Sunday, October 31, 2021

Random Threads # 40: Finding Fabric, new Patterns and sleeve doubts

What?? It's been a full year since I've written a Random Threads post! Looking back I see the last one was October of 2020 when I wrote about my opinions on magazines, podcasts and patterns that use a lot of fabric. Today I have thoughts on some new acquisitions, elusive fabrics, styles that don't appeal and my obsession with Russian patterns.

Why is it so difficult to find nice corduroy? I really like to wear corduroy jeans or pants in the fall and winter, especially in interesting colors. But while I can see a variety of shades in ready-to-wear it seems really challenging to find nice fabrics to sew. I've been looking for some interesting blue colors, not a muted shade but perhaps royal blue. You know how I like the jewel tones. Or a rich olive green, I think that would be a good neutral. I do prefer the stretch corduroy for pants or jeans, and around 14 wales per inch, not the pinwale type. I see some on a fabric website at $22/yard or so and my bargain hunting self thinks that is too much. Because of the fabric nap I do need around 2+ yards. So perhaps the availability is not the problem but my miserly tendencies :) 

All the pockets:  I bought the Anzu skirt from Waffle Patterns. I think it looks like the perfect travel skirt for the upcoming trips which look every more likely these days. Who dislikes carrying a purse or bag when doing some sightseeing - I certainly do and it would be great to have sunglasses, phone, wallet, etc. at hand and safely attached (or even hidden) on your person. Plus it's ideal for denim. I hope to get to this one after my current jacket class concludes. Until then I'm immersed in lapels, sleeves and all things blazer jacket. 

Anzu skirt3

How do you wear a jacket?  Every time I see a pattern with great big sleeves I think this. Don't those sleeves bunch up uncomfortable inside the arms of the coat or jacket?  And the fluttery ones, those would drive me crazy.  Once in a while I make something that has elastic at the wrist, with the bottom of the sleeve creating a ruffle and that also annoys me so I have learned not to make that, despite being a pretty shape. Perhaps I'm overly fussy - I feel the same way about labels in clothes, particularly ones at the center back neck - the worst! I always extract those from any t-shirts or fleece tops. 

Sleeve examples

Iron conundrums:  I have been a loyal Rowenta iron user, despite the leaking and other issues. I just like how they press, they are nice and large, the "platinium" sole plate (if you can find this model) is amazingly non-stick and easy to clean. I admire the marketing genius that came up with that word which means nothing and yet names their sole plate material. But earlier this year my shoulder was hurting, a combo of lots of pressing on my relatively high work surface which means I am lifting a heavy iron up near my shoulder, particularly when using a sleeve board or other pressing tool. 


So I decided to get a lighter weight iron. At the studio in Berkeley they had some of these Black and Decker Irons and they worked well so I ordered one. It's great! much lighter than my Rowenta and has really good steam. And the price is right. At the studio they also have these Oliso irons with the retractable feet which I actually despise - I just don't see the point and I can't get used to putting the iron in that flat position. If you love them then great - irons are like sewing machines, everyone has their specific preferences. 

VikiSews Patterns: these are my new obsession. I bought a couple of patterns via their English language Etsy shop and had them printed via PDF Plotting. I made the pants and ordering the size based on my hip measurement they were just about a perfect fit. Could this be my holy grail of pants patterns, I think so! The one I made is Lora, shown on the right in blue.  I made them as a test in some weird printed corduroy but now I think they might be wearable. To be determined, I will hem them and post. 
Vikisews pants image

So I then ordered a couple more patterns, from their actual Russian website. On their website that is English language they have a good selection of patterns but they actually have many more that they are working to translate. I don't really need the instructions so it doesn't matter to me, however their instructions are perhaps some of the best I have ever seen.  I will definitely do a post all about this pattern brand. Stefanie (whose style I admire very much) blogs and posts @seaofteal She has written about these patterns, she has made several and they look fantastic. 
I couldn't resist that blazer on the right shown in green, it's so sharp but actually I think I will make the Riana blazer first, it's a more casual look and simpler to fit. I'm also planning to make those Anne pants, maybe even in a ponte as I have a couple of pieces in my stash. 

Vikisews jackets image

Burda pattern magazine repeats:  I'm  not the only one who has noticed the repetitive nature of patterns in the Burda magazine this past year. I think this happens if you have been subscribing for a while. At first all the designer are new-to-you, but then as a couple of years roll by you see the same knit tops, the same pants, and variations on the same dress. I also wonder if just like the Big 4 pattern companies their output has slowed due to the effects of the pandemic, lockdown, etc.  I didn't see any interesting jackets in their fall issues which usually has some outstanding and interesting looks. Perhaps this explains my interest in the VikiSews (actually for that I credit Instagram).  Anyway, I have some faux suede fabric in a nice dark green and will probably reach back to a pattern from 2018 or 2018 to make a holiday dress this year. 

A new coat is not needed: but if I did have thoughts of making a new coat this one caught my eye. I'm not that wild about the front, I think it doesn't match the back but I really like that inset creating a full skirt effect. Actually looking at it more closely I think it would be nicer with set-in sleeves instead of the raglan. See - that's why we sew - we can pick and choose elements of design and come up with something interesting.  Anyway - I have hardly worn the last two coats I made. The other evening I met friends, sitting outside at a restaurant and I wore this plaid coat. It was almost too warm for it but sitting outside I thought it might be chilly. (if the temperature is below 70 Fº I am freezing!)
Actually I'm really looking forward to wearing this red coat which you will see me in all through December.  Also, this Vogue pattern takes between 3.5 and 5.5 yards of fabric, depending on length and size. That is a lot of fabric, both in expenditure and to tote around on your body. 

V1837 coat patterns

So that's the rundown of my opinions for this Random Threads, I didn't even mention my dislike of the trend of exaggerated collars with ruffles on the edge. They remind me of pilgrim costumes. Timely for November I guess.  
Up next, I am working on two blazers for my current online Jacket Making Class, which is heading into its 3rd (of 6) weeks. Back vent, and starting on the collars are on the sewing table now. I'm making the Jasika blazer and the Butterick 6862 with a lot of details and a bit of compare and contrast as I go along.
Perhaps we will run this class again in the spring if there is interest. 

Hello Stitch Studio:  very gratifying - all the in-person classes we've scheduled through the end of this year are sold out with waiting lists. I think people are thrilled to get back to doing things in person and also to learn to sew, something they may have tried during lockdown and are now ready to get some in-person instruction. We're just starting to plan for 2021 so if you are in the bay area and have a class suggestion let me know. 

Happy Halloween to all - my neighborhood is VERY popular with the trick or treaters, so I might have to rest up this afternoon as the evening will be busy! I think it will get started early and finish early as it's a school night - let's hope so.

Happy Sewing,

Today's garden photo is this beautiful Salvia Mexicana "Limelight" which I think I got at the local junior college horticulture department sale a few years ago. This weekend they are finally opening for a sale again in person, after almost 2 years so my calendar is marked!!!  This plant is so pretty and a late bloomer (October here) so a nice addition to the not so thrilling fall garden. Plus I took a cutting and made a second plant which makes me like it all the more.


Monday, October 11, 2021

A silk shirt post with lots of construction details

It finally feels like fall here in N. California. Not exactly coat and scarf weather but a slight nip in the air, and some falling leaves. Actually today is a swirl of fallen leaves and a red alert for wind and fire danger but we will cross our fingers and hope for the best. This is the scariest time of year and I don't mean Halloween!

Last week my sewing thoughts turned to long sleeved shirts and I decided to use this beautiful silk crepe de chine fabric. My favorite local sewing store Stone Mountain Fabric  has just reopened to the public after being online only during these many months and this silk fabric is the last thing I bought in person there. In fact purchases the very day before we started the first day of lockdown here in California back in March 2020. 

Blue shirt1

I've been doing a lot of preparation lately for my jacket class that starts next week, so I have construction details on the brain and thought I would share some of my silk shirt construction methods with this post. I used to do more detailed posts and would like to do some more this fall and winter. The problem is remembering to take pictures as I sew!

For this shirt I've used the same exact pattern that I use for almost every button front shirt I make. I like the size and shape of the collar and the way it fits across the shoulders, so why try something different when a shirt pattern is just the starting point. I have changed this same pattern up to do a popover placket, gathers instead of darts, hidden buttonhole placket, cut-on faux button band, faced front and tunic top versions so if you check the search bar on the side of the blog you can see many other versions. It's Simplicity 2339 which is an Amazing Fit pattern from around 7 years ago? 

To start with I evaluate the fabric and decide which method I will use for the closure at the center front and then which interfacings would give me the shaping I want. For this shirt the fabric was just about the same as this one, which I wear A LOT and whatever I did was successful so I decided to use those methods. (actually if you look at that post there are some god construction details) However I couldn't remember what I used in the collar/collar stand so I unpicked it a little bit at the center back neckline so I could see into the seams. As it turned out I used a combo of lightweight fusible and silk organza. Also I used facings at the front, so there is no sewn-on button band. Sometimes on a silk shirt I think it looks smoother with facings. 

In the photo below I'm getting ready to apply the fusible to the collar, and so I place the fusible on the silk pattern piece, pin it lightly down and then use the paper pattern piece to make sure the shape is retained. Some fabrics just seem to wiggle or change shape and then once you apply the fusible you are stuck with an incorrect shape. I do this a lot with a variety of pattern pieces, particularly V-necklines to make sure they are still the same shape as the paper pattern piece. 

Silk shirt collar fusible

I do the same for the collar stand, check the shape before fusing. For the collar stand side with the silk organza, that fabric is quite stable, it stays the same shape as the paper pattern piece so you can use that as the guide when joining that to the fabric. 

Next up is taking care of the facings. I like to use the fusible which is in fact a woven fabric to finish the edge of the facing by stitching them right sides together and then flipping over the fusible, clipping the seam and then fusing the rest in place. It is a bit of a fiddly process as you don't want to fuse it crooked, or with a wrinkle so I just move the iron about 1/4" at a time from the seam edge towards the other edge. 

Facing edge with fusible

The result is a very clean finished edge inside the shirt, and then you have the facing showing where the neck falls open at the top, so you see the right side of the fabric. This fabric has a distinctive different shade of blue on the wrong side and for a while I was trying to figure out how to use that as an accent but it's not really distinctive enough so I let go of that idea.

Blue silk shirt facing

Silk shirt front

I wish I had measured the piece before I started cutting it out, it was probably 1.5 yards of 55" wide fabric. So that's enough for me to make most shirts or tops with some inventive cutting out - however I did have to omit the inner yoke piece in silk. In fact I often use some solid lightweight fabric there anyway so it worked out. 

Blue silk shirt inside

As I was sewing I realized I wanted the seams at the side and in the sleeves to have some nicer seam finishes so I did what I think is a faux french seam, in that I press it open and then press to create two folds which are stitched closed. Perhaps more work than the traditional method of a french seam but I never remember to do it and then have to use this. So often I am just sewing on auto-pilot with something playing in the background. I'm currently watching a variety of British, French and Italian mysteries on Britbox and Mhz channels. And I definitely need the subtitles on the French so that means I pay more attention to the screen than to my sewing :). 

Silk shirt french seam

For the cuffs I put both a lightweight fusible and then on one side I put silk organza, that combo gives the cuffs just the right amount of stiffness. I just cut out some "close enough" pieces, baste them on and then trim to match the cuff edge. 

Silk cuffs interfacing

Silk shirt back

Blue shirt back

I wanted the back to be loose and flowy so I put a small pleat in the center back. 
For the cuffs on these silk shirts I don't do a tower placket, I prefer the continuous binding which is a bit softer. 

Blue silk shirt cuff

So that's the latest on my start of fall sewing. I am vowing NOT to make any coats this year, I've made 3 in the past 18 months and the red coat only had one wear. I plan to wear that all through the holiday season!! 

It will be blazer sewing from now to Thanksgiving. We start the Live/Online Jacket Tailoring class next week on Tuesday night. There's still time to register, here on the Hello Stitch website.  It's  Tues/Thurs 6-7:30pm so hopefully that works no matter your time zone. And you don't need to have all your supplies for the first class as I will be covering a lot of that information then and you can get your project together after that.

I've now taught a couple of in-person classes at the studio and it was really fun to be there, I think a lot of people either started sewing during the pandemic or decided it was time to learn because we are almost fully booked. In January I think we will have lots more garment sewing classes so I will update when we get the schedule finalized. 

I'm looking forward to wearing my new silk shirt, and this is actually how I will probably wear it most of the time, underneath a cashmere sweater. 

Blue shirt with sweater2

Happy Sewing,

For today's garden photo, a closer look at those hydrangeas which were a bright lilac blue earlier in the summer. I tend to leave them on the plants and just see what colors they turn. The other day I saw a floral designer refer to this hydrangea bloom as "antiqued" which is I suppose a fancy name for fading flowers.