Making my first coat

Oh crikey – I’m not entirely sure what I’ve let myself in for with this one.

I’ve wanted to make a coat for forever, but have never quite had the guts to actually go ahead and do it. Sometimes I feel like my sewing techniques are a little too slapdash for the more complicated projects. But how do you get better if you don’t try and stretch yourself every now and then.

Luckily for me, the “in” shape (basically the coat everyone in London seems to be wearing) is a slouchy, boxy boyfriend coat, usually in varying shades of pastel. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one to follow trends usually, but it makes it a lot easier to find inspiration when you see it on the Tube every morning.

I had a look at a few boxy-type patterns and ended up going for Republique du Chiffon’s Gerard coat and I think I’ve found a great black and white tweed fabric in a shop near me . I had thought about going for some ridiculous colour, but I think I’d rather something a bit more neutral for my first coat.

That said, I’m not overly encouraged by this pattern so far. It’s been quite a bumpy ride, and I’m not even halfway through the toile. Being a French company, all of RDC’s patterns are, of course, in French. But some of them are also available in English PDF versions. I thought: great!

Unfortunately, all the pattern pieces are still labelled in handwritten French, so you’ve got the job of deciphering the handwriting as well as matching the pieces to the English in the instructions. They do have a key, but a couple of the pieces aren’t numbered, which makes it a bit confusing. Also, I really wasn’t keen on having to tape the pattern pieces together and also trace them afterward. I’m told this is common with French patterns, but I’m a firm believer in not having to trace if you spend an indordinate time taping the pieces together.

On top of this, because I’m a bit thick when it comes to instructions anyway and keep getting confused, the toile keeps going wrong. I’ve sewn wrong bits together, got confused by which pieces they mean (I really wish they’d referred to the numbers in the instructions) and just made a bit of a mess of the whole thing so far.

I wish this was a more positive update of the coat-making! But I’ve had a super-frustrating evening and I haven’t even begun fitting the damn thing yet. I’m kind of worried the shape is going to look awful on me and I’ll have to scrap the entire thing.

*sigh*

If anyone’s made this pattern and has any tips, they’d be much appreciated…

Fostering good sewing habits

Hands up who tends to be a slapdash sewist? I certainly am. Cutting corners is my thing, don’t you know.

But for 2013, I’ve decided my sewing needs to mature a little. Here’s some bad sewing habits I need to grow out of:

1) Skimming instructions

instructions.jpg

There’s just something about instructions that makes them so… skimmable. It’s as though as soon as you introduce some sort of numbered list, I switch off. Equally,  sometimes I just can’t or won’t make the effort to get my head around what exactly a pattern is asking me to do.

If text turns you off, then there are a wealth of visual and video tutorials available online. Or, better yet, many independent pattern companies are providing in-detail drawings with simple instructions – perfect for more visual learners like me. (I used a pic of Gertie’s instructions above – but what it doesn’t show is the great little illustrative instructions featured over the page) If you really don’t understand something, Google is just a click away.

2) Leaving threads unsnipped and seams unironed…

It can seem such a pain to get up from your sewing machine to head for the ironing board or reach for the scissors – particularly if you have a lack of space. In my case, the ironing board and iron are in another room completely. Ironing seams helps everything look much more professional in the long run. As for snipping threads – it’s such a relief not to have to deal with a load of strays all over your garment right at the very end if you’ve done it the whole way through.

Gertie took a look into the whys and hows of ironing – specifically, whether it’s really necessary to iron your seams flat and then open. Over at the Coletterie, August’s good habit of the month was clipping those threads!

3) Never making a muslin

I’ve mused about my love-hate relationship with muslins before. To the slapdash and money-conscious sewist in me, muslins are time-consuming and a waste of otherwise perfectly good fabric. But after a number of fitting disasters, I’ve changed my tune a little – I even made a muslin of my most recent pencil skirt project.

pencilskirtmuslin.jpg

The fact is, if you’re making significant alterations, then a muslin is probably sensible. In my brief foray into the world of muslin-making, I’ve found a stable cotton to work well in a light colour you can easily draw on. Sunni at A Fashionable Stitch did a great pencil skirt sewalong a couple of years back which included how to tackle fitting the perfect muslin. Not sure if you need to make a muslin? Check out Sewaholic’s post here for musings on when a practice garment is necessary.

4) Claiming there’s just no time to sew

Sometimes, sewing can seem like just too much effort, particularly when I’ve had a long day at the office. More often than not, it’s not the actual sewing which makes me reluctant – it’s trying to muster up the enthusiasm to get started.

One great way to tackle this is to adopt Tilly’s 15-minute rule. Setting 15 minutes aside every day really helps me to get my sewing mojo back. Sometimes it turns into a little longer, other times I stick to the 15 minutes and just trace out a pattern or something. Bitesize chunks take the pressure off immensely – and it definitely stops me feeling guilty for being a bit lazy with the sewing machine!

Those are just some of the bad sewing habits I’m tackling right now. How about you? Are you a sewist who sticks to the straight and narrow, or do you often find yourself developing bad habits?

Mission: Create my perfect pencil skirt

I flipping love a good pencil skirt, me.

Wearable muslin purple pencil skirt with scarf1

By far the most worn item in my wardrobe is a jersey double-knit black pencil skirt – bought from H&M for my 19th birthday.  If I were to lose anything in my wardrobe, I’d probably be most upset about this – things you can just throw on in the morning for an early start at work really are priceless.

Pencil skirts are one of those great wardrobe staples. But I can’t say I’ve yet made the “perfect” pencil skirt. Oh, but I have tried – even made one of those wearable muslin things.

Gertie's New Book For Better Sewing

Gertie’s New Book For Better Sewing

As a little treat to myself, I bought Gertie’s New Book For Better Sewing, which has reams of glorious patterns plus plenty of room for alterations. I traced out the pencil skirt pattern last night with every intention of cutting the cheap-ish floral poplin I’d bought for a wearable muslin.

But, to date, I haven’t had the best of luck when it comes to pencil skirts. They may be my favourite item to wear, but not to make – odd, really, as you would have thought two straight seams and a few darts make for some easy-peasy sewing. But get some measurements slightly off and you can end up with the dreaded wrinkles, which just ruin the whole effect if you ask me.

So, before trying what will be my third pencil skirt pattern in recent years, I’ve decided to put the breaks on and maybe, actually, do a PROPER muslin this time. As in, one I will take apart and keep for future pencil skirtness.

For one thing, in Gertie’s book, the patterns are adjusted to take into account that most women are bigger size in the hips than they are in the waist. Not me!

But if I nail this with a decent muslin, then there’s nothing stopping me from creating pencil skirts in every colour of the rainbow… not to mention the other garments which build upon the foundation of this skirt block in the book.

So that was a very roundabout way of saying that I had planned to sew loads tonight, but actually, I’ve decided to put the brakes on.

Or I may have just sat and watched the Comic Relief Great British Bake Off and left the sewing too late…

Instagramming my way through Sew Colette

A month into my job meant two things. One: my first payslip. Two: the end of my 24-month contract on my despised Blackberry.

Obviously, the first thing I did was jump headfirst into another 2-year contract… except this time with a half-decent iPhone. So far, I’m very happy, because at least now my phone has an alright camera – being cameraless doesn’t make blogging about sewing any easier.

Naturally, I’ve jumped on the Instagram bandwagon and while I’ve managed to restrain myself from snapping vintage-themed shots of my food to show off to the world, I’ve started documenting my Peony step-by-step. As per, I’m taking my sweet time. I’m just about finishing up the muslin, only to notice I may have forgotten to buy a zipper. Oops!

This week is all about Fabulous Fit – which is the very bit I haven’t really got to, not having a zipper and all. But I have a hunch this won’t be too difficult a project to nail the fit, unlike last time around when I was slashing and adjusting like there was no tomorrow. Gathers on the skirt are just a bit more forgiving when it comes to my signature slapdash sewing.

I’m using some fabric from my stash, but being as fabric week isn’t until next week, I’ll keep that under wraps. What I will say is I’m thinking of experimenting a little with either dyeing or embellishments once more with this project. Check out Sarah’s post this week with her very royal Peony inspiration – wish I’d thought to nab some lace for this one!

If you want to follow my progress (or lack of if last week was anything to go by!) then check me out on Instagram under the oh-so original handle elenacresci. For non-Instagrammers, would you be interested in some sort of weekly sewing roundup either on the blog or via Flickr?

ALSO: keep your eyes peeled for something exciting this month because both the blog and the Seamless Pledge are turning the grand old age of ONE. I won’t lie, I haven’t quite decided what this exciting something will be, but I’m sure it’ll be grand. (suggestions on a postcard please…)

Sew Colette: Muslin or no muslin?

sew colette meringue sewalong

In the Sew Colette sewalong organised by Sarah and Erin, this week was designated Meringue muslin week.

As you know, my week has most certainly not been a sewing week! With an exam on public administration on Monday and an essay on phone hacking due on Thursday, it was all journo hands on deck, which, as I’ve mentioned before, doesn’t tend to leave a lot of time for sewing!

The Flickr group is already filling up with bloggers’ renditions of the a-line skirt, but I’ve decided to skip the muslin part of the project. Not exactly in-keeping with my less quantity more quality sewing ideal for 2012!

After all, winging it and skipping the muslin stage is probably one of my worst sewing habits! There are a couple of reasons for this:

  • Laziness: One of those fast fashion habits I’m afraid! When I have made muslins, I’ve rushed through the process without really taking the time to check fit and wearability.
  • Cost: While muslins tend to be made from easily-afforded cheap fabrics, my fabric budget isn’t exactly significant while I’m still training as a journalist.
  • Waste: If I buy fabric, I want to use it and wear it. Where’s the sense in my taking a pledge against buying unnecessary garments from the high-street when I’m sewing garments which gather dust after I’m done adjusting the fit?

A popular tactic in the sewing blogosphere is to make a wearable muslin. The fabric may be cheaper than what you’ve bought for the garment proper, but it’s still a garment you would wear. Take Melizza for example, who has made a wearable muslin to see how the scallops would look in a lightweight cotton.

Photo by Martha Moreno

Before Christmas, I drafted up my own pencil skirt pattern. In this case, a muslin was a must because it’s such a closely fitted garment which had been drafted up based on my measurements in the summer – even a minute change in measurements is going to affect the fit on a garment as form fitting as this one.

The result is a pencil skirt I’m still going to wear (because I’m stubborn!) but with clear indications of fit issues. Take the wrinkles across the front and on the zipper – this means I need to add a bit more width to this garment.

Photo by Martha Moreno

I made this in a cheap-as-chips polycotton I had lying around in my stash – imagine if I’d made it with something a bit more expensive? Mind you, the fabric wrinkles very, very easily – does anyone know if the wrinkling would be less obvious in another fabric?

I’ve popped more photos of the skirt up on my Flickr page if you want to take a further look! 

The Meringue skirt is less formfitting than my pencil skirt, so I should be OK if I make sure to use a generous seam allowance in case any adjustment is required! I was gong to draft a waistband according to the Coletterie’s helpful tutorial, but I’m not sure if this would be sensible when I’m not making a muslin.

Any readers taking part in the sewalong? I can’t wait to see everyone’s finished garments! I have no internet at my new house which has made catching up with blog reading a bit more difficult!