Constructing Blouse 303 (with bonus Photoshop/Gimp tutorial)

Fair warning, this is going to get nerdy so if you like your sewing sans-geek then click here for the pretty photos post instead ;)

You can see from my photos in the last post that my silk crepe had a wide pattern repeat of two different dots and lines. It’s a really cool pattern and what promoted me to pick it up off the remnant table even though it was only about 1.1 meters worth. With such a limited amount of fabric the challenge is always pattern placement and I really had zero room for error plus I wanted to make the most of the design.

So, in keeping with my nerdy sewing tendencies I sat down at my computer and ran through the options…now this might seem a little bit over-the-top for most of you but I had fun doing it and that’s really what matters right?

I’m going to cover the contruction of this blouse near the end of this post but first I’ll share a kind of advanced tutorial following on from my Photoshop & Gimp visualisation tutorials. I’m going to briefly cover some more advanced techniques. I’ll show you how I cheated a tiny line image to make it workable and how to get the correct scale for your fabric print. If you like what you see and you’re keen to do something similar you should read my original tutorials first.

Hi-res scan

Tiny Images: Because my magazine line drawing image was so tiny (about 1.5cm x 1.5cm) I scanned it at 600dpi. This is a good trick to make the image appear larger. I say “appear” because your image is still really actually the same size but you can view it larger without it looking blurry if it is at a higher resolution, plus when you drop your fabric into the image it won’t get all pixellated.

Your scanner will probably freak out at this point and bring up a message asking “are you sure?!”, suggesting a lower dpi and threatening that it will take a long time etc blah blah but just tell it to do as it’s told, it’s only a small image and the world really won’t come to a grinding halt if you go around recklessly scanning things at a high-resolution!

"Clean " fabric photo

Scaling the fabric: For this example my fabric scale was really important for accuracy. I took two photos of my fabric, the first (above) is the “clean” shot you would normally take to use in the manipulation, the second (below) is for scale.

Fabric photo with pattern piece for scale

I laid the front pattern piece on the fabric, took my photo and then I bought this image into my line drawing image. You can see below my screen shot from Photoshop below. I’ve lowered the opacity of the fabric image to I could “see through” it to the line drawing, then I scaled it using the free transform/scale tool (remember that one? Ctrl + T in Photoshop or  in Gimp)

The yellow pattern piece is now about the right size. I think the proportions of the line drawing are a little off but this is close enough for me.

Next I dropped in the “clean” photo – I put the opacity of the first photo back up to 100% and lowered the opacity of the new photo. Same deal, scale it to match the first photo. When you are happy with it you can delete the “Fabric for Scale” layer and put the final fabric layer’s opacity back up to 100% and continue on as normal.

I started with a few basic orientation trials and here are my results.

Then I got a little more clever (or nerdy, take your pick) and selected my 3 favourites to add in a bit more details. I’m going with A, B & C and now I’m going to be a bit more realistic about my pattern placement. I laid the actual pattern pieces out on my fabric as I went so that after cutting out the front and back I could see what bits would be left over for the sleeves and collar.

I think this image above corresponds with option B.2 below – to make these more complex images I just made multiple copies of the fabric layer and moved and rotated them to fill in the sleeves and neck line.

I still couldn’t decide which I liked but it did give me a starting point to do some old school laying the fabric over Scarlett and I looked at these along with my three favourites and then I had a revelation: the black dots at waist height could have the bonus of creating a slimming effect!  (I know image C looks exaggerated in these photos, that’s my pins, not the light waves magically bending to make Scarlett’s waist smaller – she has dials to do that anyway, hehe ;))

Final photoshop image

The quick among you will have already noticed that the final blouse didn’t end up exactly like this, but it’s pretty close. I originally laid the body out higher up on the my fabric thinking that I could also get the collar out of the lines but in the end I moved the whole thing down to make the most of the darker spots and their (hopefully) waist minimising properties. This meant the neck ended up out of the big white spots but I actually like it better this way.

So, on to the construction. It’s quite an easy blouse to put together, the most complicated looking part is the sleeves and when you break them down they really aren’t that complicated at all.

Pattern Layout for sizes 38 & 42 - which I didn't really follow

All pieces are laid out on a flat piece of fabric (not folded) – ourela means selvages – this piece is shown as 150cm wide and you need 0.9/1.0/1.2 meters depending on which size you cut and a little bit more if your fabric is a narrower width but I find Manequim are quite generous with their pattern layouts.

Don’t forget to add your seam allowances before you cut out.

  • 11 – Blouse front (x1 on the fold)
  • 12 – Blouse back(x1 on the fold)
  • 13 – Sleeve cap (x2)
  • 14 – Sleeve cuff (x2)
  • A – Collar (x1 rectangle 8cm x 70/74/78cm depending on the size you cut)
  • B – I have no idea….and I didn’t find out during construction either…any suggestions? Anyone know Portuguese? It’s labelled as Alça.

So as per usual my first step is to address any pleats and darts. We have one in each sleeve cap and another at the neck of the front pattern piece. The only pleat I didn’t pre-sew was the once shown on the sleeve cuff.

Side seams come next:

Here is the body of the blouse on Scarlett – my seams are sewn inside-out in preparation for “Frenching” them. I don’t think that’s a real term but I’m using it ;)

You can probably tell that there is a lot of extra fabric outside the seam line. I discovered right away a flaw in my plan for using French seams. I always adjust the side seams of my tops on me as I sew. I cut a pattern out to fit my hips/bust (in this case, Manequim size 42) but my waist is generally smaller. If I don’t grade it in at the time of cutting it I usually just adjust on the fly as I sew. You just can’t do that with French seams, once the second line of stitching is done that’s it! So I basted the top on myself inside out and took it in until I was happy with the overall fit.

I did it a little at a time because the lack of closures means I had to leave enough ease to be able to get in and out of it. Once I was happy I trimmed the seams down in preparation for the “Frenching”. Yup, I am definitely making “Frenching” a part of my usual sewing vocabulary.

"Frenching" the seams

So, on to the sleeves:

If you click to enlarge the photo above about you might be able to just make you the numbers at the corners of each piece. The great thing about Manequim patterns is they number their seams so you can easily work out which piece to attach to which. Here you can see the sleeve cap with the cuff below. You fold the sleeve cuff in half and line up the numbers 1’s. The numbers 3 & 4 at the top relate to the shoulder points on the front and back pieces we assembled earlier and will help you put the each sleeve on its correct side. For good measure the number 5 helps with this too so take the time to trace and if you pay attention to them and it will save you many tears later on.

So here they are in fabric, you can now stitch seam number 1, attaching the cuff to the sleeve cap.

Sew the pleat in the cuff next by folding the cuff up at the marking, right sides together, and sew a line of stitching as marked.

Here is how it looks from the inside...

...and the final sleeve from the right side

You can attach your sleeves now, use the numbers to help you line things up.

Above you can see (on the left) the sleeve attached pre “Frenching”, and (on the right) finished.

Join the ends of the neck rectangle together and fold in half, wrong sides together.

Now here is where I made the mistake with the neck and had to unpick it twice! I did that silly thing where my brain suggests something while I am sewing and I completely ignore it only to concede later on that it was correct from the start and then I end up unpicking something.

In this case it was a whispered suggestion to interface the standup collar since the silk is so flimsy there was no way it would stand up by itself. But the other voice, yes sometimes there are two, said, “don’t be silly, interfacing will look terrible, you’ll be able to see it and besides, the collar will probably be helped by the French seams”.

When I tried on the top for the first time after attaching the collar I noticed immediately that voice #1 had been correct. The stand-up collar was actually a floppy collar.

So I marked my hem (the reason for the try on) and then sat in the sunshine unpicking the collar. I wasn’t looking forward to this because the fraying was getting pretty bad.

Interfacing and I aren’t really enemies but I wouldn’t say we are friends either. I do use interfacing when a pattern calls for it but that of course means I read it in the instructions…in English ;) I am learning slowly more about interfacing and this was a pretty good learning moment for me. Firstly to actually use interfacing, and secondly, not to over do it. My first choice was a waaaay- to-stiff fusible and I was starting to look like previously mentioned HBO cat.

Back to the sunshine drenched lounge I went with the blouse and my unpicker.

The fraying was by now almost completely un-salvageable (cue evidence above) and I knew I would have to alter my seam lines to compensate but in the end it ended up being a good thing.

So I was more careful with my second interfacing selection. I tested several options with my scrap left overs and it turned out a super lightweight non-fusible was the best option. I wanted the collar to stand up but not look like it was being stood up if that makes any sense :)  so I went to work.

There were two bonuses in all this. The first was that as I tried on the top I noticed that the back rode up a little too high in the neck line and at the sleeves so it meant I could correct this fault at the same time as re-attaching the collar. Secondly, due to the horrid fraying the collar height ended up reduced by about 5 millimeters. Now that doesn’t sound like a lot but I much prefer the new height.

After attaching the collar I hemmed the bottom by overlocking the lower edge, folding to the inside and I chose to top-stitch it in place.

In other exciting news: Patterns!

Excuse the crappy cell phone pictures, I was too excited and too late for work to get out the “real” camera.

I made an order at BMV.com when they had their sale just over a week ago. I really wasn’t expecting them to arrive so quickly. My last order I made from Western Australia took almost 3 weeks and these ones took significantly less, 9 days to be exact. In fact they got here so quick they ended up a little wet from being out on the door step over night since I didn’t bother to check for them. But they will be OK, it’s just on the bottom edges of the envelopes.

Rain-Sun-Rain-Sun, Oh and a Manequim top!

Image courtesy of landcareresearch.co.nz

We’ve been having some crazy weather here in Wellington the last few days. Big storm fronts are sweeping across the entire country (indeed they are the size of the entire country) in waves so that we have one awful day (with bonus tornados) followed by a wonderful sunny calm day, then another crappy one follows. Today is sunny but still pretty windy. I really wanted to take photos of my new top outside so you could all see the view from my house but it was far too brisk.

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This is Blusa 158 from Manequim 620 (February 2011), it is sized as a 44 and I think it’s a little big for me in the shoulders and across the bust.

I took it in a little but I’m worried anymore and I won’t be able to get in to it! It might be a case of wait and see if it grows on me or take it in to how I like it and throw in an invisible zipper to the side seam. What do you think?

Because I started this top in the West Island ;) and finished it here in the North Island I don’t have a huge amount of construction photos but it was pretty easy to make.

You baste all the front pleats first and then sew their central seam together and then attach the facings. Now it’s just a case of back shoulder seams (I love how the fabric wraps over your shoulders into the back seams) then side seams, hem the sleeves and the bottom and you’re done, I can’t believe it took me so long! I think…yeah I’m pretty sure, this is my first Manequim item that I have sewn and it turned out well, there’s nothing like a boost in confidence huh?

On Sunday (one of the fine days, oh it was so sunny!) I went along to the Wellington Fabric Hoarders club meet at Massey University.

They use a wonderful large and sunny room with plenty of tables and power points and a great view. I met Jenny, Claire and Hayley and we sewed together until I had to leave just after 2pm. They normally stay there until 6pm and there is even a little kitchenette. It was so good to be back in front of my machine and surrounded by other girls as dedicated to their own projects. I’m looking forward to next month already and meeting more of their members.

I worked on my trench/mac coat (doesn’t “mac” just sound so much more sophisticated?…maybe it’s just me). It was my intention to work on my “forever jeans” next but after Perth BSC member Debra showed off her purple mac coat I knew I better get mine finished so we can be online-mac-coat-sisters. I almost can’t believe we both chose to make a coat and in the same colour sans communiqué!

Anyway, I’m referring to this as my Gok Coat and I got so much done! After I worked out where I was up to in the instructions I managed to assemble and attach the collar and shoulder tabs, sew and turn all the sleeve and belt tabs, put together the sleeves and partially assemble the lining. Yay! All that’s left (apart from the undesirable task of searching out the perfect buttons & buckles) is to set in the sleeves (I hate this part, I prefer zippers can you believe it?!), attach the lining, make up the belt and hem! Oh and there’s all those button holes, eek!

Constructing, failing and saving the NSFW Dress (#12 Patrones 289)

I regret to report that not a lot of sewing has been happening lately. I have arranged and rearranged my sewing room three times but I think I am now happy with it. After a week of not feeling very well I am getting my sewing mojo back and hoping to get through a few UFOs this week so my brain can move on with new projects. So for now I thought I’d finally post the construction of my “maxi”dress.

Suspiciously absent rear image? Does this make you nervous? You should be…

I called this dress the NSFW dress, because there is far too much boob action and I cannot wear a bra with it. It’s not meant for work anyway, it’s meant for summer and the beach, two things that are several months away here in Wellington. Also, it’s NSFW because there was a lot of swearing involved in the process…let’s talk about that shall we? :)

I’d wanted a maxi style dress for a while, something to run around the house on a hot day in, nip down to the beach or to the shops and feel pretty. It was meant to be a bit of fun sewing, a quick project to get my sewing mojo back on track but the facts are that it almost killed me. The reward is that by the end of it I realized that if I stick with a project, through all its (many) problems, nut out the solutions and then get it done without moving on to something else I get an amazing feeling of satisfaction, who would have thought?

The truth is the only thing that kept this dress alive was the fact that I am completely in love with the fabric, I just couldn’t let it beat me. And I do admit, that while thinking through solutions to the fitting problems that reared their head I did cut out a new project, but I didn’t officially start anything new until I sorted this one out.

So, on to how I made this dress:

Want a sneak peek of me preparing my pattern pieces? Here’s me laid out on the dining room floor, piecing together parts of each piece, the skirt was so large it was 3 pieces for the front and 3 for the back…I didn’t copy enough sheets so I had to supplement with tracing paper (the yellow stuff).

Constructing the pattern

Here is the pattern layout (sorry it’s a photo, not a scan, I haven’t got that set up yet):

Dress #12 from Patrones 289

This dress is fairly basic in terms of pattern pieces. Two triangles make up the bodice with long rectangles for the neck ties. There is a front skirt piece and a back skirt piece, both cut on the fold and an extra rectangle that makes up the shirred rear panel.

Because my cotton fabric was very light weight and therefore see-through I chose to underline the entire dress. I cut all pieces from my printed fabrics and then again (except for the shirred panel rectangle and neck ties) from a plain white cotton of similar weight.

Laying out

I was super excited about my first project involving shirring so I tackled that first. Following what I read in a couple of my sewing books and online I hand-wound the elastic thread onto my bobbin while putting a little tension on the elastic. It was quite fiddly and I dropped the bobbin several times undoing my hard work but eventually I got into a kind of rhythm. I put the elastic thread on one of my machines spools to give me both hands free to fill the bobbin. I filled it all the way since I had no idea how quickly I’d go through it and then I threaded it up. Your bobbin goes in the normal place (obviously) but thread your needle with your usual thread choice, I am using a white Gutterman 100% polyester thread.

I always do a test when I try something new or reset my machines settings. Use a scrap of the actual fabric you are using, in this instance I folded it double since I’ll be sewing through two layers when I do my real shirring. Here is my first practice attempt:

Because this fabric is quite thin, I upped my tension to 5 and just had a go. It seemed to be the right choice so I moved straight on to the real fabric piece.

Fold the rectangle in half, wrong sides together and mark your line spacing, the pattern instructions suggest 1cm intervals and when marked out this left a perfect 1.5cm seam allowance at the bottom edge. I used a chalk marker but you could use a quilting foot with adjustable guide if you want.

Place the rectangle under your machine and start your shirring. Leave a decent thread tail when you start and at the end of your first line leave another. Pull your top thread to the back and knot it off with the elastic thread.

When you sew your second line and so on stretch your fabric flat again as you sew.

All the lines stitched…

I wasn’t really sure how to go about underlining this dress as it was the first time I have tried it so the first thing I did was stitch the side seams on both skirt pieces skirt.

Ahh, after the wedding dress I’m happy to admit that I am a little over white thread and loooong straight seams and my sewing machines will only go so fast no matter how hard I push on the pedal :) Amongst my other nerdy talents I’m also a bit of a car girl but I only lead-foot it in my sewing room, hehe

Then I slipped the lining skirt inside the outer skirt, pinned and basted the front pleats.

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It’s always fun to try things on Scarlett even when they are nowhere near finished yet. I was concerned at this point that the skirt was HUGE and would swallow me whole. This is not just a case of picking the wrong pattern size, I think it is more the pleats, we just don’t get along. I had the same problem when I attempted this BurdaStyle pattern. I ended up looking like a pregnant elephant and the entire thing got thrown in the corner until I rescued it into a Jenny skirt.

This is how the shirred panel will sit once it’s attached to the top of the back skirt piece. The sides join onto the bodice, which I made up next.

The bodice is quite quick to assemble. I did it wrong, well not wrong, but I thought of a better order of construction about half-way through. What I did was place the lining and fabric pieces together, right sides facing, stitch the inner edge and outer curved edge then turn and press. Pin and baste the pleats in each cup.

Fold the neck tie rectangles in half and stitch the long open edge and upper short edge, turn and press.

Then I turn in the top of the bodice and slip the neck tie piece inside and top-stitch it closed.

What would have been better would be to only stitch one edge of the bodice triangles closed, open it out and then attach the neck tie to the to edge, fold right sides together, stitch and turn.

But too late for unpicking now, it’s time to add the shirred panel.

Like so: Again I turned in the raw edge of the bodice and slid the shirred panel raw edge inside and top-stitched closed. I guess you could apply the same method as before, open everything out and stitch it more cleanly then shirr (is that the singular of shirring?) this panel afterwards but the instructions definitely suggest shirring the panel first.

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And here is how it looked on Scarlett:

Nice! I was pleased.

Next the bodice gets attached to the skirt. The cup pleats line up with the front skirt pleats, side seams line up also, pin and stitch.

I was quite excited to be almost finished, just the hem to do, but that warm fuzzy feeling didn’t last much longer. I was halfway unpicking the skirt from the top when I realized I hadn’t taken a photo of it. I was unpicking it because after I tried it on it was, as I suspected, super gigantic.

The skirt has waaaaay too much extra body in it and the shirring was not tight enough across my back so the weight of the back skirt drags it down below my bra strap, I end up with a pool of fabric on my shelf-bum, not good.

So I put the top part on myself pinned the cups together at the centre front and re-pined the side seams so that I had some stretch to get it on and off but felt tight enough across my back.

Next I disassembled both skirts, pleats and all. I mentioned my concern for the pleats earlier and I was close to getting rid of them entirely but for some reason convinced myself to first try reducing the number of pleats and adjust their positioning.

This sewing lesson bought to you by “ALWAYS LISTEN TO YOUR BRAIN”.

So I played with the front skirt piece in front of the mirror and decided on two pleats at 32cm apart (16cm either side of center). I re-pinned these then pinned the whole front to Scarlett.

Is this that thing called draping? I’ve never done that before but I guess that’s sort of what I am doing. I wanted to redesign the skirt from scratch. I wanted the least amount of bulkiness but still have a flowing long skirt.

So 7.5cm came off the sideseams, most of that was due to removing the large center front pleat and the two outer pleats.

I did the same for the back skirt, I stretched the shirred panel and pinned the back skirt on and from this piece I discarded 15cm off each side seam. That’s a lot I know but my butt just didn’t need the extra bulk and fabric!

This got me thinking about what would have happened if I’d cut a smaller or even the smallest size. Well the cups of the top would be too small for my breasts so I made the right decision there, I guess I could have cut just the skirt from the smaller size but then I can see problems with lining everything up. The skirt is just bulky and maybe it would work with a silky fabric as it’s made in the magazine but my cotton is super thin and flowy so…ah well, on with the modifications…

Next I considered leaving out the lining to drop some of the weight but the fabric is just too light-weight and see though, so I marked all my measurements with chalk and transferred them to the lining as well, then I repeated my construction as per the original skirt.

Ugh! Better, but still not a winner, the pleats have to go, completely, so I unpicked the skirt again.

I was starting to get desperate but at this point there was no way I was going to biff the wreck of fabric into the corner no matter how much I wanted to.

So for my next attempt I basted the skirt to the bodice with no pleats at all and got in front of the mirror with my pins. I needed darts and badly. So I roughly pinned darts front and back (sometimes Scarlett just doesn’t cut it and you got to get flexible!)  and new side seams too. I have marked my pins in green below:

Do you like my peach laundry tiles?

After a few photos I realized I had completely pinned myself into the dress and I couldn’t get out of it. Husband came over for a laugh but wasn’t much more help than that.

I managed to wriggle my way out of it and as I sat in my sewing chair recovering and looking down at the pin scratches on my ribs I had a realisation: The shirred panel, that I was so proud of, had to go. Plainly it was in the pattern to make it possible to wear the dress without adding a closure but MY dress was quickly becoming too fitted for it to fulfill that ideal.

It wasn’t easy but I had to swallow my pride and un-pick it. I would replace it with a plain rectangle panel of fabric and insert an invisible zipper in the side seam.

Then as I was unpicking the skirt for the third time that day I had a second revelation. I simply didn’t like the dresses length. Despite my desire to want a maxi-dress I have never been a long skirt or dress kind of girl, it’s just not me. So I decided to also shorten the whole thing.

Decision made I set to work

I had to start my darts markings from scratch since working with a border print means I couldn’t just lop the bottom of the skirt off. My back darts ended up being longer and wider that my original pinning effort and it took several try ons to get them right. I have what is known as a ‘shelf-bum’ but I believe the technical term is ‘sway back’ although I’ve never been formally diagnosed. I assume I have one through observation of fit. Generally, in RTW clothing, fabric pools on top of my bottom, on my shelf-bum, just where it starts to curve out from my back and is fixed by reducing the amount of fabric there either by altering the pattern early on or chucking in a couple of vertical darts (my preferred method).

Another problem I needed to address was gapage at the front, I fixed this by reducing the gap between the cups, giving them a slight overlap and pulling them down slightly. Then, at Sandra’s suggestion. I curved the lower seam where they meet the top of the skirt but kept the skirt seam straight, this gives your breast somewhere sit because the pleat simply wasn’t enough.

Unfortunately I do not have any more photos of the process because my level of frustration is inversely proportional to my desire to take photos. All I wanted to do was finish the stupid dress but in the end I finished with a dress I actually really love in fabric that is a cherished souvenir. It was more than a small challenge but when all the un-picking was over I really enjoyed the challenge.

Sewing a Foreign Language: Patrones Blouse #9

Remember this blouse? It’s from Patrones 290, #9, I promised a how-to and here it is.

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The first thing I always do when working without instructions is get my head around the pattern pieces. Here they are nicely laid out and labeled.

Because this blouse has princess seams both front and back we have two front pieces and two back pieces (with the center back cut on the fold). The center front is self-faced and there is also a back neck facing, the pattern piece for this was traced from the center back pattern piece (see the blue curve at the top). Then we have two different rectangles, one for the ruffles and the other is to become self bias-binding for the armholes, these pieces are given as dimensions in the instructions.

Preparing the pieces: There’s not a lot to be done to these pieces, there are no darts or pleats or gathers, just the front self-facing and the back neck facing. For the front I folded the facing to the outside, right sides facing and pinned the neck edge then stitched along the curved edge only, neaten and turn.

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Here is a close up of the neck edge, after turning I decided to topstitch it to keep it in place but after the next step I realized I needed to attach to the neck facing first so I had to unpick it. You’ll see what I mean in a bit.

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Place the neck facing onto the center back piece, right sides facing, lining up with the curve of the neck. Pin, stitch along the neck curve, neaten and turn.

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This is the step that caused me to undo my top stitching. I realised that when I sew my shoulder seams I can also sew my facings together at the same time.

It’s hard to see in the photo but you fold out the front facings on the front pieces and fold up the neck facing on the back piece. Now you can pin the front and back pieces together at the shoulders and across where the facings meet as well.

I hope that makes sense, in the photo you can see the seams are pinned and then I have opened the whole thing out, I have tried to label each piece.

Turn the facings back to the inside and now if you want you can either under stitch or topstitch them. I chose to do this since my silk is slippery and I want to keep the facings in place.

Now for the ruffles: I neatened all edges of the ruffle rectangles then created a narrow hew along one long side and both short ends then along the other long edge I ran two lines of gathering stitch (longest stitch length 4.0 on a low tension)…and here is where I discovered a problem with the pattern.

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What you can see in the photo above are the blouse pieces lying open at the shoulder seam and the finished ruffle rectangle lying beside it. You can see the two orange headed pins in the blouse body, they mark where the ruffle is to be attached and even un-gathered the rectangle is barely long enough to span between them.

Frustrated I checked my measurements and no problems there so it must be a typo in the magazine. I was loath to re-cut them since I have plans for the tiny bit of left over silk that remains so I re-cut two more rectangles and joined them together at the short edge. This extra seam will be in-line with the shoulder seam and since it is gathered I’m sure it will be almost invisible so I stopped stressing and got on with it.

Here you can see one newly lengthened and gathered ruffle pined in place beside an un-gathered one. Doubling the length was perfect and I am wondering if the instruction/diagram was meant to show it cut on the fold. Gather each ruffle to match the length between the pins/markings, pin in place right sides together and stitch.

Attaching the ruffles

Here is the blouse, with ruffles attached laid out. Excuse the lazy Photoshop stitch attempt – I couldn’t get high enough in my room to snap the entire blouse:

Side seams are stitched next, and then I hemmed the bottom of the blouse. You can turn the self facings out as you hem to make really neat, sharp corners at the bottom.

Scarlett models the almost finished blouse

Mark the buttons holes next. I have always had a problem with gaping at the bust on my blouses so I have started ignoring the button hole markings on the patterns and instead I mark one button hole at the largest part of my bust and then space my buttons evenly around this hole, usually one above and then the rest below.

I use this Simflex Expanding Gauge to mark even spaces, it’s a great tool that I use all the time and you can use it for pleats as well.

To reinforce the silk I used some rectangles of interfacing behind the button-holes, under the facing and again behind the buttons.

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I’m always a bit nervous sewing buttons holes, they feel so final and permanent.

My machine has a 1-step button hole, I set the dial and stitch length to suit the fabric and use this special foot, which expands to take one of the buttons an sets the overall button hole length. A pull down guide catches some thinga-ma-jig near the back and makes the machine return at the end of each hole.

Always make a test button hole on a scrap piece of fabric and fold it over on itself to mimic the final thickness of fabric you’ll be sewing your real button holes on. Adjust your tension and stitch length until you are happy with your practice hole.

The most common problem I have with button holes is forgetting to reset the machine after each one is complete.

The most important switch

And there you are: one button hole. I prefer to pull the threads to the back and knot them off rather than cutting them at the front.

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Now for buttons: I bought this foot when I first bought my machine, it’s amazing! I never sew buttons on by hand (well flat buttons anyway). You could probably use a satin stitch foot for this but the rubber tip and back edge of the foot helps keep the button in place.

To use this foot you need to be able to adjust your machines zig-zag width. For extra slippery button/fabric combinations I quickly hand tack each button in place before slipping it under the machines foot. Set your machine to a wide zig-zag and stitch length to zero. Hand-turn the wheel and adjust the zig-zag width so that the needle clears each button hole then put your foot down for a few stitches and move onto the next button. I always hand-wheel the first stitch for each button first to test position otherwise you risk snapping a needle and damaging the button. I have been told you can just snip the threads off flush with the button but I prefer to pull them both to the back and knot them off.

I was a bit unsure of how to finish the armholes. I think you are supposed make self bias-binding from one of the rectangles given in the instructions and encase the raw edge but this can only be done to the lower half otherwise you end up catching part of the ruffle so I turned in the ends and worked the bias around the lover half of the hole then just overlocked the upper half as you can see. I don’t think this is entirely correct but it works.

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And that’s it. I really love the silk that I use, I bought it from the Joveeba closing down sale about a year ago, both the colour and pattern of it and how it feels to wear. I’ve never owned a silk item before (lame huh?) and even though I have to hand wash it I can see many more silk items in my future.

 

Sewing a foreign language

With my wedding ring crisis averted last Saturday I spent the rest of that weekend working on my Melbourne Cup/Honeymoon dress.

Said dress is #10 from Patrones 289, which means the instructions are in Spanish. I speak English (obviously) and a little Japanese which is so rusty it makes my jaw ache.

Patrones 289 Dress #10

Google Translate is close to useless when it comes to sewing instructions so I though it would be helpful for other sewers who subscribe to magazines in languages they do not speak if I documented my thinking process as I tackle a pattern more or less sans instructions. It differs for different patterns and I’ll sometimes consult instructions from a similar pattern to give me a quick feel for order, then I do some brain sewing before I get started. If I get stuck or am in doubt of the next steps I’ll pin or baste pieces together or place it on my dress dummy Scarlett to get a feel for how the item is shaping up.

This might be a bit epic so be prepared for far too many images and lots of words…feel free to skip ahead ;)

Right, lets begin: You might remember this image from my UFO post.

The pieces were already cut out (it’s the envelope on the far left) from a little while ago. I bought the fabric with the Patrones pattern in mind and I really liked my choice, a printed jersey from Spotlight.

Tangent: For those of you not from NZ/Australia you might no be familiar with Spotlight, it’s a kind of mashed together craft/knitting/sewing/homewares warehouse kind of store at the mid to lower end of the budget. I know a lot of sewers really hate them and wouldn’t be seen dead inside of one but I think they are getting better and they have their place in our sewing world. Recently I even saw the exact same fabric in a Spotlight store that I had only just seen in one of the higher end fabric stores. They sell Gütermann thread and Schmetz needles at good prices, two brands I use without a second thought, and they often have Birch and O-Sew overlocker thread on special. When I got my overlocker I was given 4 cones of (apparently) very high quality thread, the sign said $6.00 per cone retail. I chose black since I was sewing a black dress at the time but I also wanted white so I went to Spotlight and bought some O-Sew thread at $4 per cone. I’ve used both colours equally and never found a knot in the white cheap thread but the black expensive thread has had at least three (and still counting) and two of those were on the needle thread, luckily I saw them (I have high-speed vision apparently) so I guess “you get what you pay for” isn’t always true…and yes, I am aware of the irony that I got the black thread for free ;)

Ok back on track: This fabric however was not really a Spotlight success story, it was a fairly good price but the print was woefully off-grain and you can’t really correct an off-grain print in jersey. It fact it was so bad that I think it’s more plausible to assume it shifted during the printing process, jersey is tricky like that. I barley had enough for the dress but I wasn’t about to be defeated by some cheap fabric so I threw out the cutting layout and spent an entire day trying every which way I could to lay the pattern to not only match up the repeating chevrons but also to keep the important seams looking straight. I think I did a pretty good job and eventually I was ready to cut…then I made the mistake of cutting the back skirt piece on the fold…and it wasn’t supposed to be…I realized halfway though cutting but I was lucky enough to salvage it by moving it across and shrinking the outside edge seam allowances to just under 1cm, never the less it was enough for that weekend and into the envelope the cut pieces went until the other side of winter and here we are…

Ok, let’s get started: First things first, after transferring any markings I sew or baste any pleats, darts or other manipulations that need to happen to each piece before any main assembly, I think of this as the “first shaping” and helps me get my head around which pieces go together and the construction. This dress is pretty basic as far as that’s concerned, no pockets, just a heap of pleats on the front skirt piece and your basic bodice darts front & back. The faux wrap pieces on the front of the dress are attached at the armholes and have lots of  pleats too.

UPDATE: The pattern pieces below are copies of my Patornes pattern sheets, I promise I didn’t cut up the originals, see my explanation here.

Bodice front & back with darts pinned

Skirt front & wrap pieces with pleats pinned

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Next I assembled the basic dress parts, forgetting about the wrap pieces for now.

I attached the bodice front to the skirt front, the bodice back pieces to each of the skirt back pieces.

Bodice front & skirt front

Then I sew the centre back seam and insert the zipper.

Centre back seam sewn, zipper gets pinned

Now I have the dress front and dress back assembled.

Ready! My zipper colour choice was limited, it was either this dark purple or super hot omg blinding pink, so I went with the purple

There were four front wrap pieces and four tie pieces so I assumed there are two for each side, one as the outer and one as the inner facing.

Attaching the tie to the end of the wrap piece

I attached a tie to each wrap piece then lay the assembled pieces together and stitch the outside seam leaving it open at the armhole curve. Turn and press, baste open armhole edges together.

Inside out completed wrap piece, ready to be sewn, then turned…

Testing, testing & testing – Scarlett plays dress-ups

Next I pinned the wrap pieces to the bodice front and basted in place.

Attaching the wrap pieces

Nerd Moment Alert: after all that pleating – perfect 1.5cm shoulder and side seam allowances still in tact

Now it was ready to pin to the dress back and sew the shoulder and side seams.

Side & shoulder seams

After this step I tried the dress on myself. It looked a bit too big on Scarlett and indeed on me it was a bit too big also, I think the jersey I used had much more stretch than the pattern allowed for. I could also put it on over my head without even undoing the zipper so I ended up taking the zipper out and sewing the center back seam again and taking it in the sides.

I think the armhole and neck openings were supposed to be enclosed in bias strip but I did not have enough fabric so I did a basic seam edge and then hemmed the skirt. I used Scarlett’s hemming attachment for the first time and it was brilliant.

Ready for the big day

I think that’s enough pink fabric photos for one day, I promise more finished dress photos when I upload on the weekend. Photos here :)

Sewing in a foreign language really isn’t all that scary or difficult if you have a basic knowledge of all the main clothing items: dresses, shirts, skirts and pants. Just take your time and look at other similar patterns instructions to help you along.

Ok, I promise, that’s all for today :)