A Steamy Post on a Pressing Matter: Making the Papercut Patterns “Sapporo Coat”

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What is it about late summer that cranks up my obsession with blanket coats? Last year I whipped up two: the 50s “Blancoat” that made a groovy bathrobe, and a very hacked version of Vogue 8930, the oversized-collar coat with the naughty name.

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I usually don’t sew from modern patterns, but was intrigued by the new Sapporo Coat from Papercut Patterns, an indy company based in New Zealand known for their fashion-forward designs. The pattern has the air of “20s cocoon coat meets 50s balloon coat” that’s appealing.

The coat has sleek style lines and a relatively simple construction, allowing sewing newbies to make a lined coat without a lot of hassle. Searching online and on Instagram, I saw a number of people happily modeling their warm, cozy coats made from the pattern.

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I decided to go for a more couture-ish version that would give the feeling of the light, luxurious Italian coats I see in the windows of Loro Piana and Max Mara on Boston’s tony Newbury Street. You know, an “investment piece” that softly whispers “I had $5,000 lying around, so I thought I’d spend it on this jacket.”

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(That’s one I’ve been lusting after at Loro Piana. Unfortunately, Santa doesn’t shop there.)

I started ogling some wool/cashmere fabric on the Emma One Sock website, but was on the fence and left it in my cart. Then the next morning I saw that Carolyn from the blog Diary of a Sewing Fanatic was offering a discount code to EOS that week, as part of national sewing month! Sold!

I read through the instructions and decided to make a couple of modifications. I don’t like to have wool next to my neck or wrists, so I redrafted  the lining to come all the way to the neckline and wrist opening. And I sized down from my usual retail size L/XL to the Small/Medium size of the pattern, as it’s really oversized.

Let’s get on that floor and cut!

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Constructing the exterior of the coat was not that difficult, though with this soft, malleable fabric, I was a little concerned that the neckline and pockets would get stretched out. So rather than attaching the fusible interfacing to the facing, as called for in the instructions, I fused Pellon Ultra Weft directly onto the exterior “fashion” fabric as soon as I cut it. The Ultra Weft gives lofty fabric some soft support that’s not noticeable from the outside.

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A little funky-looking, but I knew the lining would hide it.

This is where the “steamy” part of the post comes in. With a coat like this you need to press press press!! As Kenneth King told me in my interview with him, “good pressing can save bad sewing.” I wasn’t planning on sewing badly, but knew that pressing diligently really would make or break this design.

So I got out my arsenal.

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Ham, seam roll, clapper, and mysterious obscene-looking blue thing. (You put the squared-off edge of the blue thing in a corner that you’ve turned and press over it to get a sharp angle.)

I gave every seam a “sandwich press,” where you press it just the way it’s come out of the machine, then clipped the seams and pressed them open (over the ham or seam roll). For those seams that needed to be turned out, I clipped, turned, and pressed pressed pressed again. I gave them lots of steam and then jammed the clapper on them until they cooled off nice and flat.

Honestly, I spent as much time pressing as I did pinning and sewing, so it took longer than I expected.

The pocket design is very clever, as the pocket bag is included in an elegant bias seam with shaping at the end. I was a little worried about the bias pocket edges stretching out with this soft fabric though, so I reinforced the tops and bottoms of the openings with more Ultra Weft.

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The back piece of the coat also has bias seams where the wing-like shoulder panels are attached. To reinforce those seams, I took a tip from the 50s bias-cut garments in my collection, and sewed Hug Snug seam tape over the seamlines.

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At that point, I really didn’t feel like catch-stitching all of those seam allowances down, which is the haute couture way of keeping them from curling up under the lining. So I totally cheated and used Lite Steam-a-Seam 2, a fusible mesh, to glue them down. It worked well, but would I get busted by the couture police?

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When I confessed my wanton ways on Instagram, a comment popped up from Kenneth King himself, saying, “if it’s in the lining, it doesn’t exist.” Phew, dodged that bullet!

The outside’s done and looking good! Now I just have to cut the lining! Urrrrgggggg.

I wanted to use silk crepe de chine, as a wool/silk combo is light and toasty. I ran off to “Sewfisticated” outside of town, a discount roll-end place that’s like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get. But whatever it is, it’s cheap!

I found some pretty fabric on the silk table for $9/yard. Would it pass the burn test? If you burn a scrap of mystery fabric, you can usually figure out what it’s made of. And it’s an easy way to burn down the house!

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It’s silk! Let’s get back on the floor and cut, Julie! Because cutting and sewing silk is so much fun!

Or maybe it’s time for new hobby. Modern cross-stitch perhaps?

I got all of the supplies and a couple of books:

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I cross-stitched the Mona Lisa’s cleavage!

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Okay, that’s boring. Where’s that silk?

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(You can tell by the Nintendo pattern weight that I’m back in my son’s room.)

By now, Karl was back from the sewing machine spa – lubed, rested, and ready. I pinned the silk to tissue paper and we got busy. The tissue paper really helps keep the seams smooth with slippery silk. (Then you just rip it off when you’re done.)

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The pattern instructions call for the sleeve of the coat (called the “cuff” in the pattern) to be lined with the same fabric as the exterior, then attached directly to the body of the coat. But that would have given me a seam at the upper arm with three layer of wool sewn together, and I was worried that that would be too bulky. If you decide to make this coat, dear reader, I recommend buying extra lining fabric and using it to cut the sleeve cuff lining, so the seam won’t be as thick.

In my case, I made the lining completely separately from the coat, and decided to bag the whole thing. (“Bagging a lining” is an industrial sewing method that allows you to sew in a lining with only a tiny bit of handsewing, but it’s very confusing to pull off.)

I consulted the oracle, Sandra Betzina:

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I love this tutorial, as it’s by far the most lucid explanation I’ve seen of a very tricky maneuver. This is a great book to have in your arsenal, because it addresses a number of advanced sewing techniques.

I started to attach the lining, stopping after each step for more obsessive pressing. I rolled the fashion fabric under a tiny bit, pressed pressed pressed, and top-stitched it down.

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The mysterious blue pressing tool really helped on the corners!

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Now the tricky part: attaching the sleeve linings by pulling them through the open hem at the bottom of the coat. I heeded Sandra B. and lined them up like “two elephants matching their trunks.”

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Then I went in the kitchen and made a burrito.

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(Okay, it’s the “Burrito Method” where you wrap everything inside and sew the hem by machine.)

Then I turned it right side out and – remain calm!! Burrito giving birth in the kitchen!!

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(That was messy.)

More pressing, then a little pick-stitching along the pocket edges, through the Ultra Weft, to give them more even stability. See, all of that pressing paid off!

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I was excited to try it on! But then, hmmmm, I was on the fence about the oversized look, to be honest. You know how you make something, and it doesn’t match your mind’s eye?

That meant it was time for Saturday night bathroom selfies/Instagram confessions. Does this coat make me look like a big gray seed pod? Would it be better with some vintage French ribbon to draw the eye vertically? Or is that just too “Art Teacher Chic?”

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Via Instagram, the general consensus among worldwide sewing peeps was: don’t do it.

Then I rooted through my stash and pulled out five yards of haute couture Chanel-ish trim from Paris. pinned it on, and went back to the bathroom IG confessional.

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There were a few “maybes,” but mostly a chorus of: “nope.”

Even choreographer Martha Graham, high priestess of spare modernism, got in the act:

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(Or maybe it was my sister channeling and quoting Martha – I think she was running the Martha Graham Dance IG feed that night…)

I went to bed still ruminating about whether “to trim or not to trim.”

The next morning, I sewed on one of the large hooks and eyes I’d found in New York at Pacific Trimming:

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I dug an Art Deco pin out of my collection that I hadn’t worn in about 15 years (as recommended by my IG peeps, who were telling me that the coat needed a broach rather than trim). I tried it on again, and decided I was done.

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Nice! It’s a lovely design.

Now, having recovered from seed pod anxiety and my steamy pressing hot flash, I’m really going to enjoy wearing it!

 

 

 

 

How to make the Madeleine Vionnet 30s Scarf

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In a recent post I promised details about making a scarf designed by Madeleine Vionnet, which is shown at the bottom of this post in the photo composite. As I mentioned, the Betty Kirke “Vionnet” book, which you can see on this link: http://www.amazon.com/Madeleine-Vionnet-Betty-Kirke/dp/1452110697/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1387372857&sr=8-1&keywords=vionnet+kirke has drawings of pattern pieces for a number of Vionnet gowns, and also for this scarf. The one thing that’s missing is the “key” to the dimensions of the pieces, which makes the gowns difficult to recreate.

In recent years, the Bunka fashion school in Japan took Betty Kirke’s drawing and recreated them, putting the pattern pieces on a grid. There was an exhibit of the recreated gowns, and then the book with the patterns and instructions (pictured above) was released. Currently this book is only available in Japanese, but between the two books it’s possible for an English-speaker to figure out how to recreate the patterns, which is pretty amazing. Here’s a link to the Bunka Vionnet  book:  http://www.amazon.com/Vionnet-Japanese-Bunka-Fashion-College/dp/4579109430/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1387373215&sr=8-1&keywords=vionnet+bunka

I decided to test out a method of recreating these designs by using a relatively simple pattern, which was the scarf. Since these books are under copyright, I won’t be showing the actually pages with the pattern and direction, but you’ll get the idea.

Since I was too lazy to draw the gridded pattern onto a larger sheet of paper, I found a website called rapidresizer.com, copied and uploaded the picture of the pattern in the book, then was able to set it to print out on a larger scale. It came out piece by piece on 8″x10″ paper, and then I taped it together like a PDF pattern. After some trial and error, it worked fine.

I traced over the pattern with butcher block paper, and it looked like this:

imageIf you look closely, you’ll see that the grainline is on the bias, which a very important element in the drape of the scarf. Vionnet’s manipulation of the stretch on the bias in her garments are what made them architectural masterpieces. According to Betty Kirke, Vionnet did a line of dresses that she shipped to US manufactures that were unhemmed. The idea was that the bias cuts would stretch to fit anyone, and all the store had to do was lengthen or shorten for the individual customer. Unfortunately the idea was way ahead of it’s time and it bombed. But wow, what a forward-thinking concept!

The instructions for the scarf are all in Japanese, but I’ll give you the general jist:

Cut two of the pattern piece shown above, on the bias. Choose a fabric with some crispness, or underline a soft fabric with identical pieces of silk organza. You’ll need about 1 1/2 to 2 yards of fabric, and I suggest using something that looks interesting on the bias. Here, I used some vintage 30s wool challis from International Silk and Woolens in Los Angeles.

imageSew the “V” shaped cutouts into darts on both sides of both pieces, right sides together, and press. When sewing on the bias, be very careful not to stretch the fabric as you feed it into the machine.

imageSew two of the short ends of the pieces right sides together (you can see I’ve added a silk organza underlining to this soft wool challis).

imageFold the entire scarf lengthwise, right sides together, and sew along the lengthwise seam, again being careful not to stretch it as you’re sewing. Press the seam open.

imageTurn the entire length of the scarf right side out via one of the short ends. The lengthwise seam is now the center back of the scarf. Give that seam and the rest of the scarf a soft steam press, avoiding making creases.

imageTuck under the seam allowances of the two raw ends at either end of the scarf. Make the scarf into a circle like an infinity scarf, without any twists. Insert one unfinished end into the other and fell-stitch them together. You’re done!

imageTo wear the scarf, fold it in half and put the two narrow ends behind your neck. The two large loops will be hanging down in front of your chest. Stick your hands through the loops as shown, grab the outer edges and pull them through. The scarf becomes a bow like magic! Fiddle with it a little to hide the seam. Sometimes I find it works better to put it on inside-out so the seam is hidden when you pull the loops through.

This scarf is so distinctive, yet easy to wear. The bias cut and darts give it that bow “poof” without a big knot. What a great design!

This is why I’m doing this type of re-creation, honestly. It’s one thing to see these designs in photos, but it’s much more educational and meaningful to go through the designer’s process and then hold it in your hand. My hat’s off to Betty Kirke and the people at Bunka who painstakingly researched these patterns. It’s a rare window into early 20th century design.

I’d be curious to know whether any of you are fans of Vionnet. Have you seen any of her creations up close? She closed her atelier during WWII so I can’t imagine there are many of her gowns still circulating in the vintage world, though there are a number of them in museums, thank goodness. I’ve been getting so many interesting comments, and would love to hear more. Thanks for stopping by.