Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Experimenting with Parallel Darts

Thank you all for your views re: shoes vs. serger. I've decided to focus on the serger but, if a good shoe sale comes my way, I'll be severely tempted!

I've been sewing but haven't had much to share -- just a lot of experimentation in muslin -- and nothing taken to fashion fabric yet. Interestingly, one of the things I've been working on is parallel darts, and in the new batch of Vogue patterns, there is a dress with this type of dart. As Beth of Sunnygal Studio often says, I guess there really aren't any new patterns!

Here's a shell I've been working on, which has a cowl neck and parallel darts shaping the lower part of the bodice.

Only two of the darts in front (and two in back) actually do any fitting -- the others are just added fullness that are sewn up as darts. In the photo of the back bodice below, the diamond-shaped internal dart does the fitting.

I like the look of the darts and the nice shaping they provide, but I'm not sure about the cowl neck. I wonder if a simpler neckline will work better?

I've also tried adding parallel darts to a simple empire waist dress. I like the fitted silhouette, but it is tricky getting the darts to be equidistant from each other and have the same length. I made a mistake below -- I forgot to factor in the center back seam. Ugh!

I even tried parallel darts on the sleeve cap. What do you think -- the parallel dart cap sleeve, which has a more tailored look?

Or the pleated cap sleeve, which has a bit more volume?

Or are they so similar it really doesn't matter?

Hopefully I'll be able to take something to fashion fabric soon -- so much more fun than sewing muslins!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Items to Covet: Shoes or a Serger?

Sometimes I see something -- like a bag, shoe, etc. -- and can't get it out of my mind. I imagine all kinds of outfits that would become absolutely perfect if I just had that item. I justify the price by coming up with "cost per wear" scenarios. Like a spoiled child, I relentlessly think about the item and devise ways to somehow acquire it. Crazy, I know, but it happens. And for some reason, I have quite a few on my mind these days. 

When I saw these shoes, I had a moment. They are aggressive. They aren't the most flattering for my short legs. But I just love them. These shoes have prompted me to ask the question, shoes or a serger? 

Images from here.

Yes, as scary as it sounds, for the price of these shoes, I could purchase a nice serger I've had my eye on. Even scarier is the fact that I would consider shoes that cost as much as a piece of machinery that would certainly outlast them! 

Another item I've been coveting may turn into a DIY project someday. My friend walked into Peet's recently carrying this amazing fold over clutch by Clare Vivier. Hers was black hair calf, but this navy one is similarly beautiful. It is so simple -- an 11.5 x 11.5 inch square with a top zipper -- yet supremely elegant. It can go dressy or casual. I'm tempted to make my own version!

Images from here.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Making a Sailor Collar Look Cool

I love sailor collars, but it isn't an easy look to wear if you are older than 8. Recently, at the pattern making school I attend, there was a contest that actually included the sailor collar as one of the challenge choices. I was all over it! The contest was to design and make a garment featuring an element that often elicits exclamations of "I would never wear that!". The elements were: sailor collar, leg-o-mutton sleeve, baby doll dress, wrap skirt, drawstring skirt and bell sleeve. Of course I chose the sailor collar!

I made an unlined jacket and matching wrap skirt using a black stretch denim and faux leather for the collar, cuffs and skirt panel.

The seams are flat-felled so the seam lines are visible (and the inside is clean-finished). The jacket has a little peplum piece that is channel-stitched using my walking foot and topstitching thread. The same channel stitching is on the edges of the collar as well as the cuffs. I love my walking foot -- what a miracle tool!

I added a zipper guard using the faux leather. In hindsight, I wish I had finished it a bit more -- perhaps folded the piece to make it a cleaner finish. The under collar is denim, which made it easier to interface.

The skirt is a simple wrap style with an asymmetric opening along the front. I added the faux leather panel to tie it together with the jacket.

One of my pet peeves with wrap skirts is how it splits open when you sit or take long strides. Since I wanted a narrow pencil shape, I added a flounce piece in the front, which allows the overall silhouette to remain narrow, but adds extra walking/sitting ease.

Here's a close-up of the skirt opening, which has a separating zipper and a snap on the inside panel. The outer panel (faux leather piece) dips down lower than the waist to create an even more asymmetric look.

I'm happy to report that my sailor collar jacket took home first prize! I was surprised, as there were a lot of beautifully made and cleverly designed submissions. I don't think I'll feel juvenile or costume-y in this sailor collar style -- looking forward to wearing it soon!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Tuxedo-Style Palazzo Pants: Finished

I have my very first pair of palazzo pants! And, even though I'm not tall and leggy, I think they look pretty good.

I'm calling them Tuxedo-Style Palazzo Pants because of the tone-on-tone satin stripe down the side seams and the cumberbund-like yoke.

The back looks like there is some wrinkling at the waist area -- I may need to pinch out some of the excess fabric.

I added an invisible zipper and a tab with snaps at center back for the closure.

I drafted a raised waist -- I need the illusion of extra height! -- and stabilized it with 3-inch lengths of spiral boning from Richard the Thread. Lynda Maynard's book has an excellent technique for stabilizing a raised waist -- definitely check it out if you are unfamiliar with it.

The main fabric is 4-ply silk, which is one of the most beautiful fabrics I've ever had the pleasure to work with. It is the heaviest silk fabric available, and it has a wonderful drape and luster -- so luxurious. As far as silks go, it isn't as difficult to sew as the lighter-weight fabrics -- there just needs to be some care when pressing (press cloth required). I used a lightweight fusible interfacing from Fashion Sewing Supply to stabilize the zipper opening. I tested the interfacing on a scrap piece and it did change the feel and drape of the silk -- more body and less drape -- so I only used it for the zipper opening.

Maintaining the beautiful drape of the fabric ended up being my number 1 priority, so many of the choices I made during the sewing process were to preserve the drape. The pants are unlined (I thought a lining might make it too heavy), so I had to choose a seam finish that would be lightweight but still neat. I thought a French seam or Hong Kong finish would be too bulky, so I ended up using a zig-zag/overlock stitch on my machine, which worked out well. If I really wanted to do a couture finish, I would have used a hand overcast stitch, but my laziness won out.

For the hem, I would normally interface and hand-hem, but in this case, I decided to just hand-hem without any interfacing. I think it is ok, as the double-layer hem (plus Hong Kong finish) provides enough weight without compromising the drape.

In the photo above, you can see that I used white silk thread to baste the hem line for a fitting -- the long stitches are at the hem fold line from the pattern and the tiny stitches are holding the hem up. I was really surprised that one leg ended up needing to be lengthened about 1/8 to 1/4 inch. I don't know if this is the nature of the fabric or if my posture has worsened, but after this experience, I will definitely take some time with hemming 4-ply silk.

Another quirk with 4-ply silk was the fact that it shows every lump and bump! It would have helped if I had lined it, but unlined, I feel like I need to wear some sort of Spanx-like product for some extra smoothing!

The side seam band is just a long, rectangular piece that is sewn to the sides -- with this treatment, the actual side seam ends up running along the center of this band. I used a crepe-back silk satin for the band and the yoke. Such a beautiful fabric, but very easy to snag -- I ended up with a few snags as I was pressing a seam using my wooden seam stick!

Overall, I really love these pants. I started out using my trouser sloper to draft the pattern, and I think starting with that sloper really made it easier to end up with well-fitting pants. Now I need an occasion to wear them!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

In The Works: Palazzo Pants (Or Are They Wide-Leg Trousers?)

Thank you all for your lovely comments on my Inset Band White Jeans. I'm looking forward to wearing them soon!

I've now moved on to the other end of the spectrum -- pants with wide legs. As I started looking around for design ideas, I noticed that the terms "palazzo pant" and "wide-leg trousers" were being used for pants that looked suspiciously similar. 

The pants below are called palazzos.

Image from here.

These pants are called wide-leg trousers.

Image from here.

Hmm… can't quite see the difference -- maybe palazzos have a looser fit? Perhaps they are made in more fluid fabrics and have less structure? Well, whatever they should be called, I'm making a pair of them!

In an effort to look longer and leaner, I drafted the pattern to have a raised waist, about 1.5 inches above my natural waist; fitted to about a couple of inches below the low hip; and then flared to the hem. Determining the amount of flare was kind of tricky -- it's difficult to envision what is too much or too little without making up a muslin and seeing the volume on my body. I decided to go with a conservative-sounding 3 inches of flare to each piece, which added a total of 6 inches of flare at the hem per leg.

I used muslin fabric for my first sample. The fit turned out fine and I liked the amount of flare -- just enough drama for my petite frame. These types of pants are much easier to fit than skinny pants, as the shape is so forgiving.

I just received my fabric today! I'm using a 4-ply silk crepe for the main pant and a crepe-back satin (the shiny side) for the raised waist and a narrow tuxedo stripe along the side seams. 

In other news, my tulips are blooming -- feels like spring!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Inset Band White Jeans: Finally Finished

I finally finished my Inset Band White Jeans! I'm sorry it is difficult to see the band clearly -- the whole tone-on-tone thing makes it challenging to photograph.

In keeping with the theme, I'm wearing the jeans with a tone-on-tone top -- a cotton and silk charmeuse combo -- made by Heather Who, a local Bay Area designer who just hosted her very first trunk show in SF this past weekend! It was such a treat to see her beautifully sewn designs on display at her lovely studio. I absolutely love this top -- it is difficult to see, but there is an interesting pleating detail across the front as well as shaped shoulders/cap sleeves that are so flattering. Such a great design -- I'm looking forward to seeing her future collections!

I wanted a pair of white jeans, but something different from those in stores. I'd seen the tuxedo stripe look on pants and really liked it, so I decided to add a tone-on-tone stripe along the side seams. I considered two ways to insert the band -- a finished band sewn on top of the side seam or an inset band replacing the side seam. I tried the inset band method in muslin and had some fit problems -- I thought perhaps the elimination of the side seam caused some weird wrinkling -- but they were corrected in the heavier weight denim. I decided to go with the inset band because I liked the clean, straight lines that resulted. It would have been trickier to sew the band on top of the side seam and still get clean, straight lines.

I don't like a lot of bulk in pants, so I opted for two double welt pockets (with zips!) in front and no pockets in back. I cropped the length to above the ankle and kept the leg slim and fitted.

Pattern Drafting
For this project, I started with my jean sloper, which is narrower in the leg (both inseam and side seam) and has a shallower crotch curve. Here, you can see the difference between the jean, straight and trouser slopers.

Despite starting with a custom sloper, I still had to make a number of fit changes, because the fit in my muslin fabric ended up being slightly different from the fit in my final denim. So many tweaks, especially around the back of the thigh area. I took in some of the fabric in the crotch curve, but needed to take in even more from the inseam and side seams (equal amounts). In looking at the photos, there still seems to be extra fabric that could be taken out, but because the fabric doesn't have any stretch, I opted to keep the extra ease. In a stretch fabric, I would definitely be more aggressive about taking out additional fullness both in front and back.

The other tricky area was the placement of the waistband -- how high in front and back. To start, I took a pair of jeans that have the rise I like and measured the distance from the crotch point to the the waistband. I used this as a starting point for my first muslin.

Fabrics and Notions
I used a 100 percent cotton denim with no stretch for the main body and a cotton/lycra blend jacquard fabric for the inset band, waistband, pocket bags and fly extension. I love the jacquard fabric -- it is difficult to see in the photos, but it has a wonderful sheen to it that contrasts nicely with the denim. I purchased the denim from Stonemountain and Daughter and the jacquard from Britex. The metal zippers came from Zipit on Etsy.

Sewing the jeans was pretty straightforward. I watched Sandra Betzina's Craftsy course on Pant Construction and referred to it periodically to confirm some of the techniques, such as the fly-front zipper and fly extension. I made the welt pockets (not on the Craftsy course) and then added the zippers to the opening. To reduce bulk, I skipped the pocket facing and just used my jacquard fabric for the pocket facing/bag.

For the inset band, because the jacquard fabric is lighter than the denim, I used two layers -- jacquard on top of the denim -- for the band. Unfortunately, this added to the bulk in the seams, and because my machine was already having problems handling the thicknesses, I ended up sewing the seams and finishing them with an overcast stitch, rather than making the flat-felled seams I originally wanted.

I usually don't have problems making welt pockets, but with this fabric, I found it difficult to clip cleanly to the corners and, when I did, the corners seemed to fray a bit (even though I interfaced the pant + the welts to add stability). Fray check to the rescue!

I'm pretty happy with my new jeans. I love the inset band look and the cropped/narrow leg. But for my next version, I would like to use a denim with a bit of stretch -- maybe 2 percent -- and a bit lighter in weight. I also think the band would look amazing on a full-length jean. I may also play around with the welt pockets -- maybe angle them? So many options!

Monday, February 24, 2014

De Young Museum in SF: Bulgari and Georgia O'Keeffe

Last week, I visited the De Young museum in San Francisco to catch the final days of the Art of Bulgari: La Dolce Vita and Beyond exhibit and the opening of the Modern Nature: Georgia O'Keeffe and Lake George exhibit. We've had incredible weather these last several days -- so much sun and warm weather that it feels like spring rather than winter. Look at that blue sky!

The Bulgari exhibit was breathtaking. I've never been a huge jewelry person, but even I was enchanted by the pieces on display. I purchased the associated book, which discusses the history of the design house and the evolution of their designs between 1950 and 1990, and of course contains gorgeous photos.

Image from here.

Details -- such as the use of yellow gold for fine pieces, rounded gem cuts rather than faceted cuts, and the combination of different colored stones -- were what set Bulgari apart from its contemporaries. One example is this bib necklace, the style of which has been very popular in recent years. 

Image from here.

One of the more unique designs is this snake bracelet/watch. I'm not sure it is my taste, but the details are impressive -- the scales, the ruby eyes and even the little forked tongue.

Image from here.

Some of the simpler designs, especially the ones that incorporated coins and chains, were especially interesting. 

Image from here.

Of course, Elizabeth Taylor was closely associated with Bulgari, and a number of her pieces were on display. Isn't this stunning? The glamour of it all!

Image from here.

By contrast, the Georgia O'Keeffe exhibit was quite a bit more serene and low key. The exhibit focused on her works between 1918 and the early 1930s, when she regularly visited Lake George, a rural area of New York State. One of my favorites was this landscape of Lake George.

Image from here.

While I've always been taken with O'Keeffe's use of bright colors, I was somehow drawn to a piece that was slightly different -- this moody landscape titled "Storm Cloud". 

Image from here.

This painting, titled "Corn No. 2" was especially striking.

Image from here.

If you have the chance, it is definitely worthwhile to see the O'Keeffe exhibit -- there's nothing like seeing these pieces in person. The exhibit runs until May 11, 2014.