Monday, 21 August 2017

The (almost) Impossible Jacket

That quilted laminate fleecy stuff that P wanted me to carpet the entire house in... Well it was intended for a coat for A. She spied it when we were at The Fabric Store together and it was on sale, and it was winter, and the girl can always use a new coat. Needless to say it found it's way into our bag.

Obviously, this was going to be the perfect fabric for an unlined coat, as the fleece-y inner surface was it's own, ideal lining.

In my Japanese pattern books I have lots of nice coat options for unlined coats, and as she's in danger of outgrowing quite a few of those very books, that was were I headed in search of a pattern.

This book, known in English variably as Girls Lovely Clothes, Or Girls Clothes Craft Book had the perfect coat: pattern "t".

After making P's vest I had decided that the only way to finish this coat would be to sew flat felled seams everywhere, so I traced off the size 130cm and added a 5/8th seam allowance wherever there would normally only be a 1cm seam allowance.

And then the nightmare began...

Firstly, the laminate, plasticky nature of the "fabric" (I use the term loosely) resisted pinning and was as tacky as all get out for the pressure foot.

I used my walking foot and taped things in place with washi tape. Of course I couldn't iron this stuff either for fear of a melted, gooey plastic mess. The pockets were turned using the Oliver + S trick of  finger pressing with a basting stitch at the fold line and a gathering stitch within any curved seam allowance.

Tiny, curved pockets checked off I moved on to constructing the garment. As all of the seams were sewn wrong sides together first, I would end up with sticky plastic surfaces both top and bottom. I used crepe streamers (all I had) underneath and Washi tape on top to try and keep things sliding along. Oh, and clips to hold it together.

Then I would trim one side of the seam allowance...

Then unpick all the quilting from the untrimmed seam allowance...

And then wrap that over the seam allowances and stitch it down to get my flat felled seam...

Not so difficult when you're sewing nice short seam like shoulder seams. Inserting the sleeves flat wasn't so hard either. Neither was sewing the body part of the side seams. But the sleeve seams?... OMFG, what a task I had set for myself.

 Let's have another photo that shows I did get there in the end, while I take a few more deep breaths...

I flat felled up the body side seam and as far as I could possibly go down into the sleeve. I was sewing about three stitches at a time, pushing, cajoling and shoving the sticky fabric under the pressure foot in order to sew just another two stitches. More rearranging, more pushing, another two stitches. The sewing machine was being forced across the table and the plastic fabric was bunching dangerously close to the heat of the sewing machine's light globe - which was not, of course, helping to illuminate the tiny dark hole into which I was trying to sew. Another two stitches and there was no chance of going any further.

No fear, I thought, I'll simply start from the cuff end and sew up to where I stopped.

The whole process of push, swear, stitch, repeat was continued in the opposite direction until it was plainly clear I could proceed no further in that direction either.

Yet a three to four inch gap of un-flat felled seam allowance remained. Faaark.

More deep breaths.

I reached for extra Washi tape and some strong liquor at this point. Taping up the whole tacky surface of the seam I switched back to the normal presser foot. Less forward movement but much less bulk and I was able to continue the push, shove, few stitches pattern of glacial sewing until I'd breached that three inch gap.

And then I had to repeat the whole process with the second side seam and sleeve seam.

Finally though, the insides were looking as good as they should. There really was no other way this coat could have been made.

By now I was ready for a breather, so I took a day trip (oh why did they have to leave the city) out to Buttonmania.

It's never a wasted journey though, and of course I found the perfect buttons. An affordable, shiny, navy, plastic button with just enough blingy gold to make it fancy.

With renewed vigor, I sewed the collar (simply using the fabric the other way out), added the facing (also inside out to keep the insides all fleecy), threw on a cotton tape label and hanging loop and it was nearly done.

Pleasingly, the buttonhole foot on my machine has it's own little teflon-esque "slippers" and so it found the tacky surface easy going. The buttonholes were added, buttons sewn on and hems completed. Just in time for a freezing cold visit to the country to see my folks.

For all that work, I was flying by the seat of my pants and there was no muslin or checking of fit. You can imagine my delight when it turned out to be just right, and of course when it was received with utter delight from the girl whose favourable opinion is never guaranteed.

And I'm very happy to say that after carefully cutting the jacket and vest from the 1.5m I bought, there are NO leftovers. That's an expletively-laden good thing as there is no way in hell I'd be going back for another round of that.

Pattern: Coat "t" from Girls Lovely Clothes by Yuki Araki (ISBN-10: 4529045269)
Size: 130cm
Mods: Increased seam allowance to flat fell seams. Made up my own button spacing/number. Pattern had 7 or maybe 8 tightly spaced buttons on this size coat.
Fabric: fleece backed, quilted, plastic laminate from The Fabric Store 
Notions: buttons from Buttonmania, rolls and rolls of Washi Tape, Clover wonder clips, crepe paper, sweat and alcohol (no tears, I was laughing too much at my ambitious foolhardiness to cry)
Verdict: there's a reason coats like this cost a fortune.  Hand-me-down requests will be taken in order of application :)

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

School Days Graduation - sniff, sniff

My biggest, little baby is about to outgrow one of my all time favourite patterns. I had to be sure to sew it for him one last time...

The Oliver + S School Days Coat was the first coat pattern I ever sewed and, the first thing I made that I would show off to anyone who came to visit our house. A blog post with the first 4 of them all in one place is here.

The pattern ends at size 8 and I knew my newly 9 year old would be fine with the width and body fit, just needed to remember those monkey arms. (2&1/2" extra length - seriously!)

I had thought I could make it with the wool leftover from my Lisette coat, but no matter how I tried it was not going to fit. I pondered the idea of a Dolly-esque Coat of Many Colours using various wool scraps, but then found I had more than enough of this fabulous double sided wool I'd used for my mum's cape. 

I'd been hoarding the wool waiting for a pattern (for kid sized remnants) that would show both faces, but that didn't seem likely to happen so it was time to cut and use it up. This face is a lovely, soft, almost cotton cloud-y feel with a dark grey and fawn melange. The opposite face is like a flannel weave and is all tan. It's not too thick to sew and delightfully warm to wear.

I'd cut all of the lining pattern pieces out of my coats leftover lining when it occurred to me there's no reason why the hood and pockets should be slippery lining. Why not make them something snuggly too... A bit of my leftover Maille Merveilleuse suited the colours of the wool perfectly. This is a cotton knit that is thick and fluffy. Technically not a fleece, or a loopback terry, it's hard to describe other than to say it's fabulous.

He's pretty happy with the choice of hood and pocket fabric!

As I have done before I added a hanging loop under a little label. The hanging loop was made with a turned tube of bias cut linen and the label was one that was posted to me by someone lovely but I may have forgotten who (apologies)

This photo was taken just before I added some press studs into the plackets and then topstitched them closed. Previously I've used magnetic snaps, but I was running with what I had on hand for this coat. I was careful to interface everything where the press studs were applied. Hopefully pulling them apart won't damage the wool...

At the time of cutting this coat I was also cutting a coat for A using a pre-quilted fabric with a laminate outer face and very soft, fluffy inner face. Would P like the leftovers for the optional vest that is included with the pattern? The answer was a resounding yes (actually he wanted me to cover the floor and walls in his room in that quilted fabric!)

So he got the vest as well. I've never yet made the version with sleeves as it just doesn't get cold enough here to warrant it.

I've used hair tie elastic as my little loops on the vest which attach to buttons sewn into the jacket. I was feeling terribly clever until I realised that by putting the back neck elastic loop dead centre it would mean the button had to be sewn on top of my lovely label. Doh!

Making the vest out of prequilted fabric made it a super quick addition to the coat. Previously I've done all the quilting myself then cut the vest from the quilted fabric. When that step is done it's simply two shoulder seams and a full perimeter of bias binding.

I wanted to finish the shoulder seams nicely so there was no raw edges, so I flat felled the seam. Very easily done on a short, straight seam and I was encouraged enough to decide that A's whole coat using that fabric should be flat felled at every seam. We'll talk more about that decision in another blog post! ;)

If he thought the hood and pockets felt good he was ecstatic about the vest! I doubt it will ever be worn without the vest inside.

I learned from my first version of this coat not to use leather thonging for the toggles. Kids fiddle and twist them and the leather breaks. The stuff to use is a flat woven cord. Years earlier when I'd bought some blue wool melton with this coat in mind I had also bought some tan cord and pale wood toggles. That blue wool ended up being last years Lars coat (bit small then, way too small now and has been posted off to my little Euro nephew). So these toggles and cord were also marinating in the stash.

One of the only things that irks me is how, no matter how carefully you turn the pocket lining, it is still visible once the patch pockets are stitched on. I would almost consider cutting the lining smaller and creating little mitred corners so there's a 1/4" of so of outer fabric turned under. That way the pocket edge wouldn't be so visible. It would increase the fiddle factor of the pockets enormously though.

Once all the fabric is cut, the coat sews up quite quickly and the result is certainly impressive enough to make it worth the effort. It is an absolute delight to sew, and when you can construct it entirely out of stashed leftovers and notions it's immensely satisfying!

It's just so sad that he's going to graduate out of this pattern by next year. Sniff.

Pattern: Oliver + S School Days Coat
Size: 8, only size alteration was additional 2 & 1/2 inches of sleeve length
Sewing mods: Press studs instead of sew in snaps.
Fabrics and notions all from out of the shed.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Winter SoHo Shorts - Or the blog post where I pretend it's still the 1990's

So, winter shorts. Not sure if they're a thing or not, but I'm sure they once were, and I say they're back,... or maybe coming back,.... or were they back last season..... Heck I haven't a clue but I'm comfy and that's all that matters.

Every now and then my secret alias' pager bleeps and a little message comes through from Liesl of Oliver +S. This time, my mission, should I choose to accept it, was to demonstrate two techniques using the new SoHo Shorts & Skirt pattern. Firstly, to add belt loops, secondly, to add a lining.

I did the belt loops on some summer weight chambray shorts, froze my arse off modelling them and then instantly decided I wanted lined, wool, winter shorts. These, I would wear with tights - like I was some middle-aged, home sewist crafting version of Shannon Doherty from 90210.

Apologies for the crumpled waistband. I didn't iron in the nineties and it seems I still don't.

The wool blend fabric, and the lining, both came from the remnants bins at Rathdowne Fabrics during their recent half price remnants sale. It's a lovely soft wool with nice, drapey quality which suited this shorts pattern perfectly.

Knowing that I would be wearing them with tights, or stockings at the least, I left the leg length his time and didn't add any extra length. So, apologies for the eyeful of quad :) - although I have to point out that they are less glaringly and frighteningly pale due to these magic stockings that have BUILT IN SOCKS. Seriously, built in socks. I knew I was right with my boots and shorts in winter idea when there are already stockings in shops that have built in socks. It's a thing for sure.

I got all nice and fancy with the finish, hemming the shorts with bias and then an invisible hand stitched hem. Then I added thread chains at the inner and outer leg seams to keep everything where it should be as I'm swishing around on my Luke Perry fantasy coffee date.
(Edit: I couldn't go back to the nineties. I'm not sure there was good coffee)

For all the details (and some neat little graphics, if I may say so myself) on how to line a pair of pants, head over to the Oliver + S blog where the post is now live. Click the image below for a re-direct:

I've sold A on the idea of shorts with tights, and while I'm still not 100% certain that it is appropriate for this century, on this lady, it will be insanely cute on a seven year old. There should be enough wool left over for a pair of Finch Shorts for her....

After all I think I'd rather my coffee date was with my kid, in our matching, dorky handmade outfits.

Size: 10 (no alterations)
Mods: Added lining as per tutorial on Oliver + S blog
Fabric: Wool blend fabric and rayon lining both from Rathdowne Fabrics.
Notions: Invisible zip, thread, interfacing

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Winter Coat: Lisette for Butterick B6423

We've had a few days of lovely spring like weather and it seems like winter may be receding. I know I still haven't uploaded those winter cycling patterns for you yet, but I did squeeze in some late winter sewing for myself.

A new coat for me. Lisette for Butterick B6423 

The coat pattern is described as being: drop shouldered, very loose fitting, boxy coat with shawl collar, full lining, under-arm gusset and lower back seam with pleat.

I measured between sizes and went down as I figured that "boxy, loose fitting" would let me off lightly if I'd gone too small. I kind of knew that the bottom section was the narrowest point and since that's not the case with my body I toyed with the idea of blending out to the next size around the hips. Laziness won out and I just made a straight size M (largest size in the smaller size range pattern packet).

Apart from laziness, the other reason I dived straight in without even a tissue fit was that I was using some super cheap wool coating that I'd picked up at Eliza fabrics last year. I had fully intended to use it for a different Lisette coat, but that one has the reverse side of the fabric showing. This fabric has a flat, wool melton type face on one side, and then a weird, fuzzy brushed face on the reverse. It was going to look as cheap as it was if that side showed. The lined B6423 pattern was a much better match.

Sticking with the cheap-as theme I found a nylon lining at ClearIt. The wool coating is essentially black with tiny bits of green fibres in it - giving it a kind of licorice look. The lining is a dark charcoal with small greeny-sage-grey spots. They complement each other perfectly and the total fabric cost for the coat was probably $35 at most.

I've been wearing this coat quite a bit since I finished it, and there's bits I love, and aspects I'm not so fond of...

Over the last few winters I've made cape style coats which have made it very hard to carry a shoulder style bag. This one gets the bag carrying tick of approval. The single button closure, which I thought would lead to insufficient coverage, turns out to not only be enough of a closure, but makes it a great coat for biking in.

And those curved, front seams with pockets. I adore them.

So, the bit that's bugging me... The big shawl collar is constructed from an under collar, which is part of the whole front centre panel, and the upper collar which is part of the facing. If I had my time over I would shave about 3/8" off the under collar outer edge from the point where it folds outward.

You see, even after it's been steam pressed into submission, that under collar cannot help but roll back out and peek at the world.

That is it looking as turned under as possible. A few hours later with lots of wear and movement, it's even worse. If I can be bothered, I might spend an evening on the couch invisibly hand stitching the under collar to the underneath of the upper collar. But, if you're about to cut this coat out - my advice is to reduce the under collar perimeter.

The kick pleat doesn't entirely behave in such a thick wool, either. Which brings me to Step 36 of the instructions. It's something to do with finishing the pleat, but I'm afraid I. have. not. got. a. single. clue.

If you found this blog post by typing B6423 Step 36 WTF? into a search engine then I apologise for disappointing you. Apart from Liesl Gibson's version, I could only find one other made version of this coat on the internet (lovely version by Calcedonia) and she confessed to having bagged the lining and not followed the instructions.

So I emailed Liesl.... Amusingly she didn't have a clue either. It must have made sense at the time she said, but she proofreads the instructions so long after creating the pattern that it all seems a disconnect, and she had, of course bagged the lining and not followed the instructions when she made her version either.

The other thing I was tempted to do was follow Liesl's example and sew a bound buttonhole, but that laziness gene was expressing itself strongly and a machine sewn buttonhole won out. My machine makes nice manual, 4 step buttonholes and in thick fabric like this I oversew them again with a zig zag stitch. The button is from my stash via Buttonmania and was one of the ones deemed too big for A's recent Sunday Brunch Jacket - but just perfect here.

Apart from the elusive Step 36 (which I just ignored) the instructions were very clear and the pattern came together perfectly with notches lining up just exactly as they should. This is important as the shoulder/neckline is constructed with one of those 90 degree pivots. This time last year I was moaning about a shonky indie pattern that expected that to happen with no markings on the pattern and pattern pieces that barely fitted together. Here was the same manoeuvre but made a thousand times neater and easier by virtue of being well drafted and clearly marked.

The final verdict is a definite thumbs up with the following caveats: Size down a little, blend out for butt coverage if you don't want it to sit open at the lower half, reduce the under collar width and don't sweat Step 36

If only I didn't find this version perfectly wearable I would have an excuse to make those tweaks and buy some really nice, fancy cashmere wool for a "proper" one. Or maybe now that I've used up this cheap fabric I can do just that for that other Lisette coat pattern.... :)

Pattern: Lisette for Butterick B6423
Size: M, no modifications (love that generous sleeve length!)
Fabric: Wool melton from Eliza Fabrics. Nylon lining from ClearIt
Notions: interfacing, thread, single button from Buttonmania

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Pulling out all the poses: Another Jalie 3136

I whipped up another little leotard for my budding gymnast, and while she prances around giving every pose imaginable, I'll talk a bit about how it came to be...

About two years ago my sewing machine was playing up. It sounded like a badly tuned engine, there was grrrring instead of purring. It had been serviced just once before in it's lifetime and while it wasn't skipping stitches or sewing badly, it just felt unreactive and sluggish: like a car with the wrong kind of petrol in it.

I took it to the Janome dealership and it went off for a service. It came back free of lint but driving exactly the same. I took it back. No, the lady in the shop didn't want a demonstration or to hear my explanation of how I thought it felt. It could go back to the mechanics as the service was under warranty.

Another two weeks went by and again it came back exactly the same. This time I had the good sense to try it out in the shop before I took it home. I demonstrated how, when I put my foot lightly on the pedal nothing happened. Sure, if I floored it the sewing machine took off. The sewing machine sales lady had a go herself - here it needs to be said that she was obviously a quilter not a garment sewer.

She floored the pedal, executed a few large sweeping circular motions and declared the machine to be perfectly ok. But I don't sew like that I said. And for the way I want to sew, this machine is not working properly anymore. It could go back to the repair guy one more time she relented. This time with my comments and notes about what they were actually meant to be looking for: a sluggish delay when starting to sew, and then a somewhat jerky, out of control speed once going...

You guessed it. It came back with a note from mechanics that nothing could be found to be wrong with it. So obviously I needed a new sewing machine mechanic...

I thought I'd try that funny little sewing machine repair shop in my local hood. The Italian guy who used to be a weightlifter - beautiful video link here.

Within a moment of describing to him how the machine felt, he knew it would be the pedal that was the problem. The pedal! That bit that the Janome people had never looked at, and of course it made perfect sense. I was pressing and the "feel" just wasn't there. I was lifting slightly and the machine was stopping immediately, or even worse, continuing to run on like a bolted horse.

Of course I'd sewn over numerous pins in my time and done a few bits of other damage to my machine and so Nick did a lot of work on it. Along with a new pedal I had the footplate replaced, some other belts or internal bits.... It cost more than double what the Janome guys had charged for their service but it was perfect!

Now since then I've learned a few things about Nick. His wife has sewn for ballet and figure skating and Nick loves a chat. Be prepared to take your time. The kids don't mind 'cause Nick is always happy for them to rummage in the scrap fabric basket and keep any treasures they find.

Jump forward 18 months and the new pedal was playing up. He tinkered with it free of charge. While we were there A scored the piece of fabric that would go on to be her first Jalie 3136 leotard. Seen here.

But there continued to be some loose connection in there. Some days it would be perfect, other days it would cut in and out most annoyingly. About a month ago it went back again. Nick replaced the whole internal workings of the foot pedal, and again, refused to charge me anything.  I walked out with a perfectly functioning sewing machine and another little piece of sparkly, stretch velour fabric.

And that's the tale of her second Jalie 3136 leotard. The fabric remnant required some pieces to be cut upside down. Annoyingly, I hadn't realised the fabric had such an obvious nap until I took these photos. It's less apparent in real life and half the time she's a blur or upside down anyway!

Pattern: Jalie 3136  I really enjoy making this pattern. The neckline binding technique is especially pleasant. (yep that's how exciting my life is)
Size: J width, L length - oddly the cap sleeves seemed tight on her other version, yet the full length sleeves are quite loose
Fabric: free scrap of black sparkly stuff from Nick Ciancio Sewing Machine Repairs. Nude sparkly stuff from my stash via GJ Fabrics (by the way, if you say you're buying fabric for a costume you get 10% off! Did everyone else already know that?)

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Birthdays mean stencilled t-shirts, right?!

So I guess I've created my own making tradition where the boy gets a stencilled t-shirt with his current favourite "thing" for his birthday. But this year the mid-June birthday crept up on me and I had so much else to do. But jump forward to a week after his birthday and I found time to make him a t-shirt just before his party with all his friends.

And this year's "thing"? The fidget spinner of course. These little, cheaply machined, but perfectly balanced, pieces of plastic that allow kids who are minimally engaged with listening to you to express that by constantly fidgeting with something while you talk to them. Anyway, grumpy old lady rant aside they are the current fad and seemed a fun and easy t-shirt stencil to make.

I found an image via an online search that showed a fidget spinner at an angle that I liked and used that to cut the basic stencil. The different coloured sections and the "steel" grey bits were done with stencil cutting, then all the dark grey highlights on the black background were freehand painted on at the end.

The T-shirt is the Oliver + S School Bus T-shirt with the customary crazy amount of extra sleeve length. From memory it's a size 8 t-shirt PLUS another 10cm of sleeve length. Seriously! Here's the camera phone photo I snapped to remind myself of how much extra sleeve length this kid needs:

I liked the idea of a bit of fidget spinner style colour blocking with sleeves and neckband and had all these primary coloured knits in the stash - well maybe I had to buy more red, but that will always be useful for school uniform tops so it doesn't count as new fabric. :)

In a quiet moment at work I propositioned my boss about making a cake for P for his party. She can bake, I can't, and she's been happy to do my kids birthday cakes in the past. We decided on a fidget spinner cake and started looking online for inspiration. Well there were lots of fidget spinner cakes and we found some that claimed to "really spin". But they were just cakes mounted on Lazy Susan boards and we weren't impressed.

A real fidget spinner cake should have the centre section stationary while the outer part of the cake spins. We needed a cake board with a central hole. It must have been a quiet day rather than just a quiet moment 'cause from that point on I found myself in phone contact with a woodwork supplies shop on the other side of town ordering a lazy susan bearing system to be delivered...

I then bought two cake boards from the local party supplies shop and got out the compass, ruler and pencil. Can you feel an overengineered project coming on? I sure could. Exciting huh?!

The size of the central hole was, of course, dictated by the bearing plates central hole and the shape of the outer was drawn to ensure that the metal parts of the bearing plates would be covered.

I hadn't thought through the "how on earth will I cut this" part and assumed that hardware stores could do jigsaw cutting to order - they don't. Luckily a local furniture restoration guy who repaired and recovered our couch was willing and able to help.

Then it was just a matter of covering the top board with aluminium foil and attaching each board to the bearings. I'd planned to screw them but Flipper wielded the hot glue gun he'd given me for my birthday (who says romance is dead) and assembled the stand.

Now that we've finished with it I fully intend to replace the aluminum foil, re-glue it and sell the thing on Ebay! I expect it might do well :)

Anyway, Gabby produced the perfect cake, consisting of three different mud cakes and a cleverly iced and concealed tin for the central section.

Voila, we had a real spinning fidget spinner cake.

So then a couple of weeks later it was Gabby's little boys fourth birthday and I figured another stencilled t-shirt was in order. What was his thing? Turned out he is a big LEGO Batman fan. That seemed like a great idea for a detailed stencil:

It's the same oatmeal merle cotton lycra for the body as P's top. This time the pattern is the Oliver + S Field Trip Raglan Tee and a straight size 4. Turns out he's a pretty big four year old and while the t-shirt is fine in width it's barely long enough in the body and will only be a one season t-shirt.

Pity 'cause I'm kinda proud of my LEGO Batman stencil. One day I really should do a screenprinting workshop so I can use the stencils more than once! These are freezer paper stencils and I do it the laborious, but thoroughly enjoiyable way, by handcutting the stencil.

Then each piece is replaced and ironed into position before painting. These kind of one colour stencils are slow to cut but then really quick to paint. The results are pretty cool!

A round up of previous stencils and note son freezer paper and paints can be found here: Stencil blog post link

If you want to over-engineer a cake stand you're on your own but know this: You're my kind of person and I salute you!