December 30, 2009

Giveaway update

Less than 48 hours now to sign up for the New Year's Giveaway! I've been very impressed with all the nice comments so far. It got me thinking...
How about: if we reach 50 comments (by separate participants), I'll draw not one, but two names. Two lucky winners, who will each receive the pattern of their choice.
Of course, all the rules laid out originally still apply.


December 24, 2009

Weekly outfit nr.13


This skirt was the first item for which I drafted the pattern myself. I made it when I was taking a course in pattern making with M 2,5 years ago. It has a high waist and curved pieces set into the sides. The fabric was a wool remnant I bought at the fabric store. I wanted some good material for my first real own garment and it is. However, that also meant I had to make do with a small piece and was limited to making a fairly narrow skirt. It really is a winter skirt and I still love it.
The cardigan is one of a pair I whipped up last year from what was then a mystery fabric, which I had been able to buy very cheaply. On closer inspection, it turned out to be cooked wool knit. It's warm, a bit bulky and it doesn't fray or curl up. For those reasons, this cardigan is one of very few of my creations to have unfinished edges.

December 22, 2009

Cold snap

When I posted last week's 'weekly outfit', I fully expected the snow to be gone pretty quickly. That was why I took the effort to take the picture on my balcony. Usually, any snow we get here melts within two days. Little did I expect what happened next. On Saturday, the snow didn't melt and on Sunday, it was snowing again. We had snow all day on Sunday. It ended up being a layer of between 10 and 20 cm. In The Hague, the Netherlands! I haven't seen this much snow in my hometown for at least 5, but more likely 10 years. I know it's pretty pathetic compared to a lot of other places, but it's pretty impressive here. There were no trains on Sunday. A collegue of mine was stuck in another city and didn't get home until Monday afternoon.This is what it looked like from my kitchen window on Sunday morning (the layer of snow got thicker later on).



The snow is slowly starting to melt now, but might freeze up again tonight. Luckily, I can walk to work. Normally I ride my bicycle, but I'm not biking on slippery surfaces. Now, I walk through an eerily quiet city (the trams are still not back to their usual timetable). The pavements are covered in caked snow, the roads are muddy slush. You can't actually see where the one stops and the other starts, so I take big steps over the snow/slush mounts at the edges of the roads.
As M says, it has been great weather to stay indoors. Which is just what E and I did on Sunday. That gave me the time to do some sewing and look through my stash materials. I didn't really get to my fabrics because I spend a lot of time looking through this, and another (less picturesque) box like it.



My grandmother gave me her old boxes of buttons last year. There is no really fancy stuff in any of them, but I just love the stories these little collections tell. Similar buttons are oftern threaded on pieces of string, to keep them together. With the small ones, they often don't all match. It seems that some ladies in my family would cut the buttons of all worn-out, un-salvagable pieces of clothing and kept them in these boxes. As organized as possible. I used some of those not-quite-matching little mother-of-pearl button for my white shirt, and as always, told myself to come up with a design which would make use of some of the more eye-catching buttons. There are two other, very small boxes holding old cufflinks, plastic broches and a belt clip. I'll show you those later, hopefully when I use some of their contents.
I just love sewing supplies with a history. Do you have any of those stories as well?

December 19, 2009

A new and different shirt

From time to time, I tend to get a little annoyed with the strict and structured look of most of my creations. Most of the time I love it of course, but not all the time. Owning a serger and being able to make things in jersey has improved this matter, but especially when it comes to tops, it will still hit me every once in a while. This time, the topic was the blouse. Most of mine are fitted and made from a fairly stiff cotton. It is shirtweight but tends to seem a bit starched and just never gets drapey. It happens to be one of the fabrics I can always buy at the local market, so it gets used a lot.

I wanted something flowy, with a wider but still feminine fit and preferably still having the features of a normal button-down shirt. I made some muslins with a wider, undarted body shape and hated them all. Then I remembered this picture from an '08 magazine and decided to do something a bit like that. I drafted the pattern, including my widest sleeve to date.


The fabric I used has been in my stash for a year and a half. I bought it at the fabric market, which is held twice a year. Back then, I thought it was all cotton, but on closer inspection now, I realised the weft threads may be cotton, but the warp threads are something else, most likely polyesther. The things you learn in a year...


When sewing this, I loved my new sewing machine. The old one would have eaten such a delicate fabric. This one didn't even make it pull at the seams.
Because the fabric is a bit sheer, I used white organza instead of the usual lightweight fusible interfacing. I had never done this before, but it worked quite well. I just cut pieces with seam allowance and treated them as one piece with one of the pieces in fabric.
Originally, I made big cuffs for the sleeves, but as soon as the first one was on, I tried the shirt on and hated the look of it. In the end, I opted for binding the sleeve edges with strips of bias cut fabric. They are kind of three quarter length but I think that's OK with such roomy sleeves. It keeps them out of the saucepans ;)

I can see myself wearing this, as soon as the weather starts to warm up again. I still have about a meter of the fabric left, which will become a sleeveless top with ruffles (yay! for rolled hems on the serger)

Oh, and don't forget, there's still plenty of time to enter the giveaway...

December 18, 2009

Weekly outfit nr.12


A picture in a different setting this week.
So far, apart from a few days in early November, we hadn't had much in the name of cold weather here in Holland, this winter. Until this week that is. The first part of the week was cold and bright, with midday temperatures around freezing point. Then, yesterday, there was snow. Lots of it, in the northern provinces. Where I live in The Hague, in the southern half of the country and close to the sea (yes, it's a small country, but for things like snow, a few miles can make all the difference), it got to about 5cm. Which is a lot by the standard of recent years. We tend to get between two and four days of snow here. It's here now, but that's by no means a garantee for a white Christmas. In fact, just a single day of frost around the clock is enough the make skating enthousiasts dream of marathons on the canals.

For me, the weather offered the opportunity to show off the city I live in in unusual garb and to show you some of my warmer clothes. I made the coat in late winter, two years ago. So late in fact, that I could hardly wear it anymore that year. It's an A-line coat in thick black wool with broad leather edges. It closes with covered buttons. With it, I'm wearing my wide, belt pleated tweed trousers and a simple black shirt, both made about exactly a year ago.

December 13, 2009

links etcetera

I have just started on the creation of a list of links here. I have added the links mentioned in the comments, so under "fellow selfmade fashionista's" you will find fellow seamstresses, sewing forums and ladies who record their personal style and their sewing efforts. This is by no means a complete list yet, so if you know something I really show include, feel free to let me know.
Under "tutorials and (free) patterns" I have mentioned only those sites that also have free and/or unusual stuff on offer. After all, we all know how to find the nearest pattern seller. I'm sure I forgot a great source of historical sewing patterns, but I didn't bookmark the site, so I can't find it right now.

added comment: I have just found the site I was looking for, fortunately the URL was on a pattern I downloaded from there. I've added it to the list.

December 12, 2009

New Year's giveaway

As I promised before: here's the real announcement of my custom pattern giveaway.
You can take part by leaving a comment to this post, until the stroke of New Year (GMT+1). Your name will be entered in the draw twice if you place a link to my blog, either in an own post, or among your links.
On New Year's Day I will pick a winner at random (I think I'll just write down all the names and pick one from a hat) who will recieve the pattern of her choice from the designs shown below, lovingly handmade to her size by me (your Burda size would be all I need to know, but if you know you've got issues with e.g. the back length or shoulder size they use, let me know).
You don't need to take your pick or tell me your size just yet. I will announce the winner on the blog and ask her to mail me her choice and size.

These are your options:


this little shrug which you may have seen on Wardrobe Refashion already. It could be made in any jersey or knit and will come with a long sleeve option as well.



or a kimono-sleeved top with a V-neck at the back. For practical reasons, I made the back high enough so you can wear a bra underneath. You can see me wearing mine in this post.



and I am considering to add a third option, something like this... I can't show you any pictures of it though, because I haven't yet made it myself.

Let me know what you think!

December 11, 2009

Weekly outfit nr.11

Tonight, my boyfriend's band, Apparition (he plays the bass guitar) is performing for the first time in months. So, of course I'm going along to show my support. Which is, at least partly, the reason for this outfit.


T-shirt: Apparition-bandshirt (first version girly shirt ;)
trousers: black jeans I made about two years ago. I believe these were my second pair of self-drafted trousers, sporting my first set of bound pockets.
'winged' cardigan: made this summer. I posted a how-to on Burdastyle.

December 10, 2009

verdict and teaser

Thank you all for your comments on my last post! I am wearing those trousers right now, they are quite comfortable and I no longer feel so self-conscious about it. When I was in the fabric store this afternoon, the lady cutting fabric for me asked whether they were self-made, and told me she really liked them (Ok, I was wearing my coat, so she couldn't see the top part).

Unfortunately, it's been another dark, grey day so I haven't been able to take any pictures. I need to, not just for this week's outfit but as illustration for a new little plan of mine, too.
This is it, and how it came to be. Months ago, I send a pattern I made to fellow-seamstress/blogger Melissa, who at that time needed things to keep her busy during a long hospital stay (to which she could bring a sewing machine). Now, she has just posted about the dress she recently made from it. Quite enthousiastically (my old cell phone used to have a 'smiling and blushing' smiley, if I knew how to make that one on my keyboard, I would use it now).
Now, I do rather like to get great reactions to my pattern making efforts, so I thought I'd go ahead and make a pattern for one of the readers of this blog (just to keep it do-able, I'll stick to patterns for knit/jersey things based on Burdastyle's Lydia for sizing). There will be an official post about this tomorrow, outlining the 'rules' for the giveaway and, most importantly, showing sketches and pictures of the pattern options you will be able to choose from.

December 7, 2009

trying a new shape


I would like to ask you to give your honest opinion about this.

I've been looking at belt pleated trousers in high fashion magazines for a while now, and the idea slowly warmed to me. So I decided to try and make a pair for myself. As usual, I drafted my own pattern (some of the belt pleated trousers I liked in magazines had lower waistbands, but I kind of liked the high waist in the muslin). I'm reasonably satisfied with it, if I wanted to make this again my only change would be to make the pocket entry a little deeper than it is now.
For fabric, I used the same thin wool as for the flared trousers.


What I'm not so sure about, is the look. It doesn't help that it seems like it just doesn't go with just about anything in my wardrobe (proportion-wise, that is) but that isn't even the whole point. I've been trying it on while I was working on it and afterwards and my own reaction varied from: "Wow, this is cool" to "this is just weird".
My boyfriend, who is usually quite helpful at a point like this because he is utterly unbiased by any knowledge of the latest fashion, only had to offer one very helpful (not) comment: "it's 80's". Now, normally, that makes something just wrong in my book. I did the 80's first time around. In this case, I'm not so sure. I was a child in the 80's so although I did wear leggings by the end of the decade (meaning that I 'did' that 80's staple first time around), I'm pretty sure I didn't have trousers like these at any point. And even if I did, would it really matter? What comes around, goes around, and in fashion, the weels only seem to turn faster and faster...

I hope you can see my point. I'm looking forward to reading your thoughts on this and I should really give these the wear-out-of-the-house test this week.

weekly outfit nr.10


Ok, I know I'm cheating a bit here. I should have posted this last week, but I was busy with other things and the weather was so hidiously gray and dark that there just wasn't enough light in the house to take any photographs.
If I swear I wore this last week (on friday, to be precise), had it on a chair in my bedroom for a few days, and put it on to take this picture before putting it in the laundry, would that make any difference? ;)


In this picture, I'm wearing the new dark grey trousers I wrote about before, a cooked wool cardigan I made about a year ago (I posted about it on Burdastyle back then) and a very simple black top from H&M which I have owned for at least 2,5 years (this is one of a very few RTW staple items which I still wear a lot).

November 29, 2009

on flared trousers

I got some nice comments on my latest pair of trousers (both here, and on Wardrobe Refashion) and with them, some questions about the pattern. The pattern is, like that of most of my creations, drafted by me. Therefore I can't give you an easy route to making them. However, I can share a few simple tips.

If you're going to alter a pattern, any pattern, use one you've used before, or make a muslin first. Use that to sort out the fit.
For this project, you need a fairly basic trouser pattern. Leg shape doesn't really matter but the pattern should be fitted at hips and waist and, if you want a style like mine, have a fly front, a waistband in curved pieces and scoop pockets.


To make things easy for yourself, trace the main pattern pieces (front and back legs) on a new piece of paper. Then, you alter the leg shape like the (very clumsy) drawing shows. Starting to widen the leg at different points will result in very different looks. Start at the knee and you will get a boot-cut to 70's flare, depending on the width at the bottom (see the jeans in weekly outfit nr.9). Start at the hipline/crotch and your trousers start looking a bit like culottes. For my trousers, I started widening the legs at about mid-thigh, flaring out more from the knee down. At the bottom, they are between 55 and 60 cm wide. Of course, I don't have to tell you that to get a great end result, the bottom width should be considered in relation to the rest of the measurements.
Happy sewing!

November 28, 2009

Playing catch-up (and weekly outfit nr.9)


I'm afraid I got a bit behind on posting this week. In part, the weather is to blame for this. For most of the week, it's been raining so much that there was hardly any proper daylight. Not good for taking pictures...

I'll try to make up for it now. First of all, a new 'weekly outfit'.

I made the top last week, and wore it for the first time this week. It is made from woolmix knit and was my attempt to make kimono/batwing sleeves work on me. Roomier ones require a different kind of figure, with breasts... This particular shape probably wouldn't work in a woven fabric (too confining) but it's fine in a knit. For added interest, and to have an excuse for a center back seam (and thereby saving fabric) I made a fairly deep V at the back. The trousers are one of the first things I made using my new sewing machine, somewhere back in June. I still really like the fit-and-flare shape, the topstitching details and the pockets with flaps.

It occured to me that this top is hardly the only recent creation I haven't shown yet. So, I'll show the rest as well.


I made this dress last weekend. Unfortunately, the picture isn't very clear, but it has a smocking detail at the front under the bust. I kind of like it, but it's a style I have to get used to. I've been wearing it with a little bolero jacket in black jeans. Both for warmth, and to give it a bit of an edge.


For this blouse, I used the first pattern for a top I ever made. I only changed the collar. I'm not that happy with it. I love the original blouse (which is black and has a larger and floppier collar) and have worn it a lot. When I bought this gray cotton for one of E's shirts, I was convinced that it would be a good colour for me too, and so I bought extra fabric. Yet, I'm stuck with a blouse which somehow doesn't look or feel quite right to me... I think it's mostly a colour-thing and I wouldn't be surprised if washing it helps with the rest(that will take the starch out of the fabric). Lately, even my crazier plans usually work out, so I'm a bit surprised at the being disappointed by what seemed to be a very safe project...
Well, better next time.


These trousers, I finished just this morning. I realised a while ago that I didn't really have any good trousers anymore, excluding the jeans. The pair in black stretch twill I've had for two years are pretty faded by now, so no longer good for more formal occasions. I used the pattern I made for that much loved pair and made a new one using thin charcoal grey woolblend. Flared legs, scoop pockets at the front, single welt pockets at the back.
I bought 4 m of this fabric, so you're going to see more of it. I'm slightly addicted to making jackets (although I try to keep that in check, I don't wear jackets that much...) so there will probably be one of those. And I'm sorely tempted to try and make a pair of belt pleated trousers. Which could be either great, or a total disaster. I'll keep you informed.

Lastly, I've got a museum/city tip to share. Last Thursday, M and I went to the Antwerp Fashion Museum, MoMu. We saw the exhibition about Belgian leather brand Delveaux (handbags from the 1930's till 2000, plus history, patterns and an impression of the atelier), work by incredebly talented first year BA students of the Antwerp Fashion School (I strongly suspect these people graduated from some other art school before starting there, that would explain the level of their work) and at Modenatie (a separate store/galery bit) items from the Yohi Yamamoto winter collection. And, despite the appalling weather, we did some great window shopping along the Nationalestraat (where the museum is located). Now, this exhibit is too small to be worth a long trip, but if you happen to be near Antwerp, or have some way of getting there easily and cheaply, it is definately worth a place on your to-do-list.

November 20, 2009

weekly outfit nr.8



This is what I meant a while ago, about my old 'interesting skirt, black turtleneck' habit...
I only made the skirt I wear today. At least a year ago, maybe longer. The fabric for it was a remnant from a usually fairly expensive seller and, true to form, I wanted to use all of it. And I really liked the look it had when I just draped the fabric around my hips trying to come up with a design.

When I published it on Burdastyle, several people wanted to know how to make it, but I never got around to making a how-to.
Until now, that is. All you need to make a skirt like this, is a basic pattern for a straight skirt with darts. Then, you have to adept the pattern like this (the dotted line marks the hipline):



The sketch shows an normal highth skirt pattern, mine is high waisted, obviously there is plenty of room for variation there. I also made separate waist pieces (with a gentle curve, no point) at the front, just because I like to make sure the front and back have some kind of relation to each other, appart from being attached at sides.
Keep in mind that the wrong side of the fabric will show at the back drape. When sewing the skirt, you have to stitch the center back seam of lower piece first, with the wrong sides of the fabric facing. If the length of the skirt requires a walking slit, leave a piece at the bottom open. Then, you finish the edges of the drape piece (I narrowly hemmed by hand) and sew the upper back piece together. The tricky part come next: attaching to whole thing neatly. No real trick to help you there, this just takes some careful sewing. Once that's done, you can treat it like any other back-of-skirt.

November 18, 2009

Coat finished!





I finished my coat today. I managed to get most of the work done yesterday and found rather nice buttons this morning at the market. Fairly large fake horn ones with large holes, so I decided to unravel a scrap of fabric and attach the button using light coloured threads from the fabric itself (pulled then through and made a knot at the back of the button, then sewed that down using normal thread).
Then, I went back home to make buttonholes. Which was an absolute nightmare and took almost 3 hours. The thing is, my lovely new sewing machine can do no less than 7 different automatic buttonholes. All I have to do is position the garment under the buttonhole foot and press 'start'.
But it decided not to like the thick layer of very loosely woven wool I gave it today. I kept fighting transport problems. First, when making tests, I realised that my usual coat style buttonhole wasn't going to work and eventually, I found one which seemed to work a lot better. When I used it on the coat however, there were problems. I only had to do two buttonholes, but I had to rip out the top one three times, which is a total pain in the .. in this type of fabric. I considered giving up and simply sewing on the buttons with snaps at the back, but I didn't (well, I did put a snap on the inside, instead of a smaller button). I wondered why I hadn't been more ambitious and made welted buttonholes (because of the fraying fabric, I know that).
In the end, I got the job done and it doesn't look bad, but I wasted a lot of time and good mood. File under 'new sewing machine learning curve' I guess...

Despite the buttonhole-misery, I am very happy with the finished product. I'm actually quite pround of myself for making such a different shape of coat. I see myself exploring the territory beyond fitted things lately. And although I love fitted things, I really like this new ground I'm gaining. It takes a peculiar kind of confidence to put on and make things which don't cling to every curve (although of course, as always, what will work is very much dependant on individual body shape).






November 17, 2009

A coat in the making - sewing secrets everyone should know




Today, I have been able to do a lot of work on my new coat. I loved it, and I'm really looking forward to seeing it finished and wearing it. I just hope I can find the right buttons on the market tomorrow.

Working on it got me thinking: is there anything I do in coat construction which could be considered a 'sewing secret', something I could share here?

Earlier, someone asked me for tips on sewing heavy wool fabrics. Honestly, I don't think I have any. In my experience, midweight and heavier woolen make the most lovely fabrics for sewing. The stretch of the fibre itself makes it very forgiving and it allows itself to be molded into shape by sewing and pressing. Handling the sheer bulk of a thick wool coat under the sewing machine arm can be tricky, but, once again, the fabric is very forgiving. Even if your stitches get uneven because the fabric got snagged somewhere, it won't show through the texture of the fabric.

That is a bit of a sewing trick by the way, one I assume most of you are very well aware of already: always press your seams. It may sound fussy, but believe me it's worth it. Having all your seams pressed can turn your creation from housework to personal couture. And it will make things like creating welt pockets and inserting gussets a lot easier.

The real 'sewing secret' I wanted to share in post, however, is another one: know your fusibles. Choosing the right kind of interfacing for the job at hand can be almost as important as choosing the right fabric. And you can forget about vlieseline straight away, there's a whole world of woven and knit fusible interfacings out there which work a lot better for most jobs. Vlieseline is made from fibres which have been pressed together. This means that in one direction, you can easily pull it apart and it can get quite stiff and 'paper-y' when ironed on. I only use it to back the fabric where I want to make something like a welt pocket. Because it is made of pressed fibres, it can't fray. Usually, I use a light woven fusible for shirt collars and button bands and a heavier kind for skirt and trouser waistbands or facings.
Elaborate wool garments like coats and jackets get a special treatment. M taught me this when I made my first coat and jacket, under her guidance. You can buy a special kind of fusible interfacing for wool fabrics. It resembles thin, soft, loosely woven webbing and should be applied all over the inside of the garment (excluding seam allowance). When pressing it on (you can use steam with this stuff), you have to use a pressing cloth, otherwise it will stick to your iron.
'Interfacing' (yes, I know it's technically cheating to use that term here) like this will prevent unraveling and add weight and 'body' to the fabric, allowing you to create a garment like soft sculpture.

November 16, 2009

Confessions of an obsessive seamstress - a coat in the making


Thank you for the comments on my winter coat post. I thought I should give you an update about it. Here is a picture of a quick 'n dirty muslin for the 'barrel'-coat. I decided to try that one first, as it would be the most practical, and I came up with a bit of a plan to use the black fabric for a coat for my boyfriend as well (I've got 4 m, but the New Look coat might just use up all of that).
The weather is unusually warm for the time of year, so I haven't had any real need for my winter coat so far.




I should confess here and now that I'm completely obsessed with making my own patterns. Someone pointed out a rather wonderful vintage reproduction Vogue pattern which could be used for a coat like this, but to be honest, I was never really going to use that... The last two patterns I bought (vintage reproduction Vogue dresses) are still unused on the shelf. I have opened the envelopes and studied the pieces and the fabric lay-out in order to understand their construction. Ever since I learned to make my own patterns three years ago, when take a course with the wonderfully talented M, I have been hooked. In my opinion, nothing can beat the fit of a garment made from you very own basic sloper.

So, I made the pattern for this coat. This is actually the second muslin, I made an earlier one just for the body and sleeve shape, but thought it needed yet more room in the chest to really get the loose barrel-shape effect. I decided this would be a great opportunity to try out the square set-in sleeve which I have been looking at in my pattern-making books before. The coat is double breasted and has a large notched collar (it will be smaller than it looks now, I made only half of it in the muslin and left the seam allowances on).

I have cut the fabric, but I'm procastinating a bit at the start of construction. I really wanted to use my usual fusible interfacing for wool fabric, but my usual supplier had run out of the stuff. He said he wouldn't get any untill the new year and sold me two other types, which are, unfortunately both stiffer than the usual stuff. I'm a bit worried. This coat needs a bit of body to show of the shape and make it look neat, however it also needs a bit of drape to make all that bulk work with the body inside....
I'll let you know how I get on.

November 14, 2009

Weekly outfit nr.7


It was rather hard to take a proper picture of this one, but I assure you: it looks kind of nice in real life.
I made the jeans about a year ago. The shirt is new. It started out as this dress, with which I was happy at first. However, it didn't live up to that in wearing. The big pleat it had made it pull towards the back quite badly and all the buttoned bits made me think of various kinds of old-fashioned hospital wear. So, I cut it short, took out the pleat and decided to see if it would work any better as a shirt. I think it's Ok when teamed with high waisted trousers or skirts and it managed to get my boyfriends sign of approval.

On another note: remember those shirts for my boyfriend I told you about? He mentioned today that a collegue of his was absolutely amazed to hear they were home-made...

November 11, 2009

Just an update

Last week, I had some more time on my hands for sewing. I still dedicated most of it to sewing shirts for certain men in my life ;)My boyfriend has a new job which means he isn't wearing overalls all day anymore. And he happens to be addicted to the comfort and fit of my made-to-measure shirt block... In the past month or so, I've made him no less than three new shirts.The other man benefitting from my shirt making skills is my younger brother. It's his 22nd birthday next week and he loves the two I've made for him before.

For myself, I made the bag (see below) and played around with refashioning an old jumper of E's. I made the cardigan in last weeks outfit and this cowl-thing out of one.



This flappy-collared vest was made from the second jumper.



A few little tips for this kind of thing:
- Use a basic fitted t-shirt pattern as shape to start with. I used mine for both cardigans. It will give you a proper shoulder- and neckline and a proper sleeve (even if you don't use the side shaping, like I did in the last one). When using a thick knit, cut 1 cm wider than you would for jersey. Once you have your basic body-bit, improvise from there.
- I'm afraid you need a serger for knits like this. And take care with the settings. I tested them before I started sewing and ended up with the differential quite high to avoid pulling the fabric out too much.
- If you want to make a nicely finished, invisible hem, first serge the edges, then fold them in and stitch them down by hand.



The last thing is something I started on in the weekend and finished yesterday. Leather trousers. I bought a pair which I knew to be too large for me at my usual thrift stall a few months ago (for just 5 euros). I had to build up courage and come up with a plan to make them smaller. Eventually, I manage to get away with just taking in the side seams (although that meant taking out and re-attaching most of the lining). It's a new look for me and I have to get used to it, but these will be great in cold weather.

bag tutorial

A few weeks ago, my self-made grocery-bag was stolen. After handling with the obligatory bussiness of blocking and replacing credit cards, mobile phone and things like that, I realised that this left me without my favorite large take-it-anywhere-bag. I just had to make a new one.




It's quite a change from the old one, but I had left the pattern of that with a friend a while ago, and I didn't feel like having to dye canvas fabric again, while I had this great Ikea print in my stash. The fabric wasn't going an
ywhere there because I considered it too stiff and rough for clothing.

I just freehanded at making this bag, but this is how you could do the same.
The pattern looks roughly like this:


You can make it any size but mine is about 60 by 65 cm. The band (about 4 cm wide) at the top should be interfaced and will later be turned in, this will be the facing. If you line the bag, cut the lining from the pattern minus this top bit.
First, you sew the darts, than the outline of the bag. Do the same for the lining.
If you what to make pockets (inside or outside), put them on the panel where you want them before sewing the outline.
Decide on the length and placement of your shoulder straps, sew them and attach them to the top of the band (if you make fabric straps, interface them for strength).
Right sides together, sew the bag and the bag lining together along the top edge, catching the shoulder straps in the seam. Turn it right side out through a gap in the lining outline seam (and close that by hand). Make sure to turn in the facing, and topstitch it in place. Also topstich the shoulder straps to the facing.
Now, you have a finished, flat bag. To give it a nicer shape, I folded side seams in at the top of the bag and sewed them down about 4 cm further down (picture follows tomorrow)

I hope these instructions were helpfull, let me know if there's something I need to explain better.

November 7, 2009

Weekly outfit nr.6


If you follow Wardrobe Refashion, you may have seen a part of this outfit already. I posted the cardigan there the day before yesterday, just after completing it. If you don't follow WR, here's the story: my boyfriend had two large sweaters in a tweedy wool-poly rib knit. They were outdated in shape and had been taking up space in our wardrobe without being worn for as long as we've living together (more than 4 years now). So I convinced him to let me have them. This cardy was one of the results.
Today, I've teamed it up with my beloved circle skirted wrap dress and thick ribbed stockings. I'm quite pleased with having found a way to wear the dress in autumn/winter (although I wouldn't wear it on my bike, or when going out for a long walk). I made the dress at the end of summer '08, in an effort to come up with a wrap dress that would work for my body shape (contrary to popular belief, wrap dresses are not universily flattering. they gained that reputation by being flattering for ladies with larger breasts, something which most other dress styles fail at miserably)

November 2, 2009

The coat conondrum

I'm thinking of making myself a wintercoat. I kind of need one.
I actually made two last year, and I still have an old RTW one... However, the old one is looking really bad by now and is only kept on its hanger in the hallway for those rare occasions when you have to do dirty work outside, in winter. And one of the coats I made was, sadly, the subject of my last real fabric faux pas. It's made from a fabric the colour of raw red cabbage, which looks woolly on the outside. The inside however, is plastic-y knit. This stuff is of such bad quality that it looks completely worn out after just one season in which the coat wasn't even worn every day.
The other coat I made is an A-line one in luxurious black wool, with wide black leather edges at sleeves and hemline. I still love it and I hope I will keep wearing it for years to come. However, its shape means it's not ideal in every situation (like going to the market by bicycle...).

So, now you know why I'm thinking about making a coat. Now, the question is: what kind of coat? Although I was pondering practical reasons just one line above, I'm never one to really let those overrule the need for style (if I were, I'd just buy a parka and be done with it) so I will still want some kind of beautiful coat.

I've got two very different coat fabrics in my stash: about 4,5 m of rather densely woven (and fairly stiff) black wool and 1,5 - 2 m of wool blend with an oversized herringbone weave, in black and beige. The herringbone fabric is loosely woven so it would have to be interlined for warmth.

At first I had the black wool earmarked for a long coat, preferably a vaguely '30s style number, so no wide skirts. Now, because 1930's coats are usually calf length and have massive shoulder pads, I haven't been able to come up with any likable sketches for such an item. What I did keep coming back to, was this: oh yes, that's supposed to be a New Look -alike coat.




The option for the other fabric is this: a bit tapered swagger, a little masculine and a bit of Balenciaga barrel-coat. What I really like about this, is the notion of snuggling up comfortably in its warmth, which is somehow what the wide top part seems to promise.





Do you have any suggestions for me? About these two, or any other great ideas which I just haven't come up with?

October 31, 2009

Weekly outfit nr.5


... and my latest creation (for myself, that is) and my official iwadd-look. It's a simple dress made from heavy black knit fabric. The seller swore it was 100% cotton, but I've suspected it all along of containing polyesther. Despite of that it is comfortable and makes a nice winter dress. It has pleats at center front and back, a high collar which closes with snaps along the left shoulder seam, and sleeves with puffed tops (I could claim them as leg-o-mutton sleeves, but I believe they're a bit small for that).
This dress was, once again based on my personal sloper. However, if you wanted to make something similar, you could start with a basic fitted T-shirt pattern, follow my how-to on Burdastyle for the 'blue jersey dress with pleats' for the body and visit www.vintagesewing.info for a tutorial on how to make the sleeves.
My apologies for not making proper links at the moment, but the vintagesewing-site tells me it exceeded its bandwidth limit and I'm not able to find back my own how-to on the new-school Burdastyle site. If possible, I'll add links later.
Vintagesewing-link should be working now.

October 23, 2009

International Wear a Dress Day is coming up!

If you don't read Dress a Day (and I really think you shouldn't miss it if you're into vintage style, sewing or anything like that), just follow this link to read all about the second Annual International Wear a Dress Day. The day's first observance was was dreamt up on that blog last year in September, and the second one will be held coming Thursday, October 29.
What is point of this you asked? To wear a dress. Not a skirt or a tunic/dress over trousers, but a real dress. The point of it really is just to celebrate personal style (if dresses are among the things you like) and to make the average image of people in the street a bit more colourful, whimsical and/or elegant.

I'll make sure to wear a dress that day. I haven't decided which one yet (depends on the weather), but I'll let you know.

October 22, 2009

Weekly outfit nr.4


If last week's featured outfit was a clear illustration of how I used to dress all the time, this one shows how looks can evolve.
The dress is Burdastyle's Azalea (Ok, the pattern was still free when I made the dress...). I made it in the summer before last and although I like it, it hasn't been worn a lot. The jacket is a blazer in black linen which I made this summer (from my own pattern). I also have a black wool jacket, but for indoor wear on a fairly warm autumn day, this one seemed better.
This may not look that strange or spectacular to you, but it's an unusual look for me insofar that I haven't worn this as an outfit before. I tend to go for more structured dresses and wear my jackets with trousers. However if there's anything I like about my wardrobe, it's the chance to play around and try new things.

October 17, 2009

weekly outfit nr.3


This is a simple outfit, and it illustrates what used to be my personal 'uniform': an A-line skirt and a fairly fitted black turtle neck top. Over the past two years, my style of dressing has diversified quite a bit, but that doesn't mean I can never indulge in my old habits any more.

The top is one of three turle necks I bought last year for winter layering (my old sewing machine wouldn't do knits decently). I sometimes wear it on it's own when it's not that cold yet.
I made the skirt last year. The fabric is a lovely green and raspberry pink tweed which I found as a small remnant on a market stall. At barely 70 cm, it couldn't become the jacket I wanted, and so it languished in my stash for a year. Until I realised it just had to become something I would wear.
The skirt is longer at the back and has a box pleat there. Cutting the back in sections allowed me to use every last bit of the fabric.

October 16, 2009

Talking about museum exhibits...


In her comment to my post from yesterday, redsilvia made a suggestion, which I think you should all know about. Right now, there's an exhibition in Paris of the work of Madeleine Vionnet.

Now, as a distance to travel to go and see an exhibition, Paris is, like London, not impossible to me. Although it would be a bit extravagant. I really hope any of the vague plans for going to Paris for a day (which M and I have been making) will come true...

Of course, for any fashion history freak like me, a chance of seeing Vionnet's work shouldn't be missed. After all, we are talking about the designer who is credited with single handedly inventing both the bias cut and draping as a design technique, and who shares with Chanel and Poiret the claim of having liberated women from the corset.

October 15, 2009

Petite main? Well...


At my most recent visits to my local library, I stumbled across a treasure trove of fashion history related books. Usually the really good stuff remains well hidden, or more likely is grabbed by other people first.
One of the books I'm holding on to for at least another week is the impressive catalog to the 'Golden Age of Couture' exhibit in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, almost two years ago. I wish I could have visited the exhibition itself, but unfortunately I didn't have the time or the money to go back then. The book however is great: pictures of the dresses and suits in the museum's collection, loads of period photographs and tons of interesting information.

It is in this information that I learned some interesting facts about the inner workings of the mid 20th century couture house. I did explain to you, a while ago, that 'petite main' was a term for a couture seamstress didn't I?
Well, let me just say that the details are staggering: each couture house would have seperate ateliers for tailoring and dressmaking. A seamstress would spend her entire career in the same division. Actually, she would be expected to specialize in working with one particular material.

Coming to work as a couture seamstress, you'd have to start out as an apprentice for two to three years. Then, if your work was good, you could become deuxieme main debutante, or second hand. There were two more second hand levels before one could be promoted to premiere main qualifee, the lowest level first hand. Only after about ten years, you would reach (only if you continually and consistantly produced excellent work, of course) the position of premiere main hautement qualifee and be allowed to have full responsibility over the creation of a piece, from cutting to finishing.
Obviously, we are talking about women who worked at the atelier (workrooms where a lot of women worked literally side by side under the constant supervision of the head of the workroom) five full days a week (more when a show was coming up), all year round.

Now, I can see how far a stretch it was to adopt the name of 'petite main' for this blog. At the rate mentioned above, I might just have passed apprenticeship, which would mean I would be allowed to do some actual sewing (not just finishing) but I certainly wouldn't be trusted anywhere near the cutting table.
Maybe it's good I made that little error in my French grammer... this way, I could claim I didn't want to put my betters to shame...

October 9, 2009

weekly outfit nr.2


Not a very exciting entry for this week. Black trousers and a blue top. But things which don't look very special can be very exciting creations for other reasons.

I made the trousers over a year ago. The pattern was based on my personal sloper, which ensures a great fit. They've been worn a lot since then. I often have to pull them off drying line. Actually, I should really make myself another pair.

The top is one of just two things I managed to 'sew' without sewing machine. This one could be made entirely on the serger. And, in fact, this unasuming item of clothing represents a small personal victory to me, a little chunk of progress in my development as a (dare I write it) designer...
Untill this point all tops I made my own patterns for have been fitted to the waist. Flared trousers? Fine! Big skirts? Of course! A-line jackets? Sometimes. But tops? ...
This one is only fitted at the hip, has raglan sleeves and a loose cowl. It's not very wide but there's a reason for that too. I've tried the 'fitted at the hip, big kimono/batwing sleeves on top'-thing, and I can tell you this: if there's one style which really requires a good set of boobs, it's that. My straight and flat frame just seems to be erased by that particular style. So, I made this top in and effort to find a middle road between that and skinny fit T-shirt.

Yeah!! to making your own basics!

Tomorrow, I can finally pick up my sewing machine. I'm really looking forward to it. So many refashion and creation ideas are lined up for that occasion...

October 1, 2009

Weekly outfit nr.1


I've thought up something new: from now on I'll try to show you one outfit each week. Something I've really worn in that week. Not because I'm so vain and think I've got the best sense. Actually, I'd be very interested in links to blogs where other people do the same thing.
To me, it's not about fashion. It's about promoting making your own clothes, loving them and developing a personal style. I make most of what I wear and my day-to-day looks range from the fairly standard jeans-and-top to eclectic mixes of retro shapes.
Although I make a lot of the patterns myself, I'll make sure to include links for those pieces I did make using tutorials.




Autumn in the Netherlands started yesterday, so it was time to wear thights again. I'm wearing a fitted shirt with pin tucks and a point collar made last winter, from a pattern based on my personal sloper and a short, pleated wrap skirt I made two years ago using this tutorial (only in German). I also made the bag two years ago. I took apart a shop-bought bag which I had used until it almost fell apart and used it as a pattern.

September 30, 2009

Vintage finds

Pictures! I'm finally home by daylight, on my own, without being crazily busy, so I decided to put my somewhat camera-shy self in front of the camera to show you something I found at one of my thrifty market stalls last week.

First up something less intimidating.




These two handbag were mine for 8 euros. There's a good bit of age to them, which shows in their nice clasp closures, leather linings and old-fashioned pulls on their inside zipper-pockets. They've also both seen better days. Especially the handles are in a sorry state. I'm thinking about replacing them. I've got some black metal chain in my stash, but it should really be yellow metal, don't you think?
The one on the left might be eel-skin or reptile and the one on the right snake. However, on close inspection it is clear that there made from leather or even plastic stamped to look like exotic skins (which is good). The 'snake-skin' looks like paper with plastic scales on it when you study the torn bit at the handle. I'll have to ask my bag-o-philiac friend if she can date them or tell me anything more.

The thing for which I had to pose is this:




It's a half circle skirt in soft red leather. Oh, and it has pockets.
I'm always on the lookout for cheap second hand leather items which I can cut up and use to make bags. This one, I found at a stall where I don't usually shop. It was 5 euros. I was intrigued by it but had my doubts about the elastic waistband. But at that price, what could go wrong? It would either be a special garment for me, or several bags.
I threaded in new elastic, making the waistband a bit tighter and I have to say, I kind of like it. The length, fullness and weight of the thing give it, at least in my mind, a bit of 'New Look'-appeal. It may not be practical in real life, but I'll give it a try. Here's one skirt which won't have a date with my scissors any time soon...

September 29, 2009

Of 16th century fashion and withdrawal symptoms

I know, I promised you pictures of my recent vintage/thrift finds. And I haven't delivered. Tomorrow I'll make up for it, I promise.

I'm feeling a bit out of touch with the sewing world, since I now know I'll be without my sewing machine for at least another week. I did make some fitting samples for a friend over at M's place today and I managed to come up with one knit design for which I could really get away with using my serger only, but overall withdrawal has set in nicely...




Knitting isn't really my sort of thing and although I finished the cowl-thingy I started on, I'm not happy with the result (the yarn was from stash and didn't last anywhere near as long as I hoped). And although I love pattern making, all that paperwork without even being able to try out a single thing get discouraging after a while.

Now the complaining is over and done with, I should tell you something. There was a reason why I mentioned my recent DVD-viewing to you in my last post. Costumes! Whenever I focus on something, I tend to develop some form of professional deformation (literally translated from Dutch, so I'm not sure whether or not that makes any sense in English) pretty quickly. So whatever I'm watching, I can't help but notice the costumes.




The Tudors is a wonderful recent historical series from the BBC (they just finished broadcasting season 3) about the life of Henry VIII. Despite being quite a history buff, I loved every bit of it. As far as I can tell the series is fairly historically acurate (although somewhere on the web, someone mentioned how by season 3, king Henry is looking way too handsome. That someone is right, but who would really want that to be different? After all, TV is a visual expierence first)

The costumes are very nice indeed. Rich in detail and you can actually see the passage of time in the changing fashion as well as in the aging of the characters. I have spotted some (mostly) ladies' styles which I don't believe to be genuine 16th century fashion. Anne Boleyn's dancing costume from season 1 for example, and at the end of season 2, you see Jane Seymore in a dress which shows her natural body shape, not as you'd expect, the angular lines of period corsetry.
One thing I missed in particular, was a fashion said to be introduced at the Tudor court by Anne Boleyn. The lady supposedly had an extra digit on one hand which she would try to hide with a clever choice of clothing. In her time as queen she introduced dresses with long, trailing sleeves or decorations at the sleeve which would cover part of a lady's hand.

These comments however, should not even be considered criticism. Of course, choices have to be made when the 'look' of a TV-series is created and it would be impossible to put every detail in.