Saturday, March 28, 2009

There are no bad mistakes, or why a muslin is ALWAYS important

"Muslin" is an inexpensive woven cotton fabric. Its fashion sewing purpose is to make a rough draft of a garment. This rough draft is also called a "muslin", whether made with muslin fabric or any other inexpensive fabric which you might choose to use. The garment muslin is used to confirm and adjust the pattern and design to fit, prior to cutting into the fashion fabric. I never thought that it should be done to confirm you are making the correct garment!

I had wanted to make myself a billowy, crunched crosswise at the hem skirt ever since I had to abort the plan for my cotton bias patchwork fabric. So, as part of my SWAP - Timmel's Sewing with a Plan - challenge at Artisanssquare, I planned to make a skirt from natural silk mugga inspired by this one that was made for a couture collector client of Fine Fabrics.

This client and I are very close in measurement. I had tried on skirts made for her in the past, so I knew whatever skirt I made using her patterns would fit me well. With more than 40 years of sewing experience behind me, I'm pretty good at visualizing the 3-dimensional garment from a flat pattern, but this pattern just did not look right. I couldn't figure out how the pleats would go together to give me cross side pleat look I was wanting. So, I waited until our dressmaker, Cindy was about to ask her how it went together. She quickly pulled in the pleats and with a flick of her wrist said, "Just go for it. We know it fits you and you'll see how it works when its on you." We would not have cut the muslin corner for a paying client, but I was anxious to get something made, so I did just that.

And here is my skirt. Fits perfectly. With the loop drape of the pleats it is a better use for the silk mugga than the planned pattern, which really shows itself with a more structured fabric. I love it. I'll live in it this Spring and Summer. But, it is a different skirt. As Cindy says, there really are no bad mistakes, but it demostrates that there is a purpose for making a muslin, even when you think you can get away without.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Incredible Growing Shirt

Or, why it is so important to stay neck edges, armholes and other piece edges that might stretch.

"Stay stitching" is a single line of stitching, through one layer of fabric, to stabilize the fabric, preventing it from becoming stretched or distorted. When I take the time to stay stitch, I will do so 1/8" within the seam line - on a 5/8" seam at the 1/2" line. In some cases, I'll sew in a strip of seam binding or my personal favorite, an organza or chiffon selvage strip. It is important to stay neck and armhole edges, bias seam lines where a zipper is to be inserted, and in the case of my shirt also along the back waistline edge.

I laughed when our dressmaker, Cindy gave a lecture about the importance of "stay stitching" for her Sewing Educator Certification course, but my "Incredible Growing Shirt" is a prime example of why this simple step, that one might think is such a bore it might be eliminated, is so important.

Its surprising how much this shirt distorted. Its a lightweight silk jersey, which is not the most stable of fabrics, but this is pretty extreme growth from stretching. This shirt is also an example of when you might use a fabric for your rough draft that handles similarly to the fabric to be used in the finished garment. The best dressmaker I know collects different fabrics that are deeply discounted on dump tables for her muslin garment drafts, and has a collection of all sorts of weaves and weights.

I made this muslin, with just that, a woven cotton muslin. It has no stretch. I left the side seam open to get the muslin on and off and pinned it shut for fitting. The shirt needed to be pinched in at the waistline by about 1-1/2". Other than that it fit well.

Now what must I do to salvage this shirt besides wearing it draped over my shoulders and dripping off my body. First, re-establish its new shoulder line, which in this case pulls in about 2" of fabric from the front and back neck.

Second, I can open the side seam and pull in the back at its waistline, and taper into the hemline, but I think I'll create a poet's shirt pleat at center back. I actually like that more than its simple straight look. Sometimes, its best to loosen up and creatively progress the design along the way.

Inaugural Party Hostess Gown

The completed Washington Inaugural Party Hostess Dress. The contrast and brightness of the image has been increased, virtually overexposing it you could see more of the detail. It is very monochromatic, which is part of the understated effect we wanted.

Our client's comment, "I should have had Fine Fabrics posted to my forehead for all the people who asked about my dress...... I was watching women pulling and adjusting their bustier and I was running around, free to move and comfortable."

We lined this gown with double knit jersey - yoga pant material - over which was draped 100% cotton interlock - t shirt fabric - and a beautiful, graphic and modern 35% silk and 65% rayon velvet burnout. Our client is California sporty in life and style and this inaugural party gown fits her. For more on its construction see "Washington DC Here We Come!"