Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Give me Liberty..... Um, well, faux Liberty

Today, readers, we'll be traveling to merry old England and visiting the flagship store of Liberty of London. If I'm ever lucky enough to visit London, this is sure to be on the itinerary. Truly, this is a Mecca for the fabric obsessed. If you follow this blog, chances are that you fall into this category too.

Let's go inside, shall we?

Oh, my! This is what I would call a shopping experience. We're a long way from Kansas, and a long long way from Target. Apparently this installation was created for London Fashion Week. Spectacular. However, all this Tudor splendor comes at price.

I have been wanting a "little flowers" shirt for almost a year now. This is a very basic point collar men's shirt, with questionable matching at the front placket. Nice. It sells for £125 ( around $200 ). Pretty, yes......within my budget? Not on your life! I can't even justify the $80+ that the fabric alone would cost to make this shirt.

But all is not lost.

I was lucky to find this shirting on sale at Denver Fabrics. It's an Italian cotton, 36" wide, very finely woven with crisp printing. I ordered 3.5 yards at a $4.45 per yard. Score!

If I had not taken this picture I would never have noticed the subtle diagonal nature of this print. So much for just randomly cutting it out. I attempted to match the fronts and placket to preserve the diagonal effect. I've since read that the diagonal quality of the print is a hallmark of Liberty. Who knew? Certainly not me.

Here's a close up. These are all colors that work well for me.

Is it Liberty, or an imposter?

This is perhaps the best shirt I've ever made. I'm getting used to working with lighter weight fabrics. I've also given up my resistance to fusible interfacings. This shirt was interfaced with Pro-woven "shirt crisp" from FashionSewingSupply.com. I can't recommend it highly enough! It really gives the feel of a store bought shirt.

The matching isn't perfect, but good enough to preserve the flow of the pattern.

Final tally, not that it's that important...

Fabric $15.60, Buttons $5.25 = an "almost Liberty shirt" for $20.85

Clothes that I really love to wear .... Priceless!

I'm thinking I'll wear this for Thanksgiving this year. Speaking of which, I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving and joyful sewing!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Tuxedo Finale x 2

I haven't posted a completed project in ages.  So to make up for that I'm posting not one, but TWO completed tuxedo shirts.  

So with all due respect, Tennessee and Chumley .....  on with the show! 

First up is the VERY long overdue linen tuxedo shirt.  I was working on this shirt when disaster struck this summer.  One of my co-workers was about to move into a new house that had been under construction for at least a year.  My plan was to wear this shirt to the open house she was planning.  I would have worn it like this.  Untucked with a pair of dark wash jeans.  As things turned out I ended up on my porch, swilling Ensure and sweating up a storm.  

I lost 17 lbs. unintentionally over the summer.  Not being able to eat for a month will do that.  As a result this shirt is a little loose, but I'm sure I'll grow into it.  

Here it is tucked in.  The plastron extends about 2" below the waistband of my jeans.  

This shirt has a single French cuff, which is a lot less bulky than the double variety.  It seems less fussy and more appropriate for a casual shirt.   I'm wearing it with a pair of cameo cufflinks that were purchased from The Open Sesame on Etsy.  I like the contrast of formal elements and relaxed wrinkled ease.  Hmm.  Maybe I'll get to wear it next summer.  

This shirt, on the other hand, is ready to wear now.  I can totally see myself wearing this to the staff holiday party next month.  The pleating is very subtle on this shirt.  The light is just catching the edge of the pleats in this photo.  

In this shot the pleats are completely invisible.  I've learned since starting this project that my pleating is technically called "military pleating" or "pleating to the stripe".  It contributes to the more dominant horizontal stripes of the plastron.  It also makes the red in the tartan more prominent.  Note to self:  start making more red clothes.  

Here the light is showing the pleats to greater effect. 

Am I done with tuxedo shirts?  Hell no!  I'm totally seeing view D of this pattern in my future.  The "Venetian blind shirt".  

As always, I wish you happy sewing, and thank you for all the support that I receive as a result of this crazy blog.  Cheers! 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tartan tuxedo update

Things have moved ahead nicely on the tuxedo shirt.  

I did tons of matching on the fronts of the shirt, but there are parts of a man's shirt where matching is impractical if not completely out of the question.  The center back box pleat makes matching the yoke impossible, so it's better to cut it on the bias.  I did, however, center the plaid on the fold while cutting it out.  The collar is also centered and lines up nicely with the box pleat.  Silly? Obsessive? Maybe, but making my own shirts has made me care about such details.  

The sleeve placket is another place where it's just easier to "un-match".  I use the template from Coffin's book on shirtmaking.  It makes something that looks complicated surprisingly easy.  I think it also adds a little pizzaz.  

The collar is always the biggest bugaboo for me.  I had such good luck with a collar stay slot on the linen tux shirt that I tried it again.  The point collar shape made the placement awkward, and I totally forgot to allow for the 1/4" topstitching.  The end result -- the stay doesn't go very deeply into the slot.  Still, it works, so it's not a total failure.  Just another "live and learn" sewing experience.  

The basting has been removed from the pleats, and I'm totally loving them.  They were worth every minute of pressing, basting and slip-stitching.  

All that remains is buttonholes and buttons.  

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The highs and lows of ordering fabric online

Perhaps you live in the boonies like me.  Don't get me wrong, I love where I live, but I'm at a real disadvantage when it comes to buying fabric.  Basically I have two choices ; Wal-mart (ick) and JoAnn's (gag), both of which are about a 16 mile drive.  Sorry, but it's just not worth the trip.  

Luckily I get to NYC a few times a year for some fabric shopping,  but even that can be discouraging and exhausting.  I usually have something very specific in mind which can be like looking for a needle in the proverbial fabric haystack.  

I've turned to the internet for fabric from time to time, usually with pretty good results.  Still it's pretty much a crap shoot.  Not being able to actually touch the fabric, coupled with being dependent on the accuracy of a photograph, really puts one at a disadvantage.  But I'm a sucker for free shipping, so here are a few things that arrived yesterday.  Postage free!  

I've been wanting a "little flowers" shirt for awhile.  I saw some gorgeous French fabrics during my one and only visit to Elliot Berman Textiles in NYC, but the $18 / Yd price scared me away.  Of course I was reminded that Liberty is $35+ / yd. but it still seemed too extravagant.  This is an Italian shirting that is every bit as nice in my opinion. 

This is as close to a Liberty of London shirt as I'm ever going to come.  I love the colors.  Coral, gold, brown, gray, green.  It's incredibly fine with a beautiful lustre to it.  

Of course there's no Hello Kitty hidden in the design.  But that's what you get at $35 / Yd vs. $4.45 / yd!  

Next up is this raw silk plaid patchwork.  I'll call this a partial disappointment.  I appreciate all the labor that goes into making a fabric like this, but it looks like it got dragged across the sweatshop floor before being rolled onto the bolt.  There are stray threads caught in the seams everywhere!  I will be pulling and clipping threads for hours.  In spite of all the flaws, I still think this will make a fun Spring jacket.  It's just going to be more work than I planned on. 

Oy!  What a mess. 

Lastly, this just belongs in the "What was I thinking" category.  This was sold as a corduroy.  It's ribbed, but there is hardly any pile to it.  Its saving grace is that it was very inexpensive.  My plan was to make my first pair of trousers with this, and I think I still will.  I fully expect that they won't fit, so I'll wad them up and throw the whole mess out.  

Please don't laugh!  Yes, I really did buy this.  

So there we have it ... the good, the bad and the ugly of buying fabrics online.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Tartan Tuxedo Shirt -- a de-stashing project

Thanks to all my readers for the get well wishes.  I'm glad to say that I'm finally back in the swing of things, and feeling in desperate need of a project.  There seems to be a lot of blogging lately about stashes.  They're being agonized over, sorted, reorganized, and used.  Mine, I'll admit is pretty small.  I have 4 lengths of fabric, a drawer full of various interfacings and a bag of scraps.  Now would be a good time to reduce the stash.  

I've decided to make another tuxedo shirt, this time with some tartan shirting that I bought from Denver Fabrics back in January during one of their free shipping promotions.  It's really very nice fabric, a fine twill weave actually, in red, olive, navy and yellow.  

There is really not much to making a tuxedo shirt.  The pleats are actually a separate piece of fabric sewn onto the shirt fronts.  So any shirt that fits you well can be pretty easily dressed up with just a couple of additional steps.  The plaid will be an extra challenge, but these kinds of challenges are what makes sewing fun for me.  

I cut a strip of fabric and experimented with various pleat sizes and matching strategies.  I decided on this arrangement which emphasized more red.  The plastron (pleated panel) will finish out at  3.75 inches wide.  

So here is my sample and the width of fabric that will be required to make it.  It takes about 3 times the width of the finished plastron.  

I pressed each pleat and then basted them into position, trying to match the plaid as carefully as possible.  

It's hard to see, but on the reverse side I slipstitched each pleat to the backside of the adjacent pleat.  These stitches are invisible from the front and will hold the pleats in place when the basting is removed. At least that's the plan.   

The pleated plastron is slipped under the interfaced front band and basted into place.  Then it's edgestitched to the shirt front along the bottom and side.  The front band is pressed over and topstitched just like any other shirt.  I'm really pleased with all the matching.  This is when a little extra attention to detail really pays off.  Yay! 

FYI  -- The plastron is cut long enough to extend beyond the neck edge and shoulder seam.  

Lastly, the excess is trimmed off and the upper edge is basted to hold the pleats in place.  From here on out it's just basic shirt construction.  

Happy Sewing!  (and de-stashing) 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

No sewing, but lots of looking / dreaming

Wouldn't you know it, today I get a huge shout-out from Sunni at a Fashionable Stitch and my blog is at a dead standstill.   Arrrgh!  

Well, I may not be doing any sewing lately, but I've sure been looking at lots of clothes.  Namely, I've been looking at the SS2013 menswear collections that are getting strutted out around the globe lately.  Honestly, I don't usually follow fashion other than buying my annual GQ which I haul to the beach in Asbury Park, NJ each summer.  

I'm always intrigued by what inspires other sewists.  So here are some of the looks that have captured my imagination.  I have no intention of slavishly copying any of these clothes.  Rather, they just happen to get my "wheels turning".  All these photos are from Style.com, and you can click on the links to go to the slideshows.  

By far and away my favorite SS2013 collection is from Brioni .  Gorgeous tailoring and delicious colors.  I would totally wear this (with the exception of the hat!).    Funny, this jacket is very similar to a Vogue pattern (#1928) that I have always thought was ridiculous.  Lowering the stance to a two button jacket and slimming down the shorts has made me completely rethink this look.  In fact, I have just ordered a patchwork plaid raw silk from Denver Fabrics that could work for this jacket.  Hey, a guy can dream right? 

Anyone who has followed my blog knows that I'm a total sucker for a great coat.  This one is from John Varvatos .  He sent out a whole group in this brown and white combination, which I think is more appropriate for Spring / Summer than the ubiquitous black.  I wish I wasn't so afraid to make a pair of trousers!  This look makes me want some white ones for next Spring.  

Breathtaking......from Belstaff .  There is so much to swoon over from this collection.  I know nothing about British luxury brands, but apparently Belstaff's claim to fame is leather motocross jackets.  The looks that wowed me included leather trimmed safari jackets, a knit motocross sweater and a pair of trousers with a leather waistband and leather trimmed welt pockets.  

I think spring / summer clothes should be colorful, and by far the most colorful collection was from Salvatore Ferragamo .  There was a whole "fleet" of handpainted jackets and sweaters that sailed down the runway.  I would love to give this a try.  I just need 4 or 5 perfectly tailored jackets to experiment with!    

In the same vein were these ombre'd hombres.  The pink version is by Canali , the coral version is Ralph Lauren .  

This "short over long" look cropped up in several collections.  Admittedly, it's a young look, and it borders on inappropriate for a man my age.  Still I'm attracted to it.  This is from Antonio Azzuolo , and is the best interpretation of the look IMO.  I think the longer piece is a vest, but it could easily be a shirt.  The band on the vest appears to be made of the jacket material, an interesting touch.  Thoughts????

Finally, after all this looking.......

Biggest disappointment -- Ann Demeulemeester .  Ix-nay on the silk pajama bottoms! 
Worst collection -- Dsquared2  These boys are looking at too much Tom of Finland porn.
Hottest models -- Armani  

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The WORST summer ever

I don't have that many followers, but some of you may be wondering what the hell happened to the tuxedo shirt.  Talk about being close, but ever so far away.  

I really had not been feeling well since mid June.  Nothing specific, just that vague feeling that one's not 100% right.  Around the time of my last posting here things were quickly deteriorating.  I really knew I was in trouble when I was unable to stand at the sink and brush my teeth without gasping for air.  

I was hospitalized for five days and pumped full of antibiotics.  I was the mystery patient, and was discharged with the unsettling diagnosis of FUO  (fever of unknown origin).  Not very reassuring!  The following week my lab work revealed that I had a form of mono caused by the virus CMV.  Cytomegalovirus.  Since then I have been crawling out of what seems like a black hole.  Never in my life did I think I could be so debilitated. 

I'm making gradual gains every week, and soon should have the strength to pick up a needle and thread and sew the buttons on the damn shirt.  All the down time has given me plenty of time to look at patterns on Ebay and Etsy, and to dream about future sewing adventures.  My latest fantasy.... A bonnie prince Charlie jacket, vest and kilt!  

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The collar -- Saving the hardest till last

I've been back and forth on the whole collar issue.  Collar? or just a band?  Since both my Victorian shirts have only collar bands I decided on a collar and stand for this shirt.  The problem?  I only have patterns for a buttondown collar and a rounded collar (which came out like crap because I stink at sewing curves).  

I will have to make my own collar pattern.  

My goal is a narrow spread collar, so I made a mock up using my Swedish tracing paper.  It can be sewn just like fabric.  I was able to experiment with the spread by wrapping the paper collar around my neck and folding it to a shape I liked.  Once I was satisfied, I ripped the seams apart and simply traced a new collar pattern based on my various folds.  

Ok, I own the shirtmaking book by DPC.  I'm not mentioning his name here for fear of being sued.  This book brings on an instant headache for me.  If I had some prescription pain killers I'd be taking them.  Nevertheless, I've decided to follow his directions for a collar with slots for collar stays.  For some reason, founded or unfounded, I'm worried that my little spread collar won't hold its shape.  So here goes....

The edge of the collar is folded back and trimmed off.  Then a 4 - 5" scrap of cloth is basted into position behind it.

The 1/2" slot for the stay is stitched through all the layers.  I think you just have to use your intuition about the angle that bisects the point of the collar.  Also, there has to be room to get the stay into the slot, so be aware of where the seam allowances are. 

Once the slot is stitched the pattern is pinned back onto the collar and the scrap is trimmed.  Now you're back to the original collar shape. 

Here's how it looks after the collar is stitched, turned and attached to the stand.  Yay!  This ended up better than I anticipated.  Time to attach the collar / stand to the shirt.  

At this point, however, I put DPC back on the shelf and go to Peter's shirt sew-along instructions .  Attaching the stand to the shirt is the most challenging part of shirtmaking for me, and his technique has work the best for me.  Still it's never easy and quite time consuming to do well.  

Getting there!  Time to give it a rest.  All that's left are buttonholes and hemming.