Category Archives: couture construction

Update on The Pink Coat

When is a sewing project really, really, finally finished?  That was the question I was asking myself after I thought I had finished my Pink Coat, but then decided I had more to do.  Or, more precisely, I had things to undo and then redo.

After seeing the photos I posted on this blog, my eye went right to that crinkled hem.

I had not noticed how crinkled the hem appeared until I saw these photos.

I had purposely steamed the hem lightly, not wanting to make it a knife edge, but after seeing these crinkles, I went back and steamed it again.  I still had crinkles. My expectation at this point was that I would probably have to take the hem out and redo it.  This suspicion was confirmed when I sought advice from Susan Khalje.  She oh-so-gently agreed with me!  First she suggested  removing the silk organza from the bottom of the coat up to the fold line of the hem, and lightly catch-stitching it along the fold, which would not show.  I did this after taking out all the stitching along the lining, the facings, and the seam allowances, in order to undo the hem.

The pins mark the fold line of the hem; as you can see, the silk organza underlining extends to the bottom edge of the coat.

I then pinned about a half inch above the hem line, so I was able to remove the silk organza right at the hem fold.  I then used a catch-stitch to secure the silk organza right along the fold line.

Doing this helped, but the hem was still not as soft as I thought it should be. Susan’s next suggestion was to add a bias strip of flannel to the interior of the hem, which I suspected was what I had needed to do from the start.  I went to my trusty Vogue Sewing Book from 1970 to get guidance and found this:

From: The Vogue Sewing Book, edited by Patricia Perry, Vogue Patterns, New York, New York, c1970, page 324.

I used all cotton white flannel, cut 2½ inches wide, the width of the hem.  I positioned it so that ⅝“ was below the fold line, with the remaining above.  I used a catch-stitch on the wider section of flannel, securing it to the silk organza.  Then I did a loose running stitch right on the fold line. After every step, I gently steamed the area.

Obviously I had to take out the catch-stitching along the lower portion of the center back seam, and then I was able to slip the flannel under the seam allowance.

Then I was ready to put the hem back in, and reattach the facings and lining.

None of this was difficult, but it was time-consuming. However, I am much happier with the appearance of the hem now.  It is soft and hangs with more grace.

A much smoother, softer hem!

Susan also suggested that I make an adjustment to the front edges of the collar.  Although I had under-stitiched it, I apparently did not coax the front-edge seams back away from the edge enough, allowing them to show more than they should.  So I took out a majority of the understitching and re–did it, too.

The collar lays flatter now, and I am really happy with it.

Needless to say, I was a bit discouraged that I was facing so much work to correct these problem areas, but I knew it needed to be done.  I considered waiting until next Fall to tackle these fixes, but I decided I would feel less like doing it then than now, so I dug in.  It became a good learning experience, and a good reminder that different fabrics behave in different ways. It is up to the dressmaker to seek out the best solution for a problem area and then do it, or in this case, re-do it.  Hooray, the Pink Coat is finally – really – finished.

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Filed under Coats, couture construction, Dressmaker coats, Hem facings, Hems, Uncategorized, underlinings, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s

The Pink Coat Odyssey, The Finish!

Is it possible to fall in love with a coat?  If so, then that is what has happened with my pink coat.  It was a relationship which grew over several years.

First, I found the pattern, this Vogue Paris Original Designer Pattern from 1965.  It was an eBay purchase made several years ago, with a promise to myself that one day, when I found the right fabric, I would make it.

Next I found this silk charmeuse couture fabric on the website of Mendel Goldberg Fabrics. It was an end cut, 2.25 yards, and when I purchased it, I envisioned another wrap dress, not the lining of a coat.  Luckily I had no urgent plans to use it, and thus it eventually found its way inside the pink coat.

I am showing the lining silk here along with the pink wool to show how well they complement each other.

And then – I found the pink wool.  Also an eBay purchase, this wool was not inexpensively priced, but I recognized its rarity and its “presence” in the posted pictures.  Then I hoped it would live up to its promise once I received it and saw it in person.  Over the years I have found some amazing things on eBay, but this wool is one of the real treasures.

Because I have already posted quite a bit about the coat’s muslin/toile and certain salient details, I will not go into too much more description about the coat’s construction.  But I do want to point out some of this pattern’s engineering charms.

1) On the photo on the pattern envelope, I believe the soft shoulder of the coat is evident.  I used a “cigarette-type” sleeve heading in each shoulder to enhance the smooth transition from the shoulder to the top of the sleeve.  Not so evident on the pattern illustration is the drape of the back of the coat from the shoulder line.  I realized this drape works so well because of the two neckline darts.  They are in the neckline, not the shoulder seam; they add necessary shaping without disturbing the drape.

Can you see how the dart comes off from the neckline, not the shoulder seam?

2) The collar is an engineering marvel in my mind.  The under-collar  is constructed from four pieces, two main sections cut on the bias, and a 2-piece collar band, seamed at the center back.  The band helps the collar to turn beautifully.

This photo clearly shows the components of the under-collar. You can also see the under-stitching I did in silk buttonhole twist.

3) When I made the toile, I was concerned about the fullness of the back of the coat.  It seemed a bit much, and I have already written about my intention to add a half belt to draw in the fullness, if needed. Nope!   I am so happy with the finished look – it has that 1960s’ vibe without being overwhelming.  I did move the vertical back seam line up 1.25” to rest at my natural waistline, rather than below it.  For me, this was the correct alteration.  It may not be on someone else who has more height than I do.  Another consideration was that a half belt would have concealed the seam detailing which is so lovely on the back of the coat.

An inside look at the back of the coat, showing its drape from the shoulder seams.

The other significant alteration I made was to remove 1.5″ of width from each sleeve.  I possibly could have taken out even more, but I will be wearing this coat over sweaters and perhaps even a jacket, so the sleeves as I cut them will still accommodate that bulk.  But I would not want them any fuller!

Although the pattern did not call for it, I added flat piping to the edge of the lining.  I chose white silk crepe de chine for this contrast detail.  I felt any other color would have been too demonstrative.

The coat kind of looks like a sack of potatoes in this photo of its front edge!

The finished look of the lining edge.

I had some difficulty finding pink buttons.  I ended up with two varieties found in two Etsy shops.  I used a larger pink-swirly one for the looped closure, and smaller pink pearl-y ones for the concealed opening.  If I ever find ones I like better, that’s a easy switch.  But the more I see these, the more I like this combination.

Basting threads are still evident in this photo.

Alas, it is much too warm for wearing wool coats now, but it is ready for next Fall’s cooler days.  By then I hope to have a  windowpane checked skirt, in delicate gray, white and pink wool, specially made to wear with this coat.

It is always interesting what photos reveal. I am thinking I may need to redo the hem to get a softer look to it. It looks like it has crinkles in it!

I will take any excuse to show the inside of this coat!

I cut a piece of the selvedge with the Lesur name on it and attached it to the right front facing of the coat right below the placket.  I think this is an important part of the story of this project.

There is a very slight bow to the back of the coat, again reminiscent of the ’60s.

This coat is almost making me anxious for next Fall!

As I worked on this coat, I came to realize how perfectly suited the pattern and the wool were for each other.   It was such a privilege to spend so many hours with such quality.  No wonder I fell in love!

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Filed under Buttons - choosing the right ones, Christian Dior, Coats, couture construction, Dressmaker coats, Linings, Mid-Century style, Uncategorized, Vintage fabric, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s, woolens

The Pink Coat Odyssey, Part 2

Sometimes it is the smallest little detail which can make or break a sewing project.  In the case of my pink coat, it was that single loop at the top front edge.

Normally loops are very straightforward, but with this pattern, that was not the case. When I looked ahead at the pattern instructions, this is what I found:

Because the front facing is not a separate piece, but rather folded back from the front edge, there was no seam within which to secure that loop.  The instructions directed me to “slash” the yoke front facing through the center of the “squares,” shown here in basting:

The basted “squares” indicating where the “slashes” should be are in white just to the right of the center fold line in the photo.

 

And this was supposed to be done after the collar was already on and the facing properly secured in place.  Well, I knew I wasn’t going to be slashing anything without getting a second opinion, and furthermore, I knew I would need to do the installation of the loop before the collar was on and the facing turned.  I did not know how I could ever secure the loop without access to the inside of the facing.

I went online to Susan Khalje’s Couture Sewing Club which is by subscription on Facebook.  Once I posed the question about the best way to accomplish this task, Mary Funt of the blog Cloning Couture suggested I use an awl to work holes where those squares were, separating the wool threads and enlarging the openings to the size I needed.  Then I could whip the edges with silk buttonhole twist to secure them.  Mary also suggested I use a medical clamp (hemostat, which I highly recommend as a vital sewing tool! I have had mine for years and use it frequently), to help flatten the raw ends of the loop.

This shows the awl, the hemostat, and my spool of vintage pink silk buttonhole twist, along with a sample “insertion” of the loop.

First I practiced! Here are my practice holes:

Practice holes helped me determine how large the hole needed to be to accommodate the loop.

The hemostat was also helpful in pulling the end of the loop through the holes I made.  Susan Khalje further suggested that the loop would need to be very securely fastened inside, and she suggested I under-stitch that part of the facing, catching the loop in the stitching.

The completed holes, bound with silk twist.

The loop inserted into the facing.

This shows the secured ends of the loop inside the facing.

The under-stitched facing, in which I further secured the loop.

Oh my goodness! Thank you Mary Funt and Susan Khalje!  Using this method produced exactly the results I wanted.

The finished loop.

After the mystery of the loop was solved successfully, it was on to the collar, and ultimately on to the final steps before attaching the lining.  The completion of this coat is in sight, after all this time. I can’t wait!

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Filed under Christian Dior, Coats, couture construction, Dressmaker coats, Loops for buttons, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s

The Pink Coat Odyssey, Part 1

Instruction sheets for patterns always intrigue me, and especially so, instruction sheets for vintage Vogue Designer patterns.  They so often include a quirky method of handling one aspect of construction. And often the construction details for an entire complicated dress or coat fit on one side of one sheet, completely at odds with the amount of time involved in the actual process from beginning to end. The beginning of my pink coat, however, commenced long before I started at “ number 1” in the Instructions.

With my adjusted and fitted muslin (toile) completed, and with its pieces disassembled again, I transferred it onto white silk organza to be used as both the pattern for the fashion fabric and as its underlining.  This was the point about which I was both equally excited and terrified! There is a real thrill involved in laying out the pattern on your fashion fabric, but my pink coating wool is no normal fashion fabric.  A rare survivor, this French Lesur wool from the mid 1960s, needed some special attention before I could begin to lay out my organza pieces on it.

Often vintage wool displays a crease down its center point where it has been folded for decades. Fortunately, this Lesur wool was folded with the right side in.  There was a definite crease line, and it looked a bit soiled as well.

In the left half of this photo, you can see a line of light soil along the crease.  This is the wrong side of the fabric.

I used a Woolite spot remover pad and worked gently along the fold line to reduce the minor discoloration.  Then I put the entire length of wool in the dryer with a Woolite dry cleaning cloth to freshen it.  When it came out, the crease line was practically gone, but I noticed that the wool appeared just a bit thinner along that line.  I knew I would have to work around this when I laid out my pattern pieces.

It is barely visible, but there is a line of thinner wool close to the center of the photo.

Working single layer, as is customary with couture construction, I spread out the wool on my dining room table.  The “coat front and lower back” piece is quite wide, and extended across the center point line of my wool.

You can see how wide the Coat Front and Lower Back pattern piece (#3) is, on the lower left.

Because the longest straight edge of the piece is the front facing, I knew I had to make sure that line of “thinner” wool  was on the facing and not on the main body of the coat.  Fortunately the wool had no nap, so I was able to stagger those two very large pattern pieces with different vertical orientations, which saved the day!

A number of pieces were on the bias which always seems to use more fabric.

All in all, it was tight fit to get all the pattern pieces on.  I let it all sit overnight so I could doublecheck myself with fresh eyes before I actually started to cut.  Knowing how special this wool is made taking that first cut with scissors extremely nerve-wracking.  However, I figured it was now or never, and so I cut!  One by one, the pieces piled up and when I was finished , all I had left was this small mound of scraps!

I have just enough left to make a half belt, should I choose to do so.

Next up was a part I always enjoy for some strange reason: basting the silk organza underlining and the fashion fabric together.  And then to the Instruction Sheet, only to remember that the first thing to do was the pockets!  I like detail work, but whenever I have to make a slash in the main body of anything, I get anxious.  Fashion Sewing is not for sissies!

Here is one of the pockets slashed and ready to turn.

With lots of basting, lots of double-checking, lots of talking to myself, I finished with two flapped pockets that look they way they should, thank goodness!

I basted the pockets closed to protect them while I finish the rest of the coat.

And then, no rest for the weary, the next item on the sheet was the fly for the concealed front. Actually these are not difficult, although this one was done a bit differently than the one I put on another coat I made several years ago.

The buttonholes on a fly front need to be as flat as possible, so even though I was working in wool, which would normally dictate bound buttonholes, I made these five buttonholes by machine.  Obviously they do not show, being within a concealed opening, so this was the way to go.

Here is the front of the coat with the concealed placket underneath. Top-stitching will be added later.

Remember what I said about quirky construction?   I had already looked ahead (of course…) to see what next important step I was facing, and indeed, it was a facing!  That looped button which is a design feature on the coat, turns out to be anything but normal. I will cover this interesting – and quirky – application in my next post, as the Pink Coat Odyssey continues.

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Filed under Christian Dior, Coats, couture construction, Dressmaker coats, Mid-Century style, Uncategorized, Vintage fabric, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s, woolens

Classic French Jacket – Number 5

Never did I imagine that when I last wrote about the progress on this jacket, it would be an entire month before I could declare it “finished.”  But such is a fact of life with the construction of one of these jackets.  They always seem to take much longer to complete than ever imagined.  (I should remind myself that during that month, I also made a wool skirt and I was away twice on short trips, but still…)

As this is the fifth one I have made, I can safely say that I have developed my own set of tips for working my way through the lengthy construction process.  Of course, it all has to start with a pattern which is a perfect fit.  Fortunately my muslin pattern is from a Jackets Class I had with Susan Khalje over five years ago. With this pattern, I can go right to my boucle and get started.

While it is often recommended to cut out just the body of the jacket, minus the sleeves (the variegated weave of which is then checked with the constructed jacket body before cutting them out), I have developed enough confidence that I cut out my sleeves along with the body of the jacket.  This allows me to make the sleeves first.  For me there are two advantages to doing this: 1) there is a psychological benefit in knowing that the sleeves are lined, linings are fell-stitched in place, trim is on, and the sleeves are as finished as they can be before setting them into the body of the jacket, and 2) I like to trim the sleeves first, as a way of testing the trim I have chosen.  If I do not like it, I only have trim on one, or two, sleeves which must be removed.  It is also much easier to sew trim on a sleeve which is still separate from the jacket.

Another tip I have learned is to use my walking foot not only for the channel quilting of the lining and fashion fabric (a must), but also for all the seams.  I pin profusely, but the walking foot helps to keep the fabric from slipping, crucial when matching all those lines and plaids prevalent in a typical boucle weave.

I chose this navy and white silk charmeuse from Britex Fabrics for my lining fabric. The boucle is from Mendel Goldberg Fabrics.

I really went round and round with the trim for this jacket.  I knew I wanted to use self-fringe, but I also knew it would need some definition added to it.  After trying several colors of velvet and Petersham ribbon in the trough of the fringe, I realized I would have to go to a bright orange as an underlay for the navy twisted braid I wanted to place on top.

The trim was applied in three steps. Here the fringe is attached as the first step. Not too exciting all by itself.

The next step was to apply this bright orange velvet ribbon, also from Britex. It was really a leap of faith to use this very demonstrative color. It looks fairly garish like this! (I sewed each edge of this ribbon separately, so twice around for this part of the trim.)

But once the navy twisted braid is on, step number three, that bright orange underlay is fine.

One thing I have done with all my jackets – and this is a tip from Susan Khalje – is to add about 1/2 inch in length to the center back of the jacket, curving it up gently to the side seams. I love the effect that this little bit of extra curve gives to the back of the jacket.

I always wax and iron the thread which I use for applying the trim.  It adds strength, but also is easier with which to work.  For this jacket, I also carefully ironed each “level” of trim as I applied it.

A detail of the right pocket. Of course, and this is preaching to the choir, the pockets absolutely cannot be cut out until the body of the jacket is completed. Their placement is a visual determination which really depends upon the fit and appearance of the finished jacket.

I found these vintage buttons in one of my button boxes.  I knew I wanted to use dark blue buttons, and I kind of liked the appearance of these.

The only hesitation I had is that they are plastic!  It seems a bit of a sacrilege to put plastic buttons on one of these jackets, but I actually think they look okay.  If I find other navy blue buttons in my future travels, I might switch them at some point.  But right now, they work.

Because I had only 8 buttons, I was limited to two pockets, and three buttons on each sleeve. I probably would not have put four pockets on this jacket anyway, so that was not really a compromise.

I have enough of the boucle left over to make a simple straight skirt, I think.  However, that will not happen this year!  I am so ready to move on to my next project.  In fact, it may be well over a year before I plunge into another one of these jackets.  I have but one other boucle lurking about in my fabric closet right now, and I am content to let it stay there for a while.

It was much too cold for outdoor pictures, so these will have to do!

I like the jacket worn closed …

… or open.

The curve of the back hem is apparent here.

Now it’s time to tiptoe ever so quietly into the lighter shades and fabrics of early Spring, despite the snow that is currently falling. I am so happy to have this jacket in the “finished” column.

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Filed under Boucle for French style jackets, Buttons - choosing the right ones, Chanel-type jackets, classic French jacket, couture construction, Linings, Uncategorized, vintage buttons

A Navy and Red Plaid Skirt

The almost-finished Classic French Jacket hanging on my dress form must be getting a bit impatient with me at this point.  I switched gears and decided to give the Jacket (and me) a rest while I took on a “small” project.  I had purchased this merino wool from Promenade Fabrics last Fall.  It was a “remnant,” but one I knew would be ample enough for me to make a straight skirt.

What better month to have a red and navy plaid wool skirt than February, with its heart-colored hues and chilly temperatures?  And after the nubbiness of the French jacket boucle, I was ready for some soft, finely woven merino wool.  What is it about merino wool that makes it so lovely?  The description in Fairchild’s Dictionary reads: “High-quality wool yarn made from fleece of merino sheep, which has short, fine, strong, resilient fibers, and takes dyes well.”  ((Page 326, The Fairchild Dictionary of Fashion, by Charlotte Mankey Calasibetta and Phyllis Tortora, Third Edition,  New York, New York, 2010.)  Made in England by Butterworth and Roberts, this fabric has all those attributes and more.

Plaids are always interesting to sew.  Obviously the plaid has to be matched, but as important is determining the placement of the plaid, both on your body and on the pattern.   Most plaids have a dominant color or block, and this is a good starting point.  With this particular piece of wool, I wanted to emphasize the navy rather than the red (even though the red is dominant).  I first thought the best way to do this was to place a navy block/stripe down the front middle of the skirt.  I quickly discovered this actually emphasized the red instead of the navy.  When I placed a red block/stripe in the center, the red receded, and I had the look I wanted.

I also wanted the reveal of the plaid on the front center of the skirt to match the reveal of the back center seam.  This enabled navy to predominate the side seams of the skirt, framing the front and back.  Perfect!

This shows the back vent folded back, but you can see the back seam is sewn so that the front center block and the back center block match.

One of the side seams.

I used Susan Khalje’s straight skirt pattern which I had already used last Fall, and which needed no alterations in my existing muslin. (YAY!)  While laying out the muslin pattern, I realized if I was careful, I would be able to save enough fabric to make a matching scarf.  That would also mean that practically none of this beautiful wool would be unused.

The scarf is 60″ long and 9″ wide. I fringed the short edges, to make a nice finish.

Here are a few tips I used for sewing this plaid skirt:

1) In sewing the seams together, in order to match the lines of the plaid exactly, I used my walking foot.  This helped to keep everything perfectly lined up and eliminated slippage of the fabric as I sewed.  (Forked pins are useful in this application, too, but I found the walking foot to be just about foolproof.)

2) Even though the front center of the skirt was easily discernable because of the placement of the plaid, I still marked that line with a running stitch.  I find that helps to eliminate mistakes!  That was the final bit of basting thread which I removed from the skirt when it was finished.

Here is that front center line, marked with a running stitch. You can also see the Petersham ribbon I used to stabilize the waistband.

3)  I angled the back vent out about 1/4 inch on each side to help it hang straight while being worn.

4)  I faced the waistband with the lining silk, which makes it comfortable to wear.

With much of Winter still to come, I suspect I will have numerous occasions to wear this wool skirt.  And now I can get back to that French Jacket with at least one thing to show for the year so far!

 

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Filed under couture construction, Straight skirts, Uncategorized, woolens

A Simple Straight Skirt

Sounds super simple, doesn’t it?  Well, yes, but simple does not necessarily equate with speedy.  The skirt in question is this one which I fit into my sewing queue as part of a group project in Susan Khalje’s new subscription sewing club.

Susan provided the pattern to all the members, and the choice of which view to use (if one chose to participate; no pressure in this club, only support!) was entirely up to each individual.

I used View A for my skirt. Although this looks like a simple straight skirt, there are subtle details which make it a step above ordinary. For example, the side seams are set slightly back from the front. There is slight fullness built in at the hip; not enough to be noticeable, but enough to make it more comfortable for wearing. This pattern is available on Susan’s website.

I chose the view with the waistband sitting right at the waist (View A), and decided to use a lovely, soft piece of vintage wool I found recently.  As Susan provided video support for each step of the skirt, and answered questions online, I slowly worked through each component while working on my other projects at the same time.

Some of the members in the group have gotten very creative with their renderings of the skirt, but I chose just to keep it simple.  I had already used this pattern once when I made my guipure lace skirt last year, but I tweaked the fit again and am now much happier with it.  (And now I have a go-to skirt pattern.)  One fitting tip that Susan shared was to make sure those side seams are exactly perpendicular to the floor.  If they sway to the front or back, then adjustments need to be made.

The wool I used for my skirt was very lightweight, enough so that I determined the lining fabric should be as close in color as possible.  Luckily I had a piece of silk crepe de chine in my “linings” box which matched perfectly.  (I love it when things like this happen!)

I hand-picked a lapped zipper into the center back seam, and this small detail adds just a touch of class, in my opinion.

Here my center back seams are clearly marked, necessary for any zipper application, but especially so with a lapped zipper.

Here the zipper is in, and the center back lines match, showing the offset of the zipper on the left.

More of the same!

And here is what the zipper looks like when completed.

Even though my wool’s lightweight quality would have lent itself to a simple “all-in-one” waistband, I prefer not to have wool up against my bare middle, or my middle, clothed with just a layer of camisole silk between it and the waistband.  So – I made a two-piece waistband with a facing out of the lining silk.  Inserted into the band is a piece of Petersham ribbon, giving it support and shape.

The lining has been attached (see how good the match is to the wool?), and the Petersham ribbon is ready to be encased inside the waistband.

The waistband facing is ready to be attached to the lining/waistline seam.

The back slit of the skirt is angled in about a quarter inch on both sides, so that it hangs and wears with less of a separation.

The white basting stitches show the center back. I angled the edges towards the center before finishing the hem.

The finished slit and hem.

Not too much else to say about this simple skirt, except that it was a very satisfying little project.

Notice how the back slit hangs together?

Actually there is one more thing to say – about straight skirts in general.  They take very little fabric for most people – often a scant yard in a wide-width wool will suffice.  Will there be more straight skirts in my future?  Oh, yes.  In fact, I already have a wool tartan remnant waiting for early 2019.  But there is much to sew before then… not all of it so simple as this!

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Filed under couture construction, hand-sewn zippers, Straight skirts, Uncategorized, woolens