July 22, 2014

Teach Me Fashion's Two Tone Singlet

Two Tone SInglet by Teach Me Fashion

Recently Teach Me Fashion reached out to me to see if I would do a review and I thought, "sure, why not?" It was an interesting concept - PDF patterns designed to be used in conjunction with short instructional videos.

You may not know this but in a past life I worked as an editor for internet videos and I learned much about the fickle nature of YouTube watchers (which includes myself) and what makes for an informative and engaging video experience.

Many educational videos suffer from a few common blunders like like the "Get to the Point!" problem where the instructor talks for 30 seconds or more at the start of the vid about what she will teach you in the video instead of actually teaching. Viewers have short attention span and this is a big no-no.

Along the same line is the "Unnecessary and Repetitive" problem. If I need to review a step in the instructions I can rewind. I don't need to see the teacher do the same thing over and over again. It's a waste of time. Even Craftsy classes are guilty of this. (OMG Susan Khalje, I don't need to watch you meticulously line up the grainline for all eight pattern pieces!). Editing is your friend.

And finally the "Unclear video and confusing instructions." Or essentially when the whole thing is a mess. The camera is too far away to see what is being done. The instructor is filming on the fly without a script so he make mistakes and has to backtrack. And the viewer is so confused that they give up.

Thankfully Teach Me Fashion has none of these problems. In fact I think their videos are excellent. Great pacing with the verbal instructions so you can easily follow along. No repetitive steps. Once you see her topstitch one side you don't need to watch the other. Sometimes the video is sped up which saves time but is still helpful. The camera is close to the action. The background is just a well lit white table so there're no distractions. And as a bonus, I really enjoyed Heather's neat Australian accent. ;)

Right now they have seven videos up all with downloadable patterns to go with each lesson. There's knits, dresses, leggings, a skirt and more. But let's talk about the one I made...

Two Tone SInglet by Teach Me Fashion

The Pattern: The Two Tone Singlet, Teach Me Fashion's free pattern and a great starter pattern for beginners or a quick pattern for more advanced sewists.

The pattern PDF includes all the basic info (fabric requirements, materials, etc) and text instructions which are sufficient but watching the accompanying video is the way to go.

The Fabric: Both fabrics are from my stash, yay! I had a tiny bit of eyelet leftover from my very first Macaron (wow, that was a long time ago). The bottom fabric is a Liberty of London print that I kindly received from a sewing group member who was moving. I couldn't believe she was giving it up but now I'm glad some of it could get used.

Two Tone SInglet by Teach Me Fashion

The Changes: None really. I cut a size S and it fits pretty well. There's no shaping in any of the seams but I think that makes it simpler for a new sewist to make this top without being bogged down with the details of a perfect fit. For me I just like the loose shape.

I followed the instructions in the video almost exactly and there are some nice details a newbie could learn from like topstitching the yoke seams, sewing right angle corners, french seaming in places and adding bias binding as a facing.

Two Tone SInglet by Teach Me Fashion

I can't exactly call the bottom sections a "peplum." They're just rectangles and the back rectangle has tucks (mine are a little off center, oops, but I didn't care enough to re-sew them. laziness for the win!). If I made this again I might alter those pieces to be more peplum-y. It's pretty easy.

You just use the slash and spread method to only spread out the bottom to make a more curved pattern piece.

Two Tone SInglet by Teach Me Fashion

The Results: This shirt is pretty darn cute. I usually don't sew/wear sleeveless shirts (for silly/lazy reasons) but I might have to make an exception for this one. It's summery. It's loose fitting which is an important factor for a Texas top (ugh, we've reached the 100+ degree days, I won't be wearing pants again until Halloween).

If I sewed this again I'd probably use a nice silk and make a dressy version.

I know sometimes us bloggers we can be kind of lax when it comes to reviews. You want to be nice, right? Well, I really do think that Teach Me Fashion's vids and patterns are a cool concept that's well executed. They're not for the absolute beginner - a user will still need to know how to use a sewing machine and be familiar with basic terms and concepts. But we all remember starting out as sewists - we didn't want to make boring pajama pants (even though they're good practice) - we wanted to make fun, exciting and stylish clothes right now! And I think TMF is a great jumping off point for a newbie to sew a garment they'll love to wear right away.

July 9, 2014

McCall's 6278 Vlisco Print Dress

McCall's 6278 Vlisco Print Dress

The Goal: Well over a year ago I ordered six yards of Dutch wax print fabric. It seems like for awhile my friends and I all fell head over heels for Vlisco's lovelies after following Cathy's Treadling in Benin blog.

I originally bought the fabric for a specific purpose but it seems that I will never get around to that so rather than let it sit sad and lonely in my stash I had better use it. Oh, and this fabric only comes in pre-cut amounts, otherwise I wouldn't have bought SIX YARDS of the stuff. From HOLLAND. So shipping was... well, what you can imagine. I probably only used about one yard for this dress.

McCall's 6278 Vlisco Print Dress

The pattern: McCall's 6278, which appears to be already out of print even though it's only a couple years old. The only other make I've seen has been Closet Case File's stunning red and silver version.

I loved the cool angular look and the ability to color block made me feel better about not having this giant print smother me.

McCall's 6278 Vlisco Print Dress

But man! Those points! I've sewn pointy points before but these ones at the hips take the cake. Afterwards I realized what I should have done was fold under the seam allowances on the side pieces, layer it on top of the printed fabric, and topstitched. All those side pieces are topstitched down anyway (seam allowances are pressed toward the side inserts) and I could have avoided unnecessarily snipping my seam allowances on the printed fabric.

And the finicky points made a bulky mess of things. I steamed the heck out of those points to get them to be as smooth and flat as possible.

McCall's 6278 Vlisco Print Dress

I must have cut out the pieces when I bought the pattern and then forgot about it. I had cut a size 12 but I should graded to a 14 in the hips.

The Fabric: As of this writing this print is still available in the sale section of Vlisco's website (and for way cheaper than what I paid)!

The contrast is a solid navy cotton sateen with a bit of stretch. It definitely helps tone down the bold print but the navy also blends a little too well. The pointy side pieces almost disappear next to the body fabric.

McCall's 6278 Vlisco Print Dress

The Changes: Other than letting out the side seams at the hips, not much. I ditched the full lining (this pattern wants you to fully line the interior exactly the same as the exterior so technically you could make this dress reversible if you so desired. I finished all my seams and added a neck facing instead.

Oh and I used a regular zip rather than an invisible 'cause I accidentally bought a regular one instead.

Oddly, there's no back vent in the skirt. It's not constricting to walk in but it would have been nice to have a small slit.

The Results: Justin, always the insightful commentator, said I looked like a psychedelic flight attendant. Whatever that means...

McCall's 6278 Vlisco Print Dress

It fit's well enough. A wee bit tight in the bum and I'm sure this dress could have used a sway back adjustment (although looking at these pictures, perhaps I don't need one) but it's not a huge issue. The back neck gapes a tiny bit but only I would probably notice it. Also, the front neck is a little high but not a deal breaker.

Other than that I quite like it! The style is unique and the print is a show stopper, seriously cool design. I probably wouldn't make this pattern again but I'm glad I gave it a try.

June 29, 2014

30 Days of Sundresses - Pintuck Front Dress

30 Days of Sundresses - Pintuck Dress

Melissa from Melly Sews (also an Austinite, yay!) asked me to participate in this year's 30 Days of Sundresses. It's a whole month packed with cute tutorials for women's and girls sundresses to start off your summer.

For my tutorial I hacked a simple dress pattern and added a center panel of pintucks in the front along with some little waist ties to help give the dress some shape. I think it turned out pretty cute! And I've always wanted to have a reason to sew pintucks on something. It adds some extra interest to an otherwise plain dress.

The fabric is a Valorie Wells cotton voile I've had in my stash for ages (yay stashbusting!).

The pintuck sewing can be time consuming but the rest of the dress is easy.

30 Days of Sundresses - Pintuck Dress

You Will Need
  • A woven tank style dress/shirt pattern, preferably without closures. A dartless design or one with side darts works best. A good pattern to start with might be Sew Caroline's Tank Dress or even lengthening Grainline's tiny pocket tank. I modified this Cynthia Rowley Simplicity pattern (it had gathering at the neck so I took out the excess width in front). 
  • Ruler
  • Scissors (and a rotary cutter if you have one)
  • Chalk or fabric marker
  • Tracing paper and pencil
  • Sewing machine, fabric, matching thread, needles, etc
For this dress you to take need a few measurements:
  • The width of your pintuck panel (mine's 6in wide). Add seam allowances on either side.
  • The length the pintucks will extend. I made mine end about hip level, the loose fabric gives the bottom of the dress a little flare.
  • The width of your tucks. I went with 1/4in.
  • Your waistline point on the pattern pieces (to add the ties) and your waist measurement (to know how long to make your ties).
  • And the length of the inner seam line on the front piece (the length of your tuck panel).
Adjusting the Pattern

Your dress pattern probably has just two main pieces - front and back. We'll only be altering the front piece.

Start by tracing a copy of your front pattern piece.

Measure in from the center front half the width of your tuck panel (or 3" in for a 6" wide panel) and draw a vertical line top to hem. This is your new seam line.

Then add your seam allowance out from that line and cut along the new line. Now you have your new front pattern piece complete with seam allowances!

30 Days of Sundresses - Pintuck Dress

Making the Tuck Panel

I recommend sewing the tucks right into the fabric and then cutting out the panel piece after you're finished. It's easier to sew a big batch of tucks because you don't have to worry about being exactly precise with your tuck measurements and you can cut out your panel once you've sewn the width you want.

Figuring out how many tucks you need takes a bit of math. I wanted 1/4" tucks with 1/4" space between them so counting both sides of a tuck it's 1/2" plus 1/4" of space so 3/4" (or 3x the width of a tuck for one tuck and a space). So for a 6" wide panel you'd end up with about 18 tucks (3 x 6 = 18). Mine has 16 because I just eye-balled my tuck sewing so the space between each tuck is a little wide.

(preparing your fabric for sewing tucks)

Sewing the tucks is pretty simple. Begin by cutting a straight line across the top of your fabric perpendicular to the selvage. This will be the top of the panel. Then mark with chalk or a marker another perpendicular line at the bottom of the length of your tucks. This will be the the stopping point for the tucks, but not the bottom of the panel. Then draw a third perpendicular line marking the bottom of the panel piece (don't forget hem allowance!). Cut along this line.

Start at one side and work your way across. Be sure to give yourself a few inches off to the side to allow for seam allowances and wiggle room.

Fold the fabric vertically along the grainline and press.

(sewing my tucks)

Stitch 1/4" away from the fold, back stitching at your end point.

Yay first tuck is sewn! Next use your ruler to fold the fabric vertically 1/2" away from the previous stitching line. Press and sew 1/4" from the fold. Now you have two tucks with a 1/4" space between them. Repeat until you have enough tucks to fill your panel width.

With chalk or a marker draw your seam allowance on either side of the outer tucks and cut out your panel piece.

Making the Ties

To make ties long enough to wrap around and tie in the front I cut two lengths of bias tape from my fabric that are 1.5 x my waist measurement. One inch wide bias strips will result in 1/4" wide ties.

Colette has a great tutorial on cutting continuous bias tape. Once you cut out the tape fold and press it in half lengthwise then fold each raw edge inside and stitch the tape closed. You can alternatively just buy pre-made double fold bias tape and stitch it together.

You can finish the bottom end of the ties by tucking the ends in and stitching them down or you could tie a little knot at the or even add a big bead to the bottom.

30 Days of Sundresses - Pintuck Dress

Assembling the Dress

Pin one of the ties to the waistline mark on the inner seam of the new front piece, right sides together, baste.

Then pin the edge of the panel piece to the edge of the inner seam of the new front piece, right sides together and stitch.

Repeat for the other side of the panel.

From there you can assemble the dress like normal - sew the side seams and shoulder seams, finish seam allowances, add bindings or facings to neck and armholes, and hem.

If you find the front of the dress is gaping, just take out the excess from the front pieces along the panel seam line.

30 Days of Sundresses - Pintuck Dress

Give it all a final press and when you wear the dress wrap the ties around your waist and make a little bow in front!


Thanks to Melissa for hosting this fun event! Now head over to Melly Sews to see all the other dress tutorials (I'm almost the last blogger for this month so you've got 28 more inspiring dresses you can peruse). And you can even enter to win a giveaway from Funny Fabrics!