30 November, 2009

The Honest Scrap! Award

Hahah! How terrifically unexpected! Katie has granted me the Honest Scrap award(http://katiekadiddlehopper.blogspot.com/2009/11/honest-scrap.html). Katie, my dear blogosphere sewing friend, you are a very kind soul. I thank thee.

Here are the rules for the lucky seven recipients from this page:

1. Thank the person who gave the award and list their blog and link it.
2. Share "10 Honest Things" about yourself.
3. Present this award to 7 others whose blogs you find brilliant in content and/or design, or those who have encouraged you.
4. Tell those 7 people they've been awarded Honest Scrap and inform them of these guidelines in receiving the award.

So, in turn, I nominate the following seven lovely ladies, in no particular order:

1. Maricou (La Machine A Coudre)
2. Kristy (Lower Your Presser Foot)
3. Mardel (Sewdistracted)
4. Kay (The Sewing Lawyer)
5. Ann (Ann's Fashion Studio)
6. Dei (Sew Hot Mommi)
7. Christina (Assorted Notions)

Now. Honestly, let's be fair, ten honest things to write about oneself takes a little time. So how's this? I'm going to give myself a little breathing room, and post one or so a day, with edits of this single message to update (maybe even revise!) the list.

1. I can describe my life story in numbers: zero (0) pets; 1 sibling; 2 spouses (consecutively!!!!); 3 degrees; 4 stepkids; 5 languages (two badly); and not less than 347 hostas. Numbers (and hostas) and I are bosom buddies.

Click on this picture to get a better view of a tiny subset of my green collection from last July. The neighbourhood bunnies that come to snack on them all summer long also love my hostas.

2. My lovely Mom is an artist and, in her professional life, was a fashion designer. As far as I know, she always sewed, and still does. When I was a toddler she made coats for me & my sib out of a big green plaid blanket; I remember the edges were trimmed with brown grosgrain ribbon. Those not-quite-baby coats live big in the family pics and lore; so much so that last year I made a blanket coat for MOI, out of a former bedspread outgrown by one of my kids. There's a symmetry in that. Truthfully, the bedspread was coating - I got it at Fabricland in Halifax ever so long ago, 'cause it was perfect for the child's colour scheme....and it served its purpose admirably for years. My "closest to my heart 'cause it was my babe's blankie" coat, below, is Burda 7856.

I made an oversize, rive-gauche beret to go with it. It's become my go-to walking coat in the dead of winter.

3. I love to travel. I've resided in 4 different countries, and have worked on six continents (which continent is New Zealand?!) - all except Antarctica.

4. I'm an amateur woodwinds musician: flutes and the like. My favourite period is the Baroque, and my fave composers to play are Telemann, Bach, Locatelli, Scarlatti, Vivaldi, etc. But when I listen, it's pop and jazz.

5. I'm an atheist. Yes, really. Completely. Yet, as a card-carrying archaeologist, I more than appreciate the fact that humanity's most impressive monuments were erected to honour the Almighty (and almighties).

'Nuff said.

6. I was chased by a bear in our gorgeous Canadian Rockies once - and lived to tell about it :) Many years later, I was chased by an angry bull elephant. If good things come in threes, what's going to be chasing me next?!

7. I'm a MEAN chef (and a damn good one, too!). My walnut torte was so famous in the family that a close relative decreed it should be her wedding cake (I obliged). But then, I got bored with cooking, and bowed out of the kitchen. I now enter it only to stoke the fires and harass the chief bottle washer. And, just to keep the rest of the household on their toes, I clear the decks on Thanksgiving (I bake a WILD STUFFED turkey!) and Christmas (poppyseed strudel, anyone?!) My boy and I play against each other with frequent fruitshakes and cranberry muffins, but that doesn't count as cooking, does it? Repeat after me: I'd rather be sewing....

8. When I was in college, I spent a summer selling encyclopedias (Collier's, FYI) in Newfoundland. That was the 2nd best summer of my life (the best, honestly, was getting chased by bears while working in Jasper NP). Bet there aren't too many people who have visited nearly every home on Fogo Island! Newfoundlanders in the days of my youth were a delight - warm, hospitable people who knew how to live on a shoestring, loved to talk, and all of them, it seemed to me, wanted to move to Toronto. Toronto was not only the Mecca for the inhabitants of Canada's most easterly province, but also the edge of the world - not one person ever mentioned a single destination further west. I got to visit St. Pierre et Miqelon on the same trip; portraits of Georges Pompidou hung on every wall of the "pension" where I stayed, and you could get a glass of wine for a quarter (un franc) at the local cafe.

9. I'm impatient. When I see my way to the end of things, I often lack the motivation to go through the whole process: though still at A in reality, I might already be at Z in spirit. Sewing provides a bit of discipline for this personality flaw, since if I don't go through the whole process, I'll obviously have accomplished nothing. I get bored with the guts of books, and skip to the end. I don't stand in queues. I abhor repetition - I'll do it once, do it twice (yawn), but don't ask me to do it thrice (musical practice excepted). That's why I don't cook any more. I don't suffer fools, and I have no time for chronic whiners. My glass is always full, even when bone dry empty, because I know how to refill it.

10. I LOVE museums, zoos, and safari parks. It's a clear case of imprinting: I grew up next to a museum of archaeology and one of natural history, and was taken to them often. I've been to most of the museums in London, Paris, NY, LA, and many other places; a visit to a museum does wonders for one's sense of place in space and time. My hubby is the only person I know who can outlast me in a museum: one time, after 8 solid hrs in the M. of Natural History in NY, I faded, but he was STILL pressing his nose to the cases of minerals. Sheesh!

Back to sewing now!

28 November, 2009

Coral cashmere coat inaugurated! with some random thoughts

It was snowing here a tiny bit on Monday, so I quickly whipped three of the snaps on, and inaugurated it!

The sleeves are deliberately long, all the better to hide my hands in them when it's snowing & blowing...

The lining's still unattached at the bottom - I want to tack the facings to the underlining first....

The all-important wallet-protecting inside pocket....

Soft rumpling of sleeve screams luxury!!!!

Back yoke keeps me warm, and is desperately begging for the hood (still to come)...

You can see in the side view that I made the yoke a little larger than the coat's back, so it doesn't hamper movement...

For a touch of stylistic versatility, the collar ends are long enough to tie into a fanciful bow.

Random thoughts: BWOF designed this coat to be an unlined single layer garment, from non-fraying fabric, such as boiled wool, for example. I used (incidentally non-fraying) pure cashmere, but I lined it TO DEATH.

My coat has 5 basic layers: fashion fabric, wool/poly blend underlining to support the fashion fabric, a polyester windblock, cotton knit interlining for extra warmth, and silk charmeuse lining. The underlining supports the fashion fabric, the windblock is lightly tacked onto that duo, and the interlining-plus-lining were sewn as one.

I added a back yoke, which included the polyester windblock, and is lined with the charmeuse. We want our hidden bits to be pretty too, don't we? We sure do.

Did you know that you lose 50% of your heat through your head???!!! and all that heat is delivered via the carotid arteries which run just under the skin of the neck (Sweeney Todd was well versed in anatomy). So, if your feet are cold, put on a hat, and wrap your neck in windproofed cashmere. To block the winds, I added a layer of polyester inside the shawl collar.

After all the construction (detailed in previous posts), I wasn't happy with the way the coat felt: too stiff, too immobilizing. So I cut away much of the windblock. I kept all of the front, but removed it from both top sleeves and the sides. I kept it over the lower back, but, except for a 2" overlap with the yoke, removed it from the upper back. I also cut away all of the cotton knit interlining from the under sleeve, and the interlining from the lower part of the top front sleeve, to above the elbow. Result: the coat's much lighter and more flexible. Now it's like a warm, cozy blanket one wants to get all wrapped into.

This coat has NO fusible interfacing. NONE. Not even the back neck facing (though I thought of it, and it looks pretty soft without any). Oh, wait a second: I interfaced the front sleeve corners. But honestly, apart from the sew-in stuff on the front yokes, that's it.

I stabilized the sleeve hems, bottom hem, and fronts with tiny backstitching that's invisible from the outside but looks like prickstitching on the inside. It's a simple but asymmetric backstitch, 1 cm forward, 1 mm back. Gives tiny little pinprick points every centimeter.

Working with this luxurious fabric was dreamy. I loved holding it so much, I even mitered the front facing corners (at the hem), by hand.

Bottom line after wearing it for a week: it's NOT the warmest coat in my closet - but it sure is the softest.

Coat: promised construction details

First the ugly fabric underlining, on top of which is the polyester windblock. The windblock has sides but no undersleeves. I'm not convinced the coat really needs it; I might just rip it out if the whole thing feels too bulky.

The windblock and lining are cut wider for ease of wear, but as I didn't want to be adding more layers, I eased them to the facing instead of pleating.

And then the lining. The charmeuse had a cute houndstooth detail along one side, so I put that along the front facings.

As with my GCSA greatcoat, I added an inside pocket on the left side, a very useful little thing to have (well, mine isn't little - those big raccoons need a warm & cuddly spot, y'know!) The collar's now in; I followed BWOF's instructions to a T on that, and readily applaud them - can't think any other way would've worked with all the bulk along the neckline. Recall, the extra yoke adds 3 layers, the underlinings add 3 layers, and the back raglan adds two thick multi-layer seams for the machine to cross. Just as with the back corners, I sewed the connection point of the collar to the front neckline (mark 11 on the pattern) by hand, as the machine just wouldn't be able to get that close.

Just to leave you with a teaser, I love the look! it's modern, it's sleek, it's "not off the rack". You'll see! promise.

25 November, 2009

Teeny tiny progress

I'm liking this blogging thing, BUT posting photos is too kludgy and takes too much time. Blogger developers, please take note & improve this!

That said, this post will of course have NO photos, even though sufficient progress has been made to warrant one (or two), because I'd rather keep on progressing than (o-oh, there's that word again!) WASTE my time patching in pictures. But, how's this for a deal? I'll take a few pics, and once I actually finish this coat (I do want to have it ready once winter sets in, which is going to be next week: highs of +2C coming!), I'll take the time to post them.

I've made my lining, and underlined it with a yellow cotton knit. Why a cotton knit? because it was a freebie from a FM mystery bundle, nice & beefy, I have tons of it, and I'm never going to make any yellow t-shirts. For anyone who lives here. Basta!

I've also built a windblock, using the same an-atomic-bomb-won't-dislodge-me "tie silk" polyester as what supports the back yoke. it has front, back, sides, and top sleeves to the elbows. It's just long enough to cover my behind, about 24", not full length. I'm sewing it onto the underlining tonight.

Finally, I went to Fabricland tonight to get the snaps. The lovely ladies there just looked at me pityingly and said, don't you know tomorrow's the members' sale?! Go home and have a glass of wine!
....so I did.

21 November, 2009

Happy Happy Happy

The shell of the coat, save for the collar and hemming, is done.
I interfaced the side yokes (thank you, Kay!), but left the back alone.

The back yoke:

It's interlined with a "tie silk" polyester windblock, and lined with the charmeuse.

I was ***PETRIFIED*** at sewing all the corners - this fabric is THICK. Nerve-wracking, 'twas.

Here's the front sleeve corner; it came out a little mushy. The other side's the same.

But the other four are lovely.

Upper front:

My piece de resistance, the back sleeve corner:
Admirable, eh? The other side is just as perfect. HOW on earth did I ever manage this hat trick????!!!! Hah! I sewed them BY HAND. Highly recommended. The machine would've botched the job.

Tried it on, and the fit's great (quite loose). Now I have to decide if I want to add a windbreak to the inside of the coat, and/or a warm layer under the lining. What say ye?

15 November, 2009

A happy ending

Aka Death by Binding.

A month ago a Sweet Young Thing (SYT) asked me to make her a "big warm slouchy sweater with a hood, belt, and one huge button". Now, SYT knows I don't knit; although, I've seen some amazing stuff being produced by some extremely talented knitting bloggers, and I might just get tempted - perhaps in the next of my nine lives. As it happened, I was holding the October BWOF in my hand, and when it fell open to this Laid-Back Dress, I knew, after checking the tech drawing, that we had our big slouchy hooded cardigan.

We got 3 yds of a very intense bluish green boucle wool (photo credit Fabric Mart), and wow, does this stuff fray! So, to the fray! Ahem. Serged edges that were going to be in full view while framing SYT's gorgeous little face, was not an option. I never did the seam binding thing before, but I knew it was now or never. Halfway through the project it felt like never was quickly becoming a real option: this, I found myself fuming, is not seam binding but seam boooooring! Fiddly. Deadly. Dull. Unavoidable. Four packets of binding tape later, finished.

Is this the happy ending, you ask? Not a chance! The happy ending is that I knocked out, in no time flat, a (hoodless) sweater tunic-dress for MOI, using the same pattern and the remnant of the 3 yds! Howzzat for a winning hand!

It's night here now, but tomorrow, Scarlett, is another day; I'll get the junior fashion photog to exercise his talents by daylight, and we'll post the pics teh-marra.

12 November, 2009

Uncharted territory

This is about things we know; things we know we don't know; and things we don't know we don't know.

So, the body pieces are underlined; and the front yokes are interfaced with sew-in hair canvas, as per the photo at right. The canvas is a little smaller than the seam line, and it's zigzagged onto the underlining, and that is just attached around the SA's. So far so good.

We have the front & back technical view of the coat at right. In red I marked my added back yoke, with button, and the raglan sleeve seams I had to build into the back so the yoke can be attached. The uncharted territory here is whether I should also interface with hair canvas the top of the back, and the parts of the sleeves, front and back, to the shoulder line, as marked in blue with cryptic question marks. Well? Feeling a bit out of my depth here.

Also am uncertain whether I should interface (sew in? fusible? none?) the foldover front facings. Yes yes, jacket facings are interfaced, but the GCSA discussion on interfacings seemed to indicate that you only interface fronts to CF in coats. The fronts are already underlined with, and well attached to, a very stable fabric - I'll call that as good as interfaced. The facings however are not. Yet?

The front sleeve corners are nicely reinforced, and, as soon as I finish dithering about the rest of the underlining/interfacing, I'll be ready to put this puppy together.

And, in a final note, I posted my, ahem, success (?) on my first quasi-Chanel. Look at it and - weep? laugh? shake your head and say, cut off those leather buttons and round file the rest? To me, it looks just awful, and every photo I took looked at least as bad as these few. Surprisingly, it WAS very comfortable. Perhaps I should make it a StrictlyForRakingLeaves, wear on October 31st only, gardening garment?

08 November, 2009


So I did. All of it. I had JUST enough for the pattern plus the trenchy yoke and a three-piece hood. I freehanded the yoke, but am going to muslin the hood before making the final cuts, as there's no room, er, fabric, for making mistakes here. Not bad for 2.4 meters, eh? Being vertically challenged has its benefits.

A confession: I didn't muslin it - but it's an unfitted coat, and I did measure bust & hip circumferences pretty carefully first. Size 76/12UK/8US has 45" across the bust and 46" at the hip. More than sufficient, still I cut the SA's a little wider, just in case I'll want more ease over my nethers. I added 8 cm for the hem fold and 6 cm for the sleeve folds. The collar-shawl as drafted is so high I'd need a periscope to get around, so I lowered it by 1" - it now clears my eyeballs. I'm not too crazy about pocket linings playing peekaboo with the public - a little too your slip is showing, ma'am - so I widened the SA's at the pocket openings. Oh yes, and I added a half-raglan seam in the back so I can sew the trenchy-yokey-thingy into it.

That was yesterday. Today I started quilting the underlining to the ff. Cashmere is warm, it's light, it's a pettable delight, and it's delicate - so it needs support.

I found the perfect fabric in my stash - a wool-poly blend, lightweight, very flexible, stable in both directions, adds a little warmth, totally ideal for the job. I knew I'd never use it for anything else because - no offence, underlining! - it's the ugliest shade of dark dingy grey imaginable. Must've been an internet purchase or a freebie, 'cause if I'd ever come nose to nose with it in real life I'd have turned my nose up at it faster than a sneeze. I already tried to fob it off on hubby, offering to make him a pair of garden worthy trousers, and even that didn't sell. But as underlining, this ugly fabric rocks!

Here's the underlining quilted onto the centre front piece. I sneakily put selvedge at the facing fold line to make it do the job of tape. You can see me changing my mind as to the length of the stitches along the edge, and then revising my approach to the quilting. The straight basting with a tiny backstitch every 3 or so forward stitches is much easier to control, and to hide on the front side. All other panels are, or will be, quilted that way. With chalk lines to keep the stitching straight.

Parting shot: my freehanded trenchy-yoke.

05 November, 2009

Let it snow!

Yea! Snow, snow, snow. First snow of the season here today: just a little mid-day, then these fabulous plate-sized flakes thickly swirling into a veritable blizzard as I wended my way home from the bus stop. Not at all dressed for the weather either, in teeny little high heels that turned my toes to icicles by the time I arrived at my door. Yes, I was totally nonchalant about the forecast this morning. And yes, I love me a good winter. Brilliant blue skies, brilliant sunshine, brilliantly white snow squeaking underfoot. Skiing, ah, skiing. And brilliantly colourful people against all that white shiny brilliance.

Today's few flakes won't stick. Yet, they give me permission to set aside my two Chanels - very temporarily - to get started on my new coat. It'll be this BWOF 115 coat from the Sept. 2009 issue, made up in the fabric & lining at left. Pure cashmere and silk charmeuse, people! I had declared these two fabrics in the Great Coat Sew Along last year, but wasn't convinced by any of the patterns. This time, I am. Check out the technical drawing of that coat! The yoke, the side panels, and, get this, front and back sleeves are on the bias!!! Chic and comfortable, what a winner.

I'll have to see if I have enough fabric, but I'm hoping to add a trench-style back-whatever-it's-called to it. It'll need re-drafting of the back sleeve to a raglan, but that's a cinch. And, if there's still more fabric left, a hood: we really need head & shoulders protection from the nasty westerlies here during the season. The hood might in fact take priority over the trench thingy.

Let it snow, yea!