Thursday, January 26, 2012

Button-inspired Couching

This new jacket is coming along very well.  The time spent on the careful cutting and basting to an interlining are really paying off in the construction process.  I've already got the body of the jacket put together, including the decorative couching.  I thought I'd share my progress.

Here are the pictures of the front and back.

For the couching I am using the Stef Francis 5400 rayon thread.  I just love the pizazz these threads add and the colors are just yummy.  For all the top-stitching on the seams and over the rayon thread, I am using an Oliver Twist variegated thread.  The couching pattern was inspired by some great buttons I bought a couple of years ago from Penny Faich of WeGotTheButtons.

Don't the colors coordinate well with these silks?  I plan to put one or two along the side of the front overlap so I thought the couching should echo the lovely lines in the buttons.

Today I spent a meditative day listening to some of my favorite music and cutting and basting sleeve pieces.  Tomorrow I'll start to put together that sleeve. I like the immediate gratification of going back and forth between the preparation and the construction.  So on to the next part.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Planned Piecing This Time

Last week I started on a new project.  I'm creating a wrap jacket for Kim to wear for the rehearsal dinner for her son's wedding in June.  This dinner will be in Vermont near the Quechee Gorge during the hot-air balloon festival--a spectacular setting that requires a really special outfit.  I am so honored that she asked me to make this for her.

She saw my work at the Merrimack Valley Artisan's show in October and then came to my studio in December to make it official.  We met again earlier this month to select fabrics and discuss the design. Last week I started work in earnest.  This one is a fitted jacket that requires much more planning than the more free-form Japanese jackets I've been making lately.

Here's the basic style.  It's an old Vogue pattern that I will modify.  She likes "more going on" rather than less, so it will be pieced from a variety of blue, aqua, and purple silks with some couching to tie everything together.  I wanted to echo the lovely neckline curves in the piecing plan.  To make sure that I could keep everything flat and fitting together well, I decided to do lapped seams.  The piecing process is going very well, but it does require very careful planning and preparation.

Here's the basic process.  First I created the piecing pattern. I copied each of the pattern pieces onto heavy white paper.  I knew I'd be doing an asymmetrical plan so I needed separate patterns for each of the sleeves and for each half of the front and back.  Once I had those, I drew in the lines for the seams.

Once I was happy with the interplay of the seamlines, I had to figure out the order in which the seams should be sewn.  I wanted to make sure that I didn't have any places where I'd have to turn a corner in a seam.  The other part of the construction plan involved figuring out which side would be the top that lapped over the adjacent piece.  

Here's what one of the sleeve patterns looks like.   The seams are all numbered in the construction order.  Each side of the seam is labeled either upper or lower.  After labeling the seams, I then marked the grainline on each of the pieces.  I'm working with "shot" silk that is woven with two different colors in the warp and weft so if I use the same fabric with the grainlines going in different directions, the color of the fabric totally changes.

Once all that is done, I can cut apart the pattern to use it to cut the fabric pieces.  The pattern pieces have no seam allowances for any of those internal seams, so I have to create those as I cut.  I use a rotary cutter and a ruler to add 3/8" seam allowance to the upper side of the seam and 5/8" to the lower side.  The smaller seam allowance on the upper side makes it less likely that I have to clip to get the seam to lie flat.

The next step is to baste each fabric piece to a silk organza underlining.  I hand baste along the seamlines following the edges of the paper pattern.  The silk organza stabilizes the fashion silk and makes nice crisp curves that lay flat when I stitch.  Having the seamlines marked for stitching assures that everything fits together properly and that I haven't changed the size or shape of the jacket section.

As I cut the fabric pieces I pin them to a padded board so I can see where I've been and where I'm going.  Here's what I've got cut so far.

At this point I decided to stop cutting and basting for a while and to start actually stitching some of the seams.  I wanted to test out my methods to make sure that the construction process would go as smoothly as planned, just in case something needed adjustment.  Luckily everything is working as envisioned.

In this picture you can see that all the seams in the left side of the jacket back have been completed and I've added some of the couching.  Since taking that picture I've added some couching on the right side of the back and gotten all the seams in the back completed.
Tomorrow I'll go back to more cutting and basting...I need to figure out the color pattern for the left side of the front.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Here it is January 18th and I'm just getting to my first blog post for 2012.  I had a wonderfully relaxing time over the holidays and hit the ground running at the start of the new year.  I've had lots of administrative things to take care of, but I have managed to finish another jacket to share.

I call this one Obsession - because I just couldn't stop working on it.  When I started I planned to make a vest.  It was going to be a quick project, probably something for myself.  I decided to do the couching by hand so I'd have something to work on at home when I was watching movies with my family.  I put two different yarns together and did a herringbone stitch over the top.  I loved the look and kept adding more lines of it.  Here's a detail so you can sort of see the couching.

Then in the process of sorting out my fabrics I found a nice linen that worked well with the other fabrics that I'd started with and suddenly I had enough to make a jacket instead of a vest.  That meant more stitching to work on, so I spent my holidays as a couching potato. (Sorry I just couldn't resist!)

I used a nice striped fabric for the lining instead of the typical plain fabric.  It's a bit heavier but I love the way the colors coordinate.  It adds a some heft to the jacket making it perfect for cooler weather.  With the neutral colors and the combination of plain and embroidered fabrics it should be a very versatile addition to someone's wardrobe.

Here's the back.  (My photography skills are not the greatest.  I don't know why but the colors didn't come out as well on this one even though I shot it in just the same place and with the same settings--I think.)