Meg Makes a Jacket, the Finale

Pattern: Simplicity's Misses' Sportswear #2455
Fabric: 2 yds wool + acetate lining
Cost: $45

Well I didn't mean to drag these jacket posts out so long, but as you can tell this was a rather big project for me! I am very pleased with the final product, and this past weekend it accompanied me to a wedding in Alaska. It is so nice to have a classic, goes-with-anything jacket in my wardrobe that I can wear for more formal occasions, yet still fits my style.

This last part of the project I finished on my own. After about 6 hours of sewing with Beth, I was exhausted and a bit cross-eyed, not to mention starting to make mistakes! It was amazing to soak all the information in though, and I managed to jot down a few more tips before heading home to attach the sleeves and sew on the lining.

First, she opened up a jacket she had and showed me how to support the shoulder with a bias strip of fabric sewn within the seam allowance. Without using an actual shoulder pad, this extra step gives the jacket a bit more support where needed.

Then it was time to do the lining. I may have promised Beth that I would hand sew in the lining, but once I got home all thoughts of that went out the window. Truth be told, I actually don't mind leaving many of my things unlined, so I reasoned that practicing bagging the lining could be just as educational as putting one in by hand. Right?!

The jacket pattern we used does not include instructions for a lining, so I did some internet research and followed Beth's advice for drafting my own. I like Tasia's (of Sewaholic) tutorial on drafting a lining, but the one that won over was the Grainline tutorial, as I am extremely visual and a sucker for good graphics. The only hiccup I ran into with hers, however, is that the instructions are meant for patterns with facings, so I actually needed to draft my lining shorter, not longer, than the pattern pieces. Other than that, though, both tutorials provide helpful instructions for making a successful lining that allows for ease of movement.

Here is the inside of Beth's jacket, where she drafted her lining with a single pleat that I think looks elegant and allows for ease of movement. I ended up doing an inverted pleat, which didn't hang as well for me.

After everything is inserted, Beth also recommended tacking the lining down to the jacket at the top of the sleeve. This helps prevent the lining from sliding around too much. Unfortunately, I forgot the important detail that this should be done at the top and not the underarm. By tacking the underarm, you restrict movement, and I believe that's why you see a few creases around the under arm in the picture of my jacket at the top of the post. I will fix and report back. Here is the proper way, tacking it at the shoulder seam:

These last few steps (attaching the sleeves, inserting the lining) were done over the course of about a month. While Beth and I made rapid progress in her sewing studio, I found that it was hard to set aside time for a such a Big Project. Rather than sewing on the weeknights, I felt I had to wait to work on it until I had the proper concentration, like a long block of time on the weekend. This definitely slowed me down, and left me appreciating both the Big and Little projects that I do. The final jacket took another month or two to complete, but the end project was very worth it.

Overall, the experience of sewing with a teacher and role model like Beth was incredibly rewarding. She was so patient and non-judgmental, and I can't believe how many tricks that woman has up her (handmade) sleeve! I have a feeling I just scratched the surface with this project. If you have the chance of pushing your skills with a sewing teacher I highly recommend it, or even a visit to Beth herself if you live in the Bay Area or are planning a visit. Many women go to her for fitting help, but I could see hiring her for help if I ever made a Big White Dress or other important project. And I still need to pick her brain about collared shirts, because she said she had some tips!

After this immense brain exercise though, I think I'll cosy up with some 2-hour t-shirt patterns for a bit to recover. And hopefully I'll be back soon with a post about the dress that you can glimpse in the above photos.

Meg Makes a Jacket, Part II

When we last left off on our adventures, local sewist and jacket queen Beth was helping me make Simplicity #2455, a tailored jacket with a collar and peplum detail. In my last post, I detailed the muslin, cutting, and assembly stage. So let's dive into the construction!

I was previously intimidated by jackets because they require a certain set of skills. This is especially true of Simplicity #2455, which has curved princess seams, a gathered peplum, and a notched collar. However, as I learned in my session, precise sewing can help alleviate a lot of your problems.

First and foremost is Beth sewing tip #7: Respect the seam allowance. While I have sometimes been careless with 1/8" here or there, she is very careful to fully align all the seam allowances. This may seem obvious to some, but I'm the type of learner who has to really see it to believe it. On a jacket like this with lots of details, careful seam allowances help everything go together and hang correctly. I recently took the same care with another garment I was making, and it does make a big difference! 

Of course, saying to take care and knowing how to do it are two different things. So one way to ensure perfect seam allowances is to use lots of pins. Beth sewing tip #8: Stick the pins so that the head is closest to the outside edge and line of stitching. This allows you to keep the fabric in place and remove the pins with your right hand as you sew. We tried it my way with the pins sticking the other way (to the left! at first, but having the head of the pin closest to the seam line really does help prevent things from shifting. 

Then, for especially troublesome areas, try Beth sewing tip #9: Draw on your seam allowances with chalk. I know, this seems like such an EXTRA step, but it really does help you to be extra exact in the sewing process. When I was struggling with a wonky curved edge, this trick produced a noticeable improvement.

Pattern markings and notches can also help you to be more precise, which is Beth sewing tip #10: Pay attention to the notches. I previously thought that notches were just there to guide novice sewists to attach the back to the front (and consequently I ignored them), but on a well-drafted pattern I realized that they can also show you where to ease two pieces together. Where I had previously assumed that I had cut a piece too long, I now know that I should be easing it in for a better fit. To me this I now also the sign of a good pattern, where the extra little details improve the fit and function of the garment.

This particular pattern required a few different techniques for easing. On a straighter, shorter seam (like a shoulder), I learned Beth sewing tip #11: Bend the fabric pieces over your finger with the longer piece on the outside and pin in place. By curving them this way you help distribute the extra ease. It's geometry, and it works! Bend the pieces again as you sew.

There is also the issue of what to do when easing in a curved piece like a princess seam or sleeve head. Enter Beth sewing tip #12: Match the two pieces along the seam line, not the edge of the fabric. Because of the curve, there is actually a lot less ease at the seam line than the edge of the fabric, and you will have an easier time getting everything into place. Again, lots of pins help here.

Once you have your seam all sewn up, you get to Beth sewing tip #13: Clip, clip, clip! For any curved seam, it is imperative to clip into the seam allowance to let the fabric relax. You'll notice the garment hanging and behaving better as a result. In fact, we used our scissors to trim and nip at many places in the project. While I generally clip my seams, I learned to watch how the fabric relaxed after each clip, and in turn to look for more places where I could relieve a little extra tension. For curved seams we took notches out to allow the fabric to spread, while for the inner corners of the collar (pictured above) we took out wedges to reduce bulk and allow the fabric to lay flat. It seems this is one of the secrets to a perfectly notched collar.

While we had our scissors out, we also graded seams and cut out extra fabric at bulky junctions. Beth is big on Beth sewing tip #14: Trim out the bulk. We trimmed the seam allowances at bulky junctions, and graded seams where possible to reduce excess fabric.While this step is easy to skip, it helps improve how your garment looks and behaves.

At this point I still have a bit more to share, but I am currently en route to a wedding in Alaska where I'll be sporting my new jacket and some other home made duds (yup, the bulk of this post was written at 30,000 feet!). So I'll be back next week to share the rest of this project. Sorry for all the bits and pieces, but sometimes this much info can't be written all in one sitting!

See you next week with the finished garment!

Meg Makes a Jacket Part I

This last winter, I passed the time admiring the endless stream of jackets popping up on my blog roll. I have sewn a few over the years, but for me that perfectly tailored jacket still had an air of mystery about it.

In the spring, I decided there was no better way to learn than go directly to the source: Beth, the queen of tailored jackets. Beth is a local sewist and sewing teacher who I have gotten to know over the past few years through meetups and fellow bloggers, and she is well known online through Craftsy and her blog, SunnyGal Studio. As we walked through the aisles of our local fabric store one day, I somehow convinced her to show me the secrets to her latest Simplicity #2455.

It had been a while since I had taken a sewing lesson, and I was very eager. I started by sewing up a full muslin before our meeting. I graded between a size 12 and a 10 in the shoulders, but otherwise sewed everything up as is. At her house, I tried the jacket on and we decided to add one more adjustment: lengthening the front by adding a wedge at the waist. This is an issue I've noticed in other jackets, where the front hem angles up a bit on me, and it was nice to be able to fix this properly in the muslin stage rather than try to disguise it with the hem.

Beth sewing tip #1: Make a muslin.

Next we set about cutting out the actual fabric, a soft black wool I picked up from the remnant section at Stone Mountain. It was so nice in fact that the clerk wondered aloud about who had let those 2 1/2 yards slip in there. Anyway, Beth and I picked out our "right side" of the fabric, and carefully folded it with wrong sides out on her cutting table. I think she quickly caught on that I usually tend to be a bit haphazard about these things, but I tried my best to learn from her meticulous ways. Using lots of pins, we laid out the pieces across the length of the fabric, being careful to measure the grain line on the pattern so that it lay equidistant to the selvedge. Beth sewing tip #2: Precise pattern cutting is the basis of a nice garment.

Here, I also picked up Beth sewing tip #3: If you are right-handed, it is easiest to cut with your pattern piece and fabric on the same side as your hand. So right-handed people should cut with the pattern piece to the right, which keeps your pieces from getting lifted up and shifted around. Here is me doing it wrong, with my hand all getting in the way:

Next we did tailor's tacks. Weeeee! I had previously thought that tailor's tacks were one of those too-complicated-sewing-techniques that I had no use for. As Beth showed me, however, they are actually quite quick and easy, and really very precise. Perhaps I should upgrade from the classroom chalk I've been using to mark points? To make one, you just take a length of thick thread and make a single quick stitch through the marking on your pattern and the fabric underneath. You then snip and move on to the next one. (Or, here's a Crafsty tutorial.)  Beth sewing tip #4: Tailor's tacks are fun!

Then we moved on to the interfacing. Beth takes hers very seriously, and buys it by the yard from (Beth sewing tip #5: When it comes to interfacing, buy the good stuff!) We tested out a few on a scrap, and decided on ProSheer Elegance Light for the collar and lapel, and ProWeft Supreme Light for tailoring the under collar (both in black). For tailoring, Beth subscribes to the idea that what you do to one side you must do to the other: If one part of your fabric is stabilized with interfacing, the corresponding part should also be stabilized in order to give the fabric a similar drape all around. For example, if the collar and lapel facing is interfaced with a medium weight interfacing (like the ProSheer Elegance Light), then the front of your jacket should also be stabilized (lighter weight interfacing is fine, such as the Pro Weft Supreme Light) in order to give the fabric an even hand. The same could be said for the front and back of a jacket.

Using this principle, we interfaced the lapel area of the jacket (not just the facing) to give it some body in the chest. To help the hem of the jacket and sleeve hang correctly, we interfaced those areas, too. To do this, you cut the edge with pinking shears so it blends well with the rest of the fabric. We then pressed it on with lots of steam. Beth sewing tip #6: After fusing your interfacing, let the fabric sit for a second to cool down so the glue sets in the proper place. 

Here is the lapel and hem with pinked interfacing:

I also learned that pressing wool and certain other types of fabric can scorch the fabric and cause it to become shiny. If you think about it, you know what I'm talking about. To avoid this, Beth insists you always press the wrong side of the fabric only. And if you must press the right side, use a press cloth to protect the fabric. It really does help!

At this point we were ready to begin sewing. I know, I know, all that and it was just the prep work! Because it's a lot to take in (and it's my bedtime), I'll be back soon with some jacket construction and more Beth sewing tips for better results, and of course the finished jacket. Hmm, this could end up being three posts...

A Dog in a Sweatshirt

Pattern: Milla Milla's Dog Hoodie and Sweatshirt
Fabric: fleece sweatshirt knit
Cost: $5

Well, if you haven't heard me complain already, this Spring's been a cold one. Not cold like Midwest winters cold, but just foggy and windy and generally unpleasant. Luckily, that means I get to make more cute doggy clothes! Beatrix requested a sweatshirt for June, and I was only too happy to oblige.

Her bowling-ball-with-legs shape means traditional dog pattern don't fit her, and trying to think about drafting dog sleeves hurts my head. Luckily, Ginger Makes tipped me off to Milla Milla, a dog pattern company that offers a "FB" size. Their patterns are a bit different than traditional sewing patterns in that the instructions and pattern are sold separately, but the fit was much better than any other thing I had tried so far (except my self-drafted one - that's been my best so far). If you're interested in sewing for your canine friend, you can get $1 off when you create an account on the website, and I got an additional $3 off with the code millamilla.

This pattern features a raglan sleeve, hood and waistband. I also added a pocket, which is a free download from the site. While my first version in ponte fit great, unfortunately this one seems to have grown a bit with wear and is a bit too large. Getting sizing right on your pet is a bit challenging - it needs to be tight enough to stay on and in place without being too constricting. Perhaps this one will shrink back up in the wash?

The fabric is so soft and snuggly I was thinking of using the other half a yard to make baby gifts, but since those babies all live in warmer climates I'm thinking I may just tweak the pattern some more. Beatrix insists!

Sorbetto plus AGF Fabrics

Pattern: Colette's Sorbetto
Fabric: 1 yd knit (including Art Gallery Fabrics)
Cost: $10-$15 each

My friends and I have started a tradition of sending each other gift boxes twice a year - once for the winter holidays and again in the summer when we have birthdays spanning from May through September. The theme is 'favorite things' and they all have to be the same and cost no more than $25 each. With the five of us spread out all across the country, it's become a way to share our interests and do something fun together.

For our summer exchange, we were lucky enough to be able to meet up in Palm Springs, which I described here as four blissful days of poolside relaxation. My friends gifted us lotions, face masks, water floaties, and even a pair of bikini bottoms! For my contribution, I wanted to be able to make something (my favorite thing, of course!). I knew that for it to work it had to be quick, fit a range of bodies, and cost less than $25. With these constraints in mind, I decided upon lounge shirts, using the Colette Sorbetto pattern and knit fabrics.

The fun part was the fabric shopping. I found such great prints online that I made each shirt themed. I chose a bright bird print for my friend who loves nature and hiking, an alphabet print for my friend who's an elementary school teacher, and even a ninja-themed print after my friend's online screen name. I rarely have an excuse to go all out with whimsical prints, so I took full advantage!

I sourced the fabrics on, and for two of the prints I shelled out the extra money for some Art Galley Fabrics. I tend to hear a lot about this brand, mostly because they send fabric samples to a lot of bloggers to review. They have beautiful prints, but I'd never actually sewn with the stuff. Because knit fabrics vary so much, I was curious how they hold up in real life.

The verdict? They were pretty great! They were thick and buttery, and sewed nicely. I think they had better recovery than the other cotton knit I bought, and seemed more substantial. I steamed some of my wavy seams, and was very pleased with how the AGF fabric held up. I could see myself using this for knit tops instead of paper-thin jersey, as it sews so much better. The only problem I had is that one of my prints had a small ink blot on it that looked like it had accidentally been marked by a ballpoint pen. Unfortunately I didn't notice this until after, and it ended up front and center! Oops! I'll let it slide this time, but will report back if I notice anything again.

My friends were very gracious gift recipients, and some even lounged around in them all weekend if we could be bothered to get dressed at all. It's hard to get real feedback on how things go (and really, would you even want an honest critique?), but it was fun and the shirts themselves only took a day to make up. I only wish I had made one for myself!