Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Amazing turnaround

My shoulder width fix (removing about 1.5cm or 5/8" of width from the front armscye and slightly less in back, tapering to nothing at the bottom of the armhole) worked brilliantly. So much so that I was able to convince myself to spend an entire day of my long weekend in my sewing room and to push through to the finish.

And as these things often turn out, after so many days of serious doubt and funk, I love my new coat!

So here it is.

Look! It fits me in the shoulders!

The pattern didn't suggest a belt with this view, but I thought its plainness would be improved by one. I briefly considered making the buckled straps for the sleeves but managed to come to my senses quite quickly.

As you can see, there is a single button in view at the neck. There are four more concealed behind a fly front opening.

I used some gaily printed cotton shirting or quilting cotton from stash for lining, in keeping with my goal of not buying any more fabric. The sleeves are lined with Bemberg so that the coat will ease over whatever I'm wearing underneath it.

All's well that ends well! I'm going to use the rest of the cotton to make the top from Vogue 7440.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Frustration on several fronts


I made Vogue 2449 before, and still wear the resulting trench coat, so I didn't see a need for a muslin.

I should have thought about the very different qualities of my fabric then (soft, limp) and now (stiff).

Right sleeve is pinned further in,
left sleeve still needs to be removed 
Stiff fabric that's coated on the reverse with a waterproof membrane of some kind. It's the very devil to sew without puckers. This is the only similar quality between fabric then and fabric now.

So anyway I had not realized how very wide this coat is across the front in the shoulder area, and how extended the shoulders. This became painfully obvious, once I sewed in the sleeves. In a softer fabric and a double breasted trench it didn't matter too much but there is no place to hide with a light coloured stiff coat front.

Yes of course I edge stitched the sleeve cap before I tried it on!

So I am spending some quality time with my seam ripper today. I think I'll move the sleeve seam in 5/8" (1.5cm) at the shoulder point and in the front bodice, leaving the underarm the same. The side benefit is that the little bit of ease in the sleeve cap (which was pretty difficult to deal with) will be taken up by the slight extra length of the revised seam line.

Machine Knitting

I bought a cone of rather lovely creamy yellow silk yarn, intending to use my Passap knitting machine to make a summer top out of it.

But it breaks. It is a noile silk that has no bounce (softness, stretch) whatsoever. When it's tensioned, its relatively short fibres just don't hold I guess.

I tried a different knitting machine. Same thing.

It's really thin and will take a very long time to hand knit.


But have a look at this terminally cute little sweater!

The knitting was surprisingly easy on my LK100 bulky machine. The collar was hand knit. In the time it took me to sew up the seams I could have made another back, I think.

Hand Knitting

So, this hand knitted cotton top was unforgivably biased. Some yarn just does that. I wore it a few times but its twistiness really bothered me. So much that I knew I wouldn't be reaching for it.
Don't know why this is sideways

The nice thing about failed knitting projects is that you can recover the materials and reuse them just as if they were brand new.

It doesn't take very long to un-knit a top, using a swift and yarn winder.

I started a new one in a lace pattern. For some reason, lace patterns can eliminate bias. Look how square the swatch is!

The pattern is Feather Pullover. You knit it top down, increasing within a modified version of the lace. So far my impression is that this is a great pattern; really well written and thorough.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Oh yeah, that coat?

Remember this post?


Not a trench

Not full length.

Not a Burda pattern (I'm using Vogue 2449, view E).

Not finished.

But it is robin's egg blue.

A sewer is always entitled to change her mind, right?


And look - I had the perfect buttons in stash!
I started knitting a cardigan in July of 2014 and I just finished it. Holy cow it took me a long time! In between starting and finishing, I went to work just about every day, a place where knitting is frowned upon. I sewed, an activity the doing of which is incompatible with also knitting at the same time. I also did a lot of curling, during which it is impossible to knit. Although I did a bit of traveling and they let knitting on planes and trains, I am pretty sure it's illegal to knit while driving. But the real reason it took me so long? Knitting acres of stockinette stitch is truly rather boring.

Last week, I'd had enough. I was within spitting distance of finishing the body (this cardigan is knit from the neckline on down to the hem). But the sleeves! Sleeves are not little tiny things; they're almost as big as the back of a sweater. And there are two of them! All stockinette; OMG I wasn't going to finish this thing until 2016.

In desperation I grabbed the life line offered by my knitting machine. I was delighted to find out that the Passap DM80 would handle my sport weight yarn (like a champ, really) and so I held my breath and carefully and with much cursing managed to transfer the live sleeve stitches from my project to the slippery little latch hook needles of my Passap, which can knit a tube, and very carefully and with much cursing knit two sleeves in two evenings.

They are not perfect. No sirree, not at all. The yarn (a strand of kind of dull purple alpaca held together with a strand of lively purple cotton/cashmere yarn) formed subtle stripes (which it didn't do when knit by hand). I managed to slip (not drop) a couple of stitches and didn't notice until it was too late to fix them. The machine left some loops of excess yarn when changing direction (4 times per sleeve, if you want to know). The gauge is not 100% spot on my hand knitting gauge. However, these defects are as fixed as I could make them, or are pretty subtle. The sleeves are good enough. And this puppy is finished.

Just in time for the warmth of summer, during which The Sewing Lawyer will certainly not be wearing an alpaca cardigan with long sleeves. However, 4 months in the magic closet will do its work, and in October or so, this thing actually will be perfect.

Do you know what knitting machines are really good at? You guessed it: stockinette. I have a lot of this cotton/cashmere yarn left. I could make a smashing light weight top to wear under this cardigan, when the weather cools off.

More details?

OK, here's the back. I like the bit of ribbing; it was so interesting to knit (not really, but it was more interesting than stockinette).

Knitting is so organic, and the construction of this sweater was super interesting (or would have been if it hadn't been all stockinette). But you know? You end up with a really floppy product. In particular, a top down and seamless sweater has zero structure in the shoulder and armscye areas. And knitting stretches, and it droops. The rate at which you increase, in this pattern, dictates the width of your sleeve caps and of your sweater body. You can't separate for the sleeves whenever you want. If your row gauge isn't perfect you can get an armscye that's not the right length. Mine was too long, and it would only stretch more with wear. This happened.

In the photo at left, one armscye was fixed and the other wasn't. No prizes for guessing which one.

Two armscye "seams" - the one
on the left is fixed

The fix is to get a crochet hook and crochet a chain, picking up the back of the knitted stitches along the armscye line (i.e. the point where I was increasing). This can draw the knitted fabric up, easing it invisibly so the line is shorter, and it also doesn't stretch so it provides stability.

The armscye is still a bit too low when coupled with the rather slim sleeves, but I will be able to live with it and this defect might even disappear in the magic closet.

Sunday, April 5, 2015


Remember these?

Completed in January, 2013.  Made from really nice fingering weight wool (Louet Gems 100% merino).  After two years of not-hard wear, this:

On inspecting my other me-made socks of similar age, made from "sock wool" i.e. wool with 25% or so nylon, they are in better shape.  If I'm going to spend a lot of time hand-knitting socks in future, I'll pay better attention to the fibre content.  

Anyway, since I spent A LOT of time knitting these particular ones (the most complicated/fancy socks in my wardrobe) I thought I'd spend a little time mending them.  

For the record this is the first time I have ever mended socks.  I knew that you can darn by sort of weaving a patch, but IMHO that's really ugly.  So I did a little research.  Turns out you can also darn by doing duplicate stitch, i.e. following the path of the original knitting.  Even to fill in an actual hole!  Here's the info.  
The finished patch is only moderately ugly.  I don't know how long it will last, but it'll give these poor tired socks a new lease on life for a little while at least.  
Then I inspected the other one.  Sigh.  What do they say?  A stitch in time saves nine ...

Friday, April 3, 2015

Mining the stash for my next project

I think I need another coat - but this time for spring and not dark navy or another subdued cold weather colour. Mother Nature is trying hard today to bless us with warmth and sun, and I know that when spring truly hits, suddenly The Sewing Lawyer's wardrobe will have to be turned upside down in search of items that are not WARM but light, in colour and weight, in keeping with the season.

The haul from stash
I've complained or bragged (depends I guess on your point of view) about my extensive stash. Recently I've made a bit of a fetish about only sewing from it.  I'm conscious of time passing, you see, i.e. running out of it before I can assemble wardrobe items from the accumulated fabric chosen for the Sewing Lawyer. Some of it won't be so suitable for the Sewing Retired Lawyer.

Today, the stash came through with 3.2 metres of 154 cm wide light turquoisey-blue raincoat fabric (Fabric Flea Market, $6.00 according to the tag still on it), and a length of fun printed cotton for lining.  I also have 9 large silvery buttons with a vague coat of arms on them. The stash disappointed me in the thread department though. I have two part spools that are the right colour, but that won't be enough.

In real life, the coating is more like the colour of the robin's egg in the photo at left.

The last lightweight coat I made was a dark brown trenchcoat, which has been pressed into service at my office during the times in the year when one wears bike clothes for the commute, and occasionally needs a cover for dresses and suits and the like. PatternReview reminds me that I made it in November, 2005.  Also that I started it around this time of year but found it a frustrating sew and completed it in November, just around the time it wouldn't be suitable at all. That sounds familiar!

Anyway, I rated the pattern (Vogue 2449) as great, but the coat itself as mediocre due to various operator errors.  Mostly, the fabric I chose was a beast to sew.  It's sueded microfibre that puckered unrelentingly when topstitched. And of course there are miles of (double) topstitching in this very classic and detailed coat. Years in the magic closet haven't altered my lack of enthusiasm for the result.

I still have the pattern, but I'd need more fabric - it calls for 3.6m.  I went diving in my Burda magazine pattern stash and came up with quite a number of alternatives. Help me rate them.

First up is the oldest, dating way back to 2000. (Yes I am a Burda hoarder. Why do you ask?)

I like the simple shape and the big collar and lapels. It calls for exactly the amount of fabric I have, is fully lined, and sports only seven buttons.

The coat is only knee length on this model but she must be very tall, because the coat is 105cm in length. This is 15cm shorter than my recently-completed winter coat but would still hit me below the knee. I'd want the coat to be long enough to cover most if not all my dresses. My latest dress is 102cm long at CB. I might aim for 110cm.

This coat has set in sleeves with what look like pretty high sleeve caps, and calls for shoulder pads, all of which makes me a bit nervous.

I present this raglan style from 2001. The magazine doesn't state the length but it seems to just cover the model's knees.

Unfortunately this coat is a fabric hog that calls for 3.85m in my size.  I'm sure I could find ways to pare that down (maybe eliminating the pleat at the CB).  Also, I'd need more buttons because it calls for 8 large and 5 small ones.

It's also only partially lined.  My fabric has a coating on the underside that I'd want to protect with a full lining.

From 2006 we have another raglan of the same length (105cm) with lots of flaps. I adore how the model is wearing it in white with bright red boots, gloves and scarf.  So smart!

If I were to choose this version I'd change the pockets. The design has welt pockets under a button-down flap.  Too much!  I think I'd go for patch pockets.  Since this style only calls for 2.8m I'd have enough fabric to add them.

I'd also have to find more buttons since this one needs 7 large and 7 smaller buttons.

Isn't this 2009 trench cute?  Except I cannot bear the "I've deliberately chosen a coat that is too short for my dress" look. If I could figure out how to make it longer without losing the quirkiness of the flounce I'd try.  But I couldn't do it with the amount of fabric I have since this style (only 92cm long) already needs 3.1m.

Under the cape is a two piece set in sleeve and shoulder pads.  Despite the date on the magazine, this combination reminds me of the 1980s.

I guess it's not a serious contender. But it's cute!


Hmm. Another set-in sleeve but this one has a true trench style collar with a separate stand. This combination gives that high square opening between the collar and the top of the double breasted front that you can see in the left-most coat in the photo. The coat can be closed right up at the neck by fastening the collar stand and buttoning the front to the very top.  The other styles we've looked at so far all have a collar with partial stand and attached lapel. They are more naturally worn open but the top lapel can be buttoned over in a gale.

View B is 108cm long and takes 3.25m of fabric and 16 (sixteen!) buttons.

When I started this exercise, I was pretty sure I'd go for the 2010 true trench. After having taken a close look at them all, I'm leaning towards the 2006 raglan, even though I know I'd never look quite as well put together as the lady in white.  So readers, which would you choose?

Monday, March 30, 2015

Just in time for spring?

While it's still cold and the S word still appears in the weather forecast with depressing regularity, The Sewing Lawyer has made a dress in a very spring-y colour and it has short (actually cap) sleeves.

I hear it looks good with 2 accordions...
The detail is a bit hard to photograph in late afternoon.

But the seams are really lovely, if I do say so myself.

I plunged ahead with this project without making a muslin.  I never used to make muslins and now I feel a bit nervous if I skip this step.  But I've learned that Burda patterns are very reliable both in terms of fit and in delivering exactly the garment illustrated. Many's the time I've made a muslin only to realize ... huh, no adjustments required!

The fit is not 100% perfect but definitely good enough. Only the back waist is a bit sloppy on me.

This was a fun sew, technically speaking (all those curved seams!) that took me out of my comfort zone, style-wise.  I waffled on whether to make the flounce or godet or whatever it is, or leave it off, whether to do the hi-low hem or level the whole thing.  In the end I took a deep breath and made it more or less as BurdaStyle intended.  The back is not as interesting as the front, and the hi-lo hem only looks good from the front (in my opinion) but I like it well enough.

Lining - power 
The fabric is wool crepe with lots of lycra; very unusual (stash, origins lost in time, it came to me via the Fabric Flea Market many years ago). The dress is supposed to be lined to the hip only but that made no sense to me.  I puzzled over what to use for lining given the stretch, and came up with more power stretch.  Why not?  I still have lots.  I cut the power stretch to the hip and used the lower dress pieces to make a lower lining from Bemberg.

Sleeve opening/side seam
The finished dress is super comfortable.  I really like the cap sleeves.  The seams come together below the arm in a really interesting way. There is enough room so the sleeves don't bind, but they don't wing out either. Very nicely drafted!

The only sewing change I made was to make the neck opening a tiny bit less deep than Burda wanted - I just sewed a smaller seam allowance at the bottom of the neckline.  I made a facing-shaped piece for the front and back neck, and stabilized the neckline with a light fusible interfacing to limit the potential for a stretched out opening.

My other little sewing secret in this dress is that I didn't sew the hem - I fused it!  I have miles of this fusible web tape that doesn't seem to change the hand of the fabric you fuse it to, holds very securely, and doesn't inhibit stretch.  I have no idea what it is - something like Stitch Witchery I think.

I thought, when I started this project, that the dress would look great with my new jacket.  As it turns out, however, I don't think they look all that wonderful together even though the blue of the dress is close to the blue in the Prada wool fabric.  The colour of the dress just makes the grey suiting look dingy.

So I went exploring in my closet, and found this jacket that I made many years ago - almost 10 years ago, to be exact (Vogue 2865, long OOP).  It has been a bit of an orphan recently but the fabric (a really interesting multi-coloured and loosely woven wool boucl√©) is so lovely that I wouldn't dream of getting rid of it, and it looks pretty darned good with my new dress, if I do say so myself.

I wonder what I should make next?

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 derri√®re.  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.)