Saturday, February 21, 2015

Tutorial: Inserting Gussets with Lapped Seams

I'm currently working on Advance 9441, 1950's dress pattern with kimono sleeves.

The pattern features underarm gussets.  The instructions call for inserting the gussets in the standard way.  Gertie, of Gertie's New Blog for Better Sewing, has a lovely tutorial about how to do it.  You should read it!  It's really great.

I tried inserting gussets this way when I was sewing the muslin of the bodice.  Sadly, I am really bad at stitching corners using the stitch-and-pivot approach-- I just don't have the precision to pull it off.  The results looked like this:

Yep, I was 0 for 4 at well-executed gusset insertion.  I'm sorry, Gertie!!!  It's not your or your tutorial's fault!

So, I devised a way to insert gussets which would play to my strength, stitching tricky corners with lapped seams.  I now provide the following tutorial in case you want to do it yourself.  I don't know if this method gives better results overall, or how durable it is in the long term.  But, it was easier for me to pull off, so here you go.

1.  Prepare the Gusset Pieces
Transfer the marking of the point of the gusset from the pattern piece onto all of the gusset pieces.

Turn under the seam allowances and press them to the wrong side of the fabric.  I kept the thread marking showing the point even after the pressing was complete to make the point easier to see in the following steps.

2.  Prepare the Bodice Pieces
On the wrong side of the fabric, interface the slash into which the gusset will be inserted.  I used three strips of silk organza, two parallel to the slash, and then one at the point, perpendicular to the slash.
 Stitch down the strips with a 1/4" seam allowance or so, pivoting at the corners.  I reinforced the corner with an extra line of stitching.
The view from the right side of the fabric.  The stitching could be more neat, but oh well.
Step 3:  Sew the Gusset Pieces to the Bodice Pieces
Pin the gusset piece to the right side of the bodice piece so that the gusset piece covers the lines of stitching holding the interfacing to the bodice pieces.  That description may be confusing, but the picture should convey what I'm trying to say.  The key points are that you pin the gusset piece on top of the right side of the bodice piece, and you don't want any of your previous stitching to show.
 Stitch the gusset piece down, running the line of stitching very close to the edge of the gusset piece.
This is the result on the right side:
And this is the result on the wrong side:
Press, being careful not to permanently press any wrinkles.  Then, on the wrong side, trim away the excess organza.
And you're done!  Just three more gussets to go!

I hope this tutorial was helpful, and if any parts were confusing, or any of the pictures were difficult to interpret, let me know in the comments and I will fix it!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Nomura Tailor: Fabric Shopping in Japan

Last spring, I took a trip to Kyoto, Japan.  It was amazing in every way. 

 While I was there, of course, I had to visit a fabric store-- Nomura Tailor

I'd already bought a lot of Japanese fabric from Super Buzzy, but Nomura Tailor was something else.  The sheer variety and volume of fabric were overwhelming.  I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.



Double gauze:

Japanese cottons:

My favorite designer, Echino:

...and the cutting table.  I went to Nomura Tailor one day and bought some fabric.  I then decided I hadn't bought enough fabric, and went back another day to buy more.  I think we can all agree that this was the only proper response to such a wonderful fabric store!

Here is my haul:

I got five different Japanese cottons.  These have a weight similar to quilting cotton, maybe a touch heavier, but with a nubby texture.
I'm not sure how to describe this cotton.  The colors are woven in instead of printed:
 Cotton batik:
Cotton seersucker:
I got two cotton voiles:

 Out of ten cuts of fabric, so far I've sewed up...four?  

If you like sewing and ever have the chance to visit Japan, do it.  The fabric is amazing, and cheap-- Nomura Tailor's prices were about half Super Buzzy's-- but it was also lovely to see, in person, so many of the things that Japanese prints are based on.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Abandoning a Project

Sometimes projects just don't work out.

I worked on this one a couple of months ago, and got mad at it because I kept setting the sleeves in wrong.  That was not the dress's fault.

I pulled it out again today to work on it, and remembered all the things I didn't like about the fabric.  It's wool crepe, but it's scratchy and doesn't drape well.  Plus, it smells funky-- like chemicals.

I could spend more time on this dress, and fix the sleeves and what I didn't like about the bodice.  Then I could line it.

On the other hand, I'm never going to be excited to wear this dress on account of the fabric.  I don't even think this scratchy, smelly wool crepe can justify the cost of the lining fabric.

Better to pass the fabric along to someone else and start over with different fabric.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Cataloging My Stash

I have known for a while that I had a stash accumulation problem.  Over the years, my stash had grown from one box, to two, to three...and then I moved across the country and started accumulating fabric again.  I was up to three 2' x 2' x 3' boxes of fabric in my apartment, plus another three at my parents' house.  And yet, I would keep buying more fabric, because fabric is awesome!

Around the time the third box filled up, I finished my Ph.D., took the summer off from working, and spent most of my time sewing.  I sewed a lot of projects, but it seemed like I hardly made a dent in the stash.  Hmmm, problem. 

This weekend, I went through my boxes of fashion fabric and cataloged it all into a spreadsheet.  I hoped that the spreadsheet would shame me into not buying more fabric, but even if it didn't, playing with data is fun! 

The spreadsheet lists the color/print, fiber, weave, length, and width of each of the cuts, along with notes, like whether or not the fabric has been preshrunk.

All told, my stash contains 223.25 yards of fabric.  In 91 cuts. 

That's a lot of fabric, folks.  Assuming I paid an average of $10/yard, which is probably an underestimate, that's over $2,000 in stuff that I am not currently using and am not likely to use in the near future. 


Yeah, I won't be buying any more fabric any time soon.

On a lighter note, graphs are fun.  I produced some graphs to better visualize the makeup of my stash.

Length of Cuts of Fabric
I can't even tell you how much time it will save me to have the length of different cuts in my handy spreadsheet.  Pattern calls for 4 yards of fabric?  Easy to see what options I have. 

The average length of cuts in my stash is about 2.5 yards.  A bar graph, on the other hand, tells a more nuanced story:

I don't tend to buy cuts that are longer than 4 yards.  This makes sense, because the only reason to buy longer cuts is if you want to make an evening dress, or if you find a wardrobe staple fabric on really deep discount.  It feels as though most cuts I buy are three yards, and the bar graph bears this out-- even many of the cuts in the two to three yard bin are 2.75 yards long, or three-yard cuts that shrank when I pre-washed them.

Fiber Types
It always felt as though I mostly bought cotton and silk, and this pie chart of fiber types in my stash bears that out:

I thought that I bought more linen and linen/cotton blends than wool, though.  One explanation could be that I tend to sew linen preferentially, and so it doesn't sit around accumulating in my stash.

Weave Types
Plain weave is unsurprisingly the big winner here, with voile, crepe, dupioni, charmeuse, and chiffon the runners-up:

If you have a stash accumulation problem, making a spreadsheet is a fantastic idea.  It makes you confront, head-on, the sheer volume of fabric you have-- it took me an entire day to measure and catalog all my fabric-- but then it also makes it easy to determine what you have, and whether any of your existing fabric would be suitable for a project.  Have any of you made a spreadsheet like this, or done anything else to catalog or document your stash?

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Eva Dress E30-744: 1930's Dinner Gown With Cape

This is easily the most frustrating project I have ever undertaken.

Silk velvet?  Check.

Silk charmeuse?  Check.

Cut on the bias?  Check.

I grew so frustrated with it, in fact, that I abandoned it for months at a time.  I started it over two years ago, and only finished it recently.  Such a pain, and yet...

The design is simple.  The bodice is loose-fitting, with four small darts providing a minor amount of shaping at the bust.  The skirt is cut on the bias, and a godet in the back forms a grain.  A circular cape passes through a buttonhole in the center front bodice and holds up the dress.  I added extra fullness to the godet and extra length to the cape.

I made the dress out of purple silk velvet, and lined it with black silk charmeuse.

Since I started this project so long ago, most of the details are lost to memory.   Here are the high points and the low points.

What Went Well:

I love, LOVE the finished dress.  I love the way the bias-cut skirt hugs my body.  I love the drape and swishiness of the cape.  I love the feeling of the lining against my skin.  The dress is so warm.

What Went Poorly:

Oh man, where do I start.

The front of the skirt is a single piece of velvet cut on the bias.  The two sides of the skirt front did not stretch out symmetrically in either the velvet or the charmeuse.  There followed several iterations of buying more fabric, recutting the skirt front, sewing the skirt together, letting it hang, ripping the skirt front out, cutting it to the size of the original pattern piece, and sewing it together again.  Do yourself a favor and add a center front seam. 

I did work out the problems reasonably well in the end, though there are still lumps in the side seams I wish I could have avoided.

Sewing silk velvet is frustrating in every possible way.  It's slinky.  The nap interlocks, causing it to creep.  It's easy to mar the fabric.  The bias-cut edges stretch.  It took extensive trial and error to learn how to sew the silk velvet properly.  I should write a separate post about it, since there's more material than would fit in a project review.

Sewing bias-cut silk charmeuse is also difficult, but for different reasons-- the pieces deform almost instantly when you handle them.

Something went wrong with inserting the zipper at the side seam, though I can't remember what happened.  All I know is that the zipper is too short for the dress to go over my head easily.

In Conclusion:

Would I sew this dress again?  Actually, I would.  I don't need a second copy of this particular dress, but I could easily see myself incorporating the skirt into another design, as long as I added a center front seam.  In my persistence, I learned how to sew difficult fabrics in a straightforward, if not fast, way, and how to troubleshoot problems as they arose.  I'm calling it a win ;-)