Brown

You know when you’ve had something for ages and every time you wear it, you wonder why you haven’t thrown it out yet? Because it’s just annoying or uncomfortable? Such as pants that won’t stay up? But you haven’t chucked it because for some reason you still like it? This pair of leggings is one of those:

Actually there’s two pairs, this brown one and a black pair that’s currently in the laundry. I’ve had them forever – at least 10 years – and they’re both by the same manufacturer. I liked them because they are warm and have interesting seamlines combining a heavy stretch knit and a rib knit. They’ve actually been quite durable even if they weren’t as comfortable as they should have been. Sorry I didn’t give you a before photo but by the time I thought of it, I’d already started altering them. This is the fixed version! Originally they had a wide folded waistband with that 2″ elastic inside. But they didn’t have a high enough rise for my body. And the elastic just kept folding up inside the waistband. And they kept sliding down. Grrr…

So I finally broke down and thought of a way to make them better without a whole lot of work. Took me long enough, eh? I didn’t want to take off the whole waistband piece so I cut through the back layer next to the flat-lock stitches and removed the elastic. Which didn’t look too bad after I pressed the wrinkles out of it so I just used a 3-step zigzag stitch to attach it onto the top of the unfolded waistband. Which effectively added nearly 4″ to the rise so the waistband is actually at my waist and most importantly, above my hips so that now they are comfortable and stay up properly. The elastic stays flat and doesn’t fold over into a rope either. So simple. Now I hope to get another few years out of these leggings. Why the heck didn’t I do this way back when I first bought them? Sigh.

Brown is definitely the theme today. I finished the second pullover for Thom that I had cut out back in February before I started on the Peacoat Project. This one is the modified Love Notions North Star pullover but this time in a brown cotton fleece-backed sweatshirt knit.

He likes this one best of all since it’s really warm and cosy. I put the soft fleece side out on the neck side of the collar and on the pocket bands for comfort. The zipper was another too-long separating zip from Dressew. It’s got bronzy-green plastic teeth with a nice rubber pull and brown tape that matches the fabric. Not a problem to shorten it. This fabric sewed much easier than the navy french terry even though it was quite thick.

Now that Thom has four pullovers made by me, I think he will stay warm for awhile! And I will go on to other things. Time for a reassessment of my sewing queue. I also hope to finally have a finished knitting project to show next time.

In other news, the garden is not growing very quickly thanks to the cool rainy weather we’ve had. I’m still bringing seedlings in and out of the greenhouse daily and I’m getting impatient to get them planted. In a moment of fair weather I did manage to get the dye garden cleaned up and ready to plant as soon as it’s warm enough for my little indigo babies. The tomatoes are still in the basement grow-op under the lights and I haven’t even considered planting the squash and cucumber seedlings quite yet. There’s plenty of time still and their beds are still waiting on me to dig them properly. Spring is still running quite late this year.

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Got My Sewjo Working

I’ve had a couple of sweatshirt-type pullover tops cut out for Thom since before I started the Peacoat Project back in February. Both that coat and the sorting/cleaning for the craft supply sale last weekend kind of got in the way of any other sewing projects since then. Which reminds me. If you don’t follow my Instagram (where I’m @damselfly.ca) you might not have seen the photo I managed to take at the sale.

A lull in the action

It was more fun than I anticipated and I did alright but there’s still too many beads, books and magazines left! More on that later when I finalize what I plan to do with the excess. Anyway, I had a few days of a rest after all that socializing – if you can call it rest when it includes repotting seedlings and getting baby plants in the ground – and finally got back to the studio yesterday.

Having something already cut out made it a lot easier to get started. Having made this Thread Theory Finlayson before I expected an easy sew. Not! The fabric, a heavier cotton french terry, gave me a much harder time than similar fabrics I’ve used before. It curled. It slipped. Pins didn’t hold it. Clips didn’t hold it. The sewing machine went through all the layers ok except that it was hard to get such thick seams under the presser foot. The serger wouldn’t cut through the seam areas so I had to pre-trim them. The top layer kept curling over the cutting knife instead of going under it which messed up the seam.

Note to self: keep your fingers away from the knife!

Struggling to keep everything doing what it was supposed to distracted my attention. Luckily the blade only sliced into my nail and not me! Anyway the final results look reasonably good from the outside. Just don’t look too carefully at it because none of the seams line up properly and the inside serging looks like it was nibbled by rats! Thom doesn’t care nearly as much as I do. Besides he’s likely to wear it out mowing the lawn or pruning the shrubs anyway.

Thread Theory’s Finlayson

I was just happy to finish and thought that hanger shot would be the end but Thom immediately put on his new pullover so there’s a modelled photo.

Guess it’s a hit, huh?

So now I still have a modified Love Notions North Star pullover cut out and ready to go. It’s a fleece-backed sweatshirt fabric so it might been even more problematic to sew! I hope not. I only have just so many fingernails.

Meanwhile I think I’ll go spin for awhile It’s raining again.

Without Further Ado

I’d like to present The Peacoat Project:

The man asked for a peacoat like Jimmy Perez on the murder mystery series “Shetland”. Neither of us had any idea how much work this was going to be! Nearly a month and about $200 worth of materials later, his dream became a reality. He gets his coat while it’s still cold enough to wear it and I get sore fingers and a whole lot of new appreciation for tailoring. My goodness it’s a lot of sewing! Of course it’s partially my own fault. I couldn’t just follow the instructions that came with Thread Theory’s Goldstream Peacoat pattern could I? No, I had to do it PROPERLY! Hah.

I’ve done coats and jackets before of course. Back in the day I didn’t realise that the interfacings were so important to the shaping of garments and help to give it body and firmness that you can’t get otherwise. I was always a little – or a lot – disappointed with my makes. But this time I decided to learn all the heavy-duty stuff, like hair-canvas, chest shield, sleeve heads, basting, taped roll-line, hand-made shoulder pads, steam shaping, hand-stitched buttonholes etc. This is Hard Tailoring, in both meanings of the term. Thom helped me pick out the really nice wool blend Melton cloth in a dark olive green and had a blast choosing the coordinating quilting cotton lining featuring a cabin in the woods, canoes and a whole lot of forest animals. Then there was all of the interfacings, threads and buttons too. Lots of parts to put together. Oh, and if you’re ever wondering – Melton cloth is woven and then fulled, brushed and sheared so it sort of looks like felt but has an underlying woven structure. Unlike felt which is just fibres interlocked together randomly. Melton does have a right and a wrong side. The public (right) side is slightly less fuzzy and you can just barely see the woven threads whereas the wrong side is more felted-looking. I don’t know if it’s critical but I cut the coat out with-nap, everything facing one way, just in case it showed in the finished garment. I don’t think that was necessary though.

It was kind of daunting, I’ll admit. I started off with a lot of “analysis paralysis” and dreamed of sewing all night long for a week! I did a lot of research in the two tailoring books I bought and also online photos, tutorials and videos. Once I settled on how I was going to proceed it went a lot better. Just concentrating on one part at a time. All of the hand-sewing was actually quite soothing and much easier than when I had to wrestle the beast under the sewing machine! It’s approximately one-third machine and two-thirds hand-stitched.

So now that it’s all over, I’d like to thank my cast and crew of this endeavour: Janny the sewing machine, Loopy the serger and of course Debbie Double my dressform without whom this would have been impossible. Even if the coat didn’t actually fit her shoulders very well she held up under the pressure! And speaking of pressure, Chi-Long the steam iron and the rest of the pressing tools did their important part too:

Iron, sleeve board, ham and clapper/point presser

And let us not forget the little things that made the sewing a whole lot easier:

Small but necessary sewing tools

Clockwise from the top-left. This project was the first one where I needed to use the small wonder clips when pins were just not adequate. My wrist pincushion now needs replacing with a better version (I stabbed myself right through it a few zillion times) and I need to sort my very fine pins which tended to get bent in the thick coat fabric. It was fun to use this vintage silk thread for basting. It just pulled right out when it was no longer needed and didn’t leave a mark if you ironed over it. My little Clover leather thimble is the first thimble I’ve ever had that I actually use properly. It’s comfortable on my middle finger, stays on (unlike metal ones) and I forget it’s there after awhile. Judging by the wear it also saved my fingertips! The wee box of Thread Heaven is a treasure since it’s not being made anymore. It has a different effect on thread (preventing tangles) than the wax (strengthening). All depends on where the thread needs to be used. And the water-soluble marking pencil holds up under ironing but disappears with a little dab of water. Turns out I like it (and it’s pink and blue siblings) better than other markers of which I have quite a few. I can tell because it keeps getting shorter. Not shown are the several different hand-sewing needles that I made copious use of daily.

Today I’ve been taking a much-needed sewing break in order to get all of my notes finished. I cleaned up the studio all ready for the next project. I already have 2 more warm pullovers cut out for Thom using the patterns I’ve done before, the North Star from Love Notions and the Finlayson from Thread Theory. Yes, I’m sewing for him again! He’s definitely sew-worthy! And not to worry, I’ll be back to selfish sewing and other things too before long.

You’ve seen this before but…now it’s finished!

Quick Catch-Up

Still plugging away at the Goldstream Peacoat. It’s been a big job! Bigger than I expected going in anyway. I’ve ended up hand-sewing a whole lot more than I originally planned both because I have more control over the stitches and because it got pretty darned hard to get this beast under the presser foot! I ended up having to move a bunch of stuff off my sewing table because it all kept ending up on the floor as I wrestled the coat around on the sewing machine. I have to say that Janny the Janome held up very well to this thick fabric plus layers of interfacing. As long as I could get the thing under the presser foot it would sew through it. I only ran into an issue (bobbin thread nests) as I was doing the topstitching on the fronts and around the collar. Probably because I was turning the whole coat around with the needle down. Not perfect but done.

Here’s a couple of teaser photos so you can see the lining. Debbie Double is wearing the coat inside out!

Coat lining with inside pocket
Back facing with my label

Lots of critters in them thar woods, eh? I edged the lining with flat piping made from the sleeve lining fabric and I think it looks pretty neat. Now I’m sewing the sleeve linings which are the last pieces to assemble and sew in. By hand. Of course. All that’s left after that are the buttonholes and 3 buttons. Also by hand. Of course. It’s still going to take a few more days before this thing is completed. I’m kind of ready for it to be finished now.

One other thing I did was to begin a new pair of socks to try out my wee ChiaoGoo Shorties. They work quite well for me, at least on this simple basic sock. I used some DBG Confetti yarn that I totally love because it wears really well but is now discontinued. Boo-hoo. Self-striping socks are so old-fashioned now, aren’t they? I still like them though. What I don’t like is the stitch marker! The thickness leaves a bit of a ladder in the knitting which you might be able to just detect there above the pink marker. Changing it out for a thinner one now. Besides pink is my least favourite colour.

Self-striping socks on a 2mm tiny circular


A Tale of Two Interfacings

Well, actually three interfacings but first we’ll discuss the two different brands of fusible hair canvas that I bought.

Hair canvas, two kinds.

I know it would be helpful if I knew which brands these are but unfortunately I didn’t note that down! The top one is more grey in colour and also more expensive at $15.99 per metre. I bought that one at Dressew. The bottom piece is a lighter colour, slightly heavier in the hand (but that’s mostly due to the beads of glue on the back) and cost $12.98 per metre at Fabricana (Richmond, BC). Both types were around 20 – 22” wide, so quite narrow as fabrics go. Per square metre they are more expensive than my main fabric. Even the cheap one.

Now comes the truth! The first more-expensive one was easily and successfully fused to the coat fronts and the collar pieces. It held the roll lines really nicely when I allowed it to cool and dry into shape. Just as if I had actually spent time pad stitching the shaping in as you would for a non-fusible but way less work! I had planned to also interface the facing pieces which on this double-breasted style are quite wide and could use good support. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough of the original type of canvas so when we went out to Fabricana where I bought the weft-insertion interfacing (because Dressew didn’t have any) I picked up another metre of whatever brand of hair canvas it was that they had available there. I used the exact same fusing technique that I did on all the other interfacings but this stuff did NOT want to stick to my wool blend melton cloth. It bubbled badly and you could not only feel it but see the pimpling when I tried to fold the roll line. Didn’t hold its shape either. Grrrr….

Obviously not the same product at all! And a complete waste of my money. How can you know these things though unless you test them? It’s not like the store will sell you a tiny test square of each kind! The only upside was that it peeled off my facing pieces without damaging them. Much too easily in fact because I didn’t even need to use the iron to soften the glue. Boo. Binned. So now what? I decided to use the weft-insertion interfacing on my front facings instead.

Suitmaker 602 weft-insertion fusible interfacing

I did manage to remember the name of this one! I also like it a lot. The 602 is the heavier version. (There’s also a lighter weight 601.) The fibre content is 78% viscose/22% polyester and this is the “black”. It’s much darker IRL but not really completely black. It fused easily with lots of steam and pressure for about 12 seconds and didn’t leave any glue on Chi-Long’s foot. The results are a thicker, non-stretchy but still flexible fabric. You can’t even see a line from the front where a partial interfacing piece ends. This is good stuff. Luckily I bought 4 metres (at $7.25 per metre if you’re keeping track) and I’m glad I did because I don’t have all that much left now. This peacoat is seriously interfaced out the wazoo. Did I mention how much I love Chi-Long, my new iron? He is so steamy!

Fusing the back stay

I was also working on the front pockets. I basted and hand-stitched around to tuck in the lining so it wouldn’t show at the edges.

Slip-stitching the pockets

Hey, my nails are pretty clean compared to what they look like in gardening season! Which is coming up soon. When it stops snowing. But I digress. I also topstitched the patch pockets using the triple stitch and regular thread. I tried some heavier topstitching thread but because I couldn’t get a good colour match it just didn’t look right. I may be using it for the hand-stitched buttonholes however. Not thinking about that right now. Anyway, the pockets and the flaps are on and looking pretty good. I’ll really show you the lining as soon as I get to that point. It’s very manly. Heh.

But next? Some actually assembly perhaps?

Deep Coat

Oh. My dears. I am down and dirty with this Thread Theory Goldstream Peacoat for Thom. This beast is armour tough! Seventy-gabillion layers of interfacing: hair canvas, fusible weft insertion. Roll-line stay tape. Lining. Basting. Tailor’s tacks, for crying out loud! I feel as if I’ve been cutting out pieces for an eon. Fusing…

Let me tell you right now – do not believe interfacing bolt labels that state “No need to preshrink”. They are very wrong.

See the white paper showing? That’s how much the fusible interfacing made the front shrink.

I don’t think it was the fault of the dark olive green melton cloth fabric (a wool blend) because I ran it through 3 separate steam cycles in a hot dryer to preshrink it. When I fused the whole front pieces with the weft-insertion interfacing, they shrank again approximately 1/2” in length and 1/4” in width. I can work around this but luckily it didn’t shrink any further after I added another layer of fusible hair canvas to the top and front sections and yet another “chest shield” piece to the shoulder area. Whew. Major construction zone here! I also fused bias cut hair canvas to the collar pieces but they only shrank about 1/8” in every direction. I haven’t completed the front facings yet but I’m expecting some shrinking there too. Note to self: next time preshrink all the damn interfacing in hot water first! Roll in a towel to remove extra moisture and air dry. Easy peasy, right? (Coulda-shoulda-woulda-didna!) I ended up using 3 metres of the hair canvas and over 2 metres of the weft insertion in this thing. This is not a trivial part of the construction obviously. However, notice how I managed to avoid pad stitching? Fusibles are useful that way.

So even though I’m feeling as if I’ve spent forever on this coat so far, I’ve only gotten this far:

It’s backless!

Yes, Debbie Double is wearing Thom’s peacoat. Well, the front anyhow. We’ll pretend she’s not adding any chest bumps, okay? He actually has almost the same chest measurement as I do. Heh. I have wider hips though! The collar is just sitting there. And I pinned one of the pockets on to check the placement. I had to imagine the roll-line placement where the collar and lapels fold back since this pattern didn’t include it. I pin-basted the under collar on and tried it on Thom to see where it naturally broke. I marked both the fronts and the collar and hope I got it more-or-less in the right place. It looks a lot stiffer here than it will be after the seams are stitched and pressed. I hope. I really do want this coat to have some shape anyway though. No slouching on my watch!

It’s been a really hard job figuring out how to do all this “correctly”. I guess not traditionally correct because of the fusible interfacing but functionally correct. After all this work I’d like this peacoat to look good, fit properly and wear well. Hopefully that’s not too much to ask?

Meanwhile I haven’t accomplished much else. The socks are up to the heel turns finally. The Grey Coopworth has nearly a second bobbin full. Haven’t touched the Deciduous Pullover or the Fernwood yarn at all. The weather has gotten a little warmer and some of the snow has melted in the rain. We had sun today too which helped a lot in the studio to see what I was doing. I almost didn’t need the lights on. Walking outdoors isn’t pleasant right now in the sloppy mixture of ice and slush so I don’t feel too bad hanging out inside sewing instead. More Goldstream Peacoat details coming soon.

Comfortable

When I was madly sewing trying to finish up the bra project, I had a moment when I realised that I was finally feeling for all the dials and levers and changing the feet on my 6-month-old sewing machine without thinking about it! It didn’t feel awkward or new or deliberate anymore. Just Jenny and I working together like she’s an extension of my hands and brain. It’s taken nearly 6 months to get to this point so it’s not like it was instantaneous or anything. I had to unlearn my 40-year-old Pfaff first. I guess it’s like driving a new car – except that I don’t drive. Kind of glad we’re bonded now. I have lots more items for us to to make together!

So now that I’ve crossed bras off my list for the foreseeable future, it’s back to sewing for The Bearded One. Somehow I’m finding it much easier to justify buying fabric for garments for him. Possibly because I have way too much in the fabric stash already for myself! He has been wearing the heck out of nearly everything I’ve made him so obviously he’s Sew-Worthy, right? He says he wants to have a handmade wardrobe too. Awww…isn’t that sweet? OK then. I have patterns and I know how to use them.

We had already recently bought more sweatshirt type fabrics on our last foray to Dressew so today I cut them both out ready to sew:

North Star and Finlayson

The brown fleece-backed knit on the left (it’s a little darker IRL) is for the North Star pullover (below left). I like the fleece side on the inside for warmth but probably will make the inner collar that sits next to his neck with the fuzzy side out and maybe the pocket bindings as well. The strip of batik binding is for the inside neck edge which definitely shows when the top is worn with the zipper partway down. I have a very cool brown zipper with bronze-green teeth for this one too. The other fabric, the navy French terry on the right, is lighter weight and will work well for the Finlayson sweater (below right). The shawl collar is very thick where it attaches at the lower front neck due to the many layers converging so it doesn’t work well with a fabric that’s too thick and heavy. It looks really nice when done though but I’m pretty sure the instructions for upper and lower collars should be reversed. The slightly smaller collar piece should be the one that ends up on the top at the centre front so the larger piece curves over top of it when it’s folded. Am I making any sense? I did let Morgan know my feelings on this way back when but didn’t get a reply. Perhaps either I’m not getting my point across clearly enough or she prefers it the way it’s written in her instructions. I’m still sewing it my way anyhow.

There will be more on these projects soon. I’ve also started assembling the many pages of PDF printouts for the Goldstream Peacoat. This is my entry for the #So50Visible challenge from Instagram’s @SewOver50 group. You are supposed to sew a pattern that features a model who is obviously older. There are prizes for randomly chosen entries! The peacoat can also be tagged with #sewmenswearforeveryone sponsored by @sewcialists so I hope to get a two-fer out of it! I’m still pretty nervous to start this one though. But I’m going to power through. Right now I’m really enjoying piecing the pattern together. It’s the easy part. Heh.

State of the UFOs

The barebones list I made last time was pretty boring, no? Besides the sewing that I’ve already discussed, here’s the rest in clockwise order from top/left:

  • The never-ending Deciduous Pullover. It seems to be stuck on the sleeves. Plus I’m playing “yarn chicken” with the main colour. I need to suck it up and finish the darn thing.
  • Blue Dragon Socks (Shur’tugal by Alice Yu). Love the yarn and the pattern but I can’t read while knitting this because there are many crossed stitches. I’m nearly at the heel turn on both socks now so it should go a little quicker after that.
  • Grey NZ Coopworth yarn on the Louet S-90 wheel. I want enough 2-ply sport weight for a sweater for me. So far there’s only 1 full singles bobbin and this bit. To be fair I have been spinning somewhat more recently (a New Year’s Resolution) so there is hope.
  • NZ Corriedale in Aurelia’s Fernwood colourway on the Louet Victoria wheel. It’s laceweight, or at least it will be when I ply it. No idea what I’m going to make with it since I only have 250g of this in total. A lot for a shawl but not enough for a sweater. I just wanted another spinning project that wasn’t the grey Coopworth.

In other news, we finally got some actual snow!

February is still winter.

That might teach me to feel smug that the first lot managed to mostly miss us, huh? The above was yesterday and there’s a little falling now with perhaps more still to come overnight. We’ll see. I always think it’s hilarious that we West Coasters let 4”/10cm of snow shut the city down. Wimps. The rest of Canada is laughing themselves silly.

So you might have noticed that I’m posting more now that I’ve found a platform that works for me! I’m feeling a lot less frustration. Obviously that was what was holding me back before. Thank you, WordPress. And thank you, my friends, for following me over here! Your participation really means a lot to me. Otherwise I’m just talking to myself. Which of course I do. Heh. But it’s more fun with your company.