Saturday, January 26, 2008

Humbled by Interfacing

Last weekend was a three day holiday weekend and I was able to do a lot of sewing. I completed a pair of lined pants, a skirt, and most of a jacket which may become part of my SWAP. They were all made from the McCalls wardrobe pattern 5597. This pattern is fairly new and the jacket in particular appealed to me because it was a fitted, collarless jacket with interesting tucks on the upper neckline. I thought it would be fast and easy to sew. But you know, even after all these years of successfully picking compatible patterns, fashion fabric, and interfacing, I have a sewing experiences that tests my confidence and resolve. The fashion fabric for this jacket was a lovely dusty teal brushed wool with a teeny bit of lycra. The pattern instruction said to fuse interfacing to all the body pieces. My first interfacing attempt was a fusible "Armo" type weft. I have used this type of interfacing successfully for jackets I have made from all kinds of fabric, from silk and rayon suiting to wool boucles and flannels. It adds stability without stiffness. Based on my experience, it should have worked fine. After sewing the jacket seams for the first fitting, I noticed the interfacing was not adhering well. Further attempts to make it stick firmly didn't improve the situation, so I unpicked the seams and pulled it all off. I went to my stash looking for sew in interfacing. All I had was some very stiff tailoring canvas. None of the local fabric store carry woven sew in interfacing any more. What is up with that? I knew of some online sources, but I didn't want to wait. So I went looking for light weight but firm, woven blends that resembled the sew in interfacing I remembered. I found some in various weights and colors on the dollar table at Walmart. I cut out all the pattern pieces in the woven interfacing and basted them to the fashion fabric. Then I sewed up the seams again. The woven interfacing was fine around the shoulder and neck, but not in the hip area where there was a lot of curved seams. Lots of puckering, despite much clipping and pressing. After several days of mental debate on whether this jacket was worth continued efforts, I decided it was. I carefully removed the interfacing below the upper back and chest, leaving it in the shoulder area, upper chest and under the arm hole. That worked well and I was able to finish the jacket without any other problems.
The skirt is made from a wool acetate fabric from Timmel Fabrics. One side of the fabric is smooth and shiny, the other matte. I used the shiny side to make a contrast band at the top of the skirt. The fabric was supposed to be mostly wool, but when I soaked a piece in nail polish remover (acetone) the "threads" in one direction melted into a sticky black goo. Seems to me if half the threads melt, then the fiber content is 50/50. I am not sure what the purpose is in combining these two fibers. What properties from each were enhanced by the merger? Acetate has to be ironed using medium heat with no steam, and wool is pressed at a much higher heat with steam. To get flat seams, I had to use the higher heat, and the acetate side changesdcolor temporarly when I pressed it, Wool breaths, acetate doesn't. Wool resists wrinkling, acetate wrinkles. I wonder if this fabric would make a good coat lining with the shiny smooth side as the right side. Maybe the wool would providing some warmth, but the slippery side would facilitate pulling the coat on over other clothing.

The pants are made of a black and white wool tick weave, with a contrasting black pleather band at the top. I did morph the McCalls pant pattern to look like the Vogue 2087 (green suede jacket) pants with a center front zipper opening. And removed large quantities of fabric from the outer hips and inner thighs. McCalls pants patterns do not fit me well without these alterations.

Monday, January 14, 2008

I finished the suede jacket and am pleased with how it turned out. It was not fast and easy sewing. What follows are the equipment and methods I use when sewing suede and leather. The jacket was made of mossy green (Pantone 16-6324) "velvet pig suede" from a local Tandy leather store. Suede has a nap, and so I laid it out and cut the pattern pieces using "with nap" rules. I made sure they were all oriented in the same direction top to bottom. No turning a pattern piece upside down to reduce waste. Pieces that were to be sewn together were placed next to each other on the skin and cut out to keep the nap consistent. Pieces were cut in a single layer and weights (cat food cans) were used to hold the pattern pieces down during cutting. I cut it out using scissors. Long blade shears I buy by the dozen at the dollar store and throw out as soon as they get dull.
The jacket is lined in acetate from my stash. Many people do not care for acetate as a lining, saying it is hot to wear and eventually weakens at the seams and needs to be replaced. I don’t find it hot; it is cellulose based fabric just like rayon. It is firmer than other lining fabrics and easy to crease, which was important to me as the jacket was lined to the edge and I wanted a lining fabric that could compete with the suede at the turned edges
I had very little problems sewing the suede. My machine, a Husqvarna Designer 1 has a setting for leather, which I used. In addition I used.

Needle - Size 12 Microtex sharp
Thread - Mettler - Polyester 30 weight (cotton will deteriorate due to the tannins used to tan skins Hmm, I wonder if this will affect the lining, as cellulose is a plant fiber too)
Interfacing – light weight iron on
"Pins" Large paper clips and binder clips were used in place of pins to hold pieces together for seaming and fitting.
Presser foot – quarter inch quilting foot. I found that a pressure foot with a small needle opening was critical for the even feed of the suede under the pressure foot. This foot worked better than my Teflon or general purpose plastic foot. The only time I had trouble with skipped stitches was when I forgot to change from my general purpose foot to the quilting foot, after sewing on the lining. The suede was not feeding evenly under the foot and the stitches were skipping.
Sewing speed – slow and steady, no jackrabbit spurts of speed.
Snaps- Dritz Mini Anorak I get very nervous when applying snaps to a garment. Once you have the hole (needed for the male parts of the snaps) in the fabric, there is no going back. Long ago, after many botched applications using hammers and little holder gizmos sold in fabric stores, I invested in a Vario Plus Snap kit by Prym, still available at , with special pliers and parts needed to apply a wide range of snap types and sizes. This was years ago when my boys were small and I was making baby clothes for them. I remember it being pricy for my budget, but it was well worth it. I still ruined 5 snaps in applying the 15 on this jacket, and it took me two nights to complete. It was either that or button holes in the suede, and that really intimidated me.