Terri’s Tunic

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Here is my new “Easy Open-Front Tunic” that I made following Karen’s instructions from the last post.  It was easy!  I used this colorful silk that she used to demonstrate how to cut the front and neck opening, so some of my work was done for me. (Thank you, sis!)

Rather than using a trim for the bottom, I opted for a trim along the sleeve edges.  This pattern is so versatile that you could make several versions and they would all be different depending on the type of fabric and trim you use.

You could also cut a longer piece than the original instructions call for, to make a longer finished tunic.  Just remember to double the amount of length you want to add since your fabric panel is both the front and the back.

I used a trim at the edge of the sleeve/side.

I used a trim at the edge of the sleeve/side.

The hardest part to this pattern to me was the edge around the neck area.  Since it is a curve that you need to turn in twice to create the narrow finish, you may find it helpful to clip.  Be sure, however, that you create very shallow clips so that you do not create a raw spot in your finished edge.

Use very small clips in the curve around the neck.

Use very small clips in the curve around the neck.

Take your time pressing and pinning the edges. I found it helpful to use plenty of pins, especially on the curved neck area.

Take your time pressing and pinning the edges. I found it helpful to use plenty of pins, especially on the curved neck area.

This is a simple pattern, but remember that “simple for the experienced sewer” does not mean a pattern and instructions are suitable for an inexperienced sewer.  If you are new to sewing, don’t try this one just yet.  The slippery fabric will be hard for you to handle, and the tedious narrow hem will be frustrating.  But, we have other posts and patterns here on our website for beginners, and we will soon begin posting our Beginning Sewing video classes.

We are “in production” for our video classes right now (which means we are taping with an iPhone, throwing away a lot of outtakes, and learning to use iMovie).  Stay tuned!

 

Learning to Sew – Travel Pillowcase #2

This travel-sized pillowcase has an overlapping back opening to insert the pillow

This travel-sized pillowcase has an overlapping back opening to insert the pillow

Gather Your Tools and Supplies

If you made the pillowcase from the last article, I hope you enjoyed the process while learning how to sew!  This pillowcase is the same size, and takes the same sized pillow insert.  But where the first one had a traditional side opening, this version has an overlapping back opening to insert the pillow.

For this project, you will need: 1/2 yard of cotton fabric, at least 44″ wide, thread to match, and a pillow insert.  You will also need paper or pattern transfer fabric to make your pattern.  Alternately, you can draw the dimensions directly onto the fabric.  For either of these options, you will need a marker or fabric marker, and a straight edge.

You will also need the following sewing tools:  sewing pins, dressmaking shears, pinking shears, a hem gauge, and a seam ripper for those inevitable mistakes.  Small snips or scissors are also handy for cutting threads and other small jobs.

Gather your supplies before you begin

Gather your supplies before you begin

Create Your Pattern and Cut the Fabric

To create the pattern, draw two rectangles onto thin paper or pattern transfer fabric. This special fabric should be located in the interfacing section of your nearest Hancock’s or other fabric store.  (If they don’t have it, a thin inexpensive interfacing would also work.)  One rectangle should be 12″ x 13″ (the pillowcase back), and the other 8.5″ x 13″ (the pillowcase front).  The front is placed on the fold of the fabric on one of the 13″ sides.  The back is placed straight on the grain of the fabric.  (See Learning to Sew – Fabric for details about grainline and straightening fabric)  Draw a horizontal line on the pillowcase back pattern piece parallel with the 13″ side of the rectangle.  Refer to the photo below for all pattern markings.

Mark rectangles as shown here to create a pattern for your pillowcase

Mark rectangles as shown here to create a pattern for your pillowcase

After you have pre-washed and dried your fabric, and straightened at least one end, lay it out flat on the cutting surface.  Lay the pattern pieces out on your fabric as shown below.  Make sure the straight-of-grain arrow on the pillowcase back is parallel to the selvage by measuring the distance between them.  Place the pillowcase front on  the fold where the arrows indicate.  Pin the pattern on the fabric; cut out with dressmaker shears.

Then move the tape measure to the other end of the arrow to make sure the arrow is the same distance at each end

Then move the tape measure to the other end of the arrow to make sure the arrow is the same distance at each end

Measure the distance between one end of the straight-of-grain arrow and the selvage

Measure the distance between one end of the straight-of-grain arrow and the selvage

Pin the pattern pieces on your fabric; cut out carefully with dressmaker shears

Pin the pattern pieces on your fabric; cut out carefully with dressmaker shears

An alternate method of cutting out the pieces of this pillowcase is to draw the rectangles directly onto the fabric.  Use a fabric marker and a straight edge to draw the measurements, taking your time to make sure of your accuracy.  Be sure to draw the 8.5″ by 13″ rectangle on the fold, as shown in the photo below.  Remember, cutting mistakes cannot be corrected like sewing mistakes can.  Place  pins just inside the marked lines to keep the fabric layers from shifting while you cut.  Cut with dressmaker shears.

If you wish, draw the squares directly onto the prepared fabric rather than making a pattern

If you wish, draw the squares directly onto the prepared fabric rather than making a pattern

If you have access to a rotary cutter and mat, you can use these handy tools to cut the pieces of the pillowcase out.  These tools make quick work of straight line cutting, and are very popular with quilters.  If you decide to use a rotary cutter, be sure to practice on some scraps to get the hang of keeping the cutter straight and the straight edge still.

Rotary cutters are very popular with quilters; because you are cutting straight lines, the rotary cutter can be used here as well.

Rotary cutters are very popular with quilters; because you are cutting straight lines, the rotary cutter can be used here as well.

Assemble Your Pillowcase

Now you are ready to assemble your pillowcase.  Remove pins and pattern from the fabric.

To finish the edges of the back opening, turn one 13″ side of the back 1/2″ toward the wrong side, using a hem gauge for accuracy; press.  Turn again, using the last turn as a guide.  My second turn measured 5/8″ in this sample.  Press this turn, then pin for sewing.  Repeat for second back piece.  Sew along the folded edge, taking care to keep your seam as straight as possible.  Be sure to backstitch at the beginning and end of your stitch line to secure the stitches.  Go easy on the foot pedal; this isn’t Nascar!

Turn and press twice; sew along turned edge.  This creates a polished finish for the back opening.

Turn and press twice; sew along turned edge. This creates a polished finish for the back opening.

Unfold the pillowcase front and lay it flat with the right side up.  With right sides together, place one of the backs along the left edge of the front, with the finished edge toward the middle.  Place the other back on the right side, using the same procedure.  The finished edges will overlap about 4.5″.

Place the first back piece as shown, with right sides together and the finished edge toward the middle

Place the first back piece as shown, with right sides together and the finished edge toward the middle

Place the second piece as shown here; pin all around the outside for sewing.

Place the second piece as shown here; pin all around the outside for sewing.

Using a 1/2″ seam allowance, sew all around the outside of the pillowcase. Start on one of the sides, and not on a corner. When you get to a corner you will need to pivot. To do this, stop your stitch when you are 1/2″ away from the corner. Use your hem gauge to be sure of where you should stop. With the needle still down in the fabric, lift the presser foot lever. Turn the fabric for stitching the next side, checking again to be sure you are at 1/2″ for the next seam. Repeat this process at each corner, and stitch until you reach the point where you started. Back stitch here to secure the stitches.  See the short video below for a visual of pivoting.

With pinking shears, trim the outside of the pillowcase.  Take care to only cut the outside raw edge, leaving most of the seam allowance.  Trim the corners diagonally, but do not cut too close to the stitches in the corner.

Cut just the outside edge with pinking shears to keep the raw edges from raveling

Trim the corners diagonally, being careful not to get too close to the stitching line

Trim the corners diagonally, being careful not to get too close to the stitching line

Turn the pillowcase right side out; press. Insert pillow into the back opening and adjust. Stand back and admire your work!

Insert the pillow into the back

Insert the pillow into the back

The back of the pillowcase should look like this when you get the pillow inserted and adjusted

The back of the pillowcase should look like this when you get the pillow inserted and adjusted

If you make this pillowcase, we would sure love to hear about your experience. We’d also love a photo or two, so we can admire your work as well.

Next time, we will tackle a project using a commercial sewing pattern.  Hope you will join us!

Pattern Drafting – A New Vocabulary

I am an expert at home sewing.  I know the techniques, the tools, the jargon.  I’ve made tailored suits, coats, lined dresses, and many other detailed garments.  BUT I almost always started with a commercial pattern and step-by-step illustrated instructions.  I have made very little without a pattern, and those few items were relatively simple.  I suspect that this is the same for you.  So this new pattern drafting venture will require that we get familiar with some new terms introduced in Chapter One of our textbook, Pattern Making for Fashion Design by Helen Joseph-Armstrong.

Pattern Drafting is the term for what we are in the process of learning.  It is a system of creating patterns from measurements taken from a model or a dress form.  The first process is to create a Basic Pattern Set, which is a set of five fitted patterns that are created without design features.  The pieces in this set are then traced to create a Working Pattern, from which the designers (you and me) create patterns with added design features.  The process of developing designs from this basic pattern set to other working patterns, and then to final patterns for use in creating a test garment is called Flat Patternmaking.

The Basic Pattern Set consists of a bodice front, bodice back, long sleeve, skirt front, and skirt back.  After we learn how to take measurements correctly in Chapter Two, we will be creating our very own basic pattern set from these measurements in Chapter Three.  Once you have your basic pattern set, anything you create from them are your very own designs.  Even when you create something simple from them – like a gathered skirt – it is still an original design by you, the designer!  And we are going to do much more than that.

When working with flat patterns, we will need to know how to True seam lines, to transition smoothly from one angle to the next.  If you have ever made a garment using a multi-sized commercial pattern, and cut a different size pattern line for the waist and the hips, you have already done this blending of seam lines.

Dart lines and notches are some of the ways patternmakers mark working patterns.  Special instructions are also written on the pattern piece that mark the location of fabric features, such as stripes or plaids.

Balance refers to a perfect relationship between all the parts of the pattern.  To Balance a pattern, the designer makes adjustments to improve the fit and hang of the design.  Horizontal Balance Line (HBL) refers to any horizontal line on the dress form.  HBL lines help guide the balancing of patterns.  A Plumb Line is a vertical line that is at right angles with the floor.

Styleline Guides are created on a dress form by Pin Marking or Style Tape Marking, as I did on my dress form in the following photos.

Style lines marked with pins

Style lines marked with pins

Style lines marked with adhesive tape

Style lines marked with adhesive tape

There are also a few production terms that we need to be familiar with.  A First Pattern is the original pattern developed from the basic pattern set for a new design.  Improvements are made to the first pattern, unless a decision is made to drop that particular design.  After patterns are tested by cutting and assembling in muslin, the final and error-free pattern is made.  This is the Production Pattern.  Grader is then used to size the pattern.  Designers use a medium size for developing patterns, then grade up and down to form other sizes.  (This was interesting to learn; I always assumed pattern drafters used those six-foot size zero models that walk those runways…)

*Heads up Be looking for a medium sized female to act as your Fit Model.  And if you don’t have a dress form, you will need one with measurements close to, but not bigger than, your fit model.  Don’t waste your money on those cheap crank-out forms that the fabric stores sell.  Purchase a professional dress form, such as those available from Fabulous Fit.  These come with a padding kit, so that you can make your dress form conform to the actual measurements of your fit model.

Marker is developed from production patterns.  Markers are made by arranging all pattern pieces for the entire production line onto paper, or by computer.  Before this step, the independent designer or the company has already determined how many finished garments will be produced and in what sizes.  The number of layers of fabric that are spread for a marker play a role in this process as well.  Patterns are arranged on the marker paper, or by computer, to minimize waste of fabric.

Cutting patterns from a marker differs quite a bit from what we are used to in regular home sewing.  Fabric is spread in single layers, not folded with selvages together.  Each left and right of a design requires a separate pattern piece.  And when a production house cuts out the pattern, several layers are cut at once using special fabric cutters.

To see the process of spreading fabric for a marker, watch this YouTube video.  To see the process of cutting the fabric from the marker, watch this YouTube video.

This chapter includes information about fabric qualities.  I am assuming that if you are following along with me, you are already a rather advanced sewer, and you know fabric.  If this is not the case,  please refer to my posts on Beginning to Sew topics.

Chapter One concludes with a discussion on cost sheets, pattern charts, and design spec sheets.  All of these are extremely important if you decide to go into production one day.  If that is your goal, please buy this textbook. Or go to design school.  Or both.  For our purposes, we will move on to something that directly involves pattern drafting.  In our next lesson or two, we will learn how to accurately measure our fit model and our dress form.

Pattern Drafting – A New Journey

I’ve had the textbook for a year or so:  Patternmaking for Fashion Design by Helen Joseph-Armstrong.  It’s time to get serious about learning pattern drafting.  This is the necessary first step in creating my own designs.  Plus, I hear that learning new things keeps the brain sharp, and that’s always a good thing.  Forget Lumosity…let’s learn to create patterns and design us some gorgeous clothing!

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So today, we start with Chapter One: Patternmaking Essentials for the Workroom.  I had many of these tools already, like pins and holder (mine is a magnet), paper and fabric scissors, assorted pens and pencils, a French curve ruler, weights, and tape measure.  I had to buy more rulers, a notcher, an awl, and a handy-looking tool called a Simflex folding measure.  I also – just now – ordered marking paper, used to develop first patterns from model measurements.  I will use it to learn to create a basic pattern set.

This handy tool helps to space buttonhole markings correctly.

This handy tool helps to space buttonhole markings correctly.

Weights are used in place of pins, for a quick way to cut patterns from fabric.  Pictured here are 2" washers, available from hardware stores, and Wiggle Weights that I bought at Atlanta's Original Sewing and Quilting Expo last March.

Weights are used in place of pins, for a quick way to cut patterns from fabric. Pictured here are 2″ washers, available from hardware stores, and Wiggle Weights that I bought at Atlanta’s Original Sewing and Quilting Expo last March.

Tools pictured here are marking chalk and holders, used to mark fabric; an awl for punching holes in pattern paper to mark things such as the point of darts; and a notcher, used to notch pattern paper at strategic places.

Tools pictured here are marking chalk and holders, used to mark fabric; an awl for punching holes in pattern paper to mark things such as the point of darts; and a notcher, used to notch pattern paper at strategic places.

The French curve and other rulers are used to shape patterns at the armholes, hips, and other areas.  Not pictured are the vary form curve and the hip curve,both of which I have on order.

The French curve and other rulers are used to shape patterns at the armholes, hips, and other areas. Not pictured are the vary form curve and the hip curve, both of which I have on order.

Most sewers will already have these items on hand: pins and holder, paper and fabric scissors, and a variety of marking pens and pencils.  The pens and pencils pictured here are for making patterns, not fabric.

Most sewers will already have these items on hand: pins and holder, paper and fabric scissors, tracing wheel, and a variety of marking pens and pencils. The pens and pencils pictured here are for marking patterns, not fabric.

Also listed as items needed in this chapter are push pins, stapler and staples, and black twill tape which is used on the dress form to mark style lines.  The one thing listed that I am not going to purchase are hanger hooks or ringers.  These are used to organize and hang patterns; I am not going into production anytime soon, so I don’t think I need this.  I will use, instead, skirt hangers with metal clips to organize my patterns while working my way through this textbook.

So, gather the tools you need, and maybe this textbook, and let’s learn this process together!

Next time, we will discuss some patternmaking terms from the second half of Chapter One.