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?