Monday, 12 May 2014

Mistress Minoru

The Mistress of the Jar may scold, but I'm toasting her continued influence!

I owe Tasia and Karen a drink. Unlike my knitting, which continues to maritnate and ripple along – even if I'm barely knitting, I'm probably thinking about shapes and textures – my sewing has always been more product forcussed, and I'm conscious that my confidence and skill have waxed and waned over the last decade or so, as I've started experimenting with costume design and alteration on a massive scale (costumes to be made for the entire cast of Carousel? OK. Late 19th Century daywear which the actress needs to strip off on stage? No problem. Design and implementation of costumes for a 17th-Century play set in the 'Forest' in Algeria? Can do), made dresses and cravats for my wedding (much less terrifying than the thought of shopping for them, if you really want to know), and then sort of stopped... or at least, worked within my comfort zone. Lack of time is one reason, the relative ease of buying appropriate office attire another, but mostly, I think, I ran out of ambition. The things I don't know how to do properly – tailoring techniques, couture finishing, true pattern drafting and fitting to my decidedly pear-shaped figure – seemed somehow too difficult to learn when what I want to do it just knock something up in a day or two. Finishing things properly (so that they last, and I'm not self-conscious in them) seemed to take just too long, and the risk of messing them up seemed just too high.

And then I found Tasia's brilliant line of patterns in which I am a straight size 12 – not a 12, 10, 14 with attendant fit problems – but a proper 12 all over. I ordered the Minoru Jacket, the Cambie dress, and the Tofino pants... and put them in my pattern stash. Looking at the Minorus popping up all over online, I found a perfect lining – a brushed cotton plaid including my favourite teal, but could not decide what sort of outer fabric might work best. I wanted something warm, something slightly showerproof, but didn't want to risk the hood or tackle the notion of taped seams. This was to be a Spring/Autumn jacket, and the main thing I wanted was to find a fabric that brought out the teal of the lining. Queue a lot of browsing, but no finding.

In the meantime Karen's Pyjama party (2013 rerun) got the Tofinos made, to great success (and I've made two more pairs since, for friends), and I braved the concept of piping and a faux fly. Still no sign of the right Minoru fabric though.

Autumn came, and while window shopping in Hereford, I came across a collection of needlecord in bright colours. I've worked with wide-waled cord before, and found the scale a little too reminiscent of the seventies, but this finer fabric seemed to have the qualities I was looking for – warmth of feel, and of look, a balance of dressy and robust casual style, and they had some good colours. I just needed to get back with my lining swatch for comparison. Unfortunately, they ran out before I could get back, and so I found myself resorting to online shopping once more, but with a much better idea of what I wanted. A little virtual rummaging, and Ditto's came up trumps – not only did they send me a swatch at speed in the week before Christmas, but they held onto the 3.5 metres I needed until I could confirm that it was the right colour for me!

So, I had fabric and pattern for 10 whole days before the Mistress of the Jar would be calling me to account... 10 days in which I spent 5 with family for Christmas, and 2 at work. Shirking my duty it may have been, but I chose to trace and cut the pattern pieces (a practice I've decided makes sense, even if it does take longer), and then stop, and breathe.

And then sew, and sew, and sew some more. In January I cut all the pieces, and decided at that point to use a little nous in my construction order: I hadn't made a muslin, so I would put the lining together first, making the pockets and hanging loop the first elements of the project to be done, and allowing me to test-run the neck gathers and raglan sleeves on my lighter lining fabric, rather than on the stiffer, thicker cord. Given that I was not making the hood, I opted to emphasise the dramatic collar by interfacing the outer piece as Tasia suggests in the sew-along for the Minoru – a resource which I would whole-heartedly recommend to anyone undertaking the Minoru as a challenge-project. In the past, I suspect that I would have attempted to make the topstitching as close to the seams as possible; with Tasia's example before me, I decided that the width of my presser foot was ideal, and am very pleased with the consistency of the result, which I do not believe would have been achieved without deciding on a wider margin.

I added in-seam pockets, which are eminently useful, though I did carefully pull the pockets out while working on the hem to ensure they weren't caught up in the lower seams of the jacket, and lifted the elastic channel by about 1.5” to ensure it hit me at my narrowest point.

One thing I will say is that the sleeves are definitely on the long side. I have long arms and generally have to lengthen them, but on this project, I wanted to make it as written, and the cuffs fall almost to my knuckles. I found the gathering rather a challenge, but I think that was in part due to the thickness and nap of my cord, which on a narrow band like the cuffs seemed to work against the gathering stitches.

It may be a few months late (and even later because it takes me ages to get photos!), but I'm satisfied that I have not only made myself a jacket that I'm happy to wear out (and which has already survived a drenching) but finished it to a high standard, and paid attention to the details.

So thank you, Tasia, for a fantastic pattern, and the extra details and hand-holding of the sewalong, and thank you, Karen, for the stimulus for me to make progress.

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