Tuesday, April 5, 2011

V1C3 Using Scissors and Marking Wheel and More!

With all the different scissors out there it can be confusing to a new sewer as to what is actually needed.  Three basic scissors should be sufficient to make any garment.  There are left-handed versions as well as the standard right.  I suggest two different marking wheels to transfer pattern markings--one for wovens whose wheel is notched, one for knits in which the wheel is smooth.

For cutting your fabric a 8 to 10 inch pair of  bent-handeled dressmaker's shears will cover any job. Also a 5-6 inch pair of scissors can be best used to precision clip into curves and smaller areas. Pinking shears are used for finishing raw seam edges but one can forgo this pair if you have a serger or seam edge stitch on your sewing machine. Today, I often use a rotary cutter but such new-fangled items were not "invented" as of 1973.

Click to enlarge

Cutting straight lings: Open the shears wide and taking the fabric the entire length of the blade. Cut with one long steady closure for a smooth edge (No Snippy Choppy motions!  Just smooth and efficient shear).

If there is a pattern piece that is difficult to access to cut correctly, cut around pattern, leaving margin of fabric so you can handle it and do a better job with cutting it without a problem. See Picture of sleeve above.

For Curves:  open the scissors halfway and don't quite close them all the way while cutting to avoid jagged lines. Your goal is a smooth curve.

Right Angles:  Cut along one line, then remove scissores and approach other line to the point where the lines meet.  Do not swivel at the corners, you want a crisp true angle.

Clipping-- Use the 5 or 6 inch scissors and snip curves, small details and notches with the tips of the blades.  Don't open them all the way so you have better control over the depth of the cut.

Pinking-- Open shears wide and close smoothly along the unfinished edges of the seam.

click to enlarge.

Marking:  Utilize the marking wheels with the transfer paper.  Run a saw-tooth wheel over the pattern markings (the transfer paper is layered with transfer medium down on top of wrong side of top fabric under pattern paper and a sheet facing up on the wrong side of the bottom fabric-- the pattern paper on top of all.-- See image A)

Here is an image of a dart marked on the fabric:

Thread Traced Marking
I would not necessarily mark the button placement until trying on the garment and placing them where they fit me the best.

Using Pins instead of tracing wheel and transfer paper:

V1C3 Arranging Pattern on Fabric for Cutting Out.

Your have selected a pattern, you have made fitting alterations and your fabric decisions have been made, it is prepared and aligned, you know how to cut and mark the pattern pieces-- time to lay out the pattern on the fabric to cut the pattern pieces.  Don't forget to press the folds out of your pattern pieces first and make sure your fabric is not wrinkled.

In the majority of projects, you will fold the fabric in half lengthwise with selvedges on one side and fold on the other.    This works perfectly fine with solid fabrics and non-repeating prints.  The book recommends that the selvedges be pinned together at 1-2 inch intervals.  I don't think I would ever do that unless I was nervous about a shifty fabric. The fabric can be folded crosswise if the pattern pieces are too wide for the lengthwise layout. Be careful of directional prints with this option.  In some cases your pattern layout directions may require you to cut some items from doubled fabric and others from single thickness.

Plaids and repeating prints will require additional fabric to match them.

Every pattern has directions in which recommended layouts or cutting diagrams are pictured. You may follow this but you don't have to. You may decide a more thriftier layout for the fabric or in the event your fabric shrunk more than you expected and you have to less to work with.

The most important factor in laying out your pattern is making certain your pattern piece grainlines match the grainlines in the fabric.

The best way to ensure this is to measure from the grain line to the edge of the fabric so that the grain line is always the same distance to the edge from top to bottom.  Some may choose to extend their grainline on the their fabric from top to bottom by drawing it in with a ruler and pen.

Striped, large checked and plaid fabrics will need to be folded more carefully- the foldline should fall exactly halfway through a stripe or check and use pins through the top layer of fabric where the check lines intersect or stripe edges are --matching the bottom layer by folding the fabric back to check placement adjusting as you go.  Keep pinning throrughout until edges are pinned.

Take pattern pieces and pin those that need to be placed on the fold --aligned those on the fold and arrange the other pieces measure to the edge of fabric as described above.

Dress or shirt --To make the design match where the pattern pieces are supposed to be seemed together, make sure the numbered notches that will be matched up together when seamed lie on the same position relative to the checks or stripes in this order:  1.side seams, 2. armhole and sleeve seams, 3. Underarm seams. (see first square in illustration above).  You can number your notches to make it easier. Remember to always align the grainlines of the pattern to the fabric before securing with pins.  But remember, it is possible to be too matchy.

Label  side notches on all pieces "1".  Label the front  armscye and front part of shoulder cap "2".  Label the back armscye and back armscye "3".

On a skirt: label the side seam notches "1", the front waistband and the front top "2" and the back waistband and top of back of the skirt "3". Then place pattern on fabric, positioning those numbered notches in similar axis/to design.  See pic 2.

On a pair of pants:  Label the side seams "1", the inseam  notches "2" .  Cut the waistband on the bias so not to worry to make a match.  Pin pieces at notches, ensuring the grain is lined up for all pieces and the notches are at evens with their mates.  see pic 3.

Monday, April 4, 2011

V1C3: Tools for Precision Cutting

The tools for laying out, securing, cutting and marking have a rich heritage.  We take these tools for granted today as pins are now cut from a single piece of metal and are packed into boxes or thrust into crimped paper by robotic machinery.  Early pins were made by hand from brass or iron and the tops were crimped or bent at the top--  sounds crude but even these were considered a luxury.  That is where the terms "pin money" and the practice of picking up a stray pin as a thrift behavior and bringing good luck. Pincushions were popular and had many different names "pimpilowes, pimpilos, pimplos, pimploes or pyn-pillows."  These were lavishly embroidered, made in fanciful shapes, sewn by hand and even worn as ornaments.  During the reign of Elizabeth I, no lady of the court was found without their pincushions and the Queen herself was presented with one as a New Year's gift-- (a very elaborate embellished one for royalty, of course).  In the 18th century the "pin poppets", small hand wrought ivory cases and other such devices were popular and became heirlooms passed down from one generation to another.

Tape measures themselves were also kept in valuable ornamental housing made of wood, brass, bone ivory or mother of pearl with little inventive devices to wind the tape.  The tape measures themselves were ribbons with measures embroidered or inked upon them-- were not always standard and made of different lengths--they were not uniform.  It wasn't until the 19th century that a yard length became standard.  Measures were commonly subjective.  In Medieval England the lengths of fabric to purchase were measured with the length of an arrow until the 12th century in which a yard was length of the King's arm with the first joint of the thumb thrown in for good measure.  The King's foot was the foot measure of 12 inches or three barleycorns laid end to end.  This continued until the 16th century when the "ell" -- a 45 inch unit was developed.  An ell stick was marked with nails every 2.5 inches (a meteyard" which tape measure where then modeled on.  Eventually "standards" replaced the ell and were made from carefully prepared metals and kept in controlled environments to prevent degradation.  Once technology was developed, the standards were then measured and developed precisely based on light wavelengths.

Scissors also evolved from beautiful art objects to utilitarian efficiency.  Upper class people would keep the ornate craftsman-made scissors safely in special cases to protect them but the lower classes had basic iron scissors to use that did not cut well until steel making refinements in the late 19th century were developed.  Notched steel wheels also were developed for pattern tracing ("Harpers Copying Wheels"-1875) not much different from our marking tracers today that we use with carbon or chalk papers.  Of course a smooth wheel was developed for use with knits to prevent snagging the threads and causing runs.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

V1C3 Fabric Preparation

Aligning and Straightening the Material

From McCalls Step by Step Sewing Book. Copyright 1969, p51

Preparing the fabric for your project-- if you are following along, this is on pages 74 and 75.

If you fabric has not been preshrunk, you must prepare it before laying it out and cutting it.  If it is washable, wash and dry it. If it is not washable, have it dry cleaned.   I always wash my fabrics unless they are 100% polyester.   I wash flannel and denim multiple times as they tend to progressively shrink.  Wools --I have them steamed at the drycleaner's although you can preshrink at home with a steam iron.  Silks get drycleaned.  Linens are washed and pressed.   After washing it is necessary to straighten the grain as it could have been stretched on the bolt or stretched off grain in the washing process.  If it is not straightened before it is cut, the garment will be off grain and not hang properly, twisting or sagging.

Natural fibers are generally easier to cut on the true grain than synthetics and are easier to handle and adjust.  Synthetic/natural blends may be need increased time and effort to straighten.  

Find the crosswise grain line.

1. Iron the fabric on the wrong side and remove wrinkles and creases.

2. If your fabric is knit, go to #8.  If you fabric is woven, spread wrong side up on the table.  Snip into the selvedge (lengthwise edge), at a point where a single thread runs the entire width of the fabric.
Step 3, 4

3. Using a pin, snag a crosswise thread from the snipped edge.

4. Pull gently on the thread, easing it along as though you were gathering the fabric, it will look like a bunched up puckered line.

5. If the thread breaks, don't panic!  Just find the point of the break and pick it back up or grab the one next to it.  Continue pulling.

6.  Cut along the pulled thread from one side to the other.  That will be your crosswise grain. 

7. Repeat 1-6 on other side of fabric.

8.  If your fabric is a knit:  Line up an L-shaped square ruler along one crosswise edge of the square with the selvedge edge.
Step 8, 9

9.  With your fabric chalk, mark a line along the crosswise grain perpendicular to the selvedge edge up the side of the L square.

10.  Cut along the chalk line from one side to the other.

11.  Repeat 8-10 on the other side.

How to check the alignment on the crosswise and lengthwise sides.

12.  Fold the fabric in half lengthwise, wrong sides on the outside and match the selvedges.
Step 12 and 13

13.  Place the folded fabric on a rectangular or square table aligning the selvedges against one side of the table and the new crosswise edges against the other.  If the raw edges don't match evenly and the corners don't form a right angle, the fabric is off grain and needs to be straightened.

How to straighten your fabric:

14.  If your fabric is not washable, skip to #16.  Fold the fabric in loose pleats and immerse it for about an hour in a sink with water at the temperature recommended for washing this fabric.  At the end of the soaking period, gently squeeze out the water and lay the fabric out on a flat surface until it is almost dry.  --For best results, do not use your dryer.
Step 14, 15

15.  To straighten the damp material, begin by folding it so the selvedge falls horizontally as shown.  Grasp one corner and a point on the material as far along the diagonally opposite edge as you can reach.  Pull hard.  Repeat by sliding the hand at the corner down to the point of the original fold and again place the other hand as far along the opposite edge as you can reach.  Continue this process until you have stretched the entire piece.

16.  Fold the fabric in half lengthwise with wrong sides facing out and pin together the crosswise edges and the selveges at 5 inch intervals using rustproof pins.  As you pin, smooth the fabric toward the fold with your hands.
Step 16, 17

17.  Using a steam iron, begin to iron at the pinned selvage edges and move toward the fold.  Continue moving in parallel pathes until you have ironed the complete length of the material.

Drawings by Raymond Skibinski 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

V1C3 Heritage of the Weaver's Art

A little history about textiles:

     The first cloth, in prehistoric times was felted animal fibers.  It is unknown when the technology of woven fibers evolved.   There have been paintings discovered in 8,000 year old Egyptian tombs of nomads dressed in woven robes featuring geometric designs.   Even prior to that time cloth was loosely woven with fibers that had been crudely twisted together.  As need and innovation progressed, distaff and spindle developed to spin the fiber more evenly and uniformly; a loom was developed to hold warp thread so the woof thread could be drawn through.  Loom innovations continued with many different models creating more ease in the weaving so the work would be completed more efficiently.

     Weavers developed different weaves-- a plain weave, a twill weave, and a satin weave.  Plain weave is simply a the woof yarn woven over and under, twill is where the woof passes over two or more warp yarns before woven over and under and satin is where the warp is over a number of woof yarns before being passed through.  These weaves are still basic for fabrics in the natural fibers: cotton, wool, flax and silk as well as synthetics.

     The creation of fabrics before synthetics and in history was vital to a nations industry and trade.  In fact there were draconian laws passed to protect the process of production and sourcing.  In China it was death by torture to share the secret of silk making outside of the country.  In the Middle Ages, the penalty for smuggling wool out of England was exile and even the nobility were instructed as to how many garments they may own.   Regulations covered every step of manufacturing: standards of quality, conditions of sale, manner of use and guilds were highly policed.   In Flanders, sellers were not allowed to consult with potential buyers -- so much that their physical proximity or careless cough would be interpreted as communication.

     While the natural fibers have been in use for centuries, the advent of the 20th century saw the creation of synthetic fibers.  The first synthetic created was rayon in 1911.  This was made by weaving long filaments of cellulose molecules.  These are very smooth fibers and produced a very tight flowing lustrous weave much like silk which was very good for evening gowns and linings, but not much else until other processes were developed to provide a texture to the fibers.   One of the reasons for the popularity of synthetics is their easy care but may be more difficult to work with or to sew and do not breathe as well in warm weather.  The solution has been to make a blend of synthetic and natural fabrics to get the best of both worlds.

The designs: circles, squares and stripes:

Geometric shape and design of the fabric is the key to a classic style.   Patterns and repetitions of patterns can be seen-- the most common is the stripe and herringbone but there are many other shapes. Squares and stripes are most common in tailored looks while circles and waves, more fluid.  It seems a continuum of more tailored and very structured shape on one and and those with more ease and drape with the more round shapes such as paisley on the other and while one may mix them, they will land in between.   As designs are larger, they must be carefully matched --for example, plaids.  After choosing a shape or design, the next step is to choose fiber content and texture.  Personally, I choose first the fiber and texture and then choose a design when I am planning a project but I can see that when one is designing a garment, they may want to choose the design first.

Monday, March 7, 2011

V1C3 Adjustments for your measurements

In the previous post a number of charts were submitted that delineated the measurements patterns were drafted in different categories.  It is rare for anyone to fit one of these measurement sizes exactly. We are all snowflakes I suppose.  The below directions are for length and width adjustments for your patterns.  These are not comprehensive pattern changes, just basic changes before you sew your first practice garment or muslin.  Once basic length and width adjustments are made, any further alterations needed to tweak the pattern can more easily be determined and fitted.  One adjustment this chapter does not give is a full bust adjustment which I think is important and should be done as a width adjustment.

After you select your pattern based on bust size for dresses and shirts or hip size for pants, take a look at your pattern.

Check your measurements against those for the size your have chosen.

Do not just cut the fabric a little wider at the hips or add at the hem to lengthen.  By doing so, you may end up distorting the style lines of the garment.   Make your comparisons of your measurements vs the pattern's measurements on the basis of the numbers on the envelope, not by measuring the pattern as the pattern may have added ease for comfort and style.  The exceptions are the sleeve, hem and crotch lengths.

To make adjustments:
Materials:  clear ruler,measuring tape, french curve, pencil, scotch tape, additional tissue paper or graph paper, paper scissors.

First trim your patterns close to the cutting lines and press with warm dry iron (you may trace if multisized,-- in that case, press pattern sheet, write over your cutting line with a highlighter, trace and then cut close to cutting lines of traced pattern).

Start with your vertical adjustments, then go to horizontal ones.  You may need to lengthen the waist and shorten the hem or vice versa on your pattern.  Once the lengths are correct, move to the reducing or enlarging the pattern sections at width points.  The procedures are described below.

Mark your measurement changes on the pattern piece and then draw new cutting lines and stitching lines.

I find it best to lay out the extra tissue paper under the pattern I'm working on.  I think it comes from watching so many Sandra Betzina videos.

Length Adjustments to Pattern Sections:
To Lengthen a Pattern Section
Most patterns have adjustment lines drawn where to cut for lengthening or shortening.

Step 1:  Draw a line extending 2 inches on each side at right angle to the center of the adjustment line marked on your pattern.

Step 2: Cut along adjustment line.

Step 3.: Cut piece of tissue paper slightly wider than your pattern section and about 6 inches high.  Draw a vertical line through the center of this piece as in Step 1.

Step 4. Pin the tissue to one side of the cut pattern piece so the drawn vertical lines are matched up. Measure the  length adjustment and then pin the remaining pattern piece matching vertical line.  Tape and remove pins.

Step 5. Redraw or "true" cutting and stitch lines.  Trim extra tissue from side.

This is the basic operation for lengthening any pattern piece whether it be at the waistline, the lower portion of a garment (as for an A-Line dress/skirt or pants), lengthening at the crotch or a sleeve.

Waistline:  For a 1 piece dress, compare your back waist length with the pattern envelope. Determine the amount you need to lengthen.  Follow basic lengthening directions and do this for both front and back pattern pieces.  Then you may proceed to determine hem length.

Lengthening at the Crotch: Compare your crotch length measurement with your pattern's, measure along the side of the pattern from the waist seam allowance to a point opposite the bottom of the crotch seam allowance.  If your measurement is longer than the pattern's, you will have to lengthen the pattern at the crotch before you figure out your hem length. Divide the difference by 2 and use that figure to adjust each pattern piece. Use the adjustment line furnished by the pattern and follow Step 1-5.  Make sure to do this on both sides of the pattern. Or for better accuracy measure front crotch length and adjust and then measure back crotch length and adjust as most have front/back measure differently.

Lower Portion of a Garment:
Dress & Skirt:  Measure from your center front waistline of the garment against the length of the center front of the garment.  Make sure this is done after waist adjustment.

Pants:  Place a tissue paper under the pattern. Measure from your waist to hem at side seam.   Mark your pants length measurement on the side seam of the pattern piece-- it may come below the pattern (this is to be done after the crotch adjustment).  If your length is below the hem line, measure the difference. Follow Steps 1-5 to lengthen.

Lengthening the Sleeve:
Measure and compare your arm length measurement with the pattern piece measurement --measuring from the center of the seam allowance at the top of the sleeve to the hemline.  You will lengthen if your measurement is longer.  Follow Steps 1-5.

Shortening a Pattern Section:

Basic Shortening Steps:
1. Draw a horizontal line above the adjustment line marked on your pattern piece that is exactly equal to the amount the pattern section is to be shortened.

2. Fold the pattern so the adjustment line meets your drawn line.  Press flat with warm iron.  Tape.

3. Tape a paper extension to the side of your pattern and true the new cutting edge., Draw in a new stitch line. Trim.

Shorten at waistline: For a one-piece dress, compare your back-waist measurement with the measurement printed on the pattern envelope.  Determine the amount needed to shorten to equal your own measurements and follow the above directions steps 1-3 on both front and back pattern pieces.


Shorten at crotch:  Again, measure your crotch length and compare it with the pattern measurements. Divide the difference in 2.  Using the adjustment lines make the changes needed as described in steps 1-3 for both the front and back. Or for better accuracy measure front crotch length and adjust and then measure back crotch length and adjust as most have front/back measure differently.  This must be done before adjusting hem length.

Shortening the lower portion of a garment:
Dress/Skirt:  Measure from your waistline to desired hem length, mark the length on the pattern (add hem allowance).   Or shorten the pattern by the difference between you mark and the original hemline.  Follow steps 1-3.

Pants: Mark your pants length measurement on the side seam of the pattern piece, shorten using steps 1-3.  Do this after crotch adjustment.

Shortening a Sleeve:  Compare your arm length measurement as for the lengthening section -- to the pattern length from top of seam allowance of shoulder to the hemline.  Fold and extend the pattern as described in steps 1-3, redraw the cutting lines and trim.  This may need to be done with cuff pinned at seam allowances to determine lengths of cuffed sleeves so more than one pattern piece will need to be altered.

Width Adjustments To Pattern Sections
 Determining how to alter the width of a garment pattern piece one must consider there are 4 edges that will be altered in the simplest of patterns. Therefore, any difference in circumference will need to be divided into four to determine where to make increase or reduction to ensure balanced side seams.
This book or system uses a dot system in which you measure, mark and then using a french curve, redraw the lines meeting the dots.

Reducing a Pattern Section

Basic Steps:
1. At the point where you need to reduce your pattern piece, measure in from the stitching line, mark with pencil 1/4 of the total amount to be reduced on each side seam.

2. Draw a new stitching line using French Curve graduating the curve from the point of reduction to the original stitching line.

3. Add seam allowance and draw in cutting line.  Trim.

Small Bust Adjustment:  I wasn't sure if I could find a great SBA tutorial for you but I saw this one and it looks pretty good.  If you are a little confused as to the concept, look at the FBA tutorial and make the same lines only instead for spreading, you will do the opposite.  You can do this with the pattern piece pinned to your in front of the mirror. Use pins to fasten, then take down and tape the adjustments, true seams.
I recommend the Palmer-Pletsch book Fast Fit for Real People for really good directions for different types of bodices (princess seam, etc.).

Reducing at Waistline and/or Hipline:  For a one piece dress, skirt or pants: Compare your waist measurement and hip measurement with that printed on the pattern envelope.   Make your waist mark using 1/4 of the difference and also make your hip mark.  Follow steps 1-3 using French curve to draw in new seam line and cutting lines.  Repeat for back section.

Enlarging a Pattern Section
Basic Steps for Enlarging: 
1. Lay your pattern piece on a strip of paper cut to extend about 2 inches underneath the pattern and about 2 inches beyond the edge.  Tape or pin pattern to paper.

2. At the point where you need to enlarge your pattern piece, measure out from the stitching line and mark 1/4 of the total amount to be enlarged on each seam.  Measure as far into the seam allowance or paper as necessary.

3. Draw a new tapered stitching line from the point of enlargement into the original stitch line with a French curve, trueing the seam. Mark and trim the new cutting line.

Full Bust Adjustment --I could try to duplicate theses great directions but why when I can show off this great blogger?

Enlarging at the waistline and hipline.
For a one piece dress, skirt or pants, compare your measurements with the pattern envelope measurements and divide the difference by 4. Add that to the point on your pattern.  I like to also do the same with the hip to ensure correct fit as well as the under bust.  Using a French curve, true the seam lines, add the cutting lines and trim.  If it is just pants or skirt, no need to check underbust, just draw up to end of pattern and follow the steps 1-3.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Women's and Men's Pattern Sizing--It's more complicated than you think.

This is probably a pretty boring blog post as it consists of a bunch of charts.  But the charts are important when deciding on the category of pattern that you choose.  You will want to choose a category that best reflects your proportions.  If you must choose a pattern that is not in your category, the sizes in the respective chart can guide you well in making your alterations.  Please go by measurements when selecting a size. If you go by retail RTW sizes, the pattern will not fit, it will be too small.  Pattern companies have not been vanity sizing the last 40 years.
Men's and Women's circumference measuring points and some vertical measures.

From left to right: Junior/Teen, Women, Half-Size, Miss Petite, Junior, and Junior Peitite

Misses Sizing
Designed for the female American figure of average proportions. 5'5" to 5'6" tall without shoes.
Back Waist Length15.5”15.75”16”16.25”16.5”16.75”17”17.25”

Designed for figures 5'5" to 5'6" tall without shoes, with larger bust and hips than the Misses figure.
Back Waist Length17.25”17.36”17.5”17.63”17.75”17.88”18”

Miss Petite
Designed for figures 5'2" to 5'4" tall without shoes, with back-waist lengths shorter than Misses.
Back-waist length14.5”14.75”15”15.25”15.5”15.75”

Half Size
Designed for figures 5'2" to 5'3" without shoes. with short back-waist and large waist and hips.
Back-waist length15”15.25”15.5”15.75”15.88”16”16.13”16.25”

Designed for figures 5'4" to 5'5" tall without shoes, with high busts and short back-waist lengths.
Back-waist length15”15.25”15.5”15.75”16”16.25”

Junior Petite
Designed for figures 5'-5'1" tall without shoes, with high busts and very short back-waist lengths.
Back-waist length14”14.25”14.5”14.75”15”15.25”

Junior Teen
Designed for girls, 5'1" to 5'3" tall without shoes, the waist is large in proportion to the bust.
Back-waist length13.5”14”14.5”15”15.3815.75

Designed for the male American figure of average proportion, 5'10" tall without shoes.
Neck- band14”14.5”15”15.5”16”16.5”17”17.5”
Just an observation, it seems like only the men's chart makes any sense in relation to the size and the measurements...