Thursday, May 30, 2013

Newsflash: July Burda Early Preview Posted

The first images from the July Burda have been posted to the Russian website.  As I suspected, so far this issue doesn't look to be quite as exciting as June.  However, it also doesn't look to be a total waste of pattern paper either.  So far I am liking about half of the preview designs, or at least I am thinking that the pattern could be useful.  I am not swooning over anything, but, well, there are a few things I could see adding to my wardrobe.  And the plus designs look much better than the last issue.  Let's take a look...

I really like that top!  Hope it is an included pattern.
I am thinking I like those pants too...

The top is ok, but I think the skirt is cute!  And it has pockets!

This summer dress might have potential...

Short shorts, but might be useful...

Lingerie patterns always have the potential to be useful... 

Even if they aren't the most exciting.

Of course, Burda did include some summer sack patterns as well...

Ugh.  Dowdy and boring.

I do like the Plus patterns this month though.

I could totally see making this for my sister.

I might convert this to a top,
but definitely something I could see her wearing.
So, what do you all think?  See anything of potential?  Or do these simple styles leave you bored?  Feel free to discuss in the comments!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Newsflash: New Butterick Patterns Announced

Butterick has released their summer patterns, which you can see here.  I would say there are some fairly cute dress patterns, and a few good basics.  Also some really boring shirts, generic sleepwear, and oversized ponchos, but you can check those out on your own.  Not really anything outstanding, but probably at least a few patterns will make it on to my wish list.

First, the dresses:

B5917 - I love the tiny ruffle around the neck.
I could see this as part of a summer work wardrobe.

B5918 - Interesting variation on the peplum trend.

B5921 - A Maggie London dress.  Looks blah in the photo...

But the line drawing looks cool!
I see some fun color blocking possibilities with this pattern.

B5916 - Another peplum design.

B5919 - Ok dress on the front.

...with a opening on the back.

I sort of like the skirt on view C, though it might not look as good in real life,.

B5930 - Nice summer dress.  Comes in the Butterick plus sizes as well.

B5915 - Simple knit dress.  I like the contrasting sleeve detail.

B5920 - A Retro Butterick Design.
There were a few other patterns of note:

B5925 - A kAtheRine Tilton design.
Not my personal style, but I usually find the garment photos interesting.

B5923 - A Cut Line Dress/Top pattern.
I feel like I should like this, but I think it looks sort of awkwardly baggy.

B5922 - A basic knit top, but I think the collar is a nice touch.

B5926 - A basic jacket pattern.  A bit too boxy for my taste.

B5927 - Another basic jacket pattern.

B5908 - A basic trouser pattern.

B5935 - A Making History corset pattern.
We all know I have a weakness for costume patterns...

B5936 - A Making History accessories pattern.
So, what do you all think?  See anything you can't live without?  Or are your summer sewing plans already filled with patterns in your collection?  Feel free to discuss in the comments!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Skating Dress Tutorial Part IV: Sewing the Bodysuit

Last time we cut out our skating costumes, so that means we are finally ready to sew!  I will be sewing my costumes using my regular techniques, with a mix of the serger and sewing machine.  You can use straight pins to hold things together, but I wouldn't recommend sewing over them - it tends to screw up the stitches and I usually have to replace the needle after.  I try to remove the pins as I get to them which makes it a bit slow sewing, but more accurate.  I use my serger for the main seams (another reason to ALWAYS remove the pins), but if you don't have a serger then I recommend using the stretch-overlock stitch on your sewing machine, or a three-step zig-zag, or a regular zig-zag.  Sometimes a straight stitch can be used in conjunction with your zig-zag to give a smoother finishing edge, but I don't think it is strictly necessary.

(1) Sew up the back seam

You want to make the back two pieces into one back piece, so sew up the center back seam.  The outside fabric should be facing, and you should have a fairly thick fabric sandwich - lining, fabric, fabric, lining.

Sew the center back seam first, so you have a front and a back.

(2) Sew the crotch seam

Very straightforward, and easier to do while everything is still mostly flat.  Again, make sure the outsides are facing each other and that you have the fashion fabric between your lining fabrics.

Sew the crotch seam together.

(3) Sew the side seams

At this point you should already have the pieces in the correct position, so you just have to stitch down the side seams.  It might be more difficult if you have very curvy seams from using multiple sizes (like I have to use), but just go slow and it should be fine.  Don't rush or pull the fabric through the machine - let it feed smoothly on its own.  Just guide the fabric with your hands.  If you try to force it you will have a puckery mess.  This will take some practice, especially with stretch material.

Most of a leotard.

(4) Sew the shoulder seams or fabric straps

I would recommend putting on the leotard and marking where you need to sew the straps, otherwise you may have to adjust later.  Easier to measure first.  If you are sewing fabric straps (like my red/purple dress) sew the sides, then try on to mark where they need to be sewn over the shoulders.  If you are using elastic straps (I typically use 1" elastic, wrap fabric around it and sew to make them) then you should wait and attach these after the elastic is inserted into the leotard.

Straps pinned and ready for sewing.

(5) Check fit and make adjustments

It is important to check the fit before you add elastic.  Is it gaping?  Is swayback your nemesis?   Is it droopy in the front?  Too big over the hips?  I either take in the side seams, or I add darts to the front (under the bust to about the belly button level) or back (pinch out gapping excess and mark dart positions with pins) until the body suit is quite well fitted to the individual.

Need to pinch in the side seam.

And that's it for today!  At this point you should have an elastic-less body suit, which we will finish with elastic and (if necessary) bras next time!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Skating Dress Tutorial Part III: Preparing the Pattern and Cutting Fabric

Before I go on with the rest of my tutorial I feel I may need to have a bit of preface or disclaimer.  First of all, I realize that there are a lot of "body issues" in skating.  Anytime you have girls (or boys) wearing spandex and comparing themselves to each other there will be body issues.  During my tutorial I do talk about how a costume can help a skater or not help a skater to look "lean."  I want to emphasize that I am NOT discriminating against body types in skating.  I believe that skating is a great sport and fun activity, and that is should be enjoyed by everyone.  However, if you are going to put yourself in a competitive environment in a tight-fitting costume, then you should give yourself every advantage by making yourself look as fit as possible.  Skating is about creating elegant forms with the body, so, by its very nature, competitive skating means the body will be scrutinized to look at line and extension.  I am well aware that everyone is built differently and that body shapes can vary widely, but I also believe that having a properly fitted costume can enhance the overall perception of the skating performance, as well as increase a skater's confidence.  So, when I refer to making a skater look slender or lean, I am trying to enhance the skater's natural shape to help them look the best they can.  Because, really, isn't that why we all started sewing in the first place?  To produce something of quality, and look as good as we can doing it?  So while I realize that my choice of wording leaves me open to scathing comments and hate mail, I am going to state up front that I don't intend offense and I won't alter what I am going to say if it best expresses my intent.

Ok, getting back to the actual tutorial - by this point we should be able to gather all of the materials we will need for sewing skating costumes.  Once you have your machines, fabric, and patterns ready to go, it is time to trace the pattern, adjust it for fit, and cut out the fabric.  For this part of the tutorial you will need: measuring tape, your pattern, tracing paper and tools, scissors, and your fabric cutting supplies.

Gather your supplies.

Step 1: Measure your skater

This should be pretty obvious, but first you will need to measure your skater to determine what envelop size you will need to trace.  Follow the instructions on the pattern, but typically you measure bust, waist, hips, back length, and crotch depth (from the belly button around the bottom to the indentation of the lower back).  I also like to measure arm length (shoulder to wrist) if you are going to be making sleeves.  I would add some length to the arm pattern pieces anyway - they always seem to be a bit short, and you can always hem them shorter if need be.

Read the envelop or instructions to determine the proper size for tracing.

Step 2: Trace your pattern

You may have to use multiple sizes (I know that I have to use a mix of medium and large for myself) so just try to have a smooth transition going from one size to the next.  Make sure that you also trace important markings and the lengthen/shorten lines.

Note how I used the medium and large sizes in one tracing.
Also make sure to copy important markings, such as lengthen lines.

Step 3: Cut out your pattern and adjust for length

Cut out your pattern (do NOT use your good fabric scissors - you should use your paper cutting scissors for this and keep fabric scissors for fabric only).  Follow the instructions in the envelop to appropriately adjust the length - some patterns have only one lengthen line, but most have 2.  Often, back length determines added length in the top of the leotard, and the crotch depth will determine how much should be added or removed at the lower lengthen line.  Carefully read this part of the instructions!  Usually you have to divide the number in half and then take a difference to figure out your adjustments.  The Kwik Sew instructions are especially good at describing this.  Make sure you adjust the same on the front and back pattern pieces.  Adjusting the length is critical for fitting a leotard - the fabric stretch should go around the body more than up and down, so having the length correct is critical.

You can see where I added length to the top half of the pattern.
I did not need to use the bottom adjustment line for myself.

Here is a look at my TNT pattern - this had only one lengthen line in the middle,
and I had to lengthen it by two inches.  This was the first pattern I ever used,
so I cut it out of the original pattern.  Not recommended.

Step 4: Preparing the skirt pattern

Ok, so I have to admit that I am a bit of a skating costume snob, and one of my fundamental beliefs is that a skirt can make or break a costume.  If it is cut wrong, or placed wrong it can make a skater look wide, stocky, or show off more than everyone else wants to see.  Also, I typically find that the curvier your skater, the less frilly you want your skirt.  The goal is to make the hips look as slender as possible while making the skater's leg look long, lean, and elegant.  For this reason I am NOT a fan of (1) having a skirt where the seam makes a circle around the hip-bone and (2) stitching the skirt in between the top and bottom sections of the leotard.  I know sewing people will disagree with me, because sewing people hate exposed stitches, BUT (especially on curvy people) it is much more flattering to have (1) a V-shape to the waist seam of the skirt and (2) topstitch the skirt onto the costume.  The V-shaped seam should be obvious - by creating a V-point it emphasizes the length of the torso, it creates a seam that de-emphasizes the width of the hips, and it emphasizes the narrowness of the waist.  Look at every Disney princess - the cut on the bodice of their ball gowns has this V-shape to it.  It creates an elegant look and we are going to use it for our skating costumes.  As far as the topstitching goes - it helps the skirt to lie flat.  Stretch fabric has this annoying tendency to roll.  And if you insert it into a seam it is going to poof out.  We want to avoid poof, especially on the midsection.  So, topstitching.  Honestly, the top-stitching is not noticeable, especially at the distance the skaters are on the floor.  Even in close-up figure dresses the top stitching isn't distracting.  The cut of the dress and slim fit of the skirt will be noticeable.  The topstitching is not.  Trust me.

So, although there really are a multitude of skirt options available, I am going to show you how I do "my" skirts - the flat symmetric skirt, and the flat asymmetric skirt.  Since these are self-drafted patterns I can't point to you a pattern, but you can look at my pattern pieces and probably make up something yourself without too much difficulty.  Because, really they are very basic pattern pieces:

Symmetric skirt.
Left is the front piece, right is the back piece.
Each square on the grid is 1", so you can use that to estimate/draft your own.
Each piece is cut on a fold, so the straight edge is the grain, and the greatest
degree of stretch should run perpendicular to the grain line.
You don't have to get the curvature of the pieces exactly right -
we will adjust the skirt shape during construction.

Asymmetric skirt front.
This is cut in a single later, no fold.
I used the symmetric pattern as a starting point, then added a long point going off to the side.
Depending on how you cut the skirt the skirt will hang to the left or the right.  I usually like the skirt to hang right, because that is the outside in dance, so the skirt will have more movement during the skating.

Asymmetric skirt back.
Again, cut on a single layer.
I again used the symmetric skirt back as a starting point and
adjust then length and shape to get an asymmetric point.
I suggest making the flaps a bit longer than you think you will need them.
We are basically folding this around a curved form, so it is easy to make it smaller, very hard to add fabric.

Step 5: Cut your fabric

Ok, so now that we have our pattern pieces all ready to go, it is time to get to the fabric cutting.  This will probably make people cringe, but I am not the most precise fabric cutter.  I pretty much fold my fabric in half, put the pattern on top with some weights (cans of soup/olives/etc. work well), and cut around it with the rotary cutter.  I cut out the fashion fabric and the lining fabric separately though.  I don't really have a lot of tips, except to be careful with the rotary cutter - it is sharp!

Ruler makes a good pattern weight.
I just fold over the fabric and cut double.
I loves me my Olfa!

Also, sometimes I change the pattern while I am cutting (yeah... I freehand a bit... not recommended for beginners, but after a while you start to "see" how to adjust things on the fly), so in that case I use the cut fabric as the "pattern" when cutting out the lining, just to make sure it is the same:

I am using my freehand pieces to cut out lining for the straps.
My lining fabric is thick lycra because my fashion fabrics are both quite thin.
If I have a thicker lycra, I use a thinner lining fabric.
Structure is still importnat, even in spandex.

Step 6: Prepare to start sewing!

That's it for today!  Next time we will start sewing the bodysuit, so make sure your have your ball-point needles handy!

Two costumes, cut out and ready to sew!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Skating Dress Tutorial Part II: All That Sparkles

I have been meaning to do a rhinestone post for a while now, but it seems to work well in the context of my skating costume tutorial, so here we go.

One of the most fun parts of skating costumes have to be the flashy brilliance and sparkle.  Most costumes use rhinestones to achieve this, but sequins are an option as well.  The lighting in skating rinks can be quite varied, and rhinestones seem to be the most versatile in terms of providing sparkle in different conditions.  There are many different types and sizes of rhinestones, and I don't mean for this post to be an exhaustive list, but rather an overview of what's out there and what I recommend for skating.

Also, I am just stating my recommendations and preferences.  There are a lot of products, methods, and techniques out there but I am just going to point out what works best for me.


The most common rhinestones in skating costumes - plain crystal (left) and crystal AB (right)

Rhinestones are pieces of leaded glass cut to reflect light and look like little jewels.  They come in a multitude of colors, shapes and sizes.  The better quality stones have a higher lead content, and more consistent cutting of the stone.  Most of this discussion will pertain to the small round flat-backed stones, and I will have a separate section dedicated to larger sew-on stones.


Though there are cheaper options available, the only two brand of rhinestones I really recommend are Swarovski and Czech Preciosa.  Swarovski is the brand name people recognize, and you are paying for the brand.  I prefer the Czech stones myself - the cost is more reasonable, the colors are nearly identical, and unless you are a rhinestone expert comparing the stones up close, you really cannot tell the quality difference from the Swarovski stones.  Swarovski does offer some colors that are not available in the Czech stones, and there are a few special effect colors that look very different between brands, but, in general, if you want to be friendly to your wallet I would go with a Czech Preciosa.  If you are trying to sell something, Swarovski is the brand people respond to.  If you just want to make a pretty and affordable costume, Czech Preciosa is the better buy.


There are so many colors available that I cannot begin to describe them all.  The main things you need to know is that there are regular colors (these are just plain glass rhinestones, but can be in clear crystal or any other color), AB colors (AB = aurora borealis; these stones have a special coating that gives them a rainbow effect), and special effect colors (these are often multiple colors of glass used in the same stone, but can also be stones with special coatings or backings to give them a different look than a regular rhinestone).  The most commonly used color in skating is the crystal AB - it is a clear stone, so it picks up and reflects the most light, but the AB coating also allows it to blend in/pick up the color of the costume as well.  It goes with everything and comes in the most sizes.  There are so many different colors and types of stones that you really shouldn't limit yourself though - be creative and choose stones that will be best for your costume.  Most places online have color charts or pictures, but rhinestones are difficult to photograph, so if possible you should try to get your own color card, so you can be sure of exactly what you are ordering.


Rhinestones are sold by the gross (1 gross = 144 pieces).  Typically I will use 5-15 gross of stones on one dress.  Granted, I am a fairly large individual (as far as the skating world goes), so if you are sewing for a younger child you probably won't need as much.  Also, I am a bit rhinestone obsessed, so there is that too.  Often, when you order rhinestones you can get better rates if you buy in bulk (2 gross for larger sizes, 10 gross for smaller sizes), which is what I do since I know I will use them eventually.


Rhinestones are most often sold by "stone size" or "ss" measurements.  Smaller numbers mean smaller stones.  For skating costumes I recommend staying in the 20ss or 30ss sizes, though anything in the 16ss-34ss range would be ok.  I just think that 20ss and 30ss offer the best compromise of size, budget, and visibility from far away.  Obviously, larger stones will offer more sparkle, but they are also much more expensive.  Smaller stones don't sparkle as well and they take much longer to attach to the dress.


There are two types of flat-backed stones - glue on and hot fix.  I prefer the glue on, as I am not convinced the hot fix adhesive will withstand repeated exposure to perspiration.  Also, the hot fix requires a special tool (to melt the glue on the back of the stone), and having something that can burn me (or the dress!) is probably not the best idea when faced with a repetitive task that I often do late at night.  So, I recommend the regular glue-on stones.


These are some decent quality non-Swarovski Stones
Real Swarovski Stones
The sew-on rhinestones are some of the most spectacular because of their large size and varied shapes.  With these a little goes a long way, but a lot can be down right stunning.  With the sew-on stones, Swarovski provides the best selection, and there almost no sew-on Czech stones to be found.  I have recently been experimenting with cheaper quality Korean stones - these do not have the same clarity and color depth of the Swarovski stones, and close up you can tell that there is a serious difference in quality.  Also, the coatings do not seem to be as robust and scratch much more easily.  However, at a distance the cheaper stones do just as good of a job as the Swarovski stones at less than half the price.  If you are going to use these larger stones on a figure dress or for non-skating clothes that will be seen up-close, go with the Swarovski.  If you are making a costume for freestyle or dance skating, then the cheaper stones will suffice.  The sew-on stones are often sold individually or by the dozen as opposed to by the gross.  When you are using these larger stones I highly recommend that you sew them on and not glue them, as the glue will often be too weak to bear the weight of such large stones.  Or you can glue and sew them for extra strength.  Also, you want to make sure that the stones have flat backs and holes for sewing, as there are many large stones that have shaped backs or no holes.  Unlike the small round rhinestones, the larger stone sizes are indicated by millimeters (mm).


So. Many. Sequins!
Sequins are the cheaper alternative to rhinestones.  They are made of a foiled plastic, and come in an even wider variety of shapes, sizes, and colors than the rhinestones do.  The most common varieties of sequins are cupped and flat.  They are often sold by the 1000s due to their smaller size and cheaper cost.  Usually they have a hole at the center, but some of them have multiple holes or holes located near the outer rim so that they can be threaded to dangle.  Sequins often don't have as much of a flash as the rhinestones do, but their cost makes them much more affordable for use in large quantities.  They can be sold loose, strung, or on stretchy elastic trim.  Usually the loose ones are best, but I have been know to buy strung ones because I wanted a particular colors, then un-string them so I could used them the way I wanted.  Mixing sequins and rhinestones can be a great way to maximize sparkle on a limited budget.


The Bead Factory

The Bead Factory (aka Bohemian Crystal) is a bead store located in the LA Fashion District.  They offer many (many many) types of beads, but they also have a lot of crystals and rhinestones.  They have become my source for Czech Preciosa stones, and they have a large selection of Swarovski stones as well (including sew-ons).  They also have a few options for cheaper quality sew-on stones as well.  They have a larger selection at their store than they do online, and their stock is constantly changing.  They have most of the common stone sizes and colors, but not quite as much variety as I have found elsewhere.  I have been to the store in person, and I have ordered from them online - both were good experiences in terms of quality and service.  They aren't overly helpful (they are VERY busy with many customers) but they will provide help if you need it or have a question.  I find their service to be quite efficient and their prices are probably the best I have found.

Dreamtime Creations

Dreamtime Creations is another online source of rhinestones.  They offer many color and size options that can't be found elsewhere.  Their prices are reasonable and I have found their service to be very good.  I use them to order special colors or special sew-on stones that I can't get anywhere else.

Nova Rhinestone Depot

Nova Rhinestone is another store based in the LA fashion district.  They have become my source for lesser quality sew-on rhinestones.  I wouldn't use their other products for skating costumes, but these larger stones look good at a distance, especially if you blend them in with better quality rhinestones on the rest of the dress.

Rhinestone Guy

Rhinestone Guy is totally awesome and has good prices.  He has a great variety in his stock, and has now developed his own line of rhinestones (I have not used them, so cannot vouch for quality).  He is very knowledgeable and helpful, and his website is a great resource of information in addition to products you can buy.  And, how could you not like a guy who rhinestone-flamed his motorcycle?  His prices are very competitive and he offers great knowledge and service.  He used to be my go-to guy until he moved across the country :-(

Cartwright's Sequins

Cartwright's is my favorite online sequin supply.  They have the largest selection of sizes and styles I have found, their prices are great, and their service is speedy.  I have always been pleased with the products I have ordered, and sometimes you can even find a good deal on large bags of "seconds" - most of the sequins are good, but there are enough bad ones (cut wrong) that they sell the whole thing at a discount.


Applying the rhinestones to a skating costume is usually done in one of two ways - by gluing it on or by sewing it on.


If you have the rhinestones without a hole, you will be glueing them on.  I use E6000 as my glue of choice.  There are a lot of people who dislike it (it is gummy, smelly, gunky, and stringy), but in my experience it has the best holding power.  All other glues I have tried have not held up well to perspiration, or they not worked well on all fabric types.  E6000 works equally well on velvet as it does on lycra.  I think it provides the best hold and if you are careful in applying it, there aren't too many issues with strings or messiness on the dress.  My old method was to let it ooze onto a paper plate, and use a toothpick to scoop up some glue, then pick up a rhinestone with my toothpick and put it onto the dress. I generally use a twirling action to get a good sized glue drop and spread it on the back of the stone.  This method takes a while but I think it provides the best control in terms of making sure you have enough glue on each stone and that the area around the stone doesn't get too messy.  However, if you are more interested in speed (as I am this year), then using a syringe is an alternative method.  This can be a much quicker method of application, but you have to be careful about how much glue you squirt and you have to make sure to get the stone into the glue before it dries.  Also, the syringe is usually not re-useable because once the E6000 dries it is totally stuck.  The syringe method probably wastes less glue overall though.


Sewing on a rhinestone or sequin depends on what type it is and how it needs to look.  If you have a single-hole stone or sequin, usually it is held on with the use of a seed bead.  You bring the needle up through the fabric, put the sequin and seed bead on the needle, then pull the need back through the sequin and fabric, creating a loop through the seed bead.  In regular garments, most beading is done in a continuous string - you keep going until you run out of thread, and you can see lots of thread on the underside of the fabric.  I do NOT recommend this for skating costumes.  You must sew and tie off each stone individually because if you don't then when the fabric stretches the threads will most likely pop and send all of your hard work falling to the floor.  Which is sad for you and dangerous for the skaters.  So you should sew on each stone individually.  For those stones with multiple holes, you can just sew through them with thread.  In general, I try to wrap the thread around the hole at least three times to provide strength and stability.  The nice thing about sew-on stones is they are re-useable - you can cut them off of one dress and sew them onto another.  However, I will say that sometimes the edges of the cheaper quality (non-Swarovski) stones are a bit rough and will cut through the threads, so I recommend glueing them AND sewing them, just to make sure they stay in place.  Also, because I am paranoid about things falling off of my costumes, I also always glue the threads on the underside of the dress just to make sure they don't come un-knotted.

So - there you have it.  My accumulated knowledge of rhinestones and sequins.  I hope that this will be helpful to those of you who are looking to add a little pizzaz to your costumes (or anything else, really).  If you have any further questions feel free to leave them in the comments!