Wednesday, March 4, 2015

This 'n' that

In the past couple of years my contributions to Pattern Review have tailed off but this year I decided I will faithfully post every sewing project I complete.  I played a bit of catch up and in  the last week, I posted reviews of the coat I just finished and the volcano-inspired dress I made from a sari last fall.

And what do you know, PR made me the Member in Focus on their blog!  I have been a member since 2004 and I've posted 177 pattern reviews.  That seems like an awful lot!

I'm at work on project #178 - my Lekala jacket.  I made some final adjustments to the pattern to further reduce the size of the collar and fine tune the fit.  Thanks to the commenters who made suggestions!  I confirmed that I have enough fabric to make a skirt to match, so it'll be another Sewing Lawyer suit.  I traced off a pencil skirt from the September, 2012 issue of BurdaStyle Magazine.  Specifically, the one from this interesting vintage suit.  I wanted something sleek and this skirt is - it's nicely pegged and with some reshaping at the hip and lengthening of certain darts, I think I have a good fit.

Extreme closeup - Prada wool with
wool double crepe and light wool challis
As a reminder, I'll make the jacket and skirt from a length of Prada novelty weave wool.  At left it's posing with some light blue wool/lycra that is destined for dress #1.  At right you can see the detail of the weave (although the light blue in the weave is kind of washed out) and how good it looks with the dark grey wool double crepe I purchased at the same time (dress #2).

I also discovered a long piece of extraordinarily lightweight wool challis deep in my stash.  It's so old that I can no longer remember where I got it, but I am pretty sure that I got it at a thrift shop or other source of old stock.  It's only 34" wide! I believe it is within the class of fabric known as "nun's veiling".

It's a very light grey and I think it might make a really nice top of some kind.  Pattern TBD.

In other news, I got out my bulky knitting machine (it's a Singer LK-100) to see if I could coax it into cooperating in the production of some colour-work - specifically, stranded knitting and intarsia. I didn't want to commit to a really big (adult-sized) project and settled on a vintage Mary Maxim pattern for a little boy's jacket, "Soldier Boy".  I'm making size 4 in the hopes that it will fit the grandson of a friend.

And I made a sleeve. It's not perfect but it's not bad for a first attempt.  AND IT'S SO CUTE!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Lekala jacket - muslin 2.0

Muslin 2.0 (collar points pinned under)
Muslin 1.0
I transferred the fitting adjustments to my pattern and completely redrafted the front. The collar still isn't quite right, but I think it only requires a bit of reshaping and it's now the right size.

This was no mean feat, I can tell you. The Sewing Lawyer has made a ton of jackets and owns quite a number of pattern drafting books, many of which were read (in parts) yesterday afternoon. But pattern drafting isn't an intuitive art in these parts.  In the end Vogue 7908 (now OOP) came to the rescue.

Vogue 7908
At left is my version of that jacket. This lapel is extremely high and rather big, and the collar is very small.  However I thought it would be a useful starting point.

At right is the collar/lapel I cobbled together.  I am pleased that it actually works, although the collar is still too big and not quite the right shape.

And here is proof that all the seams and darts from the Lekala sketch are present and accounted for - in the comments to my last post, there was a question about that.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Notes on a muslin - Lekala 5054

This is what it's supposed to look like
The Sewing Lawyer is adventurous, but cautious.  Lekala is a new experience so careful testing of Lekala 5054 is needed before she cuts into her precious precious precious Prada wool suiting.

So here's the muslin. FYI I've inserted small shoulder pads for these photos.  

There's good and bad in this.  One good thing is that the pieces went together quite easily despite the almost complete lack of markings.
Even though Lekala drafts to your specified measurements, the fit isn't perfect. And I didn't expect it to be. However, it is manageable with tweaks that are not too alien in my experience. I need a small wedge taken out of the CF above my bust, the front shoulder is a bit too broad, and I need some more shaping in the princess seams. Also, the darts are a bit too high.  Finally, the hip curve is too extreme.  

The CB is dead straight, which I knew would not work for me.  I've pinched out about 2cm at the waist through the CB seam.  Although the upper back appears too wide in this photo I will leave this as is.  It can always be adjusted in the sewing, and I need a bit of room there.

Style-wise, the pattern doesn't match the so-called "technical" drawing, which to me is more of a sketch.

I have cut off the seam allowances at CF, and on the collar and lapels.  The buttons are placed lower on the pattern and the lapels and collar are both bigger and rounder than I would have liked.  I don't think it will be too difficult to make the adjustments I want.

The proportions of the peplum are also different - I have not cut off the hem allowance but to me, the unhemmed length is about right.

The sleeves seem too wide to me.  I'll remove width from the front seam on both the upper and under sleeve sleeves.  This will also add a nice curve - as drafted this seam is pretty straight on both pieces.

You can't see it in these photos, but the curved opening at the back sleeve seam is differently-shaped on the upper and under sleeve pieces.  I think they should be the same.

It's interesting that the sleeves are the right length for me since I have short arms and  usually have to shorten sleeves by about 2.5cm.  I made the mistake of telling this to Lekala the only other time I ordered one of their patterns, and the sleeves were ridiculously short (you can't specify how much shorter than average your arms are).  This time I let them think I had arms of average length.

I already pointed out that there are few markings on this pattern.  This didn't bother me except in relation to the sleeves.  There is some ease in the back sleeve seam and you have to know where to put it (in the elbow area).  Setting the sleeve in was more of a problem. There is only one mark - to show where the sleeve cap sits relative to the shoulder seam.  When, after a couple of tries, I got it properly set in, I realized that the sleeve cap has very little ease and all of it is in the front shoulder. I'm going to take note of the point where the under sleeve intersects with the side seam and add another mark there.

I'm inclined to proceed.  Comments?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Finally! One more for the closet

Actually keeping me warm
Hooray!  It's done!

I'm tired of thinking about this coat, so here are some pictures.

BTW, that hat?  Wildhagen - Beautiful and interesting hats designed and made in Toronto, Ontario.

Of the coat details - lots of buttons and topstitching (triple stitch at 4mm, ordinary sewing thread).

Of the lining and some inner details (I finally found a good use for one of the magnetic buttons/snap in stash).

Of how the non-working buttons sink nicely into the tiny sewn buttonholes on the CF - the button is sewn to the facing layer beneath.

Want more sewing/construction information?  Check out PatternReview.  Want more pictures? Check out my Flickr album.


Monday, February 16, 2015

There's good news and there's bad news

Right off the bat, I'll get this off my chest:  there has been some sewing (the lining is mostly inserted in my coat and the facings are done) but there has been more knitting.  Of the machine variety.

It's a lot of fun.

I made two pairs of socks. Yes it is possible to make socks in the round on a double bed knitting machine.  And it's so fast!  I'm cranking them out (4 so far) at about 2 hours per sock.  And I'm a raw beginner.

I made a colourful pair for myself.

And I made a sober grey tweedy pair for my husband.  He's already investigating the rest of the sock yarn in stash for his next pair...

In the above photo, the sock isn't quite finished.  Because you have to knit the ribbing on both beds at once, there is a seam to sew up at CB.  And the final stitches at the toe have to be finished with Kitchener stitch.  So much easier on a machine knitted sock than doing it from stitches on needles! At left you can see there is a little light blue - this is scrap yarn knitted in a narrow tube to keep the last live stitches safe until they can be grafted together by hand.  I just follow the path of the light blue yarn and snug up my stitches until they are truly invisible.  Magic!

So then I decided I'd make a sweater for myself.  I chose a pattern designed to be knitted by hand, top down, seamlessly (Boxy and Buttony by Joji Locatelli).

I carefully read the pattern and made a schematic so I would understand the structure.  And then I knitted a swatch and mentally rehearsed how I would knit it by machine, bottom up, with seams. Because that's the way the The Sewing Lawyer rolls.


It makes perfect sense, no?

My swatch revealed that I had to knit on the loosest tension possible on my machine, and also that at that tension and over 60 stitches, the yarn colours pooled vertically.

Pooling at SS8.0 but not at 7.0 or 6.0
Hmmmm I wonder if I should have thought about the fact that I'd be knitting, at that tension, over exactly three times that many stitches at the widest point?

Well I didn't.  Cast on (three times before being satisfied, not noticing that I'd dropped a stitch) at about 10PM yesterday, and zip-zip-zip knitted the back up to where I had to increase for the sleeves before bedtime.

Didn't I say that it was fast?  See the hole at lower left...

I decided I could latch the missing stitch up by hand and fix it invisibly so I continued.

And then I ran into problems at the shoulder (which involves short rows and a band of ribbing).  So I decided to unravel the whole shebang and start over.

I learned a lot.

  • At a loose tension, you really do need weights.  Without them (as I discovered at the shoulder) the stitches just leap off the needles.
  • When doing short rows, ditto.  The most precarious stitches were the ones at the high side where the length was building up relative to the front neck stitches that were holding.  
  • Ribbing should be knitted tighter than stockinette.  I knew this at the hem (used SS 7.5 instead of 8.0) but forgot by the shoulder.  
  • Increasing six stitches at the end of a row is possible, using a crocheted chain... AND WEIGHTS!  
And if the yarn pools over 60 stitches, it will pool similarly over 180.  Sigh.

Here, for posterity, is the back which will be unravelled shortly - hopefully before the yarn is too kinky and needs steaming or something.  

The actual colour is a lot darker (more maroon than bright red).  

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Aims and objectives

Isn't that the buzzy kind of phrase you're supposed to use when looking to the future and making some kind of commitment to do something in particular?

I haven't blogged because there has been nothing to blog about.  I've been curling a lot in January, and of course working full time.  I've been sick (that flu shot didn't work very well).  My sewing is stalled (that coat!) and my knitting on the machine would not be very interesting to you, although it has been fruitful from my perspective.  What I mean is - I've knitted on the machine and I've learned a lot, but so far I have a limited number of actual things to show for it.

But I'm on the verge of something.  I can feel it.

It helps that I've got a whole lot of time suddenly free in front of me.  As I did last year, I elected to take leave (and a corresponding cut in pay) of five whole weeks.  It starts on Monday and I'm starting to feel pretty excited about the possibilities - especially now that stupid flu seems to be finally over.

So what can I tell you?

First, there will be sewing.  I AM going to finish that darned coat!  It doesn't help that there is a lot of hand sewing in it - but I've just had a look and most of it is already complete.  There's only one more buttonhole to attach the facing to.  I recall stopping when my fingers were too sore to continue but they have had a whole month to recover!

And then ... drummmmmmmrollllllll I will move on to new projects.  I feel my work wardrobe needs some new items and I certainly have the stash and patterns needed to create them.

Lekala Jacket Pattern
Like this fabulous Prada wool I bought in Chicago at Fishman's Fabrics in 2011.  The light blue is a beefy wool crepe with lycra from stash (Fabric Flea Market).

Fingers crossed I will have enough of the suiting to actually make a suit.  I'm planning to use a Lekala pattern for the jacket but reserve the right to change my mind after I muslin it.  The skirt will probably have to be a narrow pencil skirt, if I have enough fabric to do one.

The blue wool crepe will be a coordinating dress.  I have the godet dress from the September, 2014 issue of BurdaStyle in mind.  I have already traced the pattern.  I think it will look good in this plain but weighty fabric.

I bought some dark grey wool double crepe at Fishmans at the same time.  It may turn into something else that coordinates.  A flippy skirt and coordinating top?  What would you recommend?

Hmmm.  There may well be other sewing projects, depending on how these ones go.  I'll keep you posted.

And there will be knitting.  Right now I have a small and very colourful cowl on the go as a hand-knitting project.  It'll be finished soon.

Wrong side - yes it really is this bright
About 65% done 

The stitch pattern is easy - K1, slip 1 with yarn in front, repeat forever (on an uneven number of stitches so that you are always knitting the stitch you slipped in the previous round).  The back side is interesting too.  If you're on Ravelry, the free pattern is called Dots and Dashes Cowl.  I'm using Misti Alpaca Hand Paint Sock Yarn and the finished cowl will use half the skein.  

I have pledged to myself that this is the month to really learn how to be fully comfortable with my new knitting machine the Passap Duomatic 80.  Since I last wrote, I have accumulated a few additional tools for it - cast on combs and weights, and a transfer tool that moves stitches from one bed to the other (so you can place purl stitches easily on a bed of knit stitches, among other things).

My first actual project using the machine is to make hats for my curling team.  Three are finished, a fourth has been knitted but not assembled, and I still have to knit the fifth for our alternate player.  The first one was fun...

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The longest project

Do you remember that coat?  (Come to think of it, that was almost 2 months ago... do you remember The Sewing Lawyer?)

It isn't a hard pattern.  The body went together really quickly, once I got past all those buttonholes (6 down the front, 2 on the collar, 2 on the pocket flaps).

And then I decided to do 3 on each sleeve, because I am a glutton for punishment.  And I was on a roll.  If you are counting, that's a total of 18 bound buttonholes.

They will not all be working buttonholes.  When you get to a certain state of peevish sewing perfectionism, the wobbliness of shank buttons that sit up top on the fashion fabric with nothing to do, compared to the sturdy firm seating of a button doing the work of holding layers of coat together starts to bug you...

The non-working cuff buttonholes will allow the shanks of the buttons to sink in so they are at the same depth relative to the outer coat fabric as the working buttonholes.  I decided to solve the same problem on the coat front by making tiny machine buttonholes, just big enough to contain the shanks.  Claudine recommended just sinking the shank into a hole made by an awl to avoid this pesky problem.  My "solution" is waaaay too complicated but I didn't read her post until after I'd embarked on my fool's errand.

Some of those buttonholes (8 if you are counting) need to actually work, so they needed to be faced. I used silk organza patches.

First, I sewed the long CF seam to attach the facing to the coat front.  Then I marked the location of each buttonhole (with pins and measuring tape to triple check).  Then I marked them in a contrasting colour of thread and sewed a little box (1.5mm stitch length) for each one.  As you can see (at right) I have the needle set to the left of centre and am using the marked CL of the buttonhole as a guide.

Then carefully clip open each little window.

And turn them and press.

I am hand sewing these windows over the buttonholes and pressing some more.

Luckily this wool is thick and forgiving so my stitches sink right in and are invisible.

Unluckily this wool is thick and my fingers hurt after doing a few.  One more left and then I'm finished with these.  Then I can move on to more interesting and less painful sewing tasks, like assembling the lining and interlining.

Partially assembled, not cleaned (yet)
In other news, the real reasons for my radio silence are (1) it's curling season and (2) my obsession with knitting machines has kind of taken over.  I have just acquired a new (to me) Passap Duomatic 80 and am ridiculously excited about my new baby.  I've got a busy January coming up but in February I'll have some time off work and hope to learn how to make her hum along and consume lots of my yarn stash.

The lady on the cover of the manual makes it look pretty easy...

Monday, November 17, 2014

Special request - Vogue 2126

My good friend Anne-Marie of le mani d'oro is very seriously looking for a special pattern for a very special event to take place next summer.  It's Vogue 2126, an Issey Miyake pattern from 1998.

Send her an e-mail using the link at the bottom of her blog post if you have a copy of this pattern in size XS-S-M.  She is willing to buy it or rent it (copy and return) at your choice.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

My goodness, what a lot of buttonholes!

That's a total of 10.  Six up the front, two on the collar, and one on each pocket flap.
Only six more to go (there are three on each cuff).

I made bound buttonholes because no machine I own could make nice enough sewn buttonholes through all the layers of wool melton.

The technique I use is well presented here

  • I found I was able to make a pretty narrow buttonhole by stitching 5 clicks to the right and then the same to the left of the centre guide line.  My finished buttonholes are 7mm wide.
  • I backstitch at each end of this line of stitches (none of that knotting the thread and weaving it in for me).  
  • After clipping I press the tiny seam allowances open so that half the bulk is inside and half outside.  This prevents an obvious difference in height around the buttonhole.  With a thinner fabric I wouldn't bother to do this.  
  • I found with my thick and forgiving fabric I did not need to do any hand stitching to secure the welts.  I just spoke to them sternly and manhandled them until they were pretty even.
  • I agree with Sherry - don't press them until they are all sewn.  

Pockets - topstitched and ready to be sewn by hand
on the coat fronts.
Once the remaining ones are done, the rest of the coat will come together REALLY fast, right?

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Creeping towards reality

Ah the muslining process.  We learn so much.

In this case:
  • I prefer the stand up collar.  I also tested the asymmetrical floppy one.  Nah.
  • The shoulders are a tiny bit too pointy.
  • The bust shaping is a tiny bit too high.
  • I have crappy posture.  Nevertheless, the coat is shifting slightly to the back.  This is probably not a fitting problem but because my muslin isn't sliding nicely over the bulky fleece jacket I have on under it.  
  • The sleeves are too long. I'll shorten by about 1.5cm, less than my usual.  This is to be a winter coat after all.  
  • I really do have a narrow back.  It needs taking in. I cut a size 10; maybe if I reduce the upper back pieces to size 8 or even 6, it will be about right.  
  • I could use more shape at the waist.  Why  not?
  • I like the raglan lines and shaping of this coat. 
What else did I discover about the pattern?  Well, sewing the CF to the side front was a bit of an adventure because I wasn't paying attention for two reasons.  The first is that there is a mistake on the pattern - the notches on the pieces that are just below the pocket placement circle are mis-printed. And, the length of the CF pieces is shorter than the side front pieces by 22mm (7/8"), the difference between the hem on the side front pieces and the seam allowance at the lower edge of the CF.  

If you mindlessly assemble according to the notches, the bottom cut edges will be close to matching (but not quite). If you proceed, as I did, on the theory that you probably made a cutting and/or notch alignment mistake, and the bottom edges are supposed to match, you will end up with extra fabric in the side front at the waist area. This is clearly wrong, and you may assume (as I did initially) that the excess is supposed to be at the bust and that the notches there are mis-printed.  This excess length can be eased in at the bust, but doing so will throw off the grain and the length of your coat.  

The instructions do illustrate this small length difference, and there is a small circle to match at the lower edge, but I wasn't paying enough attention. Note to self: check pattern before sewing, the next time. Because I am uncertain of the finished length I want (and because I mindlessly tend to simply match up the pieces at the lower edge in sewing), I will add the extra length to the CF pieces so they are all the same.  

I discovered that my extensive stash has all the ingredients for the coat.  I'll reserve on a final button decision until after I can try out the (black) buttons I own against the navy fabric.  

I have decided to line it with some printed polyester crepe rather than "proper" lining fabric.  I think it is substantial enough.  I'll underline with some micro-fleece, and put something windproof in the back.  The melton will be more than warm enough, especially since there will be four (4) layers of it where the double breasted fronts overlap!

As for length, the longest view on the pattern is 104cm (size 8, 10).  That's 41" for the metrically challenged.  I want to add 15cm (6").  And I may end up facing the hem.  We'll see.