Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Design Detail: Channel Stitching

I've been obsessed with channel stitching for quite a while now. I just love all those nice, neat, parallel rows of stitching!

My go-to reference for this technique is Lynda Maynard's book, The Dressmaker's Handbook of Couture Sewing Techniques. Sew Maris also gives a nice review of this technique in her Craftsy blog post.

As in many things related to sewing, testing is so important. The type of fabric; weight of interfacing; adding additional fabric to give a quilted effect; thread color and weight; and stitch length are all considerations that need to be tested before moving on to fashion fabric.

For my Sailor Collar Moto Jacket, I used channel stitching to accent the peplum, cuffs and collar. The peplum is stitched using my regular cotton thread, while the stitching on the collar (faux leather) is done with a heavy topstitching thread.

The jacket is a stretch denim fabric and the collar/cuffs are faux leather. All of the facings are stretch denim interfaced with a lightweight fusible. I could have added a layer of flannel on the inside to add further dimension for a more "quilted" look, but I opted for a flat effect.

What is cool about channel stitching is that it can create a new texture -- the peplum piece has much more structure and a defined shape due to the rows of stitching. The down side of this is that, depending on the amount of stitching you add, you need to take shrinkage into account, as all those rows of stitching will "shrink" the piece. Again, testing is key!

Stitching around corners is tricky, and I have to admit the above isn't perfect. However, it helps to decrease the stitch length around the corners and, while I didn't do this, it might help to chalk-mark the corner distances so each row is even. I was lazy, so I just eye-balled the distances and hoped for the best!

Here's a project I'm currently working on that uses channel stitching on the collar and front flap piece. The fabric is a silk/wool blend that is interfaced with a lightweight fusible and the facing is a china silk lining fabric.

In this case, the stitching practically melts into the fabric -- it is very subtle and, because I limited the rows of stitching, it doesn't really add much structure or shape. This is a wearable muslin, so I think for the final garment, I'll choose a thicker topstitching thread in a slightly more contrasting color to make the stitching stand out a bit more.

Some thoughts on channel stitching:

1. Test the fabric, interfacing and thread combination you plan to use to make sure the effect is what you originally envisioned. This is also a good time to test the stitch length you like; the spacing between rows (I like 1/4 inch); and whether you need to worry about shrinkage.

2. Take shrinkage into account. If you have a lot of rows of stitching, the piece will shrink slightly, depending on the fabric, thread and stitch length you are using.

3. A walking foot helps to keep the layers of fabric from shifting too much, especially if you choose to add a layer of flannel or other fabric for a more "quilted" effect.

4. Some people mark their rows of stitching with chalk or other marking method. I just measure off 1/4 inch from the edge for the first row and use my stitch guide/machine foot to maintain an even distance between rows. It is difficult to keep the rows evenly spaced and straight, so I end up sewing each row very slowly.

5. I start and stop each row of stitching by decreasing the stitch length -- I do not backstitch, as I think the smaller stitches give a cleaner finish.

While this technique is time-consuming to do, it is a beautiful design detail. I hope you have the chance to try it!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Final Collection Photographed: Part 2

Time just seems to slip by -- I can't believe the holidays are just around the corner! I've been busy working on different projects, so photographing the last few pieces from my collection took a bit of a back seat. 

Even though I'm not a dress person, I included one dress design. There's a lot going on -- pleated puff sleeves; pleated neckline and bow tie; an empire waist; and parallel darts all around the bodice. 

The main fabric is a blue and black wool suiting with metallic sapphire threads running throughout. The accent fabric is a crepe-back satin. It is lined with bemberg rayon and the sleeve heads are silk organza.

Here's a detail of the pleated sleeves and neckline.

Aside from a good press, the dress needs a finer zipper. Even though you can't see it, the front zips up all along CF, but the zipper I used was a jacket-weight and a bit too heavy and bulky for this type of dress. Lesson learned -- be sure all of the notions are appropriate for the fabric and style!

I used the same fabric for a pair of classic trousers. The top is a simple shell made with washed silk charmeuse.

The trousers have a leather waistband, but other than that, the style is quite simple. It is fully lined with bemberg rayon. The top has a simple slit opening and a hook/eye closure at CB. I also added a band at the hem to give the top a blouson look when worn untucked.

I struggled with the top. I ended up finishing the armholes and neckline with bias binding turned under and stitched, but I think a facing would have given it a cleaner finish. Also, this top would have benefited from a fabric with more body -- I thought the washed finish on the charmeuse would be enough, but a more substantive crepe would have been nicer. 

Now, the next jacket was my big failure. I had some leftover fabric from the Flounce Cape, so I decided to make the jacket using that coating fabric. There are a lot of issues with this one, as it was the last piece I made, and so I rushed through it in order to meet my deadline. It shows. The main issue was setting in the sleeves. I thought I could steam out some of the ease, but I ended up over-pressing the sleeve caps without the needed shrinkage. The caps ended up looking felted! The puckering is terrible, especially in the back. Lesson learned #1: Don't assume all wools will be shrink-able and be careful when pressing.

Geez -- the back looks worse than I thought! I tried to re-sew the sleeves, but it just didn't work well. These sleeves have been handled and worked over A LOT! My only option is to re-cut the sleeves and re-sew them. Ugh. Of course I don't have enough fabric -- I'll have to call Mood to see if they still have some of this. If not, I may re-make the sleeves in leather. Maybe that will work?

The asymmetric neckline has a flounce collar and a two-way zipper with a leather strip accent. The sleeves also have zippers and leather pieces underneath them. It is difficult to see, but I tried to incorporate curved seams to play off the flounce collar -- the hem and back feature the curves. Lesson learned #2: For heavier weight fabrics, take the time to make a muslin in a similar weight. 

Finally, I included my Classic French Jacket from the Susan Khalje workshop. I managed to scrape together enough fabric to make a little high-waisted flounce skirt. I also made a little top using a silver silk/cotton blend fabric from my stash.

I love this jacket. Every time I put it on, it feels so comfortable -- it is a heavy jacket, but it feels weightless when I wear it. 

Here's a detail shot of the top. I converted the bust darts to gathers; added a pleated neckline for the bow tie; and made a hidden front placket for the CF.

Well, that's it! I'm sorry I don't have in-progress photos -- I was so busy trying to get these pieces sewn that I didn't have the time to take many photos along the way. 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Final Collection Finally Photographed: Part 1

Well, the Kimono Refashion project is on the back burner, now that I have to wait until I visit my parents to pick up another kimono to use. I'm working on a couple of jacket projects that are in no shape to be photographed. But, I finally took a few photos of my final collection for Apparel Arts, so I thought I would start sharing them.

My inspiration came from my love of Agatha Christie murder mysteries, so I tried to incorporate designs from 1930s fashions; concepts of light vs. dark; and unexpected details. I knew I had to have a cape -- I love capes and they were popular in the 1930s -- but I wanted it in an unusual color (pink). I had a heck of a time finding the right pink color in a  wool coating, but I finally found it -- a beautiful and highly pet-able wool/cashmere coating from Mood.

My husband calls this my "Cruella de Ville" shot!

The pattern is simple -- a curved hem shape with a deep flounce for the collar and front neckline edge. There are no front closures, so it is a clutch cape. The lining is a washed silk charmeuse -- perfect because it is luxurious to the touch but not slippery.

I flat-felled the shoulder seams for extra stability. It was easy to sew, but the challenge came in pressing this finicky fabric. It was easy to over press it and leave marks, so a press cloth was critical. I also ended up under stitching in many areas to keep them flat and clean.

My original idea was to incorporate flat leather piping along the flounce edge. Needless to say, it ended up wiry and ruined the soft beauty of the flounce folds, so I had to rip it out. I now have lengths of flat leather piping with holes -- something for a future project!

Here is a little Crop Jacket plus matching Curved Seam Skirt that I made from a wonderfully textured fabric in my stash. It is a Ratti fabric from Emma One Sock that I purchased a while back and saved. I had just enough for both pieces, and incorporated some of my flat leather piping into the seams.

This was also another finicky fabric. It is a cotton/synthetic blend, but the raised texture seemed to "melt" a bit when pressed. Even on a lower heat setting and a press cloth, there was some melting that occurred, so I had to have a light hand when pressing. Lesson learned here -- test press a swatch!

The jacket has a cropped, swing shape, which I love. I chose to add a hem facing because of the curved hem, but used a lighter weight silk taffeta rather than the self fabric.

I did something different with this jacket -- I used silk organza to make the sleeve head, which gave just enough body to enhance the pleated sleeve cap.

I love the print lining -- loved it so much I bought extra yardage to make a blouse. It is really simple -- a narrow mandarin collar, 3/4-length sleeves and snaps as a front closure. I used gathers along the side seams instead of a dart, but the print is so busy it is difficult to see. It is more of a tunic length, so in the photos above, I wore it out and unbelted.

The matching Curved Seam Skirt is accented with flat leather piping. I lined this with Bemberg rayon.

The skirt has an unexpected detail -- a stripe of pink taffeta along the inside edge of the kick pleat, which just happens to match the hem facing in the jacket.

Four pieces down -- eight more left to photograph!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Refashioning a Kimono: Ideas

Thank you all for your lovely ideas for refashioning my mom's kimono. I was really surprised to see all of the different and creative ways people have re-imagined the kimono into something new and, most importantly, wearable today.

These pieces by Ann Williamson are just works of art. She has taken kimono fabrics and used different techniques such as piecing, beading and mixed media (combining the kimono fabrics with other silks) to truly transform the original garment. Wow!

Images from here.

Anne Namba is a Hawaii-based designer who started out refashioning vintage kimono. While her current line extends beyond that (including wedding dresses), some of her more stunning pieces still feature kimono fabrics.

Image from here.

Image from here.

Yoshi Jones is an Australia-based designer who creates limited edition garments using vintage silk kimono. Her garments are definitely more wearable for every day. I love the way she takes advantage of the print placement in her pieces.

Images from here.

So inspiring! But I've still been hesitant to cut the kimono apart. Luckily for me, when I got together with a group of sewing folks yesterday, they came up with a great solution -- test out ideas on another, less precious (read: emotionally charged!) kimono (my grandmother has a large stash that I can raid) and see where that leads. Such a simple and practical solution -- thank you, ladies!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Needed: Ideas for Refashioning a Kimono

I just returned from visiting my family in sunny southern California. While there, my mom gave me one of her kimono -- a beautiful pale pink one that she had custom-made in Japan before she was married. It is hand-painted silk and is absolutely stunning.

Here are some close-up shots of the flowers.

She wore it before her wedding…

And I had the chance to wear it in high school when I was taking tea ceremony lessons.

Since then, it has remained folded and stored, and now my mom would like it to be refashioned into something wearable so it can be enjoyed again. I have to admit that I'm not really excited about taking it apart -- I guess I like the idea of keeping it as it was meant to be -- but I understand the desire to create something new.

There is quite a bit of yardage and the silk is quite heavy, so my initial thought was to create a long, lined jacket, which would show off the print. A dress would be beautiful, but I don't think it would get much wear given my mom's current lifestyle. Perhaps a tunic-length top? I would appreciate any ideas!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Why I Blog: Blog Hop

This post is soooooooo late -- it was supposed to be posted on September 29! My apologies to dear Silvia from Sewing Princess, who was kind enough to ask me to participate -- and of course I let life get in the way and dropped the ball. If you aren't familiar with her blog, check it out -- she sews and knits beautiful clothes; writes her blog in English and Italian; and always has the best shoes -- the best! -- in her well-styled photos!

A number of bloggers have already participated in this Blog Hop -- sharing their individual stories about why they choose to blog about their sewing. Sometimes our posts are so focused on projects, techniques, fabric love, etc. that details about the person behind the blog -- the writer -- can get lost in the mix, which is why I think this Blog Hop is so cool. Here are some new-to-me blogs that I've found through this Hop!

The Handstitched Files
A Stitching Odyssey
Docksjo Design

Why I Write
I started this blog way back in January 2008. At the time, some of my hand-knit designs were being published in magazines such as Vogue Knitting and Knit Simple, so I thought it would be a good idea to have some sort of web presence. Well, as often happens, things evolve and I found myself more interested in posting about my sewing projects rather than my knitting projects. I also found the sewing blogger community to be so rich with interesting folks that I started to prefer blogging about sewing.

Image from Soho Publishing. The top was my first published knit design.

Now, I write because I want to share what I am working on and pass along any tidbits that I learn during the process. Unfortunately, one of my main obstacles to posting has been photography -- I'm terrible at taking photos while I work, and when I do remember, the quality tends to be iffy. I've found that you can't maintain a sewing blog without good photos!

What Am I Working On Now
For the past year, I have been attending a pattern-making school in San Francisco. It has been a great experience -- I learned a lot of new skills but, most importantly, gained a huge amount of confidence in my work. As part of the program, we were required to complete an 8-piece collection -- pieces that are cohesive and reflect who we are as a designer. We had to turn in the completed garments, the final production-ready patterns and a tech pack of one design -- a "package" of documents that instruct the factory on how to manufacture the garment. I finished the collection and turned it in -- ended up with 12 pieces! -- and am awaiting feedback.

My near-term goal is to build my own small fashion business, so I've been volunteering time with a local clothing design company, which has been a great experience. While there has been no sewing involved, I've met some talented designers; learned a lot about how the fashion industry works; how to communicate with overseas factories; and how challenging it is to run a successful fashion business.

How Does It Differ From Others Of Its Genre
Well, I don't think my blog really differs much from other sewing blogs. Some differences: I don't post tutorials, because I'm not a sewing expert and I leave those technical details to them. I also haven't sewn many indie patterns -- I tend to self-draft or use Burda -- so sometimes I feel out of the loop when it comes to online discussions of those patterns.

Prior to blogging, I knew very few people who were into knitting and sewing, so it has been so wonderful to meet -- both online and in person -- a group of people with similar obsessions.

How Does My Writing Process Work
I don't really have a process. I write when I have something to share (and photos!). I think my years of writing in corporate environments have taken a toll - I tend to focus more on presenting information in a logical and clear manner rather than in a witty or lighthearted way. I guess that's just how I write!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Final Collection and Germany Trip

It has been a busy couple of months! For my pattern making courses, I set a goal of completing my final collection by the beginning of September. As often happens, I ended up scrambling at the end to meet that self-imposed deadline -- and while some of the pieces could have been sewn better (and perhaps benefited from an additional muslin round), I was happy to have finished. Here are some not-so-great shots of the pieces when I presented them to the class. I'll post more about them when I get them back from the school.

This dress ended up being a bear to sew -- 16 parallel darts all around!

My favorite piece is the cape on the left. The color is actually more of a carnation pink rather than the bright pink on the screen. It is a luscious wool + tiny bit of cashmere blend and is lined with a sueded silk charmeuse, which feels great without being too slippery. The outfit on the right is a textured cotton/synthetic blend with strips of leather to highlight the curved seams. The lining + blouse is an amazing silk crepe print that I absolutely adore. 

Here's the Classic French Jacket again, with a matching fit/flare skirt I managed to squeeze out of the remaining yardage. The top is a silk/cotton blend with a pleated collar and tie neckline. I knit a cardi as well, but I think the shade of pink doesn't quite go with the rest of the collection. The asymmetric zip jacket is a fave as well -- it was a last-minute addition because I had enough fabric from the cape and some leather scraps. It needs another muslin to really perfect the fit of the sleeves. The trousers are fully lined with a leather waistband. The top under the jacket is made from extra lining fabric from the cape.

A few days later, I joined my husband on his business trip to Germany. It was my first trip there and, even though I don't speak the language, I had a great time. Here are some photos.

Hike up to the site of Ravensburg's castle. After climbing those steps, I realized I need to work out more!

Views of Ravensburg from the site of the town's original castle. Ravensburg is a well-preserved medieval town with dramatic towers and gates, located in southern Germany near the Swiss border. On a clear day, you can apparently see the Alps, but it was cloudy and rainy the entire time we were there. This was the clearest day we had.

I took a train/ferry to Meersburg, a town on the shores of Lake Constance, which borders Switzerland (one side of the lake is Germany and the other side is Switzerland). Here's a view of the town from the ferry. This town is also a well-preserved medieval town with a castle with sections that apparently date back to the 700s. 

Here's the new castle, which was built right next to the old one. Looks a bit more inviting!

Everyone was eating ice cream, so I couldn't pass it up. Cherry -- tasty!

One of the highlights of being in Ravensburg was their saturday market -- a local tradition since the 1100s or so -- where the main streets are lined with vendors selling produce, cheese, meats, breads, prepared foods, and even yarn.

From Ravensburg, we took the train to Munich to spend a few vacation days there. 

This was ground zero for tourists -- the Neues Rathaus and Glockenspiel in the Marienplatz area. We heard the chimes ring at 5 pm and saw the amazing figurines twirl -- the Glockenspiel is definitely worth navigating the crowds to see.

We walked a lot in Munich and came across random things -- like this shrine to Michael Jackson. 

And this very fancy car that had my husband drooling.

On our way to a museum, we stumbled on a street fair, so we decided to ditch the museum and check out the fair instead. Glad we did -- a lot of fun to see vendors, performers (like this big band playing great music) and people out and about enjoying the festivities, despite the rainy weather.

We took a train to Dachau, which is in the outskirts of Munich, to visit the site of Germany's first concentration camp. It was a sobering experience. History has always been one of my favorite subjects, so I had some knowledge before visiting, but being there at the site was an overwhelming and indescribable experience -- and one that should not be missed. 

We had a wonderful trip -- too short to really experience everything, but hopefully there will be other trips in the future. Here are just some random shots -- I loved seeing the traditional trachten (Bavarian clothing) in the windows and in the stores, as everyone was gearing up for Oktoberfest!

And of course I couldn't leave Germany without taking a photo of Karl Lagerfeld -- he has a twin!