Monday, December 8, 2014

I made a coat [with smoochy lips AND the flu]

Damn. I sewed the buttons on too tight.
Four or five years ago, two different sewing bloggers posted beautiful projects using this same embroidered wool. I have no idea who they were now, those memories have long been wiped clean from my brain. One was a young girl from California who made a short cape out of it, and then a lady from Michigan (Mary?) who made a skirt. Mary was kind enough to share the store where she found it, so I called them and ordered the last three yards on the roll.

And then it sat.

And sat.

I pulled it out last winter, but just couldn't bring myself to sew anything, and so back it went.

Finally, this fall I started looking for a suitable pattern for it. I've been terrified of ruining the fabric, but I had this realization - it wasn't doing me any good sitting in a box in the basement!  I went back and forth between a few vintage patterns and a few modern, and finally settled on Burda 7072. I liked the shorter sleeves and the princess seam pockets, it had a vintage vibe without being a vintage pattern.

Fast forward to Thanksgiving week. I had the whole week off since I'd been hoarding my vacation days {i.e. burning myself out unnecessarily} and sewing was high on my list of Things To Do.

Time is precious around here; I don't have hours on end to sew uninterrupted when the kids are home, but that lends itself perfectly to a project like this. I would go downstairs, work on one task, and then set it aside for a few hours or a day. It virtually guaranteed I was fresh every time I touched the coat, I think that helped a lot.

It also helped a lot that my sons constructed a new fort in the closet under the basement stairs. That kept them busy and out of my hair.

These steps happened between Monday and Wednesday...

Cutting out the pattern pieces was interesting, as I was trying to maximize all of the embroidered fabric, which only ran along one side. I had to turn it crosswise to cut it. After inspecting the fabric for any moth damage, I did find a few holes but they ran along the selvage, so it's possible they were damage from the manufacturing process, too.

Anyway, the weave on this is fairly loose. I knew I needed to stabilize it, but my experience with interfacing pattern pieces for a wool coat was not great. When I did that on a heavy black wool coating, it added way too much bulk to the seams. This gray is fairly light, though, and since I couldn't figure out how to pick and choose what to interface, I decided to do it all.

Each piece got interfaced with Pro-weft supreme Medium fusible interfacing from Fashion Sewing Supply. I'm really impressed with it, this was the first project I used it on, and it does give body and support while maintaining drape. Excellent.

Then I had to make a decision about interlining. My lining is silk, the wool has a loose weave, and we do have a proper winter here. So after much hemming and hawing, I settled on using white muslin fabric to interline it. I could have gone with something lighter like silk organza, but I didn't want to wait for shipping and I'm happy with the muslin. I was sewing with dark gray thread and the interlining was white, so that made picking out any stitches easy!

One of the first decisions I had to make was the buttons and buttonholes. I knew if I wanted bound buttonholes I had to make them first, but the idea of sewing them through four layers of fabric (fabric, interfacing, interlining, welt) scared the crap out of me.

Pause to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family....

Onwards and upwards, I practiced bound buttonholes Friday afternoon on scraps of fabric. They went ok, so I forged on with four bound buttonholes, and four corresponding welt holes.  They're not perfect, instead of perfectly matched slots they look more like smoochy lips but I'm ok with that.

This pattern is perfectly drafted and the instructions are total crap, as per usual with Burda. The sleeve/undersleeve/side pieces get attached to the front and back by sewing a 90 degree angle, but you would never have known that by reading the instructions! The first one was such a disaster, I unpicked it all and lay in bed that night visualizing what I had to do.

Total crap corner.
Sew up sleeve, place needle, pivot and clip corner, sew down side. I went downstairs first thing in the morning to try it again.

Voila! Four perfectly sewn sleeve corners. Whew. I breathed a sigh of relief.

Until I realized that the lining pieces would have to be constructed exactly the same way. Eight perfectly sewn sleeve corners? Holy crap, that's pressure. But I did it, I plowed through it.

And then this happened...

My oldest son got super sick the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and tested positive for influenza A. My youngest took the hit on Sunday afternoon. It was fun, and by fun I mean go out and get your flu shots because this sickness is real and it sucks. I was diagnosed Tuesday.
Well, that was rough. What little energy I had disappeared, and yet I still had hours of sewing left! There's a reason they call these types of projects labors of love. I'm not sure I was feeling love at this point.
This blog post is starting to feel as long as the process of making the coat! On-seam pockets (once again, craptastic Burda instructions that have you sew the pocket to the side seam with a 5/8" SA. Huh?? By offsetting pockets with a 1/4" SA, the pocket lays nicely inside and you never see it. Why wouldn't they tell you that?? I did it anyway. They could have also been generous and given us a 1" bump out on the pattern pieces, but I am probably asking too much.
There are a few things wrong with these pictures. 1) I had ten minutes to snap them. 2) I sewed the buttons on too tight so it's pulling across the chest and 3) my tripod was set down too low by one of my kids.
My lining is a silk twill I bought for $3 a yard at Hancock's many years ago, when they were selling out of their silks. I ended up with four or five lengths of wild patterned silks, perfect for linings.
Sorry. Blurry photo.
I bagged the lining, but since my facing piece was not sewn on and wasn't notched out at the bottom, I had to make up my own method for attaching the bottom and turning that corner. All of the internet tutes I could find (and the Threads tutorial that has nicely drawn diagrams) are for sewn-on facings with a notch out. I made do. It looks the same, maybe the order of attachment is different, I don't really even care at this point.
This pattern calls for the back piece to be cut and seamed. I assumed that meant it was shaped. NO. It is not. I could have cut it on the fold. Dammit!
At this point, I was at mile 23 of a 26.6 marathon. My legs were jiggly, I avoided eye contact with the coat whenever I walked by it on the dressform standing in the stairwell to the basement (she wore the coat for me to avoid it becoming a crumpled mess but I think that may have happened anyway), and I broke out in a sweat at the thought that I still needed to make covered buttons and sew them on.

Sweet Lord above, did I really want this coat that badly?

Apparently I did.

The buttons were made. I hated the look of them. I shopped for another week for buttons I didn't hate, and landed on these. The coat is done. And so am I.

I need to press the bottom. I apologize for the crapbag photo quality.
And wouldn't this coat look fab with long gloves and a matching faux fur cowl??
OK, maybe I'm not done. Just ready to make something simple. Like a t-shirt. Or leggings.

And shop for long gloves!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

How to organize your sewing projects?

I'm actually looking for help here.

I have too much fabric and too many patterns, which is nothing new. Every sewist out there has this exact same problem.

I recently spent an hour going through all my sewing patterns and reclassifying them according to designer. I grouped all the Vogues together, all the indie designers, etc. It was interesting to see which company I tend to buy the most from.

Hands down, Vogue won that contest. I have two full boxes of Vogue patterns. Burda and Simplicity seem to be in a close tie for second place, and then trailing miserably are McCall's and Butterick. In fact, after going through them I weeded out a lot of McCall's and Butterick patterns I know I'll never make. I have a lot of indie patterns and a boatload of vintage patterns (they didn't get the same classification exercise as I tend to group them all together).

Anyway, what I'd really like is some sort of software or app that helps me group patterns I'd like to sew soon with fabric I already own. Does anyone know of something like that? I don't sew my wardrobe but I do want to be more deliberate with what I choose to make.

I would love to share the coat project that I finished last weekend, but I'm stumped with having no buttons that I love. I hope to make it into my favorite little fabric boutique later today, she carries a lot of buttons I don't see at the big box stores. In the meantime the coat is hanging happily on Vivienne. Fingers crossed that I can finish the buttons and start wearing it in time for church tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The lace top pants

Be prepared for the longest post ever. Seriously. Buckle up.

This fall, I was in Little Rock and made my way to their Anthropologie store, where I fell in love with these pants. Lace at the top, tweed at the bottom. Gorgeous, and they fit pretty well, too.

The only downside?

Very very very scratchy wool. I just have trouble wearing wool right up against my skin anymore. I get a rash on my neck, my legs get all blotchy and itchy, it's ugly. And these pants weren't lined.

So I snapped these dressing rooms pics and went home with the idea of someday making my own pair.

Well, that some day was last week. I had the week off for Thanksgiving, and I was working up a storm around the house. Besides these pants, I finally started my embroidered wool coat project that's been in the works for oh, I don't know, five years. 

I found some very soft plaid suiting at Joann's, a poly/rayon/spandex blend that feels like flannel and stretches quite a bit. It's not very dressy, and is questionable how it will wear but I got it anyway. I bought two different laces to pair it with it - teal and black - not sure of what would look best, and finally settled on classic black. Mostly because I knew I could always find a black top or sweater to wear with these.

And black shoes.

I pulled out Simplicity 1696 and made a few adjustments. For one, I wanted a slim boot profile instead of a cropped slim pant. From the knee break to the hem (for me, that's 15" after the crotch line), I cut the legs straight down. This pattern has 1" seam allowances on the major seams which is lovely, you can make adjustments easily. I cut a 14 due to the extreme stretchiness of the plaid and the lace, although my true measurements are more of a 16 (38-30-40).

In my classic style of avoiding anything difficult, I thought I could postpone the tricky part of actually attaching the lace further down the construction process. But no. It became clear that the very first step (pockets and pocket facings) would require the lace to be attached already. Damn.

As I had been thinking about this process for a month or two already, I guess I thought I would end up snipping the lace into a shape and then hand-stitching it onto my fabric.

Um, no.  I won the lottery with this one. After assembling the pocket facing and then turning and topstitching it, I realized you can't see a damn thing on these two fabrics! Between the business of the plaid and the business of this lace, the stitches seem to dissolve. I grabbed two bits of fabric for a test run, and practiced machine stitching around the lace shapes. It worked like a charm, you can't see it at all on the outside.

So that's exactly what I did. I just stitched in an irregular scallop around the bottom of the lace.  The only bit of trouble I ran into was when I went to attach the pocket lining to the pocket facing, I had to unsnip a few stitches so the pocket facing would be free. Other than that, it worked like a charm.

I always use Sandra Betzina's zipper fly video to install zippers, and would have done this time except I wanted a fly shield. It's cold out here and I didn't want a cold zipper laying against the top of my belly.
I found 25 invisible zippers in my stash when I went looking for one for these pants. And two regular zippers. WTH??
I found this blog post from The Naked Seamstress with zipper installation methods, and followed along with Trudy's video. While I like the idea of a video that makes the process seem easy, this one wasn't so great. The video doesn't capture the action from above, but rather from an odd forward angle. She also chose to sew with white thread on white striped fabric. I never saw the seam lines, even when she urged the cameraman to zoom in.

I ended up with my fly shield attached to the wrong side of the zipper, beautifully so!

Shit. So I had to unpick the entire thing and redo it, this time doing it my way because I couldn't figure out how to reverse engineer her instructions. Maybe I'll work on doing a photo pictorial for myself to refer to next time I'm putting in a zipper with a fly shield.

Anyway, zipper fixed.
Plaids matched ok here. Not so much on the side seams, no idea why.
The rest was classic pant assembly. I assembled the waistband by the section instead of in one piece, which is nice for fitting but I don't love the way it looks at the end. I used a simple black cotton for the waistband facing, and interfaced both that fabric and the fashion plaid because it's so stretchy. I've been burned in the past with waistbands stretching out of shape because I forgot to interface enough.

When I tried the pants on at this point, they fit pretty well but I didn't care for how low I attached the lace (7" from top of pattern pieces down), and the lace didn't scallop at all. So I got out my little snips and made tiny adjustments to the lace to make it a bit more feminine looking. I could keep going with the snips, but I stopped to finish the pants lest these turn into The Pants I Sewed for Six Months and Never Wore.  It could happen.

In looking back at the inspiration pants, the lace only extends about 4 or 5 inches down from the waistband.  That's something I need to work on.
I barely referred to the instructions on these at all. I glanced at them, but I guess I've made enough pants in my life that the steps are starting to form naturally in my head. So that's a win! OK, I know it's lame but whatever I'm taking it.
Matching plaids? No. I was lucky to get the legs sewn together into a wearable form.
Anyway, all in all I'm OK with the results. The pants are ridiculously comfortable to wear, and hopefully they're pretty enough nobody will think did she have her elementary school son make those for her? I need to snip the lace out a bit more into a scallop pattern, and I need to hem them just a tad shorter because man this fabric stretches.  They don't look nearly as nice as the inspiration pants, but for a total cost of about $20 they're not bad.

And now. Brace yourself for the most epic-est blog post ever from me. The one where I make a coat.

I'm exhausted.