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Sunday, July 29, 2012

Pensamientos: Starting with a Commercial Tee Shirt Pattern

I stopped in to check out a buddies newest project, at my favorite sewing and crafting web site, Crafster. Once there I considered posting a question about my current challenge with the neckband on my current scoop-necked tee pattern. The challenge comes about because I'm working on creating my own personal tee patterns. This has been an ongoing challenge over the past year-plus. Though I started out with a commercial tee shirt pattern, I've moved well beyond it.
I created this tee from one of my commercial pattern alteration, some machine embroidery and some darling little lizard beads my daughter brought me back from a trip to Flagstaff Arizona.

Here are just a few variations I've created... producing three different styles that suit my ideas of the way this every-day-practical garment should fit.  I've:

- Altered shaped sides from another pattern. One variation is still straight up and down - this just works better with certain knits. The other two curve in with a kind of hourglass look. I'm an 'H' shape, but my tee shirts don't always make that clear. It seems like the hourglass look works better when I sew a knit with some lycra in it. If it's called 'jersey', I think shape it.

- Decreased the width of the shirt (by folding lengthwise down the middle of both front and back pieces)

- Added darts. I never make a tee without darts anymore.

- Worked up a couple of different neckline variations. A kind of higher circle that's more like a typical commercial, rib-knit height and a kind of boat neck look. My new scoop neck lays just right until I go to bind the edge. Then I start fighting with my binding. I've always had to lightly stretch my bindings to keep them from rolling, but now I'm needing to stretch more as I move into the scoop and less as I come into it. I finally decided that I better run a hand-basting stitch along the neckline in the version I worked on last night. That's kind of working, though there's are slight gather lines showing once the binding is pinned on. I'm currently pretending that's a design feature! Once I finish it, I'll ask around for advice on other ideas to try. I may just go back to a facing for my scoop neck design.

I spend a lot more time now, making test garments (a.k.a. muslin or toille). For tee shirt practice I buy the largest inexpensive tees I can find, in sets of two. Then I cut across the shoulder lines until I end up with flat pieces to work with. In most cases I can wear the result. And when I buy something splendid in the knit line from an online fabric store, I feel much more confident that it's going to look like I want it to. I've learned that I just can't overdo on the amount of time spent considering the pattern. And the more time I put in, the higher my success rate.

Learning to alter commercial patterns for myself, beyond just a change in hem, or sleeve length or width is helping me to learn to be patient. It gives me a feeling of design control. The payoff in practical prettiness is really worth it.

A few of my tees hanging to dry. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Sewing Inspired by Marie Antoinette (Part 2)

Sewing Project Inspired by a visit back to 1779
You might enjoy catching up on the first part of this article at Sewing Inspired by Marie Antoinette: Part 1

In my last posting, I made a slight reference to one of my recent trips back through time to Marie Antoinette's court at Versailles. So...wouldn't you like to hear more about this particular trip? 

When I first started taking these little jaunts my biggest bit of culture shock involved the state of royal sanitation. But, I'm not sure you really want the down-and-dirty on the suspicious puddles that kept turning up in unexpected corners of the palace's wood parquet floors. Let's just leave it that I manage to avoid tripping or slipping in the you-know-what and go on from there, OK?

In this particular case, I had elected a visit back to 1779, nine years after Antonia first arrived at court as a gentle, demur, Austrian archduchess. It's hard not to feel for a teenaged girl in her circumstances, even one with that bucks and standing of the entire Hapsburg empire behind her, isn't it?

Not being well-connected at court, and also not wanting to put in the way-beyond dawn to dusk travail of servitude, my Period Pilots guide recommended that I adopt the persona of an artist. After all if  Anne Vallayer-Coster could make it, why not me? I was please to find that the very accessible public galleries at the palace made it easy to establish myself at a little table among the fruit sellers, ribbon-merchants and other hawkers. I must admit, though, that I sadly missed having access to a digital camera during my time in the galleries. And oh, what I could have done with Photoshop and a few jpeg's to capture the joi-de-vivre and bustle of the thousands of vendors and visitors that thronged that incredibly accessible royal community. I mean...Mademoiselle Vallayer-Coster's Still Life with Ham would have been nothing to what I could have come up with. 

I like to say that one of my little peintures caused la Reine to gasp in excitement and send off a billet to one of her Buds at  the Royal Académie, but no such luck. Still, I got a chance to see her more than once as she promenaded by on her way to visit her little Mousseline

And you can just bet what this sewist was doing... That's right, checking out Madame Deficit's frocks. 

To Be Continued.. 

This Resource Might Come in Handy for your Own Travels
Marie Antoinette and the French Revolution 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sewing Inspired By Marie Antoinette (Part 1)

I'm pretty sure I'm not the only sewist with an enduring fascination for the ill-fated youngest daughter of Austrian Empress Maria Theresa. 

Thanks to Babylon Baroque for posting this lovely image of Marie Antoinette in one of her Court Dresses
Marie Antoinette had the goods when it came to wardrobing. Any gal would feel like  Cinderella in one of those bow-bedecked, lace-trimmed confections. Of course the hairdo has got to go, and those pannier-enhanced court dresses were a real pain to learn to walk in, in little Antonia's case she had to learn to do the Versaille glide before she left home. Then there were the challenges of breathing in seventeenth-century corsets, something that the queen herself tried to avoid. In fact her Mama the Empress sent her daughter more than one scolding in regards to the letters she had received back in Austria, complaining about her daughter's abandonment of her hated corset.

Still, every time I've tripped back in time (those Period Pilots weekend specials are just too good a deal to pass up!) and spy Marie Antoinette in one of those luxurious rich fabrics, I head straight for my fabric stash when I get home. Surely I could pull off that heavily embroidered satin'y look in a nicely fitted blouse. Wouldn't it look great over  jeans? I know I've got a $6.99 a yard brocade somewhere in here...

(To Be Continued)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Romancing the Dress Part 2: California Romantic Considers Realities of Life When It Comes to Sewing a Dress

Forever fantasizing about sewing the perfect dress
But do skirts really fit into my active and arty modern life?
I spent a lot of of my little girlhood playing with dolls. I also spent a lot of time drawing girls. Drawing girls merged into drawing paper dolls. The most important part of drawing paper dolls was creating their clothes. I particularly enjoyed creating patterns and textures for these outfits, which I made by rubbing my crayons over the paper atop a rough surface. Of course none of my paper dolls wore pants, trousers or slacksas bi-forcated womens clothing was called in the nineteen sixties.

If you werent around in that time, especially if you missed the early, pre-groovy part of the era, images from the time might lead you to think that American females wore mostly skirts or dresses. In fact, shorts and pants were nearly as much a part of our daily wear as they are today. However, when it came to creating artistic duds for dollies, I didnt see any point in designing the sort of togs I actually spent most of my own time in. On television, in magazines, coloring books and  movies, and in my favorite modern and historically themed stories, girls and women wore fluffy dresses and glamorous skirts. The clothes I created for my dolls were those I imagined Id wear myself as an adult, and they came from what I drank in from my culture. They came from images of traditionally skirted women.

As a sewist, Im still faced with the eternal challenge of an imaginary, idealized female lifestyle, versus the reality of my own activities. What I put on in the morning reflects what I'm expecting to do. Right now that involves walking or hiking, classes, study, a lot of computer time, and (unfortunately) a little housework. I'm usually pretty darn happy, and comfortable, wearing my most attractive tee shirt and a pair of long pants or shorts, both items that style up great with a pair of sturdy walking shoes or hiking boots.

Despite what I actually wear, when I plan time for my favorite hobby, I'm tempted to sew dresses. In point of fact, I've sewn only two within the last few years. I'm relatively happy with the way both of them turned out. Yet, Ive worn each of those frocks two or three times, both times to events, to which, I could easily have worn some of my most feminine pants with a lovely blouse, a rope of pearls and a scarf.

Still, when I open the pattern book, you know what section I turn to first.

This summer I just couldnt resist the how-to-style examples for Vogue pattern v8810 shown in the Vogue pattern magazine. You can just guess I imagined myself hurrying off to an important meeting with a friend in that denim dress with those lovely heels and the model's jewelry. I dont actually wear heels, and the jewelry she was wearing wasn't my style. In point of fact, I usually plan on fitting in a long walk or bike ride when I go to a meeting, but I still saw myself togged out like the gal in the spread.

Well, maybe I could still figure out a way to fit that duster style dress into my lifestyle

Earlier in the month I created a toile of this pattern. Some stained home dec ex-curtain fabric was the perfect muslin for the fit I was looking for. Ive also pulled a heavy black houndstooth print out of my stash, and I think theres enough for the short-sleeved version. Im imagining it as go-to summer and fall garment, in our temperate California San Francisco Bay Area climate. It could even extend into our mild winter as a kind of jumper over my pale pink quarter-sleeve tee or my petal pink cowl neck long sleeved tee shirt.

But when it comes down to it, even if the dress turns out exactly as I imagine it, will I really get much use out of another dress to keep the others company in their far end of my closet? I hope those girls have an active social life back there, because they rarely see the light of day.

In the meantime, I've sewn a nice new pair of shorts and another cute tee. 

But the black houndstooth print is eyeing me from the back of my sewing table.

You may also enjoy.... Romancing the Dress 1: Dainty