Sunday, 24 February 2019

Faux Suede Ulysses Trench

I fell in love with the Ulysses Trench when it was released by Victory Patterns months ago and for some reason couldn't get the idea of making it up in faux suede out of my head! It has taken me quite some time to actually get around to making it partly because I had trouble finding the fabric I wanted and mainly because my fears over working with such a different fabric took a while to overcome! I tried sewing a suede skirt years ago when I hadn't been sewing long and it was a complete disaster. I was similarly expecting hours of playing around on the machine trying to get it to sew more than one layer at a time neatly but thanks to my new Brother Innoiv-is F420 my fears were unfounded!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Dusky Pink Faux Suede Ulysses Trench

I spent a long time looking for the fabric as I didn't want faux suede with stretch but the slightly weightier non-stretch kind. I had in my mind that I was looking for a berry or rust colour but couldn't find it anywhere, even after ordering samples online. I ended up being quite taken with this dusky purple/pink which I came across in Classic Textiles on Goldhawk Road. It perhaps a fraction lighter in weight than what I was looking for but that actually worked out for the best and the drape is a dream match for the waterfall front.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Dusky Pink Faux Suede Ulysses Trench

I originally thought that using faux suede I'd want to use slightly different finishes to the pattern instructions, particularly for the pockets and rear overlay which are lined. However this faux suede is quite fine and sewed up much like a mid-weight woven fabric despite being more dense. Lining turned out to be the best way to get a nice clean finish and I'm pleased I went with it as I'm not sure the belt loops (which are actually part of the rear overlay and the reason why I fell so hard for this pattern!) would have turned out so nicely. The visible seam allowances are all finished with bias binding which you make from your lining fabric...but I got lazy and ordered my binding from The Fabric Store! This is made of a Liberty Tana Lawn called Belmont Ivy and they also stock the same fabric by the metre so it matches my lining! The ultimate sewing cheat. Buying the binding ready made saved me so much time. Their bindings are so easy to work with.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Dusky Pink Faux Suede Ulysses Trench

For a coat, and quite an involved project with lots of elements, this was surprisingly speedy to make. Once I had all the pieces cut out and prepped I had it pretty much finished in a day! This was definitely helped a huge amount by my Brother sewing machine which is packed with lots of features which shave time off here and there; each little bit really adds up over the course of a project like this.
As well as being super fast to thread when I was switching between black for the binding and lilac for the main sewing the knee lift in particular is my new favourite thing. It allows you to line everything up under the foot super accurately using both hands rather than having to release one hand to lower the presser foot with the lever. I wouldn't have had it on my list of essential features but in combination with the thread cutting button it noticeably speeds things up. This magic little function pulls the thread tails through to the back of the fabric and leaves two short little tails. So much faster than reaching for your scissors at the end of ever seam and a game changer for someone like me who likes to pin multiple pieces and seams and then sew them all production line style. It is possible to set the machine to backstitch and cut the threads automatically but I'm sticking with using the button while getting used to the machine! For basting or anything you want a longer thread tail for there is still a manual thread cutter on the side of the machine.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Dusky Pink Faux Suede Ulysses Trench

This was the first time I had sewn with faux or real suede and I was nervous about it as it behaves so differently to a lot of other fabrics. I was expecting problems with skipped stitches and fabric sticking and shifting as it ran through the machine but the F420 handled it like a dream. The machine produces such neat, even stitches. Even on a potentially tricky fabric like this! The only change I made to the regular stitch settings was to reduce presser foot pressure slightly on thicker areas as I didn't want to mark the fabric. I chose a size 80 microtex needle so it was super sharp but still had a bit of heft to push through the suede. I used the regular machine foot and had no trouble, but if your fabric is sticking you could try the Teflon coating foot to help your project glide through. If I had problems I was going to first try my walking foot but didn't need to. I know some sewers keep there walking foot on their machine all the time and mine has certainly got me out of a sticky situation or two but I find it quite hard to sew accurately with the reduced visibility created by attaching that chunky piece of kit to your machine. I prefer to save it for when I've got real shifty fabric issues and use the functions of the machine itself to handle everything else. Looking at the photos there are a couple of areas along the longer seams where things aren't perhaps hanging as well as they could but I think it is less noticeable in real life.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Dusky Pink Faux Suede Ulysses Trench

The worst thing about the faux suede was it wanting to stick to itself when you lay the pieces out to pin seams. Ironing was surprisingly no problem at all. I had a press cloth to hand but discovered directly applying a medium heat with no steam softened up and smoothed out the fabric a treat! No unwanted sheen or weird markings. However because you can't use a high heat it is difficult to get nice crisp pressed edges and corners and I think I would have got a better result on areas like the pocket flaps and epaulettes if using a traditional woven fabric. Topstitching is essential to achieve a nice clean edge with faux suede and the needle up/down button on the machine helped hugely with the accuracy of this on all the small elements which require sharp corners. I could effectively sew one stitch at a time until I was right at the point where I wanted to pivot.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Dusky Pink Faux Suede Ulysses Trench

Speaking of accurate stitching, I'm slowly getting used to the markings on the needle plate and presser feet and what the seam allowance is when the needle is in different positions. This pattern uses a variety of seam allowance sizes throughout so it is important to follow the instructions carefully instead of assuming you know the correct technique. 3/8" is used quite a lot, the marking for which I found quite hard to see on the machine as it is kind of hidden when using the regular presser foot. I got used to it with practice though. When topstitching I used the central groove on the presser foot to line my seam/fabric edge up with.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Dusky Pink Faux Suede Ulysses Trench

The pattern is a dream. The instructions are excellent, incredibly thorough with clear illustrations. Each part of the process is broken down into lots of little steps at that means that each element (even sewing the vent) feels straightforward and like it comes together without much effort. The instruction booklet is quite overwhelming at first glance because of it's size and detail but quite a lot of the steps are to do with the binding as the whole process of four separate steps is repeated each time a seam needs binding. I think being more detailed rather than less is a good thing and this is definitely a project you could take your time over and tackle one little step at a time. I definitely recommend taking your time sewing on the pockets and pocket flaps as getting these looking nice on the outside with even topstitching is important, but as there is no lining you can also see this stitching inside your coat! Using faux suede forced me to slow down too. I didn't want to unpick anything as it would leave permanent little holes.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Dusky Pink Faux Suede Ulysses Trench

The only thing I did differently to the pattern instructions was to leave the collar and front edge un-hemmed as the faux suede doesn't fray. I may go back and hem this later though as I think I could do with reducing the size of the waterfall a touch. It feels a little overwhelming on me. I did hem the bottom of the coat to give it a bit of weight and also enclose the bottom edges of the interior binding neatly. I love the effect of the binding and the fact that when you apply it the pattern cleverly tells you to end it before the hem allowance of the body and sleeve to reduce bulk when you turn it up. Little touches like this told me the pattern had been really well thought out and that the company really knows their sewing!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Dusky Pink Faux Suede Ulysses Trench

I adore the fact that this is a real timeless style but features some subtle and clever contemporary design elements. In particular the angled pockets and belt running through loops in the the back overlay really elevate this coat. The resulting project feels very elegant. Classic, yet modern and unique without being over-designed.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Dusky Pink Faux Suede Ulysses Trench

I wish I hadn't let my apprehension of possible fabric problems put me off of tackling this project for so long. I enjoyed every step of making it and am delighted with the finished garment. It has given me the confidence to try out some more unusual fabrics and make the most of my machine's features. Any suggestions as to what I try next?

8 comments:

  1. I also have a Brother Inno-Vis (NS1750D--it's also an embroidery machine) & I love it! I feel like my sewing has really leveled up since I got it. I've already made several tricky garments on it, doing things like sewing tiny buttonholes into thick French terry, topstitching jeans, binding sheer tricot with fold-over elastic, & it handled everything like a champ. What a difference a machine can make!

    & great coat! It muct have been tricky finding a suede with the right drape to show off that waterfall front, but it turned out really well!

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    1. I feel exactly the same! My sewing is 'levelling up' and I think I'm going quite a lot faster too. Very happy! Good to hear that you are also having a good experience and have tried some really tricky things
      It was really hard to find the fabric! But I was dead set on making it in suede! Worth the effort. Thanks very much

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  2. I have a brother innovis too. I like to use stitch#1 and check my manual for what needle position is needed for each seam allowance. You may prefer to use the needle plate but I like to be able to just line my presser foot up with the edge of the fabric and move needle position. I only say this because I struggled with adjusting from changing machines and found this manual information a life saver. The Ulysses is such a beautiful pattern. Well done on a beautiful garment.

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    1. Great tip of adjusting the needle position, I might try out that method too as it makes sense. I couldn't adjust the needle on my old machine so I'm just relying on old habits I think!
      Thanks very much

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  3. What a lovely design! I'm wondering how you would reduce the bulk of the waterfall? (I feel a bit swamped in the only one I have.) Also, is faux suede water resistant? A very svelte coat. A great look on you!

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    1. I totally understand feeling swamped by a waterfall, this one is just on the verge of it! I think to reduce the size you'd need to take some depth off the front edge and possibly some off the hem too although you don't want to end up shortening the back of the coat too much. It might be a little bit trial and error!

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  4. That's such a beautiful coat! I made the Esther trousers from Victory Patterns last year and similarly was really impressed by the instructions and the strong sense of style that they represented. Definitely will have this coat on my (long) list now though - thank you!

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    1. You have put that really well! They do have a very strong sense of style in their patterns, unique, well thought out styles really appeal to me.
      Thanks very much!

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I love hearing from readers of my blog so please feel free to leave a comment letting me know what you thought about this post/make! Any hints or tips to improve my sewing are always much appreciated too!