Bewildering wrinkles

Well I took the plunge. Armed with everyone’s good advice from my last post I put on some music and sewed my coat muslin up, a few seams at a time. Doing it over a few sessions wasn’t too bad. Thanks for all the encouragement and advice, it really helped!

It’s come out pretty well! The most important thing is that I can move my arms, despite having removed all the ease from the sleeve cap. I seem to have forgotten to take any pictures of that. In passing, isn’t it great not to have to keep getting undressed to try a garment on? I did wonder if I should be putting on more layers to simulate a really cold day! However I am wearing several thin layers and a very bulky belt under the coat in these photos, which is my normal winter work wear. I guess if the coat goes over all that then things will be OK.

Coat muslin full length

I had a hard time deciding what, if anything, needed adjusting. Every time I move the wrinkles seem to move as well, and most of them don’t match up to anything at all in my fitting books. The most obvious problem is a wrinkle on the front princess seam. That one doesn’t come and go. I think this is due to excess length above the bust point.

Front princess seam with wrinkle

I took out a tiny amount – about 5mm – above the seam and things are somewhat improved. I think I need to take out a little width from the seam as well, but on the other hand I don’t want to overfit things. I measured the pattern and this style is unusually close-fitting for a coat.

It looks like it needs a full bust adjustment in this picture (taken after taking out the length) because of the way the horizontal seam is rising up and there’s a wrinkle pointing from the waist to the bust point, but I can’t see the problem from the front or in the other pictures I took. Also if I take a pinch of the fabric over the bust there’s actually lots of room there. This is why I find fitting so confusing!

Front princess seam with wrinkle

There’s a similar problem on the back, only more so.

Back view of muslin

But I think I need some of that extra fabric for mobility, because look what happens when I put my arms forward. The excess width vanishes and there’s just a bit of extra length.

Back view with arms forward

Three quarter back view

I’m just going to take out a little length at the back underarms as well as at the front, and stop there. I picked my muslin fabric because it has a similar (lack of) drape to my shell fabric, but the shell fabric is substantially thicker so I guess it won’t make up quite the same and there’s no point worrying too much at this stage. Wish me luck.

A new hope – coat muslin

My husband’s first reaction to my muslin of Vogue 1276 was to proclaim “You should not have come back, old man!”. I’m not entirely sure if it was Obi-wan Kenobi or Darth Vader he was reminded of. Personally I quite like it – and Jedi normally wear their robes ankle-length, not mid-calf.

I haven’t got a picture of the back where the hood is sitting straight. It has a tendency to lie in funny positions when worn down. I can also see I’m going to have to take out all the extra length I added to the bodice. The actual back waist length on this pattern is about two inches longer than what’s given on the size chart. They didn’t match up when I measured the tissue, but the difference was so big I assumed I was measuring the wrong thing and went by the size chart – which incidentally had a slightly different measurement in the version inside the envelope than the one on the back of it. This is the first time I’ve tried a “Today’s Fit” Vogue, but I have to say based on this I’m a “Yesterday’s Fit” girl!

I really like the effect when the hood is worn up, and the hood was the reason I chose the style in the first place.

I ordered this pattern before Christmas, having fallen in love with the envelope picture. When it arrived I started to have second thoughts. It needs a huge amount of fabric because the skirt is cut on the bias, and the instructions are disappointing. I was expecting something a cut above normal pattern instructions from this range. However based on the muslin I think I shall go on and make this up. I’ve got a piece dark grey boiled wool from Stone Fabrics that might just be large enough.

And by the way, I’m afraid I haven’t been leaving many blog comments this week. It’s not through lack of trying; I’m suddenly having real problems commenting on Blogger blogs. The word verification always comes back incorrect. I’ve even been to look on Blogger’s Known Issues page and there’s no help there. So I’m not ignoring anyone on purpose, just hoping this gets fixed soon.

Patterns or drafting? Or somewhere in between?

I love dressmaking patterns. I have only been sewing for a couple of years but my stash of pattern envelopes and magazines is getting to the point where I can’t easily lift the box it lives in. Despite all this, when I have something very definite in mind that I want to sew I often can’t find a pattern in the box that’s exactly what I want.

The current case in point is my skull-print dress, which is inspired by the lady with the pink hair in the centre of the back row in this cartoon by John Allison. (If you like the art, check out his webcomics Bad Machinery and Scary-go-round.)

It’s an empire-line maxi-dress with a surplice-style bodice. There isn’t any bust shaping visible but clearly any real-life version of this dress that’s going to fit is going to need darts or gathers at the bottom of the bodice.

I briefly considered trying to draft something but I’m fundamentally lazy and drafting is complicated. I decided to go for the very unscientific method of taking two patterns I have that already fit and munging them together. Simplicity 3775 is a modern knit dress with a surplice bodice (sadly now out of print). I’m showing you my version rather than the envelope art, because the envelope manages to make the dress look utterly frumpy, and it’s really not.

Simplicity 5349 is a vintage halter-neck maxi dress that I made last year for a bit of a giggle, and have worn and worn and worn.

But these two have their problems. The maxi-dress has off-grain centre front and back seams in the skirt, which will look very odd with the regular print on my fabric, and the knit dress is, well, designed for knits. My skull-print fabric is a woven.

Skull print fabric

After much dithering I decided to cut the skirt pieces on the fold, even though it’s going to mess up the grainlines, because the alternative is just going to look strange.

I changed the gathers on the bodice to a couple of darts, then laid the midriff pieces from the first pattern over the top of the skirt pieces for the second and traced round them. I also added some tiny darts to the bodice back to give it a bit of shaping as the knit version has none.

And amazingly, my muslin of it seems to have come out looking like a dress. This is the muslin on my dressform. The back has a wrinkle on the left side, but that’s mainly to do with the sloppy way I sewed the zip into the side seam.

The funny thing is that I feel much happier tweaking something like this than a Real Pattern. If the pattern is a horrible mashup to start with then the sewing police are not going to come and get me for what I do with it. This may explain why it’s worked somewhat better than some of my attempts at fitting Real Patterns.

And it’s too late now anyway because I’ve cut out my real fabric, all four metres of it. I really hope this works out!

Fabric induced paralysis

Here’s my muslin of Vogue 8667. And this is the pattern envelope:

The muslin is made from cheap and cheerful glazed cotton I bought off the market as it’s practically impossible to get calico round here. The shiny effect is unintentional. I was intending to use the dull side of the fabric as the right side but I got it wrong on the first seam and figured as I might as well carry on. And hey, it’s a muslin. The shiny is only going to help with seeing wrinkles and fitting problems.

The front isn’t bad, I think. No pictures of it on me I’m afraid; I tried but the results were not pretty. Watermelon coloured fabric + purple walls + my dyed red hair was not a good combination, and that’s before you factor in my attempts to take pictures in the mirror.

The back has got a pretty big problem that you can see on the dressform:

See the gapping at the back armhole and the way the neckline stands away? The back is much too big in both width and length. I tried quite a few things.

  • Lifting the back at the outside edge of the shoulder seam. This helped but didn’t cure the gapping, and put the shoulder seam line in a very strange place.
  • Lifting the whole back evenly across the shoulder seam. Again didn’t quite cure the gapping and put the seam well behind my shoulder bones.
  • Lifting the front and the back at the shoulder seam. Not entirely sure now why I ever thought this would help. It didn’t.
  • Pinning out a tuck from the armhole to the neckline on both sides. This fixed the fit but completely messed up the back neckline.

Here’s the back with the tucks pinned out

I couldn’t work out what to do with the neckline. Eventually I took the pattern piece, folded the tuck into it, and laid it down on top of the original pattern tissue. The tuck reduces both width and length as it runs diagonally. And it turns out that the line for the smallest size on the tissue pretty much matches the size of the folded pattern piece but of course doesn’t have the neckline problem, so I traced that and fudged the other pattern pieces to match it. The piece I adjusted (the centre back) is the same width at the waist for every size so I didn’t have to worry about reducing the waist measurement, which made it all a lot easier.

I really, really ought to do another muslin now but I don’t have any fabric I want to sacrifice and I’m not sure I have the patience anyway. At the same time I daren’t cut my red wool out with my altered pattern pieces. in case I’ve made some stupid mistake. Tissue fitting is tricky when your pattern is cut out of greaseproof paper. I should really check out Swedish tracing paper. So I think I’m going to buy some lining fabric and make a muslin out of that. If it works it can be the lining for the actual dress and if it doesn’t at least I’ve not cut into the wool!