Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Getaway Jeans and Persistence

My latest project was snake-bit but I persisted. And, boy, am I glad I did. 

The fabric came from my local fabric store, Gail K. The guy cutting it said it was Japanese denim. It's black on one side and a bluish black on the other. I loved it the moment I saw it. It's 100% cotton and so I washed and dried it thoroughly before cutting into it. I don't think there was much shrinkage. 

It's very sturdy denim, much like new jeans used to be before lycra invaded RTW jeans. I selected this fabric specifically for the Getaway Jeans from the Sewing Workshop. It's not often that I buy for a specific project, but this was just right for jeans. 

As Mr. NowSewing and I prepared for a 10 day trip to visit grandchildren, I carefully cut these out. Well, actually I made a toile first and got the sizing right. I imagined myself bringing a number of pre-cut projects to sew while visiting. I cut out the jeans and a Swing Tee dress, a basic no-brainer summer dress.

As I began to actually pack for the trip, I realized the unlikelihood of being able to sew something this complicated, or really anything at all involving a machine, while visiting. So I left my two carefully cut projects behind, and took my Alabama Chanin projects instead. These are all hand-sewing and worked out just right. It's nice to visit and sew by hand.

Once back home in the studio, I began the wonderful black jeans. I did not keep count, but I feel like these jeans contain the largest number of mistakes-per-project ratio to date, sort of a personal *best.*

It began when I realized it was a bad idea to have separated the pattern tissue from the pattern pieces. It was easy to conclude this after I screwed up the pockets. This occurred after I successfully sewed the odd but interesting darts on the front crotch.

In my defense, things have been going on in my personal life that are distracting. But I persisted. Mr. NowSewing said, Stop, but I did not.

The pockets came together easily once the pieces were more accurately labeled and I read the sentences in the instructions completely. Those pockets made me so happy, the way sewing at its best is prone to do.

Next I worked on the fly zipper. I booby-trapped this part a bit by using an old metal zipper with one missing zipper stop at the top. I worked around a safety pin to avoid zipping it off. 

I've had good success with Sandra Betzina's method for fly zippers in her book Power Sewing. But I like to try new things, so I began by following the instructions in the envelope. The instructions may be OK and I may try them again some day, but I stopped when I came to the part where the center front is NOT basted together during construction. Whoa. Way too much slack in that action for me. So back to trusty Sandra Betzina. It worked great.

The next steps are to attach the left and right waist bands. Due to the fly zipper, they are different lengths. I struggled a bit, and fused interfacing to the right side of one. Thank goodness for remnants. And then I noticed that they were larger than the pattern tissue. I whacked off the extra and moved on. 

They were now too small to fit on the top of my jeans. Back to the remnants to cut new waistbands, self-drafted to match the tops of my jeans.

That worked out fine, though my waistband is not traditional for jeans. It is a feature, right? It was indeed a lot easier to sew the buttonhole when it was not sitting so close to the top of the zipper.

The rest of the construction was without hiccup, so Yay!

The back waistband has elastic and I totally like that. Thought I would not, but I do. So comfortable and I do not tuck shirts in, so just right. The length was perfect too. 

Here worn with a green linen MixIt Top.

I put them on right away for a Father's Day dinner with DD and family. I do believe I'll get a lot of use out of these jeans. They do not photograph all that well, but you'll just have to trust me. 

I used a medium green heavy weight cotton for the top-stitching. It is one of those details that makes me happy even thought no one else will ever notice. Now I need a pair of white jeans. Definitely.

Once these were complete, I had a good night's sleep and went back over my pattern tissues to determine what went wrong. As it happened, I cut out tissue for both the Small and the Medium. After the toile, I cut the Medium in the denim. But when I reattached the pieces to the tissue I failed to notice that some were for size Small and some for size Medium. Operator error, per usual.

The swing tee dress was indeed a no-brainer, so I'm grateful for that.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

School of Making Peacoat

My (first) Alabama Chanin School of Making piece is finished! I am so pleased with it that I (almost) wish we were entering late autumn instead of early summer. I started it as soon as I returned from my (first) workshop there in early May. 

It took me almost a month to the day to finish it. This, of course, is because it is entirely made by hand, another first for me. In fact, if I had not had some extended car travel, it would not be finished. It is the perfect project for travel. 

The peacoat is the shorter version of their fabulous full length trench coat. It has a double breasted front, sort of. The front seams start out at the neckline double-breasted and then angle toward the side seams until it just meets at the front hem. It calls for 3 large snaps, but I've not added them yet. I'm not sure I really want closures. 

In retrospect, my first ever AC piece should have been a simple piece, say a shirt or a skirt. But no, I decided to choose one of the most complicated of their options. A smarter person would have started simple and built up to complex. I feel lucky that it all worked out fine in the end. In fact I feel very very lucky for lots of reasons!

The back has 4 pieces - 2 center back pieces with a slightly shaped center back seam, plus 2 side back pieces. 

There are two simple front pieces, a left and a right one, shaped as I described above. The sleeves are two-piece, adding some lovely shaping there. There are also side seam pockets. Lastly there is the simple collar. The kit included two sets of collar pieces, one with the stencil and one without. I chose the plain collar.

When you attend one of their workshops, a project is included in the price, hence my greedy choice, I guess. You order it the first morning and it is delivered to you in a lovely cotton pillow case of sorts, with each piece cut to size and labeled. So there is no cutting. Directions from the pattern are photo-copied and given to you to accompany the kit.

The kit does not include the actual pattern, but it is available for purchase. I wish I had purchased it for reasons I describe below.

The kit included enough thread to make 2 or 3 jackets. This worries me a bit. I'm skilled at worry, wondering if it will fall apart when/if I wash it someday. These pieces are not intended for the dry cleaners. Rather they recommend machine washing and just a bit of time in the dryer before air drying it. The dryer time keeps it from stretching out of shape.

I may have extra thread because I used a running stitch to outline the stencils, rather than a stitch that would use more thread, like the back stitch. Naturally, there were other challenges for my worrying mind. 

I started work with a center back panel. The right side of the bottom layer is placed next to the wrong side of the stenciled (top) piece. This first step places two layers carefully together, lining up the raw edges by patting it into place. Throughout the project, I kept reminding myself that the right side of this 100% cotton jersey is identified by the fact that horizontal edges roll to the right side. 

After carefully aligning the raw edges, I pinned them in place and used my lifetime supply of basting thread to baste the raw edges together. I felt this step was very, very important because seam allowances are only 1/4", giving me almost no room for inaccuracy. All of this went smoothly and I began to stitch around the stencil shapes. It is totally relaxing and meditative. I highly recommend it.

Then I started on the front pieces using the same routine to prepare it for stitching the stencil shapes. The instructions describe finishing the front edges up to the notch where the collar attaches, notch B. This is accomplished by placing the two layers right sides together and stitching along the raw edge at 1/4". Then you are to turn it right side out and begin to stitch around the stencils.

However the neckline for each front piece contains 2 notches and they are not labeled. The two notches are about an inch apart so it was possible they were really a single notch. Or not. I emailed them. No response. So I called them. The sweet young lady who answered said she would research it and get back to me. All of the young associates are polite and sweet and patient in the southern sense. Yes, ma'am!

When she called me back, she said, "The left notch is notch B." Hmmm... There are two fronts, each with two notches. So I said which left notch? The one on the left front or the right front? And is it mirrored on the other front? She said she did not know and that her knowledge of sewing garments was too limited to understand my question. 

The next associate was familiar with Alabama Chanin clothing construction. And she opened up the physical pattern to sort it all out. As it happens, one of the notches is for Center Front, and the other is for attaching the collar. I'm thinking that info might have been printed on the physical pattern pieces.

But then there were the notches on the collar pieces. There's a single notch on one long side of the collar and a double notch on the other long side of the collar. The two long sides were not identical in length so I really needed to know which one to attach to the neckline. The second sweet associate I spoke with did not actually know but we surmised that the double notch attached to the back neckline.


Now I'm wondering if anyone else has ever made this. Or maybe the other sewists figured it all out on their own. The lesson for me is that I need to purchase the pattern to go with the kit. The additional cost is marginal ($12) compared to the aggravation of guessing, and the other costs!

My next challenge was attaching the in-seam pockets. This proved to be quite straight-forward. The written instructions were sufficient for any experienced sewist to follow. I considered taking the lazy way out and omitting the pockets. I am so glad I did not. I really like having those.

And I love, love, love the finished piece. As I was stitching, I began to wonder if this project would turn out to be more fun to make than to wear. Sometimes it works that way for me. I love the process. But, in this case, I love the result too. 

I hemmed the sleeves rather than leaving them raw-edged. The bottom hem is raw edged, but the sleeves were a bit too long and there was no way I was going to cut them off! Other than that, it is a size Medium with no adjustments. I was able to try on size Medium while there but was still nervous about how mine would fit. I am so pleased.

I purchased a second kit while there, a top called the Alabama sweater. It is an A-lined shirt with a V neckline. The original is sleeveless but I added 3/4 length sleeves, knowing I'd get more wear out of a sleeved garment. And I raised the neckline. Their tees are a little too low-cut for me.

They include a small sample rectangle to test the techniques. This is how I learned what I will NOT do with this new project!

I started it while traveling, but put it away once back home. I want to savor some zen sewing on it during my next trip, a family vacation in July. It is a much simpler make than the peacoat. There are only 6 pieces - two fronts, two backs, two sleeves.

I chose a stencil they call *text.* I asked them to print it diagonally on the two front pieces and a little on one of the back pieces. I also left one sleeve mostly plain. So it will not take nearly as long as the peacoat.

Yep, I'm a School of Making devotee now. It is hand-sewing at its best.

Friday, June 4, 2021


The Whistles top is an older pattern from the Sewing Workshop, the companion to the Bells top. Two  entirely different tops in one envelope. I made the Bells shirt a while back and did not end up wearing it much, though it is an interesting top. It has a feminine shape and interesting sleeves. I think it is the most fitted of any of the Sewing Workshop patterns. I wonder where I put that...

For some reason, I did not pay attention to the second shirt in the pattern envelope - the Whistles shirt. I needed Linda Lee to point out how interesting it is. Now I see the light. She does an amazing job of directing my attention each Tuesday at 11 CDT. Do you watch these FB live sessions? She could sell ice to the Eskimos, as they say. And I go willingly because it's so inspiring. I might be making quilts and pillowcases otherwise!

Right now, the Sewing Workshop offers two kits for this pattern, each with gorgeous bold panel prints designed by Noelle Phares. Her work is beautiful and I'm tempted to order some panels from her. I was also tempted by the kits, though they are now sold out.

Part of what I love about sewing is making my own selections, so I have stubbornly refused to order any of the kits they are offering this year. So far.

But back to the Whistles shirt. It is a fairly simple shirt, much like the Now and Zen shirts, with a slightly dropped shoulder, straight sides with vents, and straight long sleeves. 

The Whistles has asymmetrical front and back seams that incorporate very cool architectural details. There are 3 wedge shapes arranged along the center front, some that hide buttons. 

And there are 3 similar wedge shapes along the back. 

The fabric is a cotton-linen blend from my local quilt store, the Cotton Farm. It is a *shot* weave, where the warp and the weft are different colors. It gives the fabric more depth and a richer color, I think. It washed and dried beautifully becoming quite soft. It does not seem to wrinkle much. And it is fairly light weight, nice for our warmer and warmer weather.

The front and back pieces must be cut single-layer, due to the asymmetry. When I initially cut out my pieces, I failed to properly label each of the wedge shapes and so had to go back and re-attach the tissue. Some of them look similar but each of the 6 wedge shapes is unique.

I interfaced all of the wedge shapes. Only a few of them have button holes and buttons, requiring interfacing. But I did not want some of them to look crisp and the others, wispy. I'm pleased with the resulting look, though it does feel a teeny, tiny bit heavy. Do you think so?

The collar is plain but can stands up crisply or can be folded flat if it feels too hot. I like having those options. I interfaced both top and bottom collars too. One slight issue with the neckline is the way the raw edges are finished. If you use a serger, as I did, it does not look finished when left open at the top. Of course, I could add a little bias binding right there. Maybe a little piece of silk that contrasts?

Next time I might finish that one edge near the neckline with something nicer than serging (see above picture). However, after Linda Lee's recommendation, I now use embroidery threads in my serger. It creates a much more invisible and soft edge because the thread is two-ply rayon. Also it doesn't melt under the iron!

The sleeves are plain. I knew I'd want to roll them up so I used French seams. If I make it again, I may add a placket and cuff, or some sort of detail to the sleeves. 

I think that this solid color allows the details to shine. The Whistles does create a beautiful top in those Noelle Phares panel prints, but I think that fabric would show even better on the plainer Now and Zen tops. 

This top lends itself to using coordinating fabrics for the wedge pieces. I came very close to using another cotton-linen blend in gray and white stripe for some of them. In the end though, I am very pleased with this new shirt. Maybe I need to go out to eat someplace and wear it now that I'm fully vaccinated!

I hope you are sewing something beautiful!