Wednesday, 27 August 2008

The Saga of the Black Coat

Never fear, I have been busy – I just have nothing to show for it yet.

Even though spring is definitely in the air here, I feel the need for one last winter project. I need a black coat. I have a black coat already but it is hideous and incredibly unflattering. It’s from the Stella McCartney for Target range and I got it on sale, at the time I thought it would be nice to try something different and a bit more ‘fashion’, well let’s just say I’ve learned my lesson there! I have had people stand up for me on the bus thinking I am pregnant and then you have the awkward situation where I don’t deserve the seat, but don’t want to upset a kind person by knocking them back. Therefore, I think it is best for me and the community to have a non-preggers looking black coat.

I bought some beautiful black wool fabric from Tessuti when I was in Sydney a couple of weeks ago. I knew it was narrow so I bought 3m to be sure. Once I got home I started going through my stash of patterns. The main criteria was that it has to go in at the waist. My first pick was Burda 8010 (OOP) altered to be single breasted– except it turned out I’d got the petite size (ok, I know it’s not that hard to lengthen it a bit above and below the waist but remember I am lazy and stubborn). Then Simplicity 4033 (also OOP) – this is promising, I’m thinking View D collar and trims but in the single breasted version. Threads patterns are quite good for me (hideous shift dress failure notwithstanding), I made their trench coat a couple of winters ago and love it. So I got all organised only to find I was about 20cm short on fabric – disaster!

After recovering I then went to Vogue V2538 (again, OOP)– a coat I love and I’ve had the pattern for years and years. Sadly, my former self had cut out a smaller size than I currently wear. I valiantly made a toile but it wasn’t going to work (yes, I know I could alter it but…remember – lazy!). By this stage I was completely over it and went back to knitting and watching the Olympics. Finally I set upon BWOF 09/07/104. I’ve seen several reviews of this coat (and Tany’s leopard version is fab), so I traced off the pattern and was all set to go until my fella said ‘isn’t that pretty much like the coat you’ve already got?’ Well no, it’s much nicer but he was right to notice it’s not exactly fitted at the waist!

So after all this, what did I decide? Back to Simplicity 4033. I rang Tessuti yesterday and bought an extra 0.5m of fabric and today it arrived by express post. I hope this weekend to have some actual sewing to show you.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Crazy week

Since the Pattern Review My Pattern Competition ended (and if you haven't checked out the entries you really should - there is some amazing work!) I've been taking it easy a little. Well not really, my acting manager at work left a week ago on Friday and our new manager doesn't start until August 25. I am trying to get some really big contracts off the ground but it's pretty hard when there is no-one close by to give me approvals. Our acting, acting manager comes from a different department and while she is really nice, she is not a specialist in my field so I can't just run things by her. I also had to go to Sydney this week at pretty short notice. I flew over on Wednesday evening (4 hours), had a meeting on Thursday morning and then flew back on Thursday afternoon (5 hours + a half hour delay). It is not really unusual for people from Perth to do this, but it's been a while since I've had to and I'm a bit out of practice, plus I seem to have picked up one of those aeroplane colds!

Still, I did get the chance to visit the Darling Harbour Tessuti store and offload some of my hard earned cash! I bought some black wool for a coat, some spotted Japanese cotton and a remnant of a printed cotton voile - I'm sure they'll crop up here eventually.

Oh yeah, and I did some sewing...

I had never heard of Mrs Stylebook until I started reading people's blogs and I've only bought one - Winter 2007. This skirt appealed to me as it's a pretty easy draft to cut my teeth on. I was curious to see how the Japanese drafts would fit my curvy and (apparently) 3XL figure.

As this is a work skirt, I almost left the pockets off. I just don't like the look of topstitched pockets on dressy things - although I love it on casual garments. My work is pretty casual so it wouldn't be a problem but I wanted to have all the stitching concealed. I thought about hand stitching the pockets on but that wouldn't be strong enough. I finally remembered an old article I had cut out of an issue of Australian Stitches that talked about machine stitching pockets on. I dragged it out and decided to give it a go. Here's a bit of a step by step for those who haven't seen this before - I love the finished look and it's not as hard as you might think.

First cut out your pocket pieces and two lining pieces per pocket (so for two pockets use four lining pieces). I interfaced my pockets with some (extremely crappy) fusible interfacing, which I think is a good idea in most situations - just don't use the cheap sh*t from Spotlight like i did.

Sew one lining piece to each pocket piece and fold it to the inside as normal to create the faced top.

Fold down the seam allowance on the other lining piece and lay it on top of the lining side of the pocket unit with the seam allowance facing outwards. Sorry, this photo isn't terrifically clear.

Sew all the layers together and run a gathering thread around the rounded corners. Turn the seam allowances in using the gathering thread to help and press. If your seam allowances are more than 1cm then you should probably trim them back to 1cm at this point.

Lay the pocket in place on your garment and tack it in place with a narrow but long zigzag, just catching the folded edge of the pocket. I did this in blue so it would be easier to find and remove later.

Now the tricky bit. You need to fit an open toed foot to your machine (you may be able to get away without one but I have one and had never used it before so...

Place the edge of the foot on the raw edge and stitch the pocket down through all layers from the inside - this ends up being about 2-3mm inside the folded edge which gives a really nice 'floating' effect. The narrower the pocket the harder it will be but the zigzag ensures it doesn't slide around. The first time I got couple of tucks in the curves but it was pretty easy to go back and fix it.

Then flip the back piece of lining against the garment and stitch by hand or machine close to the folded edge. Both sides of the pocket are now lined and all the raw edges are concealed.
See, isn't that neat!
To hide the last little bits of seam allowance you need to stitch down the top corners. I decided to do a little rectangle, but I dare say other techniques would look just as good. I counted the stitches to get the size as regular as possible.
Other than the pockets, the construction is basic - invisible zip, a couple of darts, the lining is eased to fit the lower edge of the waist facings and a hand sewn hem. And here is the finished skirt.
It's so nice that even though I've been sewing the best part of thirty years that it still challenges me. I'll probably make this pattern again, both for work and for casual wear and I'll definitely be putting my pockets on by machine in the future!