Monday, April 30, 2012

Sunni-Side Up

In true Kristin-style, the minute my jacket was finished (save buttons, which still have not arrived), I started thinking about the skirt. You see, even though I've made this particular skirt (V8640) 3 times already (3 times more than I've made any other skirt), I have some things to consider when constructing it this time, namely:
  • I intend to line it this time. Thankfully, I have JUST enough of the silk left to line the skirt.
  • The pattern doesn't come with lining pieces or instructions.
  • To complicate matters, the skirt is vented.
  • Furthermore, I've made this once with a thick fabric and, while I love the drape, the waistband (made of thick self-fabric), that version is way too bulky. I learned, in that project, that I would need to face a thick-fabric skirt in some other way going forward.
  • I want to learn how to use petersham as a waistband facing. I love how it looks, I love how it "contains",  and I love how it's a slender interior waist solution. (Note: This recently purchased book contains a good tutorial on how to use petersham as a facing...)
Let's take a moment to consider the pattern:

The skirt comes with that adorable, unstructured jacket I have also made with success. This set is an easy, excellently drafted, well-explained project I would recommend to an intermediate beginner. The line drawing does no justice to either piece, particularly the skirt which manages to hug all curves with adequate give and to highlight the waist with its facing unit. I cannot tell you how much I love it. Well, I suppose I can, what with words and all. I love it.

One of the things about it I particularly appreciate is that the waistline is marked, as is the centre back, as are the fold lines of the back vent. It tells you what goes where.

To ensure I know what I want, fit-wise, from the suit version, today I wore my latest V8640 (length of which I love) and determined what length of skirt I will need for the suit. To facilitate a 5/8" hem, I'm looking at 24.75", in case you're interested. That's a few inches shorter than the actual pattern.

Now, I was starting to worry a bit. How would I figure out how to draft the lining (I had an idea, but not a well-formed one)? How would I make the petersham waistband? How would I deal with the freakin' vent AND a lining?

And I have to tell you that my every theoretical dilemma has been resolved by Ms. Sunni Fashionable Stitch - a sewist and sewing entrepreneur who knows her shit. And who helps the world by posting really useful tutorials.

For your learning pleasure:
I was so excited to try to draft the lining pattern, that I came home tonight and did it stat. I'm living proof that it is a straight-forward, if slightly time-consuming process.

Happily, I had the foresight to buy some petersham from Sunni a couple of months ago - and one of the colours I bought is perfect for this garment. It also happens to be 2 inches wide, thankfully. That's about the minimal width you want for a waistband that really provides structure.

This is a good time for me to suggest that you go to her shop and buy stuff. You will not regret it.

Oh, I'm intrigued by this...

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Tailored Suit: The Finished Jacket (Without Buttons)

I don't even know what to say except: Thank you sewing goddess for seeing me through the (almost) end of this project. I owe you one. Or a zillion.

 Here we are at the end of a painful journey, all finished save the sewing on of the self-fabric buttons (which are still in transit from America):

Sorry to show this with pins, but it's the best I can do at the moment... Remember, my frame is narrower than the dress form's, so it fits me somewhat differently.
The rest of these shots are woefully overexposed, but you will be able to see the lines for it that much better...
I have to say, I am particularly proud of the sleeves and their rotation. And I owe everyone a debt for them. Thank you so much.
I do think the back is very pretty - those sleeve darts are sweet and I love the flare of the peplum.
Now for the lining:
I don't suppose I've ever seen a more gorgeous lining. How bizarre is it that this captures the colourway of the jacket??
Here you can see the tucks I took on either side o the centre back pleat (to either side of that stripe going down the centre of the jacket lining). They worked remarkably well, all things considered. But I'm pretty sure they're a sign that the (admittedly incorrect) lining pattern pieces were not updated, as was suggested they would be, despite a number of comments on Craftsy that the lining doesn't work.

I'm not going to lie. This project has been woefully lacking in enjoyment, which is really not my scene. I have no intention of ever making the jacket again, regardless of whether I enjoy and wear it, having come through the other side of a miserable process.

However, I have learned a TREMENDOUS amount thanks to all of you, and to my wonderful fitting friend, S. (Don't worry, I'm going to help her next! And we're taking Sarah Veblen's course on fitting darts on a bodice.) I can't tell you what a game-changer finding a fitting friend has been.

In the end, the lining does make the jacket fit more tightly in the armscye than I would like. There's absolutely something suboptimal happening, but it's still quite wearable - it may actually stretch over time and become less constricting in the underarms. Whatever. I've learned, I have a lovely looking almost-finished product, and I intend to bring my new awareness to a Claire Schaeffer suit jacket on the next go around.

Next up is the pencil skirt to go with this jacket. It's not a suit yet, peeps. I can only hope that you get a happy post or two describing that process, for all our sakes.

So, whatcha think? (Note: The only response I can handle right now is in the realm of, "I love it!!". :-) Really, I would like to know your thoughts. Please just be gentle if you have some constructive criticism...)

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Tailored Suit: This Lining Pattern is Whack

I've spent 8 hours trying to insert the lining. 8 hours. That's about 6 hours more than, technically, should be required. And I'm not done.

I'm going to speak in depth about my feelings about this pattern, once I finish this project, once I've had a week to let my feelings settle. But I will say right now that the lining is bizarrely drafted (as have other Craftsy people corroborated) and I eventually had to go SO off road on inserting it that it was a) entirely not fun and b) not my fault.

I don't know who else has made the size 6 of this jacket but I would really like to know about any challenges with the pattern you may have had.

Moving on, let's show a couple of pics first:

I know, you're wondering how in the hell this lining went from cerise Bemberg to the most gorgeous Versace silk (milled in Italy). So I'm going to tell you...

A while ago Mardel (the loveliest lady) sent me two yards of this with some gorgeous boots. I was floored by it, right off the bat, but I didn't know how to use it. Today, as I was assembling the cerise lining I noted its thin and cheap-looking mien. I couldn't put it into my labour of love. In truth, I'd been mulling over the silk for the jacket for a while. I was just so nervous to cut into it. It's an insanely complex pattern. I did try hard to match the pieces (its own 2 hour headache) but I did a totally crappy job. Whatevs. The fabric speaks for itself.

Having worked with this fabric (very fray-prone but so high-quality), I will never use anything but silk to line a suit jacket again. Trust me peeps, everything else pales.

Someone asked to see the catch stitched hem:

It's not so exciting but you'll note how much slimmer my hem is than the one in Gertie's course. This is what I mean about not having any spare runway.

Speaking of spare runway, I'm just about as to-the-wire with the lining length. I think that, once I press it, I'll be able to swing it, but to get the jump pleat (that nice fall of the lining over the hem of the shell), I may opt to turn the lining under at 1/2 inch.

This lining is not quite right in the shoulders. I reserve judgement till I insert the sleeves, but I may opt to open the armholes slightly.

Also, and this is bizarre, whatever is going on with the front lining (shoulder princess seam insertion) vs the actually jacket (underarm princess seam insertion), I actually had to make a pleat on either side of the centre back pleat to remove an additional 4 inches of fabric around the back facing. My back facing was 8.5 inches. The lining was 12.5 inches (after inserting the pleat). I tried a number of fixes throughout the day but the one that seemed to work was take 2 additional pleats (tucks really) on either side of the centre back pleat, just at the top of the garment where it meets the facing. Please know that I reviewed every element of the pattern (considering my alterations) and rewatched the course twice. I cannot account for the extra fabric at the back neck other than to think the pattern isn't drafted right.

The lining has screwed slightly with the integrity of the fitting I did on the shell. Because the lining is of a totally different princess shape (shoulder vs. underarm) and because the facing is barely curved, the net result is currently weird. Note: I did ensure that the overall volume of the lining is slightly bigger than that of the jacket, but the way it's coming together is strange. I only hope that some reflection and pressing will make a difference.

I can close it and, when my buttons arrive from Pat Mahoney (yes, I ordered fabric-covered buttons), I think all will be well, but there's no room to spare (as there was when the shell was unlined).

That's where I'm at. Also, I can't turn my head to the left, what with the loathesome stress over this I'm feeling. Oh, I just have to finish this thing tomorrow. Please, let it be feasible, sewing goddess. I can't stand this much longer.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Contradiction in Terms

I knew when I started this, that the Tailored Suit project was going to test my limits. Ironically, people keep telling me that I'm incredibly patient because I've managed to slog over the same garment for more than a month. I cannot seem to convince anyone, under these circumstances, that I am the least patient person on the planet. I want instant gratification. I'm the girl who couldn't make a cake for years because I simply wouldn't wait for it to cool before I'd try (unsuccessfully) to get it out of the pan. I will ruminate in lieu of a completed object because it must continue apace - whether my hands can do it or my brain has to pick up the slack. I do not well-manage delay.

Let's face it, I also don't like really big challenges. Well, I don't think of myself as the kind of person who likes really big challenges and then I seem to constantly end up taking them on, so maybe that's not true. I reserve the right to revisit that statement. But one thing's for certain: I'm not patient.

Imagine my existential dissatisfaction as the (mostly finished) suit jacket continues to call to me like a luscious siren from the sewing room. I'm getting close to the finish line, the time that's most challenging. The end is in sight but I've got to stay patient. Ugh!

Let me say that I received some excellent comment advice on how to mitigate the challenges I spoke about here.  I do believe that my fabric was the cause of my collar and back facing challenges and that, in a perfect world (and although the pattern does make the upper collar slightly larger than the under collar to facilitate turn of cloth) my upper collar could have been larger still. This fabric has some very good features: it's lovely, soft, rich, it hides hand stitching like a dream. But its springiness combined with density make it difficult in other ways.  Happily, it does take manipulation reasonably well.

The combo of temporarily stitching the back facing down onto the back stay (and then steaming the hell out of it), then re-molding the lapel on the buttonhole side (at length) and re-fashioning the stand and then turn of cloth of the collar has made a substantial difference to the look of the jacket.

Would I make this design with this type of fabric again? No. But is it a deal breaker? No. I think the issues will only be notable to me.

I may actually unpick the pick stitches on the collar, per Anon's useful info, to allow the collar some additional freedom. Problem is, I have to find them?!

I just finished the hem and it looks quite good - though I imagine, if one were to have miscalculated on the lengths or positioning of any of the pieces, there would be little room for error.

I'm onto the shoulder pad insertion and lining now. Hopefully I'll get to that before the weekend. Then there's the skirt. (I'll be making V8640 - a pattern I've made many times and which, strangely, Gertie made as one of the skirts to go with one of her many jackets. I decided on this pencil skirt the minute I saw the jacket because it's a great pattern and I love a pencil skirt suit.) I do have quite a bit to say about that in an upcoming post.

Thoughts or feelings?

Monday, April 23, 2012

More Checking In

Friends, I've been laid low by this incredible headache so I'm sorry to be scarce on the scene. I hope that tomorrow, everything will be back to normal. The PMS migraine with accompanying neck nerve pinch thing is a special kind of awful.

I just want to say that, despite my downtrodden last couple of posts, I looked at the jacket in a new way just a few minutes ago (after a constitution-sustaining, emergency acupuncture session) and I don't think the issues I've been having are deal breakers. Thanks to the great feedback I have received, I think I can afford a moment of optimism. I don't want you to think it's all doom and gloom - and I do have many thoughts - but I can't really assemble them in a post right now. My brain just wants to rest.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Checking In

Hey Everyone: Just a quick note to say thank you for any comments you've provided or thoughts you may continue to have about my post yesterday. I think my fixes may have ameliorated things. More on that when I have a better sense - but I continue to love your feedback. I will respond soon.

I went to a truly beautiful event this morning - it's overwhelmed me, in truth, and then I came home to the part of the jacket I'd forgotten (isn't there always one of those?), finishing the bound buttonholes. In brief, it did not start well and, 5 hours later they're almost, but not quite complete. One buttonhole was a disaster and I can blame my machine and some utterly useless silk organza. I salvaged it as best as possible and managed to fix it for the other 3. That's a long story I just don't have the energy to relate right now. Good news: I learned a lot. Bad news: I barely care about the crappy buttonhole because all I can think of right now is how I really have to finish this thing. It's not to stay on some kind of schedule. Thing is, it's been great, and now I would really like this jacket to be a lovely completed object I can value for many years (or 10 minutes), not a thing that's staring at me from the sewing room. This is a very big project for a relative novice. I'm feeling it.

As it happens, I woke with a bad headache which, even moderated with lots of ibuprofen, is now fairly brutal. I hope I can shake it by tomorrow but it's got that PMS-y terrible thing underpinning it.

I was hoping to finish the hemming this weekend - leaving only the lining and finishings to go - but I didn't get quite that far. I guess it means we have that many more things to look forward to :-)

A new machine is on the horizon and I would LOVE to know which one you use and why you love or don't love it. A number of people have commented or emailed to express a similar interest in knowing what great machines make your sewing so professional.

I will def. tell you what features I think a serious sewist needs (based on my musings for the past few months), but I don't know what I may not be considering. One thing's for certain - though it may frustrate you, you can make a tailored suit on a beginner machine. I just don't think it's optimal.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Tailored Suit: Post Facing-Insertion Challenges

Peeps, I've got some potential problems. I'm not going to sugar coat it. And, before I move into the text-dense part of this post wherein I explain my issues and ask for your feedback, I want to say that I am strangely unaffected. I am not upset, particularly, which is weird given I've spent more than 100 hours on this thing and there's still a whack left to go. I might be over-reacting, even as I under-react, because y'all may be able to give me wonderful advice that facilitates the correction of my current issues.

Also, no pics to show. I don't have it in me to take and edit photos after hours of sewing, so I'll try to explain as best I can. Keep in mind that that the jacket looks largely the same as this one:

As you know, I've left out the pockets, changed the lapel-angle and widened the button spacing.

I should also mention that there are some things here that may not be fixable because I am not ripping this back to the studs. Many seam allowances have been irrevocably graded. Pick stitching and under stitching have been done. Even if I had the will to rip it back, I've molded the fabric extensively. I don't think it would do well, despite its resilience, with a wholesale reno.

OK, onward...

The problem started when I attached the collar, following the industrial method Gertie instructs: sew undercollar to jacket back, then sew upper collar to back facing unit, sew front facing, sew the mini-spaces between the lapel and the collar, then sew the unstitched collar fronts and back to each other.

I did this without much issue - although one side of the tip of one lapel (can't remember now if it was the facing or the front) was quite a bit larger than the other piece (maybe 3/4 inch at the very tip). I quadruple checked that all of the other points were aligned. I couldn't quite figure out what was going on but, on numerous reconsideration of all other details, I opted to trim the lapel so that both pieces were more or less the same size.

I did understitch the collar for the appropriate turn of cloth (which was evident before I inserted it).

However, after insertion I noticed 3 unappealing things:
  • The turn of cloth is lost and you can see the seam that attaches upper to undercollar - esp. at the front.
  • The back facing pops WAY up - even though I have understitched the facing well to the seam allowances.
  • I suspect I don't like the collar as it's designed. It's weird - the stand is weird, the peter-pan-iness is weird, the size is weird. I've got an awesome lapel (well, more on that in a minute) and the collar just seems unintegrated with the rest of the jacket.
Note: I realize that, if I can resolve the first two issues, the third issue may resolve itself. Or, even if I continue to dislike it, I might be able to get it to a state that I can get with.

Next up, let's talk about the front facing / jacket unit. After assembling, grading and pressing at length, I did pick stitch the fabric to the seam allowances to facilitate the turn of clot on this rather thick fabric. It seemed to work at first, though later on - when I tried everything on - the turn of cloth was lost.

What I did was pick stitch the undersides to the seam allowance. That is to say, below the lapel, I pick stitched the facing to the seam allowances. Above (where the facing and front unit invert), I pick stitched the front to the seam allowances. Did I do this incorrectly? Was I actually supposed to pick stitch the "front" side to the seam allowances?

That aside, the drape on the side without buttons looks terrific (something tells me that's the side that did not have the lapel problem mentioned above). The fall of the lapel over the roll line is a thing of beauty.

The side with the buttons lost its shape and the under side of the lapel (i.e. the jacket front above the roll line) got kind of wavy.

Finally - and this is a pain in the ass! - my back stay started to rip (very slightly) up the centre when I put on the jacket rather aggressively. It didn't rip far and I think I understand the problem: Before cutting the fabric, I actually cut an inch off the bottom of the pattern piece because I had already shortened all of the pieces above the waist (this accommodated that adjustment). In fact, I cut the stay at the point of greatest pressure. If it were an inch longer, there would be ease below the stress point. Live and learn. What I did to fix it was a) do a bit of mending and b) put some weft interfacing over the lower 1 inch of the back stay to reinforce it. But I can feel that spot and it irritates me. It's most definitely exacerbated by the collar whacking all out of shape and the back facing popping up. I think if I can fix the back facing/collar issue and once I insert the lining, this problem may be resolved.

Now, here's what else I've done so far to fix things:
  • I tried pick stitching the facing on the "right sides" (just in one spot). Didn't seem to make any difference to the turn of cloth - although my having done the pick stitching to the other side may be cancelling it out.
  •  I whip stitched the facing unit down to the back stay, to stabilize it temporarily. I have also considered that I may need to permanently machine stitch all the layers just below the seam that attaches the collar to stabilize the facing in accordance with its needs. It will put an ugly stitch line at the back of the jacket, but that's better than the facing flipping out constantly. If understitching doesn't do the trick, then what's next? I could trim the collar seam allowances to practically nothing (this fabric doesn't fray much) but then I'm screwed if it doesn't work. There will be nothing left to under stitch or stitch to.
  • I carefully manipulated the button side of the jacket to re-establish the roll line. Then I steamed the crap out of it and left it to set over a towel (like I did when first creating the roll line - before the facing was attached). I'm really hoping it drapes as gorgeously as the non-button side tomorrow.
If you're still reading this you're kind of insane, but I am very grateful for that. :-)

Can you advise about what you think of a) the problems and b) my solutions plus c) any other solutions you may be able to suggest.

Thank you everyone. xo

The Tailored Suit: The Sleeve Tease

OK, Peeps, just spent 2 hours inserting those fucking sleeves. I guess I should be nicer about them because they ended up working pretty well.

One day, I'll have enough experience of this that the first inserted sleeve fits as nicely - and exactly the same way - as the second one does. Live and learn.  I don't think others will notice the slight distinctions between the two.

For starters, here are a few photos to show you where we're at (sorry the pics are overexposed, but they give more detail):

You should remember that my dress form has wider shoulders than I do. There are no shoulder pads inserted here, simply the added stabilizer of the bias strip (used to ease the sleeve into the armscye) rather crappily, manually pushed toward the sleeve part of the shoulder.

Nonetheless, it shows how we've largely corrected the challenges identified here.

What can I tell you?
  • After I re-did the bias strip easing method of inserting the sleeve (Gertie has a detailed tutorial on this here) - remember, I tried it the other day when S was here but I was tired and I didn't do it very well - the sleeves fit in perfectly.
  • In the future, when I redesign my sleeves (as necessary), to get them to fit as well as possible, I will probably cut them so that I don't need to do any easing. Because I came to the understanding, that I'd need to alter the sleeves substantively, after I's accounted for the ease of the bias strip, I decided to continue with that plan. Still, this method works well if you need to ease a slightly larger sleeve cap into a slightly smaller armsyce. I suspect it will get rid of up to 1.25 inches of extra sleeve ease fairly easily and maybe more if you work it super carefully.
  • Because my machine doesn't have a marker plate on the outside (left side) of the needle - when you see Gertie's tutorial, that should make more sense - I decided to mark the bias strip with 1/2 inch seam allowances. It was the only way I didn't veer wildly towards huge seam allowances on the side of the sleeve that you turn so that the SA is to the left of the needle. It worked well.
  • Also, because I did rotate the sleeve head forward in the armsyce by about a cm, I made that adjustment on the bias strip - I didn't affix the strip as if the centre top of the sleeve (per the original sleeve pattern) to the centre of the bias strip. I affixed the off centre marking point on my version of the sleeve with a 1 cm off centre marking on the bias strip. That was to make the easing appropriate to the new rotation. I suspect that's hard to understand but I don't know how to make it any clearer. Ask questions if you'd like...
  • I regret to inform you that the real detriment to this experience going smoothly was my machine. It does have a free arm but it wasn't narrow enough to accommodate the narrowness of the sleeve I had to insert quite far into, in order to get to the suit-like sleeve head at the right SAs for the needle.  My presser foot tension dohickey also kept catching my facing pad stitches - threatening to tumble the entire house of cards (or so it seemed to me). Eventually I fed the fabric through just as if I didn't have a free arm (nor, though, do I have a flat table to support everything on) and slowly put everything together. It was suboptimal. Happily, so far, I haven't have a problem sewing through zillions of thicknesses - which was something that has been concerning me. Here's hoping that positive scenario continues.
What's next? Well, what isn't?

I'll feel on target if I can get through insertion of facings (with its numerous steps), insertion of the collar (with its numerous steps) and hemming (also multi-stepped).

I have a bat mitzvah to attend tomorrow, which will limit my sewing time. Hopefully I'll still get some important steps underway tomorrow. Give me good facing vibes :-) Every step is an adventure!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

New Thing I Love

You wouldn't know this but, in addition to drinking wine, I actually go through a whack of sparkling water and club soda. As does my kid. It's like pop for us. I mean, water.

At any rate, I've had an ongoing argument with my (eco-nut) husband for approximately 15 years about the evils of drinking beverages from bottles and cans. The upshot: It's bad for the world.

In honour of Earth Day (is it Earth Day all over the world? Or is it an Ontario thing?), I have finally purchased a Soda Stream:

This is the Pure, which I bought for $179.00. It's not gorgeous, but it somehow won a design award nonetheless. I intended to get the top-of-the-line Penguin unit, but I was surprised to see how plastic-flimsy it looked.

Make no mistake, I have been researching this for years. The problem has been that, until sometime in the last 6 months, the carbonation cartridges were not easily available in Canada and the regulations in Canada are different than those in the US.  So getting refills would have been a major pain involving ongoing expense and couriers. What a surprise.

Finally, and because a coworker just started looking into the product for her own purposes, I discovered that The Bay has started selling - not only the soda stream units - but also the cartridges and all of the accoutrements. And the cartridges are recyclable by returning them to the housewares desk for a discount on the purchase of new ones.

People, it was time.

So, tonight we set it up - took 10 minutes start to finish - and the result is terrific.  Tap water has never been so palatable! You're supposed to use branded syrup to turn the water into fun-style pop, but we prefer it plain.

Just to be exciting, I made up a cream soda recipe (not sure if this has anything to do with how actual cream soda is made) by combining a tablespoon of maple syrup (real, natch) with a teaspoon of vanilla extract (also real). It was tasty-yum and indistinguishable from any cream soda I've ever bought.

One of the reasons I was initially so committed to purchasing the Penguin unit is that it's the only one that comes with glass bottles. I tend to find that carbonation and plastic are a gross mix. Happily, the Soda Stream plastic bottles (the ones that come with the Pure unit, which I bought) are extremely firm and the bubbles respond to them as if they were glass.

Another thing I love about this product is that you can carbonate the water to your taste. I like a lot of bubbles - so I press the carbonation button 3 times. If you prefer it a bit less bubbly, you can save on cartridge use by pressing the button once or twice.

So, has anyone else used one of these? In truth, I haven't found a negative review. Let's talk.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Tailored Suit: An Update on Sleeves

Tonight, the fabulous S came over and helped me to confirm the following:
  • Ascertaining the correct sleeve rotation (which we did in the last muslin) was the key to getting the sleeve to fit - in addition to making the length of the front sleeve longer.
  • The addition of extra width on the back under seam (see the more translucent addition to the sleeve piece in the photo below) was unnecessary. We think it was a (hazy-moment) remnant of one of the muslin versions. So we removed it.

  •  At that point, with some amazingly cool, manual easing - and S showed me how to do this - we pin-basted the sleeves in perfectly. But the shoulder seemed somehow wan. Even when we added shoulder pads, there was a need for some stabilization at the tip of the shoulder. 
  •  Which brings us to the next step wherein we removed all the pins and used the bias strip method of easing the sleeve.
  • I didn't do a good job of it so, after S left, I had to rip it out. I'll redo it again on Saturday, when I complete the insertion. But with a bit of additional easing, we were able to pin-baste the sleeve in again, and then add the shoulder pad, and the combo of bias-strip sleeve head and shoulder pad gave the jacket some gorgeous lines.
On the topic of this pattern's sleeve draft - which I continue to think about at length: I definitely think the sleeve on this pattern would have been better drafted asymmetrically, but I also think that no pattern can be expected to a) intuit my personal shoulder rotation and b) address the substantively-increased asymmetric requirement, given the changes made to the side front panel to provide space for my full bust.

Having said this, don't imagine the sleeve will fit well out of the box. Unless you are a very unique shape, it's likely you will benefit from adjusting it somewhat to maximize fit for your shape. Whether that's the case with every fitted jacket, I don't know. I'll have a chance to gain some more experience when I make the Claire Schaeffer tailored jacket (which S and I intend to do at the same time), after this. The mega-plus is that we will be able to assist each other with fitting. Furthermore the couple of tailoring projects I will have under my belt by then (a craft that S has not yet experienced) will be useful when it comes to interpreting how best to construct the Schaeffer jacket.

Mind you, one insanely complex project in its turn. :-) Here's to a good sleeve insertion, one jacket at a time.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Tailored Suit: Assembling the Shell

I've been insanely productive this weekend - which is awesome - but I'm amazed by how much goes into a tailored jacket. The steps are endless!

On a positive note, cuz I like to throw a few of those in every once in a while, I have had a great time since I finished cutting those bound buttonholes. I've probably put in about 16 hours this weekend and it really shows!

Here you can see the hair canvas on the front panel and the hair canvas of the back stay (on the right side of the pic). I used hair canvas for the stay, although Gertie recommends muslin because a) S suggested it will stretch less and b) I'm so out of muslin it's ridiculous. Hair canvas, though, I have quite a bit of (so far).

See the lapel roll. I'm very happy with it's proportions. It might seem small here, but when it's on, the lapel and bust area are well-matched.

Here's a long shot of the entire shell. I'm really happy with the shape...

Finally, here's the under collar assembled but pre-pad stitched. Since I took this photo I have done the pad stitching and shaped the undercollar on my tailor's ham.

 Believe it or not, I still have this left to do:
  • Insert sleeves
  • Insert under and upper collar
  • Assemble facings and sew them in
  • Assemble lining and sew it in
  • Hemming
  • Completing the bound button holes
  • Trimming (i.e. shoulder pads)
 Then there's the small matter of sewing up the skirt.

I've tried on the shell and it fits very well in the bust. But I don't really know how the sleeves are going to insert. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous. S, my fitting friend, has kindly offered to come over and help me to sort it out, if necessary. One thing's for sure, I'm not going to do the bias easing on the sleeve head until I've tried to pin the sleeve in, as is. I am prepared to have to make some adjustments here. Please keep your fingers crossed for that step. And stay tuned for more.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Tailored Suit: Tailoring the Jacket Front

At last, some photos of the tailoring I've done today on the jacket front:

You can see my buttonholes go up farther on the jacket than those on the original pattern design. That's because I don't want any fall at the bust. Since I worked so hard to ensure I've got enough room there, I don't want the lapel to feel or look over-sized. I bring enough volume to that area of the jacket already.

This photo looks a bit blurry here - it didn't on the camera?! I'm including it so that you can see a few things: The pin lines on the right side demarcate the 5/8 seam allowance. I moved the buttons horizontally - slightly closer to that seam line of the jacket than the pattern version instructs. Why? I just felt the pattern button placement is a bit too far from the centre line opening for my taste. I also wanted a bit more space in the chest area. (On that topic - can you see the topography of the princess seam?? The differential between the under bust and full bust is more than 7 inches - translating to the span of approximately 3 pattern sizes. I have some feelings about what underbust / full bust measurements will suit the unaltered mid-range sizes of this pattern so email if you want to have that discussion...) Finally, S and I measured the vertical line of the button placement closer to this line than the one the pattern suggests, so it seemed like a smart idea.

I have a whole diatribe about how A, B, C and D cup sizing - as pattern companies advise you which sloper bust they design for - is inaccurate, for smaller-framed people, anyway. I don't mean that the sloper isn't designed with a CHEST size in mind, but breasts, having volume, are different animals than under and over bust. Depending on your dimensions, you can save on required volume in a particular size by having a smaller under bust and over bust measurement. I've spoken of this before but, the more I learn the more convinced of this I am. Really, someone needs to start designing patterns for small-framed, relatively large-busted women. I can't think of one brand that does this. Colette: Suits tall, broad people. Sewaholic: Suits incredibly long-waisted pear shapes. This jacket pattern is designed for a wide-shouldered frame. Vogue comes closer to the sloper shape I'm talking about than any of the others, at least when it comes to frame size. Those who design for a woman who's large-busted because she's a large person, are not designing for me. And that's the whole premise of pattern grading, apparently. Thoughts and feelings are percolating, please stay tuned.

Back to the topic at hand: Yes, I have moved the buttons all over the map. Which means I had to reorient the lapel line. The photo below shows the altered fall of the lapel over the jacket front.

And below, you can see a) where I taped my lapel line with twill tape (it's catch stitched) vs the original line. The original one is the longer, wider line that happens to end at that yellow pin head. See how much wider it is at the base (the area that meets the full part of the bust).  Of course, I could be totally wrong about this, but I feel that the narrower and smaller lapel will be more attractive on my small but boobish frame.

The final photo shows how the beginnings of lapel pad stitching are assisting the roll. Pretty, no?

For the hugeness of this project, I have to say how much I love tailoring. It's a beautiful merger of process and creativity.

I am still on the fence about the pockets, but I've got till I finish with this portion to decide whether I'll add them in. Please keep your feedback coming. I'd love to know what you think of this  - and whether pockets seem like a good idea.

Checking In...

Hey Everyone: My intention was to take photos of what I'm doing today, and upload them in this post. Alas, my child decided to borrow the camera and she neglected to turn it off. So there's no charge till later.

It's too bad cuz I wanted to take a few pics of my bound buttonholes right after completion - I mean before seaming the front to the side front (which raises the profile of everything as it turns the flat piece of fabric into the beginnings of a 3-dimensional garment). I can't wait hours for the batteries, so when finally I'm able to snap shots, you'll have to get with the buttonholes as part of a jacket-in-progress, with hair canvas atop the wrong sides. Happily, this won't impact the view of the right sides.

Here's where I'm at, mid-aft:
  • Bound buttonholes are done on the front piece. This was very time-consuming and rather difficult because the front piece is not exactly straight on either long edge - it moves out slightly nearing the lapel and the waist area curves in. Furthermore, I have my buttonholes 3 inches apart (not 2 inches apart, as the pattern instructs). This is because I've lengthened the jacket a bit and because I want my top button to sit just below the start of the lapel. Although I marked the straight of grain repeatedly, the fabric kept losing the line. It was also hard to see the stitches - and (stupidly) I used dark fusible interfacing atop the rectangle areas - so using pen to mark was useless. Chalk on a springy fabric that's getting a lot of play is suboptimal, to put it lightly. I ripped out the sewn rectangles of all 4 buttonholes a couple of times to ensure they were perfectly positioned (even though I spent hours drawing the markings carefully). Eventually I sewed from the right side (on top of the patches, which I could mark more easily). I thought of thread tracing but it filled me with such meh-ness that I spent 8 times as long doing it my own way. Whatevs. I'd say this whole process took about 5 hours. Really. How do I feel about the end product: It's entirely adequate. Given that these are the 3rd to 7th buttonholes I've ever made, I'm cool with the outcome. Are they perfect? Um, no. Are they good enough that I have to move on or I'll never have a freakin' jacket. Yup. I don't think you will notice the imperfections that I do. That's my story and I'm sticking with it.
  • I sewed the front and side fronts together, notched and clipped and I have to say the two pieces joined BEAUTIFULLY. I was super worried about this because of all the alterations worked on these pieces, which screwed with the marking lines. If you think about it, increasing bust curve changes the relative positioning of those notches. I'm sure it's all mathematical, but I couldn't figure out how. As I lengthened the pieces too - and the original waist isn't marked on the pattern piece - I kind of had to guess at everything. At one point S suggested I was potentially kind of screwed. (She said this good-naturedly and followed it up with: "The reason I think you'll be alright is cuz you have a good eye." She also rightly reminded me I should have been paying far more attention as I was making the alterations. On that account she is, of course, very right.) I have to say, I do kind of have a good eye. I seem to know where things go (which is why draping has worked well for me, I imagine). The next bra I make, I'm draping. And, though I said it would never happen, I'm starting to feel the urge to take on that challenge again. Flat patterns don't mean so much, but fabric in 3 dimensions I can get with. I think that's why I can guess everyone's bra and dress size fairly accurately, and why I can buy well-fitting clothes for other people when they're not around. I've always said that's my super-hero power. Who knew it would come in so handy.
  • I've marked the front interfacing (hair canvas) at the 5/8 lines, to avoid pad stitching into my seam allowances. I've also marked the roll line of the lapel. I've pinned the front interfacing to the fashion fabric, adjusted the size of the interfacing given the adjustments I've made to the pattern, and now I'm ready to start tailoring the jacket front. Wonder how long this will take. I do intend to stitch in front of the TV all evening. It'll be like knitting. 
Since I got the bound buttonholes cut, and realized all was not a disaster, I've been really enjoying myself. Imagine.

Here's today's question: I'm still wondering whether to make the diagonal welt pockets. Part of me would like to learn the skill. Part of me doesn't want the stress of another "cut into the front of the jacket front" moment - especially at this high-stakes juncture. Part of me doesn't know if the pockets are a bit twee (for me), given that the jacket is already quite vintage-y. Between the 3/4 sleeves, the peplum and the rounded collar, I wonder if the pockets may be a bit much on my frame. They are, of course, entirely optional. What do you suggest?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

I'm On a Tear

I have bought so many sewing books lately, it's crazy. Many of them have been purchased on Etsy (my fave vintage tailoring book store).  Here are the latest:

I have secretly loved this bad ass cover of the pamphlet precursor to Pants for Real People for as long as I can remember. I am so THRILLED to have found a vintage copy.

This booklet came along with Pants for Any Body. Can't tell you anything about it as yet...
This is another of those Dept. of Agriculture booklets but it focuses on fitting suits, specifically. How awesome is that???

I also bought the following new books:

S, my fitting friend, and a few wonderful readers, recently recommended that I get The Complete Guide to Perfect Fitting by Sarah Veblen. I've just started to read it and it's AWESOME. It's clear, intelligent and articulate. It makes fitting knowable, somehow. Or maybe I've just been fitting my ass off, so it all makes more sense than usual.

In truth, I got the The Dressmaker's Handbook of Couture Sewing Techniques, by Lynda Maynard, to rack up enough bucks to get free shipping on the Veblen book. I would have spent 8 bucks on shipping as the Veblen book was less than the $25.00 free-shipping minimum . I know little of the Maynard text, but it seems to have a very good tutorial on how to sew a waistband using petersham - another great, though different, tutorial for which can be found on Sunni's site (where you can also purchase the loveliest petersham).

I'm so happy to find incredible instruction - both modern and vintage - and I spent, on all of these, less than $50.00.  Unbelievable, no?

So, have you read any of these books/pamphlets? Thoughts or feelings about any of them? I utterly love the vintage books on tailoring - which are not as challenging to find as one might imagine. I have to stop myself from snapping up every one I can find. I'm turning into Peter - only books, thankfully, are easier to store than machines!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Tailored Suit: Working with Thick Fabric

You may recall I was concerned, before buying the aubergine fabric, because I sensed it might be too thick. At the time I said it wasn't as thick as coating. Having spent 3 hours cutting it yesterday, I'm pretty sure it is. And it's hotter than hell in the way only excellent-quality, Italian wool can be. Furthermore - and I did know this before I bought it, but spending all that cozy-time yesterday really reinforced my awareness: it's a very springy yarn. Two pieces of fabric are 3 mm thick. That's not insane, but it is thick. Because it springs, it's not difficult to sew through. But it's been really challenging to figure out how to sew it without having the stitches burrow into the fabric, leaving a pronounced divot.

Let's focus first on the challenges associated with this fabric (wherein I'll ask y'all some questions about mitigation strategies), then I'll talk about pluses.

Challenges in sewing thick, textured wool:
  • That channel, created by stitches burrowing into the fabric, is a concern. I've lowered the top stitch tension, which helps somewhat, but the bobbin thread is still pretty tight. I've also lengthened the stitches, which does improve things too. Mind you, I wonder if my (lightweight) modern machine is the problem. My vintage Singer's tension is also intermittently problematic (I wonder if it doesn't work so well with thin fabric; at this point I haven't tried it with this thick wool). I intend to see how the Singer sews, but I'm not committed to making the jacket with that machine. It's just too unreliable. Do I need to buy a new machine?? (Yes, I am insane enough to go and buy a new machine for a freakin' sewing project (my current machines were a) gifted and b) an intro machine bought at WalMart when I started sewing). But I'm more inclined to work with what I've got. The lightweight Brother generally works quite well. Should I screw with the bobbin tension (that seems unwise)?
  • I'm super worried about bulk. Considering how many layers of facing and interfacing and lining and bound buttonhole "windows" I've got to work with, and considering all the work I've done to streamline the fit, I'd be lying if I said I feel nonchalant about this. Of course, I'll open darts and clip seam allowances closely, but what about the 2x12" strip of bias fabric used to ease in the sleeve? That isn't clipped away. I'm wondering if I wouldn't be better off to use thinner interfacing? Given that I intend to add shoulder pads, I'm not sure if I want an additional layer of spring in the shoulder. Having said this, my understanding is that the easing fabric should match the qualities of the fashion fabric.
  • Another concern is that this suit is going to be too warm to wear from May till October - esp. since I aim to finish construction in May. I was hoping for something a bit more 3-season. Of course, I do live in freakin' Canada. Just cuz we're having the warmest year ever doesn't mean we won't have more regular or unseasonably freezing weather just around the corner. (How many Junes have found me wearing a coat?) But I don't like bulk under a coat. Maybe I'm overestimating how thick this wool actually is?!
Really, any feedback about how to ameliorate these, and other potential problems, would be so appreciated.

The Up Sides (which are considerable):
  • There is not a lot of fray factor with this fabric. Close to none, really.
  • It's got lovely hand. Very soft to the touch and with a lovely, rich texture.
  • It's going to hold its shape very well - far better than a crepe would, for example. Given that the design is very structured, that's a huge plus.
  •  I doubt that any pad stitching glitches will show through on the front side of the fashion fabric (under the lapel, for example).
So, whatcha think sewing peeps? This project presents me with no end of questions. And I've barely even started!?! On that topic, I have prepped everything (yes, I did a couple of hours of work this evening) so that I can start the bound buttonholes on Thursday. I appear to be mid-week sewing right now, partly to stem time-constraints associated with any future, potential challenges I may encounter and partly because I'm fascinated to see what will come next. One thing's for certain: the instructions for making bound buttonholes are compellingly excellent.

A few Craftsy-coursers have left messages on that site about concerns over the fit of the side front main or lining pieces (the same ones I've had my majority of trouble with). As yet, there isn't much definitive feedback. I've only had the opportunity to muslin 5 of the numerous pieces that comprise the pattern. While I've carefully considered these pieces, and worked hard to get the sleeve to work with my adjusted versions (adjusted for reasons of my unique shape, as much as to ameliorate the side-front strangeness as I see it), I really hope that I'm able to manage things as I sew. I wonder if challenges are with one size (the 6), or if those of us having trouble are having trouble because we're missing something. Presumably, lots of people have already made this jacket without any issues. I guess, time will tell.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Fun Times...

Between the stress, the endless fitting and the booze, can't say I'll remember much of this weekend. So here's something to remind me:

Consider easing that side front bust curve into the jacket front piece. I suspect that's why they advise you not to add more than 2 inches overall when you're doing a TBA. Don't worry, I've been living with these boobs for a long time. I know how to work around them with fabric.

The classic rock internet radio has been going almost non-stop for 5 days and I have to say, if I never hear "You Can't Always Get What You Want" again, it'll be too soon.

The Tailored Suit: Final Improvements -Sleeve Fit

I really hope this is the last time we ever speak of this muslin, but I do want to let you know that all of your comments of yesterday were so helpful. My sewing partner, S, came over again this morning (I know, part sewing helper, part saint) and she assisted me in sorting out that pulling at the front seam.

Here's what we realized:
  • Turns out, I had cut off the seam allowance?!? On the plus side, I had the side front armscye curve dead on. So we added the seam allowance back on.
  • We rotated the sleeve 1 cm towards the front. Wow, that's easy. All you do is move the sleeve head notch 1 cm towards the front sleeve. And it made a BIG difference. (Thanks Sherry.)
  • We moved some width I added to the front sleeve onto the back sleeve - because the underarm seams weren't aligning. We don't want to move the extra space over the bicep, but we do want the seams to line up.
  • We removed some fabric from the arm - there was too much. (Thanks Phyllis.)

In truth, S realized all of this. I just agreed with her. Gotta love friends!

In the final analysis, these adjustments should make the sleeve fit pretty close to perfectly within the armscye.

I have a lot of emerging feelings about the need for sewing partnership - 2 brains are better than one (as are 4 hands) - and the expectations we can reasonably place on a paper pattern to fit without major adjustments. No doubt these will be the topics of some future posts.

This afternoon will be all about cutting the pieces. Never thought I'd be so thrilled to spend 3 hours cutting and marking fabric. In a rather amazing twist, I'm actually on target with my work plan. Sure, I had the benefit of a 5 day weekend (not originally factored in), a genius helper and I've been working many weekday evenings (not my usual thing), but I'm happy to say that this 70 hour undertaking hasn't put me behind schedule. Even if that schedule is arbitrary.

Do you have a sewing partner? If so, tell us about it. What are your thoughts about the need to make numerous alterations on patterns? Do you think it's the sign of sub-optimal pattern drafting or do you feel it's the role of the sewist to undertake any and all fitting challenges to gain the final result (s)he seeks?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Houston, We Are Go For Launch

Can you tell I'm one of those long-suffering, space-program documentary wives?

People, I am very thrilled to tell you I have a workable pattern. Too weary to jump up and down, but inestimably grateful that I didn't give up, and largely because of the help, good vibes and encouraging comments I have received lo these past 2 weeks. Hasn't it been longer than 2 weeks?

Anyway, below I present muslin 8 - but I warn you that it's only the right side (my right side) you want to pay attention to. I used the left side to diminish the seam allowance - to see if it would improve the fit. I was afraid I'd forgotten to reflect seam allowance in the final pattern pieces I'd (natch) already cut. That was the anxiety I awoke with this morning... It appears I did not, because the right side of the jacket definitely fits better than the (seam allowance-diminished) left side.

Here I make it easy for you to keep your eye on the right side - I've cropped the left one...

Keep in mind that I inserted the shoulder pad quickly - and it's got too much fabric along the top of the shoulder - I'll have to alter it slightly for fit but I don't want to start fooling around with it to fit the muslin. I want it to fit the finished jacket. I also shortened the sleeve so as not to have to deal with the dart etc. I was only considering the sleeve head on this round...

I'm not lopsided. I've got a whole different seam allowance happening on the left side of the jacket.

I realize that it's not perfect but you have to consider the following:
  • I'm working in a very stiff and heavy muslin (all I've got left). It's not going to drape like my fashion fabric - especially once it has a slippery lining on the inside.
  • The shoulder pads need some work.
  • I'm ok with this fit. It may not be the world's best, but I think it's the best I'm going to get without a fashion design degree, at my current level of experience, with a pattern that started off extremely unsuited to my dimensions.

I've hit fit fatigue - and I'm seriously worried about totally over fitting this in a fabric that isn't even vaguely like my fashion fabric. Drag lines happen. It's a function of the requirement for ease that permits movement. Apparently, on suits, we call the drag lines drape. Go figure.

I think, in the online sewing community, we're nearing a point of such anxiety about "wrinkles" that we're in danger of removing the ones required to allow us to move gracefully. At least that's what I'm telling myself.

But never mind me, what do you think of drag lines (the good ones, the bad ones, the necessary ones)? Are they all bad, in your mind? What do you think of this muslin? Note: I am very sensitive at this juncture - so please express your true feelings with care :-)

Saturday, April 7, 2012

This Is the State of My Brain And a Question

I don't know that I've ever worked in such a state:

See the wine on the floor?

OK, I actually think I might be getting somewhere but my fix is SO BIZARRE I wouldn't believe it if I hadn't come to it with trial and error pinning. Note: I'm about to make muslin 8 (I think it's 8). I've actually started tracing the pattern pieces because I'm afraid of the cuts I'm making now.

Here's the sleeve in its original form:

There's slightly less curve on the right side (the front sleeve) than on the left (the back sleeve).

However, given the changes I've needed to make to the side front piece - and to get things to fall smoothly in light of a) where the side front meets the front at the armscye and b) the topography of my chest leave me with a sleeve that looks like this:

Again, the right side of the photo is the front sleeve. From the sleeve head to the left (the back sleeve) there are no alterations from the original pattern.

I've pinned this and it works. Is this even possible???

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Tailored Suit: People, I'm on Muslin 7.

I can't not talk about this. Trust me, I considered it, but the story is too good.

A while back, one of this blog's readers - a sewist - contacted me to suggest that we meet for coffee. Let's call her S. S recently moved to Toronto. She has been reading for a while (but isn't a blogger). She's a delightful person who makes lovely clothing and she's passionate about fit!

At any rate, she must have felt my blood pressure through the internet and she (incredibly kindly) offered to come and help me with the jacket today.

Man, what a gift! I cannot tell you what an awesome and instructional experience it has been.

We worked for about 5 hours - which flew by - and at the end of it I have another muslin. It's not a perfect muslin. There are still more kinks to work out, believe it or not.

Let's just say, at this point, I might as well have drafted this jacket myself.

Some fascinating things I learned:
  • My upper bust tapers to the size 4 in this pattern. My full bust probably correlates with a size 10 - but only very briefly. We actually ended up doing an SBA (small bust adjustment) on my TBA (targeted bust adjustment) above the full part of my bust. Hilarious! (Fortunately S is all too familiar with that adjustment.) It was nice to learn that someone else concurs that my boobs are very hard to fit. The size differential between them and everything else - is really challenging. I know, cry for me.
  • The side front pattern piece is marked erroneously. Either that, or it's badly drafted. My previously determined, one inch tapering of that piece is non-negotiable - no matter how I put things together. S noted that almost immediately. And I made her look at all of my cut lines to ensure I hadn't made a mistake. The error is not mine this time.
  • Nonetheless, I may not need to redraft the armscye - the problem is only in one spot on the side front - and the length added to the armscye by the alteration is supported already by the original length of the front sleeve cap. It remains to be seen if it will be required, but I'm committed to that alteration too, if it comes to it.
  • The back is looking good - but with room still for sleeve insertion. Tomorrow I'll fit the sleeves in again and determine what's next.

Note: We did work with shoulder pads.

I'm sort of in an altered state at this point. I can no longer manage to work up the will for a quick conclusion. I just want to get it as right as possible before I make the real jacket. I'm sorry to keep on about this but, undoubtedly, this is the most challenging sewing experience I've had to date. I don't want to deal with anything harder until I forget this - and I'm wearing a suit jacket of such fantasticness that people stop me on the street to ask where I bought it.

Let's just say I only hope I can return this favour with as much skill and patience as has been shown to me.

Lies - and Some Truth

I know, I said I'd never speak of this jacket muslin again but wonderful commenter Phyllis has alerted me to a potentially huge issue with muslin 5. Remember overfit territory? Well, all of those drag lines I worked for an hour to remove on the jacket back were probably a sign of necessary ease - for when the shoulders are inserted.

Thanks to her advice, I inserted one shoulder (I used the bias strip easing method which worked beautifully) and everything fit was once again wonky. Now I've got to start all over and figure out how the pieces need to go together - AGAIN. All of this (and late-stage insertion of shoulder pad - thanks for the reminder Taran!) has fucked with the bust height. And, I think, obviated the need to cut off the tapered inch on the side front armscye. You did read this correctly. I suspect my 6 hours of work yesterday was for naught.

Honestly, I'm in a vortex of "I have no freakin' idea of what to do next." I have to assume though, if I just keep doing things, something will work. At times like this I think of my great aunt Jean who was a fancy seamstress and house designer for Saks (I believe that's where she worked) in NYC in the heyday of the mid century era. She learned her craft in Italy, where she was born in the early 1900s. (She used to make me the most perfect doll clothes when I was a young girl.) Jean would window shop at all of the chicest shops (so the stories go) and sometimes go into those shops to try on insanely expensive dresses (New Look, anyone?) and then go home and impeccably recreate those garments. She wore them well as she was beyond slender. Sadly, in later years she could barely eat because of a myriad of stomach problems and surgeries, likely foreshadowed by her youthful, stylish slimness.

I only knew her in those later years when the ravages of time and life circumstance had taken over. I wish I'd been able to have some meaningful discussions about sewing and tailoring with her. Sometimes, now, I have imaginary conversations with the only pedigreed sewist (to my knowledge) to whom I am related.

Though I didn't know her well, she has given me a great deal: confidence, ephemeral support and an awareness that I am part of a continuum, that this is something I can do because it's in my blood. The people who come before us show us what we're made of. And given that we all go back more than a thousand generations, imagine what is in all of us to be accomplished.


Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Tailored Suit: I Promise, This is the Last Post about Muslins

When I said I was on muslin 3, I misspoke. I was actually on muslin 4 - and, as of right now - muslin 4 is a mashup with muslin 5. In case you can't keep it straight (like me, apparently):
  • Muslin 1 - the one where I cut all the side pieces in the wrong size because I followed the wrong cut lines.
  • Muslin 2 - the one where I corrected this and figured out a) I needed and FBA, b) the armsyce/sleeve fit was problematic and c) I needed to shorten the length of the bodice above the waist.
  • Muslin 3 - the FBA version aka the sack, the paper pieces of which took 2 hours to alter.
  • Muslins 4 and 5 are shown in photos below - the left side is muslin 4, the right side is muslin 5.

Before I show them to you, and tell you about where I'm at and what I've resolved, I should tell you that I do NOT recommend princess seam FBAs if you are a) small and b) narrow(ish) and c) there's more than a 5 inch difference between your underbust and your full bust. I'm not going to say it can't be done. But I will say that I believe that the reason it seems to work better for larger and wider people is because the disparity between added bust fabric and added waist fabric PLUS length is easier to manage when you are tall and/or broad. Feel free to debate this, btw.

I will also say that I have NEVER had as much trouble cutting a pattern in the correct sizes (according to pattern markings) as I have done with this one. I LOATHE pasting together pieces of paper and cutting them. I'd rather trace every pattern till the end of all time than do this again. Even today I discovered I'd cut something wrong. And I have gone back over each piece AT LEAST A DOZEN TIMES. It's like my eyes can't focus anymore.

Final proviso: I have never had as much difficulty fitting anything as this jacket. Why? Well, I presume it's for the following reasons:

  • I've never known as much about fit and how to correct it as I do right now.
  • Suit jackets are, bar none, the most HORRIFYING thing for me to fit, even RTW. (Man, I've got a lot of capital letters going on in this post...)
  • I don't know that I shouldn't have just started with the 8 (though I suspect I would have had as many problems as with the 6, just in reverse.) I do think it would have been easier to cut - as it's the middle size so I would have been able to go straight down the middle with the scissors.
  • I question whether this pattern is really designed to suit my particular dimensions. I actually took out my Claire Schaeffer suit jacket pattern and considered sewing it instead. But I couldn't bear the thought of starting from scratch with a whole different garment. Better the devil you know...
  • I've veered dangerously into overfit territory - a desolate moor where one runs into the occasional, hollow-eyed, muslin wearing zombie. There's a time to know when to quit and it involves either a) putting the pattern away or b) getting on with it. I'm going with option b), God help me.

Now all of this will be water under the bridge when I get this thing sewn up gorgeously. Right?

Onto the muslin deets:

Muslin 4 (erroneously called muslin 3 until this post) began with one alteration: the targeted bust adjustment in the amount of 2.25 inches. It was a very successful alteration peeps, with one challenge to be resolved (shown belowin muslin 5). Note: My left side (i.e. the RIGHT side of the photo) is muslin 4. My right side (i.e. the LEFT side of the photo) is muslin 5.

See how muslin 4 drags and looks droopy? The irony is that it's because I made the bust line too high on that side. You can sort of see how, above my left breast, there's a little empty pocket surrounded with fabric.

Below, you can see (in the first photo) how the too-high bust line leaves a ridge of empty space above my actual breast:

However, on muslin 5 (the other side, shown below - and pinned together rather than stitched cuz I didn't have the will to stitch again), you can see how a slightly lowered bust line has made everything much better fitting.

I did not use a fitting book to resolve this challenge. At a certain point, it's easier to just figure out the solutions by feeling your fabric and by assessing the fit.

Believe it or not, muslin 5 still left me with two problems: fitting the sleeves into the armholes (unshown) and some weird drag lines along the back where it meets the side back:

Remember to ignore my left side!

Somehow I managed to resolve this by lowering the placement of the side back against the back piece (a pinned, and unshown, muslin 6?!?!). To be honest, I can't even figure out if it's better at this point, but numerous other photos (on Scott's cell phone) and his feedback lead me to believe that it is.

I did have to shave a tapered inch off the side front armhole curve. I tried every way I could think of to make the shape feasible for a) the shape of my body and b) the need to insert a sleeve, but this was all I was left with. At this point, I'm prepared to believe I've done something wrong which has led me down this path. But, if the armscye problem is with the pattern, that would seriously suck and piss me off NO END.

Having adjusted the curve of the armscye on the side front, it appears that it is now about an inch smaller than the sleeve which will be inserted into it. That's ok, because I'm going to ease the sleeve in (using a strip of bias fabric along the sleeve head before it's inserted into the armscye). I think that can work. 4 inches wasn't going to ease, but 1 inch should. And lowering the armscye on the side front means that the armhole fits my body better.

So, what's next?

I've got to make 4 alterations to every relevant pattern piece before I go any further:
  • The lowered side front armscye adjustment.
  • 1 inch-lengthened front and back pieces (to accomodate the lower placement of the side front and side back pieces, which ameliorated fit).
  • The TBA on the front and side front pieces.
  • Ensuring that every new matching mark (and I changed them all to suit my incredibly specific repositioning) is reflected on every piece.

I suspect that's going to take a while.

Have I mentioned that every part of my body seems to hurt right now?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Tailored Suit: Muslin 3 and A Very Cool Book

This post is about two things that interrelate. For those of you who want to hear more about the latest muslin (and how I've stayed away from bridges today), see farther down this post.

I do want to say, right off, that all of your feedback has been incredibly helpful - the advice, the commiseration - it really makes a huge difference. So thank you all.

But let's start with some truly fabulous eye-candy:

This is my new book, Singer Fashion Tailoring, written in hipster-days of 1973 - when all of the coolest titles were written without capital letters.

Back-page advertising wasn't lost on them in the day!

And they knew you were sewing with fur - and leather (each of which has its own chapter).

I mean, there's a whole chapter on aligning your (brown) plaids:

And tons of great tailoring advice (that's almost starting to look familiar):

See this excellent section on fabrics - which includes all kinds of fabrics I've never actually heard of?!

"The muslin" does not get short shrift in this book:

And, finally: apparently, body-typing methodology is timeless...

This book has actually provided me with my next step in the seemingly endless muslin process for the Starlet Suit Jacket.

(Note: I do intend to document the following with photos or more instruction - but only if it works...)

I mashed up the princess seam FBA method from Singer Fashion Tailoring (above) with this one from A Perfect Fit (generously provided by Taran):

I've decided to call it the Targeted Bust Adjustment (TBA).

In short, I added 5/8" at each side front piece (at the apex of the bust tapering to nothing at about 5 inches down and up from that point). Note: You don't want to alter the waist or shoulder / armpit curves so taper before you get to either of those spots. The Singer book cautions against doing this for alterations of more than 2 inches. I lived on the edge and added an extra half an inch (ish). A Perfect Fit suggests that you alter the front piece length too. But something tells me, since I'm not adding a lot of extra width, I can ease the length in. If not, I can always fix it on the next draft.

The interesting thing about this is that I used the FBA-altered front and side front pieces from muslin 2 (I'm running out of practice fabric, people!) to cut out these new TBA pieces. Natch, the new, muslin 3 pieces fit within those from muslin 2 because they are smaller everywhere but in the full bust - where they are exactly the same size. Furthermore, I got a fabulous sense of EXACTLY how the FBA'ed pieces differ from the TBA'ed pieces in cutting muslin 3 out of muslin 2.

The side front pieces are fairly similar - there's a bit of difference in the armscye and in overall width. It's in the front pieces that things seemed to be going in two very different directions.

On the front piece, the TBA is much narrower all around (except at the apex of the full bust point). The shoulder top is a good inch narrower (like the original size 6).

Look, I have no idea of whether muslin 3 is going to work and, frankly, tonight I'm too afraid to put it all together to see.

What I can say is that, if this doesn't fly, my next plan of attack is to cut the 8 and see how that fits.

So, what do you think? Have you ever done this alteration? Do you own the Singer Fashion Tailoring book? Let's talk.