In Which The Blockhead Makes A Block (aka Pattern Learnings for Smart-Making)

I’m baaaaaaack! I still haven’t taken my super scuba outfit on a test drive, but I plan to very soon. (It’s been “lapping flames of Hellfire” hot here lately, and if there’s one thing your intrepid blogger hates more than being cold, it’s being hot; bonus hate-points are awarded for being hot in head-to-toe polyester.) Thanks to everyone who left encouraging comments (aka told me I did NOT look like a total trollop in the skirt): your kind words have emboldened me to eventually leave the house looking super scuba fabulous! And now for something completely different…

I alluded to this briefly a couple of times, but I enrolled myself in another patternmaking class with Nina! Our last class was this week, and I’m excited to have a skirt and a bodice block to work from going forward. We started with the bodice in the first session, and oooooh boy…I STRUGGLED that first class.

Problem 1: It was excessively hot in the building. Having been told to wear something tight to class to ensure accurate measurements, I was clad in the eye-wateringly tight skirt of doom (yeah, that’s right: I actually wore that out of the house; to be fair to me, it was for science!!), a spaghetti strap tank top, a pair of tights, and a light sweater. This was too much body-con polyester and too many layers for the temperature of the building, and I removed the sweater–my one removable layer–immediately. As a result, I spent the rest of the evening feeling pretty self-conscious about how little I was wearing, and how tight ALL OF IT was. Problem 2: I did not have a partner for class. A couple of my fellow students signed up for class in conjunction with a sibling (awwww!) in order to be able to sew for that sibling and get a good fit. There ought to have been an odd number of us, and I was supposed to be paired up with someone who ended up not showing up. Nina had paired herself up with the other un-paired student prior to it becoming clear that the mystery student was not coming, which meant I spent a lot of time awkwardly waiting for her to come around to help me while simultaneously double-checking everyone else’s measurements. Problem 3: I am still a n00b at pattern drafting. The basic concepts took some time to sink in, and since drawing them out on the paper is a total DIY job and I’ve never done it before, I struggled and felt very UNconfident about what I was doing.

By the time we finished with the front bodice piece, the heat and math and drawing and confusion had gotten the better of all of us, and the back was a massive struggle. Due to the combination of Problems 1-3, mine was half-assed like you wouldn’t believe (well, if you’ve read here for a while, you might very well believe it!) and I didn’t feel great about how the muslin of it would sew up. The measurements seemed garbled and I had no idea how close it would be to my actual body. I knew the armhole would be FUBAR, as did Nina, but we were all totally over it by the time 9:30 came around so I just took home the pieces I had and went with it. Some crazy how, I have ended up with an excellent-fitting bodice! Some crazier how, the first iteration actually wasn’t very far off; most subsequent passes at the bodice have been little tweaks here and there as opposed to major overhauls.

Bodice block, version 1.0

Bodice block, version 1.0

Bodice block, final

Bodice block, final; note the decreased size of the front waist dart and the better armhole

I did learn something funny/sad about my bust at class: my bust apex is actually closer to my waist than to my shoulders. :-( I have no tits!!!! HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE??!?!?!?* Grr. (*For the record, I know it’s totally possible to have a low bust point and be small-chested. I’m just bitter!) Fortunately, the skirt was so much easier than the bodice when it came to from-scratch drafting! And, you know, no morale-crushing surprises were revealed re: my proportions in that area, so you know, maybe that colored my opinion…

First attempt at the skirt block (aka a rectangle)

First attempt at the skirt block (aka a rectangle)

Final skirt pattern--much better!

Final skirt pattern–much better!

Despite the relative ease vs the bodice draft, the skirt waist was way off when I sewed up my first muslin. The biggest issue was that the center darts on the skirt weren’t lining up with the waist darts on the bodice piece. After tweaking the dart positions, I made a second version; that would have been great, except that I forgot to think about the waist measurement issue beforehand. I decided to see how close the two pieces were to fitting together and realized there was NO WAY they’d fit. To get the bodice and skirt sewn together, I just took in the needed extra width at the skirt side seams and marked up the muslin so I would know what to adjust on the flat. Here is the whole shebang together:

Fitting shell front view

Fitting shell front view

And from the side

And from the side

And the back

And the back, complete with sloppy-ass zipper insertion

The shell has seam allowance on each armhole, but not at the neck or hem. I need to take a wedge out of the CF neck and adjust the position of the side seams between my bust and hip (and transfer these adjustments to my flat pattern pieces), but apart from that it’s basically done! My zipper insertion is pretty grotesque–I just really wanted to see how everything fit–and is causing some of those ripples at the back. I used a 22″ invisible zipper ca. 1971 because it was the closest thing I had to being long enough. With respect to the fit, I wanted as little ease in the bodice as I could get away with–I wanted that part to reflect my actual body, in part so that I could use stretch knits or wovens without having to worry about excess ease or bagginess. I’d rather add ease than subtract it, basically. :-) And to be frank, my figure is pretty uneventful in terms of curves–my waist is really the only thing I’ve got going for me there, so if I make something fitted, I want to make sure it gets showcased to maximum effect. Although Tom did capture a really hilarious and awesome photo of me on our way out to take these photos, and it sure provides a nice optical illusion:

This is a lie. A nice, curvy lie....

This is a lie. A nice, curvy lie….

(Seriously, isn’t that amazing and disturbing?? I promise my ass is not nearly that impressive in real life, and I have no idea how Tom managed to capture that illusion on camera…)

I really want the core concepts of block drafting to sink in, because it will help me sew better not just for myself, but for anyone else I choose to sew for in the future. I kept the worksheets in case I ever need to draw stuff out again, but hopefully I can work from my block for any womenswear tasks. Nina gave all of us sheets of oaktag so that we can transfer our patterns, and once I make the adjustments needed to my flat paper pieces, that is what I will do.

Do any of you have blocks that you rely on for fitting or designing? Have you ever self-drafted?

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Spankin’ New Springtime Set (aka Jumping On The Scuba Bandwagon)

Hello, one and all!

I am pleased to inform the general internet population that I, Mads, have completed my first-ever item(s) in a scuba/neoprene knit! That alone probably makes this my trendiest sewing project ever. Shall we?

2-piece scuba set!

2-piece scuba set! Part Inari Crop Tee, part Shadi Knit Skirt

Bam, skin-tight skirt!

Bam, skin-tight skirt!

A shockingly good photo

A shockingly good photo

Peekaboo!!

Peekaboo!!

Isn’t it pretty????? This 2-piece set is brought to you by the Inari Crop Tee and Shadi Knit Skirt, both by Named Clothing. Apart from the same shoulder adjustment I made for my Inari dress, I also lengthened this top to account for my long torso. Well, actually, I cheated by using the pattern nesting to my advantage: the shoulders of the larger size (you get 2 sizes per PDF file with Named; I used the US 0/2 pair) are nested up higher, which means that the line for the hem of the smaller size ends up being lower on the page than that of the larger size. I just started at the top of the shoulders for the size 2 and followed the size 0 lines the rest of the way down. Doing that gave me just enough extra length to cover my midriff, provided I wear a bottom piece that comes up to my natural waist. Huzzah for work-appropriate crop tops!! One caveat: I did not take the 2″ hem allowance the pattern calls for–I did 1″ instead. I also cheated by abandoning the band finish recommended for necklines in stretchy fabrics and just turned and stitched it. (Incidentally, this is why my neckline looks a LOT different than the white knit sample on the Named site.)

Can we talk about the fabric for a minute? It’s SOOOOOOO beautiful. I really don’t think the photos can do it justice. If I could wallpaper a room in my house with this print, I would do it! And to me, the color palette is as quintessentially “SPRING” as it gets: bright magenta pink, deep mint green, a splash of cobalt blue, some white, and plenty of gray. And I was thrilled to realize that I had the perfect shade of obnoxious magenta lipstick to wear for my photos, as one does. :-)

As mentioned previously, this was my first-ever attempt at using a scuba/neoprene knit. This stuff seems to be everywhere right now–RTW, runway, and the sewing world at-large–and I’ve been wanting to try it. Now that I’ve been there, done that, I can say that I understand the appeal. This length of beautiousness is probably on the lighter side of the scuba spectrum, but it’s definitely still heftier than any jersey I’ve ever met. I had tried to mentally prepare myself for the, er, “unique” tactile experience that I’d read reports of online, but I was still surprised by the feel of this material. It almost feels…melty? Sticky? Gooey? Like, if fabric could simultaneously feel like fabric with top-notes of melted taffy, it would be this stuff. Even Tom was mesmerized by its strange properties, and I had to cut off a small scrap to give to him so that he would stop fondling and petting the pieces I needed to work with for my outfit, lest he create a pull or snag on one of the important bits! (Thanks to the lovely Ms. Red at Sew RED-y, I knew snagging was a risk with this material–thanks, girl!) The fabric was SO easy to cut and sew (even without a serger), but pressing was dodgy due to the synthetic nature of the material; I turned my iron to the “Barely On” temperature setting and gave seams a quick press that way, but mostly I stuck to using the iron unplugged for applying pressure only. I need to do the armhole seams with a little warmth though–they’re still not laying quite right! And despite the strange hand-feel of the fabric, it was not unpleasant to wear (though I reserve the right to alter that opinion if I wear any of this outfit in truly hot weather). Even Mulder likes this fabric:

My face says,

My face says, “I love you, but don’t you dare snag my new outfit!”

Truth time: I don’t totally love this outfit, and I have not worn it yet apart from these photos. BUT, I suppose I do know what bothers me about it: I just am not 100% confident in it because of how body-con the skirt is. :-( And I think the root of that disappointment lies in my previous experience with the Shadi–yes, I’ve made the pattern before and understand the shape of it, but since I badly mis-cut that first iteration, I assumed (LOL) that a correctly-cut version would not be as revealing or blush-inducing. I was clearly wrong. So now I have this skirt that I love in theory (THAT PRINT THO) but not so much in practice. I knew I was in trouble when I got the waistband done, tried it on, and then never hemmed it. In “The ‘Mads’ House,” that’s a bad sign. Maybe I will feel better once I finish it, or find a magical undergarment of some sort. And, you know, figure out how in the hell to wear the skirt so that I don’t look and feel like I’m a big Mads sausage crammed into a very pretty casing. :-/ Tom tried to make me feel better by pointing out that my skinny jeans actually reveal more, uh, “details” about my lower half than this skirt does, but for some reason I feel so weird and vulgar in the skirt. (Not that tight clothes are inherently vulgar–I absolutely do not think that is true. I just *personally* struggle to feel comfortable in something this tight, for some reason.) Do any of you have suggestions or words of wisdom??

So what’s the word out there: have any of you sewn with a scuba/neoprene knit before? On a related note, I have some of this fabric left–what should I make with it?? It’s probably enough for a top or a skirt, but I can’t decide!

I will leave you now with two “action shots” of my new outfit, plus my supply list at the bottom. Thanks for tuning in!

Oh, you know, just jumping off of stuff, NBD...

Oh, you know, just jumping off of stuff, NBD…

Spinning in circles

Spinning in circles

Scuba 2-Piece supplies:

  • 2 yards of scuba knit from Gorgeous Fabrics
  • Inari Tee Dress and Shadi Knit Skirt patterns from Named Clothing
  • Guttermann all-purpose polyester thread in grey
  • 80/12 jersey needle
  • 1″ elastic for skirt waist

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An Inari for Spring! (aka Is This B*tch Out of Ikat Yet?!?)

(The answer is yes, except for some rather small scraps, so breathe a sigh of relief!)

Happy Monday! Somehow, I managed to finish my Inari Tee Dress exactly when I expected to–crazy, right?!? I’m really excited for you all to see my shiny new dress, so let’s get to it:

Inari Tee Dress in ikat

Inari Tee Dress in ikat

Front view + Mulder

Front view + Mulder

Side view, because THAT SPLIT HEM, THO.

Side view, because THAT SPLIT HEM, THO.

*insert witty caption here*

*insert witty caption here*

WTF?

WTF?

If I can sits, it fits

If I can sits, it fits

Sorry about the weird drag happening in the back view photo–that’s what I get for not standing straight in photos! For the record, I AM STOKED ON THIS DRESS. I love it. I adore the cocoon-ish shape and interesting hem detail, and my inner greaser wishes I smoked so I could cram a spare cigarette or three in those sleeve cuffs! I totally bit off part of the styling from the Named site for the dress’s debut outing (and subsequent photos)–I bought sheer knee-socks a few years ago when they came back in style, and loved the idea of them with this dress after seeing the styled photos of the Named sample. That being said, one thing I still cannot get behind is tights or hose or socks with open-toed shoes; these booties were my first choice and I could not be happier with how the entire thing came together. My only regret is that I cannot get away with wearing it to the office like this (big split hem + knee socks + heels = scandal in a corporate environment), but that’s why I have an entire arsenal of cute, mod-ish flats, including a pair in the perfect shade of yellow! :-D

Hopefully these photos show exactly how many elements I had to deal with when thinking about how to lay and cut out my pieces–shit got weird reallllll quick. See, apart from not being able to exactly center the pattern the way I wanted it (“arrows” pointing up and down instead of side to side, both to maximize usage of all colors and design elements and to elongate rather than widen my silhouette), I *also* needed to be cognizant of the potential for those diamond/arrow motifs sitting too low over my chest and giving the dress a very artistic “droopy, fried-egg-on-a-nail boobs” impression. (Go ahead: I dare you to un-see that now!) I managed to avoid that, thank goodness!! And my sleeves match each other pretty closely. I really wanted the black portion of the diamond motif to point downward rather than up, and to have my hem stop below the point–another “check” for my pattern placement list on this dress! (Can you see why I had so much trouble with the layout? I had a lot of arbitrary “musts” for how the pattern fell on the final garment, apparently!) On top of all of that, there were a few flaws in the weave of the material–they look like ladders in tights, but they aren’t tears or holes–which, although probably common in ikat (and therefore not truly considered a flaw), I did NOT want one of those front and center. So after working around all of that, I am very happy with the final dress! Motif placement struggles aside, the fabric and pattern combination really came together beautifully. This ikat is lighter than the other length I had, so it’s just drapey enough to feel nice while still having the body to hold the shape of the cocoon and angular splits on its own.

Construction-wise, this dress was pretty easy. Hooray!! I made zero fitting adjustments apart from copying the width of the shoulders from my Scout pattern to make sure I had enough room. (Concerning the length, Named drafts on a base height of 5’8″; if my doctor is to be believed, I am about 1/2″ to 1″ taller than that, but my legs also aren’t super long. Hopefully that provides a bit of a reference for anyone considering making this.) This was my second time making a Named Clothing pattern, but this one was obviously more involved than my Shadi knit skirt. The trickiest part was successfully sewing the splits at the hem, simply because my fabric is not stretchy and the maneuvering required under the needle is difficult on such a small hem circumference with no elasticity and those sharp corners. I also insisted on having my needle thread on the outside of the dress, which undoubtedly added to my difficulties (i.e., a whole lot of dress bunched up to the right of my needle). But I did it, and I think the splits and hem look really good:

Split hem: Outside

Split hem: Outside

Split hem: Inside

Split hem: Inside

The line drawing is very accurate as well, both in terms of the silhouette and the wrapping of the side seams to the front of the dress toward the hemline. The instructions were adequate and sensible, although I was confused by the technique used to begin sewing the splits. After sewing the side seams from the underarm up to the start of the split, the directions have you turn the hem allowance to the right side and sew the edge (at the splits) for the width of the hem allowance. (So if we imagine the side seam running all the way to the bottom raw edge of the dress, you’re basically sewing the hem’s width of that side seam and then stopping.) Then you turn that sewn corner (mine look SPECTACULAR thanks to my bone folder, FYI–get one if you can/want!) back to the inside, press well along the hem AND the open parts of the side seams that will create the splits (so basically, press those unsewn seam allowances under), and then in one swoop, sew the hem and splits, catching those pressed SA’s along the splits and hem. Turning the hem to the front and sewing any part of it made me side-eye this whole thing at first, but after practicing on a scrap, it all made sense. That technique also results in a nice clean finish on those corners, which could get sloppy and bulky really easily otherwise!

I have now worn this dress two days in a row, which probably sounds gross, but the first day was only for 4 hours so whatever. :-) It’s really comfortable, but obviously does not lend itself to extreme acrobatics or curling up in a fetal position to take a nap in the front seat of your car. Proportionally speaking, I think my hips are a little wider than Named’s base draft for my size, but not so much that I need an adjustment there with this pattern. I have already formulated a devilish plan to make the crop top variation to wear with version 2.0 of the Shadi skirt pattern, so I’ll be starting on that this week.

That about does it for me and this dress, but how about some Mads & Mulder outtakes??

"Do I have pizza stuck in my teeth?"

“Do I have pizza stuck in my teeth?”

Headpats for puppy!

Headpats for puppy!

SURPRISE FACE KISSES!!!

SURPRISE FACE KISSES!!!

Face of ferocity

Beast mode: Activated

Happy and tired and perfect

Happy and tired and perfect

If you’re still with me, thank you for visiting and checking out this post! Hopefully I’ll be back soon to share progress from my basic block pattern class–our second class is tomorrow and I still need to do my homework from last week! O_o

(Oh, and below is my supply list for the Inari dress.)
  • 2 yards genuine ikat from Michael Levine
  • Several yards of Hug Snug seam binding (100yd roll from Fabric.com)
  • Bone folder for turning points (I got mine on Amazon)
  • Gray Gutterman all-purpose polyester thread
  • 80/12 Universal needle
  • Small handsewing needle (for securing cuffs and tacking facing at shoulder seams)
  • Inari Tee Dress pattern from Named Clothing

 

**Disclaimer: I feel like this is really obvious, but I want to be clear that I am not affiliated with or compensated by any site that I link to for tools, fabric, or patterns, etc. I’m just sharing what I used and liked because I appreciate it when other people share that kind of information just because they had a good experience and want to give others a good resource. It also helps me if, in the future, I forget where I got “that thing that time,” which is sadly likely. =) **

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