August 30, 2012

One More Summer Dress

First, thanks to all of you for your nice comments on my adjusted dress form, and your links to your own methods of making a personal dress form! Next time I have to do something like this, I will probably try one of the methods you suggested, as they all seem to be quite promising. For the moment, I will check out how good mine works, and see if fitting is now easier.
My dress form still doesn't have name. At the moment I just call her "dress form". Any suggestions?

You can never have too many summer dresses, and we still have really warm weather in Switzerland, so I decided to make another summer dress before autumn. Also, I had bought this cotton sateen with a nice retro print, which is waiting patiently since spring to be turned into a dress.

I chose a pattern from an old Burda magazine, it's no. 124C from the may 2007 issue.

When I tried on the muslin, I noticed that the neckline is quite deep. A lot too deep for my taste. So I changed the neckline, but didn't make another muslin. I will see how it will turn out.

The skirt looks quite full on the technical drawing, but on the photos in the magazine you can see that it is full at the waist where the pleats start, but that it is quite narrow at the hem. So I cut and spread the skirt pattern in the middle of each pleat to get a bit more volume at the hem.

No muslin for this part, again. I think it will be a bit of a surprise how this dress will turn out!

Unfortunately, sewing is progressing slower than expected.
I underlined all the bodice parts with silk organza, to get some more stability. Boning would work well with this pattern, but I don't want to have boning in a summer dress for everyday wear in hot weather. I will also use cotton for lining, as it feels better directly on the skin, especially on very warm days.

The Burda pattern calls for some piping on the bodice and waistline seams, made from bias tape in a contrasting color. Well, I wanted to use glossy sateen bias tape und couldn't find a matching contrasting color, so I used a hello one.

And I didn't like it. The yellow color doesn't accentuate the seams enough, and the sateen bias tape is very stiff. So I ripped the seam and went to buy ordinary cotton bias tape in blue, which is still not matching perfectly, but looks better than the yellow one and is easier to work with.

This is what I've got so far, and from today on, it's getting cold around here, and it seems that summer is over before I will be finished with this summer dress. This happens to me every end of summer or winter, I'm always a bit late with my projects. But never mind, I'll just wait for next summer!

I also have signed up for the Cose Conmigo/ Sew along which is hosted by Sonia from La pequena aprendiz, which takes place this week, to make the nice red dress of Burda 8/2012.

I will have to start a bit later, but I hope to finish the last summer dress by end of the week. This will be the start for autumn sewing!

August 21, 2012

Dress Form Individualized

I feel as if I had been a lazy seamstress during the last weeks, but in fact I haven't been that lazy. I  made two skirts (which I hope to show you later), and I finally tackled a project I had planned since a while: I made my own dress form, modifying my standard dress form.

This was my dress form before:

It's adjustable, which means that you can regulate your bust, waist and hip circumference with little wheels. The problem is, while my dress form and me have the same measurements, we did not have the same shape!
My back is more rounded, while the dress form has a very erect back, and I also have forward shoulder joints, and since I am a very short person, my waist falls about where you can see the vertical line on the photo (here, you can adjust the dress form to make the torso longer. Unfortunately, making it shorter is not possible). Because of all that, the dress form wasn't really a help in fitting. Some garments even didn't fit over it, there was a hard pulling at the back and around the shoulders! So I decided that I need a dress form that reflects more my very own shape.
I could have made a duct tape dummy, but I've read that you can't put needles into it, or that they would come out sticky, and I also don't like a lot what they look like. And I've also heard before that you can make one with fabric, too. Although I couldn't find any detailed instructions for that, I decided to give it a go, as an experiment, sort of.

So this is a description of how I did it, and although I don't know if I did it the "right" way, maybe someone will get some help out of it to avoid some of the mistakes I made!

First, I used my basic bodice block to make a shell, to be opened at the center front. I marked vertical lines over the bust point at the front pieces and down from the shoulder darts at the back piece. I stitched the side seams with the sewing machine.

I put the shell on and closed it with pins at the center front, then pinned along the vertical markings until the shell fit snugly around my front body part. (I know these are not the most attractive photos of me, but oh well...) I should have pinned further down, though. I didn't and that makes my dress form now look quite bold and lumpish at the bottom (although I think that it doesn't influence fit, as this is not a "fit sensitive area" in the clothes I use to sew).

I had my husband to do the same at the back, and although he doesn't know anything about sewing and fitting, he did a great job with this (thank you, dear!). I think it helped that he had those vertical lines as a guide.

He also pinned the excess fabric away at the waist (my swayback) - and again, I think it helped that I had also marked the waistline on the shell before.

I also let him mark the neckline and the armholes on the fabric with a pen, and before putting the whole thing of, I marked the new center front with dots, on both sides (left and right), to be able to close it the same way again later.

Then I put the whole thing off, marked the placements of the pins and connected the lines to get some sort of "darts", which I stitched with my sewing machine.

I've always thought before that stuffing the whole thing would be the fun part of the whole process - I was wrong. That was the most awful part, and I almost broke off the whole experiment.

Here is what I did: First I made my dress form as small as possible with those adjustment wheels, to make sure that my new shell would fit over it. Then I put the shell on, closed it at the front with pins and started to stitch the front closed, beginning from the bottom. I also added a provisional drawstring to close the shell at the bottom.

I was ready to stuff it. For the filling, I used rubber foam flakes (is this the right word? I had to look it up in my dictionary and there are so many translations...). They were cheap and I was hoping that I could stuff them really tightly.

It didn't work out with stuffing tightly and firmly, since the shell fabric stretched out. It looked very nice, but when I checked the measurements with my new tape measure, it turned out that the new dress form had several centimeters of circumference more than I have. Removing a part of the rubber foam helped, though.

I stuffed the shell from the bottom to the top, inserting the flakes through the front opening and also through the armholes, while constantly checking the measurements and stitching the front opening closed, bit by bit. I used the handle of a wooden kitchen spoon to stuff the center back.

In the end, I stitched the rest of the center front seam, and closed the bottom drawstring definitely. I folded the neckline seam allowances towards the inside and closed the armholes with two patches of fabric.

That was it! This is what it looks like now:

I think it is still not perfect, but my self-made, fitted dresses now fit a lot better over my dress form, and I can put pins into it. I will see how it works with the next projects.

Things I would do better if I had to go through the same process again:

  • I would use a sturdier, firmly woven fabric for the shell. Maybe then I could stuff it more tightly without stretching the fabric out, and the yellow filling material wouldn't show through. 
  • I would look for a better filling material, that would be easier to spread evenly under the fabric, without scrunching up in bulky balls. Although I still don't know what sort of material this could be. 
  • I would use a smaller dress form as a basic. It was quite difficult on some points to get the shell fabric over the dress form, and the new dress form does not mirror my swayback. There simply wasn't enough empty space between the dress form and shell to get the shape very exactly. 
  • I would use a pencil instead of a pen to make all the markings. I also wanted to have a beautiful dress form which is nice to look at, since it is a constant "decoration element" in my sewing cave. But the pen markings are there, and that spoils the whole look a bit!

Modifying my dress form wasn't as much fun as sewing a garment, but in the end I'm quite glad I did it. And if you stumbled upon this blog post because you are thinking about making or modifying your own dress form, I hope you got some helpful information from it. Feel free to leave me any questions if you have them!

August 9, 2012

Tape Measure Madness

Do you buy a new tape measure from time to time? I was told to do so, because tape measures appear to stretch with time and use. Of course it's very important in sewing to take proper measurements with a reliable tape measure, and my actual tape measure was already quite old, so I went to my local Bernina store to buy a new one. I didn't know before that there exist several qualities of tape measures, but when the saleswoman asked me if I wanted to have "a normal one, a good one or a very good one" I certainly asked her for the best!
The one she gave me then was an inconspicuous yellow one. But she told me that it will not stretch out at all and that it was calibrated (what ever that means for a tape measure).

Then I was curious about if my old tape measure had stretched out, and I decided to check that. (A little bit afraid that my hip circumference might be even more than I thought so far, with my stretched out tape measure.)

So, at home, I laid my two tape measures next to each other on the dining table.

The yellow one on the right side is the new, calibrated, non-stretchy one, and the one on the left side with alternating red-white-green colors is my old one.

I put the 1cm marks as the "starting points" next to each other.

Now see what it looked like at the 50cm marks (yellow: new tape measure; red-white: old tape measure):

And at the 100cm marks:

This is what the ends of the tapes looked like:

What happened? Did my old tape measure shrink instead of stretching out? Or can the companies who produce those tapes just print an estimated measuring scale onto their products? (That would make some sense to the calibration of certain measurement tapes, though.) I have to say that I'm quite surprised by this result. (On second thought, I'm also glad to know that my hip circumference is in fact smaller than I thought so far. Of course that will not make a whole size or something, neither change anything in my body proportions.)

Did you have a similar experience already? I want to encourage everybody who has several tape measures to compare them!

Other than that, I got another award!

I got it from Sonia of La pequna aprendiz, thank you Sonia! And I hand it on to KC of The Sewcratic Method, who always makes me laugh when I'm reading her blog posts! (I am quite glad that I can give her an award at all, as she seems to have all of them already - well deserved, of course!)

August 7, 2012

Evil Jersey Edge Binding

I'm back from vacation! Two weeks being outside in nature every day, fishing, hiking, and no internet access... it was very relaxing, but I'm glad to be connected to the sewing world again!

The last project I finished before going on vacation was a small one: a present for a friend who gave birth to a little boy about four weeks ago.

It is a sleeping bag for babies, made from a (boy appropriate) printed cotton and cotton jersey as lining.
It has an in-seam side zipper and snaps at the shoulders. The pattern is from Burda magazine 3/2011.

I allowed myself a little joke and added my own "fashion label" at the bottom, the sort I only used for my husbands shorts so far.

I also cut out some single birds of the scraps and padded them.

They were made into a mobile later, hung up on a music stand! (Doesn't that look like a happy little baby?)

So, it seems to be an easy little project, right?
But. I had to face a sewing problem that is a really awful one for me, a sewing technique that I never got right in the past and with this project, it wasn't better.

I'm talking about binding the edges of the neck opening with jersey.
Like always, and according to the instructions, I first attached the jersey tape to the edge, then fold in the free edge of the tape and turned the binding to the inside of the sleeping bag.
It still looked quite nice when pinned:

 Then I did the topstitching and as always the tragedy started. The jersey stretched out whereas the neckline didn't, the foot of my sewing machine pushed the jersey in waves that became bigger and bigger... I ended up with sewing the whole neckline without pulling the pins out, sewing over all of them (yes I know I shouldn't do that).

So that is how it turned out:

Not very nice, but acceptable for me. (My demandings for this are quite low, since I had only bad results with this in the past).

But the inside part looks really awful!

The seams are wonky and you can see very clearly where the pins have been.
Luckily, my friend who got this for her baby didn't care and likes the sleeping bag nevertheless (this is how you get to know your real friends!). But I'm not satisfied with getting results like that.
I have also tried using my cover locker for this, but that was even worse (the cover locker doesn't go around curves easily).

So, does anyone of you know how to do better than me? Then, please, tell me, I would be very happy about any hints!

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