A Big Weekend for Sewing

I had an uncharacteristic free weekend – no races and not much planned, so I ended up getting lots of sewing bits done!

Sewing room clear-out

I’ve only got a small (temporary) sewing cave, and I’m a very tidy, organised person, but I’d let it get a little messy and it was feeling crowded, so after my two hour hill run on Saturday morning, I came back and had a bit of a clear out. I filled a full black bag with rubbish, but here’s what I pulled aside to swap at the Goldhawk Road meetup on Saturday!

Yes, you could be a good home to some pattern, pattern magazines, books, craft kits, or fabric that once lived on board! Now, if I can manage to be good and not fill up the space with things I pick up in the swap or fabric stores…

Skylight cover

Remember the last time I made a skylight cover (strangely, I see last time I was sewing jeans alongside it, too!)? I’d only ever made them for the back cabin, where the skylights are peaked, with windows that open like wings, but on the front deck, the skylights are flat and require grills that fit overtop for safety and security.

We had a joiner make a gorgeous new cover for the skylight over our bedroom, but it’s been shamefully covered in tarpaulins for the last few months while I procrastinated swearing my way through sewing another.

Even with a walking foot, the clear plastic is a total P-I-T-A to sew because it sticks to the machine bed, the foot, is stiff and rams into everything, and is generally just awful.

This time around, I got so sick of the stickiness that I grabbed a “newspaper” (tabloid left from our joiner) and ripped off pieces to go underneath and also under the presser foot.

This surprisingly worked rather well, and the newspaper just rips out easily afterwards. Worth remembering if a) you don’t mind newsprint on your fabrics, and b) like me, you never have tissue paper lying around

It’s not my best work, but it’s done and will allow more light into our new bedroom!

Jeans muslin

If you recall, I decided on a Burda pattern for my non-stretch denim so I sewed up a quick muslin of that on Saturday after my skylight triumph.

The triumph was short-lived.

These were way too tight in hips (though the waist is okay), and also had trouble getting them off over my bigger calves. Rather than scrap yet another pattern, I brought out an old favourite book, “Making Your Clothes Fit” by Patricia Burkhart Smith (long OOP but there are plentiful cheap copies on abebooks or Amazon!)

I totally love that this book has pages of wrinkle-drawings to show you what various fit wrinkles mean – tons of wrinkles on skirts, on sleeves, bodices, and trousers. Unfortunately mine is this:

You then refer to the page, where you’re given a sewing fix (ie: if you’ve already made the garment and you need to fix it by unripping stitches or taking seams in), and a pattern fix, which I love. Seriously, it’s a great book for figuring out what fit wrinkles mean and how to fix them, and I refer to mine fairly often.

I couldn’t face a bunch of pattern alterations there and then, though, so I worked on something else instead…

Long-delayed swirl sheath dress

Last summer, when I was working my way through a year of Burda magazine patterns (aka “The Burda challenge”), I did something different for June’s. I started with Burda 06-2012 #129 then drew design lines and made a new pattern as per instructions in Pattern Magic 2.

(the above muslin photo is from last summer)

The finished dress was delayed first to find a hefty stretch satin (eventually fulfilled by an import order from Gorgeous Fabrics), then again delayed as I didn’t have a cutting table wide enough to cut out the asymmetric pieces…

Thriftystitcher to the rescue! We’d been talking on Twitter for a while, but she invited me up to her studio in Stoke Newington after work on Friday to come use her big cutting table and have a chat (we could’ve talked all night!!). So by the time my stomach was calling me home, I not only had all my fabric cut for this dress, but also plans for me to teach a class on my Lacey Thong pattern and a running-specific one later in the year (more details will be announced as they’re ironed out!).

Because the plan was always to alternate the shiny and matte sides of the satin in the different panels, I really had to pay attention when I was laying out the pieces as some had to be placed face-down. It was also a bit tricky because it had been over a year since I took the muslin apart and in some places I had to think back to whether I’d included seam allowances on the neckline and armhole edges. All this while carrying on a conversation!

I came away from the studio on Friday night really buzzing with excitement and a desire to not let this poor sheath dress stall again, so after the skylight and jeans muslin got me down, I knew this would be the perfect antidote.

As you can tell by my crude tech drawing and the muslin photo, this dress is entirely curves (okay, one dart!) so there’s a lot of easing to be had. My technique is always what I call “pin the crap out of it”, and the semi-circular seams near the hem required the most – 36 pins for the front, but a whopping 68 pins for just that one seam in the back (as there’s more shaping in it for the bum space)!

It may take longer to pin, but it means I can sew it absolutely perfectly the first time, without frustration, puckers, tucks, or the seam ripper! Coincidentally, this is always how I set in sleeves, too. Death to ease stitching!

It wasn’t all smooth sailing though – I did have a little “wtf” moment when I saw the left upper back piece was way too long at the side seam!

(As you can see, tea helped!)

After some careful comparison with the front and the other side of the back, plus attaching the next piece down, I realised it was just a mistake on that piece and could safely chop off the excess, hurrah! (I amended my muslin/pattern, too)

By the end of Sunday afternoon, I had constructed both the front and back in their entirely, with lots of curved sections going together without a single unpicked stitch! YAY!

I also had a chance to draft a front and back neckline/armhole facing from the finished pieces, and merge these into the lower portion of the original Burda pattern for my lining (so the lining will have the regular darts instead of swirls, but my modified neckline). I don’t think I have any suitable stretch linings in my stash, though, so I may attach the facings and the shell, then add the lower lining in next week.

Oh, and if you haven’t seen it, I was a castaway on Friday over at Scruffy Badger Time, so head over there to read through my Desert Island Sewing picks!

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