Muslin of Paco Peralta for Vogue Patterns V1527 Coat – and binge watching

Before anything else, a disclaimer. Paco is a close friend, and I am thrilled beyond belief that he has secured a license for some of his patterns with Vogue Patterns. Bravo, Paco!!!!

That said, I bought this pattern with my own money with no expectation of recompense neither.

If you follow me on Instagram, you can see that I started this pattern a couple of weeks ago, and I want to do this right, so I made a muslin. For my first muslin (yep, there are more than one) I traced off the pattern as-is in a size 12 and changed the seam allowances to 1 inch a la Susan Khalje’s couture sewing guidance. I knew this would need some adjustments, but going with the Vagaries of Fit: Shoulders, I started with the 12. That works well with my shoulder measurement. Here are some pictures of the first muslin.
collage-shot
You can see that the bust is not right, and the waist is a little snug. The sleeves are great. Normally I have to shorten all Vogue/McCalls/Butterick sleeves by at least 1/2 inch, but these are perfect for me. So I made those changes (I’ll show them in the ultimate pattern review) and made another muslin.. Here are shots on mesecond-muslin-shots-better-fit
And here is a picture of the back on Shelley – I couldn’t get a good shot on me, sorry
second-muslin-on-shelley

So far, I am really in love with this pattern! The next step is to cut it out in the fashion fabric. For that I will use Ralph Lauren Medium Wool Crepe for the main pieces, Silk/Wool Satin for the lapels, and Silk Habotai for the lining. All from Gorgeous Fabrics, of course.

Binge Watching “The Crown”! (I’m sure my Irish ancestors are spitting on me from heaven. Oh well.)

If you haven’t had the chance, check out The Crown on Netflix.

It is totally engrossing, and the fashion is amazing!

More to come shortly. Have a great weekend, and happy sewing!

The Vagaries of Fit: Shoulders

This week, the sewing interwebs have exploded over a recently-released pattern. I won’t name names, but it’s easy enough to find. Said pattern is giving people fits (pardon the pun) over the fit of the bodice. I don’t own the pattern so I can’t comment on it, but the brouhaha did get me thinking (uh oh, she’s thinking again).

Let’s talk about fit. This can be a very long subject, with lots of subtopics, and I’m certainly not going to cover all of them here. But there’s one area that I’ve found is critical to the success of almost any garment: the shoulder. When I was actively singing, a voice teacher said to me in reference to how to hold the body, “Everything hangs from the shoulders.” Boy oh boy, that resonates for sewing enthusiasts, doesn’t it? You can play with ease and adjust things on other parts of the body to make your garment tighter or looser, but the shoulders  are the area that need to fit properly for the rest of the garment to work.

Continue reading The Vagaries of Fit: Shoulders

A Reminder: The Right Bra…

Photo from Chantelle's Website
Photo from Chantelle’s Website

This morning as I got dressed, I realized it has been almost 2 years since I last got fitted for a bra. As you well know, I firmly believe that wearing a well fitted bra makes you look 10 years younger and 10 lbs. lighter. So when it hit me that all my bras were getting pretty old, I decided to get myself to Nordstrom to get fitted again.

Part of the reason I am such a cheerleader for getting fitted annually (ideally) for a new bra, is because your measurements change, even when other things stay the same. Weight gain, weight loss, a change in exercise regime, posture changes… all of these can mean the size of your bra needs to be adjusted. I’ll use myself as an example. My weight hasn’t fluctuated much (if at all) for the last 5 years. But three years ago when I got fitted, the best band size for me was a 36. Two years ago, because I started doing more spin and less weight training, I was right on the cusp between a 34 and a 36. Today, because I’ve been doing more barre and spin, I could have gone with either a 32 or a 34 (I like the feel of 34 better).

Now as a completely unrelated aside, WHY doesn’t my waistline go down??? But I digress…

I had the pleasure today to work with Alison, who IMO is the best fitter at my local Nordstrom. There are great fitters everywhere. Ask friends who look good who they use, or go to a fit clinic at your local store. Macy’s, Nordstrom and most other big stores have them a few times a year. You want to make sure that the band is taut, that the triangle between the breasts at the front (okay bra-making friends – there’s a technical term for that, what is it please?) lays flat against your sternum with no gapping, that the edges of the cups don’t cut diagonally across the tissue, that there’s no “overflow” on the sides, and that the shoulder straps don’t have to do all the heavy lifting (pardon the pun).

Something to remember about bra sizing – don’t let the numbers (and letters) throw you. Every brand has its own fit model, so you might find that in one brand you are a 34D, while in another brand you are a 32G. Ignore the size on the label. Get the size that, as I like to say, “hoists ’em up and points ’em forward!” or gives you the fit you prefer.

I really can’t stress enough how a good bra will make your clothes fit better. You don’t have to spend a ton of money to get a good fit, but you really will be happier if you find someone who can help you get a well-fitting bra.

One other thing to mention here is that I hand-wash and line dry all my bras. They will last for years if you do that. You don’t need fancy-dancy lingerie wash, either. I use either shampoo or body wash (not the kinds with conditioner or moisturizer in them) and they have worked just fine for me. I wash mine after every wearing. I know I have seen articles on Vogue.com that recommend washing a bra after wearing it 5 times, but that’s just not my jam, and washing after each wearing hasn’t had any ill effects as far as I can see.

Oh, and a happy side note? Alison, the fitter at Nordstrom, adjusted the bra I was wearing so it fits better. All my bras aren’t at EOL! Some of them are, but others just need a tweak here and there and they have another couple of years!

Happy sewing!

The Case for Muslins, Part the Second – Knits

The question arose in discussion around The Case for Muslins – what about knits? Can you use unbleached cotton to make a muslin for knits? In 99% of the cases, the answer is no. You really need a fabric with similar stretch to approximate the way a knit fabric will act. Most of the time you will need a knit to muslin a knit.

What I do in that situation is use an inexpensive knit that has a similar stretch and weight to your garment fabric. For instance, if you’re making a jersey dress I would use a jersey, not a doubleknit, for the muslin. Likewise, if you’re planning a skirt with a garment neoprene fabric, use a doubleknit. You don’t have to be exact in the weight, but as my dad used to say, “close enough for government work.”

As an example, I just cut out a muslin for the bodice of Christine Jonson wrap dress. Because the Travel Trio One jacket runs rather large on me, I decided to try a size small (8-10) instead of the 12 I made in the jacket. The fabric I used to mock this up is Poly ITY Jersey in Beyond Basic Black. What you see here is straight out of the pattern envelope with no changes. I did that because I don’t know how this pattern is drafted and I wanted an unmodified version.

It's black, but I played around big time with settings to make things easier to see.
The fabric’s black, but I played around big time with settings to make viewing easier.

It’s too small, which isn’t surprising – I’m way bustier than the pattern is drafted for. The shoulders are a wee bit tight on me – I can probably go up to halfway between the small and the medium at the shoulders. I’ll definitely need a FBA. What surprises me is how short-waisted the bodice is. You can see on the mannequin (size 10) that the lower edge doesn’t quite reach the waistline. Take away 5/8″ with the waistline seam and it will be even shorter. The back is equally short. I will need to add a solid inch to the length in front and in back before I do a FBA. I’ll make all those adjustments on the paper pattern, then I’ll make another muslin. Once I get the fit to where I want it, I’ll carefully take apart the muslin. In the case of jersey knits, I press the pieces back into shape. Depending on my mood, I’ll either use the muslin knit as my pattern piece or – especially if I think I’m going to make the pattern more than once, I’ll trace the adjusted muslin back onto paper to store it more easily.

I already hear the groans. Yes, it’s work, but hey – I don’t know about you, but I’m worth the extra work! Besides, I timed it, and from tracing off the pattern to trying on the muslin took 45 minutes. I did it during my lunch hour. The next muslin will probably take about the same time, thanks to the FBA, but once that’s done, the final version will sew up really quickly. And it will save me from disaster with my intended fabric. To be fair, do I make a muslin of every single knit pattern? No. I have enough experience under my belt to know which patterns need them, which adjustments I make with which pattern companies, and when I can get away without any big adjustments. But I always make a muslin for wrap dresses, because if you don’t get the fit right, it’s either a wadder, or at best you’re stuck having to wear a camisole underneath. And we all know how I feel about that. 🙂

So I’ll reiterate what I said in the last post: When in doubt, make a muslin! Do so and I’m willing to bet you will have…

Happy sewing!

The Case for Muslins

You all know that I comment very infrequently on other people’s sites. But I do lurk, lots. On many sites, and quite often, posters will claim that they

  1. Never make muslins
  2. Hate making muslins
  3. Think muslins are a waste of time
  4. Don’t see the point of muslins.

I, on the other hand, love muslins. And I’m not talking about “Wearable Muslins” (On another note – was that really 6 years ago? Man, I didn’t realize my bulletproof undies were that old. But I digress…)

Seriously, muslins, the way I use them, are tools for achieving better fit. Because of that, in Ann-land they have a very specific purpose: they become the pattern. Today, for instance, I cut out a pair of StyleArc’s Willow pants. These are woven pants, and they are pretty closely fitted. My goal is to make them in a black wool satin from my stash, to take me through the holidays and go with a stunning jacket I bought from my friend Tess last year. I cut them from The Best Muslin Anywhere (of course I have to plug it!)  and ran them up this afternoon.

Singing along with The Talking Heads: Cut out and ready to sew...
Singing along with The Talking Heads: Cut out and ready to sew…

I use waxed tracing paper (that you can buy online or at Sil Thread)  and a tracing wheel to mark darts, grain lines, fit lines and other landmarks on the pattern. I notate the markings, when needed, with a sharpie.

Annotated Pattern Pieces
Mark it up, baby!

I use long machine basting stitches (6mm) on all the seams. For zippers and darts I use regular length (2.5mm) stitches. I figure if seams pop, that’s okay – that’s what the muslin is supposed to show. But I want the darts and zips to stay where they are.

Seams get long stitch length
Seams get long stitch length
Darts (and zippers) get shorter stitch length.
Darts (and zippers) get shorter stitch length.

I also don’t bother with an invisible zip in the muslin. I just use the ugliest zipper from my stash.  “Close enough for government work,” as my daddy used to say. The goal is to get the fit right. I know how the zipper will go. But – if you are unsure about how to insert an invisible zipper, this is the time to practice, so go for it!

For this pair of pants, the muslin (minus the waistband) took less than 1.5 hours to cut out and sew up. 90 minutes of my time? That’s totally worth it to see if this will even begin to fit and work for me.

Once I sewed the muslin, I tried it on and started making adjustments. This is easier if you have a fitting buddy. If you don’t have a fitting buddy, take lots of pictures. Don’t worry – you don’t have to share them. Use them for yourself and look for wrinkles, drag lines and problem areas. No one is judging you, and this way you’ll see things through the camera’s unwavering and unemotional eye. Sorry – I don’t have pictures of myself in these pants. One benefit of having been sewing since the Pleistocene Era is that I’ve done this enough times that I can literally feel my way around the muslin and figure out where I need to pinch. It’s more precise if my best fitting buddy Phyllis is here, but I can do a pretty passable job on my own.

I don’t have pictures on me, but I do have pictures of the results. I need a slight adjustment on one side of the front.

Adjustment at the Front
High hip? Low hip? Not sure but pinching that out makes them look much better

And I need the “Fish Eye Dart” (I want to say I learned about that from Debbie Cook?)

Fisheye Darts in Back
I’ll pinch  these from the pattern pieces, and I’ll  remove about an inch in length as well.

If you are relatively new to sewing, you may be wondering, “Okay, now what?” It’s an excellent question. Next I will take these pants apart, true up the grain lines with the pinches and changes, and then use them as the pattern pieces for my wool satin.

All in all, this process (including writing this blog post with pictures and all) took less than a day on a long weekend. The payoff will be that I will have a pair of pants that fits well, falls well, and won’t end up in my wadder pile or at Goodwill. And it will take me less than a couple of hours to make them, start to finish, because I have already sewn them once. So if I can give you one piece of advice, it is…

When in doubt, make a muslin, dammit!

Happy sewing!

Full Bust Adjustment for a Wrap Top or Dress

The good folk at McCalls are hosting a wrap dress sew-along, and they asked me to write a post about doing a Full Bust Adjustment for wrap bodices. I posted this on The Sewing Divas website several years ago, and it’s still my go-to-method for doing FBA on wrap-style dresses and tops.

If you’re like many women, the standard B-cup of most commercial patterns isn’t enough to cover “the ladies” without unsightly pulls and wrinkles. With the popularity of wrap tops and DVF-style wrap dresses, there are some small but significant pattern changes you need to make so your entire bodice fits well. Let’s have a look.

The method I use works equally well for mock-wrap bodices, where you often have separate pieces for the left and the right fronts, as for “regular” wrap bodices. In order to fit properly, you have to adjust for a full bust, not only on the actual bustline of the front pattern piece, but also on the wrap piece that extends under the bust on the other side. This is a fairly straightforward change, but it’s one that many people leave off, giving a happy-hands-at-home look to their garments. When I make a wrap dress that just has one front bodice piece (like my vintage DVF original pattern), I mirror and trace off the bodice so I have two separate bodice pieces to work with. It makes it easy to do this adjustment.

The first thing you need to do is your standard full-bust-adjustment, or FBA. There are many excellent tutorials for how to adjust a pattern out there. I won’t bother to repeat what has already been said so well. Here’s a picture of a top I made with my usual FBA.

My usual adjustments

This will leave you with enough room over your bust on the primary side of your pattern piece. However, if you look at the picture of the un-adjusted pattern piece (on the left), laid on top of the adjusted pattern piece, you’ll see that the side seams don’t match:
Check out the side seams on the right side of the picture

Even if you do a FBA on both sides, when you line up the center fronts, you’ll find that the side seams are out of alignment, and this will cause distortion when you wear it. To fix this, lay your pattern pieces over one another, lining the center fronts up. Using a clear gridded ruler, trace a line over the slash line for your FB adjusted pattern piece, as shown:

Slash your pattern piece along that line, all the way from the top to, but not through, the bottom. Spread it so that it matches the spread on your FBA adjusted piece.
Slash, tapering back down to the waistline.

Repeat this whole process on the other side. Once you are done, you will have two pattern pieces that have two sets of slashes for the bust, and your top will fit great!

This is a small adjustment that makes a big difference. Enjoy your wrap dresses and tops. And as always,
Happy sewing!

PS, for other hints and tips on making wrap dresses, I did a whole Wrapapalooza series last year. Check it out – there are some tidbits in there that might be helpful.

Muslin for the StyleArc Brenda

After a rather lengthy hiatus, my sewing mojo has returned with a vengeance. Even the McCalls Shorts Debacle hasn’t stopped me. I have lots of ideas of clothes that I want to sew, and I’ve been really inspired by this online subscription I took out to a magazine aggregator. Suddenly I get to read all sorts of fashion magazines on my iPad before I go to sleep: Vogue, Bazaar, InStyle, W, More, Lucky, Allure, Self… The list goes on (and it also includes Entertainment Weekly and People, among others, for my guilty pleasure reading). It provides plenty of inspiration. It has also rekindled my desire to sew with wovens. I’ve been sewing tons of knits lately, because I love them and they are what I live in. At work, my uniform is usually jeans, a knit top, a jacket, and either sneakers or high heels, depending on what I’m doing that day. I love my uniform, but I want to add a little diversity. So for the late summer/early fall, I hope to sew up some blouses. The first one I’m working on is the StyleArc Brenda.

The Brenda is a long sleeved, darted blouse with gathering at the bustline. There are some doppelgängers out there in pattern land, but I really like StyleArc for their shoulder and upper-chest draft. So I pulled out my copy of the pattern (size 10, my usual) and cut out a muslin.

Since I’ve been working mostly with knits recently, it’s crucial to make a muslin of any garment that is made of woven fabric and reasonably closely fitted. And boy, I’m glad I did. I know that at my age, I will need to make changes to just about any pattern to get the fit I want. And this is no exception. I made the muslin straight from the pattern and discovered a few things that needed to be changed. First off, even though every StyleArc pattern I’ve made in size 10 fits me perfectly across the shoulders and upper chest/back, they don’t all fit the same elsewhere. Brenda is drafted for a much smaller person than I through the front ribcage. Here’s a picture of the original muslin on Shelley.

Fits Shelley great.

Shelley is a Wolf Size 6 dressform. Much as I wish I looked like Shelley, two kids, yumpty yump years and one bout of breast cancer later, I’m more like a Wolf size 10. As a side note, this December is (touch wood) my 5-year diagnosis anniversary. And my birthday is in December. Maybe I’ll save up and treat myself to a custom Wolf form. But I digress…

So I’m about two sizes bigger than Shelley. You can see that the muslin fits her pretty well, with not a lot of extra ease. On me, it sits more like this:

On me? Mmmmm, not so much

It fits perfectly through the back, and the side seams are in exactly the right place. It’s just the front that needs fixing. I’m not going to subject you to a picture of it on me in this iteration. That would be too embarrassing. One other thing to notice is that the bust darts come up WAY too high. They are at bust apex level, even on Shelley, who doesn’t have to worry about gravity.

Even before I had kids, they weren’t that high!

Also, If you look at the original muslin, the dart was positioned about 2 inches outside of where my bust apex (the little x’s) points are. So I decided to slice and dice. When I was a kid I used to think I wanted to be a surgeon – well, this is surgery, minus the blood and need to learn organic chemistry, right? Here’s the pattern after I made my initial incisions, but before I did all the resectioning:

Before…

Here it is once I got done with it:

And after, sigh…

Here’s the revised muslin on Shelley: much better fit for my real body.

That’s better!

There is still a little work that needs to be done. I need to add just a wee bit more room at the bust, but that’s easy now. I’ll also add the sleeves to the muslin tomorrow to check them out. Once I do that, hopefully I’ll be able to whip this up in my fashion fabric (a daisy print cotton from Gorgeous Fabrics) quickly and have a new blouse.

Tomorrow I’ll show you some of the construction methods that I use when I make muslins in general. But that’s enough for tonight. DH just put a Quentin Tarantino movie on.

Happy sewing!

Muslin for the Puppy Dress

… or “Un-Petite-ing a Petite Pattern”

I made the first muslin for the puppy dress last weekend, and it required a few adjustments. First, I added about an inch to the torso length, then I did a full bust adjustment. This is what the pattern looked like when I’d finished slicing and dicing:

Adjusted Bodice

Rather than futz with floppy and fragile pattern pieces, I just decided to trace off the adjusted pattern to a new piece of paper.
Adjusted Bodice Traceoff

When I make standard (non-petite) patterns, I often have to do a swayback adjustment. I didn’t need that here. The back length is perfect for me. But I did have to adjust the side back piece to match up to the adjusted front torso length:

Sliced to match up to the front
Sliced to match up to the front

I sliced it open to add length at the side front seam, tapering to nothing at the side back.

Here you can see the front and back of the second muslin:

Front
Front
Back
Back

After trying it on, I added darts to the back and back facing, to get it to lay better against my shoulders. I have pretty erect posture most of the time, but I find that adding darts makes a big difference,even for me.

Darts in the back pieces
Darts in the back pieces

In the picture on the model (who has no boobs), the dress is very sweet looking. On me, I noticed two things. First, the dress looks very “Joan Holloway”, which I rather like. Second, the bra I wear with this dress makes a HUGE difference. I was wearing a tee-shirt bra when I first tried it on, and I didn’t like the fit, so I changed to one that hoists the girls higher and closer together. That will be the bra I wear with this dress from now on.

And speaking of bras, if you haven’t already read it, go Read This Post. Now. It’s just as important as ever.

I’m happy with the fit of the muslin, so next step is to cut into my puppy silk and lining habotai. More soon!

Happy sewing!

A Reminder – The Right Bra…

Makes all the difference!

Last weekend, I took advantage of the nice weather to put the top down on the ‘Stang and head over to Nordstroms, where they were having a bra-fitting event. About once a year, it’s a good idea to get fitted for a bra. As I said to the fitter, I don’t really care what the size is, I just want it to hoist them up and point them forward. Wearing the right size can make 10 years and 10 lbs difference in how you look. It really is that dramatic.

So ladies, if you haven’t had a fitting for a year, or if you have gained or lost weight, get to a store with a good bra fitter. You’ll be glad you did!

Here’s the original post: The Right Bra Makes All the Difference

And here’s the follow-up: More on Bra Fitting – Bring a Tape Measure

Happy measuring, and sewing!

J? or L?

I got several questions about the “L” crotch curve in my post about the Crime Against Humanity McCalls 6707 Fashion Star Capris. Here’s a little more information on it. I’ve sewn pants for years and years, and while they looked okay, I never was really happy with them. They always seemed rather baggy. I’ve never had a lot of junk in the trunk, but neither am I a flatbottom boat. I figured that I just had to put up with it, because none of the pattern fitting guides at the time had any solutions that worked for me.

Then one day, I took a fitting class with the amazing, amusing and astounding teacher Cynthia Guffey. One of the things she did was use a flexible ruler to show us the curvature of our hinder ends. Well huh, I guess all that time in spinning class has had an effect. Let me show you a couple of pictures. Let’s take a gander at a current Vogue pattern, V8886.

That’s kinda what my butt looked like, too.

Notice the bagginess at the back crotch? It tells me there is extra fabric there. Now look at the pattern piece for the back:

Of course, it would help if I actually INCLUDED the pattern!

It has a gently sloping curve, shaped like the letter J. Keep in mind that the flat fabric will make a 90 degree turn just below the double notch on this pattern, as it heads in between the legs to meet up with the front leg piece, so your bum doesn’t necessarily look like the flat pattern. Now let me show you what the actual curve of my kiester looks like overlaid on the pattern piece at the crotch line:

All that time in spin classes, I guess…

You can see that the my curve is far sharper than the curve in the pattern – more like a capital L. If I cut out the pattern as-is, I get a bunch of extra fabric hanging under my derriere, kind of like the model in the picture. It’s not attractive, and it’s not very comfortable. But by scooping out some of that excess to more closely match my anatomy, I’ve eliminated that problem. Here’s the adjusted pattern piece from my McCalls 6707 pattern, overlaid on the Vogue. The actual cutting line for the McCalls is in pink.

That’s more like it.

I don’t have a picture of me in them from the back, but they conform to the line of moi quite well.

To give you one more picture, since it’s worth way more roughly 500 words I have here, here is a pair of old, pre-L pants that I made, next to the (post-L) McCalls 6707, so you can see the difference in the completed pants.

Before/After

This adjustment is pretty easy to make. If you have a fitting buddy and a flexible ruler (available at most art supply, crafts and sewing stores), you can see what your own crotch line is: J, L or in-between, which you can transfer to a pants pattern. Try it on a muslin and see what you think of your rear view.

HTH, and happy sewing!