Last week, as I was putting in some final hours on a suit I have been sewing, I was thinking about some of the “creative” solutions I had to come up with to make the jacket turn out successfully. I had, unbeknownst to me, made a “bad” decision about the fabric. Even though I (still) love the color and design of the black and pink hounds-tooth wool blend, it turned out to be a very heavy, bulky fabric to sew. Well, my newest Threads magazine arrived in the mail last Friday – and right there on page 56 is an article entitled “Better Sewing Habits”. Number 4, by Claire Shaeffer, is: Choose fabrics appropriate to the garment design. Printed in bold is this line: “Select a fabric that is recommended for the pattern”.
Sure enough, when I went back to the pattern envelope, there in plain English for the recommended fabrics is: “Lightweight wool.” I really felt that sinking feeling, but I tried to console myself by reminding myself that I had made some changes to the pattern and to the construction to accommodate the heavy fabric. I was trying to feel grateful that I actually have some skills which allow me to make changes and try different approaches to solve sewing problems. And, actually, now that the jacket is finished, I am happy with it.
Here is what went well:
1) I was able to match the design quite well across seam lines, shoulders, and sleeves.
2) I think I nailed the fit! Of course, I made a muslin first, so it’s not like that just happened.
3) I reduced the spread of the collar, which actually turned out to be a good decision, when I realized how difficult double layers of the fabric were to work with.
Here is what either did not go well or needed to be “creatively” approached:
1) I really wanted to make bound buttonholes, but the loosely woven, heavy fabric gave me pause. So I decided to make them out of the silk skirt fabric. I backed the buttonhole strips with silk organza by fusing them together. This made the silk stiff enough to stand up to that heavy wool.
I made the topmost buttonhole a “blind” one as I determined that I would not be buttoning that top button anyway. I knew I could never finish the back of the two remaining buttonholes by the normal method, so I “patched” behind them on the interfacing with a lightweight black wool.
2) The neck facing was going to be too heavy using the pink/black wool. So I used that same lightweight black wool for it instead.
3) The back vents were not going to lay flat if I turned in the raw edges as the pattern instructions indicated. So I bound them with black bias tape instead.
4) Setting in the sleeves was an exercise in sewing terror! I was sure they would never look good, but somehow they came out unpuckered and pretty well matched. I only used a sleeve heading to round out the shoulder, even though the pattern called for shoulder pads.
5) I have steamed and steamed, but still feel like the front edge could use some further attention. I might take the jacket to the dry cleaners and have it professionally steamed….
I actually really liked the engineering of the pattern: with the correct weight fabric, the jacket would go together quite well and the skirt pattern is a winner, with its shaped waistband.
Interestingly enough, in the same issue of Threads, the winners of the “Make it with Wool” contest were featured. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw that the Senior Winner of the Mohair Council of America, Marisa Linton, of Mount Olive, North Carolina, had used either the same fabric or one very close to “my” fabric to make the coat for her entry (which is stunning, I might add!). She had used a very original and successful technique for her buttonholes, which are part of the details which make her outfit so noteworthy.
So – it seems the past 7 days have been a time of many arrivals, including a huge and destructive East Coast storm – and the first day of November. May the next 7 days bring the final arrival of power and comfort to so many who lost so much in the storm, and make us all grateful for resilience, whether it be in life – or in sewing .