Sunday, April 26, 2015

New Place, Old Patterns

Last month Mr. Lucky and I had the most marvelous month back in Florida renting a new-to-us condo via VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner.)  There were on-line pictures, of course, and we got to see the unit's exterior the previous year but just like that mail order fabric, there's always some anxiety about what shows up in real life.  Well, we were absolutely thrilled with everything about our place and have already reserved it for next year.  That good luck was followed by the most marvelous March weather we had experienced in fifteen years of visiting Naples and so my sewing was replaced with numerous kayak and bike rides, long visits with old local friends and plenty of happy hours and beach sunsets.  
Packing for the 1300 mile drive south in mid-February is a challenge, especially this past February when we had record-setting cold days in Baltimore and pipes were bursting in neighborhood homes due to the sub-artic temps.  I wondered whether or not to bring sewing projects and my machines.  I say machines, plural, because as a garment sewer I also want my serger along even if it's just for seam finishing.  Of course it worked as I expected....if I pack up all the gear and plenty of already cut out projects, then the weather will be glorious and I will hardly find time to sew....but if I don't, then there will be cloudy cool days that would probably have me wishing for my "stuff."

Serger packed for car transport
I brought seven cut out projects but only stitched up these three, all TNT patterns.  They did come in handy while we were in Naples and for the drive north.  It's kind of funny to non-sewers that you have new clothes at the end of the month but didn't do any shopping.
I had this ITY knit from Fabric Mart with two parts to its personality, the loud rainbow stripes and the quieter gray tones.  I think of it as my bright Florida color and suburban Baltimore hybrid.  I used this year's favorite new knit pattern, the Tabula Rasa Tunic Knit Tee and Tunic

Tabula Rasa Knit Tunic

The next pattern was a breeze to sew but I spent many hours unraveling the fabric to make the fringe. It's McCalls 6444 6444  It is designed for a knit but this loosely woven fabric had a lot of natural "give" after being washed so I gave it about 1/8 or 1/4 more on its four vertical seams and it fits just perfectly.  I fringed the horizontal bottom hem and sleeve hem without any incident, and the pretty turquoise threads mixed with white and navy looked quite nice.  But the collar and vertical front edges only unraveled with the black base threads.  I had to come up with another solution, which I did, but which involved a lot more unraveling.  I cut 1 1/2 inch strips and unraveled both sides, leaving about 3/8 intact in the middle.  I then basted those strips to enclose the outside edges of the collar and front opening before doing a light zig zag to hold them in place.  I love the lightweight jacket look with the fringe and have gotten many compliments including one from my very stylish younger cousin.  

McCalls 6444

Hem fringe before final "haircut"

Testing the double sided fringe idea
The third project was once that I have had cut out since last summer.  It's an extremely soft cotton shirting from Fabric Mart that is perfect for those hot humid summer days.  Not my most flattering top, Vogue 7281 7281, but one I will appreciate in August.  
Vogue 7281
It was a relaxing, refreshing month away and I enjoyed every moment in the beautiful outdoors and with beautiful friends.  I'll leave you with some of the pretty sunsets we got to experience and hope that your travels, local or afar, bring you as much joy.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Olympia Coat

Do sewing blog posts improve with age, like fine wines?  Probably not because I think garment posts are best when they coordinate with the weather and season.  Southern Hemisphere readers, this post's for you....and for any readers who can remember back to winter of 2015 and this coat project.
Yes, when I left off months ago (more about that later) I was almost done with my first coat project, the Olympia Coat pattern from La Fred.  Here's the final result, finished in mid-February when temps were frigid and snow was still on the ground.  

Olympia Coat by La Fred

I am happy with the result, impressed that I could tackle a coat project and interested in trying a more classically tailored and structured one next winter.  This one filled a gap in my outerwear wardrobe.  I needed something knee length, warm but not bulky with enough room for knit cardigans and tunics.  It is lined in silk charmeuse which feels terrific and is wonderfully warm.  The pattern has a separate lining pattern with a back pleat and set-in, not raglan sleeves.  I was a little concerned about that detail but it seems to work together without a problem.
I used vintage buttons from a Florida friend and covered snaps for all but the top one.

I'm happy with how the underarm gussets turned out (on the right side of the fabric, at least, not so pretty inside) and the chevron of the herringbone down the sleeve makes me smile even when the coat is hanging in the closet.
underarm gusset

I'll share my "need to improve/reconsider next time" thoughts as well.  I used silk organza to underline the coat and am generally happy with that decision.  It makes for a very lightweight, almost sweater-like feel.  I think for a longer garment like this I would prefer a lightweight fusible interfacing for the full coat body next time.  I changed the collar after Sarah  Veblen helped me with the initial fitting and wish I had done a quick neckline collar fitting since this one is a little too confining for my tastes when it is buttoned all the way up.  Since I mean to wear it as a spring/fall coat that is not a problem but is a good lesson nonetheless.  Last lesson is that my linings never seem to entirely please me and this coat was no exception.  I don't bag my jackets and am glad that I hand hemmed this coat.  There's nothing obviously to complain about but I just feel that the lining and my fashion fabric are "fiddly" and not as compatible as I would like.  I don't even know how to phrase that as a question but I will be extra careful when tackling my next lined project.
I feel somewhat sheepish about even blogging today.  I have been absent from the blogging world, neither reading nor commenting, for the last two plus months.  It's been a combination of good things (a wonderful month back in Naples, Florida visiting dear friends and enjoying the best weather possible, a new fiber arts class and some crafty projects) and the sad passing of Mr. Lucky's 96 year-old father in California.  He was a very admirable person, hard-working, dedicated to giving his family a good life and strong values.  His life didn't always turn out the way he would have hoped but he never turned angry or bitter.  Up until last September he was still driving (yes, against our wishes) and paying his own bills and such so this has been sad but not a tragedy.  Mr. Lucky had several long visits in the last six months so while we mourn his passing, we are glad that his suffering was brief and he had memories of love and caring support.
It's good to be back to some blogging and I look forward to catching up on what you are creating for whatever season is happening in your part of the world.  Next up, some spring additions to my wardrobe.  Until then, thanks for reading and I wish you sew much fun.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Patch Pocket "Favoring" and In-seam Buttonhole

Thanks so much, thoughtful readers, for your comments about my sewing retreat projects....and also for your sympathies about my torn up perennial beds from that earlier post.  Blogging about our sewing projects and lives is so rewarding and interesting as it connects me with unmet friends around the world.  But here's a little also brings out my insecurities and performance anxiety.  We won't go into all the reasons for those issues in my life but I will share that I'm more than a little intimidated sharing new sewing frontiers so publicly. But whatever doesn't kill us makes us stronger.  No, no, I don't believe that at all.  But I do believe in stretching myself which is why this is the winter of my first public coat project.  
This weekend I returned to the next steps on the Olympia Coat project.  I abandoned the idea of the windowpane pocket pattern when I saw that it would sit on top of the French dart that I had to add to the coat front panel. I did cut open the dart so it would have less bulk but I still didn't like three layers of the pocket sitting there.  
French dart cut open
So I changed to Fred's alternative patch pocket which is shaped and then topstitched as well as sewn into the side seam. 
Lowered side patch pocket
This is another place in the directions where Fred added just a small detail that helps create a more finished result.  After cutting the lining (a burgundy silk charmeuse) you trim off 1/16" and then sew the seams together which automatically slightly "favors" the fashion fabric.

Lining "favoring" the fashion fabric

 I topstitched with red topstitching thread and placed the pockets 1" lower to avoid the bulk of the dart and give my long arms a slightly more comfortable location.  
Now the back seam is sewn and then the upper shoulder and sleeve seam.  I hand basted those seams first to make sure that I got the herringbone fabric to chevron properly.  
Happy chevrons 
Next step was to add the raised collar that I stole from a Burda pattern and figure out how to create the in-seam buttonhole along the collar seam.  I have loved this little detail ever since I saw Sandra Betzina demonstrate it on her old cable TV sewing show.  She used a now OOP Sewing Workshop pattern called, oddly enough, the Sandra Betzina coat. Sandra Betzina coat on Etsy I actually have that pattern in my resource center and went to it for the directions.  But her coat is unlined and uses a slightly different method.  So here's the simple version that I will be using, tested on some leftover coat fabric.  
In-Seam Buttonhole
I'm using a large button so the first step is to measure out a space large enough for the button to slide through easily.  Sew the seam with that space left unstitched.  

I sewed the facing piece the same way then clipped carefully to create the inseam "lips."

Sew the "lips" of the  outer seam to the facing seam.

Press all seams open and test your button:
My test worked so today I will take these markings and transfer them to my coat collar seam and facing seam.  Fred's directions are interesting at this point.  Rather than sew the lining pieces to the facing, she had you sew the facings to the coat first then work on sewing that underarm dart and underarm sleeve with the gusset.  Again I think I will be doing hand basting to make sure all my layers are stable and work together.  
Just as an aside, I think the real master of creative in-seam buttonholes was Lois Ericson.  Issue 103 (Oct/Nov 2002) of Threads has a beautiful article describing the process with the loveliest examples of her creativity. I'm just happy with my simple one here but would love to plan a garment with such beauty as well as functionality.
Next time you see pics I should have the coat body assembled and be ready to start the lining process.  Deep breathes....

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Tried, True and Terrific

I can find great joy and excitement in repeating special experiences on a regular basis, my own happy "Groundhog Day" time.  Last week's sewing retreat and TNT patterns fit that description perfectly.  Our slightly smaller group of dedicated sewists returned to the beautiful George Washington Grand Wyndham hotel in Winchester, VA for three days of sewing, sharing, laughing, and enjoying the $5 happy hour martini designed for our group, the "Singer Zinger."   I was so busy doing all of those things that I didn't even take pictures so here's the link to previous posts about this special weekend and place. 2013 retreat  2012 retreat
But you probably came here to see what actually got sewn during those three days.  These are not new patterns, just TNT ones for expanding my winter wardrobe.  Mr. Lucky took some pics when there was a little sun and the temps were close to 40F yesterday.  I tried a few more famous blogger poses to spice up these classic but oft repeated patterns.
McCalls 6444 and Style Arc Elle pants
I adore this pattern, now OOP, but just on clearance at the McCalls site this past week.  This time I tried it in a wool herringbone tweed with lots of cross grain stretch.  I lengthened it six inches and then just serged the edges to finish them.  The pattern is designed for knits but by widening that sleeve slightly it works for wovens as well so I have a few more planned for the future.  It makes for a comfy second layer with some finesse.  One of my most stylish girlfriends said it has an Eileen Fisher look and I like that idea.  The pattern has a hooded version and I think I will give that a try as well.  
McCalls 6444 non-hooded version
She also mentioned trying it with leather sleeves and I love that idea.  I'm even considering playing up the brown and black fabric weave by adding a black wool jersey 1" binding on all the edges.  What do you think?
Maybe bind the edges, too?
Next up is a very loosely woven embellished sweater knit, also from Fabric Mart, which I combined with another favorite pattern, the Draped Front Cardigan from Pamela's Patterns. Draped Front Cardigan
Pamela's Patterns Draped Front Cardigan

On this one, the fabric really does the talking so I used another very simple pattern.  It is so easy to sew but this particular version involved a lot of hand sewing.  You can see in this pic how lacy the wool is on that front bottom edge.  I didn't serge the edges as suggested since the serger just added too much thread and weight to the edge.  So I hand sewed the turned edge in place to keep the feel light and airy.  I actually enjoy hand sewing and am happy that it kept the front swingy.
Speaking of swingy, it was also time to combine another Fabric mart sweater knit in my resource center with a swing edged pattern, the Tabula Rasa Tunic from Fit for Art Patterns. Tabula Rasa Knit Tunic
Yes, I did add another infinity scarf since my neck is cold all winter long.  The fabric is a wool and acrylic blend and fulfills my wardrobe need for something warm, cozy and comfortable that is one step above my usual LL Bean fleece pullovers.  
Last easy garment project from the retreat is this unfinished tunic top.  It's another sweater knit but this time extremely lightweight.  I used Kwik Sew 3740 Kwik Sew 3740 and lengthened it five inches to wear with jeans and boots.  But it is just too thin to hang nicely so I plan on adding a double wide 1 1/2-2" band on the bottom and see if the weight will help it.
See how thin the lower edge is?
Now it is time this weekend to return to my herringbone coat project.  That delay might explain the funny and sweet gift I got from one of my friends at the retreat....this great pin:

Thank you, from the queen.

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.