Sunday, October 31, 2010

Finishing Your Bound Buttonholes

Okay! You've made lovely bound buttonholes on your coat, and now you need to finish the backs of them (on the facing) so that you can actually put buttons through them. Unfortunately, it's kind of hard to see very well with my fabric, but hopefully this will still make sense to you. Here are the steps:

1. Position the coat so that the buttonhole front is facing you. Mark the buttonhole rectangle on the facing side of the fabric by sticking a pin through each corner. My pins are indicated by blue arrows below:

 2. Turn the coat over and connect between the pins with chalk.
 This rectangle is indicated with yellow below:
3.  To reinforce the rectangle, handstitch around it, using a back stitch. I went around my rectangle twice to give it extra security.

4. Cut carefully through the center of the rectangle, and out to the four corners, being careful to only cut the facing fabric. This forms little triangles on each side of the rectangle.
 The blue arrows below show your cutting lines:
 5. Fold the triangles under and pin.
 6. Slipstitch around the rectangle to hold the triangles in place.
That's it! Your buttonhole is now accessible on both sides.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Pip Disapproves of Your Choice, Project Runway

Can't you see the look of derision on her face, Michael Kors? Nina? Anyone?

Seriously, people, I am stunned. I had Mondo pegged as the clear winner. He was robbed! My head practically exploded when they announced their choice.

In other musings, what was up with guest judge Jessica Simpson? Had she just had some major dental work done? She was mumbling like her jaw was wired shut.

Well, enough TV chatter. I may as well tell you that this was supposed to be a Lady Grey post about how to finish the back of your bound buttonholes. I came home from work yesterday and dutifully documented the process on one side of the coat. After the Project Runway finale, I uploaded the photos . . . aaaand they were all blurry. Yikes. I was too sleepy and dispirited to begin yet again. I'm sorry, peeps.

This has been one of those weeks. There's been so much going on at work that I feel comatose at the end of the day. Not the best sewing week, but that's okay! We'll move onward this weekend.

As you can see in the photo above, I did add the lace to my lining hem. I left the room briefly and Pip promptly decided that my coat was the perfect place for a little nap. Only the finest hand-tailored bed for my little princess!

I'll be back this weekend with more Lady Grey goodness. No tricks, only treats!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Let's Talk About Sweat

May I approach a delicate topic? It's a commonly held belief that women don't sweat; they "glow." Not me, readers. I sweat. This is all well and good; it's a natural bodily function after all. But it's a little distressing when one is sweating all over a handmade silk shantung dress.

Like a lot of people, I sweat under pressure. The other day at work, I had to make a phone call that required me to be particularly charming. And convince someone to agree to a fairly major book deal. With my boss watching me. On speaker phone. (I don't know why, but I find speaker phone to be particularly stressful.) I was a little nervous, but it all went splendidly. I don't believe I showed any signs of nerves, but I could feel an anxious, clammy armpit sweat taking over. (I told you this was delicate!) Of course, I was wearing a plum silk shantung dress that shows every little stain.

I later sealed the deal (yay!) and my boss went to give me a high five. It was so one of those "Raise Your Hand If You're Sure!" moments. Readers, I was not Sure.

I started pondering dress shields, which I've seen for sale at the notions store. These little sweat shields come in a surprisingly large variety (sew-in, adhesive, sleeveless, ones that strap on to your bra, etc.). Did you know that dress shields have been around since 1869? They've been made by a company called Kleinert's the whole while.

You can probably guess my question by now: Dear readers, have you ever used dress shields? Are they effective? How do you put them in—by tacking them to the sleeve seam allowances? Help a girl out!

(It's also worth mentioning that Claire Shaeffer writes about dress shields in Couture Sewing Techniques, saying you can make your own by sandwiching cotton flannel between layers of lining fabric.)

Anyway, I'm going to pull a Peter and leave you with a video today. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Inserting Your Coat Lining

Hey, Sew-Alongers, we're getting pretty close to the end! Before I get to the lining, though, I noticed one thing I needed to fix on my coat. The pockets were drooping down below the hem, and I've heard that a couple others had this problem. All you need to do is tack the pockets in place so they don't sag down. I tacked mine to the hair canvas and the top of the hem.
Okay, on to inserting the lining! How's everyone doing with sewing the facings to the lining? The back facing is a little tricky, because the seam is so curved. Just take your time, pin well, and clip if necessary. Here's what your back lining will look like:

And here it is from the front.
This is where things get bulky! Put the lining on top of the coat, right sides together.
Pin all the way around the neckline and down to the bottom of the front facing. Your lapels will be pinned together, and the collar will be sandwiched between the layers. Then stitch all the way around.
Next, trim and grade your seam allowances. You want the seam allowance that will be closest to the outer coat layer to be the widest. When you get to the neckline, the seam allowances are going to be really bulky. It helps to trim them with your scissors on an angle, "beveling" them.
Don't forget to notch around the lapel!
Flip your lining to the inside.

You'll want to eliminate some bulk from your lower front facing. You can trim off about an inch off the hem, as shown below, but don't let your trimming extend beyond where the facing will fold back.
Now, fold the facing back and pin in place. Angle the hem at the bottom of the facing up a bit, so it doesn't show on the right side. (My lining doesn't cover my hem. Anyone else having this problem? I'm going to buy some wide lace to sew on to cover the hem up.)
Next, you'll press around the edges of the coat, favoring the seams to the side that doesn't show (like we did on the collar). Baste in place as you go, with diagonal basting stitches.
My basting stitches are in light thread below; I hope you can see them!
Do this all the way around the facing edges, where I've sloppily indicated with teal "paint" below.
Press the back facing in. You can also understitch it by hand to keep it in place! Another bonus handstitching thing you can do is to sew a pickstitch in the ditch all up the lining princess seams, attaching them to the coat seam allowances below them. This keeps the layers from shifting around and keeps your coat from feeling too bulky. I'm definitely going to do that on mine. (Perhaps save this until after you've finished the inside of the bound buttonholes, though.)

Here's how my coat's looking now, with the basting still in place. So close!
Up next: finishing the bound buttonholes on the inside and hemming the sleeves. If you're caught up, go ahead and make your belt!

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Portrait of the Blogger as a Young Dork

Readers, before I was a thirty-something dork obsessed with tailoring, I was a young dork obsessed with unicorns. In fact, one of my first independent sewing projects was a felt unicorn throw pillow, made in Home Economics. My mother is a fellow crafty person, and she indulged this love of magical horned ponies by knitting the sweater you see above. If you're a knitter, you'll know that a unicorn sweater is no small feat—it's a triumph of intarsia!

I thought you'd enjoy what she wrote on the back of the above picture:

Anyway, my mom and I were talking about THE SWEATER! yesterday. I just so happen to have a work function this week for which I need a unicorn-themed costume. (Long story. Let's just say I'm still Team Unicorn.) Well, Mom still has THE SWEATER! around; she refers to it as "her masterpiece," for obvious reasons. Do you see where this story is going, readers? The unicorn sweater is on its way back to me! And I'm going to attempt to squeeze into it! I'm so psyched.

Now I just need to get to work on making a sparkly horn and coordinating the rest of my ensemble. Back when the sweater was first made, I used wear it to school with the cutest matching purple corduroy skirt. (Yeah, I was so stylin'.) I'll have to see what I have in my wardrobe now that will do it the same justice.

Now, before you lambaste my young personal style, remember that this was during the heyday of Lisa Frank paraphenalia.

I have to say, I still get a little giddy when I see Lisa Frank stuff. Ah, memories.

I'm not really sure what this post has to do with sewing, but there you have it. GO TEAM UNICORN!!!!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Repost: Interlining for Warmth

Happy Sunday, sewing friends! I'm not interlining my Lady Grey, but I know some of you are. Hence, I wanted to draw your attention to this post from last winter on how to interline a coat for warmth. Enjoy, and let me know if you have questions!

Interlining is a subject that caused me a lot of distress when I was first approaching this business of sewing a tailored coat. But it all boils down to just two major things you need to figure out: 1) what kind of interlining to use and 2) how to attach it.

To figure out which type of interlining to use, I took a swatch to the store with me and tried layering it with a couple different options. I opted for lambswool, which is very warm and will keep me from freezing as I walk back and forth to the subway each day. Next, I decided to attach my lambswool interlining to my lining pieces and then sew them all together as one, which is the method my tailoring book recommended and it made the most sense to me. Watch as I demonstrate each step in this video!

I purchased my lambswool at Greenberg & Hammer here in New York. You can order from them by mail, if you're interested. Update: Greenberg & Hammer has sadly gone out of business, but lambswool can also be purchased by mail order from Steinlauf and Stoller.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Sewing Your Lining Back Pleat

Hey Sew-Alongers! I've gotten a couple questions about the back pleat in the Lady Grey lining, so I thought I'd demonstrate how I did mine. A coat or jacket back lining is typically slightly bigger than the coat fabric, and the excess is formed into a pleat at the center back. This allows for movement of the arms and keeps the lining from coming apart at stress points.

The pattern instructions read: "On the back lining, form the back pleat by bringing lines together and pin into place. Stitch pleat for 2" at the top, waist, and bottom."

So, first let's look at the pattern piece. See that line that goes all the way down on the right, next to the arrows indicating "place on fold"? That's the pleat line. It's an inch in from the fold line all the way down. Since we know that, there's no need to mark it on your fabric.

Cut out your lining fabric and pin it down the fold line so it doesn't shift.
Now, mark where you'll be stitching it in place. Make two-inch lines at the very top of the pleat line, at the waist, and at the very bottom. Use a ruler and chalk to make the lines one-inch away from the fold (since that's where the pleat line is) and two-inches long each. These chalk marks are now your stitching lines.
Take it to your machine, and stitch along each of these two-inch lines, making sure to secure each row with reverse stitching at the beginning and end. Remove the pins as you go. Open out the lining piece and press the pleat to one side. That's it! You have a back pleat. This is the wrong side of your fabric.

Make sense, everyone?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Next Step: Accessorize!

Readers, this next sew-along step is VERY IMPORTANT. Wouldn't you agree that the Lady Grey coat is just begging for glam accessories? So, I don't want you to get so bogged down in your impeccable pad stitching that you forget this crucial step of planning your accoutrements. Being the self-indulgent type, I went ahead and bought myself a couple pretty little things to complete my look when my coat is finished. I'm pretty sure I deserve it.

The first step was gloves! The bracelet-length sleeves of the Lady Grey are perfect for showing off a pretty new pair. I opted for the grey ones below (love those lavender buttons!) from ModCloth. They also come in red! Luckily, long gloves seem to be in style these days, so it's not hard to find a pair that will go up above your wrists.

Second step: brooches! I love to accessorize my coats with vintage pins, and the wide lapels of the Lady Grey are the perfect backdrop for some baubles. In fact, wouldn't it be cool to wear a few brooches in a little cluster? But let's start with one. I ordered this little guy on Etsy:

Etsy is practically crawling with vintage brooches to be had for cheap.

I have a beautiful pashmina that will keep my neck warm. All I need now is a nice hat, though nothing's really caught my fancy yet. All I know is that I want to look as adorable as Emma Pillsbury does in a tam:

How will you be accessorizing your Lady Grey?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Hemming Your Lady Grey

Hey everyone! So, just to recap, I've decided to hem my coat before assembling and inserting the lining/front facing (that will come next). I did this on my last coat too, and found it was much easier to work with the hem without the lining in the way.

I've put together a little video on the hemming process. But first, let me say that this method is ALL SHARON. Thank you, Sharon! It works like a charm. Make sure to check out the photos at the bottom of the post too.

So, here's what the seam binding will look like on the hem. First, sew along the lower edge of the seam binding, pulling it taut as you go. (Your seam binding goes over the row of gathering stitches, holding your easing in place.) Second, secure it in place with another line of stitching at the top of the seam binding. Update: in response to a couple questions: do *not* stitch the seam binding through all the layers of the coat. Isolate the top of the hem (like you did to steam out the excess fabric, but with the right side of the hem facing up as you sew at the machine) and stitch just through the hem layer.
Now it's ready to catch stitch in place. Instead of catch stitching it flat (like we did on our seam allowances on the coat front), you can catch stitch a hem between the two layers. Use your thumb to hold the top of the hem down as you go, and take the first "bite" of your stitch in the hem (indicated by the yellow arrow below), and the second bite out of your hair canvas (blue arrow).
Remember not to hem all the way to your front edges! You'll need a couple inches free to sew the front facing to.

Next, you'll want to hem your sleeves. They don't need to be eased, since the pattern allows for the difference in the hem circumference. Simply "pin-baste" your hem near the bottom, steam it, and catch stitch as above.
Don't forget to put in your shoulder pads, if you're using them. They're very simple to insert. Just try on your coat (doesn't it look pretty?!) and slap 'em in there. Wiggle the pads around until you're happy with their location. Pin them in place on the outside of the coat, along the shoulder seam. Take the coat off and turn it inside out at the shoulders. Your shoulder pad will look like this:

 Slip stitch the top of the shoulder pad to the shoulder seam allowance.
Turn the coat right side out and tack down the edges of the pad (see blue arrows below).
That's it for now, friends! If you're caught up, go ahead and start assembling your lining. Don't forget to add some fusible to your front facing. I know a couple of you have had questions about the back lining pleat, and I'll address that when I'm able to get to that part this weekend.

If you're not caught up, no worries! You don't have to keep this pace. The tutorials and the Flickr group will still be there for you for support.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Claire Shaeffer's Couture Patterns: Like Crack for Tailoring Addicts

People, I'm becoming a unrepentant tailoring fiend. Pad stitching, hair canvas, glorious roll lines—I could talk about it all day! But I've realized that what knowledge I've picked up on the topic is really just the tip of the iceberg. The more I learn about it, the more I want to learn! It's such a vicious cycle of sewing geekery.

Our Lady Grey sew-along has only whetted my appetite for more tailoring. In fact, it's sent me on a frenzy of tailoring book and accoutrement purchasing. And the acquisition I'm most excited about is the jacket pattern above from Claire Shaeffer's Custom Couture Collection for Vogue Patterns. I'd read that these patterns are worth the price for the instructions alone, and goodness, that's no lie. The pattern has two versions: A, which is the couture tailoring method and B, which uses quicker techniques like fusibles and a bagged lining. Version A incorporates hair canvas and silk organza underlining, taped roll lines and lapel edges, and handworked buttonholes. (Be still my heart!) The instructions look clear and painstaking, with "couture tips" sprinkled throughout, like how to "spank the corner briskly with the clapper" (I couldn't make that up if I tried, readers). I feel like I've hit the jackpot for home tailoring enthusiasts!

I think what makes tailoring so daunting and difficult for home sewists is that one has to take textbook techniques and figure out how to apply them to commercial patterns. For me, that's involved a lot of guesswork—as well as a lot of much-appreciated help from more experienced seamstresses. What makes these Custom Couture patterns so appealing is that they seem to give you the explicit knowledge needed to apply tailoring to a specific pattern. If only they would do a coat pattern one of these days! (Vogue? Claire? Pretty please?)

Anyway, this pattern is a little conservative for my tastes, but I love the nipped waist and cool pocket details (pictured above). I think with a little more flare at the hips, it could almost be New Look-esque. I have a lovely cherry-colored herringbone wool that would be perfect, especially with some of the fabulous covered buttons Casey just did a tutorial on.

Have any of you tried these patterns? What do you think? Have I created any fellow tailoring monsters? I hope so!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Sewing and Tailoring the Upper Collar

Ready for your next collar steps? So now you've pad stitched and steamed the under collar. Time to complete this part by sewing the upper collar to the under collar. First, stabilize your upper collar with a lightweight fusible.
Next, stitch your upper collar to your under collar, right sides together. Trim and grade your seam allowances so that the seam allowance closer to the upper collar is the wider seam allowance.
Before turning your collar right side out, press open the seam allowances. I used a seam roll to aid in my pressing.
Now, turn the collar right side out and make sure the upper collar is on top.

Arrange the collar as it will be on the body (with the roll line formed, as below) and turn the collar seamline so that it's on the underside of the collar. Work around the outer edges of the collar, rolling the seam between your fingers so the seamline is facing the floor. (This is called "favoring," if you're curious.) Does that make sense?
Next, stitch a diagonal basting stitch around the edge of the collar so that the seamline stays in place the way you arranged it in the last step. My basting is in light pink thread below. (Be careful not to pull the stitches too tight!)
After basting, steam the collar without applying any pressure.

Now, baste the raw neckline edges of the collar together. Your raw edges may not match up perfectly anymore due to the turn of cloth, and that's okay. Trim off any excess if needed.
Machine baste the collar to your coat between the pattern markings. You can leave your diagonal basting stitches in until you're finished constructing the coat.
That's it for this step! Next, I'm going to move on to hemming the coat and sleeves. You see, I realized a little glitch in my scheduling. I prefer to hem the coat before applying the lining; it's much easier to maneuver that way. Since this coat is flared, the hem involves easing in excess fabric. I'll put up a video post in the next couple days to help you.

If you've moved ahead, now would be a good time to start assembling your lining. As always, let me know if you have questions!
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