Wednesday, September 03, 2008

How Many Steps?

I had quite a number of titles for this post...but ultimately rejected them for this one because the question I wanted to pose to you, was/is, "How Many Steps Does it Take for You to Complete a Garment?" In this particular case, how many steps did it take for me to make a simple skirt...this skirt:

Now I'm referring to construction steps...the things or procedures you do once you've chosen the pattern and the fabric. I am referring to the decisions you start to make when you lay that piece of fabric onto the cutting table and begin the construction process. Have you ever really thought about all of the steps you take/make from the cutting table to actually wearing the garment?

Well I thought about it today...probably because I took what should have been a very simple to make skirt and as usual turned it into a production. I am beginning to think that I can no longer sew "fast & easy" but that everything must have the best construction techniques I know thrown into it. I use to brag that I could make a simple skirt in 60 minutes/1 hour...add some lining to it and I only needed 30 minutes more. I don't think I could do that now, if my life depended upon it! *LOL*

So steps - lets start with the fabric:

Both pieces are from Metro Textiles - when Kashi handed me the black eyelet, he originally paired it with something shimmery and soft...however, I saw the cotton paisley print and KNEW that I had something that was more me. I knew that I wanted an a-line skirt with this print under first I thought that the two skirts would just free float and be connected at the waistline. I also thought that I would use my TNT four gore skirt to accomplish that...but something happened between the purchase to the time the fabric landed on the cutting table:

I decided to cut this as an on-grain skirt with only side seams. So I laid both pieces of fabric down on the fold and cut them out together. I hemmed and hawwed over whether they would be separate skirts or one piece...finally the fabric decided that it liked being together so after cutting them out, I serged the two pieces together. This definitely made it easier to work worrying about how to handle the seams of the eyelet fabric.

Next I sewed the side seams up thinking that I would make my regular elastic waist skirt...but it was 1:30 in the morning and I decided to call it a night and start again in the morning. I went to sleep with that skirt on my mind and when I woke up this morning, I had dreamt of a skirt with darts and a lapped side zipper...not one with an elastic waist!

So this morning I added darts to the front and the back of the skirt - using my TNT straight skirt's dart placement to get the darts on the skirt correctly. Up next was the lapped zipper, after I ripped out half of the side seam, I had to remember how to put in a lapped's been a minute, okay? *LOL*

Using the DVD, "Easy Zippers" by the Islander team, I quickly reviewed how to insert a lapped zipper but I also remembered a few things (ah, it's coming back to me now!) that I liked to do to insure the best insertion:

1. I put a piece of fusible web in the center of the lapped piece to hold it together and add firmness to it - the video tells you to fuse the seamlines, so I guess it's the same principle. I've sometimes had a problem with the lapped area not catching and flopping open. The fusible web makes sure that I am working with one solid piece...

2. The second thing I always do is to hand baste the lapped piece of the zipper down. It insures that I catch the entire lapped piece and it gives me a guideline to machine stitch the zipper down. From the pic, you can see that I used a burnt orange thread for the hand basting so that I was sure to see it when I took it to my sewing machine.

Darts, lapped zipper, and several fittings later, I had to make a decision about waistband or no waistband? More steps...*sigh* I went with no waistband but needed to add a waistband facing to finish off the top of the skirt. Okay, I'm NOT cutting waistband pieces at this I went looking for some bias binding that would work for the facing. I found a striped cotton blend from the collection and used that:

Let's see now that means measuring the bias binding, serging one end so that it will be finished inside the garment, sewing it down, turning and pressing (clapper photo above), edge stitching it flat and hand basting it to the side seams and darts...ummm, how many more steps did I just add!?!?!

I try the skirt fits! But I don't like the length. I dig around in the closet for a tank top and a sweater to try it on with...I put on the Spanx...ummm, a little loose! *sigh* I can take the waistband facing off and remove the handstitching and edgestitching, deepen the darts and put it all back on...NOT!!! Or I can go have some lunch! Lunch won! *LOL*

But while I'm making a sandwich, I remember that Summerset added a button tab to one of her skirts? recently....ummm, I can do a tab! Back to the cutting table to cut out and sew a tab, find a button, make a buttonhole and sew the entire thing together. I'm almost afraid to try the darn thing on but it works, it really works! (Thanks Summerset!)

Finally, I am onto the hem. I knew even back before it became "The Production Skirt" that I wanted to bind the hem of the eyelet...again it would just be easier to handle the hem if there was something solid to add to the eyelets...but I needed to decide on length, binding material and how to apply it...more steps!

This time after rooting around in the notions collection, I found a cotton blend bias binding that I've had forever. I bought a 50 yard roll of it at least 10 years ago and I'm slowly working my way through it...probably one of my better purchases! Anyway it was applied on the right side using a 1/4" seam which point my sewing machine decided it wanted to die on me! I am truly worried about it since it's been acting funny after the power shut off yesterday...

I turned it off for 30 minutes, while I pressed the seam towards the binding and then pressed it towards the back covering the seam while I watched a little Oprah. I am trying to be patient here...but I am worried about my SM! Next, I flipped it back on and I sewed close to the edge of the seam, checking every now and then to make sure that I was catching the binding in the back...and finally, finally the skirt was done.

I got this binding technique from Vonnevo on PR. Her photosite use to have the technique listed on it...cause I printed the pics off but I can't find it now...maybe I'm overlooking it...she has a Picasa site and a Flickr site.

During one of the trips to my daughter's full length mirror to check on the fit of the skirt, I did moan about how long it was taking to make a simple skirt...and her response was two words, "Quality Sewing."

However, I do think it is more than just that! I really do think that you can decide how many steps you want to take/make in your garment. I'm not sure if the steps are based upon sewing knowledge - well I guess some of them are...because how else would you know how to perform the task if you didn't know about it! But I think some of it is choices too...

So tell me, how many steps do you usually take when constructing a garment? Do you think them out ahead of time or do you just wing it? Do you sometimes get halfway through the construction process and realize that you need to go in a different direction? Or do you just forge ahead with the plans you already have? Talk back to me...I really want to know...because I took an awful lot of steps to get a simple skirt constructed today!!!


  1. Aren't Daughters Great! Quality Sewing! Yep! That's what counts in the long run! O.K. so what's more important... getting things done fast.... or enjoying the experience? Yes, your right sometimes it gets totaly out of hand, but in the end if it's a garment you love and wear and you got some quality time in the sewing room that adds up too! What can I say... I think you do great! But, I've got the same habit... I happen to step myself to death! To many sometimes... but the effort is what matters that and the end result.
    Hang in there... your not the only one who's kids will have to go thru fabric after your gone!
    LoL.... I just tell my girls if they want to come shop at "Jean's Fabric Store" to come on over! Then again, they do have to have management approvel b/4 they can take things home!

  2. Turned out very nice. Great vision. I think that it's best to adapt to every situation, if you feel the need to venture off, then you should. You won't be happy, ultimately, unless you get what you really want in the end. KWIM

  3. You are too creative for me! I love it! I have a picture of a skirt using that eyelet (in brown) on my inspiration wall. I think it is from jcrew or banana republic a couple of years ago.

  4. Wonderful combination of fabrics, never would have thought of mixing those two. And yes, directions seem easy, but by the time you finish seams, fix fit issues, etc. it is much more. And I have a straight skirt & ended up having to line for weight to hang right and am stalled out. Still needs a zipper and waist binding. I keep telling myself I will finish soon after I lose another inch or so.

  5. The pattern, the fabric, my mood, if I'm really into the garment, etc. goes into decisions on construction. Every garment speaks to me and sometimes I listen, sometimes I get lazy. However, you are really making me step up my game lately. Thanks for raising the bar, Carolyn.

  6. The more sewing experience I accumulate, the more steps I seem to add. I think I'll blame my mother! She preached handmade should not shout homemade from the time I was beginning to sew at age 8. That and to press, press, press as I went. Those extra steps or extra time spent doing the few steps are usually the difference between being satisfied with what I sew or not.

    I love this new skirt no matter how many steps you took!

  7. My first thought was "Three." Thinking of the old - "How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?"

    I usually wing it. I am trying harder to do things better, nicer, add in that quality. Sometimes I get there, sometimes I trip.

    Love the skirt, love that you have 17 different TNT skirt patterns. Hope the machine is being okay. You do have it plugged into a surge protector, right? g

  8. As a person who rarely finds the perfect pattern for the garment in my mind, it takes me many many many steps. It's funny because as I was making my most recent garment, I stopped to think about the sewing process alone. With all the understitching, edgestitching, topstitching, I must have stitched at least 3 times the number of seams the original instructions required.

  9. When I start a simple project I always think it will only take me a couple of hours but end up spending at least double that. I don't know why, sometimes it's because like you I am changing things as I sew, and I also fit as I sew generally and constantly trying on clothes slows the whole process down. We'll never make good Project Runway contestants would we?! However whenever I have had to get something made very fast there has generally been something that I am not happy about so I am learning to just take my time and not feel bad about it. As your wise DD says "Quality sewing"!

  10. Nothing I ever do is "quick and dirty" anymore. There is no such thing as a simple project. A project will veer of in one direction or another as I decide to add top stitching here or hand stitching there. I'm always attempting to do a quality garment and that means slowing down the clock and taking my time and always adding additional steps. Hopefully, it is paying off.

  11. I know, I know, I've been thinking the exact same things about my sewing adventures and adventures are just the word to describe what I do. I start out with a simple project and it just grows and grows. I really need some quick projects.

  12. How many steps? Well, lately... all of them! It does seem like one thing leads to another even though I try to have a general idea/plan of what's going to happen when I start. I have to admit that I often wing it.

    Great skirt! I love the two fabrics together, and especially the bound hem. Great ideas come when they come and you just have to take advantage, and you certainly did.

  13. OMGosh is this skirt brilliant. Great fabrics.

    To more or less answer your question: I kind of chuckle to myself when I read through pattern instructions because of all the steps that I do that they leave out (such as seam finishes, thread tracing, hand basting, etc. depending on the garment). So yes, I a LOT of steps.

  14. Great skirt, love the combination.
    And steps: I don't really think about the total, and take those needed to get a good garment. If it takes time (muslin), seam ripper (often), I'll do it. Learned that it pays off long ago. If I would show your post to DD, she would never sew again!

  15. Combining the two fabrics was a brilliant idea. The bound waistline is beautiful.
    And most often than not I'm always adding extra steps to my sewing which justifies in part the fact that I'm slow when producing garments.

  16. The process you took for this skirt is the process I use for most of the things I make. Things unfold as I sew. Different decision points lead to other decision points... I think it's part of the creative process, a process that involves not only your skill at sewing, but also problem solving, and having a vision of what a beautiful garment looks like. As a result, you have made a fabulous skirt!

  17. Hey, I bought that fabric, too! I made a coat, shown here:

    It would appear as if great minds think slightly differently.

    That's a lovely skirt.

  18. I say take as many steps as you need to make a quality garment. I see you like quality garments so take your time and do it right.

    Good job and great information!

  19. I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who can turn a simple project into a major production. I always have a plan when I start, but it usually changes along the way. I always finish all of my sas in one way or another, so that always adds steps. Cutting is always a major production because I don't use many tnts (shame on me) so that means fitting, tracing , and often retracing a pattern to get the fit right. I usually have to try on several times during construction and then end up having to refit. I always have to rip something out and redo it. Like you, I ponder over different elements of the garment, like zippers, buttons, finishes, etc. I also go to reference materials instead of just forging ahead. This is why I am STILL working on my jacket that I started weeks ago!

  20. You don't want to know how many steps . . . especially the art garments! There really is no short cut to quality.

    Your skirt is quality because of all the little steps.

  21. I love that you got these fabrics made up already, and even more I love the result. I wasn't quite sure what you were seeing when you put them together in the store, but I trusted your judgment and you were so right. These two fabrics together are more interesting than either would be separately, and they make a basic TNT skirt shape into something far better.

    It's all about the Quality - that's one of the things I always expect to see when I wander over to your blog, and the amazing thing is to me that despite the number of steps you add, you stil manage to turn out quality garments faster than I can think of things to make.

    And I love the third fabric you chose as the waistband binding. Gorgeous all the way.

  22. Saw your skirt on Flickr first and sew glad to see your post today. I was truly curious how you put the two fabrics together.

    Normally I have a sewing plan in mind when I cut out the fabric(s) for something. I have gotten so meticulous on fitting that now the sewing is slower but I am going for quality now. Quality stitching, quality fit, quality look. I make sure the sewing looks good, not exactly perfect, but am striving for perfection. I have no idea the number of steps I am taking the process, but most changes get made due to the fit I want from the garment. I do get inspiration during the process to change or add something from time to time. It has taken me several years and several sewing projects to realize that the pattern is a guide and I am the designer; thus the garment does not have to look exactly like the pattern nor do I make it the way the pattern instructions guide me.

  23. It does not matter how many steps as long as you are actually getting something satisfactorily finished in this lifetime which you are and more. Even the silliest project (costume,etc.) I cannot do quick and dirty as I am compelled to do the work as nicely as I can. The older I get the higher standards I inflict on myself. I do usually like the few projects I crank out as I think them to death if I ever get them off the wanna do list and into production and usually don't have down time ripping out or apologize for screw ups when someone inspects my work so I guess the extra steps may be worth the time. They are to me anyway. mssewcrazy

  24. Lovely skirt and I agree with Cassandra take as many steps as you need to make a quality garment.

  25. What a beautiful skirt Carolyn! I love the print fabric underneath and all of the extra little touches.

  26. I think all the steps out ahead, but I try to keep an open mind if there are unknown variables. When there is a problem or an obstacle, sometimes you have to go around and fix it in a way that wasn't planned!


Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment! It is so appreciated!


Related Posts with Thumbnails