Friday, January 20, 2012

Rambling: SWAP 2012 (Again I talk about the sewing.)

NaNoWriMo is over. So I need a substitute, right? Right?

Well, there's this thing called a SWAP, or Sewing With A Plan. The Stitcher's Guild hosts an annual SWAP contest. This year's rules, as briefly as I can describe them, call for participants to:
  • Choose seven garment types from a list of fourteen choices. The choices include things like collared shirt, tee, pants, skirt, jacket, and so on.
  • Make one example each of those seven garment types.
  • Make another example each of four of the seven. That is, repeat the garment type, not necessarily the pattern. That makes a total of eleven garments.
  • All eleven garments must be sewn by the participant, but two of them can be from before the beginning of the contest.
  • The other nine must be sewn between 12/26/2011 and 4/30/2012.
People generally have a theme for their SWAPs, and a title, but I haven't gotten that far. Rather like typing at blinding speed for NaNoWriMo, I'm going to count any garment that, well, counts. Later, I might substitute in spiffier things. On those grounds, I've technically finished (or almost finished) four out of the eleven garments:

1 - Lazy Skirt (Skirt): I already own at least four self-sewn skirts, so I'm counting one as one of the two before-the-contest garments.

2 - Goth-Daffodil Cooking Coat (Overshirt): As a test garment/wearable muslin for the delightfully weird Liberty Shirt from Sewing Workshop, I sewed this up from black cotton printed with white daffodils. It's pretty weird to wear outdoors, so I'm calling it a cooking coat. (Fried chicken splatters, after all.) I intend to make a closure with a pig-shaped button and some chicken-and-egg ribbon. A cooking coat may be pushing the category of "overshirt"; we'll see if this one remains a part of the SWAP.

3 - Pink Girly Top (Blouse or shirt, collar optional): The Sewing Workshop Cowl Top in pink silk crepe, previously blogged. I used the pattern pretty much unchanged, except for adding triangular godet/gusset things at the hem to make more room for my hips.

4 - Red Polka Dot Girly Top (Blouse or shirt, collar optional): The Sewing Workshop Cowl Top again, in red rayon with white polka dots. This represents Version Two of my copy of the Cowl Top pattern. Who knew that sewing would require version control? But I'm finding that it really does; without versions it's only a matter of time before I cut an un-altered sleeve and try to install it into an altered armhole.

In this version, I shortened the hem a fraction to make it shorter than any likely jackets or cardigans, shortened the sleeves to wrist length, sewed everything but the cowl in French seams, pre-hemmed the pieces before assembly (a little weird, but it solved the rippling hem problem that I had on the pink one), and topstitched the cowl instead of hand-hemming it. I abandoned the triangular thingies; they went in just fine in the silk crepe for the first top, but I failed three times in the wobbly rayon of the second one, so I finally ripped them out and did normal side seams. Therefore, I'll be tucking this shirt in.

In Version Three I'll modify the main bodice pieces to make more hip room. I may also make hem templates to avoid the pre-hemming weirdness while still avoiding the ripply weirdness. I'm debating whether to remove some fabric from higher in the bodice, but I'm pretty sure that that would be just silly--this shirt wants to be loose and roomy. I also really want to find a way to do a completely clean finish, like a French seam, on the cowl seam, but so far I'm not sure how.

My construction skills are already improving; this version is greatly improved from the pink one. Unfortunately, I don't look so good in it. That is, I really like the head-and-shoulders view in the mirror; it's just what I wanted. But the shoulders-to-waist view makes me look a little, er, substantial. It appears that polka dots call for a few distracting details like a collar and buttons, rather than just an expanse of flowing fabric. So I'll be wearing this blouse under a cardigan or jacket and will make future Cowl Tops from solids.

So, how about garments five to eleven? Some of them are planned.

5 - Yet Another Black Shirt (Button Shirt With Collar): The cooking jacket was OK, but the shoulders were too wide, giving it a dropped sleeve when it's not meant to. I used the "narrow shoulders" alteration in Sandra Betzina's Fast Fit book to change the pattern and I (gulp) went ahead and cut it out in black linen without testing it in muslin. I may regret this, but that linen's been hanging around for at least ten years, so I'm declaring it to be fully depreciated. Or whatever you call it for sewing stash.

6 - Weird Skirt (Skirt):  I'm realizing that my taste for weird extends to sewing patterns as well as perfume. The Liberty Shirt is weird. And when I decluttered much of my pattern collection a few years ago, I kept all the Issey Miyake and Folkwear. Vogue 1082, the skirt that I'm tentatively planning to make for garment 6, is subtly weird, with lots of cool architectural seams.

Now, going full-fledged weird with this particular skirt requires absolute perfection in topstitching. I don't have that talent yet, so I'll be making it up out of some quiet matte-finish solid, and skipping the topstitching.  There's a narrow slightly pegged version and a much fuller version; I'll be starting with the weirder narrow version. For a later project, the fuller version looks good, too--plenty of walking room with not a bit of excess fabric further up where it's not needed.

What to make it in? That question highlights a conflict between sewing and decluttering. See, it's common to make a test garment or "muslin" of a pattern in cheap ugly fabric. The fabric might be actual muslin or some length of textile ugliness that you bought while visiting a fabric store with impaired judgement. That's not the decluttering conflict--muslins are made to be thrown away.

But next comes the "wearable muslin". Once a muslin is done, you may want to retest the altered pattern in, say, seven-dollar-a-yard bargain rayon bought on sale before you cut into the fifty-dollar-a-yard Silk of Majesty and Grandeur. If you succeed, you're ready to move on to the expensive fabric, but you also have a garment that is, by definition, a compromise. Unless you're fifty miles away from the nearest laundering facilities, how many compromise garments do you want in the house? As they start to stack up, will you actually wear them?

I have three different fabrics that are perfectly suitable for Vogue 1082, but I don't actually like any of them, at least not for a skirt. I also have a lovely nubbly black wool that I want for the skirt in the end, but I'm afraid to ruin it. It's a thicket.

7 - Standard Shirt (Button Shirt With Collar): I want a shirt that I can make up several times in different shirting fabrics, but I can't seem to perfect a set-in sleeve in any of the candidates tried so far.  Burda 7429 has dropped sleeves and appears to have a fairly fitted bodice, and might be just what I want while I'm avoiding the set-in sleeves. I haven't so much as unfolded the pattern yet, though, so we'll see.

8 - My Kingdom For a Dress! (Dress): I've been fighting with two different princess-seamed dresses, but I don't know if I'm going to win either battle. First was the Hot Patterns Wong-Singh-Jones Kimono Wrap Dress. After my first attempt at a bodice-and-sleeves muslin, I realized that I'd have to lengthen the bodice, modify the sleeve to account for a larger upper arm, possibly remove some ease from the sleeve cap or completely redraft the sleeve to be properly asymmetrical, and modify the shoulders to account for narrow shoulders. That's before I get even as far as my waist.

I got discouraged and tried the Petite Plus Princess Dress, because it's intended for people who are round for their height, like me. It turns out that the size that the measurement chart recommends for me is too large everywhere, so I'll need to start over with a smaller size, tracing all five pieces again--and if I guess wrong on the size, possibly again. Once I trace that smaller size, I'm pretty sure I'll still have to do a low bust adjustment and narrow the shoulders.

I'm going back to Wong-Singh-Jones; if I have to put this much work into a pattern, I prefer its shoulder princess seams to the armhole princess seam of the Petite Plus dress. But, sheesh. What's worse is that this is probably not an abnormal amount of work for fitting a pattern.

But, hmm. I dug into the pattern box to have another look at those two patterns and ran across Stretch & Sew 526, a pattern so old that I don't see even a mention on PatternReview. I remember making a perfectly satisfactory loose cotton summer dress from this. It has barely dropped sleeves, getting me out of the set-in sleeves drama, but still with the shape of a normal sleeve. I don't like the empire waist, but in digging through the envelope I see I already altered that away. I suspect that the scoop neck version doesn't even require a real button closure. Unfortunately, the dress is packed away with the summer clothes, so I can't try it on.

9: Again, again! (Dress): If I put that much work into a dress pattern, I'm making it at least twice.

10: Cloaklike object (Overcoat or Raincoat; it seems clear in the rules discussion that a cloak counts for this type): I don't know what kind--the Folkwear Kinsale Cloak, maybe? Or some much smaller elbow- or hip-length thing like Vogue 8605? Vogue 1476, a freaky draping cloak/coat that one of the reviewers says has been in the catalog for twenty years?

Oh. Never mind. Forget all that. Look at Vogue 2232. Architectural. Weird. Look at the version that appeared in Threads 91, as depicted in this post from Now Sewing. Want.

Number 11? I just don't know. The rules do say that if you wear pants, you should include them in your SWAP, and I do wear jeans and occasionally shorts. So that's what this ought to be. But.

And by the way, is it wrong to want a dressmaker's dummy just so that I can photograph my garments on it for blogging and pattern reviews? Probably.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

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