The sewist’s decision making process – a lament

I’m making Burda 120-12-2012 in a glorious turquoise knit fabric.

But it’s slightly transparent so I need to draft a lining. This is breaking my brain. I need a distraction. A really simple project.

I have a copy of Vogue 1250 somewhere. I am the only sewing blogger in the world who has not yet made Vogue 1250. Also I have the perfect fabric in stash: the remains of the eye-popping jersey I used for the psychedelic dress.

Vogue 1250 and fabric

Not sure how much fabric it needs. Go to the primary to-sew queue (the pile of patterns wedged into the bookcase) to get the yardage. Start leafing through the queue. Forgot I had that nice 70s maxi pattern, Simplicity 6344. That would look good in black linen with a white collar. But Vogue 1250 is absent.

Turn out box which contains secondary to-sew queue of patterns and favourite pieces of fabric. Damn, Vogue 1287 is also a perfect work dress. But I don’t have any suitable fabric for it. Resist urge to look for fabric online. No Vogue 1250.

Turn out box which contains old patterns and tertiary to-sew queue. Curse self for not filing patterns in any sort of order. No Vogue 1250.

Turn out box containing fabric stash. Maybe it’s gone in there by mistake. Hey, some Liberty Tana lawn left over from the Death Star dress. Quite a bit of it. Enough for a shirt dress? Unfold to measure. Can’t find measuring tape. Sewing room floor now entirely invisible under patterns and fabric (it’s a very small room). Also, have no shirt dress patterns. Resist urge to look for shirtdress patterns online. No Vogue 1250.

Go through to-sew queue again, just in case. Nope. Sort fabric into leftovers and large pieces. Find red swirl print cotton lurking at the bottom of the fabric box. Must find a use for that, but there’s only enough for a sleeveless sundress. Pity we don’t seem to be having a summer this year.

Resist urge to go online and buy second copy of Vogue 1250.

Clear up sewing room. Carefully file primary, secondary, and tertiary to-sew queues.

Look down back of bookcase. You know where this is heading, don’t you.

Go to bed feeling pleased.

Next morning, see Burda 116-08-2011 on Allison’s blog. Like Vogue 1250 but with pockets!

Put Burda 116-08-2011 at head of sewing queue.

Non-obvious in hindsight

After finishing the tartan dress I had quite a lot of the fabric left over. It’s a polyester/viscose tartan bought from Remnant Kings in Glasgow.

I was casting round for something to make out of it and eventually decided to do another version of my Vivienne Westwood Philosophy skirt knockoff. Tartan is a very Westwood fabric to start with, and this particular style looks really good in fabric with a woven stripe as it shows up the deliberately skewed grainline.

I always carefully file my patterns away in A4 envelopes when I’m done with them, so this should have just been a case of pulling out the right envelope and getting cutting. Unfortunately I ran into the problem that what seems obvious when you’re drafting a pattern is completely non-obvious when you come to use it again a few months later. Rather like computer code when you come back to it a while after writing, come to think of it.

So for your amusement and to remind myself, I have discovered it really helps to:

  • Write on the pattern whether it includes seam allowances or not. (A careful comparison of pattern with skirt indicates not!)
  • File all the pieces in the same envelope. No, really. And label them with what they are so that when you fail to put them in the right envelope you don’t have to examine every stray pattern piece in your collection to find the lining pattern.
  • Give some indication of which cryptic markings are important for construction and which were just part of the drafting. Again, I had to lay the pattern over the finished skirt to work it out.
  • Write on the pattern what notions you need. I know there’s a zip, but roughly how long did it need to be? (No, I didn’t mark the zip placement on the pattern either so I had to measure the skirt.)

Presumably with practice you get to know what you really do need to write down and what can safely be left to be deduced next time round. Come to think of it, there’s a whole chapter of That Which You Shall Write Down in Adele Margolis’ Make Your Own Dress Patterns. I may just go and read that again.

Tartan skirts

Remember this?

It’s polyester tartan fabric I bought in Glasgow to make a knockoff of a Yohji Yamamoto dress I saw years ago. I can’t really remember what the original looked like, but my plan is to morph the bodice of Vogue 8143 (line art below) and a full skirt from some other pattern.

I had originally been thinking of using the skirt from the new Vogue 8701 but yesterday I realised that I already own Vogue 8633 which comes with an option for a very full skirt. Here’s the line art

Vogue 8633 view d and e line art

Now I’m just wondering how to lay the pattern pieces out on the fabric.

There is a seam down the centre front of the skirt although the line art doesn’t show it. The skirt is a full circle skirt made from four identical pieces. The pattern piece has the straight grain line running parallel to the centre front and centre back seams.

I wonder if it’s advisable to try to cut the front out on a fold to avoid having to match the pattern on the centre front seam. I have quite a lot of fabric to play with (it was cheap!) but clearly not enough to cut an enormous circle skirt out twice.

I think it makes sense for the centre front of the skirt to be on the straight grain of the fabric regardless of whether there’s a seam or not. That way the skirt will contrast with the bias cut bodice. However I’ve been Googling for pictures of tartan circle skirts and most of the ones I have found don’t work like that. They have a centre front seam but cut so that the fabric is on the bias at the seam. I did find one picture where the grain was positioned the way I’m intending and it didn’t look obviously wrong, but I wonder if there’s something I’m missing here. Insights most welcome!

Thank you Vogue

A while ago I mentioned wanting to knock off a tartan Yohji Yamamoto dress I saw in Selfridges years ago. I finally bought some fabric for it in Glasgow.

But the trouble is that once I started trying to sketch it I found I couldn’t recall very much detail about the style. It definitely had a full skirt and an exposed metal zipper down the front, and I think it had a V-shaped neckline at the front and back. I’ve googled for it but not come up with any pictures I can identify as that particular dress. My mental image of it is starting to morph into the Vivienne Westwood Sunday dress so I may not even be remembering the shape of the skirt correctly, never mind the rest.

I’m therefore giving up on trying to reproduce the original and am just going for a full skirted, sleeveless, tartan dress with an exposed zip. I really like the draped neckline of the Sunday dress so I’m going to put the zip in the back rather than the front. And it looks as though I won’t have to attempt to draft anything, because Vogue have got two patterns that between them do what I want.

First is Vogue 8413 which I think has been around for a while. I never really noticed it before because the picture on the envelope didn’t appeal to me. It’s an Easy Options style for wovens which includes a bodice option with a cowl neck. Here’s the line art.

Then in the new winter Vogues there’s Vogue 8701, a wardrobe pattern which includes a dress, trousers, skirt, and jacket. The dress is almost exactly the silhouette I’m after although once again I don’t like the envelope picture. Amazing how different something can look in the line art.

I’m hoping I can find a way to combine the two styles successfully, although I really want the skirt and bodice back of 8701 with the front of 8413 which might be a challenge! The new Vogues aren’t out in the UK yet so I’ve got some time to think about it.

Fabric shopping in Glasgow

I can really recommend the fabric shops in Glasgow. Good thing I have a lovely husband who was prepared to put fabric in his suitcase because I ran out of space in mine.

I only managed to visit Mandors and Remnant Kings but that was more than enough. They’re both central, easy to get to, and strangely situated well above ground level.

I started with Mandors. This is huge. As well as dressmaking fabric it sells haberdashery, furnishing fabric, and patterns. I only looked at the dressmaking fabric and there was enough of that to occupy me for a long while. The range was amazing but I think the best things were the woollens. After a lot of agonising I settled on some beautiful red tweedy stuff for Vogue 8667. I never know the correct names for fabrics so it may not technically be tweed. It’s 100% “pure new wool” woven and a lot more chunky and textured than suiting fabric. There are fibres of two different shades of red.

Incidentally what is the difference between “new” and other wool? Do they recycle wool? Is “new wool” the first stuff off the sheep, kind of like extra virgin olive oil? Does it make any difference in practice?

Mandors is quite pricey but much better value for money than the West End in London. Pity the train fare to Glasgow more than redresses the balance! The whole shop is very well organised. Fabric is arranged by type and colour. Every bolt had the price, fibre content, width, and care instructions attached. You take a ticket to get in the queue for cutting and can mark bolts you’ve selected so they don’t get tidied away while you’re browsing for other things. It wasn’t busy enough to justify any of that while I was there but that was a weekday. I suspect Saturdays may be a different matter.

I nearly didn’t find Remnant Kings at all. The address is Argyle Street, one of the longest and busiest shopping streets in Glasgow. I wandered up and down searching while my iPhone was insisting I was right on top of it. I couldn’t see it until I looked up and noticed a sign in a first floor window. The entrance turned out to be round the corner from the street address.

Remnant Kings was smaller than Mandors and had a lot less stock, but they had just finished a sale and hadn’t got their new stock in yet. As well as dressmaking fabric they also do haberdashery and a very small range of furnishing fabrics. There is also an odd little corner full of cheap plastic accessories for fancy dress – devil horn hairbands and the like. However there’s another branch that I didn’t visit that specialises in furnishing fabric.

I got 4m of cheap and cheerful poly viscose tartan to attempt my Yohji Yamamoto knockoff and a beautiful black wool remnant with a gold stripe from the bargain bucket that’s going to be a Vivienne Westwood skirt knockoff.

Remnant Kings is a lot cheaper than Mandors but everything’s still well laid out and labelled. Except my tartan but trust me to pick up the only bolt without a label in any shop. In shops where only samples are on display I always pick ones that the staff can’t locate the bolt for. Apologies here to anyone who’s ever been behind me in the queue.

And if that wasn’t enough I found the August Burda in WHSmiths! It’s been quite difficult to get hold of round my way since Borders closed down. There’s lots of really good things in it but that’ll have to wait for another post.

Another shopping list

I know I haven’t sewed up all the fabric I bought in London yet. Much less have I managed to get started on Vogue 8644. But I’m going to Glasgow soon and it would be a waste not to at least go and look at the local fabric shops while I’m there, right?

From googling it looks as though the big two are Mandors and Remnant Kings although there are plenty of others. Suggestions welcome!

I need to come up with a list of things I’m looking for, or madness will ensue. Here is plan A:

  • Something tweedy for Vogue 8667
  • Something silky for the amazing top from Vogue 1195
  • And possibly some tartan because then I might actually get round to trying that Yohji Yamamoto knockoff I’ve been thinking about for years

The problem at the moment is that I keep changing my mind about what pattern I want to sew next. Assuming I ever get Vogue 8644 done. I haven’t had any time this week to get started on the cutting at all. Mind you making lists is half the fun…so I wouldn’t be too surprised if Plan B pops into my head in a day or two, fully formed and bearing no resemblance to the above whatsoever.

Perfecting techniques

I haven’t managed to buy new needles for the sewing machine yet so haven’t got much further on the latest project. Thanks all for the advice and encouragement! I will definitely try out different needles with this fabric and the petroleum jelly trick.

However it occurred to me that this dress isn’t particularly ambitious in that it doesn’t incorporate any techniques. There’s a lot of advice out there that you should try something new with every project, but I find I actually enjoy doing the same things a few times in a row because I definitely improve each time. It’s so satisfying to eventually produce a garment where everything lines up nicely and neatly. (I have managed this exactly once so far, on my fourth version of McCalls 5799, the world’s simplest A-line shift dress so I am certainly not claiming to be any sort of perfectionist – it’s just nice when it does work out.)

Years ago I was told that a good dressmaking exercise for beginners is to take a simple pattern and make it five or six times, altering it slightly each time. The lady who was giving this advice started with a basic blouse and did a sleeveless version, a wrap version, a couple of others I don’t remember, and ended up with a shirt-dress. It’s a great idea – pity I don’t wear blouses. But maybe it would work with a dress with a waist seam – you could do a sleeveless version, add sleeves, turn it into a skirt by taking the bottom half and putting a waistband on, and then there are collar and neckline variations. Anyone out there done that? Did you get bored? I’m wondering if I have a dress pattern in my collection that would lend itself to this. It might be a good way to reduce the fabric stash as well.

Anyway I should stop procrastinating and start cutting out what I’m working on right now. And buy needles. And, erm, fabric for the Vogue fall 2010 patterns I ordered because somehow I have nothing in the stash that goes with them.