Saturday, December 22, 2007

Hoodie Hug

This week James got even older. To celebrate he got some teen wear - another hoodie. This one is made from 100 weight fleece (which is their lightest but actually it is still quite thick) from Malden Mills. It has a lower nap on one side (MM call it velour), and I chose that for the outside. The main thing, which isn't really apparent from the pictures, is that the garment is better stitched together than the first one. I could pretend this is due to an improvement in skill but in reality my stitches took a big step change for the better upon purchase of the "new" sewing machine almost a year ago. I had to re-trace the pattern since the previous tracing was used up making the pertex top pattern. The sleeves are shortened about an inch compared to the last one, but I forgot to lengthen the back so ended up cheating the hem a bit to make up.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

V-neck for Pa

I made another V-neck jumper like this. The fabric is almost identical, a wool/angora mix, but much cheaper; it was bought from the closing down sale of the second Keitoya store in Kamakura in May of this year. This one is for my Pa who I measured while we were on holiday together last month.
I made medium size, but cut it a bit shorter - along the S-line at the front. I added an inch at the chest and took 2 inches off the hips. I shortened the arms by half and inch, with the intention of making them 2 inches shorter than James'. After tacking on the cuffs and trying the jumper on James, I was dismayed to realise the arms were not really short on him so I took off more while making it by sewing the cuff on with a 1.5cm SA.

The jumper is Pa's Christmas present. Shockingly it seems to fit. The pictures are rather dark. I suppose that's just because there aren't so many photons in the UK.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Marfy Jacket

Although hardly a quick job, this jacket did not take quite as long to make as it seems from the length of time since I last posted. We had a holiday in Colorado and Utah, and I finished the jacket shortly after my return. Then it took a while to do the photo-shoot.

The jacket is made from some sort of synthetic suede, bought for not very much from Swany in Kamakura. The edges do not fray. It was possible to un-pick and re-stitch a row of stitching, but perhaps only once before the fabric starts to ruin.

After lengthy consideration of the pattern sizes I bought size 42. In theory this size should be a little tight at the bust and a little loose at the hips. I made a muslin from a very cheap cotton woven. I ended up lengthening the jacket by 3cm, decreasing the shoulders by 1cm each side, and taking in the waist at the back side seam, by about 1cm each side. This last adjustment also meant adjusting the un-belt feature on the back. The final result on the real-fabric is fine but is a little snug at the bust and a little looser at the hips! I realise what I did wrong wit the muslin - I only attached one arm so did not properly check the fit at the bust/across the the back.

No instructions with Marfy patterns, so the muslin was very useful for practising how to make the jacket. For the basic construction I used Kenneth King's foolproof CD for a Tailored Jacket and this time (unlike last time) I interfaced the jacket body with some sort of hair cloth (I never really know what I am buying in Japan!) from Yuzawaya in Kamata. One super thing about this CD in combination with a Marfy jacket, which comes with no lining pieces is that Kenneth's techniques fit together best if you draft your own lining from his finely detailed instructions.

This jacket has quite a few features which deviate from a classic jacket. There is an extra front piece, of rather an interesting shape. Then there is a pocket and a kind of flap thingie. I think the people at Marfy are just having fun making a puzzle! I also puzzled a bit over the cuff and I am not sure I did that quite right since my method was rather fiddly, and I think resulted in a slightly weak point. The front of the jacket is done up with a centred zipper. Because I was using fake suede, which does not press very well, I faced and understitched the hem and cuffs. I also interfaced these facings with tricot fusible. I used various bits of interfacing elsewhere, fusing a woven onto the front at the "flap-bit", reinforcing the back with tricot fusible where the snaps attach (I used snaps throughout - I thought snaps and zippers might go together) and I also interfaced the pockets with a bit of quilting cotton (I don't quilt - I make trews for my James!). I also lapped most of the seams, for reasons of suede.

The lining was bought from Yuzawaya in Kamata and is a thicker than usual purple cupro. Kenneth's CD has a really nice lining method with piping and a magnificent inside pocket. The piping on the lining is made from silk duppioni.

I used 60 weight thread and a size 12 microtex needle for non top-stitched seams. For the top-stitching (of which I did lots) I changed the top thread to a 30 weight thread and used a size 16 topstitch needle. I had trouble with the top-stitching at the hem - it might need redone but I left it to see if it holds. However, after that debacle I hand-stitched all the way round the fronts and collars. That did take quite a few evenings - I can only do so much before getting sloppy and this really had to be as neat as I could do (which isn't really very neat).

I like the final result although people do keep asking me if I made it so it must look home-made or weird in some way. tee hee! The Japanese are very kind. Not like those Americans. When we were in Boulder on holiday some incredibly tatty fellow came up and told James he was wearing the ugliest pair of pants he'd ever seen. These lovely autumnal beauties were the culprit.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

A Scot-Jap stylee shirt

I had another go at the Kwik Sew shirt this time using quite a bit of the information in D.P.Coffin's Shirtmaking book.

It is Scot-Jap because the collar and general style is taken from James' fave (but defunct) shirt bought in Ayr, Scotland, but the fabric, being lightweight silk from Keitoya in Kamakura is not something I think you could ever wear down a wind-swept Ayr high street. Well, maybe if global warming _really_ kicks in...

You can read all the details of the alterations I made on my review. The bit I remain unsure about is how wide the sleeves should be. I did not alter this aspect significantly in my alterations and I wonder if they are a bit loose. As DPC explains in his book, if you increase the sleeve cap height you make the sleeve point more down towards the ground and decrease the width of the sleeve. I couldn't experiment with this here because needle holes show in this silk and with that and the 1/4" seam allowances I think putting in a new sleeve would have caused rather a mess. Next time maybe...

James always has problems finding long sleeve shirts that fit because they were always too short and fat. But for short sleeve shirts, he just buys UK medium sized because they fit he body. Initially I was very confused when I saw how looong the sleeves were on this shirt. Then I looked up some shirt shops on the interweb and found lots of pics of men in short sleeve shirts with hems falling at about the elbow. What a revelation!

Sewing machine notes:
Used a size 10 microtex needle, because it was the one that didn't go "thunk thunk thunk" as it stitched this fine fabric, and #90 thread. Finished raw edges with a 3 step zig-zag using edge finishing foot.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Marfy rugby shirt - 1493

I guess the Italian women's rugby team don't really dress like this on the field, but this is like a mix of a blouse and a rugby shirt with the addition of trendy empire waist and feature pleating. Actually I am not sure that every place Marfy write "pleat" on the pattern they mean it - I think sometimes they might mean "gather". Like on the back of this top, I think you are supposed to gather the top into the bottom. I sewed pleats and James thinks they are "a bit funny".

It is all a bit funny really, but since Marfy patterns are well-known to be "fashion-forward", this means that everyone else in the world will be wearing this style soon even though they don't realise it yet. Until then I will just have to put up with the funny looks. Actually I think "fashion-forward" might really mean "daft and will never catch on but if I call it 'forward' you fools will buy it anyway".

Actually I love this top. I made it from some super 4-way stretch tencel knit found in Yuzawaya, Kamata for 3300¥/m. Splutter. The fabric is light yet cosy. Nice for this time of year when it is still hot but a little cooler than scorching and yet shops and can be a shade cool with the aircon still going.

This is the second pattern in my size included in the Marfy Autumn-Winter 2007/2008 catalogue. I cut a size 42 with confidence even though the bust measurement of the pattern is a little small for me, because I knew the stretchy fabric would give me extra to play with. I ended up sewing 3/8" inside the Marfy sewing lines for the sides and arm seams.

I've only done 2 Marfy patterns but found them such fun that I have now placed an order for several more. Stupidly I like the no-instructions style. It is stupid because a sensible person could have as much fun throwing away the instructions on other patterns, but it doesn't seem to work like that. If they are there I have to follow them, because I am a good girl! I like that the patterns come with lots of little pieces (easier to cut out accurately) that you have to work out how to put it all together. In one way it is like an exam - you have to remember what techniques to use, or at least where to look them up. On the other hand it is kind of liberating because you get to decide where you think it is OK to take shortcuts without having to feel like you cheated. Well the really cool thing about the patterns is the way the seams of all the little pieces slide together like magic into such interesting shapes.


Sunday, August 19, 2007

Marfy Catalogue

Recently I ordered the Marfy Catalogue for autumn/winter 2007-2008. Unlike most magazines which make you wait 15 weeks for their editions by which time they would be completely out of season (although perhaps it makes sense for Australians) they actually shipped it by airmail and it arrived in a week or so.

Included in the catalogue are 6 actual patterns as well as lots of piccies of other patterns. Although they are multi-size the included patterns cover different ranges and actually only 3 of them include my size, a skirt, a top and an odd cape thing. When you order the individual patterns they come in only one size I think the idea is probably supposed to be that you test out your size on the included patterns and then order with confidence.

I started with the skirt pattern since I had some cheap heavy denim hanging around waiting to be used up. The mistake I made was that I cut a 44 instead of a 42, although I didn't realise this until the end. Having worked this out I now feel quite confident that 42 is the best size for my lower half at least. The pattern has 8 quite small pattern pieces which makes for easy work cutting out, since I don't really have room on my little kitchen floor for laying out huge amounts of fabric all at once.

Since the denim was quite thick and the start of the catalogue swore that frayed edges are way-cool :-o , I adopted flat construction techniques and so with the aid of some fancy stitches on my machine to stop fraying beyond the decorative I slapped the skirt together in a day. Even though I had to take it in rather a lot (due to cutting the wrong size) I really like the shaping of the skirt. James thinks the details (like the pocket and my top-stitching) are weird but I quite like them, even though people do keep telling me they are "cute".

The really cool thing about Marfy patterns is that they have no instructions beyond a few labels written on the pattern. I thought this might be a hindrance to construction but turns out that it enabled me to make a skirt in only a day! No pattern instructions would ever have allowed me to make this skirt the way I did. Maybe it will fall apart in a year but by then frayed edges will probably be well-uncool so it will probably be for the best... The word "couture" is all over the Marfy website, which is quite funny - I don't think this skirt could have been made any less couture...


An American Shirt

Kwik Sew 2777. Some barrel scraping conveners at the AGU have asked James to submit an abstract to their session, so for the first time we might be attending the "Fall" AGU meeting in San Francisco. How exciting! Taking place in mid-December this meeting really does coincide with the time the leaves are falling in Kamakura, while British people are more likely to consider mid-December to be mid-winter. I wonder what it is like San Francisco in December - don't they have summer all year?

Anyway, of course James will seek to blend in with the locals so what better than an American shirt? Question is what makes it look so American? The consensus of the comments on my review on PR seem to think it is the extra (muffin and steak?) space in the body and arms and the sloppy off the shoulder fit (for putting your muscles in from working out at the gym?). But I think there is summat funny about the collar. I think British collars are more square...? Of course it is not fully American because it does not contain a pocket to fill with leaky biros and notepads which, at least when I used to visit labs in the US with my Pa when I were a little girl, is a vital accessory for all American scientists.

In reality, this is a practice at men's shirt making using some incredibly cheap (100¥/m) and less than lovely fabric. It doesn't drape well which I think may make it look even baggier than it is. The real reason for making it is to see if I can make James some shirts which fit. All his long-sleeve shirts are too short in arms and body and too wide.

I've got the length sussed at least. I made size M adding several inches to body and arms to make the equivalent of XL lengths. I had some fun practicing some shirtmaking techniques. It is hard to keep edgestitching neat on such inordinately huge lengths (much easier on tiny blouses for jules). I had one or two other problems, getting the machine stuck on the collar points and finding that the top cuttonhole was in the wrong place. The are discussed further in my review on PR.

I have David Page Coffin's famous shirtmaking book. When I read his book I can't get the image of the pedantic and murderous George from Desperate Housewives out of my mind.... Anyway this time I followed only a few of his simplest suggestions - how to turn collars and how to roll-hem the hem. Next time I will probably try and incorporporate more of his clever techniques but this time I thought I'd try the pattern instructions - which seemed good enough for a practice.

I have now adjusted the pattern a bit, taking 1.5cm width out of left and right body and yolk pieces. Then I took 0.5cm off front and back at the edge and so 0.5cm off the edge of each sleeve top tapering to nothing the cuff. I also very slightly reshaped the back armscye moving it in 0.5cm at the base of the yolk. I wonder if that will mess everything up and mean poor James can't wave his arms, but that part really did seem like it had loads of extra fabric.

summer top thing

This top is based on Burda 8361. When I compared the pattern pieces to my own t-shirt pattern they were so radically different that I thought this was a chance to have some fun attempting to transfer the pattern details onto my own pattern.

I started by finding the height on the back to chop the t-shirt pattern in half horizonatally. Then I cut the front in half but with a curve like on the Burda pattern. The v of the neckline seemed low (why should become apparent later in this story) so I added a short CF seam to raise it a bit. After that it was just a case of swivelling the bust dart to the horizontal seam and drafting the pseudo-arms, which are just extensions of the shoulder.

The mistake I made was failing to realise that the shoulder to tit distance of the Burda pattern was too long for lil me. As a consequence the bustline was too low. Of course I only realised this after cutting out the fabric and basting the top together to try it on. To compensate I raised the shoulders an inch but of course this means the top is now a bit tight round the ribs and also it meant that I had to do the view with the unstitched arm-shoulder seam, since the arms would now be rather tight stitched up.

The top came out fine really and I have been wearing this quite a bit in the hot summer. Made of "onionskin" knit it is slightly sheer and feels best with a lightweight vest worn underneath. The vest is silk and I think the onionskin is polyester so that might be why it feels so much better with the underlayer.

This pattern used so little fabric (<1m) that I have enough left over to make a repeat. It is for fun since I rather enjoy the pattern-geometry stuff. I've already drafted a hopefully improved pattern so now just need time to stitch it and see if I've made things better or worse.


Wednesday, July 25, 2007


Burda 7942, from the burdamode website:
"Sewing level: easy. Burda sizes 36, 38, 40, 42, 44 The latest version of a classic - a blouse with a lapel/revers collar, section seams and fashionable gathering: view A with long cuffed sleeves, view B with short, gathered sleeves. Recommended fabric: Light-weight poplin, linen blends, cotton fabrics"

I bought the pattern because of the front styling. I do still quite like that. What I didn't like was the sizing. I think it is a bit big. I cut 38/12, a size smaller than my bust measurement suggested, but since I was using a stretch fabric, and the actual bust "finished garment" measurement written on the pattern said 39" for size 38, and my bust is 36"... it seemed like it should be OK. I suspect it is the usual problem of allowing the same actual ease in the smaller sizes as the bigger ones. However, I can't check this since somehow I have mislaid the part of the pattern where the finished garment sizes were printed. I also didn't find the pattern piece for the ties, but it must have been a small piece - I guess I threw it out by mistake!

I used a lightweight cotton shirting bought over the interweb from Emma One Sock. It's quite strange. Kind of cobwebby. Ms. One Sock herself told me it was "fashion forward" when I whinged about it to her. So that explains everything... It has a lot of stretch perpendicular to the stripe but none at all along the stripes. This made easing the back and front together quite tricky because I cut the front piece so that the stripes run across the shoulders. You can see the way the stripes run in this closeup. This is not the same grain direction as on the pattern but it seemed the only way to combine the stripes and the gathering at the front without getting very weirdie weirdie.

I couldn't really see how to make size adjustments in the gathered part, so after sewing the front and side-front together (ie sewing in the gathers - I tried out something called Seam Saver to bind the edge of the seam. It seems very nice and lightweight.), I pinned the body of the shirt together and then adjsuted it to fit. As well as taking in the waist and hips which I had thought I might need to do given my shape (1 size smaller below rib cage than above), I also adjusted the shape of the CB seam, taking in more at the waist. I also did think I had to bring the princess seams in a bit so I changed the button position and CF position to cope with this. I suppose this is probably the wrong thing to do, but with the curved shape of the front piece it seems to have worked out OK. I'm not sure it I like the non-collar stand style of this shirt. I realise now that all of the shirts in my wardrobe (except one) are not of this style.

There seemed a lot of sleeve to stuff into the armhole. I tried it and basted but then was quite relieved to find that the sleeves were really to wide for me, so I took out about a cm. This not only made it fit better but decreased the amount of extra fabric and made it possible to bring sleeve cap and armhole together.

I wouldn't really call this pattern "easy", because some fairly accurate stitching is required - for example in sewing the gathers neatly and attaching the casings for the ties. The result of the cotton cobweb fabric is surprisingly pleasant - being thin yet stretchy it is very comfortable for hot weather.


Sunday, July 15, 2007

T time for James

James and I ride a tandem. We ride it off road and on road to and from work. Sometimes we take the bike travelling. At the weekend we do a big food shop with Mountain Expedition panniers filled up with beer, beans and baps. The disadvantage of having a great weather shield on the front of your tandem is the front view, which tends to be a bit dull.

Not anymore! Now at weekends I have romantic european cafe-life views to enjoy. I just finished the third T-shirt I have made for James. What I have realised through the two other attempts is that tighter fitting shirts don't look that great on tall men, so I added about 4cm ease to the pattern. Here are some more pics: side, back.

The fabric was the interesting part of this exercise:

It was so expensive that I have forgotton how much it cost - a bad memory is the only way to make cutting into such things a possibility - but I know it was so much that I only bought a metre. I bought it from a lovely shop called "Elegance" in Nippori. It seems to sell only incredibly expensive beautiful fabrics! So I laid out the front and back of the shirt on the fabric and then realised there was no way to get even a single whole sleeve out of the remainder. I think the fabric was 150cm wide but James being so tall, there was just no way of getting it to work given the fact that the print on the fabric has a right way up. So that's when I started stitching little rectangles of fabric together. Each sleeve is of about 5 pieces and the neckline band is made from 3 pieces. The delightful part is that it really doesn't look any the worse for the patchwork effect, and I still managed to get a cute little velo at about the same place on each sleeve. So now I feel like I didn't waste quite so much money on the fabric - I had only a handful of tiny scraps left over after cutting out!

The fabric is a cotton knit, light-mid-weight and soft. It feels really lovely. It was a total pain because the edges curl. At the last minute, I doubled the seam allowances when cutting out (they were 0.25"), by drawing a new cutting line straight onto the fabric in chalk. I think it would have been hard work without this extra SA. The other problem was that the fabric did not always start the seam being fed through the sewing machine properly and had a habit of staying put and the machine then stitched a big knot instead of a nice neat row of stitches. The Janome Acufeed food helped but did not always irradicate this problem. On the other-hand the fabric has great stretch recovery which saved the fabric in these situations and also none of my seams of hems appeared at all stretched after steaming, which is unusual.

Other than the fabric adventures I didn't have problems constructing the shirt since I have done it twice before. Really I just wanted to share the nice pattern with you, to encourage you all to save up your money and then come shopping in Tokyo (although I think the fabric is a European import).


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

shorts in summer

I think it is in the name of fashion but in Tokyo the girls like to wear shorts in mid-winter and long johns or (and?) thick denim jeans under their dresses in summer. I don't have a photo of the latter but here is one of the former. I am more traditional and prefer to wear as little as possible in hot weather and as much as possible in the cold.

Summer is coming so I made a shorts version of Vogue 7481 previously used to make some lightweight blue jeans and some mid-weight black jeans.

First of all I altered the pattern a bit with the aim of improving fit compared to the previous version. This mean adding about a cm to the front crotch. I also slightly altered the shape of the front crotch and reshaped the inside leg and outside leg seams a bit so that the backs and fronts fitted together more perfectly. The waist band was redrafted to make into a smooth curve.

I chose a somewhat looser fit for the relaxed-style shorts, so I added to the side seams a bit - about a cm to each side seam at the hems tapering to nothing at the waistband. View C of this pattern does not have pockets or a yoke so I used the pattern pieces from View B as a guide to draft these onto my View C pattern which I have been adjusting for fit each time I make the trousers. Actually there are no rear pockets in any of the views so I took those from from View B for Vogue 8202. I used my RTW jeans as a guide for sewing the front pockets, sewing a full lining to the back of the pocket. What I did wrong was stitch the inner pocket on sideways. Rather than rip it out I opted to rotate the pocket piece by 90 degrees. This resulted in a pocket that was a cm or so shorter than it should have been. The rear pockets are also quite small so it doesn' t balance so badly!

The fabric is a fairly lightweight stretch denim but it is seemed very dense. I used size #30 thread rather than "jeans stitch" thread for the top stitching (size #60 in the bobbin), and used a lot of different needles, ranging from size 12 microtex, several sizes of denim needles to size 16 denim twin needles, depending which thread I was using and how many layers I was stitching through. Since I wanted a comfortable fit I interfaced the waistband with fusible tricot to keep the stretch. Partly because of this I also added belt loops - just in case the shorts decide to fall down.

They may look sloppy but I really like these shorts....


Saturday, June 23, 2007

Waterproof overtrousers for J

In the beginning there were Pertex overtrousers but, as it turned out, Pertex doesn't really have what it takes to keep out Japanese rain, so, in January I bought some Paclite Goretex from a shop called Rocky Woods. I also got Textile Outfitters to convert my prize into 7m of iron-on seam sealer, only I made the mistake of thinking James' inside leg measurement was his outside leg measurement so there wasn't enough sealer to tape the hems or waistband.

There is something that I have realised that I really like about sewing functional clothing. With normal clothes there is always the worry of "do I look awful in this?", but with functional clothes the question is "does it work?" and if it does work then its a success and that's it!

This is the same pattern as last time. The only difference is that this time, armed with seam sealer to seal the extra seams, I made a gusset at the leg zip area. I hope they still fit over hiking boots. The previous version just had a zipper guard sewn to the zipper tape. The other difference is sewing Goretex rather than Pertex. It was actually much easier, although time consuming. You just sew the seam, trim the seam allowances and then iron on the seam sealer. It is the ironing that takes all the time. You can pin in seam allowances (especially those you will cut off), but mostly I used basting glue (washed off afterwards with a sponge and water). I also used steam-a-seam to help secure the hems. I read somewhere that as well as mircotex needles a long stitch length is the way to go for waterproof fabrics. The idea is to make as few holes in the fabric and to make them small. With my new machine I can change stitch length so I used lengths of between 3.5mm and 4mm.

The first torrential rain of rainy season was last night. James says the new trews are "great". I think they are relatively sexy too - for waterproof trousers.