Confetti Quilt-Art for Your Walls

Confetti Quilt-Art for Your Walls

Speaking of fall projects, I’ve recently come across a quilting technique that would be fantastic for creating a beautiful piece of autumn to use for wall décor. The problem, though, is that the technique used to build this work is a bit advanced, so it’s something I’m going to have to put on the back-burner for a bit until I potentially get the hang of more intricate workings of specific sewing processes.

The overall idea is out of my comfort zone right now, but it’s still something that seems like a great enough idea to share with those reading this blog post. Maybe you’re more advanced than I am in the sewing world, and this would be a simple project to you to bring fall coloring to your home’s interior. If so, gather your fabric and tulle, and get to working!


Project: Confetti-Quilted Wall Hanging


Tools and Supplies:

Sewing machine, scissors or rotary cutter, fabric (some for shredding purposes), tulle, and straight pins

The Idea:

Creating a work of art from bits of fabric
Mulberry Patch Quilts

See all of these leaves? Those are tiny bits of fabric placed on the piece, or confetti fabric!

It would be easy to label this a mosaic-type project, and in a way it is because it’s a bigger picture that’s being constructed by smaller pieces. But the incredibly small sizes of these pieces are tiny enough to compare to confetti being tossed in the air, so the confetti name is actually more fitting than the mosaic title—especially since the confetti can bunch up and overlap on your design in contrast to the side-by-side nature of a mosaic piece.

This is an idea that can be put in practice to make a full quilt, but the number of times you’d have to go through the process to create enough blocks for a quilt sincerely escalates the amount of time you spend on a project. Considering fall is so close, using the one-block notion for a wall hanging is more reasonable—and it’ll create a one-of-a kind piece to show off to your home’s guests.

The advantage of confetti

The beauties here are that you can pick the size of the confetti art work, you can choose the image you want to depict, and you can even use scrap material from other projects that have little to no value for other concepts. These confetti dots are tiny, so it doesn’t take extended amounts of fabric to create them. You might want to keep that in mind as you trim up your fabric for other projects and stash away the scraps and remainders in some kind of a confetti-quilt container. That way, you can build your supply for a confetti project that pops in your head, giving you the ability to start constructing immediately rather than having to search for fabric bits.

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For a fall project, this is a good option because autumn comes with a great deal of outdoor imagery, like trees filled with colorful leaves or pumpkins placed in front of haystacks. Through the outdoor elements comes the prospect of movement and wind, so having the confetti scraps present to drizzle across your project can give the viewer that sense of movement in a display that’s random enough to highlight the notion.

Working with layers

You can layer the colors and fabrics to boost that realism until you have a strong tree covered in a series of leaves that are dropping to the ground and flying away, a pumpkin patch with dust and leaves blowing past it, a scarecrow that’s caught up in seeds that are breaking away from crops and sailing by… Lots of ways exist to put this idea into practice, and each has a look of intricate realism that’s sparked from the confetti approach.

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The process to perform this task seems basic, if intricate, and so long as you keep the confetti pieces in their places with straight pins, tulle, and early sewing, you can make sure everything stays close enough to the arranged order to highlight the scene as you intended it above your mantle or over your couch—or wherever you choose to place the finished work!

Inspiration is key

If you want to find inspiration for what to depict in your confetti project, try going for a nature walk to look for signs of autumn’s approach, and when something particularly seasonal catches your eye, freeze that memory in your mind (or snap a photo) to remember it. As the month rolls on, nature itself can give you plenty of sights to choose from to be the main scene of your confetti project!

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So, if your skills allow you to handle this intricate of a project, start looking for that autumn image to commit to a wall hanging!

Price of Fashion

The Price of Fashion

As a tailor for film and television, I often work with a lot of really high-end designer clothing. Sometimes I look at a price tag on something I’m in the process of taking apart and think, “That’s an awful lot of money for an article of clothing.” As a person who spends a lot of time taking things apart and putting them back together, I’ve got a pretty good idea of long it takes to make things. I wholeheartedly believe in paying tailors, pattern makers, and the like a respectable wage (as I’ve said before it is very skilled labor and deserves to be paid just as much as you would pay a plumber or someone to fix your car).

However, we all know that most mass produced clothing is made in factories where the workers aren’t getting much more than minimum wage (if they’re lucky). But what about the really expensive, designer stuff? Is it worth the extra money? Is it justified?

To a certain point, I think it is. If a brand uses high quality fabrics and notions, some of the extra cost makes sense. I try and think about how long it would take me to make a certain thing like, for example, a pair of pants. Not including patterning or cutting and if I were sewing at a pretty brisk pace and had made a bunch more of the exact same pants before, I’d say it’d take me anywhere from two to four hours (depending on how many pockets, if there’s top stitching anywhere, if they have a lining, and so on.) If a person working in a factory actually made a reasonable wage, that would certainly put the price point of those pants at somewhere between $80.00 and $200.00. You’d also need to factor in the time needed to cut out the pants, and pattern them, as well as the design process. So maybe then, you’d end up with a $150.00 to $400.00 pair of pants. Fairly reasonable, I’d say. It’s when you get up into the $1,000.00 range for a single pair of pants that I start to wonder.

I get that, when it comes to designer clothing, much of what you’re paying for is the name, or the design. And I’m ok with that but, is that label really worth $600.00 or more?

Again, I think it depends.

Boris Bidjan Saberi

I’ve done quite a few alterations lately on Boris Bidjan Saberi men’s clothing. I just shortened the sleeves on one of his suit jackets. The jacket is very well made and the fabrics of a really high quality. The ‘buttons’ are cool metal cufflinks – real metal, not plastic. The label says the jacket was handcrafted in Spain. A big part of Boris apparel is that each piece is supposedly a ‘one-off’, which means it’s unique and no one will have exactly the same one as you. That’s pretty cool, I think. The suit jackets are priced starting at around $1,100.00. This price seems quite reasonable to me if it really is a handcrafted garment (which it certainly seems to be).

 

'hand crafted in spain'

‘Hand crafted in spain’.

metal cuff link style buttons

Metal cuff link style buttons.

What would you pay?

I guess my point in all of this is that there are some clothing brands and designers that may very well be ‘worth’ the high price, especially if their manufacturing processes align with your own ideas of ethics and sustainable businesses. If you care about these kinds of things, it is important to do your own research and make your own decisions (as it is with most things in life, I suppose).

There’s an interesting fashion show event happening this week called Wear Your Values. The event, on September 14th, will showcase 15 ethical fashion clothing brands and portray the life cycle of a garment to show how, when, and where human rights abuses take place in apparel manufacturing. There will also be a film on a day in the life of a garment worker. The show is presented by the Oslo Freedom Forum, an annual conference hosted by the Human Rights Foundation and Remake, a group of fashion enthusiasts that strive to inspire consumers to research the brands they buy (something I think is really important).

If you happen to be in New York City, try and go check out this event yourself.

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Sew your own Bandana

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This weekend my family is going backpacking. It’s the first time all four of us, my husband, myself, and our two daughters, ages 7 and 4, will go on an overnight backpacking trip together. My husband, Eric, compiled a detailed list of the things I’d need to bring (he is taking care of the girls’ packs. Rad guy, right?).

On that list was a bandana. It’s been awhile since I had a bandana but I remember how useful they were when I used to go backpacking. They can be used as sweat catchers, scarves, headbands, face masks, pot holders, to keep the sun off your face or neck, and even to tie a tourniquet. Honestly, their uses are endless. I just didn’t have one and darned if I was going to buy a bandana off of Amazon when I have a wall full of fabric bins and a sewing machine.

Getting started…

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I grabbed a ½ yard of fabric which was a little over 18″ tall. If you have a bigger neck than me (that’s me in the photos) or want a larger bandana, grab 3/4 of a yard of fabric.

I cut out an 18″ x 18″ square. Again, size up if you want a larger finished piece. Once you’ve cut the square, roll it up and test it out unhemmed. Does it fit around your neck? Around your head? If you want it big enough to create a possible tourniquet, around your thigh?

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Key step

Now is the most important part. Press and starch that sucker, especially around the unfinished edges.

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You can make your hems as large or as small as you like. I like bandanas with TINY hems, so I rolled mine over even smaller than ¼”, pressing and starching all the way around. Then I doubled that over again, pressing and starching.

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Start pinning

Done! At this point, you could pin the pressed and started hems but I have a feeling that if you used enough starch they are going to stay put while you sew.

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Pick your thread. For this project I went with a purple that matched but once it was finished I wished I had gone with the lighter purple just for a fun contrast. You live and you learn.

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If you are going to use a decorative stitch, make sure you have enough thread in your bobbin.

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I tested out this decorative stitch on a separate piece of fabric first. I wanted a stitch that would look good and keep my hem nice and flat.

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Easy-peasy

Start sewing a square. This is the easiest part after your prep work to get there.

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If you have a shallow hem, use a seam ripper to hold down the corners as you go.

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Admire your creation

Look that beauty! And you didn’t spend $12 on Amazon for it.

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Try it on and enjoy. Happy camping!

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Charlotte Kaufman is a writer and sewist in Mammoth Lakes, California. She specializes in marine and home interiors and continues to fall more and more in love with quilting. You can follow her at charlottekaufman.com.
The Problem with Over Fitting

The Problem with Over Fitting

In my almost 30 years in the film and television business, I’ve worked with a lot of different designers. Every designer has a specific way they like things to fit, at least in the film and television world. Tailors at men’s suit stores like Brooks Brothers, or department stores like Nordstroms, have standard fit and length parameters they follow.

They’ll tell you that a suit jacket hem must end at a certain point on the wrist and the proper length of the jacket is determined by whether or not you can curl your hand around the hem in a certain way. They’ll also tell you that a pant hem needs to have a specific amount of break over the front of the shoe (the amount the hem buckles in when you’re standing straight up).

In television and film, these things can vary depending on what designer you’re working with. I have five or six different designers I work with fairly regularly and they all have specific ways they want things to fit. I’ve worked with them enough to know what each of them like. One of them likes suit pant hems on the short side but lots and lots of ‘stack’ when it comes to jean hems. Another always wants a rake in the hem because they hate to see an actor’s socks showing in the back when he walks. One likes the shirt sleeves to show a ¼” below the suit jacket. Another tends to want things very slim fitted.

One size fits all

As a tailor, one of the most annoying fit attributes is when a designer wants you to, essentially, over fit something (none of the designers I work with regularly do this). By over fitting I mean, they want me to fit something so tightly that there are absolutely no wrinkles present anywhere at anytime. The main problem with this is that it’s only achievable if the actor or actress happens to be a non-moving, stationary dress form or mannequin. And, as I’m sure you know, most are not.

Actors move, clothing wrinkles. If you fit a dress too tightly, it’s going to ride up at the slightest provocation. If you fit a man’s suit jacket within an inch of its life, the actor won’t be able to lift his arms.

There are a lot of wrinkles I can fix, but I can’t get rid of them all. An over fitted garment looks just as bad on camera as one that isn’t fitted enough. Unless you start putting all kinds of extra seams into a thing, you’ll never be able to get something that isn’t spandex, completely wrinkle free all the time. Wrinkle free-ness is only completely achievable when the actor stands in one specific way and doesn’t move at all, ever.

Oxygen is overrated

I can’t tell you how many times a designer has insisted I take something in so tightly that after it’s done, the actor complains about not being able to breathe. I usually don’t take anything in as much as I pinned in a fitting if I’m working with a designer like this. I honestly find it ridiculous that there are costume designers who don’t understand that when humans move, the clothes they are wearing also move. Sometimes there are wrinkles, and this does not mean that the garment is not fitted correctly.

Stylists who dress people for print or short shoots like commercials tend to fit things more tightly because they’re not used to dressing people for realistic scenarios and situations that involve actual movement.

Stylists who dress people for print or short shoots like commercials tend to fit things more tightly because they’re not used to dressing people for realistic scenarios and situations that involve actual movement.

Stylists who dress people for print or short shoots like commercials tend to fit things more tightly because they’re not used to dressing people for realistic scenarios and situations that involve actual movement. In a photo shoot for print, there is no movement so you can over fit to your heart’s content. That’s why clothing never fits you like it does the model in the catalogue or on the website. And this is not a bad thing.

I’ve also worked with designers who do this thing where they grab a whole wad of fabric center back to demonstrate how something should be taken in. Well, first, when you do that, you’re pulling the side seams into a weird place that they shouldn’t be. Unless its men’s pants, I rarely take something in just from the center back, especially if it’s a wad-full of fabric. One reason is that I like to avoid having to reset the zipper if possible and secondly, it probably needs to come in from the side seams and the side back seams anyway. Or, if it’s four to six inches, it might make sense to purchase the garment in a smaller size. If I were building the garment from scratch, I’d want to recut it if possible.

Stress fractures & signs you are doing it wrong

I don’t know if other people notice this but when I see a dress with side seams that swing backward instead of hanging straight, I think that someone who didn’t really know what they were doing did that alteration. Costume Designers don’t necessarily need to know all the nuances of fit and balance but they should know enough to trust a good tailor when they have one.

Sadly, it normally doesn’t do any good to try and explain yourself to a designer who tends toward over fitting. They’ll just assume you don’t know what you’re talking about.

When I find myself in a situation with a center-back-wad-pulling designer, I just nod and pin it, then alter it in the way I think is best.

Because, as any tailor who’s been in the television and film business for awhile knows, “alter as pinned” is simply a suggestion (and a way to appease an over zealous fitting designer).

Sewing with Cats

Sewing with Cats

You’ve seen posts about sewing projects for cats. I think I might’ve even written one. The thing is, I don’t know about you, but my cats would never tolerate most of those projects. Not ever! What they will do, quite gleefully, is attempt to help me while I’m sewing. Clawing fabric while I’m trying to lay it out, stealing pins (which terrifies me because they could choke or worse), and running away with the tissue paper pattern pieces just as I was about to grab them. Sound familiar? And heaven forbid I close them out of the room! With four of the fluffy babies running around, that’s a losing battle. So, instead, I’ve learned to sew with cats. Honestly, I think living with four of them and giving meds, special food, etc. only to those who need it qualifies me as an official cat herder!

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The secret to sewing with your cats is to make other things more interesting than what you’re doing. I’ve learned, the hard way, that that’s not always as easy as it sounds. Throwing catnip toys for them provides a short-term distraction for them, but it also means I have to stop what I’m doing. Not ideal by any means. I’ve gotten more creative with my solutions.

Play time

Tissue paper pieces are great! They think they’re getting the pattern pieces, only they’re not. The deal here, though, is you have to let them steal it so they think they’re getting away with something. Simply handing them the scrap of tissue paper is great for about 30 seconds until they see you’ve got a “better” piece. When you let them steal it, it’s a much more exciting, and long lasting, distraction for them.

And laser lights. What cat doesn’t love to chase the red light? I know, you’re probably wondering how I can play red light with them and still sew. Simple – I hang the light from the ceiling and give it a push. If I had a ceiling fan, I’d hang it off there. Just put a piece of masking tape over the button to hold it down and use a piece of string or an elastic to hang it. You’ve never seen cats this confused and excited. I love when they sit and look up at it with their head moving the same direction and speed as the light. Hilarious!

Fabric scraps. My cats love to make themselves a bed out of the fabric I’m trying to use. Super annoying! I deal with this by pretending like I’m using a large scrap piece and then letting them steal it from me. Just like with the tissue paper, letting them think they got what they want is key. Once they’re settled in on the fabric scrap, I can move on to my project without their interference.

Sewing with cats is challenging, but using these few distraction methods, it’s quite possible – and fun for both you and your furry friends.

Bringing the Autumn Vibe into Your Home

Bringing the Autumn Vibe into Your Home

Out of all four seasons that we experience throughout the year, my absolute favorite in regard to nature is autumn. A part of the reason for that is I live in mountain territory, and when the leaves start changing colors, it’s hard to find something that compares to how beautiful that is. It’s enough to try and think of ways to embrace the same visual within my home so that the beauty of fall can decorate my inside world as well.autumn-1072827_960_720

Because of my love of the season, I took to the Internet to find projects that would create that autumn vibe, and my initial thoughts about it seem to be backed up again and again through other sites.

All you need to do is to make sure you’re bringing the right elements into your sewing projects to represent fall. Sure, there are more specific notions of pumpkin-shaped pillows, but even something as basic as choosing the right fall traits to add as embellishments can make an ordinary throw pillow, blanket, or wall hanging represent the season.

Color pallet

For one thing, you should definitely consider your colors for fall projects since those bright, vivid hues melded together are synonymous with the season. Orange, yellow, red, and remnants of green are all a part of the typical fall-grasped leaf, so make sure you choose fabrics and embellishments that showcase those colors. Remember that fall leaves are often a series of these hues, so mix and match them in your projects to have a full autumn experience with your sewing project.fall-foliage-1740841_960_720

If you only have white fabric, try dying it to create the autumn theme. Anyone who has seen the final product of a tie-dye shirt knows the process leads to a series of patterned and blended colors, so you can use that general idea to mingle autumn colors on your fabric. You can blend the tips of orange in with the beginnings of the yellow, with little spots of green throughout, and the inconsistent spacing of the colors can really drive home the look of fall leaves.tie-dye-510230_960_720

Beyond your color choices, think of other seasonal elements that you can use to display autumn throughout your home. Pumpkins, candy corn, acorns, haystacks—all of these things can be used as inspiration for your projects through finding ways to represent their likenesses in sewing projects. A new quilt could look lovely with a scene that’s covered in fall elements, like pumpkins lining the area where haystacks and classic barrels are stationed. If you ground that setting in fall colors and embellishments of candy corns and acorns surrounding it, you’d have a creation to bring out of storage every fall to embrace the season.pumpkin-991825_960_720

You can shape your throw pillows, as mentioned, like pumpkins—or candy corn, acorns, fall leaves—and these little additions of autumn can boost the fall vibe in your home.

Reason for the season

One specific fall project is this leaf table runner. All you’d need to do is cut out fabric with a leaf pattern using fall colors—maybe dying them for that mixed feel—then sew them as individual leaves. You can add in the details of lines and spots of variation with fabric pens to give your leaves a more realistic feel than just a series of plain fabric. From there, you can sew them together in this slanted pattern to bring a bit of fall from one side of your table, mantle, or shelf top to the other. With the right skill and effort, this project could be finished well before the official beginning of fall later this month!Felt-Leaves-Table-Runner_Medium_ID-456743

This idea of embracing fall in your home can be applied to your kitchen as well by thinking of fall themes for potholders, in your bathroom through an autumn-inspired wall hanging, and any other room where a fabric splash of fall goodness would be fitting. Just let your imagination run with you, and you can come across a way to embrace the beauty of autumn in every single room of your home through the right colors and right embellishments!halloween-72937_960_720

Better still, once it’s time to put away your fall decorations, you can be clearing space to make room for your Christmas decorations, meaning you can trade one seasonal method of décor for another without having to do much rearranging. Keeping with the seasons by using beautiful, self-made details—with little fuss—equals a great situation from beginning to end!

Be sure to start brainstorming what elements represent fall to you, and go get the right fabric and supplies for bringing those projects to life!

The Dos and Don’ts of Sewing: Cinderella Style

The Dos and Don’ts of Sewing: Cinderella Style

One of the most classic Disney movies is Cinderella, the 1950’s cartoon version of the popular fairy tale. In this story, we see Cinderella go from being a young girl who loses her mother and has to live with an unloving step-family to a woman who’s optimistic enough to take a chance by going to a fancy ball and catching the prince’s eye.

Every detail about this story line isn’t perfect—if she’s Prince Charming’s love, why can’t he recognize her without this shoe business?—but it’s still a staple for a lot of people in regard to movies they adored as children.

For a person who grows to appreciate sewing, the film can have another level of intrigue because sewing is a part of the story. Before the Fairy Godmother comes by to provide Cinderella her glittering, beautiful gown, she goes through the process of planning her own dress, which will be constructed from tools and materials within her home. The actual dressmaking happens at the hands of a team of friendly rodents once they realize Cinderella is too busy to finish the project herself, and the musical scene connected to their sewing is one of the most recognizable ones from Disney.Disney4

Beyond those aspects of familiarity and youth, there’s unique sewing advice happening within that dressmaking scene that you could apply to sewing endeavors. All it takes is a little consideration and a bit of imagination to find those gems of guidance within the lighthearted scenes of sewing.

For instance, these mice have applicable tools at their disposal to see this dress come to life. There’s no machine in sight, but you do see other sewing essentials, like needle, thread, scissors, and chalk, all of which can at least be representations of things that are useful for sewing. The chalk, as an example, can be replaced by soluble pencils to trace your cutting lines, and like the bulky chalk the mice are using, you can wash out the remnants later. With that strategy, you’re making sure you’re sewing in a more precise way without forever damaging the fabric. Good strategy, mice!Disney5

As the dress is being assembled through pulley systems and such, the mice have a dress form setup to keep the fabric in its most natural wearing position. This detail cannot be overstated if you’re going to sew clothing like Cinderella’s dress because it makes you able to see the dress as it should be rather than bunching it up or expanding it unnaturally on a flat surface. You can tell how the dress will look, and you could prevent a time or two of accidentally sewing your dress sides together in the wrong places. Like the mice, make sure you have that form for these purposes!Disney3

Unfortunately, though, the mice didn’t quite get everything right, and it makes sense to note those things as well. For example, you probably want to use a better method of organizing your supplies than a simple wicker basket that you can dive into. Even if you’re just tossing all of your supplies into a container like this and reaching in to gather what you need, if your organization is lacking, you could end up getting a sewing needle or straight pin in your hand. For the mice, this is particularly bad since the needle is about as tall as they are, but even for human-sized sewing fans, a straight pin in the hand can hurt!Disney2

For this reason, you should consider organizing your sewing utensils better than our Cinderella mice friends! Use different containers for different items, have shelves to display them, use chest drawers to keep them stored… Whatever your strategy, do yourself the favor of not piling everything into one area that’s dooming you to minor injury!

One more detail the mice get wrong is how simple they make assembling this dress seem. Sure, they employ pulleys that you probably won’t work with, but let’s be honest. Cinderella simply points out a picture in a book that she wants her dress to look like and gives very basic instructions about what needs to be done, and the mice infer all of the in-between information even though there are no measurements listed at all in the book.Disney

Fortunately for the mice, the foundation of this dress is already assembled since Cinderella is intending to alter something that she already has—another good tip from the mice: use what’s around you!—but if you take this at face value, the process is too simple. Without having measurements, at least, you could be setting yourself up to fail.Disney6

So rather than just picking a picture, use a pattern or at least take the measurements of the person who’s supposed to wear the finished product. Remember, after all, that the dress Cinderella intends to alter is her mother’s—not hers. There could’ve easily needed to be some redefining done to make it fit Cinderella just right, and the mice take a risk by not being more specific. On this, don’t be like the mice! Be measure-specific!

In the end, while the mice got some things very right and some things pretty wrong, it’s a catchy scene with an upbeat song that embraces sewing in a youthful manner. So, embrace the mice’s optimism, apply their useful techniques, and learn from what they did wrong.


Reference for all photos
Disney, W. (Producer), & Geronimi, C., Jackson, W., & Luske, H. (Directors). (1950). Cinderella [Motion Picture]. United States: Walt Disney Company.
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How to Sew a French Seam

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French seams are a way to finish a seam so there are no raw or exposed edges of fabric on the seam. They work great for thin or delicate fabric, or any project where you want both the outward showing and inward showing seams to look good.

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Some people balk at trying them and I think it’s because it feels like you are sewing in reverse. To start a French seam you have to sew a seam on the right side of the fabric, and that just feels wrong. I get it, I do. But if you trust the process, you’ll love how it all turns out.

Here is an example on two pre-cut fabric squares. I’m going to join these together with no exposed seams by using the French seam method. First, place the fabric WRONG sides together.

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Now sew your seam. Your seam allowance will depend on the fabric you are using and the type of project. For ease of explanation I did a ½” seam.

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Next, cut down the excess fabric a bit and then head to your ironing board. Do NOT skip ironing when sewing French seams. As with most sewing projects, ironing can make all the difference.

Iron the seam to one side. Flip the fabric over and iron the seam on the reverse as well.

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Now fold the fabric on the seam you’ve created. I like to iron this too. For good measure, you can pin the fabric in place so it doesn’t move when you sew again.

Take the fabric over to your machine and sew another seam, this time on the wrong side of the fabric. You want to sew a seam that is wide enough to fully enclose the raw seam on the inside portion. I sewed ½” again (remember I had trimmed down my previous raw edge to about ¼”.)

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Voilà! Now your seams are completely encased. Très bien.

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The last and important step is to press once again. Open up your seam and press on the front AND back of your fabric.

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You’ve done it! THAT is a French seam. The applications are endless, just trust the process and don’t worry about starting a seam on the right side of fabric. Happy sewing!

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Charlotte Kaufman is a writer and sewist in Mammoth Lakes, California. She specializes in marine and home interiors and continues to fall more and more in love with quilting. You can follow her at charlottekaufman.com.

When Alterations Go Wrong

When Alterations Go Wrong

Things don’t always go as expected. Sometimes you do something and it fails to turn out like you imagined it would. Or it just doesn’t look as good as you wanted. Sometimes you unintentionally execute a crappy alteration.

There’s no reason to panic or get upset when this happens. You simply fix whatever it is. A problem only arises when you don’t see that something has gone awry or you try and convince someone that nothing is wrong; the garment just needs a good press.

twisting sleeves

twisting sleeves

Ironing and a healthy dose of steam can right all kinds of wrongs but neither of those things can make a bad alteration, good.

The old distraction trick

This past week, a Costume Designer friend of mine, Lauren, called to ask if I could look at a suit jacket for a friend of hers. He’s getting married in a few weeks and had purchased a Brooks Brothers suit. Brooks Brothers had recommended a tailor for him to go to for alterations.

The suit didn’t need all that much, just a little taking in on the sides to slim it a bit. When my friend’s friend – I’ll call him Dan – went to pick up his suit and tried on the jacket, he noticed some strange twisting in the sleeve. His fiancé (I’ll call her Kate), was with him.

They both pointed out the twisting to the tailor, but the man kept insisting that all they needed to do was send the suit out to be pressed and they should take a look at the back because it was smooth. You know, the old distraction trick.

Well, Dan and Kate weren’t really buying it, but they paid the man and took the suit to the dry cleaners to be pressed professionally. As they suspected, when they picked up the suit, nothing had changed. The sleeves were still hanging in a sort of corkscrew way. That’s when they asked Lauren if she knew someone who could help and they ended up calling me.

Its much easier to fix your own alteration snafus than it is to remedy the ones of others, mainly because you know what you did to get to where you are. When you’re not the one that started the whole thing, you have to use a bit of detective work.

Before I told Kate and Dan that I could fix the twisting sleeves, I opened the lining of the jacket to see what I could see. Men’s suit jacket sleeve linings are stitched in by hand at the armseye so that’s where to open them up.

I took out the sleeve lining from the back notch to the front notch, then unattached the lining body from the jacket body at the armseye.

Suit jackets are constructed fairly standardly when it comes to seam allowances. I could see that the side back seam of the jacket had been taken in, but just in the back, as well as the side front seam above the pocket. All of that had been done quite nicely, and the shoulder part of the sleeve was smooth and lovely. The problem was with how the bottom portion of the sleeve had been put back in.

Fitted Armholes

Men’s suit jackets, as a rule, have pretty fitted and constricting armholes. When you take in the side back and side front seams, you make the armhole smaller. If you don’t take in the seams equally front and back, you change where the bottom of the sleeve is (where a side seam would be if men’s suit jackets had side seams). You have to compensate for this in some way or your sleeve will be off balance and hang in a weird way.

Which is what happened in this instance. There are a couple ways the original tailor could have prevented this.

He could have taken in the sleeve itself the same amount he took in the body of the jacket. I don’t normally do this, though, unless the entire sleeve really does need to be slimmed. A better, more accurate way, to solve the twisting sleeve problem (in my opinion, at least) is to drop the armseye, starting from the back notch and ending at the front notch. What this does is make the armhole bigger and, essentially, the same size it was before you took in those jacket seams.

Oh boy…

In this particular jacket, not only did the tailor neglect to lower the armhole, but, when he eased the too big sleeve into the smaller jacket armseye, he rotated the whole bottom part of the sleeve too far forward.

Once I dropped the armseye, the sleeve, once again, fit perfectly and I was able to line up the bottom of the jacket body with the bottom of the sleeve. No more twisting!

Dan and Kate are happy now – though they’re asking the first tailor for some money back. I don’t think the man is necessarily a bad tailor because his alteration didn’t turn out so well (everyone does a wonky alteration every now and again) but, I do think he maybe doesn’t know what he’s doing because he didn’t see that something was wrong when Dan tried the jacket on.

It’s ok to make mistakes and have to do something over. It’s not ok to tell someone that nothing is wrong and not offer to fix it. Even if you think they’re wrong. And especially if it’s a suit they’re going to wear at their wedding.

The Mysterious Shrinking Pants

The Mysterious Shrinking Pants

My weight tends to go up and down, often in connection with my relationship status. I wouldn’t say I struggle with it the way that my mother does, though as I’m approaching 40, it’s getting tougher to shed the extra pounds. The first time I lost a ton of weight, I spend days, maybe weeks, altering all my favorite clothes so I could still wear them in a my new, much smaller, size. I stayed at that weight, my ideal weight, for a long time.

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And then one day it happened, the mysterious shrinking pants showed up! I don’t know where they came from, but my pants started to get tighter and my shirts and undergarments weren’t far behind.

Has this happened to any of you? Sound familiar? So, I had a choice – spend crazy amounts of time putting my clothes back to bigger sizes, lose the weight, or accept it and buy new clothes. Of course, I chose to lose the weight and keep squeezing myself into shrunken pants…I’m cheap and I don’t like gaining weight!

Let me tell you, it’s been tough this time around. I’m eating great since I’m not eating out on a regular basis anymore, drinking far less (cause I’m not stressed and upset), and working out more (cause I don’t feel responsible for taking care of anyone else’s demands). Yet, the weight just doesn’t want to go. Don’t get me wrong. I’m just over halfway to my goal. It’s happening. Just more slowly than I thought it would and my tight clothes are starting to feel a little silly.

Still…I don’t want to alter them. I want my pants to mysteriously expand the same way they mysteriously shrank! That would be far less time consuming and much more fun. At least I think so… My jeans could use some patching in the seams – I like to do this with fun fabric scraps to add a little flair. Plus, then it makes it look like I did it on purpose, not that I’m too cheap to buy new ones!

I’m not ready to replace them yet, but when I do, I need to make sure I don’t buy pants that mysteriously shrink!