Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Before Jessica Rabbit...

This has nothing to do with sewing but I have had these links saved for so long and wanted to share them.

Swing Shift Cinderella (1945)
Do you remember when they used to run classic cartoons on regular TV? Before they moved them to the likes of Nick At Night, Cartoon Network, or TV Land.

When I was growing up we were exposed to an array of children's programming, consisting of Hanna-Barbera cartoons (The Flintstones, Yogi Bear, The Jetsons, Scooby-Doo) and the live action shows of Sid and Marty Krofft, such as H.R. Pufnstuf, and Land of the Lost. In addition, we could also view vintage cartoons on basic cable, clear into the 1980s. Among these were gems from the 1930s-era Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes series. During that period of their rivalry with Walt Disney Studios, one particular type of cartoon caught my eye because it was not Disney-like; these characters were flippant and full of sarcasm and the situations were rude, sometimes violent, and even risqué. 

Some of these were produced by the great Tex Avery, one of the men behind the children-friendly characters of Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck at Warner Brothers. During his tenure at Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM), he dabbled in a adult jazzy series of fairy tales using elements of modern life in the 1940-50s. I believe the fairy tale element was included to make them seem children-friendly while the story content was not. His work changed the language of cartoons; with exploding bombs, eye-popping doubletakes, and girl-hungry Hollywood wolves. Instead of skipping through forests and castles, his characters frequent bars, night clubs, and high rise apartments.

Sorry, I have written almost an entire post and have not explained the Jessica Rabbit connection. Well, Jessica (sultry-ly voiced by Kathleen Turner) was a big deal when the movie, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, was released in 1988. More popular a costume during Halloween than that year's trashy French maid or nurse, she was a beauty to be imitated. However, she was not an original, in fact, she was modeled on the femme fatales created by Tex in the three cartoons below. These lusciously curvy and clever bombshells were clearly the inspiration for Jessica.

Oh, and do not forget the importance of their antagonist, "Wolfie," the Zoot-suited playboy who was part of the chain-smoking, cocktail-drinking lifestyle that was depicted as a temptation to our heroines. Some version of this sophisticated, urbane, and slightly swarmy wolf appeared in more than a few Tex Avery cartoon features.

Here are a few images and links to the cartoon shorts themselves.

The Tex Avery Fairy Tales


Swing Shift Cinderella (1945)
Wikipedia entry

Red Hot Riding Hood (1943)
Wikipedia entry

Little Rural Riding Hood (1949)
Wikipedia entry

The Bear's Tale (1940)
During my research I found that he created more of these types of fairy tales, so there are more that I need to track down. The other's are: Cinderella meets Fella (1938), Little Red Walking Hood (1937), The Bear's Tale (1940), Blitz Wolf aka Three Little Pigs (1942), and a Gander at Mother Goose (1940).

All of these plus the three above are available on DVD.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Book Review: Sewing Lingerie (1991)

As part of the Singer Reference Library, the Sewing Lingerie book from 1991 covers lingerie construction from fabric, lace, and elastic selection to how to construct beautifully detailed custom lingerie.

For the lace instructions covers lace overlays, appliqué, motif matching, and lace insertion techniques. I was amazed by how thorough and extensive the information all presented with step-by-step photos. While I lack the motivation or inclination to make my own lingerie past simple knit underwear, this book should be all that is desired for anyone else to take on the task. Other things included are how to cut woven fabric on the bias and takes you through the construction of basic bikini briefs to slips, tap pants, teddies, dressy robes, kimonos, and flannel-lined silk robes.

For a more thorough review, check out this one by Renee from Miss Celie's Pants.

The fact that the book is long out-of-print should not be a negative. Though the book can still be found in some local libraries, the book can also be found through numerous Internet booksellers. I purchased two other volumes of this Singer series (The Perfect Fit and Sewing Pants That Fit) from Alibris.com for only $.99 each! Though I might not see myself using this book to its fullest, I will probably locate and purchase a copy just for the individual techniques. Therefore, I highly recommend this book.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Book Review: Sewing With Knits (1992)

Sewing With Knits (1992) is part of the brilliant Singer Sewing Reference Library series and covers construction of knit garments from A to Z. The book explains fabric types, care, how to select the right elastic and all the seam finishes you would want to know in order to make your garments look professional, there are no wavy seams here!

Some of the things covered in this volume:

  • How to sew knits, from interlock to stretch velvet to two-way stretch fabrics
  • Eight different ways for finishing necklines (p.36-45)
  • Create perfect knit plackets and welt pockets (p.76-79)
  • Five different elastic waistband treatments (p. 90-95)
  • Construct neat and tidy buttonholes using fusible web (p. 109)
  • Blocking sweater knits (p. 20)
  • Dealing with knits fabric that have nap such as velvet, velour, stretch terry (p.104-105)

Two really cool tips too good to keep secret:

  • The best overlock thread colors to have are not neccessarily black and white, look what can be accomplished with just an off-white, gray/taupe and a rosy shade of red (p. 23)
  • Lining the knee area to prevent baggy knees in knit pants (p. 60-1)

In addition, a special section on swimsuits and leotards (pages 112-123) shows how to:

  • Adjust paper patterns for swimsuit torso adjustments
  • Apply elastic or elastized binding
  • Create partial linings for swimsuits
  • Constrict bandeau top linings with or without bra cups
  • Produce professional elastized straps

Last but not least, I am again impressed with how well all the information is presented with clear step-by-step photos.

This book is long out-of-print but can be easily found on Etsy, eBay, and used book sellers like Alibris.com and Amazon. If you're lucky, you can also find it in your local library like I did but I think you will probably do better to get your own copy. Watch out for overpriced copies though, I've seen them listed for far over $20(!) when I found my own copies of other volumes in this series (The Perfect Fit and Sewing Pants That Fit) for only 99 cents each! Don't get hoodwinked. I highly recommend this book and now that I have read five books in the series, I will be looking out for the rest of them too.*

*Tailoring (1988), Sewing Activewear (1987), are a few I am interested in.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Clutch A Crepe Suzette - Fabric.com/HotPatterns (exclusive download)

Pattern: Crepe Suzette Circular Clutch, a HotPatterns/Fabric.com exclusive pattern.

Pattern Description: Simple fold-over lined clutch features interior phone and small pocket with stitched dividers. Clutch has a shaped gusset to add depth to the sides and bottom, topstitching around the edges and closes with a magnetic purse snap.

Pattern Sizing: One size, approximately 8" tall by 14" wide.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?

Were the instructions easy to follow? Well...

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I checked Patternreview.com and unfortunately, found that only one person has reviewed this pattern. As I went along, I found that there were problems with this pattern and its instructions starting with the location marks for the magnetic snaps. If you follow the pattern markings, they will not meet. Even the illustrations in the instructions show the locations wrong.

Fabric Used: 5/8 yd of black corduroy, 5/8" yd black boucle, 5/8 yards of red brushed twill (former Nautica buttoned tab curtains from Target) as lining, Pellon Shape-Flex (SF101) woven fusible interfacing, Pellon Easy-Knit (EK130) fusible tricot interfacing, and one Dritz 3/4" magnetic snap.

Before Construction: First thing, first, I cut and ripped the drapery panels on all four sides to make sure the fabric was on grain before I cut out the pieces.

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made: The marking for the magnetic closure on the pocket is in the wrong place on the pattern piece and on the illustrations in the instructions. Therefore, I first moved the snap location mark towards the bottom of the pocket pattern piece. I also "walked" the pattern to make sure that all the notches would match on both the main, pocket, and gusset pieces.

Having never used a magnetic closure I was happy to find this tutorial on Made By Rae and this one by You SEW Girl that made the job a no-brainer.
The illustrations for step 5a (see above) were confusing and because of the above mistake I decided to create a mockup of the purse, reducing the size drastically, to about 1/5 the size.

The three photos above are step 5a. You want to match notches and stitch each gusset to the pocket piece with the pocket in between.

The overhang at each top corner is stitched together so that the gussets can be turned to the right side and not only line the gusset section but also encase any raw edges.
The front pocket and lined gusset assembly.

Note: When constructing the real purse, I found myself with a corduroy that picked up every last piece of lint, no longer looking as rich as I wanted. I found some black boucle in the stash but instead of scraping one for the other, I underlined the interfaced boucle with the already interfaced corduroy for a thicker fabric. Therefore, with some of the pieces, I was working with double the fabric weight and I liked the resulting heft.
Lined pocket
Another problem I had with the instructions was step 3a. I didn't like that according to them the inner pockets would have visible raw edges inside so I cut two pockets pieces, (one of a silkier lining material) sewed them right sides together, and turned them right sides out.

In step 6, because of the fabric weight I decided to back the red twill with a layer of light interfacing before I attached the pocket/gusset piece.

The interior of the fully lined purse with gusset panel and inside cell phone pocket before step 7.

The exterior of the pocket and gusset panel, featuring the magnetic snap.

Step 7 has you sandwich the two parts of the purse, right sides together. Here you can see the two different types of interfacing I used in my purse: the Easy-Knit is fused to the lighter twill used for the interior while the Shape-Flex takes on the heft of the corduroy and boucle layers that make up the clutch and pocket exterior.

In this step, they instruct you to leave a section open between the two bottom notches so that you can turn the purse right side out. However, I felt that part should look the most finished, so instead I left a section open at the top instead. I would rather hand stitch that section closed than the many fabric and interfacing layers that made up the weight-bearing portion of the clutch. The pattern says to topstitch all edges, which would probably add more structure to the clutch; however, I found this would not work with my fabric choice so I did not.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? Yes, I would love to make this shape in a graphic print or floral. I think this is a great clutch pattern and I recommend it with the corrections and changes that I made.

Cartoon version!

Conclusion: I am very happy with my purse. This would be a great pattern if the instructions and illustrations were updated. I love that there are no unfinished seams (the way I made it) and the unusual shape. I searched the Internet and could not find another like it.

Images: Fabric.com website illustration and my own photos

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Please Help Me With New Look 6145

I am loving the fit of the muslin* in these two pics, the neckline is flattering and not too wide. The shoulder looks good with just enough ease.

As you can see below, the back seam of the top is completely sewn up, however, when I raise my arms suddenly all this fabric appears. I know this is probably an armscye issue but which one and how to fix it?  Looking through all  twenty of my sewing books, none mentioned this issue specifically.

So, is this normal, is this ok? It has been a while since I made a straight non-gathered bodice in a woven fabric so I'm not sure. I can add some shoulder darts but is there more that I should do?

I think the armscye is too tight and needs to be lowered, what do you think? 
Please help me, I really want to move on to the dress. Any ideas?

*By the way, while I like this fit, in order for this top to become my inspiration shift dress I will need it to fit looser anyway.