August 26, 2010

Into my sewing history - part 3

After sifting through all my clothes when installing my new wardrobe, I promised you a whole series of blasts from my sewing past.
I've shown you two.
The old achievements were quickly pushed aside by new projects and newer plan... much like... No, let's not get philosophical about that. It's not so bad, after all, those old achievements were the building blocks of all mycurrent crafty endevours... much like.....

Joking aside, I thought it would be nice to do one more post with my old skirts. Completely apart from their looks, they represent an important step in my 'development' as a seamstress. They are the result of my very first tentative steps into pattern making.

I made these before taking lessons in pattern making, using a (unfortunately Dutch-only) book called 'Rok en co' (skirt and co'), with the subtitle 'for the lazy seamstress.
I would recommend this book to all beginners who like the notion of making patterns but lack the time or the love of math/technique to go all the way. It has loads of fun illustration and tutorials for several simple skirt patterns. And the sort of can-do attitude that encourages you to use it as a starting point for your own experiments.

I made these skirts based on the book's pencil skirt. The first one is long, has a little flare from just above the knee and a curved-up hemline. The second one is plain at the front but has a lace-up center back with three rows of circular ruffles underneath.

This skirt was based on the book's gored skirt tutorial. I made a long, plain 6 gore skirt before. This one is treated as a 6 gore skirt at the front and as a 8 gore skirt at the back. Instead of widening the gores themselves, I inserted the red satin godets. The skirt also is quite a bit longer at the back.
The pattern worked out fine, but this was the item which really showed me I needed some extra sewing skills. I had no idea how to make a good hem on such flared bits and the zigzagged seam allowances at the back were on show all the time.

The last skirt was a quick high-summer option. I used the pencil skirt pattern as a base for the yoke and the circle skirt tutorial to calculate the hole I had to cut in the rest of the fabric.

When I went to my first sewing technique and pattern making lesson, I took both of the knee length skirts and the voile blouse with me, to show the teacher my starting point. She was very nice about all of them and told me all I really needed to learn were some finishing tricks. Of course, then my sewing addiction really kicked in, I learned much, much more from her and the rest, as they say, is history.

August 22, 2010

experimental top tutorial

Here it is, by popular request: a pattern tutorial for the top in my previous post.
It is a pattern for jersey/knit fabrics and it should be sewn either on a serger or using a stretch stitch on the sewing machine (dedicated stretch stitch or small zigzag). It will take about 1 meter of 1.4 meter wide fabric and no additional supplies.
You will need some kind of pattern to use as a sloper. A standard fitted t-shirt is ideal (Burdastyle's Lydia for example) but it can be any pattern for any knit top, as long as it is at least waist length and has a set-in sleeve. I would always recommend using a tried-and-tested pattern. In this case, you will use the back neckline, the angle of the shoulders and the waist length and width.
All instructions and given measurements are without seam allowance.

1. Trace the back pattern piece onto a new sheet of paper, placing the center back at the left edge of the paper (put it on the bottom as well, the rest of your pattern will be drawn upwards and to the right). Make sure to mark the waistline.

2. Place the front pattern piece with the outer corner of the shoulder touching the corner of the back shoulder. Position it so that the center front is at a 90 d
egree angle to the center back line. Trace and mark the waistline.

3. Draw the waistline for the top at 3 cm under the sloper's waistline (front and back). The length of these lines stays the same.

4. Mirror the front pattern piece.

5. Draw a front neckline/warp-over bit as shown.

6. Draw a diagonal line, connecting the new waistlines.

7. Parallel to this line, draw another one, at 3 cm distance. Create a gentle curve from one to the other, making sure to keep the line straight in the middle.

8. Loosely measure the circumference of your arm above the elbow. Draw a half circle with that measurement as the size of its edge and its center in the middle of the line you've just made. (to find the radius of your half circle, double the measurement and divide by 6.28)

9. Now, your main pattern piece is finished. It will be cut with the center back on the fold. To make the waistband and the narrow bands for the neckline and armholes, you will need to make straight strips of fabric, cut on the crossgrain for maximum stretch.

10. For the neckline, measure front and back neckline on the pattern and substract the measurement by 10%. The pattern piece will be that length and 4 cm wide and should be cut on the fold.
For the waistline, measure the back waistline and the front one from the side to center front. Substract 10%. This pattern piece will be that length and 24 cm wide and should also be cut on the fold (that will give the waistband a center back seam, if you prefer seams at the sides, don't cut it on the fold)
For the armholes, Substract 5% from the armhole measurement. The piece should be 4 cm wide.

Sewing the top

A. Close the shoulder darts

B. Stitch side seams.

C. Fold the neckband in half lengthwise and right side out. Treat as one layer and pin and stitch it along the neckline, stretching it to fit.

D. Sew the short ends of the waistband and armbands together.

E. Fold the armbands and stitch them to the armholes like you did for the neckline.

F. Pin the front pieces of the main pattern piece so they overlap each other and the tip of each one is at the other's side seam (the right side, for the wearer, should overlap the left). From now on, the two front pieces should be treated as one layer.

G. Fold the waistand in half and pin and stitch it along the bottom of the main piece, stretching it to fit.

I hope I've explained everything clearly. If you make the top, I'd love to see a picture and if you blog about it, please let me know.

August 20, 2010

flat form experiment - top

It feels it's summer again today, and I really hope it will be here to stay for a little while, because I still plan to go camping for a few days. However, that hasn't stopped me from developing my autumn sewing plans.
I thought about photographing/scanning the stash fabrics I plan on using and post them with my sketches. Thought about it, and then decided against it. Neither photographs nor scans of fabric ever turn out right for me. Every digital device always wants to represent an equal spread of the colour spectrum, so if you try to get an image of a plain colour fabric, the results can be quite... eh.. surprising. I may try to get an image of a bunch of them together, later on.

For now, I would just like to show off my new top. It's one of my experiments: the pattern is very 'flat', part geometrical shape, part from sloper. I made it 'evolve' from the pattern for this top, made earlier this year. It has a warp-over front with a banded neckline and a wide, fitted waistband. The main pattern piece is almost a triangle, cut on the fold with 'dents' in it for the armholes, back neckline and shoulder darts (which need pressing, as I see in the second picture). Originally, I had planned to attach full length sleeves. Howeverm when I tried it on, I realised that, with the armholes in this position, there is slightly more material at the front than at the back. With these banded armholes, it doesn't matter if they are a bit higher at the back then at the front but with sleeves, it could get uncomfortable. Despite that, I'm rather pleased with both the look and the shape. I may try to make yet another step in the development of this part-free form design: a cardigan with sleeves.

August 18, 2010

On to autumn sewing

For the past few days, this has been the view that has greeted me in the morning. Although it's still fairly warm, this is clear sign that summer is ending, I would say.

Time to plan for autumn sewing. As usual, I really want to make use of the fabrics in my stash, I will be making my own patterns and trying to develop some new skills.
All the talk of hard-core tailoring and dressmaking on other blogs, has left me feeling like a bit of an under-achiever recently (althoug, to be fair, I make all my own clothes and rarely spend more than 10 euros on the material for one garment. So it shouldn't be a surprise that I don't always feel like making muslins and mock-ups and I never like basting...). Still, I definately want to make at least one jackets employing old-school tailoring techniques. Just for the experience.
The very thought of winter sewing makes me want to make jackets anyway.
They've never the most worn items in my wardrobe (because 1. not all jackets go
with skirts and 2. they can be too formal for some of my daily activities), but I just love making them. I think jackets or cardigans over colourful short sleeved dresses will be a look I'll try this year. And I bought more purple mystery crepe which I sort of want to make into a New Look suit...

I have been looking at pictures from the A/W 2010 fashion shows for inspiration as well. To me, the extreme shapes of high fashion tend to be a better inspiration than the everywhere-the-same stuff found on every high street. Toning things down and translating styles into wearable garments is something I can do myself.

I'm happy to see that the tapered leg trousers, which I've come to love, will still be an 'in' thing, as will beautifully flowy wide legged styles (like these, from Ann Demeulemeester). And of course, there are the longer and fuller skirts, which I've been loving all this summer.
I still like them, but not as much as I thought I would.
The Louis Vuitton show, which so many sewing bloggers have been raving about, actually looked a bit disappointing to me. Like something about the silhouet wasn't quite right... I prefer Dries van Noten for inspirational dresses for this winter (although, obviously, it's not about loving whole shows for me. it's about inspiring details and twists)

What has really surprise me however, is how much I love colour for this winter. There's always black for winter, and this year is no exception. And I've always loved it and I will probably make more black clothes, even if it's just because it's in my stash and it goes with the clothes I already have. However, out of all the shows I've looked at (I bought a magazine for the overview, looking at everything online would drive me crazy), this is what really got stuck in my mind.

Marni. I'm not loving all the shapes. Not at all. But just look at that colour palette: brown and ocher and red and turquoise. It seems like something which has been growing on me since way before I saw this. I've been looking for ocher and/or mustard coloured fabric since last winter and turquoise was my big colour discovery this summer. It's putting it all together to great effect that really blows my mind. Although it's way out of my comfort zone, I may just try and go for this kind of colour this winter...

August 14, 2010

A dress for the pinstripe - almost done

My thanks to everyone who gave their opinion on my previous post about this! Unfortunately for the later commenters, I had already cut this by then...
N.'s comment on how this would work as a feminine version of 'the suit' was particularly convincing.
And you are all absolutely right, of course: there's no way black pinstripe would ever end up looking 'milkmaid'. (although, Darci, I definately look like I'm on my way to check up on the cows with my hair in Heidi braids. I tried once, using Gertie's tutorial and my boyfriend thought he'd die laughing...)

I enjoyed drafting a 'serious' collar again. For a (learning) pattern maker, serious collars are those which are usually cut with the garment and require the application of mathematics to make them fall the way they should. Most of the time, this applies to shawl and notched collars.
I think the collar and neckline of this dress go a long way to avoid the not-so-sexy-librarian look (in fact, I wouldn't mind being an actual librarian, but hey, I didn't invent the fashion-lingo).

The dress has a drop waist darted bodice, a back shoulder yoke, that collar, three quarter length sleeves, a side seam zipper, a half circle skirt with the seams at center front and back, and a decorative 'waistband'. The close-up shows a bit more of how I used the stripes. It's unlined and, for now, still unhemmed. I'll leave it to hang for, at the very least, 24 hours and hem then, to avoid bias-stretch issues. Even though I don't think this fabric will stretch that much on the bias, I'm rather safe than sorry (to have to do double work).

If you were hoping to see me make the LV-version, don't be too disappointed: I'm still planning to try and make that top from the pinstripe scraps and I may just be tempted to make that whole dress design in blue cotton.

August 11, 2010

And here she is!

I'm still not entirely sure the stuffing is adequate, but I didn't think it a idea to keep redoing it indefinately. By the way, after cutting the taped dress off, I also put tape on the inside to stabilize it. I only closed it after that.
Mary is covered in grey-brown cotton jersey. I simply cut four pieces roughly to size (front and back bottom, front and back top), taped the first edges on and than overlapped the next piece, pinned it down and handstitched.
A little bit of 'plastic surgery' was needed at her breasts. The tape was rather wobbly there (probably from the t-shirt 'shrinking' back into shape after I took it off) so I put some small jersey scraps under the cover, to even out the offending bits.

What do you think? Does she look like me?

August 9, 2010

Stuffing Mary

Here she is! Yesterday E wrapped me in about two rolls of tape and, fortunately, cut me out of it again. I didn't take pictures of the process and I'm not goint to do a how-to because there are loads of those already. We used cheap fake gaffertape over a tight short dress. I made sure to tape over my shoulders and the very tops of my arms as well. Shoulders are very important for a good fit.
Today I closed the tape-and-dress construct up again and stuffed it with newpaper. I didn't want to press it down to hard at first, for fear of distorting the shape, however I soon realised that would allow the newspaper to shift later on, cause the collapse of curves. I actually had to open the bottom (closed with taped-on cardboard) and get half of the newspaper out twice, just to fix that. The problem is, you can only put pressure on the paper you can reach, it doesn't work well to try and compress all of it in the dummy.
I'm going to cover it in jersey later. I had the bottom half covered already but had to take it off to fix an indented hip. Oh well, a practice run. I had stretched the fabric a bit too much anyway.

August 8, 2010

The lady around the corner

I was asked to send in a picture of myself for the (promotion of) the Burdastyle book, so I wanted it to be a nice one... And I'm never very comfortable in front of the camera. Way too self-conscious.
So, with the deadline looming, I talked E into taking my camera and we made a little walk around the neighbourhood. I was wearing my turquoise dress.
I certainly won't be sending this one to Burdastyle, it's way to blurry, but I really like the look of it.

August 5, 2010

A dress for the pinstripe?

This week, I really wanted to make myself a dress in this infamous pinstripe fabric. I gave up the idea of making trousers from it a long time ago. You gave me too many appealing suggestions for dresses.

I thought I had finally cracked it.
Something like this. Practical, wearable if weather starts to cool down a bit more and with just a nice touch of vintage-style... and loads of opportunity to play with the direction of the stripes.

It was to get a half circle skirt with the seams at center front and back, forming chevrons. I originally planned for the front view on the left but while working on the pattern, I thought the collar on the right might work better.

I took a bit of ease out of my (standard ease included) sloper and made a quick bodice muslin to check the fit, the length of the dropped waistline and, crucially, whether or not I could get in and out of it with just a zipper in the bodice side seam.
And what do you think? It's rather nice isn't it? Quite suitable for a subtle stripe. Unfortunately, I think a fair amount of its nice-ness is down to the fact that the drabby lilac of this fabric actually suits my coloration rather well. Gentle and almost sophisticated. Now imagine the same shape in that pinstripe fabric, which besides being mainly black, has a bit of sheen and a very different, much sharper hand... Hm...

I have another option, inspired both by my shelf-bust dress and by the autumn winter fashion show looks (Louis Vuiton anyone?)

I could easily adapt the bodice of the other dress and in this design, I could in fact make use of the slight bit of stretch in this fabric (although that would bring up the question of lining). I might make a band of about 15 cm wide at the bottom of the skirt with the stripes running horizontally and of course, I could wear it, like the ones in the LV show, with a cardigan for autumn.
Only questions: would that be too much of a rip-off and/or would the effect be too 'milk-maid'-like?

Could you help me make up my mind?

August 2, 2010

New dress, now with more pictures

I've been too busy to pose in the shelf bust dress again, so instead I'm treating you to some more blurry-but-cute images of it, and a detail shot of the bodice as modeled by my not-so-faithful dressmaker's dummy.

Why do I talk down my dummy like that, you wonder? Well... I couldn't actually close this dress on her. Yep, her minimum bust circumference is still a bit bigger than mine and her breasts are not at the same height relative to the shoulder. I'm glad I bought her second hand, quite cheaply, because she mostly does service as a fancy clothes-hanger. I am planning on making an actual tape-body-double someday soon though. I've already enlisted E's cooperation, when I was complaining about how much easier it would be to envision techical workings of the bodice for this dress on a proper dummy.