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

Tip: Clip the Selvages Before Laying Out Your Pattern

I’m taking part (albeit quite late to the party) in the McCalls Pattern Shirtdress Sew-Along. I’m making Kwik Sew 4155, from a lovely lightweight shirting from Gorgeous Fabrics (of course). After pre-washing my fabric, I saw that it was puckery along the selvages. That’s not at all unusual with woven fabrics. Because of the finishing of the fabric at the edges (to keep it from unraveling), the tension on the selvage threads is higher, which can cause some puckering:

Puckered edges before clipping

Well, at a sit and sew with the wonderful couture teacher Susan Khalje, I learned a little trick to release that tension.

Simply make small cuts along the selvages. These cuts are about 1/4 inch deep in the case of this fabric, and spaced about every 2-3 inches. I did make a cut right at a pucker if it seemed pretty tight. I cut on a diagonal, but I don’t think it makes much of a difference if you cut perpendicular to the selvage. The picture below shows what it looks like after snipping, and I didn’t press it or otherwise flatten it out, so you can see what a difference it makes.

It only takes a few seconds to do, and it will make sure your fabric lays flat so you get an accurate cut close to the selvage.

Same section after clipping. Much better!

This is closely related to the tip I wrote a while back on Trimming Your Knit Selvages. Same principle, and it will make your life a lot easier.

Shameless Plug Time: Speaking of Susan Khalje, if you ever have the opportunity to take a class with her, do it! Susan is a delightful person, a wonderful teacher and, as a professor at FIT said, “She sews a mean stitch.” One of my bucket list items is to go on her Paris Tour. I can’t do it this year because of a very big (!) family commitment at the end of the year, but hopefully soon! Full disclosure: Susan is a dear friend of mine, but she is one of the BEST sewing teachers out there, bar none.

HTH and happy sewing!

Shameless Plug – Susan Khalje’s Classes and Videos

Before I start with the subject at hand, let me apologize for not moderating the comments from last week. I don’t know what I did, but suddenly I stopped getting email notifications of comments waiting in the queue. They are all released now. I’ll try to get that fixed.

Image cribbed from Susan’s website

Now, where was I? Oh yes – shameless plug time! Susan Khalje is a dear friend and colleague of mine, but even if she wasn’t I would recommend her classes to anyone who wants to build their skills and take their sewing to a higher level.

Susan teaches classes all around the country, and she has several per year at her home in Maryland. I’ve taken her Sit and Sew classes, which she often teaches with Kenneth King, three times over the years, and I’ve also taken her couture sewing class. I learn so much from each class I take with her. There’s always something new for me to take away.

With Susan
I made this dress in Susan’s class

She also hosts classes taught by other couture sewing professionals. There’s a set of draping classes coming up, taught by Julien Cristofoli. One of these days I will take that class. Susan runs an annual guided tour to Paris, where participants get to visit couture houses and suppliers, take classes and soak in the atmosphere and knowledge in the City of Light. Sigh – that trip is on my bucket list.

But the reason I love her classes, and the reason I recommend her so highly is that she not only has mad skillz, but she also has the patience of a saint. Susan will take the time needed to explain something so everyone gets it. I have never seen her lose patience with any of her students, and she clearly cares deeply that each one of her students gets the most from her classes.

And hey – she also has video classes! So if you can’t make it to one of her in-person classes, you can take your time and learn at your own pace (in your bunny slippers if you want, always a plus). I’ve taken her Couture Dress video class and it was excellent. The first chapter alone was, for me, worth the price of admission.

So if you want to increase your skills under the tutelage of one of the best, I highly recommend Susan’s classes. NAYY, just a good friend and a great teacher.

Happy sewing!

Spring Combo!

Phyllis and I spent much of the day working together yesterday. After we finished, we went to my house for wine and fashion talk, along with dish! How fun was that! I’m taking Susan Khalje’s Class, “The Couture Dress” on Craftsy, and I’ve been debating about the fabric I want to use for my dress. The pattern they supply for the class is this Vogue:

Vogue 8648

Yesterday, Phyllis helped me pick out the fabric for it, and then she went to town styling it for Spring by combining it with a bag and shoes. Prints that “clash” are all over the runways for spring. I figure I’ll wear it to the Couture Club of Chicago fashion show in May and look fabulous!

Love the contrast!

Alas, there is one slight problem. When I went to adjust the inventory for the silk fabric, I discovered someone had bought the last of it. Sniff! See? I own the store, and even I miss out on fabrics sometimes! Time to make some calls tomorrow morning to see if I can get another bolt.

Stay tuned!

Whole Lotta Nuthin’

Going on in the sewing room, that is. Well, I suppose that’s not entirely true. I’ve been tweaking Tatiana’s ballroom dress. I added some more volume at the bottom by replacing the godets, and I’ve been bedazzling the bejeezus out of it. One thing I realized while watching it on the dance floor. Subtlety has no place in ballroom dance competitions. Now, there’s a Project Runway challenge – design a ballroom dance dress. I can just see Nina Garcia having fits over the amount of frou-frou you have to throw at these things to make them stand out on the dance floor.

On a personal sewing level, I haven’t had time to do much. The Chanel jacket is at the point where I’m doing the finish work on the lining. This is the boring part – it’s all fell-stitching. I’ll start blogging about it again once that’s done and I start on the embellishment and final finishing.

I’m also enrolled in Susan Khalje’s class, The Couture Dress, on Craftsy. I watched the first two lessons. I haven’t gotten any farther because we had our big anniversary sale at Gorgeous Fabrics. Once that was over, I had to clean up and restock. Speaking of which, how gorgeous is this super Hawt Designer Silk Twill???

Current season, darlings!

I am severely tempted to use it for my dress. In the meantime, I need to make a muslin of the pattern. Phyllis is going to help me fit the muslin. I also just was asked to do some costuming work, which is due in the next week, so there goes my weekend plans. Don’t you just hate it when life gets in the way? I also have a stack of patterns that I really want to sew, including the Jilly Jean from StyleArc. I feel a little like I have sewing paralysis – so many options that it overwhelms me.

On top of that, DS the elder is the second lead in the high school musical, “Kiss Me, Kate”. He’s in nonstop rehearsals. They did a photo shoot with the four leads earlier this week. He’s on the far right.

L-R: Kate, Petruchio, Bianca, Lucentio

I guess it’s not a whole lotta nuthin’, after all. But it’s not what I want to be working on. Oh well! Back to work and hopefully, eventually back to…

Happy sewing!

It’s Like When the Drywall is In, but Before the Skim Coat Goes On…

That’s where the Chanel jacket stands. Major parts are done, but lots and lots of small things to go.

It’s been a while. I had to go out of town on business, followed by a big family affair last week. That means this week was spent catching up back at the office. Adding to that, DS the younger had a sore throat followed by pink eye, so we spent much of yesterday at the doctor’s office and the pharmacy. And we had a band concert thrown in for good measure. On the plus side, DS the younger, who plays bari sax, was featured prominently in all three bands.

Needless to say, I didn’t have a lot of time to work on the jacket. Phyllis came up today and we had a sewing afternoon. She worked on a costume for her daughter. It’s going to be amazing. Phyllis has an eye for matching multiple diverse patterns and trimmings that is second only to Georgene. She’ll share more when it’s ready. It’s going to be good.

So here’s where the jacket stands. All the major seams are sewn. I’ve tacked down the seam allowances on everything except the right sleeve. I’ll do that tomorrow. The seam allowances of the lining are pinned down and ready to be stitched. Now comes all the detail work that will take some time. I’m hoping to have much of it done by this time next week. We’ll see! Here are some pictures of the work in progress:



Sleeves, Inside and Out

As you can see from the sleeve on the left, it’s really important to tack the seam allowances. Left to its own devices, this fabric ravels like crazy.

Have you checked out Susan Khalje’s Craftsy Class?
Shameless plug time. I signed up for Susan Khalje’s class on Craftsy, “The Couture Dress”. Can I tell you? Fabulous! I am only a couple of lessons in, but it’s great. And I love that you pay one price for the class. They don’t nickel and dime you to death with buy-the-video, buy-the-pattern. Just pay the one price and get going. I’ll do a full review once I finish it, but so far, it’s great!

And as a follow-on to my post about books for those of us who have been sewing a while, I got an email from a sewing deity recently, and I think our prayers will be answered in the not-too-distant future. Please keep your comments coming, because they are being looked at by publishers. And I really, really appreciate the kind words from folks who think I should write a book, but I’m not ready at this point. I’m really good at a lot of things, but I know my limitations, and I know my time constraints. Maybe some day, but not right now.

That’s all for tonight. DH has the new “Sherlock” on Netflix. Time to snuggle with him and have a glass of champagne. Just because.
Happy sewing!

Sew from Wide to Narrow

“There Are No Hard and Fast Rules in Sewing…”… except for one. Always sew from wide to narrow.” -Susan Khalje

During the weekend sewing class, this subject came up. I don’t know about you, but when I make an A-line skirt, I sew starting at the waist, and ending at the hem. It’s how I always have sewn my skirts. It works fine on straighter styles, but I’ve never been very happy with the results on my A-lines. They always seem to be a little wavy, which bugs me. Well, when Susan uttered those words, I looked at her and said, “I’m going to test that out!” So here you can see the results of that exercise. First off, I cut two “A-line skirts” (mockups) from some heavy silk charmeuse I have lying around. Silk is good to use as an example because it shows every ripple, bump and lump. But you can do this test on any fabric and you’ll get similar results.

Sorry for the lousy cell phone picture

The first one I did was the narrow-to-wide version. As I said, this is my usual method.

Start at the waist and sew down?

And here is the result I get.

Paging Mister Ripple...

As I joked in the class, it looks like my usual A-line skirt. But in seriousness, the rippled seam has always driven me crazy. I press it, and it still has some distortion.

Next, I sewed it from wide to narrow. Other than reversing my usual direction, I made no changes – same needle and thread, same stitch length, same tension:

Let's try this from the other end, shall we?

Now look at the result.

Much better!

Here’s a picture of the two pieces, side by side:

What a difference the direction of your sewing makes! I’m not a textile scientist, but it has to do with the stability of the fabric along the diagonal. If someone (Kathleen?) has a thorough explanation, let me know and I’ll be happy to link to it. But the fact is, it works. And it’s something that I will do from now on.

Parting Shot: The Header Fabric

Several people have written to me asking about the new header fabric and where they can find it on the site. Alas, it is the only piece and it’s my own. It’s an alpaca blend that I bought at one of my vendors. She only had 4 yards, so I grabbed it. I brought it out in the class and we were all pawing it. It’s really gorgeous and simply sumptuous to the touch. Neener neener neener! Oh wait, that’s not very gracious, is it? Sorry.

Seriously, I have asked said vendor to see if they can get me more. If so, I’ll let you know! In the meantime, it’s destined to become my next Chanel-style jacket.

HTH, and happy sewing!

Registration is Open for Susan Khalje’s Class on December 3-4!

The class is starting to fill up, but there is still time and room to join us for Susan’s class!

The Association of Sewing and Design Professionals
New England Chapter, Inc.
Presents:  The Year of the Little Black Dress, Session 2

The Couture Little Black Dress with Susan Khalje
December 3-4, 2011, 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM

Are you looking to take your Little Black Dress to the next level? Join us for this fantastic hands-on seminar with ASDP Lifetime Achievement Award Winner, Susan Khalje! 

For two days in December, we’ll immerse ourselves in the world of the couture version of The Little Black Dress.

Using your fitted muslin, you’ll learn to adapt it for pattern use. We’ll discuss in-depth the underpinnings that differentiate couture garments, including underlinings, linings and hems. Under Susan’s expert tutelage, you’ll make samples and learn different methods. You’ll learn two hand-picked zipper treatments. You’ll master a number of the finishing details that go into couture garments. This is an opportunity to learn with one of the acknowledged experts in couture sewing techniques in a friendly, supportive environment!   Susan Khalje is an ASDP LIfetime Achievement Award Winner, master teacher, couturiere and Threads Contributing Editor. She is the author of BRIDAL COUTURE, Fine Sewing Techniques for Wedding Gowns and Evening Wear, and LINEN AND COTTON Classic Sewing Techniques for Great Results. She was the host of “Sew Much More” on HGTV. She is also the author of numerous articles for Threads Magazine and every other major sewing publication.

Class Fee: $250 for non-members, $175 for ASDP members (and you know what a bargain that is???)

To Register: Send a check, made payable to ASDP, NE, Inc. to
Maureen Egan
12 Hamilton Way
Westfield, MA 01085

Upon registration, you’ll receive a supply list and materials relating to pre-class preparation.

And if that wasn’t incentive enough, Gorgeous Fabrics is offering a 20% discount on full-price fabrics to participants! So come and join us – it will be fun, informative and fabulous!!!!

Happy sewing!

I Wish I Could…

… But in all good conscience, I can’t. Probably the single question I am asked most frequently is “I am making a Chanel-style jacket. Please please please do a tutorial on how to convert the two-piece sleeve from my pattern into a three-piece?”

Never piss off the Karma Gods.

Ah, my dears, I wish I could, but it’s not mine to give. I learned that technique from the wonderful, warm and gracious Susan Khalje. Susan is not only an amazing teacher, she’s also a friend. I can’t put her information, that earns her living, out in the public domain. That would just invite all sorts of bad juju, don’t you think?

But I did email Susan, who writes regular articles for Threads Magazine and for the Threads Website. If she posts it, I’ll let you know and I’ll link to it.

Speaking of juju, The Selfish Seamstress wrote a hilarious post about a related issue – how to respond when friends, acquaintances and even utter strangers ask you to trace off a pattern and send it to them. You have to read it! I’m not as ballsy as she is. I was howling laughing, and shaking my head because it has happened to me.

So please be patient. The Karma Gods and I both appreciate it.

Happy sewing!

I’ve Been Off the Radar for a While

Miss me? I’ve been up to my eyeballs with all sorts of activities, but I have had no time, or desire for that matter, to blog about them. But, so no one worries that something bad has been happening, here’s what’s been going on.

In family life, DS the eldest just started band camp. Yeah, I’ve seen “American Pie”. Moving right along now. He is the junior drum major. Woot woot! He spent the last week of July at Drum Major Academy at UMass Amherst with 500 other kids. He loved it. It’s bandie heaven, and they do a really great job of teaching the kids. Here’s a couple of pictures from his graduation.

The Littlest Drum Major
They divide the kids up into squads to work on drills. His was Squad 43

DS the younger, not to be forgotten, landed the role of Cosmo Brown in a local summer stock production of “Singin’ in the Rain”. He did fantastic!

But slip on a banana peel, the world's at your feet...
My Broadway baby
The Grand Finale

I also had the great pleasure of spending a weekend in New York, attending Susan Khalje’s and Kenneth King’s Sit and Sew. I had gone to one in New York a couple of years back. This time I met an entirely different set of stitchers. I love going to these classes. What a great bunch of people, with almost no exceptions, sewing enthusiasts are! I met the lovely Marina of Frabjous Couture, Mary Lou, Susan, Mary, Devra, Hanna and Jody. (Ladies, if you have a blog that I can link to, send me an email and I’ll include it here.) We had so much fun, and the projects were absolutely inspiring! I worked on the muslin for the Pippa Dress. Other projects included a lace peplum jacket, couture headcoverings, several moulages, jackets, pants, and wonderful stuff!

While I was in New York, I finally got to meet the fabulous Gertie in person! We’ve spoken and emailed for ages, and it was delightful to meet her.

Picture cribbed from Marina's blog, "Frabjous Couture" (with her permission)

A bunch of us went to the rooftop bar at my hotel. Can you tell we were sweating bullets, despite the cool drinks? We snagged a shady corner and proceeded to dish and have lots of fun. Then Emmett called me and told me to put all of us in a cab and come to his place, where he plied us with champagne in the garden behind his store. What a great evening. What a great weekend!

Of course, when you go away, there’s a price to pay when you get back. I’ve been up to my eyeballs with work and with making skirts for Tatiana. There’s a dance competition coming up this weekend, and she had a couple of show dances to do as well. You have already seen the Paso Doble skirt. I also made her a fringed Cha Cha skirt (pardon the crappy cell phone picture)
Not much to say about it. It’s a close fitted skirt made from matte milliskin fabric. It has a built-in panty, and I applied 4 tiers of 6-inch Rayon Chainette Fringe (from Gorgeous Fabrics, natch) to it. Originally we only had three tiers of fringe, but Tatiana felt uncomfortable showing that much leg, so I added another layer at the bottom. I have one more thing to make for her before this weekend, then I am going to pull a total Selfish Seamstress and sew strictly for myself for the next several months.

Oh wait, first I have to make DS the Eldest a pair of white pants for marching band season. Damn.

Well, after that, I’m pulling a total Selfish Seamstress and sewing strictly for myself!

More to come later. I hope you’re having a great summer. Until next time,

Happy sewing!