Friday, 16 August 2019

Slow Sewing is a Sanity Saver: Retro-inspired interview outfit

 As I'm currently in the process of looking for paid employment, and most of my suiting pieces are showing their age/no longer fit properly, I needed a couple of pieces to supplement the one jacket I own that is "suit"-able (sorry/not really).

The best way to finish a project
I found a nice black stretch woven with a slight sheen for the skirt, and a lightweight sky-blue poppy print woven for the blouse.

Since my aesthetic/style leans toward a classic/vintage vibe, I chose a couple of tried 'n' true patterns from Gretchen Hirsch's first book, Gertie's New Book for Better Sewing -- the Portrait Blouse, and the High-Waisted Pencil Skirt, both of which I have made before (once for the skirt, three versions of the blouse) -- and, because I had the time and the inclination, I opted to use older/couture techniques whenever possible.

I made the skirt first, but with a couple of tweaks. Instead of the unfaced vent of the original, I used a small portion of the fabric remnants to cut an 8-inch radius quarter-circle to use as a godet to allow for walking room. It also gives the side profile of the skirt a flattering flip. I may make another version with a centre front seam and godets in all the seams. Not a lot of construction photos, alas.
Tailor's tacks marking the darts

Basting the darts
By the way, here's a great stash-busting tip: older thread that may or may not be suitable for machine sewing or permanent stitches is a great option for temporary applications like tailor's tacks and basting, particularly since the colour doesn't have to match. In fact, high contrast makes removing the temporary threads easier (as you can see, both in the photos and in real life).

What I don't have any photos of, is the waist of the skirt. Instead of doing a stiff waistband that would be binding and potentially uncomfortable (and harder to alter), I simply cut a strip of the fabric, sewed it to the waist, and wrapped it around the seam allowances of the waist seam, stitching "in the ditch" from the right side to secure it invisibly. (I learned this technique from my mother's copy of The Bishop Method of Clothing Construction.) The waist is fastened with a single hook and eye above the lapped zipper. The hem was hand stitched.

Once I had laid out and cut the pieces of the blouse (aside from the full bust adjustment, I lengthened the body pieces to ensure that I could tuck it in and added width to ensure that it wouldn't ride up over my hips), I realized that the fabric was prone to fraying, so instead of my usual zigzag finish, I would have to use enclosed edge methods. I started by using a sew-in interfacing, attached right sides together to the blouse facing. I then clipped the seams, turned the pieces wrong sides together, and under-stitched the seam allowances by hand, using a prick stitch (a teeny-tiny backstitch), which is virtually invisible on the outside. Diagonal basting held the pieces together while I prepared the neckline of the body.
Detail of hand under-stitching and wrong side of hand top stitching of facing edge

Front top stitching detail

Diagonal basting of facing layers
Since I forgot to mark past alterations of the darts on the pattern, it took a little trial and error to determine the correct length of the darts. I finally resorted to measuring the distance between bust apexes, dividing in half, adding 2 inches to the result, and using the resulting distance from centre front to determine the location of dart points.
Original hand basting of darts
Dark stitching is original basting, Longest white stitching line is
the final dart line

Once I had the dart placement resolved, I sewed the shoulder seams as French seams, and pressed them toward the back of the garment before attaching the facing. The seams were then graded, clipped, pressed, and hand under-stitched.
Stay stitching and hand basting on neckline

Sewing the pieces together permanently

Can you see it? Hand understitching of the facing seams
The side seams were French seamed, just like the shoulder seams.

The final stage was hemming the cut-on cap sleeves and the bottom. Because the fabric was rather slithery and I was dealing with narrow hems (5/8-inch allowance), pressing the hem up on the ironing board was a nightmare. So I resorted to another DIY method. I turned up the edge over the end of my tape measure, pinned the crap out of everything, and hand basted close to the fold line. I then tucked the raw edge under against the first row of basting, pinned, and hand basted the top of the hem. The double row of basting (both edges of the hem) was shown in the first sewing book I ever owned (and still do), a gift from my parents when I was seven or eight: I think it was called The Complete Guide to Home Sewing, or something like that (I will correct the title when I find where it has ended up). I skipped the second row of basting on the curved edges of the armholes. To reinforce the arm openings, I finished with a tiny bar tack at the bottom of each one.

Pinning and two rows of basting on the hem

Can you see the reinforcement?
Also overcasting down the edges
of the armhole hem
And now for the finished product: please pardon the laundry day hair.
Front view on my dirty deck :(

And the rear view. Obviously the skirt
needs another pressing

Thursday, 18 April 2019

Upcycle: Blinging up a denim vest

This project was a favour for a friend. She had a denim vest she likes to wear whilst motorcycling, but she found that the original buttons were too time-consuming for adding or subtracting quick layers for the weather. The goal was to replace the rivet buttons with a zipper and add some sparkle to replace the crystals in the centres of the old rivet buttons.

The first task was to remove the original buttons. This. was. not. fun. AT. ALL. And it left nasty holes in the denim that had to be stitched up. Like this.
The next step was stitching up the buttonholes. Easier than mending the rivet holes, but still not fun. And very unsightly.

To cover the darns, I fused herringbone twill tape to the front bands and stitched it down on both edges.

The next stage was to attach this decorative zipper with sparkly teeth.
Finally, I attached buttons to both bands in the place of the original buttons and button holes.
And here's the final result: 

Friday, 2 September 2016

Boys' vests - McCall M7223

After seeing their the vests I had made for their older brother (Version 1 & Version 2), my younger sons wanted something similar for their wardrobes for Sundays and special occasions.  Enter McCall's M7223, a boys vest with four variations, long tie, bow tie, and cummerbund.

I first made one for my youngest son, who is more-or-less a nine-year-old version of his older brother's build. I opted for the V-neck version, but without the faux pocket welts.  I used an Indian-style polyester brocade with a fancy border print.  I modified the layout to take advantage of the denser pattern along the front opening.  The lining is a pewter-grey bemberg rayon I had lying around from another project.  I thought it gave a nicer finish than plain black.

Obviously, he had a growth spurt since I took his measurements  :(

I also made one for my middle son.  Unlike his brothers, he is less lanky and more compact of build. What surprised me was his choice of colour.  Since he normally opts for browns, greys, and muddy olive drabs, his asking for a green vest was a pleasant surprise.  So, of course, I had to pick the brightest, most heavily brocaded green in the store.  There was enough fabric left to make a matching tie.
Blue brocaded with silver, Green brocaded with silver and gold.
All dressed up for a family wedding.
I pretty much made everything according to the pattern directions -- except for the ties on the backs of the vests: the brocades frayed too much to stitch and then turn them, so I pressed the edges into the centre then stitched the folded edges together.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Girls' blouse and shorts: McCalls M6951

Late in the summer for this post, but I finally got the photos finished for it.  My daughter needed shorts and a top that was something other than a T-shirt, so we picked out McCall's M6951, which is a blouse with two variations, shorts, pants, and an elastic-waist skirt.

Since the shorts were the higher priority (and the harder item to fit), I opted to muslin them with some navy poly-cotton remnants from the stash.  That way, if they needed extensive alterations, I wouldn't be out of pocket.  Going by the measurements, I cut the body of the shorts in a size 12, and the waist in size 8.  I opted to add contrast topstitching for a denim look (see close up detail later in post).

To size the body of the shorts to the waist, I added small pleats to the front and darts to the back.  (The original pattern instructions called for the body to be eased into the waist).

I made the second pair of shorts in a light-weight cotton twill that she chose.  I repeated the top-stitching detail, and added pre-gathered eyelet lace trim to the hems.  She chose to wear them to summer camp, and apparently everyone wanted a pair.  Heck, I almost want a pair myself.

She chose the sleeveless front-tie version of the blouse and a small-scale floral cotton.  This was a simpler make, cut in a straight size 8.  Instead of using purchased bias tape for the armhole finish, I made my own from a piece of the blouse fabric, but otherwise I made up the blouse according to the pattern instructions.  I used my narrow-hem foot to turn and stitch the lower hem.

Monday, 18 April 2016

Men's Vest, Second Edition

A couple of years ago, I made this vest for my son.  As there was plenty of the brocade used for the lining left over, we opted to make another, this time a dressier version, with the brocade forming the outside this time.  The lining and back were made of black Bemberg rayon, which is a terrible nuisance to work with, being so slippery, but which has a wonderful silky hand to wear.

To reinforce and support the Bemberg (and to make it easier to work with), I interlined the entire thing with pieces cut from a poly-cotton bed sheet too ugly to see the light of day, but which was stable enough to help the entire project move forward more smoothly.

Once again I used Burda 7799, this time without the pockets, lapels, or back half-belt.  I used buttons that coordinated with the silver-white in the brocade.

As you can see, it turned out quite well. The next version will probably have either bound or hand-worked buttons as I work to improve my skills and expand my sewing lexicon.

Monday, 4 April 2016

Polka-dot Portrait Blouse

With spring in the air, it was time to start thinking about spring/summer clothes, especially tops, of which I never seem to have enough.  I spotted a gorgeous polka-dot polyester crêpe de chine with a navy ground and dots in off-white and a blue that reminded me of Delft porcelain, and, what's more, it was heavily discounted ($4.20/metre, instead of $14).  This fabric didn't speak to me.  It sang like the Vienna Boys' Choir, speaking of interviews and summer barbecues and Audrey Hepburn elegance.

What to make from such a versatile fabric?  Nothing but an equally versatile blouse would do, namely, The Portrait Blouse from Gertie's New Book for Better Sewing.

It whipped up really easily, even having to do my usual full bust adjustment and sewing the side zipper, hem, and armholes by hand.  I used a lightweight sew-in interfacing on the neck facing, sewing it to the outer edge of the facing wrong-sides together and turning it right-side out to enclose the raw edges of a fabric that had a tendency to fray a bit.  All in all, it turned out quite well, and I definitely will make it again, maybe a whole collection of them for summer in a variety of lightweight drape-y fabrics.

As you can see from the photos, it goes really well with the pencil skirt I made last month, but I can see it going just as well with jeans or trousers, too, peeking out from under a blazer.

Monday, 21 March 2016

More Purple: Girl's Easter dress

It started with a library book.  Girl's World, by Jennifer Paganelli.  

I started looking through it with my daughter, and she expressed an interest in one of the dress patterns included in its pages, namely "Mary's Fancy Sash Dress".  

A few quick size and yardage calculations later, I found myself in the fabric store looking for coordinating fabrics that wouldn't immediately alienate a ten-year-old girl who has expressed strong dislike for any colours that she deems "girly".  

I ended up with two nicely coordinating purple quilting blenders:

 I only made one minor change to the pattern, using the bias binding facing the neck and armholes on the outside instead of the inside.

Since the skirt was quite long, I took a 1" deep tuck around the entire skirt.

Beginning 1" above the stitching line for the tuck, I also added three rows of trim, two of 1/4" satin ribbon, and one of 1/2-inch bias binding of the sash material.

Once everything was completed, I had a happy girl in a pretty dress.