Friday, February 15, 2013

Chanel jacket: Center back seam and other mysteries

Ok, let's look at our intriguing center back seam again and another observation re hem. There are different and interesting opinions here and all seem to be valid, so why don't we all look at it.

We have three versions, which do not exclude each other:

A. The center back seam (common in tailoring) incorporates subtle fitting steps and helps make alterations at a later stage - I looked at Claire Shaeffer's Chanel collection in her Shaeffer on Chanel CD, and yes, there are quite a few jackets with center back seam. It is probably the era - I prefer shaping with princess seams, but  
B. Some of the fabrics for Chanel designs are woven on narrow looms, so it would have been impossible to construct the jacket without a center back seam 
C: The Hem: After studying these images again and again, I think the jacket was shortened at some point. This would explain the unusually bulky hem and the transition from quilting to the hem at the bottom of the jacket. 

Lets look at the pictures again. The quilting lines look like they were not restitched, so the center back seam is part of the original design that's for sure.

Now, look at this hem. It looks like there are more layers there, and that it was hemmed by simply turning over the quilted portion - it looks like a double hem. I don't remember seeing anything like that before - usually the lining would be attached to conceal the hem edge. Is it a bad alteration job?

Look at the hem portion again - it does look pretty bulky or.

What do you think about the hem, readers? Was it altered?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

CoutureGRAM: Chanel jacket

As you all heard, often a picture is worth a thousand words. In this new post series I would like to post images of couture clothing I found on the web and elsewhere.

A question to you, readers: what could be the purpose of the center back seam? I don't have a ready answer. (Thanks to Sewing Sveta for asking)

Please do leave a comment if you enjoyed this post, or if you have any questions or thoughts to share...

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

And the winner of the Classic Tailoring book is...

+AnaJan Stepalica, a passionate seamstress and blogger from Belgrade, Serbia!!!

This is what she said:
"I'm thankful to my parents for letting me learn to sew. I was self taught when it comes for sewing. I started in my early youth, by making clothes for my Barbie dolls. I remember a situation when my dad was vacuum cleaning the room where I used to sew. He was on his knees and all of the sudden he screamed in pain as a pin perforated his knee. I was punished for a week, being forbidden to sew. After a while my parents gave me a sewing machine, and that was a beginning of a beautiful friendship that still lasts!"
Congratulations, Ana, and enjoy the book!

Ana, please contact me at mvk(dot)fashion(at)gmail(dot)com with a mailing address!

Thanks to all of you for leaving wonderful comments and sharing your stories on these pages. I enjoyed reading each of them.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

PMPS Draft Along: Important

Dear readers, if the next Skirt Back post appeared in your reader, please disregard it - it was unedited version. I pressed 'publish' by accident, the post is back to drafts. For now, draft the skirt front only!

Please, post the pictures of the drafted front on Flickr so I can upload the next post. Jolly drafting!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

PMPS Draft Along #9: Straight Skirt Front

Readers, I must admit, I have never written such a detailed tutorial on pattern drafting. I've checked it several times for possible inaccuracies and should you still find some, please let me know as soon as possible!

In this tutorial I tried to explain every step where needed, such as placement of darts, making adjustments at the hem, etc. I used several resources as a guidance (some mentioned below), but I have adjusted the method trying to make it as accurate and as close to custom fit as possible. So far, it worked for my body. I hope the results will be worth it for you too.  

In this post I am covering the straight skirt front, and here are the drafting steps:
  1. Waist shaping
  2. Side seam 
  3. Waist dart
Note: To make the process easy to follow I am using letters in the alphabetical order to mark the step sequence on the pattern. If the Step 1 is A, for example, Step 2 will be B, Step 3 – C, and so on. This will ensure that you won’t skip steps, and can easily refer to instructions at any given step.

Let's check the points / lines on our skirt outline:

  • AD is the waist level
  • EF is the mid-hip level
  • GH is the low hip level
  • BC is the hem
Color coding in drafting: As an example, I use a blue or green pencils for the initial drafting; for adjustments, a red or orange; for the final adjustments I make after fitting the muslin, I use purple.

Before we start, please print out the linked PDF for drafting reference. You final pattern may look slightly different, but the drafting steps will be the same.

Step 1: WAIST SHAPING (point I)

Remember we measured the skirt length on the side, as well the lengths on the sides, center front and center back. We are going to use this measurements now to shape the waist. The reason we shape the waist is that having a straight line at the waist would result in excess fabric and cause wrinkling in that area. 

If you got two different measurements for your left side to floor and right side to floor, use the longer side measurement for the following calculation. Final adjustments for the asymmetrical sides can be made during the fitting. 

1. AI (waist shaping) = (skirt length at the (longer) side) - (skirt length at center front)

For a figure with flat stomach and/or curvy hips, point I will be under point A. If you have a protruding stomach and/or only slight hip curves, you may get a zero or negative value. In this case point I will be over or above point A.

Draft a waistline curve from point I to point D

Step 1: SIDE SEAM (points J to L)

To draft the side seam we will measure out waist, mid-hip and low hip circumferences from the center front.

2. AJ (waist line) = (front waist line calculation) + (front dart calculation)

3. EK (mid-hip line) = mid hip calculation. 

Note: In most cases you won't need any adjustments for the point K. Only if you have a longer dart in the front, which extends below mid hip level, you may need to accommodate the dart intake when making final adjustments. 

4. GH (low-hip line) = low hip calculation

5. (optional) BL (hem line) = BC + 1.9cm (3/4") 

Just to explain how this step affects the look of your skirt. On our initial outline the width at the hem equals the width at the hip. If you leave it like that, your skirt will look slightly tapered at the hem when you wear it. So, it is really your personal decision.  1,9 cm. (or 3/4") are suggested by Kenneth D. King as a reasonable amount to add to create an illusion of a straight skirt. 

6. Connect points J, K, H and L (or C, if you skipped step 5) to draft your side seam.

Possible adjustments at this point: In his Skirts book, Kenneth points out that for some people (for example, for those with a wider waist measurement) the side seamline may make a dent-in at point J. In this case you can smooth out the curve at point J by adding out 0,3 to 0,6 cm (1/8" - 1/4") towards the side seam line DC.

7. True the hip curve length. 

Using a ruler, measure your low-hip length from the hip line (point H)  to point J on shaped waistline. If necessary, adjust the low-hip length. Sometimes, making the hip curve shallower or fuller helps reduce or, accordingly, increase the length of the curve. If the difference is significant you may need to reposition point J, but this will happen only in very specific cases.

Step 3: FRONT WAIST DART (points M to P)

Note: Two darts should be used if the difference between the waist and the hip circumference is over 10". Details will be explained in a separate post. 

8. JM (dart distance) = 6 to 8cm (2 3/8" to 3 1/4")

Example: my waist is 70cm  (27 1/2") and I am using the dart distance of 7cm (2 3/4"). It's really a judgement call, but generally I would use 7cm (2 3/4") for the waist range of 68 to 76cm (27" to  30"), and 6cm and 8cm for smaller and larger waist measurements respectively.

Please note that point M is the dart center, not the nearest dart leg!

As I have mentioned in my dart post, I like to position front darts closer to the side seam, as recommended by the German Muller & Sohn pattern drafting system. Darts positioned closer to the seam line tend to look more flattering on the body. This is especially true if you don't have a flat stomach. Unless you make your garment in a very lightweight fabric, you darts will create some bulk. Moving the dart with its bulk closer to the side seam will make the stomach appear flatter, and it will also make the waist appear wider. If your waist is much narrower than your hips, you may want to decrease this difference by placing the darts closer to the seam. You may as well want to do the opposite to create the illusion of a smaller waist by placing the darts closer to the center, but make sure you are not accentuating your tummy. Just consider all the variables before you go for any of the dart options.

So, if you decide to use a placement closer to the center, use the Suzy Furrer chart, in my case, each dart would be 1cm closer to the center.

Fine, enough lyrical deviation on the dart theme. Let's move forward!

9. OM=MN= 0.5 x dart width

ON is the final dart width that we calculated in the previous post.

10. MP = dart length

If you have a (relatively) flat stomach, the line MP is squared down from the waist line IJ.  ( For protruding stomach, the dart point should be shifted toward the side seam ) Use the value calculated in the previous post.

Example: my dart intake is 3 cm (1 1/8") corresponding to the dart length of 10,5 cm (4 1/8").

Connect the points to draft the legs. NP is a straight line, and OP is slightly curved inward.

True the legs of the dart by adding to the shorter leg and correcting the curve.

To correct the curve,
(1) place the dart point over a corner of the table, with the dart on the table surface; (you will need a small cardboard sheet or cutting mat underneath to protect the table)
(2) crease the dart leg closer to the center with your fingers by pinching the paper;
(3) fold this line over to match the other dart leg, pivoting the folded paper portion from the dart point;
(4) temporarily tape the matched dart legs to close the dart.
(5) using a french curve, or a curved ruler, redraw the curve with a tracing wheel, making sure it perforates all the layers of the folded out dart.
(6) open the dart
(7) redraw the waist curve with a pencil, following the perforated line.

11. If your dart crosses the mid-hip line (EK), measure out the dart intake on the mid-hip line from K toward point F to find point K'. Redraw the seam line J-K'-H-L.


Your final skirt front pattern follows the points I-N-O-J-K-H-L-B-G-E

If you went for a slightly tapered look and didn't add width at the hem (point L), your pattern follows the points I-N-O-J-K-H-C-B-G-E

Please, copy your final pattern following the points above (including point C) to a new pattern paper. It will help make final alterations for the muslin. Make sure your pattern paper can accomodate the back pattern piece as well.


Please do leave comments and ask questions even if you haven't started drafting yet. I would love to hear how you are doing. Also, post on our Flickr group with or without pictures, it would be interesting to follow specific cases. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

PMPS Sew-Along: Lekala Pattern 4214

Thanks, readers, for referring to this Lekala pattern:

As you see this skirt is very (very) similar to our Burberry inspiration skirt.

While I have never used Lekala patterns before, I must say it looks very promising and, if it is as good as it looks, we can use it in our sew-along. Our drafting plan will remain unchanged though, we will draft the skirt as planned - it is a great exercise in patternmaking.


The site claims it is a custom fit.  With 4 (or 5) personalized measurements that you enter at check out, it probably comes closer to the real you than the Big 4. It should work well with a skirt, but I believe that the more complex the garment the less fit you get - it just doesn't take into consideration all the specifics of your figure. What these patterns do, obviously, is accomodate your height, your waist and your hips, but the remaining measurements that are plugged into system are taken from a 'standard' model. So the claim is somewhat high, but it is not that important for a skirt, which doesn't have as many variables as a jacket, for example.


I read those comments on sewing forums about spam, dangerous files, etc... Personally, I don't think the site is hijacked by some dangerous hackers targeting international home-sewing community. I bought the pattern using Paypal, downloaded the pattern and instructions, and my inbox is so far free from Russian spam. If you don't hear from me tomorrow, or the blog suddenly disappears - you will know who is behind it. Otherwise, Lekala seems to be a normal (Russia-based, I believe) business that tries to sell personalized computer-generated patterns for a very affordable price.


If you worked with downloadable patterns before, this is no different. One annoying thing, though, is that the page layout is not very economical. My order was for a A4 paper format and I got a 38-page download, with 10 empty pages in between (they do print with a page identifier, though). I will go on and delete those empty pages in Adobe Acrobat, but not everyone knows how to do it.

As for delivery, the PDF containing the pattern was in my inbox in less than an hour. Since I have ordered as a guest, without registering, I had to download the instructions (a separate PDF) from the Lekala site directly. The instructions are very brief, and the translation from Russian is not very good, but you can definitely follow them. It is rather a list of steps, not a detailed description of the process - not very useful for a beginner.


I will try to make a muslin this weekend and report to you next week. If you are very keen to start on it on your own, here is the link. The pattern costs an amazing $2.49, and if you register you will get further 10% off. No advertising, really, just facts.

Have you had any experience using Lekala patterns? Would you use this particular pattern for our sew-along? If not, why?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Sew Grateful to...

It's Sew Grateful Week Tuesday and, according to the plan, it is time for a reflection post. Phew, there is really a lot to reflect about, but I will be short and say a few very short words about people who played a particularly big role in my couture adventure.

First of all, Susan Khalje, an amazing couture teacher and instructor, or a couture fairy according to my fellow blogger Clio of Clio and Phineas. "Bibbidi-bobbidy-boo, you can sew lace!" said Susan waving her magic wand, and Clio went off and made a stunning silk and lace slip. Yes, Susan is my couture fairy too :)

Susan usually comes in duo with Kenneth D. King. Oh, Kenneth D. King and his Fortuny jackets. Kenneth is constantly experimenting and improving and learning and teaching. His teaching materials always have some updates, and in his class he would suddenly clap his hands and report about his most recent improvement of, say, welt pocket construction technique. He doesn't like when others talk a lot (during his classes), but he will talk all the time and you better listen because he is truly a well of knowledge and wisdom, even if some of his personal anecdotes are repeated more than once.

I am also very grateful to many fellow bloggers and former classmates who have become my close friends over the past three years, and, especially, my dear friend Rosie, Diane, Nel and Inna of Thewallina and other creatures. Thanks to you all, my readers, for reading my blog, leaving comments and being part of my couture adventure.

And, finally, I am so grateful to my family, and, especially, my husband who can now make a perfect couture small talk with any expert out there. I am so proud of him ;)

Monday, February 4, 2013

Pimp my Pencil Skirt Sew Along: a belated update

Dear readers,

I am sorry this comes late, but I'd like to thank all of you who were so patient to wait with our sew-along. I know I haven't explained things, but I had to wrap my head around a few changes in my life and make important decisions, some of them related to this blog as well. I won't bore you with details, for now I am glad some of you are still interested in going on with the Burberry skirt. So, here is the update.

I will upload the remaining three posts on the straight skirt sloper this week, so you get Friday, Saturday and Sunday to make a muslin. All the fitting discussion will take place in our Flickr group - I am updating it too. For the following few days we will be working on a few alterations for the pencil skirt, adding princess lines and making the final muslin. Finally we will draft and position the flounce.

Until the next post, please have a look at our previous posts listed on the Sew-Along page. Please feel free to ask questions or make suggestions!

Sew Grateful Week #1: Tailoring classic giveaway

It's the Sew Grateful week again, readers. And I am so happy that one of my favourite bloggers, Debi of My Happy Sewing Place, is hosting it again.

Sew Grateful Week is all about sharing gratitude with the online sewing community and today I wanted to thank you for participating in this blog and leaving your feedback.

Monday is a Giveaway Day and I am joining other bloggers on Debi's Giveaway Page with a great book on tailoring:


Published in 2005, "Tailoring is the classic guide to the required techniques. Step-by-step instructions and close-up photographs help hobby sewers get professional results. The book covers all three tailoring methods (custom or hand, machine, and fusible) and the complete process from fabric selection to finishing touches. There are detailed instructions on adjusting the pattern for proper fit, which is critical for good results. Tailoring is all about impeccable details, and shows how to achieve them, from the roll of the collar to a perfect pocket."

To enter the giveaway, please, leave a comment until Sunday, 10 February, sharing who are you grateful to for teaching you sewing. The winner will be drawn and announced on Sunday. Please, don't forget to check the results! Good luck!


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