October 29, 2014

An alteration

I've been doing useful stuff...
This weekend, my relatives who live in London will be visiting my parents and we will meet them there. Which means I felt kind of obliged to work on and finish the alterations on the coat belonging to my aunt H.
To be fair, she left it with me on their last visit, in January and mentioned that it was fine if it took me over a year to alter it. She must have heard how long I took to take in my grandmother's skirts.... (which also, was no disaster. Although my grandmother had lost a lot of weight and was happy for me to take in six skirts, she has a lot of other ones so she didn't miss them too much).

Anyway, H is the only relative, apart from my grandmothers, who occasionally asks me to alter things for her. Like most seamstresses, I hate doing alterations but I can be swayed to do them for my loved ones. And I know that H really can't sew, unlike my mother and other aunts. And she accepts my expertise in the matter, which is nice.

In this case, she had brought me a coat which was way too large for her. H caught the running bug a few years ago, and as those things go, has lost a lot of weight since. This coat was bought just before she started running and was now... about... eh, 4 to 6 cm in circumference is the difference for one dress size, so... 3 to 4 sizes too big...
It's a fairly straight , classic design but with the usual nice, tailored details. Which, unfortunately also means that the pocket welts go through the front darts, eliminating any opportunity to take out some excess width there. The front side seams were very close to those pocket welts as well, so no luck there either. As a result of the coat's anatomy, most of the difference had to be taken out at the side back seams. I would have like to distribute it more evenly but there really was no other option.
And it was so large that even the shoulders were too wide. The combination of that with the fact that I had to take in seams which ran up to the armhole ment that I had to alter and re-set the sleeves... 
I wish I could have raised the armscye a bit but of course, I can't add material where there was none.
All in all, it's quite a job.

On the up side, it's a nice coat. Beautiful thick stable wool coating, nice not-too-thin satin lining. The tailoring is nothing special, all fusibles, but it has been neatly done. And I like seeing how exactly they've treated the shoulder and sleeve head. Not that it's news to me but, that's how you get that nice rounded edge at the top of the sleeve. 

Unfortunately, I forgot to take a 'before' picture but I'll try to add one of the finished product tomorrow morning (it's too dark now). 

I'll be curious to see how the coat will fit her now. I don't think I gave any guarantees for this one and indeed, that's how it should be. This was a lot of alteration for a complex garment that doesn't really allow for much change.

October 26, 2014

For him

Although a lot of my sewing is rather selfish, I have been making shirts, thinner trousers (for jeans, he's a Levi's 501 kind of guy) and coats for E for years.

And I've just finished a new one.

This coat, which I made back in the autumn of 2010, has served as his every-day wintercoat for all that time. And by the end of last winter, it was decidedly worse for wear. I have changed the lining at least once, maybe twice. And I've made some repairs to those nice but not always practical button tabs. But now, the fabric itself had started to pill in some places and shine in others. And the lining needed replacing again. 
To put it quite simply: It was time for a new coat.

The were two fabrics in my stash which I though would qualify for this project: This one and a densely woven beige coating. Either would make a nice change from the plain black we have used for his coats so far. 
E picked this one. It is a peculiar kind of fabric: It's a thick, off-white wool knit with the checks printed on. The printing is not equally dark over the whole fabric. There is only a tiny bit of stretch and only really in the width of the fabric, so I thought it might serve fine for a coat. 
I decided to use the selvedge of the fabric, with the white side facing out, as a piping.

For the pattern, I kept all the functional details which had made the previous coat such a winner: A fairly roomy fit which allows for a range of movement yet is fitted enough to eh... show off his good looks ;), the length which is practical both when driving and cycling, the collar which folds down a bit lower than the standard because that is more comfortable for him, the simple zipper closure.
The design details are new and I adapted them a bit to the nature of this fabric. The slanted welt pockets from the old coat didn't seem like such a good idea now. This fabric, although hardly stretchy, doesn't have the stability of that dense wool coating. And fusible interfacings (used to stabilize the yoke and the zipper edge) didn't really like sticking to it. 
And of course, I wanted to use those selvedges as a design detail. So, where the old coat had raglan sleeves, I went with normal ones this time but made a sort-of cuff to add the piping. I made a shoulder yoke with a point at the back. The collar is edged in the selvedges and so are the openings of the kangaroo pockets.

I tried to match the checks. I even cut out everything in a single layer to do so and it was not easy. It's a knit and the check is printed on... The lines were going everywhere! I think I mostly managed it though.
The zipper is a thick black plastic one. I usually prefer metal zippers but in this case, I didn't want to add another colour in the mix. 

I quite like the way the coat looks on him (even though he didn't really feel like posing when we took these pictures, too many people we passing by... But that's what we get for deciding to take pictures near the climbing hall again) and he got compliments on it from to colleagues. Both other men, who know his girlfriend sews (also for him) and think that's really cool. :D

October 23, 2014

Burdastyle

You are all familiar with Burdastyle, aren't you?
I've been a member for ages although I'm not as active there as I used to be. And I'm proud to have been a contributor to the first Burdastyle book.

Now, I've actually sewn something using a recent pattern from the site. A first for me!
But there's something else I want to mention first: I'd like to thank everyone who nominated my blog or voted for it... 

My blog is part of Burdastyle's "Best of blogging top 50"! It will be announced on the site later (after some upcoming change) but we are allowed to tell it on our blogs already. 
I'm very happy with this. When you are blogging away, like I do, you have no idea how many people really see and/or like what you do. Not if they don't comment, that is. Blog statistics are all well and good but they don't register appreciation. This does. So thank you very much and I will try to keep up the good work!

Now, on to the garment...

After all the excitement over the top 50, I went and had a good look around all those parts of the Burdastyle website which I don't visit that often (mostly, I just go to the "Projects" pages). And I quite liked this cardigan in the pattern store. And it was really cheap...

Judging from the technical drawing, I guessed this was a really simple shape. Probably one I could draft myself... But on the other hand, I love "object cardigans" and this one has that bulky shape and proper sleeves. At that moment, I didn't really feel like figuring this one out from scratch. Not when I could just go and get the recipe...

So I did. This a 'draft your own' pattern, so you don't have to deal with printing lots of pieces and taping them together. And unlike most tutorials you find online, it comes in two sizes (sort of S/M and M/L). 
There are a few things about this pattern I didn't like: 
- The dimensions for the pieces are without seam allowance. This is the standard in the Burdastyle magazine (at least in European versions, I don't know about the American one) but it doesn't really make sense for such simple pieces which you might draw straight onto the fabric (which I did, adding seam allowance as I went along).
- The drawings for the cutting lay-out and even the listed amount of fabric you need are for fabrics of 110 cm wide. Which, to me, seems like a really unusual width for knits. The vast majority of those are 140 to 150 cm wide, in which case you only need the length of the body piece plus the length of the sleeve (or even just the length of the body. If your fabric is 150 wide and you are cutting the cardigan in the smaller size, you should be able to cut out the sleeve next to the body piece).

- If you make the cardigan as described, the wrong side of the fabric will show at the 'collar' (which is really just the folded-back front edge). The instructions don't really warn about that. I noticed straight away, but a less experienced sewer might not. My fabric doesn't look good on the wrong side so I cut the front edge with about 20 cm extra on it, which I used as a facing. Worked just fine.
Oh, and the sleeves are long. Longer than they have to be. I shortened them just a little because, with the 'object' shape, the length of the sleeve on your arm depends rather heavily on how you wear the cardigan.

The fabric has been in my stash for a while and I thought the stripes would work particularly well with this design.

I was right about that... I really like the look of the back!

To be honest, it's the back I'm happiest with. Apart from the stripes, the shape is really interesting too. I'm less sure about the front. I've never looked great in longer cardigans. This one doesn't look bad at all but I'll really have to think about how to make it work in my wardrobe. 

So, there you have it, my first garment from a Burdastyle pattern in a long time.

October 21, 2014

Spring fashion (1951)

Did you read any of the recent catwalk reports? Or did you study lady's magazines to find out what the editors thought the coming season will bring? (of course, every semi-insider knows that the most recent shows were actually those for spring/summer 2015. The magazines just concentrate on the previous ones, which are more relevant for the season we are in now)

To be honest, I'm not as interested in present-day fashion news as I used to be. It's just too much of 'anything is possible' and usually hardly connected to what we will see in the street. In fact, a couple of years ago when I followed this more closely, I found that the stuff I liked usually wasn't picked up by the mainstream....

Today, to show how much has changed and how much has stayed the same, I have a fashion report from spring 1951, based on the haute couture shows in Paris. Including some very cute drawings to make the different lines, championed by different designers, a bit more clear:

A brid's eye view of spring fashion

We rush through the labyrinth of Paris - from the Rue Royale to the Avenue Montaigne, from Faubourg Saint Honore to the Place Vendome. We rush from one fashion house to the other and our invitations, sorted by date and by hour are a maze of addresses spaced far apart.

A large gate, a small shop. A stately staircase, an elevator which gets stuck between one floor and the next. Luxury salons, everywhere different, everywhere the same. In all of them, a heated battle over a place on the front row, over the first cocktail, the first nibble. 

Everywhere the same reporters. One third, gilded chairs, always a bit too narrow. Heat like in a submerged submarine. Crystal chandeliers and business-like spotlights which shine a dazzling light over it all. Flowers, sales-girls, waiters. Waiting for three quarters of an hour, until the first model steps out and is gone again before the international murmuring subsides. But even if the first outfit misses out, there are so many more to follow (collections of 170 pieces are no exception) that we we will have trouble deciphering our hasty notes later on.
For one long week, we caught show fever. Three or four shows a day kept us up, half-asleep, until well after midnight and we wrote down the specifics from the most important collections. So, let us raise the curtain for you: We are not faced with a revolutionary new spring fashion! Except the adaptation of our wardrobe to the change in season, it will continue after today like it has been since the start of the first half of this century. Beautiful and diversified versions of everything which has been produced in the field of fashion over the past few months, are presented to us. We will be able to build our spring wardrobe in a pleasing style with the help of details from previous seasons. 

If nature allows us, we will continue to wear the rounded shoulders, a small waistline will still be our ideal and the hips will still be round, artificially so, if necessary. For the rest, we have a choice from such a wide range of possibilities that there will be something to everyone's taste.
In one collection, bodices are close-fitting, in the next the are a bit wider, sometimes they are strict and have a straight button closure, in other cases, they are less sober or even a bit wild with a shawl-decoration or some drapery. Sleeves show themselves in every length imaginable, either cut on or set in, or (like at Dior) a combination of both.

Cleavages, modest in day dresses, play a varied game in the dressier outfits. They are round or oval, V-shaped or variations on the U and W form; they are cut up high against the neck, reach just to the nape of the neck or leave part of the back, shoulders and chest uncovered. Small, often very narrow collars are a favorite but large collars are also shown. 

The skirts will please everybody because the simple, slim skirt, the wide skirt and the semi-wide skirt are all there. The first ones mostly feature in suits, while also plenty a wool spring frock owes its silhouette to them. In the festive, silk dress, however, wide skirts rule. It can be either a plissee skirt or simple wide one but this spring's darling is the "apron skirt". This apron skirt, which is often removable, can be worn either around the skirt or the side or back and, thanks to a contrasting lining, it can often be worn inside out. It is closely related to the separate skirt gores which, at whatever side, add visual width to 
a slim skirt and which are responsible for the surprising and elegant play of skirts which most designers have picked as their leading principle. Often, these gores, which are not used in walking clothes, are achieved by draping. This is especially in evidence at Fath's. This designer presents his collection in the sign of the "arrow" and the "bell". Maggy Rouff, who, like so many others, is a fan of the apron skirt, launches her creations under the motto of the "moving line". Paquin chose, among other things, the X as a motif in his collection, while Diro shapes the ideal female figure from nothing but ovals and Lanvin covers her in the contours of a spinning top. Piguet is inspired not only by the pencil but also by the dancer and Lafaurie opens, in a marvelous collection, countless possibilities by taking the waves and curves of the wake of a ship as her guideline.

Griffe, who, based on his recent creations, is the furthest removed from his colleagues, plays with grey and sober strictness, which he interprets with refined modesty in the governess dresses.

Less capricious than the dresses are the coat, which, in any form, are fairly simple. The most eye-catching characteristic of the new is the narrow stand or collar, which is often combined with a low neckline.
The classic lady's suit, much seen behind the scenes, had to yield its place in the shows to the novelty versions, which enjoy a lot of attention in the spring fashion. Of the most interesting details we note: the peplum which is only rounded at the front (Griffe) and the long shawl collar which gets wider on the way down.

The fashion, as it was just launched, has a lot going for it and yet - despite the ravishing fabrics, the fairytale colours and the original prints - little news. She who opens a fashion magazine from last season, will find in it much of what we could not discuss yet in this short article. 

Hannie Vanverre

So typical for the late 1940's and early 1950's: Even fashion reporters were happy to find little news in the show for the new season... 

By the way, this is the first time I've translated an article from Beatrijs magazine (previous ones were from Libelle. Often the work of their 1940's fashion editor Caty Verbeeke). 
I hope you like it. I think such pieces give some nice extra insight in an era of fashion which many of us love.

October 19, 2014

a jumpSUIT

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you will probably know about my strange obsession with jumpsuits... 
I like designing, drafting and making jumpsuits. And rarely in varieties you could find in stores. In fact, I even wrote a tutorial about it for those among you who might want to do the same.

I've made another one. In these odd weeks between late summer and autumn, I ended up making a jumpsuit I've been thinking about for a while. At least since last spring, probably longer. I've also had this fabric earmarked for it for almost as long: It's a black cotton/linen blend with a slight windowpane texture. It's also a little heavier than most of the linen I come across. 

This is the jumpsuit I imagined (please ignore the dress sketch in the upper left corner. I often put lots of sketches on one sheet of paper): functional wrap-over front bodice, connecting to a pleat in the trousers. Dropped waistline, notched collar and, of course, pockets.


And that is just what I made. I drafted this design starting with my usual slopers (although I altered the bodice into a version with less ease at the chest. I thought that would suit a style like this, with an opening over the chest, much better than my usual, almost 1950's style fit. And I think I was right). 
If you are reading this with my jumpsuit tutorial in mind: I used a 'relaxed fit' trouser block (so, one with a crotchline lowered by 3 cm) but, because I didn't want the jumpsuit to be really baggy, I only added 2.5 cm at the hip when turning it into a pattern piece for a jumpsuit.
And as odd as these trousers may look with their wrap-over pleat, they are actually complete symmetrical. 

The bodice is styled like a jacket, with a side panel and two-piece sleeves. Because I am a pattern nerd, I had to make the front side seams line up with the slash pockets on the trousers. 

And the buttonhole for that single button is in the seam between bodice and trousers (although I added three hidden snaps after the photoshoot to keep that long front edge in check). For the inside part, I made a thread loop which closes on a small button.


All in all, I think this thing had everything I look for in a jumpsuit: modern-day fashion cred, combined with a fit which kind of nods towards an undisclosed vintage past. Which just means I feel both cool and feminine wearing this...

October 16, 2014

Let's call it a design feature

Back from holiday in Scotland and kind of convinced that autumn was just around the corner, I decided to make a nice bulky cardigan. You know, the kind of thing to snuggle up in on a dark evening after a cold day. Although, knowing myself and the good state of heating in my home and many other buildings, I didn't pick a particularly warm fabric. 
This stuff has been in my stash for a year or so. It's cotton and something. A thick-ish jersey with narrow white stripes on dark blue on the good side and white, blue and red in a sort of tweed effect on the reverse. It has a little bit of stretch width-wise and none at all vertically. 
If I remember correctly, I bought this fabric with this particular project in mind. It just took me a while to get around to it.

The idea was to make a cardigan with a shape based on my beloved short winter coat. 


This one. Made in 2009 and by now really past its best but still a design I love. Loose shape, only kind of fitted at the bottom, back pleat, sleeves with a square bottom edge.

For the cardigan version, I wanted it to be single breasted. And I've wanted a cardigan with a shawl collar for a while, so why not this one? It was going to be unlined, so it would have to have a different kind of pockets. And I when I bought the fabric, it was on the bolt inside out. So the wrong side caught my eye first. In thinking about sewing with it, I tried to come up with a way to incorporate it in the final look.

I could claim that is why it looks like this. But then, I would be lying. Because the stripes weren't exactly at a right angle to the selvedge, I was cutting the pattern pieces out in a single layer. I took good care to cut left and right sides of everything. I decided not to use about 10 cm of fabric closest to the edges because the stripe was particularly warped in those areas (this stripe is knitted in, by the way). And I thought about the placement of the pattern pieces to use the stripes for the best effect. I did all of that right. And then, I made a stupid mistake when cutting the last pieces. The collar facings. I cut two right. And of course, when cutting fabric, two rights make one wrong ;)
There was not enough fabric to cut a new left facing, so after some consideration, I decided to use the piece I had inside out. 

After that decision, the cardigan came together fairly. Although stripe matching, which I was trying to do, was an absolute nightmare. These stripes are almost too thin to bother with it and they are not visible on the wrong side of the fabric...
Then, I could try it on for the first time... Big disappointment. The roomy shape of the coat is sculptural and interesting. This cardigan, in its softer fabric, just looked baggy and sad. 
I was almost ready to leave it at that but, with E's input, I decided to try and save it. To do so, I sewed up the back pleat (which I love so much in the coat...) and took in some room in the torso and upper arms.

Eventually, this was the result and I think it's pretty wearable now. I ended up adding patch pockets (the bottom edge sewn on by machine from the inside, the sides sewn by hand) which show the wrong side of the fabric at their top edges. 

Picking buttons took more thought than usual as well. I wanted to use jersey snaps with an 'old red copper' finish but those didn't work. The prongs on the snaps were too short for two layers of this fabric. I wanted a look like that though. Small and kind-of-contrasting buttons somehow made for a less frumpy finish than anything larger and/or matching the blue or white. After searching both my stash and the market stall where I usually buy my snaps and buttons, I found these: Small red buttons which match the red in the wrong side of the fabric. They are the size of shirt buttons. I didn't think such tiny buttonholes would work well in the thick fabric so I sewed snaps under the buttons. I happened to have transparent plastic snaps in the exact same size as the buttons, so I used those. That little coincidence makes the improvised closure look almost intentional. 

As, there we have it. Like most wide items of clothing, the cardigan doesn't seem particularly flattering in most photographs but it is very comfortable. And I don't think it looks bad at all when worn over my LBD. In fact, it's now such a classic shape that I wouldn't be surprised if I could create looks which refer to different periods of 20th century fashion history just by wearing it with different things. I may try that one day when I feel like posing for more pictures...

October 15, 2014

"a dress for all occasions"

In my post about my Little Black Dress, I mentioned how I originally wanted to make it as one of the 'adaptable' dresses featured in so many early 1950's magazines. I don't know if you are familiar with that particular concept.
So, when I came across an example (when taking pictures of nice dresses from the pages of 1950's issues of Margriet magazine for my growing Pinterest boards) I thought I would show it.


 This particular dress was featured in the magazine with instructions to draft the pattern in size 42. The pattern could also be ordered in the sizes 38, 40 and 42.


The philosophy behind this type of dress is obvious: Rationing of fabric had stopped by the second half of 1950 but fabric was still relatively scarce and expensive. The vast majority of women had to plan her wardrobe with care: Spending little and yet getting the most from those items in terms of variation and style was the ideal.

The title of this article is "a dress for all occasions" and the illustrations for this one are particularly clear. 
The dress is quite typical for its type: It has a straight, slim skirt and a very simple bodice. Even the collar is very understated. Which is typical too. Many dresses like this didn't have a collar at all and could be accessorized with that other favorite of this era: Separate collars and cuffs. 

Most variations on the right page are pretty straight-forward: Different belts, a scarf worn in the neckline, pins. The left page is more interesting: A jacket and a sash with pockets. The sash creates the looks of a skirt-with-flounce, which I really like. I've seen many examples like this from 1949 and 1950 and I keep wondering about them. I love a skirt with a flounce but I really wonder if this very simple option would really look so well in real life.
And I'm sure I have even seen a version somewhere with pocket bags with flaps on a belt.

As I mentioned before, I haven't made any add-ons for my LBD yet, and I probably won't. But I still like the idea of the dress for all occasions...