Posted on December 11, 2013
So this is the stage in this whole jacket-sewing process where we get to actually see someone wearing the jacket (muslin) and evaluate if it fits as it ought to fit, and hangs as it ought to hang, and has the overall shape and “slimness” desired.
My husband takes a 42 in suit jackets–which is to say, his chest measures approximately 42″. The jacket does not measure 42″ at the chest, naturally, since that would make it challenging for him to breathe, and I prefer him less Smurf-like. Most off-the-rack men’s jackets allow about 4″ of ease at the chest, and this pattern seems to be no different. I was surprised by how similar the fit is here to jackets he has tried on at Banana Republic and Billy Reid. This style is a little roomier than some of the jackets he’s tried at Sid Mashburn, which have a slightly more “European” cut, but I think that might be a good thing. The challenge with a 42 jacket is that many of them are made for men with full chests–and full bellies. My husband has broad, muscular shoulders (yum), but no gut–so a lot of lesser-quality off-the-rack coats just hang on him like he’s wearing another (bigger) man’s cast-offs from the thrift shop. I was pleased to see that this style doesn’t have that look to it–because, wow, WAY less work for me.
There are a number of key fit points that we looked for, using his preferences as a starting point and layered with what we know about how a men’s coat should fit–Esquire magazine does a really great job of compiling cheat sheets for this kind of thing, primarily aimed at shopping, but really useful if you’re sewing, as well. See their article on How to Fit a Suit Jacket, as well as their guide Seven Ways to Tell if Your Suit Fits.
To start with, I wanted to know if the collar hit at the correct point on the back of his neck. Now, he first tried the jacket on with just an undershirt, but we both realized pretty quickly that we weren’t getting an accurate picture of what was happening, so he changed into a button-up shirt with an undershirt beneath it. The coat back upper edge should hit just at the base of the shirt collar, so that the collar (when attached) will lie on top of the shirt collar. Nailed it.
One of the things my husband does every time he tries on a jacket, under any circumstance, is reach around to the front and cross his wrists–he’s testing to see if he has enough room across the back for his arms to reach without raising the jacket unattractively. I don’t want to see a bunch of stretching or puckering across the shoulders, and he shouldn’t feel any pulling when he’s in a more-or-less normal position of reaching to the front. Again, this pattern looks pretty good in that regard–we’re getting a little pleased with ourselves at this point, what with the fit working out fairly well right out of the package.
Next concern in the amount of room under the arms, particularly at the front of the jacket. My husband especially struggles with those more European cut jackets, because the narrowness of the cut makes for smaller armhole openings, which pinches and binds on him at the front. With both the undershirt and the collared shirt beneath the muslin, there isn’t quite enough space under the arms here–it’s not horrible, but it’s a little more snug than he would like. Now, if I were to make this shirt out of linen, maybe it would be ok, since he’s less likely to wear an undershirt in the summer months, but if he were to wear a golf shirt or something along those lines, that would be even more bulky than what he has on now. So first chink in the armor: need to adjust the space under the arms.
As long as we have this thing on him, we checked the length. Obviously, it isn’t hemmed yet–you can see the little dogleg bit at the front edge there where the facings will attache and allowance has been made for hemming. Taking into account that we’ll lose about 1″ for the hem, this looks pretty good–we want the coat to come to the fold in his knuckles when it’s finished. Which is to say, when he cups his hand under the finished jacket, the finished edge should rest comfortably in his folded fingers.
I marked that point on the muslin with a pin, so that when I do the hem, I’ll be able to check the length and get it right the first time. Who wants to do it over again, right?
Final check, does it fit around the front? This style has darts in the fronts and in the back, nipping in the waist just a bit for a slim profile. That’s part of what I like about it–this doesn’t hang on him like a sack, it’s really a nicely shaped jacket (but without me having to do a ton of tailoring, since I am not a small Italian man). There’s a 5/8″ seam allowance at the front edges, so taking that into account and placing one side over the other as it will be when he buttons the jacket, we want to verify that there will be the correct amount of space with the jacket closed–Esquire says he should be able to place his flat hand in with ease, but if he places his fist in, it will pull at the buttons. Seems OK from here, given that we’re assuming a little on button placement.
I marked this one change we’re going to make–opening up that underarm at the front to give him a little more room–and I’ll re-sew and re-test that fit. From there, it’s time to transfer that change to the pattern pieces and then cut the fashion fabric. This is the stage at which I always freeze a little bit, because up until now, it all feels a little like fun and games. After this, we’re at The Show, and it’s the real deal. So while I’m gleefully moving ahead, I’ll also be muttering hopeful prayers under my breath that it will all work out and the finished jacket will be flattering and fit well and look professional and he’ll be so delighted he wants me to make another one.
Wait. Hang on. Maybe thats not how I want this to work out… I could inadvertently become a menswear factory on a very tiny scale over here…
Posted on December 10, 2013
Oh, for the love of all things holy, thank goodness! It’s finally done. Well, alright, the muslin is done, at any rate.
This is the shell of the jacket–it doesn’t include the collar or the collar stand, and I’ve left off the facings at this stage. I was really most interested in working on the overall shape and the fit of the sleeves and body. I’ll add the collar and facings when I construct the jacket from the fashion fabric, after I’ve had a chance to put this on my husband and verify that it really looks and hangs the way we both want it to.
Here you see it modeled on my dress form, with a mostly-finished-and-just-lacking-the-hem-stitches dress beneath it. I was going to take the dress off and show the jacket muslin alone, but I kinda liked the on-a-date-and-it’s-chilly-tonight-oh-aren’t-you-chivalrous-to-share-your-coat look that’s happening here. Gotta get my giggles where I can.
I used a black thread and a basting stitch to assemble the entire muslin. Using the basting stitch–my longest straight stitch–meant that the sewing went faster and will pull out more easily. That way, I can make adjustments when I fit it, or disassemble the entire thing with very little effort.
I made the mistake of putting the sleeves in on the wrong sides, which irked me, but since they’re inside out (meaning they’re facing forward, just on the wrong sides) I left it and moved ahead. This project was meant to be complete back at the end of Sept and it’s now pushing the middle of December, so I’d like to move ahead and quickly as I reasonably can.
Next step, I fit this on my husband (which I’ve already done but will share in a separate post). Any adjustments had to be recorded, and a lot of questions answered about the correct way to fit a men’s jacket–be it blazer, sport coat or suit jacket. From there, I have a whole new set of fabrics to evaluate, since it’s far too freezing out there to make this out of linen as originally planned. Sigh. The price of procrastination.
Wish me luck on the next stage! Just a few more days until Christmas–eek!
Posted on December 5, 2013
I have this favorite pair of jeans. They were a little on the expensive side (even though I got them at Nordstrom Rack), and I waited and waited until I was back down to my pre-pregnancy weight after baby #4 to indulge myself and buy a pair. I looooove them. For whatever reason, they look great with everything: long over heels and boots, rolled up with sneakers and a sweater, at the park, at a club, on a date. They are always super flattering and comfortable.
And then one day, after we’d been out to dinner as a family, I reached for my phone in my back pocket and found THIS:
An enormous BLOB of someone’s else’s chewed up chewing gum, stuck deeply into my favorite jeans. Not just stuck there, y’all: smooshed in, rubbed around because apparently, I had not just sat on it, I had wiggled around and made out with it. Completely gross. This photo was actually taken after I had discovered the tragedy and pulled off as much as I could (while stifling my sobs).
When I couldn’t get it all out (because the gum and the pants done said them some vows and got married to one another), I naturally turned to that one source for all our travails in this world: the Internets. Don’t know how to get gum out of fabric? The Internet Knows ™. I dug around for a while, looking not just for suggestions, but really for reviews of suggestions. I didn’t just want a list of ideas–you know how sometimes, you find a whole list of TEN WAYS TO DO THAT CRAZY THING YOU REALLY WANT TO DO RIGHT NOW WITHOUT DOING ANY RESEARCH OR EXPERIMENTING AT ALL and it turns out that nine of the ten ways is total garbage and doesn’t work and requires a lot more than “items you have lying around the house”? I wasn’t in the mood for all that nonsense. These are MY FAVORITE JEANS. I know you’re smellin’ what I’m steppin’ in over here.
I read suggestions to use peanut butter. I realize that works with gum in hair (totally does–I’ve tried it way more times than I would like to admit), but I was concerned it would leave a giant peanut buttery oil slick of a stain on my backside. I read suggestions to freeze the whole pair of pants–not just the ice cube trick of freezing the gum (also mentioned in several sources), but zipping the entire pair of pants up into a bag and popping it in the freezer overnight, and then scraping the gum off with a dull knife. I wasn’t against that idea, but we don’t have a ton of freezer space, and quite honestly, I wasn’t up for defrosting a dozen pork chops to make room for my pants. Not even for my FAVORITE pants. Also: impatient. Also also: in the middle of a wardrobe panic.
So then I saw a number of threads and forum posts about using Goo Gone. Now, we have multiple bottles of this stuff floating around–I have used it to get stickers off near about everything, from my bumper to ceramics from the store to the fronts of books that we got on discount. (Side note: twenty (ahem) years ago, when I was a college student and working in the campus bookstore, we didn’t have Goo Gone–we used lighter fluid and a palette knife to scrape price stickers off used books before putting them on the shelf for sale. True story.) I figured: I have this stuff in the garage, a ton of folks attest to how quick and effective it is, and the worst case scenario–that it will leave a spot on my pants–is no worse than the other options I have available. Plus, with over a dozen different people saying they’ve done it, laundered immediately, and had no staining, I felt pretty solid.
Naturally, I photographed the entire thing.
I started, as per the instructions on the back of the bottle, by saturating the offender: I used cotton balls to really soak into the gum. This was just a thinnish layer by now, since I’d picked a lot of it off already. I dabbed with a fairly sopping cotton ball until the gum was glossy and the fabric surrounding it had darkened enough that I knew it was soaking in beneath the gum as well as at the edges.
See how it’s darker, and the gum is looking slick? Bits of the gum–I think it was spearmint, but don’t quote me–had already begun to adhere to the cotton ball and sluice right off the pants. There isn’t really a better word–it was almost as if it came off in slick layers, and it was a little bit gross. NOT. MY. GUM. Ew.
Gradually, I blotted and dabbed until I had taken what seemed like a few layers off, and the edges were beginning to peel away from the jeans. I was feeling a little more confident, but wasn’t going to call it quits until I had mastered this evil blot on the pants of my dreams.
Multiple accounts on the web had suggested using a knife to scrape the excess gum away from the fabric, and with it all softened up and gooey again, now seemed like a good time to give that a shot. Using just a table knife, I scraped the blade against the fabric, peeling up the gum as I did. This took all of four strokes, because the gum was good and ready to come away and hit the road.
After the scraping, I was left with this. Huzzah and jubilee! Nearly all the gum had been chemically softened and manually scraped away, and I was breathing a little easier. Did I mention this was all at around 10 pm on a school night? Panic cleaning, it was.
I grabbed a cotton swab (we buy the generic brand around here, so no Q-tips for me) and soaked it in the Goo Gone again. I used tiny circles to brush away the icky bits of gum that were still ground into the weave of the fabric. Oy, how yukky. I really wanted to be sure that I had gotten as much off physically as possible before I threw these in the washer.
That was the next step: laundering. This is also where I stopped taking photos. (Side side note: I really should consider a water-proof camera.) I washed and dried that night, because I didn’t want to take any chances that the Goo Gone would do something unexpected if left to sit without washing, or that the jeans would come out stained if I washed and didn’t check the spot and then dry immediately. I am delighted to report that I am (1) wearing these pants right this very second and (2) delighted with how simple and effective this solution was. I don’t know what’s in that Goo Gone–something citrusy, because it actually smells pretty nice–but it totally did the trick, and didn’t leave even a hint of a spot or stain or record of any kind that I ever sat in someone else’s old gum.
Whew! Next time, I’ll pay less attention to whether the children are smearing ketchup on the table and more to where I put my behind.
*This is in no way a sponsored post. Honest. I just had the product on hand already, and it did the job. Hope it works for you, too!
Posted on December 2, 2013
Most of my students in my Intro to Sewing class over the years have asked me about the various supplies I demonstrate or share with them, and inevitably we get around to talking about the tracing wheel. Honestly, for ages I just told them they’d never use it, because so few people ever really do. Times are changing, though, and more and more of us are not only sewing garments but we’re also looking to push our sewing skills and trying new things. The tracing wheel is coming back into hipness, y’all.
While I have been working on my husband’s (overdue) jacket, I wanted to make an effort to keep the sewing as accurate as I could, so that when we did the fitting and I made adjustments, I would know that I had followed the original pattern faithfully before messing around with stuff. The idea is that if I can keep as close to the pattern as possible, then I’ll begin to see some themes in the adjustments I make, and then I can begin to predict changes in advance, making it easier to design, adjust and construct garments for him. I don’t have a ton of experience sewing for men, so I want to be as methodical as I can. Hence: the tracing wheel.
A tracing wheel is what it looks like: a metal wheel with (or without, depending on the model you have) teeth, on a handle that allows you to roll the wheel along a single line. By placing a piece of carbon or transfer paper between the pattern and the wheel, it’s possible to nearly-perfectly transfer the markings from the paper to the fabric. The wheel makes it easy, and eliminates the need to fold the pattern back (which I have done for years) or guess at where the lines ought to be on the fabric (which I don’t recommend).
There are a number of different tracing products you can choose from–I’m using the Clover serrated tracing wheel here, along with the Dritz tracing paper, but I also like the Saral paper, and there’s a slightly less expensive but just as awesome Clover tracing wheel that has a plastic rather than a bamboo handle.
Just search for “tracing wheel” or “wax free tracing paper” and you’ll get plenty of great results.
From there, the process is just what you’d think: make sure the edges of the tracing paper extend beyond the lines you’re tracing, place the pattern on top with the edges of the pattern and the edges of the cut fabric lined up, and then trace away. You don’t need to use a ton of pressure, just enough to mark the fabric. The serrated edges will help, like this:
See all those teeny-tiny little pinpricks? They’re made by those spokes on the wheel piercing the pattern paper as they roll across it. They don’t leave any permanent marks in the fabric itself, but they’ll “dot” the line you’re transferring to the fabric in such a way that it won’t be a solid line. Generally, this is a good thing, since it means less chalk to remove later.
Most of the transfer papers come in various colors–light colors for dark fabrics and dark colors for light fabrics. Pretty nifty, huh?
I’m off to finish work on this muslin–my sweet husband, long beleaguered, has given up hope that this jacket he never really thought would be made will actually ever get made, despite how hard I tried to convince him that I was totally going to sew something for him. My Sept 30 deadline (totally self-imposed, I’d like to point out) has long passed, but I happened to stumble across a really amazing wool that would work for cooler weather. Shhhhh! Christmas is right around the corner.
Posted on November 25, 2013
It has been Simple Sewing craziness out on the internets the past couple weeks, y’all. So many posts about Katie Lewis’ new book, Simple Sewing, which has just been released, and is chock full of quick and basic projects that will help you hone your sewing skills and master the basics–or whip up some lovely quick gifts for anyone and everyone.
Now, I tend to like to sew things reeeallly tiny or reeeallly oversized–so I had no interest in a teeny-tiny handwarmer. I might live (quite happily) in the Deep South, but when I spend those 8 carefully-scheduled (I set an alarm on my phone so I never arrive more than 2 minutes early) minutes at the bus stop each day, I can get shivery cold. Yes, even when it’s only 60 degrees. Don’t make fun of me. I am a delicate flower.
A girl who gets cold needs to keep her extremities warm. And while I have a very nice coat, I can never, ever, ever seem to locate more than one glove at any time. And I’m not being picky, neither–it isn’t as though I insist on the gloves even matching, just on them both fitting on my hands. And I can never find two at the same time. I need something else. Something BIGGER.
Giant thanks to Katie for inviting me to be part of her blog tour, because it gave me the perfect motivation to remedy the situation. Katie’s brand-new book, Simple Sewing, lives up to its name: thirty fast and simple beginner-level sewing projects that allow you to use your foundational sewing skills and make some really great-looking projects. If you’ve taken my Essential Sewing online class, this book is a fabulous extension of some of those lessons, and offers you clear and easy ideas for translating your new skills into practical finished projects that look good enough to give away.
You can find the book here, or scroll down to win a copy!
Following one of the projects from Katie’s book, I busted out some jumbo-sized handwarmers to pop in my pockets and keep me cozy while waiting on the kiddos to make it home from school! Woot. I used some of the truly (almost obnoxiously) awesome flannels from Robert Kaufman that I picked up at Pink Chalk Fabrics. They are both super soft and heftily substantial–and can we talk about the fact that they’re in HERRINGBONE for just a second?? I really, really love this fabric, and can’t encourage you enough to grab some for yourself before it’s all gone.
These handwarmers are filled with rice–or, in my case, some with rice and some with lentils. The design intends for you to toss them in the microwave and nuke some warmth into them before popping them in your pockets or under the quilt on the sofa, right by your toes where you need it most. Oh, yeah, you know the spot. I’m not sure how the lentils will work out in the microwave, but I’m willing to roll the dice–I ran out of rice, but once I got started sewing these, one or two wasn’t enough. They stitch up sooooo fast, truly. I am thinking very strongly of making a zillion and sending them off as my same-gift-for-everyone-just-in-a-different-fabric present for extended family this year–I do it every Christmas, and having that assembly line going makes sure that no one is ever left off my list. Choosing a fabric to suit each recipient makes the gifts really personalized, and you’d be surprised by how fondly family members recall these gifts later: “Oh, was that the year we all got drawer sachets? Or relaxing eye masks?” Haven’t done handwarmers before–maybe this year’s the year!
Katie’s instructions are written so clearly, and there are step-by-step photos on each page. Every project in the book is designed to be quick and simple to put together, so you can be successful even if you’re just starting out at the sewing machine. I think there are enough folks out there who are still intimidated by the machine that they’d really appreciate a book that presents a wide range of projects that can all turn out so smoothly, even for newbies.
A single seam, some top-stitching, and a funnel. I think I could easily have made two dozen of these in an afternoon. And adding the rice is such a great task to share with even the smallest children–I smell a teacher gift!
Best part? You have a chance to win a copy today! Enter to win one of THREE chances to win a copy today. And happy sewing, y’all!
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