July 30, 2013

Going slowly

This week isn't bringing quite what I thought it would. I had hoped that, with emergency sewing for E out of the way and work getting a bit more quiet, I would have a chance to work on my long-anticipated crazy projects.
First of all, work didn't get quiet. I had reason to expect that, but this year, I will be busy well into September. Secondly, I did something silly/had some bad luck.
I bought a new laptop. I needed a new computer, my old desktop was getting rather slow and couldn't communicate with certain much used websites anymore (like my bank's). With the things I want from a computer and from the available space in my house now, a laptop was the best choice. The first time I used it for a longish time (other than set-up), I managed to try and type for some time while sitting on the couch with crossed legs, and the computer on my lap. This triggered a spot of old RSI (repetitive strain injury) in my right arm... 
That was last week. I've been trying to rest my arm and find a better working posture ever since. On the computer, the arm is fine now. It's when I'm behind the sewing machine that it starts to act up. I have some reason to hope it may be better if I adjust my seat but this is getting me worried. No sewing is just no option but I don't want to damage my arm either...

So, it's dreaming about sewing much more than actual sewing.
I have started drafting something new though. Something from the crazy project list.

The idea of a cowl-legged jumpsuit must have been at the back of my mind for a while now. I certainly have quite a number of sketches. I will share my rough sketches now, so please don't complain about the quality of the pictures.

 One of the triggers to really try and make it must have been watching Parade's End. I thought the (rather inappropriate) hobble dress Sylvia wore to the funeral of Christopher's mother was wonderful. In fact, like so many not-to-likable female characters, Sylvia has a great wardrobe anyway. 

Unfortunately, this was the only picture I could find of that particular dress.

In trouser- rather than skirt shape, that would kind of look like this.
Which would be rather close to a dress I was already making...

So, I went on brainstorming on paper. 

My next sketches took inspiration from what I read about Mesdames Gres and Vionnet. These three ideas were supposed to have draped bits mounted on sturdy underpinnings. And then I remembered certain of the practical considerations with jumpsuits... Such as: You can not have only a very fussy closure which you can barely work yourself.

Because I liked the draping and thought the last of the sketches above was too fussy, I moved on to this: 

Kind of a wrap design without the need for serious hidden layers. I hadn't really worked it out though.

What I'm drafting now is based on that final idea, but I altered it for several practical reasons. Like fabric width, the wishes to limit the depth of the cleavage and have pockets. 
So far, I've only tested the fit of the bodice and sleeves. Next, I'll be adding the tied drape based on a Pattern Magic design and draft those trousers...

July 27, 2013

Just for the record

I don't know how many of you used to follow my blog using Google Reader (I never used it myself, so I never quite figured out how it worked). And I don't know what other services, if any, you have moved on to. 
Bloglovin seems to be the one most mentioned so I added its button to my sidebar a little while ago. Now, I've actually decided to try and use it myself. It may even enable me to keep up-to-date with those interesting other blogs I tend to forget about after visiting once through a link on a blog I often read...
This is just a quick post to mention the good intentions and to place the link to allow me to claim my own blog on bloglovin. href="http://www.bloglovin.com/blog/1337674/?claim=egbs2mxx2bc">Follow my blog with Bloglovin

July 25, 2013

Development and degradation

I've had to put the red bra on hold for now. I still plan on getting it right but something else had to be done first.

E. is leaving this Saturday for a three week work trip. To Shanghai. He doesn't like hot weather and temperatures over there are higher than those here, even during the current heat wave. So, even keeping in mind that 'proper' dressing is probably kind of required when attending classes, he wanted to be sure to have enough hot weather clothes.
Because we've been experiencing a heat wave here in the Netherlands this past week (and some nice summer weather before that) he's been wearing his me-made bermuda shorts and thin trousers quite a lot. And just this week he completely tore the back of one of the pairs of shorts. Not at the seam but from the corner of the (welt) pocket down half the leg. And the center front seam on the oldest pair got undone right to the zipper and to the cross seam. I thought I might be able to repair it but when I studied the fabric, I noticed it had gotten very thin at the crotch.
So now, he was down to only two pairs. By the way, let this be a lesson to anyone who considers making the occasional item for a loved one: If you really get it right, the recipient may get hooked on the look and fit of the clothes you make which will kind of oblige you to keep them coming...

 This is the oldest remaining pair of shorts I've made for E (the first one was exactly the same but when I finished those, they were too small. Which I fixed later by adding 2 cm wide strips of black along the side seams). They're not normally this wrinkled, I've just plucked them from the line and haven't ironed them yet.
It was my first attempt at making him trousers. I drafted a sloper, tweaked it and then made this from it.
I had found the camouflage print at the market and went all out on the details. Front pockets, cargo pockets at the sides and welt pockets with flaps at the back. And flat felled or hong kong finished seams throughout (to be honest, I made this just before I bought my serger/overlocker).

I found all those pockets to be too labour intensive and he didn't really need the ones on the side. In wearing, the welt pockets got damaged quite easily. Oh, and E really missed belt loops. The black shorts he tore this week were like these, just without side pockets (and with serged seams inside, rather than the more labour intensive ones). The pair after those had patch pockets at the back instead of welts. After that, there were no new shorts for a while, but I did make four pairs of long trousers using the same basic pattern (the first two were made last year, the latest one last week). These all had front pockets, patch pockets at the back and belt loops.

This is the latest pair of shorts. I made two of these on my day off, yesterday. The first in thin black linen and then, after dinner, this one in heavier linen with narrow pinstripes. This is the simplest design I could think of: same pockets as be recent trousers but no fly. Instead, I made the fit a bit more loose. Which is nice in hot weather and works well in a thin and loosely woven fabric like light linen. Instead of the normal shaped waistband, I made a straight one in pointe knit which I stretched to fit. In it, I made two buttonholes for the drawstring. 
These are ridiculously quick to make. On this last pair, I spent no more then two and a half hours, including cutting and fusing and looking for the drawstring which I had accidentally put in the drawer with the interfacing (just in case you are wondering: Of course a design like this doesn't take a lot of interfacing. I just used some fairly light fusible stuff on the facings of the back pockets, the slanted edges of the front pockets and to stabilise the place on the waistband where I wanted to put the buttonholes. Oh, and my sewing machine does a special buttonhole for stretch fabrics which works rather well). Just what I needed with a busy schedule for the rest of the week and a very clear deadline.

I would definitely not make all his trousers like this from now on, but for the height of summer, this works so well I might even consider making myself a pair like his...

July 23, 2013

About that red bra...

Ehmm... Do I really want to talk about this? 
Maybe not, but because I already announced it, I guess I should.

This is where it is now. Which, apart from its odd angle, does look like an almost completed bra. 

Until you notice this:

And know that those vertical drag lines don't disappear when the bra is put on.

What happened is this: Me being me, I wanted to make yet another bra design. The hardwear sort of dictated my choices: of the underwires I have (six sets), I thought the plunge one would be a bit too vavavoom for this fabric and lace, and two of the three slightly larger ones (for use with foam padding) were already earmarked for specific other projects, so I went with the "normal size for unpadded bra" wires. I also didn't have any stronger elastic in red for the bottom of the bra and decided to try a different solution from the one in the sage green bra
For this red bra, I would create a stand-out bottom band by encasing 3 cm wide elastic in the red lycra. Incidentally, this would also make the bra close a bit lower on my back. To avoid making the front of the bra look like one big block, I decided to try and leave out the normal bridge piece. I thought this would be possible because, to get a correct fit, I have to have the wire casings so close together that they touch at the top in any bra.

So far, so good. I then decided to go with the cup pieces from the sage green bra because those had already worked before. Makes sense, right?
Construction seemed to go smoothly as well although I worried a bit about the very stretchy lycra covering the hardly-stretchy-at-all net fabric lining in the lower cups. A justified concern, as it turned out. The bra in the picture was already taken partly apart to deal with baggy bits of lycra.
But that wasn't the worst of it. Those weird drag lines and the odd curve of the whole thing are caused by one thing and one thing only: there just isn't enough room for the wire.
I remembered from sage green one that the wire was a tight fit but I didn't worry about it. It fit them, so it would fit now. I certainly didn't measure it.......
BIG MISTAKE. The space for the wire, in both patterns is almost 1 cm shorter than the wire itself (and you need a bit of space to close off the ends of the casing, so you'll typically want the space for the wire to be about 1 cm longer).
I suppose I got away with it in the previous bra because a large part of the underwire casing was only connected to the cup and not to any other pieces. Here, on the other hand, there was that big solid band at the bottom which doesn't really allow for cheating. And now that I'm talking about it anyway: when I wear it, there are some minor horizontal drag lines at the bottom of the lower cup of the sage green bra. These are likely the result of that same wire issue.

To make a long story short, I'll have to re-do the entire thing. Fortunately, I have enough material, but I do not like it. (E. suggested cutting a bit off the wire, but I don't like that idea because I don't know any reliable methods to give the cut end a nice blunt edge again)

July 21, 2013

Devil's panties ;)

Have you ever seen the movie Miss Congeniality? In it, Sandra Bullock plays a butch FBI officer who has to go undercover at the Miss USA pageant. Obviously, she catches the bad guy, while getting in touch with her feminine side. However, it's the road there that counts. Whenever I consider making or even buying red underwear, I am reminded of a scene in which SB's character is bonding with her roommate, a sweet somewhat naive fellow contestant. The other girl tells her she was never allowed to wear red panties, because, according to her mother "that's the devil's colour". When she wins the contest, SB congratulates her by saying "now you can wear devil's panties!" (or something like that, it's a long time ago that I've seen the movie, so the details I describe may not be accurate).

Anyway, I made myself a pair of "devil's panties" today. Red lycra from my stash, satin edge elastic which I bought at Kantje Boord when I was there with Melissa and red lace from the market went into making them. I used the pattern I made for my black lingerie set.
Later this week, I want to make a matching bra, but I'm still considering design options for it (and wondering why I forgot to buy any shoulder strap elastic...)

July 16, 2013

More from Libelle

Thank you for all the nice comments on my dress!
At the moment, I'm working on another pair of trousers for E. I'm not going to blog about those because I'm using the exact same pattern I used for the last  pair. Just different fabric. The dark blue/black cotton/linen I used for his trousers and my jumpsuit last year...
It's not a very exciting project but he would really like some more thin trousers in the warm weather (he can't always wear bermuda shorts to work, after all). And it's nice he likes my sewing so well.

Today, I wanted to show you another little gem from Libelle nr.10 from 1956:

Did I mention I love those old colour photographs? Without them, you never quite realize how much colour their was in a lot of vintage fashion.

This is actually a knitting pattern.... 
And it is in my size. Well, it is in my size now, but as I would (optimistically) estimate the time it would take me to knit something this big and complicated at about half a centure, I doubt it would fit me when it's done. 
It's knitted on nr.3 needles (mainland Europe 3, I think the English and the Americans each have their own systems of numbering knitting needles, but I'm no expert). Normal ones for the front and back bodice and four double tip ones for the skirt. Which makes me suspect the entire, nicely flared, skirt is to be knitted in the round. Which would makes sense because that would be the only way one could get both the length and the fair isle/jacquard design right. 

Ehm... wow. Did anyone actually ever knit that?

July 14, 2013

Retro stripes!

My striped dress is finished! And just in time too, because next week's weather forecast is about sun and sun.
In fact, it's a rather simple dress: Bodice fitted to the waist, big gathered skirt with wide hem. Invisible zipper at the side, faced neckline. Slightly elongated shoulder/cut-on cap sleeve (a detail copied from the Marion dress). Four darts at the back, center front seam with front darts from there.

The real attraction is all in the placement of those stripes. 
The fabric is a thin, fairly loosely woven cotton with red and dark blue/black stripes of various widths woven in. It's pretty ideal for a hot-weather-dress: thin enough to be cool and light to wear but just heavy enough not to be see-through. And, as I wrote before, if I tire of the bright colour, I can always dye the dress without having to worry about the topstitched hems. For now, I like it though.

Here's the back. You can see how carefully I stitched those back darts: they're not even visible in the picture. Normally, I use two wide back darts on a bodice with a waist seam but here I thought making four would allow me to make those horizontal stripes look uninterrupted.

There are no pockets (yet). In my vintage fashion magazines, dresses like this one usually have patch pockets with the stripes running in a different direction. I thought about that but was afraid that might make the whole a bit too costume-y. And I could always add them later. Or make patch pockets with the stripes matching those of the skirt, or in-seam pockets...

Again, E was willing to take the pictures. In fact, he was so enthousiastic, he got started before I was quite ready...  

P.S. - Yes, that little balcony is the largest outdoor space belonging to our appartment.
- And yes, that corner of my work room near the door is a mess.
- No, I don't usually sun-bathe on that table. It was their already and adding a chair would have made the balcony too full for pictures. (in fact, I'm not big on sun-bathing anyway. I get sun-burnt so easily)
- No, it's not all my hair. Well, the hair is, but I bought a ... eh... thing which fills up most of that bun. It makes it surprisingly light and easy to wear. Strangely, it's much more comfortable than a normal up-do. And I enjoy the look.
- I made that belt last year. You can see it in detail here. So far, I didn't wear it often but it matches this dress perfectly.

July 13, 2013

The sewing princess

Progress on the striped dress is very slow... I still have the zipper and the hem to do. Hopefully, I'll finish it tomorrow.

In the meantime, I found this article in my book of Libelle magazines from 1956. In nr. 10, issued on 10 March 1956, to be precise. I hope it will bring a smile to your face, as it did to mine:

The article bears the title "A Royal Seamstress". I'll show you the original pages and zoom in on the sewing related pictures.

It's about princess Birgitta of Sweden (sister of the current King of Sweden), who was taking sewing lessons and creating her own wardrobe at the fashion salon Mårthaskolan, under the guidance of mrs. Lithander. Apperently, this salon held classes for young ladies from good families who came there to sew for three days a week, from 9.00 a.m. till 3.00 p.m.

The princess was one of them. 

She even made some gowns which she wore for prestigious occasions at which press would scrutinize her appearance. "The cherry red evening gown, a copy of a Dior design (in the 1950's, designers made most of their money selling designs to firms abroad for them to copy) which she wore at the gala dinner for the Nobel prize ceremony was made by her, as well as the navy blue gown worn at the annual ball at Kralberg castle"...
Of course, according to the article, she was an excellent student at the salon. 
Oh, and she would both use commercial patterns and design her own.

I think that's what we need today: a princess who sews!
(hmmm, the new Dutch royal copy has three daughters... They're still a bit too young, but who knows...)

July 9, 2013

A little bit of sewing

Like English weather (as discussed by Melissa here), Dutch weather is unreliable at the best of times, and often wet. Sometimes, we get weeks of warm weather in summer but in other years, "summer" happens on a Tuesday in early May...
There have been a couple of warm days so far, but on Saturday, the weather suddenly turned seriously summer-y. 
I realised it when I was at the market in the morning, to buy fruit. So, when I found this fine, loosely woven cotton on sale for 1 euro a meter, I couldn't resist and bought 3 meters. Even though I really don't need more fabric.

On Sunday, I had some time for sewing and decided it was time for a very summer-y project: a dress in that new fabric.

I wanted to make good use of the stripes and keep it simple at the same time, so I started drafting this:

Drafting it was easy enough but then, I hit a snag: Somehow, in the picture in my head, the stripes in the bodice had always been vertical, turning to a nice chevron at those center front darts. Just trying to put my pattern piece onto the fabric taught me that was an impossibility. But figuring that out took me way longer than in should have. I even went online to look at striped dresses on other blogs to see how they had solved the issue. 
In the end, I had to submit to reality. I wanted the chevron at center front, so the stripes in the rest of the bodice would have to be horizontal. 

I cut the bodice and carefully sewed the darts. Because this is a very light coloured fabric for me and because I worried a little bit about how those red stripes might make it look pink from a distance (and not a nice bright dark pink like my skirt, but a rather cute-sy variety), I used cotton thread so I can dye it later. I bought good Gutermann cotton thread for the purpose but my sewing machine wasn't a fan anyway. It kept skipping stitches... blegh.... 

Now, the dress still needs a neckline finish (which will be a facing, to best show off that stripe effect) a side zipper and a hem. I think I may have time for it on Thursday.
Anyway, I'll show it to you as soon as it's finished.

July 6, 2013

Frohne fashion

Today, I will show you designs from one of the vintage pattern books in my collection. These are the designs from the German company Frohne for spring/summer 1961.

Like the better known (and also German) Lutterloh brand, Frohne would issue "make your own" packages, containing illustrations, miniature patterns and tools and instructions to enlarge those to your own size. The tool Frohne has you use looks like a giant pair of compasses. I have it, but I haven't used it yet. I will show it to you and comment on its usefulness as soon as I do. 
Frohne doesn't exist anymore a quick Google search brought up only listings on various auction sites. Judging from those, it was around for several decades. The earliest issue I saw listed was from 1941, the most recent one from the 1970's.

For every design shown, there's a pattern in the accompanying booklet. In designing, the company tries to bring something for everyone and for every occasion: for housewives, children, older women and teenagers to go wear at home, out on the town, to school, to work, to a party or to the beach(no menswear though, but that's fairly normal for the time).

In this page, the brand's origin is showing. Only a German company would include a Dirndl pattern in a fashion magazine (don't you think so, Burda?)

So far, the illustrations were rather nice, but here, it looks like the illustrator handed his/her responsibilities over to the new intern...

Who proceeded in the rest of the book, although he/she did receive some coaching after those zombie-like creatures on that first page.

There are lots of things in this booklet I would wear and I have more... I really should try this out. If only I could find the time...

July 3, 2013

Just a bit of fun

Yesterday evening, I returned from a short trip: a few days in Antwerp with the black-and-white photographer and the sculptress, a.k.a. my parents. We enjoyed the beautiful old city, the many museums, some great food and finally a bit of slightly summer-y weather. 
The museum I, predictably, liked best was MoMu, the Fashion Museum. It is not a large museum but it is always dedicated, only, to fashion. The current main exhibit is all about the fabric printed (by one now sadly no longer existing company) for the haute couture houses of the 1950's and 60's. There is some fabulous fabric one display there and of course some eh... examples of its use. There's a slideshow on the museum's homepage to which I've linked.
I particularly loved the Balenciaga pieces. 

And this is just a random picture, which I thought would be nice to share with you:

Strolling along the Nationalestraat (the main street of the fashion quarter), we also explored some promising looking sidestreets and came across this window display. Two whole shop windows stacked with vintage sewing machines. The store was just selling men's clothes (like the t-shirts behind the sewing machines) so they were just there as decoration. 
As a seamstress, I never know whether to love or hate something like this... It's great for non-sewing people to appreciate the beauty of these old machines and for them to acknowledge where clothes come from. However, it does seem a bit sad to use so many Singers, Pfaffs, Joneses and machines from other brands I had never heard of, purely as decoration. 
Though, coming to think of it, it's likely very few of these are in working order and even if they are, many of their peers end up in the skip when their owners don't want them anymore. Still working or not, being turned into a window display seems like a more worthy retirement for an old sewing machine...