Monday, June 28, 2010

Rainy day progress

I was really hoping today would rain so I could make some headway on this project.  I managed to get several of the design details finished.  I made the pocket flaps which are lined with black satin and interfaced with the hair canvas.  Then I moved on to the yoke which is lined with black flannel.  It will be topstitched directly onto the coat once the fronts and back are connected.  The real challenge of the day was to make the tabs at the sleeve cuffs.  Because my sewing machine makes cheesy looking buttonholes I decided to make bound buttonholes per Edna Bishop.  I'm not going to bore you with all the details, I'm sure there are plenty of instructions on the internet.  If anything, I hope I can encourage you to try them.  Hey, if I can do it..... While I was working on them I realized that details like this are why I'm taking on this project in the first place.  It's all about having something unique, with an attention to detail that I would never be able to afford.  The next step will be to construct the pockets, but I have a question out to the Pattern Review message board that I'd like to have answered before I launch out on my own.  I really don't want to screw them up.  

Getting out of a bind

Ok.  This pattern, as published, is for an unlined coat.  All the seams call for bias tape to cover the raw edges.  I really can't imagine wearing an unlined wool coat, so I guess it must be something Japanese.  Anyway, I plan on lining the coat with the exception of the hood.  I don't think I've ever seen anyone wearing this style of coat who would be caught dead with the hood up.  Maybe in a blizzard when you're trying to dig the car out of a ditch.  I see the hood as more of a built in scarf / big floppy collar.  I have decided to leave it unlined.  Thankfully this will be the ONLY unlined part of the coat.  I have never worked with bias tape before and found it moderately difficult to sew well.  Because my fabric is fairly thick it just barely covered the raw edges.  I did try a wider width, but it made the seams too stiff and inflexible.  I ended up hand basting the seam binding to the edges and then stitching with the machine.  The seam allowances were then pressed to one side and topstitched down.  Time consuming, but in the end worth it.  I'm just very glad I don't have to do every seam of the entire coat.  

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The pieces are finally cut out

I was up early this morning.  3 cups of coffee later I was ready to cut out my coat.  I decided to review Edna Bishop one last time.  I wonder how many sewists she's scared / discouraged over the years with her constant harping on PERFECTION.  I have to admit I was just about paralyzed into inaction, constantly questioning if I had achieved true Grain Perfection.  I put all my self doubts aside, took a deep breath, pinned on my pattern pieces according to the diagrams and cut the coat out.  Hooray!  Today I'm going to shop for thread and some new bobbins.  I also need to preshrink the lining and cotton flannel that I'm using.  

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Saving the worst 'til last

Just in case you've forgotten, here's what I'm trying to make.  The only remaining pattern piece to make has been the yoke, and it's turned out to be a 2 day mind bending experience.  It didn't affect the muslin version so I could ignore it, but it's a major design element of the coat which I needed to resolve.  It's one piece, cut on the fold, which will drape over the shoulders both front and back.  It's a crazy shaped piece which takes up a big chunk of my fabric "real estate", so I can't afford to screw it up.  Of course it doesn't help that I've changed the shoulder line and slashed and taped the front and  back pattern pieces multiple times.  The whole yoke pattern needed to be redrawn to fit. I had a stiff mojito before attempting to work on it last night which was a huge mistake.  I kept shuffling between the original pattern and my enlarged pattern, laying one over the other until I was completely befuddled and decided I should just go to bed.  I decided to tackle it again today sans alcohol, but I've still spent a huge amount of time trying to figure it out.  Hopefully it's right because I will be cutting it out tomorrow morning.   

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The London Shrink

Sorry, this isn't going to be about psychotherapy.  It's about preshrinking wool fabrics.  I'm not a big fan of dry cleaners, so I'm going to do the London shrink method.  It's surprisingly easy, and today was the perfect day for it -- hot and not too humid.  I tore an old twin sized cotton sheet down the middle, soaked it and wrung as much water as possible out of it.  The strips of sheeting are then laid onto the folded wool which has had its ends basted together.  The two layers are then folded toward the center forming a loose package of wool layered with wet cotton.  Additional damp sheeting covers the entire package to prevent it from drying out too fast.  Since it was quite hot and dry today, I went even further and covered everything with plastic sheeting.  The fabric sits for 3 hours and the moisture is gently absorbed into the wool.  The sheeting is removed and the slightly damp wool is smoothed flat by hand.  I can't believe how much softer this process has made the hand of the fabric.  Where the fabric was basted there is now a puckered edge.  Proof to me that the fabric really did shrink.  I don't think the fabric should require anything more than a light steaming.  Hard to believe, but I'm inching closer to cutting out the coat.  

The quest for "grain perfection"

Apparently if I want a high quality garment that will fit and hang well, I must first attain grain perfection.  Essentially, this amounts to squaring up the length of fabric.  My fabric had been "sampled" multiple times in the store, and one edge was very ragged.  I clipped into the selvedge above the sample gouges and started to pull a single weft thread.  This produced a gather which had to be patiently worked across the fabric as the thread was  removed.  Simple, just a little time consuming.  But heck, nothing about this project is going to be fast. As the thread broke I could hold the fabric up to the light and cut along the line that was being formed.  Once both ends were squared, and with the fabric folded down the center, I evened the ends and basted them together.  

Monday, June 14, 2010

Hair canvas... and a little rant about JoAnn Fabrics

The Bishop Method goes into great length about the glories of hair canvas.  Hair what????   This was a new one for me, and a quick Google search proved that it does, in fact, exist.  Sorry, but I didn't even consider looking for the stuff at my local JoAnn Fabrics, the only fabric store for miles around, and one that I hate with a passion.  I shop there as little as possible.  My last visit to JoAnn's was for 4 yds of unbleached muslin.  The salesperson actually had to measure it out twice, all the while smoothing and stretching it out so that I wouldn't get even  1/4" more than exactly 4 yards.  Mind you, this purchase was an extravagant $1.49 / Yd!  WTF  Obviously some corporate MBA has done an analysis of how much profit is lost by giving the customer a few extra inches.  I'd love to hear from other JoAnn Fabric haters.  I know you're out there. 

I was at the house in Asbury Park last week and decided to stop in Manhattan on my way back to Maine.  I found my hair canvas at Steinlauf and Stoller, Inc on W. 39th St.  I knew just standing outside the building that they'd have it.  Their specialty is notions, interfacings, zippers, shoulder pads and such.  It's such a drab, gray storefront surrounded by stores with windows full of the most colorful outrageous fabrics.  Only a place as dreary as this would have hair canvas.  Jackpot! I think they had four different types of varying weight and stiffness.  A hair canvas bonanza!  I can't wait to use it.  My next step is to pre-shrink the wool fabric, but I'll need a dry sunny day for that.  

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Muslin good as it gets

Here are pics of the final fitting muslin.  Considering that I had never altered a pattern before, I'm pleased with the result.  It's come a long way from the first straightjacket, and it truly feels like it's time to be moving on.  The next step will be to prepare the wool.  Get ready for the London Shrunk Method.  

Thumbs up for the new arm fit

I brought the muslin (with one revised armscye) to dinner last night at Brian and Martin's.  They both agreed that the fit was better on the altered arm, so I returned home today to complete the other side.  I've altered the sleeve patterns more than any other part.  They're now shorter and   wider both at the cuff and the shoulder.  I think you can see how much I've cut and taped the pattern.  I figured just to be safe I'd cut them out from scratch one last time.  I'm glad I did, since the 2 pieces didn't line up over the sleeve cap at all.  I'm getting less intimidated by the alterations, so I just trimmed the extended sleeve section off by eye. This has all been good practice for setting in the sleeves.  I think I've done it 5 times so far.  Practice makes perfect.   

If they mention Pi, it's over!

I started to research adjusting the armhole ( correct term: Armscye) and stumbled upon the Rundschau Sleeve System.  Oh man, just take a look.  I'm flashing back to algebra II!  There is Mrs. Ladieu, in one of her smart Butte Knit outfits all covered with yellow chalk dust, graphing out a parabola while I break out into a cold sweat.  SO, to preserve my sanity and keep this project moving forward, I boldly take out a Sharpie, mark out a 1/2" arc along the bottom of the armscye and cut the sucker out.  Now that the opening is larger I opened out the sleeve seam about 3/4" from the elbow to the shoulder.  Ta Da!  it all goes back together, the underarm wrinkles go away and the coat is much easier to get into.  

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Muslin #2.....getting closer

Huzbear Brian came over yesterday to help in the garden and agreed to take pictures of me in the new and improved fitting muslin.  So I donned a flannel shirt and sweater, thank God it wasn't hot, and modeled the new version.  The alterations I've made so far are a step in the right direction, but I'm still not convinced that it's fitting right.  I think the shoulders are better and I like being able to close it in the front. That MAY come in handy this winter!  It may still be a bit tight across my chest.  The back is a complete mystery.  Of course it doesn't help that I can't see back there.  Brian thinks that the armholes are too small, and I'm tending to agree with him there.  Maybe if I chop out about a 1/2" from the bottom of the arm opening, it would stop bunching up in the back?  Thoughts from any followers would be appreciated.  In the meantime I'm going to be researching how to change the armhole.  This seems like very treacherous territory to me.  The coat has a 2 piece sleeve, and its seam doesn't line up with the side seam of the coat.  I feel like I need to call my Jr. High geometry teacher.