Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Coating with Cashmerette: Making progress

It's starting to look like a coat! Sewing began apace this weekend.

First up: bound buttonholes. Once again I used Karen's Bound Buttonhole eBook which is essential reading: so easy to follow! Such nice results! I love bound buttonholes - I was never even aware of them before I started sewing, but now they're the kind of craftsmanship that I notice and appreciate on garments, and they're actually pretty easy once you've practiced a few times. The key trick is sewing the two parallel lines *precisely* the same length, which means not just sewing to your chalk line, but sewing to the same *side* of the chalk line. While I'm not the most accurate sewist, I'm getting better at this.

The interfaced cashmere also took the buttonholes really well. Of course, I did manage (despite doing a test buttonhole) to initially sew the welts onto the *wrong* side of the fabric as opposed to the right side of the fabric, as I did the last time I made a coat. But luckily it was caught before too much irreversible slashing had happened, and I was able to do a rescue.

The finished things, basted shut (which is why they look a little hairy)

Then, I constructed the back pieces, being really careful to follow proper pressing etiquette, most crucially leaving each seam to entirely cool under a clapper before moving onto the next bit. I tried to be industrious and start doing other sections during the process... 

Then, I attached the facings to the lining, and just for kicks, decided to understitch the seam allowance down with coral thread to match the flamingos' beaks. And why not. 

Those bits done, I did a bit of tailoring on the lapel collar, fell stitching twill tape along the edges (and also along the lapel edge of the coat facing too) to hopefully get a crisp result on the final collar. I haven't done this before so fingers crossed I did it correctly, especially as it took ages. 

So, quite a bit of progress but join me again soon for an unfortunate turn of events... DRAMA!

Monday, September 29, 2014

My First Burda: Jersey Dress 01/2011

Why hello there! It's me, in my first Burda! 

When I started sewing, Burda was one of the first pattern companies I became aware of, and I used to obsessively stalk BurdaStyle all day. However I had a hunch that they were too difficult for me as a beginner, so I put them aside... and until now, I've never come back. 

Finally, I have joined the club. 

Burda kindly offered to share the 'Best of BurdaStyle Plus Size Pattern Collection' with the editors of the CSC - for $24.99 you can get 8 classic plus size patterns, plus access to webinars (there's also a second set of patterns, here).  We each chose our favourite to make -  I chose the Jersey Dress which I had previously had my eye on, and which you can also buy individually here.  We recieved the patterns for free, and while there's no doubt that getting things for free has an impact on perceptions, I'll give you a run-down of what I did and didn't like and you can judge for yourself if you think I'm impartial :)

First up: the good! I really like the design and shape of this dress, which frankly is the all-around most important factor in a pattern for me. It really accentuates my hourglass-ish shape, and I love the neckline. I didn't use the sleeves (I had to do a little adjusting at the armscye but not much), and as it is, it really reminds me of the Roland Mouret galaxy dress, well known for its flattering qualities.  

I used black ponte, and then a stretch cotton pique down the middle panels to give a bit of texture, and that worked really well - you could also colour block this pattern very easily. Unfortunately ponte seams are often pretty puffy so I topstitched them all (thank you, edgestitching foot!) and tried to press them into submission, but as you can see in these pictures some of them still puff a little. I omitted the zipper, as I really didn't need it given the stretch of the fabric. The neckline is finished with a facing which I usually despise in knits, but given the shape I couldn't think of an alternative. Luckily there are lots of seams in this dress, so I stitched down the facing in about 6 places, and I understitched *and* topstitched down the facing, so there'll be no flipping round these here parts. 

The less-good: First up, sizing. I went by the measurement guide and sewed up a size 52 but it was way too big: I had to take 4 inches out of each side seam, and I have some baginness under my arm that I couldn't fix easily without going back to the pattern to make adjustments and starting over. As I've never used a Burda pattern before, so I didn't know if they ran big or small, but I certainly learned my lesson there - is this a general trend, Burda-pattern-users, like with the Big 4?

Second, the pattern pieces and instructions. The pattern pieces aren't marked with their purpose (e.g. 'side skirt front') which made for a lot of back and forth with the instructions. Then the instructions weren't very clear - not a big deal as I already know how to sew a dress, but if you don't, I wouldn't recommend starting here. Finally, weirdly there were three extra pattern pieces! I traced them, and then discovered that they weren't included in the cutting layout, or the instructions...  I assume that there must be some kind of variation to the dress that uses them (a  tunic maybe?) but there was no mention of this on the pattern or instructions anywhere. 

In case you're wondering, the neckline is not homemade, but from Bergdorf Goodman, years ago!
So all in all an illuminating experience, and most importantly, I love my dress! It's a fab combination of dressy enough for cocktail parties but ludicrously comfortable. I could eat a LOT of canapes in this, and I shall, goddamit. If you're an advanced beginner or intermediate seamstress I definitely recommend trying it out. If you're a beginner, well, I'd learn on something a little more self-explanatory, and then come back to this in the future.

What are your experience with Burda patterns, readers? I love that they have quite a wide range of plus size patterns, and they do often have on-trend pieces (albeit with less on-trend ones mixed in), so I'm sure I'll be trying another one soon.

Disclosure: I received the pattern for free. 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

XXX sewing (Parental advisory)

Recently, I asked my Instagram followers to guess the identity of my latest sewn creation, wonky mouth and all:

Shockingly, no-one guessed correctly. It's a giant beanbag sperm! OBVS!


I was asked to create these beautifully crafted, highly tasteful items for my friend Anna's baby shower BBQ (to which she wore her maternity Moneta!). They were used to play cornhole, an American game where you throw beanbags into a hole in a board. Let us not ponder the anatomy of that for too long. 

Here, Anna proudly poses with two of her sperm:

Quick, they're making a run (swim?) for it!

So, consider yourself edified. What's the weirdest thing you've ever sewn? Pictures or it didn't happen. I suspect I might be the winner. And no, I don't do sperm beanbag commissions, sorry.

Coating with Cashmerette: Fun with interfacing

My Fashion Sewing Supply weft interfacing arrived (this one)! And so the coating continues apace.

One thing that continues to perplex me is why pattern instructions don't explain all the steps needed to achieve a high quality garment. In the case of coats, the Big 4 barely mention interfacing, let alone taping roll lines, hair canvas and padstitching or any of the many other tailoring tricks. Last year I did tons of research to try to figure out the right amount of tailoring to make a RTW level coat, without spending a thousand years doing it. Using fusible tailored techniques seemed like a great option, and indeed it did give a really solid result. 

The other technique I used last time and am repeating again is block interfacing. Normally when you interface a pattern piece, you use the tissue piece to cut out a piece of interfacing, and then fuse the interfacing to the main fabric. The problem is, it's really hard to do this accurately, and interfacing often shrinks a bit when it's pressed, so the result can be wonky. The alternative is to do block interfacing where you interface a larger piece of fabric first, and then cut the pattern piece out of it. 

Last year I interfaced the entire 4 yard length of fabric first... and that was incredibly hard. I have a Singer Press which helps enormously because it presses a much larger area than an iron, but it's very hard to run a continual piece of fabric through it because it hits the back hinge of the press. So this time I took a new approach: I first rough cut the fabric around the pattern piece (leaving a good 2 - 3 inches all around it), then rough cut the interfacing, and fused them. The good side to this: much easier to handle through the press. The bad side: I totally lost track of the grainline! Doh! With no visible grainline and no reference to the selvedge, well, it's gone. Hopefully this doesn't turn out to be a disaster, but time will tell. Learn from my mistakes, people.

As chance would have it, I interfaced the pocket tabs first, placing them between two press cloths to protect the press from little bits of interfacing. 

Aaaaaand that was a fail. The press cloth left a mark on the cashmere - you can faintly see the grid in the image below. 

So, I decided to first trim down the interfacing a lot, and then fuse, which means I don't have to use a press cloth. I could have found a piece of organza but I was being lazy (STOP BEING LAZY WHEN YOU'RE MAKING A COAT, SILLY!). Luckily, it worked. One tip: after you do the interfacing, make sure you place the pattern pieces totally flat (I put mine on the floor), because if you leave them at any kind of angle it will "set" in to the wool as the piece cools. 

Then, on to cutting it out without the benefit of a grainline.

One of the nice things about using interfaced pieces is you can then scrawl on them to your heart's content. This is the side back. 

So, now I just have to cut all the other pieces, and then I have the *next* interfacing step. Stay tuned for more inevitable blunders!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A last taste of Iceland*

The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed that I went on vacation to Iceland! Recently I've tried to make an effort to "save" a few sewing makes to take with me on holiday so I can get fun photos... but obviously I get up to a lot more than that! If you follow me on Instagram, @cashmerette, you can follow the silliness in real time, but if not, here's a little taster of my journey to the frozen north... 

I was in Iceland with one of my favourite traveling companions, my little brother International Heart-throb, Tom. Turns out, not only do we look very alike, but we also look Icelandic! We were spoken to in Icelandic constantly on holiday, and let's face it, I was pretty smug about not looking like a tourist (sadly not achievable when I was cycling through Asia, despite the best efforts of Nina and I). 

We had a few visits to the Harpa centre, which is this enormous multi-use concert venue right on the harbour in downtown Reykjavik - you really can't miss it. It has fantastic honeycomb windows, an ace bar, and a show called "How to become Icelandic in 60 minutes" which, of course, we attended. Turns out that being Icelandic is very similar to being from the north of Scotland, so we were naturals. 

We like to eat well in our family. Which is just as well, because sometimes the weather was so bad we didn't have many other things to do! We spent quite a lot of time (read: we went every single day) at Sandholt bakery, eating the most amazing Scandinavian pastries, which were very reminiscent of these frozen ones our Mum used to give us when we were wee nippers. I popped in for some highly recommended Fish & Chips (thanks Sonja and Tilly and Jen!), and then one night, we treated ourselves to Dill where we had a tasty menu of Nordic proportions. It was ace, particularly the mashed potatoes course (trust me.). 

Of course it wouldn't be Iceland without a trip to the thermal springs. We pootled around the Blue Lagoon for a very pleasant afternoon, covering ourselves in silica mud, dodging the drunk people with their beers (yes, they serve beer in the pools), and then falling asleep in a stupor of relaxation. For more watery fun, we ventured out to Gulfoss waterfall and Geysir (the geyser place...) which were most impressive. I really want to go back and do the whole ring road trip where you see black volcanic beaches, glaciers, and lots more sheep.

Somewhat unexpectedly, Reykjavik reminded us a lot of Aberdeen, where we're from - clearly the same person designed a lot of the public housing, and the "port city under grey skies" vibe was unmissable. However, the land of Bjork clearly has a lot more trendy stuff going on, and a pretty kick-ass cathedral.

So, Iceland is recommended for: shopping. Eating. Going in hot milky water. Taking blog photos. Getting very wet. What are you waiting for?!

*not sponsored by the Icelandic tourist board. But, y'know, if you guys are reading, you should totally send me on the ring road trip...

Monday, September 22, 2014

Coating with Cashmerette: Patience is a virtue (that I have limited amounts of)

And so the coat making commences!

Well, sort of. I rough cut out my pieces from the cashmere (more on that shortly), and cut out the interfacing. Then I stopped and looked at my sewing room table. On one side were all the pieces of the baby duffle coats I'm making, all interfaced with gorgeous weft interfacing. On the other side were my cashmere pieces about to interfaced... with rubbish interfacing. I struggle at the best of times with being patient, but I had to admit that it was a bit silly to make less effort with my own coat than those for little girls (lovely as they are). 

So I calmed down, and ordered myself some more good interfacing, and decided to start instead with the lining. Double bonus: sewing the lining is usually very boring and frustrating at the end of a project, so getting it done first actually sort of makes sense.

I'm using this crazily excellent flamingo poly crepe de chine, which is gorge. However, it does fray like a maniac, so despite the fact the inside of the lining will never be visible, I decided to serge everything. I started off by serging the piece edges, and then doing the seams with my sewing machine so that I could press the seams totally flat (if you serge the pieces together they're more bulky). 

Here's as far as I was able to take it, sans fabric pieces.

It is entirely apparent at this point that I didn't make any attempt at seam matching. I dunno... maybe I should have, given all the time and cost in making a coat. And yet I have to admit that it didn't even occur to me. The upside is that now I have excellent mutant flamingos going on: 

What fabric animal have you decapitated and re-capitated, readers? 

A so-so StyleArc in the wild

Today's the final installment of Iceland photos, featuring volcanos on the horizon and my second StyleArc pattern, the Jessica dress

It's a twist-front jersey dress, rated as "challenging", which largely seems to be because the instructions are so poor. Once I figured them out on my muslin it wasn't that hard, apart from a weird apparently unfinished part that appears when you connect the twisted bodice to the skirt. I cobbled together a fix, but it doesn't look very neat on the inside. It's a real shame about StyleArc instructions - perhaps it's the only way that they can get so many patterns out of the door so quickly, but it basically means you should only try garments you've made in the past and know how to make. 

I used a taupe and black silk jersey that I bought years ago at Paron, and was saving until my serging skills improved. They have, but sadly this dress probably wasn't the best use of it, as I don't love it. I don't think that having all the bulk on top with the twist works well with my busty figure, and I spend a lot of time adjusting the neckline to try and get coverage of the old bra without looking strangled.

On my first muslin I found that the tie front pieces were majorly sagging, so I shortened them by about 3 inches each to pull the waistline in. Sadly, this now means that one sideseam is getting pulled to the front - I'm not entirely sure how I would balance having the tie at the right length without having that pulling.

You live and learn! I'm still willing to give StyleArc some more chances because the Rosie top worked out well, and I love love love that they do cool RTW styles up to large sizes - they're probably the single best example of a pattern company not discriminating against plus sizes. So, I have two more trouser patterns in the sewing queue, and I'm considering the Ziggi motorcycle jacket as well, inspired by an amazing basketweave wool and leather version I saw in Reykjavik. 

In the meantime, I leave you with proof of the utter sensibility of the Cashmerette family. You're welcome. 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Perfect coverstitch tutorial

It's been an awfully long time since I first posted a coverstitch tutorial... and I've learned a lot since then! While coverstitch machines are fantastic, it's not uncommon to end up with a wavy hem, or stitching that doesn't exactly catch the back of the fabric. So here is my new and improved quick guide to getting a consistent coverstitch result.

Coverstitch tutorial | Cashmerette

1. Fuse knit interfacing tape to the entire length of your hem, on the wrong side of the fabric.

2. Serge the raw edge of the hem. This is really going to help with getting a perfect finish!

3. Fold up your hem and press.

4. At the side seam junctions, clip into the serging just up to the needle thread. Push the seam allowance in opposite directions - now, when you fold the hem back up there will only be two layers of fabric at the junction rather than three, and it'll be much easier to sew over.

5. Use wonder tape to temporarily baste down the hem. First you stick the tape to the fabric, the peel off the backing tape and press the hem down. 

6. Place the garment right side up on your coverstitch machine, and sew from the right side. Start on a piece of scrap fabric, and then "run on" to the hem (you can cut the scrap fabric off later).You should be stitching directly on top of the serged edge on the other side - you should be able to feel it with your fingers as you feed the fabric through the machine. Optionally, you can first hand baste through the serged edge to give you a guide to follow when you're on the right side, but I find that feeling the serging underneath works well.

Use a tapestry needle to feed through the serger tails back into the stitching to finish. For the start of the seam, you can either feed the serger threads through in the same way, or pull them through to the back of the fabric and tie them off.

Update: I got a question on how to do this if you're sewing in the round (say the hem of a t-shirt). It's pretty easy: you can start anywhere (though I tend to start on the back) - just loosen the threads under your presser foot a little, slide the fabric under (it will create a temporary little loop over the side of the fabric), put the foot down again and start. When you get to the other end, continue over the original stitching by a few stitches. You can then pull the fabric out, leaving tails which you can then pull through to the back and secure with a hand needle. 

And you're done!

Coverstitch tutorial | Cashmerette

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Contain yourself ladies, it's coat season!

Much as I like summer fun, my inner (OK, not very inner) geek is mostly excited about back-to-school season. What can I say, I grew up in rural northern Scotland and there was only so much Ceefax you could read in a day, so I just desperately wanted to go back to school by mid August.

Luckily, there's no need to deny myself these pleasures despite my advanced years (technically I was a student until very recently, but I just finished grad school! Huzzah!).  At this time of year I always indulge in new tights (these are the only ones that matter in the world), a duvet cover and a new pair of knee high boots (three sets are winging their way to me from Clarks now for consideration).

But now, thanks to sewing I have an altogether more satisfying early autumn pursuit: coat making!

This year's make was inspired by this gorgeous emerald green number from Marks & Spencer (purveyor of fine tights):

Coat making | Cashmerette

Be still, my heart. As my best friend from Scotland has pointed out many times, I should wear more green. It goes with my hair and whatnot. So this coat was clearly made for me - until I realized that the largest size was a good 3 inches too small for my bust, and as I can't try it on in a store I wouldn't be able to check the ease. Plus, there's no discernible waist shaping. (On a side note: GBP 120 for a cashmere blend coat? It must be made by small children).

I swear it took me a few hours before it occurred to me to MAKE THE DAMN THING. But make it I shall!

So, on my recent trip to NYC I trawled around the garment district looking for coating in just the right colour. Not an easy feat! Twice I found perfect specimens only to find that they only had 2 yards, which is definitely not enough for a coat for a size 22. Finally, nestling in a corner of upstairs at Mood I found the cashmere section... and an amazing bright emerald 100% cashmere. It took a bit of cajoling and mental arithmetic from the ladies (Lauren Lladybird: "but you have to factor in the entertainment value to the cost!") but I took the plunge. Here it is about to be cut - it's a little brighter in reality than it appears here.

For the lining, I'm going to be using this crazily awesome flamingo poly crepe de chine I picked up at EmmaOneSock, which is currently working its way around the interwebs. I was excited when this arrived at the office. Can you tell? 

As for the pattern, I'm going to use good old Simplicity 1759 again because I really loved my coat from last year, and it is already adjusted to me (swayback and FBA) so it seems silly not to. This time though I'm going to go with front view B which is a fairly slim classic lapel, which is meant to stick up but which I may fold down, because I'm a rebel like that. Although will that be a problem as it doesn't have a collar stand? Hmm. Confusing myself. I must also confess that I am a little hesitant about the size of the collar - I'm not sure if it might make my bust larger. What do you reckon? Or I could somehow hack something between the B and C views but working for single breasted... The tyranny of choice and the ability to alter patterns, I tell you.

I'll be going back to my original coat-making tips post, too, because I've sort of forgotten it all and it'll be blissful not to have to do all that research again.

A bright green cashmere coat will be mine. Will I look like Kermit? Only time will tell.

So a question for you, lovelies. Would you like to see in-progress photos of coat-making? I'm never sure how much people are interested in the guts vs. the end product. And, any top coat making tips for me? I'm going to go the fusible tailoring route again because I loved the results last time and figure I won't mess with (limited) success.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Ice ice baby (brother)

In response to popular demand, my little brother returns! And in another Thread Theory creation: this time, the Strathcona Henley.

Thread Theory Strathcona Henley

I whipped this up in advance of our Iceland trip, and Tom wore it on our expedition out to see geysers and waterfalls and cairns (oh my!). I made it using gorgeous Robert Kaufmann Laguna jersey, which I highly recommend. It's beautifully soft, has a great weight and is super duper easy to sew with. The placket is a small amount of Atelier Brunette "Cosmic Blue", which I bought ages ago to make an Archer with but have yet to use. And finally, the buttons are lovely pearlescent numbers from Grey's Fabrics. 

I made the medium, and it fits OK, although it's closer fitting through the chest and looser around the waist than designed, because my brother's very "v" shaped (it's a family trait...). Looking at the photos, I also had a bit of puckering at the seams where the cotton joins the jersey - any idea of how I could avoid that in the future?

Tom was most pleased and graciously agreed to an embarrassing photoshoot in front of various random tourists taking their photos by the fun cairns at the entrance to Pingvellir national park, the historic area of Iceland where governments were convened for centuries. There are stunning views over the vast lake and volcanic hills all around... it's like Scotland on steroids!

(Don't those rocks remind you of the stone trolls from Frozen?!)

I must say that sewing for boys is rather thrilling: no darts! no tucks! limited fitting! Quite the opposite of sewing for me. So Tom's slowly building up a Thread Theory wardrobe, and I'm slowly mastering the ways of menswear. Have you tried Thread Theory patterns? Do you have any other recommendations for men's patterns?
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