Bl. Edward Detkins
So you know what they say about Pride Going-eth Before The Fall? It’s so, so true. There I was, all flush with excitement and pride over my Magic Rectangle Dress (so excited I was even willing to post awful pictures of myself online just so I could show off the dress). And then it finally got cold enough to wear the wrap jacket I made over Labor Day weekend to work, and it was so ridiculously cute I had near strangers stopping me in the hallway to comment on it. I was so delighted with how it turned out that first I tried taking pictures of it in the work bathroom mirror…
And then talked my elderly ex-coworker/volunteer (she loves us so much that, even though she’s been retired for over a year, she still comes in once a week to do the filing) into taking even more pictures with better light.
Except this kinda backfired, because she’s so unfamiliar with modern electronics that she kept trying to press the on-screen picture button with her fingernail. So most of the pictures come out with me looking kindof worried.
And of course the one picture where I’m smiling turned out blurry. And also I needed to tuck up the right side of my collar. And my belt buckle is off center. But you can’t have everything, right?
Anyway, the jacket is adapted from the Free Style Curved Stole pattern in Shape Shape by Natsuno Hiraiwa. I read about the book on one of my sewing blogs, and was interested enough to request it through interlibrary loan. I’m glad I didn’t actually buy it. Although a lot of the patterns are interesting in an intellectual exercise sort of way, they’re not really my style, or the the kind of things that look good on women who are not slender waifs. In the book, this is made up in thin, floaty fabric, and is a sort of modern, asymmetrical drapey thing. I don’t tend to wear those (I haven’t got much of a waist, so I like to cherish what little I have), but it was interesting enough to make me get out a piece of fabric and start playing with it.
The fabric is what’s left of about five yards of dark navy wool suiting that I bought years ago (maybe as far back as 2001?). I have no idea what I originally intended to do with it. Maybe it was just a good buy? Anyway, in 2006, I was on a little bit of a sewing roll, and I decided to use it to make one of my Butterick Retro patterns. I have no idea which one it was anymore, just that it was a dress. I didn’t know enough to make a muslin to make sure it fit me, but I had heard something about pre-treating your fabric. Wash the fabric the same way you want to be able to wash the finished garment, they said, and since I wanted easy care wash and wear clothes, I threw my whole length of wool into the washer. And then I dried it in the dryer. Thereby transforming my lovely smooth wool suiting into my very own homemade boiled wool.
I went ahead and cut out the pattern anyway, and even got it partly sewn. But then there were a series of sewing mishaps, including accidentally cutting a hole right in the middle of both front bodice pieces (you can totally fix that with a little embroidery, right?), and I started getting antsy about whether or not this would, you know, actually fit me. Before too long, we needed the dining room table for something else, so everything got bundled up together in a bag, where it has stayed ever since, lurking somewhere in the depths of my sewing stash. A little while ago I came across this remnant, and realized that it’s the right color for my work uniforms. So when it came time to pull something out to drape around my shoulders and experiment with armholes, this was what I reached for. It wasn’t as long as what the Japanese pattern called for, but as I was playing with it, I realized that it was exactly what I wanted.
The jacket itself is nothing more than a large square with rounded corners and arm holes. I figured out where to place the armholes by measuring across my back, and how far down to place them by draping the fabric various ways, and deciding how long I wanted it, and how much of a collar I wanted to drape. The only actual sewing was binding the edge of the armholes with strips of the same fabric, and blanket stitching around the edge. The rest is just wrapping it around me, adding a belt to hold it in place, scrunching up the collar and pinning it in place with safety pins. You can style it several different ways, including the portrait collar I have above (inspired by this), or more of a shawl collar (maybe accented with a brooch), or as a open drape-front cardigan style. I absolutely love it.
So, of course, since I had just had such a wonderful success, I got overconfident. I need another work skirt, and I’d been planning to make another Hummingbird skirt from Cake Patterns (one of my all time favorite pattern makers). My first skirt had turned out way too big, but the second skirt fit gorgeously, so I was feeling confident enough to play with things. I had planned out every detail of this skirt, from the sturdy wool suiting fashion fabric, to the hot pink gingham check lining, the coordinating hot pink floral print for the pockets, and the white lace to finish the hem. (My uniform skirts might have to be boring on the outside, but by God the insides will be exciting!) I had just bought the Easy Guide to Sewing Linings by Connie Long. In the book she talks about this awesome way of interlining fabric so that you both line the pattern pieces and also finish the edges at the same time. This sounded so ingenious that I just had to try it.
It almost worked. It was so close. But little things kept going wrong. My wool fabric is gorgeously thick, almost more coating than suiting, which meant that it took ridiculous amounts of steam to press the seams. That much steam and heat started doing weird things to my lining fabric, especially where I had interfaced it, so for example, the tops of the pocket bags got fused in weird ways. I was able to pull it apart and (mostly) fix it, but it was just enough distortion that when I sewed the front together, one pocket was noticeably lower than the other. The killer, however, was that despite my best efforts to sew narrow seams, when you combined the lining technique with my bulky wool, it ate up more seam allowance than was actually allowed for. So after fiddling and fighting, ripping out and resewing, when I finally got the zipper installed and tried the thing on for fit, it… didn’t. At all. I couldn’t even get the zipper up halfway.
That was the point when I decided I was done sewing for the night and went up to bed.
Since then I’ve been sewing on a cardigan. I really, really need that skirt (two skirts are not enough for a work wardrobe, especially when one of them wrinkles so much), but I’m feeling sulky. So cardigan it is, and maybe when that’s done I’ll be ready to try a skirt again. Maybe fourth time’s the charm?