oliver twisted (version two)

This morning I was emailed by a friend to tell me I totes got mentioned on Craftzine’s blog today.* So that gave me a smile.

And on the sewing front I’ve got another coat finished for The Boy. Let me tell you, over and over again I sew the thing up and the kid grabs it and runs outside! I have to chase them to get a picture, and sometimes I don’t even get that far.  But in this case:

Modeling

(He’s holding Felix Jr.)

This is a new version of his Oliver Twisted coat (thanks for the name inspiration Robin!) made from a wool/nylon, underlined in natural bull denim, and lined with a 100% silk twill.

Finis!

This is the fourth time I’ve made this coat. Nels wore last year’s version to death. He wore it in the blistering hot, in the snow, on cool wet days and warm dry ones. He wore it so much that as his arms lengthened over the year (he grew five inches in one annum – save me!); the lining and sleeve hems merely pulled apart and the sleeve ran ragged. He wore it any time I said “get a coat” and any time he felt he needed one. The only coat he liked close to as much was a green twill version I made from the same pattern.

I think I currently enjoy making structured jackets more than just about any other sewn thing. I am always surprised by what I learn.  In this case, although I did a better job constructing this year’s version, (holy damn that collar application! Are you kidding me?) the truth is, I rather favor last year’s version of the coat. This is mostly due to the fact the fabric used last time – a 100% poly suiting from JoAnn’s on sale – had an amazing texture. Still, this version’s wool/nylon is very suitable, the slippery nature of this lining is superior to quilting cotton from last year, and I did do a better job with technique. So there’s that.

I am also a little bemused I made a nearly identical colorway to the previous coat. What can I say, I am  an Unoriginal Ass. I am in a difficult position as the vast majority of my fabric is either gifted to me or purchased online. Things I order aren’t always what I originally expected.

This morning Nels and Phoenix, after breakfast, ran outside to do some kind of garden work/spontaneous house construction. I looked outside and there was Nels hoeing away – in the coat.

Whip-Stitch

You can read a million nauseating details of the garment’s construction at my Flickr tagset.

In other news, the playfully cool-then-warm weather and gentle sunshine has been perfect walking weather.  Walking with the children is amazing and humbling because they are more present, genuinely joyful, and charming conversationalists over anyone I’ve met. And in the view of Ralph and my all-time favorite tweet, every time I take the kids on our walks I have to laugh at how, well, sketch it can be around these parts.

Snakes In The Grass(Not shown in this photo: heaving piles of concrete, “glass parade” – Phoenix’s term – and used condoms.)

* yes I say “totes”, and arse off directly if you have a problem with this.

Little Traveling Mouse

finito!

Sophie, ready for a summer adventure.

Sophie, ready for a summer adventure.

I finished Sophie’s little linen traveling costume and managed to get her to stand still for a few photos.  While she was at camp and at her request, I also made a hat using the faux suede/fur hat pattern #24 from Ottobre 04/2003).  She wanted a polar bear hat; can you tell how I mussed up?  Yes, I made the ears to big!  We have since decided it is a mouse hat, and I will try again for the polar bear effect.

*kiss*, right on the nose!

*kiss*, right on the nose!

Jacket pockets were attached with a fell stitch.

Jacket pockets were attached with a fell stitch.

I have entered the suit in the Threads magazine’s “Express Yourself In Linen” contest.  There is some stiff competition!  I am proud of myself to have not only completed a challenging garment, but to have blogged it as well.  You can view the previous blog installments on this project here: 1 (fabric preparations), 2 (underlining and pockets), 3 (shell construction), 4 (pants), and 5 (finishing jacket).

On to new things!

Good Old Wrights

finishing touches on a rather grueling project

The first time I sewed with a lining fabric I had a very difficult time. This was because A. I wasn’t using the proper needle, and B. I was expecting this slippery fabric to behave like the quilting cottons, flannels, and corduroys I was used to.  Now I know to install a microtex or sharp needle, stitch slowly, and take advantage of the sewing machine’s table for fabric support.  Sewing with the Bemberg rayon is as easy as anything else, now.

To keep the rayon from ravelling, I applied a bias tape edge.

To keep the rayon from ravelling, I applied a bias tape edge.

Apologies for the low light; this was sewn in the evening in my mother’s very dark Victorian-era house.  I sewed bias tape at the lining sleeve hems before applying them, as well:

Applying sleeves by machine is often sturdier than hand-finishing them at the end of jacket construction.

Applying sleeves by machine is often sturdier than hand-finishing them at the end of jacket construction.

Since the jacket hem and lining hem are hand-stitched, I was able to join the lining and shell sleeves by machine, which is my preferred method, before turning the jacket right-side out.

A traditional lining leaves the most gorgeous finishing on the inside of the jacket:

Buttonholes, again applied by my old Singer.

Buttonholes, again applied by my old Singer.

Topstitching around the jacket hem, front placket, and collar yields a semi-formal look:

Topstitching around the perimeter of the jacket, including collar.

Topstitching around the perimeter of the jacket, including collar.

Finally, it’s time to sew on the three buttons.  I love sewing on buttons.  I use a method outlined in an online class I took from Susan Khalje.  I double-thread the needle, then iron beeswax into the four strands.  I only have to dive through the holes in the button twice, before wrapping a shank and then tying an invisible knot:

Sewing on buttons: the most delicious final detail.

Sewing on buttons: the most delicious final detail.

All finished!  The suit hangs up and awaits my daughter’s arrival home from camp.

Who knew?  Yes, the linen, batiste, and Bemberg rayon made for a deliciously light, cool garment with a casual construction; however, by the end of the whole event I was ready to move on. To be fair, this wasn’t the linen’s fault or anything else: it was more likely that creating this in two different sewing rooms in two different houses- and moving our family while I was sewing it – left a sour taste in my mouth.

Pants Fronts

pants! we all need them.

Before I changed my Juki needle and thread to those appropriate for the Bemberg rayon of the jacket lining, I decided to construct the pants from Burda 9671.  Compared to the structure and more formal details of the jacket, these are a breeze; topstitched patch pockets, no lining, and only a simple yoke and fly front.

Lots of tailors tacks: pocket placement and center-front, mostly.

Lots of tailors tacks: pocket placement and center-front, mostly.

Pockets – kids need them!  I applied all the pockets of both the jacket and pants on the cross-grain, to provide subtle design interest:

I cut and applied the pockets and back yoke at the cross-grain for subtle design interest.

Underlining is a must for this lightweight linen - especially when adding pockets.

My favorite pants for children use a flat, fly-front, and are coupled with some elastic in the back waistband.  Kids grow and move a lot – the flat-front is stylish and removes bunk at the waist and hip, but the back elastic provides longer wear.

I owe much of my enjoyment in sewing a fly-front zipper to Sandra Betzina’s video tutorial, hosted by Threads magazine.  When putting a zipper in pants, I do as she suggests and ignore the directions entirely in favor of her approach – which has never left me astray.  The only thing you need for your pants is a fly extension on both left and right side; anything 1.25″ or wider will do.

People are intimidated by sewing zippers; with the right directions, it is actually very easy.

People are intimidated by sewing zippers; with the right directions, it is actually very easy.

I rarely buy new zippers; you can always find wonderful colors and types in local thrift stores.  You can also tear out zippers from worn-out pants – the sturdy twill construction of the tape wears very well!

In applying the waistband I do the following: interface the waistband piece, finish the raw edge of the wrong side of the waistband (I used red bias tape), sew the waistband at the waist edge, right-sides together, trim and grade, flip, press, hammer out the bulk at the facings, and topstitch:

In applying a waistband, stitch slowly to prevent problems.

In applying a waistband, stitch slowly to prevent problems.

Turning under the WS edge of waistband; a treatment you will see in RTW slacks as well.

Turning under the WS edge of waistband; a treatment you will see in RTW slacks as well.

In background you can see the bake yoke of pants; in foreground, front pocket.

In background you can see the bake yoke of pants; in foreground, front pocket.

Finally, it was time to construct the buttonhole and sew on the button. I have used a handful of buttonhole methods in my time, but for machine buttonholes my favorite has been my 1950 Singer Centennial 201-2 and its attachment:

Technology nearly 60 years old - and it works wonderfully!

Technology nearly 60 years old - and it works wonderfully!

Finally, the belt carriers are made, stitched to the front of the pants, then hand-stitched at the back (this latter detail I decided on in favor of the pattern’s instructions to machine stitch from the public side of the waistband):

A few extra minutes handsewing results in a sturdy, lovely-looking belt carrier detail.

A few extra minutes handsewing results in a sturdy, lovely-looking belt carrier detail.

Next up: finishing the coat lining and coat details!

Top Pocket, WS Of Garment

jacket construction, continued: piecing together the coat shell

Once the pockets for the coat were ready, the front of the jacket needed darts, and then pocket placement. I attached the jacket pockets with a fell stitch, in order to disrupt the jacket front the least amount possible.  Here we see the backside of the top pocket as applied:

Fell stitching is invisible at the public side of the garment, but not so pretty on the back side.

Fell stitching is invisible at the public side of the garment, but not so pretty on the back side.

The pocket from the front looks thus:

Pockets were applied while swimming with kids; battling leeches and river currents!

Pockets were applied while swimming with kids; battling leeches and river currents!

Note in both pictures above you can see, at upper right, the tailor tack marking sleeve positioning.  I use a DMC embroidery floss to transfer pattern markings to the garment.  In a fabric with less potential to ravel I might use scissor snips at the seam allowance markings, bit I did not want to do so for this loose-weave linen.

It is essential with this weight of linen that proper underlining and / or interfacing are applied; there is no way the fabric alone could support a sturdy, straight-looking pocket without it.

I kept the brown silk basting in the jacket seam allowances throughout construction:

Construction detail, which will largely not be visible in finished garment.

Here we see from lower left to upper right: center back seam (serged and pressed open), Raw edge of armscye shoulder, and the collar (not yet pressed and topstitched).

After the shell of the coat was finished, it was time to construct the sleeves.  I made a small sleeve head to support the sleeve at the shoulder, using wool:

The strip used for the sleeve head is a 100% wool (pre-washed).

The strip used for the sleeve head is a 100% wool (pre-washed).

The sleeves were then finished and pressed carefully:

Here you can see tailors tacks, hand-basting, and serge-finishing

Here you can see tailors tacks, hand-basting, and serge-finishing

Pressing a sleeve is made easier by the appropriate ironing equipment. Which I do not own.

Pressing a sleeve is made easier by the appropriate ironing equipment. Which I do not own.

I join set-in sleeves by handbasting them. It is so much easier to then spread out any ease and machine baste – or, if I’m sewing a rather heavy coat, I simply stitch them in by hand.  I then trim, grade and press.  Next up: sewing the lining, applying it to the shell, constructing buttonholes and buttons, and handsewing at sleeve and jacket hems.

Despite all the work that lays ahead, the garment is starting to take shape!

Waiting for a lining...

Waiting for a lining...

I *Knew* It!

& now the boring stuff

Continuing the photo-journalling of Sophie’s linen jacket – you can find the previous post here – I enter a long phase of handsewing as I underline the garment pieces and line the jacket pockets.  For those new to sewing, underlining is essentially using an additional fabric (or fabrics) beneath the pieces of the shell of the garment. This is done to add body and structure to the garment, and allows – in my case – the freedom to use the exact fabric I want for a garment that requires a bit more weight to it. You can underline all or part of a garment.

This means for each piece of her coat, I need to attach an identical piece of underlining. A word about underlining: there are rather elaborate and time-intensive traditional tailoring methods to apply it. Given this is a child’s project (and therefore will be outgrown soon) I wanted something relatively quick yet sturdy. In the past I have accomplished underlining using a serger, a sewing machine, a machine with walking foot, and by handstitching. Attaching underlinings by machine (top example in picture below) and using the serger (bottom example) worked fine for the pockets. But due to the lightness of the linen and its slightly open-weave tendency to distort, I have elected to do the majority of underlining by hand. In my post title I use the word “boring”, but it’s actually quite lovely to sit and watch a video or listen to music while handsewing, and a welcome respite from all my time on my machines.

The batiste underlining (in red) gives body, eliminates transparency, and subtly changes the color of the shell linen.

The batiste underlining (in red) gives body, eliminates transparency, and subtly changes the color of the shell linen.

When I am finished with the mini-Herculean task of underlining I will then mark the pattern pieces with tailor’s tacks* and then, finally, get to construction seams by machine.

There are a total of seven patch pockets in the blazer and pants set.  All pockets were interfaced along the facings; the blazer pockets (three in all) were also lined.

To make sure the finished pocket is symmetrical along the grain, each pocket must be carefully cut out and pressed.

To make sure the finished pocket is symmetrical along the grain, each pocket must be carefully cut out and pressed.

Besides diagnosing the appropriate weight for a project, I don’t know much about interfacings; I often use what is available to me at my local Quilt Shop (which is, sadly, the only local business besides Walmart I can get any sewing supplies).

The blazer pockets are first underlinined in grey cotton, then lined in the same.

The blazer pockets are first underlinined in grey cotton, then lined in the same.

I am still deciding what color thread to use for the topstitching on this project – a muted grey to fade in, or the off-white shown above?

The finished pocket; if in topstitching any of the underlining shows through, the grey will keep the gaffe near undetectable.

The finished pocket; if in topstitching any of the underlining shows through, the grey will keep it subtle.

At the end of the day, besides a careful pile of underlined garment pieces (with still several more to go), I did have my seven pockets all finished:

Pockets finished and pressed!

Pockets finished and pressed!

Fabrics!

embarking on an adventure for personal gain

A 100% linen for a jacket, scarlet batiste for underlining.

The 100% linen for the outer garment and the scarlet batiste for underlining.

I am using the last few days of my sewing studio in style: sewing my daughter a linen traveling suit for entry in Threads Magazine’s “Express Yourself in Linen” sewing contest.

It’s funny; I’d just “discovered” linen recently for my own sewing as I’d attempted a few projects from a fiber-dyed neutral brown.  I’d decided linen might feel cool and breezy but wrinkled unappealingly and made everything sacklike – fit only for for casual clothes my kids would summer in.  I then happened upon the Threads contest which featured this lovely article by Susan Khalje (I took an online handstitching class from Ms. Khalje – she is a fabulous teacher and a skilled couture artisan). The contest came just in time, because I’d loved the linen but had treated it clumsily.  Time to try again!

I’ve decided to make my daughter View A and C of the Burda 9671 pattern – a blazer accompanied by stovepipe-legged, zip fly slacks.  I’m going to alter it a bit to fit her long, slim build – but not too much, going for a loose, 20’s style travel costume (hopefully accompanied by a handknitted cloche).  My daughter is getting old enough to venture off in the world by herself – and also travels with her grandmother quite a bit – and she loves traveling by bus or train.  I’ll create an ensemble so she can do so in style!

First I measured my daughter – at 130 cm she is about a size 128 (US size 8).  Her waist at 20 1/2″ corresponds to an 86 cm, or 18 month size.  I decided instead to insert darts or pintucks into the shoulder of the 128 cm blazer, and go with a 128 cm pant, using a size 110 cm (or US 5) waistband and back yoke, with pleats and darts in the front and back of the larger leg pieces.  With the aid of the belt and careful hemming the garment should fit her for a while – the coat and slacks with a loose design around limb.

The last few days I’ve spent pretreating and pressing fabric, then tracing tracing tracing:

I do not cut patterns, I trace them - every time.

I do not cut patterns, I trace them - every time.

I lost track of the number of pieces I had to trace.  I sat at my glass-topped table and painstakingly ironed each pattern piece, traced it, refolded the original pattern, and at the end of the process slid them all back into the envelope in numerical order.  With the summer wind, the sounds of my neighbors, the accompaniment of my wee kitten, it was a pretty pleasant affair.

Next I cut the batiste: this is the fabric with the most large pieces to be cut, so I wanted to make sure my three yards was adequate.  As it turned out I had plenty left over.

The batiste is a joy to cut and work with - it doesnt shift, and feels smooth to the touch.

The batiste is a joy to cut and work with - it doesn't shift, and feels smooth to the touch.

For the pocket underlining and lining, I cut from a light grey cotton very similar to the batiste (a gift from my friend Shasta).  This way the vibrant red won’t show on the outside of the jacket, at the pocket seams (I will show you what I mean when I stitch the pocket.

Above you can see my pre-treated interfacing in the foreground, hanging off my ironing board.  I only recently discovered one must pre-treat interfacing for the best results.  This is easy: I simply washed the interfacing in lukewarm water, gently squeezed it, and hung it to dry.  I’m using a lightweight interfacing for the project to help result in as light a lined jacket as possible.

After cutting the pieces of batiste and interfacing, I moved onto the linen. Lightweight linen will shift easily; I found finding an individual grain line in the center of the yardage, folding and gently straightening, then looking down the lengthwise grain of the folded yardage to be an excellent way to get a good layout.

Finding the grain of a yarn-dyed or thread-dyed fabric is delightfully easy.

Finding the grain of a yarn-dyed or thread-dyed fabric is delightfully easy.

After cutting the linen and the Bemberg rayon lining (for the upper- and under-sleeve, the two side panels, and the front and back pieces) I carefully fused the interfacing to the collar pieces, pocket facings, front facing, back neckline facing, and slack waistband.  I then pinned together the linen and batiste.

The warm red of the batiste should show through this lightweight of a linen and warm the color up; when working with linen any underlining must be considered due to this effect.

The warm red of the batiste should show through this lightweight of a linen and warm the color up; when working with linen any underlining must be considered due to this effect.

By the end of all my cutting if you were to come in and muss my careful piles of pieces you’d be mussing a total of seventy-four pieces of fabric including the shell linen, red and grey underlinings and pocket underlinings, the interfacing, and the lining.  For those who don’t sew, most of these were cut on the fold, so it was much more like cutting thirty seven indivudual pieces.  Needless to say, even with a new rotary blade, my wrists hurt a bit after all this.

The next steps will be to attach the underlining and the linen, then to serge-finish the edges for ravelling.  Traditional tailoring techniques would have me baste each pair together, fold the piece around a magazine around the grainline (to represent the cylindrical nature of torso, arms, legs), and reposition the underlining accordingly, then hand-baste throughout the piece.  This time-intensive effort does not seem necessary given the lightness of the jacket; we shall see how the results reward us.

the fleeting, ephemeral pants. & a killer coat.

So, do you like these pants?

Backside

Jaunty

Wood-Chopping Pants
That’s great, because if you do, you can have them. They took me a few hours to make, using scraps, thrift store seam binding, and a pair of Ralph’s old pants.* About six hours into his first wearing The Boy decided to wash his hands with a bleach / soap spray bottle and now the pants are “distressed” on one side with several reddish bleach spots.

Size 110 cm, up for grabs.

Just so you know, this is Classic Nels. What can you do?

Sunday at JoAnn’s I purchased 13 yards of fabric and some matching thread. The total: $92. I am falling in love with my little White serger (purchased for $100 + shipping on eBay):

13 Yards ($90)
In this case, I serged the ends of the 13 yards I’d purchased. This means I can wash these lengths of fabric and the threads won’t come out, knot, wrinkle the fabric, and in general make a mess.

Pocket On Bias
Nels’ coat from last year is wearing out. I’m making a new one, a blazer of sorts (Burda 9671). The project gives meaning to the phrase “clothing construction”. I cut out a total of 41 pieces of fabric: this includes the shell fabric, full underlining (a wool blend for the coat body, a simple cotton for the sleeves), and lining; all this plus nine pieces of interfacing. I basted the shell, underlining, and interfacings then serge-finished all these pieces:

Construction Of A Coat
Thank you again, serger! Taking all this time to properly prepare the coat is making sewing a joy. Updated project photos will be found here and in this Flickr tagset.

* I’ve made them before, several times.