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.  

Friday, October 3, 2014

In my mind's eye

I own a bolt (approx. 5m) of dark navy blue wool melton cloth.  I need a new winter coat.  I have an image in my mind's eye of a long, sculpturally lean, dark blue coat, with a warm collar and interesting sleeves.  This should be simple, right?

A while ago, I bought my first Lekala pattern.  It's 4182, which I think is not available on the main Lekala website, only in their Etsy store.  It had a potentially warm collar (just fold it up), and interesting sleeves. They have a lower tapering cuff, with a pleat at the side.

I love the concept of Lekala patterns.  You enter your measurements, pay a paltry amount ($3.46 CAD), and in a few moments you get an e-mail with a personalized pattern in PDF. The patterns can be ordered with or without seam allowances (SAs cost more, for some reason).  You have to print and assemble the pages - something all modern sewers are getting pretty used to.

I muslined the pattern and it fits pretty well, except that it's meant to be a raincoat (thin) when I need a winter coat, which would need more ease.  Obviously, I'd lengthen this considerably, if I were to use this pattern for my coat.  The only fitting glitch is that I told Lekala to give me shorter-than-usual sleeves.  I always have to shorten sleeves by an inch (2.5cm) or more.  Well, they certainly took my instruction seriously!  I eyeballed the pattern pieces, and added 14cm (5.5") before cutting out my muslin.

So why won't I be using this pattern for my coat?  It's too straight up and down.  There are bust darts but absolutely no body shaping, and no fitting seams.  It's drawn in by means of a belt only, which isn't in my mind's eye as an element of my ideal coat.  The pattern may turn into a spring jacket sometime soonish, however.

Downcast, I turned to other patterns in my stash.

I suspended disbelief and made a muslin of Vogue 1320.

Again, I'd lengthen this coat if it were my chosen pattern - which it isn't.  Why not?  Despite its rather nice shaping (by means of side front and back seams; there is a shaped side panel), what does this in for me is the yoke and very high neck, as well as the completely horrid collar that looks constricting without being warm, since it leaves the critical front throat area open to the elements.

I would consider morphing the neckline from the Lekala pattern onto the yoke, except for the fact that the sleeves on this one are  truly strange.  They are best illustrated at the kind of angle in the weird Vogue "window" shot at right.  That is, they kind of stick out.  Too much fabric would bunch, especially at the back. This is not within my "sculpturally lean" vision for my future coat.

Back to the pattern drawer.  I have higher hopes for Simplicity 2508.  

This pattern is reviewed multiple times on PatternReview and people seemed to really like it.  It dates to about 2010, but it looks pretty classic to me.  I was drawn to the white version at upper right, but this view calls for twenty buttons if you put one on each pocket flap!!!  Yikes!!!!

The collar is similar to the Lekala pattern.  The cuffed and buttoned sleeves are the ones I'd choose.

Long?  Could be, if I lengthened it.
Sculpturally lean?  I think so.
Warm collar?  Two choices!
Interesting sleeves?  Yes!

Muslin #3, here I come.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Closing it up ... and suddenly, it's done!

I sort of knew that closing up the back seam and adding the zipper to my sari dress was going to take all day.  And it did.

But it's done!

Hand picked zipper!
I decided to use a lapped application rather than attempt to sew an invisible zipper into my shifty and many layered silk skirt.  Especially since, as you may be able to see in the above photo) there is a pleat (so 6 layers of chiffon plus seam allowances) that lies EXACTLY on the cb seam line.

On the theory that visualization helps with most tasks, I spent a lot of mental sewing time between the last post and this one - imagining the installation and working through the mechanics of each side. I also (having been tipped off by Goodbye Valentino that it covered lapped zippers in a good way) downloaded the free zipper class from Craftsy and watched it.  This was helpful and I recommend the class to you, even though I didn't install my zipper exactly the way Sunni does in the class.

I would tell you how I did it, but (a) it's too complicated and (b) I forget parts ... already!  So pictures:
Underlap.  Nice, huh?

I had to add a facing of silk organza for the overlap side because my seam allowance was too narrow. With this zipper installation, the centre of the zipper is shifted to the overlap side.  

Once I had it all lined up I very carefully sewed the zipper in by hand, using a pick stitch.  Like this, but without the beads.

The skirt has twirl!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The end is in sight

You may ask ... what on earth is taking The Sewing Lawyer so long to finish her volcano and sari-inspired version of Vogue 1353?

A family visit to Alberta intervened.  Snow was experienced.  {{{{{Shudder}}}}}  Too soon!

But this summery dress confection must continue apace, because it is to be worn at a wedding in October, in the wilds of Nevada.  Well, Las Vegas.  I hope it will be quite warm enough there in October for this dress (reassure me in the comments).  I'll bring a wrap.  Just in case.

Anyhow, progress.  As you already know, the bodice was pretty much done before we left.  I underlined the very flimsy sari fabric with silk organza which stabilized all those pleats but did not threaten to make the bodice too stiff-looking.  At right, admire again how nicely the pleats gathered the curve of the sari border into the neckline. After this, I finished the neck and arm opening edges with the lining (firm poly-cotton fabric).  So far so good.

I cut out the skirt out before I left, because I was on a roll and I find having to make decisions immediately upon resuming a project after a hiatus is a recipe for disaster. So I decided on the finished length for the skirt by trying on the bodice/lining combo, and scientifically dangling a tape measure from the waist seam to where I wanted the skirt to end (knee length, longer than the pattern).  Since I am using a border print, I wouldn't have the luxury of cutting it too long and turning it up to the right length.

I also decided to cut a shorter second layer of the skirt as an overlay, since (a) my fabric is very sheer and flimsy, so a second layer would beef it up and (b) without doubling up the border visually, there would be too much boring beige in the skirt.  The length of the over layer was dictated by the fact that I had to cut it along the same border of the original sari as the under skirt.  This was dictated in turn by the fact that the printing of the opposite border was really bad - it is printed very off grain.  VERY luckily, the length of the sari was *just* enough to permit me to cut an over skirt.

Finally, before I left I marked the pleat lines on the under skirt and neatly folded all my pieces on my cutting board to await my return.

On my return from our trip, and after the post-travel jaggedness wore off, I was pleased today to be able to execute decisions that had already been  made by a previous version of The Sewing Lawyer.  However I was pretty irritated at her lack of precision in cutting.

(Seriously, this fabric is so soft and shifty that precision is impossible.  Luckily, it is so soft and shifty that precision also doesn't matter.)

I sewed the side seams in the under skirt using French seams (first pass a narrow 3 thread serger seam, a technique I'm loving), laid the shorter overskirt on top, and basted the pleats through all layers.  Then I threw caution to the winds and attached the skirt to the bodice.

It actually worked, and it's the right length! Clearly it will need a belt (and a zipper, my next challenge).  But it'll be fine if nobody looks too close at it.

Luckily, since I'm just attending somebody else's wedding, this is practically guaranteed.

Here's another gratuitous Icelandic eruption photo.  My dress pales in comparison.

Monday, September 1, 2014


The Sewing Lawyer is happy to take advantage of unavoidable destiny.  Which seems to capture the relationship between Vogue 1353 and my sari fabric.

How else to explain this match of curves?

Here is my partly finished bodice.

To give the fairly close-fitting bodice some strength, I've underlined my very soft and drapey silk with silk organza. I'm also using organza as interfacing, and will face the skirt hem with it to give it a bit more body.
The lining will be the white cotton/poly dress that the bodice is pinned to.  I also used it for fitting purposes.

Speaking of which, when Vogue says that the waist seam is "slightly above" the waist they are not kidding. I added 1.5cm of length (5/8") and it feels a lot more comfortable.

I also raised the back neckline about 5cm (2") and narrowed the bodice upper back by about 2cm.  Many reviewers noted that it is rather broad, and on me the back neck gaped and the bodice felt uncomfortably loose.

The back of the bodice is cut in the red squares part of the sari.  The skirt remains to be cut.  First I have to figure out exactly how long I want it to be.

Maybe I'll call it my volcano dress.  While I'm sewing, I'm keeping tabs on Bárðarbunga, the Icelandic volcano that is giving rise to the current fissure eruption.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Methinks I should make another one...

Another Kay Unger dress, that is.

I picked up Vogue 1353 recently.  I've had it in mind for a while.

Beth of SunnyGal Studio posted a helpful exposé of this pattern a year ago.  Her initial review ended on a sour note, but she recently made it again so I guess she loves it after all.

And I have this.  It's a silk sari.  Luckily, the dress is lined because the sari is pretty sheer.  It's woven with a seersucker grid which livens up the plain part in the middle.  

This pattern is ideal for a border print, because the hem is completely straight.  

I have it in mind to try to cut the front neck using the rounded ochre part, and the rest of the bodice in red. But I reserve the right to change my mind. I might cut the skirt double, if I have enough fabric...

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Another FO

So I also finished the Sandra Betzina shirt (Vogue 1385).  It's not in danger of supplanting my shingle dress for favorite project status.  In time, I may come to love it.

I was apprehensive about sewing this unusual fabric (fuzzy "woollen" embroidered lace on a sheer silk base) for nothing, as it turned out.  It behaved very well, even for buttonholes.

All seams are French seams - sewn first pass with a narrow serged seam and the second pass on the sewing machine.

I ended up cutting about 8" off the bottom to make it a standard shirt length.  I have worn it as a light topper (today over this version of Vogue 1250).  I also made self-fabric tie belt for it, but so far have not actually used it.

Quoi d'autre?

I used grey silk organza for the facings as you can see on this inside-out shot.  This particular organza is quite stiff so I did not need any interfacing and the entire effect is as light/sheer as possible.

The inside-out shot also shows the darting.  If I were to make this shirt again (as I said before) I'd make that top-shoulder dart less deep and try to move some darting to the back.  The back neck could be higher/snugger and darting would help that.  I am also planning to make the sleeve cuff darts deeper - they're a little floppy.

I wonder what my stash will move me to make next?

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

It's always the way

I thought:  "It's a nice evening, I'll take pictures of my newest creation outside for a change."

So I did.

.... and ....

All the best ones are headless.

Or blurry.

Or both (almost).

Sigh.  Enjoy these not-on-me detail shots, where you can see the texture of the fabric.  It's really interesting.

This is one comfy dress.  Still my favourite.

Monday, August 4, 2014


Making the shingle dress is kind of addictive.  I could not stop sewing ...

I think getting a good fit on the base is critical.  Whatever fit flaws are in the base will translate to the shingles. I'm glad I figured out how to adjust the side seams and neckline for my figure, and I'm super glad I figured out the horizontal back waist dart before I started stacking this dress.

Yes stacked.  Bottom to top.  A layer at a time.

It was quite the process. Making this had me running from my serger (where I did a narrow rolled edge along my chosen hemline stripe) to the cutting room with my yardage and the base pieces to cut the shingles. Then back to the sewing machine to baste them in place.  It was back and forth about two dozen times.

Preparing for the next shingle 
I lengthened the dress so it's between views A and B. This meant adjusting the length of the shingles.  I added about 2" (5cm) to the bottom of the lowest shingle and 1" (2.5cm) to the middle one to keep the proportions (more or less) equivalent to the original. I did this on the fly.

I started with the lowest layer which I lengthened to match my base (actually 1cm longer, so the base will remain hidden when the dress is worn).  I basted it to the base at the sides and top.  When I was satisfied that it was lying smooth, I sewed the top down using a 3 step zig-zag stitch and trimmed off the excess above the stitching.

Next layer.  I did my narrow rolled hem, put the fabric on the cutting table (as in the photo to the right), laid the base pieces on top, figured out where the top edge of the next shingle should be (using the original shingle pattern pieces).  I cut the side edges using my adjusted base as a guide rather than the pattern piece.

Rinse and repeat.  Two more times.

Back dart - 3cm at its deepest point

The back dart is at left.  I slashed between the seam lines and overlapped the dart, sewing it closed with a 3 step zig-zag stitch.  Then I trimmed it close to the stitching on both sides.  The power mesh isn't going to fray any time soon.

I had to adjust the second shingle from the top for the back waist dart.  I was on my way to inventing the necessary technique, but on reading PR reviews, I found that JudyCook had blazed the trail, with Sarah Veblen's help.  My approach was slightly more approximate.  I pinned at the side seams and then smoothed the fabric up at the top until it was the same length as the power mesh base.  You can see, in the photo with the ruler, that the upper edge is curved where I did this.  I stitched in a straight line and trimmed off the excess.

As others have written, it's essential to do the back and front at the same time, so the shingles match at the side seams.  I still had to fudge once I was putting them together.  I just pulled out the basting stitches at the side seams, and pulled the errant shingle into place, pinned and stitched.  Stretchy fabric is very forgiving, luckily.

The side seams are thick!  At least 4 layers everywhere and 6 where the shingles overlap.   I trimmed the base and the overlapped layers too, before serging the side seams with a four thread "safety stitch".

Neck and arm openings bound.  Finished.

I will wear it tomorrow. I am pretty sure it's my new favorite dress.