Lyon: A Gastronomic and Visual Feast

Yesterday we took the train to Lyon, Fr., for the explicit purpose of visiting the Musee des Tissus (Museum of Fabrics) and to have dinner in France’s gastronomic capitol. It was a delightful day. We started with dinner at La Picadilly, a block from Place Bellecour.

From the 16th – 19th centuries, Lyon was the European center for silk manufacturing. At me time more than 18,000 looms were in use.

As the silk industry changed in the 19th century, this museum was created as a way to maintain Lyon’s commercial advantage however eventually the purpose became preservation of the art. Currently the museum owns more than 2.5 million textile specimens covering more than 4000 years. Only a small percentage of the holdings are on display, focusing on the 16th-19th century.

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On display were gorgeous silk dresses and men’s jackets, silk wallpaper, upholstery and drapery samples and of course religious garments.

Here’s the disappointing part – to protect the fabrics, rooms are dark and no photos are allowed. Ugh. In preparation for this post I looked for Internet images and there are few with high resolution. The following are a few photos and a link to items on display.

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A dress currently on display
While I visited the museum, Kevin walked through the beautiful “Old City”.

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What a wonderful day.
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Super Secure Travel Pocket DIY

In the past I have posted about a “safe travel pocket as an option for dissuading those pesky pick-pocketers whose life skill is to victimize travelers.

Since we have twice been the victims of thugs; once pick pocketed getting onto a bus and once held up at gunpoint, we are probably more conscious of this travel risk than some others. The resulting emotional pain can easily ruin a vacation and it’s associated budget.
Several years ago we began to use the internal security pocket explained in the aforementioned post along with a money belt. It worked well in that it made theft extraordinarily difficult, however Kevin complained that he still needed to carry money in a pocket. To address this we came up with the solution described in this post. It’s a secret zipper-access pocket behind the existing side-entry front pocket of pants or jeans, and Kevin loves it. For those of you who aren’t in love with your sewing machine, do not fear. This is a hand-sewn pocket.

Here’s a photo of the final product and then a tutorial.

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Notions: 7″ zipper, 10 x 10 fabric scrap, straight pins, needle and thread.

Tutorial
1. Determine where in the side facing your leg of your side pocket you would like the secret pocket. Tips: place it at an angle that makes it easy to open it with your hand, long enough so your hand can fit and place it so it can’t be viewed (i.e. hidden)
2. Draw a line where you want to place the zipper, approximately six inches long.

3. Turn the pants inside out to check the placement. Now is the time to make adjustments.

4. Cut the pocket on the line. Reminder – the part of the pocket which faces the leg.

5. Pin the cut edges to the back of the zipper so when stitched it looks like the following photo.

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6. Using a back stitch, stitch the zipper to the pocket, securing the ends well.

7. Cut off end of zipper if too long.

Note: You now have nothing more than a zipper sewn to the existing pocket.

8. For the security pocket, using the pants pocket as a pattern, cut a piece of fabric ¾” larger than the pocket ( in this example I used black mesh).

9. Fold seam edges under and pin fabric to the back side of the pants pocket.

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10. Using a back stitch, sew to pocket sides and bottom. For the top of the security pocket, sew several inches from the waistband. This may vary with the type of pocket. It should look something like this. You can see the zipper through the mesh.

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Give this a try. It’s cheap and easy, and could save you a lot of pain. You can get into your pockets but it’s pretty difficult for a pickpocket.

From “My Fair Lady”

As a Valentine’s Day special, Avignon University and the Avignon Opera had a real treat for us today.  Members of the Avignon Opera performed a selection of songs from “My Fair Lady”. Of course they sang in French but that made no difference because we were familiar with the music. What a wonderful way to promote the Opera, though I’m not sure how necessary that is in a city that already had a vibrant “arts” community. In fact there’s a theatre around nearly every corner.

While the performers were not in costume for this noontime performance, they did have some of the costumes from a recent production of “My Fair Lady” on display. As you can see below, they are gorgeous.

Wish I could post a short video clip, but WordPress and mobile devices are not a very good combo, so you’ll need to settle for some eye candy.

Enjoy!

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Never Say Never: When a Shirt is Too Small

The Problem

We’ve all been in the situation where we have a garment we absolutely love but it’s too small.  In the case of a T-shirt, there are few ways for the garment to be enlarged and yet fashionable.  That’s what most of us sewists think, anyway, but for my 11 year old creative GD, she created a way to enlarge a favorite shirt and my job was to make the alterations.  Here’s the story.

The Back-Story

Last summer, Mira and her mother were shopping at a second-hand store when Mira found a shirt she loved.  Although when she tried it on, it was barely large enough for her, much less having the required wearing ease and length.  Despite the fitting issues (and there was always an opportunity to give it to younger sister Caitlyn), they purchased the shirt for a few dollars.

Unfortunately I didn’t have the sense to take a before photo, so bear with me.

On separate occasions, Mira’s mother Angela, and Mira told me about the beloved shirt.  Angela said she didn’t think I could alter it but maybe I could make a pattern from the shirt.  Mira said “Mom doesn’t understand what I mean” and proceeded to describe the alterations she wanted.

The "after" photo.

The “after” photo.

The Alterations

The fabric was similar to a slinky fabric – a four-way stretch poly or jersey, so for the alterations I used navy jersey, to give a similar stretch to the garment.  First I removed the sleeves and opened up the sides of the shirt, the sleeve seam, copied the pattern and then made the following 4 alterations:

1, Widen the shoulders – cut (lengthwise on the fabric) pieces of navy fabric a little longer than the armscye and 1-1/2″ wide, and then sewed it to each armscye.

2.  Add to circumference to the top, cut (lengthwise on the fabric) two pieces of navy fabric the length of the top by 1-1/2″ wide, and sewed it to the front and back side seams, creating a navy stripe down the side of the shirt.

3. Add arm circumference, cut (lengthwise on the fabric) and sewed two pieces of navy fabric 1″ wide and the length of the sleeve underarm seam.  As you can see above, this alteration isn’t visible unless the arm is lifted.

4. Shirt length – cut one piece (across the grain) of navy, 2-1/2″ wide by the circumference of the shirt.  Sew onto the bottom.  I left the bottom unfinished.  

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Once again, here is the result, with a not quite finished shirt I made from the pattern I lifted from the design.  In the end, the shoulders were widened, the circumference was increased by 2″ and the length was increased 2″.  A real success, though it doesn’t look as great in the photos as when wearing it.

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What this shows me is that sometimes I need to think outside the box.  Now I know that this method could be used to alter other types of t-shirts that are a size (or two) too small.

Hemming a Tulle Skirt

It’s prom time and one of my dear nieces asked me to hem and alter her dress and to sew a really puffy petticoat for under the dress.    Absolutely beautiful and a skirt of yards of tulle.

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The first and most time consuming step was to remove and replace about half of the lace applique and bead-sequin trim.  While this took time, it was straight forward.  On the other hand, I knew that hemming the tulle was a once and done affair.  If not done correctly the first time, removing stitches would result in damaged tulle.  Here’s what the hem looked like originally – a narrow turned over hem.

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As you can see, it wasn’t sewed all that well when the garment was manufactured.  It was turned over twice and sewed close to the edge.  Originally my plan was to repeat that process after the dress was cut to the desired length.  Fate changed that plan.

On the day that I was finishing the dress alterations, one of my sewing friends came to my house to see how a serger works.  One of the finishes I showed her was a rolled hem. Immediately I realized that’s what I should use for the hem.  Why hadn’t I previously thought of this?  The result was a beautifully finished rolled hem.

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How to Serge a Rolled Hem

While this process will vary slightly by serger, the general process is the same.

1. Remove the left needle.

2. Thread the right needle and the upper and lower looper with thread that matches the fabric.

Note: Because of the limited serger thread color selection, I used one spool of regular sewing thread and wound 2 bobbins in the same color. 

3. Set to a very narrow stitch width.

4. Set stitch length to a very short stitch – some sergers have rolled hem settings.

5.  Disengage the cutting blade.

6.  Place cut edge ~1/16″ to the right of the right needle.  This part will turn under and will disappear into the rolled hem

7.  Sew a sample one the fabric you’re hemming.

Note: The fabric should not pull or ruffle the edge. 

8.  Adjust tension as needed.

Note: This is the part that varies by machine so it’s difficult to provide specific directions.

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The result is an amazingly beautiful hem and it takes only minutes to complete.  I was so thankful that I remembered to use this finishing method, which would work equally well for chiffon, crepe or many other fabrics.

Settings for a Baby Lock Evolve (or similar serger)

  • Remove left or Overlock 1 needle
  • Disengage cutting knife
  • Stitch width 3.5
  • Stitch Length 1.5R (Rolled hem setting)
  • Stitch Selector  – D
  • Upper Looper Selector – Up position
  • Tension – no settings as this is automatic on an Evolve

Sewing a Draped Front Cardigan

Still stylish this year is the draped front cardigan, which is so easy to sew, even if you don’t have a pattern.  One of my sewing friends asked me how to alter a cardigan pattern to make a draped front, so I thought I’d share the information with you too – with apologies for the poor photos.

Literally smiling at the camera, I was wearing a very lightweight wool knit sweater I sewed. (because of the fabric weight, it doesn’t drape as well as heavier fabrics).  Because of the striped design, it is easy to see how the sweater pattern was altered.

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This was Jalie’s pleated sweater pattern 2919 with the pleats removed and without a collar.  In the next photo, you will see that 14-16″ of fabric was added to each side of the center front in order to achieve the draped look.  The neckline was curved slightly as well.

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In the following photo you can see that when widening the front, I kept the edge on the grain of the fabric.  To finish the neckline, I cut a 2-1/2 or 3″ band of fabric (cut on the grain, using the lace pattern in the fabric) and sewed it along the entire neckline. The neckline band was not stretched; it was simply used as an edge finish.  The vertical edge was stitched with a 1″ hem to add weight.  For a heavier fabric, folding over a 1/2 or 5/8″ hem would have worked.

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Using this same technique, here’s one with more draped sweater.  To achieve this, I extended the front center another 2-4″, or so that when pulled out straight, the center front edge was beyond the armpit on the opposite side.

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Hope this helps you to make this stylish sweater without buying yet one more pattern.

Tutorial: American Girl Twirly Dress

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Kit’s new dress

The last post was a tutorial on how to make this dress for a big girl.  Here are a few tips on how to make this  Twirly Dress for a doll.  The steps are the same as described here with the following changes and tips.

1.  Use an 18″ doll pattern for a top or T-shirt.

2.  Instead of cutting the top back on the fold, add 3/4″ for an overlap.

3.  Finished length for the side seams on the top – 5-1/2″

4.  Skirt tiers – cut 3 strips 1-1/2″ by the width of the fabric.

5.  When assembling the top, sew both side seams but not the back seam as the back needs to be  at least partially open in order to get the dress onto the doll.

6.  Kit’s dress is a little too twirly.  Gathering ratio should be less than for a girl’s dress.  I would recommend no more than a 1.5:1 ratio.

7.  After tiers are ruffled and sewed onto the dress, sew up the back seam, stopping at the point where the skirt meets the top.

8.  Add closures, using velcro or snaps.

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Not sure why, but here is Kit in a “time-out”

Tutorial: Girl’s Twirly Velveteen Dress

Sewing For Children

For Christmas, every girl deserves a pretty new dress. This year, Catie’s dress was a Twirl Dress – a T-shirt dress with a ruffled skirt and of course a matching dress for Kit, her American Girl doll.  Made from stretch velveteen, this twirly dress is a favorite style for girls and in fact, it’s the third in this style that I’ve sewed for Cate.  Most of all, mom’s love it because it looks dressy, is washable and the color doesn’t fade.

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Christmas dress for Cate and Kit

The steps to make this adorable dress are so simple that it’s hard to believe it all starts with a T-shirt pattern.  In this case, I used a boy’s T-shirt pattern (minus the neck binding) I’ve modified a number of times.

Tutorial:

Supplies:  1-1/2  to 2 yards of knit velveteen fabric (depends on the fabric width), matching thread, embroidered design.  Wider fabric

Steps for Dress Top:

1. Select a T-shirt pattern of the desired size, or one size larger if you wish to have growing room.  For the length, use the full length of the T-shirt.  (Cate’s is a size 6x-7 with a finished shirt side seam is 12″)

2. Cut T-shirt from the fabric, taking care to have all pieces cut in the same direction.

Tip:  In order to get the richness of the velvet color, when cutting velvet the nap should go upward.  In other words, when you brush your hand upward on the fabric, it feels smooth.  

3. Calculate how many strips you will need for the twirly skirt.     

  • Tier 1 – at least twice the circumference of the top  (52″ for Cate – fabric was 60″ wide)
  • Tier 2: One-and-a-half to twice the circumference of Tier 1 (requires sewing 2 strips together)
  • Tier 3 – One-and-a-half to twice the circumference of Tier 2 (will also require sewing several strips together)

Note:  If you are using a ruffling foot, do not cut the strips to the desired length as ruffling is not an exact process.  You can cut off any extra fabric after the tier is attached to the previous layer.

4.  For the top front, I made the final cut after the embroidery.  For the skirt, cut the number of strips you will need, cutting across the grain.  For a smaller size, these strips are 3″ , 3-1/2″ or 4″ wide.  For Cate’s dress I cut 4-1/2″ strips, which allows for 4″ tiers minus 1/4″ for each seam allowance. 

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Cut pieces. Top front was embroidered before the final cutting.

5.  Embroider or place your desired design on the shirt front.

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Close up of embroidery and neckline finish

6.  Assemble the T-shirt but do not sew the bottom 5 or 6″ of one side seam.  Finish the sleeve and neckline but do not hem the shirt.  (For the neckline I turned over 1/2″ and sewed with a coverstitch however  using a double needle method on a standard sewing machine would work as well).

Now Assemble/add the Skirt:

There are several ways to make the ruffles.

  1. Gather the top of the cut strip and attach to the dress top (i.e. t-shirt) at a 1.5:1 or 2:1 gathering ratio.  For subsequent ruffles, add the gathered portion to the bottom of the previous ruffle.  Test to see how you want it to look.
  2. Use a ruffling foot on your sewing machine or serger, set to a 1.5:1 or 2:1 ratio.  For this method, it is important to do a test or two to get the result you want.  My preferred method is to use the serger ruffling foot.
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Method 2: Sewing the first tier onto the dress top.  Clear strip is water-soluble stabilizer. Bottom layer is being gathered.

Steps if using a Ruffling Foot:

1.  Place the piece to be ruffled on the bottom, with right sides together.

Note:  Because this fabric is stretchy, holding a narrow strip of water-soluble stabilizer over the top fabric (piece that’s not being gathered) will reduce the amount of undesired stretch.

2.  When you get to the end, you will likely have some left over ruffle.  Cut off.

3.  Sew the next two tiers in the same manner.

4. Sew the open side seam.

5.  Hem by turning under 1/4″.  Sew on a standard sewing machine.

6.  Steam dress from the back side, using a generous amount of steam over the ruffled seams.  If the top layer stretched, the steaming will help the latex in the fabric to shrink back into shape.

After steaming the ruffles.

After steaming the ruffles.

From the back

From the back

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Cate, Mira and dolls

Sewing the Popular Top with Draped Sides

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that draping is all the rage in ready-to-wear.  Specifically, draping at the side of a longish top or tank, or in the center front of a sweater.  If you’re interested in sewing a garment with side draping, which is sometimes called the “sharkbite” look, it is incredibly easy to modify an existing pattern.  Although I’ve sewed a few of these, this is the only modeled garment I’ve photographed, and you’ve already seen the photo several times.

On the other hand, having planned to do this post for a while, I have taken photos of how to alter an existing pattern to make it drape on the side.  It’s the extra width at the bottom of the garment that provides the draped look.  A few examples:

While this produced the desired length, there was less draping than I hoped for.


Experiment #1 (above):  

This was my first try, where using a t-shirt pattern, I added length and tapered the side starting at the armhole.  The result was a cute top that Mira could wear over leggings but it didn’t have as much draping as I wished for.

(BTW, the black weights that look like hockey pucks are just that.  They were my DS Shaun’s when he was a teen.  When he outgrew his hockey interest I snatched the pucks and have used them ever since).

Experiment #2 (above)

Having learned that the amount of drape comes from the amount of fabric added horizontally at the hemline, this one turned out better.  In this case I used a sleeveless dress pattern which already was tapered at the side.  From the photo you can see that (for a girl’s size 10) the bottom of the fabric was cut about 7 inches from the original dress side seam.  This turned out to be the perfect amount of drape, so I used the same proportions for Catie’s red tank top.  For an adult, I would taper the bottom to at least 10-12″ from the original side seam, and would error on the side of having too much drape as you can always reduce the drape by reducing the taper at the hemline.

Construction:

Sewing the top is the same as any other and the bottom can be finished in with a hem or rolled hem of your choice.

If you’re interested in this modern look, give the above modification a try.  It’s quite easy.

 

Under-shorts: Coverage when wearing a Skirt

One of the trends in children’s clothing is and “all-in-one” skirt and shorts.  The obvious purpose is to assure that there is panty coverage during normal play.  While this no-brainer design element isn’t ubiquitous, there are some children’s clothing manufacturer’s such as Lands’ End and Carters who regularly design play clothes with built-in shorts.  Unfortunately, without the under-shorts, an adorable skirt can hang in the closet unworn.  I understand that at schools, pants are a dress code requirement in order to play on the gym equipment.

Here’s an example from my last blog post

If you aren’t fortunate enough to have a skirt with built-in shorts the alternative is to sew under-shorts only so they can be worn with existing skirts.  

Sewing All-in-one Skirt and Shorts

The method for sewing shorts into a skirt is fairly simple – when sewing the waistband onto the skirt, sew a third layer which is the shorts.  In other words, you are sewing the waistband, the skirt and the shorts together.  What’s not so simple is that the circumference of a skirt is often wider than the circumference of a pair of shorts, so you may need to stretch the under-shorts a bit while sewing.  

Here’s and inside photo of Catie’s new skirt with under-shorts.  In this case I did need to stretch the under-shorts. however the fabric has a good amount of lycra.

Inside photo of skirt with under-shorts

Tips for success when sewing skirts with attached under-shorts.

  1. Take a good look at ready-to-wear with built-in shorts – this is the best way to learn how they are constructed.
  2. Use a knit with lycra for the shorts (~30%) so they can stretch when attaching the waistband.
  3. To reduce bulk at the waist, choose a pattern with a yoke or a wide waistband and
  4. Reduce the rise on the shorts by the height of the waistband (or else the crotch will be at your young-un’s knees)
  5. For a pattern, copy an existing pair of knit shorts or use this leggings pattern.  Add width so the shorts aren’t skin-tight and shorten it to the desired length.  This is a pattern where the exact fit isn’t so important.
  6. Avoid side seams in the shorts – they add bulk (and a few minutes of your precious time to the project).

 

Sewing Under-shorts:

If your favorite girl loves to do cartwheels and has a closet full of unworn skirts without built-in shorts, this tutorial is the answer.  Now as standard attire, Mira and Cate have many colors to choose from.  How convenient that both Mira and Cate enjoy skirts and I often have knit scraps.  Sometimes I sew the undershorts to match a top or skirt such as in this photo.

And sometimes the under-shorts are a good way to use up left-over fabric.  A pair requires little more than a quarter yard of knit fabric or some random scraps.  Here’s an example from several years ago.  Seems to me that I’ve still seen them in action recently.

Made from the fabric scraps from on of my black summer dresses, this fabric isn’t a typical children’s wear choice however it is very stretchy and thus works for intended purpose.

Tips on sewing under-shorts.

  1. As with attached under-shorts, avoid a side seam.
  2. Shorten the front and back rise so the waist elastic falls slightly below the natural waist.  This reduces bulk and improves comfort.
  3. Hem with a zig-zag, cover stitch, decorative elastic or a rolled hem.  Some knits can be left un-hemmed as is common in ready to wear.
  4. When applying the elastic (I prefer 3/8″ lingerie or knit elastic), stretch slightly so the elastic is slightly smaller than the circumference of the under-shorts.
  5. Use a zig-zag or cover-stitch to apply elastic (click on above photo to see detail).
  6. Place a small piece of ribbon at the back seam to make it easy for the wearer to know which is the back.

Now give it a try.  You can whip up a few of these wardrobe expanders in no time at all.