Saturday, November 08, 2014

Laying Out, Cutting, and Sewing the Panel Print

Sewing a fine fabric requires fine thread, and I have found nothing finer for sewing lightweight silk fabrics than Aurifil thread. It's all cotton, so there's little to no stretch, and it's a fine gauge (50 wt), which works with charmeuse so well. It's a little pricey, but you get 1300 meters — you'll be able to sew many garments with just one cone. You won't find it at at chain stores. Some quilting shops may carry it, or check Red Rock Threads or Hawthorne Threads for availability.

All righty, back to looking at the panel print. I had 1-1/4 yards, and it was 54" wide. That's enough for one short-sleeved top. This seemed like a job for the Grainline Studio Scout Woven Tee to me.

My relationship to this design has been somewhat troublesome. I'd made it up in a solid color cotton lawn once before, and while fun to put together and wear, my results weren't enormously flattering on my body. Scout has no bust, waist, or shoulder darts. Its side seams are fairly straight up and down. The distinguishing feature is its pretty scoop neckline. That, and no closures.

Since I was cutting out on flat, not folded, fabric, I needed to make full front and back pattern pieces. I also raised the armhole and changed the sleeve cap shape just a little, using fitting information from previous bodice projects I've done recently.

Here's the underlining fabric, a silk and cotton blend in a satin weave. It's too flimsy to be good for much of anything else but underlining another fabric.

I chalked the cutting lines onto the fabric, then basted each piece to the underlining, using glace thread. I have some silk thread I use for basting, but I had a feeling it would simply wiggle out of the fabric. Hy-Mark, #16 all-cotton glazed thread held the layers together. Then, I cut out my pieces along my chalk lines.

Here we can see the nicely-designed neckline taking shape. Sewing four, thin layers of fabric together isn't as difficult as I'd imagined, and it's made easier by hand basting the seams first, using a fine gauge thread (I reverted to my silk thread). I used a strip of the fabric's selvedge to reinforce the shoulder seams.


I was introduced to this silk thread by Belding Corticelli at a Susan Khalje seminar. Oh, it's not made anymore, but is usually plentiful on eBay or Etsy. Fly fisherman favor it because it's strong and light for their flies, and they are often the ones selling off their extra stash. As is usual for me, I laid in a lifetime supply.

Scout's printed instructions don't specify this, but applying the bias binding for the neckline should be your next step — before closing the side seams. It's just so much easier to sew on a garment that's still 2-D. My neckline application, however, was tricky. I used only a single layer of the shell fabric (no underlining), but it took several basted-on attempts before I got results that were acceptable. It still doesn't look exactly as I wish it would from the inside of the garment but at some point I have to move on and hope I can do it better next time. I did stay stitch the neckline first and I suggest you do it, as well.

I went with a Hong Kong finish for the side seams, using bias fabric strips from the underlining fabric. This, after basting the side seams, trying Scout on for fit, and adjusting. I needed and wanted more side seam shaping at the waist. Even after I applied the Hong Kong finish, I could still adjust the fit if I really wanted to.

Here's what it looked like as I sewed Scout on my Babylock Jane. Dang, do I love this machine. It's marketed to quilters, but I like to think of it as an industrial-type machine for the home sewer. It's got power, torque, adjustable feed dog height, adjustable presser foot pressure, and a lot of room in the sewing bed. I love the slender-toed, metal presser foot. Jane sews forwards, and backwards, only. I find a back-to-basics approach is really working for me.

After basting in the sleeves by machine, then stitching, I decided on a turned-under finish for the sleeve seams. I didn't want to take a chance on extra bulk there.

A simple, double-turned hem finished off my silk panel-printed Scout.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Using Panel Prints

How many times have you run across a print like this — fabric printed in panels — and decided to skip it because you weren't sure what to do with it? Especially when you're sewing garments, this kind of fabric feels tricky to approach. One false move  . . .

I had a chance to see a garment in a panel print taking shape in August during my annual trip to San Francisco for a week of sewing with Sandra Betzina. Here's Paul Gallo showing Sandra how to "read" an engineered panel print.

If you look, you can see a "collar," "cuffs," center front, etc.

This silk charmeuse fabric was of exceptional quality. It had an exceptional price as well, coming from Britex Fabrics in downtown San Francisco. This garment was to go on display in the store, so shoppers and designers can see the fabric's possibilities. Oh, lots of people like to whinge about how pricey Britex is. It's easy to overlook the fact Britex simply has the very highest quality apparel fabric available for retail sale, anywhere.

I'm thinking of printing bumper stickers:  STOP BRAGGING ABOUT USING CHEAP FABRIC. But I digress.

Sandra's shift dress, with cut-in-one short sleeves, began to take shape while I was still at the retreat. Even though it had a nice hand and drape, it needed backing. Sandra had Paul underline the fabric with a lightweight silk/cotton sateen. Paul chalked in the cutting lines for the front and back pieces, basted the layers together, and then cut the pieces out for her. He had a blast with this fabric. She took over the machine stitching from there.

I chose another engineered panel print from the same shelf at Britex. It cost far less than Sandra's fabric, but it's not the same quality as Sandra's fabric, either (it's a lot filmier). So I needed to underline my fabric as well. I used the same silk/cotton sateen as she did (in fact I bought a bunch of it from her). But first, I had to look at it a while.

At Britex the salespeople and I examined the fabric and noticed that a single panel measures 1-1/4 yards long and 54" wide. We decided to have them cut, not tear, the fabric in the event the print is off grain (which it probably is, a little bit, anyway). It was not hard to tell which part of the fabric should be the front of the garment. No need to wear a necklace with this top — the necklace print is enough.

The tougher question was, where to place this horizontal "stripe," which runs the width of the goods? I knew I didn't want it over my stomach or hips. That's not where I want a horizontal line — at the widest part of me (which is why I have never warmed up to low-waisted pants and skirts). So I knew I wanted this line right near my bust or shoulders.

There was something else, too — this little cluster of flowers. It only appears once in the panel, no repeats, and they contrast with the all over rose print. So it went on the left front of the garment.

When I looked more closely, I saw something else, too. This print is done digitally. It looks like a photograph on fabric, almost. This is Italian-made.

More on how I used this unusual fabric in the next post.