Very special vintage jacket

This must be the most memorable project of mine of the entire year of 2021. Not only was it the last project that I completed just before Christmas, it has an amazing story to tell, too. I love it very much for its story, but also because it happens to be a truly lovely garment. Am sure I will be thoroughly enjoying wearing it for the years to come!

The story

So what is vintage-like about it, you might wonder. Indeed, paired with distressed jeans and with the collar up it may be looking fairly modern. The thing is that this fabric is almost half a century old.

Back in November, when we were visiting my mother-in-law, she emerged from the attic with fabric in her hands and told the most incredible story. She had bought this fabric back in mid-70โ€™s as a gift for her soon-to-be mother-in-law. Apparently, back in those days it was a custom for the bride to gift a piece of fabric for the new mother-in-law. I did not know this, however, am not at all surprised. It was deep soviet times, good fabric and basically anything good was in short supply, so getting hold of a really high quality gift must have symbolized effort and respect. Now, why fabric? Well, sewing or knitting clothes for oneself, or getting them made was very popular, therefore fabrics were widely bought and used.

However, 45 years later, this fabric was still in its cellophane packaging. Apparently, when my husband’s grandma, the recipient of the gift, passed away few years ago, among other stuff in her apartment my mother-in-law found this fabric untouched. Her mother-in-law for some reason had decided not to get anything made out of it, instead it was put on a shelf and sat there for more than four decades.

At first I listened to this story and concentrated more on my mother-in-law’s comments about this being pure wool and unfortunately not too big a piece, but of a good 140 cm width. She seemed to have been telling those facts thinking that she needed to convince me to accept the gift, and this was absolutely unnecessary. At that moment I was like – “yeah, cool, this is a really nice fabric, bet I could make something nice out of it”. But the more I thought about all this, the more sad the story became. I mean, ok, one might not quite like this deep purple color, which, let’s be honest, may be tricky to style. Or a piece of 1.8 meters may be too small for some garments. However, in my view, regardless of any excuses, one should at least have tried. The fact that my husband’s grandma had decided not to appreciate the gift must have been disappointing to my mom-in-law.

Planning

From a regular piece of fabric, it suddenly turned into a mission to do the right thing. I inspected the fabric more carefully. It was indeed wool, it still had that signature wool smell, even after all those long years. It was not damaged in any way – my husband’s grandma was meticulously tidy person, so I am not at all surprised that her stuff was very well preserved. The best about this gorgeous fabric was its very delicate pattern – it shows up only from certain angles.

1.8 meters is a decent length actually, that’s what I also told my mother-in-law. Various jackets can be made out of this much fabric. I started planning. The decision to take this project on as a matter of priority was boosted by my review of the upcoming Burda magazine. When inspecting highlights of the upcoming issue in the beginning of November, I came across this vintage looking cropped jacket with rounded pockets and delicate collar. I figured it could work really well for this violet fabric. Still a bit uncertain, I questioned my choice a number of times, especially that there was still a month to wait until the magazine would hit the stores. While waiting, I visited the fabric store in search for matching lining. I was determined to find something special that could do justice to this fabric. A lot of time was spent in silks section, but finally I settled on this red-purple check silk. It was being sold in 1 meter blocks, probably meant for scarves. It didnโ€™t faze me, though, I just loved that fabric. Fast forward to today, when the jacket is complete, I am not too humble about my perfect lining choice!

When the December issue of Burda was finally available, I was still lingering, a bit unsure of my pattern choice. At that time I was struggling with ginkgo top and then black pants projects, and my confidence was not at its highest. Anyhow, when the pants were done, and all that black wool project turned out to be a success, and when I calculated that there was only that much time left until the year end, I finally settled on Burda pattern and decided to go ahead with the purple jacket project. Gift buying time did not help. I sewed less, Christmas was approaching. But then on the last weekend before Christmas I suddenly shook myself and hastily jumped onto the project.

Cutting

First, I made the toile. In a rush I only joined the front and the back, and did not install sleeves. This was a mistake, as it appeared later. However, even from that semi-toile it was obvious that multiple amendments would be necessary. The toile was too wide. It is a wide cropped jacket, I get it, but it was too wide for my liking, so I took in 1 cm on each side. Then I did not quite like how the back was falling. The original pattern does not have a center back seam. I decided to make it thus adding a bit of curvature to the back. Upon trimming my paper pattern pieces I was ready to proceed with cutting.

At this stage pattern matching had to be considered. Even though the woven pattern is very delicate, I wanted it to match across center front, center back and also hopefully for the pockets.

From multiple interfacing errors earlier this year I have learnt something. This time around I cut only approximate pattern pieces off the main fabric, interfaced them and only then proceeded with cutting out actual pattern pieces. Thus shrinkage was avoided this time – yay! In order to make sure the top of the closure does not fold much when the jacket isn’t buttoned up, I decided to apply sturdier interfacing (just a bit lighter than horsehair canvas) cut on bias to the shoulders of front pieces (it is visible how that worked in the below picture). When all interfacing was applied and all pattern pieces cut out, I concluded, that this time I might have chosen a touch too heavy interfacing. It was not bad, but I probably could have chosen just a little bit lighter one. However, when the entire jacket was complete and lined, I now think that actually the interfacing choice was right – the jacket holds its shape nicely and is not sturdy at all. I don’t know when I am going to figure those interfacings out!

Sewing

First I lined pockets and applied them to the front pieces. I cut pockets 1 cm deeper than they originally were, and am now convinced that it was a good decision. To sew them on I used the blind hem foot that has a small notch at the bottom of it. That notch can be used as a guide for the pocket edge thus enabling stitching the pockets on neatly very close to the edge. I have a reel about this step on Instagram, if you are curious to check out how it worked (you can access my Instagram account by pressing a small IG icon at the top of this page).

Next were shoulder seams and the most tricky part in all jackets – collar installation. The collar, although very simply looking, is not so simple. This stage was complicated by the fact that Burda instructions are not too helpful, and pattern pieces are not notched well. Being accurate while sewing Burda pattern is really tricky. At first I did not understand how to attach the collar to the collar stand. The first attempt was completely wrong and the seam had to be ripped. Eventually somehow I managed to comprehend how the collar would be coming together and managed to do it right. Before sewing collar pieces together, I sewed on a piece of red decorative bias tape to the front and neck facings, thus preparing to attach the lining.

When the collar was finally in, I tacked side seams and tried the jacket on for the first time. After careful inspection I decided to let it out a bit around hips, so seam allowances ended up being regular 1.5 cm at the underarm grading to 1.2 cm at the hips.

Next were the sleeves. It took no time to sew them up, but when I tacked one sleeve in, it became clear how large a mistake was to skip the sleeves while making the toile. There were many problems with how that sleeve was looking. Shoulder was too wide, the back was hanging too much around the sleeve seam. After few trials and errors, I ended up increasing sleeve seam allowance from 1.5 cm to 2 cm for majority of the seam, only a small portion at the front was left untouched. When this was finally fixed and sleeves went in, I breathed a sigh of relief.

When the front facing was installed, I had left the hem unfinished. That’s because I couldn’t remember how to attach the facing to the front at the hem so that the lining would look nicely later. That’s one more symptom of what is wrong with Burda patterns. They are provided without seam or hem allowances, and I find it really frustrating. It’s probably ok to not be given seam allowances for a simple dress, but for a jacket, where all sorts of weird collar corners are involved, or when the main fabric hem allowance is different from lining hem allowance, it is really frustrating to be left guessing. In order to sort it out I consulted the good old Vikisews instruction of Andrea jacket that I made back in spring. To remember the solution for the next time, I made photos of each step and also a small reel on Instagram which you are welcome to check out.

The trick here is that the facing has to have the same hem allowance as the front piece (4 cm in this case). It is important to cut these pieces right at the very beginning – the stage requiring special attention if resorting to Burda patterns that do not include hem allowances! Then the bottom of the facing has to be trimmed diagonally to be shorter by 1 cm at the edge (2 picture below). This suggests that lining hem allowance should be 3 cm, however I ended up reducing it a bit later. Next, the bottom of the facing is pinned and sewn in the following manner: a) for 2 cm at hem line (3 picture), b) then diagonally down, c) stopping 2 cm short of the facing edge (4 picture). After trimming seam allowances, corners and turning it to the right side, a very neatly looking hem appears (5 picture) and is prepared for the lining to be attached.

Christmas was approaching fast. When I started working on this project, I had a vague idea of hopefully finishing the jacket just before Christmas so that I could wear it when we visit my mother-in-law for Christmas lunch. But the project took its time, I was working on it every workday evening and was still unsure if I succeed to finish it on time.

A part of my challenge was related with buttons. I had decided on large covered buttons. When trying to purchase covered buttons kit at my local haberdashery store, I was offered the service of covering buttons, that they apparently provide. When only few days remained until Christmas, I ended up calling them up and asking how much time it would take for them to cover buttons for me, and the reply was 2-3 days. There were literally 4 days left until Christmas, so on the same day, right after work I rushed to the store to bring them a piece of fabric for the buttons. In two days I called them up again and was glad to hear that my buttons were ready to be picked up. That was good news – I drove straight down to the store to pick up the buttons.

Meanwhile, lining was about to get made and all the innards of the jacket were to be finished. Lining came together quite easily – I had trimmed my paper pattern pieces to reflect all necessary adjustments, that’s why not that much thinking was involved in stitching the lining up. Felt sleeve heads were installed to support sleeves, I settled on medium thickness shoulder pads and installed them, too.

Finally, the lining was bagged in and I could proceed with making up my mind on sleeve length. It is always a tricky part of any project for me. By mistake, again instigated by the fact that Burda patterns do not include seam allowances, I had cut sleeves with only 1.5 cm hem allowance instead of 4 cm. But I knew from trying the jacket on that this was not a problem – my hands are shorter than standard. But now, upon measuring the actual length of each sleeve I had to conclude that one sleeve would need to be longer than the other by 1 cm to accommodate my hands that are of different lengths. I ran a poll on Instagram asking if other sewists make sleeves of different lengths, and only 34 % answered positively. However, I decided to go ahead with this solution – making them even would have resulted in them looking really different while wearing the jacket. When I attached the lining to sleeve hems, it was almost peeking out and thus clearly too long, so that seam had to be ripped, sleeves lining shortened a bit and reattached again.

Christmas Eve day came, and I still had a bit of work to do. I was cooking for the entire day to prepare for Christmas Eve dinner, which is a very big deal for us. At the same time few hours had to be squeezed in to finish the jacket. I had to complete one of my least favorite parts of jacket making – tacking collar pieces together from the inside, tacking lining in place at the shoulders, underarms, etc. When all that innards fixing was done, I finally could proceed with hemming the jacket. The lining with 3 cm hem allowance was hanging too low, also almost peeking out, therefore I ended up trimming it a bit.Majority of the hem seam was sewn on the sewing machine and only a small gap was left at one side to be finished by hand.

And finally button holes had to be made and buttons sewed on. I dread button holes stage each time! It is such a pivotal moment really – all that hard work that has already gone into the garment depends on a very short operation going smoothly. This time my anxiety was amplified by the fact that there were like few meters of thread remaining. Trying to economize on the thread I used black thread for few internal seams.

I measured button holes’ placement meticulously, measured few times, marked clearly. Was probably procrastinating on actually stitching them. The first button hole went in without a problem. For the second the foot got stuck at one moment, and I immediately stopped. That one was going to get ripped and started all over again. Thread was rapidly coming to an end. I left the second button hole aside for just one moment, and started the third one. At the very start of operation I noticed that it was not going straight and stopped too. At that moment I was already swearing, luckily, there was no time for despair as the clock was ticking. Those small portions of two button holes got ripped, I marked their placement once again and finally succeeded. There was like 1 meter of thread left when they were done. About enough to sew the buttons on.

I did not have time that day to iron the jacket, that was done on Christmas morning, because I was absolutely going to wear it to visit my mother-in-law. When we met and I took the coat of, I wondered if she’d recognize the fabric. She absolutely did and smiled ever so widely! She said – “my mother-in-law did not want to make anything out of it, so my daughter-in-law did it”, and proceeded with questions about how the project went. She really liked my jacket, and that’s what makes me so happy! What is even better, I absolutely love my vintage jacket, too! I think the pattern choice was excellent for this fabric, and the lining also works perfectly. Will be thoroughly enjoying wearing it!

For this jacket I used 1.8 meters of vintage pure wool and 1.5 m of pure silk for the lining. The pattern used here was pattern #108 from Burda magazine 2021/12 issue. I cut it in size 36 and had to make multiple adjustments. Other notions were: some 1 meter of medium weight interfacing, a bit of sturdy interfacing for shoulders, a bit of interfacing tape for pockets, 3 covered buttons of 25 mm diameter, 2 felt sleeve heads, 2 shoulder pads, and coordinating thread. The main fabric was gifted therefore I haven’t calculated the cost of this project – my key consideration was to make sure that the supplements would do justice to this awesome fabric. This jacket was finished on Christmas Eve, 2021.

It is my first purple garment ever! It is not that I have any prejudice towards any color, actually quite the opposite – I happily wear the entire rainbow of colors. However, styling purple is tricky. This became clear when I tried the jacket on with various clothes. At first I had thought that it would go nicely with all black outfit, but it doesn’t – the outfit looks too dark and contrasts too much with my pale skin. Instead, denim works fine with something light underneath the jacket. I tried sky blue top and this white sweatshirt, and like both options. Will need to come up with more styles for this awesome jacket. Should try a white classic shirt too – as soon as I get it somewhere! ๐Ÿ™‚ I own only one white shirt that is like a decade old, however, am unable to find any replacement in stores. Have started thinking that a new white classic shirt might need to get sewn, too. Meanwhile, I have at least few good styles for this jacket and love seeing it with the collar up and sleeves rolled up – in my view, this style takes away the weight of half a century that this fabric has endured.

With this comforting story I am entering the New Year of 2022 and am thrilled and excited about all of my upcoming sewing projects! Happy New Year everybody! ๐ŸŽ‰ Let it be exciting, inspiring and successful! ๐ŸŒŸ

Thanks for checking out this post and let’s catch up next time!

~Giedre~

My sewing year of 2021 – highlights and lessons

For some reason the year has come to an end surprisingly rapidly! Just like in life, in sewing I find myself always short of time to implement all my ideas. Like I wrote in my post on why it is so great to be able to sew, a very common trap that many of us get into is planning a zillion of projects, buying tons of fabric, and then the year suddenly ends, while we’re sitting there with all that fabric on our hands unsure how that happened! ๐Ÿ™‚

Jokes aside, my sewing year of 2021 was great! I have learnt so much and progressed so far that at times am myself a little bit stunned. If I were to name just one overarching achievement of this year, that would be becoming really comfortable with making jackets. If there is something I truly missed this year, that’s of course coats. I haven’t made a single one in 2021 and am surprised about that myself.

And now let me share my TOP 3 garments of 2021:

These were the most enjoyable projects while they lasted, and these are my most favorite garments to wear!

There are more beautiful garments that I had an immense pleasure to create this year! In order to catalogue my best projects I’ve introduced Favorite category that you are more than welcome to check out! I also made this collage of 9 most loved garments of the year. Not all these projects were absolutely smooth or easy, however they produced these nine beautiful garments that I enjoyed wearing so much in 2021!

This year, opposite from the last year, I haven’t actually thrown a single WIP out. One reason for that is perhaps me having gained experience and having improved considerably at choosing fabrics for particular designs, or, when things were turning really grim, being capable of salvaging the project regardless. I did have my share of truly tormenting projects, though. They ended up being rescued after all, however due to share effort and pain put into them they were perhaps my least favorite. On the one hand, there was quite a lot of frustration compiled in some of these projects, on the other hand, I was truly proud of saving them and making wearable garments after all. The largest rescue operation I had to endure was with my ginkgo top that I am now enjoying wearing so much. Few other examples of really complicated projects are Blue ribbon dress and Cielo dress by Closet core patterns, which was also my first client dress.

I made 29 garments in 2021. The last jacket has just been completed. I havenโ€™t had time to write a post about it on time to be posted before the year end, so it will be shared next week! That one is truly special and is among my top projects this year!

Among those 29 there were many dresses, a handful of tops, 4 jackets / blazers, only one skirt, only one pair of proper pants (leggings are leggings and they don’t count, right? ๐Ÿ™‚ ), several pieces of homewear, two pajama sets, even a cardigan, but not a single coat.

As already mentioned, I am the most proud of having become comfortable at making jackets. I enjoy sewing them so much! Jacket projects are of course lengthy and rarely easy. However since I wear jackets often, making them is so much more sensible than making tons of dresses. The thing is that I don’t wear dresses all that much, especially in cold season. It took me more than a year to realize that! ๐Ÿ™‚ For autumn and winter various wool types are my favorite, hence my attraction to jackets, cardigans and other cozy woolly stuff. I am also proud to have made a number of great garments out of leftover fabrics. Being mindful and considerate in sewing provides me with a lot of satisfaction.

I wish I could have gotten to love knits more, but I haven’t. Mind you, there still are few knit garments on my 2021 list, however they were more like “I really need that” type of projects. I am still not too comfortable at working with knits, and hence not too eager to take knit projects on. I wish I made many coats this year, but again, I haven’t. To compensate for that, I have one or two still planned for this winter. It is very likely that my first 2022 project is going to be a coat! I am yet to master pants, I am yet to try sewing sequins or velvet, or denim for that matter. So a long learning journey still ahead and I am very much looking forward for it!

Meanwhile, let me take a moment to pat myself on the shoulder for all the progress, fun and immense joy that sewing gave me this year! ๐Ÿ˜‡ When I started sewing some 18 months ago, I was like – “yeah, let’s see how many dresses I’ll make before I get bored”. But getting bored never happened. Granted, I slowed down on dresses, but certainly didn’t imagine back then, how varied my projects were going to become. So I am absolutely going strong into 2022! Am planning many more interesting projects, am looking forward to learn much more and to have a great time while sewing!

With this post I would like to thank all of my readers for your interest in my sewing journey, for your kind comments and ideas. I have received so much encouragement this year from the amazing sewing community! It supported my sewing journey immensely. And if any of you have benefited from some of the thoughts I shared in my posts, that is the best reward that I could dream of! So hereโ€™s to successful, creative, impressive and colorful year of 2022! ๐ŸŽ‰

Let’s catch up next year!

~Giedre~

Very proper pants

Ok, so this is a continuation of the previous project and my recent Ginkgo top, even though the sequence of events was supposed to have been opposite ๐Ÿ™‚ Pants were meant to come first and the top would go second, but well, it was not the case. After extensively cumbersome Ginkgo top project, I somehow managed to keep concentration and went ahead with the intended pants project. This was not an easy make. At times I found myself tempted to not bother with pants and instead jump straight onto some of the beautiful planned projects. But, as I shared in my previous post, I am awkwardly stubborn when it comes to finishing what’s been started, so here we go – pants it was!

Just to recap on how I found myself with a burning need to make these pants, it was this black twill suiting that should be blamed! I bought 4 meters of it more than a year ago, bought so much because it was a good deal and I figured there must be ways to use up pure wool in winter. I purchased this fabric with the purpose of first making my Festive Christmas dress. After that project, a bit less than 2 meters of wool remained, so when this winter started approaching, I decided to make pants for once, and from whatever would be left, I’d make the top. It happened so that the leftover top got completed first because I was dreading to start working on pants. And now with hindsight I have to admit that the pants project was less intimidating than I had anticipated. Not that it was overly enjoyable – it wasn’t much, but it was a decent project which produced a very proper pair of pants. When I completed them and tried them on, I was like – “that’s cool, these pants look like they were made for me!” Which they of course are. After this project I ended up concluding that it makes a lot of sense to make pants. It might not be as enjoyable as making some fancy dress, but those pants will most likely be worn much, and that’s a reason good enough for me.

When the idea was born to make pants, I did quite a research of pants patterns and tried to determine which pants designs would fit me best. The list was fairly long, and at first I had decided to go ahead with Just Patterns Tatjana trousers. Bought the pattern, cut it out, looked at it intently and then… changed my mind. The reason for my doubt was related with size and style choice. My body proportions are inconvenient in one way – I am mostly of the same size from shoulders to hips, except for waist, which is wider than standard for that particular size. This does not have any implications if a garment is not fitted around waist, I then just ignore waist measurement and decide on the size looking at bust and hips measurements only. But for the pants waist measurement is key. So for any pants, if my hips are size 8 for example, then waist must be size 10 or even 12 at times. And so when pockets, pleats and other pants stuff was involved, I was suddenly unsure how to grade in between sizes to accommodate for my relatively wider waist. Tatjana trousers feature two front pleats on each side and welt pockets made on top of darts at the back. It seemed to be a lot of risk to start messing around with size grading. Also, with my relatively wider waist I was unsure how those wide leg pleated trousers would fit me. That’s how Tatjana trousers went into the drawer.

Instead I decided to find less complex pattern, maybe without pleats, but still featuring high waist and wide leg. Ended up settling on one of Burda designs. Inconveniently, this pattern was drafted for tall women – 175 cm and up. My height is 164 cm, so I had an additional consideration to go through in that whether it would be enough to just shorten the pants, or other proportions would also need to get adjusted. I did not know an answer to this question so decided to make a toile. Initial paper pattern was cut in size 38. After inspecting the toile, I had to conclude that multiple changes will need to happen. Am still not sure which of them were impacted by the fact that initial pattern was drafted for taller height. Essentially, I had to go one size down. Decided to take in 0.5 cm for each seam, crotch had to be raised up a bit, and I suspected that the waistband might need to get lower, but decided to leave that decision for later, when actual pants get made. Still a bit uncertain about all of my observations, I cut into the fabric.

The only useful advice that I took from Burda instructions this time was a really clever way of making symmetric creases for both legs. The trick here is, before doing anything else, to fold front leg pieces lengthwise wrong sides together and press the front crease. When the pants get made, this front crease would be used as a guide to press back creases. Otherwise, this time like in many other cases I did not use Burda instructions at all – they are too unclear to me.

Actual stitching started with installing the pockets. It immediately became clear that the pattern was not drafted all that well, because pattern pieces were not matching each other. I dislike Burda patterns in one respect – I miss all those alignment notches that other commercial patterns offer for more accurate pinning and sewing. With Burda patterns it’s always like – “yeah, that more or less matches, should be about right”. Normally I like to be more certain than “that’s about right”. When both pocket pieces got sewn together, I decided to apply decorative bias tape to finish pocket edges. After inspecting my haberdashery stash, I found this narrow pink bias tape that was bought few years ago, and decided to go ahead with pink – love how it looks on a pitch black fabric!

Then the time came to stitch leg pieces together. At first crotch seam was made and then I basted side seams in order to try the garment on an get the first impression of the fit. Everything looked good, so I stitched crotch seam twice for durability and finished side seams. Next stage was to install waistband. That’s where drafting inaccuracies started appearing again. I had to narrow down waistband pattern pieces by various extent. Back piece was taken in by 1 cm on each side – looks like a significant patterning inaccuracy, if you ask me. After few iterations of stitching, ripping, narrowing down, stitching again, I finally made the waistband work and it went in. The time for the main reality check approached. When I tried my pants on, it became clear that they looked fine indeed. The only further adjustment was to make the waistband sit a bit lower than initially intended – before this adjustment the waist was too high for my liking. I fixed that by stitching waistband facing with 2.5 cm seam allowance instead of 1.5 cm. It worked fine.

Next was the zipper – it had to go into the side seam. That bit was not overly smooth – unexpectedly I had to fiddle a bit with it, but eventually managed to make it right. Then the unfinished edge of the waistband facing got finished with the same pink bias tape and I secured it by stitching in the ditch from the right side. To carefully stay in the ditch I used special presser foot that has a small notch at the bottom of the foot that falls into the ditch and allows the foot to stay in it. When that was done, my pants were mostly complete and I finally was able to assess the real fit. I was really happy with how the pants were fitting me! My excessive deliberation with this project and also this small black series of projects started paying off.

The last bit of work was to hand tack the corners of pocket flaps in place so that they would not move around, and finally – hem the pants. I had decided in the very beginning that these pants would be meant to be styled with heels. I always wanted to have pants that would be of exactly appropriate length to look nice with heels. And it was impossible to find pants of this specific length in stores. Luckily, now it was no longer a problem as I could choose the length that I fancied. Specifically I chose 8.5 cm heels that I own few pairs of, and the measuring of pants length started. It was a tedious process. When I finally managed to pin both hems about right, it became quite clear that my legs are somehow disproportionate. It is not that one leg is shorter than the other – I have a normal gait, nothing wrong with my legs. But probably due to my posture or something else, in order for pants to APPEAR of equal length, the left leg must be made a touch shorter than the right leg. I have known this peculiarity for a long time. This time around it was actually possible to conclude BY HOW MUCH left leg must be shorter, and that is a bit more than 5 mm. Maybe 6-7 mm. This time around I settled on 5 mm. I finished the hem by hand stitching it.

Finally, oh finally I was done with this black fabric. And the time came to pair my new pants with the leftover ginkgo top and see whether or not I was right from the very beginning in believing that this duo should actually look nice. And so – IT DOES! Maybe even too much ๐Ÿ™‚ My initial intention was to wear this outfit to the office. Since it’s all wool except for ginkgo sleeves, I thought that finally I would not feel cold in the office. Now it starts to occur to me that I again might have made something that is a bit too much for a regular day in the office. I don’t know – what do you think?

As another styling option, I tried my neon sleeveless top that I made last year. Its story is told in the post about too much fabric. I really like this style! However, it is almost impossible I’d wear these two together – the top is, well, small and cold, pants are warm. So nope, unless I’d find a short black blazer or maybe a cardigan to put on to feel at least marginally warm.

For these pants I needed some 1.5 meters of premium wool twill suiting that was purchased from Fabworks online store. Pattern used here was from Burda 2021/04 magazine, it is pattern #118, I cut it in size 38 but had to reduce it quite a bit. Other notions were: 20 cm invisible zipper, a bit of interfacing, few meters of pink bias tape, and black thread. These pants cost me just 15 Eur – that is why I had bought that black fabric in the first place! They were made in December, 2021.

Even though it was not a super enjoyable project, even though I was annoyed by how many adjustments were needed and how much patterns pieces were not matching each other, I am absolutely happy with my new pants! The fact that they were made to fit with 8.5 cm heels might be a bit of a limiting factor to wear them often as I do not own warm winter shoes with such a high heel (they’d be meant to get to the office where I would change to pumps). Well, I can always purchase one more pair of shoes, right? I’m saving so much by sewing all these clothes for myself! ๐Ÿ˜€

Am sure, these pants will be worn with huge delight. Retrospectively, I probably should have made more pants or pants and a blazer out of this fabric instead of going places with the dress and ginkgo top. This fabric is true and ultimate suiting, it is not really meant for dresses. Even though I like my Festive Christmas dress, fabric choice for it now appears questionable. But hey, that’s what the learning journey entails! Love my new pants! Will have to make more pants in the future, for lower heels too. As I wrote in my recent post on why you should start sewing – any type of choice or extravagance is possible when you sew for yourself!

Thanks for checking out this post and make sure to come back for more!

~Giedre~

Ginkgo top

This project convinced me to create a new category for my projects sorting that I called Salvage. From time to time I find myself embarking on salvage operations with some of my projects. More often than not the problems are completely self inflicted – I might make a relatively small mistake early in the process correcting which turns into an entire operation with hours and hours spent on it. This project was exactly that. Good news though is that I managed to save the project and to complete this top, so all is good in the end. But let me share with you what happened this time.

Normally I would not start a new project before finishing the one at hand. Another peculiarity I have is being incapable of throwing away leftover fabrics even if I do not like them all that much. So even with those (luckily rare) unloved projects I’d usually struggle up to the very end until somehow completing them. This project, or actually, the series of projects, is in exactly that category – not too loved, however must-be-finished.

Last year I purchased 4 meters of black twill suiting. Bought so much because the fabric was on sale and I figured that there can’t be any harm in buying a lot of black wool – I must find loads of projects to use it up for. Apparently, there is a good reason why we buy different fabrics for different projects – sewing stuff out of the same fabric may become really boring. But I did not know that then.

I had bought this colorful embroidered silk organza like two years ago and figured that plain black fabric would complement my fancy embroidered fabric very well. And it did! Last December I made a really beautiful Festive Christmas dress out of this duo. Was hugely proud of that project and really enjoyed it. However eventually it became clear that my new dress was not too comfortable. Wool was doing its job just fine, however those sheer parts of organza were letting too much air in, and so I felt cold in that dress regardless. Moreover, the dress is a bit too posh to go to the office, and there are not too many other occasions to wear it.

When this winter came, before embarking on multiple jacket projects I have lined up, I promised myself to deal with this black-ginkgo situation. There were a bit less than 2 meters of main wool fabric left after the dress project and a relatively small piece of embroidered organza. So it was clear that organza will have to again go into sleeves, whereas for the black fabric I was planning pants and top. It was far from certain if I was going to be able to squeeze two garments out of less than 2 meters of main fabric. Clearly that was about to be determined after I chose patterns for those two garments and laid pattern pieces onto the fabric.

I have never made pants. Even though I wear pants much more often than dresses, and even though I have a hard time purchasing pants at RTW because due to my body proportions they end up too tight around my shins, somehow the necessity to sew pants had not quite occurred to me up until now. I must have been avoiding confronting pants as it seemed complex and unnecessarily unpleasant type of project. Maybe I am all wrong and I will absolutely enjoy making pants, however for now I did everything I could to procrastinate starting pants project ๐Ÿ™‚

Anyhow, pants were conceived first, I had to pick the pattern and did quite a research trying to determine which of those zillion of pants designs out there would fit me the best. At first I had chosen Just patterns Tatjana trousers, bought the pattern, cut it, and then became doubtful. Then I abruptly changed my mind and settled on one of Burda pants designs. This one has the zip closure at the side instead of proper front closure – perhaps I was dreading zipper installation process the most. When I laid pants pattern pieces on to the fabric, it became clear that I would have enough leftover fabric for the top. And so the pattern for the top had to be found, too.

Here I was not too careful. For simplicity purposes I decided to reuse the pattern I had used before. Arguably I needed just the main blocks and was planning to adjust pattern pieces accordingly. So I needed front, back and the top of the sleeve, essentially only the sleeve head. After a bit of deliberation I chose one of McCall’s patterns I used for one of my first tops ever – it was the butterfly top that can be seen in the featured picture of my previous post. The main problem with this butterfly top was that being very inexperienced as I was back then, I cut the pattern in too small a size – I cut it in size 6, whereas normally I would later cut other McCall’s patterns in size 8 or even 10. However, this time around I thought I’d be able to compensate for too small size by just reducing seam allowances and thus making the garment wider. It was not a good idea, I should not do this ever again!

And so I finally reached the point that both garments’ pattern pieces were cut out of black fabric and I turned to embroidered organza to go ahead and cut sleeves for the top. In order to do that I had to draft sleeves first because original sleeves were short. So I traced the sleeve head off of the McCall’s pattern and then just arbitrarily drew the sides of the sleeve pattern piece. I tried to measure the circumference of the sleeve of one of my dresses, however eventually ended up concluding that those sleeves were perhaps a touch too wide, so narrowed the pattern piece down a bit. I did not think this through all that well, but it became obvious only later.

So there I was seemingly ready to cut my sleeves. And boom, my leftover piece of embroidered organza was too short for full length sleeves. I was like – “now what?”. Tried to manipulate paper pattern pieces on the fabric one way or another, but without much success. What was more problematic, there was not enough black fabric either to just cut those sleeves out of it. I googled “statement sleeves” trying to find ideas for joining two fabrics in some sort of an interesting way for fancier sleeves, but did not find anything worth a shot. And so I decided to cut my sleeves short and figure out later what kind of cuff could be made to lengthen them. Provided that my dress made out of the same fabrics felt cold due to transparent organza, I decided to line sleeves this time.

After all this terribly long process of decision making and deliberation, I was finally ready to actually start sewing. And of course I was still dreading to go ahead with pants, so started with the top instead. It was funny because the top was supposed to be a leftover project, and now it turned into a leftover project of pants that were not even started! :/ When first seams were made, I caught myself thinking – “ah, this should go fast, I’ve used this pattern before, I know it, that will be just a quick small projectโ€. It was not to be!

First, darts got made, then neck facing was installed. I used 1 cm seam allowances everywhere instead of 1.5 cm. Thought it would be enough to compensate for too small size. Then time for sleeves came. Flat sleeve method had to be used as I wanted to attach lining in a way that would hide sleeve seams. This idea worked quite well, and the progress can be seen in the pictures below.

The first sounds of alarm started ringing when I tacked underarm and side seams and tried the garment on. EVERYTHING was tight around EVERYTHING. Shoulders were tight, upper part of the back was tight, sleeves were so tight that I was almost unable to bend my arm – and that’s for my left arm, so right sleeve must have been even worse. Sleevesโ€™ tightness was amplified by the fact that this embroidered organza is quite sturdy, not at all giving in. I was standing there in front of the mirror distraught and thinking, “well, sh*t, what do I do now?”. Three options crossed my mind: a) throw it away and stop further time spending, a.k.a. โ€œfail fastโ€in project management terms, b) finish as it is, make nice pictures, hang the top in the deep corner of the closet, c) try to save the project. I am not sewing for pictures or Instagram, conceptually option b was not even an option – if finished, the garment must be wearable. I decided to try and rescue the project.

Eventually I settled on doing two things. The first part of the plan was to try and remedy the tightness around the top of the the garment, I decided to rip center back seam and make seam allowance as narrow as possible, and the same with side seams. And second, for those troubled sleeves, I recalled the solution that one of experienced sewists described in her post and on IG some half a year ago. In my case applying her method meant to just open the underarm seam and sew in a narrow wedge / insert of main fabric. It was not too elegant solution, but at least it was some kind of a solution. All of that salvage work took me like 4 hours to complete – hours of unnecessary pain that could have easily been avoided had I chosen a proper pattern or drafted sleeves more attentively.

Since both sleeve layers – embroidered fabric and lining – were too narrow, I had to sew their edges together and only then insert the wedge. In other words, wedge seams are now exposed on the wrong side. They could only have been hidden had the lining was wide enough, but it was not the case. Eventually when all main body seams were redone with seam allowances reduced to bare minimum – something like 6 mm, the width of the overlocker seam, – and when wedges were in, I tried the garment on and had to conclude that it became so much more comfortable and probably wearable too. Light at the end of a tunnel started appearing.

The last fix to find was to attach something to compensate for sleeves being too short. At first I decided to try and install gathered cuffs. I cut double width on bias, gathered and concluded that it was far too bulky. So instead I decided to install a straight faux cuff, am defining it as faux because these cuffs are not closed in any way, they have open ends.

The last part of work was to decide on the length of the garment and hem it. For that I used catch stitch so that the seam would not be visible on the right side. After ironing the finished garment I finally was able to breathe a sigh of relief – not too enjoyable project was finally over.

For this project I needed small leftover pieces of two fabrics: black twill suiting that I bought at Fabworks online store and embroidered silk organza that I bought at The Fabric store online. The pattern hacked here was McCall’s M7542, however I changed it so much, that little reference to it remains in the actual garment. Other notions were: a bit of lining for sleeves, a bit of interfacing, one small button for the back closure (for those I use up spare buttons from RTW garments – have many single buttons in my box ๐Ÿ™‚ ), and black thread. This top was made at the very end of November, it cost me 20 Eur.

When time came to find styling options for my new top and take few photos, I had a really hard time styling this top. It somehow feels dark – well, that shouldn’t be a surprise provided my initial choice of black fabric! Initially I had planned to wear it with those poor pants that I am yet to make, but this would mean me being all black from head to toe, and with my hair also being dark, this might turn into a grim looking situation. I don’t know, we shall see. Tried this top with denim jeans too, it did not make for a good look. Maybe a skirt would fit better, but I do not own any suitable skirts and overall almost never wear them. So all in all, the conclusion is that this one was probably my least favorite project ever. But at the very least I did what I had to do – finished it! Now I really hope that I will learn to enjoy it eventually.

Thanks for checking out this post and wish me luck with the pants!

~Giedre~

If you want to start sewing – read this

If you want to start sewing – absolutely do it! Thatโ€™s the summary of this post. ๐Ÿ™‚ Today I will be sharing some of very fresh experiences, victories and mistakes not to be repeated, some of the ideas where to concentrate, too. I truly hope to share with you a bit of inspiration and conviction to not hesitate anymore! ๐Ÿ™‚

I am by no means an expert or the one who would have mastered everything and would feel totally qualified to talk about what works and what doesn’t in sewing. But, having said that, I might as well add that I’m someone who started from complete scratch and with 18 months of amateur sewing experience can actually say a bit about what works and what doesn’t quite. One more disclaimer to make, I am this structured finance person, so hopefully I am actually qualified to assess economic aspects of sewing.

Sewing saved me from getting into a really bad place during the Covid quarantine – now in hindsight that is what I think had really happened. Sewing provided me with a purpose and a platform to concentrate on and not think about anything else for a while, and that is why I am so happy I started sewing in the first place. Of course it does not need to be that dramatic. But even in the most usual of circumstances what sewing will do to you, it will provide you with an absolute freedom of appearance. And that’s BIG! It will spare you the frustration of going from store to store in search for “something” or “the dress” and not finding what would really please you or what would fit you more or less ok. Learn to sew and you’ll be just rocking it in absolutely any color, style or extravagance. I found this aspect of sewing to myself hugely liberating. The only limit then is time – there is never enough time for those five coats that are lined up on the list!

Luckily for me, I am this more of less typical “size 36” person. There are few aspects of my body that make choosing RTW clothes a bit more tricky, but they are really quite minor. My shoulders are atypically narrow, thatโ€™s why wider shoulder garments make me look tired. And my hands are shorter than standard, therefore it is tricky to find garments that would not look too large for me even if they otherwise aren’t. However, if your proportions deviate a bit more from RTW “standard”, then sewing for yourself can be a real life changer. No more tight bust blouses or too short sleeves – you can make the garment fit you really really well!

Sewing does not mean abandoning RTW! I am hugely interested in RTW industry and know a lot about clothing trends, brands, and still buy RTW from time to time. But because I am also a deep-rooted finance person, my common sense simply screams at the idea of buying a trivial polyester dress made by a trending designer for hundreds of euros. It simply makes no practical sense in my view. Instead, it is so much more reasonable to acquire great content fabric, designer fabric if desired, and make the same simple dress in one day for a fraction of the cost. This aspect of sewing for self makes me really appreciate my superpower. I think, I am a bit frugal at heart, so not spending hundreds of euros for a dress or a blazer makes me really really happy.

If we continue on and talk about fabrics, there is much to say. When was the last time you saw a RTW blazer in cashmere lined with silk? I can’t quite recall ever seeing this, like ever. Have you noticed, how polyester lining feels if compared to silk touch? If not, you might as well do when you start sewing for yourself. Mind you, silk lining for your blazer might be like 10 times more expensive than polyester lining, which is quite often found in RTW. But that cost will still be a fraction of the price of RTW garment. I found going completely crazy with fabrics so satisfying in sewing. All those great fabrics with premium quality content are just there – waiting for us to make awesome stuff out of them!

Sewing for oneself provides with a sizable possibility to save. Fair enough, it takes time to make a garment. But if that’s also your way of relaxing and enjoying your free time, then we shall not calculate that time as costs ๐Ÿ™‚ So then the only costs are what you spend on fabrics and haberdashery. And in the entire universe of available fabrics you will absolutely be able to find awesome fabrics at surprisingly decent prices. I think, on average the garments I’ve made are at least twice cheaper than alternatives I would buy at RTW, and those alternatives would most likely be of worse fabric content. So here you go – the hobby might also double as a means to economize.

Absolutely join Instagram! There is a massive community of weekend sewists who will inspire, challenge and support you. Enjoy it to not only share your makes, but also to get inspired, explore the newest trends, discuss with people, find new patterns, observe techniques used and mistakes made by others. I appreciate so much that huge support and encouragement of the community, posts being shared, promoted or pinned. And am trying my best in doing just exactly the same for other members of sewing community in order to spread the support further! โค๏ธ

And now, as we’ve explored many benefits of sewing for self, it’s appropriate to also talk about what mistakes it is a good idea not to repeat. First and foremost you would want to resist that huge temptation to buy ALL patterns and ALL fabrics there are. When I first started to explore home sewing market, thankfully it did not just hit me all at once. Instead, it was and iterative process of finding new pattern makers, new fabric stores and haberdashery types. Fairly natural impulse is to just start purchasing the stuff along the way. And that’s exactly what you should not do! When you find first two nice patters, don’t just buy them. When you like 10 fabrics in the first online fabric store you’ve visited, don’t purchase 5 of them. That market is endless, and you’re exploring just a tiny pixel of it. Chances are that even if you bought those 5 awesome fabrics you just loved, tomorrow you’ll find another set of 5 even more awesome ones.

Avoid stashing patterns and fabrics. What makes sense instead is having certain agreement with yourself on how much space at home or what size budget you want to dedicate to your fabrics, and hopefully trying sticking to it. Probably the only exception to this rule would be taking good use of occasional fabric sales. Otherwise, purchasing fabric for that one upcoming project makes most sense. You will learn along the way what you like, what fits you, what is easier to sew than something else. Don’t curb that learning journey by immediately stacking up inventory for 5 years ahead. I made that mistake. Just recently I kept on sewing some of the fabrics I’d bought almost two years ago.

Another learning point is that NO, you don’t need that most sophisticated sewing machine there is on the market. Almost any sewing machine that has main features will do its job just fine. I find the following sewing machine features crucial: automated thread cutting, good button hole function, ability to sew really thick fabrics (adjustable presser foot pressure is important for that too), variety of presser foots (hidden stitch, rolled hem). That’s that. And 95% of those stitch types that your machine would be able to do you will never use, ever. You’ll need overlocker – overlocked seam allowance edges can’t compete with for example zigzag finish. And again, fairly basic overlocker will do its job just as well as that fancy version of it. Two other key equipment pieces that help a lot, although are probably not absolutely necessary – ironing board and dress form. I found my sewing experience improving dramatically when I acquired both of these – and they are not expensive at all. Folding your ironing board allows to save space in the room when it is folded, while it is one more horizontal surface when in use. As for the dress form, it is now an absolute necessity for me – I would not be able to work without it. And then there are few key tools that are actually quite important, I have a full list of what I use on my Basics page – you might want to check it out.

One more mistake is also related with share abundance that will hit you like an avalanche, just exactly as we’ve discussed when talking about temptation to buy tons of fabric. In this case the temptation will be to obsessively sew something you might have been in deficit for during all those years while solely depending on RTW. For me that obsession was dresses. It was so rare I’d find a dress that I’d truly like! At any point in time I owned only two-three dresses, so really not many. When I realized that here I was sewing any kind of dress that would come to my mind, I became delirious. I kept on sewing dresses, more and more dresses! Until the point when I realized that even though I now have many dresses, I am not wearing them much. Just exactly as before. So keeping your mind sane and assessing your wearing plans objectively is a good idea. If you don’t wear dresses, don’t sew ten of them. If you love different coats and are unable to purchase them as none of RTW would fit, make more coats. Make what you normally wear: tops, cardigans, pants, pajamas – all the usual stuff. When I realized that I should stop dress craze, my wardrobe slowly became more balanced. Now I sew various garments.

The same actually goes for colors and styles. At first I was so amazed by the ability to choose any color for any garment that I made yellow skit, bright green blazer, raspberry red jumpsuit and on it goes. Eventually I started realizing that all those screaming colors are nice on their own, but nothing matches anything. So it is obvious that sewing capsule wardrobe is more practical and reasonable.

Also related with style choices, the mistake is to keep on jumping on patterns that many other sewists are making. If you join Instagram sewing community, you will keep seeing “hot” patterns being sewn across the board, seemingly by everyone. The fact that many people enjoy particular pattern does not mean that garment will fit you or you’ll enjoy it. That is why, even if it is a good idea to learn about new pattern trends and at times perhaps sew the same garment as someone else did, you probably do not have that much time as to participate in every sew-along or contest. Make what you really like and be happy!

If you actually start from complete scratch, like you’ve never used sewing machine ever before, it is a good idea to check out some of the basic sewing videos on Youtube – there are many of them there. You will also be able to find the variety of sewing schools or academies online. Most of them are really good, however you do not need to sign up for one to successfully learn to sew. Majority of commercial patterns that you’ll be purchasing explain each step in great detail, so you’ll be just fine by using those instructions. I would not recommend starting with Burda patterns, though. Burda patterns themselves are good, but instructions are very brief, not illustrated and hard to follow. Even with my current experience I am still not comfortable with them.

And, for heavens sake, choose simple fabrics for your first projects, stable cotton is probably the best choice. Leave silks or viscose for later – when you’ve become comfortable with the basics. I of course did not follow this advice – for my first garment ever I chose medium weight silk, am unable to explain how this happened. Even so, it was not a complete tragedy, that very first top I still own and still wear occasionally – here it is.

Now let’s talk about expectations. Opposite from common belief is the fact that actual stitching is not too big a part in the entire process. Fabric preparation, pattern cutting, fabric cutting takes up quite a significant portion of work, for complex garments like jackets or coats – even more so. Then, another important part in the process is pressing each seam carefully. You will find yourself pressing seams just as much as actually stitching them. DO NOT skip ironing part – it makes whole difference between homemade DIY project and professionally looking garment.

The thought to write this post came to me when I found myself articulating some of the above mistakes I’ve actually made. And also, with one year anniversary of my blog, I’ve figured that it was a good idea to summarize my sewing journey of last 18 months and share it with some of you who might be just as inexperienced now as I was just one year ago. So if you’re reluctant, don’t be – just make those first few garments which will most likely not be perfect, but from then on you’ll get on an absolutely satisfying journey and excel to the universe with no limits. ๐Ÿ™Œ

I would love to hear from you how your sewing journey started and how it’s going – share your thoughts in the comments section below or write to me directly, I would love to connect with you!

Thanks for checking out this post! Let’s catch up next time.

~Giedre~

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