Wednesday, 24 September 2014

The Transforming Tank: Part Three

I've been blogging about a simple tank top that I have been making and re-making while changing only one or two design elements at a time.  This time, I've added a cute flounce to the hem of the tank, which I've finished using the rolled hem setting on my serger.

I made this version of the tank with a light-weight charcoal grey fabric that I had in my large fabric pile.  I am very pleased at the outcome and I am excited to wear this tank with a sweater or a light jacket, paired with leggings and boots. 

I've yet to make any changes to the type of closure at the center back (it's still a fabric loop and single button) so there is a possibility that adding a placket with more buttons and button holes could be among my next changes to the tank.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Fun Pencil Case with Hello Kitty Appliqué

When I was first learning to sew, I liked to make pencil cases and clutches, mainly as a way to practice sewing zippers.  My pencil case is simply a rectangle that measures approximately 7" x 4.5" I used a plain black brushed cotton for the exterior and a fun silver quilted fabric for the interior.  Prior to sewing the interior and exterior layers together, I applied my iron-on Hello Kitty appliqué that I had purchased in a pack from H&M in the kids section.

Sewing these little bags are a good way to practice inserting zipper and an excellent way to use up spare fabric.  They also make excellent gifts because they can have many functions other than a pencil case, such as a clutch or a make-up bag.  A pouch this size also fits nicely inside a larger purse.  

Monday, 22 September 2014

The Transforming Tank: Part Two

Since making the original muslin of the tank (See The Transforming Tank: Part One), I decided to make only a slight modification by adding a little bit of fullness to the top.  Previously the tank was somewhat snug in the hip area, and since I always prefer my clothes on the loose side, rather than on the fitted side, I choose to add a tiny bit of flare.  I didn't want to make a modification that was too drastic in this instance, so I added half an inch of flare to the centre front and half an inch to the centre back (I am working with a flat pattern).  It is a pattern drafting rule of thumb, that whatever flare you add to the centre front or centre back, you must add half that amount to the side seam; therefore I added 1/4" of flare to the sides of the front and back pattern (the centre front is cut on the fold and the centre back seam remains unchanged). 

I've had a few meters of a particular fabric for a while that I really love but just couldn't commit to using for any specific garment - a soft cotton print with what looks like blue paint splatters dripping all over it.  I finally decided to use the fabric in question for this project because since the tank is still in its simplistic stages, the design of the fabric would really be the focal point of this garment, rather than some other complicated design element.  I had to cut the fabric cross-grain in order to achieve the effect that most of the paint and the darker drips were at the bottom of the tank. 

So far I have also left the fabric loop and single button closure the same.  In the future, I envision perhaps adding a placket with button holes for my buttons.

I was really pleased with how the Part Two tank turned out, and as much as I wanted to keep it for myself, I am giving it as a "thank you" to my friend Sonja who was kind enough to share her Airmiles with me this past May when we went together to the Jane Davenport Mermalicious workshop at the Donna Downey studio in North Carolina.  Sonja also deserves this tank (and probably much more) for keeping me calm during take offs and landings and when the boisterous fellow, who sat across the aisle from us on our return flight, thought he was too cool to sit down each time the seatbelt light came on.



Friday, 19 September 2014

The Transforming Tank: Part One

I decided to try an experiment where I start with a basic design and then keep re-making it and re-inventing it by changing only a few design elements at a time.  So I made this basic sleeveless tank with a side bust dart out of muslin as the starting point.  It has a basic neckline and the length falls to the hip when it's on the body.  The closure in the back is very simple with a single button and fabric loop.  I am excited to see how this tank will transform over time.



Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Six Button Skirt

It's no secret that I love buttons, so I decided to sketch a skirt that featured six large buttons as the focal design element.

I always get excited during autumn for all of the great fall fabrics that make an appearance.  I decided to go with a caramel brown wool for this pattern.  What I love most about this textile are the metallic flecks throughout (I also bought a few meter of the same fabric in black, because I have an admitted fabric obsession). 

I also had a lot of fun shopping for the 1" buttons (as a side note, 1" is the largest size button hole that my domestic machine can make).  I think I may have spent over an hour holding up various styles and colours of buttons up to my fabric of choice.

I'm so glad that the weather is turning cooler so that I can wear my six button skirt.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

McCall's 2447: Cute Bow Tie!

I purchased McCall's 2447 pattern specifically for the bow tie pattern.  The pattern is listen under the men's section on McCall's website because it includes a man's vest and a tie, but obviously the tie and the bow tie can be worn by both men and women as it is adjustable.

I like making bow ties because they are fun and fast - I'm usually able to sew one up in under an hour.  Also, I'm all about creative ways for using up the huge pile of scrap fabrics that I've begun to accumulate.

I haven't yet worked up the courage to sew an actual tie, but I would like to try it at least once.  If and when I do, I will of course post a picture.  Meanwhile, here are some pictures of various bow ties that I've made.

Monday, 15 September 2014

The Business of Bridesmaids

Since I started doing custom sewing jobs, much of my revenue has come from making bridesmaid dresses.  These days, there are lots of brides who are looking to make their weddings unique.  More and more, we are seeing that the cookie-cutter bridesmaid look is a thing of the past.  Many brides like to showcase the individuality of their bridesmaids by having them wear a dresses of different styles and colors.  I had a personal experience with this trend of mixed and matched bridesmaids when I was commissioned to create six different dresses from six different fabrics and prints for one unique wedding.

At first I was skeptical that all of the dresses would "go" together, but the brides had a vision.  With a summer outdoor wedding, the dresses were fun and bright and each bridesmaid was able to wear a dress that she felt comfortable in and that was specially created with her input.  All of the bridesmaids participated in the design process by selecting a silhouette that they knew would look great on them, and most of the bridesmaids (with guidance from myself and the bride of course) took part in selecting the fabric for their dress.  It was a fun experience for everyone involved and I think that the brides vision really came to life on her wedding day.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Share Your Passion for Sewing

I've found that good things happen when I share my passion for sewing with others.  Just talking about the things that I've been making, or showing some pictures on my smart phone, has led to some really amazing opportunities.

Most recently, I was really excited to have a lady I know from my church contact me because an acquaintance of hers is in the middle of moving houses.  This woman was looking to give away a ton of patterns.  Since I am pattern hoarder, I jumped at the opportunity, and I'm so glad I did.  I received a large bag filled with patterns from Vogue, Simplicity, Butterick, Burda and even some pattern companies I've never heard of before.  There were at least thirty or more patterns in this bag and it was like Christmas.  Many of the patterns have not even been used and they are all vintage.  I love looking at vintage patterns because it is truly like getting a lesson in fashion history.  In this collection, there are some great patterns that I plan on making as is, and there are some others that I think would be great to adapt and modernize.  Either way, I'm so excited to start making some new clothes from these old patterns.

Whether your passion is sewing or knitting or illustrating or something else, I recommend sharing your passion as much as possible.  There are so many pleasant and unexpected ways that people will help grow and nurture your dreams if you are willing to put yourself out there.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Plaid Cowl with Lion Buttons

I designed this four-button cowl as another way to use up excess fabric and buttons that have been hanging around for a while in my sewing room.

The cotton, plaid print was purchased from one of my favorite fabric stores in Toronto called, Downtown Fabrics.  The man who owns and runs the shop, Daniel, is probably the friendliest fabric purveyor that you will ever meet. 

Likewise, the buttons were also purchased in Toronto at a store that specialises in buttons.  Although the shop is called Fabric and Buttons, the name is misleading because I have never seen any fabric for sale in this shop, ever.  Only buttons.  Once I took my cousin, Stewart, shopping with my at the button store, and he joked about the button store owners having to take monthly inventory of their stock.  That would truly be a feat, seeing as they have just about any size, shape and colour of button that you could possibly imagine.

Both stores, Downtown Fabric and Fabric and Buttons, are located in the heart of Toronto Fashion District at Queen and Spadina.   There are also many other great fabric and notion stores to visit in the area.

My lion-head button cowl, and others like it, are currently available for sale in my Etsy shop.  Click here to view my shop:  CousteauByCare

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Make a Muslin

Fit is one of the most important elements in apparel making.  Having a garment that fits well makes all of the difference when it comes to the final appearance of that garment on the body.  This is why it is extremely important to make a muslin, also known as a sample garment, for fitting before you go ahead and cut out the actual fabric that you will be using to sew your garment.

The word muslin refers to the type of plain, unbleached cotton fabric that sample garments are usually made from, but in fashion design, it is is also used as a term to describe the sample garment as a whole.  In the photograph to the right, you can see a muslin that I made using lightweight cotton.  This design was a top and a skirt I was making for a friend of the family whose granddaughter was getting married this past summer.

When making a muslin, it is important to select a weight of fabric that closely matches the weight of the actual fabric that you will be using for the garment.  If you are making a muslin for a garment that will be made of stretch fabric (knit construction as opposed to woven construction), then it is important to make your muslin sample from fabric that has a stretch that matches the stretch of your actual fabric.

One benefit to making  muslin, is that you can make any adjustment you need to make by pinning and marking your muslin fabric.  Those markings can then be transferred to your pattern before you go ahead and cut out your actual fabric.  I always feel a much higher level of comfort cutting out my good, sometimes expensive, fabric when I already know, thanks to a having done a muslin, that everything is going to fit perfectly.

It may seem like a lot more work to make a muslin, like you are making a garment twice, however if any serious issues arise with your pattern, you will save yourself a lot of time and money by figuring it out during the muslin stage of the construction process.   Plus, the more you make muslins, the quicker you will get at making them too. Muslins do not have to be finished on the inside and some elements, such as cuffs and hems, only need to be pressed or pinned in place.

If you want to take your sewing to the next level, executing perfect fit all the time, then you should definitely get in the habit of making muslins. 

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Simplicity 1917: In Several Different Fabrics

Aztec Print
Simplicity 1917 is a skirt pattern with four different views.  I chose to make view B using a floral print stretch denim.  The pattern was easy to follow and I was able to make the entire skirt in approximately three hours. 

I got some great feedback when I first wore this skirt to work.  Therefore, I decided to make the skirt again in two additional fabrics.  I usually like to pair the skirts I've made with a simple black or white t-shirt and then accessorize with a long necklace or a statement ring.

Indigo Tie-Dye Print

I would definitely make this pattern again in the future and I would like to try some of the other views, especially view C, which has the skirt divided into three different color-blocked sections.

Simplicity 1917 (view B) in Rose Print Stretch Denim

Friday, 5 September 2014

A Great Sewing Guide by Singer

Years ago, when I first started sewing, somebody recommended a manual to me called The Complete Photo Guide to Sewing.  The guide is produced by Singer and the step by step instructions covering a wide variety of sewing techniques have saved me on more than one occasion.  In particular, I have made very good use of the sections covering kick pleats and mitered corners.  I also recall following the lesson on lapped zippers and looking up the various different ways to finish a seam.  From time to time, I just like to take out the book and flip through the pages.  The edition of the guide that I purchased all those years ago contains at least 1100 full-color photos. 

I was curious to see if this guide was available for sale on Amazon, and discovered that it is.  And not only that but it has been revised to include even more sewing tips and quite a few more color photos. 

In the past, I've looked at sewing guides that contained only black and white photos, or sketches, and I definitely feel that color photos are an asset - they make it much easier to distinguish and interpret what is being described.

If you are interested in purchasing Singer's The Complete Photo Guide to Sewing, I'm sure that you could order it through you local bookstore, like I did, or you can click here to purchase it through Amazon:  The Complete Photo Guide to Sewing

This is the edition that I own
This is the newer, expanded edition - available for sale on Amazon

Monday, 1 September 2014

Seneca College Fashion Collection

One of the best things about studying fashion design at college, was that in our third and final year we were tasked with creating a mini-collection for a year-end fashion show.

My collection was inspired by the 1990's cult classic movie, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.  For my collection, I imagined what the terminator would have worn if he had of been a woman instead of a man.  In order to invoke a robotic feeling that is so seminal to the Terminator movies, I used a lot of shiny and metallic fabrics throughout designs.  Reminiscent of the movie poster for Terminator 2, I had all of my models sport sunglasses as they walked the catwalk.

Creating a collection was a lot of work, but it was worth the effort to see designs that I had sketched, pattern-drafted and sewed on the runway.  It was definitely one of the proudest moments in my fashion career to date.