Thursday, February 15, 2018

Next up -- Wedding #2

Here we go, another wedding! This time, my beautiful and uber talented daughter is marrying. The place -- Oakland, CA. The date -- April Fool's Day (which also turns out to be Easter this year).


My travel arrangements are all made, but my Father of the Bride wardrobe is sorely lacking. My daughter floated the idea of my wearing my whole Scottish kilt garb, but I think it's way too flashy. I think the bride should be the star of the show, not her crazy old man. Call me old fashioned, but I think a dark (dark-ish) suit is called for.



Enter "La Mer" from Sawyer Brook Fabrics, a heathered / striated 100% wool suiting from Italy. Wow! The quality of this fabric completely exceeds my expectations. I ordered it from a swatch and can't be happier. The yardage I received is flawless, and I absolutely love the color -- a dark teal blue. (Unfortunately my cheap point and shoot camera does a horrible job capturing the color). Sawyer Brook offers a swatch service, which I will most likely subscribe to. Their retail store is in central Massachusetts, about a 3 hour drive for me, and I can easily foresee a field trip in my future.



I prepped the fabric using the London Shrink method. I've done this many times, and it's a safe and reliable way to preshrink wool fabrics. Cotton sheeting is soaked in water and then well wrung out. It's sandwiched into the fold of the material.



Once everything is sandwiched, the fabric can be folded up and wrapped in plastic to set overnight. The moisture from the sheeting is absorbed into the wool to create a uniform dampness. The yardage is then air dried and ironed. This suiting required almost no ironing once it dried. There are benefits to working with high quality fabrics!



I have no access to menswear tailoring supplies here in Maine. Maybe you have the same issue? Fear not, B. Black and Sons to the rescue. They offer a "Jacket Packet" which contains everything you'll need. A pair of premade haircanvas jacket fronts, more than enough lining material (I think you could actually screw up a piece and have enough to recut another!). Sleeve lining, a huge piece of pocketing, collar felt, a strip of French canvas for the collar, shoulder pads and sleeve heads. (The buttons aren't so hot). This packet is my "go to" when a trip to NYC is out of the question.



I'll be using my old standby, this very beat up Bill Blass suit pattern from the early 80's. This is just a nice all around jacket pattern. No crazy lapels, typical menswear pockets, vented sleeves and double back vents. I've only made the trousers once, but they're also straight forward, classic.



I won't go into great detail. The jacket fronts are by far the most work. I use Roberto Cabrera's book on menswear tailoring as my guide. None of it is particularly hard, it just pays to be as accurate as possible, both in measuring as well as sewing. If I'm tired or "just not feeling it" I put everything aside. Things go so much better when I'm fresh, which is usually the next morning.


Another huge benefit is having the right thread to work with. Real cotton basting thread and a spool of silk thread that matches the fabric makes the work go so much faster, and with less aggravation. So much of tailoring is about control. All the basting is about taking control of the fabric and making it conform to the body.



Here are the completed fronts. From here I like to move to the sleeves. They're made fully lined, and there's a fair amount of fussy work around the vents. I HATE working with polyester lining material, so the sooner this part is over the better!


So far, so good. Be well, and enjoy your current sewing projects!


Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Wedding #1, the recap

I realize that I never really wrapped up the kilt project(s). It all got a little overwhelming. Rather than blab on and on about the whole endeavor, I think I'll just let the wedding photographer's blog post illustrate what an extraordinary event two amazing young people, and their loving families, created on a farm in Maine.


Having my son ask me to make a kilt (and the whole nine yards) was a huge honor. We're talking real once in a lifetime stuff. If there's anything my sewing journey has taught me, it's that there's value in the "realness" of the clothes that we create. Yes, there may be little mistakes here and there, something that could have turned out better, but in the end what we make is honest. And all those threads....not only the physical ones that are holding things together, but the emotional, spiritual, loving threads we spin, simply can't be had "off the rack".



Tartan fabric, Strathmore 11.5 oz, "Dress MacLeod". -- Irish Traditions, Annapolis, MD

Wool suiting and linings. -- AK Fabrics, NYC

Tuxedo satin and tailoring supplies. -- B Black and Sons

Pewter Prince Charlie buttons. -- Three Feathers Pewter , Millersburg, OH

Custom dress sporran. -- Artisans of Scotland

Kilt hose, Clan kilt pin and brooch. -- USA Kilts



One final twirl!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

The ?Couture? Jacket -- Wrap-up

Do you remember that I was considering making a "French Couture jacket"? It was ages ago. You've probably forgotten the whole thing. I armed myself with Claire Schaefer's book, cranberry wool tweed woven by my mom, bronze buttons and some foufy mohair trim. So what the hell happened.....where to begin?

The general consensus from you, my readers, was that the froufrou trim had to go. I'm just not Pharrell Williams enough to pull that look off. On me, it would be "ladies who lunch" gone WAY wrong. So I went back to the trim stores in NYC and settled on a burgundy faux suede with contrast edge stitching. Decidedly simpler but not flexible enough to conform to my pattern's curved collar and lower front edges. Rather than fight with the trim to make it curve, something it was NEVER going to do, I squared off the collar and jacket fronts. In sewing, as in life, you have to pick your battles.


Overall, the pattern was fairly easy to fit. I increased the width of the collar (there just wasn't enough room for the trim), shortened the body by about 4" and added extra curve to the upper back (the dowager's hump adjustment, ouch! Like that doesn't make me feel ancient). Then the real games began.


Straight up....if you're looking for the most complicated and time consuming way to construct a garment, this "Couture jacket" will be right up your alley. None of it is particularly difficult....cumbersome is the word that comes to mind. Here I'm cutting off all the pattern seam allowances to start.




Then the pattern shapes are thread traced onto the fabric. There is, of course, a very specific way in which this is done. Thankfully, Schaefer's book is well illustrated. The grain line, notches and any other marks are also marked with thread. Get ready to use a huge amount of cotton basting thread!



Each thread traced piece is on a rectangle of fabric. I swear, the real "luxury" of this construction method is the shear waste of precious fabric that ensues. The fabric gets handled extensively, so I ran all the cut edges through my serger to prevent raveling.


I'm not really sure what part this is, but the thread traced seamlines get lined up, basted together (harder to do accurately than one might think), and then sewn on the machine. I then chalk marked generous seam allowances and ran them through the serger to both finish them and cut them down to a manageable size. So much of my mom's handweaving went into the trash. Criminal.


This is about as far as I got sticking to Claire Schaefer's directions. I started to veer off on my own course... more tailored jacket, less floppy cardigan.



I'm sure Coco rolled over in her grave on this one. I interfaced my jacket fronts with a lightweight hair canvas. The "couture jacket" has just the tiniest strip of silk organza selvedge caught in the front edge openings. I also stabilized the shoulder seam with a semi-bias strip of lining material. That's a Roberto Cabrera thing.


Veering even further of course, I wanted welt pockets and bound buttonholes. Not the patch pockets and handworked buttonholes that are the hallmarks of the couture jacket. Oh, and that "Coco-ism". -- "No button without a buttonhole". Forget that!

I don't know about you, but I always like to practice the tricky bits before I launch into something that has the potential of ruining a project. So....


This is a mock up welt pocket that I made with left over scraps. I used Edna Bishop's method. She calls it a "regulation welt pocket". It's surprisingly simple and straightforward once you get up the nerve to start slashing your fabric! For this jacket, I needed to prove to myself that it was going to be possible, considering the bulk of the fabric. I tried to reduce bulk in every way possible.




As luck would have it, making the pocket was entirely possible. The welt is lined with silk charmeuse to reduce its thickness, and there's some serging that will never be visible to keep some seams flatter. So the welt pockets are a go.


I also made a trial bound buttonhole. The welt is the reverse side of my silk charmeuse beefed up with a scrap of Fashion Sewing Supply's Pro-weft Supreme fusible. Reassured that these features are indeed possible, it was full steam ahead.




A piece of silk organza was used as a reinforcement for the welt opening.



The pocket in process. I baste a lot! But it's always time well spent.


Here is the finished pocket (a success) , and the beginning of a MAJOR screw-up. Maybe you see it. I positioned the welt for the second buttonhole on the WRONG side of the jacket. I blissfully followed Laura Mae's fabulous bound buttonhole tutorial (here), marked, stitched, cut open and flipped everything to the....

WTF have I done moment!!!!

Once my blood pressure was back under control, I set about correcting the mess I'd made. I positioned a new welt piece onto the outside of the jacket (where it should have been in the first place) and restitched everything directly over my original stitching. I then very carefully cut the incorrect welt away as close to the stitching as I could get. With tweezers I was able to remove any remaining fibers. Disaster averted. The buttonhole may be a touch smaller than the rest, but I don't think anyone else would notice. Fortunately, there were no other screw ups.




Arcane construction becomes the norm. Mon Dieu! I quite honestly can't remember how I attached the sleeves, but somehow it happened.

But I've blabbed on long enough. If you've stayed with me this far, scroll down through more "in process" pics to see the final result.













I wore this outfit to host a rehearsal dinner for my son's wedding in October. By then, all the complexities and frustrations of constructing the jacket were a thing of the past, and I just enjoyed wearing it. It truly turned out to be exactly what I wanted. My idea, my execution. A way to honor my mom's artistry and craftsmanship. A little bit French inspired (without the "Ladies Who Lunch" vibe), a little military, a little tyrolian, tailored (but not overly), with a hard to describe sensation of wearing something truly special.


As always, I am so grateful for the support and inspiration I receive from the sewing community. I've sort of fallen off the blog bandwagon a bit, but I still have projects to share. Be well, and happy sewing!


Thursday, September 14, 2017

David's Bag

I had a good sized piece of faux fur left over from my backpack project of last year.


And....I heard a very loud "I want one!" from this guy.



This is my great friend David, the ultimate lumbersexual (if that's still a thing!). He lives in New York and he's always willing to tromp the garment district with me for hours on end, and then turn around and build a deck or shingle a dilapidated backyard shed. Trust me, there aren't many guys like that. I'm keeping him around!


In his day to day life he works for the company that provides services for the hearing impaired on Broadway. It's a very stressful job, and he looks forward to Monday nights when most of the shows "are dark". (Look, I'm learning some theatre lingo!) Every other day usually finds him frantically running from theatre to theatre, putting out fires just before the curtain goes up. Employees don't show up, equipment fails, bus loads of senior citizens arrive and overwhelm the service, Snarky patrons are out of control and need to be placated. Things rarely go smoothly. A warning to tourists in Times Square....don't get in his way, he'll run you over! This man needs a bag that can multitask as much as he does.


Plan. A messenger bag to hold his laptop, which can also become a large tote bag to schlep the various headsets and hand held devices between theatres.


David loves buffalo plaid anything, so I set out looking for some wool fabric that would play nicely with the gray faux fur. My online search eventually lead to Etsy and a piece of ombré Harris Tweed. I like to think of it as buffalo plaid with a twist.



I think any bag maker will tell you that an arsenal of different interfacings makes for better bags. There are so many available, from stiff plastic-y ones, to ones that are thick and cushioned.



This is my new favorite! Medium weight Pro-Weft Supreme from Fashion Sewing Supply. It's a soft brushed knit interfacing with some slight stretch in one direction. I used it to back all the Harris Tweed parts of David's bag. It's a dream to work with, and fuses at a lower setting than the interfacings I would use for a shirt. I save every little scrap of this stuff. It's that good! Since making this bag I've used it to interface welt pockets, bound buttonholes and pocket flaps.




I don't have very many progress pics of this bag. This is the recessed zipper opening for the top of the bag in process. It's a nice feature to have, especially when the stuff you're toting needs to be protected. I highly recommend this video Like so many things in sewing, what looks complicated really isn't. What I love about this video is that everything ends up finished in the end. No ragged edges anywhere. Your bag will be as beautiful inside, as out.



I lined the bag with quilting cottons from JoAnn's. There's a padded divider to hold David's laptop along the back of the bag. It has a zippererd pocket on the front side. Kyle, (my bag guru!) from Vacuuming the Lawn, shared a great tutorial on how do do this. So I'm passing it along. Again, what looks complicated really isn't.


There are three small pockets along the front of the bag. I used some rivets as reinforcement along the top edge, mostly because I just love setting them!



Here's the finished bag in "tote bag mode".



And here in "messenger bag mode".




The antique brass hardware for this project was from Buckle Guy and Emmaline Bags. Both, excellent sources.



We're all smiles with our fur bags! Have YOU made one yet?


Thursday, August 31, 2017

Not dead -- yet!

My brother called a couple of weeks ago, worried that I might be dead. Apparently my niece mentioned that I hadn't posted anything in ages, and she was a little concerned.


Contrary to opinion, I am alive!

What's been going on???

I've been sewing like a madman, and blogging about it has fallen to the bottom of my "to do" list. I'm finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, and will share my exploits soon.


In the meantime, here's a sample of what's gone down in my world.





Because the world needs more fur bags.



And speaking of fur....This arrived from Scotland.




To be augmented with some kilt bling.



Pewter buttons arrived from a small business in Ohio.




I plowed through some "quasi couture" construction. Mon dieu!




I've done lots of pad stitching and basting.




Even more pad stitching and basting!




Weeks of tailoring and fittings via FaceTime. Seriously!



Topped off by kilt #2.


Oh, and Agnes has come home to live in my driveway, refusing to get her feet wet!






I'm a little burned out and at the same time greatful for a life that years ago I never would have imagined. More about all these projects will be forthcoming at some point. Until then be well, and happy sewing.