Saturday, 27 February 2016

Liberty and Leather Jacket, New Look 6302

Ok I said I was going to turn up the colour dial now, and I have certainly cranked it up a few notches with this make.  This fabric is a very old remnant of Liberty furnishing fabric called 'Houghton'.  It was given to me from someone else stash about 5 years ago, and it was probably in their stash at least 10 years before that!  It's officially, genuine vintage fabric now I think, and the design is apparently based on an even older pattern inspired by Elizabethan crewel work.  

When I first opened it out and examined the piece I thought the colours and shapes were just gorgeous.  Soft shades of blue, grey, pink, wine, khaki and coral on a tan background.  It was only when I was ironing it I realised there were actual creatures emerging; you can just see here the bird sitting on a branch on the right hand side and a horse (with a rather fine, bushy tail) in the upper left corner.  

I reckon I had just under a meter of this, but thankfully as it is furnishing material there is lots of width.  Even so I was fairly limited in scope for what it would make, so I chose this little cropped jacket, New Look 6302.  One of the jacket options includes a version with contrasting sleeve and bottom bands, so the main jacket body and sleeves required a relatively small amount of fabric.

Here's the cutting stage and I guess this is what they call working on fabric fumes, right?!  I faffed about for ages one night with this in the kitchen.  The final layout saw me cutting right into the selvage edge and even then some of the pieces were overlapping, making seam allowances tight.  I cut a size 14, but had considered cutting a 12 just to get the pattern pieces out of the fabric a little easier.  However this fabric is excellent, tightly woven with virtually no fray so I reckoned a tiny weeny seam allowance would be ok to risk, and at least I knew a size 14 would allow for fitting adjustments.  No I didn't do a toile, which might have been sensible in this case.  I jumped straight in using just careful measurements, basically because the boxy shape means less need for a perfectly contoured fit.

There really was no opportunity for playing with pattern placement and actually I could only fit the pieces on by turning them every which way and literally squeezing them in wherever I could get away with a bit of overlapping.  No back shaping here, just one piece cut on the fold which helped a lot to keep the pattern unbroken.  Fortunately the front worked out brilliantly too, with no obvious pattern placement gaffs. The actual construction of this jacket was very straightforward from the cutting out onwards.  It is an open fronted one, so no closures to do and just a simple, collarless neckline.  The set in sleeves were well drafted and went in very easily, even with this fairly substantial and unforgiving cotton material.  There were no problems.

I had already decided to use some blue-grey leather as contrast somewhere on this garment, as the colour went so well with the grey in the fabric design.  I had a decent off-cut from this leather skirt that I lopped a chunk off last year, but not enough to do both the cuffs and the bottom band.  Also the leather had seams running across it, from the original skirt.  I decided to use it for the cuffs and place the existing seam on the off-cut in such a way that it ran parallel with the new seam I created to make the cuff band.  So it looked like this.

I figured that the two lines of stitching together in parallel on the underside of the cuff looked marginally better than having one seam line on view both sides.  So the side of the cuff you see the most looks like this.

I cut the bottom band of the jacket from a loose weave grey remnant.  This has a nice textural quality for a distinct contrast, but is a reasonably close match colour-wise to the leather.  I think the two work well together.  However I did want to bring some of the leather in somewhere on the body of the jacket too, otherwise I thought there would be a slight risk the different fabrics could just begin to look a bit 'patchworky' and not have a coherent look.  There was a very long, thin strip left that included three seams running across it.  In the end I decided to use the strip as piping to insert around the bottom, between the band and the jacket body.

I've experimented with this before on this metallic brocade jacket, to include leather detail into a small area on the pockets and cuffs.  I don't use internal piping cord here, just folded the leather strip and inserted it into the seam, with the raw edges all lined up.  If you then sew as close as you can to folded edge of the leather, leaving only couple of mm showing, you get the piping effect, without the bulk of including piping cord as well as the thickness of the leather. You do have to make sure you get as near to the folded edge as poss though, otherwise you will just get a flat fold sticking out.  Another tip I discovered this time is that you can attach the piping in two stages for complete accuracy here.  Firstly sew the folded leather piece to the band, lining up the raw edges and stitching as close to the folded edge of the leather as you can get.  Say a couple of mm.  Then sew this piece to your jacket body, again lining up the raw edges but using this existing line of stitching to guide your needle, stitching exactly on top of this line to ensure you've got it right.  

Here's the inside of the jacket, showing the bottom band folded over and hand stitched in place.  I cut the leather seam edges down and graded all the raw seam edges, then the inside band lays flat on top and covers the whole lot nice and neatly.  The wine coloured lining material you can see here then got folded under and hand stitched to both the inside facing and along the top of the band, resulting in neat insides.

The jacket pattern doesn't include a lining, just facing pieces at the front and neck edges.  I managed to get these facings cut out of the main fabric piece, but decided to line it anyway as I always do with jackets.  I think they really need it, partly so they look nice when worn open, but also because they are much more comfortable to wear.  Jackets will creep around, ruckle, wriggle up and generally misbehave if they're not lined.  Also putting them on and taking them off is a proper rigmarole if your unlined sleeve interior sticks to whatever you're wearing underneath, causing the need to perform contortionist manoeuvres to shrug it off without turning your sleeve inside out on the way.  Not cool.

Here's a picture of the insides, just before I finished off the bottom edge.  The method I use is quick and easy, involving making a lining from the existing pattern pieces of the sleeves and main body.  I add an extra couple of inches to the centre back for ease.  Also add around an inch extra at the bottom edge of all the pieces, including the sleeve at the cuff edge, so that you have plenty of hem to turn under. Then you take off, or 'subtract', the facing areas (in this case from the back neck and fronts).  For speed, I overlay the facing on top of the corresponding lining piece and draw around it.  Then add back on a seam allowance, drawing a new line say 5/8 inch from your first drawn line, and cut here.  Bingo.  Then all you need to do is sew your facing to the lining pieces, sew your lining pieces together the same as the main jacket and sew the facings in place exactly as the pattern prescribes.  You then hand stitch the lining hems.  You could make a separate paper pattern for these lining pieces so that you could use it again.  There are other ways to line a jacket without so much hand stitching too, such as bagging for example (lots of inspiration to be found on the internet from kind sewists who have published really detailed 'how to' posts).

I chose a deep, wine coloured lining to match the colour on the jacket design and hand stitched it along the inside bottom band and inside the cuffs.  Because the cuffs are leather, I attached the lining to the fabric seam just underneath.  Pure laziness here probably as I could have hand-sewn it to the leather and risked straining a finger (wimp!), but as nobody will ever see this I chose to trim the leather seams right back and bring the lining to the raw edges of the fabric just underneath.  It's fine.  And no, I'm not showing you a close up.  You can take my word for it!

So here it is, the finished Houghton Jacket!  

I think this has brought a couple of old remnants bang up to date for wearing this Spring.  It actually reminds me of some of the current high street designs and certainly those colours, combining tan, berry and blue grey shades, are echoing some of the 1970's inspired prints that are everywhere just now.  

Have you ever made something up with stash fabric over 15 years old?!  Have people even got stash that old?  

Vintage Liberty remnant and reclaimed leather in perfect harmony.

Friday, 19 February 2016

Charity Find Alberta Ferretti Jacket and Layering

Here's a lovely charity shop find I've been wearing quite a bit over the last couple of weeks.  It's a Jacket by Alberta Ferretti, in pewter grey with a slightly metallic sheen to the fabric.  I'm always up for a charity shop rummage, however brief, and this visit was after a quick run to the bank on my lunch break.  I couldn't resist a sneaky peek to the charity shop next door on my way back!  It rarely disappoints.

Alberta Ferretti is a designer known for creating very feminine clothes, her tailoring cut to flatter. The jacket is made in a rayon and poly' mix, but the cut is great.  As usual with good second hand and thrift store designer clothes it cost a mere fraction of it's original value and yet the quality is all there.  I love the grey too, although I'll have to be careful as the last two things I've made have been grey.  Maybe soon time to turn up the colour dial a fraction.

The buttons are blue-grey shell and its lined in dark grey.  I particularly like the neat, nipped in shoulders.  I also like the fact that it is a size 10, but fits me perfectly!  Which goes to show that on a rummage session it's always best to ignore the label and try on anyway. Quite often different makers and designers will be more or less generous in their own particular sizing and this can vary quite a bit.  Although with true vintage clothes I normally have to go up a size or two, as they were generally made for a smaller frame.  I'm usually a 12, so would probably look for a size 14 or 16 in a true vintage garment. The same goes for buying vintage sewing patterns, always check the measurements carefully and if in doubt buy a size up.

The jacket is quite a long line style with welt pockets.  Very sleek and simple, a real classic shape that won't date or show it's age.  I took these pic's just before leaving for a day working in the office, wearing an ice blue cashmere jumper and my lace print black skinnies.  But I've also worn this jacket with leather jeans and a visibly 'lived in' (scruffy?) All Saints tiger t-shirt and sneakers.  It goes equally well with both looks.

Jackets are a useful extra layer under a coat that provide a bit of extra warmth, but also retain a bit of structure and shape to your outfit, even if you are adding and shedding the tops underneath. I've found jackets of various sorts invaluable at the moment to layer up and down when travelling around with work.  

Excuse the slightly rumpled back, these were taken after a day wearing it at work.  It's held up pretty well, but a less lazy person would have waved an iron over it before taking the photos!

I have for example just had a week visiting various galleries and clients around the country, which generally means leaving home early for a frosty walk to the bus stop, catching a bus to the station, then standing on freezing train platforms.  Then I'll be squashed on a hot train until I get to where I'm going, there to do a day of work and afterwards the return journey in reverse.  Occasionally I also have to do a fair amount of walking around outside in between time too if I'm seeing two or more venues or clients.  Or I could be sitting in a hot stuffy board room, touring a building site, or if I'm lucky enjoying a meeting over tea and cake in a cafe.  Or for example as with last week, doing all of those things in one day and finally climbing into an unused and very cold industrial loft space for a lengthy discussion regarding its potential. Layer on.  Layer off.  Layer on again.  Try not to leave said layers in a trail of random lost property as you go.

It's worth the effort to travel though as the experience of seeing and meeting and talking in person is always preferable to any other.  Sometimes I'm rewarded with a treat, such as when I came across this Frank Auerbach painting on Wednesday, waiting to be hung.  So fascinating to see the reverse side, never usually on view, but showing the layers of paint applied to this canvas over time as the artist worked.  

There are probably several paintings here, repainted, reworked and the canvas perhaps eventually reused.  Paint over paint.  Layers never to be revealed.  Utterly intriguing.

Friday, 12 February 2016

Self Drafted Monochrome Top

I'm still doing monochrome here at Studio 63.  Last week I was looking for a black/white or grey, colour blocked type top, not too bulky in case I want to tuck in the hem, and with some drape. Topshop have some nice ones at the moment with 'unfinished' edges and frayed seams. Tempting to purchase one for a birthday tea I was going to last weekend, but I'm still feeling the pinch in my purse after Christmas so buying new clothes is frankly not an option.  Fortunately making a brand new thing is absolutely, totally an option!  Whoop!

This is a quick, self drafted top with a slash neck, no closures and some raw edges. I have combined a fine, drapey cotton in a monochrome abstract floral print and some black laser cut fabric (which I think is probably a synthetic mix). I'm wearing it here with lace print, black skinnies from Oasis and an old necklace (in the first shot) from New Look. The floral seemed to work well together with the black cut-out fabric helping to provide some weight to the fine floaty sleeves.  I only had half a meter for each fabric and so this was a good way of using up these small pieces.

I started by folding the whole fabric length in half to give me the maximum area I had to work with.  Then I arranged an existing, basic t-shaped crop top over the fabric to use as a template.  Cutting around the top, giving myself plenty of seam allowance, gave me the rough shape.  I then folded this in half to check that it was even on both sides and cut the neckline at this point, working outwards from the centre fold.  Pattern completed! Very rough and ready! 

I stay stitched the neckline at this point and neatened all the other edges with a zig zag stitch. Stitching the shoulder seams came next.  Then unpicking them again to widen the neck followed!  The template top I used has a little stretch in the neck band and this fabric has none at all, and is rather delicate too, so taking no chances I cut myself an extra inch here and then restitched the seam.  Both front and back necklines are exactly the same as I decided not to scoop the front section any further

I cut a section of the black fabric to add to each sleeve, giving a kimono style look.  After experimenting a bit with this stage, I decided to attach the black fabric so that the raw edges showed on the outside, finishing the side seams and end of the shoulder seam at this point. The sleeves are cut with the selvage edge as the hem, so no finishing at all required here.

The bottom hem is turned up double for a clean finish and the neck is just raw and slightly fraying with just one line of stay stitching.  I plan to leave this unfinished, although if it seriously frays I might bind it with a slim bias strip.  This top was done and dusted in just a couple of hours and I totally love it!  In fact I was finishing the bottom hem just an hour or so before it made its debut outing to my friends birthday tea on Sunday afternoon.   

It was very freeing to draft a design with only the feel of the fabric and a rough idea of a shape to guide me and making this top was a flashback to student days and my early years in London. I quite often started drafting up tops and skirts and sewing them together just hours before a party or club night.  It's a great feeling to 'run something up' and wear it the same day.  When you step out in your fabulous new threads knowing that just that morning it was merely a neatly folded pile of uncut fabric. 

Make and wear in a day?  Why not!

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Grey Peplum Top, Simplicity 1699

It's February and I'm already feeling spring on it's way.  I'm enjoying the long (sometimes shivery) weeks of anticipation as things start to re-awaken.  I'm not quite ready for short sleeves yet, it's too windy and cold for me to expose that much arm flesh even indoors!  Taking these shots was a bit of an ordeal in itself (note the expression of grim determination!). But the top I made this week will be good for layering and it fits well into my current 'modus operandi' for creating very wearable but interesting garments with a focus on detail.  

I started the year 2016 with my grey and black bomber, which is a good example of the theme I'm running with just now - that is clothes that have a distinct element of style and attention to detail, but can mix well with both my handmade and ready-to-wear wardrobe.  I want clothes that play together nicely and can be sociable with each other.  

Last year I made some fabulous stand-out pieces that I love to wear (floral trench, winter berry dress, orange lace dress) but frankly they can be scene stealers and show-boaters when asked to spend time with other clothes.  Too many of these divas, and they will all start to fight with each other.  Wardrobe carnage will ensue.

I chose view B taken from Simplicity K1699, which is a pattern offering a number of different garments including a jacket, trousers and a dress!  That's a lot of options for one pattern.  As with all 'wardrobe builder' pattern packs I did wonder about how good quality the individual garment patterns were going to be and how it would turn out.  I cut a size 14 (UK size) and didn't bother with a toile.

I wanted to make this top in a plain, single colour to emphasise the fitted bodice lines and large peplum flare from the waist.  Thinking this dark grey poplin fabric would provide me with some structure and provide an architectural feel to the top.  I managed to find a brand new 22 inch, concealed zip straight away in my zip stash, which was perfect.  Was this pure luck or is it an indication that my zip stash is now actually larger than the stock in some actual haberdashers?  Anyway, using up a zip made me feel better about purchasing the poplin last week.  Ok it was less than a fiver, but having been rattling on here about needing to use up stash, it did feel rather naughty bringing another carrier bag of fabric into the studio!

The seam lines on the bodice section offer plenty of opportunity to ensure the fit is good before sewing up.  You can see from the photo below where the princess seams are before I pressed them.

The collar is a very satisfying to do; nicely crisp and pointy.  The patterns instructions say to simply under stitch the collar to keep the edges from rolling.  However I know this top is going to be chucked in the wash fairly regularly and I really want to keep those nice sharp edges.  I chose to top stitch all the way around, as near to the edges as possible. 

The sleeves are a doddle as they're raglan.  Quick and easy.

The pattern calls for a lapped zip, but I see no reason to use one at all unless this is a look you particularly like.  Either a concealed zip or even an exposed zip in a contrasting colour would be better options I think.  

I fiddled around with the hem a bit trying a few things out, wondering whether to do a plain turned hem or use bias binding, perhaps in a different colour.  And what turned up in my trimmings box - a length of bright yellow bias binding!  Perfect to emphasise the shape of the wide peplum hem and sharpen up the whole look of the top.  It's quite narrow bias, so just adds a small highlight of colour.

I think my inspiration for these colours comes from my gorgeous Carly Dodsley ceramics, sitting in my grey kitchen and currently filled with bright daffs. 

And maybe also inspired from drinking lots of cups of tea from my favourite Jane Foster lion mug!  Yellow and grey are a winning combination.

I'm pleasantly surprised at the top, although I haven't made anything else from this set yet.  The dress is based on the same bodice pieces with the peplum continuing down to the skirt length you want, so having got this bit fitting properly I imagine the dress might also be a good future project.  

You could change the feel of this garment and make this top also in a summery coloured cotton, or floral print for a softer, prettier look if that's what you're after.  You could even experiment a bit with colour blocking on the bodice, sleeve sections, collar and peplum.  It would actually make quite a fun scrap-buster in contrasting panels.