My steampunk coat is complete! Technically my costume is probably only 1/3 of the way done. But I’ll do separate posts for those other pieces. I can’t decide if the coat or the bustier will be the hardest. But if nothing else, one of the larger parts of the costume is done. I feel like sharing a picture that includes all of the fabrics that I will use in the costume, to give you an idea of what the color scheme is. You know the coat fabric by now, the sheer red is for ruffles, the black & silver brocade is for the bustier. The pants will be a red stretch moleskin (not shown, but matches the ruffles well).
I think the last place I left off in the coat story was after finishing the sleeves. With that done, the only parts I had left for the coat were the neck and wrist ruffles, buttons and buttonholes, and jewelry attachments. Doesn’t sound like much, and sadly I underestimated my time to complete this part.
The pattern called for sheer organza fabric for the ruffles. I was going to get organza, but really wanted burgundy to match the coat stripes, and found some sheer chiffon stretchy stuff on sale. After reading my instructions, I decided to rearrange the order of a few steps. The pattern called for the following:
1) Create a French seam on the wrist pieces to make them circular.
2) Sew a narrow hem on the wrist piece.
3) Gather the wrist ruffle and attach it to the sleeve.
I swapped one and two, knowing that I hate hemming circular seams. I decided I would prefer to hem it flat, and then make it circular. Worked great!
This was my first French seam. I think the worst part was understanding that the first seam is sewn with the wrong side of the fabric on the INSIDE. In fact, just now I think I spent at least 60 seconds trying to figure that out. While I was doing the sleeves, I even sewed it wrong once and had to involve Fred (the Seam Ripper; I have bonded with him a lot lately, figured he deserved a name). Anyway, French seam:
1) Stitch the fabric together, wrong sides IN.
2) Turn the fabric so that the right side is IN.
3) Trim the first seam close to the stitches.
4) Stitch down just outside the seam, encasing the first seam with this line. Above you see the finished seem from the inside of the fabric. Below is the finished seam from the outside.
I had to narrow hem and put French seams on both wrist pieces. I also had to use a French seam to connect the two sides of the neck ruffle. Once all the ruffle fabric was prepared, I had to add two lines of basting to the seam side of the wrist fabric so that I could properly gather it to fit the sleeve holes. I also put two basting lines for gathering down the center of the neck ruffle. Below shows the pinning of the wrist ruffle to the sleeve.
Overall, I hated the shoulder seams more than this, however sewing this seam was not fun either. It was an even smaller circle – impossible to fit around the sewing machine arm. So I sewed the wrist circular seam from the inside. Ick. But all said and done … left sleeve shows the finished sleeve from the outside, the right sleeve shows the inside finished seams.
Next it was time to attach the neckline ruffle. Time for a pattern rant! You would have been sad if there hadn’t been one in this post, I know it. The picture for how to pin and stitch the neckline ruffle onto the coat was very nice … IF you just wanted to see a drawing of what the finished coat looked like. I got the same thing out of that picture that I got out of the picture on the front of the pattern envelope. Le sigh. After re-reading the instructions a bunch, I settled on pinning and sewing along the gathering stitches of the ruffle on the very edge of the coat neckline. I included the picture from the instructions so you can commiserate (circled).
No disasters occurred during this portion of the project. Hooray!
However, my victories were short-lived. I spent some time one evening this week reading my sewing machine manual about the buttonhole foot and how it works. I did not sew anything that evening. Just read. Probably this was a good thing, as the buttons I ordered for the coat had not arrived yet from Amazon. I digested the information that evening, got some tips from a friend (thanks, Amanda!), and was prepared to do some testing the next day when the buttons arrived.
Here is a look at the buttonhole foot, with a button set in it for sizing purposes.
The machine does most of the sewing for you. Weirdest part is that you start at the markings on the foot (green and red in the picture above), and as the machine stitches the first side of the buttonhole, your fabric moves TOWARDS you. I selected a stitch from my machine (31 I think) and tested it out on a scrap piece of the knit fabric from my coat. It was drastically thinner than the facing where the buttons and holes would go, but I figured no big deal. The stitch I selected was supposed to be for sewing buttonholes on stretch fabric. It worked so great, that I was confident I could do this on my coat.
However, as I mentioned, the coat is decidedly thicker than a single piece of the knit fabric. I marked the locations for the buttonholes on my coat in disappearing ink. The first buttonhole got only a few milimeters done before it jammed up and I had to stop. Because I figured maybe this was an issue of the top button being nearer to the seams and even thicker fabric (and because it clearly made sense to mess my coat up more), I decided to try a second one. That one got more than halfway through before jamming up. The only good thing was I did not break any needles. Here is the mess:
I screamed some bad things at this point. Fred came running. He and I spent some quality time taking these messy stitches out, but the good news is that when I was done, you really couldn’t tell I’d messed up.
Yesterday evening, I read up on dealing with buttonholes in thick fabrics. Yup, “The Google” is useful. I found that my sewing machine manual agreed. I selected a buttonhole stitch that was for thick fabrics instead of stretchy ones. I actually practiced with 2 different ones, on the knit scraps. I folded them over several times to simulate a thickness similar to that of the coat. I had some issues with the practice ones, but that is why you practice I guess. Once I found a buttonhole stitch that worked, I moved forward with the buttonholes on the coat again.
You can see I had a small issue with where I started the leftmost one. Also the third from the left is not aligned quite right with the others. These are both things I can get over. I opened the buttonholes using Fred (see below). I imagine this was fun for him after all the stitches I make him rip. The pin is placed to prevent Fred from going too crazy and ripping into the stitches of the buttonhole.
Next I carefully used the buttonholes to help me mark the location for the buttons on the other piece of the coat front.
Then I used my sewing machine to attach the buttons. In the past I have attached the buttons by hand, but I figured why not try the machine this time. I attached Foot M to my machine. I measured the distance between the buttonholes. I came up with 1 mm, which was the lowest my machine’s stitch width would go. I tested it here, on 1.5, and on 2.0. I tested it manually by turning the hand wheel on the machine towards me a few times. I was paranoid about the needle hitting the button and bending or breaking, so I went with a 2.0 stitch width. My machine had a special stitch for this task as well, maybe 40? It basically goes right to left. You situate the needle inside one of the buttonholes, turn your stitching speed to slow, and hold your presser foot down for as many stitches as you like. I went with 8-10. Since my button had 4 holes in it, I did the front two first, then lifted the presser foot, moved the fabric and button so that the needle was in a back buttonhole, and did 8-10 more stitches. When done, I did 3 reinforcement stitches with the button on the front of my machine.
Four buttons later, I was done! The only part left was attaching some chains / steampunk jewelry bits. I hand sewed a few rings and such onto various places on the coat, attached hooks to the chains, and glued some pin backs onto a broach piece. The glue still isn’t dry, so my finished coat pictures are without some of the jewelry. But you’ll see it with the completed costume later 🙂 Ta da!