Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Kilt -- Baby Steps

So I've officially taken the plunge.



This will be my guide. I think it's safe to say that this book is considered the bible of kiltmaking. It's a little on the daunting side. The book opens with a series of color plates showing "good kilt" next to "bad kilt". Good kilt length / bad kilt, too short . Good stitching, invisible / bad kilt, stitches too large. Good kilt, stripes straight / bad kilt, stripes wandering. It's hard not to feel defeated before even starting! This lady sets the bar high.

In addition to this book I've also joined an online forum called "X Marks the Scot". Barbara Tewksbury, author of the book, actively participates in the forum. I've already posted several questions and she has chimed in on all of them, sometimes at great length. I've appreciated both her expertise and willingness to explain things in a supportive way. That doesn't always happen in online forums, where some members love nothing more than to pontificate on and on, and never answer the question.


But, I'm getting ahead of myself.



I spent days playing around with possible pleating styles. Yes, days! Without going too deep into the weeds, there are two types of pleating. Pleating "to the stripe" (also called military pleating), and pleating "to the sett" (in which the tartan is reproduced in the pleats). In military pleating the same stripe is centered in the pleats worked across the back of the kilt. My tartan is one of the more simple weaves, made up of only 3 colors. There are really only two possibilities for pleating to the stripe IMO. The yellow stripe centered between the black squares, and the red stripe through the yellow. I sort of approximated them in the photo above.


In the end I rejected both of them. Pleating to the yellow stripe created a very somber, to my eye "muddy", look. It took on almost a greenish cast.



However, it would have produced bright flashes of color when the pleats moved. Lots of drama, but a little too risky for a first (and most likely the only) kilt I will ever make for myself.


Pleating to the red stripe created a very golden yellow kilt. Pretty, but would I love it forever? These are the kinds of quandaries that can keep a man up at night, especially considering the cost of the materials and the amount of labor involved.


In the end I decided that pleating to the sett was the way to go. The pleats in the back will reproduce the tartan, giving the kilt the same appearance all the way around. In other words, I'm taking the safe route.



Here I've broken the weave down into the sections that will become the pleats. Each pleat will be 1" wide with a stripe or color border centered in each pleat.




Here I've pinned the pleats into place. The sett of my tartan is actually quite small. Each total repeat of the plaid is only 5". Why does this matter? It makes the depth of each pleat quite shallow. That would be fine if I had a limited amount of fabric to work with, but I have "the whole nine yards!" I definitely don't want a skimpy kilt, so I've decided that each pleat will encorporate two whole repeats of the tartan. Yet another decision that kept me awake at night!


Days of deliberation and not one stitch made! Next time I hope to have made some real progress.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Sewing Bigly in 2017!

Sorry, I couldn't resist. Clearly, we're sailing into uncharted waters as a nation, but my goals for the coming year are crystal clear.


My son will be getting married in October, and get this.....he's asked the old man to make him a kilt! I am deeply touched and honored beyond belief, but at the same time scared to death. Maybe you remember that this has been on my sewing bucket list for about 3 years now.






Here I was picking up my tartan, the "Loud MacLeod", with my mom at Scotland by the Yard in Quechee, Vermont. It's been on mothballs ever since! My plan is to make myself a kilt first, (read: make all the mistakes on mine), then tackle his.



I have this Folkwear pattern, but won't be using it for the kilt. There is, in fact, no "pattern" for a kilt. A kilt is totally made based on the wearer's measurements and the amount and sett (repeat) of the tartan. It's a little overwhelming. I will use the pattern for the Prince Charlie jacket and vest.



So here's to the New Year! My year of SWAP, sewing with a purpose.



My goal.....


Two 8 yard kilts

Two Prince Charlie (or maybe Argyle) jackets

Two vests

A Glengarry cap for me


Oh, and something snazzy to wear for the rehearsal dinner I'm hosting. Time to roll out the tartan!


I also promise to never utter the word "bigly" again!


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Repairs Completed or..... Rip, Sew, Scream, Rip, Repeat.

OK. This exercise is completed, and it's been a journey for sure. At one point I was screaming louder than the collective scream heard from coast to coast a few weeks ago. My strategy was to take a break, go to yoga class, breath and then calmly return to the whole mess.


Yes, it got messy! The shirt in particular. But first up...the safari jacket.



This was the easier of the two repairs. I opened up a slit in the lining's side seam just big enough to put my hand through (I didn't want to mess with the armhole). Then it was easy to reach up inside and pull the sleeve head down and out. And what to my wondering eyes did appear?



Why, a sleeve head and seam allowance clips everywhere! All part of my failed attempts to improve the set of the sleeves way back when.


This time around I reduced the height of the sleeve cap by 5/8" at the apex, and then graded the curve down to the front and back notches. This greatly reduced the amount of easing required.



After sewing the new seam, I stitched in a new wool sleeve head over the top of the sleeve. This technique is from The Bishop Method of Sewing Construction, by Edna Bishop. A bias cut strip of wool 1 1/2" wide is lined up with the edge of the seam allowances, and then hand sewn in close to the seam. It sounds more difficult than it is. When the sleeve is turned rightside out the strip will fold over on itself and fill out the top of the sleeve. That's the theory anyway.



And here's how it turned out. It's not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but still a big improvement. If it weren't for the Lycra in the fabric, any little dimples could have been steamed out. Alas, they just spring right back. Still, this repair is a win in my book. The safari jacket is back in rotation! (And I will continue my resolve to NEVER buy stretch fabrics again!).


On to the shirt.....


Picking apart a shirt is an exercise in patience and perseverance, especially when it's sewn with about 20 stitches per inch.


After what seemed like hours, I had a pile of abandoned parts. Cuffs, collar, stand, interfacing and the entire left front placket. From there, things actually progressed quickly. I had more than enough fabric to remake the replacement parts which I interfaced with Shirt Crisp interfacing from Fashion Sewing Supply. Everything was assembled and wouldn't you know, my old Singer 301 refused to make a buttonhole. Ugh!


I pulled out the Janome Magnolia, my backup machine, and figured out how its buttonhole attachment works. I had never used it before. My practice buttonholes were coming out perfectly. I bet I made at least 10. Everything was working flawlessly. The buttonholes on the placket and cuffs came out perfectly. I was cruising towards the finish line. And then....I had to make the small buttonholes on the collar.


Wouldn't you know. The F'ing contraption just took off on its own and decided to make a huge butttonhole. To make matters worse I had set the machine for its most dense stitch. Needless to say there were some choice words said. By the time I picked it out, the fabric was pretty well shredded. In fact there was actually a hole on the undercollar.



In another act of brilliance, I though a dab of Fray Check might help. Wrong! It bled through to the upper collar and left a stain. At this point a cooling off period was in order, so I put the whole mess aside for at least a week.



I had just enough fabric to make another collar, so I ripped the whole thing out again and started over. This time around the buttonhole gizmo worked perfectly, but I still held my breath through the whole operation. So what did I end up with other than frazzled nerves....?



A shirt that will actually get worn. I made a few stylistic changes this time around. The placket and collar are cut on the cross grain, I added a buttoned pocket, and swapped out the light colored buttons for something darker. The shirt will always have its flaws (I've learned a lot about shirtmaking since I made this), but overall it fits in better with my wardrobe, and I no longer feel guilty about the clothes that I never wear.


What's next? Some "secret sewing", and then a fresh project. Wishing you all happy sewing!





Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Troubling Ethics of Clothes That I Never Wear

Maybe you caught this little post from Sewing on The Edge which linked to an article about a minimalist / capsule wardrobe? While my wardrobe is hardly minimalist, I do try to make clothes that I want to wear. Still, there are clothes that I've sewn that, for one reason or another, I NEVER wear.


There's something vaguely unsettling about this. I don't regret the time and effort involved in making these clothes; but to never wear them seems a waste of resources. To remedy this situation I'm going to undertake "rescuing" two items that never see the light of day.


First up....



My safari jacket.


I should be wearing the hell out of this jacket right now, but I cringe every time I see the horrible set of the sleeves. This mess is the collision of two, too much sleeve ease...and two, a stretch fabric that doesn't allow the extra ease to be steamed out. Note: this project made me swear off stretch fabrics forever. I've replaced this jacket with my wool Halston shacket, but I truly miss wearing it, especially this time of year.




This jacket was both a ton of work, and a joy to make. To have it languishing in the closet because I'm too embarrassed to wear it is a shame. My plan is to open the side linings and pull the sleeve through, shorten the sleeve cap and put things back together. I may even put in a little wool sleeve head to give the shoulders more structure. Here's hoping!


Next problem child...




The first shirt I ever made!


I made this shirt when Peter had his Shirt Sewalong (I think he was making the Negroni?). I think I've worn it once, which is a shame because it's a fine Italian cotton in a great color for me. Sadly, it has some issues. Some I can fix, others I'll just have to live with.


The biggest problem is lack of decent interfacing. It's just interfaced with white cotton fabric with little to no body. Since making this shirt I've learned just how important good interfacing is to a shirt. Hence, my addiction to Fashion Sewing Supply's "shirt crisp" interfacing. For me it's the difference between a shirt that gets worn, and one that's relegated to the back of the closet.


Next problem, the full French cuffs. Fun and novel as they are, they're just not me. They've gotta go.




Ummm...this was the best I could do at the time. Reality check, I still can't sew a curve worth a damn, so I'll replace the whole collar and stand (God willing). This time around it will be a button down, which is much more my style (and NO curves involved!). With a little love, I'm hoping to get this sad shirt back into the game.



Thankfully, I saved a good sized hunk of this fabric. Vindication for all us sewists who save all our scraps, and sometimes scratch our heads wondering why we do it!

Time to break out the seam ripper.


Thursday, October 6, 2016

The Fur Backpack -- It's a Wrap



Fall, Folliage and FUR!




It's finally done, my Michael Kors knockoff fur backpack. There's not a whole lot to say, other than I'm totally loving how it turned out. Perhaps the best part of the project was how much FUN I had working on a non-apparel project. It was really refreshing, and I'm already collecting materials for my next bag! (This one has to stay a secret).



To recap, this is essentially the Lucy Backpack from Swoon Patterns, enlarged an inch in each direction; otherwise it looked a little too childish. I left out some details that I didn't like (or were never going to work with my materials), and personalized the interior to suit my needs.




I love a little "bag bling", so a big shout out to Lauren's Creations. If you're a steampunk lover, check out her Etsy shop here.



And while I'm shouting out......thanks to my beautiful daughter and equally beautiful son's fiancé for helping with the photo shoot. Without you, I would have been back in my yard with the tripod, setting the timer, running in front of the camera and hoping for the best. It was so much fun doing this with you!


(Apple picking, Rocky Ridge Orchard, Bowdoin, ME)





Photo location -- Derecktor / Robinhood Marina, Georgetown, ME


So it's a wrap! Time to head home and start a new project.


As always, thanks for all the support and encouragement I get from the sewing community. Be well!


Monday, September 26, 2016

Pantone, Progress and Problems

Clearly the Pantone prognosticators were watching me last March at the MPB Winter Frolic! Were they hiding behind the rolls of faux fur at NY Elegant? Did they watch me pick out this fur, knowing that I'm always way ahead of the fashion curve?


I picked this.....



Low and behold.....what do they pick for this Fall's color trends???


Potter's Clay and Sharkskin!


Of course, I'm being silly here. But I do find it amusing that my current project fits in with their color predictions. Truthfully, I would never have known about their color selections if Peter, over at Male Pattern Boldness, hadn't just finished a great work jacket in Aurora Red. Or is it Cranberry? Maybe Tomato?


In the end, who really cares? Certainly not me.





I completed the lining, which includes the scavenged swivel clip for my car keys.





I took my readers' advice and added a handle. It's not visible here, but the folded ultrasuede is held together with Wonder Tape (another gift from Kyle over at Vacuuming the Lawn). It's " secret weapon #2". It made the assembly so much easier. I added a couple of rivets for added reinforcement (plus, I just love using them).


The Janome had no difficulty sewing through all the layers here, which are considerable!




The drawstring is also attached with rivets. It's actually easier than the directions, which say to sew through all layers along the stitching line of the drawstring.





The upper band of ultrasuede is interfaced with a midweight fusible Pelon product that I picked up at JoAnn's. I have to say that I've been spoiled by the interfacings from Fashion Sewing Supply. However, the ones I had on hand all fuse at high temps, and I was worried about melting the faux suede. JoAnn's was the expedient choice, but it's hard not to feel that I paid a price "performance wise" with what I purchased there. When I make my next bag (I'm sure there'll be another) I'll take the time to order in some better products.




Setting the grommets was much easier than I had imagined. I bought this set on Etsy. Basically... Punch hole, insert the hardware, place on base and pound with a hammer. Tout fini!





I took my new backpack on a test drive this afternoon. I had a service appointment for my car which would take about 1 hour. I packed my iPad, Kindle and ear phones into their appropriate slots and headed out. A pretty significant problem became immediately noticeable.


Because the lining is only attached at the very top edge of the bag, the weight of items in the pockets allows them to shift around, mostly front to back. When than happens the top of the pack gets pulled down. It gives the impression that the backpack is collapsing in on itself. Not a good look!


Upon returning home I went to work correcting the problem. I secured the lining to the back panel of the exterior bag with four rivets. Not the easiest thing to do with the bag all assembled, but where there's a will there's a way. No more shifting lining, (and it looks good too!).



Next time....the completed backpack. Here's a little tease.





Saturday, September 17, 2016

Backpack progress and.... Saying hello to Magnolia

My Singer 301 came back from the repair man cleaned up, but still very temperamental about sewing the ultrasuede. I think part of the problem was the jeans needle I was using. I believe that a ball point needle is required. But even with a new needle it was unpredictable at best. Sometimes it worked, other times it would skip an occasional stitch, and at times it didn't stitch at all. There was no figuring it out. Considering the expense of the fabrics involved, and to preserve my sanity, I moved on to Plan B.





Say hello to Magnolia. This machine has been sitting in my attic for a couple of years now. It belonged to my mom, who rarely used it. It was way too complicated for her, so she sent it in my direction. I honestly never felt the need to use it, so off to the attic it went.


Long story short, it took to the ultrasuede like a duck to water. Underneath all that white plastic it's amazingly powerful, and it truly rescued this entire project. Thanks, Mom!!





Speaking of rescues..... Wonder Clips!!! They made assembling the lining a snap. Thank you Kyle for sharing your bag making "secret weapon".





Working with the faux fur was surprisingly easy. Just the tip of the scissors are used. Slide them just under the backing fabric and snip maybe a 1/4" at a time. It's slow going, but the pile is preserved. After cutting, any loose fibers can be pulled away from the edges with your fingers. It's not anywhere near as messy as I feared it would be.




Wonder clips to the rescue again. Here a strip of ultrasuede is sewed to the fur. The pile of the fur is poked down into the seam allowance. Easy.





This is the suede flap, which is lined with a gray cotton quilting fabric interfaced with both a fusible and sew in interfacing. Two layers were required to obtain the body I wanted. Magnolia had no difficulty topstitching the assembled flap. (Even more Wonder Clips).





Slipping the lining into the fur section I can start to dream about the finished backpack. Still lots more to do though! Straps, a handle and grommets (which I've never done before).




The same goes for the boat. This is a pattern for the seats, set in place so I can dream about them. The mahogany boards for them should be delivered this week. Clearly the backpack will be done WAY before the boat!


I hope your projects, whatever they may be, are going well.