Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Spring Suit: Construction Begins

There are those days - you know them: You work so diligently to be organized, to think intelligently, to accomplish what you've set out to do, and yet the sewing goddess has other plans.

Those days are hard. In the moment they're actually heavy on your body. You come to question why you try, why you want to sew, how you're going to avoid ever having "another one of these experiences".

And then there are days like today.

I started in my sewing room at 9 am (on hols till tomorrow) and just emerged (with a little time away for lunch). Every freakin' moment was productive. I'd even go so far as to say 80 per cent of my day was pure pleasure.

Here's where I'm at - about 8 hours farther along that I hoped to be (not that I'm tempting any fates):
  • I decided to "tailor lite", using fusible interfacing with some hand-work techniques thrown in at certain points (stay tape on roll line, back stay - basically, all the stays will be hand-worked)
  • Machine prepped, bobbins wound, swatches tested
  • Tested my Singer for buttonhole capability. Gonna go this way...
  • Pulled together scraps of appropriate dimensions to mail to the lady who makes fabric-covered buttons in California
  • Sorted out how the buttons are going to be positioned on the front of the jacket  - which only yesterday I finally realized (consciously) is double-breasted, albeit double-breasted below the breasts :-)
  • Cut out all of the pieces (40-something of them) - except for the lining which I don't want to cut till it's time to assemble as the fabric is silk charmeuse and it likes to go wonky if you let cut pieces sit around. I also marked them.
  • Iron totally cleaned and used to interface all of the pieces (except a shoulder stay - I lied when I said all of the stays were going to be hand-tailored) - it was hand-drafted though, if that counts!
  • Sewed the darts into the side fronts (after interfacing it with the dart cut out of the interfacing)
  • Sewed the fronts to the side fronts
  • Assembled the lapels, graded and turned the fabric, then hand basted it to the jacket front
Seriously, I was like a fucking machine.

It helps that I have no instructions worth looking at so I'm actually constructing this from memory, my tailoring tech book (when necessary) and the occasional glance at the Burda "directions" (aka 3 sentences that seem translated from another language). I'm following Clio's advice which is not to follow the Burda directions too carefully - esp. when it comes to the facings and lining (2 of the 3 sentences).

I cannot tell you what a JOY it is to sew simply from my own experience and skill-base. It's like magic and I love it and it thrills me and I'm so grateful to have times like these.

But don't let me give you the impression that it's all puppies and daffodils. I've encountered a couple of situations that are potentially problematic - to the extent that, after I make this jacket I may opt to call it yet another muslin and go buy a whole new whack of fabric and start again.

(OK, that was dramatic. I'm gonna make this another 12 times, I suspect, so what's the harm in starting 2 weeks from now.)

Here are the potential problems (which may also be totally resolvable, it's just unknown at this moment):
  • I don't love the interfacing (at least I don't think I do). It makes the fabric very responsive to pressing and I've managed to make one of the side front seams a bit crunchy and overdone. Of course, I tested a whole bunch of interfacings to see their effect on the fabric. But little flat swatches are not the same as long, three-dimensional garments. At first I thought this was a disaster and I'd have to scrap the whole project. But as I've come to understand the interfacing and its relationship to the fabric, things have improved. Here's hoping my learning curve is not overly noticeable. The challenge is that you have to get that stuff to stick forevah. So you have to steam the shit out of it. But then you run the risk of making the fashion fabric seem brittle. Tip: Definitely steam and press both sides of the fabric (with a pressing cloth!). Bubbling on the right side (fashion fabric) will disappear when you do this. Who knows if it will do it permanently. Man, weft interfacing makes a HUGE difference to wool suiting. In its own way, the impact is as profound as hair canvas, if totally different.
  • It would have been smart to make another muslin, cuz (following my last muslin change, wherein I added a bit more fabric onto the front armscye and front sleeve) my dart didn't align at the front-armscye cut line. This could be a very bad sign (if there's not enough fabric) or just fine (if there's more than enough fabric or just the right amount). I have to continue as if it's one of the latter 2 scenarios because I spent a fuck of a lot of time considering this situation before I finalized the pattern. Thing is, I don't really know what I'm doing when it comes to pattern drafting, so I may have messed it up. Only time is gonna tell. Note: At first I was paralyzed with horror but, as I continue to think about this, I suspect I'll be able to sort it out, even if the fit isn't optimal. (See: This might be a wearable muslin but I'm making the next version ASAP.) 
  • Fuck - it (just this minute) came to me. I should have added all of the extra onto the SLEEVE and none onto the armscye. If I end up recutting those front sleeves (to add another .5 inch onto them), it's gonna eat into my remaining fabric big-time. I spent 2 hours wondering how the hell to add that fabric in and it's SO simple. Really, this corroborates that there is no way to learn except by making mistakes.
You know you're developing as a sewist when you can keep on with equanimity knowing that it might end well or less well. The truth is, it always ends well or less well. And we never really know until it's over. Right?


  1. Yup! Ignoring the Burda instructions is a key to success. LOL Can't wait to see how this moves along - fingers crossed that your sleeve/armscye turns out ok. I hate it when I have that big revelation AFTER cutting...

    1. Oh please do not uncross those fingers!!! At least I do have extra fabric. But I'll be really cutting it close if I want to get a skirt out of it too...

  2. it is wonderful to sew from memory. having to stop and read directions is such a kill-joy!

    i love your observation of-- "it always ends well or less well." so true!

    1. It is wonderful to sew from memory. I imagine all of those ladies who've been sewing since childhood have this kind of experience frequently. Lucky them!

  3. Do you have any wiggle room in the seam allowances for the sleeves?

    1. Not much. I didn't want to waste the fashion fabric so, after fitting, I made the SAs 1/2 inch. Mind you, I think it may work even with the fabric added on both sides instead of just one. I think it might just be a clumsy seam allowance. Or I'll recut the sleeve :-)

  4. You are my idol :). "...lady who makes fabric-covered buttons in California" who is this lady?

    Your level of productivity makes me feel like a shameless sloth.

    1. Oooh, nice to be someone's idol :-) The lady's info can be found here:

      Click on the link for Pat Mahoney.