. I notice and I hate this look. It's why I have always preferred the way a trouser cut falls from the hips. Far. More. Flattering.

In the workshop I took with Sandra Betzina a few years ago, she told me that I'd have to sew jeans with a center back seam or learn to live with the wrinkles. They are starting to really Really REALLY bother me - so much that I typically wear a skirt when I go out in public. I'm just about ready to start playing with Sandra's out of print Vogue 2948 pattern and see what I can come up with but I'm not sure if I even should bother. I can sew trouser style jeans and they are more flattering on my figure. I just worry that they look like Mom jeans and what are Mom jeans anyway? How do I not cross that line? I'd appreciate some feedback.

6:12 AM - what a shock to get up this morning and see this had already posted. Obviously I set the wrong time last night - LOL. I've now added spaces around the images and corrected a few mistakes. The title - echoes of alterations past - refers to how the blouse alterations made sense because they contained elements of alterations I've tried before, in particular raising the armhole.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - a T & T blouse pattern

Narrower How?

It would have been nice to see more women wearing blouses when I was out on the weekend however, other than waitresses who typically aren't given many fitting choices with their uniform, all of the women I saw were wearing knits.  I'd never noticed that before. Perhaps it's because it was the weekend and not a "professional" day.

I love everything about the way the floral blouse turned out except for the excess fabric behind the back armhole. To me, it ruins the lines of the blouse. Just in case I was about to over-fit and the excess was actually necessary for mobility, I pinned two tucks, one each side, and then wore the blouse successfully for several hours with no pulling problems. I then went through Sandra Betzina's Fast Fit and Pati Palmer's Fit For Real People looking for alterations that would eliminate fabric behind the armhole and I am systematically working through the options sewing a series of muslins. I won't bore you with all of them - just some findings - since I'm still working on the solution.

The first thing to confirm was am I sewing the correct size? In this article by Nancy Zieman, she illustrates how to chose the correct size based on the upper chest measurement as opposed to the high bust measurement. My front measurement crease to crease is 14" which equates to a size 14, the size I've been sewing. YES!

When you measure across the pattern from center front or center back to the small dot in the middle of the armhole, the measurement should equal 1/2 the measurement crease to crease in the front or 1/2 the measurement crease to crease in the back. My back measurement is 14.5". As you can see, the pattern illustrated is 5/8" too wide.

Narrower is the answer. How is the question. The purple version of Butterick 5678 had a 1/2" horizontal tuck across the upper back and no shoulder adjustments. On the finished blouse, the shoulders are too wide. The floral version had a 3/4" narrow shoulder adjustment and and the same 1/2" horizontal tuck. With both, I had shortened the CF and CB length by 5/8". 

Two options to explore are a narrow shoulder adjustment which I did on the floral version and a narrow upper back and upper chest adjustment. To make a narrow shoulder adjustment, you measure along the shoulder seam, mark the new shoulder point, and then merge that new point into the existing armhole. To make a narrow back or a narrow upper chest adjustment, you create a vertical tuck that moves the entire armhole forward the necessary amount.  In Fit For Real People, Pati recommends a tuck from shoulder to hem and then notes to add back if you require additional waist or hip width. In Fast Fit, Sandra recommends a tuck from shoulder to waist and then says to blend the sides. Sandra also says that a horizontal tuck across the upper back and back sleeve are necessary however Patti does not mention this tuck. My goal was to determine which adjustments were the most effective and to eliminate any unnecessary ones.

Both books said to redraw the shoulder line as shown above. This trues the pattern but it also changes the angle of the shoulder seam. The difference was almost 3/8" at the shoulder point. Since the existing angle fit me well, this didn't make sense but... just in case... I tried it. LOL - I tried a whole bunch of things.

The purple version was my starting point. It showed that the shoulders needed to be narrower. Next, I made the floral version with a 3/4" shoulder adjustment. It fit nicely in the front but still had too much fabric behind the armhole. Pinning out the excess made it appear unnecessary. Next, I made a muslin with 1/2" narrow chest adjustment and a 1/2" narrow back adjustment through the armhole without the horizontal tuck. The back was okay but the front was much too tight through the shoulders. On that same muslin, I tested the trued shoulders seam and then stitched it back to the original shape. From these three samples, I concluded that...

...  in the back, the 1/2" vertical tuck for a narrow back adjustment extended to the waist to eliminate the unwanted fabric behind the armhole seemed to work with the side seam blended to maintain waist and hip width.  Note that I said seemed to work.
... in the front, a narrow chest adjustment is not required but a narrow shoulder adjustment is
... the original angle of the shoulder seam needs to be maintained because the trued version lifts the neckline away from the body.

With the next muslin, I wanted to sample the narrow back adjustment without the horizontal tuck and make a corresponding narrow shoulder adjustment on the front. This would show if the horizontal, upper back tuck was necessary. Because the tuck had been used successfully before, it seemed that it might be necessary but I wanted to test the theory because with the tuck the sleeve cap has to be altered and without it, there's less work. As you can see, it is pinned out here but in the dead of the night when I wasn't sleeping, I thought of another method to test that might eliminate the tuck so....

For this muslin, I did not alter the CF and CB length. The pattern is drafted with a 16 1/2" center back length and mine is 15 7/8". I wondered if the horizontal upper tuck was necessary, would that adjustment be sufficient or would both adjustments be needed? By leaving the original length and then pinning the tucks, I was able to determine that both are necessary. With this muslin, I also left off the sway back/high hip adjustment that I've made previously because it too could be pinned to evaluate. Again - although it sounds as if my goal is to confuse myself - it actually is to determine the least amount of alterations necessary. Also with this muslin, I went down a size in the hips because I felt the floral blouse had too much hip room. In hindsight, I probably should have tested with the same size.

I wish when I made the cut in the sleeve that I'd done one vertically and one horizontally to determine whether more cap height or more cap width or both were needed.

It stands to reason that if you move the shoulder point inward you need more cap height and it also stands to reason that if you require the same width of sleeve to wrap an inch further that you might require more cap width. The sleeve in the floral blouse fits well.

Here's the comparison. The pattern on top is the muslin above. The pattern underneath is the floral blouse. It has 3/4" more cap height and a 1/2" horizontal tuck through the back of the sleeve cap. I added the cap height on the floral version because that's what I've been trained to do with a narrow shoulder adjustment HOWEVER, nether Pati nor Sandra mention altering the sleeve cap for a narrow back adjustment. Since I have both drafts, I could test one of each.

This back view has the excess behind the sleeve pinned narrower and was drafted with a 1/2" horizontal upper back tuck, 5/8" less center back length, and a 1" sway back adjustment. Comparing this image to the photo of the muslin back shown earlier, I'll eliminate the sway back adjustment.

If you could see this image more clearly, you'd see some excess fabric just above and to the outside of the bust point. Did you notice the pulling on the front image of the muslin? Strangely enough, the bust point of this pattern draft is too low for my actual bust. In the past, I haven't had to adjust the bust point; it was good as drafted. I wonder if this is because of exercise ? ? ?

What do I think? Besides the one shown, I've sewn four different muslins. With each one, the shoulders are not nearly as comfortable as this floral version and the body is much tighter. With several, the sleeves have increasing issues, especially twisting. So far, the floral version looks and feels the most flattering. It could be I'm over fitting. It could be that I'm exploring the wrong alterations. It could be that a slight adjustment at the back underarm seam might resolve the matter as much as the matter can be resolved because it's more important to me to be able to move and that the sleeve hang straight than that I get rid of that excess however...

...the most successful alteration so far has been the horizontal tuck in the back with the narrow shoulder adjustment. The tuck raises the underarm point. The adjustment above from Sandra's book makes the narrow shoulder adjustment by creating a template of the armhole and tipping it forward. This method also raises the armhole - about 1/2" for a 3/4" shoulder adjustment. That's interesting information. It duplicates the results of the horizontal tuck without making one. Perhaps this narrow shoulder adjustment method, no upper back tuck, a center front/center back length adjustment, and a slight decrease in ease at the back of the armhole would be enough... and minimal... and less complicated that what I've been doing. That answer intrigues me because of an alteration I used to do so... me being me... I'm off to compare drafts and make another muslin to test this theory. 

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - my grandbaby is due in eight weeks. My daughter has lost 30 pounds so far plus whatever the baby weighs. This is very good news and may point to a reversal of the syndrome responsible for her previous weight gain, something we've prayed about because there was a 5% chance it might happen. LOL - it's very unusual to be falling out of your regular clothes when you are this pregnant. She's looking forward to shopping for new clothes after the birth.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Halo On My Hips

Sewing with a cold is an interesting adventure although much better than lying around feeling miserable and sorry for yourself. It preferable - LOL - to do it standing up or sitting at the machine. I'm less miserable. Slowly productive. It's an improvement. Right now, I have no voice. Some people think that's a good thing - VBG.

Overall, I'm quite happy with the way this Butterick 5678 blouse turned out. If you're like me, there are always some things you'd do differently next time. I think that's just normal BUT... there are also some things that worked out wonderfully. I narrowed the shoulders 3/4" and it's much more flattering. If I'd been feeling better, I'd have put the plaid on the diagonal for a softer look only I didn't have the energy to deal with matching plaids across the center front along a stretchy bias line. This worked. My son says it's cool and I can go out in public but it looks cowboy. Cowboy ? ? ?

Here's the back. It was only when I uploaded this picture that I thought perhaps I should have ruched that back plaid piece. A possibility for another time.

If you could have a fairy sewmother resolve one of your fitting issues, which would you choose? For me, it's the back of the armhole. The look is improved with the narrow back adjustment but it's not quite exactly what I want yet and there is still too much fabric sitting at the back of the armhole. I had a new idea for resolving the problem last night that I'll try next time.

The grey button band and collar calm the piece down significantly. I don't think it would have worked as well otherwise. Why do I sew a collar with a collar stand when I never button a shirt up? Interesting thought. What do you do?

Here's how I get the collar band neat and even side to side. I use a pencil or piece of chalk to mark the 5/8" line on the fused collar stand and then follow the line around the corner when I'm stitching the two sections together.  You can also use a template.

A lot of people think that I'm transferring my pressing techniques from quilting to fashion sewing. Not so. Proper pressing was something I picked up in high school when I was learning to sew and I'm naturally inclined to efficiency and organization so right away I began to press seam allowances in opposite directions to eliminate bulk and make matching the seams easier. My book Press For Success was written to transfer that technique from fashion sewing to quilting. Butting seams is like magic.

The pink in the floral is a blue based fuchsia that would be nearly impossible to match in a purchased button so I covered these with the fabric. The pink is shaded in the flowers so the buttons are somewhat shaded as well and it works and I like it.

The selvage of the grey fabric was gorgeous. I really wanted to use it somewhere in the blouse so first I tried it along the button band but thought it looked too frilly and then...

... I stitched it around the hemline and it looked like a halo on my hips so I...

... cut it off (because it was serged and top stitched and cutting was easier) and fused a strip of FusiKnit around the hem and then serged and turned up the hem. Since I rarely wear blouses, I am...

... finding the excess ease around the hips a little disconcerting. It looks flippy and ready for take-off. WHAT is a normal blouse look? Is this normal? Something to get over?

I asked lots of questions today. I hope you'll answer them and keep me company. As soon as I'm feeling better, I'll write about Over-Dressed. It's such a good book. I highly recommend it and want to talk about how it impacted me. I just need my brain to reconnect with the rest of my body first. Hopefully over the weekend. For now, this is a great blouse pattern. One worth sewing.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - improving health

Thursday, February 21, 2013

A Busy Back

Some people are very particular about pattern matching. I'm not one of them. I do match occasionally but unless it's a stripe or a plaid, I prefer the pattern mixed up. What I'm very particular about is the distribution of color and the evenness of the layout - balance, rhythm, and repetition. This point of view - I think - is from my textile art days when pattern matching was rarely a consideration.

And it's a good thing with this blouse because there was barely enough of the floral fabric to cut the new sections and even then, I had to piece the center back panel with some of the black plaid. It's a narrow strip and works to trick the eye into believing that the floral continues underneath.

Just in case there is a problem area, I overlap the pieces to check before sewing them together. Again, I didn't have a lot of options but I'm pleased with how the pink moves around the piece and with how the plaid strip provides a resting place. It's a busy back.

Here it is seamed together on Millicent with the collar pinned in place. I think this is a huge improvement on yesterday's skunk option and I like how there is a main print and a little bit of the other two. Just enough to blend and not enough to overwhelm while meeting the challenge of using all three fabrics. I sewed in five minute increments crawling from the couch to the studio and back again yesterday. I had to. My curiosity just wanted to know how this would work out.

While "lounging" around, one of the things I thought about is the way in which I sew and the pace I sew at.  Some Monday mornings when I'm reading blogs it seems like writer sewed an entire closet full of clothing over the weekend and I wonder why I can't finish a blouse a week. Ann just sewed this same blouse. She cut out the pieces on the 16th and is wearing the finished blouse on the 19th.

I cut this blouse out on the 18th, and spent two days figuring out the back which meant I cut it out again yesterday. But that final choice of what fabric goes where is now settled. The back is together, the front is mostly together, the sleeves, collar and collar band are ready to stitch in, and I can see the the finished look. There won't be any major changes at this point. I just need to finish stitching it together.

Now that I write it out, that's actually not that much different unless you add in the blouse before, the muslin. It took another week but it was a week worth taking in my opinion because now I have a pattern I can sew over and over - a T & T blank canvas. And THAT is the conclusion I always come back to when I'm reassessing the state of sewing.

These aren't new thoughts. I've reviewed them a few times and it seems that my preferable method is to first develop a muslin and then make a basic prototype and after that play with creative elements. And that's okay. I'm very finicky about fit and this is the path that works. It's just that sometimes I get stuck in the first two stages and sometimes I'm doing so much playing in the last stage that the garment never finishes or doesn't finish in a wearable way BUT...

... when I was cleaning up the images on my computer I noticed something. Growing confidence. I'm more sure of myself with fabric and pattern choices. I make fewer mistakes and when I do it's typically because I'm pushing the envelope which I see as good. I've narrowed the necessary pattern adjustments down to the few that really matter and they are working consistently garment to garment leading me to believe I have those choices correct. I've determined a base size to work from. I've learned to add in sufficient ease and back off on over-fitting. I've developed a flow and my hands are starting to move with ease which is the fabulous point at which my mind starts to bubble with creativity. This blouse illustrates that point. AND - most importantly - fashion sewing is becoming more fun and less paint by number.

On Monday, when I met with three other artists, I talked about where I'm going with fashion sewing. One thing I want to do is create art cloth. Not cloth so beautiful that I don't want to cut it up but beautiful cloth for fashion sewing. Focusing on stamping and screen printing at this summer's workshop will be a start and I've added studying with Jane Dunnewold to my wish list. She's more commonly a big name in textile art but the transfer of those techniques to clothing is entirely doable. What have you noticed with your sewing? What goals are you working on?

Right now, back to the couch.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - a workable amount of the floral, a couch, incremental progress

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

On The Couch

The plan for today was to post my observations from reading Over-Dressed and then sew like crazy and finish the blouse so I could post it tomorrow. There are two problems. The first is that I'm freezing, sniffling, sneezing and the second is that I'm more likely to spend the day on the couch than in the studio. I have a cold.

The blouse didn't go in any wearable direction. In fact, it's now in a pile and I'm starting over but I learned a tremendous amount and spent a delightful day in the studio. Good. Enough.

It was easy to slip into quilt mode - my last experience with mixing up prints. I found myself whacking off edges and overlapping them and forgetting that I needed to finish those seams if I intended to wear the blouse. My subconscious was thinking backing and batting as previously trained to do.  I need to be careful. I don't want to look like I'm wearing a quilt.

The challenge of working with these three prints is... well... challenging and I'm having fun and I'd chose differently next time now that I have a little more experience. Varying the scale would be one thing. Another would be to choose fabrics that have identical weights. These are similar but not similar enough. The floral is a very light-weight silk-cotton, the plaid is a seersucker, and the grey is densely woven. It's perfect as the button band and collar but when it's pieced into the body, it pushes the other fabrics around and dominates.

I tried NUMEROUS variations for the back and built a beautifully pleated section where I spent a lot of time making sure the proportion of the un-pleated area balanced the proportion of the pleated area only to hold it up to my back and realize that the pleats started at my shoulder blades and that would look stupid. It'll make a cute little girl outfit.

After that, I tried three other configurations before accepting that a pieced back has non-flattering, skunk stripe down my back, overtones in my head. I've decided the back, sleeves, and side front should be floral, the center front plaid, and the button band and collars grey. At least that's what I'm going to try next. PLUS...

... I need to redraft the redraft of the pattern. I'd read that you could adjust for the shoulder width through the princess seam but there probably should have been a caveat about how much of an adjustment you were making. An inch is too much. It creates a tightly darted section over the shoulder blades and back boobs. I'm going to return the seams to the original shape and make the narrow shoulder adjustment at the shoulder point and hopefully I have enough of the floral left to cut out the new pieces. If I have enough energy that is. Right now, back to the couch.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - I could feel that I was getting a cold but even so I really REALLY enjoyed the energy of tossing ideas around and experimenting with this blouse. While it's unlikely I'm going to be a block printed fan, it did illustrate once again that less knowing and more experimenting is a direction I thoroughly enjoy and should do more of. YES YES!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

No Danger Of Over Fitting

Yesterday, I received an email from a friend that said... your purple blouse looks good... you like to 'over fit' which I know you know! You need to be able to move in it. Just wear it!

I am incredibly grateful for this friend. She tells me the truth and calls me on it when I'm wrong and attempting to rationalize my point of view. When you're trying to improve your skills and develop your style and move with confidence, it is a delight to have someone to talk things over with. In this case, I can truthfully say that I am in no danger of over fitting. I'm not fixing the purple blouse; I'm wearing it.

The change for the next blouse is a narrow shoulder adjustment to move the shoulder point over to a more flattering position that allows for a better range of movement. Nothing else is getting snugged in. There is 4 1/2" of ease on the bust and the hips and I can move. This is an improvement. I distinctly remember drafting with 1 1/2" of ease at one point. She called me on it - LOL.

Before my company arrived yesterday afternoon, I pulled three fabrics for the block printed blouse and got most of the pieces cut out. It'll be another rendition of Butterick 5678. Right now, the plan is to use the floral on the side front, side back, and sleeve pieces and the black plaid as the center front and center back pieces, and the grey with black stripe as the button band, collar, and collar stand.

Here's the back with the plaid of the center panel running vertically and horizontally and....

... here it is with the plaid on the bias. Both look unbelievably loud to me. Part of me is worried that I'll look like I'm wearing a quilt since that's my last experience of mixing up prints and part of me is excited to try something new. It could end up not pretty - as in ugly - and that's okay. It's more important to me to stretch myself creatively than it is to create a masterpiece. I may opt to use the plaid only on the front. What do you think?

I've thought a lot about Libby's comment yesterday that ugly is such an unpleasant word and that incredibly ugly is an incredibly ugly thing to say. I appreciated her point of view and the opportunity to consider it. My company yesterday afternoon was three other artists and we discussed what I'd written and whether it was offensive and would it have been possible to say what I wanted to say in another way and why should it even have been necessary considering the context I'd used. We all had the same point of view.

Ugly is a word that means not pretty. I agree that it would have been not pretty of me if I'd directed my comments at a specific artist but that isn't what happened. I shared my opinion about how spending all that time - about five hours - looking at fabric necklaces only to see very little that was attractive with good design caused me to want to attempt to create what I would think is a beautiful fabric necklace. It was a personal observation leading to a personal challenge and not aimed at nor harmful to anyone else. I also saw some fabulous pieces but they were more rare and didn't inspire me in the same way.

I wonder where in our world is the respect necessary for honest opinions generally stated without harmful intent - simple this is how I feel and perhaps you don't feel that way and it's okay if we agree to disagree type statements. While freedom of speech absolutely must come with responsibilities, something rare and special and individual is lost if personal opinions cannot be voiced and we  become bland and homogenized. To move in a direction where personal opinion isn't valued seems to me to move toward a time when portions of the population are increasingly over reactive and portions of the population are increasingly complacent and that sounds dangerous. Besides, there's no point going shopping with your girl friend if she's not going to tell you that that skirt isn't doing your hips any favours ! and if you love it, you can buy it anyway !

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - friends that tell you that that skirt isn't doing your hips any favours

Monday, February 18, 2013

Incredibly Ugly

Over the weekend, I spent a considerable amount of time looking at images of fabric necklaces and was amazed at how incredibly ugly the majority of them were. Just on Etsy alone, a search for fabric necklace brings up 9,850 items of which only a small percentage were at all attractive. Obviously, this is only my opinion and just as obviously I won't be illustrating my point of view because that would be rude but it did cause me to wonder if I could make (what I think is... ) a gorgeous piece. I love fabric. I love jewelry. The challenge of putting them together in a beautiful, wearable, someone else would actually want one of these too, or at least it gets a compliment, or it makes people look twice, kind of way, tickles. Not to sell. For the challenge. After reading Over-Dressed, I have even more opinions on sewing and selling and refashioning and zero waste but I'll save that for another posting. Right now, about my blouse.

This may be incredibly ugly as well. Or just lazy. Or simply indicative of the state of my life but either way, I was in no mood to make buttonholes especially after I realized that I'd measured the two fronts against each other at the edge and not at center front which meant one side was longer than the other. URGH! But...

... I wanted to know how the blouse fit and felt when I wore it so I sewed the buttons on with no holes, put it over my head, and wore it all day Saturday. No one noticed. I pointed it out to a few people (because I just had too...) and their reaction was too funny. It was a wearable muslin. I wore it. Now, I know what to do differently next time.

I was very aware of the pulling across the back as if it wasn't wide enough but in reality, it was the armhole that was the problem. Because the shoulders are too wide, the sleeve was slightly dropped, and there wasn't a full range of arm movement. I find it fascinating that something can be more closely but correctly fitted and feel far more comfortable than a garment with excess ease and improper fitting.

There's a little too much hip action in this photo but it illustrates my point. See how the upper back is too wide? When that's narrowed, the sleeve cap will sit higher and the armhole won't pull and it'll all lay in better. Once I'd shortened the length, there was too much as opposed to not enough hip ease so I'll narrow it out slightly along the princess seams in the back. Not too much. I don't want to over-fit.

With this version, I made a 1/2" narrow back adjustment and a 1 1/2" sway back adjustment. For the next one, I'll redraft with narrower shoulders and a higher sleeve cap and make a 1/2" narrow back adjustment, shorten CF and CB length by 1/2" and make a 1" sway back adjustment which will lift the curve of the princess seams to a higher, more flattering point, and adjust the finished length by 3 1/2".

From the front, you can see more clearly why the shoulders need narrowing. Otherwise, the bust point is correct and the finished ease is a comfortable amount. I like the length of the sleeve and the bicep and cap ease worked great. All good. All pointing to another version with...

... more fun in the mix. I bought this cotton print a few years ago. It's a bit strong for my face so the plan is to use it for the sleeves, side front and side back and to mix in more prints for the center front, center back, collar, and collar stand. Mixing is a bit difficult. It seems huge amounts of my stash is knit when I'm now ready to sew wovens again. How typical. BUT... I did get a lovely knit from for Christmas that would be fun to mix with other knits and sew a knit blouse from. This one first.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - signs of spring