Posts Tagged ‘fur coat’

Finally, a Fur Coat!

My husband and I are pretty much exact opposites when it comes to photographs. I like still, very non-moving and exacting perspectives and can spend hours fiddling with the camera controls. He often just sets things to auto at all times of day and thinks mostly about composition. He’s kind enough to remember that I want photos that give at least some level perspective of the physical plane because hey, this is also a sewing blog and I want the zipper in focus and folks like details. And I need at least a few where I’m not vortexing into that graffiti.

But I’m definitely not complaining. Derek is enthusiastic about most of what I make and wear and likes making art out of it. It took us a few days to figure out which setting would be best and on top of that we’ve been traveling (which meant that I was totally sewing my coat until the 11th hour before getting on a plane).

We finally found a fun location earlier this week and the sun was kind enough to be lingering behind some light cloud cover. Still, black is hard to get. And the wind was nuts!

The beautiful hair knot I’d managed kept tumbling down left and right and so I just gave up on the hair. I am in desperate need of a haircut anyway. (If pictures could speak, you’d be hearing me saying “my bangs are driving me nuts!” over and over.)

No matter the weather difficulties or the hair anxieties, he encourages me to come out of my shell and show my face to the camera.

But yes! Le coat is done. And it feels good. And I adore it! I’ve already worn it four times because the weather got cold enough. It’s a great feeling to want to wear this and not to abandon it out of sheer boredom from familiarity. I’m still feeling a bit sad that my Lady Grey and white silk blazer, two other labored jacket projects from the last year or so, aren’t getting the wear they deserve. In defense, the Lady Grey was an experiment and I still haven’t figured out how to make its silhouette work with the rest of my clothes.

Speaking of which, although I feared the cocoon silhouette might be a bit much, it works amazingly with some of my basic every day clothes. I tried a few different outfits underneath and most of what worked were shapes that stuck toward the streamlined and narrow, especially from the hem down. If it was a top and jeans they had to be narrow and the top hitting somewhere near my hips. A dress with lots of pleats and drapes looked overdone, but another one with stripes and a columnar look was perfect.

View from the back:

If you’ve been following along my coat process, you might remember I planned to shorten the sleeves, which I did by about an inch and a half. On the muslin they were just a smidge above the wrist but I think it’s better at this “hip” length. I’d also originally intended to use leather strips down the each side of the front zipper. This proved to be more than I wanted to do. It took some careful sewing to enclose the zipper in the leather facings and I didn’t want to push my luck by adding one more leather seam. Anyway, I kinda like that the front closure is just a hint of gold teeth shining through. Simple.

The coat is fully lined in a stretch polyester lining that actually ended up giving it some needed weight and structure, so in the end it’s quite warm and not as drapey as I thought it’d be. I think I’m getting the hang of this lining thing. After learning to draft one for Sherry’s RTW Sew-along, I went back over my notes and adapted it for raglan sleeves.

This was such a fun project to throw myself into and I’m so glad y’all have followed along! (Here’s a link to all my previous entries about the coat, if you’re interested.) The leather adventures may not be over, either. I’ve got some ideas for all those leftover scraps but that is for another day!

Just a Few Smashes Left

Oh my, is it March already? On my leap year day, I played a bit of hooky and spent a long day sewing, basting, hammering, sewing. The coat is so close and soon, I promise, I will be showing up in it in person!

What’s that, hammering? This might be a good time to introduce you to my friend, the mallet. I highly recommend whacking seams with a hard (preferably non-metal) object at some point in your sewing career–it’s therapeutic.

Whacking, smashing, the Jamie Oliver method of sewing. It’s also just about the only way to flatten intersecting leather seams.

In the end, the leather only occupied such a small fraction of the coat, but made for some very careful and slow sewing. I think I was stitching at snail speed on my machine. The most difficult part was inserting my leather trim neatly around the hip seam.

It’s basically one strip of leather that I pieced together and folded in half. Then I sandwiched it into the hip seam like one would sew piping. The result is a bit bulky especially around the inseam pocket. There was no way I was going to get that folded edge topstitched down neatly without first gluing or tacking it in some way to the fur. Yeah, I had to tape leather to fur. My other newfound friend: Wonder Tape.

For most of the leather seams, I used a teflon foot, which is the white foot you see below. My machine came with this and I’ve occasionally used it on other fabrics that seem to get pushed a lot by a regular foot. (A roller foot is an alternative.)

And there’s the jean-a-ma-jig tool in action. It’s sort of like a fork you stick under your foot. Understitching intersecting seams was much easier with this! (Another way of doing something like this is to slip a folded piece of cardboard under your foot about a half-inch away from the beginning of the bulky part, and sew “off” the cardboard.)

I understitched quite a bit, especially the seams that were going to be edges. On the leather seams that needed to be pressed open, I used double sided fuse tape to permanently hold them down. (Some like to use glue or edge-stitch the SAs down.) These seam allowances are fused-taped and then trimmed near the edges, where there will be an intersecting seam:

On the needle front, I used both leather and microtex needles in size 9, which I had from a previous project. (I found both of these in 20-packs on ebay awhile back.) Both are very sharp and seemed to work well on the lambskin and the fur. Little binder clips are also good to have around, to hold seams together in lieu of pins! I confess I abandoned these because they just kept getting in my way. There were places where I couldn’t baste or pin and I had to hold the layers tight and just pray the fabric didn’t move around too much.

Now back to whacking… just one more hammering session and I’ll be happy enough to sew the lining shut.

Cocoon Coat: Sewing the Fur!

This was the week to get my coat done. I had lots of extra time for sewing and then a little-turned-big winter cold decided to take over. People, it was 90 degrees here yesterday. Having a fever in this kind of weather in February is so disorienting. But with a little seam here, a seam there the coat is slowly but surely coming together. The lining is done and the rest of the coat getting close.

Each new material brings a different challenge and learning how to “feel” it as it sews. Last year I worked so much with silk and similarly drape-like rayon that I abandoned pins altogether. I got used to the feel of it in my hands, under the machine, how it feeds, how to control ease and sew around curves. Gaining this kind of tactile knowledge, of both machine and material, is a real pleasure. I love letting fabric intuitively do what it wants to do.

I don’t have much experience quilting but it must be like this experience of this persian lamb fabric. It’s so lofty and cushy and the layers slide around on each other. Just sewing two layers about five inches long results in the top layer creeping a half inch longer. I pulled out my machine’s walking foot but there was still a lot of creepage. In the end I basted all the fur seams before sewing and still used the walking foot for control.

Back when I was sewing clothes in college I’d use like 50 pins just to put in a sleeve and elsewhere did a lot of basting–and still get mightily frustrated when things didn’t line up. Maybe sometimes the pattern was at fault (I wouldn’t have known anything about walking patterns or even thought that patterns could have problems). But I didn’t know much about material handling either, like how to use the feed dogs to ease bottom layers. It was more like trust the pins over trusting or getting to know the fabric.

One interesting tip I picked up from Fehr Trade was to sew fur seams down the nap. Which means sewing all seams from top to bottom. So when sewing the sleeves, rather than going around the entire circle in one pass, or going from the underarm up as some often do in setting sleeves, I sewed each side from the top down.

I wasn’t quite sure how to go about the bust darts. They seemed a little bulky after sewing them shut, so I tried clipping one of them open. This made a bit of a fur mess so I slipstitched the dart together and then tacked it down to the fabric. I left the other one unclipped since it didn’t seem to make much difference from the outside.

For some reinforcement, I used a bit of fusible tape around the armholes and areas where the pockets and zippers would be. I practiced on scrap to make sure it wouldn’t crush the pile.

For larger areas like the hem and front facing I basted in some woven interfacing.

i’ve got a few more pictures of the leather sewing but I’ll save that for later. Now back to my queue of b-list netflix movies and shlepping around in the bathrobe…

A Bit about Leather Cutting & Fusing

When the forsythia blooms, you know spring is coming. (And an old wise gardener taught me that’s when to prune roses in the south.)

I love these vines. They look very bramble-y climbing all over trees the rest of the year, but are the pride of the south in February. Such a glowing yellow yellow yellow. So I had to break up these posts in black with some color, right? Because I know we are all dreaming of our spring palettes now.

As promised, I wanted to share some tidbits about leather cutting and fusing. There’s a nifty post here about the layout of a hide and how to determine nap–which is kind of like learning the grainline on fabric. You’ll also see which parts are stronger and weaker.

I tried to lay all my facing pieces with the grain going the same direction and still get the most out of the “good” leather. Whatever was left would be cut into strips to piece together for trim. Once I got the general layout of the facings, I loosely traced around the section they’d be cut from so I could block fuse the entire area. My leather is thin and almost as stretchy as stretch denim, so the facings definitely needed some reinforcement.

In case you’re wondering, it’s possible to fuse to leather! I cut off one of the, erm, legs which wouldn’t have been usable to test out my interfacing.

So far, here’s what I’ve learned about fusing leather:

  • If possible use an interfacing that doesn’t require gobs of steam to adhere or melt the glue. It seems like leather can take a lot of heat–I tried everything from the coolest to the wool setting–but lots of steam could possibly damage or dry out the leather (ask how I know!). In my test above, I didn’t use any steam at all, just a dry iron, and it fused perfectly! The ticket is a cool-fuse interfacing (this is the stuff I used), and if your interfacing requires some steam, try using a damp press cloth or misting a small amount from a water bottle.
  • Use a press cloth or teflon shoe. Just in case. I never knew about using press cloths until a couple of years ago, but they really helped in preventing those “shiny” marks on fabrics, which are basically scorch marks. I mostly just use the shoe now, which I think I found for under $20. (It was definitely a good investment as I haven’t scorched fabric since… these are nothing like the coating on the bottom of most irons.) Leather can be ironed. Seriously. This stuff is tough!

After block-fusing the whole facing-pieces area, I traced and cut. It helps to have a pattern stiffer than tissue paper in order to trace off the pieces. I like doing this on most of my patterns but it’s pretty much a necessity with leather since pinning tissue is out of the question. (Alternatively, you could weigh down a pattern and use a rotary cutter.)

The last thing I did was cut out all the strips that I’m piecing together for the trims from the remaining leather. I just used a ruler and rotary cutter for these:

That’s all for today… off to prune and tie up roses with my dear Valentine. That’s kinda romantic, right? (Except for all the thorn cuts!)

Making a Mess of Fur

Today was a very good stay-inside day. The morning started off with a bit of sleet and then golly oh my that strangest of Austin happenings: snow! Which in terms of current worldwide weather is a bit of a joke, and it only lasted an hour, but no one drives on these rare occasions. So this weekend became a marathon of coat-cutting, and as some of you know, that can seem to go on endlessly. It’s such a good feeling to have it all done.

Ya know, I don’t know what to call this coat in future posts. The Grandma Coat? The Luxe Coat? And black is so difficult to photograph!

There was some minor gory-ness in cutting the persian lamb fabric. I knew it was going to shed and my lint roller wasn’t enough to keep up. Time to dig out the old Dustvac from deep storage–it looks like someone went crazy with an electric razor around here!

I was taking a risk cutting such plushy fabric in two layers, but I simply don’t have enough room to cut from one layer. The hardest part was getting my chalk to show up on the woven backing. As an experiment I tried pinning tissue paper on top for a few of the pieces, then tracing the pattern on that and cutting the whole thing as one. I’ve done this with silk before, and it seams to help with cutting accuracy.

The hardest part is going to be keeping this from shedding all over the machine. Hmm, I wonder if I should serge the edges of the pieces? I’m already going to have to take my scissors apart and clean them now since all the “fur” got in those.

Next I’m going to baste in some interfacing for the hems–perhaps just plain muslin–since I’m worried about crushing the pile using fusible. And I’ll do a few sewing tests to see how it feeds. There are some fabrics that just don’t want to feed evenly and this is probably one of them. I have a walking foot that came with my old machine but it’s so very bulky, so I might baste the pieces first to keep them lined up with a regular foot. I am so not a basting fan, but this might be the time for me to become one!

Tomorrow I’ll share some about cutting and fusing leather. Till then!

Balloons and Cocoons

My first reaction to this coat was a bit melodramatic. Whoa, this coat is a balloon!



I knew what I was getting into, the pattern’s line drawing makes it clear that this is a cocoon-like coat. (I love that Burda calls it a “hinted boule silhouette”.) Within minutes I was pinning it in all over the place to reduce some of its volume. Although I finished this peach version of the shell a week ago, it took a couple of days of stepping back, taking a bunch of pictures, letting it have some quality time on the dressform to change my perception. I’m not going to be walking around with my arms splayed out like I do when I’m examining fit, thereby exaggerating the shape.

Of course, my “muslin” fabric is also exaggerating the shape by the way it floats a bit stiffly. The “suede” was a bit of a mystery buy dug out of Joann’s mega-clearance pile in the home dec section, but it was perfect to try out sewing on a nappy fabric. This stuff is so groovy that I might even transform it into a coat of its own. (Perhaps it’s something like polyester microsuede? It’s a woven with a satin-y reverse.) It has the softest feel, and in one of those peachy coral colors that can never do wrong by me.

An interesting thing about this pattern is the fact that the armholes are quite low, landing almost an inch above the bust dart. I should probably check and see if that is typical for one of Burda’s raglan-sleeved coats. Normally that’d make for some immobilizing sleeves, but there’s a lot of room to move around: the ease right above the bustline is something like 13 inches!

The smallest size on the pattern sheet was a 38 so I graded down to a 36 and I’m glad I did since this style has so much room. (Are you curious how to grade down a multi-sized pattern? I figured it out from this PR tip about grading up a size–I just did the reverse.)

My actual coat fabric is very soft and drapey and so I think the whole shape will relax into gentle folds. I’ve been lusting after Persian lamb fabric since last winter; something about it reminds me of my grandmother’s couches. I’d describe it more as a velvet than a faux fur, with rippled curly pile. (And no, it’s not real lamb fur, although apparently there is a real.)

There are a few little changes I need to do before cutting into my “fur”. The original pattern has an exposed zipper closing up the front. Since I’m replacing the ribbon trim with a leather binding I’ll have to sew the zipper into the binding somehow. That’s this week’s puzzle! The sleeves were shorter than I expected, but now that I’m looking at them in pictures, I might even shorten them more. It helps balance out the proportions and a wrist-length sleeve would probably just look overwhelming. I really don’t want to turn into Blueberry Girl. I’m okay with “boule”. French just makes everything sound better, no?

Fix-It Fridays and Front Porch Sundays

It appears that nothing resembling winter is ever going to arrive in Austin, which means I am going to have to shelf quite a few of my winter sewing ideas and get cracking on the summer ones. Aside from the fact that 73 in January bodes something hellish in June, I do love these kind of days here. The nights are even better. I love, love just sitting outside on our porch, listening to a neighbor practice his jazz sax through the window. There is a sweet quiet that falls over Austin running up to the madness that is March in Austin.

If I were to boil down all my autumn fashion inspirations to one fancy project by the spring, it’d be something in mixed materials, like a leather and fur combination. I’m a big Helmut Lang fan:



And there have been some bloggers who did some fun takes on leather looks, like Erika B’s suede-like top and Amanda’s leather-wool dress. I drool. Before leaving for the holidays, I traced out this coat from December’s Burda and started gathering supplies:

I doubt I’ll get much chance to wear by spring but I want the experience of sewing with new materials. The trim on Burda’s version is a hand-pleated grosgrain ribbon but D agreed with me that leather would be a much more interesting contrast. There are a few things I need to think through to make this work; at this point I have no idea how to cleanly sew a leather binding into a neckline. Thankfully this is a fairly uncomplicated pattern: no collars, simple raglan sleeves. I’ll write something later sharing my planned materials and process.

In other sewing news, I’ve decided to join up with Fix-it Fridays at pattern scissors cloth. I needed that one little blogosphere push to post about something weekly and especially get through this:

Yes, that’s my very unorganized pile of various UFOs/fixes/alterations (and there’s more in the back!) that beckon me longingly every time I walk into my sewing room. Hopefully, just setting aside special time to work through this and no other sewing projects will help get me past my abhorrence of hemming and learn a few things about alterations in the process.

My first stop on Fix-it Fridays (I know, it’s Sunday!) was to tackle my recent pajamas. They were originally entirely sewn on my regular machine while my serger was in the spa, but the curling seam allowances were driving me nuts. I’m very spoiled by the finish and speed of a serger! The jersey had also “grown” quite a bit after about twenty wearings, so the bottoms especially needed to be taken in and up.



The top didn’t go through many changes; I just cleaned up the chunky seams where the bindings are attached. On the bottoms, I had to remove part of the waistband to properly take them in. I’ll spare you more photos of me in my jammies, but I feel much better in them now!