Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Know Thyself

That saying is supposedly inscribed in an ancient Greek temple. Here I offer it as advice to my friends who seek to make garments that fit whether they be sewn or knit. If there is one lesson that I have learned in my 40+ years of sewing, it is to ignore the size measurements shown on pattern envelopes. Sewing patterns have way too much ease. I learned this lesson when I took my first sewing class in the 8th grade when my instructor tried to tell me that I had to make my jumper in a size 14 because my bust measurement matched that of the size 14 on the pattern envelope. I knew that the size 10 fit and I remember getting in trouble for arguing with her. At that time, I had been sewing for a year or so and I knew what size to make. I ignored the instructor and made the size 10 and it fit perfectly. The reason that I am bringing this up is that I finished a skirt and blouse last week and I was somewhat amused to read the reviews on Pattern Review for the blouse pattern. All the reviews said that the blouse was too big. It was also too wide at the neck--something that is a basic design flaw of the pattern. Let me offer one piece of advice which will save my sewing friends some trouble. Do not depend on the measurements listed on the pattern. If you want a garment that fits well, here is what you do.

First, take all of your measurements wearing the proper undergarments and write them all down.
Second, find garments you have that fit you well and measure them--bust, waist, hip, back length, shoulder and sleeve measurements and write those down as well.
Third, know what kind of ease is necessary for a particular garment--fitted, tailored, oversized etc.

When you select a pattern--look to see if the finished garment measurements are listed on the pattern envelope. I believe that McCall's is the only company that consistently does this. Vogue and Butterick put the finished measurements on the pattern tissue. I'm not sure what Simplicity does. If there are no finished garment measurements then you will have to flat measure your pattern pieces to see what the finished measurements are. Compare these measurements to those of the well-fitting garment that you measured. This is far more reliable than relying on the size measurements on the pattern envelope.

Case in point. My blouse is Vogue 7999 which is no longer in print. According to the sizing on the envelope, I should make a size 12 (bust 34) or a size 14 (bust 36). My bust measurement is a hair under 35. I made a size 10 which is, according to the pattern, for a bust size of 32 1/2. I made a muslin using the bodice lining which is fitted. It fit perfectly except there was some gapping at the neckline making it too wide. I had read about this problem on Pattern Review. I found that taking a small tuck in the neckline eliminated the gap. I slashed my bodice and bodice lining pattern pieces at the neckline and reduced the neckline length by 1/2 inch.

I put the body of the blouse together and tried it on.

Perfect fit!

I finished up the blouse, taking longer than I probably should have but I did add things like French seams: and hand sewn thread bra strap stays.

Here you can see Raquel modeling the top:

The fabric is silk charmeuse which I had gotten several years ago on clearance at Joanns. The lining is china silk from G Street.

I also finished Butterick 4859 which is a fitted skirt with a fishtail type hem in the back. The front is cut on the bias and there are inset pieces that run across the front and down the back. The back is very form fitting and the hemline flares and dips lower. I'm fairly pleased with the skirt. I used a cheap polyester suiting from Joanns and bemberg rayon lining. Typically I don't like polyester, but I thought it would be fine as a basic black skirt for work. One problem I'm having with skirts these days is that they constantly turn around on me when I'm wearing them. I'll have a skirt on for an hour or so and when I look down it is sideways or almost backward! I don't know why this continues to happen. Even fitted skirts do this! Here are some details from the skirt. First I finished the seams because I thought they might show where the hem is longer:

I also topstitched all the decorative seams with a double needle and topstitching thread:

Here is the back of the skirt (unpressed):

Here is the outfit:

Knitting news--still plugging away on my Surplice Lace Camisole. Can you tell that I'm not terribly motivated with it? I did go to G Street to get some ribbon for it. As can be expected, there was none that matched so I bought two different colors that coordinate. When I finish it, I will decide which one looks best. I also want to show this to my knitting friends:

This is Stretch Magic clear elastic beading cord in the thinnest diameter available. Why is this important for my knitting friends? Because it is a great product for lending support to gapping necklines on knit garments. I used this product to support the low, wide neckline on Labyrinth. It gapped badly after blocking and I knew that it would reveal all kinds of unmentionables if I dared to wear it to work. I threaded some of this cord in a tapestry needle and wove it through the neckline where I picked up the stitches for the ribbing and again through the Bind off edge of the ribbing. No matter how much the sweater stretches out, the neckline isn't going anywhere! I highly recommend adding this to your little arsenal of finishing supplies!

I'll be missing my knitting group again tomorrow night. I'm going to a seminar called "Understanding your Retirement." Not that I can afford to retire in the next 10 years, but I figured that I better know what to expect so that I can plan accordingly.

Before I go, let me leave you with these two little Sarah Palin funnies that Ems sent to me:

Bushism of the day
This one comes in video format from the David Letterman Show! Enjoy!

Kitty Cam: Mikey assumes his usual position on the couch next to me as I type!

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful advice - I agree 100%!!! I also think that the smaller you are, overall, the less ease you need. Love your new outfit and it fits you perfectly!!!