Tuesday, March 22, 2016

French Jacket: Part Five - Inserting the sleeves and the Jacket hem

This post is all about inserting the sleeves and finishing up the jacket hem. These are the last steps before what I consider the fun part!

The steps for this post are:
1. Inserting the sleeves
2. Hand sewing the lining on the sleeves
3. The jacket hem

Step 1: Inserting the sleeves. I'm not going to lie... I was dreading this part for a bit. Up until this stage the sleeves were worked on completely separate from the rest of the jacket and at this stage the sleeves are in a finished state. Very different from how I have ever constructed any other garment! I debated on whether to hand insert the sleeves or machine insert or to do a combination of hand basting and machine sewing. in the end I decided that I would start with machine insertion just like I would do with any other inset sleeve and switch to hand basting/insertion only if i needed it (more like only if I was having problems!) Since I did not have to worry about pattern matching with this fabric it made insertion much less stressful.

I did all the normal steps. Machine stitched 2 rows of gathering stitches between the notches on the sleeve head. Pin basted in the sleeve and pulled up the threads to match. I then unpinned the sleeve and steamed the shape in over a pressing ham. Once everything cooled I pinned the sleeves back in and machine sewed them. They went in like a dream! I had to make sure to carefully match up my tailor's tack on the under sleeve panel to the underarm seam. with those matched everything else just slipped into place. whew! I was worried for naught. The fiddliest part of the entire process was keeping the lining pieces out of the way. I ended up pinning them back on both the armsyce and the sleeve cap. I finished the sleeve insertion with trimming the underarm to a smaller seam allowance to reduce bulk.  

Step 2: Hand sewing the sleeve lining to the jacket lining. Really not gonna lie...this was a major pain in the neck. Being so close to being finished with the project it just seemed to be such a process to get it done correctly and looking nice. Not only were all the edges on the bias but you are also working in the round. I found it easiest to put the jacket on my dressform inside out and do all the pinning right there. Between folding and pinning and ironing multiple times it finally all came together. I found the most important part here was that you want the lining overlap seam to match up and be over the fashion fabric seam. I found the easiest way for me to accomplish this was to smooth the sleeve lining up and fold the jacket lining of the armscye under and lay it over the and then pin and fell stitch. This did require that I make multiple clips in some areas of the lining so that everything would lie smoothly. I'm going to keep an eye on this area over time to see how it all holds up with clipping folding and hand fell stitching.
Clipping of the lining so the sleeve lining lays nicely when hand sewn. 

Trying to figure out best way to finish the sleeve/jacket lining.

With the sleeves completely in I was seeing the light at the end of the tunnel!

Step 3: The jacket Hem. after all the hand sewing already done on this jacket the hem seemed to be super easy and relatively fast for me. I used strips of black silk organza to pad the hem. Just like in the jacket hem, these strips went from seamline to sealine and sit underneath the seam allowances to give them (the seam allowances) a cushion to keep from the showing through to the right side. I catch stitched the organza to the seam allowances and then folded up the hem and catched stitched the fashion fabric to the organza. This meant that there is about an inch of organza curled in the hem line and it goes about 1/2 inch above the hemline for the catch stitching. I hope that's not too confusing!!

Once the fashion fabric is catch stitched to the organza I then folded the lining down to be about 1/2 to 5/8 inch from the edge. This left room for the chain. The lining was then fell stitched in place.

At this point I was trying on my garment for the first time in its completed state! The only steps left were the final touches of the trim, pockets and chain! I took a deep breath and slipped my arms in, did up the front closures and did a happy dance. It was like slipping into a beautiful dream that I had made. :)

Next up... The Final touches

Monday, March 7, 2016

French Jacket: Part Four- Vertical lining seams, sleeves and front closures

In the last post we ended with the machine sewing of the vertical jacket seams and the sleeve seams.

My next steps were:
1. Hand sewing the vertical lining seams.
2. Hand finishing the sleeves hem and vents.
3. Hook and eyes- front closures
4. Finishing Neck and Front edges

As you can see there is not a lot of steps here but this takes A LOT of time to complete. I really wish I had kept track of all the hours that it has taken me to complete this step!

After sewing the vertical seams in the fashion fabric I pressed them open over a seam roll with just the tip of my iron and a press cloth. At this point you have to make sure that the seam allowances don't overlap or interfere with any of the quilting lines. I had a couple areas where I actually had to trim back a small portion from the 1 inch seam allowance so I could get the seam allowances to lie flat.

Step 1: To sew the lining seams I used the underlap/overlap method. One seam allowance of the lining was smoothed flat and the adjoining seam allowance was folded under and layered over the flat one, pinned and then hand sewn with fell stitches. I did the best to line up the folded edge of the seam with the seam in the fashion fabric.

I made sure to keep these even across the jacket. For example, when sewing the side seams I let the side back lay flat and folded the side fronts over and then stitched.
The import part about this step is that in the areas at the top and bottom of the seams I made sure to keep the lining free. Meaning that I only fell stitched the linings to each other and made sure not to catch the fashion fabric. While in the main part of the jacket I made sure to catch the fashion fabric in the hand sewing. I pretty much just used the quilting lines as a guide and in the area that I did not want to catch the fashion fabric I slipped a piece of paper under as well as my fingers when I could. This let me feel the needle to make sure not to catch the fashion fabric.

All of this hand sewing really allowed for some good movie watching! 
The same process was done on the sleeves. I used 3 piece sleeves and left the outer seam open so that I could easier finish up the vent and hem while flat. Makes life much easier! However in order to do it this way you really need to be sure of your sleeve length, no going back and easily changing it.

Step 2: I choose to interface my sleeve vent and hem with silk organza. In a great tip that I learned from Sarah Veblen I cut the length of organza into pieces so that they could slip under the seam allowances and keep them from forming ridges on the right side. I catch stitched the organza at each seam allowance and then used this as a base to catch stitch the hem to. This also allows the organza to have a roll in the hem which provides a nice soft support and keeps things nice looking for years.

My pattern has vent area on both sides. I have used this in the past on other fabrics and it gives a nice support at the vent area for the buttons to be sewn to. With this thick fabric I decided to just trim that narrow bump out of the underlap right off. It kept down some of the bulkiness. I mitered the corners of the hem where the vent overlaps to keep it nice looking and again to cut down on the bulk. I wanted to use the fringe only portion of my trim so to accomplish this I sandwiched the trim between the fashion fabric and the lining along the vent only. I use a running stitch to attach the trim to the wrong side of the vent and then folded the lining over and fell stitched it into place. I made the trim as narrow as possible by zig zagging along the edge and then trimming it to about a 1/4 inch. The zig zag helped maintain the stability of the trim and kept it from just disintegrating into pieces!

Step 3: sewing on the front closures. I decided to have this jacket close with center front meeting center front. For this to happen I sewing on large hook and eye closures. These are sewed on before the front edge lining is done. The first part to this is turning under the neckline and the front edge to the finished placement. Because I changed to a soft rounded V Neck this part was slightly fiddly to get it to lay nice and symmetrically. One that was done I had to make sure that the V portion met correctly. Once that was done I was able to work on the closures.

Sewing on the hook and eyes are a bit fiddly and I needed to be very careful in doing it properly. I knew that I wanted the closures to be about every 2 inches. I started with putting the jacket on, adjusting it carefully and the placing a pin at the CF over the fullest part of my breast. Once I had this done I measured down every 2 inches and placed another pin. I also measure up and luckily for me the top of the jacket front was just a slight bit over 2 inches so it all worked out great! Once I had one side marked I sewed on the eye portion all the way down the front. With all 8 eyes sewn on I laid the jacket out very carefully and placed a corresponding pin on the other center front right at the middle of the eye. These are large Hook and Eyes, about a 1/4 inch in size. With the pins marking the center of each eye, I proceeded to sew on each corresponding hook also keeping it centered over the pin head. After each eye was sewn on I carefully laid the jacket back out flat with the sewn hooks and eyes closed and rechecked the remaining pin placements. This turned out to be a very god method for me and the hooks and eyes matched up quite nicely! YAY!! The only thing I will do differently next time is to place the hooks further in on the fold of the fabric. and i'm talking a small amount probably just another 1/16th of an inch. I know... splitting hairs!

Step 4: With the hooks and eyes sewn on the last step of this post was to sew the lining to the neckline and front edges. As with sewing the vertical lining seams this part was not hard just time consuming. I turned under the lining edge and pressed it to be just slightly smaller than the fronts and neckline and then fell stitched it into place. Again making sure not to include the jacket hem area in this step.

Next post will be the final! Finishing the hem and adding the trim!

Happy sewing!

Friday, March 4, 2016

French Jacket: Part Three- Quilting and Beginning construction

My French jacket journey is turning out to be quite a satisfying one. Something about all the work that goes into it just infuses the garment with sense of pride and history.

This post is all about the first steps of construction. As i mentioned in the previous post, I have decided to use a modified couture method. Most of this method comes from Sarah Veblen. If you ever have the opportunity to take a jacket workshop with her I highly recommend it!

The steps in constructing a French Jacket are very different from regular garment construction and requires you to think about all the steps carefully before you start construction. I based the majority of my construction off of directions from a Sarah Veblen Jacket workshop. Even with her cleverly written directions I still took the time to consult other sources of information. Once I had it down in my head what I wanted to do I created a checklist. Checklists are a valuable tool for me when I am working on sewing projects and there is something satisfying about crossing off an item on a to-do list!

My to-do list for this portion looked something like this:

1- pin baste all the lining and fashion fabric together at seam allowance
   pieces included 2 fronts, 2 side fronts, 2 side backs, back, 2 underarm, 2 front arm and 2 back arm.      13 pieces in total
2- pin mark the quilting lines on each piece
3- machine quilt each piece
4- steam each piece and check against pattern
5- tie off the quilting on each quilting line
6- trim seam allowances to 5/8 inch at neckline and armhole
7- machine sew all major vertical seams

The problem with steps 1 through 3 is that I would have had to use a million pins to all 13 pieces at once. So I ended up doing them in several groups. This meant that steps 1 through 3 were repeated about 5 different times. A lengthy process for sure.

The pin basting just took up time. Quite an easy task to perform . I made sure all work was done flat on a table and that there were no bubbles or big ripples in the lining. there were a couple of times where i just could not get the lining to match up perfectly and while it attempted to make me crazy in the end it really did not make any difference at all. The big thing that i did was to make sure that the lengthwise grain on each piece was lined up nicely and that nothing was skewed or twisted. so if the silk lining felt it needed to be a quarter inch off in a spot or two it was OK. Remember there are one inch seam allowances so plenty of room to play with!

Left: pin basting the silk to the fashion fabric
Right: turned over and pin marking the quilting lines. Red pins start and stop and blue pins quilting lines.

Step 2 is to determine the quilting lines. With my fashion fabric it was quite easy because there is no print or plaid or stripe to have to follow. This meant that I just had to determine the best placement left to right along the garment pieces. Having a great big and wide quilting ruler really helped with this step! There are some general rules that have to be followed for the quilting. staying 2 inches away from every edge and far enough away from the hem to accommodate the hem being folded up. I learned this on the hard way!!! I figured I have a 2 inch hem so I need to quilt to within 2 inches of the bottom. NOPE... with a 2 inch hem you need to stay 4 inches from the cut edge. I had to very carefully unpick a lot of quilting lines. I had to make sure not to cut or break any of the strands so I would have enough thread to tie off each line. A very tedious mistake on my part and one that I am sure I will never make again!

With each piece I tried to make sure that the quilting lines were marked evenly across the fabric and that each pair was marked equally. So that the quilting on both fronts and both side fronts were the same. On my underarm piece of my 3 piece sleeve I only had room for one quilting line down the center.

Step 3: Once the marking was done it was off to the machine with a walking foot and matching thread. All the quilting was done from the right side of the fashion fabric. I also used the little guide bar that cones with the walking foot to help keep my quilting lines even. I also marked the start and stop of each line in a different colored glass head pin to give me a mental heads up. I do want to mention that I made a practice sandwich of my exact fabrics to practice the quilting on before I used my good pieces. Better to find out something is not going to go as planned on a practice sample!

Step 4: Steam pressing each piece and comparing it to the pattern. This step is important because sometimes as you quilt the layers together you can get some overall shrinkage. You may also see some shifting of the layers due to improper pinning or just because the silk lining shifted around a bit, that can happen with slippery silks! My pieces did not have any overall shrinkage. However, I did have 2 pieces where the silk seemed to have shifted nothing was more than 3/8 of an inch and luckily the shortage was on the hem side so it did not make any difference. I just took a deep breath and ignored it!

Step 5: Tying off of the quilting lines. I left long thread tails at start and stop of each quilting line and then pulled these tails through to the center, between the fashion fabric and the lining fabric and carefully tied each one and trimmed. Again, not a difficult task just a little tedious. I found that it was important to keep all of those thread tails out of the way of the next lines of quilting so as not to get them caught up in the stitching. Sarah Veblen recommended that I tie them off using 2 square knots which she demonstrated. I thought I knew what a square knot was and turned out that for my entire life I have actually been doing a double overhand knot! always learning!!

Step 6: Trimming the seam allowance for the armhole, armscye and neckline. It is just easier to have these areas at a 5/8 inch seam allowance versus a full inch. I even thought about going down to half an inch but decided against it because of the ravely nature of the fabric and the thickness. I wanted to make sure I had enough to play with if needed.
You can imagine where this all gets a bit tricky because if you have had any quilt shrinkage or shifting of fabrics you could start to get a little lost. I can understand now why some people thread trace all of the seam lines then you really don't have to worry about what the seam allowances are but sooooo much extra work and those to can be skewed by the quilting process.... The only seam allowances I thread traced after the quilting process where the shoulder seams.

Step 7: machine sewing! Finally getting somewhere!  Each vertical seam of the jacket and sleeve now gets to be sewn very carefully. You have to make sure that the lining on each piece is pulled back out of the way so as not to get caught in the seams. I actually pinned them back from the right sides so the the pin heads were between the layers and there was no chance that one could get caught up on the sewing machine. This step is very gratifying... that is until you realize that almost the entire rest of the garment is done by hand sewing!

Stay tuned for the next installment of this series!