Monday, July 28, 2008

Pattern Drafting

I've learned most of my Pattern Drafting from books. I did take a Fashion Design course that included Pattern Drafting in 1997 from Oakland County Adult Education and found it useful. In fact, that is how I was introduced to the book, Patternmaking for Fashion Design by Helen Joseph Armstrong. I'm sure there are other similar programs available.

I looked into a Fashion Design School, in Troy, MI, that advertises on the TV, but after going thru the process and not getting the answers I needed I decided not to go that route. I wasn't interested in a year of remedial math and english and I was hoping to place out of those courses based on my College education. I was told I could, but was given the run-around when it came to actually getting any information about a revised schedule. The tuition for the school would have equaled about 23,000, so it wasn't something I wanted to fool around about. I wanted definitive answers before I got completely involved and it wasn't given satisfactorily. A word of caution, read everything!!!! I was presented with a contract that I was told was non-binding, I read the entire thing, and I made them cross off, initial and make a copy for me, because there was a section that said I was responsible for the tuition EVEN IF I DECIDED NOT TO ATTEND. It could have been a problem, but because I read everything, and made the appropriate changes it wasn't.

After this experience, and an unwillingness to relocate, I decided, after the 23,000, a couple hundred on Pattern drafting books was nothing!

Pattern Drafting Books

I picked up several Pattern Drafting and Draping books, Pattern Drafting and Dressmaking by Dorothy Moore, Patternmaking for Fashion Design by Helen Joseph Armstrong, The Art of Fashion Draping by Connie Amaden-Crawford and a old 1950 Applied Pattern Designing by Herbert Mayer. My FAVORITE purchase by far is Patternmaking Made Easy by Connie Amaden-Crawford. I also picked up a couple related books The Complete Book of Fashion Illustration by Sharon Tate and Mona Edwards (even though I'll never be able to draw) and Grading Techniques for Modern Design by Jeanne Price and Bernard Zamkoff because I felt I would find them useful.

I get enjoyment from flipping thru the books and visualizing dart movement, I have found it useful when doing DIY projects, it has opened up my eyes as to what is possible. Darts on the neckline if it is accidently made too large and other possiblities I hadn't thought of before. I will definately purchase more Patternmaking Books in the future to learn more.

Sewing is really my skill, Pattern Drafting is time consuming for me. But it is really just a matter of pratice. I've been successful when I've put my mind to it and it is absolutely necessary when making garments to sell to the public.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

How to find work as a Seamstress

I find myself without any paid sewing work this week. This is not uncommon in July, but I usually just slow down, not stop completely. I have two people sending me work next week and I expect a large order from Florida in August, so it still moving, but it may be time to expand my clients again. This happens occasionally, people change their business or decide to stop doing what they are doing for whatever personal reasons. It is why it is important to have more than one contract, even if it is possible for one person to keep you busy full time (though not in my experience).

I have had referals from current customers, but mostly they want to keep me for themselves and don't give out my name. I have had a lot of referrals from people I no longer work for. Referals don't always work out. A lot of times it is just chit chat and the person who gets my name isn't really ready to start. Or they want to collaborate with me not hire me. Though I would consider a collaboration with the right person, I'm at a point in my life where I don't want to be a partner, I want to be a paid employee.

I started my search today on the internet. I put "seamstress michigan" into the search engine. I ended up filpping thru about 41 pages and getting a handful of places that I will send an email. I don't know how many will even respond, but its a start. You never know whose business has recently picked up or who has lost a seamstress.

I have also had luck in the past by going to an Art Fair or Show and inquiring in booths if they need any sewing help and/or dropping off a business card. The rejection rate is high, but if you are successful it can result in a long term relationship. The got the woman I work for in Virginia this way. She wasn't at the Show, but someone I talked to gave her my card. I've been working for her since 2001. She is one whose business is changing away from clothing and starting to focus more on accessories, because she has aquired several wholesale accounts over the last couple of years.

I also found a couple wesites that are worth checking regularly to see if they have a good fit for me:
Sewing Want Ads
Simply Hired
Fashion Jobs

You will have to try your own search in your area and see what comes up.

While working at a place insead of home isn't an option for me, it may be for you, especially if you are just starting out and need to inspire confidence. If I was in my 20's again, like I was when I was starting out, I'd even consider relocating, there are certainly a lot more opportunities in New York or California than in Michigan!

I went to a lot of interviews back then where they were not impressed with my youth or my experience (zip!). You may have to start out doing something that you don't like just to get the experience. I made a lot of swimsuits and little girls dance costumes, and I sure wasn't making much! I learned a lot though and it was all worthwhile.

I also have a website that needs updating, Production Seamstress, it does generate some interest.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Needles for the Bernina 950

I recently received an email asking about which needles I use for the Bernina 950. Since it may be information others need, I decided to post the original email and my response here. Any knowledge anyone has to contribute about their experience with needles for the Bernina is welcome here!

Hi Diane,

I read your blog on Flickr. Can you help me with a question on needles for the 950. I have a 950 and have purchased the standard 287 WH needles by Bernina, but I decided to try the Cool Sew needles by CTS (they are supposed to allow higher speed without fraying the thread). They are cross referencing the 287 WH with a DBX257, 16X257, DBx1, 16X231, DBX1738, 1738, SY2270. I ordered some based on the chart and these needles end up being shorter than the 287 WH by what appears to be 1 mm. Have you used needles other than the 287 WH? If so, what size?

Thank you for your help!


Name Withheld

Needles for a Bernina 950

Dear Name,

My Bernina needles have 287 WH on them, if I remember correctly, they are quite pricey. I have some Schmetz that say DBX1, 16X231, 287 WH and 1738 (A). The Schmetz's look to be a smidge shorter. I also have some superior Beka (made in germany)that say 16X257, 16X231,1738 and DBX1. I use the Beka's most with no ill effects, they look to be a smidge longer that the Berninas(I never held them next to each other before!). BUT, the schmetz's are a 12 the Bernina's are a 14 and the Beka's are a 16. Are the needles you are comparing all the same size? I have no idea if this is standard, just an observation.

I believe I got my Beka's at MJ Foley's, they are in MI like me and I can go pick up there, its been a while since I had to buy more, I'm not using the machine as often right now. You can also buy Organ 16X231 BALL POINT needles online.I used to sew in 8 to 10 hour stretches with the beka's so I'm sure they are good and will not damage the machine. I didn't use the Schmetz's as often because I did primarily sewing on felted wool. I don't remember any problems.....

I can also sew at max speed with the Bernina, my experience with any other thread besides gutermannn was to have the thread fray. I insist that my customers buy gutermann now. I didn't even think to blame the needles for the ,what I call, coring out (the thread got really thin and ended up as a snag/snarl at the needle eye).

You seem very on the ball (I never held the needles next to each other!), but I just wanted to add the the needle goes in off center. If you are having trouble with the thread shredding, check the manual to be sure you have it correctly off centered!.

Hope that helps!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Tutorial: Christine Jonson Pattern #107 Tie Back Top

Tie Back Top #107, pattern envelope

I'm going to go thru the instructions that came with the pattern, for the Tie Back Top #107, one at a time with you. Most will be accompanied by a picture of what I did at that step, and I'll add any comments I have about what I did that may need explaining or add to the instructions. I will assume that you have the pattern instructions so I only have to add to them and not retype them here.

Here is where I started.

Tie Back Top #107, started here

Step 1: Basting, two rows.

Tie Back Top #107, step 1

Tie Back Top #107, step 1

Step 2: serged shoulder seams.

Tie Back Top #107, step 2

Steps 3 and 4: Sew ties, clip to the dot, serge finish seams. (I made a clip to let myself know where the dots were instead of tailors tacks.)

Tie Back Top #107, step 4

Tie Back Top #107, step 4

Tie Back Top #107, step 4

Tie Back Top #107, step 4

Step 5: I turned and presses, no pictures.

Step 6: This is the most difficult part, but don't worry, it is still not hard (Thank you, Christine!) just fussy! You have to make sure your sewing lines here meet the sewing lines you made when making the ties, that is key to having the front look neat and finished.

Match notches, adjust gathers to fit.
Tie Back Top #107, step 6

Tie Back Top #107, step 6

You must get the needle and stitches all the way to the previous sewing line.
Tie Back Top #107, step 6

Another pic, all the way to the previous sewing.
Tie Back Top #107, step 6

Check your work, looks good here!
Tie Back Top #107, step 6

I serge to clean it up after I finish the seam.
Tie Back Top #107, step 6

Step 7: Stitch betwen the dots, again it is important here to get the needle all the way to the previous stitching lines.

This is a picture of the drawing under step 8 (oops! before I serged it!).
Tie Back Top #107, step 7

Get in there!
Tie Back Top #107, step 7

Tie Back Top #107, step 7

Check your work. I single needled again and trimmed, instead of serging here.
Tie Back Top #107, step 7

Step 9 and 10: Side seams. How does your brain work? Christine's diagram is good. I put the top neatly on my dressform, mark what gets sewn together at the underarm seam, and go sit down and sew all 4 seams (right and left front and lining).

Tie Back Top #107, step 9

Tie Back Top #107, step 10

Step 11 and 12: Hem. Again how does your brain work? Christine's diagrams make sense to me, but when I'm sitting at the machine I do it a little differently. I straighten out the shirt, then reach between the layers at the underarm and pull the hem thru there (much like doing a lining on a jacket, but there are no sleeves). Sew around the hem and straighten it out back thru the arm. Sorry, no pic sewing the hem!

Tie Back Top #107, step 11

Step 13-15: Baste the armholes together, if you wish, sew sleeve underarm seams (my pictures didn't turn out, but pretty understandable!), and sew sleeve into armhole, matching notches. I sew with the sleeve on top, it helps me to manage the ease better.

Tie Back Top #107, step 15

Step 16: Double needle on the sleeve hem.

Tie Back Top #107, step 16

The finished product! My pictures don't do it justice, too cute!

Tie Back Top #107, front view

Tie Back Top #107, front view close

Tie Back Top #107, back view

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Book Review: Life in the Little Black Dress, by Christine Jonson

I've done a short review of The Little Black Dress on Pattern Review and I thought I'd add some more personal stuff here.

I worked as a little sales girl in Christine's Retail Store in Royal Oak, MI starting in 1995. The story about "Button Decisions" in the book brought back memories from that time. Christine would have Susan cut out the collection, and then it would be sent to the sew-ers (I wasn't allowed to sew way back then!). One woman would do the serging and we (me and or Susan or Christine) would have to press up hems and press/shrink the fabric and then one or more sew-ers would finish the hems and topstitching. After everything was finished and pressed and hung on hangers Christine would pull out the buttons. It was a big production and everything had to have the perfect buttons. I think many of Christine's customers enjoyed the attention to the buttons as much as the fit of the garments.

I also remember the joy Christine takes in choosing beautiful fabrics, that much hasn't changed!

Much of what I do in sewing is from watching and listening to Christine, I think I learned to really sew from her Patterns. I love the easy way her patterns go together and especially the fit of the armholes. I often find myself adjusting other patterns to make them easier or more friendly, eliminating facings, pins, serging darts,etc.

The article "Clip Those Threads" actually gave me a chuckle, it is one of my bad habits to leave some threads hanging, it is actually the thing that I get the most comments about! I do try to be neat, but I chronically leave the threads at the start of hem seams. I think I do end up getting them, unless I'm on a tight deadline and working really fast. People do end up not complaining after a while, so either I get better or they give up!

I also love Christine's take on "The Little Black Dress" and how it relates to sewing " signifies all the good things about clothes. If you have the perfect little black dress in your closet, life is good. It is something you can depend on. You can be in your comfort zone the second you slip that dress on. It's a state of mind."

All and all I really enjoyed the book, if you are looking for some fun informative reading about sewing I highly recommend it!