Saturday, 28 February 2015

Quart Coat Part Two: Completion

Have you ever worked on a project that seems to take forever to prepare that you swear it will take you weeks to finish and then all of a sudden you have a finished item? My Quart Coat is one of those projects. 

Quart Coat

As with any big project, it takes a long time to prepare the fabric, cut out the pieces, transfer your markings before you even get to your machine. Add in a large PDF pattern to assemble and I think I spent about five-six hours just preparing to sew. I chose the immediacy of the PDF pattern just in case winter planned to leave early and therefore not giving me much time to enjoy the finished item. I shouldn't have worried - winter is still definitely here! The pattern lines up beautifully when you're taping it together. It is actually perfect and that's really important when a pattern checks in at a whopping 50 pages! 

Quart Coat

Size wise, this coat fits very well. Other than my standard grading out for the waist and back in at the hips, I didn't make any alterations. There is enough ease in the sleeves to have a 40 minute phone call without your blood circulation being cut off. The collar is perhaps a little high and would sit better if I shaved off about a centimetre but that's a very minor detail. I wasn't sure about the length as my other winter coats are longer. It fine though - my legs don't get that cold and my skirts are no longer getting caught on the lining. 

Quart coat inside front
Quart coat inside back

This pattern calls for a lot detailed and precise sewing. I chose to make bound button holes which are my preferred button hole on jackets and coats. I needed some guiding through this part as I was a little rusty on the technique. I followed Karen's ebook and it is absolutely fantastic. I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking to make these for the first time - I ended up with four perfect button holes. I would recommend creating the facing side of the button holes before you stitch the facing to the coat as indicated in the directions. This will save you pushing a large amount of fabric through the machine and the constant fear that the weight of the fabric might stretch it. Other areas that need precision include the zipped sleeves and the epaulettes. Marking my seam lines really helped with creating a neat finish. 

Quart coat details

Perhaps the most pleasing detail of the Quart is the side pleats. They are very easy to create and I left my hand basting in place until the coat was finished to ensure a clean finish. Creating in them in silk was harder though, for all of the reasons you would expect. A note on the amount of fabric you need for the lining - I got everything out of 3m with 80cm width. I didn't use the silk for the zipped sleeves or under the epaulettes but I would have had enough to. The colour contrast was just too strong and I used some black poly lining scraps.  

Quart Coat

Hand stitching makes several appearances. You need to stitch the lining to the zips on the sleeves and, of course, to add the buttons. Pauline provides two options for attaching the lining to the exterior. You can either bag it or hand stitch in place. I chose to hand stitch using the fell stitch as it gives you much more control. I found this part very satisfying as my stitches are almost invisible.  

Quart Coat

So the verdict after wearing it for a week? Without doubt, I love it! It is super toasty on frosty mornings and this alone justifies the price of the boiled wool. While I would rather have sunshine and bright days, I'm now okay if winter decides to stick around for longer! 

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Quart Coat Part One: Fabric

I'll open today's post with a question. Do you like seeing a project split over posts? I certainly hope so, as that's what I'm doing for this project. I recently decided that I desperately needed a new winter coat and was planning to buy one. However the retail world has conspired against me this year and I couldn't find a coat that had any shaping and didn't cost an absolute fortune. I prefer a bit of definition around my waist but it is a straight style that seems to be in vogue at the moment. Not even charity shops could help - the beautiful £8 black coat was a size too small (goes to cry in the corner).

Buoyed on by a few Twitter friends, I hatched a plan to create my own. It was the only option open to me, right? I chose the beautiful Quart Coat by Pauline Alice. Now, I'm going to make you wait to the next post to see the finished item. Detailing the fabrics, construction, and final thoughts about the coat would have made one epic post and as I'm sure you would get bored, today I'm focussing on the fabrics and my tips for working with them. I'll break it up by adding photos of the construction.


Shell: Boiled Wool

I knew immediately that this coat would be made from boiled wool, as long as the pleats would hold. I wanted to lose some of the fabric regret I've been carrying for a year since I passed up a gorgeous purple boiled wool at John Lewis, but the main reasons were practical. 

First, I was making a coat at the wrong end of winter. I wanted it to be a reasonably quick make (well, as quick as a coat can be) and therefore chose boiled wool because it doesn't need finishing nor does it require any interlining - it is that warm. I ordered samples from Stone Fabrics and Dragonfly Fabrics and they taught me that not all boiled wool is made even. There was an evident difference in the quality and thickness of the wool, made all the more noticeable by similar price tags. After extensive consulting, including the boyfriend test (watching Adam's face as he flips through the option), I chose the plum wool from Dragonfly Fabrics. It's absolutely gorgeous and well worth the £30 per meter price tag.



This was my first time working with boiled wool so I did some research. Here's what I found out and what I discovered while working with it:

  • Boiled wool is both stable and dense. While it is at its best in an item with few pattern pieces and simple lines, it can work with slightly more involved designs 
  • It has residual shrinkage and it is wise to pre treat it. Like Jane, I stood for a long time at the ironing board steaming the piece ensuring that the iron didn't touch the fabric. Allow the area to cool before moving to the next piece as this avoids stretching the wool. Claire Shaffeur recommends buying an extra 1/4 yard to allow for the shrinkage
  • Be careful of the heat. Boiled wool doesn't like the iron, especially at high temperatures. I pressed with a low heat and then finger pressed the seams. I also found that it can take a mediumish temperature when protected by a silk organza press cloth (a lifesaver for attaching the interfacing)
  • Boiled wool is a double faced fabric meaning it looks very similar on both sides. Make sure you mark the wrong side (I chalked a "W" onto each piece)
  • Use a slightly longer stitch (2.5-3mm). After a few tests, I settled on 2.8mm. I also used a ballpoint needle following the advice over at Handmade Jane.
  • I managed to get three layers of the wool through my machine without a walking foot. Any more than this and I would have wanted extra help

Lining: silk

I've learnt the hard way that a lining can make or break a project. After splashing out on the wool, I knew that the lining needed to be of good quality. I came across this light green silk in Darn It and Stitch, priced at £8 per meter in their sale. I love silk and am becoming more and more confident working with it. Given that I will be dry cleaning this coat in future, pre washing wasn't strictly necessary but instinct told me to hand wash it. I'm glad I did as the water turned a bright blue in a matter of minutes and it did shrink slightly. 

Silk has a well earned reputation for being difficult, it slips a lot, requires a lot of pins and requires tonnes of patience. Turns out this piece of silk wanted to surprise me - it was fairly easy to work with. It only slipped when cutting out and making the pleats, otherwise it was behaved itself. 



My tips for working with silk:
  • Test the heat of your iron on a swatch. Pure silk can take a higher heat than your iron would indicate. This took a medium-high setting, without a press cloth, very well
  • Remember to pin in the seam allowance to avoid seeing holes. This is especially important if, like me, you're too lazy to switch to silk pins
  • Don't be afraid to hand baste seams together. I appreciate this takes a little more time but it ensures the curves of princess seams or arm holes go through the machine smoothly first time. It also prevents your hands suffering the long, slow torture that lots of pins are famed for. Silk or embroidery thread are good options
  • While French Seams are beautiful and work perfectly for silk, they aren't your only option. Try putting a scrap through your overlocker - it worked well for this project and didn't damage the fabric (told you I was aiming for a quick make)
  • If you're cutting on a table, put weights on the pattern piece and gently lift the excess fabric as you cut it. This prevents the fabric moving too much and while you might get the odd wobbly line, it generally works. I like this method as it saves back ache from cutting on the floor
  • Be careful when transferring your markings and always test on a scrap first. My chalk pen (pink) stained the silk so I used tailor tacks and small snips in the seam allowance


I'm certain the above is not comprehensive. Have I missed any tips that you swear by for either of these fabrics?

PS. You'll have gathered that I'm now on Instagram - you can find me at iwanttobeaturtle. I'm still new to this platform and figuring out how to use it effectively, so please bear with me. For some reason my iPad photos wouldn't work for this post so I had to embed them from Instagram - not my favourite way to share photos but better than none at all!

Saturday, 14 February 2015

A polo shirt for my dad

Do you remember my crazy but self-imposed 11 projects on the go at the back of last year? I still have a two selfless makes to share with you and today's post is the first of them.
The story of this creation started when I offered to make Dad a shirt for his birthday. As the discussion went on about what pattern to choose, it became clear that Dad was searching for a long sleeved polo shirt that fitted him well and thus the journey began. After hours of searching, no pattern, modern or vintage, fitted the bill. The only option left to me was to trace off one of his ready to wear shirts. 
Dad's polo shirt

Tracing RTW is a relatively simple process as long as you have enough space to work in and are able to lay the item fully flat. The trickiest part was getting a clean line through the thick seams around the neckline due to the collar. The sleeves also took some time as they are a single piece and I needed to flip them carefully once I had traced one side. 
Sourcing the fabric can only be described as an epic hunt. I had no idea it was so difficult to find decent pique knit in the UK. Perhaps I was looking in the wrong places but I spent hours trying to find it before eventually stumbling upon Jorsey Fabrics based in Nottingham. Ordering from them wasn't the best experience I've had with online fabric suppliers. When I opened the package I discovered that they had cut the fabric very oddly - I had been sent an extra 50cm in the middle of the fabric with a 15cm gap at the selvedges but thankfully this was over the amount I had ordered. The collar and cuffs came from them too and they are of good quality, although the cuffs are a little narrower than I would have liked. Overall the knit was easy to work with but unpicking was difficult. The stitches disappeared into the weave and it was easy to nick the fabric with the seam ripper. 
Dad's polo shirt

To create the button placket I followed this tutorial which annoyingly I now can't find so I'm unable to share it. I remember the process being reasonably straightforward although creating a clean finish on the outside was tricky as the fabric being sandwiched between layers refused to stay in place.
Dad's polo shirt

The cuffs have been added twice, and to be honest, I expected this to happen. You see, Dad is a little particular about the length of his sleeves. He's generally relaxed about the rest of an item but not the sleeves. I remember shopping with him when I was younger and becoming increasingly bored as he worked out whether the cuffs landed in the right place. To be fair, it probably took just a few minutes for him to decide but when you're a teenager that feels like forever! Anyway, the good news is the cuffs are now exactly where he wants them and that is how it should be. I wouldn't have been happy giving him an item that wasn't right for him.
I'm pleased that he likes the shirt and I hope that it gets a reasonable amount of wear. He also sweetly agree to model the shirt for the photos citing this was his "15 minutes of fame." Little did he realise that I would force him out on a cold day so we could get photos in natural daylight...

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Capturing ideas and inspiration

Sketching my sewing plans and visually capturing my ideas is a fairly recent activity for me. I've never considered myself to be good at drawing and shied away from picking up a pencil. This has changed recently and I thought it might be fun to share the insides of my sketchbooks.  


Modified Robson sketch

I've recently started to fill the books for a number of reasons. Primarily, it is not easy to draft a pattern without having some sort of visual reference to refer back to. Sketching out your design will not only help you think about where the seam lines go but also how to get an item on and show how it will hang on the body. I find it useful for planning the finer details such as what techniques I want to use and any changes I plan to make to a bought pattern. It helps to ensure I don't miss anything which is a big task because you can guarantee that I will forget at least one thing per project. 


Self drafted pencil skirt sketch

The first book I have is for capturing ideas, inspiration or anything that springs to mind. It is purely experimental - a place where my ideas can crystallise or lay in wait until the right project comes along. The images are for my own designs, tweaking bought patterns or projects that I am collaborating on. The sketches are not perfect, are often off scale and the colouring is wobbly in places but the point is to capture the spirit of the design rather than create a masterpiece on every page. 


Sketch book

Once I have decided to make a particular piece, I transfer the sketches to my Fashionary. I love this book - the preprinted figure on each page is such a useful tool. It is here where the finished item is captured with concise notes about the design, construction and fabric. I like to keep the page as clear as possible and only colour the item to be made - this helps me to see the design clearly. 


Juniper sketch

I'm enjoying using my sketch books. It feels great to be building up a bank of ideas for future projects or to flick through when I need a little inspiration. I would love to improve my skills and will be on the look on for tutorials or tips. Do sketch your ideas? If so, I'd love to hear your tips. 

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