My usual photographer (DH) is at work, so I coerced DS the Elder to get a few pictures of me in the coat. It’s crappy weather here in Boston, so we got some shots near the tree.
And now, on to something completely different.
My usual photographer (DH) is at work, so I coerced DS the Elder to get a few pictures of me in the coat. It’s crappy weather here in Boston, so we got some shots near the tree.
And now, on to something completely different.
Well, that was epic.
But yes, folks, after a year, two months, and four days from when I decided to make this coat, it finally is finished! If you want to read the back-story, you can check out these posts:
And you can see the more recent progress in the last few posts. So, on to what matters… My opinions!
Pattern Description: Double-breasted trench-style coat with cape lined in tartan jersey, flared bottom, and short belt that emphasizes the waist.
Sizing: 38-58 (Euro/Italian Sizing). I made a 44.
Fabric Used: Bright Red wool flannel and Square Deal Silk Charmeuse in Red tones, both from Gorgeous Fabrics, of course. Both sold out, sorry.
Machines and Tools Used: Pfaff 2130 home sewing machine. All of The Pressinatrix’ favorite tools.
Needle/Notions Used: For the lining, Universal 60/8 needle. For the buttonholes, Topstitching 80/12 needle. For the coat, Universal 80/12 needle, Sew-in hair canvas interfacing from Fashion Sewing Supply, shoulder pads that I’ve had in my stash for a long long time, twill tape for stabilizing the roll lines, leather from my stash for the belt, belt buckle from M&J Trim in New York, buttons from Botani in New York, large snap from Pacific Trims in New York, Japanese hand needles and Sleeve Head Tape from Susan Khalje. Thread.
Did it look like the photo or drawing when you got through? Yes
How were the instructions? Hahahahahahaha! You’re so funny…
Seriously, Marfy comes with no instructions. You’re advised to print out the picture to use as a guide, and you are expected to know what you are doing. It’s best to have a Good Sewing Book next to you for reference when sewing Marfy. Marfy patterns, or at least this one, are beautifully drafted, and while a bit intimidating, they go together well. Just take your time, check your sewing references when you need to and trust your abilities. And if anything goes wrong? Well, fake it til you make it.
Construction Notes: I could probably write a novel, but I’ll keep it brief.
Marfy Patterns come printed without seam allowances. I used 1-inch SAs for the major seams, and ½ inch SAs for sleeves, facings and enclosed seams.
I shortened the length by about 4 inches, to make the coat less formal. I also found that there was a drafting error I pointed out in the muslin phase: the sleeve capes are not the same length as the back cape. I’ve only seen one other version of this pattern made up, and I notice the same issue on that one, so I think it’s fair to call it a mistake. But it’s an easy mistake to fix, so I didn’t get too wrapped around the axle about it. I shortened the sleeve capes and went along my way.
There are a few things you should note if you decide to make this coat. One is that if you make the caped version (there’s also a view that leaves the capes off), you must use a lightweight wool, like the one I used. Why? Look.
I’ve seen mille-feuilles with fewer layers. Be prepared to spend a lot of time grading and trimming.
For that same reason, I decided against sewing the epaulets into the shoulder seams. It would have been too much bulk, especially with the shoulder pads. Instead I finished the raw edges and topstitched them at the shoulders.
I put a large snap at the waistline on the inside to secure the under layer
I spent a long time last night testing out buttonholes. Originally I was going to take the coat to Jonathan in New York, but I won’t be able to get there before the end of the year. Instead, I broke out the trusty Pfaff and used the semi-automatic buttonhole feature to make corded buttonholes. I set the buttons so I can either close the coat all the way to the neck, or leave it open:
Enough of that, let’s just cut to the chase. Here she is in all her glory, on Shelley:
Likes/Dislikes: I LOVE this coat! It will be really really warm. I love the lines, I love the drafting (that one error in the capes aside), I love the fit. Yes, it was worth the wait!
Would you do it again? Would you recommend it? I won’t do it again. This is a statement coat and I only need one. I definitely recommend it, as long as you have the skills and patience to do it well. This is a demanding coat, and it demands attention at all phases. But if you’ve got better-than-intermediate skills, and you like a challenge that pays off, absolutely go for it!
Conclusion: Love. It! I’ll try to get pictures on me tomorrow. Now I need something easy and fast for my next project.
Toby asked about hemming the coat, so I figured it was worth showing what I did. There are lots of different ways to hem coats, depending on the finished look you desire. You can interface the hem, in which case you hand stitch bias-cut 2 or 3 inch wide interfacing (for a coat you usually use hair canvas) along the hemming line. You can also pad the hem with a 2-inch strip of lambswool. I didn’t do either of those for my coat. I didn’t want to add any body to the hem, and I didn’t want to have a very soft edge, which the interfacing and lambswool would do, respectively.
The first thing I did was to trim out a triangle of fabric within the seam allowances at the hemline, to reduce bulk:
I pinned up my hem (2 inches, in this case)
Now, there are several ways to eliminate the fullness at the hem. One is to use a gathering stitch to ease the fullness into the hem. That works very well with lightweight fabrics, especially when you have a circle skirt or any other type of skirt where there is a pretty good-sized difference in the circumference of the raw edge and the hem. Another thing you can do is to cut little triangles out of the hem allowance. That also works very well when you are dealing with a large cut-edge/hem circumference differential. But neither of those were really appropriate here, thanks to both the hem and the type of fabric that I’m using. Instead, I decided to shrink out the excess with steam and a very light hand
Shrinking it down took just a little time, and once it was done, I used a catch-stitch to secure the hem.
To affix the lining, I pressed a ½ inch hem along the bottom. I matched this to the raw edge of the coat hem and used a slipstitch to attach it to the coat hem.
So that’s how I do it. No rocket science. I’ll do the same thing on the sleeves, then I’ll attach the closures and be done. Hopefully it will be all finished this week. Hope that helps, and
Happy Holidays, Campers! Now that I’ve picked up the Marfy coat again, it’s coming along very nicely. It’s amazing how taking a break from a project gives you a fresh outlook. The major construction is pretty much done (and there are some serious construction considerations that I’ll put in the review, for anyone who wants to make this coat – nothing bad, just stuff you need to know). I spent a lot of time thinking about the topstitching on the lapels and front. I wish like all get-out that I had thought about it last year when I was topstitching the pockets and the chest shield. The topstitching on those is not bad, but it could be better, and it could be closer to the edge. Live and learn, eh?
Recently I saw a blog post from a self-styled ‘expert’, where the topic of topstitching was discussed. I have to say, it was appalling. Seriously. I try very hard not to criticize, but the information in the post was so wrong, and it is read by many new sewing folks, that I have to say two things right up front. (Bad language alert)
1: Topstitch all the way around any piece. Half-way is half-assed, people.
2: Topstitching is not used to finish an open seam. And most certainly not partial topstitching. See #1. Slipstitch your openings, then topstitch. It takes less than 5 additional minutes and you won’t have your seams falling apart after the first washing. Just do it, dammit.
Okay, now that’s out of the way, let’s talk about topstitching in general terms. The Marfy coat has a fair amount of topstitching to it. I haven’t done the topstitching on the cape pieces, yet, but I did topstitch the lapels and smaller pieces. When doing the lapels, I decided to test out a few different options for getting my topstitching done well. I have to tell you that, while I have very little OCD, seeing wobbly topstitching is one of the few things that makes me want to take a seam ripper to someone else’s work, especially when there are so many different tools to help you do a nice, even line of stitching. Let me show you some of the options that are available on my Pfaff machine. I suspect there are similar options for just about any machine. I made tests of each of them on some scrap wool. I’m using black thread for contrast so you can see it clearly. I’m only using a single thread (I’ve seen recommendations to use doubled thread for topstitching, but it’s not the effect I’m going for here). I set my stitch length to 3.5 mm. And I have several different feet that I can use to get an even topstitching line. Here are the results for each:
When I sew seams, I use an open appliqué foot. I find that it Gives Me Good Control. If you have a steady hand, and don’t have to go over many layers, it can work well. But in a coat, it can move around a lot, giving you uneven topstitching.
One of the standard feet included in my machine is a Blindstitch/Overlock foot. It has a little wheel that rides (in this case) along the edge of the fabric. It’s rather like a stitch in the ditch foot (which I don’t own). I think that foot could also work well for topstitching along an edge as well.
I also have an edge stitching foot. The only difficulty with it is that it is left-handed, meaning the bulk of the coat has to fit under the harp of the machine. When you are dealing with a big ol’ winter coat, that’s pretty much a non-starter. It’s perfect for shirts, though.
Last but not least is the regular foot (or I could use the appliqué foot) with an edge guide. I don’t know if other manufacturers do this- I would assume they do. The nice thing about this is that it’s adjustable to whatever distance you want from the edge of the fabric, so you can topstitch wherever you would like:
So what was the winner in this case?
For my preferences, it gave the best results. I moved the needle over all the way to the left, so I got a wider edge.
I liked this foot the best, though all of them have their merits. Of the four feet I tested, all but one of them (the appliqué foot without the edge guide) give you good, solid guides for topstitching. Here you can see the coat in its still-unfinished glory. It’s getting really close. I need to hem it, then I have to figure out when I can get to Jonathan to put the buttonholes in. I hope to finish it before Christmas, so it’ll only be a year late. More shortly.
Yep. After getting so tired of winter last year that I couldn’t even stand to look at my Marfy coat, I put it aside in the sewing room to
ferment age like a fine wine. Today I picked it back up, refreshed and ready to go.
Taking a break gave me time to think about and plan out the changes I needed to make to the sleeve capes to make them the correct length. And today I jumped back in! The sleeves are now attached, as are the epaulettes (yes, they are supposed to go down the sleeve, not up the shoulder). Tomorrow I’ll work on the facings and lining. I would like to get this done over the next week or so, and see if I can sneak in one more trip to NY before Christmas to have Jonathan do the buttonholes.
The Pressinatrix has a few choice things to say about coats and coatings, so I’m sure you will all be hearing from her soon. But for now,
Here in the US, it’s Thanksgiving. This is the day we (are supposed to) take time off from the busy-ness of every day life to reflect on those things for which we are grateful. Of course, some folks have to work. Some folks choose to work, and for all of them I am grateful, truly. There are a few other things in my life for which I am also very grateful, and I’ll share a couple of them with you here. I promise not to do a “Thank you to the Academy” speech, but I do want to say I am truly grateful for:
My customers. They rock
My friends. They rock.
My family. They totally rock.
Making it to 5 years from diagnosis with breast cancer. Technically I’m not yet 5 years. That will be December 7. But still, touch wood we got the little bastard.
I’m also very grateful to hear that a dear friend, who has been very ill, was able to finally receive the treatment he so desperately needed. And I am grateful to the person and his or her family who made the treatment possible.
I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Hugs and happy sewing!
Edited on 11-26-14 to add pictures of the lace layout
After several weeks and a whole lotta muslins, it’s done! This is going to be my Christmas Party Dress. So settle in; this one is long and picture-heavy.
Pattern Description: “ALISHA DRESS: A wonderful party dress complete with a slip. Use scalloped lace to create beautiful and interesting neckline. The lace edge can also be used on the hem and sleeves. This pattern can be made many ways – all lace, lace yokes & sleeves with plain body, or completely plain. The choice is yours!”
Sizing: 4-30. I used a 10
Machines and Tools Used: Pfaff home machine for the lace dress, Juki home machine for the slip dress.
Needle/Notions Used: Universal 70/10 needle. Thread. Silk Organza. Invisible zipper
Tips Used during Construction: Anything by The Pressinatrix.
Did it look like the photo or drawing when you got through? Yes.
How were the instructions? Not great. The slip is easy-peasy, but the over dress can be tricky, especially at the collar. This is not a pattern for beginners. StyleArc’s instructions are somewhat variable. In this case they did a decent job of explaining the collar construction (it’s a wraparound collar) as long as you’re working with a non-lacy fabric (more about that in the Construction Notes), but there was an omission elsewhere – they don’t tell you to attach the back bodice to the back.
All that said, This pattern is drafted beautifully, and if you have experience with sewing construction, you will get great results. This pattern is rated by StyleArc as “challenging”, and that is a fair assessment
Construction Notes: First off, you can see the Slip Dress Construction here. And you can see the fitting work that I did with Phyllis In This Post. Making the muslins (I made three altogether) took the most time, but I think it was worth every second. The fringe benefit of making three muslins? By the time I cut into my lace, I had the construction process down pat. After I finished the final muslin and was satisfied, I cut it apart and used it for the pattern pieces. The nice thing about that is that any asymmetric fitting adjustments get transferred directly to the lace.
I constructed the dress differently from the way StyleArc recommended. First, the instructions tell you to sew a seam to the pivot point on the collar/shoulder seam, then lift your presser foot, clip to the needle, pivot and continue sewing the rest of the seam. That will work okay in a fabric that is tightly woven, but lace? It’s 90% air. Chances are pretty high that you will clip to a point that gives you a big ol’ hole at the pivot if you do it that way. Instead, cut a small square of silk organza and center that over the pivot point. Staystitch that in place by stitching right along the seamline:
Clip to the pivot point before you stitch. Then you can easily maneuver the pivot and stitch the seams.
I used a Hong Kong Finish on all my seams using bias strips of red silk organza from my stash.
I used a lightweight, soft tape Lampo invisible zipper that I got at Botani in NY when I was there last month. It makes a huge difference to use a lightweight tape on a fabric like lace. I finished the edges of the zipper tape with silk organza.
Some other notes: I was careful about matching patterns across seam lines where I could (on the back)
And I thought rather hard and long before cutting about how to match up the lace scallops at the hems and sleeves:
Likes/Dislikes: This is a beautiful dress. It’s beautifully drafted, and I love the design details StyleArc added to work with scalloped lace. The downside is the instructions, but it’s not a beginner pattern, and if you have been sewing for a while, you can figure it out without trouble. Do make sure to do a fitting muslin. Most StyleArc’s fit me without too many alterations but this one needed a bunch to get the look I wanted.
Would you do it again? Would you recommend it? Would I do it again? Yes. Will I do it again? Probably not – unless DH and I decide to renew our vows for our 30th anniversary, in which case I might make it in ivory, and if we renew them in Australia, which is my dream, I would invite Chloe and the ladies :).
Would I recommend it? Absolutely!
Conclusion: I’m psyched to wear this to DH’s company party next week! Here are the front and back views on Shelley. I’ll try to post pictures of me in it.
Well that was a tome. I hope you have a great Thanksgiving (in the US) and a great weekend (everywhere)!
Rather than doing another fitting muslin of the lace dress, I decided to make a muslin of the slip dress that I’ll wear underneath it. The reason is two-fold. First, I got tired of looking at plain muslin and I wanted to work in a color. Second, I figured that I would get a better idea of what I needed to add back in for the FBA if I wore the slip dress underneath it. Sure enough, putting the muslin over the slip gave me a much better idea of how much I need to add back in the bustline (almost all of it, as it turns out). As an added bonus, making the slip gives me a very good idea of which bra will work best with the finished dress.
The slip is quite simple and goes together quickly. I decided to make it from a knit fabric rather than a woven.
The one thing I may change is the placement of the gathers in the bust cups. Right now, they are set closer to the side seam than to the CF:
Here’s a shot of the back of the slip. Since it’s made from a knit, I cut it on the straight grain (for wovens, StyleArc has you cut it on the bias).
That’s where things stand so far. I’ll have more later. The party I’ll wear this to isn’t until December 5th, so I have time. I hope to finish it before Thanksgiving. Then I’ll turn my attention back to my red Marfy coat.
In other news, this week was a really big milestone for me. I had my 6-month visit with my oncologist, and after doing the exam, talking to me and looking over all my labs, she said, “You know, I don’t need to see you again for a year now.”
Wooo HOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!! I did the Snoopy dance all the way down the hallway and out of the Cancer Center. So again, folks. If you are a woman over age 40, please make sure to get an annual mammogram. I want all my readers to be healthy!
Enough about me. What have you been working on?
I’ve started working on my StyleArc Alisha Dress. I don’t have any galas this year, so I’m not making a long gown, but I do have a couple of holiday parties and I’ve been itching to do some more “serious” sewing. I haven’t sewn with lace since I made my Lace Bustier and Pippa Dress. I think I nice red lace dress is a good choice for the holidays, so here we go!
I’ve made three muslins so far. Oh stop groaning – they aren’t hard, they don’t take that long, and they are worth every minute. The first one was straight out of the envelope, with no alterations. The fit, while requiring work, wasn’t that bad. For the second iteration, I omitted the front and back darts (I didn’t really want to put darts in the lace anyway, and it gave me more breathing room), and made a FBA. On Saturday, Phyllis came up and helped me fit the second muslin. Here are some shots of the muslin in process and on me, with Phyllis’ adjustments
Once we put it on, there was a lot of wrangling we needed to do at the arms. I don’t usually do a big forward-shoulder adjustment, but I guess time and hunching over computers and fabrics for most of my life have taken a toll. There were a lot of draglines in the sleeves, and the armholes needed to be adjusted significantly as well. Phyllis ripped out both sleeves and re-pinned them so they would lay comfortably. Also, the sleeves run (for me) a bit tight, so we slit them and marked the amount of extra width needed (¼ inch and 3/8 inch) on each side to make them comfortable.
The upper back also needed some surgery. There was a lot of gaposis, which Phyllis solved with a combination of tucks in the CB, tapering out to nothing, and re-positioning the seam lines between the upper and lower back.
Here are the muslin pieces with the changes. The green marked lines are the new cutting lines, so you can see we’re doing some serious slicing and dicing.
Phyllis also took out most of the FBA I did but I may put a small one back in. First I’m going to check out the amount of give that the lace has, then decide if it needs more room.
So that’s where it stands. I made another muslin and it’s much improved. It still needs slight work in the back of the sleeve. More on that later. Until then,
I’ve been remiss this year in reminding you, but it’s still Breast Cancer Awareness Month. As you may know, I am a BC survivor. I had no family history, I had no risk factors, and I was good about getting my annual screening mammogram.
Then in December of 2009, there it was. A cluster of tiny dots on the mammogram that surrounded a Stage 1, estrogen-receptor positive growth in my right breast. The mammogram found it, people. So listen up…
If you are a woman over age 40, please get a mammogram once a year. It could save your life. I’m proof (touch wood).
In sewing news, I made a muslin of StyleArc’s Alisha Dress. It fits reasonably well right out of the envelope. It’s a little snug through the waist (sigh) and the bust, but not horribly so in either place. I’ll try making a muslin without darts, add an FBA and a slight sway back adjustment and see how that looks. Then I’ll start on the lace. I’ll update you as it progresses. ‘Til then,