Sunday, March 29, 2020

Navy trousers

The last item I'll post today is the trousers that I started at the tail end of 2019 before we had heard of COVID-19.

To recap, I wanted navy wool pants that had the very comfy waist/hips of the Style Arc Kew pants pattern but a more standard leg. I struggled to combine the Kew pattern with a Burdastyle pants pattern from 2005. Then I invented a way to line them while still allowing for fitting while I sewed. The end result is not perfect but they are, as I had hoped, very comfortable and I am pretty sure I will get a lot of wear out of them.

Necessary under-layer

I really needed a little camisole to wear under my new silk shirt. The Iconic Patterns Sammy Cami, only $2.00 AUD, fit the bill.

Making this was a huge relief after struggling with shifty silk chiffon, I can tell you! I used navy cotton/lycra jersey (I have a lifetime supply of this...).

The second and subsequent versions of this little cami will be quicker since with this one, I figured out the sizing (blending from 10 to 12 at hips) and the length of the straps. I found that I wanted my straps much shorter than they would have been if I had followed the instructions. Also, I used some fold over elastic from stash for the straps and binding under the arms rather than the cut strips of self-fabric.

This is a really useful pattern that I will make again (when the fabric stores are open again for fold over elastic purchases, that is).

Everything is discombobulated! And a silk shirt

The very interesting aspect of our current predicament caused by the global pandemic is that it's global. Around the world, so many people are experiencing the same type of disruption to their daily lives as I am. I am lucky - unlike so many, my employment and income have not suddenly stopped. In fact, as a government lawyer, my workload has multiplied and transformed. Whereas before I had time to think before I gave advice, now I mostly do not! The issues are so numerous and the time deadlines so very, very, extremely short. I sincerely hope that this is not a new normal for me and that in time (hopefully not too many weeks, or months at most), my life will return to its formerly placid pace.

So what has been going on in The Sewing Lawyer's sewing room? Well, for starters, it has become a dual function work space. I have a very heavy duty ironing board which raises high enough to be a comfortable height for a standing desk, I have discovered. When I feel like sitting, my computer nestles on a table surface between my serger and sewing machine. I can in theory close the computer and be back to sewing readiness in no time. The only problem is that I have no time these days, it would seem, for anything but work!

The fact that production has slowed does not mean it totally stopped. I actually finished working on something this week that I had started several weeks ago. As seems appropriate, it's complex and it was a demanding project and the outcome is slightly unsatisfactory.

Introducing a tunic top made in the most difficult-to-work-with fabric I have ever tried, crinkle silk chiffon. I bought this piece in Sydney Australia at The Fabric Store. As of writing this, there is still a bit of it available. It is a Liberty of London fabric and the print is wonderful - rows of pears on a dark blue background. I love how it looks and I really disliked sewing it!

I used a vintage Butterick Willi Smith pattern from my past. I made it once before, in quilting cotton. I wish I could find a photo so you could compare, but no luck.

So without more, here is my completed top, on a plastic mannequin. One of the problems with this top, at least at this time of year, is static. If you look at it sideways the fabric sticks to whatever it is next to, including the wearer's skin. After a few days on an inanimate object, the static has subsided.

Slightly staticky!
The fabric is truly transparent, which caused lots of sewing issues (this in addition to its extreme shiftiness which made cutting on grain almost impossible, and the static that I already mentioned). I did a lot of the sewing by hand because that was the best way to control the fabric. After about 50 years of sewing, this project led me to try several techniques for the very first time.

The pattern has a front placket and unfortunately I had lost page 3-4 of the 6 pages of instructions, which would have unlocked the secrets of how to construct this particular one. I did my best to figure it out from the markings on the pattern, and even did a mockup in trash fabric, but ended up winging it to finish the lower edge of the opening on the inside. Why yes, there is a square of fabric hand-tacked on the inside over a raw edge that I couldn't otherwise get rid of. Luckily, the fabric is so gossamer fine that this lumpy solution is completely invisible!

Sewing with paper
I used paper to ensure that I was folding and stitching as accurately as possible. A first!

This top has a rounded shirttail hem. The only way I could imagine finishing it satisfactorily was by hand. Susan Khalje to the rescue with an excellent video on doing a hand-rolled hem. I finished the hems before sewing the side seams, which worked well. Hand-rolled hems, another first!
Looking through the yoke at the French
seam joining sleeve (at right) to body

As for those seams, only French seams would do, n'est-ce pas? Again, Threads to the rescue. Kenneth King teaches an excellent way to sew really strong and really tiny French seams using the rolled hem setting on your serger for the first pass. I had made French seams before, but never using this technique.

I used navy silk organza as the inner layer of the yoke, and as interfacing in the cuffs. I cut a strip of organza selvedge to stabilize the ties at the neck.

All in all, this is a beautiful shirt, but it remains to be seen how much wear it will get.

Monday, March 2, 2020

Just for the record

Utilitarian sewing is also good, once in a while.

I made a new Jalie racer back swimsuit to replace my last one, which was new in November, 2016. Wow, it lasted a really long time (swimming lengths twice a week almost every week). It was, however, really past its best before date given that the lining  and much of the topstitching had rotted out. This proves to me that not all synthetics are equally indestructible. The lining was nylon and so was the woolly nylon that I had inadvisably used for the looper thread in my coverstitch machine.

For the fabric of my new suit I got my hands on some more 100% poly fabric, but it's only available to me in solid colours. So colour blocking was the way to build interest in this suit.

The lining might not be nylon, and I ditched the woolly nylon for poly thread so this ought to last quite a few years.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Vogue 9022 - mostly just photos

Once the fitting work is done there isn't much more to Vogue 9022. I was flirting with the idea of lining it but decided not to due to (a) inadequate fabric choices and (b) a preference for simplicity.

I could have taken more width out of this but am afraid of over-fitting in a knit.

Instead of a hook and eye at the back neck (as per the instructions), I made a thread loop for a button. It's totally unnecessary. This dress can be pulled on quite easily.

I must now turn to sewing a replacement swimsuit as my last one is literally falling apart. (I made it in November, 2016 and I swim twice a week, so it's surprising that I can still wear it at all!) After that, it'll be back to my knitting machines... 

Monday, February 17, 2020

Vogue 9022 - fit issues

The cover art of Vogue 9022 is seriously ugly. I would never have bought this pattern but for the many very positive reviews on Pattern Review which praise it for being super easy to sew and very comfortable to wear.

I am making it from a wool double knit (maybe a blend) that has quite a bit of stretch but no lycra. The idea of making this dress from a woven has zero appeal to me. But initially I chose my size from the available choices (XS-S-M-L) conservatively based on my measurements. S is supposedly 8-10. I figured I could take it in and cut it down once I could see how it was going to fit.

As I predicted, the fit was very sloppy. See for yourself. It's too wide from top to bottom. The armscye is very low. Also, as I moved around I realized that the dress was rotating back, suggesting to me that the back was too short relative to the front. And the back is just generally baggy.

So ... alterations. First, I sewed it back at the side seams to size XS above the waist and a smidge wider at the hip. At the shoulder seams I sewed it to XS. I took two vertical darts in the back and sewed out a third vertical dart in the CB seam.

Happier with this shape
Then, I took some depth out of the front only by opening up the shoulder area and shortening the front along the lines pinned out in the photo.

I shaved out some of the princess seams in front to create more waist darts, in effect.

Next and hopefully last, I will have to cut the front neck lower to match the amount of depth I took out of the shoulder seams.

So, not such a simple sew. But I think I will like this dress once it is done.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Looooong striped cardigan

This is physically long and it was a long time coming. I started thinking about making a monochromatic striped sweater in July, 2019. The stripe idea came from a pattern called Elton and eventually I decided on the shape of a different pattern, Winston. Both of them are patterns for hand knitters so I had some work to do to make this by machine.

I quickly chose the yarns I wanted to use (very light weight cashmere and heavier extra fine merino, both from Colourmart but languishing in my stash) and made some swatches. The EFM was a little heavy for a standard gauge (4.5mm) machine but my Passap handled it nicely at the biggest stitch size. I knitted the cashmere at the same stitch size so the cashmere stripes are very open whereas the EFM stripes are more solid. The contrasting weights give the fabric a subtle texture.

I worked up the shapes for the pattern, using the dimensions of Winston as much as I could. The number of needles was a constraint for the back so my shoulders are not as dropped but they are plenty dropped enough I think.

Short rows!
I even incorporated the short rows from Winston. Knitting this created some technical challenges due to my having to change yarn every 4 rows. I'll spare you the details of how I accomplished this, except to say that it involved quite a few dropped stitches and some pretty creative hand-repairs. They are luckily invisible from the outside.

The cardigan is a bit longer than planned due to the weight of the pieces and the openness of the stitch size. However it is fine. I tamed the front edges with a band that I knitted to the length of my original plan (full needle rib in cashmere). I linked most of the seams on my linker but hand sewed the sleeves into the arm openings. I also attached the band by hand so I could control the amount I was easing the garment body into the band.

I'm very pleased with the finished product!

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Did I invent this technique?

I'm making a pair of wool dress pants, and as usual I'm lining them. Or rather I'm half lining, half underlining them. I have invented an order of construction that lets me assemble the pants almost completely, including inserting the lining, but continue to check and refine the fit at critical seams without taking the lining out. (I'm not saying I'm the only person ever to have had this idea, but it's one I didn't acquire from anyone else, so I'm claiming it as my invention!)

I cobbled the pattern together from two different ones I've made before. The first is a Burdastyle pattern from 2005 that I made in 2012. I had adjusted this pattern for fit when I first made it and they still work for me. However I wanted a more standard fly front/pocket combination, and loving the comfort of my Style Arc Kew pants, I attempted to graft the waist/pocket/fly from it onto the Burdastyle legs.

So I did not make a muslin. I figured it was a risk worth taking because I'd made these pants before (sort of). However I don't fully trust my pattern-drafting skills so I wanted to be able to refine the fit as I went. The outer leg seam is for me the main and critical one, since it allows me to refine the hip curve and hip/waist circumferences. However the CB seam is also a good one to be able to adjust.

First, I made the pockets and fly front. To sew the fly I had to sew the front crotch seam but I did not sew it all the way to the inseam. I left it open a few centimetres so I could later attach each front leg to a back leg along the inseam. I like to sew the crotch seam in one pass from the bottom of the fly to the back waist. As Style Arc says, this improves the crotch shape. If you sew the front and back crotch seams before sewing the inseam, the result is to flatten the crotch curve seam allowances where the seams intersect. It's better to have that crotch curve seam allowance vertical - you can trim it for comfort and fit.

After sewing the back darts, I sewed the fronts to the backs at the inseam in each of my layers - the fashion fabric and the lining.

Then I basted the lining to the pants (one layer of lining, one layer of fashion fabric, wrong sides together) along the back crotch curve and all side seams I used a 2 thread serger stitch to neaten all the raw edges.

Next I sewed the crotch seam through all layers. At this point I'm treating the lining as underlining. The seam allowances will be accessible inside the pants rather than being sandwiched between two separate layers (fashion fabric and lining).

The fact that the front crotch was already partially sewn in the fashion fabric meant that I could stop sewing this seam a few centimetres away from the lower point of the front fly. I'll be attaching the lining to the inside of the fly later by hand.

After all that I was left with something that looked like this.

As you can see, this treatment is partially lining the pants (inseams, darts and all front details are sandwiched between the lining and fashion fabric) and partially underlining them (at CB and side seams).

Now to baste the side seams and check that pesky fit... I'll be back soon.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

My first Ralph Rucci - maybe not my last

The dust has settled on my complicated project, Vogue 1239. To recap, I needed a dress, I had the pattern, the fabric, the lining and everything else I needed except the thread in stash. Except I didn't have enough fabric to cut out the belt. And, I later discovered, I hadn't actually read the pattern instructions very carefully. But it worked out in the end.

Weird pattern pieces
This is a very complicated pattern in my opinion, although Vogue apparently doesn't share my view, having designed it as being only of "Average" difficulty. I think a pattern for a fully lined dress that includes asymmetrical left and right pieces, multiple pieces that look absolutely nothing like anything I had seen before (despite 40+ years of sewing), darts that turn a corner, multiple gusset inset points and miles of edge- and top-stitching is more difficult than Average.

Take a look at the photo showing the upper pieces of the dress laid out, single layer, on my fabric. Anything look familiar? I didn't think so.

Oh yes, and the instructions had 67 steps, which is a lot. I confess I didn't read them all the way through before proceeding.

I did read the pattern enough to realize that it called for absolutely no interfacing. Given the stand collar and the long somewhat bias edges of the centre front, that didn't strike me as a good idea. I interfaced the facing pieces. This stabilized the edges so they wouldn't stretch out of shape.

I also read enough to realize that the method for sewing the pockets would definitely not be easy, if it could be done at all. These are in-seam pockets with a top-stitched opening. No Vogue, you cannot sew the pocket bag first and edge- and top-stitch the opening afterwards.

I did it in the opposite order.

I told you in my last post that 2.5 metres was the perfect amount of fabric for this dress, but not enough to get the belt (an extremely long bias piece). If I had read further into the instructions I would have realized it also wasn't enough to cut out the lowest tier of the skirt in the fashion fabric. I had cut all inner layer pieces out of lining and used up almost all of my fabric (a necessity) before I realized this error. I had also completely sewn the dress and mostly sewn the lining.

I thought about why Ralph Rucci would want the lower tier in fashion fabric. Maybe just because it might show, but more likely to match the amount of heft of the other edges of the dress, which are faced. And also because the hem of this dress isn't meant to be limp. So I improvised. Really, what else could I do?

Sewing the hem facing
I retrofitted the layer by applying some very light fusible interfacing to the lowest layer. Then I applied a sort of facing for the hem (about 6cm wide) just to get the right heft for the very bottom of the dress which is edge- and top-stitched like all the other edges. I had *just* enough fabric scraps to cut this facing but not enough to get it all on the right grain.

Then once I had invisibly attached the hem facing to the interfacing, I was able to turn the lining under at the hem and hand-fell it to the facing. This worked extremely well, in fact better than it would have if I had had enough fashion fabric for that lower tier of the skirt.

The pattern instructs you to make the entire outer dress and then the entire inner dress with faced edges, and bag the two together. You turn it right side out through a little hole in one of the lining seams. I don't know about you, but my sewing isn't precise enough to make it very likely that there would be no need for any adjustment to get the outer dress and lining to hang absolutely perfectly. My method left plenty of room for fudging so my hem doesn't pull and the lining doesn't show anywhere.
At Frocktails Montreal

I'm very happy with the finished dress. I wore it to Frocktails and got a comment or two. It was warm and comfortable. I had attached a hook and eye at the outer waist as well as the inner waist tie that the pattern calls for and it felt very secure.

So now I have to say a couple of words about the belt.

No fabric? No problem! I had the perfect leather in stash. However it was far too soft and supple for the obi-style belt this dress needs. Luckily, the stash came through with a stiffer skin and I used two layers of that leather to interface and then line the belt.

I was a bit nervous about making the belt but it really isn't that hard to work with leather and if you have enough rubber cement you can basically do anything. The only sewing in this belt is where I attached the ties to the ends of the long main piece.

Now I have to make more clothes that need a rusty red-orange obi-style belt...

Sunday, November 10, 2019

A complicated project

I decided I'd go to Frocktails Montreal. It's next week. Naturally I'd need a new frock.

Stash diving ensued.

Do you know that I own many Ralph Rucci patterns but had never taken one out to actually make? And that for quite a few years, I had a particular piece of fabric mentally earmarked for one of them? It's Vogue 1239, a very quirky wrap dress with distinct kimono influence.

Take a look at the line drawing - such INTERESTING seams! This is a pattern with darts that need to be slashed before being sewn (because they change direction mid-way) and it has topstitching everywhere. It is fully lined and the lining pieces have the same quirky details. The instructions extend to 67 paragraphs.

This pattern is rated "Average"??? Vogue has lost its mind! But I love a sewing challenge and it has been a while since I've had one.

I discovered that I bought the fabric in 2007 (the bill was still folded with the fabric) at a sadly now gone Montreal store called Tissus Tuéni. That was a beautiful store with such interesting and very high quality fabric choices. The proprietor (very European) hand-wrote the bill in spiky longhand.

I also discovered that I had purchased 2.5 metres of the fabric. Oops. The pattern calls for 4.0 metres! Did I say that I love a challenge?

The recommended layout for this dress is bizarre. It turns out that 1.5 metres is what's needed for the excessively long and bias-cut belt. Who needs a self fabric belt? Not me! My 2.5 metres is exactly the right amount for just the dress, including rudimentary pattern matching.

Click to zoom in for more detail!
I wish I knew exactly what the composition of this fabric is. It has some wool, for sure, but the woven-in pattern in a shiny fibre is something else, like maybe rayon, or acetate? Dunno. The contrast between the ridged and woolly texture of the background and the satiny sheen of the irregular squares is one of the reasons why I was attracted to the piece. The fact that the woven-in squares contain further woven-in patterns that look like, but evidently are not actually letters is another. The rich orange-y rusty colour was something that appealed greatly to me at the time, which is lucky, because further stash diving revealed that I had also bought, maybe a few years later, many skins of lamb leather in pretty much exactly the same colour!

You see where I'm going with the leather, don't you? The belt. A friend loaned me a belt she had picked up that is an elongated curved obi, with ties that wrap around. I have a big can of rubber cement and some stiffer leather for structure, and the belt is partly done.

I absolutely must finish this dress this weekend, so will reveal the entire thing in a later post. À plus tard...