29 April 2012

Day 3 - Slash-and-spread Shirt

Slashing and spreading is used to add fullness to a piece of cloth by, well, "slashing" the pattern tissue into several panels, and then "spreading" those panels out. It's a neat way to adjust a plain shirt pattern, as I'm doing this week:

slash and spread sewing technique

First off, I wanted my shirt to be made of two pieces per side, so I slit the pattern just a couple inches above the armhole line. This way there's a yoke (the top piece) and then the shirt body. Then I "slashed" the pattern into vertical strips:

slash and spread sewing technique

Once I had the strips cut, I placed them on a large sheet of newspaper. For the upper section - the yoke - I wanted there to be loosely gathered "tucks" running from the shoulder line to the bottom seam, so I simply added about 0.5" of space between each panel. But I wanted the body piece to be fuller at the bottom, so I rotated each strip, allowing the pattern to spread out in a fan shape.

After taping down the strips lightly I traced a new pattern, and that was that!

Well, almost. I did make one adjustment, at the hip line, where I actually cut 1.5 " along the side seam, just so the hemline wasn't too big.

Then, of course, came the actual cutting of the cloth. I used a very light silk for the yoke, and a loosewoven, slightly heavier cloth for the body. Any lightweight fabric that drapes nicely would work well for this technique: silk, light linen, cotton, and single-knits are ones that come to mind.

Time to sew!

27 April 2012

Day 1 - Sewing a Slash-and-spread Shirt

(When it comes to alliteration --- I don't skimp.)

This week I'm making a probably-sleeveless shirt, or maybe a tunic, that will look something like this drawing in a sort of vague way.

Actually, scratch that. That's how I normally operate, which is probably part of the reason most of my sewing projects take so long. But this time I'm going to stick carefully to my design. (After all, how else can I create a series of blog posts about it?) My final shirt will look like this, exactly like this, right down to the tiny, decorative button on the front yoke.

Main design features:

The "design feature" of this shirt isn't a feature so much as a technique used for ruching, tucks, gathers - basically for adding any sort of fullness to a garment piece. It's called the slash-and-spread method.

The front yoke1 here will be cut with a lot of extra fabric horizontally, which can then be used for those loose smocking tucks along its lower edge. In the same way, the main body of the shirt will be cut fuller (almost like a quarter-circle) than it normally would be, so that it can be tucked into the band along the bottom hem.

More on how to do all this on Sunday!


1. A yoke is a fitted section of a piece of clothing (usually a shirt) and from it hangs a looser section of the garment. It's often the section around the neck and shoulders, for example the top "panel" that covers the shoulder and back of a dress shirt. In this "slash-and-spread" shirt, the top sections of both the front and back are called "yokes" - even if the front section uses a lot of extra cloth.

One Shirt, One Week

In other words, here's a new plan to speed up my sewing! Except this one makes use of my blog.

Often, my sewing projects revolve around a single key design feature - usually something that I'm trying to understand, like fitted sleeves or a stand collar. And that's how I want to organize my 'sewing' posts from now on. That is, if I'm making a jacket I'll have a series of posts about, for example, fitted sleeves.

And - here's the thing: I'm not going to post only when I'm finished a project (eg: jacket), but as I'm working on it. That means my posts will go from the concept art all the way to completion. This way I'm hoping I can have a two-in-one sort of schedule, one that dictates the progress of both my sewing and my blogging activities.

So. Here's what I'm going to do over the next seven days:

Day 1 (Yes, that's today, Friday. Should I call it Day 0, just to be classy?)

Post a project outline. This will include:
  1. Split line-drawing of the design, the kind where half shows the front, and half the back.
  2. Sketch of the design as I want it to look when worn.
  3. Approximately 75-100 words summarizing the main design features.
Day 3 (Sunday)

Post the procedure for cutting and adjusting pattern pieces for the garment. This will include:
  1. A basic (100-200 words) explanation of how the main design feature of the garment is achieved.
  2. How to create that design feature by tweaking a store-bought pattern or a sloper.
  3. Pictures of the pattern pieces.
  4. What kind of fabric should be used.
Day 6 (Wednesday)

Post a progress-update. This one will include:
  1. Photos of the garment so far.
  2. Minor problems that I discovered while sewing and how to fix them. (After all, these are original designs that I make up partly as I go along, so there will be problems.)
Day 8 (That's actually next Friday, so the total time is still technically a week. But it doesn't sound as good. I knew I should have numbered from 0.)

Post the completed project.
  1. That is all.
I'll have my Day 1 post up in a few hours. Really!

20 April 2012

The city I live in

As I explained in my last post, I'm spending my weekdays inside a small office building on the north side of the city. East of this building is a low brick wall, and east of the wall is a square, paved lot, and under that lot and just beyond it runs a long, sweetly winding river.

No, really! It's one of our city's only three rivers, flowing down from the Oak Ridges Moraine into the lake. And, even better, along with the river comes nearly 150 hectares in total of parkland.

Not, of course, that I'm planning to make my way through tens of square kilometers of green space during my lunch break. Never, of course not - but I can't deny that I'm ridiculously excited about so much space to explore. Yesterday afternoon I hopped down to the river and walked a short way up the paved biking and running path, just far enough to see the beginnings of a half dozen hiking trails spinning off it. And then naturally I managed to splatter my trousers with flecks of mud by veering too far off the path. Slight regret there, but I can't wait to walk through the area properly.

I'd link to a picture on the city's website, or reveal the name of the park and river, but despite this blog's relative invisibility I'm too paranoid to do so. I'm not going to reveal my work location, only to then spend the next hour hearing Gert and Bert's 1 voices in my head, chiding me for my thoughtlessness. Hopefully I'll take a few photos on my break next week (which will not be a suspiciously long break at all) and post an image then. In the mean time I'll be working on finishing some more sewing projects.


1. Two cartoon rabbit siblings who hosted a series of child-safety commercials in the 1990s. They were famous for the catchphrase: "I'm Gert! And this is my brother, Bert! Stay Alert! Stay Safe!"

18 April 2012

Suburban office buildings must be real special...

office worker on coffee break cartoon
...if the people working in them can't bear to step outside for lunch even on a bright spring day.

Scarfing down food and soaking up sun on my break, I was pretty focused on my desire to fight rickets (and other diseases caused by vitamin deficiency). But even so it was hard to ignore the lack of people on the building's very large patio & "garden" -- or more specifically, the lack of people who stayed out. After all, every ten minutes or so somebody would slip out from the revolving door, phone or cigarette in hand, and spend a few minutes pacing through the building's shadows. And of course as soon as their bit of indulgence was over, they'd slink right back inside.

office workers in shadow cartoon
These observations are a little unfair of me, I suppose, seeing as it was moderately chilly last afternoon. And it's also true that a lot of the building's occupants have probably worked here for several years, at least, so maybe they're done with trying to find charm in the same tired places. But still, I couldn't help but find the whole thing very odd. During school, any chance to be outside in the sun is snatched at greedily, as it should be, and to see everybody so content to stay inside confused me.

I'm actually wondering if I'm missing something here. Is taking proper-length breaks considered a sign of laziness? Is drinking water and juice instead of coffee really that odd? Are there some very good reasons for eating lunch at your desk? I'm not feeling sarcastic as I ask these questions, just a little stupid. It seriously never properly sunk into my head that people actually do this every day, and that there's nothing really unusual or wrong about it. Well, nothing unusually wrong about it, at least.

revolving door cartoon

Next post: The other, real reason (fake-o reason number one being sunlight) I'm so eager to use my breaks as a chance to get outside.

13 April 2012

Strawberry shortcake...sort of.

Here's something that I only learned very recently: shortcake is not actually cake! Instead it's an American-style biscuit-pastry made with sugar, so all those times I've heard someone mention "strawberry shortcake" I was in fact hearing about a sweetened Popeyes biscuit with strawberries on top. Why do I find that delicious instead of appropriately disgusting?

strawberry turnovers, fast and easy puff pastry

The strawberry pastries I made a couple weekends ago weren't quite shortcake, but there was a suspiciously biscuit-like pastry involved, along with a tart strawberry filling, and I dare say they tasted just as good.

The pastry was made according to a recipe from an excellent website, King Arthur Flour, which is a resource I use a lot when I want to try out new foods, or when I'm just looking for good baking advice. It was a "fast and easy puff pastry" recipe, which means that of course it really wasn't puff pastry at all. (I've made the real deal with my sister exactly one time, and it was neither fast nor easy!) I made a basic shortcrust dough - flour, butter, salt, baking powder, with the interesting addition of yogourt - and then rolled it out and folded it to create layers, the way I sometimes do with biscuits.

fake puff pastry dough, rolling out shortcrust

After letting the dough rest in the freezer for a week (for convenience, not out of necessity - I think you can get away with a 30-minute chill in the fridge) I was ready to make the turnovers. I sliced up some strawberries, showered them with icing sugar, a bit of cinnamon, and just a pinch of salt, and let them rest while I rolled out the pastry dough.

sliced strawberries

Preheated the oven to about 400 Fahrenheit and cut the dough into 4-inch squares. Loaded the squares with a couple spoons of filling each, folded them into triangles, crimped the edges and slashed the tops, and then finally got them in - and out - of the oven!

flaky buttery strawberry turnovers

Glazing these with a bit of icing sugar and water is a great idea. Eat warm with milk.

09 April 2012

Reworking Patterns

I've never seen the appeal of reusing patterns for clothing. Half the fun of sewing, after all, is in coming up with a new design and then working through its technicalities in three-dimensional space. But in February I took a pattern for a shirt I'd made last year and adjusted it for the blue jacket that I mentioned in my last post - and really? The entire process was just a whole lot of fun.

The original shirt - think of a tunic or a jumper - is made of twill suiting, with light cotton side panels, while the outer shell of the jacket is entirely in a rough wool, which probably explains why I didn't feel like I was just repeating myself. The jacket also added a hood, and fitted sleeves, and pockets, and was lined, and was split down the front with a buttoned panel...so that might also be why I didn't feel like I was just repeating myself. I'm satisfied with the way I didn't feel like I was just repeating myself.

Moving on, this is the original shirt.

twill cotton tunic shirt

...And this is the jacket...

hooded lined herringbone wool jacket

...And this is the jacket with its patterned silk lining gloriously exposed.

silk lining

...Up next, strawberry turnovers! (Despite the lack of connection to either literature or sewing!)