Thursday, January 22, 2015

Packed and Ready to Sew

Off I go to my third sewing retreat in the last six months.  It's the January Winchester, VA retreat that I love more than any other and I'm definitely ready for some laughter, food, drinks and yes, even some sewing.  
Packing for a sewing retreat

Mr. Lucky and I just came back late Monday from a delightful long weekend out at Deep Creek Lake where he is a volunteer ski patroller.  I had been so preoccupied last week that I decided to pack some smaller sewing projects to occupy my daylight time.  I used up some more of my Offray ribbon stash by making ribbon trim for another autumn themed pillow.  Ok, I'm a little late but at least it is now done.
DIY ribbon trim
Next I got half way through a shirt for Mr. Lucky that has been cut out since the summer.  Perfect timing since he can wear it when we head back down to Naples, FL in March.  I even sewed up another pair of Elle pants that I will be wearing this weekend. 
Kwik Sew shirt half way done
 All those sewing projects were a great distraction from what is going on outside in our front yard today.

Yes, the joy of an almost 80 year old house means that there always some expensive maintenance to do.  Our old terra cotta sewer line died last week and is being replaced.  What makes me so sad (in addition to the "buried" expense, of course) is that a lot of my perennials are being trampled on and dug up in my front yard and along our front fence.  Yes, I can replant and they will return but those of you who are gardeners will understand my mourning.  It takes a while for perennials to reach their peak.  I was taught the gardener's mantra..."first they sleep, then they creep, then they leap" to explain the three years before perennials get that lush, thick growth in all the magazine pics.  Nothing life changing, just a little earth shattering.  My coat project got put on hold last week when this problem cropped up and I will return to it after the retreat and home improvement projects are completed.  Here's hoping your distractions are a little more enjoyable.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Project Avoidance Productivity

Do you ever complete other projects while avoiding the one you thought you should be sewing?  No?  Well, I do.  On Friday I sewed up a pair of flannel pajama bottoms for Mr. Lucky that I cut out two years ago.   
One Seam Pants

They're the One Seam pants from Louise Cutting One Seam Pants customized with her marvelous sizing instructions for Mr. Lucky.

And then I sewed up a pair of chocolate brown stretchy micro cord Style Arc Elle pants....just because I could. 
You see, I was avoiding cutting out my winter coat and making that underlining decision.  Yes, I needed some small successes to plunge me into the unknown....and it worked.  I finished those two projects and that was enough to get me cutting and hand basting over the rest of the weekend.  After all that dithering I decided on a third technique and underlined the coat pieces with silk organza.  It's light but stable and crisp and I thought the cotton was just a little too soft.   
I cut each pattern piece single layer to make sure I kept the herringbone tweed fabric straight and on grain. 

I used embroidery needles with two strands of cotton embroidery thread to mark the pattern and silk thread to baste the silk organza in place.  

Isn't this the cutest little needle holder?  A friend sent it to me for Christmas several years ago and I love its practicality and clever design.  It was slightly tedious to do all the basting on the knee length long sleeved coat pattern pieces but was sweet to think of my friend whenever I rethreaded.  

Next up, sewing the coat together then making the lining decision.  Focus, Jane, focus....

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Coat Decisions and Indie Patterns

Welcome to 2015.  I've enjoyed the first few days of the new year by reading sewing blog recaps and resolutions.  I won't be joining in either process this time around since I have a hard enough time concentrating on my current project.  I've also been spending more than a few hours watching several of those new Craftsy classes that are relevant to my new coat project.  My two favorites so far are Kenneth King's The Carefree Fly Front Coat and Linda Lee's Underneath It All.  Kenneth King is a wonderful teacher whose careful methodology results in a well-made, long-wearing classic lightweight jacket.  I never knew there are different weights of hair canvas, for one thing, so this class has been useful.  Linda Lee gives excellent advice and tips for using various linings, underlinings, interlinings and interfacings.  No hard and fast rules except to test and use superior materials for a quality result.  She had me considering some new ideas for my coat project.  The Inside Vogue Patterns: Coatmaking Techniques for V9049 is taught by a new-to-me instructor, Steffani Lincecum, a former costumer.  Lovely step by step directions that are educational even if you don't use that particular pattern.  
So after a lot of reading and screen time I finally am working on my coat.  This pattern came out when there was not the avalanche of "indie patterns" now available in the sewing world.  IMNHO, back then there had to be something extra special to get you to shell out the extra money from an indie pattern designer.  Louise Cutting, for examples, has exquisite sewing details in each and every pattern, so explicit that I swear that non-sewing Mr. Lucky could be successful with one of her projects.  In earlier generations of indie patterns, either the designs were tremendously unique and/or the directions were sewing lessons in themselves.  That doesn't seem to be the trend in the indie patterns of today, more's the shame really.  But enough of me bemoaning, here's what I mean about unexpected details.
The Olympia Coat pattern Olympia Coat  was released by Fred Bloebaum ten years ago.  For a very simple coat there are actually a very large number of pattern pieces provided, eighteen altogether.  First, Fred designed a lined coat and includes the separate lining and front facing pieces for both coat options.  
Yes, it is not hard to draft your own lining, once you know how, but look, these lining pieces are quite different because of the all-in-one sleeves and are designed to work with this pattern specifically.  Now that's useful.

Olympia Coat Pattern Pieces
In addition to the two alternative fronts (with a roll line indicated for that petal collar, something you almost never see on any pattern) there are two alternative pockets; a simple angled patch pocket along with its interfacing pattern as well as a slightly more complicated windowpane pocket that includes two pocket parts and its interfacing pattern along with a topstitching template for more assured success.  

Wow, a lot of thought and time to create a pattern that clearly wants you to have a successful outcome and also perhaps learn some sewing tips along the way.  Yes, I am a Fred Bloebaum fan and when she died so young I was truly devastated.  She was a calm, careful teacher and a clever, creative patternmaker.  She's the standard I use to judge indie designers.  
Ok, off my small soapbox. This week I've adjusted the pattern according to the fitting advice from Sarah Veblen.  Number one alteration was to add a side dart for a little more length over my bust area without any additional width needed.  Sarah pinned the dart onto my mockup then said just transfer it as a side dart and add the side seam take up ( 1 1/2 inches total) to the front hem.  
New collar line and side dart to mark on pattern pieces
My next change was a style one on my part.  I didn't like the small petal collar so for this version I just want a raised high collar.  My neck is always cold, one of the reasons I am thrilled that infinity scarves continue to be in style.  I am using a collar (simple enough) from this Burda magazine pattern which fits almost perfectly along my new collar seam line.  I won't be doing that attractive seam detail but it is worth remembering for another project.

Next I selected some truly fun buttons from my recently organized button stash.  I do not remember where these came from but I like their sort of vintage look.  They are 1/4 inch larger than the buttons suggested for the pattern so I will extend the front edge  that same amount to account for their size.  I will use jumbo snaps under these buttons since the buttonholes seem just too large to look neat over time.

I did some snoop shopping at Nordstroms over the holidays and found two coats that I loved.  They both have this stand up collar and one had an inseam buttonhole for that top collar button.  I'll show you that easy way to make a button opening when I actually get to the sewing process.
Now I am deciding on what interfacing or underlining to use with this fabric.  My easiest and most tried and true procedure would be to simply block fuse the entire coat front with a very lightweight fusible knit interfacing.  It will stabilize the fabric just slightly while not really altering the lightweight hand of this medium weight herringbone wool.  

I am considering, however, just underlining the front and back with a thin lightweight cotton, a little heavier than a batiste.  I like the soft hand that the fabric still has draped on my dress form with the cotton and also how it gives the wool a little more "beefiness" without making it bulky or stiff.  Any opinions out there about which one you would do?
Last decision before I start cutting out and marking is what lining fabric to use.  I have plenty of my favorite lining, bemberg rayon for its slippery hand and breathability.  I also have these two silk charmeuses, one heavier red one and the lighter weight burgundy.

I don't have to decide on the lining right away so I will mull it over as the coat starts to take shape later this week.  I have a weekend home alone and am looking forward to putting in some quality sewing time on this project.  Wish me luck and I would love to know your opinion about that interfacing/underlining question.  Hope your sewing projects are keeping you engrossed in good things.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

What Are You Sewing for New Year's Eve?

No gala balls or Paris jaunts for New Year's Eve at our house.  Our decade in Florida meant that we picnicked at the beach for sunset then watched fireworks at 7:30.  This year we are enjoying a mild winter in Baltimore and are having a small gathering among friends with just substantial apps before we go to see another friend's rock and roll band.  I bet we're home before the big ball falls in NYC.
So what to wear?  Casual, comfortable with maybe some glitz for the celebration.  Back in late November we visited my cousin in Beaufort, SC, and did some shopping a charming local boutique.  Now, when sewing friends visit places like this, we're always seeing a version of a pattern and then maybe the fabric we'd like to buy.  So my cousin saw this cute lightweight shrug/cape polarfleece in a wonderful caramel color that looked terrific with her coloring.  I saw her look as lovely as can be but then I also saw a pattern I had sewn a few years ago before a trip we took...Vest-S-Cape from Safety Pockets Patterns  Awful name, IMNHO, but it's the simplest thing (as her children said, just a tablecloth with holes) and I decided I needed a few more in my wardrobe.  So here's my New Year's Eve version.  I'll wear it with a simple black top and skinny black jeans.  I finished the outside edges with my serger and did a narrow bias binding on the armholes. 
Vest-S-Cape from Safety Pockets Patterns

I will try to edit this post later in order to get a picture of me wearing the outfit but winter indoor pics are rather a challenge.  
Ok, I braved the cold to get some shots this afternoon:

I liked having that lightweight layer, especially around my neck so I made another one from some black and white and glitz tweed.  Both Fabric Mart pieces that needed to leave my resource center and have a life in the real world.

No end of year perspective post nor sewing resolutions for next year from this lowly sewing blogger.  But I do wish each one of you sweet, kind readers a wonderful new year full of good things, adventures and friendships.  I never dreamed that sewing and sharing my little attempts at fashion sewing could bring me so many great friends....ones I see regularly and ones I have still to meet.  I am lucky indeed.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Shopping and Reading

My coat project continues with some mental pattern work and sewing but nothing happening in the sewing studio quite yet.  A big project has to percolate for me as I make all those fabric and design detail decisions.
When we left off I was taking those five mock up coats to Sarah Veblen for fitting and design help.  As always, Sarah helps me clarify my instincts and also saves me from countless hours trying to make something work that just won't.  We agreed to toss out one coat entirely, the Vogue 2598.  That clever saddleback back can be captured with a better pattern in the future.  The other four are keepers, with some pattern adjustments (yet to be made.)  
Next up is my fabric decision.  Since I want to make several knee length coats, and since Fabric Mart kept sending those store emails before Christmas, and since Mr. Lucky is away for the holidays this year taking care of a family situation, I decided to point my sleigh car towards the store and fill it with fabric.  My reasoning is that coats require a lot of fabric and warm fabric and I have only been buying enough for short, lighter weight jackets.  Oh heck, I don't really need a reason, you understand.  So here's what came home with me a few days before Christmas:
Rasberry/merlot Wool Melton

Brown Wool blend with charcoal tweedy reverse side
A novelty wool blend with sparkle

Classis wool herringbone
I will be starting with this last fabric and using it for the LaFred Olympic Coat pattern since those herringbones will look nice on the bias sleeve.  I have pattern work to do....adding a dart that Sarah marked and then trying out several collar ideas.  I'm also considering underlining and interfacing questions.  All of this process is just as enjoyable to me as the final product.  Of course, I can get myself too involved in research and the process (which might explain why I didn't get married until I was 36) but even just reading about sewing is a pleasure for me.  Here's what's on my bedside table these days:

This first coat will not be a full out vintage tailoring project but I am fascinated by the thought and care that does go into a couture custom coat or jacket.  
Next up, collar decisions.  In the meantime, I hope your holidays were wonderful and the New Year is full of promise and happiness.
What, Santa said I have too much fabric?

Monday, December 22, 2014

Making Winter Coat Decisions

Last year this time I was buying warm winter parkas, sewing knit silk underthings along with cozy sweater knit tops and jackets.  It was my first winter in Maryland in ten years and the coldest one in thirty.  This year my plans are slightly different since I'd like to add some style to my burgeoning winter wardrobe.  One thing I noticed was that despite a decent array of fall/winter coats and jackets, sometimes I didn't have exactly the right coat for an outfit.  Some of those new sweater knit jackets had panels too long for a sporty jacket.  And the two knee length coats in my closet are either too lightweight or too dressy for everyday casual.  So I am on a quest to make two wool coats this winter and thought I would share the decision making and construction process with you, my sweet readers.  In the last month I have stitched up five (yes, five, can you believe it) sample coats from patterns in my collection.  Here are the candidates for this season's coat project:

Candidate 1  
I liked the back interest on this pattern and the raglan sleeve for a winter overcoat.
Here's the mock-up:
Wow, even in this fuzzy shot you can see that there's a lot of fabric happening in this coat.  

I do like the sleeve and collar area, but that armhole is large and quite low.
Candidate 2
Hmmm, again I like the almost raglan sleeve but this coat is designed to be fully reversible. Do I want a reversible coat?  Here's the mock-up:

Despite having to sew four of those finicky corners, I really like the collar and proportions on this one.  It uses a lot of fabric because of that cut on sleeve so it might mean fabric shopping if I pursue this one.
Now here's where I have to pause for a moment.  I did some snoop shopping in the quaint little town of Lititz, PA back in November and fell in love with a line of wool/alpaca coats and jackets at one of the boutiques there, a line called Beyond Threads. I tried on this wonderful Corina jacket (although the sleeves were about an inch too short, typical for me in RTW.)  What you cannot tell from the picture or the description is that there is an underarm gusset that means the dolman cut on sleeve actually has a higher and more flattering lower armhole. 
Corina Jacket from Beyond Threads
So while I was contemplating my next jacket, I was also searching high and low through my pattern collection for  dolman sleeve with a gusset. I am too geometrically challenged to draft my own version but I could transpose one, I think.  No luck in my resource center so I googled my request and up popped this pattern, from the wonderful and sadly too early departed Fred Bloebaum.  It was on Etsy and for $5 it was in the mail while I was working on some other holiday sewing.  
Candidate 3
Now try to look past the early nineties oversized illustrations and look at the pattern lines.  I sewed up a size small (although according to the suggested sizing I should be a medium) and here's the mock up:
Olympia Coat
I don't like the petal collar or that frumpy length  but I do like the sleeves and the close but roomy fit of this pattern.  I can change the collar to a standup asymetrical one rather easily so I think this one has promise also.  Here's the two piece sleeve and the gusset.

Nice bias lines on the sleeve
Fred's pattern is wonderfully designed with great instructions for interfacing and even a roll line for that petal collar, something that the Big Four should include more often.  
By now I was getting a little winded with trying new patterns and going to the trouble of marking those grid lines on my mock ups.  But I had two more patterns to consider so onward....
Candidate 4
Wow, an oldie pattern again but a real classic topper coat, just what I think will fill the hole in my winter wardrobe.  Being a Burda, it too has some nice instructions for the lining and that collar roll line.  Here's the mock up:

Nothing unique but this one could be a real work horse of a pattern.  Those early nineties drop shoulders will have to be adjusted but otherwise it looks promising so far.
The last candidate was truly just for fun.  It does not fulfill any wardrobe hole but sometimes you just feel like venturing out into uncharted waters.  I got caught up in the Thanksgiving weekend Craftsy sale when all the classes were $19.99. (The sale continues: Craftsy classes ...and it's not just sewing )  I added more classes than I care to admit to my already loaded inventory.  And since I was there I decided to watch more of Natalie Chapin's stenciling and stitching class.  This pattern was the freebie that came when I bought the class last year and so I decided to make a mock up and see if it is worth pursuing.  Here's a very rough mock up (the pockets are quite unique and I got annoyed and did a rough and dirty version just for placement on one side.)
Candidate 5
Candidate 5

So, that's what I have been sewing for the last month.  Last week I bundled them all up and took them up to Sarah Veblen   I paid Sarah for her time in evaluating each one, making fitting adjustments as needed and then evaluating some fabrics I am considering.  It is the nicest Christmas present I could buy for myself.  I'll share the results in a future post.  
I also received a Christmas present of sorts of some nice woolens from a friend at the gym (most of them will be giveaways at January's retreat.)  When I was thanking her and shared that I hoped one of the plaids was enough for a coat, one of the other women was puzzled.  I had mentioned that I had stitched up these five coat mock ups before deciding which two I would pursue this year.  She asked me quizzically if it wouldn't just be easier to buy a coat?  Ah, the sewists out there know that yes, of course that would be easier for most of us but that's not why I sew....and maybe not why you sew either.  I love the fabric, the process, the creativity and freedom....and also the many dear friendships among others who understand. I'll be warmer this winter with all of those things close to me.