Monday, January 31, 2011

Au Bonheur des Petites Mains Coat

I've been eager to try the French pattern company Au Bonheur des Petites Mains after seeing some reviews here on PR especially those of Sfshaza. Here is her recent coat review that spurred me on to buy some of the patterns. I chose this coat which they title "Manteau a Decoupes" which translates literally to "cut coat". This would refer to the unfinished seams sewn to the outside I guess. The coat is fitted through the bodice and flares out at the skirt. There are multiple seams that are stitched wrong sides together leaving the raw edges to show and create an interesting effect. As the edges are unfinished it is important to use a fabric that doesn't ravel. I was very amused at the translation of the suggested fabric. They call for "polaire" which Google translates as artic. I'm guessing this means fleece.

This pattern comes in French sizes 36 to 44 in one envelope. I chose size 40 based on my waist and hip measurement planning to do a 3 inch FBA. When I did a muslin fitting I discovered that the pattern is very snug through the hips. Really there is no ease at all with the garment measuring the same as the given hip measurement for the size. But the shoulders were big on me. I did quite a bit of altering, both at the muslin stage and as I put the actual garment together. I was so focused on fitting in the upper body area that I didn't pay any attention to the length. It turns out the coat is very long and, though I shortened the torso and the sleeve length, it still seems long through the upper body to me. Of course I am 5'3" and it is probably designed for someone 5'7".

There are minimal instructions in French. I enjoyed the exercise of translating them with the help of Google Translate and glossary I used a fulled wool blend from Fabric Mart. I steamed the wool to further felt it. Lovely fabric to sew on. I'm happy to have another piece waiting in my stash.

I added at the bust and side seams, took away at the shoulders, back neck and armholes. Also I took away some that I had added at the side seams and shortened the sleeves and the overall length. I also omitted the zipper that is applied on the diagonal front. I didn't think I would ever really zip it up but I may add it if I feel the coat shifts around too much when I wear it.

Once you get passed the fitting issues, this is very easy to construct. If you add just 1/4" seam allowances you can save time from trimming all those seams down. There are no facings or hems and the collar is a single layer. I think it is a fun coat.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Vogue 2949 Sandra Betzina Jacket

This jacket pattern became one of my favorite garments. See the previous review at That jacket sewed up in about an hour beginning to end and is wonderful. Now this one that I will be discussing today was the opposite: took forever and is not wonderful. However this change was entirely due to the fabric so if you are only interested in the pattern, stop reading.

The fabric may hold the record for being in my stash the shortest amount of time before being cut, maybe 2 hours. As I unpacked it from the delivery box, I realized it was quite different from what I had envisioned from its on-line photo and description. I didn't like it that much but it was very expensive. I knew if I didn't use it right away it would sit forever in my stash. I could see that the coat pattern I had in mind would not work as the fabric was too thick without much drape. Not good for tucks. So I searched around for other patterns. I had planned a coat but decided this would look more like a bathrobe if it were long. So I switched to jacket mode, even though I would have a large expensive remnant. I also decided to show the back side which shows the quilting better and thought I would show the white finished selvage. Thus the lining fabric I had ordered would not be used. I got out this favorite pattern thinking I had found just the thing. Ha.

The fabric is unique and interesting but the least stable fabric I have ever encountered. It consists of strands of fluffy wool yarn (the white) sandwiched between thin sheer wispy silk (gray on one side and black on the other). This silk shreds as you look at it. The yarn batting is barely held together with cross-wise stitching. So as you cut this it falls apart. I dealt with this by immediately serging all edges. That helped stop the raveling but stretched the edges, even with the serger set on differential feed.

I decided to finish the edges with a dense over-lock stitch using woolly nylon to fluff up and finish the edge. I'm almost happy with that decision. I really regret using this pattern though because as it is unlined the fragile shredding silk on the inside looks bad and won't last well. At the end I decided to turn the lower hem in and top-stitch it as the over-locked edge looked too squirrelly. I may do the same with the sleeve hems.

I decided to use the lower back piece on the jacket so it would be a change from my previous version. Boy did that look ridiculous in this fabric. In this photo you can see the white selvage edge I was mistakenly trying to preserve. Be sure you use a drapey fabric for that folks! My solution was to fold the drape forward and stitch it into a pocket-like shape. I am rather pleased with this idea. 

I still love this pattern but will stick to a boiled wool or other fabric that doesn't need an edging or something very drapey and thin enough to turn back the edges.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Reviewing the year

That was a long stretch without attention to my blog! True, I have been away from home a lot during the last 6 months, especially this fall. Trips to Jackson Hole in November and another 17 days at Christmas and New Years, 27 day trip to South Africa in September and October. I did squeeze in a little sewing but not as much as usual and have dropped behind in both blogging and reviewing on PR. I haven't even entered fabric purchases and projects into my data base. But now I am looking forward to two months at home I think. Time to get catch up and get moving.

So I'm looking at my project list and I'm surprised at how much is there since I seem to be away so much. Here's how it breaks down: 8 jackets/vests, 6 skirts, 2 pants, 17 knit tops, 3 woven tops, 3 tunics, 3 dresses, 1 robe, 2 coats, 1 nightgown, and a few misc. baby items. That is 46 items not including baby. I'm amazed because it seems I went months without sewing a thing. This includes 18 Vogues, 6 Sewing Workshops, 1 Shapes, 6 Jalies, 3 McCalls, 2 Burda Magazine, 5 Burda envelopes, 1 Hot Patterns, 1 Simplicity, 2 LJ Designs, 1 Taos skirt, 1 Japanese book, 1 Kwik Sew. 

It seems a lot but considering some items were using a pattern several times, I can see I buy way, way too many patterns.  But in spite of that fact, I just ordered 4 new patterns from the French company, Au Bonheur de Petite Mains. I'm quite excited to try these.