Friday, March 14, 2014

Sewaholic Renfrew: My first knit project + Several positive comments about Craftsy's Sewing Fashion Knits course


It took me several hours to figure out why I am so insanely proud of the plain V-neck t-shirt I'm modeling in these pictures.  My last couple of projects have been labor intensive wool coats that I have a lot of love for, so I was thinking that this project would be a bit of a let down.  Wrong! When I became obsessed with learning to sew and then joined the RTW fast, I wondered what I was going to do when I needed to replace something simple like a t-shirt.  The answer: Just sit down for a little bit and sew it!  It turns out that you actually CAN sew all your own clothes.  Sometimes it's the little epiphanies that make you the happiest and proudest.


There is nothing I can say about sewing this pattern that hasn't been said a million times already.  The purpose of this post is for anyone who is as afraid of knits as I once was.  Don't be!  Holy smokes it's easy!  I wish I had recorded actual sewing time, but that would be hard for me.  I don't know about anyone else, but I can sometimes get a little sidetracked when a text comes through, or someone (ok, one person) hollers at me on Voxer, or I stop to pet my cat, or I go to look something up on the internet and get sidetracked on Yahoo.  Even though this was my first time sewing with a knit I bet actually sewing time was between 1-2 hours including when I had to run to the computer for help.

I had a truckload of anxiety about sewing with knits even though 75% of the stuff I normally wear is a knit. I've had the pattern for months but I thought learning knits would be like learning a foreign language so I avoided it.   I hopped on Craftsy and watched Linda Lee's Sewing Fashion Knits: Beyond The Basics before I even cracked open my pattern.  It was extremely helpful and if you are new to knits I HIGHLY recommend it.  She breaks down preparing fabric, cutting and marking, seam finishes, stabilizing knits, hem finishes and edge finishes.  She takes you through different ways that you can do each of those things.  After watching it through I started to get super confident and thought to myself,  "That doesn't seem that hard.  I probably won't even have to refer back to this class once I start sewing."  Just to be clear, I made it to the second set of steps in the pattern instructions regarding sewing on the neckband before I had to go running back to Linda for help.  She didn't fail me.  Thankfully you can watch the Craftsy classes as many times as you want because I'll be going to Linda's class a lot.

For my bands, I opted to sew on the band, serge the raw edge for a more professional look, and then use a double needle to stitch on both sides of the seam line.  I have to confess that I used to be intimidated when people said they used a twin needle.  Using a twin needle involves buying one, inserting it in your needle slot, threading it, and sewing like normal.  It's that simple.

There are many more knits in my future!  Don't be afraid.  You can do it!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Colette Albion

 Disclaimer: I'm pretty sure they don't teach any of the techniques discussed here in sewing school. 
Ahhh, the Colette Albion.  As my husband said last night, sewing this coat was an emotional roller coaster ride for me.  And for him.  I won't lie.  At one point he asked me why I was staring off into space at the dinner table and I said, "Oh I'm just thinking about what to do about that damn coat."  I don't want to ask him how many times I walked into the living room and said, "I hate this coat! It's terrible!" and then walked back into the same living room the next day and said, "I think I'm really going to like my new coat."
I initially wasn't going to buy the Albion pattern.  Even though I spend a lot of time in the woods with my kids and the pattern launch was very woodsy, I know from experience that I really don't care for unisex styles.  However, I do love Colette contests (and their patterns, and their blog, and their new sewalongs website, their e-books and pretty much anything else having to do with Colette patterns because that's how I've been learning to sew!).  I went foraging for inspiration on Pinterest and came across this little number.  Could I attempt to copy a $995 Burberry duffel coat?  Sure I could.  Even if it meant sewing multiple extra seams.  Plus I discovered with my Hawthorn that I really like to copycat things I see on the internet. 
I ordered a toffee wool flannel from Mood but when it arrived it was very beige-y and I wasn't in love with it.  Enter the burnt orange fabric you see in the above picture. 
I purchased this fabric 2 years ago (I think) during a serious fabric buying binge at Kaplan's Fabrics.  Sadly, they just went out of business.  It is the most lovely shade of burnt orange and is very thick but also pretty drapey.  I don't know what kind of wool it is but it feels almost like velvet.  Does anyone know?  It was extremely expensive and luxurious and I was afraid to use it.  I would unfold it to pet it occasionally, but that's as far as I got.  When I was searching Mood for a different fabric, the orange on my shelf caught my eye and I decided to go with it.
I made four muslins.  Let me say that again: I made four muslins.  You get one sideways picture of my initial muslin because I cannot figure out how to make it turn.  As for the subsequent muslins, there are no pictures and it's probably better that way.  I'm not sure I want to re-live all of that.
My first muslin was the XS with no alterations.  It was much bigger than I thought it would be and that's when I got a little scared.  Modifications to a pattern are not my strong suit.
I had a terrible time figuring out the zipper on my initial muslin.  The part that threw me was how the left side of the zipper is exposed on the left panel.  That's where the Sewalongs site was so helpful.  You ask and someone answers! After my initial muslin, I took 1.5 inches off the waist on my pattern piece and did a narrow shoulder adjustment of about an inch and a 1/4.  I also attempted to take quite a bit off the sleeves using the adjustment method outlined in the Albion e-book.  Ouch that was hard.  More on my solution to that later.
For my second muslin, I sewed up the alterations I made to the initial one.  The waist was suitable but the sleeves were a mess and the back was too roomy. 
For my third muslin, I cut the seams for the front top panel, the waist seams and the seams for the back panels as well as another shot at the sleeves.  I'm not sure if you are supposed to follow some logic to making seams in a pattern where there aren't any, but I chose to just cut into my pattern pieces where I thought it looked nice and add a 5/8 seam allowance to each piece.  Worked for me!  For the billowy back part, I graded in the center piece to about 3/4 of an inch at the waistline because there was going to be a seam there anyway.  Had there not been a seam I suppose I would have had to do a swayback adjustment. 
As for the sleeves, I read somewhere on the internet that if you're having trouble with sleeves you should use the sleeves from another pattern that you like as a reference.  Instead of using them as a reference, I decided to just substitute the sleeve pattern pieces from another pattern.  Which pattern?  My Anise, of course.  I LOVE that pattern.  Are you supposed to do that?  I'm sure there's probably something technically wrong with how they set in comparison to the rest of the coat but, again, it worked for me and I'm pleased with the outcome.  I lifted the underarm on the Albion pattern by an inch and the Anise sleeves set in there just fine.  The fourth muslin was only for the sleeves. 
After four muslins I decided that any further adjustments would have to be done when I was sewing it.  Four was quite enough.  The only thing I ended up doing was starting the grading on the waist an inch under my armole.  When I graded in the waist only the sides near my chest were just too big.
I like how the seams jazz up the back.  I also think the front seam makes it look like a dressier jacket.

When I sewed with the fashion fabric, I decided that I wanted to install the zipper between the front panel and the facing.  I used this tutorial posted on the Sewalongs site. It's a great tutorial. Unfortunately, I did not factor in that moving my zipper meant I would have way over an inch of space across my chest.  When I tried it on after sewing it all together it was very big across the chest.  After despairing for an hour about how my coat was ruined and my husband gently trying to talk me into giving it all up so I could get on with my life, I decided to rip the left zipper out and sew it to the outside of the left panel like it says in the Albion e-book.  I initially thought I would care that it was exposed. If you are worried about that look, I can tell you that I've worn the coat multiple times and it's a non-issue.  You really can't see it when it's zipped and the toggles are buttoned.  The toggles are from Dritz in brown and I bought them online from
I don't plan to walk around with my coat unzipped much either.  This is what it looks like open:
Since my coat is form fitting, I didn't want a flannel lining because I thought it would catch on my pants.  I opted to go for a Liberty of London tana lawn for my lining fabric.  The pattern matched the orange so well I couldn't resist. I would love to order more of the print and use it for a dress.  It's really sweet.
I opted not to sew on the hood closure.  I'm not sure how much I'll use my hood since I like to wear a hat and I didn't want the tab flopping around.
The buttons:
This is what my photo shoots really look like:
It is just so COLD.  And speaking of cold, I became obsessed with the fact that my toggles were crooked in my initial photographs so I made my oldest son venture out in THREE degree weather to take pictures of the toggles fastened straight.  Do I look cold?  Because I am.
In the end, I'm pleased with my coat.  It was a beast of a project but I like how it turned out. Wish me luck in the contest!