Saturday, April 27, 2013

Cutting Out, Phase I: Complete!

My personal coat-sew-along on the Butterick 5824 1950's coat by Gertie continues.  One of the two challenging aspects of this project was upon me:  cutting out.  My goal was to get the camelhair wool garment pieces cut out and then rest on my laurels for awhile.  As Gertie has mentioned, the layout for cutting is single layer.  Which means you have to cut one pattern piece, remove the pattern, set the cut-out fabric piece aside, flip the pattern piece over, cut the second piece, put the two layers together (carefully matching the edges), and then reattach the pattern piece to both.  And remain aware of which side is the "wrong" side for each piece.  This is not for the faint of heart.

I knew I needed a day where I was well rested and there was plenty of light because my fabric is such a dark green, it looks black.  This Saturday morning was the day.  Gertie says you need two hours for the cutting out process. I was doubtful that I could manage that, so I timed myself just to try to make the process sorta fun.

On the coat sew-along Flicker site, I saw one photo where a sew-alonger laid all her fabric out on a large tile floor in her house.  I envied her large surface space until I realized she was going to have to crawl around on her hands and knees on that hard tile to cut out her coat.  Here was my cutting set up:

It basically consists of two tables, end to end, in my living room to handle the sheer volume of fabric.  In retrospect, I should have put the tables side by side to make a wider surface so that none of the fabric hung over the sides, but by the time I figured this out, the Carpenter had already left the house and I didn't want try move the tables by myself. 

You know how all the sewing books tell you to make sure your fabric doesn't hang off the table when you are cutting out to avoid distortion?  Well, I never paid attention to it and never had a problem with it.  But my camelhair wool is both drapey and a somewhat heavier weight than what I am used to.  And I found with my first pattern piece, number 6 (which is the side back skirt pattern piece), the fabric was definitely distorted.  When I put my two number 6 pieces together after cutting them out separately, I discovered the hemline was a little too long on one side and a little too short on the other, but I decided this wasn't catastrophic as I could compensate when it came time to hem.

So from then on, I spent a lot of time moving the fabric around in order to pin the pattern pieces, while also making sure none of the rest of the fabric hung from the tables.  As you can imagine, this process got easier as I continued to cut because my fabric yardage decreased as I progressed.  But it required that each piece be pinned and cut one at a time.

I also discovered while cutting the first pattern piece that I laid my pattern so that nap on my coat will go up rather than down.  I suppose it doesn't matter which way your nap goes as long as it goes all the same way, but I would have preferred it going down.  But let's pretend this is a deliberate design choice on my part rather than a result of my inattention to detail, shall we???

One decision I needed to make was which fabric to use for the pockets.  Gertie suggests using the wool fabric for that portion of the pocket closest to the body, and the lining fabric for the other side of the pocket, to reduce bulk.  But I hate wearing gloves in winter, and I have a tendency to jam my hands in my pockets to keep them warm, so I cut all four pocket pieces from the camelhair wool to make my pockets as warm as possible.

After two hours and seven minutes into the cutting out process, I took a break and made myself brunch.  Then I went to the fabric store to buy more pins.  I could have gathered errant pins by walking barefoot in my sewing room but I went the wuss route and just bought more.

I resumed in the afternoon, and by the time I finished, I probably spent about three and half hours cutting out.  This does not include marking - I'll mark the pieces as I use them.  I just don't have the energy for marking all the pieces right now.  I also discovered that I had nearly a yard left over.  I think this is due to buying a little more fabric than the pattern called for, and doing everything I could to conserve fabric while I was cuting out.  I used the leftover fabric to re-cut pattern piece number 6 again which made me feel immensely better - and I found that I had no problem cutting both pieces at the same time by folding the fabric.  So I am puzzled by pattern's instructions to cut this out single layer, at least for the skirt pieces.  I can only assume that the single layer layout is to conserve fabric, and the double layer may not work if your fabric is anything less than 60 inches wide.  My was, and I wish I had figured this out sooner.  I'll remember this, though, when it comes time to cut out the lining.

So the garment fabric is finally cut.  It isn't marked.  And I've decided to wait and cut out the lining when I need it - I just can't face it now.  The temptation is to jump in and start sewing, but I'm resisting this.  I see this coat as an exercise in restraint and slow sewing - virtually unknown to me - so I am making myself put this aside for a while and work on a dress I have in progress.  I have to remember this coat is marathon, not a sprint!

P.S. You may notice I didn't do a muslin for this coat.  I don't like muslins.  And yes, I realize I'm taking a big risk, but this is a coat, not a close fitting garment, and the finished measurements printed on the pattern lead me to believe I'll be fine.  : )

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Vogue 8648 - The Couture Dress

I saw an advertisement for a Craftsy course by Susan Khalje and I thought, I don't need to pay the money for the course, I'll just wait for Vogue 8648 to go on sale for $ 3.99 and sew it myself.  So I did.  Here is Vogue 8648:
And here is my version.  I made view C, which is the yellow dress above:

I made it from a wool/silk blend I found at the expensive fabric store in town which I bought on sale in February.  It's a blue/gray soft plaid that was a joy to sew, so I am a bit distressed to see how much the dress wrinkled in the photo above.  The dress is fully lined, so it was basically like making two dresses.  I started out by lining the dress in habotai silk, which I didn't realize was such a PITA to work with.  (Gertie didn't come out with her post on this diabolical silk until AFTER I started this project.)  So only the sleeves are lined in the silk, as I decided life was too short to try to wrestle silk into this dress.  I lined the rest of the dress in a swiss cotton satin batiste.  The biggest challenge with this dress was matching the plaid.  I was thrilled with my results:

(Can you tell???)  Here's a close up of the front waist band:

Here's a close up of the side.  I was excited by this:

I didn't bother with a muslin because I hate muslins, and the finished garment measurements printed on the pattern assured me that it would at least go around my body sufficiently.   That was probably a mistake.  I made my usual size 12 and had no problems, except for the bodice.  The side front was cut on the bias, and either the pattern piece was too long for my torso, or the bias stretched as I worked with it (I suspect it stretched). Here's a close up of the front neckline, and it is obvious that the neckline is too low.  It's not just that there is more cleavage showing that I am comfortable with, but that I have problems keeping my sleeves on my shoulders:

I also can't lift my arms very high - the armholes sit too low, causing restricted movement of my arms.  You should have seen me trying to close my car door yesterday morning! 

All of this is a real shame because I enjoyed making the dress so much - the plaid, the matching, the lining, all the interesting top stitching.  Even the sleeves.  For some inexplictable reason, the sleeves are cut in two pieces and sewn together (my matching on the sleeves was excellent; I forgot to get a photo of it), but they went into the armholes practically on their own - there was no need to do the whole basting and gathering thing to get the sleeves eased in.  It was magic. 

It's just the wearing of the actual garment that I don't like.  Mostly the inability to move, I guess.  And the revealing nature of the neckline.  I wore a jacket over it at work so I was sufficiently covered up:

 And of course, I realize I have no one to blame but myself!  A muslin would have helped enormously.  Taking Susan Khalje's course would have probably prompted me to do the muslin.  Well, maybe.  OK, doubtful.  I'd like to say this project wasn't a waste because I learned the value of doing a muslin, but that would be a lie.  I hate doing muslins so much that I am quite cheerful about having a project not work out every once in a while as the price I pay not to do them in all other projects that do work out.  I have learned that if I am thinking about sewing a close fitting dress, I'm taking a significant chance that it might not fit - and if that is a problem, maybe I need to choose another project.  So despite the three weekends it took me to make this dress, I'm glad its over and I'll probably be donating this dress - maybe someone who is my size whose a bit longer in the torso will benefit. Still, its a shame because the fabric is lovely . . .

: )

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Cutting Out Process Begins . . .

Having procrastinated as long as I possibly could on the new coat, I faced facts:  I was going to have begin.  First step:  pre-shrink my camelhair fabric that was not inexpensive.  Shrinking your wool before you sew it into a garment is way smarter than shrinking afterwards.  Gertie speaks of the dryer method, which involves putting your beloved fabric in a hot dryer with a wet towel and letting it tumble for a long while.  I have never tried this method, and frankly I am suspicious of it.  It sounds like an excellent way to felt your wool, if you are going for that.  I am not, so I was leary of putting my not-cheap fabric in a dryer and giving it a spin.  Usually, I pre-shrink my wool by pressing it with with plenty of steam on my trusty old ironing board.  But those prior projects involved wool skirts or dresses, not 6 1/2 yards of 60 inch wide fabric.  That's a whole lot of fabric to press on a twelve inch wide ironing board.

So I took it to my local cleaners and ask the young guy manning the counter to steam press it, but not clean it.  "You know, like a tablecloth."  He nodded, and seemed to get it, so I left my precious fabric with him, and picked it back up five days later, neatly pressed and hanging on a hanger.  They only charged me $ 7.49, so it was a major step forward for the great coat sew-along.  : )

Second step:  cutting out.  The dreaded cutting out stage- arrgghhh!  My first decision was whether to begin by cutting the garment fabric, the lining fabric, or the interfacing.  One thing I noticed about the skirt portion of the pattern was that the lining was to be cut several inches shorter than the garment skirt.  Normally, I just fold the extra length up and out of the way when cutting out the lining of skirt so as to not cut the skirt pattern pieces, but this skirt is a circle skirt - folding it up isn't practical.  So I considered tracing the skirt pieces to specifically make the skirt lining pattern pieces, but this skirt consists of four different pattern pieces.  I have neither the time nor the energy for that.

So I decided the garment pieces would be cut first, and the lining later, and I would actually cut the skirt pattern pieces shorter while cutting out the lining.  This caused me a bit of distress because I like to have a pattern intact in case I ever use it again.  But to alievate my concern and give myself permission to cut those skirt pieces shorter when I cut out the lining, I made a deal with myself that when the Butterick patterns go on sale again, I'll buy another Butterick 5824, so I'll have an intact pattern should I ever decide, however unlikely, to make this coat again.

THAT issue finally resolved, I decided to start by cutting out the interfacing first.  Mostly because of laziness.  The pattern only requires two pattern pieces, number 11 and 8, to be cut from interfacing.  Plus, it makes more sense to me to cut the fusible interfacing first, fuse it to the garment fabric, and then cut out the pattern piece.  In essence your interfaced piece becomes your pattern.  This ensures that your interfacing and garment fabric perfectly match in shape and size.  It makes no sense to me to cut your garment fabric, then cut the interfacing piece, and then try to match the two up when you fuse the two together.

Pattern piece number 11 is the skirt front facing.  It is a rectangle, so rather than use the tissue pattern to cut it out, I just pulled out the rotary cutter and cut a rectangle of interfacing 6 7/8 inches wide by 29 inches long.  Then I put the pattern piece on top of my interfacing and made my markings.  That piece is on the far left:

In the middle is pattern piece number 8 which is the upper collar and front facing.  The piece on the right is an optional step that Gertie offered here.  The purpose of this extra interfacing is to support the undercollar.  Because I was the kid that always did the extra credit homework at school, I knew I had to do this completely optional step.  Plus, my camelhair wool really is pretty lightweight, so the extra support is probably warranted. 

To cut this piece out, you have to draft your own pattern piece which follows the roll line of your collar.  I followed Gertie's instructions, going so far as to move my laptop to my cutting table so I could refer to it step by step.  I had to look at the photos several times, but I think I managed to draft the pattern successfully, and then I cut out my two fusible pieces as directed.

As this point, the only interfacing left to cut was 3 inch bias strips to be used on the coat's hem.  I thought about going ahead and cutting these bias strips since I had the rotary cutter and mat out and ready to go, but I decided against it.  I wasn't sure how many bias strips to cut (the pattern doesn't give the skirt's circumference) and I was pretty sure that if I went ahead and cut these bias strips now, I wouldn't be able to find them when it came time to actually apply them to the skirt.  So I'll wait on that step.

Whew.  That's enough for now.  And all I managed was cutting three pattern pieces of interfacing.  See why this is going to take me six months to make this coat????  : )

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

I'm Really, REALLY Late To This Party

I'm just a hem away from finishing Vogue 8648, but I wanted to blog about joining Gertie's 1950's Coat Sew-Along.  Here's the pattern, Butterick 5824:

I love my Pendleton winter coat, but it just got me through my third or fourth winter and it is starting to look a bit worse for wear, so I'm all excited about sewing my first coat, despite the fact that it is Spring, not Fall, and Gertie ended her Sew-Along like, six months ago.  I am not to be deterred.  This is all part of my master plan.  No, really.

Ok, the actual story is that I found out about Gertie's Sew Along when she announced it, but I knew there was no way I would actually be able to choose my fabric and gather my supplies in time to begin with everyone else.  I am a ditherer.  I knew it would take me months to select just the fabric I wanted, and I didn't want to feel like I was choosing and sewing with a deadline breathing down my neck - that's too much like work.  So in my mind, I gave myself six months to get it together, thus giving myself another six months to actually sew the coat - plenty of time before next winter.  I must say, I don't know how to make sewing a coat any less stressful than that.

And dither I did.  First, I waited for a $ 1.99 sale of Butterick patterns at my local Hancocks to obtain said pattern.  Then I went to work looking for the exact right fabric.  In my mind, I wanted something, I don't know, red, maybe.  With cashmere in it.  That was the dream.  In the end I went for this from Gorgeous Fabrics.  It is not red, but a green so dark it looks black.  But I didn't buy it for the color, I bought it for fabric content.  It is made of camelhair.  Did you know that camelhair fabric is made from, you know, actual camel hair?  I did not.  I thought the term referred to the color, since most camelhair jackets men wear are a camel tan color.  But I learned that camelhair is made from the wool on the underbelly of the camel which is very warm and very soft.  And this particular camelhair is very light and drapy, something I felt was perfect for this coat design which has a whole lot of circular skirt to it.  Stiff and heavy is not what this pattern needs.  I was particularly interested in a wool that was VERY warm; if I am going to all the trouble to sew a coat, I want it to be worth my time - this coat needs to be the warmest garment ever fashioned . . .

Then of course, I had to wait for it to go on sale.  I bought my lining at the same time, same place, also on sale, here.  It's a seafoam green and a drapey rayon, so it should get the job done. 

Finally, there was the interfacing.  Gertie recommended this Pro-Weft medium-weight fusible interfacing from Fashion Sewing Supply and it arrived this week.  So I am officially out of excuses.  The coat must be begun.  I only have six months until cold weather shows up again.

I am very intimated by this project, so again, I'm going easy on myself and giving myself six months to get 'er done.  All of Gertie's posts for this project are here.  From reading the pattern instructions and Gertie's posted instructions, I think my two biggest challenges are going to be 1) cutting out; and 2) the bound buttonholes.  Cutting out involves the camelhair fabric (all 6 1/2 yards worth of 60 inch fabric) and the lining, and the interfacing.  Setting aside the fact that I am a slow-cutter-outer, the layout of the pattern pieces involves cutting one layer at a time - which is a huge PITA. 

And my experience with bound buttonholes consists of trying a practice buttonhole once, like nine years ago and saying, "nah", and proceeding to make stitched buttonholes instead.  But I think this fabric and project deserve bound buttonholes, and blessedly, there are only two.  I'll give it a go.

Because this is a big project for me, I'll be working at it a little at a time, with other projects in between.  This is unusual for me; I prefer to work on one project at a time, completely finishing and putting everything away before starting the next garment.  This gives me a sense of accomplishment and order.  Well, what little order I can manage in a sewing room with no order whatsoever.

My plan is to blog about my progress and my thought process on how I approach a project like this (since I absolutely did not have time to do the blogging I would have liked on my wedding dress), but I predict what my blogging will really reveal is how neurotic I am.  Won't this be fun???  : )

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Butterick 5846 - The Forties Shirtdress

It's a 1940's shirtdress!  It's no suprise that I love shirtdresses (Crab Dress anyone?), and Butterick came out with this pattern that I bought in December for 99 cents or $ 1.99, I don't remember.  I was in Cotton Creek when I bought it and my mother pronounced the pattern art "ugly".  I can't really argue with her about that:

What is worse is the photo on the Butterick website which shows the dress made up in a cheap rayon of the most unbecoming color.  (I won't link to it here to save your eyes, not to mention your sensibilities.)  But I assured Mother that I would make it look better than the line art.  As I have said before, I love me a shirtdress!  They are just so comfortable, yet put together:  

I used a cotton lawn I bought at my LQS probably 18 months to 2 years ago.  I want to say it is a Kaufman fabric.  It was a pleasure to sew and I think it lent the right mood to this design.  The bust is fashioned by gathers at the yoke and pleats at the waist.  Unfortunately, the back of the dress is fashioned in the same way, so I suppose you could wear it backward if you wanted to:

The design makes the back blousen more than I would like, but it ended up not being as bad I thought it would.  I really liked the waist pleats which were sewn, then top stitched:

And I realized while I was making this dress that this is the first gathered sleeve I have ever done (on purpose!):

 Wow.  What a relief not to have to wory about errant gathers while sewing in a sleeve.  It was a lot of fun.  I did notice one mistake in the instructions. The marks on the collar pattern piece for where you clip to are put in the wrong place.  The illustration even shows the mistake:

You can see where you are to clip doesn't match up with the front facing.  If you do it the way the pattern piece and instructions tell you, you will have nowhere to put that collar seam allowance - it either has to go under the front facing or under the clipped top collar.  I figured it out before I sewed everything down and was able to make my collar and my facing match up:
I was pretty pleased that my sewing experience allowed me to figure this out before I blindly followed the instructions!  The other change that I made was to add to the hem to make the skirt a little longer.  I had already cut the skirt out before I figured that the skirt was too short.  So I added a bias band to the lower edge of the skirt.  I simply cut a three inch bias strips from my fabric and sewed them together.  Then I folded the three inch bias strip in half and sewed it to the hem of my dress with a 1/4 inch seam allowance.  I pressed the seam allowance towards the skirt and then edge stitched it.  I'm sorry I didn't get a photo of the hem.  It's a nice finish, and I stole it from Kay Whitt's patterns.  I felt like the design of this dress required a longer skirt.  The bodice is so full with the gathers in the bodice and the sleeves, I think the skirt has to be longer to balance out the top.  Even with lengthening the skirt by an inch or so, I still think it needs to be lengthened by another 2 inchs so that it covers my knee.  If I was going to make it again, I would make this adjustment, but I don't think I will make this pattern again because of 1) my no repeats rule these days, and 2) there are just so many great shirtdress patterns out there.  So many shirtdresses, so little time!

Here is a shot of the buttons the Carpenter helped me pick out.  The obvious choice would have been navy, but that was a little to ready to wear.  We went with a seafoam green that picked up the green in the fabric:

Other than the hem, I made no other alterations and made a size 12 straight up.  It was funny, while I was making this dress I idly thought to myself, "I wonder what I should make as my Easter dress?"  And finally I looked down and realized I was making my Easter dress.  I wore it Sunday morning with a Laura Ashley hat trimmed in a navy ribbon that I bought at least 20 years ago, maybe more.  I love wearing a hat on Easter - very retro and the old men the congregation love it!  They tell me so every year.  : )