Sunday, July 5, 2015

True confessions

The Sewing Lawyer has been sewing for (conservatively) 40 years. So she should know better. Really.

Remember those two identical pairs of usefully neutral jeans? Well, I have made Jalie 2908 at least six or seven times. In every single instance, I substituted a curved waistband (taken from an ancient Burda Magazine pattern) for the straight one supplied by Jalie. I traced it with generosity, that is to say I added length allowance at both ends (this waistband necessarily has a CB seam, due to its curved shape) so that I could get it the right length.

I always interface the waistband to ensure it does not stretch. The pants are made from the same pattern. You'd think these two factors would ensure perfection every time. Nope, "getting it the right length" involved trial and error in every single case.

Do you know what? If you wing it every single time it will always turn out differently.

Exhibit A at left, is a stack of five pairs of pants made from the same pattern. I lined up the waistband on the other side. This is how much difference there is between them. There is 4cm difference between the loosest and the tightest. The blue jeans and the green capris are pretty comfortable. The black ones are really too loose.

On the top are the most recently made ones. I discovered after committing to making them a core part of my travel wardrobe on a recent trip that the waistbands were tight enough to be uncomfortable. Not unwearable, but uncomfortable.

Grrr. Luckily I have enough fabric to re-cut. You know this is not my most favourite sewing project. Methinks I will document (finally) the right length for this waistband!

In happier news, I had an exciting week of sewing-related meet-ups. Cidell and Jordan visited Ottawa and I got to have dinner with them last Thursday. No pictures - phooey, what were we thinking?

Then on Saturday I went to Montreal for an extravaganza on St. Hubert Street with quite a number of people including world-famous Cousu Main winner Carmen, PR entrepreneur Deepika, bloggers Anne-Marie, Vicki, Caroline, (among others) and pattern designer Heather Lou.

Clearly it was a very serious conversation!

As a result, I'm quite too tuckered out to tackle those pesky waistbands tonight.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Back to regularly scheduled programming...

That speech I copied and pasted into my blog two weeks ago on the spur of the moment sort of went viral. Evidently there are a lot of quilters out there, although as many commenters said, the sentiments are relevant to all sorts of sewing/knitting enthusiasts. Welcome to the new readers who might not previously have visited The Sewing Lawyer! I hope you stick around...

In other news, I made some pants!

Actually two pairs. I had enough fabric for a long pair and these pedal-pushers. The pockets and waistband facing are more leftovers from the cotton woven I used to line my coat.

It's more efficient, but more boring too, to make two almost identical pairs at once.

I used my Featherweight and some caramel coloured upholstery thread for the topstitching.

I also cut a shirt out of the same cotton - but haven't put it together yet. That's for a future post.

The pants. Jalie 2908. I *almost* have it down pat. If I have a pair handy, I refer to it instead of the pattern instructions for the fly construction. (Don't we all sew while partially undressed?)

Except for the waistband. I use a two piece curved waistband from another pair of jeans - an ancient Burda magazine pattern. It's too long and I have to adjust it every single time I make these, but I find I have to adjust it differently every time based on the fabric so I've decided to just live with it being too long. Better too long than too short I say!

I used a snap rather than jeans button at the waist because I hoped to avoid fuss (buttonhole) but destroyed several snap parts because evidently, I lack the proper tool to attach snaps properly.

What is the proper tool for setting in snaps anyway?

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Passap progress

It's a funny thing - learning a new skill. You're so bad at it, at first. Everything takes seventeen times as long as it ought to, and you get caught out by every potential glitsch.

That's The Sewing Lawyer and her new knitting machine, the Passap Duomatic 80.

But on the theory that you will  never learn unless you try, I made a top! This was a journey since I didn't exactly have a pattern. I had an idea of the shape I wanted and some yarn.

Scientific graph
I'm not going to try to reproduce here my thinking process. There are more details on Ravelry if you're interested. The short version is that it involved knitting a sizeable swatch, and then it took a lot of measuring, calculation and graphing of the outlines of the pieces on gauge-specific graph paper (such a cool idea, you can get it here). And all that has to take place before you get the machine threaded up and going, because once you're at the machine, it's far too late. Unlike hand knitting it is really hard to adjust on the fly. (At least for a beginner like me.) Hopefully it will get easier with time.

Upside down - not sure why (but not material)
And then there's the fact that on the DM80, once you get going you can't really tell how it's going. The stitches form and disappear down the gap between the two beds.

As you can see at right, it's confusing. And that is only a dozen or so needles. I was knitting on about 135 of them. And I had lowered the front bed (which is the one at the top) to get a better view. While knitting, pretty much all you can see is the loops on the needles.

This yarn is really skinny - a 150g cone has about 2,300 metres of yarn (I knit two strands together). But so luscious! It's 54-46% cashmere and cotton, from ColourMart. In a deep and complex purple called Juniper. There is still some left on the site. I have no idea why it's not sold out; it's so beautiful.

The colour is pretty accurate in this photo
So my top. It's a sleeveless shell with a slight cowl at the front.

I made the cowl by increasing - you can see the line of eyelets to either side of the neck point where this happened. Increasing at this point keeps the cowl in the centre of the top and avoids distorting the shoulder/armscye area.

Unlike the pattern for this top, which placed the increases at the armscye edge, and left me with an awkward triangle shape at the front shoulders.

I left the cowl neck edge to roll but finished the armscye edges with a row of single crochet. This (ahem) enclosed some little mistakes.

My top is not perfect but it's definitely wearable. In fact I wore it today with my recently-completed cardigan - it has a single strand of the cotton/cashmere held together with some alpaca, so I like to think the pieces coordinate well.

A speech on quilting

As you know, I'm a lawyer when I'm not sewing (or knitting). As such, I subscribe at work to e-mails that tell me of the latest decisions of the important courts here in Canada. There is one such e-mail prepared weekly by a local law firm. I always scroll to the end where, after the serious stuff, there is a section titled "Last Word". Today, it was about a speech given at a conference on quilting (Quilt Canada 2010) by Allan Fradsham, a criminal court judge in Calgary, Alberta, where the conference was held.

Here's the text. It's long but amusing, and so worth a read:

“When, some years ago, Gloria told me that she was going to build upon her years of sewing experience, and take up "quilting", I thought she was telling me that she was going to take up a new hobby or a new craft.  I was completely oblivious to the fact that what she was really announcing was that she was taking up membership in a tightly knit (if you'll pardon the expression) group of individuals whose loyalty to one another makes motorcycle gang members seem uncommitted, and whose passion for quilting activities makes members of cults look positively disinterested.  As is the case with many spouses, I was completely unaware that there existed this parallel universe called quilting. 

However, to be completely unaware of a world-wide sub-culture operating right under our noses and in our homes is a bit obtuse even for husbands.  But there it is, and here you are.  And, most oddly, here I am.  You might wonder how all this came to pass; I know I certainly do.

I cannot now identify what was the first clue I detected indicating that Gloria had entered the fabric world equivalent of Harry Potter's Hogwarts.  It might have been the appearance of the fabric.  Bundles of fabric, mounds of fabric, piles of fabric, towering stacks of fabric.  Fabric on bolts, and stacks of small squares of fabric tied up in pretty ribbons (I later learned these were "fat quarters" which to this day sounds to me like a term out of Robin Hood).  The stuff just kept coming into the house as thought it were endless waves crashing onto a beach. And then, just like the waves, the most amazing thing happened: it would simply disappear.  It was as though the walls of the house simply absorbed it.  Metres and metres (or as men of my generation would say, yards and yards) of fabric would come into the house.  It would arrive in Gloria's arms when she returned from a shopping excursion.  It would arrive in the post stuffed in postal packs so full that they were only kept together by packing tape (these overstuffed Priority Packs are the equivalent of me trying to fit into pants I wore in law school).  These packages would arrive having been shipped from unheard of towns and villages in far away provinces or states or overseas countries (I am convinced the internet's primary activity is not to be found in pornography; that is just a ruse, the internet's real function is to facilitate the trafficking and distribution of fabric).  Wherever we went, be it in Canada, the U.S., Europe, wherever there was a collection of more than three houses, Gloria would find a quilt shop from which she would pluck some prize from some bin with the enthusiasm and unerring eye of an archaeologist finding a new species of dinosaur.

And of course, the reason that there are quilt shops everywhere is because there are quilters everywhere, and I mean EVERYWHERE.  A few years ago, Gloria had been visiting her sister-in-law in Kelowna.  While there, she found and purchased a Featherweight sewing machine.  I understand that making such a find is a matter of such joy that it may eventually attract government taxation.  When it came time to fly back to Calgary, Gloria worried about what the people at airport security would have to say when she tried to take the machine onto the plane.  She need not have been concerned.  Now, airport security takes pride in preventing me from carrying onto a plane a small squirt of toothpaste left in a rolled up toothpaste tube if the tube in which it is lodged did at some point in the distant past, contain a prohibited amount of toothpaste.  My spot of toothpaste is a national security threat.  However, when it came time for Gloria to go through security with the Featherweight, which is made of metal and has needles in secret compartments, airport security came to a standstill.  Why?  Were they about to confiscate the machine, and detain the person who dared to try to board with it?  Of course not.  They gathered around it in awe and admiration, asking Gloria questions about where she had found it, and expressing admiration for her good fortune in finding it.  And why did Gloria get such warm treatment when I am shunned for trying to maintain some degree of oral hygiene?  Well, the answer is obvious; the assembled airport security staff were all quilters, complete with the secret handshake.

Maybe I should have twigged to what was happening when the washing of all this fabric led to having to replace our washing machine, which was clearly not designed for such industrial use.  Now, let me pause here.  I understand that there is an intense debate within your world about whether or not fabrics should be washed upon purchase.  I do not wish to be caught in any cross-fire between the two camps, for all I know, as an outsider, I may not be authorized to even know of the controversy.  I do suspect that if men were making the decision, quilting would involve  lot less fabric washing and a lot more beer drinking. 

I did eventually discover where all the fabric went.  It went into drawers, cupboards, shelves, and, eventually it completely filled up a closet, which took up one full wall in Gloria's newly built "sewing room".  What we now call Gloria's "sewing room", we used to call "the basement".

I have discovered that one of the art forms mastered by quilters is the ability to purchase container loads of fabric, conceal it in the house, and camouflage the purchase so that it slips right under the nose of the unsuspecting spouse.  As a loving and obedient spouse, I have on many occasions found myself in quilt stores where I serve two useful functions: I can reach bolts of fabric stored on top shelves; and I can carry numerous bolts of fabric to a cutting table.  However, I have also started to listen to what is said in quilting stores, and one day, in a little quilting shop in the heart of Alberta farming country, I heard something that made it clear to me that quilters are so clever and, dare I say, devious, that there is really no sport for them in fooling we naive husbands.  Gloria had decided to buy some fabric (which is similar to saying that Gloria had decided to breathe), and had gone to the till to pay for it.  Upon running through Gloria's charge card, the clerk quietly said, "Now, when you get your credit card statement, don't be alarmed when you see an entry for our local feed store.  We run our charges under that name so that if a husband looks at the credit card statements, he will think that the entry is just something he bought at the feed store for the farm".  That sort of financial shell game would make Goldman Sachs proud.  I knew at that moment that there had been a major and probably irrevocable shift in the world's power structure.  I concede it is basically over for the non-quilting husband. 

As you have been told, I sit as a criminal law judge, and as such I often find myself sitting on drug trials, or  issuing search warrants in relation to drug investigations.  I must say that the more I learned about the quilting world, the more I started to see similarities between that world and the drug world.  It has caused me some concern.

We all interpret events from our own perspectives using the lessons we have learned through life.  When I saw the extent to which Gloria's collection of fabric was growing, I began to worry.  In the law relating to drugs, the amount of a drug one has in one's possession is an important factor in determining the purpose for which the person has the drug.  For example, if a person is in possession of crack cocaine (to use a drug with an addictive power equivalent to fabric), one look at the amount of crack the person possessed.  If the amount exceeds the amount one would realistically possess for personal use, then one may reasonably draw the inference that the purpose of the possession is not personal use, but, rather, it is for the purpose of trafficking the drug.  So, you can imagine what I thought when I saw Gloria's collection of fabric grow to a point where she readily admitted that she could never use all that fabric in several lifetimes.  I reluctantly concluded that I was married to a very high-level fabric trafficker.  Mind you, in order to qualify as a trafficker, one does have to part with fabric, and I see very little evidence of that happening. 

In fact, the more I thought about the parallels between the quilting culture and the drug culture, the clearer the similarities became.  Consider the jargon.  I have learned that this vast collection of fabric, which is stored in our house, is a "stash".  Well, drug dealers speak of their "stash" of drugs.  Gloria speaks of doing "piece" work.  In the drug world there are often people who bring together the crack cocaine dealer and the buyer; think of a real estate agent, but not as well dressed, through perhaps somewhat less annoying.  Those people speak of breaking off a "piece" of crack as payment for bringing the parties together.  Sounds to me like a type of "piece work".  Those who transport drugs are often called "mules"; I have frequently heard Gloria refer to me as her mule when I am in a quilt store carrying stacks of fabric bolts (or did she says I was stubborn as a mule?).  Well, it was something about mules.  And I should think that this whole conference is a testimony to the addictive qualities of quilting.

In my role as a Sherpa, I have accompanied Gloria on various quilting expeditions, and I have been impressed by many things.  One is, as I have mentioned, that no matter where one goes, there will be a quilt store.  The proliferation of quilt shops makes Starbucks outlets seem scarce.  One day Gloria led me into a hardware store, which seemed odd to me, that is until I discovered that, as I walked towards the back of the store, the store had become a quilt shop.  The metamorphosis was extraordinary, and very crafty (if you will pardon the pun).  At that moment, I knew how Alice felt as she followed that rabbit down the rabbit hole.  Suddenly, one was in a different universe.  

Another thing I have learned is that the operators of quilt shops have great business acumen.  In one of Gloria's favourite shops, upon entry I am greeted by name and offered a cup of coffee.  If the grandson is with us, he is allowed to choose a book to take home.  It is all so friendly that I don't even notice that I cannot see over the growing pile of fabric bolts which fill my arms.  I wish that my doctor did such a good job of distracting me when it is time to do a prostate exam. 

I have learned that quilting is both international in scope and generous in spirit.  I have learned that quilters are quick to assist those in need, and that they have always been prepared to stand up for what is right.  For example, I think of Civil War quilts, which often conveyed messages about the Underground railway for slaves escaping to Canada.  I think of the One Million Pillowcase Challenge, and the Quilts of Valour project.  At one point, I thought of suggesting the creation of an organization akin to "Doctors Without Borders", but decided that an organization called "Quilts Without Borders" would indeed be illogical. 

And of course, there are the resultant quilts.  We have quilts throughout the house.  They adorn beds, chesterfields, the backs of chairs.  They are stacked on shelves, they are stored in drawers, they are shoved under beds, they are hung on walls.  There is even one on the ceiling of the sunroom.  They compete for any space not taken up with the fabric, which will eventually result in more quilts.  I live in a cornucopia, which disgorges quilts instead of produce.  I have decided that quilts are the zucchini of crafts.  But who can complain?  Quilt seriously, each one is a work of art, and an instant family treasure.  While family members and friends are delighted to receive them, I churlishly begrudge seeing them go out the door.

Though I tease Gloria about the all-consuming nature of her obsession, I am constantly amazed at the skill necessary to create those works of art.  I stand in awe as I watch her do the mathematics necessary to give effect to (or correct) a pattern.  When she quilts, she combines the skill of an engineer, a draughtsman, a seamstress, and an artist.  Her sewing machines require her to have, as she does, advanced computer and mechanical skills.  She knows her sewing machines as well as any Hell's Angel knows his Harley.  She uses measuring and cutting tools and grids, which would challenge the talents of the best land surveyors.

In short, I am very proud of what Gloria does, as each of you should be proud of your own skills and creations.  They are impressive and very evident at this Conference.  On behalf of those of us who wouldn't know a binding from a batting, I simply ask that when you finally and formally announce that have already taken over the world that you find some simple tasks for us to do to justify our existence.  You might call those tasks... the QUILT PRO QUO.

Gloria and I very much appreciate your warm hospitality this evening.

In closing, the hotel management has asked me to remind you that those found cutting up the table cloths for quilting fabric will have their rotary cutters confiscated and forfeited to the Crown.”

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?