Finished Object: Demilitarized Jacket

Yes, finally. I try to take on projects I can finish in a few sittings, I always fear bigger projects won’t get done.

I made my long-suffering husband take a load of photos.  Funny, I’ve been trying to sell him on the idea of a corduroy jacket for a few weeks now, with tepid response.  We’re more or less the same size (except he’s a man and all…) so I let him slip into this jacket.  Immediately, he asked for one made to his specifications.  I can totally do that.  This jacket is solid without being heavy, and cord is really fun to tailor.  I literally wadded this up and stuffed it in a bag for button shopping, and it still looks great without pressing.

Metal and soapstone buttons.  I really like them, but I had to find some others for the epaulets and breast pockets which will co-ordinate.  I think I found some.

This is my favorite photo.  It captures the fun my husband and I have when working together on these photos.  We would have never discovered this particular creative outlet without blogging.

I keep my Beretta in that pocket.

If you enlarge and scroll to the hem, you can see how I fixed my issues.

Sucky epaulet button has to go but it works ok for now.  It’s fake metal, that’s all  I have against it.

This is the first serious jacket I’ve made that I’m actually proud of.  Jackets I’m not proud of-2; Jackets I’m proud of-1.  As sewists, we have a certain learning curve.  Sometimes I fear I wasted serious amounts of money on my learning curve.  I was bitching about this in class the other day and my students pointed out to me that the money I’ve wasted spent on past tailoring projects can just be put down to the cost of learning, much like a class fee.  I’m ok with that. I figure that the lessons I learn the hard way can be passed on to my students.  They can learn things the easy way at my expense so it’s all good.

That’s what I call free range of movement.  This jacket correlates to a heavy sweatshirt in terms of comfort, warmth and mobility- yet it’s infinitely more stylish.   So comfortable, I’m wearing it right now.

I made this jacket during the Pattern, Scissors, Cloth RTW Jacket Sewalong.  Thanks to Sherry, for once I’m not defeated by the process of making a jacket but empowered.  So empowered, I plan to make a masculine version of it.  Husband wants green cord with brass fittings.  I drafted his sloper and I’ll merge that with this pattern.  I’ll show you the rest soon.  Edit: Find his jacket blogged here.

Nearly Finished

(Handsewing the lining in the park.  Thoroughly enjoyable.)
Like Sherry, I sewed the wrong collar to my facings.  It happens.  I had the opportunity to try out a funny little gadget a student of mine gave me.  Thank you Kathryn!  I believe they are intended to tweeze eyebrows, but I noticed Kath using them to pull threads from her unpicking in class and I was transfixed.  
The next class, she brought me one of my very own!  This worked especially well because corduroy has a nap so it’s hard to rid the seam of the bits of thread without pulling on the nap.  To the fabric’s credit, it shed very little nap as I sewed and unpicked.
I couldn’t make the top collar fit properly on the facing because I already trimmed and notched that seam.  I decided to make it up as I went, since I’ve already made this jacket and many other collars before.  I’ll use Sherry’s technique on the next jacket I make, I can see how it would drastically reduce bulk.  This time, I sewed the collars together along the outer edges, leaving the neck free.
I couldn’t settle into my sewing, so I re-covered my ironing board.  I cut off a piece of fabric a little bigger than the board and tucked the raw edges under the old cover.  Then I pinned it in place.  It’s not a swish job, but it’s how I re-cover the boards at work which are used by hundreds of people a week and need frequent changing.  The bright colors make me grin like an idiot.
Stitched, trimmed, turned and pressed.  If you click on it, you can actually see the turn of cloth around the edges.
Then I slapped the collar in as quickly as possible.  Then I unpicked a few sections.  Then I re-sewed them.  Then I unpicked one more section.  Then I re-sewed that.  I figure if 80% of a tough seam is good, I’m not unpicking the whole thing. 
Lapels and fronts.  No problems.  Trimmed and turned.
I used to genuinely fear facing a bound buttonhole, but it’s not so bad now.  I pressed the facing aggressively, and the fabric obligingly outlined the buttonholes underneath.  No need for marking!  The Armoweft interfacing is a little messy, I had to make careful use of a press cloth as I blockfused, but here it became an asset as the front and the facing sort of fused together.
Best method I’ve used for facing these puppies: cut an X from corner to corner, turn the edges under, fell stitch.  Be- yoo- tiful.  I’m really proud of the results.
Invisible Lining Pocket, a la K.King.  I’ve wanted to use this ever since I stumbled across the technique in Cool Couture, his instructions are crystal clear with gorgeous results.  I tacked the bottom of the pocket to a seam and stayed the top corner.  I’m not sure why Google posted the full instructions….
I made a weeny sleeve head from some wool batting I had lying around and zig-zagged it to the sleeve seam allowance.  Up to this point, I had no thought of a shoulder pad.  I tried it with and without, and decided to forgo it this time.
Pleated sleeve head with padding.  I was on a roll so I kept going, I knew I’d need to hand-sew the lining for the sake of the invisible pocket.  I knew the sewalong and I had to part ways.
For the record, this is not the way to bag out sleeves.  Had it not been 10 o’clock at night I would not have done it that way.  I have a rule- 3 stupid mistakes and it’s time to put the work down.  I violated that rule and paid the price with my seam ripper.   I finally made the sleeves bag properly and set to work on the hem.  When I reached the front facing hem corner, I couldn’t make my lining meet the jacket.  I couldn’t make the back facing meet the top of the back lining, either.  I couldn’t think straight and struggled with it for some time before forcing myself to go to bed.  I tossed and turned all night, playing the problem over in my head.
After lunch, I got out the exterior front and lining patterns and laid them on top of each other.  Somehow I cut the bottom front lining piece just a little funny, like I forgot some of the seam allowance.  Note to future self- always double check by laying the lining pattern on top of the exterior.  I managed to play with the seam a little and it fit.  
Thread in one pocket, scissors in the other.

I really, really enjoy hand-sewing.  Especially on a breezy spring autumn day in the park, just a hint of freshness in the air with the sun playing hide-and-seek.  Plenty of natural light, and I got an approving nod from a little old lady sitting nearby.  She smiled at me and everything, so I know she wasn’t just nodding off in the pleasant atmosphere.  Lila took some photos, every one she took was decent but only two made the cut.

The pocket, another hidden one.  I’m ridiculously pleased with it.  Tanit-Isis, please note the piped facing with pocket.  Ahem.
Remember the out of control pockets?  I used a technique I saw on some military jackets from the era and tacked down the corners.  Problem solved.
I need to stitch a few more inches of lining, shank the buttons, and give the whole thing a thorough pressing/steaming/brushing.  I’ll probably get finished pictures tomorrow!  

By the way, when I do a photo-heavy post like this, does it take forever to load?  I’m never sure if photos are good or irritating because they slow down loading times.

Perfection Is a Bitch-Goddess

bitch goddess–nounworldly or material success personified as a goddess, esp. one requiring sacrifice and being essentially destructive:

Today she wore me out.  Sometimes a beginner student in one of my classes exhibits an acute level of perfectionism which I found curious at first.  Then I realized I take refuge in perfectionism when I feel out of my depth, and that realization made me a better teacher.

I teach cost-value analysis to the perfectionists, and to myself.  Does my perfectionism get in the way of enjoying my sewing, or will it lead to a greater sense of accomplishment in the end?  Am I running up a play dress for my daughter, or creating a lasting wardrobe piece?  How much does the fabric cost?   Will anyone notice the flaw, or am I too close to the project?

Today I bound raw edges, made darts and top-stitched them to cut down on pressing.

To make the back pleat, I referred to one of my ancient pattern making manuals.  I cut off the top of the back bodice 4″ down from the back neck edge and added a seam allowance to the cut for the yoke piece. For the pleated back section, I added 2″ to the edge placed on the fold (4″ added total) and a seam allowance to the top.  Once I cut the back section, I marked the pleats with clips and basted the CB together.

Pressed the pleat to one side…

…then the other.

I sprayed it with Best Press and aligned the center fold with the basted seam line, then pressed and clapped.

I pinned the folded edge of the inside pleat and stitched about 1/8″ from the edge.

I unpicked the basting and pressed again.


Then I stitched the outside edges of the pleat.  Enter the Bitch-Goddess.  I thought using the same saddle stitch used on the pockets might lend a little thematic harmony, but I’m not completely sold.  Then I kept unpicking a stitch here, stitch there, and re-stitching it until I realized I was making myself crazy.  Stop.

Basted across the top to keep the pleat closed.

I made the final back tucks and top-stitched but ignored my markings.  Completely unsurprising results: one tuck an inch shorter than the other.  The Bitch Goddess made me count the number of stitches necessary to lengthen the shorter tuck.  Then she made me re-sew half of the longer tuck to be more even.  I reminded her that a self-belt would cover most of the tuck and she slapped me.

Slapped me.  Well, that ended it, I stopped listening to her.  I’m happy to have made this much progress- now that I’ve finished most of the seams and sewn all the darts, made the pockets, I just have to assemble the jacket.  Wicked!

Four Shaped Patch Pockets- Madness Indeed

Tricky texture to photograph, the crepe side of the hemp-silk satin.  It reminds me of parchment.
Occasionally my pattern choices cause me to question my sanity.  A pair of patch pockets proves difficult to match precisely; four – !
The curves could bear extra twiddling and pressing.   I used a double row of saddle stitching with a fine, sharp needle.  The denim needle I thought to use left needle marks.
As a utility garment, I want the details to remain as crisp as possible through wear and humidity.  I know better than to hard-tailor a hemp jacket (unwearable results in the past), but I think a little light tailoring will increase the lifespan of my new sun jacket.  I cut a scrap of haircloth for the top of the pocket and fused it to the voile facing.
I trimmed a little from the bottom edge of the facing so the outside edges of the pocket would bend to the inside slightly.  My books call this “favoring.”
An unturned, favored edge will buckle when laid flat.  Pinking facilitates a smooth curve when turned and pressed- quicker than notching.
I feel snarky about the top left corner, but I know when I stitch and bartack it to the jacket I won’t notice it.  A third (or fourth?) line of top-stitching might be in order.
To interface the undercollar, I trimmed the seam allowances from the haircloth and fused.
For the facing, I used Kenneth King’s time-consuming method.  Which side of the facing do I want to show in the revers?  My first thought was to have the satin side facing out, so it slides over my clothes- would that look odd?

How to Alter a New Pattern Using an Old Favorite

The sun here hurts my skin.  After suffering through three summers, I decided to make a sun jacket from hemp silk.  I like to gamble, in this case I married an unknown garment with an unknown fabric.  I could have lost.  Like a good gambler, I hedged my bets by using a simple pattern.

 (Simplicity 4044, no fiddly bits)

I won big- I barely take it off.  The fabric wears well, the satin side slips deliciously over my skin and the outside wears tough with a pretty texture.  The hemp allows the slightest breeze to penetrate.   I suspect part of the jacket love comes from the fit, especially over my difficult lower back:

I thought to make another exactly like it, with a few tweaks to the front fit but that’s boring- especially with so many gorgeous jacket patterns available.  Besides, I want more details.

Instead, I’m working on Advance 2690, View A.  I knew I needed to alter the pattern and decided to use my 4044 as a reference.

This will be a dry technical post for pattern geeks. 

(left- 4044; right- 2690)

The Advance pattern has more pieces with a hip-length peplum and waist seam.  I started alterations on the back.   The back shoulder and armscythes were similar enough to allow me to focus solely on the lower back.

I drew a line straight out from the bottom of the armscythe across both pieces, then measured down from that to find the correct CB length.   Next, I compared the length of the side seams.  Finally, I measured the newly marked seam line on 2690 and compared it to the back waist measurement (shown by an orange line on 4044).

Sudden realization: 4044 was a modernized re-print with ease built in to the design.  2690 is pure WW2 with zero ease.  While the pattern sizing indicates a 28″ waist and I usually take a 28″, this jacket would not fit me without the help of a girdle.  I will wear them with pretty dresses, but I balk at daily wear.

I eliminated one of the back tucks to make both waist measurements match.  I found it handy to have a pattern on hand with the perfect amount of ease already, no guesswork.

Despite the differences in cut, once I pinned the peplum to 2960 and performed my alterations, the two patterns looked remarkably similar.  I added ease to the peplum piece, using the 4044 measurements as a guide.

The front worried me less.  I made a standard 1.5″ FBA.  FBA’s larger than an inch or so tend to distort the armscythe, I often find they bite ever so slightly into my front armpit.  I tried smoothing the armscythe slightly, I’ll use the pen line as my cutting line and hope for the best.

When I perform a FBA, I usually make a new side dart by simply bringing together the cut edges of the pattern.  On my 4044 jacket, I noticed the dart hung too low and seemed to distort the side seam.  This time I made sure to re-mark my bust apex and the side dart points right to it.

To decide the width of the dart, I folded it out until the front side seam matched the back side seam.  I compared the front waist width on 2960 with the front waist width on 4044 and added slightly to the side seam while reducing the width of the front tuck.  Likewise, I added width to the front peplum piece.

Pinning or taping tissue paper gives me hives (if I badly alter a tissue pattern, I can’t start over) but sewing together my polytrace patterns before I cut my fabric acts as a happy medium between a muslin or no muslin.

My halfie:

The pull in the back comes from the tuck, and will work fine in the finished jacket.  I’m happy with the fit but not the photography.  My usual photographer has gone away for 9 days on vacation on an ecological field assignment.  He spent the morning snorkeling here:

I must make do the best I can for photography until he returns.

Besides refining the FBA, I wanted to allow my arms freer range of movement in my new jacket.  4044 slightly restricts forward and downward reaching, occasionally annoying.   As the intrepid wife of a tropical explorer, I must be able to swing from vines, ride camels, climb pyramids and brandish my whip without shucking my outerwear.

(From John Peacock’s Men’s Fashion, The Complete Sourcebook)
(From an Ebay Cache, 1930’s wool)
A back yoke and pleat will add a dash of complexity to the pattern and allow easier whip brandishing.  I’d like to make a pointed yoke to echo the pocket shape on the front, but I may settle for a simple straight yoke.  Notice the left jacket in the top photo- I see this double pleat over and over in WW2 military jackets and rather like it.  When I make the militarized version of this jacket I may incorporate the double pleats.  
I plan to make a back belt feature for this jacket as I’ve always admired back belts on 30’s active wear.  I’ll bind most of the seams and top stitch the darts and pocket tops, it works very well on my other jacket to keep the lines smooth. 
In a sticky impetuous moment I chopped off my ponytail.   Bad idea- I could pin it up and forget it before.   Now I have to wash my hair more frequently and the heat turns my hair stringy.  Lesson learned, at least I can still make a victory roll.  No makeup either, the weather is completely unglamorous.

How to Use Unmarked/Unprinted/Perforated Patterns

I’m participating in the Vintage Sewalong 2011.  If you want to join, it’s not too late.  I like reading and copiously commenting.

A few days ago, a commenter in the sewalong raised qualms about working with unmarked vintage patterns.  I used to avoid them.  Not fear, “avoidance.”  I’d buy them and still avoid them, shoving my pretties into a special unmarked box.

Eventually the unique cuts and darling drawings on my unmarked patterns overcame my avoidance issues and I learned to work with these gems.

I want to make the paler blue jacket (in ivory hemp/silk) for sun protection.   My other sun jacket sees constant wear, I’d like to have another to rotate.

Most patterns have a key at the beginning of the instruction sheet.  This shows each pattern piece, along with its number (or letter), and an explanation of which part of the garment the piece represents.   Helpfully, this pattern also labels each pattern piece on the schematic drawing.  Additionally, it explains the pattern perforations.

The first piece I traced (I always trace):

I press crumpled tissue pieces with a warm, dry iron.  Steam will distort the paper.  In my experience, vintage tissue itself is less fragile than the instruction sheet or the pattern envelope.  I laid this piece with the “K” facing me and scratched my head because it doesn’t look like it belonged to the pattern.

(See, I got coffee on the traced pattern piece.)

I traced the piece with a regular pen and marked the dots.  Referring to the pattern instructions, I turned it the right way up and “connected the dots.”  This looks more like a workable pattern piece.  I re-traced with a dark marker to photograph.

Piece B, the upper front, riddled with holes because fronts need so many markings- darts, tucks, buttonholes, and in this case a roll line.

It has more and better markings than the usual printed jacket front pattern.

Weird little bits of paper, odd perforations.

Breast pocket, hip pocket, and collar pieces.  I labeled the collars according to my own habits.  Note the under collar: cut in two pieces on the bias.  Again, a first for me.  Usually I must convert the under collar to a two piece bias cut.  The dotted line marks the collar stand.

Before pinning and cutting, I like to cut out the holes in my pattern pieces in order to easily mark darts and tucks directly on the fabric.  I mark one side, upin, flip the fabric, and mark the other fabric piece.

When I traced the back piece, I also traced the neck curve and shoulder to make a back facing piece.  I won’t line this jacket so it needs a back facing.  Note the gently curving shoulder seam.

For imagination and detail, I can’t go past unmarked patterns- they’re often easier to sew than conventional printed patterns once you get past the yips.

Now to go chop up the pieces so they fit…

Finished Object: Zemelda Dress

Zemelda (no back story, I just put her on and that’s her name), from Advance 2599.  I want one of those hats.

Made of inheritance rayon (a stash that outlived the stasher), a long zipper and a little thread.  No lining in this one.

First, the pattern alterations:

Front Bodice piece, I laid the original paper pattern over my FBA-ed front to show the difference.  I did a 2″ FBA, to add a total of 4″ across the front.  When you do one of these pattern alterations, it creates a dart under the arm, where my dress didn’t have a dart.  I could have left it, but thought I should rotate out some of the fullness to the shoulder dart and the gathers.  If I make another dress from the pattern, I’ll leave the underarm dart and see what happens.

I also had to add 3/4″ to each side seam tapering to 1″ at the hips.  I didn’t add to the bodice side seams, figuring it would come out of the gathering.  I’d like to see how it looks if I actually add to the side seams on the bodice, too.

Why so much tweaking?  Why not go up a size?  The back.  A 32″ bust fits my back perfectly.  I’ve spent enough time playing with back pieces to know I’d rather not adjust a back/shoulders/neck area.

I really like the back.

Back kick pleat, hanging straight and smooth.  I under stitched the folds on the pleat, makes all the difference.

Pleat in action.  Shall we play guess the age of the rayon?  I think it might be from the late 60’s, early 70’s based on the design, but I’m not sure.  Any other guesses?

Lila took a few pictures of me.  Movement shot.  Also, I like these shoes but I think to wear them with this dress, I should wear dark stockings.  Something about them looks a little off, like the dirt farmer’s wife in her Sunday-go-meeting frock.

Another Lila shot.  Can you tell I was talking to my little girl when she went paparazzi on me?

About these pockets- I tried first the stripey fushia; my misgivings proved well-founded. I tried to make a belt the same color, it was hideous.

What to do?  I had barely enough of the fabric left to cut the squares for self-fabric pockets.  As happens, I cut one of them a little too small, so they all had to be cut smaller.  I tried everything else, I think I don’t have a choice but to go naked or use the slightly too small self-pockets.  Any ideas greatly appreciated.

The zippered front is so fun, and it’s really easy to dress.  Many, many of my old-pattern dresses must be wriggled into, nearly impossible when girdled up, and excessively difficult on hot mornings.  This difficulty necessitates Husbandly assistance- I can dress myself, but often it is easier if he helps.

I like the dress- it has great details like darted sleeve heads, the entire back of the dress and the pockets.  I want to make this in a soft stripey cotton, perhaps making the long sleeves and using the button placket.  This is a great basic dress pattern for those who love the early 40’s.

What do you think?  Can I add a long sleeved, tonal stripey cotton version of this dress to my Before New Years list?  Please?

The jerkin has some possibilities as a button-up-the-back shell.

Pattern Review

In other news, I wore my Model T out the other day; when I took it off I noticed these holes.  I didn’t notice them when I put the dress on, they’re towards the back hem.  Luckily, I wore my coat all evening because it was cold.  How embarrassing!  Where could the holes have come from?  It’s a puzzle and now I have yet another over-engineered house dress.

Dress Plan: Advance 2599

The pocket detail first attracted me; the back pleat and the back yoke sealed the deal.  The front closure looks something like a fly, and somehow I stumbled across a yard-long separating metal zipper to use.

Shoulder dart, darted sleeve cap.  I have exactly one dress with a shoulder dart and I love wearing it.  Sleeve head darts are unknown, I’m excited to try them.   The pockets are made by first facing two squares, then overlapping and sewing them together, then sewing the outside edge to the dress. 

The first and constant thing I love about sewing is calling forth an object from a rather useless pile of stuff- in this case some ancient “inheritance” rayon, a yellowing pattern, an odd zipper, a bit of quilting fabric and some thread.  In a few days these elements will come together as a well-made, interesting dress.  Amazing. 

I have some reservations about the patterned fabric, but only cutting will tell.  I’m not in love with it, and I didn’t spend any money, so if it makes a strange dress I don’t mind.  Does the fushia work for the pockets and/or the belt?  I’m afraid of losing the pocket detail in the patterned fabric, but maybe the fushia stands out a little too much?  What if I make the stripes run horizontally on one pocket piece, and vertically on the other?  Should the stripes run around my waist for the belt, or should I have vertical stripes?  Metal buckle or self-cover, and how wide?  I think I want to use a circular dark metal buckle on hand…

Nothing to do for it but get my hands in and see what happens.  Opinions, as always, most welcome.

That ubiquitous 30’s hat- where can I find a pattern like it?