Friday, April 03, 2009

I Gotta Wear Shades.

I think I've found my next career. I'm going to make millions doing knock-offs of Girl Guides of Canada merchandise.

The Brownies aren't what they used to be. I'm sure you all remember the little brown dress with its tie, badges and pins - well, now it's navy sweat pants ("track suit bottoms" for all you Brits out there who cringe at the words "sweat pants") and orange t-shirts. The badges go right on a sash and there's still a tie, although there isn't any kind of penalty for forgetting uniform items at a meeting. (I'll do a rant on the shoddiness of the modern Girl Guides another day.)

There are a few optional pieces, such as a handy little fleece vest, which I love. However, I couldn't afford the extra $35 or whatever, last time I was near a Guide Store, so I borrowed one from a friend and copied it.

Copied it, you say?

Yes and you, too, can copy a finished garment without disassembling it. I know you're all scrambling to find a notebook and a pen, and worry not - I'll share all my secrets. It's pretty simple. (Puts Sewing Geek hat on)

First, you establish the grainline of each separate piece of the garment. You hand baste the grainline with a contrasting thread, at least 2/3 of the length of the piece from top to bottom. On a fleece vest you can't see the weave of the fabric to thread-trace it, but there are a few clues for checking the grain. The back, if symmetrical and not bias, is almost always cut on the centre fold, which will be on the straight grain. The front zip will most likely be on the straight grain as well, or close to it, if there is any stretch at all in the fabric.

Second, lay out the pieces. Start with the largest piece laid on top of a sheet of paper large enough to accommodate the garment piece plus seam and hem allowances. It's helpful to do this on a cardboard surface, for better pinning. Align the garment grainline with the straight edge of the paper, measuring with a straight ruler to make sure both the top and the bottom of the grainline marking are the same distance from the straight edge. If the piece is cut doubled - for example on a symmetrical back - you fold the garment in half and either hand baste or pin it along the seams, to make sure the seamlines will be aligned.

Third, mark the seamlines. Jab pins through the garment and into the paper, at half-inch intervals along every seamline or foldline. Start with the longest and move to the shortest. Smooth the fabric out carefully as you go, being careful not to stretch. The other pieces of the garment (because it is still seamed together) will sometimes move the piece you're working on if you push them out of the way carelessly.

What you're trying to do here is to end up with a sequence of pinholes in the paper beneath, marking the exact shape of the garment piece and (eventually) providing you with a flat pattern.

Fourth, true up the lines and curves. Lift the garment off the paper. Using a French curve and a sharp pencil, connect all the pinholes, evening out any inconsistencies as you go. You are now drawing the seamlines of the pattern piece, so you want it to be as smooth as possible.

Fifth, add seam and hem allowances. Measure your preferred seam allowance, 5/8" or 1/2", outside of all the seamlines and draw a broken line. Make it as smooth as possible, again, as this will be your cutting line. Measure the depth of the hem on the finished garment, and add that measurement to the hem edge of your pattern piece.

Sixth, add pattern markings. It might seem like overstating the obvious, but here you want to write things like "Brownie Vest - Back - size 7-8 yrs" as well as adding marks to show the placement of any zippers or pockets. Dates are optional but I find them enormously helpful when I am referring to the pattern two years from now.

Repeat for all garment pieces.

See? Easy.

I should note that occasionally a pattern piece, when still assembled, can't lie flat due to the seams. In this case, you would pin out one section of it at a time, then remove some of the pins and let the piece curl up in order to give you slack to pin out the remaining section. I have had to do this for the back piece:

Couldn't get the whole thing to lie flat at once. Note the top edge is not pinned. I pinned the fold/grainline first, and from the middle of the armscye to the hem.


Here I've removed the pins from the lower half, leaving as many as possible in place, and pinned out the upper half. You can see that the garment won't lie flat - it wants to pull upwards when the top half is pinned.

Once you've made all your pattern pieces, take a good look at the garment and make notes on how it must have been put together. In this case, my assembly notes were something like this.

a) sew blue side gores to fronts. Serge.

b) sew fronts and back together at shoulders. Serge.

c) sew collar together at top edge. Serge. Serge lower edge of inner collar.

d) sew outer collar to garment neck edge. Serge.

e) insert separable zipper from hem to collar top edge.

f) turn sides and lower edge of inner collar down along zipper and neck edge. Topstitch along zipper from hem to top edge, around top edge, and around garment neck edge.

g) serge armhole edges. Apply stretch binding at 1/2". Turn and topstitch.

h) sew side seams. Serge.

i) turn up hem. Topstitch at 1/4" and 1".

And, le voila......which is mine and which is theirs?

(Mine is the one with the better-inserted zipper. Obviously.)


yarninmypocket said...

Brilliant tutorial!! I've used a similar method in the past, and friends have asked me to write it up, but I'm too lazy. Now, I don't have to; I can just send everyone here! :)

BTW I was a tall, skinny Brownie, back in the day. To get a uniform that was even close to providing decent coverage for my gangly frame, I had to wear the largest size. Which hung on me like a sack. I wasn't able to look 'neat' no matter what I did.

Jo said...

Willow wants to join the US version - but at her age (nearly 7) they are called Daisies and wear these green smocks that look like what the cashiers at Walmart wear.

Great sewing job!

carlarey said...

I got kicked out of Brownies many years ago because the troop leader said my mother was a Communist. Well, technically I was kicked out for telling the troop leader that I'd rather have a mother who was a Communist than a mother who was a fat old slut.

The fact that at six I wasn't really sure what either a Communist or a slut was made no real difference, the damage was done.

Apparently you are having a better Brownie experience.

bethro said...

This looks complicated. Luckily, I don't think my cats are into the whole Girl Scouts thing. I have a question for you that is very unrelated to this, but you brought it to mind when you were talking to the "Brits." We have a commercial for Cheerios down here in California where this couple live in a very washed out world and the chick is eating Cheerios. The husband asks if she is trying to lose weight and hilarity ensues, commercial style. Here, the Cheerios eater and her misguided spouse have "regular" accents. Somewhere we were recently, we saw the same commercial and they had British accents. Could that have been Vancouver? It's the only place we've been recently except RI. Why would the Vancouver version need British accents and not the generic "regular" accent the rest of our TV shares? Please help this confused Yank.

kate said...

Shan - sewing geek, it's all greek to me! Sad they don't have the brown uniforms anymore. I still have my badges that were all put on a wall hanging at the end of Brownies. Didn't like Girl Guides though, so only went for one season.

Bethro -- in Canada the couple does have british accents (although not strong ones). Guess they figured the U.S. audience wouldn't like that? The commercial up here probably airs in most commonwealth countries, so they didn't have to make more than one. Why they didn't use it for the U.S. .... who knows.

Shan said...

Thanks Kate - I hadn't seen either commercial.

kate said...

I should have said, although it is all Greek your product is amazing! I may not understand it, but I can appreciate it :)!!

lizbon said...

Oh my god, do you realize you've just solved a problem for me that I've had for years?

I have this brilliant, and decaying, antique velvet jacket that I've been wanting to copy. Couldn't bring myself to tear it apart. Tailor estimates were in the $900 range.


lizbon said...

PS. And yes, I got the song reference. Nice.

Gwen said...

Gosh! Aren't you clever!

My daughter is going into Guides this fall. I, too, was shocked and upset when I looked at the uniform catalogue. Do they still do all the building fires / tying knots / selling cookies things?

Dave Hingsburger said...

Bethro, I have seen the commercial with 'Shut up Steve' as the witty punchline at the end of the cheerio's commerical. You are right, in that commerical Steve has a British accent. I don't think it means anything except perhaps that we are still part of the British Commonwealth and our 'multicultural' rather than 'melting pot' approach to immigration has us more open to a variety of accents in our commercials. Others thoughts?

Shannon, are you making girl guides clothing as part of a 'you be the pilot and I'll be the stewardess' kind of evening play at home? Hmmmmm, just curious. "Come over here little girl and i'll buy your cookies..."

Anonymous said...

Many thanks from me, too, for the tutorial and for this generally creative (recreative?) approach. We all need to be better at things like this.
- Beth

Ssejors said...

WHAT A WORLD WHAT A WORLD!! I still have my Guide uniform and my Brownie Uniform. I should take a few pics for my blog.. Ahh I miss being a lil girl guide. What fun. How I miss it. To think that brownies and girl guides only wear t shirts and joggers now is AWFUL! makes me so sad! I loved the Sash and all the badges. The ordeal of putting on the uniform every Wednesday night. That was part of Girl Guides.

Ssejors said...

!!! /GASP DAVE!!!
LOL !!

Shan said...



Pilot and Stewardess I can deal with, "Come here little Girl Guide" not so much.