Saturday, 23 August 2014

Notionally Speaking: Muslins

Are you ready for the next Notionally Speaking post, where a blogger picks a sewing related word at random from a predefined list and writes a post inspired by that word? I hope so as Daniela from Ela Sews and Doesn't Sleep talks muslins. I had to smile when Daniela chose this word as she is well know for her exceptional fitting and patience during this process, including creating five (yes five!) in the past. So grab yourself a cup of tea and let us know your feelings about muslins. 

Notionally Speaking

Do you hate or love making muslins (aka toile)? When I started sewing I hated them, because they took so much time and then when you are done they land in the bin. Now, one and a half years later, I still don’t love them but I have recognized that they are essential to sew a garment that fits me and that I am happy to wear loads of times. For this post, I thought it is a good idea to answer some of the questions I had when I started to make muslins. If you have any more suggestions please share and comment!  Thanks a lot Claire for allowing me to babble about muslins.

Muslin can be either a test garment (=toile) or a woven cotton fabric. I’m going to talk about the muslin as a toile.


Why bother with a muslin when you can directly start with your fashion fabric?
There are different reasons. Maybe you make a pattern for the first time and are not sure if the style of the garment suits you. Maybe you are one of those people who need to adjust the pattern to get a great fit. Maybe you want to try a new sewing technique. Making a muslin will give you more confidence when sewing the real thing.


What fabric should you use for your muslin and where can you get it?
The rule of thumb is to use a fabric that will have similar qualities as you fashion fabric. I usually use different-weight cottons and polyesters. I tend to go to Charity shops and buy old bed sheets, duvet covers and curtains. You can get king size duvet covers for £4 already and that means you will have a massive piece of fabric that will last a long time (except if you are muslining a men’s shirt). Sometimes you are lucky and can even find fabrics in these Charity Shops. You can also buy cheap fabrics from fabric stores (look out for sales), ask family and friends, use any leftover fabrics you have from your projects or order online. But beware, I ordered muslin (aka cotton fabric) once from ebay and got very stiff fabric. It felt almost like canvas. Also stay away from butter muslin. You don’t want to make a test garment with it (ask me how I know---but it works great as a press cloth), because it is used to drain cheese! 


Pre-washing and cutting your muslin
Good news, you don’t have to prewash your muslin fabric! But give it a good iron to get out any wrinkles (if you skip this step, your fabric pieces might grow on you when the wrinkles start to smooth out). Then lay out the pattern pieces on grain--which might be difficult on an old bedsheet. Advice: tear the sheet to get a straight edge. It is important to cut the pieces on the grain so that you can be sure the fitting problems you are spotting are from wrong fit and not wrong grain. You can add some horizontal and vertical lines to your cut pieces by either using a sharpie or a straight stitch. These lines will give you an idea where your fitting problems are. For example a horizontal line that goes up over your belly means you need more belly space. I’m not going to cover any fitting techniques, but can recommend reading “Fit for real people” by Palmer and Pletsch and a free fitting guide from the Florida Cooperative Extension Service. There are many techniques out there and you just have to find out what is the best for you.


Sewing your muslin
Just use a long basting stitch on your sewing machine. This way you can easily rip out the stitches. Also there is no need to make the whole garment from muslin. For example, if you make a dress with a circle or gathered skirt you can only make the bodice. But: I would always add the sleeves as they can change the fit of the bodice quite a lot.


Working with your muslin
When working with a muslin have your shears, stripes of fabric, sharpie and pins ready---because you are going to cut into this fabric and try out some alterations. On the photo below, you can see one of my muslins for a blouse. I needed a square shoulder adjustment. Thus I cut the muslin at the position where I needed the additional fabric and pinned a strip of fabric there. I then stitched fabric and muslin together with a zigzag stitch to see better if my adjustment was working.  I added even more fabric by pinning it in.


Fitting buddies
It is difficult, but possible, to fit the muslin by yourself. Do it in front of a big mirror. When fitting a bodice, sew a zipper in and with some wiggling you might be able to close it. You can also tie a string to the zipper to pull it up and down a bit easier. Look out for a fitting buddy, which can also be family and friends. My boyfriend helps me with the pinning and sometimes even with the adjustments when I’m explaining to him how to do it.  


How many muslins should I make?
That depends on how well fitted you want your garments to be and also how many adjustments you have to make. I made as many as five and as few as one! It can become very frustrating at some point, because you have the feeling your adjustments are just not working. Don’t give up, it will be worth it.


Saturday, 16 August 2014

The Phoenix Gabriola

This is a story about a skirt that rose from the ashes of disappointment to the joy of completion. A while ago I was fortunate to come third in the Winifred dress competition and I was sent some beautiful rayon crepe from Sunni. Following wise words from a colleague this fabric was destined to become a maxi skirt, specifically a Gabriola

Floral Gabriola

I have always like the maxi style but it is a style train I never jumped onto, mainly because a fear that I was too short for it (I'm 5' 6"). But yet again, Tasia at Sewaholic has lured me out of my comfort zone. I knew I would need to make a couple of alterations to the pattern to get the fit right so I made a toile. My standard grading down a couple of sizes for my hips worked but my slight sway back caused a problem. Just how do you make a sway back adjustment with those yokes pieces? Luckily Maddie had posted her solution which saved my brain a difficult puzzle. I made one other change - I decided to move the zip up and remove the button closure at the back. 

Floral Gabriola

Construction isn't too difficult, essentially you are sewing a lot of straight lines. It can be a little tedious to sew these lines when you throw in overlocking as well, however the results are totally worth it! The trickiest part is sewing the tip of the yokes at the front. Thankfully the skirt visibly comes together quickly. Until I noticed my MASSIVE mistake. 

Floral Gabriola

After adding the waistband, I wrapped the skirt around me to test the fit. It did not cover my hips. Eh? The toile fitted fine. That's because it had all four side panels and my skirt only had two... To make matters worse I didn't have enough fabric to cut the additional panels. Following many expletives the skirt was thrown into the corner. 

Sadly Sunni was out of fabric. Unsurprisingly it was very popular and sold quickly. The skirt remained in the corner until a possible solution hit me on my walk home from work quite a few weeks later. "What if I divide up the panel into several pieces and stitch them together? The print is quite busy - I might just get away with it. I have nothing to lose - I can't wear the skirt as it is and I can't create another item from it. And the fabric is too pretty to gather dust in the corner." Turns out I didn't have enough for two side panels but I could get two more back panels created from three pieces each. Suddenly I had a full skirt! As I hoped, the print covers it pretty well and if I look down the panel I have trouble finding the seam lines although it is pretty obvious when your pressing the skirt! 

Floral Gabriola

Gravity then gave me another problem. It pulled the bias panels further than I anticipated and hemming became a bigger job. I put the skirt on and sweet talked Adam into pinning it from the floor up. I whizzed it through the machine to finish. 

Floral Gabriola

Let's talk about the fabric. It is quite possibly my favourite fabric I have used to date. The navy blue background is the perfect shade to show off the flowers. It has a lovely drape, feels smooth to the touch but is actually quite weighty! I had trouble working out how to wash it and decided to throw caution to the wind and washed it at 40 degrees. It didn't shrink and has held up very well which was a massive relief. Anyone know how you should properly care for this fabric? 

Floral Gabriola

I've worn this skirt a few times since completion, including on holiday (these photos are taken in the beautiful city of Girona, Spain) and have loved it every time. I don't feel short, in fact I feel a little taller - a great illusion! I love the swish of the fabric as I walk and when it is caught in a breeze. I honestly don't know why I waited so long to make a maxi.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Scrap busting: Passport cover

Im currently on holiday in Barcelona (yay! sun, sea and tapas!). When I go away I'm forever struggling to identify my passport from the others I am looking after. So I made a cover for mine. Making this cover is a very quick project - it took me about 30 minutes.
What you need:
Main fabric
Lining fabric
Cut a 34cm x 16.5cm rectangle in both your main and lining fabric. Cut another rectangle, this time 12cm x 6cm, in your main fabric.
Passport 1
With right sides together pin the large rectangles together. Stitch using a 5mm seam allowance but make sure to leave a 5cm gap on one side.
Passport 2
Cut off the corners being careful not to catch any of the stitching.
Passport 3
Turn out the right way and press. Slip stitch the gap closed.
Take the smaller rectangle, this will form the fastening tab. Fold in half, right sides together and stitch one short edge and the long one using a 5mm seam allowance. Trim the seam allowance and turn out. Press and top stitch.
Passport 4
Go back to your main cover and press in half. Then fold each edge towards the centre so you have a 6cm overlap. Press.
Passport 5
Now you need to work out where the fastening tab will go. Fold under the raw edge of the tab about 1.5cm. Fold the cover in half and place the tab over it so it is even on the front and back. Pin the back in place.
Passport 6
Stitch in place near to the edge of the tab and the end of the raw edge. Add the popper to the back side of the tab and the front of the cover.
Passport 7
Finally, top stitch all the way round the cover making sure you move the tab out of the way.
Passport 8
You should have something that looks like this.
Passport 9
Passport 10

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Late to the Party Anna dress

I’m late to the party again. But hopefully, fashionably late. This is my first Anna and she wasn’t part of my sewing plans. When byhandlondon realised her as a pdf it was about five days before their party in London I wondered "can I make an Anna in just five evenings?" Well, there was only one way to find out!

Late to the Party Anna Dress

I figured if I could get the fit worked out in the first evening, it might just be possible. I quickly taped together the pdf. It goes together very easily and there is little wasted paper. It only comes in the midi version which was perfect for this make. Instructions are included for making the maxi skirt though.

Late to the Party Anna Dress

I had to think for a while about which size to make. I knew I would have to grade out for my waist but I fell right between two sizes all over. Erring on the side of caution I made the bigger one for my toile. It fit well across my waist and back but there was so much excess across my chest and into the sleeves. I started to pin it in when I remembered Kelly’s fitting experiences. This was a great time saver. I made another toile which was a smaller size at the shoulders and bust. Most of the excess fabric disappeared. You can see that the fit isn’t quite right - the neckline is a little too big and the dress slips to one side a little. It isn’t too big a deal though.

Late to the Party Anna Dress

I knew I wanted a dress that would go from day to night and I think I have achieved that. It is a smart dress for the office that works well for going out after work. Also perfect for a weekend evening meal out. 

I went stash shopping and pulled out this fabric that I picked up at Goldhawk Road a couple of years ago. Unsurprisingly, I just couldn’t resist the bright blue flowers. I’m not fully certain what fabric it is but it has a lovely drape, is as silky as it looks on the outside and is matt on the inside. One of the benefits about sewing this in the evening is seeing the fabric in artificial light. Turns out it is a little transparent and you would definitely be able to see everything underneath in bright light! I should have lined the dress but opted to buy a slip instead. Don’t judge me - I was on a time limit!

Late to the Party Anna Dress

I got the full dress out of 2m of fabric and decided that pattern matching didn’t matter that much. I’m not even sorry for that decision, although I will say I’m pleased that there is almost a full flower on the centre back - complete fluke. Oh, can I show you the zip please? It is my best invisible zip to date! I didn’t change the way I inserted it but for some reason it just clicked. Or maybe it was the fact I was determined to make it work with a £4 zip! Needless to say I won't be going back to that shop for a zip.

Late to the Party Anna Dress

I finished the neckline, sleeves and hem with bias tape turned to the inside and hand stitched in place. Yep, somehow I found the time to hand stitch although I thought I would become permanently crossed eyed. I did wonder if the hem would be a little too rigid but I think it is ok. What do you think of the length of the dress? It has caused a fair bit of discussion between me and Adam... I think I was trying to show the swish of the skirt in this picture.

Late to the Party Anna Dress

I've worn this dress twice and loved it both times. I can definitely see this getting a lot of wear and it certainly won't be my last Anna.  


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