Sunday, March 27, 2011

Balancing a dart

I just checked Sigrid's fantastic sewing tutorials website and so far as I can tell, this trick, which I picked up from Claire Shaeffer's book Couture Sewing Techniques, isn't there.  So here goes.

What is a balanced dart?  It's a dart which is, when pressed flat to one side, balanced by a strip of self-fabric which is stitched down the middle along the line of the dart, and pressed flat to the opposite side.  The two layers of fabric sewn into the dart are of equal thickness to the folded strip of self fabric.  The desired result is that instead of a visible ridge at the dart, which has one layer of fabric on one side of the stitching line and 3 on the other, this pressed-to-one-side dart leaves an outer surface that is as flat and smooth as a seam that has been pressed open.  

Clear as mud?  To the right is the inside of what you are aiming for:

This dart is pressed to the centre and the strip towards the side seam, but I don't think it really matters which goes which way.

Balancing the darts is unnecessary if your fabric is thin and will press very flat.  For my dress, however, I'm using a suiting weight wool which is underlined with silk organza.

Start by cutting strips of fashion fabric which are about 2.5cm (1") wide and the length of the dart plus 2.5cm.  They are cut on the straight grain.  Even if you only have shreds of fabric left, you'll have more than enough to do this.

Then go ahead and stitch the darts.

Take the strip of fabric and pin it under the stitched dart, like so:

Place the strip so that the stitching line of the dart runs (approximately) down the centre line of the strip of fabric, and so that the ends of the strip are a little bit beyond the pointy end of the dart.  More of the strip is  visible at the thin ends of the dart than in the thicker middle, as you can see.

Then stitch along the already-sewn line of the dart.

Press carefully, with the dart going one way and the folded strip the other (as shown above).

From the right side, there is no ugly ridge.


Saturday, March 26, 2011

I like a pattern that's a fabric miser

I had a smidge under 3 metres of wool.  There are only shreds left.  I have cut out 3 garments:  a dress, a pair of pants, and a top.

My sheath dress takes just over 1 metre.

Thats it.  All of it in one width.

To the right is the top (Vogue 2683).  I cut it single layer from what was left after I cut out the pants (.75 metre).  The spaces at lower left and in the middle are for the other side piece and back piece, respectively.

I've got to get sewing now.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Extra! More leather jacket photos

My model washed her hair and consented to try on the jacket with a few existing and possibly coordinating pieces.  She's looking forward to the new pieces promised, however.

This is with the Jalie tie-top in darkest brown and blue tie die print, and a pair of lighter brown wool cuffed trousers (Simplicity 4366, a Threads pattern now out of print).

Kathryn was right, I think, to have me take it in at the shoulders and upper back.  However, the waist area is where I think it's a little over-fitted.  The seams would look smoother if it wasn't quite so nipped in.

I like separating zippers with a pull at each end.  It makes it possible to wear the jacket zipped up and still move around, sit etc. without the jacket riding  up.

I keep my eyes open and buy nice zippers on spec.  I was lucky to have, in stash, a very light weight separating zipper with pulls that are exactly the same as the invisible zippers used at the pockets.

To the left, here it is with Vogue 2683 (one of my TNT patterns).  The colour is a little dull in the picture.  In real life, the fabric is a wonderfully soft heathery mix of grey and rust.  Writing it out, it sounds dreadful.  However it's one of my favorite dresses to wear in the winter (with a jacket, since it's sleeveless).

To the right is a detail I didn't think to photograph before.  The sleeves are split at the cuff so (theoretically) they can be turned back.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

At last

There's a new luscious leather jacket ready to hang in The Sewing Lawyer's closet!  Just in time for crisp spring days and for an early April long weekend in Chicago.  Where no doubt there will be intense scrutiny of the wardrobe, inside and out, since the itinerary includes real time with Liana and Ann among other prestigious and prodigious creators of beautiful sewn things, including the entire membership of the Haute Couture Club of Chicago (or so much of it as attends the annual fashion show and luncheon on April 10.  Phew!  I've got to get back to it!

But not before leaving you with some photos.  Sadly (for now) none of them actually include the jacket being worn.  It needs (a) coordinating objects and (b) a model who's having a better hair day.  I promise more later.

I have no excuse for not having taken a full front photo; except to force you to open my blog again hoping for better pictures.  Oh, and to allow you to admire (again) the invisible zipper pockets set into the side front seam.  Below right is a close up showing that the lapels are indeed symmetrical and the topstitching worked pretty well.

As instructed by Kathryn Brenne, I laboriously paid attention when topstitching to the fact that the upper thread should always be on the public side, and the bobbin thread side is always hidden.  This meant stopping and starting again (by inserting the needle in the hole left by the last stitch before stopping, if you please, and pulling the thread tails to the inside for knotting) at four separate points, since the facing side is outermost for the lapels but inner at the back neck.  I'm pretty pleased that I placed the stopping/starting points quite well, just at the point where the leather is into the curve, so they are not visible.  Because they are not perfect.  (Let's hope that the ladies at the Haute Couture Club of Chicago won't be all over it looking for my boo-boos!)

One thing that is really great about this pattern (and let's not forget that there were lots of things that weren't) is the drafting at the collar/lapel.  There is a perfect amount of extra length built into the under collar and front facing so that once you match the edges and sew them together (carefully stretching the other pieces to avoid any puckers) the lapel just does what it's supposed to.  There is no guessing about where the roll should happen because it rolls automatically.

Here's the inside showing how the facings are sewn around the zip (click to biggify the photo to see it better).  On the outside, the leather meets at CF to cover the zipper, but on the inside the facing cuts away above and below the zip.  I thought Kathryn told me that the pattern instructions (which I have ignored in making this) gave directions for how to do this, but they don't, now that I look at them.  Kathryn had worked out an ingenious way to make this inset box in leather after sewing the facings to the jacket above and below the zipper, but I did not take pictures and I think it would be too complicated to describe.  Another way to do it, which would also work in fabric, is to sew the inset box using a thin, flat facing (silk organza is ideal) before attaching the facings.  If anybody is interested, I'd definitely consider doing a photo tutorial on it because it is a super nice way to finish a separating front zipper on a jacket.

Inner construction:

I used these nifty metal clips to hold the leather for sewing, since you can't use pins.  I think they are the same as a sort of hair clip, but I bought them in a fabric store.  To the left, you see the facing clipped to the lining fabric.

To the right is the inside of the back and shoulder area.  At the top, notice how the curved jacket-collar seam is clipped diagonally.  I normally trim rather than clip, but was following Kathryn's directions.

The upper back (and the fronts) are interfaced with a fusible weft insertion interfacing.  The lower edges are pinked to avoid a show-through ridge.  (But if you look hard, you may be able to see a show-through pinked line.  Anyway, I could see it right after fusing. My lamb leather is truly thin, but lusciously soft.)  The collar and facings are interfaced with a lighter but slightly crisper fusible knit.  I did not have room in the jacket for shoulder pads, but inserted a single layer of synthetic batting just to cushion the shoulders and prevent bony shoulder show-through.  I used the shoulder pieces from the jacket, and hand stitched the padding to the armscye and neck seams (using a glover's needle).

The  back seams are very curved (if I am truthful, they are slightly over fitted).  They are edge stitched to keep them flat (leather seams have to be treated with glue or stitching; pressing doesn't make them lie flat).  I followed Kathryn's instructions to clip diagonally to flatten the seam allowances.  All body seams are sewn at 1.3cm or .5" rather than 1.5cm or 5/8".

Oh - I should have said all body seams except the side seams, which were the last ones sewn and due to edgestitching, zipper pockets or other treatments the only ones still available for adjustment once I had the jacket sufficiently put together so I could try it on.  It would have been slightly skin tight if they had been sewn as designed.  I'm not sure what went wrong.

Let me correct that - a few things happened.

One.  When Kathryn saw my muslin, which I thought was pretty good, she recommended that I reduce shoulder width (by something like .7cm or about 3/16") and take in the back seams even further.  She pinned out the amount, and I faithfully transferred these further reductions to the tissue and then ... cut right into the leather.  (There's something about being the student in a class taught by a trained professional that makes you just trust the said professional when she repeats, reassuringly, "It'll be fine".  If I had been doing this at home I would have done some serious agonized thinking, and maybe sewn another muslin, before tackling the leather.)

Two.  I sewed my muslins on my trusty treadle.  I used a magnetic seam guide which I placed carefully to get exactly 1/2" seams.  At Kathryn's I was using one of her Berninas, which have seam guide lines marked only in metric, I seem to recall.  I sewed the seams using 1.3cm (the conversion on the pattern) which in actual fact is slightly bigger than 0.5"; 0.5118110236", to be exact.  That extra .0118110236" works out to an extra 0.0236" (or so) on each of 7 seams, which isn't a whole lot but...  

Three.  Even the thinnest leather is thicker than muslin, so takes sort of a leisurely U turn (instead of a sharp fold) when you turn it back on itself as you must at each of the 7 seams.  It takes more width, in leather, to do that U turn, than it took in muslin, to do the sharp fold.  

All of which is to say that it's a good thing leather doesn't fray, because the side seams at my hip are seriously tiny.  

The back.  The sleeve caps are also a nice thing about this pattern.  There is very little ease (easy to sew even in lining fabric and a no-brainer in leather).

It really is very nice with all those curved seams.  But, as I said, maybe a bit on the over-fitted side.  

Leather does stretch, right?

I already wore it out to a birthday party last night (with jeans).  After I take care of my bad hair, I'll post more photos.  I promise.  

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Coordinating from stash with TNT patterns

So my leather jacket completion project is moving along.  The body of the jacket is finished except for the topstitching which will require a clear mind and a steady hand.  Thus far I haven't felt up to it, so I started on the lining.  I have to say, making the lining is the least fun part of sewing a nice jacket.  But I can see the finish line so am working through my lack of interest.

The lining fabric is a silk and rayon blend from Fabricland which I think they were marketing as "dirty silk".  Here's a close up of the fabric.  You can see it's a floral jacquard weave and the right side is brownish-black, or blackish-brown, in an interesting kind of way.   The lighter side is the wrong side, and it really does look "dirty" - the dye is uneven and smeared as you can see below (the real colour is less yellow than the photo below, and less pink than the photo to the right).
The dark side looks great with my "navy brown" and buttery soft leather.

My thoughts then turned to the inevitable question:  "But what (besides jeans) can I wear this with??"  I went burrowing into my stash, where I found some likely candidates.

My first thought was to identify a suiting weight fabric and I came up with a really soft and drapey, slightly tweedy pure wool that gives just the right overall effect of rich brown but is really a complex mix, in a tiny woven pattern, of at least three different browns - one really dark and cool in tone, the second a rich red-brown, and the third is a mix of beige and dark brown.  I have just under 3 metres.  I'm going to make my PMB sheath dress (again) and a pair of wide-legged pants.  I have had great luck with  Vogue 7881 which I have made three times already.  There should be enough left after cutting these 2 pieces to make my favorite bias shell, from an OOP Vogue, 2683.  Like 7881, this is a real TNT (tried 'n' true) pattern for me since I have made the top at least 4 times (and the skirt at least 3 times).  The dress/top combo is 100% appealing to me, but the dress leaves me completely cold.

But what else to wear with these future elegant and flowy trousers?  In my silk bin, I found many possibilities, but the one that has caught my eye is a refashioning project.  My super-shopper friend found a Thai silk skirt in one of her second-hand haunts which she gave to me while extracting a promise that I actually do something with the fabric.  The skirt is a floor length, front-buttoning dirndl in an interesting print.  The colours are unusual for me since I don't gravitate towards purple, but I like that it's combined with a cool beige, black and a couple of nice pinks and reds.  There is lots to make a little shirt.  I could reuse the front button detail since it has really gorgeous tiny self-fabric loops and covered buttons, but right now I'm leaning towards the top from Simplicity 2938.  I've made this one before too.

To the left is a sneak peek of the jacket together with the two coordinating fabrics I'm planning.  What do you think?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Oh yeah ...

Oops, when I spoke just now about my next project, I forgot to slot in the Material Things leather jacket.  I think it deserves a little attention.

When next I report, I hope it's off the UFO pile and into the closet.

And now, I'm off to reacquaint myself with its state of unfinishedness.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Ho hum (?) basic

After the mink-lined coat, I needed a seriously simple throat-plate cleanser before I tackle my next "real" project (which I haven't actually decided on yet, but is probably going to be a dress and jacket combo).  So I made the turtleneck from the September, 2010 Burda Magazine.

Three pattern pieces.  And two of them are almost identical.

I had 1.5 metres of a luscious wool/lycra jersey in the stash, purchased from my favorite Montreal store, Couture Elle.  In about an hour, it was transformed into this top.

I decided to sew the top on my sewing machine since the fabric is a little beefy and serged seams would have been a visible ridge.  I used a tiny zig-zag to keep the stretch factor.  1cm seam allowances pressed open makes for a sleeker garment.

There's something about the cold hard reality that the digital camera finds but is invisible in the mirror... It's a little wrinkly looking as is my high-waisted black skirt after a full day at the office.

In part the wrinklies are caused by the fact that this pattern has super-long sleeves.  I normally shorten all sleeves by 2.5cm (1") given my short arms, but I decided to see how I liked these, since I can always make them a normal length (they are in fact cut shorter by about 3cm, due to fabric shortage, but you'd never know).  The jury is still out.

I was wondering how I'd like the cut-on high neck, since I have a sort of a forward neck, and always worry about a neckline that cannot be lowered.  There are horizontal wrinkles but I find the top very comfortable.

Here's how I wore my new turtleneck yesterday.  The jacket is Vogue 1098, an Anne Klein pattern.  I reviewed it here.