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.