Sunday, May 13, 2012
It all began with this jacket. I thought this project would be simple. There are only five pieces that go into this jacket. My sister had this beautiful China Brocade fabric that she thought would be wonderful made up into this piece. I have worked with brocade quite a bit in my history and so I was happy to take on the creation.
There are no buttons even. Just a small slit at the under sleeve.
The back of the jacket has a slit with a piece of fabric sewn in which gives it a wonderful fullness while never looking full. A hidden secret. The original fabric is very soft, a large weave and sits right on the body. So it fits quite differently from the finished brocade jacket. Brocade has a breath all of its own.
Making the pattern was a challenge. First challenge was that I am not able to find the right paper here. Working at Fabric Depot in Portland Oregon, I was terribly spoiled. They have this pattern paper that is actual paper with a grid. I can lay a garment component on the paper, pin it in place, and then, using a heavy pin upon which I have glued a pretty bead, indent pin marks all around that pattern component leaving marks in the paper. Then I connect the dots, create a seam allowance, and voila! ~ a pattern piece. Here, all I can get is this sheer polyester fiber paper that is sold by the yard that does not show the pin pricks nor does it show pencil marks very well. I am sure there are thousands of seamstresses out there who swear by this product, but it is hell for me. I suppose if I was able to disassemble the garment and lay each piece down and trace around it, it might be a good paper. But I never have that option. I have copied hundreds of garments for customers and I have never been able to take them apart in order to create patterns.
I finally broke down and ordered some of my favorite paper from the store. I wish I had it for this project. I think in storage here I have a huge roll of paper that I bought from UPS that weighs a ton and that is what I used to use before working for Fabric Depot. I will have to go to the space and see if it is still there.
It took quite some time to make the pattern. Then there was the seam allowances. The original jacket only had a 1/2 allowance, but of course, I like a little more room, so mine was 5/8th inches.
It took about four hours to get the pattern to fit each seam properly. It was a difficult armhole and side seam that was well designed but a challenge. Not ordinary.
If you have worked with the brocade fabric, you know that the width of the fabric is only 36 to 39 inches wide. And most of the weaves have a nap, meaning that it has an up and down. These fabrics are not printed. The designs are woven in. So the fabric has very loose threads that are exposed on the back that you have to really take care of when working with it.So every pattern piece has to be cut individually and takes up a lot more room than a fabric that folds in half and can be cut two sides at a time. This was a huge challenge. I ran out of fabric. The front piece also included the front of the sleeve and the back of the collar.. This took up a lot of fabric. I had enough fabric also to cut the back piece which turned inward to create the back pleat, and the underarm pattern piece which had to be cut on the bias. But there was nothing left for the front facing which also included the collar, and the piece that finished the back pleat. I spent two weeks online looking for more of this fabric. Even my old supplier in California, Thai Silks,. that had everything I ever wanted when it came to silk, did not have this. I was shocked as they had at one time, every silk brocade ever produced. I was sure they would have this. But it has been ten years since I have done any business with them and, well, things change. At some point, I will have to invest in their complete sample package to see what they are carrying again. My god, I was sure they would have it. I sent out about ten scraps to different vendors in the hopes they would have this. All I needed was another yard. Nothing. I came up empty handed.
One day, I went to JoAnn Fabrics on a whim. I was shocked to find they have a rather decent supply of brocades. They didn't have what I was working with, but they did have this golden brown that complimented the green. I called my sister and put to her that I thought it would look great in the facing and the pleat. So I bought a yard.
Finally, the fabric was cut and I began to work the garment.
Firstly, every time you handle it, it frays and you lose fabric. So I began wrapping the seams immediately. I had a silk cotton that I cut on the bias in one inch strips. It was a small piece and I cut the whole piece. It took about eight or nine yards of this bias to wrap all the seams. I stitched it to every seam a little less than a quarter inch in. Then I wrapped it around and hand stitched it closed to bind the seam.
Everything was fitting rather well. I couldn't put in the pockets but my sister had told me from the very beginning that they were not necessary. I wrapped and wrapped. I kept running out of bias and the pieces got smaller and smaller. I used a tiny stitch to make the bias so the connections would disappear better. All the hems, the collar, the way the sleeve connected under the back of the arm, in the end, when pressed, it all looked pretty good.
I love this type of project. This is such a challenge. It take a lot of hours, but when the last stitch is tied off, and it goes on the mannequin, you just smile. It looks good. It just looks good.