Sunday 27 August 2017

Vogue 1512 - Polyester Queen

This dress had quite a few theme songs during it's construction. Little ear worms that came and went with each step. Mostly they related to the near-awful polyester fabric, but I'll get to that in a bit. So,
let's get humming a bit of Billy Ocean while we dive into the blog post....

The Handmaker's Factory were hosting their annual Dressmaker's Dinner/Do and a winter dress was in order. I'd fallen hard for this Tracey Reese Vogue pattern when I first spotted it and knew it was what I wanted to make. It seemed so perfect to me, heck she was even wearing my shoes!

Problem was I wanted that exact fabric on the pattern envelope. The pattern required a stable knit with about 25% stretch and I hunted high and low for a jacquard knit fabric that I liked. My criteria were a blue colour and a geometric print with a retro vibe.

I eventually found what I thought was perfect on Etsy, I paid what was undoubtedly too much, and a 5 yard cut was winging it's way to me from the states. Only when it arrived, it was 4 yards, it was seriously nasty and it looked a heck of a lot like a bad motel bedspread. To make matters worse it still had the original price stapled to the corner. I won't say anything more about that except to say congratulations to the Etsy seller. You made a hefty profit.

Of course while I was waiting on the postage of this fabric I went shopping for some navy ponte for the body of the dress. While I was out shopping I found my navy ponte and a superb navy and burgundy geometric wool jacquard. Isn't that always the way. Oh, and of course I found my leftover navy ponte in the stash was just enough after all. Oops.

Anyway, while I hated the feel of the fabric (you need to file your nails and wear a lot of handcream before you touch a polyester as nasty as this), I did like the colour and the design. At least I did until I tried cutting the pattern and realised the whole thing was skewed and warped. To get my woven rectangles straight on the pattern tissue I had to pull and twist the fabric and that's probably why none of the hems sit as straight and precisely as they should.

All to say that I will want to revisit this pattern with the lovely wool jacquard, because I love the pattern. I was sewing this version up thinking I could do a redux with the good fabric, but then I noticed just how many pattern pieces and steps were involved. Time got away from me and I wore my muslin version out to dinner in the end.

The whole thing consists of an under dress with a jacket type overlay. The under-dress has a front with gathering under the bust, a waist yoke and then these back panels with a centre invisible zip. The overlay is also lined, except for the sleeves, and then the whole dress has a complete lining as well. So the top half is four layers of fabric. Given that I wasn't going to get my dry skin caught on the polyester, I was really very warm and comfy in my bedspread!

The challenge, as always for me was in fitting. I made a straight size 14 but then took it in at the centre back seam with the zipper by increasing the seam allowance form 5/8 to 7/8". I would have liked to have had the waist section even more fitted but without a continuous side seam there was nowhere to make last minute further adjustments. I think I could have sized down by one size overall.

For my lining fabric I used a tricot mesh knit. The lightness of that worked well although there's a mismatch of stretchiness with the outer fabric. I understitched the neckline as per the instructions but then also handstitched the shoulder seams to keep that more stretchy lining from peeking out.

Which brings me to those zips (new earworm - "I've got big zips and I cannot lie...")

They're purely decorative but are a really fun aspect of the pattern - part of what gives it the retro airline hostess vibe. The pattern says 3" to 5" zips but I suspect no matter what size you make a 4" zip is what you need. I couldn't find chunky enough zips in such a short length so I bought some jacket zips and attacked them with the pliers.

It's the back and side views of this pattern that I really like. The skirt is a lovely shape too and if I can get the waistline fitted properly I think the under dress on it's own could be really nice.

The pattern gets two thumbs up. It's a lot of pieces and a lot of steps but there are no hard bits and the instructions are perfectly adequate. I didn't quite follow the hemming instructions to the letter. It suggested enclosing the raw hem edge with the bias binding but I thought that was too bulky. I stitched my bias to the hem edge, pressed it up and then blindstitched the opposite folded edge of the bias to the dress to finish the hem.

I was delighted to find these cute little turquoise, rectangular metal earrings. Perfect match!

The dinner was excellent. Just a dozen of us in a lovely restaurant that was so close to home I could stagger down and back in my heels. Everyone looked smashing of course and it was nice to see familiar faces and chat and meet a new sewing friend or two. Thanks to the Handmaker's team!

Pattern: Vogue 1512
Size: 14 -with extra taken out at centre back seam
Fabric: is it "vintage" or is it just a nasty polyester bedspread?.... navy ponte and navy tricot mesh lining
Notions: invisible zip, chunky decorative shoulder zips

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