Friday, February 24, 2017

Solving Bodice Fit Issues with Help from the Internet

Look carefully, can you see the flaws in the fit? You don't really have to look that carefully actually. The darts aren't pointing to the true apex, they are too long/tall and actually come up to/over the apex. The whole front seems to be riding up in general, a forward shoulder issue perhaps? There is a ton of excess fabric at the front armhole, you could pinch a whole 'nother dart there above the bust at the armscye. As a result this dress is one of my least favorite, which is a shame because I love the color and the neckline!

I have long had a basic 2 dart bodice pattern that has served as my sloper for drafting almost everything I sew for myself. The problem is, the fit wasn't right, so now the fit is off for nearly everything I have drafted the past few years. Wow. I am not proud you guys, but to be fair I didn't exactly know where I had been going wrong. It can be hard to fit oneself, and though I have a degree in apparel design and production, they never gave a single class on fitting or tailoring! Crazy!

It was while I was trying to draft a bolero jacket pattern last year that I finally gave up on my old pattern. It wasn't right, I finally had to admit defeat and take the time to fix the darn sloper so I could have something correct to work with. So several yards of muslin later, and 16+ hours of time invested in one darn pattern, I wanted to tell you all what I learned along the way.

Knowing so little about fit, or how to fix it, where did I start? Well, knowing as least that I was having some issues with the bust and apex, I started searching the web for those with similar issues and stumbled upon something called a Full Bust Adjustment. A FBA is done on patterns to add more ease for the bust without changing the rest of the fit (shoulders/armscye/waist). Since most commercial patterns are drafted with an "average" cup size in mind, often a FBA (and for some a Small Bust Adjustment too of course) is necessary to improve the fit for those with a larger bust measurement compared to their other measurements. Well since my bust and waist are 10 inches different, I decided this could be just the thing I needed to fix my pattern woes.

So I cut out and made up a muslin of my then current pattern as a reference. Then I did a 1 inch wide FBA on my pattern and made up another muslin with that new pattern. The tutorial to do the FBA I used was from a lovely blog called Curvy Sewing Collective and can be accessed here.

Now muslin is thin, flimsy and molds to the body quite easily, especially when you are trying to fit yourself all by yourself and are simply pinning the back closed as best you can on your own. *ahem* Which is my only explanation for why I thought this 1 inch FBA had worked and kept going. (eek) Next I pinched the excess out from above the bust in the armscye area. This excess gets pinched into a dart on the muslin and then transferred onto the paper pattern. This new "dart" gets slashed and spread so that the fullness is moved into the side dart therefore keeping the area smooth (instead of actually adding another dart). I got this idea from this tutorial from a blog called In House Patterns.

Then I made the third and final muslin ("final") and naively thought I had fixed everything! Remember this outfit post?...

...when I said I had tried and failed to make a red sateen top to match the red circle skirt? Yeah, well I did try and make a matching sateen top with my newly "fixed" pattern. The finished top showed off all of the new fit problems I had accrued in my fixing that the thinner muslin had not. The bust was now too big! Great...I had used too much ease when doing the FBA, 1 inch had clearly been too much. I thew away the nice thick card version I had made of my fancy "new" pattern and was catapulted back to square one.

Well not totally, at least I had an idea of the kind of fixes that were needed, I just had to do them all over again :(

So I waited a few weeks for the sting of failure to fade away, and then this past week devoted an entire day's work to finally tackling the pattern once more.

First I did the FBA again, this time only widening the pattern 1/2 and inch. I cut out another muslin (keeping track? That's the 5th muslin if you count the failed red top, and let me tell you- I do!) and tried it on. This FBA seemed to have worked better. The difference between this new muslin and the one I had made with the 1 inch FBA? After all, I had foolishly thought that one fit hadn't I? The darts were sitting smoother, the darts on the one that was secretly too large did have a little fold-ish thing going on at the dart seam that I only noticed on the muslin after it was very obvious in the red top. With the FBA re-done, it was time to take out that same dart's worth of excess at the upper bust/armscye.

So for some stupid reason I was trying be cautious and not remove too much here in this "dart". I transferred what I had pinched on the muslin onto the paper, slashed and spread that fullness (this time sharing it between both the side dart and the waist dart) which of course distorted the armscye a bit. It concerned me, should I really be changing the armscye so much? So I didn't use the full pinch's worth of fullness (hindsight facepalm) and left a bit of the fullness there above the bust just in case that was somehow needed ease. So I then smoothed out the armscye and used my pattern to cut out muslin number 6!

Of course since I hadn't removed all of that fullness, when I tried on this muslin no. 6 it was, not surprisingly...still there! Wow, amazing. So I peeled off the tape and actually moved all of the fullness into the two darts. Honestly, it's like I was trying to make the process take longer.

So on muslin 6 I decided that some problems only appeared when I set a sleeve into the bodice, so I cut out my standard sleeve pattern and set one into the muslin to see what it did then. There was still a bit of a strange fold of ease in the shoulder/armscye area, but it was a different kind of fold from the one I had just conquered. This time it was a straight up and down little pull of ease that seemed to be caused by the shoulder seam. So I took a look at my shoulder seam and began to wonder, where exactly is the shoulder seam supposed to sit? How am I supposed to know where the "side seam" of my darn body is? Why is the sky blue anyways? What is the meaning of life?

The answer is to go get another cup of coffee and then dive back into the internet.

Enter in this video. So perhaps my problem was forward thrusted shoulder, and honestly my posture is so horrible that it is quite likely. I thought looking at my pattern that somehow my original pattern had been "corrected" in the past for this issue but over corrected so that my shoulder line was off in the opposite way the video suggested for correcting this issue. So I fiddled with the shoulder until that new straight fold went away in my next, yes 7th, muslin. I also had tried to perfect the fit of the armscye (without knowing how to) by cutting off a bit of width in the front shoulder. I cut off something like what you see in red below, and cut that off on my 7th muslin too before trying another sleeve. Then I immediately noted that it was the wrong choice and added it back on (geeze, honestly...).

I not only added that sliver of oops back on, but I extended the shoulder out a 1/2 further and smoothed that excess into the armscye too. It turned out I had needed to add to this area as opposed to taking it away!

So though I now had my 7th muslin fitting quite well, I knew I had been burned by muslin once before! So I cut out my new pattern in some spare quilting cotton which is a bit thicker and certainly has more substance than cheap old muslin. It would not have surprised me if this last mock-up (muslin 8 if you will) failed miserably like the red sateen top had, but worked! Sure it wasn't absolutely perfect, but nothing ever is, and the major issues had been resolved! Wahoo! I feel much better about the pattern and can finally draft and sew new things with confidence that that awful shoulder/upper bust fold of doom won't be there!

Also I seem to have left out another important detail! In the past year or so I have started wearing pointier more vintage shaped bra (the Bali Flower), so of course I wore my "vintage" shaped bra underneath all of these muslins as that is the style of bra I wear with all of my reproduction vintage clothing. Make sure to wear the correct foundation garments you will be wearing underneath the final garment when fixing the fit! I'm not really sure if there are specific fit issues associated with actually going for a pointier bust shape, but I'll assume there are. For example I think my dart points end a bit closer to the apex than they would were I to be fitting for a modern round bust shape. The pointer shape is what I'm after, so if my bodice is a bit pointy that is actually a good thing! Has anyone else ever encountered vintage bust silhouette specific advice for pattern fitting?

Anyways, I thought I would recount this saga for you all today in order to tell you that A) even long time seamstresses make mistakes and are impatient (so no worries if you are new to sewing and are confused by stuff, so am I and I have been doing this quite intensely for 10+ years now), and B) in case any of you have/are experiencing similar fit issues and don't know how to solve them! Neither did I, but with lots of googling I have created a new pattern I am so much happier with!

Other fit resources I came across in my searches that were helpful:

Oh and happy Friday everybody, have a good weekend!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Animal Accents

You know that one dress, the one that just makes you feel great every time you wear it? Well this black rayon dress is that dress for me. It sure makes a lot of appearances here on the blog, but I can't help but wear it often and I love styling it in different ways!

This time I chose red as my accent color as I have been wanting to wear these amazing dress clips I got last year. I have seen these same clips with green rhinestones too and was very tempted to snap them up too, but sometimes even I need to stop somewhere! This jaguar print faux fur hat on the other hand, well that just had to become a part of my collection! I'm not really a fan of animal print things usually, at least not for clothing. I do prefer it in small doses like in accessories, and I really adore this hat! I tried to tie in the neutral colors of the faux fur in by wearing my tan gloves as well, I think it helps balance the look.

I really need to make another dress like this one since I love this particular combination of sleeve length/fullness, neckline, and overall silhouette so much. If I could find lovely rayon fabrics like this more often I should like a similar dress in every color. Anyone know of a good source for solid colored "cold" rayons like this one?

Dress: Made by me
Belt, Gloves, Jewelry, Hat, & Handbag: Vintage
Shoes: Bait (Royal Vintage Shoes)
Tights: Amazon

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

DIY Embellished 50's Sweater

Sometimes when you are watching a film a costume will be so pretty that it will break you from your concentration on the story. Now some will say this is bad costuming, because it brings you out of the narrative, and it is indeed bad news when a costume is so over the top, awful, inaccurate, or otherwise. Sometimes things are just really pretty though, and perhaps it is because I have my eye tuned to pick up on costuming anyways that this phenomenon happens more often than would otherwise be usual. Well, I fell for this lovely sweater in Brooklyn, and I immediately wished it would get in my closet!

Saoirse Ronan as “Eilis Lacey” in BROOKLYN. Photo by Kerry Brown. © 2015 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved
That is one cute sweater! I loved the costuming in Brooklyn in general, but this was one piece I could actually come a bit closer to recreating. I have two simple sweaters from Lindy Bop that I hadn't been wearing as much as I thought I would when I got them so I decided it was meant to be, one of them had to get embellished à la Brooklyn.

There are a few things to keep in mind before you dive in on embellishing a sweater so I took some photos along the way to show you how I decorated mine. All you need is a sweater, needle and thread, and whichever beads/sequins/rhinestones/other jazzy stuff you want to sew on.

I think it is best to start out by laying everything flat and playing around with the design and placement. A good place to get some inspiration (as always) is on Pinterest looking at 1950's beaded cardigans, as there are plenty of pretty ones of those around! You could of course embellish a button down cardigan just as easily as a regular sweater!

To start I knew I wanted to copy the tiny pearl lined neckline from the Brooklyn sweater. Using a length of thread (doubled and knotted) to match the color of my sweater, I sewed each small pearl bead on using the ribbing of the neckline as a guide to space the beads out evenly. The key with embellishing a knit garment though is this: remember this thing is still going to need to stretch! If i simply used one length of thread to sew on all of the beads around the neckline, the neckline would no longer be able to stretch when I tried to put on the sweater. So what does this mean? It means I sewed on three beads, tied a knot in the thread, cut the thread, then started over for the next three beads. This break in the line every three beads ensured my neckline would still stretch when I went to wear my sweater!

This same remember the stretch principal should inform your decisions about how many beads/sequins/what-have-you to sew on before tying off and starting a "new" thread. The more stitches (and the farther apart/longer they are) done with one piece of thread, the less that area will be able to stretch afterwards. So to be cautious, and help inform my design as I went, I sewed the next set of beads on individually, starting the thread and tying it off again after each bead. Yes this is a bit time consuming, but put on a podcast and lean into the activity of some good old fashioned hand sewing. You can see in the photo above that instead of just eyeballing the placement of the rhinestone/beads I used a ruler to mark dots (with a colored pencil in this case) 1 inch down from the pearls and an inch and a half over from one another.

Sew on rhinestones with a bezel like these have holes on the underside so you can sew them onto your projects.

After I had the rhinestones sewed on, I added some diamond shaped sequins in silver in gold on either side of the jewel. As you can see above these sequins have two holes which make them a snap to sew on. To sew on a single hole sequin by itself, you can stitch up from inside the center hole and then come back down on the outside of the sequin, or if you don't want to see a stitch like that, use a tiny seed bead threaded onto your thread before taking the needle back down the center hold again.

To create little daisy-ish round designs, simply sew on a bead or sequin and then thread the needle up through on one side, slide on some smaller beads (in my case seed beads, enough to reach around the pearl) to fit and then move the needle back down through the fabric in the same place you started, creating a little loop of beads next to the one you would like the smaller beads to surround.

Simply push this loop over the bead and then tack it in place with a few stitches! (See above)

I almost thought I was done at one point but then I added a few more pearls, this time little rice shaped ones, in between the sequin embellishments. After the pearls though I called it done and tried on the sweater to make sure everything looked alright. You can of course add as many or as few embellishments as you'd like!

I am really pleased with how this little project came out and I think I will wear this sweater more now that it is sparkly and fun! Do keep in mind that such embellishing work could render your sweater dry clean or hand wash only of course, especially with beads like faux pearls as heavy washing could remove the pearly finish from the beads.

I hope this was helpful for any of you thinking of embellishing some knitwear :) It's time for me to get back to some different sewing as I finally try to fix my bodice pattern once and for all!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Sequins on a Saturday

There was always something missing from this Lindy Bop sweater I picked up last year, so I recently sat down with a needle and thread and fixed it up! (Don't worry, DIY coming later this week!)

I don't have nearly enough sequins in my wardrobe anyway, so it was high time to add some sparkle somewhere! This plaid skirt however is a drop in the sea of plaid in my closet, but plaids are such a snap to style with all of those colors that I can't help but welcome ever more into my wardrobe. I do have some rather loud yellow plaid taffeta that I should probably turn into a crazy dress sometime soon. I do fear whether I would look okay in so much yellow however, as I'm not sure it always agrees with my skin tone even if I love it. I felt strange wearing so little jewelry with this outfit, but now the sweater has a sort of built in necklace, more jewelry just wasn't necessary!

As you can see by the lack of snow on the ground in these photos, we are still experiencing oddly warm weather for February. Still, it was rather windy, which is always a bother when you have your curls just so! On the projects front I am still experiencing a bit of a sewers block unfortunately (like writers block? yes? hmm...sure) which has made progress on my to-sew list so slow this year. I think part of it is just all the trouble with my regular bodice pattern holding me back mentally from wanting to fix that hurdle and be able to perfect the pattern. I have to dive back in sometime though, as I do have some deadlines (due to upcoming travels (!)) coming up that I want to have lots of things finished for! More coffee perhaps? Always.

Sweater: Lindy Bop (Embellished by me)
Skirt: Made my me
Shoes: Modcloth
Tights: Amazon
Gloves, Earrings, & Handbag: Vintage

Friday, February 17, 2017

How I Made a Simple Victorian Bustle Petticoat

Which bustle era you may ask? Well I think this rather simple petticoat could work for either the 1st (1869s-1876) or the 3rd (1883-1889) bustle periods, as I made it to wear over my Truly Victorian Imperial Tournure which is described as being good for either period as well. 

Though many petticoats (throughout history really) were made with linen, I used plain old bleached cotton muslin for mine. The nice thing about costuming in the 21st century is that you can choose how accurate you want to be, and for me I don't mind if my historical undergarments are perfectly correct, if they do the job then that will do! Inspired a bit by Merja's petticoat from this post and this example I decided on a simple shape with an A-line front and a gathered back. So what did I come up with in the end?

from the side and the back
The pattern is pretty straightforward to draft by yourself if you find yourself in need of such a petticoat. Perhaps you might want some experience making patterns, but I really think anyone could cobble this thing together. To make the pattern for the front I knew I wanted some waist darts to shape the top and then the rest of the shape was an easy A-line flare. The back was even easier, as I simply used the 44" width of the fabric and then cut a rectangle to the length I wanted (in this case 41 inches).

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