a question of ease

A few administrative notes before we start, yes?

– We’re moving!  Hosts, that is.  I’ve had the WordPress.org business all purchased but not put together since, er, last November.  I have to figure out what I’d like this corner of the Internet to look like, and it’s surprisingly hard.  This will never be a capital-S, capital-B Serious Sewing Blog.  I’m probably not going to monetize it at any point, and if I did, we’d have a roundtable discussion about it.  I’m a total nerd for transparency and fairness, and you shouldn’t have to pay for this tripe, even if it does “just” mean clicking on an affiliate link or some such.  Furthermore, it’s more a blog about talking about sewing than it is about the act of sewing (I run the Seinfeld of blogs, folks!), so I have to take that into account.  I just want to land on something that is clean and approachable, without being too polished or too twee.  You’ll get a heads up when that happens.

– I am essentially having a fabric garage sale on Etsy.  Well, let’s not call it that.  It’s a dual-purpose experiment.  Purpose the first is to get rid of my some five bins of fabric.  It was easier when all of my fabric lived in New York, and I had a big old bookcase to accommodate it.  In my little, old, storage-challenged apartment?  Not so much.  (I have one drawer, reader.  There is one drawer in my entire apartment.  Isn’t that wild?)  I’ve been sewing up a storm, but I have made an awkward peace with the fact that I do not look good in orange or brown, and I do not need six yards of just about anything.

Purpose the second is to gauge how this sort of thing works.  I constantly agonize over the future of the Garment District.  I also want to find  balance between going to school, doing research, working at a (more likely than not) unpaid internship, but also living a life that involves money that does not come from my family.  So, you know, there.  It’s tentatively called I Refuse to Iron This, because it is so much damn yardage, that I’ve neither the time nor the patience to iron it.  Professionalism at its best.  Anyway, this is it: Shop Seam Ripped.  Buy something.  Or don’t.  Or just think about it.  Or get disgusted and frustrated by the entire enterprise.  Really, I run a very “Free to Be You and Me” sort of dictatorship.

On to the actual post.  Jeez, this is long.  I should have broken it up, no?  Anyway, we’re going to trudge through, almost there.

In the past month, I’ve made muslins and/or finished garments of the following:
– By Hand London’s Anna dress
– McCall’s 6696 (a shirtwaist dress)
– Colette’s Hawthorn dress
– Christine Haynes’s Emery dress
– Colette’s Zinnia skirt (versions 1 and 2)
– Megan Nielsen’s Kelly skirt
– Deer and Doe’s Belladone
– Simplicity 1873

I’m just learning how to do FBAs, and I’ve noticed this weird bagginess around the bust (but not directly at the apex and points latitudinal to it (I really need to find the proper geometric/sewing terms for this stuff when I finish this post—Catja, any opinions?) when I make them.  I’m a 34DD, but I’ll make a muslin that should bring things up to my measurements, with or without adjustments.  (I measure 40-30-41.5, with a 33″ high bust.)  I’ve had oddly mixed results.  M6696 is supposed to measure 42″ around the bust for a size 14 C/D cup, but I literally could not close the muslin at the bust.  I brought the Emery and Simplicity 1873 up to a level that should accommodate a 40″ bust, and they were seriously baggy around the bust, everywhere but the point of greatest projection.  I made the very same adjustment to the Robe Belladone, and it fit me like a glove.  Ponder.

Then I started thinking about the skirts I’ve made lately.  I always just go by the waist measurement, but with each skirt I make, I could comfortably lop off an extra inch or so around the waist.  Perhaps the answer is ease.  The Emery is built with two inches of ease in mind, the 1873 has 3 (but I made a smaller FBA to bring it down to 2 around the bust).  The Belladone?  She doesn’t list finished garment measurements, but mine seems to measure 41″ across the bust, as a size 42 with a 1.25″ FBA.  So that’s about .75″ of ease.  Big difference, no?

I thought my findings were rock-solid until I moved on to skirts, though.  Zinnia is supposed to have only .5″ of waist ease, 1″ for me.  Yet, I can easily pinch out a solid 2″ from the band.  I suspect this might have to do with the infamous misalignment of the waistband and the skirt.  (The waistband is more than 2″ too short for the skirt, on the size 10, and I had to add a supplemental piece of cotton.  Thrilling, as you can imagine.)  Anyway, let’s get to some pictures.

Behold!  My Zinnia!  (I’m trying to exhibit the waist room without doing the whole Jenny Craig, clown-car trousers thing.  “Look how many people I can fit into my old jeans.”  Shut up.)  This is version 2, in a size 10, with the length of version 3’s size 18.  (Back story: I am having a bit of a midi moment, because Kiehl’s discontinued their Imperial Body Balm (as they do with everything I’ve ever loved), and my knees look like early-20th-century Fascist dictators.  True story.  I can’t decide if it looks like I’m wearing longer skirts because Christ has compelled me to, or if it seems like a conscious fashion decision.)  Anyway, if you look in the middle, there’s a weird pucker out.  If I look down through my waistband, I can see the floor.

Zinnia Wearable Muslin I


“Why is your head cut off in the picture, Charlotte?”  Well, this:

Zinnia Muslin Outtake

Hey, I didn’t say I was cleaning up the blog today, reader.  This is a face I made, unprompted.   To answer your question, I totally have a tripod, but look like a turtle when I use it.  Not jacked like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, but like one of the slow-chewing oldsters at the zoo.  Not cute.  Not cute at all.  In any event, until I figure out how I’d like my face to look there, you have to settle for cute pictures of me in the cheapest mirror at Target, with the view of my messy-because-the-cats-went-on-a-tear closet/bedroom.  Only the best for you, reader.

Where were we?  Yes!  Ease.  Perhaps I am more comfortable with a smaller amount of ease than your average bear?  That translates easily into skirts, but what about bodices?   I’m unclear about the engineering, here.  For instance, S1873 only gives the finished garment measurement for the bust.  At a size 14, for which one is supposed to have a 36″ bust, the measurement is 39″.  It’s built for a B cup, so I figured 36″ – 2″ = 34″ but three inches of ease seemed ridiculous, so why not corral it into 2?  I made a compromise, and did a 1.5″ FBA.  Does the excess ease mean that I have to take a smaller FBA?  Should I assume that the ease is limited to the bust, or that is present throughout the garment?  Should I cut a smaller size all together, and then work up from there?  Do I decide on the smaller size and its accompanying FBA based on the formula Finished Garment Measurement = Body Measurement + 1, or do I go with the envelope back?  When there aren’t finished garment measurements available, is tissue measurement the answer?

Simplicity 1873 Botched FBA 1

Everything looks kosher at the bust, except for that weird side thing and then, bam!

SImplicity 1873 FBA II

Here we have wrinkle city, a peek at my Anna, and the my cat-ravaged closet (it is one of my intersession break goals to tackle that monster).  No, I am not sporting a baby bump, that is just a surfeit of fabric.  Oy.

Simplicity 1873 Side View

The issue is, I don’t want to look like too much sausage stuffed into too little casing, if that makes any sense.  I think I’m going to have to dive head first into Pattern Review and Artisan Square to see what everyone else does, and then cook up an answer that works for me.

The weird solution was to take out two wedges from either side of the bodice, going from 1/8″ to 3/4″, for a total of 3″ taken off of either side.  I think that might do the trick.  I’ll show you the results after I press the bodice, and give the old girl a hem.  Plus, I have to figure out how to finish the waist seam, which always kills me.  Overlock it?  Stitch in the ditch?  The options, they are endless.

Who knows, maybe I’ll see you in another six months?

How’re things on your end, reader?   Not a rhetorical question, I’d actually like to know.

20 thoughts on “a question of ease”

  1. Helloooo Charlotte! Glad you are back! You’ve been missed. The ease thing is enough to keep me awake at nights…..

  2. Good to see you here! OK, so I’m no pro when it comes to FBAs (I’m a C so I can usually get away with not doing one, although I get better results when I do a small one), but I go by my high bust measurement and choose that size, then adjust the bodice by the difference between my high bust and my actual bust measurement. When I go by my actual bust measurement, I usually end up with extra fabric above it on my upper chest. For what it’s worth, my S1873 muslin looked almost exactly the same as your dress- there was a lot of weird ease in the upper bust. And the Deer & Doe Belladone fit me perfectly without any adjusting! I think it has to do with the proportion of bust vs. high bust.

    LOVE those poppies, btw!

    1. Thank you, you! The poppies are my favorite. I was so determined to wear this dress yesterday, that I did a cowgirl fix and pressed the dickens out of the darts. That, plus one of those massive adds-two-cups bras works well. Oy.

      Funny thing? My muslin was actually all right. It just had the tiniest bit of bust-area room, so I pinched it out in the dart, and transferred that to the pattern. I thought I was a miracle worker of the water to wine variety.

      True about the proportions of high bust to bust. Deer and Does are apparently drafted for a C or D, while the Big 4 are drafted for Bs; however, I never quite understand how that translates into choosing your size, as just going by high bust seems counterintuitive to me (they’re not drafted for board-flat people, after all).

      To the muslining stage! I shall report back.

  3. i’m just so happy you’re back i don’t even know what to say…

    though i will miss your posts lost to The Great Gussy Up. i hope you’re keeping them somewhere for posterity.

    1. I hope that one of these days my papers are held at a really fancy pants archives, and they dredge up this stuff for it. I imagine students having to study [Redacted]: The Lost Writings of Charlotte Witherspoon at university. “But what did she mean by “That’s not Aretha,” they’ll ask.

      I’m happy if you’re happy, Oona. Well, now that Ricky is heading to the shop (I think? Maybe? I’m kind of losing it), I suspect we’ll all have a reason to celebrate.

      1. hahahaaaaaaaa That’s Not Aretha had me raising my hand as well!

        yes, the man is in the shop. though they called yesterday to ask what my machine looked like, and if i also had a bernina. so.

  4. How your posts always make me happy! I’m glad you’re back! I think having to clean up your blog for applications sucks. I actually loved your gorey tumor pics. Nothing better if you ask me!
    I can’t help you with the FBA’s, that is a feature that was not installed on my body…
    Don’t be a stranger and stop by again soon!

    1. I always assume that everybody is just as interested in the gore as I am. Ugh, people!

      There are already a few more posts down the pipeline, let’s see if I can keep it up.

      Thanks, Wendy!

  5. So glad to see you back!

    I’m working on fitting this same area, and I have learned that princess seams (while a total pain in the ass) are pretty helpful in fine-tuning the fit. Did you see my pics on twitter where I completely deformed pattern pieces to make them fit my curves rather than the other way around? I’m trying an armscye princess seam this time around, I’m trying to see the difference so that I can do a big wordy (and picture heavy!) post on it after I figure it out. Plus, with the princess seams, I’ve been able to get rid of the FBA. But yeah, if you don’t want the seams, try more darts–your poppy dress looks like it needs an armscye dart (which I’m totally still learning about this crap, but I have the exact same “bubble” on everything that doesn’t have a dart there.) Also, if you’ve ever made a Burda blouse/bodice that has those really small armholes? Those are good for minimizing that bubble too.

    Sorry, my upcoming post will have lots of my findings in it, so I’ll stop writing a novel on your comments section. 😉

    1. I totally saw your Twitter picture!

      I will be waiting with bated breath for your post. The world of fitting is kind of exhausting, no? I’m currently wearing muslin that sports a total of ten darts (four bust, two front waist, two back waist, two back neckline). I am becoming something of an expert at this dart-making.

      Armscye princess seams get rid of FBAs?! Oooh, this is exciting.

      I’ve never tried a Burda pattern! I just had my Moneta printed at the copy shop and they charged me a gut-wrenching $20 (everyone else seems to pay $6-$10 for theirs), so I might have to gather up some courage and make a Burda run, just for this magical armhole experience.

  6. Fitting is not my forte, so I can’t be of much help. :/ I look forward to seeing how it all works out.
    I will miss all of the silly stuff when you clean up the blog. 🙂

    1. You have to show/tell us how those pink-underlined eyelet dresses turned out, by the way! (Unless I missed it, which is a distinct possibility.)

      Fitting is totally not my forte, either. I know I should do it, but sometimes I want to cop out with a great print in a poorly fitted garment. Poppies are distracting! No one will care about the baggy bust!

      I’ll keep it silly on Twitter and maybe make Instagram private for outtakes. My face does not behave for the camera. Ever.

      1. The eyelet dresses turned out quite nicely in the end. I didn’t get pictures yet. I hope they will share the wedding pictures soon.

        I’m glad you will keep twitter silly!

  7. I had a problem with the Zinnia waistband being too small for the skirt pieces with a size 2 or 4 (I can’t remember which size I made). I thought it was just me being stoopid and stretching out the skirt waist seam or not doing the pleats properly. I should have taken in the side seams, but for some ridiculous reason I decided to re-cut the waistband to fit the skirt and now it’s too big so I now I HAVE to wear a belt to cinch in the waist.

    I’m so relieved someone else had that issue too! Or maybe relieved is not the right word. I’m just glad you mentioned something because I hadn’t read anyone else saying they had a problem….but now I know to measure the pattern pieces before I make another one!

    1. Oh, friend. You are not alone! Mary from Idle Fancy had the same problem, and mentioned that she was considering cutting a smaller size next time. (Find her post here: http://www.idlefancy.com/2013/10/miss-zinnia-prepares-for-fall.html)

      Relieved is tooootally the right word. I’m still in the sewing mind frame that everything that goes wrong with my projects is absolutely, unequivocally my fault (which is true about 98% of the time), so whenever I hear that someone else has the same problem I heave a sigh of relief.

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