The Deadline

I don’t know if I’m going to pull this off but I need a special occasion dress to wear in just under 4 weeks’ time.

It should showcase what I’m capable of – in case anyone’ll be looking – without being fussy or formal.

Recently I’ve been giving the matter some thought and have decided to copy one of three designs:

Option 1: Six Napoleon Dress

Option 2By Masayo Yasuki, of the fashion house ‘dogstar’, this has an asymmetric boned bodice with sheer drapery redolent, in both the style lines and the volume of drapery, of Vivienne Westwood.  This caught my eye a while back on Pinterest and the trail leads to this website where the description reads, with spellings corrected: “featuring carefully placed tucks and a well fitted corset, who can resist the luxury and fullness in its 8 metres of silk organza?”

Well, that should narrow down the fabric search.

I’ve made a muslin of the bodice which was easy enough but I now wish I’d paid more attention when those of you who teach me stuff talked about Draping.

Difficulty level = 8/10

I really think it’s time I tackled draping.  I have an aversion to travelling to courses but I’m good at self-taught so if you know of a book that will demystify the process, I’d be grateful for a recommendation.

Option 2: Pleated Neckline Dress

option 1

I’d already been experimenting with my own pleated neckline designs when I discovered this picture on Pinterest.  The trail takes me to the website of Eileen Fisher but nothing in the designer’s current collection is like this.  Everything about it appeals.  I love the straps and I can just imagine how sensual it would be to bury fingers in those midriff folds.  The wine stain colour is gorgeous too, but not essential.

Difficulty: 5/10

How do you envisage this dress ending?  I mean, what should happen in the lower half?

Option 3: Sleeve Drama

pinterest sourceNot much dress visible here: the sleeves steal the show.  I’ve experimented with this design a lot, firstly by making a simplified version and putting it onto a refashioned men’s shirt (you can download the pattern PDF).  I’ve now fine-tuned the pattern to be more like that in the original above.  The rest of the dress would be long with princess seams, and also a thigh split like in the BHL Anna dress.Anna Stride

Difficulty = 4/10

And talking of the Anna dress, that’s my back up if I run out of time.  It would be a shame though.  Flattering as it may be, neither the workmanship nor materials are special (Anna’s more of a t-shirt than a special occasion dress).

1 so many sleeves, so few armsOr I could go to Liberty’s, where while gallivanting around with Ruth last autumn I spotted dresses that would be perfect, made by proper designers.  Yeah, and spend the rest of my days in self-loathing.

So many sleeves, so few arms…

Like I said, no pressure.

I have already made my decision and begun work on one of the above but I’d love to hear what you’d do.

Pintucks

1 stylearc faith with loop and button closure1 front

1 faith 2

The original Stylearc Faith

Nothing new to see here: this is the same blouse as in my Bishop Sleeves post.

But there are some brutally frank close-ups of the loop and button closure, the less than perfect collar as well as pintucks.

The idea was ‘to upgrade, with ambition’ the Stylearc Faith Top I made earlier this year out of lawn and judged to be wearable but a bit simple.  I fear it’s one of those garments you suspect makes people think ‘you spent hours and hours sewing, just to make that?’  The pintucks were wide and the back-of-neck gathers too crude.  But I thought it had potential.

1 stylear faith hackThis garment has more interesting details, the fabric is silk and I will enjoy the feeling of luxury every time I fiddle with the loops and covered buttons while getting it on and off. It’s not precise enough in execution to save for special occasions. This will be an everyday blouse worn over a tight vest to give me warmth and decent coverage throughout our too cold summers.

In the process I made two mistakes which led me to learn a couple of important lessons. The first relates to sewing sheer fabric where the seams show through.  This doesn’t look good.  It doesn’t so much matter on the side seams but the original bodice front had a centre seam which in the sheer version looked ugly, despite my using French seam to keep raw edges hidden. So I had to discard attempt number one (after all the pintucks were made – :roll: ) and started again, creating a single front piece which was then slit at the neckline with a very narrow facing to which the rouleau strip loops were attached.  In short, Lesson One: re-design your pattern to reduce the number of seams.

The second hard lesson was first chronologically and is more relevant in that it relates to pintucks.  I decided to begin by making the back first to give me practice of pintucks in the less visible area (in the  Faith pattern, this area is gathered).  But despite careful calculations (or so I thought), the finished piece ended up too narrow to fit my shoulders. I’d already widened the shoulders to eliminate the raglan sleeves but it was nowhere enough so I had to chuck that away and start again, this time making longer than required pintucks on a rectangular piece and when they were finished cutting out the pattern piece so that the pintucked area would fit the neck piece.  1 back stylearc faith

Pintucks are not for everyone; they require so much time that you have to be a bit of a fan to think it’s worth it.  Here are some tips if you want to give them a go:

  • On woven fabrics, where the grain of a fabric is visible, or where there’s a visible pattern like on this striped chiffon, you can use the lines as a guide to the placement of pintucks and their width.

 

  • Some use a double needle to make them, I used a pintuck foot.  .1 pintuck food

 

  • Press each side of pintuck after it’s formed to sink in stitches, then press to one side.

 

 

 

1 and tie knots nicely

Pintucks on reverse

  • I used a basting stitch, later removed, to mark the end points of each pintuck so to know exactly where to stop stitching.  (Chalk lines turned to dust and disappeared under all the pressing and  jumping from machine to ironing board.)

 

 

  • 1 take thread to wrong sideYou cannot backstitch at the ends: it looks unattractive.  Instead, pass each thread to the wrong side, using a hand sewing needle (yes, lots of time-consuming threading) and tie into a  secure knot, taking care not to ‘choke’ the pintuck.

And two very important points:

  • Stiffen your fabric to make it easier to handle if your pintucks are fine. You can use starch on cotton. I used gelatine.
1 jcrew pintuck

J Crew Pintuck blouse

  • If you don’t want to risk making your pattern pieces too small by adding pintucks, make them on separate sections of fabric then add to the garment.  Many RTW garments tend to have them applied in sections, as in this JCrew top (quite similar in colour to mine.)

 

 

This post  looks at pintucks from a historical sewing angle and was very helpful in my research.  It shows something that had completely escaped me in my focus on sewing the garment I’d envisaged: that pintucks are often horizontal. (As the post suggests, use the straightgrain or crossgrain but never bias as it’s too stretchy).

You could put a few rows of horizontal ones on a little girl’s dress and unpick them as she grows out of the length.  On coloured fabric, there’d emerge an interesting colour difference due to fading.  Just don’t forget to make them first and then cut your pattern 1 Helline Denim dresspiece.

Here’s a great denim dress with what look like horizontal pintucks….  I may just copy it someday.

Have you ever been potty about pintucks?!

Nipples Dress

1 nipples1 kate's mugI know what you’re thinking.  “These lurid post titles of hers are clickbait-desperate!”  But what else to call it?  When I found this plastic-coated, bumpy material at a stall in Bromley market, I immediately recalled my friend Kate’s ceramic and celebrated  nipples mug which I love to wrap my hands around whenever we drink coffee.  I inspected it, wondering what I could do with it and noticing it had stretch.  “Where does this come from?” I asked the stall-holder.  He smiled (finally!  Thank you :-) ) saying it’s from Ann Summers.

1 inverted1 kennethI got home shouting “look at this nipple fabric, whereupon my doubting Thomas of a husband said the appearance was more like bubble-wrap.  But then he pressed in one of the raised bumps and it.. well, inverted!

My kids are impressed by the fabric’s futuristic credentials.  This would work grandly for costumes in Dr Who.  And I love how from certain angles it looks like a carapace or armour.  Have you seen anything like it, either in fabric sales or on RTW?  I’ve tried to find out more with a combination of search terms on Google but to no avail. I know that dark blue and green had also been available.

1 Nipples dress1 back zip

It was cheap – possibly reject – as it has quite a few flaws: creases and areas where the plastication is absent, which you can spot at the centre back zip.  I didn’t have enough to be picky about placement and in any case, as you can probably guess, this isn’t a dress to be worn too seriously!1 bye

1 sampleThe horizontal stretch is slight; too much pulling apart and the fabric deforms beyond recovery gaining the strange appearance of laddered tights 😯 .   Although it was only slightly temperamental to sew (I had to look out for skipped stitches), the hardest part to making this dress was not being able to press seams nor shape them as under the iron, the material darkens and the bumps flatten.

I used the Renfrew T-shirt pattern, size 8, elongated with the aid of my skirt block where I left the darts unsewn.  After the first fitting, I added bust darts (which sadly took off 3cm from the final length) plus contour darts at the back. And though I love making corded piping, it doesn’t really work here as there isn’t that sharp, flat edge that I would have achieved had I been able to use an iron.

You might think but where’s a girl to wear a dress like this to?!”  Well, I’m wearing it to the screening of the Rocky Horror Show tonight!

1 magenta space girl

Magenta, Domestic Goddess and Style Icon, plus her embarrassing brother

My Girl

1 my girl1 fit and flare bodice and circle

Fitted dresses are not very suitable for small children as they tend to have rather large stomachs“.  I’m  always amused when I read this sentence from Winifred Aldrich’s instructions on constructing ‘the Classic Dress Block’.  To my imagination (fed on too much fiction), it suggests children to be a separate species: alien, greedy, inconvenient….

My daughter, who just turned eleven, is at the upper end of the height range for Aldrich’s girls block and I think this ‘fit and flare’ style really works.  The first bodice was far too short and wide and took two more muslins to get right but they were simple to make and very little shaping was required: the side seams took care of the fit with the only darts being the 1.5cm wide nips from the back neckline to each shoulder blade.  After making the bodice, I cut the skirt based on the measurement of the garment waist, working out the radius and cutting this out as a circle from the remaining fabric first folded into 4.  (By Hand London has a really clever Circle Skirt App that does this more easily but I don’t think theirs is the most efficient use of fabric if you haven’t got much.)

1 flareWould you believe that this short skirt has more than 3m of circumference at its lower edge?!  I bought some bargain bias binding and hemmed with that: it’s a much quicker way to hem a circle than all that folding and pinning.

1 Back view

But while sewing for girls isn’t as tricky as fitting a woman’s bodice, there can be, er,  complications.  Some children are very ticklish.  Not to mention absolutely terrified of you coming at them with a tray of pins!

Oh the dramatics we had, and the cajoling…

This was made for the Year 6 Leavers’ Production of Peter Pan (Year 6 is when UK children leave Primary School).  My daughter practiced hard and read for several parts in the auditions with the hope of being Tinker Bell – she of the emerald bodice, iridescent skirt and a doughnut in her hair!  Instead she was chosen for the part of Narrator.  There are some wonderful costume opportunities in Peter Pan, for girls and boys.  I remember a sticker book of Disney characters I had as a child.  How I loved Tiger Lily with her smooth black hair.  I‘d have loved to dress in moccasins and fringed suede.  But for the Narrator’s role, all that was required was an “occasion dress”.  I kept it simple.  Zip, velvet ribbon, bias binding and Japanese cotton fabric (from Stitch) cost under £15, so no great loss if she never wear this again – though she bloody well should!

I’m very proud of my daughter.  She has tried hard to make her mark in a large primary school with 120 pupils in her age group.  Over the years, she has produced work of super quality, played her ukulele in school concerts with confidence and calm and bounced back from setbacks with admirable resilience.  She insists that I don’t teach her to sew so imagine my delight when from time to time she astounds us by producing  gifts of soft toys she made by following internet tutes  :-)

1 Crunchy, Lemmy Substitute and Kiwi

Left to right: Crunchy, Lemmy Substitute and Kiwi

The Most Expensive Curtain Ever

 

mascaras de pelea fabric by alexander henryLucha libre curtainsLast year we completely renovated our son’s bedroom – it’s the room with the blue-tiled hearth I use as a backdrop in some photo-shoots.   However, I never got round to making curtains for its semi-circular bay window.  My son insists he doesn’t need curtains as he likes to lie in bed looking at the sky and the plane trees in the distance and yes, I take his point, but what about the electricity cable and the streetlights…?  As we had a very important visitor coming to stay in that room, the impending arrival gave me the kick to make the room a bit more homelike.

Firstly, the newly plastered ceiling needed a curtain track affixed to it.  In order to save the £230 track-fitting fee, we did the job ourselves.  It was horrible, fiddly work with much planning and marking and it blew all the daytime hours of Damon’s entire weekend and some of mine too.  It was the first time I had to make sense of tiny diagrams in the instructions by using a magnifying glass.  Shame on you, Swish 👿  Cutting curtain lengths on floorboardsNext, while Damon moved to the task of renovating the bathroom only to unearth plumbing horrors, I set about estimating the fabric amount required and ordering samples.  The curved window, typical of British 1930s’ suburban houses, was wider than it looked: 4 metres.  This meant the required width of the curtain would be between 6 and 8 metres.  Taking into account the pattern repeat and the  ‘drop,’ I’d need about 16 metres.  I wanted cheerful fabric rather than something grown-up so I opted for quilting cotton (which comes with a tremendous choice of colours and patterns).  At £12 a metre from Frumble, a bolt of 16 metres cost £192.  Which isn’t why this is the most expensive curtain ever.

mascaras de pelea fabric curtains alexander henryThe lining fabric came from the local curtain supplies store.  It’s crisp, white and since it’s cotton-rich, I hope it won’t be prone to mould spots come winter and condensation on the glass.  The lining and 10 curtains weights came to another £70.  Which isn’t why this is the most expensive curtain ever….

mascaras de pelea curtain makingCurtain-making isn’t my forte.  All that I know – which, apparently, is called the ‘bag-method’ – I learnt from Readers Digest Complete Guide to DIY.  The fact that my work will undoubtedly be subject to scrutiny makes it all the more nerve-racking.  But it’s dynamic work too.  The cutting up of the panels, the measuring and the marking  required so much getting down to the floor and up again that after three days I felt like I’d been to a yoga retreat!  There’s something rewarding too in all that flat geometry.  I love the point at which the lining and fabric are turned right side out and the side edges get a hot press: the lovely smell of steamy, printed poplin.  And hand-hemming more than 6 metres, though time consuming, really means you’re quite quick and neat by the end.

mascarasI did run into big trouble getting my panels to match up, both horizontally and vertically.  Unlike during the previous curtain-making occasion, my walking foot (even feed foot) simply wasn’t up to the job.  Something was wrong.  Normally, I’d slow right down, sewing centimetre by centimetre and checking for accuracy but there just wasn’t time… we had a very important visitor coming… So I kept going, sometimes with luck on my side, often not, but a passable effort.  If anyone points out the misalignments such as these, I’ll wrestle them to the floor I think.

NicoThe curtains were finished the evening before our important visitor arrived… which meant that a strapping 16-year-old exchange student from Munich (to the right of the picture) got to sleep soundly underneath the most barmy curtain he’ll see in his whole life, probably.   It was when the excitement was over that I realized the machine’s stitches weren’t forming properly.  I’ve taken Elna in for a repair which will cost £150.  Which still isn’t why this is the most expensive curtain ever…

No.  You see, my son wasn’t sure if he liked this choice of fabric quite as much as he liked Star Wars: Imperial Storm Trooper .  But I couldn’t bear those dull colours.  So, in order to sway his decision I said “If you choose Mascaras de Pelea, I’ll take you and the whole family on a holiday tour of Mexico!”

:roll:   Anyways…

nacho libre

 

Delia Grinstead

 

1 Pencil mummy“She noticed she walked differently now, not with her usual bouncy gait but more levelly, because of her slim skirt.”

Ladder of Years by Anne Tyler

March’s been rough.  Slight but cutting professional disappointments, rubbish progress with my running, gloomy weather, mess from renovating work and, inevitably, finishing my coat to a standard that doesn’t satisfy.  March is always a month I  struggle with because my birthday is at the end and in the run-up I tend to evaluate my achievements of the past year and find them underwhelming.  Which is why it was absolutely wonderful to have been treated to a novel by one of my favourite authors, Anne Tyler, serialised on Radio 4, in 10 episodes that I was able to “rewind” whenever I missed anything because I was running the sewing machine too noisily (Anne Tyler is my literary equivalent of chicken soup).  1 Pencil sideI read ‘Ladder of Years’ when it was published  in the 1990s and again more recently so there were no surprises in the plot but, oh my, the first half of this story never fails to amaze.  It goes like this: while doing the family shop, Delia Grinstead is asked a favour by a handsome stranger.  He’d like Delia to impersonate his girlfriend so that his glamorous ex – who happens to be in the supermarket shopping with her new partner – is made jealous.  Delia complies, her life gains a bit of momentum and the next thing you know, she walks out on her family and starts a new life as a secretary in a different town!

Both the narrator and the actress reading Delia have wonderful voices which I could hear in my head as, for the purposes of this photo-shoot, I minced in my new pencil skirt imaging myself an efficient, unapproachable secretary on her coffee break.  I occasionally think of “doing a Delia” myself, i.e. taking a long walk to a new life.  No way am I going to.  It’s just a revenge fantasy I pull out when I’m having a bad day :-) But I’d like to know: is this normal amongst women who disappear into family life and Anne Tyler just picked up on it, or did the author plant the idea in my head!?

Another case of pencil

I couldn’t resist making this skirt out of my coat wool and lining.  Just when I thought there were no further observations I could make about this pattern, a few cropped up during the making so here they are in case you’re making a pencil yourself.

Drafting

  • To create the siren silhouette, use your basic skirt block but narrow the hem by a total of about 8cm compared to the widest part (the hip).  This difference is easier to achieve if the skirt is long.  Here’s a chart of measurements for a RTW version: Boden pencil skirt.  You can see how the hem and hip circumferences vary and also depend on whether you choose the long (L) or regular (R) length.1 Pencil skirt, inside out
  • Of course, a skirt that’s narrow at the hem will be hard to walk in so you will need a slit or a kick pleat.  Here’s my lined kick pleat tutorial if you’re making a skirt with lining.  Inside out, the final result looks like this:
  • Another way to lengthen the distance from waist to hem is to raise the top with a grown-on waist.  It’s a flattering option for those with a high waist but I’m wary of this for myself on account of the widest part of my hips being 30cm lower than my waist.  I’d look high-waisted but stumpy.  On the other hand, with a heart-shape-hipped figure, it would emphasise long legs.  Which hip shape are you?
click on pic for source

click on pic for source

 

Waistband

If your wool skirt has a waistband, I recommend using Petersham ribbon.  Wool next to skin can be scratchy as I found on my previous make when I kept pulling up my tights so skin and skirt wouldn’t be in contact.

Pattern placement

If you’re using large scale checks like these, consider their placement tactically according to body parts you wish to emphasise or hide.

  • dark bands of colour should go across the widest part if you want your hips to appear narrower, and vice versa.
  • consider at which part of the squares your hem line will lie.  I find that cutting a square in half creates an impression of shortness.  The ideal is three quarters down a pale block.  Unless your legs are really long and you don’t like that (who are you?!)

P. S. I love drinking from this mug my friend gave me.  Not just ’cause of the buttons but the china is lovely too.1 Mug

Mender Be!

1 capris

1t hole in carDo you rush from one new sewing project to the next while turning your back on an ever growing pile of not-quite-wearable items that could be put right in an hour or so?  Do bits of your children’s uniforms go missing at school because you can’t be bothered to sew on name tapes  – it’s too boring?  And has your husband been asking for months when you’re going to stitch up that hole in the car flooring which you gouged out driving in killer heels?!

Ok, so that last one is a bit specific :-) but if the above ring true, then  you’re like me.  When you could be like Lesley, who first fixes something from the unglamorous pile.   In ‘Mending is Good for the Psyche’, Lesley says: the mending can be anything big or small, sometimes the thing I mend is very quick, it depends on how much time I have, but I feel justified in moving on to other more exciting projects having completed my ‘work’.  How sensible is that, not to mention virtuous!  I’m thinking of adopting Lesley’s strategy though it’ll take some discipline.

Here’s a quick embellishment project in which I mended a situation.  Last year, I bought some Primark jeans and I’ve been looking at them ever since.  Initially attracted by their colour and cheapness, I tried them on in the changing room and they seemed to adequately cover my backside – a rare treat in low-rise skinnies.  Unfortunately, within minutes of putting them on for wearing (i.e. walking and sitting down, rather than standing in a changing room) the fabric, which is a cotton and polyester mix with 1% Lycra, would stretch and stretch turning the jeans saggy and turning my mood instantly to drab.  It seemed cruel to pass them on to a charity shop for some other schmuck to buy, thinking she’d grabbed herself a bargain, so I eventually pressed them flat inside out and sewed 1cm into the outer seam, from the hip rivet to just below the knee.  So now they fit better, like slightly wrinkly running tights, but with spring in the air, I no longer needed tight jeans.  I needed something frivolous and summery, like these jeans cut into capris that I spotted on Pinterest (click on pic for tutorial): 1 original plan

I planned on using leather instead of bias binding (I hear you’re getting sick of my ever-giving bundle of leather.  Me too!).  Unfortunately – and I wonder how I didn’t foresee this – leather straps when folded like bias strips end up really thick and don’t tie so well…  So then I thought I’d do a button trick recently pulled by  Tialys, so I cut the ties, closed the keyhole and covered up raw edges with two buttons.  This looked well cute but now the leg openings were so tight around my calves, we had to call an ambulance!  1 Warts and all

Once I was cut free, the capris were shorter still, but I remade the keyholes further up and used straight 3cm leather ribbons as ties.

I just about got away with it.  I think!

 1 Side capris

The tutorial

– The optimal hem length for capris is below the widest part of your calf muscle.  For me, this would mean an inside leg length of 54.5cm (but my final version is above the calf muscle, on account of things going wrong…). Never cut at the widest part of the leg.

– This is a straight-forward hemming with bias binding procedure without finesse; you probably don’t need a tute at all, but if you’re a beginner and something’s not clear, just ask!

– To make denim bias binding for the keyhole, I used the leg cut offs.  I had to join two pieces to have sufficient length of binding for each keyhole.

– For the topstitching in the final step, I used tough upholstery thread and a new (sharp) leather needle.

– This would look charming with 3cm double-sided strips made of patterned lawn/poplin  or denim on the reverse.

Ok, here we go:

4cm denim bias binding made of cut offs

Step 1: make 1cm bias binding out of 4cm strips. Length required = length of keyhole plus 2cm, more if you can spare. One for each leg!

Draw a keyhole shape on bottom side seam.  Try on the jeans.  If the keyhole stretches too much, redraw.  Stich along line to staystich then cut close to the stitching line.

Step 2: Hem jeans to desired length *not shown, sorry * Draw a keyhole shape on bottom of side seam. Try on the jeans. If the keyhole stretches too wide once your jeans are on, redraw. Stich along line to staystich then cut close to the stitching line.

1 strips of leather or ribbon 3cm by 19cm approx

Step 3: Prepare strips or ribbons, 2 for each leg. These are leather: 3cm by 19cm each. Fabric strips can be shorter as the knots will be less thick.

1 pin leather with bias binding to keyhole

Step 4 a): Pin right side leather to right side garment. Pin bias binding to the wrong side, 1cm folded under

1 wrong side

Step 4 b); view on wrong side. Stitch along 1cm line. Before reaching opposite end of keyhole, arrange second leather strip right sides together as in Step 4 a) and fold bias strip under 1cm then stitch to end.

1 rightside, pinned for topstitching

Step 5: on right side, pin and topstitch the bias binding. Fold strips/ribbons back over the keyhole and topstitch. Use contrasting thread if you like.

1 leather ribbon capri embellishment detail

Finished: a bit rough-hewn but quick and effective.

I’ve another hardly worn pair of jeans – flares from Boden, in fact — that I’d like to restyle.  If you have any nice ideas, let me know!

Coat Progress

1 McCalls 5766 Half Done1 Front pleats and pattern matchingDuring the last couple of weeks, the shops have filled with light garments and accessories in the colours of bright skies, blue-tinged grass and lemon mousse.  In every palette is a reminder that Easter is on the way.

And here’s me sewing my woolly winter coat.  Oh well, it’ll be finished by next winter :-)

This is half of the sewing finished and most of the hard thinking over.  I wanted to show you pictures of the half-decent job I’ve done, in case it’s all doom and gloom later.

The bodice is interfaced throughout even though the instructions didn’t ask for it: very light fusible interfacing on the side bodice front and light calico at the back.  There’s a risk that this might make the finished garment a bit formal and stiff-looking.1 back view inside out

1 Trimming interfacing to slim down the seam allowances before catchstitchingAnother deviation from the instructions: I cut away the interfacing or calico from the seam allowances to reduce bulk then pressed the waist seam open (rather than up, as told) with a herringbone stitch locking the seams back.  So far all the seams have been finished like this using a grey silk thread which was a joy to discover – so light and never visible on right side of garment.  And I’ve developed a fetish for the herringbone, in fact: it’s rather good-looking for a hand stitch and I like going left to right for a change.1 Herrinbone stitch

Oh look, the roll line tape!  1 tape on roll line

I suspect it isn’t doing anything functional but it sounds good.

Remember how when I introduced you to this fabric and pattern (in Shrek), some of you wisely warned that I was heading for pattern-matching hell if I chose to go ahead with a check.  It did take a long time to decide, before cutting, where to position the squares and the lines in relation to the garment edges and stitching lines but to tell the truth, I enjoyed it in – much the same way I loved this 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle my kids got last Christmas :-)   1Check coats

The hardest decision was where to place pattern piece 1: the front bodice (with the lovely lapel) which was the first cut.  Horizontally there were options but the vertical placement was harder so while shopping, I looked at RTW coats and those worn in the street to see if there’s a convention as to where to place the vertical edges (typically button closure  fastening or zip).  If you look at the coats above, this line never seems to be on a box edge, but somewhere in the middle.  Only when I’m finished will I know if I did ok.1 McCalls 5766 Techncal Drawing

I’ve had to compromise in matching the pleats to the check design. I could make a match by folding in slightly more fabric on the front  but doing this to the back just never added up (you did warm…)  so I had to drop a pleat with now just two at the back instead of four (see techie drawing).  Let’s hope none one notices.

1 McCalls 5766 minus a back pleat

A tailor once told me that with wool being so expensive, if ever a cutting apprentice made a mistake and wasted any, he or she would be shamed and the cost would be deducted from the wages (is it any wonder they all want to work in graphic design and IT now!?).  Through a lack of concentration I did waste a couple of smaller bodice pieces which at £12 a meter I could laugh off but this better not happen when I come to cut the sleeves as the man from Bromley market has reached the end of his last bolt!  There’s plenty left of his other wools which are interesting but the colours are duller and more wintery, whereas mine looks like it loves the early spring sun.1 daffs

I might need a blouse in daffodil yellow next!

1 McCalls 5766 Finished Pocket

1 Marking checks on pattern piece

Shrek!

1 Zany McCalls 5766

Muslin McCalls 5766 back and frontI can explain….

1 McCalls 5766 Pattern EnvelopeThis isn’t some garish costume I made for one of the courtiers in “Shrek, the Musical”.  What I’ve done is used old children’s room curtains – originally dyed  to match cheerful IKEA Mammut furniture – to make a muslin for McCall’s 5766.  This is an out of print coat pattern I first  came across when Anelise made it.  Hers is a fantastic version in red fur, no less!  I needed a winter coat and after reading some good reviews on SPR, I bought the pattern second hand (but unused) through Ebay.  Mine is the combination AX5 (sizes 4-12) and I made size 12.  This has a finished size of 38″ (97cm) in the bust, exactly the same as my RTW coat that I wear all the time and which is size 10.

1t zero maria cornejo lab coatThe shape is very different from the coats that have been all the rage the last season or two – which I call the Manta Ray because they bulge out in the middle.  Lovely as they are, Rays do my short arse (pardon my Yorkshire!) no favours.  McCall’s 5766 follows the empire line which I’m not sure is any better, to be honest.  There are several questions I have before I proceed and I’d very much appreciate your thoughts.

I think we can all safely agree that the biggest problem is the sleeves.  1 McCalls 5766 Techncal DrawingView C is the only full length in the pattern.  Shortening them would help (they’re 4cm too long and possibly too wide).  But my initial verdict trying on the balloon shape?  Zany.  It’s a look that can be offset by wearing dainty high heels but I’d like to be able to wear this coat with flat boots without looking, er, medieval.  Though I like Views A and B, coats that need to be worn with long gloves don’t suit my lifestyle much.

Do you think it would be a cop-out to make just plain old straight sleeves?  I’m worried that it would make the coat plain.  Is there any other full length sleeve shape that you suggest?  And those shoulder pads are too big, aren’t they?

1 Instructions McCalls 5766The instructions were easy to follow.  I didn’t use any interfacing but as there was plenty of curtain, I made the whole coat, including attaching the lining, to remind myself of what to do.  Since starting this blog, I’ve done a couple of tailoring courses (one blogged here, the other was here) but I have never utilized the lessons learnt by making an actual tailored garment.  This coat project was picked with the aim of adding tailoring techniques to improve on a basic.  The add-ons will be:

a) A sleeve head (or sleeve roll?).  This is a folded strip of flannel or domette attached to the top of the sleeve seamline to smooth out the outside appearance at the top of the sleeve.

b) A strip of interfacing fused to the hem to sharpen that bottom edge.

1 Pinned Roll Line on Muslin McCalls 5766c) Taping the roll line.  This inside strip is stretched over the roll line with the effect of making the front of the garment subtly concave, thereby following the hollowed shape below the shoulder.  The roll line on this pattern isn’t marked but I’m following the instructions in this Tailoring guide (from Morplan) to determine and mark its position.  Basically, you pin the roll line, press it, then copy its position onto the pattern.

Anything else you’d suggest?

1 Tailoring By Apple Press, 2005 Creating Publishing InternationalAs you can see, the facing of the coat has rolled outwards (See the first picture?   The facing’s yellow).  I notice my RTW coat suffers from this too. It’s something I’ll have to prevent when it comes to doing the real thing in wool.  Do you have any tips for making the outside of the garment roll inwards?

Finally, I’m not happy with the lower half of the armscye.  I think it’s too big and cuts too deeply into the bodice.  Should I extend the bodice into the sleeve and make the underarm higher?

1 Sleeve C and Armscye McCalls 5766

1 Blogstalker fabric-sittingI’m also including a picture of the fabrics I intend to use.  Yup, it’s gonna be a plaid-matching nightmare which is all the more reason why I needed a muslin – to show where the lines would lie.

But do you think there’s enough fur here for such a big collar?

I’m kidding.

Thanks for reading!

Skin Traps

1 Embrace your inner evil

1 SleeveIn the last two weeks I’ve been busy with two projects, both picked on the spur of the moment and causing other plans to be put aside.  Both turned out to be epic fails.   The first –  a Renfrew hacked into a dress – I will go into on another occasion when I’ve dusted myself off the defeat and remade it.  The second is this self-drafted T-shirt with leather elements, initially inspired by this gem I found via Pinterest.  Of course, I had to experiment and make the design more complicated and that’s when things went wrong.  Twice (that is, in two places)!  But I’m glad I didn’t jettison the whole thing into the bin.

1 Wested Leather bundle of offcutsI don’t suppose you’ve ever wondered where Indiana Jones‘ brown leather jacket came from?  Well I’ll tell you anyway.  :-)  It was made by Wested Leather, a company and workshop near here, in Kent.  I bought online one of their £5 bundles of off-cuts.  I wasn’t sure what I’d get; I was told to expect a mixture of black and brown.  I ended up with this: the biggest piece being a half (front?) bodice in thick brown leather and the other pieces smaller and finer.

The industry that produces leather is a notorious pollutant and – being a hippyish type –  I take no pride in being mad for it.  But to me, there is no good-enough substitute: the shoes and boots that with wear adopt your shape; the feel, warmth and durability of a leather jacket or jeans.  The look of the grain; the softness of suede.  Most of all, I love how leather smells.  Is there anything more heady?  When I opened the package, my living room turned to nirvana and all the time I was working on this project, the cat (who stalks me) and I operated at a heightened level of exciement.    😯

1 Back viewFor the pattern I drafted a blouse from my block.  A bust dart provides shape and ease replaces the front waist dart.  The back has contour darts (the back looks a mess!)

I used my corner-pleat sleeve tutorial to draft the sleeves, then made another pattern with added style lines that would enable the insertion of some small leather pieces from the bundle.

But just as I thought I was done, I looked in the mirror and saw…. the love child of an American Football player and Darth Vader.  My shoulders were HUGE and not in a sexy Alexis Colby way either.  I sewed down some of the corners, thereby ruining the square geometry but just about getting away with a less conspicuous look: – the result you see here.

t 1 Floppus EpicusSewing the neckline caused more problems.  The needlecord and the leather wouldn’t fold under equally –  and it didn’t help that I could press the cloth but not the leather.  This is what the shirt looked like last week, when again I thought I was done.  Each photo accentuated the dog’s dinner of a neckline, with a pulling to the side.   I simply couldn’t take the risk of wearing it like this and having people say: “Did you make that yourself?” while wearing a disgusted expression.  But I couldn’t throw away, not after all that work.  Besides it still smelt good!  So I unpicked the neckline, exposing holes in the leather that would never heal. :roll:   I trimmed off some of the distortion (you may notice an unevenness in shoulder width) and made bias binding out of needlecord  as I didn’t have enough matching leather for the purpose.

1 sideIt was an adventure!

I’ll be wearing this next week to a gig, when one of my favourite bands rolls into town.  No one will see the imperfections – it’ll be too dark.  But boy, will those jutting shoulders smell good as I push through the crowd!