Cuddly K9

I am the proud possessor of a copy of the wonderfully 1980s Doctor Who Pattern Book. My mum bought it for me as a bit of a joke because I’ve always been a Doctor Who fan. And now it seems my offspring is following in my footsteps. A couple of months ago he was looking through the book and asked for the cuddly K9 toy. For those who don’t know Doctor Who, K9 is a robot dog who was a regular in the programme in the late 70s and early 80s. He was and is hugely popular with small children.

I didn’t have any fabric of the right weight for the original K9 pattern from the book, but then I found a free fan-made pattern on an old Livejournal post that would work with what I had in stash. And we’ve been very slowly putting K9 together ever since. My son is still too young to use a sewing machine, but he likes to watch the process and helps by passing me things. We only worked on K9 when he was in the mood so it took a while. We started shortly before lockdown and have only just finished.

The main body of K9 is very heavy grey denim left over from my trench coat. The letters are scraps of silver foiled denim (originally a skirt and a pair of jeans). The tail and ears are scraps of the metallic denim I used for my quilted coat. The tail is meant to be black so I used the wrong side of the fabric for that.

I think the face has come out really nicely. The head is perhaps a bit too heavy for the neck and droops slightly but he’s still cute.

I didn’t stuff the body enough. I’ve opened him up a couple of times to try to cram more stuffing in but try as I might it all just seems to vanish inside him! So he’s slightly more squidgy and rounded than he ought to be. The tv screen is more of the silver quilted coat fabric.

I don’t have much of a button stash so his control panel is a bit random; I only just managed to scratch together nine buttons of approximately the right size. It amuses me a great deal that one of them is marked Vivienne Westwood.

The pattern says it’s for advanced beginners. The trickier bits, like the soft sculpting to pull in the sides of the body, are very well explained. That’s a fearsome process involving a six inch long needle and ending with very sore hands.

I had a few problems with making the pleated overlay for the neck sit nicely. The neck is meant to be very curved and that makes the pleats open up. I still haven’t worked out a good way to do it. I resorted to lots of hand sewing and making the neck a straighter shape than the one in the pattern. I think if I ever made another I’d probably just skip the overlay as it’s not very visible and a more curved neck will make his head stand up better.

Anyway we had a lot of fun making him and I think he’s come out quite well. I haven’t got any contact details for the author of the pattern, but if you’re out there Clarice thank you very much!

I haven’t forgotten about the method for making french seamed welt pockets but I’m finding it so hard to explain clearly I may have to make a sample. Which is probably more fun in the current heat wave than working on a boiled wool jacket.

Bits and pieces

This blog waxes and wanes, but of late I’ve been managing to post consistently every week. I can’t say I’ve made a lot of progress on my jacket project since my last post though. I’ve made the welt pockets…which is basically step one of the pattern. Not a single construction seam has been sewn. I haven’t even made the darts.

The pockets are nice, though. Admittedly from the outside they aren’t the greatest welt pockets I have ever made. Slightly uneven welt, and the ends are a bit squashed.

Single welt pocket in black boiled wool

But the insides are gorgeous. The pattern instructions (Vogue 1466, an out of print Donna Karan design) include a new-to-me technique that makes the pocket bag end up french seamed. Not an untidy or even overlocked edge in sight. I’m not normally one to care about beautifying the inside of a garment, but this jacket is unlined so the pocket bags are going to be seen. I’ll have to go through with the Hong Kong finish the pattern recommends on all the other seams now, simply in order not to let the pocket bags down.

French seamed pocket bag

Anyway I imagine anyone who’s still reading has heard more than enough about welt pockets by now. I also wanted to share a couple of links to blogs I’ve enjoyed reading lately.

Some Use Some Wear is a blog about the evolution of a wardrobe. It’s not a sewing blog, but I enjoy it because the author talks about the stories behind her clothes.

The other one isn’t a single blog – it’s a whole series of blogs about creating incredibly screen-accurate Doctor Who cosplays. They aren’t being updated any more but there’s a huge amount of reading material in the archives. Even if you’re not into Doctor Who, the process the author goes through to source authentic fabrics and develop accurate patterns is fascinating. He covers several of the classic and new series Doctors. My favourite is his Fourth Doctor costume blog and all the others are linked from there.

Pocket samples

Welt pockets are high stakes sewing. Cutting a hole right through the middle of a pattern piece can’t be undone if it goes wrong.

The jacket I’m making has double welt pockets with very narrow welts, and my fabric is a very thick and elastic boiled wool. From the outset this seemed unlikely to be a successful combination, but I had nothing in my fabric stash that’s a suitable alternative fabric for the welts. So I tried making a sample following the method in the pattern (OOP Vogue 1465). I measured really carefully and hand basted every step. But it’s…not good. The back pocket bag isn’t sewn onto this sample – it would have been a complete waste of fabric.

Jetted pocket sample in black boiled wool

I’ve made welt pockets successfully lots of times in the past, even in boiled wool. But the combination of a particularly thick and unstable fabric and very narrow welts just isn’t working. Another complication is that for some reason the pattern includes a facing of the boiled wool which is applied to the pocket bag that attaches to the garment front, which means that there’s an extra layer of fabric to negotiate when cutting through the front.

I could make the whole thing bigger, but I think the double welts look a bit odd in the wool anyway and a single one would be better. I tried making a single welt to the same width as the pair of double ones, skipping the pocket bag facing too. Again no back pocket bag on the sample. I also haven’t hand sewn the ends of the welt down, which I’d do if this was the real thing.

Single welt pocket sample in black boiled wool

Not perfect, but a great deal better. I think the welt is a touch too narrow. I’m not making a third sample though – this is two evenings of sewing time gone already. I’ve cut my real welts a little wider and I’m going ahead with my actual jacket pieces. Wish me luck.

Vogue 1466 toile

I’m making a jacket in a thick black boiled wool. It’s special fabric and quite an involved pattern so for once I’m doing a toile to check the fit before I cut into the good stuff. Before we get into the photos of me pinned into unflattering unbleached calico with wild hair and not a smidgeon of makeup, here’s the technical drawing and model photo so you can see what I’m aiming for. It’s Vogue 1466 which is an out of print Donna Karan design, so no link I’m afraid.

I normally start one or two sizes down from my measurements in Vogue because of the large amount of ease they include, and add 5cm length between bust and waist and also 5cm to the sleeves. With this one the finished pattern measurements showed there is next to no ease at the hip so I used my true size there. Here’s the front view.

I haven’t got any shoulder pads to put in, although the pattern does need them, so I think that explains the diagonal wrinkles from shoulder to armscye seam.

There is a lot of ease in the sleeve caps and I didn’t do a great job setting them, so there are a few little tucks. In my defence, setting the sleeves in boiled wool will be a lot easier than in calico. Despite the bad sewing and the unforgiving fabric the arm mobility in this is impressively good. I can reach right over my head without problems.

I think I need a little bit more bust room, despite the printed finished garment measurements showing a large amount of ease there.

I haven’t got a good photo of the back. All the ones where I was standing straight came out blurred! Anyway you’ll have to take it from me that the back is OK. What this does show is that there is a lot of room in the waist, but I think that’s intentional.

I haven’t got an unblurry shot of the side at all, but this one is the least bad. Again looks like I need a full bust adjustment and shoulder pads.

This one shows the collar tab slightly better. Mine seems larger than the technical drawing but similar to the model photo. The collar is comfortable to wear, which is the main thing.

So, some small pattern tweaks and then on to figuring out how I’m going to manage those jetted pockets in ultra thick boiled wool.

Pattern prep: Vogue 1466

This is my next sewing project: the jacket from Vogue 1466, an out of print Donna Karan design. It may seem like the wrong time of year to be making a wool jacket but I am almost always cold even in sunny weather. It’s worse now I’m working from home as my work area is the chilliest room in the house. I want something a little bit smarter than a jumper or cardigan, but not as structured as a suit jacket. This design is unlined and can be made in boiled wool for a bit of give, which is ideal.

I was puzzled by one feature of the pattern. There are separate left and right back pattern pieces because there’s a back vent so one side has an underlap. But there are some other small differences between those two pieces. The shoulder line is slightly longer on one than the other.

And the one with the longer shoulder line is also slightly longer in the body. Neither difference is huge but it’s enough to be noticeable when sewing.

I can’t see any reason for the difference. There are no separate left and right pieces for the sleeves, nor the jacket front and side pieces. I can only assume it’s a mistake. When I traced the pattern onto paper I used the longer shoulder line for both pieces and the longer body length. I’m making a toile for this one so I should see if it’s worked fairly soon.

Burda 121 04 2020

Burda 121 04/2020 draped t-shirt

Burda 121 04 2020

This top was a very quick sew. A bit of gathering, four seams, and four hems. It is Burda 121 04/2020 – it’s not often I make up a Burda pattern in the same month the magazine is dated. I am not first off the mark though – check out Sonja’s stylish all black version. And here is Burda’s version.

The cut is unusual, with the same pattern piece used for both front and back. This sort of thing can be very hit or miss in my experience. I’ve made similar designs from the Japanese Drape Drape books and they’ve either become firm favourites or never been worn at all – there is one Drape Drape t shirt I have tackled three times without producing a wearable garment yet. But this Burda one does work. I’ve worn it twice already.

It’s not completely perfect. The problem area is the neckline, which is too tight for a cowl neck and too loose for a boat neck. It doesn’t seem to know quite where to sit. Mine tends to fall backwards and so I end up showing off a bit of back.

Burda 121 04 2020

I sewed this entirely on the sewing machine. If you’re super accurate you could use an overlocker for the construction seams, but I’m not and there didn’t seem to be any point setting it up just to finish the seams in a completely non fraying fabric. I even did the hems on the sewing machine with a twin needle. I haven’t had great success with that in the past but this time I added a bit of lightweight knit interfacing to the edges which helped a lot.

The proportions aren’t quite what I was expecting, although I like them. Burda only shows it on a seated model where it appears to stop around the hip bone. It’s definitely longer than that on me. I made my usual length adjustments so possibly this one just comes up long.

Burda 121 04 2020

I don’t think I’m likely to make this again – it’s perfect for the current warm weather but I certainly don’t need two of them. It’s a great little pattern though. It could easily be adjusted to have full length sleeves or even lengthened into a minidress.

Burda 121 04 2020

And now for something a little different

Burda 121 04 2020

Continuing with the blogging about frivolous sewing, because I need a break from thinking about the real world. This unusual t-shirt design is from the April 2020 Burda. It’s style 121 which is the Trend pattern for the month. It reminds me of various Vivienne Westwood designs, and also some of the Drape Drape patterns. Here’s the technical drawing.

Burda 121 04 2020

The pattern is unusual in that there is only one pattern piece. It is cut twice, but with both pieces oriented the same way up, not mirrored as pattern pieces are normally cut. Here is the pattern piece. I’ve made my usual length additions so it’s not quite shaped like Burda’s.

The model photo made me think of a piece of fabric that’s been lurking in my stash for a long time. It’s a lightweight single knit with wide grey and black stripes, and a silver glitter coating over that on the right side which makes it look like dark and light silver stripes. I bought it on Goldhawk Road many years ago and foolishly only got 1.5m. Even though it was a generous cut that worked out more like 1.8m I’ve never found anything to do with it – if I’d bought a little bit more I would have had loads of options. The Burda pattern calls for 2.1m but that is for a with-nap layout. By rotating the pattern piece 180 degrees before cutting the second copy I was able to get it out of the shorter length.

I know in general one should always use a with-nap layout for knits, especially ones with a sheen, but I think this pattern is busy enough that any difference between front and back will be lost in the noise.

Anticlimax? Burda 114 11/2019 finished

It doesn’t look much different from the pictures in the last couple of posts, but my Burda 114 11/2019 quilted coat is finally finished.

The big change since last time is that new vertical line of top stitching down the front. It’s sewn right at the end, through all the layers, and goes from level with the top of the zip right to the hem. This holds the lining and facing in place – there was no need to understitch the lining on that side of the zip at all! And if you recall it was my attempt to understitch which led to the whole thing getting jammed in the sewing machine. I should have just followed Burda’s instructions in the first place.

I haven’t been able to get modelled photos yet. This has been such an involved project that I really want to do them in a location that’s more interesting than my back garden, but as we all know that won’t be possible for a while yet. But I do have some detail shots.

The closure has a zip and snaps too. No wind is going to sneak through that front opening.

Sewing on the snaps seemed to take forever. They’ve come out neater than I usually manage. Maybe I’m getting the hang of hand sewing at last.

The zip is two way but I’m not entirely sure it needs to be. There’s plenty of room even with the zip done right up.

At the moment I can’t quite believe I’ve finally finished it. It’s come out pretty much how I imagined it, but I’m completely unable to judge how successful it is as a garment because I’m not likely to have an opportunity to wear it until next winter now. And I’m very conscious of the less than perfect bits. It feels bit weird after all that effort. I’m hoping I’ll be delighted and surprised with it when I pull it out of the wardrobe in October.

Standards for success

Comic courtesy of XKCD

OK so the comic is about computers, but the moral applies equally well to sewing projects. The coat project continues, but standards are slipping.

Here’s what it looked like when I was trying to sew in the lining. That didn’t go too badly, so I turned the coat right side out and tried it on. And the zip got promptly got caught on the lining. So there I was, wearing a duvet, and unable to take it off. I eventually managed to wriggle out and extract the lining from where the zip puller was trying to eat it, and decided to understitch both sides of the zip to keep the lining and facing well away from the puller. Which meant all that bulk ended up on the right, stuffed under the harp of the sewing machine. This was a bad idea.

I got to a point where the whole thing got completely wedged. I couldn’t lift the presser foot because the lever was hidden in a tangle of wadding. I couldn’t pull the jammed fabric either forwards or back without risking damaging the machine because something was well and truly caught around the needle shank. I seriously considered getting a screwdriver and taking the whole shank off.

After much careful pushing and pulling I got it out, at the cost of a small snag on the the fabric. Luckily it’s right under the arm so it doesn’t show. And my machine seems to have survived the experience.

There was no way I was going to be able to complete the under-stitching to the top of the zip, so I pressed it all as hard as I dared and so far the zip hasn’t jammed again. But after all that I didn’t feel like rearranging the room to take pictures with a clean backdrop! So here it is quickly slung on the dressform surrounded by a pile of clutter. The lining isn’t attached to the neck or armscye seams nor have I sewn any of the hems yet.

The collar needed a little bit of reshaping from the pattern; the edges looked slightly concave near the points so I shaved a bit off. I think it looks OK now.

So I’m still plugging away. I’m definitely making something simpler next!

Quilting fix

Well I for one need a distraction from external events right now, so I’m going to keep on blogging about my coat, trivial though it is.

Thanks so much for all the advice and support about my quilting error. In the end I decided to go with susew’s idea of repeating the quilting lines close together down to the hem. I really liked the idea of doing the double line on the sleeves but I didn’t want to unpick the sleeve seams and I didn’t think I’d get it sewn without the layers shifting if I sewed it in the round. The new hem quilting lines aren’t entirely flat either but being lower down I hope it isn’t obvious.

The hem isn’t turned up here but when it is there won’t be that gap at the bottom; the fold line is placed at the same distance from the last line of quilting as the space between the lines.

The actual quilting was a bit of a challenge. I didn’t want to rip the side seams in order to quilt each piece separately, so I laid the whole thing flat and drew the guidelines across the entire width of the coat, with chalk this time not pencil, so I had a chance to correct any mistakes. Then I fed it through the machine, using a walking foot to try to reduce creep between layers. It worked pretty well; there’s a little bit of puckering where the stitching crosses the side seams but it’s liveable with.

It looks amazingly wonky below but it’s much better when viewed from a more normal distance.

The seamline that got crossed second is slightly worse for puckering.

I’ve also figured out what’s going on with the vertical quilting line that is present on the technical drawing but didn’t seem to be marked on the pattern. Summer Flies spotted it: it’s sewn right at the end, along the line of the zip, through all the layers, so it’s correct that my coat hasn’t got it at this stage.

I’ve started sewing the facings. Here’s my coat chain basted to the back facing piece. Really pleased with how nicely that’s worked out.

And here it is with the facings laid in place but not yet sewn on. I need to construct the lining too.

Feels like the finish is still a long way away!