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The first try…

September 13, 2013
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So I got home from the fabric store and decided to make a skirt. (I actually had a series of patterns that I put into a “lesson plan” for myself, but that is currently beside the point.)

I was, however, smart enough to know that I had never seen the inside of a pattern before. A quick purchase of cheap muslin at the fabric store remedied this for me, as I figured I’d make the pattern first from that, and then move on to the more expensive fabrics. (As I recall, the costume shop at the stage company called this a mock-up, but I think their reasons for making them are somewhat different…)

Wrinkly tissue paper with hieroglyphics... we are off to a good start!

Wrinkly tissue paper with hieroglyphics… we are off to a good start!

Now, for those of you who have not seen the inside of a pattern packet before, it is important to note that the entire thing is printed on tissue paper. It is very easy to accidentally rip, and folded up to fit in the tiny envelope, it is also very wrinkly, and there are a whole lot of random symbols- not all of which you will actually use for the piece you are making.  Luckily an iron seems to solve the second problem.  Unfortunately I see no solution to the first problem save handling it very gingerly, and the third issue just seems to involve study.  I have been wondering, however, what kind of magical machine can print on this tissue paper without ripping it to shreds.  Perhaps I’ll look that up later.

After reading the pattern instructions and going over the charts on how to lay out the pieces a few times, I decided I was ready to make my muslin mock-up.  However, I wanted to keep the pattern pieces for the real skirt later. Luckily, I remembered that transfer tool thingy that I had picked up at the store. The instructions on the back basically said the follow the lines while rolling forward and backwards so as not to wrinkle the paper and make the fabric piece look wrong. Sounds easy! Somewhere it also said to pin the pattern to the fabric so it doesn’t move. Also a good idea!  At this point I was getting excited… I was actually going to do this!

I ironed the fabric out, as I had washed it when I got back from the store, and dried it, but it was a bit wrinkly.  This seemed to make the laying out easier. Now, there isn’t a lot of space in my apartment, and although I own an iron, I didn’t have an ironing board or anything, so I made due with a towel laid out on some carpet. I also don’t have a table large enough to lay out these huge pattern pieces on, so I made due with the hardwood floor area by our front door (after cleaning it of course). This seemed to work well, however I will say that the huge sheets that the patterns are printed on do make it a little difficult to manage as you are pinning and transferring pieces.  The instructions had said to pin everything out first so that you can make certain it fits, and then cut from there. As it wasn’t printed in anything close to the layout I was using, and I had bought more muslin than I needed, I decided to skip that step. So I got started, pinning the first piece to the fabric… and then realizing I had pinned it to the wrong edge, taking it off, and pinning it again.  Then realizing that I hadn’t pinned that particular piece with the back side of the printed pattern facing up- removing it and pinning again.

The Transferinator

The transferanator! (Or something more professional sounding…)

After a triple check that nothing else could be wrong (and keeping in mind that the particular piece I’m cutting was a simple rectangle…) I started using my pointed rolling transfer gidget to mark the pattern on the fabric.  After pulling up the edge of the pattern, I saw a series of tiny holes in the fabric.  How in anything’s name do people who do this for a living see that?  They must all either have super-vision, or go blind very young… Luckily at that point I remembered the tailor’s chalk I had also purchased, and before I lost sight of the tiny row of dots, I traced it in blue. Now I could see the line from far enough away that I wasn’t afraid of poking my eye out with the scissors. There are 4 pieces to the pattern I was cutting out, 2 of which you had to cut out twice. About 2 hours later I had all of the pieces in muslin, and had only ripped one of the pieces, mostly from repeated rolling of the tiny wheel, which with it’s little points essentially acted as a perforating device. I decided that I would deal with that later when I made the real one, but it didn’t seem like it would be too hard to fix (or fake). I was ready to start sewing!

Except I wasn’t.  I had not cut the interfacing. Being a somewhat impatient person (and not wanting to waste materials) I decided that it wasn’t necessary for the mock-up. Ok. Now it’s time to sew.

Not too bad for what felt like a million tries...

Not too bad for what felt like a million tries…

This being the easiest pattern that I had picked, there were only 11 steps.  I started by sewing the main pieces of the skirt part together, leaving a section of the back open.  Easy enough.  Step 2: Gather the upper edge. I tried following the instructions in the Glossary on the pattern.  It didn’t seem to work.  Google time!!
A fairly quick internet search gave me some more detailed instructions on how to gather something.  Three more tries later it still wasn’t working well, but at least it was gathered. I decided to go with it. Perhaps I’d practice gathering more before the real skirt. In the meantime this seemed like a good place to stop for the night.  I felt like I had learned a lot.

Sewing yoke sections together the next day was easy.  I had to flip the thing a few times to figure out which ends went together when attaching the yoke to the skirt, and the gathers were way too tight, so after all that I had to pull half of it flat again, and the gather-y part seemed to disagree somewhat with the foot on the machine, but I figured somewhere along the way I’d figure all that out. Which made my next step the zipper.

This tiny object is terrifying  your first time.

This tiny object is terrifying your first time.

Now, I hadn’t thought much about the zipper until that point, the prospect of installing a zipper seemed scary, and I also hadn’t bought a second zipper for practice. Issue number 1: The instructions on the zipper packaging were not the same as the instructions on the pattern.  I decided to go with the ones on the pattern. Issue number 2: I don’t have a zipper foot for my machine.  I went and found one online, but I didn’t want to have to wait that long.  Luckily, a bit of experimenting with my all purpose foot soon revealed that if I put the needle all the way to one side it would work fairly well. So I decided to use some of the information from the gathering lesson, and use the longest basting stitch on the machine to put the zipper into the mock-up.  (It worked!) Pretending to have an interfaced section of the skirt, I attached the yoke lining, and then hit my next wall. “UNDERSTITCH”. Google time again!!

Here is what I found.

Under-stitch!  (To the tune of "Super--man!") Now that's in your head.  You're welcome! :)

Under-stitch! (To the tune of “Super–man!”)
Now that’s in your head. You’re welcome! 🙂

Apparently understitching is when you stitch the seam allowance to the part of the yoke that faces your body while wearing it so it doesn’t roll over itself during use. I’m not certain why they don’t say that on the pattern, nor why the picture didn’t seem to look anything like what they wanted me to do, but the internet had come to the rescue. Now, I was on to step 9… “SLIPSTITCH”.  This one didn’t make much sense without a picture either. The Internet to the Rescue!!! Luckily I fairly quickly found a site which demonstrated that a picture was truly worth a thousand words. I decided to skip the last two steps which were labeled “finishing” and move on to the real thing.  Well, after getting a good night’s sleep that is.

Not bad for a first attempt... It actually looks like a skirt!

Not bad for a first attempt… It actually looks like a skirt!

A quick search online before starting the real skirt gave me the idea to cut the pattern pieces apart so that I had multiple, smaller pieces of tissue paper.  Those of you who sew most likely have a good idea of how much easier this makes literally everything about cutting out pieces. I was still wondering how one was supposed to see the tiny holes that the transfer wheel makes in the fabric, but with a more colorful fabric it actually was a little easier. (I still traced them with the tailor’s chalk before cutting them out though. I also remembered to cut the interfacing pieces (after a quick experiment to see which side sticks when you iron it).  I already knew that you needed to use fabric to guard the iron from the sticky part!

Most of the sewing also went faster this time- it’s amazing how much easier something is once you have done it once.  However, now I was stuck on “Step 2: Gathering” again.  Another round of internet searches brought up a video that was amazingly helpful (which unfortunately I cannot find again).  Gathering is so much easier if you tie together ends of the basted stitch which need to be pulled together, and not baste over the seam that you made earlier! Putting a knot in the basting stitch after you have gathered to the proper length also helps.  Gathering the real skirt with this information went amazingly well!

The zipper even went faster this time, and the yoke made so much more sense with the interfacing.  Finally, to finish off the skirt, I added a hook and eye above the zipper, and then the pattern said to make a “5/8″ NARROW HEM”.  (Please keep in mind that I am capitalizing these things because they are printed like that in the instructions, I’m not trying to e-yell. Although whenever I come across a new word like that in an instructions set, I kind of read it in a doomsday voice in my head…)  Now there are many different ways to do this (which I found out after another quick internet search.  What I found works for me is exactly what was written in the pattern set. Iron in a fold at twice what you want the hem to be, iron in again so that the edge hits the fold, iron one more time to fold that up and stitch.  What I have not yet figured out is this:  Is a 5/8″ narrow hem actually 5/16″ once you are done with it?  Or are you supposed to fold in 1-1/4″ to make the 5/8″ narrow hem?  I have tried it both ways at this point, and all I can really say is that the larger one is easier to sew.

Either way, the first real skirt went well (and it looks good, and it has survived two machine washes to date), and I immediately decided I wanted to put it onto Facebook and Instagram (probably didn’t help that I was also a brand new Instagram user at the time too, so I was just excited to have photos to post.)  That was when I realized- Taking a picture of yourself wearing a skirt is somewhat difficult.

Selfie shot of lower portion of the body is not easy...

Selfie shot of lower portion of the body is not easy…

After a few tries where I attempted “selfie” shots (can’t see the camera well),

Yea... this just didn't work for me...

Yea… this just didn’t work for me…

and one try where I bent over and attempted the photo upside-down (figuring I could rotate it, but the angle was very awkward),

I finally had a “eureka!” moment.  Using a mirror to show me in the skirt worked quite well to get a decent photo with an angle that didn’t look completely weird!  I was quite proud of myself (and my new creation).

Eureka!  A Mirror! And a skirt!

Eureka! A Mirror! And a skirt!

Next time: Ruffled Layers!  Elastic!  And a much easier way to transfer a pattern!!

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