Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Kwik Sew 4015 - A Kaylee Chinese brocade jacket for Cosplay!

So pretty - Ashley's brocade jacket for her Kaylee Firefly costume. And my first experience with Chinese brocade fabric. Interesting to say the least!

 Kaylee, of Serenity and Firefly fame, wears a Chinese brocade jacket over her mechanics overalls. Don't we all?

Finding a pattern with just the right collar and attitude was not easy! It seemed like all the patterns I found had frog closures and were either very boxy or very fitted. Aargh.

I finally came across Kwik Sew 4015. It's not perfect, but at least it has the basic elements - a buttoned closure, reasonable seamlines, and a kind-of mandarin collar.

Yes, I made a muslin! And fortunately, I have Lizzy, Ashley's dressform, in my sewing loft.

First pattern change:  the collar. On the original pattern, the collar ends at the front edge. For Ashley's jacket, I cut the collar shorter and reshaped it to be like Kaylee's.

Covered buttons!

Next change: no side slits or lining. The original pattern has curved sides, is fully lined, and is finished with bias binding. It's actually reversible. But Chinese brocade is heavy. I don't want the girl to expire inside her costume!

Cutting the body without slits was easy. To replace the lining, I drafted facings for the back neckline and fronts. I also faced the cuffs, to reduce wear on the fabric. The facing is poly/cotton Symphony broadcloth from JoAnns.

Isn't the inside of the brocade beautiful? About this fabric - it ravels if you look at it. Honestly, you can lose 1/4" of an edge just by picking it up. The first thing I did was serge every single edge of the cut fabric pieces. I did this with my cutter up, just skimming the edge so that any existing ravels were cut off, not bound inside the serging.

Other than the ravels, the fabric was nice to sew. Topstitiching would have been a lot easier if I had remembered to take my walking foot with me to Ashley's house!

Pressing - I practice ironing fabric the same way I practice sewing it, using scraps. This polyester brocade is a little picky. I used light steam, but with a pressing cloth, and I only pressed. Any movement of the iron tended to warp the fabric. It doesn't take a hard crease, but it also doesn't really wrinkle.

The jacket is beautiful - but I must give some credit to Callisto, who helped me so much with the pattern layout process...

Well done. Ciao! Coco

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Another Lucie dress...and a new machine!

First - thank you for all the messages for feeling better. I am! Better every day, and the sun is out. Much appreciated, my dear friends.

A new sewing machine! And hopefully the last for a while :-)  My Singer Quantum Stylist 9960 has not worked out well for me. It's such a nice machine in so many ways, but so were my Janome Magnolia and my Project Runway machine. None of which hit the level of performance I really wanted. The fault was mine - the expense was holding me back.

The awful obvious - look how much I've spent avoiding the expense!

I thought long and hard about it. Truth is, I love sewing, it's what I do now that I'm retired, and I really want that great performer.                  

Research, research, and I got a Juki HZL-F600. Oh my goodness. It has everything, and it does everything (it's not an embroidery machine), and the features and performance are incredible. The ergonomics are thoughtful and impressive - I'm really pleased with my choice.

After much shopping around, I ordered from Ken's Sewing Center, and I received great bonus items as well: a wheeled tote, 100 Organ needles, a complete quilting feet kit, and 10 extra bobbins. Cannot think of another thing I need.

With the extension table attached

Everything actually fits in the front of the hard case!

Bonus wheeled tote!

Nice, large, and well-illustrated manual, with an additional  instruction CD! 

Bonus quilting presser feet kit

One of the first garments sewn on Mr.Machine was another Republique du Chiffon Robe Lucie for Ashley! I saw this lovely fabric at and had to make her one more for her summer wardrobe.

Fabric: Wild Flower Geranium by Newcastle Novelties

As with her first Lucie, this is unhemmed pending a fitting this week. I'm heading across Alligator Alley to house-sit and visit with the kitties while she and D. are in San Diego for ComicCon. I love going over - it's a nice break for me, the kitties are great company, and I get to cruise Holly Lobby and her JoAnns superstore.

This is a very nice, soft cotton, not at all wrinkly. It's a bit lighter than a calico, so I made a full underdress with Symphony poly/cotton broadcloth from JoAnns. Love this back neckline...

This is such a fun pattern to sew, and it's really very basic - a bodice and an attached gathered skirt. The suggested closing of the shoulder seam is a little different, but is also very clever. I like it!

Here are the instructions, which have great illustrations. It's like putting two pants legs together to do the crotch seam.

The lined front piece is inside out. The lined back piece is turned right side out and is inserted inside the front lining and main fabric, right side to right side. 

Now the shoulder 'tube' is opened and hand-sewn all the way round. Pull the pieces away from each other and voila! finished shoulder seams on both the main fabric and lining sides. 

A little different approach but it works great! 

One other tip: This is a PDF pattern, but unlike most PDFs, the different sizes are not differentiated by line style. They are different colors! So be sure to print the pattern in color, not in black and white (lesson learned...).

And that is all for now from chez Coco! A bientot!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Butterick 5881 - A dress can change its spots too!

Pretty spots! I finally got around to something I've wanted to do for a while - making a dress using the underdress from Katherine Tilton's layered dress!

My 2013 original version

This is the inside of the underdress from my 2013 version. It's really pretty all by itself - it has a charming flared skirt and an interesting asymmetrical hemline.

I just added elbow-length sleeves (from another Butterick pattern) and voila!

The only real challenge was trying to keep the larger spots on the top sections of the dress, and the more dense spots on the bottom sections. I just thought the placement would accent the lines of the skirt more effectively that way.

Just a note: My Emile is filling in for me for a bit. I've not been feeling well for about 7 weeks.
Edited on 7/9 - a new diagnosis rules out vertebrobasilar circulatory disorder, such good news!
I just finished the muslin for Ashley's 'Kaylee Frye' costume - yes, the girl is cosplaying again! This one is for Dragon Con in Atlanta at the end of August.


Back story: Kaylee is a mechanic on the spaceship Serenity, in the TV series Firefly and movie Serenity. In a fan-favorite outfit, she wears a brocade jacket over her mechanic overalls and carries a multi-stripe parasol (which Ashley already has, of course :-)

I'm making Ashley's jacket using Kwik Sew 4015 and a beautiful polyester Chinese brocade that she ordered from Finding the fabric was not easy. We decided a lot of people are making blue brocade jackets this summer!

Muslin in kona cotton

She and D. really enjoy their interest in pop culture and participate actively. Here's a pic of Ashley as a Sith Girl (a cheerleader for an antagonist figure in Star Wars) at Dragon Con last year. There was an entire squad of Sith Girls, they marched in the Dragon Con parade!

And on that note - ciao! Coco

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Republique du Chiffon - Robe Lucie

My Ashley is the lucky one this time - this Lucie is for her! A surprise dress for her trip with D. to the San Diego ComicCon later this month. If her Lizzy dressform will give it up! Even unhemmed, it is a lovely look for summer.

Republique du Chiffon came out with this pattern a couple weeks ago, and it captured me from the moment I saw Julie's test version on JolieBobines.

I think the low-slung back, loose bodice, and saucy attitude make a great statement. The little lines on the shoulder are for piping. Such a nice touch.

How pretty is the back of this dress! Ashley actually has this tattoo, it is 'Pura Vida' wrapped around Costa Rican orchids, a memory of when we lived there. Her new dress will showcase it so beautifully.

Poly/cotton broadcloth lining from JoAnns

Directions are provided for lining the dress, which is optional. It would be easy to line only the bodice or to use binding on the neckline and armholes instead. I decided to use a full lining, because the main fabric, a polyester broadcloth from, is very lightweight. 

Sewing notes:

The pattern, which is a PDF download, and instructions are in French, but with only two bodice pieces and two rectangles for the skirt, this isn't a complicated construction. The instructions include lots of very large, well-drawn pictures!

I constructed the lining as an underdress, instead of lining the bodice and skirt separately. I much prefer the movement of an underdress for a shift (which really moves much as a coat does).

Topstitching the bodice was my last step. A little tip for topstitching to keep the fabric from shifting or pushing forward under the presser foot - take a minute to baste first...

Well, I'm officially jealous. I want one! 

Ciao! Coco