Tuesday, November 23, 2010

First ever bound buttonhole

Check it out: my first ever bound buttonhole!  (Above it is the button I've selected, a large-ish leather knot that I think goes along with the trench-coat vibe of the Lady Grey coat.)

As I mentioned in my last post, I had been planning to do bound buttonholes on my coat, but I didn't realize that I needed to do them before basting in the hair canvas.  So my compromise will be to do a bound buttonhole on the right side, which will show when the coat is buttoned, and a plain buttonhole on the left side, which will be hidden.

I've contemplated bound buttonholes before, and I've read a few tutorials, but I've always been daunted, especially by the step where you sew over the tiny triangles to attach the the "lips" of the buttonhole.  They just look so tiny!

So I was pleased to find that the whole process was easier than I had feared.  The organza backing really makes it easy to control the fabric, and sewing over the triangles is really no sweat.

The main thing I want to improve for my next buttonhole is the marking/alignment.  If you look carefully, I think this one is just a tiny bit caty-wompus, and I know I wasn't super-careful when I marked it.  Next time, I think I'll mark the true grain carefully on the fabric before I start, to give me a reference-point when I mark the actual buttonhole.

But for a first effort, I think, it's not too shabby!

My new-found romance with tailoring

This weekend I made my first attempt at tailoring, and I'm in love!  Gertie's tutorials are freakin amazing, and I know I wouldn't have had the confidence to undertake a project like this without them.

So here's what I did: after pre-shrinking my wool in the drier and cutting my pieces, I finished the edges of the bodice pieces on my serger.  I'm lining both the bodice front and the side with hair canvas, as Gertie suggested.  But since my particular hair canvas is very stiff, I decided to cut all my interfacing pieces on the bias to soften them and give them more drape.  (I got this idea from Couture Sewing).

I assembled the coat front as Gertie describes: first, I basted the hair canvas to the side front, then sewed the front princess seam and trimmed away the excess hair canvas from the seam allowance.  I'm planning to use a double-topstitch, so I pressed the seam open but didn't do any of the catch-stitching that Gertie mentions.  Then, I added the interfacing to the front piece.  I taped the roll line, then basted the front interfacing in place below the line.  I haven't tried the pad-stitching yet, but that's what comes next in the process.

I expected the hand-stitching to be much more tedious than it was.  It actually went pretty quickly, and the results look totally bad-ass!  While I can't say anything about the finished product yet, I'm totally geeking out on the process, and thoroughly enjoying myself.  I see lots more tailored jackets in my future!

Unfortunatly, I realized this morning that I should have done my bound buttonhole first, since now that entire area is covered in hair canvas.  Oops!  Since it's the left side, which won't show when the coat is buttoned, I've decided to leave it as-is and do a regular buttonhole.  But for the right side, which will show, I definitely want a bound buttonhole.  So I guess that's what I'll be tackling next!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Lady Grey fitting and cutting

Contrary to my initial expectations, I had a sewing-tastical weekend.  I skipped out on my marathon training on Saturday and sewed for most of the day, while the Mr. and his classmates de-bugged the software they're developing.  Then, on Sunday, I sewed all afternoon and into the evening.  So I was able to make a ton of progress on my Lady Grey coat.

After my recent experiences trying to tweak the fit of the low-back dress, I've resolved to make muslins until all--and I mean all--of the fitting issues in a garment have been addressed.  So, I made a second muslin of my Lady Grey to check my alterations to the coat front.  Since I was happy with the sleeves on my first version, I omitted them this time.  I made sure to add the collar so I could mark the roll lines.

I'm happy with how the lapels lie, so that alteration was successful.  (Don't forget, if you make a similar alteration, that you need to alter the front facing and lining pieces to match!)  For this muslin, I also removed 1 in. from the lower edge at every seam except the center back, and I like the amount of volume this leaves.

This muslin did have one weird fit issue, which I suspect was an indirect consequence of shortening the lapel: there was too much fullness in the princess seam above the bust, which created a weird pooch/second boob.  Not the best look.  Here it is with the fullness pinned out.

I marked the new princess line with chalk on the inside, took my pieces apart, trued the lines,  re-sewed and checked the fit.  The result wasn't perfect, but my muslin has a very stiff hand and doesn't ease gracefully, so I decided not to worry about it.  Sure enough, that seam is great on the actual coat.  But I'm getting ahead of myself...

Next, I marked the roll lines using a sharpie.  (Actually, the Mr. did it.  This is one of those operations where the Heisenberg principle of fitting applies: if you turn to see the roll line, you'll change it.  So best to enlist assistance.)  It was neat how clearly you could see these lines form in the muslin, even though it's so much lighter-weight than the actual coating I'll be using.

Based on Gertie's suggestion, I decided to use my muslin pieces as the pattern to cut and mark my coat fabric, so once I was happy with the fit, I took the muslin apart, pressed each piece flat, and transferred all the markings to the pieces with a sharpie.

Here are my completed pieces.  According to Claire Shaeffer's book Couture Sewing, this is called a "toile."  (Anyone know how to pronounce this?  Does it rhyme with "foil," or with "fall"?)  Apparently, this is how patterns are made in the couture houses.  I don't think it took any more effort than transferring my markings back to the paper pattern would have.  And the muslin pattern pieces were definitely easier to pin and cut.

By last night I had everything cut, and I had a chance to start the tailoring, which I'll write about in my next post.  But so far, I'm in love!  And I can't say enough about Gertie's excellent tutorials!  But more on that soon.

What did you do this weekend?

I worked on my Lady Grey coat.  More to follow in a longer post, but for now, feast your eyes on this!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Provisioning for Lady Grey

While I work on the low-back dress, I'm also getting my Lady Grey coat project ready to go.  So far, I've traced the key pattern pieces and made my first muslin:

Between the lighting and the fabric, it's difficult to tell what's going on in this picture, but over all I'm pretty pleased with the fit.

(If you're curious, that's an upholstery fabric printed with binary code that we picked up at the Herman Miller outlet in Zeeland, MI.  I picked it because it was a heavier weight, but I'll use regular muslin for my next test garment, on which I will want to mark the roll lines for the collar, as Gertie describes here.)

I cut a straight 6, which is a bit snug, but I'm still loosing weight, so I wanted to account for that in the sizing.  It buttons now, albeit without much ease, so I can wear it as soon as it's finished, and the fit should become more graceful over the next few months.

There's only one fitting alteration I'm planning to make: shortening the front of the coat, which was too long and bloused away from my body.  (Gertie also describes making this alteration by taking a wedge-shaped section out of the bodice front and tapering to nothing at the front princess seam.)

I'm also planning to remove about 12 in. total from the lower edge at the side- and princess-seamlines.  The pattern is very full at the hemline, and I think that I can tone it down a bit without straying too far from the original style of the coat.  I also think that a little less fullness at the hip will flatter my shape better, and be more versatile overall.

In the meantime, I've also been gathering my materials.  I ordered this wool tweed (on sale!) from Denver Fabrics/Fashion Fabrics Club/whatever they're calling themselves these days.  It arrived last week, and it's exactly what I wanted.

This will be my first tailoring project, so I'll need some new supplies.  (You can see Gertie's supply list here.)  I was surprised to find silk thread and weft interfacing at my local JoAnn's (not even the superstore!), and I also bought a few yards of cotton flannel to interline the coat for warmth.  At our last sewing meet-up, Melody accepted the remaining 2 yards of my binary fabric in trade for a nice-sized piece of hair canvas, so I didn't need to buy any, which was awesome.  I'm also viewing this project as an excuse opportunity to finally buy a pair of pinking shears, but I definitely need to wait till I have another 40% off coupon for that.  And as you know, I now have an excellent set of pressing hams.

I'm planning to start on this project in earnest as soon as I finish the low-back dress, which is nearly complete.  Here's hoping I'll have my second muslin finished and my fabric pre-shrunk before the thanksgiving madness begins next week!

Monday, November 8, 2010

For my glamorous alter-ego

 Okay, I'm not even supposed to be blogging right now, but I can't resist sharing this with you.  The only thing I want more than this dress (by independent designer Milka Quin, for sale in her Etsy shop) would be an opportunity to wear it!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A welcome addition to my sewing kit

These are pressing hams.  (If you're not familiar with them, pressing hams are used for pressing curved areas like sleeves.  They're stuffed very firmly, so you can fit the ham into the curve, and then press against it.)  They belonged to a good family friend, who passed them on to my mom years ago.  My mom is a master quilter, but doesn't do much apparel sewing, and in preparation for the Lady Grey coat project, she passed them on to me!

A while back, the selfish seamstress discussed the merits of adding pressing hams to her minimalist collection of sewing tools.  Like her, I've been making do with a rolled-up towel for a while now.  But there's a lot of steaming and pressing involved in the Lady Grey project, and I know having the right tools will make that process easier, and perhaps yield better results.  Plus, when you consider that these hams were free, willingly offered, and have sentimental value, it was a no-brainer!

I love the geekery of old-school sewing tools like these--in fact, the Mr. and I share a geeky love of tools of all sorts.  I'm excited to add these hams to our collection.