Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Sew-Along Prep: Supplies and Pre-Shrinking

Hey sew-alongers! Guess what? We now have 140 members of the Sew-Along Flickr Pool. Make sure to join up if you haven't already; there's lots of yummy fabric to look at and fun discussions are happening already. Here are a couple gems to inspire you:

from bred2make
from saffronsthreads

from Lady Science

I can't wait to see these sewn up!

Now, on to the business at hand. I hope you haven't felt there's too much of a lapse in Lady Grey posts. I've kind of been figuring out this sew-along gig as I go along! Thanks for your patience, dears. Today I want to tackle the subject of the tailoring supplies you'll need, as well as pre-shrinking your fabric. Tomorrow, I'll talk about making your muslin. Then I thought we could give ourselves the whole of next week to work out fit issues (make sure to upload muslin pics to the Flickr pool for feedback!) and then we'll begin sewing in earnest on Monday, the 27th. Sound good?

Okay, on to today's topics.

1. First, now's the time to get around to pre-shrinking your coat fabric (and your lining fabric, if necessary). I'm using a wool tweed, and I took mine to the cleaner to have it steam pressed. This is somewhat pricey (around $20, I believe), but convenient. Free, but kind of a pain, is stream pressing your fabric on your own. Some sources recommend getting the fabric damp with a spray bottle, and then pressing with a silk organza press cloth. Press section by section and allow the fabric to thoroughly dry before moving onto the next section. Update: also check out this tutorial, which comes highly recommended. It involves throwing your wool into the dryer with a couple wet towels and it looks fast, easy, and efficient.

Of course, if your fabric is machine-washable (like cotton), you'll want to put it through the wash once to pre-shrink.

As for lining, again, it depends on your fiber and the way you plan to launder the garment. I'm planning on a silk charmeuse lining, and it will be dry cleaned. I've never had a problem with shrinkage this way, but I'll probably give it a steam with a press cloth just to be on the safe side.

2. Gather your tailoring supplies. First, let me say that I'm telling you the supplies you'll need to do a more tailored version of the coat, one that involves things like padstitching and a back stay. Don't feel you have to follow this route. You can follow the pattern recommendations, which are simpler, for a perfectly lovely result. Okay, end of disclaimer. Here's what you'll need:

*Note: this is assuming that you have all the regular stuff needed for sewing, including hand sewing needles, pins, scissors, a tailor's ham, tailor's chalk, etc.

-thread for your coat
-your two buttons
-sew-in interfacing; Hair canvas and hymo are great for tailored wool garments. Check out the selection here.
-Optional: it's not a bad idea to have some fusible interfacing on hand as well, if you decide you want it for the front facing (rather than sew-in) and for the hem. Weft insertion is great for woolens.
-silk thread for padstitching (match it to your fashion fabric)
-beeswax for your thread
-a thimble, if you like to use one
-several yards of 1/4" twill tape (to tape the roll line, etc.)
-pre-shrunk muslin for the back stay (about 1/2 yard)
-Interlining fabric, if using. (Note: this is only if you want to add an extra layer of warmth to your coat. Otherwise, skip this.) Lambswool or cotton flannel (make sure you pre-shrink it) are great. You need the same amount as your lining fabric.
-shoulder pads and sleeve heads, if using. (It's always nice to have some around to test out as you're constructing your coat.)
-If doing bound buttonholes: a small piece of silk organza to match your fashion fabric (1/4 yard is fine)

Okay, I'm almost positive that's it. (Let me know if I've missed anything!)

See you tomorrow for muslin sewing: same time, same place!


  1. Eep, my muslin is in Begium at the moment! Shouldn't take too much longer to get here though. Getting very excited and nervous now.

  2. If you want to spare yourself the expense of having the dry cleaner pre-shrink your fabric, try Pam Erny's Method. I use it for all my wools and it works beautifully. Pam also sells the best interfacings. I use hers exclusively. NAYY, I just really love her products.


  3. I was too intimidated, and let's face it - not organized enough - to do the sew along. I have never made such a tailored outercoat before. When I looked at the fabric choices it reminded me that one of the things I love about sewing is that you can so much better see each person's uniqueness in their fabric choices, much more so than in RTW. I can't wait to see the projects as they go along.

  4. Peter mentioned something about preshrinking wool by throwing it in the dryer with a damp cloth... Have you tried this? Does it work? While I'm not participating in the sew-along, per-say, I am making a coat. Granted, there isn't much in the way of tailoring to it, because it's a child's coat, but...

  5. OK, now for the questions! Bound Buttonholes - I've never done them and am pretty confused by the whole process. On the silk organza - I have chocolate brown in my stash for interfacing. My fabric is the chartreuse and brown toile, so technically, it 'matches', but if a lot of the organza shows, I'd like it to be green, rather than brown so it recedes rather than jumps out... How much shoes?? I'm a'thinkin' chartreuse silk organza is going to be a hard find here in the hinterland of minneapolis, land of 27 million quilt shops, Joanns, Hancock and one fabric warehouse with real fabric!!

    Excited to get started! Actually, anxious. It's getting cold here and I want a funky dog-walking jacket!

    and bratly, I didn't click, but I think the Pam Erny method that Gorgeous Things recommended is the two hot towel method that you are referring to. I am using wool suiting for my husbands coat that I will also be working on, and I'm waffling between the easy and expense drycleaner route, the labor intense but cheap ironing route and the scary but easy and cheap hot towel method. Anyone else out there use that method?? (not that your recommendation didn't ease my mind, Gorgeous T, I just have shrunk SO MANY THINGS in my life!!)

    Yay! double yay!

  6. Thank you - I've actually been waiting for this list; I was originally wanting to do the Lady Grey but held off because I wanted to try something more tailored and I didn't like the look of the non-tailored results.

  7. I am a little hesitant about how to prepare my fabric.

    One thing I love about the thick gray flannel I chose is that it's soft. SO SOFT, YOU GUYS. Like you'd want to spread it out on the floor and roll around on it and maybe sleep in it like a little flannel burrito.

    So I want to retain this softness in my final product to encourage autumn hugs and snuggles! The care instructions were to machine wash in cool water, delicate cycle, and line dry it. I guess my question is do I even need to pre-shrink? I hadn't planned to send it through the machine too often, mostly just spot-treating it as needed.

    Maybe to start, I'd better just snip out a square swatch and throw it in with my next delicate load to see how much it shrinks, how it affects the texture, etc.

  8. Won 10 m of really dark blue wool on ebay. Just recieved it saturday, now I need to buy a lining. Will look in my collection of 1940-1960 sewing manuals on how to preshrink the wool. Seem to remember something about sponging.

  9. Thanks for the link, Ann! That looks like a great method, especially if you have your own dryer. Someday . . . (Though on a purely self-involved note, I saw a comment on that thread that I think was about me, and it made me sad. Okay, moving on!)

    Also, as someone mentioned, if you want to try out a shrinking method, just try it with a swatch! Make sure you measure it carefully, like 4" by 4" so you can see how much it has shrunk.

    patty, I'm going to be showing the "window" method of buttonholes, where the organza may show a tiny bit at the edges of the buttonhole opening. One thing you can do is use white organza and use fabric paints or pens to get a fairly close match.

  10. HAH! I'm still in the do I trace my pattern or just cut it stage...I'm pokey like that :)

  11. Thanks for this excellent post, Gertie. Can you advise approximately how much hair canvas and hymo / weft interfacing we will need for this coat (size 6 or 8)? Since they don't mention them in the instructions, I just want to be sure I buy enough. Thanks.

  12. Thanks for getting a great start going here. I also would like to throw in another helpful link, this one is to Julie-Ann's recent post on tailoring. She has info on fabric shrinking and supplies:

  13. Hm, wow. I was feeling kind of confident coming into this sew-along, but now I'm feeling pretty intimidated!! lol. I suppose that's a good thing though, hopefully that just means I'm getting ready to do a whole lotta learning!

    (And Binkydoll, I'm just half a step ahead of you...I've decided to trace, but I still haven't gotten to it!)

  14. Thanks for all the sources for the tailoring supplies! Now, a quick question for you, Gertie (any anyone else who'd like to chime in! ;) about tailoring: I was planning on doing some trapunto quilting on the collar of my jacket (pending a sample test--I want to see how it looks with my material), and my worry is that I won't be able to do the pad stitching easily with this decorative application. The basics of trapunto is that you baste a piece of muslin on the back of the fabric, stitch the channel outlines and stuff/cord the channels. Would it be possible to still tailor the collar once this is all done (since the fabric and muslin backing will be treated as one)? Thoughts/ideas? Is this a totally bad idea--and should I just stick to the basics? (Since I'm often the type to bite off more than I can chew with a new technique! rofl.)

    I'm going to try shrinking my wool per the dryer method today! Though first I'll run a swatch through, since I'm terrified of totally botching it. lol. Thanks Ann for posting a link of that method!

    ♥ Casey
    blog |

  15. Gertie, don't be sad! I'm thrilled that you'll be writing a book. I'm a fine seamstress, but really looking forward to learning more about home sewing with Vintage Styling. I'm a perfect size 18 for the Lady Gray and have a hard time finding the vintage clothes I love in my size. (And thanks for featuring my fabric selection!)

  16. Good lord, Gertie, everyone else will chime in too, but I saw the comment you are referring to and [A] comments on blogs take'em with a grain of salt, you have no idea what world the commenter is living in and where s/he is coming from [B]I am a book-referring sort of learner and probably have used more of your tutorials than I have books - maybe neck and neck with Claire Shaefer's couture sewing book. And, of course, my small library of threads magazines! I'm happy for you getting a book deal! Everyone else is too!

  17. Aw, thanks guys! I didn't mean to sound like such a sad sack. :)

    Casey, I think you should be a be able to do that! The padstitching goes on the under collar only, so it shouldn't interfere with anything decorative you do to the upper collar. Can't wait to see what you come up with!

    K. Line, good question. I'm going to buy a yard of 60" wide hymo, and two yards of weft interfacing.

  18. I shrink my wools using the London Shrink or Pam's method as well as a steam dryer and my own steam pressing. My one time use of a dry cleaner to steam press ended up with the wool stretched out like a table cloth. So I'd say that using the dry cleaner is the trickiest if you can't supervise!

  19. Love this helpful...The dress you made in the previous post looks fabulous on you. I love sewing and blog about it on my blog...your post are such an inspiration

  20. OK ladies (and men??) how about an online source for lambswool? I did a quick check of vogue, mood, denver, fabricmart and the site that Gertie recommended for the hair canvas. No dice!

    Also - anyone have a suggestion for the correct weight of hymo for a lightweight wool suiting? I'm thinking (duh) the lightest weight, but if anyone has actually used/touched it, it would be great to hear from you!

  21. should the silk thread match the fashion fabric or the lining

  22. sewiknittoo: silk thread should match the fashion fabric.

    patty, I've bought it at Greenberg and Hammer here in NYC. They do mail order by phone! They have all these supplies; I would give them a call if you need help choosing anything.

  23. Still waiting for my wool to show up. I am getting a bit worried now. But I have the muslin bits all ready!

  24. Yikes! I still haven't decided on fabric (narrowed it down to 3 or 4 possibilities). Oh poor me - looks like I'll have to spend my lunch hour in the garment district making some decisions.

  25. Dearest Gertie,

    PLEASE know that I have the utmost respect for you...and was among those who congratulated you as soon as I found out about your up-coming book, a few weeks back.

    I saw that comment on my blog, but took it with a grain of salt, and it never occurred to me that it might be pointed at you ! ! ! Perhaps I am unsophisticated, but I never connected it to you...maybe the medical crisis I am going through clouded my judgement.

    I thought the comment was just silly, because of the obvious lack of grammar and spelling skills of the author. And until now, I had completely forgotten about it.

    I wish you would have contacted me about it...those who know me know that I do NOT flame, nor am I ever purposely mean!

    Please accept this public apology.
    I am so very sincerely sorry that you were hurt by a comment on my that I am going to delete immediately !

    ~Pam (a fan of you *and* your blog)

  26. Oh gosh, Pam, I didn't mean to start a "thing"! No need to apologize at all. Not your fault, and perhaps I was being a too little sensitive and egomaniacal (is that even a word?!)

    The commenter was right, though, you *should* write a book! Your knowledge about interfacing alone would make a great reference.

    Thanks for your kind words. xoxo

  27. Hi Gertie, I am excited to get started. Could you please advise on what kind of hymo to purchase if I am using a tweed wool a the shell fabric? it comes in light, medium and heavy weight

  28. sulovessew, I would choose your hymo weight based on your tweed weight. Light hymo with light tweed, medium with medium, etc.

  29. For my size 2 toddler coat, I'm interlining it with cotton flannel, I have a lightweight (read PJ weight--very, very light!) flannel-backed satin for the lining, and a lovely french blue wool melton for the outer shell. I've bought a covered button kit for the buttons, and I'm going to get out a similar weight scraps of wool to experiment with bound buttonholes. The coat pattern only has three buttons, but I'm thinking that it might need more than that--like all the way down the front. It's for a two-year-old, after all.

    I know it's not the same as the sew along, but the pattern doesn't come anywhere close to my size, I'm not all that great at pattern grading, and I've been planning the coat since I stumbled across the pattern back in March. I've even considered making the matching hat, but since Evie hates 'em, it would go unworn, so I'm not doing it. I got a great deal on the materials, so this will actually be less expensive than a quality store-bought coat. I mean, I'm sure I could buy a Wal-Mart one for less, but not a really good one.

  30. Hi Gertie,

    Thanks for starting the sew-along! I've coveted Lady Grey for a long time, and this gave me the spur I needed.

    You mentioned some interfacing choices for woolens; do you have any suggestions for cottons? I'm planning to make my shell from uncut corduroy and the lining from cotton lawn. Thanks!


  31. Just dropped my wool fabric off at the cleaners and NOW I read the great tip from Ann about the dryer method. And I'm not 100% sure that my dry cleaning gal totally understood what I wanted anyway. Ugh.

    Lesson learned: read the VERY helpful comments before doing a scary step. ;)

  32. Thanks for the wool-shrinking tip! Unfortunately, I ran mine to the cleaners today but this is definitely a tip I'll be storing for next time! Funnily enough, Colette patterns is doing a feature on pre-washing fabrics and mentioned that you can hand wash silk crepe. D'oh! Too bad my silk crepe is also at the cleaners. Can't wait to get started on this!

  33. Elle, I wouldn't worry. I've never had a problem with pre-shrinking at the cleaners. That's what I'm doing. And now we'll have the other tip for next time!

  34. As SpongeBob would say, "I'm ready, I'm ready, I'm ready, ready, ready, ready, ready."

  35. If my lining fabric is polyester and the shell of the coat is wool and will only ever be dry cleaned, do you all think I need to pre-wash the lining fabric?

  36. I'm ready too. I've wavered from being super excited to grave intimidation since signing up for the sew along. I'm back in the intimidation stage right now. But I am determined that the coat will be finished, and that it will be a show piece that I'll be proud to wear.

    I traced my pattern over the weekend and worked up a muslin - because I just couldn't wait to get started. I've never worked with a Colette pattern before so I was very unsure of the sizing. Initially my muslin was a good fit but a bit too snug so I let each of the 7 seam out just a tad and now it fits great with a sweater underneath. I now know exactly what size to use for my coat.

    I am, however, going to slow it down a bit. Even though I am not sure how many or what tailoring techniques I want to incorporate. I don't want to move too fast and miss something important of all the information that is surly going to evolve.

    I'll pre-treat my fabric, retrace my pattern and wait. I'll probably work on something else (a simple project) in the interim.

  37. Eek, things are moving fast! I am still cutting out the pattern. (So many pieces!)

    I noticed someone else is using silk tweed. Anyone here know how to pre-treat that? It is sort of like a silk matka but has a very loose weave. The last time I took a 3-yard piece of fabric to my dry cleaner, they wanted $40!!! If gorgeous Ann is reading, I wondered if you would treat this the same way as a wool with that dryer method?

    thanks! Amy

  38. Gertie and sew-a-long friends

    This may sound like a dumb question, but do I need to pre-skrink my fabric if I only ever plan to have the final garment dry cleaned?

    I'm using a light wool suiting material with a habotai silk lining.

    Also - if I take my wool fabric to the dry cleaners - I'm not asking them to clean it, only steam press it - is this correct???

    Your advice would be appreciated!

  39. I'm not good with anything-along, but I'm bookmarking these step-by-step/tutorials for future plans... Great work, Gertie! It's really wonderful how you share of yourself and your knowledge!

  40. I don't have time to sew along, but it sounds like great fun. Good luck to everyone.

    The damp towel in the dryer method sounds good to me.

  41. Do i have to pre-wash hair canvas? I've never used it before.

  42. Hi Gertie! I'm so excited for this and I love the Lady Grey coat. I have a question about fabric choices though. I really want to make one in a heavier weight sweatshirt material because I want it to be a little more casual, and I think sweatshirt material would make it really comfy! Do you think that would work? How do I get it to still hold the shape? Would I have to interface all the pieces, or line in something heavier, or line with the same material as the outer layer?

    Thanks for your advice!

  43. I love you Gertie! I needed to find hair canvas and tropical-weight black wool! You're a lifesaver!

  44. Wow. I'm going to try this. Am a little nervous about sewing a coat.


Thanks for your comments; I read each and every one! xo Gertie

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