Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Bubble Coat Mega Post

I finished my wool coat today!

I started working on it in earnest last Wednesday.  I took lots of pictures and meant to do progress posts as I worked, but it ended up being a busy week . . .  so I'm lumping them all in one huge mega-post today.

This is the coat I've been wanting to make for over a year:  "Bubble Coat with Front Ruffles" from Burda magazine 12/2011.  I fell in love with it after coming across Kokuryu's beautiful coat on the BurdaStyle website and vowed to make my own.  By the time I discovered it, the issue in question was out of print, so I had to hunt one down on eBay - mine came all the way from Israel.

As you can see, the original has a satin ruffle/flounce at the front.  I really considered making one on my coat, but in the end the fabric I bought had a more masculine feel so I decided to leave it off.  My fabric came from Fashion Fabrics Club - yet another drug website the Mad Housewife introduced me to.  Over the summer they had all their wool coatings on sale for $10 a yard, so I bought 3 yards of a grey/cream herringbone with orange stripes running through.  I really only needed 2 yards for the coat, but wanted to give myself some leeway.  I didn't mess up though, so now I have enough left over for a matching hat or a skirt.

Because this is a "magazine" pattern, that meant tracing from the nested sheet.  I know a lot of you would rather have ALL your teeth pulled with no anesthetic than to trace a pattern like this, but it's really not that bad.  The thing that held me up most was lack of good light.  There are a few tricks that help:  see those colored numbers across the top?  They correspond with the pattern pieces so you know where to look.  I was tracing the red pattern pieces from this sheet.  So for example - look at the red number 4 along the top, then just scan down the sheet until you see another red 4 - that is the outline of pattern piece 4 for my pattern!

Another thing I find really helpful is the picture of all the pattern pieces that's given in the instructions under the line drawing of the garment:

This little box shows where to look for your pattern pieces, what color the lines are, and what the lines look like for each size.   You can see that I checked off each piece as I traced it (except for piece 6, which was the last one I traced).  The seams are also numbered, which is really helpful as these seam numbers are referenced in the instructions.

The instructions themselves are a little off-putting for me, but not for the normal reason.  The print is so tiny it's hard for me to read!!   But I've found a way around that:  on the Burda website, for any pattern that is available as a download, you can download just the instructions for free.  I did that and then printed them off.  Ahhh, much better!!

Aside from lack of light to trace my pattern, the thing that held me up most with this project was trying to decide what to use for interlining.  I waffled for a long time between expensive lambswool and cheap cotton flannel.  In the end I decided to go with the flannel for a few reasons:  the cost obviously.  But also, I found that not having all my materials on hand was keeping me from even starting, so rather than try to figure out exactly how much I needed and then make an online order, I just got on with it and headed over to JoAnn's for some flannel.  I also hit up my local fabric shop (Vogue) for some rayon bemberg for the lining.

The construction of this coat was actually pretty simple, but the whole process was as time-consuming as you'd think.  First cut out the outer fabric, then cut out the same pieces from flannel, then cut out the lining pieces.  THEN - hand baste all the interlining pieces to the outer pieces.  After all that, I finally got to sew a seam!  Here's an in-progress shot where you can see the interlining basted to the outer.

And here's that same corner from the front.  I'm proud to say I'm getting pretty good at these!  Good thing, because this pattern has a lot of them!

After each seam was sewn, I unpicked the basting stitches and trimmed back the interlining using my duckbill scissors.  Oddly, I didn't mind doing any of this.  I like hand-stitching, and I was in a headspace where I just wanted to take my time with this project.  I don't always feel that way, but this time I did!

The hem allowances get interfaced, so I used the 1.25" fusible knit interfacing I got from A Fashionable stitch.  Having a strip already cut made it so easy!  Sewing the hems was easy too - with wool this thick, I didn't have to be super careful about picking up just one thread (like I did on my cotton sateen coats), so I was able to zoom right along.

The coat has in-seam pockets.  The front of the pocket bag is lining fabric, and the back is outer.  For setting in the pockets, I ignored the instructions and did it the Sewaholic way.  The pattern instructions wanted me  to sew up the pocket, sew the side seam above and below the pocket opening and then set in the pocket.  Whaaaaa?  I have never seen pocket instructions like that before!  Tasia's way is so much better!

The pattern calls for the coat to close with large snaps, and I wanted to keep that feature.  But after looking at a couple of my RTW coats, I decided I'd like the snaps to be fabric-covered, so I asked Google how to do that.  I finished these up this morning and took lots of pictures for you guys - it's very easy to do, although a little time consuming. 

You start out with a circle of lining fabric twice the diameter of your snap.  My snaps measured 1.125" across, so I cut circles 2.25" in diameter.  For the "male" side, cut a tiny hole in the center and then force it over the post.

Then use a running stitch to gather the fabric around the back of the snap:

Once my fabric circle was closed, I went back through the gathers all the way around with my needle a couple more times to secure it, then brought my needle to the edge so I could sew it on my coat.

I had marked my snap placement with tailor's tacks:

It was my first time using them, but it won't be my last!  I'd always thought it would be fussy to make them, but I think it might actually be easier than using chalk. 

Here's a close-up of a finished snap couple.  You do the "female" part the same as the male, but without cutting a hole.  When you snap it closed, the fabric on the female part stretches to accomodate the post.

I'm really happy with how finished the snaps look.  I'll definitely be doing this again in the future.

As I said, the coat is lined in rayon bemberg.  I am REALLY late to the bemberg party - this was my first time using it!  I love it though - it feels so much more luxurious than the cheap linings I usually buy.  Lesson learned!

The pattern included the piece for the front and back neck facings, but forgot to mention that when you construct the lining, you need to remove the excess fabric from the lining piece at the neckline.  I figured it out though.  The pattern also does not ask you to do any clipping or understitching, but I did both.  These Burda patterns assume you've been sewing and know that you need to do those things.

The lining is attached with jump hems at the bottom and sleeve edges.  Like I did on my cotton coats, to keep things neater, I enclosed the raw edge of the facing with a Hong Kong finish.

And finally, here are the pictures of the finished coat. 

On the hanger, it looks like the facing is holding up the hem.  But on my body, there is some "take up" caused by my (modest) boobs, so it does hang straight!

There are some really nice style lines across the shoulders:

And at the center back:

On the front there is a pieced "bib:"

I added this lovely vintage brooch I have, which matches perfectly in color!

The shape of this coat is very interesting.  It's extremely pegged at the knee:

Honestly, I'm not sure how much I love it on my body.  I like it, don't get me wrong.  But I think it's a difficult shape to wear.  Of course, given that it has no collar and three quarter sleeves, the wear time for this one is limited anyway.  It does look pretty great left open, which has the added bonus of showing off my fancy fabric-covered snaps.

However, I'm very proud of my workmanship on this coat.  I took my time and made sure to do things right.  I didn't rush through any of the steps, and when I felt tired, I stopped working.  I learned a bunch of new techniques.

And I learned that there's no great mystery to sewing a coat.  It's pretty much the same as sewing anything else - just thicker.  But my trusty walking foot helped me out with that.  I used it throughout and I'm glad I did.

I've already made a hat to go with this coat.  Actually, the hat got made first!  And I'm currently working on another infinity scarf in light grey to wear along with it.  All that's left is some elbow-length gloves.  I'm pondering some ideas for that . . .

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Mom's Sewing Machine

While I was at my mom's last week, I took a good look at her sewing machine.  Mom's machine is a Kenmore with a built-in cabinet, circa about 1963 or '64 - she doesn't remember exactly when she got it, but it was either just before or just after I was born.  The top of the table opens out, and then you swing the sewing machine up from underneath.  Mom told me she and my dad paid $150 for this machine back then - a lot of money for a young couple!  But she felt it had paid for itself many times over the years.

I have so many wonderful memories of this machine.  My first sewing machine experience was in my 7th grade Home Ec. class, but I liked it so much that I continued to sew on this machine afterwards, with Mom's help.  Throughout junior high and high school, and on into college, I sewed my own clothes on this machine. Later when Mom and my brother got me my own sewing machine as a gift, they got me a Kenmore.  It was so easy to use because everything was in the same place and worked the same as Mom's machine.  However, Mom's machine is ALL metal - it takes some muscle to lift it up out of that cabinet!

We had fun looking at the stitch cams and the attachments.  This machine uses round "cams" for the different decorative zigzag stitches.  There's a different stitch for the front and back of the cam.  I'm not really sure how these work but the edges are like cogs, and each one is different - like a key.

I only ever used the plain zigzag, which is in the machine (you can see it in the second photo).  But Mom said she did use a couple of these more decorative stitches.

Another thing I never used was the fancy attachments that came with the machine - in fact, I'm not sure I ever knew she had them!  And even if I did know, back then I wouldn't have known what they were used for.  I was really impressed with the assortment of feet that came with the machine - some of these I don't even have on my newer machines, but wish I did!  I took pictures of all of them:

Not only a narrow hem foot, but:

1/4" hem foot,

3/8" hem foot,

5/8" hem foot and

7/8" hem foot!  Jealous!!

Bias binding attacher!

Gathering foot.

Straight stitch foot.

Edgestitcher.  Not sure how this one works!


Quilting guide.

One attachment I did use was the buttonholer.  I like this one because it has such great grip on the back:

I used the zipper foot a lot too, but forgot to take a picture of it.  I much prefer the Kenmore zipper foot to the ones that come with the Janome.

All the cams and presser feet fit neatly into a little box for storage:

Along with the instruction manual:

And the manual is full of cute illustrations and chatty text, a la 1960s:

Fun with attachments!

When I was a little girl, one of my favorite things to do was dump out the coffee can where Mom kept all her old buttons and look at each one.  Getting out her sewing machine and all its pieces was the grown-up equivalent!

Did any of you grow up with an adult who sewed?  Do you have fond memories or stories about the machine you grew up with or learned on?

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Sweater Shaving 101

Hello, all!  I'm home from my lovely visit with my mom in Asheville, NC.  We had a great time just being together, and I also managed to get a few pictures for blog fodder :-)  Here's the first installment.

Quite a few years ago, I spun up a bunch of Ashland Bay multicolored merino sliver in Amethyst for my mom as a Christmas present.  Some time later, she knitted it up into a comfy cozy cardigan for herself.  She wore it a lot, but was telling me that she hadn't been wearing it lately because it had gotten so pilled. 

So we decided to try out a trick I'd read online - shaving it with a razor!  We figured it might make it better, and it probably wouldn't make it any worse, but just to be on the safe side, we started out under the arm where it wouldn't show.

I used a plain ladies' 3-blade disposable razor.  I shaved the sweater with the fabric spread flat, using a downward motion.  And it worked great!

Look at how much fuzz there is just from shaving a few inches:

You can also see that the section under that line of fuzz still has some pills.

And here's a handful, shaved off the back:

I've had various types of sweater shavers over the years, and I've got to tell you - this worked better than any of them!  I wish I could remember where I learned it. 

I've also read that you will need to shave a sweater twice - i.e. let it pill, then shave it; let it pill again and shave it again - but that after that all the fibers that are going to pill will have already done so and you won't need to do it again.  Not sure whether that's true, but we were both really glad to have had such success with this trick!

Have any of you knitters ever tried this out?

Also, as an aside - I got an Instagram account quite a while ago, and am trying to train myself to take little daily photos.  I put a link up there under my profile photo if you'd like to stop over there too :-)

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Long Time Coming

Today I present to you Hemlock the second.  This one was made with a very thin and stretchy jersey marked only as "spandex knit" with 60% stretch (from Girl Charlee, no longer available).  I started it well over a month ago and had the dickens of a time getting it cut out.  Then when I went to my coverstitch machine to do my hemming (before seaming) everything went to hell in a handbasket.  I'd do a sample, which would look great.  Then I'd try out the hem and it would bunch and pucker into a horrible mess.  I'd pick it all out and try again - I went through this process three times before giving up and throwing the top aside in disgust.

But when Lisa posted her recent Hemlock the other day, I got inspired to dig it back out and finish it.  I'd realized in the intervening time period that my coverstitch problem was due to having one needle on a double thickness and one needle on a single thickness of fabric.  I'd already pressed my seam allowances back 3/8" with fusible web, so I decided to do the hems closer to the edge so that both needles were going through 2 layers of fabric.  It took me until the fourth and final hem to get something that looked good, but I just wanted to finish the top and get on with things, so I didn't undo.

sleeve hem - too close to the edge

front hem - better

For this Hemlock, I narrowed the sleeve at the cuff.  Since it's been so long since I cut out this top, I don't remember exactly how much I narrowed it, but I think I took off about 5/8" on each side and tapered the side seam up to where it starts to curve out for the underarm.  Now the sleeves will stay up if I push them up.

The fabric is a taupe background printed with a black lace pattern:

with a funky necklace I ended up not wearing

I like the fake flocked lace edges in the print

Hubby really liked this one, and I wore it yesterday for a day of visiting a guitar shop and then dinner at a friend's house.  I took the above pictures in the morning, thinking I'd get pictures of me wearing it later in the day.  By the time I remembered, it was after dinner and a couple drinks; Hubby was totally cracking me up as he snapped a couple shots:

But at least you can see how the narrower sleeve fits!  And don't ask me how I did it, but somehow the stripes on the sleeves match those on the body when my arms are down!  A fluke!

Our friend has two beautiful Siamese cats who I thoroughly enjoyed playing with.  Here's LC:

She's very shy and reserved.

And here's Oliver, who decided he really liked my Infinity Scarf:

Awwww!  Snuggle kitty!

That's going to be it for sewing for me for a bit.  I'm going to go visit my mom for a week (Yay!) so I'll just be taking some knitting along.  And chances are she and I will be having so much fun together, I won't even be doing much of that!