Monday, March 30, 2009

Phat Kat "Pick of the Week" for Friday, March 27

Last week I saw Melody wearing her lovely creation found in her blog post here (the dress on the right with the black neckline trim and black boots)! Her dress is my "Pick of the Week" for last Friday.

Do you know what I love about it? Not only is it lovely and flattering on her, but it just looks so well proportioned.

It's just such a fantastic look, and she looks gorgeous in it!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Promises, promises!

I promise! I'll blog more about sewing very soon, but I've been terribly busy. Lots to talk about on the sewing front.

However, there's nothing like feeling good about yourself. Kim asked about the adult acne thing. I got my Finacea in the mail (for mild rosacea and adult acne). I'm feeling much better because my skin is looking better. AND...I'll be receiving my new tube of TretinX in the mail very soon (Retin A). The mail order co. I have to use needed more info from the dermatologist before filling the new script. That will also help with the adult acne as well. I hate zits! I hate cystic acne. For some reason my hormones are flaring and really jumping around. Is that pre-menopausal???

All I want for Spring is clear skin. It IS better. The TretinX should really do a double whammy when I get it and give me back my skin as it was meant to be.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Phat Kat "Pick of the Week" Friday 3/20

I subscribe to about a number of blogs--not a lot, but not a little. That's why it's immensely helpful to me when people actually leave comments on my blog or when other bloggers post a blogroll (non scrolling is best me). It's how I find new blogs. I go by the premise "great minds think alike" :) .

That being said, every once and a while a blogger's project really strikes me fancy. So every Friday (yeah, I'm a day late so what's new) I'm going to pick a Phat Kat "Pick of the Week" project. One that I think deserves a shout out.

This week's pick?

I absolutely LOVE Robin's green print dress.

It's lovely, flattering, and a snappy print. Way to go, Robin. I covet your dress!!

Why I want to move...

So sorry. I have't posted about sewing lately. But I have been doing sewing. Just putting the finishing touches on my bustier and almost done with my cape.

Until that time, I'm suffering from Spring time depression. It's when I really recognize all things wrong with where I live.

First, it's the population explosion. Although I know that is hard to escape and that's the way life is. DH and I sure wish it was the same type of area as it was 25 years ago.

Second, crime. With a huge population explosion comes crime. Gangs, drugs, murders--it's not the stuff I grew up with in the Poconos of yesterday but it's here now. We'd get a murder case maybe once every two years. Now it is too common and far too frequent. Seems like one a week or month now.

Third, racism. It seems like it's on the rise (at least in our school district) and I can't put my finger on the reason why. Maybe the population explosion? Ever since the influx of newcomers to our area after 9/11, it seems to be worsening. What a shame. I see the problem much more at the high school level, rather than with the elementary kids. You know, there's racism both ways, but newcomers are bring a lot of that with them. However, what's really odd is that some of my friends that I always thought were liberal minded, aren't really that way. Just a few weeks ago, one of my friends made a comment that her daughter would never be able to date someone of another race. What?!?! I was flabbergasted. My personal rule is, as long as the dating specimen is kind, thoughtful, considerate, and treats you like a queen/king, that's really all that matters. It goes by the heart, not the color of one's skin. There's lots of trash around, unidentifiable by skin color--it goes every way.

There are other things that are irritating, but those are probably the top three on my mind this Saturday night.

BTW, was anyone at their local Rita's yesterday? It was free Italian Ice day at ours. DD#1 is a "Rita's Girl" and our local Rita's was swamped. DD#1 said she washed her hands when she got there and couldn't wash her hands until 3 hours later--so sticky and she thought they'd be permanently dyed. It was that busy!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

7 Things I Hate About Spring

First off, I've had a terrible three weeks. It started with being rear ended, getting a terrible cold, DS#2 getting a terrible cold that necessitated a doctor visit, making more mistakes the last week with my sewing than I have in two years, had a bout with major adult acne, took my van back because the rear lights weren't working, had my head examined and cut open (yeah, you can laugh if you want to), and have done a lot of really stupid things. Next week I have to go to the plastic surgeon for another related, yet unrelated condition to my head thing, then to my other doctor to get my stitches out. Also, the temps are starting to change, and I can feel my skin starting to itch but am prepared with prescription cream. Let's hope it works.

Which brings me to the 7 Things I Hate About Spring, in no particular order:

1. Daylight Savings Time--that first week is horrendous!
2. Itchy, mucous allergy eyes in April
3. Up and down weather temps which drive me insane (and DH loves it!)
4. Anticipation of heat with humidity which will cause prickly heat on my skin.
5. April/May--terribly tired feeling in the morning, probably has something to do with allergies or the up and down temps.
6. Less time at my sewing machine because of warmer weather.
7. School letting out--it upsets my ordinary 9-month routine.

I'm sure most people could post about 7 things they hate about winter, but for me it's definitely spring. DH keeps telling my as soon as the girls graduate from high school, we're moving to Texas. Just as long as the dermatologist is up the block, I'm fine with that.

Sherril posted a comment as did others about Shorthand. Yes, I learned Gregg shorthand. Still use it. In fact, I'm certified to teach it with my Business Ed degree. I taught it in student teaching, but not on the job as most of my classes were computer programming, applications, or keyboarding/typing. A few years after I started teaching, it just disappeared off the radar at most schools. However, I love that I know it :) . It's like a special, secret code. And a few of my Gregg Shorthand sisters out there know that code. In fact, I write my Christmas lists in shorthand and can leave it out on the table, computer desk, or even on my fridge and no one will know. Or...I can taunt them about it ;) .

With all the awful sewing mistakes I've made lately, I've actually been able to produce a really nice bustier under the guidance of Kenneth King. This garment is a rock! I've made strapless dresses before with boning and all, but nothing like what he does. There's so much support in it, it's like a sport bustier LOL.

In fact, I self drafted the pattern copying an '80's Butterick bustier style top in my stash. I've always loved the pattern and this was the first time I've ever completely drafted a pattern from scratch. Thankfully, it turned out beautifully which makes up for the awful past few weeks. At this point it's just waiting for a zipper (on order) and a hem.

Okay, DD#1 is home from her date so it's time for bed.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Did You Know?

Did you know that I'm a certifiable idiot???

One thing I'm good at is making mistakes. I make a lot of them ;) . As Rhonda mentioned, I'm showing my age by mentioning Shorthand. Lesson No. 1 in Shorthand from my HS Business Teacher: Transcribe your notes right away. Waiting a week is not good for transcription.

So, it doesn't help to talk about things that I've done several years ago that I don't do anymore. Most of my top patterns I've used are TNT and don't need much in the alteration department. But way back when, I was taking a lot of alteration classes and would be working on my stuff and my daughter's things at the same time. Nothing like blending two things together that don't make sense.

Which is what I've done. I'm not rotating out the darts from my existing patterns to fit my daughter anymore, which I once did. But I didn't rotate out my excess at the side seams. At one point I wanted a dartless tee, very much so, and was so anal retentive about that issue. I got out my notes. Found an original pattern, the original pic, AND the original Q&A. Will revise my post to amend the errors of my ways 'cuz I forgot a quarter of the info in the post. I had to pull out my original grey top out of storage to see what I did.

Point is:

Rotate out the excess bust draglines and TRANSFER *for me*
Rotate out darts/ at the side seam *for DD#2*

There IS a story behind this. Let's see if I can remember what it is LOL, 'cuz I can't seem to remember anything else!

Duh! Pass the Certifiable Stamp please...

Hold That Thought!

Been so busy!

I’ve been working on 13 small, embroidered gifts for DD#2’s Travel Softball team. Their first tournament is at the end of March. Currently I’m 3/4’s finished with the embroidery, then have to sew them up. The embroidery machine is smokin’, and I’m using part of the design Mary digitized for me. Thanks again, Mary!

Also working on my bustier. I cut the materials needed for it last night.

Ditto with my cape lining and got that cut too. The cape is such a simple project which for some reason is taking me forever to do and I don’t know why.

Working on web design.

Thinking about current pattern designs and my thoughts are taking me back to pattern memories from the ‘80’s. I LOVED ‘80’s patterns! They had such interesting details. I had this one Brooke Shield’s blouse pattern with a hidden button placket down the front. I loved that pattern and made a few blouses from it. Then there was this other one, a Jean Cacharel I believe. There were three totally different views on this one pattern and I made two out of the three. However, one was so distinct with dolman sleeves and a diagonal button placket going across the front. I’m not seeing that detailing in today’s patterns. I miss my ‘80’s patterns, although I do have a few left in storage.

And trying to sift through back notebook material for alteration blog posts. Of which I believe I made an error looking at two different past projects at once. What's new. So hold that thought, and I'll get back to you. Kind of like shorthand--transcribe when the material is fresh. Cold notes are ripe for inaccuracy. And I don't like mistakes.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Big Thank Yous and Really Clever Stuff

A big THANK YOU do Lindsay, Karen, and Louella who nominated me for the Sisterhood Award! :) It sure is great to have really wonderful sewing sisters. The thread that binds!!!

I've been so busy this week and didn't even have time to open my new Threads issue to read it until yesterday. I absolutely loved the article on the necklines. Some of you know I prefer to choose a pattern based on the full bust measurement (usually, that is), and when that happens, I alter the neck to make it smaller and narrow the shoulders. The author states that altering the other pieces that attach to the neckline can be an arduous task. Really, it's not that it's arduous, but a pain in the butt. Anyway, her article is sheer brilliance in that is insanely simple! To the point where a head smack is in order with a loud, "DUH!" Simple pattern shifting eliminates the need to do pain-in-the-butt type of work. I've said it before, the obvious eludes me. The more difficult things I find easy. Go figure.

Also, yesterday two people recommended the book, Demystifying Fit, by Linda Maynard. Thanks, Myrna, you were the first one! I will definitely check that one out.

The next two weeks I'll be busy working on my bustier in Kenneth King's Birth of a Bustier class. It's been a long time since I've made strapless dresses (think college days!), and I'd like to learn better techniques for this type of garment. What better way than to learn from the pro. It would be great to have two cute bustiers for myself this summer, but this info will be a necessity for prom dress sewing. DD#1 wants nothing to do with me sewing her a dress, but DD#2 will be on my case to do one for her.

In other news, I'm making a cape from the SEW Everything Workshop book. One of my sewing students is making one and I want to get this done before she does to preview the directions. A word of caution with this pattern which I will include in my review. It's made for very broad, square shoulders. On both of us I had to pin to fit this area. You'd think it wouldn't matter with this cape style, but it does. Pat has broad shoulders with a normal shoulder slope, and I have narrow shoulders with a normal shoulder slope. Believe it or not, the shoulders were incredible wide on Pat and caved in in the area of the shoulder curve.

Got my van back from the collision repair shop. Took me 4 days and DH driving behind me to tell me, "Your main brake light, right signal, and right brake light does not work." Off to the shop Monday so they can finish the repair. What a waste of time! Until that time I have to give manual right-hand turn signals out my window. Does anyone know what they mean anymore??? Someone will probably think I'm getting ready to give them the finger.

On a social note, it's the first time I've seen/heard disturbing (at least IMO) racial stuff going on at our high school. You'd think we'd be past this stuff in 2009. Oddly enough, I'm hearing it's more of the blacks against whites instead of the usual reverse. I'd elaborate but don't have time--need to go to church. Perhaps some of my African-American sewing sisters can elighten me on the thoughts of young, black, female teens these days.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Saran Wrap Block and the Commercial Pattern: Part I

I'll preface this post by saying, "Watch what you wish for 'cuz you just might get it!" And I'll add a preliminary conclusion of, "A Saran Wrap Block is an extremely valuable tool in the fitting tool arsenal!" This post is very long and is about fitting. So if you don't like to think about fitting and pattern alterations, stop reading here and check out someone else's blog at this point ;) .

When people post about fitting problems, I love to read what people suggest the solution will be. Some will be spot on, some will be way off, some have ideas and suggestion that are close to the most effective and viable solution to the fit issue at hand. I only make suggestions if I identify with the body type or have dealt specifically with the same fit issue. After all, I'm no fitting guru.

There is a reason why I do this. I could go off and speculate that maybe it is this, maybe it is that, but offering too much information can be just as bad and confusing as too little. There is another, probably even more important consideration to make as well, and that is:

Is this person a similar body type to my own?

What I've found over this years on my own quest for fit, is that lots of people make recommendations, but the ones that are most helpful are the ones with a similar body type. A plus-sized person knows about plus-sized figure issues. C-cup and bigger-boobed women know about full bust adjustments. Big booty women have their specific solutions, and so on...

What would I know about plus-sized adjustments or big booty alterations? Not much. It's not my specialty because I don't alter for those things. Start talking about narrow, forward shoulders, full bust, broad back, and and a dropped fanny and you got my attention. Those things I know a thing or two about.

The problem here is just because I know about full bust issues and a dropped fanny, for example, doesn't mean I'd be good at making recommendations about FBAs and dropped fannies on plus-sized figures. And that is where things get confusing IMO. When people offer suggestions and have a totally different figure type than the person posting the question, it is absolutely well meaning but from a totally different perspective.

So what does all of this have to do with the Saran Wrap Block and the Commercial Pattern? LOTS! And I'll explain why, but be forewarned first because the pictures I'm using are maybe 5 years old, at least, and VERY unflattering--not my fave pics LOL. But necessary for this explanation.
When I first started getting into pattern alterations, I decided to spend one summer specifically working on the FBA, different types of FBAs, and which one would work best for my figure. What did I find out? That I don't use one FBA alteration specifically over another--not much help, huh? And I also discovered that after an FBA, the armhole looks really weird and curvy, to the point where I wonder, "This will work?". Still, not everything clicked that summer. I received lots of advice which actually confused me even more, and the below pics and stories will tell explain why, which is part of the "Watch what you wish for 'cuz you just might get it." comment.

This was the problem I was working with on several years ago, a fitting shell muslin which is displayed in the two photos below. Look at those folds/draglines! A big fold at the armhole and a dragline right up to the bust.

Side front (Wow! Look at that armhole gape and dragline.):


I posted for advice on the boards because I felt like I ran into a brick wall on this fitting problem. Do you know what the resounding recommendation was? "You need to do an FBA! See those draglines to the bust? You need more length and width."

It kind of does look like I need an FBA, even when looking at the hemline. But I wasn't fixing any issues at that point from the waist down--swayback tuck wasn't done yet so there's quite a bit of extra length in the back that shouldn't be there. I probably should have fixed that before asking the FBA question.

Anyway, I think 90% of the comments were that I need an FBA. So I made another muslin which included an FBA but still the same armhole fold and side seam dragline. With comments to the effect of, " probably didn't do a big enough FBA..." Another muslin, with a bigger FBA...same result. After all these FBA's, I realized one thing. In my original muslin in the pics above, I had no stress lines between my bust points AND the darn muslin felt good! Not too tight, not too loose.

Instead of asking more questions online, I decided to check out my fit books. I tried one little fix found in one of my fitting books which mentioned pinning the bust dart deeper. This would, of course, affect the side seam on the front near the armhole, but that would have to be added back in in tissue on the pattern. So I did this, and VOILA!!! Look at the pics below. One little fix and the really bad armhole wrinkle disappeared!!! Now, I still had the side seam dragline but I found my answer to that and you'll have to keep reading to find out about that issue. I still wasn't sure what the entire fit issue was, but I was happy, this was working.

Months later, I decided to take Shannon Gifford's Make a Muslin class as well as Jean Haas' Personal Ease class. The first time I took Make a Muslin, I used a commercial fitting pattern to try to develop a sloper. I got real close and made good progress. But it was a lot of pattern alterations. I was getting a little smarter, but still had so many questions. In Jean's class, it was a revelation to learn that thinner, leaner bodies need less ease, heavier, squishier bodies need more ease. Bust ease, hip ease, etc. is a variable amount! Some people give specific guidelines about how much ease is needed, but it's not that simple. One must consider body type when figuring out an appropriate amount of ease for one's garments. That was an eye opener. So when somebody comments, "You should have 3" of ease at the bustline (on a particular style).", I realized this is likely a body specific comment and something they go by for their own figures. For me, 3" is the MAX amount of ease I want. Lightbulb goes on! Helllooooo...ease is relative and depends on the body type.

Months passed and Shannon's Muslin class was being offered again. I registered again, but this time decided to make a pattern from Kathleen Fasanella's Saran Wrap block. Even Shannon was impressed with the initial fit. Just little tweaks here and there to get it to fit. Things were really starting to come together for me in understanding fit. By using the Saran Wrap block, I had a visual pattern for a sloper that came right off my body. The darts, and everything about it, was body specific. "Kat" specific to be exact.

Everything in my Saran Wrap Block pattern was a reiteration of pattern alterations I was making in Shannon's Make a Muslin class the first time I took it. In addition, I could actually see the same figure quirks on my pattern that were on my DTD that I made in Jean's class. It was all coming together.

Notice on my Saran Wrap Block pattern fronts (shown below):

  1. Right shoulder higher
  2. Curvy armholes
  3. Approximately C-cup sized darts
  4. Darts are slightly curved
Let's move on to the backs:

  1. Right shoulder is not only higher, but the dart is bigger! My right back shoulder blade is fuller and needs more shaping and length than the left side. It's why I sometimes get a diagonal wrinkle above my bust pointing the right shoulder on the front. I get a diagonal wrinkle across my back too.
  2. My back armholes are longer and flatter.
  3. Virtually no waist dart on the left, but a tiny one on the right--again, that's more shaping needed on the right side.

This was a huge eye opener for me. Let me tell you, using a Saran Wrap block pattern in the Making a Muslin class was the most worthwhile fit project I've ever done.

At this point, the only thing I wasn't able to figure out was that diagonal dragline from the side seam to the bust. What was that? How do I fix it? After all, a sloper is fitted and I'm not seeing that dragline on my sloper, only on looser garments. A few months after the Muslin class, I took Shannon's Build a Better Tee class. It was then I found out what that diagonal dragline problem was.

I DID NOT NEED A BIGGER FBA beyond altering for a C-cup as so many kept recommending to me. My armhole and side seam draglines weren't shouting out, "Make the bustline area bigger!" What WAS happening is that I needed more SHAPING. It's the concept of taking a flat piece of wrapping and wrapping a ball. A flatter ball needs small darts, but a full, round mound needs bigger darts. The armhole and side seam folds were darts that were trying to form naturally. Click, click, click...lots of lightbulbs going on. Shannon explained how to handle the diagonal dragline issue and it was absolutely amazing. So simple, really, in retrospect.

My point in all of this is, if you have a hard to fit figure and are having trouble figuring things out, using a Saran Wrap Block pattern under the trained eye of a fit professional can produce amazing results. You may not get everything at first, because fit knowledge takes time, but the effort is worth it "in the end". (There's not really an end to fit knowledge IMO :) .) It was simply the end of that fit issue.

When starting out, it may be unproductive to ask questions regarding fit in a general environment. Not always, but for me it was. Too many suggestions that left me frustrated and not much further in progress than before I started the quest. I've always found that the best answers in retrospect were from the general population (not talking about fitting experts), that had similar figures to mine. They understood the complexity of working off a body similar to my own. So I've learned to filter responses when I ask questions that are not in a professional, class environment. I look at reviews of people who respond so I can see their figure type. Figure type matters IMO.

Now I'm at the point of comparing the Saran Wrap Block to the Commercial pattern. You've seen my block above. Now here's the commercial pattern for that tunic I made up a few days ago as a preview for my sewing student.

Here's the back and what I'm seeing. Of course, the commercial pattern is wider. That's a style issue. Both armholes are long, the pattern being a bit longer. That's okay. I'm just a little worried about back armhole gaping so due to the fact that there is no shoulder dart. Other than there being a lot of pattern ease, I'm not too concerned about the back. The neck is lower and wider, but that could be more of a style detail.

Here is a pic of the commercial pattern front and the saran wrap block pattern. There are some really noticeable differences here. Notice my front armhole is very short and very curvy on the SW block pattern. The commercial pattern's armhole is very long, and much less curvy. Take a look at the bust dart. I look at the commercial pattern's bust dart and instantly know that the B-cup dart does not look like it's going to work for me. These are the two things I notice right away on commercial patterns and instantly know to dart the front armhole. If I don't, it's going to gape. Transfering the armhole dart to the bust dart will give me the shaping I need, and produce a C-cup sized bust dart.

Remember that pink muslin where I made the bust dart bigger just by pinching out more fabric? That is basically the same thing I'm doing here just a different method of going about it.

Here we go with modifying the traced off commercial pattern. Back armhole dart has been transferred to the back shoulder seam and will be eased to the front.

Here's the front. I darted the armhole and transferred the dart to the existing bust dart to make it bigger. Notice how this created a curvier armhole on the commercial pattern, similar to my sloper pattern? Notice how my bust dart is now about the same size as my sloper pattern? Mission accomplished! At this point I went ahead and made the denim muslin of the tunic I modeled a few days ago.

In conclusion, the tunic had the initial fit alterations done. The ones that are body specific for me, the ones I do on most patterns. I also did forward shoulder, and determined that a few more alterations are needed from the muslin. I will raise the armhole so I can make another tunic as a summer dress, lowered the front neck, and took out width at the side seams. I will also add fisheye darts to get a more slimming silhouette.

So there you have it. How I use my saran wrap block sloper and how I compare it to commercial patterns. It is extremely helpful and helps me see where to make alterations. I've looked at my block so many times that the first thing I look at on commercial patterns is the armhole curve and bust dart and instantly know that it will need to be altered--on most patterns. But it didn't start out that way. In the beginning, I was told by well-meaning people, "You need a bigger FBA...a high round back have square shoulders..." None of which I needed/had. It was very confusing, almost frustrating. But the point is, it does get better, be persistent, take classes from the fitting pros, try the Saran Wrap block, keep reading, and do lots of muslins. It takes time and the reward is a much better fit in one's garments.

Looking where I am, I realize I have come so far, and still have far to go. It's been a lot of hard work, patience, and persistence.