December 31, 2012

Do you have "Poly Prejudice"?

(image from here. oh, the things you can buy from amazon...) 

Poly Prejudice is a term I heard from a local fabric store owner who was bemoaning how some customers wouldn't buy polyester fabric because they thought it was either not as good quality compared to natural fibers or just poorly made in general.

According to him polyester manufacturers have completely upped their game since the 70s when most people developed their disgust for man made fibers and now poly can be as good as silk or cotton (apparently Joann and the other big box fabric stores haven't found these new great poly manufacturers... ahem).

Hmm... I had never thought about that... Did I have so much poly prejudice that I never even touched the "good" stuff to see if it was even worth working with? Honestly the only poly I've ever bought was some fake silk-like polyester from Joann or one time from Fabric.com (that stuff was so slippery and nasty feeling that I just stuck it in a box and haven't looked at it in months). I've probably used some poly/cotton/rayon blends for knits but other than that I avoid the stuff.

Then there's also the environmental issue - poly is made from petroleum products, not exactly earth friendly. Then again, rayon, one of my fave fibers uses lots of water and chemicals which may or may not be negated by the fact that it is made with renewable materials. And then there's silk and wool - sorry vegans. And even if you buy organic cotton, odds are the dyes are still full ofchemical. Basically you're damned if you do, damned if you don't.

***What got me thinking about poly prejudice again is my need for sweaters. Since I make most of my own clothes my only retail therapy I really get is with shoes and accessories but there's something else I can't easily make since I don't knit - a good old fashion pull over sweater.

I was in a mid range department store the other day on the hunt for a cable knit sweater. The only one I could find that even had cotton in it was a cotton/rayon/poly blend and was two sizes too big.  EVERYTHING ELSE had poly or acrylic or nylon or some space fiber that was probably developed by NASA.

I looked online at Target - no dice. All poly or poly blend. Same at Urban Outfitters. Then I looked online at Gap - one winner (ONE!). It was a 100% cotton terry sweatshirt, not a knitted sweater but at this point I'm not complaining. J.Crew had one 100% cotton sweater and some all wool options but I dislike dry cleaning.

What does a girl gotta do to to get a natural fiber sweater up in here!? I'll take a wool/cotton blend even! Sweaters are supposed to be comfy and cozy, not itchy from some metallic bits interwoven in it. Can poly be warm and cozy? Am I right to apply my poly prejudice to RTW clothing?

I think many sewists have some amount of Poly Prejudice, I know I do. But are we right to? Have polyesters really improved or do natural fibers still reign supreme in the quality department? Should I be ashamed of my prejudice?

Shopping for non-poly got me thinking about some points in Overdressed. It may not be cheaper anymore to sew versus buying clothes but if you don't even have the option to buy a clothes made from natural fibers then sewing would be the only way to get those garments.

So what's your opinion about polyester? Does it have a place in our wardrobe? Should we give poly a chance? Is poly the fabric rights issue of our generation!? Am I making a big deal over nothing?!!

December 30, 2012

Texas State String Art

Texas String Art

It is my experience that if ever you have a good idea, someone else has already done it. Coughsuzannecough. Ok, well, I may have had the idea but seeing hers gave me the motivation to do make it myself.

Texas String Art

The idea is simple - take a board, I used particle board (it doesn't warp like plywood can) which they sell in pre-cut 2 ft by 2 ft squares at big box home improvement stores; spray paint it; pick a shape, I printed out the shape of Texas across 6 printer paper pages and taped them together and cut it out; tape the shape to the board and use finishing nails to create an outline of the shape; take out the paper and run string back and forth all over the shape, I used thin crochet thread.

Texas String Art

I would have added a heart on Austin like Suzanne did on her Wisconsin but Texas is a weird shape and wouldn't work well with trying to pull string in one direction from the edges. I just make a hot mess of string instead.

Texas String Art

It's cute! And it sits on my mantle which is nice 'cause I didn't want to have to add a wire on the back to hang it. (that's my sparkly garland leftover from Christmas)

Texas String Art

December 21, 2012

Holiday Ornament Exchange - the tree!

Holiday Ornament Exchange

Things are a little low key at my house this Christmas. We put up a little artificial tree with some colorful vintage ball and only my most favorite ornaments, including the new ones from the Holiday Ornament Exchange!

Holiday Ornament Exchange

I loved getting all the cute little packages in the mail with nice notes! Opening each one really got me into the Christmas spirit! Even my mail man was jolly when he delivered them one after the other.

Holiday Ornament Exchange

You can take a look at my ornament DIY over here.

Or see everyone else's great tutorials:

Jen at Grainline Studio
Kelli at True Bias
Maddie at Madalynne
Megan at Megan Nielsen
Miranda at One Little Minute
Mika at Savory Stitches
Sonja of Ginger Makes
Suzanne of My Beau Baby

Big thanks to Kelli for inviting me to participate and all the other lovely ladies who made and sent ornaments!

December 19, 2012

Velvet Grainline Scout Tee

Velvet Scout Tee

Ok, I think the technical term for velvet made from cotton is velveteen but that just doesn't seem as cool as velvet so I'm gonna go with that. Just say it - veeeeeeeelveeeeeeet. It just sounds fancy!

By the way, this since black fabric is notoriously hard to photograph I lightened these pics a bunch, so no, I am not that pale, but I am close...

Velvet Scout Tee

The Goal: I just had this urge to make something out of velvet. Maybe because I think it's kind of festive for winter? Or maybe because in the beginning of this year I set a goal to sew more solid color tops to go with a wider variety of bottoms. But as most of us have experienced, prints are just so much fun that solids are a little boring. I think the texture and shine from the velvet pile satisfies my need for "fun."

The Pattern: The excellent Grainline Studio's Scout Tee. You can see my first version where I go into more depth about why I really like this pattern.

Velvet Scout Tee

The Fabric: Cotton velvet(een) bought locally at The Common Thread (also where these pics were taken!)

So, having never worked with any kind of velvet before I was pleasently surprised with how easy it was. I read that silk and rayon velvets are much more finiky. This cotton velvet was easy to cut even with all the fuzzy bits flying everywhere. I used a walking foot to sew because I worried that the thick pile would make it difficult for the top layer of fabric to glide under a regular foot. That worked great!

I think the best part of this fabric is that it is totally machine washable. Some fancy silk velvets are dry clean only. It does get wrinkly, though. I just lightly iron it on the wrong side to smooth it out.

The Changes: None. For real. I made a straight size four.

Velvet Scout Tee

The Results: I loooove velvet! I want velvet everything now - shorts, jackets, dresses, pants, coats, non-stop velvet all the time! I think I may have found a new sewing obsession.

If you're wondering if the velvet is too stiff or heavy or hot to wear as a t-shirt, it's not. It's a very comfortable top and this pattern works well with this not-very-drapey fabric. I love that I can wear this top in the day with some jeans or dress it up at night or for a party with a cute skirt. I've already worn it multiple times this week. SO MUCH VELVET!!!!!!!!! Ok, that's enough excitement for today.

BTW, thanks for all the nice comments on my post yesterday. I think I'm gonna have fun writing up that series of posts.

December 18, 2012

Starting an Indie Pattern Company Pt 1

A few months ago I mentioned that I was going to write one big post on how I started my own, albeit tiny, pattern company from scratch. Yeah, that turned out to be a bigger idea than I thought. So I'm breaking it down and I'll add more parts over the next few weeks.

First we'll talk basics, design process, resources, paper drafting. Later we'll talk digitizing and sizing patterns, writing instructions, graphics, distribution and the rest.

How I started a Pattern Company with no money.

 
(my "scratch page" in Adobe Illustrator where I draw and experiment with my pattern pieces)

Ok, that's not entirely true. I already owned Illustrator, the program I use to draft, and Photoshop, another program I use. And I don't count fabric, tools and supplies for samples, because I would probably buy that stuff anyway. And I make PDF patterns, not pre-printed patterns which would have a big up front cost. But it did take time. A lot of time. So I'll give you the short version of how I started making patterns and how I do it now.

In the beginning there was a pattern - The Pattern Making Process

I think some people (or maybe just me) think that pattern drafting is something foreign and confusing and too difficult to learn. But then I bought some simple pattern alteration books which teach you how to manipulate simple patterns into new looks. I used the same techniques on other patterns I already owned. I took a basic pattern making class locally that helped as well.

Eventually I got good enough and developed basic blocks that I used to alter to make my own patterns. I have a t-shirt block, an a-line skirt block, a two-dart bodice block and a shorts block (a simpler version of these shorts).

A block is a very simple pattern that you copy to make into other patterns. A sloper is similar to a block but contains no ease. A block already has ease built in. Pattern drafting is really is nothing more than manipulating blocks. Rarely will I draft a major piece completely from scratch (I don't count collars, cuffs, waistbands, etc as major pieces). It's all about using base patterns and making changes.

From there I experimented with Adobe Illustrator with making print-at-home patterns that I gave away for free. If you look at some of those old patterns compared to the most recent one you'll notice a huge difference in labeling and instructions. The pieces still work fine but all the details are much better now.

How can I learn, too?
Ok, so let's assume you know little about drafting. Where to start?

If you can't take a class, read a book.


There is no book better than Patternmaking for Fashion Design when it comes to drafting. It's a college level textbook and it is expensive, even used, but it is worth it. Try to get the newest edition that you can, it has more info on knits, children's and specialty drafting. The book covers three basic concepts: dart manipulation, fullness and contours which are all fancy words for making 2D paper shape around a 3D figure. Grading doesn't come in to play much.

I like the Built by Wendy books. They're best for people who are fast learners and don't need a ton of direction but want a fun way to alter patterns to make their own designs.

Some others are Design-it-Yourself Clothes which teaches you very basic drafting techniques based on your own set of measurements.

How to Use, Adapt and Design Sewing Patterns is more manipulation than drafting from scratch but it's more detailed than the BbW books.

Here are a couple links for manual grading. It's good to understand how this works compared to grading on the computer.

This is just pattern drafting and adapting, not fitting. Fitting is a whole other concept that I won't go into here.

Inspiration
I come up with ideas all the time but only a few make it to the drafting stage (because drafting takes a long time and I'm lazy). Mostly I try to focus on one standout element of a garment and try to keep everything else simple, like a bow neckline for this top, tulip sleeves for this dress, buttons and a curved hem for these shorts.

Also, don't get discouraged if you find another garment that looks exactly like your design. Nothing is original. We all have two arms and two legs (unless, of course, you don't…) and there are only so many kinds of sleeves in the world. If you thought up a cool idea for a dress, odds are someone else has, and Forever 21 probably copied it, too. Make what you'd like to wear.

Paper drafting and Samples
 
(This is a sketch for a dress I'm designing with a gored skirt, boat neck, angled darts in front and a cut out at the back with a button placket at the center back. My sketches are really bad so I add a lot of notes so I don't come back later and think "what the heck is this?")

Once I get an idea I start drafting. Remember those blocks I talked about before? I start from there. I never draft from scratch unless I don't have a block that would work. Then I alter and manipulate block pieces as needed.



Here's how I made the back bodice piece for the back-cut-out dress sketch shown above. I started with a one dart back bodice piece (I drew over the dart so you could see it easier) without seam allowances. Then I moved that dart around a dozen times 'cause I didn't really know what I wanted to do with it. I drew my new lines at the shoulder (I'm making a boat neckline), the waist and to the center back. After that I retraced the pattern piece and cut it out.

Once I make all my pieces I'll make muslins if needed and do necessary changes to the paper pattern. By the time I'm done I have a pattern which includes all pieces and has seam allowance.

Then I'll make my first finished sample.

Once I have a sample along with a finished paper pattern I can then digitize it. That's the fun part that you're all looking forward to, right?

Well, we had to get through of all this to get to the computer part. Next time I'll talk about transferring the pattern pieces to the computer, making a size chart, grading the patterns and dealing with troubleshooting, oh, and a lot of math!

December 7, 2012

Drape Drape book drop waist gathered dress

Drape Drape book no. 3

Laurence King Publishing was kind enough to send me a copy of Drape Drape by Hisako Sato to try out. It's my first experience using a Japanese pattern book so I wasn't sure how hard it would be or if the sizing would match me (Japanese ladies always seem to be a little shorter and lot thinner than Americans).
 
Hisako teaches you not how to drape on a dress form but rather the techniques that go into draping: gather drape, tuck drape, slack drape, and by combining them, drape drape. It's a great intro into the concepts behind draping.

Drape Drape book no. 3

If you've never worked with Japanese sewing books and are considering buying one read this post and I'll tell you all my opinions. ;)

I'll talk about the dress I made first then discuss what I thought of the book.

The Goal: I wanted an easy first project from this book but I also wanted to make something that would be really wearable. Some of the designs in Drape Drape are pretty impracticable for me or aren't my style but they're all challenging creatively in someway.

Drape Drape book no. 3

The Pattern: I chose no. 3, the drop-waist gather drape dress. It's got cute gathered sleeves in front and a partially gathered skirt. What's cool is that it is all one big piece cut on the fold. The neckline piece wraps all the way around to the center back and the sleeves come forward over the shoulders to make a cap sleeve effect. The only real seam is the center back. For the neckline and armholes you just fold back the edge rather than needing facings or collars.

Drape Drape book

The Fabric: I used a black rayon/poly/lycra ponte knit from The Common Thread in Austin. It's a little stretchy when it needs to be but it is also very stable and has good recovery and is easy to sew. The book doesn't offer much in the way of recommended fabrics other than the fabric they use for the sample. Hisako used a wool jersey for the book version. I think the ponte worked perfectly for this project..

Drape Drape book no. 3

The Changes: The only big difference is that I didn't put in a center back zip. I can easily pull the dress on. I did add a slit in the back with a button and elastic hook but after wearing the dress I don't think I even needed to do that. Other than that I made a very small hem (I don't think I even referenced what the hem was supposed to be) because it was already pretty short on me.

Drape Drape book no. 3

The Results: I am really surprised how much I like this dress. Not that I expected not to like it, I thought it was cute in the picture but I like it even more in real life! Since it's black it's versatile and the solid color brings the focus to the cool seaming. And since it's a knit it is so comfy and wearable! Don't you love a dress that is both cute and comfortable?!

Drape Drape book no. 3

By referencing the sizing chart (in centimeters) I decided that I was a L in the bust and waist and an XL in hips and height. I'm 5'6" and this dress was supposed to be drop-waisted. I cut a straight L, figuring that with the gathers my larger hips could still fit easily but because of my height the waist line sits almost at my natural waist instead and the skirt is a wee bit short. Something to make note of. Slashing and spreading the pattern piece would make it easy to lengthen it.

The sizing ranges from prepubescent girl to Parisian runway model S to XL. For a reference the XL bust is only 35.5".

Now, I know that gathering isn't the most difficult of the Drape Drape draping techniques but it was a great starter project for the book and now I'm looking through and finding ideas for what I want to try next.

So let's talk about the book itself.

Drape Drape book

The Layout: The images, like a lot of other Japanese books, are minimalist and editorial. Each project has a picture of the final product front and back on a dress form and there is also a detailed line drawing (really helpful for clothes photographed in dark colors).

Drape Drape book

In the front is a short section on the different types of techniques as well as stitches and seam finishes Hisako recommends. It's useful enough to read through but not too packed with information that it would bore a more advanced seamstress.

This might be nitpicky but one thing I didn't like was that every project name had the word "drape in it." This might not seem bad but when you're flipping through trying to find a specific project or looking for your pattern pieces and every project has a similar name, it is easy to get confused.

Drape Drape book

The Designs: These designs may not be for everyone. They're not exactly "safe" styles, if you know what I mean. You'd need to be sans-bra most of the time if you were to wear these designs on their own. However after making this dress I've been thinking outside the box. The cape jacket would make a great layering piece.

Drape Drape book

The loose flare drape dress or the loose drape tank top could easily be a fun beach cover up. The v-neck drape drape dress would be gorgeous any way you style it.

Drape Drape book

Making the loose drape frilled tunic or the gather drape blouse with some tap pants in a nice silk would make an adorable lounging pajama set.

Not every design uses knit and many knit designs could be made with wovens if you're not that comfortable sewing knits just yet.

Drape Drape book

The Instructions: This book was translated from the original Japanese and at times can read a little awkward. There are a few terms here and there that I'd never heard used in sewing before but nothing that I couldn't figure out. Sometimes the instructions are just an order of work and aren't very detailed but the text is made up for by the great illustrations. That's seriously the best part of the book. Some of the pattern pieces look CA-RAY-ZAY but the drawings help bring everything together in a logical fashion with lots of arrows and notes.

Drape Drape book

The Patterns: All the pattern pieces are printed on both sides of two big sheets of paper. Each sheet can fit easily on a table, unlike Burda Magazine pages which are the length of a football field. However like some other books/magazines with layered pattern pieces they expect you to trace there is no real differentiation between pattern pieces or sizes by color changes or dashed cutting lines. But, on the other hand there are seam allowances included (praise Jesus!!) and lots of notches and notations.

Drape Drape book

Overall Drape Drape is a really cool little book. If you're an advanced beginner who has worked with patterns before you'll no doubt find at least one design that you'll like and can make fairly easily. If you're a more advanced seamstress some of the complex designs will really peak your interest.
But, if you normally need to do several fit adjustments on patterns and/or you are bigger than Twiggy you may find it difficult to re-size some of these pattern pieces.

I'm really glad I got to test out this book 'cause now I have an awesome new dress!

December 5, 2012

Christmas Gift Time: Kwik Sew 3935 x 3

Kwik Sew 3935

It looks like my orna-mints (mints, haha, get it?) got me in the Christmas mood after all.

Last year I made dresses for each of my cousins, all girls, all under the age of 10. They really liked them, although I think one of the dresses might have been a tad tight. I'm not sure how much wear they got out of them 'cause kids grow so fast but whatevs. I'd rather make clothes than try to buy princess toys.

One of my cousins even asked if I could make her a pageant dress (apparently they do pageants now, I'm going to try not to think of Toddlers and Tiaras...) but I'll have to save that until later. That would require a lot more work and fitting.


This year I made it easier on myself. I made all three dresses from the same pattern, Kwik Sew 3935.

Kwik Sew 3935

One problem with not having my own kids is that I am lacking in models. So if you want to see what this dress ought to look like on real children you can see the Kwik Sew website.

Kwik Sew 3935

I traced each pattern, 'cause I'm a tracer now, not a cutter, and also 'cause I didn't want to buy three copies of this pattern... ahem... in a M, S and halfway between a XXS and XS.

And I made every dress out of knit which is good 'cause I didn't have to finish any edges on the elastic casings.

Kwik Sew 3935

The green sparkly knit is from Joann or Hancock, can't really remember. The other two are both from Girl Charlee.

Kwik Sew 3935

I thought this design was pretty cute. There's elastic in every opening and in the kangaroo pockets. It has raglan sleeves and a slightly hi-lo hem (why, how trendy). The pattern also comes with some leggings.

Kwik Sew 3935

Obviously it's going to be difficult to judge the fit without the girls wearing them but these dresses are loose enough that I probably won't have to worry about them being too small. Plus, as they grow taller they can use these dresses more like tunics and wear them with leggings or jeans.

Are you sewing any holiday presents this year?

December 3, 2012

Starlight Mint Ornament - Holiday Ornament Exchange

Starlight Mint Ornament

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Except, well, because of global warming or something my Texas Christmas is more resembling an Australian Christmas. It was 80 degrees yesterday! What's up with that?

A few weeks ago the lovely (and expecting!) Kelli from True Bias asked me as well as a bunch of other bloggers, many who you also know and love, to participate in an ornament exchange! So of course I was like, "yes please!"

Starlight Mint Ornament

We all made our own ornaments that we're mailing to each other. None of us know what each of us are making so it's a big surprise for everyone.

Let me just say that while coming up with my idea I nixed a few others because, as usual, whenever I come up with a good idea someone else has already thought of it and put it on Pinterest. I had to stop Pinterest-ing for a while because I was getting discouraged. No doubt my idea has already been made by others as well, and if by some chance another one of the participating ladies had the same idea for an ornament as I, well, then we're both geniuses. ;)

Moving on, I don't really like mint flavor, and I never really eat these things but for some reason my childhood memories are filled with these little Starlight mints. They remind me of spending Christmases with my grandmother and the iconic colors and shapes shout "Christmas" to me. So, naturally, I covered a ball in mints.

Starlight Mint Ornaments
You will need:
  • Starlight mints
  • Styrofoam balls (These are 2 1/2" size. I don't recommend any bigger, the mints add a lot of bulk)
  • A glue gun
  • Some kind of wire (I used floral wire)
  • Wire cutters
  • Ribbon for hanging
  • Scissors
  • Clear spray sealant
  • Ziplock bags
  • And maybe a hammer...
This project is pretty simple.

Starlight Mint Ornaments
Starlight Mint Ornaments
Dab some glue on the back of a mint and stick it on the ball.

Starlight Mint Ornaments

They ya go. Not so hard, right?

Starlight Mint Ornaments
Now keep adding mints next to mints you just glued.


Starlight Mint Ornaments
Hold each mint down for a few seconds to let the glue stick.

Starlight Mint Ornaments
Soon you'll have your ball covered!

Starlight Mint Ornaments
If you get big spaces that can't fit a whole mint, don't worry. We'll fix that next.


As you unwrap your mints you'll no doubt have a few broken mints. That's good. You can use those bits to patch spaces between mints.

Starlight Mint Ornaments
If you need smaller pieces you can put them all in a ziplock bag and hammer the mints into tiny bits.

Starlight Mint Ornaments
Glue and stick the broken bits in the empty spots.

Starlight Mint Ornaments

If you're making more than one ornament you can save this part for last.

Starlight Mint Ornaments
Just fill in all the really big spots, all those tiny spaces won't be seen from a distance.

Starlight Mint Ornaments
Next cut a length of wire, about 4", like in the picture above.

Starlight Mint Ornaments
Bend to make a loop on one end that will hold the ribbon.

Starlight Mint Ornaments
Wrap the short end around the rest of the wire.

Starlight Mint Ornaments
Starlight Mint Ornaments
Put glue along the wire and find a nice spot on the ball and stick the wire in.

Starlight Mint Ornaments
Add some extra glue at the base of the loop for support.

Starlight Mint Ornaments
Then spray the whole thing with sealant. I sprayed one side at a time so I could let the sealant dry. The sealant and mints can get sticky so make sure you spray on some plastic like a big ziplock bag, not paper towels. The mints can stick to the paper.

Starlight Mint Ornaments
Finally cut some ribbon, I cut about 12", and string it through the loop.

Starlight Mint Ornament

Make a cute bow and now hang it on your tree!!! They're a little heavy but I have much heavier ornaments than these so it should be fine.

Starlight Mint Ornament

Thanks again to Kelli for organizing this! Now go see all the other cool ornament ideas:

Jen at Grainline Studio
Kelli at True Bias
Maddie at Madalynne
Megan at Megan Nielsen
Miranda at One Little Minute
Mika at Savory Stitches
Sonja of Ginger Makes
Suzanne of My Beau Baby