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 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?

UFO busting: Knipmode dress turns into Lady Skater dress

My thinking cap has returned and I managed to finish my Lady Skater dress while busting another UFO in the process.

back facing

Ridiculous back neckline facing, it’s supposed to be on the inside of the dress…

This dress started as Knipmode dress 12 from February 2011. It only needed hems but I wasn’t happy with how it looked. It was too large and the back neck facing refused to lay flat (I’m never going to use this method for finishing a back neckline again, it just doesn’t work with knit fabrics.). I suppose I could have fixed it but I didn’t think the shape of this dress was working for me either so my motivation to get it finished had completely disappeared.

I decided to turn it into a Lady Skater dress instead. This would not have been possible if I hadn’t had about 1 meter of fabric left-over.  I was able to cut out the back skirt from the back and front skirt of the Knipmode dress, but had to add a centre back seam in the process. The front skirt, front and back bodice and one sleeve were cut from the piece of left-over fabric. That left me 1 sleeve short. There was absolutely no way I could squeeze it out of the fabric in one piece. My options were to either change to short sleeves or piece the sleeve. I think an unnecessary seam in a sleeve isn’t very desirable. It’s bad enough I had to create a centre back seam for the skirt so my solution was to turn it into an asymmetrical colour block dress! I used some olive green single jersey for the bottom part of the right sleeve. I think it adds an interesting touch. Do you like it or do you think it looks as if I didn’t have enough fabric?

I did make some changes to the pattern pieces before I cut the dress out of fabric to improve the fit even more compared to my previous version and I thought it would be nice to show you what I changed and how that affected the fit.

At the top of the front bodice there was a little bit too much fabric that created some wrinkling. I used some pins to pinch this excess fabric out on my test version dress and transferred the amount of fabric that was pinched out to the pattern piece by folding the pattern the same amount. When you look at the before and after picture below you can see that the fabric in my new dress is much smoother in this area.

At the top of the back bodice there was also some excess fabric. I solved this the same way as I did the front bodice. (I apologize for not using a picture of the same shoulder.) Since the changes I made to the front and back bodice also affected the length of the neckline I also shortened the neckband by the same amount to make sure that it would still fit correctly.

In my test version I had already slimmed down my sleeves somewhat and this had improved the fit but there were still a lot of drag lines. I suddenly realised that my arms were much skinnier than what this pattern is made for and that there was simply too much fabric in this sleeve, especially on the front of my arm. Again I used pins to pinch out the excess fabric and transferred this to my pattern piece. Additionally, I slimmed down the sides of sleeves a little bit as well (using a good fitting sleeve from another pattern as a guideline). I also made the sleeve pattern longer to get rid of the sleeve band.

I am much happier with this dress than I was with the original one and I think I’m going to wear it this Christmas. I still have quite a bit of small pieces of fabric left-over since I didn’t use the original bodice and sleeves for my new dress. Perhaps I’ll be able to turn those into a baby top to get this UFO busted even more.