Monday, October 26, 2015

How to Make Mitred Self-Faced Vents

As I mentioned in my Inari dress post, my personal favourite type of vent is the mitred, self-faced vent - like this one, which I'm going to show you how to construct (though please pay a bit more attention to your top stitching than I did!):

Looking through my wardrobe I found four different types of vents - your preference might be for the simpler types, but perhaps you'd still like to see some other options?

The simplest type of vent, vent 1, just has the seam allowance turned under and top stitched in place:

Loose top in jungle print polyester, made using DKNY Vogue 1454 (blogged here)

The next one, vent 2, is only slightly more complex, with the seam allowance turned under and top stitched, but also an overlap between the front and back seams of the vent:

Vogue 2634 (2002) shirt in light-weight linen (sorry, but I don't think I ever blogged this shirt)

Then there's the vent (vent 3) which is faced by a deep hem, in this case overlapping with the other side of the vent, though the following jacket also has some of these sorts of vents in centre back and in the sleeves that aren't overlapped:


RTW textured linen jacket

and finally there's the vent, vent 4, which is self-faced with a mitred corner:  

 Vogue 1325 heavy linen jacket (blogged here with absolutely minimal detail)

and here's a RTW example of this last type of vent too:

RTW cotton trousers

This last vent is the sort I used in my recent Inari dress (blogged here), and it's the type of vent I'm going to show you how to add to an existing pattern. You can easily apply this technique to add attractive vents to patterns that don't include them, and of course you can apply the technique to vents in other places than side seams. Oh, and I'm sure once you've followed the detailed steps a couple of times you'll be able to wing it without needing to draw the extra facing pattern around your original pattern...


Assemble the pattern you want to modify, a sheet of plain paper for every pattern piece you're modifying (a front piece and a back piece in my case), a pencil, an eraser, sticky tape, paper scissors and fabric scissors (not shown), a fabric marker (not shown), pins (not shown) and a transparent ruler.

Start with your pattern with its vent markings - I'm using a fake pattern I've drawn on butcher's paper; it's rough as guts but will serve the purpose.

Place your sheet of plain paper under the side vent area of the pattern, and sticky tape or pin it to the edges of the original pattern. I'm showing this for the 'garment back' pattern piece, but you need to follow all the same steps for the pattern piece corresponding to the other side of the vent too ('garment front' in my case).

Use your ruler to draw a new deep hem, several centimetres out from the original garment edges. I'm starting my ruler at the garment edge and marking points that are 6 centimetres out, but you can choose a different width - just make sure you keep it consistent.

Extend these lines past the garment edges at the lower corner of the vent. and also a couple of inches beyond the start of the vent.

and also extend them above the vent marking. Draw a horizontal line from the original vent marking to the edge of the new facing.

Draw an upper edge to your facing, at least a couple of centimetres above the horizontal to the original vent marking.  I like to angle the top edge of the facing, but you can also just draw it perpendicular to the seamline or parallel to the horizontal line you just drew - both are shown in the next photo. Note: the pencil lines shown below should extend to the original pattern's seamline, and shouldn't stop at the original pattern's edge.

The deep facing you've drawn around the vent is all you need from your pattern - so now use your scissors to trim the plain paper back from the lines you've just drawn.

Pin the modified pattern to your fabric and cut it out. I've only shown the pattern pinned to the fabric for the back of my garment, but I'll also apply all these steps to the front of my garment.

Follow your original pattern's instructions until you get up to hemming the vent - for example, this may include stitching the side seam down to the 'vent' marking on a side seam.

Fold the right sides of the fabric together along the original pattern's garment edge - remember to include the original pattern's seam allowance.  You may want to push a couple of pins through the pattern and fabric to mark the corner and the lower edge of the garment, as you can see I've done in the photo below. Bring the fabric edges so they meet exactly at the corner.

Now carefully fold the corner down and draw a line along the 45 degree angle from the outer to the inner folded corner. I would normally suggest using a water soluble pen that you've tested on a scrap of paper, but on my fabric I've used lead pencil.  Use a ruler (or seam guide as shown) to measure 1 centimetre in from the cut edge and mark - this is the depth at which you'll fold back the fabric later.

Pin the 2 layers of fabric at the corner together and sew them together along the 45 degree angle you just drew, from the mark that's 1 centimetre in from the cut edge to the corner where you can see my pin sticking out. If you've used a pin to mark this corner, please take it out before you sew this short seam.

Trim the angled seam and press it open. This is the mitre join on your facing, and by trimming it and pressing it open you're minimising bulk in the corner of your facing and giving yourself a better chance of a sharp looking corner.  

Turn a 1 centimetre seam allowance on the now mitred deep hem, wrong sides together, and press in place.

At this point if you haven't sewn the two sides of the vent together you may want to do so, as once the facing has been pressed we'll be top stitching it.

In the upper corner of your facing, above the original vent marking, snip the fabric to just before the stitching line. My photo shows a snip that isn't deep enough - I needed to snip this a little further - and I could have stitched the side seam further. Press this top edge of the facing down.

Turn the mitred hem inside out so your new mitred seam is on the inside, as is your turned under seam allowance.

Press the facing, making sure its depth is consistent. If your corners don't look sharp enough, this is the time to adjust them (yes, I should have fixed mine!). On a flat surface, now pin the facing in place ready for top stitching.

Top stitch on the inside of your garment following the edge of your new facing. I like to use an edge stitch foot and a stitch length of about 3 for this step, but if you take it slowly you can achieve a neat result with just your normal machine foot (and in fact even with my edge foot, the fact that I rushed this step means my top stitching doesn't look great).

Turn your garment to the right side, and check out your mitred, self-faced vents:

Congratulations, you're done!

So what do you think - do you like mitred self-faced vents? What's your favourite type of vent to wear, and what's your favourite type of vent to sew?

See you soon

- Gabrielle

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Inari Dress

About 5 months I saw Amy's version of the Inari dress and was smitten. Winter was already looming though, and I had the usual backlog of sewing projects to distract me; and so months went by.  Then winter passed, and I started to get my sewing backlog under control. Time to sew something new! 

After the long wait, my Inari dress had to have something in common with Amy's; I chose geometry, though really our dress fabrics are quite dissimilar. 

When I first sewed this dress up I wasn't sure if I liked it or not.

Printing problems from the start of the project shouldn't have coloured my opinions of the dress, but they might have. When I printed the Inari PDF at 100%, the 10 cm test square was a 9.5 cm square, regardless of the program I opened it with.  Eventually I just printed the file at 105% and recycled lots of paper. Grr!

And the dress itself?  I like the obnoxiously brightly coloured fabric, a mid-weight cotton from The Fabric Store, but was disappointed with myself for not having noticed the repeat in the vertical lines: three coral lines, one pink, three coral lines, one pink...  How hadn't I seen it when I was aligning the heights of the patterns?  If I'd noticed I would have centred the dress on the vertical colours, for example having the middle coral bar running down CF rather than just off to the side. And having the pink bar running down the the middle of CB rather than just to the left:

Maybe you can picture the fabric shifted slightly left in these photos? 

Ha, no; no need really!  It did irritate me when I first spotted the mistake, but I'm fine with it now - getting more relaxed with age, I think!

And I really like the general shape of the Inari dress, but the fit - well, as I'm sure you can see, the fit is just not good in this fabric. The pattern instructions say the dress can be sewn up in "a light or medium weight fabric, inelastic or with stretch", but I suspect the pattern is best made in a slinky woven or jersey.

My dress is sewn in the next size up (EUR size 42) from the one that corresponded to my bust size (EUR size 40), but you might notice in my photos that there looks to be excess fabric at the front of the dress, where the sleeve meets the bodice.   I actually muslined the dress in my correct size, and found it quite tight across the bust - to the point where my arms felt a bit restricted - and that's why I went up a size for the 'real' dress.

Going up a size gives me more room, but hasn't fixed the fit.  As you can see in the next photo, when my arm is by my side there's excess fabric, begging to be taken out by a dart and a change in the armhole curve (cutting it in further), and when I arm the low armhole / shape of the arm scye means that the sleeve pulls on the dress:

I do realise that the Named pattern makers know how to design darts and more closely fitted sleeves (of course), and that the dress has therefore been consciously designed like this, but for me this design decision detracts from what is otherwise a lovely pattern.  I love the cocoon shape of the dress and the side vents, but if I make this dress again I'll be substituting in the upper bodice and sleeve from a different pattern.

By the way, please ignore the grumpy look on my face in most of these pictures - it's called being concerned a neighbour's going to come down that driveway at any moment!

There were a couple of minor changes I made to the pattern too, ones that didn't affect the fit.

First off I widened the sleeve cuffs - and probably that was a mistake, as I prefer the narrower cuff on everyone else's Inaris - and secondly I made mitred self-facings for the side vents.

The last pattern I made that had side vents in it, my DKNY jungle top, had the same basic fold over and top stitch finish that the Inari pattern suggests (though admittedly the Inari has deeper hems), but look at how that finish turned out in a slinky polyester:

This sort of finish is so flimsy - look at how my vertical hem is wobbling and folding back on itself!  

This time around I caught myself in time; I remembered the vent finish that used to be standard in sewing patterns back when I was an avid beginner - the mitred self-facing!

The mitred self-facing on a side vent is essentially a deep hem all the way around - not just on the horizantal hem - and one that's finished on the inside so that even if the vent flips open no seams are visible. What's more, its construction does away with the bulky square of multiple layers of fabric you get in a regular vent.

Here's how the mitred self-facings turned out on my Inari dress:

Apologies for the rumples - I had ironed the dress vigourously before wearing it, but apparently not vigourously enough! 

These days deep hems seem to be shorthand for luxury - extra fabric on the inside of your garment that no one's going to see.  Deep hems give weight to hems, making them less flimsy and better anchoring the garment; the hemline becomes beautifully stable.

If you look around in RTW, and even in most modern patterns you'll see that the narrow seamed side vent is the norm.  I don't know why that is, but my first guess would be that it's about efficient cutting out of garments in a production environment; about the cost of a few centimetres of extra width.

But if you're going to draft a deep hem for home sewers, why would you skimp on the side vents? Actually, why would you (other pattern companies!) draft side vents without any decent facings?

I'll stop 'venting' for now, but I have dug out an example of a lovely mitred self-faced vent (sewn a couple of years ago from an designer 80s pattern) that I'll try to photograph and share with you in the next day or two - and in case it's useful for anyone, I'll list the basic steps so you can make your own.

You've got a few issues, but I do like you, Inari dress!

See you soon

- Gabrielle xx
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