Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Summer Shirtdress: McCall's 6696

There's something about a dress with buttons, or a shirt with buttons or hey even a skirt with buttons.  I've noticed that I have a lot of things on my to-sew list, which involve a lot of buttons.  But, it's the buttons that make me procrastinate actually completing the garment.  Don't you hate that?  I've had McCall's 6696 dress finished for a while now, but I've been procrastinating with sewing buttonholes and sewing on the buttons.  Anyways, I'm happy to finish it finally.  It really was an enjoyable sewing project.




One of the design details that I appreciate in this pattern, other than the buttons, are the gathers in the back bodice.  Here's a close up!


I made view C and I made 3 muslins and several fitting adjustments:
  1.  Bodice Back - Sway back adjustment to eliminate bulkiness puffing out in the back bodice pleating.  I trimmed off some excess on the bodice back pattern at centre back along the bottom edge.  See photo. 
  2. Bodice Front - I ended up doing a size 12 D grading to 14 at the waist.
  3. Bodice Front - 1/2" forward shoulder adjustment
  4. Bodice Front - moved waist dart out 1/2" and lengthen 1/2" and shaped the dart
  5. Bodice Front - shaped side bust dart (slight concave)
  6. Bodice Front - 3/8" gaping neckline adjustment which created a hassle in changing the collar stand and collar to fit a slightly smaller neckline but was totally worth it.
  7. Skirt Back - moved dart toward centre 1/2" and lengthened dart a total of 2 3/4" extra.  Shaped dart.
To adjust the collar stand and collar to match the gaping neckline adjustment, I ended up reducing the length of those pieces by 2/8"x2 = 4/8"=1/2".  You would think it should be 3/8"x2 = 6/8" = 3/4"  But that was too small when I tried it.  Yeah.  It was a pain in the neckline big time.
Swayback adjustment. Trim the bottom edge straight.  That will reduce a bit of bulk which is accentuated with gathers.
Moving dart over and shaping with a curve



Construction Details
I underlined all pieces in white cotton batiste.  I decided to do the "burrito method" for attaching the  yoke lining and front bodice at the shoulder.  I love doing the burrito!


 There was a bit of hand sewing involved which I find relaxing.
 I basted the bias binding before hand sewing it to the underlining.

Well, that's my summer shirt dress!  Overall it's a great pattern that I think I'll make again.
Happy Sewing!

Batik Fabric Prep and the Beauty of Tibetan Prayer Flags Blowing in the Breeze

It's a beautiful summer day, and I was hanging up some batiks and was struck by how beautiful they looked blowing in the gentle breeze.  They remind me of Tibetan prayer flags blowing in the breeze.





















I just got an order of gorgeous batik fabrics for a quilt.  The pattern is the Argyll quilt pattern by Jinny Beyer in the Java colour way.  I love these fabrics, especially the warm browns and ivory with the pink fabrics.

Although I always pre-wash or pre-treat my fabrics when garment sewing, I must admit I don't always do so for quilting fabrics.  If I'm not concerned about shrinkage, I may not pre-wash my fabrics. If I'm using pre-cuts like jelly rolls or even fat quarters, I definitely don't pre-wash.  Those small pieces would be such a tangly mess. Although, batiks don't unravel much.  If I'm not concerned about dyes bleeding, then I don't pre-wash either.  Pre-washing, I find, is a relaxing way to check out each fabric, see if the dyes bleed and to avoid shrinkage.  I also enjoy ironing each fabric and folding it neatly.  It's just another step in enjoying the beautiful fabrics.  But, sometimes you're just in a rush, and that's fine too.  There's no pre-washing police!

The finished quilt size is 83 3/4"X 99" which is a good size for a double bed, and barely fits my queen width-wise. I like a lot of overhang on my quilts.  Hence, the concern with shrinking, especially after quilting and washing. So, I'd rather be on the safe side and prevent shrinking as much as possible

I hand washed these fabrics in separate batches with similar shades together using Eucalan.  I use Eucalan for washing my hand knits.  It's very gentle and has some lanolin in it which protects and conditions wool which prevents it from becoming harsh and brittle. But  Eucalan is also suitable for any gentle hand-washing. Plus you don't have to rinse it out.  I sometimes use it for washing my hand made garments because it's so gentle.  To prevent fading of fabrics, just be sure to use a phosphate-free detergent and cold water.















I kept the fabrics separate to prevent bleeding.  If they're damp and sitting on each other for a long time, there's a possibility of colour transfer.  I squeezed out as much water as possible without wringing the fabric because wringing distorts the grain.  Then the fun part is hanging them outside on the line.
I'm fortunate to have a large yard with a long laundry line, and I love to use it in the summer.  The thing to remember is not to leave fabrics in bright, hot sun for too long because they will fade.    I had definitely made that mistake with my clothes when I left them out in the sun.  The best line drying weather is definitely a cloudy day with a bit of a breeze. These fabrics got some lovely dappled sunshine, and I flipped them over a couple of times to avoid fading.  Another thing to be aware of when line drying is that larger pieces can get heavy, and hanging them can distort the grain.  So, squeezing them out well after washing is helpful.
When they were semi-dry, I brought them in and finished drying them in the dryer on low heat for about 20 minutes, and they came out beautiful, fluffy and soft.

Next step is ironing.  I love to use steam on a cotton setting for almost everything.  I did find some pieces just slightly off grain.  A little gentle tugging easily straightened them out, though.

Here is my small, folded pile of freshly laundered batiks.  I'll put them in a large Tupperware container to store it until I'm ready to make this quilt.  If I really want to surprise my future self, I may cut the pieces as per pattern instructions and label each fabric.  It's always nice to start a project with everything ready to sew!

Thanks for reading my blog and
Happy Sewing!

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Bernina 580 Review and first impressions

I've had my eye on a Bernina 580 for a long time, and I finally bought one a few weeks ago.  Yay!  I love how smoothly it sews.  It hums along quietly unlike my other machine.  There are so many options on this machine.  It's more like a computer than a sewing machine.  I thought it might be complicated to use at first, but it's very user-friendly.  The Bernina 580 has an embroidery module as an option, but I did not purchase it because I'm not that interested in machine embroidery right now.  But who knows, I may be in the future; so it's good to know it's always an option.























I discovered that I like to use the stylus for the touchscreen.  Some higher end Berninas have a magnetized spot where the stylus sticks but this one doesn't.  I found a solution, though.  On the hand wheel is a magnetized area where my magnetic needle minder stuck to but the stylus did not.  Then the stylus stuck to the needle minder.  So now I just keep my needle minder in the centre of the handwheel to hold my stylus while I'm sewing.


The Bernina 580 comes with a stitch regulator for free motion quilting.  I haven't used it much yet, but I'm looking forward to having nice even stitches on my quilts!



It also came with this hands-free system where you can lift the presser foot with your knee.  It could be handy for things like machine applique where you have to change positions quite often and don't want to move your hands from the project.  I haven't found it very handy with the things I'm doing yet.  It feels like it's in the way.  I would also have to reposition my sewing machine, so it doesn't hit the drawers of my table.









Here's the really fun part.  This is the accessory case for storing presser feet, bobbins, needle cases and other fun things.  I love how it's so organized and neat.  Everything has its spot.

Automatic thread snipping after sewing a seam
To pop a bobbin out just press down.   You know you're a sewing geek if this impresses you!


Apparently, I've done 27,346 stitches so far!


Eco mode turns lights down and deactivates sewing

 You can set whether or not you want the machine to sense your upper thread and or bobbin when it runs out of thread.  Not sure I need it for the upper thread because I can clearly see if it's running out.  The bobbin sensor is definitely handy, though!















The Bernina 580 comes with this carrying case which is nice if you're taking it to classes or for maintenance.   Also, very importantly, the manual which is conveniently spiral bound.  Very nice!  I love reading sewing machine manuals.  I'm a geek.

 An instructional DVD is included which I'm sure is very helpful, but I haven't been able to play it on my computer system or DVD player.

Fortunately, there are very thorough and informative tutorials on YOUTUBE!




Well, that sums it up so far.  I really love sewing on my Bernina.  I've done some quilt piecing and buttonholes.  Oh yeah, I've never had so much fun doing automatic buttonholes.  Speaking of buttons, my McCalls shirtdress has been done for a while.  I've been procrastinating on the buttonholes, but I just finished them this morning.  I just need to sew the buttons on and take photos.

In summary, this is a really awesome high-quality sewing machine that makes sewing a breeze!

 Happy Sewing


Friday, 6 May 2016

Liberty Fabrics and Fitting McCall's 6696 Shirt dress

Ok, fun stuff first!  I just got my delivery of Liberty of London Fabrics.  The first one is called Wildflowers, and I've had my eye on it for a very long time.  I love the botanical illustrations; it makes me feel like I'm wandering through a meadow.  When I saw there were only 2 yards left I snatched it up because I knew I'd regret it later if I let it disappear.






















The second one is called Joy and Sorrow.  I love it because it's a unique print and I love anything with birds. There's 4 yards of that one so, plenty for a dress.

So, I've been working on fitting McCall's 6696 Shirtdress.  I've had this pattern for a while and now that warmer weather is here, I was thinking of making myself a comfy new shirt dress for summer.  If I'm lucky, I'll be able to squeeze a dress out of the wildflowers fabric.  It is a directional print so it may be tricky.  I made a muslin of view C, the sleeveless straight skirt version.  This forces me to do some fitting work on the skirt (something I often avoid by doing gathered full skirts).














I made a size 12C bodice grading to size 14 at the waist and a straight size 14 skirt.  There are several fitting issues with this right off the hop.


  1. Very poor fit in the back skirt - This is the most glaring problem as soon as I put it on. It's also one of my most frustrating problems even in ready-to-wear.  There's a lot of excess fabric in the back above the full hip, and it may be just a little snug at the fullest part.  This causes those annoying draglines from the butt to the waist.  To get some extra shaping and curve hugging, I'm planning on lengthening those back darts and curving them out big time.  I may also need to add some extra room to prevent it from being tight.  It's not supposed to be super fitted, just skimming the curves.
  2. Excess fabric in the back bodice - I really like the gathering in the back bodice as a design element and I don't think the gathering itself is the issue.  If you look at the pattern on a grid, you'll notice that it dips down at the centre back.  That's what I think the problem is for me.  Excess vertical fabric.  Basically, I need to do a swayback adjustment on the back bodice.  I think the easiest way to do that is to straighten out the bottom edge of the back bodice.  Theoretically, that should tighten things up vertically, and the gathers will not bunch out like a balloon.  Crossing my fingers it'll work.
  3. Fine tuning the front bodice - The front bodice fits fine, but it could be even better.  There are some minor draglines.  I was thinking of maybe trying a size D and definitely shaping those underbust darts for a more accurate fit. The upper front bodice could be slightly better fitting.  I have a narrow upper chest and sometimes get gaping in the neckline so I may fine tune that slightly.






Here is the back bodice piece.  I think if I take a slice of that extra fabric below the ruler, it may lay better against the back curve.






















So, I'll be tracing my pattern pieces on paper and making those adjustments and then sewing up muslin number two.  I'm hoping I won't have to do a third one.  Either way, whatever it takes to get a great fitting dress will be totally worth it.  My future-self, gallivanting on summer vacation in a unique and awesomely fitted dress, will thank me for all my hard work.

So, yeah.  That's what's happening in my sewing room today.  Updates will be coming shortly!

Happy Sewing!