Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Hoppy Halloween!

Well, here's Rosie, dressed up as a strung-out bunny. She's not too fond of wearing her costume, but we bribed her with lots of treats to get a few shots. I used Simplicity 2827 as a starting point, but had to make some big changes for Rosie's tiny flat head.

First of all, a hood was never going to work.

The pattern's hood was round, like a little baby head.  I ended up detaching the hood from the little coat and making a headband-like piece that ties under her chin. It has earholes to keep it on. The only problem is that when she's all strung-out, she puts her ears back, causing the headband to fall off.

Off course, she needed a little cottontail.

I lengthened the pattern's ears and added millinery wire to get them to stand up.

Anyway, that's a dog in a bunny costume.

More importantly, we are all safe and sound post-hurricane. We were very lucky in our area. The winds were insane--it sounded like a mack truck was on our porch and a jetliner was flying overhead. The lights flickered off a few times, but we held on to our power. The huge tree that hangs over our backyard has weathered the storm, amazingly. A shutter and some siding flew off the house, but that's easily fixed. The next day, walking Rosie across the street, we came across a live power line pinned down by a fallen tree, buzzing ominously on the ground. Scary. It was repaired in record time, however!

The damage in Manhattan is certainly sobering. Both FIT (where I study) and The Sewing Studio (where I teach) are still without power. I'm sending good thoughts out to you all, and hoping you are weathering the aftermath.

And a Happy Halloween to you all!

P.S. I finished my witch-themed ballgown from Vogue's New Book for Better Sewing; pictures to come later on.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Coat Sew-Along: Inserting the Lining

The wind is howling and the rain is pouring, but the power is still on--and so's my sewing machine! Let's move on to step 32 while we can; I'm going to show you a few things you can do on this step and the next to get your coat to look really professional.

Thank goodness for these illustrations, because the coat is really too big to take good pictures of at this point!

Start by pinning the lining/facing unit to the coat (right sides together) at seamline matchpoints. It's a good idea to start at center back and then work your way out on each side of the coat.

Make sure you also match the waistline seams.

You may wish to mark those stitching lines at the bottom of the skirt facing. You'll stitch across the hem with a 1.5" seam allowance, and then pivot at your usual 5/8" seam allowance on the side of the facing. Here's my stitching marks, with the hem at the top.

Once you're all pinned and marked, it's time to stitch this baby! Start at one bottom edge, and go all the way around to the other.

After stitching, we need to do some serious notching, grading, and trimming.

First, the notching. You need to make notches on any seamline that curves outward, like our shawl collar. About every 1/2", make a slim notch.

Next, we'll trim and grade the seam allowances. Grading means trimming one seam allowance shorter than the other to reduce bulk. The longer seam allowance should always be the one closest to the outside of the coat (so it pads the shorter seam allowance underneath it, to prevent a ridge showing through).

Anytime you have a roll line (a collar that rolls outward at some point) the shorter seam allowance switches sides at the roll line, because the collar flips out and the facing side is then showing. 

I've made you a handy diagram to show you how it works on this pattern (click to enlarge).

The waistline seam is the roll line on this design, so that's where the turning point is. Below the waistline point, the facing seam allowance is shorter. Above the waistline seam, the facing seam allowance is longer.

Here's what my graded seam allowances look like. Trim the shorter one to about 1/4", and the longer one to about 3/8".

At the bottom of the skirt facings, you'l cut away the excess.

Once everything is notched and graded and trimmed, I recommend pressing that whole big seam open. This helps get a crisp seamline. I used a point presser under my seam to help press it, and then switched to a tailor's ham underneath the curvy collar. Here's the bottom of the skirt facing, supported by a point presser.

After pressing, flip the coat right side out, and stick the sleeve linings down into the sleeves.

At this point, it's a great idea to baste the whole opening edge and collar of the coat to get the seamlines to roll to the underside. I used diagonal basting around my edges, using my thumb and index finger to roll the seamline to the underside of the coat/collar. I used silk thread for this purpose, since it doesn't less prone to leave indentations when steamed.

Here's a close-up of the basted side of the shawl collar. See how the edge is nice and neat?

On the side I haven't basted yet, the facing is trying to peek out from under the seamline. Naughty!

This basting will go all the way around that huge seam we sewed--from the bottom one skirt facing, all the way around the collar, and down to the bottom of the other skirt facing. (Remember that below the waistline point, the facing side will get rolled to the underside. Above the waistline point, the coat side will be rolled to the underside.)

After you're completely basted, give the whole thing a good steam and then leave to dry overnight.

If you did bound buttonholes, the next step is to make windows in the facings for them. (Do this before you tack the lining in place in step 33.) I'll write about my process of doing this in the next post!

Does this all make sense? How are you doing, sew-alongers?

Hurricanes, Bunnies, Coats, Etc.

Hello, readers! With Hurricane Sandy set to hit the east coast today, I wanted to post a quick announcement that the sew-along may be disrupted this week. Our region is pretty much expected to lose power due to high winds. I sure do depend on that power stuff! I will do my best to get a post up today on the coat's next steps, though.

Halloween may also be disrupted, but I am still going to insist that Rosie don a costume. While we were originally going to be witches together, I stumbled across a better idea for her.

What is that I see in the bottom right corner?

A bunny! Okay, it's actually supposed to be a lamb costume, but it really looks like a bunny. And Rosie would be the cutest little bunny, don't you think?

That's her in her new winter coat, which I made from a fabulous cheetah print fleece. (And yes, that's me in my jammies and fuzzy socks in the background.)

Anyway, bunnies! If all goes well, you'll be seeing Rosie all bunnied-up in the next few days.

Most importantly, I hope everyone is staying safe throughout the storm. Batten down those hatches and stay dry!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Coat Sew-Along: the Completed Lining

Hello, sew-along friends! How are you all doing with your coats? At this point, hopefully you are close to having a completely constructed lining.

Here's mine, looking an awful lot like Hugh Hefner's smoking robe. Let me just grab a Cuban and a cognac.

A word on my lining: it's called Kasha lining, and it's an satin-y acetate that has a cotton flannel backing for warmth. (I purchased it from the link above. However, if you live near NYC, you should know that you can get it in better colors for $4 less per yard at B&J Fabrics.)

Here's a picture of the satin side.

I chose this lining for its warmth, but also for its opacity. The boiled wool/lace I'm using is slightly sheer when held up to the light, and I wanted a winter white lining that would make the ivory of the boiled wool pop. The Kasha Satin in white fit the bill perfectly. (You should know that the white color skews slightly ivory.)

I also wanted to mention that I finished the seam allowances on the skirt part of the lining with my serger. Because this is a free-hanging skirt lining, I wanted to be sure that the seams look neat if seen.

The next step is to hem the lining only (not the facing). Important: make sure that you let the lining hang for a day or two before this step. You'll want to even up the hem (if any of the bias stretches) by measuring up from the floor to make sure it's even all the way around. 

After you have an even bottom edge, you'll do a narrow hem.

To do this, press the whole bottom edge up 5/8". I use my seam gauge for this task.

Then, turn in the raw edge so it meets the fold you just pressed. Press again. Finally, edgestitch the fold of the hem.

This weekend I'll document the next steps, which will include sewing the lining into the jacket, and lots of clipping, notching, and pressing! Woo hoo!

P.S. Before we go on, also make sure that you've completed step 17 (after letting your coat hem hang and evening up the raw edge, if necessary). Those 3" bias strips of interfacing will get fused 5/8" from the raw edge, so when you turn up your hem, you'll have interfacing to support your hem stitches.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

"Diet" vs. "Lifestyle Change"

Somewhere along the way, the word "diet" became a dirty word in our lexicon. (You've heard the jokes: "diet is a four-letter word," "the first syllable of diet is DIE," etc.) The bad reputation comes for a good reason, too. Traditional diets have been shown to not really work in the long run, leading only to years of yo-yo weight changes, body loathing, and an unhealthy relationship with food.

The word diet has been pretty much universally replaced with the term "lifestyle change." At first, I was on board with this, even as corporations started adopting it as a marketing tactic. It sounds good, right? "Weight Watchers is a lifestyle change, not a diet!" It sounds way more fun, frankly.

And then something changed: I actually went on Weight Watchers a few months ago. Before my book was released, I discovered that I'd gained about 15 pounds and no longer fit into the clothes featured in the book--the ones I was supposed to wear to events and signings. I wanted (actually, needed) to fit back into those clothes, but I was also disturbed by such a quick (and practically unnoticed) weight gain in my life. If I kept it up, where would I be in a few decades?

Weight Watchers comes highly recommended, so I tried it. Plus, it's so retro! It was founded in 1963 by a Brooklyn homemaker. And it worked: I followed the plan (more or less) and lost exactly 15 pounds. Yay me. Everyone who notices says I look thinner in my face. Is it possible to lose 15 pounds from one's face? Apparently. (Below, the evidence.)

March 2012
October 2012
I was somewhat conflicted about being on a di--. . . I mean, lifestyle change. My views on body image and weight in the media are well-documented here. Would it be hypocritcal to go on a . . . lifestyle change? Overall, I'm a big believer that women should do what they want with their bodies, so that attitude won out.

But all along the way, I was annoyed by the company's insistence that I wasn't on a diet; I was making a lifestyle change. How are the two mutually exclusive? Hasn't dieting always been a lifestyle change--one where you eat less? And honestly, being on Weight Watchers kind of feels like being on a diet. I love food, and there was certainly an amount of deprivation involved. Some days I felt like I couldn't stand to see another salad. This whole "lifestyle change" business seems to be just another way to market weight loss products to women, right?

(And since I know you're going to say it: of course it's good to aspire to a healthy lifestyle. But when did "healthy lifestyle" become a synonym for "thin"?)

P.S. I was also going to use this post to rant about how people are using Pinterest for "thinspirational" messages (which share a lot in common with pro-ana messages), but I was pleasantly surprised by something. If you search "thinspiration" in Pinterest, you get this message:

Interesting that they use the wording "eating disorders are not lifestyle choices." (Emphasis mine.) Big props to Pinterest!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Rachel Outfit

This outfit is named after my dear sewing student, Rachel. You know how teachers are always saying that their students inspire them? It's so true!

The skirt is a pattern she and I developed together.

Rachel couldn't find a pencil skirt pattern that fit her the way she liked, so I draped one right on her body. From there, we've been exploring patternmaking for lots of different skirt styles, and we've recently been on a pleat mission. Rachel brought in this picture of Katie Holmes in a Caroline Herrara skirt, and wanted to copy it (jewels and all).

It's an unusual design: there are two inverted box pleats on either side, which are flanked by two knife pleats pressed inward. All the pleats end at different lengths, giving a staggered effect. Rachel and I made the pattern, and then she brought in the muslin to fit. I was captivated by it! I tried it on, and a few fit tweaks later, I was copying my student's pattern (with her enthusiastic permission, of course). Ours ended up a bit more flared at the bottom than the inspiration, which I loved.

I made the skirt up in a thick stretch sateen in a pretty sapphire color. The whole thing is lined in mint Bemberg lining, with a little lace for effect.

I finished the waist with polka dot petersham ribbon (I have a video class on this technique if you're interested).

Readers, I'm curious how you would have sewn this lining. I used the same pattern as for the skirt, but just folded the pleats at the top rather than stitching them, to give wearing ease in the lining.

The shirt is also Rachel-inspired. She noted one day how she rarely sees me in separates, just dresses. My problem with separates, readers, is that's at least twice the outfit to decide on! And I'm not a morning person. Rachel's advice was this: figure out a "uniform" for yourself, and then just grab one of each uniform piece in the morning. She favors tailored button-down blouses, so I thought I would make one to match my skirt, in her honor.

This is Burda 2561, and I'm mostly happy with it. It has a nice easy fit that can be tucked in with a skirt or tied sassily in front with jeans. The armhole is pretty low, however, so I plan to remedy that when I make it again. The fabric is a lightweight cotton/silk blend from TrueMart Fabrics near FIT.

And here's the woman herself, trying on a jacket we were working on together earlier this year! Isn't she fabulous?

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Coat Sew-Along: The Bodice Lining

Okay, we are on to the lining! For these steps, you'll need the front facing, bodice front lining, and bodice back lining pieces.

Reinforce that pivot point on the facing, just like you did on the bodice front. Clip to the point.

Next, pin your bodice front lining to the front facing. This is kind of like a princess seam. Start by matching the notches, indicated by the red arrows in the illustration below.

This seam is easiest to sew if you put the lining on the bottom and pin from the facing side. You may notice a bit of extra ease on the lining side; just use extra pins there. Make sure to sew with the lining side on the bottom, and the feed dogs on your machine will help distribute the ease. (Seriously, it works!)

You can see my extra ease pinned in here. Sewing it with the lining on the bottom worked like a charm.

Press the seam flat and then toward the lining.

Next, you'll stitch the bodice front facings together at center back.

Okay, on to the back lining. There's a lot going on here, so I broke it down in a little diagram for you. (Click to enlarge.)

Instead of darts at the waistline, there are pleats, which give the lining a little extra moving ease. There's also a center back pleat, for the same reason. Make sure you have the small circles and the pleat line marked, as we'll be using them in the next steps.

First, the waistline pleats. I confess that I'm a little less fastidious in my marking and sewing than the directions call for. What you see below is how I sewed the blue sample coat on the model, and it works well, in my opinion.

Instead of marking the pleats with tracing paper, I just snip into the bottom of the pleat lines in the seam allowance.

Then, to sew, fold and pin your pleat snips together, with the bulk of the pleat facing center back (just like you would press a dart toward center back).

Then, machine baste the pleat in place within the seam allowance.

Next, onto the center back. First, pin and stitch the two pieces together at 5/8" at center back. Do not press this seam yet.

Then stitch along the pleat line like so: stitch with a regular stitch length (2.5 mm) until you get to the first small circle. Back stitch and then switch to a long basting stitch (4-5 mm). When you get to the lower small circle, switch back to 2.5 mm. Back stitch and finish the seam as usual. Now you have a basted pleat with stitching at the top and bottom. (You'll remove the basting before wearing your coat.)

Press the pleat to one side and then baste it down at the top and bottom in the seam allowances.

In the next steps, you'll sew the bodice front lining to the bodice back lining exactly as you did with your outer fabric. Yay, another chance to practice your pivot points! See my post and video here for a refresher.

Lastly, stitch the underarm seam and reinforce the underarm. Don't forget to press these seams just like you did for the outer coat. 

Whew! Your bodice lining is constructed.

What's next? I'm going to leave you all on your own to construct the skirt lining. There's nothing tricky here, just remember to stitch from the bottom of the skirt seams up to the top. Then sew the bodice lining to the skirt lining as we did for the outer coat. We'll meet back here next week for inserting the lining!

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