What Problem Does That Solve?

Readers,

Blame my background as a librarian for calling a new form that I’m experimenting with an “Acquisitions Record.”

Out of my 22 years working in libraries I spent four and a half in my system’s Collection Management department, in Acquisitions, selecting adult fiction, large print, and audiobooks. (I also pestered advised my colleague who ordered the cookbooks and sewing books.)

Since my time as a selector I’ve thought about where it might make sense to apply library principles and practices to getting things sewn.  I haven’t actually drawn up a collection management policy, but I don’t think it’s a bad idea. (That’s a topic for another time.)img_0934-460x307

What I did do, on the spur of the moment about a month ago, was record a few facts, reasons, and plans concerning a book I’d bought.  Why did I buy another sewing book, why now, and how was I planning to actually use it? I did have a plan for it–right?

It’s way too easy to acquire sewing stuff, with the best of intentions, and then not to use it to its full potential. And that bothers me.

The Sewing Bible: Curtains--not to be confused with Katrin Cargill's Curtain Bible, of course!

The Sewing Bible: Curtains–not to be confused with Katrin Cargill’s Curtain Bible, of course!

I threw together a table in OneNote and started making columns to collect facts.

  • Date: Aug. 21
  • Type: Book
  • Description: The Sewing Bible: Curtains
  • Price: $4.29; originally $24.99
  • Where purchased: Half Price Booksimg_0936-460x288

Then I created a couple of columns to collect explanations.

  • Reason/What problems this solves: Looks like good instructions and designs for curtains and draperies, different from what I already have.
  • Why now? Kitchen curtain and dining room drapery projects by mid-Oct. before our next houseguest arrives.img_0935-460x361

Then I pushed myself to move to the planning stage:

  • Plans to use it: Read about sheers, tab-top curtains, design, construction.
  • Projects scheduled: Visit Fabric Farms 8/29. See list [of supplies to look for] in Outlook.
  • Projects completed: Aim for mid-Oct.img_0936-2-460x439

That was my first entry.  I was being ambitious: the heat of August persuaded me that October was a long ways off. Nevertheless, asking myself what problems this purchase was meant to solve, and why I was buying now made me think longer, more creatively, and more concretely.

My next sewing-related purchase turned out to be the very next day:

  • Date: Aug. 22
  • Type: Class
  • Description: “Fast-Track Fitting with Joi Mahon” plus Vogue fitting pattern for the class
  • Price: $21.14 (incl. shipping the pattern), usually $44.99
  • Where purchased: Craftsy

And my explanations:

  • Reason/What problems this solves: Different approach from Kenneth King’s in “Smart Fitting” DVDs, and complementary. I don’t want to wait to get help from my old sewing teachers. Also, I can ask Joi questions online as part of the class, and I can’t ask Kenneth.
  • Why now? Sale was one day only. This was on my wish list. I’ve read her fitting book, very impressed with her clear, organized explanations. Returning to sewing in earnest after blog sabbatical; want to crank out garments I love. Fitting is my biggest Achilles’ heel.

Fitting and pattern alteration have always seemed beyond my abilities. Could this Craftsy class change my attitude?

On to the ambitious planning:

  • Plans to use it: Aggressively use to fit my patterns, then try fitting a blouse for Cynthia.
  • Projects scheduled: E-mail Cynthia to set date to measure me per Joi’s class. Possible blog series. 1959 Vogue belted jacket pattern: read instructions Aug. 23.
  • Projects completed: [left blank]

Even though my simple little acquisitions record was barely 24 hours old, it had already begun to work some magic. I wasn’t just recording a past expenditure. I was thinking more systematically and strategically before my purchase.

That’s especially important for me when I buy Craftsy classes. They don’t occupy physical space, and it’s easy for me to forget that they’re resources like my books and tools–and maybe better, because Craftsy instructors respond to students’ questions.

In the last month I’ve made six entries in my acquisitions record: for a book, two online classes, a fabric remnant, and two patterns.  I have found that’s it’s been fun to track what things are coming into this sewing room and what potential they offer:

  • methods I can understand for fitting patterns better even before I sew the muslin
  • methods for altering ready-to-wear to perfect the fit
  • curtains to grace our new kitchen and dining room
  • flannel pajamas with flair
  • a steady supply of custom-fit aprons

    Got the cotton duck, got the apron pattern--now on to getting those aprons sewn for our new kitchen.

    Got the cotton duck, got the apron pattern–now on to getting those aprons sewn for our new kitchen.

That tantalizing potential is there, for sure.  And, I know, it certainly is easy to get over-ambitious creating projects and deadlines without the necessary follow-through: call me Exhibit A.

But I think this simple form is going to help move me in the right direction to get things sewn.  It’s a good starting point.

And when I get a better idea–I’ll just create another form.

Field Trip: “Dressing Downton,” Taft Museum, Cincinnati

Readers,

Last month I got to see three dozen costumes from Downton Abbey up close in the show “Dressing Downton: Changing Fashion for Changing Times” at the beautiful Taft Museum in Cincinnati, Ohio.

In front of Cincinnati's Taft Museum.

In front of Cincinnati’s Taft Museum.

At the invitation of a friend of my sister Cynthia’s who is a member of the museum, I joined Cynthia and our sister Donna on a day trip for lunch, the show, and a little spin around some of Cincinnati’s  notable neighborhoods.  It was a lot of fun.

Worn by Violet Crawley, the Dowager Countess of Grantham. (Sorry, I missed photographing the details of this outfit.)

Worn by Violet Crawley, the Dowager Countess of Grantham.

As a Downton Abbey devotee I came pretty late to the party. Season 1 began broadcasting in the US  in 2011 just a few weeks before Jack and left the country for two months (in London, it so happened) and I just was not tuned into the excitement.

Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham: "Light cream linen suit with straw Panama hat.' Season 1, 1913-1914. Cora Crawley, Countess of Grantham. "Silk day dress and coat with black frogging and large brimmed silk hat with net overlay, flowers, and ribbon detail." Season 1, 1913.

Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham: “Light cream linen suit with straw Panama hat.’ Season 1, 1913-1914. Cora Crawley, Countess of Grantham. “Silk day dress and coat with black frogging and large brimmed silk hat with net overlay, flowers, and ribbon detail.” Season 1, 1913.

On that sojourn, even when I was researching “Sewing Destination: London, England” for Threads magazine and saw Downton Abbey costumes at Angels the Costumiers that were headed for filming, I took only a cursory glance.

Lady Mary Crawley, Season 1, 1913-1914. "Riding habit and hat. Worn during Lady Mary and Matthew's first meeting at Crawley House."

Lady Mary Crawley, Season 1, 1913-1914. “Riding habit and hat. Worn during Lady Mary and Matthew’s first meeting at Crawley House.”

It was only in season 4 that I got swept up in the tsunami of Downton Abbey, and that was because watching it became a social occasion.

Lady Mary Crawley. Season 2, 1916-1918. "Two-piece wool ensemble with velvet collar and cuffs, felt hat with silk ribbon, and velvet handbag with metal clasp. First worn on Mary's return trip from London after meeting Sir Richard Charles." Lady Edith Crawley, Seasons 3-4, 1920-1921. "Black grosgrain coat with silk embroidery, original to the period. First worn on a trip to London."

Lady Mary Crawley. Season 2, 1916-1918. “Two-piece wool ensemble with velvet collar and cuffs, felt hat with silk ribbon, and velvet handbag with metal clasp. First worn on Mary’s return trip from London after meeting Sir Richard Charles.” Lady Edith Crawley, Seasons 3-4, 1920-1921. “Black grosgrain coat with silk embroidery, original to the period. First worn on a trip to London.”

By the last season, when I was now Cynthia’s neighbor rather than 764 miles away in Minnesota, I was recording the show for us to watch the following day. An hour’s show could take 90 minutes to watch, as I frequently paused and replayed scenes so we could divine the meanings of each raised eyebrow and turned head.

I like the velvet collar and cuffs and matching them to the hat.

I like the velvet collar and cuffs and matching them to the hat.

I noticed that the buttons and buckle don't match the fabric or each other. I like the rows of top stitching on the belt.

I noticed that the buttons and buckle don’t match the fabric or each other. I like the rows of top stitching on the belt.

Plus, who wouldn’t confess to waiting impatiently every week to hear what Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham, would say next?

And who would refuse to admit that the scenery and the cars, the rooms and all their accoutrements, and those costumes weren’t fabulous enticements to keep watching?

Anna Smith, Ethel Parks, Gwen Dawson, and Jane Moorsum, Maids. Season 1, 1912-1919. "Black cotton maid's dress with white lace trim and cotton apron" Lady Mary Crawley, Season 1, 1913: "Silk evening dress with net overlay and black and silver starbursts. Worn at dinner for Matthew's dinner at Downton."

Anna Smith, Ethel Parks, Gwen Dawson, and Jane Moorsum, Maids. Season 1, 1912-1919. “Black cotton maid’s dress with white lace trim and cotton apron” Lady Mary Crawley, Season 1, 1913: “Silk evening dress with net overlay and black and silver starbursts. Worn at dinner for Matthew’s dinner at Downton.”

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Did anybody really live like that?

Apparently, yes. Some of the garments in this show, or parts of them, are original to the period.

Jack Ross, American jazz musician and singer. Season 4, 1922. "Formal evening suit. Worn during Jack Ross's performance at the Lotus Jazz Club in London." Lady Rose MacClare. Season 4, 1922-1923. "Silk velvet evening dress, original to the period, decorated with glass beads and sequins. Worn at supper and at an 'at home' party in London."

Jack Ross, American jazz musician and singer. Season 4, 1922. “Formal evening suit. Worn during Jack Ross’s performance at the Lotus Jazz Club in London.” Lady Rose MacClare. Season 4, 1922-1923. “Silk velvet evening dress, original to the period, decorated with glass beads and sequins. Worn at supper and at an ‘at home’ party in London.”

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Still, I found it just barely credible that people, if only a relative few, had such amazingly intricate handmade clothes.

Mrs. Hughes, housekeeper. Season 1, 1912-1914. "Black silk and wool dress with cream lace trim. Worn while working at Downton."

Mrs. Hughes, housekeeper. Season 1, 1912-1914. “Black silk and wool dress with cream lace trim. Worn while working at Downton.”

Yes, I know a little about bespoke suits and all, having had a backstage peek at some of Savile Row’s tailoring workrooms. But a hand-stitched custom suit could be worn for many years and even be handed down to an heir.  That clothing seems like a sensible investment, with the cost spread out over many wearings.

Left: (No information--sorry!) Right: Sir Richard Carlisle, Season 2, 1917-1920. "Three-piece wool herringbone suit and wool coat. Worn while walking and during a shooting party at Downton."

Left: (Missed getting the information–sorry!) Right: Sir Richard Carlisle, Season 2, 1917-1920. “Three-piece wool herringbone suit and wool coat. Worn while walking and during a shooting party at Downton.”

Thomas Barrow, William Mason, James "Jimmy" Kent, and Alfred Nugent, Footmen. Season 1-4, 1912-1923. "Wool and cotton footman's livery. Worn while working at Downton."

Thomas Barrow, William Mason, James “Jimmy” Kent, and Alfred Nugent, Footmen. Season 1-4, 1912-1923. “Wool and cotton footman’s livery. Worn while working at Downton.”

But who would dare to be seen in some of these stunning gowns more than once?  Maybe nobody; I don’t know.

Left: Martha Levinson, Season 3, 1920. "Evening dress of devore (burnout) silk velvet in layers. Worn at the indoor picnic, which Mrs. Levinson suggests when disaster strikes the kitchen oven." Center: Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham. Season 3, 1920. "Olive salon evening dress with black chiffon overdress, partially original to the period. Worn at the indoor picnic." Right: Lady Edith Crawley. Season 3, 1920. "Silk evening dress. Worn at the indoor picnic."

Left: Martha Levinson, Season 3, 1920. “Evening dress of devore (burnout) silk velvet in layers. Worn at the indoor picnic, which Mrs. Levinson suggests when disaster strikes the kitchen oven.” Center: Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham. Season 3, 1920. “Olive salon evening dress with black chiffon overdress, partially original to the period. Worn at the indoor picnic.” Right: Lady Edith Crawley. Season 3, 1920. “Silk evening dress. Worn at the indoor picnic.”

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So, after the stunning gown was worn once, then what?

I’m just curious.

Left: Madeleine Allsopp, Season 4, 1923. "Silk satin gown with attached beaded panels. Worn by Madeleine Allsopp, when she and Rose are presented at Court."

Left: Madeleine Allsopp, Season 4, 1923. “Silk satin gown with attached beaded panels. Worn by Madeleine Allsopp, when she and Rose are presented at Court.”

I’m sure a lot is known–and volumes and volumes have been written–on the whole cycle of creating and wearing fashion over the generations. And I will bet that 95 percent of that writing centers on the designers, models, and the clientele.

Martha Levinson. (Sorry, I missed photographing the museum label.)

Martha Levinson. (Sorry, I missed photographing the museum label.)

Sorry, but as a maker, I want to know much more about the makers of the original garments and of these gorgeous facsimiles.img_0438-264x460

Who was "S. Hawes"?

Who was “S. Hawes”?

Just the other day I started reading Kevin McCloud’s Principles of Home: Making a Place to Live. I really like Kevin McCloud’s books on color and on lighting, which combine concepts and practical applications so beautifully.

In his introduction to Principles of Home McCloud writes,

I think we have lost touch with the made world. We have forgotten how difficult and time-consuming it is to make something; how hard it is to make an elegant table out of a tree or a spoon out of metals dug out of the ground and refined. Our sensibilities to craftsmanship have been eroded by high-quality machine manufacturing; our tactile sense has been debased by artificial materials pretending to be something that they are not. Our attention, meanwhile, has been diverted by the virtual built worlds that exist inside screens. The landscapes of gaming and avatar worlds, for instance, are not complicated by the inconvenient messiness of the real world. In them, stuff, narratives, buildings and people are both perfect and disposable.

The real world is not perfect and it’s not disposable. In the real world, things and people age and decompose. The real, tangible world is much harder to make, more difficult to maintain and unpleasant to recycle. Which may explain why so many people seek solace in virtual worlds, even it it’s just by watching a soap opera on TV.

Uh oh. Could he be referring to Downton Abbey, the greatest soap opera of them all?

Lady Mary Crawley, Season 1, 1913-1914. "Dark red silk evening dress, partially original to the period. Worn at dinner on the night of the hunt with Mr. Napier and the Turkish diplomat."

Lady Mary Crawley, Season 1, 1913-1914. “Dark red silk evening dress, partially original to the period. Worn at dinner on the night of the hunt with Mr. Napier and the Turkish diplomat.”

I am really of two minds about Downton Abbey. It’s fiction, but based on lots of actual practices and set in real places.  The vast wealth, the cultural assumptions and expectations, and the intricate etiquette are so abstract to me. But the material culture–the buildings, the rooms, the furnishings, and the clothes–are quite concrete.

Lady Sybil Crawley, Season 3, 1920. "Velvet maternity dress, with gold embroidered borders original to the period. First worn at dinner when Lady Sybil and Tom Branson return to Downton."

Lady Sybil Crawley, Season 3, 1920. “Velvet maternity dress, with gold embroidered borders original to the period. First worn at dinner when Lady Sybil and Tom Branson return to Downton.”

Cora Crawley, Countess of Grantham. Season 3, 1920. "Cream dress and coat with embroidered floral borders, made from vintage fabric. Worn at Lady Edith's first wedding."

Cora Crawley, Countess of Grantham. Season 3, 1920. “Cream dress and coat with embroidered floral borders, made from vintage fabric. Worn at Lady Edith’s first wedding.”

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You would think, then, that I would find the clothes believable. But I walked around the show shaking my head in disbelief. They are so far from what I’ve ever experienced. I’ve never worn a dress weighted with glittering beads, nor have I ever had the ambition to.

Cora Crawley, Season 2, 1916-1917. "Dress with original ivory silk center panel beaded with glass diamonds, pearls, and seed beads; and green velvet jacket. Worn at the charity concert for the hospital."

Cora Crawley, Season 2, 1916-1917. “Dress with original ivory silk center panel beaded with glass diamonds, pearls, and seed beads; and green velvet jacket. Worn at the charity concert for the hospital.”

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However, there was one detail of one costume I found utterly charming: a pocket on a (relatively) utilitarian garment, worn by Edith to do work around the Downton property.

Lady Edith Crawley, Season 2, 1917-1918. "Wool cord breeches, brushed cotton blouse, and linen jacket with contrasting velvet trim. Worn during Lady Edith's work on the farm."

Lady Edith Crawley, Season 2, 1917-1918. “Wool cord breeches, brushed cotton blouse, and linen jacket with contrasting velvet trim. Worn during Lady Edith’s work on the farm.”

(You won’t find me gardening or cleaning out the barn in a linen jacket, with or without velvet trim, but indulge me in this one illusion.)

I love this pocket.

I love this pocket.

I love this pocket, for its utility, and simplicity, and originality.  And comforting familiarity.img_0435-451x460

While I can appreciate elaborate clothing, and I was happy to attend the Downton Abbey show to see it up close, I believe it will be Edith’s linen jacket with those wonderful pockets that will leave the deepest impression on me.

Our visit to the exhibition ended with a visit to the room reserved for members, where we discovered to our delight  life-size cardboard cutouts of Lord and Lady Grantham and the Dowager Countess.

My sister Donna plays Lady Grantham; with me as Violet, the dowager duchess; and my sister Cynthia as Lord Grantham.

My sister Donna plays Lady Grantham; with me as Violet, the dowager duchess; and my sister Cynthia as Lord Grantham.

I’m sure the Dowager would not have been amused.

“Dressing Downton: Changing Fashion for Changing Times,” is at the Taft Museum through September 25.

Paron Fabrics, NYC: A Scrapbook

Readers,

Thursday evening I found myself saying “Nooooooo…!” to the computer screen as I read the news on Peter Lappin’s blog, Male Pattern Boldness, that Paron Fabrics in New York’s Garment District was closing in just a matter of days.

August 2013

August 2013

Dozens of readers have left comments expressing their sadness at the passing of another source of beautiful, reasonably priced fabrics and nice service.

Since 1940!

Since 1940!

When Paron Fabrics started, this pattern was in the current catalogue.

When Paron Fabrics started, this pattern was in the current catalogue.

If there is one type of information I can recall with mind-numbing precision it’s where and when I bought each fabric in my stash.  As I read about Paron’s folding I thought of the happy hours I had spent browsing its yardage on numerous visits and clearly recalled the three pieces of fabric that came home with me over the years.

The first fabric I bought, back in May, 2003, turned out to be even more special than I ever expected it to be.

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Yesterday, digging around in a file folder of New York trip souvenirs, I found this account of that morning spent shopping the Garment District:

Before lunch I fit in one more store–the Paron Fabrics annex, where every bolt was 50% off the lowest ticketed price.  Somehow, it’s a lot more exciting to see an Italian wool with the original $24/yard price marked down to $12 than to see only “$12/yard.”

Having become very particular, I fingered wools and scrutinized colors waiting to see something sensational, not merely beautiful. A red and gold Italian herringbone wool, reduced to $12/yard, fit the bill. Really wonderful, rich colors. I imagined another 1936 suit made up in this fabric.

The saleswoman easily talked me into buying the rest of the bolt when I’d wanted only 2 1/2 yards. I ended up with 5 1/2 yards, but she charged me for just 5. She said, “You can make a gift of the rest to a friend who sews.”img_0924-2-460x53

I briefly reflected sadly on my dearth of friends who sew but thought I could make a dress, a weskit, or a winter coat with contrast facings. Maybe a hat.

Looking back, I now see how optimistic I was to buy such a distinctive fabric that would call for greater skill than I’d had before to do justice to its beauty. Only two months earlier I had started working with a really good sewing teacher. Edith’s guidance paved the way for me to sew much, much better, and to buy beautiful fabrics with more confidence.

It wasn’t until 2010, however, that I worked up the nerve to cut into the Italian wool.  I challenged myself to sew an entry for the Minnesota Make It With Wool competition.  I did finish the jacket and skirt ensemble in time but didn’t participate in the contest. (It was a couple of hours’ drive from Minneapolis–in December–and the day of the contest there was a blizzard, so I wasn’t sorry I had withdrawn my entry.)

However, my jacket did end up in the Reader’s Closet feature in the August/September 2012 issue of Threads magazine. That was gratifying.img_0930-330x460

And now my jacket takes pride of place on my home page.

My next Paron’s purchase came in July 2010.  It was a Swiss cotton plaid shirting in colors that suggested watermelons and sunny summer skies: pink, green, white, watermelon-seed black, and blue.  img_0931-460x345

It said, “Take me home and make me into a shirt for Jack!”

So I did.img_0914-460x370The last piece of fabric I bought at Paron’s was in late June this year.

Jack and I were visiting friends in Westchester County and took the train down to Manhattan for the day.  From Grand Central Station we made Paron’s our first destination.

This time I wanted us to look at shirtings together, hoping that Jack would find something he’d really like.  And he did.  He unhesitatingly reached for a bold, large-scaled yellow, black and white plaid.img_0916-345x460

I liked it, too.

It was fun to look at the shirtings together, fun to discuss the merits of several, and fun to see Jack pick the one to come home with us.

Most of all it was fun for me to be able to say to Jack, “Pick anything you like, and I will sew you a new shirt!”

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Reading of Paron’s closing made me realize that it had become a not-to-miss place to visit when I was in Manhattan.  In its unassuming way, it had assumed an important place in my life.

When I see Jack in either of these shirts I think back to my happy memories of buying the yardage at Paron’s.

The same goes for my 1936 McCall jacket. I vaguely remembered that I bought more yardage than I needed and that the saleslady was very nice to me. But I had forgotten her generosity and her suggestion. I’m glad I wrote down that story to find again, thirteen years later.

I could so easily lose myself in a nostalgic remembrance of temps perdu, but–

I still have a sizeable piece of that Italian wool waiting to be turned into something wonderful.

img_0929-460x339And now I have a stash of vintage buttons, many on their original cards from at least the 1950s, patiently waiting for me to wake up from my sentimental torpor and put them to work.

img_0927-460x345I can’t go back to Paron’s, and I can’t save it from closing.  But I can build on what Paron’s has given me.

Paron Fabrics: To this sewing friend, you were the gift.  Thank you.

Guest Blogger: Our Advice Columnist, Miss GTS

Miss GTS: The official advice columnist for Getting Things Sewn

Miss GTS: The official advice columnist for Getting Things Sewn

If the writer of this blog has been somewhat elusive,

And more than a little aloof and reclusive,

It’s only because she has been on sabbatical

Attempting to superintend projects radical

To transform a house locked in 1958ness

Into an abode that is destined for greatness.

Our fixer-upper.

Our fixer-upper.

 

Warned her sister, “Of tobacco this dwelling does reek,

And I fear that its outlook’s no better than bleak.

I’d love to have you in the neighborhood

But this house’s call for labor would

Give pause to mighty Hercules!

So– I ask you, please,

Consider other properties!”

 

Auditioning condo, flat, and house

Separately and with Jack, her spouse,

Hourly checking Zillow online,

Flying down to Ohio from time to time,

Such possibilities our blogger weighed,

But naught else ever made the grade.

 

Meanwhile, “The Reeker” on the market stayed.

Wallpaper with a cocktail theme on the walls down to the basement rec room.

Wallpaper with a cocktail theme on the walls down to the basement rec room.

 

Her sister said, “I know a builder

Whom this house would not bewilder.

Should he walk through and give opinion

Whether this could be your next dominion?”

 

Verdict: “The Reeker” was ugly, but sound:

Improvements were “doable,” he said, but profound.

The sale was negotiated and house was won,

And that’s when the adventure was really begun.

 

To freshen each surface by cigarettes tainted

With gallons of primer Jack painted–and painted.

If the cigarette smell was bad in the house, it was even worse in the garage.

If the cigarette smell was bad in the house, it was even worse in the garage.

 

Then followed the guy to change locks on the doors

And men armed with sanders to finish the floors.

The chimney was swept and the radon abated,

Termites were found and then exterminated.

The furnace was checked; gas leaks eliminated;

AC was replaced, and walls were insulated.

 

Drained was the yard and then pruned was the tree,

Driveway resurfaced; and from AT&T,

Came service for Internet, phone, and TV.

 

But all this was only the warmup, you see.

 

For after the house was safe and sound

Came the decorating round.

 

Our blogger’s new haunt was the hardware store

Where she gathered and scrutinized paint chips galore.

Hypnotized, online for hours she’d browse

Millions of pictures and stories on Houzz.

 

She tried to continue to blog without failing,

Doing a series on Kenneth King’s Smart Tailoring,

Chronicling her jacket–while just down the hallway

The carpenter’s crowbar made bathroom walls fall away.

The upstairs bathroom, staged for sale.

The upstairs bathroom, staged for sale.

The upstairs bathroom, gutted.

The upstairs bathroom, gutted.

The upstairs bathroom, nearing completion.

The upstairs bathroom, nearing completion.

 

But while plumbers were fighting to vanquish corrosion

She found that her focus was suffering erosion.

 

She had to be ready to issue decisions

And equally ready to offer revisions;

She was on alert for doorbell, phone, and text

And was constantly thinking about what to do next.

She tutored herself how to execute floor plans,

And more plans, and more plans, and more plans–and more plans!

 

The basement remodeled, the first bathroom followed,

And in a new welter of choices she wallowed.

And although home designers are heavily vaunted,

There wasn’t a one who could say what she wanted.

None else could define and refine her dreams

And turn them into living schemes.

The basement rec room when the house was staged for sale.

The basement rec room when the house was staged for sale.

The basement remodel.

The basement remodel.

Basement: Clean and bright.

Basement: Clean and bright.

 

She warmed to her task; she plunged into the deep end

And, bathyscaphe-like, she started to descend

Into memories of objects and places she’d been

That expressed an essential sensation within,

Then translated the feelings to physical objects–

And dozens, and dozens–and dozens of projects!

 

Still a bathroom to go, and the big one–the kitchen–

Were lined up on the runway, and our blogger was itching

To do those jobs justice. But ‘twould court disaster

To think she could serve any more than one master.

 

So she promised her blog she’d be back, with a wink,

And turned her attention to choosing a sink

And countertops and enough appliances

To support all the major domestic sciences.

 

But she also imagined the feeling and mood

She wanted when they were preparing their food,

And the smell of their coffee, in dim morning light,

And the rituals of closing their kitchen each night,

And what colors and patterns ideally expressed

Generosity, civility, and happiness.

Where, and how, might I use these colors, patterns, and combinations in our house?

Where, and how, might I use these colors, patterns, and combinations in our house?

 

Meanwhile, her blog waited and silently beckoned,

For her to pick up where she’d stopped, and she reckoned

She’d start again “soon,” but–not just this second.

 

I watched all this, Readers, with unblinking gaze–

The heartening progress and dreaded delays.

The kitchen got done; second bathroom did, too.

Before: the kitchen

The kitchen, when the house was staged for sale.

The kitchen, nearing completion.

The kitchen, nearing completion, before the linoleum floor was installed.

Downstairs bathroom, staged for sale.

Downstairs bathroom, staged for sale.

Downstairs bathroom, nearing completion.

Downstairs bathroom, nearing completion.

The dust having settled, now I sought a clue:

I wondered if she would return to her pace

Or suffer from more than a little malaise.

 

So I thought I’d inquire and make my view plain,

And I walked to the door of her sewing domain.

In that doorway I stood with my arms akimbo

And simply asked, “When are you leaving this limbo?

Your mannequin, Ginger, is de-energized,

And if she had a head she’d be rolling her eyes.

Ginger the mannequin has been wearing the same outfit for months!

Ginger the mannequin has been wearing the same outfit for months!

And readers are asking about your demise–

(I suspect that they’re angling to buy your supplies…)

And my job is saying a word to the wise,

But these last twelve long months I’ve had none to advise!”

 

“We’re all in the doldrums, we all seek employment–

And doing our work would restore our enjoyment.”

 

Emboldened, I said, “Please forgive me for prodding,”

(And I’d swear in the corner that Ginger was nodding),

“I refrain from advising without invitation,

But I’d like to help you defeat hesitation.

You’ve been in the thrall of this house long enough:

It’s time that you wrote about sewing your stuff.”

 

“You’re becalmed at the moment; it’s hard to get traction

When you are inactive instead of in action.

The bulk of your work on the house is now finished;

Its gravitational pull is diminished.

The blog’s pull is weak now–but starting to strengthen;

Your concentration’s beginning to lengthen.

I sense your momentum may be in the wings

If you just give your flywheel a few good, strong spins.”

 

At this point, dear Readers, did I descry

A glimmer return to our blogger’s eye?

 

“Your blog’s a UFO, that’s all,

And I should hope that you would recall

My prudent counsel to get things sewn

Is to do it yourself–but not do it alone.”

 

“Engage the right expert to see your way through,

And as I’ve said before, the right expert is you.

This blog’s entirely your invention–

You know your goal and your intention.”

 

“For months I’ve seen you lay the groundwork

For lovelier and even more profound work.

You sewed living room drapes, for heaven’s sake,

And shirts for Jack that take the cake!

Curtain rings, brackets, and finials being painted for the living room drapery project.

Curtain rings, brackets, and finials being painted for the living room drapery project.

Testing out spacing pleats for the living room draperies.

Testing out spacing pleats for the living room draperies.

You finally came round to fitting and altering

Without histrionics, or fainting, or faltering.

What’s more, you’ve been sewing many a muslin–

The number must be approaching a dozlen!”

 

“Well, that all is quite true,” said our writer, blinking,

And I believe I divined that the old girl was thinking.

 

“So you are getting things sewn, but not all the way,

What I tell you’s the truth, or I’ll eat my beret:

You’re a writer who sews, and you don’t fully digest

Until you’ve attempted a jokey or wry jest

And through your efforts to others explain

To inform or at least to entertain.”

 

“Writing’s your real game, so spring off that bench

And stitch up that lounge robe or jacket or trench,

Then proceed to report upon how it all ended,

Reaping double rewards from your efforts expended.”

 

I rested my case with a voice magisterial:

“Sewing bloggers,” said I, “never lack for material;

I know you’ve the house–and Italian, now, too–

But you’re never alone–we are here to help you.”

This past January Jack and I started studying Italian together at Ohio State University.

This past January Jack and I started studying Italian together at Ohio State University.

 

Our writer looked hopeful; I gave her a fist bump.

 

And if Ginger had arms she’d have given a fist pump.

She told me her old clothes were itchy and riling,

That she was impatient for new clothes and styling–

 

And if she had a head, I believe she’d be smiling.

The muslin of this McCall's "Misses' Lounging Robe" from 1951

The muslin of this McCall’s “Misses’ Lounging Robe” from 1951

And here is the illustration.

And here is the illustration.

A Perfect Vintage Jacket

Readers,

Last week I brought home a very special souvenir of Jack’s and my visit to Portland, Oregon: a vintage jacket with a mysterious past. GTS-Pendleton-jacket_2941 (460x432)It came from a lovely little shop, Living Threads Vintage, on Taylor Street opposite the Multnomah County central library.

I was actually on my way to the Button Emporium next door, which an antique dealer had recommended to me, but I couldn’t resist stopping to examine the dress hanging on a mannequin outside Living Threads. IMG_9753 (345x460)

And the next thing I knew, I was chatting with Christine Taylor,IMG_9752 (345x460) co-owner with her husband, Travis, while browsing a rack of jackets.

In short order I was telling myself there would be no harm in trying on this very interesting jacket made from Pendleton wool.GTS-Pendleton-jacket_2943 (460x307)This jacket intrigued me–and Christine, too–and we both wondered who made it, when, and for whom. It was beautifully made and in perfect condition.

GTS-Pendleton-jacket_2900 (436x460)

The seaming and darting are so beautiful.

The front facing is finished so elegantly.

The front facing is finished elegantly.

Was this jacket custom-made by a dressmaker or tailor for a specific customer?

Or could this have been sewn as a sample for a clothing line, never manufactured, instead ending up languishing in an archive for decades? We may never know.GTS-Pendleton-jacket_2894 (313x460)

The buttons were fantastic.  I admired the bold and yet restrained combination of buttons, fabric, and garment style. They seemed to be made for each other.  GTS-Pendleton-jacket_2907 (460x381)

GTS-Pendleton-jacket_2955 (460x307) I would love to work out such wonderful combinations using the buttons I’ve bought at vintage fashion fairs and shops in the UK and Europe. It’s so inspiring to learn from real-life examples.

We wondered when this jacket was made. Could it have been the late ’50s, when more patterns were appearing without the cinched waist?

Another great in my pattern pantheon.

From 1959, this has a big collar and an unbelted version. I made the leopard-collar version a couple of years ago.

The fabric suggested 1940s or 1950s to me. This Pendleton wool was the color–no, colors–of stone-ground cornmeal, with beautiful variegations of grays or browns.

My trusty 3 in 1 Color Tool suggests that this yellow has been lightened with white and shaded with gray.

My trusty 3 in 1 Color Tool suggests that this yellow has been lightened with white and shaded with gray.

The tag read “Extra Small.” The fit was nearly perfect on me–a rare occurrence.GTS-Pendleton-jacket_2954 (307x460)

I love a big collar–and this one could be worn a couple of ways: wider and flatter,GTS-Pendleton-jacket_2918 (312x460) or higher and closer to the face. Interesting.GTS-Pendleton-jacket_2891 (303x460)

Christine liked this intriguing Pendleton jacket on me, too. Still, I wanted another opinion, and I knew where to find it: at the Heathman Hotel, just a few minutes’ walk away. That’s where most of Jack’s fellow Peace Corps members and their wives were staying for our biannual reunion.

I told Christine I’d be back shortly with my friend Rosa to make a final decision. At the hotel, I managed to snag not one but three judges–Rosa, Dora, and Kathryn–who eagerly returned with me to see the shop and the mystery jacket.

Even though I modeled the jacket for my review community over a summery white t-shirt and seersucker pants, the vote was a unanimous and enthusiastic YES. Okay, so there was a little extra room in the shoulders; I could live with that, we agreed.

The inside is perfect. This seems never to have been worn.

The inside is perfect. This seems never to have been worn.

Back home, I pondered what garments I could pair with this jacket to create outfits. Tops, skirts and pants should be simple, I thought, to support this jacket in its starring role.

I scooped up some hats, gloves, and an alligator bag and made the two-minute journey to my sister’s photo studio, where I experimented in front of the camera.

First, with a beret in a hard-to-pin-down mushroom brown color that went with the shading in the fabric:

GTS-Pendleton-jacket_2959 (207x460)

The sleeves are longer than three-quarters length, but short enough to call for longer gloves. I wouldn’t mind laying in a supply of long vintage gloves. It’s interesting to me that although the collar points down, I perceive the collar as bringing the eye up, which is a big plus. I can’t explain why, but the shape and color of the beret look right to me as part of this ensemble.

Next, a kind of Loden green felt hat, maybe a cousin of a Homburg. (I bought this Eric Javits hat in 1990, I think.)

GTS-Pendleton-jacket_2970 (244x460)

Carrying my pretend purse. I will never make a living as a mime.

The color of the hat is nice with the jacket, but the shape is not. There’s no relationship with the jacket.

How about with this burgundy rabbit-felt hat by Ignatius Creegan? I love this hat.

GTS-Pendleton-jacket_2977 (270x460)

There’s my purse! Much better!

The combo is promising and worth pursuing. I see burgundy gloves in my future.

Next up: a Harris tweed hat I bought at a vintage stall in East London on a chilly, drizzly Sunday a few years ago. Quite the workhorse, this hat, keeping me warm, dry and moderately fashionable through several winters.

GTS-Pendleton-jacket_2986 (238x460)I think this is a nice combination.

That I could wear a plain neutral beret; a luxurious, plush, rich-colored felt cloche; or a rough-textured plaid tweed fedora with this style and color of jacket was quite exciting.

Lastly, I tried a whimsical beret in an eye-popping orange-red.

GTS-Pendleton-jacket_2999 (339x460)

Both items had plenty of personality but seemed willing to work together.

A jacket that can deliver on whimsicality, practicality, and beauty, too? That’s something worth celebrating!

GTS-Pendleton-jacket_3000 (299x460)

Whee!

GTS-Pendleton-jacket_3002 (300x460)

And with this silliness, this photo shoot is now concluded.

After spending decades in storage, it’s time this jacket started doing its job in the world, don’t you think?  I certainly do.

Thanks to Cynthia DeGrand for studio photography.

Class: Tailoring Details with Kenneth D. King

Readers,

That humming sound you hear is coming from my head, which is still spinning from spending last weekend at Janie’s Sewing Corner in Cleveland, Ohio.

Students gather around Kenneth for a closer look.

Students gather around Kenneth for a closer look.

That’s where I joined 31 fellow sewers to see Threads magazine contributing editor, adjunct professor at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology, and self-described “couturier to the stars” Kenneth D. King demonstrate tailoring and couture techniques for about 11 packed hours spread over two days.

The class description on Janie’s website read, “Kenneth will teach a workshop on tailoring details, focusing on old-school techniques the first day and more modern techniques the second day.”

Actually, Kenneth led off on Day 1 with his “new school” tailoring innovations–not that it mattered, since nearly all of us had signed up for both days.

I had e-mailed Kenneth earlier in the week:

Hello Kenneth,
I thought I would drop you a line to say how much I look forward to meeting you Saturday and Sunday at Janie’s Sewing Corner.

I also wanted to tell you that I bought Smart Tailoring the day it was announced on the Taunton website, and made a jacket following your “old school” methods. I was going to follow up with a “new school” jacket, but remained confused about the collar-lapel pattern adaptation, so I will learn from you this weekend and then produce a “new school” jacket—the first of many, I think.

I documented the process of making my jacket using Smart Tailoring on my blog, Getting Things Sewn. In this post, http://gettingthingssewn.com/tailoring-with-kenneth-king/ I explain why I took on this project.

Sewing is not easy for me, but I’m capable of good work, especially with expert help. I look forward to getting my questions answered this weekend!

Thank you, Kenneth,
Paula DeGrand

Minutes later Kenneth replied:

Hello, Paula,

Be sure to bring your pattern, and I’ll show how to adapt the under collar to the body for everyone else to learn….
See you this weekend!
Kenneth

Yippee!

So in class I was prepared when Kenneth asked me to retrieve the pattern pieces for the under collar and front of the pattern I was trying to adapt for a “new school” jacket. He pinned the front to his flip chart, and then pinned on the under collar at the notch on the neckline. He pinned the collar to the chart at a second point, showing a gap between the two pattern pieces.

I was watching intently and scribbling notes at the same time and didn’t even think to take a picture. Here are my notes, in their entirety:IMG_9636 (460x192)Okay: “gap…curve…take out there…add back here…make a muslin…my jacket does have a peaked lapel…this adaptation does work for peaked lapels…” I have fragments here, but not a clear picture.

I don’t write fast enough, and I barely grasp patternmaking principles, which are both big impediments in a fast-paced sewing class.

In short,  it is still a mystery to me how to combine the under collar and the front into a single pattern piece to simplify making a notched collar. How to “finesse some of that gap” remains beyond my grasp. I doubt a photo of the flip chart would have provided the solution to my puzzlement. I needed one-on-one instruction, and that wasn’t going to happen with 31 classmates that day.

The undercollar and front are a single piece, removing a seam and therefore bulk. Notice--no seamline between undercollar and front. The line of stitching is holding the stay tape along the roll line.

See this? No seamline between the undercollar and the front, which means one fewer pesky, bulky seam to deal with. This is the result I want to achieve with my own jacket pattern pieces.

When I do adapt my pattern at last, I’ll post a step-by-step process. Promise!

(See my previous three posts to read about attempting to adapt my pattern.)

On both days Kenneth taught at a steady, swift pace, frequently checking our faces for comprehension. One time I must have been staring back blankly, because he asked again if I was following him, and I said “I’ll have to practice to lock in the knowledge.” It was an honest answer, and it seemed to satisfy him.

When I looked at my notes I was astonished at all the ground Kenneth covered. For example:

  • How to make a muslin framework to suspend canvas inside a jacket front, providing support but avoiding bulky seams
  • How to tape a roll line and machine-stitch it in place through the canvas and fashion fabric

    The stay tape is stitched in place through the canvas and fashion fabric along the roll line.

    The stay tape is stitched in place through the canvas and fashion fabric along the roll line.

  • How to steam, press, and baste in the turn of cloth in a lapel
  • How to stitch a notched collar with a minimum of bulk, avoiding the usual “train wreck” of seams meeting in one place

    A notched collar "new school" style.

    A notched collar “new school” style.

  • How to make mitered cuffs
  • How to make a “hidden pocket” in a jacket front lining
  • How to remove bulk from a pocket flap pattern piece by cleverly relocating the seams
    The "origami" pocket flap means no bulk at the edges because the seam allowances have been shifted out of sight. This is the back.

    The “origami” pocket flap means no bulk at the edges because the seam allowances have been shifted out of sight. This is the back.

    This is the front of the flap. The edges are free of bulk.

    This is the front of the flap. The edges are free of bulk.

  • How to make a bulk-free seams and welt pockets in nonravelly materials like felt or leather
    Sketching a pocket for nonravelly materials like felt and leather.

    Sketching a pocket for nonravelly materials like felt and leather.

    The pocket in felt. Nice.

    The pocket in felt. Nice.

    The pocket bag of the felt pocket.

    The pocket bag of the felt pocket.

  • When a three-piece sleeve is better than a two-piece
  • How to draft a notched lapel from a shawl lapel
  • How to reason out the proportions of a garment in a fashion illustration or photograph from knowing the average neck-to-shoulder seam measurement and knowing that the elbow bends at the natural waist.
  • How to make a surgeon’s style jacket cuff with working buttonholes
    Surgeon's cuff, with working buttonholes.

    Surgeon’s cuff, with working buttonholes.

    The surgeon's cuff, neatly finished inside.

    The surgeon’s cuff, neatly finished inside.

  • How to make bound buttonholes and welt pockets of consistent dimensions and quality

    Kenneth  demonstrated bound buttonholes and neatly finishing the facing. That's silk organza.

    Kenneth demonstrated bound buttonholes and neatly finishing the facing. That’s silk organza.

  • How to smoothly install an invisible zipper
  • How to make fell stitches, tailor bastes, and pad stitches
  • How to stay curves even before cutting out the pattern piece
  • Why cut some seam allowances 1 inch wide and how to press out the ripples along the edges
  • How to make a Hong Kong finish the couture way

Both days Kenneth produced samples from scratch or finished ones he’d started and then passed them around for us to scrutinize and photograph.

Kenneth King demonstrated sewing a notched collar, "new school" style.

Kenneth King demonstrated sewing a notched collar, “new school” style.

What a nice looking felt collar.

What a nice looking felt collar.

He brought several jackets, familiar to users of his DVDs, books, and Threads articles, that we could look at inside and out.

The "new school" jacket that appears in the Smart Tailoring DVD.

The “new school” jacket that appears in the Smart Tailoring DVD.

His tool bag lay open on the table. It was fun to see the tools he had amassed or created over the years and how he used them.

Kenneth King's tool bag.

Kenneth King’s tool bag.

I’d never heard of a Florian pinker. “Pinking shears tend to chew some fabrics,” Kenneth said, as many of us nodded in agreement. When I saw how neatly this gadget trimmed edges, I wanted one for myself.

The Florian pinker

The Florian pinker

IMG_9604 (460x273)

“I’m all about having the right tool for the job,” Kenneth told us, and sometimes that means adapting a tool to improve it. He did not hesitate or apologize when removing a spring mechanism from a zipper foot, pronouncing it useless, and dropping it with a “plunk!” into the wastebasket.

We got more advice on equipment, tools, and supplies:

  • Don’t use a Teflon ironing board cover, which repels moisture rather than allowing steam to move through a garment
  • Collect and use good pieces of pressing equipment–tailors’ hams, a point presser, a clapper, sleeve rolls, a sleeve board
  • Get a really good iron. (Kenneth has a Reliable i600, which has amazing steam–and runs up an equally amazing electric bill.)
  • Have at least one pair of Gingher tailors’ scissors, and ship them back to Gingher to be sharpened.
  • A vacuum table? “Not really. Good for a dry cleaner. Too much for me.”
  • Use a trimmed shaving brush to remove chalk markings.
  • Iron thread for hand sewing, and it won’t twist
  • “Don’t cheap out on needles.”

Then there was the quotable Kenneth:

  • “I wasn’t formally trained except for patternmaking.”
  • “Know the rules.”
  • “Know when to break the rules.”
  • “I’m not wild about wearable art.” In couture, the wearer is more important than the garment; with wearable art the garment is more important than the wearer, he said.
  • “I believe in spending the time you need to get a beautiful result.”
  • “I’m lazy–I don’t want to do any more than I have to.”
  • “You need to put your time in where it shows.”
  • I’m very much about repeatable and reliable.”
  • “I’m known for handouts at FIT.” (And at Janie’s, too: We all got to take home a CD of Kenneth’s ten handouts for the classes.)

    Drafting a notched-collar jacket from a shawl collar pattern. Kenneth makes it look easy.

    Drafting a notched-collar jacket from a shawl collar pattern. Kenneth makes it look easy.

  • “When it’s all said and done, if it gives you a good result, it’s correct.”
  • “There’s this whole thing on directional sewing…” Kenneth disagrees: “I have a life…”
  • “A lot of Bemberg lining you can read a newspaper through, and I hate that.”
  • A tedious or time-consuming task is “a nosebleed.”
  • “I tell my students, ‘I started when I was 4; I’m 57–do the math.”
  • Sewing purists who endlessly debate fine points are “clutching their pearls” or “wrapped around the axle.”
  • Quoting Fred Astaire: “If you make the same mistake long enough, they assume it’s your style.”

Miscellaneous facts:

  • Kenneth takes his own photos for his Threads articles.
  • His next DVD in Threads’ “Smart” series will be about sewing fake fur.
  • He loves Fortuny fabric. (Shocking, I know.)
  • He takes a dim view of mimes.

Kenneth’s recommendations:

  • Better Dressmaking by Ruth Wyeth Spears is “one of those good all-around books from the forties.”
  • Check out the great content on Threads Insider, where Kenneth’s beautiful “bark coat” can be seen.
  • Support your local independent fabric store, which can provide supplies and services that the big chains can’t or won’t.
  • If you have a chance to take a class from Lynda Maynard, do it.

It’s been six days now since Tailoring Details with Kenneth King ended, and I’ve been thinking about what I got out of it.

  • I got to meet and listen to a master. I find being around any kind of mastery has a good effect on me.
  • I saw with my own eyes techniques demonstrated with successful results. (I am a little bit skeptical of most sewing directions–and directions in general.) I’m much more likely to try these techniques now.
  • I made, or renewed, the acquaintance of fellow sewers.
  • I bought myself an impressively large sleeve board.IMG_9632 (460x260)

It would be a shame, though, not to invest a little more effort to yield richer, longer-lasting rewards. Like:

  • Researching irons and buying a much better one
  • Making or buying the right ironing board cover
  • Seeing how far I could get following Kenneth’s handouts for his FIT students
  • Trying Kenneth’s bound buttonhole method
  • Trying his “origami” pocket flap, not only to reduce bulk but as a pattern-drafting exercise
  • Using my Threads and Threads Insider subscriptions more, and more strategically

And, most of all,

  • Continuing to amass experience and knowledge making jackets and coats.

Although I brought my “old school” jacket to class to show Kenneth and to ask questions about it, I may have given him a mistaken impression. If I had listed my specific questions in that e-mail earlier in the week, Kenneth probably would have woven those topics into his talk.

My jacket made following Kenneth's "old school" methods still needs a final press.

My jacket made following Kenneth’s “old school” methods still needs a final press.

Instead, my jacket waited in the wings and never got onstage. And when we wrapped up Sunday afternoon and Kenneth had a plane to catch, I thought it would be insensitive as well as untimely to press him for advice about–pressing, among other things.

But you know what? I’ll just look at my jacket again on my own and figure out what to do next.

Thanks, Janie! I'll be back!

Thanks, Janie! I’ll be back!

The Ripple Effect

Readers,

A few days ago I learned:

  • Kenneth King’s pattern adaptation for notched-collar jackets doesn’t work for peaked lapels.IMG_9104 (370x460)
  • I had picked a jacket pattern with a peaked lapel.IMG_9200 (334x460)
  • I was mistaken to think all peaked lapels look the same. They definitely don’t.

I so wanted to stop thinking about fusing jacket front and under collar pattern pieces into one piece.

Is this easy for an intermediate sewer like me?

Is this easy for an intermediate sewer like me?

I wanted to get down to the business of making a “new school” tailored jacket to pair with the “old school” one I’d made using Smart Tailoring.

Here's a jacket made with "old school" tailoring methods. I was planning to sew a "new method" companion to take to Kenneth King's class.

Here’s a jacket made with “old school” tailoring methods. I was planning to sew a “new method” companion to take to Kenneth King’s class.

But making the jacket any other way would not be “new school,” and I wouldn’t learn what I had set out to learn.

If I gave myself one more chance to learn this technique and succeeded, I’d still have four weeks to produce a “new school” jacket to bring to Kenneth’s class in Cleveland.

So I dug out yet another jacket pattern, one that I was pretty sure had a notched–not a peaked–lapel.  It’s McCall 7379. From 1933, the eBay vendor said.IMG_9224 (358x460)

Since only the pieces for View B were left, she listed the pattern for 99 cents. I snapped it up.IMG_9225 (303x460)

Yesterday I laid out the front and under collar pattern pieces.

The original pattern pieces, with the seam allowances.

The original pattern pieces, with the seam allowances.

The photocopied pattern pieces, with seam allowances cut off.

The pattern pieces photocopied onto tracing paper, with seam allowances cut off.

I sewed a muslin of the back, front, and under collar. It went together easily.IMG_9221 (460x345)I trimmed the seam allowances off the photocopied under collar piece and laid it on the muslin.

The under collar piece fits back onto the muslin, which is laid over a tailor's ham.

The under collar piece fits back onto the muslin, which is laid over a tailor’s ham.

As was expected, the under collar fit just fine, as it should.

Then I ripped out the back piece and laid out the front-under collar combo as flat as I could.

That didn’t mean it laid out perfectly flat, though. There was a ripple, which I could transfer from one place to another but couldn’t remove.

The ripple is between the shoulder seam and the dart.

The ripple is between the shoulder seam and the dart.

Now the rippled is between the dart and the lapel.

Now the ripple is between the dart and the lapel.

And this is where, once more, I found myself lost in a dark wood. I could not fathom what the rippled muslin pieces were telling me.

So a single, flat pattern piece, eliminating a bulky seam leading to a superior notched collar, remains beyond my grasp for a few more weeks.

In the meantime, I think I’ll sew up something from a tried and true pattern. I could use a change.

In Action is Better Than Inaction

Readers,

After I wrote my previous post, about how my plan to make a tailored jacket came to a grinding halt, I rallied. I posed my question in the PatternReview.com forum, Pattern Modifications, Design Changes & Pattern Drafting section:

I composed what I hoped would be a catchy title for my thread, “Success Using Kenneth King’s Notched Collar Adaptation?” Translation:

  • “Success.” We all want to know which instructions really, really work.
  • “Kenneth King.” He teaches online classes through Pattern Review and has an enthusiastic following.
  • “Notched Collar.” A thorn in the side of many sewers.
  • “Adaptation.” You mean there could be a better way? Tell me about it!

Then I wrote my question:

I am getting ready to make a jacket following Kenneth King’s “new school” method step by step on his Smart Tailoring DVD set. (I have only buttonholes left to do on a jacket that faithfully followed his “old school” method, which was quite successful. See my blog for the blow-by-blow.)
Here’s where I’m stuck–right at the beginning of my project. In this “new school” method you eliminate a seam and bulk from the notched collar by combining the front jacket pattern piece with the under collar piece. Kenneth illustrates this (briefly) in his April/May 2006 Threads article “A Notch Above,” which is also bonus material on the DVD. He also mentions this method on his Tailoring CD. I am NOT a natural at pattern-drafting, so I just could not fathom what to do and how to check my work.
Has anybody experienced success with Kenneth’s method? Any tricky parts to be aware of?
I will be taking Kenneth’s tailoring class in Cleveland in July so eventually I will get an answer with the amount of detail I need (which is a lot). However, I was hoping to produce another jacket before the class so I could test all the “new school” instructions and be ready with questions. Thanks for any help.

I hit Post Topic and then waited for replies to roll in.

Pretty soon a Pattern Review member answered. She was curious about this pattern-drafting trick, too.

Then another member wrote in. She scoured the Internet to help me, and found this photo, which she posted in the thread:

IMG_9988 (460x307)

Look familiar?

It’s a little strange to have a photo of a project from your own blog cited as the answer to your problem. But the intention was so very nice.

Even though I didn’t get a tidy little answer to my question, the tone of solicitude and interest from fellow sewers made me resolve to give this patternmaking method another try. I owed it to myself, and to my correspondents who were taking pains to ease me back onto the sewing road.

Sunday morning found me rifling through my patterns for another notched-collar jacket. I chose McCall 6425, a bolero jacket from 1946. I’ve been wanting to make this for years.IMG_9200 (334x460)

I traced off the front, back, and under collar and examined how the paper pieces fit together.IMG_9167 (297x460)

Then I made a muslin, and saw how the fabric pieces fit together.IMG_9177 (460x345)

Looking at my muslin through my light box--my homemade x-ray machine.

Looking at my muslin through my light box–my homemade x-ray machine.

I saw where the under collar intersected with the shoulder seam and transferred the marking to the pattern piece.

Matching the circle and the shoulder seam, I noticed that the seamline on the under collar was barely curved, while the front neckline was much more curved. The distance stitched was the same, though.

When I match the undercollar at the  circle and the shoulder seam, the stitching lines don't match.

When I match the undercollar at the circle and the shoulder seam, the stitching lines don’t match.

So, back to what I wanted to accomplish: combining the under collar and front. If the stitching lines don’t match, do I alter the under collar to compensate in some way? Transfer the difference to another edge? Does this make sense?

I was observing; I was reasoning, but I didn’t know the patternmaking principle to apply to this situation, so I was not solving the problem.

But something I had read on Kenneth King’s “Tailored Jacket” CD book came back to me. He describes eliminating the seam by combining the two pattern pieces, and then says,

An aside: This doesn’t work for peaked lapels, as the edges of the collar are too close together.

Then he shows a photo of a peaked lapel and a line drawing of the pattern pieces of a peaked lapel fitted together.

Peaked lapel. I traced this from Kenneth King's "Tailored Jacket" CD book and flipped it over.

Peaked lapel. I traced this from Kenneth King’s “Tailored Jacket” CD book and flipped it over.

I returned to my muslin and compared it with the drawing.

IMG_9165 (460x345)

The peak of chic.

Does my jacket have a peaked lapel? I’m thinking it does. At least, the pattern pieces are behaving like a peaked lapel.

After I’ve given my brain a good rest I may further investigate this matter of notched lapels, excluding those of the peaked kind.

Or I may wait a month. I will probably get all the information I need in a five- or ten-minute explanation and demo from Kenneth.

At least, Pattern Review correspondents, thanks to you, I made a good faith effort.

Take a peek at la belle in the swell peaked lapel.

Sneak a peek at la belle in the swell peaked lapel.

 

It’s Easy, All Right–If You Know How

Readers,

Yesterday I sewed my buttons–the ones I bought recently at Taylors Buttons in London–on my 1941 McCall “mannish jacket,” which I sewed according to Kenneth King’s “old school” method in his Smart Tailoring DVD set.

This still needs a good press. I think I'll ask Kenneth for pointers on how to do the job right.

This still needs a good press. I think I’ll ask Kenneth for pointers on how to do the job right.

They look just right. In coloring, size, and style they fit right in with this tweed.IMG_9091 (327x460)

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The buttons probably date from the 1940s, as does the McCall pattern.

That was very satisfying.

I haven’t decided whether to sew this button on the sleeve vents. Although Maureen at Taylors Buttons told me that Savile Row tailors have used the same size button on men’s jacket fronts and sleeves, I’m wondering whether doing that on my significantly smaller jacket would look odd.

Would one button this size look odd on this sleeve vent?

Would one button this size look out of proportion on a sleeve this size?

I think I’ll wait and ask my classmates when I take Kenneth King’s tailoring class in Cleveland the end of July.  They’ll be happy to weigh in. Then I’ll decide what to do.

In addition to resolving the sleeve button issue I also need to give this jacket a good press or take it to a reputable dry cleaner. But again, I thought it would be great to take advantage of Kenneth’s fund of knowledge. Maybe my jacket can be used as an example for pressing dos and don’ts.

So the tweed jacket is as done as it can be for now. Time to turn to part two of my Smart Tailoring DVD project: making another jacket, this time using Kenneth King’s “new school” methods.

Two years ago I sewed this pattern in linen. For the "new method" project I planned to use this fabric and these vintage buttons.

Two years ago I sewed this pattern in linen. For the “new method” project I planned to use this fabric and these vintage buttons.

Monday I watched the first segment, “Pattern Work.” All of the tasks were straightforward: draft lining, back stay, and body canvas pieces, and adjust for turn of cloth.

All the tasks, that is, except one. That’s where I hit a snag. Rats.

On the DVD Kenneth says,

Here we have the body front. In the “old school” we had a separate collar piece. For the “new school” we draft the collar piece onto the body, as you can see here. You will join it at the gorge line so the entire piece is cut as one with the body. It will eliminate this seam later in the construction–it simplifies it tremendously.

If you’ve never sewn a notched-collar jacket you may not know how terror-inducing that highly visible stitching crossroads can be to get right–twice. The notch can be bulky, lumpy, uneven, and unfixable. With many hours of construction behind you, your only reward may be one ugly, unwearable jacket.

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From Threads magazine, May 2006, Kenneth King’s article on perfecting notched collars.

In the video Kenneth next turned his attention to drafting the front lining and facing and said nothing more about how to join the under collar and front pattern pieces. But surely the Threads magazine article, “A Notch Above,” in the Bonus Material section, would fill the gap.

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It would be so great to unlock the mystery. Once I understand this I may wonder what had been so confusing.

Well, my knowledge gap was apparently too big. As I’ve said before, I don’t easily grasp patternmaking principles. Once again, my low aptitude for structural visualization was getting in my way.

There is one thing I do know about patternmaking, though: you must focus with laser intensity on accuracy. Otherwise, don’t bother.

I pulled the under collar and front pieces from the jacket pattern I was planning to use, and laid them out. Unlike the pattern pieces illustrated in Threads, mine did not look like jigsaw puzzle pieces naturally fitting together. My pieces still had seam allowances on them, which could account for the lack of fit. But even without seam allowances my pieces did not nestle as I had hoped they would.

The curve in the under collar doesn't match the curve of the neckline. Is there a mistake here? My linen jacket turned out fine.

The curve in the under collar doesn’t match the curve of the neckline. Is there a mistake here? My linen jacket turned out fine.

Either there was a principle at work here that I didn’t understand, or an inaccuracy in my pattern pieces, or both. I didn’t know how to define the problem, so I didn’t know what to try to solve it. It was time to consult an expert.

Tuesday I met with my patternmaking teacher, who agreed to see me before her evening class got started. When I explained about combining pattern pieces to eliminate seams, she said this was something she’d done back in her patternmaking days in the fur industry.

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“It’s that easy.” Perhaps a step-by-step, illustrated process would help me understand this. I certainly hope so.

What I thought would take 15 minutes for Nina before class took much longer, because she tried to teach me along the way, and ended up making the design challenge into a demo for her students. When I left the classroom an hour and a half later I had a rough draft of the new pattern piece and a recommendation to make a muslin to test the result. But–not Nina’s fault–I was still confused how to test my pattern to make absolutely sure it was right before I proceeded.

I left with this rough draft of a single pattern piece. Where to go from here, exactly?

I left with this rough draft of a single pattern piece. Where to go from here, exactly?

As I left the classroom I was already thinking it would be best to learn Kenneth King’s method from Kenneth himself next month. I would reluctantly shelve my “new school” jacket project for now and turn my attention to other sewing projects for five weeks.

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The original lapels. (Regretfully, the top bound buttonhole is a little too high.)

But I suspect that this turn of events has a silver lining. Trying on this Butterick jacket today, I was a little dissatisfied with the style. The front buttons up higher than I like. Would it be easy to change the roll line and lengthen the lapel?

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I folded back the lapels and pinned them down. This length is more flattering on me.

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Would it be easy to change the roll line for next time?

And then I keep wanting to pinch out some fullness under the arm. And maybe raise the armhole a little…

Or maybe it’s time to choose a different pattern. When I do make a “new school” jacket it will be a more flattering cut and worth the wait.

Yesterday I began looking at my UFOs and patterns, pondering what projects I wanted to pursue between now and Kenneth’s class in five weeks. I gazed at my fabric stash as if standing before an open refrigerator wondering what I was hungry for.

Working steadily on my “old school” jacket for months I learned to put on the blinders to all those other tempting sewing projects. I may have learned too well though. Now I don’t know what to do next.

Well, just not yet. I am letting myself savor the possibilities.

London Miscellany

IMG_9062 (460x171)Readers,

To round off my recent series of London posts, a roundup of news items and observations:

  • I loved The Imperial War Museum’s show “Fashion on the Ration: 1940s Street Style.”
    My souvenir from "Fashion on the Ration:" smart style in London, spring 1941

    My souvenir from “Fashion on the Ration:” smart style in London, spring 1941

    If you’ve wanted to see ingenious examples of making do and mending in Britain during World War II, this is the show for you. Frustratingly, photography was forbidden; otherwise I would have taken dozens of pictures and posted them here.IMG_9067 (460x345) The hour I spent in the show flew by. The companion book is described here.

  • May 31 I went to the Clerkenwell Vintage Fashion Fair.IMG_9073 (258x460) I’d been to this show before; in 2012 I saw at least two vendors with large vintage button selections. This time I didn’t see a single button. Not one! Compare with the Hammersmith Vintage Fashion Fair I attended in January 2014, where I found loads of buttons and bought quite a few. (Well, it’s time I made proper homes for the buttons I have now, anyway.)
  • A couple of the shops I included in my Threads magazine article “Sewing Destination: London, England” (June-July 2012) have experienced changes. Cloth House used to have two addresses on Berwick Street: 47 and 98. The Number 98 location, which had wonderful wools and a big selection of knits, closed in May.
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    Some buttons at Cloth House that I considered for my 1941 tweed jacket…

    I wondered how all of Number 98’s inventory could possibly fit into Number 47’s space. The answer seems to be that it didn’t.

    ...and some more. I passed them up--but what a wealth of choices!

    …and some more. I passed them up–but what a wealth of choices! Also–a nifty way to store buttons!

    I hope those gorgeous wools reappear someday.

  • The other shop that’s changed is MacCulloch & Wallis, which moved this year from cramped quarters on Dering Street to two spacious floors at 25-26 Poland Street, just one street over from Berwick.
MacCulloch & Wallis, now on Poland Street in Soho.

MacCulloch & Wallis, now on Poland Street in Soho.

MacCulloch & Wallis carries lots of notions. (Just look at its online store to get an idea.) I asked about basting thread for my upcoming tailoring project, and bought two spools of what Gutermann calls “tacking” thread. Is there a difference? IMG_9064 (376x460)

  • If the travel posters in my post about the Fashion and Textile Museum’s “Riviera Style” show interest you,IMG_9070 (345x460) you can see them, and more, here.
  • And if you are in the neighborhood of the Fashion and Textile Museum July 16, you might want to attend a talk and book signing by the Jane Butchart, author of Nautical Chic, “tracing the relationship between maritime dress and the fashionable wardrobe, uncovering stories, tracking the trends, and tracing the evolution of the style back to its roots in our seafaring past.” IMG_9074 (345x460)
  • I visited The Vintage Showroom in Covent Garden. I was very taken by the book Vintage Menswear: A Collection From The Vintage Showroom when it was published in 2012, and ever since wanted to see the store, which was interesting. I thought of The Vintage Showroom when Jack and I visited Cambridge University’s Polar Museum and saw clothing like this:IMG_8739 (208x460)
  •  Another place that was on my list to visit was Pentreath & Hall, in Bloomsbury, a tiny, exquisitely curated shop started by architect and interior designer Ben Pentreath. I got to the shop only minutes before closing, but had time enough to drink in the atmosphere and pick up a couple of promotional postcards as souvenirs.IMG_9071 (460x322)What I most coveted were the silk-covered lampshades, priced at more than £300 apiece.  Perhaps their maker would consent to create a Craftsy class for those of us inspired to make our own? If only.
  • More in my price range was this tote bag recreating Edward Bawden’s delightful cover illustration for John Metcalf’s book London A to Z. I found it in the Victoria & Albert Museum store for £8.50. IMG_9060 (280x460)The illustration appears on both sides of the bag. Would it work to take the bag apart and use the pieces as fronts for a pair of pillows? It’s worth a try.