Saturday, 30 July 2011

Inside A Ready To Wear Dress - Part 2

This is the second part of my look inside a ready to wear dress.  My aim is mainly to see exactly how they make them look so neat.  What, if anything, I can do to make my dresses look "shop-bought" (in a good way).

In part 1 I looked at an H&M dress costing around £30.  Here I look at a more high-end dress from Hobbs.  I bought this a couple of years ago.  I can't remember the exact price but, being Hobbs, it was over £100 and probably more like £150.   These were the best pictures I could do of the dress. Being black it is difficult to make out so you may have to rely on my descriptions later on!

Front view

Back view

Back view - Inside Out

Inside View - Back Vent

Shoulder seams - Inside Out

Back View - Princess Seams Dart At Hip Area

The dress is made of 100% wool and the lining 100% polyester.   The dress fabric is soft and drapey.  It has an unusual weave which runs diagnally.  I'm not sure if it is cut on the bias but this is what is looks like.  The lining is also lovely and soft, softer than the lining in the H&M dress.

The side seams are trimmed to about 0.75 cm, pressed open flat and the ends serged.   The armholes have a sewn-on (not iron-on) strip of grey, fairly stiff, interfacing about 1.5 cm wide along the edge of the wrong side of the dress.  It is stitched to the dress and lining fabric at the stitching line.  The seam is trimmed to about 0.5 cm.  There is another line of stitching around 0.25 cm from the seam line, along the seam allowance stitching only the dress and interfacing (not the lining).  About halfway down the armhole from the top there is another line of stitching in between, down to the side seams.  (I've just noticed having turned it inside out that this stitching is underlining - ie stitching the dress seam to the lining very close to the edge to prevent the lining rolling to the front.  The underlining continues all around the neckline as well).  I'm guessing these extra rows are there to ensure the facing strip stays put and maybe also to act as a stay stitch.  (See correction above).  As the interfacing is not iron-on, the 1cm or so of the strip flaps but you'd never guess from the right side once it is turned through with the lining.

The shoulder seams are narrow on the dress.   The interfacing strip carries on all around the armholes and appears at the shoulder seams.  It is the same 1.5 cm width, non-iron on and flappy (to use a technical phrase) as described above.   The dress material is trimmed to around 0.5 cm and finished with a single row of straight stitching (rather than serged or zig-zagged or unfinished as is often the case where there is a lining or facing).  The lining is not attached to the dress and interfacing at the shoulder seams.  The shoulder seams on the lining appear to have been stitched before being joined to the dress at the armhole and neckline.  The shoulder seams on the lining are trimmed to around 0.5 cm and both seams pressed to the back.   All the lining seams are unfinished (except the centre back - see below).

The zip stop is around 2 to 3 mm from the top edge of the dress.  The back of the neckline down to the centre back has the same interfacing strip as described above on the wrong side of the dress fabric.  The centre back of the dress from the top of the zip down to the back vent has an iron-on black interfacing.  The zipper tape is sandwiched between the lining and the dress fabric The edge of the dress fabric and the edge of the lining are serged at the centre back.  The lining is trimmed to just over 1 cm and dress fabric is trimmed to around 1 mm bigger than the edge of the zipper tape.   The centre back seam (incorporating the lining, the zipper tape and the dress fabric) is all folded towards the back before the seams at the neckline are stitched.  As with the armhole seams the neckline seams are trimmed to around 0.5 cm and are unfinished.

I think next time I do a zip I will have a ready to wear version inside out all ready to mimic.

A surprising touch is the same strip of interfacing on the lower edges of the princess seams at the front - around where the hip area is.  Sorry - just checked the front - it's not a princess seam - it's a dart that starts at the bust point and ends at the side seam just below the waist.  The dart is trimmed to around 0.5 cm and serged.  I'm intrigued by the interfacing here.  They could easily have left this out - especially in a lined dress.  I wonder if it's to give the seam some structure  so it sits towards the side seam at the hip rather than flopping down?  Not sure but I like the detail.

I'm not going to attempt to explain the lined back vent except to say that it looks wonderful.   I'll have to remember to have this dress to hand when I come to tackle something like this.  I can imagine that pattern instructions will be terrible on something like this and a test piece will be a great idea.

All in all there are some interesting comparisons between the methods used in the lower end ready to wear dress and the higher-end one.  However both are finished extremely well and the methods in either can be easily incorporated into home sewn garments!

I'm working on my third t-shirt at present so I'll be working on this later on today.

Happy sewing.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Burda T-Shirt

I have just finished a white T-shirt.  Here are the photos:

I used pattern number 120 from the June 2011 issue of Burda.   I looked for some stretchy velour fabric like the one in the Burda picture but couldn't find any.  I used an ivory cotton jersey, a slightly off-white colour.  I thought the jersey was too thin so I underlined the front and back pieces with another layer of the same fabric.   The jersey rolled up at every cut edge so this made underlining and hemming fiddly.

The top has a zip and an interfaced facing so it is more of a top than a t-shirt.

As usual I had a few mishaps along the way. I attached the back facings to the front facings the wrong way around and only noticed when I attached it to the neckline. I was tempted for about 2 seconds to leave it but it looked totally wrong.  I also noticed the back facing seemed to be too small so I cut them out again.  I attached them the right way and the facings were still too small. If I make the top again I think I will leave cutting out the facings until I have the top constructed so I can fit the facing pieces on the actual top and adjust accordingly.

I then attached the facing and topstitched the neckline 3 cm from the neck edge like the pattern recommends.  This was so difficult to do in this fabric.  It kept puckering up and the finished result was awful. I unpicked the topstitching and the facing and started again.  This time it was much better, and I top-stitched 2.5 cm from the neck edge.  

This was also my first time using Vilene bias tape.  I've come across this in Burda patterns before and ignored it as I wasn't sure what it was.  I couldn't find anything on-line about it.  My Vogue sewing book had a section on it - essentially it is to strengthen areas that stretch a lot.  You simply iron it onto the wrong side of the fabric on areas such as the arm holes and shoulders. You have to stitch through it so make sure you iron it over your stitching line.  It's like iron-on interfacing but much finer.  It's great stuff and makes the fabric really easy to sew.  My sleeves are a single layer of this very thin jersey fabric.  I had real problems sewing the sleeve seam and so I put some of this tape on the seam and had no more problems.

I'm wearing my top with my Jade crescent skirt.  Excuse the creases in it - I had a 4 hour car journey in it today and then I've been sewing in it.

I also made a muslin for this top and the only alteration I made was to lengthen the top by 1 inch.

I now have some stretchy white velour fabric so  I am going to make the pattern again.  I hope I'll have an easier ride this time without curling edges and fiddly underlining.  I won't be underlining jersey with jersey fabric again.  It's way too fiddly and the result isn't terribly comfortable.

Happy sewing.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Inside A Ready to Wear Dress - Part 1

I have not yet ventured into making clothes for work.  The dress code for work is a suit and so I wear them a lot and in particular shift dresses.  My shift dresses range from H&M £30 numbers to more upmarket £100 plus numbers from Jaegar or Hobbs.  They are good quality, even the H&M ones.  They set a high benchmark and I feel that I can't start making clothes for work until I can produce something of a similar standard.  There will come a time when I will want to try something that I can wear for work.  I thought I would look inside two of my dresses to see how they are finished.

I will divide this post into two parts.  Look out for part 2 which I will post at a later date.

First up is a dress from H&M costing around £30.  

What a bargain for £30!  A well made dress, with nice fabric and some neat design details like the waistband and the faux-pockets.   I'm no expert on clothing manufacturing but my lay person's guess is that these extra details add to the cost of the construction process.  More things to do.   It's amazing that we can pick up something of this quality so cheaply.   I realise there are ethical issues as to why we can pick up these things so cheaply but I'm not going to explore them here.  

The dress fabric is 64% polyester, 34% viscose and 2% elastane.  The lining is 100% polyester.  

Here are the back views and what it looks like inside out.  

The dress is nicely finished on the inside.   There are front and back facings, which extend down to the side seams.  This is an interesting detail.  As home sewers we're used to neckline facings only.  There's nothing to stop us from tracing out the entire top of a dress and using that as a facing instead.  

Another interesting detail is the white line on the back facing.  This is in fact a piping made of white lining material (with no filling in the piping).  It seems to be purely decorative sewn with attractive white running stitch in a thicker embroidery thread. 

On the other side of the facing, instead of white interfacing, there's a soft black fabric.  It looks too soft and nice for an iron-on interfacing but from what I can make out (see further below) it is iron-on.   The same interfacing is used on the other side of the waistband.  The lining is attached to the lower edge of the facing, the layers trimmed to around 9 mm, serged and the edge pressed up.  I don't know how it manages to stay pressed up but it does.  

The side seams are trimmed to about 8 mm and pressed open and the raw edges finished with a serger.

Here are some close ups of the zipper area inside out.

I think the mark of good ready to wear is the neat finishing on bulky seams and crisp, sharp corners.  How do they do this? (By the way that black interfacing does seem to be iron-on.  This is apparent from an unbound edge on the inside near the top of the zip).   This is what I can make out:

1.  The back neck edge between the shoulder seam and the zipper - these edges are left raw (not bound or serged) and are trimmed right down to around 4 to 5 mm.  The interfacing is layered (trimmed to around 2 mm from the zipper edge) for about 1 inch, tapering out.  (Collette Patterns do this on their invisible zip tutorial).  

2.  The centre back seam edge at the top of the zip is folded towards the back of the dress before stitching the shoulder seam.  Collette Patterns do this, as did Tasia on her Crescent skirt zipper.  

3.  There is a strip of the black interfacing on the wrong side of the dress at the edge starting from the top of the centre back next to the zipper up to the shoulder seam.  This is ironed on before the neck edge seam is stitched as the stitches run through the strip.

4.  The shoulder seam is also unfinished (not bound or serged) and trimmed to around 1 cm.  

5.  It's difficult to work out how the armhole is finished.   My best guess is: the armhole facings are stitched to the dress, pressed towards the facing, the seam is understitched to the facing,  the seam edge is again not finished (not bound or serged) and trimmed down to around 4 mm. The wrong side of the dress armhole edge is reinforced like this: a very narrow band of twill tape is stitched to the right side of a strip of the iron on black interfacing.  Before construction of the dress that strip is ironed on to the wrong side of the dress at the armhole edge.  When stitching the facing and armhole edge together, that stitching runs through the  interfacing strip and so the twill tape lies under the stitching (ie the opposite side to where Tasia puts the twill tape in her Crescent skirt sew along).  If you imagine the twill tape was sewn to the dress (instead of just being sewn to the interfacing as mentioned above) then the stitching would show through on the front of the dress. It doesn't as it is in fact just stitched onto the interfacing strip. 

I was at first surprised to see the shoulder and neckline edges unfinished but there was no reason to be.  I remembered that even with home sewing, if the seam is enclosed in the facing there is no need to finish it.  It wasn't a complete surprise to see how far down some of the edges are trimmed - 2mm in some cases or 4 mm.  This does seem to be the key for clean, flat edges, particularly where are are lots of layers and a thick fabric.  

I have been meaning to analyse a ready to wear dress for ages.  I decided the only way I would get around to doing this is to write about it.   Conclusions?   There are some interesting tips and tricks that I may or may not use myself.  I has been a useful learning exercise to try and work out what they have done. It has also taken some of the mystery out of the neat finishing on ready to wear.  

What else is happening?  My Lonsdale dress from Sewaholic has arrived.  I will follow the sew along posts before starting my dress.  I realise it will be nearer October by the time I finish my dress.  The weather has been so dismal recently that it is difficult to imagine decent weather breaking through.  I haven't even had a chance to wear my Crescent skirts yet.  

I'm making a Burda t-shirt at the moment.  I am underlining it with another layer of the t-shirt fabric as I thought it wasn't thick enough.  I have no idea how this will work out.  It is a bit of a pain basting the underlining pieces together.  I have one more piece to do before I can start the sewing!

Happy sewing.  

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Blue Polka Dot Crescent Skirt

I've now finished my third Crescent Skirt!  Here are the pictures.

Being number three, there's not too much I can say that hasn't been said already. I didn't need to follow the sew along instructions and I just had to refer to the (excellent) pattern instructions.   This is again a size 12 and the only alteration was the skirt length - I added about an inch.  I did French seams again, and interfaced only the skirt facings.

I have started a new method of sewing waistbands and hems.  Nothing fancy, but I now sew these parts one section at a time, tie off and then start the next section.  About four parts in all. This was something our needlework teacher in school told us to do.  The reason is simple.  If it comes apart the whole lot won't unravel at once.  This isn't the only benefit.  I've found this a more methodical approach and much easier to manage in small sections. I recently read somewhere (on a blog, I can't remember where) that someone's grandmother used to tell her to do this, saying it was lazy just to use one long piece of thread.   Grandmothers know what they're talking about!

I made the same mistake as last time and sewed the waistband the wrong way so the point was facing up!  Luckily my new method of sewing in sections meant I noticed this after the first quarter was sewn so I only had a small section to undo!  Another advantage!

After my green polka dot Crescent (I keep typing Pendrell instead of Crescent!) I fancied a blue polka dot one.  The actual dots are smaller than I would have liked but this was the only one in this shade of blue.  I love the fun nature of the print and the skirt.  That's the great thing about making your own, you can use fun prints that you wouldn't normally see in the shops.

We're now in mid July and bar last weekend we haven't had a lot of sunny days so far this summer.  I'm sure there will be some on the way so I now have three Crescent skirts to wear! I am now short of tops to wear with them.  I have been wearing the same white top with this skirt.   My next project is a t-shirt so I'm trying to close the gap.

This is the first time I have repeated a pattern.  I have to say it does get easier.  In fact I'm not really looking forward to starting another one from scratch again.  I've got used to just reaching for my  Crescent pattern lately.

Happy sewing.

Friday, 1 July 2011

My Fabric Friday for July

It's the first Friday of the month again and so time to update my Fabric Friday challenge.   This is where I wear a hand stitched item to work on Dress Down Friday which happens once a month.  Here's what I wore today.

This is my beach top worn with jeans and a stripey vest which is how I always wear this top in fact.  I speculated in May's Fabric Friday update that we would be in the midst of summer by now.   Well it doesn't exactly feel like it at the moment.  We had lovely weather on Sunday and Monday but it's been fairly cold the rest of the week.   This outfit was fine inside the office today which is a bit like a greenhouse when the sun gets on it.  I was a bit chilly when I went out at lunchtime.  It was really comfortable though and I enjoyed wearing this today.

I can see a pattern emerging here - I reach for my jeans a lot on these days!  Not a problem - I like jeans.  I just need to sew more tops to wear with them.   One of the reasons I like this top is it's white.  I find a white top instantly gives most outfits a lift.  I may be sewing more white tops in the future.

I've had a really hard week.  I had a deadline on Thursday which took me away from home for two nights staying in a hotel.  It was only supposed to be one night but turned into two.  I only had one change of clothes so had to wear the same clothes on the second day!   I got back at around 1am last night.  Like a clock watcher I left at 5 pm on the dot today!  This will be the first time in three weeks I haven't had to work on a Saturday!

I'm sewing my third Crescent skirt at the moment.  I wasn't able to do anything on the skirt this week.  I'm glad I managed to cut out the pieces last Sunday.  This means I can get started with the fun parts later on today.

I just love weekends but who doesn't?  No matter how hard your week there's always a Friday night and a weekend to cheer you up.

Happy sewing.