Hanging Out on the Fire Escape with Granville

Pattern: Sewaholic's Granville Shirt
Fabric: 2 yds Pumpkin/Slate Cotton/Rayon/Tencil Gabardine from Hell Gate Fabrics
Cost: $15 after gift certificates and discounts

It's been a cold summer. I've rediscovered sweaters I haven't worn in years, turned on the heater at least once, and started in on my autumn sewing, apparently.

Not much to say here as this is my fifth Granville, but you can find the others here. I am still struggling with having over-tightened the sleeves and upper back (my second version fit perfectly!), and so I may need to substitute out another patten's sizing. I splurged on the paper version of this and cut it all up, and now I regret it. Can't beat that fit with the back princess seams, though. I am rather obsessed with this pattern, and hope to see good things continue to come out of Sewaholic after she's sold the company to a fabric store. Here's hoping!

The fabric for this one is lovely. I have had my eye on it ever since Sonja opened up Hell Gate Fabrics. It's pretty much my perfect fabric - fall colors, plaid, and super soft. When she had a sale several months ago I used a gift certificate and snapped it up.

Mr. Made and I caught some fleeting evening light at his office for these pics. Even with all the professional lighting he has inside, there's nothing better than that afternoon glow!

Every time I finish a button front shirt I swear I'm never making one again. And then I buy fabric and pin inspiration for five more. Next I want a sleeveless button down shirt dress. I even have the denim. Perhaps when the weather warms up in the fall? 

Pattern Magic

Pattern: Self-drafted from Pattern Magic 3's 'Pare down the roundness at the back and open out'
Fabric: 4 yds synthetic rayon blend thing
Cost: $20 (50% off fabric sale FTW!)

You guys! I have a new obsession and its name is Pattern Magic. It's weird and artsy and amazing and I offer no apologies. Similar to the Drape Drape books by Hisako Soto, Pattern Magic pushes the boundaries between art and clothing, and insane and inspiring, all shot with an alluringly clean Japanese aesthetic. The dress on the cover has hexagons reminiscent of a soccer ball, while another has cubes emanating from the shoulder. It's nuts!

According to the book jacket, professor and pattern maker Tomoko Nakamichi developed these crazy shapes as a way to teach her students pattern drafting. The book has no patterns other than a bodice sloper, which Nakamichi uses to lead you through dart manipulation, slashing and spreading, and drawing the designs. For me, it was a challenging and creative exercise in garment making, and I loved every bit of it.

What initially drew me to this book was the section on paring down and opening out. A bit more subtle than the cubes and wild shapes, this chapter uses slits to add fullness to garments at the shoulder, bust, or back. The shapes change as you move, allowing for a fitted but giving shell.

While the instructions looked really daunting at first, I sat down one night and just started following the steps using a half-sized bodice sloper. Once I had drafted my mini design, I moved on to a full-sized version and made a muslin. The beauty of drafting it yourself is that you can tweak things to your body and tastes, and for mine you'll notice that I actually drafted the 'interlocking mountains' on the front rather than the back of the dress. Why hide all that party in the back? Here are roughly the steps I used to create the pattern:
  1. Test run of pattern manipulation on mini bodice block.
  2. So many muslins! I made three muslins of my pattern block alone (Butterick B5748) before using it to draft my pattern.
  3. Draft full size pattern - this took a lot of experimenting as I was making my manipulations on the bodice front rather than the bodice back and using my own block, not to mention learning the pattern manipulation itself.
  4. More muslins! Muslining the pattern manipulation not only helped me check fit, but also adjust the layout and develop my construction order. I also figured out that some of the pattern pieces needed to be cut on the wrong side, as they face toward you on the flaps. I chose to keep them cut using the darker wrong side of the fabric for emphasis, but needed to make sure to interface the opposite side of the fabric when sewing up my final version.
  5. For the fashion fabric, I applied a light interfacing. Looking at the final garment, however, I should have used something much sturdier. 
  6. Sew up the bodice. 
  7. Decide on a skirt, sew up the dress. 
Below is a photo of my muslin. It is sewn from home dec weight fabric, which holds the shape of the 'mountains' really well. For my final version, I thought I might want something a bit more fluid to allow the mountains to curl over more. However, I used only a very lightweight interfacing and I think it turned out too floppy. While I like how the mountains move and open up like a flower, you can see in the final garment photos that the mid section around my stomach doesn't hold the shape as well as it should. I really like the look of the muslin though, and could see experimenting with this again.

It wasn't perfect, but I had so much fun getting there that I wore my new dress with pride. One of the magical things about Pattern Magic is shifting the darts and shaping into the unique design features. Given how many changes I made, I'm not sure I accomplished this. I had to add some extra fullness at the bust, and even then I think I only pulled it off because I am flat-chested. However, I really love this idea, and it has definitely pushed me to develop some new skills. I would love to make this on a tank top with the upper portion in a sheer fabric, and a bright color for the back of the 'mountains' to highlight the waves a bit more. Plus lots more interfacing. Wouldn't that be cool?! Or crazy?! One thing's for sure, this is definitely more of a 'special occasions' project.

While the bodice drafting and construction took a good deal of time, the most time-consuming part for me was actually the skirt. Pattern Magic only includes instructions for the bodice, so I was on my own for the bottom half. I wanted something that would go well with the structured, visually interesting top, but the full skirt I had planned didn't seem quite elaborate enough. I spent an entire evening playing with ideas, starting with a rectangle to get an idea of the length and fullness and then a circle skirt for drape. I ended up cutting two circle skirts that wrapped 3/4 of the way around the bodice, with an opening in the side front where the skirts wrapped around. To mimic the angular bodice, I cut an angular front slit, which I eventually placed off-center over one knee. It was challenging to figure out a way to show enough knee without flashing too much up top, but after a few days of thinking and pin fitting I finally got what I wanted. I am not used to doing quite this much design work, but in the end it was something I actually really loved. I will have to find a way to recreate it some time in the future.

Love it or leave it, I found Pattern Magic to be an incredible lesson in playing with fabric. I pushed my understanding about fitting the human body, contorted my brain in new ways, and have several more patterns to try out for the price of just one book. I am definitely obsessed!

Pattern Test: Megan Nielsen Reef Tank

Pattern: Megan Nielsen's Reef Tank
Fabric: something synthetic? probably rayon poly
Cost: remnant from fabric swap

Summer is here! After a few coldish weeks at the beginning of June, the temps have been Bay Area warm for the past few days (mid 70s). This weekend I'm headed to a hot weather wedding in Japanese Pattern Magic dress, with hopefully more pics to come!

This project is another warm-weather project. It's a pattern test for the Megan Nielsen Reef pattern, which includes a tank and shorts. Designed as loungewear, I think the top has enough style to work as normal clothes, too. I sewed mine up in a some sort of drapey rayon synthetic blend and wore it out on the town.

In the pic above, you'll also notice my new Style Arc Misty Jeans, which have been modified with a functioning fly front. They're quite snug, but fun to play around with! These were all made mostly during my time off before my internship. I'm missing all that sewing time!

Here I am all ready to head out to the city to see my friends. This was the tester version of the Reef Tank, so there may have been some additional updates to the final product. The fit worked great on me except, as you can see above, the fit at the bust. The top is designed in a relaxed fit for lounging, and in my attempt to fit it I made it much too small. That's why you'll see some rippling above the bust. Other than that, I found the fit to be really great as the neckline doesn't gape open when you bend over and the generous cut around the waist and hips makes it very easy to wear.

What makes this tank unique is definitely the cross-over straps in back. The v-neck front is also a great length on me. And while I don't usually like hi-lo hems, I found that I actually enjoy the subtle swoop toward the back. A fun pattern overall if you're looking for a summer basic.

Experimenting with Style Arc Pull-On Pants

Pattern: Style Arc Barb Pull-On Pants and Misty Pull-On Jeans
Fabric: stretch woven
Cost: $25 for three pairs

I am now back at work doing a full time internship and some contract work on the side. Life has been BUSY. But summer is in the air and I've still been finding time to watch the NBA finals featuring our home team, hang out with friends on warm summery days, and sleep in snuggled up with the pup. Before I started my internship, I also found time to make pants. Lots of pants.

I decided to experiment with the Style Arc Barb pants, which made Pattern Reviews's Best of List in 2015. After having a go at drafting my own, a helpful commenter tipped me off to the fact that you can actually download Barb for free if you sign up for the Style Arc Newsletter. Yes! While I was at it, I also used a coupon to purchase the Misty Pull-On Jean, a slimmer version of the Barb Pant, for $6. I printed both out, and away I went!

To start off, I did a lot of internet picture gazing to determine my ideal leg fit. Did I prefer the looser style of the Barb pant, or the tighter ease of the Misty jean? To complicate matters, Style Arc also has the wider leg Linda Pant and the legging style Elle Pant. I clarified the matter by basting my pants together at both the Barb and Misty seam lines to compare the fit. Here are the results:

While both are fitted through the hip, the Misty jeans are much more tapered below the knee. And clearly the fit isn't perfect right out of the envelope for either. Particularly noticeable on the Barb pant are the drag lines from the thigh back towards the knee, indicating that I need to do a knock-knee adjustment. On the Misty jean, I wasn't a fan of all the wrinkling below the knee. These seem to be common issues I've seen on others as well.

Another challenge I encountered was that the Style Arc directions don't specify a percent stretch. This is very important! They do link to their recommended Bengaline fabric, which has a 30% stretch. Unfortunately, my fabric for this first pair was about 8%. The fit was ok, but a bit tight around the hips. It also makes the pants very difficult to pull on over the hips!

I sewed up this first version somewhere between the Barb and Misty widths, giving as much ease as possible from the narrow seam allowances for the hips. This 'first draft' is surprisingly wearable! I inserted faux pocket flaps in the back and have been wearing these to work.

Next, I made a knock-knee adjustment (Heather's tutorial is helpful). I don't think I realized how much I needed this alteration, but now that I think back it has been an issue for me on most pants I've sewn. I mentioned to Mr. Made that I thought I might be knock-kneed and he snickered and said, "I could have told you that." Would have saved me some time if he had!

With this information in mind, I began drafting my next pair of pull-on pants. This one uses a 20% stretch denim I got on sale at Fabric Outlet for about $3 a yard. Perfect to experiment with! For this version I cut along the Misty pull on jean lines for a closer fit, keeping the extra ease at the hips. This worked pretty well, but the 20% stretch meant that pulling them on was still very difficult. After a few wears, the fabric and the side seams of the waistband (borrowed from the Barb pants) had completely shredded under the stress! As you may be able to tell through the t-shirt, they were also still pretty high-waisted for me.

For my third version, I decided to make a skin-tight skinny jean. I was thinking that this might eliminate some of the leg wrinkles you can see in the pants above, plus be fun to try out. This time I used the Misty pattern but incorporated a fly front. With my hips, it just makes more sense to have an opening! They are a bit snug, but it was excellent to be able to experiment for a third time. I should be able to share these with you and another new top later this week.

Lessons Learned: I don't have any "perfect" pants from this session, but I learned a lot. Overall, I like the drafting of the Style Arc pants as they don't have a lot of the issues that have plagued me in the past such as twisted legs, excessive under butt wrinkles, etc., especially once I made some of the fit adjustments. I would like to compare the drafting to my more comfortable Ginger jeans (which are still my most-worn item) and see if I can use the Style Arc drafting to fix some of these fit issues on otherwise comfortable jeans. I have some Cone Mills denim, so maybe you will see more soon. Otherwise, there are still several yards left of that $3/yd denim!

Fitting the Sewaholic Granville

Pattern: Sewaholic's Granville Shirt
Fabric: cotton double gauze
Cost: free - gift from mom :)

What does it mean to make a garment that fits? I've been pondering this question lately and it seems to me that there are two types of 'fit.' There's fit, and then there's Fit. Let me explain.

The first kind of fit is the one I focused on when I first started sewing. It is about what makes the garment comfortable and wearable. Could I get it over my head/pull the zipper up? Could I move my arms while wearing it? I think this is the most common conception of fit, and the one most beginner sewers (and shoppers!) focus on.

Lately, however, I have been thinking about something that I will call Fit with a capital F. Beyond the comfort and wearing ease of a garment, Fit focuses on drag lines, bunching fabric, and other things that make a garment truly look good when wearing. Slowly I am learning that, while a garment might fit in the sense that it is comfortable to wear, it doesn't truly Fit until until I've made corrections for my sloping shoulders (which cause bunching at the underarm), swayback (bunching at mid back), knock knees, etc. I have been a bit slow to develop an eye for this, but figuring out these adjustments has been truly improving my Fit.

This garment is another version of the Granville shirt from Sewaholic, lengthened into a tunic. While the fit was pretty good out of the envelope, I made a number of tiny adjustments to work on the Fit. This one includes a sloping shoulder and narrow shoulder adjustment, as well as a swayback adjustment. It probably isn't perfect, but to my eyes it is much improved from my first version.

Unfortunately, while I fixed the Fit I think I may have messed up the actual fit of the garment. D'oh! It is now a bit too tight across the back, and the arms are a bit tight as well. Oh well, you live and you learn and you make more Granvilles.

This fabric was a gift from my mom from Hart's Fabrics, which is located in my home town. She sent it in the mail with explicit instructions that I MUST incorporate the beautiful selvedge into the finished piece somehow. Yes ma'am!

I can't recall ever actually sewing with double gauze. It washes beautifully but is very shifty to sew with because you're dealing with two layers of loosely woven fabric. After making the front placket slightly wonky, I decided to spray starch the sleeve plackets for a better result. Yes, I like to make my mistakes FRONT AND CENTER before figuring it out. As a result, I have decided that this garment will have an intentionally hand-sewn look, as some of the topstitching is a bit wonky. In the soft gauze, I think it works well. And maybe next time I'll choose a design that doesn't involve topstitching on double gauze!

Clearly this shirt has been another learning adventure for me. Lately I've been very focused on the pattern drafting and fabrics of the clothes I wear, and learning a lot! As always, any fitting or fabric tips greatly appreciated ;)