Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Blazer Bits and Bobs

Yesterday I completed the August installment of Blazer-a-Month.  Just in time! 

This is a blazer that ought to have been made earlier in the summer, but I was busy with house guests  from the beginning of July til mid-August, and didn't have time to sew.  I'm really happy it's done now - this project fulfills a long-held desire for a patchwork madras blazer.  Years ago, J.Crew had them, and I wanted one so badly but the fit was terrible on me.  I love it that I can now make whatever I want, and make it to fit me!

This jacket is McCall's 6172 again - what can I say?  It's my favorite!  And since the fitting is already done, part of the work is eliminated.  I've been working my way through the techniques in Tailoring:  The Classic Guide to Sewing the Perfect Jacket.  This project was the perfect opportunity to try out the machine tailoring method.  I posted a fair number of in-progess shots on Instagram, but a lot of the details were hard to see there, so I've taken lots more pictures to share here.

I mistakenly thought that the machine tailoring method would be quicker than hand tailoring, but it really wasn't.  It still takes a lot of time to cut all the pieces, cut the interfacing, mark everything, and then do the stitching.  And although the hair canvas is attached by machine, there is still a fair bit of hand stitching to be done.  I do a lot of hand-basting when I sew, and all the hems are hand stitched.  So all told, this jacket still took a total of about 22 hours.

The fabric I used for this blazer is Robert Kaufman Nantucket Patchwork, which I purchased from Fabric.com.   I realized that I'd need to match the squares as if matching plaids.  For my size (10), view B takes 2 5/8 yards of 45" fabric.  I ordered 3 yards, thinking that would be enough extra.  When my fabric came, I got a 3.5 yard piece because it was the end of the bolt.  Thank goodness - I used almost all of it!!  Starting at the center back, I matched pieces left and right, working to the sides, and then did the same for the fronts, as much as possible keeping the horizontal squares in line.  I think I did a pretty good job :-)

The fabric is actually much nicer quality than I was expecting.  All the seam allowances on the back are serged together, and the squares are all edgestitched down from the front.  Needless to say though, that makes quite a lumpy fabric!  So I underlined all the pieces with a very thin cotton voile to give myself a smoother surface to work on.  I like to hand baste my underlinings on, to keep everything as flat as possible.

With the machine tailoring method, hair canvas is still used for the under collar and fronts, and the roll line is taped.  But these are all stitched to the outer by machine, so the stitches do show through on the outside, unlike with hand tailoring.  However, all the stitching is on the underside so it doesn't show when the garment is worn.  Here's how the roll line looks from the outside:

And here's the under collar.  On the second picture, I've drawn over the stitching lines to make it more clear.  Between the busy fabric and the white thread, none of this stitching is very easy to see!

As I was working on this jacket, I updated my pattern by cutting out all the markings (easy to do because my pattern is on Swedish Tracing Paper), so that the pieces work like stencils for marking.  So glad I did this, as there is a lot of marking to be done!

The hair canvas for the under collar is pretty well stitched down to the fabric, but the piece on the front is hanging free between the layers of fabric.  I really loved the method for attaching it:  you cut "carrier strips" of muslin, which are 1.5" strips the same shape as the jacket front.  The hair canvas is cut all the way to the front and neck edges, then stitched with a zigzag to the carrier strips at a 3/4" seam allowance.  Then the canvas is trimmed close to the zigzag on the back, and the muslin is trimmed close to the zigzag on the front.  Thus, the hair canvas is attached to the outer via the muslin and remains 1/8" inside the seam allowance.  Genius!

The roll line is taped in the normal way, but sewn down with two parallel lines of stitching, stopping 2" before the break.  That last bit is sewn down by hand only through the canvas, so it won't show from the outside. ( I just realized that this picture is the side I sewed wrong!  The tape should be sewn to the jacket side of the roll line, not the lapel side.  I realized it in time and unpicked, then fixed it.)

I used muslin for the back stay, like usual, and wigan for the hems.  Here is the jacket completely assembled up to the point of adding the facing/lining unit.  I just love looking at the inner structure of jackets!

This time, I decided to do topstitching around the outside edge.  On my previous jackets, I didn't do topstitching because I felt it didn't suit the style.  To me, the topstitching gives the jacket a sportier look.  I really had fun doing it this time.  I made things easy on myself by lining up the edge of my fabric with the edge of the presser foot, and then moving my needle all the way to the right for stitching - it was easy to maintain an even distance from the edge that way.

The lining is rayon bemberg in a lovely shade of teal that I think looks quite nice with the outer fabric.

Making the buttonholes was a bit problematic because of the bulk of the quilted seams.  My first one didn't work and I had to unpick it.  I used some buttons I had on hand; I like them, but I'm not sure they're the right choice for this jacket.  They're awfully shiny since they're glass.  I may change them out in the future.

And there you have it!  One last pic of the completed jacket:

I really, really like it :-)

And now, a question:  I've been getting a lot of requests on Instagram to do a sew-along for blazers, and I've pretty much decided to do one in October.  If you are one of the people who is interested in this, what are the kinds of things you're interested in seeing? I haven't decided what type of tailoring to show - fusible, hand, or machine.  It's not realistic to show all three in one sew-along, because I'd have to be making 3 jackets at the same time!  And I do have a life outside of tailoring :-)  So I'm hoping to be able to tailor the sew-along to what people are most interested to see.  (See what I did there?)

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Emily Culottes

Well hello there!

It's probably been obvious to most of you that I've transferred much of my crafting (sewing) posts over to Instagram.  That's partly because for quite a few months, I just haven't been inspired to write anything.  But mostly because, while I've done a fair bit of sewing over the last 6 months, none of it is really anything new, or anything I felt warranted a longer post than what I can do on Instagram.  I made a few more Archer shirts; a couple more blazers; a few Alabama Chanin garments; a few Named Blair Batwing t-shirts.

But last weekend I made something entirely new to me - a pair of culottes!  I have a few things to say about this pattern, so blog post it is!

The pattern is Emily Culottes by Itch to Stitch.  I think it's a relatively new pattern; I became aware of it through the IndieSew blog.  Allie, from that blog, made a super cute pair - cute enough to make me buy the PDF.  I've been trying to limit how many I buy these days because they tend to sit on my computer, unused.

Itch to Stitch is a new-to-me pattern designer.  And I have to say, I was really impressed with the pattern.  It has a few innovations which I think are fantastic:  you can "turn off" the sizes you don't need to print (useful, since there are 12 sizes included, 00 - 20), and there are only 23 pages to print, because only the pattern for the shorts length is given.  (I used the copyshop option and had my pattern printed at Kinko's.)  Included are instructions on lengthening the leg to any length you like.  There are also several design options:  two different styles of pockets and three waistband options, as well as pleat-front and unpleated.  The instructions themselves are very detailed.  I admit that I didn't follow them at all, since I know how to make pants.  But I skimmed through them, and it looks like they walk you clearly through all steps, so that even a beginner could make these.

Before cutting into my fabric - a nice, weighty, drapey linen I got from JoAnn - I traced the pattern and did a tissue fit.  According to my measurements, I should have used a size 4 waist and size 8 hip - pretty normal for me.  But when I tried on my tissue, it seemed that the waist was too tight and the hip too loose.  So I retraced a straight size 6, which is what you see here.  The shape is very A-line, so I could get away with it.  So, good to know for us pear-shaped ladies - we can save ourselves some grading work on this one! 

It's hard to see, since my culottes are black, but I made the non-pleated, completely unembellished version, and added 8" to the leg length.  I didn't want to spend a lot of time on extras because these are really a wearable muslin.  I'm not 100% convinced I love this style on me; I think I need to wear them a bit before I make the final decision.

I think if I do make these again, I will go back down to a size 4 though.  These are a little loose on me.  The pattern shows how to use twill tape to keep the waistband from stretching out during the day, but since I hate tight waistbands, I skipped that part.  After I was done, I wished I'd done it!  As is, they sit just below my natural waist.  Tissue fitting on pants really baffles me - it doesn't seem as accurate as bodice fitting somehow.  I'm hoping to work on that this fall.  I really need pants!

Something I'm not quite sure about is the crotch - it is very deep, falling about 3" below my body.  Is this normal for culottes?  Never having made or worn them, I'm not sure.  I don't think the viewer can tell, but it feels a tiny bit odd.  I might consider decreasing the crotch depth if I make these again.  Here you can see how deep that crotch curve is, and how wide the leg is.

Here's a side view:

And an alternate outfit:

If I make this pattern again, I will probably narrow the leg like Allie did.  This wide-legged look is OK, but I think a narrower leg would be more flattering on me, and more fashionable. 

Have any of you made culottes?  Are you pro or con?  Can anybody answer my crotch depth question?  I'm so curious about it!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Ways to wear a lavender blazer.

Once spring comes, that is.

Here are some looks I put together on Polyvore using items similar to (or in some cases, the same as) things in my closet.

Wow, that was SO much easier than putting it all on and taking pictures!!

ETA:  Since publishing this post, I've created even more sets!  You can see them on Pinterest here, or on Polyvore here.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A Tale of Two Blazers: A Comparison Between M6172 and S2446

Well, hello there!

Since my last post, I've been busy making 2 blazers.  My friend Shar jokingly told me that I'm on the "Blazer a Month" program after I shared my sewing plans with her, and she's not far wrong!  I've got several more planned.  Although I'm not quite sure I need a dozen in my closet - that's probably overkill for a housewife!  But they are just so darn fun to make - most of the time.

I started the new year with a second, and very successful, version of McCall's 6172.  This second blazer was hand-tailored.  Gosh, was that a blast!  (Obviously, you have to love hand stitching to find that fun, which I do.)  And the result was a jacket that is so perfectly molded to my body, it just feels like a dream every time I slip it on.  I posted several pictures in-progress on Instagram, as well as pictures of the finished jacket.  Alas, although I've worn it a few times, I have yet to remember to take a picture of myself wearing it!  One of these days . . .

This month, I moved on to Simplicity 2446, one of the Amazing Fit patterns.  Back in September, when I was getting ready for Bourbon and Blazers, I pulled out all my blazer patterns - I've accumulated quite a few thanks to those $1 pattern sales.  After perusing all of them, I narrowed my choices down to M6172 and S2446.  Style-wise, they're pretty similar.  I ended up starting with the McCall's pattern, mostly because it uses the Palmer-Pletsch fitting method with which I'm already very familiar. 

But I wanted to try them both, so I kept the Simplicity pattern out.  And in December, I ended up buying 2 kits for this blazer from Craftsy, for a whopping $25 each.  A pretty good deal, as the kit contains the pattern, the outer fabric and the lining.  I purchased the lavender kit still available here, and the navy blue shown in the pictures.  I resolved that these 2 would be my February and March blazers this year.

. . . (cue ominous music) . . .

I finished up my lavender blazer the other day, and while it's OK, it is nowhere near as fabulous nor as comfortable as my McCall's blazers.  This pattern just doesn't work for me, and I won't likely be making it again.  It confused me, honestly, because just about every review I've seen of this pattern has been overwhelmingly positive.  Maybe I'm just nitpicking?  But I figure:  I have a pattern that is perfect for me, so I really don't need to settle for second best.  I tried it; it's OK; I'll wear it.  But I won't love it like I do my McCall's blazers.

All the while I was making this blazer, I kept thinking that in my book the McCall's is a far superior pattern.  I decided to do a little comparison in case anyone was interested in the difference between the two.  I realize that my tailoring audience is probably pretty small, so if you have no interest in this sort of thing, you may stop reading now (if you haven't already).

Here's a table I made of the key aspects of each pattern:

Let's look at them in depth, shall we?

Fitting helps

If you've read any of the Palmer-Pletsch books and used those fitting methods, M6172 will be very familiar.  The first couple pages are a distilled version of all the adjustments you might need to make on this blazer.  You start with a tissue fitting, and then work your way through all the adjustments one by one; most of these are slash-and-spread adjustments.

The fitting method for S2446 is, for the most part, to take in or let out the princess seams.  There is a table to help you determine which cup size you need, and the side front piece comes in A, B, C and D cups.  All other adjustments are made to the 1" seam allowances on the vertical seams.

If your adjustments are mostly to the circumference of a garment, this is probably enough.  My personal adjustments are trickier though.  Because of my sway back and low round back, I ended up having to convert the center back from "cut on fold" to a seam.  I was able to adjust for my broad back along the back princess seam, but I felt that this doesn't give me as good a fit as the usual slash-and-spread I do. 

bust adjustment from M6172

I think that for anyone needing a small- or full bust adjustment, the McCall's pattern offers more precision, because it uses a slash-and-spread (or tuck) adjustment for the bust in addition to the princess seam.  I ended up using the B cup side front on the Simplicity pattern, but had to redraw the bust curve because it was too high for me.


If you think you might want to try out traditional tailoring, I'd recommend the McCall's pattern.  The instructions are for a traditionally inserted lining, which involves plenty of hand-stitching.  I didn't feel the instructions were enough though, either with the RTW version of my first blazer or the hand-tailoring of my second blazer - I spent a lot of time referring to my tailoring book and the Craftsy class on tailoring for both garments.  But I didn't feel the instructions for the bagged lining on the Simplicity pattern were clear at all.  And honestly, by the time I got to that point I was really ready to be done with this jacket so I didn't get out my book on lining to help figure it out - I just reverted to doing it by hand, which is default for me.

I was really surprised that although I'd made two blazers previously, I found the construction of the Simplicity blazer quite difficult.  Part of it was those 1" seam allowances.  After my tissue fitting, I went back and re-traced all my pieces so that everything had consistent 5/8" allowances.  But I also felt the instructions were hard to understand and follow; some of the terminology is different from what I'm used to, and the sewing instructions are interrupted with fitting instructions throughout.  On the McCall's pattern, all the fitting is on the first couple pages; after that, it's all construction.

The Simplicity jacket was rendered even more difficult by the fact that some of the notches didn't match up.  The most egregious error was the fact that the seam which attaches the under sleeve to the upper sleeve doesn't match up at all at the armhole - I ended up having to trim some away.

The markings on the Simplicity pattern are minimal - no roll lines for either collar or lapel.  If you wanted to hand tailor this jacket, you'd have to add those in yourself.  The lack of these markings left me unsure where to fold back my lapel when the jacket was done.

For me, probably the biggest strike against the Simplicity pattern is the sleeve caps.  The shape of the cap is tall and thin compared to the McCall's pattern; this gives the sleeve too much ease to go into the armscye nicely.  I'm pretty good at setting in sleeves, but this one was ridiculously hard.  I spent close to 3 hours just attaching the sleeves, and they're still not ideal.  Because of the extra ease, the sleeve sits up off the shoulder a bit - not a look I'm fond of.  And there was so much excess fabric in the seam allowance, I ended up having to notch it so my shoulder wouldn't look lumpy on the outside.

Sticky-uppy sleeve at shoulder.  Yuck.

Here's a picture comparing the sleeve caps of M6172 (on bottom) and S2446 (on top).  The pattern pieces are not aligned, so that you can see how much more extreme the curve of the Simplicity piece is.


The Simplicity pattern does include sleeve vents, although as written, they are not functional.  Neither are those cute flap pockets - they're not pockets at all, just flaps sewn to the front of the blazer!  Call me a stickler, but even though I don't use the welt pockets on my McCall's blazers (they're still tacked shut!), if I'm going to the trouble of making a blazer, it needs to have the proper finishes.  There are in-seam pockets on the longer version of the Simplicity pattern, and I think they're pretty cute; however, the reviews I read did say they are too small to be useful.  I made the short version of the jacket, and because I didn't want fake flaps, I left pockets off altogether.

I did make the sleeve vents on my Simplicity blazer, and although they cannot be opened, they are cute.  I chose not to add that detail to my McCall's blazers because I usually find the buttons to be bothersome when I'm sitting with my hands or arms on a table or when putting on my winter coat over the blazer.  But since they were already included on the Simplicity pattern and I'd never done it before, I gave it a go.  This part of the pattern is quite nicely drafted, I think - it includes an angled cut to make a miter which I think is pretty foolproof.

At first glance, these two blazers look almost identical, save for slightly different lapel shapes.  However, I think the difference between shoulder princess and armhole princess seams may be important to fitting.  I'm planning on researching that a bit, because I had much better luck with the latter.


Well, I think my preference is clear!  I know a lot of folks have had great success with S2446.  Alas, I am not one of those people.  I'll be using my McCall's pattern on the navy blue kit next month.

That said, I love the color of the Simplicity blazer.  I really bought it to use as a muslin for this pattern, but discovered that I can make lots of nice outfits with it!  Lavender goes with a lot of colors - who knew?   So I will be wearing this one this spring.

Have any of you used either (or both) of these patterns?  Do you have any information to add to this review?  I'd be very curious to hear others' experiences with these.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Alabama Inspiration

I mentioned briefly a post or two ago that we went to Austin, TX for Thanksgiving to visit some old friends.  The wife of the couple is an artist, and I was fortunate that she was willing to indulge my request to visit the Alabama Chanin pop-up store at Billy Reid in downtown Austin.

I wasn't really sure what to expect beyond finished garments.  I was hoping that there might be some DIY kits, but there were not - probably better for my pocketbook!  But there were two of the Alabama Chanin swatch books available to leaf through.  So gorgeous!  The girl who was minding the shop that day said it was fine for me to take pictures, so I took a lot, and I'm sharing them here with you today.

It was so fantastic to see and feel the garments created by the artisans who work for Alabama Chanin.  And I was a little surprised - they looked a lot like the things I've been making!  That is, I'd expected that the quality of stitching would far surpass mine, but they look just as rustic and imperfect as the stitching I've been doing.  Not every stitch is perfect, and I like that a lot.

My favorite pieces were those made of "Alabama Fur" and the heavily beaded fabrics.  These garments are quite substantial!

All these photos were taken on my phone, so the colors are not always true, but I'm hoping they are clear enough that they inspire you as much as they do me.

Outside the shop:

Hanging garments:

Petting some other garments:

Looking at construction:

And the beautiful swatch books:

I'm so glad I had the opportunity to see and feel these amazing garments, and thankful that Natalie Chanin has open-sourced so much of her work so that those of us who love to create can make our own. 

I've got 2 pieces underway right now, and more in the pipeline, so I'll be sharing those soon!