Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Sew a Muslin

My blog has come back from the dead to tell you to sew a muslin, which is probably one of the most important tools available to all of us awesome sewing people.  A muslin is the first draft of a garment made out of cheaper fabric (muslin).  It allows you to make the necessary adjustments to the pattern without risking your more precious material.

Having a first draft is especially important when you're oddly shaped, or when drafting your own patterns.  It's better to factor in the fact that you're going to make mistakes when drafting and spend them on two dollar a yard fabric rather than the sixty dollars of wool coating, interlining, and lining that you have hanging out in your stash. 

Let me show you.

Sometimes the pattern elements you planned just wont work.  You'll follow the instructions perfectly and the garment is sound, but then you put it on for a fitting and it looks...

This is the first draft of the great coat sew-a-long that you may have been wondering about over the last few months*. Notice that it looks awful.  Just- really let it sink in for a moment.  The sleeves are overly large,  the unpictured belt was so wide that it was bordering on comedic. and the box pleat that I have in the back um... doesn't really work with multiply layers in play.   Plus the length and the hood weren't great.
Now imagine using the expensive fabric and having to fix all of those little things with no wiggle room. 

And just for the fun of it: imagine not crying about it, because you're a resilient adult and you've totally got this. 

You also run into a lot of simple glitches when drafting your own patterns.   You'll be drafting a very cute simple dress to wear to a wedding in august, and then suddenly the skirt and the bodice wont match up.  One of them is two inches too big, but it could have easily been the other that was two inches too small.

But it's okay because I did a muslin first, so it took about two seconds to fix the pattern and then the dress was perfect.

The "I'm actually an idiot" mistakes will come too.  Also seen on the bridesmaid dress I made for my sister's wedding this summer.   I wanted to have a nice gathered top like the one featured on this dress here.  To do that I took the front bodice piece and stretched it out so that I could gather one edge.

Hopefully some of you are laughing because instead of having a dynamic draped bodice I ended up with an awkward boob cup.   One that was much too large for my breasts and started at my natural waistline.  This happened because I had extended both the neckline and the waistline.  When I gathered the waistline in,  the neckline had no choice but to form a generous cup. 

What I actually needed was a piece that looked more like this.   Instead of being stretched the pattern piece is fanned out.  That way the neckline remains the same length and you can gather or pleat the waistline edge to get the effect I wanted. 

All of these problems could have been disastrous if done in the final material.  In the case of the coat it would have been the end of that project.  Instead there wasn't an issue at all, for any of them.  All because of one simple beautiful tool available to all: the practice run

After tweaking the pattern until it's perfect, all you have to do is sew the final project! Yay for you!

*or... more like 18.... 

Saturday, July 30, 2016

My Design Process

By August 12th I'll have designed and sewn three different dresses for special occasions this summer.  The first was a bridesmaids dress for my sister's wedding a couple weeks ago.  The second and third are dresses for me and Gwendolyn for my sister-in-law's wedding in august.   These dresses, combined with work I'm doing for the Etsy store,  have really helped me streamline my own design process.

I thought I'd share a sample of that process with you.

First, I need to start with a specific project idea and a specific deadline. I have a tendency to jump ship on projects when something more interesting comes along.   The same seems to happen with design, I get distracted thinking about a nice blouse, when I'm trying to work on the design for a dress.  So it helps me to think in absolutes.  I must have this specific project finished by this specific date.  Even if I just pick a date myself.

This step was pretty easy for the dresses I'm talking about here.

Bethany is getting married on August twelfth.  I am making one dress for myself, and another for Gwendolyn.  No wiggle room.  No questions.

Secondly I turn to the internet for design ideas.   Usually, I turn to Pinterest first.  There I can get a general sense of what I want to do.   Why not put Gwendolyn in a Princess dress?  Her cousins are wearing some so they can all kind of match. It would be really cute.

She's wearing yellow, so let's google Belle inspired dresses and see if we can riff off of any of those. 

Everything I like gets pinned to my drafting inspiration board.  I label them with semi-specific notes about what caught my eye. 

Third I draw some designs.  I'm not particularly good at drawing yet, but the process helps me to analyze the construction of the garment.  The drawing also helps me to weigh design elements against one another.  So that in the end I can come to a final decision.

After sketching and finalizing a design I look up an tutorials that I might need why constructing the pattern.   Most of my instructions come from "Metric Pattern Cutting for Woman's Wear".  It's a really good guide on almost everything that you might want to create for yourself.

Occasionally the book will have nothing on what I want to accomplish, so I turn to the internet for more specific help.  I've noticed that Burda has a lot of nice specific tutorials about pattern drafting 

Now that I've pondered, designed, and researched my project I'm ready to move onto the actual creation of the pattern.

What about you?  How do you go about designing?

Friday, November 6, 2015

How to use a Digital Pattern

Using a digital pattern for the first time can be a bit tricky.  So I thought I would throw together a quick guide to help with any confusion out there.


Your awesome new pattern should arrive in a pdf.  When printing check your settings to make sure that the computer is printing the graphics at 100% rather than fitting them to the page.  That way your garment will come out true to size rather than sucking.

this is an important square
On the first page there should be a calibration square.  Mine measures 5cm by 5cm.  The first thing you should do is measure this square to make sure it is accurate.  Otherwise there was something wrong with your settings and you'll have to print out the pattern again


The pages of your pattern are meant to overlap a bit, to help limit assembly errors. For me this overlap is exactly one centimeter, but there doesn't seam to be a industry standard.   I've also put a column and row designation on each page in case they get mixed up by mistake.

I've added marks on one side and the bottom

I've found that it's helpful to go through and mark one centimeter in on one side and the bottom of each page. That way you don't have to finagle with a ruler while lining up the pages.  You just slide them into place, and tape them down.  A self healing cutting mat keeps the pages from slipping at the last moment.

A couple of tips: Don't cut out the pattern before you've taped the pages together.  Otherwise you'll loose the orientation of the pages and the order, and it'll be like putting together a jigsaw puzzle that has been out in the rain for a week.

Also,  tape the pages together on on each pattern piece, because otherwise they would fall apart once you start cutting the pattern out.   ...I bet you can guess how I figured that one out.


Now you should have a beautiful  pattern all taped up and ready to go.  From this point on you can treat it like a tissue pattern that you would get from the store. The pieces are a little fragile, so I try not to assemble the pattern until right before I'm ready to cut out the fabric.

This is actually the pattern for my Great Coat Sew Along.  It's a little messy because I left all of the construction marks in.  After all, I'm the only one who is ever going to use this thing.

I haven't gotten a lot of feedback about wether or not you would like to see how I constructed the pattern.   If you would like to see all the "interesting" details then speak now or hold your peace.  I'll be constructing the muslin over the next week.

Happy Sewing!