My boyfriend wrapped me in duct tape

frontA title like this could contain a very sinister story but in our case it was my idea to wrap duct tape around me. If you are a garment sewer you might already have guessed that I was after a dress form.

I aim to make clothes that fit but the fitting process can be quite lengthy if you have to fit yourself. For me it usually includes sewing a muslin, putting it on and going to our bedroom that has a full length mirror to see how it fits. With just one mirror it is, however, quite difficult to assess fit because you can’t really judge the fit from the side and back because you distort the garment when bending your head and body in an attempt to see what the garment looks like. Usually, I’ll go downstairs to take some pictures so I can assess what the garment looks like from those angles. I find pictures really helpful to assess fit issues.

backWhen the fit issues are clear it is time to make adjustments. It is easiest to make adjustments to a garment when it is on a body. When the garment is on your own body that does create some challenges. Adjustments to the front are usually doable. I’ll do them in front of the aforementioned mirror (all the while worried that I end up leaving pins in our bed, on my boyfriend’s side…). Adjustments to the back are more difficult. Most places are problematic to reach without ending up with a back injury so it often involves a lot of taking the garment off, guessing what needs to be done, trying it on (often also taking more pictures) and then trying something else. This can go on for quite a long time because I’m also still learning how to fix certain issues and a lot of what I do is trial and error.

sideI’ve been thinking for a long time that a dress form would be extremely helpful to decrease the time spent fitting. If I can make the initial large adjustments on a dress form and only have to do the final tweaking on my own body the whole process should go a lot faster.

My first thoughts went to a commercial dress form but I quickly realized that even if they are of the adjustable variety I’ll never get one that is exactly like my own body. I think the future of dress forms will include a body scanner and a 3D printer that recreates your body to perfection but I haven’t been able to find a company that already offers this (and at first it’ll probably be insanely expensive) so I went with the next best thing: duct tape.

There are loads of tutorials out there on how to make a dress form using duct tape so I’m not going into all the details here. I’ll just give three top tips. Use a close fitting t-shirt as a base and not a garbage bag. The fabric of the t-shirt adds a lot of support to the duct tape shell and I believe this helps the form to keep its shape.  Use non-stick scissors when you cut the dress form open to get out. Lastly, when closing the cut, start taping from the inside with the small lengths of duct tape and try to align the cut as best as you can. If you are happy with the alignment, put some tape on the outside as well, then move onto the next segment. Taping from both sides will make the seam stronger and you’ll have less chance the form will pop open at some point.

Cut open dress form. I later cut off the top of the pants that wasn't attached to the duct tape.

Cut open dress form. I later cut off the top of the pants that wasn’t attached to the duct tape.

 

Feeling a little deflated...

Feeling a little deflated…

I started with a long sleeved scoop neck t-shirt but sewed some ribbed knit onto the neckline to create more of a turtle neck because I wanted to include part of my neck in the form (it’s easier to start with a turtle neck but I didn’t have one). Because my hips are the widest part of my body I find they also affects how tops look on me so I decided to include my hips and upper legs in the form as well so I also wore close fitting sports pants.

We used one layer of duct tape and two layers on some areas that I felt needed some more support. I bought two rolls of 50 meter each but we ended up using less than one roll. I would advise you to buy more than you think you’ll need because you don’t want to realise half-way through taping that you’re running out and need to go to a store to buy more. It’s not that comfortable to be wrapped in duct tape…

You should choose someone you trust to do the taping because it’s quite an intimate process. It was also a bit scary to have someone use scissors this close to my bottom.

Getting some shape as the form is stuffed.

Getting some shape as the form is stuffed.

My form was stuffed with filling from old pillows and some stuffed toys filling. I chose to put a hanger inside so I can hang the form somewhere when fitting. If you don’t include the legs you could also make it so it stands on a desk or insert a stand. In a future sewing room I’ll probably make something on the wall so I can hang the form permanently. For now I’ll make do with a hook a previous tenant left in our bedroom ceiling. The only thing she really lacks is collapsible shoulders, but I think that feature will have to wait until those body scanning companies are up and running.

duct tape dress form

Do you have a dress form and do you find it helpful for fitting?

Sewing jeans: Muslin 4

First I’ll show you some changes I made to muslin 3 to improve the fit.

At the front I pinned out a horizontal dart and added some fabric to finally fix that wavy side seam (this latter part is better visible in the side view of the muslin).

muslin front

The change I made to the paper pattern to add that extra room to the front is possibly different from how you think it was done so I took some pictures. I chose not to add this extra space by adding onto the side seam because that most likely would have changed the length of the front side seam and then it wouldn’t have been the same length anymore as the back side seam. Instead I made a vertical cut in my pattern and created a lot of hinge points at the side seam. In the muslin I measured at several point how much room I had to add. The hinge points made it possible to curve the original side seam to mimic what I had done in the muslin.

straighten side seam

1. Slice in the pattern as you did in the muslin. 2. Create hinge points, I accidently cut some of those too close so they teared… 3. Tape a piece of tracing paper underneath the pattern and shape side seam to add additional room to pattern.

At the back I struggled a bit and ended up adding another wedge across. Not sure whether that was really necessary… In the end I decided that the way I had taken out the extra space I had taken out at the yoke wasn’t right and created the weird shaping so for muslin 4 I redrafted this curve in the pattern.

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140811_muslin3_side

Then onto muslin 4. I didn’t have enough fabric left to make it full length so I made it as long as I could with the fabric I had left over from muslin 1 and 2.

140811_back curveFor this muslin I redrew the back seam because I needed to fix the problems I had created by taking out all of the gaping I had at the center back of the yoke. In the muslin you can see that I am now planning to remove this excess by pinning it out as if they are back darts. This will create some shaping in the yoke pieces and I think this should get rid of the gaping. I also realised that the curve I had at center back wasn’t deep enough to accomodate my curves so I changed it as shown in the picture on the left. Perhaps I’ll have to scoop it out yet a little bit more.

In muslin 3 I felt that after I straightened the side seam it was still located a bit too much towards the front of the trousers so I moved it back by 1 cm in the pattern. This was done by making a vertical slice in both front and back pattern pieces. The front piece was taped to some extra tracing paper adding an extra cm. The back was overlapped to take out 1 cm. Don’t forget to also make this change to the yoke piece!

muslin 4 front

Still a couple of wrinkels at the crotch, but not too bad. The top of the trousers aren’t straight so I’ll have to change that. I think moving the side seam backwards is an improvement.

muslin 4 back

I do think the back looks better but now there is some fabric pooling that I’ll have to get rid off. This picture is also a bit slanted…

muslin 4 side

Side seam is much straighter. Top front is a bit lower than the back.

Since jeans are usually supposed to fit quite tight when you put them on I think I’ll make them a bit more fitted at the side- and inseam because the muslin is a bit loose right now and I think they will end up too loose when sewn in a stretch denim.

I’m afraid I’ll have to make at least 1 more muslin… Can you believe I am already dreaming of all the easy no fuss tops I’m going to make after I finally finish these jeans?

 

Sewing jeans: Making samples

topstitchingthread

Do you ever get started enthusiastically on a project and then suddenly lose steam? That’s what happened with my muslin process. I was a bit tired and didn’t have much time so not much progress was made and now I have to motivate myself to get back to it. I have finished muslin 4 though and I think I’m really close to getting a good fit. I’ll probably write about it after the weekend. Now I want to show you another part of the sewing process, collecting all the materials and testing out different techniques before using them on the actual garment.

needle&thread

Also important: a supply of fresh denim needles!

I already bought some denim and matching thread for this project a while ago. All my RTW jeans are blue so I thought it would be fun to use a different colour for this pair and chose grey. I like how the fabric looks and feels, but it is quite lightweight so probably more suitable to wear in summer than winter (so I’d better hurry up making these!).

In Angela Wolff’s Craftsy class she shows how to distress denim with sandpaper to get that worn look that most RTW jeans have. I wasn’t really sure how well that would work on my fabric so I tested it and it’s not a success. It makes the fabric fuzzy which doesn’t look very pretty so for this pair I’ll give the distressing part a miss. I’ll have to try it on something else though!

Fabric on the left is not distressed, fabric on the right was distressed with sandpaper.

Fabric on the left is not distressed, fabric on the right was distressed with sandpaper. It’s turned a bit fuzzy.

I my opinion topstitching in contrasting thread is one of the scary parts of sewing jeans. It is so visible and if it isn’t done right it can really brand your make as homemade. For my jeans I bought two colours of Coats Epic 40 thread to try out. Black and a brown that is really close to black. First I tried which stitch length would look best and decided on 4.0. I also tried some stitches to use on the back pocket embroidery (another scary part…). I used the black thread for my samples but I think in the end I prefer the brownish thread over the black one because it is a little more subtle. I’ll have to practise a bit more though to get my double rows of topstitching consistent before I attempt this on the actual jeans.

stitch length

I also tried a keyhole buttonhole.

In bag making one trick to make your bag look professional is to throw some metal hardware at it and I think this might be true for jeans as well. I bought some metal rivets and jeans buttons that I can apply with my Prym pliers. Rivets are typically used in jeans to reinforce pocket corners. I got enough of both in each packet that I could try them out to see how well they behave when I apply them. It worked surprisingly well. It also made me realise that I have to think how I want the button oriented before I put it into the fabric. I think my jeans will feature at least a couple of rivets.

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I am not yet ready to get started on my jeans because I still need to perfect the fit but I think I do have everything I need to finish this pair. I’ve also already made some design decisions, like which thread to use for the topstitching and what stitch length to use. This will speed up the sewing process because I won’t have to stop to test this anymore. I also don’t have to quit in the middle of a sewing frenzy because I forgot to buy a zipper (I have a huge stash of zippers and something is bound to be suitable). Testing these things also makes for a nice change from making muslins.

This fabric was distressed before topstitching. It's also fuzzy.

This fabric was distressed before topstitching. It’s also fuzzy.

Do you generally make samples before trying something new?

I'll need to experiment some more...

I’ll need to experiment some more…

Sewing jeans: Muslin 3

Before I show you what muslin 3 looks like I first want to show how I adapted muslin 2 into muslin 2.1 to determine how to change the pattern.

I started with a very simple alteration. Muslin 2 showed a lot of fabric being pulled into the crotch indicating the crotch length was not long enough. The trousers were also very tight across my thighs indicating I needed some more room there. I solved both issues by doing what “The Perfect Fit” one of the fitting books I own, calls a full thigh adjustment. The pattern is extended both at the side- and inseam which lengthens the crotch seam and increases thigh circumference. The red lines in the schematic below indicate how I re-sewed the seams in muslin 2 and changed the pattern for muslin 3. I also removed the gaping I had at the yoke.

full thigh adjustment

These 2 changes already made a huge difference to the fit as you can see below.

Muslin 2.1 front

Notice how the straight of grain lines have become much straighter and more horizontal.

 

Muslin 2.1 back

Wrinkles at the knee have disappeared. Straight of grain lines are straighter and more horizontal. Yoke lies nicely against my back. It no longer looks like I am about to burst out of these.

Muslin 2.1 Side

Wrinkles at the knee have mostly disappeared. Side seam has become straighter. There appears to be less strain on the fabic on my butt.

After I changed this I noticed I could remove some of the wrinkles I still had at the front by pinning out 2 darts. I made this alteration in the pattern by slicing the pattern open and overlapping the edges to simulate the dart I had pinned out. This does not change the side seam.

pinned darts front

At the back I thought I probably still needed to add some more length to the crotch seam so I sliced the muslin open horizontally and inserted some fabric. This did seem to improve the fit at the back and the muslin became more comfortable to wear so I made this alteration in the pattern as well. This is done by slicing the pattern open and creating a hinge point at the side seam. You can then add a wedge to the pattern by sliding the center back upwards. The side seam does not change.

adjustment to back

After I had made all these changes I decided it was time to make muslin 3 to check whether the changes I made on the pattern were correct. Unfortunately I ran out of muslin fabric (why did I ever think 3 meters would be enough???) and had to use something a bit lighter weight than ideal but I didn’t want to wait until I had the opportunity to get some new fabric. The fit is still not perfect but I think you’ll agree this is definitely an improvement over where I started with muslin 2!

Muslin 3 front

Still not 100% happy with the crotch, but overall I don’t think this looks too bad. Side seam at the thigh is perhaps still a bit too much to the front.

 

I still need to add more lenght to the back crotch lenght because fabric is still being pulled in. My alterations at center back caused the center back seam to be a bit strangely shaped so I'll need to reshape it.

I still need to add more lenght to the back crotch seam because fabric is still being pulled in. My alterations at center back caused the center back seam to be a bit strangely shaped and it sticks out so I’ll need to reshape it.

Muslin 3 side

Side seam still not completely straight. Center back seam sticks out.

How many muslins do you think I’ll end up making before I dare cut into my denim?

Sewing jeans: Muslin 2

If you are now wondering whether you missed a post about muslin 1. You didn’t. I had originally planned to blog the whole fitting process but muslin 1 was unfortunately not suitable for public display due to indecent exposure of underwear.

I am attempting to sew myself a pair of well-fitting jeans. I’ve wanted to do so for years because I am never completely happy with the fit of RTW jeans, yet jeans are what I wear most days. In summer I am a jeans and t-shirt girl, the rest of the year I’m a jeans, t-shirt and cardigan girl. With my RTW fast the need to finally make these self-made jeans happen is getting more urgent. Sewbusylizzy organised a Jeans in June and July challenge and this was the final push I needed to get started. Not sure whether I’ll actually manage to finish an actual pair in July since August is already looming on the horizon and I have to work all remaining July days except for today but if I finish the muslin process in July I’m happy (and if not, I’m probably still happy).

I already had a pair of jeans stashed away that I had started copying using the method from Kenneth D. Kings Craftsy class. I started that project ages ago but got distracted and was also a bit scared to continue because my first ever attempt at trousers years ago failed horribly and caused a bit of a trauma.

Tracing pattern onto silk organza

copying jeans

The original jeans were copied by thread tracing the seams and straight of grain lines and then transferring these markings to silk organza. If you want to get a better idea of how this method works have a look at this post by Cindy from cationdesigns, she posted about this process in more detail earlier this week. The pattern was then transferred from silk organza onto Swedish tracing paper (my favourite type of tracing paper ever). The pattern was trued (which means making sure that all seams have the correct shape and that seams that are supposed to match up, do in fact match up) and I made a muslin. I made my muslin using regular muslin fabric without stretch, because this is what Angela Wolff recommends even if your fashion fabric contains lycra. I’m really hoping this will work out ok when I do sew my final pair in denim that contains some lycra and is, therefore, somewhat stretchy…

Anyway, as you may have guessed after reading the first paragraph of this post, they did not fit. In fact, they were super tight and couldn’t close (to be honest the original jeans are also a bit on the tight side). I made 3 changes to the pattern. 1. An adjustment for full inner thighs. 2. More room at center back. 3. More room at side seam of back. I probably could have tried to change more but worried that it would get so messy that transferring my changes to the pattern would become a nightmare.

After making these changes to the pattern I made muslin 2 from the same muslin fabric hoping I would now have something approaching wearable. Note that this muslin does not yet have a waistband. I’ve used waxed tracing paper to indicate the straight of grain lines. I’ve also added some horizontal lines that help to diagnose fit issues. These are definitely not the most flattering pictures I have ever posted of myself but I think I am now at a point that it seems likely I can get to a fitting pair at some point. Remember, it’s always the garment that is causing the horrible fit, your body is just fine! After all, I can change the garment to adjust for my shape but I can hardly adjust my shape to fit the garment. Well, I suppose I could get a surgeon to shave some flesh of my thighs but that doesn’t really seem like a workable approach to use for each new garment I want to make…

Muslin front

Do you notice how the fabric is pulled into the crotch causing distortions?

Muslin back

Again fabric is pulled into the crotch. It’s also pulled towards the sides. I will also need to change the placement of the back pockets at the end of the process to make sure they end up more centered.

muslin sides

Eventually the side seam should end up perpendicular to the floor. Right now there is too much strain because fabric is being pulled to areas where there isn’t enough fabric causing a wave-like shape

Obviously they are still too tight but at least I can close them now. I believe most of the issues are caused by a too short crotch length that is causing the fabric to be pulled into the crotch both at the front and back. I think I will also need to add some more room in the thigh area as they are still very tight. My previous adjustments at center back now causes some gaping at the yoke (something I nearly always get in RTW jeans) so I’ll fix that too.

Do you have any other suggestions for adjustments that I could make to get a better fit?

I made a clapper

Self-made clapperThis post is completely sewing related yet doesn’t contain any actual sewing. I ventured into woodworking and made myself a clapper! Perhaps you now wonder what a clapper is? It is a wooden pressing tool. It is used to give seams or folds an additional press immediately after pressing with a steam iron. This helps to make things even flatter. It is apparently very useful for sewing jeans because all those layers of denim can get quite thick and the flatter you get a seam before topstitching the easier it will be.

Some of the tools and supplies I used, I forgot to add the drill and screwdriver. The orange plastic thingy is used for spacing the drilling holes for the handle.

Some of the tools and supplies I used, I forgot to add the drill and screwdriver. The orange plastic thingy is used for spacing drilling holes.

I looked around for clappers but couldn’t find any in the Netherlands (I am not even sure what it is called in Dutch, so that probably didn’t help my search) and buying one abroad would probably cost me at least €30-40 including shipping. That is just too much for something that is in essence a simple block of hardwood. I figured I would make one myself and went to a hardware store.

Look how similar those 2 pieces are in size!

Check out how similar those 2 pieces are in size!

My first idea was to buy a piece of hardwood and shape that into a clapper. That would probably have worked well and I still think this is the easiest option if you would like to make a clapper yourself. However, they only sold really long pieces and to get one the width and thickness I wanted I would have had to spend €30+ euro on a single piece of wood of which I would only use maybe a tenth, which seemed a bit of a waste (and not really cheaper than buying a ready made clapper). I also didn’t really see myself getting home safely on my bike while carrying a more than 2 meter long piece of quite heavy wood.

Drilling

I put a piece of laminate flooring underneath the door sill piece because I didn’t want to drill into the tiles.

So, I wandered a bit around the store looking for other items that I could potentially convert into a clapper. I found some solid beech wood door sills. Beech wood is hardwood but I’m not sure whether this is the best option for a clapper. Anyway, I was willing to give it a try, and at just over €5 it seemed a much better option than the ridiculously long piece of wood. A door sill isn’t really thick though so I decided to use two layers, glue those together and add a drawer handle on top that I could use to press my clapper down on my seams.

Handle

I learned from my dad that you can’t really start a project like this without first buying some new tools so I bought a wood saw. I needed to cut down my door sill into smaller pieces after all and for some strange reason we did own a metal saw but not a wood saw. I also considered getting a workmate but sadly couldn’t fit one on my bike… Some wood glue and fine grit sandpaper completed my purchases.

I put the piece of laminate flooring underneath and vinyl floor on top to prevent indentations in the wood from the G-clamp.

I put the piece of laminate flooring underneath and vinyl flooring on top to prevent indentations in the wood from the G-clamp.

I first sawed two pieces from the door sill. I was quite amazed at how straight and equally sized my two pieces ended up. I then drilled two holes into one of the pieces for the handle that would be large enough to fit the screws. Then I sanded both pieces first with 80, then 120, 240 and finally 320 grit sandpaper. Especially the sides needed to become a lot smoother after sawing. The handle was put in place with a screwdriver, and the holes were almost perfect! I got a little excited at this point. The wood glue was put on one of the pieces and the two pieces were held together with a G-clamp. I only used one because I could only find one (perhaps we only have one?) but two would probably have been better.

Finished clapper.

After successfully completing this project I am feeling competent on a whole new level. Perhaps I should take a woodworking course and learn how to make dovetails next?

Does a project like this scare you or are you quite handy with saws and power tools?

Pressing buddies, will they get me flatter seams in the future?

Pressing buddies, will they get me flatter seams in the future?

Completed: Shopping bag

140713_shoppingbag2My brain has been a little fried this week due to working too much and sleep deprivation caused by mosquitos in our bedroom (ok, and working at 2 am one night but that was for a good cause). I wanted to work on a simple project and decided to tackle something I’ve been thinking about for a while now.

I used to have a shopping bag that I could attach to my bike. Sadly it got a large tear in one of the sides when I, one time too many, overloaded it. I missed using it. It made grocery shopping a lot more enjoyable because I didn’t have to carry a heavy backpack on the way home but could simply click the bag onto my bike instead. The clips of this bag still looked pretty good so the thought occurred to me that perhaps I could salvage these and use them to make myself a new shopping bag.

140713_shoppingbag3

If you now think that this doesn’t really sound like a simple project you should take into account that I have been making bags for ages and to me they’re just a couple of rectangles and straight lines of stitches with a little bit of easy maths involved to get the proportions right. Also, if your stitching is off by a couple of millimetres that’s usually not a big deal when you’re making a bag. In garment sewing a dart that is off by a couple of millimetres can already look really weird. I intended to match the pattern at the seams on the outside of this bag but it didn’t really work out that way and I don’t really care because it’s just a shopping bag.

140713_shoppingbag9

I started by taking the old bag apart (I can’t find the pictures that I thought I had taken before deconstruction) and it turned out the clips are attached to a large firm plate that was sewn to the back of the bag. There was absolutely no way I was going to use my sewing machine to stitch it in place in my new bag. Really, it feels like plastic and I think you’d need a really sturdy industrial machine to make that work. Fortunately, the old stitching had left holes so I used those to attach the plate to the new bag with a running stitch (after I had made a couple of buttonholes to fit the clips through).

140713_shoppingbag6

For the outside I used a piece of upholstery fabric I’ve had for years. I’m really curious whether someone has actually used this fabric to upholster their couch. Originally I had bought it to make a bag as well but thought it was probably a bit too much when I got home and only used a small piece to add an accent to that bag. Leaving me with a huge piece of left-over fabric that took up a lot of space. I already considered getting rid of it at some point because I couldn’t see what I would ever use it for. After making this bag I still have a huge piece left…

140713_shoppingbag10

The top of the bag was made with black canvas left over from this bag. For the lining I used black Kona cotton and two fat quarters from Jane Sassaman’s Wild Child collection for Free Spirit. If I had had enough black fabric I’d probably have used only black for the lining but I think the print is a nice surprise when you open the bag. Everything was interfaced with a fusible woven interfacing.

140713_shoppingbag4

I used a separating zipper for the top because I thought that would be easier during the construction and turned it into a non-separating one by adding a fabric tab at the end. The fabric tab actually caused me the most trouble. My first attempt at a different shape didn’t work at all. My second attempt was sewn wrong sides together and I didn’t even notice this until after I had trimmed the seams and tried to turn it right side out and surprisingly was met by the interfaced side… Luckily the third attempt worked out fine.

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The bottom of the bag contains a gridded bag bottom that is held in place by four metal bag feet and some hand stitches across the bottom seam. The plate that was already sewn in at the start did make the construction more difficult because it made the bag less flexible than it otherwise would have been. When I was trying to manoeuvre the bag so I could top stitch the top edge by machine I quickly realised that this really wasn’t going to work and used a hand sewn running stitch instead.

inside shopping bag

Bag bottom before it was attached.

I am really happy with my new bag, although I still need to actually use it to transport groceries. It already wins from my old bag in the looks department and I only used materials I already had on hand, which means I saved at least 20-30 euros that I might otherwise have spent on a new bag.

140713_shoppingbag1