Monday, April 23, 2012

No Cutting Corners

This is the first project I've started since getting back from the Worcester Expo.  At that time, I really made a commitment that, if I am going to sew, I am going to do it deliberately and treat each piece as if it would be judged.  I would like to develop a few perfect fit patterns for my daughter and new daughter in law so I can sew for them.  I've made, and then altered a muslin for DIL and am finally getting around to putting the finished skirt together.  

The first thing I did was a carefully pick apart the final muslin in order to develop a pattern.  Because the seam allowances had been adjusted a couple of times, I did not want to use them.  So, I carefully pressed my pieces without the seam allowances and laid them on top of pattern paper.  For my patterns, I usually use Swedish Tracing Paper which you can easily find on line and it comes in a good size roll.  This time, I used paper I had purchased from Cynthia Guffey at the Expo.  As you can see, it is very transparent, but it is also very sturdy, not at all like commercial patterns which tear easily.  This is my first time using it and I liked it a lot.  I believe you can purchase it from her website.  I laid down my pieces and then established my seam lines, using 5/8 inch for my lengthwise pieces and 1/2 inch for my crosswise pieces (e.g. waist).  I put in my grain lines.  As you can see in the picture, my muslin piece had become distorted and was not the full 2 3/4 inches across the whole piece as it should be and so I drafted my lines to make certain it was drawn correctly.  When making a pattern, I never rely completely on the shape of my muslin.  I make a pencil mark every couple of inches around my muslin piece and then connect those marks with either a straight ruler or a curved ruler, as appropriate.  This is a must if you are to have perfect lines.  Hand drawing just isn't accurate enough.  In the picture below, I have made sure my pattern piece is the adequate width all the way around.  I have drawn in the side seam and the bottom seam.  The top seam is yet to be drawn.  You also want to add in notches so that the pieces match appropriately.

Before I cut my fabric, I pulled a thread on each cross grain to make sure my fabric was perfectly on grain.  I know most of you have done this, but for those who have not, you can see in the picture below with the tiny blue arrow and line, what I mean.  You make a cut in your fabric about an inch from the edge.  Grasp a thread or two and gently pull them the width of your fabric.  In all likelihood, it will break more than once, but you will be able to follow the line that the pulled thread makes and cut along that line.  In this case, my fabric was nice and straight, but often, you will find that the thread will go way off as you pull.  Taking the time to do this step will assure that your garment hangs nicely.  If your fabric is slightly off grain, you can sometimes gently stretch it back.  If it is way off, and cannot be straightened, it is not worth using. 
After I cut out my pieces and done my stay stitching, I took the time to finish my edges before I did any seaming.  I am lining the skirt, so I was not doing any special finishes such as french seams or hong kong seams.  But my fabric was linen and I didn't want any raveling.  Using an overcast foot and a zig zag stitch that was very close together and fairly wide, I stitched the individual fabric edges prior to seaming them.The overlock foot keeps a fabric even as thin as linen very flat.  The foot has a wire in it and you snug the edge of the fabric right up to the wire and the stitch forms over the wire and then back over the fabric.  Sample below.  It is not a very good picture of the foot, but if you look it up for your particular machine, you'll get a better image.  

I just want to show you one other thing in this post.  There is a front center seam in this skirt and I wanted to top stitch it.  An edge joining foot is very helpful in creating even top stitching.  As you can see in the picture below, the foot has a flange in it.  If you position the flange over you seam, you can then adjust your needle position to the right or left of the flange.  In this case, my needle is 3.5 mm to the left.  Once that top stitch is done, do the other side by moving your needle the same distance to the right of the flange.  My machine will no go any further than 3.5 mm so if I had wanted my stitching further away from the seamline, this foot wouldn't be as helpful.  But for this skirt, it worked very well. For my top stitching, I also like to increase my stitch length to at least 3.0 as I think it looks nicer.


I still have the lining to do, but here's a peak.  Sheryl wanted me to incorporate some silk I had from an obi, so that is what the front yoke is done in.  I didn't have enough to do more than the front, so the back yoke is the green linen.  Hopefully today, I'll get the lining in.

 Thank you Cynthia Guffey for prompting me to slow down, enjoy the ride, and put my all into it each piece.



  1. I have been trying to sew more deliberately and less to distract myself. Your post was such a breath of fresh air. To sew as if each item would be judged...this is something I can aspire to.

    The skirt will be beautiful-the silk yoke is so pretty.

  2. Great post, Fran. Though I have done some of this, like Mary, I feel inspired to make sure I am more diligent with each piece. Good advice. CG is a wonderful teacher, isn't she?

  3. I thought she was wonderful Martha. It was my first time meeting her and I really enjoyed it. Have you been up to NH lately?

  4. Lovely work.....Cynthia definitely inspires....I'm planning on starting one of her dress patterns this week :)