Project: Vogue 4036, Jacket (1959), part 1

Readers,

Every time I look at this large-collared, boxy little late ’50s jacket the word “demure” comes to mind, and I don’t know why. Demure is not a style I’m after. There’s just something about that collar.

Dressed for lunch at the Chintz Room at the Lazarus department store, Columbus, Ohio, 1959. I hear the chicken salad is excellent.

Dressed for lunch at the Chintz Room at the Lazarus department store, Columbus, Ohio, 1959. I hear the chicken salad is excellent.

Here’s another word that pops into my head about this jacket: “suburban.” That’s a 1950s suburb I’m thinking of. Again, I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the easier fit–not the early or mid-1950s closely fitted silhouette with the more formal feel–paired with that easier hat. This jacket looks just right for a midweek lunch out at a finer department store. After a morning of shopping, of course.

This plaid is more vivid in person than this photo conveys.

This plaid is more vivid in person than this photo conveys.

I have no ambitions to sew outfits for midweek lunches at finer department stores, and yet I’m so curious about this jacket that I’m going to give it a go. It may be that this sassy greenish yellow and bittersweet chocolate plaid wool blend just cried out to be made into Vogue 4036, for the sheer contrariness of it.  I’m curious whether “demure” will go right out the window when this plaid sashays in. I would hope so.

I realized recently that this jacket my mom made–I’m guessing it also dates from the late ’50s–bears more than a passing resemblance to Vogue 4036. It’s boxy, and has a prominent collar, and is made up in a very undemure plaid. I love this plaid.

A jacket my mom made, probably in the late '50s.

A jacket my mom made, probably in the late ’50s.

I don’t recall this jacket, but maybe I do have some residual memory of it lodged deep somewhere.

This jacket has princess seams, which I like. Maybe I can track down the pattern.

This jacket has princess seams, which I like. Maybe I can track down the pattern.

I have enjoyed the skirt I made up in this fabric. Would a matching jacket be too much?

I wear this skirt with a very textured, bracelet-length sleeved sweater from Banana Republic.

I wear this skirt with a very textured, bracelet-length sleeved sweater from Banana Republic.

And then, that collar shape. Would it look smart on me, or…hopelessly demure? I’m not getting enough feedback from my muslin to tell.

Is this collar a good one for me? My muslin didn't answer this question.

Is this collar a good one for me? My muslin didn’t answer this question.

Why don’t I just cut out the collar from the plaid and try that first? If the shape, texture and colors look fine, I’ll go ahead and cut the fronts. How do they look with the collar? Too busy–or good? I have high-contrast coloring that might handle this amount of color and pattern fine.

I bought these vintage buttons in Greenwich, England. Would they work well?

I bought these vintage buttons in Greenwich, England. Would they work well?

It may sound perfectly sensible to you, and you may have already been doing this for years, but I’ve never thought of cutting only a few pieces of a pattern to try. It’s the trap of either-or thinking: either my fabric stays intact but never used, or it’s hacked up and misused.

There is another way, I have to remind myself. If I don’t like how the collar looks, or how this much pattern looks next to my face, I would still have yardage to use for a different application. I like that.

A bit hard to make out the lines of this jacket from the illustration. It has set-in sleeves, center back seam, and a vent. (I'm eliminating the vent.)

A bit hard to make out the lines of this jacket from the illustration. It has set-in two-piece sleeves, a center back seam, and a vent. (I’m eliminating the vent.)

One of my sewing teacher Edith’s sayings is “Don’t commit before you have to.” She was actually referring to making a slashed pocket in a jacket front, but her point can be more widely applied. Don’t take an irreversible course as long as you can have the option to reverse.

Test small before testing big.

That sounds just right.

From my mom's reipe clippings: the famous chicken salad from the Chintz Room at Lazarus.

From my mom’s reipe clippings: the famous chicken salad from the Chintz Room at Lazarus. Love that “gay trim of red apple paring”!

Bolts from the Blue

Readers,

It started early yesterday morning when I was checking out the latest conversations on PatternReview.com. “What Minnesota PR members will I see Saturday morning at the Guthrie Theater Fabric and Trim sale?” asked SewMN. “It’s on Saturday, October 19, from 9 am to 1 pm at the Guthrie Theater.”

Fishing for fabric: catches of the day.

Fishing for fabric: catches of the day.

This was news to me. We live only a short, scenic drive from the Guthrie. How could I not go? At 8:58 am I was about twentieth in line for the sale.

Since settling in at the Jean Nouvel-designed, three-stage Guthrie Theater complex the costume shop had been acquiring fabric until every storage space was crammed. It was time to clean house. Hundreds of fabrics rolled on tubes or tied in bundles had colored price tags indicating $20, $10, $5, or $1.

My new purchases, taking it easy in our back yard.

My new purchases, taking it easy in our back yard.

Fabric rummage sales are certainly exciting, but I’ve bought my share of “bargains” that sat in my stash. A few years ago I bought some beautiful wool at such a sale with the department store credit card receipt, dated 1983, tucked into the folds. Guess what–I ended up donating it back to the same annual sale a few years later.

The mint green wool matches shades on the Yellow-Green card of the 3-in-1 Color Tool.

The mint green wool matches shades on the Yellow-Green card of the 3-in-1 Color Tool.

Having learned some lessons editing my fabric stash earlier this year, I’ve wised up about what I allow in. My fabrics can’t be prima donnas. They must play well with each other and with my wardrobe.

The gray in the fabric matches a tone on the Orange card. That explains why I like this gray, unlike many others.

The gray in the fabric matches a tone on the Orange card. That explains why I like this gray, unlike many others.

After circling the remnant-laden banquet tables a couple of times, I scooped up a perky, loosely woven gray and white checked wool and a mint green wool with milk-chocolate brown flecks in it. They both said “early spring suit” to me.

I brought my bolts over to the window to examine their colors in the natural light. Another sewer was clutching half a dozen fabrics rolled on tubes. One grabbed my attention: a wool in the mossy greens that go with my eye color so well.

The mossy green wool relates best to colors on the Yellow card.

The mossy green wool relates best to colors on the Yellow card.

I must have looked especially covetous or else she was feeling extra generous in that moment. After I admired her choice, she asked if I wanted it. I protested feebly.  She said, “I don’t have a plan for it. You know what you’d do with it.” I had to agree.  She said, “If I handed it over to you, would you take it?” She had me there. Yes! Of course!

Which is how I ended up in the checkout line with three fabric pieces of unknown lengths totaling $50.  Each of them, it turns out, is about 58 inches wide and  3 1/3 yards, which is plenty for a couple of garments each.

Could these buttons work with the "mint chocolate" fabric?

Could these buttons work with the “mint chocolate” fabric?

Now, I know my tendency to attach colorful stories to my fabric purchases. I don’t want or need to change that habit. What I’m doing differently now is imagining possibilities more fully–continuing the story of each fabric through the planning, construction, and wearing stages.

Can these buttons hold their own against this background?

Can these buttons hold their own against this background?

When I brought these beauties home I looked at what buttons, patterns and wardrobe items could go with them. Even though I didn’t see any dazzling button-fabric combinations, the gears started turning, and that’s enough for now.

When I saw this fabric, this pattern came to mind immediately.

When I saw this fabric, this 1962 pattern came to mind immediately.

I think there are some winning pattern-fabric combinations, though. The moment I saw the checked fabric I was thinking about this 1962 jacket with detachable scarf. This fabric has some loft to it, which would be great for the scarf. It is also very ravelly. I’ll learn how to work with this characteristic.

From 1956, ladylike jackets. Check out that bow on the back!

From 1956, ladylike jackets. Check out that bow on the back!

The mint green, brown-flecked wool has the warmth needed for the end of winter and the colors of early spring. One of these 1956 jackets could be delightful to wear in March or April.

From 1959, a smart jacket for the moss-colored wool

From 1959, a smart jacket for the moss-colored wool

The mossy green wool is not a coat weight, but has a little more body than many jackets need. I found this 1959 pattern for a between-kind of jacket:  warm enough to be a light coat in cool weather, yet light enough to wear indoors, too.  I’ve admired this pattern for years and have another fabric in mind for it. The mossy wool could be my practice piece before I cut into the more unusual fabric I have ultimately in mind.

On the back deck before rain and hail chased my photo shoot indoors.

On the back deck before rain and hail chased my photo shoot indoors.

These serendipitous finds have fired up my imagination. It really wouldn’t take that much more planning to turn them into living, breathing garments.

Would it?

Why not make it so?

The hail pellets were the size of pretzel salt. The photo shoot continued indoors.

The hail pellets were the size of pretzel salt. The photo shoot continued indoors.

What Works/What Doesn’t

Readers,

The infamous green scarf.

The infamous green scarf.

Maybe you remember a post titled Anatomy of a Dud: The Green Scarf, in which I modeled a regrettable purchase.

I’ve rethought that post.

Oh, I still think the scarf is a dud for me. And I was imposing a look on myself, and that doesn’t work.

One thing the scarf has going for it: a great color. It matches a green sweater I wear frequently.

One thing the scarf has going for it: a great color. It matches a green sweater I wear frequently.

So, what does work?

If I want to do more than just avoid duds, but to find and make things to create a wonderful wardrobe, I need to distinguish what works and what doesn’t.

Obviously.

What I’ve realized since the green scarf post is that no item in my wardrobe is all good or all bad.  That almost everything has features that work for me and features that don’t. And that it’s extremely useful–even entertaining–to take one item and sort out what works and what doesn’t.

I tested this idea on the green scarf using the chart I sketched out.  For each category in the Individual and Context columns I asked myself, “What works? What doesn’t?”

Individual

  • Color: Does this color work for me?   It matches a shade on the Chartreuse card of the 3 in 1 Color Tool. Those yellow-green shades go great with my eye color. Yes.
  • Personality: Does this work with my personality? When I wear this scarf I feel upstaged. I feel like it’s getting the attention, not me. So, that’s a no.
  • Silhouette: Does this create a silhouette that works for me? It does bring the eye up, which is good, but because it overwhelms me, this gets a no.

    The scarf matches a shade on the Chartreuse card. The complementary colors of Red-Violet are also wonderful. But the great color can't overcome the other problems.

    The scarf matches a shade on the Chartreuse card. The complementary colors of Red-Violet are also wonderful. But the great color can’t overcome the other problems.

  • Style: Does this work with my sense of style? I like texture, and that’s part of what attracted me to this scarf. But actually, it doesn’t have a whole lot of texture. What it has a lot of is bulk.  I hadn’t made that distinction before. Aha!
  • Fit: Does the way this fits work for me? I thought this was a funny question to ask about a scarf. Then I thought, no–it doesn‘t fit. It’s the wrong scale for me. Too much scarf is crowded into too small a space.
  • Physical characteristics: Does this work with whatever physical characteristics apply? I get cold a lot, and I like warmth around my neck. This is wool and silk, so it should be warm.

    Two fabrics from my stash that have texture without the bulk.

    Two fabrics from my stash that have texture without the bulk.

  • What I’m growing into: Does this work with any new ways I’m seeing myself?  I’m certainly not seeing myself as a bulky scarf person. No.

On to Context.

  • Occasions. Does this work with the occasions I attend?  I keep seeing this as the kind of thing you’d expect to see at a gallery opening, or at an event at the Textile Center of Minnesota–places where artsy, handcrafted garments and jewelry are the norm. But I never go to gallery openings or Textile Center events. This is a big no.
    Not practical for my life in the sewing room, kitchen, or dining room.

    Not practical for my life in the sewing room, kitchen, or dining room.


  • Activities. Does this work with activities I do? I wouldn’t sew, or iron, or cut out patterns, or work in the kitchen wearing this scarf–it would get in the way. I wouldn’t wear it sitting at a dinner party or standing with a glass of wine or a plate of appetizers for the same reason. So, no.
  • Roles. Does this work with roles I play in social situations? Right. I can just imagine hosting a tea and getting jam and clotted cream all over this. No.
  • Physical conditions. Does this work with the kinds of weather or indoor conditions I find myself in? Yes-cold weather, and I can see myself wearing this on a plane that’s drafty and chilly.

    This sweater has lots of texture, which I like, and only a little bulk, which is good.

    This sweater has lots of texture, which I like, and only a little bulk, which is good.

  • Mood of the occasion. Does this work with the formal or informal, happy or somber, businesslike or casual moods of the situations I’m in? Good question. I see that I can’t quite figure out where this scarf falls on these continuums. I don’t know what mood it expresses, which is somewhat maddening.
  • Other wardrobe items. Does this work with anything else in my wardrobe now? Does it work with outfits in my wardrobe now? A resounding no. It doesn’t work within my present wardrobe at all. In fact, I can’t think of an ensemble it would be part of. This scarf is a classic wardrobe orphan.
  • Fabric, pattern and button stashes. Does this work with fabrics, patterns, or buttons I own, or inspire clear ideas of fabrics or patterns to find to complete an outfit using this item?  I’m stumped. All I can think of is to make very simple knit pieces as blank canvases for this scarf. And I don’t dress that way.
  • What I’m moving into: occasions, activities, roles, etc. Does this work for occasions, activities or roles in my future? I don’t see myself moving in circles where I’d feel average wearing this scarf. I’d always feel self-conscious. Trying to be something I’m not.

This exercise drove me to the same conclusion as before: this scarf doesn’t work for me. The difference is, I know much better why it doesn’t work.

Not only that, but now I know better what does work for me. Soon I could find myself thinking, “That green scarf: great color, but too bulky and fussy for me. But I have this red-violet, soft, chenille-like fabric in my stash that has texture but not bulk. I could make a simple scarf that would be smashing: warm, easy to wear, great color, and I can see it with some of my coats and jackets.”

Now that works.

IMG_2926 (460x345)

A soft, textured red-violet chenille will make a great scarf with two fabrics I’ve sewn into coats.

Sale Away

Readers,

Wearing the coat I recently finished, I dug through the wools table for more treasures.

Wearing the coat I recently finished, I dug through the wools table for more treasures.

Back from the Textile Center Garage Sale, an annual one-day event many sewers, including me, look forward to all year.  Imagine thousands of bundles of wools, cottons, silks, synthetics and mystery fibers; yarns and thread, notions, sewing and crafts magazines and books; looms, sewing machines, pressing equipment, even UFOs (unfinished objects), all donated by local sewers clearing their workspaces, at incredibly low prices. It’s a crazy, wonderful sale.

Back in February I evaluated all my fabrics and set aside about a quarter of them for the sale. I looked at all those donations once more earlier this week.  I ended up keeping a few after all, just for making wearable tests–the step between making a muslin and cutting into my beloved fashion fabrics.

For the 1930s jacket I’m currently working on, I made a wearable test from a linen-lookalike polyester. Lookalike, but not sew alike. I should have known a poly wasn’t going to help me see how a linen would behave. So I swapped out yards of synthetics I’d bought on the cheap at previous Textile Center sales for several natural fiber fabrics of different weights and drapes for my test garments.

The purchasers of eight or nine of my fabrics today got a card with a note.

The front looked like this:

What a beautiful, crisp cotton shirting.

What a beautiful, crisp cotton shirting.

 

IMG_2187 (460x345)

A message in a bottle. I hope the buyer noticed this note on the reverse of the card!

The back looked like this.

I gave a lot of thought to the wording of my message.  I had only this small space to convey a history and a request. The fabric represented happy memories: a trip, a garment, or at least enjoyable daydreaming. But I didn’t want to seem overly protective of “my” fabric.

I also didn’t want to appear too nosy, obligate the sewer to get back to me, or shamelessly promote Getting Things Sewn.  Was I too subtle? Did the buyers even turn over the cards and notice the messages on the backs?

If I get any responses, I’ll let you know.

As for me, I joyfully rummaged through the wool and cotton tables, and carted home two grocery bagfuls of fabric: 13 pieces totaling $65.

My camera and computer monitor hardly do justice to the caramel browns of several pieces destined for jackets and skirts.IMG_2216 (460x345)

Or the two yards of matka silk, the color of a basket of blueberries, that will probably become a jacket.

Exactly the colors of fresh blueberries in this silk matka.

Exactly the colors of fresh blueberries in this silk matka.

Or the subtle colorations of a textured wool that’s a wonderful pairing for a fabric in my stash and some of my vintage buttons.

Neutrals used to leave me cold. Now I'm appreciating how wonderful some of them are.

Neutrals used to leave me cold. Now I’m appreciating how wonderful some of them are.

The splendor of this rose print just looks lurid in the photo.  The color combination is so much better than what I captured.

Trust me, the color combination is better than this.

Trust me, the color combination is better than this.

The Textile Center sale is as close to gambling as I get.  I take risks buying fabrics without fiber content labels, guarantees or return policies.  But the stakes are low. I can experiment and test my knowledge.

The three yards of crisp blue shirting I bought today for $3:  is it cotton?

Mystery fiber. Cotton?

Mystery fiber. Cotton?

I tried a burn test, using the chart in Claire Shaeffer’s Fabric Sewing Guide.

Cotton, the chart says, burns “rapidly, yellow flame, continues burning burning, afterglow.”  The odor is of “burning paper, leaves or wood.”  Residue: “Brown-tinged end; light-colored, feathery ash.”  This fabric smelled like cotton burning, but the ash was different.  Maybe this is a blend? I could burn some fabrics I know are cotton for comparison.

Is this a cotton and synthetic blend?

Is this a cotton and synthetic blend?

I’m more interested, though, in identifying the colors of my new purchases using my nifty 3-in-1 Color Tool and then seeing a multitude of ways to coordinate them with the rest of my fabrics and wardrobe.

Fabrics come and go, but the challenge remains: getting things sewn.  I just let go of fabrics I’d had for years. I don’t want these new purchases to suffer the same fate.  What if I set myself the goal of doing something with each of today’s acquisitions before the Textile Center’s sale in 2015 or else turn them back in? This is a reasonable challenge. I’ll take it!

Will I get any response from the buyer of this fabric?

Will I get any response from the buyer of this fabric?

 

 

 

Project: Butterick 5542 (1930s), Jacket, part 4

Readers,

Some supplies for the jacket.

Some supplies for the jacket.

I’ve set aside my test garment, as I concluded that it yielded about all the information I could get from it.  I made a little pattern alteration in the front, on the advice of one of the staff at my local excellent fabric store, Treadle Yard Goods.
Time to cut into the linen.

After a muslin and a test garment, I've finally cut the linen for the jacket.

After a muslin and a test garment, I’ve finally cut the linen for the jacket.

I was so eager to do something on this jacket.  But there remained the question of how to interface it.  That required research.

If you don’t make clothes you may never have thought about what’s underneath them, holding them up.

No, I don’t mean you!

I mean the interfacings that give extra body, stability or crispness to parts of a jacket, shirt, coat, or dress.   They’re a very big deal.  And using the wrong interfacing–every sewer has had this experience–can result in a garment looking droopy instead of perky, or so stiff it could almost stand on its own.

What makes interfacing a tricky business is that experts don’t all agree on where to use it, how much to use, what types to use, or even whether to use it at all. Why is that?

I consulted reliable sources for interfacing advice. Their conclusion: "It depends."

I consulted reliable sources for interfacing advice. Their conclusion: “It depends.”

Every garment is different. Different fabrics, whether natural or synthetic fibers, react differently. So boilerplate advice won’t work.

It comes down to this: what effect(s) do you want to achieve in your garment?  Like Edith says, “What do you want to accomplish?”

With linen, the main interfacing question seems to be, “How do you feel about wrinkles?”  This wonderful natural fiber is notorious for wrinkles. That bothers some sewers.  They may want to fuse interfacing to every garment piece to keep wrinkling to a minimum.  But does that change the nature of the fabric too much?  I’m afraid it does. Plus, I have enough fabric for a matching skirt. I need to consider the interfacing needs for the ensemble.  I don’t want a jacket looking super-crisp and a skirt that’s wrinkly.

After poring through my sewing library and calling Treadle Yard Goods for advice I still had no clear guidance. I was on my own.

I decided to try silk organza underlining, which is supposed to help linen retain some crispness.

Hair canvas (left) and silk organza (right) will play supporting roles to the star: the linen.

Hair canvas (left) and silk organza (right) will play supporting roles to the star: the linen.

Possibly a weft-insertion fusible on the underlining.  I’ll use some hair canvas bias-cut strips in the hems. Hair canvas in the under collar and possibly the facings.  Maybe a back stay in a cotton batiste…

If all this pondering sounds arcane to nonsewing readers, think of it this way.  Have you ever done a paint job without adequately preparing the surface first? Did your “shortcuts” come back to haunt you?  I thought so.

On to a more fun subject: lining.

The contrast flat piping in this sportcoat is such a nice detail.

The contrast flat piping in this sportcoat is such a nice detail.

I had wanted a contrast lining, in coral, I thought.  But Treadle didn’t have any.  I came up with another idea: use a lining in a matching color but add a shot of contrast in flat piping.  I ended up liking this idea much more.  I’ve never used flat piping, but what a great use for it.

Here’s an example of flat piping, in a Lands End sportcoat of Jack’s.

This demure creamy white jacket...

This demure creamy white jacket…

And here is a creamy white J Crew jacket I bought at a consignment store last year with a red-orange narrow ribbon inserted between the facing and lining that behaves like the flat piping I want to use.

...conceals a little jolt of color.

…conceals a little jolt of color.

That bright, unexpected use of color is so easy and downright smile-producing.  It will be fun to apply an idea from ready-to-wear to my own project.

A dash of red will perk up the pale blues of the linen and lining.

It feels right for a summer jacket.

 

Inching toward the goal.

Inching toward the goal.