Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Experimental Sewing

My heart yearns to post pictures of completed, beautifully sewn, fits me like a glove, garments like Erica B... or Amanda... or Goodbye Valentino... or it seems like anyone else but me. That's the downside of experimental sewing. While most of the time it's fun - and yes, it actually is - to chase thoughts and ideas, ask what if, and see what happens, I would like to produce finished garments more often than it happens. I think - as in I choose to believe - that it's part of the plateau affect I talked about yesterday. No clothes, lots of experimenting, turn a corner, things work out, more clothes. I certainly feel like I've made tremendous progress in the last few weeks so please don't tell me if I'm wrong.

I've started constructing differently. More in stages. In the picture above, the shoulders and neckline are finished and the side seams are pinned as is the dart. I didn't want to guess about the placement. There's nothing more annoying than a dart that's out of place. The sleeves aren't even cut out yet. I was waiting to see what happened with the rest of the garment first.

In one of the reviews, there was a comment about the easing along the side of Vogue 8536 and how nice that was instead of the dreaded dart. The amount of easing drafted into the pattern was not sufficient for my bust. I could ease in the larger amount but that left a whole bunch of fabric along the side of the bust curve. A dart is MUCH more shapely and attractive than a bunch of fabric. That's been a positive outcome of this learning curve, identifying what THIS body needs... which is...

... curves. The back as drafted in Vogue 8536 is mostly straight other than some shaping through the side seam. On me that resulted in a fit that was smooth over the hip and baggy above. In the illustration, I experimented with adding the flare only below the waist and only to one side so that I could still cut the garment on fold. That resulted in less bagging over the waist but didn't eliminate it completely plus there ended up being little wings at hip level along the side seam. Conclusion, a center back seam with flare toward the middle is far more attractive.

As well... the shape of the armhole almost identically matched the shape of the armhole on my T & T pattern so I used the T & T sleeve and it didn't hang correctly. Debbie mentioned in her comments that she had rotated the sleeve. I can see why. The shoulder seam on this pattern angles toward the back making the position of the sleeve somewhat skewed. I didn't see that until the try on stage. Now I want to figure out how to identify an issue like this in advance. The secret will be in my fitting shell template. I'm amazed at how handy that is. For instance...

... when I compared the front of the fitting shell template with the front of the Vogue 8536 t-shirt, the waist on the template was 1" below the waist on the t-shirt. That was the indicator for a full bust adjustment and 1" was exactly the amount I needed. The front of the pinned t-shirt fit beautifully. That extra fullness became the dart I talked about above.

Peggy Sagers talks about the importance of darts in Darts Are A Girl's Best Friend and shows how they are incorporated, rotated around, and hidden within the structure of the garment.  I was wearing the black and white Vogue 8691 with its princess seams and beautiful fit. I barely altered this pattern and basically cut and stitched on the lines. It was an interesting awareness as I struggled to fit Vogue 8536. The thought occurred to me that I am too curvy for large expanses of fabric.

This shouldn't have been a lightening bolt thought. It's been obvious for a long time that I need more seams or more darts. What's lightening bolt is perhaps the acceptance of that reality and the shift of thinking from trying to make the traditional t-shirt work to embracing a "new" kind of t-shirt that works for me - the Myrna t-shirt. More about that tomorrow. Let me get back to experimental sewing. I think it's really important to push the boundaries and to try those what if thoughts that niggle because it's through that process that we make new discoveries or solidify old ones. It's also how we develop patterns of working that work for us. I've sewn for thirty-nine years and suddenly I'm sewing differently.

In the past, I've cut out, sewn, and then tried on garments. It may have been quicker but the results weren't so great and I'm not after fast; I'm after great results. Now, I pin all the pieces in place on the fabric to make sure there's enough and then I cut out the main garment pieces and begin basting it together. Some seams are thread basted. Some are pin basted. A seam is only sewn and/or serged when I am confident that it is correctly placed and shaped.

Seam by seam, I slowly build the garment changing what can be changed as I go along. This is new so it was slow and painful at first but I'm finding that with more practice it is becoming increasingly confident and faster and that the results are MUCH better. I have another experiment in progress hopefully to show you tomorrow and to compare with Vogue 8536.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - curiosity


  1. "The thought occurred to me that I am too curvy for large expanses of fabric."

    In my own humble etc., this observation could give you a very useful key to sewing more easily for your body. My own figure is not considered 'plus sized', but at the same time it's got mucho curves. When i opened the link to V8535 and took a look at the line drawings, i honestly wondered, "What in the world is Myrna thinking?". But then, for all i knew you'd read up on it and found that a lot of ladies with similar figures got fantastic results with this pattern or something. At the same time, it didn't seem to me to be in line with your figure and your fitting goals and experience so far.

    i've made Katherine Tilton's 8817 tee a couple of times now and i'm seriously considering junking any 'one front piece and one back piece only' tees and sticking with the 8817 as my tee TNT. First, that neckline is so gorgeously flattering! And the princess seaming allows me to create a bit of negative ease around the bust and a bit of positive ease at waist and hips with no fiddly awkwardness around the side seams. The center f and b piecing is easily left aside if you want. The minimalist in me loves the idea of a simple, classic, crew necked tee - but they look awful on my figure!

    I've been muslining a simple layering tank with two pieces - a front and a back. It's okay, but not great, and doesn't fit closely enough around the bust so it just adds bulk under other tops (not my goal in a layering piece :). Your experience here is encouraging me to just chuck that idea and go with the 8817 - in the end it'll be much quicker and i'll end up much happier. TY!

    maybe a bit off topic, but - have you done much wardrobe planning? I also have a very tiny wardrobe, and generally have thruout my life. I find that it's a lot more interesting to sew 'boring basics' when i can visualize how they will fit into my current closet and see the additional outfits that they will allow me. As it happens, i love wardrobe planning just because, but this is definitely a benefit i appreciate. Just a thought!

    Thank you for all of your interesting, honest, and very helpful posts!! Hugs to Chloe, steph

    1. LOL - I'm not sure which point to agree with first.

      What in the world was Myrna thinking - she was thinking let's see what happens. Plus, I have (on right now and I'll take a picture) several t-shirts made with New Look 6735 that have a one piece front and are very flattering. There's a seam at center back. You just never know.

      Like you, I'm considering V8817 as a TNT so I'm playing with some possibilities for altering it and can - hopefully - post them tomorrow. Things are a bit busy at our house right now. A friend just sewed V8871 and shortened it to be a top. WONDERFUL. Worth exploring. I think you'd like the pattern.

      I have done some wardrobe planning in the past but it's not something that I have a lot of experience with, mostly because I've never had enough money to buy a whole wardrobe at once and it's difficult to build one when the things you already bought are wearing out and I've never had enough time to sew one in a consolidated chunk of time or enough stick-to-it-iveness to finish something like SWAP. I get bored and seduced away by what if questions. It'd be good to have a plan to build on. I'd love to discuss that with you. I've been impressed by what you've put together. Do you recommend any particular resource?

  2. hi Myrna! "LOL - I'm not sure which point to agree with first." heehee, now THAT's a fun comment to read :) !!!

    ah, your success with the NL6735 makes your current experiment make more sense. and like you say, you never DO know! It's just my perspective these last few years that i'm trying to hone in on my best colors, shapes, textures, etc. as a way to develop my individual style and also hopefully have more sewing success. That said, it is just a personal goal and i have taken the time before that to nail down my 'bests' so i have no worries about committing - it takes experience to get there.

    re: 8817 i meant the tee, not the tunic if that wasn't clear. i've yet to try the tunic, but here's me in the 8817 tee:

    re: wardrobe planning. The best resource i've yet found is Lisanne's blog Sewingplums. A few months ago she created an awesome index which is incredibly helpful for pointing you to the best post for you. Here's her page on wardrobe planning posts:

    i got a LOT out of this post on her personal wardrobe plan worksheet.

    Lisanne is wonderful in that she realizes we are all different, with varying climates, lifestyles, and so on. She presents many different ideas so you can pick and choose with what works for you.

    I know it seems like wardrobe planning is ridiculous when you have less $$ and resources, but IMO that just means it's that more important - you don't have resources to be throwing around willy nilly!

    The 3 most useful concepts i've found are:
    1. have a color plan. Start with a lite neutral and a dark neutral that go together, and get an outfit in each. then you can start adding colors, one by one, as long as they go with all preceding colors. This can be as severe as you like (Margy's black, white, and red) or quite colorful - choose olive drab and denim as your neutrals, add in coral, turquoise, purple, tomato red and citron.

    2. make sure your percentages match! if you have 8 months of summer and 4 of fall where you live, your summer closet should be around twice as big as your winter closet. If you work 5 days and don't 2, you should have a bit more than double work clothes than casual. Go thru your calendar to make sure you spot monthly and quarterly type occurrences so you aren't caught 'neekid' (formal dos, tropical vacations, holiday events, etc.) Make sure you are making/buying clothing for your actual life.

    3. Discover your wardrobe personality and plan around it. Some people like to build by outfits with no re-mixing. Some folks like to build capsules around certain themes or colors. Some of us like to be able to mix unexpectedly across our entire closets. Some like to switch across seasons, some like to change out completely at least a couple times a year. Some like to keep business and personal clothing separate, others don't. Some people like huge closets with pieces constantly moving in and out. Others like small, carefully curated closets where each pieces earns its place and stays for years.

    All of these ways can work beautifully for the right person. The trick is to find out which of these strategies will make you happy and proceed from there. There is no right or wrong way, just what's right or wrong for you right now.

    Good grief! heehee, you'll think twice before you ask me a question again ;) i haven't been blogging the last few months and i've been missing it - it shows! hope this helps, and have a great day! steph

    1. Well... I am rather chatty myself and we are talking about my favourite subject... speaking of which... I have been missing your postings. I hope some will be appearing again soon.

      I took some photos of NL6735 this morning to show what I mean. As with every garment, the fabric factor can make a huge difference however I've been successful with this pattern with a wide range of fabrics so it's definitely a keeper.

      My fault. I was confusing 8817 with 8691. I love your rendition of the tee. Are you going to try the tunic. The same friend who sewed the dress I recommended sewed it and I tried it on. Other than I'd need to make an FBA, it looked fabulous. We have similar figures. I'm more generous.

      I know you've read The Triumph of Individual Style. I'm also a huge proponent of Looking Good. IDoes This Make Me Look Fat by Leah Feldon is an excellent book. 10 Steps to Fashion Freedom by Malcome Leven & Kate Mayfield has a lot of useful information although I could not dress in one color for life. Nothing to Wear by Jesse Garza and Joe Lupo was a great book especially for finding your fashion personality. I learned a lot from it. And... I really enjoyed the case studies in Stacy London's recent book The Truth About Style. SO...

      ... I have dome some reading up on wardrobe planning. What I meant by the money/time issue is that I can't seem to get ahead of the goal in that I can't get enough bought/sewn before the original garments begin to wear out even if I'm buying/sewing good quality. I'm hopeful that having figured out some of the alteration issues that I can advance on that goal much quicker. It does make sense to have more of a plan right now. That's part of why I cleaned out my closet last week.

      I have become a LOT clearer about my style since returning to fashion sewing. I know a lot more about what suits me, what I'll actually wear, the fabrics I prefer, the colors and patterns I can wear and so on. I've been gathering information that's clicking together. I almost never wear light fabrics and prefer the medium to dark range so blue - and particularly denim blue - and black are my neutrals. I like to add color in the accessories especially - jewelry, cardigans, shoes and so on.

      Most of my wardrobe is worn year round. I add a cardigan in winter and sandals in summer and it works. There are some but very few one season pieces. Perhaps that's an issue to resolve to make a difference. Again, I do believe I'm making progress.

      I enjoy your opinions. Feel free to expound. Thanks for the links.

  3. Myrna I puts darts in absolutely everything. In looking at your photo it looks like you need to add at least 5/8" on the front armhole as well as raise the armhole. Just sayin'. If you don't, when you insert the sleeve I guarantee you get some strain lines and something of a straight jacket feeling. Ask me how I know!

    1. Thanks. The sleeve is sewn in already and the tee is not doing me any favours so I'll post it as is tomorrow and show you what I was talking about. The fit didn't seem strained. it just doesn't do well in the back.

      Darts... ah yes... love them and hate them too.

    2. Could you possibly need a high round adjustment?

    3. You mean over the hips right? Yes. That's a definite possibility and something to explore.

    4. Interesting. Thanks for mentioning this adjustment. I measured and 3" down from the waist I am 8" wider. I also noticed that the skirt I'm wearing is pulling back along the side seam at the high hip which it didn't used to do. This may be because of the running. I remember Two On Two Off mentioning something like this at one point. LOL - I may need to quit running.

  4. Well, rats! I'm sorry that the pattern doesn't appear to be fitting you as you'd like. And just to clarify it wasn't the sleeve I rotated it was the dart that I rotated out. The sleeve and shoulder seam were perfectly fine (for me) other than a bit too much ease in the sleeve cap.

    You mentioned having a bit too much fabric above the waist and I think you may very well be onto the key that you need more seams to get the fit you want. I know I have a bit extra through there but that's the difference in the preferred fit we both want. Yours tends to be body hugging, imho, where as I like mine to loosely skim.

    You mentioned having little wings at hip level after you added the extra in the back. Were they in the seam or at hem level? I ask because looking at the picture the one thing that I do differently is to actually put a gentle inward curve at the hem when I have to add there. That's the one place I like a body hugging fit. I hate knit tops that are loose at the hem line!

    I agree with tinyjunco on wardrobe planning. It's something I did last fall for a winter wardrobe and it served me well. I worked with two neutrals, black and grey, and built pieces around them. I liked the results so much I started collecting fabrics building around brown. I didn't get near as much done on the brown but I'll pick it back up next fall with the fabrics already here.

    I've been trying to work on a plan for summer and it's darn near impossible! I love to use bolder more colorful fabrics for summer and they're all over the place! Mainly I'm trying to use black and white as my neutrals. Just about anything will go with those, right?

    1. I've been thinking about your comment while I finished sewing the t-shirt, especially the part about body hugging.

      The V8536 fits me quite nicely in the front with the dart Not so good at all in the back. The sleeve is tolerable but not the best. There was more than a bit too much in the back. HUGE wrinkles. Now that I've attempted to fix the shape, there is a bit too much. Pictures tomorrow.

      The wings would be resolved by more of a curve toward the hemline. What I find interesting is that the whole hemline is hugging my body too tightly and yet there are still those wings. They don't stretch out. Everything from the high hip down is clinging. YUCKY. I'm the opposite of you. I'd prefer to have the garment follow the curves of my body and be slightly looser at the hem. Not baggy but enough that it doesn't cling. If it does, it'll crawl upward and then I'm forever tugging it down and I find that so frustrating. SEWN wrote in her blog recently about clothing that you don't notice. I prefer hemlines like that.

      My clothes - if they fit the way I like - aren't body hugging if by that term you meant cling all over ? ? ? The fit on my t-shirts is such that if I suck my tummy in I can actually twist my torso within my clothes and the sleeves don't stick to or pull up with arm movement. The arms move freely. The sleeves stay in place. I'm not always tugging them down. I hate tugging clothing down.

      I'm guessing the clothing looks more fitted than it actually is which would be part of my goal as long as I don't look over-fitted which I'm in total danger of doing. I had to step away from the sleeves a few minutes ago and accept less than best because I was going to tweak them to death.

      I've been thinking about Steph's comments on wardrobe planning as well. I think it would be a great idea. I'd absolutely have to work with TNTS or I'd get too caught up in fit. Something to ponder. It'd have to be for fall because I have two (possibly three) trips out of town and guests coming to town so far before the beginning of July and then a guest for a week in July.

      The Vogue 8536 front would look great with the Vogue 8691 back in the way I've adapted it for tomorrow's post. More then.


Thanks for commenting. I appreciate the feedback and the creative conversation.