Monday, March 19, 2012

Catwoman Minoru Raincoat

You can see the muslin I did for this project here.

This weekend I made a Minoru jacket
Phew, that was a lot of work. Especially considering I did everything in two days! A little crazy.

Uncanny resemblance, no? 
The fabric is oilcloth that I got on sale for 4$ a yard in the Toronto garment district. The idea was to make a jacket that was waterproof enough to walk my dog in the rain without worrying about anything. 

I had no idea how oilcloth would behave as a jacket, however. All the gathers of the Minoru had me really concerned that I would end up looking like a garbage bag! I tried seeing this project as an experiment to avoid putting too much pressure on myself. In the end, it turned out quite nicely I think.

No-cuff sleeves, because oilcloth doesn't like gathers too much

You can't really see in this picture but I lined the hood
So what was it like sewing with oilcloth? Well, hum... let's say that it added a whole other level of "trickiness" to a project that was already beyond my comfort zone. As a result, I can’t say making this jacket was “fun”. (My neighbors probably heard a lot of swearing, especially when I was working on the cuffs... which I ended up omitting altogether...)

In any case, if you are thinking of making an oilcloth rain jacket like mine, here are a few tips:

1) Apply masking tape to your sewing machine foot. It works wonders.

-         2) When you have no other choice (i.e., when both sides of what you are sewing are ‘sticky’) apply tissue paper to the underside of what you are sewing and use your taped foot. I used this techniques for all my topstitching and it worked fairly well.
Also: here you see that my tissue paper is white, but I should have picked black to match my fabric. That way, the little pieces of paper left in the seam are less of a problem.

Using tissue paper

What my hood looked like after hemming
3) Whenever possible, pin with paperclips. More importantly, remember that (virtually) invisible holes in your fabric caused by pins are not the end of the world -- and are certainly a better alternative to crooked and sloppy-looking pockets/seams/cuffs.


-        4) And finally, keep in mind that oilcloth is really not that breathable. This will be the big problem with my jacket. I should have added vents under the arms and at the back to help with this, but I was already in over my head. This is why I plan to use Goretex for my next Minoru, which is both ultra breathable and ultra waterproof.

Tasia, once again, proves to be a genius. Her patterns are insanely flattering. Also I learned so much from the sew-along. 
Conclusion: This pattern has been worth every single penny and I urge you to get your own.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Minoru Muslin

Just a quick post to show you my Minoru jacket muslin. I've had a very productive weekend sewing-wise, but also studying-wise and training-wise. Saturday I powered through my university work for 9 hours straight, and Sunday I went on a 18-km trail run with my Running Club, followed by mandatory tapas and wine. What a great weekend.

I'm über excited about this pattern. Sewaholic really doesn't disappoint.

I will be cutting a size or two bigger from the muslin to make sure I have enough room for multiple sweaters underneath. The muslin does look good, but it feels too tight around the shoulders. A coat in which you can't move (i.e. hold on to the ceiling bar in the subway) is not a good coat.
I will also be lengthening the coat for my longer torso and extending the hood to accommodate my hair in a ponytail.
Other than that, no major modifications. I love Sewaholic!

Aside from the Minoru, I've been spending quite a bit of time working on my bodice block. (I know my aunt Nicole is either laughing or pulling her hair right now if she is reading. She thinks I'm too perfectionist, but I say "if something's worth doing, it's worth doing well".)

Initially, I had made my bodice block from a commercial pattern by making multiple muslins and altering the pattern again and again and again (and again). Recently, I realised my bodice block lacked the precision I needed to really venture into pattern-cutting (or pattern-drafting). This winter, I tried playing with the darts a bit, using Armstrong's Patternmaking for Fashion Design, and realised my bust points were off, among other problems.

I had no other options but to take a deep breath and start over with the bodice block process. I decided to go for the eSewingWorkshop method, after having such good results with them in the past. Remember the great pants I made with them? They really fit like a glove, off the bat. Now I wonder if this was maybe because the people I made it for had rather standard proportions...

Muslin 1: So I drafted the bodice block, and later realised that ease was not built into it. I spent quite a bit of time trying to figure this out, but I did manage to figure it out. (I may do a post on that at a later point.)

Muslin 2: After redrafting the pattern with ease, I realised it was made for a B-cup, and that I had to perform a SBA. This really disappointed me: Cup size seems to me like a pretty key information to include in the bodice block drafting method. You'd think it would have taken it into account? This has definitely taken the shine off of eSewingWorkshop.

For now, I'm taking a little break from the bodice block to cool my head and to focus on the Minoru jacket. 

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Feminist Sewing Workshops

Everyday, I wonder how I pulled that one off: writing my Gender Studies thesis on sewing. I actually have a reason to read sewing blogs all day long. I don't know what I did in another life, but I must have been good.

Because of that, I was invited to talk about my project at two different feminist events.
I didn’t want to just 'give a talk' -- I wanted participants to experience sewing and the pleasure of doing something with their hands. So I built the workshop around an actual activity of hand sewing, which I hoped would pave the way to a discussion about gender and sewing.

For the workshop, I wore my Granny Smith Blouse with the Guess What Colour skirt   Photo: Tanchan Wichitsukhon
Photo: Tanchan Wichitsukhon

Mother-daughter team!    Photo: Tanchan Wichitsukhon
Girlfriend-boyfriend team!     Photo: Tanchan Wichitsukhon
I found Marie’s Felt Rose tutorial (for absolute beginners), and Tilly’s Bow Belt tutorial (for the more advanced) perfect for the workshops. I was actually worried that they would be too easy, but turned out to be quite the opposite. Marie and Tilly, if you have noticed a spike in blog traffic recently, it’s from us! Thank you for your clear and simple tutorials – they were really perfect for this activity.

Tan is the only brave one who has picked the Bow Belt project

I think it was worth the extra work -- well done Tan!

The first workshop I gave was part of Zaragoza’s Feminist Week, "Regenerando". The majority of participants in Zaragoza were complete beginners and did not even know how to thread a needle.
A lot of them expressed surprise in realising how difficult sewing was. They said it made them appreciate the clothes they owned, and most of all, it made them think about the people who made them.

One of the best part of giving this workshop was getting a glimpse of Monika and Ruth’s daily life. They are the owners of Modalena, a space showcasing the works of local designers. It was so inspiring to be in this space.

Ruth and Monika, in their workshop
My second workshop was in Granada at the Brújula de Momo, an alternative non-profit café and workshop. The event was part of Marzo Feminista, a feminist festival organized by my classmates. I’m really impressed by how quickly and efficiently these ladies pulled the whole event together. If you live in Granada, make sure not to miss all the other great events they have in store for you for the entire month of March!

My second group of participants were considerably more experienced. I even learned a thing or two from them! The thing I enjoyed most about this second workshop was that I had the opportunity of really talking with each participants. For example, one woman worked as an air traffic controller. It was fascinating to hear about the long training process and the zero-mistake policy! I'm glad there is a zero-mistake policy.

I leave you with pictures of the second event!

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Paint Splash Dress

In case you haven’t noticed, I’m obsessed with Vogue 1152. Love, love, love this pattern… It's the second time I make it (see first make and muslin) and I would totally pull an OWOP on this. Unfortunately, I only have 10% of my clothes with me here in Spain, so my other makes are in Canada (a shame, I know).


  • I shortened and straightened the sleeves
  • I raised the neckline by 1-2 inch. (The neckline is still too low to wear without a tank top underneath, but this is the most I could raise it without interfering with the design.)
  • I omitted the side zipper – if you are full busted or if you have broader shoulders I would definitely not recommend this. But since I am none of these things, I can get into the dress without it.
  • I skipped the interfacing because, to borrow the words of Karen: “The fabric is capable of standing up, walking out of the door and picking a fight.”

The fabric is printed cotton twill that I acquired on sale for only 3$ a yard at Fabricland in Val-d’Or, Québec (they have the best sales there… very dangerous…). The result is not bad, and I think I like it better than silk, but it may be just a tad too heavy. The pattern looks best with light to medium weight fabrics.

In terms of finishing, I don’t often sit around and think, “Oh I wish I had a surger!” but I admit that this time I did. I’m usually really happy with my French seams and my good ol’ zigzag function. In this case the design of the dress prevented me from French-seaming, and the fabric was a bit too thick to “roll” within the zigzag stitch. So I’m left with this hairy, homemade-looking inside...

Aren't you tempted to make this pattern too, with Spring in the air? You totally should, you won't regret it.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

The Guess-What-Colour Skirt

I finally have a finished project to show you! It’s actually been finished for quite some time now… I made the muslin in December 2011.

It’s a skirt, and you’ll never guess what colour…

Surprise, surprise...

Shirt: upcycled from second-hand shirt!

I was initially planning on making it in a bright and fun fabric, I swear. But then I found this medium-weight polyester crêpe in the sales section for a mere €1/meter. The bargain hunter that I am snapped up several meters of it for muslin.

I quickly discovered that the fabric was way too good for muslin!

You may or may not know that polyester and Adrienne are not exactly best of friends. “If you’re going to go for polyester, I used to think, you might as well go for Ready-to-Wear. A lot less trouble and probably same quality and price.”

The weight and drape of this fabric is just fantabulous. It never wrinkles. I packed this skirt with me on several trips so far, and haven’t needed to iron it once. Also, I usually just bunch it up in a drawer when I’m not wearing it – which is not that often.

The other great thing about this skirt is that it’s lined. Nothing compares to a luxurious lined skirt in winter (I know it looks like summer in the picture, but it's actually only 18 C, meaning winter). Lining a skirt makes a big difference: it prevents clinging to your tights, and it makes it significantly warmer.

Drafting the lining pattern for the skirt – and most of all assembling the lining to the fashion fabric – added a nice challenge to an otherwise fairly simple project. For View C, the tricky part was really the vent at the back. A great resource on the subject was this tutorial by A Fashionable Stitch. It’s divided into several posts (either that or there are several versions of the tutorial?) I haven’t quite figured it out, but I do know that I was really happy to come across this resource.

Simplicity 2451

Medium-weight polyester crêpe

Nothing major, as the pattern is quite well made. I did take in the waist a bit, and adjusted the side seams for the contours of my body.

What did I learn?
  • Just like last time I made this skirt, the yoke pieces completely mutated and stretched during assembly. I determined this was because the yoke is a little bit cut on bias due to it's curved shape. I really didn’t think the same thing would happen this time around, because polyester is so much more stable. It turns out it’s absolutely crucial to baste the yoke pieces to the skirt before sewing. And by basting, I mean hand-basting. Don’t even think of machine-basting this. 
  • Also, basting is all the more crucial if you are inserting piping in the seam. 
  • Whenever in doubt about whether to hand-baste something, just hand-baste it! It ends up saving you time.
Lining, front view
Lining, back view

Oh! And some of you might have noticed the Minoru Sew-Along Badge on the side bar and wondered what’s up with that. My pattern was lost in the mail, so Tasia kindly sent me a replacement, which arrived six weeks later (thank you Spanish customs!). Happy to report that I can now get started on the sew-along!
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