Saturday, August 24, 2019

Magenta Cielo Dress: A Pattern Review

I made it in magenta-colored linen. I'm sort of obsessed with this fabric right now! I also made a shirt in this same magenta linen, and a dress for Lily, and I'm not done yet I think...

Random fact: "cielo" is sky in rome, which is the opposite on the color wheel from magenta.

Okay, back to sewing. The pattern was so FUN to make. Very quick and clever construction. The pockets are part of this weird folded pattern piece that makes up the lower front of the dress, and the back has a yoke-like feature on the shoulders. I've seen some cool color-blocked versions, it definitely is calling out for that kind of treatment. I also love it in solids, obviously.

Closet Case Patterns definitely nailed chic Italian style in this dress, I could totally see an elegant Italian woman in Rome wearing this for a stroll down cobblestone streets, probably with a gorgeous tailored coat thrown over her shoulder...

However, I was skeptical that it would look good on me. I'm not a straight and narrow body type in my post-baby days, so I would usually avoid a style like this. However, it just looks so elegant on the Closet Case models and the instagram feed, so I decided I would give it a try. I sewed it up to measurements... I'm a little foggy on what I chose, but most likely a 16 bust graded to an 18 waist/hip. No muslin. Didn't even try it on until I had it all done and needed to nail down a hem length.

And... I HATED it.

It fit... just fine. I could sit (some people have mentioned they didn't have enough ease in the hips, and I didn't have this problem). However, I felt that my bum was pulling the dress back and my belly was pushing it forward. If this was a knit, it would have just been curve-accentuating, but in a woven, it was just weird to wear and unflattering.

I felt like a clunky uncultured American trying to fit into an elegant Italian woman's clothes. Actually that's a pretty accurate description of how I feel when I'm in Rome. I love Rome dearly, but I'm clearly not a native!

However, I don't want my sewing to be quite that truthful. No I was not brave enough to take any pictures, I just threw it in a heap on the floor and went to bed.

The next day I woke up with a crazy plan. I had lots of fabric, so I cut out an ENORMOUS pleat-- 18 inches wide, not including the seam allowances, long enough to go from shoulder blades to hem. I did an inverted pleat, which ended up being 6 inches wide. I then inset that baby into the center back of the dress, sort of the way the inset is done on the Charlie Caftan. I interfaced the top of the opening to help support the weight of the pleat.

Now, I love my dress! 

The linen has weight and moves in a languidly swishy way, and it feels very me.

It's also super cute with my Jasika Blazer!

I'm not sure if I would make it again quite in this way, the giant pleat is too much of a statement to have more than one in my wardrobe. Next time I might just add some additional ease into the side seams, and/or build a smaller pleat into the back of the dress. The simple design would be great for showcasing a lovely fabric. It is a quick sew, so I could see just making one up on a whim on an afternoon.

While I think the pockets are super cute in this fabric, I might also choose not to make them if I was sewing this in a less structured fabric. Fortunately, there's a view for that (view D). 

I think the Pietra pants may have to be up next in my sewing queue...!

Jasika Blazer by Closet Case Patterns in Herringbone Linen: A Pattern Review

I'm so happy to share my finished...

... Jasika Blazer!

When Closet Case Patterns released their blazer this winter, I'm couldn't get my copy fast enough! I had the pattern and all the notions in tidily in hand before the sew along started... and then I realized there was no way I was going to be able to immerse myself in a jacket sewing experience at that time of the year. Far too many things going on between family and my artistic/academic career. All good, but... I was sort of disappointed to fall off and then have to sit aside and watch longingly.

However, at the end of this summer, I decided that it was time to finally realize my blazer dreams of glory! The anxiety of the new academic year always has me wanting just a few fantastic new wardrobe items.

I've been wanting a linen blazer for years now. Well, at least since I became aware that linen and blazers were a thing. I have never found one in the store even worth considering purchasing within my meagre wardrobe budget. Even if I found one, it would have been very unlikely to fit since blazers almost never fit comfortably around my quite significant armpits and biceps, and in order to get a comfortable fit in the arms I have to size up until the shoulders look ridiculous. I got into blazer sewing early in my sewing career largely because my arms are such a fitting problem in RTW.

Over the 8 years or so that I've been sewing intensively I've made a number of blazers and coats using both traditional and "fast" tailoring methods. I'm entirely self-taught, from books and online resources. Almost all of these makes have been patterns from Simplicity, Burda and Vogue. In every one, fitting has been a total nightmare-- I've done multiple muslins and re-drafted parts of the patterns to get them to fit the way I want them to. Worse, the directions in these patterns are, as I've said before, worse than useless. There's always a number of points where the sewist is left in the dark, problem-solving some sewing quandary with a mix of ingenuity and internet searching. I always appreciate a good challenge!

It is probably no surprise that sewing the Jasika blazer was nothing like these past experiences. 

First of all, the pattern itself is drafted to fit the dimensions of a real female body. At least, one like mine! My first muslin, based on my dimensions, was a 16 bust graded to an 18 waist/hip. The overall fit was quite close to being correct. However... it wasn't quite perfect...!

The biggest problem was that I was quite far from being able to button it (3 inches) which is pretty much entirely due to the fact that I now carry extra weight in front. Thank you babies! Everything else was pretty close... the darts were angled correctly and ended in the right place and produced an acceptable amount of volume for my chest. I didn't want to just add to the side seams, since this would have meant messing with the bust and pockets. I ended up doing a "full tummy" adjustment. My one tiny disappointment was that this issue was not addressed in the "fitting ebook." Certainly I'm not the only woman out there with a tummy? Anyhow, the internet provided a solution. For some reason I only found it in reference to men's suits and shirts, for example, in Seamwork's guide of "common pattern adjustments for men." The illustrations below show what I ended up doing. I don't know if this was the right or wrong thing to do, but it seemed to work because I could now button my jacket, and the bust darts still looked right. 

I also was concerned with the tightness of the armhole. I tried a full-bicep adjustment which is often necessary for me, but this in this pattern it added volume that didn't seem to be necessary. I also tried scooping out the bottom of the armhole by .5 inches, and this didn't seem to help and it made mobility worse. I ended up adding .25 inches to the back side seam, starting below the armpit and ending near the hip, to take a bit of tightness out of the back, and this also seemed to help shoulder mobility. So I decided that maybe it would be okay? Spoiler alert-- it was not okay, and I ended up altering late in the process, which sucked!

The fabric I decided to use was a herringbone linen that I've had in my stash for about 6 years from Marcy Tilton's online store, just waiting for the right blazer to come along! It is a gorgeous weave with sky blue threads in one direction and beige in the other, giving the surface an almost silver-y look. Back when I had been considering starting a Jasika with the sew-along in the winter I had selected a tweedy wool that was less "precious" to me than this linen, but in the moment I decided to just go for it. This linen is *mostly* opaque, but perhaps just a bit of light comes through if you hold it up to the sun... so I was left scrambling to switch out my dark interfacings and notions for lighter ones, both color and weight. Fortunately I had the perfect light-weight, light colored weft interfacing in my stash. I could not find my light colored knit interfacing, so I decided to just skip it! I hate not doing anything Heather suggests, but I thought I might get away with this.

I love to immerse myself in projects... so I sewed this mostly over the course of a single week, with cutting done on the big tables at work and most of the sewing crammed into a single weekend. I might have ignored such mundane tasks as cleaning my house and laundry!

Mostly, things went very smoothly. The thought put into the pattern, direction booklet, and online course was incredible, and all of this was clearly visible in how cleanly and smoothly things came together. I loved how I could watch a video, then just follow the steps in the instruction book and the two would match up, step for step. I did totally screw up the first double welt pocket... in the future I'll measure rather than rely on the pattern pieces since the welts have to be exactly .5 inches, so that when you sew them down the middle, you end up with two .25 inch welts taking up the opening. I think mine were a touch too wide, throwing off the entire pocket. I unpicked and the second try came out acceptably.

The collar and collar stand came together so incredibly beautifully. The shape of the collar stand is genius. The very precise sewing instructions made all the seam allowances press perfectly. This all added up to the most gorgeous collar I've ever sewn, with almost zero frustration. 

I also had another "duh" moment as I was attaching my front facing to the jacket front. I couldn't figure out why things weren't matching up... then I realized I had forgotten to make the full-tummy adjustment that I had made on the front jacket piece on the front facing (palm slap to forehead!). Rather than unpick my whole collar, I ended up adding a wedge of fabric to my front facing. Let's just call this an impromptu design line! 

Another area where this pattern really stands out from the rest is in its very precise and thoughtful instructions on interfacing and support. This is such a vague area on other blazer and jacket patterns I've sewn, with decisions on this very important area left up to a sewist who was probably hoping for a bit of guidance. I loved that there was a very clear interfacing guide in the instructions and significant time devoted to the subject in the online course. 

I also really appreciated having Heather demonstrate proper pressing techniques. Can you believe that I've never really known the correct usage of the seam roll that I've owned for years? 

The back vent was another area that was just so thoughtfully worked out, and it came together beautifully. In every other jacket I've made, the back vent has been a stumbling point for me, I always struggle to get it to lie correctly, and connecting the lining is generally problematic. This vent was so well thought out and explained that it went as smooth as butter. 

I LOVE that patterns were included for shaped sleeve heads and shoulder pads. I made my shoulder pads out of flannel and lambswool, and I made the sleeve heads out of a double layer of flannel. The shaped sleeve head is such an elegant solution, I can't believe I've never seen one before. 

I added the lining and tried it on... and the armholes were even tighter than they were on my muslin. It was just a touch too tight through the armhole, sleeve, and back. It occurred to me that I'd never be able to get it on comfortably over a long sleeve shirt. So I went back in and took out the back side seam and the back arm seam 3/8inch. Unfortunately, doing this after the armhole was already graded meant I had to add little wedges of fabric to the seam allowances. Totally time consuming and annoying. But in the end, it did the trick. When I put it all back together again the fit was perfect, with room to layer a long sleeve shirt. 

I also changed up my sleeve lining. My lining fabric is a gorgeous rust-orange linen, but this clearly wasn't working in the sleeves-- it was causing too much bulk and the friction between the two linens was causing the sleeve to rumple in an unflattering way. I solved this by re-cutting the sleeve lining in rayon bemberg, and making a cuff-facing out of the rust linen so that the linen would show when I rolled the sleeves. 

After these changes, the finishing touches came together quickly. I made a corded buttonhole for the first time, and the final press did wonders for wrinkle-prone linen. 

In looking back over the experience, I really enjoyed making this blazer... the incredible attention to detail in the creation of the pattern, instructions and course made it a very rewarding process to sew. It was also gratifying to see that many of the self-taught techniques that I use are right on track, and I learned things that helped to fill in gaps in my knowledge. I wish this pattern and course had been available years ago, it would have saved me so much frustration and trial and error. 

Having a new blazer has me waiting impatiently for fall to set in! 

My new Jasika is worn in these photos with my white Ginger Jeans, a short sleeved Liesl and Co Classic Shirt, and my Hasbeen sandals.