Sunday, November 18, 2018

Making an Inverness Coat, Part 1

Making an Inverness Coat, Part 1

Wow, it's been a year since I last posted a project. Sorry to leave you all hanging. I haven't really been doing much sewing over the past year; life has been getting in the way. But I'm now embarking on a project for Bob and myself: costumes for a Dickens-themed holiday party on New Year's Eve.

Bob and I spent several hours researching styles we wanted, finding reference pictures and talking about colors. Bob was interested in having a cape, but after a few discussions, he found a picture of the kind he wanted: an Inverness Cape Coat.


Pretty straight-forward, you would think. Little did I know how many different variations of this style existed. One of them is the Ulster Coat, which looks just like an Inverness from the front, but there are notable differences: The Ulster style is a coat with a cape over it. The Inverness, however, has no sleeves, and the cape does not extend across the back. Instead. the cape is actually a big open sleeve that attaches to the side back seam and drapes over the front of the coat. It's a bit more complicated to assemble, so, of course, I decided to give it a shot.

I wasn't able to find a commercial pattern for the Inverness; the only ones I saw were for Ulsters. However, I did come across a scan of a vintage layout that showed what the pattern pieces look like.

The very thin lines show the "sloper" -- or base garment -- while the shaded pieces are the patterns for the back, front, and cape. The little one at the bottom right gives an interior detail for the pockets in the lining.

I turned to my trusty drafting software, Wild Ginger's PatternMaster Tailor Made. I used the Blazer draft, as that shifts the side seam to the back. However, the program doesn't have an option for that wing sleeve, so I did some extensive editing in the included CAD program, Pattern Editor. Here's what I came up with.

 You can see that I added flare to the coat as well, at Bob's request. Now, a coat like this will take a lot of fabric, and I didn't feel like wasting so much just to test whether the pattern pieces actually worked the way I wanted them to. Luckily, the program gives an option to print out a pattern at half-scale! This gave me much more manageable pattern pieces; I just had to remember that the seam allowance was also scaled down.

Much easier! And it only took about a yard of muslin and about two hours of work (including some cursing, and ripping out of seams, and puzzling over how that cape had to be attached). To my astonishment, it worked! Here's the half-sized test coat, modeled by my "My Size Barbie", which happens to be pretty close to half-life-sized.

No, I didn't bother pressing anything, which is why the coat flare looks odd. But you can see how the cape drapes quite nicely over the shoulder and arms.

Here's the back view, showing the cape attached to the rear side seam.

It almost looks like normal sleeves, with the arms held down at the sides. Once it's done up in the finished fabric, it's going to drape beautifully.

Here's the view with the cape open, showing that the coat itself has no sleeves.

So what's the fabric going to be? Here are the swatches:

The outer shell for both the cape and coat will be the black wool (probably a wool blend), and the linings will be the red satin.

I have six weeks to finish the cape, along with the other elements of the outfit: pants, jacket and shirt for Bob, and an intricate outfit for me to complement them. The color scheme will be red and black with gold accents.

I won't be making much progress until after the Thanksgiving holidays, though. Watch for an update in about a week!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Sewing for ME again!

After a pretty long dry spell, I am finally back in the sewing room and eager to revamp my wardrobe. I know; it's about bloody time! To ease myself back into the routine, I decided to make up two of my "tried and true" patterns: some jeans, and a knit top.

Nothing terribly exciting, I know, but I'm very happy with how they came out. The jeans are yoked in the back, and have boot cut legs. The front crotch is a little loose, but not bad enough to do anything about on this pair. Most of the time, it will be covered with my tool apron as these are work pants. They're made out of a very nice stretch denim that I've got plenty more of, so I'll be making more of these in the future.

Back view:

Two patch pockets in the back, and scoop pockets in the front. Fly front.

I must have about six of this same style in my wardrobe already; I keep making them when I find interesting printed knits. I got this fabric at Spandex House in New York City the last time I was up there. It takes me about two hours to put one together; it's all done on the serger and the hem, cuffs, and neckline are turned under and cover stitched.

I've put together a list of the things I want to sew; there's a new dress in my near future. Then I think my husband wants a fleece-lined flannel shirt for the cooler weather (and I'll probably make one for me, too).

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Diana's Wedding, Part 3: The Wedding

Finally I'm writing the last post about Diana's wedding!

One of Diana and Alex's rules about the wedding ceremony was that there were to be NO cell phones or camera use by guests. And I was so happy to see that everyone complied! The photographer took great pictures, so the event is well-documented. Here are some pictures so you can see just how lovely the whole day was!

Getting Ready

Since the ceremony started at sunrise (7 a.m.), we all had to be at the venue (Brookside Gardens) while it was still pitch dark out. I had the dress and coat with me so Diana wouldn't have to worry about transporting it.
In the "dressing room" (really just a classroom), the photographer took some pictures of the dresses and coats waiting to be worn.

On the left was the Matron of Honor's dress; my only part in that was adding straps to it so she would feel more secure. The wedding dress is next, followed by the Matron of Honor's coat (the wearable muslin of the final coat), and Diana's coat.

Closeup of the neck detail:

Closeup of the button detail:

The funny thing was that Diana and I searched for the right buttons in New York and came up empty; I found these at my local Joanns and they were perfect! This was also the first time I had attempted bound buttonholes, which was nerve wracking.

Detail of the embroidery on the facing:

There are things about the coat I'm not happy with, but Diana was thrilled and that's what mattered.

Then it was time to dress the Bride.

I think this is one of my favorite pictures. I'm wearing a blue wool dress I finished the day before the wedding (in the rush to get her stuff done, I kind of forgot that I had to have something to wear as well).

The cummerbund sash at the waist presented a bit of a problem; when it was fastened, the end of the band tended to stick out, which Diana didn't like. She wanted it to lay completely smooth. So rather than fuss with moving the skirt fastener that held it together, I just took out needle and thread and sewed the end down.

(I did clip the stitches before the happy couple left!)

Then it was time to head down for the ceremony! Here's the Parents of the Bride walking towards the pagoda where the ceremony was held.

I'm wearing a coat made from the same pattern as the one for both Diana and her Matron of Honor. In the interest of speed, I omitted buttons and just had a sash, and also had patch pockets. The lining was fabric I had bought as a fallback for the coat, in case we didn't find the right fabric in December. But we did, so I had extra. The light blue wool was a Mark Jacobs wool given to me by a friend; it was so luscious to work with! My dress was a wool from my stash.

Here Comes the Bride!

She carried a bouquet of heather, along with Bob's mother's handkerchief and my mother's wedding gloves. And, thanks to the generosity of a dear friend, she also had a Lucky Sixpence in her shoe!

The ceremony itself:

At the left, you can see the MoH, Alyxzandra. The officiant was a dear friend of ours who has known us since Diana was maybe four years old. At the right is the Best Man, Cameron, who is Alyxzandra's husband.

Part of the ceremony was a traditional Handfasting. Guess where the term "tied the knot" came from?

A few more pictures from after the ceremony and at the reception:

The coat had the proper amount of swirl.

Brookside Gardens was such a lovely backdrop for these romantic pictures.

Cameron being Cameron.

It actually wasn't bitterly cold out by the time the ceremony was over (maybe 38-40 degrees), so they were able to get pictures without her coat on. But not many!

And finally, Diana's godmother gives her a paddling at the reception. Diana called this picture "testament to my mother's skills as a seamstress," as there was absolutely no gapping at the neckline, even when her new husband hoisted her over his shoulder.

And that, my friends, is the end of the Saga of the Wedding Dress! I hope you enjoyed it! I'm just glad everything came out the way it should; the happy couple is off to a wonderful life together.

NOTE: All photographs are by Exposed Branches Photography.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Diana's Wedding, Part 2: Drama in the Sewing Room

Remember how I said Diana had already bought a wedding dress?

She assured me that it would just need a few minor tweaks to make it perfect. The top was very plain, so she asked if I could spiff it up with a layer of lace. I figured that wouldn't be too hard. So she brought the dress to my sewing room and we took a look.

And I had to be brutally honest with her: the dress did not fit.

The biggest problem was that it was too tight across the bust, and there wasn't enough fabric in the seams to let it out. In the hands of a more skilled alterations person, it might have been workable, but it was beyond my abilities to do it justice for such an important occasion.

So yeah... Mom, can you make my dress after all?

By now it was mid-November, so there were just three months until the wedding. It meant we had to take yet another trip to New York in early December to buy fabric.

We had discussed the general style of the dress; she wanted a strapless sheath with sleeved lace overlay. We had pictures with us of similar dresses. For the first hour or so of shopping we concentrated on finding just the right lace for the overlay, figuring that it would be the hardest thing to nail down. And we were right. She couldn't find just the right lace to match her vision.

Then we were in a store called, appropriately enough, Diana Fabrics. She looked at laces and didn't see anything, so we started for the door. There was a bin of sparkly fabrics near the door, and I jokingly held up a length of a sheer organza with aurura borealis sparkles on it and said, "How about this?"

She stopped dead in her tracks and gasped. "That's it!"

Now, you have to understand that Diana is not a Sparkle Princess type of person. She was never into the frilly glittery stuff while she was growing up; it was all about understated elegance (remember the black wool skirt? Even when she was little, she had style). So I was completely shocked when she fell in love with this sparkly, shiny fabric. And instantly we knew it wouldn't work for the style of dress she thought she wanted. We had to make some major revisions.

We retreated to a deli for lunch and sat sketching ideas. Once we were done eating, a new dress had taken shape and we returned to shopping with new enthusiasm.

The Work Begins

The dress was drafted in PatternMaster (of course) and I put together a muslin for the first fitting.

The shoulders were just a wee bit too wide, but overall the fit was pretty good. She's wearing a purchased petticoat underneath to give it a bit of fluff.

The real dress starts to take shape. The bodice fit wasn't quite right, and we both felt it was too plain this way, so I added sleeves and a waist sash to the final version. And yes, I put pockets in the dress. Gotta have pockets.

Final Fitting

The final fitting was the week before the wedding. You can see that I added sleeves, plus a two-layered organza overskirt. All it needed at this point was some adjustments to the hem and she would be ready to walk down the aisle. She's holding her bouquet of heather.

The back of the dress was specially designed to show off her tattoo. Part of the finishing work also included tacking down the top of the zipper; I kept that for last just in case there were fitting tweaks.

Construction Details:
Shoulder princess bodice, gored flared skirt. Bell sleeves cut on an angle and finished with a two-thread rolled hem with variegated embroidery thread in aurora borealis colors.

Now that Diana's dress and coat were done, I had a few days to think about what I was going to wear. I reached into my stash and found a navy blue wool, and made one of my favorite styles: my "J. Peterman" dress. It's a button-front dress with kimono sleeves and a shawl collar. And then, because I'm a total glutton for punishment, I made myself a coat with some light blue Mark Jacobs wool given to me by a friend, using the same pattern design as for Diana's coat, but without the fur.

Next: You're Invited to the Wedding!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Diana's Wedding, Part One: Plans and Changes

It really was my intention to write about the sewing I did for Diana's wedding. But life has a way of intervening: while all of the wedding stuff was going on, we finally found a buyer for our house, so we were also tossed headlong into the search for a new place to live, plus packing, plus work, plus everything else, so blogging kinda got shoved onto the back burner. But rest assured, I did not get run over by a bus.

Anyway, to recap: in my last post, I wrote about how I was going to make her a wedding coat inspired by a picture she found online. She had already found a dress. We had gone to New York City and found fabric for the coat.

Step one was to make a muslin to check the style of the coat and get the hood figured out. I used PatternMaster to create the draft.

First muslin pass:

The body fit wasn't bad; just a few tweaks needed. But she didn't like the hood; it was too much like a bubble sitting on her head rather than a gentle frame for her face. She showed me a coat she already had and asked if I could copy the hood style; I took a few pictures and modified the pattern to make a hood that flowed smoothly into the lapel to create the kind of look she was after.

What About the Fur?

I was stymied about where to find fur trim that wouldn't require a second mortgage. Then a miracle happened: one of the members of the online sewing group I'm in offered to send me a fur coat she had that she wasn't using. It was a gorgeous Arctic Fox, and went perfectly with the cashmere/alpaca fabric we bought.

I will admit that it was painful to take such a lovely coat apart. I cut it into strips to use for the trim around the hood and cuffs and set it aside.

On to the Wearable Muslin

The next step in the process was to create a wearable muslin to test the final form of the coat. Diana thought it would be great to have a fancy short coat she could wear in the future, so I made this one a little below hip length. This way I could really test the fit of the body, arms, and hood.

It went together pretty well. It's fully lined, with Thinsulate interlining for warmth. I even made bound buttonholes. Here it is on the mannequin, prior to the final hemming. The fur strips are hand-sewn onto the edge of the hood and the cuffs.

Now for the Real Thing!

The final coat came together pretty easily. The only tricky part was adding the pockets; I'm still a little wobbly on welted pockets and even with watching some YouTube tutorials I wasn't 100% thrilled with the outcome. But they were good enough. Here was my practice piece on a scrap.

I didn't take any pictures of the assembly process, so here's the coat at the final fitting. It still needed hemming at this point but the rest was done. It is also fully lined and has a layer of Thinsulate.

Coming Next: Drama in the Sewing Room!!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

A Wedding Coat for Diana

I can hardly believe it, but my little girl will be married in five months. Where did the years go?
I've always loved sewing for her. Early on, though, I got her way too used to wearing clothes that fit well and were made of better materials. I think it really started in 2002 when I made her a wool skirt with a silk lining for an outing to New York.

She wore that skirt a lot while it still fit!
Well, now she is getting married (cue "Sunrise, Sunset"). She already has her dress; she purchased it at a thrift sale for $60. I'm not upset that I won't be making it for her; she and I agreed that we would most likely butt heads during the process if I were to make the dress.
But I won't be left out in the cold... Well, no, actually I will be. See, the wedding is on Valentine's Day, and it's an outdoor wedding. Bob and I were married that way as well! But here's the kicker: the ceremony starts at 7 in the morning. Yes, my little girl wants a Sunrise wedding. In February. In Maryland.
So I offered to make her a wedding coat. We did a little surfing and found the perfect example of what she wants.

We took a whirlwind one-day shopping trip to New York on Labor Day, only to discover that most of the "Big Name" stores were closed. Darn it!! But there were quite a few of the smaller stores open, and we managed to snag a gorgeous cashmere/angora wool at a store I know only as "Kabbalah Man" as my dear friend Sarah calls it. Now all I need to find is an old fur coat I can repurpose for the trim. The lining will be printed at Spoonflower, as Diana wants a very specific pattern and we haven't been able to find it.
The first step is to make a muslin to nail the overall design and fit. I will then make a short coat as a wearable muslin to confirm the fit and style. I hope to have the final coat done by the end of the year so I'm not in panic mode. Oh, and I will also need to make a dress and maybe a coat for myself.
Stay tuned... This should be an interesting adventure!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Smithson 2016: A Change of Direction

So about my gown ideas... Yeah, they got tossed out the window.
I really wasn't feeling any love for any of the ideas I had for this year's gown. So rather than force it, I decided to approach the problem from a different direction: fabric first. This meant a road trip with my daughter (and personal style guru) to A Fabric Place outside of Baltimore.
We spent an hour going through the various fabrics there, looking for inspiration. And we found it in a coral-inspired allover embroidered fabric.
I ended up buying just two yards of it because it was pretty expensive. Then we needed to figure out what to do with it. After much cogitation, we came up with the idea to have a bodice overlaid with the coral, and a solid skirt to pick up the orange-red of the embroidery.
The first idea was to have the coral go over an ocean blue, like in the first picture, but that really was a bit too cartoonish for my taste. We settled on an ivory, which looked very nice but wasn't perfect; it really was a compromise.
Then I had a meeting of my PatternMaster users group, and called on them to help brainstorm. As we were draping fabrics, I had an idea: I grabbed a piece of copper-colored charmeuse that I had received as a gift in a Reddit exchange. It was perfect!

To the Sewing Room!

I finally had time this weekend to hunker down and start sewing. I took inspiration for the skirt from all the wonderful comments on the swirly blue dress. This is the same pattern, but the godets are only quarter circles instead of half. This wasn't by choice; I went to two stores trying to find enough of the orange-red charmeuse to make six full godets but fell short. Ah well, so the skirt is only 1.5 circles instead of three!
So here's the first try-on. It's not pressed at all, nor hemmed, and the facings need to be tacked down, but I was too impatient to see how it looked.
Front view:

The top is a simple shoulder princess draft, with set in sleeves and a faced neckline. I'm not sure about the neckline; it looks so plain! Have to think whether I want to gussy it up at all. Oh, and there's no closure! It slips on over my head (but j-u-s-t barely)!
And really, it didn't dawn on me until I saw the pictures that I've got a real Halle Berry look going on... I didn't think the copper fabric was going to look so much like a skin tone!

Back view:

The facing really needs to be tacked down all around.

And it's so twirly!

So I still need to do the finishing touches (and decide what to do about the neckline, and jewelry, and hair), plus make the matching vest and tie for Bob. But heck; I've got another five days. Piece of cake!
It really does go to show that an evening gown can just be a regular dress pattern done up in fancy fabric.