Navy Blazer 1.

on středa 23. října 2013
I've never made a classic tailored jacket. You know, everyone says it's so difficult and no one in their right mind would try that, when you can buy a decent blazer for a good price... but I think it's time to try. I would love to have a blazer that would really fit me. I'm a size 10/12 UK, but with hourglass figure, and it's not easy to find a good blazer. If it fits my waist, it pulls over the breast. If it fits boobs, it hangs like a curtain in the back and around the waist. Everything seems so boxy and flat.

I want a sharp, smooth, curvy blazer; I would prefer longer, narow lapels and maybe the jacket itselft might be slightly longer to smooth over the hips and give a lean, elegant look.

I looked for a pattern in my stash of Burda magazines; I also looked at some blazer photos to find out what I would like.

These two blazers are from (left Theory, right Stella McCartney). Both have the classic cut with waist darts that allow precise shaping.

I found these two patterns in Burda:

The princess seam one (on the right) would be probably easier to sew, but I'm afraid it wouldn't allow the shaping I need. I'm gonna use the left one and do some alterations (no sleeve vents, maybe different pockets). I'm gonna keep the breast pocket, I like the idea of tucking a handkerchief there for a more masculine feel :) I'm also happy with the one button closure.

I bought 2 meters of a dark navy wool/PES mix in the cheap fabrics store for about $5/metre; if I mess up, I won't spoil an expensive fabric. I also bought hair canvas for interfacings. I want to use both hair canvas and fusible interfacing.

And my guides on the road to the perfect blazer? Tailoring: The Classic Guide to Sewing the Perfect Jacket and Couture Sewing Techniques. If I get stuck, I'm gonna bug my mom. (Hope that won't be necessary, because each phone call regarding a simple dressmaking question inevitably changes into an hour long chat!)

Chanel Style Jacket 3. (finished)

The time has come to set in the sleeves. This is the part I used to dread... I'm a perfectionist, just like my mother (who's a dressmaker for living for about 30 years and she would NEVER give the customer something that wouldn't be perfect), and without proper experience, the sleeves are easy to screw up. I couldn't quite put my finger on the easing and the sleeves usually looked a bit... withered. Limp. No energy there. No nice shoulders.

Luckily, I overcame that :)

There are two easing techniques I learned and use. There's the pin method. The part that has to be eased is pinned with many pins; the fabric of the sleeve cap is a bit bunched up between each two pins. Sculpted, one might say.

This is the desired effect: the sleeve cap is puffed up a bit, which creates more room for the shoulder.

The second easing technique is by machine basting and pulling the thread. Just like when you want to gather, but you don't quite gather. It's easier than the pin method, but less precise in my opinion. Or in my hands. My mom eases with thread and her sleeves are perfect.

After pinning the eased cap in I hand basted the sleeve to the jacket. There's a big mess of fabric, lining pieces, threads and wide seam allowances that's not easy to navigate under the machine foot, so I wanted to be sure nothings slips or skews.

I trimmed the seam allowances and finished the lining just like with the other seams.

Well, that's almost all... What was left was finishing all the hems, including the sleeves. There's no facing in chanel jackets, the edges get just turned and catchstitched:

The lining is then trimmed and fellstitched to the fabric.

The neckline needs to be clipped, of course, otherwise the lining would pull:


What's left are the embellishments. Because I don't look good in light powdery colors, the jacket needs some black trims, probably appliqué. But I'm gonna let that mature for some time. There are other projects waiting...

Autumn Leaves Printed Blouse

on pátek 18. října 2013
Remember, when we were kids, how we used to collect fresh fallen leaves, painted them and then printed on paper? You could make a whole tree: it just required an adult, who drew a trunk with a few branches, and then you covered those branches with as many printed trees as the paper could accomodate.

Even if you're not a kid anymore, there's a lot of things you can do with leaves. Yes, even fashion things. This idea stemmed from my love for the classic black & white combination. It will never go out of fashion, I'm sure, only the cuts, details and accessories change.

I decided to make a blouse with black maple leaves. I had an 1,5 metre piece of white cotsilk fabric in my stash, which is perfect for a light blouse, and the length is perfect for a top with long sleeves. As for the pattern, I copied an old tunic blouse with princess seams that fits me well.

I cut the pieces. You can use white chalk on white cotsilk, because cotsilk is shiny and the chalk is not, so the lines are visible. I like to mark my seam allowances with this useful toy:

It has a small toothed wheel and a container with powdered chalk and a metal toothed wheel on the bottom. You trace the seamline with the first wheel and the second one draws a dotted chalk line 1.5, 2.5 or 4 centimeters from the seamline. Saves a lot of time.

First, I did a few test prints on paper and then scraps of the cotsilk fabric. I used Pebéo Setacolor Opaque, heat fixed fabric paint. I tried various methods (brush, foam brush) and coverages to find the right one.

The leaf needs to be almost completely covered with paint. Don't worry, it won't print as a leaf shaped block of black. The paint should not be too thick or too runny, the default thickness of the Setacolors is just fine. To get rid of excess paint I dabbed the leaf with a paper towel. The excess paint collects mainly around the three main veins and if left there, can make a blurred puddle on fabric.

Lay the painted leaf on the fabric. Once it touches the fabric, don't move it!

Carefully cover the leaf with a piece of paper and press. I tried laying a book on top and pressing it down, I tried the roller I use to roll out Fimo clay, but I found out fingers are just fine. Just press the covered leaf gently with your fingers or heel of hand. Again, don't move the leaf, you would smudge the print.

After I found the right procedure, I moved onto the blouse. I've sewn together the front and ironed it. I tried a few layouts with the maple leaves I was going to use. The leaves can be reused a few times, but I collected a big bunch, so I could select the ones that would work best and use a fresh leaf for each print.

I recommend collecting the leaves just before printing, because once you bring them home, they dry and shrivel quickly. If you need to store them overnight, leave them outside or in the fridge.

While working, keep everything clean! I used clean newspaper both under the fabric and for pressing for each new leaf, and threw the papers and the painted leaf away right after printing. I kept the dirty brush, the bottle of paint and the paper towels away from the fabric. Setacolors are washable until fixed, but I really did not want to have to try washing black paint from a delicate white fabric...

The printing did not take long. I then waited for the paint to dry and fixed it by ironing on the wrong side (the iron should not touch the paint). I also fixed the test print on fabric and kept it. I'm gonna try washing it to see if it's safe to wash the blouse (lukewarm water, by hand, no wringing, of course).

The weave structure of the fabric produced a very interesting effect: the prints look like newspaper photos!

Now the front was printed and the paint fixed, I've sewn the back and finished the seams on my overlock machine. Because the seams are visible through the delicate fabric, they need to look as neat as possible.

The blouse has flat cap sleeves, typically sewn in before sewing the side seams, so I've sewn the shoulder seams and then finished the neck with a facing. I'sewn it to the neckhole, folded under and stitched witch very little stitches, almost invisible on the right side.

Then I've set in the sleeves and finished the remaining hems. The blouse has two short side splits and is hemmed by simply turning the overlocked edges and stitching through.

And done! Gonna wear it with black pants. And I'm probably gonna make a t-shirt with leaves, because I love it... A black one with white leaves using the opaque paint, maybe?

Chanel Style Jacket 2.

on úterý 8. října 2013
Today I continued with my jacket project. I managed to do a lot of work: I did all the quilting, which is not difficult, but it is time consuming.

I pinned the fabric and lining together to avoid any bunching or pulling. The lining is thin and slippery, the boucle fabric thick and rough, and without the pins the pieces skewed horribly, even with a walking foot. So I pinned every line religiously. Yeah, again: better safe than sorry!

The quilted pieces look quite good. No bunching, pulling, no tangled stitches. I'm really happy with the result.

The next step is another tedious one: the ends of the threads have to be pulled in between the layers and tied off.

Now it was time to put all the parts together. I've sewn all the vertical seams - boucle only, the lining is pushed aside for now. I pulled out the basting. Then I trimmed the seam allowances to about 1 cm and pressed them flat.

Next step: I smoothed one of the lining pieces over the pressed seam and pinned the lining to the seam line (the central line of the seam, where the stitches are). Then I trimmed the lining to the far end of the seam allowance, as the photo shows:

I put the other piece of lining over the pinned line and marked the seam line with a chalk (the heads of the pins can be felt through the fabric). I trimmed the lining the same way as the first one, folded the allowance under and pressed. I then stitched the foldline with small fell stitches, going through all the layers including the boucle.

I've sewn the shoulder seams, tried the jacket on to see if any adjustments need to be made at this point, and finished the lining on the shoulders.

(to be continued!)

Chanel Style Jacket 1.

on pondělí 7. října 2013
I decided I cannot live anymore without a Chanel style jacket. And I wanted to try the traditional sewing technique I’ve never done before.

The material was already waiting in a box with an unfinished project. It was to be a coat, but fortunately I only cut one piece and the rest of the fabric was intact. It is wool boucle with medium sized houndstooth pattern in light grey and dusty pink. Chanel powders, anyone?

I also found the pink lining fabric I had for the coat.

A very good guide with photos and descriptions is in the Threads magazine no. 121, which I happen to have. It helped a lot.

I cut the pieces with wide seam allowances. The article in Threads warns boucle frays a lot and wider allowances are a must; it wasn’t that bad in the end, but better safe than sorry.

With the pattern pieces still pinned to the fabric, I machine basted the countours of each piece. I set the machine to straight stitch, longest setting (5 mm), loosest tension.

Then I cut a piece of lining for each boucle piece. I just laid the fabric on top of the lining, checked the grain (it has to be aligned, of course) and cut the lining with a rotary cutter. Precision is not necessary at this point.

The next step - and a bit tedious one - is the quilting. First I tried it on a scrap. I was afraid the stitches will be visible, but I was pleasantly surprised. The grey thread is only visible when you look very closely.

(to be continued)
Working on the pink dress. You can see the felt padding of the leaves, the appliqued ribbon, couched flat silver thread and the pearlescent seed beads ready to be transferred into lilly-of-the-valley flowers.

My embroidered dress - detail. Satin stitch over felt padding, beads and couched metallic threads.