April 21, 2016

Sew Stoked!

When I was nine, I cut up most of my socks to make a "quilt".  I had been reading a lot of Laura Ingalls Wilder, and if Half-pint could do it, so could I.  I learned several valuable lessons that day:  scraps of knit socks do not a quilt make; mothers do not like it when their daughters cut up their socks; and it would take a shitload, nay a LIFETIME, of socks to make a quilt.  And worst of all, the resulting quilt would be rough and smelly.

That same year, I cut off the hems of quite a few of my t-shirts and rather spectacularly I thought, carefully clipped out the windows of a house that was on one of my shirt fronts.  My left nipple popped through the window.  My first wardrobe malfunction.

In Grade 9, I was forced to take home economics.  Our first project was a tote bag.  My Nana, a fabric hoarder, was elated when she heard that I needed material.  I was ushered upstairs to pore over the many cardboard boxes full of fabric.  I rejected the seersucker (too pale) and went for a navy and white plaid poly blend.  The bag was unsurprisingly hideous and it fell apart.  

My next project in home ec was a track suit.  My Dad took me to the fabric store where I selected a pattern for a cowgirl style track suit, ooh!  If you can imagine these pants made in white poly/cotton fleece, then you can picture my track suit:

that fringe though...
The problem came when my mother told me that we would be making the pants and top without the fringe, the fringe being too expensive.  I may have freaked out.

"WITHOUT THE FRINGE?", I bellowed.  

As the fringe was the pce de sistance of the cowgirl outfit, I was completely uninspired to make it.  There would be nothing cowgirl about it - nothing!  I was devastated.  It was like the time when the parents of an ex-boyfriend took us out for a special dinner and we ended up at the Kmart cafeteria - the fish here is fantastic!

In Grade 9, I couldn't find any shorts that I liked; however, I did unearth a garish mustard yellow, black, crimson and forest green plaid in the bargain bin at the fabric store.  My stepmother offered to help me sew the shorts.  I cut out the pattern pieces carefully but mistakenly cut the ass parts of the shorts in half (well why is there a line there? I thought you were supposed to cut along all the lines on the pattern...)  

I am now 46.  I have spent many hours of the past two weeks sewing costumes for my child's school play (Shrek Jr.).  I am sick of sewing aprons, skirts and capelets but I feel like my sewing mojo has been activated.  I am going to sew something for myself.

Enter the Alma blouse from the Canadian company Sewaholic.  Sewaholic publishes brilliant sewing patterns focusing on women with a small waist-to-hip ratio or "pear" shape.

I love the piping on the collar.  Picture from http://lilleyul.blogspot.ca

I will be making this version with a tie at the waist (but no notched V in the front):
Pic is from sewaholic
Because I am a cheapskate, and because I do not have confidence in my wannabe seamstress self, I am opting to use several yards of a beautiful grey and black dotted silk that I purchased for a toonie at a yard sale.  I love me a garage sale.  

Before cutting into my fabric, I wanted to try sewing on silk so that I could adjust my machine's tension and I also wanted to conquer the dreaded zipper.  I am afraid of zippers and I'm not sure why. I googled "invisible zipper tut", followed the instructions and managed this:

POW! Take that, zipper!  
Okay, I know it's not invisible, but it's not bad, not bad at all.  My neighbour made fun of me when I posted the picture on Farcebook:
 David Pauloff If the zipper is red I think the invisibility part needs work. 

Ha, ha, very funny.

I read about hand-picking a zipper à la Parisian seamstress and promptly decided that that will be my method for my blouse once I reach the "sewing in the zipper" stage of construction.  I enjoy hand sewing - was I Amish in another life? - so it would be a cakewalk.

And so I plunged in.  I cut out my pattern without incident, although that took me longer than expected.  Accuracy is important for the final fit of the garment.

First up was ironing the interfacing onto the neck piece.  Interfacing adds stiffness to fabric.  If you can iron, you can use interfacing.  Easy-peasy.


not completely precise, but it'll do
Then I sewed the shoulder seams, which was also a no brainer, and I added some staystitching, which is a simple line of sewing around the neckline that prevents the fabric from stretching.

So far, so good.  Time for some tea and chocolate.   I whipped this up:

I was concerned about the bust and contour darts, which add shaping, until I consulted another online tutorial.  I practised on a piece of scrap fabric first, and then felt ready to tackle my top:

practice makes perfect

inside view of darts - I did it!
How about that?

Time to add the neck lining to the front and back of the bodice.   I also had to clip the seams so that they would turn more easily.  It stressed me out to cut into my beautiful seams:

I somehow avoided cutting into the seam itself.  :-)

I did a marvelous job pinning and sewing, but then I realized that I had sewn the lining wrong side down.  Grrrrrr.  Enter seam ripper.  Laugh at the pile of threads that I plucked out:

I didn't let my mistake get me down.  I may have said a few choice words - motherfucker fuck fuck - but I kept control.

Understitching was next on the agenda and that gave me some pause.  I had no clue how to do it; I'd never even heard of it.  I googled and learned that understitching keeps linings and facings from peeking out around a neckline, and that it gives the garment a professional finished look.  I am nothing if not a consummate professional.

It actually worked.

Deep breath because it's zipper-time.  I am sewing it in by hand.  Wish me luck...

pins holding it together

I sewed in that zipper and I didn't cry once.

Sidenote:  I am surprised at how long it takes to sew a blouse.  I have total respect for seamstresses.

This is my first time attempting to sew something that I might actually deign to wear out of the house, so I am trying my best, but still.  There are many, many hours involved in the construction of a garment.

Sleeves next.  I have no idea how to create gathers or set in sleeves.  So I watched a video and learned.

It was painstaking.  My fabric puckered on the underside of the gathers and I had to use the seam ripper again.  I also had problems fitting my armhole facing / binding inside the opening, so I ripped it apart and adjusted the seam, which wasn't as onerous as it sounds.  The good news is that I only screwed up one side, and then I knew how not to do it on the other.

the armhole facing covers the unsightly seams
The good news is that my blouse is actually looking like a BLOUSE:

I finished up the sleeves with some edgestitching around the cap sleeves.

All that remains is the hemming around the bottom of the blouse (easy!) and construction of the belt (even easier!).


you can't see the tears of happiness running down my cheeks

I am chic!

I am so happy with how my blouse turned out.  I can't believe that I made it and that it fits me.  I want to wear it everywhere!  The first people to see me in my new blouse were three workmen who are doing construction on my curb and driveway.  They did not compliment me.  I was tempted to ask them what they thought about my blouse, but I refrained.  It's not all about me... :-)

I am not going to lie and say that making this  -my first garment for my adult self- was easy; however, I was able to figure out everything online.  All of the links to techniques that I used are in this blog, and if you would like to try to make your own Alma, I urge you to.  It is so satisfying to make your own clothing; I feel like a million bucks in my $16 blouse (pattern was $14 and the fabric was $2).  I like the navy and white polka dotted version of the blouse that I posted earlier and now I am going to try to make that too.

I can do it!

Optional musical pairing:  Must Get Out by Maroon 5

"I've been the needle and the thread
Weaving figure eights and circles round your head..."

Addendum.  Friday, April 22, 2016.

Next up, the Cambie dress, also from Sewaholic: