A Plethora of New Sewing Skills with Gertie and Twinkle (& a Freebie)

Twinkle Sews and Gertie's Sewing Books OutfitSewing BooksI have completed my makes from Gertie’s New Book For Better Sewing by Gretchen Hirsch and Twinkle Sews by Wenlan Chia.  For both of these projects, it was my first time utilizing a variety of sewing techniques, seven to be exact!

New Skills/Techniques

  1. Invisible Zipper
  2. Skirt Yoke
  3. Inverted Box Kick Pleat
  4. Lining a Skirt with an Inverted Box Kick Pleat
  5. Side Lapped Zipper
  6. Hand Picking a Zipper
  7. Hand Stitched Invisible Hem

So, for January’s Monthly Stitch: New Year = New Skill 2014_01_badgechallenge, we are all trying our hand at new (to us) techniques.New SKills Outfit10

Twinkle Twinkle, Little Skirt

I used the Masculin et Feminin pattern from the Twinkle Sews book for my skirt, which I made from a lovely stretch silk fabric that I received from Kristin at Sew Classic.  Thanks Kristin!

Since the fabric was a stretch woven, I opted to also line it with a stretch woven.

Skirt Lining

Skirt Lining

The skirt hem was bound with fold-over elastic before hemming.  This was my first time putting a yoke on a skirt as well as inserting an invisible zip.  Having the zip extend below the yoke meant I had to make sure the fabric change points were exact.

Invisible Zip and Yoke

Invisible Zip and Yoke

This was also the first time I’ve used an inverted box kick pleat.  For the skirt, it was not too difficult, although tricky to remember which way to fold and iron.

Inverted Box Kick Pleat

Inverted Box Kick Pleat

However, when it came to inserting the lining, this is where we entered a bit of a grey area.  The pattern pieces for the lining were different from the skirt and the instructions did not seem to correspond to these pieces.  She wants you to “stay stitch a V of reinforcing stitches the length of the kick pleat as indicated on the pattern piece [it wasn’t].  Carefully cut a slit in the lining to the point of the V.” This somehow did not make sense to me since there were 2 back lining pieces that you sewed a back centre seam.  So, why would you cut a slit?  And where?  And then what on the skirt are you sewing these two sides to, since this is a closed inverted box pleat and not an open vent.  There were no pics of the completed lining in the book. I had help from a volunteer sewing instructor and she did not understand these instructions either.  If anybody has made this skirt, please do share how you did this!

I ended up altering the back lining pattern pieces to be mirror opposites of the skirt back pieces and sewing an inverted box kick pleat in the lining.  I then sewed the line of topstitching that lies horizontal to the top of the pleat to include all the layers of fabric of the lining and skirt, to hold the lining in place.New SKills Outfit Back2The book divides the projects according to difficulty and this skirt was classified as a ‘beginner’ project.  I’m not sure I agree with that as there were many aspects (yoke, lining, inverted box kick pleat, invisible zip, waistband, lace overlay, working with slippery satin fabric) that are not necessarily beginner skills.

Another noteworthy aspect of this book is that there are:  no construction pictures; no technical drawings of any kind; no diagrams, just text.  This does make it more challenging to follow along if you are a beginner or a visual learner.New Skills Outfit8The book includes a cd with all  the patterns included in pdf form.  One thing to watch out for:  sizing.  To find your size, according to the author, you need to measure your hips and then add 2″ for seam allowance and then 1″ to 2″ for ease.  (For tops, you measure your bust, add 2″ for SA, then add 3″ to 5″ for ease.)  Now the thing is, I did not realize nor do either of these measurement add-ons before cutting my skirt!  I found my measurements on the measurement chart and printed out that exact size.  The skirt fits me rather well, and, while it’s true I made the skirt from a two-way stretch woven with a small to moderate stretch and the pattern called for a non stretch, I still think the skirt would have been really huge if I had added on an extra 3″ to 4″!!??

I plan on making one of the tops next, but I don’t think I am going to add the extra 5″ to 7″ (for tops) as specified in the book. This seems really extreme, especially since the skirt fits without my adding any SA or ease.

The book, however, does have some simply beautiful garments in it.  They are all very creative and interesting, constructed from a variety of different fabrics and styled nicely, as well.  This is what immediately appealed to me when I bought the book.

Some exciting news:  Threads magazine has one of the dress patterns from the Twinkle Sews book available for free!

Click here for the free pattern of this dress.

Click here for the free pattern of this dress.

So, if you don’t have the book and are interested in sampling it, here is the link to download the free dress pattern and instructions.

A Portrait of Gretchen’s Blouse

The top I chose to make from Gertie’s book was the Portrait Blouse.  The pattern was fairly easy to put together and included some nice touches, such as hand sewn invisible hems

Hand Sewn Invisible Hem

Hand Sewn Invisible Hem

for the sleeves and bottom as well as a hand picked side lapped zipper.  It is sewn with a wool / cashmere blend, or at least that is what I was told by the vendor at a sewing expo where I purchased it in the ends bin for $5.00.

Hand Sewn Invisible Sleeve Hem and Bound Seams

Hand Sewn Invisible Sleeve Hem and Bound Seams

The instructions for the side lapped zipper did seem a bit lacking, as I could not completely understand how to insert it just using them alone, so researched online to find tutorials.  I noted that each tutorial was a bit different in their approach.  Does anybody have a favourite tutorial or way of inserting a lapped zip?  Please do share it!

Side Lapped Zip

Side Lapped Zip

The zip was ‘hand picked’ or hand sewn using what is really a very tiny back stitch.  I also hand sewed the hems, using a slip stitch.  I really enjoyed the hand sewing aspect; time moved nice and slowly and precision was so much easier to achieve than by machine and the stitching did, indeed look invisible afterwards.

Hand Picked Zip

Hand Picked Zip

Gertie’s book includes drawings for each step within the instructions, as well as a one or two sentence synopsis of the written instructions.  It includes paper patterns for all the garments.

The book also provides a plethora of information regarding pattern alterations, sewing techniques and, because this book is a take on the 1952, Vogue New Book For Better Sewing, it gives you a lot of insight into vintage patterns.

I thought that this top would be ‘untuckable’ due to the zipper at the hem, but actually it tucks in fine and the zip is not bothersome!

Tuck in your shirt!  And, stand up straight!

Tuck in your shirt! And, stand up straight!

Road Testing With the Sewcialists / Spoolettes

I also ‘road tested’ the skirt at a recent Sewcialists / Spoolettes meet-up.

The Twinkle Sews Skirt in Action

The Twinkle Sews Skirt in Action

Spoolette Meetup

Yours Truly, Gillian, Clare, Sara and Andrea. Hi there, Sewing Sisters!!  Cheers Clare! ‘clink’

small spooletteSewcialists

This was not the first time I’d seen these fantastic lovelies in person and each time it gets better and better.  I can’t wait till the next outing.  Who knew that my new-found hobby/past-time would bring me such joy, not only in solitude, when sewing, but socially as well, through social media, the blogs and, the best part, in real life!!

And, look how happy we all are! 🙂

I leave you with Wonder Woman…

Da na na na na na na Wonder Woman!!

Da na na na na na na Wonder Woman!!

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Army Fatigue Jacket Made Cozy, Cozy, Cozy.

Army Fatigue Jacket Unzipped

Army Fatigue Coat Front Zipped and OpenThis month’s challenge for The Monthly Stitch was to sew something from a sewing book.  I have SO many sewing books, where to start?  Actually, I began with Gertie’s New Book For Better Sewing, and am at work on a project from it as well as a review.  Next, I also have the sewing book, Twinkle Sews and began work on a project from there, in addition to a review of the book.Army Fatigue Jacket Hands in Pockets

Sew Stylish Magazine Front and Back

Sew Stylish Magazine, Fall 2013

But then, the latest issue of Sew Stylish came out (Fall, 2013) and right on the back cover was a photo of an army fatigue jacket with the pattern and instructions included in the magazine.  So, since it is officially snowing here and I happened to be VERY cold at the time of purchase, I immediately went to work making the jacket out of a cozy wool blend, that feels soft, like a sweater blanket.

Army Fatigue Jacket Front and BackI opted not to add the inner drawstring channel and cord, since I thought it looked crisper and more tailored without it.Army Fatigue Jacket Front collar down"Model Pose"....or something....Work with me

“Model Pose”….or something….Work with me

I wanted to bind all the edges in the fuchsia pink, but this type of fabric has thick woolen threads weaved into it in order to create the flecks of colour and it raveled as the long threads separated from the raw edges almost immediately. Jacket Fabric and Separating ZipperSewing on the bias tape then resulted in many failed attempts as the threads pulled from the edges of the fabric, taking the bias tape with them.

Mah Bias Binding Matches Mah Mittens

Mah Bias Binding Matches Mah Mittens

But, I did manage to attach the bias binding to the edges that mattered, ie, the facing and hem, areas that you would see easily if the jacket were unzipped.  The remaining raw edges were over-locked.

Bam!  Fuchsia binding.

Bam! Fuchsia bias binding

The jacket has a long two-way separating zipper, (i.e., it can unzip from the bottom and the top) and deeeeeeeep patch pockets.

Warm, cozy, deep patch pockets

Warm, cozy, deep patch pockets

Some notes on enlarging pattern pieces:  First, number both the sides and top and bottom of the grid on each pattern piece.  Next, photocopy each pattern piece separately, then trim around the outside of the piece.

Fatigue Jacket Pattern PiecesThis way, when you go to enlarge the pieces and need to tape the multiple pages together, you can easily match the corresponding numbers on the top and sides of the grid.  You can also opt to copy the pieces either bigger or smaller than the intended size.  I photocopied mine so that each square was 6/8″ instead of the intended 1″ square, in order to shrink the overall size of the pattern.

Snow.  Wheeee!!!!

Snow. Wheeee!!!!

Snow WheeeeAre free magazine sewing patterns recommended?  It depends on what you are attempting to make.  Simple items, where little can go wrong are likely better than something with more complicated pieces.  Also, I don’t think the same amount of editing, thought and care goes into the instructions and pattern drafting for the free magazine patterns as there would be for independent or larger pattern company patterns, and therefore errors can definitely result.  For this jacket, one of the diagrams was wrong, causing me to insert the zipper backwards.  (I had to re-do the whole thing and it’s a 32″ zip!)  I also made my cape out of a free magazine pattern and found that the instructions to enlarge it were wrong.  I would recommend that you not be a complete beginner and have some sewing experience before you use one of the free magazine patterns.  That way, you can tell beforehand if/when there is an error and correct it.

Army Fatigue Jacket Unzipped

Hello Kitty!  In his sweater knit by Gramma.

Hello Kitty! In his sweater knit by Gramma.

Stay tuned for Blogpost Part 2, which I will post next week, where I will have, hopefully, completed the two projects from Gertie’s and Twinkle’s sewing books.  Edit:  Both completed and blogged here!

Kitty Photobombed

Sweater-Kitty Photo-bombed

That 70s Dress: Diane Von Furstenberg

Designer Diane von Furstenberg at Home

Diane Von Furstenberg looking like art. source: Corbis

The September Monthly Stitch vintage-challenge-badgechallenge was to sew something from Vintage Patterns.  I chose the iconic 70s dress maven Diane Von Furstenberg’s knit dress pattern from Vogue (V1547).  There was also a challenge called Fall For CottonFallForCotton200where you were to sew a vintage inspired pattern using only cotton fabrics.  So, I chose only cotton knits for both of the dresses. Diane Von Furstenberg Knit DressesIn the 1970s, Diane Von Furstenberg launched her signature versatile, easy-breezy wrap dress, that came to symbolize freedom and strength for a newly empowered generation of women.  It symbolized the New Woman, the then-revolutionary concept of competing in a man’s world while looking feminine.

Diane Von Fustenberg and Andy Warhol.  source:  Harper's Bazaar

Diane Von Fustenberg and Andy Warhol. source: Harper’s Bazaar

By 1976 she had sold over a million of her signature knit wrap dresses and landed on the cover of The Wall Street Journal and Newsweek, the latter dubbing her “the most marketable woman since Coco Chanel” (http://www.dvf.com/timeline-70s.html).

Von Furstenberg has been the president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America since 2006 and the year before was honored with their lifetime achievement award.  A 1970s DVF knit wrap dress is represented in New York’s Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

My mother, in the 1970s, used a DVF wrap dress Vogue pattern 1549, with collar and cuffs, to sew a dress for herself in a geometric black and white printed knit.

DVF 70s collared and cuffed knit wrap dress

My mum’s DVF knit wrap dress she sewed in the 1970s

Her version is almost identical to one DVF wore on the cover of Vogue Patterns magazine from 1976.

DFV on Vogue Patterns Magazine

DVF on the cover of Vogue Patterns, 1976

V1547 – Version B

For my short-sleeved belted version of the dress, I used ‘Germania’ by Jay McCarrol for FreeSpirit, Westminster Fibers brown geometric polka dot fabric.  It is a cotton knit that I purchased in the quilting section of a home decor fabric store.  And, after sewing the dress, I do wonder if this fabric is more suitable to quilts, blankets, etc. because I had a horrific time while sewing it.

DFV brown polka dot knit dress front and backTrying to unpick a stitch resulted in an almost immediate hole or would leave an obvious white spot from the needle holes since the back of the fabric is white and it also kept stretching completely out of shape.DVF brown polka dot knit dress Go Kitty (2)I could not get the overlocker to sew it properly, it kept jamming the machine, so I used a sewing machine.  But, using the triple stretch stitch or the knit stitch, the sleeve bands stretched 2 inches while I was sewing them on.  So, they do not lie flat and are not tight enough. When I tried a regular straight stitch, it would not hold together and slid back and forth on the thread as if gathering and then would break almost immediately.

Hello Kitty!

Hello Kitty!

I decided to wash the dress and put it in a hot dryer (even though I had already pre-shrunk) to see if it would help tighten up the fabric.  No, it did not.  But, what it did do was wrinkle like the dickens.  So, I had to iron every inch of my easy, breezy, simple knit dress.  Does this sound almost like blasphemy?  So, all in all, it did not turn out the way I had hoped, but it still works for a very casual, almost sweatshirt-like dress.  If anybody has any ideas about using this kind of fabric for fitted garments, or if indeed, it is not meant to be used for this purpose, please do share.

Reasons to Love the 70s.  Can You Think Of Any More?

Reasons to Love the 70s. Can You Think Of Any More?

V1547 – Version A

DVF blue knit dress front and backFor the long-sleeved version with the scarf tie, I used a four-way stretch cotton knit jersey.  I was nervous that it would be too stretchy and have even worse problems than the brown fabric, but it actually sewed up just fine and drapes really well.  It feels fabulous on, the fabric is very thin and silky with a heavy drape and ‘swishes’ nicely when I walk.

Oooooh, Swishy!

Oooooh, Swishy!

I am going to make a buckled belt for it out of the same fabric to offer up an alternative silhouette.  DVF blue knit dress front with scarf tie vintageThe scarf tie is perfect in this fabric, with such a heavy drape, it stays around the neck and being a thin fabric, folds easily and neatly into place.  DVF blue knit dress scarf tie (2)DVF knit wrap dress side with scarf tieAlthough you won’t be able to tell, I’m wearing Oscar de la Renta perfume, a classic fragrance that debuted in 1977.

DVF blue knit dress cat bombed polaroidWho Loves Kitty? DVF brown polka dot knit dress Who Loves Kitty (2)