Friday, August 23, 2013

Quick Review: Craftsy Class "Sew Better, Sew Faster" featuring the Jacket Express

Craftsy fascinates me, both as a learning tool and a business venture. It is always amazing when an idea   or product finds just the right audience, often for something we didn't even know we wanted. I signed up for a class last year, mostly to check it out, see how it worked and was impressed with the marriage of craft learning and technology. Presumably they are a business success story based on their continued expansion of offerings and venture capital investors.  My former sales/marketing corporate self is so curious to know about the numbers and earnings which may come to light if they are ever gobbled up by some other entity. But that is another detour from my summer quest to sew the perfect lightweight denim jacket.

The title for this class is "Sew Better, Sew Faster" so they got me right there. Faster is something I am always interested in.

Craftsy class Sew Better Sew Faster image

The instructor is Janet Pray of Islander Sewing Systems and the class included their Jacket Express pattern. Note that all sizes are included, XS - 4XL and I think this style adapts to that size range very well. I made the size Small and it was a bit roomy, I prefer a more fitted jacket and the sleeves were very long.  If you are very petite the XS may still be too big and I would suggest a quick muslin or pin fit of the pattern. 
Jacket express pattern photo
As I mentioned in my previous blog post, the style is really not something I would pick out but it is a nice basic jacket with useable pockets so it is perfect for a variety of fabrics. 
Here is my finished jacket made with a soft red denim. It turned out to be a lucky choice and the perfect weight. 
Red denim jacket front view
So what about the class?  Here are few of my impressions:
  • This would be a great class to sew along with at home. She goes through every step and there are logical places to pause, do the steps that she mentions and then press play again. I think if you do it this way you won't have a single error. 
  • Her tips on using the sewing machine and how to sew without pins are very good. I do a mix of pin and no-pin on most of my garments, and this jacket has such short seams that no-pin is easy to accomplish.  (not something I do on a wool plaid designer Vogue, then it is porcupine time :)
  • Yes to pressing!  She shows you when and how to press, and consolidating the pressing and sewing to maximize efficiency.
There are two different pockets on the jacket, an upper hidden pocket and a welt pocket. I liked the way the pockets went into the jacket, and the steps were very clear. I can confess that I watched about 4 of the lessons while I was doing something else and then cut out and sewed up the jacket, using the instruction booklet as opposed to sewing along with the video, but I did watch the rest of it this week - I  didn't want to miss any tips. So I made the pockets and then later when I watched the video I realized they would have been easier had I seen her method. 
                    Red denim jacket pocket 1       pocket      pocket with flap

Here is the inside so you can see the pockets. I used some quilting cotton for the upper pockets but used the red denim for the yoke. She makes a big point about the construction method for the yoke which I have seen on many other patterns. But hey, it works !

Red denim jacket insidered denim jacket inside back view

Most of the seam allowances are 3/8" except for a few that are sneakily 1/4".  If I had been following along that would have been fine, however I zoomed ahead and sewed a few things (the upper pocket flaps and the hem facing) at 3/8" however it made no distance. She did something that I do all the time, which is mark the stitch line with a pen or pencil. For tiny fiddly parts and pieces which have interfacing I think drawing the line is a no brainer. That makes sewing faster and no-fail. You can see here that I marked with pen. The blue painter's tape is marking the 5/8" seam allowance. This new machine is really great but the seam allowance markings are a jumbled mess, because they have both the metric and inch measurements. The lights on the new machine are just a bit harsh to me and make a glare in that area so the blue tape is on the 5/8 line which helps and cuts down the glare.
red denim jacket sewing

Here is a look at the back. I guess seeing this angle it is less boxy than I thought. If I just shorten the sleeves it might be perfect. 

red denim back on me
In summary, there is so much to recommend on this class, particularly if you are looking for ways to streamline your sewing. Lots of the techniques can be used in any garment and some really helpful explanations on topstitching and pressing.  She shows lots examples at the beginning of different jackets in a variety of printed fabrics and those kind of put me off, not really my style but the suggestions about fabric weight are interesting. Also she is a bit obsessed with topstitching so if that thrills you there is plenty to see. 

Here is the link to my previous post with photos of the finished jacket. 

Coming soon - my search for the perfect lightweight summer jacket has ended with success. And the pattern will be a bit of a mystery and a surprise so stay tuned. 

Happy late summer sewing, Beth

Here is today's Sunnygal garden photo. Not much blooming now in the August heat but here are some pink snapdragons. I think next year I will plant lots of these, they have done really well.

pink snapdragons

Friday, August 16, 2013

Sewing Detour for the Jacket Express

Sewing blogs are like a wonderful magazine subscription that magically appears every morning, something to dip into with my coffee and blueberry muffins. The other day I thought, where are the new posts from my favorites? It must be summer vacation time and the posts are getting a bit less frequent.  Perhaps a bit of a summer blogging slump going around. Then I looked at the date of my last post and realized it was more than two weeks ago. So guilty as charged, with my own lack of contribution to the sewing blogosphere. Despite the minimal blogging I have been sewing like mad, doing some stuff for sewing clients as well as playing around with some ideas for knit t-shirts that may come to nothing.

However I did take a detour from my July plans when I saw the "Sew Better, Sew Faster: Garment Industry Secrets" Craftsy class taught by Janet Pray of Islander Sewing Systems. Who doesn't want to sew better? I always figure if I learn a few tips or new to me ideas then books, classes etc are worth the investment. In this case I would say I did learn a few things and she has a very nice teaching style. Also I wanted to get the pattern which is included because I knew that it would be perfect for my mom as she loves this type of casual jacket.

The pattern comes in size XS - 5X and the measurements don't really correspond to any other pattern companies so I decided to make a version for myself to check the sizing AND test how "Express" it was using the techniques from the class.

Red denim jacket front

I made the size Small which is mostly roomy all over. I probably could have made the XS and then just added a little at side seam hip. The style is very boxy and not really to my taste but now I have to confess that I have worn this so many times in the last few weeks. Probably because it is not blue! It is just the thing to wear with a blue denim skirt (as opposed to my dark blue denim jacket which I love but looks weirdly suit-ish when worn with a denim skirt) Also it is...gasp...very comfortable! 
The fabric is kind of odd but ideal for this jacket. Not something I would have picked out in the store, but I bought a great big piece of it at a thrift/antique/junk shop that was liquidating for a move. Got all kinds of good stuff that day for about $ 10 so of course I like this result even more.  This photo below is a better representation of the color and you can see all the topstitching which I did in white because I am lazy and didn't want to change the thread in the machine. 

Red denim jacket close up front

So how Express was this jacket? From cutting out to sewing on buttons it was 9 hours. I am not sure that is so speedy, I guess considering it has 2 welt pockets and 2 other hidden pockets plus collar and cuffs and plenty of topstitching it is OK. 

Why I shoved my hands in the pockets and buttoned up the front I do not know, but you can see the shape here. 
Red denim front on me

And for comic relief I include this picture below. Now you can see why I have the sleeve cuffs rolled up. Yes, I should have checked the sleeve length but it did not occur to me at the time. Oh well. 

red denim sleeves on me

To be continued in another post with some further details on this jacket and the Craftsy class. 

I hope all your sewing detours turn out well, Beth

Now it's time for the most summery of summer garden flowers. Grown from random seeds and I always love it when one of these bi-color ones pop out with a touch of red. 


Thursday, August 1, 2013

A lucky find

For the past few months my success rate at garage and estate sales has been pretty low. Not many listings of items that I might be interested in, and when I did stop by the finds were minimal. My luck changed last weekend and if I could find a nice sale with hidden gems like these every few months there will be no complaining about quantity, when there is so much quality to find.
Here is the hidden treasure that I found at this sale.

Madeleine Vionnet by Betty Kirke, with a forward by Issey Miyake.

Book:  Madeleine Vionnet by Betty Kirke
This book is so gorgeous I can't even begin to tell you. As it states on the cover wrapper, "Madeleine Vionnet was the greatest dressmaker in the world. Considered a genius for her innovations with the bias cut - one of the most difficult and desirable cuts in clothing design - she is legendary among haute couture designers and her dresses are considered masterpieces".
I could get lost in this book and study it for hours, her designs are so clever and you can see echoes of her techniques in everything shown today. 
The book includes photographs of her creations and patterns for many of the designs, mixed in with a biography tracing her life and the developement of her couture house through her retirement. She lived to be 97 and saw the influence her work had on designers such as Balenciaga who was a great friend.
This dress, in the section called "Quadrants" is from 1932. I could see this looking completely modern at a formal event today.  The name is "Bias to Grain".

Vionnet book, dress # 14

Another one I particularly liked is this one that is also in the "Quadrants" chapter, called "In-Out-In" and uses a shape called barrel cuts.  Below is the technical drawing, which shows the 3-dimensional petals that form the skirt. 

Dress from Vionnet book

Drawing from Vionnet book

I have just looked through the book and read a few chapters, it deserves some further study. I wish I had a reason to attempt one of these styles, it would be a fun challenge.  If you are looking for a book to put on your holiday wish list and you like fashion history I recommend this very much (and you have a generous gift giver to suggest it to  - quite expensive as new).
More estate sale goodness, I also picked up these books.  Those paperback Singer sewing books are really good reference volumes, the photographs are fantastic.  I refer to the Tailoring book all the time, if you ever see it snap it up!

                more Singer sewing booksMore Power Sewing book and Couture Sewing book
By this time my arms were getting tired, and I had other stuff to do that morning so I tore myself away from the sale, but not before adding whole bunch of nice muslin fabric. I do claim that I rarely make muslins and OK, that is true for myself, but when it comes to sewing for other people I definitely will do one.  Should I tell you that this haul was claimed for less than the price of a couple of fancy coffees at you know where (something that my inner cheapskate never lets me purchase anyway). Which is great, because then I have more mad money for estate sales.

Here is a sneak peek at something that is just about completed. Not really a muslin...let's call it a "denim" instead of a muslin since I often use old denim to test things. Actually it is a preliminary version in anticipation of an item for my mom. Hey, I just made a dress for my sis, gave the black denim jacket to Alice, working on a garment for mom. It's time to get back to some selfish sewing :)  That could happen as I just ordered 3 Vogue patterns this morning on the sale. Eeek. Uncontrollable in the face of new patterns. Oh well, a very minor vice.


happy unselfish sewing to all, Beth

No idea what this plant is but I should try and get another one, the tag is tucked away somewhere. It is a lovely vine that is putting out all kinds of flowers this year.

vine flowers