Making the grade

Most of my posts have been focusing on designing fabric.  I also am working on designing sewing patterns.  One of the first patterns I designed was my zig-zag dress.

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I started with a sketch, draped the dress, and converted it to a paper pattern.  Once I made up my first version of the dress, I was in love.

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The pattern was easy to make and flattering to most figures.  I decided to use it for my first Renelope pattern.  I digitized my original pattern and began the instructions. There are a lot of  steps involved in creating a pattern!  I made another version in a silk charmeuse during the process.

Then I started grading the pattern.  This took an number of tries because of the diagonal pattern pieces.  I probably created well over 10 versions until I got one where all sizes lined up correctly.  I created some half-size pattern models to true the pattern once it was graded.

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Once I had a good working copy, I asked a number of members of the Haute Couture Club of Chicago to test the pattern for me.  Each of them made up the pattern in a different size. Their feedback has been very helpful in tweaking the design.

zig-zags

It’s exciting to see how how the pattern has been used to create so many different looks.    I made another version with fabric painting, sequins and beads.  Here’s a version by Susan Gerbosi with a dramatic lace overlay on the waist panel.  I love the version Antoinette Eugene is working on using the Alabama Chanin technique.  Mary Kay Blaschke used two versions of the same print and added a back coral trim at the neckline.

I have created a pdf version of the pattern and a printed version.  The printed version includes all sizes and is printed in color.  The pdf version can be printed in black and white and either taped together or taken to a copy shop.

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I’m also working to complete the instructions for my wide-leg jeans and puffball blouse patterns .   I hope to have both patterns available for sale shortly.

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A peek inside Venice Carnival

Earlier this month the annual Carnival of Venice (Carnevale di Venezia) was  held in Venice, Italy.  The festival is world-famed for its elaborate masks.  I had wanted to create an easy pull on skirt using paintings of Venice.  The advent of carnival season got me thinking about creating a reversible skirt with a landscape (or canal-scape) on one side and a scene of revelers celebrating carnival on the inside.  I liked the idea of two skirts in one.

venice-1-orig carnivale-1`-origI started with two paintings that showed both a city scene and people celebrating.  I then manipulated the paintings so that they used the same color scheme and added some artistic effects.

venice-1-fabriccarnivale-1fabricThe next step was to create a simple pull-on skirt pattern and lay out the pieces on the painting.  I manipulated the artwork so that the picture wrapped seamlessly around the skirt.  I love the idea of printing my fabric so that I don’t have to figure out how to match the design.

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I had the designs printed in Sport Lycra at Spoonflower.

venice-skirts-1-0-01The next step was to cut them out and sew.  Even though the design was matched in printing, the stretch fabric still took a little finessing to match perfectly.  I tacked the interior seams together by hand.  This took a number of tries to assure the side seams hung straight.

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I had originally thought to use a hidden elastic waistband and made my first skirt using that technique.   My first try did not turn out very well and I needed to rip out 3 seams of triple stretch stitch before I could redo it.  The hazards of working with lycra! Once I finished, the waist seemed rather bulky so my next attempt had an exposed waistband.

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I think that worked better.  I added a label at the center back to help designate front from back.

label-closeupI’m now working on a third skirt for my sister using yet another print.

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Warming it up with knits

It’s been cold in Chicago!  A cozy sweater would be nice. Unfortunately, my knitting skills are not up to the task so I thought I would take this time to look at some knit fabric options from Spoonflower.  I’ve been creating a few new fabric designs and some patterns for knits lately.  I’m wondering how each of these fabrics handles.

graffiti-gabricFirst, I had my Graffiti design  printed on Performance Knit.  I designed a simple boat neck top.  Unfortunately, I had a slight gap in my print and needed to cut judiciously in order to hide it.

pipingseamI created a yoke and added piping where the pattern gaped.  The rest of the top was seamed.

graffitiI’m not sure I really like the fabric.  It only has minimal one-way stretch and feels very plastic-like.  The top is kinda cute but I was limited in my design options by the flaw in the fabric and because I only bought one yard.

V1406Next I printed my Factory Puffball design on their Modern Jersey.  This time I had two yards printed because I wanted to make a top loosely based on Vogue V1406.  This is a dress pattern made for woven fabrics so I needed to make a few changes so it would work with the knit.  The fabric is very soft and comfy. There is a lot of horizontal stretch and a little bit of vertical stretch.  I created a facing and interfaced it to give the neck some body.  I also needed to add some bias stay tape along the neckline to get a sharp edge.

biasfacingI’m pretty happy with how this came out.  The biggest hurdle was adjusting my cover-stitch machine to work well with the fabric.

puffbalMy final adventure involved printing Streetcar Pinwheel on Sport Lycra.  I’ve been working on a reversible stretch pencil skirt pattern and used this as a mock-up.  I slightly reduced the image size in order to fit the entire image on the length of the skirt.  I only needed one yard of fabric for the skirt.

streetcar small-streetcarIn this test, I lined the skirt rather than making a reversible version but used the same sewing techniques.  It’s a slim pull-on stretch skirt that I think will be very versatile.  I like the fabric for this skirt.  It has a 4-way stretch but enough body to sew well.

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I’m finishing the designs for the reversible skirts now and will be making samples next month.  I’m planning on using historic art prints of cities and people.  Here’s a taste.

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Wrapping it up for the holidays

The Holiday rush is over and I’m still wrapping up my December projects.  I’ve been working on sewing up the Cut ‘n Sew skirts I created.  It’s been a lot of fun but really time consuming.  The first thing I discovered was that the fabric I suggested (organic cotton knit from Spoonflower) shrunk a bit when I washed it.  I needed to quickly make the pattern about 5% larger to compensate.  The fabric is a little thicker than traditionally used for this technique, but I like it.  I also created a stand-alone version of each print.

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I started making up the bird print skirt.  First, I lay out the fabric pieces and cut the largest size.  If you measure the difference between sizes, you will see that it is either 1/4″ or 3/8″.  I decided to start with the largest size and adjust later.  I pinned the layers together and started stitching. I used embroidery thread for this skirt.

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The background print I choose did not have enough color variation so the fabric I received was a solid grey. Since the cut-away inside the bird silhouette was rather large, I thought something else was needed; so I added some sequins!

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Once both panels were done, I trimmed off the excess fabric and fit the skirt.  I’m happy to say that my sizing was good and I cut off enough to make the medium size skirt.  After sewing the skirt together, I stitched the seam down with the embroidery thread.

birds-cuttingOnce I had the skirt together, I added beads to the wires.  Along with the sequins, this adds a nice bit to shine to the skirt.

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I finished off the skirt by using fold-over elastic for the waistband.  I joined the elastic at the center back so that I had a reference point when wearing the skirt.  I really love the skirt.  It looks a fabulous with my blue suede boots!

 

I am now working on the leaf print skirt.  It seems to be taking a lot longer.  Not as much bling but I think it’s a really cute skirt.

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Cut ‘n Sew – My First Pattern

A couple of months ago I took a workshop from a member of the Haute Couture Club of Chicago on how to create fabric (and garments) using the Alabama Chanin® technique.  They sell wonderful stencils to use in the process and many people make their own.  Here’s a close-up of the technique.  Isn’t it gorgeous?  It uses two layers of organic cotton knit and is entirely done by hand.

1348087287-alabama_chanin_3_Alabama-Studio-Sewing-Design-bookEarlier in the day I had presented to the club on how to make your own fabric and one of the members suggested that I could design fabric with a stencil printed on it.  I loved the idea! But being the pattern nut that I am I decided to take it one step further and include prints.  I started off by designing a print for autumn and a couple of complimentary pieces for the back layer.

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I also wanted to create a print that used birds and a cityscape.  I think that the wires should be done in sequins or beads.  I made a couple of background fabrics to work with this design as well but I also think it works well as a stand-alone fabric.

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Then came the bigger idea.  I decided to print the fabric in a cut ‘n sew skirt pattern.  I designed a simple skirt pattern, graded it to multiple sizes, and wrote some quick instructions.  I’m going to lay everything out on a yard of fabric so that you can get a complete skirt ready to go.  Here’s how it turned out.

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Both designs will be available in my Spoonflower store along with the contrast fabric soon.  I’m going to order mine now so that I can make a new skirt for the holidays!

I take the plunge!

This summer I experimented with scuba fabric and neoprene.  I wanted to see what the fuss was all about.  I’m not sure that I’m a fan.  This may be because I selected patterns that did not really lend themselves to the fabric.  My first try was an absolutely beautiful flocked black scuba fabric that I found at Joann Fabrics.  Yes Joann’s!  It was relatively expensive for them at $19.95 a yard, but lovely.  I designed a simple shift dress with a square neckline and armholes. scubaI was also taken by the digital print neoprene at Mood.  I ordered two pieces.  This fabric is much thinner than the scuba fabric I used and had a nice drape.

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I also wanted to try using a Burda Magazine pattern and selected a couple to try with the scuba fabric.  The first dress I made was huge!  I wasn’t sure how the pattern ran and had to really take it in.  The instructions were also very confusing  I sewed the back together wrong and had to re-cut the dress with a waistband to save it.  Unfortunately, I did not like working with the fabric. It did not sew well.  I finally used a triple stretch stitch which is extremely difficult to remove if you make a mistake.  I’m not sure that I will wear the dress much.

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My next effort was with another Burda Magazine pattern.  When I printed the pattern it seemed a little small so I used 5/8″ seam allowances to cut but sewed it with 1/2″ seams.  The dress fit perfectly.  I’m not sure why the two patterns fit so differently.  For this dress, I think the neoprene worked better but since I used piping, I still needed to finish all edges.  I was also able to use a straight stitch on this dress because most of the seams were vertical.  This is one I will wear. I think I prefer the heavier weight scuba to the lighter neoprene.  I’m thinking that it may work well for an evening look.

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The next plunge was to create a presentation on designing fabric for the Haute Couture Club of Chicago.  The fashion show next year features a segment on custom designed fabric and the members wanted to learn how to do it.  This was the first time I have presented on fabric design and I wanted to really give the audience the feeling that they could do it themselves.  I really enjoyed the process.

presentationHere’s a link to a movie of the presentation.    It’s a little long, I hope it inspires you.

 

How does your garden grow?

Every summer I enjoy the flowers on my deck when the weather is warm. This year I was also inspired to create some summer floral fabric.  I was looking through the new Vogue patterns and was immediately attracted to two of them.  The first was Vogue 1446 which I envisioned in a floral print in soothing summer colors.  I was inspired by the cool feeling of Monet’s water lily paintings.

inspiration Vogue 1446I quickly began creating the fabric.  I like my fabric design to be multi-layered so I began with a background design of clovers.  I then worked with a couple of floral photos to create cascading flowers.  I decided that the look was too bare so added some butterflies. to the design.  Then I noticed that the pattern called for a contrast fabric – I removed the flowers to create a contrast of the background print.  I had the fabric printed on kona cotton by DPI.  It was wonderful to work with.

floral-fantasy-background-0 floral-fantasy-01Making the dress was a challenge all it’s own.  Take a look at my Pattern Review write-up to discover all the pain this dress caused me.

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The second dress that caught my eye was Vogue 1423.  I immediately pictured a border print with poppies.  I started with a background made of swirls that I decomposed and gradually increased spread out.  Then I created a field of poppies across the heavy swirled background.  Once I had the fabric laid out, my husband told me it was a little disjointed to his eye.  I played with the poppies and transformed them into squiggles that worked well with the swirl background.

Vogue 1423

I had the fabric printed on cotton-linen by DPI.  The first time around they did not understand that I wanted a border print and printed the design vertically.  Luckily they were able to quickly reprint and I got the fabric I wanted.  I also learned that black is not the best choice.  Even with heat setting the fabric, the black still rubbed off when handling.  When I washed the fabric, the color faded slightly.  The kona cotton did not fade at all.

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Initial design
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Final design

I cut the dress with the border at the hem and also used a portion of the border to cut the yoke.  I then beaded the yoke because I’m a sucker for beads. Click here for a closer look at the project.

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I really like the way the dress fits. Now I am really ready for summer.

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Through the Looking-Glass

In my last post I mentioned that I was working on garments for the Haute Couture Club of Chicago’s annual fashion show.  The show was held at the Fountain Blue in Des Plaines, IL in May and was a great success.  I showed a number of the garments I worked on over the past year.  Here’s what I entered.

Two dresses made from Chinese silk that I wrote about in my last post.  Here are the details on making the dresses.

My 1950’s vintage dress from pomegranate inspired fabrics.  I serged the edges of my crinoline with lime green thread to match the dress.

My fun camel dress made another appearance.  You can see more about making the dress here.

I entered a new version of my Photo-Op dress made up in a fabric featuring barbed wire and cherry blossoms.  I’m currently working on another dress from this fabric.  I also donated some fabric with this design to the silent auction.  I can’t wait to see what is made from it.

I made this great maxi dress from a piece of Missoni pima cotton knit.  The dress is partially lined and open at the sides.  It’s super comfy and fun to wear.

Finally I showed a jacket made from a piece of boiled wool I won from Elliott Berman Fabrics that has leather sleeves and trim.  I also made the black jeans.

 

I made a maxi dress out of a piece of Roberto Cavalli fabric I purchased on eBay to wear to the luncheon while I was not walking the runway.  I lined the dress with a wonderful heavy-weight silk crepe.  I used a vintage pattern without any changes. I felt wonderful wearing it.  It was a fabulous show and I’m looking forward to next year.

Everything’s coming up roses