Moving forward

Yes, several years of reorganizing my life has made me silent. But, I am finally moving forward. There is a new online store in the works. I am figuring this out myself, so it is moving slowly, but it feels good to take control again.

If you want to check it out, it is here: Taoknitter Arts.

There is much to be done to update this blog, and as soon as the store is truly up and running, I will get to it.

Thank you for your patience and for hanging with me.

Slàinte mhath!

So…

I haven’t written in a long time. Thinking about it today…could just be a brain fart.

I have been knitting a lot. Thoroughly enjoying it. Started thinking about blogging about it (as if the world needs another knitting blog), and remembered that when I started this blog over on Blogger way back when, it was a place for me to write about my knitting and Irish dance dressmaking (there were no ID dress blogs at the time). The name, “Taoknitter,” made perfect sense then. As Irish dance dressmaking began taking over my life, the name traveled with me.

I love the name and the creative person she is. Perhaps SHE needs to start writing again.

New things are happening!

Slowly but surely, yes, new things are happening.  I decided last year that I needed to make Taoknitter Arts designs available for automatic purchase and download…and the site is up!  Little did I realize what an extreme undertaking this was going to be!  The sheer time involved in just getting designs ready, converted and then uploaded has been staggering.  So, the site does not have the full catalog of designs up yet, but we will get there.

You can see the new site here – Taoknitter Arts: Irish Dance Dress Designs & Embroidery

Photos of all the designs can still be seen on Flickr.  If you want to see all of the design parts with dimensions and prices, just write to me at taoknitter@gmail.com and I will make it happen.

And I have recently updated my Customer Creations gallery with all of the fantastic work done by dressmakers using Taoknitter Arts designs.  I am so impressed!  Please visit Customer Creations to see all of the creativity!  If you have a dress and a happy dancer to add to the gallery, please just let me know.

So, the old Taoknitter Arts is now a blog for my Irish Dance dress embroidery information to separate it from this Taoknitter blog about actually sewing Irish Dance dresses.  I am still trying to organize the information, but you can get to that embroidery blog here: Taoknitter Arts

I hope I can keep it all straight!

Embrace the alterations!

I have been thinking a lot about what it takes to create a good fitting Irish Dance dress.  Not only have Susan and I been talking about it, but there have been a couple of things that have set my brain going…again.  One has been the recurring statements on the boards that the dresses from the ID dress companies capable of big volume “fit like a glove” when pics posted belie that fact as you can plainly see shoulder seams that are 1/2″ too high at the neck, wrinkles at the waist/bust/armscyes, shoulders are too wide, necks gape, zippers pull, hips pull, stomachs pull, chests pull…does “fit like a glove” mean that it fits tightly since it rarely means it fits the wearer correctly?!

Now, some will say that long distance dressmaking is difficult so some error should be expected, but I say that if that is your business, then you should learn how to make it right, especially if you are charging the outrageous sums that those companies are!  I am sort of sorry if I offend anyone with this, but I think that if one spends a mortgage payment on an ID dress and it does not fit well and the construction is not impeccable, then you should be sending it back at the company’s expense to be fixed and not accepting the crap they hand you!  But instead, it seems that folks are more willing to put on the “Emperor’s New Clothes” 3-D glasses so they can believe the crap they get is the best they can get!  What is that?!  (Ooh, and don’t get me started [again] on the deplorable construction that folks [still] accept.)

Now on to the second thing that has set me thinking about fit again…I have started working with a seamstress who is new-ish to ID dressmaking, new to making school dresses.  I have been working with a teacher of a new school, and in getting to know him and this dressmaker, I found myself rather involved (call it “pay-it-forward,” Susan).  I went for another meeting about 2 weeks ago so I could help her work through the bodice pattern. Now, she did not understand that even though she had taken all of the necessary measurements to decide on the appropriate Feisdress pattern, she still needed to check all of the other measurements against the pattern to make alterations to ensure that it fit the dancer.  She had simply cut out the bodice pattern as presented and was confused about why it did not fit the dancer. 

I arrived that day thinking I was going to have to teach her the logic needed to alter a pattern, but once I got going, it became clear that she actually did know how to alter a pattern…and right behind me was a rack of altered non-ID patterns that clearly showed she understood how to expertly fit a bodice.  So, I asked her why she hadn’t checked the Feisdress bodice before she cut out her muslin, and she said she had assumed that since she took so many specific measurements to begin with that the pattern must have been made to those specs. 

I wondered then if a lot of folks make that assumption.  How many folks order the Feisdress pattern thinking that it will simply fit their dancer because the upper chest measurement is correct?  That upper chest measurement ensures a good, close fit of that tricky part of the body, but the rest of it must be checked and altered to ensure the entire thing fits, and I am not talking simply about the bust and waist.  We have neck widths, slopes, side lengths, bust & waist widths, full lengths, etc….to achieve the close, perfect fit required of an ID dress bodice, so much must be measured and checked.

Since then, Susan and I have both received emails asking why the pattern does not fit “the way the patterns I buy at the store do?”  Ok, do commercial pattern buyers really believe that the pattern they buy based on bust and waist measurements will really fit perfectly?  Most are loose enough that we can go with the flow, but if a close fit is required, we will have to adjust the pattern to fit our respective bodices.  There is no perfect pattern unless you want to send your measurements to Susan to have her make a custom pattern just for you!!

Susan and I have this running conversation going about how most people alter patterns so they look right on us or our children.   I think that most folks use the eyeballing & pinning technique to make a pattern fit, but while that can work for the dancer you have constant access to, it is hit or miss if you don’t.  So, what’s a dressmaker to do???

Learn the logic of patternmaking and altering.  There are books out there that explain things from a variety of viewpoints, and you can learn from them all though of course most authors feel their way is the ONLY way.   We do have an incredible resource in this group in our own Susan Gowin who created the Feisdress pattern.  I am obviously a fan or I would not be her partner in crime, and the day she explained her pattern to me and showed me how to use and alter it changed my approach to sewing forever (cue the violins).  I always had a good eye for what did not work, but once I went to Susan University, I understood the whys and wherefores.  Learning how to alter a pattern to fit a specific set of measurements made everything easier and faster.

I keep telling Susan she needs to put her approach to altering a pattern into a book or at least a PDF that folks can purchase…nudge, nudge…  I know she has her measurement sheet available to IDD members which is a gift!

(Altering the Feisdress Bodice)

Hey…

I have been getting many requests for access to the info I have written over the past few years, so I have decided to re-open this blog to allow that.  I have not re-posted everything like the family stuff and some of my more snarky rants, but the dressmaking stuff is here.  I have only re-posted the alignment stuff that pertains to dressmaking.

I have actually stopped making dresses for the moment.  I got sick (again!) back in November, and the bricks banging on my skull finally made it clear that I am allergic to stress!!!  (Picture a full-blown diva nerve storm here…)  I have been wrestling with my perceptions of “stress.”  I/we Americans (?) think of stress as being an excuse for weenies to cop out.  However, after one lecture from my doc in which he made it clear that he perceives stress to be a real and potentially destructive thing, I finally had the guts to start saying no.  There are so many events and reasons that have contributed to my feeling that my dressmaking had become a burden instead of a joy…none of them worth re-hashing.  For now, I am not a dressmaker.

Instead, I am happily enjoying my newest endeavor of creating, digitizing and embroidering designs for Irish dance dresses.  All of that is here:  Taoknitter Arts.

And now that life is calmer (each new set of tests confirms my health), I am feeling the impulse to write again.  I shall see how it goes.

Hmmm, the wheels are turning…

Trying a couple of new things and feeling like writing!

Current happenings:

I have an assistant!  In 3 days she has made such an unbelievable difference in my LIFE that I have been …oh, I hesitate because I might jinx it…but…I have been SLEEPING!!!  Really, truly sleeping!  No waking up in the middle of the night to go over all of the things that I need to do, no jerking awake because I forgot to do something or thought I forgot something.  No waking up simply to lie there and stress and fuss and fizzle.  The first night that I slept for 10 HOURS straight, I woke up in a panic because it was light outside and I was sooooo confused!

As another friend Lynette put it, this woman is not my assistant, she’s my gift!  She wants to remain anonymous for the time being, and I will respect that.  But when she’s ready to be outed, there will be fireworks!  I actually think I should call her my partner.

I have also started doing a lot more digitizing.  We will have full Feisdress design packets for various embroidery machines so folks can do it themselves.  Also working on just having some Celtic knot work…I haven’t forgotten you, my testers, just a bit behind.  I am working at the moment with Kris on a Feisdress design…always a challenge to work long distance on files for a machine different than mine.  Kris is helping me SOOOO much.  Another gift!

And I have another little, errr, somthin’ or other…that’s what got me to the keyboard here.  I think I will need to write about it, about the process.  For the moment, tho, I am still cogitating as it gets going.

Off to the magic fabric store!!!!

Back skirts, etc…

Today I got 2 similar emails, so thought I would do a post.

First Kilynn wrote: I have been looking at the school dresses you are making for Teelin. I really like the way they look in the back. How much stiffner are you using in the CFP, the FSP, and the back? Have you put decor bond on all sections? Do you use Firm Flex in the back or just the CFP and FSP? I am working on school dresses myself and an wanting to make them as easy to handle as possible. I also wanted to make them washable like the Teelin dresses. What mother would object to that!!!

Then Amy: I have a question about stiffener in the Teelin dress. I know you use Firmflex in the front of the dresses and they look great! We are so excited! We have ordered some Firmflex to try! You didn’t use Firmflex in the back of the Teelin dress did you? It drapes so beautifully. We are still working the “bugs” out of our school dresses. Currently, we have Decorbond in the back of our dress. The problem is, the dancer sits down wrong and BAM! nasty crease! We use a polyester satin as our lining and a gabardine as our main fabric. We were thinking of no Decorbond, but maybe a very lightweight interfacing on the satin lining to help give it some body. The satin tends to “grow” especially when you hit the curve and the bias kicks in. Does that make sense? We’re trying to get away from the stiff two-dimensional look. I love how figure flattering the Teelin dress looks, none of this trying to put flat cardboard on a round cylinder nonsense. Any advice would be appreciated.

Are you 2 working together or just on the same wavelength?

For the school dresses, I prep the fabric by fusing it to a tricot (just like french fuse) interfacing, not a woven and not decorbond.  The tricot supports the fabric, giving it a tad bit more body, but it does not add much weight at all, allows the fabric to move, and it will not crease the way a woven can and decorbond will!  I feel that this interfacing fuses the best, and I have yet for it to bubble away the way the woven can. 

That is all I do to the back of the skirts.  I do use decorbond on the areas to be embroidered on the front which then have one layer of Timtex underneath, but unless I am embroidering on the back, I do not use any other stiffener in the back.  Why?  First, I personally like the back skirts to move easily, and second, since these dresses get so much wear, I do not want decorbond or stiffener to crease or break down from all of the sitting and kicking that the backs are subjected to.  Even if the backs are embroidered, I only use decorbond in the appropriate area and then remove the excess to allow the skirt to retain as much movement as possible.

Now for the satin lining…I use crepe back satin which has some weight to it, and I do not interface it.  Here is what I do to keep the hem from bagging below the hem:

  1. After the lining and outer skirt are hemmed together, trim and clip the seam on the curves, then press the seam on the right side so the seam fabric lies underneath the lining.
  2. Use a multiple zig-zag stitch to attach the lining to the underneath seam fabric. The multiple zig-zag allows give on the curved seam and helps keep the lining fabric from falling below the seam to be seen from the outside.
  3. Iron the fold between the lining and outside skirt. I press on the inside so I can see a thin line of outside fabric to ensure the lining cannot be seen at the bottom of the hem on the outside.
  4. Then, I take the time to smooth and pin the lining to the outside fabric so I can sew a few lines of stay-stitching on the pleat fold lines from the hem to the waist. This basically guarantees that there will never be any bagging.  I sew 3-4 of these lines on each side of the back skirt (6 to 8 lines of stitching in total).

Did I answer everything?

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