Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Great British Sewing Bee provides the best inspiration!

Ok, first of all - how very awesome was the final of the Great British Sewing Bee? I laughed, I cried... it was so very inspirational! Massive congratulations to Ann - who is amazing! (I'm a lurker-ish member of the Stitcher's Guild forum, and Ann is so helpful.) Congratulations also to all the other contestants, who really represented sewing well in how nice, helpful, funny and cooperative they all were.

Anyhoo - I've been really fascinated by the time constraints on the sewing in this show, and find myself wondering if I could actually sew an A-line skirt in 3 hours, a pair of men's pants in 3.5 hours or a lined jacket in 8 hours.

(The answers respectively are: Probably, Are you kidding me? No way! and Yeah, in my dreams.)

So the other day, as a next project, I pulled out an unlined knit jacket pattern from an old Burda magazine (06-2009-114) and asked myself - can I sew this in 5 hours?
This jacket is meant to be constructed out of sweatshirting. 

I got to work at 8.00pm Monday night.

- It took me 1.25 hours to trace out the pattern, add seam allowances and cut out the pattern.
- It took me 45 minutes to cut out the fabric.
- Another 20-ish minutes to interface all the pieces that needed interfacing.
- I then started sewing...

At about the point where I had an hour left - I'd finished assembling the body and the sleeves and I had three important bits left:

- Pockets
- Hemming
- That notched collar!

Ok, I've never made a notched collar before. Since I was doing a GBSB-style challenge, I decided using the internet to google construction details was cheating. I'd have to figure out the Burda gobbely-gook instructions.

That didn't go so well either - it took me 30 minutes to have the collar basted. At this point - 4.5 hours into the project - I decided I wasn't going to be done, and went to bed.

However, the next day, I did google some instructions, and hacked away at my jacket. I vaguely kept track of time. I got the collar on, decided my pockets looked woefully hand-made, and skipped them, and then hand-hemmed the jacket. (No perfectly matching thread, otherwise, I wouldn't have bothered.)

The result? A wearable jacket. It isn't obviously the most perfect of sewing, but it works as a first notched-collar attempt. There will be more.

The great motto of the story? Sometimes - it's about the doing. I've a tendency to browse the Internet, overthink the next project, walk away when a difficult bit comes up, etc. But there's just no substitute for actual doing.


Sunday, April 21, 2013

BWOF 02-2013-126 - A mini palette cleanser

The never-ending dress caused me to back up on many other sewing resolutions, and so last night, I took a bit of time to trace and cut out out the February t-shirt that everyone's been making with great success.

Today, while hanging out at my parents, I quickly sewed it up, and hey, not bad! I did do a few silly things (chiefly, read the neck binding width as 4 inches, not 4cm - but hey - make it work!)

The fabric is some remnant knit that my mother gave me, I really like it. I wear black much more than chocolate brown, but brown's a great basic as well.

I will definitely sew this again! But first, something from the March and April issues of BWOF. 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The birthday dress that never was...

You remember the Choose-Your-Own-Adventures books in the 80s? I'm going to tell this story in the form of a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book. It'll be entertaining. Or cathartic.

Once upon a time, Reethi decided she wanted to make the Burda January 107 dress. She had a lovely red wool fabric sitting in her stash, and this dress would have been perfect.

At the same time, Reethi remembered that her last pants would have been rather tight at a straight size 40 and she knew she`d need to compensate for this tightness. She therefore took out her tracing paper, and traced out a...

If you think Reethi wisely remeasured herself, and then traced out the corresponding Burda size, go to Page 100.

If you think Reethi guesstimated - go to Page 45. 

Page 45: 
... and traced out a size 40 on top, and size 42 below. The bodice had princess seams, and rather than add in petite alteration lines, she just decided to leave out the seam allowances on the bodice, reasoning that that would shorten the bodice appropriately.

So, Reethi cut the fashion fabric out, and got to work. She stitched the bodice seams, and then the bathroom project intervened. She fiddled around making t-shirts. She procrastinated and procrastinated cutting out the lining. The lining slipped and slid all over the place, but Reethi persisted. This became the project from hell, but there was a bit of dogged determination.

Eventually, Reethi reached the stage where she attached the supposedly-shortened bodice to the skirt, so she did that, serged the seams together (of course), put in the invisible zipper with applaud-able skill, and then tried the dress on. To find...

If you think the bodice fit perfectly, despite all the clearly wrong steps, go to Page 127. 

If you think Reethi should have basted her bodice first, go to Page 64. 

Page 64: 
Ill-fitting bodice, wrinkly hem. Oh, don't miss the peculiar tail-like flipping of the side hems.

Umm, yeah. That was a disaster. The dress' waist was significantly lower than Reethi's actual waist. So, Reethi proceeded to spend a good 3 hours ripping out the beautifully sewn invisible zipper, her serged-together bodice and skirt, took out another 2 inches of length on the bodice, fiddled to make the darts sort of line up, and then proceeded to painfully resew the dress back together. The bodice still didn't fit right, but at this point, Reethi had sort of given up caring.

Like people marching for survival in the desert (pardon the wee bit of hyperbole here), Reethi's only thought was - one step at a time. But at the same time, this project was now being approached with a fair bit of dread. These contradictory impulses meant that the dress would sit, neglected, for many weeks at a time.

But Reethi's 40th birthday was drawing closer, and this was the dress she wanted to finish and wear. And so it was that at 12.30am one night, Reethi found herself at the cutting table, slicing off almost 5 inches at the hem, to get the hem to be where she wanted it.

Slicing off the hem was a good idea? Go to page 138. 

Ooh Reethi, remember: measure many times, then cut once? Go to page 73. 

Page 73: 
Yeah, that was another disaster. The hem dipped up and down. It undulated like the hills. The skirt vent looked like a little tail. And so, Reethi did what she should have done the first time - measured the hem so it would be even. However, by this time, the skirt was too short to do a proper hem, so she had to use hem tape, and then hand sew the hem on the street-car the day before the birthday. Much puckering resulted.

And the result? This story does not have a happy ending. Somehow, I was hoping the red fabric would rescue this dress, so it was greater than the sum of it's parts. But in the end, an ill-fitting bodice and a puckering, uneven hem killed this dress. I wore it out to lunch on my birthday - hated it so very much, and wore an old pair of pants and a t-shirt out to the birthday gathering.

Trust me, I might be smiling in this picture, but I was throwing a tantrum on the inside.

In the end, the dress was rescued from the garbage bin. It fits my friend Jeeva really well. She's the happy owner of a well-sewn dress. (Badly fitted to me, fits her great!) She's happy, and me? Well, I need to learn to not be an idiot, no? Self-inflicted injuries are the worst!

And below? The future that could have been...

Page 100:
Reethi remeasured, realized she was a size 38 on top, a size 42 on the bottom. She traced out the right sizes, made the right pattern adjustments, and sewed a beautiful red dress. She wore this dress out on her 40th birthday, received a ton of compliments, and was all pleased and happy. The End.

Page 127: 
Reethi tried on the dress, and the bodice fit perfectly! She realized she'd dodged a major bullet. She then proceeded to do everything else by the book. She sewed a beautiful red dress. She wore this dress out on her 40th birthday, received a ton of compliments, and was all pleased and happy. The End.

Page 138: 
Even though no measuring was involved, Reethi evidently had crazy straight-line estimating skills, since she took a rotary cutter to the fabric like a mad woman, and no damage was done! She then proceeded to do everything else by the book. She sewed a beautiful red dress. She wore this dress out on her 40th birthday, received a ton of compliments, and was all pleased and happy. The End.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Skills and such...

So, I spent a bit of Sunday trying to teach a friend to sew. It was an interesting experience... I think I bit off a bit more than I can chew, to be honest.

 - I'd forgotten that though I've only been sewing garments for 5ish years, I've been sewing quilts and suchlike for most of my life. I knew how to sew straight lines, set in zippers, cut with a rotary cutter, etc - all important garment sewing skills - before I ever cut into a pattern.

- I have no experience fitting other people. I knew this was a problem, but I thought my friend and me were more or less the same size. We aren't. I'm a B-cup - bodices fit me with minimal fussing - my friend is likely going to need an FBA. Which I don't know how to do. It'll all be rather interesting when we get to it.

- I wasn't assertive enough in the choice of pattern, we picked a pattern my friend liked, vs. something that would have been a more beginner friendly sew. So, we are sewing with a woven, lined pleated bodice, invisible zipper - these are all some pretty major skills to teach someone who's having difficulty sewing a straight line. Umm. There's going to be a fair bit of muddling through.

Anyway - that experience, plus watching the Great British Sewing Bee (Team Ann!) - got me to think about skills. And blogging. And our online blogging personas, vs. our actual skill levels.

There's a lot of sewing on the Internet that's really cute, but just not that technically great. And as long as we are blogging for our own amusement, that's perfectly fine - my first skirt was utter crap, but I felt like a rock star for making a semi-wearable skirt!

Where it gets problematic is when blogging crosses the line from "I'm showing you my work" to "I'm going to teach you how to do something." At this point - experience does matter! Enthusiasm, while lovely and fantastic, is not sufficient... (It is immensely likely that next week's bodice sewing session is going to be quite disastrous. Slightly in my defense, I'm not getting paid to do this. If I were, I'd beg off, I don't really have the skills.)

Now factor in how lovely and supportive the sewing community is - and there's not a lot of calling a spade a spade. Which is unfortunate. Cause how will you know? Without honest reviews, how do you know what pattern is amazing, and which one is badly drafted?

Anyhoo, random, middle-of-the-night musings. I'm working on a never-ending dress (and a glass of wine - though not at the same time, that would just be asking for disaster!). It's in its last stages though - the lining is in, the zipper is in, I just have the skirt vent to fuss with, and the hem. I'm hopeful to finish it during the week, and finally get to start on something else.