Sunday, October 29, 2006

Grey "flannel" and the new bobbin case

Right after I ordered the bobbin case, I got a stupid cold on Monday. Then I gave midterms to 78 students on Tuesday and Wednesday and then I had to mark them all. So I just finished all that and the worst of the cold on Friday. Also on Friday, Peter picked up the bobbin case for me so I was pretty excited. However, I couldn't sew with it right away because while I was waiting for it so I could sew the buttonhole on the houndstooth jacket without mishap, I decided to lay out some more fabric for another outfit.
grey fabric
I had this huge piece of some grey flannel-looking stuff that was mocking me so I decided to finally use it. I am pretty sure I had bought it with pants in mind and since the weather is getting ever more Wintery, I decided pants would be the thing. Plus, all the dress pants I had been wearing a few years ago are all pleated wonders that make me look even shorter and dumpier. I have a pattern that I have used once before in a rayon and they fit pretty well. I also have been watching "What Not to Wear" and they recommend pants that fall straight down from the widest part of your leg (i.e. that fatty saddlebag bit) and this pattern does that. As a bonus, there is no waistband so I know at least they will be comfortable.
suit pattern
The pattern is a nice one - McCall's 4154 - and I have made the jacket too. I make the length that hits at mid-thigh. I have been thinking about making the longer jacket as a light weight coat but haven't got around to that yet.
bobbin cases
Then I finally got to compare the new bobbin case with the old one and to my surprise, the part that I thought had to be broken looks exactly like the same part on the new bobbin case. There is a tiny screw that looks different but that is the only thing I can see that looks any different - not the piece of plastic that I thought had been broken off. So I am mystified and a bit annoyed that when my long-suffering husband took the old case in to compare it with the new when he picked it up, the sales person said "oh yes I see where it is broken" and now neither one of us can see anything. Anyway, I am going to sew with the new case and see if my stupid thread continues to break. If it does, I know I have to find some other reason for the problem. Grr.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Finishing the jacket and some troubleshooting

And it's my blog anniversary! Last year on the 22nd of October, I put up my first entry. From some time in January when I installed a counter, I have had 25,000 page loads, with almost 16,000 unique visitors. Cool.

When my top thread broke today for the eleventh million time, I took the bobbin area apart yet again to see if I could spot the trouble. This time, I did. (Look at the black plastic bit by my thumb - it is snapped right off.)
bobbin case
I believe the bobbin case has been broken for years which is why I have had trouble for years. I don't know why I only spotted the problem today but I am glad I did. I immediately went to the internet and looked up local Singer dealers, found one, called it and for $39.95 have ordered the part. I am hoping that the new part will make my machine seem like new again!

In spite of this, I continued sewing the jacket. I've coped so far with the broken part, I may as well carry on. First, I put the sleeves in. No photos but this time, I sewed the sleeves up and flat felled the two seams on them. I also sewed up the body of the jacket, so I had to install the sleeves the old-fashioned and more difficult way, by setting them in as round objects. Not hard but more fiddly than sewing them in flat. I decided I would flat fell the armscye, as I had done the other seams and wanted consistency.
trimming the armscye
Here I am trimming away the seam allowance on the jacket side of the armscye seam. I am going to fold over and sew down the seam allowance that belongs to the sleeve part. You can see all the different parts too - the lining pieces and the facing made out of that faux suede.
flat felling the armscye
I have ironed the seam allowance flat, pressing it toward the body of the jacket. Now I am laboriously folding over the fraying seam allowance and pinning it down, with the pins heading away from the direction I will be sewing in, so I can pull them out one by one as I get to them. You can see a little of the pink chalk I used to mark one of the small dots for positioning.
sewing the flat fell
I've got the jacket on the sewing machine and am slowly going around the flat fell. You can't see it even in the large size photo, but the heads of the pins are pointing toward me the sewer (you the viewer) and I pull them out as I sew down the loosely folded seam allowance. And all the while, you have to keep feeling underneath where you are sewing to make sure you haven't caught up any of the jacket that isn't supposed to be sewed.
felled armscye finished
Maybe because I now know about it, the bobbin case didn't give me any trouble and I managed to make it around both shoulders without breaking a thread and having to start over. In this photo, the shoulder seam is on the right and the lapel is on the left. You can also see the seam joining the front with the side front.
jacket inside out
Now, the only machine sewing I have left is the buttonhole - all the rest is hand sewing. I haven't done a lot of hand sewing lately because I have decided machine sewing is good for almost everything. However, for this fabric, I am going to sew the hems (sleeve and bottom) by hand, as well as sew down the bits of lining along the side front panel. I'll do that while watching tv tonight.
choice of buttons
Finally, I have to choose a button from my stash. Since there is only one button, I will probably go with the large fake-leather one in the photo. But I put up a couple of the also-rans in the photo.

Friday, October 20, 2006

The jacket continued

I'm really forging ahead on this jacket, especially with the encouraging words from Linda as a comment in the previous post. And I can't believe how nicely the contrasting fabric is working too.
jacket half done
Here is what I have got so far - no sleeves and top stitching to do. But I really like that I chose black as the lining and contrast colour. I was going to go with white but I think the black is more effective. This jacket was going to be the secondary, throw-away item with the skirt being the main thing but I think it may turn out to be the opposite.
collar detail
I decided to top stitch around the collar. I hadn't done that with the green cotton jacket but this isn't cotton and doesn't crease as tightly so I went with top stitching. I also rolled the houndstooth around the edge slightly, so I wouldn't get any of the contrast fabric creeping up from under the collar. That worked well.
seam binding
I have decided to use seam binding on the raw edge of the hem, instead of folding it under. It reduces bulk and make the jacket lie flatter. I am going to use the lace seam binding because it is not as harsh-looking as the satin. Also, I already have a package of it and don't have to go to the store on my bike in the rain to get more. :)
jean jacket ensemble
Finally, we went out last night and as I was standing there waiting for something, I realized I was wearing both a shirt and a jean jacket that I had made (some years ago now). I asked Peter to take a picture because I am always posting pix of things on hangers and not on me. The shirt is some lovely cotton with a touch of Lycra in it that I bought at Darrell Thomas a few years ago. Expensive and worth it. The jacket is a lightweight denim that I got for cheap at FabricLand. I wear it a LOT.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The little jacket to match

Here is the finished skirt:
8 gore skirt finished
I was asked in a comment about how the French seams affected the drape of the skirt and I don't think they do. I used to use them exclusively on all my shirts and never noticed a problem. On this skirt, the fabric isn't very thin or "drapey" but it isn't stiff either. Either way, I think French seams are not an issue. I wore the skirt today and with a slip over tights, it worked well. However, the thing that didn't work was how I finished the zipper at the top. I folded it over in such a way that a little hard bit of the zipper now pokes into my side. Stupid me. I will have to devise some sort of "zipper garage" to keep that plastic away from my skin. I thought about not bothering but then if I don't fix it, I won't wear the skirt much and this skirt could go a long way with other clothes so I think I will work on it.

The jacket is a little (that new, slightly shrunken look), 3/4 sleeve, unlined model I have made once before in a cotton. I have worn it too so I know it works. I am just not sure how odd it might look in a "wooly" fabric, as opposed to something summery. But I'm doing it anyway.
cotton jacket
Here is the cotton jacket - I am pulling it open so you can see the inside (don't forget, you can make the pictures larger for detail if you click on them and go to Flickr). It is only partly lined, with lining panels on the front, attached to the facings and on the back, at the shoulder level only.
facing fabric
When I cut the fabric, I didn't have enough for the whole jacket, even if I did go with 3/4 sleeves. So I had to find something in my stash that would work with this fabric that I could use as the under collar piece and the two front panels that serve as facings. I was going to go with the nubby cotton stuff I made into a jumper that was like a tent on me and so I never wore (seriously - I could have gone camping in it). But it was too thick and nubby. Then I found some really faux suede in black that I think will work. It has texture to it but it is very thin (hence the "really faux"). Black fabric is notoriously hard to photograph so you'll have to imagine what you are looking at.
contrasting thread
Finally, and as always, I am starting to have thread tension issues. I started sewing with the white bobbin and the black top thread but then I stitched the interfacing (not iron-on) to the front piece and saw that the white thread was showing a little. Going for consistency, I changed the bobbin to black and continued in the stitching on the right side of this photo. So all the seams will be finished in a modified flat fell (where I turn under both sides of the seam allowance) and stitched in black thread. I've already done a couple seams that way and it looks okay.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

An 8 gore skirt

With Fall fast on its way (here, actually), I wanted another long but full skirt to wear as it got cooler. I have plenty of the longer, narrow skirts but I wanted some that flared out a little more - not so good on a high wind but slightly less restrictive than the narrow skirts. I found some tiny houndstooth fabric in black and white on the sale table and for the money, couldn't resist. It is some kind of acrylic or something and it washed and dried without a whimper or a wrinkle.
It does fray quite a bit so I had to be a little careful handling the pieces once I cut them, so it didn't fray down into where the seams would end up. I also ended up with way more than I needed for a skirt, even if I did plan to use the 8 gore pattern I'd used before (McCall's 3518). I laid out the skirt pattern pieces and then sized up what was left, to see what else I might get out of the fabric.
There wasn't enough for a full-fledged jacket but I didn't think the fabric was right for something like a shirt. That's when I remembered the little unlined jacket pattern I had made before (Simplicity 4698).
skirt and jacket patterns
If I went with the 3/4 sleeves, I might just have room for all the pieces. As it turned out, I didn't quite, but that's the next story. First, I wanted to get the skirt made so I could start wearing it, even if the (Canadian) Thanksgiving weekend (October 7-9) was delightfully sunny and in the 20s.
skirt pieces
My biggest problem with this 8 gore skirt pattern is keeping all 8 pieces organized, especially as in this case, when the fabric is identical on the right and wrong sides. I carefully unpinned the pattern pieces from the gores that go in the centre of the front and the back and then I pinned the pieces together so I wouldn't mix them up.

I also had decided this time that I would finish the seams as French seams and not use the flat fell. I thought it would be better for this fabric if I didn't have lines of stitching running down the right side all over the place. With a French seam (or at least my version of it), you first pin the pieces together with the WRONG sides together. Then you sew about a 1/4 inch seam, trim it, iron it and then fold the two pieces now with their RIGHT sides together and sew another 1/4 inch seam. thus enclosing the raw edge completely.
trimming french seam
Here is one seam, with the first line of stitching completed and the raw edge trimmed. You can also see here that I used white thread on the top and black thread on the bobbin, just to try to blend the thread in with the contrasty fabric.
smoothing the raw edge
Once you have stitched the seam once, trimmed the raw edge (but not too closely because it will continue to fray), and ironed it flat, then you have to prepare for sewing the second line of stitching. Before you fold the pieces together, right sides together, along the first stitching line, you need to make sure the threads from the raw edge (which are unravelling already even though you just trimmed them) don't poke through the stitching line (less work trimming them later). I found that I could just smooth the fraying threads along with my hands and then fold the fabric over. On this photo, I am moving my hands from the right side to the left side of the picture, tucking in those loose threads.
inside the seam
Once I had the fabric folded right sides together, I ironed along the fold and stuck a few pins in to make sure the fabric wouldn't shift as I sewed. This photo shows the pieces already stitched together once and pinned together for the second pass, and I am showing what it looks like inside the fold, with the raw edges of the fabric pieces.
sewing the second line
Now I am sewing the second line of stitching which will encase the raw edges and give a finished look to the inside of the skirt. It will also prevent the seams from coming unravelled which would happen after a few wearings. You could serge the seams of course, if you had a serger which I don't.
right and wrong sides
Here is what the panels look like sewn together. The right side (or outside) of the skirt is at the top and I have turned up the bottom of the skirt to show the finished, French seams on the wrong side of the skirt.
a flaw
I missed a small flaw in the fabric when I was cutting out the pieces and only saw it when I had put the gores together. A couple of threads in the weave had broken but you couldn't really see this on the outside of the skirt.
patching the flaw
I decided to use a small piece of iron-on interfacing over the flaw on the inside of the skirt. It will seal the loose threads in place and prevent further damage.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

You CAN make your own clothes, and even wear them in public! (The title of my book, should I ever find a publisher.)

When I went to San Diego, I took clothes that I had made, because they fit and work well together. I took that purple corduroy jacket I just finished too because it was a baby wale (nice and light) and I was going with a blue and purple theme. But I didn't bring the skirt (lined and too warm). Instead I brought a cotton flowered skirt from the same pattern that I get a ton of wear out of. I also brought a short purple cotton skirt in a jean style (front zip and pockets) and the white corduroy jacket I made, also not that long ago (or was it?).
skirt/jacket proportions
Here I am, squinting into the sun that is just starting to appear through the early haze, wearing the white jacket and the long flowered skirt. My feet are a little cut off, but you can see the proportions pretty well. Maybe it is just me, but even though I am only 5'2" I think this length of skirt works okay on me. Let me put it another way - it had better work because I have a closet full of this skirt!
skirt/jacket proportions 2
And here I am in the purple skirt and cord jacket. I know the knee length skirt works well and my legs are acceptable. But I really get a lot of wear with the longer skirt in every season but Summer. Be kind in your assessment. :)

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Back to Sewing

We're back from San Diego and we've been to the wedding, so now I can post the photos of that gift I made.
gift wrapped
Thanks to Hallmark, the gift wrap was pretty.
placemats & napkins
I made 8 reversible placemats with coordinating napkins, an additional 12 smaller cocktail napkins and two potholders from the leftovers.
placemats closeup
I didn't quilt the placemats as I often do. Instead, I ironed over the edges and then lined up two fabrics and sewed them around the edges with two rows of topstitching. I had a time choosing the fabrics. I had it in my mind that I would look for blues and greens and large patterns when I got to the store but I couldn't find anything I liked that worked (in my mind). I finally settled on the small prints in the quilting cotton section, in coordinating reds and greens. These were actually in the Christmas section but I didn't choose fabrics with an obvious Christmas motif (holly or trees or stuff) so I am hoping this will work any time of the year. Although of course, it will also work at Christmas!

And the wedding was lovely. They had a Fall theme running throughout, right down to the meal which was beef tenderloin with Fall vegetables. It was so nice that we stayed later than I expected we would and we felt all lovey ourselves. Even after 24 years of marriage, a nice wedding lifts the spirits. Now I'm going to make a simple 8 gore skirt for wearing to school with layers in the cooler weather. I don't even think I'm going to line it. Sometimes I scare myself with my daring.