Tuesday, April 19, 2022

McCalls 8248 and 8085, Sewing Failure, Sewing Success

For 8248, a pleated skirt with a tapered waistband. This is View B, the knee length version. The print in the fabric runs horizontally, forcing me to cut it crosswise to get more flattering vertical stripes, thereby limiting the length of the skirt. There are no options to this skirt pattern other than length and an optional ribbon embellishment. The fabric for this make was purchased on-line from Hobby Lobby--an odd acquisition for me since there is a Hobby Lobby a few miles away. However, I was obsessed with finding a python-print scuba knit fabric similar to the one I saw used for a skirt in a Craftsy class but could not find it in any store. The description of this fabric on the website was crepe scuba knit. Instead it is more of a satin, and a big disappointment in texture and appearance. However, for just $9 total there was 3 1/6 yards of a white and black python-print (snakeskin) 100% poly, 58" wide, crepe. Rather than toss it, it made a good muslin for this pattern that specifies crepe in the fabric choices.

Initially, the pleats were difficult, made more so by the fact that the print obscures most markings. Once the first piece was pleated, it all made more sense. The pleats are to be basted down the full length of the skirt, but just sewn down for the top 4 1/2". They are loose pleats, sewn together, but not topstitched down. Of course, the waistband holds them in the correct direction, folded to the center of the skirt front and back. After the skirt is assembled, before hemming, the basting is removed, allowing the pleats to unfold below the top sewn-in portion.

This pattern is not for me. The problems are three-fold: fabric, construction and style. The fabric recommendation is woven, no-stretch. The construction is difficult. The style looks like a cheerleader skirt. While it does have the tapered waistband I am hoping will fit me better than a standard waistband, there is no stretch to allow for all-day comfort.
The muslin is completed as far as the zipper, and that needs to be redone because it is placed a little too high. The pleating is misplaced in the front, taking up too much material and resulting in a smaller waistband than I find comfortable. If there is a second attempt at this, it should be in a different fabric, with the pleats replaced with gathers. The fabric is as bad as a shiny polyester can be. As far as any positive outcome, there is just the discovery that the smaller sizes do not require the specified 9" zipper--7" is long enough.

It took 10 days away from this sewing failure for me to try again. This time, I selected a 58" wide cotton/poly/lycra jersey fabric and a dress pattern, McCalls 8085. I did not order the fabric for this pattern. Rather, I had in mind the simple shift dress from New Look 6458 that I have made before. However, Fabric Mart sent me additional yardage. Since there was 2 1/2 yards of this cut (for $10.50), there was enough for a different pattern. However, the print on this fabric is directional. Once I decided to cut it with the print centered and pointing upward, the cutting became more complex. Of course, my cutting was not error-free. The sleeve was cut in the wrong direction and over a gap in the fabric. It was possible to cut another sleeve, but only one, meaning the sleeves have the print running in opposite directions. In the end, I used every inch of the fabric, which created a problem. I immediately noticed that the fabric piece had two small holes at one end. That is probably why they cut extra. I saw the holes, marked them to cut around them, then forgot them and cut the front bodice over the holes. Now, though tiny, they are near the center in the most visible piece.

Regarding the pattern, I cut a size L and shortened the bodice by 1 3/4". I also lowered the neck by at least an inch. The neck finish is simple, just turning it under and topstitching the hem. Although I much prefer the look of a neckband, in this jersey, the simple hem worked well, especially since I broke out my twin stitch needle, using it successfully for the first time. The walking foot helps a little in this fabric, but not a lot. In the end, I used the standard foot and a narrow zig zag stitch for most seams--quick and easy!

Notably, the shoulders fit perfectly, probably because I followed the instructions and stabilized them. Since I did not have bias binding, I used the selvedge from the crepe fabric to stabilize the shoulder seams. That worked very well. The waist is large and is intended to be elasticized. Doubting that pulling in the 40" waist with elastic would look good, I trimmed the seam. Now I wish I had tried the elastic because it would stabilize the waist seam. The pockets are easy, simple and functional. The skirt length v. ruffle is iffy. A shorter skirt and a longer ruffle would look better proportioned, with the bonus of the seam between skirt and ruffle not hitting my knee when I walk. I cut the shorter option for the sleeve and trimmed it to end above the elbow simply because 3/4 length sleeves usually do not fit my long arms. Once hemmed, though, the straight, elbow length sleeves looked strange on this design. Then I saw a dress in the Pact catalog and decided the sleeves needed a ruffle too.
Using a sleeve ruffle from another pattern as a guide, I cut a 6" deep, 26" long ruffle for the 12" sleeve. That was about as big as I could manage from the remaining fabric. It could have been less deep, as the other pattern, McCalls 7650, had a somewhat shorter sleeve ruffle (5") that was about 24" long.
My sleeve ruffle idea really improved the dress. Also, the holes have been patched and fray-checked.

Friday, April 1, 2022

Alberta Street Pencil Skirts

First version of this pattern by Sew House 7 uses a stretch cotton/lycra twill from Fabric Mart. This was a designer fabric in a deep brown with a wide pattern repeat of large circles. It was heavier and stiffer than I expected, leaving me uncertain as to how to use it. Thankfully, it made a good toile for this pattern, which is intended for a heavy, denim-like fabric. The only problem was matching the print. This pattern that only needs 1 1/2 yards for the size 14--a starting point. Negative ease is recommended, and there is about 30% stretch. While my initial goal was to match the patch pockets with the front, and the motifs across the back seam, I was relieved to get some of the yoke to match the skirt. There was extra in this cut, since they included the end of the bold. There was a little more than 3 yards when I ordered 2 for a total cost of $9. This skirt used all of it, with just scraps left after careful cutting to match the print.
The zipper installation was a simple process made simpler by using scotch tape instead of pins to baste the zipper in place, but I do need a zipper foot for my Janome to get a narrower seam around the zipper. That machine is new and does not yet have all the accessories. As a result, the zipper tape is just barely caught in the stitching. The wider placket looks good in this sturdy fabric but may need reinforcement later. Next were the side seams, in which all the fitting was accomplished. In sum, it is a 14 in the waist and upper hip and a 12 through the rest of the skirt, a silhouette that can be followed on the next cut for a better, quicker way to a good fit in this pattern. The facings and hem were simple, but made better by hand stitching all the facing and some of the hem. In another fabric, top stitching would work and would make a faster finish.

I really like this skirt. It will fit well in my wardrobe and is a perfect match for the cardigan sweater I knit last year. The fabric has a rough feel but is so stretchy it is comfortable for a tight skirt. The one drawback is that the print is easily marked up. The white fabric shows through when seams are unpicked. Luckily, I didn't have to do much unpicking. It will be interesting to see how it wears--I hope it develops a nice vintage patina. The only problem so far is the pocket shape. The opening slants down toward the center front and provides an awkward angle for my hands. The pockets are usable, but not something I would slip my hands into for a comfortable position.

Although I would like to try reversing the pockets, slanting the opening downward to the side seam, that modification will have to wait. My second version of this skirt was complicated by the fabric, a lightweight scuba knit from Hobby Lobby. It is a fairly nice fabric, with a dramatic combination of stretch, weight and drape. However, even though there was no indication that such a fabric was a good choice, it is obvious now even to stubborn me that this pattern was not intended for scuba knit. In fact, scuba knit may not be intended for my sewing projects. It was an experiment that convinced me that I would not be happy with any method to attach the patch pockets in that fabric. The topstitching was buried in the thickness of the fabric. Rather than give up the pockets, I converted them to side seam pockets. The top stitching was completely omitted for a smoother look. One big revelation was that a combination of a stretch fabric with the tapered waistband omits the need for a zipper! However, this one has a zipper. There was no trouble installing it with the appropriate (3/8" is specified in the instructions) placket width on each side because I was using my walking foot to avoid stretching the knit fabric. The sizing is smaller, mostly a size 12, tempting me to try a size 12 allover in a firmer stretch fabric to achieve the recommended negative ease for this skirt. Reversing the pocket shape would be a nice mod as well. There's no photo of the second skirt. It's rather blah and doesn't get much wear. Instead, I happily post another photo of the first one, a simple flat lay so ALL the dots are visible.
I can wear the cardigan with this shirt and the skirt, but would like another shirt to wear with it. Green? Teal? Oh, maybe just brown.