Skirt of Doom

Do you ever know when a sewing project is doomed from the start?

A colleague of mine wears a cute kilt-like skirt to work that has a little asymmetrical overlay. I like it and figured it would be easy enough to sew, so I grabbed New Look 6326 to try View D (the floral print skirt on the pattern envelope).

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New Look patterns are nice for a few reasons. The envelope usually includes a wide range of sizes (sizes 10-22 in this case) and some various views that are truly different, not just minor variations on a theme. The patterns also are pretty inexpensive because there’s just one garment, not a wardrobe.

Pattern in hand, I looked for some fabric in New York’s Garment District. This store at 257 W 39rd Street beckoned because it offers deep discounts and usually has a great selection of wools. I wanted a plaid – maybe a Tattersall or Buffalo check – to highlight the asymmetrical front hem.

I have shopped in New York’s Garment District for years and have learned to put up with and even sometimes enjoy the crowded stores, the haggling, the thrill of the hunt and the mercurial customer service to get the best quality and greatest variety of fabrics imaginable. The store at this location is currently called Gate 232, but it’s gone by various other names over the years. It has some nice stuff and a lot of junk.

I found some navy wool crepe in an uneven windowpane plaid that would be perfect – not too heavy with a good drape. I found it in the wool section of the store with big signs everywhere saying the fabrics were $10 a yard. When I inquired about the fabric, however, I was told it was not part of the “sale” and instead was $12 a yard. I bargained with the guy to get the $10 a yard. I am OK with this in theory – haggling is part of the Garment District culture, but it rubbed me the wrong way that magically the very thing I wanted was not part of the so-called “sale.”

I inspected the fabrics before asking for a cuts, since I have also learned the hard way that fabrics can be stained, torn, or have defects. It seemed fine, but it is dark and cramped in that store, so I didn’t do as good a job as I would have elsewhere.

At the register the guy took my credit card and mumbled something about “10 percent.” What? I asked him. He was trying to charge me a 10% fee for using a credit card. There is no sign of this “store policy” anywhere. I grabbed back my credit card and walked out. He guy yelled at me that I had to pay for something once it was cut. I yelled back that he was chiseling me for a bogus fee after we’d agreed on the price, and I’d be happy to take it up with the city’s consumer protection bureau. He relented, cursing that he’d been in business X years and this had never happened before, blah blah.

When I got home, I found that the wool crepe was shot full of little holes that are visible if you hold the fabric up to the light. I guess moths had eaten it? I sent the fabrics to the cleaners to be steam cleaned, to be sure any moths were dead.

I soldiered on. I was able to squeeze the skirt out of the fabric (I had bought enough to make a long skirt but settled for a shorter skirt). The front asymmetrical overlay went together well, but I stupidly did not stabilize the crepe and because it’s slightly on the bias, it pulled a little when I sewed it, distorting the plaid a bit.

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I decided I could live with it and kept going. I sewed the back darts, sewed rest of the skirt together plus the right-side waistband (but not the facing yet) and tried it on for fit. I usually need wide darts or double darts in the back of a skirt, and indeed, I did in this case, so I sewed another set of darts near the first. When I tried it on, it looked a little lumpy back there, but I figured it would press out and look right once I’d installed the zipper and waistband.

I set the project aside for about a month because of illness and other commitments. When I came back to it yesterday, I looked in dismay at the waistband – it was sewn on crookedly. How did that happen? I unpicked it, only to remember too late that I’d graded the seam (sloppily in some places), accounting for the goof. Yikes. I marked the sewing line with chalk, using a flashlight to follow the old stitching line, since the seam allowance was gone and unevenly graded.

Thinking I was back on track, I put in the invisible zipper and the waistband facing. I gave it a good press, smoothing out the hips on a ham, and pinned up the hem to try it on. Oh brother. My backside looks like this:

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What the hell?!? I cannot account for this weird pleating and crazy excess fabric! I pinched it out just to see what I was dealing with, and the result is a hot mess because the plaid is ruined. Also, the waistband is uneven despite my best efforts.

So, is this my first wadder of 2018? Can this skirt be saved?

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Betrayal!

I finished making a top from Simplicity 8137. I feel so betrayed. It looked like a quality project, just the kind of thing my work wardrobe needs. I need a dressy lined top in my life – the kind of thing that looks like a jacket but isn’t, to look crisp and cool on hot summer days.

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The love affair started with the fabric. I picked out some really nice rayon crepe at B&J Fabrics in the Garment District in New York. It had just enough drape, just enough texture. It was a daring and flattering shade of cobalt. I picked out excellent Japanese-made Bemberg rayon from my stash.

The love affair progressed at a torrid pace. The pattern was a bit of work to cut out – 11 pattern pieces – but that was fine because I was after a quality experience.

We had our first fight when I realized that Simplicity 8137 is a lined top but there was no lining for the sleeves. Seemed a bit daft to me. A flaw to be sure. But the rest of the experience seemed good. A nice solid match for me. I continued on.

We got along well together. A few tricky bits around the tie belt went smoothly with a bit of guidance. I fashioned crisp pleats, understitched with precision, and rejoiced when all the notches and seams lined up. I even had a great experience with the humungous narrow hem.

But then…

I tried it on.

And I saw this:

IMG_20170716_180801I could hear my grandmother’s advice – “Stand up straight!” So I stood up straight and took another picture. Same deal.

I was mystified. Why did the back slope down on one side? The front wrap section has a bit of drape to it, but that looks cute and flowy. Why is it all going sideways here? And what’s with the drag lines across my back? It fits fine so where are those coming from? WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME?

As if often the case with torrid affairs, you blame yourself. Surely, I thought, I made a cutting error or a sewing error to end up with such a sucky back line. Surely, this can be fixed, right?

Ever have a lover’s quarrel where you wish you’d been taping the conversation, so you could play your lover’s nasty comment back? Well, when it doubt with sewing, I go back to the pattern as the ultimate version of the truth.

Behold:

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The pattern piece on top is the left front. Under it you can see the right front. Notice how different they are, how the right front tapers way away from the left, two inches at the end? Why would anyone think this is a great idea? It’s not enough of a taper to look like an intentional asymmetric look. Rather, it just looks like a mistake.

Can this relationship be saved? I am tempted to trim off the taper and make the hem even, but then I worry it will look funny in the front. Here’s the front look:

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There are other problems, as you can see. The tie has this pleat to gather a bit, but it just sags and looks sad. So that needs to be fixed too. And those drag lines will still be there in the back.

So, I think we need to break up. Sorry, Simplicity 8137, but it’s not me, it’s you.

Miss Fisher’s Lace Fantasy

I have never sewn with lace before. I don’t wear lace, actually. I mean, I donned a tiered lace Scarlett O’Hara dress for my junior prom, but that was back in the 80s when I could be forgiven for it.

But lately, I have been craving lace. Miss Fisher is to blame.

Played by Essie Davis, Phryne Fisher is the quintessential 1920s fashionista, swanning around in lace jackets and dusters as she solves crimes, saves the day and gets the men on the TV show “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.” (It’s an Australian show, available on Netflix in the US.)

I bought some Art Deco style lace from Mood Fabrics in New York:

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And I am learning how to sew lace for the first time. The red thread you see running through the center is the center back.  One of the first things you learn is to use running threads and tailor’s tacks to mark the pattern.

Me-Made in the Heat

We had central air conditioning installed in our house a couple of months ago. We went to turn it on yesterday, since the temperature suddenly shot up to 90 degrees (32 C) and guess what? No AC.

So today I am working from home and waiting for the AC guys to come fix the damn thing. LIMG_20170519_075135ucky for me, I have plenty of breezy summer me-made clothes! This is “Pinafore Dress” from Happy Homemade Sew Chic.

I made it from two panels of silk crepe, overruns from Ralph Lauren that I got at Mood Fabrics in New York. I needed a dress pattern that would have no darts or other design features to get in the way of the gorgeous Art Deco design. It was tough to cut just the same, because the design was printed at an angle. I thought about making a dress on the bias so that the design would be straight, but sewing silk crepe on the bias requires a special kind of crazy that I ain’t got.

Truth be told, this is another project that’s not as well-made as it could be. I didn’t line up the yoke and the dress as well as I could have with all the gathers along the front, so the corners jut out a bit. Also, the hem is a little wonky. Still, I made this with French seams for a pretty look inside and out, and I made best use of the design.

I intended it for a beach cover-up, not a dress, but it’s going to be 90+ again today so I need all the cool I can get.

Me-Made Sunbathing

Today’s warm enough for a quick bit of sunbathing, in my Me-Made swimsuit from Simplicity 1116. IMG_20170512_150440 I was a bit thinner when I made this, so it’s a skosh tight. Definitely for backyard sunbathing!

It wasn’t as hard to make as I thought. Spandex is very forgiving, after all. I got the material and the lining from Stretch House, a shop in New York’s Garment District that just sells spandex fabrics.

If I had to make another of these swimsuits, I’d use a self-lining. Despite a soul-sucking amount of understitching, the lining still shows a bit. (The extra 10 pounds don’t help either, truth be told.)