23 December, 2012

All they want for Christmas

....is my two latest creations.

And they are:  two more velvet robes!

Yea!  Robe giving is a tradition in my family, and it makes me very happy to continue it.  In the past, they were always crafted by my dear mom. She has gifted me at least two over the years - a red one when I was a teenager, and later a dark midnight blue one, and has made pastel beauties for other members of the family at least as many times if not many more.

This year marks a reversal of roles as well as a passing of the torch, for these newest two are destined for both my mom and my daughter:  we are the perfect mitochondrial trifecta!

A better rendition of the purple, but the blue is a bit darker in reality.
Mom gets royal blue, her preferred robe colour;  daughter gets royal purple, to complement her green-eyed blonde beauty.   I know they'll be thrilled, because both mentioned just in passing (hah!) that they need warm winter robes.

I used the same pattern I developed and showed earlier this year, with added side seam pockets, which I had omitted in the robes I made for my two guys and me.
The side seam pocket sits just below the belt loop, which is attached last of all.
This time, I also interfaced the belts, which I hadn't done before, as my son had mentioned that he found his belt a bit too floppy.

What makes this garment such a snap to make is that cotton velvet tears like a dream.  If you've never done it, you'd never believe how fast and efficient it is to rip this pattern into the needed sections.  No pattern needed, just a few measurements, a 5-6" saucer, and some chalk.  Ripping judiciously - in a careful sequence - allows for a nice long one piece belt and an almost-one piece front band with no seam at CB neckline.  In actuality, the front band is pieced at about knee level on the underlap (for women, the left) side, so it's always invisible.

For those of you interested in making your own, here are some construction details:
Fabric width = 105 to 110 cm
Garment width = 75 cm  (lying flat) for a nice luxurious one size fits all robe with plenty of modesty-preserving overlap in the front.
Front band & belt width = about 15 cm (flat, unsewn); about 6 cm finished width.

Finished width of front facing
Below, my little cartoon of the finished kimono or yukata inspired robe:

Order of construction destruction ;)
1. Rip one end of the fabric for a nice straight edge.  Watch the velvet fur fly as you do it!

2.  Decide on finished length (L) and add about 7 cm to that, which will be a 6 cm hem fold plus 1 cm SA.

3. Make a fold in your fabric with the WRONG sides together, at the L+7cm distance from the ripped edge, and lay the folded FF flat on a table, with the remainder (~ 2.6 m) underneath, and the excess puddled on a chair. For my two ladies, who are somewhat shorter than I, I wanted a 133 cm long, ankle-length garment, so I made a fold in my 4 m length of fabric at the 140 cm mark.  The short upper layer will become the front, while the lower layer will be the back plus sleeves, pockets, and remnants.

4. On the ripped edge, chalk-mark the exact centre of the FF width, and make two marks 15 cm away from the selvage edges.

5.  31 cm from the fold, make a chalk mark on each selvage.  They mark the lower cutting edges of the sleeves, which are 30 cm wide, with a 1 cm SA.  Make a short, 5 cm or so, cut through BOTH layers of the FF perpendicular to the edge, and place your 4 or 5" clean saucer upside down approximately where the sleeve and the side of the garment would meet if you were going to sew them in a continuous curve.

6.  On the bottom edge of the upper layer, make a small cut at each of the marks you made 15 cm from the sides (selvages), and rip this up to the saucer, proceeding slowly when you get close.  Connect the sleeve cut to the side rip by cutting a smooth curve around the saucer, through BOTH layers of the fabric.

7. Set aside the long narrow piece you just ripped/cut.  Now you have the lower layer peeking out, with the sleeve+curve already cut, needing to remove the 15 cm width along the side of what will be the garment's back. Rip the rest of that away all the way to the FF's other end that's lying puddled on the chair.  These nice long, loooong pieces, one from each side of the lower layer, will be the belt and (most of the) front band.

8.  When you've done that on both sides, you can rip off the lower layer to match the bottom (hem) edge of the top layer.   From the remnant, prepare two sleeve rectangles (62 x 44 cm each, I rip a 62 x 88 piece and then rip that in half...) ....
Each sleeve facing is made from a rectangle 62 x 44 cm
....and four pocket rectangles (about 25 x 15 cm).  NB the little notch cut away at the lower side seam edge of each pocket rectangle, to allow the lower part to hang loose, per diagram below:
Pocket rectangle:  the side seam edge is at left.  I drew the pocket shape after the pocket pieces were attached and matched, and then sewed from the sleeve to hem in one continuous seam, going around the pocket along my sketch line.  
9.  Mark both the lower and upper layers's side edges 17 cm below the sleeve's lower edge, and pin the pocket rectangles to the front & back sides (right sides together, we all know that), with the upper edge of each rectangle at the 17 cm mark.  This is why it's helpful to have the wrong sides together:  you can attach these pieces with only minimal disturbance of the fabric.

10. Almost done!   Starting at the centre mark at the hem edge of the upper layer, rip that AAALLLL the way up to the fold.  On the inside of the back, mark CB about 5 cm below the fold - it's important to do that, so you can later attach the hanging loop at exactly CB.   Then realign the ripped edges. On the folded edge, mark the neckline at about 7.5 cm from the CF.  From each neckline mark, draw a diagonal line to CF about 26 cm below the fold, and cut along that line.  Connect the two diagonal cuts below the fold by cutting a  shallow back neckline curve.

That's it!  That's all the main pieces of the kimono-yukata-inspired dressing gown.  This quick approach to creating the pattern pieces is the key, I'm convinced, to the fact that I was able to make both robes in just ONE day, the FF having been already pre-washed (on hot) and dried (also on hot, the cotton setting) the previous evening.

In terms of assembly, I find it easiest to sew the pocket to side seam first (to be able to remove the pins).  I then press the bottom hems of the two front halves, making sure with a ruler that they are exactly the same depth at CF, and construct the front band (remembering to place the seam of the pieced bit on the lower left side for women, on the lower right for men). To me, it's just so much easier to handle that sequence of very long pinning, sewing, basting the underside so it laps over just a little, about 3 or 4 mm, and then stitching in the ditch to secure it, while the front of the garment can be unfolded into a continuous length, instead of when it's already locked in shape by the side seams.  Remember to prepare and pin in place the hanging loop inside the neckline CB before basting and stitching in the ditch!

After the front band is done, I attach the sleeve rectangles to the sleeve edges, and sew each sleeve-upper side-pocket-lower side seam in one go.

The pocket is edge-finished with a zig-zag, which is much easier around these tight curves than with a serger, and trimmed afterwards. 
Then it's just a matter of folding under and finishing the sleeves, completing the bottom hem and belt, and attaching the belt loops. And vacuuming up the masses of velvet fluffs.

If you're still with me after all of the above.... I just want to close by saying that a walking foot and basting are invaluable to a well finished product made out of this fabric, as velvet has a tendency to slide something awful.  But the result is.....  


20 December, 2012

Spy versus spy: Bur6erry trench coat revealed

I already wore it and love it. To my great surprise, even though it's lined only with a thin, non-insulating lining, it kept me warm even in fairly cool temps earlier this week, I think because of its double layer water- and wind-proof cotton twill.  It's sure to become a great inter-season topper.


The lovely striped lining!
Can you tell I'm pleased?  Especially with my new boots.  :)

I'll post some construction details later.

16 December, 2012

Incognito: trench fedora à la Vogue 8844

This weekend I visited Montreal for a day.  Fortunately, my hostess is an avid fabric artiste and was happy to give me the full run of her workshop, not to mention her two very capable hands. 

Before I went, I prepared myself, cutting out the trench coat's facing and full lining, and checking that the remainder would indeed suffice for a hat.  I selected the pattern (V8844, view A), stuffed the fashion and lining fabric along with some fusible hair canvas in my oversized purse, and hopped on the bus! 

Making a hat isn't that difficult. Fusing interfacing to all the bits (top, crown, and rim), and ensuring that the hat's top is smoothly basted and then stitched to the crown were probably the biggest challenges:  one psychological (boredom!), the other technical (stiff, unyielding fabric).  The first was greatly lessened by the fact that I had a cheerful like-minded conversationalist in the room, who became more & more enthused as construction proceeded, and eventually traced a version for herself as well:  yay!

The real treat, though?  You'll never guess.  It was getting the opportunity to use her 30 year old Bernina 830.   Wow:  whisper quiet and smooth as silk.  Apart from a couple of dropped stitches, which were probably my fault as I didn't bring an appropriately heavy, sharp new needle appropriate for my project, it worked tirelessly and fabulously.   I loved using this delicately responsive piece of equipment, especially when applying reams and reams of topstitching to the rim. Coming back to my noisy, clackety, equally old Kenmore:  meh!

I brought the hat home just in time to hand sew the lining into it model it over dinner.   And?

1.  Magenta doesn't quite do it: I'll add a ribbon made out of the coat's lining to the hat;
2.  I predict there's a new sewing machine in my future;
3.  my young boy wants a fedora just like mine!

Inside view:  topstitching and lining.

Without the silly magenta ribbon:  much better!

The coat's nearly finished: shhhhhh!

04 December, 2012

Trench coat: progress and details

The hardest part of making anything, especially something made up of many complicated parts, is, actually, making the decision.  And decisions.

In this case, stuff like:
 topstitching:  single pass or double?  single.  Self or contrasting?  darker than self but not in your face contrast.  Normal thread or jeans/heavy weight?  I went with extra strong, which thinner than jeans weight, but some small fiddly things like belt loops are stitched with self coloured regular weight thread - the heavier thread didn't seem appropriate on the very small stuff.

Aside from choosing to make two piece sleeves, one of the more interesting questions I had posed myself was the construction of the yoke and gun flap.  It occurred to me that it would be sort of cool if this piece could be simply free floating on the coat itself, with neckline and armscyes  being the only seams where it's attached to the coat.  To that end, I added a "mini gun flap" to the left side:

I deliberately cut the lining a little larger than the FF, to allow for potential fraying during handling. 
The order of construction was, stitch left and right front flaps to the yoke, press shoulder seams to front and topstitch them, add the epaulette carriers, and only THEN attach the lining.  This way the lining smoothly sits between the yokes and the coat itself.   The shoulder seams of the coat itself are pressed to the back which minimizes the thickness at that point.

There are no buttonholes on anything yet; I usually do those as the very last step.  That button is just sitting pretty pretending it's attached.

A word on this fabric.  (aside: is this really what Bur6erry uses in their trench coats? it seems heavier than what I saw in stores recently).  This fabric is like milled cast iron, it's that tough and strong.   It's so ......um, stiff, yeah, there, I said it - when it comes right down to the nitty gritty it's pretty much stiff as a board, and I do hope it softens in wear.  See that epaulette below? It isn't even interfaced, and doesn't it have super legs?

So, after dithering for a bit (decisions, decisions), I decided not to interface the facing.  I was afraid I'd feel I was walking wrapped in cardboard if I did.  Instead, I added a wedge of fusible hair canvas to the lapel area of the CF, pinked off at the lapel fold diagonal line. Should I tape it?  Any advice on that? (I didn't)

Things are coming along.  I'm almost at the point of cutting the facing and lining layer.

Jan 2015 update:  a few detail shots of the finished coat.

Collar tab buttonhole is non-functional, so I left it uncut.

Shoulder tab:

 Left gunflap:

 Sleeve and belt buckles, pocket, topstitching details:

Two piece lower collar, cut on the bias for a nice chevron pattern:

And, note the nice high collar stand.  Great for keeping the wind off my neck!

30 November, 2012

Not-black Jalie jeans: I'm not colour blind

Remember my black-grey boiled wool Jalie jacket, at the end of its completion I said, "I need a pair of black jeans to go with it"?  Made'em!  Only they aren't black:  I used a great little length of python-printed blackish-greyish denim.
Python print jeans!
I used the same Jalie 2908 stretch jeans pattern as before, only folded out the Oh So Sixties bell bottoms and lengthened the hem about 2" so I could wear them with heels.  My hubby aka my greatest appreciator, is in love with these new jeans:  so they must be make me look darn good.

I made them exactly per pattern except: 
1. lengthened the hem by ~4 cm, 
2. straight leg below the knees, to go over all of my born-to-be-seven-feet-tall-will-always-love'em-to-death high heeled boots:

3.  I sewed the waistband onto the body in halves, and then used the menswear approach to making sure that there was no gaposis at CB.  NOTE TO SELF:  the right waistband has to be longer by 5 cm (2") than the left, otherwise it's too short to fit over the fly shield.

4. to help the buttonhole and riveted button at CF behave better, I interfaced the waistband near CF.

5. instead of 3 belt loops per side I made 4: finally, my belts are properly lassooed onto the waistband!
Four belt loops per side hold the belt nicely in place. (the t-shirt is a Jalie pattern too!)
All that - positive, right?  Of course right. I cut and sewed these over the course of a few weekday evenings, finishing this fine weekend morning. AND????....you're not going to believe this.......... 

I sewed these jeans with GREEN thread.  Yup - green.  All these evenings I was convinced I'd grabbed dark GREY out of the drawer - and yesterday, just as I was finishing them, I discovered my uber-error in the cold harsh light of a Saturday morning.  And, you know what:  the joke's on me.  My husband had a pair of dark grey slacks tailored once, and the buttons were sewn on with blue thread, which seemed to me to be the epitome of in-your-face-shoddy tailoring.  Haha, now I know how that happened!

25 November, 2012

Trench coat: pattern test drive

As the saying goes, there's no time like the  present.  Killing two birds with one stone, I cut out jacket length (5255 D), though I plan to use all of the pattern details of jacket C, for a snazzy red jacket to test drive the 5525 body with the sleeve from Simplicity 4084 (another great trench coat pattern), and basted it all together.    

The body is a straight size 12, with the back neckline dropped a whole 2.5 cm (1") to compensate for my over-erect (yes that is the correct technical term!) back.  Good thing I did that - it brought the shoulder seams to where they should be:  when I forget this step, my garments show a severe backwards drift:  yuck! 

The fit is great - but I like more ease (the stuffed sausage look is So Not For Me), so I narrowed the SA's a tad at the front and back  princess seams starting at the hip bone, leaving the CB and side seams per original design. That added about 4 cm (1.5") to the hip area. 

I also intend to lower the CB vent by about 2-3 cm (~1"), as I do NOT want my butt's high water line to push it open!

The sleeve took a bit of work:  first I measured the original 5525 armscye circumference & compared it to the 4084's.  In the latter, the circumference is 15 mm smaller and the sleeve length 2.5 cm (1") shorter.  So I added 4 mm to each of the half sleeve sides, and lengthened them by a breathtaking 7.5 cm (3").  Just as well!!!!!  

 In the above pic, the sleeve hem is folded 5.5 cm (2 1/4") from the bottom, and it doesn't look too long, does it?   The lovely purple elastic, you ask?  it's there to imitate the sleeve tab/belt, which serves to cinch the sleeve and keep freezing rain and wind off my bony wrists.  

There was no way to ease this sleeve into the body.  The fabric is totally non-easable, so I made a few tiny pleats at upper back (you can see a couple of them in the pic).  However - I think what I'll do is add a little more ease at the side and front princess seams for my bust, just the upper 10-15 cm, and that'll increase the armscye a bit and make the task of sleeve easing easier ;) in the actual construction.  

So, what next?  
I need to decide on a whole lot of things:
1. do I need to interface the whole fronts, per pattern instructions?  this fabric is like iron - maybe interfacing isn't necessary?  maybe I could, like I did with my most recent jacket, just underline with silk organza and add a bit of hair canvas to the lapel bit of the underlining? 
2. do I need to worry about waterproofing all the seams?
3. for the red jacket, what sort of lining?  fancy silk (dig through the stash, Digs!), or basic black bemberg (which I already have)?  
4. what about the topstitching?  contrast or self colour? self or thick thread?
4. how about some amazing piped edges (for the red jacket only)?

So.  This was a well spent Sunday.  I think, since I really-Really-REALLY want to have a trench COAT  before the month is out rather than a JACKET, I'll now set this little red baby aside and plow straight into the tan.  :)   :)  :)

Trench coat plans!

A serious Bur6erry ;) knockoff has been on my to-do list for a long time: ever since Michael had a sale of the raincoating fabric, which I think was some time in early 2008.

The fabric is amazing. It's made out of two layers of cotton twill bonded together, one plain colour, the other patterned in a nice tan/black/white/burgundy stripe.  Both sides are waterproof and shed water beautifully. [Edit: when I started to wear the coat I discovered the double thickness and waterproofing make the coat very windproof as well, and consequently surprisingly warm.]

I bought three lengths, in tan, red, and blue, all from Michael's, plus a length of matching lining from Denver Fabrics.  I still have the receipt for the latter, dated June 2008!  
Tan coating on the right (4.8 m) with matching rayon lining (2.4 m) on the left.
Sky blue (1.6 m) and fire engine red  (3.0 m)
I'm not quite sure why I got these lengths. It was in the early days of my sewing, and I was building up a stash, maybe? Or, probably more likely, I had had no idea whatsoever what lengths were needed for say, a coat (the tan), or a jacket (the red)?   I think the blue was destined for my baby boy, but ahem, he's much bigger than I now, way too big now for such a miserly length to be useful for him.  But, blue combined with the tan could make a colour-blocked jacket perhaps. 

I love how water beads on this fabric - clearly it's been waterproofed!
I have two - the Simplicity 4084 (Threads) and McCall's M5525.  I know there are others - Jalie, Marfy, and Burda, and may find them eventually for info purposes, but I plan on using a combo of the two I have.  


I like the M5525 upper back yoke and front gunflap, and the rain tab on the collar stand.  I prefer 4084's two piece sleeve, the direction of the side front pocket welts, and the buckle on the belt.  In addition, instead of what these patterns provide, I plan to make fold-over epaulettes (skinny underside), buckled rather than buttoned sleeve tabs, hanging tabs on the belt, and four instead of two belt holders.  

The under collar will be bias-cut and show the wrong side.  Buttons and buckles will be classic horn style.  Top stitching?  perhaps burgundy, to match the thin stripe of the underside and lining.  

I know some of you out there have used this cloth - I'd love to post links to those successful projects, so if you know where they are, please post in the comments section - thanks!  I'd also love to hear your comments and advice - this is a big project and your help will definitely go a long way to giving it justice!

28 October, 2012

1.1m jacket: finished at last!

At long, long, very loooong last!

None of you will remember my "1.1 meter challenge" post from waaaay back in May..... I know you won't, the blogosphere moves at such a rapid pace, it's not possible.

It's been an impossibly hectic spring/summer/fall here Chez StraightJacket. Pulled into a gadzillion directions, I've been.  And I'm happy to say that finally, many events and continents and thousands of miles/kilometers behind me, here I am again... finally occupying my oversize dining table with scraps of fabric and the clackety sound that my boys love so much.

One of my personal pet peeves (have I mentioned it before?) is the abandonment of unfinished projects.  Yes, I know we all have UFOs (unfinished objects).  Guilty!!!!  But I hate, I detest, I truly despise them.  An abandoned project is the epitome of wasted resources:  fabric, patterns, electricity, all those other resources that equal cold hard cash, but most of all, the queen of all non-renewable and precious resources, time.

So today,  give me and all UFO finishers a little bit of applause. But not TOO  much applause:  I missed the opportunity for an outdoor photo op on the last beautiful day of the year, and until it stops raining, hanger pics is all I can do for the moment.

The jacket is the exclusive design from BurdaStyle Magazine Oct. 2008, pattern 131.  I cut size 38, and lengthened the hem 5 cm.  It's fully underlined with silk organza and lined with bemberg rayon.  The usual suspects (cuffs, collar, belt ties) are interfaced, so the interfacing is fused to the organza.  I added a wedge of fusible hair canvas to the lapels for extra oomph.

It's a lovely little pattern, if rather boxy.  I was attracted by the unusual collar-lapel treatment:  it's not often you see a collar laying over the lapels this way, and I wanted to try this technique.  The collar actually takes a 90 degree downwards swing at the corner of the neckline, and attaches to the facings!  Sneaky!  
Since I decided to omit shoulder pads, I had to shave the sharply angled curve of the raglan shoulder down a smidgeon. (I'm of the opinion that summer jackets have a duty to imbue the wearer with a certain summertime casualness and je ne sais quois,  thus no shoulder pads).  Everything is top stitched to death, but I used self thread, not wanting any contrast. My machine, sigh, is an aged lady, and I no longer have trust in its stitch consistency.

The back side:  central pleat, and waist tabs.  The edges of the pleat are stitched to help them keep their ever-new knife sharpness.  The waist tabs were a surprise!  I chose to use buckles with teeth rather than a prong, thereby avoiding making holes in the straps.

A year later, and I still haven't had a chance to wear this item.  Here are some extra photos showing the front and back details, including the collar-lapel construction detail that so intrigued me.

The roomy back can be cinched by the little side belts to provide some shaping.

The raglan sleeves and centre back box pleat also add interest to the back view.

The pocket welts are inserted into the vertical darts.

Collar band is sandwiched between the lapel and its lining. Aha!

And what is that purple thing peeking out from under the jacket (in the original photos)?  Ah, well, that's another no-longer-UFO (another round of applause?).  A poly chiffon top, and tube scarf out of its remnant.

I used my tank top TNT, and added a new variation:  there's a seam across the bustline, allowing me to give the sides dart-like shaping, and a central pleat in the lower section.  Those two things let the chiffon drape very gracefully, if I may say.  

Well, with all that, I was on a roll.  Not sewing last summer didn't stop me from buying fabric!  During the summer I visited an Indian sari shop in Montreal, and they had a crazy sale on silk scarves.  So, I grabbed this delightful red crepe - it's overprinted with a subtle paisley-ish pattern, which is unfortunately completely invisible in the photo - and I managed to make a top AND a scarf out of that today.  Hah!  The scarf is just a flat length, not a tube like the one above. 

This one has a pleat at the centre neckline (it only looks like it's pleated at the hem, but it's not), and two opposing pleats at the hips.

Whew. I'm all blogged out for today! And all sewed out. Then again... A beautiful lightweight light beige wool  destined for trousers to go with the jacket has finished drying on the couch- I might get it cut tonight if I regain some oomph after dinner.   I'm thinking of using a simplified version of the Jalie jeans pattern for the trousers. What do you think of that, sewers out there?

11 July, 2012

Paris, je t'aime!

Apartment living in the most beautiful city in the world:  les huitres au citron, un peu de vin, tout en  plein-air. 

What I'm wearing:  my post-Kandahar summer wardrobe.  I love this little draped adaptation of a one-shoulder Burda top. The slacks I love a little less - though I'm fighting to regain the weight I lost at KAF, it's hard work, and all my bottoms - skirts & pants - are still too baggy.  Much of the time I look like I'm playing dressup in my mother's closet:  NOT a great look anywhere, but especially not so in très chic Paris!

Yum, yum!

I made this little Burda jacket nearly two years ago, but never actually had the occasion to wear it till now - and how's this for perfect colour coordination with the environs? I'm practically invisible.  
And speaking of invisible:  le Panthéon est bien grand et impressionnant, mais ou est Waldo?