Time to reflect

It has now been a year since I officially opened my dressmaking business. There was, and is still so much to learn!  The sewing part I figured I had down pretty well after 35+ years, but there are always new techniques to try, and courses to take. For now, it is time to reflect on what I have done and think a little about the future.

In working on my business:

I have embraced blogging, Facebook and internet learning.

I have realised that photography is not my strong suit, but I’m going to have to learn more about it and take more time to get good photos of each project for advertising purposes.

Finding local suppliers and some not so local was a major challenge. When one moves halfway across Canada, her favorite fabric stores are no longer readily available and one has to start over.

I have discovered I love working for myself and that I am organised enough to do it. But working from home means being alone all day and that can be hard.

I have found that I love to teach and worked with White Rock Leisure Services to offer a new sewing course.

And in working in my business:

I have made 20+ garments from a simple shawl to a fully crystallised ballroom dance gown.

I have discovered a designer hidden inside my “techie” head and have created a few
fabulous ballroom dance costumes.

Ballroom dance costumes.
Ballroom dance costumes.

 

I have taught a young teen how to sew and the lessons continue.

Next year will bring more teaching, more ballroom and some much-needed vacation travel.   I am looking forward to 2013 and hope you will too.

The creative process of dressmaking

Aside

My blogging seems to have stalled at the beginning of wedding season and into the fall dance competition season. It’s been a busy six months! Among other things I’ve created a wedding gown from a photo of a 1944 movie star and half a dozen ballroom dance costumes all to the specific requirements of my clients. I thought I’d share the creative process with you in the next few blogs.

The Wedding Dress

The dress was inspired by this photograph of one of the bride’s favourite movie stars. The neckline was raised to suit the bride and the train was eliminated to suit a summer wedding in a small chapel.

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The Inspiration Photo

The scallops were sized by measuring the neckline and dividing it by the number of scallops I wanted. Each scallop is approximately 1/3 of a circle. You will notice that the hemline of the peplum has larger scallops than the neckline. In fact there are at least two different sizes on the peplum and the scallops at the sleeve hem are a different size again.  In making this gown I realised just how important my math classes turned out to be, especially geometry.

The fashion fabric is Crepe-back Satin with a stretch mesh for the full

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Scallops on Bodice and Peplum completed

skirt. We used the crepe side of the fashion fabric to line the skirt. The bodice and both the peplum and its lining were underlined with good quality broadcloth.  A layer of tulle was added to the peplum to give it body and was cut to the shape of the scallops giving them a sharp, well defined edge.  I used the tulle at the neckline as well. This was a summer wedding so, we used breathable rayon to line the bodice and sleeves.  The skirt is gored so that it lays flat at the waist and over the hips, but falls in beautiful folds around the bride’s feet.

This was an interesting project and very rewarding, as the bride was thrilled with the result. She sent me this picture of her big day.

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The Wedding

Working with knits – the sewing process

Sewing with knitted fabrics can be freeing although it is occasionally frustrating.  It is freeing because knits like Spandex are so forgiving and very little fitting is needed, and the seams don’t need finishing.  It can be frustrating if you don’t use the right tools and techniques when working with them.  This blog will give you an overview of how to sew with knits so that the frustration is lifted and you can be free to enjoy sewing these comfortable fabrics as much as you enjoy wearing them. (check out my previous blog for information on choosing fabric and laying out the pattern)

The tools:

Ballpoint sewing machine needles are a must, especially when sewing through elastic.

Fine, long straight pins are much easier to work with and don’t stick to the fabric.

A machine with a zigzag stitch and/ or a serger is best. A coverstitch machine is sweet but not essential.

For cutting knits I prefer a cutting wheel, but have used serrated scissors in the past (before the Olfa wheel was introduced). Regular scissors don’t work well as the knit has a tendency to slip and stretch whereas; the serrated edge holds the fabric against the cutting blade.

Pattern weights make cutting out faster.

A toothed tracing wheel works better than the smooth blade as the fabric tends to be thick.

Beyond this list, you can use pretty much what you already have in your sewing room. Make sure your thread matches your fabric type and not just the colour, i.e. use polyester thread for synthetics.

The method:  Set your stitch length at 3-4 mm.  3mm is best for most garment weights, but you’ll need longer stitches for heavy fabrics like fleece.

Adjust the tension for the weight of the fabric as you would for a woven. (Tension adjustments are unique to every machine, so follow your manual on this.)  Always stretch as you sew with a straight stitch, even when basting.  Play with this on sample pieces until you’re comfortable with how much you have to pull on the fabric to get a seam that gives, does not pucker and maintains its shape.  You should have one hand behind the needle and one in front keeping a steady tension and allowing your machine to pull the fabric through.  If the seam appears stretched, you have put too much tension on your fabric and there is too much thread in the seam to allow the knit to relax back to its original shape.  If it puckers, you haven’t got enough tension on the fabric and the seam will break when you try to stretch it.

Once the fit is right, serge the seams to give a ¼” seam allowance and a stretchy seam.  If you are using blanket fleece serging just adds more thread to the already bulky seam and you don’t really need to finish the seam allowance.

Pressing knits should be done carefully and as little as possible as the fabric can stretch out of shape if worked too hard – or melt if the iron is too hot!  Very often finger pressing is sufficient while sewing, especially on Spandex. Use a warm iron and steam and just touch the tip of the iron if possible.

Use a stretchable iron-on interfacing if it is required. You will want to maintain the soft feel of the knit even in a collar or cuff, so choose the weight of the interfacing accordingly.

Heming can be done by machine with a zigzag hem stitch or top stitch, twin needle top stitching or by using a two or three needle coverstitch.  The coverstitch is used on most ready-to-wear tops and dresses. Whichever method you choose, keep in mind that the hem needs to stretch.

I hope this short lesson helps you with your next project. As always your comments and questions are welcome.

Diana@dianarose.ca

www.dianarose.ca

 

Working with knits – getting started.

Knitted fabrics come in all weights and textures and need to be handled according to their individual characteristics. Before cutting into the fabric you should experiment a bit to see how it reacts to things like stretching the cut edge, pressing, washing and foremost how much stretch it has.  The pattern you intend to use will tell you how much stretch the fabric needs as a percentage and can be from 10-25% or more.

To determine the amount of stretch, hold 10 cm of fabric across the grain and stretch it as far as it will go. If it goes to 12.5 cm then you have 25% stretch (2.5/10= 25%). Is it 2-way stretch or 4-way stretch (across the grain and with the grain like a bathing suit)?

If you plan on washing and drying the finished garment, then wash and dry the fabric before cutting. I like to do this step with all my fabrics regardless of the weave.

Press a small area of the fabric with a cool iron and steam to see how it reacts. It might stretch out completely and lose all its shape so it is better to find this out now before you try pressing seams or pleats.

Stretch out each cut edge to see if the fabric will “run” like your pantyhose.  Usually, only one edge will run. If your fabric has this characteristic you must use the pattern layout designed for a “napped fabric” with the hems toward the end that does run as neck-lines and waist-lines get the most abuse when worn and are most likely to start to run.

Most patterns are designed with a “straight of grain” indicated on each piece, however, patterns for stretch fabrics will often indicate “stretch” instead.  For these you will need to determine where on your fabric the greatest stretch can be obtained – across the grain or with the grain.  It is important to have the grain straight on any fabric before laying out your pattern and this is true with knits as well. Put  about  one meter of the selvages together and hold them above your head so you can see how the fold falls, shift the layers until you can see it is straight and not pulling in one direction or the other.  Pin the selvages together so they stay where you want them. Knits tend to be slippery and shift when you aren’t looking.

To hold your pattern pieces in place while cutting I prefer to use pattern weights with only a few pins holding the grain line in place. For heavy knits like fleece, cut the pattern out first so that when you cut into the fabric the pattern isn’t pulled into it and torn. For fine knits I like to leave a bit of tissue around the cutting line to help stabilize the fabric while I’m cutting. My preferred cutting tool is a wheel. It allows for more accurate cutting and prevents the fabric being pulled out of shape when lifted into scissors.

Marking knits can be done with tracing carbon and a toothed tracing wheel, although for the fine georgettes you may want to do tailor’s tacks.

My next blog will go into actually sewing on the knits.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or comments.

Diana@dianarose.ca

www.dianarose.ca

What do you charge?

One of the hardest parts of professional dressmaking is quoting a price for a project. One looks at a pattern and figures it will be fairly simple; four seams, 2 darts and a zipper, fully lined – what could possibly go wrong? Should be able to finish it in 2 days or 10 hours, right? Not so much. First, I made a muslin to see if it fits and discovered that the design isn’t quite what I wanted and I spent a day figuring out how to re-make the pattern into the shape I want. Second, it is cut on the bias requiring a cutting surface 60” wide, so I stripped my bed and used that as the cutting table – brutal on the back, but doable. Third, the fabric choice was burnout silk which is a very delicate fabric that sifts easily and rebels at being sewn by a regular sewing machine. Enter the life saver called the Coverstitch Machine. With its differential feed it handles the vagaries of the silk beautifully. Of course it’s a new machine, so I have had to learn how it works while dealing with the burn-out silk. This is exhausting, but I still believe the new machine has not increased the time needed to get this far as it definitely makes the job easier. I have just finished day 3 on this dress. There is still another day’s work left.  If I had quoted this for a customer I would have had to double the estimate to make any money on this project. Fortunately, I am making it for myself – this time.

So when you call a dressmaker for a quote on a dress and she says “It depends…” perhaps you will recall this story and understand.

Your comments and questions are welcome.

Diana@dianarose.ca

www.dianarose.ca

What we wear affects how we think?

Have you heard the term “you are what you wear”? There has actually been a study done recently that has determined that this is actually true and not just your mother trying to convince you to get out of your jeans. It was reported in The Journal of Experimental Social Psychology by Dr. Adam D. Galinsky that our thought processes are based on physical experiences, including the clothes we wear. (New York Times, April 2, 2012 by Sandra Blakeslee) I think it is fair to say that all of us have encountered the feeling that our clothes affect our moods and the way we carry ourselves and I find it interesting to find they actually affect the way we think.

Dance teachers tell us we dance better in the right outfit. They can feel it in the way we move and see it in the way we approach the dance. I hadn’t thought of it before but the children’s ballet schools always insist that the children are in the correct attire for the simplest practice. Those teachers know that their students focus on the dance when dressed as a dancer. Ballroom instructors are pleased when their lady students come to class in a practice skirt that moves with them. They say the student stands taller, moves more gracefully and achieves more in the lesson. It shows in the men when they wear dress pants instead of jeans. You can see them stand straighter and hold their frame better when they have a good shirt on instead of a t-shirt.  So, our thought processes and not just our moods are affected, hmmm.

An interview always goes better when you’re wearing your “power suit” that fits well and suits your figure.  You feel more prepared to answer the tough questions and show how capable you are.  That special event you were dreading becomes somewhat entertaining when you find just the right outfit to wear. Conversely, the event can be worse than anticipated when you wear an outfit that makes you uncomfortable. I become withdrawn and discover I have trouble with conversation when I’m dressed inappropriately for the occasion.  It appears that Mother was right when she told us to put out our clothes for morning before we went to bed.  If we plan what we wear, we can even plan how we think!

As always, your comments and questions are welcomed.

Diana@dianarose.ca

www.Dianarose.ca

Design for Your Body – Bottom Dominant

The woman whose hips are larger than her bust has many ways of describing her body type – the triangle, pear-shaped, hippy, and many other less flattering – but my favourite is Bottom Dominant. I’m not sure who first coined the phrase, but the first I heard it was from Nancy Nix-Rice http://www.nancynixrice.com in a seminar at the ASDP Conference http://www.paccprofessionals.org. The biggest struggle for bottom dominant women is to get an outfit that fits both her hips and her shoulders and flatters her. Fitted dresses and suits are truly difficult to purchase and this figure type can really benefit from some custom made pieces in her wardrobe. For some patterns designed by a local Vancouver designer with your figure in mind check out http://www.sewaholic.net .
In this blog we are going to explore some style options that will flatter the bottom dominant figure.
The idea is to draw attention to your face and shoulders and away from the hips, so patterns or horizontal stripes should be placed above the waist. Jackets and sweaters that end right at the widest part of your body should be avoided as much as possible. If your favourite sweater ends at your hips try pushing up the sleeves to just below the elbow to break the visual line. A suit jacket with a shaped lapel that ends less than 6 inches below your waist will look better than a longer one with no collar. Blazers and blouses should be of a lighter or brighter colour than the pants or skirt. Straight or tapered skirts are particularly flattering, whereas a flare will emphasize the triangle. Try straight leg slim pants, you’ll be pleased with the way they look. Your pants and skirts should start at or just below the waist. Hip-huggers are not a good choice.
You should avoid halter style tops as they simply emphasize the triangle and are better suited to women with broader upper bodies. Try a wide v-neck with cap sleeve for summer or evening wear. A boat neck or wide draped cowl are also good choices. Shirt-dresses are being shown this year and this style can work well for you if you choose a wide lapel and narrow belt over a full skirt – very ‘50s and fun to wear.
Remember to always draw the eye up!
As always, your comments and questions are welcomed.
E: Diana@dianarose.ca
W: http://www.dianarose.ca