Monday, November 30, 2009

Sources for tailoring instruction, etc.

I've been reading a lot about tailoring so I can do a nice job on the collar and lapels on my coat.  First up, I read through Kenneth King's Tailored Jacket.  Note that this is a CD, not a DVD, so you won't get a moving picture :)   This is a very detailed and well written tutorial of how to make a tailored jacket, complete with resources (including phone numbers and websites), tools, tips on fabrics and more helpful advice.  It's close to 300 pages long - and it is organized into chapters to help you find what you need.

If you have a shawl collar jacket pattern that fits you, and this CD, you can sew a tailored jacket.  He does not address fitting issues in this CD.  The tutorial is extremely clear, and it proceeds in a logical fashion.  If you are not familiar with tailoring techniques, I highly recommend you read through it carefully before starting your project.
But, if you have solid sewing skills and a strong desire for a tailored jacket, I believe this will get you from point A to point B faster than just about any other way.  If your collar is not a shawl collar, he explains that you can re-draft the undercollar to connect to the body of the jacket.  Kenneth has a clever way of adding a seam to the upper collar, which makes it look just like a notched lapel.  It also looks a lot easier than sewing a pattern with a real lapel.  My pattern is not a shawl collar, and we did not re-draft the lower collar to fit onto the body, so that method is out for me.

The reason I read this tutorial so carefully, so soon after purchasing it, is that I need to decide on how I will finish the collar on my coat project.  Also, I had questions from readers about the paper pattern I made under Kenneth's directions.  As you may recall, we did NOT cut the paper pattern on the stitching lines, rather we left a little extra around the edges.

Here is the rationale behind that approach:

If you have a paper pattern with stitching lines on it, you can trace that to the underlining fabric using a double tracing wheel.  Clover makes one:

As you can see, there are 2 wheels.  They are removable - so they can be set up to operate parallel in more than one width.
  • Lay the carbon paper face up on your work table.

  • Lay the interlining fabric on top of the carbon paper. 

  • Lay the pattern on top of the interlining fabric. 

  • Trace.  Follow the stitching line on the paper with one wheel, and, the cutting line will be automatically traced.

  • Once you have all of your lines marked, you will cut the interlining fabric and use that as your pattern when cutting fashion fabric.

Make sense?
Pretty clever.
And the reason we left a little paper along the edge of the stitching line is to give the tracing wheel something to "grab".  It would have been trickier to trace that way using the flimsy paper I like.  In the book, the example jacket is not a plaid, so matching isn't an issue.  I still prefer to use the paper I can see through if I need to match a plaid.

This one also has a lot of useful information, including classic tailoring techniques (meaning hand-work), speedy techniques (meaning fusibles) and hybrid methods (self-explanatory).  I already own this book and it is good, especially for the price.  But the way they sew the collar and the lapels together just don't excite me.  I have sewn blouses together that way, and it worked beautifully, but my coat is a really bulky fabric, and you just know it is going to look like cr*p.

Climbing on up the learning curve, I pulled out my copy of Roberto Cabrera's Classic Tailoring Techniques: A Construction Guide for Menswear.  Hey I just noticed there is a version for womens' wear, too.  Anyhoo, I got this book a looooong time ago when I just felt curious about tailoring and I read the book for fun.  So if there is a category of geek/nerd for seamstresses, I fit in there.

This book is the best I can lay my hands on, for what I am doing.  The drawings are surprisingly simple, but extremely effective in communicating the techniques.  It goes into plenty of detail and breaks it down into manageable chunks.  The only problem is this is probably over my head.  I am, after all, a hobbyist!  I have sewn a few coats and jackets, but never with these hard-core tailoring techniques.

My solution?  (And I do think this is brilliant, sorry for bragging, I am just sayin')
I am going to sew a separate collar that overlaps onto my lapel!  I have seen collars like this in Burda World of Fashion, and I have read the instructions, and it will be easy peasy compared to my other options.
I'm at work, so I better get back to the grindstone, but I will post more pics when I have time.
I can just hear Tim Gunn telling me to make it work, and that's how I'm gonna roll!

Friday, November 27, 2009

a peek at the coat

This will be an epic project.  I'll be working on it when I have time and I will set it aside when I need a break.

I basted the body together to see how it fits.  I have already removed the front pieces so I can do the pad stitching, the roll line and prepare the collar.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly - my impressions of NYC Sit and Sew

ooops, there is really one more category: The Awesome.
So I will start with that- The Awesome thing about the sewing workshop is how inspired I feel.  I am already looking at my calendar to select a workshop in 2010. 

The good:
  • New York City!  I really wanted more orientation to the garment district.  Visiting the garment district was one of my New Year's Resolutions in 2007, but life got in the way.  I finally made it there.  It was fanastic to run out and pick up any notion, fabric or tool you might need.  And did I mention? Yes, I will say it again- the prices are lower in NYC.
  • Two, count 'em, two masters of tailoring and couture.  Both are fantastic teachers and they bring different points of view to problem solving.  What a treat!
  • The other classmates.  You could come to class and spend the entire session watching demos by Kenneth and Susan, watching other people work and observing the guidance coming from Kenneth and Susan as classmates tackled their respective challenges.  One young woman was sewing her own designs and they were incredible.  Many of the participants are teachers themselves.  Many have college-level coursework under their belts.  All were experienced and skilled.  There was a strong vibe of the zen of sewing; that sense of enjoying the process.  The companionship aspect of the workshop was quite enjoyable.
  • We were in a sewing lounge space that sells sewing machines, notions, their own line of patterns and sewing classes.  The owner was a fun young man who took wonderful care of us.
  • Being in NYC, it is easy to find a wide fresh, healthy & yummy food.  I never spent more than $10 for a fast meal.  Lots of walking meant I didn't miss my beloved gym classes.
  • I could go on ... but you get the picture!
The bad:
  • New York City!  Space is at a premium.  There were 4 good sized work tables for a class of ~12.  When I had to wait for space to free up, I just watched Susan or Kenneth and I was learning non-stop.
  • More than once, I had carved out some workspace but walked away to find a notion or ask a question.  When I came back my stuff was moved and I had to find new space.  I wasn't the only one who experienced this frustration and we had it worked out pretty well by the end of the workshop.
  • The sewing machines were low-end, but that didn't bother me too much knowing I would be doing a lot of hand work.
  • Hotels in New York are pricey.  I mitigated that expense by using priceline to get a good deal located about a half mile from the sewing studio.  That meant no quick dash to the hotel to change my outfit and freshen makeup before the Friday night dinner with other bloggers.  But cabs were plentiful and I always took a cab in the evening when I was too tired for the walk.
  • Differing approaches between the teachers.  Early on, I decided to follow Kenneth's method because he transfers his fitting adjustments back to the paper pattern and works with the paper pattern throughout the process.  Susan's method is to transfer fitting adjustments to the muslin fabric and use that as the pattern.  Why would I care, you may wonder?  Well, I was using a pattern from BWOF and I wanted to come home and analyze my final Kenneth-fitted pattern to learn where my body differs from the BWOF block.  I have that now and I WILL make use of that information!  Yes, I realize I could have accomplished the same thing by comparing the final fabric muslin- but anyway, they do follow different methods to get to where they are going and this is a good thing- it was fun to watch and see the differences.
The ugly:

OK, here is where I hit my wall *LOL*.  I did hit a wall on the 2nd or 3rd day, it's all a blur now:).  And I did, yes I did, retreat to the Ladies Room for a good cry.  Then I put on my Big Girl Panties and got back in the game.
What happened:  By following Kenneth's path, I wound up spending a lot more time making paper adjustments early on.  My original pattern was on a very sheer, but delicate paper I got in an art supply store.  He had me re-trace all of my pattern pieces on the sturdier paper.  He also had me leave some extra paper around the edges so I was not cutting the pattern on the stitching line (my usual method). I had a plaid to match and I was OK with all of the bodice pieces, but when I got to the sleeve, I had a grainline and a horizontal line at the base of the armscye, but I did not have notches on the sleeve pattern.  They weren't there on the original pattern piece (I swear I could not find them on the BWOF pattern when I first traced it, but I could be wrong).  So I didn't have any landmarks to use for pattern matching on the front of the bodice.  I tried to go back to the pattern and create my own notches, but I was stumped.  I was tempted to go back and sew the muslin back together, just to mark matching notches, but first I wanted to get input from a teacher.

Also, working with solid colored paper, that was NOT cut on the stitching line was driving me bonkers.  In my way of working, I rely on that transparent paper to line up the grainline, horizontal balance line and seeing the plaid.
Kenneth and Susan were both amazingly good at helping lots of people keep moving on their projects.  Of course, you had to wait for one of them to be free to answer a question, but it was always interesting to watch them while waiting. 
So, bear in mind, this part of my post is just a description of how I felt.  My confidence was dropping fast, I started feeling stupid and over my head.  When that happens, I don't get more assertive or bitchy, I turn into a wimp.  My chin quivers.  It's just how I am, what can I say?  HaHa. This personality trait can be a drawback.  For example, I would not run for political office, LOL.

I took a break, went out for bite to eat and ran into Marji on the sidewalk.  She was so supportive :)
When I returned to the studio, Susan and Kenneth had worked together to place notches on the sleeves AND matched the plaids on each piece! 
So here is where the story wraps up with a happy ending.  I finally got to SIT and sew!  I love hand-basting.
I came home with Kenneth's CD on How to Construct a Jacket, so I know I can finish this on my own.

Final score? A+

Today is just an extension of the workshop.  I am stting and sewing all day, then back to work tomorrow.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

It's not just couture sewing, folks, there is knitting, too

So last night, there were noises keeping me awake and I needed an earplug. 
I knitted one.
I sleep on my side, so one ear was jammed into the pillow.  It worked, too.

Not bad for a cell phone pic, eh.  Well, I don't think a fancy camera is a requirement when you are just taking a picture of a knitted ear plug.

Sewing Ladies Hit Times Square!

Marji made this happen.  Thank you so much for inviting me.  We had a great time!
From left to right: Carolyn, me, Marji, Mardel, Claudine, LindseyT and NancyK

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Today's work

I bought this fabric and dropped it off at a dry cleaner to get it steamed while I spent the day getting my muslin fitted by Kenneth. 
Then he showed us how to transfer the marks on the muslin back to the pattern paper. That is very different from the way Susan works. She uses the muslin as the pattern for the garment. It was fascinating to watch two master teachers at work and I learned from my project and from others' projects.
(And of course, after this I will want to take one of Susan's classes so I can learn her way, too!! natch)

BUT THE BEST PART ... was meeting up with Lizzy after class.
She sparkles.

I held out my left arm to take this self portrait in front of her dorm.
*a good day*

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Marji and Robin hit Mood

Marji and Robin, originally uploaded by alittlesewing.
Marji and I dropped off the luggage and hit the pavement. We made our way over to Mood Fabrics. I really didn't think I would buy anything, I was just curious, you know> HA - famous last words!
Marji is just the nicest person. We talked non-stop from Baltimore to NYC and she showed me a bunch of knitting techniques, too.
When we arrived in New York, a distinguished looking gentlemen stood up, turned around and asked us, very politely, "Are you going to New York for a sewing contest?"
ROFL. (Is that right Marji? Or was it a knitting contest?) He seemed amused and slightly impressed with our focus on the subject matter!

Oh yeah, and I DID buy a few things that I know I won't find anywhere else. I got 4 pieces of rayon jersey knit for dresses and a gorgeous coating. I sure would love to use that coating for this project, but alas, it does need to be steamed and I am too tired to deal with it tonight.
Oh, I am so glad I came!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Coat Project! BWOF 11-2006 #107

I am ready for the sewing workshop!  Here is my toile.  Don't I just feel fancy.  yep.  I will cut it shorter to mid-thigh and I will use a houndstooth fabric that I bought for a tailoring workshop a few years ago.  Last year I joined Marji's Great Coat Sewalong, but I wasn't 100% confident that I could pull it off, so now finally I will sew a nice tailored coat.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Sweater Coat using the Jalie City Coat pattern

The Jalie City Coat pattern is designed for use with fabric that has come stretch; a woven with a little bit of lycra.  There is no lining, but there are facings for the front closure and neckline area.

When you look at the sleeves, you can see vertical draglines that indicate a somewhat flat sleeve cap with very little ease in the sleeve head.  A stretch fabric (as in a woven with lycra) can be difficult to ease, so this is a good thing. 

And if you wanted to sew a raincoat- that fabric will be even less willing to ease in as you set the sleeve, so I think this pattern would work pretty well for a raincoat fabric- and I intend to give it a try at some point to see if my expectations hold true.

For now I am using this pattern to sew a sweater coat.  I just like the lines.  I think it will be a great cropped shorter for a casual jean jacket, too.

Here is is so far.  I still need to finish off the closure seams.  I did not use the directions much because this fabric is so different.  A sweatery knit like this doesn't have much recovery, so that means it will sag right out of shape- even as you sew the seam, it will just get bigger and bigger.  The first thing I did to combat that was to decrease the pressure on the presser foot.
Then, I considered reinforcement options for each seam as I went along.  For the shoulder seams, I used narrow twill tape to keep them absolutely stable.  For all the vertical shaping seams, I just serged and topstitched them.  But the armholes were clearly stretching out too much, so I reinforced with clear elastic tape.  I held the tape taut while I eased the fabric in and I made it a little tighter, knowing the serging would stretch it back out.  Then I serged and got a nice smooth seam- only now it has a narrow elastic embedded in the seam allowance.  I learned this from reading Kathryn's I Made This! blog where she provides highly detailed descriptions of her projects.  Look at the knit dresses to see how she reinforces seams in knit fabrics.  I love to wear knits, but I have had disappointing results in the past, so I don't mind adding a little extra effort to combat sagginess.

OK! I gotta set this aside temporarily.  I am on vacation all this week.  I need to chose my pattern, sew a muslin and gather my supplies for the sewing workshop.
I have another day to goof around before I head up to Baltimore collect Marji  from Cidell's house and head on up to NYC for some super sewing fun.
Weather is gorgeous today, and true to form, I am indoors surrounded with my needle arts.  Knitting is cool.  Embroidery calls to me, too.  Have you seen sashiko?   I'll be looking for an embellishment technique for my 2010 SWAP.  Oh yes.  A lot of sewing fun planned.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

not too busy to blog ...

Don't tell anyone, but I had a colonoscopy today. 
{welcome to your 50's}
So, all right then!
I have been busy ... busy ... busy, you know?  We sold the condo and settlement is scheduled for next week so we moved everything out and cleaned it last weekend.  But I always manage to do a little sewing, even when I am busy.  Here is my latest project, a muslin for the Jalie City Coat:

And I have taken up knitting. I bought knitting needles, a ball of cotton yarn and an instruction booklet. Confusing! so then I looked at youtube- WAY EASIER, but still confusing. Finally I remembered something about the "continental style" and searched on that term. That is how I was taught to knit. OK, now it is making sense! I am looking forward to getting my knit on!

And here is something really exciting- I have signed up to take a 4-day Sit and Sew with Susan Khalje and Kenneth King class in NYC next week.  yippee!  I was supposed to visit Korea in March, then that was put on hold, which made me crave some instant travel gratification.  Now, I am learning that a trip to Korea in February might work out, so lots of good stuff on the horizon.   Good stuff people!!

Sunday, November 1, 2009


When in doubt, strike a pose!  This is my ballerina self.  I am wearing a blue t-shirt I sewed. 
Anyway, remember my car? Well, it has gone to Subaru heaven. 

I always said I would go buy an new Subaru exactly like my old one, but I didn't.  I got this Scion xB.   It is a most wonderful color that reminds me of my favorite nail polish (a discontinued color called "Violine").

My old car was still going strong with 224,000 miles on it. Well, except the A/C only worked intermittantly.  And it smelled like mildew after a hard rain.  But other than that, it really was awesome.  That car served me so wellover the years and I loved it.

Being attached to my car, it was hard to lookfor a new one, but I knew it was time.
I asked Howie to find me something comfortable.  The budget was enough to get a lightly-used Lexus, BMW or Volvo, and frankly that's what I was expecting.  To my delight, he found something much more economical, and comfortable and fun, to boot.

Did you know that these new Toyotas need an oil change every 5k miles instead of 3k?  And the rest of the routine maintenance is a lot less, too.  So here I am driving a car with "new car" smell- another thing I said I would never do.
Well, actually, ahem, I am not.  He has agreed to drive the car until the new smell is gone so I am driving his car for a while.   I am an old dog, learning new tricks and one of them is marriage.
I like being married. :)