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I am a mother, a new grandmother, and a teacher. But whatever happens in my life, I keep sewing. I have worked as a political communicator and now as a teacher in my formal life. I have also written extensively on sewing. I have been a frequent contributor and contributing editor of Threads magazine and the Australian magazine Dressmaking with Stitches. My first book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge will be published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazon


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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Sewing intensive

I have lots of disconnected sewing news to report, please bear with me.

First of all I am taking the French Jacket course at Patternreview with Angela Wolfe and really enjoying it. Angela's version is slightly less labour intensive than Susan Khalje's - the fabric pieces are serged and not left with 2" seam allowances that are trimmed, the muslin is turned into a paper pattern and not used as a pattern with the seam lines basted onto the fabric, and the sleeves are inserted by machine and not by hand - but otherwise have the same quilting and hand-stitching.

As far as I can make out most of the class is deep into muslin fitting so far - reinforcing that the biggest challenge for most sewers is fit. I have to say it has been a long time since I have put this kind of effort into fitting a muslin, when I have done it it's been more for other people than myself. 

The whole process has made me more aware than ever of the value of TNT basics. I can't imagine putting this level of work into every garment I made and you can be sure that this jacket pattern once perfected is going to be made a lot.

Here is what I started with, my usual flat pattern measurements to a pattern that already came with D cup sizing, square shoulder adjustment, 2" in length and extra at all seams because there is more weight on me than my shoulders:

Even still I have been fussing around doing this, to get the bodice fit right, taking in the upper back seam above the waist, letting it out over the butt, and taking in a total of 1" above my bust across my upper chest:

Basically I have sewn, resewn by increments, taken out previous stitching lines, pressed and fitted. My plan when this is all done is to cut along the final stitching lines, transfer this to paper and add seam allowances.

And I have even got to the sleeves yet which, judging by the class chat is where the real fitting challenges lie. 

A few fitting facts I have picked up at the class:

  • A princess seam that comes out of the armhole, as opposed to the shoulder, is easier to fit. Of course. That little peaking thing at the front armhole is a usual issue.
  • A lot of women have a too long shoulder seam, which droops of course, but also means the jacket pulls when you lift your arm. Apparently the thing you aim for is a jacket that doesn't lift when you raise your arm.
  • A too low armhole is the other thing that makes for a shifting-while-you-raise-your-arm jacket. A higher armhole is also a very good thing.
  • Patterns have too much sleeve cap height, trim some off if you want.
I have also been introduced to the very interesting idea of the 3 piece sleeve. This is made by cutting the sleeve straight down from the shoulder circle to the hem, parallel to the grainline, and of course adding seam allowances. You then add the vent to the bottom of this seam, removing it from the front to back sleeve seam. The idea is that this shows off the fancy vent detail on these Channel jackets, you know the ones with the trim and buttons.

The three piece sleeve of course also adds a great fitting place for those who need less or more sleeve/arm space but don't necessarily need a larger actual arm hole.

Here is what my three piece sleeve pattern looks like. Note that the seam is parallel to the grain line and not to the existing sleeve seams:

I will keep you posted on this jacket's progress.

I will be diverting myself a bit though on another necessary project.

In a week and a half I am going to Tennessee for a conjugal visit and also going to stop off to see my son in NYC on the way home. I have decided that my Costco dog walking coat and my black lint collector coat are not up to this trip.

I need a neat cool coat.

I have had Vogue 1128 for ages but haven't made it up because the pattern picture made it hard for me to really evaluate it. 

Then what do you know? The incomparable Erica Bunker has just made this coat up and it looks terrific of course.

So now I have my coat project. I have this wool in my collection and these weird but I like them crocheted buttons that I am going to use with giant snaps sewn underneath. I am not doing real large buttonholes in this fabric, not machine made, which would be a disaster and not bound because the weave is pretty loose, and I don't feel like it either.

I am now on the clock with this project but thanks to the New Hampshire primary the fabric is at least block fused now.

Of course being on the clock is a total contradiction to the speaker we had last night at the sewing guild, a fellow from the art college speaking about "Slow Sewing."

I of course am already pretty good at slow sewing but what he talked about was more mindful, sustainable sewing, built to last stuff with a lot of recycling. It was pretty interesting and here are some of my take-aways:

  • Garment production and maintenance consumes a larger environmental cost than any other industry in the world, after military production.
  • 25% of the world's pesticides and herbicides are used in the production of cotton.
  • Much of these toxic chemicals remains in the fabric. (This explains the organic cotton baby stuff - BTW I have also noticed that most of the organic cotton, eco cotton out there is made in the USA which for those who care, and I do, is a reason to buy local).
  • There is a theory, the name of which I forget of course, that says things want themselves to be made and that this energy finds people who get that done for them. This means us but it also means the garment is in charge. This theory is not that out there. I definitely know a whole pile of garments who had minds of their own and a totally different purpose than I had in mind. I have also great personal experience with garments who didn't want to be made at all.
Over all this talk was a lot different than say the one I am going to be giving next month on how to sew knits. I was going to talk more about stitch length and things like that.


Off I go now for a day of trying to work out PMB software with a couple of friends.


Bunny said...

Great post!

Interesting that the the concensus was and armhole princess seam is easier to fit. I have always found the opposite, at least for my bod. Your course sounds great. I did the "full Chanel" and the next one will be more along these lines. I want to work up a new muslin however for a different neckline design. Can't wait to see yours. Will we get a peak at the fabric?

LinB said...

I snagged the Vogue 1128 at a pattern sale last month. My big question, though, is "Why 3/4 length sleeves?" My forearms and wrists get cold in the winter, as well as my torso, neck and upper arms. When I make this, I WILL LENGTHEN THE SLEEVES.

shams said...


I have not seen a 3-pc sleeve before. It is also strange how 1128 is not full length, but they almost camouflage that fact in the pictures by having her arm so bent. I would not have noticed that the sleeves were short.

I think the jackets of most women's shoulders are too wide because the Big 4 pattern companies make them soooo wide. It's less of a problem in RTW. I am always narrowing the shoulders on my patterns by a lot - sometimes 2".

Your fabric for the coat is great! I hope you have a great time on your conjugal and parental visits!

gwensews said...

Thank you for showing the 3 piece sleeve. I'll keep that for future reference. Love the fabric you've chosen for your coat.

NuJoi said...

Thanks for the comparison between the two classes and the detail as you work through the jacket.

patsijean said...

It's good that you are making a wool coat for your visit to Tennessee as it is quite cold, snowy and icy right now. I look forward to seeing it.

Carolyn (cmarie12) said...

Thank goodness I'm in the sewing cave while I laugh out loud at my computer. That was my first thought. My second was, "ahhhh sweet justification" regarding your comment about TNT patterns. This was a great post!