Sunday, 25 June 2017

Foxgloves and tees

After finishing two time consuming projects in a row, a winter coat and a French jacket, I felt the need to change my sewing pace. I wanted to make something quick and easy. Around this time of year the garden is seriously eating up my spare time so it was not just a matter of looking for instant gratification. When there is little time even simple projects can take ages so I steered away from my usual habit of overthinking and overcomplicating things and went straight into the sewing room to look for inspiration.

I found a piece of jersey in my stash that was just waiting to become a Cashmerette Concord tee. Number six, or seven, I lost count.

As you can see the Concord Tee is an essential part of my gardener's uniform. I've already made all views: high neck, scoop neck, v-neck, short, medium and long sleeves, cropped length, mid length and long curved hem. This time around the length of my fabric did not give me many options: short sleeves and then hoping for the best regarding pattern matching.

Although I liked the idea of a short sleeved v-neck tee I was worried the angle of the triangles in the print would look weird with the different angle of the v-neck. So scoop neck it was, meaning it was an exact remake of this Concord. Shoulder adjustments, size 18 G/H and a bit of extra ease at the waist.

The jersey is rather thin and clingy, which means it works better as a layering piece. Or for showing off those biceps, after carrying around watering cans....

Now that this pattern is still on my sewing table I'm making a few adjustments to try a different shape. Giving the bodice some flare and doing a front and back v-neck. We'll see how this ends!

Friday, 9 June 2017

Vogue 7975, finished French jacket

Two years and nine months after I first mentioned my plans for this French jacket it's finished. I loved every minute of the quilting and hand sewing. I love the lining, the trim,.....I'm just not sure I like it on me.
Actually I finished it a month ago (does two years and eight months sound marginally better?) but I needed some time to collect my thoughts before writing a blog post. But let's save the reflections for later and continue with the construction details.

This is where I left in my previous post. Ready to add the trim. (More details about the trim can be found here) I hand stitched the ribbon to a double layer of 5 cm wide fringe, cut on the straight grain.

I hand stitched the trim along the neckline and front before closing the lining. Last step: threading strips of lining through the horizontal ribbon stitches.

After careful consideration I decided against adding trim at the hemline and sleeves. I preferred the vertical line as a focal point.
So far, so good!

Pretty insides! Now let's put in on me:

Hmm. A rather dull outfit on someone who loves colourful clothes.

These pictures were taken during the first outing of the jacket. Mr Foxgloves took me out for dinner in a lovely orangerie. Wonderful occasion to wear something new!
Confession: this was before I added the chain and it definitely affected the hang.

I already knew the jacket was going to be too big. Even after a delicious four course meal I could easily take out 10 cm at the hip and slightly less at the waist and high bust. I did try to open up the seams before I added the trim but using a seamripper with bouclé that's falling apart when you just look at it? Mission impossible.
Well, too small would be worse. I'm so grateful to be in better shape than I was when I started this project while recovering from a back injury.

Now is there anything else I can do to improve the look of what I now consider a wearable muslin of a French jacket?

Add colour? I usually wear my jackets open. When I don't use the hooks and eyes it is less obvious the jacket isn't as well fitted as it should be (at least in my mind). One of my daughters suggested rolling up the sleeves to show more of the lining, it also enhances the more casual look. I'm thinking of making a pink bow blouse and slim white pants for a smarter summer look. As you can see in the various pictures this jacket easily picks up colour from the environment and looks rather different in a sunny garden than on a cloudy day. I'll try a scarf, necklaces and different coloured tops underneath. Not giving up yet!

Regrets, I have a few.
The fit isn't one of them. The original muslin had a good fit and so did the basted jacket when I checked after quilting and before sewing the seams. This could not have been avoided. Even if I had finished it sooner it would now be too big. That's life.

My biggest regret? I wasn't sure about buying the bouclé until I paired it with the lining. The lining was love at first sight. But hey, it's LINING. That's on the inside when you're done!!! Lesson learned. Ouch.
In hindsight, I think I lost my enthusiasm at this stage:

Although I didn't put my finger on it at the time I don't think it's a coincidence that this was the moment the focus shifted from working on the insides (quilting, finishing all thread tails) to working on the outer shell. Red flags were neglected. I even took a fifteen months break whereas my usual modus operandi for an exciting sewing project is more like order pizza and spend long nights in the sewing room till it's done. If only I had chosen a red bouclé, or royal blue...

So what do we have so far. Too big, wrong colour.
But..... Did I already tell you how divine this jackets feels?
Those of you who felt the magic of quilting two fabrics to become one know what I'm talking about.
So soft, so luxurious.

This jacket may have some serious flaws but it's such a joy to wear. And I often do!
Had it turned out better it might have become 'special occasion' wear, as it is I wear it as my new favourite cardigan. To the grocery shop, to the pub, to the vet's.

It's been a long journey and an interesting one. I've learned new techniques, read many couture books, visited exhibitions and met new online sewing friends from all over the world working on similar projects. Thanks everyone for your helpful and supportive comments and special thanks to Leisa of A Challenging Sew and Inna of Thewallinna for starting the Little French Jacket Sewalong with special contributions by Susan Khalje. If you're ever considering making a French jacket make sure to check those sewalong posts for inspiration, resources and tutorials. I know I will when I'm starting the next one. Which I most certainly will. I didn't spend 100+ hours on this muslin to stop here!

Thursday, 13 April 2017

It's alive!

It's been exactly a year since I last posted about my adventures in French jacket sewing. Last Easter I started making a trim and from there it was one step forward, two steps back.

When I started this project back in 2014 (!) I was still recovering from a back injury and was rather limited in my choice of exercise. My return to the gym apparently resulted in losing some inches, so when I finally unboxed the ufo jacket and tried it on it was too big. The muslin had been taken apart to be used as the pattern, making it impossible to go back and come up with an action plan for adjustments based on that muslin. Time out.
Life happened and sewing was on the back burner for the rest of spring and summer. By the time I was ready for a more involved project autumn had arrived and the jacket ended up hibernating in the box. Again.

Last month, when I was spring cleaning the sewing room, I stumbled upon the box of doom. I tried the jacket on, still too big. Fix it or dump it?
I decided to give it one last chance. After all the time and energy spent on this project the least I could do was finish it, practice a few new techniques and enjoy hand sewing that fabulous lining!

First I opened up the sleeve seams and took out 4,5 cm of the circumference. It was a tricky job to remove the almost invisible stitches that disappeared into the boucle. Of course the fabric was fraying like crazy, making unpicking a slow and challenging process, but it was well worth the effort. The sleeves look much better now. I also made minor adjustments at the bodice seams from the waist down.

After adding the hooks and eyes I was able to check the fit once more. Still a little roomy at the hips. Not sure if it's worth opening up the seams again, there's always the risk of making things worse by over working those fraying parts! In an ideal situation I would also take out some width at the high bust and shoulder but at this stage I don't think it's wise to mess with the crossing princess seams and shoulder seams. 

What's left to do: 
- close the lining at the armholes
- add the trim
- close the front and neckline
- hem the sleeves
- sew the lining to the hem, on bodice and sleeves
- add the chain

It's all hand sewing. Perfect job for a cold and rainy long weekend.

Happy Easter!

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Finished faux collar

Recently my oldest daughter told me she was looking for a faux collar, or half shirt, dickey, hoaxer or whatever you'd like to call it. She sent me an inspiration picture of these cute collars, made by the Dutch brand Idiot du Village.

 Knipmode December 2016 happened to have a mix & match blouse pattern, one of the views being this gem:

DD1 is living 1,5 hours away from me and has a very busy schedule so fitting sessions can be hard to arrange. For this pattern I didn't foresee any issues so I just guessed her size and added 3 cm to the length as she's 1.82 cm / 6' tall. I knew she wanted to wear the collar under a slim fit rayon top (not the one pictured above) so I chose a cotton batiste. The bodice is self lined for a clean finish. To keep it light and soft I used silk organza as interfacing for the collar, collar stand and button band.

If I'd make this again I would probably change the separate button bands for a cut on facing for an even smoother effect.

I think next time I could go down a size to 36. I would also add a few centimeters to the the shoulder width now that I've seen it in action while worn with a chunky sweater with a wider v-neck. Check the little gap on the right:

It was a fun project to make and the pattern went together well.
KnipmodeChallenge2017: 2 down, 10 to go!

To continue this selfless sewing story: back in January I posted a picture on Instagram of a silk organza pressing cloth I made for myself to replace the one I had accidentally cut up. To prevent further klutz action I serged it with hot pink thread for easy identification. Much to my surprise I saw a message from my daughter in the comments, hinting that she would love to get a similar one as a birthday present. She doesn't have a dedicated sewing space so I made a little zipper bag to store it near her ironing board.

It was my very first time using a rotary cutter and I was trying so hard not to hurt myself in the process that I completely forgot to take pictures. (I'm not sold on the scary tool)

Luckily thanks to daughter's boyfriend we have the birthday pictures and a few very artistic shots of the project!

Don't you love the matching tulips?

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Review Knipmode March 2017

Spring is in the air! I've always had a soft spot for March issues of Knipmode and this one is no exception. Nothing beats the first peek at those spring fabric collections!

Patternwise this issue has a lot to offer: 25 sewing patterns, 1 knitting pattern and 11 bonus patterns in a special.

This month's mix & match pattern is for jackets. The basic pattern has bust darts, a shaped seam at centre back and two piece sleeves. The pattern comes with different necklines (collar, bowtie, round), straight and bell sleeves, five different pocket options and three lengths.

The menswear pattern on the other hand comes in a single view only:

A missed opportunity. How hard could it be to add an extra view with a regular collar? If I remember correctly the previous pattern for a button down shirt was released in 2014, it's not like men are spoilt for choice.

Looking at the overview I see a lot of useful basic patterns. Nothing I wouldn't wear (except for dress #19, been there, done that in the 70s).

From left to right: dress 22, cardigan 18, top 10, skirt 9

Robe manteau 3, top 10, skirt 5 and dress 1


 On the left blouse 7 and pants 11, on the right blouse 8 and trousers 4

I really like these outfits. I'm tempted to make both blouses, two views of basically the same pattern. One muslin, one FBA for two very different looking garments.

Speaking of FBA's: starting this month Knipmode features a fitting topic. The first fitting issue addressed is adjusting for larger cup sizes. Sadly a rather peculiar FBA technique is demonstrated. A one dart bodice is slashed from top to bottom, leaving a hinge at the shoulder, instead of going up to the bust point and then sideways towards the armscye. Not a method I would recommend. Well, whatever, it's a first!
All Knipmode patterns from size 34 till size 54 are drafted for a B-cup. 
Never before did Knipmode suggest to pick a size based on high bust measurements for those with a larger cup size. A major breakthrough. And not only that, they even added a corresponding size chart. 

Something else that's new is that all patterns are now available as pdf, not just a selection. While I was browsing the shop I even noticed a bundle for all patterns of the February issue. I follow Knipmode on all social media platforms but I can't recall this being brought up. Was it a trial balloon? No sign of a March bundle so far.

Some changes seem to silently come and go. We just got used to having a page where all garments were shown from both front and back, and now it's disappeared again. Very annoying. Take for instance the line drawing of dress #24, you'll notice an interesting back detail. The dress is shown no less than six times in the magazine, in six different fabrics. Non of these pictures shows the back. Please, editors. Fashion shoot style photography is fine, but in a sewing pattern magazine we need more information. Details matter!

Disclaimer: this review contains no affiliate links. I paid for my copy and all opinions are my own.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Finished winter coat!

Hi all! Can you tell I'm pretty pleased with my new winter coat?

In my previous posts about fabric, pattern and design choices and inner structure I've discussed about everything worth mentioning about this project so this post will be rather picture heavy, ending with a round up of the changes I've made to the pattern (Knipmode 10/2016-104)

After sewing on the buttons, anchored by small buttons on the inside, I pulled a satin tape through the buttons that matches the satin used for the piping and bound buttonholes.

The inserts on the back are purely decorative, on the front they are hiding pockets that are deep enough to carry my phone, keys, coins, dog treats and other miscellanous stuff that mysteriously ends up in there.

A peek of the insides, right before the final press. This coat is very easy to accessorize!
I added extra length to make it more versatile. Can be worn with both pants and dresses.

Soft and cosy on the outside, a warm layer in between and a shiny satin lining. Coat love!

Things I've changed to the design
- Omitted the zipper
- Added overlap and underlap at centre front
- Redrafted the collar
- Four bound buttonholes
- Added flat piping to the design lines at front and back
- Added flat piping (green satin) between facings and lining
- Added a hanging chain

Construction changes
- Added underlining
- Added chest plates and shoulder pieces
- Added a back stay
- Reinforced the insert corners
- Added silk organza to the collar

Fit changes
- Added 12 cm to the bodice
- Added 3 cm to the sleeves

Final thoughts: I really enjoyed sewing this coat. The fabric looks prettier in real life, the colours are much deeper. My camera had a hard time focusing on the dazzle print and some pictures are over exposed to show the details. A lovely print to work with on dull and grey winter days!

I was after a coat with a relaxed fit, without being oversized. One of my other winter coats is very fitted in the shoulders. Although I love that look, it's impossible to wear a jacket underneath. My new coat fits well over chunky sweaters and structured jackets, without having dropped shoulders or raglan sleeves. Win!

The only changes I've made regarding the fit were length adjustments. I like my sleeves slightly longer to keep my wrists warm while cycling. I'll do some test runs, maybe I'll end up shortening them by 1 cm.

So, that's one down for the #KnipmodeChallenge2017!

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Coat sewing part 2, the inner workings

Warning: messy coat guts! When I started planning my winter coat a lot of thought went into choosing underlining, interfacing and experimenting with horsehair canvas, silk organza and wool for sleeveheads.

 I've made many coats and jackets over the years and I've always found deciding on the amount of inner structure one of the most challenging parts. Most of the time things went well, but occasionally I produced a jacket with floppy lapels, coats with overly stiff facings and I'm known for adding just one more extra layer of interlining to winter coats.

My kids never froze but they often had to break in their new coats. During the first weeks of use their arms were locked in a 45 degree angle ;)

This autumn I devoured Thomas von Nordheim's Vintage Couture Tailoring book, watched all tailoring classes by Allison Smith on Craftsy and enrolled in an Inner Structure workshop at the Master Tailor Institute in Amsterdam. A game changing experience that deserves its own post.

The pattern instruction for my coat just called for fusible interfacing for the facings and under collar (standard routine for Knipmode patterns) Without following any strict tailoring rules I added a lot of extra structure. It started with a soft cotton underlining. The perfect base for catch stitching seam allowances and hems .

A flannel back stay, just for the fun of it.

On the front I added a bias cut horsehair canvas chest plate and a flannel shoulder piece. It helped smoothing out the hollow curve between my shoulder and bust.

The bound buttonholes and inset corners were reinforced with fusible interfacing.

For the collar I replaced the underlining with silk organza, thus adding firmness, but no extra bulk.

Silk organza was also used to create the bound buttonhole facings.

I made my own shoulder pads but forgot to take a picture before the lining was in. I used a piece of fluffy wool to support the sleeve head but ripped it out later. It was just too much.

I added lightweight (bias cut) sew in interfacing to hem and sleeve hems of the outer shell, pressed and catch stitched the hems to the underlining. I'm not a fan of bagging a lining, to put it mildly. I love to have extra width as well as extra length in my lining. It's comfortable, the lining will last longer as there is less strain and, most importantly,  there will be no pulling at the hemline.

The bottom row of pins is where I first pinned the lining hem. Then I removed pin by pin and place the lining just a little bit higher (about 1-2 cm upwards). Slipstitch the lining in place and press the extra length downwards.

The stitches are hidden under the small pleat. It may look like a bit of extra work, but so worth it as it saves you from replacing torn linings later on.

My coat is finished, but I call it a day. I just had a root canal treatment and I'm pretty sure you don't want to see my grumpy face while modelling my new coat.
Will be back soon with the pics!