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Plaid Pavot Jacket Part Two

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The plaid jacket is finished! And you cannot convince me that it is not the most beautiful jacket in existence. I am feeling ridiculously smug about this project, fair warning. It’s red! and plaid! and my obsessive compulsive heart is so happy that the plaid matches all over the place.

Plaid Pavot Lamp post

The pattern is the delightful Pavot Jacket from Deer and Doe, a small French pattern company. I was excited for a practical application for my French reading skills, but it turns out that sewing related terminology forms a tragic gap  in my French vocabulary. Fortunately, the instructions also come in English, though  I found them largely unnecessary. The construction is very straightforward, especially when compared to the concentration required to cut out the pattern so the plaids all match up.

Plaid Pavot Bridge

As for the design and fit of the pattern itself, the Pavot Jacket is practically perfect in every way (yes, even Mary Poppins endorses it). The jacket fit me well straight from the pattern, no adjustments. The jacket design is fitted without being binding; there is plenty of shoulder room; the pieces all ease together with no difficulty, and the design is flattering and feminine. My head is already mulling over all sorts of variations (collarless? winter weight? shorter? A DRESS?).

Plaid Pavot Shoulder

Do you see that sleeve cap? I usually hate any visible gathering at the shoulder, but it is subtle enough here that I don’t mind it. There were no real problems setting the sleeves in, but I am in no rush to ease sleeve caps made of canvas again anytime soon. I used three lines of basting when making the gathers, which gives you more control and I think makes all the difference.

Plaid Pavot Pocket

And there are well-placed, usefully spacious pockets! And did I mention the plaids matching? The plaids match on the side, and I didn’t even mean to do that. While I can abstractly recognize that I might be unreasonably excited about this development, sewing a side seam in which the bands of color suddenly all align is rather startling.

Plaid Pavot Back

This project is the first time I have used seam binding to finish the edges of my fabric, and I love it. Seam binding is a very lightweight ribbon material, about half an inch wide, which is folded over the raw edge of your fabric and stitched in place. Because it is so thin and flexible, it doesn’t add any bulk to the seam, and any edges that might fray are encased in the seam binding. The finish is so much cleaner and professional-looking than any finishing method I have used before, except for maybe french seams. There is a bit of a learning curve. I found the application tiresome and fussy at first, but once you get a feel for it, the seam binding goes on quickly.

Plaid Pavot Front

Still, this jacket was not without its challenges. Covered buttons were new to me, but they were really the only option here. How on earth would I find buttons that don’t clash with this fabric? The little button-covering kits are simple to use, but I had to resort to a hammer to get the back of the buttons to snap into place. Any sewing project that requires a hammer gets bonus points, right?

The greatest source of frustration here was the buttonholes, not the buttons themselves. The Babylock buttonhole function and I still aren’t seeing eye to eye (One-Step Buttonholes! cue the manic laughter). I dutifully pulled out the handbook, followed the directions precisely, and ended up with a massive, frightening knot of thread. Reread directions, repeat attempt, repeat results, etc. Through stubbornness and much trial and lots of error, I managed to turn out buttonholes by completely ignoring the directions. I’m not thrilled with the results, but they are serviceable. If you look closely at the picture below, you can see where I managed to rip the top of a buttonhole, which I then hand-stitched so it looks like an extra-large buttonhole. The fact that this mending made me start thinking I should just hand sew all my buttonholes suggests the full scope of my buttonhole frustrations.

Plaid Pavot Collar

I refuse to hand-sew all of my buttonholes from here on out. Back away from the crazy.

Many thanks to my parents for our picture-taking break during the visit to Frederick, MD. Have you ever been? It is definitely worth a visit. The morning was really much too cold and windy to be wearing a jacket this lightweight, but some excellent tea and my new jacket giddiness kept me warm. Don’t even talk to me about the six inches of snow that fell last night. Spring, where are you?

Plaid Pavot Jacket

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I don’t typically post about projects that are currently in-progress, but I am positively giddy about this one.

You might say that this particular sewing project began years ago when my mother started making these excellent bags out of IKEA fabric. I must confess that I do not own a store-bought bag/purse, unless you count my Trader Joe’s freezer bags. My mother spoils me terribly. You can see the bag she made me for Christmas below. It is adorable and practical and sturdy. Understandably, I fell in love with the orange and cream polka dots print, so I decided  this was it: this was the IKEA fabric for my coat.

IKEA fabric bag of wonder and glory

Of course, because the course of true love never did run smooth, when I got to IKEA in January, the store was entirely out of the orange and cream polka dot fabric except for the display sample hanging over the fabric area. After talking myself down from climbing on precarious shelving units to abscond with the sample (there wasn’t even a yard of fabric there, so reason prevailed), I looked around at the other options. The red, blue and green plaid that IKEA brought out at Christmas ultimately won out. Frankly, now that I have started piecing the coat together, I think it will see far more wear than an orange and cream coat ever would. I really do love red. The fabric is upholstery weight but still flexible and easy to sew.

Plaid Pavot in progress (back)

I have not really worked with a plaid before, and there is certainly a learning curve involved. Wisdom would have led me to read up on how to match plaids when cutting out patterns before beginning, so of course I didn’t. I did not realize until late in the process that because the plaid pattern is woven in the fabric instead of printed, the fabric is reversible. This is particularly important as this plaid is NOT symmetrical. I initially believed that I wouldn’t be able to get the two fronts, etc to mirror each other, but because the fabric is reversible, I could get a true match. I did end up cutting out some of the pattern pieces twice once I realized that the fabric was reversible. Now that I can see how nicely things align, I can’t believe I debated over it! I have been pleasantly surprised by some of the points where the plaids match without any additional effort or intent on my part.

Another post with the finished project will be soon to follow! And just in time, too, as the weather is warming up enough for a cheery Spring jacket.

Zinnia Skirt

In the last post, I mentioned working on a Zinnia skirt from Colette Patterns during that ridiculously cold streak. Sewing chiffon feels absurd when the thermometer hovers around zero. Now that the weather is evening out to more typical DC winter temperatures, I’ve been wearing the skirt with cozy sweaters. The finished product is comfy, and it looks adorable with both a heavy sweater or a tank top. I think we have a year-round skirt here (success!).

flower zinnia 5

Photo-taking credit goes to my helpful and notoriously modest roommate – the one with opposible thumbs

I got the pdf version of the Zinnia pattern, printed it out and pieced it together. Of the pdf patterns that I have assembled, this one was easy to put together accurately. The skirt pattern is nothing earth shattering, but it is well-designed and simple to work with. The pleats are intelligently placed, giving the skirt fullness without being too fluffy (fluffy skirts are highly objectionable). The pattern comes in two lengths: knee length and just below knee length. I made the knee length version,but next time I might shorten it further. The pattern calls for a button to close the waistband above the zipper, but I used a hook and eye instead.

flower zinnia 1

The pattern includes optional features like patch pockets or side seam pockets and belt loops. I forwent all of these in favor of maintaining my sanity when confronted with chiffon. The pattern directions walk you through working with a lining and adding pleats at the same time; the most important thing is treating the lining and the top layer as one piece of fabric throughout. This lovely camel chiffon with the little white and red flowers came from the PA Fabric Outlet trip. It is a very soft chiffon, and I knew it was destined for a skirt as soon as I saw it.

flower zinnia 3

I found the chiffon fussy to work with, but not particularly difficult to use. Chiffon simply requires patience. It is prone to slipping and stretching out of shape, but a careful approach while handling it prevents most of these problems. I didn’t treat the fabric with any stiffener before working with it. I  did trace the pattern pieces onto the fabric before cutting them out, which helped significantly. Once there is at least a double thickness of chiffon involved, my sewing machine had no problem working with it. But when there was only one thickness of chiffon, specifically when stay-stitching the waist edge, it slid all over the place. I didn’t worry about this much as that mess is hidden in the seam allowance.

I am very pleased with the skirt, which shouldn’t be surprising. By the time my projects make it to the blog, I tend to have worked out whatever may have been frustrating me along the way. I do have a few hibernating projects that I am not speaking to at the moment. They know what they did. There is another, mostly finished Zinnia skirt in the works, at least on baby sweater, and I suspect a coat pattern will be cut out very soon. This year I am chasing consistency and plan to make at least one blog post a month. Fingers crossed.

Dandelion Top

It is the coldest day in the DC area in nearly two decades, and I am sewing a chiffon Zinnia and the tank top from Simplicity 1664. I do like to plan ahead.

I am rather behind on blogging my sewing and knitting projects, in large part because I don’t have pictures for visual aids. There was a recent knitting mishap in which I knit most of a Driftwood Sweater for my Mother in very much the wrong size. The sweater has been frogged (so called because when you take apart knitting you “rip-it” out. Rip-it, ribbit, get it?), and the yarn and I are taking a break from each other. December also included a field trip to the PA Fabric Outlet in Lancaster PA. If you need any kind of fabric or trim or button or related paraphernalia, I cannot recommend PA Fabric Outlet more highly. The Lancaster location is an unassuming warehouse packed with high-quality, fantastically priced fabric. I was thrilled with the prices on their standard stock, until I found the $.99 bins and lost my head. Many a future sewing project on this blog will feature the spoils of this trip, I am sure.

In terms of actual, still unreported sewing, I have been playing with the  Dandelion Dress pattern designed by Mari at Disparate Disciplines. The dress pattern includes a shirt-length option.  I made the dress first and worked out some of the unique foibles of the pattern, but as I currently have  a few pictures of the top, I will start there.

Dandelion top 1

It was cold the day these pictures were taken too, but not this cold.

I used a medium gray suiting three-dollar-a-yard section at G Street Fabrics. These mystery fabrics are, of course, unlabeled, but the suiting fabric washes surprisingly well, has a moderate drape and a slight crosswise stretch. I used the same fabric when I made the dress for the first time, and it worked out well, if a trifle stiff for the pattern. I think this fabric works slightly better for the top than the dress.

The Dandelion Dress offers an unusual take on the traditional sheath dress pattern. Instead of perpendicularly stacked darts, the pattern pieces are all sweeping curves that piece together organically. It is a brilliant design, though the assembly is not for the impatient or faint of heart. The trickiest part of assembly is inserting the side/back pieces. They wrap around the dress and flow beautifully into each other, but the combination of the side seam that flows into a dart is not easy, even on the fourth time sewing it. My only advice is to pin like crazy. I do appreciate that the pattern pieces all line up very easily and hit exactly where they are supposed to from the very clear directions.

Dandelion top 5

The seam-into-dart thing I’m talking about

I cut a straight size 6 and it fits well without adjustment. I particularly appreciate the clean back fit that the unusual construction allows. The garment has an easy fit that moves with you, like you would expect more from a knit t-shirt than a woven tank top. There is some very minor gaping at the neck, which I will remedy the next time I make the top by taking out a half inch at the shoulder. I could fix it on this one, but it is so minor that it doesn’t bother me.

Dandelion Top 4

The pattern suggests finishing the neckline and the armholes with double sided bias tape, but I didn’t. I think the whole bias-tape-border look is rather goofy and homemade, and unforgivably, uncomfortable. Instead, I finished the armholes and neckline by machine sewing single-fold bias tape along the edge to be finished, pressing it under, and hand-stitching it in place with an invisible hem. It takes slightly longer, but the finish is professional and much more comfortable. I also hand-stitched an invisible  hem. I’m not exactly quick at invisible hems (my mother shakes her head at me when she sees me making one) but all the practice certainly helps.

I am huge fan of this pattern, and I have plans for at least one more top and a summery, printed cotton dress. I will be posting about the Dandelion Dress from the same fabric as soon as I have pictures. For now, I am very glad to be inside, wearing a ginormous sweater, and drinking hot beverages. Stay warm folks!

A Quadratic Cap of My Own

Hello again blog, it’s been ages! This is a quick knitting update to get me back into the blogging rhythm. Did you see it’s snowing on wordpress? I love December.

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After borrowing and coveting my father’s Quadratic Cap(s) all last winter, I formed vague plans to make my own (and to stop stealing my father’s, Sorry Dad). My winter coat is now a nice olive green instead of basic black, so my new hat needed to coordinate with the warmer color. Some of my old favorites in the hat department look a bit… odd against an olive coat. Bright magenta and olive green are not natural allies.

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I have a minor obsession with Berocco’s Ultra Alpaca yarn, not only because it is a cozy, well-balanced blend of wool and alpaca, but also because the colors are saturated and gorgeous. Many of the yarns are “mixes” or blends of a number of vibrantly colored fibers to create one richly colored yarn. The two colors I used for my hat were the Tiger’s Eye Mix and Lobster Mix, a caramel gold and a deep, muted purple respectively. I knit the pattern as written, and it is precisely as warm and cozy and complementary-colored as I had planned.

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Of course, now I need matching hand gear…

Sunny Summer Sundress: Simplicity 1606

Simplicity 1606 five

I will admit it; I might have a Simplicity pattern problem. For whatever reason, I tend to find Simplicity patterns more appealing than those from the other Big Four pattern companies (Butterick, McCall and Vogue). There is the added enticement that I have a pretty good idea of how a Simplicity pattern will fit me and what modifications might need to be made. But beyond even my general affection for Simplicity is my specific adoration of the “Amazing Fit” patterns. Amazing Fit patterns come with the standard “average” sized pattern pieces as well as “slim” and “curvy” options and cup-size specific pieces which make getting a proper fit much, much simpler. There are a number of complicated reasons for that, but the most important one is that “slim” and “curvy” pieces fit the same size frame (skeleton) as the “average” pieces while accommodating the various quirks of squishy human bodies. Could I get the same good fit from a standard “average” pattern? Certainly, but I am lazy and like it when other people do my math for me.

1606

I was immediately drawn to Simplicity 1606 when it came out this past Spring. I love the classic lines of the dress as well as the halter neck and lace overlay variations included. It is a multi-tasking pattern which would work for a breezy summer sundress AND fancy formal wear. I did not realize at first that the pattern calls for boning in the bodice, which I will admit made me a bit concerned. But let’s be honest – an exotic new garment construction technique that I know nothing about is exactly what I want. You learn by doing and what’s life without a bit of adventure?

simplicity 1606

Oh hush, garment construction is definitely an adventure

Just to clarify, as this blog post will shortly become rife with double entendres, boning refers to flexible, plastic reinforcements sewn into the linings of garments to provide structure. These structural supports were originally made from whalebone, or wood or similar materials for the purpose of changing the shape of the human form through corsets. The shape of corsets changed with the centuries and the fashions (and theories of health), but they were an important component in supporting some of the more massive skirts that have at times been in vogue. In the case of my sundress, the boning in the bodice holds the dress up; the neckties could be comfortably omitted.

simplicity 1606 back

As this sundress was something of an experiment with new construction techniques, I made it with free fabric – always a good idea for experiments. This dress started life as a twin bed sheet which appeared to have been used as a dropcloth at some point. Lucky for me, it was possible to cut around the occasional drop of blue paint. The old cotton is soft and thin from years of use, but the white floral pattern on a buttery yellow background is still charming. I couldn’t find the narrow boning called for in the pattern, which was problematic as the pattern pieces only allowed just enough room for the boning and this style dress needs a snug fit. The pattern suggests using 3/8 inch width boning, but I could only find 1/2 inch width. My potentially ill-advised solution? The boning I used is made with a flat plastic core surrounded by a fabric casing. I ended up taking the narrow plastic bit out of the fabric casing and just using that part. I was afraid it would be more prone to stabbing me in the side when worn, but this has yet to be a problem.

Simplicity 1606 three

The actual construction was very straightforward. There was very little fussy easing, the seams all matched, the neck ties were simple to attach, and the lining kept the bodice neat without any need to finish many seams. The trickiest part was sewing in the boning, but even that was simple. The bodice is lined and the boning goes in the lining seam allowances. The instructions have you sew the lining together just as you do the bodice, but then you sew your seam allowances together to make a pocket for the boning. You then cut the boning to the length of your seam, slip it in the pocket, sew along the end, and repeat for the next one. Since the boning comes packaged in a coil, it has a tendency to curl, so I just turned the curved piece in to mirror the body line. I am no expert, but it certainly seems to be working! I imagine this pattern would be easy to adjust for a wide variety of different sizes and shapes. The only adjustment I made was to take the dress in a bit at the top of the side seams to get a snug fit and keep the dress in place.

Simplicity 1606 one

The finished product is shockingly comfortable. I wore it all day at the office without any problems, though that did mean 10+ hours with minimal slouching. Huzzah for good posture! The neck ties are long enough without being too long. The skirt is unlined and my fabric is very thin, so I do need to wear a slip with this dress.

Would I make this dress again? In a heartbeat, but for the sundress version, I might try adding some elastic at the back instead of using boning to hold the dress up. While comfortable, the boning goes against the spirit of an easy, breezy summer sundress. The sleeveless version would be wearable year-round, so I may go that route next time.

For now, the next occupier of this space remains unclear. A busy school year looms ominously, but I’m hanging out in my sundress of sunshine and denial.

A Simpler Simplicity 2154

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DSCN3839

Back when I scored the gorgeous burgundy shot cotton that went into Mom’s birthday blouse, I also purchased the end of another bolt of shot cotton. (I may be bitter that Exquisite Fabrics moved from Georgetown to Culpepper, VA, but that moving sale is the gift that keeps on giving). This teal cotton only amounted to an uneven yard of 60 inch wide fabric, but it was so lovely that I held out for a project that could be a wardrobe staple. The burgundy shot cotton made up beautifully into a fairly structured blouse for Mom, so I knew I wanted to make something structured and tailored for myself.

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When I made Simplicity 2154 before I loved how it came out, though in my previous attempt I cut the pieces a size too big and wrestled unnecessarily with fitting. I cut out the correct size this time, and lo and behold, it fits without adjustment. (On the sensible and mature hand, I learned many useful altering skill by starting with the wrong pattern size. On the sane hand, UGH.) Arranging the pattern pieces to cut them out required creativity as the pattern calls for just over a yard of fabric and my piece was just under a yard. You can usually squeeze all the pieces into less fabric than is called for on the pattern packet, but these pattern pieces called for a lot of squeezing. The element of suspense just makes sewing more exciting, right? There wasn’t enough fabric to cut out the bias bow pattern piece, but this was more a happy accident than tragedy. The detail of the mustard blouse for which I bear the least affection is the actual, rather floppy, bow. Minus the bow but with the “knot,” the blouse looks more stream-lined and modern.

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This sleeker blouse also reprises my favorite feature of Simplicity 2154 – the zipper. Gasp! Did I say that my favorite part was the ZIPPER? Aren’t zippers the most obnoxious step in sewing a garment? Putting them in nicely is fussy and miserable, and they are installed near the end when you just want the project finished and wearable already. Placing the zipper as the best part of this pattern is a rather bold claim.

Now that is a gorgeous zipper if I do say so myself.

But I have my reasons. Prior to sewing my first Simplicity 2154, I had always installed zippers by following the instructions that come on your average Coats and Clark zipper package. For a standard zipper this meant either a centered or a lapped application, but in both cases the seam where the zipper would be installed was sewn shut and the zipper was stitched in place essentially blind. This is a perfectly reasonable way to sew in a zipper, but I always disliked not being able to see what I was doing. For the Simplicity 2154, I followed the sewing directions in the pattern to the letter (which may be more rare than I am willing to admit) and thereby discovered a completely different approach. The pattern indicates that the seam should not be sewn shut; rather, the seam allowances should be folded under and pressed, and the zipper sewn in place accordingly. For whatever reason, this approach makes much more sense to my brain, and it obviously gave sharp results.

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Also, the whole pull-tab at the bottom seam design is fantastic. I have an illustrious career of getting myself tangled in garments with side zippers. The bottom opening zipper, however, combined with the button opening at the back of the neck have thus far compensated for graceless dressing on my part.

I’ve been wearing this blouse like crazy at the office this summer. It is polished and professional but cool and comfortable, AND it is such a pretty, versatile color. This blouse makes dressing professionally for DC summer bearable.

This long holiday weekend (huzzah!) has meant a bit of time to blog and sew (and pretend I shouldn’t be studying instead). I am working out how to sew in the new apartment without losing my mind, disrupting the roommate, or accidentally killing her cat. I made the very grownup decision to purchase an actual, life-size ironing board. There is a proper, if pricey, fabric store a twelve minute drive from my new apartment. I am cautiously considering all of the above as positive developments.

Up next? There may be a sundress, sewn from a bed sheet, with boning in the bodice. Just saying.

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