Remake & Re-fashion

green coat pocketsMy first project of 2020 is to remake the last winter coat I made back in 2018.  I intend to shorten it to car coat length so that I will actually wear it, as it has only been worn twice since it was finished.  There are several things that just bug me about the coat:

  • It is a BIG COAT, which is what I was going for in the first place, but I really hated my slap-dash-use-whatever-I-have-lying-around-the-house-that’s-the-right-tone lining (drapery silk shantung that had been washed in hot water and put through a hot dryer cycle with tennis and dryer balls to soften up the hand) because it just made it so…. so…. ridiculous to wear, I guess.  I really wanted a different lining – a softer, lighter lining; lighter than flannel-backed satin or kasha lining, typically used in winter coats.
  • The original Burda pattern is a tall pattern, and I didn’t bother to place the pockets accurately, so they sit about 10cm lower than they should on me.  I want to move the pocket up to where they will be useful and easy to access with my not-tall arms.
  • The R front facing and front edge bugs me.  It’s a grain thing, and I hate wearing it because of this.  I intend to straighten it out and do it properly.
  • It’s just too long and dramatic to get worn much, and I have other fabric for other dramatic coats in my stash that I hope to make up soon.
  • The contrast band of linen velvet is nice in a dramatic coat, but I do actually want to wear this coat, and the current length makes it rather a process to get in and out of the car.
  • It’s too wide.  I hate coats that fit small, and I was very enthusiastic in adding ease to my original iteration of this coat, so each side seam will be reduced by 4cm, for a total width reduction of 16cm.

Coat Re-do 1

I’ve re-cut the lining from a lightweight satin-backed crepe fabric from my local Fabricland that was actually marketed as drapery fabric (???).  I laundered it to get that horrid polyester chemical smell out of it before cutting it out.  I used the old lining as a pattern, after making forward-sloping shoulder alterations and taking in the sides by a total of 16cm.

Coat re-do 2

So far I have completed the following alterations:

  • removed the lining
  • moved the pockets up 10cm
  • taken the side seams in 16cm
  • straightened the grain across the upper chest by doing a forward-sloping shoulder adjustment (Why didn’t I do this the first time around?!)
  • removed the lower velvet band
  • redid the facings, which, in combination with the shoulder adjustments, has made the fronts hang straight.  Happy day!

All that is left is to put the lining back in after deciding on the length I want.

More importantly than my news about remaking my coat, I want to thank each and every one of you for all your comments and kind words on my last post.  It may be cliché, but your wishes and encouragement meant so much, and on hard days, I go back and re-read them.

Risks

I, for one, am very glad the last decade is over and gone, particularly 2019, which has been the culmination of a difficult ten years.

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This last year hasn’t had much sewing for a variey of reasons, and the sewing that I’ve done hasn’t gotten properly photographed, or wasn’t photographed at all.  Some of it hasn’t even been worn… like a pair of jeans made from this fabric, for one.teal leopard denim fabric

It’s been a year of challenges and good things.  I thoroughly enjoyed my French classes every Saturday – my heart was singing every time I drove home – but that came to a screeching halt in May due to health concerns.

I made a few tunic tops from linen and cotton voile that had been lingering for years in my stash.

Burda 2-2018-111 linen front

I cannot remember when I purchased these fabrics, but I do remember where! And the tunics are thanks to Anne’s make for one of her daughters, which reminded me I had had a keen interest in the Burdastyle pattern every since it was released in February 2018.  It felt good to just get on with the projects and get them sewn so I could wear them. Impulse sewing.

Burda 2-2018-111 front

The summer went by quickly – too quickly – with so much stress at an unfullfilling job as we rolled out a new website, with little or no time to sew, and no mental energy left if there was time.  We had a family wedding to attend in August, and I literally had nothing to wear that would fit my growing waistline, so sewed for 5 days straight, letting everyting else in the household go to pot, while I made this unsuccessful attempt to copy a spectacularly beautiful Dolce & Gabbana green velvet dress (which I cannot find anywhere except in print advertisements).

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The dress seemed a lot worse to me on the day I wore it than it does now.

Of course I washed it afterwards (I always launder my own clothing, if I possibly can, instead of sending it to the toxic dry-cleaners), and the hem went wonky, mostly because I didn’t support it with flannel bias underlining.  So it’s still hanging up, waiting for a do-over, or alterations, or disection and reincarnation.  Then everything came crashing down in October, when I became an ostomate and was diagnosed with Stage III colorectal cancer.  No wonder my waistline had been expanding so I had nothing to wear to the wedding!  The sad part was, even as I was waiting for emergency surgery, all I could think about was, “Thank God I don’t have to go to work for the next few weeks.”  It took me until the third week of recovery to realize the shocking absurdity of that being my first thought, given the situation.

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These front bands make me so happy!

I have had so many ideas going through my head for sewing over the last three months, and no energy or mental strength to do any of it until this past weekend, partly due to recovery, partly due to rethinking so many parts of my life.  I guess coming face to face with a potential death sentence sooner than you expect does that to one’s thinking.  Re-evaluation and change are inevitable. Crossing the half-century mark in December brought several things into sharp focus, too, as a milestone will.

When I first began this blog a decade ago, it took a lot of courage to post pictures of my makes out there for the world to see, despite the fact that I’ve been wearing them since I was in my teens on a daily basis.  It was so much fun for the first few years, but slowly negativity crept in from voices close to me, and the joy of making disappeared into the pointlessness of making garments that were not likely to be worn, given my lifestyle of a SAHM.  That negative voice was given it’s proper perspective, although it is, unfortunately, not silenced, and still a part of what I hear now and then, through an excellent support service provided to my dear daughter #2, who has Down syndrome. It was her crisis that brought me the help I had desperately needed for years.

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Two years ago I was introduced to the concept of choosing a defining word for each year.  In 2017 it was ‘baby steps’ for me: baby steps forward into independence of thought and being; baby steps into health and freedom.  Last year I struggled with a defining word, although ‘commitment’ was persistent, particularly because I really became aware of how making decisions is easy, but follow-through is difficult due to constant reassessment – sometimes hourly – on my part.  ‘Courage’ became a rallying cry, too, early in the year, due to a friend’s struggle and hardship as she watches her husband disappear into the void of aggressive early onset Alzheimer’s.

And this year, I wasn’t going to bother thinking of a word, as I just want the next 6 months to have good reports and scans and results, and learning to look after myself (even at the expense of others’ demands) is still a daily decision and takes a lot of my strength and courage.  But this quote really reverberated with me a few days ago, attributed to Muhammad Ali:

“He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.” 

Risk.

That is my word for 2020. Here’s to taking risks in sewing up my stash and sewing up patterns I’ve wanted to sew for years, regardless of their ever getting worn or used.

dk edge: Vogue 1175

Lavender Tops

Back in the spring DD3 expressed frustration with the lack of choices in her wardrobe, specifically in the tops department. I must confess, after the last few unsuccessful projects that I made for her, I wasn’t very keen on risking more failures. They have seriously affected my sewjo.  BTW, this post was originally drafted in May……

I sent her shopping for RTW a few weeks ago,and told her to try on e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. she saw, even if it looked silly on the hangers, just to get her ideas flowing, and to take a lot of pictures so I could we what she liked. She came home with a $100 top from Wilfred, made of beautiful Japanese polyester, but the fit was off, and I didn’t care for the cost:product ratio. So she returned it, and went off to see what she could find that tickled her fancy in the Burda magazine collection housed in my sewing nook.

And I, browsing through my local Fabricland while purchasing thread for several new jeans projects for myself (I may not be trendy and stylish, but I love my me-made Jalie jeans and made three new pairs recently) stumbled upon a pretty lavender polyester satin crepe with a hammered finish. I purchased a 1.5m length, as it was the right shade of lavender i.e. not very pink, washed it, and set it on one of the sewing tables.

And she noticed it. And liked the colour. So I cut out two of the designs she had ear-marked, and suggested one that I had made for myself a while back, which she liked after she’d tried on mine.Burda 4-2016-114The first one is BurdaStyle 04/2016 #114, a very simple top with cut-on sleeves and a deep V neckline in the back. There is a band across the back shoulders which helps keep the wide neckline in place. There’s not much to say about this top. It’s very simple to make,  the most difficult part being the adjustment of the back band to a length that sits properly. In retrospect, it would fit her better if I’d done a square shoulder adjustment for her swimmers shoulders.Burda 4-2016-114 backThe second top is a repeat of Burda 04/2015 #103, which I’d made for me in 2017.  I had her try it on and she liked the style. Burda 4-2015-103It’s another simple sew, although getting the centre front V to sit properly took some very careful cutting. I have plans for at least two of these tops for myself. Burda 4-2015-103 frontThe last of the lavender tops used up some stash silk: lavender chiffon and a darker habotai for the longer layer.Burda 5-2014-128 silk It’s BurdaStyle 05/2014 #128, and DD3 wasn’t very sure of the design, but I loved the longer gathered back, and thought I’d take a risk while sewing up the stash fabric. I was prepared to thrift it if she didn’t like it in the end. Burda 5-2014-128 backThis top is short: I added a full 10 cm to the length.  Burda’s instructions are good and easy to follow, for once! I followed them to the ‘T’.

Burda 5-2014-128

I hand rolled the hems.

Burda 5-2014-128

And there we are: three new tops for her to wear. Funnily enough, the one she reaches for the most is gathered-back top. She’s going to wear it out first, mostly because the chiffon is rather fragile.

Ta da!

The lace tunic is finished.

The lace is quite substantial and the tunic has some weight to it. The silk charmeuse lining is wondrously comfortable, and makes this such a pleasure to wear.

The centre back pleat was a bit of a pain to manipulate so that it lays flat but adding a small flower appliqué helped tack it all down into place. There is a facing which I interfaced with silk organza, under stitched, and then ‘topstitched’ invisibly 5mm away from the neckline in order to keep it in place. I also discreetly secured the edges of the facing through all layers so that it wold behave as one layer.

My solution for the side seams was to use a true Hong Kong finish, using the silk underlining, and then stitching an appliqué on the interior of the hem to hide the bottom 4 cm of seam allowance.

Another close up of the hem and side seam finishing.

I’m pleased with how this turned out.

A happy compromise

I have come to terms with my desire for couture construction, having a garment to wear within a reasonable amount of time (since I cannot commit full days to totally do a garment with hand sewing) and finishing that I will be happy to on and wear.

Exhibit A: the sleeve seams. I undid the bias binding on the sleeve seams, trimmed the bias silk down to 2.5 cm in width, and bound each allowance edge separately.

And because I disliked the way the seam allowances are visible at the hem of the bell sleeves, I chose to appliqué one of the larger flower motifs on the inside of the sleeve to cover the bottom part of the seam.

In the photo, the bottom sleeve is inside out; the top left sleeve is right side out, but you can see the wrong side peaking out with no seam allowance showing – just another flower. Yay!

I am much happier with this, and am contentedly constructing the rest of the garment along the same idea. Hopefully I’ll have a finished garment to show you by the end of the week.

What to do…

Lack of knowledge, expertise and planning are my nemeses, and cause endless delays, doubt and paralysis in my sewing room.

Case in point: this lace tunic.

I made the sleeves first, and bound the seam allowances in bias silk (the same fabric of the tunic lining, which will hang separately from the lace itself, attached only at the neckline and armscyes). But after doing my invisible bust darts yesterday, I’m at a crossroads of decision. Here’s the left bust dart: Did you find it?

And the right bust dart:

…slightly more obvious.

They’re only ‘mezzo couture’, but the ‘invisibleness’ of them is making me rethink the rest of the seams on this garment. I have enough scraps left of the lace that it would be feasible to make every seam invisible: shoulders seams, side seams and the sleeve under seams. If I really wanted to go crazy, I suppose I could attempt to make the armscye seams invisible, too.

So instead of the shoulder seams above, I’d have invisible seams. In retrospect, why didn’t I cut it out without shoulder seams? The seams are bugging me now, but do I want to give myself the extra work? Would it make me like the finished garment more? Would I be happy to wear it if I don’t make the seams invisible, knowing that I could have should have maybe wished I had?

Or is this trying to make ‘mezzo couture’ into ‘alta moda’ and should I even bother with the attempt?

Lace

I’m working on a tunic top with bell sleeves made from this beautiful three-dimensional cotton guipure lace. This is a bust dart, which I’m trying to make ‘invisible’.