TUTORIAL-- Gathered or Puffed Sleeves? It's All About the Seam Allowances!

Monday, May 30, 2011
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The HotPatterns Riviera AnnisetteTop is one of my favorite styles from the HotPatterns collection, and a perfect style to demonstrate how manipulating the shoulder seam allowances can change the look of a garment with a gathered sleeve.  This is a revised post of one first published here in 2009...for my newer blog followers or those who may have missed it the first time :)

Take a close look at the blue top, above. It has gathered sleeve caps that are very subtle. When you make a top, dress or blouse with sleeve cap gathers, you have a choice to make them "puffed" or simply gathered into soft folds. It's all about the direction the sleeve cap seam allowances are pressed.

When the seam allowances are pressed towards the sleeve, you have puffy sleeves like the example to the right. 

Pressing the seam allowances towards the "body" (neckline) of the garment, results in sleeve cap gathers that lay  "flatter", and present more subtle folds.  It's a small detail, but one that is usually kinder to a mature figure.

Directing the seam allowances of gathers one way or the other can make a difference in other areas of a garment. For instance, pressing the seam allowance of a gathered skirt of a dress "up" towards the bodice will encourage the gathers to lay more flat, in smooth folds. Pressing those same gathers "down" (towards the hem) , will encourage the gathers to puff-up.  It's all about the look you prefer...and now you know you have a choice :)

Sewing Notes: Yoke is interfaced with PRO-TRICOT DELUXE Fusible Interfacing from  ~FASHION SEWING SUPPLY~

MUST SEE--- Bren's Mens Shirt Fitting Series!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A Big THANK YOU going out to Bren of  Brensan Studios Patterns 
for her wonderful 7-part Men's Shirt Fitting Series on her blog...click here   This is something I have been meaning to do for ages, but Bren's husband is much more cooperative than mine ;)  The series is chock full of professional information that is rarely shared...including the fine details of fitting a mens shirt muslin and then tranferring those changes to the pattern.  Please do not forget to leave her some comments...she deserves them! This series is a gem and must have taken her many hours to photograph and share.

And...she also tells us she is busy designing a series of new SHIRT PATTERNS for MEN --- YAY! 

I have no affiliation with Bren other than being an admiring colleague...but I do highly recommend the extensive line of Women's Shirt and other Patterns she has already designed :)  Look beyond the bright prints and cottons if that isn't your thing...the "bones" of her patterns are great...and can be mixed and matched... how fabulous!

A new jacket

Tuesday, May 17, 2011
I've been thinking for a while that I'm in desperate need of a new jacket. A blazer, perhaps, or a sports coat, if you're American. Either way, I need something to wear when the dress code, or my own inclination, calls for making an effort, but a suit would be going overboard. Lunch with my parents, dinner with friends, tea with in-laws, and so forth. My beloved double-breasted blazer is, alas, rarely suitable on these occasions. It goes badly with jeans, is a little too visibly formal when paired with chinos, and looks uncomfortable (even a little caddish, or so one of my friends insists) without a tie.

The obvious, and practical, choice would be a single breasted blue blazer. Perhaps herringbone, and with horn buttons rather then brass, to tone it down a little. Of course, never one for the obvious choice, I have instead been attracted to the idea of a grey jacket in a relatively brash check. Something, I thought, a little like the one here, which I found while browsing around for ideas.

In the end, a trip to Cad and the Dandy decided me upon a rather lovely Glen check with a little blue running through it.

It's made by Dugdale and is a particularly beautiful cloth which should make me a lovely mid-weight, single-breasted, Spring/Autumn jacket. I have, with my usual impeccable planning, ordered it so that it will be ready just in time for the Summer.

101 easy ways to dress better. No. 13: The right colour shoes

Monday, May 16, 2011
I don't know why I hadn't done a post on this before. It may be because I consider it so blindingly obvious as to not be worth mentioning but it seems that is not the case, so let me reiterate: gray or blue suits must, with only a very very few exceptions, be worn with black shoes.

Is this just me being old-fashioned and dogmatic? Perhaps, if the state of men's footwear I see on the underground is anything to go by, I am hopelessly alone in this view. Nevertheless, I stand by it and believe it will remain correct long after more fleeting fashion norms have come and gone. Why? Is it simply a subjective convention, that only looks odd to my eye because of what I am used to, or is there an objective reason why brown shoes with a business suit generally looks disastrous?

My first job was working for a video production agency. My boss taught me an important rule of thumb for setting up a shot, or adding post-production effects. When looking at an image, the eye is generally drawn to the brightest or lightest object on the screen. Much the same applies when someone is looking at you. Their eyes will, even if they aren't aware of it, flick all over you and become drawn to lighter and brighter options. Hopefully these should be your tie, the part of your shirt that is visible and, perhaps, your pocket square. This draws the eye upwards, towards your face. The rest of your suit, however beautiful, serves in large part simply to frame this. What about your shoes, though? So long as your shoes are darker than your suit, or similar in shade, they won't distract the eye and pull it downwards, away from your face. If, on the other hand, you wear lighter coloured shoes with a dark suit, or simply shoes that are drastically different in shade from the rest of the suit, they will become a distraction and jar with the rest of the outfit. That, at least, is my theory for why I find it such a distasteful style.

From another point of view, brown shoes are significantly more casual than black, and so look very strange with an otherwise smart outfit. But then, perhaps brown being casual is, again, mere convention. Break the rules if you wish, you certainly won't be alone. However, there will be places where people will notice and will judge you unfavourably. Since these places will include law firms, City banks and private clubs, you may find it to your advantage to follow the convention.

Wait, though - I'm not going to leave it there. You can wear brown shoes with a grey or blue suit so long as you do so discriminately. I would suggest that at least a few, if not most, of the following conditions need to be satisfied to make this a success.

  • You are in the country or, if in town, it's a weekend (or, at the very least, a Friday)
  • Your suit is light coloured
  • Your suit is made from a soft or more casual material such as flannel
  • Your suit is plain or checked
  • Your trousers have turn-ups
  • The shoes are dark brown or, better yet, oxblood
  • The shoes have closed laces
Many well-dressed men probably instinctively know when they can get away with wearing brown shoes, and haven't even considered the above criteria. Those who are less certain might find it a useful guide. Good luck.


Saturday, May 14, 2011
Since the ban on smoking in public indoors, enjoying cigars has become a lot more difficult. Smoking is banned, ironically, even in my club's smoking room and they're not exactly the kind of thing you can nip out and have in 10 minutes with all the other smokers. Nor would you want to. Cigars should be kept for the right time and place and properly enjoyed. So, it's mostly at this time of year when I start to have them a little more frequently, as I'm more likely to end up outdoors somewhere after dinner.

The Partagas factory. Like most, this now makes a number of other brands including Romeo and Juliettas.

Cuba leads the market in cigars by a vast margin, although in fact a number of the big brands manufacture non-cuban versions on other Caribbean islands so that they can be imported into the US. Regardless of where they are made, the best cigars are hand-rolled from whole leaves. A bunch of three or four leaves scrunched and twisted together and then tightly wrapped in another leaf makes up the main body of the cigar, and it is the mix of leaves chosen that defines the flavour and is the major difference between brands. Around this rough tube, another leaf is painstakingly wrapped to create the proper shape and the smooth, even, outside of the cigar. Being able to form the correct length, width and shape for the cigar brand at this stage is the result of a training course that takes several months, with brands that feature unusual shapes, such as the torpedo, requiring particular care. Over the course of this training, hundred of cigars are produced that may be perfectly serviceable, but are not good enough to be sold. These are used to make up the part of the workers' pay that consists of three cigars a day. Others, which may be close to perfect, are sometimes smuggled out and packed in forged or stolen boxes, and it may occasionally be these that you will end up buying if you try to get a bargain by purchasing cigars on the street.

I'm not sure where the strange legend comes from that Cuban cigars are rolled on the thighs of virgins. In fact, at least in the Partagas factory, they are rolled on neat rows of wooden tables, by men and women proud of a job that is skilled, prestigious, and well-paid by local standards.

The resulting cigars are pressed, trimmed and ultimately boxed and shipped out. Cigars are boxed to try to get as little variation in colour within a box as possible, and spot checks are done to ensure that the quality and consistency remains high. It is, all in all, a remarkable process and the care that goes into a handmade cigar is reflected in the enjoyment you get from it.

Cheaper cigars are machine made, and the filler is made from chopped tobacco leaf, rather than whole leaves. Often, it is the discards from one of the hand-made cigar factories that are then bundled up and sent off to make machine-made cigars, or even the strong cuban cigarettes that, for some reason, don't seem to have caught on elsewhere.

Cigars must be stored in a humidor to keep them at their best. An even temperature and humidity is important and, while preferences vary, most people agree on something around 70F and 70% humidity. The climate of the tobacco-producing areas of Cuba is remarkably close to this for much of the year, which is probably an indicator of why it makes the best cigars in the world.

A good humidor is lined with cedar-wood, and serves the dual purpose of keeping your cigars in the best possible shape, and of looking beautiful on your desk. Most of your friends will be delighted and impressed if, very occasionally, you offer it around after dinner.

HAPPY DANCE--- FSS is back!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Our Official E-Commerce Website---> www.FahionSewingSupply.com
(for our United States Customers) 
is Back Online !

International Customers...to shop for our products, please click HERE

Mind Your Own BeesWax :)

Saturday, May 7, 2011
Oh my gosh, isn't it annoying when your once smooth cake of beeswax gets all crumbly, scarred, and difficult to use?  Well here was my poor pitiful cake of beeswax before I fixed it today---

Luckily it is fast and easy to get a cake of beeswax nice and smooth again.  First, lay a piece of baker's parchment paper or aluminum foil on top of your ironing board. Next, place your crumbling beeswax on top of the parchment paper (or foil).  Now with a hot steam iron...hold the iron above that poor pitiful crumbling wax, and give it a few good shots of steam...being careful not to actually touch the wax with your iron.

Here is my nice smooth beeswax cake after steaming. Yes, some of the wax will melt and you will lose a bit...but it sure beats running your thread through a scarred cake of wax and dealing with the crumbs !

(Oops! Did you get some wax on the bottom of your iron? Don't worry, just heat the iron and rub the sole-plate over some scrap 100% cotton fabric. The wax will melt into the fabric :)

If you think this little tip is useful, please take a moment and vote for me by clicking the black and red box (located  to the left)...thanks !

A fun Dress for a Lovely Little Girl...

Tuesday, May 3, 2011
It was so much much fun to sew this dress for my "adopted grand-daughter" Julianna, age 4.  
I modified an Ottobre Design pattern from the 01/09 issue to make this style. 
And if spring ever arrives here near Buffalo NY, she'll be able to wear it without a top and leggings !

Royal Wedding Style

Monday, May 2, 2011
Unlike most of the press, I have little interest in ladies' hats and dresses, and my interest in military uniform is limited to the jealous admiration that is the only refuge of a man who will never have a legitimate excuse to wear a sword or that much gold piping. Instead, I shall restrict myself to looking at what a well-dressed civilian male wears to a formal wedding.

Cameron, despite (or perhaps due to?) early reports that he would wear only a lounge suit, ended up being fairly well turned-out in classic morning dress including a smart double-breasted waistcoat, and a well-chosen tie. No pocket square, buttonhole or (so far as I can see from the external shots) top hat, but that's probably not surprising for a man who is desperately trying to shake off images of him in the fancy tailcoat of the Buller. Dull but appropriate, which is probably the best we could have hoped for.

Mr Clegg went for the more unusual choice of a morning suit. That is to say, a fully matching three-piece suit with a morning tailcoat. These are technically a little less formal than morning dress, and are even less common. When they are seen, they often seem to fall in to one of two categories. Either they are bespoke and beautiful; worn by men with taste and confidence in their dress. Or else they are slightly misjudged rentals. I have a nasty feeling that Mr Clegg's fell into the latter category. The coat is too large, and makes him look like a child, while the trousers pool around his ankles. Still, at least he took the time to wear a pocket square.

And what of the less naturally conservative class of public figure? David Beckham went for a slightly fashion-forward take on morning dress with some success. I'm not a fan of the wing collar, but at least the suit fits perfectly and, unlike almost anyone else, he's got a top hat. Bravo, say I.

Fit is always key, but it seems all the more important with morning dress. An outfit that should be trim and formal looks dreadful when the constituent parts hang sloppily, or the coat tails reach your calves. An ordinary shirt and tie is vital to avoid crossing the line into costume, and novelty waistcoats are acceptable only in circumstances so specific as to be not worth mentioning here.

Above all, though, if you are given the choice between wearing a suit or wearing morning dress then be bold and choose the latter. There is no shame in hiring it, so long as you do so with sense and discernment, and you will be helping to maintain a marvelous formal dress code that is perhaps second only to evening dress for making you look your best. It is also probably the only way we civilians can ever compete with those soldiers and their swords and sashes.

TUTORIAL-- Smooth Sleeve Caps Every Time!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

One of the goals of every Shirt-Maker is to achieve perfectly smooth sleeve caps. I am quite pleased with this one...the join between cap and shoulder is so smooth it is almost invisible despite being felled (of course the perfectly matching thread and fabric print helps...but even so :)  

When I draft my own patterns I draft the sleeve with minimal ease or no ease at all, depending on the style of the shirt. So on my custom drafts, I have little problem getting my caps nice and smooth.  However, the shirt above was made with a vintage vogue pattern...and the sleeve had considerable cap ease.  But regardless of the amount of ease I have to deal with, I always prepare the cap and its seam allowances in the following very simple way in order to make felling (or serging) the seam a happy experience!

Below is a photo of the sleeve (on top) just after it was set into the armscye--
You can easily see the wavy ease in the sleeve cap seam allowance.  
*In this and the photos that follow, the sleeve is always shown on top.*

Have you ever sewn a shirt sleeve, eased it perfectly, yet ended up with a slight  "bubble" or "dip" on the sleeve (just below the shoulder seam) of your finished shirt?  That is because the ease extends at least an inch into the sleeve itself, beyond just the allowances. 

Luckily, the fix is an easy one!
We just need to "steam shrink and flatten" the sleeve seam allowance and sleeve cap ease.  I do this by steam-pressing along the entire sewn sleeve seam allowance. The tip of my iron leads the way, but I let 1/2 the width of the iron's sole plate follow behind to finish the job as I go along. This both shrinks the ease and flattens the entire cap at the same time.  We would never do this when tailoring a jacket, but in my opinion it is essential when tailoring a shirt.

And below you see the nicely flattened seam allowances and nearby sleeve cap--
The fold you see is not excess ease, it is the fold that naturally forms on the wrong side of the shirt because a rounded (convex curve) sleeve cap has been sewn to a scooped (concave curve) armsyce.

So now the flat and even sleeve seam allowances are easily manageable and ready to be felled (as I do in my higher-priced casual shirts), or "Serged then Topstitched" (as I do in my lower-priced casual shirts).