Fit: The Final Frontier

Sometimes, it feels as if fit is the Final Frontier; just beyond our reach; an ever-elusive goal; the missing link. You get the idea. No matter how many techniques we master, no matter how meticulous our sewing, for those of us who persist in making garments for ourselves, none of this does us any good if the fit isnā€™t right. Or if the garment doesnā€™t flatter our bodies. (The ones we have now, not the ones that persist in our heads!) Lots of books, workshops and instructors promise to give us the perfect fit, but Iā€™ve never felt that any of them got me where I needed to be. Then I took some online classes from Sarah Veblen and found that what she wrote in her class materials made sense to me. Many emails, phone calls and hours of planning later, Sarah came to Chicago and gave a combination lecture/workshop that represents a turning point for all of us who participated.

Sarah’s approach to fit is set out in her first book, The Complete Photo Guide to to Perfect Fitting, which stands out from all the other fitting books on the market. It’s not just that it’s comprehensive.Ā  It’s not just that it’s written in Sarah’s clear, thorough and understandable style. It’s not just that it has so many photographs that show you exactly what she is talking about. It’s that it introduces you to the concept of the fitting matrix, formed by the center front or center back and a horizontal balance line. From there, the muslin (and the body inside the muslin) can be divided visually into quadrants to achieve balance and proportion. For example, a skirt hem can be brought parallel to the floor if a horizontal balance line drawn below the widest part of the body is brought parallel to the floor by adjusting the waist.Ā 

Sarah is a truly gifted teacher. In her workshop, she taught us to “take charge of the pattern” to make it do what we need it to do. She taught us how to use a Fashion Ruler properly to get a smooth transition from altered seamlines to original seamlines. She gave us lessons in the basics of patternmaking that are needed to understand how to translate the contours of our bodies to a flat pattern. And, unlike many instructors, she taught us exactly how to transfer the pinned alterations on the muslin back to the paper pattern and walk the adjoining seamlines to make sure the revised pattern will go together as it should. The work was intense. For me, it took a lot of concentration and was frustrating at times. But it was well worth it.

Like most of my fellow participants, I thought the muslin I prepared before the workshop fit pretty well. It did fit better than just about everything I’ve made in the past couple of years, but that’s not saying much. What I ended up with made me feel better in clothes than I’ve felt in years.

Some participants have already finished their first garments from their new and improved patterns.

Others are still works in progress (but let’s not name names). As I work on my two-piece princess seam dress, the optimism is still there. That’s a feeling I haven’t had after any other fit workshop. Thank you, Sarah.

Details Take Center Stage

ASG Chicago’s talented fashion show coordinator Jeanette Bussard’s “Larger Than Life” raincoat is featured in the Reader’s Closet section of Threads Magazine this month. She chose the name because of the bold details that give this coat the power to overcome the dreariness of a rainy day.

Jeanette lengthened the Simplicity 2645 jacket pattern to three-quarter length, added patch pockets and constructed the exterior from pale lavender vinyl with a hint of sparkle. The scene-stealing exterior details include white vinyl piping, oversized covered buttons, corded buttonholes and hand-painted white grommets embellishing the pockets.

Ā 

As if that weren’t enough, Jeanette created a one-of-a-kind floral hand painted silk lining using a glue-resist method.

Jeanette also added a cotton flannel underlining to support the structure and add a bit of defense against the nip in the air that accompanies spring rain showers. Well done, Jeanette!

Tangerine Tango Quilt Challenge

Tangerine Tango Quilt Challenge logoI know, I know…you’ve barely have any of your holiday sewing finished and I’m suggesting a quilt challenge? Well, not me specifically.

a.squared.w is, though.

What is Tangerine Tango? tsk, tsk, tsk. If you don’t know, that means you haven’t been reading the color forecasts here. “Provocative Tangerine Tango, an enticing juicy orange, is a vivacious and appealing refresher to enliven anyoneā€™s outlook this spring.”

Now, I’ve heard from some of you that Tangerine Tango just doesn’t fit into your wardrobe..either you’re just not an “orange gal” or that it’s too bright for your classic wardrobe. So, why not take up the Tangerine Tango Quilt Challenge and make a cheery quilt?

If you’re a tried and true Chicago Bears fan, you could use the orange as a memorial to the season we almost and could’ve…should have! had before Cutler’s thumb injury.

Line Your Spring Coat with Tangerine Tango

Still not convinced of making a quilt because it’s too fussy? Still want to hold true to making garments? So, why not challenge yourself to add a bit of Tangerine Tango as a trim…perhaps, some piping…or be bold and use one of these tantalizing Tangerines to tango as a lining in a new spring coat.

Tangerine Tango fabrics
1. Free Spirit Designer Solid in Tango 2. TaDot Tangerine 3. Lizzy House Jewels in Orange 4. *VOILE* Solid in Tangerine 5. Alice Kennedy Orange Crush Wavy Optical Stripe Punch 6. dear Stella Meet Me at Sunset Stella Dot Orange 7. Half Moon Modern Big Zig Zag Tangerine 8. Kona Tangerine 9. Half Moon Modern Scissors Tangerine

Here’s the simplest reason to try Tangerine Tango: Winter is finally creeping up on us today with a very cold chill in the air. Maybe a little Tangerine Tango will bringing warmer thoughts until the temperature starts rising again. Follow the quilts that will be posted on the Tangerine Tango Quilt Challenge Flickr album; I’m sure that if nothing else, you’ll love seeing what others will be inspired to do with this beautiful, bright hue.

Happy Sewing! Happy Holidays!


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September 15: Make a Hat Day

Today, September 15, is Make a Hat Day! It’s also Felt Hat Day, but we’ll just focus on making any hat, whether it’s felt, cloth or another material. Hats are again back in style since Kate & William’s wedding. Have you ever made a hat?

Make a Hat Day is is a day for fun! Design, make, and wear your a hat for yourself today. Put your personality into it. Or, make a hat from a character you would like to imitate for a day.

This day is very popular with preschool, kindergarten, and grade school teachers and students. Early in the new school year, teachers look for fun and interesting projects to break up the classroom routine, or for art projects. Kids, who love arts projects by nature, can use their creativity in making a hat that fits them!

The rules for Make a Hat Day are quite simple. Just make a hat, any hat. It can be for you, or for mom or dad. Wearing the hat is optional. But, it’s half the fun.

Source: Holiday Insights

Twitter logoSpoiler Alert! #makeahatday Tweets

How can I resist a themed day of tweets? Don’t read any further if you don’t want to know what today’s tweets are. I’ll be using the hashtag #makeahatday today with links to patterns and tutorials (tutes) of various hats. Usually I re-cap the day after the themed tweet day, but since today is MAKE a hat day, I’m giving you the links today so you can make a hat today.

Map Cap
Image source:
Art Deco Society of California

Whew! that was a lot of tweets! I hope you were inspired to make a hat today. If you make a hat, send me a picture. I’d love add it to our Flickr album.

twitter-elephant Follow us on Twitter at @sewchicago. We share tips, links on the Web and from other tweeters.

Lights! Camera! Conference! ASG visits L.A. for 2011

The American Sewing Guild (ASG) held its 2011 annual conference in Los Angeles, CA, from Aug. 18-22. Among the several hundred attendees were a group from the ASG Chicago Chapter. We send a big thanks to National and the L.A. chapter for making this a fantastic conference.

For anyone who has never attended conference, imagine a few hundred ASG members in one location with classrooms, an exhibit/vendor hall, and access to fabric shopping. It’s wonderful! Even if you attended alone, there are no strangers at conference because we all have a common interest: sewing. Mary Ann R., one of the Chicago members, explained, “The conference is a way of bonding with your peers and this happened to me the moment I entered the shuttle at the airport with other ASG members. Everywhere you went, there was another ASG member with a big smile and ‘Hi!'” This statement is so true. In fact, I had a mini-reunion with some of the ASG members I meet on the April 2010 Sew Many Options tour to New York with Marsha McClintock and Marla Kazell

Conference mostly focuses on workshops and classes and this year there was a wide variety from which to choose and those were primarily offered in two- to three-hour slots. “The classes brought out your creativity and made you think outside the box.Ā  With each one, you walked away having learned something new,” said Mary Ann R.

Here are some highlights from some of the Chicago members who attended.

My Purses by Design handbag. Love it!

Purse Basics with Pamela L. Day and Roseanne Lauters of Purses by Design held a special half-day class on Aug. 18 that I attended and walked out with a fantastic handbag. Pamela and Roseanne prepped the class by having all the fabric pre-cut and interfaced. All we had to do was insert the magnetic snap and sew. It was a blast. They use a special interfacing for the lining that helps keep the bag stable but flexible. This was one of four classes the PbyD ladies offered.

Marie Yolande teaching "On the Edge." Wendy G. said Marie turned a hotel meeting room into a couture atelier.

On the Edge with Marie Yolande taught ASG members Wendy G. and Elizabeth H. the beauty of edge finishes and how they can “separate the amateurs from the professionals.” Marie, who has an extensive background in french needlework, showed the class how to use custom piping, shirred and ruched trims, and many other edge techniques. Wendy G. said it was just like being in an couture atelier.

Liz H. showing off her sample of fringed wool in the the "On the Edge" class

Sharleen from ASG Chicago attended Vest-S-Cape with Marsha McClintock of Saf-T-Pockets and walked out with a finished cape/wrap. [We’re waiting for a stunning photo of Sharleen in her cape; check back later to see it!]

It’s almost impossible to list all of the workshops we attended. If you’d like to see who taught, the 2011 conference brochure is still posted on the ASG national website.Ā  Some of the others that quickly come to mind are: Christine Haynes‘ Creating Runway Looks at Home, Katrina Walker‘s Sensational Seams, Diane Ricks‘ Washaway Stabilizers, Anne St. Clair‘s Bra Fit. To read more about the workshops, visit Connie’s post As seen at the ASG National Conference or Celeste’s site “Sew Much Fun” for ASG Conference Reviewed.

Rami Kim's cathedral window coat.

One last class I’d like to mention is Hand Smocking with Rami Kim. She had the class work on two samples and something that seemed so difficult actually was incredibly easy. North American Hand Smocking is a lot of connecting the dots to create the design of your choice. These puckers and pulls of fabric create stunning designs for blouses, jackets, purses, or any item. Rami taught a few other classes on fabric folding, or Chopkey, as she refers to it in her native Korean language. She also displayed a beautiful gold coat done in Cathedral Window pattern.

For English Smocking, visit Vaune, one of the vendors at the conference. She had a beautiful selection of fabric and sold pleaters.

A conference wouldn’t be complete without shopping and tours.Ā  The conference had a exhibit hall for shopping and we made that most of that! But the best is L.A.’s downtown fabric district. It’s maze that could take you weeks to go through. Thankfully a group of the ASG L.A. chapter members put together a handy guide to point out a few spots to visit if you were running short on time. It’s a crazy mix of elegant and inexpensive textiles and trims. From home dec to silk to basic cottons, there was no shortage. If you are visiting on your own, some places you might want to hit in that 8th and 9th street area are: L.A. Fred’s for home dec; Eco Fabric for home dec and Tex Carmel for silks and linens; Trim 2000 for (you guessed it) trims; Michael Levine and Michael Levine’s Annex from just about everything; and off the beaten path were B. Black and Sons for a “step back in time to what a fabric store would be like in the 1920s and 1930s.”

Connie (L) and Wendy (R) with Judy Fitzgerald of Sawyer Brook Fabrics at breakfast. Wendy was thrilled she meet the lady who cuts her fabric and processes her internet orders.

A few of us stayed through Monday to take advantage of some of the fabric shopping tours to Santa Barbara Lace and Textile and another to the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) and more fabric shopping. The FIDM group was definitely the most packed with three busloads of ASG members. Sharleen and I made it to the bus that started the tour at Mood in L.A. And even thought I don’t have a photo of this to prove it, I do have witness . . . we meet Burt from Project Runway at Mood! He was so nice and posed for pictures with anyone who asked. You guessed it, I didn’t ask to have my photo taken, but I did wish him luck.

I could go on and on about the L.A. trip. It was a blast. The 2012 annual conference will be in Houston, TX from Aug. 16-20 and 2013 will be in Arlington, VA. Hope we see you at both!

As Seen At The American Sewing Guild National Conference

Photos contributed by President Connie G.

American Sewing Guild National Conference logoThe American Sewing Guild National Conference was held in Los Angeles this year. Eleven of our Chicago chapter members attended and filled their days with learning new techniques and meeting old and new friends. Below are some pictures and tidbits that our President, Connie G. sent back.

Running In Stitches Neighborhood Group leader Celeste wrote about her ASG Conference experience on her blog. Be sure to take a peek at her jeans-to-skirt reconstruction with the pretty machine embroidery.

Sights and Thoughts From Connie

Gel-bleached jacket

Gel-bleached jacket

Linda MacPhee Transforms Fabrics
In Linda MacPhee‘s class, a denim jacket was transformed with dishwasher gel bleach. Use a squeeze bottle to control your lines. Save your squeeze ketchup bottles and use that or buy the squeeze bottles at your local craft store.

Linda is also know for her “beggar fabric.” But, beggar fabric is not easy to find. So, Linda made her own by cutting holes Ā in a top fabric and laundering. Then the fabric is backed with a dotted sheer fabric. Beggar fabric doesn’t have to be perfect. In fact, it’s a great way to use up scraps and remnants.

Embellishments
Think that twin-needle is just for heirloom sewing? Try this: thread up some colorful thread in that twin-needle and wander your fabric. You’ll create a fun stipple that is perfect for quilting or embellishing a plain fabric.

Double-needle stipple Denim jacket

Use fleece as inserts to mimic bias to add texture to your piece. Since fleece doesn’t fray, you don’t need to worry about turning under tiny edges…just cut and sew. With fleece, you can also bend it any which way you desire without worrying too much about grains. Although, keep in mind that some fleece have a nap.

Fleece inserts

Fleece inserts

Button embellishments

Button embellishments

Add dimension to your machine embroidery with buttons! Don’t have an embroidery machine? Use your decorative stitches in rows withĀ variegatedĀ thread. Or maybe even try hand embroidery.

Upcycle

Upcycled sweaterDo you have a bunch of sweaters that need a new life? You’re either tired of them or they might not fit as well as they used to? Gather them all up and upcycle them into a new sweater. Don’t worry about matching; the idea is to create a patchwork. Use your serger for quick construction…and leave the serged edges to the outside of the garment for additional texture and interest. Go ahead and raid your husband’s and children’s closets…because you’re fabric shopping!

Tip: Try to use similar fiber content within one garment. If you mix an all-wool piece with swatches from a cotton/acrylic sweater, you may end up with a shrunken, felted panel at the next wash.

Learn From the Experts

Sandra Betzina

Sandra Betzina

One of the many advantages of the American Sewing Guild National Conference is having access to many wonderful teachers who are known thoughout the sewing industry. Some classes are hands-on, while others are lecture. Sandra Betzina and Linda MacPhee were just a two of the instructors that were at this year’s ASG National Conference.

Did you go to the ASG National Conference this year in Los Angeles? Tell us your experience, we’d love to hear from you!

Eve Kovacs Wins ASG Creativity Contest Honorable Mention

Eve KovacsThis month, our Sew-lebrity Spotlight shines on Eve Kovacs. Eve Kovacs is not only the group leader for the Wearable Art special interest group of our chapter, but she is a recognized and award-winning wearable arts sewist. There is probably even a secret fan club judging by this person’s blog post declaring Eve as her hero after seeing Eve on Sewing with Nancy.

We’re celebrating Eve today because she has won the Honorable Mention in this year’s American Sewing Guild Creativity Contest. Congratulations, Eve! We’re very proud that our Chicago chapter was so well-represented with Eve’s beautiful jacket and pants.

Eve’s ensemble was made from Simplicity 2288, and uses aĀ combination of several different fabrics: a handwoven silk ikat from Thailand, three colors of silkĀ dupioni, and a cotton sateen.

Eve Kovacs 2011 American Sewing Guild Creativity Contest Jacket Front“The jacket design incorporates a number of panels that provideĀ opportunities for combining fabrics in innovative ways. My goal, with this ensemble, was to useĀ the silk ikat as an inspiration for the color, the surface design and the styling of the pieces. SinceĀ I had only a single panel of about one yard of the ikat, a good solution was to use it for theĀ center front and back panels of the jacket. With careful cutting, I had enough left to make cuffsĀ to accent the sleeves,” explains Eve in her contest description.

“The colors in the ikat inspired the selection of the purple sateen and theĀ magenta, olive and light lavender silks. The geometric pattern in the ikat inspired the design ofĀ the patchwork on the middle-front panels of the jacket. I paid careful attention to the proportionĀ and position of the colors so that the patchwork complements the style of the ikat by mimickingĀ the pattern in the weave.”

Eve Kovacs American Sewing Guild 2011 Creative Contest Jacket BackEve machine quilted all the jacket panels to give a subtle texture and to unify the design. She used diamond shapes on the ikat and zig-zag shapes on the patchwork panels. The side panels and sleeves are quilted with diagonal lines of double-needle stitching. (Love how many techniques Eve Kovacs was able to incorporate!)

“The jacket panels are accented with piping to give the ensemble anĀ oriental look. This necessitated changing the collar to a cut-on shawl collar to ensure that theĀ piping flowed smoothly around the edges of the jacket. To complete the Asian styling of theĀ ensemble, I cropped the pants and added a piping embellishment at the hems.”

One thing that you appreciate about Eve Kovacs’ wearable art is that it truly is wearable. It may take a bolder personality to wear the garment, but it’s definitely wearable in everyday life.

All the winners and honorable mentions can be viewed on the national American Sewing Guild contest page.

[edited] You can find more of Eve Kovacs’ beautiful creations on her webpage.

Congratulations on your beautiful outfit, Eve!

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