Saturday, December 30, 2006

Two Skirts!

Success! You know when you have too much fabric when you can't remember everything in your stash. I went looking this morning for "something brown" and rediscovered this "wool" stuff I had made a jacket out of years ago. The pattern was wrong for the fabric and it never fit right so I put it in the Sally Ann box so I wouldn't have to feel guilty about throwing something "perfectly good" away.
orange and brown wools
The dark fabric is slightly heavier than the orange and has a different weave - a sort of herringbone - but it IS brown and not black and has a tiny gold fleck in it. I think it will make a great yoke and, unlike the bright orange, not be a spotlight that says, "tummy here!" I am making the yoke facing in a black broadcloth to cut back on the bulk.
thread colours
I have lots of thread I can use and the dark brown second from the left looks most likely for any topstitching. I also have two zippers - one black and the other a light brown I purchased specifically for this orange fabric. However, now that I am making the yoke out of a dark brown, I am wondering if I should look for a dark brown zipper. I think so. I plan to zigzag stitch all around each wool gore so all I will need to do to finish the seams is press them open. I have pinked the edges of all the lining gores and will sew them together. Then I will hang the lining from the bottom of the yoke and it will hang freely, more like a slip.
orange skirt layout
I remeasured the purple skirt and it is only 22 inches from waist to finished hem, not 24 as I thought in the previous post. I wanted the skirt to be as long as possible and so I cut it out as in the photo. These gore pieces are 24 inches long so the skirt will be about 26 inches long finished.
curved hem
Unless I know I will never make a longer skirt, I hate cutting off the longer skirt options on the pattern pieces because I can never get them lined up properly afterwards. What I do for a curved hem such as this skirt has, is fold the pattern piece up on the hem line at each side of the pattern piece and them cut in a mirror image. It's really not as difficult as it may seem.
purple skirt wrong side out
In the meantime, I finished the purple skirt. Here it is, wrong side out on the ironing board with its blue lining showing. You can also see the grey facing for the yoke (which will be black broad cloth in the orange skirt) and the hanging loops I attached to the yoke. I make them out of whatever bits of hemming lace or twill tape I have lying about.
purple skirt hem
Here's the hem before I ironed it. I sewed black hemming lace on with a purple zigzag machine stitch. Then I stitched it up by hand.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Starting a potential UFO

I have decided that I am mature enough and can handle having more than one project on the go at once. Gulp! We'll see shortly how this works out. I am still debating about the buttonholes on the coat. I have received some excellent suggestions in the comments and have done some more experimenting. Plus, whether I go for buttons, snaps or frogs, I still have to go to the store and that will have to happen some time next week or whenever.

SO! I have started two skirts that I want to be able to wear to teach next week. I got the fabric on the day that my friend took me to the Sewing Machine Hospital. We went to C&M Textiles and I saw much lovely fabric there, especially silk at $40/metre and up. However, what did I do but raid the remnants bin and I got two pieces of "wool" for I think $5 and $6 each. The purple was labeled as real wool and the orange just felt wooly. Each was about .7 metre but then I washed and dried them and they shrunk amazingly down to about .5 metre. I therefore determined that I would make them using this pattern I have for a skirt with a yoke and hope to make them as long as possible. They are for Winter after all and I want to keep my knees warm when I walk over to school in minus 20C winds.
skirt pattern
You can see the pattern better if you click on the photo and go to Flickr and look at the large size. It's Simplicity 9825 and has four "gores" and a yoke at the top. I barely had enough wool for one side of the yoke so I used that grey flannel I had left over from the previous suit jacket and used that for the yoke facing.
purple wool texture
I quite liked the purple wool and it has a nice texture to it too. I think I went with the side on the left in the photo as the "right" side. I raided my lining box and found some bluish stuff that you wouldn't see anyway and cut out the gore pieces in lining. Then I made the mistake of sewing the lining right to the skirt pieces as I had done with the coat.
bunching up
As I sewed down from the top of the first gore, attaching the lining right to the skirt piece (before constructing it), I realized that the wool was stretching as I went and I ended up with a longer wool piece than the attached lining piece. Rather than pick out the stitching I had done so far, I just went and sewed all the vertical edges from the top down and said "to heck with it." I was only less than an inch longer in the wool pieces so I just went with the flow. But now I knew better for the second piece of "wool"!
purple wool with threads
I also got to use up several ends of different purple threads I had in my sewing box.
skirt before zipper
The skirt went together very quickly and here it is, before I put in the zipper. You can see the blue lining because I haven't hemmed it but once I'm done, you won't see the lining at all. It's also interesting how my camera does some shots with a warm cast and some are cooler and there doesn't appear to be any reason why. Sometimes the colour is more accurate one way and sometimes the other. I think this shot is a more accurate representation of the purple than the slightly redder colour in the other shots.
coat right side out
Meanwhile, I finally trimmed the seams and turned the coat right side out and pressed and pounded the seams flat. I think it is looking pretty good! And you can see the pockets in this photo.
buttonhole experiment 2
I tried another buttonhole experiment and made the stitches as close together as I could, given that the buttonholer is automatic. I saw when I was done that the stitches weren't skipping - they were just shoved to one side by the bulging wool lumps in the coat fabric. I also did a plain, wide zigzag around the buttonhole and made those stitches really close together and I am pleased with the result.
buttonhole cut open
When I stuck a button through the hole after I cut it open, and I tried to pull the coat fabric apart, it seemed quite firmly anchored by the stitching, so I am thinking if I find the right buttons, I may just go for buttons and buttonholes.
orange wool
With the hem pinned up on the purple skirt and ready for hand sewing while watching tv, I decided to get out the orangey wooly stuff I had got as a remnant and see what I could do with it. (It's the dark brown and orange weave on the right in the photo.) I did plan to make the same pattern as the purple but I thought it had seemed a little longer and hoped I could get a longer skirt out of it. The purple skirt is only 24 inches long from waist to finished hem. To my surprise, while it was longer as expected, it was also narrower and I would have to sacrifice the length in the gores for the yoke. I went searching through my stash and came up with the very same orange Italian wool that I had got at Darrell Thomas's a few years ago. I had made a lovely jacket from this wool and in fact, that was the jacket I thought of while I was debating whether to get this darker orange remnant.
orange yoke
The much more expensive Italian wool is a different texture but a very similar weight so it could serve well as a yoke. However, I was just now thinking that it might draw attention to the one spot that I really dislike on my body (my stomach) and so I might look for a darker fabric instead. We'll see what I dig up next time.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Pockets and Buttonholes

Making progress but forgetting to photograph everything (namely the pockets). First, we'll start with a photo taken this morning from the newhillcam - as you can see, we have finally had a little snow.
Next, I have put the pockets on. Not a difficult job but it does pay to over-mark things sometimes.
pocket markings
In this photo, you can barely see a chalk mark I made on the interlining piece I attached to one of the front pieces of the coat. I put a pin in it so I could see it from the outside. Then I turned the coat to the right side (or outside) and saw that I had been clever enough to mark the pocket placement with long pink tailor's tacks in addition to the chalk on the inside. While I was piecing the coat together, I hadn't really noticed the thread markings because of how busy the fabric was but when I was looking in the right spot, I could see them just fine. So I just sewed the pockets on where marked and there they are (in the next installment, I'll take a photo).
I thought I'd look through my button stash to see if I had anything suitable. In the Winter, it gets to be more of a chore to go to the store because I have to take the bus and my bike is just so much easier and more fun. As you can see, the only buttons that might have been suitable, aren't. The coat requires six buttons and I do have some nice ones in black but only four of them. So it will be a trip to the store for me soon.
I also thought I would start to experiment with buttonholes so I ironed on some interfacing to a scrap of the fabric.
sample buttonhole
This is an extreme close up of a buttonhole. I used contrasting thread so I could see the effect and it is horrible. Even the closely spaced stitching of the machine-made (i.e. automatic) buttonhole isn't very good. And that stitch I chose for the surround is likewise lame. I see I have some more experimenting ahead of me and may have to do some stitching by hand. I have thought of facing the buttonholes but I thought that topstitching would keep the fraying to a minimum. Anyway, I plan to do more work on this aspect.
I have sewed the facing/lining to the coat and now I just have to turn it right-side out.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Coat sleeves are on

From a dusting of snow in the previous entry to Ottawa socked in by fog:
Last night we had freezing rain and the power went out at 3:30am but it was back on in about an hour. We lay awake, listening to the ice sliding off the roof. It was supposed to get up to 4C by the morning and 7C by the afternoon but by 1pm today, it was still only 3C. However, all the freezing rain has melted to it is mostly just wet out.
coat partly sewn
A day or two ago, I had got to the point where the coat was starting to look like a coat.
trimming shoulder seam
Then I put the sleeves on both the lining and the coat. I zigzag stitched around the shoulder seam and tried not to trim the coat seam too closely for fear of excessive ravelling. Only time will tell on that count, I suppose.
finishing pocket
I decided to machine sew the pocket lining to the pocket where I had turned the pocket right side out. I also sewed all the way around the pocket to make sure the lining stayed tucked behind the pocket face. They are patch pockets and now that I have the body of the coat sewn up, I can sew them in place. That'll come in the next entry.
coat with sleeves
Finally, I took a picture of the coat complete with sleeves because it is so fun when it gets to that stage. Behind the coat is the separate lining, also with sleeves sewn on. Now (after the pockets) I just have to sew the lining to the coat and presto! we're almost done!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Starting to sew the coat together

pieces lined up (no pun intended)
Here are some pieces lined up, ready to sew. The square dark object is one of the pockets.
pocket before pressing
This is the lined pocket, turned right side out and ready for pressing. I turned it through the small gap in the sewing shown in the photo. I could sew that gap shut by hand but I think I will sew it shut with topstitching. Topstitching will also help to secure those ravelly fabric threads.
centre back seam
Here, I've sewed the centre back seam and am showing it before I pressed it open and flat. I pinked all the edges of the lining so it wouldn't fray, knowing that I would be trimming too many seams. You can see that the coat fabric is already fraying big time so it's a good thing I sewed the lining to each piece at about 3/8 inch and then again, it is sewn along the 5/8 seam line, so hopefully, by the time the whole coat unravels along the seams, it will also be worn out in other ways.
a dusting of snow
And this morning when I glanced out the front window, this is what I saw. Half an hour later however, the snow had melted from all the pavement and some of the grass where the sun hit it. We may not have a white Christmas this year.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Winter coat interlining

My sewing machine is back! I finally called on Friday after it had been gone more than a week and was told it was "next in the line". Sure enough, they called on Saturday to say it was fixed and I prevailed upon a different friend to drive me over there to get it. In fact, the weather was so mild, I could have gone on my bike with the trailer but since he was willing to drive me, I took him up on it.
she's back!
Here's my baby on the stairs to go up. It turned out that the bobbin case was the culprit - it needed an adjustment because every so often (every six inches of sewing), the needle would strike a part of the bobbin case when it went down into the bobbin area and so break the thread that way. I have now sewed for a while and there have been no broken threads! I am so relieved. It was really getting to me, I can tell you.
frayed fabric
Here's a close up of the fabric and you can see how loosely woven and ravelly it is. (My spell check didn't recognize "ravelly" so I looked it up and it is a word - just not very well known.) This is why I am backing each piece with lining - or interlining we shall call it. Someone suggested in the comments that I consider lining it with flannel to make it warmer and that is certainly an option. However, flannel would also make the coat heavier and more bulky and I thought I would go for a lighter weight option. I can always add a sweater underneath on a colder day for warmth. And I planned this coat to be worm only to about minus 10C.
tailor's tacks
When I started cutting out the pieces, I thought that I would have a hard time making notches and that chalk marking wouldn't show up for the dots. So I made some (elaborate for me) tailor's tacks for both notches and dots. Then, when I cut out the interlining pieces, I realized that I could easily cut notches and make chalk marks on that fabric so all the tacks were for naught.
interfaced pieces
Here are all the pieces with fused interfacing - the front, front facing and both collar sections. I think the main seams I will have to trim will be the shoulder seams and I will use a zigzag on those and hope the threads won't eventually pull away.
I went through my stash of linings and found several pieces in the same colourways as the coat. The grey piece on the far right is what I am using to line the coat itself.
For the interlining (which will not be seen) I ended up getting the two back pieces out of the mauve, the side fronts and side backs out of the blue and the sleeves out of a pale green. I have almost finished sewing all those pieces together and it is a pain. The loosely woven wooly stuff moves all over the place and seems to grow as I move down one edge of it. I have to keep stuffing the excess under the needle so the fabric piece doesn't end up a foot longer than the interlining piece. But it is almost done so I can say I've been successful.

Once I have finished attaching the interlining to the two backs, two sleeves and four sides, then I can start putting the coat itself together.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Winter coat prep work

Tomorrow I monitor the last exam for the semester and after I post the marks, I'll be done working (for money anyway) until January, when I'll be teaching two more courses at the college. If it weren't for the total lack of money, I'd feel quite like the woman of leisure.

My friend took me and my machine over to the Sewing Machine Hospital where I explained the problem with the breaking thread. The first thing the guy did was look at the needle because needles with burrs on them do break threads. I gritted my teeth and explained that I replaced the needle ALL the time and it wasn't that. Anyway. He still hasn't called and it has been 6 days (today is the 7th day) and I am starting to miss my machine. However, I decided I would cut out the coat next while I am waiting and so here I am again. Hello!
coat pattern
This is a very similar pattern to the reversible red coat I made but that one fit a little snugly so I decided to make this in the 14 so I could fit sweaters underneath. I have a longer, warmer coat for the minus 20C weather but I wanted this wooly one for the weather when it's cold but not cold enough to bring out the fake fur. Interestingly, when I bought the purple "wool", right next to it on the table was the exact same red "wool" they used to make the coat in the photo on the pattern envelope! I liked the purple better.

I am making the view shown in the photo, because I wanted a coat that buttoned up to the neck. When it's cold and windy out, you don't want an open shawl collar, thank you very much. In fact, I have an open shawl collar on my minus 20C coat and I tie it closed with a scarf around the neck and I have never liked doing that. I am probably going to retrofit that coat with a loop for a button at the neck but I'll blog about that when it happens.

This fabric also frays easily and profusely so I am anticipating potential difficulties. First of all, since I want it to be warm, I am going to cut out pieces of lining for each of the coat pieces in the body and sleeves, and sew the lining pieces right to the coat pieces, before they get sewn together. In this way, the coat will be more windproof and the pieces may retain their shape better.
pattern pieces
I'll be "double lining" the sleeves, the side front and side back and the back. For the front, the pattern pieces are the front and the front facing. I have decided to iron on interfacing on both of those pieces, not just on the front facing. I have been thinking that when I sew the front and front facing together to make the front edge, that the seam may ravel and ruin especially if I clip it to reduce bulk. I thought about putting some kind of applied trim around all the finished edges but then I thought, if I iron on interfacing, that may glue the fibres together enough that they won't ravel. If they do ravel later, I can always put the trim on later.

I'll also be doing this with the interfacing on both of the collar pieces (top and bottom) so they won't ravel either. (Don't you find it interesting that "ravel" means both to disentangle as well and to tangle up? And "unravel" means that same things? Cool - but confusing.] And there are the buttonholes to consider, if I do buttonholes. In any event, with the entire front interfaced and "glued" together, the buttonholes or whatever fastening I end up using will be less of a problem. Now I just have to discover if I have enough lining odds and ends to do the "interlining". I have a nice piece of quite thick polyester for the "real" lining.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Still working on the jacket

Thanks everyone for the great and kind suggestions about my machine. I also got an offer from a knitting friend to drive me and my machine over to "The Sewing Machine Hospital" where she says another friend of hers got good service for her machine. I have decided to take her up on it and now we just have to get together some time. I took this photo of the armscye of the lining to show all the threads sticking out from where they broke every few inches while sewing. It's entirely random, the thread breaking, and so it's always a shock when it happens and makes me crazy. There are only 4 threads showing in this part of the picture but the top thread broke at least 6 times while sewing around the armscye the one time (I sew around it twice and then trim the fabric close to the inner line of stitching)
broken threads
In the meanwhile, I got a flyer today from Sears and they have their most basic Kenmore machine on sale this week for $149 ($30 off). That is about the same machine I started sewing with, over 30 years ago. And I only stopped using it after I just couldn't control the bobbin thread tension any more and I also thought I deserved something bigger and better. The interesting thing about my old Kenmore was that something went "snap" in the bobbin area in the first year I had it and it never really was the same afterwards. I have no idea why I never took it in for repair. Well, the first few years, I had zero money for stuff like that and it did work pretty well - you just couldn't ever topstitch on it and expect good results. Later I guess I just thought no one could do much with it. Silly, I know. Anyway, it was a good workhorse and so I am thinking about getting it again for back up for times like this, when I have to get the Singer serviced. I won't be able to sew anything fancy with it and won't do buttonholes, but it would work for the seams and all the other stuff I do. I'll think on it some more.

In the other meantime, I think I have been in a funk about several things for several reasons and I haven't been sewing or writing or anything. Today, we are having a freezing rain winter storm and after I got home from teaching this morning, I curled up on the sofa and watched the last episode of "October 1970" which I had taped the night before. I think I might be the only person watching it, because I haven't heard that anyone else is. And while it was reviewed in the paper when the first episode was due to air, nothing has been said about in the paper since. I found it very well done and if you want to know more, just type in FLQ at Wikipedia and you'll get a lot of info. It was 8 hours produced by the CBC (and maybe others) and while I would say it had that distinct Canadian tv stamp on it, it wasn't at all unwatchable. (Talk about being damned with faint praise.) I was in grade 7 and living on a military base just north of Quebec City in 1970 so I remember it pretty well.

After the show ended, I felt like it was freezing in the house but when I checked the temperature, it did say 18C (64.4F) so I thought to warm up, instead of turning up the heat, I would go up and at least iron something, if not sew. This is the "view" I discovered out my sewing room window:
freezing rain
Nasty stuff, freezing rain. I noticed my poor, neglected grey jacket hanging on the door and took it down to see where I had left off. I had sewed the lining to the jacket all around the edges and now I just had to turn it right side out and iron it flat. So I did that and this is how it looks, prior to hemming everything.
grey jacket
It's actually looking pretty good! It has a bit of a sheen to the fabric and it's a nice weight so I think I will end up wearing it quite a bit. But I will definitely have to spice it up with brightly coloured shirts. Now all I have left to do is to sew up the hems of the jacket and lining and that is all done by hand so I won't miss my machine for now. I also have to hem the pants and then lose 5 pounds so they won't be quite so snug. Grr. 10 pounds would be better. Thank goodness my husband has decided to lose some weight too - it's always easier to do when we're in it together.

The last thing for the jacket will be the buttonholes and I could do them by hand but I'd rather use the machine. Instead, while I'm waiting for my SInger to be fixed, I may cut out the wooly winter coat fabric I got a while ago. By the time I am ready to sew it, the Singer will be back, and I won't be violating my Rule about not having more than one project on the go at once.