Thursday, June 25, 2015

S-L-O-W-L-Y Starting the Skirt Project, Research and Discovery Phase

Making A Start: The Package Is Opened!
Ten days ago, I announced my plans to make myself a skirt.  See how much I have accomplished so far?  I actually bought my cotton voile print skirt fabric, solid navy cotton voile lining fabric, invisible zipper, thread, and twill tape over a month ago.  Then I spent several weeks procrastinating researching and agonizing over:

1. Whether and how to prewash my fabrics
2. What kind of interfacing to use for the waistband of the skirt 
3. What size should I cut out

I know my mom is going to laugh when she reads this.  She would have started cutting and sewing immediately and finished the skirt in a day.  I, on the other hand, need to research, ponder, mull, consult the Internet, and only THEN can I proceed.  Since I have only ever made one garment that ended up wearable (and I was disappointed with the fit), I started by purchasing a new book to teach me the basics.  I picked the Threads Magazine Sewing Guide because, having subscribed to Threads in the past, I know that Threads is all about garment sewing as an art form, with the goal of achieving couture quality garments with the best fit possible.  The frustrating thing about trying to learn to sew from a monthly magazine is that each issue has a random assortment of articles that never seem to mesh with the project I have in mind.  So, for instance, I have studied articles on how to contour princess seams, underlining with silk organza, and how to do a hand-picked zipper from reading Threads magazine, but I don't know what to do first when I open a new pattern.  The Threads Sewing Guide seems to be a compilation of articles from the magazine, but arranged logically so that a beginner like me can start reading at the beginning and know what to do.

The Skirt Pattern: New Look 6708
At this point I should probably explain that my goal for this project is not to have another skirt in my closet.  I already have a bunch of skirts in my closet, and if I really needed another one I could go to the store and buy one faster and probably for less money than it will cost me to make this one myself: $5 pattern, $45 for 3 yds of floral print fabric, $1.50 zipper, $1.30 twill tape, $3.35 thread, $17.25 for 3 yards of lining fabric, and $4.30 for an 8-yard bolt of fusible interfacing that I got with a 50% off coupon...  It is costing me about $78 to make this skirt.  Gone are the days of sewing for thrift!  But the skirt is not the goal, and saving money on a skirt is not the goal.  The whole point of making this skirt is to teach myself garment sewing on a simple project that is easy to fit, so I can learn the basics of reading and following a pattern and constructing a garment from start to finish, and then work my way up to more difficult garments like blouses and dresses -- again, not to save money, but because I have a horrible time finding anything in the stores that fits me well.  I took some great classes on pattern alterations and fitting when I went to Atlanta in March for the Sewing & Quilt Expo, but I think I need to get more comfortable with the basics before I tackle something that will require pattern alterations.  I want to take my time, learn as much as I can from this skirt, and do everything in my power to ensure that this garment is a "win" -- meaning that it fits well and looks good enough that, if it was a ready-made item in a store, I would have liked it enough to purchase it.

The Fabric: Pretty Potent Echinachea on Cotton Voile
So in answer to Quandary #1, yes, I did prewash my fabrics, both the print fashion fabric and the lining fabric.  They are 100% cotton voile fabrics of slightly different weights, so two concerns: First of all, when I establish the finished length of this skirt, I want that to be the REAL finished length of the skirt.  I do not want it to shrink two inches the first time I wash it.  Second, what if the print fashion fabric shrank more than the lining fabric and I ended up with the lining hanging out at the bottom of the skirt?  That actually happened to me with a ready-to-wear skirt from Ann Taylor, and after shortening the lining and having the top layer of the skirt CONTINUE to shrink, I finally added crochet lace to the skirt hem to make up the difference.  But since I'm going to all the bother of sewing this skirt myself, it's worth the extra trouble to preshrink the fabric before cutting into it.  I washed the fabrics in the machine with the Very Warm temperature setting and dried them in the dryer.  I plan to wash the finished skirt in cold water and line dry.

As for Quandary #2...  My pattern calls for fusible interfacing, period.  As if there was only one kind of fusible interfacing out there, and everyone knows where to get it.  Hah!  There must have been twenty different kinds of fusible interfacing at JoAnn's, some of it tissue-thin, others that were stiff and reminded me of heavy weight cutaway machine embroidery stabilizer.  How am I supposed to know which one to use?  I consulted several different sources for this one.  According to my Threads book, the general rule of thumb is that you want to use an interfacing that is similar in weight or lighter weight than your fashion fabric.  That helps.  But then I consulted another great book, Sandra Betzina's More Fabric Savvy, which lists today's common garment fabrics alphabetically and gives sewing recommendations for each of them.  Betzina has a section in the book for Batiste & Voile, and she recommends interfacing with self-fabric.  Hunh?  But my pattern says FUSIBLE interfacing!  I consulted another resource, Shannon Gifford's sewing tutorial for Voile at EmmaOneSock (one of my favorite online garment fabric shops).  Gifford says, "If you prefer to use a fusible interfacing, use the thinnest fusible available... However, the best interfacing for this fabric is a coordinating solid colored silk organza."  When I went to JoAnn's for interfacing, they did not have any coordinating silk organza, and the lightest weight fusible interfacing they had was a Pellon Ultra Lightweight Fusible Interfacing By the Bolt.  It's 100% polyester and the care instructions are machine wash warm, tumble dry and warm iron.  Fortunately, I bought a little more fabric than the pattern called for, so I'll be able to experiment.  I'll try both ways, fusible interfacing and self-fabric interfacing, and see which one looks and feels better.

Fitting Class with Lorraine Henry
And finally, Quandary #3, which size do I cut out?  Well, the reason I picked a loose-fitting skirt for this project is that it should be fairly easy to fit, just as long as I go by my waist measurement when deciding what size to cut out.  Easy enough, right?  As long as I know WHERE MY WAIST IS...  I learned from Lorraine Henry's fitting classes to tie a piece of elastic around my middle and then bend at the waist from side to side, forwards and backwards.  The elastic naturally settles at the elusive Natural Waistline (nowhere near where the waist of today's clothing is generally located) and THAT'S where you take your waist measurement.  No sucking in your abs, just relax those tummy muscles or the skirt will be way too tight and I won't want to wear it!  I got 30 1/4" for my waist measurement, and then I looked at the back of the pattern envelope and saw that a 30" waist is a size 16 and a 32" waist is a size 18.  Panic!!  That can't be right!  The skirts in my closet that fit comfortably are size 6 or size 8.  I understand that pattern sizes and RTW clothing sizes are no longer comparable due to serious vanity sizing in ready-to-wear, but size 16 for my skirt sounds HUGE. 

So I decided to figure out how big the waist of the finished skirt would be if I made a size 16, so I could compare that to the waist of the skirts hanging in my closet.  I measured along the top edge of the skirt waistband pieces, and subtracted out the side seam allowances, and I got a finished waist band of approximately 32 3/4" for a size 16 skirt (not the same as the waist measurement for that size, because the pattern adds wearing ease and the skirt is designed to sit 1" below the natural waistline).  Then I went into my closet and discovered that the most comfortable skirts I own actually do measure around 32" at the waist.  Go figure!  It looks like I'll be making a size 16, after all.  I'm still a little nervous about that -- what if I made a mistake measuring the pattern pieces or subtracting out seam allowances?  Just to be on the safe side, I think I'll cut the waistband pieces out of muslin, stitch them together, and try it on before I cut into the real fabric.  Maybe I should make the WHOLE skirt out of muslin, since I don't really know what I'm doing? 

Ironing Pattern Pieces
Meanwhile, I did manage to cut the pattern pieces apart and iron out the folds and wrinkles (dry iron, medium setting).  But then I stalled out, remembering how I made Lars a cute pair of toddler pajamas (a long, LONG time ago) in size 2T, and then when he outgrew them I couldn't reuse the pattern to make him a larger pair because I had already cut out the smallest size, cutting off all of the larger sizes of the multi-size pattern.  What if I cut on the size 16 line to cut out my muslin, but then after sewing up the muslin I realize that a smaller or larger size would be better?  I'm making the 24" long version of the skirt this time, but what if I decide that I want to make the 29" long skirt someday in the future and I've already cut the extra length off my pattern?  Should I trace the original tissue pattern pieces onto butcher paper, Swedish Tracing Paper, or some other material before cutting them out?  Or is that silly for something so straightforward as this skirt pattern?  I haven't decided yet.

Today I spent some time straightening up and organizing my studio so I have room to work on this project.  I ordered a roll of the Swedish Tracing Paper from Amazon because, even if I don't use it for this pattern, I know I'll want it for when I'm ready to make a lot of pattern alterations to dress and blouse patterns.  I had hoped to make more progress on the skirt today, but I ended up writing about it here instead.  Which is fine.  Writing about it helps me to sort out all of the conflicting advice gleaned from various sources, and helps me to clarify what to do next:

1. I need to read through the pattern instructions and make sure I understand everything.  I may need to look some things up in my sewing books, like how to do a sewn-in self-fabric interfacing, if I decide to go that route.

2. I need to decide how I'm going to finish my seams.  My Fabric Savvy book suggests either French seams or a 3-thread overlock stitch. 

3. I need to trace off the pattern pieces (if I decide to do that) and make up a muslin to check that I like the fit and the style. 

...and THEN I can cut out the pieces from the fashion fabric and the lining!

I'm linking up with Esther's WIPs on Wednesday even though this one isn't quilting related (I hope that's okay).  Meanwhile, we're headed to Carowinds tomorrow to ride the roller coasters with Lars and Anders.  Fingers crossed for light crowds and clear skies!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Substitution Serendipity: Math Is Beautiful and a Skirt In the Works

Lars Meets Kaffe Revised: Math Is Beautiful, 54" X 54"
So last time I posted, I shared a new quilt design based on a doodle I found in Lars's math notebook:

Lars's Doodle and My First EQ7 Design
I created the quilt design in EQ7 quilt design software using out of print Kaffe Fassett Collective fabrics from 2012, and then went on a mad, worldwide hunt to find the fabrics.  However, when the quilt shop in Switzerland emailed me about payment via bank transfer and notified me of "additional customs fees which may be significant," I canceled that order and headed to my LQS (local quilt shop) to look for substitute fabrics.  I'm glad I did, because I found a fantastic math fabric to use in place of the black and white polka dots:

Not only is this a math themed fabric, but it's the kind of math Lars was studying last year when he was doodling quilts in his notebook.  (In fairness to Lars, he did a great job in math this year and he claims that he created this doodle while he was sitting in assembly for the school talent show).

So it looks like I'm making another quilt with bright fabrics against a black background.  Although Lars's doodle could easily become a repeated quilt block, I decided to make it a one-block quilt with nice, large pieces to show off large scale print fabrics.  Also, I still have several long-term quilts in the works right now and wanted to mix in something quick and easy.

Speaking of the Big Haul quilt projects, I did manage to complete two more pineapple log cabin blocks for my California King bed quilt:
14 Pineapple Log Cabin Blocks Finished, 22 (or 28) Blocks To Go
These blocks finish at 17 1/2" so if I make 36 of them in a 6 x 6 layout I'll have a 105" x 105" quilt top before quilting.  Depending on how much quilting I do, there will be some quilting shrinkage as well as some shrinkage in the final wash (especially since I did not prewash fabrics for this one).  A 100" x 98" quilt is the recommended size for a California King with a 15" drop, but I'm starting to think that might be too skimpy on my bed, so I might add another row of six blocks to my original plan.  That would mean I need a total of 42 blocks for this quilt.  I sure hope I like it when it's finally finished (someday!).

But I haven't touched my Butterflies and Bear Paws quilt, my Jingle quilt, or my Frankenwhiggish Rose needle turned applique project.  Those are languishing on the shelf.  Meanwhile I'm itching to start on my Dear Jane blocks using these fabrics:
Fabrics for my Soon-To-Start Dear Jane Quilt
...And I have challenged myself to learn garment sewing, and first up is a simple skirt in this bold floral cotton voile print by Anna Maria Horner for Westminster Fabrics:

Pretty Potent Echinachea in Preppy, Cotton Voile from Westminster Fabrics
I bought a solid navy cotton voile for the lining and I just hope there's enough fullness in the skirt pattern so the voile hangs nicely.  What do you think?  The model is wearing the longer version of the skirt, but I'm planning to make the above-knee length.

I love the fabric print, though -- it reminds me of something I'd see in ready to wear from Boden or Anthropologie.  So far all I have done is purchased thread and notions and prewashed the fabrics.  Wish me luck!

Both of my boys are volunteer counselors for Vacation Bible School at church this week, so I'm hoping to get a lot of sewing done in the mornings.  Ideally I'd like to get my skirt made and also get my Math Is Beautiful quilt at least cut out and ready to go.  I might piece that one on my Vintage Singer Featherweight machine so I can alternate between that and another paper pieced pineapple block on my Bernina 750 QE without having to change my machine setup (I like to piece with lightweight Aurifil 50/2 cotton thread and a 70 Microtex needle, but I've got the B 750 threaded up with heavier 50/3 cotton Mettler thread and a size 90 quilting needle for paper piecing.  That gives me better perforation of the paper that I'll need to tear away at every seamline, and a stronger seam to withstand the stress of tearing paper away).

I'm linking up with Design Wall Monday and Main Crush Monday.  Have a great week!

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Lars Meets Kaffe: When Quilting Is More Fun Than Math

Lars's Doodle Plus Kaffe Fassett Prints
The school year is ALMOST wrapped up.  Exams have been taken and the last day of school is this coming Thursday, June 11th.  As I was sifting through Lars's stack of notebooks, binders, and other backpack debris, I came across this lovely graph paper doodle in his math notebook:

How cool is that?  Unlike the (deliberately) insanely complex quilts that Lars likes to design in EQ7 software, THIS design would be quick and easy to make up, using only 8" squares and HST units (half square triangles).  So I sketched it up in EQ7 as a 54" x 54" quilt, initially using Lars's color scheme, but eventually deciding that these extra-large patches would be perfect for showcasing those large-scale Kaffe Fassett prints that I'm so fond of.  And I came up with this:
54" x 54" "Lars Meets Kaffe" Quilt Designed By Mom
I love it!  However, I was working with an older Kaffe Fassett fabric collection in EQ7, and was annoyed to discover that my lovely fabric selections were ALL out of print.  Meaning the manufacturer does not make any more of these fabrics, no one has them, and no one can get anymore.  Hmmm...  Discontinued fabric, no stock available.  Does this sound familiar to anyone?  Yet when there's a strong willed woman with her heart set on a certain fabric, there's usually SOME way to get it.  I was able to locate three fat quarters of this Iris and Peony fabric in the red colorway from an eBay seller:

I found two other long-discontinued Kaffe Fassett fabrics  at Glorious Color, a web site out of Pennsylvania that specializes in Kaffe Fassett prints.  St. Clements in Night will be for my 3" borders:

...and Cosmos in Cobalt is for the plain block in the center of the quilt and for squares and triangles adjacent to the red floral print:

But I was still missing several key fabrics, and I really had my heart set on them.  I finally, FINALLY found all three of them, from an online quilt fabric shop in... Switzerland.  Don't you judge me.  Just think of how much money I saved shopping online as opposed to actually TRAVELING to Switzerland to buy the fabrics!  Spot in White is my background fabric:

Sand Dollars in Green is also used in the background, adjacent to the black-and-white dots:

and this is what I came up with for the binding, Lotto in Green:

I had wanted to make something today, but since it's almost 5 PM and the fabric is shipping for Switzerland, that's not going to happen!  This will be fun to put together once the fabric does arrive, though.

Have a wonderful weekend.  Happy Stitching!