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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, March 24, 2012

Conceptualizing the Chanel jacket

Half way through now I think I am feeling this jacket.

I like the silk charmeuse lining on my skin - I also realize that some leftover Adele top rayon knit would make a comfortable shell to wear with it - Zebra to zebra.

I like the lack of interfacing and serious stuff - let's face it a little hand sewing is easier on the brain than tailoring.

However I am thinking about why I am doing what I am doing.

The whole principle is to laminate the lining to the outer fabric and just turn in the garment edges and cover them with trim. That's really all this project is about - what you aren't doing as much as what you are doing.

It's sort of minimalist sewing if you squint at it.

The fussy part is the leaving enough unlaminated around the seamlines so you can actually sew the thing together and then of course cover this up with lining. Negotiating that requires stopping your quilting lines short, tying off the threads and then handsewing the free lining edges down at the seams.

I wonder if it wouldn't be easier to just quilt the yardage, which would be the easiest way to get all the quilting lines on grain, cut out the units from the then "double sided" fabric.

Stitch her up and then just hand sew cover the seams with bias lining strips, which you could run through the bias tape maker as a time saver.

Of course you would have to do something with the hems and edges, I will ponder this while I walk the dog.

What do you think?

Would this be more efficient? Take more time?

Or not?

Lamination complete

I have added this photo to horrify you and to reassure you that I am doing this project in a casual sort of way.

The Chanel/project/muslin/jacket/ better-be-as-comfortable-as-a-sweater is now onto step three.

I basted all the lining pieces to the body pieces and yesterday I quilted them all up. As you can see from the above I didn't do a sterling job but it was a job. My traveling machine with the broken take-up lever came back still broken from the shop, they don't make that part anymore, although my husband had a happy time with the Epoxy last night.

So I did my quilting with my small Janome I keep with me for doing buttonholes with my vintage buttonhole attachment:

It does a wonderful job with the buttonholer, but is a bit small for quilting and I don't have a walking foot with it.

The quilting is done from the right side and since my fabric is black it was hard to see how well I was spacing my quilting lines, although I did get them on grain, which was my priority. So the quilting job looks more like art work than quilting work if you get my drift.

I really could have used a quilting bar, but since I allocated only one afternoon of my life for this job off I went. Remind me not to wear it to the Sewing Guild where they are for sure going to open me up the minute they see my jacket and then go all silent while they inspect my stitches.

I was pretty skeptical of whole process but when I got up this morning and pressed all pieces I was totally amazed to see how well the stitches embedded - you can't really tell at all from the right side that there is stitching. 

What do you know.

Here is what I learned:

1. With all difference to Claire Shaeffer I am not going to bother with the basting next time. I basted all Thursday and took out the basting all Friday. This is not A Good Use of my Time. I will just use a million pins next time and take them out as I go.

2. Trying to find the grainline (all the quilting lines need to be on grain) in black fabric is the pits. If I do this again I am definitely going to use a fabric with a real dominant thread I can follow. This is sort of a herringbone semi-boucle and not ideal.

3. In my online class the stitching was done on the right side of the fabric, which makes sense because the garment pieces are cut to size and the lining is cut bigger, and of course you have to stop the stitching about 2" from the edges so you can get in there and sew the seams. Next time I will do the first row from the right side following the grain and then flip it over and use this one line of stitching as a guide, use a quilting bar, and work from the lining side so I can see what I am doing.

4. I was nervous about doing all this quilting on fabric of dubious loft so I did my quilting 2" apart, next time I would be braver and do them 1" apart for more secure lamination although this will be fine once the seams and everything are sewn in.

5. I didn't have a walking foot and I know just enough about quilting to know that if you stitch all the lines in one direction you will get warp so I stitched up one line and down the other, I stitched across the bottom from one row to the other, turning it, ( see lovely illustration of inaccurate sewing above) which also reduced the number of threads I had to tie off. (Apparently you never back stitch in couture, makes sense when your stitches are going to show on the right side).

6. The deal when all this is done is that you take any thread ends and pull them through between the layers and tie off. To save my mind I pulled on one thread from the right side until the bobbin loop showed, grabbed this (both threads were now on the right side) threaded them both through a needle and the pulled and knotted them between layers.

Next of course I will stitch up some structural seams and see how this looks.

Seems awfully light to me so far for a jacket, and I remain skeptical. I am not sure if I am culturally (as a random person) all that suited to this kind of sewing (the precise kind) but we will see.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Chanel sort of

I can't thank you all enough for the comments to my last post. 

This has helped me decide what to do next.

Since my main travel machine is now in the shop (freak accident, my shirt caught and broke the take-up lever) a little hand-sewing is in the cards.

I am definitely going to order that Stylearc Coco jacket when I have a fixed address. In the meantime decided to jump in with my current version of a pattern (a Simplicity jacket that was so big that I took days taking it in and adjusting it and I do not recommend it) and my new approach to classic Chanel technique:

Do it in sort of a relaxed Babs way, and if it works out it works out and if it doesn't it doesn't.

Since this is my general life philosophy I am comfortable with this approach to this project.

Sometimes when I take a sewing class with other sewers I am amazed at how precise they are, how exact they measure, how careful . Now I am not totally reckless but I think I have more a feel for sewing than a precision in what I do.

There are a couple of things about the Chanel project that appeal to me:

1. No interfacing and heavy construction like sleeve heads. I like light clothes that don't get in my way.
2. Simple design lines. Princess seams and only patch pockets. No tricky lapels or welts that require Thought.
3. No separate and then attached lining. Sometimes this is a pain, I feel like I am making two garments.

What I don't think I will like:

1. All that slow hand sewing.

My intention is therefore to try to breeze through it. Pre-apologies to wonderful, brilliant sewists like Bunny who are so excellent in their hand stitching, and to anyone else who knows how to make one of these jackets properly.

OK. Here we go:

Step one: cut it out using the muslin which I cut apart at the basting lines, eliminating any seam allowances which I had to chalk in. Added 5/8" (yes I know) and 2" hem. Used the sleeve (which I converted to 3 piece- see earlier post) patterns as is as they were OK more or less. Paid attention to grain. If this works out I will make up a brown paper pattern piece with the seam allowances added in for the future (don't hold your breath):

The back looks weird I know. I added a bit to centre back at the bottom for butt coverage but hope it is not as exaggerated as this.

I then pinned the cut fabric pieces wrong sides together to the lining, single layer, and rough cut around each piece because the intended quilting should pull it up some. I will trim the lining down to match once the quilting is done.

Next I flipped the unit over and did sort of relaxed messy basting. Having the pins on the other side was a good idea as it meant my basting thread didn't get caught in the pins. If you do this use a long needle for basting to speed things up. I also used a cotton thread to baste so it would be easier to break if my basting stitches get caught, as they will, in my quilting stitching lines:

I did get only two pieces basted up yesterday. Then I had to go and finish the cherry pie before my husband came home and wanted to eat it.

So far to good.

You have to break this up and having HBO as I do in the hotel room is helpful. I can't imagine basting all these pieces up all day, day after day.

The way I see it this is a bit like teaching a course.

Every course I teach is 24 lectures. 

Now if you thought on day one about 24 full classes of having to think of interesting things to say you would just go home and lie with a cold cloth on your head and maybe read magazines. However, and I know this from experience, if you pretend to yourself that you only have to be intelligent and interesting of 1.5 hours (one class) you can do it. And before you know it you are marking the final papers and telling yourself it wasn't that hard after all.

Basting is just like that.

May do the sleeves today.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Where to from here?

I got up this morning and thought I have to decide what to do next. Here, in addition to some work work and student references, are the possibilities:

  1. I cut out Stylearc's Jane overshirt yesterday. I am thinking of the short sleeve version as sort of a camp shirt for the summer as it is dartless, has a yoke, and I like a cotton shirt that doesn't stick to my ribs, not that my ribs are all that easy to find these days. My all time favourite shirt, now 22 years old and still worn this week, is a camp shirt I can't give up because the print is funny. Can't find any snappy prints locally but have some dots that will do. This will be an easy project and a test run of another Stylearc and the last one I brought with me.
  2. Do a bunch of Pattern reviews. I am way behind in this and need to share some things.
  3. Make another House Bra or two. Have the fabric, have the Koolaid to dye some elastic. Of course would wear these immediately.
What's not on this list?

The elephant in the room, or more specifically the bag in the closet.

My Chanel jacket.

The universe has been reminding me that I have committed to do this.

Erica Bunker posted that Chanel video to her blog.

Stylearc released a new Chanel jacket pattern called the Coco jacket, which looks to me like a pretty easy to sew almost jean jacket with trim.

And I am ready to go with a Chanel jacket.

I took the excellent French Jacket course on Pattern Review in January, which I thoroughly enjoyed even if I only got as far as a decent muslin. I have enough fabric and lining for two nice jackets. I have enough trim and chain collected to sink a battleship. 

I would really, really like to have a jacket for the next school year that was as comfortable as everyone says it is.

So what's stopping me?

All my sewing friends who say things like 80 hours of hand-sewing and never again. The seriousness of the whole project, the pressure to do it right, like this is sort of the Phd. of sewing and the Chanel jacket is your dissertation defense.

Now I quite like hand-sewing. It is compatible with TV watching and husband listening, although I have never done it for 80 hours straight. I am capable of doing serious sewing. I am sure I am.

But why am I not jumping out of bed to do it?

Have I turned into some kind of Hawaiian shirt wearing slacker? Have I turned into someone who eats cherry pie in the middle of the afternoon while sitting on an exercise ball? Have I lost my capacity for sewing endurance? 

Would I thank myself when it is done? Is this the best way to spend my last two weeks in a hotel room with a fox terrier? Is this the only thing to do in a hotel room with a fox terrier? Would I ever do it otherwise?

Should I say to hell with it and order the Stylearc pattern and whip that up without quilting the lining when I get home?

Should I do a bit everyday and post about it in the hope you all can drag me through it?

What would you do if you were me?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Old town Knoxville Tennessee and Style Arc's Annie's Cami

We had a beautiful walk today and really enjoyed the old part of Knoxville.

Later I called on my walking partners, the one who can hold a camera in particular, to take a picture of my fitting muslin of Annie's Cami.

My first version was not so successful, partly I am sure to my own attempts to move the centre part of the neckline in a bit to accommodate my scrawny neckline.

As you can see Edition one (despite my huge success with my Sacha shirt) had darts that were too low and trouble fitting over my enormous bustline (?). Too bad because I was quite pleased with the neckline binding which I did exactly like the knit binding described earlier in my post about the Adele top.

BTW I have a real trick for making your neckline binding lie nice and non ripply around the neck, and pull it in just the right little bit so it won't ever gape.

OK, here is the hint:

1. Cut the binding on the bias. Natch.
2. Take it to the ironing board and pull on it hard while you iron, stretching the whole piece as much as you can, which removes the stretch and actually narrows the binding a far bit too.
3. Then fold the binding in half, wrong sides together, and press.
4. Pin and stitch to the wrong side of the neckline.
5. Flip to the right side and topstitch along the folded edge, close to the edge.

Here is what it looks like in an otherwise failure top:

Finished binding wrong side

Finished binding right side

And here are the fitting issues:

Shocking bust dart accentuated by pink House Bra, which might explain why I am totally off centre.

Too harassed to deal with the hair, after all I am sewing in a hotel room with the ironing board in the bathroom. See the tightness over the pink House Bra. Neckline and shoulder great, so I Did Not Give Up.

Next version done in crappo polyester, little bit of cotton, gingham from Jo-Ann's. FBA added, dart lowered, great neckline still there.

Peta pants cut down into shorts, knees brought to you by 58 years, wind, stiff fabric and photographer issues (why does he keep taking shots that make my stomach look big? I want to know) making this look more like a maternity top than it should.

You many not be, but I am really happy with this top now, although I note again that Style Arc makes long shirts when they call it a tunic, I added my usual 2" and will take it off next time.

I now consider myself to have a good TNT shell, a very useful, never to go out of style unit. Although I will be making future versions in:

1. Good quality fabric
2. Fabric that drapes, silk? Soft linen.

Worth the trouble don't you think?