Thursday, December 27, 2012

Mood Sewing Network: Tweedy delights

Tweed is one of the nicest and easiest fabrics to sew, in my opinion. Did you know that the origin of tweed is said to be the Tweed River that flows along the border between England and Scotland? Yet, apparemtly, the name of the fabric is a result of a clerical error when tweel (old name for tweed  for its characteristic 2x2 twill weave) was misspelled as tweed. Anyway, it is a perfect wool fabric for beginners. It doesn't distort easily, reacts very well to steam and heat, easy to sew, easy to cut, easy to hide mistakes, it is reversible, durable, and, and, and...  So, once I decided to sew a dress with tweed it was pretty straight forward.

Ok, this is not one of those amazing dresses. It is rather quiet and simple, warm and very comfortable to wear. I worn it several times by now and I love it. However, despite its simplicity, as with many other projects I made this year, this one was about learning new couture techniques and this dress was worth a million for me.

Why? The Burdastyle pattern I chose is laid out on the bias for the front. The back is on straight grain. So, I wanted a layer between the wool and the body, and this pattern layout posed some challenges. What I did is underline the dress with silk charmeuse, with the front cut on the bias too. This required some experimentation and quite a few new skills on working with the bias, and, can you imagine, there are hardly any resources, except for some information in Threads Archive on working with bias.

I was very, very lucky though, because  Susan Khalje, a couture expert, author and teacher, generously shared with me quite a few tips for this project. I have been learning from her for a while now, but it was a revelation, thanks to this project, that Charles Kleibacker, American couturier who was also known as 'Master of the Bias' was Susan's mentor! This is as good as it gets, really!

It took me a while to research, experiment and prepare the fabric, but at the end there was no puling anywhere on the bias-cut front. Both fabrics behaved like one, despite the fact that they were both cut on the bias. I won't bore you with details here, as there will be a 'behind-the seams' post on where I will explain what I did.

Here, a few more shots - I was just fooling with the camera though - but at least you can see how the dress looks belted, or with a yardstick, ahem...


And, finally, my favorite, the Sewminatrix shot. Who was naughty here?

Stay warm!

Disclaimer: the fabric for this project was purchased using the Mood Sewing Network allowance for December.

Monday, December 17, 2012

PMPS Draft-Along #8: Darts

Thank you for your patience, readers! I owe you some explanation. Once I started writing down pattern drafting instructions I realized that most of what you will find in books is drafted for a 'standard' and 'proportional' figure. Now, how many of you are 'standard'? I am a pear shape, with one size up in hips. So, would the rules for shaping a 'proportional' body apply to me?

Let's look at the skirt as a geometric figure. It is somewhat similar to a cylinder all the way to the hips, and then it is shaped with the help of darts and side seams. The different variables that determine the shaping process are the dart width, the dart length, the  distance from the center front and center back, as well as dart shape.

Stay with me, it is not as complicated as it sounds. Please, read this post carefully and make notes for your particular case before we finally proceed with the drafting - the next worksheet is available here. Post your questions in comments or on the Flickr group. The main subject of this post is darts.


Waist suppression (WSup) is the difference between your hip and waist circumference, or the amount of fabric that needs to be taken in to shape the skirt around hips. This shaping is achieved with the help of darts. But before we determine all the dart variables we need to calculate this waist suppression value for our front and back pattern pieces.

WSup = him circumference - waist circumference

The value you get will need to be distributed in darts, as well as side seams. So-called standard difference for a more or less proportional figure is 15 to 25 cm. (6 to 10"), so we will first cover dart distribution for a standard waist suppression value, and then look at possible figure variations.


While creating this worksheet for this Draft-Along, I came across different instructions related to the dart width. Kenneth advises to take 3/4" (1,9 cm). Suzy Furrer has Dart Width Chart that gives some guidance but is not perfect (I won't go into details - it would be too nerdy). I checked a dozen of books, and only very few had some rational explanation for the dart width. So, after some calculations, below are the formulas I ended up with.

Before calculations, however, I would like to suggest to observe your body in a mirror and take in more where the curves are more pronounced. You must know your waist suppression value by now, so you will also know whether you are curvier than standard or not. If yes, look at yourself in the mirror and find out where are the most prominent curves (hips, tummy, seat bones), how are these areas shaped, how they relate to each other. In case of doubt, take pictures and post on our Flickr group. Images of the front and the side of your body can be helpful here.

Figures with W Sup = 15 to 25 cm (6 to 10")

Side seam intake = 0,5 x (W Sup : 2)

Front dart intake = 0,2 x
(W Sup : 2) 
front dart value will be between 1,5 and 2,5 cm

Back Dart intake = 0,3 x (W Sup : 2)

Below are some examples for figure variations. It may sound complicated, and you may think why bother if you are going to eliminate fitting issues later anyway on the muslin. Well, first of all, some preparatory work will reduce time for fitting. And even if use the standard formula above, it is worth reading those examples as they train your eye and your fitting sense.

Figures with  W Sup less than 15 cm (6")

In this case the hip curves are less pronounced, so, accordingly, there may be less shaping in the side seam. If you have a prominent tummy you may want, as an example, take in more in the front and in the back. Normally, back dart is slightly deeper than the front dart, but in this case you may get satisfactory results with an equal intake for both. Here is one possible calculation for the pattern draft.
Side seam intake = 0,4 x (W Sup : 2)

Front dart intake = 0,3 x
(W Sup : 2)

Back Dart intake = 0,3 x (W Sup : 2)

Figures with wider hips, with W Sup more than 25 cm (10")

Hello, pear shapes!  What we need to do in our case is increase the intake at the side seam, where the curves are strongest. As I have mentioned earlier, I am one size up in hips, so the formula below works best for me.

Side seam intake = 0,5 x (W Sup : 2) + 0,6 cm (1/4")

Front dart intake = 0,2 x
(W Sup : 2) - 0,6 cm (1/4")

Back Dart intake = 0,3 x (W Sup : 2)

If the difference is two, three sizes more, you may have to make additional adjustments and add another dart in the back. This is especially true for figures with a prominent seat. On the contrary, figures with a flat seat but wide hips may need a narrower back dart, with increased intake in the side seam.

Again, please, keep in mind that this formula is only a suggestion - your figure may be have other features that may influence the fit and you will achieve best results when fitting the muslin. However, these example may make your fitting somewhat easier.


Dart distance is measured from the reference point to the dart center line. Note the distance for the darts on your Dart Worksheet. I discuss two methods of determining dart distance, with the second one being my preferred one.

Front dart

The rule for the front is: the dart distance for the front increases with the waist circumference, adding 1/8" for every 1" of the waist circumference. Here is the quick reference chart from Suzy Furrer's book. Note that here, the distance is measured to the nearest dart leg, not to the center line:
Waist              Dart distance
24"                 2 3/4"
25"                 2 7/8"
26"                 3"
27"                 3 1/8"
28"                 3 1/4"
29"                 3 3/8"
30"                 3 1/2"
31"                 3 5/8"
32"                 3 3/4"
33"                 3 7/8"
34"                 4"
add 1/8" to the dart instance for every additional 1" in the waist circumference
Another good pattern drafting system recommends placing front darts 6 to 8 cm (2 3/8" to 3 1/8") from the side seam, which comes slightly close to the side seam than in Suzy Furrer's or Kenneth King's instructions. 6 cm. is recommended  for a smaller waist, with 8 cm. as a maximum increase. Placing the dart closer to the side seam should be more aesthetically pleasing.  Personally, I prefer the latter method not only because it is easier to use, but also because it looks nicer.

Back dart

This one is simple, divide the back waist calculation in half to find the placement for the back dart center line.


Finally, the dart length can be easily referred using the following chart. It is converted from inches, that's why it looks somewhat weird in centimeters.

Dart width               Dart length
1 cm (3/8")              7,5 cm (3")        
1.9 cm (3/4")           9 cm (3 1/2")
2,5 cm (1")              10 cm (4")
3,2 cm (1 1/4")        11,5 cm (4 1/2")

This is it for today. Hope it doesn't look too intimidating. To make you feel better I should add that the most complex part of the drafting. the rest is just drawing lines, no more lengthy math calculations. Any questions?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Sewing Vintage Modern: a review

You don't have to be a vintage aficionado to appreciate this book. Burdastyle Sewing Vintage Modern by Nora Abousteit and Jamie Lau is more than just a guide to vintage styles. Chapter by chapter it shows you modern fashion inspired by widely recognizable decades of style from 1920s to 80s.

Each period chapter, like my favorite one about 20s and 30s, contains information about its style icons and designers, key silhouettes and must-have accessories, followed by instructions to recreate a modern version of the decade's signature looks.


Five base patterns are the foundation for nineteen featured styles, with illustrated and detailed step-by-step instructions. 
"We'll walk you through what tools you'll need in your home sewing studio, how to take measurements, how to create a mock-up muslin, and how to make adjustments to the patterns as necessary... Luckily this book comes with five base patterns that will serve as your basic slopers, or pattern blocks. Consider these your templates, or building blocks, for creating clothing of many different styles."
The Patterns 101 chapter provides the reader with a guide on how to successfully work with the actual patterns in this book (or, as a matter of fact, with any patterns), and customize them to achieve a one-of-kind look.

In the example below, the bodice of the 1950s Elizabeth Gathered-Waist Dress (page 73) is transformed into a 1980s color-blocked top. Adding design lines and minimal pattern manipulation can be handled even by a beginner in sewing and in pattern-making.
Seven other styles, including a bustier and a blouse, are based on the very same bodice. And even if you are not making all these seven styles, it's worth checking out how the patterns were manipulated to change the look of a garment, making it travel through decades of style. If you don't have astrong background in patternmaking there are quite a few things to learn from the book.

Jamie Lau with the new Burdastyle book, Sewing Vintage Modern

As I write this, I am finishing my own project from the book: A 30s Greta Day Dress.  I made some changes but I don't want to reveal details just yet, please stay tuned to updates here and on Burdastyle. One thing I would like to mention though is that the fit is very good - as it is quite common with Burdastyle patterns.

Greta Day Dress and Amelia top
The only thing I wish the book had is an illustrated index of all projects featured in the book, a spread right after the table contents similar to those in Burdastyle magazine. However, it doesn't affect the overall quality of the book.

Overall, Sewing Vintage Modern not only provides an interesting overview of the 20th century fashions or gives a wide range of styles to recreate and to experiment with - it also manages to offer some very useful skills for home seamstresses of all levels. Do check it out, offers a discount you don't want to miss.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Pattern Magic and Pattern Magic 2: And the winner...

And the winner of the Pattern Magic 2 is...

... Heather Lou of  Closet Case Files.
She said: That first look is TO. DIE. FOR. My brain is exploding with the possibilities... how I would love to get my mits on this book!

Congratulations, Heather Lou! And thanks to Laurence King Publishing for this generous giveaway! Please, contact me with your shipping address at mvk(dot)fashion(at)gmail(dot)com.  

Abby won the first Pattern Magic book. Abby, please send me an email to claim your prize.

And stay tuned to another review and giveaway this week! It's holiday time!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

PMPS Draft-Along #7: The skirt outline

Hope you have all your measurements and calculations ready, readers! Because we are going to draft the skirt sloper. This week, in three consequent posts, we will cover the outline, the front and the back of the skirt.

Before we start I wanted to share some exciting news: Kenneth D. King, who taught me most of the patternmaking, offered a copy of his e-book Skirts to one lucky draft-alonger. All you need to do is draft along, finish the sloper and the pencil skirt pattern and post an image of the finished project on our Flickr group board. The exact deadline will be announced next week.

Please follow along and post your questions here, or on the Flickr group board.


The skirt outline is basically a rectangle, with the width equal to our calculation for the low front (or back) hip, and the length equal to our desired sloper length. In other words, in this post, we will be drafting two rectangles: one for the back and one for the front. Easy, isn't it?

Here are the calculations and measurements you will need to draft your outline:
  • Outline height: for the outline I use the length I wear most frequently, which is 60 cm (appr. 23 1/2").
  • Outline width: use the respective calculation for the low hip when drafting the front and the back.
  • You will also need the waist to mid hip and the waist to low hip measurements to complete your outlines. 
Draft on the paper piece that is wide enough to accommodate both outlines, for the front and for the back. I won't be demonstrating this process step by step for it is relatively straight forward - the graphic below shows the final outcome. You start with the rectangle outline and then add the lines representing the mid hip and the low hip placement. The PDF version of the graphic is available on my Google Drive - you can download and print it out.
Kenneth uses an outline as a foundation for many different skirt styles. Yet some styles require different amount of ease and so a new outline needs to be drafted. This will be the case with our pencil skirt where we will need to reduce the ease even more. Don't despair, readers! It's a great exercise, and think, you will have a sloper, a pencil skirt and knowledge you can use to start drafting any skirt you want.

Happy drafting and don't forget the prize ;)


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