Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Excuses, Excuses... and a Denim Jacket

Dear Blogger, it's been a long time. I've been busy, and I have a lot of really good reasons for ignoring my blog. Yes, really good reasons. First, my sewing room was a mess and I couldn't take photos until I cleaned it. Then I never really learned to use my new camera. Then my sewing room was too dark for photos. Yep, all my excuses revolve around photos. My goal sometime this year is to find and/or set up a spot in my house where it's convenient to take pictures. In the meantime, let me introduce my latest creation with the best photos I can get under the circumstances.

Here is my new denim jacket, tossed on my sewing room floor:

Four years ago I sewed the Islander Jacket Express. The pattern was drafted well, the instructions were thorough, and the Craftsy class was well worth the money. My jacket turned out well, but I never wear it. It isn't quite "me". The collar is too big, the edges are too round and the fit is too boxy. I decided to use the pattern as a starting point for a more traditional-looking denim jacket. And I'm calling this white jacket an overwhelming success.

Pattern changes:
Narrower, pointed collar
Narrower cuffs with square corners
Reshaped upper pockets and flaps
Narrower sleeves with higher sleeve cap
Removed excess length and width from front
Lengthened jacket and added band at bottom edge
Placed buttons closer together

The fit isn't perfect, but it's loose enough through the back and shoulders that I can move my arms freely and it's fitted enough in front that I'm not swimming in it. The fabric is bull denim from JoAnn Fabrics. It's firm enough to hold the shape of the jacket but soft enough to sew through easily and wear comfortably. I don't usually praise fabric from JoAnns, but this denim was perfect for my jacket! 

A close-up shot of my pointy details (so much more "me" than the round collar and pockets):

I've got a second jacket in the works because I wanted to perfect the fit. It's a different fabric and a whole new set of adventure. More details later... unless I remember all the excuses.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Vogue 9099, The Couture Blazer

I should really call this the Very Imperfect Semi-Couture Blazer.
I was so excited when I bought this pattern. The last time I did any tailoring was in 1984 when I spent the summer working on my 4H project with MUCH help from my mom. I've been wanting a nice blazer for years, but I'm too picky about fit to buy one.

I wasn't intimidated by the pattern. I can sew at an advanced level when I want to and I'm not afraid to try anything. But OH the hand work involved! It wasn't hard, but SO time consuming. I think I watched at least 2 seasons of Gilmore Girls on Netflix while I made this blazer.

Before Christmas (and before the Gilmore Girls marathon) I made a muslin, which was a good thing because I totally slashed across the back to add shape and length, I recut the front with a small bust adjustment, and I tried out two different sizes of sleeves. (Turns out I'm a 14 in the shoulders, waist and hips, and a 10 in the arms. Who knew?) I also narrowed the shoulders, which I have never had to do before, and changed the roll line so I could add a 3rd, higher button at the front.

At first I was stumped by the SBA and how the shoulder dart would work with that. I suppose I could have looked up how to do it but that would take all the fun out of the project, right? Here's what I ended up doing:

This isn't meant to be a tutorial but I thought it might be helpful to someone in the same situation. Picture #3 shows what the altered pattern piece looked like. #4 is to show the effect of the alteration. I can't say how this would work for someone else, but it was a life-changing revelation for me and I love the fit of the new pattern piece. (And I probably should mention that I had to change the position of the upper pocket, aligning the grain of the pocket welt with the new grainline of the upper chest.)

Besides the fitting, here's what I learned from this project:

1. Hand sewing is not the enemy. Hand basting can be a wonderful thing, and hand stitching in general can be kind of relaxing. That said, I'll skip as much of the hand stitching as possible the next time I make this pattern.

2. I wouldn't use this pocket flap pattern again. I thought the pockets looked wrong on the pattern envelope and I couldn't quite figure it out. I think the problem is that the flaps are rectangles, folded right sides together and stitched up the sides. I tried to make the underneath half of the rectangles smaller, but in the end the flaps didn't want to curve around the body, even after heavy steaming over a pressing ham, and the sides are stiffer than the bottom edges. Next time I'll cut separate flaps and linings and probably round the corners a bit.

3. Hand buttonholes? I didn't even try. My machine makes fairly presentable keyhole buttonholes and I'm sure they look better than anything I could attempt by hand.

4. Next time I'll move the roll line back down and get rid of that top button. I thought it worked better with my shape but after seeing picture I'm not so sure. But then, it's not like I'll really wear it buttoned up...  Also, I chose not to lengthen the pattern for my long torso and I should have. Next time for sure.

5. In the Vogue patterns I've used the sleeve cap seems to be too high with too much ease. Next time I'll see if I can flatten it a little and eliminate most or all of the ease. 

After months of working on this project, I can safely say I don't feel the need to put this much effort into an item of clothing for a very long time.

Yes, I realize the pocket welts are wrong side out. No, I didn't realize it until after they were sewn on, slashed and turned. I'm just going to say I like the contrast and call it a happy accident, because that's what we do when we sew, right?

Friday, July 24, 2015

A-Frame Skirt

Well, it's been a while!  I've been sewing but not blogging. My quest for a great pair of jeans has caused me a lot of frustration but that's a topic for another post.

In the meantime, some new changes in my life mean I'll be needing a few more skirts. On Wednesday I saw the A-Frame Skirt pattern by Blueprints for Sewing on Pinterest. (Pinned by Indiesew.com - thankyouverymuch!) I've recently decided to do my part in supporting indie pattern designers by buying their patterns so I quickly checked this one out. Not only does the pattern include the really cute pencil skirt that I can't wait to make, but there is also an a-line version for softer, drapier (drapey-er? is this even a word?) fabrics. I just happened to have a few yards of rayon challis sitting in my sewing room waiting to be turned into something... but I couldn't figure out what. Within 30 minutes of seeing that pin, I'd bought the pattern, printed the PDF, and was busy taping it together on my cutting table. I had the skirt cut out and started by that evening.

On Thursday I finished the skirt, today (Friday) I took the pictures (still trying to figure out my new camera and the remote viewfinder on my phone), and here it is! I made a straight size E since this skirt isn't fitted and I think it fits pretty well. Next time I'll make the waistband a little smaller. Also, the center front piece is cut on the bias which hangs really nice and gives it a little stretch across the font, but I feel like the weight of this fabric pulls the piece down a lot and therefore makes it narrower across the belly than it should be. (That's an issue with my fabric and my body, not with the pattern!) It's not even an issue except for when I put my hands in the pockets and it pulls a little across the front. Next time I might try cutting the center front on the straight grain and see what happens.

Oh yes, this skirt has pockets! Not that this fabric will hold anything heavier than a lens cap, but it's nice to have a place to put your hands when you don't know what else to do with them.

I can't wait to make the pencil-skirt version of this pattern!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Sewing Jeans, the Second Pair

Second pair of wearable jeans, check!  These ones are my version of skinny jeans, which means close-fitting but not super tight.  They fit pretty much the way I want right out of the dryer, but after a few hours of wear they stretch out about 10% in width through the hips and thighs.  So, do I make my pattern smaller but risk not being able to get them on, do I live with the extra bagginess, or do I use a different fabric?  The next pair will have some spandex in them so I'll see how that works.  I still have a list of fitting changes to make to the pattern but I feel like each pair should keep getting better.  This has been really fun so far and I can't wait to have a whole new jeans wardrobe!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Sewing Jeans, part 3 - The Finished Product

Yay, the jeans are done!  I sewed the back in part 1, the front in part 2, and now it's time to put it all together.

For the most part this was really easy.  I basted the inseam together, all the way from one ankle to the other, with a long machine stitch.  The thigh area is longer in the front than in the back so I had to stretch the back A LOT.  (Which tested my patience A LOT, but I think the results were worth it.)  I then basted the side seams together with the chain stitch on my cover stitch machine.  I have to say that's a huge time saver when I know I'm going to remove a basting stitch - as long as I can find the right thread to pull the whole seam disappears in a couple seconds!  I tried the jeans on to make sure the fit was good enough, and yes it was!

I whipped out those chain stitches in the side seams, sewed, serged and topstitched the inseam (and left the basting stitches in place), sewed and serged the sideseams, and wow, they look like jeans!

The waistband was a little more time consuming.  I followed the suggestion in Kenneth King's Jean-ius class on Craftsy and cut a straight waistband then steamed it into a curved shape.  It's probably a great idea for someone with a fairly straight waist but I have a lot of curve between my waist and hip so I need a lot of curve in a shaped waistband.  Next time I'll try a contoured waistband so I can compare the results.

Otherwise the waistband went on quickly, except that I somehow made a little mistake on the front edge and forgot to compare the two waistband edges before topstitching, and they are absolutely not the same size.  To make things worse, my sewing machine completely refused to make a buttonhole between all those thick seam allowances.  I finally just cut it, zigzagged around it the best I could, added a few hand stitches, and called it a day.  I know when I'm beat.

I really like the "boyfriend" fit of these jeans when they're rolled up.  Not so much when they're not rolled up.  Then they just look big and sloppy.  But that's ok, these will be great spring and summer jeans. I've learned some things about how jeans fit my body and I'm already halfway into a slimmer fitting pattern. Regardless of style, these are the best fitting jeans I've ever owned and I'm really looking forward to making some more.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Sewing Jeans, part 2

I finished the back of the jeans in part 1.  Now it's on to the front!

The front has lots of pieces.  So many that it's hard to come up with the right names for all of them (since I'm drafting my own pattern and don't have the luxury of pre-named pieces).  Besides the two large front pieces, here's what we have:

Fly facing
Fly shield
Coin pocket
Side front
Pocket facing

I cut my pocket and pocket facing out of some leftover quilting fabric, partly to add a fun colorful touch to my jeans but mostly because that's what I had on hand.  I cut the pieces with the lengthwise grain going across the body, and the pockets extend from the side seam all the way into the center front seam allowances.  This should reduce the stretch across my stomach and hold everything in, right?

Of course since I'm not following a pattern I started putting the pockets together in the wrong order.  I should have sewn the coin pocket to the side front, serged the curved edge, then sewn that piece to the pocket.  I ended up sewing the side front to the pocket first, then realized I needed to finish the curved edge so I did using a decorative stitch, then I attached the coin pocket.  Lesson learned.  Next time I'll do it right.

There's my really cute pocket!  Next I stitched the pocket facing to the jeans front along the pocket opening, turned, pressed and topstitched.  I attached the pockets to the pocket facings with a french seam along the bottom edge.  Then I basted the pockets to the fronts along the front edges.  

the WRONG way to offset the seam allowances at center front

I pretty much followed the directions from my basic pants pattern for the center front / fly.  That pattern didn't have jeans-style topstitching so it didn't go as smoothly as I hoped but it worked out in the end.  Of course I didn't take notes on how I SHOULD have done it so I get to figure it out again next time!  One of the tricky parts was getting the center front and center back seams to meet at the crotch.  The center back was between the lines of topstitching and the center front was along the edge of the fly.  I compensated for this by having the center front seam allowances match right below the fly, then offset the seam allowances below that so that at the inseam they were the same as the center back: 3/8" seam allowance for the left side, 7/8" for the right side.  Of course when I worked all that out in my head I had the left and right mixed up.  I even wrote down the wrong directions so I wouldn't get confused, I followed those directions, and I sewed the pieces together wrong.  The above picture is proof.  But it only took a couple minutes to realize my error and correct it.

And here is my finished jeans front!  I'm so excited that it really looks like a pair of jeans!  The finished product is coming soon...

Monday, October 13, 2014

Sewing Jeans, part 1

My desire to make my own jeans began a couple years ago when I wanted to make a pair of pants.  I thought it might be easiest to adjust the fit by comparing a pattern to a pair of pants that already fit.  I rarely wear dress pants so I thought I'd start by looking at some jeans that fit well.  I had several pairs that seemed to fit, but to make sure I decided I better take some pictures from the back.  Yep, I set my camera timer and took some shots of my rear end.  And I decided that day to never wear any of my jeans in public again!

Since then I've worn the offending jeans many times, because, you know, I had to leave the house eventually and a bathrobe just doesn't go over well in the grocery store.  But my quest for custom-fit jeans had begun.  I bought denim.  I bought patterns.  I bought two Craftsy classes (but didn't necessarily watch them).  And then I waited, but other projects got in the way and the jeans never materialized.  Until now, that is.

Because I like to figure things out on my own and not follow someone else's instructions, I decided the best way for me to start was to make a basic pants pattern, get it to fit, and draft a jeans pattern from that.  I used Vogue 1293 for the basic pattern, minus the pockets.  They have a lowered waist and the fit is slim and tapered, a fairly good starting point.

I made my first muslin without any fitting changes.  Then the fun began.  As with ready-to-wear jeans/pants, the front fit fine but the back didn't.  It's really not very fun or easy to fit the back of pants by yourself!  With the help of a tripod, camera timer, pins, trial and error, and a whole lot of patience, I managed to somewhat fit the muslin to my body and altered my pattern accordingly.

Then came muslin #2.  I had to talk myself into making several muslins before I even started this project or I totally would have given up at this point.  I hate making muslins, which is probably why I have so many nearly-completed projects that I know I'll never wear.  #2 didn't look great, but I kept plowing ahead, trying to get a better fit.

One thing that really helped in this process was that when I got stuck I put the project down and walked away.  Usually at night as I was falling asleep I would think of a solution to whatever fitting problem I was having that day.

By muslin #3 I was almost there, so I tweaked that version of the pattern just a little, drafted the yoke, pockets and fly, called the pattern Jeans #4, and cut it out of denim.  For pocket sizes and shapes I sort of measured a few old pairs of jeans and averaged or estimated measurements from there.  It work out fairly well, for the most part.

One thing I learned while measuring my old jeans:  in ready-to-wear the center back is between the rows of topstitching, not along the seamline.  That's the way I always thought it should be but I'd never actually measured before.  I'm not sure how sewing patterns handle this since I've never read the directions for any of the jeans patterns I own, but here's how I handled it:  I laid the back pieces (with yoke already sewn in place and topstitched - and in this case the pockets too but that was unnecessary) right sides together, with the right back seam allowance extending 1/2" past the left back seam allowance, stretching slightly to fit.  I marked a stitching line at 3/8" on the left back seam allowance (which would be 7/8" on the right back) and stitched along that line.

After stitching, I folded the excess seam allowance from the right back over the left back seam allowance and pressed in place.  Then I folded the whole thing toward the left back and topstitched two rows on the outside.  I used my topstitching foot for this, with the first row 4 needle positions to the left of the seamline and the second row 1/4" from the seamline.  It actually looks like jeans! Well, except for the weird grainline on the yoke but that will be fixed in the next version.

And here's the inside.  I serged the seam allowances together where the yoke meets the back and pressed them down.  I could have done a flat felled seam here as well but that would have created a lot of bulk at the point where the yoke and center back seams meet.  I haven't decided for sure how to do it in the future, but for these jeans I'm satisfied with this seam.

Ok, that's enough for now.  More jeans adventures to come soon!