If you want to start sewing – read this

If you want to start sewing – absolutely do it! That’s the summary of this post. πŸ™‚ 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! πŸ™‚

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, that’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 πŸ™‚ 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! ❀️

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. πŸ™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~

Two knit projects

My last Jasika jacket was huge and extremely successful project! I am so glad that Closet core patterns noticed my Jasika on Instagram and shared my post on their grid. It resulted in a deluge of positive comments, congratulations messages and accolades! I was so humbled and beyond happy to receive all this positive feedback. I am deeply grateful to everyone who were interested and had good words to say about my project – thank you from the bottom of my heart! ❀️

This huge amount of support absolutely encourages me to create more nice garments! Am pretty sure that soon the time will come for one more Jasika. And meanwhile I decided to take on two simple, easy and quick projects – to just take a bit of a break before starting my next complex and serious project. So here they are – my two knit projects πŸ™‚

Long cardigan

It was a funny story that happened here. While still working on my previous jacket, I got inspired by a post on Instagram in which the rib-knit black dress was styled in all sorts of ways. I liked all those styles so much that decided to make the same dress right after I finish the jacket (btw, am sure this dress would look great with my new jacket!). Of course I had to purchase the fabric right away – to be prepared for my new project! πŸ™‚ So there I was standing in the middle of knits section at my local fabric store and having little clue how to shop for knits. There were many rib-knits in stock, but they appeared somehow very thin and fragile in my view. I checked other black fabrics and finally settled on this decent viscose blend that I ended up purchasing. After returning home with it I suddenly realized that this new fabric was weighing like a ton! After thinking intensely for a while, I had to conclude that it was far too heavy, far too thick for the intended purpose, and that the dress out of it would most likely be a really really awkward dress. The plan had to change.

I clearly had acquired cardigan fabric, so a cardigan had to be made! After reviewing many pattern resources I finally settled on a long cardigan pattern with shawl type neckline from Burda Homewear 2020 magazine.

This cardigan has only three pattern pieces – front, back and sleeve. So it appeared to be a walk in the park. But interestingly enough it was not. First of all this fabric was actually quite strange. It was nice to touch and feel but terribly heavy, thick and sinking. Cutting pattern pieces out of it was tricky, sewing – even more so. Luckily my sewing machine mostly coped, however overlocker was working seemingly at the top of its limit. I used stretch needle on my regular sewing machine and had to increase presser foot pressure up to the maximum to be able to cope with the weight and stretch of the garment.

To make sure that the neckline was as stable as possible around shoulders I used a bit of interfacing tape, and for shoulders I used mobilon tape. Since the cardigan is unlined, interfacing pieces, even though dark and discreet, were still a bit visible. To cover them and to also cover not too neat overlock seam at the back of the neck I stitched on a piece of ribbon – the technique that was also used in my pajama project that goes next on this post. That ribbon improved the inside view considerably.

When sleeves got in, I realized that the shoulders were too wide for me – garment shoulders were hanging down my shoulders and all of that was making me look tired. Since I was stitching all the main seams with overlocker, it was impossible to unpick seams if something was not working well. So instead I just made another seam inside the shoulder seam thus narrowing the shoulders but also using a bit of sleeve head too. Not ideal, however there was not much else that was possible to be done in that situation.

All this wide shawl that is falling down the neckline was perhaps meant to be hemmed. However since the fabric was really stretching and sinking I figured that hemming the shawl edge might result in stretched and wavy hem which would not have looked nice. So instead I decided to just carefully overlock the edge of the shawl and leave it at that. Black fabric is concealing enough and overlocked edge finish does not stand out too much, so all is good there.

Finally I had to hem the cardigan and sleeves. In order to avoid the same waving problem that I was fearing for the shawl edge, I decided to apply interfacing tape to the hem and thus stabilize it a bit. It worked quite well. Even though finished hem was a bit stretched, ironing helped and now it looks just fine. Original sleeves were badly too long for me. After shortening them by 7 cm, I just made a narrow hem and now the sleeves look neat and tidy too. What was not great at all was the fact that for some reason this fabric stained my newly made light pink nails so badly that I was reluctant to even look at them. It was probably the first time ever that I’ve encountered this kind of issue. Granted, I did not pre-wash the fabric. But even so, this level of staining was really unexpected. As for my poor nails, next day I ran straight to the salon, and they were able to salvage them by filing and adding new coat, so I guess – yay! πŸ™‚

For this cardigan I needed 2 meters of black viscose blend knit. Pattern used came from Burda Homewear 2020 magazine, it was pattern #9. I cut it in size 34, however had to narrow down the shoulders and shorten the sleeves. Other notions used were: a bit of interfacing tape, mobilon tape, ribbon, and black thread. This cardigan cost me 34 Eur. It was made in November, 2021.

It is a really nice and comfortable garment. Not too warm though, despite its thickness – viscose is probably not that warm fiber after all. If it had not stained my nails, I would be absolutely happy with my new winter garment. Now, I have this doubt whether or not it will stain other clothes. Truly hope that it won’t be the case and I will be able to enjoy it and wear it often!

Everyday PJ’s

Another project that I have completed on the same weekend was in a way salvage operation. From time to time I take an inventory of my fabrics, and recently I had found this pajama set that was cut a year (!) ago and that I could not convince myself to complete. It was already written down and even crossed off the fabric list as basically discarded. The reason for this treatment of this poor project was the fact that both – the top and shorts – were so badly wide to me that at that moment I had simple given up on it not wanting to spend time to make them fit me well. But… fabric pieces were still sitting on the shelf, so this time around I took that pile of pattern pieces and decided to complete the set instead of just throwing it away. And here we go – I have a nice and really enjoyable pajama set!

This fabric was bought long time ago, more than a year ago – when I still had an idea that I am capable and also have enough time to sew everything to myself, so that visits to clothing shops would eventually become unnecessary. Well, apparently, even if I’m capable, I don’t have that much time as to sew myself complete wardrobe.

Back when this pajama set was cut, it was the first knit project I was supposed to work on. Just as then, knits are still my least favorite fabric type to work with. Every knit fabric I’ve worked with so far was tricky and not too enjoyable. With them each time there is this lingering anxiety – will sewing machine work properly, will I be able to manage the stretch of the fabric. So hey, even though I might not become the queen of knits, from time to time it’s ok to work on a knit project.

For this project I chose a very basic pajama pattern. I cut it in size S, the smallest size available, however, everything ended up being huge for me. That’s why initially this project had been shelved. This time I basically decided to take in seams from all sides possible and hope that it will help.

But before sorting that puzzle I had to install the neckband for the top. It was only the second time I got to do that. This cotton knit fabric does not stretch much, so I had doubts whether the neckband would lay flat. But well, it had to get tackled anyway. The pattern asked to use the facing, which I found not too clever an idea. Therefore the good old youtube was asked for an advice πŸ™‚ And luckily, the advice worked!

First of all I measured the circumference of the neck opening, then multiplied it by the factor of 0.85 and thus got the length of the neckband. I cut 4 cm wide strip of fabric, stitched its ends and ironed it folded. Then it was important to make notches at quarters of that circle, and accordingly mark the neck opening in quarters. The only mistake I made was that I pinned the neckband only at those four notches, this resulted in the tension being applied unequally between the notches, which accordingly meant that the width of the neckband varies a little bit. But as for only the second time I installed knit neckband, the result is satisfactory enough. To conceal the overlapping overlocker seam at the back, which is usually not too neat, I stitched a narrow ribbon on top – it stabilizes the neckline and is a nice small inside detail.

The top had to be narrowed down only at side seams – seam allowances were increased to 2 cm (instead of regular 1.5 cm). Situation with shorts was more tricky. I had to shorten them by some 10 cm, and all seam allowances had to get increased. What’s more, I decided to install a separate waistband instead of just folding the top of shorts and thus creating a channel for elastic. Therefore, the top of shorts had to get cut shorter. So shorts were trimmed from all possible sides, but now they are fitting me well and are very comfy.

For this pajama set I needed some 1.5 meters of knit cotton, the pattern used here was McCall’s M2476, I cut the set in size S, however had to reduce it substantially. Other notions used were: 1 meter of lace, a short piece of ribbon for neckband stabilization, 3 cm elastic for the waistband, a bit of mobilon tape, and coordinating thread. This set cost me 23 Eur. It was made in November, 2021.

It is a nice little homewear set, and I am sure I will gladly be wearing it. It took me only few good hours to complete this set, and I’m happy how it turned out. It also fits very well with my Floor length duster I’ve made back in spring. It’s great that this project avoided being thrown away a year ago, and instead got successfully finished!

I truly hope I will manage to find black fabric for a knit midi dress I still want to make! And now am planning to work on more sophisticated garments again!

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

~Giedre~

Ultimate wool jacket

When my posts get started with the word “ultimate”, it means that I have made something really exceptional. For a while now I have been wanting to work on jackets. There is a good stack of awesome wool suiting and coating fabrics in my stash, weather is becoming colder with each passing week, so I impatiently jumped onto this wool jacket project. And after four weekends of work am happy to declare that this epic project has ended with a beautiful garment in my hands, or on my shoulders, I should say πŸ™‚ And I absolutely love how it turned out!

Well, sewing blazer, or jacket, or coat for that matter, is no small feat, whichever way you look at it. This one was even bigger feat for me as there were few parts of the project that I had to do for the first time ever – that was welt pockets and the slit. From the very beginning it was an enjoyable project, from the muslin stage I felt and also remember saying to the family that it will be a great jacket. And it is indeed!

Preparation

This jacket was conceived, as is so often the case with my projects, by accident. I saw this post on Instagram by one of my local fabric stores featuring this beautiful beige herringbone wool and cashmere blend that I loved from the very first sight and immediately ordered. For quite a while I was sitting on the idea of trying Closet core patterns Jasika jacket pattern out. And with this fabric I figured that I’d have a great opportunity to do just that. Closet core patterns offer sewing course for Jasika jacket, for a while I contemplated on subscribing for it, however since the price was a bit steep, eventually I decided not to. And that was a fine decision – Closet core instructions are great and I managed to make this jacket without resorting to any other external resources.

When it comes to lining, I decided to line this jacket with silk. Because – why not! πŸ™‚ That’s where the beauty of sewing for oneself kicks in! Making cashmere+wool jacket and lining it with silk sounds like a perfectly normal situation – something out of cards if depending solely on RTW. Choosing the fabric for lining was a lengthy process – eventually I settled on this awesome polka dot silk with golden/beige background. I just absolutely love how the lining complements the main fabric!

As for the pattern – it was a large undertaking, to put it mildly. 70 pages to be printed and glued together, 35 pattern pieces to be cut out of paper and then of main fabric, lining, interfacing. I spent an entire day for cutting paper pattern pieces, then fabric pattern pieces, then interfacing everything with all the different interfacings.

The muslin was a must for this project! Spending days and days for a complex garment should not be ruined by failing to spend an hour or so to make a simple muslin to check the fit. When I inspected the muslin, I realized that first, it was a very nice shape of the jacket – I just loved it immediately. And then I determined that only two amendments would be necessary: a) sleeves will need to get shortened by 2 cm, and then b) the bottom of the jacket should be made somewhat wider as the muslin was a bit too narrow around hips. I solved that by taking 0.5 cm off of each seam allowance for each of four side seams – in total +4 cm for hips circumference. Everything else was working just fine!

After necessary amendments were determined, I had to decide on which interfacing fabrics to use and where. Instructions were asking for four kinds of interfacing – lightweight weft interfacing, regular weft interfacing, knit interfacing and horsehair canvas. I made few testers to be able to decide easier. In the picture above: 1) Knit interfacing, 2) Lightweight weft interfacing, 3) Medium weight weft interfacing, 4) Sturdy horsehair canvas. All looked fine and good on those testers. To complete my initial preparation I ironed and carefully steamed my fabric in its entirety. Twice. Just to make sure it got enough of steam and would not shrink afterwards.

Then all the cutting and applying interfacing commenced. My sewing room had pattern pieces on every surface in the room and mostly on the floor! It was a real mayhem πŸ™‚ I had decided to block-interface smaller pattern pieces – collars, pocket welts, flaps, etc., and went ahead to cut large pattern pieces out of fabric and of interfacing separately, and only then interfaced them piece by piece. Ain’t gonna do that ever again! Will shortly explain what happened. This was my first mental note that I’ll make sure to remember for my next jacket project – will summarize all my notes at the end of this post for your convenience.

Interestingly enough, two front panels ended up being the most sandwiched pattern pieces I’ve ever produced. Thankfully I opted to use lighter interfacing on them, as in addition to main interfacing they required horsehair canvas for shoulders, the second layer of interfacing for lapels along with the interfacing tape for lapel breaking line and hem. After applying all that and putting the pattern piece down for all the marking, I had to conclude that my front panels had shrunk by almost 1 cm! And that’s despite all my efforts to steam the fabric properly before even starting.

So the conclusion is that depending on the interfacing maybe, but it is far safer to interface a piece of fabric similar to the actual pattern piece first and only then, when that creation has cooled off, to cut an actual pattern piece out of it and mark it accordingly. Steaming the fabric upfront is not good enough – interfacing application in and of itself might shrink the fabric.

Another mishap at this stage was related with another type of interfacing (number 3 from the previous photo) that I had bought some 6 meters of while thinking about all my planned projects, and that I was so much swearing while working with! So the problem with it is that even though it looks just perfect weft interfacing for jackets and coats, the glue sticks to the iron while applying it. And that’s regardless of high or low temperature used, steam, no steam – that’s all the same.

At first I ended up completely messing my iron plate – it was all covered in glue, sticky and ugly. Not quite knowing what to do I tried using some pure alcohol to clean it (have no clue if it is healthy for the iron plate, but it did the work). To finish my interfacing efforts I used ironing cloth to protect the iron and still apply that ugly interfacing. That one shrank my pattern pieces too. And what is more, it left that coarse feel on the wrong side of pattern pieces. Eventually, to try and fix that I ended up applying yet another layer of very light interfacing on top, where the coarse sensation was the worst. All in all I used 5 different interfacing fabrics plus interfacing tape for this project. That was quite a handful.

Actual tailoring

So here I was, having spent one weekend for all the preparations, entering another weekend and finally ready to make the first seam! The work started on the front pattern pieces by making darts. And immediately the largest challenge had to be confronted – welt pockets had to be made and I had to actually cut into that big and so intricately interfaced pieces of good fabric. Good news is that welt pockets are actually very fun and relatively easy to create. First I made a bit more simple chest pocket – the set of pictures below shows how it went step by step.

And then, after attaching the side panel to the front, I proceeded onto two side pockets with flaps. These were more tricky, I think I spent like two hours for the first one, and less time for the other. Still, probably at least an hour is needed for one welt pocket if working with concentration and clearly knowing what to do. The key here is to follow all the measurements, alignments, dots and seam allowances meticulously – each millimeter counts. And on thicker fabric like my wool, it is so much more difficult to do that than on something as stable and thin as cotton, for example. For these pockets I decided to use sturdy muslin fabric to make sure pockets can be used for a long time without wearing off, which would most likely happen if delicate silk was used.

When pockets were in and that step was behind me, I congratulated myself for successful completion of the first difficult part of the process. After sewing back panels together, making the initial steps for the slit and attaching all that to the front+side pieces, I was looking at the main body of my jacket being born. And then the second pivotal moment came with the installation of the collar.

Before making the collar I decided to apply the decorative bias tape to the lapel and back facing – simply because it was easier to do it then, than afterwards when the facing was attached to the entire jacket. I opted for a black bias tape which I made myself out of black lining fabric. I figured that black decorative line would nicely complement those black dots in the lining. And can now be certain, that it looks just awesome!

Small mistake happened here though – I also made a mental note not to repeat it in the future. After cutting bias tape, stitching pieces together and ironing it folded I did not make sure that the entire tape is of exactly same width. When I started sewing it onto the facing, it became clear that the width of the tape varied by a millimeter or two. For something that in finished state is supposed to be 4 mm exactly, 1 or 2 millimeters margin is quite significant! I ended up ripping few portions of that seam just to correct for those differences in width and avoid further ripping when the lining gets attached to the facing.

Collar is this key part of any jacket making. It is so crucial to make it right in order to make sure that the garment looks proportionate and neat. Nicely made jacket with lousy collar is not a nice jacket. So I sweat quite a bit each time when I have to make complex collars. This was probably only the third proper collar I’ve made, hence the anxiety. But again – Jasika is so well drafted that I was anxious without any particular reason. Of course, it took quite a bit of fiddling to get the collar into place, as is always the case with them. I actually had to rip a small portion of the seam to improve the look of the collar, but in the broader scale of things it was nothing.

I again have to compliment the instructions as they were very explicit about even the smallest steps that had to be followed to make an impeccable collar. Like, use of catch stitches to secure pressed open seam allowance, or grading seams and in which order. With jackets, the devil is in detail, and all those small details were explained in the instructions very well. (Full disclaimer – I am in no way affiliated with Closet core patterns, I just truly appreciated their instructions).

When the collar was in and I did my best in pressing it as neatly as I possibly could with my non-professional iron, I secured the lapels to help then gain a natural breaking line. And that’s where it was already possible to start drawing certain conclusions on how the jacket is going to fit me. It was fitting me well! I had a bit of a concern on how the hem will get done – due to the problems with all sorts of interfacings my main six panels of the jacket ended up being of different lengths, and I was uncertain which of those was real and correct length! But at that point I left that puzzle for later.

Next was the third key stage of the project – sleeves setting. This time I had surprisingly little hassle in easing sleeves into place. Again, probably due to careful pattern drafting, sleeve caps were just naturally fitting into sleeve openings. Then I proceeded to install felt sleeve heads that I made myself out of a piece of white felt. And finally I tried the jacket on with shoulder pads of different thicknesses and settled on a medium thickness pair. Stitched them in, and realized that here I was witnessing this nice jacket being created. It was also a breakthrough moment – I could breath a sigh of relief, because most likely the rest of the process would be a smooth completion of the garment. And it was!

Finishing

The last weekend out of four spent on this project was started by cutting lining pattern pieces. Or rather determining that I apparently did not have enough of lining fabric for all my pattern pieces. I had initially bough 1.5 meters of silk intended for lining, but it was of 110 cm width only – somehow it hadn’t occurred to me that it won’t be enough. So the fabric store had to be visited once again to buy additional 0.70 meters of the same fabric. Even though lining fabrics are so slippery and rather difficult to sew, I find lining construction so much easier than the initial garment construction. That’s probably because all necessary amendments are usually determined while making the body of the garment, and so much less thinking is necessary for making of the lining.

One tiny adjustment that I made all along this project while ironing, was using a makeshift clapper to lock in the steam applied by the iron. At first I was quite skeptical about using that small piece of wood – what good was it supposed to do? But it does! It makes for so much flatter seams. Mind you, I did not have a real clapper, so instead I used a random small wooden box that was sitting on our knick knack shelf. When my husband saw me manipulating it, he was like – ‘you know, this chess box is like 100 years old and is passed on in my family for decades’. That evening I visited Amazon and ordered my proper clapper.

Bagging the lining went uneventfully. I was absolutely happy how black decorative tape looks in between wool facing and polka dot silk lining. I hemmed sleeves – ended up concluding that my hands are of quite different length, so the right sleeve ended up being approximately 7 mm longer than the left sleeve. After attaching the facing and lining to the main garment at shoulders, at collar and securing sleeves hems, the last bit of work was to finish off the hem and make the slit somehow.

Slit lining is probably the only part that was not covered in the instructions all that well. There were no appropriate pictures provided to explain the process in detail, so I had to improvise a little bit. It is fairly possible that I did not do it all that right, it actually took me two attempts to hopefully do it close to what is right. What I liked though is that the opening to finish everything through and close by hand slip-stitching was in the inside section of the slit. It is invisible, easy to close and convenient to finish the garment through. Liked it very much, will be using for other jackets with slit.

Finally there was only one thing left to do – to make a button hole and stitch the button on. And with that my most intricate garment ever made was complete!

Conclusions

I have only one small hesitation about this jacket – I find its lapel openings being a little bit too wide. Since I loved this pattern and instructions so much, it is fairly possible I might make another one shortly. For a brief moment I contemplated adjusting lapels shape to close those openings a bit more. But then I realized that this would mean quite a difficult adjustment that I’m probably not prepared for. So this will have to suffice. Other than that, I love the fit of this jacket very much! Love everything about it! To make the jacket more posh, I made a small handkerchief out of lining silk for the chest pocket πŸ™‚ It is a truly nice small addition to the jacket.

Few key learnings out of this project are as follows (in addition to the list I’ve pulled together during my Evergreen jacket project):

  • Steaming the fabric well before cutting is not enough to ensure that pattern pieces would not shrink. It is interfacing that may cause shrinkage. So it is a good idea to apply interfacing to larger pieces of fabric, and only when they cool off – to proceed with cutting actual pattern pieces and adding any notches or markings.
  • Some interfacing fabrics may be nastily sticking to the iron regardless of iron settings. So it is worthwhile to test them well before actually starting to work with them.
  • Using 5 different types of interfacings is an overkill. It just adds to the complexity of cutting and keeping track of what is interfaced with what. Weft, knit and horsehair should be enough.
  • Choosing lighter interfacing for medium weight fabric is perfectly fine. Medium weight interfacing plus medium weight fabric makes for a really sturdy end result.
  • For medium weight fabric it does not make sense to interface those narrow pocket welt pieces. Interfacing them just adds thickness without doing much good.
  • After making the decorative bias tape it is worthwhile cutting one side of it to make sure that the entire tape is of exactly the same width. This will simplify the process of the tape application to the facing.
  • Right back and left back are different pattern pieces, when the slit is involved. It’s enough to cut one of each out of lining. (By mistake I cut two of each).

After I finished the jacket, I felt mentally tired. I tried to enjoy my new jacket, but it was tricky to do that on the same day. It was only the next day that I felt again happy to try the jacket on with different sets of clothes and thus creating different styles. When this jacket was conceived, I thought that I would pair it with equally beige or sand clothes and shoes. My husband was adamant that I have to contrast it with black. So I tried both styles and am still convinced that light styling looks better πŸ™‚ At least it FEELS better!

My husband and I continued by disagreeing on where to take pictures of the jacket πŸ™‚ I wanted to go outside, while he was trying to convince me to go to the office – natural habitat of this garment – and take pictures there. So that’s what I did. One day I wore it to work and asked the colleague from Comms to take few pictures of me and my jacket. She was amused to learn what was really happening here, however was also happy to help me with pictures, and I am so grateful for that! My husband was right this time – the jacket looks so well in the office environment!

For this jacket I needed some 1.80 m of 80% wool and 20% cashmere blend in herringbone pattern and 2.25 m of silk polka dot lining of 110 cm width. It is curious to note that the lining was more expensive than wool fabric! Here I used Closet core Jasika pattern, I cut it in size 4 and added 4 cm to hips circumference. Other notions used were: 5 different kinds of interfacing, few meters of interfacing tape, a pair of shoulder pads, a pair of felt sleeve heads, one button, and coordinating thread. This jacket cost me 110 Eur. It took four weekends to make, probably close to 40 hours of work – true labor of love! I spent two thirds of October for this project, the jacket was completed in the very beginning of November.

My new wool awesomeness is warm, and nice, and versatile. It should become this wardrobe staple that will end up being worn often and with different colors and styles! I am pretty sure I’ll be wearing it with pleasure for a long time. After now testing Jasika and liking it so much, I plan to make more jackets using this pattern. I just love making jackets! A short break might be needed now, but am quite sure I’ll get back with another jacket, or maybe coat project soon!

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

~Giedre~

Dress from the dream

Let me share quite a curious story this time. It would never have occurred to me to make this particular dress. It came from the dream, and it was not even my dream!

One beautiful autumn Saturday morning we met for a brunch with my girlfriends. We hadn’t seen each other for a month or so and had so many good stories to catch up on, time flew and we were talking and talking. Later we had some of the conversations continuing on our messenger chat. Next day, Sunday morning, one of my dear friends suddenly writes to our group chat and is telling the following story. Apparently she had this dream the night before where I was wearing this gorgeous slip dress in deep green color, paired with heavy boots and was participating in some kind of a photo shoot. I was all energetic and over the top happy. When she wrote this on the chat, I was like – “what kind of dress was that, again?”, and she went ahead to send a picture of a dress just to clarify the exact content of her dream. I then doubled checked whether she thought the dress would also go nicely with black leather jacket, and we all agreed that most likely it very well would. I bet, everyone else on the chat was having a good laugh about the entire conversation. And then I did not say anything else.

So there I was seriously thinking. One side of me is always seriously thinking, I also have the other one, that might be funky and fun, and crazy, and spontaneous. However, this last period of time wasn’t the best for this latter side of me. I guess, hence, this dream! So I took all of this seriously, and figured – “you know what, if someone took their precious dream time to dream the dress for me, I absolutely have to make it!”

For slip dresses I know of only one really good pattern, which I immediately purchased. That is Sicily dress by Sewing Masin. And shortly I went to the store to look for this specific shade of green – I had clear description what kind of green that was, and even a photo reference in case confusion arose πŸ™‚ So there it is, my new dress from someone else’s dream!

Sicily dress was all over Instagram in summer. I haven’t quite thought of making it myself too seriously, but had made a mental note to get back to this pattern next summer, if there was some nice rayon or silk fabric appearing in my stash. So this was just a perfect occasion to try this pattern out. Sicily dress is a classic bias cut dress on spaghetti straps. It looks easy, but it is never easy to work with slippery fabric cut on bias. Bias cut requires quite a bit of attention and the process is slower than with other cuts or types of fabric.

Apart from working a bit slower, there were no particular challenges with this project. Masin instructions are very detailed and really great. She explains the process so carefully, up to stitch types and lengths, that’s great to work with. I cut pattern pieces in size A for the top of the dress and graded to size B for the waist and down. Retrospectively, I probably should have gone with size B all along – for my next project I might wanna do that to get the top less tight. It is great that there is only one facing to work with as front facing is part of the front dress piece. So attaching facing, under-stitching and installing spaghetti straps is really the most peculiar part of the entire process. When that is done, little else is left – side seams and hem.

I made side seams using French seam method, using narrow zigzag stitch to make sure it would allow for a bit of stretch for bias cut fabric. Then I allowed the dress to hang for few days to be able to make the hem even. Tried to hem it using rolled hem foot, but once again had to conclude that bias cut slippery fabrics do not go well with rolled hem foot. So instead I ended up stitching 5 mm from the edge, ironed once, stitched single hem close to the edge, cut the remainder of fabric making sure that the hem would be as narrow as possible, ironed twice and stitched double folded hem. It takes much longer to make a hem using this staged method instead of resorting to rolled hem foot, however this time, rolled hem foot was not even an option.

The only real amendment that I made was lengthening the dress by some 5 cm. However, honestly, I should have lengthened it even more – as much as fabric width would have allowed. Now the dress falls below knees, and I find this dress length being probably the least flattering on me. Will keep this in mind if I decide to use this pattern once again.

For this dress I needed some 1.70 m of this deep green fabric (in 140 cm width). This time around I chose polyester fabric. For one, it was a little bit of a joke project, so I did not want to invest in silk, on the other hand, I would not have found this particular shade of green in rather thick silk that would not have been sheer. The pattern used was Sicily dress pdf pattern by Sewing Masin, I graded from size A to size B for the lower section of the dress. Other notions were – a bit of lightweight interfacing, a bit of interfacing tape and coordinating thread (which it was terribly difficult to find in matching color). This dress cost me 9 Eur. It was made in October, 2021.

Ok, even though it was kind of a joke, I was all proud about implementing people’s dreams! πŸ™‚ When the dress was finished, I proudly posted the picture on our chat, and my girlfriends were simultaneously surprised and amused. It is a good dress, really. Granted, at this time of year I would get terribly cold in it – from autumn to spring I am cold wearing anything, unless it is wool. So it is not like I’d have many occasions to sport this look shortly, but I love it regardless! I think, it will be a great look to go to cinema or some kind of informal evening event in summer. Paired with formal black blazer and heels it looks nice for a bit more formal dinner too – I checked out that look as well.

One of my friends even asked if I would be willing to make this exact dress for her, which I unfortunately had to refuse, as I was still holding on to my promise to not commit to projects for someone else. Maybe it will change at some point, but for now, I am happy with my new dress that was born in the dream!

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

~Giedre~

My first client dress

My sewing business was never meant to become a real business – I was supposed to quietly sew awesome stuff for myself and be a proud wearer of me-made clothes. Then my sister-in-law Agne approached me and asked if I could make a dress for the wedding she would be attending shortly as a guest. I was like – sure, why not! Little did I know what I was nonchalantly saying yes to!

So there is a bit of context that should be provided here. I am incapable of drafting patterns. I have been sewing for a year and a half, have only sewed for myself and used commercial patterns for all of my makes. Agne and I are not quite alike – she is some 12 cm taller than me, her shoulders are perceptibly wider than mine. So essentially, by agreeing to sew a dress for her, I was stepping into an unknown territory.

On the other hand, when I took her measurements, I determined that proportionally we are actually somewhat similar. It’s just that because of Agne’s height she is one or two sizes up from me. This made me think that the project might actually be doable. I should manage it. And I did! Am more than proud how the dress turned out! Now, let me tell the story about one of the most challenging projects I’ve had so far.

Agne and I started from trying to understand what kind of dress she would like to wear for the occasion. We spent probably few hours for browsing the entire patterns world and discussing which particular dress would work for her. At first we settled on a very nice Vikisews wrap dress pattern. It has flounced skirt and flounce around the neckline. I knew that it would be a difficult project, but was ready to try it out. But for some reason, for that particular dress there was only one size available online – my size. I did not feel like I’d be able to adapt the pattern for Agne, and thus we were back to square one. After another session of deliberation we decided to go ahead with Closetcore patterns Cielo dress.

It was a risky choice, when I think of it now. For wider shoulders those mega wide sleeves could have raised a brow or two. But back then we probably weren’t too concerned about that. Instead, we were thinking what fabric to choose for the project. So we headed straight to the fabric store and started trying all sorts of fabrics there.

It was such an interesting experience for me! For myself I either buy fabrics online already knowing what I’ll make out of them, or if I go to the fabric store, sometimes I’d just buy something that I impulsively liked. I usually don’t contemplate too much as it is fairly clear what works for which patterns and for myself. This time around I was standing there and realizing that it is quite impossible for me to know what Agne likes, dislikes – we simply had to look at many options.

This light, ornamented and transparent silk appeared in front of us. It was very expensive fabric and clearly demanding. Making the dress out of it would have been probably too much in many respects, but then we figured that sleeves out of it matched with neutral body of the dress could actually work nicely. This silk is a bit sturdy, but at that stage I thought – β€œthat’s fine, sleeves would hold their shape, that should be nice.”

We purchased a small piece of silk for the sleeves, enough lightweight viscose for the main dress and lining, and I started planning how everything will happen.

At first I made a toile. When Agne tried it on, it became clear that we were looking at multiple problems. The dress was too wide, shoulders were ok, but sleeve openings at the back were too small, thus the upper back was hanging too lose. But the main thing I wanted to test was the length of sleeves and overall shape of them. Provided that the toile was made of cotton, I was expecting it to demonstrate how real sleeves would look like. Agne quite liked what she was looking at, but also admitted that it is tricky for her to image how the real garment would look on her, which is fair enough. In addition to all necessary amendments, I made notes to go one size down for the entire dress.

We are both busy women. That is why this entire sewing enterprise was not a natural fit for our calendars. Agne was supposed to travel in the period of dress making, while I was supposed to have a health related break which had been planned from before. So timing wise I had to plan quite a bit to accommodate our schedules. And that’s because while sewing for someone else, you can’t try the garment on at whatever stage for whatever number of times.

I decided to make the main body of the dress, attach the lining and sleeves, leaving seams unfinished if any of them had to get ripped. And then Agne would try the dress on for the first time for me to see if anything needs adjustment.

The lower section of the sleeves is quite tricky to make actually. And I just kept my fingers crossed so that I would not need to rip all of that apart. I attached silk part of the lower section to the main sleeve and only tacked the lining in place, left it unfinished, just in case.

The time for the first trying on session came. Agne put semi-finished dress on and we both saw that there were multiple things not working out all that well. First, the sleeves were HUGE. For her shoulders those sleeves were doing a disservice. Knee length of the dress was making her look older and this had to be addressed. Chest darts were in wrong place. The dress was still too wide even though it was one size down from the intended size. I was like – β€œOMG, that will be many amendments that will need to happen!” It was a blow.

We agreed that I’d try to make the sleeves narrower and less gathered. We agreed that the dress would need to have a belt and be shorter. Darts had to be redone. I essentially ended up taking the dress apart. Sleeves got removed (I left that meticulously attached lower bit still on), side seams, darts got ripped. What was left was the main body connected at shoulder seams and that attached to the lining at the neckline.

After all the ripping, this delicate viscose had needle holes all over the place. Moreover, I had marked dart points using light blue pencil from the wrong side, but due to all those needle holes, those tiny blue dots were slightly visible from the right side. I tried to gently clean that small area with few drops of water and a tiny drop of mild detergent. This did not work, instead, small stain became visible because of water applied. And then I was like – β€œscrew this, I’ll just go ahead and wash all of that”. I washed what was few fabric pieces joined at the shoulder seam, hung it to dry and then ironed. Luckily those tiny blue dots were gone, needle marks were gone too. But I was now unsure whether the fabric had shrunk or not. Deciding on the length not seeing my client would now be a substantial risk. Of course I tried the dress on myself and used my proportions to try and guess how the dress would look on Agne. But still, till the very end I was unsure how the project was going.

Before I had the puzzle to solve on the length of the dress, there was a mammoth size challenge with the sleeves. I did not want to remove those lower lined sections of sleeves, so essentially the volume of sleeves had to be reduced to the extent that this middle seam would allow me. I ended up making the sleeves narrower and removed some 2-3 cm off of sleeve heads. At that point I had little clue how all of this would look when sleeves get reattached to the body of the dress.

Then the belt was made, side seams got finished. After deciding on the length of the dress I had to hem it. At first attempt I used an invisible thread, but probably applied too much tension while making an invisible seam, this meant that those invisible stitches were still visible from the right side. I couldn’t leave it at that, so ripped the entire hem and stitched once again by hand using regular thread and applying less tension. All in all there were only few seams that stayed intact along the way – majority of seams were redone few times.

Finally, oh finally, the dress was complete, but I could not say or feel how it would fit my client. It was clearly too big and too long for me, so trying it on on myself was not much use. I had to wait for few more days until Agne arrived and finally tried it on. When she was arriving, I was thinking – β€œoh, gosh, please please let it fit well, I won’t have any time left to fix it”.

Agne said she had had a plan B (didn’t trust me, did she? πŸ™‚). But when she put the dress on, it became clear that everything was finally fine! The length was appropriate, the sleeves didn’t make her look heavy, quite the opposite – her shoulders were hiding in slightly gathered sleeve caps and this made shoulders look narrower. Belt was working fine. The dress was really really nice.

It was such a good feeling to receive the above photo of Agne wearing the dress at the wedding event. I was still inspecting how everything looked in the photo – perfectionist’s habits! But more than anything, I was really proud. I even asked her if anyone had complimented her, and her reply was – β€œoh, yes, everybody!” πŸ™‚ So I guess, yay, I’ve just made my first client happy! πŸŽ‰

For this dress we needed 0.80 m of transparent decorative silk fabric, 1.80 m of grey light viscose and the same of grey viscose lining. All fabrics were bought at the local fabric store. The pattern used here is Closetcore patterns Cielo dress, cut in size 8, and we added a belt to it. Other notions were – interfacing for the belt, a bit of narrow interfacing tape for the neckline and coordinating thread. Fabrics and notions cost in total 85 Eur. The dress was made in September, 2021.

I am exceptionally proud of this project. I took larger challenge on than anticipated. And managed to deal with it! But when the ordeal was over, I have asked my husband to never ever allow me to say yes to another sewing request from anyone! Even if it is his dear sister πŸ™‚ Maybe this will change in the future, but now I really want to get back to good old sewing for myself. Sewing for someone else, even though hugely exciting and rewarding, means that that time can’t be used for my own projects, and I have so little time in my busy life, that starting sewing business is hardly a way to go at this stage of my life.

I wonder what are the views of other sewists. Do you sew for others and how do you fit it into your busy lives? I would very much appreciate if you shared your experience in the comments section below!

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

~Giedre~

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