Monday 10 September 2018

the leather jacket that ate my soul

So as I mentioned, I spent all of August making a faux leather jacket. More accurately, I spent the vast majority of August avoiding doing any more work on the jacket, telling myself I was totally going to do it tomorrow and there was no point in taking the leather needle out of the machine to make something else because I was definitely going to finish the jacket this week. I only got past this the first weekend of September, and that was only with my boyfriend standing over me chanting "Sewing! Now! Jacket! Finish!"

Here it is.

First off, this is a practice jacket and it isn't great. Part of my struggle to finish was knowing that I wasn't going to have an awesome garment at the end of it. It's OK if you don't look too closely, but there are several instances of wonky sewing, the zips aren't especially well done (and I didn't realise I was mixing metals until after I'd put them all in, yay me), and the hem is SUPER wonky. I'll get to that in a minute.

The pattern is from Burda 1/2017, the only Burda magazine I own and which I bought entirely on the strength of this pattern. I've been fully meaning to get on with it and putting it off for more than 18 months, mostly because I didn't want to trace it. Once I finally did it wasn't that big a deal, but I'm pretty sure I'll still go through "but I don't wanna!" every subsequent time I see a Burda pattern I like.

I bought test fabric from Fabric Land - cheap faux leather and even cheaper lining fabric. I don't think I could have brought myself to spend more on it because it was so likely to go wrong, but I'm certain that the materials made the job harder. It was impossible to press the main fabric and the lining was one of the most annoying things I've ever had to sew. With a softer leather and a slightly more stable lining I'm sure it'll be easier. The fabric definitely makes the finished product less good - it's so thick that it makes me look puffy, and so inflexible that it's quite uncomfortable, especially the sleeves.

(My shoulders are nowhere near this wide, and yet in this jacket, somehow they are.)

I bought the supplies the pattern called for and started on my way. A few steps in, it said "Shorten the zipper". Elsewhere in the magazine there were cursory instructions for how to do this, but I had several goes and it wasn't happening. So I just put the zip in as it was. This was the wrong call. I should have waited and bought a shorter zip. I don't think having an inch less zip than the pattern calls for would be that big a deal, but having an inch more definitely is, because I couldn't hem it properly. Hence wonk. It's probably the thing that bothers me the most about the whole thing. Well, that and the fact that the pocket zips are gold and all the rest of the zips are silver. Gah.

Working with leather was half really annoying and half actually pretty enjoyable. I liked working with a fabric where I could just draw on the seamlines in chalk (I understand some people do this with most fabrics, but they must have much better chalk than I do), and after making a ton of summer clothes in light jerseys and viscoses, it was refreshing to work with a fabric that stays where you put it. On the other hand, not being able to pin or put stitches anywhere outside the seam allowance was very restrictive and knowing that I couldn't just unpick it and do it again was... stressful. I especially hated setting in the sleeves. I got stuck on that stage for over two weeks and eventually gave up and put a pleat in. However, even with all of that it was still better than working with the lining fabric. This stuff SUUUCKS. It was super uncooperative and managed to do exactly the wrong thing at all times. It was particularly annoying to use as pocket lining, given how much precision you need for this kind of zipped pocket.

On top of working with the leather, I also did my first ever zipped pockets, first asymmetric zip and sleeve zips, my second ever proper collar with collar stand, first decorative topstitching, and first time using Burda construction methods. I probably should have had a go in cotton first.

The pattern calls for a LOT of fabric glue, and this is how I discovered that the fabric glue I have is completely useless. I spent days trying to glue back the seam allowances for the pocket and sleeve zips, and it never worked even a tiny bit. I ended up using Wonder Tape for the zips (which still didn't work that well) and painstakingly hand-sewing the hems to the seam allowances (which barely worked at all) and finally gave up and bought some superglue to hem it. Hopefully Round Two complete with superglue will give me slightly neater results.

For next time I have learned:

- use the shorter length of zip
- pay more attention to seam allowance on sleeve heads when cutting
- test iron and fabric glue on fabric beforehand
- throw out current tube of fabric glue because it is useless
- use a more stable and better quality lining fabric
- never buy cheap-ass lining fabric from the hidden section of Fabric Land ever again
- also never buy this shitty faux leather again
- make sure hem is marked evenly once lining is pinned to jacket
- make the opening in the sleeve seam to turn the jacket through closer to the wrist
- buy zips in person so the next version doesn't have weird brass pockets
- aaarrrgggghh why is there a next time

While I'm here, I'll show you what I'm wearing underneath:

This is the second version of McCalls 7789, and it's been sitting cut out and ignored for over a month while I alternately worked on and ignored the stupid jacket. I finally got it made up last week and I think it's great, even if it is definitely autumn and not really flowy jumpsuit weather now. The fabric was meant to be a maxi dress, but then I couldn't find a woven maxi pattern I liked and rather than leave it in the stash for another year I decided to make it a ridiculous jumpsuit instead. 

I got the fabric from Rolls and Rems in Lewisham, after thinking about it for the best part of a year (I don't normally spend this kind of money on viscose). It's lovely, though - really soft and flowy and great to work with. The same cannot be said for the alleged viscose I used for the lining. I wasn't well enough to go shopping at the time and so ordered a piece of black viscose online, which has taught me that sometimes "viscose" can meant "surprisingly heavy and rough crepe". Ugh. 

Last time I filled in the underboob window after the fact, this time I inserted a piece of fabric into the seams as I went. This is definitely neater but I don't think I got the shape of the fabric piece quite right. Eh, small details. I really like this version and I think it's fancy enough for me to be able to wear to dance events and such the like throughout the autumn, even if it's not warm enough for me to just swan about everywhere in it.

Up next: I'm not sure! I've got a couple of things cut out, so we'll see which one I decide to sew up first. Suspense! 

Monday 3 September 2018

sewing plans: autumn 2018

Hey, I'm not dead! I had no intention of taking all of August off, but... then I did. I decided to make my experimental leather jacket my next project, and it took me aaaages. Partly because I've been ill (turns out I've developed asthma at 33, YAY), partly because it was a ton of new techniques and a new material, and partly because it was a royal pain in the ass and by halfway through I was really struggling to motivate myself. The end product is frankly decidedly mediocre, but I should be ready to share my many thoughts next week when I've done a bit of finishing on the sleeves. For now, let's skip ahead to my autumn plans.


A white leather jacket

There's a decent chance this is a fool's errand, given that it's taken me most of August to get halfway through the practice version, but the point of that was always to make this. I have two metres of a very soft white faux leather printed with embroidery-style designs which would make the most amazing statement jacket, and it's what I'd like to be the main focus of my autumn sewing. Hopefully finishing the first version doesn't make me gun shy. If it does:

A knee-length autumn-weight coat

One way or another I want to make a piece of outerwear this autumn, and this is the other one on my list. There's a small chance I'll make both, but I'm not betting on it. If this is what I end up making I'll use V1365, a Donna Karan pattern from 2013 that Patrick found me on eBay, ideally in a bright colour. I don't own any bright coats or jackets and I want a statement piece.


A sweater knit wrap dress

I have a bunch of Named Olivia dresses, but the only one I wear frequently is the original orange version. I've wondered several times why that is, and I've come to the conclusion that it's the shorter length and, crucially, the slightly thicker fabric. I want a couple more that work as everyday dresses, so I've bought some blue sweater knit that should make an awesome snuggly autumn wrap.

A pair of trousers

My inability to make trousers that work for me is super frustrating, so this is one of my top priorities for this season and I'm prepared to have to try several patterns. I only have one pair that I wear regularly, the Megan Nielsen Flint trousers, and it's got to the point that one pair just isn't enough. I've considered just making another pair of the same, but I would really prefer a zip closure to the half-open pocket. The next pattern I have to try is McCalls 7726, in what the fabric label claims to be a denim-linen mix. I also really like the Camille trousers from the new Sew Over It ebook, but I don't know if I can bring myself to shell out £25 for five patterns when I only want the one. Once I've found a pair that fit decently well, I'm finally going to have the pair of yellow trousers I've tried and failed to make four times now. Yeesh.

A black top

Last summer I tried making Simplicity 1613. I barely ever wore it because the fabric was crap and it didn't go with anything, but I really like that twist detail. I'm going to try again, with some black sweater knit, and I'm going to put sleeves on it. The sleeve that came with the pattern has got lost in the midsts of time somewhere, so I'm going to try and engineer it to have the Deer & Doe Givre armscye and sleeve.


A dressing gown

One of the few RTW items I still wear regularly is Patrick's old dressing gown, a slightly ratty fleece thing that I keep trying to replace but have only just realised I've been doing it wrong. I do still want to increase my swanky loungewear wardrobe, but fancy crepe kimonos really aren't the thing for when you're cold and damp just out of the bath. To remedy this I'm going to make McCalls M7516, lengthened and with big pockets, in some kind of fleece or towelling. I've seen some red and white stripy stuff that I either really love or really hate, and I haven't decided which yet.

A presentable loungewear outfit

So I haven't quite fleshed this idea out yet, but what I'm looking for is something comfortable enough for me to wear around the house as a matter of course, but fancy enough that I don't have to change out of it when people come over. I know I want three pieces (trousers, a top and a layer) and I need to work out what form that takes. I'm currently having an argument with myself over recreating a Miss Fisher outift with swishy trousers, a butter yellow cami top and a black capelet lined with the same butter yellow fabric, which would be amazing but also even I'm not ridiculous enough to make a capelet strictly for indoor wear. I think the shape of the trousers and length of the layering piece are going to be crucial here, so I might have to *gulp* sketch things. (I am terrible at drawing. Even with a croquis book most things still come out looking like drunk ghosts.)

I'm going to keep it to this for now. It's slightly fewer things than I usually plan but with the stupid jacket in there I think that's probably wise. Also I don't want to plan too many things I don't have the fabric for. Hopefully it all goes smoothly enough and I can make another couple of things as and when I get inspired.