Sunday, 25 October 2009

The second sleeve

The second sleeve for my jacket (I haven't named this one yet - I'm thinking Polly.. Polly the Practice!) I did at home. As I had more time, I thought I'd give the gathering technique a bash. SO I first sewed two lines of gathering stitches (see right) around the cap of the sleeve. Then I pinned the sleeve into the armhole matching the notches at the top and bottom. I gathered the threads in two halves, on each side of the top pin. One side was fine, but the other side was really stiff (maybe the two rows of gathering stitches were a little close together at some point) which made it hard to spread out the ease equally and in the right places. Once I'd gathered the threads enough to fit the sleeve to the armhole, I pinned it all together, ready for sewing.

I actually found it really hard to sew this, going around in a circle not being able to see... I wasn't a massive fan of the gathering stitch method... I found it really hard to sew the gathering without getting little folds in the seam. I think I should have sewn the two rows of gathering stitches further apart and then sewn it properly between the two lines of gathering - something our teacher did in sewing class which worked really well...

Once I'd clipped the curves and turned it the right way out, given it an iron and hemmed the peplum, it looked pretty cool! And it does fit really quite well. You can see the little tucks resulting from the dodgy gathering on the left sleeve (right as you look from the front) and also where I managed to cock up sewing on the pocket flaps... woops. I think I might put little patch pockets on the front - I always think those fake flaps look a little weird on their own. The pointy shape of the pocket flaps is echoed in the cuff of the sleeves though you can't see the cuffs very well in the pictures. As I say, I reckon they'd look much better as three quarter length sleeves...

So because I've been so slow in class, I have a LOT of homework this week. I have to cut out the pattern (other than the sleeves which I will adjust and cut in class with the benefit of our lovely teacher's expertise) in the outer fabric and the lining, and I also need to get some interlining I think (our teacher said this - I assume she means interlining as opposed to interfacing?!)... next work looks as if it could be horrific at work so this could be pretty tough!


Yet another horrific journey to Curtain Road yesterday (why is it that the tube is always massively dysfunctional at the weekends??) Another cab ride from Kings Cross due to no northern line trains... anyway I digress.

This week in class I spent my time getting the stage where I was ready to - wait for it - set in a sleeve. My first ever set in sleeve. The experience was not all I'd hoped for. I spent a good half hour battling with a recalcitrant sewing machine and sewing the same seam on the sleeve about five times, then putting in the facings (I wanted a practice run at that before doing it For Real) and then I realised I hadn't sewed the side seams, or put the peplum on (GAGH)... So about about twenty minutes before the end of class I was finally at the stage of putting in the sleeve. I had managed to miss a previous demonstration by our lovely teacher, and was feeling pressured to get the sleeve in so our teacher could then help me adjust the fit if necessary, so I just went for it. The pattern instructions suggested adjusting the ease with two rows of gathering stitches, but I didn't have time for that so I just had to ease it in by hand. To be honest, I was reasonably happy with the way it turned out - see the pic at the top right, after I'd put on the right sleeve only. I tried to put most of the ease in round the cap at the top. After all that, it turns out that other than moving the bust dart down 3cm, it doesn't need any adjustments! I though perhaps maybe the sleeves were too loose but I think I am going to make the sleeves shorter anyway, 3/4 length. And there will be a bit more bulk to the whole thing once it has bulkier fashion fabric (think I am going to make it in a tweedy-type fabric I bought at Goldhawk Road in the summer - see pic left), lining and interlining. And shoulder pads - our teacher said she will show me how to put in some sleeve cap things which give a nice roll to the fabric.

Today I put in the other sleeve and hemmed the peplum - I will tell you more about that in a separate post.

Set in sleeve challenge completed!

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Insano alien models

Ok, I am not a feminist fascist in any way, shape or form but I feel compelled to post something about the ABSOLUTE CRAZINESS surrounding Ralph Lauren and those pictures at the moment.

It is incredible that a high fashion label like Ralph Lauren think that those girls in the 'extreme' airbrushed picture look good (I am LOVING how people are referring to the other as the 'untouched' image – yeh RIGHT – they are both airbrushed to death, but the 'extreme' version takes the concept to new levels). I love high fashion and I love the way that many of these 5'10", size 8 models look when they walk down the runway or appear in adverts. They are a different breed – plenty of these girls are perfectly healthy and do not have eating disorders, but are just lucky enough to have outstanding genes. However, there are times when you see girls in magazines and on the catwalk (usually the latter in my experience – perhaps because they're not airbrushed healthy!) where they look emaciated, gaunt and plain old just-too-thin. But what Ralph Lauren have done to these pictures makes the models look like aliens. It is so extreme it is laughable. I even wonder if those who are dealing with eating disorders and therefore may be particularly sensitive to such images would find the 'extreme' picture something to aspire to, in preference to the 'untouched' image.

What is perhaps most alarming is that these pictures have obviously been through various stages of approval and sign off – one assumes at a high level – in order to appear in the marketing campaign. Which must mean that more than one person within the organisation thought these were acceptable advertising images. AGAIN – didn't they learn their lesson the first time?

It all comes back to the same thing. The media (a nebulous concept I agree, but I think it unfair to limit the reference here to just fashion media) promoting an increasingly fantastical and totally unobtainable standard for women. It is remarkable that designers need to airbrush a supermodel such that her head is larger than her waist in order to promote their product. It is even more remarkable that they believe this to be a marketing strategy that will work. Or is the sad thing that it actually might??

What say you? Do they print this tosh because it actually works in getting women to buy their clothes, or have they gone too far this time?

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Lapel horror

So today in sewing class I actually started sewing. Wow. Imagine the excitement! I didn't make all that much progress in class as we were watching lots of demonstrations on how to fit a dress and how to ease and gather - our teacher makes it look so easy!

Given how long everything seems to take me, I thought I'd do a little extra at home this weekend. The pic at the top right shows where I'm up to so far - the bodice with lapels completed (though the side seams aren't stitched yet, I have just pinned them together for size), beautifully modelled by dearest Maud. Though the point of making the toile is to fit the garment, I am also sort of using mine as a test run for things I've never done before (including sleeves, lapels, collars, the list is endless). Apparently for a fitting toile you don't usually cut out or sew the facings, but given how complicated the instructions seemed for this jacket (for a beginner like me anyway) I thought I'd cut out and sew the facings outside of class (though not any lining). The facings on this jacket make up the backof the lapels. Constructing them was really tricky - I don't think I transferred the pattern markings very clearly and also the instructions were really hard to follow. The picture to the left with the 'd'oh!' button shows my first attempt. The pic to my right is my second attempt, which is a little better but still not perfect. I am also worried that when I make it in the fabric fabric - which will undoubtedly be heavier than the calico(!) - it will come out even more bunchy... I think I will do this part in class so I can get the benefit of our fantastic teacher!

Has anyone got any tips on how to sew these types of lapel neatly so that everything matches?!

Friday, 16 October 2009


I really don't know how it happened. Well, ok, I do. One minute I was fine, the next I was adding things to my basket like it was going out of fashion. I just had a giant splurge on Gorgeous Fabrics. Really giant. But look what I got!!

My plan was to buy some lovely fabric for my jacket and also get some stuff to inspire some new projects for work clothes. And I found some gorgeous (ha, who'd have thought it, given the site name and all that) fabric.

So I got a lovely cream silk jacquard polka dot (100%) and a lovely pale blue stretch silk charmeuse (silk/lycra mix), both of which I plan to use to make some tops for work. Maybe some nice blouses with three-quarter length sleeves, or a nice loose tank-style top.

With some autumn/winter skirts and dresses for work in mind, I also got some peachy wool flannel (100% wool) which I thought might make a nice skirt and jacket (once I have had a bash with something less nice for the jacket I'm making in class!), some posh Loro Piana dove-grey gabardine (100% wool) which would make a lush dress, and finally some blue/grey tan suiting which I think I will make into a nice skirt.
Then to line things I got some lovely grey silk habotai and a funky paisley (which is acetate...) which I think would look pretty cool as a jacket lining. Having some lovely linings might also encourage me to take more time with linings right up until the last stages of construction...

Finally, for the party season, I got some amazing black jacquard silk. Think that could be made up into a really foxy dress. Pretty intruiged to see what that will be like when it arrives, I really like the pattern.

So what do you think? How bad am I for splurging like this... I was doing so well! Any pattern suggestions gratefully received!

Sewing room cleverness

It has been so long since I posted last – my apologies. Once again work got a little crazy and the wedmin has stepped up a level while we try and nail down the venue. Anyway. Enough wedding chat, this is a sewing blog!

I must say thank you to
Pip a la Chic for tagging me in her lovely blog :-)

So my sewing course is going pretty well so far. There are some lovely people there, from lots of different backgrounds. It's really fun all learning together! The picture is of me cutting out my pattern on the lovely long cutting tables they have in the workroom.

Last week I cut out my pattern in calico to make the toile of my jacket. Our instructions have been to cut out the pattern a size or two too big, with the aim of sewing the toile together and fitting it (I guess using the excess bigness to make sure we have plenty of room for adjustments), and then I guess we will have to transfer the adjustments to the pattern afterwards, before cutting it out in the fashion fabric (which I haven't bought yet). Any suggestions for what fabric I should make this up in? I'm really interested to see how that sewing the calico together will go – so very exciting tomorrow! I will at some point have to.... SET. IN. SLEEVES. Eeek.

Which brings me on to my (or, more realistically, my bf's) next DIY project. I
really want a bigger work surface in my sewing room (note I now refer to our study as 'my sewing room' – heh) which is sewing friendly and versatile. I had a look on the internet at what is out there and found that Horn do an awesome adjustable height table (the Horn Professional 3002) which has their 'airlift' system for hiding your sewing machine under the table when you're not using it. It also lets you, with the help of a specially cut insert, use your machine in a flatbed configuration which I think would be awesome. And it has electrically adjustable legs. This is a real luxury, but I think I could live without that functionality. The bad news is that this awesome piece of kit is £2500.

I think I can do better than that. I think that
the airlifter plus some adjustable legs plus a table top can be fashioned into exactly what I'm after for less than ten per cent of the cost, albeit the height will be adjustable only manually. I can then buy the insert from one of the companies that sell them (for the flatbed option). I am even wondering whether it is possible to have two openings and airlifts - one for my overlocker and one for my sewing machine...

What do you think? Has anyone had any experience in making a custom made sewing table? Or has anyone found anything like the Horn one above which is more affordable?!

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Back to school!

Howdy.. I have been stupid-busy at work for the last week or so and have barely had a chance to do any sewing other than on Saturday when I had my first session of the London College of Fashion course I've started. SO MUCH FUN! All we really did was measure ourselves, learn how to thread the industrial sewing machines and sew in straight lines, but so exciting! And WOWZERS those industrial machines are speedy... I had to barely press my foot on the pedal to get a speed I could manage.

We have to bring a pattern to class this week which will be what forms the basis of our course; we make it up as a toile in calico and then in the fabric we have chosen, with Hilary (our lovely teacher) teaching us 'professional fit and finish' on the way. I think I am going to choose a jacket - to get my money's worth! I've never made a jacket (or, as you may be aware, anything with sleeves) and so it would be good to make my first one under supervision. I think I might do the Burda jacket above - it looks like a nice shape and I could really do with a new jacket for work. Though I note that I might never actually want to wear the product of my labours... But looking forward to adjusting my pattern and stuff all the same.

Speaking of patterns, I must mention a book I bought on the advice of commenter Arielle - it is called 'Make Your Own Dress Patterns' by Adele P. Margolis. It is absolutely brilliant! It has loads of simple explanations and illustrations of how to manipulate a basic bodice sloper. I have so far just been reading it, but can't wait to get some pattern paper out and start slashing and spreading! Oh, I also need to make a sloper first..... I made a skirt sloper a little while ago and posted about it here but to be honest I'm not sure it is a perfect fit. Watch this space!