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.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Making Jeans - Finally! McCalls 6610

Y'all.  After more than three months, I have a pair of jeans!  Here's the preview:



But to back up, after many muslins (I lost count) I wasn't interested in doing more, and it was time to make the Real Thing.  I began with genuine American-made 13.5 oz denim manufactured by Cone Mills in North Carolina, which I ordered from Taylor.  It arrived in record time, and I washed my yardage twice in hot water and hot dryer.  Here's what it looked like afterwards:


I could tell this was real indigo dyed denim because my washer and dryer ended up blue after each washing and drying.  Which didn't hurt my feelings, because that gradual fade is what will eventually give me that great aged blue patina of my college jeans.

This is selvedge denim which has this distinctive red thread running through the selvedge:



It was a joy to work with - substantial and it pressed beautifully.

As you know from my last muslin, I hadn't quite perfected my fit, so I ordered the Palmer/Pletsch DVD, "Jeans for Real People":



I'm not certain this DVD would have been of much value to me when I first starting making jeans because it emphasizes fit, rather than the detailed how-to of sewing jeans.  For example, I don't think it would have helped me to figure out a fly zip, since the demonstration was for a cut-on fly extension, rather than a sewn-on fly extension.  And some of the techniques in the DVD look like shortcuts, rather than classic jean construction.  For example, the DVD claims nylon zippers are stronger than metal zippers and it demonstrates jeans being made with a regular nylon zipper.  Are nylon zippers really stronger?  Do we make jeans with metal zippers because that is all that was available when jeans were first made and continue with them because of tradition?

I don't think so.  I recently purchased "The Costumer's Handbook":



and it advises on page 122, "Always use metal zippers in costumes. Nylon zippers are simply not strong enough nor reliable enough for stage use."  (This is a fantastic book, by the way, full of useful information, including how to make slopers for men and women. Its out of print, but if you can find it, buy it or steal it.)

What I did get out of the DVD:  

1.  Basting tape.  I didn't know this stuff existed.  I use Steam-A-Seam for basting where I can, but the temporary basting tape looks like a great time saver.  I need to get some.

2.  A technique for making sure your back pockets are placed on the back pieces in identical placement.

3.  I learned an alternative way to make a buttonhole.

4.  Fitting.  They fit three women in this DVD, and I probably learned more than I realize.  The drawback to using the methods shown is that you really can't do it alone.  You not only need another person, but you need someone who knows the Palmer/Pletsch technique.

One common pattern adjustment is to carve out more of the back seam, making it deeper - this is very common on women over 30, and my understanding is that Palmer/Pletsch pants patterns have different cutting lines for the back seat depending on whether you are under 30 or over 30.  Which I think is both helpful and hysterical.

I decided I probably needed this adjustment, based on the Calvin Klein pattern which felt so comfortable.  Rather than go with the Calvin Klein pattern, though, I decided to use McCalls 6610 (which I used for my last muslin):



Like last time, I made a size 14; the difference this time was I didn't shorten the rise, and I redrew the seat curve to match the Calvin Klein pattern.  Here it is:



The McCalls pattern is the tan piece; the Calvin Klein pattern is the white tissue paper.  You can see the re-drawn seat curve in black ink on the McCalls pattern piece.

Also, based on the Calvin Klein pattern, I added 1/4 inch to the side seam in the hip area of the front pattern piece only.

In addition to the DVD discussed above, I took Victoria's pants fitting webinar put on by Burda, and in it, she suggests that you use a flexible ruler and bend it around yourself to discover your seat curve.  Not to get all personal and all, but this is my seat curve:



The left side is my front, and the right is my back side.  I compared my shape to the back seat curve on my pattern:



Pretty good, I would say!

By this time the actual sewing of the jeans was straightforward.  I decided to use an old New Look skirt made of antique flour sack fabric for my pockets:



I must have made this skirt ten or so years ago before I started blogging, and I've since "grown" out of it.  Flour sack fabric is incredibly strong and durable and I love this print:



Here's the coin pocket in progress: 



As mentioned, I used Steam A Seam for basting purposes wherever I could:



I used topstitching thread I ordered from Taylor as well, and it worked very well.  I was impressed:



I used the fly zipper instructions from the Calvin Klein pattern because I have found they are the best.  This time I hand basted the fly closed to make double sure the zipper would be covered (unlike the last time):



Just for fun, I made the zipper guard out of the same flour sack fabric rather than denim:



I tried, in vain, to find an alterations/tailor shop that would make my buttonhole for me, due to all the denim layers that I knew would give me trouble.  In the end, I used the Palmer/Pletsch method of zigzagging freehand a triangle shaped hole.  I went back to my college jeans and discovered that is how Levis made the buttonhole way back then:


You can see it's no thing of beauty.  Here's the back:



I figured I couldn't do any worse.  Here's mine:




For the waistband, I just cut a rectangle of fabric 4 1/4 inches wide on the crosswise grain, which finished 1 1/2 inches wide after folding in half and taking into account 5/8 inch seam allowances.  I didn't use the pattern waistband length; I just used whatever length it took to cover the top of the jeans.  

This fabric was only about 31 inches wide, so I had to piece the waistband as it was cut on the crosswise grain, rather than the lengthwise grain.  I put the seam at the back, so it would be covered by the back belt loop:



(See why you should cut your jeans waistband on the cross grain here.  Kathleen explains all.)

I made the belt loops using the selvedge edge so there wouldn't be any unraveling.  I basically cut a strip 1 1/4 inches wide along the selvedge, pressed the strip into thirds, and then top stitched the right side.  This is the backside:


This is the top.  I tried two finished sizes:  1/2 inch and 3/8 inch.  I ended up going with the narrower belt loop:


Getting the belt loops on was a challenge with my Bernina with this thick denim.  I ended up using a straight stitch, rather than a zig-zag, and I hand cranked the needle through the denim rather than using the presser foot.  I think the belt loops are on pretty well, but we will see.


I got the rivets from Taylor too.  I managed the rivets on the coin pocket by myself, but the shanks of the "nail" part of the rivets were too long for the regular pockets.  Using the denim spacers as Taylor suggests did not work for me.  I got The Carpenter to use his wire cutters to shorten the nail part, and then he pounded in the rivets on the front side (rather than the back, as I was doing).  Fortunately, he understands rivet technology.

Even though I had made three or four (or five?) muslins, I still learned stuff while making these jeans.  It became clear to me that your front pockets aren't meant to lie flat when you construct them; if they did, you wouldn't have any ease to get your hands inside them.  And I finally noticed the little tack on the front stitching of the fly which secures your zipper guard at the bottom of the zipper, so I added that.  And don't sew your belt loops on flat to the jeans - leave them loose so you have enough ease to get your belt through them.


The fit isn't perfect, of course.  See that slight wrinkle just below the yoke (below)?  I'm confident that indicates a slight sway back adjustment wouldn't be amiss:
  


But I'm not all that worked up about it.  I'm very pleased with the fit, and they are incredibly comfortable.  I've been wearing them for the past two days.  Which is why the front wrinkles aren't indicative of a fitting issue; they just mean I haven't taken them off for days:


Last shot:

I look forward to wearing these for years to come.   The legs are wide enough to wear boots, so I know I'll wear them constantly this fall and winter.  The waist is loose, but it doesn't show with a belt, and if I wear a top untucked, who is going to see the waistband?  

Final thoughts:

1.  While these are my first pair of jeans (I'm incredibly pleased), they won't be my last.

2.  But it is time to move on and sew something else.  Like maybe another winter coat.

3.  The Carpenter was so impressed with them, I have a feeling I'll be making him a pair soon.

4.  If you make jeans, use this denim.  Seriously.

5.  The only way to learn how to make jeans is to make 'em.  It's that simple.  If you want to badly enough, you'll be able to do it, and enjoy the journey.  You won't regret it!