December 26, 2011

A jumpsuit, seriously!

This summer, I made myself a cropped jumpsuit, playsuit or whatever you'd like to call such a thing.
It looked cute enough, but it could have done with a little more length in the torso... I won't elaborate on the implications but believe me when I say that I've only once attempted to wear it all day.

Ever since, I've been considering a revisit of sorts. At first, I just wanted to make a long legged version of it, with that essential bit of added body length. Later, I started thinking about other options. Strange though the concept of the jumpsuit may be, I've spent enough time around people who like it to be somewhat intrigued.
So, just before the holidays, I tried again.

It's a completely different design from the one I made last summer but it incorporates tried and tested elements.
I took the bodice of my pinstripe dress and changed the collar/neckline arrangement. To that, I added trousers based on my tried-and-tested belt pleated trouser pattern.
This did involve some choices and guesswork because, as I learned before, you have to add lengthwise ease to the body section of a jumpsuit pattern in order to make it work in real life. My pattern making book recommends between 3,5 and 10 cm. 3,5 cm is what I used before and which was inadaquate. Now, figuring that with the belt pleated bottoms, a low-hanging crotch might be OK, I went for 10 cm (which I think is actually intended for designs with blousey tops and with elasticated waistlines). Having horizontal seams in the body left me with the opportunity to alter this, if necessary.

I first machine-basted the trouser section to the waistband to see what the length would look like. I decided to keep it as drafted. Then, I took them off again and did the back pockets.

So, I ended up with a jumpsuit with a fairly fitted bodice, a dropped waistband and belt pleated trousers which taper towards the ankle. It has a blind zipper at center front, scoop pockets at the front and double welt pockets with button loops at the back.

The neckline can obviously be adjusted with the zipper and is topped by a partially free-hanging collar stand. And the collar and the tab at the waistband have bound buttonholes.

It's both un unusual garment for me, and yet fits in perfectly with my normal look. I think I like it. And I've been wearing it a couple of times now and it's very comfortable (it wasn't easy to photograph though. winter.... it may not be cold so far, but it sure is dark)

December 22, 2011

Finally here!

This is something I have mentioned before, but it's a while ago: I'm a contributor to the Burdastyle book.
Like a lot of the others, I announced that fact on my blog when we were allowed to, shortly after we sent our garments to Burdastyle the summer before last.
If you visit Burdastyle regularly, you will know that there has been a launch party (two in fact, one in New York and one in San Francisco. Unfortunately for me and other contributors worldwide, those were the only locations...) and the book is now for sale ( is listing it at two prices, with the with cheaper one available from 7 Januari. I think that's because is it at this moment only for sale in the US but will be released worldwide at that date. So, with the expensive one, you're paying for shipment).

As a contributor, I was to receive a free copy. It was supposed to be sent out after the NY launch party but didn't arrive for weeks.
And then, just when I was really getting a bit worried and annoyed about it, it was delivered to my door last Tuesday. Together with another package containing the jacket I made for it. A package which Burdastyle sent my way last Friday. I don't know which part of the system of international mail to blame for this and it may have something to do with the Christmas card rush as well...

I'm just so happy to get my hands on the book. It's quite a substantial thing really (judging from browsing through it. I obviously haven't had the chance to read the whole thing yet).
Spiral bound so you can keep it open and refer back to it while sewing, nicely designed and including a huge amount of information. They even explain basic things like how to use your sewing machine and how to use a cutting diagram!
And then of course, there are the patterns and their variations. Which is where we come in...

It's pretty cool to see the fruits of my labour on the glossy pages of a real book!

And they made these wonderfully clear technical drawings based on my construction pictures...

Just a shame I didn't send a better picture of me to print with the little interview... There was too little time to rope in any of the great photographers I know...

Anyway, it's no use whining about it now. I guess the design will be and should be the star of this sho ;)

P.S. If you are wondering about the obvious lack of frantic sewing for Christmas, you should know that giving presents for Christmas (although some people do it) is not traditional in the Netherlands. We have Sinterklaas, on the 5th of December as the occasion for giving presents (athat's mostly for kids).

December 19, 2011

Ehh, hi there

Are you still willing to believe me if I say I didn't mean to go without posting for so long? I hope you are.
The truth of the matter is that I've been without internet for part of last week because we were switching to a different offering from the same provider (if that makes any sense at all). And, added to that, I have to say I wa
s a bit disappointed not to get even a single comment on my last post. I thought that sweater looked Ok, or I wouldn't even have posted it...
As I already mentioned, I understand my 'oh, look I made this' posts may not be the most interesting to comment to. However because I don't use patterns and often start new projects on a whim and because it's winter so there's very little daylight when I'm at home, they're all I can manage when I'm busy with other things.

Right now, I'll only need to do a bit of hand-sewing to finish a new and more involved project. I'll show you later this week.
I'm also still waiting on mail and email stuff, so I can, hopefully, tell more about projects I have been/will be involved in.
And, catching up on blog reading, I've noticed that many people have begun reviewing their year in sewing and/or announcing their intended last projects for 2011. I don't think I'll do the latter just yet, but I will try to take a good look about what I need/want for the holidays.

And finally, there is some real news in this post: when cutting the fabric for my now-almost-finished project, I decided I was fed up with my scissors. I've been making do for all these years with fabric scissors from Ikea (good value for money, I'd recommend to any beginner) or brandless ones bought at the notions stall at the market. All of those start out fine but soon develop their own idiosyncracies, leaving me with a drawer full of scissors (I've counted 5 pairs...) but having to make notches using paper scissors on thread clippers because none of them will cut at the very tip.
It was definately time to invest in a proper pair of fabric shears. I've gone and bought these:

They are not the fanciest scissors you can get, not by far. They are, however, very hard wearing. designer friend M uses this kind, and the workshop she works with as well. They will cut through almost anything (just not ideal for cutting very thin silks), keep their edge and they are not ruined by something as simple as being dropped on the floor.
I bought mine from the same place where I bough my sewing machine, at what is (as far as I've been able to find out) a very low price. It's a Dutch site and shop, but for those few of you reading from anywhere near my location, I really recommend them.

December 7, 2011

Something warm?

First up, I would like to tell you that I realise my recent posts tend to concentrate on 'show-and-tell'. And to talk about things which I've drafted myself, making them impossible to recreate. I'm aware of this but, for various reasons (I'm not even sure all of them are clear to me) my time online seems to be limited lately. Which cuts into my ambition to create clever general interest posts...

Anyway, after that little disclaimer, here's another thing I've made:
My first ever loose fitting sweater. It's a look which I think only works for me with skinny trousers, shorts or maybe with mini skirts. With those, I like it.
I drafted a very simple pattern for this, basically just rectangles with some curves cut out. The fabric is a sweaterknit which is drapey and loosely knitted.

And, to make things more interesting, I decide to try and immitate a structure well known from real knitted stuff: a cable.
It's actually a braid made from tubes of fabric sewn into the front. It's a bit heavy compared to the rest of the sweater but I like the look. I considered using strips of fabric instead of tubes which would have kept the weight down but wasn't really an option with this knit (loose knits can easily unravel).

Oh, and the title of this post? The sweater is in fact quite cozy, though not so warm that it doesn't work indoors. However, I'm well aware that an outfit which includes shorts can never really give off that 'warm for winter' kind of vibe...

I hope everyone of you is doing well and I'll be back later this week with another kind of post, I won't promis but I'll really try ;)

December 2, 2011

I did not make this

But I want to show it to you anyway.
I have been known to knit (I've got two perfectly wearable items in my wardrobe to proove that point. One of them, a little black cardigan, I wear quite often) but I'm slow. I didn't learn until my late twenties, so if I ever want to use knitting as one of my major methods of garment construction, I'll have rather a lot of practise ahead of me. Which doesn't appeal that much, I must confess.

This lovely turtleneck sweater was made by my grandmother. She's in het eighties now and obviously belongs to a generation in which girls were taught how to knit from the age of four. Needless to say, she's very good at it.
She's taken on a big project now: She is going to knit an item of clothing of their choice for each of her children (4), grandchildren (8) and children's spouses (2) (not sure about grandchildren's significant others yet, I guess she'll see about them when she gets through the rest of us ;). She did tell us not to pick any very fussy designs like cable knit or multi-coloured intarsia, but that still leaves a lot.

I picked this sweater from a Phildar brand knitting magazine which I bought last year. It was written for, and executed in, their 'tweed' yarn. My grandma said (confirming my earlier experience) that using the yarn the pattern was written for, the first stitch sample was perfect and the whole thing was easy to knit. And, as you can see, the fit is spot on as well.
Obviously, I offered her to let the other female grandchildren (so far, I've only bought ladies' patterns, of course I would be more than willing to pick up one which includes men's patterns for her) pick patterns from my (rather modest selection of) knitting magazines as well. That way, I can find her the right yarn for them and help her, in that little way, with her project.

December 1, 2011

Another red skirt...

So, this afternoon I had a bit of time to take pictures of my latest creations and the sweater my grandmother knitted for me. I set up the camera and took my pictures quickly because I didn't have much time and the weather (and with it of course, the available daylight) was particularly unreliable today.
And now, when I get a chance to look at those pictures on the computer, I find out that they're all very blurry. Must be my mistake, I probably adjusted the focus by accident when setting the self timer...
Anyway, I'll show you the pictures of my new skirt now and re-do the lot of them this weekend.
In fact, the weather was a lot brighter today, so there was some daylight left when I got home. And this time I actually managed to re-take my earlier pictures with any kind of charm ;) So I swapped the pictures in this post for new, focussed ones.

Between this post and the next, you may see a bit of a theme developing in my wardrobe... colour. And not just any colour but red and green in one outfit. In this case, it's the skirt that I made and the blouse which was a second-hand stall find (1 euro for a silk shirt, who could say 'no' to that...).

I've wanted a pencil skirt in this fabric ever since I bought it. Pencil skirts and variaties of them are much easier to mix and match with all kinds of tops than fuller skirts and I just love the colour.

Being a Dutch girl, I prefer skirts which allow me to ride a bicycle with little or no trouble. True pencil skirts aren't great for that, so I made this one with gores which flare out widely at the back. The back is also longer. The skirt has a high waistline which curves up at the front and it has pockets which wrap around the sides (sideseams only in the upper bit).
I hope you can see most of these things now, but I will be back with properly focussed pictures.

P.S. What is it with red skirts? I have consciously made two mustard yellow skirts but I now own four red skirts without having ever given it a moment's thought...

November 22, 2011

Twisted once more

For any season, I need more tops in colours which work with my skirts and trousers and and which are, ehm, not black. Somehow, I seem to focus mostly on sewing jackets and dresses with trousers and skirts following at a respectful distance (measured in time spent sewing, that is) and tops only come a sad fifth.
Oh, I went through a phase of sewing button-downs from Knipmode, way back in the days before pattern making. And I made a few more blouses from my own patterns back when I had the sewing machine which would eat all thin fabrics and all jerseys. And some very basic t-shirty things when I just had my serger.By now, the Knipmode shirts have all been retired, most of the other blouses still get worn occasionally, but they're all black. The t-shirts are good for layering but too cold for autumn and winter.

So, to make a long story a little bit shorter, I made a top. From moss-green jersey. It's got a twist in the bust area (as seen in Pattern Magic 1) but also a dropped shoulder.
It is super comfortable and although it doesn't look great with my usual benchmark garment, the mustard yellow pencil skirt (the colours don't really like each other...) I really like it with my 'new' (bought second-hand, originally to re-use the leather, and then I found out it fit me perfectly) red skirt.

For those of you who are interested in that kind of thing, this is what I did to the shoulderline: I raised the shoulder itself by 0.5 cm and extended it quite a way. Then, starting at a right angle, I made a shape which joins the original fitted t-shirt shape at the waistline. This alteration provides extra ease at the top while keeping the overall shape and look of a fitted top. Which works quite well for a small-busted girl like me.

To go with this, I drafted a very simple sleeve: symmetrical for the bottom part and with almost no sleeve head at all.

November 18, 2011

A bit of pattern magic

Look, I've made 'wearing a square'!
Those of you who are familiar with the Pattern Magic phenomenon will notice this one instantly. After all, it is one of the most made designs from Pattern Magic 2, judging by its appearance on Burdastyle.
However, I thought this would be just the kind of design for me. I had been pondering my options for making an 'object' kind of jacket for a while when I realised 'wearing a square' would be perfect for that.

I ignored the book's suggestion that this would work well in a stretch fabric. I was envisioning this more as a real jacket. It's made from this woven red mystery fabric (which contains both wool and polyesther) and it's lined. And I didn't put in a zipper but applied three hooks and eyes instead. I like how the top of the front forms a big collar this way.
I drafted my own square based on my normal sloper and made slightly wider sleeves. This is an important detail: I have skinny arms for a Dutch girl but in a non-stretch fabric the 10 cm for half of the sleeve which is indicated in the book would be uncomfortably tight. The sleeve is on the bias, but this lining doesn't gain much stretch by that.

All in all, I love this little jacket. I'm glad I tried it out in a cheap fabric but I am slightly worried it may not last long (it's already starting to pill on the sleeves. but on the other hand, some fabrics start doing that early and then stop...). Which would be a shame because I love the colour. I've got more of it which I will use.

The jacket works with a suprising amount of different things in my wardrobe and, a very unusual bonus for a loose fitting garment, my boyfriend likes the look of me wearing this ;)

November 17, 2011

My first blogger meeting

A couple of weeks ago, fellow Dutch blogger Sigrid contacted me. She told me that she was planning a meeting for sewing enthousiasts. Here, in the Netherlands. Most of these ladies knew each other through Pattern Review (which I never look at, since I don't buy patterns) but they were also interested in meeting other people who shared the same hobby.
Now, I'm always reading about these meetings happening in say, New York and sometimes in London, but I've never had the opportunity to take part. So, obviously, I was interested.

The meeting was last weekend. We visited the Fashion loves Art exhibit at the Gemeentemuseum in Den Haag and after that we went to Amsterdam. There, we visited lingerie-sewing emporium Kantje Boord and then went to Valerie's house.
We had a fabulous dinner and after that, there was an 'ugly fabric swap'. Apperently, this is standard issue at PR weekends, but what do I know about that? Anyway, it was a lot of fun and I actually like the fabric I ended up with. Next year, when summer is coming, I think I'll make a dress out of it.

It was great day. Even though I didn't join the others in visiting the fabric market on Sunday (I really should be on a strict fabric diet, that's why), it was great to meet so many nice people who love sewing.
Thank you so much for inviting me along ladies!

November 13, 2011

As promised: the cardigan how-to

See, I still try to live up to my promises!

As I've said before, this cardigan or shrug (I guess it's technically more of a shrug because it doesn't close at the front) is very easy to make. It is a pattern for knits and it works best with light and drapey variaties. I've made mine on my serger, but lacking one, you could of course use the appropriate stitches on your sewing machine (just check which one to use first. A lot of sewing machines
don't like thin knits).
In this tutorial, I'm giving you the dimensions I used. Although this is not a fitted garment, different people would need different sleeve lengths and on larger sizes, this cardigan would end up sitting higher on the body, so size can matter. You can of course size it up a bit and/or change the dimensions. This would require cutting the body piece on the crossgrain and having two seams instead of one in the front-and-neckline band. In a fourway stretch fabric, that's fine.

These are your pattern pieces:

Just a bunch of rectangles (in case it's hard to read the print on the picture, both big ones are 140 cm wide, the top one is 62 cm high, and the bottom one 24 cm. The small pieces are the same: both 16 cm high and 18 cm wide).
Cut one of each with the straight grain as shown by the arrows in the drawing. Make sure to mark the middle of the big pieces and the top of the biggest one, make additional notches at 9 cm to either side of the center mark.

To make the cardigan, fold the biggest piece as shown and sew down along the top. Repeat this with the other side.

Fold the resulting object in half along the center line. Now, cut along the red lines: scoop out a back neckline of about 2 cm deep and cut off the points where they are at about 9 cm (better to do that for each separately, for accuracy).

Now, it's time to turn your attention to the smaller pieces. Sew them together along their vertical edges, fold the resulting tubes in half right side out and pin the big one to the neckline and front edge (with the seam at the back neckline and matching the center notches at the bottom) and the small ones to the arm. Each of these bands should be stretched a little to fit.

I hope this is clear. If there are any questions, please let me know through the comments.
As ever, everyone is of course free to use this tutorial for personal sewing (but not commercially). An if you make anything using this tutorial, I'd love to see it!

November 10, 2011


Well, ehhh, I did sort of promise a post on slopers last week, didn't I? Well, same problems as before...
The good news is I have now printed the JJ sloper (which takes more planning than you'd think because my printer has refused service since I had its ink cartridges re-filled a couple of months ago). The bad news is that my mind is on anything but dresses lately... Bad blogger, Lauriana!

In other news, I have been putting off posting about other things until I would have this draft-along thing well under way. I won't be doing that anymore. I still have every intention of getting on with the draft-along but not posting about other things makes this blog a lot more 'dead' than it has to be. So I'll have no more of that.

As a first, let me show you this super-easy cardigan I made a week ago. This really is a very simple project but I really enjoy the look. It is also a great use for those thin, sheer drapey knits which would never really work as normal tops.
I'll do a how-to for it this weekend, if anyone is interested.

Oh, and the fabric was this sadly mystery-fibre but interestly patterned loose knit of turquoise and blue (way more turquoise and blue than you can see in the picture)

More soon!

October 31, 2011

On slopers

This afternoon, I planned on taking a picture of myself wearing my usual sloper and, if possible, a version of the JJ sloper. However, last weekend was the end of daylight saving and with the clock back to winter time, there wasn't enough daylight left when I got home. I'll try again tomorrow but I may not succeed until Thursday...

Well, at least we can discuss slopers, don't you think?
As you will probably know already, a sloper is a basic pattern which (in our use. we're not talking about the garment industry blocks here, which are just slopers for RTW clothes) is fitted to the individual and used to make actual garment patterns. Your typical sloper is either very close fitting or has a 'small' to 'moderate' amount of ease and is shaped with darts. Some people prefer a 'no ease' sloper in order to have everything under control but in fact, almost every garment you'll ever make (in experience with the sole exception of a corset-style strapless top) will need ease, so a bit of ease in a sloper is not necessarily a bad thing.
If you are drafting your sloper from a set of instructions, those will often have you include some ease straight away, usually by adding to certain measurements. If you are using a ready-made sloper pattern (like the JJ sloper, which you can find here), you will have to fit it to you like any other pattern.

According to JJ's notes, her sloper includes wearing ease suitable for a fitted shirt, top or dress, so that should be perfect for drafting your dress. It is graded to Burda's bust and waist sizes, with instructions for a small bust alteration included on the pattern pieces. All sizes are, and this is important, drafted with one back length, 41 cm.
Why am I repeating JJ's excellent notes? Well, I want to make sure everyone reads and understands them. Because all of this does not mean you can just make it up in whatever size you usually make Burda patterns in and expect it to be perfect. The Burda empire uses it's own blocks as a base for all its patterns. Blocks intended for wearers with the sizes mentioned in their sizing table.
JJ took those sizes from the sizing table and drafted a set of slopers based on them. Because the sizing table only includes bust, waist and hip measurements, she must have had to guestimate certain other important bits of sizing information.
So, to get the best result from her sloper, you have to take your measurements, check them against Burda's sizing table and pick your size. If you know you have either a small or a large bust your could make a small or large bust alteration straight away, again based on the measurements. The same goes for back length. Personally, I know my back length (the measurement from the base of the neck to the waist, measured at center back) is 39,5 cm, so I would start by shortening this sloper by 1,5 cm.
Be prepared for more alterations though, no sizing table or pattern making method can reliably predict individual differences in things like bust height or shoulder shape and width.
I will post both my usual sloper and my progress on the JJ one here and in the Flickr group no later than this Thursday.
If you have a sloper completed, feel free to post it in the Flickr group as well. Just to show it off, or if you want help with your analysis of it.

Apology and explanation

You know what happens when one is actually kind of busy but resolved to do something extra none the less, don't you? Especially when one starts feeling obliged to do well at the extra something because of the interest shown for it by quite a selection of rather cool people?
Well, then you will understand what happened to me over the past week and a half. Total loss of blogging mojo, and, which is worse, of much of my sewing mojo. Which combined, made me even more ashamed about my performance in this draft-along I planned.
This past week, I have done some other simple projects to claw back my sewing spirit and I'm glad and relieved to report that it worked. Now, let's get back to the draft-along!
Right now, when I'm typing this, it's 7 A.M. and I will have to leave for work in an hour or so. When I return home, around 6 P.M. I will finally write that post about slopers.
I have also decided to stick with the rather simple shirt dress design which I posted in the Flickr group. Two weeks ago, I had ambitious plans about posting several designs and discussing the merits of the different looks. However, while that is all very nice and is, in fact, sort of the way you would learn to design stuff if you actually went to school for that sort of thing, it is not how I usually work. I'm not great at sketching, so I usually do a lot of my considerations in my head, only committing at least half-baked plans to paper. And making an even slightly scanner-ready sketch takes more time than making one for 'at home design' use. Oh, and shirt dresses are fun and versitile, they can be made to flatter many different body types and are easy to fit into a 'normal' wardrobe. All in all, in my humble opinion, not at all a bad choice for anyone's first self-drafted dress.
(Oh, and this is not something I've said before: choosing a 'not a bad choice and not that difficult' design is good. I know it's tempting to try and make the ultimate dress straight away. However, I recommend you consider your first self-drafted dress as the one to gain experience on and only try to aim for the ultimate design later on. Really, trust me on this one.)

Well, I'm going to leave you for now with this picture. Although this is not sewing-related, I thought it would be fun to show you the result of two things I haven't made time for in, maybe, years. Getting a different hair-cut and having someone else take my picture (it took a lot of pictures for just one decent headshot, let me tell you).
More this afternoon. Have a good day!

October 18, 2011

Draft-along update

Last weekend was extremely busy, I've had no time to even get near the computer, let alone post anything here. And I had planned to get started on the slopers...

Well, time for a quick update I guess. I've adressed a couple of the design issues and there are a couple of sketches in the Flickr pool now. I have to say I feel a bit humbled by the sketching skills of both ladies. Other than that, it's great to see how other people think about designing their dresses. I'd love to see more there and I will be adding more of my own. I would also like to emphasize that you can use the Flickr group as a testing ground for your designs. Please don't feel like you have to come up with a perfectly executed sketch of your final design. It's great if you do, but, especially if it's your first time doing this, it may work better to do some rough sketches of different styles, post all those you kind of like and use the comments you get to make your final decision.

Of course, designs should be considered in relation to body shape, as I've pointed out before. Overflowingstash had a great suggestion about that: she wrote that you could trace a picture of yourself, to make a custom croqui, thus both showing your shape and preserving your modesty. In the Flickr group, there's a great example of just that by Barbarain. If you don't have the drawing skills of either of these ladies, you could just settle for tracing the contours of your body in the picture, creating a silhouette.

Obviously, we will still be talking about designing our dress this week but it's also time to start being practical about it. Step 1: making and fitting a sloper.
Several of you have your own slopers already. Of course you can use those, especially if you know it's quirks.
For those of you who don't, this is the link to the JJ sloper on Burdastyle.
(thanks to Claire(aka Seemane) for discovering it despite the fact that it was re-named when Burdastyle changed the site to its present look)
I will be making and fitting this one myself (unless I get the impression no-one will be using it, that is) and show the process.
You can also try this one, found by Sewing Princess. In her comment, she described it as a drafting instruction, but the link she included leads me to a downloadable, and editable sloper in size 10. I'm not familiar with it myself but it looks like any standard sloper.
Overflowingstash also commented with this link and this one which are for making plastic wrap and duct tape dummies respectively. The plastic wrap method will allow you to create a zero-ease sloper. Again, I have no personal experience with this method and, taking her word for it, I'd advice caution.
All comments with these links can be found here.

October 13, 2011

Just a raincoat

I hereby interupt the scheduled draft-along posting to show you something else I've made. My raincoat is finally finished. I finished it on the day the rain (relentless this week) stopped.

I announced my intention to make this coat weeks ago, and I haven't really strayed from my original design. A wide raglan-sleeved coat with wide sleeves, a back pleat and a hood. It is fully lined and has a zipper closure. My own pattern, of course.
I feel like it took me ages to make though.
In the muslin stage, there was a lot of sewing machine related anxiety. It just kept skipping stitches which did some serious harm to my sewing mojo. After cleaning and changing needles, it slowly recovered when I ditched the crinkled linen I used for the muslin.
After that, it was just the material which kept progress slow. Plastic coated fabric means no ironing, no re-doing anything and not a chance at easing anything in.

I'm not entirely pleased with the end-result. I topstitched all the seams to keep them in the right place but I miss the clean look of a well-pressed garment. I'm also not entirely sold on the shape of the hood and although, from a construction point of view, I'm glad I left out the pockets, I sort of miss them in wearing the coat. Oh, and then there's the drape, or rather the lack of it...

October 12, 2011

Body analysis for dress design

On monday, I suggested considering your proportions as one of the starting points for designing your dress. Today, I've decided to try and show what I meant by that.

In general, seamstresses have a better idea about the shape and size of their own bodies than other people. After all, a lot of sewing time goes into fitting and altering-to-fit. As a pattern maker, you will need to hone that awareness even more.
And after all, we've all been there, made something because it looked so good in the pattern magazine or on the envelope, spent many hours making and fitting it only to end up with a garment which doesn't actually suit our body and our style. Pattern making (especially for a beginner) takes even more of your time and you won't want all that effort to be wasted.

So: how to look at, and analyse your body shape. Please allow me to introduce my example: Lauriana (I'm standing a bit funny in the front view. My shoulders are not that uneven)
From the front we see a long neck, angular shoulders, a fairly featureless upper torso and a significant difference between waist and hip, with the widest point fairly far down, at the top of the thigh. The legs are shapely. All in all, the body is a bit bottom-heavy.
From the side, the most striking thing is its flat-ness. Breasts hardly stick out, the stomach is flat and buttocks are there but make a fairly small curve.

These are the observations. Having made these, consider what to emphasize with clothes.
Forget the beauty/fashion magazine tricks for dividing women into apples and pears, rulers and inverted triangles. Although their tips can be useful, each woman's body is different and not every woman may want to work towards the same 'ideal'. Just to give and example, I filled out one of those body-type questionaires once and it said I was a ruler. When I look at my front view though, I'd say I'm a pear. Granted, a rather small pear, but still.

Personally, I like my waist-to-hip ratio and I like that wider hip in general. I feel it's what gives me a feminine figure, despite being skinny. It is also very appropriate for a vintage-inspired dress. Because of it, I think I can pick any of the skirt shapes I mentioned before (pencil-skirt, A-line, circle skirt, gathered skirt). I think for length, depending on the style of the skirt I can do lengths between 15 cm above and 10 cm below the knee (the latter only for very full skirts). And ankle to flour length of course, but that's not really what I'm going for now.
The upper torso is a bit more difficult. With the width of the rib cage and small breasts, it can easily end up looking like a rectangle. It's a fine body shape for normal clothes (probably easier than those hips) but not grea
t for vintage styles which are all about ladylike curves.
Of course, there are tricks. For a 50's-style dress, I usually keep a bit more ease at chest that at the waist and I don't go for any of those (very period accurate) smooth bodices with high necklines. Mine is an upper body flattered by the roomy drape of a cowl neck or by big collars which grow from V shaped necklines (a 'bare' V-neck is out of the question, of course. Now that is a style for the bigger busted ladies among us). All those design elements add width and fullness at the bust. To show off the small waist, I like to wear my vintage style dresses with a (usually dark coloured or black) belt.
(Oh, and of course I know I could wear a push-up bra but I don't like those and I actually don't consider small breasts to be a problem)

Oh, and have you ever wondered about the difference which is made to your shape and posture by wearing heels? Here's an example of that:

Obviously, I don't expect anyone to show off herself in this way here on the internet, just for the draft-along. However, I do think it's a great idea to have a look at yourself this way. In my job, I meet women every week who didn't know they were hiding a waist under shapeless tops and above low-rise trousers. Don't be that woman, study what you've got so you can figure out how to show it to its advantage. If you want to share pictures for advice, the Flickr-group photostream is for members only, so there is some privicy there (please tag such pictures as 'body-shape')

The following people left comments about wanting to join the draft-along but have no email adresses on their profiles:
abaffledcat, Jacqueline deRuyter, Barbara, tantmonokrom, Ewa, Amy (I did read your comment about not having time now, but you may want to be signed up anyway so you can follow along later), ginevra/occasional glimpses, Anna Keaton and overflowingstash.
Please get in touch with me through aicha_hockx AT hotmail DOT com to get your invitation to the Flickr group.
Of course you can also email me at that adress with questions or if you've only just decided to participate in the draft-along.

October 10, 2011

Designing your draft-along dress

If you think sewing presents you with a lot of options to choose from and decisions to make, you may feel a bit overwhelmed by the the very idea of pattern making. It's only natural ;)
After all, if you are making the pattern, the only limits are your imagination and your technical ability (both in sewing and in understanding and therefore drafting patterns). But, maybe it is fortunate that there are some limitations to designing a dress for the draft-along.

Depending on the kind of sloper you are using, you may have noticed already why a dress with a waist seam is 'easier' technically: many drafting methods use a waist length bodice as their basic shape (I think this can be inconvenient with a lot of contemporary clothes and I prefer methods which also pay attention to a hip length bodice but it's absolutely fine for a vintage-style dress) and having a waist seam allows you to use the full spectrum of dart rotation options. And you can basically define drafting a dress pattern as: drafting a bodice and picking your prefered skirt style.

Those are the technical considerations. The style ones are a little trickier.

The words 'vintage style dress' mean different things to different people. Everyone has her prefered fashion eras. Some of you may want a period accurate creation while others really need their dress to work in an everyday environment (maybe even to be worn among people with little tolerance for alternative looks). And, also quite important, we all have different body shapes.

As far as fashion eras go, the technical limitation of the waist seam sort of limits us to late 1940's to early 1960's styles. This is an era which lot of people in the sewing blogosphere love, so I don't expect any problems there. Of course, you can take inspiration for details in your design from any era you like.

How 'costum-y' or 'normal' the overall look will be depends not just on your design but almost as much on the choice of fabric and on how it's worn. Any bigger skirted dress can look very 50's with a fluffy petticoat...
In my opinion, the look you want to achieve should always be considered in relation to my third point: body shape.

The fashionable body shape of the 1950's was, quite obviously, the hourglass. Today, it's mostly the ruler. Back then, there was foundation wear on offer to give yourself a fashionable silhouette (think waist cinchers, girdles, cone bras). Nowadays, we diet and/or exercise (of course I know it's not that black-and-white, but I'm just trying to make a bit of a point).
Most of us today would not want to wear those restricting foundations all day and, in general, people are a bit bigger that they used to be 60 years ago. On the other hand, take a look at old family pictures and find out that girls in the 50's had about the same chance of looking like a fashion model as you or me today...
My point being: a 1950's style dress won't instantly make you look like Dovima (Dior's favorite model).

So, take a good look at your own body. We're absolutely not talking size here. We're talking about shape and proportion (today's truly hourglass shaped girls tend to have a lot of trouble shopping for clothes and may well think themselves bigger than they really are).
The hourglass may be the 50's ideal, but don't worry, there are plenty of ways to trick the eye. I think I will explain my tried and tested tricks, as well as some common-sense solutions for other body types, when we discuss drafting options.

By the way, the picture I put with this post is the silhouette of what may just be the most recognisable vintage fashion look: Dior's "bar" suit, modeled by Dovima. I was looking for one of those 'shapes of fashion' line-ups in Google images, when I found a treasure trove of line drawings of 1900-1950 clothes on here, which is only a small section of this website. Despite the fact that its focus is a bit early for draft-along purposes, it's a great place to explore of dress inspiration (and keep in mind that 'don't likes' can be as important as 'likes' when it comes to design choices).

October 7, 2011

Draft-along: practical information

It's great to see so even more people interested in a draft-along! I'm sorry it's taking me so long to set this thing up properly, but I seem to be hitting some computer-litteracy roadblocks ;) It's nothing I can't overcome, but it all takes time...

So, to start out, I will try to answer some questions which arose in the comments (I will try to answer each one personally, but I think more people may wonder about this):

The point of this draft-along is, as I explained in this post, to draft a retro-style dress, using Burdastyle's JJ sloper, or any other bodice sloper you may have as a starting point. I chose to start with ready-made slopers and to include only simple design details in order to make this a fun way to start and experiment with making patterns. The malfunctioning poll was intended to tell me which style would be the most popular, so I could work on that, making only minor detours to explain simple other options. As it is now, I will explain all three skirt options, some sleeve options and any not-too-difficult bodice/neckline issues which proove to be popular in your designs.
I hope this answers some questions.

In my previous post, I suggested everyone tries to make a design for herself. I'm not doing this because I too lazy, too busy or not sufficiently creative to come up with a good idea myself. No, I did that because, to me, that is the great advantage of making your own patterns: you are not bound to anyone else's design, you can make what you like and what works for your body. I will discuss design options and designing for specific body shapes this weekend.
I have also set up a Flickr group for the draft-along. I thought it would be wise to make it 'by invitation only', just to keep out random weirdos but that means I have to invite each of you by email or Flickr-account name (you can also be invited to the group, and participate in it, if you don't have a Flickr account, so don't worry about that). If you already signed up for the draft-along (and have an email-adress in you blogger profile or mentioned it in the comment) I will email you about this. If you haven't yet and want to be part of it, you can email me at aicha_hockx AT hotmail DOT com.

And finally, someone commented about not being able to find the JJ sloper. This surprised me, but guess what: it's gone. The Burdastyle member who created it isn't listed anymore, so I guess she went and took her creation with her. Burdastyle does offer this sloper dress pattern, but it's only in size 38 and of course, the JJ sloper lives on in Elainemay's Coffee Date dress, which was based on it. Although I think the Coffee Date dress is lovely, I would not recommend using it as a sloper because of the scooped neckline and narrow shoulder (although it could be used for something like a sleeveless cowl neck bodice).
I noticed that many of you have your own slopers, so this may not be so much of an issue. Again, I will email those of you who signed up already, but if you don't receive a messege from me, or if you're only signing up now, please tell me if the missing sloper is a problem for you. We'll find a solution.
Also, if you happen to know a good bodice sloper (pattern or tutorial) which is available online and for free, please, please put it in the comments. (and why am I not telling you how to make a sloper like mine? Well, it's a method from a book and I don't want to violate their copyright and it's in Dutch and hard to translate)

Please read the comments to this post to find out how to download the JJ sloper. Claire found out more about it: it got mysteriously re-named when they changed the website. Just follow Claire's excellent explanation to download the sloper. And to answer Nancy's question: I will either show you how to draft a sleeve or draft a multi-size sleeve to fit the JJ sloper and unload that to Burdastyle.

October 4, 2011

Draft-along plans

Hi everyone! I'm sorry I didn't get the poll-thing to work properly but I don't think it was too much of an issue. After all, most of you mentioned your prefered design details in the comments and it won't be a problem to discuss more than one of the options for most parts of the dress.

I think it's good to draw up a bit of a time schedule for the draft-along (although it's still flexible). Some of you mentioned being busy until mid-October and after that, the Holiday season will creep up quickly. From my point of view, it would work well to think about design during this week, fit slopers (for those who need to do that, with the help of the experienced pattern makers among us) next week and start with the actual drafting in the second half of the month. This should allow us to have finished dresses in the first weeks of November.
If that's all right for most of you, I'll try and make it into a proper schedule.
(I may just have a problem myself though: my sewing machine keeps skipping stitches. Although it does all right on a piece of scrap fabric, it's terrible in the crinkly linen I've been using for my most recent muslins. It might that it's the fabric for hell for my poor lovely sewing machine, but if it isn't... Well, I may just have to take the machine away for maintenance. Although I could take that as an opportunity to use my grandmother's hand-crank machine for this project)

I'm going to make a Flickr-pool for the draft-along (which I've never done before) and I will email everyone who signed up with the information about that.

For now, I'd like to suggest that you try and sketch up a design. Don't worry about not being good at sketching. I'm not that good myself but it can still be helpful in developing one's ideas for a garment and/or a pattern.
For quite some time, I traced shapes to make my sketches work. Fashion drawing instruction pictures for the little ladies with my previous post, but usually the picture you see here, Burdastyle's wire croqui. By now, I'm sufficiently used to the croqui's proportions that I don't really need it anymore. You can just print the croqui and put it under the sheet of paper you are drawing on or you can import it into Illustrator (or any other kind of drawing software, I guess) and put it in a layer under the one in which you are making the actual drawing.

Of course, you can still sign up for the draft-along, if you haven't yet...

September 23, 2011

Who wants to draft along?

Hi everyone! Who wants to join me in drafting and making a dress?
I want this draft-along to be open to anyone with in interest in pattern making, so it's not going to be rocket science ;)
I plan on using the (free) JJ sloper from the Burdastyle website and (if necessary) I will draft and upload a matching sleeve for it. I will discuss fitting the sloper and of course, if you have your own sloper or want to draft your own using either Pattern Magic or Winifred Aldrich, I'd be happy to give any advice you may need.

Of course, we have to decide on what kind of dress to make. Making your own patterns opens up a world of possibilities, even if you've already decided to stick with a classic dress shape with a waist seam. So, if you want to draft along, please leave a comment and take the poll. Vote for as many or as few elements as you would like. Rest assured that this won't limit the draft-along to something you may not like. I intend to discuss several options within the same general design, and adding a different skirt is always easy.

Poll: Which design details do you want for the draft-along dress?


    Ook een poll maken? Klik hier

    It seems that the poll will only allow you to pick one thing. I'm sorry about that, it is my first time using one of these polling gizmos. Just use this one to pick your prefered skirt style and I'll put up seperate polls for the other elements this evening (because I don't have time to do it right now)

    September 21, 2011

    Still slow but steady

    It seems like there are so many things to get in the way of starting a new sewing project...
    I actually had the whole of last weekend off (I've been working every Saturday since March, excluding my vacation) and thought I could get a lot of drafting done. I had just managed to forget a little chore which was really getting in the way of me creating more patterns: My old patterns had taken over my sewing room.

    I'm usually hanging my patterns on coat hangers which I keep on a rail in my sewing room. However, the coat hangers are those cheap all plastic ones and I had the one carrying my dress patterns had bent out of shape and fallen down months ago. I had put it slightly out of harm's way on the floor and left it there for consideration at some other moment when I might be able to make time of that.
    Well, if a free weekend doesn't give me time to sort out the sewing room...

    So I did.

    And on Monday evening, I did make a tentative start on a new project. I want to make a raincoat in some plastic coated, aubergine coloured cotton which I bought on sale a few months ago. I've been thinking about it all through the rainy months of July and August.
    I have lowered the armscyes of a raglan base pattern which I made last year. I made a muslin, hindered by a terrible bout of stitch skipping from my beloved sewing machine (it might be because of a bad needle, since I already cleaned, oiled and checked for issues with the bobbin and with thread tension. O please let it be the needle...).
    It's sort of OK, but the angle of the sleeve should be changed to allow more freedom of movement and I think it's not quite as wide in the body as I would like. Being all wide and open, it won't be the most practical of rain coats, but eh... I'm fine with that.

    I'll be back soon with updates on the raincoat, and posts about the things I said I wanted to write about.

    September 19, 2011

    The man's jacket

    Here it is: E's finished jacket. He has been wearing it for a few days now and says he's happy with it (in case you are wondering about the trousers: he usually wears black jeans, but now, for the weekend, he was in the leaf-green bermudas I made him last year and it's already quite something to get him to pose in his new clothes). It is funny to see him struggle into it, though. Because this thing is shaped like a proper men's jacket, it has higher and narrower sleeve heads than he's used to (from shirts and casual jackets) and it's unlined so it doesn't slide easily over his shirt.

    I think I already told you the basic facts about this jacket: it's made from black cotton twill, in the shape of a traditional men's jacket. I used flat-felled seams where I could and bias binding everywhere else. It has patch pockets which have slanted openings to the side and at one side a hidden inside pocket.

    I drafted the pattern myself, with fairly extensive muslin fitting. From the back view here, you may think that there's too much room in the back but trust me, he really couldn't do without that space for movement...

    By now you've probably noticed the fitting issue which is still annoying me: there is a rather obvious line pulling from the neckline to the armpit. It wasn't like that in the muslin. And what's more: I think I know why. I didn't make a muslin with the fully constructed collar on. The back neckline of the muslin, with it's clipped seam allowances, must have stretched out making it wider than the finished neckline-with-collar... And E has an unusually thick neck (one of the reasons I started drafting patterns for him in the first place).
    I thought about tweaking the fit but that would mean deconstructing flat felled seams, the collar and maybe even taking the sleeves out. And even then, the real solution here would be adding extra width, which just isn't there. So, I guess I'll have to file this one under 'wearable muslin' or 'will do better next time', all the while telling myself that I would very likely have had the same issue if I had used a commercial pattern and that I would have been able to hide it a lot better in a formal lined, interlined and backed wool jacket...