November 29, 2012

Dart Tutorial: Bodice with two French Darts

I just got out of another great garment copying class, and was inspired to share some of the tips I've been passing along in class about the ins and outs of adding back darts into a pattern from a vintage garment. 
For some reason, this is where people usually get really freaked out and confused. So I've made some illustrations riffing on one of the photos from my book. It's from the dress section where I've just gotten the outline of the bodice front and it's time to add in the extra for the darts and re-draw the darts to make the  pattern. It ends up looking like this. It pulls away from center slightly at the bottom, as you can see and the armscye shape is distorted. These little distortions end up being clues as to where the extra fabric that's in the darts comes from...

We know that the amount that we need to add back into the pattern is a given. 
We find it by measuring the original garment’s dart or pleat.
We measure those and come up with a total amount that we nee to add in.  
 Let’s say for example each of the darts measures 1” a the side seam.  
So we know the total for each dart is 2” and so for 2 darts that would be 4” So we need to find 4” somewhere to add back into the pattern piece to accommodate the darts. 

The 1” difference in our tracing of the garment and the straight of grain base line is a given: 
1” and by adding 1” to the shape of the armscye, you restore the normal shape of a set in sleeve.
That is 2 of the 4” we need so you can assume that you will be able to add 2” to the other area adjacent to the darts.  That will total 4”

Ok so once you have the roughed in outline of how much you'll need to accommodate your darts it's time to flesh in those darts. But where to start. This is where I say in my class, take a deep breath and shake it off, you are going to have to go from the basic premise that you have all the info you need in the original garment, and you will take the measurements of the darts relative to other landmarks and sketch them in, making sure you like the distance of the finished (closed) dart by folding the paper and seeing what it will look like. If your measurements all add up then you know you'll be covered. Again, as I always say, this is where you can relax knowing that you will be proving the pattern in a fitting. It would be insane to think you could work it out all on paper and it be spot-on with no fitting. That's not the universe I live in, so I do my best, measure and move on to the next step. Remember to keep your seam allowances generous in this phase and to make sure you put your muslin together with a basting stitch so you can easily move it in the fitting. You can theorize until you are blue in the face. 
There is just no substitute for fitting time
You may find that you end up liking your new garment better than the original because you are working with a fluid canvas at this point. Don't get overly stressed here about something that you can easily fix in a fitting. And remember too, start with a simple project that doesn't have darts or pleats if you get stuck on this. Once the whole process gets more second nature, this all becomes really intuitive.  Really.
I'm doing lots of this these days getting ready for my Craftsy class. I'm doing the process stuff now, and shoot in a couple of weeks. It will be up on their site in Mid January. I'll let you know when it's up. Darts and pleats and gathers, OH MY!

October 25, 2012

Ankaase Bags

My friend from college is an adoption advocate and now works with a group who support school kids in a village called Ankaase in Ghana. Her name is Lisa Tresch, and she and her daughter went to Ghana last year to meet a boy there that her church group had been sponsoring. When she went those kids permeated into her bones it seems and she's been a full time volunteer for the sponsoring organization ever since. 
She knew I made patterns, so when she got the idea to develop a product that the local group of Ankaase seamstresses could make to help support their business and to raise funds for the school and sponsorships for the kids, she asked if I could help. She wanted something that they could make that would be marketable here. We came up with a pattern with lots of pockets that can be made out of about 1 yard of their beautiful fabric. 
I made up a sample & the instructions and sent them to her in Tulsa. 

Lisa went back to Ghana this week and she's been blogging about the trip all week. Check out what they are doing here

She bought fabric there. Enough for a big bunch of bags. 

And delivered it all to the ladies who are now making the them. 
I can't wait to see more photos of the trip and how the they all turn out. 

It's so crazy to see a pattern that left my hands a couple of weeks ago already translated into something so tangible. What a motivator to DO something. I have a tendency to explore ideas to death. I'm so grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this project. I'll post more when I have information on where to purchase these bags. 
I find this sort of work so deeply satisfying. Thanks Lisa!
How do you give the gift of sewing back?  I love to hear stories of how women help others and themselves with sewing. I'm starting to collect these stories and organizations into a new blog. A starting point for someone who might want to help but doesn't know where to start. What are your favorite sewing related organizations that give back to the world?  The Sewing Machine Project? Project Linus? Quilts of Valor? Let me know, send me your story of something you made that helped you as much as it helped someone else. I can't wait to hear from you!

June 23, 2012

Seahope Partners

I have a deep affinity for the South, I grew up in Oklahoma then went to grad school at Tulane in New Orleans & started my career at the Alley Theatre in Houston. Watching the coverage of Katrina a few years ago ripped my heart in two. 

That's why when my friend Margaret Jankowski asked if I wanted to go down to Houma, Louisiana after the BP oil spill I jumped at the chance to go down and help her start a project called Seahope Partners.  That week we worked out the pattern and construction of these great messenger bags made from used sails. Those bags are now being sold through the Seahope website and they help to fund community support in the gulf region. Check it out, they make great carry-all and would be a really meaningful gift.

June 21, 2012

They say that sewing skips a generation. 
Maybe not in this case, but I can tell you that most of the people who come to me for lessons say they didn't learn from their mother, but from a grandmother, aunt or teacher. 
Mothers and daughters don't communicate in a way that makes teaching sewing smooth and stress free. 
I make the machine available, and show how to thread it. But other than that I'm pretty hand's off. I've heard too many stories of someone's interest in sewing getting smothered in all the rules.  
Even still, we barely survived Halloween last year.

It was so stressful, I'm only just now writing about it, but it all turned out in the end. 
We made a witch costume, and I spent most of my time obsessing about making a tiny little steampunk version of a witches hat. 
Sometimes this costume bug is a curse. 
But I'm telling you that was one cute hat.

June 11, 2012

The Apron Lady

I wanted to tell you about this fantastic woman I met when I went to Denver to tape the Sew It All episode "Knockout Knock-offs."
Her name is EllynAnne Geisel and she is the author of several really great books on Aprons, so much so that her knickname is the "the Apron Lady." I was struck by her delightful way of describing her aprons and the connections that they give us to the past. So much like the stories I tell in my book about my connection with my Great Grandmother through the patterns I found.
We had a little weather glitch that day that allowed us to spend a little more time together than we might have otherwise and I got to know her a little on that day and we were instant friends. I got to watch her episode and she is so clever an funny I couldn't help but want to follow her around like a little puppy dog.
I love that she describes herself as a curator, because she has a traveling collection of aprons that has been all over in a lovely exhibit Apron Chronicles. She has three books: The Apron Book, Apronisms, and The Kitchen Linens Book.
As EllenAnne likes to say: "Tie one on!" an apron of course.

April 6, 2012

American Sewing Guild Annual Conference

Registration for the American Sewing Guild Annual Conference is open today.  This year the conference is in Houston, August 16-20th and why am I so interested? Because I'm teaching there!!!
I'll be doing an all day hands-on class on "Copycat Couture" (the original title of my book, but that's another story) and then two demos the other two days.  I'm also planning a booth and reconnecting with some friends from Houston.  So if you're interested in a day-long workshop on the nitty gritty of garment copying, and about a gazillion other great classes this would be a great weekend for you!
Space is limited, so check it out and I hope to see you there in August.