A place where a wee Scot can talk about the stuff she bores other folk with. Sewing, The Beatles, cats, and zumba may feature...

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Dressmaking class: week three

My dressmaking class is now finished! So here's a recap of Week Three (last week) and I'll post up Week Four tomorrow.

The final two weeks of the dressmaking class have focussed on sewing techniques, specifically darts, seam finishings, hems (by hand and machine), and zippers. In the midst of this I somehow decided it would be a good idea to start and complete a shirtdress (which turned out to be my first ever completed dress!), and had me tackling a collar, placket, gathers, and the most dreaded of sewing processes: buttonholes! This garment merits a whole post of its own, so lets leave it for now. Especially as I am coming over all Chief Inspector Dreyfus again at the very mention of buttonholes...
"Every day and in every way, I am getting better, and better."

Alexandra kicked off week three's class by demonstrating tailor's tacks, which I had coincidentally read about in the article about marking tools I posted a link to previously (here it is again as it was so good). This was very interesting as it's one of those things you really need to see done in front of you (well I do, anyway) rather than just read about it.

Tailor's tacks are ideal for little marks like the end of darts, or other markings (usually donated by little circles on the pattern) which are in the body of the garment (as opposed to notches which are at the edge of the fabric). They are sewn very very loosely through the pattern paper and two layers of fabric. The tack is basically an X and once it is sewn the two pieces of fabric are pulled apart by about an inch (that's why you leave the tack so loose as you are going to pull the two layers apart) and the threads in between the layers snipped. This will leave you free to remove the pattern paper and will reveal tacks on both pieces of fabric which donate the marking.

If this makes no sense at all (that'll be a yes then), check these photos out! Even though my swatch is natural coloured and the same on both sides, let's imagine the two squares of fabric were placed right side to right side (ie the circle you can see drawn is on the wrong side of the fabric) when I did the tack. (also imagine that there is pattern paper on top of them! Here is a great tutorial showing how to use the tacks with your pattern paper)

The 'spider legs' or tailor tacks as they are known in the profession
Tailor tacks are excellent for fine fabrics such as silk or chiffon. I think they will come in really useful to me when I need to know that a marking on one layer of fabric has to be 100% accurate on the other layer of fabric (at the moment I don't feel my markings are 100% accurate! Mostly because my chalk is so thick right now it adds millimetres to my markings. I know, I'll get it sorted honest! Or else use tailor tacks...

Next up, and onto the machines for the first time during the 3 weeks of class so far (which just goes to show you how much there is to learn about measuring, marking, and cutting) as Alexandra explained a few different ways to finish seams. First off was getting to grips with the machine itself, by far an upgrade from my trusty steed at home (which incidentally I had purchased from The Makehouse when they were upgrading to the new machines. The best 40 bucks I ever spent, so grateful for that stroke of luck as I would never have been able to afford a sewing machine otherwise, thank you Makehouse!).

All the time I was using the machines in the Makehouse were probably the worst sewing I have ever done, not because there was anything wrong with the machines but they were so different to mine that I just couldn't get to grips with them. A very weird experience indeed!
The model we used in class

My baby, grubby stains and all! A Janome US2022

We got a chance to try out 3 seam finishes: clean finish seam; overlocked (or serged if you're reading in North America); and bias tape (which I have been wanting to learn as I know it can be used for skirt hems or for armholes in sleeveless dresses, to name but a few).
For a clean-finish seam: fold back 1/4 inch of seam allowance and stitch
Keep fabric right sides together and only leave folded seam allowance exposed for stitching
How the clean-finish seam looks when completed
My first time using an overlock (serger), come to me my pretty!
I was pathetically excited at my first overlocking experience
Overlocked seam finish

Double fold bias tape
Flatten it and then encase the edge of the seam allowance within the tape
Double fold bias tape seam finish
Before class ended, we had a practice at darts which feature in my Betty dress at the waist and bust. Although there is only one way to start sewing a dart (always from the fabric edge) there are several ways to to come to the end of a dart. The goal of each method is the same:  to keep any bulk or puckers to a minimum.

After sewing into the dart, Alexandra showed us that you can backstitch back onto your line of stitching, or her preference is to backstitch up the edge of the dart fold (as seen below).
Sew right down to the end of the dart and then backstitch up the edge of the dart fold
My backstitching is something I always seem to make a bit of a mess of, so I think I'll probably mostly use the method of simply stitching right off the end of the dart (no backstitching) and snip the threads leaving long tails which you then tie a knot in. This is also a great way to ensure the end of your dart doesn't accumulate too much bulk.
How the right side of the fabric looks for my practice darts
Darts are definitely something I want to learn more about as there are several different kinds. Tilly and the Buttons has an excellent round up here.

In the last half hour of class I started sewing work on Betty, and the first thing I'd to do were the darts on both front and back bodice pieces. Unfortunately, the chalk markings I'd made the week before had all but disappeared and knowing I didn't have long till class finished, I winged it. Oh foolish me! I of course ended up with several different lengths and angles of darts, instead of neatly matching pairs on the bust and waist, so I spent the rest of the remaining class time unpicking the buggers!

We were set homework of completing as much as we could on our dresses at home, leaving zips and hems (or anything else that stumped us) for the following week, which would be our last of the course.

The day after class when I had intended to get to work on Betty, I decided to measure out the pattern for the Frances shirtdress from Green Bee patterns instead. More on that soon!

I couldn't witter on about darts for so long without posting this gem. I had to explain the significance of this to my Canadian boyfriend, so for others who also need to know why us Brits of a certain age find this so funny, go read the small print at the end of this post. The rest of you, sit back and remember where you were when you saw this!   

**When Dexy's Midnight Runners appeared on Top of The Pops, the UK's number one music programme, in October 1982 performing their latest single "Jackie Wilson Said" a cover of the Van Morrison song about famed soul singer Jackie Wilson. Either as a deliberate joke or due to the incompetence of the production team, a huge portrait of Scottish darts player, Jocky Wilson, was projected to the left of the band. Cue nationwide simultaneous laughter (in the days when we all had to watch telly at the same time). I like to think it was not deliberate but lead singer Kevin Rowland apparently claims different.

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