Monday, October 20, 2014

Och aye the circle skirt

This is another garment that social media built!


I saw this blue, brown and orange plaid on Sunni's A Fashionable Stitch Instagram, and instantly knew it would have to be mine. Although my accent sadly lets me down, I am, actually, from Scotland, and can prove this by my love of haggis (not kidding, it's delicious), deep fried mars bars and tartan. All that said, I've yet to make anything from tartan fabric, and this cried out to me to be the first. Then I saw on the listing page that Sunni wanted to make a circle skirt from it... and lo it was decided (incidentally, there is an abundance of absolutely awesome wool on Sunni's website - you must check it out before I go on a one-woman buying spree). 


Funnily enough I've never actually made a circle skirt before, despite the fact it's many people's first garment. They are indeed easy to make, and even more so using By Hand London's handy circle skirt calculator - just plug in your waist measurement and desired length and you're sorted. I wanted mine to be a bit longer but was constrained the width of my fabric and not wanting too many seams.

The benefit of a plaid circle skirt is that you can also serve as a picnic blanket in emergency picnic situations:


I made a very simple straight waistband... (yes yes yes I should have moved the waistband over a inch - I only noticed once it was too late!)


... and I used a side invisible zipper, with a little waistband overlap, secured on the inside with an internal button and a hook and eye ( my new favourite waistband fastening approach). 


On the inside, I used pre-made turquoise binding to finish the seams neatly (I felt like such beautiful wool deserved more than the savagery of my serger), and then, after hanging it for 24 hours to let the bias stretch out, I finished the hem with seam binding and hand blind stitching. Yes, it takes a long while. No, it's not too bad if you watch Scandal when you're doing it. 


And check out this pattern matching if you will...


And there you go! Sometimes the simplest patterns are the best for showcasing special fabrics. And I would thoroughly encourage any beginner to give it a go - it's a fantastic way to make a garment without following a pattern and to get your head around the fact that once you have the basics down, it's quite easy to make your very own skirt from scratch. 


What do you think of circle skirt Cashmerette readers? Do you prefer 3/4 circles a la Mary? (I must say her fabric seems to have been chosen by someone with *exceptional* taste..) I myself am lacking in the hip & bum department so welcome any help in that area... I can't wait for bustles to get back in fashion!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Coating with Cashmerette: When to quit? That is the question.

Coat woe is me. I had a bad feeling about putting the sleeves in: the princess seams absolutely refused to go in smoothly, and there are puckers all along the curves, so what hope did the curviest of curves, the sleeve, have? Not much, says I. Theories for *why* my cashmere refuses to be moulded abound. Maybe I used the wrong kind of interfacing (Sewing Supply's pro-weft medium weight). Maybe I should have pre-shrunk the entire bolt of cashmere first (I didn't do this for my last coat and it was fine, but perhaps cashmere is different). Maybe I should just have not been foolish enough to purchase a lightweight, solid colour coating - coat beginners if I can offer you one tip, it's make your first coat from a dark, textured, reasonably heavy wool. Thank me later. 

Anyhow, it all started fairly well putting together my elegant two piece sleeve: 


And then.... crap. The actual sleeve head isn't too bad. But puckers a-hoy on the armsyce, which weren't there before the sleeve got eased in. Once again, pressing/steaming doesn't help - in fact, it gets worse. I spent a long time gently pressing the curve over a ham, but as soon as I lift the iron... puckers re-form. They're not under any stress - it's just the fabric waving. 


Avert your eyes from this misery


The only saving grace is that the back looks fine! Quite why, I'm not sure. 


And on, you can see a further issue with a new armpit wrinkle. 


So, what to do now? Maybe I just chose a really bad fabric/interfacing combination and nothing's going to remedy it. Options are:

1. Just scrap it. Get over the expense (sigh) and start again in a few months with better fabric choices
2. Unpick both the sleeves (basted *and* sewn!) and somehow see if there's a way to get the puckers out *without* steaming/pressing. Some people have suggested removing the interfacing - it's fusible so that would be very tricky but maybe I can cut it off with a razor somehow (obviously risks damaging the cashmere but could be worth as a last shot)
3. Throw it in a corner and maybe in a few months attempt again

Unfortunately this all coincides with a period of great stress at work, so I sort of dread coming home and then working on a frustrating sewing project that I'm concerned I may not even like once it's done. That's not what sewing is about!

What do you reckon, oh wise ones? 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Tutorial: how to finish a wrap dress neckline

Hi lovelies! I've mentioned in the past that I've found a great way to finish wrap dress necklines and I got some questions about it, so I put together a quick photo tutorial to show you how to do it.


Start making your wrap dress by sewing the shoulders. Now, you're ready for the neckband.

First, make a strip of your fabric, 1.5 inches wide and the length of your neckline - if necessary, join two pieces together to get the end. Fold the strip in half wrong sides together, and press in half down the length of the strip (remember to "press" up and down and not slide your iron along, which will distort the fabric).


If you had to connect two pieces together to make a long enough neckline band, here's a little trick for getting the seam to lie nicely: snip the serged seam in half *just* up to the left needle stitching. Then, push the seam allowance one way above the fold and another way below the fold. When you now go to fold the whole neckline band, it lies flat as there are only 2 layers of fabric rather than 3. You can also use this tip any time you need to serge over an already serged seam.


Now, take the band and pin it to the right side of your neckline, with the raw edges matching - i.e. the "open" side of the folded band should line up against the raw edge of the neckline. If you want, you can wonder tape this rather than pinning.



Over to the machine! Serge the band to the dress at a 3/8 seam allowance - which on a serger means that you're not cutting any fabric off with the knife, you're just skimming the edge against the knife.

Personally, the combination of the thin band + stretchy knit + large bust + wearing a camisole means that I don't have to do any stretching to the neckline band (unlike on a t-shirt where you definitely do) - the knit just eases around the neck curve without anything energetic, much like the collar on a woven dress. However, if you're making a fixed wrap, or have a different knit/bust/camisole situation going on, you may want to stretch the band as you're sewing it - that will make it spring back a little and the neckline will be tighter against the body.



Now, flip the seam allowance to the inside, so that you're just seeing about 3/8 inch peeking out on the right side.

 


Press that baby! Not everyone presses knit fabrics while they're sewing, but I find it gives a more professional finish. 

When you press the band over the shoulders it curves around, so press it over a ham to retain the shaping.


And this is what it should look like.


Finally, use a coverstitch machine or twin-needle on your sewing machine to sew around the neckline band, securing the seam allowance down.


And you're done! A professional and easy wrap dress finish.


This tutorial first appeared on the Curvy Sewing Collective as part of the Wrap Dress Sewalong.

Friday, October 10, 2014

You know what I need?

Another wrap dress! So after hosting a sewalong on the Curvy Sewing Collective all month, I can exclusively report that doing sewalongs is pretty exhausting. But, in addition to being able to help lots of seamstresses join the Cult of The Wrap, I also ended up with my own dress. Win-win, says I!

What I need is another wrap dress | Cashmerette


It's the usual: Christine Jonson, neckline band, no waist seam. Made with St John watercolour knit from EmmaOneSock




I fear I may bore you dear Cashmerette readers with the never ending stream of wrap dresses, but to be perfectly honest, this is what I wear 90% of the time, so at least you get a real sense of what I look like on a daily basis! And, I'm pretty happy that I focus a lot of my time sewing garments that I will wear constantly.


Do you have a staple outfit, readers? Do you find yourself sewing that outfit most of the time, or are you more adventurous when it comes to your handsewn wardrobe?

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The perk of incessant work travel...

... is getting to meet sewing ladies! 

I was at a conference in Austin TX this week and by sheer wonderful coincidence, it's where some of my most favourite sewists live. Imagine my thrill at getting to finally meet my virtual sewing BFF Mary! Really, imagine it. BIG. 

And not only Mary, but a reunion with the ever-perky Lauren, and my first time meeting all these other lovely ladies including Susan 1, Susan 2, Melissa, Dixie, Nicole and Angela. In an effort to get me Southerned as quickly as possible, we started at a food truck park where I partook in my first ever queso and "street corn" (that stuff is crazily good), and then off on the rounds of fabric stores, because really, what else?  


By sheer wonderful coincidence, there was a bevvy of shirtdresses:


And then much scavenging:


Couldn't have said it better myself.


Never let it be said that I don't get excited when I meet fellow souls:



Although perhaps my highest excitement was reserved for Nicole's unbelievably kickass "boobs on boobs" Sewaholic Cambie. Nico wins the internets.


No sewing trip to Austin would apparently be complete without a trip to Toy Joy..


... and Allen's boots, where I managed to restrain myself in the face of an abundance of fringe, embroidery and Frye. 



And of COURSE there were fabric spoils. Left to right: from Austin Fabric Coop a lovely hot pink rayon gabardine (one pencil skirt, coming on up), a great Japanese print from Form & Fabric (which it turns out is closing, so go and buy stock before it goes!). And then the most excellent belated birthday gift from Ms Fancy herself: some Marc Jacobs voile! Yummy yummy!



In case you're wondering, I did go 100% homemade during my trip, including my oh-so-comfortable silk twill skirt


And I wore my recent Burda make to present at the conference! The combo of chic looking and almost unbearably comfortable is a total winner.


It was a delightful mini break to the South, and thanks so much to all the ladies who were so welcoming and shuttled me incessantly around town. 

Now talking of fun work trips... there are a lot more coming up. I'm going to be in London, New Orleans and Vegas in the next 6 weeks - if you're in any of those locations, drop me a note and we can even more crazy fun sewing times!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Coating with Cashmerette: Staying the course (BOOM BOOM!)

While I attempt to puzzle out my Princess Seam Problems, I decided to get on with a safer step: the back stay. This is a bit of canvas or muslin that goes across the upper back of the coat which makes it more stable, stopping it stretching out at the armholes or neckline when you move about. And it's foolproof! (or at least, it hasn't beaten this fool yet). 

After sewing up the back, I folded it in half and laid it on some folded hair canvas on the straight grain:


Drew around the top with a sharpie, then down the side seam for about 3 inches. Then I used a french curve to go from the side seam to the back fold. 


Cut that baby out, using pinking shears for the curved bottom edge so that it won't show through the cashmere


Then sewed it to the coat back along the seam allowances, before cutting out the excess hair canvas from the allowances to reduce bulk.


A nice diversion from the rather larger problem on the front which I am still mulling over.. Just leaving it and accepting that most coats don't fit 100% perfectly is one option but I can't quite decide whether I can suck that up or not, especially as this cashmere is the most expensive fabric I've ever bought! Still open to suggestions though, dear readers. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Coating with Cashmerette: Trials & Tribulations

Well. I may have made a major mistake with this coat... turns out that fairly thin cashmere with pro-weft interfacing doesn't like to go around curves. I have many curves. Ipso facto... problem.

I went through the same process I always do with princess seams, going carefully and slowly, doing lots of notching and easing, and then proper pressing etiquette. And then: erk. Firstly, ripples along the princess seam on the side front panel:


I steamed and steamed and steamed this baby, always over a ham, and using my hand to mould it until it cooled. And yet some of these lines just won't go. I'm not sure whether it's an issue with the interfacing not being as malleable as the cashmere, or whether the iron is too hot, or the FBA is too big (it wasn't an issue on my other coat which was made of thicker wool), or what. Realistically it's unlikely a normal person would notice this, but I AM NOT A NORMAL PERSON in case you've ever doubted it. This is seriously bumming me out now, especially as I'm not going to have a giant lapel to cover it up. 

Also: how on earth am I going to be able to set in the sleeves nicely if the fabric won't steam into a curve?!?

Second, it goes concave under my bust, leading to large drag lines from the bust to the side seam (which is just pinned): 




Now it's possible these will go when the sleeve is on and the side seams are sewn. But I'm a bit afraid that they won't...  I tried hand basting hair canvas to the side panel to give it more structure, but it didn't help. Some theories:

1. It's just a normal thing that happens on princess seam coats to busty ladies and I should get over it
2. I did the FBA wrong.. There does seem to be enough horizontal ease, but it sort of "scoops" under my bust which makes me think maybe the curvy is wrong?
3. It will go away if I put a shoulder pad in or raise the shoulders (I'm going to try that one soon...)
4. There's something up with the side seam - I've already tried playing around with it quite a lot and not found a solution but perhaps I'm missing gsomething
5. I should unpick the whole princess seam (which would be horrendous as it's already got a trimmed and clipped seam allowance on the other side... WHY DO I ALWAYS DO THIS?!) and try re-pinning until this goes away (if it will/can)

Any advice gratefully appreciated... 
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