Tuesday, 3 March 2015

A Bit of Winter Sparkle

Hello there! I'm behind with my blogging and have several things to show you guys, so expect a flurry of posts in the next few weeks. To start - I made a coat! As usual there's a bit of a story behind it. I bought this coat about 10 years ago:

It's by a brand called Libertine, who at the time specialised in customizing high end vintage clothes with graphics. It was hugely expensive, but I managed to get a massive discount, and proceeded to wear it to death as it was SO WARM!!!! There were no labels inside - naughty Libertiner-s took them out and replaced them with their own - but I assume it was a cashmere or cashmere mix. It's also hard to determine the era of the coat without the labels; looking at the construction techniques, it could be from any era between the late 60's to the 80's. 

The coat appears simple, but there is some interesting sleeve. armhole, and yoke construction:

Back armhole and sleeve detail
Besides the name on the back, there's also some symbols on the sleeve cuffs:

But as you can probably see in the photos, the coat has seen better days - it's threadbare all over the place, some of the buttonholes are frayed, and I won't show you the lining because it's disgracefully worn out. But I've hung on to it for years because it was an investment and I can't bear to part with it, even though it's pretty unwearable. So I've kept it's memory going by remaking it. Here's the pattern which I made through a combination of measuring and tracing - it looks weird:

The pattern - that's the sleeve on the top right

I was considering taking the coat apart and using the pieces as my pattern, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it - am I the only one sentimental about clothes this way?

I used a sparkly wool that I picked up last summer on a flying visit to Abakhan's in Manchester:

It has a sort of boucle texture with random bits of silver sprinkled throughout. And it frays like crazy when you work with it, so pinking shears were used for most seams. 

And here it is:

I have been wearing this constantly since I made it - it's so warm and comfortable! I didn't quite manage to transfer all of the fullness of the original to my version, but I think it still retains the shape of the original. I lost the front button band - never liked that bit - and added that to the front section. I also made it a good 5 "/12.5 cm approx off the length.

I totally forgot to take any construction photos as I went along, but I used iron-on hair canvas for the interfacing on the front, yoke, and collar. Because I'm a bit 'belt and braces' in general, I trimmed away the seam allowances of all the interfacing pieces to reduce bulk in the seams, and then herringbone stitched the interfacing to the coat pieces. I also placed 3" bias strips in the hem for weight and 'crispness'. Then I turned up the coat hem, and herringbone stitched it to the interfacing before inserting the lining. 

The coat goes together pretty quickly - it's just a series of rectangles, no tricky round sleeves, etc. The only tricky bit is the junction of the sleeve seams under the arm. It took a couple of goes, but I got there in the end!:

Hard to see, but this is what the seams look like under the arms
I was considering interlining the coat for warmth, but then decided it didn't need it. Instead, I used a heavy-ish satin that I found in  local shop in Dalston for a bargain £3 per metre. I don't think it's meant for lining (it seems to have some stretch in it) but I don't care because I like it!

I cut the lining using the same pattern pieces, but with the facings and collar accounted for. It was put together on the machine, but then applied to the coat by hand:

Where the lining meets the coat - you can see my little hand stitches

Where the lining meets the centre back facing, with a pleat for ease of movement.
I topstitched around the centre front collar and yoke, just like the original. I also avoided button holes by using big black press studs:

Top stitching and press stud detail

I made the cuffs a bit deeper than the original:

I think that's everything! As I said earlier, I've worn this coat constantly in this cold weather, and it's kept me warm and toasty. You can throw it on with anything, jeans and a t-shirt or something fancier. I'm actually going to miss wearing it once it gets warm!

See you soon!

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Minerva Bloggers Network - Red Vinyl Valentine

For this months Minerva bloggers project, I've been hanging out with these ladies:

Simplicity 8412, from 1969 - I think the condition would be described as 'well loved'.

I made the coat in this pattern once before in the 90's. That time I used a black plastic-y snake effect PVC. I remember it wasn't totally successful, probably because the fabric was too flimsy for the style. I think I turned it into a shorter zip up jacket, then who knows where it ended up!. At least I don't have it any longer.

And did I learn my lesson about unsuitable fabric? Of course not!I found myself being drawn to shiny plastic yet again, this time in the form of red PVC from Minerva. This is much heavier, a more suitable coat weight. In fact, it reminds me of the stuff you see on outdoor cafe tables - sturdy and weatherproof!

And is it shiny! Here it is in full effect, gleaming in the night:

I'd never sewn with this sort of material before and realised through a number of test swatches (and mistakes)that there are several things you can't do:

  • no pinning - it leaves holes
  • no ironing, unless you want a sticky mess
  • no mistakes that involve unpicking - again, holes, etc
  • you can't ease in larger pieces to smaller pieces - this fabric just doesn't like it, making sleeve heads a pain! But you can stretch a smaller piece to fit a larger piece, to some extent.
One of the many holding techniques I used! Sellotape was also employed.

This fabric tests all of your fabric handling powers. It was a bit like sewing a big, thick, unruly plastic bag, or a tyre inner tube. It sticks to itself when you don't want it to, and sticks to the presser foot. I found out too late that a walking foot was needed for this project, but as my machine is old and no equivalent is made today, it's hard to find the right one. Instead, I employed a low-tech solution for top stitching - tissue paper:

I laid it on top of the seam, sewed through all the layers, then tore it away. And I used a lot of tissue for this coat because there was a lot of top stitching. As is the way with old patterns, there's little in the way of advice on seam finishes. The nature of the fabric is such that seams don't lie naturally flat. Ironing is out of the question, so I trimmed one side of the seam away on the wrong side, folded the other side over flat, and stitched through all the layers, using a top stitching thread.

I also stitched down the darts at the back neck and on the sleeve:

Close up of neck darts
Other than the hem, I didn't finish the seams at all because the fabric doesn't fray one bit!

Inside of the coat - no overlocking, pinking, zig zagging, etc, because there was just no need

I did finish the hem with some lovely satin bias tape for no other reason than it looked nice.

Coat hem
Because the coat is essentially a big plastic bag and therefore was going to be a bit - ahem - sweaty, lining was out of the question. For added 'ventilation', I made a sort of cotton dress shield (kids, ask your grannies...) from some scraps:

I attached this with the sleeve seam to the inside of the body of the coat, then applied 2 eyelets through all layers under each arm:

Eyelets inside...
...and on the outside
With no ironing allowed, that meant no interfacing. But I wanted to add some body and weight to the collar and front facings. Solution: a layer of lining inside the front facings, neck facings, and collar:

Inside the front facing
For the moment, I haven't used any closures because basically I can't decide what to use. Until I do, the belt will suffice:

I really, REALLY wanted to get some photos of the coat in the rain, but it's been pretty dry here in London recently. But for the sake of research, I found a way to test it's properties and can confirm they are up to standard:

And it was a complete fluke that this coincided with Valentines!

See you soon!

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Minerva Bloggers Network - a Hacked Burda 122

Hello! Hope everyone had a good Christmas and New Year. Personally, I'm kinda glad it's over and now I have time to get on with stuff I really want to do, like sewing! And for my first project of 2015, I decided to try something new, namely a Burda PDF download. I won't make you read through to the end to find out how whether I enjoyed it or not - I didn't.

This is the object of my frustration:

Modell 122 Burda Style 09/2014
That flouncey insert on the front looks really odd to me, but I liked the idea of it and so I decided to move it to the back. I'd done this before for my December Minerva project, which I was really happy with. With that in mind I thought this dress would be a walk in the park construction-wise:

My Christmas tartan skirt

But I started to get a bad feeling when it took a whole afternoon to cut out and adjust the pattern:

SOOO MANY PIECES! And why no seam allowances??!!??

Now this isn't my first experience with PDF patterns, but this is the most complicated and involved item I've worked on. I used the adjustments which had worked well on the skirt, namely lengthening the skirt section, and swapping the flounce to the back. Because the bodice was an unusual cut, I made a partial muslin of the top half to make sure it fit. Glad I did - I ended up adding about 1/2 " to one set of seams over the bust.

Then it was off to cut my fabric, which was a lovely black and gold houndstooth Bengaline from Minerva

I've never worked with this fabric before, but I liked how it's quite firm yet stretchy. The stretch was on the length of grain only, which means you have to be careful not to stretch seams that run vertically. It also needs quite a firm iron if you want seams to stay open flat. But the fabric was not the reason this project drove me crazy.

Here's how it came out:

(That's not my house by the way. It's the 100 Club, where we went the other night to see a friend's band play, and it seemed an ideal setting for blog photos)

The part that drove me crazy was the junction of seams from the lining and dress under the arms:

I lost track of how many times I unpicked and re-did this section. And forget about looking to the instructions for any help - 'minimal' is a generous description of the scant half side of paper which were labelled 'instuctions'. 

After loads of clipping and ironing and trimming, I eventually got this section to lay flat. I suppose I can't lay all the blame on Burda - this dress used a method of costruction I've rarely used, where you attach the lining to the dress at the neck and arms before sewing the side and back seams. Then you pull it all through to the back, and sew the side seams of the lining and dress all in one go. Most of my experience is with old patterns, using old fashioned facings around the arms and neck. I got in such a tangle with it all I actually had to walk away from it on several occasions.

But lets not dwell on the negative! Here are some other details:

 The curved seams at the front and back  are really well placed for any adjustments you may need to make. The dress is overall very figure hugging, so definitely check your measurements against the pattern if you do make it.

The flounce at the back works well with the rigidity of the fabric:

Apologies for the creases...

And finally, I finished the hem with bias binding made from the lining and stitched it directly to the body of the dress:

Hem details
 I can appreciate the popularity of using downloads for price - I think this one was under £4.00 - and I'm sure many sewists out there have succumbed to the immediacy of purchasing them with just the click of a button. But is all the extra work worth it? I've had great experiences with other PDF's, such as Capital Chic where there was obvious care and attention in the presentation and instructions. But this one left me annoyed, to the point where I can't help but remember this process whenever I wear this dress.

That's me not thinking of PDF's
And there you have it - see you soon!