December 9, 2014

Selfless sewing?

The sewing I do in my own time is mostly for myself. I think I have that in common with a lot of sewing bloggers. Sure, I also make a lot for the man in my life but usually, that's it. Apart from the occasional alteration for a family member. Or a baby gift. Or an unusual clothing need (trousers for my mother when she was waiting for her second hip operation). I've stopped doing assignments for friends (who did pay for it) after three customers because it took so much time...

Put like that, it sounds like I actually do a lot of selfless sewing but it's all about proportions. I really don't.
I'm working on something right now though. And to be honest, I'm not enjoying it.

A little over a year ago, I made a fairly fancy long sleeved t-shirt for my maternal grandmother (the same grandmother who is knitting for the whole family). She showed me a picture of the kind of style she wanted, we went to the fabric store together to buy the fabric and I made the top using Burdastyle's Lydia (a plain long sleeve t-shirt which I can't find anymore on the site now) as a base. 
Back then, I made a muslin first and had a fitting session with that. I was glad I did. My grandmother in her 80's and at that age one's body shape has really changed. Thanks to our care in fitting though, the shirt I made for her fits well and looks pretty good. She wears it a lot.

I noticed and started thinking about making another one. I just didn't know what colour she would like. When I discussed this with her, she told me she would like a top with a front closure because that is easier to get in and out of. 
This time, she bought the fabric herself and she had some different pictures of what she wanted.

And made this sketch (which is a crumpled because it has been in my bag for a while).
So far, so good. Of course, I am willing to make a garment which suits her wishes and requirements. However, the fabric, a nice double-face jersey which is burnt orange on one side and black on the other, is rather soft and drape-y (but has no vertical stretch, which is good in this case). Not at all what I would want for a tailored look like this.
To make my job easier, she wanted the front pockets to be fake. So, those are just little flaps which I will sew down later. It's just that I really don't like fake version of functional details...
Which is also why I didn't like doing princess seams in this case. 
The collar is fairly simple, just really annoying to make in this fabric. Especially if you have to unpick and re-do it. I hardly ever need to do things like that anymore but I did now. When I started on this shirt, I made a cut-on straight fabric (I had thought about making the center front double, for a clean finish but decided against that because it would cause bulk at the 'pockets' and make the front so much heavier than the back that the whole thing was likely to sag forward). It wasn't until the collar was almost finished that I realized how bad that facing would look if the collar would be worn half open. So, off it came. I made a new facing which, at its top, extends to the shoulder seam and put the collar back on. 

That's when I thought I was almost there. Just the cuffs to go on. And the hem. And buttons and buttonholes. 
It took me a while to find the right buttons (which I did before starting on this). Gran wanted mother-of-pearl but not the small ones you get on shirts. I finally found the right medium sized mother-of-pearl buttons when I was picking up my sewing machine from its repair.
And now, I tried to make a buttonhole. I started with the easiest piece to do that on: a cuff which was still separate. And of course I had stabilized it with some thin fusible interfacing for stretch fabrics. And it didn't work. Whether I tried the official 'stretch fabrics' buttonhole or a normal one, my sewing machine would not make a buttonhole in this fabric. I tried everything and when I tested it on a scrap of other fabric, it stitched those buttonholes without a hitch.
I've given up for now. I'll see my grandmother on Christmas Day, so the shirt should be finished before then. I could try layering the fabric with tracing paper under it. Or even with one of those fancy special materials they have for that purpose.... I don't know.


  1. Wow, challenging fabric / pattern combination! If looks good though, so well done. Buttonholes... grr. Go ahead and try the tracing paper thing. If it doesn't work, you could do worse than hand sew the buttonholes. It will probably take less time than you've spent trying to make the machine ones work, and there's a pretty low risk of messing of up. Or sew on snaps and make the buttons decorative .There's always bound buttonholes, but I don't see the being easy in this fabric! Good luck!

  2. Looks difficult and frustrating. It's very sweet of you to make this for your grandma. I'm nervous making things for anyone but myself. Of course, I say that after I've opened my etsy shop and am making skirts for all ages and sizes! It definitley is more stressful sewing for others, though. When I'm sewing for myself, it's easy to say "well, that's not perfect, but no one will notice." It's a lot harder to say that when it's for someone else.

    Good luck on the shirt! I'm sure it will turn out great in the end.

  3. o gosh, if you are having trouble with it, then it must be a tough one -i did a knitted jersey (remade dress from cardigan) and it was fiddly, and i have worn it a bt but i will have to do some alterations as it is still not right. I interfaced all seam edges to keep them under control and also had to use thin cotton for the facings. could covered poppers work for you in this instance - or could a cotton backing on your buttonhole work?or a bound buttonhole done in a cotton? personally i would do covered poppers/snaps as I like them on my own clothes, whatever you choose the very best of luck with it (the colour and and shoulders etc on jacket look great by-the-way)

  4. I kind of lose my sewing joy as well when working with a pattern and fabric that I didn't pick. I think that ornamental buttons with snaps underneath would actually be a great idea, as older people can have difficulty manipulating buttons. The key, I think, would be finding very secure snaps.

  5. I participated in a Threads Facebook chat featuring Kenneth King a couple of months ago, and he recommended putting a piece of plastic wrap between the fabric and presser foot when making buttonholes on boucle to stabilize it. Then you tear the plastic wrap away. I don't know if it will work for this, but it's worth a try on some test fabric.

  6. I'd try Solvy stabilizer sandwiched top and bottom of the buttonhole. That washable stuff works nicely and has saved many a project for me.

    The shirt is rather nice, though I suspect you'll be glad to see the back of it! Snaps and decorative buttons would work, so run that by your grandmother - she may think you're a genius for thinking of it if you don't mention the fabric being a bear for buttonholes ;-)

  7. I was having difficulty with a top button on thin fabric and I used a good bit of spray starch (after checking it wasn't going to mark when washed out). It was easy and really worked. Snaps might be difficult fir your grandmother to manage.