Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Summer Clothing: Product Development

Yes I am still here! Very busy behind the scenes trying to wrap up orders for hand printed fabric coming from India. I am almost completely out of the first order I received about this time last year and I really miss carrying the beautiful lightweight cotton prints in my Etsy shop. There were problems with communication - and let's face it, doing this all by email is not ideal - so the fabrics will be here a little later in the year than I would have liked. I wanted them in April and they will be here the last week in June (which is soon!), barely in time for summer sewing. Better late than never... and let's not forget it is summer somewhere in the world all year!

I've been exploring new territory: clothing. Fun! I'm learning a lot of new things. The cottons from India are so perfect for easy breezy clothing and I though it would be fun to try my hand at making and trying to sell some. I've been looking at and testing out lots of patterns, looking for silhouettes that would easily fit many people…. at least in a simple small, medium, and large range. That means: loose fitting, elastic waists, etc. etc. Which is perfect for summer (and my basic sewing skills)!

I started with a simple tank top which turned into a maxi dress…


…which is looking a little dowdy here in a large size on my size 6 model! I got to this point and thought perhaps it was just a bit too easy fitting. Luckily I have some young people in my life to critique and help with the fashion direction! 


So, I lowered the neckline and searched the internet until I could figure out how to add an interior elastic band in a casing for the waist. Lots of tutorials on how to attach a skirt to a top along with exposed elastic, but that is not what I was looking for. This tutorial saved the day! Scroll all the way down to #9.  Kinda crazy how I found what I was looking for in a tutorial about a child's peasant blouse! Nice blouse, by the way. Anyway, I only half-way finished it because I decided the elastic should be higher and perhaps I could add drawstrings. More tutorial searching…. experimenting, practicing and generally making my life a lot more difficult than it needs to be!


Along the way, I made just the top part of the tank dress. In other words, I made a shirt! I wanted to use the real fabric, but not much of it, and practice a new way of finishing the neck and armholes. The general consensus seems to be to make bias binding strips out of the shirt fabric and use those as facing. Simple enough but you can use up a lot of very special fabric doing that. Plus, it's a bit fussy and there is a lot of finger burning with your iron that takes place. I searched for an alternative. 


I decided to try this rayon seam binding, cleverly named Hug Snug, which is usually used to finish the raw edges of seam allowances. I looked all over for tutorials proving it could be used for armhole and neckline facings and could not find any. Just the same, I thought "why not?" The edges are not supposed to fray ("woven edge rayon"!) so one doesn't have to do the tedious finger-burning folding. Plus, it comes in this retro-style packaging that clearly states it is "wash and wear". One hundred yards of it! What is there to lose?


Just sew it on the right side of your fabric using a quarter inch seam. The beauty is that this seam binding adds absolutely no bulk. Fabulous for this lightweight, breezy tank top (and possibly dress!)


Then you want to turn it inside out and press the seam allowance towards the other (unfolded!) edge of the lovely rayon seam binding. Those beautiful green leaves are part of the pattern on my quilted ironing board cover that I just adore. I leave my ironing board out, therefore it has to be all dressed up and looking nice! Not to mention it's important role in photo shoots such as this one.


Then I did this tricky little sewaholic thing called under stitching. I sewed the seam allowance to the seam binding. This is supposed to help turn that tape edge under so you don't see the tape from the front.  To keep the stitching nice and tidy, I used my very fancy piece of tape on my presser foot as a one-eights-inch-from-the-binding-edge guide. I highly recommend the tape on the presser foot! I also learned from a YouTube video, which I will never find again, that it is best not to pin your binding or bias tape to your armhole or neckline before sewing. Much better to just sew along slowly, gently pulling your fabric edge to the tape edge. This keeps the tape from stretching and making your opening all wacky and curly. I can say that both of these tedious sewing tips helped and were worth the effort. Wish I could say "don't bother!"


To make double sure the tape edge is not seen on the outside, turn the top inside out and press along the edge so that you see that little bit of fabric peeking out over the binding tape. Another advantage of using this rayon tape! It's so much more difficult to see this edge when the tape is made out of the same fabric as the clothing. Many think the same-fabric-binding looks better but as long as you get that edge to the inside, I can't see that it matters. Of course, you now have to stitch again, about three eighths from top edge to hold down the loose, unfolded edge of the rayon tape. This finishes off your neckline and armholes and, with patience, practice and persistence, everything will look really professional. You have heard of the Three Rs, now you have the Four Ps!


Personally, I really like the way the binding-of-a-different-color looks on the inside. 

So, now I'm testing my product by wearing it in the hot weather we are having. So far, it's fabulous! Feels like I'm wearing nothing at all. I was a tiny bit worried the rayon would be hot and itchy but it is not. I am a very sensitive flower when it comes to hot weather! Now, final step is to wash and make sure the binding performs as advertised!

And then on to more sewing!

Seems the days are not long enough...

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