Thursday, July 5, 2018

Sonata Dress by Love Notions - Sewing Pattern Review for Curvy Sewists

I'm trying to catch up on blogging about all my recent makes. Despite not blogging in 4 months, I've actually been quite busy on the sewing front!

First up is the Sonata Dress by Love Notions.




I stumbled upon this pattern on Instagram and really loved the notched neckline and the simplicity of the pattern. I think it's tempting to always reach for patterns that are super unique and more of the party dress variety, but when it comes down to it I mostly need comfy dresses that I can wear to work.

I liked that the neckline had something interesting going on, but other than that it was a pretty simple silhouette. A-line skirts are a good shape on me, and the elastic in the back helps with my swayback.

Pattern

The PDF pattern was super easy to put together. I do the window-lightbox method of PDF pattern construction anyway, but this one was specifically made to be no trim. You just line up the edge of the paper with the printed line on the pattern. Gold Star for you, Love Notions!


Other nice features of the pattern design include:
  • Different bodices for A-D cups
  • Nested layers - i.e. you select your size and when you print you only see that size (I usually choose mine and the one above and below just in case I want to adjust)
  • Printing guide so you only print what you need
  • Nice printing layout - the printing layout is such that you don't have a ton of overlap between pieces which simplifies the process of assembling. Rather than trying to get 20 pages or more all together before you can cut apart, you only have to do 4-8 at a time for each pattern piece.
  • The pockets are designed to be cut as part of the skirt, which cuts down on construction time and is super easy.

Fabric

I picked up a polyester "stretch" crepe from JoAnn fabrics. It doesn't really stretch despite 3% Spandex but it's very nice to sew and cut, although ironing it is ineffective at the low temperature I used because I feared melting the fabric if I got it too hot.
Chest forward! Aaaaaaand thrust!

The Ikat I used for my second version was also from JoAnn. I can't find it on the website but I see it all over Instagram. It's a linen-look a like fabric, called something like "Ikat linen blend."

Staring into the abyss (of dandelions I still have to pick).

Pattern Modifications

I made the pattern as drafted the first time. The design is meant to be more of an empire waist (pronounced "em-PEER" for those in back. Made the mistake of saying "EM-pie-er" and was ruthlessly mocked).

I felt a slightly lower waist would be a bit more flattering on my body and more comfortable. I have a long waist, and where the gathered elastic waistband hit my ribcage was a bit irritating.

I also did narrow shoulder adjustment to take care of the extra fabric at my back neckline, which is a common adjustment for me. This rotated in the shoulders, reduced the width at the back neckline and upper chest.

I elegantly (ha) folded out the extra space in the pattern in the neckline and then adjusted the top of the shoulder to keep the same slope as before. I added 1.5" (I think) to the bodice and adjusted the dart through that area to be longer/create a straight line to the tip of the dart.

Same idea in the back. I folded out a dart from the center back tapered to nothing at the armscye. This distorted the folded line (there was extra jutting out across the foldline at the neckline). I folded that under to make a straight line, thus reducing the area I have extra fabric. Then I adjusted the back neckline and slope of the shoulder to the appropriate spots. Added the same amount of length to the bodice, and don't worry - that weird notch isn't a cut out. I was just too lazy to patch that with a piece of paper since I am obviously putting this along a fold.

My first version (floral) I tried to make flutter sleeves but they were too long and the fabric was too stiff and they stuck out weirdly. I made do and shortened them to make the dress wearable, then went back to the drafted short sleeves for my second version.

See how the sleeve on the left sticks out at the hem? Yuck. The right side shows where I cut it off before I finished the edge.
You can sort of tell how the shoulders are set less wide in the second/Ikat version. It definitely feels more comfortable and less like it's slipping off my shoulders.

It has pockets!


Is there anything better than a pattern with pockets? I submit that there is not. These fabrics are nice and sturdy and I can put my phone in these pockets without dragging down the bodice.

Tracking Sewing Expenses

I'll write a legit post about this, but I want to start keeping better track of my successful garment costs, and maybe separately my unsuccessful garment costs. Some people think sewing is cheaper than buying ready to wear and I'm pretty sure that's not true, but I am curious on a garment-by-garment basis what the things I'm making are costing in materials alone.

Obviously my time is another calculation but since these are for myself and for fun, I won't add that in. (My hourly rate is outrageous.)


  • Tulip fabric: $25.10 for 3.25 yards (end of bolt discounts on multiple pieces were involved)
  • Ikat fabric: $55.96 for 4 yards. Yikes, amiright?! This dress did not require 4 yards though, maybe only about 2.5 so I'm reducing this to $35
  • Pattern: $10
Total for 2 dresses: $70 

The Tulip version was $30 and the Ikat version was $40. If I make more Sonatas, the cost per make will continue to come down for these because the pattern will get more use.

I did have extra tulip fabric too and tried to make a wearable muslin for a camisole, but it looked terrible so the rest of this might have a one-way ticket to the trash so I'll just say all of it went to this dress.

Edited to add actual Review:

I like this pattern a lot and I see more in my future! It's a super easy and quick sew and looks really nice. I've worn both versions to work several times and they're very comfortable. The Sonata Dress is a well-constructed pattern, it has a pretty inclusive size range and I believe could easily be altered to fit any body shape.

One tip - I suggest lining the bodice instead of using the facing. I didn't like how it looked when I top stitched the facing on my first version and it doesn't want to stay down without it. Honestly, it's easier to just line it, and faster!

In conclusion: I like it. I really like it!

Meta-Notes

I've decided to title my posts a bit more conventionally so that people actually know what my posts are about. This might surprise you, but not only have I run blogs professionally, I have also worked in content marketing! This is definitely a "cobbler's children have no shoes" situation, or maybe a "marketer's blog has no SEO" situation. Take your pick.

It probably will also improve the user experience of my site, since titles like "Lumberbaby," "Iiiiiiit's John Boy!," and "Apple Shaped Pear," while fun to write, are not overly descriptive or indicative of the blog post's content.

But honestly, I can't decide if I want people to come to this blog for the sewing or the "clever" titles. I'm definitely confused about my target audience, but in my free time I can throw caution to the wind and proceed without a clear strategy nonetheless!




Saturday, February 17, 2018

All Appleton, All The Time


To celebrate the making of my second Appleton Dress, I figured I should finally write about the first one that I made 5 months ago.

But first, some monologue:

Cashmerette patterns are named after streets in Boston. The Appleton is named after a street in the South End, which happens to be within walking distance of basically every job/all education I had between 18 and 30. I'm talking like 6 different jobs here, and two degrees, and if I extended that circle a bit more I could encompass at least 2 more jobs. It's weird to think that for 12 years I spent the majority of my brain power in such a small area of the city. 

In case you're curious, my jobs did NOT include working at the AMC Loews or Escape Room Boston.
It was nice to be able to take a walk through the Boston Common and Boston Garden at lunch, or to pop over to all of the shopping in Downtown Crossing so easily. But, I can't say I miss the T delays and crowds of tourists. (Sorry, everyone who has ever visited Boston.)

I picked up my Appleton pattern at Clementine, a beautiful little haberdashery in Rockland, Maine. We were staying in Camden, Maine for a quick getaway sans child and I made a point to find a local fabric store so I could treat myself to a project. 

I also got several yards of a knit Art Gallery Fabric (Magnolia nightfall from the Charleston collection by Amy Sinibaldi for Art Gallery fabrics). It says it's 95% cotton 5% Spandex.

My haul from Clementine.
 Here's a look at my first finished Appleton:


And here I am wearing it. We snapped this picture before dashing off to catch the train/drop off at daycare/drive to work:


This dress features heavily in my work wardrobe rotation, so I figured it was time to make another one. Since I've worn the first one quite a bit, I knew there was one primary change I wanted to make, but it was really to go back to the way the pattern was intended to be sewn up. More on that in a minute.

First, my original pattern alterations:

The front of the wrap

I wanted to preserve the original printed pattern, so I traced two sizes: a 16 and a 20. I needed a 16 on top and a 20 in my hips. You can see below that I cut the 16 in the shoulders/neck. I made sure that when I traced the neckband pieces, I cut a 16.


I have an absurdly long waist, so I measured the widest point of my hip from my shoulders and compared it to the widest part of the hips in the pattern. I needed to add 4", which also helped spread out the difference between my 16 top/20 bottom. You can see in the photo below that if the extra length wasn't added, I would have had to dramatically flare out at the waist. 



The first time I made the pattern, I thought that because of my long waist, the ties would hit too high above my waist, basically on my rib cage/under the bust. You're supposed to cut the right side (the side that sits on top) of the wrap slightly narrower than the left, so it ends about 80% of the way across your front, instead of 100% across your body like the left side of the wrap.


In the picture above, you can see the fold on the right of the pattern piece. You're supposed to cut the left side unfolded, then cut the right side without that 2" or so. Because the neckline is diagonal, if you fold over 2" the edge is higher than the left side edge by 1-1.5". That's where you attach the tie that goes around your body. 

Thinking myself clever, I thought that if I cut the right side the full width (i.e. cut it exactly the same size as the left side), that the lower tie would correct the too-high-waist problem.

I don't think it did actually make much of a difference, although I think it made the front of the dress perpetually lopsided when I tied it: because I was pulling the waist tie lower, it would throw off the angle of the vertical edge of the wrap, so it would rotate just enough so that the front edges of the wrap pieces didn't line up.


When I cut my second version of the Appleton, I actually followed the original pattern intentions, and weirdly I think it's actually straighter and the waist ties seem to hit appropriately. Above was the picture I took before I hemmed it or finished the sleeves to see if I was going to keep it as a dress or turn it into a wrap top.

Let's talk fabric. This was sitting on my Trello board (here's a post on how I use Trello to manage sewing projects) and I haven't found any other knit dress patterns I like so I figured I'd go for it.


I paid $16.20 for 3 yards of this DTY knit from Michael Levine when there was a 20% off sale. (It's no longer on the site, otherwise I'd link directly to it.) It's incredibly soft, and you can't beat $5-something a yard. I'd never heard of DTY before -- apparently it's the matte cousin of ITY (which has more of a glossy sheen).

The colors are super rich, and I love the large floral in theory. What gave me pause when I first sewed it up is I thought maybe the large floral had a muumuu vibe, if you know what I mean. 

Exhibit A: muumuu.
I thought maybe if I made it into a wrap top instead of a dress, it would mitigate the muumuu impression by reducing the amount of large floral fabric, but I decided to just stay the course and finish it. Please weigh in in the comments if I look like I'm walking around in a muumuu because I'd sincerely like to know.

Finished garment pictures. The morning light was shining right in my eyes, so I'm squinting quite a bit in these, but the only way I can take a picture in daylight is if we do it right before work. (Because there's no way in hell I'm going to get dressed up on the weekend to take pictures when I'm hanging around all day. Sorry, that's precious sewing time!)

Don't you love the picturesque view from my deck? A winter wonderland!

Much like my soul, the trees are barren of signs of life.

The view most people see as I race past them up the corporate ladder.

These flats are my "wearing tights" shoes and I've had them for like 6 years. Maybe time to invest in some new shoes.
I will say after having worn it at work for a full day that this version is even comfier than my last version. The fabric is soooo soft that I might not even stop wearing it if you tell me it looks like a muumuu.

I do have an exciting update on the "sewing better" front.

Tip Numero 1:


First, I used 1/4" Washaway Wonder Tape to stabilize any areas that needed top stitching. Normally if I do a zig-zag stitch on a knit, the machine stretches the fabric a bit and warps the seam. I read a hot tip on Cookin' and Craftin''s review of the Blackwood Cardigan that suggested doing this and guess what, it really does work!

Here's how I did it (demonstrating on a scrap as I forgot to take pics in progress):


First, I laid the sticky side of the tape down along the edge of the hem (for both the sleeve hems and the bottom hem).


Next, I tore off the paper side to expose the other sticky side.


Then I just folded it to the appropriate hem length and sewed directly on top of the tape sandwich. It added enough stability to prevent stretching, which made a perfect stitch. Once I wash it, it will just dissolve away. Another bonus is you don't have to pin, because the stickiness holds the fabric in place. 

Tip Numero 2:

The instructions call for a piece of clear elastic when you're sewing the shoulder seams to prevent over-stretching and add stability. On my first Appleton, I first tried to serge the seam but the fabric seemed to just shred. I think part of this was a fabric issue - it didn't like the serger - but using the elastic would have definitely helped.

When I started my second Appleton, I knew I wanted to use my serger and after testing fabric scraps this knit seemed much more amenable. However, I still hadn't picked up some clear elastic and I did want to stabilize the shoulder seams, so I did a Google search for alternatives to clear elastic and found an awesome tip.

All you do is cut a bias-cut piece of fabric and add it to the seam sandwich. I used some scrap quilting cotton. Because it's cut on the bias, it's a little bit stretchy, but much less stretchy than the fabric would be on its own. That means that there's less stress on the shoulder seam.


It worked like a charm and now that's my new favorite trick for sewing with knits!

That's all folks. Don't forget to let me know if I'm committing the most egregious of fashion faux pas and also please let me know how many wrap dresses are too many wrap dresses. Asking for a friend...


Sunday, February 11, 2018

How I Use Trello to Manage Sewing Projects




I'm the kind of sewist who has a million projects going on at once, and I work on a wide range of projects, including quilts and garments.

Because I have so much going on, I sometimes struggle with getting clarity on what I want to work on next, and I also tend to forget progress and blockers like "oh crap I can't work on this quilt again until I find the perfect backing fabric" or, "I'd love to make a dress with this challis but I haven't found the perfect pattern yet."

In order to solve these problems, I created a workflow in Trello to manage all the important details for each project and help me keep things moving.

I'm going to go through how I use it and some of the functionality so hopefully you'll be able to see how it might be helpful for you even if your needs are different than mine.

How to Set Up a Trello Board

Trello is a free, web-based tool and has all sorts of ways to customize the set up to meet your specific needs. A huge benefit of a tool like this is it helps you visualize everything, however you could easily set up a similar system using post-it notes or something else low-tech. I'll cover that later!

1. Sign up

Go to Trello's website and set up a free account. 

2. Create a Board

Next, create a new board by clicking the "+" sign on the top right and selecting Create Board from the dropdown.


3. Name your board, set a privacy level, and choose a background. 

You can get to more board background options by clicking the "..." box on the right.
Set privacy level.

Board backgrounds - if you click "See more" there are a gajillion more options to choose from.

Click "Create Board" and you're done.


4. Set up your sewing workflow. 

Use "Add a list" to create column headers for each stage of your sewing workflow.

What a new, blank board looks like.

To show how this works in practice, I'll jump ahead and show you my finished board. You might want to set yours up differently depending on what challenges you experience.

My "Lists" aka workflow

I set up 5 steps in my workflow.

  • To Do/Backlog
  • Doing/WIP (works-in-progress)
  • To Photograph
  • To Blog
  • Done
Personally, I use Pinterest as my holding zone for all ideas that appeal to me, and projects only make it onto my Trello board once I'm seriously considering it. However, if that's the aspect you'd find most helpful to track, you may want to make more granular "To Do" columns.

I've included some links at the bottom of this post to others in the sewing blogosphere who are using Trello in different ways. There are a million ways to customize it: sewing workflows are definitely not one size fits all.

Here's what my board looks like with cards on it:


5. Create cards.



Click "Add a card," which you'll find at the bottom of each column, to add a piece of work that will move through the workflow.


Name your card: 

In this example my card is called "Cashmerette Appleton," named after the pattern I used for this garment.

Add Attachments/pictures: 

I've already taken in-progress photos of this pattern so I added it as an attachment. Because it's a photo, it shows up in the main view of the card, which is helpful for visualizing your work. For something I haven't made yet, I might add photos of inspiration photos, line drawings, potential fabric choices, etc.

Description

You can enter any static information about the pattern in the description. For example, I could link to the pattern's website/purchase link if I was still considering it, or enter sizing information, price, etc.

Comments

I use comments for progress information, like details on why something is blocked.


Due Date: 

If you have an actual due date you can add it and it will show up on the card for easy reference and you can even view it on a calender. For example, if you are making a quilt as a gift for a baby shower and you have a hard deadline or you want to make a dress before an event.

Labels

Labels can be used like tags. Here's how I set up my labels:

I created labels for different kinds of projects (Quilts, garments, other projects) and also to denote blockers. I differentiated between a "material" blocker (like waiting for fabric) and a "decision" blocker (like deciding on a fabric). 

Labels are helpful because you can easily visualize projects on the main board because of the colors, and also because you can sort with them. So if I want to only see my quilting projects, I can filter the board.

To filter, you want to click "Show menu) at the top right, and then click "Filter Cards":


Then select the filter you want to see:


Now, I can see all of my quilting projects without the clutter of all my other projects.


If I was about to do a fabric purchase, I might want to filter on all my blocked cards to see if I needed to get anything to unblock them:


Checklists: 

I use checklists almost as a sub-workflow for different kinds of projects.


I have a standard quilting checklist that I use to track the different standard stages of a quilt. I started this by adding the checklist to one card and then simply select the same checklist in other cards like by creating a checklist in the other card and selecting "Copy Items From..." and then selecting the checklist I want:


My garment checklist looks a bit different:


Different kinds of cards: 

My workflow is generally linear, in that something starts at the beginning and works its way through each column to the end. Of course I might decide not to photograph or blog something, and move it straight to done, but I usually don't. I can also abandon a project that was in-progress and move it straight to "done" (as in I'm done with it, even though it's not done), or can decide to never pull a project from the backlog.

I also sometimes write blog posts about things that are not strictly sewing projects...like this one. I also use my Trello board to create cards as placeholders for those ideas.


You'll also notice that my backlog is mostly my garment fabric stash. I put a visual reminder of the fabric and note how much I have, as well as fabric properties like knit/stretch, pattern, etc. In order for one of these cards to make it into the workflow, I'd have to marry it with an actual pattern, at which point this card would start to look very different.  


I tend to start with a fabric and then decide on a pattern, so this works for me and helps me keep my fabric stash top of mind when I'm browsing patterns. So if I see that I have lots of nice knits in dress yardages, maybe I should go look for a knit dress pattern!

Once I find more tried-and-true patterns I might need to alter the structure of this board a bit.

6. Move cards through the workflow:

Just drag and drop! That's what makes Trello so easy to use. You can move things around without needing to go into each individual card and make changes.

Low-Tech Options

If that all sounds like way more detail or technology than you want or need, you can also apply the same principles to a low-tech option.

You can set up something similar with a whiteboard/corkboard or even just a wall and some post it notes. Use tape or marker (if you're using a whiteboard) to draw columns and you're in business.

You can just write the name of the project on the post it, or even tape on a photo you've printed out to it. You might find you need somewhere else to track additional details, but a simple dedicated notebook with each project getting its own page would probably work just fine.



Smash the Stash has a great post on using post-its to manage her workflow and a notebook to track the finer details of her projects. She has some nice photos to show her process in action.

Elita Sharpe wrote a nice guest post on Angela Walters' site that shows how she manages projects for her professional longarm business using a low-tech system.

Was that helpful?

I hope you found this helpful and I'd love to hear about your own sewing workflows and organization methods, or even just the challenges you face that you're still trying to solve! Thanks for reading. :)


Other inspiration:



Ivete at Gotham Quilts uses Trello to create a quilting workflow.

Helen at Helen's Closet organizes projects by type and uses tags to note status and things like pattern format.

Camille at Attack of the Seam Ripper uses Trello boards to track her fabric stash, patterns, and set sewing deadlines.

----------------------------

This post was inspired by an interaction I had with a fellow sewist on Instagram. She was using a simple and effective post-it method to track sewing and it got me thinking about combining the way I organize projects at work with the problems I was having with organizing my sewing. Unfortunately I can't find that interaction, otherwise I would shout out to my muse!
--
This post started as a 3-part series that had 2 parts that went into wayyyyy too much detail about Kanban, lean manufacturing, the concept of "waste" in the process, user stories, acceptance criteria, etc. I realize that that's probably too far down the rabbit hole for most readers, but if you're interested in the theory behind this kind of workflow, I'd encourage you to do a web search for some of those terms. These kinds of project planning theories and tools have become very popular in the business/technology world since around 2005, so you may even be familiar with it from your own 9-5.