Pressing Impressively without Impressions

My dears, have you missed your Pressinatrix? She has certainly missed all of you. But The Pressinatrix has been very busy in 2014, preaching proper pressing in all the fashion capitals of the world…
(ed. note: I wish)
Visiting with designers from Boston to Barcelona

Muy guapo!

(ed. note: Okay, that happened)
And generally flitting about, encouraging sewing aficionados everywhere to press on!

But she is back now, and poppets, Your Pressinatrix would like a word. Or rather, several. Dear hearts, let us talk about pressing that doesn’t leave impressions – except for the impressions you leave on others when they realize that you made your couture garment. How many times have you looked at a garment and seen visible imprints of the seam allowance’s raw edges on the right side? The Pressinatrix has seen many, and far too many from those who would have you believe that they are expert. It is enough to give your poor Pressinatrix fits of the vapors. There is as much danger of ruining a garment by over-pressing as by not pressing enough. This is especially true with delicate fabrics like velvets and velveteens, cashmeres, alpaca, vicuña and even some fine wools. Here are two examples, using the wool flannel from the coat by The Pressinatrix’ lesser self alter ego. First, a seam

And even more obvious – an edge, like you might see on an over-pressed lapel

The good news is that there are a few simple techniques to help you avoid this dreadful fate. First…

Lighten up Frances.

Yes, that’s right. Sometimes you achieve the best results by using a light hand. The Pressinatrix’ lesser self alter ego demonstrated this when she pressed her hem:

Note that the iron does not actually touch the fabric

By hovering the iron a scant 1/8 of an inch above the fabric and steaming generously, then leaving the fabric on the board until it cools, she achieved a soft hem that is deliciously attractive. Using a similar light touch on seams and elsewhere will help you avoid the dreaded “Pressed to Death” look. Sometimes, though, you do need to apply a modicum of pressure to achieve the desired results. In cases like that, a simple tool is The Pressinatrix’ best friend: a paper bag. The Pressinatrix cuts strips of brown paper, wider than the seam allowances, and places them between the seam allowance and the outer layer of the garment.

Place them on either side of your seam line

Let the seam cool before removing the strips

Lightly press on the outside, and voila – no lines!

If you are pressing an edge, like a lapel, you can shape your brown paper to match the shape of the lapel like The Pressinatrix did for the Marfy coat.

Put that between the outer layer of the lapel and the seam allowance and press. You’ll have a perfectly pressed curved seam with no unwanted impressions. Because the only impression The Pressinatrix wishes to leave with you is a good impression.

Well, kittens, The Pressinatrix must go now and wrap gifts. Rest assured that, just as Your Pressinatrix perfectly presses her seams, so does she precisely crease her gift wrap, and that is what The Pressinatrix shall do. So to all you poppets, Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, Fabulous Festivus and a Splendid Whatever. But above all else,

Happy pressing!

Posted in Pressinatrix | 7 Comments

Marfy 3201 On the Hoof

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.

On the Hoof

This is how I’ll usually wear it – unbuttoned at the top

Buttoned OtH

I’ll button it up when it’s really cold out

Good Morning Mr Scrooge

I was going for “Good Day, Mr. Scrooge” but I think it turned out more “Auntie Mame at the fox hunt”

And now, on to something completely different.
Happy sewing!

Posted in Marfy | 17 Comments

Pattern Review: Marfy 3201 Coat with Attached Cape

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:

The Muslin, Part 1
The Muslin, Part 2
Cutting it out
More Tailoring

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.

Tips Used during Construction: Anything by The Pressinatrix, A Tutorial on Topstitching, Hemming the Marfy Coat, a Tutorial. Probably some others that I’ll add as I think of them.

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.

At one point, there are nine, count ‘em, NINE layers

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

Oh, snap!

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:

Note the roll of the cloth on the lapel. That’s on purpose…

Because when the neck is open they roll to the right side. Oh yeah!

Enough of that, let’s just cut to the chase. Here she is in all her glory, on Shelley:

With the lapels unbuttoned

With the lapels buttoned up

The Sherlock look

I love the cut of this

And, the back!

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.

Happy sewing!

Posted in Couture, Marfy | 20 Comments

Hemming the Marfy Coat, a Tutorial

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:

Trimming a triangle on both sides of the SA, with the point close to the seam, eliminates much bulk when folded.

I pinned up my hem (2 inches, in this case)

Note there is fullness that needs to be eliminated, thanks to the cut of the hem.

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

I don’t put the iron on the fabric, but hold it about 1/8th inch above and steam it like crazy

This leaves a soft, rather than sharp, hem.

Much better fit!

Shrinking it down took just a little time, and once it was done, I used a catch-stitch to secure the hem.

Yeah, that looks pretty nice

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.

Lining attached to the coat

And a closer view


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 sewing!

Posted in Marfy, Tutorials | 14 Comments

Progress on the Marfy Coat and a Tutorial on Topstitching

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:

I prefer to sew my seams with an open appliqué foot.

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.

The little wheel runs along the edge of the fabric

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.

This foot has a two-tier bottom. One is lower than the other to easily run along the edge of your fabric.

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:

The distance from the edge is adjustable


So what was the winner in this case?

The Blindstitch/Overlock foot!

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.

So far so good…

Happy sewing!

Posted in Marfy, Tutorials | 19 Comments

Guess What’s Back on the Sewing Table?

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,

Happy sewing!

Posted in Marfy | 10 Comments

Happy Thanksgiving!

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!

Posted in Miscellaneous | Leave a comment

Pattern Review: StyleArc Alisha Dress

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

Fabric Used: An absolutely GORGEOUS Scalloped, Corded Red Lace for the over dress, and an Persian Red ITY Jersey for the slip. Both are from (of course) Gorgeous Fabrics

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:

You just need a tiny little piece, which will get trimmed away later

Clip to the pivot point before you stitch. Then you can easily maneuver the pivot and stitch the seams.

Clip to the reinforced point before you stitch

I used a Hong Kong Finish on all my seams using bias strips of red silk organza from my stash.

Doesn’t everyone have red silk organza in their 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.

That lightweight zipper tape keeps the seam from buckling

Some other notes: I was careful about matching patterns across seam lines where I could (on the back)

I’m kind of proud of how the roses matched…

And I thought rather hard and long before cutting about how to match up the lace scallops at the hems and sleeves:

I realized after I took this picture that I had the right and left backs reversed. Needless to say, I fixed that before cutting.

The nice thing about using the muslin is you can clearly see the seam lines and place them accordingly on the lace.

I tried to keep the scalloped edge continuous

At the sleeves, too

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.

Front – I’ll get a better picture tomorrow

Closeup of the neckline

And the back. I’m going to switch out the hook/eye at the top of the zip this weekend.

Well that was a tome. I hope you have a great Thanksgiving (in the US) and a great weekend (everywhere)!
Happy sewing!

Posted in Fabrics, Reviews, StyleArc | 20 Comments

Alisha Dress Progress: the Slip

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.

Your basic slip dress

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:

Bust gathers

Since all the bras I buy are of the “hoist ‘em up and point ‘em forward” variety, I may move the gathers toward the center front by about an inch. First I’ll finish the lace outer dress and see how the slip looks underneath it. The slip dress fits pretty well as-is, so I’d like to see how it looks under the lace before I make another version.

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).

Like I say, it’s a pretty basic piece

I also did a narrow overlock on my serger, rather than a narrow hem that they recommend. If I were making it in a woven I would definitely use a narrow rolled hem, but this finish works better for this fabric.

Narrow overlock gives a lighter finish to the hem

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?

Posted in StyleArc | 16 Comments

Alisha Dress Muslin

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

This is the prep of the lower front of the dress for a FBA

I did a slight swayback adjustment in the lower back piece

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.

Left arm needs about ¼ inch

Right needs about 3/8 inch

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.

Wow, is that what my back looks like since I started doing Cross-Fit?

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.

I used Scotch Tape to hold the slits in place

I trued up the CB edges before cutting the next muslin

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,

Happy sewing!

Posted in Sewing, StyleArc | 3 Comments