Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Shopping for knits online, part 3: Rayon Jersey Knits

I intend for this to be my final post in my "shopping for knits online" series, and in this post, we'll look at a few listings for rayon jerseys from different online sources. If you're new to my blog, here are the other two posts in this series:
A few words about other types of knits: French Terry, Ponte de Roma, and neoprene/Scuba knits

Now, there certainly are other types of knit fabrics that you can buy online, such as French Terry, Ponte de Roma, and now even neoprene/SCUBA double knits. I may add onto this series with a post about these fabrics later on, but as for now, I don't feel confident enough in my own ability to shop for these fabric types to write an entire post about them. However, here are a few observations that I've made based on my experience so far with these fabrics:
  • French Terry: The few pieces of French Terry that I've bought and worked with (all from Girl Charlee) have all been absolutely lovely fabrics--drapey with a nice amount of body (more body than many of the jersey knits we've discussed in this series).  I love this stuff. It's held up well to washing and wearing so far, and I expect to stalk their web site and buy/stash prints and colors that I like when they get them in stock.
  • Ponte de Roma: Ponte de Roma is a type of double knit fabric and is currently experiencing a lot of popularity. PdR is affordable, has a nice drape, and is often available in a wide variety of solid colors and prints.  Because PdR is relatively stable, you can also often use it in a pattern that calls for a woven fabric. (A lot of people refer to this fabric as "Ponte" as a shortcut, but "Ponte" is a different fabric with less drape.) PdR is typically a blend of rayon, polyester, and spandex. Because this fabric type is a rayon-poly blend, some fabrics will pill in the wash, which is generally the biggest knock against Pdr. Generally, a blend with a higher poly content will tend to pill more than a blend with a higher rayon content, although I have read about exceptions online. Blends with higher rayon content will also tend to feel softer to the touch. Occasionally, you'll run across a PdR that's all poly and spandex with no rayon. I, personally, would probably not purchase this fabric.
  • Neoprene/SCUBA knits: These are everywhere right now, often available in vibrant colors and prints. Neoprene/SCUBA is a beef-ish double knit that can be used for more structured garments. No, it does not feel like a wetsuit. I've purchased three cuts of this fabric from three different sources but have not sewn any of it yet (although I plan to do so soon).
    • The first cut that I ordered was an inexpensive solid purple cut that I bought on sale from FabricMart. Honestly, this fabric feels "icky" for a lack of a better word. Luckily, I only bought one yard of it to make a Mabel pencil skirt, but I can't seem to bring myself to actually work with this cut. Maybe it'll feel better after washing, but right now, I'm leaning towards writing off my $6 investment.
    • The second cut that I ordered was a cut from Girl Charlee, and it feels So. Much. Nicer. than the stuff from FabricMart. This cut was from the big lot of SCUBA fabric that they got in within the last month or so. It's beefy and soft and stable, and I think that it will work well as an unlined bomber jacket, which is what I'd originally purchased it for.
    • The third cut that I ordered was from Gorgeous Fabrics. They've gotten a lot of neoprene in lately, too, and I got sucked in by a cool print. This cut was the most expensive, and not surprisingly, feels the nicest out of the bunch. I'm planning to do a "wearable muslin" in the Girl Charlee fabric and make my "real" garment out of the stuff from Gorgeous Fabrics.
Onto the rayon jerseys...

For me, rayon jerseys have required the most trial-and-error shopping out of any type of knit. "Mid-weight" seems to mean something different to every online retailer. This post will largely be me sharing my lessons learned with you.

If you haven't worked with rayon jersey before, be aware that this type of jersey is generally very soft and very drapey. If you're not used to working with drapey knits, rayons can be a bit more difficult to work with than more stable knits like ITY jerseys and cotton knits. On the other hand, rayons usually have an amazing drape and are great for garments with ruching details or things like cowls necklines.

I won't discuss "tissue-weight" or "layering" rayon jerseys in this post because I avoid those like the plague. Jerseys of those weights absolutely have to be lined or layered with another piece, and I'd rather not deal with them. That said, I could see them working well for lounge tops or lingerie. The "tissue weight" or "layering" red light keywords apply across all online fabric sources, as far as I'm concerned.

Enough rambling from me. Let's look at some jerseys!

11oz. rayon/lycra jersey from Emma One Sock

I'll cut to the chase, I love the 11 oz. rayon lycra jersey from Emma One Sock. To me, it's the gold standard for rayon lycra jerseys and is worth the price tag, if you've got an appropriate TNT garment to use it for.
Emma One Sock 11 oz rayon jersey
 
Linda from EOS always has a ton of this fabric in stock in many, many different colors. You can reliably order and re-order from this group and always know what you're going to get.

At $18/yard, if you use 2 yards for a knit top pattern that you've already made and loved, $36 total for a top that will wash and wear well through multiple seasons seems like a good investment to me. The description for this fabric is pretty accurate. The thing to take away from it is the weight is 11oz, and if you look at the suggested uses, "pants" are one of them. This is a beefy knit. A maxi-dress made out of this will both stretch (note the 4-way stretch) and feel heavy.

I've bought and sewn with this fabric probably about a half dozen or more times over the years. I love this fabric for tops. I like it for simple knit dresses; however, I wouldn't go with any fuller of a skirt than an A-line shape for this fabric, as a dress with a full skirt will feel pretty heavy. This fabric would work great for a dress bodice in a solid color and the skirt in a lighter-weight print.

Knit print from Emma One Sock

Hint: most fabrics described as "knit prints" from EOS are rayon jerseys. Of course, you'll want to check the fabric description to be sure. Here's a fairly typical knit print (i.e. "rayon jersey") listing from EOS:

Knit Print from EOS
With this fabric, you're largely paying for the quality of the print. I haven't worked with this exact fabric, but I have occasionally splurged on other rayon knit prints from EOS, and her knits are generally quite a bit lighter weight and drapier than the solid-colored 11oz jersey. This listing describes this fabric as medium-lightweight, and from the similar knits that I've worked with, I would agree. I'd use this fabric in either a knit top or a drapey dress, like a Colette Myrtle.

Midweight Rayon Jersey from Gorgeous Fabrics

Moving down the price scale a little bit, here's a midweight rayon jersey from Gorgeous Fabrics:

Midweight Rayon Jersey from Gorgeous Fabrics
Now, when I think of a fabric as "midweight", I usually think of a t-shirt as an example garment. I don't think that necessarily applies to rayon jerseys, and I think we'll generally be happier if we can get that association out of our heads. This fabric is described as "midweight", but the midweight rayon jerseys that I've received from Gorgeous Fabrics have definitely been on the lighter side of what I'd use for a t-shirt. They do, however, work well for drapey knit tops, which is the example pattern in this listing (the "HP Mighty Aphrodite knit top"). Another clue is that Ann hints that this jersey can be layered with other garments--to me, that's a pretty big sign post that this fabric is on the lighter side.

Super Soft Rayon Jersey from Gorgeous Fabrics

Okay, if the above fabric is a "midweight" jersey, then what's a super soft jersey?

"Super soft" rayon jersey from Gorgeous Fabrics
When Ann says that a fabric is "super soft", she means it. You might buy this fabric for a top, but you'll feel it and want to use it for pajamas. I'm sure that it varies some, but my experience has been that the "super soft" jerseys run a little lighter in weight than Ann's "midweight" jerseys.

This listing doesn't contain a whole lot of clues as to the weight of the fabric, but both recommended patterns have some drape and gather details. If this fabric is the same as other "super soft" jerseys I've bought/swatched from GF, I'm not sure that I would use it for a Tiramisu. Normally, Ann's descriptions and recommendations for her fabric are spot-on, but my opinion does occasionally differ from hers once I have fabric in-hand.

Fabric.com rayon jerseys

I won't post individual listing examples for fabric.com because I haven't ordered a rayon jersey from here in a while, generally having been disappointed with how lightweight the ones that I'd ordered were. I mention them because I know that they're a popular source for inexpensive rayon jerseys among a lot of sewists. I can offer some general guidelines, though, if you're interested in ordering rayon jersey from fabric.com.
  •  "Tissue": You'll see a lot of fabric.com jerseys use this word in their description. Tissue weight jersey is EXTREMELY lightweight. As I mentioned in my intro, I avoid anything of this weight like the plague.
  • "Slub": The word "slub" refers to little runs and "flaws" intentionally knitted into the fabric. Slub doesn't mean anything weight-wise. Pay attention to the fabric description for that.
  • "Lightweight": As with ITY jerseys, when fabric.com says that something is lightweight, they mean it. "Lightweight" generally isn't as lightweight as "tissue" weight, but it's still a weight that I avoid. 
  • "Dakota": Dakota is a manufacturer brand name. I've seen the Dakota line fabrics on other sites listed for significantly more than what fabric.com charges. If I were going to order a rayon jersey from fabric.com, I'd look for the Dakota name and stick with that. In my experience, when fabric.com mentions a manufacturer's brand name, it's nearly always a fabric of at least decent quality.
And of course, if you're in doubt, remember that you can always order swatches.

HotPatterns giveaway update

If you haven't posted a comment for the HotPatterns giveaway, you still have a few days to do so before the August 30th cut-off (PST). I'll announce the winner on Monday:

HotPatterns giveaway post

Monday, August 25, 2014

Finished Project: HotPatterns 1121 - Riviera Cote D' Azur Knit Dress & a HotPatterns Giveaway!

A little while back, when I'd ordered the updated peasant blouse pattern from HotPatterns, I was accidentally shipped a copy of the Riviera Cote D'Azur dress, top, and tunic. I'd actually made up the top version of this pattern a few years ago and didn't need a second copy, so I contacted the folks at HotPatterns and asked if they'd prefer me to ship the duplicate back to them or if I could do a giveaway on my blog. They said that I could go ahead and do a giveaway! (This also happens to be the first giveaway that I've done on this blog.)

For the unfamiliar, here's the envelope/line drawing for this pattern. The Cote D'Azur includes a top, tunic, and dress view:

HotPatterns Cote D'Azur Knit Dress, Tunic, and Top
Knowing that I'd be able to give away a copy of this pattern inspired me to make another version. Whereas I made the top version initially (which unfortunately, suffered from poor placement of a floral print, which appeared to give me nipple blossoms), this time I opted to make the dress:

HP Cote D'Azur dress
We were unable to get a dog-less shot yesterday, so we've got a standard dog photobomb in this pic.

For this dress, I used a cotton-rayon spandex blend jersey from Girl Charlee. It's a little on the lightweight side, but I don't mind for a longer dress like this. The dark background and print help to camouflage lumps and bumps that might otherwise be visible in a lightweight knit.

Fit and sizing

I'm 5'2", and I wanted a longer dress, so I didn't do any shortening on this version. On the envelope, you can see that the dress hits the model a little below the knee. I knew from reading other online reviews that the dress version ran long (and I recalled that my pre-hemmed top version was quite long, as well). I was hoping to get a maxi-length in back, and I did. The front of the hi-low hem hits just below the wides part of my calf.

Cote D'Azur - back view
Sizing-wise, I started with my typical-for-HotPatterns size 18 through the neck and shoulders, and graded to a 22 from the bust on down. (The HP size chart puts me in a 22.) Whereas some HP knit patterns run a little large, I found this one to be true to size.

Dress/pattern details

As you can see from the line drawing, the dress/top has a ruching detail down the CF seam. This ruching provides really nice shaping over the bust. I feel like the girls look extra "perky" in this dress, even wearing a typical old bra.

The dress and tunic versions both use a faced hem, rather than a flip-and-stitch hem. Since I was using a lightweight fabric, I interfaced my hem facing with a lightweight fusible tricot interfacing (from Fashion Sewing Supply). The faced hem adds weight and stability to the hem. I love the "swooshy" feeling that I get from my hem in this dress version.

Even without a separate waist seam, the general shape of the dress is fit-and-flare. But given the gentle shaping at the waist, I think that this dress would work well on most figure types. (If you google reviews/posts for this dress, you'll find a lot of supporting evidence for this.

A few notes about HotPatterns

If you're interested in the pattern giveaway but are unfamiliar with HotPatterns, here are a few things to be aware of:
  • HotPatterns sizing is generally similar to RTW. All patterns include sizes 6-26.
  • Their patterns are printed on sturdy paper, with all sizes nested.
  • HotPatterns instructions are generally more of the "order-of-construction" variety, expanding down to the more-detailed level when there's an important technique/step. For this particular pattern, if you've sewn a few knit tops or dresses, I think you'll be fine.
Entering the giveaway

If you're interested in the pattern giveaway, just post a comment telling me whether you've ever sewn a HotPattern before and why you'd like to win this pattern. Please post your comment by Saturday, August 30th.

I will use a random number generator to select a winner, which I'll announce here. You can then send me your address, and I'll ship the pattern to you. I'm not restricting this giveaway to the US, so I'd love to see my readers from Australia and elsewhere enter, too.

Note that while we have a non-smoking home, I do have cats who are allowed into my sewing room. I've kept them away from this pattern, but it has been in the same room as them.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Shopping for knits online, part 2: Cotton Jersey Knits

I suspect that this is the post that many of you have been waiting for: a post on how to decipher the listings for the various cotton jersey fabrics that are available from Girl Charlee. Cotton jerseys can be surprisingly difficult to find online, and Girl Charlee carries a ton of them in their store, nearly all with cute prints and current colors. However, the weight, stretch factor, and general quality can vary a lot from Girl Charlee, which is kind of the elephant in the room when talking about shopping for cotton knits online. While you can certainly find cotton knits from other sources, I don't know of any other online sources who carry nearly the number of cute prints and variety of colors that Girl Charlee does.

This post is absolutely not intended to be a slam at them; I'm a regular customer there and have generally been happy with my purchases. I have learned, though, not to always be tempted by a really cute print; with their listings, you absolutely need to pay attention to the details so that you're not surprised when your order arrives on your doorstep.

Unlike the FabricMart and Fabric.com listings that I dissected in Shopping for knits online, part 1: ITY Jersey Knits, I have actually purchased the fabrics that we'll be looking at in the rest of this post, so I'll be able to tell you how these listings translate to "real life".

A note about pilling, fade, and pre-washing

I've seen numerous online reports about fabrics from Girl Charlee and other sources pilling, fading, or having dye run after numerous washes. Jenny from Cashmerette even ran into an issue where dye was rubbing off onto her hands and lining fabric as she worked with it. Unfortunately, I don't know how to protect yourself against these issues when shopping for fabric anywhere--whether it be online or in a brick and mortar store. I've run into these issues (except for the dye rub off) with fabrics from a number of sources, myself. I do have one Girl Charlee print that I suspect will probably fade after a number of washes, but most of my purchases from there have held up pretty well. I do know that knits printed onto cotton knits and cotton knit blends will be more susceptible to fade, in general than say, an ITY knit. I think that many of us have read stories of pricey fabrics from Spoonflower fading after a few washes, so it's a problem that runs across all price points. I know that increased poly content in rayon blends can contribute to pilling in rayon knits, so that's something else to consider.

I've also found many of Girl Charlee's prints to feel a bit "stiff" upon first touch. I have found, however, that most of them soften up very nicely after a wash or two. If you're disappointed by the hand/feel of a fabric that you've just ordered, try pre-washing it and drying it before making your final judgment.

Making sense of knit weights

Some web sites (including Girl Charlee) list a weight by oz for each fabric. Unfortunately, these numbers are meaningless if you're new to ordering knits online. Through trial-and-error and many online purchases, I've developed my own categorization of knits by weight. Your mileage may vary, but this is what I go by when I see weights listed in oz on a fabric listing:
  • Less than 7 oz: Anything under 7 oz is a lightweight knit.  I would avoid anything in this range unless you wanted to layer or line the garment that you planned to make.
  • 7-8 oz: light to medium weight, good for a top that needs a lot of drape or a flowy skirt (either lined or unlined, if the fabric is opaque). For example, a cowl top made from this weight of fabric will drape nicely. I would not personally use this weight for a wrap dress or for a simple knit top--a weight this light will be prone to showing lumps and bumps. Girl Charlee knits of this weight on a white background will be a bit sheer, as well.
  • 8-10 oz: A true medium weight. I find this weight range to be the most "multi-use". This weight works well for a variety of knit tops and dresses. I made both of my Monetas from knits in this weight range.
  • 10 oz and up: Anything over 10 oz is a "beefy" knit to me. I like this weight for plain t-shirts and other tops without gathering or ruching.  This weight will not cling to lumps and bumps (unless your top/dress/skirt is tight). Beefy knits also work well for the bodices of knit dresses, but if you made an entire dress out of a knit this beefy, the dress might feel a bit "heavy".
Most of the cotton jerseys (not counting things like French Terry) will fall into one of three categories. Note that the weights can vary slightly within these categories.
  • Cotton Jersey Blend
  • Cotton Spandex Knit
  • Cotton Spandex Blend (usually printed fabrics)
Without further rambling, let's take a look at a few listings, shall we?

Cotton Jersey Blend Fabric

Most of the fabrics in Girl Charlee's Exclusive line are listed as "cotton jersey blends". But what does that mean? This bird print is a good example of this type of fabric:

Cotton Jersey Blend fabric
"Blend" in this case means a cotton-poly blend. If you look at the listed fabric content, this fabric is nearly half poly. This fabric contains no lycra. What that means is that any stretch in this fabric is mechanical, so this fabric probably wouldn't be a good choice for a pattern with negative ease. 30% stretch isn't very much stretch for a knit, anyway. A high poly content in rayon blends also can contribute to pilling in the wash; however, I've made a few things from GC's cotton jersey blends and haven't noticed any major pilling yet.

Take a look at the scale. 2" by 2" is not a small bird. It's easy to overlook the rulers on fabric listings, but you need to pay attention to them if scale-of-print is a concern. Many of the cute animal prints (and by that, I mean birds, foxes, and deer) on Girl Charlee are of a similar large-ish scale. This scale doesn't make the fabric unusable by any means, but it will make you think twice about what pattern to use with it.

If I was looking for a pattern for this fabric, I'd look at something like a loose-fitting batwing top. You won't need much stretch for that type of pattern, and it won't have a lot of seamlines to break up the print. Personally, I actually really like this line for kids' clothes for Eva. A cute dress with animals on it for under $7? You can't beat that.

One final thing to point out for this listing is that they have over 250 yards available. This print isn't selling out any time soon. If in doubt, order a swatch, then wash the swatch and see what you think before you order.

Solid Cotton Spandex Knit

Girl Charlee's "solid cotton spandex knit" fabric is dyed, rather than printed, so it has a different feel from their printed cotton spandex knits.

Solid Cotton Spandex jersey knit

The biggest two differences between this fabric and the one above it is that this fabric is beefier and contains spandex and no poly.

I like this fabric a lot for inexpensive t-shirts and knit dresses. I used this exact fabric for one of my Monetas, and while I've seen some slight fading in the wash (I wash my handmade clothes on cold/delicate), it hasn't been too bad. 10oz is a nice weight for a lot of different types of garments.

With 60% stretch horizontally (around your body) and 30% stretch vertically, if you use this fabric in a dress, note that the bodice will likely stretch and be pulled down by the weight of your skirt. This isn't a bad thing, but it's something to be aware of when figuring out where your waist seam will hit you and how long your skirt hem will be.

Cotton Spandex Blend Knit Fabric

If the first two fabrics weren't named crypically enough, this one is even a bit more of a head-scratcher. Girl Charlee will often have a small amount of rayon blended in with the cotton-spandex jerseys that they use for their print fabrics. This fabric is a good example of that:


As is often the case with knits with rayon, this fabric is a bit on the lighter weight side--7.5 oz. The weight for GC's cotton spandex prints can vary a bit, so definitely take a look at that number before getting your heart set on a certain pattern for a given fabric.

Being a cotton rayon spandex blend, you can expect this fabric to be very soft. (I can confirm that it is, indeed, very soft.) Think "secret pajamas" when you think of the softness/comfort level for this fabric.

Since this fabric has 50% stretch horizontally and 15% stretch vertically, you could use this fabric for a pattern with negative ease. Like the other cotton spandex fabric, if you used this for a dress, it will stretch in the vertical direction, as well.

I bought a yard of this fabric in a different colorway to make a dress for my daughter, and while it'll be fine for a girls' dress, if I were using it for a woman's dress, I'd look at patterns like Colette's Myrtle, or a flowy maxi-dress.

This post doesn't cover every single variation on the cotton jerseys at Girl Charlee, but it should give you an idea of what to look for and give you a better idea of what you'll be getting if you order fabric from this site.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Shopping for knits online, part 1: ITY Jersey Knits

Let's talk about [knits], baby
Let's talk about you and me
Let's talk about all the good things
And the bad things that may be

Mutilated Salt N Pepa lyrics aside, I've been seeing a lot of talk lately online about shopping for knits online. More specifically, I've seen a lot of talk about being disappointed with online knit purchases once they arrive at your house and you actually get to feel the fabric.

If you follow my blog, you know that I sew with knits a LOT. I also buy most of my knits online. While we have some wonder fabric stores for sewing woven garments here in Seattle, the selection for knits isn't all that great. Of course, there are exceptions, but by and large, I buy my wovens from local shops and knits online. Like everyone else, I do occasionally end up with a lemon that gets relegated to Future Muslin status, but for the most part, I'm usually pretty happy with my purchases. Granted, it took me a number of years and a lot of trial-and-error to get to this point, but I think that I've learned enough about online knit fabric listings to get a feel for what to look for and what to avoid.

In this series of posts, we'll compare online listings for similar fabrics, and I'll point out the characteristics that I zero in on to decide whether or not a particular knit is appropriate for the project that I have in mind. For now, I'll focus on ITY jersey knits, which are the knits most commonly used in knit tops and dresses. (I'll save other types of knits, like cotton jerseys, rayon jerseys, ponte knits, for future posts in this series.) I know how easy it is to get suckered by a cute print, but you won't be happy with your purchase if the fabric isn't right for your project.

To start off, I always focus on four things in a knit listing:
  • Fabric content (rayon, cotton, silk, poly/ITY?)
  • Amount of spandex and/or stretch?
  • Weight (can be listed in general terms like "light to medium weight" or actually give a weight in oz)
  • Scale of the print, if it's a print (and not solid) fabric
  • Price (of course--and keeping in mind that you usually get what you pay for).
When in doubt, order a swatch. (Most online fabric stores will send you swatches for free or for a very nominal price.) If you're just getting your feet wet with knits, ordering a bunch of swatches, cataloging them in a notebook, and keeping them as a reference can be extremely helpful when deciphering online knit fabric listings.

Disclaimer: I do not own and have not felt any of the fabrics discussed in this post. I'm simply giving my impressions and analysis from reading the listings.

Let's start, shall we?

Poly ITY jersey Basics

Many of the fun, vibrant prints that we see in other people's blog posts and pattern reviews are ITY (Interlock Twist Yarn) jerseys, which is a term that has to do with the way that the fabic is knitted. I've found that ITY jerseys typically (but not always) have the following characteristics:
  • Poly-lycra blend
  • Have a decent amount of stretch (but not too much)
  • Typically have vibrant or geometric prints
  • Don't usually fade in the wash
  • Usually mid-range on the knit stability scale (where a Ponte knit would be very stable and a lightweight rayon-lycra would be very slippery)
  • Skim over lumps and bumps
ITY jerseys are great for patterns like wrap dresses, where you want a fabric with some body and some drape, and the pattern doesn't have a ton of seam lines to break up the print. They're also great for knit skirts because of the way they skim lumps and bumps, and the mostly-poly content doesn't bug me when it's on my lower half in skirt form. I don't usually use ITY jerseys for knit tops because the scales of the prints are more typically suited for dresses and skirts. Because of its body, I probably also wouldn't use an ITY jersey for a garment that had a lot of ruching or pleating where I wouldn't want the bulk.

Example 1: ITY jersey from Gorgeous Fabrics

To start, let's look at a fairly typical ITY jersey listed on Gorgeous Fabrics:

ITY jersey on Gorgeous Fabrics
  • This listing is a poly-lycra blend with 6% lycra--that's a pretty decent amount of lycra, and this fabric has 60% cross-wise stretch. You could certainly use this fabric with a pattern that called for negative ease; the print would also help camouflage any lumps and bumps revealed by said negative ease.
  • Now, Ann doesn't usually list fabric weight or give an indication of fabric weight in her listings. However, she does recommend example patterns that would be a good match for her fabrics. Pay attention to these; Ann is great at matching fabrics with patterns. In this case, the two recommended fabrics are for a semi-fitted dress with a fitted waist (New Look 6001) and a sarong. There are darts in this pattern and a little bit of ruching--you wouldn't want a really lightweight, floaty jersey for this dress. It should work well for a border print like this fabric. So, even assuming that you're planning to make something other than New Look 6001 with this fabric, the example should give some hints as to what patterns will work well with it.

    New Look 6001
  • For this fabric, Ann included a ruler in the main listing feature. You can see pretty easily that this print has quite a large scale. If you want to produce a RTW-looking garment, you wouldn't use a print of this scale for a dress or skirt and not for a top.
  • The last thing to consider here is the price: $12/yard, which is a bit pricey for many of us, but the price also gives you a clue that this probably isn't going to be a flimsy, lightweight fabric.
Example 2: ITY jersey from FabricMart

Now, let's look at an ITY jersey from FabricMart. FabricMart generally has lower prices than Gorgeous Fabrics, but their quality is a bit more of a crapshoot. You can score a fantastic deal from FabricMart, but you also occasionally receive fabric that has you scratching your head, wondering if you can use it for anything other than a muslin. In any case, here's a pretty typical ITY jersey from this FabricMart:

ITY jersey from FabricMart
  • Right off the bat, you can see that the price for this fabric is just over half the cost of the Gorgeous Fabrics listing. 
  • The poly-lycra content is nearly the same as the Gorgeous Fabric listing. This listing doesn't mention stretch percentage, but at 5% lycra, this fabric will still have pretty good stretch and recovery. You could theoretically use for a pattern with negative ease.
  • The "weight" guidelines would sway me, personally, from using this fabric for something with negative ease, however. In two different fields for this fabric, we see the words "Light" and "Lightweight". Recommended uses include scarves, among other lightweight and often floaty garments. 
  • For scale, if you click one of the supplemental pictures for this listing, you can see the scale of the print relative to a US penny. Like the Gorgeous Fabrics listing, this fabric also has a fairly large scale print.
    US penny for scale reference
  • Taking all of these clues together, I'd look at ordering this fabric as an educated gamble, if I had the right project picked out for it. This fabric would probably be fine for a dress that calls for a lightweight knit, like a Myrtle or for a flowing maxi-dress or maxi-skirt. I'd also be mentally prepared to possibly need to line a skirt/skirt portion with a tricot or bathing suit lining.
In the interest of full disclosure, I did have a solid-colored ITY knit from Fabric Mart bleed terribly, even after numerous washes. I'm a little hesitant to order solid ITY's from here at the moment.

Example 3: ITY jersey from Fabric.com

Here's another lightweight ITY jersey, this time from fabric.com:

Lightweight ITY jersey from fabric.com
  •  At $5.98/yard, this is another inexpensive knit.
  • Scale-wise, it look like the stripes on this fabric are about 2-3" wide, which you can estimate from the ruler in the picture. Those wide stripes would probably have a pretty large impact on what projects you'd find this fabric suitable for. On the other hand, with the dot and mini-stripe patterns, this will probably have a more flattering effect for most of us than if we draped solid-colored stripes of the same size across our bodies.
  • The real deal-breaker for me, though, if I was looking at this fabric is that fabric.com lists this as "lightweight" in several places. When fabric.com describes something as "lightweight", they really mean it. (I've learned this from experience.) Be prepared to layer or line this fabric in whatever you use it for.
Example 4: ITY jersey from Fabric.com

Now, here's another example from fabric.com, but this ITY jersey costs twice as much as the previous example and is listed as "medium weight", instead of lightweight. I would suspect that this fabric is close to being comparable to the Gorgeous Fabrics listing.

Medium weight ITY jersey from fabric.com
  • Like the Gorgeous Fabric listing, this fabric has a 6% lycra content. The Description mentions 40% stretch on grain. That's not a huge amount of stretch for an ITY.
  • Another clue that this fabric is a little higher quality than the other fabric.com example is that this fabric has a name-brand manufacturer--"Brazil". Even if you're not familiar with the brand itself, I've found that fabric.com typically lists brand names for higher quality fabrics.
  • If your eyes have stopped hurting from looking at the photo, you can see that a ruler indicates the scale in this photo. This print is smaller scale than some of the others that we've looked at.
  • The listing uses the word "medium" in several places. This fabric is going to have more body than the other, less-expensive listings.
  • I'd look at using a fabric like this in a dress like the New Look dress in the first example, or a wrap dress. A skirt would be a very good option for this print, unless you want an optical illusion right next to your face. (Who knows, maybe you do?)
Hopefully, you found this post helpful. I'm thinking about doing a post on cotton jersey knits next (like the ones on Girl Charlee), and then follow with one on rayon jerseys (which can very a LOT in quality and weight). My goal is to de-mystify the online shopping process and give you a little bit better idea of what type of fabric you're going to find when you open that box that arrives on your doorstep.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

I want to sew all the dresses!

After surviving the regimented sewing of July as I completed my mini-wardrobe, I decided to motivate myself to sew using another series of short-term goals. Originally, here's what I wanted to sew for this month:
  • A ruffle skirt and set of bloomers for my toddler (done--will post pictures when I get a chance).
  • The HotPatterns Cote D'Azur dress (I made the top version of this a few years ago, but pulled the pattern back out because I wanted a dress version. This is in progress, will be done in a few days.)

    HotPatterns Cote D'Azur
  •  A Sally Romper by Green Bee patterns:
    Sally dress and romper by Green Bee

  • A denim skirt (probably via the Cake Hummingbird skirt)
  • Another Mimosa blouse.
But right now, I really want to sew dresses, after I finish that adorable romper, of course. We've been having a really stinkin' hot and dry summer in Seattle, and I've been wearing both of my Moneta dresses every laundry cycle. While the denim skirt definitely fills a hole in my wardrobe, what I want to wear Right Now are casual dresses that I can just throw on. At the moment, I have FIVE dresses in various positions on the covet/sew scale. Here they are, in alphabetical order:

Alder Shirtdress by Grainline studios

This dress and the Colette Myrtle are really the "in" dresses in the online sewing community right now, aren't they?

Grainline Alder shirtdress
I fell in love with this pattern as soon as it was released, although I didn't pick it up until I had a chance to get it as a freebie as a "thank you" for managing a PatternReview contest. I'm going to need to do a lot of alterations to get the Alder to fit--it's drafted for a B-cup, so I'll need a sizable FBA, and I'm not sure where I want to rotate the resulting Big Honkin Dart yet--maybe to the shoulder as gathers?

Catalina dress by Blank Slate Patterns

Melly at Blank Slate has been releasing an increasing number of women's patterns (to supplement her awesome children's line) in recent months. I haven't bought this one yet, but it looks pretty much like my idea of a perfect maxi-dress.

Blank Slate Catalina dress
This dress ticks a lot of "wants" for me that you don't always see in maxi-dress patterns:
  • Shoulder and bra strap coverage
  • Shaping via elastic/drawstring waist
  • Pockets!
  • Easy-but-non-baggy fit
Comino Cap Dress/top by Kitschy Coo Patterns

 I blogged about this one a while back, and it still hasn't fallen off my radar.

Comino Top and Dress by Kitschy Coo
I'm starting to see versions of this pop up on the blogosphere, and they're just reinforcing my desire to make it. T from u & mii and the Curvy Sewing Collective recently blogged her version, and it's very cute and flattering. I really love the sweetheart neckline, though, so I'd probably make that version. I know that sweethearts can be bust-emphasizing, which isn't what I want, but I think if I did a darker color/print on the main body and a lighter colored fabric as contrast, it would even things out.

Hawthorn by Colette Patterns

I know that I'm one of the last sewists on the internet who hasn't made up the Colette Hawthorn dress, but I still really want to make this. I want to make it so badly that I've purchased four yards of a really lovely, drapey charcoal chambray to use for my "good" version once I get whatever fitting issues ironed out via muslin.

Hawthorn by Colette Patterns
I know that I'll need an FBA on this one, but the lack of an already-present bust dart makes this easier to deal with than the Alder. For the Hawthorn, I'd simply do a traditional FBA and leave the bust dart in place.

Myrtle by Colette Patterns

The Colette Myrtle is the other big dress pattern of the moment.

Myrtle by Colette Patterns
I have the perfect fabric for at least one of these dresses in my stash (a super drapey cotton-modal jersey with an abstract print), the dress has looked great on the curvy sewists who have made it so far, it has pockets, and it's a fast and easy sew.

I don't see any way that I'll have time to sew up all five of these before the weather starts cooling off, but I'd like to make at least 2 or 3 of them (if not 3 or 4). Have any of you made any of these patterns up yet? What did you think of it? Or are there any of these that you're really dying to see made up on a curvy, plus sized body?

A final note about the internet being the internet

Thank you for all of your heartfelt comments on my post from last week about random negative comments, body image, and taking things personally. It's frustrating that to share how a garment looks on a curvy or plus sized body with fellow sewists, you essentially open yourself up to negative comments, whether intentional or not. And yeah, you can "grow a thicker skin", but when someone hits upon something that you're already self-conscious about, that's hard. And besides, you're not the one with the problem; the commenter is.

Friday, August 8, 2014

"It doesn't look good on anyone with a full bust" (or putting yourself out there when you're not a model)


"A really huge woman made it, and it looked okay on her."

She wasn't talking about me, was she? I'd read the comment on a PatternReview thread where another poster had posted a question asking if Vogue 1194, a knit dress pattern would work for someone with curves.

Vogue 1194
Off the top of my head, I was the only plus sized who had sewn and reviewed Vogue 1194, so I quickly clicked the link to all reviews for the pattern, scrolled through and discovered that, yes, she was indeed talking about me. I was clearly the largest sewist who had reviewed the pattern so far.

I quickly typed a response in return. My response may have contained the phrase "huge bitch". However, I took a deep breath, deleted my response before I sent it, and instead contacted the board moderator and asked that the post be removed.

Did I look terrible in the dress? Nothing I wear is going to make me look like a size 8, but "huge"? While the dress wasn't exactly bust-minimizing, I thought that it did make my waist look awfully small in comparison, and I liked that about it.

A "really huge woman"
Even though I wanted to "take back" my dress after reading that rude comment, I never wore it again. I was also hesitant to post reviews on Pattern Review for a while after that, as well. (I wasn't actively blogging at the time, which was about four years ago.)

I'm bringing up this incident now because I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about what I feel comfortable publishing on my blog and online in general. When you post something online, whether it's a picture of yourself or a sewing tutorial, most of the responses you get will likely be very positive and supportive. However, you always run the risk of someone saying something that's less than kind. Usually the comments aren't as rude as the one from the Vogue dress incident, but I've still read the following remarks and managed to take them personally:
  • "Don't feel bad, I've seen this pattern made up by many women so far, and I don't think it's looked very flattering on anyone." (Said to someone else who was unhappy how a pattern turned out...when I loved my own version of it.)
  • "That print doesn't do you any favors." (Posted in response to one of my reviews, again for a print dress that I was actually happy with.)
Of course, it's not always the body police who post comments like these. There's also the fit police and the blog police. One sewing blogger took it upon herself to post direct links to blogs showcasing what she felt was sloppy work. I've also seen comments deriding blogs posted by beginner sewists for setting bad examples. (One such comment sparked this very thoughtful post from BeaJay.) Speaking for myself, I rarely post any sort of tutorials because as a largely self-taught sewist, I worry that my way of doing something isn't the "right" way. When I do post anything on fit or tutorial-esque, I'll usually post a disclaimer that "this is how *I* do it; there might be a better way". I've seen other more seasoned and talented sewists than myself post similar disclaimers.

I wonder how many other curvy and plus sized sewists hesitate to blog or post reviews with pictures of themselves because they don't want to open themselves up to potentially hurtful comments. I know that I've gone through phases where I didn't post much online because I didn't want to be vulnerable. (On a side note, somehow in the blur of last month, I missed that the Curvy Sewing Collective set up a private flickr group. Ask to join if you want some body-snark-free curvy sewing inspiration!)

So, what do those of us in the online sewing community do about these things? Mean girls are going to be mean girls, whether they're 16 or 46. Has anyone come up with a good way to deal with these comments when they happen? Do others (besides BeaJay and myself) have a tendency to sometimes take random comments too personally?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Mini-wardrobe 2014 summary and lessons learned

Okay, I promise this will be my last mini-wardrobe post. I'm sick of writing them, and I'm sure that you're sick of reading them. Plus, the challenge/contest ended on July 31st, and it's now August 6th. But in the interest of documenting what I've sewn, both for myself and anyone who happens across this blog in the future, I do want to do a wrap-up post.

The premise

Way back in June, I started planning for the Pattern Review mini-wardrobe contest. With no illusions of winning, I looked at it as a personal challenge, much in the same way many marathon runner are simply looking to beat a personal best time or break the 4-hour mark. The challenge was to sew five different garments during the month of July. The five garments had to be able to be combined in such a way as to create six different looks. While paper patterns could be cut out and patterns could be muslined before July 1st, cutting fashion fabric and sewing could only take place between July 1st and 31st.

I knew that we'd be heading out of town for a mini-break from July 30-August 1st, so I'd need to have everything done and submitted by late morning on the 30th.

The planned pieces

I initially set out to create a lightweight layering wardrobe for Seattle's varying summer weather. This has been my first full summer in Seattle, and it's been a change from San Diego's summers, which are simply, hot, hotter, and hottest.

I love the blue and white combinations that have been so popular in recent months, so I used that color combination as my initial inspiration. I knew that I wanted to make another Moneta dress, and that I wanted a knit maxi skirt, so those were the first two pieces that I scribbled into my plan. I built a few other possibilities around them, winding up with an initial plan (with several pieces still undecided) that looked like the following mood board:

Initial moodboard for mini-wardrobe
Yeah, so that plan was a little ambitious. Because of laundry accidents, time limitations, and simple changes-of-mind, here's what I actually completed:

Final mini-wardrobe moodboard
The look-and-feel is still similar, but I wound up introducing two new colors (coral and radiant orchid) into the mix. Here's what changed from the initial plan:
  • First out was the Archer blouse. I knew that I'd need to muslin that and wouldn't have time to properly fit and sew a button-down blouse on my figure. I initially planned to replace the Archer with one of two possible gray knit tops, but in the end, decided to introduce a bit more color into the wardrobe and went with the coral Mimosa blouse.
  • About halfway through the month, I realized that I wouldn't have the fitting time to do those ikat-print jeans justice. I swapped those out in favor of the easier-fitting rayon challis trackpant.
  • Finally, as you probably knew, I sewed a white hoodie. Said white hoodie was accidentally turned pink via a laundry cycle with a red t-shirt. Of course, this happened right before the final photo shoot for the hoodie. My husband and I tried a couple of rounds of Rit color remover on the pink hoodie but were only able to lighten the pinkness of it. After playing around with some fabrics that I had on hand and seeing how they'd coordinate with the other pieces, I opted to dye the pink hoodie "radiant orchid" (aka Pantone's "color of the year" for 2014).

The completed looks

It came down to the wire (particularly because of the hoodie-laundry-dye debacle), but I did manage to complete all five pieces in time and was able to get my husband to photograph all six looks.

Look 1 (Hoodie + maxi skirt):


Look 2 (Moneta dress):


Look 3 (Moneta + hoodie):


Look 4 (Mimosa blouse + maxi skirt):

 

Look 5 (Mimosa blouse + trackpant):


Look 6 (hoodie + trackpant):


Lessons learned

At the end of the month, I wound up having a few great new outfits to introduce into my summer wardrobe. Given that I work full time and have a 2-year-old, I definitely found it challenging to complete five pieces in a month, even if most of the pieces were fairly easy and didn't require extensive fitting. I also felt like a learned a few things about my "sewing self" in this process:
  • Having an aggressive short-term sewing goal was a huge motivator for me. As I started to fall behind, I found myself setting my alarm to wake up an hour before everyone else in the house. (I usually get up 30 minutes early to have some me-time/sewing time.)
  • Planning a mini-wardrobe like this helped keep me on track with creating a handful of wearable garments in a short period of time. There are no orphans here and no "frosting" pieces. While I've gotten off-track from the capsule wardrobe that I'd originally planned for 2014 (having sewn only 3 of 12 items at the end of July), a shorter version still fills wardrobe holes for me and doesn't seem so overwhelming.
  • Setting out a plan at the beginning of the month and holding myself accountable really helped me stick to that plan. I am going to try to do this on a regular basis. Planning ~4 pieces/month will still give me the flexibility to jump right in and tackle whatever bright and shiny new pattern catches my eye right away.
  • I have no desire to do anything like this more than once or maybe twice a year.
For those of you who did the mini-wardrobe challenge this year, how did it go? If not this challenge, have you done something similar, and did you find that it changed how you planned or executed your sewing projects afterward?