Monday, January 11, 2016

Kwik Sew 3915

Most sewers will admit that there are a number of failures in their sewing experience. This pattern was a failure on a previous attempt. I made view B in a cotton lycra knit, but the knit was too heavy. And the neckline is a gathered band that is very pretty, but in a knit of the wrong weight, it was darn right ugly. I wore the top once and then put it into the GoodWill bag.

About a month ago, I passed a table of very drapey knits in Fabricville and, even though the content was 95% polyester, 5% lycra, I thought I would chance it and make version A of this pattern. Well this one is a success in my books. The fabric is very soft and silky, it sews beautifully and was just the right weight and drape for this knit top with the ruched neckline.

I wasn't even that sold on the print when I bought it, but I really like it made up into this pattern. The instructions have you put sew-in interfacing on the back neck and shoulders, I used fusible instead. If I make this again, I will also interface the front V before attaching the collar, so that it is easier to clip into that V and sew the collar on with less fuss.

I need to pick up four pearl buttons to sew to the neckline, there are fabric loops on the one side. But you can't even see this because the print is so busy.

I have resolved that I will sew mainly from the stash this year, as so many other bloggers are also doing. This is not good news for fabric stores, and when I was operating my online fabric business, I hated to hear that people were going to sew from their stashes! But I will have to let the new generation of sewers support the fabric businesses, as I am being squeezed out by my huge stash and I feel the need to use it up or at least make a substantial dent in it.

I hope to record here monthly how much fabric I buy and how much I sew up. And the latter must exceed the former by a ratio of about three to one. I saw this on the blogger 

and it is a great example to follow. Plus her blog is so inspirational, her sewing is perfect.

So this month so far, I sewed up:

2.5 metres boiled wool coating
1.8 metres poly/lycra knit

I am not going to count linings, interfacing or any of the notions needed to finish projects, just the basic yardage. This is a determined attempt to reduce the stash that currently fills one entire room in our attic. And I should feel a whole lot less guilt about my addiction.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

First project of 2016

 I have finished my coat. I did everything I wanted to do on this coat, with the exception of handworked buttonholes. After some practise, I was not pleased with my handiwork and opted to go over the buttonholes a second time by machine. The result was just fine by me. And so I sewed on the buttons and called it done.

View of the inside of the coat. All the gunk inside will only be known to me, and the beautiful Kasha lining (flannel-backed satin) covers everything up.

Yes, we still have our old faithful dog Teddy who is now 15 years old. He is in great shape for his age and I attribute that to good genes plus all the exercise we have given him over the years. Even last summer, he jumped over obstacles that the grandchildren had set up when they pretended to be horses. Teddy joined right in.

So far, winter has not been bad. We are keeping our fingers crossed that we will not get the kind of weather we had last year. So far, I'm not complaining. The sidewalks are clear and it isn't that cold, so I can keep up my regular walking.

Next up, some shorter projects to give me some new clothes to take to Texas in February. I hear that this is when the bluebonnets bloom, I really hope to see them this time.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Note to self

Don't sew when you are either sick or tired or both. You may get something done, but there is a good chance that you will mess up.

As in sew the side back lining to the front and the front side to the back, then sew one side front to another side front. So much ripping out, finally got it right but am going to leave the actual sewing of the lining into the coat for another day. One can only handle so much frog-stitching!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Coat Progress

Okay, so I have been making progress on my coat. But the warm weather has not been much of an impetus to get it finished. I have been taking my time, doing lots of hand-sewing (which doesn't show up at all). I hand-stitched hair canvas to the fronts, upper back, and all hemlines. I put hair canvas on both upper and under collar and pad-stitched the under-collar. The fabric is really thick and fuzzy, and no stitches showed through to the outside even if I took bigger stitches than just little pricks. 

Given the thickness of the fabric, I didn't want welt pockets, I didn't think I would do a good job with them, so I opted for patch pockets. And they are interfaced with hair canvas, then lined, and then hand-stitched twice to the coat so they will be nice and secure without any stitches showing.

I also added a back stay using linen fabric from the stash. This will help keep the back shoulders from stretching out and will also hide any outline of shoulder pads.

At this point, before the sleeves were set in, I made the buttonholes. I made six preliminary buttonholes by machine and the plan is to overcast these with buttonhole twist so that I will actually have handworked buttonholes. I have been practising those, and so far they are not looking good to me. I may resort to going over the buttonholes once again by machine and calling it a day. 

Here you can see the interfacing strips in the hem area. With hair canvas, you cut strips on the bias that are 1 1/2" wider than your hem allowance, then position the interfacing so that it extends 1/2" below the hemline. It is hand basted along the hemline and catch-stitched along the top to the coat itself. Then when the hem is turned up, it is catch-stitched to the interfacing and it never ever shows on the outside. The bias interfacing also gives a nice soft edge to the hemline. I also did this on the sleeve hems.

Here is a photo of the inside of the front of the coat, it isn't the greatest photo. But you can see the hair canvas which covers the entire centre front pieces. I also interfaced the side pieces of the front to about 9" below the armholes. And you can see where the sleeves have been put in, I used tie interfacing (since it is on the bias) to ease the sleeve caps and then that interfacing is turned out into the sleeve caps to provide a sleeve header. After that, the shoulder pads are stitched in place. 

This is the back where you can see the linen back stay which covers the back from neck to under the armholes. Underneath the stay, there is more hair canvas. I tell you there has been so much hand-stitching on this coat. But you know, where I live, winter is a really big deal. It is wicked and lasts for four months of the year. We can wear winter coats for five months so it is worth doing all this work because this coat will get worn a lot.

Full photo of the back with all the inner stuff showing. Pretty unsightly, but it will be all covered up with beautiful shiny Kasha lining (flannel-backed satin) in royal blue and none of this will ever be seen again.

I was planning on getting buttons to match the coat in colour, but I am thinking now that I should perhaps go with jet black buttons. The coat looks really plain, and perhaps a contrast button would be a good idea. I am thinking that this coat needs a gorgeous sunny yellow scarf tucked inside the neckline and I am on the lookout for one in the stores. Funny when you want a specific colour in something, it is nowhere to be found. I may have to make one.

More later, I hope to have this finished by Christmas day.

Merry Christmas to all.

Cleaning up the sewing room


I had a big clean-up of my sewing room two weeks ago. I was finding it difficult, next to impossible really, to go in and sew with so much stuff in there.  It is still quite cluttered and busy compared to other sewing spaces that I have seen online, but it is much better than it was.

The above photo is my main machine, a Bernina 950, a semi-industrial machine that I bought about ten years ago at a sewing show in Toronto. I also have a Husqvarna which I have moved to Ontario to the house we recently purchased there, in preparation for retirement (my husband's retirement, not mine). And I also have a Kenmore 3/4 thread serger which I only use for finishing seams. I am not a serger sewer but I do like to have the raw edges trimmed and looking nice.

I can now swivel in my sewing chair and use the iron without getting up. I dropped the ironing board so that is at the right level to iron while sitting. The blue wardrobe now holds my out-of-season clothes and some garments that have actually never been worn, special ones that I made for demos in sewing classes. As my friend Brenda likes to sew, "my husband doesn't fish to put food on the table, I don't necessarily sew to put clothes on my back, it's about the process."  Those special garments tell that tale. Perhaps one day I will photograph them and blog about them.
Next to the wardrobe is a filing cabinet that is stuffed with patterns. I culled a bag full a month ago, and have to go through the stash again. Realistically, am I going to sew all of these and so many are old patterns that I wouldn't even consider making them now.

This is the desk that used to hold the second machine and now it provides the surface for projects in the works and also a bulletin board with patterns that I want to sew soon or next or whenever. However I forget to look at it, and go searching through the filing cabinet in search of a pattern that I just remembered. Or else I have bought a new pattern/fabric that jumps to the head of the queue.

Lots of lights on the main sewing table. The Bernina comes in its own table, I do wish it was wider as large projects slide off while I am sewing. For example, the coat I am currently working on, has to be bunched up in order for me to sew anything on it.

Another view of the main sewing area, with the ironing board strategically placed within easy reach.

I moved several Rubbermaid containers of fabrics and they are currently in a little office on the same floor until I sort them into the colour-coded containers up in the attic. And while I am doing that, I am actually tossing pieces of fabric and donating them to GoodWill. I must be more ruthless at this, as we are planning a big move in a little over a year and it will be embarrassing to explain why I have so much fabric stashed.

I have found, since sorting out this room, and giving it a thorough cleaning, that I look forward to going in there more and actually sewing. I have a CD player with the music that I love at hand, and I also put in an old laptop so that I can watch YouTube videos while I sew.

This room has had multiple transitions. When we moved into this house 19 years ago, this was our kitchen. My mother lived on the ground floor of the house and we, myself plus hubby plus three grown daughters and two cats, lived on the top two floors. After my mom died, we took over the whole house. This became the bedroom of our youngest daughter and an electrician once joked that she could have her own five-piece band in there, there was so much heavy-duty wiring (from its days as a kitchen). It overlooks the back yard and is the quietest room in the house.

It is ironic that we lived in less space when there were six of us than we now have when there are just two of us plus a dog. This house has seen a lot of life over the past two decades. We are starting the transition to another phase of our lives, with Nick retiring and us moving closer to the grandkids who live in Canada. Our middle daughter has seven kids from age 12 down to newborn, and we recently bought a house in her village where we plan to move once Nick leaves work.

And that house has a finished basement room that has built-in storage, it is the perfect space for sewing and for teaching my grand-daughter to sew. I could even see making quilts in the future.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Shirt sewing

I am sorely in need of tops to wear. I seem to have the same 5 or 6 in constant circulation and they are getting very tiresome.

So I got to work making some shirts.

The pattern is Vogue 2634, which is out of print.

This is a really nice pattern, a good basic shirt. I made view C with the 3/4 sleeves. All versions have a classic two piece shirt collar and band. I had very few alterations to make, just a 1/2" taken out of the armscye area and the sleeve cap. I shortened the body 1" but after making this first version, I will keep the original length.
The fabric is a lovely fine cotton/lycra shirting from in Canada. This is a small company based in Vancouver BC, offering quality dress fabrics, and wonderful service. In fact, I just saw a wool coating on that site that is so tempting. I am going to resist as I have this boiled wool coat in the making, but if I didn't, I would be jumping on this double-faced coating asap.
 I am going out of town for a couple of weeks, but if that coating is still there, I might just get some when I return. Beautiful coat fabrics are priceless in my opinion, and I am a real sucker for them.
The other shirt I have made is an older Jalie pattern, I think it is out of print as well.
I found the cotton fabric in my stash and cannot remember when or where I bought it. Just glad that I came across it while cleaning out a box and decided to give the Jalie pattern a try. Several members of our guild have made this shirt pattern and it looked good. I was pleased with my rendition of it.

Close up of the collar, which sits very nicely
You could use Jalie 3130 which is the latest shirt pattern from Jalie. It has a few more options than the pattern I used, but looks basically the same. Jalie patterns have all sizes from children to adults nested on the pattern, it is amazing to see how many sizes they get in there and you can also see how sizes grade up from one to another. It is rather fascinating. I was pleased with the fit of this shirt and will make it again.
Shirt making is very satisfying to me. I like the precise sewing involved and it is particularly gratifying to have the collar and band go on well with nice top-stitching to show it off.
Plus with shirts, you know that you can throw them in the wash time and time again, give them a quick press and they look great for a very long time.
I have a few more shirts planned for the fall/winter season, quickie projects to sew while working on the longer project - the coat!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Coat progress

I am really keen to get going on this coat, and today dawned with nothing in particular to do except to sew!
In the morning, I cut out all the pattern pieces, and then found some scrap fabric that would work for a muslin. It always surprises me how little time a muslin actually takes and it is so worth taking that time, in order to be sure of your fit before cutting into the good stuff.
My muslin showed that the shoulder line was too long on me, so I removed 5/8" from the end and blended that line back into the armscye. This will make the sleeve fit better, which seemed to have a little bit too much ease in it to work well.
I had already shortened the pattern in the upper chest area, and again just above the waist. And removed 2" from the sleeves; yes I have short arms.
I sewed the fronts and backs together, sewed on the under collar, sewed the facings over the collar and set in one sleeve. Up to the full length mirror with shoulder pads in hand. A couple of things were clear right away. I needed more room over the tummy and hip area, and the coat was too short.
So I added 3/8" to the seams of the center front/side front and center back/side back. The side seams were in the right place, which made me decide to add the extra at those inside seams, rather than at the sides. The overall length is easy to fix; simply cut the pattern pieces longer.
All of this was done by 2 pm, so I took the dog out for a walk; it is a gorgeous fall day here. And then back to the drawing board. Yes, there was time to cut the fabric and the lining. And whoa, what did I find in my stash?  The perfect shade of blue Kasha lining so I don't have to use the cream stuff I bought the other day.
Over night I remembered that I had a bolt of this blue Kasha from years ago, when I was teaching outerwear classes for MacPhee Workshops. Kasha lining is satin lining fused to thin flannelette, so you are basically underlining the coat when you use this stuff. It is much warmer than other linings and Canadian seamstresses are quite familiar with it, as our winters are so cold.

So here is the coat all laid out, you can see the lining at the top, that shiny blue stuff. Lovely firm lining that is perfect for this weight of wool coating.

And yesterday, I pulled some tailoring books out of my sewing library and I settled on these two reference books. The Singer Tailoring book is a dream, with lots of beautiful photos to show you just how things should look. The garments are dated, but the techniques haven't changed for what I want to do, so it will be my #1 reference. The Palmer/Pletsch book is an easy read, with some good fitting tips and some shortcuts that may just come in handy.
All of this is now packed up in a box, and the next step is to cut the hair canvas and sew that in by hand. I am looking forward to that peaceful hand stitching. And hair canvas has never disappointed me.
One year I taught a jacket class and one student decided to make herself a winter coat. This was over 20 years ago, and I had only ever used sew-in interfacings. So I recommended that she use hair canvas in her coat and I showed her how to put it in. She later told me that coat was her essential piece of clothing that winter, and she wore it for a long time. She thought the method of all that hand-stitching was a bit tedious to begin with, but she didn't regret it later when the coat continued to look good after months of wearing.
Buttonholes are a concern at this point. I could do bound buttonholes, but don't want to. I want hand-done keyhole buttonholes. But I know that mine are pathetic. Unless I get some practice in and get much better at them, I think I might just take this to a tailor here in town and pay him to make them once the coat is at that point. There are two tailors who could do this; one is Mr. Chung who makes suits for men, and another is a tailor who specializes in military apparel. Perhaps I will ask to see samples of their work before committing to them.