Sunday, April 21, 2013

A cord jacket for my SO

Doesn't he look smashing? Like so many of my projects, this one has been a long time in the making. I think the SO started asking me for a cord jacket back when we first moved in together, and I bought the fabric (for a song!) in Ithaca at SewGreen. When we went to visit the SO's parents last summer I found the perfect pattern for the jacket in a set of Burdas that were gifted me by one of my mother-in-law's friends (a retired seamstress), and I think I first started tracing and muslining the pattern sometime in July or August.

Fitting the jacket was actually quite easy -- I don't know if that's because menswear is easier to fit in general since it has fewer curves to accommodate, or if it's just easier to do fitting on someone else. I lengthened the sleeves quite substantially (more than two inches, I think), which is not surprising considering that the SO often has problems with arm length in clothes. I also took a tuck out of the back at the shoulder seam, essentially increasing the slope of the shoulder line but on the back piece only and not the front. Don't ask me why this worked, it seems bizarre to me. But I guess the advantage of doing pin fitting is that you don't really have to know the whys and hows of pattern alternation, you just take out extra fabric where you see it. I also nipped the jacket in at the back waist a bit along the two seam lines.

Actually constructing the jacket was in.credibly. time consuming. This was partially my fault, because I did all of the tailoring by hand -- many many hours of padstitching went into that collar (much of which I did somewhat passive aggressively while sitting with the SO on the couch, so that he could see exactly how much hand work I was putting in). The SO wears his clothes forever, though, so I figured it was worth it so that I wouldn't be looking at a floppy collar five years from now and feeling annoyed that I hadn't built it to last. The other time consuming aspect was working with the cord fabric. You have to take the directionality of the fabric into account (more than one piece had to be cut a second time when I realized I'd cut the piece with the nap in the wrong direction), you have to press it carefully to avoid flattening the cord, and the nap also meant that the pieces sometimes had a mind of their own when I was sewing them right sides together. It took me until about November to assemble the main body of the jacket and padstitch the collar, and then it was put aside for a bit while I worked on some Christmas presents.

I slowly picked away at it during the winter, in between other projects, and by the end of March I was able to put the finishing touches on it right before we went away for a trip over Easter weekend.

The buttons for the jacket were rather pricey, partially because I bought them at the lovely but not at all cheap Britex Fabrics, and partially because there was no way I was putting cheap plasticky buttons on this jacket after all the work I'd put into it. Many of the non-plastic button options that matched this green/brown/grey tones of the jacket were made of horn or bone, which seemed wrong for a jacket made for a vegan, so I opted for these buttons made out of a beautiful dark tropical wood.

I actually bought two lining fabrics for this jacket -- the first was a solid color that just seemed too boring, so I searched a bit more and came up with this floral paisley fabric. Much better! I also added an inside pocket to the jacket lining, which I was sorely tempted to skip because I was getting sick of working on the jacket by that point. The SO says that the extra pocket is quite useful, though, so I'm glad that went to the trouble of adding it. I drafted the lining with an ease pleat in the back, but I didn't add any vertical ease to the lining and I think that this was a mistake. Next time I'd but a bit of ease in at the jacket and sleeve hems to make sure the lining doesn't cause any strange bunching.

So there you have it! One very longstanding project done. Gives me hope that I might one day finish the processor quilt! A final fun fact about these pictures is that I actually gave the SO the hair cut that he's sporting in the finished project photos here -- he hasn't had his hair cut since probably sometime in 2012, and so I started threatening that I'd cut it myself if he didn't go to the barber. This bluff completely backfired when he came home the other day with a hair clipper kit from Costco. I was afraid that this home hair cutting experiment was going to end up an utter disaster, but to my surprise it's not terrible. Looks like I'm now tailor and barber for my SO!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The joys of sewing knits

I've made so many things over the past nine months or so that I haven't blogged about (including two tailored jackets!) that it's a bit ironic that this little project is the one that would bring me out of my blogging hiatus. I'm going to attribute it to the fact that by the time I finish a big project I'm usually a bit sick of it and I just want to wear it, not spend more time photographing it and chronicling its tortured process of coming into being. But in this case, the project was done so quickly that I still have enthusiasm left over to talk about it!

Anyways, my beloved local sewing workshop Emeline and Annabelle closed down about six months ago, and with it went my access to a serger (as well as my wonderful sewing sunday afternoons with my local sewists). So around Christmas, I decided to splurge and get myself a serger. had this well-reviewed and inexpensive serger on sale for around $200 over the holidays, so I pulled the trigger.

Now I know that you can sew knits with a normal sewing machine, and I certainly have over the years, but sewing knits with the serger is a joy. After all, it's a machine custom built for the job, so there's no annoyance of taking ten minutes to sew a seam with your horribly slow faux overlock stitch (while running out of bobbin thread every other seam). It's super fast! My SO, who is accustomed to my overly complicated multi-week projects, was floored at how quickly I emerged from the sewing room with my first serger constructed dress.

Here's my latest serger project: 

A self drafted knit top based on Vogue 1141 (out of print). I first saw this pattern on Sigrid's blog, and I thought the pattern idea was genius: dead simple to make, but the shoulder pleat detail adds some interest to it and also makes it look a bit more like a cap sleeve than a tank top, making it a bit more work appropriate. The gathers at the bust practically disappear when sewn up in a knit, and allow for a bit of extra bust room that I wouldn't normally have in a t-shirt. I drafted the pattern off of a Burda knit shirt pattern, made a few adjustments after the first draft (mainly lowering the pleat detail a bit, it was too high up on the shoulder in my first version), and voila! This is certainly a pattern I'll sew again. I also used Sigrid's technique of using a serged binding strip to finish the neckline, with the slight modification that I omitted the interfacing and instead made the binding strip smaller than the neck/armhole openings to keep them from stretching out too much (I used strips that were 87% of the original seam length and eased the neckline into the binding). Evenly easing the openings into the binding strips was a bit time consuming, but the finished result is really nice.

The best part of this project is that the amount of fabric that I had was pretty much *exactly* enough for the shirt:

That's all that was left over, including the serger scraps. I have a terrible problem with not being able to get rid of leftover bits of fabric, even when I know they're not really big enough to actually make anything... the problems of being a fabric lover. This piece of fabric was a remnant that I bought at Britex fabrics while on a work trip late last year, and with some creative cutting layouts it was just enough for this pattern. If I were in one of those Project Runway "use all the fabric you bought" challenges, I'd be killing it right now!