The Search for Sewing Advice After Hours

Colette Patterns tutorials (left), BurdaStyle techniques, Threads Magazine How-to
Colette Patterns tutorials (left), BurdaStyle techniques (top right), Threads Magazine How-to

When I made a dress from BurdaStyle Sewing Vintage Modern, I added my own adjustment to the pattern, such as lining the bodice of the dress. Though I had made a couple lined vests for my husband and lined a jacket, I hadn’t lined the bodice of a dress before. It had seemed like a simple thing but when I began to put the lining and fashion fabric together, I got confused. It was late at night so I couldn’t stop by my local fabric store for advice. Naturally I turned on my laptop and began my search for sewing advice.

I typed “how to line a dress” in Google and got a tutorial on How to Line a Sleeveless Dress on Blithe Stitches. This post had helpful photos and clear step-by-step instructions so I could easily figure it out.

The web is a great resource for sewing advice. Many sewing enthusiasts, designers, publications, and companies have sewing tutorials on their blogs and websites. So if you ever get stuck on something, fire up your computer and start your search. You’ll be amazed at the plethora of instructions, both written and video, out there.

A few of my go-to places for instructions and tips (in no particular order) are:

Colette Patterns Tutorials — Sarai Mittnick, Colette Patterns founder and designer, author of The Colette Sewing Handbook, covers a variety of topics, ranging from working with fabric to fitting and adjustments. She has a nice explanation on installing invisible zippers.

BurdaStyle’s Techniques section — If you click on “Resources” on the home page, you’ll see a wide array of sewing techniques and tips posted by BurdaStyle, members, Burda Style magazine, and others, including advice for beginners.

Threads Magazine‘s “How To” pages include everything from garment fitting to sewing techniques but some content isn’t accessible unless you are a “Threads Insider.”  To view those tips you need to join ($32.95/year for online membership or $12.95 for print subscribers).

Where do you get your online sewing tips?

Sewing Contests – Updated 2/18/2013

I’ve never entered any sewing contests before but I hope to enter my first one this year – the BurdaStyle Vintage Modern Sewing Contest. It’ll help me keep to my sewing resolution – to make, not buy clothes this year.

I decided that if I’m going to make something for a contest, it needed to meet the following criteria: 1. I would be making something I would wear; 2. the garment would use fabric from my stash; and 3.  I would gain more sewing skills.

To help me decide, I flipped through the book BurdaStyle Sewing Vintage Modern, looking at the designs and the recommended fabrics. I wanted something that would be relatively easy to make, allow for some creativity, and use my stash. (When the contest was first announced last month, the deadline was in early February so I needed to make sure I’d have enough time to make something. The deadline is now February 15 – yay more time!)

Clockwise from top left: cotton voile, cotton sateen, wool crepe, denim
Clockwise from top left: a pretty cotton voile, cotton sateen, “plaid” wool crepe, denim (really a dark denim, not grey)

I saw that some dresses used silk charmeuse so I crossed those off my list (only silk I have on hand is velvet or sheer, no charmeuse). But there were a few garments that would use some of my stash: a top (cotton voile), a 1950s dress (cotton sateen), 1960s dress (wool crepe), and a cool pair of bell-bottom pants (cotton denim).

At first I thought I would tackle the pretty top, which has a really nice lace detail. But it does require some pattern making. You use the bodice from a dress pattern in the book and then make several adjustments, following the step-by-step instructions, to make the pattern. (To read more about the book, check out my interview with its author Jamie Lau.)

I did start drafting it but then I decided I didn’t have enough time to complete that pattern, make a muslin to check the fit, etc. I don’t have any experience with pattern drafting – the most I’ve done with a pattern is take a vintage pattern and grade it up a size.

So decided to switch to the Jamie Shift Dress – a 1960s style dress with simple lines. I went to Loehmann’s and tried on a couple sleeveless shift dresses to see if that style would suit my figure. (The store is a block from my office and they have plenty of designer duds.) Most of them looked OK but the necklines on some of them didn’t look so great because of my broad shoulders. But I thought I could make it work.

I traced the pattern for the Jamie Shift Dress a couple weeks ago. Before I cut the muslin, I adjusted the waist a size smaller, which is what I usually need to do with patterns. (Depending on my mood, I view that as: A. my waist is too small for my hips or B. my hips are too big for my waist – at least according to so-called standard sizes.)

I have this very nice wool crepe with a black-and-white plaid pattern on it (see photo above). And I got very excited about making the dress half plaid and half solid black. I also decided that I would line it instead of using a facing. I would just use the pattern from the dress to make the lining.

Though I already have some black wool crepe it seemed like it was of a lesser weight than the plaid so I splurged and went to Britex Fabrics and bought a remnant of solid black imported from Italy (with imported prices too!).

MuslinLast weekend I put together a muslin – complete with invisible zipper and lining. However when I tried my muslin on, I was kinda swimming in it and it dawned on me that it’s really a style more suited to a thin person with no hips (uh, so not me). Some of the dresses I tried on at Loehmann’s had darts in them, which I should have remembered. (sigh) this dress only has bust darts, no curves.

Nevertheless, I really like the idea of color blocking so I want to make it work. I’m in the midst of adjusting the pattern to make it curve more to my body instead of being so straight up and down.

I also used some of the black wool crepe (not the expensive Italian remnant from Britex) in my stash to make a second muslin with an adjusted neckline – more of a boatneck showing all of my collarbone. I also wanted to practice sewing the invisible zipper and see what problems I could have with lining it. I’ve only lined vests and a jacket. I tried bemberg lining and no facing to see how that would work.

The problem is that I can’t understitch all the way around the neckline and because wool crepe has such a drape to it, you can tell where the understitching ends. I’ve been contemplating using a facing and lining, using a lining that’s closer in weight to the crepe, or using the facing pattern to cut out some interfacing and attach that to the lining.

On Twitter, @bydaiyami of Sisters Are Making It For Themselves told me “Facing+lining probably the official way. Lining has to drape similarly, but no need for same weight, IMO.” @Tantisis  of Tanit-Isis Sews agreed and added “Although I far prefer sewing a heavier lining. Facing will keep the lining from showing at the arms, too.”

@bydaiyami also suggested that I check out a Threads article on quick lining, which you can find here. After reading that article I think I’ll go with facing and lining – just sew the facing on the lining.

Now I need to draft a pattern that curves more and has back and front darts.

Napkin sketchI made these sketches on a napkin at dinner last night – trying to keep the ’60s flavor but make it curve more.  If it doesn’t work out, my backup plan is to make the Elizabeth Gathered-Waist Dress, which is more suited to my body.

Have you ever entered any sewing contests? What was that experience like? Did you like it? Love it Hate it?

UPDATE 2/18/2013 — I decided I didn’t have enough time to make modifications to the Jamie Shift Dress in order to finish a garment by my deadline of February 9. I gave myself that deadline because I found a photographer willing to photograph me in exchange for a garment I would make for her. I did make the Elizabeth Gathered-Waist Dress, which worked out really well. I made a few modification, which you can read about in my contest entry here.