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!