Sewing Books at the Library: Improv Sewing, Sew Retro and More

I love the public library. It’s a great source of free information for everyone. It’s also a wonderful place to check out new sewing books. Right now I’ve got five books out, four from the Berkeley Public Library and one from the San Francisco Public Library.

I flip through the books to see how many things I’d like to make and whether I’d learn any new techniques and ideas. Oftentimes I stick post-it notes on the pages of things I’d like to make or ideas that inspire me. If there are a lot of post-its, then I’ll very likely buy the book, which is what happened with Alabama Sewing + Design, reviewed here.

Here’s my roundup of the other books I’m reading:

Sew Retro: A Stylish History of the Sewing Revolution + 25 Vintage‐Inspired Projects for the Modern Girl by Judi Ketteler ($24.99). This is a fun book – a brief romp through fashion history (1880s to today) interspersed with profiles or interviews with women designers of the decades – from the 19th century’s Ellen Curtis Demorest to today’s Amy Butler. Alongside those pages, the author has projects (and patterns for them) that are supposed to be reminiscent of each time period. It’s a bit of a hybrid book with more pages devoted to history and people rather than sewing projects.

The projects were pretty basic, ranging from bags and purses to pillows and coasters – all things a beginning seamstress could easily handle. I’m not really interested in making most of the things in the book because I don’t need any more potholders, aprons, bags, etc. But I did like the needlecase – a nice design to store your hand sewing needles and thread snips.

Flowers I made from Petersham ribbon

Chic on a Shoestring: Simple to Sew Vintage-Style Accessories by Mary Jane Baxter ($22.95). This 2011 book has many ideas for embellishing tops and shoes – adding buttons, lace, rickrack, you name it – to refresh or refashion your existing wardrobe. Some of Baxter’s ideas aren’t really my style though. For example, I wouldn’t trim a hat with small pom poms or put lace doilies on a top. The author is a milliner.

The book also has several ideas for making accessories: belts from old neckties and necklaces as wells as detachable collars from a variety of materials — shoelaces, ribbon, fabric, beads and lace. I liked her idea for making flowers using Petersham ribbon that I made a few last month (see photo). I’ve attached clips to the back so I can wear them in my hair. She put several flowers on a purse, which looked quite elegant.

Sewn by Hand: Two Dozen Projects Stitched with Needle & Thread by Susan Wasinger ($19.95). This book has nice photos and illustrations on hand stitching, covering how to make knots (the single-hand, tangled knot vs. the two-hand knot) and a variety of hand stitches (running stitch, back stitch, stem stitch, blanket stitch, slipstich, overcast stitch, and so on). The book’s projects are all very nicely designed and photographed. Some of the usual things featured in sewing books are here: a tote bag and potholders. But the author gives them unique touches, such as the covered buttons and rope strap on the tote bag and the potholders with smocking.

Improv Sewing: 101 Fast, Fun, and Fearless Projects: Dresses, Tunics, Scarves, Skirts, Accessories, Pillows, Curtains, and More by Nicole Blum and Debra Immergut ($19.95). I put a slew of post-its on the pages of this book, which means that this one’s a keeper and I’ll definitely buy my own copy.

The book is full of simple designs for clothes (dresses, skirts, and tops), home projects, accessories and gifts. You make your own pattern for tops using your own shirt (or one you get from a thrift store if you don’t want to cut one up) as pattern pieces. Once you have your torso pattern piece, you reuse it again and again for the other designs

The majority of the book is devoted to clothes that you can make fairly quickly because they don’t have very many pattern pieces – and they look good! Some of the skirts use jersey knit fabric with foldover elastic over the waistband (no hemming necessary). How easy is that?

Sometimes I’m really impatient with sewing so it’ll be great to make something that I can finish in an afternoon. At more than 300 pages and with clear instructions and plenty of photos, it’s well worth the cover price. Oh, and the authors share a blog Improv Diary (in addition to their individual blogs) and they have an Improv Sewing Flickr group for folks to share what they’ve made.

Book Review: ‘Alabama Studio Sewing + Design’ by Natalie Chanin

I recently checked out this great book on hand sewing from the public library: Alabama Studio Sewing + Design: A Guide to Hand-Sewing an Alabama Chanin Wardrobe by Natalie Chanin. It focuses on creating a hand-sewn wardrobe – yes, everything from bolero jackets and wraps to dresses and skirts of varying lengths – from cotton jersey fabric. The various pieces can be layered for a striking appearance or worn with a pair of jeans for a more casual look.

These are all designs from Alabama Chanin, where a hand-sewn and hand-embroidered tank top retails for more than $1,000. But you can make your own versions with this book!

The photos of the models wearing the clothes in this book are gorgeous. And there are nice illustrations of the various stretch stitches you can use when you are hand sewing.

A couple pages from ‘Alabama Studio Sewing + Design’

The author recommends using button craft thread for hand sewing because it’s one of the strongest threads. It’s made “with a polyester core surrounded by vary finely spun cotton yarn,” writes Chanin.

I was so enamored of the clothes in this library book that I went ahead and ordered it from Amazon (and paid sales tax for the first time on an Amazon-purchased book – yes, California’s online sales tax law went into effect last weekend). I can’t cut into the patterns that come with a library book because other people will be checking it out. So I just had to buy it.

Featured in the book & available to buy on Alabama Chanin’s website

What makes the clothes unique is the appliqué work, beading, stencils, and embroidering. The stencils and various designs for embroidering and beading are all provided in the book along with patterns for the various clothes. You can also purchase the stencils from Alabama Chanin’s store. Cutting out the stencils yourself is certainly time-consuming so you may want to spring for a stencil if you intend to reuse it or just want to spare yourself the tediousness of cutting out the designs.

I was so inspired that when I saw that the Fabric Outlet in San Francisco was having a sale this week (everything 40 percent off!), I went shopping for some black cotton jersey. I also picked up several spools of button thread. I’m not sure if I’m going to hand sew the entire thing – my zigzag stitch on my sewing machine may be employed for this endeavor. But I’m certainly going to give it serious consideration.

I’ll be sure to post about what I make from this book. Though it may take a l-o-o-o-ng time because of the hand sewing!

Chuleenan Svetvilas

Making Colette Patterns Jasmine Top – Part 2

My finished Jasmine top (photo by Kofi Natambu)

For this post, I pick up where I left off in Part 1 — I had sewed the front and back pieces together and attached the collar.

Now I tried on the top to see how it fit. I was swimming in it. It was way too wide. I think I was overcompensating on the size because the instruction booklet says, “Colette Patterns have less ease than other patterns to provide a closer, more tailored fit.” I didn’t want the top to be too small so I opted for the larger size. It fit well in the shoulders but everything from the bust and below was too wide. I was swimming in it.

So I went back to the my machine to sew another seam about a half-inch from the current seam to see how that would work. I left the bust darts as is.

Adjusting the sleeve

I made these adjustments on the fly. I didn’t mark where the new seam would go. I just looked in the mirror, pinched the fabric where I thought the seam should go and then went to the machine to sew the new seam.

I tried it on again and the fit was good. Then I looked at the top to see how this adjustment would affect the sleeves. I needed to adjust the sleeve width or the sleeve would be wider than the armhole.

My down-and-dirty adjustment? I basted the sleeve seam to match the width I adjusted on the top. Then I pinned that sleeve to the opening to see if that would fit and luckily it did.

My next step was to pin, baste, and sew the sleeves in place. (Note: The sleeves are slightly gathered at the top, a very nice detail.) Once the sleeves are attached, you hang the shirt up overnight. In a bias cut piece of clothing, you need to let the fabric settle so you’ll have a straight hem.

The following day — as you can see from the photo below — the hem really needed to be trimmed. I took my Gingher rotary cutter and sliced off the excess fabric. Then I was ready to iron and sew the hem!

The hemming instructions said to “[t]urn the lower edge under 1/4″ and press”; then “Turn again 3/8″ and stitch. ” With narrow hems, I like to baste them in place before sewing with a machine. This helps prevent the fabric from getting slightly off as you’re sewing and then you have either too much or too little fabric as you  get to the end of the seam.

Though the pattern says that any lightweight fabric will work (silk crepe, silk twill, cotton shirting, etc.), the pattern likely works best with fabric that has a soft hand. The shirting I used didn’t drape  very much, even with a bias cut — as a result, I felt like I needed to wear a belt with the shirt to make it work.

Pining sleeve in place

 

Trimming the hem

 

Basting hem in place

Making Colette Patterns Jasmine Top – Part 1

I bought this “Jasmine” top pattern from Colette Patterns earlier this year. For fabrics, I decided to use a striped cotton shirting, a remnant I got from Britex Fabrics a while ago. I thought it would be a nice contrast to this feminine style and make full use of this bias-cut pattern.

The instructions mentioned that the pattern was fitted so be careful to pick the correct size (the pattern goes from size 0-18) and to be precise in cutting the fabric. I decided to go with size 10 because I have wide hips.

This was the perfect project to use my new and elegant Gingher rotary cutter. It cuts like a dream!

My Gingher rotary cutter (notice the stainless steel washers as pattern weights)

For pattern weights I used these large stainless steel washers I got from Home Depot – a tip from The Colette Sewing Handbook by Sarai Mittnick (lots of tips and plenty of patterns in this book).

The front and the back are each made from two pieces cut on the bias. So if you’re using a striped fabric, the stripes will at a 45-degree angle, making a V where they meet at the seam down the middle. the stipes are tiny on this fabric so I didn’t worry about matching them up. There are also bust darts in the front.

Once the front and back pieces are done, then they get sewn together on the side seams. The next step is the neckline.

The only slight problem was the center loop that you thread the tie pieces through.

The center front loop

The pattern cutting layout indicates that you’re supposed to cut two pieces of this 3/8-inch strip of fabric. But the pattern instructions say that the seam allowance is 1/4-inch seam, which doesn’t make sense. The illustrated instructions indicate that it’s supposed to be cut on the fold. So I cut another loop, doubling the width to 3/4-inch wide.

Other than that minor snafu, it is an easy pattern to sew and the instructions are clear. Part 2 will focus on the sleeves and adjusting the size.

Front of Jasmine bias cut top

 

Q&A with Designer Christine Haynes

Derby Dress pattern (photo by Bob Lake)

This month Christine Haynes launched her new pattern line, which kicks off with two lovely patterns for summer weather: Derby Dress and Chelsea Dress.

You can order them on her website ChristineHaynes.com on this page and soon you will be able to buy them in shops around the country. After they ship, Christine will put a store list on her site so everyone knows where to find them locally.

I interviewed her via email earlier this month.

How long have you been working on the patterns and what made you decide to embark on this project?
I have been working on this since the fall of last year. I knew I didn’t want to do another book right now, but really wanted to continue releasing designs into the world. I decided last summer to do a Kickstarter campaign and when it was funded in the fall, I got going on it!

How much money did you raise via Kickstarter?
I raised just over $6,500 through Kickstarter, which is almost enough to pay for all the expenses to launch the first two patterns.

Christine Haynes

How long did you give yourself to raise the money?
I selected the maximum time limit, which was 60 days.

Did you think you’d be able to meet your goal when you decided to use Kickstarter?
Honestly, I had no idea if I’d be able to raise my goal or not! I thought I could, but there was an element of doubt from launch to funding, 24/7.

In your book Chic and Simple Sewing, there are no zippers or buttons on any of the clothes featured in the book. Will any of your upcoming patterns have any buttons or zippers?
Absolutely! My book was really all about removing the fear of sewing garments for beginners, so I didn’t want them worrying about fit and difficult details like darts and such. But these patterns are for levels beyond absolute beginners, so in the first two patterns there are details like facings, collars, princess seams, buttons, gathering, and more! But don’t worry, they aren’t super difficult. [Update: The book is now out of print. You may be able to find used copies on Amazon.]

Chelsea Dress pattern (photo by Bob Lake)

What advice do you have for aspiring designers who want to create a line of sewing patterns?
Have a clear vision, more money than you think for funding it, and take your time to get it right! I am a bit frustrated that it’s taking longer than I thought it would, but I want them done right!

What inspires your designs?
I am really inspired by the 1950s and 1960s, but I never want to look like I’m wearing a costume. It’s a very fine line! I try to go away every year to just be, exist, and live. This allows me to do a lot of observation and clears my head from the clutter of daily life. It’s my most clear time to sketch and think of new designs.

Mother’s Day Gifts – Sewing Books!

The Trench – pattern by Christine Haynes

Last weekend my older sister showed my blog to my Mom on an iPad. A couple days later I spoke to my Mom on the phone (she lives on the East Coast and I live in California) and she said she liked the purple trench coat featured on this page of my blog. This is the coat I made from Christine Haynes book Chic & Simple Sewing, which I reviewed here.  She asked me if it was easy to make and I told her yes, she could certainly make one.

Yesterday I realized that time was running out on getting my Mom something for Mother’s Day. Then I thought – hey, I’ll get her a copy of Christine’s book! So I immediately ordered a copy on Amazon – I did check with a local independent bookstore first but they didn’t have one in stock – and I got an email today saying that it had shipped and would likely arrive on Saturday. Yay.

So if you’re racking your brain about what to get your Mom for Mother’s Day, consider a sewing book. Two lovely options:

Chic & Simply Sewing, which you can get on Christine’s website (or on Amazon) – This includes many patterns for a variety of clothes (see my review for more info).

 

Colette Sewing Handbook, available on Colette Patterns website (or on Amazon) – This book is about Sarai Mitnick’s approach to sewing and it includes five patterns. I will be reviewing it soon.

 

Color Palettes

Farmer’s market in Los Angeles

I’ve been thinking about palettes lately and what colors I like. So I decided to look at the some of the photos I’ve taken over the past few months to see see what palette emerges.

It’s interesting to see what colors appear in each photo and which colors reappear in other photos.

Buttons at Renegade Craft Fair in San Francisco
Pillows at Crate and Barrel in San Francisco
Trim at Stonemountain and Daughter in Berkeley

Take a look at the photos you’ve taken and see what colors keep recurring and how they are reflected in what you wear and in your home.

Fabric at Michael Levine in Los Angeles

Making a Lined Vest

The finished vest (photo by Diane Ollis)

I bought a home dec remnant a year or so ago at Britex Fabrics in San Francisco. I thought it would make a nice lined vest using Simplicity pattern (2862) by Sew Stylish. For the lining and the back, I got some maroon silk dupioni that matched some of the squares on the main fabric.

I had cut out the pattern pieces and I had some matching thread. Then I realized that I didn’t have a vest buckle. Standard vest buckles are usually “silver” stainless steel or gold/bronze in color. The store I went to only had the silver ones, which wouldn’t look very good with the fabric. However, I remember reading somewhere about painting invisible zipper tabs with nail polish to match the fabric. So why not paint the vest buckle?

Next stop: the drug store. I had a swatch of the fabric with me so I held it up against various bottles of polish, eventually settling on a lustrous maroon called “Red Tote” by L’Oreal.

And now I could start sewing the pieces together.

The two front pieces match perfectly – though this happened by accident rather than by design. Really. I just folded the fabic in half and cut out the pattern pieces. I wasn’t thinking about lining up anything. Lucky for me the fabric’s repeat design worked out!

Making a lined vest isn’t very difficult. You sew the outside pieces together and then you sew the lining pieces together. And then you put the right sides together and sew all around the edges, leaving the inside side seams open so you have an opening to turn it inside out.

The trickiest part was pulling getting the vest through the narrow shoulders because the upholstery fabric was a bit heavy. If I were to make this vest again, I would use a lighter weight fabric. The home dec fabric also had a tendency to unravel, which is why I used my pinking scissors to finish the seams.

Here are some of the steps I took along the way.

Numbering the pattern pieces
Stay stitching princess seam
Pinning and basting the princess seam in the front
Pinking the seam edges
Attaching the vest flaps
Outside pieces sewn together
Back of the vest
Detail of vest buckle I painted w/nail polish
Attaching the lining - right sides together
See how the front pieces matched!
Pinning the sides together
Outside side seams sewed up
Inside lining seam left open
Turning the vest inside out through side seam
Pulling the front through the shoulders
Marking the buttonholes
Making practice buttonholes

Sewing Another Trench Coat

The Trench - in purple

I made my first version of this coat a couple years ago. (You can read about it in this post The Trench.”) The pattern is from Christine Haynes aptly named book Chic & Simple Sewing, which I reviewed here.

I found this handwoven heavyweight cotton purple fabric at the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse. I thought it would do nicely for this coat. The Depot sells cut fabric (not on the bolt) for $2/yard, fabric on the bolt is $3/yard. (For more info, see my post, Fabric at the East Bay Depot.)

Then I had to decide what I would use for the bias tape. I found a lovely remnant of striped silk at Discount Fabrics in San Francisco. I liked the idea of having diagonally striped bias tape.

After I started sewing the coat and attached the sleeves, I wondered about using more of the silk fabric as an additional accent to the coat. Eventually, I decided to put some of the silk fabric along the bottom edge of the sleeves. These pieces would be sort of like cuffs but I would just be placing a piece of fabric over the sleeve ends.

If I had figured this out earlier, I could have sewed the silk on to the sleeve before I attached the sleeves. It would be a pain to rip out the seams so I ended up hand sewing the silk to the sleeves (see photos below).

I actually made the bias tape last year and finally got around to finishing The Trench this past weekend. The big difference between this version and my previous one, is fusible tape. When I made this coat the first time around, I hadn’t used any fusible tape for sewing seams. It would have made my seams on the bias tape look significantly better. The bias tape didn’t lay flat so I hid that unevenness by sewing rick rack on top of the seam line. You can see that version here.

For the purple trench, I used a double-sided fusible tape –  Design Plus Ulta-soft Double Sided Fusible (3/8″) – which I read about in the an issue of Threads magazine. It is an excellent stabilizer for lightweight fabrics. Back in 2009, I ordered of two rolls of it from LJ Designs. At that time it was $9.99 for a 27-yard roll. (The price has gone up a dollar.) My first roll is nearly depleted but I still have one roll that’s unused.

It was a very tedious process ironing the fusible to the bias tape because I had to first iron it on one side and then the other. The good thing was that there was just a little edge of fusible at the center fold of the bias tape. So I could then put the bias tape over the unfinished coat edges and iron it in place. This meant I didn’t have to pin the bias tape. Yay.

The fabric I used was rather thick so I hand sewed the hem. Also, because this particular cotton has a tendency to unravel, I sewed bias tape over all the seams, which is a nice detail on an unlined jacket.

Below are many photos of preparing and attaching the bias tape, making the pockets and cuffs, and other details.

Ironing fusible to one side of bias tape
Peeling the paper from the fusible tape
Ironing the bias tape
Ironing fusible to opposite side
Ironing bias tape in place
Sewing on bias tape
Front edge and neckline
Bias tape along front edge. Neckline bias tape ironed in place
Pinning the cuff in place for hand sewing
Finished cuff
Notches cut into pocket corner curves
Ironing the pocket

 

Pinning the pocket
Sewing the pocket to The Trench
Inside view of the bottom hem and seam covered with bias tape

Chic & Simple Sewing

As soon as I flipped through Chic & Simple Sewing by Christine Haynes, I knew I had to buy it. I immediately wanted to make many of the clothes in this book. There are great color photos of the clothes – always a plus. Sometimes a sketch just doesn’t quite do it. So it’s nice to see what the designs look like on a human body. And the attractive models are photographed is a variety of locations – on the street at night, near the beach, window walking down a path, sitting on a piano bench inside, and so on. The author’s fabric choices are excellent and one of the reasons the clothes look so lovely. Full-size patterns are included with the book (sizes: S, M, L).

The subtitle says, “Skirts, Dresses, Tops, and Jackets for the Modern Seamstress.” And that’s essentially what’s inside. Remarkably, none of the lovely designs have zippers or buttonholes! As a result, it’s a good book for a beginning seamstress. But not everything is necessarily easy to make so it’s probably best to at least know your way around a sewing machine and sew a straight seam before making some of these stylish clothes. Christine rates the difficulty level on a scale of 1 to 5 for each piece. For example, the more complicated wrap dress gets a 5 rating and the trench coat gets a 3.

Tie Jacket (w/o the tie)

WHAT’S INSIDE

Christine introduces each pattern, giving her take on the design and describing the fabric she recommends and the fabric on the version that the model’s wearing. She also dispenses advice on what to consider when buying fabric to make a particular piece of clothing. For example, for “The A-line Skirt,” she says: “What’s important is that you choose lightweight or medium weight fabric. If you pick something too heavy and thick, the skirt will stick out from the waist, which might be unflattering.” (Her polite way of saying, it really won’t look good with heavy fabric so don’t try it.)

The book is organized into five chapters, with the first one devoted to the usual sewing basics (tools, sewing machine, measurements, etc.)  and then a few pages covering fabric, colors, and notions as well as some sewing techniques (basic stitching, pressing, and finishing details). Each of the remaining chapters covers a season, beginning with Spring (Chapter 2) and ending with Winter (Chapter 5). So you can pick out designs according to the season in which you expect to wear them. It’s an interesting way to organize the book. There’s a range of clothes within each chapter. For example, Spring has instructions for three dresses, a baby doll top, a circle skirt, and a “trench” coat. I put quotes around that because that’s what Christine Haynes calls it in the book “The Trench.” But it’s not a traditional trench coat with a collar, lapels, shoulder straps, and long sleeves.

My version of "The Trench"

This is a coat with no collar, 3/4 length sleeves, and nice big patch pockets that can hold any number of things (gloves, pens, cell phones, small books). I love the design.

WHAT I’VE MADE SO FAR

Here’s my version of the coat (see photo at right). I used some dark grey wool fabric for the coat and some lightweight wool herringbone for the bias tape trim. However, the main fabric I chose was a little lighter weight than it should have been because it just flopped open at the top, which didn’t look so good. So I added a covered button and made a loop out of some corded elastic to hook it closed. To read about my experience making this coat and for detailed photos of the results (and how I solved my bias tape problem), see “The Trench.”

From the Summer chapter, I made “The Wrap Top,” which is like the top half of a wrap-around dress. The top has little cap sleeves and wide ties that  wrap around you. A simple design but I picked a fabric that didn’t quite work with the design. It kinda gapes open in front where the front bodice pieces overlap. My bosom is (a-hem) not exactly well endowed so a crisper fabric would have been a better choice. So when I wear it, I just pin the pieces together with a sterling silver leaf pin I have to keep it from sagging.

The Tie Jacket

I also made “The Tie Jacket,” from the Fall chapter. It uses the same pattern as “The Trench Coat,” but it’s shorter – the hem is hip length rather than mid-thigh and there are no pockets. I found a couple yards of this black-and-white corduroy fabric with teeny herringbone at the East Bay Creative Reuse Depot and thought it would be perfect for this jacket. I had never seen such a print on corduroy before (see detail photo below, a quarter is about an inch, which will give you an idea of just how small the herringbone is). I think I like it better on me without the tie though. (See the photos above and left.)

I’d also like to make some of the skirts in the book. Christine’s got a nice A-line skirt with a wide ruffle at the bottom and a cool wrap skirt. The next time I’m in a skirt-making mood, I’ll definitely make one or both of them.

I think the only (minor) quibble is that women who are larger than size 10-12 won’t be able to wear these clothes. There is no extra large size to cut out. This is one of my favorite books with sewing patterns. You can order a signed copy of the book on Christine’s Etsy page or get a copy from your local bookstore (support your indie stores!) or on Amazon.

Detail: Herringbone corduroy of the Tie Jacket I made

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tweed Jacket with “Divine Details”

A few months after I started sewing again, I wanted to make a lined jacket, which I had never done before. I found a great Vogue pattern for a suit called “Divine Details” (V8543). The jacket has princess seams in the back.

Then I found a great fabric – a herringbone tweed remnant for less than $40 at a Britex Fabrics sale in San Francisco. The fourth floor of this store is where you’ll find remnants organized by type – wools, silks, cottons, knits, and so on.

Though the remnants are discounted, many of them are still quite pricey, such as $75 or more for a piece of imported Italian silk. But a couple times a year, Britex has a remnant sale and you get an additional 30 percent or maybe even 50 percent off. A ton of people come to these one-day remnant sales so get there early. (Bay Area readers: Go to Britex’s website to sign up for the store’s newsletter and get notified of sales.)

Back detail

Vogue rated this pattern “average” for sewing difficulty which I thought I could handle. After all, I could sew a straight seam and follow directions, right? And didn’t “average” mean “average sewing ability”?

Well, I just looked up how Vogue defines an “average” sewing rating on its website:

“These patterns are perfect if you have more time to sew, and more experience sewing. Look for challenging designer techniques, tailoring, unique construction details. Expect more fitting and inner construction. Find more variety in fabrics from the stretchiest knits to synthetic leathers and suedes.”

Hmmm. I think if I had read that before I made it, I might have thought I couldn’t make it. However, the instructions were clear and I didn’t run into any problems except when I didn’t pay attention to the interfacing part. This pattern used nylon fusible knit interfacing – which was new to me. It’s been a while since I used any interfacing (for an explanation of interfacing, go here). Fusible knit interfacing is very lightweight.

When I cut out the interfacing for the collar, I immediately steam ironed them to the tweed wool pieces. It was only after I ironed that I noticed that I was supposed to trim the corners in a couple areas to reduce bulk. Whoops. I didn’t have any extra fabric so I had to deal with my mistake. With such lightweight interfacing you’d think it wouldn’t make much of a difference but it did. The collar didn’t quite lay down the way it should have. I ended up tacking down one collar point to (sort of) fix it.

I hate ironing but I ironed every time the directions said to iron. It makes a huge difference in the finished product. So don’t skip it!

Here are a few more photos – just click on an image for a larger view.

Sleeve detail

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sleeve detail
Back detail

 

 

The Trench

The Trench

This coat is the first thing I made from Christine Haynes‘s book, Chic & Simple Sewing. It has only has five pattern pieces: jacket front, jacket back, sleeve, pocket, and bias tape. And the last two items are optional as you can make the coat without the pockets and you can buy bias tape rather than making your own. It’s pretty easy to make and looks great.

I had a few yards of this rich dark grey wool fabric that I got at the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse, a cool nonprofit organization in Oakland which sells all kinds of things that people donate (art supplies, fabric, furniture, beads, yarn, baskets, small appliances, you name it). I only paid $2/yard for this fabric! I also found a yard of lightweight herringbone tweed wool fabric at the Depot. So when I was looking at my fabric stash, I thought those two fabrics would make a good combination – the dark grey for the coat and the herringbone for contrasting bias tape. (For more info, check out this post “Fabric at the East Bay Depot” by yours truly.)

This was the first time I made my own bias tape. Before I bought Christine’s book, I had been reading about bias tape in Anna Maria Horner‘s beautiful book Seams to Me. Her instructions and diagram on making bias tape were very clear and easy to follow. (For an online tutorial, see Coletterie’s “How to make Bias Tape”.) I hadn’t thought about making my own bias tape before and Anna Marie’s book used bias tape tohttps://csews.com/clothes/the-trench such lovely effect, I was hooked. I went out and bought a couple different sizes of bias tape makers. I really wanted to make something with my own bias tape. And then I saw this coat in Christine’s book and realized this would be the perfect thing.

Like the title of Christine’s book, this coat is simple to sew. After you cut out the pieces, you sew each front piece to a sleeve piece and then the back edge of the sleeve to the back piece. It has raglan sleeves as you can see from this photo below.

The Trench has raglan sleeves.

It only became slightly tricky when I wasn’t quite sure which side was the “right” side because the fabric I was using was the same on both sides.

Once I sewed the main coat pieces, it was on to the bias tape along the front opening of the coat and then around the collar. At this point in my sewing life, I had not used things like Steam-a-Seam or other fusible webs, which make it easier to get nice looking seams. So I blithely sewed the bias tape to the front edge and soon realized that the lightweight herringbone I was using for my bias tape didn’t look so good. The seam didn’t quite lay flat and was a little puckered in some areas (darn it). My solution? Rick rack to the rescue! I bought some black rick rack that I sewed right over the seam, which made a nice transition between the herringbone bias tape and the dark grey of the main fabric.

Then I had another problem. The coat flopped open instead of staying upright like the one in the book. It was the fault of the fabric I choose plus the bias tape and rick rack added a little more weight that made it “flop.” So I decided that I needed a covered button to keep it together at the top. I put the button on one side and made a loop out of black corded elastic for the other. Click on the photos below to see larger versions of the rick rack and button. (Christine chose a medium-weight cotton fabric for her coat. I’ll be making another version of the coat using a heavier weight purple cotton fabric and striped bias tape.)

Bias tape, rick rack detail
Covered button detail

 

 

 

 

 

 

The last step was to hem the bottom and sew on the patch pockets, which are really useful. I love big pockets. The Trench has pockets large enough to stow your cell phone, a paperback book, wallet, and keys. I wear this coat a lot in the Bay Area. It’s perfect for cool weather here. But when it gets a little chillier, your arms will get cold because the sleeves are 3/4 length. So heave some arm warmers ready or wear a sweater underneath.

If you make this coat, you’ll be sure to get compliments on it. Thanks for a great pattern, Christine!