Monday, June 9, 2008

Change of Plans

My husband and life coach discovered yesterday that I am planning to make not one, but two, coats. He also suspects (as do I) that I will have a LARGE hand in making the third coat in the household, which is really our DD's project.

Photo: Courtesy The McCall Pattern Company

He flipped.

Here's the back story.

I planned to make the BWOF trench because I had all the materials on hand. I LOVE these collaborative online sewing experiences, and have come to realize I'd rather learn something new than sew lots of new garments. I didn't want to miss out on Marji's project and signed up. Although Marji is graciously supporting us trench-coat makers, I began to feel that I should not take up space in the coat sew-along for a trench, because Marji's stated goal is to teach winter coats. DH sent me out to buy coat fabric (!!!!) so I could play according to Marji's rules and game plan. (You have to know what a rule-follower I am to understand this).

As I was looking at swatches online, I asked DD about a purple fabric. She said, "You know, if you make that, you will never ever see it again." So, I am going to teach her/guide her/help her sew a coat. My mother, who has been down this path before (oh, about 35-40 years ago), laughed out loud when I told her.

That is how a one-coat summer became a three-coat summer.

Remember the DeQuervain's Tenosynovitis? The inflamed tendon sheath in my thumb? DH/Life Coach does. He. Put. His. Foot. Down. One Coat. ONE. And DD Makes Her Own.

So the new plan? No Burda trench coat. Instead, use the eggplant melton from Gorgeous Fabrics to copy Marfy 1022, above.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Color and Fabric Choices

The coating on the left is eggplant melton, from Ann describes it as having a "firm weave, fabulous hand and wonderful drape," and that it "is slightly lighter weight than our flannel coatings." The blue flannel coating on the right feels wonderful, but does not play as nicely with the colors in my wardrobe and in my "to sew" pile as the eggplant.

I've ordered the eggplant and a purple flannel (not shown), which has an amazingly soft hand. The purple coating is for my daughter, who wants a below-hip-length coat.

For the coat sew along, I will be working with three very different wool fabrics: a gabardine, the melton, and the flannel. I think it will be fun to compare interlinings and interfacings with these fabrics!


By virtue of reading Shannon's blog Hungry Zombie Couture, I am tagged!

What was I doing 10 years ago?

Ten years ago I had just finished my third year as a school librarian, and was looking forward to a summer off with lots of time in my garden. My children were 11 and 8, so I was spending a lot of time driving to ballet, helping with costumes, and eating peanuts and hot dogs at little league baseball games.

What are 5 things on my to-do list today?

  1. Straighten up the kitchen. (done)
  2. Go to Anna's graduation party. (done)
  3. Set up David's table at church, highlighting his accomplishments (for graduating seniors). Sub tasks include buy plastic table cloth and appropriate confetti; select, crop, and mount photos for table. (done)
  4. Go to the grocery store to buy potatoes for tomorrow's post-baccalaureate service dinner, since David shot up all the potatoes with the potato gun at Anna's party. (done)
  5. Order coating fabric for the coat sewalong.
Snacks I enjoy.

Almonds (dry roasted, unsalted).
Dark chocolate.
Nacho chips with guacamole.
Salted-in-the-shell peanuts (see above).

Things I would do if I were a billionaire.

  • give a big chunk of money to my church
  • donate 1.5 million to the school district I work for to upgrade the 5 high school libraries
  • hire someone to clean my house
  • invest the rest and live on the interest

Places I have lived.

I don't get around much! I grew up less than 50 miles from my mother's family's ancestral home, and now live about 25 miles away from my parents.

Norfolk, VA.

Blacksburg, VA (while in college at VA Tech)

Hampton, VA (1 year)

Newport News, VA

Williamsburg, VA (for 3 weeks -- in the Historic Area)

What types of work have I done.

Secretary(to a librarian)

Library acquisitions/technical services

Architectural archives

Photographic libraries (including photo editorial work)

School library

School library administration

6 peeps I want to know more about.

Shannon has a great strategy for this -- If you are reading this, leave me a message and TAG! YOU'RE IT!

Friday, June 6, 2008

The Virtual Coat: A Girl Can Dream!

While my hand recuperates, I am not supposed to sew, trace or trim patterns, or cut out fabric.

But a girl can dream! For the next couple of weeks, I am going to blog about virtual coats. I have no intention of actually MAKING them, but I want to play around with matching up patterns and virtual fabric to inspiration.

How about this sunny yellow coat by Chado Ralph Rucci (Fall 2008):


This is a beautiful basic shape, with curved horizontal bands across the coat and down the sleeves. I would love to see more details, but this will have to do:

It looks like the braided edge is attached with bullion stitches, or "worms," as Kathryn Brenne reports that Rucci calls them in her article "Deconstructing a Master: The Art and Craft of Chado Ralph Rucci" in Vogue Patterns (June/July 2008). I cannot tell from the runway photos if the bands between the sections of coat are braid or simple rouleau bands.

For my pattern, I would use something without princess seams. This Sandra Betzina pattern (V7976) offers nice shaping with multiple darts, and a nice high armhole. Perhaps the darts could be rotated and used as seams between the curved, horizontal bands across the coat. Other pattern alterations: extend fronts to create button placket; lengthen; and construct collar so that it extends up rather than laying down.
At Denver Fabrics and Fashion Fabric Club I found these beauties in the $10-$14/yd range:

Sawyer Brook has this wool/viscose/silk blend for about three times that price:

And ManhattanFabrics has this lovely double-faced wool:

I think I'm in love. . . .And I don't even like yellow! Which one would YOU choose?

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Pacing Myself

Resting the injury is the top priority. So, I am steaming the red gabardine in sections, using my non-injured hand to hold the iron. The fabric has already been treated using the London Shrink Method, but I did not take care to keep it from wrinkling. I am using two steaming methods to force steam into the fabric to get rid of the wrinkles:
  1. Carolyn's "Steam the heck out of it" method, and
  2. holding the iron about 1 inch above the fabric and steaming it.
Just steaming the fabric (#2) did not get rid of the wrinkles. With Carolyn's method, you can force more steam into the fabric.

I know this is having an effect because the fabric ripples up with the steam and straightens out slightly as it dries.

Carolyn (and others) recommend letting the fabric dry completely before moving it. This makes for a L-O-N-G project. I got almost half way through last night and could take no more! I folded the fabric in half lengthwise, accordion-folded it, and hung it from the selvedges until I can do a little more.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

De Quervain's Tenosynovitis

Image credit: Colorado Springs Orthopaedic Group. (2001) A Patient's Guide to de Quervain's Tenosynovitis. in Hand University. accessed from on June 1, 2008.

I've been calling it an "extreme sewing injury." I first experienced pain in my thumb almost two years ago, the summer in which I helped move 4 school libraries (grasp books, pack books, unpack books, shelve books, reshelve books), typed a lot, and sewed non-stop with wonderful fabrics and trims just brought back from NYC. I've tried Advil, periods of rest, a support glove (which I lost), but inevitably the pain returns if I sew more than half an hour at a time.

De Quervain's Tenosynovitis is named for the Swiss doctor who first identified it in the mid 1890's. It is often called a repetitive stress injury, but some suggest that it is "idiopathic," having no known cause. All sewists, gardeners, crafters, etc. use the same muscles and wrist motions, and some develop this syndrome and others don't. The condition is caused by an irritation of the sheath that surrounds the tendons that go to the thumb. Some people feel or hear creaking as the tendon moves against the sheath.

Well, its back. And it hurts. I realized during this year's swap sewing that maybe the pain I felt while sewing made me enjoy it less. Imagine that! I finally went to the doctor. It is hard to explain why a diagnosis seems to make the condition more real.

The web documents suggest a recovery period of 4-6 weeks. I am not sure how I am going to stop sewing for that long, but I am determined to be a good patient, learn how to strengthen my wrist, take proper rest breaks, and set up my work area to be more ergonomic than it is now. I have ordered several books recommended for Marji's coat sew along, and I suppose I will read and dream while recovering.

Red BWOF Trench

Marji's great coat sew along is well under way with a private shared blog to track the experience. One hundred sewists are participating, with ten signed on in the role of resident consulting experts. Marji's stated goal is to lead a group of people through the process of tailoring a winter coat. Several of us have started out the journey planning to sew trenchcoats, but I will probably switch my primary project to a winter coat.

But here is my plan for the Burda trench #128 from January 2008.

Fabric: red wool gabardine
Underlining: not selected yet
Trim: gray and cream synthetic python
mottled buttons with a dull finish
gray buckle

My first task will be to select an underlining fabric. The gabardine is very fluid and light weight. They python trim is rather beefy, with a knit backing. I think the gabardine needs something behind it to support the trim.

Monday, May 5, 2008

SWAP Winners Around the World!

Julie Culshaw of Timmel Fabrics posted the winners of this year's SWAP contest today. There were 37 entries this year, from all over the world, and the quality of each entry was amazing. All participants and voters commented on how difficult it was to choose favorites, but the winners, selected by popular vote, are

Laura P, of Bucharest, Romania, who writes about her sewing adventures at Laura's Sewing Room

Shannon M, in LaSalle, Ontario, Canada, who is the planner extraordinaire when it comes to SWAP sewing. Shannon posts at Hungry Zombie Couture

Maria G. in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. See Maria's photos on Julie's web page

Johanna Lu of Goteberg, Sweden. See her photo sets at her Flickr site

Heather D from Wellington, NZ. See her Flickr photo sets here

Congratulations, ladies! Well done!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

All the Combinations


The finished group of garments includes one purchased garment, a pair of black jeans, and one previously-made garment, a linen blouse with tucks and lace insertion.

The garments:

V 2390 Wardrobe pattern

  • Jacket in silk/linen broken herringbone (Michael’s bundle)
  • Skirt in silk/linen broken herringbone with stretch lace underlay
  • Trousers in tropical wool (Hancock’s)

M 5138

  • White cotton twill weave (Michael’s)
  • Gray/blue linen (SWAP purchase from Julie; bleached and dyed)
  • Print polyester microfiber (G Street Fabrics)
V 7903 Linen blouse with lace insertion (previously sewn)

Loes Hinse Cowl Top in black stretch lace and blue mesh (Hancock’s, Spandex House)

S 4076, D Gray polyester matte jersey (G Street Fabrics)

Nancy Erickson 1965 Print polyester microfiber pencil skirt (G Street Fabrics)

Purchased black jeans

One Pattern Three Ways

I said in an earlier post that I simplified my plans as I went along. I needed to, because I did not have any TNT patterns. I used the shirt pattern for three garments: A basic white shirt, the gray linen shirt, and the print top.

This pattern was a great choice for this swap. The convertible collar coordinates well with the deep notched lapel of the Anne Klein jacket. In addition, the darts give it a sleek shape that combines well with basic bottoms. There is no collar stand, so it goes together quickly.

I made the white shirt in view d, without any modifications to the pattern.

I reduced the depth of the collar so I could fit the collar piece onto the border of the fabric and shorted the sleeve to just above the elbow. The front and back are the same length as in view a, the cropped version, but the hem is even all the way around.

The gray linen shirt is cut to the same length as view a and with the camp-shirt sleeves drafted for the print version. I followed the trim placement guidelines in view a.

This trim is sheer, so I modified the facing so that it is finished along the edge of the lace insertion.

Unifying the Collection with Embellishments

Finding a suitable stretch sheer for the skirt's underskirt was a challenge. I could not find anything suitable, so I overlapped black stretch lace over blue mesh and zigzagged them together along the vertical lines of the lace, and then cut away the blue so the stripe showed through. I liked this so well that I used the motif on the stretch lace top, cutting away three vertical lines at the neckline.

I also introduced a vertical stripe in the gray-blue linen shirt, creating stripes with black grosgrain ribbon, a black/white cord, and linen lace dyed to match. The lace is backed with black organza, hinting further at this season's trend toward transparency in garments. This amount of transparency is JUST enough for me.

To make the print blouse and skirt more like the Oscar de la Renta inspiration, I used sheer black gauze and black braid to emphasize design lines. The collar and front facing are cut from the border.

More Planning: Pattern Selection

One of the distinctive features of the Timmel swap contest is the design challenge. In previous years, participants embellished their fabric, made two or more distinctive garments from the same pattern, and created a reversible garment. This year, participants sewed at least three garments from one wardrobe pattern. With the exception of the reversible challenge, I have found all of these challenges to be rewarding learning experiences, and I continue to incorporate what I learned through these challenges in my sewing.

I selected a now-OOP pattern by Anne Klein, Vogue 2390. The skirt features a novelty stretch sheer as an underskirt. At first, I did not like the underskirt, and planned to make a simple pencil skirt instead. But as I looked at the spring fashion shows, I realized that I could interpret this design element as one of this year's big trends, underwear as outerwear.

I also liked the lines of the jacket. In eastern Virginia, where I live, summer heat and humidity is brutal. The three-quarter length sleeves would be more comfortable than long sleeves. In addition, I thought the jacket would look less "airline attendant" in navy blue than a more traditionally styled blazer. I also think this jacket will work well with nautical colors and striped tee shirts, which I may add to my wardrobe later this spring.

Finally, as I selected my wardrobe pattern, I wanted a pair of pants that had trouser styling and the wider leg. This pattern features pockets, a traditional fly front, and a waistband at the natural waist.

Looking Back on the Process

The main things that influenced the way this group of garments turned out include:

Selection of the wardrobe pattern:

This determined basic shapes of other tops and bottoms.

Weight loss:

I lost about 15 pounds since the summer, and lost about 5 during the swap contest period. I had no TNT patterns. The fit of the pants, in particular, changed from the time I finished them in January to when I took the photos in April.

Fabric changes:

The midnight tencel gabardine planned for the wardrobe garment pieces faded unevenly in the laundry. I substituted a gorgeous linen-silk broken herringbone from a Michael's bundle. The linen I bought from Julie matched the tencel, so I stripped its dye and re-dyed it.

Design changes:

I simplified my design plans as I worked through the process, and dropped one of the planned jackets.

Six months later

photo courtesy

The availability of the right print determines the direction of the swap. My shopping trip at G Street turned up the blue tribal print. The borders on the fabric offered great design opportunities.

The print sent me back to the spring shows for more inspiration, moving away from the red, white and blue theme. The Oscar de la Renta suit became the key inspiration piece for my swap. The other themes that developed as I sewed included modified underwear effects, with sheers and lace; monochromatic denim blues with crisp white; and the blazer.