Monday, March 9, 2015

McCalls 3830 In-The-Flow Skirt!

A few weeks ago Vicki let me come over and paw through her stash in an effort to divest herself of some of her precious silk fabrics (i.e., her spring cleaning exercise).  It came at an opportune time since I am thoroughly uninspired by my own stash.  (Which probably means it is time for a good clear-out myself and get rid of those fabrics I know I'll never use.)

Vicki's stash was oh, so more interesting than my own - silks, silk blends, and lining fabrics, oh my!  I took three good size bags home, mostly of silk blend suiting fabrics.  Back when Vicki was working she made her own suits, and she has excellent taste.  One of the fabrics I snagged a black and ivory herringgbone houndstooth silk/cotton blend which was sort of a dream come true, because it is very much in style these days, (or "on trend" as everyone says), and I looked for something like it back in the fall but couldn't find the quality I wanted.   Now I had four yards in my hot little hands, and I suspect Vicki had planned a jacket with it, but I wasn't feeling that ambitious.  My MS was kicking my ass, and I wanted something simple and fast.

I actually wanted to make some more trousers, after my success last time, but thought of matching all those herringbone houndstooth rows made me tired.  So I settled on a simple, straight skirt, McCalls 3830:

This pattern is essentially the same as my TNT A-line skirt, McCalls 3341, just straight instead of A-line.  No waist band, two darts front and back.  I originally got it to make Goodbye Valentino's ribbon skirt, but lost interest when autumn arrived.

I cut this out the day after I visited Vicki, but was too exhausted to begin sewing, so it sat for a week until I entered the sewing room well rested and ready to go.

This skirt was a joy to sew.  The fabric was wonderful and I was just in the zone while making it.  I even put in an invisible zipper, which if you have been following along, is not my favorite zipper application.  It turned out great.

I began by interfacing the back edge with light interfacing cut in 1.25 inch wide strips:

This is the lightest weight interfacing I own; it is intend for silks and other light fabrics.  I wanted to provide a little stability to the area, but not make it stiff or allow the interfacing edge to show on the right side of the fabric.

Next, I used the basting tape I got off of after I saw the Palmer/Pletsch DVD, "Jeans for Real People" to hold the invisible zip in place before sewing:

This stuff is fantastic.  It is extremely sticky and kept the invisible zip completely in place while stitching.  You need to be careful that you place it so that you don't stitch through it because it will gum up your needle and sewing machine for sure, but it works.  I want to buy it in bulk.

It allowed me to achieve the holy grail of invisible zipper installation:

Perfect matching!  Horizontally, the fabric matching is dead-on.  I'm pleased.

Vicki gave me a bunch of linings and I decided use some watermelon red lining just for fun:

Here's the finished skirt and the lining:

And here's a selfie wearing it:

I wore it with a hot pink sweater, so I don't think this violates my no-black rule.  I love it.  It doesn't wrinkle and it is as much of a pleasure to wear as it was to sew.  Look at the rest of my matching:

(right side seam)

(left seam - OK, this one wasn't as good, horizontally, but I'm fine with it)

I love when projects like this come together.  I was "in the flow" as discussed in this TedTalk here, which I find fascinating.  I've worn it twice since finishing it two weeks ago.  Of course, since I added this skirt to my wardrobe, my self-imposed rule is that I have to get rid of two.  So I gave away these two beloved skirts, here and here.

Next up:  more trousers!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Trousers! Simplicity 2860

I had half a post written about this project and then I deleted it because all you need to know is that I made trousers!  That fit!!  Hallelujah and pass the biscuits. 
My success is cannot be attributed to my skill.  I think it was 85% pattern and 15% fabric.  Here's the magic pattern:

It's Simplicity 2860, which is one of their "Amazing Fit" patterns that I bought several months ago when I was knee-deep in trying to fit my jeans.  I've used their skirt Amazing Fit pattern number 1541 which I've made twice - it's a great pattern and fits well.  So I was hoping the "Amazing Fit" for pants would be a home run too.

This pattern is your basic trousers pattern - the waistline is 1/2 inch below your natural waist, has fairly wide legs, a fly front, and belt loops.  No pockets - which was a plus in my mind because I could concentrate on fit instead of a lot of construction details.

That's the pattern.  As for the fabric, I used a wool blend I got from Fabric Mart, the fabric on the right:

It's a greenish tweed that I originally planned to use for the Tippi Hedren suit, but when it arrived I thought it would be less than flattering for my coloring.  But for essentially a wearable muslin for trousers (the colors aren't near my face), I thought this could work.

I'll rush to the end and show you the awesome results - the trousers weren't hemmed yet (just pinned up) and I took the photos at night because I was so excited:

These fit like a dream.  No alterations were necessary - this is a size 14 average sewn straight up.  The "Amazing Fit" series comes in sizes that include "slim", "average", and "curvy" fits.  I went with size 14 average because that is what fit me when I made the 1541 skirt, although the instructions with this pattern include how to measure your front and back rise to figure out which fit to go with.  I skipped all that and guessed based on past experience.

I'm starting to be a believer on these "Amazing Fit" patterns.  One advantage is that they aren't drafted with excessive ease like most Big Four patterns.  The garment measurements are provided on the pattern and the envelope and they are for real.  

Also, the patterns are drafted for 1 inch seam allowances in certain places (like the side seams) so you can make adjustments.  Essentially, the instructions take you step by step on how to make a muslin, without actually informing you that you are making a muslin.  For example, the instructions have you basting your seams, then trying on, adjusting, and then sewing for real, etc.  I can imagine how Simplicity came up with this "Amazing Fit" series in an executive meeting:

Simplicity executive # 1:  "We are getting complaints that our patterns don't fit our customers.  What can we do about it?"

Executive # 2:  "Well, every body is different.  Our patterns aren't going to fit every person right out of the envelope without some adjustment."

Executive # 3:  "That's why the customers need to make a muslin first."

Executive # 1:  "But no one does. So we are getting complaints.  How can we change this?"

(Silence ensues.)

Executive # 2:  I know!  We'll fool 'em into making a muslin.  We'll write instructions on how to make a muslin without telling them they are making a muslin.  We can even draft the patterns with extra wide seam allowances in key areas in order to adjust the fit!"

Executive # 1:   "Excellent idea, let's get lunch."

I have to applaud the effort. It fooled me.  The making of these pants wasn't without some mishaps however.  The fly was disconcerting, and I had some problems; I finally realized that the fly was opposite to how I had been making my jeans.  These trousers had the fly on the right side (the ladies' side), while jeans flies are on the left (the men's side).  My right brain and left brain were all confused.  Also, I wouldn't say the fly instructions are a model of clarity.  If you haven't done a lot of fly zippers, I would recommend finding a different set to follow.

It was also a PITA to re-sew all those basted seams once I had confirmed the fit was good.  I left the basting in since I figured no one would notice.  

I really liked how the belt loops were attached on these trousers - the top of the belt loops were sandwiched between the waistband and the waistband facing.  The bottom of the belt loops were sewn into the seam between the waistband and the legs of the trousers.  I know some folks don't care for this method, but after trying to sew on heavy denim belt loops for jeans, this method was so, so easy.

The instructions have you finish the bottom of the waistband facing with purchased 1/4 inch double folded binding tape, which I have seen on ready to wear, particularly on men's khaki's or chinos.  Several folks who reviewed this pattern said they skipped this because they were afraid it would be too bulky, but I decided to test this theory, and give it a go.  I found getting the binding tape sewn on a bit tricky, but I finally got the hang of it.  In the end, the binding tape wasn't too bulky and gave the inside a nice clean finish.  I will probably start doing this on my skirt waistband facings as well.

I can't recommend this pattern highly enough.  Just make sure you find the right fabric for it.  My fabric was a "wool blend".  I think it had rayon in it (for drape) and polyester (because it doesn't wrinkle very much).  A stiff wool isn't going to give you the best result - I'd look for a blend that has drape and isn't itchy.  Also, these pants are drafted for non-stretch fabrics.  If you get something with lycra or spandex, you probably won't be happy with the results.  

These are a welcome addition to my wardrobe because I have no winter trousers - all my trousers have been long since donated because they were so old.  Another pair will help me get through this winter season!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Butterick 4192 - Can This Jacket Be Saved?

While I was dithering on my never-started coat project, and I realized my chosen wool was teal, I was on a quest for pink wool.  As you recall, I ended up just buying a pink coat from Boden, but before my obsessive search was over, I finally found a candy-pink wool online offered as a single cut piece of eight yards.  For like 50-some-odd dollars.  (I can't remember from where, and my lack of memory only protects the guilty.) I couldn't pass up such a great deal because you would be surprised how hard it is to find pink wool.  Really.

Once I received it in the mail though, I discovered it wasn't thick enough for a winter coat.  So I bought the Boden coat, and my back up plan was to use vintage Butterick 4192 and make a pink suit:

Because my Tippi Hedren suit was such a pleasure to sew last year, I decided I would make the short jacket and skirt from the pink wool, which would be a welcome addition to my wardrobe since I have jettisoned everything black because it depresses me.  I also thought, in the back of my mind, that a pink wool suit would be lovely for Easter, since I spent way too many Easters being cold in flimsy spring dresses.

There's no copyright date on this pattern, but I think it is mid-sixties - later than Butterick 2178 I used for my Tippi Hedren suit:

You can see that Butterick 2178 still has the pill-hat, Jackie Kennedy influence (I think is 1962 or 1963), while Butterick 4192 has more of the mid-sixties style before skirts got way shorter and hair way longer.  I'd put it at 1965 or 1966.

The pink wool arrived with dusty selveges, but I didn't sweat it.  Since I had eight yards, last weekend I cut off a few yards and steamed it with my iron in preparation for cutting out.  Only then did I notice that there were frequent flaws in the wool, but I decided I could cut around them - the pinkness of this wool was just too good to pass up.

I used my Steam-A-Seam method of underlining the body of the jacket with white muslin:

Then I put together the jacket shell and attached the collar.  Of course, only after I had finished for the day did I notice that I missed a flaw and now it is near my front left side seam:

I decided no one would notice and proceeded forward. This Saturday, attaching the sleeves was my mission, and I wanted the three-quarter sleeves with cuffs like I made on my Tippi Hedren suit, rather than the full length the pattern contains.  I got them cut out and one attached when a full scale MS attack hit me Saturday afternoon, and all sewing operations (as well as everything else) ceased.  

Sunday was no better; I awoke with a migraine.  Once the heavy duty medication finally kicked in, I was determined to get the second sleeve set in.  So you know what happened:  only once both sleeves were sewn in, trimmed, overstitched, and pressed did I notice that I put the sleeves in with the wrong sides facing out.  

This was irreversible, of course, so I took a hard look to see if I could live with it.  Given that I hadn't noticed while sewing, I doubt if anyone else will notice when I wear it.  The sole question is whether I can live with it:

I thought I could.  But then I started working on the pockets which I want to add similar to the Tippi Hedren suit, and I pulled out the Tippi Hedren jacket to see how far I placed them from the edges of the jacket, and that's when all my denial fell away:  the Tippi Hedren jacket is just so wonderful to touch, to wear, and look at.  I had to admit the pink jacket has none of those things.

This wool is cheap, and that's no fun.  I love the color but that is about it.  It wrinkles horribly.  And I'm not really happy with the collar:

There's the possibility that some topstitching around the collar could wrestle it into submission, but I'm not sure.  Did I mention the wrinkling?  This is a itchy wool that sticks to everything.  And everything to it.

And the fit is more boxy than that of Butterick 2178, so the fit isn't as flattering.  I hate to abandon it because of the two weekends I spent on it, but on the other hand, it makes no sense to spend even more time on a garment I won't wear.  

I've decided not to decide.  Rather than trash this jacket completely, I'm putting it aside and see if time changes my perspective.  I guess it's possible that in two months I might think, "This isn't so bad - I can make it work!"  Or I might say, "What was I thinking???"  I don't normally do UFOs - I like to finish each project before starting another one - but I think this is one I should punt on and figure it out on down the road.  On to the next project!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Year That Was (2014) and the Year That Will Be (2015)

I've been enjoying everyone's end of the year posts - I find the retrospectives fascinating and educational.  I think you have to look back in order to figure out where you want to go in the future, so with that in mind, here's mine:

I bought more clothes in 2015 than any time since I began sewing in 2002.  I think turning 50 was the catalyst - on the one hand, dressing too young only emphasizes your age, ("mutton dressed a lamb") and on the other hand, now is the time to experiment before true old age sets in.  : )  All my clothes purchases led me to believe I really hadn't sewn that much in 2014, but a review of my blog tells a different story.  I sewed much more than I thought!  Here are the highlights:

I began the year with a favorite, my yellow skirt, McCalls 3341:

And I liked it so much, I ended the year with another one from the same yellow wool from Mood, made with Simplicity 1541

Next up, I made the Tippi Hedren suit, which really was a labor of love:

I wear the jacket all the time - particularly with jeans and the silk charmeuse lining never fails to thrill me.

I also made this dress to go with the jacket, but it was an utter failure due to the lightweight fabric/wrinkling and I only wore it the once:

It has been banished from the house.  So has this ill fated vest which Vicki ordered me to never wear again:

I haven't given up on the vest idea, mind, I just need a different pattern, so look for more of this in 2015.

A rousing success was the Gertie pants, Butterick 5895, in which I went to Gertie's sewing retreat in April to tweak the fit.  I made a lot of these and love them:

Look for more of these in 2015 as the spring approaches!

I became obsessed with linen this spring/summer and had no less than three makes.  The Gabriola skirt:

Sadly, these were not resounding successes.  I only wore the Gabriola skirt one or two times, mostly because it is too big.  Same with the McCalls 6696 shirt dress, but mostly because it is a little too snug in the hips, and the sleeves are too long for hot weather, which is when you would wear linen.  The Grinder dress got more wear than the other two, but at the end of the day, linen wrinkles (duh) and much of the time, I just don't want to deal with the wrinkling.  I think I love the idea of linen way more than the actual, you know, linen.

My big project of the year was learning to make jeans which was incredibly satisfying.  And I can report that I wear the end result all the time:

These won't be my last pair - I'm loving these!

And I made three skirts this summer.  My Style Arc jeans skirt:

Another Simplicity 1541:

And the ever popular Vogue 1247:

All three are well loved, and I anticipate making another of the Style Arc jeans skirt in the selvedge denim that I made for my final pair of jeans.

The refashion that I did was kind of a bust:

as I only wore it once.  Just too boring and uninspiring to wear, but I enjoyed the challenge of the making.

One project that I made, but did not blog about, was Gertie's slip pattern, Butterick 6031.  I made the slip (and panties) from her sew-along.  While the panty pattern didn't work for me, the slip did.  I wasn't able to get a decent photo - it's just a slip and I'm not about to model it for all to view on the internet - so I didn't blog about it.  I wear it all the time.  It turned out exactly like the photos Gertie posted.  It is comfortable, useful, and pretty.  I love it.  And I love Gertie's sew-along for it because her instructions are step-by-step, hold-your-hand kind of instructions which I need.  This slip was my very first knit project, and I really needed Gertie to tell me what kind of needle to use, and what my stitch length and width should be for every single seam.  Gertie tells you everything you need to know and assumes nothing.  Awesome.  I have bought additional fabric to make another one soon.

And my biggest failure this year was my annual Christmas dress.  I took photos of it literally wadded up on the floor once I realized it was not going to work, but it is such a colossal failure, I can't even be bothered to download the photos from my camera in order to post.  It was all due to the fabric, a synthetic metallic white/silver icky fabric I got from Hancock's, and why I thought I could make this work is beyond me.  I've bagged it up so I can get to Vicki for her future Christmas postcards, as I need to get it, and the bad juju, out of my house.  I blame too much holiday sugar and gluten which impaired my sewing judgment.

So what is up for 2015??? Another jeans skirt, more Gertie pants, and another slip for sure.  And I've already started working on another vintage wool suit (pink!).  AND, I have ordered a new sewing machine!!!  I love my Bernina 145, but while making jeans I realized there were a few limitations - I need a larger machine, with the ability to sew through many layers of denim if I want to keep making jeans (and I do).  My Bernina is 12 years old, and while it is a workhorse, a little updating wouldn't hurt.  Plus, I'm one of the few sewers I know of that has only one machine - a second one would be a welcome addition.

So I ordered the Juki F-600 from Ken's Sewing Center.  Mostly because Michael did.  Kidding.  OK, not really kidding.  Michael aspires to sewing I want to do and he seemed to do his homework before he ordered.  And the price was right.  I had seriously considered buying another Bernina since I have already invested in so many of the Bernina feet, plus it is the machine I am used to.  But to get the larger machine and some of the features I wanted, I was going to have to spend close to $ 4,000.00.  Uh, no way.

I'm looking forward to its arrival, but bonding it with it will take months, of course.  Forward, 2015!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

A Palette Cleanser - Simplicity 1541

This week a friend IRL asked me if, after finishing my jeans, have I given up blogging.  Well, no, I'm just preoccupied with new projects and thinking about new projects, and frankly, a new obsession.  It's been fun, and I have written a dozen blog posts in my head, which haven't actually made it to a keyboard.  Writing is mostly thinking, so I like to believe I've done the hard work, just where no one can see.  As usual.

Cleaning up after the Jeans Project took a lot of time.  There were a half dozen patterns to sort and store, fabric scraps to deal with, and a very messy sewing room.  Once that was done, I began the dithering over what to do next.

A fall coat came to mind.  After making the Gertie coat last year, I was enthused about another, less complicated, autumn coat.  My Gertie coat is made of camel hair, which is really warm, and the big circle skirt is great for the dead of winter, but I want something less . . . well, just less.  I have a Pendleton plaid coat for fall (my favorite season), but it's five years old now and starting to show some wear.

I wanted something easy.  And I wanted to use a pattern from one of the many sewing books I own.  I recently noticed that while I buy a lot of them, I never actually make anything from them.  I'm not certain why.  Probably there's the pressure to trace, which I'm not all that excited about.  And there are so many big 4 patterns that are cheap and easy.

So I found a coat pattern in Sew Serendipity:

The coat patterns are essentially one pattern consisting of different lengths:

I was interested in the green wool coat (middle photo), with the bottom photo length.  This is an easy coat pattern - easy collar, no lining (but I could make one easily), and only three buttons.  The search for the perfect coat weight wool commenced.

The wool needed to be coat weight, but supple.  Not finding what I wanted, I went ahead traced all the pattern pieces, and made my lining from the same fabric I used on the Gertie coat (I bought 7 yards so I may be sewing with this stuff for YEARS to come.)  The size small fit well, and I finally found a wonderful quality wool locally (at the expensive fabric store in town) for a great sale price.  I told myself it wasn't teal, it was cadet blue, and brought it home.

But then doubt set in.  While the Sew Serendipity coat is cute, maybe it is a little too . . . cute???  I'm 50 years old now.  What I love, and have loved, has suddenly felt too young on me, which has left me feeling vaguely ridiculous.  

Not surprisingly, I didn't want to give up on this pattern, having traced it and made the lining, but obviously continuing on with a coat that I won't actually wear defies reason.  I cast about for another, perhaps more sophisticated, easy coat pattern.  I ordered this from the interwebs:

The coat comes in various lengths, and reminds me of the Tippi Hedren jacket.  It is easy, and as a bonus it includes a lining pattern.  I thought I was all set.

But there was the fabric.  While gorgeous in weight and drape, I had to finally admit to myself what I had denied:  the color is teal, dammit.

(This photo makes it look more blue than it is in real life.  Unfortunately.)

I don't care for teal.  And yet, I keep ending up with it.  I can only assume it's a cruel trick of the universe.

So I gave up and ordered a fall coat from Boden.

With the cooler temps finally coming our way here in Virginia, I pulled out my favorite wool skirt, the yellow skirt I made last January, McCalls 3341.  And not surprisingly, I found it a little too tight.  Another little nasty side effect of turning 50.  Ick.

I bought the yellow wool at Mood while in NYC last December and I bought a bunch of it, so the solution was to just make another.  I wanted something less A-line and longer, more of a pencil skirt, which is more in vogue, so I went with Simplicity 1541, which I made in a stretch jean fabric this summer:

I made it the exactly same way, except I mitered the french pleat in the back as illustrated in Singer's "Sewing for Style" I recently found in a thrift store for $ 5.00.

Here are the instructions:

Easy enough, but mine doesn't lay as flat and shows slightly in this wool:

If I made this skirt again, I probably won't bother with the mitering; it lays flatter just folding up normally, and no one cares how I manage my kick pleat. 

I had planned to line it in silk but ran out of enthusiasm and just decided I would wear a half slip with it.

I used the same tablecloth fabric for the waist facing that I used on the original yellow skirt:

Also, this time I put in a centered zipper rather than the lapped; it is just easier for me:

I used the same 3/4 seam allowances I used on the last skirt, but this one is tighter because of the lack of stretch.  If I make it again in wool, I'll use 5/8 seams instead just to give a little more wiggle room (literally).

I do enjoy topstitching:

So yay, I like the skirt.  But my sewing these days is in flux.  Not only do I have way too many clothes, I have too many that I don't wear.  Remember my last count of 46 skirts hanging in my closet?  Something had to be done.

There are a ton of blogs out there dedicated to minimalist wardrobes, but this is what is working for me:

1)  For every garment I make or buy, I get rid of two.  So for this skirt that I added to my closet, I eliminated two skirts.  This has helped me reduce the 46 skirts down to 29.

2)  No more black.  I saw, and wore, enough black in the '80s and '90s to last me a lifetime.  I'm tired of it.  And as I age, it looks too severe on me, making me look pale and tired.  Still, of those 29 skirts I still have, six are black.  Clearly more purging is necessary.

3)  I've discovered I'm both emotional and practical when it comes to clothes hoarding.  I keep some clothes because I used to love wearing them, even though I don't wear them now, and I keep clothes because they are practical (it was cheap! it was expensive! I might need it some day!), even though I don't wear them.  One example:  I have a black suit with two skirts that I can't bring myself to get rid of because, what if, God forbid, someone should die?  Obviously, reason should tell me that if that happens any store in America will have black clothes suitable for the impending funeral.

4)  For the first time in a long time in my adult life, I have put on weight and some of my clothes are too tight - this is a real bummer.  Keeping them in my closet isn't lifting my spirits, but getting rid of them feels like waiving the white flag of defeat.  I know that admitting it is the first step in dealing with the problem.

5) I'm only sewing what I feel passionate obsessed about.  If I'm dithering, I'm probably not sufficiently enthralled with it, i.e. see coat story above.  If this is the case, I'm buying what I need and calling it a day (see also, Boden solution above).  

6)  Here's an interesting article about discarding everything that does not bring you joy.  I'm hoping looking at my clothes about whether they bring me joy will liberate me from the emotional/practical considerations in keeping and tossing clothes.

7)  The clothes I have removed from my closet haven't actually left the house.  They are in storage in an unfinished attic room which helps me remove them them from the closet.  It's sort of a half-way house for unwanted clothes.  I'm separated from them, but if I ever need them, they are recoverable.  I hope this helps in ultimate separation in the future.

8)  My goal is to own less clothes which I actually wear that allow more creativity in how I wear them.  And, of course, good quality, whether I make them or buy them.

Coming soon:  my new obsession and why I'm sewing it.