Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Epic Fail: Ladybug Lab Coat

Paging Dr Dotty! Dr Dotty, your patient's taste level is hanging by a thread!
It may be fatal.

Oh, dear. It seemed like a good idea and yet it went so wrong. Worst of all? The loss of some great fabric and almost my entire sewcation.

Oh well. Live and learn. I share my story in that spirit.


Our Story Begins...

Do you remember last May when Margy and I were participating in a sew-along using a gorgeous black and red Japanese brocade? Margy made a wonderful denim-style jacket with her fabric.

(I might resent her if she weren't so darned wonderful.)

Actually, I didn't complete that particular challenge. I just could not decide on a pattern for the interesting fabric and I didn't want to make something I wasn't excited about. I wanted to mix my fabric with solid black, but I just could not settle on a design, despite making muslins of three different patterns - I wasn't happy with any of them.

I knew I would get back to this fabric eventually. It was too nice to let it marinate in the stash forever.


My inspiration for the final jacket came from Nancy M, a friend of Marcy's who helps out in her booth at the sewing Expo in Puyallup, Washington. (If you don't know, the Expo at Puyallup - pronounced "pew all* up" - happens every March, and is billed as the biggest sewing expo in the U.S. I hope to make it there one of these days, but probably not until both kids are through college.)

I've never met Nancy in person, having never been to Puyallup, but I have seen some of the wonderfully creative clothing she has made on Marcy's website and Facebook page.

For last year's Expo, Nancy made an unlined linen jacket with circles in different sizes and using several neutral colors. (I thought I had a picture of it, but I can't find it.) She used the OOP Sewing Workshop Mission jacket pattern and her circles were edged in bias strips. It was wonderful and very lagenlook.

For my version, I used a color palette of red and black, a Butterick blouse pattern, and Marcy's Holey Moley technique to create the inset circles, so the resulting effect is quite different. Then, while working on my jacket, I saw a Kate Spade coat with a similar motif, which encouraged me to forge ahead and be even more bold with my own design:

It was after seeing this coat that I grabbed my salad plate to make even larger circles.

Mine, unlike Nancy's, is not wonderful.

Fabrics Used

As I mentioned, Margy first found the beautiful red Japanese brocade with black dots on the Gorgeous Fabrics site. It is very 3-dimensional and you can use either side, to a slightly different effect. The fabric has a sprongi-ness to it. But I found that with the judicious use of steam and a clapper, that it behaved very well.

Last winter I also purchased a very fun fabric from Marcy, called Captain Midnight Black Italian Knit. This double-sided fabric consists of one layer of wool knit and one layer of cotton knit. When you throw it into the washer and dryer the wool shrinks, but the cotton not so much, turning the once-smooth fabric into a riot of wrinkles:

I washed and dried my yardage fairly aggressively and it shrank like crazy. I had only purchased 2 yards to begin with, and the resulting yardage wasn't big enough for a garment on it's own. I didn't mind because I knew it would be great paired with another fabric. I had the idea of using it for the inset circles on my red brocade jacket. I wasn't sure how well the stretchy black fabric would work with the sproingy red brocade, but I think it works quite well.

In addition to the inset circles and the semicircular pockets, I also used the puckered black knit for the standing collar and at the sleeve hems.

The final ingredients for my jacket stew: a wonderful black silk charmeuse that came pre-fused with interfacing from FabricMart, black textured buttons from Stone Mountain, and Pam Erny's fusible interfacing.

Interfacing the hem.

Grade A ingredients. Nothing but the best. sigh

Alterations and Modifications

I am not sure why I used this pattern for this jacket. I do know that I bought Butterick 5526 because Margy had used it very successfully to make several tops. That's fine, but why I decided it was right for a lined jacket... I can't remember the thought process and it now baffles me.

As you might expect, I had to make loads of modifications. I'm not sure I can even remember all of them:

  • Started with View C, and straightened the hem.
  • Lowered the bottom of the armscye, which was fairly high, by about 5/8".
  • Narrowed the shoulder. I can't remember by how much.
  • Added a bust dart.
  • Removed about 4" from the side seams, beginning below the bust and continuing down to the hem.
  • Lowered the neckline (which was very high) by 5/8".
  • Omitted the collar and re-shaped the collar stand. I squared it off and made it a bit taller. Also, I had to widen it to accommodate the increased neckline.
  • Drafted facings.
  • Drafted a lining.
  • Added semicircular side seam pockets.
  • Cut out a number of holes and inset circles of contrast fabric.

Mistake Alert: I did not make a muslin. Oh, the hubris! The unbridled vanity!

Inset Circle Technique

I learned this great technique (which I have used before), called Holey Moley, from Marcy's Inspiration Paris CD. I had to modify it slightly, to accommodate the sproingy woven brocade and the extra large circles, by basting the seam allowances of each hole. It slowed me down a bit but I was very happy with the result.

My circles are a variety of sizes. I used a salad plate and saucer from my dish set, as well as a roll of duct tape, a mug, a teacup, and a candle, to create the various circles.

I spent what felt like hours playing with the placement of the holes. This was definitely the most challenging aspect of the project. I cut "audition" circles out of black ponte scraps. I would pin on the circles, try on the jacket, which was sewn only at the shoulders, and tweak the circles (their size, number, and position), endlessly. I took many cell-phone-in-the-mirror pictures to see how it looked. (It would have helped a lot to have a dress form for this part of the process.)

Eventually I would get one circle in a position that seemed right. I would cut out the hole, and sew in the shrinky dink fabric. I would then move on to tweak the next circle. Repeat ad infinitum.

It was during this process that I alternated between loving the project, hating the project, and feeling complete ambivalence. I eliminated circles, I changed the size of the circles, I added circles back. In fact, when I had only one circle sewn, I threw the whole thing into a corner and let it sit for weeks. I despaired of finishing it.

When I picked it up again after Christmas, I had trouble remembering what pattern I used. I had also lost a bit of weight in the interim and had to take several inches off the side seams.

I forced myself back to it, because I thought if I didn't work on it over my Christmas break, I probably would never complete it.

(In hindsight, maybe not such a bad thing.)

Semicircular Pockets

I wanted to keep the circular motif going with semicircular pockets in the side seams. I quickly drafted up a pocket using a saucer for the semicircle. I used a piece of lining to create the semicircular hole and the shrinky dink fabric for the part of the pocket that is exposed.

Side seam pocket, before basting was removed.

Epic Fail

So, where, you might ask, did I go wrong? I can only partly answer that question. Not being more alert to the problems in the pattern draft is a big one. I noticed, the first time I tried on the jacket with a sleeve pinned in, that it didn't fit quite right - there were lots of drag lines in the sleeve. But it didn't really register in my brain what was going on. Later I realized what the problem was. Look at this picture of the sleeve:

Note the shape of the sleeve cap. There is a very slight curve. This is fine if you are dealing with a dropped sleeve, but this is a set-in sleeve and you need more of a rise in the shape of the curve. This is what caused the drag lines in the finished sleeve:

Furthermore, the fit just feels "off" through the shoulder/upper chest area. I noticed things weren't right when I tried it on, but I was too busy being distracted by the creative aspects of the project.

In truth, I can't blame all of Dotty's problems on the atrocious sleeve draft. I think it would have been more effective if I had made the jacket shorter. But, for some inexplicable reason, I wanted a longer jacket.

This was just one of those times when my idea just didn't pan out.

It happens.

To be honest, I'm not all that bummed out. I wish it had been successful, but oh well. I immediately dived into the flannel lined pants, which you've already seen. I'm not completely sure what is next on my plate, but I have ideas. And fabric.

I am a bit bummed that my sewcation is over and it's back to the salt mines. And I have so little to show for it.

Ta Da!!!