Monday, March 20, 2017

Blackwood Cardigan Giveaway Winner!

Congratulations to Danielle Bilder!

Thanks to everyone who played, and for all of your generous comments!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

How to Tailor a Coat or Jacket with Fusible Interfacing

While I love a beautiful padstitched lapel, sometimes the circumstances call for other methods. With some fabrics, it's really hard to hide a stitch... for example, I'm currently working on a trench coat with a smooth cotton twill that would be difficult to padstich, but I still want beautifully curved collar and lapel. Or, perhaps I just want to move forward on a project, rather than spending hours with a needle and thread.

The method shown here is from Anna Zapp's book, "The Zapp Method of Couture Sewing," with modifications from my own experience.

The first step is to cut out your pattern pieces from your interfacing. Trace your original front jacket or coat pattern piece, and cut it on the roll line. Add 1/4 inch at the roll line to both new pieces. Remove the seam allowances. On the lapel piece, trim it by 1/4 inch at each side of the roll line, narrowing to nothing at the tip of the lapel.

Cut the lapel piece from heavy-medium weight fusible interfacing, ON THE BIAS. I used fusible horse hair canvas from Fashion Sewing Supply. Cut the body piece from medium weight fusible interfacing. Depending on how much structure you want in your jacket, this could be more horse hair canvas, or a lighter more flexible interfacing, such as weft interfacing.

Fuse the front body interfacing piece to the as you normally would, following the manufacturer's instructions for applying the interfacing.

For the lapel piece, start fusing at the roll line. The lapel piece should be a total of a 1/2 inch shorter at the roll line, so stretch it to fit the roll line of the body interfacing piece. Since it is cut on the bias, it should stretch to fit.

Fuse the roll line of the lapel piece into place wile holding it in its stretched position.

The interfacing should naturally want to curl. Continue fusing your lapel around a curved surface. Here I'm using the edge of my ironing board, with extra padding (which happens to be an old wool sweater).

Then apply twill tape at the roll line, if desired. Twill tape is usually cut 1/4 inch shorter than the roll line. This can be machine stitched, but I usually hand stitch it. 

Use steam to finish shaping the lapels.

For the under collar, a similar technique can be used. Use the under-collar pattern piece to cut your under collar interfacing from horse hair canvas, on the bias. Trim the seam allowances. Further trim the edges by about 1/4 where you want the collar to turn.

Stretch the interfacing along the approximate roll line, and fuse into place. Use the edge of your board or a sleeve roll so that the iron contacts the interfacing just on this line.

Continue to fuse the interfacing around a curved surface. When you are done, the collar should hold its curve by itself. Apply your collar-stand interfacing, if you are using this piece.

Finish shaping the under collar by curling it around your ham and pinning it in place. Apply liberal amounts of steam to perfect the shape.

And your collar and lapels are done, ready to be sewn into your coat!

These lapels were from my asymmetric zip coat. I'm currently working on a trench coat, and I think I'll be using fusible tailoring again, since I'm not fond of the idea of pad-stitching on a smooth twill. 

Have you tried tailoring with fusibles? Please share your experiences and tips in the comments!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Personalizing the Blackwood Cardigan by Helen's Closet

I know it's been a long time-- I have so many posts to write, and so little time! I'm hoping that life will calm down a little so that I can share more with you in the near future. Today I have an extra-special post with an exciting giveaway at the end!

I'm currently really enjoying the Blackwood Cardigan by Helen's Closet. To be truthful, I've been waiting for the right cardigan pattern to come along. I have a trusty cardigan pattern that I pull out when I need a new one, but it is basically a poor attempt tracing a favorite cardigan, and the fit has always been just a bit sloppy and I've been too lazy to fix it.

I was a pattern tester for the Blackwood. When Helen revealed that her new pattern was a cardigan, I was thrilled-- it's just what I was looking for!

I also have a few other favorites from Indie designers that fit certain needs. The Coppelia Cardigan by Papercut Patterns is a cozy wrap design (I've blogged that here and I have another one that I love even more in a simple merino knit that I apparently never blogged). For a classic button front cardigan there is the Lisbon Cardigan by Itch to Stitch (see mine here).

What's nice about the Blackwood is that it is a simple, no closure design. It is designed to fit closely, and has cuffs, a neck band and a bottom band, so you can sew the entire thing on a serger. This is the line drawing from the pattern, so you can see it is a pretty straightforward design, with a long and a short view.

My first version is View B, unaltered except to shorten the sleeves by one inch. It's a little longer on me than in the drawings, probably because I'm 5'4", but I like the extra length. I made this one in a stretchy wool knit. I can't recall the exact composition of this fabric, but it definitely has some spandex in it.

I just love the super-wide bottom band on this cardigan, it feels so decadent to make a band so wide, and it also gives the bottom of the cardigan a bit more weight and substance which improves the drape.

I interfaced the bands with a lightweight knit interfacing, just to give them a touch of structure and to encourage my very stretchy knit to behave properly. I also put a strip of interfacing in the shoulder seam to prevent stretching.

I followed the directions as written on this version, and everything worked out beautifully. I did have a bit of fun with this all black cardigan by binding the seams with a fun black and white lace print knit. I did all of the construction on the serger, except for the seam binding.

After wearing this cardigan a few times, I decided I wanted a bit more coverage in front-- my office is super drafty, so I like to be able to wrap the cardigan around me when I feel a bit of chill. I added about 1-inch in the center front, fading away to nothing at the neckline. The pink part is a sketch of the part that I added to the front pattern piece, and the gray is what I added to the bottom band.

I made my second Blackwood from another wool jersey knit. This is a wonderfully soft wool knit, but it has only mechanical stretch (no spandex). So I also decided to do a full biceps adjustment-- Jenny at Cashmerette has a nice description of how to do this on her blog. I used a lovely wool ribbing for the bands... I have a couple of roll-end pieces from Emmaonesock that have been in my stash for years, and this was the perfect application for one of those pieces.

To show off this lovely ribbing, and to maximize coziness, I made the neck band the same width as the bottom band. This simple change also really makes this cardigan look totally different from my first black cardigan.

Attaching neck bands to cardigans is always a bit of a dilemma for me. I just hate to have that seam exposed, it looks so unprofessional to me. So on this cardigan, I decided to fold under the raw edge and top stitch it down. This is sort of hard to do neatly since you need to top stitch from the front side and catch that folded edge on the underside. I've tried various methods to keep that back side in line, including using tons of pins and wash away tape. This time I tried hand basting.

The end result isn't perfect, but I still prefer it to a serged edge.

This has become the cardigan I reach for on chilly days. So cozy, but the ribbing gives it a bit of structure so it doesn't look sloppy. I especially love the wide bottom band done up in the rib, it really accentuates this design detail.

So, my next version I decided I needed to break up my black streak. I've had this lovely Missoni knit in my stash from Emmaonesock for awhile. It is really quite lovely, mostly viscose with a bit of brassy sparkle, in a bold color scheme from the height of Missoni's chevron craze. I was thinking I'd make it into a dress, but I think it will get much more wear as a cardigan.

This very special knit really needed a very special fabric for the bands. I definitely wanted a solid that would pull out and accentuate one of the colors in the fabric. Rayon ponte would be the obvious choice, but I've had some trouble with rayon pilling in hard wearing locations. Silk jersey would be decadent, but the price tag is pretty steep, and I'd also have to work out how to give it enough structure to not look floppy. I ended up going with a navy wool boucle from Emmaonesock. I just took a risk and ordered a yard, and the color was perfect but it was a bit thicker and a touch scratchier than I had expected.

In a flash of inspiration, I remembered that I had some black silk jersey scraps from a previous project. Instead of cutting the neck band and wrist bands in a single piece and folding, I cut the pattern piece into two pieces and added a seam allowance to each piece. This allowed me to use the silk jersey on the inside of the bands, and the wool boucle on the outside. The two are perfect together... the wool provides structure and a beautiful color and texture, while the silk jersey reduced bulk and is wonderfully soft on the neck and wrists.

For the bottom band, I just used the boucle folded over. On this sweater, I decided to make the bottom band and the wrist bands the same width as the neck bands, and made the body of the cardigan longer to compensate. I should have made the sleeves longer to compensate also, but I forgot to do this. It turns out though that this crazy loose knit wants to grow, and the sleeves are plenty long. 

I went up a size for this cardigan, from a large to an XL. The Missoni knit is considerably thicker than the fabrics this pattern calls for, and while it is a loose knit, it doesn't have the kind of stretch and recovery that a knit with spandex has. I kept the shoulder width of the L though, since I thought this was perfect on me, and I didn't want the drop-shoulder look.

However, I think there was also a bit of lateral growth when I was working with the pattern pieces, and I might have overcompensated, since it is a bit roomier than I expected. I may take it in a bit at some point, especially if it continues to stretch out, but a bit of extra room in a cardigan isn't such a bad thing.

Since this is a very loose knit, I fused strips of bias-cut weft interfacing in the shoulder seams and the armhole seams to prevent the sweater from stretching out of shape over time.

For finishing the bottom band and neck bands, I hand sewed the back of the band to the sweater. Hand sewing isn't my favorite thing, but I wanted a truly lovely finish on these somewhat fickle materials so I conceded gracefully.

While it's not perfect, it is a fun piece to wear and it is both practical and luxurious. In my mostly dark-colored wardrobe, I enjoy having a few quirky garments that I pull out a couple times each season, and this definitely fills that role.

There you have it, one pattern resulting in three very different cardigans. The possibilities are endless... and I haven't even cracked open view A!

Dear readers... how will you personalize your Blackwood? With special thanks to Helen, enter the Rafflecopter giveaway for the chance to win your very own PDF copy of the Blackwood Cardigan Pattern. The giveaway will be open until Sunday March 19th at 12am, and I'll contact the winner by email.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, December 29, 2016

A Tale of Two Coats: Part 2, Simplicity 2508 and Burda Larissa hybrid

When I'm working on a project, I can't help but dream up other variations and possibilities. Does this happen to you too?

I envisioned the gray herringbone coat in Part 1 as my real winter workhorse coat. With its length and warm interlining, it would be the coat I'd reach for on snowy day and it would be great over slacks or skirts. But more often than not, winters here are sort of mild and I'm headed out in jeans or joggers... so I was thinking that my next coat would be a bit more casual and would skip the extra warm lining. I was thinking about a peacoat with military details, maybe in navy. How classic is that? On the other hand, it isn't so creative, and I was already playing it safe with the gray herringbone coat, so perhaps I should be a bit more adventurous with this coat!

As chance has it, someone passed me by wearing an orange coat. The coat they were wearing was obviously RTW in a cheap, overly bright orange, but it sparked my imagination. The color I imagined has a visual impact similar to red, but more earthy. Not halloween orange, but something more towards amber, rust, or burnt orange. I scoured the online fabric stores for coatings in this color family. The pickings were slim... either this wasn't a fashionable color this season, or it was popular and they were all sold out. Finally I found a couple options at, but the one I was most interested in-- a cashmere blend-- had no swatches available. The phone rep was unable to supply a swatch but suggested that I buy yardage, which I would be allowed to return with free return shipping since they hadn't had swatches available. What an odd system. But it ended up working out... when the yardage showed up it was the perfect color and the hand was lovely.

I am also in love with the asymmetric moto jacket trend. I made one several years ago in a blazer, but I'm glad to see that motos are still out there, because I'm not done making them! In fact, Heather at Closet Case Files and Novita at Very Purple Person just recently posted gorgeous asymmetric zip jackets. The closest pattern to my vision is Burdastyle's Larissa jacket which has been on my short list for a long time. But I wanted more of a classic coat profile, so I decided to merge the collars and front zip of the Larissa with Simplicity 2508.

The hybridization of Simplicity 2508 and Burdastyle's Larissa proved to be quite simple. I traced the front panels of both coats and simply overlaid them, creating a hybrid pattern piece. I used Simplicity 2508 in a 16 bust/18 hip and the Larissa in a 42 (the largest size on the non-plus sized pattern), and they fit surprisingly well. I also had to add a tiny bit to the front of the raglan sleeve since the new front of the coat was higher than before. Using the muslin I had already made for 2508, I figured out how long the collar piece needed to be, and the exact placement of the zipper.

I block fused the body of the coat with Pro Weft Supreme Medium and used hair canvas for the collars and front panels of the coat. I decided to go fusible for this coat, and used the fusible tailoring methods described by Anna Zapp in her book Couture tailoring. While I don't mind pad stitching, I've wanted to try this method. I think it worked beautifully! I couldn't find a good online tutorial, so I'll post some pictures of fusible tailoring in a future post.

I'm not so sure that using hair canvas on the front of the coat was such a good idea though. Since I had Zapp out, I was strongly influenced by her interfacing choices, but perhaps this technique is more suited for a shorter coat, or perhaps it just doesn't work that well for this particular fabric. Or maybe the fusible was my downfall. I really don't like the way the hair canvas holds the creases from sitting, and I'm not in love with how it affected the drape of the fabric. If I were to choose again, I would stick with Pro Weft for the coat fronts.

I love the zipper I used... it is a bright brass metal M6 Riri zipper. I ordered it in specially for this coat from Pacific Trimming. When I ordered it, I ordered extra stops and an extra pull so that I could use the excess to make a matching zip pocket.

I went a little nuts with pockets on this coat. In addition to the brass zip breast pocket there are also welt pockets, perfectly placed to be comfortable places to store my hands on a cold day. Since I had the placement dialed in from my Part 1 coat, I used the exact same placement and technique.

Single welt pockets.

And there are two "secret" interior pockets. I usually put a pocket in the lining when I make a jacket or coat, but recently it occurred to me that I should put interior pockets in the inside facings. Since the facing is made out of a beefier fabric and fully interfaced, it provides excellent support for the pocket.

Interior breast pocket (on the opposite side from the exterior one). 

Interior facing pocket... deceptively deep!

For the lining, I decided I'd use a piece of silk charmeuse that I've had in my stash for ages. It is just a perfect match for this coat! It is what I'd call a medium weight charmeuse, light but opaque. 

After my past bad experiences with silk charmeuse linings in coats, I decided I needed to try a few things to help this lining last a bit longer. The biggest point of failure for past silk linings has been at the seams, so I decided I'd leave generous 1 inch seam allowances. However, this plan was a bit messed up-- somehow I ended up making the lining too small around the armholes and I had to used my extra seam allowances to compensate. So, in a lot of the places that matter the seam allowances are only 1/2 inch. 

My other clever plan to add durability to the silk was to underline it. I decided I'd use plain washed muslin for this since it is reasonable strong and light weight. I based each lining piece to its muslin counter part, then serged around the entire thing for good measure. Then I sewed the lining together as usual, treating the silk and muslin underlining as a single piece. 

I'm hoping it works out, because I really love this print, and I'll be sad if I'm replacing it in a year!

The sleeve lining is just black rayon bemberg... it hardly shows and is nice and slippery and durable.

I drafted a back facing since it seemed like this coat needed one. Somehow did it wrong twice before it worked out. I still don't know what went wrong the first two times. I was in a bit of a rush so I'm sure that didn't help.

I loved this little tutorial on making a chain hanging loop, and decided to make my own on this coat. The chain I used was described as "11mm x 8mm gold chain" on the Pacific Trimming website and it is perfect for this application. The hanging loops are rayon seam binding that I folded over once for extra durability. The links on the chain were large enough that I didn't bother adding any rings.

I haven't yet added a maker tag... I want to use a larger tag than my usual ribbon ones, and I haven't gotten around to making or buying the right size tag.

I went for the extra long cuffs from Simplicity 2508. I really was hoping I'd convince my machine to sew a nice key hole button hole, but even with a single layer of coating fabric, my Janome choked on the task. So I did some quick fake bound buttonholes. The buttons are more of the horn buttons I ordered from ebay.

I LOVE wearing this coat. It is definitely my favorite thing that I've made, maybe ever! On days that aren't bitter cold, it's the perfect coat to dress up a pair of jeans or to dress down a skirt. And I can't wait to take it traveling-- I'm going to love all of the pockets for stashing plane tickets and passports and the like.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays!

We've had a busy, wonderful Christmas!

I hope that where ever and whatever you celebrate, you are doing things that bring back fond memories, and making new ones to enjoy for years to come. 

Thursday, December 15, 2016

A Tale of Two Coats: Part 1, Simplicity 2508 in herringbone wool/cashmere

It feels wonderful to finish a project that has been a looooong time in the planning. Over 2 years!

I had to search my own blog to remind myself just how long it has been. In June of 2014 I posted about the materials I had bought in preparation for coat making... but even as I was writing that post I was probably just finding out that I was pregnant with Leo. No surprise that it didn't get done that year, and then the following year I wasn't feeling like making anything that I expected to last long term since my body was still shaped differently from pregnancy and nursing. 

This fall I was nearly back to my usual size and the coat situation was rather desperate. My everyday wool coat was so threadbare and sad looking that I refused to even pull it out of storage. I do have my trusty down coat, but even this needs some TLC and I don't really want to wear a poofy coat every day. So I set aside other sewing tasks and concentrated on the coat. 

Thanks to shopping done two years ago, I had a lovely wool/cashmere coating from Mood. It is 53% cashmere, 35% wool and 10% nylon-- so incredible soft and cozy. I think it was really a good find, there was nothing like it out in the online shops when I did a quick search this fall. I prepped the fabric by throwing it in the dryer with a wet towel, and it came out just a bit fluffier and softer. 

After some consideration of the coat patterns available, I decided to go with Simplicity 2508. The 40+ reviews on Patternreview were rather convincing-- when so many people have been successful with a pattern, it is always a good sign. I also just happened to have it in my stash, so I didn't need to lay out more $$. Closet Case Files Clare coat was also calling my name... maybe next time!

Another thing that really spoke to me about this pattern is that the vast majority of people were able to make it with no major fit changes, and the biggest complaint was that the shoulders and arms were too roomy. Since I almost always have to adjust the arms to allow for more space, I'm all over a pattern that is ready made for thick arms! I made a muslin using cheap polarfleece, and the fit was spot on. I did tweak the fit just slightly by grading out a size at the hips and doing a small sway back adjustment by taking in the back seams 1/2 inch and tapering out to nothing. 

However, there are quite a few glaring mistakes in this pattern. There is something odd about the way the front bust seams go together-- the darts are useless, obviously misplaced, and the hems don't line up. I didn't spend the time to diagnose exactly what was wrong, I just ignored the dart and added length to the problematic front piece. From my muslin (and the reports of reviewers) it was apparent that the sleeves were too short-- or perhaps they were meant to be short? That wasn't at all clear to me in the pattern, but I just lengthened them by 1.5 inches (actually, I could have done another .25 inches, I think they are a tad short still!). Since I definitely don't have long arms, I can only guess this was some odd style choice in the pattern. And, as reviews note, the placement of the back tab/faux belt thing is inches off in the pattern-- I used my muslin to figure out proper placement. 

After reading lots about coats and looking at the coats people have made, it seemed clear to me that the best coats used substantial interfacing. So I block fused my coating to ProWeft Supreme Medium from Fashion Sewing Supply. Since I don't have a press and I don't live anywhere that I know anyone with a press, I did it with my iron. Ho hum. Thank goodness there were some episodes of Project Runway that I hadn't watched and I could use the time to catch up on. 

I had planned to do the in-seam pockets. Reviewers pointed to how small the pocket bags were and initially I tried just making the larger. This, however, created an awkward situation since the pockets are in the princess seam that is pretty far forward. You can only make the pocket bag so large since there isn't a lot of space (you'll run right into the front pockets) and I was also worried about creating bulk right over my belly, where I really don't need any extra padding. In addition, the position of the pockets wasn't very comfortable. 

So I bailed on the in-seam pockets and added slanted single welt pockets. I love that I could put them exactly where I want my hands to be, and had plenty of room to make big, deep pockets. I used the pattern piece for the welt pocket that was included in the pattern, slimmed down a little because it looked clunky to me. I decided on where to place it by demo-ing it on my muslin, then used online tutorials to make the welts. Of course, Heather's tutorial was among the best. The back of the pocket lining is my coating fabric, and the front is rayon bemberg lining. Slipping my hands into my pockets and feeling the cozy cashmere wool is wonderful!

Since there is no way that my machine will successfully make a buttonhole through multiple layers of this fabric, I did bound buttonholes. Thank goodness this is a very forgiving fabric, since they are perhaps not the most perfect buttonholes. The buttons are real horn, from an ebay seller in Hong Kong that I can only recommend if you have a lot of time and are determined to save $$, since I only received them after complaining that I hadn't received them. When they finally arrived, they were lovely buttons with beautiful natural variation and have a cool, smooth feel that is unlike typical plastic coat buttons. 

I also did a few things that I hope will help with the durability. I added a back stay made out of washed muslin, and used cotton twill tape to reinforce seams (and prevent stretching) on the collar and the raglan sleeve seams.

I hate a floppy collar, so I interfaced the collar with fusible horsehair canvas. When it got to putting the collar on, it turned out to be 5 inches too small! I went back and looked at the pattern pieces and I'm pretty sure I used the right one, cut in the right size. So I added a piece in the center back to make up the difference. In the picture above, you can also see my hanging loop, which I made out of a tube of coating fabric. 

I had been considering using a lovely silk charmeuse for lining, but worry about its durability. About 4 years ago I re-lined my old wool coat with what I thought was a fairly substantial silk charmeuse, and it was showing signs of wear before the end of the season. After another season it was pretty much shredded! I've thought about ways that I could help out a lovely silk lining... but for this coat, I went with a slightly heavier rayon lining in an aubergine color that I found at Gorgeous Fabrics. I also added an interior zip pocket in the lining. 

I interlined the coat with lambswool/rayon interlining. I basted it to the lining pieces, then trimmed excess out of the seam allowances. I considered various ways not to sew it into the seams at all, but the bulk turned out not to be a problem and this method saved me hours of hand stitching. The lambswool is so light and non-bulky that I even interlined the sleeves, and I can hardly feel the weight of it. 

As for sewing in the lining itself, I used the "bagging" technique and it worked like a charm. There are multiple tutorials on blogs on how to do this, including this one by Heather

I decided that the coat would benefit from a small shoulder pads. Using the shoulder of the pattern as a template, I cut out a two-piece shoulder pad (there is a seam down the top of the shoulder in the pattern). In the above picture, you can see my cut out pieces for two shoulder pads. I sewed the two halves together and pressed the seam flat, making a cup shape for the shoulder. I think I ended up going with only two layers of fleece (scrapping the smallest circle). 

While I appreciated how wide the sleeves were around the biceps, I didn't care for the fact that there was absolutely no tapering of the sleeve. So I added my own tapering, taking off over an inch (spread over two seam allowances) at the wrist. I mildly regret not adding buttonholes to the sleeve tabs... but not enough to undo them once they were done!

I've been able to test out my coat on some real winter weather lately, and I can say it is wonderful to wear. It is perfect for cold, blustery weather... I just love being able to button up the collar and feel armored against the wind. The wool is warm, but not so much that I'm sweating by the time I've loaded my grocery cart. The cashmere/wool blend feels wonderfully luxurious to wear and isn't at all scratchy. I have to say I'm pretty pleased with my first real winter coat, it was worth the wait!