December 29, 2010

Last regular update for 2010?

Hi, everyone! I thought I'd just keep on blogging like normal, just in case you get the opportunity to read some blogs in this busy time of year ;)

To give you a bit of an update:

I made the shirt sloper for J (my younger brother) and, for the first time ever, it let me down. I think it may have more to do with J's skeleton-with-strong-muscles built, than with the sloper set-up or my rendition of it. Anyway, the sloper didn't fit at all, so I've got my work cut out.
And I should get started on that sooner rather than later because I will see him again on mum's birthday... tomorrow.

I have been sewing, but am still not very productive. Maybe I should stop reading history books, but I'm enjoying that too. And E being off work this week doesn't help either, of course ;)

I have made a well-considered cardigan, and found something to do with the 'too small for a t-shirt, too big to throw out' bits of jersey.

The cardigan requires a bit of explanation. Last year, and the year before, I have made some cardigans in interesting shapes from various thick knits (I think there are 4 in total). They usually started out more as shape-experiments or just as 'this would look nice in that fabric'. Rather than to fill an empty space in my wardrobe. Because it looks nice, many had short or three quarter length sleeves. Nice, but not very practical in thick knits...
I found myself liking them, but mostly wearing a rather plain short black cardi which was refashioned from a V-neck sweater ages ago. Just for sleeve length in what is still, despite the fact that the snow is now melting slowly but steadily, a rather cold winter.
Finally planning, I made this cardi from a woven cooked wool from stash (Oops, the pictures turned out a bit blurry). I've had this stuff for a year and it was dangerously hovering on the edge of 'I don't dare to cut into this' territory. As a woven, it doesn't stretch on the straight grain, but at any kind of angle, it does. I cut the cardigan on the biais which makes this fabric behave like a similar weight knit (of course, all plain weave fabrics will stretch when cut on the biais, but usually they shift and stretch in a way which is hard to control and makes the fabric very drapy).
It's a pattern I made myself. It has kimono sleeves, a deep V-neck and a waistband which is higher at center front and closes with three buttons from grandma's button jar. It is nice and warm and will (because of the roomy sleeve shape) work over tank tops as well as over tops with sleeves.

The solution for jersey 'not-quite' scraps is to make camisoles. Using fold-over elastic for the edges as straps, and stretch lace to make them look cute. I know panties would use up much smaller scraps, but right, I need these more.

And finally, I guess I should do some sort of end-of-year round-up or at least react to some very useful comments and try to reach a conclusion on the issue of the stretch velvet dress. I haven't forgotten, but I have yet to decide what to do...

December 24, 2010

Dressing for Christmas and New Year, in 1880

Let me try and get into the right mood for this post. I didn't have many Christmas preparations so far, but today I've been baking all afternoon and I fear my fruit loaf has burned...

I think I have already explained why I'm not sewing a party dress for the holidays. You know, notoriously casual-minded country, family who don't 'do' dressing up if it can, in any way, be avoided, the need to be able to ride a bicycle etc. etc.

But that doesn't mean I don't enjoy party dresses. And wish everyone just finishing one today the best of luck wearing it.

In the vintage sewing magazine series, I went looking back a bit further than last week. Turning once again to the pages of the 1880's publication Gracieuse.
I thought I would show some dresses recommended for Christmas parties back then. However, Gracieuse was a Dutch magazine and I guess that, in the 19th century, Christmas was, at least in these parts, still very much a religious holiday. The magazine appeared twice a month and in what might have been the Christmas issue (the second one for December) there is nothing christmas-y at all. In fact, that issue has two wedding gowns, some coats and several dark dresses for church.
The fist issue for December has these dresses, for girls. They seem to be having fun and their dresses are looking rather festive, althought the text doesn't mention that. However, this being the Netherlands, it might be that the girls are celebrating Sinterklaas (the annual present-giving feast here, mostly aimed at children and held on the 5th of December. It was certainly already celebrated in the 19th century), rather than Christmas.

The first magazine for Januari however, opens with ball gowns. Aren't they splendid? Apperently, New Year's parties stretching well into Januari were already very much 'en vogue'.
I think the middle dress in the magazine is quite similar in style to this one, from the collection of the Victoria and Albert museum in London, which was dated (approximately) to the same year.

Happy Christmas, everyone!

December 23, 2010

Peter made me do it...

Do you read the blog male pattern boldness? You might know it from the long-standing semi-feud with the selfish seamstress...
Anyway, if you do, there's no way one of blogger Peter's obsessions could have excaped your attention: vintage sewing machines.
Reading about them time after time (he's actually using machines from the first half of the 20th century), made me think of mine. I do actually own not one but two vintage sewing machines. Which I have put up for display in my living room.

This Pfaff was given to me by my paternal grandmother. It is not her own old sewing machine, she passed that on to someone else many years ago. This one used to belong to a lady she calls to as aunt... eh... I forgot her name (my grandparents were both only children but they stayed in touch with many, many old friends throughout their lives. Those were aunts and uncles to my father and his brothers and are still refered to in that way).
When she the machine to me, my grandmother was convinced it was a Singer. It isn't. It's a Pfaff, hand-crank only and looking quite pretty after all those years. I also have a small bag full of what might be embroidery feet for this machine.

So far, the Pfaff has taken center stage amoung the bookshelves, but I am starting to eye it up as a sewing machine, rather than as a purely decorative object. I tried and it does still work. I may just try and make something on it (which is easier said than done, since there really isn't that much space in my sewing room for an extra machine).

This Singer used to belong to my maternal grandmother. She was still using it about three years ago. According to my mother, it was originally a hand-crank machine, which was converted to electricity. It has the official Singer motor, but no lamp.

Despite it having been in use fairly recently, I really don't trust the wiring. Even less so after taking these pictures. The wires had stained the wood of the shelves in some places (which is bad, that bookcase is still new). An orange-y colour. I know electrical wiring is made of copper, which would leave green-ish stains, but still, it doesn't seem right.

I think this machine is less pretty that the Pfaff. It has had a less elaborate 'gilded' paint job and where the wooden base of the Pfaff is seductively curved and has decorative inlays in differently coloured wood, the Singer's base is quite plain. It has a decorated plate on the 'head' though, where the Pfaff has a plain one. I should have taken pictures of those things, but there wasn't enough light to show them to their advantage.
Both machines use a now-out-of-use type of bobbin, a small, slender brass spool.

If I make something using the Pfaff, I will definately keep you all up-to-date. And I will soon show you the real work-horses of my sewing life, as well. When there is enough space on the sewing table to take a picture...

December 20, 2010


I should be making that shirt sloper for my brother... I took his measurements over a week ago. For most of that time, I have an excuse, I've been busy. But last weekend, I had the time, and decided to read a book instead.
Today, I should have been at work with M, but she was feeling ill and resceduled. Which left me with extra time, in which I did housework and tried to get some cooking utensils needed for our Christmas cooking. And now, I'm sitting at the computer.

Reading other blogs, I guess I'm not the only one feeling less than productive in these final weeks of the year.
And we have this weather:

Some of the snow has melted today, yesterday you could barely see any space between the top of the balcony wall and the bar above it. It's been snowing regularly for the past week, and we're in for more tomorrow.
I actually rather like making my way to the freshly fallen snow. I still went to the market this morning, only to find barely half of the stalls occupied. The older layers of snow are dangerous though. In some places, cars or throngs of pedestrians have packed the snow together to form an icy crust. A slight thaw around midday only helps to smooth that crust out and make it even more slippery for the next day.
None of this will be very impressive to those of you who live in, say, Canada, but for the Netherlands, this is quite serious winter weather. We've had many winters without any snow. I would still not be surprised if all this snow melts before Christmas...
Why am I writing about this? I don't know really, I didn't want to do a pictureless post, and so I decided to take a picture of the view from my working room. And unusual weather is in itself a reasonable excuse for talking-about-the-weather...

I'm going to stop rambling now, finish reading the one blog that's open on my screen and then start on that sloper.

December 17, 2010

Dressing for a party, 50's style

Are you still interested in vintage fashion pictures? Today, it's all about dressing for a party. Once again, the images come from the winter 1951 issue of the French sewing magazine Revue de la mode and the spring 1952 issue of Dutch sewing magazine Record.
By the way, I have mentioned my surprise at the rather large sizes (88 cm bust as the smallest size) in these magazines before. According to M, who continues to be my all-time sewing guru, this is because, in those days, there would be different publications for limited groups of sizes. I still love the styles, so I don't mind, but I would love to come across a smaller sized magazine some day.

Of course, in winter, there are many parties. On the few blogs I follow, I've spotted several people working on party dresses for Christmas.
I won't be sewing a party dress. The Dutch in general are known to be casual dressers and that certainly counts for my family (with the obvious exception of yours truly...). And although we will spend New Year's eve with friends, we will most likely cycle to their place.
The French ladies in 1951 were invited to go all-out (I scanned these from a quite a bit more than A4 original, hence the beheaded ladies):

On this page, I love the sleek full length plissee dress. And the strapless ba
ll gown with plissee decoration (no, I don't have a thing for plissee) Crazy points go to the lady with the black-and-white side-drape/peplum concoction: don't loose your head, darling!

In colour, it looks a bit like this. Lots of bright colours, full skirts and (almost) strapless bodices. I'm guessing the full length dresses are for evening, the shorter ones for afternoon.

In comparison, the 1952 Dutch selection seems rather bleak. However, we should remember this is a spring issue. Spring is not a major party season. I think that's the reason there are no ball gowns here. The yellow one comes closest and is the only one which is described as a party dress, the other ones are 'festive dresses for late afternoon'. I'd wear the green dress in a heartbeat, though. In fact, it looks a little bit like my turquoise 50's dress from last summer...

December 16, 2010

Shirt details

I finally got around to finishing E's shirt today. Unfortunately, the pictures aren't that great because he's not here to model it and it's another very grey day.
As I told you in my previous post, I made this shirt based on his own sloper. Like most shirts I've made for E, this one has a fairly dark colour, most of the classic shirt details and some casual styling features.

The actual colour of this shirt is olive (well represented in my wardrobe, but not so much in his) but the combination of weak daylight and lamp light in the pictures does a lot to disguise it.
Classic features are the sleeve cuffs (not pictured, you know what men's shirt cuffs look like) and the button band. And the flat felled seams used throughout the shirt.

Less classic is the collar, which doesn't have a stand. E has a fairly short neck and usually wears his shirts with top button open. On the first few shirts I made him, he was forever folding the collars flat. I didn't like the look of that, so after a couple of shirts with half-height stands (which are fussy), I drafted this one-piece convertible collar. Not a feature you see a lot today, but it works well for him. It does require a bit of planning ahead because half of the tops of the button bands need to be finished before attaching the collar.

I used another lazy solution on the hem. Shirt hems are curved and in a densely woven cotton, making a neat rolled hem can be ah... problematic. If I suspect such trouble, I go for this option: purchased biais tape is stitched to the bottom edge of the shirt, pressed to the inside and topstitched. The result is a neat, slightly wider hem.

The styling detail on this shirt are pockets with some working/cargo/survival inspiration. I like how they turned out.
For a while, I didn't like to do pockets on shirts because they are a lot of extra work (I guess I got faster at that in the mean time) and usually not functional. To spice up otherwise too plain shirt, I would do things like this.

Technically, these are pintucks. They are 1 cm wide and there are just two of them, on the right front of the shirt. I've used these with and, in this picture, without pocket flaps and I've also made a shirt with two wider, vertical pintucks. I always use contrast stitching with it. E likes the look and no-one has ever commented on my use of what is usually a womenswear and tuxedo-shirt feature ;)

December 12, 2010

The cut of men's shirts

This weekend, I'm making another shirt for E. I am, once again, using the sloper I made for him two years ago.

It's based the 'tailored shirt block' from Winifred Aldrich's Metric pattern cutting for menswear. I know I've been banging on about this book before, but, allow me to repeat myself: if you're interested in pattern making and sometimes sew for the man/men in your life, this is a book for you. It includes three different blocks for shirts alone, so you can pick the style most suited for your loved one. And of course, the instructions are there to draft all these styles to the measurements you've made. Even if those shirts are all you use, it's worth it.
In my opinion, there's only one major drawback: the instructions result in a pattern with 1 cm seam allowance included. And I like to do flat felled seams on a shirt, so I need 1.5 cm.

Making this sloper has allowed me to make well fitting shirts for E, who has an abnormally thick neck and is otherwise taller and more athleticly built than standard patterns assume. I've tried all three blocks on him and found out that the 'tailored shirt block' is by far the best choice for his shape.
And yesterday, I measured my, quite skinny but broad shouldered, younger brother. I've made him shirts for his birthday before, but this time I think it should be a made-to-measure one.

December 9, 2010

I made a bow-neck blouse

I tend to have temporary obsessions in sewing. I think 'skirts' was my first one and last summer, it was 'dresses'. I'm not going to try and list those in between and it doesn't mean I don't make anything else while in the grip of one. However, there's a reason why I'm mentioning this now.
I think my second ever craze, so after the skirts, was button-down shirts and blouses. It actually came in two stages: one before I learned to draft my own patterns, when I made 4 Knipmode shirts in a row and another when I was just starting out on drafting tops and decided to apply as much as possible of my newly acquired knowlegde to some whimsical fitted shirts.
That was it. About three years ago. After that, I have made other tops in thin woven fabrics, but the only button-fronted one which comes to mind, is my 'flowy white shirt'.
I had moved on to bigger and better things and was quite happily ignoring this wardrobe staple.
Of course, ignoring any obvious standard garment is done only at one's own peril.

So, I made a blouse. Of course I drafted the pattern myself. It's not very fitted but still has a fitted shoulder and some waist shaping at the back. I meant for it to be worn tucked into one of my high-waisted things, as shown. It has a bow-neck set on a slightly scooped neckline and full sleeves gathered into soft cuffs.
The fabric is a thin black cotton silver 'sprayed on'. I expected it to be a bit sheer, but it doesn't show. I normally don't go for sparkly fabrics, but I liked the weight and the hand of it and the fact that it was otherwise 100% cotton.
I really like how the neckline turned out. It could also be worn untied and in the right outfit, the shirt could even be worn open. On the other hand, I'm not entirely sure about the sleeves. They might be a bit too much.

December 3, 2010

Bridal wear from the pages of history

For last week's instalment of vintage sewing magazine images, I showed you some from the French "Revue de la mode". I went on at some length about the differences between those and the ones from the Dutch "Record".
So, for this week, I thought it would be fun to show the two of them side by side. To make the comparison a bit more fair, I picked a category in which 3 (or 15) months rarely make a difference: bridal wear.

This is the wedding gown page from "Record" for spring 1952. The shorter dress with the suggestion of colour, pictured on the left side of the right page, is obviously meant for a bridesmaid or something like that. These wedding dresses are charming, but also rather conventional. They all tie in very well with the 1950's tradition for pure and innocent looking brides.

This, on the other hand is the bridal wear page of "Revue" for winter 1951. Now, I know I said I prefered the tamer styles of the Dutch, but for the wedding dresses, I don't. This slightly older magazine shows much more diversity, and in some of its offerings, it embraces the notion of a glamorous and even sexy bride.
I'm sure the dark dress at the back of the page is meant for a sophisticated wedding guest, and I'm not entirely sure about the white one next to it (although, that is a full-length white dress, and she's got a veil). And the one next to that, with the shorter, possibly coloured dress and small head-band veil, is probably a bridesmaid.
Anyway, next to the standard full skirted gown, there is a sleek style with a plunging neckline and even a semi-suit-like creation with a shorter skirt at the front. All of which are definately intended for the bride.

Of course, the two also share characteristics such as the apperently fashionable shapes of the veils and the fact that all these dresses have sleeves. The notion of a conventional wedding dress being strapless is really a fairly recent development. Weddings took place by daylight and such a display of skin was strictly for evening. And, along with being white, the colour of purity, the style of the dress was also for a long time supposed to express a virginal and modest image.
You can see all of that very well in these craft magazine images, from 70 years earlier.

december 1879
and september 1880
All show bride and guest(s). This was a more regulated time and the long sleeves and high necklines of all the women show that this was a daytime event. The brides all have big veils and wear white (popularized, if I remember correctly, by queen Victoria's wedding earlier in the 19th century. The symbolism must have appealed to the Victorians), but otherwise their dresses are pretty much the same as same as any other posh day dresses of their time.

These images come from this book of mine. These are re-prints of the 1879/1879 issues of 19th century craft and sewing magazine "De Gracieuse". The magazine had complicated French and German roots, but this is a Dutch publication. It used to come with pattern sheets, but unfortunately, those were not included in this mid-20th century reprint. Its pages are packed with engravings like these and tightly printed describtions of needlework, embroidery, knitting and crochet projects.

Based on these magazines, one could make interesting observations about changes in fashion by realising that only 10 years more passed between the publishing dates of "De Gracieuse" and "Revue", than between the publishing date of "Revue" and this day...

December 2, 2010

Is it a dress? Is it a robe? It's...

I made a new dress. It's not the velvet one for which I wanted your imput. I'm still thinking about that one. Thank you very much for thinking along though, I will get back to that.
I made the first 'design sketch' for this dress ages ago, but I didn't have suitable fabric. I thought it would need something like a silk (or immitation of that) crepe: drapy, soft but with a bit of weight and preferably with a matching shiny and matte side.
My stash contains mostly cottons and wools, so I knew there was nothing there for this dress. I didn't go to the fabric store to buy it. Instead, I just made other things and let this one weight. There were some doubts on my mind about this design on me and I didn't feel like wasting an expensive length of fabric on it.

Over the past months, I got more adventurous with regard to colour. To wearing colour at all and to colour combinations.
When I bought this mystery fibre turquoise-ish fabric at the market on sale (1 euro a meter) two weeks ago, it didn't take me long to see it as a possible match with the deep red fannel (also used for my side-buttoned trousers and bought in an even more crazily cheap sale at the market).

Last weekend, I drafted the pattern. Sort of winged it, actually.
The dress is now finished except for some sort of fastener on the waistband. I put snaps on the inside edge. I could also put them on the outside edge but wearing a dress held in place only by snaps seems like living on the wild side a bit too much...
I guess I'll have to try and find some buttons in one of these colours.

I kind of like the result. I was going for kimono-inspired with a sort of fifties silhouet, and I guess that's just what it is.
I decided to make it a wrap dress because that seemed to suit the design, but I'm afraid the skirt could open up way too far, too easily to make it suitable to be worn outdoors. There is also a slight issue with the midriff band having too much ease at the top. With this design, it's impossible too try and fit it properly before the whole dress is finished. So, after, finishing all edges and facing the midriff band.
I didn't feel like redoing most of the construction, so I kept it like this. It's sort of a wearable muslin anyway.

Now, what to make of this dress? As mentioned above, it would be a bit risky outside. It's also very soft and comfortable. And there's a major tradition (mostly in the 19th century) of kimono's as homewear. And it is definately too glamorous to be relegated to nighty or bath robe duty.
I guess some 1950's cataloge would advertise a style like this as a 'hostess gown' (although I know most of those were full length). The older term of 'robe deshabile' (used for unstructured gowns, originally only worn as homewear, from the 18th century onwards) also comes to mind...

I don't know yet. However, making this dress did teach me I can wear full kimono sleeves and midriff band dresses.
Oh, and, for amusement value only: here's what happens if I play around, trying to get a picture in an interesting pose, for too long.