Saturday, July 26, 2014

Encounters with McCalls' quixotic definition of acceptable ease

Well, let me say upfront that I am one unhappy sewist.
Over the last week, I've been working on a muslin for McCalls 6441:

I have spent hours of my life I will never get back, and it's been a waste of time as far as I can tell.
The problem:  that chestnut, the unusual definition of ease adopted by the Big 4 pattern companies.

Pictures tell a story, here are two that say it all.
I'm pinching out a good six inches there are at the waist. Ridiculous.

And the back is completely out of control.
And this is the muslin for what is described as a "close fitting" jacket. Sorry, but I find this completely unacceptable.
I am the first to admit that I am no expert when it comes to fitting. But I am not a beginner either. I don't think this is the result of a mistake I've made.
For info, I traced a 14 at the bust according to my high bust measurement, then graded out to an 18 at waist and hip. (I did an FBA.)My measurements at waist and hip place me between 16 and 18, so I went up to 18, expecting to have to deal with some excess. But this is ludicrous.
The thing is, I checked my measurements against McCalls alleged finished pattern measurements. They are completely and utterly wrong. For example, McCalls has the finished pattern measurement at the waist as 92, which would give me 12 cm of ease at the waist. Instead, I have ended up with a  finished waist measurement of 105!!!! Similarly, the hip: McCalls alleged finished pattern measurement: 119cm. What I found: 126cm! Gah!
The irony is that this is one of McCalls Palmer/Pletsch fitting patterns.
So now I am trying to decide whether to try and wrestle this muslin into submission, or start the whole thing again, and maybe cut a 14 all over. I don't know. I'll have to go and measure the pattern pieces myself, because McCalls seems unable to do this. Seriously, if I had found a similar jacket in a indie line, I would be sewing that. I never seem to have issues of excessive ease in indie patterns. And I trawled through my back issues of Burda. Plenty of jackets there, but all a bit too tricksy for my level of jacket making. I need to work up to them.
I was hoping to crack on to cutting out the jacket this weekend. Instead I'll be playing mind games with the McCalls designers instead. Not happy.
As ever, any words of wisdom from the sewing community would be most welcome. In any case, this ranty post has helped me blow off some steam.
I'm sure I'll get there at some point. But I'm also sure I'll never open a McCalls catalogue again.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

MBM - Sewaholic Minoru jacket

Like thousands of others since 2012, I made a Sewaholic Minoru jacket. More importantly, for the first time, I made a lined jacket. I did it! Go me.

The Minoru has been a very popular pattern since its release. A scan of reviews on-line show that there are no major issues in the draft of the pattern, and there is good feedback overall.  So although I had never attempted a lined jacket before, I felt I was on solid ground giving this pattern a crack.

First of all, the fabric: a good-quality baby wale stretch corduroy I bought at Paron Fabrics in New York in 2012. The cord is lovely, just the sort of fabric I like to wear and feel in winter. I wish I could have bought more.  

The lining is some sort of stretch something I bought in Cabramatta in my very early days of sewing. I bought it, then looked at that print, and thought “what in heck will I make out of that?”. Well, it took a while but here it is. The zip is also from New York, ordered on-line from Zipperstop to be precise. Thanks again to Sharon for helping me sort the right colour to order. The zipper blends perfectly.

I made a muslin. Initially I cut a 12 for bust and waist, grading down to a 10 hip. Sewaholic drafts for pear shapes, which I am not( although I used to be, back in pre-baby days). I always feel a bit odd grading down, as I normally have to grade up for my hips. It always works though.
For the muslin, I added my customary length of 5cm on all the main pieces. Trying it on, I found I definitely needed an FBA (why do I persist in thinking I can ever get away with not doing one? I almost always need it), and also needed to do a full bicep adjustment on the sleeve.  But I felt that even doing this wouldn’t give me enough room to layer multiple tops, so I went for the belt and braces approach, and cut a size 14 bust and waist, grading down to a 10 hip. Then I did both the adjustments I needed. Yep, it’s plenty big enough now. Maybe a little too big. But I can live with the extra room.
The FBA gave me a dart, which I kept. I coulda, shoulda rotated that dart into the gathers at the collar seam. Oh well, the dart doesn’t worry me unduly. Next time I’ll change it round.
I added inseam pockets, because, I really, really need pockets in a jacket on the outside, and couldn’t see myself using the inside pocket that the Minoru is designed with. Figuring out where to place them was a bit of hit and miss. They are probably a bit too low, but again, I can live with that.
The pattern guide sheet is good, but I cross referenced to the sewalong on the Sewaholic website throughout. The visuals on the website are invaluable. It was a pretty straightforward sew overall.
The only difficulty I found was me-made. I cut the plackets extra long. I added the extra length I had added to the fronts, then cut longer again because I have form in not cutting plackets long enough. I figure that I’m better off cutting long, then trimming. Which is fine, except in this make I found myself getting very confused. The plackets on the Minoru are meant to be shorter than the fronts. Mine happened to be exactly the same length as the fronts, after I added my "just in case"length. This fact is not immediately obvious on the guide sheet, or the website. It took an evening of sifting through all the comments on the website to find someone who had the same problem, and also find the answer that the plackets are meant to be shorter. Once I figured that out, it was plain sailing.
Deciding where to put the elastic waist took at bit of trial and error. I thread traced the casing 5cm lower than drafted, but felt it landed too low. I brought it back up 2cm which was much better. I also brought it in 5cm closer to centre front.

The topstitch was done with two threads through one size 90 needle. Worked well. And the zip looks good.

Blogger's obligatory lining flash pose. Worn with Tessuti Anita Ponti Pant, and Sewaholic Renfrew tee in merino.

I like the juxtaposition of the corduroy which gives off a country casual vibe, with the abstract lining.
What would I do next time? I would interface the hem to give it more structure. Although with the softness of the corduroy, I think I get away with it. I also could have interfaced the collar (I didn’t make the hooded version), but I like the softness of the collar in cord.
The topstitching on the hem wavers a bit just over one seam. When I pointed this out to my husband he said “The only people who would notice that are you and the people who read your blog! Everyone else wouldn’t”. He’s right.
The feedback from the other male of the house, my 16 year old son, was “Looks like a real one”. High praise from him, but hang on. Real one? Seriously, that child needs to be worded in. Sheesh!
In conclusion, I would like to take a deep breath and say that this is the most satisfying project I’ve made ever. I know I will wear this a lot, for a start. That helps with the satisfaction rating. Secondly, the lined jacket thing was a bit of a milestone for me, and I’ve ticked it off without too much angst.
So now, I’m off to make another lined jacket, McCalls 6441, while I’m in the lined jacket groove.
PS. Just wanted to note that after finishing this jacket, I gave my sewing room a clean, and I found the button I’d lost for the SilvaShirt Jacket. Under my sewing machine table. I looked there multiple times, and don’t know why I didn’t see it. Never mind, happy days. I knew it couldn’t have disappeared into the ether..

Sunday, July 13, 2014


I’m “calmly and methodically” (as our Federal Government tells us it is governing, again and again, and again) plugging away at the Minoru, and touch wood, should have something to show next weekend.
Meanwhile, though, as ever I’m planning upcoming projects in my head. And really, I think half the fun of sewing is in the planning. Would anyone agree?
No urgency in the day-to-day wear section of my wardrobe, but I have two events coming up in the next  few months that require attention.
At the end of August I’ve been invited to a fundraising lunch. The kicker is that the guest speaker is Cate Blanchett. Yep, ethereal beauty, style-icon Academy Award winning Ms Blanchett. Now, not being a lady who lunches (I am though, a lady to enjoys her lunch J) I have no idea as to appropriate wear for this event.  The compounding issue is that I am sure my fellow attendees will be putting their best style feet forward, so the pressure is on.
I'm probably crackers for even be considering sewing for this event. But my Minoru sewing has me on a sewing confidence high, so I am considering making a pants suit. A safe choice maybe, but I have some dark aubergine wool/rayon blend I bought in New York in 2012 which would be perfect.
The likely jacket is McCalls 6441, a lined princess line jacket with zip front. The construction looks doable. The challenge will be in the fitting.

The pants could be any one of a few candidates from back issues of Burda, or these Cameron Flare Pants from Named Patterns. Just wondering whether that flap in front is such a good idea, though. And I will definitely omit the back pockets. But it  needs a fabric with good drape, and my fabric has it.

If I have time, I have some coral crepe de chine, that I may make into this pattern from new-to-me pattern company In House patterns. The pattern is drafted for a D-cup (hey, that’s me) and I think this is fundraising lunch style. Dressy and pretty.

Event Number 2 is my youngest brother’s wedding mid-October. It is an afternoon/evening cocktail affair, in my parents’garden (Mum and Dad have a lovely garden).  This throws up a few fashion challenges. As one who feels the cold, my main concern is that I will be warm enough. Cocktail wear is not normally associated with warmth, but if I’m cold, I’m not happy, no matter how many champagnes I’ve had. Mid-October is a bit hit and miss for weather in Sydney . It could be freezing, it could be balmy. I definitely need to plan for a wrap,  and perhaps a merino wool slip in case the wind blows in from the Antarctic. Glamorous, I know!
So my starting point is this blue and gold wrap, which used to belong to my mother-in-law.

I love that blue and gold together. I’d like to find some of that blue in silk dupion to match, or else a nice green or blue to tone.  I’ve been thinking about making the By Hand London Anna Dress, which I’ve been keen to make for a while now . It will also accommodate a merino slip , something I’m not sure the pattern designers considered .

Then again, this week I picked up May 2014 Burdastyle from the newsagent, and was immediately smitten with this dress.

It is a tall person pattern (hey, that’s me again), and apart from having to adjust the plunging neckline north, I love it. Love the skirt, the bodice and the sleeve. Everything about it.

So an ambitious programme coming up for me, but I’m up for it. One challenge will be completing three high-end items by the end of August for the lunch. The next challenge will be fitting that jacket and dress bodice, as a lone sewist. Both require careful fitting, and I really could do with one of those fabled fitting buddies here. Or I could become a contortionist.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

MBM - Style Arc Harper Jacket

Two posts ago it was Simplicity 2603 in Pine Lime Splice Merino. This time its the Style Arc Harper Jacket in Orange Fanta ponti purchased from Tessuti last year.
Kristy has already noted the similarities between Simplicity 2603 and the Harper. The differences really are minimal - slightly different cut of the front piece, a centre back seam on the Harper, different ways of finishing the back collar seam. Simplicity is styled for knits with drape. The Harper is designed for ponti knit specifically, and Style Arc sends you two pairs of large hooks and eyes when you purchase this pattern so you can hook the jacket closed.
The Clothing Engineer has done an exhaustive review on the nitty gritty of this pattern here. It was an easy enough sew, but I agree with her that the Style Arc's direction to sew a french seam on the back collar makes no sense - why a french seam on a fabric like ponti, when the seam is going to be enclosed anyway? Beats me.

This is how the Harper looks with one hook and eye closed. Not too bad, will probably wear it like this from time to time.

This is how the jacket looks with both hooks and eyes employed. Not a fan of this look, it obliterates my waistline and makes me feel top heavy. Erk.

Given that I've loved Simplicity 2603 in the three incarnations I've made, I'm surprised that I am not completely positive about this make. I think it's the ponti - it doesn't drape like a merino knit, of course, and just doesn't feel right made into this sort of style. Also the orange is pushing the edge of acceptable brightness even for me  I wore it to a function  a couple of weeks ago teamed with my Mabel skirt, and felt a bit conspicuous, in the inevitable sea of grey and black. And the ponti isn't warm, so as a person who feels the cold (my friends in polar vortex lands can have a chortle now) I'll have to pick my days to wear this one - days that are cool but not cold.
Here's something you may not have known about ponti - did you know it is fish sauce resistant? I wore this jacket to dinner at a local Vietnamese restaurant last Saturday, and the poor waitress dribbled a fair bit of fish sauce over my jacket arm as she was clearing the plates. Never fear, a few dabs with a napkin, and no one was any the wiser. Go forth and wear your ponti makes to Vietnamese restaurants with confidence!
So the Harper is feeling like a bit of a miss at this stage. I'll see how I can style it up  in different ways, that might change the way I feel about it. It's in the "we'll see" bin.

This post  brings to a conclusion the run of knit garments I've made. My next make is a Minoru. I've finally received my zipper from Zipperstop (Thanks again to Sharon, and others who pointed me in the right direction) so I have no excuse to procrastinate. I'm a little bit intimidated, because this will be the first lined jacket I've attempted. Wish me luck.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

A bit of Vogue Designer pattern nostalgia

I have to admit to a pang of envy when my fellow sewing bloggers mention sewing with some fabric they've found at the op shop. I often check out the fabric section in the op shops around here, and in over 6 years have come up with two barely acceptable lengths of fabric, which still sit in the stash. Otherwise, it's dubious stuff in awful colours. Erk.
I seem to do better, however, with patterns. A couple of weeks ago, I picked up two Vogue Designer patterns from the early 1990s. What attracted me was not so much that they were Vogue Designers but rather because I was attracted by the writing on the envelopes by the former owner. These finds tickled me, and I thought I would share them here.
This sewist it seems sewed for two lucky people: Kathy and Kylie. Her handwriting is almost a facsimile of my mother-in-law's handwriting (she was born in 1918), and she uses inches, so you get a picture of her straight away.

This Albert Nipon pattern in sizes 6 -10,  is a dress with a tulip skirt from a spaghetti strap fitted bodice, with a separate lace top with shoulder pads and buttons up the back. Plenty there for the advanced sewist to get her teeth into!
This skirt was a good fit on Kylie, it seems. And the sewist reminds herself to "dart waist as this is cut on hip".
A bit of frankenpatterning was also going on, with the bodice of Simplicity 5998 being added to the skirt.

This pattern in sizes 8 - 12 includes a dress and top that has interesting underarm gussets. It also has a straight dress and top with back button closures, and two tapered skirts. Wow, this pattern offered value for money, and this sewist certainly got her money's worth, making it for both Kathy and Kylie.
The notes:
Kathy's grey pique sleeve  on the blouse was too tight . The sewist needs to let shoulder seam out at sleeve 3/8". There are other notes, but I can't make them out.
The length of the bodice on the collared dress is OK when the skirt is added.
Kylie's blouse is TOO short!
As is the dress on Kathy W.
The neckline on the straight dress needs to be drafted 1 1/2"down.
When using the brown silk, use only 1/2"seams.
And lastly, check the Blue Book before cutting again.

To me, this stuff is priceless.

As I look at these patterns, I wonder where our dressmaker is now? Is she still with us?  What happened to her Blue Book? What was in the Blue Book?
Where are Kathy and Kylie? Did they appreciate having someone (Aunt? Grandmother? Mother?) sew Vogue Designer patterns for them? Do they sew themselves now?
So many questions to mull over.

Lastly,  does anyone else write on their pattern envelopes (a bit hard to do, though, on pdf!)? Does anyone have a Blue Book? I don't and I think I should.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

MBM - Simplicity 2603 in Pine Lime Splice Merino

 Simplicity 2603 is a cardi-wrap pattern which was one of the Patterns of 2009 on Pattern Review. I've made two of these in merino knit before in pre-blog days, and I have worn them a lot. They are great indoors on their own, or outdoors as a layer under jackets. That waterfall effect at centre front gives the look of a scarf under a jacket. I understand the pattern in now OOP, which is a bit sad. It's a cornerstone of my winterwear.
So this is Number 3. I made View D of the pattern which eliminates a wide cuff, and has a less flamboyant "waterfall" than View A. I have made both View A and D before, and while you are able to arrange the waterfall in all sorts of ways, the fact is I never do, and find the extra volume a bit irritating. So View D it is.
The fabric was purchased back in April from Tessuti. Tessuti called the colour Citron. You could call it chartreuse. My daughter took one look and called it Pine Lime Splice. If you are not from Australia or New Zealand, this is what I'm talking about.

Yeah, it's a bit bright, but I really like colour, and crave it in winter when it seems to be black and grey as far as the eye can see. Anyway, I bought this colour with the thought of making a Renfrew with the cowl, but chickened out. I decided I needed to break up that colour near my face. So a cardi-wrap it is.

I love my cardi-wraps. They are an easy sew, although the hems are a bit fiddly. And they do a lot of duty, for both casual and more dressed up occasions.
There will be more...

Sunday, June 8, 2014

MBM - Maria Denmark Pernille Pencil Dress

I had a very unusual experience when I prepared to make Maria Denmark's Pernille Pencil Dress, a few weeks ago. As usual I consulted the web to see what other sewist's experience had been of making this pattern. And for the first time since I started sewing, I'd come across a pattern that no one had sewn and blogged. Nothing even on Pattern Review. It was mildly disconcerting.
Since then , this post has appeared. Before that not much at all, apart from the Maria Denmark site.
The Pernille Dress appealed to me straight away. It is designed for ponti knit. It lacks a waist seam (I've always been short-waisted, but as I get older my bustline and waistline are getting closer and closer. Waist seams just feel uncomfortable). It is a raglan sleeve dress, with a boat neck, back contour darts for shape and a pegged hem.
Maria Denmark offers this pattern in B and C cup versions - you get either/or in the download. I ordered a C cup version. When it came to choosing sizes to cut, I had to override my normal method of choosing the bust size by my high bust measurement, and then applying an FBA. It seemed wrong to be choosing the full bust measurement, but I decided to trust the pattern. As it was, I think I could have made a slight FBA anyway, as there is some drag lines over the bust, although it feels fine.
Instead of basting this pattern together to check the fit, I subjected myself to the pin fit. This was my mother's preferred method of fitting patterns when I grew up. She'd make flat pattern adjustments, cut the fabric, then she would pin up pieces, with the pins on the inside and make me try it on. Talk about an instruments of torture. Being scratched by  dozens of pins at once - yikes! I don't think I've ever come across anyone in sewblogland who talks about the pin fit.(Palmer and Pletsch do a wimp's pin fit - the pins are on the outside.) I wonder if it was a very unusual experience? I brought this up with mum the other day, and asked her if she's ever made a muslin. She said only once in the last 50 years - for my wedding dress, before she cut the duchesse silk satin my dress was made of. Anyway, trying this dress on when it was held together with pins brought back a lot of memories I'd rather forget!
I'd cut myself some extra width on the seam allowance for insurance, and decided to allow an extra 1/4" in all the seams after the pin fit. (I'd also added length to the dress and sleeves)

 The pattern offers three options to deal with the neckline: fold over elastic, facings and ribbing. I opted for the facing, but I have to say that while Maria Denmark's instructions are in general pretty good, in relation to applying the facing they are sparse. They don't mention anything that helps you get that facing flat: clipping, grading, understitching and pressing. I did all of this, because that's how I've come to learn how facings are done. If you are a beginner, though, you might struggle with the facing, and not know why. No interfacing is specified for the neckline facing either. I applied a light interfacing to this ponte knit, because to fail to do so just didn't seem right to me.
After all that, though, I still got a bit of rippling around the neckline - not terrible but not great either. So what would I know?:)

 The other thing that bugs me is the raglan sleeve, specifically the bunching around the armpit. This seems to be a bit of an issue with the kimono sleeve - I wonder if the raglan sleeve is the same. I haven't come up with any clues in any of my books on fit about this phenomenon. Anyone have any comments on their experience on fitting the raglan sleeve? I'd be interested to hear.
I sewed this dress up in two short sessions on Friday and Saturday, and wore it Saturday night to a family function in which I sat in a car for two hours, and then ate dinner. I was perfectly comfortable all night. If I was still a corporate desk jockey, I'd make this pattern up in a few colours so I could be pj comfy all day.
I don't wear dresses a lot, so I probably won't make this dress again for a while, but when I do I will probably take a bit of length out of the sleeve.
I'm a fan of Maria Denmark's wearable styles - another winner here. Go and make one.