Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Coat progress and a question

It was a blustery day here,  perfect to stay inside and sew.  OK - we don't have blizzards or below zero temperatures - but for California it was downright chilly!  My coat is coming along better than expected.  After my last post I played around with my muslin to find the collar roll line, even though I said I was going to skip it.  But this wool is so perfect for steam shaping, so persistence has paid off.    

Coat side pocket extensions
Before I get to the collar - I have a quibble with the pattern companies on pockets.  On many of the patterns for coats, and dresses too, the pocket is sewn right on the side seam allowance, at about 1/4" from the cutting line.  Then when the side seam is pressed the pocket seam and fabric is really only 3/8" or so distant from the side seam.  I don't like it when I can see the pocket lining, when the wearer moves or sits down.  The best hidden pocket should disappear in to the seam, wherever it is.  I realize that the pocket bag on the back can be of self fabric, but even then that seam could show. This oversight by the pattern designer can be remedied by adding an addition to the side seam at the location of the pocket, and then sewing the pocket pieces on that.  Thus the pocket is tucked about 1" or more away from the seam and should stay hidden.  

While I like multi-size patterns a lot, I think the pattern companies fall back on the excuse of simplifying things like this to eliminate features that you find on higher quality ready to wear or many vintage patterns.  One more reason to look closely at vintage designs, there is a wealth of information in those older patterns and books.

Here is my coat thus far, with under collar sewn on.  Lots more to do before I attach the upper collar and lapel, mostly trim that seam and catchstitch it above and below that seam.  The interfacing used is Pro-Tailor Deluxe Fusible from Fashion Sewing Supply.  

Coat lapel with roll line

Here is a look at the under collar.  Once I figured out on the muslin where the collar roll line was, I transfered that marking back to the pattern piece.  Then I cut a 2nd layer of interfacing on the straight grain of the interfacing (as opposed to the original layer of interfacing which is on the bias just like the undercollar.  After that I folded the collar at the roll line and placed it around a pressing ham, and steamed it, then left it overnight.  In the morning it was as seen above, with a nice soft roll that will stay, and support the upper collar. 

Coat collar inside with roll line

My question for the day is the following:  Velvet upper collar ?  or continue with same fabric, black wool?   This is just a test look,  black velvet draped over left side and wool on the right.
Lapel test with velvet collarThe velvet looks a bit odd because of the flash.  I was sure I wanted a velvet collar, to make it a bit dressy and I don't like itchy wool on the back of my neck.  It could look like some weird Victorian gentleman's coat.  Which is a nice look but not what I was going for.  I have to see it in the daylight tomorrow but I am almost sure which way to go.

How do you solve the itchy collar dilemma?   Or do you avoid wool entirely?  Let me know what you think.   

Next post, adding darts on the back and my adjustment to the pattern's lining design.

Happy Holiday Sewing,    Beth

Monday, December 27, 2010

Coat plans plus enter the giveaway

Today I have been working on a muslin for a coat that I plan to do this week.  For my birthday some months ago some very dear friends gave me a gift certificate for Gorgeous Fabrics and I felt I should make something substantial that would last for a while and I could happily think of them every time I wear it.  I ordered this black basketweave wool coating.  It is so soft and just weighty enough to be  perfect for a coat.   

Black  wool plus ining

I did lighten up the photo a bit so you can see the weave,  which makes the lining look more red than black, but it is very much a black lining with a red accent.  Either way I am happy with the lining as well, from Fashion Fabrics Club.   Note on fabric preparation:  I did pre-shrink this wool by putting it in the dryer with 2 fluffy dark color towels which I had soaked with very hot water and wrung out , to create a steam dry effect as instructed on Off the Cuff blog of Pamela Erny.  (also plan to use all her interfacings on this project).  The wool measured 131.75" long before and 128.5" after so that was very worthwhile to do.

I had planned to do a very serious coat - by serious I mean old-fashioned hand tailoring, pad stitching, collar shaping etc.  But I have not really found any pattern that suited. Searching for a style that is not too trendy - since I want it to last a while and be worn with evening clothes, dresses etc in the wintertime.  My thought is that the dress I wear can be this year's style or next,  but the coat needs to be a supporting player, not the star in this little fashion drama.  Maybe I am erring on the side of caution, but this is what I have selected, Simplicity 2311, version in the center shown in red.

S2311 pattern envelope

Here is the muslin, not quite fully put together and looking like some kind of weird lab coat in the aqua color.  I keep staring at the lapels and even marked with a felt pen where I thought the roll line should be.  But I decided I was trying to fit a square peg into a round hole with this one.  The collar as designed is supposed to be a little bit oversized with a soft roll so I decided to go with it.  This way it is all fusible interfacing and I should have a coat in a few days.

Coat muslin collar

Tomorrow some real sewing on this project, right now I am off to dinner with friends with a detour to get some coat buttons on the way :)

And the giveaway mentioned in my last post continues.  Sign up to be a blog follower or leave a comment to enter a drawing Jan 2 for a box of See's chocolate candy - a California favorite.

Happy Holiday Sewing,  Beth

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

SunnyGal Holiday Giveaway

Happy Holidays to blog readers and sewers everywhere.   Time for a SunnyGal Blog Giveaway!  I appreciate everyone that reads and comments, and feel connected to others around the world that share my passion and enthusiasm for sewing in a way that we all could only have imagined just a few years ago.

I was finishing up my Christmas shopping the other day and decided to add one blog reader to the list.   So someone will receive a 1/2 lb. box of See's Candy, which is just the right size to fit in one of those small flat rate postal boxes.

What does that have to do with sewing?

Maybe nothing, but it is a treat and a very local one at that, I think everyone who has grown up in California is familiar with See's Candy.  See's is a west coast tradition, with stores completely done in black and white decor, including the salespeople who wear very vintage looking uniforms (think 50's nurse outfits) with black bows and buttons.  I confess that I have a take it or leave it attitude to most things chocolate (yes - my family thinks I am crazy) but See's is delicious.   

See's candy box

I had always been ambivalent about the superiority of See's candy, but a few years ago I became a believer.  I was getting ready for a combined business trip and vacation to Italy and my mother insisted I bring both my business hosts and my friends some gifts.  She suggested See's candy.  In her words "everyone likes it."  I countered with the fact that they have all kinds of delicious treats and chocolates in Italy so why should I bring that, plus did I really want to add 4 or 5 pounds of chocolate to my suitcase?  But in the end I listened to my mother (another victory for moms everywhere) and she was right.  But not as we expected.  
Unfortunately and for the first time ever in my traveling life my luggage did not arrive in Milan when I did, leaving me to apologize to my business hosts for arriving empty handed.  On a fashion note, I had worn a black suit on the airplane, and had several tops and other important items in my carry-on as well as all my toiletries (back when you could carry any and everything in your carry-on) so my Italian hosts were somewhat amazed that I could look reasonably well put together for 2 WHOLE DAYS without my suitcase.  Believe me, I astonished myself as well.  That taught me a valuable lesson on packing for travel but that is a topic for another day.  I concluded my business meetings, went back to my hotel to check out and call the airline, finding my suitcase had arrived.  So I hauled my candy laden suitcase onto the train to Venice to meet my friends who live there.  I gave out all the See's chocolate boxes to my friends, their parents and my pal Chiara's boss who hosted a dinner party.   At the office the next morning he confessed that after we all left, he and his wife ate the entire 1 pound box because they could not stop.  Everyone else thanked me profusely and raved so I became a believer.  Now it is my go to gift for all occasions - can't miss.

Just a warning for all chocoholics.   I see on their website, that they have a few shops in other states, in Japan and Hong Kong, as well as online.

So if you are interested in this giveaway,  please leave a comment below or sign up to follow the blog. I will select from everyone who comments or signs up to follow the blog between now and Jan 2 by random drawing.  

Sewing plans:  next week I will be making a black wool coat, as I decided my wardrobe was missing a dressy coat for winter or evening outfits.  So hopefully I will get that finished by Dec 31.  Stay tuned.

Happy Holidays to everyone 

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Tis the season for more plaid

It has become a tradition that I make some holiday outfits for my little cousins, a family of 4 sisters plus their cousin. So yes, 5 matching holiday outfits, for ages 2 - 10.  There is a brother in there too but he escapes - although last year he did receive a matching necktie. 

My 10 year old cousin is quite tall for her age, has outgrown the looks still worn by her younger sisters, and I heard she liked the clothes shown this year by a popular American designer well known for his classic and preppie styles.  So using that as an inspiration I designed this skirt which has a flat front, partial elastic waistband and a faux wrap with ruffles all around.    I think this style will be going on my own wish list - I have a remnant of charcoal grey wool crepe that would be perfect with this design.

Purple plaid skirt

For the younger girls I made jumper style dresses, probably will be worn with a blouse or turtleneck sweater.   
Plaid jumpers all 3

This fabric was fantastic to work with, I bought it at my favorite fabric store, Stone Mountainand woven into the selvedge are the words "pura lana vergine tartan exclusiva".  Totally worth the price to buy virgin wool made in Italy.  It feels almost like cashmere.    I lined them in purple and got a bit carried away with the seam finish on the hems.  The pattern is Simplicity 2320.

S2320Jumper hem

A couple of notes on matching plaids.  

  • Start with high quality wool.  You may not want to spend the money on expensive fabric when first working with plaid, but usually the higher quality fabrics are very even, not twisted on the bolt, selvedges nice and straight.  This will help with laying the fabric down and getting the lines to match.   I suggest a slim skirt as a first project, takes very little yardage.
  • Refold the fabric.  Instead of 1 fold and matching the selvedges, fold both sides of the fabric inward, creating 2 folds.  Then you can place the center front and back of your skirt on or near these folds, and the side seams will be adjacent for matching.
  • Check and double check when laying out the fabric.  I start at the fold, and slowly roll the top layer out, matching the plaids as I go.  Then I check by poking a pin through the fabric and making sure it is hitting matching spots on the plaid grid.
  • Shift on the seams to match the plaids,  I think it is OK to move the pieces in relation to each other up to 1/8 -  1/4 ", particularly the side seams.  or just a portion of a seam.  Despite what seems like perfect cutting out - there is always a bit of a shift but you can ease it back in.

plaid matching

Another technique is to cut out one piece, flip it over, place it on the fabric matching the plaids and cut out a mirror image based on the previous.  I did use this method to make the dresses above, since I made 2 of the size 3T and wanted them to be the same.   Looking carefully you can see the side front piece on top of the fabric, to use it as the pattern piece.

plaid layout

The only change I made on this pattern was to cut out the center front bodice piece on the bias, to create visual interest on the front.  I love the juxtaposition of straight and bias plaid and this style seemed to call for that.  Here is a look at the front and back of the size 3T.

plaid front and back

For another of my small friends I had a Chanel inspiration so I made this little 2-piece outfit from a boucle I ordered from, which has powder blue and sparkly threads among the black.   It may be hard to see, but the hem of the vest and skirt are fringed, very easy to do with a loose weave.  I machine stitched a double row of very small stitches about 3/4" from the edge and then just pulled out the threads parallel to the hem.  Great fast hem finish - I will definitely keep this one in my bag of tricks.   Outfit is approximately size 5T.


For the rest of this week I will be finishing a number of projects, perhaps some Christmas gift sewing for my mom and sis - but that is all I will say as they read this blog.
Then my last big project of 2010, a coat for myself.  I have some black basketweave wool, my first purchase from Gorgeous Fabrics - so I am eager to begin that.

Happy Holiday Sewing to all,   Beth

Monday, December 6, 2010

Special handling notes - corduroy and velvet

Last week I started something I had no business working on.  This time of year I have plenty of projects to cram in before the holidays, including my Vogue 1117 Michael Kors dress I posted last week, but somehow I decided that my wardrobe was lacking in jackets which are not business wear but still look sharp.  It is very easy to do my shopping and errands wearing some version of gym wear, but that is not great advertising for a dressmaker and sewing teacher.  So I pulled out Simplicity 2455, a pattern I had selected for a plaid jacket but decided was too much trouble to match in plaid, yet just right for a solid color.  It looks a bit frumpy on the pattern envelope but has potential. 

Here is the finished jacket.  Blue uncut corduroy purchased on a whim at Joann's, but perfect to wear with jeans.  I regret that it has no Lycra content which would be more comfy but I did add a bit more ease across the shoulders to compensate.
Blue cord jacket front

I really like this pattern, with the gathered peplum effect and will make it again in the spring, maybe in another solid.  Here are a few construction details.
Uncut corduroy must be treated in the same way as velvet or any other fabric with pile or nap. Note that you must cut out all pieces running in the same direction.  Here is where that cryptic phrase on the back of the pattern envelope comes into play,  usually something like "extra fabric needed to match plaids or a one-way design fabric".    I like to have the nap running smoothly downward, contrary to my Sewing Made Easy book, copyright 1950 which tells me that short napped fabrics such as corduroy, velvet and velveteen usually have the nap running upward.  I am such a rebel.   But their second commandment for napped fabrics I do follow, which is to press on a Velvet Board.  
So now we get up close and personal with the Velvet Board  (also known as a needle board).
It is comprised of thousands of 1/4 inch stiff wire pieces and mine is filled with fuzz and fibers from previous projects.  At right is a full view of the Velvet board, which measures 12 inches long by 4 inches wide.
Velvet board closeupVelvet board full
Why the velvet board?  It is essential for pressing on garments constructed of napped or pile fabrics.   I made a small example so you can see the difference obtained by using the velvet board for pressing.  Seam on right - velvet board not used and the result is the ghostly reflection of seam allowances showing in the nap on the outside of the garment.
Seam on left, pressed on velvet board and the seam allowances are not visible.  The trick with using the velvet board it to keep it on your ironing space at all times and think twice before reaching for the iron - just to be sure you use it on every seam or corner.

Corduroyseam allow

Another construction note, on lapels.  One of the best things about fusible interfacing is that since it is inside the garment, and unseen, you can draw and mark on it with abandon.   Here I have drawn on the stitching line with pencil, for the lapel.  It really helps create a crisp corner, no wobbing and I find it to be a timesaver.  Also note,  when you get to the inside corner of the lapel, where it meets the corner, stop your stitching about 2 stitch lengths from the marked dot point, secure your stitiching there.  Do the same on the collar portion of the lapel.  When you finish and turn inside out, you will have a nice smooth lapel, and no ripples or bumps where the lapel point meets.  There will actually be a little hole at this inside corner, about 1/8" diameter, but it will not show.  
Blue cord collar inside

Finished lapel.  On corduroy or velvet, the lapel and collar points will never be as crisp or pointy as on a cotton or wool, but that is part of the charm and softness of the garment.

Blue cord lapel

I did a bound buttonhole as a machine stitched buttonhole would have marked up the nap.  I couldn't figure out where to add pockets on this pattern as it had none, and I didn't want patch pockets, so I added an inside pocket in the front of the lining.

Blue cord buttonhole
Here is the inside of the jacket, purple satin lining in the body, and blue satin lining in the sleeves.  The purple is reclaimed from a coat I started about 2 years ago, never finished and tossed out, but kept the lining pieces.  Since this jacket has small pieces I was able to recut it to work.  I like a satiny lining on winter coats and jackets - it gives an additional bit of structure and makes them easy to slip on and off over my winter sweaters. 
Blue cord lining
Some colors make me crazy to photograph - like this blue, which seems to look different in each photo.  The first one seems the more true to life.   Here are 2 more views, of the back and  side seam detail.
Blue cord jacket backBlue cord jacket side

Additional info to all who have commented below on this tool I called a Velvet board, perhaps I should have called it a Needle board.  It  seems like that is what it is called if you are
searching for notions or sewing supplies.  

Recently Rosalind asked me about lining jackets, so coming up I will be making a winter wool coat for myself, and I will post some info about linings then.
Until then, more holiday sewing and garden clean up, in between the raindrops. Plus planting bags of tulips which are easy to buy (colorful packages beckoning) but not so easy to get myself outside to dig and plant. 

Happy December sewing to all,  Beth

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Vogue 1117 Michael Kors dress, my new fave

Today I put the finishing touches on this Vogue 1117 Michael Kors dress, and I am loving it.  
My previous post was about fabric and fitting. on this "rated average difficulty but is a bit beyond that" pattern.

Korsdress close up

This one was meant to be a test version, using some of my estate sale find fabric, and I am really happy with it.  I will be wearing this to some holiday festivities this year.  Kind of different for me, as close to a little black dress as I ever get since I rarely wear black. 
The dress form photo is first in this blog post so you can see the detail on the front of the dress which is so clever.  OK - a shot of the dress on me.  I had to tweak this in photoshop in an attempt to make the details visible, consequently the color looks a bit weird.  I was zipping out the door for a haircut appointment today - so I cropped my bad hair day right out of the photo.   I wish I could take beautiful and mysterious photos like Yoshimi - who sews fantastic things and models in an interesting way.   Also I would like to grow 4 inches but that seems unlikely.  (5 ft  3.5 in)


A few notes on this pattern, Vogue 1117
  • very figure flattering,  accentuates the good parts and kind of distracts from the rest
  • not so easy to fit.  Take note of the measurements on the pattern pieces, very necessary to read and take heed of on this pattern.  I suggest cutting out your usual size but adding an extra 1" seam allowance on all side pieces, to play with fit.  That bodice seam may hit at an odd place if you are tall or long waisted. 
  • fabric with some lycra or other stretch fabric might be better than a menswear suiting which they suggest.  Tightly woven suiting is a very unforgiving fabric to work with.
  • the armholes are a teeny bit tight, maybe I took it in too much right under the arm but the way they are cut is a but snug.
  • hand sewing is your friend on this dress - the instructions have you insert the lining almost fully by machine - which I rarely do since it makes fitting more dfficult.  I could sew the whole thing much faster if I put the lining in by hand as the last step.
  • I took in almost one inch out of the center back seam, even more at the waist. I am coming to the conclusion that not only am I a different size top and bottom, but also front and back.    But really who isn't?
Now for a peek behind the curtain.   Years ago I concluded that when I work on any sort of special occasion dress for myself, the sewing style changes.  I love tailoring, making wool jackets that will last for years, with spiffy linings and crisp welt pockets. Summer dresses that become my staples - sewn to last.   But a dress I will maybe wear only once?  or a few times at the most?  That is when I rummage through my lining bin, use up all those 1/2 and 7/8 yard pieces of various colors that are perfectly good leftovers.   So this dress has lining in red, grey and a sad brown that I am happy to use up.
Sometimes the sewing on the inside is not up to par either.  But I have never been to a party where someone admired my dress and then asked me to turn it inside out so they could inspect my seams.   I may have offered to show them but that is a different story (and guaranteed to send them off in search of another drink)
Kors mistake

Speaking of drink - what happened here?  yes one of those little treats where you happily finish a tricky seam and turn it over to see that you have sewn your dress bodice into the facing.
I seem to do some variation of this at least once per garment.  

Some construction details.   As mentioned above, I like to sew the side seams last so the lining is an issue.  Dresses like this with a wrap bodice call for a bit of a concession in that I sew the lining about 3/4 of the way, and leave a little flap unsewn near the side seams which can be turned back to allow the dress side seam to be adjusted.  Below you can see the little white dot which is the pin holding the lining back from the side seam.
Kors lining front
Now that the facing with lining is attached front and back, I can start fitting the side seams and the shoulder seam.  I was thinking I would need to take in the inner shoulder seam but in the end I did not.  However I was committed to this construction method so the shoulder seams get sewn up and then the lining tucked in, pressed and hand stitched.  Even the lining on this dress has fiddly little pieces.  However the lining did fit the dress like a dream so who am I to criticize Michael Kors (or whichever of his minions designed it) 

Kors back facing

In summary:  if you are looking for a challenge give it a try.  Now that I made this one I am very likely to make it again in the spring in a lighter color cotton sateen with some lycra.   The skirt seam details don't show well on a dark color, but I know they are there  :)

Thank you to everyone who reads my blog, and I appreciate all the comments and compliments.   
Happy Hectic December sewing to all,  from Beth