Friday, November 9, 2018

Sewalong Week 3: A Beginner's Guide


Super happy to have Rachael from the Carnivale Vintage Shop in Edinburgh and co-host of the Sewalong doing a guest post today on the beginner's guide to sewing.  Thanks Rachael!

So whereas Debi will be taking you through the actual sewalong, I've been drafted in to start us from the very, very basics. I first learnt to sew around four years ago, also as part of a sewalong, and quite frankly, it's the best thing I ever learnt to do. I have always been clothes obsessed - clothing not fashion - but sewing allowed me a creative outlet to make garments exactly how I wanted them, both in terms of style but also fit. Being a short, fat person, the High Street doesn't exactly love me, and even vintage is more challenging to find in a larger size. So with vintage sewing patterns (which very much DO come in larger sizes) I was set! I wanted to encourage the sewalong because the ability to sew has been one of the greatest gifts ever given to me, and I want to encourage others in its joys. Best of all, there's no annoying Home Ec teacher screaming at me that I use the sewing machine like a machine gun!

So there are ten things I think it's worth covering as absolute basics:
1.    Pre-wash your fabric
2.    Sewing is like building, getting one stage right makes the rest easier
3.    Knowing what size to use
4.    Preparing the pattern and your fabric
5.    Crosswise and lengthwise grain
6.    On the fold
7.    Placing pins
8.    Cutting out and marking up
9.    Pressing really matters
10. Seam finishes

1.    Fabric and Pre-wash

The pattern will indicate what fabrics are best to use. I strongly recommend cotton as a great start point for beginners as it's easy. The pattern will also tell you how much fabric you need. I usually buy more just in case, unless it is particularly expensive.
Pre-washing fabric and trims is a good idea, particularly if they are likely to bleed colour. No point ruining your dress after one wear!

2.      Building Blocks

I've found that as much as I want to rush onto the next step - seriously, that's my entire personality right there - that mastering each step is worth more and is faster in the long run. One wonky bit of sewing that you kinda fudged because you weren't sure at that point, WILL come back to haunt you I'm sorry, it sucks. This is where this group and google are your friends - I swear a quick search for clarification makes all the difference. Don't get scared off, dive right in, but don't be afraid to ask for help.

3.      Sizing

Quite frankly there is no such thing as standard sizing, so let's just ignore all that and concentrate on our measurements. To start with, measure:
·     Largest part of your bust
·     Where your waist goes in the most - this will be above your belly button and where you naturally crease when bending to the side
·     Fullest part of your hips - will depend on whether your bum or thighs are biggest

Record these, memorise them and check on them regularly (they will change!). Then find the pattern size which best corresponds with those measurements. You won't necessarily fit one pattern entirely - pick the one that's the closest fit and you will finesse fit later. Think about how you want the garment to fit - I want it to be flowing over the bust because pancake boob flatters no-one, and I like a tight fit on the waist, but I need things loose on my oversize hips. I take that into account when choosing the size. Patterns will have 'ease' to allow for movement so will likely be a bit bigger than your actual measurements, you can choose how much ease you want when you fit your toile.

It would also be a good idea to take your torso length and length for the skirt as well at this point. I kinda know by now that as a short-arse, I need to take at least an inch off the bodice of most patterns, so factor this in now too.

4.      Preparing the Pattern and Fabric

Patterns come in a variety of guises - modern multi-size versus single-size, printed versus unprinted etc - follow the instructions on the pattern to work out what you need to do, e.g. cut out your size on a multi-size pattern. At this stage you can also measure the flat pieces to get an idea of the amount of ease the pattern makers have allowed, and how this will influence the sizing you want.

You may want to make the odd adjustment to your pattern at this stage, or you can wait and make a toile/muslin in cheap fabric to test the fit first. For example, I usually try and remember to shorten if I need to at this stage, just by holding the pattern pieces to my body (coz I'm kinda lazy and don't often do toiles).

One of the many things I've learnt from vintage sewing patterns, is that a mangled up pattern won't make cutting it out easier, and if you cut it out duff, the whole project will be duff. Take two seconds with an iron on low to iron your pieces flat.
Also at this point note if there is already a seam allowance added to your pattern pieces, or if you need to add one! Seam allowances can differ, often it's 5/8 of an inch, but it does vary!
Iron your fabric too!


5.      Crosswise and lengthwise grain

So most fabric we will be working with is woven - some threads go horizontally and some go vertically, this is called crosswise grain and lengthwise grain. Fabric is cut from bolts, so you have the raw edge where it's been cut off the bolt, and the two side edges which are finished and called the selvedge edge. We don't need to worry about this hugely, but it does affect how your garment will drape and how pattern placement for printed fabrics work. Once you know the rules of grainlines, you can choose to break them for effect, but for now, let's just make it so our finished garment looks good!

When we are placing our pattern pieces, we want to make sure our fabric is square and that the grain of the fabric hasn't become messed up. This is pretty easy with cotton, but on more complicated fabrics, it becomes a bigger deal. Our pattern pieces indicate how to cut out our fabric and where it should be in relation to the grain, via grain lines marked on the pieces. Your grain line should run parallel to the selvedge edges, so each dot should be the same distance from the selvedge edge so we know it's straight.


Lengthwise fold:

Crosswise fold:
Now every pattern comes with a guide to cut out making the most economical use of your fabric. Which is great if you have the space for this. I live in a tiny, crowded one bed flat and do not have the space! So I generally cut out only a few pattern pieces at the same time, which means I have to be very careful that I have enough fabric. I generally buy more than I need because of this.

6.             On the Fold and Not

Some pieces will be marked out to cut on the fold - this means that you fold the fabric selvedge to selvedge and place the pattern piece on the fold, so it cuts out one double piece. This is done to avoid a seam line where we don't want one, for example on the bodice. Grain line is not marked on such pieces, because the act of folding the selvedges together and cutting on the fold, should ensure it is straight!
Pieces not on the fold can still be cut out at the same time, but are placed away from the fold of the fabric. Fabric pieces are sometimes mirrors of each other - for example you may have two back pieces for the bodice, you can fold you fabric over to cut both of these at the same time using the one pattern piece which saves time and ensures they match. You fold the fabric selvedge edge to selvedge edge, ensure the grain of your fabric lines up with the grain line, and cut out both pieces together.




7.             Placing Pins

There are various different ways of holding down fabric to cut it out - you will find what you like best, be that pattern weights or pins. Personally I like pins due to lack of space, and I place these at a right angle to the fabric edge because I find this the most stable means of holding the fabric and pattern together (it moves less).


8.                Cutting Out and Marking Up

Use the whole length of your scissors and cut out smoothly. You will want to mark out all those funny V and VV shapes at this stage. These are for matching up pattern pieces to sew together later and are totally important! Otherwise you will kick yourself later that they are missing! Again you can decide how you want to do these - some make a wee V out of the fabric you are cutting, but personally I make a wee V into the seam allowance as I find that easier for me. You choose what works best for you.

For all the other marks, well let's go through what some of these are:
·         Triangle shaped marks are darts for shaping;
·         Straight marks often indicate where pleats are to be made;
·         Other marks are for placement of items such as buttons, buttonholes, gathers or a point to sew until.

These will be explained in the pattern instructions. You need to mark these with whatever way you feel most comfortable. Traditionally it was done with tailor's tacks (loops of thread), or chalk, but personally I prefer to use pencils specifically designed for the purpose which I find don't rub off too easily. I even use them to draw lines for darts to make it easier to sew. Whatever you use, you need to ensure it will wash off and not damage your finished garment.

9.             Pressing

I don't know why sewing is so-called, because I swear it's more about ironing than sewing! Pressing after each step is essential for the crisp and professional look of your finished piece. I will take a lot of short cuts in life, but pressing isn't one of them! And I urge you that it's a good practice sewing habit to fully adopt.

10.          Seam Finishes

There are various types of seam finishes, and knowing a few helps you decide what's best for the garment you are making and the fabric used. 

There is where the edge is left without a seam finish:
 
Modern commercially made items are usually overlocked/serged which is where there is little seam allowance left and the edge is heavily bound over with thread, which doesn't fray as a result. 


Most of us don't have access to an overlocker and one of the benefits of home sewing, is deliberately using a large seam allowance to change fit with time. A lot of vintage items have large seam allowances so the original owner could let them out if she changed size!

One of the easiest seam finishes for cotton is simple pinking shears which give the fabric a zig zag which does not fray easily and is also period correct for vintage sewing.


Another of my favourites is French seams where the fabric is first sewn wrong sides together for 1/4" of the 5/8" seam allowance, and then turned in with right sides together and the remaining 3/8" of the seam allowance sewn, therefore encasing the raw edge entirely, is useful for sheer or delicate fabrics where a clean edge is required. Obviously it can be adapted for any amount of seam allowance given, but is most useful to be kept narrow.
 
Zig zag stitching can be used to finish off the raw edge or even just the raw edge folded over and stitched with a straight stitch, are often seam finishes found in home-made vintage garments. You can decide what works best for you but bear in mind the effect of the fabric you are using.


I hope that gives the absolute beginner's a starting point and I hope you are as excited as I am to start the sewalong!
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Saturday, November 3, 2018

Review: What Katie Did 1940s Map Lingerie


Super happy to see more 1940s inspired sets coming out from one of my favourite independent vintage lingerie companies--What Katie Did.



This amazing set is based on the 'escape and evade' maps issued to Allied troops in World War II.  These maps were printed on parachute silk which made them really easy to fold up and conceal.  After the war, this leftover silk was used by seamstresses for a variety of garments from blouses to dresses and even lingerie! 



I just adore this set. It has the perfect 1940s silhouette--the bra is slightly less 'pointy' than the 1950s bullet bras but still gives a very vintage shape under clothes.  The bra is also very comfortable.  The garter belt is a little confusing at first (just note that the little bow is at the front)....as the hooks are not located on the side or back but instead on the centre side front. Also note that this has no give and only one row of hooks--so make sure to have your exact waist measurement!

Here is how the bra looks under a 1950s dress:

And under a 1940s dress:

 I'm really quite pleased that it works under both 1940s and 1950s silhouettes (sometimes the bullet bras don't work so well under 1940s clothing).


This set also has a great pair of tap pants...which are very comfortable. They feature a small amount of elastic at the back and then a straight front with a little button hook on the side. They can be worn with or without the garter underneath:


The garter is a 6 strap belt--which unlike some of the 1950s silhouettes has the front garter straps more towards the inside of the legs and the side straps are very much on the side. This is very different placement from the 1950's belts (where at least in most of my vintage garters the first strap is either straight down the front or a little bit forward of the side).  I haven't noticed much difference between the two in terms of keeping stocking straight but I do find that it is more comfortable for long periods of sitting as this set doesn't have any straps directly at the back!


So happy to be seeing more 1940s lingerie sets coming out and as a huge vintage lingerie fan--it's great to see the construction of these sets as compared to the other more 1950s/1960s sets that What Katie Did is famous for!  It also helps when sewing to have the correct underpinnings (I find it's most notable with 1950s patterns where the bust darts are actually designed for 1950s bras!)
What do you think? Vintage lingerie--yea or nay?

Photos: Kinda Kurdi
Lingerie and stockings: What Katie Did
Shoes: Bait Footwear


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Saturday, October 27, 2018

Sewalong Week 2: Choosing Fabrics


This week for the 1940 McCall Sewalong we are discussing fabrics for the pattern.  The back of the pattern envelope lists the following potential fabrics (with links to descriptions for each): a) crepes, b) satin, c) velvet, d) chiffon, e) lace, f) jersey, g) surah, h) challis, i) dimity, j) sheer woolens, k) chambray,  and l) dotted swiss


One of the biggest factors for choosing a fabric will be how well it gathers! This pattern has quite a few gathers across the bodice.


One way to see how fabrics might look while gathered is to pull it together between your fingers.  I visited Edinburgh Fabrics--my local fabric store and looked at some specific fabrics to see how well they might gather!  The red fabric below is a crepe fabric:



Some fabrics will create thicker gathers--which are good if you want to maximise the bodice area. If you are full-busted, it is better to get a fabric that produces soft gathers, such as the cotton lawn fabric below:


Another great fabric for a dressier look is satin--but this will produce thicker gathers but the shimmer of the fabric would be very classy.


There are some fantastic synthetic fabrics as well:




There's also some great linen-like synthetics:



What fabric would you choose for the pattern? I'm thinking of a couple of options including a silk velvet and a cotton version and I *might* use the hot pink Chinese fabric--not sure yet though :)





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Tuesday, October 23, 2018

McCall 3557: The 'Agent Carter Suit'


Nothing says film noir like a good suit and this one is an absolute gem!


Meet McCall 3557, a skirt suit with an adorable fitted jacket and paneled skirt.  I made view C which is the short-sleeved version as I need a suit that I could wear across seasons and into warmer climates when going abroad for work travel.


I used an amazing synthetic wool type fabric that has great body.  The skirt has six gores/panels which makes it fall really nice.  The jacket also has really nice paneling and can be buttoned up to the top or if you don't button it all the way up then it also has a nice lapel.


Here's a great photo of it buttoned all the way up. The jacket sits just on the waist line which creates a very flattering effect.  The sleeves are plain with pleated sleeve caps and they end just above the elbow.


I had a fun time channeling one of my favourite characters -- Agent Carter--or Captain America's girlfriend and star of her own tv show-- for these photos!  
 

This is already my go-to outfit, I love it so much! I will definitely have to make this pattern again--perhaps in long sleeves as it's so versatile!

photography: Tigz Rice for outdoor shots and AltStudio for the film noir photos
 


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Friday, October 19, 2018

McCall 3659: The 'Autumnal Cape'

Nothing says Autumn like a wool cape!  I'm delighted to have finished MCcall 3659 in a green wool to match my existing me-made blouse and skirt!


This pattern is so amazing. It's part of my 1940 McCall project.  I made the middle length cape version with buttons and the hood:


 The pattern is beautifully designed. It features a lined hood and pleated sleeve caps (which are designed to look just like a sleeve cap but minus the sleeves):


Here's a close-up of the sleeve cap:
 

The back of the cape is very straight but I love how the sleeve caps give it quite a bit of structure.


The hood is loosely draped--and you can flip it slightly back so some of the lining shows as I've done here:


Here's a shot of the hood in the back.  By the way, how AMAZING is my 1930s hairdo from Ariana at Vanity Thrills? I feel very original 1938 Snow White!



The entire cape is lined in the same silk fabric as my blouse fabric:


The cape itself is a delicious wool.  I had this wool leftover from a previous skirt project. That original skirt I made five years ago and I still have it but it's since shrunk in the wash (oops)--so is a bit shorter than knee length. So I decided to make another green skirt--this one in a lighter suiting fabric.  Check out my separate blog post on the creation of the blouse and skirt here.


Isn't Edinburgh in the Autumn gorgeous? We took these photos at Blackford Hill --a forested area in Edinburgh.  The amazing tree colours included bright orange and yellows...so pretty!




I'm so pleased with the cape! The only tricky thing is wearing a purse with it! hahah. I'll just have to take a carry bag/briefcase of some sort!  But I'm hoping I get a lot of wear out of this in the next couple of months!


What about you? Do you like capes?

MUAH: Vanity thrills
Photos: Darja Bilyk

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