Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Copying RTW Clothing Using Silk Organza

As I mentioned in my last post, I took two classes this summer at Canada College, one of which was Copying RTW with Lynda Maynard. I wasn't really sure what to expect from this class, especially since I've already copied a couple of my favorite RTW items both by taking them apart, and by using the pin-stabbing method (pretty sure that's not the official name, but that's what I call it). But then, I thought I already had a good idea of what I was doing when I went into Lynda's bustier construction class (because you know, I'd already made up that pattern once), and yet I still learned tons. By now I know that Lynda is full of useful tips and of course she has years of experience, so I went ahead and signed up for the class anyway.

Lynda's method is very different from the more slapdash pin-stabbing method, and just as precise as the deconstructing-a-garment method, except that it doesn't require taking the garment apart! I'll do my best to give a brief overview of the process. She recommended that we start with a striped or plaid woven garment, just to make the process more straightforward. To be honest, there aren't that many RTW woven garments I wear anymore aside from jeans (partly because my shape is constantly changing, and stretchy garments are so much more comfortable, and partly because most of my woven garments even from pre-pregnancy are me-made!), so I decided to try rubbing off one of Mr. Cation's casual button-down shirts. It's originally from G by Guess, and was quite pricey, but it's got some interesting style lines. Most importantly, though, it's plaid, so the grain lines are very easy to follow!

Here's what the original shirt looks like on Mr. Cation. 

Least favorite part: the huge honking piece of embroidery on the back. 

It's important to be able to see the grain lines because the first thing we did was use brightly colored thread to trace the grain lines (and seam lines, if they are hard to see) on each individual piece of the garment. Lynda recommended that for large pattern pieces, (e.g. the center back piece), we put in multiple grain lines for reference points.

I almost didn't need to put in my thread tracing because the plaid makes it so easy to see!
Here's the interesting little front piece that makes this shirt so unique, all thread traced.

After the grain lines are all marked, we measured the distances between them and penciled in the same lines on silk organza pieces that were cut to be about the same size (but slightly bigger) than the individual pattern pieces. It's important to use silk organza because 1) it's see-through, 2) it's flexible but still fairly stable. (One could technically use poly or nylon organza, but those tend to be shiny and harder to work with.) We then pinned the marked-up pieces of silk organza to the garment by matching the grainline thread-markings to the pencil markings. From there, it's just a matter of smoothing the organza over the rest of the pattern piece and pinning the heck out of it.

I'm pinning the silk organza to the bias-cut outer yoke piece here.

In this way, you are mirroring the pattern piece shape with the flexible organza (this is why it's better than trying to spread out the garment on paper and pin it), which theoretically makes it easier to rub off complex garments with weird, curved pieces. Once the organza is pinned to the pattern piece, you use pencil to mark the seam lines and any other places of note, e.g. where pattern pieces join or pleats and darts. When you unpin the organza, the shape of the pattern piece should be all sketched out!

Here's how the front piece and collar pieces turned out when traced onto the silk organza. The solid lines are my grain lines to match the thread tracing, and the dashed lines are my rub off of the seam lines. 

The sleeve, with markings showing where the button tab, sleeve placket, and pleat went. After unpinning the silk organza, we had to go back and measure all the seam line lengths to make sure that we rubbed it off correctly. Then we had to measure all the seams that went together to make sure that they matched. All this work paid off, though, since by the time it came to actually sewing, we were assured of an accurate pattern where all the pieces fit together perfectly!

Mr. Cation's shirt was pretty straightforward to rub off; some people in our class had bias-cut cowl necks, crazy gathered sleeves, lace insertion, and other design elements on their garments. It'll be interesting to apply this method to a more "difficult" piece to see how it works! In the meantime, I transferred the markings on my silk organza pieces to paper, then sewed up a muslin.

And here's what it looks like all laid out. Look at those nice sleeve plackets! It's the first time I've ever done a real tower placket, thanks to the helpful Threads tutorial and pattern. I did manage to sew my first one on inside out, though...

According the Mr. Cation, the fit feels the same (as it should!), although there was a moment of alarm when I presented the muslin to him and he was like, "This isn't going to be the real shirt material, right?!"

And back.

The whole process was definitely more time-consuming than a pin-stabbing rub off, but the results are incredibly accurate. Lynda's only caveat was that if one is doing a rub-off with stretchy fabric, one has to be very careful not to distort the fabric in any way, and then of course there's the challenge of finding a fashion fabric with the same amount of stretch and drape. Generally, though, I'm pretty excited about this method. There are a lot more details that she went over in class, like how to transfer the darts and such, but apparently you can find all of the same information in Kenneth King's CD book (I'm not being paid to link to him, just passing on the information in case anyone is interested!).  

I'm not sure when I'll get around to actually making this shirt in real fabric, what with school starting in a month and SHB coming the month after that...also, Mr. Cation is incredibly picky about what he wears, so finding an appropriate plaid will be a challenge! Where do all of you ladies who sew for your significant others find good shirting material? 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

My First "Official" Costume Design

Things that bug me:
1) Bloggers who disappear for weeks on end, then suddenly announce that they're pregnant.
2) Bloggers who say they'll do better about updating, then don't.
3) Bloggers who come back after a lengthy absence and post totally unrelated things (i.e. not sewing, if it's a sewing blog).
4) Myself, apparently, since I did/am doing all of the above this year. Here, have a non-sewing-related blog post!

I just finished a couple of intense summer school classes at Canada College: Intro to Costume Design, and Copying RTW Garments. I'll talk about the second one in another post (who knows when that will actually happen!), but I just wanted to quickly share my final assignment from the first class. We were supposed to design a costume for a character from any work of literature, TV show, or movie, complete with an essay about how we arrived at the design, a detailed sketch, and even fabric swatches if applicable. Thankfully, we didn't have to actually make the costume, since mine would have been way more work than I had time for (and also beyond my skill set/budget).

In keeping with my only other real previous costume "design,"the Girl on Fire dress, I decided to go with another Hunger Games character, Annie Cresta. And because I can't stay away from flowy, special occasion dresses, I designed her wedding dress. In Mockingjay, all we get to know is that the dress is green silk and that Cinna designed it for Katniss' victory tour. I took the idea of Cinna-awesomeness+ocean-themed wedding+mercurial, delicate-but-strong character and came up with this:

I sketched this in pencil first, then went over it with my super-fine #005 Micron pen that I haven't used since my anime-fanart-drawing-days in college. Do you know how ridiculously difficult it is to draw something as flowy as chiffon and make the draping look not totally stupid? I can't wait to take fashion illustration classes, but in the meantime I settled for looking at lots of reference pictures online. The color pencil was added at the end. 

Then I had to write a few pages of blather about it all -- my first real essay since graduating from college -- but it was definitely easier to write about character history and fabric choice than say, changing cortisol levels depending on how stressed one is. Here's an excerpt of my expert BS-ing:

The only description we are given of Annie’s wedding dress in the book is that it is green silk. However, we do also know that she chose it from the collection of dresses that the main character wore on a government-sponsored victory tour, and was designed by one of the foremost designers from the capitol. It must, therefore, be quite elaborate despite its use in a secret rebel wedding. We also have clues as to the sea theme of the wedding from the descriptions of the wedding cake, ceremony, and ocean-centered traditions of District 4. Because of all these hints, I chose to design a dress that is luxurious, and yet maintains the simplicity of Annie’s character.
            I chose an ombre teal-green silk chiffon as the main fabric of Annie’s wedding dress. With her fragile beauty and mental state, it seemed appropriate to echo that in the fabric’s ethereal, delicate quality. Its drape and movement are also ideal for simulating the waves of the ocean; because Annie picks this dress out of many other options, there must be something appealing about it, and I imagine that being reminded of her home and natural environment would be comforting on her wedding day. The bodice is ruched chiffon over a structured, boned foundation, representing Annie’s somewhat messy, disorderly outer presentation, but also inner strength in persevering despite the tragedies she has witnessed. Like the ocean she grew up on, the skirt is full and free to move; this symbolizes both her husband’s unconditional acceptance of her despite her shortcomings, and the potential for their new life should the government be successfully overthrown. The frothy white underlayer of the skirt further mimics the foam of the ocean, and small accents like a fishhook rope belt, shell jewelry, and a fishing net fascinator bring the whole ensemble together. 
I know, super embarrassing...I just shared some of the worst writing academic writing ever. But hey, I got an A on my project, thankfully!

For the Copying RTW class, I had to make a rub-off of a woven garment. Seeing as how I'm currently seven months pregnant and have no idea what size I'm going to end up eventually, I settled on making a copy of one of Mr. Cation's casual button-up shirts. I'll post more about the process and what I made soon(-ish)!

Incidentally, I also have three actual finished garment posts all written up, just waiting for pictures. I don't know what it is about being pregnant (oh, try a huge belly, maybe?) that makes me not want to take photos!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Rambo IV: A Celebration of Friendship

Could there be a movie tagline any more antithetical to the Rambo movies? Actually, I don't know the answer to that question, since I've not actually seen a single Rambo movie. However, I have it on good authority (i.e. Mr. Cation, who hasn't seen them either, but has heard more about them than I have) that there are a lot of explosions, chasing bad guys, and general mayhem in those movies, and unless Rambo is unexpectedly doing it to rescue his best friend, I think I'm safe in saying that My Little Pony this is not.

If you've been hanging around the sewing blogosphere, you may have seen all the fun, quirky garments being made of old Rambo III turbans; the Rambo project is the brainchild of SeamstressErin, whom I've had the pleasure of meeting only once in real life (this is mostly my fault, as I keep having other obligations during her meet-ups), despite us both living in (vaguely) the same area. Still, I would consider her a bloggy friend (isn't it funny how connected we can feel the people from the internet, just because we happen to sew?). So when she contacted me about this sewalong/blog tour (what is it exactly?), I was pretty excited to see what I could make out of such a historic piece of fabric.

Said piece of fabric was tricky, though, since it was roughly 26" wide and two-ish yards long, woven unevenly, and stretchy to boot. I have to admit I was stumped for a while, and thankful that I was the last on the tour, but as time went on I got more and more panicky -- all the other bloggers have been making such unique garments and raising the bar! But after more thinking about what I actually needed in my me-made wardrobe, I decided that I needed to make some kind of cardigan/jacket/outwear-y thing, even if it might not be super impressive-looking. It would be a challenge to squeeze it out of such an oddly-shaped piece of fabric, but I managed by making the whole thing quite short. The weird lapel shape was my attempt to make this piece more trendy, like a waterfall jacket but not. I don't know if it worked.

I originally wanted them to drape instead of flop open, but the bias tape made them a bit stiffer than I anticipated, plus there's not actually enough fabric to drape with, really. 

I just finished up the French Pattern Drafting course with Lynda Maynard at Canada College, so I took this opportunity to test out the sloper I made in class. I must say, it was the easiest thing ever to use -- I just drew a new hemline, modded the bodice for the front overlapping section, and boy were those sleeves easy to set in! It's amazing what you can do when you know a pattern fits you already.

I think I might like it better this way, with the overlap. 
I like that it has a vaguely Chanel-jacket feel, what with the boxiness and three-quarter sleeves. 

Since the turban fabric was so unravelly, but I also didn't have enough left to make bias tape, I opted to finish the edges of the jacket with a combination of coral seam binding on the inside and cream colored bias tape on the front edges. I really wanted to avoid buying any new fabric or notions for this project, so I made the cream satin bias tape from the scraps of Elaine's wedding dress. Hence the name of Rambo's imaginary fourth movie, A Celebration of Friendship. This cardigan is brought to you by a combination of internet friends and real life friends!

This is a better representation of the true color of the fabric. The setting sun made for some rather washed-out pictures above. Here's it's pretty obvious that the stripe irregularities made for non-symmetrical front pieces. Oh was a "design decision!"

The stripes being ever so slightly off on the sleeves would bother me more if I could see them when I'm wearing it.

Fabric: Mystery turban fabric, 26" x 70" and stretchy with weird snags and irregularities.
Notions: Polyester cream satin bias tape, 1/2" double fold, four yards of rayon seam binding
Hours: Probably about eight, with planning, modding my sloper, cutting, sewing, and finishing.
Will you make it again? Nope, because that's all the turbans I have!
Total cost: $0.30 for the thrifted seam binding
Final thoughts: I like that this is in fairly neutral colors, so it will go with a lot of things, and it's perfect for summer since it's lighter weight than a sweater-y cardigan. I go back and forth, though between liking the weird lapel thing I came up with, and thinking it looks ridiculous.

Anyway, thanks for the opportunity to sew from such unique fabric, Erin! I'm grateful to be included in this group of such amazing ladies!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Me Made May Wrap Up

I'm back from my East Coast travels! I spent the last week recovering and spending lots of quality cuddle time with Walnut and Mr. Cation (and my bed). Thanks to the constant demands of making sure no students wandered off, I managed to come back without having added to my stash at all. The downside of this, of course, is that I also didn't get to bring back any fabric souvenirs, and I didn't get a chance to meet up with any of the fabulous ladies out in NYC or Philly (I'm sure there are fabulous ladies in Washington DC, too, but I don't personally know any). I also managed to only scrape by with three more me-made days, thanks to the vagaries of the weather and the limitations of what I packed. I appreciated all of your helpful tips about layering, but in the end I decided not to stress about wearing me-made every day.

Days 26, 27, and 29: Refashioned Old Navy dress, new floral top, and coral stripe dress. Hello, growing baby bump!

Final count at the end of the month: 24 out of 31 days, and no repeats!

What I learned from MMM'14:
- Apparently I didn't really stretch myself during this challenge, because that's actually about the same percentage of days I wear me-made items during the rest of the year. Oops.
- Wearing me-made is really easy when one has a lot of knits. Stretchy fabrics are more comfortable and can accommodate my belly more easily than wovens.
- At the same time, I really miss my woven dresses :(
- Most of my favorite me-mades have been either self-drafted or made from free patterns. There's no need to buy a bunch of patterns to have a wearable wardrobe...and yet I keep acquiring more!
- Maybe I should delve into more serious underwear-making? That would give me an automatic easy me-made item every day, and I need some new pairs anyway...
- I wear A LOT of cardigans, and a fair number of leggings. It's time to work on filling those two gaps in my me-made wardrobe! I don't foresee learning how to knit anytime soon, though, and finding appropriate fabrics for cardigans and leggings is going to be a challenge if I'm stashbusting, too. I have a few sweater knits and cardigan patterns in my stash that I can use, but a serious lack of legging material and/or patterns.
- I need to make more skinny jeans/trousers too. I'm going to give myself a pass on this for now, though, since I don't know what shape I'm going to end up.
- I like belts. I don't think I'll take up belt-making though.

I never blogged that second to last tunic-y floral top (although I did post about my seam allowance cutting mishap and fix on Instagram), so I'll do a quick blurb about it now, if only just for my own records. It's the same pattern as the chemise from my hobbit costume, the vintage Simplicity 7842 peasant blouse. This time I used view 2, without any sleeve gathering or crazy ruffles, and it worked beautifully with my rayon jersey for a breezy, cool top.  Since it's so loose and swingy, I figured that it would be a versatile top -- I can theoretically wear it unbelted, belted at the empire waist during pregnancy, or at the natural waist post-pregnancy. I had originally made it long enough to be worn with leggings as a tunic top, but unfortunately it shrank in the wash and will have to just be a regular top. I usually don't pre-wash my knits since they rarely shrink, but the amount of rayon in this fabric made it the exception. Oops. And I passed my textiles class with flying colors, too!

I was trying to take better pictures of this top when I wore it yesterday, but that didn't really work out so well.
But hey, at least I blogged it before I forgot about the making of it!

Fabric: 1.5 yards of very soft, drapey, thin rayon jersey. I originally bought it at Fabrix two years ago with the intention of making it into a dolman sleeve top, but never got around to it.
Notions: A piece of 1/4" elastic salvaged from a RTW top that died, and a tiny scrap of fusible interfacing to fix my snipping error!
Hours: Less than seam finishing, no sleeve-setting, so fast! I did hem it, though, as lately I've been a little ashamed of the unhemmed edges on my earlier knit makes. Nothing fancy, just flipped it over and straight stitched (I know! Gasp! But I don't like how the zig-zag stitch looks and it's not like this hem needs to stretch!).
Will you make it again? Maybe? I can't really predict my need for peasant tunics in the future.
Total cost: $4.50
Final thoughts: If I pair it with flared jeans, it looks really hippie? That's probably the most I've thought about this otherwise unremarkable top. It's serviceable but not my favorite garment. But not everything I make can be (or needs to be) THE BEST THING EVER, so I'm totally fine with that!

Saturday, May 31, 2014

By Hand London Polly Top #2

Right after I made my first Polly top, I picked up a four-yard piece of rayon challis for free from my sewing classroom's giveaway pile. I figured that was pretty much a direct order to make another one, especially since I wore the first one so much! I didn't want to make an insert for this one, though, since the print was already so busy, and it would be way too hard (and against the stashbusting rules, which I had already broken in picking up the original fabric) to find a coordinating fabric.

I made it a lot longer, too. 

I opted to just "fill in" the empty area where the insert would be by extending the center front line down and continuing as normal. This meant that there wasn't any bust shaping, and of course the whole top got a lot swingier at the bottom. The former didn't work quite so well with my expanding bust, but the bottom will accommodate quite a bit more bump!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

By Hand London Polly Top #1

When the ladies at By Hand London put out the free Polly top sewing pattern, I was vaguely intrigued. Maybe it would be the perfect shell pattern that I was looking for, since the Colette Sorbetto didn't really work out for me. I downloaded it and promptly forgot about it until Jungle January rolled around. I had a scrap leftover from my previous Jungle January make, and it was just big enough for the front insert and a few scraps of bias tape. Is it a sewcialist faux pas to make two Jungle January garments from the same fabric? Oh well.

I used a random black knit remnant from my stash for the rest of the top (I know it's supposed to be a woven top, but I figured this is a very stable knit), and aside from some tricky pattern laying out to make everything fit, things went very quickly. The only modification I made was to shorten the straps considerably. It's such a flattering, easy to wear top, and I wear it every almost every laundry cycle, but somehow I never got around to taking proper pictures and blogging it until now, four months later! Oops.

Confession: I wore it a few times with the armholes still unbound, since it was January and it would be under a cardigan anyway. It took me a good month to get around to binding them!

Fabric: 2/3 yard piece of mystery-content black knit with excellent recovery, so I'm guessing it has a lot of lycra. The insert and bias bindings were made from a scrap of rayon challis.
Notions: None
Hours: Three? It was a while ago.
Will you make it again? Already did, and already planning another one!
Total cost: Free, since it was all from scraps/leftovers!
Final thoughts: I like how it's fitted on top, but widens and skims the belly at the bottom...perfect for covering the bump! This was crucial during that first trimester when I had crazy bloating, but wasn't ready to announce yet. And of course, the insert adds a little bit of fun to an otherwise normal shell.

See, you can't really tell there's a bump, right? 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Me Made Travels

So far, Me Made May has been pretty easy. I've got enough tops and knit dresses that getting dressed most days isn't a challenge per se, but that's about to change. You see, this year, I got picked/voluntold (lucky me!) to be a chaperone on the sophomore class' end of the year nine-day East Coast trip. We're leaving on a red eye flight tomorrow night for a whirlwind tour of historical sites and museums in Washington DC, Philadelphia, and NYC. It's free for chaperones, but the downside of course is constant supervising of teenagers who think they're old enough to just go wandering off in Times Square without informing anyone...

Days 15-18: Unblogged BHL Polly top, Olive dress, Not-a-Renfrew tee, raglan sleeve swing top.

Given that 1) the weather is predicted to be drastically different in these three cities (any advice for packing for thunderstorms? we don't get them here in CA!), 2) I only get one small luggage, 3) we're going to be doing tons of walking, so I have to wear appropriate shoes and not just my standard ballet flats, and 4) I have no idea how my bump will change in the next ten days, packing a more or less coordinated me-made travel wardrobe is going to be a challenge. I'm going to be a little more lax about allowing RTW clothes days and I will definitely be repeating several tops from earlier in the month. I've got a couple of posts scheduled for this next week, though, so be on the lookout for several incarnations of By Hand London Polly tops!

Days 19-23: floral top, faux-80s tunic, another unblogged BHL Polly, Japanese sewing book top, and my Jungle January dress. I think this was the celebration of rayon challis week...   

I really wish I had time to take off to meet up with all you East Coast sewists and do a little bit of fabric shopping (doesn't it seem like such a tease to be so close to the garment district but not get to take home any fabric souvenirs?), but in order to get a free trip, I have to give up any actual free time. However, if you happen to see me wandering around important tourist spots with fifty Asian high school students...say hi!