October 22, 2016


Why do today what you can put off till tomorrow? Especially if you are not quite sure what you should be doing anyway?
That's sort of where I am right now. I had some time off this week and hoped for a chance to catch up on housework (not nice but needed) and do some serious sewing. And then I wasn't feeling well for about three days. Not really ill, just a very low on energy and a bit feverish. If I had had a sewing project underway, I would probably still have enjoyed working on it but I wasn't really motivated to start on drafting something new in that state. 

And then, of course, I started to overthink things. What do I really want or need for my wardrobe? New work, slight figure changes (from the climbing, which I have mentioned before). Everything in life which changes may have an impact on the wardrobe you want or need. And even apart from that, preferences can still change...
As I said, overthinking.

Of course, the fact is that not everything I sew has to be perfectly useful. I have things to wear, both at work and at home so, even though I could come up with useful wardrobe additions, I can afford to just sew something I like. However, once you start overthinking your sewing plans, it's hard to shake that off again. It is to me, at least. At this point, I started second-guessing what I wanted too. 
(I don't usually get like this at all when I'm doing a lot of sewing. When I'm on a roll, I just keep going. It is especially when I know my sewing time is limited and I want to make it count that this sometimes happens) 

Now, one of the things I am considering right now is to make another nice, cozy, flannel dress. I bought these two pieces of cotton flannel earlier this year. I love the one on the left and I bought 4 or 5 meters of it. I'm not as fond of the other one. I think that fabric would only look good on me if I cut it on the bias. Which I may do at some point in the future. 

For now, I am focussing on the fabric on the left. Good colours for me and plenty of fabric. An early idea (once I was past the obligatory "full skirted 1950's dress") was to make a shirtdress with a long skirt, sort of 1970's style. Probably with a center front and back seam to use those checks in an interesting way.

Then, I started looking at my vintage patterns and came across this design. A Dutch unprinted pattern by the company Harmien's. Undated but I would guess it came from the late 1940's. It has a gored skirt which would not work for this fabric but the top part looks really nice. 
I made a muslin of the whole dress which was less than encouraging (I'll show it in a later post).
Then, I had another look at the fabric and tried on the dress for which I drafted my favorite shirtdress bodice.
This dress, which I still love:

The flounce dress has been a firm favorite since the moment I finished it. It is quite comfortable but also special and stylish enough for all kinds of occasions. I've worn it to all those events where I felt I had to "look the part" without really knowing what to expect. And it always made me feel good. The dress is still in great condition so I am definitely not looking to replace it. Having more like it is a different matter though...
Trying it on again taught me a two things: 1. This bodice still fits well, especially in a fairly soft fabric like flannel. I also still love it. 2. I love a flounce skirt. Full skirts and pencil skirts are all well and good but nothing beats a skirt which combines the two and puts an unexpected twist on both.

So, now I am doubting again. How about a shirtdress with a flounce skirt. I could make a different kind of flounce this time. 
It's a difficult thing to draw in Illustrator so I kind of gave up that but I think you get the idea. Maybe I'll pull the fabric together at the waistline this time, rather than lower down. Or I'll do something else...And I still have another piece of fabric in my stash which has been earmarked for a second flounce dress all along.

On the other hand, that Harmien's top also still looks like a good idea...

In fact, I might have enough fabric to make two dresses. I'm just not sure yet. And it is not like I don't have other ideas either... So. Procrastinating...

October 18, 2016


Terrible light, self-timer pictures, freshly washed (still wet, except for the blow-dried fringe) hair and bare feet... What's not to love about today's pictures?
I had wanted to take better ones but I also didn't want to put off posting about this new top I made. So, I had to make do and I hope you can still kind of see the clothes in these shots. 

A couple of years ago, I bought this fabric, a black cotton jersey with that 'loop' texture at the back and very little stretch, on sale. I made a top from it. It had kimono sleeves and a collar and it seems like I didn't blog about it or post it on Burdastyle. At least, not in a place where I can find it now. That garment was OK... The fabric was comfortable but its lack of stretch was less than ideal for this design. The leftover fabric just stayed in my stash for years. Until last Saturday, when I decided to deal with it once and for all. Using up just about all of it, I made this:

A loose-fitting sweater. The bodice is completely straight, with a wide but shallow scoop for the neckline. Its back hemline curves down by about 5 cm. The sleeves have a very low sleeve-head and they taper towards the hem. 
Simply said, it's a sack-shaped top.

I've never had many of those. There is usually plenty of wide stuff in RTW but most of my sewing is more fitted. It can be nice to have a bit of variety though. And I found myself struggling to make nice combinations when wearing my more fitted trousers (like these, or my new jeans). And most of all, this fabric is perfect for a design like this!

In my experience, the look of loose-fitting clothes can depend enormously on the fabric you use. My lovely twice-made wintercoat is very wide and that works because the wool fabric has quite a bit of body.
It worked the first time:

And maybe even better the second time around.
But there was also a time when I decided to use a striped sweater knit to make a cardigan with those same lines... A thinner fabric, with a softer hand. It didn't work at all. Where the coats with lovely pieces of soft sculpture, the cardigan with just a baggy sack. In the end I took it in quite a bit which made it wearable. It's not pretty but it is very comfortable which is why it still has a place in my wardrobe as a warm extra layer to snuggle up in on cold days.

You see, with "loose-fitting" anything, it's all about the interaction between the fabric, the design and your own body. The bulky fabric of the coats allowed them to have a life of their own, just hanging from my shoulders. 
This new sweater of mine has to play a more subtle role. Like a game of hide and seek with points and curves. In a thicker fabric, my body would end up really looking like a rectangle. And if I tried to make up this same pattern in a more stretchy and drape-y jersey, I would just repeat the cardigan fiasco... But for this fabric, I think I got the fit spot-on.

Some people wear shapes like this a lot. Sometimes to obscure parts of their body they are not happy with, sometimes as a statement. Sack-like clothes can be used to say things like "I don't do obvious sexy dressing, I'm more creative, more clever than that". A bit snobbish? Maybe, but is it really more so than the "if you've got it, flaunt it" approach? 
It was never my style but can't help but admire the look of confidence it has on those who wear it well.
So far, I could only ever make that kind of look work for me in coats. For a long time, it was my working theory that, with my A cup, there just wasn't enough there between shoulders and hips to make that game between garment and body work. Now, I'm starting to wonder if it is just all about the dimensions...

October 15, 2016

lingerie, bras and shapewear

Last weekend, I spent a couple of hours asking the same question on three different Facebook groups of which I am a member (We Sew Retro Sew & Tell, Learn how to make Corsets like a pro and a Dutch group about corset making, to be precise). I got a lot of kind comments and good advice but nothing like a single solution emerged. 
I was looking for advice on how to improve on this thing which I made last year. 

My lingerie corset isn't bad but it is not flawless either. I'm sure I can fix the minor fit issues it has but I really need to find a good fabric for it. The opaque stuff I used here is a bit too stiff and doesn't breathe. And I was also not happy with the way this garment creates more tummy than I actually have. One of the people who commented on my question mentioned something important about that though: Flat stomachs are a modern obsession, a fit like this would have been completely fine in the 1950's (which tends to be the era I look at for this kind of thing).
I also spent some time looking at repro patterns for shapewear (I know Mrs. Depew has a few, if you have other recommendations, please comment). 

I really should try and order some samples of the fabrics which were suggested to me (and some more lingerie supplies besides that) and experiment with the pattern or try a repro one. Instead, I started with supplies from stash and a design which is between normal bra a retro shapewear: A longline bra.

It is strapless for now but I plan on adding straps. I put ribbons in the cup seam to allow for that but I am all out of rings and sliders. 
I made it using non-stretch silk (for the upper cups and the center front), that mesh I also used for my body suits and some beige/pink lingerie foam for the cups. And I used my usual underwires and polyester boing covered in velvet ribbon along the bodice seams. Unfortunately, I only had fairly wide boning in black and proper bone casings would have been better with this sheer fabric... 

And the use of interlocking rigid pieces like the bones and the underwires means the fabric between those pieces has to fit perfectly. The center front is just a tiny bit off in its center, below the underwires. It is nothing that can't be fixed in a new version but it would be much more trouble than it is worth to try and fix it in this finished product. 
In a new version, I would also slightly change the angle of the cups, put a tiny bit more room in the upper edge of the cups and use wider elastic at the bottom edge of the bodice (note to self: Buy such elastic...) and probably lengthen the bodice  by 1 to 1.5 cm to make it reach my waist.
Despite all that, I like this for a first try. 

October 9, 2016

Finished jeans!

And here are those jeans I blogged about earlier:

The pattern is a tried-and-tested one. Self-drafted as usual and intended to be made up using stretch denim, what this fabric is. 
As I mentioned before, I had only just enough fabric to cut out all the pieces for this pair of trousers so I was limited both in the leg length (this was absolutely the longest I could possibly make them) and in the flare of the leg. I might have gone for a more pronounced boot-cut shape if there had been more fabric.

The rest is pretty straight-forward: a fairly high rise, to the natural waist, which I find comfortable. I will normally wear tops over it.
Scoop pockets at the front, patch pockets at the back. And that deep-curving back yoke. A waistband, but no belt-loops. I find adding belt-loops a very fiddly and annoying job and I never use them anyway (on me, to fit well, any waistband below the waist has to be quite strongly shaped so there is no way a straight belt will sit well along such a line).

All in all, not a very exciting but certainly a very welcome and useful addition to my wardrobe.

October 5, 2016

Planning for autumn...

My jeans are finished but I won't have a chance to take pictures until the weekend. In the mean time, I am starting to think about autumn sewing.
Now, if you are a very organized person you will have planned your autumn/winter wardrobe already. And if you sew, you will have started making what you will want to wear in the seasons to come. I'm not really like that. I find it very hard to sew for a season I can't feel yet.
We have been experiencing a very mild, slow gentle end to summer here in the Netherlands. It wasn't until last week that we had a dark, cloudy, rainy day and the temperature is still comfortable rather than chilly.
And added to that, my daily life has changed quite a bit since before the summer holiday. I now spend part of my week teaching about textiles and another part helping out a the climbing hall. To environments which are new to me work-wise and require very different things in terms of clothes. To be honest, I'm not quite sure yet what is called for.

However, that change in the weather has certainly pushed me towards thinking about autumn sewing. I will, at least, have my new jeans, and should come up with some nice tops to go with it but what I really like to think about, are dresses. One part of brain still always wants 1950's styles but another part is thinking about the workplace and about current styles. I'm not sure yet but I do know the dresses I have made and loved in past years. Right now, as I am typing this, I am wearing this dress:

I made it way back when 2010 turned into 2011. It's been a lovely dress, suitable for many different occasions and always comfortable. By now, it is showing its age and it has been retired to the realm of 'dresses for lounging at home'. All which makes me think. I need a new version. I have enough of that very same fabric to make about two more and I think I should. Maybe several years apart.
It's a very peculiar material. A knit which only stretches lengthwise (which is why the original dress was cut on the cross-grain. any new version will be too) it has fluffy black stripes on a beige-ish backing. The stripes run from selvedge to selvedge so with the design cut on the cross-grain they look just like duo-tone corduroy.
I am quite seriously considering re-making this dress. I would like a slightly longer skirt and a closer fit at the waist but in general, I still really love it. 
There might be other options too. The hand of this fabric is rather firm so I think it is only suitable for fairly fitted designs. I am thinking about something with raglan sleeves though. And maybe some pleats at the armscye... I'm just not sure yet. I only know I will need a dress like this in my wardrobe for years to come.

October 2, 2016

Making jeans

Not too long ago, I read post on someone else's blog about jeans. It once again reminded me that I could use another pair myself. The post also contained a bit of a surprise for me: There was a picture of the insides of the finished jeans and none of the seam allowances had been finished in any way. There was topstitching along some seams but all the edges were raw. 
Not a treatment I would ever recommend for denim. This, rather experienced, seamstress told me she had never had any trouble with the particular kind of high quality denim she uses. 

And now, I am making jeans again. Another pair of my close-fitting jeans, using stretch denim. I'm making them using my normal method. I've done this for quite a while and generally don't give it a lot thought. However, based on that recent discussion I thought it might be worth showing after all.

I like to use flat-felled seams on my jeans. I use them on all those seams which you will usually see flat-felled or topstitched in RTW. Yoke seam, center back seam, inner leg seam. 
Years ago, before I had a serger, I would sometimes try an flat-fell the outer leg seam as well as the inner leg seam but I would recommend that. It's really fiddly. 

This is what I do now:

For my flat-felled seams, I use topstitching thread in sewing machine's needle and regular thread in the bobbin (topstitching thread is thick and likely to get stuck in the bobbin). This works really well but it does mean that you had to plan ahead where you want the contrast stitching to show.

The first step is to sew the seam with the wrong sides of the fabric facing each other and stitching on the side you want to be on top in the flat-felled seam.

This is what the other side looks like.

Then, I press the seam allowances open,

trim the seam allowance on the side that has the stitching in the regular thread

and fold and press the other seam allowance around and over the trimmed one. 

You could pin it down at this stage but I usually don't. Denim can pressed really well and tends to stay in place just fine. In fact, I think having to remove pins might make your stitching more wobbly. Just stitch close to the folded edge, keeping an even distance to the first line of topstitching. 

Maybe a bit tricky if you try this for the first time but not difficult. And you get nice, strong seams and a clean, smooth inside of the garment. 

Years ago, I used a different method: I would first stitch the seam in the usual way, with the right sides facing and using regular thread. Then, I would press, trim and fold the seam allowances on the inside and then stitch along the folded edge. However, when using topstitching thread, I would have to stitch from the outside of the trouser leg, with those folded seam allowances on the inside. I made it work but that was really tricky and it involved much more re-threading of my sewing machine.
There is one area where I might try it again though: The center back seam.

Mine looks like this. I'm actually not that bothered by mismatched point but I know some people like to sew their jeans which real points.

And on the inside, that is just what I have. If I were to use my old method for flat-felled seams on the center back seam (and the regular method on the yoke seams) or even to make a fake flat-felled seam by serging and topstitching, I could have this perfect point on the outside. 
I won't try and change it on this pair of jeans though. 

Oh, and just in case you are wondering about the blue lines and the stamp on the wrong side of the fabric: This was the beginning of the bolt. I originally bought just enough for two pairs of jeans and this will be the second one. I had to be really careful with my pattern lay-out to squeeze it out of the remaining fabric so I was obviously not going to avoid those lines on the back. 

September 27, 2016

Fiber history

In this past week, I have been sewing but none of it is really blog-worthy (yet). I've made a rough sample of a new-to-me corset pattern, which is very likely much too extreme in shape for me (even the hip spring, that a first!). And I have re-sized some t-shirts for myself and my boyfriend. Useful work, and it is appreciated but not very interesting to share here.

So, instead, I thought I would share another old object. I came across this one at work. I have started teach a subject I can only translate as "knowledge of textiles" at a local fashion school. This subject is about understanding fabric, from the raw fiber to its place in the world of fashion and it is aimed at future buyers for stores, stylist/designers as well as made-to-measure tailors. 

Last week, I was looking through one of the cupboards which contains samples when I found this:

It is fun to find samples of fibers which are not often used for clothing. Most of the contents of this box seem to be made from coconut fiber. But look at that label! It looks old doesn't it?
For those of you who don't read Dutch I'll translate:

Royal United Carpet Factories

Superior weaving.
Softly spun coconut yarn for weft purposes.
Spun by hand in British India

British India! So that means that this sample pre-dates 1947 (or 1950 if we presume extreme conservatism and mistrust of the ability of former colonial nations to organize their own governments on the part of the label makers at the Rotterdam factory).
I wonder how it ended up here. It certainly pre-dates this institute in its current form. I didn't have time to search the other boxes in this cupboard but I'm really curious about what I am going to find there!