Friday, January 23, 2015

Random Threads: Pleats, Leather, Fence and a Sneak Peek

Inspiration: Pleat Detail on a Coat Lining
I saw this wonderful photo on Pinterest and had to save it for future reference. I love the use of pleats at the bottom of this coat lining -- what a beautiful and interesting detail!

Future Project: White Leather Jacket
Last year, I attended a sewing blogger gathering, where Laura Mae of Lilacs and Lace generously gave away a gorgeous white leather skirt + matching sash. It is a very 80s/90s piece -- long, with a wide elastic waist and generous pleats all around. There's quite a bit of yardage, so I thought it might be fun to make a leather jacket. I saw this one in the Yigal Azrouel store in New York City, and would love to make a jacket inspired by it. I love the short sleeves, wide collar and asymmetric zip. Thank you, Laura Mae!

Image from here.

Repaired: Backyard Fence (Thanks to a Referral from a Fellow Sewing Blogger!)
Recently, I needed to have some minor repair work done on my backyard fence -- it had actually been damaged for a couple of months, so the whole thing had been weighing on my mind for a while. The job was too small for a fencing company, so I called Beth of SunnyGal Studio -- a friend I met through blogging who happens to live in my area -- to see if she had any suggestions. Luckily for me, she referred me to a wonderful local contractor who did a great job of patching up the damage. Sewing bloggers are the greatest -- thank you, Beth!

Lantern Coat: Sneak Peek
And finally, here's a sneak peek of a project I've been working on.

I've been playing around with different fabrics and textures, so for this coat, I've combined a mid-weight felted wool with a taffeta. Because the fabric weights are quite different, I decided to use fusible interfacing and underline the taffeta pieces with some scrap cotton flannel (pre-washed and pre-shrunk). I have to confess -- I was lazy because I didn't hand-baste the flannel, but it ended up working out ok. I have some time this weekend to work on it, so we'll see how it goes!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

First Project of 2015: Taffeta Band Jacket

First of all, I would like to thank you for writing such thoughtful comments to my last post. I very much appreciate all of the sentiments and, moving forward, will endeavor to not let negativity have an impact. Life is too short for that!

Now back to sewing. Here's my first sewn project for 2015 -- my Taffeta Band Jacket. The turtleneck looks a bit ratty, but the jacket was fun to wear out for Sunday brunch.

The main fabric is a plain black woolen and the yoke, hem band and center back trim are a stretch poly taffeta that Shams used for her beautiful textured vest. I had the opportunity to see her in-progress vest and loved the texture and shine of the taffeta -- and thought it would be a great contrast to a matte wool fabric. The lining is a black Bemberg rayon.

This pattern is a rerun from 2012 -- a new version of my Crocodile Jacket from Burda's February 2012 issue. The style number is 101 and it is a petite-sized pattern. The original version has become my fave go-to jacket -- I've worn it so many times because it is easy to grab and go; makes any outfit look more polished; and is really comfortable to wear. All the hallmarks of a go-to jacket.

This was the only time I wore the jacket and skirt together -- too matchy-matchy out in the real world.

For my new version, I drafted a back yoke piece and a wide hem band. I also shortened the sleeves to 3/4 length. I really like the shoulder seam, which comes forward so it is visible in the front. However, I forgot to take this into account when I was sewing in the sleeves. Needless to say, it took 3 tries to get the sleeves set in correctly!

I also played around with adding a bit of leftover trim from my stash. I think it distracts from the band and makes it look a bit too fancy, so I decided to keep it off. Black is such a difficult color to photograph -- I'm sorry for the washed out photo below.

This was the first time I block-fused a jacket. I've generally used hand-basted silk organza to underline wool jackets, but for this one, I thought I would try using a mid-weight interfacing from Fashion Sewing Supply. I like the result and will definitely use the technique again -- much faster than hand-basting and the drape and feel of the fabric was still very nice after fusing.

One problem I had with this jacket was the taffeta hem band. It is a bit lightweight, even though I interfaced the band, so it would have been better if I had used the wool fabric (interfaced) for the facing, with the taffeta on the outside only. I'm also not sure about the vertical band I included at CB. I thought it would be a nice detail to break up the horizontal lines, but I'm not in love with it.

Overall, I really like this pattern and will definitely use it again. I like how it is a great basic that can be tweaked to create different styles. It would have been cool to add wide taffeta bands for the sleeve hems; add vertical taffeta bands along the center fronts; or even change the basic bust darts into french darts, gathers or pleats. The possibilities are endless when the base pattern is so well drafted.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Ready for 2015

It has been so impressive to read the year-end reviews being posted these last few days -- the sewing community had a very productive 2014. I wasn't nearly as prolific this past year, especially compared to all of you! It seemed like it took me a long time to make each piece, so I ended up with fewer finished garments than I would have liked. It also felt like a low-sewing-mojo kind of year -- one of those transitional times when it took some effort to get excited and motivated about a project.

I think this was because, for the first time in my life, I was struck with an "I'm feeling old" mindset -- fleeting thoughts that a bit of Botox wouldn't be such a bad idea; the realization that age discrimination really does exist and is tolerated; and that the notion of "feeling invisible" in our youth-obsessed society is something I have now come to understand. I never thought I would get here, but it really hit me in 2014. Believe it or not, one factor that actually contributed to this mindset has been some of the views expressed within the sewing community -- the marked differences between sewists who are older and those who are younger. I actually don't completely identify with either camp -- I'm not particularly adept at social media and I wasn't lucky enough to have a family member teach me how to sew "properly"-- but it was the fact that this divide exists that made this Gen X-er feel kind of old.

Well, a new year is for new beginnings, so here's to moving beyond the negativity and getting on with living life and appreciating every moment. Here's one of my fave garments of 2014 -- the pink cape! -- modeled in New York City over the Christmas holiday. Happy 2015!

Monday, December 29, 2014

A Serger for Christmas!

Lucky me -- I found a brand new serger under the Christmas tree this year! And it has been cat-approved too!

I've been considering a serger for a long time -- and have gone back and forth because it always felt like more of a luxury than a necessity, especially since I had been able to sew without one for so many years and the ever-popular Babylocks are so expensive. After some research, I found that the Juki sergers garnered good reviews and were available at a more affordable price point, so here we are!

One disadvantage of non-Babylock sergers like this one is that the threading can be tricky. But thanks to this YouTube video, the threading wasn't bad at all. And the test run with a scrap of wool went really well, so it looks like it has been properly threaded. A very exciting addition to my sewing room -- thank you, Santa!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

A Quick Knit: Cabled Boot Cuffs

I had one lone skein of yarn -- Beaverslide Dry Goods 3-ply heavy fisherman weight merino wool -- and a couple of hours of free time between wrapping Christmas gifts and writing out last-minute cards, so I thought it might be fun to make a pair of boot cuffs. Yes, I know, I'm about a year late in jumping on the boot cuff bandwagon, but better late than never, right?

The yarn is a wonderful 100% merino wool in the Winter Rosehip color way. Beaverslide Dry Goods is a family-owned and -run business based in Montana, where they raise their sheep on 3000 acres of land. The yarn is really wonderful to work with and the color is more beautiful in person. There was some splitting here and there in within the skein, but it wasn't a huge deal.

Each cuff is 6" in length and 12" around. I knit the cuffs flat and then seamed them into a tube, but they can be knit in the round using small-diameter circular needles or double points. The pattern is just a simple cable rib (2 purl stitches alternating with 4 cable stitches). I used size 9 needles, so it was pretty quick to knit -- probably just a couple of hours from cast on to bind off!

Here's the pattern:

1. Using size 9 circular needles, cast on 44 stitches. This includes 1 selvage stitch at both ends of each row. The selvage will be worked in stockinette.

2. (WS) P1 (selvage). *K2, P4.** Repeat from * to ** across, ending with P1 (selvage).

3. (RS) K1 (selvage). *K4, P2.** Repeat from * to ** across, ending with K1 (selvage).

4. Repeat #2.

5. (RS) K1 (selvage). Place 2 stitches on cable holder and hold to front. K2. K2 from cable holder. P2. Place 2 stitches on cable holder and hold to back. K2. K2 from cable holder. P2. Repeat across, ending with K1 (selvage).

6. (WS) P1 (selvage). *K2, P4.** Repeat from * to ** across, ending with P1 (selvage).

7. (RS) K1 (selvage). *K4, P2.** Repeat from * to ** across, ending with K1 (selvage).

8. Repeat #6 and #7 once. Repeat #6 one additional time.

9. (RS) Repeat #5.

10. Repeat #6 -- #9 two additional times.

11. Repeat #6 and #7 four times.

12. Bind off all stitches, leaving a long tail to seam the cuff into a tube.

13. Seam each cuff into a tube and tie off ends.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Design Detail: Channel Stitching

I've been obsessed with channel stitching for quite a while now. I just love all those nice, neat, parallel rows of stitching!

My go-to reference for this technique is Lynda Maynard's book, The Dressmaker's Handbook of Couture Sewing Techniques. Sew Maris also gives a nice review of this technique in her Craftsy blog post.

As in many things related to sewing, testing is so important. The type of fabric; weight of interfacing; adding additional fabric to give a quilted effect; thread color and weight; and stitch length are all considerations that need to be tested before moving on to fashion fabric.

For my Sailor Collar Moto Jacket, I used channel stitching to accent the peplum, cuffs and collar. The peplum is stitched using my regular cotton thread, while the stitching on the collar (faux leather) is done with a heavy topstitching thread.

The jacket is a stretch denim fabric and the collar/cuffs are faux leather. All of the facings are stretch denim interfaced with a lightweight fusible. I could have added a layer of flannel on the inside to add further dimension for a more "quilted" look, but I opted for a flat effect.

What is cool about channel stitching is that it can create a new texture -- the peplum piece has much more structure and a defined shape due to the rows of stitching. The down side of this is that, depending on the amount of stitching you add, you need to take shrinkage into account, as all those rows of stitching will "shrink" the piece. Again, testing is key!

Stitching around corners is tricky, and I have to admit the above isn't perfect. However, it helps to decrease the stitch length around the corners and, while I didn't do this, it might help to chalk-mark the corner distances so each row is even. I was lazy, so I just eye-balled the distances and hoped for the best!

Here's a project I'm currently working on that uses channel stitching on the collar and front flap piece. The fabric is a silk/wool blend that is interfaced with a lightweight fusible and the facing is a china silk lining fabric.

In this case, the stitching practically melts into the fabric -- it is very subtle and, because I limited the rows of stitching, it doesn't really add much structure or shape. This is a wearable muslin, so I think for the final garment, I'll choose a thicker topstitching thread in a slightly more contrasting color to make the stitching stand out a bit more.

Some thoughts on channel stitching:

1. Test the fabric, interfacing and thread combination you plan to use to make sure the effect is what you originally envisioned. This is also a good time to test the stitch length you like; the spacing between rows (I like 1/4 inch); and whether you need to worry about shrinkage.

2. Take shrinkage into account. If you have a lot of rows of stitching, the piece will shrink slightly, depending on the fabric, thread and stitch length you are using.

3. A walking foot helps to keep the layers of fabric from shifting too much, especially if you choose to add a layer of flannel or other fabric for a more "quilted" effect.

4. Some people mark their rows of stitching with chalk or other marking method. I just measure off 1/4 inch from the edge for the first row and use my stitch guide/machine foot to maintain an even distance between rows. It is difficult to keep the rows evenly spaced and straight, so I end up sewing each row very slowly.

5. I start and stop each row of stitching by decreasing the stitch length -- I do not backstitch, as I think the smaller stitches give a cleaner finish.

While this technique is time-consuming to do, it is a beautiful design detail. I hope you have the chance to try it!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Final Collection Photographed: Part 2

Time just seems to slip by -- I can't believe the holidays are just around the corner! I've been busy working on different projects, so photographing the last few pieces from my collection took a bit of a back seat. 

Even though I'm not a dress person, I included one dress design. There's a lot going on -- pleated puff sleeves; pleated neckline and bow tie; an empire waist; and parallel darts all around the bodice. 

The main fabric is a blue and black wool suiting with metallic sapphire threads running throughout. The accent fabric is a crepe-back satin. It is lined with bemberg rayon and the sleeve heads are silk organza.

Here's a detail of the pleated sleeves and neckline.

Aside from a good press, the dress needs a finer zipper. Even though you can't see it, the front zips up all along CF, but the zipper I used was a jacket-weight and a bit too heavy and bulky for this type of dress. Lesson learned -- be sure all of the notions are appropriate for the fabric and style!

I used the same fabric for a pair of classic trousers. The top is a simple shell made with washed silk charmeuse.

The trousers have a leather waistband, but other than that, the style is quite simple. It is fully lined with bemberg rayon. The top has a simple slit opening and a hook/eye closure at CB. I also added a band at the hem to give the top a blouson look when worn untucked.

I struggled with the top. I ended up finishing the armholes and neckline with bias binding turned under and stitched, but I think a facing would have given it a cleaner finish. Also, this top would have benefited from a fabric with more body -- I thought the washed finish on the charmeuse would be enough, but a more substantive crepe would have been nicer. 

Now, the next jacket was my big failure. I had some leftover fabric from the Flounce Cape, so I decided to make the jacket using that coating fabric. There are a lot of issues with this one, as it was the last piece I made, and so I rushed through it in order to meet my deadline. It shows. The main issue was setting in the sleeves. I thought I could steam out some of the ease, but I ended up over-pressing the sleeve caps without the needed shrinkage. The caps ended up looking felted! The puckering is terrible, especially in the back. Lesson learned #1: Don't assume all wools will be shrink-able and be careful when pressing.

Geez -- the back looks worse than I thought! I tried to re-sew the sleeves, but it just didn't work well. These sleeves have been handled and worked over A LOT! My only option is to re-cut the sleeves and re-sew them. Ugh. Of course I don't have enough fabric -- I'll have to call Mood to see if they still have some of this. If not, I may re-make the sleeves in leather. Maybe that will work?

The asymmetric neckline has a flounce collar and a two-way zipper with a leather strip accent. The sleeves also have zippers and leather pieces underneath them. It is difficult to see, but I tried to incorporate curved seams to play off the flounce collar -- the hem and back feature the curves. Lesson learned #2: For heavier weight fabrics, take the time to make a muslin in a similar weight. 

Finally, I included my Classic French Jacket from the Susan Khalje workshop. I managed to scrape together enough fabric to make a little high-waisted flounce skirt. I also made a little top using a silver silk/cotton blend fabric from my stash.

I love this jacket. Every time I put it on, it feels so comfortable -- it is a heavy jacket, but it feels weightless when I wear it. 

Here's a detail shot of the top. I converted the bust darts to gathers; added a pleated neckline for the bow tie; and made a hidden front placket for the CF.

Well, that's it! I'm sorry I don't have in-progress photos -- I was so busy trying to get these pieces sewn that I didn't have the time to take many photos along the way.