Monday, June 28, 2010

4875 Tissue Fitting and Muslin: Part I

This was supposed to work. Seriously people, this was supposed to be my dress - my first successful, flattering, vintage pattern dress. Just look at it, its got tucks at the shoulders and waist to accommodate the bust! Its got a flattering paneled skirt for fullness with seams for visual length! And best yet, the pattern is in my size! The stars aligned, and this dress was supposed to be THE dress. But somehow it is not. At least not yet.

But before I show you the depressing results, let me share with you the process. For this tissue fitting, I worked with my local Palmer/Pletsch fit instructor. Marylin and I have worked together twice before, first on a basic fitting shell, and also on the Mail Order 9213 shirt dress. I should probably admit that neither garment has yet made it into full existence. The fitting shell is no fun to sew, so I skipped it, and the shirt dress is stalled in the fabric muslin phase because of awkward fit. So perhaps I should have known better than to visit Marylin again. But my optimism trumped logic. So a few weeks ago Marylin and I when through the Fit for Real People tissue fitting process. Below you will see my tissue fitting. Let me tell you what we did.

The Bodice Back: It seemed to fit darn well in the tissue, needing only a 1/2 inch high round back adjustment. Then I added 1 inch length to both the front and the back of the pattern for good measure.

The Bodice Front: We estimated the need for a 2 inch Full Bust Adjustment (FBA). You can see the two steps of the process above. First, I did a traditional 2 inch FBA which added a side dart under the arm. However, to preserve the blousey style of the pattern, we wanted to avoid a side dart. So we moved the side dart into the waist tucks by slashing the wait tucks open, and then sliding the side dart closed. This resulted in the addition of 2 1/4 inches to each waist tuck. Marylin did suggest that in a heavier fabric these two darts would be fine, but in a softly draping fabric I should consider moving to three, slightly deeper darts. As a side note, weirdly enough, the armhole shape got all wonky in this FBA process, although it did retain its drafted length without change. I am not sure if that is supposed to happen.

To accommodate my wide waist, which needed about 4 inches in extra width to reach center front, we just redrew the original tucks and allowed the excess width moved from the side dart transfer to accommodate the waist. (Spoiler alert: This MAY be the alteration that resulted in muslin ruin)

To accommodate my hollow chest, we lengthened the should tucks by 1/2 to 3/4 inches, which helped gather up some of the excess material I often find in the armpit/shoulder area of my other projects.

Finally, we deepened the neckline by 2 inches to open up the chest, and avoid a matronly look. It might even stand for a deeper neckline in future editions, since I might as well show off my youthful bosom while it is young and pert.

Back Skirt: No change. Sew as drafted.

Front Skirt: We measured the front skirt as needing an additional 4 1/2 inches to reach center front. Rather than slashing and spreading or adding to one of the panels, we cleverly opted to cut two an extra panel of piece #8, the center side front panel. Only instead of cutting two and sewing a center front seem, we decided I should cut #8 on the fold to use as an extra center panel. The decision at the time seemed brilliant, as it saved slashing and spreading existing pieces, and also left me with hope that the waist seams would line up with the bodice tucks.

So, here is the tissue fitting which gave me such optimism. Observe the seemingly good fit.

The back after a high round and a little extra length:
The side view, after all adjustments and moved darts and all:
The front bodice after FBA, wide waist adjustment, and darts moved:
In summery, I left this tissue fitting session $80 lighter and FILLED with optimism at the future of my perfect dress. That afternoon I cut out a lovely floral sheet for my muslin, transferred all the markings, and began to sew. Several tucks, seems, and worried expressions later, I can tell you that my optimism has faded to straight up frustration and disappointment. Stay tuned for "4875 Tissue Fitting and Muslin: Part II" later this week for images and analysis. Oh yes, and please offer your fitting and sewing advice if you see where I went wrong.

P.S. You may have noticed this post is one in a short stream of failures that are yet reconciled - including the Collar Confection Blouse, and Mail Order 9213 (which you didn't even know is a failure yet, but I do, so now you know too) - and I wanted to tell you that I have not given up. I am working on several projects simultaneously, all of them frustrating, but I am committed to resolving them. Send you well wishes my way please.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

1950s Collar Confection Blouse: the muslin saga continues.

1950s Collar Confection Blouse by Decades of Style:

From the pattern envelope, "The collar on this vintage blouse pattern is as close to perfection as you can get! This is one of those patterns that will fit perfectly with a business suit or a pair of jeans. The blouse has cap sleeves with petal shaping at the shoulder edge. There are tucks in the front and darts at the back waist and shoulder to provide shaping. Draped collar and button closure. Light to medium weight fabric recommended. Make sure your fabric has a soft hand or the collar will not drape effectively. Voile, georgette, linen, rayon, silk or cotton."

I love the overall design of this pattern, and I love the concept of a basic blouse with a defining collar feature that makes it unique. If fit to perfection, this blouse could be made again and again as a wardrobe staple good for work or casual.

This is a first try muslin exemplifying the fit adjustments I made in a tissue fitting. I made no changed to the back of the pattern, except a tiny sway back adjustment. I made several key changes to the front, the most important of which was a full bust adjustment of a whopping 5" inches. I used the Palmer Pletsch y-dart FBA method. I added a side dart and moved some of the adjustment into the tucks at the waist. Because I also have a very thick middle, I also did a wide waist adjustment.

However, I am still having fit trouble. Observe below.


This version is my "(not really) wearable muslin" made of a cotton polyester blend bed sheet, thrifted for less than $2. I like the print, it reminds me of a feminine Hawaiian shirt. However the fabric is stiff, much stiffer than I expected. I think the firm drape is inhibiting some of the design features of the pattern.

Major fit issues include 1) excess fabric above the armpit and bust area 2) too high collar, 3) misplaced side dart and misplaced waist darts, and 4) trouble with the facings. Any advice?

1) I dislike the fit in the upper chest. There is just too much fabric gaping and poofing in my upper bust region. I speculate the length of the bodice in this area could be taken up at the shoulder. I also apparently have what is known as a "hollow chest" that accentuates the excess fabric. Everything seems to lay smoother if I pinch out a horizontal tuck about 1" deep at my upper bust, which means I should likely do this to the pattern. But I am unclear what effect this might have on the fit at the armhole. Any advice on altering this fit is welcome.

2) The neckline on my finished blouse is quite a bit higher and smaller than the pattern illustration's neckline. The lowest, widest part of the neckline does not span across my chest or dip as low as it does on the lovely, tiny model illustrated on the cover. Upon further inspection, I see this is because the neckline and collar pieces are not graded with the size of the pattern. Width and length change, but the collar is the same depth and width in a 30" bust as a 46" bust. This means that the larger the size, the more conservative the neckline looks.

3) All darts and tucks are in wonky positions in the fabric version (but I swear they all lined up in the tissue fitting!). The FBA side dart is sitting too low. The fabric seems to want to be gathered above the armpit, from within the armhole area, but the dart originates from the side of the pattern and sit low against my bust. I think it needs moved or replaced. Also, I realize now that the front waist tucks are not graded with the size of the blouse (just like the collar), meaning as you go up in size, they (may) shift out of alignment with the bust. Next time I plan to wait to sew the bust darts until I have pieced together much of the blouse, so I can adjust and reposition to match my bust apex and figure.

4) On this version, I resorted to using bias binding to finish the arms instead of the facings, as I struggled to get the facings to lay as they should. After ripping out the facings twice, and knowing this was only a muslin, I finally opted for the easy finish. The technique worked well. Does anyone see a problem with using bias binding to face rather than full facings?

Problem area: Upper bust/armpit excess. What do you think I should do?

I am accepting any and all advice. Thanks!

Friday, June 11, 2010

First impressions.

Maybe you noticed my new blog header up there? Maybe not. If not, now is the time to take a quick gander to the top of the page and admire my handiwork. The old header was a relic from my first moments as a blogger. Truth be told, I only had a few images available to me the day I started the blog, and the limitation dictated my decision. But, after several years online and a maturation and evolution of the bog, I thought it fine time to update.

I want to share just a bit about the photos included in the header. Also, to be fair I need to admit that they are not original Polaroids, but rather digital images run through a Polaroid converter. I found this amazing, and free, program called Poladroid that converts pictures. Since the actual film is much harder to come buy these days, I have been playing with this application. It is a blast, because you drag your digital image onto a graphic of a Polaroid camera. Then, complete with Polaroid sound effects, a seemingly blank Polaroid spits out from the graphic. It must sit on your desktop for several minutes to "develop" before it is finished. The program crops and puts an effect on the digital images so that each is individual, and very Polaroid-esque. I think they are beautiful.

Now, in honor of the new header, scroll on to see each photo with commentary.

Our kitchen window - I took this photo this week. I stumbled from bed on a dim, rain soaked morning and saw the kitchen window mottled with condensation. It is so hot and humid in San Antonio these days that the chill from the air conditioning is causing monumental condensation on the exterior windows, the kind usually limited to ice cold bottles of beers drunk on a patio in August. Even though it is a sign of the terrible weather, it was a pretty site.

Wedding rings on our wedding day - This is the original blog header image, condensed and updated thanks to Poladroid. These are the baskets that carried our wedding rings the day we were married. Our rings are traditional Irish Clauddah rings. The design is a heart, held between two hands and topped by a crown. This is a traditional Irish design symbolizing the qualities of the best relationships. The heart, in the center, symbolizes love. The hands surrounding the heart are a symbol of friendship, and the crown atop the heart is a sign of eternal loyalty. At our ceremony we passed our rings through the crowd and asked each of or guests to briefly hold our wedding bands. Now, when I look at my ring, I see it as a symbol of love and support from both my husband, and from all of the people in our lives that contributed to our journey to this point and who will continue to support us through our marriage. It's a happy thing.

Bike riding with a basket - This is a self portrait of me riding my vintage Schwinn. I loved the shadows cast on the pavement because it gives a sense of the shape and physical presence of the bike without seeing much of the actual bike. And of course the idea of bike riding is a joy. I don't do it enough, but this photo reminds me of the simple pleasure of coasting down a hill in the glow of the afternoon sun.

Easter brunch - This was a monumental Easter brunch and represents the pleasure, and quite frankly the gluttony of excess, that drives most of my cooking and eating. For this particular brunch, we ate ham steaks, grilled asparagus with over easy eggs, ciabatta with bruschetta, olives, coffee, mimosas, and Italian cheesecake. Was it too much? Most assuredly. But was it a pleasure to prepare, serve, and enjoy. Of course.

Berries with cream - There is nothing particularly sentimental about these particular berries with this particular cream, but it is representative of the simple pleasures in life. It also represents my indulgent side, because seriously, cream?! Way to take something already delicious and decidedly healthy like berries and convert it into an indulgent treat. But hey, that's just the way I roll.

My Schwinn Hornet - I picked this baby up on Craigslist for what I thought was a bargain, until I took it for its first ride and both the tires blew. $150 in tires and a tune up later, this beauty is my underused pride and joy. I love the bike basket, the kickstand, and the little bike bell. Every time I ride it I feel instantaneously more charming and charismatic then I feel when I walk anywhere. It might be the perfect accessory.

Friday, June 4, 2010

A field of flowers.

If one of something is good, four of something is better, right? This is my fourth version of the circular tablecloth skirt, made from a vintage Vera Neumann tablecloth. The first was also a Vera tablecloth, and much like this one, the first started with a cutting disaster which was eventually redeemed by a wide yoke and drawstring. The second incarnation of the tablecloth skirt came from a Anthropologie tablecloth that is cute, but never made the cut to be featured on the blog. The third version is the strawberry shortcake skirt posted earlier this week. Featured above is the fourth version, another vintage Vera tablecloth, and this time with the new and improved elastic waist. And isn't it a beauty? I love the border print of flowers and the summery white. It makes me want to plop down in a field of flowers for a picnic.

I am not going to lie, the succuss of the skirts give sme a hankering to seek out more table clothes and make more skirts. However, I shall resist. My collection of four is doing me right, and I have fields of flowers waiting for me to frolic.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Maybe I am a shortcake.

Strawberries are such a sweet treat. And if you think they are pretty on your plate, imagine how nice they are on your skirt. Not literally of course, because that would stain. But an old-fashioned strawberry printed skirt makes me feel so sweet that I could swear I smell like a fresh-from-the-oven shortcake and have a dollop of whipped cream on my nose.

This version is constructed from an old table cloth. And it couldn't it be any simpler.

First, buy a cute vintage circular tablecloth. I recommend eBay or the thrift stores, or Anthropologie if you have a fat wallet. Next, using not very complicated math, figure out the size of the hole you need to cut in the very center to accommodate your waist and hips. Cut hole. Recognize you are not doing the math correctly when you discover the hole is extra large, much larger than you intended. Compensate for the gaping hole by sewing extra wide elastic around the waist. Finally, realize that you did yourself a huge favor with the too big hole, because elastic is vastly more comfortable than a zipper. Viola, the skirts is done.

This is not my first tablecloth skirt. In fact, it is the third in my growing collection. And weirdly enough, every single skirt has ended up with a too big hole. Go figure? It should be simple using my waist measurement and measuring a cutting line from the folded center. I calculated the radius for the measurement based on the old circumference =2*pi.*r equation. Maybe it's because my waist is not a perfect circle, or maybe its because I am faulty at math, but the hole is never correct. Luckily for me, the wide elastic solves the problem and remains fashionable.

I used three inch white elastic, and I would go with something even thicker if I could find it. The elastic is sturdy, it holds the full skirt in place. It's comfortable, giving with my movement to avoid the dreaded muffin top or bulge at the waist. And the elastics gathers up my excess waist to perfection.

I hate to brag, but isn't the skirt cute? From here on our, you can call me shortcake. I don't mind.

The skirt.

Yes, it is a very full skirt. Or should I say a berry full skirt.

The side view. For the most part, the front and the back hems hang evenly. Mostly.

The twirl. It is the true test of any summer skirt. This skirt passes with flying colors.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A wood framed building that looks like it might fall down.

Just about two weeks ago, I ate a last and final lunch at an iconic San Antonio structure. The Liberty Bar was built haphazardly in 1890, and survived a serious flood in 1921 that warped the wood to a degree that means slanting walls and severely sloped floors. Think fun house, but with really delicious food. The building has served all sorts of purposes, from dry goods store to watering hole to chicken shack, and rumor has it that the place even served as a brothel for a bit, although that is unconfirmed (but the building certainly looks the part, with the red lights and all). In 1985 it open as the Liberty Bar Restaurant, and in about 2001 or 2002 I finally discovered the place.

The physical quirks of the building have long been complimented by a quirky style of service and a simple but absolutely delicious menu. And so the Liberty Bar sat as a San Antonio institution all its own for over 20 years. It was one of the only places in the sleepy, not-very-cosmopolitan Alamo City that kept the kitchen open until 11 p.m. on weekends, which meant its late night dining attracted the artist and performers and generally exciting population of the city as its clientele. And the Liberty Bar was blissfully close to my home, my place of work, and my favorite San Antonio neighborhoods.

For me personally, it is a special restaurant. Sam and I had our first official date at the Liberty Bar. I don't remember much of the evening, but I know we sat at table 17 or 18 and we ordered the Geranium Cream for dessert. This is where my parents hosted my post-college graduation lunch with friends and their families. In college, my roommate Elizabeth and I would occasionally buy whole pounds of coffee from the Liberty Bar's stash, because they have a special roast that is still better than any coffee I have tasted. We would sometimes also buy full loaves of their house made bread for our dorm room. I also know that this is the first place I ever had Goat Cheese with Chili Morita, which is so delicious it will knock your socks off. I have had countless business lunches and personal lunches and late night dinners and drinks in the joint.

I was never quite a "regular" as some were, but I did value every meal I at at the Liberty Bar. I cannot claim to be particularly important or notable or influential in the San Antonio community, but I always knew I was surrounded by this crowd of people when I ate there, and I respected that. The Liberty Bar and its regular clientele ran the place with a cadence and culture all its own. In fact, the Liberty Bar is one of the only places in the world where the terrible service is remarkably endearing. In fact it almost makes the experience. And as long as you go in respecting the fact that you might be ignored, hurried, and just plain visually critiqued as you order, its all good.

The good news is that the Liberty Bar - as a concept and a menu and a group of employees - is not over. Only the building has come to the end of its chapter due to leasing issue (as a result of gentrification of the small area where that leaning wood framed building resides). Everything else has moved to another historic building in town a few minutes father south, into an old convent, and should reopen in June. And if the Liberty Bar tradition is any indication of what to expect, my favorite
horses neck cocktail, goat cheese with chile morita appetizer, lamb burger with fried potatoes main course, and coconut custard for dessert will survive the change of local and flourish in its new home. As the new Liberty Bar is touting, "It's never too late to join a convent" and I look forward to joining them there in a few weeks.

A brief history of The Liberty Bar, as borrowed from
"Over 100 years old & looks every minute of it”

The Liberty Bar began in 1890 when the German immigrant brew master. Fritz Boehler bought a lot in the city block across the street from the San Antonio Brewing Association (later Pearl Beer Brewery), where he worked. Fritz, a canny Alsatian peasant, scraped up enough salvaged lumber from construction sites in the rapidly expanding neighborhood to slap together a crudely constructed two-story balloon frame building. Boehler built the upstairs to be a rooming house but used it for his family’s residence until his death in 1931. (Today it functions as office space, guest room and home to the Oriental Rug Works.) Downstairs, where the dining room is today, he operated Fritz Boehler & Son, Simple & Fancy Groceries. He installed a mahogany Brunswick-Bake-Collender bar on the other side of the wall and called that that space the Liberty Schooner Saloon.

Structural problems plagued the place from the get-go. Cobbled together quickly by unskilled labor out of cast-off materials, the building appears to have been designed and constructed by children whose milk was laced with laudanum. (And who immediately changed their minds and removed the entire store front so they could add ten feet.) The flood of 1921 left water standing above the mahogany bar and a thick layer of river bottom silt around the cedar posts and oak sills of the foundation. The weight of the floodwater warped the walls and, over time, some of cedar foundation posts rotted, giving way, warping the floor. By this time, Grandma Boehler had fallen down the stairs, broken her neck and died, leaving Fritz a corner room recluse in his daughter Minnie’s care. After his death the daughter rented out the building. There was no significant repair or maintenance for over fifty years. Time went by and the building did a slow hula as in laws took over. A family cousin encouraged the troops in rented rooms upstairs while black waiters carried fried chicken and tamales out to cars parked in the hackberry shade. Old rodeo clowns and Saturday morning matinee cowboys drank beer, smoked cigars and cracked jokes . They grew old and die but to a few mossbacks from the brewery and the perennial under-age adolescent.

Today it functions as office space, guest room and home to the Oriental Rug Works.

In January 1984, Dwight Hobart took the lease on the skewed structure now to be known as the Liberty Bar. After removal of many layers of additions and restoration of what original parts could be located, the renewed restaurant and bar actually opened for business under Drew Allen’s management in July 1985 and continued that way until his death in 1995 when Oscar Trejo, took over supervision of the kitchen.

Today as always Liberty Bar focuses on serious food. All our dishes are made on the premises and we bake all our desserts and breads. The crowd is well mixed and as a reviewer once said, “the floors are uneven and so is the service.”