Memorial Day 2008

So how was your holiday? I start out every entry after a holiday just like that. Dull huh? I do the perfunctory “how do you do” before launching into my own long-winded recitation.

We went up to Albuquerque on Saturday. My MIL was having an open house to celebrate closing of her old house and warming of her new house. It was also a celebration for two BIL birthdays and my niece Riley who is one year old.

When I come up, my SIL has a pile of garments set aside for my inspection or comment. She had a bathing suit from Land’s End and wanted to know if it was defective and whether she could or should return it. The cups were lightly lined with a thin foam padding. When she washed it, the foam wadded up. This is definitely defective. It wasn’t a matter of dry cleaning (it’s a swimsuit!), it’s that the foam padding either was not caught in the seaming so it’d stay in place or it was that the foam was too delicate and tore from it’s mooring in the wash. Something you might want to keep in mind. I told her it’d be no problem to return it; that’s the sort of defective that won’t become apparent until it’s washed (hint, hint).

She also had a top that was too long and wanted to know if she could return it for that reason. It wasn’t easily altered with a contrasting band sewn to the bottom and top stitched; a rather loose cotton weave, almost like cheese cloth. I looked at her askance and said “Stephanie, you’re only five foot”. ‘Nuff said. However, the front placket was sewn off kilter ending a good 1/4″ to 3/8″ off center front. So, under that pretext she could return it (online catalog purchase).

Stephanie also shows me baby garments that she likes. She wishes you’d make more of these:

It’s a onsie that looks like a dress from in front. The back of it is smooth around the legs.

If you need a construction or design cheat sheet, the photo below shows how it goes together. The front is two full layers.

Lately, I’m collecting photos of construction with a mind toward writing an entry about clothing discomfort for people who have dyspraxia, autism or who are tactile defensive. The photos below illustrate some seams that may pose a problem for some people. Keep in mind these are on baby’s clothes! Babies can’t tell you the seams in their clothes hurt. They’ll just cry for “no reason”.

On a long sleeve, this would probably be okay but this sleeve was 3/4 length brushing mid arm. Watch your thread. Some nylons are like fishing line. It feels like a razor blade grazing the skin.

This first one (blown up below) also annoys me. We didn’t use to make clothing like this (home sewers still don’t).

Why has everyone gone to sewing the ruffle or edge on first, and then closing the side seams? I’ve also seen this on tee shirts. They hem the fronts and backs (and sleeves) and then join the side seams. In my opinion, higher quality goods are hemmed and finished after the side seams are formed. It’s much cleaner. Plus, that seaming is not rubbing into your hip area if you have the shirt tucked in. That’s another reason autistic kids are known for taking all their clothes off. If anything, avoid these seams in pajamas.

Another thing to watch for is elastic. Many autistic people can’t tolerate elastic next to their skin. In pants or sleeves, it needs to ride in a casing. Some elastic is ribbed and when extended, the ribs pull apart trapping body hair so it pulls. Here’s the elastic on this baby top. It is fairly soft and smooth:

You can still run into trouble with this finish if that elastic edge curls up to ride against the skin.

You can avoid this by closely top stitching the elastic into place and making sure the elastic isn’t loose and flopping around. It should draw up the garment. Test that elastic edge though; it may be a little rough depending on the finish. Rub it against the most sensitive part of your body and try to imagine how it’d feel by a magnitude of ten.

On Sunday, before we returned to Las Cruces, we met my favorite gal pal Sal and my favorite Bob at the Double Rainbow. Oh wait. It’s called Flying Star now. It’s been my favorite place to pack on the pounds for the last twenty years.

Frankly, I was a little disappointed this time around. The magazines hadn’t been merchandised recently and no one had set them to rights, totally disorganized. There were none of my favorite fiber magazines at all. Still worse, the bathrooms looked like they hadn’t been well cleaned for some time (soap residue built up on the back wall). I hope this is not a sign of eventual decline of the coffee house. Wah!

On Monday, Eric and I went to the Harvest Wine Festival at the fairgrounds. We go every year to sample the local vintners and buy what amounts to a year’s worth of wine from local producers. The wine industry is really developing nicely in New Mexico. We were disappointed last year. The show’s organizers should be developing this into a regional arts festival but they haven’t. This year, there were fewer vintners than last year. Not a good sign. We were hoping that there’d be more artisans showing their goods (with the occasional DE) but other than a woman showing chile printed pot holders, we were out of luck. I do wish they’d ban whoever it is who’s selling cigars. They smoke those right next to the wine sampling and it’s so pungent (to me), I can’t taste the wine. They should at least ban people smoking those from X feet of each wine booth. Eric thinks the festival has gone downhill because it’s a cheap drunk for people who want a buzz. They’re certainly not attracting the sort of people that used to attend. Sad that.

When I was resting in the shade, I saw this lovely young woman wearing a dress that caught my eye and asked if I could take her picture, that I run a fashion website.

She so quickly assented that I felt I had to qualify it. While she was attractive, I wanted the photo because of (what I consider to be) a design defect. I told her I ran a technical design site and that in my opinion, her dress wasn’t designed properly.

See that seam above? It should be riding under her bust, cupping it, not midway through it. This endlessly annoys me. She was not overly large busted but as proportionate as one could expect in an average fit. She was not overweight either. Even worse, this was a knit dress. For the life of me, I can’t see why this wasn’t done right. Remarkably, she agreed. She knew it wasn’t right. That surprised me. I thought most consumers these days -habituated to poor design- don’t know that but she did.

Eric later asked me why she bought it anyway even though it wasn’t right. I explained it could have been any number of factors, an informal score card of sorts. The size was right, the color was right, she wanted something sleeveless, comfort, price, you name it. It was the weight of all the factors combined that made it a choice for her. Any other possible combination could have weighed against it. But in the end, the reason it sold was not because it was designed properly. You guys have to watch that stuff and get everything aligned to create the maximum value for your customers.

So what did you do? Hope your holiday was grand.

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  1. Karen C says:

    Thanks for the pic and talk about the bust seam on the young woman’s dress. It’s a major irritant to me. One of the tops in my line has a surplice top and it has taken me about 5 prototypes to get it just right. It actually may be a bit low, but I think that’s better than cutting across the bust. You see so many women constantly tugging on their tops and thinking it’s all a matter of losing weight so the seam will stay put.

    Also agree with you and your DH about the cigars. Really can’t properly taste wine with either cigar or cigarette smoke nearby.

  2. Vicki says:

    I have noticed that on a lot of things, the edge sewn and then the ruffle.

    I tried in on one of my twirly skirts, because I heard it was faster. It may very well be a quicker method but when I saw the finished product it was like listening to finger nails on the chalk board. Just wrong, wrong, wrong! To me it looks messy and cheap.

  3. dosfashionistas says:

    My daughter Susanna (who is actually the other half of dosfashionistas) has a top with the exact same detail as the blue dress. She says that she has often found this in the Empire cuts that are popular right now. Now she is plus size and with a large bust, but a well designed plus size top should allow for that and fit at least under the bust and not along the apex.

    Personally I think it is one of those situations where a very popular top with that flaw has been knocked off line for line, thus perpetuating the flaw. And now people (merchandisers) think it is a design feature and only us patternmakers know it is a mistake.

    As an aside, one fitting trick that works for a very large busted woman if you are making an Empire waist garment is to place the waist only partly under the bust. (Maybe about an inch out from the body) This minimizes the bust slightly and flatters the waist because it doesn’t fit too closely over the tummy. Found this out fitting a bridesmaid dress once.

    We really liked those little one piece garments for Sue’s daughter Evelyn, too. She is 3 now, and wearing more big girl clothes. And I have another question for you children’s wear DEs. Why do so many pants for 2 and 3 year olds have snaps and zippers? At this age, toilet training is coming up and the child needs to be able to exit their clothes easily and quickly. Don’t ask me what I have designed for my granddaughter, because I haven’t yet. But I’m thinking about it.


  4. Grace says:

    There are other conditions that result in extremely thin and sensitive skin. Seams can rub right through my skin and cause me to bleed. On my doctor’s advice, I wear underwear inside out. Will someone make a line of bras that won’t make me bleed by lunchtime?

  5. mikawendy says:

    Thank you for posting those pictures of the young woman’s dress with the design flaw. I’ve noticed that a lot in retail clothing, especially at “big box” stores. Often the color(s) and price, and sometimes the fabric, will be fabulous, only the garment is not designed well and/or has construction flaws.

    I’ve seen a lot of empire waist tunics and blouses these days with gathers below the bust seam, on either side of center front. It looks ridiculous because it makes the front of the blouse pooch out in an unflattering way–and this is in regular misses/women’s wear, not maternity. In one case, the offending blouses were sold at a big box store as part of a designer’s ready to wear line. No thanks!

  6. NoahL says:

    I sewed samples for my denim collection’s photo-shoot! And actually just sent off my patterns for correcting! now the easy part is over. Oh and about the part where you mention how uncomfortable thread can be. I had someone make a shirt for me , copied from one I got from a thrift store. I supplied the thread and some reason it just felt awful so painful! UG i know what you mean. I can imagine how awful it is , i would rather wear nothing than clothes that was painful!

  7. Carrie says:

    My pet peeve is those plastic tags (listing fabric content, laundry instructions, and/or country of origin) sew into the lower side seams of tee-shirts. I cut them off, but some of the plastic remains sewn into the seam allowance, perpetually jabbing me in the side when I wear the tee.

  8. Nanette says:

    I like the comments about the seams on children’s clothing and how it affects those with autism. I volunteer for an all inclusive league and we have a couple of children with autism that attend. I remember one child who kept pulling at his waistband. It was probably due to something like you mentioned.

  9. Deanna says:

    I wear my running pants inside out too. Otherwise the inseam rubs me raw in 10 min. (Sadly I was the one who made them) I think I would make a flat felled seam on the inside for comfort. For now, inside out is fine. At 6am if anyone sees me, they will be looking at my bedhead and don’t notice my pants!
    I have noticed some brands use a coverstitch for the leg seams. I wonder if the thread still causes abrasion even though the seam is flat? Anyone tried these?

  10. Michele says:

    GREAT article! I was especially interested in the proper ruffle/hem/sideseam application as I handsew a childs’ pant that has the option of a ruffle around the leg, and I am constantly struggling with finding the most high-quality way to do this.

    Oh, and Sarah, MY children’s clothing line has 100% elastic waists! Take a peek! :-)

  11. Gretchen says:

    Not to point out the obvious, but Lands’ End has the return policy of “guaranteed. period.” – meaning you don’t need a good reason (or any reason) to return something, and there isn’t a time limit on returns either. That’s part of the reason I like them so much.

    As for the young woman with the dress, my guess as to why she bought it was that she saw that it was flattering even with that mistake in construction. I’ve given up looking at those types of tops because they never fit me correctly – they all have that exact problem. But I’m very aware of it, because not only does it look wrong, it’s uncomfortable! Dresses are especially bad, because when the hips are big enough for me, often that line will slip over my bust point entirely. It’s part of the reason I want to learn to make my own clothes.

  12. Lisa Bloodgood in Portland says:

    I, too, HATE it when that line goes across the bust! It is so ugly–it makes an otherwise cute or cool garment ugly.

    I never sew the ruffle on and sew the hems before sewing the other seams. It does look tacky and you can see the seam sticking out. The time I bought panties that weren’t Victoria’s Secret, to save some money, I put the unused pairs in the homeless donations bin because the seams were all just standard overlocked seams. They were annoying and stuff like that doesn’t usually annoy me. Victoria’s secret panties use that flat overlocked seam on their cotton panties and I think their synthetic ones are seamless. So kudos to them at least for that. The elastic on some is exposed but it has this soft stuff on the inside.

    I love that onesie!

    For the actual holiday, we stayed home, but Sunday we had lunch with my hubby’s parents at their house. We were going to go to Oaks Park (with rides) but the weather wasn’t cooperative.

  13. Oh…my pet peeve of life poor construction of children’s clothes. I have 4 children, 3 with Autism/Asperger’s, I look for clothes they can wear comfortably. I became so frustrated I decided to start my own business. I should have everything to a point of being able to sell in August.

    In my designs, I have made the clothing to harbor independence for kids. Can you imagine potty training a severely disabled high school student? I have and can tell you sweat pants are NOT appropriate.

    Then there is the underwear issue for kids. Tons of lumpy seams and then a girls size 4 panty has the same crotch width as a woman’s size 7! Potty training with that is a nightmare!

    This is my first post comment. My weekend was crazy of course at home being a single mom. (My husband was away on business.) My kids found an 8 inch Banana Slug and came in screaming. It was pretty gross, but that is the Pacific Northwest for you. :)

  14. Lisa Bloodgood in Portland says:

    P.S. I can see how it could be horrible for those with such sensitive skin, seeing as how the rest of us still have issues. And V.S.’s undies aren’t perfect; I was just pointing out the comparison. Ugh.

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