Monday, June 29, 2015

Results of the FBA revelation: vintage Simplicity 7530 in Kokka border print

Oh Full Bust Adjustment, why did I not try you sooner?

Thank you for all the lovely feedback on my previous post. It seems I'm not alone in my avoidance of the FBA issue, and that it was a helpful thing to share.

If, like me, you are a pear-shape with a bra cup size greater than B, I highly, highly recommend you get onto the Full Bust Adjustment if you have not already. Of course, everyone's shape is unique and this may not work for you exactly as it has for me. However, even as a starting point for fitting, I've found it nothing short of a revelation. Here are the details of my second garment-with-FBA.
The pattern: Simplicity 7530, from my, ahem, fairly extensive collection of vintage (mostly 1960s) patterns. Which just happened to be in my high bust measurement of 34 inches. Woot! And to think until recently I presumed I'd need a complete size grade-up to make this fit.
The fabric: a fantastic mid-weight border print by Kokka of Japan. (Selling quickly so not up in the web store but still a bit left so call us if you are keen!)

For a bit of background, here's how my first FBA attempt (from the previous post) worked out:
pardon my chins
Pattern: Christine Haynes Emery Dress, size 6 (34" bust) with 3.5"FBA (1.75" each side).
I was pretty happy with the fit of this, but learnt a few things:
- if your pattern calls for a zip, go to the effort of basting a zip into your muslin, as pinning simply will not ever quite match the effect of a zip. I only pinned on the muslin for this, and could have fitted it more, particularly at the waist. Not entirely sure how to fix the under-bust wrinkly foldy bits.
- with a fairly substantial FBA, darts can become very large, or in this case, I chose to split it into two. I thought French darts (much longer, starting lower) could be helpful here.
- I could probably get away with just a 3" FBA which would help with the gigantic dart issue anyhow.

My vintage pattern has French darts and aside from that, is a very simple but nicely-fitted shape, perfect for testing out another FBA. At the back it is fitted with small shoulder darts and double-ended darts in the back curve.

After a simple 3" Full Bust Adjustment (again following this Curvy Sewing Collective tutorial), I made a muslin, and basted in a zip, which in truth is probably quicker and easier than getting someone else to try and pin the dress up anyhow. It actually fit! Not only did the FBA accomodate my bust, it also added enough width at the hips. Magic.

In further adjustments, I lowered the ends of the bust darts, tapered the side seams in a smidgen around the waist and raised the back double-ended darts by 2" - just shifted the whole dart up - which worked better for my short waist. Also, I trimmed down the neckline a bit. Those 1960s shift dresses often had very high necklines!

And the on to the 'fashion fabric'.

Et voila: some ninja pattern-matching skillz down centre front seam...
fitting under bust may be improved by moving ends of French darts further down and centre?? advice welcome!

some slightly less-stealthy matching down the centre back... (oops matched wrong flower stem!)

and pretty happy with the side seams too. Unavoidable mismatch at top because, darts.
The neckline, armholes and hem are finished with black cotton bias tape turned to the inside. I trimmed the armholes down by 1/2" before applying the bias because there was a 5/8" seam allowance for facings or sleeves.

I'm very pleased with the result, which is fairly fitted but very comfortable. I can see myself using this pattern again and again in the future. In fact, this 'may' have been a sneaky queue-jumper version (the fabric!) that got in ahead of other plans I have for this pattern right away.

And then of course, there's the newly alluring call of all the vintage 34" patterns....

Have you tried an FBA? Do you have a vintage pattern collection? Do projects jump to the top of your sewing queue on a whim?

- Jane & Fiona xx

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Alabama Chanin obsession continues

Natalie Chanin has just released her fourth book of inspiring and beautiful sewing projects in her 'Alabama Chanin' style. (On order and due soon at The Drapery.) Not only does it contain all her previous patterns, plus some new ones, it offers advice on how to adjust them for your own unique shape, to ensure a custom fit. The patterns are on CD rather than printed like her previous books, but it's quite an incredible resource at a very accessible price. We can't wait to get our hands on it!

In the meantime, I'm continuing my quest to Alabama Chanin all the things. Which was never going to be a fast process, but that's part of the appeal. If you like hand-work like embroidery, hand-quilting, knitting or crochet, you'll probably fall in love with the process of hand-sewing garments with soft cotton knit.

Before I went the full reverse appliqué, which is a big commitment, I tried a couple more plain garments. Last summer I made (and wore, and wore, and wore some more) this double-layer singlet top, in our organic cotton 'Chocolate' and some red from my stash.

Then a few weeks ago I made up this single-layer long-sleeved top in our NZ 'North Sea/Kalamata' cotton jersey, which is a dream to sew and wear:

As soon as this one was finished I wanted to do more! So it was time to 'go the full Alabama'.

I used our organic cotton mid-weight navy and lightweight grey marle. (FYI - I would recommend using jerseys the same weight although this worked out fine.) I downloaded the 'New Leaves' stencil from the website Rather than print the whole thing and make a large stencil, I noticed that there were four main shapes in the pattern and printed enough pages to have each of these.
 Then I cut four individual stencils and used them in a 'considered random' arrangement over my fabric.
The paint was a mixture of acrylic and fabric fixative, watered down a bit, and applied with a foam roller. The stencils were cut with a craft knife and lightly sprayed on the back with spray adhesive to help them stick to the fabric. I tested on scrap fabric first. Most stencilling supplies were from local shop Art to Art. Cutting out the stencils was probably the hardest part of the whole project so I can well understand why people would pay US$80+ for the pre-made stencils!

After air-drying, the paint was heat-set by ironing, using scrap calico between the iron and the paint to be careful, although no paint transferred to the calico.
I should have stencilled the top layer before basting the two layers together, but I was lucky that no paint bled through... phew.

Then it was onto the soothing, meditative process of hand-stitching around the stencils...

... before carefully snipping out the top layer of the leaves.
The thread recommended by Natalie Chanin is Coats & Clark Button & Craft Thread. We're currently in touch with Coats & Clark to see if we can stock it here. I bought some from a US website and found it lovely to work with (smoother and less tangly than the Gutermann Upholstery Thread I had substituted in my first projects). So we'll let you know if/when that becomes a reality.

Initially I tried grey sleeves but replaced them with navy for the heavier fabric weight and a more subtle overall look. Now I have a spare pair of grey sleeves, I'll have to make a plain grey top! I also tried a small amount of beading on the ends of the sleeves and yes, that's a bit addictive too.
Now, I'm thinking about a matching long skirt, maybe in navy-on-navy? But I'm also dreaming of the A-Line Dress pattern from the new book. Yes, Alabama Chanin ALL the things!

- Jane & Fiona xx

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

On Me Made May, self-perception and embracing the FBA

Hello, it's Jane here with a rather long and introspective blog post!

Those of you following The Drapery on Instagram will have seen that we were posting photos for 'Me Made May', an initiative started a few years ago by blogger Zoe of 'So, Zo... what do you know?'. Sewists pledge to wear 'me-made' clothes - as much as they wish to commit to - and document their outfits for the month of May.

Now, I don't know how to link to Instagram since I'm not on there myself but if you are, you can look up The Drapery and have a peek.

Warning: possibly TMI to follow

Now, I'm kind of putting myself out there in this post and examining my body shape and probably providing Too Much Information, but I hope it's useful to sewists out there!

Me Made May is a bit different to sewists posting pretty posed pics of their freshly-made garments. Not that there's anything wrong with that! But MMM shows what really is worn day-to-day, how it's worn, and can be very helpful in identifying most useful garments, wardrobe gaps and so forth. Some items are thrashed, others are dragged out of the wardrobe only for the sake of not having a photo taken in that denim Grainline Moss Skirt and brown leggings again!

Confession time

For me, perhaps the biggest lesson has been to finally address a fitting issue. I've been sewing most of my own garments for six or seven years now. There's a 3.5" difference in my high (across chest right under armpits) and full bust measurement. I'm a pear shape with narrow shoulders and I've never done a Full Bust Adjustment.

Oh, the shame (haha).

But it's taken a series of photos to make me properly take my measurements and realise that for most garments, I should be starting with a much smaller size in the shoulders, making an FBA and working my way down. Duh. Isn't this pretty basic fitting information? I'm not sure why, but I think I was under the impression that you started with your full bust measurement and then did an FBA. (I should take a moment here to point out that neither Fiona nor I are at all professionally trained in this sewing business, we're just enthusiasts who started a shop!)

Perhaps the garment that has made this most obvious to me is this very recent make, a Sewaholic Granville shirt.
I was having a very frumpy coming-down-with-a-cold day and it's hard to tell in the busy floral print. But see the folds of fabric near my armpits? And if you can make out where the sleevehead meets the shoulder, it's probably an inch lower than it should be.

Do you really fit the size?

I thought I'd hit the jackpot with this pattern because my measurements fit almost exactly with the size 12 on the packet. Sewaholic are designed for pear-shapes! I'd pretty much never seen my measurements so accurately reflected. Bring on the champers. Except. Sewaholic is designed for a B-cup. I'm a D.

It's hard to write about these things in non-specific terms! In any case, cup-size is actually a comparative measurement of under-bust to full bust so D-cup in itself doesn't mean that much. Am I making it worse by writing more about it? Hey everybody, look at my lady-mountains!

In any case, if we start with my high bust measurement, I'm nowhere near a straight Sewaholic size 12. My high bust/waist/hip puts me at 4/14/10. Le sigh.

Self-image and averaging of sizing

I believe another factor preventing me from starting with a much smaller size was body self-image. Being a pear-shape with a full bust, I have been locating most of my measurements in the size 12 - 16 range, depending upon the pattern. I'm never going to be a 21 year old size 8 again and I totally accept that. However, by sewing to a kind of 'average' of my measurements, I'm ending up with a bit more frump than flattery.

Here's another MMM photo of something I think is flattering on my shape. Although - note - Plantain top partially falling off narrow shoulders!

Narrow shoulder adjustment versus FBA

For a short time I wondered if a 'narrow shoulder adjustment' on my usual pattern sizes was what I needed. However this would leave me with excess fabric from a large pattern size across my upper and mid-back, when what I really need is just more room in front.

You can take a look at my 'fitting tips' Pinterest Board here, to see the progress of my research.

So, to the FBA, Batman! And I have just the project. An 'event' to attend this Friday, the Christine Haynes Emery Dress pattern and some pink & gold Cotton + Steel linen/cotton.

My First FBA!

I have started with a bodice, going on my high bust measurement, in size 6. If I had gone with my previous 'average' sizing theory I would have been spread across 10 - 14 and probably settled on a 12. Bit of a difference, huh? I performed a 1.75" full bust adjustment as per this excellent tutorial. The only thing I did differently was to restore the waist dart to its original width at the end, rather than widen it, because I need the room for toasted cheese sandwiches and beer.

What I ended up with was a rather gigantic side bust dart, which did not make an ideal shape in my muslin. So I looked up how to divide darts and changed it into two. A second muslin and I was much happier. (Additional fitting adjustments were to lengthen back bodice to match front after FBA, widen slightly at side seams towards waist, widen back shoulder dart, narrow back waist dart and nip out some back bodice length at centre for sway back adjustment - phew!)

Here's my hot mess of a front bodice pattern piece:
The astute among you may notice I haven't added the 'hat' to the top bust dart but frankly there's only so much stickytape this thing can support, and I was running out of steam.
 And here's the less-messy back:

And the fit is pretty good! (And yes, I did muslin up a size 6 sleeve to check I'd retain circulation in my arms.) Fortunately the skirt on this pattern is simply gathered to fit the bodice so no stress on the fit of that. Fingers crossed for a successful full-garment-reveal in a few days.

Is two side bust darts weird?

Do you measure by your high bust or full bust?

Have you ever done an FBA?

Have you ever had any major fitting revelations?

- Jane & Fiona xx