V7975: Octopus’ Garden French Jacket

You may recognise this fabric – it’s been the banner feature of this little web space since I started blogging, and was also the subject of one of the first jackets I wrote about, which was made to wear to my best friends wedding.

After the first jacket I had a scant 1.4m of 130mm wide fabric plus two large scraps, and there is quite literally nothing of it left now! I almost had to piece together the last pocket to make it work.

This jacket obviously marks a great leap forward in sewing skill since way back then…

Typically, if I want to get a compliment out of my beloved, it’s not enough to go fishing for one – I have to go in there with a speargun (obviously by which point any nice words extracted are null and void). So when hubby did both a physical double take on me in this jacket – then blurted out how much more amaazinger it was than Octopus the First, well – it was nothing if not completely satisfying!

We’ve hit that time of year where the light is just constantly harsh and glare-y. It doesn’t do justice to the colours in this weave – but you’ve got my blog banner to see how they look IRL :)

In other, completely unrelated news – I’ve finally found a hair dresser I LOVE. I’ve never worn my hair down so much before in my life – and I’ve always judged a hairdresser by how good the cut looks after you’ve washed all the styling out. This is it air-dryed and zero-product – zero maintenance. True to form, I’ll probably keep having it cut like this for the next 35 years.

The pattern is trusty Vogue 7975, with the sleeve from Marfy 9814 – a 3/4 delight with a little flounce on the end. This sleeve piece screams Chanel to me, as it’s very reminiscent of the styling I’ve been seeing in their recent collections. It’s also, I think, ridiculously flattering. Paired with the classic bodice of Vogue 7975 – becomes a 1 + 1 = 3 kind of synergy.

The fabric is a silk boucle, lined in turquoise charmuese (from Stitches to Style). The trim is a chartruese grosgrain ribbon from Jimmy’s Buttons which has been painstakingly cut down to the width I wanted (I could only get it in a wider width) – paired with a vintage Chanel trim Susan Khalje bought in Paris then lugged all the way to Melbourne as a potential option for her students to buy in her 2017 Tour of Australia. It was a particularly long length, and I get super excited when I spot the other ladies who bought some – sisterhood of the trim! Sewing it on made my hands smell like a hessian bag.

The grosgrain was a nightmare to deal with – not nearly as well behaved as lovely petersham. In the end, having it split in two was a godsend come the time to sew it in curving around the neckline – there ended up being a good 2cm difference in length of the inner to the outer ribbon just around that section.

Cut in half, basted back together at the right width, then sewn on with tiny stitches in a matching thread.

I still haven’t found buttons for this yet, and I’ll probably just not bother. I very nearly almost didn’t even put pockets on… then went the whole hog with 4 because I figured the fabric was busy enough, why not just keep with that.

There’s nothing new or groundbreaking here that I haven’t covered in the copious posts I did on my first French Jacket back in 2013.

Oh, except maybe that the sleeve flounce is on the bias – I did elongate the flounce by an extra 1.5cm (at Susan’s recommendation, and thus shortened the sleeve by this amount also to maintain the length) to ensure that I could get enough of the grid repeat of the fabric shown off. I quilted this on the bias as well – along with some extra underlining in the way of silk organza, this really helped the flounce to hold its gentle conical shape whilst being worn.

I recall recording the amount of time I spent sewing my first French Jacket – around the 150 hour mark? Well if I had to guesstimate, this one took a little less – maybe closer to 120 hours all up. This includes making the muslin, the 5 full days I had whilst on the French Jacket course (I couldn’t make it to the whole 7 days), plus a half day prior for fitting and cutting out, plus time spent post-class sewing on trim and pockets. I’ll admit not having a 3 piece sleeve and vents reduced the total time, as well.

I’ve been wearing this a bucket – and am absolutely loving it. You can 100% guarantee there will be more French Jackets in my sewing future.  (I’m still miffed I haven’t yet made one with printed silk in the lining…)

Super 130s Classic Pants

I’m beyond thrilled with the outcome from my second Couture Sewing School class.

I’ve grappled with pants a few times since I started sewing, and whilst I managed to achieve a good crotch curve fit on my own, it was getting the legs right that really proved elusive.

This was because of two ‘fitting’ reasons –  I have uber prominent calves and legs that don’t extend from my hips at the same angle as Ready to Wear pattern design. Pretty much every pair of pants I have ever owned, worn or sewn has had the grainline twist and distort the fabric from the knee down, where it both catches on my calves and is pulled away at an awkward angle. (You can read more about the fitting process of these pants here).

No more!

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I’ll admit to being a little anxious in the lead up to taking these photographs – in case the way I felt they looked (ie: magical) would somehow have the spell be broken when translated into pictures. Also, that so much has happened to me since I last took pictures of a finished garment that I would somehow be different, and that would be visible.

Surely I can’t be the only one harboring suspicions of the photographic process?!?

Moving on.

The fabric is dear to my heart – bought in Quito, Ecuador. It’s a Super 130s wool, amazing quality, beautifully soft, drapey but substantial. I lined it with an olive green silk charmuese from D’Italia.

They’re at once simple and elegant but also decadent.

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I can’t attribute the design to one specific pattern, as this really is a pattern mutt…
a) crotch curve courtesy of the Style Arc Flat Bottom Flo pants (If you are in ownership of a pancake butt like me, this is the crotch curve for you!);
b) Original leg pattern from the Style Arc Darcy woven pants, altered beyond any form of recognition;
c) Waistband design from Colette Patterns’ Clover pants; and
d) Side slant pockets and back welt pockets from Burda 6689.

Burda’s crotch curve is apparently famed – something about the curve having an appropriate amount of shaping at the tip, which many pattern designers leave off today because it saves on fabric in the cutting layout. And that this design change multiplied by many pants pieces saves a huge amount in fabric and therefore $$$.

Either way, if you’ve a more rounded rump – this would be a great pattern to try. You can see the difference between the original Burda (right) and my pancake butt adjustment here:

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The legs are courtesy of Susan Khalje’s fitting skillz, and I couldn’t be happier with the way the fabric sits, and how flattering the line is on me. I had rather thought such a thing was beyond my reach. You can read about that fitting journey here.

The waistband is underlined in calico, with the inner waistband hand-sewn down in the ‘ditch’ of the front waistband. The lining was then handsewn onto the waistband facing and centreback seam.

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The zipper is my first ever hand picked zip. I’m more of an invisible zip kinda gal, however I can see the significant benefits of this treatment. Namely when you forget to check alignment and end up with one side being slightly longer than the other…

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Whoops.

It certainly helped having a fabric that was conducive to being steam into submission – you’d never know now!

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The hem of the pants is catch stitched down to the fashion fabric, and covered up with a bias strip of lining that was fell stitched on top. A lovely little detail.

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I did what you probably know as a ‘double welt pocket’ on the back – a slightly new to me way of doing it under Susan’s tutelage as well. They’re not functional pockets, just something interesting to break up the expanse of fabric across one’s backside. The fabric behind the opening extends up into the waistband and is sewn down underneath the bottom welt, which will act to support the opening as time and wearing put strain it.

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You can probably expect to see a few more pairs of pants popping up on here now I’ve got this sorted, as I’m ever so curious to see if the Style Arc Antoinette Pants are something I can pull off.

I’m probably only about another 10 hours (!) away from finishing my next French Jacket – which I’m also head over heels in love with – and I look forward to sharing it with you soon.

Pants block for the win!

V7975: French Jacket II

My dear mum celebrated her 60th in May, and to commemorate, I dedicated many loving hours to make her a French Jacket of her own. It’s been a long journey – I bought the fabric at B&J‘s back in late 2013, worked on her muslin over several trips interstate to visit/fit her, then worried about actually being able to finish it in time for her birthday due to our renovation works… which turned out to be a very real concern. I didn’t finish it in time for May, but instead was given a new deadline of the 28th of August, prior to their departure for a holiday in Canada, America and an Alaskan cruise.

Once renovations dropped pace and I’d sewn myself a palate cleanser, I got stuck right into this. And once again – I loved every minute of it!

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Fitting was a particular fascination – probably because I very much inherited my mum’s body shape. Seeing the similarities between our fitting adjustments and seeing how my body will probably need to be fitted one day was really cool. One of the most interesting things about watching Susan Khalje fit the other sewists in the French Jacket class I took was how a more mature body differs from what I’m presently accustomed too. This is in no way a slight on anyone older than myself, but I find that the non-symmetrical form a body eases into as one grows older to be an exciting challenge to fit. Or maybe it’s just because it’s different to what I fit when I sew (myself) that recognising things like a ‘sunken chest’, or a raised shoulder, or a ribcage that is smaller on one side of the back compared to the other is almost a way of validating knowledge I don’t usually get to test. Either way, my mum’s jacket was a joy to fit and sew.

It felt a lot quicker to sew this time around. I also think her’s is more beautifully constructed because I’m far more confident in my abilities now than I was when I made mine.

I was terrified of sewing in the sleeves (firstly because Susan drapes and pins them in position for you, and secondly because I didn’t have Mum around to test it on), but I was so pleased when she did try it on how well it fitted and how nicely it looked! (By this stage I’d already ventured into creep territory and tried it on myself several times…)You really can tell the difference between a garment made specifically for your body shape and one that isn’t – even when the fitting changes are slight (like me, Mum fits the Vogue Size 14 really well). I think this was a real point of difference for my mum (I’m lucky – I’m used to it!) – she was an equally impressed at just how beautifully it fit as I was.

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Kicking myself for not picking out a trim for this fabric when I bought it and was still in the States, I attempted to make a swatch of ‘fringed’ trim (thanks to this great resource from Cloning Couture). Mum decided that she preferred it without – “the fabric is fabulous enough” she said. I was happy with that because the time it would take to make 5 yards of the stuff would have been quite substantial!

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The trim I was originally thinking of making – along with some piping from the lining down the centre (the cut strip is just for representation…)

Instead, she agreed to my suggestion of a very slight bias trim in the lining fabric at the top of the pockets and around the sleeve cuff, which I thought looked rather elegant.

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After setting in the sleeves, I had to take up the cuffs as they somehow ended up being too long! Whilst I had left a 2inch gap between the intended cuff length and the quilting, this ended up being substantially smaller than originally planned for.

But, the trim is a huge part in stabilising the seams around the neckline and jacket front – so going without meant providing this stability on the inside of the jacket. I cut some selvedge from the silk lining, and catchstitched it in place:

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Buttons were another thing I was mad at myself for not purchasing whilst I had the chance. I ended up ordering some self-fabric buttons from Buttonmania. As the ‘trim’ was an understated and subtle hint of lining fabric, I went that route for the buttons, utilising both the matt and satin side of the charmuese for contrast. It seemed an elegantly matching solution, and Mum agreed.

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However… when I actually put them on the jacket pockets… they just didn’t look right. I recall several times people saying whilst I was doing The French Jacket course in Baltimore, that quite often, you just can’t pick trim or buttons until the jacket is mostly constructed – it somehow changes things. That matched my experience with picking trim for the jacket I made myself (I pared the trim I bought right back to one strand from three), and again with this jacket. So I probably shouldn’t have been kicking myself too hard about not visiting M&J Trimming with this fabric…

I ordered hooks and eyes and chain from Susan’s website, and after a final fitting with Mum in early July to determine pocket size and location, I finished the jacket and sent it off – it arrived about 3 or 4 days before my parents left on their holiday – perfect timing? I also sent her the remaining silk charmuese lining, as there would be enough to squeeze a sleeveless blouse from if she wanted.

Give me another year, and I’ll be ready to start the third French jacket, which has already been promised to another special someone. I should probably let them know it will take at least another 2 years after that, if this project has been anything to go by!

And because a garment is never as fabulous as when it’s on the intended wearer – a photo of my Mum in her belated birthday present!

In the meanwhile, if you couldn’t half tell from my lack of posting on here – I have completely lost my sewing and blogging mojo. And seeing as we’ve gone straight from the depths of winter right into summer… the ‘transitional’ garments I had planned for myself as maternity wear are already obsolete! How fortuitous for me, haha :) Shame, because I have this beautiful Marfy jacket about 2 hours away from being completely finished… and it’s been like this for nearly two months now. And it will probably stay this way for many more months as water retention owns me right now!

Marfy 3022 in the making...

Marfy 3022 in the making…

MN1006: ‘Cara’ – Ruched Maternity Tee Mk I, II & III

After the great success that was the Ruched Maternity Skirt, I figured I’d leveled up and so started on the Megan Neilsen Ruched Maternity Tee. Reviews abound on PR with many gorgeous versions of this top, and many people singing its praises – so I was really motivated to get stuck into it!

But I’ve come to a rather big realisation – I don’t like sewing with knits. Not one bit. Give me the sheerest and most wayward lightweight silk to work with over a lightweight knit, ANYDAY.

Having spent the last few weeks procrastinating, avoiding and then forcing myself to take photos of the outcome from this pattern – I think I’ll tick this off as having been ‘done’ and get straight back to wovens (I’ve already finished my maternity pants for work).

Here is the final outcome – my third version of this top:

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Anyway back to the start of the story – my pre-pregbot measurements exactly fit in the range for a Size L across the bust, then back to a Size M at my (now non-existant) waist and hips. As I so successfully sewed the Size M Ruched Maternity Skirt, I traced off the top pattern, grading between the Size L & M from the underarms down.

I worked with a stretch cotton mystery fabric (found at Rathdown Remnants for $2 a meter – easily the least expensive fabric I’ve ever bought) in a minty green marle that I’m a huge fan of. The recovery of it is lousy, but given that this was going to technically be a wearable muslin, I wasn’t too worried.

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You’re seeing an adjusted version here – I took in the underarm seams considerably (about 2-3cm in, going from bust to the sleeve hem). Before having done this, I had a considerable amount of excess fabric around my armpits and bust – which had the rather unfortunate effect of making me look rather, well – saggy. It wasn’t a good look.

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Afterwards, I made a crop top test version to make a change to the armscye seam across the shoulder – taking it in by 2.5cm (a full inch). This looks a million times better. (I also scooped out some of the neckline to make it more rounded). Basically, it suggests to me that I should have made the size S across the shoulders, not the L.

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The ruching is done on the front pattern piece only, ruched to fit up against the back pattern piece. The front hem is curved. Next time I might try straightening that hem, but ruching the back as well to get a closer fit under bump.

I’ve also seen on a lot of RTW maternity tops that the front is self-lined – presumably to assist in containing leakage? I tried this on my second version of this top, which I never actually got around to ruching. It’s in a watermelon polyester – gorgeous colour, horrible fabric. Looks pretty fluoro orange in my photos though!

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Unlike my experience with the Ruched Maternity Skirt, the outcome of this top leaves me feeling… keen to put the experience behind me. I think that’s a mix of trying to get used to my new shape (gigantor boobs, puffy everything, additional body fat percentage… far out!!) plus the annoyance of working with flimsy knits.

Next project please!

MN1008: ‘Erin’ – Ruched Maternity Skirt

There was a point where all of a sudden I had nothing that fit. I procrastinated about sewing knits by concentrating on working that Marfy Jacket – which came to a screeching halt when I realised I’d cut, sewn and prepped TWO RIGHT SLEEVES. Time to procrastinate no more.

My first Megan Neilsen Ruched Maternity Skirt was from an off-white ponti knit fabric from The Fabric Store, labelled as a DKNY fabric. It’s lovely – soft, incredibly stretchy (50% by my calculation) with good recovery, and would provide a great base for my intended maternity wardrobe.

Apart from being a little anxious about sewing with knits (you can’t exactly muslin it… where’s the control over how the fabric behaves?!?!), I was wondering how it would fit/look.

As a thicker knit, I had read that the ruching would be less obvious due to the fabric, and that was true (that was fine by me) – but the end result was great:

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I knew I was onto a good thing when I sewed that Marfy Safari Blouse!

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I cut the Medium, which matched my pre-pregbot body measurements almost spot on. At the time of cutting this out, I was still the exact same hip measurement, but there was an additional 12cm where my waist used to be. Being so unused to knits – I was quite concerned about how the end result would fit. The PR review by Clio & Phineas is one of the more useful in this regard. She used a super super stretchy knit, and it was very close fitting. Being less further along in my pregnancy, and happy to have a well-fitting skirt in a thicker fabric that would at least see me through until it starts to get warm (not to mention I got the fabric at 50% off so I wasn’t too precious about it) – I took the risk of sticking with the Size M instead of sizing up.

The skirt comes with 3 variations – knee length, midi length and with an optional ruffle (similar to the By Hand London Charlotte skirt).

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I may not have finished the jacket I wanted to wear with this in time for a particular work trip, but my trusty Vogue 8333 certainly was a great backup plan :)

I may not have finished the jacket I wanted to wear with this skirt in time for a particular work trip, but my trusty Vogue 8333 certainly was a great backup plan :)

As for construction, well this is a pretty simple beast. For me to be able to say I cut AND sewed it up over the course of a day (in between life distractions) totally feels like an anomaly.

Elastic? Drama. I bought three types – the only purveyors of such notions I know of are Spotlight and Lincraft, both of whose selections are incredibly lousy. One Lincraft I went to had rubber elastic – this turned out to be the best option and worked really quite well with the heavy ponte knit. (The other heavy-fabric suited elastic I bought didn’t have enough stretch in it). I’ll be going back for many more meters of this. I found it easier to cut the length longer than specified in the instructions, then mark within that the length required – giving you space to hold the elastic taught between the notches on the skirt- you get a more even tension that way. Then just cut off the ends afterwards.

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Heavier duty elastic for thicker fabrics, lightweight elastic for thinner fabrics.

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The high curved front of the skirt to fit over the expanding mid section

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Instead of making casing like the instruction said, I sewed the elastic down to the inside, then turned it down and used a twin needle and wooly nylon to finish it off.

When I put the pattern piece against my body – the Midi length nearly hit my ankle. I nearly shortened it right there and then until I remembered the whole thing about ruching!!!! #babybrain

So I cut the midi length to see where it would sit on me once ruched – about 2/3 down my calf. I played around with lengths, and eventually decided on one that is quite long – below my knees and almost exactly halfway between the knee and midi length on the pattern. In future I’ll probably cut at midi length, then adjust because I suspect fabric type (namely, how well it ruches!) will affect this.

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Hem of the ponte knit skirt on the left, hem of the stretch silk charmuese slip on the right.

I left an inch for the hem, then used a twin needle (with wooly nylon in the bobbin) to finish it off.

Even though this was a substantial ponte – it was still slightly see through. My memory alerted me to the fact that aaaaages ago, I bought a 0.7m length of stretch silk charmuese (from D’Italia). So I made a short slip from the same pattern pieces as well. Bingo!

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Frenched side seams and a miniature hem at the bottom – makes me feel slightly less lousy about the nasty finishing on the ponte version!

Except that this slip will probably only last me for a week – the stretch charmuese only has about 10% stretch, so even though I cut the Large for it, I will most likely outgrow it in a fortnight, if not before. It will still work really well for use under skirts when I’m not pregnant, so not a total loss – but I will need to find an alternative if I want to keep wearing the ponte skirt (which I do).

Verdict? I really like this pattern. It came together in a timeframe I never dreamed possible to finish a garment in (is this why everyone sews with knits??). The only thing that irks my about my handiwork is the lack of nice finishing on the inside, the only thing that irks me about the pattern is that the side seams don’t match at the top. The Medium works well for now in this fabric – lets see how the 50% stretch works out over the duration of this pregnancy, because I can see that I’ll be wearing this A LOT.

A Sunday afternoon sewing win.

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