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

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Dressmaking class: week two

Air drying 4.5m of fabric gave the cats a wee den to play in. The buggers wouldn't let me join in though.
Armed with my new fabric choice for the Betty dress, it was time for the second week of the dressmaking class I'm taking at The Makehouse in Victoria, BC.

Whereas last week all three of us students started off at the same point, albeit with differing patterns, and sat together while Alexandra, our fab instructor, introduced us to how to interpret patterns, today we were heads down and intent on our own work at our own tables, and chat (and choccy biscuit eating) was to a minimum.
Adding 3/8 inch to the back skirt pattern piece at waist and seams.

Alexandra had spent a lot of time with me in the first week, perfecting and transferring the fit of my upper body measurements to the paper pattern, and the first thing she helped me tackle this week was the waist measurements of the circle skirt part of the pattern.

Using the waist adjustments I had made to the bodice pattern pieces last week, it was a case of a few more mathletics to ensure the waist on the skirt pieces would line up with the bodice. Sounds easy, but this took me at least half an hour. I definitely believe it's worth it though as I would rather make adjustments onto paper, than find I have excess or not enough fabric to cover my bod once it's sewn up!
If only Babs had properly transferred the measurements of her bristols to the paper pattern before sewing!
While I have access to Alexandra's amazing knowledge and experience I want to make the most of picking her brain. One thing I have been struggling to understand is how to tell if fabric has good drape. Patterns sometimes specify using drapey material, and then list the types of fabric which might be suitable. Alexandra showed me a brilliant but simple technique which I can use next time I'm in a fabric shop. Unravel a metre or so from a bolt of fabric and hang it over the edge of a table, or over a chair. Fabric with good drape will fall naturally into folds as it hangs. Stiffer fabric will stick out more and will have little or no folds.
My mediumweight quilting cotton is showing a pretty nice drape

Fabric with good drape will also look kind of heavy. I was struggling to understand what 'heavy' fabric looks like so Alexandra showed me some sample blouses that she had in the studio, one of which had a pussy bow, which did indeed look 'heavy' as it hung there. That, my friends, is what good drape is! I wish I had taken a pic of the blouses that Alexandra showed me, as they are her own designs from her company In House Patterns. So here (and here) they are on her website.

I'm not the only one who doesn't get what heavy means.
Next, Alexandra demonstrated several techniques for tracing key marks (such as darts) from the traced pattern piece onto my fabric. I had heard of carbon tracing paper before, but not seen it or had a chance to use it. The carbon paper is placed on either side of the fabric (ensuring any marks are made onto the wrong side of the fabric, which therefore won't show once the dress is finished), and special attention must be made if your fabric is being cut on the fold.

Then using a tracing wheel (like this one - I forgot to take a photie!), you run the wheel along the dart lines on the pattern pinned to your fabric, which will then leave marks underneath (on the wrong side of the fabric remember!).
Carbon tracing paper - blue sheets are good for showing up on lighter coloured fabrics, sheets come in other colours too

As the blue carbon sheets which I used didn't show up great on my mostly black fabric, Alexandra introduced me to another nifty little tool, which I want so badly now! It's a chalk wheel which leaves a small deposit of chalk on your fabric in the most delicate and perfect line. I currently use normal tailor's chalk at home but my pieces are all broken, blunt, and the blue chalk is so bad for getting on my fingers I have to wash my hands in between every single use of it (so as to avoid staining anything else I touch).
Is this chalk wheel completely sexy or what?
While looking online for where I could buy chalk wheels I found this great article about the many ways to mark fabric, who knew? I love that there are lots of free alternatives to investing in a myriad of sewing notions (even though I still want that chalk wheel, I want it baaaad), such as using slivers of soap, or tacking stitches (a common technique used by tailors). Just in this tiny facet of the sewing process, which takes up about 0.1% of the total time it takes to make a dress, there is so much to learn! I think an oooft is well in order here.
I only managed to pin and cut (yikes, the dreaded C word) a couple of my pattern pieces and fabric, so my homework is to finish cutting out all my pieces in time for next week so we can start sewing. Another great tip from Alexandra is that while we may want to make the most of our fabric, sometimes you just have no choice but to lay out your pieces in a certain way. For example, if possible it's best to always lay your pieces out so that they are facing the same direction (eg in my pic below all the shoulders are facing west).
My bodice pieces and facings - even though there are big spaces, this is the most economical layout we could achieve
Sometimes you can get away with placing a pattern piece reversed, but you always have to bear in mind the pattern of the fabric underneath and how it will be affected.

Class finished in time for me to pop next door to Satin Moon who sell a great range of quilting cottons and notions, and who had on a special remnant sale with proceeds going to Our Place in Victoria. I managed to pick up two remnants of a dark navy cotton with wee white flowers, and a metre of a very drapey (and yes I performed the drape test on it) cotton, also with white flowers, which might be voile, I'm not sure. But they will be good for practicing more garment-making on, and were only $2 a metre.
Bonnie, gatekeeper of the fabrics
As well as taking the dressmaking class at the Makehouse, I also have an online sewalong class which starts today, so will be blogging about the progress of this shirtdress, here's hoping it turns out as cool as it looks here!

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