Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Ways to wear a lavender blazer.

Once spring comes, that is.

Here are some looks I put together on Polyvore using items similar to (or in some cases, the same as) things in my closet.

Wow, that was SO much easier than putting it all on and taking pictures!!

ETA:  Since publishing this post, I've created even more sets!  You can see them on Pinterest here, or on Polyvore here.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A Tale of Two Blazers: A Comparison Between M6172 and S2446

Well, hello there!

Since my last post, I've been busy making 2 blazers.  My friend Shar jokingly told me that I'm on the "Blazer a Month" program after I shared my sewing plans with her, and she's not far wrong!  I've got several more planned.  Although I'm not quite sure I need a dozen in my closet - that's probably overkill for a housewife!  But they are just so darn fun to make - most of the time.

I started the new year with a second, and very successful, version of McCall's 6172.  This second blazer was hand-tailored.  Gosh, was that a blast!  (Obviously, you have to love hand stitching to find that fun, which I do.)  And the result was a jacket that is so perfectly molded to my body, it just feels like a dream every time I slip it on.  I posted several pictures in-progress on Instagram, as well as pictures of the finished jacket.  Alas, although I've worn it a few times, I have yet to remember to take a picture of myself wearing it!  One of these days . . .

This month, I moved on to Simplicity 2446, one of the Amazing Fit patterns.  Back in September, when I was getting ready for Bourbon and Blazers, I pulled out all my blazer patterns - I've accumulated quite a few thanks to those $1 pattern sales.  After perusing all of them, I narrowed my choices down to M6172 and S2446.  Style-wise, they're pretty similar.  I ended up starting with the McCall's pattern, mostly because it uses the Palmer-Pletsch fitting method with which I'm already very familiar. 

But I wanted to try them both, so I kept the Simplicity pattern out.  And in December, I ended up buying 2 kits for this blazer from Craftsy, for a whopping $25 each.  A pretty good deal, as the kit contains the pattern, the outer fabric and the lining.  I purchased the lavender kit still available here, and the navy blue shown in the pictures.  I resolved that these 2 would be my February and March blazers this year.

. . . (cue ominous music) . . .

I finished up my lavender blazer the other day, and while it's OK, it is nowhere near as fabulous nor as comfortable as my McCall's blazers.  This pattern just doesn't work for me, and I won't likely be making it again.  It confused me, honestly, because just about every review I've seen of this pattern has been overwhelmingly positive.  Maybe I'm just nitpicking?  But I figure:  I have a pattern that is perfect for me, so I really don't need to settle for second best.  I tried it; it's OK; I'll wear it.  But I won't love it like I do my McCall's blazers.

All the while I was making this blazer, I kept thinking that in my book the McCall's is a far superior pattern.  I decided to do a little comparison in case anyone was interested in the difference between the two.  I realize that my tailoring audience is probably pretty small, so if you have no interest in this sort of thing, you may stop reading now (if you haven't already).

Here's a table I made of the key aspects of each pattern:

Let's look at them in depth, shall we?

Fitting helps

If you've read any of the Palmer-Pletsch books and used those fitting methods, M6172 will be very familiar.  The first couple pages are a distilled version of all the adjustments you might need to make on this blazer.  You start with a tissue fitting, and then work your way through all the adjustments one by one; most of these are slash-and-spread adjustments.

The fitting method for S2446 is, for the most part, to take in or let out the princess seams.  There is a table to help you determine which cup size you need, and the side front piece comes in A, B, C and D cups.  All other adjustments are made to the 1" seam allowances on the vertical seams.

If your adjustments are mostly to the circumference of a garment, this is probably enough.  My personal adjustments are trickier though.  Because of my sway back and low round back, I ended up having to convert the center back from "cut on fold" to a seam.  I was able to adjust for my broad back along the back princess seam, but I felt that this doesn't give me as good a fit as the usual slash-and-spread I do. 

bust adjustment from M6172

I think that for anyone needing a small- or full bust adjustment, the McCall's pattern offers more precision, because it uses a slash-and-spread (or tuck) adjustment for the bust in addition to the princess seam.  I ended up using the B cup side front on the Simplicity pattern, but had to redraw the bust curve because it was too high for me.


If you think you might want to try out traditional tailoring, I'd recommend the McCall's pattern.  The instructions are for a traditionally inserted lining, which involves plenty of hand-stitching.  I didn't feel the instructions were enough though, either with the RTW version of my first blazer or the hand-tailoring of my second blazer - I spent a lot of time referring to my tailoring book and the Craftsy class on tailoring for both garments.  But I didn't feel the instructions for the bagged lining on the Simplicity pattern were clear at all.  And honestly, by the time I got to that point I was really ready to be done with this jacket so I didn't get out my book on lining to help figure it out - I just reverted to doing it by hand, which is default for me.

I was really surprised that although I'd made two blazers previously, I found the construction of the Simplicity blazer quite difficult.  Part of it was those 1" seam allowances.  After my tissue fitting, I went back and re-traced all my pieces so that everything had consistent 5/8" allowances.  But I also felt the instructions were hard to understand and follow; some of the terminology is different from what I'm used to, and the sewing instructions are interrupted with fitting instructions throughout.  On the McCall's pattern, all the fitting is on the first couple pages; after that, it's all construction.

The Simplicity jacket was rendered even more difficult by the fact that some of the notches didn't match up.  The most egregious error was the fact that the seam which attaches the under sleeve to the upper sleeve doesn't match up at all at the armhole - I ended up having to trim some away.

The markings on the Simplicity pattern are minimal - no roll lines for either collar or lapel.  If you wanted to hand tailor this jacket, you'd have to add those in yourself.  The lack of these markings left me unsure where to fold back my lapel when the jacket was done.

For me, probably the biggest strike against the Simplicity pattern is the sleeve caps.  The shape of the cap is tall and thin compared to the McCall's pattern; this gives the sleeve too much ease to go into the armscye nicely.  I'm pretty good at setting in sleeves, but this one was ridiculously hard.  I spent close to 3 hours just attaching the sleeves, and they're still not ideal.  Because of the extra ease, the sleeve sits up off the shoulder a bit - not a look I'm fond of.  And there was so much excess fabric in the seam allowance, I ended up having to notch it so my shoulder wouldn't look lumpy on the outside.

Sticky-uppy sleeve at shoulder.  Yuck.

Here's a picture comparing the sleeve caps of M6172 (on bottom) and S2446 (on top).  The pattern pieces are not aligned, so that you can see how much more extreme the curve of the Simplicity piece is.


The Simplicity pattern does include sleeve vents, although as written, they are not functional.  Neither are those cute flap pockets - they're not pockets at all, just flaps sewn to the front of the blazer!  Call me a stickler, but even though I don't use the welt pockets on my McCall's blazers (they're still tacked shut!), if I'm going to the trouble of making a blazer, it needs to have the proper finishes.  There are in-seam pockets on the longer version of the Simplicity pattern, and I think they're pretty cute; however, the reviews I read did say they are too small to be useful.  I made the short version of the jacket, and because I didn't want fake flaps, I left pockets off altogether.

I did make the sleeve vents on my Simplicity blazer, and although they cannot be opened, they are cute.  I chose not to add that detail to my McCall's blazers because I usually find the buttons to be bothersome when I'm sitting with my hands or arms on a table or when putting on my winter coat over the blazer.  But since they were already included on the Simplicity pattern and I'd never done it before, I gave it a go.  This part of the pattern is quite nicely drafted, I think - it includes an angled cut to make a miter which I think is pretty foolproof.

At first glance, these two blazers look almost identical, save for slightly different lapel shapes.  However, I think the difference between shoulder princess and armhole princess seams may be important to fitting.  I'm planning on researching that a bit, because I had much better luck with the latter.


Well, I think my preference is clear!  I know a lot of folks have had great success with S2446.  Alas, I am not one of those people.  I'll be using my McCall's pattern on the navy blue kit next month.

That said, I love the color of the Simplicity blazer.  I really bought it to use as a muslin for this pattern, but discovered that I can make lots of nice outfits with it!  Lavender goes with a lot of colors - who knew?   So I will be wearing this one this spring.

Have any of you used either (or both) of these patterns?  Do you have any information to add to this review?  I'd be very curious to hear others' experiences with these.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Alabama Inspiration

I mentioned briefly a post or two ago that we went to Austin, TX for Thanksgiving to visit some old friends.  The wife of the couple is an artist, and I was fortunate that she was willing to indulge my request to visit the Alabama Chanin pop-up store at Billy Reid in downtown Austin.

I wasn't really sure what to expect beyond finished garments.  I was hoping that there might be some DIY kits, but there were not - probably better for my pocketbook!  But there were two of the Alabama Chanin swatch books available to leaf through.  So gorgeous!  The girl who was minding the shop that day said it was fine for me to take pictures, so I took a lot, and I'm sharing them here with you today.

It was so fantastic to see and feel the garments created by the artisans who work for Alabama Chanin.  And I was a little surprised - they looked a lot like the things I've been making!  That is, I'd expected that the quality of stitching would far surpass mine, but they look just as rustic and imperfect as the stitching I've been doing.  Not every stitch is perfect, and I like that a lot.

My favorite pieces were those made of "Alabama Fur" and the heavily beaded fabrics.  These garments are quite substantial!

All these photos were taken on my phone, so the colors are not always true, but I'm hoping they are clear enough that they inspire you as much as they do me.

Outside the shop:

Hanging garments:

Petting some other garments:

Looking at construction:

And the beautiful swatch books:

I'm so glad I had the opportunity to see and feel these amazing garments, and thankful that Natalie Chanin has open-sourced so much of her work so that those of us who love to create can make our own. 

I've got 2 pieces underway right now, and more in the pipeline, so I'll be sharing those soon!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Tangier Ikat Quilt

The last item in my FO parade is a quilt.  I pieced the top of this quilt last spring, and it's been sitting around since then waiting to be sandwiched and quilted together.

The fabrics are 10 different prints in oranges, hot pinks and dark corals, with accents in green, aqua and white.  I bought these as a fat quarter bundle which included one cut of each print in the series.  It's been over a year since I bought the fabric, so of course it's no longer available as a FQ bundle, but some of the prints are still around.

I wanted this top to look very busy and kind of souk-esque.  I think I succeeded!

I find fat quarters to be a difficult size to work with.  I much prefer to cut quilt pieces from yardage.  It took me a long time to figure out how to use all of the fabrics, in the way I wanted to use them.  Some of the prints are quite large, as you can see, and I didn't want to break those up too much.

Finally I decided to cut each piece into squares and rectangles of 9" x 9", 9" x 6" and 9" x 3".  The 6" and 3" rectangles got sewn together to make 9" squares, and then all the squares were sewn together with the rectangles being oriented in different directions.  The main purpose of this quilt is to give me some beautiful, cheerful fabrics to look at throughout the dreary days of winter.

I had every intention of free-motion quilting this with random squiggles, but I gave up after about 3" of that!  This quilt is heavy!  And rather large, so I didn't think my arms could hang in there long enough to get it all done.  So I switched back to my walking foot and just did straight-line quilting spaced about 4" apart.

The batting was also pieced together from scraps of previous quilts, using my edge-joining foot and a wide zigzag stitch.  I was glad to get those used up - they take up a lot of room!

The binding is a very pale blue and white stripe, which I think ties in nicely with the aqua and green in the main fabrics.  And the backing is plain muslin.

I was anxious to start using this quilt, so I sandwiched, quilted and bound it all in one day last week!  And it's been used every night since :-)

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Queen Anne's Lace

Finally!  I know a lot of you have been waiting to see this finished!  And so have I!  Thanks to being stuck in the house the week before last to wait for my HVAC guys, I powered through and finished it up, spending a whopping 5 hours that day finishing the second sleeve, weaving in all the ends, cutting the neck steek and picking up the neckband stitches, and finally knitting and tacking down the neck.  By the time I finished, I was too tired to be elated!

As you can see, while it is a gorgeous piece of knitting, it's not the most flattering of garments.  I knew that going in - I mean, it's square dropped shoulders!  I did reduce the sizing from the smallest size by one pattern repeat (I worked 7 repeats around rather than 8).  This shaved about 5" off the circumference of the sweater - one pattern repeat is the width of one of those diamonds you see.

What with all the progress posts and videos along the way, I don't think I need to say much else!  If you want to look back on any of it, you can click the Starmore button in the category cloud at right.  My Ravelry notes are minimal, as the only change I made was to the stitch count on the body.  I used all the original yarns and colors used by Alice Starmore - you don't mess with perfection!

You can see here how wide the sleeves are.  The 40" final bust measurement fits me perfectly in the hips.  Ahem.  If I were to do it again, I'd make the sleeves narrower, but that's really the only other change I'd make.

Here are two photos that show the patterning well, although you've seen it ad nauseum by now.  I decided after seeing these photos that super pale lipstick does me no favors ;-)  It looks like I have no lips!  So I switched back to red for the last few.

Yes, the sweater makes me look a lot heavier than I am.  But that's OK; you can't believe how cosy this thing is.  Scratchy, yes.  But so lightweight and WARM!  Toward the end, working on it was the same as having a snuggly blanket on my lap, which is why no knitting on this happened over the summer.  I'll likely be wearing a chambray shirt under this, but for these pics I just tossed it on, as I was doing a marathon photo session that day.  You can probably tell that by the time I got to this sweater, the light was gone.  But I think you get the idea.

I have a good idea what my next Starmore will be - oh yes, there will be more in my future!  Take a gander at some of her newer designs on her website.  I'm thinking of giving myself a kit for my next birthday :-)

Monday, December 22, 2014

Sugar Maple Pullover

This fall, all I really wanted to knit was pullovers.  This one was a holdover from last year's to-knit list.  Last fall I intended to knit the original cardigan version, but this fall . . . it had to be a pullover.  Easy enough - just get rid of the front steek stitches!

I used the yarn and colors of the original pattern - Knit Picks Wool of the Andes Sport in a heathered green, with contrasting patterns in shades of wine, pale grey and white.  I don't remember the exact date I cast on, but I'd say that the actual knitting only took 2 weeks at most.  That was stretched out over about a month though, because of travel and blazer-making.

This sweater is worked in the round - body and sleeves worked separately, then joined at the armhole.  Which means that once you get to that point, it is a LOT of fabric to shift around.  Still, it's easy knitting - all stockinette, and the Fair Isle patterns are traditional in that no row uses more than 2 colors.

To change things up a bit, I decided to use a tubular cast-on.  The one I used here is used in many Brooklyn Tweed patterns, and I think it will become my go-to tubular cast on for working in the round.   It has a beautifully rounded edge and is nice and stretchy.

Once I had the tubular edges at the hem and cuffs, it didn't feel right to have a normal bind-off for the neckband.  Years ago I knew one that was sewn; I'd learned it from a Katia knitting magazine.  I still have the magazine . . . somewhere in the depths of my garage.  So I did some googling and found the very same one!  This one has the benefit of having photographs of each step too.

You can see the fold line in the top picture, going right across my stomach.  This one was in the drawer when I got it out for photos, but rest assured that it's already been worn.  I was worried that the wool might be too scratchy against my bare skin, but I wore it that way for an entire day and it was scratchy, but not unbearably so.

I really enjoyed this pattern.  The charts in particular I thought were very well done.  I have always loved yoke sweaters, so I think I'll be knitting this one again at some point in a different color scheme.

Ravelry notes here.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Blazer

The Blazer.  I don't actually have a whole lot to say about this!  I posted a lot of in-progress photos and comments on construction on Instagram as I was making it, so I'm not inclined to repeat it all here.  I will say that although this project took far longer than I expected it to, it was completely engrossing and enjoyable for me.  I learned so much, and had so much fun working alongside Shar and Lisa.

And I'm thrilled with the final result.  This is the best fitting blazer I've ever owned, thanks to all those fit adjustments I outlined in this post.  The tissue-fitting ended up being pretty much spot on - the only change I had to make in the fabric was to bring the low round back adjustment in about 1/8".  Now that I've got the fit where I want it, this pattern will become a TNT for me; I've already started gathering supplies for a second version, which will be hand-tailored.  For more information on the pattern, see Lisa's post here.

If the blazer looks a little rumpled in these photos, that's because it is!  It's already been worn a few times - sadly under a winter coat, so it got a bit smooshed.  For these pictures I went more formal than I did when I wore the blazer previously - once with jeans, a cream top and leopard belt and shoes, another time with jeans tucked into black tall boots and black sweater.

I admit that I had a little trouble setting in the sleeves - which is strange because I'm usually pretty good at that!  There are a few wrinkles at the shoulder that I just couldn't get out for the life of me, even after adding in sleeve heads.  There are no puckers in my sewing, and since both Shar and Lisa have no wrinkles at their shoulders, I suspect it has to do with my rather thin fabric.  I promise to do better next time.

Here's the (rumpled) back, which does not bind at all - bliss!

I can do this:

And those lovely pocket flaps aren't just for looks - these are real pockets!

Here's my blue-violet lining:

And finally, just for kicks, here it is with the collar popped.  I have a little side project going wherein I'm watching all the TV shows I missed in the '80s while I was busy studying in high school, college and graduate school.  So I sort of felt like I had to go there.

But I won't be staying there, because the wool is too itchy on the back of my neck!