Drop Dead Buttonholes

These make-me-drool buttonholes arrived in my mailbox this morning from the blog Made by Hand. They made my jaw drop.

Blackwatch Plaid Coat: Closure

I have been working furiously on making a blackwatch plaid coat in Harris tweed for DD1, as she does not own a dress coat, and needed one for a family wedding earlier in March.  I made a toile of Marfy 1005 and a coat called Talea from Burdastyle’s website which I downloaded a couple of years ago.  Neither one was quite to her taste, so we went back to the original Harris tweed coat I’d made for her a few years ago from Burda 9/2010 #101, and put together a frankenpattern for the blackwatch coat.

I have completed the hidden button opening, complete with hand-worked buttonholes instead of the snap buttonholes I used last timeBurda 09-2010-101 hidden closureI just felt like practicing buttonholes this time ’round.  Need I say that the fourth one is significantly better than the first!hand-worked buttonholesBTW, if you google “blackwatch McQueen coat” (runway version) you can see the inspiration behind this one.  I am not a master cutter by any stretch of the imagination, and this project has both frustrated and challenged me.  It has whet my appetite for more tailoring, and I truly wish I could just sit and learn somewhere on Saville Row, or at a tailor in my own city.  Projects like this make me realize just how little I know and how much more I need to learn.  It’s been a big project, and I loved every minute of working on it.  More details soon!

A new pair of trousers

montana jacketBrown ones, at that.  Big colour surprise!!! I’ve had this wool crepe in my stash for years.  I originally purchased it as a complementary colour to the jacket in the picture above, which I sewed in…. um…. probably…. I’m guessing…. 1999?  You can tell by the shoulders, I’m sure.  I’ve a lovely pencil skirt to go with it, but I really wanted a pair of trousers to go with this jacket (which I’m not really loving anymore now that I see it, especially with the green sweater), and I haven’t gotten around to making them until this year.  And please excuse the headless photos – I was lazy today.

This is the same wool crepe as my latest brown skirt, and I have to say I’m happy I was able to get both out of the length of fabric.  The trousers are lined in the same not-pre-shrunk bemberg lining.

Trousers are funny, especially if you’re not particularly tall and have an hourglass (pear?) shape.  It’s only been since Jones New York came on the RTW scene that I’ve been able to purchase RTW dress pants that fit me properly, so I’ve usually sewn them myself.  But becoming a SAHM in 1998 changed my wardrobe requirements (no more dress codes), and I got out of the habit of sewing pants very much.  That said, I prefer a classic cut V1933 patternspant, or wide-legged pants that are dramatic and take a lot of fabric to the more shaped or skinny ones that are the trend.

I sifted through my pattern stash and decided on Vogue 1933, which is a Claude Montana design, and happens to be the same designer as the jacket, although from a different pattern.  I liked the technical drawing with the faux-pocket detail at the waist. To be honest, I wasn’t too sure about the front pleats, but the pattern cover seemed to be a straight-legged looking pair of pants on the model.  Mind you, the length of that jacket is covering the shaping/draping information that I really needed to know prior to cutting this out.

V1933 tech drawing

I did not read the description.  Bad.  Bad bad bad!!! “Tapered” equals a lot of extra fabric through the thighs à la 1980.  Not the look I was going for.  I didn’t bother getting photos to show you of my try-on session, but here’s the technical drawing of the pattern pieces.

V1933 pants

Pattern #24 is the back.  It’s been looooooong years since you’ve seen a trouser pattern looking so tapered, I bet!  I used to like wearing tapered trousers.  They were OK during the ’80’s, and you could still get away with them in the ’90’s (this pattern is copyrighted 1997), but I’m just not in love with that look anymore, for obvious reasons.  Haven’t been for a while!  I may change my mind in the 2020’s when the designers decide to have a go with reinventing the late 20th century styles, but for now I much prefer a “curvy” look, so I snooped through my traced Burda patterns and went for the version I made from Burda 01-2011-134.  Just for comparison, here’s the pattern pieces for that pair.

B 1-2011-134

The trouser back is piece #23, and you can see a big difference in the shape.  There’s a bit of flare to the Burda pair, too.

Of course, you realize, I didn’t make the Burda decision until after sewing up the lining, sewing up the fashion fabric, carefully pressing everything be-yew-tifully, trying on the original pants sans waistband and realizing there was no way that I would be wearing them in their original state.  BOTHER!!!  So I ripped all the seams apart except for the zipper, pressed everything as flat as possible, and recut them using Burda pattern pieces.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough fabric in the original pants to do the flare at the bottom, so this is what I’m left with.  The shoes are totally wrong for these pants, as you can see.

V1933But I like the colour and the cut enough to keep them, or at least tweak them if I need to so they’ll be palatable for as much as I anticipate wearing them.  I have to say, the bottom of the waistband sits at my natural waist.  It’s a very different feel from the more up-to-date trousers with their low-rise cuts.  But I think this can work in my wardrobe. V1933 waist detailI took the time to practice my hand worked buttonholes on the pocket flap.  All that silk buttonhole thread that I ordered arrived, so I gave it a try.  Let me say there is absolutely no comparison working with silk buttonhole twist vs. cotton buttonhole thread.  The coverage per stitch with the silk is amazing, and makes the buttonhole go quite quickly.  This one’s not a perfect buttonhole, but with practice, I’ll master the technique. handworked buttonholeI finished the hem the way I like to whenever working with wool or other fabric that frays easily.  I cut a strip of the lining material on the bias and did a mock binding.  Then I used a catch stitch to enable movement, as there’s bound to be some on a trouser hemline.hem finishingYou can see how much the crepe frays from the seam allowances in the picture below. And, finally, I used a thread loop to keep the lining in place, as these are fully lined trousers….. because they’re wool!

thread stays

Handworked buttonholes

First, I wanted to send out a thank you for those that have commented about my (poor) DH’s remark about the value of art.  Of course, this is one of thousands of very kind, encouraging and supportive comments I get daily from him, and it was probably not very fair to share the one that rankles me most!  His original comment was actually in the context of an art gallery in Canmore, Alberta, which we were browsing through last winter.  I has spied a pair of double loop hammered 18K gold earrings that I would have been extremely happy to purchase, but the asking price was CDN$1200.  Needless to say they were left behind, although he did say he would have purchased them if the price was less one zero.  Smile  So my humble apologies for giving everyone the wrong impression of the one man that I’ve known for 23 years that is quite happy to see me sewing, smocking and embroidering with economy – not excess – in mind.

And second, I wanted to share my new hand-stitched fun to add to garments that I would not otherwise embroider:  handworked buttonholes.  I didn’t plan on every really using hand-stitched buttonholes.  They sound nice in theory, but why bother when you’ve got the option of bound buttonholes or a lovely machine that has 8 different buttonhole options?  Well, enter DD3’s winter coat.  Between interfacing, underlining and two layers of fashion (mystery) fabric, the feed dogs on my machine completely refused to work properly.  It was too late to do bound buttonholes, so I could either use snaps or work the buttonholes by hand.hand worked BH

This is the 3rd buttonhole of four that I worked last night to have the coat ready for today.  I could not for the life of me find buttonhole twist anywhere except online, and I didn’t want to wait for it to arrive in the mail.  So I used cotton button weight thread from my local Fabricland.  It’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but I am impressed with the strength of these buttonholes.  They will still be standing when the rest of the coat is in shreds.

Now for the technical stuff.

  1. I did not use a fray-stop or beeswax to seal the edges of the buttonholes.  I confess my laziness.  I just trimmed the threads as they frayed.
  2. The facing side is quite messy, which I blame on a less-than-ideal thread and lack of practice. Smile
  3. My source for buttonhole twist, after much online searching, is here. I confess to stash addition, as I ordered 54 of the 80+ colours they have in stock.  You never know when you’ll need it, right?  And it beats parking downtown in the Fashion district and walking miles in and out of every single store hoping they have silk buttonhole twist, never mind in the colour you need.

I referenced several sources for technical drawings and instructions:

  • Sunni at A Fashionable Stitch has great instructions and pictures.  She’s also posted a tutorial at BurdaStyle.
  • Claire Schaeffer’s book Couture Sewing was indispensible as a reference, as I don’t usually do sewing in front of a computer screen, and don’t own a tablet or other such “smart” device that I could have sitting beside me on the sofa while working the buttonholes.

And your piece of trivia for the day:

According to Claire Schaeffer’s book Couture Sewing, couture ateliers have buttonhole specialists, which handwork the buttonholes after the rest of the garment is complete. Imagine. “Hi, my name is Tia Dia, and I’m the buttonhole specialist at Hermès.” I cannot imagine doing buttonholes all day.