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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Couture Trouser Class with Jon Moore

L-R: BAD, Jon Moore, and Lady T
Some days you hit it lucky. You’re in the right place at the right time. That was me last summer when the email from Kathryn Brenne’s Academy of Fine Sewing popped up on my computer announcing the Couture Trouser Class with Jon Moore. I jabbed the Reply button so eagerly, I almost dislocated my finger.

Good thing my reflexes were so fast; the class sold out immediately. Anyone who hesitated or was vegging on vacation ended up on the waiting list.

They missed a most excellent class.

As I discovered last year when I took his Couture Jacket Tailoring class, Jon is a fabulous teacher. Skilled, knowledgeable, and experienced – he’s also surprisingly modest. I didn’t realize why he was so skilled, knowledgeable and experience until after last year’s class when I googled him. Most people talk up their credentials, but not Jon, not even on his own website. He didn’t just work for The Royal Couturier Hardy Amies, he was a Royal Couturier. (Just imagine, he’s custom fit me and the Queen! Now that’s a not-to-be-expected-in-this-life combination.)

My trouser draft

As a student, I especially appreciated his inexhaustible patience and his ability to explain why one (time-consuming) technique was used instead of another (simpler). By the way, the answer always centred around control of the fabric, which reigns supreme in couture sewing.

For the first step, I drafted a pattern using my personal measurements. The crotch curve was the trickiest line to get right. Jon corrected the line on my draft, then further refined it on my muslin. The end result was something that looked like it had truly been designed for me. (Not too surprising, since it had, but it still came as a shock that my pants fit so well.)

My dainty behind highlighted in muslin
Once my pattern had been adjusted, I cut out the pieces from the softest, lightest, drapiest wool flannel ever. No lining for the legs, though. Jon feels that lining interferes with the fabric’s ability to stretch and drape. Plus it’s very difficult to press lined trousers. If a lining is needed, he prefers the wearer to don a trouser “slip”.

Immediately after the trouser pieces had been cut out, I finished the raw edges with a simple zigzag stitch, with the zig on the fabric and the zag falling off the edge. Alternate methods: hand overcasting (traditional couture seam-finishing technique that barely changes the hand of the fabric), or serging (standard RTW and/or home sewing technique that can be stiff and bulky). As I always race the clock during classes (and usually lose), I was happy to use the quick, but still unobtrusive, zigzag option.

Lined fly and yet-to-be-lined contour waistband
The zipper fly was constructed with two separate facing pieces plus a lining. The lining wrapped around the fly facing creating a mock piping edge. It was a time-consuming construction process but unbelievably elegant.

By far, the lined contour waistband took the longest to construct, involving oodles of basting, stab-stitching, crossing-stitching and fell-stitching. The entire waistband was interfaced with canvas, giving the rest of the pants a firm foundation from which to hang. Again, it’s a time-consuming technique but oh so elegant!

SAW from Ohio
KH from British Columbia

Lady T's squishy tushy (Hey! How did those drag lines get there?)
All in all, it was a fab week. I ended up with a great fitting pattern, a fuller understanding of couture sewing, and the inspiration/synergy that comes from spending a week with a dozen highly creative people. 

    - Lady T

Monday, April 09, 2012

Tale of 3 Shirts

Plaid (left) for Tall Boy. Navy linen (centre)
and striped chambray (right) for Stud Muffin.

Two handsome men, three new shirts. The numbers don’t come out even, do they? In this case, my sweetie, Stud Muffin, came out the double winner, and my son, Tall Boy, got just one. I made these shirts in preparation for my One Shirt, Two Ways class a couple of weeks ago auditioning techniques to decide which ones I would include.

Perfecting my shirtmaking abilities has been an on-going project for the past few years. It began one fall when I sewed four shirts in a row and wasn’t happy with a single one. That was when I had the lightning bolt revelation:  there had to be another way of doing things. Notice I didn’t say better. As far as I know, there isn’t one BEST way of doing anything.

Continuous placket - not my fav.
The top "roof" isn't easy to make.
David Page Coffin Placket - I like!
Smooth and easy to sew

Fortunately, I like research. Armed with a shoulder-wrenching load of books and enough videos* to turn my eyeballs red, I dug for new ideas. David Page Coffin, Sandra Betzina, Mike Maldonado, Margaret Islander, Rusty Bobbin, Nancy Zieman, Ron Collins, Pam Erny, and Louise Cutting became my new best friends.

* My darling children called these sewing videos my sewing porn. Charming.

Love the fun with the stripes!
I learned. I experimented. Just when I thought I was done, more shirtmaking resources popped up (got to love the internet).  Yet another variation on a theme. I was amazed – who knew there could be so many ways to sew such a basic garment?

Buttonholes made with vintage Singer Buttnhole
attachment. Simple, perfect buttonholes
every time!
What techniques do I like? Margaret Islander made me rethink seam allowances. I love the 1-piece collar (Zieman, Collins, and Cutting). For front plackets, Nancy Zieman offers several great options. Pam Erny’s blog shows how to reshapecollars for a better fit. Rusty Bobbin has the best shirt deconstruction tutorial I’ve ever seen. David Page Coffin’s book is an all-round great resource and demystifies sleeve plackets.

Do you have any favourite shirtmaking techniques?

                - Lady T

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Teacher's Pets

To really learn a subject, you should teach it.

Isn’t that how the saying goes? I agree wholeheartedly! I learn more every time I teach. Somehow the sharing of information generates more knowledge. It’s magical.

I’ve taught a few sewing classes recently, and I thought I’d share the fun with you.

The lovely NM who helped me cut out 8 kits
A couple of Saturdays ago, I taught One Shirt, Two Ways to eight of my fellow Sewing Guild members. The idea was to construct a sample shirt, with each side sewn with different techniques – two different sleeve plackets, two different collars, two different ways to make pockets, etc. A rather ambitious goal for a 6-hr class, and as it turns out too ambitious, as we didn’t finish to my everlasting dismay. (Note to self: two-day class next time.)
JP likes sewing it this way!

MB assessing this method
Fun for me, as teacher, was listening to the comments the students made as they tried each method. Some adored the new technique and laughed with glee, while other abhorred it and thought I was some kind of sewing sadist for teaching it. Same technique, two opposite reactions. Just proves the point that finding a technique that gives you the results you want without driving you crazy is the key to happy sewing.

SC inserting her green zipper into 8-gore skirt

Occasionally I teach private lessons. These classes are student lead and follow their agenda. This really keeps me on my toes, and I often have to rethink how I do something. Take zippers – they no longer match the dominant colour of the fabric and hide discretely inside a garment.

Recently, SC and I tackled pattern drafting. She’s a woman with distinct ideas of how things should look, and what better way to make that happen than by making your own pattern! For our first project, we made an 8-gore skirt using this draft from The Weekend Designer. Hers rides low on her abdomen, mine hits the waist. Guess which one of us has the mid-thigh length, and which one’s goes down to the knee? Here she is, hard at work. (We swap and she becomes teacher for piano lessons.)

Little T's first sewing lesson
Let's end today's blog entry with one of my favourite students, Little T, having his first lesson. Last year, when he was fussing as only a newborn can, Little T and I would wander over to this splendid piece of machinery (Husqvarna/Viking 6440) and discuss its finer points. He was riveted and it never failed to change the mood. I promised him when he was a little bigger, I would show him all its wonders, and here we are! As you can see, he loved the up-and-down motion of the thread uptake level. I think it'll take a few more lessons before he can be an independent sewist, don't you?

     - Lady T