Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sewing: White Shirts


My two white Plain & Simple Princess Shirts, the ones I was so bored with, are almost done. Once I got them past the trimming-and-pressing stage for the collar, they became far less boring. Now I'm able to try them on, and I can see that the sleeves on the cotton one are a little bit short again. How did I manage to lengthen the sleeve and still make it too short? And how is it that the cotton shirt and the linen/rayon shirt seem to have a roughly 3/4 inch different in sleeve length, when they were cut from precisely the same pattern?

OK, OK, yes, the linen/rayon fabric is fundamentally different. It presses differently (and better), it molds differently (and better). Its sleeves eased in like butter, while I had to rip and re-stitch the cotton ones in two different places. In the mirror, the fit looks both closer and more comfortable. It's just better. I assume that its sleeve somehow molds better to my arm and thereby ends up with more length down at the wrist. But it's still weird.

The hemlines of both shirts are also a little shorter than I'd like. The cotton one looks skimpy, while the linen/rayon one looks great but I know that it's going to try to show skin on my back if I don't sit down extra carefully. So I don't want to take away the inch or three that I'd need to take for a non-skimpy hem.

That green polka dot top that I made in the previous post had faced hems for the sleeves, and a regular fold-up hem for the blouse hem. The sleeve hems looked great, both crisp and fluid. The fold-up hem looked soft and wrinkly, fifteen minutes away from the iron. The fold-up hem of the completed green Plain & Simple Princess Shirt was also sort of soft and wrinkly, though much less so, because it was made from a stiffer fabric.

My conclusion is: Faced hems are good. I suspect that the firm definition of the seamline will make the hem a cleaner and more accurate line that wants to fold where it's supposed to fold, and that for floppy fabrics the four layers of fabric in the seam will provide needed body. However, for the fairly stiff cotton and the fairly bulky linen/rayon of the white shirt, I may not want the bulk of four layers of the shirt fabric.

So my new conclusion is: I'm going to do a test of a faced hem in silk organza, using the shirt scraps. If that works, I'll draft facing pieces for the sleeve and hem of the shirts, and make faced hems. Actually, if the shirt hem is dead straight, I guess there's no real need to "draft" anything - I can just cut wide strips of organza. I think.

Oh, I forgot the grr: The cotton shirt already has a spot on it! A curved faint tea-colored stain right below the right-hand half of the collar, the most obvious possible place. I know it's not from my hands; I've been washing them obsessively every time I handle the white fabric. Nor is it from actual tea. (I just used that picture because I liked it.) I think my iron's far too new to be producing rust stains. I suppose it could be from the ironing board cover, but I can't see where, and I don't know where it came from if so. I'm cranky. Once I get that shirt hemmed enough to be safely washable, I'm going to wash it (and if that doesn't work, bleach it) before I do all the work of buttonholes and buttons, to make sure it's going to come out. And now I'm nervous to press the rayon/linen shirt.


Image: Wikimedia Commons

Monday, February 13, 2012

Sewing: Changing the SWAP, and More Polka Dots

Remember that SWAP (Sewing With A Plan) that I talked about? My plan has changed. Completely. Well, fairly completely.

The previous plan specified black for everything but the shirts and blouses, and bright saturated colors for long-sleeved and fairly wintery shirts and blouses. Almost all of the candidate fabrics were "fancy"--washable, but washed separately and nervously in the Wool or Delicate cycle, rather than being flung with their similarly-colored companions into the Normal cycle.

But I noticed that there's not much winter left, at least in sewing terms. And accepted that while I can wear a silk blouse around the house (as long as I put on a cooking coat before I fry anything) and out to lunch on a cool day, silk is a little much in the garden and not very comfortable on a sweaty day. And, perhaps most importantly, we already have a lot of wash-seperately garments (aka "freak laundry") and Himself might rebel if the "Don't wash that!" population gets much bigger.

So the new plan is a warm-weather SWAP. It uses chocolate brown for the neutral, has no wool and no silk and more cotton, and some of the shirts will have short sleeves. It acknowledges that I'm not going to sit down in damp garden dirt in a skirt.  It still has colored tops. That leads me to:
  • Yoke skirt (Vogue 1082), in lightweight brown denim.
  • Narrow pleated skirt (HotPatterns Trouser Skirt) in brown linen.
  • Roomy big-pockets shorts in brown denim.
  • Roomy trousers in brown denim.
  • Jacket/overshirt (the Liberty Shirt?) in brown linen.
  • Long-skirted short-sleeved princess-seamed dress (the Princess FrankenDress) in dark ruby red linen.
  • Same, in... I'm not sure. Linen or chambray in brown or maize, or exactly the right cotton lawn-or-shirting print.
  • Short-sleeved collared shirt (probably the HotPatterns Plain & Simple Princess Shirt) in dark ruby red handkerchief linen.
  • Same, in maize handkerchief linen.
  • Collarless top in a cotton print.
  • Same, in another cotton print.
"Exactly the right print" for all those prints would be something with a colored rather than white background, and a definite "mood" to the design--Art Deco, Art Nouveau, Fifties Space Age Housewife, Seventies Flower Child, something more distinctive than just, "Ooh, pretty." (Unless it's such a heartbreakingly beautiful "ooh, pretty" that extra personality is not required.) And it can't be quilting cotton weight, because I look dreadful in the way that quilting cotton hangs; it needs to be lawn or voile or fancy shirting or some other garment-weight fabric with more drape.

I dug out every stash fabric that works with the brown theme, just to look them over, and of course I took a photo. You'll see that my taste for the whacky is growing. In case you're wondering, yes, that stuff to the left is orange chiffon with multicolored velvet polka dots. I'm not yet skilled enough to sew anything with it, with is just as well, because I need to figure out an occasion to wear it--Himself is not going to be willing to be seen with me in the resulting garment.

Most of the blouse fabrics that I've sewn (or only cut) so far this year were chosen for their affinity with black, but I think they'll work fine with brown. Two white shirts--fine. The pinky/red silk top--adequate. The red polka dots and the lime green may work even better with brown than with black. The black linen Liberty Shirt (cut and waiting to be sewn for weeks now) will make for a funereal combination with the dark brown linen skirt, but then again, I was going to wear it with a black skirt, right? Of course, all-black can have a sharp urban look, while black and brown may just signal "blah." We'll see.

See that green stuff with the polka dots, in the photo above and then sneaking in half-constructed on that hanger to the right? It's a nice drapey rayon crepe. It's not included in the SWAP, because it's neither cotton or a saturated color. I should be hurrying to work on SWAP garments, because I have to finish eleven garments by 30th to finish the SWAP. So, naturally, yesterday I cut and started sewing the green stuff.

I used the  Indygo Junction Over The Top Tunic. I wouldn't have considered this pattern based on the envelope, because it's pictured in quilting cotton. But Fabric of Vision had a sample of it in a dressy drapey fabric, and I saw and fell in love with that before I saw the pattern photos. The pattern still makes me a little nervous, because it has a raised/Empire waist, and I always assume that those will make me look pregnant or at the very least emphasize my non-trivial stomach. This is probably illogical, like any part of the delusion that people will look thinner in too-tight clothes. Why would making room for a bulgy part of the anatomy emphasize it more than stretching fabric around it?

Anyway, I finished it in the green stuff to the point of being able to try it on, and I rather like it. It has a faint Renaissance Fair vibe, the belt makes it curve in and then out in the back in a waistlike manner, the front doesn't billow excessively, and I really like me in the squarish neckline. I learned that the triangular inset in the neckline should be interfaced when using a drapey fabric; I'm debating whether to rip it out and interface it, or quit while it's more or less working and call that a lesson learned for the next time I use this pattern.

I'm also puzzled about the sleeves--I lengthened them from three-quarter length, and they're a little twisted. (Visually twisted; they're perfectly comfortable to wear.) I seem to remember that twisted sleeves are a result of the fact that one's arms are attached toward the front of the body but patterns are often drafted on the assumption that they're precisely on the side. Something like that. Or, of course, I may have eased the sleeve in a bit wrong. I think that the three-quarter sleeve in quilting cotton would have enough stiffness to allow it to correct itself, but the long sleeve and drapey crepe are causing the sleeve to hang up on my arm and look twisty. I don't have the faintest idea how to fix this, so I'm trying to ignore it.

While I made this as a blouse, it's more often pictured as an overshirt, without the neckline inset and with a tee or other shirt underneath. I don't actually own anything in the overshirt category--when I want to add a layer, I tend to just put a T-shirt on under an another T-shirt, or a sweater and then another sweater. Function, not fashion. Now I'm thinking of making this up in something warm... ooh!

I have a length of red wool that I bought when I thought (for a dangerous at-the-computer-with-a-credit-card-nearby moment) that I would wear a red skirt. I won't wear a red skirt. I already own a red skirt. I've owned it for fifteen years. I wore it once near Christmas. But I would certainly wear a red wool overshirt tunic thingie. I'll probably line it with China silk to test my theory that less friction would ease the twisty sleeves, thus making it red and wool and silk.

More freak laundry!

Photos: Mine.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Sewing: The TnT Quest

So when I last reported in, I had finished the lime green version of the HotPatterns Plain & Simple Princess Shirt. Since then, my sewing focus has been split between several patterns, all of which I hope to make parts of a wardrobe of "tried and true" (TnT) patterns.

The idea of TnTs is that, rather than chasing madly after every fascinating new pattern that comes along, you fit and test and perfect a smaller number of useful and reusable patterns. This way, your sewing projects have quite good odds of actually becoming wearable garments, rather than the usual fifty/fifty (or worse) odds of ending up as scraps.

That would be great. So why does this sound so boring? Something is clearly wrong with me. On principle, I want a nice little group of TnTs. But in practice, that Issey Miyake thing from the eighties, the one that I would probably never wear, just looks like so much more fun. And that Geoffrey Beene jacket that I wouldn't wear either. And the Folkwear Kinsale cloak. And... well, you get the idea. I guess I like the pattern equivalent of Comme des Garcons Garage.

OK, anyway, so far I'm working toward this fine and wholesome goal. Current TnT candidates include:

The Plain & Simple Princess Shirt: This is the one I used for the green shirt, and it seems to work just fine. I lengthened the sleeves, left the rest unchanged since the last round, and used the resulting pattern to cut out two white shirts, one in white Brussels Washer (a cotton/linen blend) and one in an inexpensive white cotton "shirting". The pseudo-shirting really doesn't feel like shirting; it's distinctly coarser than it should be and doesn't press at all well, and at the price I paid for it I have no business expecting anything nicer. Both shirts are coming along nicely, and I'm so bored with them, especially the cotton one, that I don't want to finish them.

This is a lesson that I keep learning and keep forgetting--don't pour valuable time into boring or cheap fabric. I'll force myself to finish them, but the cotton one isn't getting the expensive natural buttons I bought for it. (So there.) And then I may send off for handkerchief linen in fuchsia. Or that turquoise silk twill. Or the ruby red silk georgette. (So there again.) (OK, I'm not yet competent to sew the georgette, and I wouldn't wear it.) (OK, I might order it anyway.)

The Yoke Skirt: That weird one with all the architectural seams. I made a muslin, declared it too snug, added an inch on each side (a change that had to be made to six, count 'em, six pattern pieces) and am ready to finally cut the skirt in real fabric, probably a hunk of very lightweight denim. Well, technically, after messing with six pattern pieces, I really really really should make another muslin. Having met myself, I strongly suspect that I'm not going to do that.

Just to cause more trouble, I'm also considering trying to modify this skirt to have an elastic waist instead of a zipper. See, even the too-snug muslin pulled on without my un-safety-pinning the opening. And with an untucked shirt that falls three or so inches below my waist, an elastic-crinkled waist won't really be visible. And I hate putting in zippers. So... I'm indecisive. I'll probably baste the thing together in denim and baste in an elastic casing and see how it looks and decide then.

Next? The Princess FrankenDress. I got the Princess Shirt working, and I couldn't get a dress working, so I decided to combine the Princess Shirt with the HotPatterns Classix Nouveau Indispensable Dress. If you happened to look at the sketches for each pattern, you might ask: why would I take a dress that has a princess bodice with a notched collar, and replace it with a princess bodice with a notched collar? Because the original princess bodice is an armhole princess seam, that's why, and I fail miserably at fitting armhole princess seams. They seem to expect the, er, upper fullness to be in a very specific location, so that I can find myself laboriously adjusting things only to find that it's still half an inch off and that that half inch is noticeable. A shoulder princess seam is much more flexible about location.

So I combined the two and stitched up a very quick muslin in muslin, and it mostly fit, and Himself noted that I looked like a scary nurse in it, which is entirely correct and makes me think of the possibilities for scary nurse uniforms for Halloween. The skirt's a little shorter in back than in front, and my Sandra Betzina book claims you can fix that, so I'll give it a try; it would be nice if the hemline were naturally even enough to let me get away without doing the usual measure-the-hem-from-the-floor thing.

Then I need to find a fabric. I still can't tell if this pattern is going to have a Dorothy-in-the-barnyard vibe, or be more of a ladies'-lunch costume, and that determines the fabric. Chambray or silk? I'm probably going to aim for a middle ground and make it in lightweight linen in a fairly dark color (black? chocolate brown? navy? forest green? dark maroon?), something that I could wear with either garden gloves and Merrells, or a silk scarf and heels. OK, not heels; I don't wear heels, especially not in a season that has any risk whatsoever of ice on the ground. But girly flats and maybe even a silly brooch.

The HotPatterns Classix Nouveaux Dolman Blouse is a slightly dubious candidate for TnT status. The difficulty is that the dolman bodice-and-sleeve pieces are huge. When I extend the sleeves from the original elbow length to full length they get huger and can't be cut in folded fabric. I could add a seam somewhere, but that would disrupt the unbroken flow of the fabric. I already killed the pleats in the original pattern, because they broke the flow, too. Well, and they looked very eighties. Yes, this whole blouse wants to be very eighties--I saw Maddie Hayes wearing an almost identical blouse in Moonlighting just the other night--but I'm just not into that decade's fashion.

I wanted that unbroken flow because I was going to use this pattern for prints that I don't want to break up with seams. I suppose I could "match" those prints like people match stripes, but that starts to look like, y'know, work. On the other hand, the failed version of this shirt that I made was very comfortable, so I'm not ready to abandon it.

Next? Next? Maybe the HotPatterns Trouser Skirt. Maybe that Geoffrey Beene thing after all. There are all sorts of Sewing Workshop patterns I've never tried. Or I could actually sew more than one thing from each TnT. Like I'm supposed to. That is theoretically possible.

We'll see.


Image: Wikimedia Commons.