Monday, November 9, 2015

Sloppy Dotty

No sewing the last couple weeks, as I had another round of guests followed immediately by a trip out out town.  So this weekend, all I really wanted to do was sew.  And sew I did, although I got slightly derailed by life and ended up hurrying through this project.

The project in question is the Style Arc Dotty Blouse.  I've been fascinated by Style Arc for quite a while and have been wanting to try their patterns, so last month I pulled the trigger and purchased a few.  Here's how the paper pattern looks:  I really liked that it was accordion-folded - so much easier to put back into the envelope!

Because Style Arc patterns are purchased one size only (I got a size 8 for this top), I decided to make a (hopefully) wearable muslin with some super drapey rayon jersey.  The description says this pattern can be made in either woven or knit, and since I wasn't sure about the sizing, I thought knit would be a bit more forgiving as a test.  Sadly, the jersey wasn't a great quality, so although I intend to wear this top, I know it won't have a very long life; I had to unpick a couple areas and that left a few tiny holes.

Compare my top with the line drawings on the pattern - there's not nearly as much volume in this blouse as the pattern would lead you to believe.  But I like it. However, I won't be able to love it until I make a few fitting adjustments.  Here's what I intend to do next time:

1.  Add 2" width at hip - no surprise, as my hip measurement puts me in a size 12
2.  Shorten the sleeves, and possibly even tighten the cuff and add a continuous placket and button
3.  Swayback adjustment - this will also take out some of the excess length in the back

4.  Possibly shorten the whole torso by 1/2" - 1" - undecided about this as yet.

What surprised me is the adjustments I don't need:  I think that even in a woven, I'll be able to get away without doing a broad back or forward shoulder adjustment.  Pretty much unheard of for me.  That could be due to the fact that I bought a size 8, specifically to accomodate my back and shoulders.  My bust falls between the size 6 and the 8.

Style Arc pattern instructions are notoriously brief, and while I didn't really need them to construct this top, I tried to follow them anyway.  I didn't do the greatest job though, and I felt there were a couple things missing that gave me problems later.  So I'm glad I used this cheap fabric for my first go - I know what to do differently next time!

Most of my construction problems had to do with the front facing.  This facing is cut on with the front piece and folded back, then sewn into the shoulder and side seams.  What the directions neglect to say (and maybe I should have known by default to do) is to finish the facing edge at 3/8" before doing anything else.  I didn't realize my error until it was too late, so I ended up fusing my unfinished edge to the top - not a huge deal since it's jersey, but I'll definitely want to do it right the next time.  Also, having that excess 3/8" of facing at the bottom side seam  meant that it showed at the hem on one side.  That's the seam I had to unpick and do again, resulting in some small holes in my jersey.  I trimmed as much of the excess facing as I could, then sewed the seam with a slightly wider allowance to cover it up.

The yoke is attached burrito-style, but after that things get a bit vague.  If I'd followed the instructions (such as they are) I would have ended up with an unfinished shoulder seam, like this:

Yuck.  Instead, I kept my facing folded onto the front, then wrapped the yoke shoulder seams around it, inside out (so that the right sides of the yoke are facing each other, with the front sandwiched in between).  This gave me a MUCH neater finish:

Another problem I had was trying to make gathers in the 3/8" seam allowance.  I could only fit 1 row of gathering stitches in such a narrow space.  It worked OK for the back:

But absolutely failed at the sleeve cuff:

So next time I'm likely to convert any seam allowances that need gathering to 5/8".  I may even convert all the allowances, since the future versions I have planned are all silk and would benefit from French seams.

As I mentioned above, the sleeves are way too long on me - no surprise there, as I usually have to shorten sleeves 1" - 2".  Because of that failed cuff above, and because this is a test garment, my fix was to cut off the cuff, turn the sleeve back a few times and tack it in place.  Good enough for this version.

I think the line drawing is inaccurate regarding the placement of the shoulder seam.  Even on my very forward shoulders, the yoke wraps to the front instead of sitting on top of the shoulder, and this is backed up by how the top lays flat:

(I guess this is a good time to apologize for the poor quality of the pictures.  I had to make a choice between taking the photos with my phone, or waiting who knows how long to write up this post, so I chose the phone.)

You can also see in the photo above that I coverstitched my facing down.  I'm not in love with how it looks - it's too close to the tuck and just looks superfluous.  I think I won't need to sew it down in my future versions because the facing edge will be finished, but I didn't trust the fusible web to hold up in the wash.

Finally, just for the sake of novely, here's how that front piece looks:

It's so large that I had to tape all 3 of my cutting boards together to cut it out!  So I was surprised that the top doesn't have a whole lot of volume when it's on the body.

I realize this post is rambling, but I did want to get my impressions of my first Style Arc pattern down in writing before I forgot!  And although there were a couple things I didn't like, my overall impression is that this is a solid pattern, and I'm looking forward to making it again with my adjustments.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Conclusion (and some outfits)

I realized as I was writing all these posts that I should probably state a few caveats.  I'm not an expert tailor - or even an expert at sewing.  I'm just a lady who really likes to make, and think and read and learn about tailoring.  Over the last year of making blazers I've learned a lot of new techniques and discovered some things that work better for me than the instructions given in my pattern.  I wrote this series to pass on the things I've learned.

So don't take my methods as written in stone.  I feel strongly that in most things, there isn't one right way - there are a variety of ways.  The ways I've presented are the ones that work for me.  Maybe they will work for you too.

That said, I've come to believe that success in tailoring comes down to a few things:
1.  Slow, careful, precise work
2.  A willingness to redo anything that isn't spot on
3.  Pressing
4.  Pressing
5.  Pressing

Get the idea?

I also realized as I was going along that I glossed over some steps.  I wavered in my explanations between putting down every. single. thing. I could think of, and the idea that if you're making a blazer, you already know quite a bit about sewing.  So if I missed anything that you guys think I should have addressed, please let me know.  I've got another blazer planned for next month - hand tailored this time - and I'm planning on photographing the parts that don't overlap with this series. But I can certainly try at that time to add in anything I missed here.

And because posts without pictures are super boring, here are some Polyvore sets I made for my new navy blue blazer - an item I've been wanting in my closet for a long time.  I've already worn it with this outfit and I felt fabulous:

I'm hoping to wear this one soon:

Here's a set I made back in the spring.  That's how long I've been planning this jacket!  I probably won't be able to wear this until next spring now.

And a couple more:

Is anybody else on the Polyvore bandwagon?  It's one of my favorite toys.  I'm not great at making creative sets, but these work for my purposes - they're good reminders of outfits I can make with items in my closet.  I'm one of those people who gets stumped about what to wear when it's time to go out.  I've really loved having a library of outfits to choose from.  It's also fun to look up an item, i.e. "navy blazer," and see how other people would style it.

All right - I think I have finally exhausted myself on the subject of the Navy Blazer!!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Pressing and Finishing

This is it folks - we have reached the end!  These last few steps are not complicated, but they do take a fair bit of time.  Forewarned is forearmed.  Get your podcasts ready before you start.

Begin to prepare the jacket for its final press by pinning all the way around the collar and front edges.  As you pin, work the seam toward the back.  Remember that the back is going to change at the break where the lapel turns.

Now go back and baste the edges into this position with long diagonal stitches.  I am strongly biased toward silk thread here as it will not leave any impression on the fabric when pressed.  Don't use any knots, just take double stitches when you need to end or start a length of thread; you want to keep everything smooth.

Now go to the ironing board and press, press, press those edges.  Work it as much as you need to to get everything looking smooth and consistent, shaping the jacket as you go.  I've been known to spend a good 45 minutes on this step alone :-)  Use plenty of steam if your fabric can take it, a press cloth if it needs it, and instead of using the clapper here to flatten the edges, press with your hands or a pressing mitt.

If the hem wasn't turned up previously, turn it up now and carefully catch stitch it in place with somewhat loose stitches.  You want the hem to be able to move with you as you move when you're wearing the jacket.

Once my hem is stitched down, I go back and use an invisible stitch to secure that bit of Hong Kong facing that is going to peek out below the lining.

Pin the folded-back lining hem edge to just below the catch stitching on the outer hem.  Sew the lining in place with a fell stitch or slip stitch.  This will create a jump hem, and you'll see those last few open inches at either side.  Invisibly stitch these down to the facing.

Push the lining sleeves into the outer sleeves, then turn the entire sleeve inside out and fell stitch the lining hem just below the catch stitched hem you made on the sleeves previously.

Now in order to keep the collar in place, you have to stitch in the ditch again. You'll be stitching from shoulder seam to shoulder seam at the back neck, zigzagging from inside to outside.  I admit this part is really tedious - you have to kind of fish around with your needle for each stitch to make sure you get it right in the seam.  If you don't, the stitches will show.

Down to the wire now:  mark your buttonhole positions and make the buttonholes, then cut them open and sew on your buttons.  If you find that your basting around the edges is in the way when you are making the buttonholes, remove it first.  Otherwise, remove the basting at the very end.  Or not - you have some leeway here.  I usually keep it in until I absolutely have to remove it.

Give the jacket one more light press and steam to work out any wrinkles from handling . . .


Go wear your beautiful new jacket!  Or just sit there and admire it for a while. That's what I do ;-)  I always keep my newest makes hanging from the dresser knobs like that so I can admire them for a while before putting them away in the closet.

Happy Tailoring!!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Sewing the Lining to the Outer Jacket

Believe it or not, we are almost at the end!  With the steps in this post, the jacket will really start to come together.

Start with your outer jacket right side up:

Then place the lining/facing unit on it, right sides together:

The upper collar should be a tiny bit bigger than the under collar so that the seam will roll to the underside for pressing.  To take this up while sewing, make a tailor's blister at each corner of the upper collar by taking up a scant 1/8" like this:

You can also mark the pivot points on the collar and lapels if you like - I generally do.  Pin your entire upper collar to the under collar, stretching the under collar to fit.  Then check to make sure that the place where the collar and lapel meet matches up:

We're only going to sew the collar right now, but I always pin the entire front edge so that the facing isn't flapping around while I'm sewing.  Then once everything is pinned, I fold the lapel back so it's not in the way while I sew the collar:

Now for some precision sewing:  make sure to keep all the seam allowances at the neck out of the way, and sew from the large dot at the left side of the collar all the way around to the large dot on the right.  Start exactly on the dot so that this seam meets the neck seam, and don't back stitch.  Instead, leave long tails that will get tied together later.  Some instructions say to start in the center and work to each end, but I find that going from one side to the other with the upper collar facing up enables me to be more precise.

Unpin the folded-back lapel and make tailor's blisters at the points on the facing like you did for the upper collar.  Starting exactly from the large dot again, and keeping the neck and collar seam allowances well out of the way,  sew across the top of the lapel, turn, then all the way down the front and around the bottom curve.  Here too, don't backstitch at the beginning, but leave long tails.  Stop just before the Hong Kong binding at the bottom of the facing (or 5/8" away from the edge if you didn't do the binding) and backstitch here.

Carefully turn the work where the collar meets the lapel to make sure that the seams meet up:

If everything looks good, continue on.  If not, go back and fix anything that's off kilter.

Bring those tails you left (there should be two on each side) together at the intersection and tie in a double knot.  You'll need to clip into the neck seam allowance to the dot to do this.  You will be able to see where to tie them - it's the place that will have a little hole if you don't tie them together!  Once the knot is secure you can clip the tails, but leave an inch or so.

Remember that when grading seams, the longest seam allowance will be the one to the outside of the garment.  Because the facing will flip back at the lapel, the "outside" changes along the front opening.  Start the grading by clipping into the seam allowance about half way just where the lapel will start to turn, at the bottom of the roll line:

From this point down, trim the jacket longer than the facing.  From this point up, trim the jacket shorter than the facing.  I still like to use pinking shears at the bottom curve, but generally have to make a few more notches to keep the curve from getting lumpy.

Trim the lapel and collar points away as you would normally do.

Once all the grading is done, take the whole thing to the tailor's board.  Press and clap all these seam allowances open before turning out the jacket.  Take advantage of the various curves and points to get a really nice open seam.  Take especial care with the collar and lapel points, pressing them open all the way to the point by inserting the pointed end of the board into them firmly before pressing.

Finally, turn the jacket out carefully, working the curves smooth and gently poking out the points with a point turner.

At this point we need to do some heavy-duty pressing, so I'll leave that for the next post.  But hey - it's almost a finished jacket!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Constructing the Lining/Facing Unit

There's no need to go into great depth on this step.  Much of the construction is done just like the outer jacket.  However, there are a couple things I do differently from the pattern instructions, so I took some pictures to show.

Depending on your fabric and the finished feel you're going for, you may want to interface the front facing and upper collar.  I'd originally intended to leave mine without interfacing, but decided that the lapel could do with a bit more body, so I ironed on some very lightweight fusible (ProSheer Elegance Light).

Once that's done, stay stitch the entire inside edge of the facing.  Here's where my construction differs:  I always cut some bias strips from my lining and use them to make a Hong Kong finish at the last 6" of that inner bottom edge.

Start by sewing the ease pleat on the back piece according to the markings on your pattern.  Sew the vertical dart and trim it, then sew all the vertical seams of the lining like you did on the outer and press those and the dart open. No need to use the tailor's board and clapper here :-)

Finally, sew the front lining edge to the facing, leaving the last 6" of that seam open.  Press the lining away from the facing instead of pressing that seam open.  I generally sew ALL the vertical seams/darts/pleat and then take the whole thing to the ironing board.

Sew the shoulder seams and press them open, then stay stitch all around the neck line between the circles.

Sew the upper sleeve seam and press it open.  Then turn back the hem allowance and press it.

Make your gathering stitches on the sleeve cap, then sew and press open the remaining sleeve seam.

Pin the sleeve to the lining/facing unit right sides together, matching notches and dots and pulling up the gathering stitches to fit the cap into the armscye.  Sew this seam the way you did on the outer, with one exception:  at the underarm, taper the seam allowance between the notches so that there is only a 3/8" allowance at the bottom.  You can see in the photo below that I forgot to do this the first time and had to pick out my first seam and redo it!

Bringing up the seam gives the lining a little extra room at the underarm to go up and over the underarm seam allowance on the outer of the jacket.

Stitch a second line between the notches like you did on the outer, 1/8" from the first, and trim as before.

Here's my dirty little secret:  when I insert the lining sleeves, I don't worry at all about gathers and puckers.  No one is ever going to see them, so why fret about it?

Here's what we've got so far:

As you can see, at this point I also press up the hem allowance at the bottom.

Next we attach the top collar.  This is done in exactly the same way as we attached the under collar to the outer jacket, so I won't go over it all again.

Don't forget to do this!  It's important!

Once that seam is sewn to your satisfaction, clip into the large dot just like you did on the outer:

Then trim the neck seam allowance, remembering to keep the lapel seam allowance intact.  Press it open on the tailor's board.

Here's how your finished lapel area should look:

See how that lapel seam allowance can flip all the way up?  You need to make sure to clip far enough in so that bit can open up as much as possible.  It will make sewing the collar and lapel MUCH easier and help you get a good join at the lapel notch.

The next step is to join this unit to the outer jacket.  We are getting SO close to finishing now!