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tips

  • A Quick Guide to Draping: Tips and Fabrics

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    If you have a draping project you need to complete before a big deadline, here are a few tips to remember that will set you on the right path to draping success. Tip 1: Before starting your drape, remember to use black style tape to line the form at three key points. These key points are: 1.) around the bust at the apex, 2.) around the narrowest part of the waist, and 3.) around the widest points of the hips. Remember to leave space in between the style tape and the form between the bust so that your drape hits the largest measurement around this area. Leaving a space in between will also allow you to drape your fabric onto this style tape if a necessary aspect of your design. Remember to drape either to the top or bottom of each style tape line and keep this process consistent throughout the process. For instance, if you drape and pin to the bottom of the waist tape the first time, repeat each and every time. Tip 2: When first starting your drape, remember to take accurate measurements of the form that you are working with. Some key measurements to remember are for your X-point, mark 3/8 inches down from the neckline when doing collars especially so your end result is not too tight in that area. Also for an accurate apex measurement, be sure to measure from the HPS or high point shoulder down vertically to the Center Front line and then over the bust horizontally and mark. You can then draw a mid-line across your draping block that intersects with the side seam for accurate placement once you are working on the form. Tip 3: After you have successfully measured the form on which you are draping, you should also be sure to apply the pins you are using securely down the Center Front line so that all of your key markings are lining up, such as the mid-line and the X-point and the fabric is stable when shifted. If your pins were to come out, then all of your draping work would be for naught because the garment would be off-balance from the beginning. Tip 4: Now you should be off and running to the drape. Let your mind’s creations come to life as you manipulate your fabric or muslin into pleats, tucks, darts, and ruffles. But be sure to remember that as you smooth the fabric around the form, you adequately slash around your construction details and the basic tenets of the form including the waist and the bust or the hips and the butt to release tension which shows-up frequently in the form of wrinkles and bumps that would not be flattering for any figure. The technical term for this tip for these tricky construction points is called “bridging the hollows”. Tip 5: Finally, you should be able to step-back and analyze your drape. This is a very important step to remember before you sew up your design or transfer it to a pattern. The drape should look as well-balanced as it does in your mind’s eye. Some things to think about are, would the details you’ve added look symmetrical when displayed on both sides of the form and when the pins are released from key points on the form such as the Center Front line, the side-seam, or the apex. Although most of the pins are needed to provide stability while draping, remember nothing will ever be pinned to an individual for whom you are designing. So keep in mind how your design will look once the pins are removed from the form itself. Tip 6: Also, when analyzing the drape remember in removing the pins from the form that you should also pin all of the draped seams together to get an accurate picture of what the final garment will look like when sewn. At this point, side-seams and princess seams can be pinned together from a 360-degree vantage point on the form to demonstrate how the newly constructed garment will hang. This is one of the main advantages of draping as a method of garment construction and provides lots of visual stimulation to the creative designer. Tip 7: After you’ve completed your drape, if you are transferring the drape to a pattern remember to true the pattern and add seam allowances. This can be a time-consuming but necessary step in the process of garment construction with a drape. There is often an ability to modify the drape according to the industry standards of sewing and patternmaking as well. We all know it is fun to drape and creatively visualize your design, however, there is also an overlap between design processes that is valuable to learn. Creating a perfect pattern of that favorite dress, which incorporates all of your draping details and hard-work will be essential when you want to sew it up again in a new fabric or modify it with an innovative and trendy design feature.

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    Now that you're refreshed and ready to start draping, let's talk fabrics! Remember that not all fabrics are ideal for draping; you definitely don't want to use anything too stiff. And some fabrics that look beautiful when draped may not be the easiest to work with.

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    Jersey is a great fabric to drape with. As long as you use something thin, like a rayon, you should have no problems! It's light, fluid, and it's stretch makes it much easier to control.

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    Voiles are also a great option. They're thin and incredibly light. This coral silk-cotton voile below, from Rag & Bone, would be the perfect fabric if you're looking for an airy summer vibe.

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      Perhaps you want to create volume with your next drape? For that, you'll want to work with a gazar or organza, like this basket weave silk organza from Carolina Herrera.

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    With something like this, you'll be able to make some amazing and unconventional shapes!

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    For something a little more classic, you can choose to work with a charmeuse, or this china silk you see below. They'll both look incredibly fluid and flawless on a dress form.

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    FullSizeRender (8) FullSizeRender (7) Other great options for draping include chiffon, gauze, batiste, and crepe. All are very light, making them great for full, billowing skirts that won't fall flat when fighting with gravity on a dress form.

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  • Sewing Tip: Test Drive Your Fabric First

    Test seams and other finishes in your fabric before you begin sewing your pattern.

    Ok, readers, I've said it here before but this bears repeating: Test-drive your fabric before you sew your garment. You need to know—ideally prior to cutting out your pattern—how the fabric will handle all the details. We're talking about facings, hems, darts, zippers, pockets, plackets... all those things that make a garment special.

    I'm in the process of making a jacket out of black leather and black rayon jersey. Sewing the leather is easy, but I swear this rayon jersey will be the death of me yet. Because it's so thick and joining two layers could be too bulky, I test-drove several finishes before I sewed the first seam. You can see my efforts in the photo above. I even tested fusible interfacing and invisible hand stitching.

    Trying out neckline and hem options first on scraps showed me that I wouldn't be happy with my original design ideas. I saved fabric and sewing man-hours, and I gave myself a big pat on the back for being so smart for once.

    Tell us: Do you test the details first when you sew, or do you just dive right in and hope for the best?

  • Mood How-To: Stabilizing Silk With Paper

    Blythe silk top available at J. Crew. Blythe silk top available at J. Crew.
    Do you avoid sewing silk simply because it slips and slides and you end up with wavy, puckered seams? Here's an easy way to resolve that, courtesy of Michele of Mood NYC's silk department: 1.  Purchase some parchment paper from your local grocery store, or use pattern paper. Kenneth D. King, couture designer and Mood School teacher, likes to use cash register tape (available at office supply stores). 2.  Cut paper into 2" strips, approximately the length of each seam you have to sew. (No cutting involved if you're using cash register tape.) 3.  Place your garment pieces right sides together and pin to paper strips, with the paper being the bottom layer to feed through your machine. 4.  Stitch all three layers together. 5.  Gently tear away paper from seam.
    Pins and paper help stabilize silk when stitching. We show a roll of Mood's pink cash register tape here to use for easy paper strips. Pins and paper help stabilize silk when stitching. We show a roll of Mood's pink cash register tape here to use for easy paper strips.
    silk tip 2 Gently tear away the paper to reveal perfectly stitched seams.
    Here's Michele showing you the parchment paper she likes to use when she sews silk. Here's Michele showing you the parchment paper she likes to use when she sews silk.
    You'll notice how the paper stabilizes the silk and prevents it from moving while stitching, so your seams are straight and pucker-free. Michele also reminds you that having a fresh needle in the appropriate size for your silk fabric is half the battle. What about you, readers? Do you have any silk sewing tips you'd like to share here?
  • Lesson Learned: Know Your Fabric, Test the Details Before You Sew

    failed top_1 That little peek at the neckline is all I can bear to show you of this failed top I recently made.

    Recently I was talking to a designer who buys fabric from Mood for her collections. Does every garment you make turn out just the way you had envisioned?, I asked her, wanting to know if she ever had failures like home sewers are prone to. She laughed and admitted she still did from time to time, but that she did a lot of prep work to avoid wadders.

    "I play with the fabric on my dressform first, making sure it will drape the way I want it to without having to force it," she explained. "Then I consider all the details. I'll test first how the fabric will perform when sewn as a hem or a pocket, for example, before I start on my garment."

    And as she said that I knew exactly why my most recent sewing project had failed: I didn't test the details first. If I had, I would have seen that stitching a narrow hem causes the fabric to become wavy. Instead of the chic and delicate top I'd envisioned, I was stuck with something that looked lumpy and unbalanced.

    Picture 11Watching Project Runway this week, the moment Cindy said she had never sewn shantung before but was making a dress out of it for Heidi anyway, I knew she'd be the one packing up her work area. It's funny how often we home sewers fearlessly cut into a fabric that's new to us and then just start sewing away, fingers crossed for the best.

    That's what I did with this novelty fabric of boucle threads sandwiched between poly organza. I told myself I'm just making a simple little top, what could go wrong. A lot, actually. (Sure, this top is salvageable, but I'm still putting it aside for now.)

    The next time I sew with a fabric that's new to me—and there are fabrics at Mood Fabrics I haven't sewn yet—I'm taking the time to test the details first. With God as my witness, no more skipping the getting-to-know-you phase with my fabric!

    What about you, readers? Do you test all the details, like hems, before you sew? Do you feel you spend enough time getting to know a new fabric? Tell us here!

  • My Sewing Strategy Told Me to Make an Easy Wool Poncho

    Mood images misc 2013 Sewing inspiration: Missoni wool poncho, available at MyTheresa.com
    How's this for a sewing catch 22? I'm surrounded every day by the most beautiful fabric in the world but I'm too busy to sew. Gah! Because I would go crazy if I had to give up sewing entirely, I've modified my sewing strategy to keep things really simple: When I get the urge to sew something I gravitate toward sites like Net-a-Porter and My Theresa, in search of something easy to make where the fabric is the star. Then I look through my pattern collection for a pattern I can easily adapt. With a job at Mood where I'm always busy and a family and home to take care of, I need to keep my sewing projects on the simpler side, and this method works well.

    So you can see why a poncho like this one I saw at MyTheresa.com jumped out at me for a sewing project. I already had an old poncho pattern at home, and seriously, how hard is it to make something like this? Two shoulder seams, stitch the edges under and that's it.

    cape 1 Pardon the low-contrast iPhone photo, but you can get a good idea for how fabulous this wool plaid is. It's a lightweight wool and doesn't feel too hot or too heavy to wear over a sweater or top.

    For my poncho I chose a beautiful wool plaid that I found in Mood's wool department at the NYC store (also available online as well at MoodFabrics.com). I pair it with a cream cashmere turtleneck and tan wool pants, creating a look very similar to the Missoni above, and I get a ton of compliments on my outfit when I wear it to work and out. This poncho has become one of my favorite pieces in my wardrobe, and it had to be one of the easiest to make as well.

    cape 2 To stabilize the neckline, I bound it in some contrasting leather I had in my stash.

    So here's my recommended strategy for home sewers with no time to sew: 1) Look to established designers first for inspiration, because they know best how to make beautiful clothes with simple, clean lines. 2) Dig through your pattern collection to find an adaptable pattern. Even if you own just a few patterns you're likely to have one that's readily adaptable to your needs. 3) Let the fabric be the main focus of your garment, rather than relying on a lot of seams and darts and gathers and other structural details.

    Tell me here about your sewing strategy!

  • The Most Valuable Fabric at Mood

    An example of a test garment, or "muslin." Threads Magazine has an excellent article on sewing muslins. Photo: Scott Phillips.
    Here's a question for you: What is the most valuable fabric Mood Fabrics sells? The $350 per yard embroidered lace in our NYC store? Not even close. It's the $3 a yard muslin. For fashion students, designers and home sewers alike, plain old cheap muslin is priceless in terms of saving time and money and getting the best end results. Definition of a muslin for sewing (I'm borrowing this one from Webster's online dictionary because it's pretty good):
    "When sewing clothing, a test or fitting garment may be made of inexpensive muslin fabric before cutting the intended expensive fabric, thereby avoiding a costly mistake. The muslin garment is often called a muslin and the process is called making a muslin. With the availability of inexpensive synthetic fabrics, which closely resemble the hand (drape and feel) of expensive natural fabrics, a test or fitting garment made of synthetics may still be referred to as a muslin, because the word has become the generic term for a test or fitting garment."
    While muslin cotton is the preferred fabric choice for creating test garments, as you can clearly see stitching lines and it's easy to write on, you can substitute any inexpensive fabric as long as it mimics the properties of your fashion fabric. I like to pick up fabric at rummage sales to use for many of my muslins.

    Do you sew muslins regularly? Fashion students are taught to make muslins, and designers always use them, but most beginning home sewers aren't initially aware of this important step. Personally, once I started sewing muslins as a routine part of my process, the quality of my finished garments really improved and my sewing success rate went up.

    When should you sew a muslin?

    • Any time you're trying a new design or pattern that is not similar to previous designs or patterns you've sewn
    • Any time you're making a garment and the fit needs to be spot-on
    • Any time you're sewing with fabric that you'd cry over if you cut, sewed and then discovered you hated your pattern or cut it too small, etc.
    Here's a jacket muslin I made and subsequently discovered that my pattern was too big. Making size adjustments to a muslin is way easier than fussing with good fashion fabric.
    Sewing muslins: For home sewers who don't need to worry about production issues, fast and quick is fine. Machine-stitch with long stitches. Mark anything with a pen or tailor's chalk that you may need to see to make alterations to your muslin, like seamlines and darts. Sometimes I'll leave off details like a collar or pocket and sew a muslin just to the point where I can tell if it will work or not. Sew and alter a muslin to the point where you're confident it's ready to be used as a pattern with your fashion fabric.

    Hopefully you're convinced muslins are the way to go. Now here are some muslin-worthy fabrics ready for you to sew!

    Stunning Marc Jacobs brocade, $50/yd
    Lovely French chenille lace in pumpkin, $30/yd.
    Scrumptious 4-ply silk in lavender, $40/yd

    You know we have lots more where those came from. Visit Mood Fabrics online.

    Are you a muslin maker? Or do you prefer to take your chances and forge ahead with your fashion fabric? There's always healthy online discussion among sewers about this very topic.

    Thanks for stopping by. Check back here again on Favorite Fabric Friday, featuring the effervescent Sueann of the cotton department in the NYC store. She'll share her favorite fabrics of the moment, and she has great taste.