Tuesday, February 25, 2014

On the Work Bench: Alexander McQueen Kimono Jacket

I mentioned this Alexander McQueen free downloadable kimono jacket pattern on my sewing plans post a few weeks ago. Now I'm struggling to sew it.

Original Alexander McQueen 2003. Image source.

You see, it makes Burda look incredibly user friendly by comparison.

Luckily, I was warned by at least one concerned citizen that printing and taping the 50 page pattern would make my eyes cross. So, I let Staples do the work for me.  You can opt to print this pattern out on large format paper. 

That said, a headache seems inevitable with this pattern. The instructions are minimal and the origami back is challenging.  Don't believe me?

This is the front and back piece.  Take a closer look at the darts/tucks.

None of these "darts" are actually sewn as darts. You match up various lettered points and sew a complicated series of tucks. The instructions don't tell you whether you should be making the tucks with right or wrong sides of fabric together. And from what I can tell, it depends on which tuck you are sewing. You are supposed to end up with this:

The origami back

I have no idea why I didn't pick a brocade for this jacket. Perhaps it was to make it even more of a challenge, but I picked a totally inappropriate fabric. It's a wool/cotton in a fun leopard print from Paron. The problem is that it's really kind of mushy and soft, when this pattern would work better on a crisp cotton or something with a firmer hand.

My fabric from Paron

One of the reasons I chose this fabric is that the "wrong" side is very nice looking, and this is an unlined jacket.  So, while I procrastinated starting all the crazy darts and tucks, I Hong Kong finished all the easy-to-sew seams with black silk charmeuse bias tape that I made.

Wrong side with HK finish

There have already been a few moments when I thought all was lost. OK, perhaps I'm making this sound a bit too dire. I did figure out a number of things and am moving forward, taking copious notes. If I do succeed, I'll share my process. Here's a start...

Alexander McQueen Kimono Jacket
First, the single size pattern is, in fact, a European size 40. It's noted on the pattern pieces.  This roughly corresponds to a Vogue size 10. Lucky for me, this is my size.  That said, I added to the seams at the two sides just in case I need extra wiggle room.

Next, I sorted out which pattern piece is for what. In the instructions they are just numbered. Here they are:
  1. Front and back piece - cut 2
  2. Center back pleat - cut 1
  3. Back facing - cut 2
  4. Front origami piece - cut 2
  5. Sleeve - cut 2
  6. Lapel short side - cut 1
  7. Lapel long side - cut 1

That's all for today. I'm in the middle of pleat mayhem. If I sort it out, I'll share.

I'll be back later this week with more on the Sew Sexy Sew Along. Are you sewing anything fun or challenging this week?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Finished! Ewok Fur Cape

The coast is clear for all of you who hate it when you are bombarded with music (Ooh la la by Goldfrapp in this case). If you want my sew sexy sewing soundtrack, you'll have to press play yourself while you read Monday's post. I'm thrilled that so many of you are going to try to heat up this winter with a little sexy sewing. More to follow!

But on to today's news.... So, after I regrouped from my muslin fail back in December, I decided to go with a simple outerwear pattern for my Ewok fur, and I think the results are totally fun and wearable!

I ended up making V8959, a Very Easy Vogue Cape.

For outerwear, this pattern could not be easier.

I made version B in a size medium since I fell in between sizes. But to do again, I would probably sew a small. This is generously sized and I did take it in a little bit. That said, in a cape, I'm not sure that size is worth obsessing over - just one reason that this is sew easy.

It has a pretty, but simple collar, with just one button to close it. I really like the lines, which give it a raglan look through the shoulders and allow for the armholes/slits to be simply sewn on-seam.

One of the only problems with capes is that they aren't usually particularly warm. In the northeast this translates into a very narrow wearing season.  So, I lined this cape with a light gold colored Sunback (aka kasha) lining, which is a flannel-backed satin. It's toasty warm, feels silky soft and was easy to work with. I hope it makes this warm enough to get some real use out of.

Sunback lining

Because it's me, I did make a few enhancements when it came to construction.

First, to finish the lining, I sewed a braided piping down both front edges between the lining and faux fur shell. Adding piping between the fabric and lining of any jacket is easy to do and makes the finished garment look that much more professional.

Next, the directions have you machine stitch the hem on both the shell and lining. However, I prefer to catch stitch hems by hand and I didn't want the faux fur to have a visible line of stitches. So I simply finished with the fabric edge with my serger turned it up and hand stitched in place. 

Catch stitched hem

I machine finished the hem of the lining (serged, turned and stitched) and then sewed the lining to the hem with fell stitches to finish it all. You wouldn't normally use a fell stitch to finish a hem as far as I know, but it worked out pretty well for this application and I've been wanting the practice anyway. It took two evenings on the couch in front of the Olympics to do all the finishing since the hem is so long, but I just don't really like free hanging linings.

Lining fell stitched in place

I also fell stitched the lining and fur together at the arm holes rather than slip stitching. I never liked the slip stitch, and the fell stitch just looks so pretty.

Arm slit

By the way, it does not get easier than outerwear without sleeves! There are no fitting issues when you are just sewing slits.


The little extra that I like best is the hanging loop I added at the back collar. I used the same method as for my leather jacket.

Hmmm, the button looks off center in these pictures, I think I may move it over a bit to make it a little more centered. Oh and on that note, I used my new welt making skills to do a bound button hole in a scrap of black rainwear.  I somehow only have blurry photos of it, so please make due with this one.

One final note on fabric: I was a little nervous about this faux fur with vinyl spots. But it was so easy to work with that there isn't much to say.  It was easy to cut with a rotaty cutter, sewed up easily on my machine and, with a silk organza press cloth, it even pressed just fine on a medium heat. I didn't really treat it differently than any heavy weight fabric.  The only thing about faux fur is that when you trim, be prepared for fluff to get everywhere.

 Anyway, I'm very happy with how this came out.

And I look forward to wearing it for more than a snowy photo shoot soon!

Ta dah!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Ooh la la: The Sew Sexy Sew Along!

Ooh la la, all you sexy people!  Guess what? Yours truly is co-hosting The Sew Sexy Sew Along. 

Image "on loan" from WWNDW

When Lisette of What Would Nancy Drew Wear? invited me to co-host this sew along with her and the fabulous Nettie of Sown Brooklyn, how could I say no?  Style-wise, we are so very different, and I think that's perfect.

What is sexy, anyway? Does it mean you have to show some skin? Does it mean tight and/or short? Or that you have to wear leather, lace or animal print? Does it mean you have to be a certain size or have a certain figure type? What about for men - what is sexy for guys? I suppose this is something that we hope you will join us in answering.  Personally, I've always thought that the sexiest thing a woman can wear is her self-confidence.

That said, clearly I've indulged in a lot of sexy sewing in the last year or two. Just check my most recent project if you doubt. Or the one before that. I mean, how many other sewists have a sewing safe word? In the last few years, I've been poking at my own fashion boundaries and seeing how far I can make them stretch - occasionally wearing things that you really have to commit to before you walk out the door.  So, for me, this sew along will be a good - and long overdue - opportunity to explore my thoughts on sex appeal and my style. Also, I have some inspiration posts planned.

But all that is besides the point, which is to encourage you to sew something that will make you feel sexy and confident, and perhaps pokes at the edges of your own comfort zone - a neckline that is a little more daring, a hem that your mom might object to, a slit, a more fitted silhouette, something silky to wear under your clothes that only you will know about...

Anyway, here is the important information about the sew along.

The Sew Sexy Sew Along (March 9 - April 14, 2014!)
This sew along is a laissez-faire "sew what you want" sort of affair - what do you think is sexy? Sew that thing! There are only a few details:
  • Fabric Shopping this Saturday - February 22 - my co-conspirators and I invite you to join us for fabric shopping fun in the NY garment district. (Not required, but certainly fun! Email Lisette at taponmyback(at)cox(dot)net for deets!)
  • Grab a Button here!
  • And join the Flickr group!
We enthusiastically welcome all! 

But whether you join us or not, I hope that you will stay tuned as we discover What Would Nancy Drew Wear to Make Ned Hot Under the Collar?, that hip urban librarians knows how to fan the fires (Fahrenheit 451, peeps!), and what I can possibly do to top my past sexy sews (hint: I will not be needing tape this time). 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Champagne Next Thursday!


Unfortunately due to the crazy winter weather, we have decided to reschedule Craft Industry Happy Hour to next Thursday, February 20. I hope to see you there! 

Thursday, February 20th 5:30-8:00 p.m.

Bubble Lounge
228 West Broadway (between N. Moore and Franklin)

*CASH BAR. Please bring cash to the event.
RSVP to attend
Don't forget to bring a small, inexpensive gift item to participate in our post-Valentine's Day White Elephant Gift Exchange! Feel free to regift an item from your home or studio. I'm re-gifting something yummy from my stash.

Friends in the Northeast, I hope you are doing like me - hunkering down with your Valentine! 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Champagne Thursday: Workroom Social Happy Hour!!

Look what I'm doing this Thursday! 

The very excellent Jen of Workroom Social initiated a monthly meet up in NY a few months back for those who love to sew, knit or have some other crafty pursuit either professionally or as an enthusiastic amateur. If that sounds like you, join us for some bubbles this Thursday, when I get to be the guest host! (Click here to RSVP.)     

** PS - The NY weather forecast is for snow overnight, changing to rain. Jen and I will be making an "executive decision" in the morning - we're hoping that the show will go on!  Folks, I am SOOO OVER this winter.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Finished! BCBGMaxAzria Knock off Outfit

Finally, on this snowy day, I'm thrilled to show you my knock off top and pants that were inspired by this BCBG Max Azria outfit:

The Inspiration

I finished the top at the end of December, but then took my time with the trousers. Honestly, lined trousers with a side zip, cuffs and three double welt pockets simply take time, and rushing really wouldn't yield the results I wanted. I'm glad I was patient; these are the best trousers I have sewn so far. So, without further ado here's the outfit.

I'm kind of wishing that the weather was better so that we could have done a fun photo shoot. But I'll take what I can get at this time of year - at least it wasn't snowing yesterday. 

And here are the two pieces, starting with the top...

One of the very unexpected results is that, sexy though it is, this top feels a lot less bare than the Shane I sewed in December. Odd, right? I know it's very low cut, sort of, but thanks to the illusion net it doesn't feel at all risky. Everything stays exactly where it should and I don't feel self conscious in it. And it's surprisingly comfortable - a sexy knit top seems like an oxymoron, but there we are. 

So, this started life as V8670, a close-fitting raglan tee shirt with bust darts.  I sewed a version of it in November (here) and then  added additional ease and sliced and diced the pattern to create the mesh inset panel pieces on the front and back. 

Slice and Dice (post here)

The fabric for the top is Halston black matte jersey and black illusion net, both from Mood. The extra ease was necessary because the jersey is very stable. I picked it because of it's weight, which is on the heavy side for a matte jersey. You really can't wear traditional undergarments with a top like this, so my priority was to prevent show thru.


The net, on the other hand is very light and stretchy. I thought it might give me trouble, but sewed up beautifully and easily both on my sm and serger. Illusion net is really rather comfortable. It really moves with you and I love how it looks. I have extra yardage, so expect to see more in the future. The one thing to note is that it will melt on contact with a hot iron.  Ask me how I know. Anyway, I've been trying to use more of the features on my serger and this was a perfect occasion to finish the sleeves with a rolled hem. I finished the shirt hem with a twin needle. 

Sewing the final top was pretty easy except for the tip of the V on the mesh inset. There is a very slight pucker at the bottom of each. Almost perfect but not quite. It's pretty imperceptible unless you look closely, so I'm ok with it.

As for the style, my goal was that this should look high end as opposed to just racy/trashy.  I hope you think I succeeded. I'm probably about as busty as you could be and still get away with a top like this without it looking trashy.  And well, please forgive my vanity, but is it immodest for me to think that every push up I've done in the last 9 months of post-back injury pt/core training has been worth the sweat? I must thank my trainer.

And now for the Trousers...

The trousers are Burda 04-2011 #120, a wide legged, high-waisted, pleated and cuffed style with welt pockets. There are so many things from this description that sound incredibly wrong for my figure. I don't think I've worn pants that sit at the natural waist since about 1989. Honestly, I was somewhat worried that these might turn out looking like clown pants. But, although I don't think this is the very best style of trousers for me, I do think that I have the height to carry off a wide leg and pants that have some volume. I really kind of like them, and the color is not the least part.

The fabric is a Ralph Lauren stretch wool suiting from Mood.  It was easy to work with, pressed beautifully and I think had just the right hand for this project - drapey enough for the fuller cut of these trousers, yet firm enough for the double welt pockets, cuffs and side invisible zipper to turn out well.

The pocket areas and zipper are interfaced with Pro-Sheer Elegance and I used pocketing fabric bought at Steinlauf and Stoller for the pocket bags. I'm sure that you remember that I wrote about the double welt pockets here. Here they are in final form.

Pocket with invisible zipper.

I really like the placement and look of the vertical hip welt pockets. I doubt that anything but my hands will go in them, but I think they're fun and fantastic style-wise.

Other pocket with pleats

Unfortunately, I fell down on the job with photographing the back of these trousers, where there is a horizontal welt pocket. This was not for any reason - they look totally fine from the back. You will just have to use your imagination. 

Final details are that I lined these with blue Bemberg and finished the waist with grosgrain ribbon so that it won't stretch out.

Invisible zipper with waistband.

Inside waist with grosgrain ribbon finish

Lining with lace finish

I'm more accustomed to sewing very fitted garments, so sewing/fitting trousers that are so full was a departure for me, just as this style is a bit of a departure in my wardrobe. Fitting the pattern was easier than I anticipated. To compensate for my smaller waist and larger hips, I split the amount that I needed to take in at the waist between the darts/pleats and the side seams.

And there you go. My final thoughts on the trousers is that they are among the most well executed garments I've ever sewn, both inside and out. I'm really happy with the care I took with them. Plus, it's nice to shake things up style-wise every so often!

I'll probably get more wear from the trousers than the top.  Paired with a black top and jacket, I could easily wear them to work....

And now I'm just counting the days until Valentine's Day, when this outfit will get worn out on the town. And that's all she wrote!