Minoru progress report #3

Confession time. I bunked off for the weekend to stay with my darling daughter in London so didn’t work on my jacket at all last weekend.

However, I can report that the Isabella Blow:Fashion Galore  exhibition at Somerset House is well worth a visit. I went on Saturday morning and despite arriving at 10am I was only just finished when I had to meet the DD at 12 noon for the guided tour of Somerset House (free, but you have to pick up a ticket at the welcome desk – and also well worth doing!) . There were lots of Alexander McQueen garments as you might have expected, and Philip Treacy hats, but so much more. Really, if you get the chance go! It was £12.50 full price (only £6.25 on Mondays) and was worth every penny in my opinion. Sadly no photographs allowed to encourage you to buy the book of the exhibition – beautiful but £40 so over my budget limit for the weekend. **

That was followed by a visit to the Tower of London – but we must have been well behaved as they let us out again. (Or so bad they didn’t want to keep us).

Lining showing the Thinsulate (pretending to be a Polar bear?)

Lining showing the Thinsulate (pretending to be a Polar bear?)

Lining right side out - with pocket into the facing.

Lining right side out – with pocket into the facing.

Anyhow, the jacket has had some progress. I have finished the lining, complete with the Thinsulate for extra warmth, and it is all ready to be sewn into place once I finish the cuffs. I have shortened the sleeves a little, but the way the cuffs are done is possibly unnecessarily fiddly in my opinion. I will reserve judgement until they are complete but if I make the jacket again I may change the cuff design.

It really shouldn’t take too long to finish from here – next post with the finished garment and final report.


** I have been sent a comment to say that the Isabella Blow book is only £23 on Amazon so anyone who wants to see more (check out the innards) can look there.

Minoru progress report #2

I haven’t got on quite as well as I had hoped with my jacket – it is only as far as it is because I have imposed a deadline! Working on it over the weekend was a good idea as I have had no time to work on it through the week. Unfortunately I got distracted on Saturday by Bewdleys Wassail. Yes, I thought that too.

Dancers in Jubilee Gardens

Dancers in Jubilee Gardens

Dancing despite flood threat

Dancing despite flood threat

Bewdley was full (or so it seemed) of dancers in remarkable costumes giving their all before the Wassail ceremony on Saturday afternoon to bring luck and a good harvest to the fruit trees in the community orchard inn Jubilee Garden. All great fun and terribly pagan. Mr Styles, who sells my favourite apple juice  was there so I stocked up on my favourite Bramley and Cox juice. Someone else was selling fabulous sausage rolls so I added them to my home made Celery soup and lunch was sorted.

I really fell in love with the willow chicken that Bewdley Willow had brought along as part of their display – if anyone sees The Management suggest one for my birthday!Isn’t it fabulous. They had photographs of some of their other work which was wonderful. Anyway, you can see how anyone would have been distracted. And also what a bizarre town I live in!

Bewdley Willow statues - I love that chicken!

Bewdley Willow statues – I love that chicken!


Looking good so far -the back view.

Looking good so far -the back view.

Raglan seams sealed

Raglan seams sealed

Back to the jacket. I sewed the body together and sealed the raglan seams with some waterproof tape from Pennine Outdoor to try and make it a little more rain resistant. The tape was fairly easy to use – simply iron into place and leave to allow the glue to set again. I hope it will help, but as it is something I haven’t used before I will have to report back after wearing. I also used the tape on the seam in the hood. It seemed like a no brainer to have it at the very top of the garment that would be hit be rain first. Lets hope it works!

I made the welt pockets in the front pieces before I stitched the body together. Nothing really to report on the basic welt pocket – however the actual flaps/welts are a little different. I used a method I first saw in Threads magazine many years ago from an article called ‘No-bulk Envelope Welts’ (pause whilst everyone charges off to check their magazine stash – you have to go to February/March 1998 ladies!) . This looks complicated but isn’t, and whilst it wasn’t essential in this fabric you can imagine the difference it makes to a thick wool pocket.

Pocket support

Pocket support

Bulk Free welt flap patterns and samples.

Bulk Free welt flap patterns and samples.

If you click on the pattern/sample picture you can enlarge it to see the principal involved. By making the seam at the end of the flap (which would normally end up four layers of fabric deep when turned) into a mitered corner in moves the bulk from the seam away from the very end. This makes the pocket much neater, and also easier to sew in place as you aren’t quite so likely to be falling off the end.

Inside the pocket I attached a strip of scrap to the top of the pocket bag and attached it to the front of the jacket so that the pocket will be supported by the seam when it is all finished.

I’m pretty pleased with the jacket so far, it is fitting pretty well although the sleeves are too long at present. Once I have the zip sewn in I will start on the lining/Thinsulate interlining. I think that should take less time than the main body as there are less details to be sewn so I really want to finish it next week.

All I have to do is keep up with customer deadlines. So far so good, but more are ringing now. Aaargh.

Nutty New Year

Well I got back to work on clients stuff on Monday. My first job was to gather all the things I had ‘put away until after the holidays’. Ouch. I really hadn’t realised how it was building up so this week has been absolutely nuts.

I realised pretty quickly that Minoru jacket was going to have to wait for attention. However, I hadn’t considered how interested you people would be about the NIKWAX wash in waterproofing. Now I may have sounded a good deal more confident about this than I ought to have been – this was as much an experiment for me although I obviously didn’t make that clear! I have used this on commercial garments to ‘reproof’ them after washing so I thought it would be good to try. Nothing to lose after all.

The small piece is pre-washing.

The small piece is not washed.

You can see from the photograph that the water I sprayed onto the fabrics has stayed on the surface on both pieces so I have hopes that this jacket will be showerproof – not deluge proof but good enough. As the fabric wasn’t bought as a waterproof/showerproof fabric I am happy with the level of protection I have got there – and I know I am able to launder it again with the treatment if I need to.

The Thinsulate has arrived for the warm interlining but I haven’t had an opportunity to cut it out yet – I am planning a bus-mans holiday this weekend so hope to have something to show early next week.

P.S. I can’t remember who asked but the pockets I am added will be welt pockets. I will mitre the corners to remove the bulk from the very edges – but more on that later.

Garment a Month Planning – January

This month is an easy choice – I have had this waiting in a little heap to make a start almost since I bought the pattern on my trip to Stratford in June last year (details here). I admired the Sewaholic Minoru in multiple blogs and couldn’t wait to make my own. Only I did.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe main fabric is 100% Polyamide and is slightly showerproof. Because of this I thought it would probably be worth washing in a bit more waterproofing (hence the NIKWAX sachet) and it is in the machine as I type. The lining is a silky polyester inherited from an old lady who used to sew and couldn’t take all of her stash into a residential home. Could this be my future? Anyway, the pattern was one that I would never have worn as a main garment fabric but it will make a brilliant lining. I have ordered the Thinsulate I intend to use as a warm interlining today – hopefully that will make the whole jacket much more useful. I already have a (potentially cold!) weekend away that I hope to have this jacket finished for.

I am making only minor changes to the basic pattern – I really need pockets on the main body – where would you find the wonderful treasures you find on a walk? Also, I will be lining the hood, which after a quick scan of the pattern appears to be left unlined. I have no good reason other than I would like to.

I managed to cut the lining pieces out whilst I was waiting for the Management to get home from work so I hope to be able to get this started very soon. Sadly I do have to get on with some client work tomorrow. Darn.

Islander Jacket Express -4 (or how to make it slowly!)

I got back from my mums house last weekend with great intentions of sorting out all the jobs I had left behind, and finishing half done projects. I wanted to make a start on autumn clothes as it has suddenly become quite chilly, and there are now morning mists on the river- a clear sign that the season is changing. Then I developed another dental abscess. Darn.

I have had three dentist appointments this week, am feeling a bit low, and am just about keeping pace with client work. I have been working on the jacket and hoped to finish it today but in keeping with the way things have gone this week I discovered that the hammer on studs I thought I had bought for the project were actually hammer on buttons so I still need to make buttonholes. I think ‘more haste, less speed’ applies here.

I am setting this aside for the moment as I have a couple of deadlines looming but I hope to finish mid next week. I am starting to get a bit bored and if I don’t finish this I will cast it aside as an undeserved wadder. I will give more details about my opinion of the jacket, and the Craftsy course when I finish.

Hammer at the ready but they are buttons - not studs. Doh!

Hammer at the ready but they are buttons – not studs. Doh!

P.S. Thank you to those who wished my mum well. She is much better now and able to cope on her own again.


Islander Jacket Express – 3

I have spent some time today trying to get on with this jacket. There seems to be reasonable progress, but at nothing like the previous rate.

I have reached the point where I could start on the decorative top-stitching. Brilliant! (I thought). What a bear! I have struggled to make my Pfaff behave with the upholstery thread I bought (nothing else seemed to go so well with the ORANGE twill as this bronzy brown), and I have ended up turning the air blue wrestling with the Janome I keep as my spare machine. Whilst it does a good stitch (usually) it isn’t anything like as controlable as the Pfaff.  If I had been thinking better I would like to bet that the old hand crank Singer would have made a better job, but I would then have been short of a hand to direct the fabric.

When I eventually managed to get a stitch I was happy to use I spent a while working, and pulling out the less satisfactory seams, until I remembered about the alien helmet. Boy, does that make a difference. The light can be directed exactly where it is needed, and the extra magnification really helps to see when you have fouled up. Except that when I got the gizmo I improved an amazing amount. Lesson learned. And again I thank Janet Pray for even suggesting that it might be useful. I will have to make sure I don’t leave the house wearing this thing now, I like it so much!

Topstitching, and the start of pockets

Topstitching, and the start of pockets

I struggled a bit to perform the ‘crimping’ needed to turn the seam allowance on the top pockets so that they could be top-stitched in place but managed to get a reasonable result after two attempts. I am fairly happy with how they look. I didn’t mention that there was an instruction booklet rather than a flat sheet with the pattern – much more information, and very helpful even without the Craftsy video lessons. The explanation given on how to ensure you end up with properly squared corners on your welt pockets is excellent. I have got as far as checking my stitching before cutting the pocket hole, and then I ran out of time.

This is as far as I will be able to get for a week as I am going to Northumberland again. My mum has had a minor operation on her hand and needs a little assistance until it is better. I will be taking my new knitting with me so I wont be idle. I have made a start on the Topeka sweater that I saw on ‘nothing but knits’ blog. The pattern is available in Ravelry as a download so I was able to get it and start in some yarn I had stashed. Hopefully by the time I get home it will look closer to the picture on the left than the right. Back in a week. Bye folks!

Started, lots left to do!

Started, lots left to do!

Islander Jacket Express – 2

I have managed to make a start on sewing the jacket today – the Management was going to be home from work a little late so I decided to press on for a little while. Whilst I had decided which interlining I was going to use (an iron on cotton from stash) I hadn’t cut it out, so I made a start on the body and sleeve seams.

One of the main time saving elements that Janet is teaching in this course is the sewing of seams without using pins to anchor them. It took quite a leap of faith to try this but as I am using ridiculously cheap, and very forgiving, cotton twill I jumped right in. What a revelation! The main thing you need for this is confidence so making this particular jacket is going to help lots. I, like many dressmakers, have grown to rely on pinning things into place – all of which slows things down in Janets opinion, and I have to say after today I would be inclined to agree. The seams went together easily, and without my finishing up with an excess on one or other layer. I would say that you are shown a very simple but effective way of holding the fabric on the Craftsy course which helps anchor the fabric well. It will take more practice before I would be prepared to ‘go pinless’ on an important or expensive fabric, but I could see how it might happen. I will almost certainly be using fewer pins in future.

All pressed ready for topstitching

All pressed ready for top-stitching

I managed to sew the sleeves and body pieces together, overlock (serge), and press them in what seamed like a very short time. I have deviated a little from Janet Prays instructions, but having cut and fused all of the pieces that needed to be interlined ready for tomorrow, I will back track when I start again and get to the point in the instructions ready to start top-stitching.

All interlined ready to get going

All interlined ready to get going tomorrow

So far, so good!

Islander Jacket Express -1

A little while ago I enrolled on Janet Prays ‘Sew better, Sew faster: Garment Industry Secrets course on Craftsy. It took me a little while to make a  start on this as I was a bit peeved to have to pay VAT+Post Office charge on the imported pattern. I should have known that I would have to at some point – but it was galling that the Post Office handling charge was more than the tax to pay. As I bought the course while it was on sale I really have no cause for complaint.

Sew Better, Sew Faster


Anyway, I have been threatening to make something for myself for a little while but someone else always seems to jump ahead. I justified this as research.  I traced off the size I wanted to use rather than cutting the pattern as I may want to make a different size later. Rather than using the size I thought I should, from my body measurements, I have cut according to the amount of ease I wanted using the finished garment measurement. The size I thought I needed would have ended up with a massive amount of ease!

I have been spending tea breaks and such watching the online classes, and have bought a couple of things that I think may be useful. The first was a Rolson Magnifying head torch thingy from Amazon. Janet uses a professional standard tool called an Optivisor, but this was a fraction of the cost and included a torch on the visor. I have used mine today to unpick some tiny stitches on a linen garment for a client – I think I am converted. This has already proved its worth.

The other thing I bought was a pack of FRIXION erasable pens. Janet uses these frequently to fine line mark points on the garment. They can be erased with a hot iron, but obviously I will need to test them on my fabric before I go wild.

You may remember I recently bought a pair of Gingher shears which I have been very happy with. I was intending to use these to cut out the jacket – but Janet uses a roller cutter with mat. I have used mine just for cutting strips for bias binding and such but never thought they would be very good for an entire garment. Well, some things you just have to try. WOW! I was amazed at how quickly I got used to the pressure needed to cut both layers of cotton twill, and how to work my way around curves. I can’t say I am never going to use shears again but I am seriously impressed with how easy this job was. Like many dressmakers of many years experience (NO, not OLD dressmakers!) my wrist and hand does ache after cutting out and this really did seem to help.

Cutting out with the roller thingy!

Cutting out with the roller thingy!

I decided I had done enough tonight so I will cut the interfacings out tomorrow and see how far I get then. I still have reservations about the colour of this jacket but it is a way of trying out this system without being in the least concerned about cost . Or making a cattywompus (which after hearing Janet use the word today is one I will be adopting and making as much use of as I can!)


I meant to sew today……

….. but I got completely engrossed in other things.

Yesterday I met a very warm and generous lady who replied to an appeal I made on the Freecycle network  for a sour dough starter. Several people,including Tanya at Chica Andaluza and Nothing But Knit (clearly not just knitting!) have been making sour dough bread,  and I was terribly envious. My own efforts at making a sour dough starter ended in dismal failure – hence the appeal on Freecycle.

Janice Bell lives in Bewdley and runs Bread at Home courses, and very kindly gave me starters for both white and rye bread. Needless to say I started the ‘sponge’ as soon as I had cleared away tea last night and have continued the bread today. My house smells fabulous – and I am now stuffed full of samples from both loaves which I ate at tea time. Yummy.

Sour dough loaves - no longer this big!

Sour dough loaves – no longer this big!

In addition to making these loaves I have been gathering what I need for my next project. I am going to allocate an hour per day before I start work on client jobs to make this jacket. I bought the course from the Craftsy website to see what could be learned from someone who has sewn in industry, rather than just domestic sewing. I have made a start watching some of the lessons, and have already gained some new ideas (Fluxion pens are new to me – I can’t wait to try them out!). The cotton twill was bought a little while ago for peanuts from Birmingham Rag Market so if I don’t like the eventual outcome it won’t have cost a lot and hopefully I will have learned some new skills.

All I need to start?

All I need to start?

I will show you how I am getting along through the week. If I eat much more bread I may need to cut a larger size!

Summer 6PAC – Item 2 (and last)

Oh I have had a an odd week. I was still fully intending to get stuck in and finish at least three more garments for the 6PAC (which would have made it a 4PAC I suppose…) but I have been forced to concede that the jacket I made as item 2 will definitely have to be the last – not chance of any more sewing for me by the end of the month.

I got back from a fantastic break, scuba diving in Penzance, with what I thought was a sensible workload to come back to. Unfortunately things didn’t go as planned. A client  advised me of the death of a lovely lady, for whom I was making a special occasion dress, which came as a complete shock. I worked to finish this dress at her husbands request this week, which was a very sad job to do.

Other clients have also taken the opportunity to decide that as the weather looks as though it may be getting better they need me NOW! Nothing like forward planning! All this means that there will be no sewing for me for a little while.

6PAC 2 - JacketAnyway….. I mentioned a jacket. I clattered this one together after being given a very similar jacket from a client for alteration (there are some perks!) This is self drafted, and made from some black cotton twill from stash. The buttons are the only thing I needed to buy, and so this felt like a very virtuous project.

I used my basic bodice block (sloper) from the Winifred Aldrich book again, but just added a little  extra ease at the side seams. The last time I used this i decided that the shoulders needed to be reduced by 1/2″ before next use, so I made the adjustment to the pattern. Unfortunately I had already made the adjustment to the block (Note to self: Please mark any adjustments to blocks on the margins in future). The jacket is now a bit too narrow in the shoulder and as it was ‘clattered together’ I didn’t try this on until it was finished so I didn’t find out in time to do anything about it. It is still wearable but I will adjust the pattern before I put it away. And mark the adjustment.

The original jacket had bound seams which looked wonderful, but as I said I had ‘clattered’ this together you may guess that I just 6PAC 2 - Jacketoverlocked them. The topstitching which was such a lovely feature of the original jacket was an opportunity to use a technique shown on Shams blog which used the machine stretch stitch to give a heavier looking seam using  ordinary thread. Whilst I wouldn’t have had any difficulty obtaining a suitable thread to topstitch this in black, it is often difficult getting a good match in other colours. Apart from having to concentrate, and count stitches as they were machined towards corners, to ensure you ‘turned the corner’ at the right moment this was a very easy, and useful, process to have learned. Thanks Shams!

The original also had actual pockets rather than just the flaps that I put into the yoke seam. As I am inclined to fill pockets with anything to hand – and I really don’t need any extra padding at that point – I decided mock was best.

Despite not being a perfect fit this jacket has already been worn several times and I expect it to become quite a useful jacket to just ‘chuck on’ for general wear. Even without the trousers that were planned to go with it. And t-shirt…..

When things calm down a bit I will be back but meanwhile there is a wedding dress (manufactured – not made to order) which needs an urgent and major alteration. Back when I get my workload under control.