Friday, April 29, 2011

Top Draftalong # 7 - Cracked it!

Just checking in to let you all know, I have cracked it and will be able to provide you with full size patterns in PDF format very shortly. Woo hoo!!  It's just taking a little time to dissect the patterns up digitally but will be quicker and easier for everyone in the long run. So take it easy. Enjoy the Royal Wedding, and catch you back here when the madness is over! (Thankyou for your sweet comments too!)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Top Draftalong # 6 - Bear with me....

Ok. I'm running late. This is all good fodder for my sewing prductivity study. (I won't bore you with my childcare woes and the joblot of beanbags and floor cushions I've been sewing for LT's pre-school). However, I MAY have figured out a way of providing you with the basic block patterns in full size rather than as the 1:5 scale size that's in the book . Which means you won't have to faff about with the possibly time consuming process of scaling it up.Which I thought you'd all regard as a pretty good thing. I won't get a chance to test this out until LT has his nap this afternoon. I just wanted to let you know...I am working away on it in the background and this weeks Draft-along post will be up here shortly

This is what it looks like scanned from the book. Each of those squares is 1cm  x  1cm.  It needs to be scaled up  on a grid where each square measures 5cm  x  5cm to create the full size pattern. (There are 3 diffreent sizes to do this for) I had planned on us doing this the old fashioned way by copying it by hand onto a larger grid. But I had a bit of a lightbulb moment over the weekend about how I can do it using basic image editing software and save you the job.  I've been waiting for a chance to test it out ever since. If you want to crack on and don't want to wait, and you're familiar with how to scale up a drawing using a grid, you can Download it here. (Just print off the size you want) Included is a 5x5cm grid to help with scaling. But if you can hang on a little longer  I may be able to save you the job...
Thank you so much to everyone who's completed the survey so far. The info has been truly useful. Also, if you haven't joined the Flickr group yet and wish to do so, email me your Flickr user id at: kitschycoo(at)hotmail(dot)co(dot)uk., and I'll get the invite sent out to you.
Back very soon...!

Friday, April 22, 2011

One is somewhat amused....

It will have been difficult to have missed the build up to the Royal Wedding here in the UK, and probably most of you will have seen this before.....

Kitsch Cute or Kitsch Crap? You decide! Available in all good bookshops and online retailers.

This however,just get's funnier every time I see it....

Top Draftalong # 5 - Over to you...

Hey everyone! Hope you are looking forward to a beautiful Easter weekend. I have gardening quite high on my agenda. (Along with everything else that's high on my agenda, lol!) How did you do with your measurements? It can be quite an interesting excercise. Some of mine have got smaller which I hadn't expected since nothing has changed on the scales! Certainly not going to complain!
Anyhow, clearly at the forefront of my mind constantly, is our li'l Draft-along. Firstly, the Flickr group is all set up and ready for you to take advantage of. The group is by invitation only and only those of us that join the group will be able to view any photos or discussion. (I figured most of us would prefer our fiqure "quirks" not to be accessible to any internet pervs prowling around out there). The purpose of the group is to share photos of our fitting processes in the hope that it may help others resolve theirs AND to share photos of  our fitting dilemmas in the hope that other members may be able to help us. So offering your comments on other members photos is 100% encouraged. You can see the Flickr group here: But won't be able to access any content unless you're a member. To join please email me at: kitschycoo(at)hotmail(dot)co(dot)uk.

On a related issue,  I've obviously been thinking ahead to the fitting stage of the Draft-along. Since I am by no means any kind of expert on any of this, I'm considering hosting a "Fitting Clinic" here on my blog as a kind of extension to the Flickr group and to support the Draft-along process. Our collective knowledge should be more than enough to resolve any issues and I'd like as many of you as are open to it, to be involved in this part of the process. What I'd like to do is use photos from the group to illustrate specific types of fitting issues and identify ways of solving them. I shall then aim to provide step by step details of how to perform each particular type of adjustment on the muslin and pattern. Why do I need your photos? I have a full bust and a sway back. (woo hoo for me, right!) I can show you how those particular "quirks" will show up on a muslin and how to do a full bust and sway back adjustment. I don't have a small bust, curvy hips or sloping shoulders. So I cannot show you first hand how that would affect the muslin. But one of you out there could!

Now, I am acutely aware of how sensitive it's possible to be about our bodies and that not everyone will be up for this (It took me quite a while to pluck up the courage to post my own photos on my blog, as I'm generally pretty camera shy) which is the reason for the privacy settings on the Flickr group. It's just between us. Any photos I use on here though, would be available for anyone who stops by my blog to see.  I would NEVER use anyone's photos on this blog, unless they were happy for me to do so. But I do think this would be an extremely beneficial thing for us to do and really add value to the whole Draft-along. So I'm asking. For volunteers and for your thoughts and suggestions on the whole idea of a fitting clinic. I've carried out a quick straw poll on the idea amongst fellow sewists and bloggers (thankyou Casey, Gina, Tilly, Karen and Jane for your help!) and the general concensus is that it would be a great thing to do, as long as privacy/sensitivity is taken into account. So it's over to you. What do you think??  If you can spare a couple of minutes to complete a survey (Just 10 quick questions, I promise) or leave a comment here and let me know, I would really appreciate it... Complete the Survey

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Restyle # 13 - Duvet Cover to Vintage Shell Top(almost!)

The other day I alluded to this project on my sewing table. The "fabric" is actually a duvet cover I hacked up for the fabric...

I wanted to make a toile/muslin of this pattern. Part of my quest for some tops to add to my rcently purged wardrobe. I like re-purposing old bed linens in this way. They're a fantastic source of cheap and plentiful fabric. (Plus blue gingam is eternally cute)...
You may be able to conclude from the lighting in the above picture, that it was taken at night. Well, let me state, right here, right now. Sewing at night is hazardous! Firstly, I managed to "sew" a whole seam without realising my bobbin was empty. Concentrate P, concentrate! Secondly, (whilst concentrating a little toooo hard) I had my first sewing accident, and sewed through the tip of my finger. I know, I know! Do you want to know the scariest thing. I flinched briefly, then promptly grabbed a strip of the fabric I had just trimmed from my seam allowances, fashioned a gingham battlefield dressing, and carried on sewing. I was in the zone! (or totally zoned out, can't decide!)

So this is phase one of my toile/muslin. I traced the original pattern (as it was the unprinted kind and pretty delicate) and made some alterations to the traced pattern before cutting the toile:
  • Widened the neckline since the pattern piece looked a wee bit restrictive in this area. This meant I had to redraw the facing pieces too.  
  • The pattern was for a 38" bust and I'm a 40" so I did an FBA to add in the extra at the bust point. With hindsight, ineedn't have bothered as the pattern has ALOT of ease in it. 
  • I also lowered the dart since my "ladies" haven't been that THAT high since LT! (why do most patterns seem to have the bust point right up under your chin?!) This was a good move, and it also transpires that I'm a bit of a Francophile. I am liking the shaping a French dart gives. Seems to suit my shape.
  • The shoulders are too wide. See how they're hanging off the end of my shoulders?

(I skipped stay stitching the neckline and was rewarded with a pucker in my CF neckline, pah! Good job it's only a toile. Lesson learned)

Considering the pattern is meant for a whole size smaller than me there is ALOT of room in the back. Too much for my liking really. This is compounded by my "sway/erect back" fit issues which causes excess fabric to pool in the small of my back. I'll need to make some adjustments to the back pattern piece. I'm picturing taking 3 tucks out of the tissue pattern to address this.
  • 1 horizontal tuck across the small of the back (sway back adjustment) 
  • 2 narrow and tapered vertical tucks the length of the pattern, either side of the button placket. About an inch wide at the waist and tapering to nothing at the hem and shoulder
  • It seems a little narrow at the hip too which may be adding to the effect of the fabric bunching up

Overall, it has good potential but is pretty much too big all over.Which is weird when you consider it's a whole size too small AND the illustration on the envelope suggests quite a narrow fitting style.
I have to learn not to get disheartened by the sheer volume of alterations that I always seem to need to make to commercial patterns. It makes me feel a bit freakish sometimes. Is my size and shape really that far from the accepted standard??? I guess that's why I'm so drawn to pattern drafting. At least I know the pattern will fit me without having to faff. By the time I've traced off a copy of the original commercial pattern, made the initial pattern alterations, then toile'd and made more alterations, I may as well have drafted from scratch to the right size and shape in the first place!
Wow, I sound really pissed off! I guess I am a bit. But I know this is just something I'll have to get used to if I ever want to use a commercial pattern. I will revisit this pattern and do a second toile despite my frustrations. After all it's all good practice for our Draft-along!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Top Draftalong # 4 - Body Measurements Part 1

So. Here we are. Are you ready? Then we'll begin!! The very first thing that we ever did when I first started pattern drafting at college, was to pair up and take accurate body measurements of eachother. Unsuprisingly, that is because if we want accurate fit, we have to have accurate measurements.  Because we're drafting tops, we're concentrating on the torso and arms. These measurements are more than the standard bust, waist and hip measurements you'll see on pattern envelopes. Essentially you're creating a map of your body's curves at strategic points. Points that affect how a garment reacts to you wearing it and moving around. You may not use all of these measurements during the course of this Draftalong. Depends on the design of your final top/blouse. But good to have them all anyway, and I suspect we'll be suprised by how many of them we do use.

Points to remember/Before you measure:
Wear underwear or very thin, close fitting clothing.
Wear the same bra - Not for the whole duration of this Draft-along, silly! But everytime you do any fitting relating to your block/sloper, make sure you wear the same bra as you did when you took your measurements AND with the straps adjusted to the same length. Trust me!
Establish your natural waistline - Tie a length of elastic around your waist so it's snug and slightly stretched. Move around a bit. (Do the hokey Cokey or the Macarena. Whatever floats your boat!) The elastic will automatically settle at the narrowest part of your waist, thus establishing your "natural waistline". This is a pretty strategic and important measuring point, so leave the elastic in place.
Establish your neckline - Wear a short necklace or tie a piece of string in place of one. You're essentially marking where a collar would sit at the base of the neck. It should settle on or just above the collar bone as per the dotted line in the diagram
Measure Snugly - But be honest with yourself!! I found myself subconsciously sucking my tummy in when it came to having myself measured. WHAT was the point in that?!! I ask you! Unless otherwise stated, the tape measure should be snug around you but not tight enough to create any bulges., and you should be breathing normally!
Stand normally - On a level surface. Feet side by side, and arms relaxed by your sides I'd suggest bare feet too. Stand upright but not uncharacteristically straight. These measurements need to reflect your natural posture as much as your dimensions. If you have a slight stoop for instance (and alot of people do) this can lengthen your back measurement in relation to your front. So just stand as you normally would. (Please ignore the fact that the "model" in the diagrams is on the wonk standing at a jaunty angle. This is an example of how not to stand!)
Rope in a friend - (or partner. No hanky panky though, you've got work to do!)You'll be able to do some measurements yourself, but not all of them. It's much more accurate if someone does it for you.

Chest: Around the body, under the arms, above the fullest part of the bust. Keep tape measure at back parallel with waist elastic
Bust: Around the fullest part of the bust, keep tape measure straight/level across the back.
Ribcage: Around the body, just below the bust.Keep tape measure at back parallel with waist elastic
Waist:  Measure over the top of the waist elastic, this is the natural waistline.(Leave the elastic in place)
Full Hip:  Around the fullest part of the hip (usually 7-9” below the waist) taking note of the distance between the waist and the hip. On some figures the fullest part may be the bulge at the top of the legs.  Make a note of this too
High Hip: Measure around the hip area approx 3” below the waist.High hip is kinda where the hip starts after the waist.

Bust Point to Bust Point: Measure straight across from apex to apex.(Nipples in other words!)
Across Front at Shoulder: Across the front chest from mid armhole to mid armhole.
Neck: Measure the circumference at the base of the neck (where a necklace would naturally sit)
Shoulder: Measure from your collar/neckline marker at the top of the shoulder to the end of the shoulder.  (To find the end of the shoulder, extend the arm straight out to the side. There will be an indentation at the back of the shoulder, where the shoulder ends)

Front Shoulder to Bust Point: From the front shoulder at the collar, straight down to the apex of the bust. 
Front shoulder to waist
From the front shoulder at the collar, over the bust and down to the waistline/elastic.
Front Neck to Waist: Measure from the hollow in between the collarbone down to the waist/elastic. Think of it as your centre front seam.
Arm Length: With the arm bent measure from the shoulder to the elbow and note the measurement. Continue measuring from the elbow to the wrist bone for a full arm length.
Bicep: Around the fullest part of the arm. Bend the arm to flex the muscle before measuring.
Elbow: With the arm bent, measure around the elbow.
Wrist: Around the narrowest point of the wrist. Usually on or just below the pointy wrist bone.
Back Neck to Waist: Straight down from the back neckline to the waistline/elastic. Think of this as your centre back seam
Back Shoulder to Waist: Straight down from the centre of the back shoulder to the waistline/elastic
Back Width: Straight across the back, arm crease to arm crease (just above the armpit)

I created a simple form for myself last year. To keep a record of my measurements so that I could refer to them whenever I needed them. I have found it pretty useful ever since. I've put together a Draft-along version. If you think it will be helpful for you, you can download it in PDF format here.

So, how does all that sound?? Does it seem alot? Is it clear enough? Any questions/queries/things I've missed then please feel free to leave a comment here or send me an email.  

Phew. I'm off for a cup of coffee!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Restyles # 11 & 12 - Two dresses = Top and Skirt

Hey everybody, peeps! I'm playing a bit of catch up with my pledge of a restyle a week  in 2011. So I'm doubling up in this post! First up is a vintage cotton plaid sundress. For me, 4 sizes too big and, even though I ADORE the colours,it was too much for me, as a dress....
I much prefer it as a top. I'm channelling my inner 70's chick here! I seperated the bodice from the gathered skirt, added another bust dart, took in the side seams, and cut a panel from the leftover fabric to lengthen the top.I rather like this. It has a vintage vibe don't you think?

Next up is this pure white (yep that spells trouble!!) vintage Monsoon dress. The neckline had makeup marks on it that just wouldn't come out. So I seperated the skirt and bodice, unpicked the centre back seam and inserted a zip, and made a simple wide waistband using fabric from the hem of the skirt....
I tried this one first as a maxi skirt but it just looked all wrong on me so I went for a midi length that will allow me to wear this in the summer without flashing my legs. (I don't do bare legs much. I was brought up not to scare young children). I wanted to keep the pleated details around the top of the skirt as they provided a nice bit of shaping. This'll be nice and cool for the summer but I may have to sew myself a slip to avoid any, ahem, "Lady Di" moments. As with alot of white clothes, it's a little transparent in the right/wrong light. BTW, I'm getting obsessed with lace hems...
I have something else brewing on the sewing table too. Hopefully finish this tomorrow....

Whatcha been up to....?


It feels like ages ago now(over 2 weeks!), but here are a few photos of our recent day trip to Germany. It was Ollie's (J's son from his previous marriage) 12th birthday and this trip was a little treat for him. He's been studying a bit of German language at school. Because of the "educational potential" of this little jaunt, he had special permission from his headmaster to take the time off school.  We took off from London Stansted just after 7am...
The sky got more and more blue. It was a grey morning in England under all that cloud, but beautiful up above the it....
When we arrived in Germany (Frankfurt Hahn) 45 minutes after take off (I know!! Amazing!) Spring had definately sprung ahead of th UK...
I knew when I saw the spring blossom that the UK wouldn't be far behind. It's like Spring was moving like a wave across the continent and got to Germany first...
We took a 1 hour bus ride to historical Koblenz and had an al fresco lunch by the fountain...
Pretty impressive fountain, huh? Such a beautiful sunny day too, and very mild...

I was taken aback with how beautiful Koblenz was. It was a brilliant mix of contemporary and historical architecture and design. I'm a sucker for the historical stuff though. Look at the symmetry and precision in the details of this building near the old waterfront....
We kept stumbling upon pretty squares like this...
I loved how the residents here had all bothered to have matching pairs of window pots....
The weather was like this all day and the waterfront area of the old town had so many beautiful trees. I'd imagine it to be equally lovely in the summer with all these trees creating dappled pockets of cool shade...

Magnolias are one of my favourite trees. I mean, just look at that flower...

Almost every cafe we passed had lovely soft, warm blankets for their patrons to keep the cold at bay whilst sitting outside. It was a mild day, but could be a little chilly in the breeze. I'd never seen this before (certainly wouldn't see it in the UK!) and I think it's a lovely concept. Very civilised. I could sit on that bench in the spring sunshine right now and have a mug of hot chocolate....

This tickled me. (Is that really a young boy advertising beer???) I thought it looked like Ollie, which he was underwhelmed by despite the fact that I thought it was pretty hilarious...
HOW cool is this vintage motorbike?! This was an older part of the town and when we rounded a corner and saw this propped up against the old church, I had a bit of a Quantam Leap moment...
Blossom was blowing about like confetti along the waterfront...
This looks positively medieval doesn't it?!
All in all, a really fabulous little day trip. If you get the chance to visit Koblenz (or nearby Trier) then do. Especially when the Christmas markets are on in Nov/Dec.Truly magical. I've developed a real affection for Germany. We've been a few times now, to different towns, and each one has been lovely.

One of the great things about living in th UK is it's a great jumping off point for trips like this. We live less than an hour from Stansted airport where you can get a flight to pretty much anywhere in the world. France, Belgium and Germany are all less than an hour away and the rest of Europe not much more than that. So spontaneous little jaunts like this used to be commonplace for J and I before LT came along. I forgot how much I enjoyed popping to another country for the day!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Top Draftalong # 3 - Odds & Ends....

Woo hoo!!! Thanks to Tilly pointing me in the right direction for a tutorial, we have a button for the draftalong!! What do you think??! The copious use of exclamation marks is down to the fact that I'm feeling pretty chuffed with myself for getting it to work.(I think!) There were a couple of glitches that my head nearly exploded trying to figure out, but persevere and figure it out I did. I'm fine with creating the image. I could churn those out all day. It's the HTML that's unknown territory. So, if you'd like to add a button to your blog, you can use the code in the box below, and hopefully it should work...

My next tech challenge is PDFs. I am working on this with some really generous assistance from Dixie, fabulous individual that she is!!  Tech issues aside, here is a list of equipment/materials that you will need throughout the course of this draftalong....

  • Tape Measure
  • A helper!! (Not essential but very helpful! Accurate body measurements are best taken by someone else!)
  • Pattern Paper
  • Sharp Pencil (Preferably soft. Around a 2B/3B)
  • Masking Tape and/or glue stick
  • Paper Scissors
  • Set Square/Curve
  • Calico/Plain cotton fabric with similar thread count (I'm getting enough for 2 toiles, just in case!)
  • Fabric Scissors
  • Pins
  • Sewing Machine
  • Thread (contrasting colour can be useful)
  • Hand sewing needle
  • Full length mirror
  • Stiff card (enough to make a sloper of your final pattern)

On other matters, Louise asked a really good question about copyright and the fact that I'll be showing some material from the book during the course of the draftalong. I wanted to address this issue as I think it's an important one.
Although this book seems to have been out of print since 1985 it IS still covered by copyright law. I couldn't reproduce this, for instance, and sell it or pass it off as my own work, or use for any commercial purpose. However copyright law has a "Fair use" clause which is roughly defined as follows: 

"Under the doctrine of fair use, a piece of copyrighted material may be copied for use for educational or non-profit purposes, and if the use does not infringe on the author's ability to make money from her work. There are no rigid guidelines as to what constitutes fair use,and the copying of out of print books falls within the gray area. It is more likely that the copying of copyrighted material will be considered fair use if the material is out of print, but it may not be fair use depending on the amount copied and the purpose to which it's put." Source

As with alot of laws, it's all in the interpretation! But I think what we are doing, and how I intend to use material from the book falls under "fair use". It is for learning purposes, not for any profit, and if anything, I hope that it will encourage people to get themselves a copy of this book. (As I said,currently out of print but have seen used copies on Ebay and Amazon). Any extracts from the book will be clearly accredited so you'll know where it's come from. Me, or the book!

Anyway, That's a few odds and ends dealt with. Ready to start on Monday then???

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Thrifty Finds # 23 - Overdue!

I have been juggling things alot recently and these thrifty finds have been sat twiddling their thumbs since our weekend in Windsor. They are all Etsy bound in the next day or two...
L-R: Vintage 80's Sundress, Vintage Jaeger Wool Crepe Dress, Vintage Jaeger Pencil Skirt, Vintage Check Jacket
L-R: Vintage 50's Leaf Bracelet, Vintage 50's Rose Bracelet, Vintage 50's Turquoise Brooch
Vintage Leather Satchel...hmmm...I am a bit in love with this bag and the little devil on my shoulder is telling me to keep it!!! But I can't really justify another handbag in my collection. Can I...?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sewing Basics # 11 - The Hong Kong Seam

Another seam finish we tried at college this week was the Hong Kong seam. This is slightly different to the bias bound seams over on the Colette Patterns blog recently. I really like this one, but it is a little trickier than other seam finishes I've tried. I had to slow my machine right down for this and really concentrate on the sewing part. But well worth it as it's a truly classy finish. As ever(!), press the stitching line...
then press seams open...
Cut a strip of very lightweight silky fabric on the bias. This is a lining type fabric. Opaque but floaty like silk (not very technical that, ha ha! Sorry. I just nabbed it out of the remnants bin at college so don't know the exact fabric content)....
Lay one edge of this bias strip along the raw edge of your seam allowance. If your bias strip has a definite RS  (mine doesn't) then lay it RS down.....
Straight stitch along the edge a few mm in from the edge...
"Roll" the bias strip to the back creating a kind of narrow tube around the raw edge. Do not press....
Stitch "in the ditch" gently pulling the bias to one side as you go so you don't catch it with the needle (this is where I had to slow my machine right down as I still find stitching in the ditch really tricky!)....
This is where the stitching should end up, without catching any of the bias strip....
Trim the excess bias strip close to the stitching on the WS....
So you now have this narrow little silky tube around the raw edge of your seam allowance...
which when you press it flat, totally covers the row of "in the ditch" stitching...

This shows the RS and WS of the seam allowance. The WS would ultimately be tacked down so you wouldn't see it anyway. But still pretty neat, huh?

Not sure why this is called a Hong Kong seam. (It may in fact have other names) but I'm guessing it either originated there or was very widely used on tailoring in that area. Anyone know?

I'm very much enjoying "playing" with different seam finishes. Do you have a favourite? Is it ease and speed that dictates this or is it the aesthetic? Or maybe durability?
Would love to hear your views!

NB: For anyone not familiar with the term "stitch in the ditch" it's used alot in quilting. But it basically means stitching in the crease of a seam. In this case the seam crease created by the bias strip and the raw edge of the seam allowance, once the bias had been rolled back on itself.