Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Workshop review: Sarah Veblen 3-day Choose Your Own Focus Workshop


Late last fall I decided to sign up for a Sarah Veblen workshop. After all Threads magazine had it in their Great Gift Guide for last Christmas!


The Choose your own Workshop is a small group workshop (at this venue a max of 6) where you choose what you want to work on. Sarah is a fit goddess so muslin fittings are always a great thing to work on.

This workshop had 4 attendees, which made for great one on one time with Sarah.
The basic structure of the workshop went something like this.

Day One: Morning group time where there is round table discussion. Each participant discusses what their individual goals are for the workshop, show and tell of fabric/patterns, etc. This allows Sarah to get a plan of action in place. She is very comciestious about making sure that everyone's needs a met. This also gives her time to set realistic goals with participants!

One of the great things about this group time is that you get to hear what everyone else is working on and when it's something that interests others the it can be made into a group teaching opportunity. Such a great way to learn!

So what were my plans for the workshop?
-Fitting, fitting, fitting! I made 3 muslins. Sarah is a fitting goddess! And since being ill I have now lost 30 lbs and needed some help adjusting my master patterns. 1. Pants  2. Darted shirt 3. Princess seam with partial dolman sleeve blouse.
-fabric/patterns to discuss design ideas
-WIP French Jacket. Always need something to work on while you wait for your 'turn' with Sarah. I worked on quilting the pieces of my French jacket. So colorful! Makes me smile every time I work on it.

So what kind of things can you expect in this workshop?
I started with fitting of muslins. I wanted to leave with a solid pants pattern! One of the tops was almost complete and just needed a couple tweaks that I wanted her to check. The princess seam pattern is a long term project that is not a rush so we just did a single fitting.

I am quite comfortable with transferring pin fitting changes in muslins to the flat pattern so I leave those to do at a later time. However, if this is something you need help with Sarah will make the time to teach you how to do it.

Another quite fun thing that happens is that when something interesting or difficult happens with anything that the other participants are working on we all have the chance to join in.
For example, Sarah did a sewing demonstration of attaching a narrow continuous sleeve placket for Wendy and a couple of us joined in to watch and learn!

It is also quite informative to be able to watch Sarah doing muslin fittings. All fittings are done with the person being fitted standing in front of a full length mirror so that you can watch the changes being made. Sarah's methods are logical, reproducible and best part... Learnable!! Sarah has an amazing fitting book that is an invaluable resource. I finally feel like I am really moving to the next steps of designing instead of always stuck on the fitting phase! Sarah's book Perfect Fitting is available on her website. www.sarahveblen.com
Wendy's little black dress collar design in progress!

Having a group of like minded ladies working alongside you, each on individual projects is very inspiring, empowering and fun.

Other participants projects included blazer fitting and construction, trim application, several of us worked on sleeves, muslin fittings, pattern design work and more!

This Chicago workshop is held at a private apartment and there is plenty of space to spread out... By day three it looked as if a sewing tornado had blown through!

Each participant has a nice space for sewing and use of a worktable along with ironing boards and irons. Each participant brings their own supplies such as sewing machine, pattern paper, rulers, pens, pencils, tape, etc, etc, etc...

So... Did I accomplish what I wanted? Yes and no.
No, because I was just 2 weeks post surgery and my energy levels were just not where they needed to
be at!
Yes, because I was quite happy with what I accomplished! And because 3 days of being spoiled by my friends really helped in my recovery and completely took my mind off things ��
My pants muslin went from 'oh my' to good to great! over a series of muslins and fitting changes! 
And to get to perfection we changed side seams, crotch depth, dart placements, shortened front crotch extension and upper front thigh, lengthened back crotch extension and did a knock-knee adjustment! 
From excess back thigh fabric to an almost perfect fit! No one wants that wrinkly mess on the backs of their thighs! I'm so happy with the final product. 

If you are looking to increase your knowledge of fitting, pattern work, custom design and couture techniques then I highly recommend taking one of Sarah's workshops! I know that I will be taking many more!



Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Black geometric lace cardigan, Simplicity 1945

I had the need for an open weave type of cardigan. I found that in pictures recently taken with me in my new Appleton wrap dresses that my solid black and solid brown cardigans really made me look chopped up. Especially from the back, where all you would see is the bottom portion of the dress sticking out from the bottom of the cardigan. For some reason this was bothering me! 


If I'm wearing a cardigan strictly because I'm cold then too bad! If someone wants to see my dress they can look at the front of me ;) However, we all have those times where we just might be cold so we grab a cardigan to through over just because. Well, for those times I thought it would be nice to have something that still provided some sense of an extra layer but still let the dress fabric show through. 

An open knit cardigan would be perfect! I found this great fabric on smugglersdaughter.com and picked it up. The quality of the fabric is just lovely!!! Unfortunately, I did not notice the run down the middle of it until I started working with the fabric. Boo :( 

Lesson learned: always fully check your fabric when it's delivered to your home! I always do this in the store when buying yardage...

Anyhow, mistakes happen and I decided to work around it. 

The pattern is an old one I've made before. Simplicity 1945
I had to cut the back in 2 pieces due to the fabric run and made this pattern matching a priority. Otherwise it would have just looked dreadful in the back. However, this meant that I did not have enough fabric to match the pattern across the fronts or the side seams. I decided to just ignore the side seams! For the fronts I was not able to match the patterns but I was able to do a full offset. So at least I had deliberate plan and it did not just look pattern didn't match! 

I was a bit worried about sewing up this fabric due to the open weave. Worried for nothing! This actually sewed up like a dream. Both the serger and the sewing machine had no problems whatsoever with it. 

For the neckline and the front edge, I used a cotton knit facing that I sewed on, flipped, pressed, sewed at about 3/8 inch from front edge and then just trimmed the raw edge on the back. The knit won't ravel and I feel like this gave just enough weight to the front edge to hold it in place. The rest of the hem and the sleeve hems were just folded under, pressed and cover stitched. 


The hardest part of the entire project was getting creative with the layout and matching the center back seam. The rest of the sewing was just taking my time, careful handling and it went together great!

Here is a photo of me in it... An action shot from the last Sew Chicago ASG meeting. 

Next up on my work table... A French jacket and a fun and funky skirt to go with it! 
Happy Sewing!
Happy face :) she's blowing kisses! Melt my heart!!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Ohhhh, so sparkly!!! A sequined top!

The end of December marked my 45th birthday. Originally I was planning a big ole super fun and crazy house party to celebrate my birthday and New Years. However... With the onset of pancreatitis in November and ensuing health crap I decided to scale back a bit and go for a small gathering to be able to sit around our big table and play some fun party games. This worked out great! Since I can't eat anything fun and the most exciting thing I've had to drink in months is ginger ale, at least I could partake in some Cards Against Humanity and some fun Left Right Center. 

Everyone else got to drink and eat the fun stuff and I thoroughly enjoyed the merriment! (And the lack of hangover in the morning!!)

Being silly with my girlfriends!

I decided to mark the occasion that I would tackle a sequined top! I have always wanted to make somethings out of sequined fabric. Now, I'm not talking about the knit fabric with sequins fused into it. I'm talking about hi end real sequined fabric where each sequin is individually attached to the backing fabric. 


What a perfect challenge to end 2015 with!!! 
I picked up the fabric on my travels at Les Fabriques in Southern Virgina. 

I'm glad I gave myself plenty of time to make this top.
Let me briefly outline the steps and the estimated time of each one. 

Step one. Choose an appropriate pattern from pattern stash. Well, there wasn't one. I mean I had plenty of contenders but for real sequins there really needs to be a minimum of seams and no darts. Not that those aren't doable, just not for my first sequined garment! And upon a Google search many sequined garments are a very simple shape and looser silhouette.  Time spent: 2 hours

Step two: in the end I choose my TNT tank top/camisole pattern that started as a Silhouettes pattern. It has evolved over the past couple of years into something of my own. This is a simple pattern with just 2 pieces. A front with darts and cut on the fold and back cut on the fold. Now for another change! I decided to re-draft the front piece to eliminate the darts. After I redrafted the front piece and walked the side seams I quickly sewed up a muslin to check fit. Time spent: 2 1/2 hours

Step three: cut out the front and back pieces. I did this with a heavier pair of scissors that just cut right through the sequins! I then had to spend some time aligning all the sequins in the right direction and checking for missing sequins and any damaged sequins within the body of the cut pieces. Ugh.... When I talk about aligning the sequins, I mean that the sequins are attached by a little hole at the top of the sequin. Then the hang free at the bottom. As you handle the fabric, have it lightly folded or even turn it upside down these sequins have the tendency to flip up and get stuck under the row above. It's wonderful having them hang free because as you move in the garment there is this very light tinkling sound of the sequins. Time spent: 3 hours
Here you can see see what I mean about the sequins being flipped up.

Step four: trim all the sequins out of the seam allowances. Oh jeez! I really could have used a bottle of wine for this step!!! Time spent: 3 hours

Let's do a quick recap here... I've now spent over 10 hours and I haven't even started sewing yet...
This better turn out to be a damn nice top!

Step five: sew the side seams and the shoulder seams. Time spent: 15 mins

Step six: make and apply bias facing for the armholes and neckline. In order to do this I had to make a trip to the fabric store. I was originally just going to use some bias strips of cream silk organza but I didn't like how it looked. The bias facings needed to be a bit more substantial and match the sequins and give some depth and definition. At this point I only had time for a trip to JoAnne's, New Years was just 3 days away! Luckily, I found a poly charmeuse in a perfect match. I much prefer working with silk but with the poly charmeuse being used on the bias I was able to coax it into submission. I hand sewed on the facings. Time spent: 5 hours 

Step seven: make a facing for the hem. Nope, no time. I skipped this step completely!!! After all the netting not the sequins are attached to does not ravel so I just carefully trimmed the backing so you can't see it and left it at that. Time spent: 10 mins

Step eight: last step!!! With just a couple hours to go until my guests arrived I was furiously hand sewing on sequins to spots that had no sequins. There were just a couple spots in the yard that I had bought that was missing a couple and of course they were in the middle of my top! I also had to sew some back onto the seam allowances specifically around the neckline where I had to take them off to apply the facings. These were just at the very edge. Time spent: 1 hour

Overall time spent: 17 hours for a simple tank top with a front and back piece and bias facings for armholes and neckline. Whew! 

Was it worth it?? YES!! I love the top! This will be in my wardrobe for many years :) 


Such a fun an pd beautiful top! I love the feel of it, very smooth and cool and the drape is just beautiful and liquid like. 


Have you sewn with sequins? It was a fun process, just leave yourself plenty of time!!

Happy sewing!