Sunday, May 30, 2010

A potpourri

Like a potpourri, this is a mixed bag.  

First, I'm sorry for being absent - last weekend we were entertaining house guests and then Mother Nature decided that we should all be reminded what it is like to suffer through a heat wave (in May!!).  So not much sewing has been going on here in the Nation's Capital, and since this is a sewing blog, there hasn't been anything to blog about.

Second, I have now finished the woolly skirt to go with my woolly jacket which I could only model today because Mother Nature decided that today would be slightly overcast with more seasonable temperatures.  Needless to say, I won't actually be wearing it for months until Mrs. Nature returns us to the fridge.  (If any of you notice me tending to want to sew tailored wool suits next spring, could you pipe up to tell me I'm falling into that trap .... AGAIN??  It would be a great service to the Sewing Lawyer to be reminded that the seasons do change; she seems to forget annually.)

So here it is - the completed ensemble.  I am going to love wearing it!

The skirt is a reprise of the high-waisted skirt I made recently.  I am thrilled with how it looks and, more importantly, with how comfortable it is.  Remember I added an inner structure with 4 pieces of spiral steel boning?  I did it again and it is like magic, I tell you - the waistband is not tight but it doesn't flop down, ride up, twist around my waist, or do anything it is not supposed to do.  Totally secure, totally comfortable.  Boning rules!  The next time I run into this stuff, I'm stocking up.  

This one was made in identical fashion, but I used a sturdy muslin for the inner structure.  It is lighter and more flexible but will do the same job. 

So here's the skirt with high waist revealed (worn with my recently-completed Jalie lace T).

The wool fabric almost totally hides the princess seams in the skirt and waistband, and I like how the lower edge of the waistband is visible mainly as a change in texture. 

Last, in other sewing news, I'm working hard on my Kay Unger Dress (Vogue 1182).  I completed a muslin which was blissfully free of bad surprises (in other words, all the usual things had to be done, including taking 2 cm out of the front neck length).

I have purchased the most amazing silk dupioni for this dress which shall be revealed in the fullness of time.  So far, the dress is cut out and underlined with silk organza.  I'm going back to it now.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Responding to comments

Now that I've finished the jacket, I'm  coming up for air to respond to comments and a few questions about the internal padding.  They were prompted by this post.

First, thanks all for reading and being interested!  

lin3arossa asked whether the internal structure meant that I would only dry-clean the jacket.  Oh yes!  I take dry cleaning as a given for any tailored jacket.  Immersing the jacket in water would be a sure-fire way to ruin it.  Wool is washable, but I have not pre-treated this fabric by washing it because the garment will never be washed.  I steamed the fabric to shrink it somewhat but washing would change the hand completely, making it thicker and fuzzier.  I don't want that.  Further, washing any tailored garment, assuming it has an inner structure that depends on materials like those I have used, will cause unattractive lumpiness.  Maybe some tailored jackets are washable.  But I doubt it.

Nancy K asked about the design of my shoulder padding.  Frankly, Nancy, I'm feeling my way on this one!  But I don't think a really stiff layer is needed anywhere.  The top layer in my shoulder area (right under the wool) is the thin cotton quilt batting.  Under that is the soft wool fleece.  I put it on the fused fleece mostly to give it a real base - it's not very stiff at all. 

I find pre-fab shoulder pads sometimes to be too stiff, especially if they use foam for padding - their edges may poke through the fashion fabric, and they will not mold to the shape of your own shoulder.  Hopefully my softer padding will.

j.kaori wanted to know if my shoulder "yoke" was meant to stabilize the shoulders.  Not really.  It's mainly to provide soft support for the fashion fabric to prevent my bony shoulders from poking through, and to prevent the relatively soft wool from collapsing in areas such as between my shoulder blades.

 Vicki had it right when she said that "the important thing is to get the look you are after. It doesn't matter so much what you use as it is hidden."  On this theory, I encourage anyone who is interested in sewing a tailored jacket to experiment with different types of shoulder padding or inner structure.

Just in the nick of time - Vogue 2770 jacket is finished!

Stop the presses!  The Sewing Lawyer has finished a fully-lined, long-sleeved wool jacket, just in time for ... summer.  I do it every year, it seems.  Today, the sun is shining and it is a beautiful 21 degrees (Celsius) so my jacket is truly unseasonable.  Plus, it's black and several shades of brown and cream.  Hmm.  Not really summery at all.

On the plus side, it fits me really well!  All that pattern adjustment really paid off.

And the shoulder shaping seems just right to me.  Look how nice and square they are, but not extended at all. 
I especially like how it fits at the neck and around the armscye.  Narrowing the front at the shoulder level really worked!

Only one slightly negative note - this jacket has very narrow sleeves.  The high armscye is wonderful and the shoulder fits very well, but wearing anything with sleeves under this jacket will feel a bit constricting.  It is truly designed for that cute little top.  

I guess I should try to remember how well this pattern fits - I could use it to develop other styles... 

Before I move on to the next season, I'm going to finish a coordinating skirt.  Up after that?  My very special dress.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Hand Sewing

What is it about hand sewing?  I'm at the point of inserting the lining sleeves and I'm going to do it by hand.  So I've paused (or am procrastinating) to write this blog entry instead.  In my youth, I hated the hand-work that went with finishing a garment so much that most of my "finished" garments required at least one safety pin...  I still yearn after beautiful machine techniques that substitute for hand stitching and count it as a victory if I only have to wield a needle to sew on the buttons.  However, sometimes, I come up against it, and I choose to use hand-sewing for certain tasks. 

For instance, I've already inserted the shoulder pads in my Vogue 2770 jacket with hand stitches as seen in this post.  I like to bag the jacket body lining (without sleeves) by machine, then hand-baste the lining around the armscye of the jacket.  Sewing the sleeves this way ensures the lining will not budge inside the jacket.  Then, you stitch the sleeve to the lining using more-or-less invisible stitches.  The sleeves likewise will never budge.  If there is the correct amount of ease in the lining, all will be well. 

I did this on my orange plaid jacket as you can see in this post, and I like how it looks, once done.  But hand-sewing is definitely not my favorite part of sewing. 

Which may also explain why I signed up for a class on PR with Susan Khalje.  The class name is "Couture Hand Stitches" and we're supposed to learn these ones:

  • The Basting Stitch
  • Hand Overcasting
  • The Catch Stitch
  • The Slip Stitch
  • The Fell Stitch
  • The Invisible Hem Stitch
  • The Back Stitch
  • The Prick Stitch
  • The Thread Chain
  • The Thread Bar
  • The Blanket Stitch
  • The Buttonhole Stitch 
I downloaded the first lesson today but haven't had time to read through it.  I did spot a very definitive statement to the effect that the "only" satisfactory way to underline anything was to hand baste the two layers together at the seamlines.  Harumph I say.  We'll see if she can make a convert of me. I will review the class once I'm done with it - it's my first on-line class outing and Ms. Khalje seems to be very well-regarded generally on all things "couture". 

Random information:  "couture" is a pretty ordinary word in its language of origin, which is French.  It simply means "sewing".  "Haute couture", on the other hand, was a very formal term which designates those design houses which are formally designated as members of the French Chambre syndicale de la haute couture.  According to Wikipedia, to be eligible for this they must:
  • Design made-to-order for private clients, with one or more fittings.
  • Have a workshop (atelier) in Paris that employs at least fifteen people full-time.
  • Each season (i.e., twice a year), present a collection to the Paris press, comprising at least thirty-five runs/exits with outfits for both daytime wear and evening wear.
Sigh.  Even Wikipedia acknowledges that this lofty √©lite term has been watered down and confused. Simple French words may tend to have a certain je ne sais quoi about them - thus prosaic "sewing" has become something elusively elegant and (perhaps) unattainable. 

If only, after (virtually) rubbing shoulders with Ms. Khalje, my hand-sewing will have this je ne sais quoi too.  Right now, my stitching is rather utilitarian... (and I don't much like the process either). 

Jacket is almost done ...

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Wooolllly Goodness!

I'm working away diligently on my jacket.  A few days ago I was despairing because I feared I was being overcome by weather.  I'm working on a wool suit ... and it's coming into mid-May, and temperatures have been unseasonably warm.  In past years, I've bagged up more than one such project to wait for 6 months when the weather becomes more appropriate for it.  Is there anything sillier than finishing a beautiful winter coat just as spring blossoms are all around you, or completing a linen suit with sleeveless shell as the leaves start to fall (I did that in fall'09)?  Especially when you have that feeling (as I seem to every spring when it really warms up) that I have NOTHING suitable to wear!  But just now, I've had a reprieve.  Mother nature has decided to return us to the deep freeze for a few days.  A frost is forecast for overnight and tomorrow, they're saying it may SNOW!  I'm staying inside and I'm sewing!

I thank you all for your valuable insight in the matter of buttons.  The too-big brown button wins the informal poll, with the black glass one in second place.  I will now disclose that I like the big brown button but my husband voted for the glass.  I've decided to hedge my bets.  One of the problems with the big one is that the button hole would be ginormous.  So I'm going to use a big snap for the real closure, and the button on the outside for camouflage.  Then, I can change it up if I don't like it or find something I like better. 

But today's subject is luscious, slightly lanolin-y wooliness.  In the matter of internal padding, I'm experimenting. 

In a tailored jacket, no matter how sleek and natural the shoulder line, I think SOME padding is beneficial.   This need not add bulk - even a single layer of needle-punched batting will support the shoulder area and create a smoother line (I have bony shoulders).  I also like to use a fleece sleeve head.  I do not buy these internal padding alternatives - I make the patterns from my jacket pattern.  The general approach is illustrated here.

My Vogue 2770 jacket calls for 1/2" shoulder pads (it's a 2003 pattern), and I knew from the muslin that it did need actual shoulder pads.  I have a plastic tub filled with the darned things, but I really prefer making my own.

For this jacket, I'm using a cotton quilt batting called "Warm & Natural" for the base layer of padding.  It is very thin and supple. I made the pattern piece for the padding from the jacket pieces, eliminating all seams and seam allowances (this process is illustrated here).  The resulting piece looks like this (neck edge and front extensions are at the top):

The neck edge will be hand sewn to the neck/collar seam on the inside, and the front edge is tacked to the dart which extends down from the neck point.  The armscye edges are sewn invisibly along the armscye edge, again by hand. 

But first the sleeve head.  Again, I cut it from Warm & Natural, using the sleeve cap pattern.  It extends from notch to notch (well, it actually ends above the notches which seem very low on this pattern).  The sleeve heads need to be in place before the shoulder padding can be installed.  I used my sleeve board to steam the seam allowances and sleeve head so they will stay nicely in the sleeve cap.

My great innovation for this jacket is that I used luscious 100% wool batting for the shoulder padding.  I came across an online vendor of wool quilt batting - Cedarview Farms.  I purchased a lap size quilt batting (55" x 74").  It was very reasonably priced, I thought, and they were having a 20% off sale at the time.  The batting arrived very promptly, neatly packed - loosely folded around tissue paper to keep the layers separate and then rolled.   It is absolutely scrumptiously woolly - soft, light and smells faintly of lanolin.

You know that I don't knit.  I also don't quilt.  I bought this batting to add to my considerable stash of padding-materials (though I think it would make a pretty awesome duvet).  Today I tried it for my intended purpose and I am pretty happy with the results.  Here's what I did. 

I cut the pad shape out of a thin fusible fleece (a Pellon product) and the wool batting.  Then I "feathered" the curved edges of the pad by pulling some of the fleece away, so the pad edges will be thin and invisible inside my jacket.  Once I was satisfied, I recut the shape according to the pattern.

Then I put the fusible fleece (fusing side up) over my pressing ham and placed the wool on top.  I steamed the two layers to fuse the wool lightly to the padding, and to further flatten the leading edge of the pad, as you can see on the left. 

In the picture to the right you can see how thin the fusible fleece is, in relation to the wool fleece.

Then, I sewed this layer underneath the single padding layer shown above.  I pinned the layers to ensure that they stayed curved, then zig-zagged the leading edge of the pad and used big hand stitches through all layers to loosely anchor the rest of the padding.

To the right is the finished item from the front.

And, once installed in the jacket, this is what it looks like from the back:

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Buttons, buttons everywhere ...

I am at the stage of auditioning buttons from my stash for my jacket.  I need exactly 1 (one) button.  Vogue says it should be 3/4" (19mm).  Personally, I think that's way too small for a single button on a jacket.  Or at least, for a jacket being made in 2010, since we are now used to seeing gigantic buttons on all kinds of things. 

So I have a stash of buttons.  Some would say it's extensive.  Here's a partial picture:

This is one of those small parts drawer units you can buy at Canadian Tire.  I sort the buttons by colour, more or less.  Then I browse the drawers when I need buttons for something.

You'd think I would have no trouble finding a button, right?  But more often than not, I don't find what I need in my stash.

Buttons, buttons, everywhere ... and not a one to suit. 

I identified several possibilities for my jacket, but none of them is quite right.  Here is the lot.  From upper left, moving clockwise, they are:  square coconut shell (too reddish), brassy metal (23 mm), plastic/metal combo (29 mm), bamboo (too yellow), black glass (25 mm), bright gold (too bling), plastic combo (34 mm).

Here are the best 4 on a scrap of fabric.  Tell me which one you like best.
Left:  I love this brown plastic one on the fabric but is it too big at 34 mm (1.34")? 

Right:  I fear the plastic/metal combo is a bit too light in colour.  Do you agree?

Left:  This metal button is interesting but may be too small (even though it's bigger than Vogue thinks it should be) and close in colour to the fabric - it could get lost.

Right:  While there's a lot of contrast with the black glass button, it could work.