Day: March 8, 2012

Steampunk Soliloquy: Part 3

I think I must be the slowest seamstress EVAH! I have actually spent quite a few hours sewing since my last post about this Steampunk coat, and I feel like my progress does not really match the time I put in.  Just one of my many complaints about patterns

Last Friday night, Elizabeth and I sewed while the boys played their monthly poker game.

If you’ll remember, I left off on my coat having sewn in the lining and leaving an opening at the bottom. I could not understand why I wouldn’t just stitch the bottom together and call it a day.  In fact, I was planning to do that very thing.  Elizabeth made me understand why very quickly. This is why it is so awesome to have a sewing buddy. When my thick skull can’t understand shit, she can.  If I had stitched the bottom closed, I would have had no way to turn my coat right side out.

Boy did I feel like a dumbass for that one!

The bad news … this meant I had to learn to slip-stitch.  Time to consult “The Google”.  This is the tutorial I used.  Slip-stitch seemed like such a strange term to me.  But now that I know how to do it, the name makes sense.  During the process, you “slip” the needle through a piece of fabric similar to threading elastic through a casing.  Yes, this is process is done by hand.  Grunt.

Let me tell you about my slip-stitching experience.  First of all, it took me nearly two hours to close the hole at the bottom of the coat, which was about two feet wide I would say.  (Insert grumbling about how pattern instructions have no indicator of time on them.)  Second, the actual stitching is not really that bad.  I think for me the worst part was the thread tangling from time to time.  What would I do differently next time?  Here are my tips for you:

  1. Leave as small an opening as possible, to reduce the amount of slip-stitching you have to do.
  2. Double up the thread, since I had issues with tangling and breakage.
  3. Turn the garment around to support the direction in which you are comfortable slip-stitching.  I was much better at the stitching with my right hand than trying to do this left handed to go back across the seam to close gaps.  Turning the garment solved this.

The painstaking process is shown above.  And the finished result?  Below.

My verdict?  Good enough to move on.  Time for sleeves.  Again, please remember from last time that I had a lot of angst over deciding to “ease in” the sleeves on this coat.  It is the harder method and I had never done it before.

I first had to stitch the “flanges” along the un-notched edge.  The flanges are the little “wings” that stick out from the shoulder part of this coat.  I did not realize at the time of purchase, that in addition to looking cool, these flanges serve the nice purpose of helping me hide any mistakes / puckers I have left after attaching the sleeves.  The flanges also had a facing piece, which required a line of understitching.  Yay for knowing how to do that already since this was my third facing.  Much smaller and easier than the neckline facings I have done, by the way.

Then I sewed the underarm seam on both sleeves and clipped and finished the edges with an overcast stitch.  I also basted in two lines of “ease stitches” around the bell curve of the shoulder seams for both sleeves.  Here are all the pieces before I started connecting them to the coat.

I am not really a fan of basting, but I did it on the sleeves because I was sooooo scared of it.  The goal of easing in the sleeves is to make the larger sleeve hole fit to the smaller shoulder hole of the coat.  The threads you see dangling in the above picture are used to help gather the sleeves so that they become the same size as the shoulder seam.  Side note: The dangly threads were pretty annoying during this whole process.

I attached the flanges to the coat next.  This was not too bad, though I realized that this seam was going to require me to sew through a lot of fabric again.  Hopefully my size 14 ballpoint needle could handle that.

Next I used the basted ease stitches to gather the sleeve and pin it to the coat.  I had never gathered before, it doesn’t seem to be an exact science.  But I managed.  Pinned sleeve example below.

See how the sleeve piece is all crinkly and ruffled at the edge? It is supposed to be like that.  At least, I think it is.  However, the goal is NOT to have crinkles on the outside of the finished shoulder seam.  This was my first attempt at easing, and there were in fact a few puckers.  However, the miraculous flanges saved the day.  This is one reason easing sleeves in sucks:

There is not a lot of circumference to work with in the seam.  And having it be attached to quite a bit of coat was annoying as well.

By the way, I did have to do my first sleeve twice.  When I cut the coat, I added a small amount of fabric to the top of the sleeve to give myself a little bit of room.  I had read a review from another person that this part of the costume was a tight fit, and wanted to be comfortable with it.  Unfortunately, the extra half inch I widened it meant that instead of starting my basted ease stitches at the notches where the pattern said I should, I needed to start them a little bit lower to make up for the additional circumference I added to the sleeve.  The first time I stitched the sleeve in, it resulted in a fold along the seam line on the outside of my coat, as the sleeve was still too big.

And so I spent some quality time with my seam ripper.  “Bonding”.

This was a case where I was glad that I had basted the pieces together rather than sewed them.  I removed the stitches and the ease stitching, and then immediately put in the two rows of ease stitching again, this time giving myself more allowance for the extra fabric.

Rinse and repeat for sleeve number two.  However, I did not need to seam rip anything on that one.  Also I clipped and overcasted the edges on the shoulder seam.  Ta da!

I will point out that I did not line the sleeves of the coat, even though my instructions told me to.  I wanted the sleeves to be comfortable and while the pinstripe fabric is a stretchy knit, the lining fabric has very little give in it.  I am pleased with my decision.

Below is the coat as it stands:

The hangar doesn’t do it justice.  The thing looks fabulous on.  I am getting very close to being done.  All I have left is the ruffles along the wrist and neck edges, buttons and button holes, and attaching the chain bits across the front.  I will save that for the 4th and last part of this series.