Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A(nother) trip down memory lane

Yes I know you are all impatient to see my latest creation, but it's not finished. You see, I had to go back to work. (Cue tiny violins...). I don't seem to have enough energy to move my projects forward physically but I can amuse myself virtually, imagining that there is some reason why I have kept the patterns, made and unmade, from my past.

I've kept them, even from the dark decade during which The Sewing Lawyer started and then graduated from law school and began to realize her life-long and still held ambition to be dressed in gorgeous garments of her own creation. (Seriously, I remember as a student thinking it would be grand to never wear anything but silk and wool. I've since added cashmere and linen to the list.)

And you know, sometimes I fantasize that I could make them up again. 

Let's get started.

Butterick 6261
This one dates from the late 1970s. I made the pleated front pants more than once during my student days.

Is it my imagination, or could these again be approaching the general vicinity of the fashion cycle?  The high waist, might it look good with a certain recently-completed vintage-y jacket?  

I remember the shirt, which I made in a cotton batik print, with great fondness. I kind of wish I still had it and wonder where it went. 

Vogue 2678
Now this beauty is one you rarely see on the vintage pattern sites. It calls for 4 metres of wide fabric, what with the tightly gathered dirndl skirt and the mile-long ties of the back-wrap top. 

I made this from a madras plaid around the time I started law school. It's still pretty cute, but I'm past wearing anything that takes 4 metres of fabric I think.

Butterick 3697 - ca 1986
So VERY 1986, isn't it?  The jacket ... shudder.  But that skirt!  I made both pieces back in the day.  I still have very fond memories of the skirt.  It was long and lean and made of a thick mulberry coloured crepe.  I'd totally wear that again.  I even have a similar piece of fabric in stash...

Vogue 9770 - ca 1986

I may be biased but I still find this dress very appealing. I remember making the long sleeved version once (navy wool jersey, without the little neck tie) and the short sleeved version twice (silk noile, cotton print). I wore these in my first few years of practice. While the shoulders might need paring down (no kidding!), I fancy the dolman sleeves and slim skirt and have enough wool jersey to try this again some day.  

Vogue 1584 ca 1985
Last (or maybe least) what about this?  I totally fell for this jumper when I was articling in 1986, and I made it as per the illustration - navy blue wool, all pleats and flaps and buttons.

It was better in theory, as I recall.  And no, The Sewing Lawyer is not going to reprise this particular style.  

So what do you think?  Which (if any) of these styles could a person wear in 2015 without prompting gales of laughter from friends, colleagues and the general public? 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Just make it, for once

After the marathon of the Lekala jacket, The Sewing Lawyer needed a serious palate cleanser. The matching skirt went part way but more was needed. What is a palate cleanser?  In this sewing room, it's a project that doesn't need careful fitting and can be made up as a straightforward sew.

So I struggled with my choice. It doesn't, to be honest, look very straightforward. But my instincts were screaming: "JUST. DO. IT!!!  It doesn't need adjustments!  Muslin?  Pshaw!!"

So I did. Or more properly, since it's not finished, I am ... making ... this:

It's From the September, 2014 issue of BurdaStyle magazine. 

It reminds me of Art Deco. 

The interesting seams are easy enough to sew in the beefy and stretchy crepe fabric I'm using. And a quick try on has vindicated my choice. All I needed to do to refine the fit was to raise the front slightly at the neck edge (there was some rippling along the vertical edges of the front neckline to show it was too long for me) and reshape and take in  the side seams. 

Bob's your uncle. Stay tuned for more. 

Friday, March 13, 2015

And a pencil skirt makes a quasi-vintage-ish suit

After the trials of the jacket, the skirt was a quick and pretty easy project.  Just the thing!

There is really not that much to say, except that The Sewing Lawyer is very happy with the fit and general look of this simple pencil skirt.  In fact, a well-fitting pegged pencil skirt has been something of a holy grail around here, and suddenly here it is.

The pattern is a sleeper - it's the skirt part of a 1960s vintage suit pattern republished in the September 2012 BurdaStyle Magazine.  And now available for download too! But it appears that until now, nobody has made it (or at least, they're not talking about it).

I settled on this one of several possible pencil skirt patterns in my collection of Burda pattern magazines for its extreme simplicity, its moderate length, and the fact that it has a waistband - a very narrow one.  I muslined it up and out of the box, so to speak, it fit rather well.  I traced the 38, grading out to 40 at the hip, and reshaped the hip curve.

I improved the fit immensely by taking a narrow wedge (about 1cm) at the CF waist, narrowing to nothing at the hem line. This little adjustment keeps the side seams quite vertical - I've always had problems with side seams swinging forward in narrow skirts.  Something to think about.

On tracing this pattern I discovered that the drafting is really very nice, although the pattern is basic. The back darts are shaped in a subtle S curve, so that the fabric curves in below the waist, and out over the derrière.  I don't recall seeing this feature on any of Burda's more modern patterns.

I fully lined the skirt using the main pattern pieces, cut shorter.  The lining is attached by machine to the zipper tape and basted to the upper edge before the waistband is attached. I cut the waistband along the selvedge, which has a little fringe, and left this edge inside the skirt when I stitched the waistband down (in the ditch) from the right side. It's a good way to reduce bulk. I closed the waistband with two tiny transparent plastic snaps (ancient, from stash).

Lining - pinned & ready
to be stitched down
The back has a simple slit opening for walking ease.  I attached the lining by hand to the facing for this opening.  I also mitre the hem and slit facing corner - this is very easy to do and creates an extremely neat finish.

I'm wearing the skirt and jacket with my Vogue Knitting Leaf Yoke top that I completed in 2012 and wasn't getting worn in regular rotation.  It goes *perfectly* with this fabric.  (I tucked it in only to reveal the neat waistband on my new skirt.)

Thursday, March 12, 2015

There will also be a skirt

But for now, there is a jacket.

It's nicely lined (Bemberg, from stash) and the buttons (also stash) are quirky and just the right light grey colour.  
And some seams matched in pure serendipity, 
while others matched because I worked to make it so.

I will enjoy wearing the jacket, but certain aspects of its making were less than positive.  I'm looking at you, Lekala pattern.  You were a bit of a cheat, promising more than you delivered.To be fair, I knew you needed major adjustments before I decided to go ahead.  But...

I've already written that the muslin demonstrated major differences between the actual pattern and the so-called "technical drawing".  This is, in my opinion, inexcusable.  Folks buy a pattern based on the company's visual representation of how it will look when sewn up.  The jacket pattern Lekala delivered was not what I wanted.  The configuration of the collar and lapels was significantly different from the illustration, and the jacket proportions were different.  I had to do major adjustments to achieve the look that Lekala had promised.

The fit was not any better than I would have had from a pattern drafted for a standard size, rather than for my specific measurements as Lekala promised.  I had to make most of the same types of adjustments for fit as I do with (say) Burda or Vogue patterns.  Specifically, I had to narrow and shape the back and shoulders, and reshape the hip curve.    

I hadn't realized, when I wrote about my muslin of this pattern, that the CB was intended to be cut on a fold. Unawares, I sewed a 1cm seam in the CB of the muslin.  That's 2cm (about 3/4") less width than Lekala intended.  The resulting width was pretty good although the CB seam needed shaping. This means that the back Lekala drafted based on my measurements was way too big (again, given the neat fit of the jacket shown in their drawing).  And nobody has a ramrod-straight back, from neck to hip.    

I shaved about .75cm off each front shoulder, but could have taken off even more.  

I took a lot of width out of the front sleeve seam (both upper and under sleeve pieces) and the sleeves are still not very slender.  

I added 2cm of length to maintain the proportions of the drawing.  

Can you see the seams and darts?
I had to adjust the pattern to get the funny little partial waist seam that extends towards CF from the princess seam/dart junction to look OK.  The pattern had a line there, but you can't just toss a dart in anywhere without throwing off the shaping as a result, no matter how little it is.  

So it may be a while before I turn to Lekala again, at least for a complicated garment like a tailored jacket.  

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

In progress shots of Lekala 5054

The Sewing Lawyer must return to lawyering as of next Monday (sniff!).  I want this suit done by then.

So here are some drive-by photos of the jacket progress with random comments.  I hope looking inside is of interest to you my dear readers :-)

I used Pro-Weft fusible interfacing from Fashion Sewing Supply (site for international customers) to stabilize the entire front and the under collar.   You might be able to see that the lapel has an extra layer of Pro-Weft.  So does the collar stand.

I used a different interfacing (softer, fluffy texture) to provide a bit of extra oomph to the upper collar, front and sleeve hem facings,  sleeve and jacket back hems.

The upper back is stabilized with a layer of cotton shirting.

Chest shield/shoulder pad piece
The shoulder area is lightly padded with a combined chest shield/shoulder pad of my own invention.  The piece is drafted using the jacket pieces (front and back).  I overlap the shoulder seams and trace a piece that follows the neck edge, roll line and armscye.  The front is full width (roll line to armscye) and ends above the bust.  It fills in a hollow without adding bulk.  The back is more like a standard shoulder pad.  It's cut from one layer of Warm and Natural cotton quilt batting, with a smaller shoulder pad shape cut from fusible fleece.  I fuse them together over my pressing ham to build in a bit of shape.

 I also use Warm and Natural to cut a sleeve head, using the jacket upper sleeve pattern as a base.

And here is an incomprehensible inside photo.  At left is the back (blue cotton gingham back shield.  At the centre is the sleeve cap with sleeve head installed.  I use a catch stitch to attach the chest shield/shoulder pad piece loosely at the armscye, neck seam and roll line.  The sleeve head is attached with a running stitch to the seam allowance at the sleeve cap.

Not a bad result, if I do say so myself...

Saturday, March 7, 2015


The subtitle for this post is "measure twice, cut once". And BTW, don't listen to audiobooks when you are cutting, unless you are sure you have lots of fabric. 

As you can see, I sort of ran out of fabric when cutting out my sleeves. (The fabric towards the camera was earmarked for other pieces.)

But no worries, I fixed it. 

Pretty good, unless someone invades my personal space. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

This 'n' that

In the past couple of years my contributions to Pattern Review have tailed off but this year I decided I will faithfully post every sewing project I complete.  I played a bit of catch up and in  the last week, I posted reviews of the coat I just finished and the volcano-inspired dress I made from a sari last fall.

And what do you know, PR made me the Member in Focus on their blog!  I have been a member since 2004 and I've posted 177 pattern reviews.  That seems like an awful lot!

I'm at work on project #178 - my Lekala jacket.  I made some final adjustments to the pattern to further reduce the size of the collar and fine tune the fit.  Thanks to the commenters who made suggestions!  I confirmed that I have enough fabric to make a skirt to match, so it'll be another Sewing Lawyer suit.  I traced off a pencil skirt from the September, 2012 issue of BurdaStyle Magazine.  Specifically, the one from this interesting vintage suit.  I wanted something sleek and this skirt is - it's nicely pegged and with some reshaping at the hip and lengthening of certain darts, I think I have a good fit.

Extreme closeup - Prada wool with
wool double crepe and light wool challis
As a reminder, I'll make the jacket and skirt from a length of Prada novelty weave wool.  At left it's posing with some light blue wool/lycra that is destined for dress #1.  At right you can see the detail of the weave (although the light blue in the weave is kind of washed out) and how good it looks with the dark grey wool double crepe I purchased at the same time (dress #2).

I also discovered a long piece of extraordinarily lightweight wool challis deep in my stash.  It's so old that I can no longer remember where I got it, but I am pretty sure that I got it at a thrift shop or other source of old stock.  It's only 34" wide! I believe it is within the class of fabric known as "nun's veiling".

It's a very light grey and I think it might make a really nice top of some kind.  Pattern TBD.

In other news, I got out my bulky knitting machine (it's a Singer LK-100) to see if I could coax it into cooperating in the production of some colour-work - specifically, stranded knitting and intarsia. I didn't want to commit to a really big (adult-sized) project and settled on a vintage Mary Maxim pattern for a little boy's jacket, "Soldier Boy".  I'm making size 4 in the hopes that it will fit the grandson of a friend.

And I made a sleeve. It's not perfect but it's not bad for a first attempt.  AND IT'S SO CUTE!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Lekala jacket - muslin 2.0

Muslin 2.0 (collar points pinned under)
Muslin 1.0
I transferred the fitting adjustments to my pattern and completely redrafted the front. The collar still isn't quite right, but I think it only requires a bit of reshaping and it's now the right size.

This was no mean feat, I can tell you. The Sewing Lawyer has made a ton of jackets and owns quite a number of pattern drafting books, many of which were read (in parts) yesterday afternoon. But pattern drafting isn't an intuitive art in these parts.  In the end Vogue 7908 (now OOP) came to the rescue.

Vogue 7908
At left is my version of that jacket. This lapel is extremely high and rather big, and the collar is very small.  However I thought it would be a useful starting point.

At right is the collar/lapel I cobbled together.  I am pleased that it actually works, although the collar is still too big and not quite the right shape.

And here is proof that all the seams and darts from the Lekala sketch are present and accounted for - in the comments to my last post, there was a question about that.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Notes on a muslin - Lekala 5054

This is what it's supposed to look like
The Sewing Lawyer is adventurous, but cautious.  Lekala is a new experience so careful testing of Lekala 5054 is needed before she cuts into her precious precious precious Prada wool suiting.

So here's the muslin. FYI I've inserted small shoulder pads for these photos.  

There's good and bad in this.  One good thing is that the pieces went together quite easily despite the almost complete lack of markings.
Even though Lekala drafts to your specified measurements, the fit isn't perfect. And I didn't expect it to be. However, it is manageable with tweaks that are not too alien in my experience. I need a small wedge taken out of the CF above my bust, the front shoulder is a bit too broad, and I need some more shaping in the princess seams. Also, the darts are a bit too high.  Finally, the hip curve is too extreme.  

The CB is dead straight, which I knew would not work for me.  I've pinched out about 2cm at the waist through the CB seam.  Although the upper back appears too wide in this photo I will leave this as is.  It can always be adjusted in the sewing, and I need a bit of room there.

Style-wise, the pattern doesn't match the so-called "technical" drawing, which to me is more of a sketch.

I have cut off the seam allowances at CF, and on the collar and lapels.  The buttons are placed lower on the pattern and the lapels and collar are both bigger and rounder than I would have liked.  I don't think it will be too difficult to make the adjustments I want.

The proportions of the peplum are also different - I have not cut off the hem allowance but to me, the unhemmed length is about right.

The sleeves seem too wide to me.  I'll remove width from the front seam on both the upper and under sleeve sleeves.  This will also add a nice curve - as drafted this seam is pretty straight on both pieces.

You can't see it in these photos, but the curved opening at the back sleeve seam is differently-shaped on the upper and under sleeve pieces.  I think they should be the same.

It's interesting that the sleeves are the right length for me since I have short arms and  usually have to shorten sleeves by about 2.5cm.  I made the mistake of telling this to Lekala the only other time I ordered one of their patterns, and the sleeves were ridiculously short (you can't specify how much shorter than average your arms are).  This time I let them think I had arms of average length.

I already pointed out that there are few markings on this pattern.  This didn't bother me except in relation to the sleeves.  There is some ease in the back sleeve seam and you have to know where to put it (in the elbow area).  Setting the sleeve in was more of a problem. There is only one mark - to show where the sleeve cap sits relative to the shoulder seam.  When, after a couple of tries, I got it properly set in, I realized that the sleeve cap has very little ease and all of it is in the front shoulder. I'm going to take note of the point where the under sleeve intersects with the side seam and add another mark there.

I'm inclined to proceed.  Comments?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Finally! One more for the closet

Actually keeping me warm
Hooray!  It's done!

I'm tired of thinking about this coat, so here are some pictures.

BTW, that hat?  Wildhagen - Beautiful and interesting hats designed and made in Toronto, Ontario.

Of the coat details - lots of buttons and topstitching (triple stitch at 4mm, ordinary sewing thread).

Of the lining and some inner details (I finally found a good use for one of the magnetic buttons/snap in stash).

Of how the non-working buttons sink nicely into the tiny sewn buttonholes on the CF - the button is sewn to the facing layer beneath.

Want more sewing/construction information?  Check out PatternReview.  Want more pictures? Check out my Flickr album.