Monday, 25 July 2016

Early Sewing Disasters

While decluttering my room recently I found some pretty horrible things. Things from when I began trying to teach myself to sew, which I scarcely remember making. So I figured I should document them here before I cannibalized them for the useful bits.

This first one is a blue waistcoat I made without doing any research into how shawl collars work. Or rather, a waistcoat I mostly made and gave up on when I realized it could never be wearable.
It's the same fabric I used for my sequined waistcoat sleeves, and for this book.
After taking this picture I cut the silk bits off and saved them.
It's interlined in what appears to be part of an old cotton futon covering, and there's no interfacing anywhere but the collar. I didn't get as far as buttonholes. Probably because I tried to sew the collar on and realized it was never, ever going to sit right.
I do still like the embroidery I did on the collar, but I think the print really takes away from it. If I were to make it again I would not use a print. (The print happens to be from my first time screenprinting! Though it's also not up to my standards anymore, since my drawing has improved since I did those octopi.)

I think this "coat" was one of my first sewing attempts ever. (Not counting the tiny hand stitched felt things I did in Elementary school) I have sketches of it from 2011, though no photos of the thing itself in its entirety.
A lot of actual fabric scraps were painstakingly represented here.
Sadly, this looks pretty decent compared to the coat I ended up "making".
 It was basically a blue cotton lab coat with a whole lot of junky fabric scraps sewn onto it.
I stuck a teacup on one of the patch pockets
and I'm pretty sure the teacup fabric was old bedsheets.
 Here's what was left when I found it. The greenish bit with the stripes was from one of the sleeves, and the blocky section is from the back. The squares are from a drapery sample booklet, and the beige scale pattern stuff is from a chair I found in the garbage. Yup. I cut a piece of upholstery fabric off someone's yucky old chair for my yucky coat.
I was a foolish teenager.
(Not that there's anything wrong with getting furniture from the garbage! I have a nice hardwood swivel chair that I salvaged and reupholstered. But this beige scale fabric was very synthetic and gross.)
Garbage fabric that has finally been returned to the garbage.
There was also a pocket made out of a glove that I had stuck on the front of the coat. A knitted cotton glove (the kind you use for handling artifacts and stuff) that I'd felted a layer of green wool over. The thing that amazes me most about this is that I took the time to change the thread colour and buttonholer template so many times for entirely useless buttonholes.
There's a tiny little brown cotton pocket bag in there.
I still want to make something out of scraps, but when that happens I'll do it very differently. I got rid of most of my synthetic scraps, and when I sew my nice natural fibre remnants into something I will sew them together nicely.

My first actual attempt at patterning & sewing a coat is another thing I don't have a picture of, but I do have the sketches from around that time! I've gotten much better at drawing since I did these...
I made it when I knew absolutely nothing about patterning, and I did NO research, so of course the seam placement was awful. My sketchbook includes a drawing of the terrible, terrible pattern pieces. 
Apparently I thought it was also important that I draw all the buttons, but put them in a row in the upper left corner.
I got the general shape of the fitted sleeve ok I guess,
but the top part of them is still quite wrong.
I made the pattern by cutting up the aforementioned scrap-covered lab coat along whatever lines I felt like and then tracing the pieces. I apparently had not heard that 18th century coats only have one set of side seams placed very far back, and that nearly every kind of coat ever has a back seam.

I sewed it up in a horrendous polyester drapery fabric, which was thick and scratchy and frayed a huge amount. It had nice looking black & gold stripes though. This was also before I had gotten it through my head that linings should be at least somewhat slippery in things with fitted sleeves. So it was lined in a very thin brown plain weave cotton. It also had no interfacing anywhere.
I was a lot worse at painting then too.
I don't know what happened to the coat. I'm pretty sure I never finished it. I assume I must have cut it up to use the lining fabric for something else, because all I found was the outer part of the collar.
At least I got the stripes more or less centred.
Update: I found it! It was in a box of horrible fabric and scraps that I'd forgotten I had! The lining was missing, and it still had the collar, so that other collar must have been a failed first attempt.
Look at all that fraying!
I should have tried it on, but didn't think to, and it is thrown out now. It really was an incredibly disgusting fabric.
Those back seams... ugh, no.
I can recall 3 early attempts at making cotton shirts, only one of which I finished.
The back, sleeves, and ruffles are made of a fine cotton, while the rest appeared to have been made out of yellowed and slightly flannely old sheets. The cuffs are tremendously bulky. I'm pretty sure the collar and cuffs were interlined with more futon cover fabric. I hadn't yet learned that late 18th century shirts didn't have any sort of interfacing. Or that they have narrow cuffs.
It didn't match at all in colour, or weave quality.
And why did I put the nice cotton piece on the back??
I cut off and kept the nicer pieces of cotton, and the buttons.

I think this purple waistcoat was the second one I ever made. (The first was a big shiny brown thing made of 3 different drapery fabrics, which I don't have any pictures of.)
 I found a sketch and a whole lot of notes with this one! I haven't cut this up yet, but I do want to re-use the fabric for something because I really like it. It's a thick cotton with a woven spiral pattern, and it's lined with what I presume is rayon, salvaged from the lining of an old coat.
Once again, it isn't interfaced. The back is the same fabric as the front, and I made 2 rows of buttonholes because I didn't know how to do double breasted stuff. The brass buttons are all the same size, but are 3 different designs because I didn't have enough of any one.

I think the biggest problem with this one is the pattern. Especially the lapels.
I wore it quite a lot in my late teens, along with the horrible sheet shirt,
and thought myself very smartly dressed at the time.
 These stays are from a bit before I started this sewing blog, and they're okay enough to be wearable, but not great. I used a Butterick pattern and even though I lowered the back by a considerable amount it's still too high. They're boned with strips cut off of some sheet of plastic that Papa had in his workroom, and it doesn't hold its shape well at all.
I also stab stitched the entire binding on, which cause my fingers a great deal of pain and left very visible stitches. Nowadays I do bias binding with a very small slipstitch or whipstitch.
Edit: And now I know that they cut their binding on the cross or straight grain in the 18th century, because bias is wasteful, and also I was a fool for waiting so long to learn to use a thimble.
I eventually gave these stays to a small theatre company.
Also, note the wonky spacing of the eyelets.
The pattern didn't have them all the way to the bottom, so I added more later.

 This waistcoat was slightly better than the others, but still terrible in terms of materials. Especially the "interfacing".
I have since given it away at a clothing swap.

I'm including a picture from this post because I don't have any better pictures of my first shirt, which was also the first garment I ever made. It was for a grade 11 sewing class. I did well on the assignment, but it was not a good shirt. It was made of silk (NO! Bad bad bad shirt material!), made from a commercial pattern (Circular ruffles! 2 piece collar! THE HORROR! And such a wasteful pattern compared to historical ones.), and the edges of the ruffles were serged. I think it wore out pretty quickly, which is precisely why you do not make 18th century shirts out of silk.
At least there's nothing wrong with the red cravat thing.
(Edit: Oh no wait I found it! I do still have that shirt! I must get better photos and do another one of these posts sometime, because this was written 4 years ago and I've improved even more.)

And there you have it! The sorry results of me trying to sew without any sort of instruction! I cringe at them now, but everyone has to start somewhere. I've improved so much since these projects and am always learning new things.
Have you got any early sewing horror stories? Might you be persuaded to post about them? (If so, please leave a link in the comments so I can see them!)

Friday, 15 July 2016

Navy & white striped pants

Another unfinished project done!
I cut these out over a year ago, and last week I finally sewed them up.
 I can't remember what pattern I used. As far as I can remember, my inspiration was this pair of late 18th century blue & white striped pantaloons from Christie's auction house.
 (Apologies for the terrible image quality. They don't seem to want people to save photos from their site.)
My fabric is an off-white cotton twill printed with 1" navy stripes. I got it years ago on a "buy one get 2 free" sale and ended up with something like 12 m of it. The waistband is lined in blue linen.
Fly pieces and waistband.
 I serged the leg seam allowances with a very narrow edge in purple thread, just because that's what the serger was set up with and I figured it was close enough.
The twill is fairly lightweight, so the rolled edge worked fine.
I must have spent a lot of time laying out my pattern pieces, because they matched up perfectly! Look at how well I lined up the butt chevrons!
I got all the stripes on the crotch seam perfectly lined up!
The hair canvas I had cut for the waistband wasn't quite enough on its own so I stuck some fusible interfacing in there too.
Canvas on the lining part, fusible on the outside.
 The fly has 3 navy blue buttons, but the shank buttons on the waistband are a very dark purple. They're a pretty good match though, unless you inspect them very closely. I couldn't get a good photo of the colour.
2 shank buttons and 3 whatever you call buttons without shanks.
 While assembling the fly I realized that I had forgotten to add an extension to one side of the waistband for the overlap, so I sewed an extra bit on.

Here you can see the addition to the waistband.
 I think the reason I didn't finish these at the time was that I didn't know quite how to do a button fly, and was intimidated by the curved seams on the front waistband.
 There's not much to say about the construction. It's machine sewn except for the hem and the seam on the bottom edge of the waistband lining. I think I had originally intended these to be more historically accurate, but the fabric isn't so I just sewed them how I saw fit.
Hemming with one of those longish herringbone stitches.
 I can tell from the tracing lines that I cut the pant legs a bit wider at the bottom than was on the pattern so that I could get the stripes to alternate all around.
They're a little narrower at the side seams, but not noticeably so.
 They don't really suit me as regular everyday wear, but I will wear them when we are at the lake. Navy and white stripes look best next to a large body of water.

 They fit me very well, but get wrinkled quite quickly.
 Unfortunately I completely forgot to add pockets. I must learn how to do the kind that button shut on the corner like the original has.

I got lake crud in my hems, so I guess my stitches weren't quite small enough.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Sequined Black & Blue Sleeved Waistcoat

Photo by Seamus Lee Hayes.

I have finished another project! I'm trying to tackle my Unfinished Things pile and I'm actually getting stuff done!
My sketch, which looks better in person because the scan doesn't capture the silvery ink.
I started this thing about a year and a half ago, back when I was far more prone to making bad fabric choices. I have a LOT of complaints about it, but it still looks nice.
Terribly washed out photo of the sequins.
And an excellent view of the not at all lined up sleeve-end.
I based the pattern off sleeved early to mid 18th century waistcoats, even though this thing isn't remotely historically accurate. That's okay though, it's not meant to be.
I cut the front & back out of black silk dupioni, which I have a lot of. I did most of the construction a year ago, and the interfacing is synthetic and rather terrible. As far as I can remember I was trying to get rid of some of my not very nice materials, which explains the lining and pockets...

Yellow cotton sateen pockets. Ick. Why.
At least they're out of sight.
I did most of the sewing by machine.
Pocket flaps sewn up and the top edges hand stitched closed.
I have a jar of various sequins, which I sorted through to get all the dark blue ones. I also found some black ones, and a bunch of dark, shimmery, not any one colour in particular ones.
All the sequins are hand stitched on with a black seed bead in the middle. I put 2 stitches with a single thread through each bead.

The lining is awful. Originally the sleeves were lined in the same sateen I used for the pocket bags, but when I picked this up and started working on it again I ripped them out and replaced them with silver-grey bemberg. The rest is lined in plain weave cotton, and I have no clue why I put the dark blue sections on the bottom edge when they should be on the edge by the neckhole where the lining is more likely to actually show.
No. That is not how to do a facing.
I cut the back in 2 sections so there would be a waist seam, and in that waist seam I caught a rectangle of black cotton mesh. I also tacked a square of mesh to each side of the centre back slit.
All of this is the part that was sewn over a year ago.
When I tried it on a few weeks ago I realized the crap choice of lining made the back tails ride up, and I was in a hurry to get this done for an event so I sewed 4 big washers to the corners to weigh them down. Someday I might put a good lining in the rest of the waistcoat.
Ugly, but it's on the inside and it keeps it from bunching up.
The sleeves are a blue dupioni that I screen printed with silver octopi a few years ago. I think my reasoning for the weird sleeves and the mesh tail was that none of it would show when this is worn under a coat, which makes sense. I don't know why I didn't measure the black things I stuck on the ends of the sleeves though.
I think the right pocket is a tiny bit higher than the left one.
I put the sequins on after most of the construction was done, but I had to open up the hem to sew the ones on the bottom edge without going through the pocket.
It's a bit of a pain to button up with all the sequins in the way, but I like it. I think it'll look nice under a coat once I make one of the right silhouette.
The left sleeve end is lined up, but not the right one. Boo.

I wore it to the Fredericton Gender Minorities second annual Pride Prom (where I was helping set up and chaperon) but I don't have any pictures from there yet.
Edit: I forgot to mention cuff buttons! Most of the extant waistcoats have them, but I neglected to add them to mine. I probably will eventually though.