Monday, January 31, 2011

vintage coat - pattern alterations

This weekend I worked on pattern alterations to Butterick 4627 coat.

First, I traced it onto Swedish tracing paper.  Then I carefully folded the pattern and stored it.  It's so fragile, I don't want to damage it.

A quick comparison between McCall's 5145  and Butterick 4627 revealed the necessary shoulder /neckline and armscye adjustments necessary,

The darts are pinned out in the bust area of both patterns.

I am not sure what has possessed me to sew another coat so soon.  They are so big and bulky and generally annoying to handle.  The last one took more than 50 hours.  McCall's 5145 probably took a hundred hours, but I wear it almost every day.  None of my older coats are good enough for me now!

I hope I have enough fabric to make the long version.
We shall see!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

February coat underway

My JAM (jacket a month 2011) for February is now underway.  I am tracing the pattern to Swedish tracing paper before I do any pattern adjustments.  I really don't like Swedish tracing paper very much because the eraser shreds my pencil marks, but for this coat, it's pretty great because it's so wide.  In the future, I'll buy a case of doctors' exam table paper - like this at Amazon.  It is a lot narrower, but that is sufficient for most of my pattern work.

Pattern weights keep the tissue in place while I trace.
There was a little bitty delay in launching this project.  There was this little snowstorm on Wednesday.  It crippled the Washington DC metropolitan area.  We were only one of thousands of households without power for a few days and my husband is only one of thousands stranded on the roads that night.  He got home from work at midnight, but that's nothing.  One of his co-workers got home at 6am the next morning!   The reason?  The roads were blocked with crippled buses and 18-wheelers.  You can imagine the finger-pointing in the local newspaper articles.  

I had scheduled a vacation /personal sewing day for Friday (yesterday) but obviously that didn't happen.   We keep an apartment in Baltimore because I kept my Baltimore job when we got married in 2005.  Thank goodness for that!  We had a warm place to wait out the inconveniences.  My husband took the brunt of it all - his commute from Baltimore to his job is very long, plus he kept dropping by the house to check on the cats, shut off the water (see I wouldn't even think about frozen pipes!  but he did).

Now if you aren't bored enough already, let me keep going because it gets better!  Last night, in the apartment we learned what happens when the battery dies in the smoke detector.  It chirps every 30 minutes until you procure a 9 volt battery and replace it.  And, that's not all!  We also learned that the thermostat in the apartment uses batteries, too.  And they die, too!  Who knew?  That's why you might get nothing but cold air!  So that's what we learned between midnight and 3am this morning.   We even learned that the local 7-11 is not open 24 hours a day.   I'll say one thing - the roads in Baltimore were excellent.  They did a good job clearing the snow, at least where we were.
Fascinating, isn't it?

Well, once you get to a certain age, you realize "hey at least we don't have little kids or a dog - it could have been a whole lot worse!"  and of course, we are so thankful to even have a backup place to stay.  

This sums up Howie's feelings:
(just kidding, he stayed cheerful)

And if you can't keep calm, try to keep a sense of humor.
Let me tell you I am one happy lady today!
Happy sewing, everyone!

Friday, January 28, 2011

stumbling around principles of design here

Thank you for the thought-provoking comments on my previous post about body proportions.

Irene asked, "where does the rule of fifths fit into this?"  If you break down the four quadrants of the body into eight equal parts, each part is a head length. There are three heads lengths above the waist, and five head lengths below.  Uneven ratios like 2:3 and 3:5 are considered to be useful for clothing design.

AllisonC and JillofAllTrades pointed out that this only addresses vertical relationships - what about all the other variations?
This forces me to ask myself, why does any of this matter?  It matters because commercial patterns are drafted to standardized sizes.  The measurements for bust, waist, height, etc are listed right on the pattern.   But that just wasn't enough information for me.  I didn't solve my own fitting requirements until I realized that my height measurements vary from standard height measurements.   I imagine that most people don't vary as much, and therefore it's not an issue.  

Learning about proportions is helpful with fitting, and so much more.  SO.MUCH.MORE.

Design elements (line, shape, color and texture) are manipulated to create balance, proportion, scale, rhythm & emphasis.

I started out wanting my sleeves to fit and now I am drawn into learning about design.
Again why does any of this matter?

Beauty.  Beauty matters.  That's my interest - I like beautifulness.

There was also a suggestion that I might model some of these frumpy designs and prove (or disprove) these concepts.  You do not know how close I came to doing that for you!  We lost power in the house, due to a snowstorm.  The roads are in good shape, though, so I seriously considered a trip to the mall to try on clothes and shoot photos in the dressing rooms.  I just wanted to escape the whole mess.  But alas, I did the responsible thing and took care of business at home.
Sorry, no funny pictures for you.  Not this time, anyway.

Thanks for stopping by and reading & commenting about clothes and sewing and stuff.
If you have electricity, enjoy it :)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Body Proportions - simplified

I have written about body proportions before, and I fear I over-complicated things.  OK, I know I did.
Let me share what I have learned since I started using this concept in choosing my necklines and hemlines for clothing.

As you may recall, there are 4 equal quadrants.  The body's half-way height is where the leg bends out at the hip.  The upper quadrants are divided by the bustline and the lower quadrants are divided at mid knee.
I refer to each of these as a height.  There is the bust height, the knee height and so forth.

In practice, I like to choose necklines and hems based on these heights.
Let me show you what I mean.  On the left is the "ideally" proportioned body based on Michelangelo.  I tend to think he knew what he was doing.  More here.


just for fun, let's look at something dumpy,  Yes, let's!

It seems to work for me.  What do you think?  Is this a bunch of mumbo-jumbo?  I am using the mini-skirt length for coats and long caridgans and I always feel good in that length.  My mini-skirt days are gone, but you will hear no complaints from me.  I wore them while I could and it's time to let the next generation have their turn.  

I will not, however, wear a wrap dress.  

Tell me what you think about this proportion stuff.

Monday, January 24, 2011

January coat modeled

Here is the coat I sewed for my step-daughter.

And that's my first entry for the Jacket-A-Month 2011 Sew-Along.
You can see the "before" pictures and how I made the pattern here.
If  it's cold where you are, keep warm.  If it's wet, keep dry.  And keep on sewing!

pattern alterations for JAM#1

I took apart the original coat and here is what it looked like:

Here you can see how this ten-year-old coat fit before.  The armholes felt tight.  Neither center front nor center back closed to hang straight.  

To address the tight fit in the armholes, I enlarged added 1/4 inch to the width & length of each side of bodice front, each side of bodice back and the sleeve.  The width affects the entire bodice - it is cut through the vertical darts.

To make center front and center back hang straight, the vertical darts were let out:

To provide additional wearing ease, the side seams were increased:

I sewed a muslin to double-check the fit and scheduled a fitting just before the lining was installed.
Voila, a new coat:

I am participating in the "Jacket-A-Month Sewalong" and this counts as jacket #1.  
And, I am keeping this pattern! With a shoulder alteration, this pattern fits me, too.

There were a few shortcuts - I just followed the manufacturer's construction techniques.  There are no buttonholes in the pocket flaps, no sleeve-head and the only stabilization was block-fusing all of the fabric and a narrow twill tape sewn on the front edges of the facing. 
Overall, about as easy as a coat can be.  Time-consuming, yes it goes without saying - but not difficult.
(now I want one!)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Jacket-A-Month: January coat finished

the final hand-stitching

Final photo shoot - Monday evening.

* and now for a nap *  

1/24/2011 update: I did not use a commercial patterm. However, I did make a pattern - but it is an exact replica of the RTW coat.

And I am keeping this pattern becuase this coat would fit me with minor alterations and I like it!

Friday, January 21, 2011

jacket-A-Month: January coat progress

Progress on the coat continues.  The sleeves are in and the facings are on.   This is the easiest type of collar for me to construct- it is on a collar stand, like a trench coat.  There is no pad stitching necessary.  

This is the first time I have block-fused coat fabric with interfacing and I like it.  It's a stiffer look than fabric stabilized with hymo canvas (as in my gray coat) and it's a little tricky to sew some of the tighter areas, like the armholes.  I don't think I'll fuse interfacing for the vintage Butterick 4627 coat.  I am glad I did not fuse that fabric already.

And the lining is ready to go in:

After I have hemmed the coat and coat sleeves, I will sew the edge of the lining to the facing edges and hand sew the lining hem to the coat.  Then come the buttons and buttonholes (machine-sewn) and finished.


The fancy party dress isn't needed for a few months.  And, I am not sure I want to tackle another coat right away, either.  Maybe it's a good time to let things settle and see what tickles my fancy.  

A little surfing around the blog neighborhood will give me some ideas.   
I am so much more productive thanks to the online sewing community - you all inspire me to reach higher and try a little harder.  Thank you for that.

T.G.I.F and have a great weekend!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Jacket-A-Month: January coat

Here is DSD's coat so far.  It has been an easy sew from a decision-making point of view.  I am following the construction techniques per the manufacturer of the original coat.  The decisions about fabric, pattern and construction techniques can be paralyzing!  Am I right?  Can I get an Amen, Sister?
Of course, it is still time-consuming, but that's what Netflix is for.  I've been watching television shows like Glee, Saturday Night Live and I need more suggestions.  What else is popular that I have missed?

DSD's coat is my January Jacket.  [I am participating in the Jacket-a-Month project, too.  It was inspired by Gigi and all JAM chatter is happening over on the Stitchers Guild sewing discussion forum. I don't think I mentioned that yesterday].

And thanks to Sherry for posting a comment about Casey's Swing Dress Sewalong.
If you aren't already reading, Sherry is a real (educated and experienced) pattern-maker and custom dressmaker, so she drops all kinds of insanely useful information on her blog Pattern~Scissors~Cloth .  Likewise, if you don't already read Casey's Elegant Musings, check it out; a very pretty blog.

Today, happy anniversary to my dear husband.  In 2005, we merged two households with teenagers, a couple of high pressure jobs and a challenging commute between Baltimore and Washington DC.  We are all thriving.  I love you, my dear!  And deep thanks to our children for sticking with us through thick and thin.

To everyone else, Happy Martin Luther King Eve, day!
*And, as always, happy sewing*

Saturday, January 15, 2011

sewing along ...

There are a lot of sewalongs happening lately - isn't it great?  

Sunni's Trouser Sewalong,  JoanneM's The Great Vintage Sewalong,  Peter's Mens Shirt Sewalong,  Sewaholic's Pendrell Blouse, and Gertie's Crepe Sewalong, and Barbara's brilliant idea- The Never Too Many White Shirts Project.   This makes me feel optimistic about the future of our craft.

Rather than sewing another coat right away, I am considering something quick & easy to cleanse the palate.  Bonus - I can overlap the Great Vintage Sewalong with The Never Too Many White Shirts Project with this pattern:

Isn't it pretty and feminine?  I got from Barbara when she posted a Pattern GiveAway.  Of course, I don't have suitable white fabric in the stash.  But - there is a big sale for the rest of the month at Michael's B&M fabric store, so maybe I can find a nice supple, sheer white fabric there.  

As I mentioned in my last post, there is a gown project on the horizon.  Perfect timing, too, because I am signed up for a weeklong sewing class with Susan Khalje the last week of March.  Who knows, maybe I will work on the gown that week?  We shall see....

Look at my sister - this is a person who can rock a sexy gown, is she not?   And you couldn't find a nicer, more deserving person.  

She is 6'1" and athletic, so she can pull off just about anything you might see on a red carpet.
The girls in the foreground are DD's BFF, DD, DSD & yours truly.  Sigh, I just noticed the hat says "drunken", doesn't it?  Such good wholesome girls, they are.  I'll just swish any disconcerting thoughts right out of my head!  
Beads, lace, silk, corselette!  

There!  I feel much better now!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

coming up - dress for a Black Tie Event (yippeee!)

So, yeah, this is happening!  I get to sew something special for someone I adore.  What fun!  Of course, I will blog about it.  And the coat for DSD is looking fantabulous.  Oh that fabric is a dream to work with!  That will be finished by mid January.  I am so glad I have sewn A LOT for myself over the last year. 
It is actually enjoyable to sew for others every now and then. 

So many good things.  At this moment, I stop and smell the roses. I am so grateful.


Saturday, January 8, 2011

stabilize coat fabric: check

The fabric has been fused.  
The steam press arrived on Wednesday and I could barely wait for Friday night: fusing-party-time!  Reporting from the field, it is clear that a clam-style steam press does speed and simplify the  process.  I placed the steam press on a table so I could sit and press.  I had room to the right and the left for the fabric.  And, there is plenty of space at the rear of the press for fabric.

The upper plate is the hot part with little holes for the steam, just like a regular iron.  The bottom half is a plain old ironing board.   Afterwards, very faint spots were visible on the right side of the coating fabric.  They came from shots of steam.  I used a brush to lift the nap and remove the evidence of over-zealous steaming.  Even with brushing, the whole process only took a couple hours and it was a nice easy activity.
As soon as I can convince Pepper to move, I'll thread-trace (by hand) the stitching lines.  I should be machine-stitching by the end of the day.

Part of me is thrilled with the steam press (the speed) and part of me is aghast (you took a shortcut to real tailoring?  egads, woman!)
yes - this is some seriously NICE fabric in a dark olive color.
It was the only fabric available in the right color - thus the choice.
The fabric is a heavy-weight coating with a glorious nap that feels almost like a velour.  It deserves  full-blown hand tailoring treatment, doesn't it?  I think so.  But I can't let the fantasy get in the way.  I need/want to finish this fast.

What do you think about fusing vs. interlining and hand-sewing?  Aside from the the occupational hazards of fusing (blisters), what are the pros and cons of fusing versus hand-sewing an interlining?  How will it affect long term wear?  I am duplicating exactly what the manufacturer did, so it should be as good as a store-bought coat, right?

Enquiring minds want to know!
*happy sewing*

Sunday, January 2, 2011

How to prepare a coat pattern

How to prepare a coat pattern in a 4-day weekend? 
Attempt to prepare 2 coat patterns for the 2 coats you think you can sew.
(what? Am I attempting simultaneous sewing?  I am out of touch with reality!)

I am replicating this coat for Kelly, my stepdaughter.  She dug around and found this coat she had worn in high school.  Nothing like a nice classic wool coat!  But it is too small :)
I took apart the coat (a la LindsayT's coat lining project for her daughter) and used half of it to make pattern pieces.  I left the other half intact, to serve as construction guidance.

After making fitting adjustments and sewing a muslin, we had a fitting today and the final pattern is ready to go.  The neckline and shoulders fit perfectly and the rest of the adjustments were straight forward.

The biggest excitement in my life is the steam pressing machine I procured.  It is the large rectangle kind that opens like a clamshell.  I should have it by next weekend,  Oh yes, there will be some steam pressing and interfacing fused and just all-around-general-ironing fun.
Because I am a seamstress and that's what we do.

Happy Sewing and HAPPY NEW YEAR!