26 December, 2015

The Pendleton coat's lining: dare to try!

Whenever I can, I try to use a fun patterned silk to line my coats and jackets.  But for this one, I didn't have any silk charmeuse in the right colour way.  So I grabbed a light-medium  warm grey bemberg rayon during a members' sale at my local fabric store.  Bemberg is usually expensive, so this was a great grab.

When I got it home, it became apparent that the tone of the rayon's greyness was a tad too warm for the grey of the fashion fabric;  more beigey than grey, in fact.  Lesson:  always  take a swatch of your fabric when shopping for matching fabric.  Head shake at self here....

You'd be completely justified to roll your eyes in my general general direction, and say:  get over yourself, woman!  for pity's sake, who looks at lining?!

Well.... I do.  Every time I put the garment on, and then every time I take it off.  And we sew for ourselves, right?

You already see what's coming here:  another dye job, right?  Right!  But this one, with a difference:  rather than just plain stove top immersion dyeing, I decided to try for a pattern.  I've long been reading about shibori techniques, but have not yet dared to try any.  I've never done anything patterned before, in fact. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to attempt a never-before-tried experiment:   whatever the aesthetic effect, the lining will be wearable, since it'll be quite invisible to the world at large. Indeed, a very safe experiment.

To connect with the pattern of the fashion fabric, I decided on a rectangularish-squarish-patterned tie dye.  I concertina-pleated the lining and then tightly tied narrow bands across the pleats.  Both the pleat widths and the tie intervals are about 6", or 15 cm.

I then soaked the tied fabric in a warm solution of soda ash and salt - this improves the dye molecules bonding with the fabric.  Squeezing out the solution, I placed my wet, tied fabric roll on an inverted aluminum cookie sheet in the sink, and squirted dye over it from a squeeze bottle.

I used two dyes:  Rit liquid dye in navy as the main player, and black instant set Colorhue dye as a finishing touch.

After applying the dyes to my fabric roll, I placed it in a glass bowl, wrapped the lot with thick plastic, microwaved for a total of three minutes, waited for it all to cool, rinsed in the sink, then machine washed in cold water with plenty of soap.

I had no idea what to expect.  But I hoped that the navy dye will at the very least cool down the beigey tone of the lining's original colour, and thus bring it a little closer to my conception of how the colour of the lining ought to play with the grey of the pendleton.  And I knew that the result will be rather subtle, being dark navy on top of mid-tone beige. I like subtle.

The result?  I'm delighted!  Tickled!  Amazed!  I got an unexpected, regular yet very organic pattern, with colours that are mainly cool purplish blue on top of the beige.  It also appears that the Colourhue dye reacted with the aluminum pan and gave some greenish-tealish tones to the final result. The edges of the pleats absorbed more of the dye and created dark horizontal lines, while the ties across the pleats (which prevented the dye from reaching in) created soft light coloured vertical lines.

I'll be very happy to have this unusual wacky lining inside my very regularly patterned coat!

It's so easy to say to oneself, I wish I could, but I don't know how, I've never done it, therefore I can't.

And that's why the last word today belongs to Gary Trudeau:

Amazingly, I remember reading and loving this strip when it was first published:
 21st February 1974.  
Even then, its message resonated with me:  dare to try.  
Dare to aim higher!
   Dare to be bold!    
Just do it. 

22 December, 2015

Invisible sewing

We all do it:  sewing that isn't  "pour moi" - isn't "couture" - and typically, isn't (and isn't supposed to be) visible to the world at large.  Stuff that's too pedestrian - quotidien - even yawn-worthy to some - to blog about.  And yet, it's basic and needful sewing that improves our daily existence and grounds us into the world we live in.

For example:  during the last six months I created: 

- a Canadian winter-worthy king-sized duvet.  I started with the shell of a former double-sized duvet, and added 7" wide channels of new ticking on three sides of the original.  Four (yes, FOUR!!!!) pounds of duck down from an Ontario supplier later.... and....  I now have a super-warm king sized down duvet that one simply cannot buy anywhere, no matter the price.....   It's unique... and amazing to snuggle under..........

- four king-sized pillows.  Starting with new pillow ticking from my local Fabricland, I made four king size (20" x 30") cases, and then filled them with a pillow-appropriate down/feather mix from the same supplier.  About 1.5 lbs per pillow:  perfect!!!

New duvet and pillows, and several fleece and cotton pillow cases

- fleece cases for above pillows:  during the last couple of years when I was temporarily bald, I couldn't bear to sleep on a plain cotton pillow:  just too c-c-c-cold!!!  My bald head needed the warmth and softness of fleece.  This year, though I now have hair again, I made a gazillion fleece pillow cases for me and mine.  They make yummy winter bedding..... and perfect little Christmas gifts.

- cotton pillow cases for the above pillows, from a re-purposed cotton sheet:  when a high quality, high thread count fitted sheet unexpectedly developed a rip in one tiny spot, I cut it up into five king-sized pillow cases, instead of throwing it out.  How thrifty of me!

- an instrument case:  if you looked at my quickie blog bio, you might have noticed the word "musician".  Woodwinds are my thing:  flutes, recorders, clarinets.  In this instance, I created a soft travel case for four of my larger (tenor and alto) recorders.  I pieced it from cotton velvet remnants, and lined it with the softest fleece in my stash.  With its multiple jewel tones, the case has a nice renaissance-baroque vibe to it.  Very musically appropriate!

- several simple fleece shells for my small external hard drives, and one for my hard flute case.  A double-padded fleece case for my little point and shoot camera so it's protected from the other denizens of my purse; as an added bonus, it's a nice bright rosy red, which makes it easy to spot anywhere.  Basic black has its place, but a little colour makes for a fantastic exclamation point in one's life.

- re-fitted clothing:  I'm doing this a lot these days.  As an example, my darling mom, who lives not very far away, recently gave me a pair of slacks and two yummy wool sweaters.  We're nearly the same height, but I'm the skinny-minny of the family, so all of her hand-me-overs have to be sized down a lot to fit me.  She pin-fitted the slacks on me, and then basted the new sides and  new (much lowered) waistband placement.  In the case of the sweaters, I reduced the shoulder width by removing the sleeves and moving them in towards the shoulder and then narrowed the seam lines of both sleeves and sides.

- a warm fleece interlining to my coral cashmere coat.  For some inexplicable reason, I left my brain on the bedside table on the day I was creating the lining for this garment, and made it without appropriate winter insulation.  What was I thinking???  nay, I clearly wasn't thinking at all. As a result, though stylish and a favourite to wear, it was never quite warm enough.  So, with winter almost here and the need to wear the coat again fast approaching, I pulled out the pattern, and created an interlining out of a thick poly fleece, using the back, side panel, side front, and top of the sleeve pattern pieces. I then flipped the lining inside out and hand stitched the warm interlining to the sewing allowances of the back neckline, front facings, and sleeves.  In the next few days, I'll also move the snaps over a couple of inches to snug it up a bit.

In other news, I'm already working on my new pendleton check wool coat.  I'll post on that in a few days.

And, since it's almost here, let me wish a very Merry Christmas to everyone!  Most unusually, it'll be a green one here in the capital of the Great White North. 

09 December, 2015

The AA jumpsuit - a successful knockoff!

AA? Sure! except in this instance it refers not to the evil brew, but 'Murrican Apparel.
A jumpsuit isn't the sort of thing I'd ever think of for myself.  And yet....

The backstory here is that my daughter modeled for me a new garment she'd just bought.  And she looked deliciously adorable in it.  So, being that we're very close in size, I tried it on.  Better than that, I examined it inside and out, and... you guessed it:  decided I too could not only wear one but make it too.

Copying a garment typically involves tracing each part, sometimes with cling film (plastic food wrap, whatever you call it these days - the stuff used to be called saran wrap back in the days).  Instead of doing that (with one exception*), I simply sketched the garment and then described its dimensions. In  four pages of excruciating detail.

Then, based on these measurements, I drafted the pattern pieces.

*The exception is the pants leg:  I traced the outside pants leg from waist to hem and the inside leg from crotch to hem.  I still had to describe some of the dimensions, but this gave me a very good basis for the overall shape of the trouser part of the garment.

Pleats abound in this suit, front! back! top! bottom!  So in describing it, I was careful to note not just the placement of each pleat but also its length, depth and direction.

For example, three deep and long pleats on each shoulder - front and back.  Bodice pleats at the waistline.  Four front pleats on the trousers.

Three long and deep pleats at the back shoulders, and shirred back waist. 

Two deep side seam pockets; the top of each is caught in the front waist seam.  

The left side seam is one long zipper, all the way from the armscye to about mid-thigh.  The zipper runs behind the side seam pocket.  Figuring out how to put these things together was quite a trick of mental gymnastics ... the pattern I drafted obviously didn't come with any assembly instructions!

I made a few small but important changes to the garment that improved its fit and overall proportions:

I shortened the bodice by 1 cm and the trouser crotch length by 2 cm, but lengthened the trouser leg.

I narrowed the outside shoulder line by about 2 cm and shaped the armscye. The original had a very unattractive straight armscye that created excess of fabric puddling around the armpits, especially in the back.

I oriented the front pattern pieces so the CF diagonal crossover is on the straight grain (i.e., no bias stretching or rippling) , plus I took out a gape dart, shifted to the bottom of the pattern piece, from the CF diagonal.  This really improved the fit of the CF in comparison with the original, in which the bodice noticeably gaped open. The original was also a bit too long waisted for me and my daughter - we're borderline petites - so that also contributed to the original's gaposis.

There's no gaposis in my bodice at all

I'm just about ready to tackle my new coat now.  So stay tuned...

03 November, 2015

Musings on a new coat project

Aaaaahhhhh!  Late fall.... my garden is rapidly going underground, the outdoor temps maxing out at barely-there double digits, time for winter tires and Christmas prep rapidly abeckonin', and first flurries of the season already behind us.  I can just about smell the first world-blanketing snowstorm in the air.

So it shouldn't be surprising to have one's fancy turn to thoughts of coats.  Winter coats, yea!  Who amongst you is also thinking of making one?

A short while ago Ann of SewbabyNews had a de-stashing sale. How could I possibly NOT try to help a fellow blogger, especially one with whom I already had some charming exchanges in the past?  I bought two of her wools (thank you, Ann!):  a beautiful cream-grey-blue pendleton check in coating weight and a totally fab genuine Black Watch tartan in what in my climate goes as dress weight.

I've made a few coats. Way, way back when. Like, if you can believe it, three of them in 2008, as part of the Great Coat Sewalong. Seriously?! Have I been blogging for 7, count' em, s-e-v-e-n, years?!  I don't believe it myself.

Not counting my more recent fall/spring trench of a couple of years ago, my me-made coats are:
1. McCall's 5247 (Scott ancient black and white tartan) indoor topper
2. Burda 7856 red/black herringbone blanket cocoon short coat
3.Vogue 1266 wool-cashmere black-grey pinstripe Siege of Stalingrad heavy long winter coat
4. Burda 09-2009-115  coral-coloured cashmere "is that a bathrobe?" modern cut light winter coat

So it's high time I made another coat, right?  Of course right.

Considering that I'm on a fabric fast (cough, cough, the less said about that the better - falling off the wagon feels sooo good, right?) and thus morally obligated to not increase the size of my stash, it behoves me to make something out of those two recently arrived luscious wools before they begin to languish.

I have exactly 2.5 m of the pendleton, in standard (150 cm) width.

Isn't this a real winter beauty?

And I'm considering one of these three patterns: Butterick 5145, Vogue 8548, and Vogue 7978.

They just happen to be some of the coat patterns in my collection.  All have a slightly A-line shape.  All have a stand-up collar version, too, to which I've been attracted of late.  Two of the three have a raised waistline with variations on the armscye princess bodice shaping. The Butterick has that in the back, with darts in the front bodice - and darts might well work better with the check than those curving princess seams. I'm very conscious that whatever pattern I choose should look good with checks.  Checks are always something of a challenge, what with needing to be matched in both horizontal and vertical directions!

I've always adored version A of V8548 (the yellow one), but for a Canadian winter, seriously?!  I have to laugh at the very idea.  Those princess sleeves would give my skinny birdbone wrists frostbite every time every time I stepped outdoors, and the huge funnel would collect a shovelful of snow down my back just in the time it takes for me to walk from the bus stop home.  Still, that pattern would make one rockin' office frock.

 I'm less inclined towards the shoulder princess V7978, yet at the same time do like the off-centre, Asian vibe closure on version B.  Only perhaps not with this fabric, hmm? Kinda too many cultural references in one garment.

Just to verify that my fabric length will yield a coat of my desired length:  something a little above the knee - I placed the Butterick pattern pieces on the fabric.  So far so good - but that was without attempting to matching the check. But at least I know that a coat is a very doable idea for the fabric.

So, OK, let's discuss the fabric.  The pendleton is a soft, spongy, fairly loose, easy to breathe through wool.  Beautiful, but it's not a melton:  not terribly resistant to being pulled out of shape, and certainly insufficient by itself to keep me warm or protected from the wind.  So a discussion of interfacing, underlining, interlining, and various shape retention methods is in order....

All in good time. I'm going to go slow on this project.  Right now I'm not in a position to do any sewing whatsoever, having just submitted to hand surgery on my dominant hand for the second time in two months.  Can't hold scissors!  Come to think of it, can't hold anything. But I can peck-type with my other hand! The enforced idleness is an encouragement to review the construction choices I made for my other coats, and plan appropriately for this one.

23 October, 2015

My version of the Shingle Dress: Vogue 8904

Every now and again, there comes along a pattern that catches fire and takes everyone's fancy.  This is one of them.

 Seemingly a very simple shift knit dress, it's made unique by those newfangled, off-to-starboard-off-to-port angled panels over the front and (hooray!) back.  Like the Bluenose ploughing through a sou'easter with handsome Captain Angus Walters at her helm.

With this one, Marcy Tilton hit it way, way out of the park.

Once again I applaud the great resource that is Pattern Review.  When I started to think of making this dress, I took a nice long look at the versions already posted there - at last count, 52 reviews. All made within two years of the pattern's release.  They allowed me to look at very many versions and ponder at my leisure what it was that I liked, and why, and how, I liked it. Quite the luxury. 

I decided what I wanted: 
- knee length: not mid-thigh nor mid-calf 
- stripes - oh yes those stripes - the shingles shine at their best when those stripes make your eyes go all dizzy with their moiré
- all five panels, on a knee length dress; the pattern uses four panels on an above-the-knee length and five on a midi
- all shingle stripes, including the bottom one, oriented (more or less) horizontally
- each panel ending on a dark stripe
- long sleeves, cut so the stripes run vertically
- widened shoulders on the dress

Taking my desire to fit all five panels into my shorter than standard shoulder to knee height, I began by shortening the underdress pattern piece by about 2 cm in the middle of each "shingle", and then shortening each shingle to match.  I then asked my fashion designer mom - she's a wicked seamstress with a  mouthful of pins! - to pin-fit the sides and to take out a horizontal fisheye dart just above my behind to remove any back waist puddling.

 Getting each pair of front and back  panels to match exactly seemed to take forever.  This seemingly easy peasy quick little frock is anything but.  Everything seemed to take forever:  like ensuring all panels were symmetrically spaced;  finishing/hemming and aligning each front and back panel pair - and then, matching all these damned little stripes along the side seams. Agony and arrrgh! I pinned said seams till they looked like line-dancing hedgehogs; machine basted, checked, ripped, repinned, rebasted,  re-checked, re-ripped.... and repinned...... and again.... and again.... There were sections that I must've re-done four or five times.  The human eye is capable of noticing a mis-match of much less than a millimeter - so once I decided that these side seams were going to be matched, dammit, it was a verrrry long afternoon of following through, spitting pins all the way.   

Am I happy with the result?  Yes. For a pull-on tee, it's a very cute and unusual frock. All out of 1 m of lingerie lining (the base under-dress) and 2 m of a very beefy, textured poly knit. Perhaps not the best fabric choice for this pattern, as those overlapping shingles result in very many layers in the side seams, especially at each shingle's hem. The hems are a simple fold over with an invisible zigzag along each dark stripe.

The best part, though?  He heh.  I got a long sleeved tee out of the remnant.
Using the same pattern, and the scraps, I whipped up this tee before the rest of my family were up this morning - hey, the pattern and all its makings were already on my table!

My son said, "you look verrhy Frrhench!"
My hubs added dryly, "very French Apache".

Zut alors! Vraiement?!

I was really sick to death of being all couture by this point, so after the initial matching of the stripes at the side seams, I let them do their own thing. 

The sleeves are pieced.  Just because. For fun. 

Love the dissonance of the sleeves. The upper left one is cut on the bias. 

I raised the front and back necklines 1/4", and used a dark stripe for the binding.

Really takes me back to my teenage sailing days.  Need - more - stripey - tees. 

Here's a modern version of a French Apache dance.  Warning for the sensitive - it's very, very politically incorrect.  But very good. 

15 October, 2015

Gil Brandao wrap blouse

Since I make lots of sleeveless tops that are loose, lightweight and non-clingy (think silk crepe de chine) this body-hugging wrap blouse pattern - and its intriguing description - was something new for my repertoire.

Gil Brandao wrap blouse
The body-hugging look certainly is a departure from my norm:  my son, upon seeing it said, ooo, fancy!  are you going out somewhere special tonight?  which surprised me to no end.

Its pattern is published in a book of Gil Brandao's designs, and is reviewed, with a scale drawing of the pattern, at Studio Faro's blog as one of their pattern puzzle entries. Thank you, Anita!

I looked at the pattern and thought, if I'm to make a wearable item here, I have to consider how to finish all the edges.  In the original design (I don't want to embed it here without permission) the armscye is a deep and narrow wedge, and I worried that I wouldn't be able to finish it nicely, what with binding in two directions in such a tight corner.  My solution?  I added a side seam to it:

Now each side of the armscye (the armscye is that deep vertical "dart" between the two pieces) had its own seam allowance that continued all the way down the side seam, and finishing said edges became easy.  For a nice clean finish,  I turned all SA's over twice to make a narrow hem along all edges and edgestitched.  There was a lot of basting involved, but the end result was very much worth the time.  As it turned out, at 115 cm, my fabric was too narrow to create the entire garment out of one piece, so the side seam was a necessity.

End of story?  Not quite.  When I tried it on, I realized that this design exposes lots of belly flesh unless worn with/over a very high waisted bottom. I don't wear high waisted bottoms.  This also demanded a solution, so  I added a lower panel to the under-lapping (left) side of the wrap:

A fun little winter project!
 The advantage of this added panel is that, since it's separate from the back lower panel from the waist down, it can be tucked inside slacks or a skirt.  Now both my  modesty and Gil's original concept of a body-hugging front with a little back peplum are preserved:


It's definitely wearable!  It'll look great over a nice flowy black midi skirt, won't it? And, original design notwithstanding, I'd probably tuck that back panel inside as well.

Side seam and armscye bust dart clearly visible.  The side seam's lower end could be raised so the lower panels split at, not below, the waistline
If I was to make it again, I might make some small adjustments, to wit:

1. raise the upper front;  2.  shorten (drop) the upper back, so the "shoulder corner seams" are a little further back; 3. narrow the back a little; 4. raise the waistline aka point of separation of the front and back peplums; and of course, 5. add the front peplum for belly coverage.  But these are minor.

Do you may recognize the fabric? it's a very pretty lightweight silk crepe from, I think, Fabric Mart, bought many years ago.  It responds very well to the stretching punishment of being a wrap!

09 October, 2015

Layered top pattern design - two finished versions

Now that the summer season is well and truly over and our thoughts begin to run to wools and coats, I want to close the loop on this layered top design.  Here's my second, more whimsical version:

This version has a little more front coverage, more back flare,  is a little longer in front, and significantly longer in the back.  You can see these changes below in the main piece of the pattern:

The biggest change is in the back, where I slashed and spread the pattern.  I did this to explore the design possibilities of this funny striped cotton.  To wit:

This revision came to me as I was playing with the yellow versions - I thought, it has an ever so faint whiff of a Balenciaga dress, so let's build on that.  You've all heard of Cristobal Balenciaga, right? The (no longer) living god of couture, active from the 1940's to the early 70's? So many of his designs favoured the high-low look, had a strong back flare, and avoided the natural waistline like the plague:



Each time I look at these I think his fundamental inspiration was the Italian Rennaissance:


Not in the details of course, but certainly in the silhouette he evoked.

My first, yellow, finished version, also had a teensy little bit of that:

...and it had a lot less coverage in the front!  Perfect for those who wish to show off that bellybutton piercing, eh? (really, does anyone still do that?  it seems so passé....)

I'm going to leave this subject in highlighting the very many similar versions that strutted the runways last month for Spring 2016:

Look at that:  the bare belly look!
Tunic length with pleated shoulder detail

With a flap pocket

In a boucle or sweater knit

And even in leather, over a maxi.
When I make my wearable version(s), I'm thinking not of leather but a semi-sheer stretch chiffon, to highlight the overlapping and the unusual seaming.  Or a stiffish poly-rayon brocade, to make that back flare stand out and the Renaissance vibe ring out loud.

The last word belongs to Balenciaga after all - here's one of from his very own design house, from a runway show of many, many years ago (I found it a couple of days ago.... go figure: everything old is new again!)

With a  little modesty button at lower CF.