Saturday, December 22, 2012

cameraman jacket

Ha-cha-cha. It's done! After maybe a month of toil (with a few much-needed breaks to sew other things), I finally completed this jacket for my boyf. It's probably the most time and effort I've ever put into any garment, so I'm incredibly relieved that it's done, that it fits, that it's actually what we both had envisioned, and that I didn't accidentally chop a huge hole into it in the final moments.

This jacket was not difficult in technique, per se, but it was time-consuming because there were a lot of fiddly details, and I kept making mistakes or deciding something wasn't good enough. Annnnd I had to match plaids at the side seams, at the bottom band, at the button placket, and across four lined pockets with corresponding lined flaps. Oy. 

Corey likes to say that he "designed" this jacket, but I'm not quite on board with that statement since we essentially copied a RTW design and I used a sewing pattern as the base. The inspiration was the high-end Nigel Cabourn Cameraman Jacket, which retails for over 1,000 USD at places like Barney's, or $500 on eBay. Uh, yeah.

We cut down on the sporty outdoorsman style by using leather patches and wooden toggles instead of metal snaps, nixing the drawstring hood, and sticking with the classic sleeve instead of the raglan.

I was lucky to find Vogue 8842 for the core jacket construction, which is more of a parka pattern that's meant to be made of (-shudder-) nylon fabric, a plastic zipper, Velcro and elastic. The shape of it, though, was almost exactly what he was looking for, and I liked that it already had a hood and a full lining so I wouldn't have to figure out that nonsense by myself.

I made a size 36 -- whatever that means in guy-sized jackets -- and it basically fit right out of the envelope. I did take in some of the bagginess at the sleeve and armpit, and added 2 inches in length to the sleeves to accommodate his long arms. In terms of the pattern design and construction process, I changed a LOT and eventually just tossed aside the instructions.

The changes included:

1) Adjusting the proportions of the color-blocking -- scooting down the plaid section by 2.5 inches. The vintage wool was part of the fabric haul gifted to me recently (blog post here). The upper section is a sturdy cotton twill from JoAnn.

2) Eliminating the multi-seams in the sleeves so it was just one pattern piece instead of three.

3) Drafting new pockets and pointed flaps for the front. As with the Cameraman style, the top two pockets sit a bit higher than the division line of two fabrics. Definitely unique.

4) Interlining (underlining?) for more warmth. The lining is made of gray flannel with a subtle herringbone print. It didn't feel thick enough on its own to make the jacket wearable in cold months, so I basted leftover ponte knit to the wrong sides of all my lining pieces. The jacket is now surprisingly heavy (especially with all those pockets) and super cozy on the inside. Corey has worn it everyday for the past week, which has been in the 40s temperature-wise.

5) Using three toggle buttons plus three regular buttons on the front placket instead of a zipper. We mocked the Cameraman style in this way to mix button styles. The toggle buttons and clasps came in a set (hallelujah) from M&J Trimmings' online store. The leather patches were THICK and required a size 110 needle and vigorous churning the hand wheel of my machine to stitch them on. If I tried to use the foot pedal alone, my machine squealed in protest. My stitches are messy, but actually better than I expected they would be. I'm just glad I got the toggle patches on at all, because for awhile there I doubted that I'd be able to do it with my limited skill set and equipment.

6) Adding cuffs with adjustable buttoned tabs.

and 7) Adding a snap to keep the top of the placket closed. This was the very last thing I did, and I had a HELL of a time hammering on this stupid snap. After five busted and bent snaps, I finally... finally... realized I was trying to attach one of the pieces the wrong side up. Truly infuriating to be SO close to done and yet wasting a couple hours on figuring out one friggin' snap.

This jacket is unique enough that quite a few strangers have complimented it out of the blue. Special shout-out to the Fresh Grocer cashier who has my blog address now because of one of these little interactions.

So that's that. Merry Chrimbus, Corey ! ! ! !

I hope you all have a safe and happy holiday. We're flying home this afternoon to be with our friends and family for the week, but I promise that now that the gift-making season is almost over, I will soon be back to more frequent posting. I've missed you all!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

walk this way?

Ah, the face only a mother could love. My walking foot is one of my most prized possessions, for real. I bought it in the midst of a desperate plaid-matching fiasco and I'm so glad I did, even though it's the cheap kind made of a questionable ratio of plastic to metal. Still, it's valiantly trudged over bulky corners of cotton twill. It's glided smoothly through jersey hems. It's gracefully aligned stripes across seams of spongy wool.

If you're unfamiliar with what a walking foot is, I'll explain briefly: it features its own feed dogs (the things that look like shark teeth... or, I guess, dog teeth) that press down and help scoot your fabric from the top, creating even pressure on both sides of your fabric as you sew. This distributes layers evenly under the foot so as to prevent puckering and shifting. GREAT for matching plaids and stripes, helping you achieve this type of thang:

That, my friends, is what Neeno likes to call "chevron p o r n." 

Anyway, I swear I have a point to this post. I need you to help answer this question: is there such thing as TOO much walking foot action? Or is there a time when I should not use a walking foot? I'm a bit hesitant to admit that for my past several projects, the only time I ever not used my walking foot was when I was using my buttonhole or zipper feet. Otherwise it's been permanently nestled on my machine, sinking its little monster teeth into all my projects.

Yesterday I stopped myself, though, because I was about to start sewing a slippery polyester fabric with my walking foot. Is it a no-no to use this foot on this type of fabric? I have no idea. Is there any time you sew where you should NOT have an even feed? Is there any time when you actually want to have your regular presser foot digging aggressively into the top layer of your fabric until it folds over on itself (I exaggerate)? 

It seems like it's probably fine, but I also just feel like I'm wearing out its tiny plastic comb teeth by using it for simply everything. What if my confident strut turns into an aimless meander?

(This photo was staged. I don't normally use bright blue thread for beige garments. Or do I? Beige garment post coming soon, btw.)

Any thoughts either way?