July 30, 2010

A new dress!

I just finished this: another 50's inspired dress, but this time, I tried to go for the 'shelf-bust' effect. I think it sort of worked, although the print doesn't exactly make it stand out. Unfortunately, I must have nudged the camera after setting it up for the self-timer shots, because all my pictures were quite seriously out of focus. I'm showing you one of them anyway, just because it could have been very nice.

This is the technical drawing (just one error: there is a center back seam in the skirt, I put the zipper in there). The bodice is lined in plain cotton, with the outside cups actually set into the lining. I also put poly boning in. We'll see how comfortable those straps will be. They might slide down too easily. I had planned for a halter strap at first, but when I tried that on the bodice muslin, I decided against it. Not a good look for a girl with a small bust and comparatively square shoulders.
For the pictures, I put on a moderately full petticoat underneath and decided it was a good time to play around with accesoiries both vintage and costume. I already put the camera away in its bag, and all those goodies in their usual resting places, so I didn't feel like getting it all out once more, straight away. This weekend. I promise.

July 29, 2010

Into my sewing history - part 2

First of all: Carolyn, you are absolutely right, there was a definate gothic/romantic vibe to my early sewing efforts. Very much so. The skirts I have picked out to show you today were based, for their shape on a Vogue petticoat pattern (don't know the number, don't feel like digging for it) but for their style on the gothic goodness I found here and here. Both skirts are made in two parts and connected with two small sew-on snaps at each side seam. I meant for them to be interchangable, but have almost exclusively worn them as I'm showing them here.

First up: black lace with a ruffle at the bottom over red satin. The fact that this skirt is still in fairly good shape is a testament to the durability of plastic fabrics (polyesther, nylon etc. you know what I'm talking about) because I would have thought I had worn it to shreds. I've loved this skirt. I would wear it with a black tank top in summer and with a fitted black poloneck jumper in winter. I never made a concious decision to stop wearing it, but at some point it just slowly migrated to the back of the wardrobe. My boyfriend still loves this look.

Secondly: this black satin skirt was actually the first of this group to be made. And the first underskirt for the lace overskirt. I wanted to make a neo-victorian combo. What I did was make a straight black cotton overskirt with vertical drawstrings at the front. I sort of liked this look, but nowhere near as much as the other one. And it wasn't as comfortable (if kept a bit too long, it was a real knee-binder).

What annoys me now, of course, is all the poly-satin, plus the fact that, back than, I didn't iron and my idea of hemming was 'turn in the edge and stitch down by machine, just sort of make it fit if you have to'. That, and I just don't really wear this sort of stuff anymore.

July 28, 2010

Into my sewing history - part 1

Wow, I'm actually a bit startled by the vote of confidence two of you lovely ladies gave me yesterday... You should know that, although I learned the very basics of sewing from my mother when I was a child, I only got my first own sewing machine about 6 years ago, and didn't get really serious about using it until 2 years later. And only after I took some lessons with M, starting early 2007, I started pattern making and being actually sort of good technically.

Ok, that was the disclaimer, let's get started. These are the three first shirts I ever made. This is pre-sewing lessons. All are made from Knipmode patterns, back in 2006.

I believe this was the first one. There's nothing like jumping in at the deep end. Polyesther voile and a pintucked yoke (which is slightly easier than it seems, being sewn onto the front, not set in). I think I did alright. It even has french seams throughout. However, I had not realised that those would take up extra fabric, making the shirt slightly smaller than intended. I haven't worn it that much because it has always been too tight at the shoulders and in the bust area.

This was the second one. Another Knipmode pattern. Unfortunately, I had let the fabric salesman talk me into buying something polyesther for this one as well (I wanted cream coloured cotton, which he didn't have and believed him when he claimed this would be great for a blouse, better than the cotton even, as I wouldn't have to iron it...) Those ruffles had to be finished with a serged or zigzag-ed edge, which, without a serger, gave me no chance of reaching a neat and tidy effect. I used french seams again but, having learnt my lesson with the first shirt, cut this one a size larger to compensate. I still sort of like the stacked ruffles, but the fabric annoys me and my one big mistake on this shirt makes it even worse.
The fabric did not have a clear right or wrong side. And the ruffles at the sleeves had to be applied before setting the sleeves into the body of the shirt. Which I did with a french seam. And when I got to setting the sleeves in, they were the same. I sewn one of them inside out. Because of the shallow sleeve-head I thought I could get away with putting one sleeve in back-to-front. At first it didn't bother me in wearing, but later, when I knew better, it did.

And now number three. Same pattern as the last one, minus the ruffles. I used black cotton here, and zigzag-ed the seam allowances on the inside. When it was done, I found the overall shape to block-y and sewed eyelet tape along the back darts and threaded a piece of lace through it to give it some shape. Did I mention I quite into lace-up effects back then?

July 27, 2010

Out with the old, in with the new

We've had this charming circa 1950's wardrobe for about 5 years now. Ever since we moved to this house. It used to belong to my grandfather and was never quite big enough to fit all our stuff. Especially not with me frequently adding new things, both for myself and for E.

So, charming or not, it was time for a new wardrobe. I'm happy to tell you that the old one will stay in the family even as we move on to this brand new built-by-us-from-flatpack Ikea version. Which is way more practical in our house and makes our bedroom seem larger and lighter, by the way.

Of course, in moving our clothes from the one to the other, I found back a number of once loved and almost forgotten garments. If my courage holds on, stay tuned for some blasts from my sewing past later this week.

July 24, 2010

Those stripes again

After the disappointment with the pinstripe linen dress, I still had substantial bits of fabric left over. I originally bought 3 m of each and used just under 1.5 m each on the dress.
I made these trousers using mostly the wide stripes. If you're interested: this was one of my original ideas for the other pinstripe fabric, blogged about here.
(please don't pay attention to the look on my face in this picture, I must have been blinking when I took it, and this time, I didn't take enough other ones)

I'm happy with the trousers. The fit is good and they incorporate some of my geeky patternmaking pet-likes... Look:

No sideseam for most of the leg. And one continuous curve along back yoke and front pocket.
No center back seam on the smoothly curved yoke. And no waistband.

And to make that all work, an extended fly flap which buttons on the inside of the waist facing.
Yes! I love making patterns they just wouldn't sell (for this one, the reason would be fabric use: for my size and using a 1.5 m wide fabric, the leg part can only just be cut from folded fabric)

July 19, 2010

Oh lala, let's go to the beach!

It's done! I have finally made that bathing suit I have been thinking about for two summers!
After my first attempt with the bad fabric, I didn't have the guts to cut into the new stuff straight away. This weekend, I turned to it again.
I could list quite a lot of flaws about it, but lets start with the positives:

First of all it's pin-up-tastic (there's a very interesting discussion over at Gertie's blog about whether men find vintage sexy and whether any girl should care about that. However, for a bathing suit, I think a fairly modest pin-up look is good). I just love how the skirt-bit over longish shorts turned out. And how curvy it looks. It would have been good without the waist belt as well, but it is an extra accent.

What I don't like is how the ruching on the cups ended up looking. It's just to baggy and sagging (that's the strange bulge you can see at my side in the back view). There's a fitted bust lining underneath, so it won't create trouble in wearing it, but it's not a look I was going for. I tried out the shape on my bad-fabric bathing suit and it seemed Ok but then again, that fabric behaved quite differently and I didn't have any of the edge elastic in. I guess the cups were a bit of an afterthought to me, I was focussing mainly on the bottom and waist treatment.
There are more flaws which can be blamed on making assumptions about an unreliable muslin. Like the hole in the back. It's fine, but actually a bit lower than I thought it would be. I lowered it after the first try because it looked so high there. In the end, that fabric was just way stretchier (although, of course, it didn't stretch back).
There's one last thing which annoys me a bit: the first attempt taught me I would need elastic at the top edge of the front shorts to keep it in place. I put elastic in, and it fits fine but it pulls at the side seam. I can't think of any way I could have avoided that, so I'm not going to worry about it.

Despite all the comments I made above: this is my first ever piece of swimwear, I know I didn't make things easy for myself with drafting my own pattern and coming up with a design like this and I'm very pleased with it!

July 18, 2010

Ms Morticia walks again??

Nostalgia can be a good thing. Or a bad thing. From the moment I decided to use the pinstripe linen for (among other things) a partly bias-cut dress, this appeared in my mind's eye.
I've just added this technical drawing to show you why Dora's excellent suggestion of cutting off the flounce and making it a knee-length dress wouldn't work. It's no where near knee-length at the front.

I would have loved this SO much, somewhere between 5 and 10 years ago, when I was a bit of a goth. But I made it now, when I'm mostly into wearable shape-experiments and retro dressing...
There are undeniable good things about this dress. First of all, it was my first full body pattern for bias cut (I've done a skirt and a waist panel before, but with both of those, you avoid the hardest bits of fitting) and with some tweaks, I got it mostly right. I don't think it's visible in the pictures, but the stripes form perfect chevrons along the center front and back seams. I just couldn't get them to match along the sides as well. The waist-to-hip curves are too different.
I could improve on it a little bit by taking in the side seams at the very top by between 0.5 and 1 cm, but there was just no way I could see that before finishing the top edge. And to be honest, I don't feel like unpicking all of that (which I would have to do to make that alteration). It might even itself after laundry and pressing. By the way, I think that edge looks rather nice:

So, all in all not a bad effort. It just doesn't really feel like.. eh... me. Wearing this doesn't particularly make me feel happy or pretty. It doesn't exactly make feel ugly but you know, sometimes, if you're having a bad day, changing into a great, favorite dress can just make that little difference which makes you smile again... At least, I can have that. With this dress, I'm afraid it could be to opposite.
It has something to do with the colour but at least as much with the shape. I've got black summer clothes which I'm totally happy with, but this is just all over... and I'm really loving my full skirts... and maybe I just don't like long skirts so much anymore... certainly for summer...
It feels a bit like a waste of fabric. Which, by the way, is rather nice: a good weight and texture, presses well, doesn't crease so much... I might even buy more of it, so I can ignore the existance of this dress, which took about 1.5 m of each. And maybe I shouldn't. I'm just too good at expanding my stash.
I'm considering what to do with the dress. I might give it to a friend who stuck with that slightly goth style a bit more and has a fairly similar size. It's not bad, I just don't enjoy it.

July 15, 2010

A quick hot-weather top

I'm mostly working on my Burdastyle coat this week. Sewing wool, while trying trying to stay cool on home-made ice tea. It's almost finished now, but, obviously, I can't show it yet. I have to say, I had some doubts about the muslin, but I like the end result way better. I think it turned out well and I would wear it. Or make it if it was in a book I had bought.

This is just a small thing I made as well (hey, I didn't need my serger for the coat...). A halter top with a draped cowl neckline. I used the pattern of the orange drape-neck top as a starting point. I made the neckline a lot less deep, cut away the front shoulders and quite a bit of the back and just kept tweaking the side seams until the fit was right. I used a seam stabilizer with a thin cord in it on those side and back edges to keep them from stretching and gaping and that worked rather well. No indecent exposure so far.
I like these cowl-neck patterns. 'Normal' ones have a straight center front line, usually cut on the fold, these have the width for the drape added to the front by curving it outwards. Hence the center front seam. Fabric use it about the same (although you need more length and less width), you can make a high back neckline cut in one with the cowl (here used to make the back of the halter) and, quite importantly, you've got more control over the placement and the amount of drape throughout the garment. As long as you don't mind about having a center front seam.

Oh, and by the way, could anyone tell me whether or not word-verification is active for the comments on my blog? The set-up says it is, but I've been getting a lot of Chinese (?) spam lately. Quite annoying.

July 9, 2010

The tale of nine little dresses... recap

Remember this post? I made a line-up of dress ideas which I wanted to make in reality. Among other projects, I have been working on these especially on those I had fabric for (I try to buy less fabric than I sew up, to stop my stash from expanding even further, don't ask whether it works...). So I thought it was about time for a little recap: what has been made and what has changed?

Also, it's a very hot day today, and according to the paper it will get worse before it gets better. I had told myself to start cutting and sewing on my Burdastyle book coat today, but I'm procrastinating. It's too hot to even think about an autumn/winter jacket.
And I kind of wanted to show off some of my recent Illustrator practice.

This is the newline-up. As you can see, I've made quite a few of these already. Numbers 2, 3, 6, 7 and 9 to be precise. Five out of nine! That's better than I hoped for when I first blogged about this!

Eagle-eyed readers may have spotted my bits of cheating already.

I've got a very good excuse for changing dress number 4: I made that design especially for a specific length of fabric which has been languishing in my stash for too long. And then, after a while, I came up with a new, better design for it. And now, I'm actually quite excited about making it (after the BS coat, this dress doesn't look like a very quick project).
Number 5 is no cheating. It's the same dress, minus the yoke. It didn't seem right for the fabric I have in mind. Those darts from the center front seam may not be great for it either, but I've wanted to do those for ages so I think I just will.

It's in the bottom row that I'm really cheating. I may still make the original dress number 7, but it's more for autumn. Number 9 was dreamt up as a way to make a particular, rather boring fabric, look interesting, but in the end I don't think it needs this treatment. I thought it wouldn't hurt to replace it in the line-up with a different strapless design (Ok, 9 had straps, but the pattern would have had to be as if for a strapless dress)

First up now will probably be number 5. I've got a fabric for it which was sold as silk, but very likely has a bit of viscose/rayon in it. Between black and navy and not that glossy. If wonder if it needs to be lined. I hope not. I'm not such a fan of lining summer dresses unless it's absolutely necessary. Maybe I need a couple of slips...
I'd love to make the new and improved number 4, which, in my mind, has a bit of 1930's flair. The fabric I've got for it is a bit sheer, so I'm mentally crunching lining/underlining arrangements. To be made after the BS coat.
Number 1 won't be made until September or something like that. I've got a fabric for it but it's a warm one.
Last but not least: number 8 is still a design I love but I don't have fabric for this one so I think I'll just hold on until I find one that's perfect for it.

Meanwhile, I still love those big-skirted retro dresses and may make even more of those. I've also been thinking a lot about all sorts of things I could make from those pinstriped linens. Can you believe I've had to restrain myself not to buy more of it...
But what I could really use in my wardrobe would be one or two hot weather-proof tops. Simple ones. So maybe I should do that first.

July 7, 2010

Trouser-shape experiment

You may have noticed it by now: I love my dresses. Especially in summer. Most of all those with retro flair.
But... yes there is always a 'but...' sometimes I just feel like taking on a different kind of look. More casual. Or more tailored. Sort of cool, with a slight girl-dressed-as-boy effect... In one word: trousers.
A wardrobe mainstay in winter, but, at least for me, less so in summer (I really don't understand those girls who continue to wear jeans when it's
30 degrees Celsius).
If you've been following this blog for longer, you may remember having seen a lot of my self-made trousers in colder months, and you may remember how I experimented with the belt pleated look.
Now, it was time for summer trousers. And for an even crazier experiment. Last month, I made this sketch, and that what I set out to make.

I kept in mind how I like my belt pleated trousers, which have what the pattern making book calls a 'relaxed' crotch line. I actually both used the pattern for those, and the normal sloper as starting points for this new pattern.
I had made the sketch because I had come up with the crazy idea that it would be cool to make wrap trousers with pleats in the leg. So, I really wanted to incorporate those elements.
The pattern is rather simple (and exactly the same as for belt pleated trousers) at the back. The left front has, as its only strange feature, a wrap-over bit instead of a fly. The right front is where things get a little crazy. I slashed and spread pattern piece from the tip of the wrap-bit to three points on hip and leg. This meant crossing over the normal crotch line and I had
to make a pretty weird pattern piece to let it all come together.

Sewing it was quite easy by comparison. Although I had to deal with those weird shapes and a lot of pieces coming together at the bottom of the
wrap, this pair of trousers doesn't include any of the usual fiddly, time consuming details like fly and pockets. The fabric, dark blue linen was fine to work with: easy to press and not too prone to fraying and creasing.

I'm fairly happy with the end result. I'm proud I pulled it off and the trousers are really comfortable. I would have liked to see the pleats a bit more, but I already know how I could change the pattern to achieve that. Not that that would have worked very well in soft linen. I was a bit surprised at how low the crotch looks at the front. The look had to grow on me, but I think it's Ok. Sort of cool and carefree. I guess. And thanks to my crazy pattern, I don't have what, in my view, is often the worst feature of all those harem and other low-crotch trousers: diaper backside.

By the way, I'm well aware that crazy trouser shapes are not for everyone. I'd agree with those who say belt pleated trousers almost only work for skinny women. And harem trousers can depending on their exact shape, be worn by different kinds of people, but you really have to be the 'type' for it.
The best advice I can give to anyone wondering about that strange new world outside the realm of skinny or bootcut jeans is this: go a store which stocks a variaty of styles and just try out. Try to go there at a quiet time and without impatient people (having help and second opinion at hand is good, nagging or whining is not) and pick any new style you come across (especially if you know you can get or make a sewing pattern just like it). Don't worry about the exact fit. You'll be sewing so you will be able to get it right.
Focus on the silhouet, you might be in for some surprises.

Problem solved

Remember this dress? I made it last month (and blogged about it here), but it suffered from 'bias hang', by which I mean that the skirt stretched out in those places where it, being a full circle, happened to be on the bias.
Yesterday, I fixed it.
After having let it hang for over a week, I unpicked the hem (which I had serged pressed to the inside and stitched down narrowly), marked a new hem, the length of the shortest straight grain seams, serged along that line and sewed it down again. I'm much happier with it now.
Of course, I had already worn the dress to a friend's party, where nobody noticed anything wrong with it, and received some nice complements for it... However, I just knew the skirt-issue would put me off whenever I'd consider wearing it. I'll consider it lesson learnt.

July 6, 2010

Guess what I bought?

My earlier posts, here, here and here, must, by now, have convinced all of you of my hatred for the pinstripe. So, let me please show you my most recent fabric purchase...
Pinstripe. Black and white, two different widths, in linen.
What possessed me to buy this stuff, you were wondering? Especially since I still haven't started to make anything from that other pinstripe fabric?
Well, just for starters, this stuff was only 1 euro/meter. The width of the fabric is normal, so that makes it cheaper than anything I would normally buy to make muslins.
Secondly, did I whine enough about how that glossy sheen is what really makes the pinstripe look cheap and nasty in the other fabric? This is linen. Matte and with a fairly rough, textured weave. Ok, the wide stripes may look a bit questionable none the less, but the narrow ones...
Which brings me to my third point: the narrow stripes are actually so close together that it doesn't look like 'cliche pinstripe' anymore. I will make a shirt for E out of this. He already saw it and thinks it would work (E seems to be getting more adventurous in the way he dresses, now that he's over thirty. Especially when it comes to colour. Just don't say I said that...)
Ok, reason number four: I've had the most amazing suggestions on what to do with pinstripe fabric. Too many for what I had. And some of them needed a fabric with a different hand. Like these ones. These will drape quite differently when cut on the bias, for example. Unlike my original pinstripe fabric.

And, finally, closely connected to the previous, I sometimes stumble across such great things as this on the wild, wide waves of the internet (this comes from the website of a vintage pattern seller, but I forgot which one. If you know, just leave a comment and I'll give it proper credit). Now, be honest, don't you think that would rock in mob-tastic pinstripe linen?

July 2, 2010

Glum ballerina to take on summer heat

I know I should be hard at work, making my Burdastyle coat. However, today may just be the hottest day this year, here in the Netherlands and I had already started on this little number.
Stash fabric, bought two years ago on sale at the end of summer. It's black cotton with eyelet-like embroidery (without the eyelets, obviously) in lengthwise 'stripes' and scallop-embroidered selvedges. The kind of thing you buy because it looks so nice on the bolt, but remains unused because it's just not very practical. A bit stiff, the pattern's too rigid, you want to use those scalloped edges but don't know how, etc. This week, inspiration struck: a strapless dress with a dropped waistline and a big gathered skirt! I managed to use the scallops along the entire top edge as well as along the 'hem' (haha, no hemming needed!). That meant having to cut everything on the cross grain and the back pieces even quite far that. However, this fabric is, as said, a bit stiff and therefore doesn't stretch as a result of that.
I thought about added thin straps, but I think I will leave it like this. Oh, it's self-drafted, based on my personal sloper, as usual.

July 1, 2010

The secret is out!

I've been really good at not revealing anything about this for the past months... But now, after the announcement has been made, I'm happy to reveal that I'll be making a coat for the up-and-coming Burdastyle book!
And if the posts popping up all over the blogosphere are anything to go by, I'll be joined by several of my favorite seamstresses in this exciting project.

I just received the pattern, and got all of the supplies last week, so I'm really looking forward to things to come. Note to self: Must remember to document each and every step in the process...