Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Progress on Pattern-Cutting Module

Part of the work in module 3 (Production Pattern Cutting) is to make one of the garments from our Uniform 2020 project. I'll be making a tailored leather and wool jacket. (I don't make things easy for myself!) This is the jacket:

The brown is faux leather, the plaid is wool, and so is the blue collar. I'll be making this to my measurements and using RTW tailoring, so I will make my pattern accordingly. I have adapted my dress block to make a tailored jacket block, and made a toile of the block. It was huge! (At the waist anyway.)

That's not what I call fitted! So I took it in at the side seam and front darts; the back was pretty good as it was. After two goes it looked like this:

That's better. I didn't take it in any more, and I started putting the style lines on with cotton tape. I was doing it in the mirror to begin with so the imaginary jacket closes the wrong way. This took all evening. 

It really only started looking right after a lot of tweaking, and a draped sleeve. I still have to draft the sleeve block for the jacket, and then transfer these lines to copies of the block. I also have to alter the block to account for the taking in of the waist. Thankfully we will have three weeks from this coming Tuesday to finish this, but that includes making the final jacket. You see why I'm doing speed tailoring!

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Module 4: Fashion drawing and Illustration

Tuesday last week the class went to The Deep to begin our new module: Fashion Drawing and Illustration. By the end of the day (which really meant by the next Tuesday) each of us had to have designed a collection of 5 outfits based on what we'd seen at The Deep. Naturally, everything we saw was either a fish, a shell, or coral, and all of us liked the shells and coral best.

By the end of visit (which lasted until lunch) we all had some drawings and some photographs. The fashion sketches had to fit in with the theme, which means that they can't just look like ordinary people; they have to look "fishy". I daren't put any of my illustrations online yet because we have to submit our sketchbooks digitally as well as hard copy, and the computers will scan the Internet and think I've copied someone if they see my illustration anywhere. But for now, you can imagine the Grand Council-woman and Nani from Lilo and Stitch as underwater people and get a fair idea.

Anyway, I stayed up until the after 1am the night before university (it's really a University course, even if it is at Bishop Burton College because it's in collaboration with Hull University). It's a good thing I have an alarm clock!

I managed to get the work done: a sketchbook showing the development of the idea with various media and techniques used in the illustrations, plenty of annotations, and five final designs. I knew that presentation of my sketchbooks was my weak point, so I've tried to make it look more conceptual and professional this time. I've included a title page at the front (again I daren't tell you what the collection's called because the computer may think I've cheated) and a similar page that says "Final Designs" before the final designs. For the annotations I found a picture of a clam shell on Google, faded it on Photoshop (so worth £15.88 pcm) and used it as a background for my text. My font's match the theme too. I used Trajon Pro 3 for the titles and Baskerville for the body text. I wrote an evaluation too.

To really get my grades up (I will get into the universally elusive 90%s), I can do technical illustrations for each design, along with showing images that show where I got the ideas, with fabric samples, and annotations on the facing pages (which were blank anyway because they were slightly damp while I worked on the next paintings). So that's what I'll do. I think it might be a good idea to make scale patterns and put them in attached envelopes too, and maybe make mini versions of the garments with sewing instructions and spec sheets. That should get me those good grades. 😇

Yesterday we had to research illustrators and their styles. It has been suggested that I update my illustration style. I'm bored with vintage now anyway. There are some nice illustrations styles but there are some I simply will not do. If fashion is about aspiration why should anyone want to draw ugly men smoking wrinkled cigarettes while dressed as Disney princesses? Bizarre (not to mention just wrong and grotesque! I like the pretty drawings like these, these, and these (the last one's  website is in French). There is a lot of really ugly, weird fashion illustration online so you have to look in books to get much nice stuff, let along information. I couldn't find all the stuff from the book I was looking at at uni when I looked online just now.

We also played a game at uni yesterday. Our tutor got some pretty eye masks in so that we could do what I call "Blind Drawing". She described things and we had to draw them without being able to see what we were drawing. I guessed what each thing was. 😊 I think the point of this game was to get us to draw differently. Drawing left-handedly wouldn't have worked because I'm fairly good with my left hand.

With all of this, our main task for yesterday was to illustrate and do technical drawings for four of some garments our tutor had brought in and put on mannequins. I still have to do the tech for the jeans.

Today is Rachel's (one of the girls in my class) birthday, so yesterday I took some home-made muffins in, only to find that she had made some fairy cakes too! Somehow, only I and the tutors ate my cakes. Mum thinks it's because I didn't decorated them. Well, I'll jolly well decorate the ones for Christmas (which I'll take on Tuesday, our last day), and if they don't eat my cakes it's their loss. 😊

I must go for lunch now, but I'm thinking of doing a tutorial on drawing hands and feet because that seems to be the thing people have a lot of trouble with...


Saturday, 30 November 2013

Module 3: Production Pattern Cutting + Free download!

This is a 10 week module and we're already half way through. We've got to the part where we make 1/4 scale patterns and do dart manipulation (two things which long-time readers will know I am quite used to). I looked in the tutor's file when I had finished the day's work shortly after lunch and noticed that whoever had done that file had done many more examples that we were required to do. If I do lots more examples I'll get a higher grade (and I'm aiming for the top band of 85-100%), so I found a download online of quarter-scale patterns to save time. I found one here, and added a sleeve and changed the side seam on the skirt to where I thought it ought to be.

I thought I'd share the new fifth-scale pattern with you. Here's the link (I just learned how to add downloadable files on Blogger!).

I think I'll add technical drawings to go with the patterns I make; that should get my grade up! I'm also adding a lot of the stuff from this blog to my file. I've already done the work, I might as well get graded on it! I'm going to do lots of things, like lingerie patterns, jeans, machine-tailoring patterns and anything else I can imagine and for which I have time.

I have something to look forward to in January 2015: the class is going to Paris! I've never been abroad before and going to France is on my mental Bucket List! I'm so looking forward to it!
My friends are intent on getting me drunk and in trouble if their teasing is anything to go by. It's only because I don't drink or do anything stupid (my idea of a fun evening is me and my radio and I sometimes have to wind down after doing my homework before I go to sleep.) They think I'm from another world. It's called "Economy and Sense". Oh, it's not that I wouldn't like to dress more glamorously -- and I intend to as I go along -- it's just that most of my sewing projects have actually been wearable toiles and I've looked at far too much vintage inspiration for my own good (fashionably speaking, of course). I am getting a nice make-up set for Christmas. : )

As a step towards my new more glamorous self, I've made a mood board for the style. Francesca in my class insisted she'd seen it before online. I told her I'd made it yesterday (two days ago now) and she still insisted she'd seen it on the Internet. Here it is:

I'm pretty pleased with it myself; it looks like the ones I've seen on other people's websites. It's only the second mood board I've finished. I suppose it's really more of a trend prediction board because there's no fabric or finished designs, and it's at the beginning of my new sketchbook. This sketchbook is just for me, not college. 

I've handed my sketchbook assignment in. We also had to make a portfolio with our mood boards, technicals, etc. and do an informal presentation for the class. Three of the girls have yet to do theirs; one was ill, another was on holiday for her sister's 18th birthday, and the other joined the class late and needed to catch up. So we'll see them do their presentations on Tuesday next week or the week after (we're going to The Deep on this coming Tuesday for our new module: illustration).

I think that will do for today; I've got Christmas jobs to look for! : )


Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Thoughts on Fashion Sketchbooks and Illustrations

I have mentioned before, when I started college in September I knew nothing about sketchbooks except that they were somewhere you drew. As I've gone along I've found out that they are evolving books. You use them to develop ideas into designs and then into real things.

The design process seems to vary from "expert" to "expert", but this is how I think it goes:

1. You have an inkling of a concept.

2. You brain-storm that concept with words and quick drawings that help you to "solidify" the idea and clarify it in your mind.

3. You research the concept based on your brainstorming, gathering images from real life and that other people have taken/made. You also get things like trims and fabric swatches that fit in with the idea you have.

4. You sketch little drawings, developing potential design ideas, be they fabrics, trims, embellishments, silhouettes, general attitudes, etc. from your research.

5. You develop these into full designs and add samples of buttons, zips etc., swatches of fabric that matches the colour or texture etc., and sometimes sewn samples of special features like a stylised pocket, unusual opening etc.

All the way through this you make notes (called "annotating") explaining for future reference and for "thinking on paper".

And that is how I think you make a sketchbook.

All this goes with mood boards, trend boards, fabric boards, technicals boards, design boards, and final design boards.

The mood board is a big (A3) version of the steps 2 and 3. It gives you the "feel" of your collection, hence "mood board".

A trend board is similar to a mood board, but is not specific to your collection, more the general trend.

A fabric board is basically a collage of swatches (real or digital) with information about the fabrics.

A technicals board has pictures like those in the sewing supplement of BurdaStyle magazine (the technical illustrations). It also has information about the designs. You have to write down what you can't see in the illustration. Technicals look the most professional if you redo them on Photoshop or Illustrator.

The design board has your final designs, a background image for context, and your logo.

The final design board in my project refers to the board of the one design you are going to make (front and back images, and possibly side view), along with swatches and samples, technical illustrations and your logo.

We are handing in all of the above with our sketchbooks and an evaluation (a 500 word essay about the module) this coming Tuesday. We also have to do a presentation about our collection, as if we were selling it. It's all good practice I suppose, however unaccustomed we may all be to doing it. But I suppose that's why we do it; we'll have to when we're professionals.

When I started the assignment I didn't know about research so (being me) I looked to books for help. There wasn't much specifically helpful in the college library, but there were two books. My friend Hannah who lives at college brought a couple of her books to the class for me to look at. One of them was the same as one that was in the library but to which I hadn't paid much attention. She had another one as well, but I couldn't find that at Amazon when I looked later. The three most helpful books were:

The ones I got are the first two. The middle one is more helpful the more you use it and helped my get the gist of Sketchbooks. The first one is helpful for people who don't know about research. Being a whole book on the subject as it applies to fashion design, it can talk about it in depth for which other books haven't space.

Onto the topic of illustrations. My tutor want me to learnt to draw ugly, grotesque "grunge" style illustrations, because mine "need updating" to be more contemporary and less "Disney".  Personally, I don't see the point in drawing alien models in illustration styles that prevent your seeing the clothes. Cartoony, cutesy styles are quite as bad because the styles all end up being like children's wear, and grown-ups should not dress like children (and vice versa of course).

I think she want me to draw things like the black illustrations on this page.

This is how I usually draw (click for a larger image):
Disney-ish Illustration of one of my final designs
(outer lines redone in Photoshop for clarity on design board)

One of my final designs

This is a cutesy drawing I did this morning:
Cutesy Fashion Illustration

And this is the best horrid drawing I did yesterday:
-g/q89aJvu-fek/s320/creepy+drawing.jpg" width="240" />
"Fashion Zombie"

What do you think about all this? Can you draw realistically or Disney-ishly, or do you have to stylise your illustrations?

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Draping at College

Yesterday we took a different approach to primary research. We draped a garments out of paper or calico on the stand and then projected images onto them to simulate prints etc. This is all very well if you have a projector but not many people have them. Anyway, here is what I did:

The photos above show "The Short Coat". Not a terribly imaginative name, I'll grant you. But The Fashion Design Course book has a s suggested line plan so I'm using that as a guide, and it says you should have a short coat, a tailored coat, and a novelty coat. So here's (half) a long coat:

One of the design features of this coat is that the front skirt buttons back for riding, revealing a (currently imaginary) red satin lining. This is the dress riding coat, by the way.

I'm quite pleased with the coat, especially considering I draped it and did any pattern cutting entirely by rock-of-eye. It's just as well that I cut the sleeve cap too big because at the time I had forgotten that I wanted it to be a leg-of-mutton sleeve. Maybe it was my subconscious working for me!


Sunday, 20 October 2013

I'm in college.

On the 31st July, we moved to Cottingham, which is supposed to be the biggest village in England with about 17000 residents (in fairness, I think many of those are students of Hull University living the residential halls in Cottingham). That was a palaver in itself, but we're settled in now, and on 2nd September I started at Bishop Burton College near Beverley in East Yorkshire.

The course I started was BTEC Level 3 Art and Design Fashion and Clothing. Shortly after starting, I discovered that I was the oldest one in the class at 23. Everyone else is about 16 or 17 years old. That's 6-7 years of an age gap. And it took its tole on me. As you may know, I was home-schooled so the mentality of teenage girls (or as they may be more descriptively called, Generation OMG) was something quite foreign to me. It was so exhausting that one morning I washed off my moisturiser, thinking I had only put on cleanser. It was only when I went to the towel rail and found my face cloth already there that I realised. I was considering quitting the course. That, or asking if I could see a higher level or year.

One day we were doing technical drawings (like you see on the back of sewing pattern envelopes) and the tutor thought mine were very precise and that they looked as though they had been done on a computer. We had had to bring in a garment (or bag because some of the students had left by the time we were told) to draw. I brought in the jeans I had made. It seems other people always appreciate your work more than you do and the tutor was impressed with my jeans, and that I had drafted them myself.

She asked if she could go and show them to the other teachers, and of course I said yes. Later on she brought them back and asked if I would be interested in the degree course, and if I would like to switch. Well, after the moisturiser event, I said yes without hesitation. Conveniently, the degree course didn't start until the following Monday (which was the start of Freshers' Week).

So the next week I came on Monday (my days before had been Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday), with my shopping trolley full of my equipment (which it turns out was quite unnecessary, but I didn't know that it was Freshers' Week at the time). It seems Freshers' Week is just the "Get to know the college and people" week, but that is far too long a name. One of the events they held was paint balling, which I had always fancied; but after finding out that it's like being punched, and you get a lot of bruises, the appeal wore off and I didn't go.

During Freshers' Week we had one bit of work to do in class: design a garment based on a shape (Pattern Magic fans will recognise this) and make a garment out of it. After a few designs, I picked a star. They look like people anyway and this was simpler that my other idea of a rain poncho made up of diamonds. I finished my top before lunchtime and it's still on the mannequin. The bottom "legs" of the star tie at the front waist, the top points fold down at the front and back of the neck, and the side points are cap sleeves, so now it looks like a Robin Hood sort of costume to me. The front is the photo on the right and the back is the one on the left. As you may guess, they use the same directly-drafted pattern piece.

The next week, when college really started, so did the sketchbook work. Now, I had never done a sketchbook before so the idea of research and design was new to me. Our assignment is called Uniform 2020. The idea (as you may assume) is to design a uniform for professional people to wear in the year 2020. Most people naturally picked military related professions. I picked equestrian. Now, I knew nothing about horses except that you measure them in "hands", but I thought that when I'm working, I shall probably have to design things that I know nothing about, so I might as well start as I mean to go on.

The first thing we were asked to do is what is called Secondary Research (which really means "second-hand research, i.e. stuff other people have photographed or drawn). This meant going online and looking for pictures to inspire us. Of course, having never wittingly done this before, I looked for horse-riding clothes etc. What I ought to have been looking for, apparently, was things like really old (black and white), non-commercial images. But, oblivious at the time, I chose what I did and printed them.

In the afternoon we stuck our pictures in our sketchbooks. We are to have 3-4 pictures per page: one large, one medium, and one small, all overlapping at the corners, and arranged in the centre of the page. We are to include in this our Primary Research, which means stuff we have personally seen in real life and then photographed or drawn. From these we must develop initial design ideas including prints, trimmings, silhouettes etc., and then develop them into garment designs. We also need a line plan. And that's as far as I've got up to now.

Now, don't think this all happens in one day. We have one day a week (Tuesdays) of this assignment, and it must be handed in by the 26th November with mood boards etc. and a 500 word written evaluation.

On Fridays (our only other day at college) we are doing essay work. This module is called Academic and Professional Skills. This means being able to research, write essays, and prepare and give presentations. Our subject this time is Culture and Fashion. My essay will be about Spain's Influence on Fashion, and my presentation will be about Balenciaga. It's easier if my work shares research because this really is "full-time" study, even if most of it is at home. I have to digitally hand in my essay on or by the 1st November, with the presentation being on this coming Friday.

On the 2nd November we will be working on the fashion show at Prince's Quay. I'm looking forward to that. Apparently McFly and Peter André are expected to be there. I'm not one for following celebrities, but I did used to like McFly before they changed their music style.
UPDATE: It's not going to be McFly and Peter Andre after all; it will be X Factor ex-contestants, including Amelia Lilly and several I don't know. (I don't watch the X Factor).

Also, we are entering a competition with the Savile Row Training Academy. I'm excited about that too!

So all in all, I'm incredibly busy but mostly enjoying it!

Sabrina Wharton-Brown

P.S. Do you have (or know of) a blog about a foundation degree in Fashion Design? The posts about the projects (especially sketchbooks and presentations) would be really helpful. :)

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Metric Pattern Cutting: Trousers Vs. Jeans

I've been studying Metric Pattern Cutting for Women's Wear by Winifred Aldrich, specifically the trousers chapter. The tailored trouser block almost always looks terrible when made into a toile on people's blogs (I haven't made one yet), but I think that may be down to a few things: 1) it's sometimes a bit monobutt, (but maybe that's a smart "tailored" look), 2) the CB seam is straight when it would be much more flattering curved.

The Crutch Extensions

Now, the curious thing is that the back crutch extension is nearly identical on the jeans block as it is on the trouser block. But the front crutch extension is 1.5cm or so shorter on the jeans block, which pulls the back more towards the front, as if you pulled the back of your skirt forwards between your legs, but without all the gathers on your bottom. This results in the back crutch curve being more Burda-esque than that of the jeans drafted in Pattern Making for Fashion Design by Helen Joseph Armstrong. That book says that the shorter crutch extension gives a jeans "contour" fit, but the American way of achieving it may result in a flat monobutt (at least, that's what I understand from Fasenella); maybe the European way of doing it (Aldrich) will avoid this.

The CB seam

Now, Fasenella says that the CB of jeans should have a curve to give a round bottom instead of flattening it. Neither Aldrich nor Joseph Armstrong do curve the CB seam, but Harriet Pepin in Modern Pattern Design from 1942 says that if you shift some of the dart control to the CB seam it will fit the feminine curves more literally than a straight CB seam on slacks, which would give a "mannish" appearance, as she calls it. I rather agree with this.


I think at least half the reason that the tailored trouser block looks so terrible as a toile, is the leg shaping. It's always nearly straight, which doesn't really suit the sort of fabric people use for toiles. I'm sure it would look nicer if the legs were closer fitting and the trousers were made from a softer fabric - some trouser fabric. After all, who would want stiff wide-legged trousers? The fit seems to look nicer when people make shorts from the tailored trouser block.


The jeans block has no ease at all in the hips, and the tailored trouser block has only 4cm (just over 1 1/2 inches), which isn't really very much so it shouldn't look "loose". The back hip on the jeans and the trousers is about the same; the ease being removed from the front hip to make the jeans. It think this also allows for bum-room. The tailored skirt block has only 3cm ease (I use 6cm) so I wonder if "tailored" is Aldrich's word for "minimum ease for non-stretch fabrics". It is suggested that the jeans block be used with fabrics that have a "slight stretch" for comfort. 

Interestingly enough, the crutch length and depth are the same (or about the same) on both the jeans block and the tailored trouser block.

-- Must sign off now for dinner -- : )

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

How to Position Horizontal Buttonholes Correctly

If your buttons and buttonholes are not positioned correctly, your garment will either be too tight or will gape and the collar will not meet at the CF (I know).

Most sewing and pattern-making books tell you that your buttonholes overlap the CF by 3mm (1/8") but, unless you have a very wide shank or very distant stitches on your button, that will be far too much. As it turns out, there is a simple trick for centring your button and positioning the overlap so that your garment will not gape.

Positioning your Horizontal Buttonhole

Centre the button over the centre front, put a fabric pen (or a needle with a knotted thread) down the hole that is nearest the fold of the fabric, with the needle nearest the middle of the button (as if the button were looking away from the fold). This mark will be the start of your buttonhole.

The Length of the Buttonhole

The length of buttonhole will be the length of the button + 3mm OR you can wrap a ribbon round the button's diameter and pin it tight, remove the ribbon, and the folded length + 3mm (1/8"). Measure this distance from the start of the buttonhole (the point you have marked) away from the fold. This is your marked buttonhole.

Marking the rest of the buttonholes

The rest of the buttonholes will start the same distance from the CF and be the same length. One will be at a button's length from the top, one will be on the bust-line, one at the waist. The rest are distributed evenly in between. It is easiest to lay the buttons on the pattern or garment and arrange them as well as possible. Then space them as evenly as possible.

If you want a set number of buttons you can find the space between the buttonholes like this: length from top buttonhole to bottom buttonhole) divided by (number of buttons - 1).

E.g. if you have 36cm from the top buttonhole to the bottom one, and you want 10 buttons, divide 36cm by (10-1 = 9) = 4cm between buttonholes. 

This is a lot of buttonholes for such a length, but it works as an example because of the simple maths.

The distance from the edge

The distance the garment edge should be from the CF line is the width of the button, or 3/4 of that depending on which you prefer. So if your button is 16mm wide, the edge should be 12-16mm from the CF line. This leaves a nice small amount of fabric between the button and the edge.

I working this out from instructions in the chapter about facings in Patternmaking for Fashion Design by Helen Joseph Armstrong.


Saturday, 18 May 2013

I made a skirt in a day

Granted, compared with the 1-hour skirt claims on some patterns, this is terribly slow, but it's fairly quick for me. I think I could have been quicker, but I was trying Kathleen Fasenella's centred zip instructions and not doing things as I realised afterwards I ought to have done. There was some un-picking involved, but apart from that, I don't know why it took me so long. As a result of these events, sorry, but there are very few visual instructions this time for making the skirt. I'll just give you these instructions and tips:

  1. First stay-stitch all curve and bias edges. If you are sewing a loose-weave fabric, you may wish to stay-stitch all edges. To stay-stitch, lengthen the stitch to about 3mm and loosen the tension; keep the fabric flat as you sew it. Sew just within the seam allowance. The point of stay-stitching it so stop the fabric from stretching out of shape.
  2. Change your stitch length and tension back to normal.
  3. Arrange and hand-baste the box-pleat into place at the CF. You can hand-baste the pleats with several cross-stitches on top of each other. This is better than machine basting because it stops the pleats from shifting and not meeting.
  4. Interface the yokes; don't add the facings yet.
  5. Sew the back yokes to their corresponding skirt backs. Press the seam open.
  6. Sew the CB seam up to the notch. Back-stitch and then machine baste (with a long stitch) up the rest of the way.
  7. Sew in the zip. If you know the method Kathleen used, you can use that, but without pictures I can't show you in this post.
  8. If you are sewing Italian Pockets, sew the pocket facing (the once with the scoopy-pocket shape on it) to the front of the skirt, matching the raw edges. Turn trim the seam allowances to 1/4", neaten and press. Turn the pocket facing to the WS, clipping if necessary, but not too close to the seam.
  9. Pin the pocket bag (the other piece) into place. Match its raw edges with those of the pocket facing and sew them together to make a pocket. Baste the pocket to the skirt front along the top and side of the skirt. Repeat steps 8 and 9 for the other pocket.
  10. Sew the front yoke to the skirt front.
  11. Sew the side seams.
  12. Sew the front and back yoke facings together at their side seams.
  13. Pin the yokes together along the waistline. Turn the CB seam allowances to the WS of the facings.
  14. With seam tape, cotton tape, twill tape or the selvedge of the fabric along the seam line, sew the facing to the yoke. Trim, grade, clip and press. Turn the facing to the inside of the skirt.
  15. On the inside, match the yoke facing seam allowance and the turned-down seam allowance of the yoke. Pin from the right side. Stitch-in-the-ditch along the yoke-skirt seam line. If you prefer, you can sew the seam allowances together on the inside, or you can sew by hand with a slip-stitch or a hemming stitch. Neaten and press.
  16. Hem the skirt with your preferred method.
  17. Edge-stitch the pleats.
  18. Give your skirt a final press and then go and show it off. : )


How I cut to match the plaid

When cutting plaid you have to cut one side, then turn that over and use it as a pattern for the mirrored side (left for right). This is so that you can make sure the plaid is aligned which is definitely not guaranteed if you cut double as you would with plain fabrics.

I had a photo of the whole pattern piece, but the skirt piece I used as a pattern was nearly invisible so I had to use a close-up. You can just see (thanks to shadow and a few pins) the right-hand side skirt face down on the left-hand side skirt. The are right-sides facing with the paper pattern in between for support. You do this with all mirrored pieces, and with a bit of working out, you can do it with the pockets (which I hadn't enough fabric to make). The clue is that it is like a jigsaw; just go by the stitching lines and make sure the plaid aligns along them.

Making sure the CF box pleat stayed put

Arrange the pleats using the notches as a guides. Use your forked pins to keep the layers in the right place.

Then use several cross-stiches on top of each other. You will remove these when the skirt is finished.

This way of basting is much better than machine basting because you have much more control over the fabric, which means the pleats stay put.

Now for a review of my skirt

My skirt's not perfect, but it will do for now.

The zip is better (meaning less visible) than usual thanks to the new way I did it. As a result, I've been working on specs for zips and their linings. I think I've just about got it for centred, lapped and invisible zippers. I've just got to work out fly front zipper specs now. Looking at the jeans zips we've got in the shop, they are much wider than nylon dress zips and that would definitely affect the specs if I used them.

Incidentally, did you know that traditional men's tailored trouser fly fronts are made quite differently to the way we're used to doing them on women's trousers? Even the zip is different: it's curved sort of like a J shape, and the trouser pattern is adapted on one of the fronts which allows more room. The fly-extensions also have to be sewn on, instead of cut on like ours, because the fly-front zip goes lower than the curve at centre front seam. The whole point is to make the trouser front more 3D (for comfort I suppose). I learned a lot of this on the tailor and cutter forum. The sewing method (but not the pattern adjustment) is in Reader's Digest's Complete Guide to Sewing. The women's method in that book is the more complicated one. I don't know why. Maybe it's to give you practice with a flat trouser front first.

I didn't have enough fabric for pockets so I had to skip those.

I used the blind-hem on my Bernina 380 with mixed results. This may have been because I didn't use a matching thread and I sewed (very) quickly. I think it could be a lot better if I held the fabric fold flat as it went under the presser foot. I'll have to try it again. In most parts it's completely invisible from the right side on this loose, twill weave fabric.

To stabilise the waistline and stop it from stretching out, I sewed the fabric's selvedge into the waistline seam just as I would normally sew in cotton tape (or most would use twill tape, but it's hard to find in the UK). It would only have been thrown in the bin otherwise and it's silly to waste what can be put to perfectly good use.

My main complaint is that it seems a bit tight at the tummy and it keeps riding up a bit. I've measured my waist and that doesn't seem to be problem. I have two suspects: one is that perhaps I didn't sew the seams accurately (I know, more haste, less speed); the other is that my pattern's high hip measurement (about 10cm below my waist) is smaller than mine. I'll have to check.

Other than that (and the lack of perfect neatness) I'm quite pleased with it and have worn it several times since I made it a week ago. My only excuse for not taking a photo yet is that I've been in and out a lot this week because I now go to college an extra day and that really makes a difference with one is not used to it.

Something else I learned (which may have been obvious if speed had not been a priority) is that, if you are going to top-stitch pleats, do so after you hem the skirt. Otherwise the "pin-tuck" on the skirt will be going in the opposite direction to the one on the hem and they almost cancel each other out.

The plaid is fairly well matched up. I used both my Clover forked pins and my Bernina Walking foot. Together they did a fair job considering that my fabric shifted off grain when I was cutting and the second of every piece didn't match the first perfectly (and was a bit wobbly). I can't expect the machine to miraculously fix faults of cutting.

I haven't sewn since Monday when I made a birthday present for my brother: a quilted Mac Book cover with a picture of a games controller on it; but that's for another post.

The reason I haven't sewn is that the electrics have been acting up. The oven (which is now fixed) blew up inside. The plug socket near the kettle could have set the house on fire. The electrician was so amazed at the inside of it when he looked at it that he asked if he could take it home with him! Well, it's no use to us and we're probably not allowed to put it in the bin, so Mum said he could. We haven't got the rest of electrics checked yet and I don't want to risk my wonderful new Bernina 380, so I haven't dared to plug it in since Monday.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Bernina 380 Review

[Image from www.berninausa.com]

It was a bumpy ride getting used to my new machine. Apparently Berninas take a bit of getting used to. The top-stitching is generally superb and there are so many lovely decorative stitches! I love the Bernina feet and the shop (on-line, ordered by phone) was good enough to throw in the Manual Buttonhole foot 3 for free and the compensation plates for half-price!

The trouble was with the buttonholes. I somehow (perhaps unreasonably) expected the machine to make perfect buttonholes while I sat back and watched, not even holding the fabric or taking care sewing. Of course this does not work and left me wanting to return the machine.

The other issue, which I soon resolved, was a buzzing noise that started as soon as I switched the machine on. It turned out that the person who checked the machine, either at the shop or at the factory, had left the bobbin winder on. When I turned that off, the buzzing stopped and it's fine now, even when I wind a bobbin. (The bobbin winder is really great by the way: it's easy to use and stops itself when the bobbin is full!)

So I emailed the shop about it and she helped me. I think there must be a universal law that the minute one complains about something officially, the problem corrects itself. That is what happened here. I sewed with care and attention and perfectly fine buttonholes appeared. 8-|

So now I am quite delighted with my machine. It does such lovely scallop-stitching.

The Machine

It is bigger than I thought it would be, but somehow looks smaller in its cover. I thought I would have preferred it in silver, but the black actually doesn't bother me. 

On of the first things that struck me was has small the stitch plate is. Here it is next to a spool of Gutermann thread for comparison:

See, it's tiny! 


Waking Foot

And the feet are smaller than they look in videos. Here's the walking foot, which I thought would be big:

[Here you can see how well the walking foot kept the plaid matched up,
even without my forked pins, as long as I kept it matched up as I guided the fabric. 
Note: this is not a welt seam, I just had a tiny seam allowance on one side.]

The feet of the walking foot are not toothy like the feed dogs; their sort of rubbery. I wonder how one could keep them fluff-free?

It comes with three soles: one for general sewing (already attached), one for quilting, and one for blind-hemming. It also comes with two stitching guides (a left one and right one) for parallel quilted lines. They attach with a little doohickey that's in the box.

Jeans foot #8

Jeans foot # 8 / 8D
[Bernina Jeans Foot #8. Image from berninausa.com]

This is good for any straight stitching. The outer edge gives you a seam guide of 7mm from the centre needle position, but you can move the needle over 1 notch for a slightly bigger or smaller seam allowance. The notch on front of the foot gives a 1/8" seam guide which is good for tiny seams, and the inside of the toe gives you a tiny-width guide (probably 1/16" but I haven't measured) for tiny, tiny pin tucks and edge-stitching.

I think it's sold as being good for going over thick seams, but I prefer foot #1 for that, which is the same width, but less (and I use the word hesitantly) bulky than foot #8 and has a wide needle hole for wider stitches.

Blind-hem foot #5

Blindstitch foot # 5
[Bernina Blind-hem foot #5. Photo from berninausa.com]

The blind hem on my new Bernina 380 is the best I have ever done on a machine! It only take a tiny amount of the outer fabric, and would probably be nearly invisible if I used the right colour thread (instead of just what was handy) and loosened the upper tension a notch.

This foot is also excellent for top-stitching and edge-stitching. You can even use it over humps. It is different to edge-stitching foot #10 (not included) in that #10 doesn't have the metal bit in the needle area and so is probably better of stitching-in-the-ditch, but Sandra Betzina uses the blind-hem foot #5 for that in POWER SEWING (you can see it in the photos in the book).

Zipper foot #4

Zipper foot # 4 / 4D
[Bernina Zipper foot #4. Image from berninausa.com]

This foot is about 7.5mm wide, which is about nearly 5/16" wide.

Though the manual tells you to have your needle the farthest left or right position, you can have it on notch closer to the centre if you wish. I'm not sure whether this foot could be used to insert invisible zips because there is a small distance between the needle and the edge of the foot, even with the needle in the extreme left/right position. That's why I got...

Manual Buttonhole Foot #3

Buttonhole foot # 3 / 3C
[Bernina Manual Buttonhole Foot #3. Image from berninausa.com]

Ha! Did you think I was going to say "invisible zipper foot"? In POWER SEWING by Sandra Betzina, she says, and shows in a photo, that you can insert invisible zips with the manual buttonhole foot #3. I have also seen this foot used for heirloom sewing techniques, and it can be used for sewing cording too. Well, you know how I like versatility, so I asked for this foot and they kindly included it for free. (It isn't included as standard.)

Open Embroidery Foot #20

Open embroidery foot # 20 / 20C / 20D
[Bernina Open Embroidery Foot #20. Image from berninausa.com]

This foot helps a lot when you sew satin stitches because it has a wide groove underneath to allow the dense stitches to pass through. If you tried satin stitching with foot #1 you'd find the patterns kept getting shorter-looking and shorter-looking because the dense stitches build up at the presser foot and stop the fabric from feeding through easily, like a traffic jam. I'm not much good at doing any other effects with this foot yet, but that might be due to a lack of stabiliser.

Overlock foot #2

Overlock foot # 2 / 2A
[Bernina Overlock Foot #2. Image from berninausa.com]

A sewing machine's "overlock" feature is not to be confused with an overlocker/serger. It does not cut off the fabric for you. It simply sews over the cut edge of the fabric to hold the fabric's threads together and prevent fraying.

Using this foot with vari-lock stitch #3 (which looks like a shorter, mirrored blind-stitch) you can sew and neaten narrow seams in one go (as long as you have cut them already of course). It is good for jersey and can be used at necklines and such things on t-shirts. If you are going to use a zigzag stitch with this foot, move the needle a notch to the right, and widen the stitch so that the needle doesn't hit the little metal bar on the foot.

The bar is what keeps the raw edge down to stop it from curling up. It also means that there is extra thread in the stitch, which Bernina says allows some stretch to remain (presumably helping to prevent broken stitches and seams).

Also included are the reverse pattern foot #1 and the automatic buttonhole foot #3A (the A means automatic). Foot #1 is the standard foot, and it's fairly obvious what foot #3A does, so I won't go into those.


I'm glad I got this model because the mirror function really does come in handy. The pattern end function is great too. These functions stay activated for all stitches even as long as you have them switched on. So if you mirror and pattern-end one stitch and then change stitches, it will mirror and pattern-end the next stitch. Easy enough to deactivate though; you just press the button again or press [clr].

Automatic Buttonholes

There are four automatic buttonholes on the Bernina 380: a standard buttonhole, a stretch buttonhole, a keyhole buttonhole, and a bound-buttonhole/leather buttonhole. Each is adjustable in stitch width and length.

[Buttonholes on a remnant of stretch denim]

[Standard buttonholes. I think I made them narrower than standard. Here you can also see two of my favourite decorative stitches: a flower and a tracery scallop.]

[Bound buttonhole stitch on the left, Keyhole buttonhole on the right.]

[More Keyhole buttonholes (centre) and standard buttonholes (outer)  --Yes, I missed the B out of my name on the alphabet stitches.]

I think there are several uses for the bound buttonhole stitch:
  • bound buttonholes (obviously)
  • buttonholes on non-woven fabrics
  • sewing on labels
  • bound/welt pockets
  • embroidered letterbox slots
  • staying hand-stitched buttonholes should you wish to make some
Any other ideas?


While this is necessary for attaching the buttonhole compensation plates, I don't know that I will use it all that often, at least not while my sewing table is also the dining room table. I consider it quite unladylike to sit without one's legs together, don't you? I wouldn't want it to become a habit. Still, it's nice to have it should I want to use it.

Sewing table/extension table

This is very nice to have. It takes a bit of strength to put it on and get it off, but it makes free-motion embroidery so much easier. Plus, it came with an accessory that I didn't know what included: the sliding seam guide! I haven't had a use for it yet, but I've only been playing with my new B380 so far.

It has marking on it for measurements in both directions, taking centre needle position as point 0. There is also a bias marking for sewing corners. I imagine this is for quilters, but I haven't done much quilting so I can only assume it's for piecing triangles and such things.

Foot pedal with self-storing cord

The self-storing cord is one of my favourite features, and will be appreciated by anyone who hates having loose wires in their drawers.

Cover with pockets

I can keep all my accessories with my Bernina 380 because they all fit in the pockets that are on three sides of the cover. I keep my walking foot, buttonhole compensation plates, and knee lift in the left one; my foot pedal and power cord in the right one; and the extension table, manual, accessory catalogue, and accessory box in the large one at the back, which has a flap.

The cover, when it's new, has that horrible smell of plastic. If you fell prey to the dance-mat craze of the early noughties, you will know the smell. But it's beginning to wear off now, after four or five days.

Accessory Box

This is a zip-up case with a sort of velourish divided section for the feet and othe accessories. Most of the space is for the feet. In the bottom right hand corner is where you keep the buttonhole foot #3A, right next to the bobbins (5 are included; one is is the machine). They also include some Mettler thread, which I think is rubbish because it's so fluffy and leaves lint on top of your machine when you wind a bobbin, so I'll stick to Gutermann. Anyway, I've left the Mettler thread in the large section of the box along with the spool guards, needles, quick-unpick (which I think is the sharpest one I've ever had) and those foam things that go on the horizontal spool pin before the spool to stop it from rattling or unwinding too fast (I think).

I also keep the stitch card in there. Some people find these annoying, but they're just as good as having the stitch on-screen to me, if not more convenient.

What made me choose the Bernina 380

As you may know, my Brother XR6600 spat a needle end at my eye because the needle bar had moved (thankfully, it didn't go in my eye, but very nearly) so I would not use it anymore. I still had a Toyota 21-DES but that is a very simple sewing machine and wouldn't do much of what was in the book Fine Machine Stitching that I got for my birthday. So I wanted a more advanced sewing machine. I also wanted one that was built to last, and you can see photographs of inside the Bernina 380 on the internet so I knew it was sturdy (if somewhat heavier).

I was considering the Bernina 530 because of the extra stitches, wider sewing space and adjustable foot pressure, but it's bigger, heavier and more expensive. Plus, people who actually own the B380 (and the 1008 which doesn't have adjustable foot pressure either) have said that their machines sew through chiffon just as easily as through heavy wools. Plus the B380 comes with a walking foot, which makes all the difference with stretchy fabrics that are prone to going wavy. I'm glad I chose the B380 because it's quite heavy enough and big enough for me. I don't think I could have lifted the B530 without straining myself.


I don't think I could include in one post all that you can do with the Bernina 380. I do mostly dressmaking, and I am getting interested in practical heirloom sewing and will be doing only a little quilting (only extremely basic for making a laptop cover), so techniques I learn will come up on this blog, even if only mentioned. I now have a machine that can do beautiful decorative sewing (including alphabets!) and exquisite top-stitching, and a myriad of other effects once I learn them and have a go. I think as I go along, I may be rewriting the manual for the Bernina 380 on this blog, because the manual leaves something to be desired (more content).

Do you have the Bernina 380? If you do and you have blogged about it, please leave links in the comments below!


P.S. I got Bernina 380 from over the phone. It came two days after I ordered it and the extra accessories (buttonhole foot #3 and compensation plates) came the day after that.

Styling the Skirt Pattern

A couple of post ago we drafted a basic A-line skirt pattern. Today we are going to adapt it to make a skirt in this style:

It is a nice, simple skirt with a hip yoke, centre front box pleat, centre back zip and Italian pockets. Mine will be about knee-length and made of plaid viscose (so I will be using my Amazing Plaid Matching Pins to keep everything in place before it goes through the sewing machine). I couldn't draw nice flowers on Paint, so please imagine those stars are appliquéd flowers with leaves. : )

You will need:
To begin, we will draw the design on the skirt pattern with the disappearing ink pen (purple; the red lines are the master pattern lines including the hip line). We must draw the pocket in as well because that needs a pattern even though it isn't all visually part of the design. It has to be drafted.

Drafting the Design Details

The yoke is 6cm deep from the waistline and must be a smooth curve. To make sure you have a smooth curve, fold out the dart and draw the yoke smoothly.

The pocket goes down to the hipline. Make the pocket bag (from the side seam to the dashed line) big enough for comfort. About 20cm wide by 30-35cm deep is nice a roomy.

Tracing Them

Now we must trace each of the components off onto their own bit of tissue paper. We'll start with the yoke.

Trace the large part of the yoke up to the dart. Here you can go two ways. you can either trace the whole front yoke including the dart, and then fold the dart out; or you can move the tracing paper along to the other side of the dart lining it up as though you had folded it out (see above), and then trace the rest of the dart. It's up to you, but if you are a beginner pattern maker, you may prefer the first option.

Now you add seam allowances. The yoke will be cut on the fold so you do not add any there. All around the rest of it, add 1.5cm (5/8"). Advanced seamstresses may wish to use 1cm (3/8") seam allowances, but 1.5cm is good if your fabric frays.

Write on the pattern what piece it is, the cutting instructions, and the style. I haven't given this style a number so I have just drawn the design on each pattern piece, which I think is a nice thing to do anyway because it saves your having to remember what style it is.

Now we'll do the pocket. We'll do the pocket bag first. This is the bit that is closest to you when you wear the skirt. It's also the bit you can see part of in Italian pockets (isn't that a nice name for them?). Start by tracing from the side of the dart that's closest to the CF, along the yoke line, around the dotted line, and up to the hip point (where the pocket starts).

I was wondering what to do about this, but decided to use the hip point as a pivot and swivel the tracing paper to close the dart, then draw the pocket line, effectively closing the dart.

Add seam allowances and pattern markings as you did for the the yoke. Also add a grainline, which is perpendicular to the hip-line. This is how you add a grainline using a horizontal guideline such as the hipline:-

This is how you add seam allowances to a straight line using your Shoben Fashion Curve. Line the 1.5cm line up with the pattern piece. Draw along the outer edge of the ruler. This give you a 1.5cm seam allowance.

This is how you add seam allowances to a curve. Work as for a straight edge, taking long strokes of the pen, but keep shifting the ruler along the curve. This give your pattern a sort of Mohican hairstyle:

(For concave curves, you do the same thing, but the Mohican will be on the inside of the seam allowance. The rule is to follow the smooth curve.)

Now we'll make the yoke and yoke facing pattern for the back. They are different to each other because of the way we shall set the centred zip.

Make the yoke as you did for the front yoke and add seam allowances all around, being 1.3cm (1/2") at the CB back. The back yoke facing will have no seam allowances on the back. That's right, 0cm.

Now, I forgot to curve my darts at the beginning so I had to make up for it now by making tiny pleats in the back yoke patterns and widening the darts in the skirt patterns. I left the front as it was.

Now we'll do the skirt front with pleat.

Place your front skirt master pattern on the table and a large sheet of pattern paper on top of it. Trace the skirt up to the yoke line and trace the pocket as you did for the pocket bag.

Place your Shoben fashion curve along the front, aligning the 5cm line with the CF and draw a dashed line along the edge:

Using the dashed line, repeat that. This second line will be the fold of the fabric and so will not have a seam allowance. This means that you will have a box pleat that goes in 5cm (2") on each side.

Fold the paper as it will be when sewn:

Now add seam allowances to the skirt, and, with the paper still folded, cut along the seam allowance, being careful to keep the pleat in place.

The sections of the pleat will now have shaped tops. You can notch them if you wish. I did because I have my new notchers. :)

The Back Skirt

This is pretty straight-forward. The only unusual thing is the seam allowance at the CB. 

If  you look closely you may be able to see that the seam allowance is the usual 1.5cm (5/8") for the lower part of the skirt, but where I will put the zip in it is only 1.3cm (1/2"), as on the yoke. The 1.5cm seam allowance starts where the zip tape ends.

Top mark for the zip:

  • Place the yoke pattern on the skirt pattern with the seamlines matching (as it will be sewn).
  • Place your zip where it will go with the top-stop 1/4" below the waistline seamline.
  • The 1.5cm seam allowance starts where the zip tape ends so mark this with a little line for now.
  • Also mark 3-6mm (1/8-1/4") below the bottom zip-stop. This is where your top-stitching will start so that you don't hit the zip with the needle.
  • Remove the zip and put the yoke pattern away.
  • Make the 1.3cm (1/2") seam allowance for the zip down to the mark you made for the end of the zip tape.
  • The seam allowance below that is the standard 1.5cm

After that you just add seam and hem allowances to the rest of the pattern and cut it out. If you haven't already, write on each pattern piece:
  • The pattern number or a drawing of the style
  • The pattern piece number/name (e.g. "sleeve", "top-collar" if it were a blouse)
  • Cutting instructions and grainline/foldline. E.g. "Cut 2 of self and 1 of interfacing", "Cut one on fold" etc.)
  • The date you drafted this pattern
  • Whom it is for (if you make them for people other than yourself)
And add any notches at hip points, pleats, etc. that you need to add.

The next thing to do is lay out your pattern as it will be on the fabric, measure how much fabric you will need (you may like to add 0.5m or 1/2yd if you are new to this) of self, and possibly lining fabric, and then buy your fabric. I already have a large remnant of plaid fabric out of which I hope to squeeze a skirt.

Once you have your fabric, prewash it. It is especially important to prewash and machine dry stretch fabric 2-3 times before you cut. I know because I had to throw out my second pair of jeans because they shrank so much they hurt me.

Then you can press your fabric to remove wrinkles and creases, and cut out your skirt pieces. You may like to cut the interfacing now (which is a good idea for the yoke), or you may prefer to do it just when you need it. It's up to you.

But that will do for this post. It's taken a lot longer to write about drafting a skirt pattern than it did to do it. :)

As for storing your pattern, you can either make a nice envelope with the sort of information you find on commercial pattern envelopes (but you only need to do this for one size since your pattern is not multisized). You can put a nice illustration of the design on the front and make your own logo if you want. Presently, I just pin all the pattern pieces together and store the pattern in a plastic folder with my other self-drafted patterns. It's not as nice, but it does the job and keeps them all together and protected.

Next time I may show you how to cut out plaid so that it matches, or else we'll get to making the skirt. We'll see.


P.S. If you're following along and blogging about it, please leave a link in the comments below. I don't know how to make a "badge" for sew-alongs, so we'll have to do such things manually. : )