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Mar 162015

Get ready for a long post, kids.  I’m naturally wordy and discussing something as complicated as blazers makes me exponentially more long-winded.  Sorry!  So, let’s get on with it.  Two weeks ago I had an interview at a local community college, so the entire two weeks prior to that were dedicated to making a new suit.  My last suit was a wearable muslin and it really wasn’t a proper suit that one could wear to interviews.  Aside from all the finishing issues I mention in that post, I didn’t use any interfacing in it, so it was kind of wobbly and not sturdy-looking, it was too short, and it was a tan color that I wouldn’t really wear to an interview.  For interviews, I’d prefer to stick to black or grey.  Behold:


Suit no. 2.  New and improved with a better color, more (any!) interfacing, and a better pattern.  This time, actually suitable for interviewing!  This time I used McCalls 6172 instead of Simplicity 2446.  Some might question whether it was wise to change up patterns at this point–I certainly did–but I thought this pattern’s armhole princess seams might give me a better fit at that tricky above-the-bust-moving-into-the-armhole area that gave me trouble with my last suit, with its shoulder princess seams.


I do think that area looks a bit better, but I had other issues at the shoulder.  I think I need to start doing a forward shoulder adjustment.  I tend to hunch over, and I had to stand perfectly straight with shoulders thrown back and my arms hanging straight at my sides for the shoulder to look right on this suit.  Perhaps good to be forced into having better posture for an interview, but it’s more likely that I’ll forget my posture when I’m not looking directly in a mirror and end up with a funny-looking suit.  If I make this pattern again (I might be blazered out for a little while, but I’d like to make more eventually), I would do that forward shoulder adjustment and take some of the ease out of the back.  You can sort of see below that the back looks a little large above the waist, but I needed that ease to be able to move my arms forward.  I think the forward shoulder adjustment will help with that problem, which will mean I won’t need that excess ease in the back.

mccalls-6172-backSorry for the wrinkles; I had worn this to the interview by the time I took these pictures and was too lazy to steam these out.  I didn’t wear the jacket in the car on the way there, so it fared a bit better than the skirt.

When I’d finally finished everything on this jacket, I put it on and and was so disappointed.  It looked really big and sloppy.  I think the stretch of my fabric (it was a stretch suiting made of rayon/poly/lycra) and its drapiness caused it to be a lot more droopy than the wearable muslin, which was made with a cotton blend that had a lot more body to it.  I had to move my buttons over to make it tighter, and then it felt and looked better.  My unscientific button application means that they’re not quite the same distance from the edge of the jacket, so I can definitely never wear this blazer unbuttoned.  But that’s fine, because open it looks even sloppier.  Sigh.

Now for all the ways in which this jacket is leagues ahead of the wearable muslin:


Look at that properly bagged lining!  M6172 had different lining pieces, which made it easy to properly bag the lining.  When I did the lining on S2446, I couldn’t understand how you were supposed to get the right result unless the lining pieces were a different length than the pattern pieces.  Well, you’re not.  The new suit has the proper pleat at the bottom, while the tan one does not.  Point 1 for new suit.


Look at that gorgeous back pleat!  Because S2446 doesn’t have separate lining pieces, it also doesn’t have a back pleat built in.  I tried to make my own sad little pleat, but you can see that I clearly had no idea what I was doing or what a back pleat was supposed to look like.  The rippling in the seam on the pleat is because I forgot to change to a smaller needle size for my lining fabric.  You can’t win them all.


Just look at that totally not embarrassing collar and facing on the grey suit!  The collar and facing on S2446 are constructed a different way, and I think a combination of being too timid with my clipping and not knowing what I was doing resulted in the embarrassment you see in the tan suit.


I spent forever looking for buttons for this jacket, and this was the only one I could come up with that even remotely matched the fabric.  So I guess it’s a good thing I liked these buttons, which are from Vogue!  I wanted to go to Soutache which is supposed to be a great place for buttons and trims, but I ended up not having time for that.  I had to go to Vogue anyway for my clapper, so I just picked up the buttons while I was there.


Here’s a better view of the collar.  I had a lot of trouble getting those points to look good.  My points on my purple version didn’t look good, so I asked Instagram what to do.  Everyone recommended using this tip:  Grainline Studio: Perfect Points.  Jen’s method is actually exactly what the pattern recommended, but since I’m sooooo smart, I had decided to go rogue and use a method where you don’t clip your corners.  It didn’t end up working, so I tried Jen’s/the pattern’s method and this is what I came up with.  I think my stitch length might have been too long.  Another problem:  particularly on the lapel you see on the right, the collar piece’s seam line is really concave.  The pattern said if that was happening, you could bow your seamline out to compensate, so that’s something I’ll have to do on the next jacket.


Twill tape on the roll line.  I did not believe this could make that huge of a difference, but it really did, especially on the purple version.  I think I could have made the twill tape a little shorter to make the lapels hug my bust more on this version.  The stretch fabric is so loosey-goosey that it gapes open a bit and I worry that it looks sloppy.


The neckline seems like it would have benefited from some twill tape on the roll line.  I steamed the hell out of it and tried to shape it on my tailor’s ham, but it just didn’t turn out very well.  Part of the problem is my floppity fabric, which I think would have benefited from twill tape to define the roll line, and part of the problem is that my under collar was larger than my upper collar when of course it’s supposed to be the opposite.  This happened on the purple version of this jacket too and I have no idea why.  I mean, I guess I could have accidentally stretched it out, but I put interfacing on them both immediately, which should prevent stretching, no?


Skirt details!  Here’s the inside with a new fabulous thing I tried:  making a pleat instead of a dart on the lining.  So much more comfortable!  I had wanted to line the skirt in the same hot pink Bemberg lining, but I guess I only bought enough of it for the jacket.


Blind hem done by one Benjamin L. Gemmel, Esq.  (Note:  he’s not actually a lawyer.  I just think that last-minute conscripted seamstresses should be given an honorific of some sort.)  Not too shabby.  At the skirt-hemming point in the process, which occurred very late in the evening the night before my interview, I was pretty wild-eyed and desperate, and after a failed attempt at using rayon seam binding (that stuff is slippery!), I asked Ben if I could teach him how to do a blind hem.  He’s the best, so he said yes, and what you see above is the result.  He’s a quick study.

Now for a few shots of the wearable muslin for M6172, because I don’t think it warrants a whole separate post.  It’s much more wearable than the wearable muslin I made of S2446, and this was because I used proper finishing techniques on it.  I interfaced the entire jacket, used twill tape on the lapel roll line, put in shoulder pads, and made sleeve heads.  (Don’t mind my huge pile of in-progress projects on the cat tree next to me!)


Ugh, that shoulder crease on the left is really irritating me!  I never noticed until these photographs.  I think it’s because I’ve worn this twice, and both times under my winter coat, which tends to crush things.  That’s what I’m going to believe, anyway.


I have nothing to say about this side view.  I just thought that in the interests of accuracy in reporting, you might want to see it.  I suppose I could tell you something about the fabric.  It’s a mystery fabric from the Textile Discount Outlet, or whatever it’s called, here in Chicago.  From how it behaved, I believe it’s some kind of cotton/poly blend.  It has a fuzzy-ish finish, which makes it feel a bit like flannel, but it’s definitely not flannel.  It’s a very strange fabric, as are most things at the good old TDO.


You can really see those upper back wrinkles from excess ease here.  This fabric is much less drapey, so it doesn’t hide that flaw as much.  I really need to get this solved for any future versions.  This jacket is even more restrictive because the fabric has no stretch.  I think I’m going to try out something like a stretch cotton sateen for my next blazer.  It seems like it would be the best of both worlds:  structured but stretchy.

A couple of points of major importance in achieving the finishes I did on these jackets, which while not perfect, are much better than on my S2446.  First, I have been sewing for four years and just last month finally bought good interfacing.  Don’t wait as long as me, reader.  I’d decided that the cheap stuff from Joann’s was garbage a long time ago, but instead of spending money on the good stuff, I was just going without or using muslin as sew-in interfacing when it seemed necessary.  How stupid I was.  I got a huge pile of interfacing from Fashion Sewing Supply and Palmer/Pletsch.  There’s not a huge difference between the two, though FSS has way more options than P/P.  That could be a benefit, or it could be overwhelming, depending on your perspective.  I just got pretty much everything so I’d have it on hand for a while.  Both interfacings are quality materials that fuse easily and provide just the right amount of body as long as you use the one recommended for your fabric.  Quality interfacing, I love you.  Here is my pile, pre-suit:


Finally, I want to end with an exhortation to get ye a clapper if you don’t already have one.  It made SUCH a huge difference in the quality of this suit.  In particular, my grey suiting fabric had a high polyester content, so it was difficult to press.  The clapper beat it into submission.  A photographic tribute to my lovely clapper:


I can’t end this post without mentioning my thanks to Gail from Today’s Agenda.  She’s been working on making blazers lately and has some beautiful finished products.  She was so helpful in answering all my questions while I made these, and I really appreciated her willingness to chat with me about blazers!  Thanks, Gail!


Jan 062015

So, it’s 2015.  I’d been thinking about doing a reflective post about 2014, but when I looked at what I sewed in 2014, I realized that I hadn’t done very much!  If I wanted to participated in Gillian’s Top 5 of 2014, I’d have very little material to draw from.  Including the suit I’ll be blogging about today, in 2014, I made 19 items.  Two of them were household items and three of them were for other people, so that leaves me with only 14 garments for myself.  I wouldn’t say that any of those items were super hits, but if I had to pick one thing that got used more than anything else, it’s probably my Under Armour leggings.  They’re just so practical and fit me so much better than the fleece tights I’ve bought from Target.  I have more Under Armour fabric and would like to make another pair, but I’d like to use a tights pattern this time instead of a leggings pattern.  If I had to pick a miss, it would easily be my Victory Patterns Anouk.  Unfortunately, I just don’t feel comfortable in it for three reasons:  the fabric under the front placket blouses out a little, making me feel like I look like I’m pregnant (and that’s AFTER eliminating all the gathering there!); the little window at the neckline is too low and shows my bra a little sometimes; and I failed to notice or fix the swayback issue on the back of the dress, leading to all sorts of ill-fittingness.  That one makes me sad because I really like the design and the fabric I chose, plus I always get compliments on it when I wear it, but I just don’t like it.

So that’s my mini review of 2014.  If I had to set a goal for 2015, it would be to sew more things!  And thanks to a crazy bout of productivity, if I can manage to finish everything I have in the works right now, I will have sewn more than I did in 2015 very shortly.  I mentioned in my last post that I was going to have my tonsils out, and indeed I did.  I decided that I would take two weeks off after the surgery to recover, and hoped I might feel well enough to sew during that time.  For a few days, I mostly slept, but once I felt well enough to be up and doing things, all I wanted to do was sew – I’m sure because I’d done so little sewing in 2014!  I also know that I have another very busy year coming up, so I guess I wanted to make the most of this little reprieve I granted myself.  So in the past week and a half or so, I’ve finished 7 tops and I’m in progress on 2 tops, 4 dresses, and 1 cardigan.  I’ve cut out 2 skirts and 1 more top as well (actually that’s a lie – one of those skirts is one I cut out like two years ago and started working on again).  Dear readers, if I can manage to finish all those things in relatively short order, I’ll have 17 items, which is almost equal to my total output last year!  What is the secret to my productivity?  I’ll share more as I blog about each item, but it was largely making multiples of the same patterns and using TNT pattern pieces to make alterations to new patterns prior to muslining.  I’m working on a McCalls 6696 shirt dress right now, and I used the pattern pieces from some of my Deer and Doe dresses to compare and make some quick changes prior to sewing up a muslin.  I still had to sew two muslins (and the dress I’m working on now is one I’m thinking of as a wearable muslin so I won’t be too disappointed if something goes wrong), but I shudder to think of the time I would have spent in muslintown if I hadn’t used a TNT pattern at the outset.  Oh, another secret to my productivity is KNITS.  So easy to fit, can be easy to sew if you don’t make a bunch of dumb mistakes like I did.  Mistakes which I will recount when the time comes.

Even though I wish I’d had more time for sewing in 2014, I am glad that I can say I was able to conquer a new garment.  I’ve really been wanting to tackle pants and jackets for a long time because it’s so impossible for me to find well-fitting versions of those garments in RTW.  I swore that I was going to tackle pants in 2014, but it didn’t happen.  I’m not going to swear the same this year.  I hope I find the time to figure out pants, but I’m not going to make it an official goal because I might be more excited about sewing other things during the limited time I have to devote to sewing, and I don’t want to feel bad about that.  But I definitely feel good about my blazer sewing accomplishment!

I used to love to wear blazers.  I would wear them constantly.  I have no idea why I got so into blazers as a 23 year old, but I totally did and I totally looked about ten years older than I was.  I hardly ever wear them now that I am ten years older than that (!), but I think that’s mainly because when I started sewing, I realized how ill-fitting they all were on me.  I always have problems with swayback issues and above the bust/near the armhole.  I thought I’d start with a Simplicity Amazing Fit pattern to help me with the bust issues, so I picked up Simplicity 2446.  It was a pretty darn good fit right out of the envelope, which is evidenced by the fact that what you see below is a wearable muslin of this pattern.  And there were no pre-muslins to my wearable muslin, as there were for my shirtdress.  I knew I wanted to make a muslin of this jacket that was fully complete with the collar and everything because I’d never made a jacket before and practicing the construction would be essential before setting out to make a real jacket that I’d wear to something like an interview (a situation that is not currently in the stars for me, but I will continue to hope!).


So with this wearable muslin, I can see some weird creasing at the armholes, and as soon as I sewed this up, I realized that I should have made sure I was getting a pattern with armhole princess seams rather than shoulder princess seams.  I’ve made both before and found that the armhole version was much easier to adjust.  I think if I had an armhole princess seam, that creasing would be gone or much less noticeable than it is here.  But even with that creasing, this still looks pretty good!  The only changes I really made were to take in the princess seams on the back to deal with excess fabric and bubbling above the waist.  You can kind of see a bit of this in one of the photos below, but it’s very minimal.


Since this was a wearable muslin and since I don’t have any quality interfacing and since I hate fusible interfacing anyway, I didn’t put any in this jacket.  It’s true; I’m an interfacing-denier.  The fabric was ridiculously cheap at the Textile Discount Outlet, so I wasn’t committed to making this a wardrobe staple or anything.  It’s some kind of wool blend and it’s super scratchy.  Wool and I don’t get along very well, which is incredibly sad to me because I love wool, and this is definitely one of the worst ones I’ve dealt with.  Very stiff and wiry.


The skirt is the Champagne from Capital Chic, sort of.  I had a pencil skirt pattern that I knew fit, so I just cut out the flounce pieces for the Champagne and adjusted them to fit the existing pattern.  I figured there was no need to reinvent the wheel.  I just wanted that cute flounce in the back because I can’t stand a plain pencil skirt in a solid color.  I just don’t have it in me to make something that boring.  When I got the skirt made up, I tried it on and showed it to Ben, very excited about my adorable flounce.  He expressed confusion about whether the skirt was supposed to be hanging like that in the back.  I expressed my resolve to never ask him an opinion about my sewing again.  I wore this suit to my practice job talk and everyone there assured me that they knew it was supposed to be like that, but looking at this picture, I can see where my husband was coming from.  The wool fabric doesn’t quite have the drape that would be most flattering for this style, and it also gets too creased after sitting.  Lest you think Ben is just some heckler, let me tell you that he was totally wowed by the jacket.  While I expressed some concerns over its shoddy construction (which I’ll get to momentarily), he said that it fit so well that no one would notice.  He was convinced that this was the best-fitting jacket he’d seen anyone wear, ever.  It’s definitely the best-fitting jacket anyone’s ever seen me wear, even with those two little issues I identified above (above-the-bust and back wrinkles).  I’ve never actually had a blazer that I could wear buttoned up – I always had to wear them unbuttoned to disguise the many fitting issues I faced.  This one actually looks better buttoned up, which I suspect is because it doesn’t have the interfacing to lend it the structure it would need to sit nicely when not buttoned.  But I’m amazed that I have a blazer I can button up!  It’s a first!


I like the way this jacket looks with jeans more than I like how it looks with the skirt.  Hmph.

Let’s see, how many things are wrong with this jacket?

1.  Have you noticed that the sleeves don’t have vents?  The sleeves are supposed to have vents.  I had to shorten the sleeves because they were too long, and when I was cutting the pattern, I didn’t know how much they’d need to be shortened.  I thought I could just deal with it when the time came.  Not so, because of the flap for the vent.  When you shorten the sleeve, you’re just hacking off a huge chunk of that flap at the bottom, and you can’t do anything to get it back except cut another sleeve.  So I decided to jettison the idea of sleeve vents.  I ended up having to really narrow my sleeve at the wrist as well because the other half of the vent construction has a mitered corner, so you don’t have as much room at the wrist as you’d need to just sew a straight seam.  I’m totally fine with this error, though, because I like the width of the sleeve at the wrist now.  It would have been way too wide otherwise.

2.  Have you noticed the weird bubbling at certain points around the bottom hem?  I had some issues getting this thing properly pressed, which I again blame on lack of interfacing.

3.  Do the lapels look too wide to you?  They’re not supposed to extend past the princess seam lines if the envelope photo is any indication, but mine do for some reason that I can’t fathom.

4.  THERE IS A PUCKER IN THE BACK OF THE LEFT SLEEVE THAT MAKES ME WANT TO SCREAM.  Ugh, these sleeves were nearly impossible to ease in!  After I’d set in the sleeves, I remembered that I’d seen somewhere that you can sew a slightly stretched bias strip around the top of the sleeve that will make it easier to ease into the armscye.  I was hesitant to remove any sleeve cap ease because I didn’t have enough fabric to cut even one new sleeve if I messed it up and I didn’t want to make another trip to the Textile Discount Outlet hoping that they had more of this stuff in stock.

5.  All manner of sloppiness on the inside of this jacket.  It’s shameful.  See exhibits 5a through 5e.

5a.  I ended up doing a lot of the finishing work the night before I had to wear it, and that did not bode well for me figuring out how to properly bag a jacket lining.  I still don’t understand it.


I don’t know if you can tell in this picture, but there’s really no bagging.  Isn’t the lining supposed to be sort of blousey at the bottom?  I have no idea what I messed up there.

5b.  And turning the corner for the collar/lapel on the inside nearly did me in.  It looks like a horrible mess, but it’s not visible from the outside, so I rolled with it.


Yiiiikes.  I have serious problems making this sort of pivoting look nice.  It’s part of the problem with my Victory Anouk, and my Grainline Alder has some issues in this area as well.  I think I’m too timid with my clipping.

5c.  I tried to add a pleat to the lining too, for wearing ease, since I couldn’t understand why it wasn’t drafted that way.  That was a fail.


What a sad little pleat!

5d.  The lining sleeves are somehow longer than the regular sleeves and have to be tucked back up the arm when I put the jacket on.  OH!  While typing that sentence I realized why the lining sleeves are so much longer!  When I cut length off the sleeves, I didn’t make the same change to the lining.  Writing really does help you think things through!


5e.  Because everything else about this jacket is so messed up, I never felt like sewing up the hole in the lining sleeve that I pulled everything through after bagging the lining.  What’s the point?


6.  And the whole thing is just a bit too short.  I thought I’d be safe making the cropped length because I’m short, but apparently I’m not that short.  I ended up taking the smallest possible seam allowance on the bottom front to avoid a super short blazer.


I’m looking forward to making my next jacket, in which I hope to solve at least half of the problems I had with this one.  Can anyone recommend a good resource for bagging a jacket lining, preferably a video?  I used Jen from Grainline’s tutorial, and it was by far the most helpful–I had absolutely NO idea what I was doing until I used her tutorial–but I’m really terrible at figuring things out from diagrams or even photos, so I think a video would be better for me.

One final note about this suit.  I’d wanted to sew a shell to go underneath it using this gorgeous teal fabric I got from Emma One Sock.  But I ran out of time, so I just used the only other thing in my closet that went well with the color:  an activewear shirt from Eddie Bauer.  It has a little tab along the bottom hem that indicates its status as an activewear item, and the whole time I was wearing this for my practice job talk, I kept having to check to make sure the bottom of the shirt wasn’t exposed below the hem of my jacket!  It’s the shirt I wore to trek through the ruins of Chichen Itza when we went to Mexico last May, and it cracked me up that I could also wear it with my suit.  It has a pretty decorative neckline that’s kind of hard to see in the photos above, though, so I felt like it was sort of okay to wear with the suit.  Again, not something I’d wear to an interview in a billion years, but it served the purpose for my practice job talk.

Oh yeah, and my hair was purple!  Can you even tell in these photos?  It was totally purple and this particular color got me so many billions of compliments from strangers (including one comment noting that I had “awesome hair” in my student evaluations for last semester – teaching goals accomplished!) that I must be crazy to have already dyed it back to my natural color.  There’s that whole potential interview thing, though, and I didn’t want to be caught off guard, having to dye my hair the night before an interview.  I can think of at least ten potential disasters lying in wait in that scenario.  But here’s the thing – I dyed it that semi-permanent purple color probably two months ago.  I dyed it a permanent brown-black color two weeks ago.  The brown-black is already fading and the purple is showing through.  I’m telling you, if you want a so-called semi-permanent dye that will survive nuclear winter, Pravana Chromasilk Vivids are for you.