Friday, November 15, 2013

Original Piece: swim suit

Original pieces for me almost always begin with a drawing. A friend of mine was complaining about how swimsuits she liked didn't fit her, and the rest she didn't like, and I thought about it the next time I was drawing in my sketchbook. A majority of my projects start off as a nagging curiosity that I draw to solve in my mind. From there I become curious about what the pattern might look like.
It is always a challenge switching between 2nd and 3rd dimensions in designing a pattern. For me, it is advisable to make smaller scale prototypes out of paper or similar-grade scrap fabric to see how things might go together. Although I do not have much use for pre-made patterns, because my interest is in making a one-of-a-kind piece tailored to a single person's figure, they can be helpful in solving some of the problems that come up in the design process. It is better for me to get an article of clothing from the person I am sewing for, that they already like the fit of, which I can reference as I go, along with the classic measurements (bust, waist, hips, etc.).

Once I have decided on, and drawn the pattern shapes, I cut them out of paper, and cut them out of the fabric I am going to use. Two kinds of fabric in a piece can be tricky, especially when they have different gives, strengths, knits, etc. In the midriff of this swimsuit for instance, I used a very sheer almost fishnet fabric, which had to be doubled-up in places to have the strength to hold an elastic running down the length of the torso, sandwiched between a relatively taut top and bottom, so I had to make some adjustments for the two to work together. From there, I did a lot of pinning and looking.

With just the very basic structural stitching done to hold the suit together, it was time for an initial try-on. Ideally, it would be great if the garment fit at this stage, but there are always little adjustments to be made. In this case, my design needed an extra strap across the back so that the swimsuit hugged into my friends torso region, otherwise the sides went straight up and down from hips to bust. Outside of that, and some strap length adjustments, it seemed that I had estimated pretty well. We were both excited about how it had turned out.

After putting in the single strap across the back, and reinforcing seams, we met again to stage a celebratory photo shoot on the roof of a building nearby. My friend has tested it in the ocean, and pools, and though it seems that the mesh has been discolored somewhat and has slackened, the garment has held. I have since made a repair on the swimsuit, reinforcing one of the fastener hooks which broke, and tightening up the mesh panel so that it lay flatter on the torso (more benefits of having the designer/maker in the same city as you). Well there it is, and here are a few more images of the suit from our rooftop photo-shoot.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Alteration: Vera Wang dress


Got a call from an acquaintance who needed this gorgeous dress hemmed in a few days. She came by and we measured and pinned (Fig.1). In the future, I will insist that whoever needs a hem also bring the shoes they are going to wear for the event. Our estimate turned out fine, but would have been better with the exact heel-height.

Before hemming, I spent some time looking at the seams of the dress and discovered that there would have to be some pre-sewing before I could get to the hems of which there were three. On either side seam, the sheer outer shell of the dress was sewn into the body of it a few inches below the new hemline (Fig2). To preserve the look of the garment, I had to rip a few inches into those seams (Fig.3) and resew them freeing-up the sheer outer shell (Fig.4)




In an effort to simplify the process, I came up with this sort of rig which allowed the dress to hang just to the left of my machine (Fig.5). This way I figured I could work on the hems without even having to completely remove the protective plastic, and without having to move a bunch of this delicate fabric around. To me, sewing is as much about planning and making things easier to accomplish, than it is about the act itself. Often, mistakes happen when good sewing is done out of order, or without adequate forethought.
       My next step was to sew a zigzag stitch around each of the three layers of fabric at exactly five inches from the original hem. To accomplish this, I actually marked on my machine where the 5" was (Fig.6), and went around each part of the new dress hem. This way, I would get a nice smooth even stitch, and the edges would stay together, with minimal fraying, while I sewed the fold around the bottom of each.

After I had made the zig-zag stitches around each of the skirt parts of the dress, I took my trusty sharp shears, and cut just below the new stitches about an 1/8" of an inch (Fig.7). From there, all that was left to do was to pin the fold around each hem, with the zig-zag stitch hidden neatly inside, giving added strength to the eventual single stitch that would hold each hem in place.

Unfortunately, my customer was pressed for time when she picked up her altered gown, so I don't have final pictures. Via text, I was told it was great but a little short. This is why shoes MUST be worn at a fitting of this kind. The learning never stops.

Friday, November 1, 2013

A diy sewing blog

Okay my privileged class of humans... time to start making your own things again. You should no longer wear any or as many of the things that are made on the other side of the planet by people who are overworked in terrible conditions to the point of jumping off the roof of their respective factories. 
Luckily enough learning to make your own things can be rewarding in an endless number of ways. Not only do the things you make or alter yourself become unmistakably yours, but they (ideally) fit you (your bf or gf brother sister acquaintance stranger) better than any clothing retailer would dare imagine.
The very first step in any such endeavor... is realizing that learning any new skill takes a lot of patience at first. Be kind to yourself when undertaking things for the first time, or you will never enjoy them. Emphasize discovery over mistake. You WILL waste thread fabric and time, but there will also be moments of sewing glory, which you are encouraged to bask in.

I am also for hire. If you live in the New Orleans, and need clothing made or altered, I can do it for you for a reasonable fee. If you are a fellow disciple of the threaded arts, get in touch. Finally, I want to say that though I have been sewing for over a decade here and there, I STILL don't really have a clue as to what I am doing, and in that the title "seamstar" is somewhat tongue in cheek. Have fun, measure twice, and try whatever you are curious about.