Tuesday 21 April 2015

Coat sewing and a vintage beginners book

As I'm entering my sixth week of coat sewing it's time for an update, if only to prove to myself that I actually am making progress. Once construction began it felt good to finally reduce the number of cut pieces scattered around my sewing room. Look, it's on a hanger!
Why is it taking so long? Although it's not a pattern for beginners, it's not very difficult either. There's just this immense to-sew list. Add a busy schedule to the mix and suddenly it's a never ending story. However, I do enjoy this kind of project when sewing time is scarce. It's easy to break things up in smaller tasks and babysteps will get you there in the end. My fabric choice is not helping much, to put it mildly. As I mentioned in my previous post sewing coated poplin is like sewing leather. As little pinning as possible and no unpicking or you'll end up with permanent holes. Also, there is a pattern of skipped stitches. I tried everything: change needles, change tension, bring out the walking foot, clean, oil, and change needles again. Working fine for every kind of fabric, except for my coat shell. I finally found settings for topstitching that worked, but when I tested buttonholes disaster struck again. I made 26 test buttonholes on different settings and finally settled for tiny corded buttonholes for the epaulettes and sleeve bands.

They looked okay, but not perfect. For the other buttonholes, like the ones who are in plain sight when you wear the coat unbuttoned, I wanted a better finish. Bound buttonholes could be a solution but I had to take a few issues into consideration.
* For a coat my buttons are on the small side. Tiny bound buttonholes means fiddling.
* On a double breasted coat there's a gazillion of them.
* That fabric again. Totally unforgiving.
* As the picture below shows the coat can be buttoned in different ways. Some of the buttonholes need to look good from both sides.

It's been a while since my last bound buttonhole so I did a quick search on the internet for tutorials. Wow. If I were a beginner I would never ever dare make a bound buttonhole after reading one tutorial after another telling you how scary and terrifying they are. If you are a beginner reading this, please read this great post on skills by Robin of A little sewing. I so agree, never underestimate the importance of manual dexterity. So practice, practice, practice! Eventually all you need to know about bound buttonholes can be reduced to some simple diagrams. You don't need to be a daredevil to do some testing on scraps and it's the fastest way to build your skills and confidence.

One of my most treasured sewing books dates back to the 40s, the one on the right in the picture below. It's a concise guide for sewing garments.

It starts with the usual 'what you need to start sewing' and ends on page 95 with how to draft and make your wedding dress. Bound buttonholes on the bottom of the right page:

Next step in the book: go practice and then make yourself a dress with 16 bound buttonholes. That book is such a gem!

Back to my coat. First thing to do was to rescue all scraps from the bin in order to cut rectangles for the buttonholes, their counterparts in the facings and some spares for the test runs. It was close, but I had just enough fabric left! In an ideal world I would have been making the buttonholes as one of the first steps, on a flat bodice front. Stitching and pivoting was a bit harder because of the volume of a coat with the sleeves already attached. Backwards designing isn't smart. But, so far, so good.

Next on the list is the collar. To be continued!