June 28, 2010

Proof of concept

Right now, it's that particular sticky summer weather, which seems to leach away all your energy. Of course, it doesn't get to really impressive temperatures here in the Netherlands, but other people, who have reasons to know, have ensured me that the humidity makes both heat and cold have more impact.
Why am I complaining about the weather yet again? Well, I need a bit of an excuse for slacking on the pinstripe project, don't I? At least you guys have almost brought me around to the idea of making a dress out of it... Goodbye practicality, hello fabric origami/tetris!

So, this weekend, I started work on another project which has been on my mind and planning for a long time: a retro bathing suit! I think I have wanted to make something like this (please excuse me for the very rough little sketch) for about two years now, being held back first by a lack of proper machinery and later by a lack of time.
I made the pattern (based on a stretch body sloper made last year), cut out the pieces, some in the lining and all in black lycra, planning to use both the matt and the glossy side. Today, I started assembling, only to be disappointed almost straight away.
As it turns out, this lycra, which has been in my stash for at least a year, is of a particularly nasty quality. Its worst feature just has to be that of 'recovery', or, more to the point, the lack of it. What I mean by this is the ability of the fabric to resume its former shape and look after having been stretched out. A quality one would look for in a fabric for a bathing suit, I would say. A quality which this particular piece of lycra sadly lacks... It already showed some odd bulges just from holding it, so you can imagine what happened when I tried on my half assembled bathing suit.
This is it, so far. I think the fit is basically OK, but I will need to tweek it a bit. The inseams on the panty bit need to be shortened, so they won't show under the skirt bit. The whole bottom, panty and skirt front, should be lengthened by about 2 cm because I like the length the way it is now, but I haven't hemmed anything yet. I'm not so sure about the cut-out at the back. It seems too wide, but it's really hard to judge it without assembling the rest of the top and applying all the needed elastic edging. And I'm certainly not going to waste more time, energy and supplies on an item which I'll never wear.
Last Friday, I was given a gift certificate for the local fabric store. So it shouldn't surprise you that right now, I'm feeling really tempted to grab it and run to the store for some proper lycra (I may have to go with a two colour look though, most lycras don't have a matt reverse side)

June 22, 2010

In the mean time...

Between figuring out what to make of the infamous pinstripe fabric, making my way through the nine little dresses, finishing off my assignments and getting back on the 'sewing shirts and summer trousers for E'-track, there are some small projects which just have to be dealt with first. This is one of those. The fabric left over from V's dress just called out to me. I wanted to make a pencil skirt in 6 gores, but didn't have enough fabric (extra seam allowances, you know...). After some consideration, I came up with this, which neatly used up all the fabric. (I hope the pictures look Ok, it's very hard to judge with the low sunlight coming into my room)

It's a simple (self-drafted) pencil skirt with scoop pockets (the tops of which are sewn down on the inside to stop them from gaping), a high waistband and a double box pleat at the back. I can't believe I had never made one of those before: it's quite easy and flattering and gives more room for walking (and even riding a bicycle) than a slit, without the risk of indecent exposure. That's a feature I'll definately use again.
Oh, by the way, the shirt I'm wearing in this picture is a thrift shop find from last year.
Because the details didn't show in yesterdays pictures, I've added these close-ups.

June 20, 2010

Still processing

Wow, so much great advice on what to do with stripes! I loved the suggestions of chevrons and advanced playing with the direction of the stripes. It made me think back of this.
It's a 1950's couture copy suit jacket which was in the exhibition 'Voici Paris' at the Gemeentemuseum earlier this year. A wool suit, daywear and fairly stern and simple, it was passed by by most of the visitors in favor of the spectacle of the many evening dresses. I, on the other hand, was, true to form, immediately obsessing over this amazing cutting, darting and matching detail.
Now, before anybody gives me the advice to make something like that, I'd love to, but not in the fabric I'm dealing with right now. I'd like to have a wool fabric when trying to pull off such an elaborate design. Way easier to manipulate. In fact, I don't think I would object to pinstripes in wool fabrics at all. Well, to some, but they can be so lovely and subtle in wool. My cotton fabric is almost glossy, which creates a big risk of looking tacky.
I'll be mulling over all the ideas and suggestions for a while longer but I will set this deadline: before mid August I have to make something of this fabric.

June 19, 2010

Developing trouser ideas

I've had some very nice and very helpful comment here lately, thank you all!
For those of you who are thinking about trying the sleeve from my previous post: I added a comment in response to the questions raised about it, trying to clarify matters about both the pattern and the construction.

Now, in another post this week, I asked for your suggestions for my pin-stripe fabric... It is nice to learn that I'm not the only one thinking it causes all kind of tasteless associations, but that still doesn't allow me to give up on almost two meters of fabric which I bought, which has a nice hand and is made (largely) from natural fibres...
The Selfish Seamstress suggested I'd try something like this:

a Vivienne Westwood suit as worn in Sex and the City (the series, not the new movie). I have to say I really like the shape of it, but I don't like it in pin stripe. She, selflessly, added a link to a full-length picture of the same suit in black and that was truly great... I think the pin stripe version kind of makes SJP look like a wannabe mob-girl in my opinion.

I have, by now, sort of narrowed down what I consider to be the danger zones with this fabric. They are: tight, clinging, short-hem, deep cleavage = cheap and not very cheerful take on secretary chic / power suit, stripe used all over, enlarged classic suit details = maffia look.
How do I make this insight work to my advantage? I'm not so sure yet, this fabric may have the ability to let otherwise good plans go wrong. What strikes me when looking at pin stripe garments online and in magazines, is how often the fabric is used as if it were a plain, solid colour. So, the answer will probably include things like: no overall tight fitted things, casual styling, use the stripes and maybe include some more free-form elements (I've got 2 meters of the fabric, I can usually cut quite economically, and I'm small. So it is likely to become more than one item)

I did some sketching for the trousers earlier this week, using my newly developing Illustrator skills (I bought this book a short while ago and am learning ever since). They may look fairly basic, but hey, I want trousers I can actually wear. Here they are, in chronolical order, so starting with the most boring:

basic straight legged trousers, close to my 'standard shape', but not as fitted at the hip and probably with a slightly lower waistline. Turn-ups, curved front pocket and pockets with flaps at the back. A bit too basic, I think
Same shape but without the waistband. For its shape, the waistband pieces would have to be curved, which is not ideal with stripes. Fabric for pocket area may be cut on the cross grain.

Same basic idea but with a different curve to the pocket, to allow it to match the angle of the back yoke. It would be great to be able to cut this without side seams, using a the stripe in a different direction for those yoke/pocket pieces, but I'm not sure that's possible.

June 17, 2010

The other picture

Hm, earlier this week I promised you pictures of 'things' I had made recently, didn't I? Well, here is the second thing, no dress this time, but a jersey top.

The top itself is very plain, and, yes I know, black. All the drama is in the sleeves in this one. You can see their actual shape in the rather dorky picture of my holding the point of the sleeve up.
I had seen this sleeve shape on someone else's clothing and wanted to try it out. With all the different puff sleeves and big shoulder we see these days, it seemed so very 'now'. However, not entirely to my surprise, there's an excellent set of instructions on how to make this shape over here, at vintagesewing. The source? A 1942 book on pattern making. This sleeve is called a 'cowl sleeve' there. The book has got many more great and some rather cooky styles, so it's definately worth a look.
I used the cowl sleeve instructions, but made the sides higher and gathered the sleeve into the armhole.
This is a top I'm happy with, but right now, I don't think I'll be wearing it because it's just a bit too warm.

June 16, 2010

Another dress!

One of the pictures I promised yesterday: my new dress. I told you I'm on a bit of a spree... I stuck with the retro-thing as well.

This dress is made from fairly thin and drapey cotton satin with a huge grey-on-black paisley print. The pattern is very simple, I thought that would suit the big print. It has cut-on cap sleeves (the simplest sleeve option ever), a cowl neckline (see this page at vintagesewing for drafting instructions) and a plain circle skirt. I went with a zipper at center back because that allowed me to cut the back of the skirt in two pieces. That was necessary because I had only 2 meters of this fabric, and I just had to have a circle skirt. That and it made putting in pockets a lot easier.
It's a light and airy dress which will be good in the warm days to come and to be honest, I never expected it to top my previous dress-making effort. There is one thing which bugs me slightly about it: the skirt stretches on the bias. It shows at the hem. I know you are supposed to let circle skirts hang out for a day, preferably on a dummy, and then mark the hem with one of those chalk spewing marking-thing-y's... But I was impatient, my second hand dummy is stuck at its lowest setting, I don't have a marking-thing and most other common tricks for marking hems on you own wouldn't work on so big a skirt.
In my other circle skirted dresses, I have always cut the skirt in 6 pieces to save fabric. Now, I think the extra seams may have helped to keep the stretching under control. And of course, this effect is different in each fabric.

June 15, 2010

On vintage finds and useful sewing

If you are new to this blog, lured in by my beloved new dress in its picture on Burdastyle or just wondering who this old nemesis of the Selfish Seamstress might be: welcome! Glad to have you around.

This is a bit of a random post. I actually have some creations to show you, but it's too late for proper light at my usual spot. That will have to wait till tomorrow. It wasn't yet too dark upstairs in my sewing room, so I could photograph some stationary objects.

First up: easily the oddest bit of vintage I have ever bought.

I found this roll-on girdle at my usual vintage stall at the market. It was labeled by them as 'XS' and the inside label didn't state any kind of size. Although there are obvious signs of strain at the center front seam, I don't think it was ever really worn. None of all the different white materials show any of the tell-tale yellow discolouration which is caused by sweat and there was still a small piece of string attached to the pristine looking label.
I bought it, even if it would be just to study its contruction. Of course I tried it on at home, and it fits (although I'll spare you the image) but is quite a challenge to get in and out of.

Secondly, despite being on a massive dress-making spree, which is hartily enabled by my lovely boyfriend E, I have also been thinking about purely practical sewing projects. Which brings me to this.

I bought this fabric in, about, September of 2008, thinking it would be good for some spring/summer trousers the next year. Spring/summer 2009 came and went and this fabric stayed in my stash. The thing is: I'm not crazy about it. It's fairly thin cotton with a bit of stretch. Black, with a cream coloured pinstripe. Nothing wrong with, you'd say. However, it's a very smooth fabric, almost shiny, with a very sharply defined pinstripe and that's the problem. I'm afraid my usual go-to trouser pattern would look cheap and just wrong in it. The belt-pleated trousers? Wrong. Pencil skirt? Very wrong. I guess I just keep getting the worst kind of associations: dress-up maffia-boss costume, cheap and nasty take on 'secretary chic' etc.
All I can think of is to make fairly loose fitted straight leg trousers from it, with casual styling details. I can't feel enthousiastic about it though, and keep thinking up other stuff to make first. Even though with the weather we're having right now, a pair of trousers in this fabric would certainly come in handy. Suggestions anyone?

June 12, 2010

Presenting: dress nr.2

Last week, I told you how much I was loving the big skirts for summer (several of you commented that they're actually quite fashionable and of course, you could be quite right. I know these were all over the magazines the year before last, but didn't really make it to the street. Of course, high street labels will never be great fans of any look which uses a lot of fabric in one garment) and how much I wanted to get started on nr. 2 from my line-up.
Well, I did. And this dress sort of shows what I ment by apologizing for the quality of my sketches. Did any of you think, from the sketch, that it would end up looking like this?

It turned out pretty much exactly as I had hoped. The sketch may have set-in sleeves, but I used kimono sleeves with underarm gussets (recycled from the pattern for my black wrap dress, which I made the summer before last). The collar has cut-on lower lapels and just a big piece of bias cut fabric for the top bit. The buttons you see are the real closure, with the faced edge which holds them extending for about 20 cm below the waist. The skirt is a full circle with extra width added to it at four pleats which line up with the darts in the bodice. I hemmed it last night: all 5,5 meters of it. Oh, and there are pockets in the side seams.
Self-drafted pattern, of course.
I have to say, I'm very pleased with this one. I've been very lucky to find this fabric: cotton poplin with a bit of stretch in a colour which is perfect for me, for sale at 1 euro a meter. And not all own designs turn out as well as this one.

June 5, 2010

Big skirts for summer!!

It really feels like summer now and for that reason, I've unearthed some of my favorites of last summer.

When I made this skirt, it was partly to get rid of that big piece of bright red cotton taking up space in my stash. It's a full circle, with a deep pleat at front and back added to that. It has a double waistband, one straight and one curved and I've only just realised I can accesoirize it with a belt. The top is a recent refashion.

I know seamstresses are supposed to be planning ahead, taking into account how much time it can cost to actually make something, but ehhh... What can I say? Somehow, the new season always hits me by surprise. I guess the long 'in between' periods we tend to get here in the Netherlands could, in part, be blamed for that. Right now, I'm itching to get started on dress nr. 2 from my line-up, in teal cotton. With a huge skirt. As I mentioned before, I feel like making loads of big skirted retro dresses this summer (and I know it's not per se the 'in' thing right now, but go look if I care...)