Friday, July 22, 2016

Sunburst-Pleated Chiffon! (and more)

Hey there! I actually finished this project more than a week ago, but I had to set it aside until my Britex project was completed and blogged. Thanks so much for your kind comments on my reversible skirt! It was a fun project.

This is a long post, because there is much to relate, but we'll start with a discussion on pleating!

Pleating, which has never really gone away, is back in a big way! If you're paying attention, you'll see it everywhere.


Cheetah Print Sunburst-Pleated Chiffon Skirt

Back in the early 1980s, when I was in my 20s, I had a length of animal print, polyester chiffon, professionally pleated. I sewed the pleated yardage into a skirt. The fabric was semi-sheer, so I wore it over leggings with boots. This sheer-skirt-over-leggings look wasn't commonly seen back then, and I actually saw (male) heads turn as I walked down the street. It was a lot of fun to wear!

I loved that skirt but, for some reason, I gave it away after having kids, gaining weight, and giving up on my fun, single identity.

How misguided was that?!

For the last few years I've been looking for a polyester chiffon fabric that spoke to me. I wanted to make another pleated skirt! I finally spied this cheetah print, polyester chiffon on the Mood site. Ding! Ding! Ding!

You might ask, "why polyester, specifically?" Pleats in polyester are permanent. You can wash pleated polyester and the pleats remain intact. Pleats in silk, for example, are not permanent. They will fall out when washed. Even damp weather, or a sweaty body, can remove pleats from silk.

This time I wanted a sunburst pleated skirt. Most pleating is applied to rectangular pieces of fabric, but sunburst pleating is applied to a semi circle. The pleats are quite narrow at the top of the panel and become deeper towards the bottom. If you sew two sunburst pleated panels together, you end up with a full circle. Circle skirts create a lot of volume at the hemline, but a pleated circle skirt has less visual volume and is more manageable to maneuver in.

I ordered my fabric from Mood in New York (though their actual warehouse is in New Jersey) and had it mailed directly to the International Pleating Company, located in the Garment District in New York. This made more sense than having it shipped to San Francisco, only to ship it back to NYC.

In less than two weeks the pleated yardage arrived on my doorstep, and I was in love!

This was a (mostly) easy sew, and the resulting skirt is SO much fun to wear! When I wear it over bare legs, the swishiness feels wonderful. When I wear it over leggings, I don't even feel it.

In the next sections, I'll talk more about ordering and sewing the pleated yardage.

Ordering Pleated Yardage

The International Pleating Company wants to pleat your fabric.

They really do!

They have done lots of work for the garment industry, but they are happy to pleat a single yard of fabric, if that's all you need. They have tried to make the ordering process easy. On their website, they have a blog, and they are on Facebook and Instagram. They sell pleated samples, and they have created pages on how to order pleating and how, specifically, to order sunburst pleating. They are also very responsive via email.

I'm pretty good at math, and I read through their materials on how to order, but I still wanted to make sure I was ordering the right amount of yardage. For sunburst pleating, you need to make several decisions that affect how much yardage you need:

How wide is the yardage?
For a long-ish skirt for an adult, you'll generally need yardage that's 55" to 60" wide. The required yardage varies widely depending on the width of the fabric, the length of the skirt, and the waist size required. Yes, a 40" waist will need more yardage than a 20" waist, because the circles must be cut larger.
How wide do you want the opening at the top?
I wanted my finished skirt to have a 38" waist. The pleating condenses the waist opening, so cutting the panel 10" from the center of the semi-circle yields an opening of 62". (You can check this with a circumference calculator.) The 62" opening was perfect for my skirt.
How long do you want the panel?
The length of the panel is dictated by how long you want the skirt. I wanted my skirt to be 32" long. As I mentioned above, the waist was cut 10" from the center of the circle (for the calculator, that's a diameter of 20"). The hem, therefore, was cut to a radius of 10" + 32", or 42". What is the circumference at the hem of my skirt? If you use the circumference calculator, a circle with a 42" radius (or 84" in diameter), is 264" or almost 7-1/2 yards. That's swishy!
Do you want a CB seam?
If you are willing to have three seams (two side seams and a center back seam) then you can use less yardage—it is more economical to cut one semi-circle and two quarter circles. If you want only two seams (side seams only) you will need more yardage to cut two semi circles. I wanted only side seams.

I emailed the International Pleating company with these details and asked them to confirm how much yardage I would need: 5 yards of the 55" chiffon.

They did not mind if Mood sent them the fabric directly, though they warned me there might be an extra charge if the fabric required pressing on arrival (a pretty low risk with polyester chiffon). They were willing to cut the fabric for an extra $5 per panel. Finding the space to cut two large semi-circles is not easy in my house, so I was happy to pay another $10 to have them cut both panels. The pleating itself costs $25 per panel. (Their prices will probably change in future, so check their site for the latest pricing info.) My total charge came to $75, including shipping back to San Francisco.

If you want to order sunburst pleating, start by reading their guide.

Next I'll talk about constructing the skirt.

Sewing a Sunburst Pleated Skirt

You now have two gorgeous sunburst panels cut and pleated to your specifications. How do you turn that into a skirt?

Step one: cut the waist

If International Pleating cut the panels for you, they don't cut the waist opening. They leave that to you. The top of the panel looks like the following:

And here:

Do you see the cut slit at the top of the panel? They make that cut so that the pleated fabric lies flat. The top of that cut, at the selvedge edge, is the center of the circle. They begin the pleating 6" from the center of the circle. Where the pleating begins, the circumference is a bit over 37". Remember that I wanted my waist circumference to be 62", so I cut the panel 10" from the center of the circle, or 4" from where the pleating begins.

To repeat, the pleating begins 6" from the center of the circle, and I wanted my waist cut 10" from the center of the circle, or 4" from where the pleating begins.

You make that cut evenly across the panel. It's easiest to cut the each panel separately, before sewing them together.

Step two: sew the side seams

When your yardage arrives, they include an instruction sheet. If you want the side seams to be as invisible as possible, you need to sew them carefully. They describe a pleat as having peaks and valleys. When you sew the side seams together, you want to sew valley-to-valley (as seen from the outside). This means that a peak is what you are sewing into under the pressure foot. That way the finished seam is hidden in a valley.

This is one of those times that you don't want to follow the exact grain when sewing. Follow the valleys. First, make sure that the pleat is a complete pleat and doesn't run off the selvedge edge. Then carefully pin the side seam together and sew.

The following image might help. I've already sewn the side seam, and am finishing the raw edge with my serger. Perhaps you can see that the selvedges of the two pieces aren't exactly the same - one is quite a bit wider than the other:

Carefully hold the fabric flat while serging the raw edges

This shows you what the serger cut away from one of the side seams:

Step three: finish the waistband

I finished my skirt with an elastic waist, and no zipper. You would construct your skirt differently if you wanted a fitted waistband. I leave that exercise to the reader.

I wanted to finish the waist with decorative elastic, but you can also make an elastic casing using the leftover, unpleated fabric. I have black decorative elastic somewhere in my house, but it was nowhere to be found. I bought grey elastic on my last expedition to Stone Mountain, and I ordered some navy elastic from Etsy. Neither was perfect, but I preferred the navy to the grey. If I'd found the black elastic in my stash, I might have used that.

Cut the elastic to your desired length. I like it several inches shorter than my actual waist. I sewed it together with a very narrow seam allowance—less than one-quarter inch. You can also overlap it but you'll probably want to cover the raw edge.

Divide the elastic into quarters and mark with pins.

Divide the waist opening into quarters and mark with pins.

Slide the waist opening under the decorative elastic and secure at each quarter mark:

Stitch with a wide zigzag stitch using matching thread. Feed the pleats through as you go. This is not highly precise sewing, at least not for me. However, it's pretty forgiving and you can Make.It.Work.

Step four: prepare the hem

Before sewing the hem, you'll need to hang the skirt. A circle skirt includes bias sections, and straight-of-grain sections, so it won't hang evenly—the bias areas stretch as they hang. You should NOT hem your panels before having them pleated, unless you don't mind an uneven, wonky hem.

I put my skirt on my dressform and let it hang for over a week while I went off to work (and play) in Seattle. When I returned, the skirt looked like this:

Ooooh, translucent

As you can see, the hem is uneven by about 4"

A closeup of the raw hem. Look, Ma, no visible side seam!
(The side seam is where the hem is shortest. It's on the straight-of-grain which doesn't stretch as it hangs.)

Mark the hem. While still on the dressform, I marked the outside of each pleat with a pin. Given that the hem is almost 7.5 yards, this can take awhile. (Amusing anecdote. I "marked" the hem using a pattern envelope. I placed each pin at the top of the envelope—I think it was a Burda pattern, but I just grabbed one and didn't pay too much attention.)

Lay the skirt out and cut the excess.

Some of the fabric that I removed from the hem

Next comes the last and most challenging step—sewing the hem!

Step five: sew the hem

You have several options:

Leave it raw
I don't recommend this approach. The bias portions of the hem won't fray, but the straight-of-grain portions will.
Use a purl merrow machine
I wish! International Pleating recommends this finish, but a purl merrow machine is an industry machine, not available to most home sewers. It's similar to a serger.
Use a serger (or overlocker)
You can use a serger to finish the hem with a 3-thread rolled edge. I didn't want a rolled edge.
Use a conventional machine
If you want a hem that hangs perfectly straight, this can be tricky. This is what I wanted and I'll tell you how I did it below. If you want a curly "lettuce hem" effect, you can sew the edge over a thick nylon monofilament thread (30lb or 40lb fishing line), stretching as you go. This is often used in children's wear, or in dance costumes. You can find tutorials if you google "sew lettuce edge".

I wanted my hem to hang straight (no curly lettuce edge), and I didn't want to use my serger. The tricky part is that a hem fights the pleats, and you want to minimize that tendency. Before I hemmed the skirt, I contacted Mrs Mole, a bridal alterations specialist. I knew that she'd have some experience shortening a pleated hemline, so I asked if she had any advice. She told me that she had done this, but after shortening such a skirt, she carefully pins and presses each pleat.

Oy. This shouldn't surprise me, as I already knew that she is a saint with the patience of Job, but I wasn't willing to do that.

I decided to use a version of the tiny machine hem technique that I posted in May:

  1. I sewed a row of stitches 5/8" from the raw edge, careful not to stretch the fabric.
  2. I turned the row of stitching just to the inside of the skirt, and stitched very close to the edge, positioning my needle right near the edge. Again, I was very careful not to stretch the fabric. Don't pull as you sew!
  3. I trimmed the raw edge right next to the stitching.

And that's it! I did not fold and sew a third row of stitches—so the raw edge isn't entirely encased. Despite my careful handling, the hem was slightly stretched. I did not want to exacerbate that with a third row of stitching.

Sewing the second, and last, row of stitches

Will this hem hold up? Time (and wear) will tell!

Before I leave this topic altogether, you should know that Sandra Betzina has a free video on her site, Power Sewing, that shows how to sew sunburst pleated panels into a skirt. I remembered that she had such a video, so I referred to it before hemming my skirt. My technique is a bit different than hers. Most notably, she recommends stuffing the finished hem into a sock and steaming it lightly, just at the end, to help restore the pleats. I decided against trying this approach—with my luck, I'd make a real mess of the pleats. After spending over $60 for the fabric and $75 for the pleating, I didn't want to take that risk. I decided that the slight stretching is not a problem.

You can access Sandra's free videos by entering your email address at that link. If you try her technique, let me know how it works!

Vogue Pattern Release, Fall 2016

I used to routinely review the Vogue pattern releases but I don't have time to do that these days. The Fall 2016 Vogues were released last week and I did a mini review of them on Stitcher's Guild. I thought I'd copy my (slightly edited) comments here.

This release feels very wearable. Lots of dresses I can ignore, so I'm not worried about adding too many patterns to my stash.

I LOVE the back detail on that Marcy top, V9207, but a top that hangs from the bust doesn't flatter me. It might be ok if there were enough negative ease at the bustline, but that would require some experimentation. The more I look at that pattern, the more I like it.

I don't normally like a cut-away style on my body, but the vest, V9216, could be modified to cover the tummy, though I'm not sure that I would. (It doesn't reveal that much.) It has interesting pleating on the sides, and I bet it would look cute with the neckline folded back.

I love both Sandra Betzina patterns. It feels like that dress, V1510, was almost designed for me! I say almost because it has no sleeves, so I'd treat it like a jumper and wear a Sleevey Wonder, or a tee underneath. I also love the Betzina pattern with the skirt and the top with the gathered neckline, V1515. I've made the vest that she released last year twice now, and that gathered neckline is fabulous!

However, I wouldn't wear that skirt with that top. I'd make the top a bit longer and wear it with pants or leggings, and I'd wear the skirt with a tee and a topper of some kind.

I quite like the Tom and Linda Platt top, V1516. Lots of potential there with its many layers.

I adore that Anne Klein jacket, V1517. That's coming home with me, for sure.

I also like the coat, V9212, with it's cute back detail. It's only potential drawback is that it may not look that great when worn open. The jury is out on that—they didn't show it open.

Kathryn Brenne has 2 new patterns: a "wardrobe" pattern, V9217, and a purse, V9221.

The wardrobe pattern features a jacket and tank, both reversible, and wide-legged pants. Both of these patterns are intended for travel, which is a nice theme. The jacket is a good basic, though it doesn't excite me. I like the bellows pocket, but I've never been big on reversible jackets, as I generally prefer one side to the other. YMMV (your mileage may vary), of course. I'm also not ready to adopt such a wide legged pants pattern - it looks a bit chunky to me. I LOVE her purse pattern. It's similar to the Baggallini purse that I'm now wearing all the time (that I showed it in my recent blog post).

Finally, that adorable coat for little girls, V9219, was designed by Kathryn Brenne's assistant, Malia Janveaux. Kathryn Brenne mentioned this on Facebook. If I had a granddaughter, I'd snap it up. Heck, I might anyway. ;)

P.S. I wrote these notes on July 8th, right after the patterns were released. I ordered many of these in a recent BMV sale and they are now settling in to my stash.

Knotted Scarf

I recently finished a UFO that I had started a year ago! I have no idea why I let it sit for so long. I got this pattern, the Knotted Scarf, a long time ago (at Puyallup?) from Sewing Workshop.

Then, last year, my friend Heather N made several of these and I loved hers. She made at least three, experimenting with different fabrics, widths and number of strips. Here's one that she made, lightened to show details:

I used a remnant of red rayon jersey. I cut the strips, prepared the strips, pinned the strips to my design wall, and started knotting. Then I moved on to other projects and my design wall looked like this for almost a year:

But I finally finished!

I think that Heather is better at this than I am. :)

Seattle in July

I travel to Seattle about once a month, but most of those trips are strictly for work: I'll visit midweek for one to two nights. Every now and then my colleague Kathy and I extend our visit to the weekend so we can play.

We enjoyed one of those weekends a couple weeks ago. Because I've now visited all of Seattle's fabric establishments, I asked my Facebook friends for other recommendations. I'm sharing the highlights, in case you find yourself in Seattle looking for things to do!

Ballard Locks and Fish Ladder

Several people recommended visiting the Ballard Locks at the west end of Salmon Bay. We walked from the Fremont District to the locks, a distance of about 2.5 miles. The locks were mildly interesting. We watched some boats travel through. Next to the locks is a fish ladder for the salmon to swim upstream at spawning time. We were there in early July, in what should be the season for Sockeye Salmon, but there were few fish running. It would be fascinating to view the ladder during a salmon frenzy. While the lock and ladder were moderately interesting, I loved the surrounding botanical garden!

Waiting to travel through the lock

Fish ladder
The underwater fish viewing area was mostly devoid of fish


Beautiful views from the locks

I loved these wave sculptures!

I found this informative post of the Ballard Locks if you want to learn more.

Bainbridge Island and Churchmouse Yarns & Tea

A knitting friend recommended that I take the 35 minute ferry ride from (near) Pike Place Market to Bainbridge Island. I love yarn stores, and I love a ferry, so I was game!

The ferry ride was great! You are treated to wonderful views of the Seattle skyline.

The downtown area is very charming. There are nice shops and restaurants and beautiful views.

They even have a fabric store! (I purchased nothing)

Churchmouse Yarns is a very nice yarn store! It's a friendly place to hang out and knit. A sociable group of women were doing just that when I visited

I bought one skein of hand painted yarn

And had a yummy chopped kale salad at Fork and Spoon

Bainbridge Island has some nice shopping.

I bought an interesting necklace at Bainbridge Arts and Crafts

They have a great independent bookstore where I spent some time, Eagle Harbor Books.

The ride back to Seattle was also a delight, the more so because 6 cellists from the Seattle Philharmonic serenaded us on the ferry.

On returning to Seattle, I decided to ride the Great Wheel. It's a nice, slow, gentle ride with pretty views.

The wheel doesn't look so big from here

But it is pretty big up close

I finished up my free time in Seattle checking out the shops near Pike Place Market.

I bought some socks in a bag...

...and this fun necklace!

A cute detail seen on the street

More eye candy seen on the street

A few more pics:

Kathy took this during brunch (on my birthday!) at The Egg and I

A whimsical mural we came across walking to the Ballard Locks

The trees near my Airbnb were loaded with these fruit. Do you know what they are?
Hint: the brazen squirrels love them.

Black walnuts! (These have been scooped clean by the squirrels.)

Walking to work along the canal

My Airbnb doggie, Zeus. A total sweetheart!

Until next time, Seattle!


We've finished with our annual fiberly contribution to Knots of Love. This year we collectively produced 163 caps and 13 blankets. I contributed 5 hats.

Can you see the Rapunzel cap on top?

I made another zippered silk bag this week. It's part of a thank you gift for someone who has done many kindnesses for my daughter

If you're still here (and I really wouldn't blame you if not), I completed a project I've been working on since January! We've just launched three new websites:

It feels great to have released those sites at last!

I'm going to NYC soon and will have lots to report. If I don't melt in the heat, that is. ;)

Join me on Patti's Visible Monday.

Have a great week!