Sunday, February 3, 2013

Sewing Post: Gertie's Starlet Suit Jacket

I'm finally done.*

I have finished my journey through the Starlet Suit Jacket.  Twice, no less!  (Remember I made a wearable muslin out of twill and acetate).  Six and a half hours of just Craftsy tutorial... I've been working on the red jacket for about a month, with a brief break to dash in and make my daughter a quick jacket.

It's ridiculously luxurious.  I had to go up to the fabric district in Los Angeles to get the fabric.   Wool is hard to come by in my area - a bright wool that would work on an extremely feminine suit?  Forget it.  The fashion fabric is a plushy wool melton and the lining is silk charmeuse.  Yes.  Silk.  I don't like man-made fabrics.
I started this project because I fell in love with the suit when Gertie put it up on her blog last year.  I knew the lines would be very flattering to my figure.  I knew it would be difficult, and expensive.  It was both! 
I have learned, and learned, and learned.  I feel like tackling something this difficult, this picky and timeconsuming - and this expensive, so that mistakes weren't an "oops, oh well" but a "this won't happen, and if it does, I'm fixing it" - has improved my sewing skills dramatically.
  • Tailoring.  I've padstitched and steamed and shaped and hand-tacked twill tape and pickstitched and... yeah.  Do I feel like a great tailor?  Ha.  But I have a clue now ... a tailored jacket holds no fear for me.  (Which is good - before I lose all momentum, I have an overcoat to make).
  • Bound buttonholes.  Time consuming, good looking things.  Fun or tidy in melton?  Hah.
  • Covered buttons:  Not nearly as difficult as I thought they were - and they're no more expensive than any other button.  I'll be using that little skill!
  • Silk:  I hadn't dealt with silk charmeuse before.  It's supposed to be a pretty mean customer.  It wasn't bad - I enjoyed myself.  (I keep telling my husband that he should be quavering in fear at this comment and hiding the credit cards, but he laughs and tells me that I'd be wearing it anyway).  Cutting was pretty easy, after I got it all layered in tissue.  And God was totally with me for the sewing up.  I'll need proper tools to tackle it again - I want fine pins and needles, mine had a hard time.
  • Wool:  As mentioned above, you don't get a lot of wool less than 100 miles from the border.  I found out that the absurdly plushy wool I picked might have been better as a less tailored item - I'm never going to get those collars completely flat, not if I sit on them.  Learned quite a lot about fabric manipulation too.  Wool's a dream to work with, pity it's usually too warm to wear here.
  • Pickiness:  I am *not* a perfectionist.  I skip steps, take big stitches and get on with the next thing.  For this project, I took my time and did as I was told.  It made a big difference - I'll have to go back to my wearable muslin and re insert the sleeve linings the *right way* so they don't bag out.  (Granted, my fingers were pretty sore from handsewing through twill). 
  • Welt pockets:  I've never put pockets on except for on-seam pockets.  But now I've done welt pockets!  (On the muslin - I didn't think I needed the bulk at the waist, so they're not on this one).  This worked out very well for my daughter - who *loves* the welt pockets on her jacket.  And they're sturdy... she sticks her hands in them all the time and they're not ripping out. 
  • Handstitching:  Most of this jacket was handstitched.  Not the seams, obviously.  But I spent much more time with needle and thread than I did at my machine, using any number of different stitches.  I've learned to keep my tension loose and have radically increased my lexicon of stitches.  More to the point, I've learned to do them quickly and well.  Not neatly, I'm not neat.  More neatly.  ;)
This has been a great - albeit extremely timeconsuming - experience.  I'm super glad I did it, and I'm super glad to be done.  I am making some easy cotton things to get a little semi-instant gratification and then I'll go on to the next big thing.
I wish the fitting was more perfect - there are always nasty surprises for me after I get everything completely done.  I'll learn in time, and for now I'm comforting myself with the fact that plenty of professional jackets don't fit like a glove, not in this heavy of a fabric.  (Yes, Mom was right about the melton being a bit thick).  It does look good... and anyway, even a two-story suiting store didn't have much in pure wool suiting colors.  Endless black and grey and navy, of course. 
Final cost, probably around $250, including the skirt which hasn't been sewn yet.  That's materials and pattern and the online class.   *Really* expensive for me, but there's no way I could get a suit out of materials like this and a fit like this for less.  And I've learned, which is to me of great value.

*I will make a skirt to go with this, but there's no rush, and it's not a hassle.  I need to figure out what skirt to make.  I'm not actually a "lady who lunches" anyway.


  1. It is absolutely gorgeous. A big yes to color, too! I'm confused about your climate and wool. Will you wear this when traveling? Or are you cold-natured and will wear this at home?

    1. I never said this was the most practical thing in the world, lol. I will probably wear the suit to church in the winter, hopefully we'll have more very cold winters like this one has been. Wool & silk may be quite warm, but they breathe - so I won't overheat too much. I have a navy wool plaid with a red stripe in it that might make a handsome "casual" pairing with this jacket if I make another of my long skirts. So - your answer is "because it's fabulous" rather than because I need it.


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