Thursday, August 14, 2008

Shannon Gifford's Stitch and Flip Method and the Loes Hinse Milano Jacket

I recently had the pleasure of taking Shannon Gifford’s Stitch-and-Flip Jacket Construction class at, and boy was that both fun and informative.

After wasting weeks agonizing over which pattern to use (my only TNT pattern being the Advance jacket below, which is not well suited to the technique), I settled uneasily on the Loes Hinse Milano Jacket. I include that "uneasily" part because her sizing is so different from the Big4 and Advance sizing, and I’ve only sewn with Big4 type of sizing below. So I did a few uneducated flat pattern measurements, wrestled my fears to the ground, took a stab into the barely illuminated dark, and went for a combination of XS-S sizing.

Shannon emphasizes the need to make a muslin. It’s in her SNF class notes, and it’s there at the bottom of every email she sends. Staring me in the face. But I was short on time, did a tissue fitting, all looked well, and I proceeded to boldly cut out my fashion fabric (ff) and proceed with this lovely technique. The rest of this entry is in the format of a PR review, which is not yet finished. I’m posting it to get feedback from a few key people (thanks Mom), and I’ll post finished pics ASAP.

Loes Hinse Designs Pattern No. 8002 Milano Jacket PR Review

Pattern Description: Fitted princess line jacket with 7 vertical seams. View A has a two part sleeve. View B has a bell sleeve with elastic. Bust ease is 3”, hip is 5”.

Pattern Sizing: Petite through Plus (XXS, XS, S, M, L, XL, XXL), I used a combination of XS and S, mostly S.

I typically use a size 12 in the Big 4, with a ½” FBA for a C cup adjustment, ½” sway back adjustment, and ½” upper wide back adjustment (but size 10 shoulders in front, working on getting this right).

For this Milano pattern, I started by tracing XS in the shoulders to S at the bottom of the armscye. I then tried to avoid doing an FBA by incorporating the ½” bust increase suggested in FFRP on the pattern pieces joining the center front and center side seams in the bust area. Unfortunately, this is not a true princess seam in that it doesn’t go over the bust point, so I should have done a real FBA. The final picture on me will tell the story, but right now it looks a bit odd. Maybe I’ll fill things out, I have outgrown my dress form. Sadly.

Fabric Used: A rayon/polyester/lycra (“RPL”) that ended up beefier than I expected so it does not drape as elegantly as I had hoped for. This is a common problem of mine. Fabrics that look fine to me on the bolt almost always ended up being too heavy for the garment. I hope to improve my eye for this as I continue to sew.

Here are the recommended fabrics per Loes Hinse: Wool, rayon, velvet, raw silk, microfiber, linen, double knits, fleece, boucle, and blends. I probably should order fabric directly from per Loes’ recommendations until I develop a better eye for fabric/pattern matching. Wow, there are some beautiful sweater knit fabrics on that site, must resist.

Here are the recommended notions: 1 pair shoulder pads measuring 6 x 3 ½ x 5/8” (15 x 9 1.5 cm). 1 strip of Velcro 5” (12 cm). One button measuring 1”. View B 28 inches of 1” wide elastic. Hmmmm, what is the Velcro for? I missed that in the instructions. Maybe for attaching the covered shoulder pads? I haven’t gotten to that point yet. The pattern includes pieces for covering the recommended shoulder pads.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? The lines look the same, but my RPL fabric was not as softly drapey as the beautiful cream pattern photo. Next time, I’ll make it with one of the recommended fabrics. This time was for fit and for use during Shannon Gifford’s latest Jacket Stitch and Flip class at PR. Seven vertical seams! Lots of practice with the SNF technique, although it is very easy to learn under Shannon’s tutelage.

As noted above, I have two sewing shortcomings: fit and appropriate fabric choices. Not minor issues. The problems that I had with my jacket are related to one or the other of these shortcomings, certainly not the pattern design itself, the pattern instructions, or Shannon’s SNF technique. Really, I’m happy with how the jacket is shaping up when I see it on my dress form. It’s when I slip it on me that I get all sad, especially when I compare it to the elegant cream jacket on the pattern folder.

In an effort to address these areas, my first photo shows the unhemmed jacket with Nancy Erickson’s thicker shoulder pads with little caps.

At first I thought the jacket hung better on my dress form than with the much thinner crescent shaped pads that I had on hand. But after putting on the jacket, I realized that the bigger pads were trying to make the jacket into something it is not.

The first picture, with the hem done, shows it on my dress form with the thinner pads pinned to the form. I now think these are better but not quite right. I just got some NU-Foam at Joann's experiment with making shoulder pads per Shannon's bonus instructions. This is one of the reasons every project take me so long: every step is a learning process.

Doesn’t the hemmed jacket look better after I put a brassiere on my dress form? And a little cotton shell. Please ignore the color differences, neither is quite right. I'll work on that with the final jacket shots.

Another thing I noticed after looking at the unhemmed photo is that, even though I hemmed the sleeves by only catching the interfacing, those catch stitches shone through the right side as little bumps. I had to shorten the sleeves anyway, so I removed the fusible interfacing (as much as I could) and this time followed Shannon’s bagging technique to the letter, just attaching the 2” sleeve hem at the seam lines on the inside. This was in two places. I may experiment on scraps with a double-sided fusible ¼” tape just to make sure that things don’t move around, but it looks much better now. All of the interfacing standards go out the window when making an LH jacket, one of the reasons why I used this pattern for the SNF class even though I didn’t have time to make a muslin, as Shannon very strongly recommends. She’s right!

Yet another thing that I didn’t like in the unhemmed jacket photo was how the sleeve cap fabric looked puckery, due to the rippling of the seam allowance material underneath (it was pressed towards the sleeve cap).

I tried a bit of steam shrinking per Bobbi Carr’s DVD; it worked beautifully for Bobbi, who was using an all wool sleeve to demonstrate, but RPL has far less shaping possibility. It look just a tiny bit better afterwards, but still bumpy.

Then I remembered that Shannon had some instructions for basting in a sleeve head (there are all these little extra tips in a Shannon Gifford class). And I remembered that I had found and bought some beautiful lambswool (cream and black) at Greenberg & Hammer in NYC this June, so I tried that. Beautiful! I’m not sure if I’m doing it the right way, but it sure made a big difference.

This works beautifully with the sleeve bagging method of the SNF technique, all of the lambswool and seam allowances will be safely covered in the final project, only the shoulder pad with be outside the lining. And that’s okay, because I can change it if needed, or even remove it entirely if I wear the jacket with a blouse that already has a shoulder pad.

Here's the lambswool, very neat stuff, I ended up using two layers:

The pattern calls for one 1” button, and I thought for awhile that one was not enough. Now I’m leaning back in that direction. Any thoughts? Please take a look above at the jacket with one button pinned to the front, and the shot below with two buttons pinned. I'm leaning in the direction of one button, per the pattern envelope pic. Loes knows best.

Here is a picture of part of the inside with the SNF lining and a Hong Kong finish around the facing. I need to finish the sleeve bagging by handstitching the top of the sleeve lining to the armhole (Shannon has given me some tips on how to do that) and another row of blind hem stitches around the Hong Kong seam at the hem. Make the buttonhole (maybe two, one for each side so that I can interchange buttons via the "cuff link" method), then I'm done.

P.S. My mother likes one button too. She and Loes are like this (fingers twisted together visual). Unless I hear strong protests, one button it is.

Advance 7894 Jacket - Almost Done!

I'm almost done with the jacket that goes with the skirt below (it's actually further along than this, all done except for buttonholes and insertion of shoulder pads, I just don't have a more recent pic), and have been almost done for almost a month. For a good part of that time, I was heavily researching various methods to make bound buttonholes. One is supposed to get better with practice; mine got worse, no matter which method I tried. Somehow, despite all of my research, my eyes glanced over the best method -- for me.

I have a suit from the '50s, and I was stubbornly determined to recreate the bound buttonholes in that suit. None of the methods I tried looked like it. Then I saw Ann Steeves' tutorial on her blog, Gorgeous Things. She discusses the method in the context of welt pockets, but it is the same method (only smaller) for buttonholes.

My first one came out perfectly, as did the next three or four. And it looked just the the ones on my '50s jacket! But I was still too traumatized by my previous experiences with the other methods to cut into my beautiful Advance jacket. And I had registered for a couple of PR classes so I worked on those. The jacket awaits. I'm almost done with my SNF jacket, then I'll finish this one.

If you must suffer all of the agonies of the various techniques, some of my research is posted on Artisans Square here and pasted for your convenience below (but go to AS to see what others had to say, it was fun):

Since my last post, I have been doing extensive research in various buttonhole styles, all without having to leave my house or order another book from Amazon. Because I already have most of them. At least two of them mention machine+hand finished and provide detailed instructions, so I'm all set to practice that.

Those books and others gave many different ways of doing welt buttonholes, and I think I'm going to practice a few of them also on scraps with fused interfacing. Sooner or later, they'll come in handy. I already have the scraps with interfacing from my interfacing tests.

"Tailoring: The Classic Guide to Sewing the Perfect Jacket" by Creative Publishing International discusses both approaches (welt and machine+hand) with detailed instructions and very clear illustrations (pp 116-119). It also says to do welt buttonholes before you sew on the facing, do machine+hand afterwards.

"Vogue Sewing, Revised and Updated" has multiple ways to do bound buttonholes (five-line patch method, organza patch method, one-piece folded method, two-piece method, and options to add cording to each) at pp. 266-270. I found these more confusing because there are far fewer illustrations, and they are drawings instead of photographs. It says in the first sentence to make bound buttonholes before attaching the facing.

"Sewing Secrets from the Fashion Industry," edited by Susan Huxley, addresses one type of bound buttonhole, using a folded patch at pp. 92-94. This is the same approach as in the "Tailoring" book above, and also has lots of nice pictures plus some helpful tips on how to approach each step. There is a page that goes into completing the facing with a slash, or eye slit, finish (p. 95). There is also a page on completing the facing with a windowpane finish, for that uber-couture look (my phrase, not SSFI's). My jacket is designed to wear open, so I'm not so worried about how the inside will look, probably would settle for the slash finish just to have a hope of finishing the JCC in time.

Adele P. Margolis in "the Complete Book of Tailoring" at pp. 307 through 315 discusses both the one-strip method (her term for the folded patch) and the two-strip method. I had just been wondering which was better, and there she says right on p. 311: "This one-strip method of making a bound buttonhole is basic, easy, and practically foolproof." She could be talking to me. She then goes on to say in the next paragraph: "In all honesty, however, one must admit that in very heavy or very sheer materials it is very difficult to handle the tiny strips produced by Method I. For such Fabrics, the two-strip method of making a bound buttonhole is preferable." I love the way Adele P. Margolis writes. She still feels vital today, and this book is dated 1978. I believe it is Kenneth King who pointed people towards her, saying that so much of what is being written today is derivative of her work. I was sad to see that Ms. Margolis states authoritatively on p. 307 that "Bound buttonholes are always made on the garment before the facing is turned back or attached."

Shannon has a nice tutorial on the two-strip method, and I'd be interested to hear from her if she has used both and prefers one over the other for various types of fabric, or sticks with the two-strip method.

Now, I've admitted that my facing is attached, so why am I still reading up on bound buttonholes? Because I want to try them on this jacket. Fools rush in, etc. etc.

All it took was one reference to give me hope. Claire Shaeffer, who discussed the patch method for bound buttonholes at p. 87 of "Couture Sewing Techniques" and the two-strip method at p. 89* says on page 86 the following: "In home sewing and ready-to-wear production, bound buttonholes are made on the garment section before the garment is assembled. In couture, the buttonhole locations and even the buttonhole size may not be finally decided until after the sections are sewn together and the garment's finished length is determined. . . If the garment is already machine-stitched, it's somewhat more cumbersome, but the buttonholes can nonetheless be completed without difficulty." Ahhhhh. That describes my whole approach to this jacket -- although "clueless" is probably a more accurate description of my work method than "couture". The facing is easily folded out, so I continue to consider this approach. Accuracy in marking will be the difficult step.

* Claire goes into much more detail on the two-strip technique, with pictures, in the book, "High Fashion Sewing Secrets from the World's Best Designers" at pp. 105-108. She has you complete each step for all buttonholes, before proceeding to the next step. Claire also discusses the windowpane opening in this book at pp. 60-62, which had me furrowing my brow in confusing. Maybe it would be clearer with practice.

I'm going to practice the patch and two-strip methods, and if I go down in flames, I'll do machine+hand buttonholes. Although I must admit that machine buttonholes just scare me. It feels so out of control.

One last option: The inimitable Roberta Carr presents another approach to the bound buttonhole. She discusses the "Spanish Snap Buttonhole" at p. 187 of her lovely book, "Couture, the Art of Fine Sewing". Here is what she says enticingly about the Spanish snap buttonhole:

"Frequently used by the designers, this buttonhole has very thin lips that can hardly be seen, I like to call them "invisible" bound buttonholes. The advantage of a Spanish snap buttonhole is that it can be made very small -- as one might use on a silk blouse. On the other hand, Spanish snap buttonholes are equally effective used on a tweed or nubby fabric with the lips made from wool flannel or worsted."

So I'll practice those too, using the making the lips from both my fashion fabric (a rather light linen/tencel blend) and from the navy ambiance that I used for the Hong Kong seam finishes. Unless someone warns me away from either, or suggests a third, superior alternative. What about navy organza, which I happen to have?

I hope that this summary is useful to others, I know that I am really interested in trying at least three of these approaches on scraps (patch, two-strip and Spanish snap), and perhaps if one looks nice, then I will recreate a strip of the front with facing attached, and practice on that. If I can get them looking halfway decent, I'll move on to my jacket. If not, machine+hand.

I did make significant progress on my straight linen/tencel skirt today, which fits quite well, so I still have a chance of finishing the JCC. I need to cut out the lining, but first I have to figure out if I will stick with the pattern directions (separate waistband) or do a faced waistband with lining hanging from the facing. I'm also interested in elastic in the back to help with changing waist measurements. Lastly, I may want to add a top to the lining/skirt for structure and not having to think in the morning about what to throw on under the suit. I can also sew dress shields to the top part of the lining. Claire Shaeffer shows a gorgeous example of this at p. 102 of her "Couture Sewing Techniques" book but without how-to instructions. Does one make the one-piece slip (top and skirt) and then attach the skirt to the waist?

Thanks again everyone for taking the time to read this thread and offer me your thoughts. I thought it was really neat to read them and see them echoed in my books; you bring the books to life.


P.S. Just in case anyone is interested, "Tailoring, Traditional and Contemporary Techniques," has very nice discussions of three types of "fabric" buttonholes (which they acknowledge are traditionally called "bound" buttonholes but are really piped or corded): (1) the five-line patch, (2) the butterfly with a faced opening, and (3) the corded trips. They give some suggested variations and discuss the advantages and limitations of each method. Essentially, I could spend the rest of June exploring just the stuff in pp. 155-168 of this book. They provide four guidelines, including "complete one buttonhole at a time". But two other references said to work on all buttonholes at once, doing each step on all buttonholes at the same time for uniformity. The latter makes more sense to me, any thoughts?