Monday, September 27, 2010

Lady Grey: The fabric is in.

Oh yeah! Saturday the postman delivered a hand-addressed envelope from Elfriede's Fine Fabrics in Boulder, Colorado. My fabric samples are here! Of course, now I am in conniptions over which fabric to choose. I hardly slept a wink last night (it is unclear, however, whether it is the fabric decision or a stressful work week that cause my disturbed snooze).

The samples arrived courtesy of Elfriede's Fine Fabrics, and the one and only Elfriede herself chose them after an email and a phone call. I had described to her that I was interested in a cotton chino/twill/trench-coat like fabric, and she explained that we are moving into the woolen season, so my timing was off for a spring jacket cotton. She said however that she would send some samples of what she recommends given my stipulations - I live in a hot climate, I am a beginning sewer, this is my first jacket, and I am attracted to the color blue. In response, she sent me fourteen samples. I am delighted. Her fabric is fine indeed.

In case you ever have the opportunity, I want you to be able to visit her store yourself, so here is the contact information:
Elfriede's Fine Fabrics
2425 Canyon Blvd.
Boulder, CO 80302
(303) 447-0132

Elfriede is the absolutely charming owner. If you head over to the website you can see a photo of Elfriede herself. She is German, and therefore has an impressive accent that adds to her personality. I can tell you from personal experience that she also has impeccable taste. Her fabrics are as beautiful as any fabric I can imagine. She is totally independent and I think she does all of her own buying. And the nice thing is that her shop is large enough to have everything you need, but still small enough that she knows every inch of her inventory and you can shop it without being overwhelmed. Plus, she excels at personal service.

She mailed me fourteen samples, ranging from stretch cotton to silk twill to wool gabardine (to be fair, I am making my best guess at the fabric types, I am not entirely sure they are twills and gabardines). You can see my favorite fabric choice up above, with details below. I am looking for feedback and opinions.

#1 is an off-white textured floral texture made of 89% cotton, 11% rayon and 60" wide. It is on sale for $24/yard (on sale from $48/yard) and made by an Italian designer. This is one of Elfriede's favorite choices. I like the fabric too, but I am concerned about the off-white color. Will it get dirty? Is it versatile?

#7 is a navy blue stretch cotton (chino or gabardine I think) made of 97% cotton, 3% spandex and 54" wide. It only costs $12/yard, which is a plus. This fabric matches my initial vision for a trench-like jacket, plus it's stretch. These are good things. But I do wonder if the blue fade quickly and looks dull, or if the dark color will attract lint and dust?

#8 is a dusty blue 100% cotton, similar in texture to the stretch cotton but without any stretch. It is a full 60" wide and only $12/yard, which makes it economical. This fabric has an already distressed look for a casual, year-round jacket, and it may be most appropriate to line with a printed cotton (I really dislike sewing silky fabric). But, is it a waste to sew such a classy, versatile jacket in such a casual fabric?

#9 is a violet-ish blue and golden brown "tweed" (not entirely sure this is technically a tweed, I am making my best guess) made of 100% silk. It is 54" wide and costs $28/yard, making it very pricey. It is Sam's favorite, and perhaps the most dressy fabric choice. Because of these two factors I am more and more drawn to it. The semi-nubby texture makes it interesting, and the multiple colors of beige, brown, and gold add dimension. I am leaning heavily on purchasing this for my coat. And it seems grown-up enough to demand a pair of gloves and a pretty handbag. But I do wonder... will it look too old or formal all sewn up in 5.5 yards? Also, will i have any challenges with a slightly looser weave? It is a silk, and is silk delicate... for example will it wear quickly where I carry my purse on my shoulder, or will it snag? I do not want to put forth the expense and effort if the jacket does not have a long shelf life. Oh, but it is pretty, and seems so fancy!

#14 is an almost Robin's Egg blue thin, tightly woven wool made of 100% wool and 60" wide. It too costs $28/yard. Advantages are that it is a pretty and bright color, it has a nice drape because it is a thin fabric, and it looks easy to sew. I am still wondering though, will the wool be too hot? Will the coat be versatile enough in my South Texas climate?

Oh, this is so hard. The combination of choices, expense, and fear of ruining lovely fabric is paralyzing me. I plan to call Elfriede tomorrow and ask a few more questions about my top choices, mainly if there are structural concerns for the jacket (looser weave vs. less drapey fabric), how to care for each fabric, plus I want to know about lining options. I hope she will send me some lining samples for two to three narrowed choices.

Please, Please PLEASE send me your feedback I really value some experienced sewers opinions, and also the opinions of those that know me, my style, and my lifestyle too. What do you think will work best for my Lady Grey?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Lady Grey Phase I: The procrastination phrase.

Whew. I am waist deep in phase one of my coat sew-along. It is the phase I like to call the procrastination phase. This phase is marked by the intense business of putting off fitting the pattern and sewing the muslin.

A brief example of the business involved in the procrastination phase: I examined the entire sew-along Flickr photo pool for inspiration...twice. Then I reviewed the blogs of any sew-along sewers with full busts, for research purposes. This of course led to a mandatory exploration of their entire blogs. I went ahead and browsed full blog archives, writing down all of the fabulous patterns they created for blouses and skirts and dresses, daydreaming and planning about sewing them too. I spent two days making my sewing notions shopping list. I needed needles, tracing paper, and a french curve ruler. It was a big list, yes? No wonder it took two days to write. I went to JoAnn Fabrics (did I mention I hate that place? I do. Passionately). They had needles and some sub par tracing paper. No French Curve, of course. Did I mention I spent 45 minutes in the needle aisle reading each package? I left with four different types of needs (stretch, lightweight woven, a twin needle, and a multi-pack, just in case), even though I have no current plans for the stretch or twin needles. And then to round out the procrastination phase, I just read the whole fit section of Jackets for Real People, again. plus a book on fabric cover to cover.

I have achieved things, yes. But have I made a lick of progress on my coat? No. That's what the procrastination phase is all about after all. In fact, if the procrastination phase were a legitimate part of sewing a beautiful jacket, I would be a champ and folks would probably be reading MY blog for tips and pointers. Unfortunately, its not. So today the phase ends. I am committed to moving into Phase 1.5: actually fitting and sewing the muslin.

So, if you will please excuse me, I need to cut out the pattern, trace the pattern, tissue fit the pattern, and make some basic adjustments right now. That is my task for today. See you soon, hopefully with something meaningful to show for my efforts.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Lady Grey Wrap Coat Sew-along

I am jumping into fall though with a renewed sewing vigor. To jump start my efforts, I am going to participant in my first online sew-along. Are you familiar with the concept? Basically, it is sort of a virtual sewing circle, where people all over the world work on the same pattern, on a similar time line, and use their blogs and social media to stay in touch, offer advice, and offer fit critique. A wonderful seamstress and vintage aficionado Gertie is spearheading this particular sew-along. You can read more about it on her blog here.

The pattern is from a Portland designer - Colette patterns - and it is the Lady Grey wrap coat. I have such a crush on this entire pattern line. First off, it is designed for curvy gals, and many busty women report they don't need to do their standard full bust adjustments to achieve a fitting garment. I might still need to do the FBA, but somehow I just KNOW this is a pattern line that will work for me.

Check out the design below and let me know what inspirations immediately come to mind. I am thinking of sewing this up as a lighter weight fa/spring coat, since I live in South Texas where it is always hot. Also, because i have never sewn with fancy wools and thick materials, and I think a firm woven will do the trick.

The wrap closure, the flared peplum, the exaggerated collar, the princess seams, and the sew-along buzz have me so excited! Read below for my personal to-do list, as well as a short summary of some wonderful women who have already created the coat.

Kate's Sew-along to-do list:

1. Receive and trace pattern:
It's ordered and shipped, and should arrive this week. I just KNOW it will still need some minor alterations, so at the very least I will trace out the front and back bodice pieces. Tracing patterns is a tedious chore and I hate it, but better spend an hour tracing than have to purchase a new pattern later.

2. Select and order fabric:
This is the hardest part right now. I just don't know where to find my material. I tend to dislike shopping at JoAnn's, our major fabric store in town, because I feel like their fabric is either very crafty or synthetic. So I may try to order fabric online. I really think I want to sew this in a firm cotton woven, something with a canvas-y or trench coat-like. The internet tells me I should be looking for a gabardine, cotton drill, poplin or a heavy twill. Sheesh, I need a book on fabrics. I have no idea what these are.

3. Pick up tailoring books from the San Antonio Public Library:
Gertie recommends Tailoring: the Classic Guide to Sewing the Perfect Jacket by the editors of Creative Publishing, but my library does not carry it. So I have requested Jackets for Real People: Tailoring Made Easy! by Marta Alto, Susan Neall, and Pati Palmer, Classic Tailoring Techniques: A Construction Guide for Men's Wear by Roberto Cabrera and Patricia Flaherty Meyers, and of course the basic bible of sewing New Complete Guide to Sewing : Step-by-Step Techniques for Making Clothes and Home Accessories from the editors at Reader's digest. Hopefully, armed with these three guides I can make it through the coat sew-along.

4. Get started:
I promise to keep you posted.

In the meantime, check out the beautiful Lady Grey coats already roaming the streets from these talented sewers. There fabric choice, styling, and descriptions have me super-motivated.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Mrs. White has a cording foot.

Mrs. White, my fine old lady sewing machine, has a cording foot! And thank goodness she does, because together we spent the last week of August making 100 yards of fabric flags for Sarah T's wedding!

A week ago yesterday we headed to Vermont for my dear friend Sarah's wedding. My two carry on bags were full to the brim with 160 laundered, pressed, and tied Vera Neumann napkins, 7 Vera tablecloths, and a football field's length of fabric flags. I was laden with linens and nervous about everything looking right, and I am pleased to report that the wedding was beautiful. The flags made it up into the trees next to twinkling white lights, and the linens dotted every table setting at the dinner. I will post some photos when I get the good stuff that the professionals shot. Just know that it did look lovely.

But, I could NOT have done it without this magical little foot, which offered a deep groove for the cording to run under as the needle zig-zagged above it. I don't know what this presser foot is technically called, or what it is actually designed for (as I am pretty sure it was not created with the expressed purpose of sewing wedding flags). But I do know this, I am a lucky girl that I found it in my stash of sewing supplies about two and a half weeks ago. Now, I can leave you with this advice. When committing to sewing wedding decorations, it is wise not to spend 9 months amassing materials and speculating on construction, and only one week completing the construction. But, it you do procrastinate, it is also wise to have an eBay-ed sewing machine on hand with surprise presser feet to help you complete the job.