Browsing CategoryGarment Design

Best of June in sewing and making

Last month I started documenting the small pleasures, little discoveries and hopefully areas of personal growth in sewing, knitting, making in general. These were my favourite things to discover or do in June:

See also: Best of July in sewing and making 

Inspired to sew (or at least consider trying) sewing a bra.

I’ve been reading and admiring bloggers who make lingerie and especially bras, but I’ve never considered it something I could try, until I read Ingrid’s post about her Watson bra. She says this:

“I think one of the reasons I love making lingerie, is that it takes no time whatsoever, and I don’t have to break my back taping/cutting patterns and fabric on the floor. It all feels very civilised, sitting at my desk cutting out tiny little pieces with my rotary cutter”

and she made this:

neon-watson3

So inspiring, like everything she makes. Don’t miss out her blog.

I’ve been loving Sarai’s posts about the Florence bra and I have her Nutmeg pattern in paper. It’s one of the very few patterns I brought with me when we moved and I’ve never used it.

I started a new sketchbook

I’ve started a small notebook for sewing ideas and projects. I know there’s Pinterest (love it, wrote about how to stay away from buying more that you need here) but it’s different when you draw something and in this case when you stick the actual fabric on the same paper. It becomes almost real. I’ve shared this image on Instagram, are you on instagram? Follow me or leave a comment below so I can find you!

handmade sketch blouse idea diy sewing

I’m experimenting with watercolours

And realising how little I actually know about painting. Actually almost nothing. I will still share this with you because it will be cool to see the progress over the months. I like doodling, drawing, painting so it’s something I want to do more of. I got a new set of travel watercolours so this alows me to quickly doodle something in my lunch break and makes cleaning up/putting everything back really quick.

crochet watercolour by sky turtle

I’ve used the tinyest needles ever to swatch this cotton yarn

These needles are so pretty and at the same so fragile (or at least they seem to be so) that they allowed me to be patient with my swatching. It’s amazing how gauge changes with the different patterns. I really like this cotton yarn, it’s actually a darker blue that my camera captured it here. It’s also really thin so I really need to find a strategy to channel my inner zen knitter.

swatching in blue cotton and really tiny needles

What about you? What did you learn or experiment with in June?

The confessions of a Craftsy class hoarder

my craftsy classes

This is the sad story of how I hoard sewing classes (because they are amazing!) and then how I never end up watching them (because I find out about other amazing things!)

I want to change. A little. At least finish one of my 5 Craftsy classes that I enrolled in the last few years.

Now, Craftsy is having a class sale this weekend and I hope I have enough strenght not to take the Jean-ius Reverse Engineer Your Favorite Fit class. Must have discipline!

The 5 classes I am enrolled in and a bit of context about each:

Pant Fitting techniques with Sandra Betzina
Pant Construction techniques with Sandra Betzina

I took these two classes because I wanted to master the art of pants-making. I am pretty good at making pajama pants and have been lucky with some pairs of shorts, but I would like to really, really understand pant-making and always be able to make my own perfect pair of pants, wherever I go, with any fabric I want.

I almost finished this class until my first pants turned out huge and – after spending many hours watching and sewing – I gave up. I still have the pattern from the class and I’d like to give it another try.

Beginner Serging

This class is really great and I wish I had the patience to follow it, as I am now only using my serger at probably 5% of its potential. Must find a really good reason! I mean, project!
The classic tailored shirt

The classic tailored shirt is something I really want to make. And potentially master. I even have the perfect chambray in my stash. I don’t have a tailored shirt pattern, now that I left almost all my pattern collection when we moved, but I do have the Collette negroni with me, and I might just use that!

Essential techniques every knitter should know

I took this because I wanted to learn everything I needed about knitting, turns out I am super stubborn and would rather make a million mistakes than listen to the soothing voice of this lady to can probably knit anything.

Please note that the link above are affiliate links, which means that if you want to commit the same sins feel as passionate about learning as I do, I will get a small percentage of the sale of that class. No pressure 😉

What about you? Are you a class hoarder as well or actually a doer? How do you do it? What do you do while you watch the classes so that you can be attentive but not get bored?

7 beginner tips for flat pattern making (sewing)

Since I got my hands of a copy of Helen Joseph Armstrong’s Patternmaking for Fashion Design I have the feeling learning to do the patterns I want to make is not that far away. I’ve said it before, but the book is great.

Maybe you remember my Sewing Course: Lesson 2 in which I was showing you how to draft the front part of a bodice pattern. I was using Helen Joseph Armstrong’s instructions in this book. Coming back to my blog post I discovered a few errors in the guide and fixed them. It’s great when you notice your own mistakes.

I had a few free hours today and I started drafting my own bodice block following the instructions in Armstrong’s book.

At first I was going to add a second lesson on the bodice, describing the steps one by one, but again, Helen JA does it better, so I am going to post her instructions in a separate post.

If you try this at home – and please do – you’ll feel intrigued at first, then unsure of what you’re doing, you might even mess it up completely and have to start over (been there:) but then, at one point, it just start making sense.

drafting-a-short-sleeve

All the measurements, the center back and the bust point, and the cap height of a sleeve, they start to tell you how they are going to affect your pattern. And you’ll feel like pattern making is the easiest thing in the world.

Well, until you try the bodice on and everything is perfect except the sleeve is falling, the bust point was taken too low and the back dart should sculpt the back bodice nut it’s actually creating a new shape on its own.

It’s at the exact distance between being awesome and… weird.

This is what I’ve learned and my tips from this flat making pattern session:

  1. Make sure you understand which measurement you are taking (I had to redo the front bodice because I mistook no less than 5 measurements from parts of my body that had nothing to do with the bodice in question);
  2. Use a pencil. You will need erase lines.
  3. When you cut your bodice, don’t leave a huge sewing allowance like I did. The bodice already has some ease to cut the fabric closer to your edges than you would.
  4. If you are fitting for a dress (or blouse) that you are going to use with a bra, wear the bra when doing the fitting.
  5. Don’t use elastic fabrics for your muslin. You’ll steal your own hat 🙂
  6. Fit the muslin then go back and alter the pattern; even though it sounds impossible right now, you will forget that there was something to refit in the firstplace
  7. Keep in mind you’re learning so it’s ok even if you won’t wear your first muslin. Or the second. That’s what it’s all about;

Happy sewing 🙂

How to adjust upper and lower thread tension on a sewing machine

sewing-machine

How many times has your sewing machine started to make stubborn monster-like noises and proceeded to pull your fabric towards the bobbin? Or maybe only managed to sew some you, useless, loose stitches? Do you still think your sewing machine “doesn’t sew knit fabric”?

In this post I am sharing what I know about thread tension. If you have your own tips or you have a different opinion, I would love to hear it!

How to adjust upper thread tension on a sewing machine

Adjusting the thread tension for the thread on top should be a pretty straightforward thing. Or at least it the most obvious tension to play with; getting to know how it actually works and what results you can get by playing with it – is another story.

You adjust the tension of the thread that comes from your thread spool depending on the fabric and thread you’re using.

The tension assembly consists of small discs that squeeze (softer or harder, depending on your adjustments) the thread passing through and another piece called the tension regulator, which keeps that pressure constant. On cheaper or more basic machines you will use a numbered wheel/knob and on newer/more expensive machines you will have a dial or a digital display.

In a nutshell: the higher the number on your wheel/dial, the stronger the squeeze and vice versa. If you use a fine thread your tension should be high; on the contrary when using a thicker or decorative thread, your tension should be lower.

When sewing cottons, you can use a medium-high tension; if a cotton is a loose weave, decrease the tension so you don’t wrinkle your fabric when sewing.

If you’re sewing knit or Lycra, decrease the tension to create a more elastic seam.

Adjusting tension will be easier on some machines than others. Newer machines even self-adjust their top thread tension when changing your thread. If you find yourself going crazy over getting the right tension, check the lower (bobbin tension).

As a general tip: your upper and lower thread should be the same type (acrylic, cotton, silk) and the same thickness.

If that doesn’t work, check if there’s dirt caught inside the tension disks. If you’re brave clean it yourself: decrease the tension to 0, un-thread and unplug your machine and pass a thin cotton rag oiled with sewing machine oil (cooking oil won’t do, get a proper oil for your machine and you’ll thank yourself later) through the disks until all the dirt sticks to the rag. Then adjust back your tension to a medium tension (3 or 4), thread your machine and practice a few seams on a cotton scrap.

How to adjust bobbin tension for sewing with elastic thread

For a long time I didn’t even know you could adjust bobbin tension. I thought there was a lever somewhere and that my sewing machine being a simple, older model didn’t have it. I meddled and twisted and swore at the upper thread tension and had no idea what great relief that little screw on the latch lever can bring.

The latch lever is the part that comes out with your bobbin. The part in which you push your bobbin and through which you take out the thread. There is a small screw near the opening through which the thread comes out and that’s how you adjust the bobbin tension. By unscrewing it you create less tension in the bottom thread; this is a handy adjustment for sewing with elastic thread or thicker thread. Once you’re done with the thick bobbin thread remember to screw it back (always test that the thread comes out comfortably).

Do you have any tips? How do you get the perfect thread tension?

How to make a beautifully draped batwing tunic

bat blouse s

 

This draped batwing tunic is very easy to make and a perfect project for the weekend. It only took me a couple of hours from sketch to finish and you don’t need any sewing pattern to make this.

When you choose your fabric choose blouse fabrics with a drape, light cottons, like batiste, silk, georgette, etc, but nothing too boxy, unless that is the look you are going for.

draped blouse sketch

 

First, take a tank top that fits you well but it not too stretchy. You want tank top and not a t-shirt because it will be easier to see where the armhole sits on your pattern. You can use paper if you feel more comfortable, but I just pinned the tank top over the fabric and cut my blouse pattern on the fabric folded in four, keeping the folded sides at the top and at the left of the fabric.

I folded the tank top once, then snipped of the shape of the neck area and created a bat-like wing, cutting the sleeves and that V. The longer your V, the more your blouse will drape. You can play with this shape and create many other blouses or dresses.

 

how to make a draped blouse the sewing  pattern

The second things I sewed were the neckline and the arm-holes, then I sewed the V’s, making sure I sandwiched inside the ties for wrapping the batwings on the finished piece.

 

 

how to sew a draped bat blouse

And that’s it! Easy ! I’d love to see your end result if you decide to make this top.

And don’t thing this is a summer-only piece, you can even take this blouse into autumn by wearing a long-sleeved t-shirt underneath or even a body-con dress.

 

 

11 things you could do now for becoming a better garment designer in 12 months

So you want to be a fashion designer, a pattern maker or the world’s best sewist? Good for you! If you’re just starting to learn about sewing and garment making, you’ll be happy to hear it takes very little time to learn the basics of sewing and start making your own clothes using patters.

Learning how to adapt and transform existing commercial patterns is another level in sewing. And then there’s making your own patterns, following your own designs – that’s the most tricky part, as you will need many skills, from sewing basics, to draping, sketching and other things that are not always mentioned in sewing, but should be the most important: basic anatomy, body shapes, movement knowledge (supposing you want to create garments that are also comfortable, not only pretty).

I know user experience is not something you hear a lot of sewists talking about, but for me it is the most important: the way your clothes make you feel when you wear them. This should be the ultimate goal of the garment designer: to understand first how their garment will make the wearer feel; will they feel extravagant and bold (like costumes and evening dresses), will they feel relaxed and serene (summer sleeping garments, silky tank tops, beach wear) or energized and ready (workout gear, structured jackets)etc. I think you should always start with how you want your end product to feel when worn.

become a better garment designer

But I digress. What I really wanted to talk about was those things you could start doing now that will make you a better garment designer in the next 12 months:

  1. Find people who are passionate about the same things. Look at what they make, learn from there. Get to know them.
  2. Start a small notebook for all your thoughts and ideas about sewing, fashion and garment design. At the end of the week transcribe, scan or capture everything in a digital file, or a blog. Add extra notes and ideas.
  3. Read sewing and pattern making books. Read everything you can with the notebook on hand. Write down any genius ideas or must remember tips.
  4. If you’re sewing for many hours adjust your desk and chair to prevent back pain. If possible don’t cut fabric on the floor and don’t press fabric on a surface that’s lower than your waist. If you do, include 5 minutes of exercises or stretching to protect your back.
  5. Take 5 minutes everyday to daydream about making thigs that you can’t make yet. Write these ideas down.
  6. Be mindful when you are creating and make things that you will enjoy for many years.
  7. Sew or make something for another person at least every few months. It doesn’t have to be something big, just put in a lot of love and see your loved ones enjoy your master skills.
  8. Travel. Look at what other people wear, eat, how they move in their clothes. Learn from them.
  9. When you ruin a garment, go out for a run, then put the garment in the recycle box and wait for an idea to come to reuse that fabric. Make rugs or donate leftover fabric.
  10. Sew less and enjoy more. If you want to learn, don’t limit yourself to making 4 blouses of the same pattern you already master. Move on and experiment. Think about what you’ll sew next, think about what you want.
  11. Go shopping and make a list of things you dislike. Take photos if you want. Make notes about fit, fabric, brands; as you learn more and more about garment making, this will further help you to create better clothes for youself and who knows, maybe for the entire world.

Image by ROBERT HUFFSTUTTER via flickr.

Large tropical leaves: 3 ways to use them in your wardrobe

Abstract:

large tropical leaf top

Vintage:

vintage white shirt with tropical leaves

Mimetic:

tropical leaf like dress

For centuries, the tropics and the jungle have fascinated us; for both their beauty and their well… deadliness. Banana, papaya, mango, they all have large, tropical leaves. We often talk about these fruit in terms of coulours, when it comes to garment making (ok, not sure about the banana, but humour me) but it’s about time we talked about their opulent and full of life foliage.

And there’s nothing that says summer more than tropical leaves!

1. Townsen Tank – Rattan from Bloomingdales, €124

This top has a very simple shape, almost completey square, with lines neckline and armhole facings. The black tropical leaves are applied on the shoulders, but you could also paint them if you make this in cotton or batiste. The top closes at the back with a metallic zipper, but you could use a keyhole back cleavage and a button.

2. Vintage white shirt with green tropical leaves from Etsy, €21

3. Mimesis green leaf dress by Kamila Gwawronska Kasperska from Not Just a Label, £750

(Image credits: As linked above.)

Bonus: a tropical skirt and palm leaf pants.

 

 

Two delicate and feminine, no pattern blouses

As a person who owns much more patterns than she will ever get to use and still remembers the exact number of the now lost Burda magazine she lent a friend over 6 years ago, I am fascinated by garments that don’t need patterns. More specifically about boxy, square-ish shapes that have never seen a french curve in their life.

That’s why I really like these blouses and dresses from this Kitting, Crochet and Sewing Magazine (I can’t find this magazine anywhere else, do you know if it has a different name?)

Look at this blouse below, for example: it’s basically a trapeze shape, but the crochet straps and hems only barely drape it to create a wonderful and simple blouse. If you’re good with crochet, this should be very easy to make.

delicate no pattern summer blouse

This second blouse follows the same style: crochet upper bodice and soft flowy body.

delicate blouse with crochet trim

I really like how delicate the crochet looks against the modest napkin-like fabric.

delicate crochet and cotton blouse in japanese style

The magazine has instructions at the end, showing you how to create the very very simple patterns.

The softer and fabric you use it, the more delicate the finished garment will look like. If you use heavier fabrics, you will end up with boxier blouses.

how to make an easy blouse in less than one hour

If you want to take a look at the other blouses in the magazine, here it is:

The Wonderful Fashion Illustrations of Nancy Zhang

I love how illustrators take the everyday and make it fabulous, magical. What I like most about  Nancy Zhang’s fashion illustration is how she takes an outfit that she wore and draws her feelings or mood, as she was wearing it. Or maybe her intention when she created the outfit.

Zhang’s outfits are stories, they are sometimes journeys into the past, other times frozen fragments of the present. Sometimes they are pretentious and constructed, other times practical and comfortable. Even though she wears a lot of designer fashion, she is not a slave of the latest trend. Instead she travels in time, she plays different roles, maybe historical characters, maybe different Nancys. They are like a diary of an ever-changing everyday.

Sometimes we are attached to clothes not because people tell us we look great in them, but because of how they make us feel. You can see how happy and free Nancy feels in her cream-coloured, low-waist gathered skirt, how shy and delicate in her vintage gathered skirt. Or how sexy she feels with her new haircut.

Looking at her outfits, you don’t feel like you’re just looking into somebody else’s wardrobe, you’re looking into who she is.

You can find more of Nancy’s illustrations on her blog.

5 Vintage Necklines and Collars Ideas

One of the reasons why I like vintage sewing books is how practical and down to earth they are. Many go over women’s fashion and expect seamstresses to be able to apply the learned concepts to make garments for kids and men.

The purpose of learning dressmaking is to be able to fill the needs and wants of all members of the family, garment making shouldn’t take too much time, yet the clothes should enhance the personality of the wearer and last a long time.

I am curious whether you agree with me or not on this one, but I think that one of the details of a garment where personality and taste are most obvious is the neckline.

It can change a dress or blouse completely.

Maybe you remember one of my posts, in which I was sketching various vintage necklines; today I’m listing a few other vintage necklines ideas.

The sailor bow tie look good both in patterned fabric, like in the image below and in a sparkly white with dark blue piping. This one closes in the back with snaps, but you could move the bow to the back and close the blouse with it.

bow tie vintage neckline

The square neckline is safe and sweet. Keep the straps quite fat like this dress, or slim them down for a more delicate look.

square vintage neckline

If you like the look of a handkerchief worn over a shirt, you’ll like this small collar on a dress. I like the contrast fabric also.

I love this faux wrap neckline and how simple the whole look is. I also like how this blouse in particular fits the model quite loosely.

faux wrap vintage neckline

And last but not least, a sweetheart neckline, this time adorned with a zipper. I quite like the contrast between the sweetness of the neckline shape and the metal of the zipper.

vintage sweetheart neckline

What about you? What’s you favourite vintage or modern neckline?

Images from: 1) sailor bow tie, 2) square neckline, 3) tiny collar, 4) faux wrap neckline, 5) sweetheart neckline.