Thursday, August 29, 2013

Velvet Sleeve Geekery

It's been awhile since I geeked out on here, so this is for my tailoring readers.

I knew after making the muslin, way back when, that the sleeves would be problematic, especially at the cuff. The cuff is really a facing at the end of the sleeve that's edgestitched down and then flipped to the outside. Making the muslin convinced me that a lining would be required to neaten up the whole area, and that the lining would have to be attached to the inside of the sleeve so that it wouldn't slip out when the jacket's worn. So here goes....

Cutting the lining.

Using the sleeve and undersleeve patterns, I cut on about an extra inch at the top, flaring to maybe an inch and a half at the underarm edge. This helps prevent ripout of the lining at the armpit. I just freehand it with chalk. The lining armscye seam will have to be hand sewn to the body of the lining as the jacket nears completion. This gives me plenty of extra material to work with when that time comes; a case where a little extra fabric is way better than too little. I've also add 1/8" to the sleeve sides for wearing ease.

The next steps are from the Cabrera book on menswear tailoring. A little bit of tailoring wizardry for those of you who, like me, love this stuff.

Start by turning both the sleeve and lining wrong side out and place the lining on top of the sleeve so that the seams align.

Starting about 4" from the top of the sleeve, attach the lining sleeve allowance to the sleeve seam allowance with a diagonal stitch. Work this stitch down the sleeve towards the cuff or the sleeve vent if your garment has one. This goes very quickly. Just be careful not to catch any of the fashion fabric with the stitches. Do the same on the undersleeve seam. Trust me, it's pretty intuitive what has to be stitched to what.

Now for the fun part. Reach down through the sleeve lining and grab the bottom of the sleeve. Then pull the sleeve up through the lining. Voila! A perfectly lined sleeve, turned inside out and ready to be worked on.

Like this.

After smoothing everything out, I baste the lining to the sleeve close to the cuff to hold everything in place. A sleeve board is essential for this.

The excess lining fabric is then trimmed away leaving enough lining to tuck up under the cuff facing. Here you can see where I've basted the fold of the cuff. What you can't see is that the cuff has been interfaced with Prowoven Lightly Crisp sewn in interfacing from Fashion Sewing Supply. Great stuff!

With everything basted into place, the cuff is edgestitched through all layers. I pulled out my cheap Brother free arm machine to make this easier. It struggles with thick fabrics, but I managed to coax it along. This would have been very difficult on my Singer 301.

So here is the finished cuff turned back. I'm contemplating adding a small brass button for a little extra pizazz. Can a military style jacket have too many brass buttons?

Next step.... Getting up the courage to cut into the coordinating brocade fabric.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

MPB Day 2013 / Eeeek! I'm Becoming a Fabric Hoarder

Since 99.9% of my readership has come via Male Pattern Boldness, an explanation of MPB day is probably unnecessary. BUT in case you're unfamiliar with Peter and his amazing sewing blog, just follow the link above. Peter is, without question, the ambassador extraordinaire of all things sewing for both men and women (with cute chihuahuas, a glamorous super model cousin and flea market finds thrown in for good measure). This was his third year hosting a "fabric dash" through New York's garment district. And, as fate would have it, it fell over my weekend off. Yay! I was up at the crack of dawn and on the road to NYC. Just another crazed MPB groupie.

I arrived a little late, but in time for lunch and the main event -- fabric shopping. I'd like to report that it's easier to shop for fabric with like minded individuals, but it's really not. It probably didn't help that I was the only "sewing guy" in the fanclub. Because I'm sewing menswear, I'm generally looking for something very different than what interests the ladies. I hope that doesn't come across as sexist. So, after striking out at both Chic Fabrics and Fabrics for Less, I left the group to prowl solo in stores where I figured I'd have better luck.

My shopping results? Drumroll...

Cymbal crash...

1. A kiwi striped shirtweight linen.
2. A lightweight cotton madras in tomato red, khaki, yellow and pink
3. A slightly brushed cotton twill in a deep teal.

The linen is from Gray Lines Linen, 260 W. 39th St. If you love linen like I do, this is your store. I think this will make a great summer shirt. I particularly like the herringbone stripes and that it's a whopping 60" wide. A linen shirt for under $20. Score!

The cotton madras is from Paron Fabrics, across the street from Gray Lines at 257 W. 39th St. Paron's is just a damn nice fabric store. Everything is well organized, they offer great customer service and they're one of the only stores that includes fiber content on the price tags. I've reached a point in my sewing where I like to know more about what I'm buying. I purchased this fabric to coordinate with a heavy weight oxford cloth that's been in my stash for awhile. The plan is for a Junya Watanabe style jacket for next Spring.

This is my inspiration, from S/S 2013. I want to use the madras for elbow patches and bias trim touches here and there. The colors are dead on, so this purchase was a nobrainer. While I was at it, I bought enough for a summer shirt. When in Rome..

My final purchase was a brushed twill in a very dark teal. This was purchased just a few doors down from Paron's at A & K Fabrics. A & K is another well organized store with a wide selection of menswear fabrics. It's one of the only stores I know of that sells striped sleeve lining for men's jackets. I do love the color (even though I was really looking for red), but my primary reason for buying it was that it DOESN'T have stretch. Good God, what is it with stretch? It's an epidemic! I'll be using this to make my first pair of pants, so stay tuned for that adventure.

I have always worked along project by project, and never had much of a fabric stash. But things are changing rapidly, and this little spree didn't help. It's kind of alarming how quickly it can start to pile up.

Especially when I add it to these shirting bargains that were just too good to pass up from Denver Fabrics a few months ago. (Hanging head in shame).

I hereby declare a moratorium on any fabric purchases!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Losing my velvet virginity

I must confess that the boat project has been taking precedence over sewing lately, but a glitch with a piece of machinery has caused my progress to come to a grinding halt. Just for the heck of it, here's where I left off. I'm not even going to try to explain what's going on here.

Back on the sewing homefront...

It was nice to finally start the velvet jacket. I haven't sewn for a long time. Was it in May?? I've had the pieces cut out for awhile, and now that I have the coordinating fabric there really isn't an excuse not to jump in.

I've had so many suggestions and tips from my readers regarding working with velvet. It's been a huge help and I'm so greatful. The consensus has been that I cut with the nap down. I stood in front of a mirror flipping my fabric back and forth trying to determine the difference. It's a subtle one that's for sure. In the end I decided to take your advice and cut with the nap down. The effect was somehow just a bit softer visually. At times there's almost a silvery sheen which I find very attractive. Plus, as some of you mentioned, it just feels divine.

What's this mess? I experimented with a few seams and pressing before lauching into the real deal. I just didn't know what to expect. So here's what this velvet virgin has learned so far.

1. I had no difficulty sewing a seam that had been basted. Any of you that have followed my sewing adventures know that I'm a baste-a-holic anyway. I haven't had to adjust my methods much. I usually use a white cotton basting thread, but because of the delicate nature of my fabric I'm using silk thread for the first time. They say it doesn't leave any marks, which is completely true. What they don't tell you is that it's a dream to work with. You can toss the beeswax. I haven't had a tangle yet!

2. I'm able to "press" the seams by just hovering my steam iron over them. I started on the silk setting but have been able to dial it back to synthetic on medium steam. I'm working from the back and not applying any pressure at all. The iron never touches the fabric.

3. Don't even think about pressing from the front. Hey, I had to at least try! :)

4. You don't have to run out and invest in a velvet pin board. I took the advice of one of my readers and covered my pressing surface with a scrap of velvet. So far it's working just fine.

So this my set up. Just a scrap draped over my tailor's ham. Then steam from the backside.

The back of this jacket has princess seams. Are they prince seams on a man's jacket? I can't say that I'm a huge fan, and I find them challenging to do well. Normally I would ease the curve of the side piece with machine basting, but I'm sure that would spell disaster with velvet. Using my silk thread I eased the back with a line of small basting stitches just inside the seam line. After taking up the thread just a touch, I had no difficulty basting the side to the middle back and sewing it on the machine. BTW I'm taking a reader's suggestion and sewing all my seams in the direction of the nap, top down.

To prevent stretching of the shoulder seams, I use a technique from Roberto Cabrera's tailoring book. A semi-bias strip of lining material is basted to the forward shoulder seam so that it will be caught in the seam when it's sewn on the machine. Easy and effective.

I will be tackling the sleeves next, and I expect them to be a challenge.

Monday, August 5, 2013

All systems GO for the Belgian Chef's Jacket

I recently had the chance to slip away to the Jersey shore for a little mini vacation. In addition to a couple of gorgeous days at the beach, I also took advantage of my proximity to New York and slipped into the city for a few hours in the garment district.

Time was limited so I had to make the best of it. The garment district can be daunting to say the least, especially when I'm searching for a fabric to coordinate with a piece of rumpled velvet in my pocket, iridescent velvet at that. Talk about looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack! So with a little bit of a time crunch (It was close to 3:00 pm before I emerged from Penn Station) I made a beeline for Elliott Berman Textiles at 225 W 35th. St. I felt that this was going to be my best chance of finding the perfect fabric.

Why Elliott Berman? For those of you who have never been to the garment district, there's a lot of very flashy fabric in the windows of the street level stores. It's really a visual feast. After awhile though, it all starts to look the same. And in some cases it is! We're talking a lot of embroidered polyester brocade. I've learned that to find something really different, sometimes you have to get off the street, like up to the 7th floor.

Elliott Berman Textiles specializes in imported fabrics, mostly from Italy and France. I guess I'd call it an "investment dressing" fabric source. They offer fabrics I've never dreamed of. How about a white and silver gray matelasse interpretation of The Lady and the Unicorn tapestry. They've got it!

On my first visit to this store, which may have been two years ago, I balked at the prices. Oh, the regrets I have!!! I was new to sewing and it was all about getting a bargain. My "quest" was to get everything on the cheap. Anything more than $6/ yd was outrageous, until I got burned on some $10 camel "wool" that turned out to be 101% synthetic. I used that fabric to make the peacoat from the Japanese Men's Coats book, a difficult and time intensive project. Two seasons of very limited wear later, it looks like crap. The fabric has pilled everywhere, even where there is no wear, and it just looks cheap. I hate wearing it, so it's in a garment bag in the attic, where moths refuse to chew on it. It was a lesson that I had to learn. Spend more and have clothes you love vs. spend less and have clothes in the attic.

OK, back to Elliott Berman.

I was greeted by Eugenia, the glamorous gal in white above. No one could be more charming and helpful. I pulled out my rumpled velvet, explained my project, and she went to work finding the perfect fabric. I swear she knows every fabric in the mountain of bolts behind us in this pic. And this is but a mere corner of the store! She nailed my "needle in the haystack" in about 5 minutes.

Ta Da! Here is my coordinating fabric for the reverse of the lapels. It's a metalic brocade, a dark brassy gold on black with a moody William Morris feel. The minute she tugged the bolt out of the stack, I knew I would never find anything better. It pulls the purple and the green from the velvet perfectly. Total Fabric Score!

Hmmm. This is Dries Van Noten S/S 2014. I'm suddenly feeling very fashion forward!

With the clock ticking I made a quick dash up to W 38th St. and Pacific Trim. They have one of the better buttons selections, and the woman who works that section of the store is always very helpful.

I settled on these brass buttons with a slightly distressed texture. The sales lady totally pooh poohed my first choice, saying they looked cheap (and she was right, of course). She steered me away from plastic to metal. They're much better quality and a nice match to the metalic of the brocade. This is going to be one very opulent garment.

So I finally have all the components to start constructing the jacket. I've never sewn velvet, so stay tuned and wish me luck.