Sunday, April 12, 2015

New Marcy Vogue Patterns Part 2: The French Apron Dress

The French Apron Dress is our working title for this dress + T-shirt + leggings pattern.
My own version in grays and black, popped with an orange ribbon. The little line of color is a place to have fun...and what is ribbon but narrow fabric?  The central panel is a knit, cut on the cross grain as in this fabric the background color quietly morphs from white to gray running from selvedge to selvedge.  This is our rayon/lycra Gloaming Knit.  I used a gray/black bamboo knit dot for the t-shirt and lower panel, and a scrap of black/gray stripe for the bottom panel.  This bottom panel could work in a soft woven too.  The body of the dress is a black rayon/lycra.  It is crucial that this back panel be very soft and drapey with good recovery.  
Dresses as shown on the pattern envelope.  To my eye, the dress looks short, especially from the back.  I do not alter the original version for photography and the models are over 6 feet tall.  Do check the lengths for your height in the preliminary fitting. The main central panel in the dress on the left is a poly charmeuse, and you could use any soft drapey woven.  Silk or poly charmeuse is perfect, and the new digital panels work really well here, but the rest of the fabrics are all knits; the style requires fabrics with drape.  All the fabrics in the dress on the right are rayon/lycra knits.  Gwen Spencer and I made the sample garments, and we played with (and agonized over), combining different fabrics, auditioning various combinations on the dress form in the approximate proportion they would be used in the garment.  Then we'd stand back and get a perspective on what worked and what did not.  In truth, it is easier to work with the black/white/gray combos as there are more choices available.  And, it was fun to comb through all the fabrics in the ArtBarn and find a blue/green grouping that played well together.   

The line drawings reveal the details and give a graphic idea of the different panels.  The T-shirt is designed to be semi-fitted, just skim the body, and the neckline on the dress and T-shirt are designed to nest together.  The legging is also semi-fitted, not too loose, not too tight, and is a great basic that you'll use again and again.  Finish off the neck edge on the T-shirt according to the directions for a bound wraparound edge, or use any of your favorite smooth neck finishes.

My detail photos of the two bodices with the option of using a sheer mesh or a knit in the central panel.  
There are two versions for the straps and back detailing.  In the blue version on the left, there are built-in straps and the back bodice piece is solid with the bottom panel pleated into the bodice.  In the black version on the right, there are separate straps which are interwoven together, and the bottom panel has elastic which forms soft gathers across the center back.  The center back panel is shorter and the side seams goes toward the front.  The blue version uses a bamboo (rayon)/lycra jersey (sold out),  and the black uses our Black Parisian microfiber.

You can easily adjust the length on any of the panels by adding at the hem.  I'm going to try a version in a longer length.  

My detail shots of the back detailing.  Sewing tips below.
Sewing & Construction Tips
I interfaced the pocket opening and neck edge on the dress front to stabilize and keep from stretching, using a fusible tricot cut to the shape of the pattern piece.
At the top edge, I used a fusible tricot cut in the most stable direction to support the edge and keep it from stretching.
  • The seam that joins the center front panel to the contrast center front is the focal point of the dress, and there are some layers and maybe different weights of fabric to handle, so you'll want to do all you can to get it right.  The square corner is a place where everything has to come together in a clean way, and the fold on the contrast panel should match up with the corner.  Pinning alone did not work for me, the fabrics kept shifting requiring ripping.
Diagonal basting with silk thread held all the layers in more shifting.
Interface both sides of the strap on View C, the blue version, as they support the weight of the dress.  Shown here using a fusible tricot.
I recommend cutting the straps longer than the pattern piece so it is easier to adjust the final length. The two straps have angled short edges, and you want to get them in the right place and position.  Pin, then baste to prevent shifting.  

Compare the finished length of the elastic gathers to the pattern piece to be sure the proportions are right.  It is important to the fit of the dress that the top edge of the center back finishes at the same measurement as the back binding.  I notice that elastic stretches as it is sewn, so it is necessary to factor that in, which is why I stretch the elastic a bit as it is sewn into place.  Bind the edge using a single layer wraparound binding.  The binding can be stretched a bit as you sew to draw in the edge a bit more.  
  • I had to pfutz to get the straps interwoven in the good way while at the same time, adjusting the length so it was right.  I did this while working on a dress form, one strap at a time, and pinned the straps in place on the front with safety pins, adjusting everything until it was twisted straps, the correct strap going.  Machine baste to be sure all is good to go, then stitch in place and trim the straps.
    Fabric Suggestions
    We used a combo of different fabrics and colors but I think this dress would be fabulous in one color or in a tone-on tone blend.  You could go dramatic or subtle, make an everyday dress or an event dress.  This is a good opportunity to go through your stash or scraps to see what you have on hand to use.  The knits we used for the body in these combos are from our basics:  Black Parisian, (a super drapey microfiber that comes in other basic colors), Black Prime Time (a rayon/lycra knit, we are out for now, but more is coming soon).  

    Shelley, Roxy and I put together two combos from our current fabrics.  The cheat sheet tells how much of each fabric is in the combo.  We've adjusted the yardage so there is more than enough for any size, and you'll want to save the scraps for future projects.  Each combo is $160 + shipping....shipping costs depend on where you live. The cheat sheets show how much of each fabric is included.  Ribbon not included.  

    These are limited editions, and we'll make more as we find the right fabrics.  New fabrics are coming, stay tuned!

Please send photos of your own version:
We love to see your comments and hear your ideas too!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

New Marcy Vogue Patterns

AKA:  The Cirque Dress
Two dresses makes for 2 blogs.  Starting with Vogue 9112, which I call the Cirque Dress because of the circular seaming which gives the dress it's shaping.  The second dress, Vogue 9108, AKA the Apron Dress will be the topic of the next upcoming blog.  I'm excited to share both of these with you!

My own version is where I start when testing out a new design, and I love everything about this little dress, in fact, I'm wearing it as I compose this blog.  It was late summer when I sewed it, so made a dark cotton that I could wear sleeveless and also wear with a T-shirt as shown above as I'm wearing it today when it is cool and rainy.  The lightly fitted T-shirt and leggings are from the 'Apron' dress pattern, Vogue 9108, love that!  

The fabric is a wonderful hand dyed Indian cotton, the perfect weight, in a black/cream color way , sold out for now, but more is coming very soon.   For now we have the same fabric in a black on black color way with dots in 2 sizes:  Black Tiny Bubbles Cotton Woven and Black Moon Cotton Woven.  Coming up:  black with cream dots, black with pale gray dots, black with olive dots, more black on black and white on white. I also think this would make a great little black dress for any season....dressed up or kicked back depending on the fabric. See below for other fabric suggestions.  

The line drawing shows the shapes and details.  The dress is asymmetrical, so all the pattern pieces are cut in a single layer, printed side UP.  I recommend tissue fitting to check the fit at the bust, shoulder width, neckline placement and to check the finished length.  The dress should be fitted in the bust and armhole, but not tight.  If you want to lengthen, it is easy to add length at the hem, or, you could add within the body of the garment.  Love the length as is, but one of these days I'm going to make a longer version.  As is, the dress should hit just at the knee or slightly above so it can function as a dress or a tunic.  In the heat of summer, I wear it as-is with sandals.  In cooler weather I wear with leggings/skinny pants and flats or boots.   

As shown on the models below, it looks too short to my eye, but remember, these women are GIANTS, well over 6 feet tall!  As always, adjust to your own best length.
This version uses a beautiful cotton from Thankoon, Foggy Gray Ikat, a silky smooth shirting weight cotton with a beautiful drape and luscious hand.  

To tame out any puffiness in the gathers, after stitching, I head back to the ironing board for a final press, which will flatten (but not smash), and smooth out the gathers.  Place the gathered section on a tailor ham and use a combo of steam and light pressing, holding the iron just above
Back to the ironing board for a final press which will flatten and smooth out the gathers. I put the garment on a tailor ham and use a combo of steam and light pressing---it is amazing how much fullness you can smooth out this way!

I found a small bolt of this amazing hand dyed Japanese seersucker  at a SF designer's studio, sorry,  it sold out within an hour of posting on the website.

The soft collar is a single layer.
You could also eliminate the collar and simply bind the neck.
Cutting/Assembling Tips
After cutting in a single layer, printed side up as shown below, transfer all markings and then lay out the pattern pieces as they will be sewn together.  In the photo, I'm using my master pattern as it comes from the pattern maker.  This helped me to visualize the order of construction and how the garment will be put together.  The techniques used in the pattern are easy.  Reinforce and clip the curves before inserting the shaped gathered panels.  See below for a little video on how to get a clean finished edge using a template.  This is a technique I use over and over can see that the oak tag/manila file folder template is well used!  Every time I use this, I thank Mary Craven, a student in classes back in my SF Sewing Workshop days, whose smart engineer husband came up with this idea.  The trick is to use oaktag, the perfect weight, and to mark the lines in pencil.  

Binding the collar
The single layer collar is finished at the neck edge with bias binding.  I have a few tricks to make the bias finish clean, narrow and flat.  Always cut the bias longer and wider.  Press the single layer length of bias to remove the stretch and stabilize it, then re-trim to an even width....but keep the width a bit wider than you will need as it is easier to handle and can be trimmed to an even width in the final pressing stage.  Note that the bias strip is the same size as the neck opening.  I measure both to double check before sewing.
Bias pinned in place and ready to sew.  Stitch with the bias on top.
Like this....
After sewing, trim the seam to an even width, then clip as needed so the bias can be turned to the inside and lie flat.  Notice that I did not grade or bevel my seams, but trimmed all the seams to an even width.  This fabric is not thick or that case I would grade the seams to eliminate bulk.  I did not under stitch as the fabric did not seem to need it.
The fabric 'tells' me which technique is best in this instance.
I work at the ironing board over a ham for this next part.  Press the binding to the inside, working around the neckline.  Press binding under to an even width, pin in place, edge stitch, stitching from the inside.  Use the same technique at the armhole.
Video clip:  Using A Pressing Template

Fabric Suggestions for the Cirque Dress
The pattern envelope says:  cotton, linen silk, stable knits.  
I say:  the weight of the fabric is key.  
Choose a fabric with drape and flow; a bit of crispness is OK as the dress has a sculptural feel, but beware of things that are thick or stiff or won't take well to gathers.  Shirting and fine quilting weight cottons are a natural.  Lighter weight linens, shirting fabrics, silk broadcloth, seersucker, stretch cottons and blends with a bit of lycra/spandex/elastine are all good.  Light cotton lawns would work too, but you might want to wear a cami and or leggings underneath if the fabric is sheer.  

Sewing this dress reminded me how much I love to sew wovens, but now I am itching to try this dress in a knit.  Choose a knit that is not too light/thin or too thick.  I would not use a tissue knit or heavy ponte, but would use a t-shirt knit (cotton/lycra or rayon/lycra), and would use one of the lighter weight pontes.  I can see it in wool jersey for winter, a mix of stripes going this way and that for summer.  

While I chose prints for the pattern envelope, the seaming details would show to advantage in a solid.  Mixing patterns or color blocking is another way to go.  I'm also contemplating adding a sleeve.  

A sampling of choices from current offerings on the website:
Pictured left to right, top to bottom
Twilight Dots
Redway Cotton
Edo Cotton
Foggy Ikat from Thankoon
Phosphate Plaid
Blue Paisley Linen
White Perennial Border French Cotton
Jam Session Cotton
Pictured left to right, top to bottom
Buster Brown Chex Japanese Cotton
Garden Party Digital Linen
 (more gorgeous digital linens coming)
Flora & Fauna Linen Blend
Black Tiddlywinks Stretch Cotton
Twilight Dots Woven
Cracking Up Cotton/Silk from Thankoon
Green Perennial Border French Cotton
Windows Japanese Viscose
(more coming from this vintage collection)
Japanese Cottons too!
Many more coming soon, they just keep getting more and more beautiful!

Coming up in the next blog: inside look at Vogue 9108
The Apron Dress
& two limited edition combos of fabrics we've put together for this pattern.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Gwen's Spectacular Shawl Part 2

Gwen's Shawl Part 2
The video of Gwen's Shawl struck a chord with so many people, so here, in response to comments and questions is a followup with still shots, details and a quick re-cap of how she did it.  Please realize this is not a step-by step tutorial on how to re-create the have to use your own materials, imagination, design sense, common sense and intelligence for your own version.  This can get you started.  

Gwen uses what she has and is a master recycler.  She had the soft white cotton fabric in her stash.  Someone gave her a big spool of silk thread, so she used that for the stitching and fringe.  To my eye it looked a touch beefier than standard silk thread.  
The finished shawl measures 30" x 90"
Dots are made with Tee Juice pens in gray.
These are felt-tip type pens designed to be used on fabric.
See below for purchasing info.
Fringe is hand knotted and had tied using the same silk thread that was used for the hand and machine stitching.
Machine stitching is done through a single layer before the shawl is constructed.
Hand stitching goes through all the layers once the shawl is constructed.
Tee Juice pens look like this and make GREAT dots.  My sample here is on paper, on fabric they can bleed a bit which gives a nice soft effect like on Gwen's shawl.
Gwen made this mini sample to show how the shawl is done.
Starting with a full length/width of fabric (sorry, don't have this measurement), she applied the dots in a random pattern across one long edge of the fabric only.
Then she did the stitching along the straight of the grain of the fabric at irregular intervals.
Next, she cut the fabric on the bias so it would form squares which will be sewn back together.
This is what makes the interesting seaming which shows through the semi sheer fabric.
Gwen said she had this AHA moment in the middle of the night, it was not planned out in advance!
Now the squares are sewn back together, forming a pieced bias length of fabric.
She then sewed the long seams together to make a tube, placing this long seam at the center of the tube rather than along one edge...makes a softer effect.
The shawl is now ready for the hand stitching around the dots through all the layers.
The short edges are tucked under and secured with the fringe, which is sewn one at a time at the very end

A set of Tee Juice pens are available from Diane Ericson
If you want to make your own version of Gwen's shawl, we have a similar fabric:
 Gwen White Cotton Blend named in honor of Gwen.
She made a shirt in this very fabric to test a prototype of a future Vogue pattern and it would work well for the shawl as well.
Detail of the Gwen White fabric which is a lovely blend of cotton and nylon....the nylon adds an appealing smoothness to the hand of the fabric.  

Thanks so much for all your comments to the video, more are coming, and they inspired this follow-up post.  FYI:  Gwen will be assisting Diane Ericson at her Design Outside the Lines retreats in Taos in September, and in Ashland in October.  These marvelous events fill up quickly and are an amazing opportunity to work with talented instructors and to play with other passionate sewing artisans.  

More videos in the works!