Pardon the pun in the title but I am in the midst of a sewing crisis with my robe/coat project hanging in limbo. I actually spent a fair amount of Saturday evening on to Sunday morning trying so desperately to make this pattern work — I ruined two sets of one face of the robe but I am NOT giving up.
The project. We were asked to choose between a skirt, a men’s shirt, a wrap dress and a robe which can be tailor fit into a coat for women. I chose the robe precisely because I had been wanting to make my own coat for ages but just don’t know the first thing about sewing one. Part of our enrollment for Mood Design Fabric’s MoodU Intermediate Sewing Class was the pattern for the project we chose.
After taking basic measurements, we determined the correct size according to the patterns which came in a range. On the second week, we cut the cloth (which I missed) and then on the third and fourth week we started sewing.
Materials. While I can sometimes take an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out my fabric and the color, this time around, it wasn’t quite as hard being the pink lover that I am. I had decided early on I would do a heavier fabric because I wanted it to be thick enough to keep me warm, but I couldn’t do anything stretchy as that would be a challenge to sew. Sometimes having too many choices can be such a hassle because it makes one even more fickle-minded about which one to take. Fortunately, I opted to go with my other fabric store where there was quite a pool to choose from, but at a reasonably smaller scale. So pink wool is what I went for.
Cutting the pattern. This was my first time to work a pattern with a size range, so I was made to do one basic measurement, which was around my bust. In hindsight, I realize now I should have taken more precise measurements. I am seriously considering getting the pattern in a smaller size than the one I got, because the shoulders would be too droopy. On the other hand, this size was comfortable as far as the hip was concerned my pear shape. I went for the smallest size in the range, so to downsize further would mean getting the next smaller pattern.
We were told to find the correct line pattern for the size and cut away, so cut away I did.
Cutting the fabric. Very important: Follow the direction of the grain line on the pattern when cutting based on one.
One, I had to overcome my fear of “ruining” the project by cutting it wrong. Two, you need a flat surface (i.e. Cutting table) to lay out the fabric with the pattern on it. Three, as long as you follow the grain line, you need not follow the cutting diagram (how the pieces should be pinned to the fabric) to the letter. Four, if you must shorten the project as against the actual length on the pattern, fold the pattern do not cut it. You never know if you will need the pattern at the longer length.
I am most grateful for the help of Ms. Joyce, the more senior assistant in the class — because she helped me to arrange the pattern pieces to maximize the fabric saved. She also helped me determine by how much I should shorten the pattern and advised me to fold and pin the excess and cut around it, instead of cutting the pattern to size. (Just in case I will need the full-size pattern for another project later.)
After pinning the pattern to the fabric, I cut the various pieces required for the project piece I wanted to work on.
Strengthening, reinforcing, edge stitching and all those other nuances of sewing garments. The advantage of being in a class is that you get the benefit of an actual demonstration beyond the instructions that come with the pattern. Besides actual demos that are projected onto two large screens to the right and left of the classroom, the assistants are available to give advice and help novice sewers like myself to get things right. Despite the diagrams and instructions on the pattern guide, there is still a lot that needs figuring out which can be challenging for beginners like me. Also, the diagrams are a little small and sometimes difficult to discern.
So there are certain “tricks” to preparing the fabric for stitching together, like reinforcing certain portions to ensure that they don’t stretch under the weight of being sewn to another piece. After trying to stitch the neckline and the front and back of the coat no less than half a dozen times, I finally decided I would do better to baste the pieces by hand which proved helpful. I am just not quite there yet with sewing pinned pieces together — perhaps in time.
Piecing the project together, as instructed. This is where I valued the instructions given in the class by people who actually have the sewing experience to back it up. There are many ways to work around stumbling blocks which I just wouldn’t be able to do without actual personal instructions or guidance.
I am always nervous after I start putting pressure on the pedal and the machine starts to move. Like I’ve told my friend, Willa, my seam ripper is now my best friend. It’s a joke we share with much gusto, along with our newfound passion for learning to see.
So the project isn’t quite finished yet. I have unstitched the lining and will hopefully get to work on it before the last class. My coat is beginning to take shape, although there is a lot more tweaking left to be done. I’m getting there, like I always say…