The House of Tatterdemalion

Unfashionable, unskilled, inexpensive--but still sewing.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Non-Fussy Sewing . . .Sort of.

I spent some time this weekend working on my sister's Fancy Dress. I enjoyed myself quite a bit, because you don't have to worry about anything when sewing dress-up clothes for little girls.

Permanent wrinkles in the fabric? Doesn't matter; she'll get it all wrinkly anyway.

Doesn't fit right? Doesn't matter; she'll out-grow it in a couple months anyway.

Colors don't quite match? Doesn't matter; she'll probably wear it with hiking boots and her most beloved chicken hat.

And whilst thinking all of these happy thoughts, I realize that I hadn't lined up the side seam right; the armhole seam didn't line up with itself by about 1/8th of an inch.

Instantly, I ripped out the entire side seam, lined it up properly, and re-sewed it.

It was only an 1/8th of an inch! It's dress up clothes for a soon to be 4-year old! No one is going to be checking her armpit to see if the seams line up properly!

But it didn't line up! Operator error! Must FIX! OR WE'LL DOCK IT FROM YOUR PAY!!!!

It's one thing when the wrinkles in the cheap polyester fabric are permanent---there's nothing I can do about it. They're there, and they aren't coming out. But if it's MY FAULT, I just can't stand it!

Or maybe I just can't help myself. I don't think I would have ripped it all out if it had only be a 32nd of an inch. I don't even think I would have ripped it all out if it had only been an 16th of an inch. But a whole, huge, hulking, tremendous one-eighth of an inch? Who could bear it? I mean, really!

Other than that 1/8th of an inch--which I fixed!---I've been really happy with the way it's coming out. The sculpted, pleated sleeves came out really well. The burn-out overlay for the triangular inset came out perfect, though I did have to thread trace to make sure I got the part I wanted.

Now I've just got to figure out how to post pictures, so I can share my brilliance. Or, at least, anyway, my perfectly lined up seams on cheap polyester that's permanently wrinkled, and not quite color matched. Which is the same thing, right?


Anonymous Diego Ramirez Mota said...

Ok. You're crazy, lady.

6:26 PM  
Blogger Tatterdemalion said...

Thank you!

Mildly funny story, only tangentally related:

The other day I was talking to a neighbor about a certain fabric store. She (the neighbor) deemed the store owner a "nut" (and that phrased not used a recommendation). I pointed out that I was sure anyone who ever talked about me said that I was a "nut", after which there was a long pause on my neighbor's side of the conversation. Finally she said, "Yes, but you're a pleasant nut."

So I guess it all depends on what flavor you are. . .

9:36 PM  
Anonymous Jesse said...

Hey, I know this doesn't have anything to do with your posting. I thought this would be a good idea, and I thought I would share it with you, oh blogger of all things homestyle couture.

So, I have been trying to make stuff, but I am not really that good. Everybody goes through that learning curve, right? So, I've bought some fabric that I have found inspiring (some grey worsted wool, some paisley cotton and some navy and lime green check polyester).

What generally happens is that I try to make a garment and make an error. I have used quite a few muslins, both for the shirts and for the jackets. Here's my idea:

Pack away all that cool fabric, for now. And, buy a bolt of muslin, and some really cheap thread. Then I can just sew away on that muslin. When I have something that I would probably want to wear, if it wasn't made of muslin, then I'll pull out the 'ole stash of the good stuff. Like a stash of aged wine. The good stuff. Like old, stinky cheese. You get my point.

When I get better, then that beautiful navy & yellow poly will become a real, wearable tie. And that green paisly will be my "hottie" shirt. So, I'm going to go crazy with the muslin until I'm ready then I'm a rock star.

Anyway, I just wanted to share that with you. It was a little bit of an epiphany for me. Maybe it's common sense for girls, but I'm a guy.

2:34 PM  
Blogger Tatterdemalion said...


I don't think it's so much a thing of common sense as much as deep paranoia (which seems to be totally oblivious to any guy/girl differences). I was not in the slightest attatched to fabric I used to make dresses for one of my sisters. However, for the fabric I picked out for a dress for me, I was quite attatched to it. And thus quite paranoid. And thus, the fabric is still sitting there waiting for me to sew it (drat it).

See, I did do a muslin, and in doing so, found about a gazillion fitting problems. Now I'm trying to teach myself how to draft patterns (as you may have picked up in past posts, I tried pattern alterations and found myself to be abismal at them).

The main thing that holds me back right now is my dreadful perfectionism (which, quite by accident, does have something to do with this post, but I think that is due more to the fact that my desire for "getting it right" is so dominant, rather than actually having anything to do with staying on topic). I am finally getting to the point that I would rather do it than not do it perfectly, if you know what I mean. (At least the first time; plans for perfection are never done away with, they are merely set aside for a more appropriate time.)

It didn't take me a whole bolt of muslin to come to this (temporary) conclusion. But I have finally decided that I would rather have my dress that doesn't fit quite perfectly now, rather than wait 15 years (or more) for my skills to catch up to my dreams, and then have the dress. A bird in the had is worth two in the bush, so to speak.

This isn't to say that I think you have the wrong idea--not at all! Practice with muslin is a good thing, especially for fit, and learning basic techniques. I just advise you don't get quite as obsessive about it as I did. If you do, it is possible your tastes (or current style, if you go for that sort of thing) may change, and what you once thought was a great fabric may look "dated" or simply may no longer be to your liking. (That is to say, instead of having that special aroma of aged wine, they may just stink!) If you really, really, really love it, or it is hard to find (e.g. if you mess it up, you'll never be able to get anything like it again), then by all means, save it until you're a rock star. But in the meantime, I advise you don't limit yourself to just muslin, which will quickly get discouraging and boring (ask me how I know).

It's an especially good idea to work with a variety of fabrics (as opposed to just muslin) because all fabrics handle differently. You may learn how to handle muslin extraordianary well, but different weaves and fiber types handle different ways. You wouldn't want to mess up your grey worsted wool just because you've never handled wool, right? So find some wool that you like--but don't love, and thus can risk destroying it in a horrible death. And if it doesn't die a horrible death, it may wind up as something you actually like, as opposed to a piece of boring muslin.

As for my dearly beloved fabric that has waited to be sewn up for far longer than I care to admit, I still like it. A lot. But I've decided that it's not totally irreplaceable or unique, and I'd rather have that dress, however unperfect, more than I would like to have the fabric. And that is a judgement call that needs to be made on a piece by piece basis.

Anyway, that's my spin on it. Your mileage may vary. ;)

6:24 PM  
Anonymous Jesse said...

Mileage? I think my perception may vary. But, honestly, I really appreciate your feedback. I mean, how many other people do you know who are young and want to make their own clothes. The only other person that I know is my Mom. And, there's a pretty big generational gap there.

Anyway, I'm not sure that I would call what I want to do high fashion. I want to make 4-5 different things for my own personal consumption, with dreams of owning a boutique firm or leaving my glorious job as a customer service agent to do the lowly work of a tailor or an apprentice. I want to make a suit (jacket and pants, maybe a vest, but probably not), a shirt, a tie and some boxers.

When I was a kid, my mom would make clothes for me. Once, while in college, I asked her to make me a jacket, I went with her and bought the fabric and picked out the pattern, and she made the jacket. And, it turned out pretty well. So, that's inspiration #1.

Inspiration #2 is the fabric itself. I am sure you know what I mean. You're in a fabric shop and you don't really pay attention to most of the stuff in there, because it's all girlie and feminine. And, although you sew, you sew like a man; you are not girlie or feminine. So, when I see some fabric that catches my attention, I check it out. I may put it back, but sometimes, I think: "Hmmm. That would be a great ________" Example: a couple of weeks ago in Hancock Fabrics I pick up this soft, thick cotton upholstry fabric remnant, thinking it would be a great pair of pajama pants. I got it home and got ready to get started, but the fabric then told me it was a jacket. So, I got out my sloper I made using Roberto Cabrerra's Classic Tailoring Techniques and got to work. I generally find that I get inspired by fabric. I think I visualize a couple of pieces of clothing, or an outfit once I choose the fabric that catches my eye. So, my humble dream, is to be good enough to make a couple of garments, a couple of times a year. Maybe a few extra pair of boxers because those wear out fast.

In fact, some of the fabric that's inspired me - that grey wool, it was $2 or $3 a yard; some weird remenant. It looks a lot like the wool in my Ralph Lauren trousers, but who knows. That upholstry fabric I'm making into a jacket was $6.88 a yard. That fabric is a pain in the ass by the way. I've had to blanket stitch my seam allowances so it doesn't unravel. I'm probably going to machine stitch around the edges any other pieces I cut out, before sewing.

So, I have pretty humble dreams as far as what I would sew. In terms of quality, for my liking, it has to be sewn as to not have any distracting errors, basically to be an unnoticible type of garment, and it has to be constructed so as to last as long as any other shirt I would buy from someplace like J Crew or Target. I think I need some work on construction and that's what the muslin is for. No big dreams here.

And, if at some time in the near future, the grey worsted wool or the pale green paisly goes out of style, I can just save it or throw it out. I mean, it was pretty inexpensive.

So, thanks for your advice on working with different fabrics, that's good advice. I would offer you some: you really don't need expensive fabrics to make nice stuff. Like, I don't know that I ever want to work with Super 150's wool. Why, you know? I would ask yourself, not want you want to make (not what your dream is), but ask yourself what do you want to use the thing for. I mean, will you really ever use the dress that you made that Cinderalla could wear to her ball? Probably not. It sounds like you're starting to come to that conclusion now. I mean, after all lady, they're just clothes.

10:10 AM  
Blogger Tatterdemalion said...

Oh, dear. I think you've been taken in by the grandoise words I hide behind.

My treasured fabric is a cheap cotton print, I think it was like $4.65 a yard or something, that I bought from JoAnn's. I just liked the way it looked, that's all.

High fashion, I am not. Baggy jeans and old t-shirts I usually am (or at least, anyway, I usually wear). I want to make my own clothes, yes, but I don't believe I've ever used the word "fashion" on myself, never mind "high fashion."

I think that, once again, this goes back to my orginal post (once again, because the orginal post is so telling of my nature, not because I have anything against off-topic discussion). That's what's so hysterical about me, you know, wanting such high construction standards for clothing of such lowly use.

Upon re-reading my original post, it occurs to me that perhaps I didn't make it clear enough that the fancy dress I'm making my little sister is meant as nothing more than play clothes--yet that hasn't stopped me from insisting on high standards from myself. And, after finishing this comment, I really ought to go work on the vest I am making my younger brother--also play clothes, also about $4/yd,--in which I'm hoping to put two welt pockets. I've heard that welt pockets are supposed to be hard, but I really want to try it out.

If I ever make a dress that Cinderella could wear to the ball, I would make it purely for the pleasure of being able to sew it. That is to say, I enjoy the act of sewing as much as I do having sewn, and that is where my persnicketiness (is that a word?) comes in. It doesn't always make sense, and it certainly isn't reasonable--in fact, as previously discussed, it makes me quite crazy. But it is the way I like to do it.

My point, however poorly I put it in my last comment, was that you may find you enjoy wearing your fabric (even if your construction skills aren't yet what you'd like them to be) more than keeping it for when your skills have improved. But that is often a hard thing for me to bring myself to do, because if it's a fabric I really like, I'm afraid I'll "ruin" it. As we both agree, a fabric's worth is detirmined exclusively by how much it means to you, not it's price tag.

By the way, speaking of sewing shirts, do you have David Page Coffin's book, Shirtmaking? I definitely recommend it.

12:10 PM  
Anonymous Jesse said...

Thanks for the recommendation. I was reading in Cabrerra's book about constructing welt pockets this weekend. I'm going to add one to my jacket. They really don't look that hard. If you have the Cabrerra book for women, I'm sure it has it, if not, your library may have it and if that weren't enough, this looks almost exactly like the Cabrerra instructions for the upper welt pocket (the kind you put a hankerchief or pocket square in):

and, this is an example of a double piping pocket, which her is named a welt pocket:,2025,DIY_14143_2277090,00.html

I haven't made mine yet, but it looks like with patience and some luck, you can make it look well enough to be satisfied.

So, thanks for the recommendation. I've actually been meaning to get that book. I have been really wanting to get into to Cabrerra's book more before I bought that one. Hence, the plan to purchase a bolt of muslin. I can't wait to do that! I am so excited!

Hey, by the way, let me know when you get a pattern for couture jeans and t-shirts. That's DEFINITELY something I want to make. Yeah, and what does Tattermaltedion mean, anyway? It's amusing, I just want to know what it means. Take care, Jesse

8:49 PM  
Blogger Tatterdemalion said...

I think Shirtmaking is a very good companion book to Caberra's tailoring book. I wouldn't put either one as a "read this first", because they seem to compliment each other so well. Both books are more than willing to explain the very basics to a beginner, but they will both teach you how to do a very professional job. (I actually have Shirtmaking and not Caberra's tailoring book, but that's only because I think I'm more likely to make a shirt than a suit. Hamilton books is currently selling Shirtmaking for a very good price. You may have to maximize the comment window to see all of the link.

As for the meaning of Tatterdemalion, this is taken straight from


tat·ter·de·mal·ion (tăt'ər-dĭ-māl'yən, -mā'lē-ən) pronunciation

A person wearing ragged or tattered clothing; a ragamuffin.

Ragged; tattered.

[Probably TATTERED + -demalion, of unknown meaning.]




A person wearing ragged or tattered clothing: ragamuffin, scarecrow. See better/worse, rich/poor.


Torn into or marked by shreds or tatters: ragged, raggedy, tattered. See better/worse.



[adj] 1) ragged or disreputable in appearance, being in a decayed state: dilapidated
2) beggarly, disreputable


The noun tatterdemalion has one meaning:

Meaning #1: a dirty shabbily clothed urchin
Synonym: ragamuffin

The adjective tatterdemalion has 2 meanings:

Meaning #1: worn to shreds; or wearing torn or ragged clothing
Synonym: tattered

Meaning #2: in deplorable condition
Synonyms: bedraggled, broken-down, dilapidated, ramshackle, tumble-down, unsound

10:56 AM  
Blogger Crazy Smith said...

Hey Tatterdemalion (and Jesse) ;-)
I *think* I'm like you guys: I want to make clothes that fit using my own patterns. Specifically, I want to make suits for my husband. I thought that with the money I'm saving making the suits myself, I could splurge and buy beautiful quality wool.

I've got the following books, and was wondering if you think this will suffice to get me to the finish line: "European Cut" (Allemong), "Patternmaking for fashion design" (Armstrong), and "Classic Tailoring Techniques" (Cabrera).

Do you think it's possible for me to make a nice suit using these books? Do you think it's possible to make a nice suit right off the bat? Like Jesse and you, I find that fabric is the most inspiring thing, and to spend months handmaking a suit out of crappy fabric just seems wrong, ya know? I mean, I don't mind making one muslin to figure out the fit, but I simply couldn't keep making just muslins all the time.

I guess my ultimate question is: do you think I'm biting off more than I can chew by choosing a suit as my first tailoring project?

PS: I really enjoy your blog. I found it by typing "Tailoring supplies" into Google. I think you were on the second page.

7:26 PM  
Blogger Tatterdemalion said...

Hi Crazy Smith!

Glad to hear you are enjoying my blog.

Your ultimate question--are you biting off more than you can chew by choosing a suit as your first tailoring question--is pretty simple for me to answer. (Wait--a quick question first--how long do you want to be chewing? ;)) I would say nope, you are not biting off more than you can chew by choosing a suit as your first tailoring project. But I am famous in six countries (not really, but it sounds good) for biting off more than I can chew without knowing that's what I'm doing, so maybe I'm a bad person to ask. If you're not sure, break it up. Instead of doing a whole matching suit for the first try, maybe you only want to try a pair of pants, or just the jacket. Once you've gotten your feet wet, so to speak, you can dive into doing a whole suit.

Now, when you start adding adjectives, that's when it gets tricky to answer. Can you make a perfectly fitting, beatifully tailored suit on the first try? Probably not. If you view this as nothing more than a cheap way to get suits, you will probably wind up frustrated with how long it takes, and perhaps if things don't go exactly right the first (or second) time.

But if you view this as a learning time, a time to learn how to make suits, I think you'll enjoy yourself a lot more. The first suit will almost undoubtably go differently than you expected, so don't use your most expensive wool on it. This is called making a wearable muslin--don't make it out of crappy fabric, but don't break the bank, either. That way, if your work works, you have a nice suit, and you're ready to try again with a spectacular fabric. If something goes wrong, however, you haven't lost too much.

One might be inclined to modify that with "except time", but really, you haven't lost that either. You'll have learned quite a bit, and learning takes time, too. And in the end of it all, the learning is more valuable than the suit--the suit will eventually wear out or stop fitting, but what you learn can help you for many, many more years to come.

You certainly have, however, a nice set of books. I doubt you'll run into much that isn't covered in at least one of them. To me, this sounds like a really fun project, so I say go for it! (But I also say, keep in mind my above disclaimer that that biting off more than I can chew is my trademark, and most people don't consider me an accurate guide on that count!)

8:33 PM  
Blogger Crazy Smith said...

Thanks for the response! I'm glad someone doesn't think I'm crazy for undertaking this project, even if you are a "pleasant nut" ;-)

I've gone through all the books, and it really doesn't seem *that* hard. The drafting of the sloper I found pretty easy (thanks to the detailed instructions in Allemong's book), and adding ease and design lines looks like it will be pretty easy too.

The hardest part seems to be taking accurate measurements. I've taken measurements twice now, with results varying by + - 1.5" :-(

Are accurate measurements the hardest part, or am I in for a surprise? (Sorry to be hijacking your blog with these questions that are unrelated to your post.)

4:01 PM  
Blogger Tatterdemalion said...

There's no need to apologize for talking of post-topic! It doesn't bother me in the least.

The short answer to "Are accurate measurements the hardest part" is a resounding YES! The long answer is a post I'm trying to get time to write, so unfortunately, you'll have to wait on that one. (I, too, am working on a sloper out of Allemong's book. I love her directions. As she says, the three parts that can go wrong are drafting it wrong, standing wrong (e.g. different than is your "normal), or take the measurements wrong. I haven't had problems with #1, I have had problems with #2 but I think I've surpassed them, and #3 is still giving me fits!

Oh well. More on this topic later, hopefully.

12:50 PM  
Anonymous Jesse said...

I hope you read this, Crazy Smith. Thanks for your replies to me to; I feel famous by association.

In terms of biting off more than you can chew: What you really want to do is to take simple fabric and make a suit. That's a pretty big undertaking for anyone who's not a tailor, wouldn't you say? But your question is more personal - is it too much for you. Honestly, are you going to reach your vision on the first try? I hope so. . .but if not, don't sweat it.

You may not know this, but tailors (there are several different kinds) generally have a apprenticiship for up to 10 years. And that is before they're ever allowed to construct anything that is sold. Think about that for a moment.

You're trying to make something beautiful, and that's AWESOME. Just make sure that you're nice to yourself in what you expect and what you are satisfied with.

To answer the question, do I think you can make one? Hell, even Tat's younger brother could if someone taught him. (more trivia: after reading on the web at places like English Cut, it appears that some people start tailor apprenticeships in their teens).

5:30 PM  
Anonymous Jesse said...

You know, I'm going to take a different approach, just because I think it works best with my personality. I'm just going to stick to Cabrerra's book, then I'll move on from there. I am going to buy that shirt making book. And, I have a "book" that is really a copy of a book on how to make patterns from scratch from like 1890. I, like the book, am kind of like an old man (I'm 28).

I love the word Raggamuffin. "when I start my blog" (ha), "I'm going to call it The House of Raggamuffin Couture." Ha ha ha.

5:36 PM  
Blogger Tatterdemalion said...

By all means, do what works for you! I am a firm believer that there is no one "right" way to learn, and that everyone does learn better in different ways.

4:47 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home