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!


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.

choosing to breed, Surprise # 437

I am learning to cook some modest amount of French cuisine (and loving it, I might add).  Today for breakfast, on a lark: oeuf en cocotte; eggs baked in ramekins – with cream and butter and a wee bit of fresh parmesan.  At 10:30 my son thundered down the stairs, “What smells so good?!” he shouted.  The kids set the table, scrambled up.  Their faith in and love of my cooking is truly an inspiration and quite heartening for me.

It took longer to get the food on the table than I’d expect; I need my egg whites at a medium finish.  Peeking in and out of the oven, edgy and bored, and the kids’ rowdiness in our small kitchen grated on my last nerve.  As I finally brought the hot morsels to the table some clumsy or abrupt movement of a child climbing around set me off.  “Stop it. STOP IT!” (they are literally unable to hear me when they are all revved-up.  “This isn’t playtime, this is fucking food!” I fumed as I whacked down a ramekin.

The kids were silent; Sophie slid her plate away from me.  I turned to the oven, brought the rest over.  Moved back to the table with the salt and pepper, contrite: “Would you like some orange juice?” I asked.   My children softened.  They are more or less used to my temper, or more specifically, they know that it doesn’t last.  I mixed up the juice in their pitcher, sat down, and deliberately apologized for my outburst.  We enjoyed a surprisingly delicious breakfast; I felt giddy at yet another delicious dish learned.

I think one of the pleasures of life is serving a meal to your loved ones and watching them tear into it, pausing only to repeatedly praise the repast.

Later, after groceries and errands, I fiddled about in the kitchen cooking beouf bourgingnon while the kids entertained themselves, including drafting up a garage sale, cracking a child’s schoolbook on study habits (purchased last Friday at a church rummage sale for ten cents), and drawing then cutting out ferocious kitten masks decorated brightly and ferociously like luchadores.  Both their spelling and worksmanship impressed me; my son’s writing is improving enough that I can’t always tell it from his older sister’s.

Although I am fiddling with the temptation to place my children in a private school next year (with a generous scholarship this is just financially feasable for us), it sometimes seems obvious that our current track of unschooling is what works best for our family.

I have a few problems with this.  First, I sometimes feel I am only just able to handle having my kids around me near 24/7.  I feel the fault is my own; I am simply not a groovy-enough Mama to accept without protest or miniature breakdown the infringements on my daily freedom.  To be fair, I know that if I worked all day and came home to the wee ones I’d have about the same amount of miniature breakdowns. I guess I am just a colossal ass.  I am not sure what to do with this aspect of my persona, something that has given me a lot of personal emotonal pain.

Secondly, the same part of me that longs for freedom knows on some level she would not allow much more of it to herself.  The prospect of school for my children gives me the illusion I’d have more time for myself, and that I’d actually spend that time – on myself.  Sometimes I fantasize about having more time to do yoga or work on the home-sewn lovelies I so love to create; yet God Knows what I tend to prioritize is cooking and housecleaning and doing things with the kids when I have a choice of where to put my efforts.  I know from Sophie’s first and only year in public school that I would likely find myself to and fro the schoolhouse anyway, volunteering my time and staying up making flyers or binding little project books.

I might think I long for more time for myself and my exploits, more space (what does that mean?), but my genuine joy and interest in my kids’ day-to-day life – and a personal ambition, as well as some sense of obligation I can’t quite put my finger on – keep me away from these such that at present I might be getting the most of this “me time” I’d allow myself in any case.  At the end of the day the laundry is done and the counter wiped clean and maybe I haven’t gotten quite as far on the silk shirt as I’d hoped; yet most days I’ve acheived at least an hour of sewing.

I call this a victory, for now.

you and whose army?

I am a dismantler. This afternoon Nels brings home all the odds and ends from his year at preschool including an autograph book, an academic workbook compilation, he and Sophie’s pottery work, and several pieces of art. In a few minutes I’ve taken his Emergency Pack apart, the snacks returned to the cupboard, the small stuffed animal returned to his home in the kids’ room, the large ziploc bag in the sewing room stuffed with cotton scraps for donation to the local trinkets shop – where I will stop on the bike, on errands this afternoon. Nels’ art is hanging on little clips in our kitchen, the end-of-year picnic notice recycled and the date put on my Google calendar.

A few minutes later at the kitchen table I’m helping the kids learn to operate a toy bow and arrow (Sophie’s choice of toy while visiting the local dollar store) and finishing the final details on two cotton dresses: a bubble dress (self-drafted), and the slip from Folkwear’s intimacies. Within a few minutes after setting the garments to washing and air-drying I am dusting and sweeping my sewing room, moving on to the next project (finishing corset #2 – my grommets arrived via mail yesterday).

Tonight I’ve organized a small craft event at the local deli; a series of modest art projects for our community’s children. The last day I’ve been assembling a few crafts revolving around the natural world: clouds, leaves, flowers. The supplies sit in a basket waiting to be loaded on the bike. Sophie’s swim team gear hangs in a duffel bag on the porch, where she knows she can grab it as she runs out the door.

I have to make something clear – I do not really get a high from operating an efficent house, if that’s what it sometimes sounds like. It’s much more like I can’t stand to let our busy life spill into chaos. And sometimes, weirdly, all my tidying and cleaning leaves me to feeling like I have nothing in my hands, get nothing done; our house often looks to me almost bare, despite the fact there is a very active family living here. The rooms are full of music and laughter, or bath water running and arguments; only the most recent artwork, no messy history except maybe two days worth of cat hair clumps. No history, no cumulative work. I don’t find clutter comforting and I don’t find myself attached much to any given house or piece of furniture.

What do I find joyful? Yesterday, in the car, rolling back the sunroof as the music came on and the sun spilled over the bare shoulders of my daughter, tall and willowy and strong. Today, apologizing to her and having her accept me, her body close as I leaned down for a kiss and smelled her hair, her body, one of the most delicious experiences I have to me. Flipping through my son’s yearbook and seeing, “What Makes Me Smile?” and his response: “Good Food.” Today upon showing him remedial archery principles; on the first try he sent an arrow flying across the kitchen, and looked up at me, eyes wide and his little body jerking in shock at his unexpected success. My husband and his small but many kindnesses, turning the bed down and pouring me a glass of wine, every single day he asks me how my day has been.

This evening is also the Relay For Life, a very popular event in these parts (I believe Hoquiam’s relay ranks in the nation’s top ten per capita “earnings”). Last year my parents walked the first lap together: this lap reserved for those who’ve had cancer and lived to tell about it. I’ve never given much of a damn for a defiance with regard to the personalization of the disease, “Cancer Sucks”, etc. etc. It’s almost as if I’m too tired and heartbroken to make an imaginary person, a foe, of something that is just another version of death. The more I think about the Relay the less I want to go. Instead: crawl into bed tonight and wake early for a train trip with my children and my mother.

i tremble, they’re gonna eat me alive

AM AFRAID OF KIDS TONIGHT.” my husband types from downstairs via IM (P.S. get with it Ralph – I am all tweet, all the time!). It’s true: the children’s recent nocturnal activities of playing so rough and laughing so hard they hover on the verge of vomiting is a bit alarming to watch. I blame myself: on the days I don’t take the kids out for a lengthy walk, run, or bike during the day apparently their energies are thwarted and must emerge in crazy-play before they can sleep.

This morning the children slept in while I started on breakfast. It’s a race to have something prepared before Nels wakes – often in a foul mood. Sure enough, I see him out of the corner of my eye as he topples into the kitchen, his blonde hair mussed: “You haven’t made me something to eat!” he accuses me immediately. But I have a plan: his sister joins us and the two of them wash their hands then help me finish fresh oven-baked scones, sliced strawberries in honey, whipped cream. While I wash dishes and we wait for the scones the kids set the table; my spot with the tiniest plate imaginable. Nels pulls open the oven more than once, impatient for the baked goods. Finally the repast is ready (11 o’clock). The sounds the kids make as they eat – gulps, moans of appreciation, “This is good!” – make me laugh until tears come in my eyes. “No laughing at the table,” Nels tells me sternly, over his spoon.

At 1 AM I get a call from a realtor involved with the house owners: can they bring clients by in a few hours? This despite my requests for 24 hour notice. I think I come off as unfriendly as I tell her yes, it’s fine, but please next time, 24 hours. The truth is my kids are gamboling in the same room (another thing: I have one phone, a cheap one with a cord and everything, and can’t move from the spot I talk) as I try to get through this conversation, adjust the remaining hours in my day: now I have to clean instead of play or sew or run off into town. I hang up and do my best, The kids clean their room and help evacuate kitties from the house (I estimate 80% of my housecleaning involves bedding changes, sweeping, and dusting for cat hair).

Just before 3 I abandon house tidying (the cats have somehow made it back inside and are lolling in Roman fashion on the beds re-made just for them) and round up the kids for their weekly sewing class. Sophie’s quilt is almost done. Today she finishes the borders and backing. I wander about the store, sipping coffee, talking with the shopkeep, purchasing a couple yards of yummy flannel on sale. My son sews for one hour (out of two) and then basically trundles around the store, alternately being sweet or grabbing up large, sharp equipment and dancing away, hoping we give chase (in this way he is an awful lot like our male kitty at about 3 AM). One of the employees with grown children waits to catch my eye before smiling and saying: “This too shall pass,” she tells me, meaning Yes, I See You’re Irritated, and Yes, He’s Only Five.

At first I feel my typical low-grade irritation; I think to myself, I could care less for the sympathy (empathy?) of strangers when my children are misbehaving – or rather, behaving inconveniently. But of course, this is exactly what I need: support. This woman means well, and what’s more, she’s correct. This will pass. The child is growing up, he is not grown. I think I am often running at a low grade defensiveness and anger toward the so very many rude strangers – and friends and family! – who have delivered so many unhelpful (and often, head-up-the-arse) comments with regards to children and their public personas.

In fact, as I walk my son next door to pick up some popcorn my discussion with him is tempered with my own good-mama presence: This too shall pass. I tell him look, I pay every week for him to sew, and I’d like him to sew. He says – this, my contrary son who will dig in his heels if he senses any kind of power struggle – “Okay”. He says Okay because I am speaking to him without anger – I am making a request, I am open to hearing his thoughts. We are walking together to get him some popcorn, because that’s what he’s patiently waited for and I promised him. I vow next week to make sure to feed him properly and – even if I have to clean or whatever! – make sure to give him lots of one-on-one attention before taking him off to class. And that’s all there is to it. For today’s challenge, anyway.

Tonight as the kids run and frolic I reply to my husband – come read to the kids. Setting them up reading and then you can sneak away and they will spend a quiet hour at least. Sophie is reading a book on astronomy; Nels alongside her Where The Wild Things Are, one of his favorites. I remind myself: must make a Max costume for my boy. It will suit him.

for your consideration on Ash Wednesday

My daughter is a puzzle to me. I’ve known her her whole life (of course) but I still can’t always conjure the magic you’d think I should be able to. I want more than anything to do right by her but she’s harder for me to parent correctly. I’m not even talking about conflict between us (which everyone assumes when you say you’re having parenting difficulties); I wonder sometimes if I can feed her soul what it needs.

Today worked out, though. She visited me in the sewing room this morning as I labored over the silk gown I’m creating for her upcoming Daddy Daughter Dance (this Saturday). She saw my embroidery kit and instantly asked me to set her up with a project. In many ways she’s a typical six year old: easy to distract, putting something down only a few minutes after picking it up. In fact I sometimes wonder if Sophie is more flibbertigibbet than typical; for instance I swear not one time does she come in the house and hang her coat up (rather, she throws it on the floor), despite the fact that one hundred percent of the time I stop her and ask her to correct herself.

After she was equipped with scissors, hoop, fabric and floss she remained completely focused on the motif (a rather large seahorse she had me freehand), changing colors five times and executing it in a precise backstitch. It surprised me that she took up with perfection my special, magic knot – in fact, learned it quicker than my five college students! She embroidered in the car, in the cafe, at home. Something about the sewing soothed her and kept her agreeable; cleaning her bedroom before we left, going above and beyond carrying our swimming gear out to the car and in general being a peaceful, equable presence. “I’m glad God invented such things as embroidery,” she says to me serenely at the table as I sip coffee and overlook Aberdeen’s busy streets.

God is on her mind a bit I think. While washing hands a few minutes later, she asked me who I thought would be the prettiest girl at the upcoming dance.

“Well it depends who you ask,” I said. “I mean, who gets to decide who’s beautiful?”

“God,” she responds, surprising me.

I’m stumped for a minute. “Well God, I mean… God thinks everyone is beautiful. He made everything, you know, people, animals, so it’s all good.” I’m wandering off into iffy territory here. I’m suspicious my daughter’s theology is a heck of a lot more solid than mine.

She’s looking skeptical so I continue. “So, I mean, think of the ugliest thing you can.” I’m envisioning critters from our recent viewing of a rather excellent David Attenborough special – specifically, it must be admitted, the hooded seal and it’s inflatable nostril membrane.

My query ignites a spark, and she responds: “Oh, that’s a tough one! Hmmm… I’m going to say… Um…


Again: I’m stumped.

Yes, I made my first pair of assless chaps!

OK, this is an inside joke in my household (yes, I know chaps are assless). These beauties were an entry for the Instructables / Etsy SewUseful contest (Instructables is having server timeouts – as soon as I’m able to, I will link to the tutorial posted there).

Bike Chaps Deployed
Now you see ’em…

Bike Chaps Stealth Mode
Now you don’t! How about the “stealth mode”?

I made a pocket to hold an iPod shuffle – on the right side, sorry southpaws. I love sewing patch pockets. Other pockets, not so much.

I think this was actually the last project I successfully sewed on my old Singer – it’s top and bottom tension assemblies are sad and I can’t make them work. I need to get it into a shop.

Belt Of Bike Chaps
Messing about with waist strap length. Webbing is easy to sew. I did a three-sectioned strap for waist, thighs, and knees, that included elastic as the middle section of the strap. They are comfy and won’t come loose.

So, silly as this is, there is actually an Etsy listing for this item and it is for sale (it was a requirement for the contest). So now I have an Etsy shop. As if I want to start selling anything! But… my shop looks empty. So I’m thinking it over… I’m not going to be another tote bag / cloth pad / caddy-of-some-sort artiste, we have enough far more talented and inspired in those venues than I.