Whoah! Long time, no blog, eh?? Excuse me while I get comfy and settle into these old digs…
I will not bore you with what a busy, roller coaster of a couple months it has been, but if you are on instagram you will know that I have been busy making and planning and storying, but not at all busy taking photographs. Thankfully Claire helped me rectify this yesterday in which we had a perfectly cloudy afternoon to take photos of all my blog-worthy makes from this far into the new year. Today’s blog post brings you not one, not two, but THREE makes that I am really happy with and have been wearing like crazy the past couple weeks.
First up is the Oslo Coat by Tessuti Patterns, a really popular coat pattern that I added to my list of to-makes last year when I decided I was ready to sew up this gorgeous plaid wool from The Fabric Store (I do not believe they carry this fabric anymore because I got it a couple years ago when the LA store closed down, but they have plenty of other exceptional wools to choose from)! Having already made a couple of coats/jackets for myself in the past (like this Kelly Anorak and this Vintage Vogue Coat), I was familiar with coat making but definitely want/need more experience and techniques under my belt, and I knew that Tessuti wouldn’t disappoint. Tessuti has a way of simplifying patterns that might otherwise be complicated by the instructions of a different designer, and I always enjoy sewing up their designs. I was particularly drawn to the Oslo Coat because of it’s subtle cocoon shape. Los Angeles winters are never so cold that you need a heavy parka to get through them, so I knew a casual, relaxed fit such as this would serve me well, and it has (although it has been uncharacteristically rainy this season, which no wool coat is perfectly suited for, but that’s another story)!
As expected, the instructions for the Oslo were straightforward and easy to apply almost all the way through. This coat is designed to be lined and I decided to quilt the blue-gray silk I used with cotton batting, a choice I am oh-so happy with. No, it technically doesn’t get that cold here in LA- particularly if you are visiting from the east coast. But if you’ve been living here for a while, your tolerance of coldness changes and 50 degrees can feel like it’s absolutely freezing (yes, there is a scientific reason for this, something to do with the way your blood changes over time in certain climates, so don’t @ me!). Anywho, I didn’t use full-on Thinsulate, but I wanted a little something to beef up the coat and keep me warm on the chillier days. So I cut out cotton batting to fit my cut of silk yardage, pinned the layers together like I was making a quilt, then spent a few hours on my straight-stitch vintage Singer with my quilting attachment, sewing straight lines in one direction and then again at 90 degree angles across the whole length of fabric. There were definitely some wobbly lines and less-than-perfect angles but I knew they wouldn’t be obvious once inside the coat. After all my quilting was done, I cut out the lining pieces from the pre-quilted fabric and I serged the edges to keep the silk from fraying too much (I also serged my wool pieces once they were cut out because this wool wanted to fray like crazy as well).
I didn’t make any adjustments to the pattern other than in length- I cut off about an inch and a half from the sleeves and a little bit more from the body of the coat, but I missed one important detail here- the body of the coat has it’s lengthen/shorten lines at the hem instead of somewhere further up the coat, like at the waist or hips, which means that when you adjust the length, the pockets stay exactly where they are. This becomes an issue if you are more petite like I am, because the length will shorten but the pockets will stay at the height of someone much taller. The result is that once I inserted all my side pocket details and finished them up, I tried the coat on for fit and the pockets were so far down that my fingers couldn’t even touch the bottom. This was awful news, for what’s the point of having a pocket if you have to literally hold the pocket up with one hand and fish around with the other to get the contents out of it?? Totally my mistake, of course, but I guarantee you I won’t ever make it again! There was no way I could remove the pockets without sacrificing the integrity of the fabric in those areas since the wool got so fray-y and there was so much topstitching that would rough up the textile once unpicked, so I left the pockets as they were and sewed the pocket bags of the lining a couple inches shorter so that there was less depth- thankfully they are drafted with a ton of room so losing that area didn’t affect the functionality of the pockets at all. They are still quite a bit lower than I would prefer, but definitely still usable.
My other snafu is a two-parter that involved inserting a bound buttonhole on the coat. Bound buttonholes of course are meant to be applied before the lining goes in but this meant that I had to base the button placement on where the pattern says it should go vs. where it fit best on my body. Because I made a straight size and didn’t grade up at the hips like I normally do (I figured there would be plenty of ease in the coat to accommodate my butt), the coat gets tighter at my hips- not so much so that it doesn’t fit or isn’t comfortable, but it means that the closure needs to be further to the outside so there is more room in that area. As designed, the button placement makes the coat tighter around my hips which becomes apparent because of the straight vertical lines of the plaid that- when I buttoned it with the original buttonhole, got wavy and shifted inward instead of staying vertical. Ah, hindsight! To remedy this, I just added another bound buttonhole on the other side of the jacket (meaning it closes the opposite way it was intended to) in the proper place that made sense on my body, and I sewed the unusable bound buttonhole closed and covered it with a button (the original design is only supposed to have one button but mine has two, lol). Although I would love to have foreseen these issues from the beginning, I am totally happy with how I ended up fixing my mistakes and I don’t think the average person would recognize that there was any issue with it at all. I used fabric-covered buttons for this coat which I think looks really sharp and makes the two buttons look more intentional and I also added a loop to the back center neck so that I hang it on a hook if necessary
Before bagging out the coat, I decided to add an inside welt pocket to the lining (which I was contemplating doing, then decided against it at the last minute cause I just wanted to finish the damn thing, but then I saw that llaydybird was making a coat at the same time as me and she made herself an inside welt pocket that came out beautifully, which felt like a sign for me to not be lazy and just get her done!) and I am so happy I did because this pocket is a bit easier to use in terms of putting stuff into than the side pockets of the coat (see above snafu number 1).
The only other issues I had with this make were at the very end when it was time to bag the coat out. There is an approximately 2 inch allowance required for bagging out the bottom of the coat and the sleeves, and for some reason unknown to me, that allowance just didn’t work. 2 inches created a bubble at both hem and sleeves meaning there was too much fabric folded up in there, so I had to go back in, unpick all the hand stitching at those areas and decrease the allowance. I am assuming this has to do with something I did (or didn’t do) and not the pattern drafting, and I think it just comes with the territory of getting familiar with new techniques and working with thick fabrics like wool and quilted fabric. Regardless, I was able to fudge the bagging enough that it mostly lays smooth at the hem and the sleeves are perfectly flat.
All in all I LOVE how this coat turned out- I love the easy, relaxed fit of the raglan sleeves, I love the dramatic fold-over collar, and I love the roominess inside- you can wear a super bulky sweater or even a light jacket underneath and it won’t feel too tight or uncomfortable, and I end up mostly styling this coat to wear open with a lot of layers underneath. Although this is designed as a big comfy cocoon-type coat, I actually prefer it more as a jacket- this is not the garment I reach for when it’s super cold outside. Because I beefed mine up with a quilted lining, it’s certainly warm enough to endure some very chilly Vancouver days (which is where I first wore this make), but because it doesn’t close at the neck, it is not an ideal cold weather coat for me. My preferred coat is actually just a giant scarf that covers up every inch of my chest and neck, lol. For me, to provide adequate warmth, I have to layer this coat up with turtlenecks and scarves, and even then I find myself clenching the collar closed with my hands so no cold air will touch my neck. I considered adding a hook and eye or something to the neck to close it up should I ever need to wear it for colder temps, but I might just relegate this make to cool-not-COLD weather wear and call it a day!
Whew! That was a lot of coat talk! Okay, next we have the Phillippa Pants by Anna Allen Clothing, sister to the Persephone Pants that everyone (including myself!) went gaga over last year. These pants did not disappoint at all, although I did make some changes to them that I should probably continue to work on for my next pair. I love both these designs because of the high high high waist! High waists are not for everyone, but as someone with a long torso and shorter legs, high waists make me feel like I am taller than I actually am and I just love the silhouette on me. They also make me feel more comfortable than lower-rise pants do- there is no risk for buttcrack peepage and I don’t spend my days pulling the pants up by the belt loops to keep them from riding down. The leg shape on the Phillippas is very interesting- it’s a totally straight side seam allowing you to use selvedge denim which is awesome, but it also means that the legs don’t curve at all to your body’s shape, and although I like the idea in theory, I am not quite sure it works on me. When I basted the side seams up and tried them on I immediately thought they needed some work and got to molding the legs to fit my thighs and calves. I might try and leave them as-is next time though- it’s a style I am not used to but it might just be because of habit rather than preference (fine line, ya know?). Because of my tinkering, I think the area around the knees could use a bit more attention- I feel like they look baggy and wrinkly, which is actually an issue I experience a lot of with close-fitting pants, so I should probably look that up in my Pants Fitting For Real People book and see how to fix it.
With these pants I made a size 2 graded to 4 at the hips, and I lowered the opening of the button fly 3/8″ to give my hips plenty of room to get in and out of. Like with the Persephones, I had to take the back darts in about an additional quarter inch, but I kept the waistband straight instead of making it curved like I normally do for pants. Because these pants sit SO high on the waist, and because I already have a low butt, I actually don’t need the curved waistband at all- my body is pretty straight up and down where the waistband of these pants hit. I decided to give the button fly technique used on these pants a second try even though I disliked it so much the first time with the Persephones- I thought maybe I had made a misstep in the construction or something and I wanted to give it another go. Nope. Still don’t like this technique at all. It came out better than my original pair of Persephones which were so bad I had to take the whole thing out and start over with a different technique, but that’s not saying much. I prefer the Closet Case zip fly method or even the Lander Pants button fly method, and if I am not mistaken, both of those employ the “basted closed” method, which I think ends up looking much neater and cleaner.
As far as a woven, non-stretch high waisted pant goes, this pattern is pretty terrific, and I am eager to compare it to the Megan Nielsen Dawn Jeans which are a more traditional jean style with the same high waist as these. I don’t remember where I got this black denim from but I believe it’s Cone Mills, and it’s very good quality. As suggested, I made these pants really tight so that they wouldn’t bag out after wear, but I could have made them even tighter- I have only successfully nailed down the ‘non-bagging tight woven pants’ fit once before, with the yellow Persephones I made last year. These are close, but not quite as good at not bagging out after a day of wear. After a few hours I notice that the main place they bag out is in the yoke area of the pants (there is no actual jeans yoke on this pattern, but it’s where the yoke would be- back of pants, below the waistband and above the pockets), and this is actually where all my high waisted woven denim pants bag out, which makes me wonder if I should take out a horizontal wedge from this area on future pairs, grading to nothing at the side seams. It’s definitely worth a try! One thing I didn’t notice about these pants until I tried them on is that they have no front pockets! I am actually fine to just use the back pockets since they are a good size and fit my phone easily, but still it’s something to keep in mind if you prefer front or side pockets on your jeans.
I dont like using jeans buttons with button flies because I think it gives too much wiggle room in the fly area where I want it to be very fitted and tight, so I used Abalone buttons from my stash for this pair. I am on the fence about them, mostly because they keep falling off! While I don’t like the extra room jeans buttons provide, I do like the stability of a hammered button, so I am on the lookout for some flat denim buttons, and in the meantime I might just have to sew some nylon thread through the buttonholes and then melt the ends closed on the other side to keep them in place.
OKAY, FOLKS, we are nearing the end! To close out this interminably long blog post, I will briefly share with you my No Frills Sweater, a pattern by a knitwear designer named PetitieKnits that I randomly found on instagram when I went down a rabbithole of handmade sweaters last year- I was itching to get back into knitting and I thankfully found a lot of inspiration on IG to bring my knitjo back. The No Frills Sweater, like all of PetiteKnits other designs, is very simple but has a beautiful shape, and I have learned that I much prefer sweaters made with thinner yarn, like fingering weight, than I do bulkier Sport and DK. Knitting in fingering weight creates more of a drape-y fabric, which fits my current style and sensibilities in a way that thicker sweaters dont (and again, I’m sure much of this has to do with living in LA).
My skin is very sensitive to 100% wool so I have been using blends with merino, cashmere and nylon/cotton/bamboo lately, which has made a huge difference. I used a Caroline Toes gradient set from Miss Babs Hand Dyed Yarns for this sweater, and it is incredibly soft, only minimally itchy, and a joy to knit up. Of course I ended up running out of yarn to complete the sweater as designed, so my sleeves are only half length instead of full, but I’m still happy with how it turned out, and because the yarn isn’t super thick, I can get away with wearing this garment almost like it’s a t-shirt. I had never knitted up a color blocked or gradient sweater before, so I had to be careful with how much yarn I used so that I would have enough of each color for the sleeves. I didn’t use any specific technique, I think the yarn gods were just on my side to have me eyeball the lengths of yarn I needed so accurately.
This sweater is very uncomplicated, but I did have a bit of confusion around the yoke area which I think comes from the pattern being translated into different languages- the instructions are in english but are written/structured a bit differently than most I have worked with, and it took me a while to understand them. I actually completed the yoke and then immediately frogged it and started it over once I got the rhythm of what I was supposed to be doing with the short rows for the back yoke. But once I had that part to my liking, the rest was just stockinette all the way through, which was nice and relaxing to come back to after such a long hiatus from knitting. I never blocked this sweater once it was complete because it didn’t seem to need it, and I am really in love with the fit. It feels loose and relaxed but not boxy or too big for my body, which has always been a struggle for me with knitted sweaters, and probably one of the reasons I took such a long break from making them.
Thanks to Claire for taking these fantastic photos for me, and thanks to you for getting this far in my blog post! It’s always a joy to share my makes here, from what I learned and loved to what I would do differently next time, and I appreciate you taking the time to read 🙂