A Timely Arrival

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”. 

This issue of Threads is packed with all kinds of great advice and ideas!

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.

This is the pattern I used – from Vogue’s Designer series, Jo Mattli, circa early 1970s.

The completed outfit – wool blend jacket and silk skirt.

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.

The strips attached for the bound buttonholes.

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.

Here is a close-up of the bound buttonholes – and the happily matched front!  Click on the photo for a closer-up view.

Before I sewed the front facing, I attached these “patches” to back up to the buttonholes. Then I cut away the heavy fabric underneath, so that I could finish the underneath of the buttonholes somewhat successfully. Click on the photo to see this up close.

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.

Using a lightweight black wool for the facing made the neckline much more manageable.

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.

Instead of turning back the facing edge to finish it, I attached this bias binding.

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.

This view of the back waistband shows how it is shaped.

And, of course, I inserted the zipper by hand.

Another look at the finished suit.

And one more…

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.

Do you think this is the same fabric? (Threads, January 2013, page 52)

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 .


Filed under bound buttonholes, hand-sewn zippers, sewing in silk, Shoulder shapes (shoulder pads), Uncategorized, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s, woolens

13 responses to “A Timely Arrival

  1. Your ensemble is absolute beautiful, Karen! …and the jacket certainly doesn’t appear to be bulky in the least. Thank you for bringing the Threads magazine to my attention. I have been meaning to subscribe for months and I’m making that happen today.
    I hope you’ll enter the wool contest next year!

    • Now that would be a goal to work towards (the MIWW contest) to be sure!
      Glad to hear you’re subscribing to Threads – it’s worth every penny and then some!

  2. Wow – that is some amazing pattern matching on the center front seam! Your outfit is beautiful! I like the jacket worn open too – you have so many options with your pieces!

    Interesting how the fabric of the Threads project winner is really similar to yours.

    • Thanks, Brooke! The jacket has some interesting seaming over the bustline and side fronts, as well, which would have been a disaster if I had made a mistake in my layout. So, overall I am pleased!

  3. Carol

    What a beautiful suit and you look radiant wearing it. It is true that sewing is an art. Your creative solutions to challenging sewing operations have brought fine materials to life. I thank you for sharing your process. Is it possible that strategically placed weights or hooks and eyes could help a llittle in the area you mentioned, although I think it looks perfect as it is.

    • Well, you have made that proverbial lightbulb go off in my head – YES – I think a chain weight around the three sections of the hem would help very much. Thank you so much for this suggestion! One lovely thing about this jacket is that it is very warm – which is a welcome feature as the temperatures are plunging here!

  4. You did a great job with your creative fixes. It looks fantastic.

    I’m so bad to ignore the recommended fabrics as well. Sometimes you just get a vision of how a project is going to turn out and it just over-rules all common sense and written advice!

  5. Thanks, Lizzie! This has been a good lesson for me to remember to check the fabric suggestions more carefully – although as you say, sometimes vision outweighs practicality!

  6. Your post is full of wisdom . . . and your jacket is stunning!

  7. mary knake

    Your jacket is absolutely beautiful! I love the fabric and your handwork is incredible. You look so great in it, too!

  8. Anne Elliot

    You are an amazing sewer! And, just quietly, you have the body to go with your creations :). I imagine you used the basics of the muslin for this jacket as for the first Susan-Khalje-fitted Chanel-inspired jacket. I like the shortness of the jacket and sleeves and the beautiful fit. The fabric is beautiful but I really appreciate the challenge it was. Your buttonholes look well executed indeed. I don’t think “your” fabric is the same. The coat seems to be woven of thicker strands of wool but in exactly the same traditional pattern. BTW, I loved your style of writing!

Leave a Reply to Pillows A-La-Mode Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.