September 2009

Slow going

This jacket is turning into a beast.

On my previous jackets I always put the zipper in last and inevitably the two sides didn’t line up.  So this time I thought I’d start by putting in the zipper.  I basted the two center front sections together, basted the zipper to the seam allowance, then topstitched it in place and removed the basting stitches.  But since I wanted it to zip up all the way through the collar that meant attaching the collar at the beginning too.  All this took about two days.

I also thought the jacket would get more wear if I made it warm enough to wear outside through November or so.  Which would hopefully make it warm enough to wear in lab through the winter.  To that end I decided to interline it with cotton flannel.  I followed Ann’s instructions for hand-basting the flannel to the outer fabric.  That part wasn’t too hard.  But adding the extra layer made the seams much bulkier, so each one has taken a while to sew, trim, and press/wrestle into shape.  Here’s the inside of the front section showing the red cotton inter-lining:

I finally got the shell done this weekend.  I left the interlining off the sleeves because I thought it would make them less flexible.  And I hand-stitched the collar facing down to the collar.  The back is still a bit wrinkled but I hope putting the lining in will fix that a bit:

Now I just have to make and insert the lining…


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At the Met

Johannes Vermeer, A Maid Asleep, image from

We went to New Jersey last weekend to celebrate Rosh Hashana with David’s parents.  We made our usual stop at my sister’s on the way down and caught the Vermeer exhibit at the Met before heading over to New Jersey.  The exhibit was in honor of Vermeer’s Milkmaid, which had come all the way from Amsterdam.  It’s gorgeous.  But it was also mobbed.  So I ended up spending more time in front of this one.  I was mesmerized by the light outside the door.  It is coming from the left, offstage, and as the warmest light in the painting, it draws your eye.  The caption says the girl is dreaming of “a recently departed lover,” but I wonder if she isn’t dreaming of the future.

Inspired by the museum visit I did some value sketches for three paintings I’ve been thinking about doing.  These are from the rainy day photos I took last spring.

We got back late on Sunday to a call from my sister.  Sam had proposed to her that afternoon.  Hip hip hooray!!!


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My friend Wendy started her lab at MIT last year.  She studies ribosomes, the tiny machines that turn RNA into protein.  One of the questions she is interested in is why there are so many different kinds of ribosomes.  Do they do different things?  Or work in different situations?

She asked me to create a painting to illustrate her website.  This is what I came up with.  This painting is 98% oil and 2% Photoshop.  I had to use Photoshop to stitch together the scans anyway, and I found that the “overlay” function on the brush tool works a lot like glazing.  Both allow you to lay transparent color over an area without changing the texture underneath.  So I used that to touch up the highlights and deepen a few shadows.


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Hot pockets

I adore pockets.  But they always end up taking forever to make.  Especially if I do something ridiculous like line them in silk twill:

To sew the pocket front and back together I lined them up, pinned them along the center, then folded them lengthwise and pinned the edges in place.  The idea is that this compensates for “turn of cloth” (I love this phrase) and will make the pocket lie nicely on the finished (curved) jacket.  Not sure whether this will work.

Whatever possessed me to think I could finish two jackets this month?


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Problems in applied topology

My Mom likes to tell a story about how my Dad was explaining a complicated theorem in topology to her.  At the end of the explanation she replied “Oh yes.  Those are called darts.”  When she taught me to use a sewing machine last year, she tried to encourage me by saying “Sewing is just applied topology.”  Of course, my mom got a PhD in math, so presumably she knows something about topology.  Me, not so much.  It might have come in handy this past week.

I had the idea that I would make two jackets this month.  One with a hood and one a bit more fitted.  I was going to make them from the same pattern, V8541, which I have made once before so I didn’t think it would take too long.  Here’s what I had in mind for the more fitted version:

And here’s the pattern I started from:

(from the Vogue Patterns website) except with a curved back seam I put in the last time I made this jacket.

To convert the darts to princess seams, I sliced the pattern pieces through the darts, and rotated the side of the front pattern piece to close the dart.  I also transferred the lump of my upper back (shaded area) to the back side piece, so I could cut the center back piece on the fold:

I made my first muslin and sewed it up.  I thought it fit pretty well and was very pleased with myself, until I took a picture of the back:

What’s up with the seam on the right?  And why are the sleeves pulling in from the sides?

The problem with the sleeve is that I tried to alter it with no idea of what I was doing.  I read on Dawn’s blog that if I added fabric to the bottom of the armhole, it would give me more range of motion.  That seemed like a good idea, so I went ahead and added about 1/2 inch.  Then I figured I should add the same amount to the parts of the sleeve that matched.  And then the sleeve cap was too big so I took a little off the top of it.  After looking at my weirdo muslin though I did the sensible thing and googled “sleeve alteration.”  Google directed me to this site, which explained that the proper thing to do is to add fabric to the sides of the sleeve caps, and make the sleeve narrower:

Why is that the right thing to do?  Well, I made the armhole smaller so the circumference of the sleeve has to be narrower to match.  Since I didn’t change the circumference of my sleeve I was trying to stuff a wider sleeve into a narrower hole.  Hence the pulling.

Here’s my second muslin with the sleeve fixed on the left:

I was still perplexed about the back seam.  Part of the problem is that I think my shoulders are asymmetric.  I spent several days tweaking the jacket trying to made the sides look even.  Then I cut the muslin apart and went to go trace the pieces.  Since I was out of tracing paper I copied them onto my dress sloper.

When I lined the front jacket pieces (which fit well) up to the center front of the dress I saw that the bust points were at the same level, but that the jacket dart was little to the side of the dress dart and the jacket side seam was a bunch further to the side.  That made sense because the jacket has to go around whatever I’m wearing underneath.  Its circumference is wider than the dress’s so if I line the two up at the middle, all the points to the side should be further out on the jacket.  On the back, though, the jacket dart fell on top of the dress dart.  Eureka!  I adjusted the back to match (roughly) the proportions on the front.  The dress sloper also let me see what jacket length would be most flattering.  After a few more tweeks, here’s my final muslin (still haven’t fixed the sleeve on the right):

The smile is because I feel like I just solved a particularly tricky problem set.  Its only a half smile because I realize I’ll have to do this again for the hooded version.


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I can stop anytime I want to

September has been bad for the fabric diet.  Because I love fall colors.  And I love fall fabrics.  I spent a good part of Saturday making pretty piles of fabric.  And then rearranging those piles into other piles.  Yum!

Here’s what I am planning to sew this month:

From left to right: a dark gray wool hooded jacket with purple silk lining, a gray cotton dress with orange facings and pockets, gray, green, and black knit tops (probably cowlnecks) and a pair of blue-gray corduroy pants.

My collection of wool knits, mostly from Fabricmart.  I’m going to make some smartwool-style tops and sweaters for winter.  The orange one isn’t a knit but it was too rooish to pass up.  Its also from Fabricmart.  I have no idea what I’m going to make with it.

Some dressier fabrics I picked up at Winmil earlier this summer:

The two on the left will probably be dresses.  For the one with the squares I am thinking of a longer jacket.  Its a cool silver on the other side.

Oh yes, and these two came in the mail today:

The cream one is for another jacket, and the brown one is for my Mom’s dress.  Its a little more green and less brown than I thought it would be.  Here’s the pattern I am thinking of using:

Not necessarily with the buckle.  Fabric and pattern okay, mom?  (Don’t worry, there will be an orange contrast stripe!)


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Dress with Pants

This is another YesStyle knock-off.  There were a couple different versions on the site, all being sold as dresses, though they weren’t much longer than this one.  Its a lovely fine rayon knit from Gorgeous Fabrics, with a nice silky finish on the outside.  Somehow I didn’t anticipate quite how much the scarf would make me look like a girl scout.

Here’s another from the same pattern.  I made a new “knit tunic sloper” for these, drawing a line from the shoulder on my t-shirt pattern to my normal hip width for woven dresses.  I wanted it a bit more fitted up top but loose around the hips.  I made a single (knit) muslin for both then stitched the seam lines onto it to see where they would fall.  Its hard to see here but the first one has princess seams and a separate neck band, while the second has little raglan sleeves.  Both have pockets, naturally.

What I love about the dress with pants combo is that it looks rather elegant but feels like I’m wearing my pajamas.  Or perhaps I’m kidding myself and it just looks like I’m wearing pajamas.  Whatever.  I get to wear pajamas all day.


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