Saturday, January 28, 2012

Gadgetmania - Vicki shares interesting facts about thread!

Dear readers! Today's Gadgetmania post is submitted by Vicki of VickiKateMakes - an accomplished sewer who makes beautiful clothes and accessories! In this post she shares some tips on thread.  While it doesn't cover any specific type of thread, it does reveal some facts that I, personally, didn't know about before. So, here we go:

Thread is a tightly twisted strand of two or more ply’s of yarn that are circular when cut in cross-section.  Yarn is produced when you twist together short fibers or continuous filaments.  The length of the fibers used, or the staple lengths, have an important effect on the quality, strength and performance of the thread produced. 

The importance of the twist

Source: Encyclopedia Britannica

Generally, the longer the staple or fiber, the better the quality of thread will be.  When two or more yarns are combined to make the thread a reverse twist is applied to add balance so that the thread can be controlled whilst sewing and so that the yarns don’t separate.  When a thread passes through a sewing machine some additional twist may be added as it passes through and around the guides and tension discs.  For this reason the direction in which the thread twists becomes important – a thread with a Z twist, or left twist, is engineered specifically for use with a sewing machine as the process tends to increase the twist, rather than loosening or undoing completely an S, or right twist.


General purpose or all purpose sewing thread is often polyester, such as Gütermann’s Sew-All thread (a three ply polyester thread) or a poly cotton blend which has a continuous polyester core that is covered in cotton.  These threads provide strength, flexibility and durability and are suitable for use in both the machine and in hand sewing and are available in the greatest array of colours. The material the thread is made from as well as the length of thread is printed on the spool.

Buying thread

When considering a sewing thread we look for good sew-ability, good seam performance and aesthetics.  These characteristics are often a result of its elongation (how far it will stretch before it breaks), uniformity, ply security and twist (the thread’s ability to stay together during the sewing process), it’s frictional characteristics, and strength.  Some often consider the amount of lint the thread may produce in their machine as well.

Thank you Vicki! It was a very interesting post!

And you readers, what types of thread are using? Any tips or sources for thread?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Couture Dress Class by Susan Khalje: Great offer to my readers!

Hours of streaming video content packed with couture tips and techniques - the new course by Susan Khalje, one of the true couture experts and sought-after teachers, is truly addictive! Hosted by Craftsy.com, the course guides you through the process of making of a couture dress with the help  of step-by-step video lessons and Q&A interaction with the teacher.

I am taking the course,  and what I have seen so far is almost as good as a face-to-face class with Susan. Not only the video, but also the message board contains a wealth of information for couture learners. I won't be going into detail, as I will be posting a sneak peek of the dress-in-progress and the final review later.

But here is the exciting news: Craftsy.com offered a generous 50% off the regular class fee to Frabjous Couture readers! All you need to do is click the badge below and sign up for the class:

I hope you will enjoy the class as much as I do, readers! 

Oh, and more! Susan has kindly agreed to an interview, and so, I want you to be able to ask her questions as well - just post them as a comment below!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

In Detail: Versace at Paris Haute Couture Week

Only sixteen outfits, but va-va-voom, readers! Ms. Donatella Versace celebrated her comeback to Haute Couture Week serving the viewers sixteen sci-fy glamazons overlooking standing audience from a golden plynth!

A collection fit for girls like Kim Kardashian and Lady Gaga.

Super tight dresses and rompers, corseted bodices, leather, lace, a cornucopia of sequence, beads, golden aluminum bands... But never mind the glitter and sparks extravaganza! The designer's attention to detail is truly amazing! Let's have a look:

You won't disagree, readers, that the craftsmanship that went into making these garments is extraordinary. What's  amazing is that those golden aluminum bands are fitted to each model's body, so they must be special order pieces that have been made after the model were meticulously fitted! And I would love to see how those bands are attached! Any ideas? What do you think about the collection?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Countdown to the Paris Haute Couture week...

Readers, I am so excited! On Monday we can see the first reports from the Paris Haute Couture week. Three days of pure excitement, oohs and aahs, and, and, and....

This is the craftsmanship to look up to and I will try to cover my favorite shows over the next few weeks, looking into details of each couture house and, with your help, trying to uncover techniques and materials used in the construction.

Are you with me on it? Then follow along!

Here is the schedule of the shows:

January 23rd:

  • Versace
  • Christophe Josse
  • Bouchra Jarrar
  • Alexis Mabille
  • Christian Dior
  • Maurizio Galante
  • Giambattista Valli
  • Iris Van Herpen

January 24th:
  • Chanel
  • Worth
  • Giorgio Armani Privè
  • Atelier Gustavolins
  • Stéphane Rolland
  • Givenchy
  • Alexandre Vauthier
  • Julien Fourniè

January 25th:
  • Maison Martin Margiela Artisanal
  • On Aura Tout Vu
  • Franck Sorbier
  • Elie Saab
  • Jean Paul Gaultier
  • Maxime Simoens
  • Valentino

I love Chanel, of course, although the past few seasons didn't feature very flattering styles. Love Giambatista Valli and Valentino, and Armani is another house I always look at too.

So, will you watch the shows? What shows are you most looking forward to? Who are your favorites? Any designers you haven't heard much about?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Gadgetmania - and Carmen is here to talk about (oh, horror! :-)...

But before I fully reveal the topic of the day, I wanted to say I really enjoy Carmen's blog. She has great sense of humor, and blogs in two languages, French and English! Living 60km away from the next sewing heaven, Carmen is a very inventive and experienced sewer.  In her most recent post, she blogged about making her own shoulder pads, and I did spot a very cute ring pin cushion on the picture. Carmen, we are awaiting a blog post on it (!) 

Ok, now to the actual topic. When Carmen proposed it to me, I thought, oh horror, I could never use this in couture sewing, even if it saves time. I would have plenty of reasons to say that this can't be a good way... BUT! then I thought about it, and, wait! I don't have to use it with delicate fabrics. Think of making muslins - it's a great solution!.. So, you see, I am not a couture snob, but how can I not challenge it! :-) 

Thanks, Carmen, I've just learned a new thing! Well, readers, here is this week's Gadgetmania treat:

Hello to you all, thank you Marina for having me! I am Carmen Bouchard, wife of one, mother of one, I was born in Quebec, and I am living in France. I blog about sewing at carmencitab.com and I'm here to talk about glue

When sewing, I aim for high-end RTW : I try to get the best possible results doing as little hand sewing as I can, using whatever's on hand which will suit the project. A stick of washable glue fits right in that category, alongside my son's washable markers, my stapler, my canned goods, my freezer paper, waxed paper, scotch tape, trombones, clothes pins and so on...

I know that talking about glue here, home of Hand Sewing and Haute Couture techniques is verging on sacrilegious, kudos to Marina for being open-minded about it. (Marina: 'ahem')

I have tried several sticks. My favorites are the coloured ones which fade when dry but if not available, I'll steal my son's as long as the package says washable. For precision work, I use the fancy, more expensive, Japanese one.

The idea is very simple : glue instead of pinning or basting, position, let it dry completely to avoid needle gunk and then sew. Besides this method being really quick, I really like it because you can reposition for a little while before the glue dries.

I use this trick most when crafting, making handbags and working leather. Sewing newbies will love it as it takes all the fidgeting out of inserting zippers. I also use it on bias tape, it keeps it from shifting when you are sewing a curve.

I hope it helps some of you get the results you want, in the meantime, sew on!


PS . I would like to thank Yoshimi The Flying Squirrel for the giving me the tip when she posted her beautiful Leia dress.

Did she say STAPLER, readers?! Canned goods?! Ok, I know canned goods are popular as pattern weights, but stapler? Carmencita, please tell me you are not using it for basting!!!

Ok, I am sending you to check out Carmencita's links! In fact, I insist on it! She also added a few social buttons on her page and will be happy if you stalk her, at least that is what she says on her blog ;-)

Carmen's Blog
and her Etsy Shop

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

My Clover pants

A-ha, a finished garment, finally! Clover pants by Colette Patterns.

You know, this pattern required a lot of patience! A L-O-T! There is something going on with the crotch, and I have to stand in a very stiff pose to have no whiskers, wrinkles, pulls or whatever.

The original pattern suggests using medium weight fabrics with some stretch. I had a stretch wool tweed. The fabric has some shine, but by far not so much as on this image, I still need to work on my images (even though this was taken by Mr. Frabjous, ahem...)

The instructions are easy to follow, although I did a few things differently. Let me explain one by one.

You may remember from another post on Clover pants, that I serged side seams with  fine silk thread. However, I just could not do the same on the crotch and pockets. Well, the problem was I underlined the pants with stretch silk charmeuse, and used the same charmeuse to make pockets. Well, serging just went all over the place with the slippery stretchy silk, so at the end I just hand overcast it, and it looks quite decent without living an imprint on the outside. I must add, that at the end it took me less time to hand overcast than to go though all that trouble with serging. But that's me again :-)

Here are the pockets, I love them, but they are hardly functional. In fact, I always have to push pocket lining down when I put on the pants.

One piece of advice, though! Don't you ever put your hand in this pocket in public: it looks weird, especially, if the pocket is not visibly identifiable as such... you got my point, right? here, oh horror, when I saw it on this pic....

I am really ashamed! but, enough of this...  Another thing I did, was faced waistband, which I did following Claire Shaeffer instructions from her Couture Sewing Techniques, or, even more detailed, her article in Threads (Facing Finesse: A couture waistband thins even the thickest fabrics, August/September 1990, from Threads Archive DVD).

How did  I do with my couture learning ? I think, well. So, to summarize, here are some couture techniques I used:
  • underlining (right decision, because tweed is very! scratchy)
  • hand-overcast all but side seams
  • faced waistband
I like the result a lot, but  before I use it again I will definitely have to work more on the crotch fit!

So, here is my additional New Year's resolution: create the basic pant block using personal measurements! It will take some time, but I am determined to get it right!

What is your experience with pants? Do you get the fit right? Any recommendations? 

Friday, January 13, 2012

Gadgetmania: Rachel's favourite marking and tracing tools

Dear Readers, I am happy to introduce you Rachel of House of Pinheiro. As a Gadgetmani guest blogger, she wanted to share with you her favorite marking and tracing tools and explain briefly how she uses them. I thought it would be a great overview post on marking tools and would be happy to hear your comments or questions! Thank you, Rachel!

Marking your garments correctly is one of most important sewing steps, only second to pressing. There are many types of products available that suits different varieties of fabrics but there aren’t many differences in terms of quality by brands. It’s a matter of personal taste and need. I suggest you hold a selection and use them accordingly to specific projects. 

The following marking tools will help you transfer symbols and pattern guidelines for accurate construction.

Chalks or Tailor’s Chalk:  
There are two main formulations available (Talc-based and wax based) numerous formats and 4 main colours (white, yellow, blue, red).

The composition should be indicated on the box. If not, you can tell it by touch, as the wax-based chalk feels less smooth and break in chunks (don’t worry, they will not leave waxy residue and can be removed by heat) and talc-based is more powdery when using. The classic format is a thin wedge, which also can be found as a chalk wheel, which makes a finer line. The same principle applies to lipstick shape.

There is new fusion between chalk and pen branded as a Chaco pen and a Slim Chaco Pen (pens filled with chalk instead of inks with available refills)

Liquid markers or water-soluble pens:
Liquid markers and water soluble pens look like felt tips pen, where ink is erased in cold water. It is important to highlight that steam (HEAT) can actually make the marking permanent, so always check by testing your fabric first. These markers are also unsuitable for fabrics that show water marks, for obvious reasons. They can be found in blue, red and purple colour. An eraser pen is also available for removing markings made by any water-soluble marker.

Air-erasable pens:
According to the manufacture the marks disappear within 24 to 48 hours.

They can be removed either by brushing, erasing with a fabric eraser or by soaking in water.

Hot-iron transfer pencils: 
This pencil is used to trace a design and transfer it to the fabric using heat.

Dressmaking Carbon:  
Used with a tracing wheel, dressmaking carbon allows to trace quickly and accurately, as both layers can be marked at the same time. There are many types and colors available on the market. 
Two main dressmaking carbons types are wax-based and wax-free. Wax-free is becoming more available as many suppliers realise the demand for this type of product because some customers complained of the issue of residue left by wax-based products.

Most brands have a pack with 5 varieties of colour sheets same size (23x28cm), and the larger sheet size I found was  Burda (83 cm x 57 cm) but only provided 2 sheets.

Tracing wheels: 
The most common are the serrated and the smooth-edge tracing wheels. The serrated tracing wheel makes a distinguished doted line and is suitable for most fabrics except for delicate ones, while the smooth edge tracing wheel transfers a continuous line, more suitable for delicate fabrics or delicate paper patterns. 

There is also double tracing wheel that enables you to trace seam line and cutting edges at the same time and has an adjustable range of 10 to 30mm.

Tailor's Tacker: 
It is a small gadget that substitute the tailors tack process. It contains two pieces of chalk and a little pin through the middle that will marks both sides of fabric at the same time when twisted. This item is not very easily found.

Thread & needle: 
Mostly used to mark darts by using so-called tailor tucks. Sometimes, especially in couture, all stitching lines are thread-traced using fine thread and needle that don't leave marks on delicate fabrics.

They can be used to help mark darts in conjunction with a marker or on their own. There are not advised to be used in leather, fine fabrics or very loose knits

Best way to mark pattern notches that will allow the junction of the pattern pieces. Just nick the fabric slightly. Do the same for double and triple notches, making only once.

Iron (Pressing) 
you can use the iron to press tucks and other design features into shape. I advice you to refrain from marking with an iron as a pressing mistake can be difficult to correct.

My personal favourites are 
  • the wax chalk 
  • a Japanese white pencil for quilting  
  • Wax-free grey (non-coloured) dressmaker carbon. (sorry, I don’t know the brand as I buy then per loose sheet)
  • I also own both types of tracing wheels. 
I dislike any marking tools in colour (except my lipstick chalk yellow marker) because they tend to be very hard to remove. I personally don’t use pens because I press my garments a lot and I don’t like soaking (even if it’s by hand) at every little step and they have a tendency to reappear once dried. I also notice that the colour blue is the worst offender to get off the fabric. If you have a carbon wax emergency, I found out that some people melt the wax using the iron and use paper towers to dry it. You need to fold the item in paper and carefully heat it. It takes a while.

My final advice is take careful consideration when choosing the correct marking tool as they have the potential to ruin your project and always make a test patch.

Where to find most items:

I hope this post helped you make an informed decision on marking tools.

Image sourcing: All the products images were taken from Joann and Hancock sites and free copyright sewing database.

Great tips, Rachel! What about you, readers? What are YOUR favourite marking tools and techniques? Do you want to learn more about some specific tool or technique? If you had a post or tutorial, leave a link here and I will add it to our Gadgetmania collection.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Whew, (U)FO Party updates...

I know, I know, some of you have been parading your (U)FOs, celebrating finished objects and making New Year's resolutions. Oh well, no resolutions here... I mean, why repeating what everyone else is saying... sew with a plan, reduce stash, don't buy more than you need, loose some pounds... I have nothing to add to it! Except that I am not going to fail, right?

Enough of it! Today, I wanted to catch up on our long overdue (U.)F.O. party.

For those who didn't know, we partied every week in December celebrating finished U.F.O.s and ditching unfinishable ones (I know, 'unfinishable' is not a word. strictly speaking... that is unless you sew). Well, I thought it was a little bit decadent to party every week; and considering my 'Simple Living Pledge I thought partying once a month would be more appropriate. But, don't be disappointed my fellow star troopers! We will party with fireworks, readers!

Let me reveal: to make the party more fun, I have enabled reader voting for the top three UFOs of the month!  You can vote on whatever criteria you want: time spent in Area 51, complexity, craftsmanship, finishing speed.... It just has to impress you more than other objects, as simple as it is! Those three UFOs will be featured in a separate post here, with links to your original posts, your blogs and whatever you want to promote (read the small print ;-)).

The U.F.O Party rules? They haven't changed, all you need is
- an U.F.O. (that is unfinished object)
- a link to a blog post or an image featuring your UFO, and a line or two on the main challenges with your flying saucer.

And, voilà - the link collection for this month. And don't forget to vote!

Here is an updated badge for your blog with the code for your blog:

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

I took a simple living pledge! Join me!

Dear readers, while I am still recovering from a monster flu, there is one really positive outcome of these weeks. I started to really appreciate simple living. Life is especially busy, fast and stressful here in New York, and the environment - stores, media, displays - is only increasing the stress. During these last weeks, I occasionally watched TV, which is airing mostly mental clutter and adding to the pressure of Christmas consumerism.

So, what we did is got rid of cable, Netflix subscription and right after that we banned our TV-set... Wait, I can still watch some good movies on my Mac, but now we won't just automatically reach for a remote to fill the silence. On the contrary, we enjoy the silence. I spent quite some time going through books in my library and realized how much I missed them, because for the last year I have been mostly reading on my iPhone Kindle app or reader.

I also signed up for a new wardrobe challenge (more about it later) and realized I can sew all eleven items for this challenge with my stash fabrics. I am actually happy I do not have to go to the Garment District to buy more and more... I need to quit fabric buying just for the sake of it.

Of course, couture sewing is not synonymous with simple living, but I can find ways for it to make sense.  I won't be sewing lots of garments this year - only what I really need for my lifestyle! And I will focus on quality rather than quantity. I will also limit shopping for garments to a very minimum, buying only what I cannot make myself.

By the way, I got another box full of vintage patterns, which I am going to give away during PatternReview Weekend in New York this May.

I did more... but I won't spend more time describing everything I did because someone is waiting for me to play backgammon with our beautiful Moroccan backgammon set, which we haven't touched for ages.

To say it in one line:

I took a simple living pledge

I pledge to live a simple life through:
  • decluttering;
  • using less; 
  • learning to be sustainable in all aspects of life; 
  • slowing down and finding joy in little things; 
  • reconnecting with my inner self; 
  • spending more time with my loved ones; 
  • elevating experiences above possessions. 
Readers, do you think this is extreme? Or do you share the feeling? If you do, go to Kanelstrand blog to learn more about the challenge and maybe to take the pledge as well.

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