Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Part Of The Process

When we were planning my daughter's wedding, my big melt down crying jag came while attempting to sew my outfit. No matter what I did, the sleeves twisted and bunched horribly, so much so that in the end, to save our sanity, I went sleeveless and that's saying a LOT because I really Really REALLY prefer sleeves. It also means that I've been attempting to solve the armhole and sleeve problem off and on for over six years which is one reason why I was so happy about yesterday's armhole.

When I talked to her yesterday, my daughter asked why I keep sewing clothes I can't wear and I said it's part of the process and explained the steps I'm working through to get "it" right - with it being different things at different times and in this case fit. I do want to sew clothes that I can wear and I'm very particular about fit so it had become increasingly important to me to resolve these fitting issues once and for all. I wanted to stop guessing and know for sure which alterations to make in which order. It seemed that I may as well explore some different styles and fabrics at the same time.

While I have my favourites, I see trying new styles and unfamiliar fabrics as a natural and positive part of sewing because it lets us take safe risks and climb out of our fashion ruts every so often. And I've been sewing long enough that getting less than best results isn't discouraging; it's research - like flopping a cake recipe. It doesn't hurt that I sew quickly. I'm not rushing but it comes easily and it doesn't take me a long time to make a basic garment. Except for the collar and buttons, I sewed a blouse yesterday afternoon. This is good because being quick allows me to explore the theories my mind ponders and my mind ponders a lot of theories. I like to share that learning so - I hope - it's good for everyone.

For yesterday blouse, I used a cotton polyester crinkle blend in a dull grey. I can't figure out why I bought so much of it since it's somewhat lifeless although it would look good with colorful accents. Most likely, it was in the bargain center and I had a garment in mind that I've since forgotten about HOWEVER... it's perfect for what I'm working on now and there is more than enough to make another version. 

When I asked my husband to take this picture last night, he said two interesting things. The first was that I was getting to such fine detail that it was hard for him to see the differences and the second was that the shoulder seemed too far out. YES YES ! ! ! ! I agreed with him because...

... the front and back shoulder widths and the shoulder length were exactly what I was confirming with this garment. The polka dot blouse seemed too tight and I wanted to make sure that it was a different issue (the size) and not these measurements so I widened the measurements by 1/2" and as you can see, it's too much HOWEVER... please do note that even with the too long shoulder...  and the sleeve cap falling off... that the armhole is vastly improved. I'm going back to the measurements used for the previous two blouses and concluding that they are indeed correct and that the armhole issue is resolved. There turned out to be a pivot and slide method to drawing the armhole that creates the back scooping as I trace and doesn't necessitate adding to the back sleeve seam. It's perfect and I'll get pictures to show you when I trace the new pattern today.

The process I've been working through is a top down fitting of the bodice. It started when my friend Lorraine said that she thought I should square the shoulders more. Once I realized that I needed to raise them 1/4", I wanted to know how that affected everything else and it's quite surprising what I've discovered. For instance, when the shoulder point is raised, the shoulders are narrowed, and the armhole is retraced, it's typically 3/4" higher at the underarm point which explains why at one time a petite adjustment made sense and how it wasn't the whole story. It also illustrates what I wanted to discover - the least number of correct alterations and why I'm making them. I started working on fitting the bodice about the same time we started work on my new studio which meant I couldn't sew as much and had time to study pattern drafting. It has helped significantly and is something I wish I'd known a lot more about a lot sooner.

Over the past few weeks, I've confirmed that I'm sewing the correct size and I've confirmed the slope of my shoulders, my center back length, my back shoulder width, my front shoulder width, my shoulder length, and my cup size. I've eliminated two adjustments that I thought I needed to make and don't and I've learned the correct way to trace the armhole shapes and have (finally, thank God) removed the excess from behind the back armhole that has been driving me crazy FOREVER. This is good. AND... I'm learning my numbers which is making it quick and easy to alter patterns.

What I'm working on now is the sleeve. It appears that I have the correct size, cap height, bicep width, and armhole shape and I'm in the process of fine tuning the shape of the cap to accommodate my forward shoulder. I don't anticipate this taking too long as it's an alteration I've worked through previously but I do have some ideas for doing the alteration differently that will hopefully be easier so we'll see. I'm about to cut out the Butterick 5678 blouse with the narrower shoulder widths and will try shaping the sleeve cap on my next version. Once that's done, I will have reached the end of this part of the process - the bodice - and will have...

... worked out the information needed to sew blouses, t-shirts, jackets, and dress bodices that fit well. I've identified the alterations that need to be made and especially the ones that need to be made in advance of cutting out the garment. From there, my plan is to focus on fitting a skirt and to then use that base to move forward with dresses and pants. And even that is only part of the process because my ultimate goal is to alter, cut, and sew with complete confidence of good fit and high quality results and to then focus on surface design and creative details both of which take significant time, money, and energy. This is the prep work.

What part of the process are you working on?

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - confirmed measurements


  1. It's all a part of the process, eh! You make me think... every time Idrop by.

    Maybe I'm working on the gathering enough strength, part of the process, to jump into a TNT journey.

    1. I think it's like many things, the time has to be right. Not knowing (for sure) this information was holding me back from moving in the direction I really wanted to go. It was time to figure it out. Good luck getting ready. Good luck with the journey.

  2. Your daughter looks so much like you. I love that picture, it really shows both of you having a little giggle and fun.

    I think I have to work on the finishing part of projects. I loose steam and then don't like going back to figure out where I was and what needed changing, etc.

    1. I forwarded your comment to my husband and daughter and to every other person who has said that she looks just like him. THANK YOU. After thirty-two hours of labour, it was MOST ANNOYING to have people say that she looked just like her Dad. They could have lied but there was no need because - LOL - she does indeed look like me.

      One of the concepts I taught in my art courses was about pushing through. We'll quit for three reasons - we don't know how to do what we want to do, we don't know what to do, or we're bored. Because it's one of these reasons that will cause a person to stop working on a project, it will also be one of these reasons that prevents them from starting again. That leaves a line of UFOs that are discouraging and it becomes a negative cycle.

      In all three cases, there's only one way to finished and that's through - the process and the journey - and on the journey is where learning happens. Do something and you have something to respond to. Do nothing and you have nothing. Done to the best of my ability - and getting better project to project - is - IMHO - better than not done at all. But then I'm all about learning.

    2. Well maybe it's because I didn't see your daughter and Howard side by side, but they are crazy. She totally looks like you. Growing up, my youngest brother was (and is) a clone of my dad and my other brother and I looked like each other - not particularly like either parent. So much so, we were mistaken for being the same person (which marks the day I grew out my hair). Now, I look at pictures of my mom in high school and her early 20's and I see myself quite clearly.

      Very good advice, as always. Less over thinking and more just doing so I can get to the learning stage.

    3. LOL - and coming from the girl who excels at over thinking.

  3. Peggy Sagers, in her free video about sleeves, tells you how to draft a sleeve for an armhole you already have by taking the necessary numbers/measurements from the established armhole and plotting them into the shape of the sleeve cap. It has worked for me; have you tried that route?


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