Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Pattern Review: Thread Theory Belvedere Waistcoat

Thread Theory is a Canadian independent pattern company designing for men (with a couple of women's patterns in there too). The Belvedere Waistcoat is their latest release, currently available only as a pdf but eventually to be in print like their other patterns.
This is the third Thread Theory pattern I've sewn. I find their attention to detail and level of instructions to be excellent, and felt confident the Belvedere Waistcoat would be likewise. And it was!

My husband Andy is a great fan of waistcoats as part of his work wardrobe. The Thread Theory Fairfield shirt is a good fit on him with minor alterations, so I was hopeful this pattern would be too. I was also able to compare the Belevedere pattern pieces to one of Andy's favourite waistcoats and it seemed a good match.

The Belvedere is exactly what I was hoping for in a waistcoat pattern, being fully lined, having front and neck facings and proper welt pockets. Several optional add-ons are in the process of being released, including patch pockets, a back waist cinch and a collar.

Morgan, the designer behind Thread Theory, explains that the Belvedere is drafted to pair with higher-waisted formal pants. People wanting a waistcoat to go with jeans or other pants that sit lower would probably wish to lengthen it. I also read this review by a pattern tester who found it quite short on her partner. After comparison with Andy's ready-to-wear waistcoat I decided to add 2 inches in length. This was an easy alteration to the relevant pattern pieces at the clearly marked 'lengthen and shorten' lines.

I made two other alterations to the pattern:

- shortened the front darts - after adding the 2" of length, which goes right across the centre of the darts, I lowered the top point of the dart 3". This means the entire dart is just 1" shorter than on the original pattern, but the top sits 3" below its original position. This is more in line with the position of darts on Andy's existing waistcoats.

- altered side seams a little (in at the top, out at the bottom) at the 'trying on' stage suggested in the pattern instructions. This small adjustment changed a good fit to a great fit.

I used this beautiful 'Cashmere Finish' 100% Wool coating in Silvered Black, which was a pleasure to work with and gives the waistcoat a luxurious feel. Wrangling those welt pockets, situated right in the middle of darts, was certainly a test of fabric manipulation. It required a lot of careful steamy pressing, which made me grateful to be working with pure wool that wouldn't easily singe/melt! I can understand the use of a wooden 'clapper' better now, because pressing down with my hands on steaming wool after the iron is removed is a bit... toasty.

The layers of wool also proved too challenging for my beloved Singer buttonholer attachments (which can whip out a series of shirt buttonholes in minutes). After some trial and error I became friends with the 3-step buttonhole on my vintage Bernina, and was very happy with the result.

The lining and back is an acetate from DK Fabrics - using the darker, greyer side for the outside and the fancy gold on the inside. Shell buttons were also from DK. The acetate was a bit tricky to work with (not least because my hands are a bit dry and rough and my fingers caught on the fabric, ugh!) and it seemed like a minor miracle when the final waistcoat was turned right way out and all the wispy frayed seam allowances were hidden neatly away. It's a beautiful result and after a bit of recovery time I'll have probably forgotten the pain of sewing with acetate and attempt it again. You know how it goes. Pretty shinies!

And here we have my cooperative model, who knows the price of a lovingly tailored garment!
Real, functional welt pocket!
As soon as the waistcoat was finished Andy claimed it and has hardly taken it off, although I do want to grab it back at some point and re-sew the buttons on with a bit of a thread shank to allow some room for the thickness of the wool.
Altogether a very gratifying sew, and I'm sure there will be more Belvederes in the future.

There's a full step-by-step sewalong for the Thread Theory Belvedere Waistcoat in progress on their blog right now, and this will be available as a valuable resource for anyone sewing it in future.

- Jane & Fiona xx

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Extremely practical, fairly unglamorous

I'm sandwiching this post in between two 'pretty' projects because it's firmly in the category of Dull But Necessary. Sometimes sewing is like that. The rewarding part is not in the sewing or the finished object, but in the repeat upon repeat wearing of the garments.

With the onset of cooler weather we're all rummaging through our wardrobes and drawers for the longer layers. More than likely, some have seen better days or you realise you're down to those same two tops you had on repeat last winter. I realised I needed neutral-coloured long-sleeved tops and leggings. Yawn. We have a great selection of knits in store at the moment so at least the fabric selection part is a bit fun!

Cut to the chase: I made two versions of an Alabama Chanin top (machine-sewn rather than hand-sewn as the pattern is intended), one in this beautiful fine tencel/linen jersey:
and another in super-soft modal.

No modelled shots I'm afraid as they're a) boring and b) quite fitted and meant for layering only!

I also made some leggings (I use the Cake Espresso leggings pattern) in a similarly neutral colour from some organic cotton/spandex (available in store). Scintillating photo:
Are you still awake and reading?

Dull as each of these garments is, I am incredibly grateful to my recent-past-self for making them and they are already in heavy rotation. So do yourself a favour -
- and sew some basics. Check out our knit selection here. We have also just restocked on the Grainline Lark Tee pattern which is a great place to start if you're looking for a go-to knit top with lots of options.

- Jane & Fiona xx

Friday, May 26, 2017

Grainline Tamarack Jacket in Velveteen

Have you ever sat with a quilt on your lap in winter and thought how cosy it would be if you could actually wear it? Well the Grainline Tamarack is your opportunity to do just that - and look socially acceptable at the same time!
Jen of Grainline Studios first released this pattern in October 2015. Since we were heading into the Aussie summer we didn't really think a lot about it. But Jen seems to have a way of being a little ahead of trends and designing long-lived classic garments, and the Tamarack has been sneakily growing on us. I loved this one by Heather Lou of Closet Case Patterns, and the final push for me was seeing this quilted jacket by Kate of Bombazine. I was in need of another casual, warm jacket that I could throw in a bag and take anywhere. My Grainline Cascade Duffle has been possibly my most worn/thrashed item of handmade clothing ever, and although it's holding up pretty nicely in its third winter, it could use a little respite.
I'd been hanging out to do something with the beautiful new cotton velveteens we had in the shop, so I chose Cherub (Millennial pink, anyone?) and carried it around the shop until I found it a partner in this subtly awesome Cotton + Steel print of grey and silver bunny heads. Add a puff of pure Australian wool quilt batting (available in store) and I was off.

I have discussed previously that Grainline drafting 'out of the packet' doesn't work for my shape. With my full bust measurement putting me in a size 12, and my high bust in a size 8, I decided to split the difference, trace the size 10 and make a small full bust adjustment, adding a dart. Whilst an 8 might have been ideal in the shoulders, I didn't want to end up putting a giant bust dart in a pattern that was intended to have none.

There's plenty of wearing ease in the Tamarack pattern (and Jen very helpfully always includes finished garment measurements in her patterns) but actually getting this to fit across my bust was not the only concern.  It was more a matter of how the finished garment would sit: without a dart, a jacket can tend to be pushed up and back over my narrow shoulders and ultimately, hang really poorly. A dart will give me a nice sloped roof and straight wall below, if you get the picture!

How did the bust dart work in quilted fabric? It was a bit of a gamble but in fact it worked quite well. I thought I may need to trim off the dart inside but it folded and pressed just fine. There are two things to watch out for:
- what does the dart do to your quilting pattern? In my case it meant that the quilting lines at the jacket side seams did not meet up below the dart. Not ideal but I can live with this. A more complex quilting pattern would help hide this difference.

- how will you deal with the bulk of the fold in the side seam? You'll end up with 3 layers of quilt, which is 9 layers of substrate, at one point! My regular sewing machine was quite happy to chug through this but my overlocker struggled... and the result was ugly. Perhaps a blessing in disguise though, because I decided to bind the seams to hide all the mess. I simply sewed bias tape over the seam allowance. After sewing down the first side I trimmed the seam allowance back considerably to reduce bulk, then folded it over and sewed the second side. Much, much better and a finish I would highly recommend for all the interior Tamarack seams. (I wish I'd done the shoulder and armhole seams this way but by this stage I'd overlocked them neatly and they were joined to other seams and they're not visible when I'm wearing the jacket anyway.)
The slight patchwork effect on the pocket bags is a long and uninteresting story but I get bunnies on the inside and outside!
Apart from adding the bust dart, the other small changes I made to the pattern were:
- shortening it and straightening out the bottom, cutting off just below where the curved hem begins on the pattern. In a colder climate the extra warmth of a longer jacket would make a lot of sense but a shorter one seems more versatile for an Adelaide winter.
- rounding off the corners of the front edges. I simply took a small saucer from the cupboard and traced the rounded edge of that, after the jacket was constructed but before binding. I was a little worried the binding may bunch up a bit around the curves, but I stretched it out a little (it's bias cut) on the first pass and it folded over and sewed down beautifully.
The majority of construction is pretty straightforward. I followed the quilting instructions (making the sandwich and basting) to the letter and my fabrics, with the help of a walking foot on my Singer, behaved very nicely. The welt pockets were a bit different to my previous (limited) welt experience and it was one of those occasions where I couldn't quite picture the end result and just had to walk through it with blind faith. And it worked. Since I shortened the jacket, I had to also shorten the pocket bags but they're still a really useful size.

I am simply delighted with my Tamarack. It's so cosy, so comfy and really, really like wearing a quilt. (#secretquilt ?) Go on. If you've been on the fence, hop on over into Tamarack land. You'll like it here.

- Jane & Fiona xx