Ede & Ravenscroft

Monday, July 26, 2010
Ede & Ravenscroft have had a sale on and I couldn't resist the cream pinpoint shirt reduced to £25. Even at full retail price, Ede & Ravenscroft's shirts are a good deal cheaper than the top end Jermyn Street shirt-makers like New & Lingwood. Perhaps that reflects the fact that E&R are best-known for providing form dress and, in particular, fulfilling the slightly unusual clothing requirements of lawyers, academics and the Peerage.

Still, their shirts are a beautiful step up from TM Lewin or Hawes & Curtis, my usual suppliers. Pinpoint is a tight Oxford weave which creates a lovely rich fabric with a slight lustre and, especially in this summery cream colour, looks great with a blue blazer and cotton trousers.

Aside from shirts and, of course, court dress, Ede & Ravenscroft do a nice range of suits, waistcoats and accessories. Regular readers will recall that my white evening waistcoat came from there, and they stock a decent selection of the sort of clothes that are hard to get elsewhere: tunic shirts, a variety of collars, brown foldable trilbies, and various other well-made and not-unreasonably price odds-and ends.

I must remember to shop there more often. Especially since I have noticed that their tailored shirts start from just £125, and that they have no minimum order.

Gather a "Euro-Ruffle"...Without pulling a Thread !

Monday, July 19, 2010

I enjoy using center-gathered strips to use as a ruffle embellishment (often called a "Euro-Ruffle"). The ruffled strip on the top pictured above is for my little friend Julianna, age 3, but I have used this same technique with narrow ruffles around necklines or sleeves on adult garments. The ways to use this embellishment are limited only by your imagination.

In this tutorial, I will show you how to make a center ruffled strip, without having to pull any gathering threads!

You can click each photo to enlarge it, then click the << BACK button of your browser to return to this page.

First, start with a strip of woven or knit fabric. I have found that any width from 3/4" to 3" works well when using the finished ruffle to embellish a shirt or top, as pictured above.  However, I have seen wider ruffles used by other designers that look very nice...it's up to the look you want. I usually tear my fabric strips on the cross-grain of the fabric when using a woven fabric, or I cut the strips with a rotary-cutter when using a knit fabric.  Sometimes I leave the edges raw, or I finish them as I showed you in THIS POST.

The top pictured above was embellished with  1-3/4" strips of woven fabric that have been finished like this--
Since the strips will be gathered, you may need to start with more than one strip so that it will be long enough. I find that it is easier to join them before gathering, as shown below--
After stitching them together as shown above,  trim off the the excess "triangle", leaving a 1/4" seam allowance. Treat the seam allowance with a product like "Fray Check" to prevent it from raveling, then open up the strip so that it is straight , and press. It should look like this--
Don't be worried if the edges do not meet exactly!  A small mismatch will never be seen after the strip is gathered...trust me :)

Now this is where the "no thread pulling" gathering happens. I found this nifty presser foot....called a "Gathering Foot"  at an online store.  A sewing friend has told me that this foot is also known as a "Shirring Foot".  It was about 10 bucks, and worth every penny in my opinion.  This is what it looks like:
Maybe you already have one among the presser feet that came with your machine.

The key to using the Gathering Foot  is to increase the foot pressure, lengthen your stitch to about 3, and to increase your upper thread tension as high as it will go.  Test a scrap strip of fabric by stitching down the center of the strip. If your test strip gathers up nicely like this one, you are ready to gather the strip you are using for your embellishment--
If your test strip does NOT gather well, like this one....
...there are 2 things you can do.  You can try increasing the UPPER (top) thread tension by wrapping the thread twice though the first threading guide on your machine. This how that looks on  my machine--
Or, you can place your fingers right behind the foot as you sew, preventing the fabric from moving. Once you cannot hold the "bunch" of fabric behind the foot any longer, release, and just place your finger behind the foot again. Repeat until the entire strip is gathered. Here is a photo of this technique--
When you are finished gathering your strip, it will look like a twisted ruffle, like this--
To make it MUCH easier to work with, press the strip as straight and flat as you can, as shown below. Don't worry about crushing it, the strip will ruffle up again after you wash the finished garment...trust me :)
Now the ends of the ruffled strip need to be clean-finished. You can do this before gathering the strip, or after it is gathered. It is just my preference to do it after gathering...I've found that it makes the finished strip look ruffled right to the ends, rather than looking "flat" on the ends.  Just turn about 1/4" twice to the wrong side and stitch, as shown below.
So, now you have a lovely "Euro-Ruffle" that you can easily arrange into any shape, like this one that I've arranged into a simple "S" shape.  
Embellishing your garment with these ruffles is easy.  Just use a narrow zig-zag, and stitch along the center covering the straight gather stitching as you sew it to your garment.  Some designers embellish their garments before assembling them, others apply the ruffles after the garment is finished. For tops, I have found it easier to apply the ruffle after I stitch one shoulder seam, and one side seam. Then I can extend the ruffle easily to the back of the garment while it is flat. I usually arrange mine in a random way like the top pictured at the top of this tutorial, but you can mark a line on your garment and follow it as you attach the ruffle.  It's all up to you how you use your lovely ruffles ! 

But the best thing about this technique is not having to try to gather a long strip by pulling threads, isn't it?

Perfect Serged Rolled Edges...A Quick Tip !

Tuesday, July 13, 2010
This is a technique for facilitating a rolled edge using a serger. 

First, set your serger up to do a rolled hem, according to your machine's owner's manual.
Next, as you feed the edge to be rolled...notice how I use my finger to hold the fabric edge taut while also bending the edge slightly so that it is already "persuaded"  to roll.  You will also notice that I keep my serger knife in the upward position when doing a rolled hem. I find that I get a better rolled edge if I start with the "cleanest" straight edge as it feeds into the machine.  In this demonstration I used all four threads...my ultra-cheap serger just does a better rolled hem using 4 threads.

Here is the strip of medium weight cotton with it's rolled hem...look, no "Pokies" (loose whisker threads) !

This strip of fabric being roll-hemmed will be used to make a decorative "Euro-Ruffle" embellishment.
Coming soon....I'll show you my method for making  "Euro" center-stitched and gathered ruffles like the one shown below, without having to pull threads to gather!

Book Review: Bespoke - Savile Row Ripped and Smoothed

Thursday, July 8, 2010
The majority of tailoring and style books seem best suited, as I usually observe when reviewing them, to the coffee-table. Full of pretty pictures, but short on really engaging content, they seem to lack a clear purpose.

'Bespoke: Savile Row Ripped and Smoothed' suffers from no such problem. Entirely free of pictures it is, instead, a genuinely fascinating and entirely gripping story. It is the remarkable autobiography of Richard Anderson, who started a gruelling Huntsman apprenticeship at seventeen and went on to become head cutter and then to found his own firm, Richard Anderson Ltd. at 13 Savile Row.

Mr Anderson's story is certainly interesting enough in itself, and his depictions of the many funny, horrible, tragic and simply mad characters on Savile Row, tailors and customers alike, are endlessly entertaining. However, he makes the sensible choice to intersperse his story with the sort of detailed descriptions of bespoke tailoring technique, process, protocol and culture that absolutely fascinate me. Few other authors touch on this for the simple reason that, however much they might like suits, they do not have Mr Anderson's life-long history on Savile Row.

Although the title might suggest a detailed examination of Savile Row itself, Anderson, perhaps wisely, restricts himself to his own personal experience, with the result that the focus is almost entirely upon Huntsman and then on Richard Anderson Ltd. The title's use of the tailoring term 'ripped and smoothed' is perhaps particularly appropriate for Mr Anderson's treatment of Huntsman, which is fairly thoroughly ripped apart for its management under Don Bargeman and Trevor Swift. Regardless, in both positive and negative aspects, the book gives an almost unique view behind the calm and traditional facade of Savile Row, and for that alone it is very well worth a read.

Tutorial-- Perfect "Turn-and-Stitch" Curved Edges and Hems

Monday, July 5, 2010

Whether sewing a top or dress for children like the one pictured above, or garments for adults, often  the "turned-and-stitched" concave curved edges, of necklines, armscyes, and shirt hems pucker and twist...no matter how careful we are.

While the pattern for the blouse pictured above had good directions for turning a nice smooth armscye,  most patterns just tell you to turn the fabric edge twice to the wrong side and top-stitch, and skip a crucial step.

Some of you who are experienced sewists no doubt are already familiar with the technique shown below. For those who are not, I'll show you how I sew no-pucker "turn-and-stitch" edges that never fail to look professional. While demonstrated with armscye edges, the same technique can be used on a turn-and-stitched neckline edge, and shirt-tail hems.

Here is an example of a top with turn-and-stitch armscyes.  The fabric I chose for this example is polyester lining, very slippery, with no stretch at all. I chose a difficult fabric to show how this simple technique will work without any "help" from fabric with natural fiber and/or any degree of stretch.

If your pattern calls for 5/8" seam allowances, trim the seam allowance of the edge to be turned to 1/4" or 3/8".
Then turn the edge 1/4" (or 3/8" if that is the seam allowance you are using) to the wrong side of the garment and press.

Now here is the simple step that is missed in many pattern instructions.  However, it is crucial to a professionally turned edge.  What needs to be done next is very easy...just make tiny clips into
the turned edge every 1/2" or so, as shown below.

Then turn the edge again 1/4" (or 3/8" if that is the seam allowance you are using) to the wrong side, encasing the raw clipped edge. Press well.  It should now look like this--

The final step is to secure the folded edge by top-stitching from the right side.  You will then press the edge. Here is my quick sample shown unpressed so you can see how making those tiny clips into the first fold results in a perfectly pucker-free folded edge :)

Rowing Blazers

Sunday, July 4, 2010
I had a rowing blazer made for me in club colours by Tom Brown Tailors a few years ago. It's a decent made-to-measure, with just two fittings and seems to be largely machine stitched. Nevertheless it is, as you would expect from a tailor with such a good reputation, very nicely made. (Apart from the fact that second colour is not really correct, that is. Tom Brown always seem to make them this way. Perhaps they can't find any properly maroon cloth.)

Rowing blazers are a bit unusual. Typically they are fairly unstructured, with an absolute minimum of canvassing, and no chest piece. Mine has a three-roll-two button stance, which is best for the sort of soft, casual, look that is normal for this sort of blazer. The informal style is added to by having large patch pockets (the side ones on mine are about the right size for carrying a bottle of champagne. I'm just saying.) and just two cuff buttons. Most unusually of all, all of the blazers I've seen are, like mine, ventless. This strikes me as odd because it's not a particularly casual or informal style, as having a single vent might be. If anything, it is a rather formal cut that would normally only be seen on dinner jackets and, even then, only rarely these days. On a structured jacket this can give a very nice slim appearance, although on the softer rowing blazer it's less obvious. I still haven't quite worked out the reason for the lack of vents, whether it is simply a relic of when blazers were knocked up quickly from bits of cloth in the club colours, and anything that added to the tailoring work was avoided, or whether it is just to avoid breaking up the stripes that are common on rowing blazers.

A rowing blazer like this is very rarely suitable anymore, if it ever was. The material is far too heavy for it actually to be a comfortable option on a summers day, even if it was appropriate, so it is restricted to relatively formal summer sporting events. A more generic stripy blazer in a slightly lighter-weight wool might have more general use, but then that would take half the fun out of it...


Thursday, July 1, 2010
An almost inviolable rule of dressing is that if an item of clothing is designed to be worn to play sport, then it ought only be worn to play that sport. Of course, clothes do cross the divide eventually - polo shirts being a notable example, but they no longer bear much relation to real sportswear. Actually wearing items of clothing that would not look out of place on a sports field is rarely a good idea. Of course, this is particularly relevant at the moment because the streets are flooded with people wearing football shirts. More fool them, if you ask me, but its no skin off my nose.

Still, it did remind me that there is one item of clothing that still maintains a reasonably strong sporting link and which, nevertheless, I happen to think looks great as an item of casual-wear.

The cricket jumper is, of course, just a certain style of cable-knit v-neck, and rarely worn on the cricket pitch these days, so perhaps it too has made the leap to being just casual wear. Still, I think part of its appeal is that it retains an association with sport, and especially relaxed summer sports, that makes it the perfect jumper to throw on as the sun goes down on a summer evening with jeans, chinos, cotton ducks or linen trousers.

Hackett do a nice one, although the different coloured bands strike me as a bit odd and, in any case, I prefer sleeveless cricket jumpers. Ralph Lauren also almost certainly do them, although the one on their website is a rather non-traditional style. Still, if you're looking for a more reasonably-priced option, then you could do a lot worse than the Help for Heroes one. Traditional, with a club-style colour scheme that you're perfectly entitled to, and the money is for an excellent cause too.

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