July 30, 2009

Translating sewing terms

Last week, I send fellow sewing blogger Melissa a parcel to help get her through her time in hospital. Although she's back home now, it did reach her and I'm happy she liked it.
One of the things I sent her was a list translations of sewing related term from Dutch to English. She suggested that I'd put that list here as well for the benefit of those who, like her, enjoy patterns from Knipmode (or FIMI, Ottobre or one of those frumpy Dutch sewing magazines the names of which I always forget).
So here is it:


jurk dress

broek trousers

rok skirt

shirt/top top

blouse blouse/shirt

overhemd buttondown/shirt


hals neck

borst chest

taille waist

heup(en) hip(s)

been (benen) leg(s)

arm(en) arm(s)

schouder(s) shoulder(s)


stof fabric

katoen cotton

wol wool

linnen linen

zijde silk

voering lining


fournituren notions/habadashery

rits zipper

garen/draad thread

knoop (knopen) button(s)

drukker(s) snap(s)

gesp(en) buckle(s)

lint ribbon

band tape


patroondelen pattern pieces

voor front

achter back

mouw sleeve

lengte length

wijdte width

beleg facing

naald needle

tweelingnaald twin needle

afwerking finishing

rekbaar stretchy (if the describtion doesn't mention 'jersey' or 'tricot' this usually refers to wovens with some stretch)

ben. stof abbreviation of 'benodigde stof'= 'fabric needed' used by Knipmode

This is by no means a complete list but it's kind of hard for me to guess which terms would help and which would be useless. So if you are using Dutch sewing magazines without knowing the language, and you come across any words that might explain things better but are not in my list, please leave a comment. Just state the words you need to have translated and I'll try to explain them and make updates of this list.

July 29, 2009

The tulip skirt dress - a short geneology

In yesterday's post about my designs from last winter and new ones by Burda that look like them, I hope I didn't suggest these things I made were groundbreakingly unique stuff. I know they were not. In fact, I never really regarded the dress as a real original design by me. I made it after seeing these pictures in fashion magazines (the one on the left is from Brittish Vogue, the one on the right from Dutch l'Officiel). The dress shown there is by Dior and apparently came in at least two different checks.
I liked the lines but didn't think the bow-thingy would work in real life. So, for my dress, I did this (never before seen online: the technical drawing of my dress ;))

Even when I made it, I knew there were patterns available for similar designs. I just prefer drafting my own because they always fit and I can get just the detail I want. Actually, this Vogue pattern may, as far as I know, pre-date the Dior design.

And then there was the Marie skirt on Burda
style (which I had made before). Combined with the bodice sloper, uploaded by member JJ, it could become a sleeveless version of the same dress.

And now, there's the Burda WOF pattern. If anything, it's surprising they've come to the party so late. Tweed dress? Tulip skirt? That's so winter 2008...

All the dresses I mentioned above look pretty much the same at the front. You often need the tech drawings to see the difference in shaping of the bodice. At the back, some of them are more different (for example, the Burda WOF one doesn't have a waist seam), but still...
Are they all essentially the same dress? Is any one of them the 'original design' and are all the others rip-offs? Are they all originals, because none of them is quite the same as the others?
It's hard to say anything about it, especially because I don't know whether I'm looking at nearly all of them here, or just at one small branch on the sprawling family tree of tulip skirt dresses. They look a bit vintage-y, so they might all be based on a certain range of dresses back in the 50's.
And what is true for the line of tulip skirt dresses, is true for almost every piece of clothing you'll see anywhere. Fashion has kept such a fast pace for the past decade, it's forever recycling and reinventing and no one wants to be left out. There's a fair bit of copying going on out there, but also a lot of cases of 'same ideas because the time was right'.

Language lessons

I thought I'd make this a post, because despite always being miss know-it-all myself, I have had some very justified pieces of criticism. As commenters told me it's petitE main (singular) and petites mains (plural). 'Main' is a female word. Now, I know my French isn't much good but I have to say I am feeling a bit embarrassed being caught out like this. I should have checked this before registering the blog's name, but I didn't. So thank you, LaKaribane and Karine, you are absolutely right. However, I guess I'm too late to change it now.

July 28, 2009

Am I paranoid?

Over on Burdastyle, there's a lot of confusion on the upcoming, so far unanounced, merger between Burdastyle and Burdafashion. Like a lot of people, I'm not really happy with that. I've chosen to be active on Burdastyle because I liked the people and notion of having a fairly open platform on which the users have a lot of influence. I have to say Burdastyle has become less likable to me recently, for various reasons, but that aside.

Even though the news has only just been announced on Burdastyle in a post by the forum moderator, there's already a Burda WOF magazine in the shops with 'burdastyle.com' on the cover with the title.
Going through it I got a bit of a shock. The pictures you see with this post are my creations from last winter. I posted these pictures as 'creations' on Burdastyle back then. The technical drawings are from the current issue of Burda WOF.
Now, I know originality is a very difficult concept in fashion and I know the designs are quite classic. I actually based the dress on a Dior W 08 dress which I had seen in a magazine. That dress however, had a very eye catching detail (like a square bow, if that tells you anything) at the front waist, which I didn't add. So Burda's dress, which doesn't have the slanted waist darts of those two, looks more like mine than like the Dior.

I don't know what to make of this. It's very likely that it's all just a coincidence. There are several details which are different. That makes it more likely these patterns aren't copies but it also means that, as rights to fashion design go, I couldn't even claim these designs were mine even if I would be absolutely certain about it.

The sad thing is, I'd be delighted if Burda wanted to use any of my designs. As a struggling starter in design, pattern- and sample making and made to measure, what would be better for me? I wouldn't expect to get a lot of money for it either, just getting my name out would be great already (and if they'd have a job for me, well...;)

I'll stop whining now, I guess it's not worth it. I'm of to make a shirt for my boyfriend!

July 24, 2009

What's in the name?

Because in may seem a bit odd to have a French name on a blog in English by a Dutch girl, I thought I should try offer some information in order to explain my choice there.

As you may or may not know, 'petit main' was the nickname for a couture seamstress in Paris. A term to describe a hard-working, highly skilled, unnamed and unfamed workforce. Literally, 'petit main' means 'little hand'. That alone shows very much how these women were seen. They are sometimes refered to in asides of fashion history.
Of Madame Vionnet for example, it told that she treated her seamstresses very well for those days. She allowed them chair with backs and provided on site child care, paid sick leave and the opportunity to take a couple of days a year off without losing pay. Knowing that these things were exeptional, just try to image how Coco Chanel, working in the same time and notorious for her temper, may have treated her 'petit mains'.

Vionnet did her most famous work in the 1920's and 30's, but the heighday of Paris couture houses, and with them of the petit mains, was in the 1950's. Even before rationing of fabric and sewing supplies had disappeared, some of the great masters of twentieth century fashion had taken the stage. Dior and Balenciaga, Coco Chanel's second time around and a little later Givenchy. The couture of those days was known not just for beauty, grace and creativity but also for its exelent fit, shape and quality. Which would not have been possible without the countless women painstakingly (hand)sewing the expensive fabrics.
Demands made to them were very different from one couturier to the other. For his New Look, Dior 'invented' a silhouet which hadn't been seen, or sewn, for about half a century. Many of the techniques needed to create this shape had to be learned based on textbooks dating back to the Victorian era. Balenciaga, on the other hand, was known for his great attention to fit. He was known to change the way the sleeves were set into a garment even after the client had taken it home.

Despite the many different houses, working days for most petit mains must have been very monotonous. To ensure to quality of each garment produced in their workshops, most houses had specialized seamstresses taking care of each step in the making of a couture dress. So one woman might be setting sleeves or making pintucks all day, every day, for years.

To me, the 'petit mains' are the unsung heroines of classic couture.

Today, reality is even more grim. Even most high fashion houses have relocated the majority of their production to countries where wages are low. Fortunately, more and more attention is now being dedicated to working conditions in the factories of fashion because from child labour to insane working hours, all the wrongs of early industrial Europe have been repeated on larger scale abroad.

At the same time, crafts have been on the verge of disappearing in the western world. In Holland nobody under 35 has learned to sew, knit or do any other kind of craft when at school. However, that was not the end. Lots of us have been learning these skills in other ways. We asked our mothers or grandmothers, took private classes or found tutorials in books or on the internet. Most of us learned some useful things, but have little time. Quick fixes, the likes of which would have horrified the seamstresses of old, are now among the most popular projects. Some of us, like me, may sometimes be hasty but at other times, we want to learn everything and make each garment we produce a work of perfection. My great grandmother was a professional seamstress before starting a family. Her daughter once told me I would have made her proud. I couldn't imagine a bigger compliment.

We are the generation of sewing, we are either sewing sauvages or sauvage seamstresses. Any way we are her to stay.

July 23, 2009

Skipped a day to: Thrifty Thursday

I kind of planned to post something every day this week, just to get the blog going but yesterday really didn't leave with the time or the opportunity to take a picture and sit down to some writing. And I had a really hard time getting the pictures where I wanted them when making the kimono-tutorial on Tuesday.

Today, I made the little bag you see in the picture (sorry if it's a bit blurry). It's for my mother and I need to find a belt or something like that to act as a shoulder strap. Next to it is the other half of the thrifted pair of leather trousers I made it from. The trousers may look too good to cut up, and indeed the leather their made from is in great condition and hardly shows any wear. The shape and size however, are a different story. It's a very small size, but the fly and the waist-to-hip ratio seem to suggest it's a men's garment. The legs get very narrow towards the ankle and are short, even for me. Oh, and it's crazily high waisted. So, I think it will be better off being two bags and being enjoyed as such.

Why did I refer to this post as 'Thrifty Thursday', you may wonder? After all, one repurposed pair of trousers doesn't make it a post about thrifting. The point is, this is about what I do when it comes to going to thrift shops. I like to make all my clothes from scratch and have rarely found anything I wanted to own and wear in thrift shops (and stalls. When I'm at home in The Hague, all the thrift stores in my neighbourhood are of high-end expensive kind but the Monday market has several stalls selling loads of junk with some hidden gems). I tend to buy hats (when I'm in England, the Dutch hardly do hats) and gloves, look at bags and look through the clothes quickly.
Clothing in thrift stores can tempt me for two reasons: either it has to be something unusual, a fifties dress for example, or it has to be good raw material for something else. So far, I've never bought any of the unusual dresses. I'm afraid I'd just be collecting more stuff to clutter up my house. Of the 'raw material' stuff, I am buying.
My favorite Monday market stall puts all the small sized items, including lots of leather skirts and trousers on a '5 euro a piece' rail and occasionally discounts some of it to 2 euro. That's where I bought the trousers for my mother's bag. I've got two skirts waiting for me as well. They're what I think of as eighties things: straight skirts high waistbands, belt pleats and a 'midi-length' hemline.

I'm also going to make a postman-style bag for my father using fabric and leather from an old motorcycle jacket a friend gave me (I gave her a bag made from half a leather skirt to say thanks) and several friends have expressed their interest in my bags. So I really hope the thrift stalls will keep coming for a while.

July 21, 2009

Tutorial Tuesday!

Once upon a time, I convinced my mother to let me make her something. She picked a pattern which was basically a poncho, made up of different squares of fabric. I made it in thin yellow silk, with printed silk for the center front and back pannels. This meant I had fairly large piece of printed silk left over. Now, my normal style of sewing and pattern making is rather tailored. With close fitting or sculpted volume, contour seams, pleats and darts. This thin stuff wouldn't do well with that treatment. So I decided to try something completely different, something... kimono-like.

Of course, I'm in no way claiming that this is a 'real' kimono, or a real pattern for it. I found a book on wearing kimono's in the local library which told me about the rich tradition and strict rules of the kimono. So I'm not going to mess with that.

I knew that, to result in something like the sketch, the tech drawing would have to look something like this:

Thanks to the book, I learned that the front pieces of a real kimono overlap and have a narrow pannel of fabric stitched to the main body to achive that. So the pattern would be something like this:

It's completely built up from rectangles which are traditionately about 30 cm in width. In Japan, that is supposed to be good for all kinds of body shapes and sizes and fabric is woven at this width especially for kimono's. However, western bodies tend to be a bit bigger on average than Japanese ones. In my kimono jacket, the rectangles are about that size, but for a Dutch girl, I'm rather small. And I just cut it in such a way that I would use all of the leftover silk.
When drafting your pattern I would recommend calculating the width of the rectangles as follows: measure you chest circumference (around the fullest part of your chest), divide the measurement by 4, and then add at least 5 cm to that (my chest measurement is 82 cm, a qua
rter of that is 20,5 plus 5 makes 25,5. So I was fine using 29 cm rectangles) . This will give the garment enough ease to fold nicely around your body. The width of the sleeve pieces is up to you, traditionately they're as wide as the body pieces but I made mine narrower to fit my fabric.
The narrower piece of fabric that creates the overlap at the front should be one third (or a little more) of the width of the main body pieces. The last straight piece you need is the collar. In the finished kimono, this piece will be doubled, so you'll need twice the width. My collar is 3 cm wide.
Do not forget to add seam allowance to all pieces. If you want to make french seams, you'll need at least 1,5 cm.
The length of all the pieces depend on the type of garment you wish to make. A traditional kimono is more than floor length. When worn, it's folded up at the waist. I made mine reach to my hips, but any length is possible.
For the neckline, draw a small curve at the back pieces (you could trace the neckline of something like a blouse pattern). Line up the front pieces (if you've made your pattern straight on the fabric, sew them together first, if you made pattern pieces, line them up, overlapping the seam allowances) and match them to the back pieces at the side seams. Draw the line for the collar from the curve at the back piece down and across the overlap.

- stitch the back pieces together and front overlap pieces to front body pieces.
- sew shoulder seams
- sew one end of the collar along the collar-line. Make small cuts in the curved seam allowance at the back neckline. press seam allowance towards the collar. close short ends of the collar where they join the overlap and turn them right side out. press in seam allowance on the remaining edge of the collar and fasten to the other edge with small stitches by hand.
- determine how much of the sleeve you want to attach to the body and stitch it down.
- sew side seam and arm seam
- hem the kimono

July 20, 2009

So you say you wanna blog??

That what I've been saying to myself for a while now... Ever since I noticed how every post on Burdastyle grew into a long story. I just didn't do it yet. Too digital. I'm still a bit in denial about understanding anything computer based, so sure as hell I wasn't keen on starting anything web-based. Well, now I'm taking the plunge.

This blog should become a bit of a mix. How-to's for sewing projects, my very personal opinions about fashion and street styles and stories (and ranting) on other subjects.