Finished Object: Seersucker Negroni Shirt

A few weeks ago, Stephen asked me to make him some shirts for summer.  I was startled.  I made him a pair of tough and hardy linen work shirts two years ago and he wears them all the time for field work.  They’re still holding up well, and the linen has softened beautifully- no need to replace them!  He also wears light, short-sleeved cotton shirts to his academic/office days but I never thought to try making one of these tropical-business-casual shirts for him.

It’s tricky to sew for another person, and I’ve learned that to avoid wadders or other sewing disasters I should proceed with caution when accepting commissions (I pretty much only accept commissions for people I really, really like.).  First, I asked him to pick his two favorite shirts from the wardrobe.  One was quite dead, a light green plaid from a mid-range-expensive men’s brand.  The other was an extremely smart pinstriped shirt I bought to go with his graduation suit.

The trick is to find out why he likes the shirts, so I can incorporate those elements in the new shirts.  I noted the fabric (plaid, stripe, blue, green) and he agreed he liked those, and very helpfully added that the striped one was his favorite fit.

Aha!  Out came the measuring tape and I noted the finished chest measurement on his “best fit” shirt.  Then I added a few shirts to a Pinterest board and he told me which ones he hated so I removed them, leaving me with the colors and styles that appeal to him.

I’ve been wanting an excuse to sew Colette’s Negroni shirt pattern since it came out, but I didn’t want to press the “sewing-for-the-husband” thing.  Before he could change his mind about summer shirts, I bought the Negroni pattern and went shopping for shirting.

I was attracted to this seersucker immediately. It’s from Spotlight of all places, and is a really great quality.  I like the exaggerated seersucker texture, it’s at the same time easy to sew, easy to launder (no pressing needed!) and very comfortable to wear.  Besides, I’ve seen several “smart casual” shirts in shop windows made from a similar material lately and wanted to try it out.

His finished chest measurement fell between the S and M sizes on the Negroni pattern, so I cut M.  The shirt he likes so well features shallow double tipped darts in the back, so I thought if he wanted me to take it in, I could make darts.

I doubt I can say much about this pattern that hasn’t already been said!  It’s definitely more of a casual shirt than a “fine” shirt, but I like the shape of the pockets, the collar, and the little button loop is a great detail.  Every time I open a Colette pattern I think to myself “What will Sarai show me this time?”  I always, always pick up something new.

This time I learned a “new” way to set in a camp/convertible collar.  I don’t know how many collars I’ve sewn or how many different methods I’ve tested but this was new to me.  Rather than go off on my own, I stitched it the way the instructions dictated.  It wasn’t bad, but also didn’t change the way I’ll sew collars in the future.

terrible indoor lighting…

I really have no complaints about the pattern at all.   The fabric would not tolerate flat-fell seams, so I finished them with my overlocker and then top-stitched through the seam allowance near the seam for durability.  I left off the pocket flaps, it seemed incompatible with the nature of the fabric.  Can you spot my pockets?

We planned a family outing to Cylinder Beach at Lord Stradbroke Island the weekend I made this shirt.  It’s a gorgeous island off the east coast of Australia, easily accessible via a ferry.  We swam, made sandcastles and had a picnic.  This time of year, the breeze smells of salt and jasmine.  It’s dreamy, I love the beaches here and wish I could live nearer the sea.

I hurried to finish the shirt before we left because- photo-op.  Unfortunately, in my haste I made a mistake in the finishing.

Can you spot my mistake?

Oh that’s right… Women’s buttonholes go on the right, men’s go on the left!  I suppose subconsciously I fell in love with the fabric and wanted it for my own.  After his initial surprise, he decided he doesn’t care and wears the shirt anyway.

Next time, the buttons will go on the left.  I also want to try adding a placket.  I have two more such shirts planned for the summer- one of plain tencel, and another of the finest Italian shirting I can lay my hands on.

In keeping with my personal “Value The Sewing” project, I put together the costings/value for this shirt.   This time I didn’t count my sewing time in the “value” because as many have pointed out, I enjoy sewing.  It was pleasant to sit and turn off my brain and let Sarai tell me how to put this together.  Relaxing.

Factoring in my time would put the “value” of the shirt at around $110, on the more expensive end of his shirt-buying budget.  He spends moderately on shirts because nicer shirts use fabric that lasts and looks nice much longer than cheaper shirts.  They are also better made than the cheapest shirts.  I encourage this.  Each shirt costs a little more, but we buy fewer shirts in the long run.

At ~$38, it’s one of my more expensive makes but the quality is comparable to the type of shirt he might buy (improperly gendered buttons notwithstanding).  I counted the entire price of the pattern in the cost; the fabric and notions cost a snivelling ~$15.

I have enough seersucker left over to make Lila a dress, I may use this new pattern from One Girl Circus:

Click for source

How cute is that?  Also- I know mommy/daughter dressing alike is a “thing,” but what about daddy/girlie dressing?  I think it would be sweet, and they don’t mind…

Exhausted on the ferry home at sunset. We spotted a dolphin in Moreton Bay between the island and the mainland.

Do you like seersucker?  Sometimes I find older people think I’m insane for using it for clothing.  The woman who cut this fabric asked me if I was making tablecloths.  Uhm.  No.

How do you approach sewing for another person?  Do you include them in the “thought” work?  Any tips?

Don’t forget- Frosting Fortnight starts on the 18th, head over to Mari’s blog for a cute little button you can add to your sidebar!

More Reading:

Fine Shirtmaking from Off the Cuff Style

Sewing with Seersucker from Coletterie

Free Downloadable Negroni Shirt Pocket Options

Technical Diagrams illustrating “enclosed seams on the shirt yoke” trickery

Man’s Jacket from a Woman’s Jacket Based on a Man’s Jacket

Does that make it androgynous or just weird?

It’s almost finished!  If I could find the other pleated pocket and flap, we’d be in business.  How does that happen?  I make a garment in a reasonable amount of time, carefully keeping my pattern pieces together.  Every piece of fabric passes through my hands repeatedly, becoming more a jacket each time yet I manage to lose a single pocket.  I searched, now I’m leaving it up to the sewing gods.  These things turn up, but progress is stalled.

I started drafting without realizing what I’d taken on.  I used the original pattern’s pocket details and eventually sort of Franken-patterned a collar.   I started cutting one night after putting my daughter to bed, telling myself I’d only cut the main parts of the jacket.  I looked up at 1am and registered horror at the lateness of the hour.  I hurriedly slapped the last pieces down on the fabric, cut it out, and put everything together to sew later.  I only realized I cut both pocket and flap upside down after about two hours of painstaking favoring and trimming the lined pockets.  I was pissed.  Don’t cut napped fabrics when you need a nap!

I discovered that linen works well for a favored facing like a pocket flap.  It readily melded to the outside fabric as I stitched, and snapped back into shape when I steamed it flat.  Very nice indeed.

I didn’t get a picture, but the original back yoke was about 3″ longer than this.  Horrible, completely out of proportion.  I only realized after I sewed it together.  I cut off the extra length and used the mid back piece to cut my new bellows pockets- this time with the nap running the right way.  I had to buy a little more fabric for the new mid-back piece.  As mistakes go, it wasn’t so bad and easily fixed.  At least I didn’t light it on fire or something.

Then more pocket problems- this isn’t my fault!  I used the pattern’s pockets, but for some reason the flaps come out nearly an inch wider than the pockets.  That’s a head-scratcher, I’ll just sew the flaps a little narrower.  See?  I had two of those pockets once.  The other one will turn up, I know it will.

(This photo is truest color)

The buttons came in today, I couldn’t resist sewing a few to see how they look.  They smell and taste like pennies, they’re even about the same size.  Yep, I tasted them.  I couldn’t help myself.  I suppose they must be mostly copper.  I figure I’ll use five on the front and nix the belt, the jackets of the time go both ways.  Luckily, the jacket fits him ok without any changes.

This time I used Sherry’s collar tutorial without messing it up, though I did add in the step where I stitch along the roll line at the back.  It helps create a nice crease along the collar stand.

I steamed it like an old-school tailor, I like the shape it builds into the collar and couldn’t help myself.  Other than that, I stuck to the instructions.  They were fantastic instructions, and his jacket feels much less bulky at the collar than mine.

Speaking of my jacket, I entered it in the PR lined jacket contest.  The contest ends very soon, please vote if you haven’t already.

Things I’d Do For Love

When my husband asked me for a boy version of my WW2 Jacket, I immediately said “Of course, no problem, anything you want.”  That’s a way I show love.  Through hard work and bluster.  I’m not always good at the affection stuff, but I’ll work my ass off to show I care when given the chance.

Well.  Turns out drafting a block for his body was a little trickier than anticipated, because Maria Martin’s template is calibrated to accommodate female geometry (boobs).  For added fun, I decided to put his block together the morning before he left to go on a ten-day ecological field excursion up north.

On the whole, I considered it good enough to work with for a semi-fitted casual jacket.  My hurried sewing caused the funny business at the front sleeve.  The drafter worked perfectly on his hard to fit back.  I used a well-loved shirt pattern to get an idea for the front.  It’s enough to work with, though the lack of a front dart does bother me slightly.

Then I thought I’d tweak the front pieces a little, make a new sleeve and get started.

Not so fast….

I took the “muslin” apart, traced the edges, and squared off the bottom edge at the length we decided on.  Then I marked things like the waistline, etc.

Here’s the back, with the exterior and lining seamlines sketched out.  The back was easy.  I traced off each pre-marked section, added pleats where desired, and drew in the seamlines.

I pinned the new back pattern pieces and compared them to each other and to the “block.”  No problems.

Lila was unusually tolerant of my drafting activities, content to scribble on a copy of the pattern pieces I printed so I could write notes and keep track of the 47-odd pieces that make up the jacket.

The sleeve was similarly straight-forward.  I threw my own sleeve pattern on top to get an idea of dart placement.  I know this isn’t the best way to make it, but I think it should work fine.

The front gave me a little grief.  His chest is flatter than mine, with a less defined waist and taller shoulders.  Men have such simpler geometry.  I wasn’t sure if I marked the front lapel nicely, but the more I played with the CF, the overlap, the roll line and the lapel, the more confident I felt.  My “muslin” had no waist seam, and I very nearly made it straight.  Then I remembered the Parthenon- it appears to have straight lines though it’s made of curves.  So I curved the front waistline much like this diagram:

Then I lost the plot while trying to create a new collar.  I knew my collar won’t work on his jacket for two reasons- 1) Bigger neckline and 2) The lapels are proportionately larger on his jacket than mine.  Just a bit, but they are and if I just lengthened the original collar piece, it would look goofy.

Dear me.  I’ll sleep on it, often problems resolve themselves while I sleep.  Sometimes that’s from my own brain, and often it’s because a pattern junkie has read my post and replied to it while I’m snoozing.  Let me know if you can see what I’m doing wrong.  I dug around and found plenty of confusing websites devoted to collar drafting, and followed my Harriet Pepin.  I used the collar page.

I’ll use the same pocket and flap pieces from my jacket pattern, but that’s it.  I ended up re-drawing everything else.

I used Sherry’s instructions for prepping the shell, the facings and lining.  Her instructions for the pattern are amazing, I figure doing them twice in succession will help cement it in my mind.  I’d like to have the exterior, the lining, and the pockets assembled by the time he gets home.  I dare not go further.  Placement for the breast pockets will be a shot in the dark at best without him, and the body may need tweaking.

Now I beg for your expert opinions.  I like the camo lining; it’s not really on display in the finished jacket.  I think husband found it a little flashy and kitsch and longingly asked if I could use a plain.  I could, and use the camo for piping and pocket lining.  Of course it’s kitsch.  I don’t dispute that.  It’s also kind of funny, but it’s his jacket after all.  Should I use a plain lining?

Do you like the buttons?  They’re brass, shanked, and pretty cool.  The only slight problem is they’re 3/4″ and I preferred 1″.  Beggars can’t be choosers, but do you think that’s too small?  What if I used another button or two on the front closure?

I promise no more jacket posts for a few days at least.

Finally, what ridiculously nutty things have you done to impress a boy you like?

Christmas Haul- 40’s Dainties and Imported Fabric

Patterns, patterns everywhere.  I made an etsy favorites list and left it where my husband might peruse it at his leisure. 

Should the jacket stars align and I find myself besotted, I could make both of these jackets.  I’ll start with the less militarized one, in eggplant and cream 50-50 silk/wool herringbone stripe.

Dresses must be simple, wearable, and serviceable this year.  I’m sick of gorgeous creations I wear once or never.  While cruising for pique, I found this cotton pique knit to pair with the dress pattern above.

Apparently, “pique” serves as an all purpose term for polo shirt material, as well as textured cottons and silks.  I found a pale green silk “mini-pique” for my DuBarry dress.  The color may be anything from slightly green to celery, and I’m not sure about the weave, but as I confidently wear green and enjoy silk, I’ll leave the fabric in the hands of the sewing gods and trust the postman.

I admit to a weakness for little blouses from the late 40’s-mid 50’s.  They’re easy to wear, simple to sew and don’t scream “vintage;” perfect for blending modern and vintage pieces.  I could perhaps make these blouses from bits of other blouse patterns I own, but it’s really not worth the time.  Besides, these simple tops often hold surprises in the drafting or construction.

What a darling little nightshirt.  I’m ever on the lookout for interesting lounge wear.  After a disastrous attempt at men’s pajamas two years ago (don’t ask me how I screwed up pajamas… a secret shame), I promised him I’d make some decent ones eventually.

The more I eyeball the this tent, the more I think it will suit very well with its ample pockets and neck darts.  Double collar?  Yes, please. 

Look twice.  Collar interest + welt pockets + shoulder darts = lovely enough to wear any time.

Echoes of Betty Draper, with so many views I know it could be a tnt tent.

 Do not get excited or wish me well- I’m neither “up the duff,” nor “eating for two” with “a bun in the oven.”  Not in the slightest.  In fact, I’m cheerfully sipping my third scotch of the night.

Rather, some chic friends of mine are expecting/ expecting to expect and I do adore giving handmade gifts.

Question:  Who exactly has a 30″ bust whilst pregnant?  Honestly, some of these patterns seemed made for a 14 year old mother to be.  I know expecting 14 year olds should be accommodated, but really… Often I think the least common sizes from the time must have survived intact.   At any rate, a stylish tent should prove easy to alter for size.  Fingers crossed.

I couldn’t resist a little purple silk boucle for a pencil skirt.  Black rules my basics, I keep branching out into other colors yet still anchored to the black.  I plan to dabble in this shade, I feel strong and beautiful in purple.

Since I barely stash and don’t buy many patterns, these represent the vast bulk of my projects for the coming months.  The fabrics aren’t terribly dear, but the shipping kills me so I limit my online fabric shopping.  I do have plenty of blouse cottons on hand, and several trouser patterns.  I’m getting excited about this year’s sewing!

T-shirts by an Over Achiever

(I made the shorts some time ago, also of hemp.)

Poor husband, I told him months ago I’d make him some new shirts of hemp jersey and then proceeded to find other projects to occupy my time.  He lives in t-shirts and shorts.

These shirts are of the same hemp jersey as my Model T.  For the first one, I used the undyed, unbleached fabric.

I use Kwik Sew 3299 for his T-shirts, with one small change to the construction.  Rather than inserting the neck band in the round, I stabilize and sew one shoulder, insert band, and sew the other shoulder.  I find it simpler and quicker to insert flat.  A t-shirt for him takes me about 45 minutes from cut to finish.  I leave the bottom edge unfinished as per his request.

I dyed a piece of hemp jersey his favorite shade of blue for the second shirt.  For the first time in my life, I matched the serger threads.
With a nod to his monkey t-shirt fixation, I experimented with stenciling.  The tutorial from Spoon Graphics provided guidance.  To make my stencil, I cut a piece of freezer paper down to the size of regular printer paper (thank you, rotary cutter).  I printed the design (in pale gray) on the matte side of the paper.  I was apprehensive about cutting the stencil, imagining a time-consuming, frustrating experience.  Fine motor skills developed through sewing must transfer to stencil cutting.  I traced the outline of the design with the blade, no more difficult than using a pencil.
I chose to create the design before sewing the shirt.  I marked the CF of the shirt, and marked the center of the stencil, then ironed the stencil on to the shirt.  The shiny side of the freezer paper adheres to the shirt and helps make a sharp image, but it lifts off with relative ease and no adhesive residue.
Australians, you can find freezer paper at your local quilting shop.
I used spray paint to create the image, it’s important to spray it from several different directions for even coverage.  Allow it to dry completely.  After that, I peeled off the stencil and sewed the shirt.   I washed both shirts with fingers crossed, but the image remained fast.
This process yields exciting results.  I’m excited, anyway.

He really, really likes the shirts- a coup.  While he’s a man of simple tastes, he is also very picky.


I decided to buy my Husband a proper grown man’s suit in inky black tropical weight wool.  I haven’t bought clothing (let alone nice clothing) for quite some time and the price shocked me a little.  Of course, I paid it, but it did give me a bigger head a greater appreciation for my skill.  (Not that I would bother with a suit jacket for him, but I do fuss with my own wardrobe quite a bit.)  Shopping is so different from sewing, I believe I’d rather toil away in my quiet sewing room than fight crowds and only *maybe* find what I’m looking for.

Husband is slim, so a slim cut flatters him.  No, that’s not my husband.  Judging from the young professional men I see on the street, I believe suits are cut in a more European style here.  I bought him a beautiful aqua and white pinstriped shirt to wear underneath with a slim black 1960’s tie.

How revolting- it fit right off the rack.  He didn’t even come shopping with me.  Perhaps the sleeves are a shade too long, but otherwise a very good fit.  Sick.

Flat piping joining the facing to the lining, two pockets on the inside left.

An extra swish pocket on the right side.  I like the completely unnecessary triangle of lining fabric.

Nice little lapel, beautiful single welt.  The exterior also sports two welt pockets as per normal; six pockets total.  I would have preferred to find a jacket with a ticket pocket, but I suspect it’s a very British/European flourish:

The front obviously has the proper chest shields (pinch test) for a nice man’s suit, and I was told the interfacing was hand pad-stitched.  I’m not bothered, the English Cut or another tailor blog did an exhaustive write-up on the subject some time ago, concluding machine pad-stitching is fine.

So with all that pretty work and nice fabric, you’d think they could throw in an undercollar:

Apparently, suit jackets don’t need undercollars any more, the very idea is rather Edwardian.  I never ran across anything in my tailoring books or readings about this.   This is not the world’s most expensive suit by a long shot, but for the price you think they could kick in the under collar, something other than what looks like dark medium weight fusible interfacing.

Is this done to reduce bulk?  To cut out the roll line?  I could see how it might speed up construction to omit the troublesome piece of fabric.  The edges are clean.  I’m happy with the suit otherwise.   I couldn’t find any other RTW suits made with an under collar.

Please advise.

Coat Progress: Alternative Collar Instructions

Left Front, Pad-stitched and ready to go.   I cut 1/2″ strips of quilter’s cotton on the straight grain.  I basted some places by machine, I hand-stitched the roll line and the neck curve.

Attaching a Collar the Arcane, Time-Consuming Way:

Step 1- Pressed the neck edge of the facing on the seam allowance, clipping where necessary.  Sew facing to front, from bottom edge to “The Dot.”  Trim.

Step 2- Face buttonholes.  I had some little trouble with this on the waistcoat, probably because I left it to near the end.  This time I tried another way.

I pushed pins straight down through the ends of each buttonhole, flipped it over carefully, and marked the lines with chalk.  

 I made several machine keyhole buttonholes on waste wool and haircloth until I made one the appropriate length.  A razor greatly assisted unpicking the top buttonhole when it went ever so slightly awry.  Then I opened them with a chisel and pinned the facing buttonholes behind the coat front buttonholes. 

Finally I stitched in the ditch around the piping to secure the two layers together.  I used tiny machine stitches.
Step 3– Prepare upper collar.  I snipped the seam allowance at The Dot to allow me to turn in and press the raw edges of the collar except at the neck edge.   
I had basted the interfacing piece in at the seam allowance, so I used my basting as a pressing guide.  I also snipped the neck edge curve.
I pressed it as sharply as I could, trimming all the way, and then basted along the folded edge.
Step 4- Pad-stitch the under collar.  I pressed under all the seam allowances on the under collar and pinned the under collar on the coat, put the coat on Husband and marked the roll line.  The edge of the collar should cover the back neck seam line, and it should lie smoothly around the neck.  I don’t know of any other way to mark the collar roll line.

 Then pulled off the under collar, and used a tiny machine stitch to secure the roll line.  I stretched the fabric width-wise as I stitched, to create a roll.  It worked well.  Then I pad-stitched the area between the neck edge and the roll line, called the stand.  I used a 1/4″ stitch, fairly dense but quick because of the small area.  On the other part of the collar, called the fall, I stitched a 1/2″ stitch.  I made the stitches smaller and denser in the corners of the collar.   I did not catch the seam allowances in the pad-stitching.  I should have trimmed the seam allowances more than I did, but my book was unclear on the point so I erred on the side of caution. 

Then I pinned the whole thing over the ham and gave it five good steamings, allowing it to dry before I attacked again.

Step 5- Attach upper collar.  I pinned it to the neck edge of the coat, positioning right side of collar to wrong side of jacket.  I needed to snip the seam allowances a little more as I pinned and then basted until it sat smoothly.  Then I stitched it in, trimmed the seam, and pressed it up into the upper collar.
Step 6- Slip under collar beneath upper collar and stitch.  I first pinned the edges together, then basted by hand.  I started fell stitching at the CB outside edge of the collar, working to the notch.  My stitches were less than 1/8″ apart, thank goodness for the Season 3 Madmen.  When I reached the notch, I slip stitched the neck edge of the facing to the edge of the upper collar.  The pressed edges butted up admirably, I just had to slip stitch them together.  I did pin the top of the facing to the shoulder seam so I could work in the curve properly.
Then I fell stitched the other half, starting at the CB and ending up at the shoulder end of the facing.  Finally, I stitched the neck edge of the under collar to the neck edge of the coat, covering all raw edges.  
This step took as long as all the other steps combined, but it paid off.  I wasn’t stressed out, I didn’t worry about something slipping out of place or coming out puckered because my tiny stitches allowed me to subtly manipulate the edges as I stitched them together.  Time-consuming, but much more control.   I was sick of stitching by the time I finished the neck edge.
Step 7- Steam, press, clap, roll, repeat.  I spent an hour and a half steaming and pressing all those seams and edges, which paid off.  It lies nice and flat against Husband’s body, I was so afraid of screwing up the collar and roll line on this coat.  I hate my last tailored jacket’s roll line, very nasty.  By the way, if I mess up with tailoring terms, please feel free to call me on it.  I’m only self-taught and can only get better.
Next up- the sleeves.  I should have started them by now, but the instructions went MIA.  I remembered something weird about the sleeve instructions, so wasn’t game to start stitching without consulting them.  I did a supreme clean and they turned up, so I can start them in the next day or two.  From here on out I feel pretty confident I know what I’m doing (famous last words?), having overcome buttonhole facings and roll lines.

Also, please know I haven’t abandoned my Deco Coat.  This morning I pulled out the pattern to transfer my alterations and made a lovely discovery- I have enough of the green windowpane cashmere to make a full-length coat.  It doesn’t have any big tailoring features- no roll line, no collar, no set-in sleeves, probably no pad-stitching, no buttonholes.  I think it will go together quickly, I’m looking forward to it.  I plan to use some black wool piping to bring out the architectural seamlines and the edges, I’ll probably put in a few welt pockets with flaps and an invisible pocket a la K. King.

Tale of Two Sleeves

 It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…it was the spring of Hope, it was the winter of Despair.

I felt rather deflated after the last (and as I thought) most brilliant attempt at a perfect sleeve for this coat turned out, well, mediocre.  I don’t want to slave away on a coat for 50 hours only to look at mediocre sleeves for the rest of its life.  I couldn’t decide which way to go towards making the sleeve work, so I left it alone for a few days and drank during my free time.

Funny, that.  Drink or sew, but mixing doesn’t seem to work well.

After a few evenings of zero productivity, I decided to rotate the sleeve.  For the sleeve above, I matched the underarm seam to the bottom seam on the sleeve.  This turned out to be incorrect, and a probable cause of sleeve-twisting.  On the track of a new development, I ripped and re-positioned the sleeve, though I had to fudge the positioning a little bit.  The front of the coat wanted to ease into the sleeve rather than vice-versa.  I discovered an ungodly amount of ease in the back.  Before I basted, I knew it wasn’t right.

Better, perhaps, than the previous attempt but by no means good enough.  Let me be clear: this is the same sleeve as above, but rotated on the bottom by about 3/4″.  I left the top of the sleeve as marked.

This time I took it personally.  The seam ripper came out, and I ripped the sleeve while Husband was still wearing it.  Then I pinned, admired, pinned, admired, and pinned.  Lila kept running around my legs and hopping on the computer.  She gets so excited about fittings.  She tries to stick pins into Daddy; when I take the pins away she protests indignantly.  She took some pictures this time:

Victory!  I still need to take in the side back seam a trifle, but I think we have a sleeve now.  I knew it could be fantastic.  Now I need to pull the pieces apart, transfer the alterations to the pattern and we’re in business.  Spring of hope!

Gentleman’s Greatcoat Muslin : Second Wave Offensive

Last night I used the sleeve alteration on Phat Chick Designs for a forward rotated shoulder.  Did I look at my FFRP ?  Did not.  I usually use that as a starting point.  I tend not to ascribe to Occam’s Razor, but rather to my detriment delight in positing plurality without necessity.  {wink}

That is to say, I should have looked at FFRP first.

Phat Chick Pattern after some alteration.  Weeeeird.  Long acquaintance with two-piece sleeves teaches me to first monkey with the upper sleeve, and then the under sleeve only if necessary.  This is the upper sleeve.  The left is the front of the sleeve.   My fingertip points to the shoulder seam marking.

Front, with Phat Chick altered sleeve.  Not so bad, not so good.  He had some mobility issues.  I spent a few years in theatrical costume.  During fittings we made actors reach their hands over their heads, touch their toes (as close as possible), reach across their bodies, jump, and twist.  If their character needed to perform any particular physical activities, we’d try that too.  If a garment doesn’t pass the mobility test, it’s no good.  This sleeve does not pass the mobility test.

Side.  Ick!  When I was altering the sleeve I realized Phat Chick tells you to alter out most of the sleeve ease.  Also, the sleeve in the illustrations was a simple one-piece sleeve with a flattish shirt-style sleeve cap.   I think I need to raise the sleeve cap and/or add in a little more east to both the front and back.  When I sewed in the sleeve, it wouldn’t ease.  In fact, the coat body tried to ease to the sleeve.  Terrible.  At lease the length is good.

Jumping Juniper, that’s a bad back.  I can’t discuss it. Sloppy.

I went back to good old FFRP over my breakfast.  They say not to change the sleeve at all, rather match the shoulder point on the sleeve to the new shoulder seam.  They further suggest not worrying if the underarm seam won’t match the side seam because no one looks.

Good solid advice.  However, the beauty of a two-piece sleeve lies in its elbow bend.  If I just plonked an unaltered sleeve onto the new shoulder seam placement, the back seam of the sleeve would sit too far up his arm. 

FFRP did suggest perfectionists should alter the sleeve seams the same way they altered the shoulder seam.  In my case, I sliced 1 1/8″ off the front shoulder seam and added it to the back shoulder seam.  I traced a new upper sleeve and did just that. 

You can see changing the placement of the seam alters the shape of the cap, but not dramatically.  Note the shoulder seam marking.  This looks better to me.

Front.  Oh dear.  This time we fit with the waistcoat and both shoulder pads in place.  The sleeve to your left is Phat Chick.  The sleeve to the right is the simpler FFRP.  It looks at first glance like the left one is better.  However, the collapse in the right one indicates to me that it has the right amount of ease and once it is made up in the proper fabric with a carefully fitted shoulder pad and sleeve head, all will be well.  Please correct me if you know otherwise.  He still had mobility issues.

Back.  Better but not great.  I realized I added extra width to the back armscythe on the waistcoat to allow for rounded shoulders.  I shall need to do this for the coat.  Once I do, the left (the FFRP arm) will look smoother.   I wanted to avoid making a second muslin of this coat, but I need to.  That’s ok, it tipped the balance in favor of deepening the back yoke curve to preserve the style. 

Left: Phat Chick sleeve.  Right: FFRP sleeve.

The left looks in desperate need of a higher sleeve cap.

The right looks like it needs a sleeve head for support (or an adjustment for smaller arms?) and the coat back needs a little more width.  I could either alter the Phat Chick sleeve or alter the back.  I believe altering the back (especially since I wanted to anyway) will fix the mobility issues and will smooth out the sleeve wrinkles.  I suspect it would also prove to be a shorter process due to my greater familiarity with the techniques used in back alterations.

Phat Chick would work well for a shirt sleeve with a smaller forward roatation, but for a coat sleeve (which has a higher sleeve head and greater ease) it is inappropriate. 

The next step involves pulling out the basting, remixing the back, and re-assembling the muslin.  It sounds like more work than it ought to be.  I might stick on the front skirt part while I’m at it.

Husband doesn’t like me to call it the skirt, but I’m stuck for any other word.  The kilt?

Finished Object: Gentleman’s Waistcoat

(Adjusted for clarity.  I could not get a good shot of the back to save my life.  I think I may have to choose between decent lining fabric for his coat and a camera.  Too bad the hemp silk will win.)

The jury’s still out on whether I’ll make the back buckle or not.  I’ll let him decide.

I love:

  • The black piping on charcoal wool
  • The eeny silver screw buttons
  • Inner collar lined with the cotton side of the cotton silk, for comfort
  • Overall interplay of the various colors and textures- deeply pleasant
  • The piped pockets.  I want them on everything
  • Sharp, sharp edges

I learned:

  • Trim the haircloth out of the seam allowances, for the love of Pete
  • Do not stitch the haircloth into the dart.  Cut the haircloth and lap it over the dart, and catch stitch the edges together.  I have done this on other projects, but it escaped me until I neared completion of the waistcoat.  I kept wondering why the thing would not press neatly.
  • Piped buttonholes and pockets may look fantastic, but they might not be the best choice for 5/8″ buttons.
  • To fit Husband (!)
  • I have no idea how to face buttonholes properly
  • Wool flannel is exceptionally lovely to work with
  • Solvy greatly facilitates buttonhole and pocket placement
  • Tailoring is not actually hard; it is time consuming and requires a great deal of knowledge and “finger-tip” skill, but is not particularly difficult.
  • Do not use a seamed piece of piping for a pocket.  That might seem obvious to some, but at the time I couldn’t make up my mind.  The choice was use a piece of piping with a seam or assemble a new piece of piping, including cutting more bias from the black wool.  Cutting into the black wool for piping before I cut the coat frightened me; I did it with the utmost timidity.

I dislike (self-critique, please do jump in as long as it is constructive):

  • Left side seam, especially the lining.  I stitched and trimmed the exterior side seams at the wrong time and had to then unpick them.  I worked hard to make the seams come together nicely (at the appropriate time), with mixed results.  The left side seam hand-stitching looks like rubbish.  If my fingertips would stop smarting, I’d rip it out and re-stitch today.  
  • The buttonholes are rather stiff.  This is the logical effect of thick interfaced wool edges, tiny buttonholes, small buttons and stiff wiry mouse tail cording used to make the piping.  I’m glad I didn’t spring for rat tail.  You must button it up using the button as leverage.  Had I made the buttonholes (by usual estimation) too large, the buttons would slip in easily and stay.  That piping clamps tightly on the buttonholes.  I’m using 1 1/4″ buttons on the coat, so I’ll stick to what I know- piped buttonholes.
  • The buttonhole facing disgusts me, a MacGyver-esque attempt to make them work. I tried facing them with a little organza patch window and snipping.  Did not work for me.  I ended up slicing all the organza out and making buttonholes in the facing by hand.  Of course I could not get all the organza free of the stitching.  Of course I am terribly out of practice with hand-worked buttonholes.  I will say that they turned out excessively strong.  Nothing is ruined, but it could be much better.  Next time I think I will face piped buttonholes as soon as I can in order to allow the best access possible to the spot.  Part of my problem came from lack of accessibility.   Next time I will carefully mark the buttonholes and work them by machine, unless I find another way or decide the organza patch method can be brought to heel.
  • The CF buttonhole edge is a little funny.  Not funny ha-ha, funny like I stitched it just a little weird.  It is not a perfectly smooth curve.  I did not care enough to fix it.
  • Not sure I got the below-the-arm fit correct.  I suspect it would be straightened out by the little back belt.
  • I forgot to under stitch.  This is why I need a comprehensive map of where to go.  The lining was cut smaller than the shell in order to allow the outside edges to fold under, but I still feel uneasy.  Especially around the back armscythe.  The lining doesn’t show, but it could.  I pressed rather aggressively, and clapped it to death.  Facings and linings that show seem to me to be the hallmark of lazy sewing.  I don’t want that!

Overall, I give it a C+.  I feel a little let down by the finished product after all the work that went into it, but I suppose it served its purpose.  I gained confidence with Husband’s fit, with the materials, the techniques, the pattern, and my tools.

I’m not sure how much Husband likes it.  I can’t get pictures of the flaws to post because he’s still wearing it.  It may be because he can’t unbutton it.  I suspect it has something to do with me being slightly cross because he told me he’d only wear it with the coat.  It is a new type of garment for him, it may take some getting used to.  I really like it, despite its flaws, and I think it is a good benchmark.  It is better than my previous tailoring attempts.

Expect a little follow up with flaws and lining.

Also, opinions on a little black top-stitching?