Thursday, October 1, 2015

Merchant & Mills Workbook - the Haremere Jacket

Some things are just not meant to be...

I've spent several days working on the Haremere jacket. Gosh, what a mess. And I give up. Got other things to do.

I really like the concept: an oversized boyfriend jacket, or a coat with added length. Big patch pockets. A shawl collar and 2 buttons. But I've had issues with the drafting and with fitting a couple critical points.

My biggest challenge was with the shoulders. The shoulder seam is a long curve, up and away from the neckline, then back down to the dropped armscye.

The arrow in the pic below is pointing to my natural shoulder - that's some drop. My dressform Emile has slightly sloped shoulders, while mine are straight across. It kind of fits on Emile.

However, when I tried it on, with the sides open, I could see I had a problem. The shoulder seam bubbled up, and when it came back down to earth, it actually cupped the top of my arms. So I basted all the side seams and put it on again to verify. Wow, too much curve in the shoulder seam, and the armscye is tiny. I could hardly raise my arms. There's just no give - maybe this is meant to be worn with one's arms down. Down, I say, no hands in the air!

Aargh. I fiddled with the shoulder seam last night and again this morning. Flattened it out and adjusted for my sloping right shoulder. My seam ripper got a workout, but the result was better across my shoulders. But to be able to raise my arms, I had to trim the armscye a bunch - about 2 inches at the shoulder seam, cured down the front and back.

I'm surprised my fabric, which is a lightweight denim, did not just fall apart at the shoulder/back neckline pivot point after being re-sewn about a million times. I went ahead and added the back lining, which is sewn into the neckline and shoulder seams. The neckline ends up with 7 layers in the seam. Just not pretty, and at this point I really didn't like this jacket at all.

And the loft was not pretty either! Here's how it looked before I chucked the jacket, the pattern, and all vestiges of the same (except my Workbook) into the bin.

I don't want to be a naysayer - I've seen several really attractive versions of this jacket. Everyone is shaped differently. It just doesn't suit me.

Things I do like about the pattern:

The front facing, with it's curved bottom and finished edge, is very pretty.

The Workbook uses a bound finish on the facing, but I used a Hong Kong finish, to reduce bulk. And I think it's prettier.

Stitching in the ditch, Hong Kong finish

The pockets are also nicely drafted. They have a full lining, which hides all the trimming and clipping that's necessary to achieve a clean and symmetric curved line at the bottom.

End of the Haremere tale. 

I'm off to cut out a Jalie cocoon sweater. I did a muslin last week, and I've decided to go for it in a navy knit crepe. Turner Classic Movies is showing Walter Matthau films this morning. Perfect.

Bye for now - Coco

Monday, September 28, 2015

Unexpected day with Mother Nature

Sunday morning, about 9:00, I was on YouTube, listening to Andrea Bocelli singing the Lord's Prayer at the Pope's mass in Washington. His voice is so beautiful. Luciano Pavarotti is my favorite tenor ever, but Bocelli is a very close second.

And I heard someone else singing in my backyard! It was Khalid, my handyman. When I went out to the back garden, he said he had noticed that my sabal palm (which is about 30' high, happy, and growing) had a very large skirt of dead fronds, so he had come 'round back to trim them.

He pointed out the incredible dates on the Alexander palm behind the back fence, the picture above. Weston has loads of these palms along street medians, and this time of year they fruit with abandon. The city does trim these heavy fruit peduncles, so I was happy to get a pic before that happened.

He also cut about 200 pounds of peduncles off the Chinese fan palms in my front garden. The birds and squirrels love these fruits - they turn purple and soft. Good stuff. Last year, for the first time, I let those palms fruit without any trimming. And I (and probably my neighbors) ended up with hundreds of sprouted palms in the front beds. Hundreds! This year I left just a couple bunches, because I do like to feed the fauna.

I get very itchy when anyone is working around the house, so I wandered around and took some pics. There's always something going on...

This little orchid finally bloomed! It was part of a very large specimen that has bloomed like crazy for years, all year long. But last summer I separated it into two baskets. It's sister has bloomed ever since, this is the first time that this piece has bloomed since separation. I feel so much better now.

My other ever-blooming orchid put out 2 blooms a couple days ago, and they are both open now. This orchid is getting very large, but its basket is still intact. Eventually these orchid baskets rot out, and the orchids demand repotting...

Ok, here's a newbie for me. We are in the middle of our rainy season, and I mean rain. Everyday downpour. And I always get mushrooms this time of year. But this year, I have a new mushroom! Crazy!

Mushrooms are one-day wonders, so I was really lucky to get this pic. These were about 3" across, just beautiful. I did some research: they're not poisonous, but are considered inedible, firbrous and stringy. But they were used by native Americans to treat various complaints, and there's even some folklore around their meaning and significance. So, meet Geastrum saccatum, aka the rounded earthstar.

Interesting day, to be topped off by the harvest moon lunar eclipse. I gave some thought to whether I would go outside and take photos. I admit to being really intimidated by our mosquito population this rainy season. But what the hay - I put a citronella bracelet (really, they're made by OFF) on each arm and went outside. The forecast was for clouds. What luck.

To stand outside and watch this happen is incredible. I took about 50 photos, but was distracted the whole time by just being there and experiencing the really obvious track of the eclipse.

I did go back out to see if the moon turned red - but no. And I tucked myself into a shower and bed.

The end of a very nice day - Coco

Friday, September 25, 2015

Vogue 9135 - Kathryn Brenne jacket

I had a blast making this jacket! 

I ordered this pattern as soon as it was released, cut it out in mid-August, and started sewing it in early September. And it took a while to sew and finish. So here we go - the fun and funky new jacket from Kathryn Brenne.

Curiously, I already had just the right fabric for it - a polyester faille I ordered from Fashion Mart in late December of last year. It was a possible choice for Ashley's wedding dress, which, in the end, I didn't make - she fell in love with a gorgeous lace overlay tea-length dress at David's Bridal.

Oh, let's look at it again :-) Love my girl.

The faille is a bit crisp and has lots of body. It has a corded weave, running horizontally selvedge to selvedge. And it ravels like that's it's mission in life, one or more cords at a time! So I serged all my pieces as soon as they were cut. I also put safety pins on every piece, to mark the right side of the fabric. The difference between the two sides is very subtle but mismatched pieces would have been evident on the finished garment.

Three cords to 1/4" ! Ravelling is costly on this fabric.

I adore all the gathered casings and ties on the jacket, front and back. Because the faille isn't drapey at all, self-fabric ties would have very difficult to make. Instead, I used braided cotton cord for the ties. I love how the cord looks on this jacket - it just kind of hangs around.

I just noticed that my right sleeve is not turned up in this pic :-)

I cheated once again on the casings and cords. The pattern instructions have a pretty inventive application of corset hooks and eyes, intended to secure a cord at the top end of the casing, and allow it to be drawn up at the bottom end. That hardware would be so bulky, heavy, and awkward in the middle of a garment. What I did instead:

  • Basted 3/8" elastic inside the casing ( inside and outside in the pic below), 
  • Sewed the casing to the garment on three sides, leaving the elastic-pokey end open,
  • Pulled up the elastic to gather the casing/garment,  
  • Attached the cording just inside the open end of the casing and trimmed the elastic, 
  • And sewed across that end of the casing to finish up - all nice and secure and no need to re-gather the casings every time a bow comes undone. Which they will do! As in all the rest of the pics in this post :-)

This is the same approach I used to sew the ties on Kathryn's pants, V9114 - here are the two pieces together!

A couple more sewing notes:

  • I sewed the size extra small!! This top is super wide from side to side. I generally sew a medium/12 or 14 in Vogue patterns.
  • The under collar is about an inch bigger than the upper collar, all around. It is folded forward over the upper collar and finished with mitered corners and topstitching. Tricky tricky with ravelling fabric - I messed it up on first try. So I trimmed about 1" from the top edge of both pieces and used a folded seam in the corner instead. No problem...
Right side of the upper collar, sitting on top of the under collar.

And that's it. I admit my enthusiasm flagged a few times as I was making this - it just seemed so big and awkward. But...

I love the finished jacket. It's unique, and it's truly a kick to wear. The fabric has lots of body, but it's very light, perfect for all seasons here in south Florida.

Ciao! Coco

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Merchant & Mills - the Bantam Vest


Time for more from the Merchant & Mills Workbook - the Bantam Vest. I love it!

It's such a simple pattern, just two pieces plus binding (or not). I think M&M really got the lines right on this one. String vests are not just for men! This one, for women, has such fun details: a curved hem, which drops in the back, nice deep armholes, and a racerback that fits just right across our angel wings.

Emile is my photo model today, since my post-surgery arms are not yet allowed to go flying over my head. The white straps are from Emile's camisole, so you can see pretty much where lingerie straps would fall. IMHO, a matching cami strap would be cute - I'll do it!


I love the curve at the side of the hem and the back dip.


This one is done in cotton lawn from Fashion Fabric Club. I'm crazy for this print. Lawn is perfect for this pattern - M&M uses a lot of lightweight linen, but I find it to be very scratchy, no matter how often it's washed. Other choices might be voile and challis, both of which would drape more than lawn or linen.

The binding...hard to see, but it's there. I don't use pattern pieces provided for bindings. Whether they fit really depends on the fabric - how could one pattern address all those possibilities. So years ago I taught myself to make long strips of binding (bias for wovens, across the stretch for knits) and attach them by fit and feel around the various curves on a garment. I generally start at CB and work all the way around, no pinning. All I can say is, it's fast, dependable, and not frustrating! I'm really glad I learned how to do this, since I seldom use facings on dresses or tops.

So, how to stop at one Bantam - can't do it! Here's a version in an unusual knit that I got ages ago from My notes describe it as Florence nylon crushed jersey knit. It's very light, tissue weight, with horizontal slubs and heat-set crinkles. It has absolutely no vertical stretch, but about 30% horizontal stretch. 

I've avoided using it because it seemed a little scary! But it's perfect for the Bantam.


I have the same fabric in off-white. Maybe I'll do another vest to wear layered under this orange one - it would be fun. 

I tried doing hemming the bottom, but it just curled up. So I removed the stitching and ran a small straight stitch all way around, about 1/2" from the edge. Works fine, since jersey doesn't run, unless one really gives it a good yank. 


I used French seams on both versions, and using them on a knit was a first for me. But they worked surprising well on this thin fabric.  I didn't apply binding on this one, I just turned the armhole and neck edges in 1/4", two times, and topstitched. The result is much slimmer straps.

One thing I didn't do was iron any part of this version! I tested a fabric scrap with the iron, and all the crinkles disappeared - completely flattened the knit. OK, so it's really wash & wear!

A few sewing notes:

  • I sewed the size 12.
  • M&M doesn't call their seaming technique a French seam - but it is. However, they suggest sewing it with half of the 5/8" SA in each of the two seam components. I really don't recommend that approach. IMHO, using 1/4" on the RS pass, and 3/8" on the WS pass, results in a nicer finish. 
  • Instead of using a French seam on the shoulders, I flat-felled them. This technique makes a nice, smooth, flat, and comfortable seam.
  • I took in the sides by 1/2" at each armhole, cured down 6".
  • And I redrafted the front hem a bit, to reduce what another blogger called the loin-cloth appearance. LOL - but it's true. I brought it up about 3/4" at CF, cured out in the curve on each side.
  • The lawn version used about 1.5 yards of 55" wide fabric. And the knit used only a yard!

Parting shot:

The anoles and lizards in my yard love to lay their little eggs in my hanging plants. The orchids, ferns, hoyas, and succulents. And Ms. Squirrel and the blue jays know it. A little feasting going on. Ms. Anole was caught looking a little unhappy with the situation...

Bye for now! Coco

Friday, September 18, 2015

Kwik Sew 2895 Denim Jacket - a second look

Levi's jacket from the 80's

Time to revisit a classic pattern, the good old jean jacket. It gets done in many ways, but I really admire the original Levi jacket - all those seams, welt and flap pockets, topstitching, brand buttons, orange/red button holes - what a  great look.

Here's the thing - I doubt that it's possible to make a convincing knockoff of the Levi classic. Maybe I should say it's not practical - it's sewn on industrial machines with fabric that's been treated in special ways, and with thread that we just can't source easily.

Solution? Buy one! I have a couple and love them. But I also like to fool around with sewing one. The leftover lightweight denim I used for my Strides trousers kind of stared at me and said 'jacket'. Time to pull out Kwik Sew 2895...

It's an easy pattern: the pieces fit together well, the instructions are great, and the collar is very cooperative. It has 36 reviews on Pattern Review! and seems a popular choice with sewists of many levels of experience. I sure like it.

It is really hard to photograph this fabric! A few sewing notes:

  • I made a muslin 2 years ago in white denim. And never wore it - it was a little snug on me. For this one, I stayed with the size Medium, but straightened the side seam from armscye to waistband, an increase of about 2" in the waist. The resulting relaxed bodice is much easier to wear.
  • I extended the cuff band to form a button tab. 
  • Because the collar does not have a collar stand, I added facings to the front and back neckline. I just don't like 'fold under and hand stitch' finish that's often suggested for this type of collar - it's messy.
  • And I got out the big snap tool and used antique brass button snaps instead of buttons. 

Fun with the inside, in wasabi green kona cotton. 

Here's that Pres-n-Snap tool, which I ordered from Sailrite a couple years ago. Kind of a splurge, but I love it. Because it's levered, I can close it easily, it's not at all hard to do. The 15 mm snaps are from Pacific Trimmings, a totally fun online store.

A note about denim: it ravels famously, in any weight, and it has a lot of bias stretch, even without any lycra. The first thing I did was to serge the edges on all my pattern pieces and staystitch any curves that might stretch out.

Now, about those britches - these are favorites, made with McCalls' 6291 cargo pants pattern in a tie-dye denim from JoAnns. I've worn this pair a few times on the blog, but I've never mentioned them specifically. The cargo pockets on the legs don't show in this pic, but they are there, no button flap. And the hem is plain, no elastic cuff.

Kirsten Kimono tee with 9" added to the sleeve

These pants are easy to make and easy to wear, with an elastic sewn-on waist that doesn't bunch up a lot. My very first version here...

And it's time for a fresh cup of coffee. I'm headed up to the loft, where I have a pair of purple pants in progress :-) Hope everyone enjoys a nice weekend.

Ciao! Coco