Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Another high waisted pencil skirt

Another high waisted panel skirt from my own pattern, this time with a lower waistband and a double split at the back instead of a frill.

Very pleased with this skirt, it's a smidgin larger than the last one I made and extremely comfortable. Made of stretch khaki drill (my new favourite colour/fabric) with red stitch detail on the seams which i've lapped for interest. If I'd thought about it for longer, I would have sewn the seams to the outside and flat felled them, which would give a neat finish both sides. I have another skirt in mind which I will do this with.

This style of skirt is my very favourite style and always has been. Most of the skirts I have ever bought have been of the 'pencil' variety so I'm really pleased that i'm now able to make them myself. This cost less than a tenner all in which is very pleasing as the one I took my inspiration from, costs £120! (And yes, before you wonder, I will be making a matching corset!)

And talking of corsets ... The winner of my "which one shall I make first" poll by a long way, is the V&A stays. Here is another model, this one is at the Fashion Museum at Bath. Hopefully I'll get started this week!

Sunday, 26 April 2009

How to use an invisible zipper foot

I don't want to become a boring old sew and sew, but as Mr M has been on call all weekend, we haven't been able to go 'out and about' together, so while he has been tap tap tapping with his hammer, mending fences and gates in the garden in time for next weekend (when I will have something ridiculoulsly exciting to report to you) and making sure that Eggy and Peggy are 'safe' as it's been a bit like 'Chicken Run" around here of late, I've been left to sew the weekend away as my latest pattern obsession has taken shape. If you think this pattern piece looks a bit like a torpedo, just wait till you see the finished article.

Full picture tomorrow as it was dark by the time I finished. In the meantime, Here is an illustrated story for you on "how to insert a concealed zipper".

They are difficult! But they are worth it. The first one I did last week, was unpicked around 50 times for various reasons including sewing it on backwards, and unpicking the wrong side by mistake.. grrr!

The first thing to ensure upon embarking on a session with one of these, is that you are fully awake and preferably undistracted (remember... shit happens and so do back to front zippers).

Start by ironing your zipper so that it lies quite flat on the underside. This is so that the needle can get really close to the teeth of the zip when you sew it.

Next, sew a line to mark the seam allowance where you are going to sew your zip. It is best to do this on an open seam (ie, don't sew any of the seam until the zipper is in). The zipper teeth are going to sit on this line.

This is an invisible zipper foot. It is made of plastic, costs around £3.00 and is 'multi fit' - so it can be used on lots of different machines. Most machines are "short shank" and this foot is for short shank machines. It came with no instructions and took me a while to realise that the regular machine foot has to be removed in it's entirety in order to fit this foot. The brown base slides through the blue part in order that you can line up the needle properly.

In the (terrible) picture below you can see that the needle is right in the middle of the foot, the mid point being marked by a notch just behind the needle. The notch can be better seen in the picture above.

An invisible zip is sewn in an open position unlike a regular zip. Align the right side of the open zip to the right side of the fabric, with the teeth sitting just over the seam line that you have marked. Pin it in place and then baste. It is very important to baste the zip on before you machine. Trust me, it only takes a minute and will avoid alorralorra heartache later, not to mention a sore back and a sore head. In my experience, once you start unpicking, you can't stop! It's as if suddenly a curse arrives on the zip.

Here you can see how the zipper foot works. It has a groove which rolls the teeth of the zip over to once side whilst keeping everthing 'on track' and enabling the needle to sew really really close to the edge. This is the secret of the invisible zipper.

I now sew with a long machine basting stich... just to make extra sure. It's easier to unpick if you need to, and won't spoil the zip like a smaller stitch could. As you sew, you have to be careful not to sew over the teeth otherwise the finished zip won't close.

Because the foot is really quite cumbersome, you can't get right to the end of the zip like you can with a normal zipper foot. So just go as far as you possibly can on both sides.

When both sides of the zip are attached to your satisfaction (ie: so that when you close the zip you can't see it on the right side), and you have sewn over your machine basting with a stronger stitch, you can finish sewing the seam that it's on.

Sew the seam from the bottom to the top in the normal way, and when you get to the base of the zipper, pull it to the inside, so that your machine foot can sew right up the seam allowance to where you stopped sewing the zip. This will close the seam. (note that the zip is still 'undone' at this stage).

For a neat edge, attach your usual zipper foot and sew down the other side of the zip on the seam allowance.

This will give a secure and neat finish to the inside of your item.

Et voila! You should have a perfectly invisible zip !

Friday, 24 April 2009

Corset Making Conundrum - which pattern?

I spent so much time last year making bags and other things for other people, that, although I did a whole lot of study on the subject, I didn't actually make a single corset!  Not a bad thing, because it was my research into corsetry which led me to my current fascination with pattern design and other forms of dressmaking, and these will tie together in the end.

I have two historical patterns which I want to try, but despite poring over them all morning, I simply can't decide which to start first, so what do you think?  I will do a 'sew along' if you decide which you would like to see bought to life.  Both patterns are taken from original patterns and are historically accurate.

Choice A:  This is an Edwardian "S bend" corset.  It gives a tiny waist, enhances the hips, and is gussetted at the bust to give a good cleavage.  I have some nice black coutil fabric for this which is embroidered with white roses.  I might combine that with some black satin for the bust gussets and hip gores.

Choice B:  This is a much earlier set of "stays", dating from 17th/18th Century.  The one on the left (pink) is a copy of one I have seen in the V&A museum, London. 

From these two, I prefer the pink because it was this that prompted me to acquire the pattern, and purchase some lovely dusty pink silk from which to make it - a bit like the real thing pictured.  It has laces at the front and back and I will probably make it without sleeves - unless I find something very inspiring to make them from. 

So which one first?  The Edwardian Corset or the V&A Stays??

Note added from the future:  I never did complete this one! (3/12/14)

Thursday, 23 April 2009

High waisted pencil skirt with vintage buckle

I have finally finished making the skirt from my very own skirt pattern!

Here is the front...

And the back ...

And here's a similar one I bought 2 years ago from Morgan..

It cost me £15 reduced from £75 (!!!) in a sale.

My own skirt cost the princely sum of £10'ish:
Fabric - £2.50/metre (stretch cotton sateen)
Zip - £1.50
Vintage belt buckle - £3.50
Time, Tantrums (invisible zipper!), Thread - £2.50

Cheap at twice the price I'd say
and twice as nice to boot.
(even if I do say so myself)

Monday, 20 April 2009

Important sewing links

I have discovered a sewing website called ThreadsMagazine.com and in between dot and cross sessions, have been glued to it! A very informative site indeed where you can watch videos, look at pictures and learn interesting things if you are sew inclined (boom boom!). My favourites:

Making and Using a Muslin video
- this video demonstrates not only how to alter your pattern to fit, but also how to make dart legs. This technique is handy for a whole range of pattern making pursuits.

Understanding Turn of Cloth - I didn't know such a thing even existed, but i'm very glad to know about it now! Especially as I would like to attempt a bit of tailoring at some stage.

Padding your Dressform - The next best thing to growing an extra pair of arms for fitting clothes on yourself. I already do the bra thing, but I hadn't thought of the bottom end!!

Manuel's free motion Embroidery - Mesmerising, fascinating - this man seems to control his extremly scary machine using his knees!

Pressing Templates
- Why didn't I think of this??

There are tips and techniques for just about any dressmaking conundrum that you can think of. I am still exploring but today I am attempting to make up my skirt pattern which has now been cut, tried and tested. Ready for the real thing now, and hope to be finished by Friday!

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Draping costumes

It's been a frenzy of dot and cross paper here in The House of Marmalade as over the past few days I've been re-drafting my skirt block - at my last pattern cutting class we discovered that something had gone drastically wrong in between proceedings and the block had somehow shrunk. Unfortunately, I had not shrunk. Rather, I seem to have expanded a little! So while I was drafting that up (hurrah! it fits now), and making up a practice skirt (forgot to take a picture) I had a sudden bolt of inspiration for my next "costume". That's what i'm interested in - corsety costumes.

When I drape fabric around my dress form (Madge the material girl), the ideas just flow and flow and flow, I get extremely excited, laughing, smiling and hopping around the room!

Here's one I made two years ago. From Madge to me (and back again).

This project was a bustle. I had seen the red organza in a shop and just HAD to have some.

I wrapped it around Madge, figured out a pattern, and made it up with an old voile curtain which was a similar weight to the organza.

Made a few adjustments
Then sewed it all together

et Voila!

So I went through the beginnings of that process again today with some amazing fabric I bought quite a while ago. It's black net with silver coloured rubber bobbles pressed onto it. I was a bit worried about sewing it, but a practice run with a ball point needle seemed to work just fine. This will form a feature on the corset section, with some furry beaded trim.

The skirt is a lovely soft net which I purchased from The Cloth House in London last year. It was a remnant so much cheaper than if I'd bought it from the roll, and just enough to make a lovely long skirt. I have added a long tassely trim to the bottom of the corset section.

I will use more of the rubbery fabric to make a train

Very Exciting! Now Madge has to wear the outfit for a bit while I procrastinate over the finer details.