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
Rotterdam

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! 
 

September 24, 2016

A hat

Look what I've got!

Unfortunately, I have no good way of displaying it but this but it is a rather nice lady's hat. 

It was given to me by my mother and grandmother last week. They told me they had paid a visit to a friend of my grandmother's (who is between them in age) who is now volunteering for a charity which also has a shop. This hat had been brought in and she had put it aside, recognizing it as a good thing but knowing it wouldn't sell. So, my mother and grandmother got to take it along for me, knowing that I would appreciate it. 
My mother thought it was decorated with peacock feathers but I suspect those lovely dark brown feathers with their iridescent deep green shine came from a smaller bird. A cockerel I think. Two kinds of feathers are alternated around the outside of the hat, circling a crown made of deep brown velvet. The lining is very clean and the elastic un-stretched. This hat looks like it has never been worn. 
Of course, I should wear it. It's a continuing issue of mine: I love hats as an idea, but I tend to struggle to actually wear them. For this hat, I will have to figure out a hairstyle that works with it. It looks like a 1950's style so it was probably meant to be worn with shortish hair. I think a low bun would work too.  
Maybe I could construct an outfit around it... I have quite a bit of dark green wool in my stash. I have often thought about turning that into a 1950's style tailleur suit... Maybe I should do that now. The green might match the shine of those feathers and I think this hat seems like the kind of style to wear with a dressy suit in autumn...

September 18, 2016

That bodysuit...

First of all, thank you for all the replies to my previous post. You are proving once again why this sewing-corner of the web is the best. When I read your comments and re-read my own words, two things stood out to me: First of all, by speaking of and to women, I neglected to acknowledge some people who also add to our little sewing circle. I'm sorry guys! In fact, one of the things which are great about sewing is that everybody can enjoy it. Not just regardless of size but regardless of gender too. 
And secondly, one of you pointed out that there are still issues with the size ranges of sewing patterns. Trust me to forget that! Not even because I don't have that problem but because I nearly always draft my own patterns... Which is also the best advice I can give to anyone who would like to say farewell to the terror of sizing: If you have the time (because it does take a while to get it right and build up confidence), learn how to make you own patterns. Or do what some bloggers with difficult sizes do: Perfect the fit on a simple pattern and use that as a sloper.

With that said, I would like to move on to the main topic of today's post. It has taken me a week but I finally found a moment to take pictures of that bodysuit I made.

At come angles it is a bit daring. I will have to decide whether or not "low cleavage" (a bit of bust curve showing at the underside of those opaque triangles) means this thing can't be worn in public.

I like how it looks with a wide skirt like this. A bit ballerina-like. 

There's that V at the back.

And... eh... Here it is without the skirt. In this picture, you can just about see the opaque bits at the bottom and the angle on the front of the leghole.

After finishing the first bodysuit, I didn't feel I was quite done with it. So, I made another one. On this one, I slightly adjusted the angle of the triangles (in an effort to get more lower bust coverage but I forgot to move the center point down a little bit. And even then it might not have worked), I added sleeves (I had never even drafted those for this body fashion block before), removed the center back seam, cut the back neckline round rather than in a V and I changed the design of the bottom. This time, I cut the sides up in a smooth line from that front triangle and cut the back in the same kind of thong shape I often use for panties. That also allowed me to add a that bottom opening I didn't make in the first version. 


The different placement of the triangles doesn't really show but the sleeves make the whole thing look quite different. And if I decide I am brave enough, this one would be more practical to wear as a bodysuit. 

I think I am done with bodysuits for now but this experiment has given me a new idea for a bathing suit.

September 14, 2016

I love you all!

I really do. I started blogging a whopping 7 years ago and although I may sometimes hope for more comments or occasionally get frustrated by spam, I have always found my particular corner of the internet to be a friendly and encouraging place. 
I think the same goes for the blogs I follow (certainly the sewings ones but also the few about history and the one rock climber's blog) and for the Facebook groups I am a member of (I've been a member of 'We Sew Retro Sew & Tell' right from the start and joined 'Learn How to Make Corsets Like a Pro' some months ago) as well. 

With that limited social media landscape, I could easily tell myself that the world wide web was not scary at all. Just a big playground where people from different places and walks of life can interact.
Of course I'm not totally ignorant of the nastiness and negativity out there but in my experience, lifestyle related blogs, Facebook groups and Pinterest board were friendly places.
I guess I kind of took that for granted.

And then, at some moment last month, I watched the BBC 3 documentary "Clean Eating's Dirty Secrets"
I started watching it mainly because I have been surprised more than once in the past years by the odd hype diets cropping up. Hypes which were sometimes even taken up by friends.  
The documentary follows a young blogger/vlogger who focusses on body positivity. A larger lady herself, she sets out to explore the world of "clean eating" blogs. What she uncovers is (spoiler alert!) mostly a deep pit of unsubstantiated health claims, dangerous food fads and a very negative, judgmental way of looking at women's bodies (mostly by women).

I was a bit shocked by this. I kind of knew this stuff existed but the scale and the conviction still surprised me. 
I haven't really struggled with body image during the years I've been blogging and I am often aware of the fact that I am among the skinnier sewer bloggers. But I've had more troubled times too and of course I know it is an issue for lots of women. I used to alter wedding dresses for a living and I met lots of different women and encountered lots of different views on beauty and body shape. Most of them overly negative.
I am very glad I was a teenager in an era before social media. I don't want to imagine what might have happened if I had had access to the kind of toxic "inspiration" offered by the kinds lifestyle blogs featured in this documentary. I feel sorry for those confronted with it now.

I like to think that we, people who sew and who talk about that somewhere on the internet, are helping in that regard. We love to talk about fitting but that's always about making the clothes fit and flatter the body of lady who will wear them. Sewing for yourself frees you from the size system dictated by the high street. Of course, patterns come in sizes too but us sewing people quickly learn just how arbitrary those are. Even more so if we decide to try out vintage patterns. Sewing also opens up the possibility of trying out styles which are not currently in fashion but may suit our bodies better. And, most of all, the online sewing community I know and love happily supports such efforts. No matter who you are, no matter what look you are going for.
So, yes, I love all and let's keep up the good work!



September 10, 2016

Experimenting (Yeah!)

To be honest, I've been a bit down on my sewing mojo lately. Yesterday was the first time since I came back from holiday that I actually made something from scratch (I've done some very small repairs in the mean time). There are some excuses: I've been busy with work and last weekend I went rock-climbing in the Ardennes again (I think I'm actually starting to get the hang of it ;) 
But mostly, I've just been over-thinking things. The striped dress for example. Yesterday evening, I went back to contemplating that orange striped fabric and being indecisive. And then I decided I'd had enough. As much as I love shirt-dresses it's not worth fretting over for weeks. And I could do with some nice, enjoyable, relaxing sewing. So, I decided to make a pair of panties using a tried-and-tested pattern and some black lace and lycra (I forgot to take a picture).      
Of course, I was happy with the result. That's what tried-and-tested patterns and materials are for! And it made me think of other things I could do with those lingerie materials...

So, today I made this:

My first bodysuit! The picture is not very clear so I've also made a technical drawing (I'll see if I can get a picture of me wearing it tomorrow. One I'm comfortable showing online...)

The pointy bits in strategic locations are made from black lycra, the rest from a fairly dense black mesh (which is about as stretchy as my lycra, maybe a bit less). All the edges are finished with fold-over elastic. 

My main idea behind it was to experiment with graphic shapes. I used a sloper made years ago for my first bathing suit. The bathing suit was always uncomfortably short in the body so I added one humble centimeter at the waistline. Which turned out to work perfectly. 
For the bottom edge, I used a shape I pioneered recently: The notched front leg.

I am quite happy with the way it turned out. The fit is good and those points are in the right places.  
It is not really practical though. Normal bodysuits are meant to be worn as nice smooth tops and have a placket with snaps at the crotch to allow for easy bathroom breaks. You can buy those plackets pre-made at places which specialize in lingerie-making supplies but I don't have any. And I didn't think I would find a feature like that very comfortable. Of course, the only alternative was sewing up the crotch like you would for a bathing suit. 

Making this thing was never about creating a practical addition to my wardrobe though. It was about the experiment and the fun of sewing it.

September 2, 2016

Stripes, stripes, stripes

Slowly, my casual liking of striped fabric is growing towards full-on obsession... Two of my favorite garments from last summer were were made from striped jersey (that dress with the multicolour stripes and, earlier in the season, the not-so-normal t-shirt). Woven fabrics will always be my first love though... If I pass a fabric store/stall I'll always look at the striped fabric. Super synthetic stuff is out of the question, obviously. And I prefer stripes which are woven, or knit, in rather than printed but I can't turn down a printed stripe when it's going cheap...

All of this doesn't mean all stripe-y fabrics get sewn up as quickly as I can buy them. I've made a few but there is more fabric waiting for me.
This one is from two years ago: 


There was an earlier, much more obviously stripe-y dress. This one: 

I still love the design but those armholes are a bit uncomfortable nowadays. 

When I was planning that dress two years ago, I also had another dress in mind, paired with another fabric I already had.
This dress:

Which I though I could make from this fabric:

Almost immediately, I started second-guessing myself which is one reason why I didn't make the dress in the past two years. Some shades of orange look quite good on me. I found that out around the time that I bought that fabric and it has given me a bit of a love for the colour ever since. However... This particular shade of orange leans towards ochre yellow. A colour I like but really can't wear anywhere near my face. I can't tell how many times I have posed in front of the mirror with this stuff draped around me. 
the colour doesn't flatter me. It makes my skin looks kind of patchy and washed-out. And added to that is an issue with the stripes: They are fairly narrow and spaced in such a way that they are not that obvious. Like the fabric for that first dress, this one seems plain from a fairly small distance. Not great if I want to do some interesting things with the direction of the stripes.
It is nice cotton though, so I could always dye it. 
At the moment, I'm thinking about this dress again. I don't think I'll make the bodice quite like that, I'm thinking about a more standard and casual shirt-dress shape but that skirt still has its appeal.

August 31, 2016

Well and twisted

This is the last thing I made before going on holiday. I just finished it a few days before I left and it has stayed unblogged since: My new nejiri or twisted top!

The pictures aren't that good. I asked E to quickly take a few snaps when he got home yesterday. He obliged but we were both kind of tired and distracted so the result is eh... less than great.

Anyway, I have made this top, from Pattern Magic - Stretch Fabrics. The design is very similar to the nejiri from the first book (a design which was also intended for stretch fabrics) which I had made years ago. I've explained the differences, and my quest to better understand the design, in this blog post.
Coincidentally, I happened to have a fabric in my stash which looked very similar to what was used in the pictures for the book. A kind of olive-y, brown-y cotton jersey. So, obviously, I used that. 

I started using my own sloper, not the basic pattern from the book and I seem to remember I didn't add quite as much length as the instructions tell you to (I think I left out about 5 cm and also didn't make the bottom band quite as wide). I am slightly taller than the average Japanese woman these designs were created for but I noticed before that I apparently make different style choices when it comes to the length of tops. As it is, the top is still pretty long by my standards but I think the length is needed to make the "stopper" end up in a place on my hips where those are at a fairly even width. 

The looser shape of this top (compared to the previous nejiri) is interesting. In a lot of places, it doesn't show. All of the excess width there is taken up by the twist. But at one side of the bodice, there clearly is some extra ease. 

Oh, and those stoppers? They really work! At least, the one on the bottom does. My old top would start moving back the moment you had put it on with the twist in place. This one seems MUCH more stable. At the armholes and neckline, the bands are not as snug and there is less twisting in those areas. I don't think those stoppers really make a difference.

All in all, it was a fun experiment and it led to a wearable top. I think I will wear it but it doesn't feel completely "me".