Upstairs, Downstairs

Monday, December 27, 2010
The end of 2010 has been a good time for period drama on television, with the outstanding Downton Abbey on ITV, and a revival of the 70s drama Upstairs Downstairs on the BBC. Upstairs Downstairs is of slightly more interest to this blog as, being set in the late 30s, it captures what many consider to be the golden age of mens dressing. More prosaically, it is at least an era where most of what men wore would not be unacceptable today, although perhaps rather outdated.

In fact, these sort of dramas are often a good place to look for particularly well-dressed men. The main character, Sir Hallam, appears early on in a stroller, perfectly suiting his job as a diplomat. This is a small step down in formality from morning dress as it replaces the tailcoat with an ordinary black coat, usually with peaked lapels but it was, at the time the show is set, the pinacle of formal businesswear. As a result, the stroller was worn so much by bankers and politicians that it remains a stereotypical uniform of the City gentleman long after it has disappeared from London's streets.


Today, strollers remain useful only on a very few occasions, the main one being at a wedding where most people will not wear morning suits. In this instance, a stroller with a coloured waistcoat will lift your outfit from an everyday suit, without appearing to be trying to out-do the wedding party.

Sadly, however, the show disappointed in a number of areas. Every single male character, with the strange exceptions of Anthony Eden and the butler, Mr Pritchard, was visibly wearing a clip-on bow tie. On numerous occasions, the clip itself was visible.


No doubt, most people will neither notice nor care, but for the BBC to be so sloppy in a headline costume drama is a serious lapse, in my view. Perhaps even more disappointingly, a scene with Sir Hallam and the Duke of Kent in evening dress shows both wearing cheap-looking jackets with crumpled, shiny, satin lapels. A great pity.

The show itself is the same odd mix of drama, melodrama and farce that the originals were, although without quite the same quality of script or acting. Still, they're worth a watch, if you are able to get the BBC. The first episode is available on iplayer, the second will play tonight, and the final part tomorrow.

Completion of the Tweed Suit

Sunday, December 26, 2010
My Tweed Suit from Cad and the Dandy was actually completed months ago, but it's only in the last couple of months that I've had much opportunity to wear it. In the recent freezing weather, it's made a few appearances at the weekend and was especially useful on a couple of occasions when I returned to my parents' home for Christmas.


Seeing it going from a bolt of 30 year old cloth, onto the cutting table, through a basted fitting, and finally to a beautiful handmade suit has been fascinating and has made it firmly one of my favourite suits. Although the cloth is unusual, the fact that at a distance it blends into a soft grey colour means that it is actually less aggressively 'country' than a more traditional green or brown overcheck tweed might be, and it is equally well suited to a cold weekend in town. The basted fitting means that it is an even better fit than my dinner suit, and its construction shows the right balance of care and imperfection that can only be achieved by an experienced tailor working by hand.

It's worn here with a country shirt, one of my very few button-downs, and a soft knitted woolen tie which I think goes particularly nicely with the colour of the overcheck on the shirt.

Merry Christmas to all my readers.

Ho Ho Ho Merry Panic, Update

Monday, December 20, 2010
I truly had good intentions of finishing the all the garments planned for holiday gift-giving.  However, along with the lesion on my thyroid gland, another nodule/lesion has been found in one of my lungs. So for the next 2 weeks or so, I will be ping-ponging between yet more doctors and hospitals...for CT scans, consults, etc, etc, and a probable biopsy of the mass to determine if it is malignant.

I am not in any acute pain, but am experiencing discomfort and some anxiety.  Any sewing that I will be doing will just be simple whimsical children's garments to keep my mind occupied between medical appointment days.  I am very anxious to sew the new Colette Menswear Shirt, and perhaps I'll have the energy to at least start it...I hope so! 
 Fashion Sewing Supply will remain in full operation, so don't worry about your orders :)

TUTORIAL-- Sew an Easy Textured Knit Hem

Tuesday, December 14, 2010
For adults or children, this a fun way to add some textural interest to a plain hem on any garment made with stretchy knit fabric !



Here is a close-up of the sleeve hem of the knit under-Top pictured above, made for my 4-yr old friend Julianna. 




You can barely see all the decorative stitching on the flat of the hem because the thread matches so well


So I will show you the steps I used to achieve this effect using contrasting colors in the samples below.



These samples have been done on flat pieces of fabric, however it it best to do this treatment "in the round" on an actual garment. 
Using a measurement 1/4" less than you have allowed, turn up the hem and press. In other words, if you allowed for a 1" hem, just turn it up by 3/4".  Then stitch it from the wrong side with a decorative stitch so the the stitching holds down the raw hem edge, as shown below--

Next, make another fold, turning the hemmed edge up about 1" deep to the wrong side and press, as shown below--

Now using a sewing machine or serger, "lettuce" the fold by stretching it while zig-zag stitching or serger-stitching along the fold. It will look something like this after "stretching and stitching."

Now turn back the hem into its normal position, and admire your new Textured Decorative Hem !

In this teaching example the effect looks rather garish because 
I have used highly contrasting colors.                             
When matching thread is used, the effect is far more subtle :)

Ho Ho Ho...Merry Panic !

Monday, December 13, 2010
I am in the midst of a full-blown Holiday Gift Giving Sewing Panic!

But is is a fun one, and within 11 days...it all should all be done.  And if not, my sister and my husband are quite used to gifts a few days weeks late...it's become a tradition around here ;)  But anyway, here's my plan--

On the left you'll see the new "Negroni"  Men's Shirt Pattern from 
Colette Patterns. It is a classic camp shirt that I am making for my husband, Roger. First I'll make it up in the nice lightweight blue denim (shown above) to test for fit, and then if it fits well and I like the pattern, I'll make one from the distressed gray silk that you see on the far left of the photo.  I really do not expect any problems...a camp shirt is a camp shirt. And while this pattern comes with very detailed instructions, I'll be refining some of the details. It won't add any time, so If you would like to 'watch' me as I refine some of the details of this new pattern let me know in the comments section, and I will snap a few pics along the way :)

While I am working on the shirt, I'll also be preparing the fabric and cutting out the pieces of a Coat for my sister Carolyn...her birthday is Christmas day :) Along with being an accomplished medical professional, my sister is now a business woman!  She has recently started to sell the fabulous jewelry line, Silpada. So I think the casual yet classy coat from McCalls that you see pictured will be perfect for her as she travels here and there to showcase all that amazing jewelry. I am making it from camel wool/cashmere knit that has been aging in my stash for a while.  The only snag I can see about making this coat for my sister is that she is very petite....5' 1" tall and about 95 pounds. Luckily, our sleeve length and shoulder length is the same, so I should be able to scale down and shorten the smallest size (8) without too much trouble, and I will also reduce the flare a bit so the coat won't overwhelm her.

The gift that has a definite deadline is the one I making for the young mother who "lets" me sew for her 2 little girls!  Jill is a sweet 26-year old beautiful young lady and a wonderful mother, who is always ready and willing to help me when I am ill...and she brings her little girls to visit me frequently :) That means alot to me because I have no children of my own, and I get to play "grandma" when they are here! I plan to make a top for her from matte jersey and the "swing vest" with the McCalls pattern shown on the right using the dark red microfiber suede pictured above. She is a tiny little thing but I think the x-small size will fit, based on her measurements.

To add to it all, our new Pro-Tricot Deluxe Interfacing has just arrived at Fashion Sewing Supply ! I have been developing this new interfacing for the past several months, and it is fantastic...I mean really really nice. I am so excited and proud of this new interfacing :)  Made especially for knits, it has stretch both width and lengthwise due to a touch of lycra and a special knit weave. Our new Pro-Tricot Deluxe comes in 4 colors, it doesn't shrink at all, leaves the knit fabrics to which it is applied very soft/drapey, plus the fabric remains stretchy yet stabilized and completely machine washable.  Whew..so many great features. This is not your typical tricot interfacing!
It is already selling very fast at the introductory price...so I will be cutting and packing orders before I can even think about sewing today.  Oh, did I mention I have few shirts to sew for clients, as well? It's a good thing that I absolutely LOVE my job jobs :)
So, let the merry panic begin!  But as that slogan we've seen all over the place says, I'll just...Stay Calm and Sew On ! 


NEW Tutorial-- Stretch NeckBand with Stable Back Seam

Monday, December 6, 2010
Most of us have made tops with necklines finished with simple stretch neckbands instead of binding. Here is rather dressy style that I made for myself with a narrow self-fabric Stretch Neckband...

And here is a casually styled Toddler Sweatshirt that I recently made for my favorite one-year-old little girl, with a neckband made from rib-knit...
Whether casual or dressy, made with self-fabric or ribbing...it is all too easy for a Stretch Neckband to end up looking "wonky" because the layers have shifted while being sewn to the neckline.  Keeping the seamed edges of a Stretch Neckband completely straight and stable while sewing it to the neckline can be tricky...especially with slippery knits !

Here is a way to stabilize and neatly enclose the back seam allowance of a Basic Stretch Neckband. This method may be common to experienced sewists, but it may be new to those who do not have much experience sewing with knits. Regardless, I hope you find it useful :)

So let's start :)
After you have determined how wide and long to make your Stretch Neckband (be it from a pattern piece, or your own design preference), it will look something like this example below...a single thickness of knit fabric.
(Please Note-- In this tutorial I am demonstrating with Rib Knit, aka "Ribbing")


The next step is to fold the strip in half, Right Sides Together so that the short ends meet, as shown below.
Usually, this is when we would sew the Back Seam of the Neckband, by stitching the short raw edges closed to form a circle (loop). But the next step is where this method differs from the norm.
Next, fold the entire strip in half again...this time from the top down. After making this fold you will have 4  (longer) raw edge layers that meet, 4 (short) raw edge layers that meet, and 2 folded ends that meet, as shown below.

Now take your folded Neckband Strip to the sewing machine, and stitch a seam starting from the TOP fold, through all four stacked short layers, as shown in the next 2 photos below. In this example I am using a 1/4-inch seam allowance.

We now have a twice-folded Neckband piece, that has had the 4 (short) layers seamed together. As a result, we also now have 4 layers of seam allowance. At this point, you can choose to grade the seam by trimming the 2 inner seam allowances.  
If I decide to grade this seam, I trim the 2 inner seam allowance layers by about half their width.

Now...finally...you will see the point of the extra fold and stitching those 4 stacked short edges together!
After the top edge is turned (flipped) over the seam allowances and all the raw edges meet,  your Stretch Collar Band is ready to be sewn to the neckline of your garment.
The folded back seam allowances have been "locked" together by the stitching that was done, and now will not shift or slip when being sewn to the garment...yay!

QUICK REVIEW--The following sketch illustrates the usual way a Stretch Neckline Band is sewn to the neckline of a garment.
From top to bottom: 1. Quarter-mark the raw edges of the Stretch Neckband, using the Center-Back Seam as one of the marks. 2. Quarter-mark the neckline edge of the Garment.  3. With right sides together, match the marks of the Stretch Neckband to the marks of the neckline, then sew the Neckline Band to garment...stretching the Neckline Band to fit the neckline edge.
^Click photo to Enlarge^