a winter coat just in time for spring

Mood Fabrics wool & leather coat

Hi Ya'll! I'm very excited to show you my newest make for the Mood Sewing Network! I know everyone is clamoring for spring, and the last thing you want to look at is another reminder that it's still, alas, winter, but bear with me here because I'm really excited about this coat! Get ready for a looonnng post and picture overload! (P.S. if you want the short version, head on over to the MSN post!)


I know I didn't do a big post about my goals for 2014, but that doesn't mean that I didn't make any goals! For instance: learn to knit in 2014. check! make better use of your time and be more productive in 2014.... erm.... check minus?? Anyway. You get the point. Well on that list of goals was "make a coat in 2014". (check!!) This wasn't so much an aspirational goal as much as it was a 'this-is-getting-ridiculous' kind of necessity goal. See, when I moved to Texas I got rid of all my winter coats. A bit drastic, I know, but you gotta understand, for a girl from the northeast, Texas winters felt like a joke. At first. Then they started to feel cold again. Also, I bike to and from work everyday.  The past two years or so I have started collecting an odd assortment of winter weather layers, that consist primarily of a $10, thin, unlined, nylon, rain jacket procured from the local sporting goods store (the kind that folds up into a tiny pouch), an aztec print poncho/blanket type thing (shown here) from some cheap, trendy store (this was pre-sewing days) that I tend to wrap around myself like a giant muffler, an array of hoodies, some gloves picked up from the drugstore for $1.99, and now, my hand knitted hats. As you might imagine... it's not the most flattering look.

This year, I decided it was time to step up my outermost layer of clothing. No more being confused for a homeless person! (Although I will miss all the extra change people throw at me... just kidding... that never happened...)

Mood Fabrics wool and leather coat

This is one of those makes where I'm not really sure which came first, the fabric or the pattern. Or perhaps it all just miraculously happened in one, giant, big-bang-like, divine-intervention-esque, stroke of inspiration. But for the sake of keeping things coherent, let's start with the fabric. I actually spotted and fell in love with this Oscar de la Renta wool coating from Mood Fabrics' online store before I became a Mood Sewing Network blogger.  I even asked for, and received, the necessary yardage to make a coat as a Christmas present (thanks Mom and Dad!!) It's basically my dream coat fabric. It's double faced, so it has a gorgeous weight to it, and it's plenty warm for the southern winters I'm dealing with.  And I just think the large-scale, salt and pepper herringbone has such a luxurious texture to it.

Mood Fabrics wool and leather coat

I really wanted to use this fabric to make a coat that felt both architectural and soft. I know that seems like a contradiction - but trust me, it can exist! I decided to use Vogue 8933 for the pattern, because I loved the large, dramatic collar, and the asymmetrical front.  Also, this was a relatively un-fussy pattern, perfect for my first go at making a coat. I made a size 10 based on the finished garment dimensions (always wise to use the finished garment dimensions when working with a Big Four pattern company!) The one thing that I was sort of bummed about when it came to this pattern was the sleeves. The pattern uses a regular, straight, one-piece sleeve. Since I wanted this coat to feel softly tailored I felt like a two-piece sleeve would just be a more elegant option. So I used the one-piece sleeve as a base to draft a two-piece sleeve. I used this Threads tutorial.  It worked pretty well, although if you do this, I strongly recommend making a muslin (or two, or three) just to be sure that all your markings line up and the sleeve hangs correctly.  I ended up having to move where my seamlines fell, and taking out an odd little chunk of fabric out of the underarm. Drafting sleeves are basically my nightmare, but in the end I think these turned out all right.


And speaking of sleeves, since this Oscar de la Renta wool has such a gorgeous texture, I thought it would be fun to really highlight it with an opposing texture for the sleeves. You can disagree, but I'm pretty certain that this nubby wool paired with this buttery soft black leather is like the 'chocolate & peanut butter' of the textile world - tactile soul mates. I bought this leather hide, and let me tell you, it was a bargain! I feel like the quality was great and I got a great amount of square footage for the price. I still have a nice, hefty amount left over (hmm... what to use it for....?) plus, shipping was fast. After working with leather a few times now I'm starting to get a nice feel for it. It really isn't a complicated material to work into your sewing, and I, obviously, highly recommend it. I was thinking of putting together a post of a few of my 'tips' (if you want to call them that... it's definitely not anything official) for working with leather... would anyone be interested in that?


Since I was on a roll with making this coat as much of a sensory delight as one can make a coat, I decided to throw another oh-my-god-I-can't-stop-touching-it fabric into the mix: silk charmeuse.  I'm not going to lie, I completely stole this idea from some other brilliant and fabulous sewists (namely Lauren and Erica). It just looked so incredibly ... what's the word ... rich! And since it's always fun to add a bit of 'over the top-ness' with linings, I opted for this lovely magenta silk charmeuse - although I might call it fuchsia rather than magenta. I like that it adds just a touch of "Dynasty" to the coat, without  going full blown Joan Collins.


It's been awhile since I made a garment that required so much hand stitching.  I had to brush off my technique from my red jacket days (remember those days.... oh how time does fly...) Granted, I didn't go to nearly the extent that I went to on that red jacket, but there was still a nice amount of fell stitching and catch stitching involved.  And, hence, lots of getting caught up on the most recent season of 'Downton Abbey' (is it just me, or is that show getting even more ridiculous plot-wise?) Anyway, I attached the lining to the collar by hand, because that pivot point was driving me insane on my machine, and also attached the sleeve lining to the coat lining by hand because... well I just wanted to.  The bottom hem of the coat and the lining hang free from each other, so each raw edge was finished separately, pressed up and catch stitched in place. There are little thread bars that hold the lining in place at the side seams. You can also see my little leather hanging loop that I threw into the collar of the coat. I'm so pleased with this little touch! 

Mood Fabrics wool and leather coat

I debated adding a back vent to the jacket. At first I thought this might be a nice 'tailored touch', like the two-piece sleeve. However in the end I decided against it. Since the front has such a wide split, the coat doesn't need it functionally, and visually I felt like a back vent might break up the bottom hem too much. And since it didn't meet the criteria for form or function that idea got ousted. I think this was a good call.


Since I was trying to maintain some softness with the fabric, I didn't go full tilt with the tailoring. I used fusible horse hair canvas in the facings, and to reinforce the pocket openings, and underlined the leather sleeves with cotton batiste. I also constructed a back stay from the cotton batiste... aaanndd.. that's really it! I think because this wool is double faced it already has a bit more heft than single ply fabrics and I didn't want the coat to get too bulky, or stiff and lose the drape of the collar.


The coat is closed by a series of coat snaps, sewn on in the very last step. In a world where we go all swoony over a perfectly executed bound buttonhole, this is certainly not the sexiest of coat closures, however it is very functional, and I even sort of dig the final look. A little additional hardware never goes amiss in my book. And while we're on the subject of hardware - am I not-so-secretly regretting not adding  some tough zippers to the underarm seam of my leather sleeves?  Yes. Yes I am. Hindsight you guys...


I realized that I didn't get a great picture of the coat all buttoned up when I did my photo shoot, so I had Nick quick snap this iphone photo of me.  As you can tell from the majority of my photos, I love the way this coat looks open with the oversize collar doing it's own dramatic thing, but it's nice to know that should I feel a chill creeping at my neck I can button myself, literally, all the way up to my eyeballs!


Phew!! Long post, you guys! Thanks for sticking with me all the way to the end! In conclusion: I'm incredibly excited about this coat! It feels great to finally have some outerwear that reflects my personal style.  Truthfully, I probably won't get a chance to wear it this year, since spring is already making itself felt down here in the south.  However, I know I will be immensely grateful for this coat come next winter! Is anyone else doing a little 'out of season' sewing?

And how pretty is this fog we've been getting in Galveston? So moody... Can anyone spot the little orange kitty that was keeping me company while I was shooting these photos?



two very different hats

I usually try to avoid grand, sweeping, generalizations. However, in this instance, I feel pretty safe in saying that for the continent of North America this winter has been one mean mother f*cker! Okay, okay... I actually have no idea what's going on in the Pacific Northwest, and I'm pretty sure California is making out okay... but for the rest of us this has been a brutal one! Usually February is the month that I try to coax my northern friends into visiting me, since they're typically just recovering from their third flu of the season, and our weather tends to be perfect for talking about every aspect of your life while sitting at an outdoor cafe. But this year, forget it! Ya'll just stay put! Don't let the sunshine, greenery, or my lipstick in these pictures fool you. It's cold!


Also... the heat in my apartment is broken.  This means that I've been spending every evening curled up into the same corner of the couch with a heating pad, Netflix, and something warm to put in my tummy (hot tea, curry... a stiff shot of whiskey... just kidding. I don't drink whiskey. It turns me into a weepy drunk.)  And if this nighttime ritual sounds familiar to you than perhaps you know what else these wintery evenings are perfect for...

Knitting. Yeah, I've been bit hard by the knitting bug! It's the perfect thing to do with your hands while you're listening to Game of Thrones on audio book! What? You don't do that? Well maybe you should try! 


To recap - my amazing, and knitting wiz of a sister taught me how to knit while I was home for the holidays this year.  I immediately started on this first hat - Wiksten's Jul Hat pattern, using the recommended Blue Sky Alpaca Suri Merino yarn in fog (a gift from my Mom and Pop - thanks guys!) It was a great pattern for an utter newbie like me. I found the directions easy enough to follow, I learned a lot while working on it, and I think it delivered a really spectacular finished product! I wear it alot


Right after finishing my Jul hat I swung into this Chunky Cable hat - a free pattern from the Purl Bee. I once again used the recommended yarn (I'm not nearly confident enough with this stuff to diverge from the directions) Purl Soho's Super Soft Merino in red zinnia.  I thought this would be a great project to teach myself how to do cables, and I'm pretty happy with the result! I mean, granted, it's kind of a crazy hat, so it doesn't get as much wear as my Jul hat, but it also makes me smile every time I don it.  It definitely turned out huge, despite the fact that I double checked my gauge, but I also think I might have a smaller-than-average-head.  If I were to knit this again I would maybe size down my needles to a size 11 (rather than the suggested 13 - which felt disconcertingly like knitting with baby carrots...) and I might use a smaller needle to knit the first couple rounds of the rib pattern, since it has a tendency to flare at the bottom after several wears.


Neither of these hats are perfect, but, honestly, I'm kind of stupidly proud of them! After these two hats I decided it was time to jump into the deep end, because... you know... sink or swim, right? And as of right now I'm about 6 inches into Brooklyn Tweed's Bedford sweater pattern.  So... at that rate... I should be finished by the time summer arrives, right?

How about you guys? Are you finding the cold weather conducive to knitting? Any big projects on your table?



a little bit country


Hey kids! So... I really debated whether or not to post this project, since I wasn't sure if people really wanted to see another Archer from me, but in the end I decided it was totally worth it.  If for no other reason than to muse on what it is that makes me want to make a pattern again, and again, and again...

This could be a long post (ha! All my posts are long posts! Sorrryyy...) so I'm gonna give the details up front - this is my third Grainline Archer (you can check out my first here, and my second here). I used some super soft and cozy plaid flannel from Mood (here) and decided on pearl snaps instead of buttons, which I had a helluva good time hammering in! I enjoyed matching the plaid (a big thank you to my plaid goddess,  Lauren, for her de-mystifying tutorial!) which was a first time for me, and made this a bit less of a mindless sew than it could have been. I made no changes to the pattern since the last time I made this shirt. I loved sewing it, it went together without a single hitch, and I've literally been wearing it everyday since I finished it (which, by the by, was over a week ago. And I'm pretty sure I don't stink yet. Or maybe that's just denial...)

Cool! So for those of you that were just curious about the details of this make - there you have it!! For any one else that feels like meandering with me through some thoughts on creating my own wardrobe, and the makings of a Tried And True (TNT) pattern... git on in!!!  This train's a'leaving!


I'm pretty sure that every sewist, in her (or his) quest to create their own, unique, handmade wardrobe comes to that point where they look at all the lovely clothes they make, and then look at the clothes they reach for day in and day out, and notice a discrepancy.  This has been well trod territory for the online sewing community (think Tasia's cake vs. frosting post, or Sunni's Everyday Wardrobe project ) and yet I still think many of us find ourselves in that dreadful paradox where you have a closet full of beautiful, handmade, clothes, and yet nothing to wear.


I've been trying for a long time to close this gap, and it's led me to make things like jeans and shirts and simple, loose dresses - perhaps not the most glamorous of clothes, but I'll be damned if I don't wear them week after week and day after day! But yet I still find myself thinking that I have nothing to wear. Some of this could just be a deeply ingrained dissatisfaction with all things that I own, and a desire to acquire something new - just for the sheer newness of it. Sure. Some of it could be that... Or some of it could be that I don't do my laundry nearly often enough (stop giving me that look, Mom!) Okay. Yeah. It could be that too... but.... but

Couldn't some of it also be that I actually don't have enough of the clothes I actually wear? To be sure, making a great, basic, top that you know you'll want to wear every day is a great step towards making a wearable wardrobe - but that's only one top! That gets you, like, one day! Ideally you'd have enough of those tops to fill an entire two weeks worth of I-have-nothing-to-wear moments!


Which leads me to the TNT pattern. My longterm sewing goal is to build a pattern library of weekly go-to's - the sort of things I wear on a day to day basis, when I'm not taking blog photos, or doing anything more glamorous than making dinner. And then actually make them! Again and again ad nauseum. Pieces like I'm wearing here, in this post. Consider this my rather unapologetic 'real me' look.

I love skinny pants and loose fitting, button-up shirts (in the summer I also love my silk dresses). I feel good in this look - confident. I don't feel over-dressed. I can take on pretty much all tasks that my day might throw at me. And I like the versatility of the look - pair it with a blazer and nice shoes and I'm ready for a meeting.

But I've made lots of patterns that I've loved. They looked good on me. I've enjoyed the experience of sewing them. I wear them pretty regularly. I've even sworn I'd make them again. And yet I don't... which has led me to ponder: what makes a TNT pattern?


So far, I've made my Built by Wendy pants pattern 4 times (the most recent iteration is this pair of jeans I'm wearing here - in all their saggy knee-ed glory - and no, they haven't been laundered recently either) and the Archer 3 times. And I don't think they're going anywhere anytime soon. I've decided that they share the same properties that, for me, makes them TNT patterns:
  1. They look like RTW things I already own, love, and wear, or have already worn, literally, to shreds. This winter I wore the same, old, ratty, red plaid shirt pretty much every day until it dawned on me that adding another to my closet might not be a bad idea!
  2. They can be made in a variety of fabrics and patterns without losing their integrity. I've made my Archers in lightweight linen, sheer silk, and now thick cozy flannel - and each one worked beautifully.
  3. It's easy to tweak the pattern to make it, truly, made for me. Sometimes you stumble upon a pattern that just fits you, but more often than not you have to make that pattern fit you. Let's be honest, I'm not going to wrestle with an ill-fitting pattern to make it work for me - I have better things to do (and sew) and besides... been there, done that (ahem! coughcoughclovers... ) But if it's just a matter of straightening out the hip curve here (BbW pants) or narrowing the shoulder there (Archer) than we're in business.
  4. They can easily be used to create a different style of garment. I haven't tried this yet with the Archer, although I have plans to, but I've used my BbW pattern to create shorts, pants of different leg widths - even leggings! And they have never failed.
  5. I reach for earlier iterations of the pattern day after day, especially when I might not be feeling so great (bloated, tired... hungover... you know... generally kind of blah). As I said, this look is pretty much my daily uniform.
  6. It can't be so simple that it bores me to even think of making it. There will always be a time and a place for easy patterns that come together in just a few hours, but, generally, I like a little bit of a challenge when I sew. Whether it be perfecting my topstitching or matching plaids, or finding the best way to finish a collar stand, I need something that's going to hold my interest.
And there you have it! Hopefully throughout my sewing life I will find more beloved patterns, and maybe one day I'll get to the point where I can open my closet and know exactly what to wear!
But maybe first I need some to see a shrink about that 'newness' issue, and get my laundry habits up to par? ... Nah!

So what are your TNT patterns? Or what do you look for in a TNT pattern? And do you have the perfect wardrobe yet?