Wednesday, June 28, 2017

No 'Blister' Bodice Linings Here !

This blog tutorial is dedicated to my students who are working really hard on their Vogue 8997 dress bodice.  We all know how valuable a test muslin is to determine the best size when making a fitted garment.  I find too many people select their pattern size according to the bust measurement and then find their shoulder straps keep falling off their shoulders.  Try a smaller size to keep those straps on your shoulders and then make bust line modifications.  Some patterns now offer a choice of cup sizes which is wonderful if you don't feel comfortable making those adjustments.  Now, on to the construction!

Underlining or lining a fitted dress bodice requires more attention to detail if you want a nice, smooth bodice.  Have you ever seen an after-market automobile window tint job with a lot of blisters?  That's precisely the look we want to avoid when we underline or line a fitted bodice.

The first step is to pre-wash both the fashion fabric and the lining fabric.  Wash, dry and press these fabrics.  A self-lined garment is ideal because both fabrics will wash and dry at the same rate.  Also, self-lined garments will not show to the public side.  Cotton batiste, cotton lawn and Bemberg Ambiance rayon also perform well.  I usually avoid synthetic fabrics because they do not press or breathe as well as a natural fiber.  If your fashion fabric is somewhat heavy or see-through then self-lining may not be a good choice.

Straighten the grain of your fabrics.  Tearing the cross-wise grain is fast and accurate.  However, more often than not the fabric is stretched, distorted and damaged by this fast technique.  Pressing may restore some of the stretch but not the 'pulls' created while tearing.  Although pulling a grain thread is more time-consuming there's far less damage to the fabric.  This black and white check cotton sateen has been torn, stretched and distorted.

I start by cutting squares of fabric just large enough to acomodate a few pattern pieces.  Straighten the grain lines on both the fashion fabric and the lining fabric before you bring them to the rotary mat.
Use the lines on the rotary cutting mat as your guidelines.
Working with a SINGLE layer of fashion fabric, tape the cross grain and selvage to a rotary cutting mat at right angles.  Painters tape will not leave residue on your cutting mat.  Work with a square of fabric just big enough for two bodice pieces.  Then repeat the process with a layer of batiste on top of the fashion fabric.  Tape all four sides.  Use heavy weights to keep the pattern pieces in position. Cut out with a rotary blade.  Do not attempt to pin the fabric or use scissors because both will lift the fabric causing a blister puff.  Cutting silk crepe with scissors is like cutting a tray of jello with a serrated knife. Use heavy duty weights on your pattern pieces.  (You can also apply painters tape to the pattern piece providing you have tested the tape on a scrap of fabric to see that it doesn't damage the fabric.)

Add your underlining or lining on top of the fashion fabric.  You may decide to add a very, very light mist of Sulky KK 2000 if you feel your fabrics have a mind of their own and need a little bit of tacking during the smoothing out process.  Silk chiffon and silk charmeuse can be very slippery and will benefit from the temporary adhesive.  Some fabrics have 'tooth' which means they naturally grip one another.  If this is the case you will not need any spray.   Tape all four sides.   Position your pattern piece on top with weights.  Repeat the process mirror imaging the  pattern pieces so you don't cut two of the same side.   (Ha, ha.....yes, we have done that one! )
This photo shows the type of weights I am using.  Go to a hardware store or marina for these.  If you cut each fabric separately chances are you will not get an identical cut.  If the cut differs by 1/16th of an inch you will end up with that blistered look.

All the NOTCH marks have contrast thread trace lines which will remain in the garment until the garment is complete.  At any given time should you need to UN -STITCH a seam line your thread trace lines will still be in position for a re-stitch.

Foundation Skills-Directional Sewing and Stay-Stitching:  Back in college we were taught about the importance of directional grain, directional stitching and stay-stitching.  I have found both of these procedures to be worth their weight in gold.  I realize many people view these tasks as seemingly unimportant because they don't want to spend the time if they can be skipped.
Stay stitching:  1.  Reduces the stretching in areas that receive stress.  Necklines and armholes are two areas that often suffer from gap-osis.  They need to be stabilized with smaller stitches and sometimes with stay tape like silk organza or seam binding.
2. The stay stitching line acts as a guide line where to stop CLIPS.
3. And my favorite of all: Stay-stitching serves as a guide line for permanent lines of stitching. If I trim my seams and then have to re-stitch a seam I always know where my point of origin is

Think about this!  Did you ever wonder why the upper edges of the zipper are uneven or why the hemline sags on one side seam of a skirt and not the other ?  Chances are one side of the garment was sewn from the hemline to the waist and the other side was sewn from the waist to the hem.  This most definitely will cause the grain line in some fabrications to sag.   If you sew some fabrics from bottom to top and others from top to bottom they will not look the same and they may stretch more in one direction. It all depends on the fabric.  If you start sewing a zipper from the top of the neckline, go across the bottom and then stitch from the waist back up to the neckline the two top edges often are uneven.

This is the Bodice center back and the bodice side back.  (double click on any photo to enlarge)

Trim seam allowances down to  3/8 inch.  The seam allowance should be flat.  Remove tiny pie shaped wedges 1/16th inch on the bodice side back where there are slight bumps.  On the center back bodice make straight clips toward the stay stitching line every 1/4-1/2 inch to allow the fabric to spread.

The two center front bodice pieces have stay-stitching lines done between the notches where the curved bodice pieces will be joined.  It will be necessary to add clip marks spread 1/4 inch apart in this area to allow the straight line to spread while pinning a curved line to the straight line.

The reason I choose to baste next to the stay stitching line is to eliminate using pins and because I want to be able to flip the unit so I can sew from the bottom to the top.  I know it seems somewhat odd to turn the fullness upside down but it's not a problem if the seam line is basted.  Basting will lock any movement.  If you sew one bodice unit from bottom to top and the other from top to bottom you will look slightly lop-sided when the curve of the bust line goes over the apex.  I prefer the level and balanced look .  Removing pins during sewing means you stop and start too many times .  This interferes with the continuity of the stitching line.

Note: I am not following the directions as given in the pattern guide sheet. I am sewing the shoulder seams together, the front and back neckline and the armholes.  DO NOT SEW the SIDE SEAMS !
The neckline is stabilized with a 1/4 wide strip of silk organza to keep the neckline from stretching out of shape.  The seam allowances are graded (trimmed to 3/8 Inch) and clipped at 1/4 inch intervals to allow the seam allowance to bend.
The underlining/lining is intentionally showing just a hint.  The white batiste extends about 1/16th of an inch beyond the coral fashion fabric.  This process of exposing the lining is referred to as 'favoring' a fabric.  This will allow the coral fabric to hide the underlining from public view.  In the photo below you can see a slight puff in the shoulder strap area.  It is NOT flat on the rotary mat.  When the unit is turned inside out with a pair of surgical clamps you will see how the white batiste is hidden from public view.  Insert the clamps starting at the bodice front.  Allow the clamp to continue between the shoulder seam until you are able to grasp the back bodice.  Grab the base of the back bodice and pull it through the shoulder seam toward the front bodice.  Yes, it actually can be pulled through that 1 3/4 inch opening.

 If you choose to TOP STITCH the neckline and the armholes you can eliminate under-stitching the lining. Top stitching is decorative as well as functional.
Under stitching is where the lining is tacked/sewn to the seam allowance only.  The stitches are not visible on the fashion fabric.  If you choose to do a 'hand picked' stitch you can actually get further up into the narrow shoulder strap area.  If you under stitch with the sewing machine you simply will not be able to manipulate the foot of the sewing machine into a narrow passage. You should be able to machine stitch a fairly sufficient amount though.

The side seams can now be sewn together with a standard 5/8 inch seam allowance.

That tiny amount of 'favoring' keeps that lining out of public sight.

The remainder of this garment is NOT fitted.
Continue with pattern guide sheet directions.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Summer Time Sewing

Summer time sewing and crafting always generates great memories for me.  I spent many hot summer vacations sewing with my friends during junior and senior high.  Since central air didn't exist in those days we managed to keep fairly cool by engaging in some sort of hands-on project down in my dry basement. My friends would come over and we would chill out sewing or crafting with buttons, beads etc.  I specifically remember an elastic bracelet covered with tons of antique buttons sewn to one inch wide elastic. Some buttons were sterling, mother of pearl etc.  My Mother always had spare beads from a broken strand of a necklace.  The concept kind of reminds me of the Pandora bracelets so popular now.  And of course, besides crafting,  I always managed to create a few new garments for the new school year.

This summer I have a brand new sewing challenge;  I just bought the Viking Epic sewing computer.   This electronic wonder has embroidery storage in the 'cloud'.  And this machine can read ANY file format for all those embroidery graphics!!!   Your fingers simply swipe and move things on that tablet like screen.  I'm on Cloud 9.   I'll be showing off some of that in a future blog.

 Here it is late June and the schools are officially winding down.  Around here the kids walk home if they are within one mile.  As I was driving home I observed a pack of students with their heads down and their thumbs punching away on their cell phones.  (who cares about watching the traffic)   I wonder what activities they have planned ?   I just bet my Viking Epic will be more engaging and productive than exercising my thumbs on a key board.

Last summer I approached my local school district hoping to offer a summer sewing camp for residents in the community.  Sadly, due to insurance reasons they turned me down!   Even the local libraries come up with excuses why they can't participate.  Any ideas where to teach summer sewing camps ?  I would love the opportunity to share some positive hands-on time!

Now, down to the sewing. I like my summer time creations to be fairly simple; no buttons, zippers or full linings.   Wrap dresses are fast and forgiving.  I like being able to adjust the tie belt accordingly as the weather gets more humid.  Given the fact summer clothes are in the wash more frequently I like to incorporate seam finishes that will survive the washing machine.  On this wrap dress I used cotton batiste in my bias binder and Hong Kong seam finishes on the neckline facings.

This is a 1953 McCalls wrap dress.  There are tons of web sites where you can get vintage patterns.
Simplicity recently released  a vintage inspired wrap #8085 just like this vintage Mc Calls. Unlike my Burda pattern with the princess dart this dress has two darts.  To hide the structural components I lined the bodice area with a light weight cotton batiste.  The fabric is Hawaiian Bark cloth which is breathable and fairly wrinkle resistant. 

This is a typical Bias Binder attachment which fits many Singer machines.  If I add my Bernina shank adapter I can use it on many of my Berninas.

The BOUND seam finishes are incredibly durable for unlined garments and hold up really well when machine washed.
This is the bodice inside shot.  I lined the bodice with cotton batiste to cover the construction features of the darts.  The bodice lining also provides a hint more of structural privacy.  The facings are finished with a Hong Kong seam finish here as opposed to the BOUND seam finishes in the skirt.  The neckline is also 'piped' with a solid black cotton piping.  The piping keeps the facing from rolling to the public side, prevents the neckline from stretching and is decorative. 

I have always enjoyed tropical prints and this Bark cloth is very comfortable on those hot summer days.

The back view shown below.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Sewing Before the Days of Technology

I simply can't go anywhere for any length of time without my sewing!  Sewing is such a productive and practical past time.  It's such a good feeling to create something useful.  ( I can't relate to exercising my thumbs on a mini key board all day long!  How is that a satisfying or productive experience?)

If you are a baby-boomer then you know first hand what it is like to sew with super basic equipment . We grew up before they had home sergers or computerized embroidery machines.  When rotary blades, cutting mats and clear view rulers entered the sewing market I was thrilled!  About the same time a lot of fusible products entered the sewing arena. Can't really say I like the firm, inflexible and crusty feel of  fusible zippers, liquid stitch or Fray Check.  Honestly, basting still produces significantly nicer results!  I still remember sewing over 2,000 beads by hand on my wedding gown.  Bottom line, some of the tried and true basics still produce great results.

This past week I spent some quality time with my 90 year old Mom.  I sewed two wrap dresses during my visit and she made several lap blankets for people in wheel chairs.   All I  have  is my trusty 1935 Singer Featherweight straight stitch sewing machine, scissors , pins, seam ripper and a few spools of thread.  (Not a good idea to transport a serger and rotary equipment on a plane.)

I select my patterns and projects very carefully when I travel.  I avoid making any garments that require special pressing equipment.  At her home I have a basic iron and an old solid wood ironing board.  I have no clue how old that ironing board is.  (The same rules apply when you sew in a hotel room.  You are forced to lay out your fabric and cut on top of that desk or dresser.) I also avoid patterns with buttonholes because that means packing a heavy buttonhole attachment.  The buttonhole attachment actually produces a very nice buttonhole but I still prefer the Bernina 830 LE buttonhole.  I'm spoiled by the features of that machine!  I am always over-riding the default on the spread between the bead rows.

This is Burda 3737.   A super simple wrap with attached tie belt.   I made French seams everywhere including the princess bust seam lines. This is possible if  the princess seam lines are not very curvy. The weave of the fabric is a major consideration too.  Tightly woven fabrics like twill most likely will not be as successful as crepe. Look for pliable weaves. And of course do a test sample before actually sewing on your garment.  Clearly the French seams are the most attractive in my opinion providing the fabric is light weight.  If you can't do a French seam then your options are narrowed down to a clean finish .  The zig-zag finish is the last resort for my sewing since I prefer cleaner finishes.  ( I do have a zig-zag attachment for the Featherweight but I didn't bring that on the plane either.) Truth be told, sergers add quite a bit of bulk to a seam finish with all that thread unless you are able to find extremely fine weight thread.  Lastly, French seams hold up really well with frequent laundering!

I forgot to bring a few safety pins to turn the tie bands inside out.   I used the handle of a wooden spoon.  I taped the fabric on the tip of the handle before I pushed it through the tube.