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I am a mother, a 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 book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge was published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazon



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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Progress report Vogue 1128

You might want to book off tomorrow night.

If all goes well I will be posting pictures of my rendition of Vogue 1128.

I will be for ever grateful to Erica Bunker for testing the waters on this one.

Much to discuss. First of all if there was an Olympics for "Pattern photos that provide none of the information a sewer really needs" there would definitely be a gold medal for the folks at Vogue for this one as pretty as it is.

This coat has three really notable features:

1.  It is really wide. I am making a 14 and I'm not really. I wanted a coat I can layer to wear while traveling and if I am cold I can layer my spring coat, old winter coat, and bathrobe under this, and could probably also fit in my suitcase - although of course I will never get that through airport security. Oh the old days.

Hell I could even fit Mr. Rascal under there but he would never have the sense to be quiet.

I am perfectly fine with the wideness I should add. I am getting pretty fed up with slick looking coats that fit more or less like the notorious sloper.

I mean who needs a coat that you have to suck your stomach in when you wear it ?

A person wears coats when it is cold, grey, and you more or less wish you were somewhere where you didn't have to wear a coat. To my mind a winter coat has to be comforting, morale supporting, and reliable.

A winter coat has to be On Your Side.

I feel this coat is going to do that for me.

What's working up is what I would call a Dad's Coat. I think you know exactly what I mean.

2. It has really short sleeves, much disguised by the pose. I have to say 3/4 coat sleeves are a dumb idea. They might work with a outfit you would wear to a Royal Wedding, if your forearms are you best feature, but for the kind of weather you need a coat for they suck. I mean you can wear those long gloves, which I own because they were on sale, but those only really work if your garment underneath is sleeveless, well and I am not Kim Novak (please see previous post and pictures.)

And the sleeves of a work blouse and a cardi don't look the best as an alternative - hanging out at the end of a 3/4 sleeve, and only confirm for anyone left wondering that you are not Kim Novak.

All of this is to say I added 6" to the bottom of the sleeve pattern.

3. There is a tuck at the yoke and again at the hem on each side of the back which makes the back of the coat a little like a cocoon coat. 

Or it can make you look like you have the world's most giant bubble butt.

I have sort of pressed these into flatter tucks and we will see what I think of this in the light of day.

That would be tomorrow.

I have to say that despite all of this I love what I am seeing so far.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Pattern Master Boutique from Wild Ginger revisited

On Wednesday I took a day and spent it with two friends who have PMB version 5. Like me they bought it and like me thought that they now had a shortcut to fitting. Hasn't worked out quite that way. 

Of course owning expensive and powerful pattern design software does not remove a sewer's need for nearly every new pattern released - but the need for some TNT basics remains.

None of us have been perfectly happy with what we have been able to produce with this program. It all felt close enough however that we decided to explore the possibility of operator error and devote a day to measuring, sewing slopers, and critiquing each other. 

Only a sewer would appreciate how a day spent with three middle-aged women jumping in and out of trail garments and running around someone's basement in their underwear was a most excellent day.

What we all learned was this: another sewer is a much more accurate measurer than a husband who largely does what he has to do as fast as possible. So he can get back to whatever much more interesting activity he was engaged in before you interrupted him. You know like napping, looking at vintage motorcycles on eBay,  or standing in front of an open fridge door. Not hugely, world important, activities like trying to perfect a sloper pattern for a LBD despite the fact that your actual life doesn't require one except for funerals where, in this country at least, you are likely to attend with your coat left on anyway. 

OK. Where was I?

My sloper with pictures. 

I am going to alert Wild Ginger and see what I need to do to fix my problems, which are minor. Really with decent measuring help we all three found our products needed only minor tweeking, mainly I think because we all shortened our shoulder lengths.

Before you look these shots I can't help but give you a disclaimer.

We left the defaults on for our data inputer by mistake for all of us. She is 5'1" and I am 5'9". 

Therefore this is a mini skirt version. I don't want you to think I am actually delusional enough to wear my skirts this short, and I would have to raise my bust point too. Also the program can't see, so there are things like lowering the back darts for caboose accommodation that even I can see myself I need to do and we pinned out.

And finally this is a fitting garment - a sloper - and not a real dress pattern. I would be nuts to wear anything this form fitting and as revealing of my dumpy self.

I mean can you imagine wearing a dress made out of this? A person might as well forget getting taken out for anniversary dinners if she dressed like this. Forever.

This is why there is such a thing as Design Ease, the stuff that gets added to patterns along with that thing called style so you don't look like that aunt you told yourself when you were fifteen you would never end up dressing like when you were that old - you know really old like 45. 

OK my sloper:

A garment suitable for wiping down the tables after a church supper

A dress that Tells the Truth

The Truth with back darts lowered

Don't scare the children Babs.
 Note mysterious need to move shoulder seams back as marked. Also little looseness in centre front. We tried to tell ourselves this could be eased in. I hope so because having a single centre front dart will be uncool even in the kitchen in the church basement.

What do you think?

I will let you know what the experts at Wild Ginger advise, but to tell you the truth this is pretty good progress, and the conversation during our fitting day, largely off topic, was fabulous.

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.