Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Silver and Black Metallic Brocade Jacket

While late autumn sun still lingers but the nights seriously draw in I start to think about warmer fabrics, more decadent layering and perhaps .... just a little bit of sparkle to brighten things up? This is my first step into metallics this year. 

The jacket's inspiration came from some small pieces of fabulous pure silk brocade given to me by a friend.  

One of the advantages of people finding out you sew, and that you occasionally use remnants, oddments and cast offs, is that sometimes they give you really interesting and, in this case, incredibly beautiful fabric. This sumptuous black and silver woven silk brocade came to me in two very long, slender strips which were an off-cut from a much larger piece that was made into a throw for an interior design project.   These two pieces have therefore been stored away waiting for the right idea to emerge, as there was no opportunity to cut out anything more than a few inches wide.  This fitted jacket design was taken from Simplicity 2341. Its narrow sections and princess seams were perfect to fit close to the body and was a good project to use up the strips of fabric.  

The pattern gives you a number of options for customising the look, either with military hardware, a more classic biker style in leather or simple fitted, zip fronted jacket. I used a mixture of these design features and then added and customised some of my own ideas along the way.  

My version of the jacket features a stand up, mandarin style collar and shoulder epaulettes that layer across the front in two flaps secured by a button.  The silk is a soft, aged silver colour with a low level sheen and a matt, woven leaf design in black. It's so unusual and almost glows without being too shiny.  It also sews beautifully.  I chose to use contrasting, plain black wool fabric and decided to make the arms out of the same black wool too that I picked up some time ago in a sale. I was working with extremely limited amounts of the metallic silk and so needed every scrap to fit in the main body of the jacket, front and back.  By cutting with absolutely limited seam allowances and making the jacket quite fitted by bringing in the princess seams, I was able to just get the pattern pieces to jigsaw together.  The sections are top stitched in black thread and I used a plain black open ended zip.

There is a band around each lower arm,  a band across the centre back and button details front and back.  The pockets are small but functional for popping in a phone or something, but also served as another place for some detailing and added luxe with some fabric contrast.  In fact I just ran out of fabric for the second pocket, with only one tiny scrap left and so had to improvise with leather across the bottom section in order to complete it.  I like the asymmetric look this gives the jacket and the extra element of detail it provides.  There are lots of tweedy and brocade fabric jackets around again in the shops this season, with leather inserts, patches and trim to give them interest and a contemporary feel. Adding leather over the silk, and using it here on the pocket (to fix a gap!), gives the jacket a more modern look. Sometimes you can come across a problem, only to find it makes you use your imagination to fix the issue.  As with sewing, so with life!

The leather trim is recycled from an old and much loved pair of black leather trousers that I refused to throw away when they tore across the thigh.  I remember when it happened and was heartbroken to have ruined them so spectacularly!  I love the fact that they now live on in another form.  The top of the pockets are edged with the black wool and I've used the leather as piping and then topstitched.  The bands I chose to add on each arm are again piped with leather also, simply by folding it and catching the edges underneath the arm band seam.  It gives the sleeves a nice weight at the cuff and balances the look of the sleeve nicely with the rest of the jacket.

These buttons are quite old, found when rummaging in my Granny's button tin.  I've had this tin of beautiful buttons for many years now, but I can remember being allowed to play with it at her house when I was very small.  I used to spend ages sorting the buttons, choosing my favourites and finding the unusual shapes and colours.  The black military style cameos seemed fitting for this jacket, but also they're incredibly detailed and beautifully made.  

The front ones feature an anchor and crown.  The ones on the back band look like someone standing by the sea, waving to a big ship with three funnels.  The camera on my phone struggled to focus on these, you might be able to make out only some of the tiny detail, but I'm so glad I've found a place to use them as I think they're such beautiful little objects.

The front facings inside are black wool and the lining is a simple black satin.  I realised when I'd finished inserting this that it should really have had a hanging loop on the inside.  Always so useful when you need to pop your jacket off when out and about somewhere and you don't want to risk it getting dirty or crumpled.  

It's lovely to have an outer layer for keeping a bit warmer, whilst also making an outfit more dressy.  I'm wearing it here with a black, skater style wool dress, opaque tights and black leather boots.  It's a change from my leather jacket, which I would otherwise have worn over this outfit, and I think it's quite an unusual mix of styles and textures.  The first metallics of the season have arrived.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Le Vie en Rose - Trench Part Deux!

Here's the finished trench coat, and, as the French saying goes, l'm in the pink!  Well, pink and yellow that is. There really is no wonder this pattern got so many commendations online by other stitchers and makers, it is a dream to put together and considering this was my first coat project, all went very smoothly indeed.  Nevertheless, I still spent until 2am in the morning sewing hems and buttons to get it finished!  I wanted to wear it last weekend to a few days away with girlfriends to Liverpool, and having had such a busy couple of weeks already, it required a middle-of-the night sewing session to complete the job. 

In case you missed the first post about this, (Trench Part 1), the pattern is McCalls 5525 which features a number of trench coat versions to customise.  The pattern is now out of print but I got mine, uncut from eBay, for a bargain price and I've seen it come up from time to time for sale on line second hand.  The fabric is a cotton sateen with a bit of stretch and is a combination of plum and damson tones with shots of yellow and moody greys.  The coat has a great shape, lots of structure and detail with a fab stand-up collar.

I chose view E, the longer line classic trench coat.  There really were no real issues with the pattern at all and the fit was spot on with virtually no adjustments needed.  I cut a size 12 and although it'll never be a coat for wearing over bulky layers, as a dress coat it is a perfect fit.  There are absolutely loads of reviews of 5525 online as it was voted best pattern of 2009 by Pattern Review website, so there are lots of versions of this out there on the net.  The only couple of points to note, as others have done, is that the yoke section is drafted slightly off kilter, so you just need to double it over and cut it on the fold of the fabric so that each side is even.  

Also the pockets are indeed very small, so if you like to have deeper pockets then do cut them bigger.  I didn't want huge pockets as it's unlikely I'll want to put more than a phone or my hand in there, so I just added another inch or so around the bottom for a bit more depth.  The only other slight hiccup I encountered was working out the pockets flaps, where topstitching is described that is actually underneath the flap and so unseen.  The diagram shows the pocket flap facing towards the back of the garment instead of where it sits in its finished state towards the front, and shows the 'topstitching' running along the underneath, which is a bit confusing as this stitching is actually concealed in the end.  For some unknown reason this really bent my brain for a few minutes! Anyway, not a deal breaker, more likely to be down to the way I visualise things sometimes.  I added a hanging loop at the inside collar so that I can pop it on a peg or hang it up in a public loo when the need arises.

I chose to topstitch all the seams in grey thread, although with such a busy fabric it probably isn't that noticeable on the main body of the coat.  The buttons are a natural grey and black horn colour, as is the buckle on the belt.  There are epaulettes, sleeve bands, a tab at the collar, lined back yoke and pocket flaps, all of which add to the classic trench look and provide lots of detail that I really enjoyed making.  

The lining inside is a medium weight cream satin, as are the pocket bags, as I thought a quiet and sleek inside was the best option given the very exuberant exterior.  It's a luxurious lining and makes the coat lovely to wear and easy to slip on and off over layers.  

I didn't think about fabric pattern repeat really when I was cutting out as matching wasn't really that much of a consideration.  Also I was really squeeeeezed for fabric and only just managed to place all my pieces without cutting into seam allowance, which meant very little room to manoeuvre around the fabric design.  Fortunately I don't think I have any odd looking areas and it's all worked out ok.  The colours are fairly evenly spaced.  I did have a bit of a dither about whether the roses should be facing up or hanging down.  In the end they are hanging down, as this looked more natural I thought.  

The trip to Liverpool was a great road test for this coat with lots of opportunity to see how it weathered three long and busy days of shopping, walking, lunches, bar hopping and generally being carted around everywhere.  Here it is enduring a lengthy window shopping session!

After being scrunched up on a train luggage rack, taken on and off in changing rooms, flung over cafe chairs and bar stools and jostling with crowds at the Cavern Club at midnight, it still managed to to look cool and crease free. 

Not too hot or heavy to wear over light layers on a sunny afternoon, but with plenty of coverage for keeping out cold northern breezes when the evening draws in.  It's my new favourite day-to-night coat.  Cheers!

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Scarborough Sunshine and Stash!

We're just back from an amazing weekend in Filey and Scarborough.  A stolen few days of sun, sea and sandy toes!  Work has been manic just now with some long days and for various reasons my evenings have also been busy with various commitments, so not much sewing has been achieved recently.  A couple of days away to see family was just the tonic though and I'm back feeling refreshed and revitalised.  Also with sewing stash to boot, but more on that later.

The north east shook off its autumn chill for the weekend and basked in some truly wonderful, unseasonal warmth. Even the donkeys had been brushed off and brought back into service.

Coats and jumpers were peeled off.  Soon we were making a sandcastle stable for 'Maya' the horse, inventing races for the beach olympics, paddling in the waves and burying pirate treasure.

Then jeans were rolled up (or entirely removed by the kids) as the sun beat down on Filey bay in the afternoon and the temptation to jump in the sea couldn't be resisted.  It wasn't quite as cold as we expected and soon we were all wading about, splashing thigh deep in the north sea. We had arrived in the morning with coffee, snacks and buckets and spades and we stayed all day long.  Replenishing the refreshments with trips to the cafe for chips, calling in at the seafood stall for mussels and prawns and then back for chocolate biscuits and pop.  Eventually we left when the tide gradually covered our sandcastles, filled our island moat to the top and pushed us all the way back up to the sea wall.  Then it was up to the cafe again for ice creams before heading back home.  

Watching the late afternoon para-gliders swooping low over the beach was fun.  One flew incredibly low over our heads and then gracefully landed in front of us.

It freaked out the dog though, who was absolutely bewildered by humans flying around, dangling from kites.  The dog's head is in the shot here as he had actually climbed onto Tricky's knee when the photo was taken, poor pooch!

So anyway, after all that excitement, the other amazing thing about stealing a weekend away in Scarborough is that it is the home of one of my favourite haberdasheries - Boyes.  'Good Old Boyes', as it has come to be known in our family, is a little department store selling all sorts of bits and bobs and an Aladdin's cave of fabric, sewing and craft delights.  Its beautiful original building and flagship store is in Scarborough and if there is any chance at all of sneaking off for an hour to browse, then I grab it.  There's always something to pick up for my stash or that one 'thing' on my list that I've been looking for.  In this case it was 15 grey buttons and a pair of shoulder pads just the right size for my trench coat and this delightful collection.

The claret satin is a sumptuous, medium weight with good drape and a bit of stretch.  The white and gold leopard print is also stretch satin in a lighter weight and the claret leopard is a matt, slightly opaque fabric.  I also got matching thread.

I was thinking when I saw these, of making the next Rigel bomber jacket I'd planned on my Autumn wish-list, which I wanted to do in either navy or a luxe, plum shade.  I want to do the version with contrasting shoulder sections too, so that meant finding a bit of interesting contrasting fabric. This claret satin is perfect for the main body and sleeves and the contrasting pieces in plum coloured leopard would be great fun.  The white and gold leopard would make an interesting lining and chime in with the leopard touches on the outside.

However, as is always the way with me, I'm now dithering about with other ideas!  The claret satin would also make a great outfit for the party season I thought, and having draped it over my dress form I'm now wondering if I'd like to do a dress as my next project, rather than another jacket or coat.  Hmmmm.  More pondering of possibilities ensues.

I bought 2.5 metres so I've got lots to play with.  Also it happens to go really, really well with the colours in my (nearly finished but not quite!) trench coat.  Here's a sneak peek of where I'm up to with that.  The lining went in last night, so I've just got the hems, buttons and button holes to go.

Don't the colours go well together with the new satin?  Perfect for a smart dress and coat ensemble? Oh decisions, decisions!

Monday, 5 October 2015

Cutting Winter Florals - Trench Coat Part One

So I've cut out the next item on the 'wish list' and started piecing it together last week.  Back in August in my 'autumn planning' post, I had in my sights set on a trench coat.  Usually thought of generally by the fashion world as a spring garment I suppose, but equally useful I believe for cooler damp days of autumn.  I haven't ever attempted to make a coat and I really want a classic trench with a twist to get my teeth into.  I want to challenge myself with getting the details and shaping right and persevering with a complex project.  I have had two sewing projects in a row in September that have been 'against the clock', which have been fun and quick to do, but this one will give me the chance to slow down and enjoy taking my time.  

The fabric I chose is one from a selection I bought back in July 2015, from Lincoln.  It's a pale cream cotton sateen with a bit of stretch and plenty of body, featuring a scribbled, scratchy pattern of roses.   A great price at £3 per metre and, without knowing what I was going to make with it at the time, I got 3 metres to give myself some options - good call me! The colours are unusual together but I really like the contrasting warm shades with acid yellow and then the harder greys to tone down the brights.  There is something slightly edgy about the shattered look of the print that takes the sweetness out of the flower design.  The colours include the masala, berry and plum shades that are appearing everywhere on the high street and in designer collections just now, as well as that piercing lemon yellow that has also been a big summer feature everywhere this year.  I think this is a great autumn/winter colour pairing. Here's how far I've got with the coat, all main sections are sewn together front and back.

I loved the McCalls 5525 pattern when I saw the Selfish Seamstress make three versions some years ago (the Guggenheim, Key Lime and fabulous leopard print version here from 2011.  What an inspiration this archived blog has been for me in recent years getting back into sewing, as well as enjoying Elaine's writing style and meticulous approach to her craft).  The McCalls pattern is sadly now discontinued, but I managed to find one uncut on eBay and snapped it up for a bargain price.  It was a 'best pattern' winner in 2009, as voted by Pattern Review and as it's quite an old pattern now, there are lots and lots of reviews and different versions of it on the web.  Nearly all the reviews I found rated this coat very highly indeed.  I found a really good selection of photographs and descriptions of the trench in its various different versions - colourful and customised, plain and demure, playfully patterned or understated chic - pondering them all for inspiration.  Eventually I settled on the idea of making a fresh, bright version rather than the more classic beige or camel colour.  I wanted to stick to the classic shape and design though and make the longer version with all the detail you expect to find on a trench coat, with epaulettes, belt, wrist straps and button down pocket flaps.

It's likely that this finished coat will only ever be dry cleaned, but I have pre-washed the fabric and ironed it to check there will be no shrinkage or shift in the finished garment.  The last thing I want after committing to making a time consuming coat, is for me to get caught in a rainstorm and end up wearing a shrunken, misshapen dishrag.  Luckily the weather here just now has been glorious, like summer again, allowing me to get this pegged out on the washing line and dry in an hour or so.  Look at that blue sky, it's been around all week!

There are some great winter florals in the autumn/winter 2015 collections.  Ted Baker has gone to town with bright blooms on black, navy and grey backgrounds, from outsized peonies and giant jungle leaves to delicate oriental prints.  Similarly Gucci's autumn/winter collection featured lots of very similar prints to my fabric, with scribbled and sprawling blooms illustrated all over coats, suits and dresses in moody colours.  My coat will be in good company I think.

After completing the burda ruffle dress a few weeks ago and using a digital pattern (with limited instructions, no seam allowance, niggle niggle) it was nice to go back to a paper pattern for this project.  I quite enjoyed the cutting out stage with no printing, piecing together and remembering to add seam allowances along the way.  I suppose I'm quite lazy in that respect and always keen to get to the sewing bit rather than linger on the preparation stages - the burda pattern was really no bother having so few pieces so I don't know what I'm complaining about really!  There are lots of really fun pieces to place on this coat and lots of detail, from epaulettes and tabs to top stitching.  Here's how the back yoke looks at the moment, just basted in place but with the top stitching along the point all done.

And the front section, which will of course be folded back into lapels when it is being worn, but I haven't sewn in the facing sections yet.  I'd only pinned the shoulders together on this shot as I was testing the fit before committing to sewing together these and the side seams.

I haven't made a toile for this coat, after some dithering about whether or not to.  I do want a close fitting coat and I'd like it to be on the slim side rather than roomy, but I banked on the princess seams giving me enough opportunity to adjust the fit as I piece them together on my dress form along the way.  So far the fit on my dress form is great, cut at a size 12, and I have had barely any adjustments to do along the way.  Although I don't think I'll be able to wear anything too bulky underneath, but that's fine as it isn't going to be that sort of winter coat. 

It's going to be a very busy coat!  I have tried to photograph some of the details in close up but they are very hard to see in the maelstrom of flowers - spot the pocket flap anyone?  It's there I promise, but you have to look very hard before it emerges.  Like one of those 3D stereograms, that appear when you stare at the pattern long enough.

I'm lining this in a good quality, medium weight cream satin, which cost a bit more than I would normally pay for lining but I think will add some body and structure to the coat as well as feeling really luxurious. Considering buttons, I'm quite sold on having either natural grey horn or some sort of mid-grey type colour and similar for the belt buckle.  I've gone with grey topstitching, but it has tended to disappear in some places against the sketchy leaf pattern.  It's still a nice detail though.  Next step will be collar, more tabs and details!