November 28, 2010

Buttoned, bound pockets

Yesterday, I left a comment on Tanit-Isis's blog about bound pockets with buttons.
I realised later how hard it is to explain such a fairly simple addition without showing it.
So, I'm showing it here. In fact, I'm surprised about how many unbuttoned bound back pockets there are out there, both in RTW and in sewing patterns. I've made those twice myself and I always get annoyed by the pockets pulling up whenever I sit down and staying up.
There are two ways to add a button closure to a bound pocket:

with a buttonhole, usually used with a single welt

and with a little loop, used exclusively with a double welt.
Mine is wrong, the loop should come out from between the welts. When starting on the pocket, I put my loop between the trouser piece and the strip of fabric which was to become the welt, instead of on top of it. I didn't notice until I had cut the pocket and decided to leave it like this.

If you've made bound pockets before, neither of these is very hard to do but unfortunately, both require planning ahead.
As mentioned above, the loop should be inserted right at the beginning of pocket construction, when sewing the welt-strips.
The buttonhole should be added a little later. This is my test for the first single welt pocket I ever made. It shows the stage at which the buttonhole has to be made.

The welt is in place, the pocket has been cut and the actual pocket pieces have been attached to the top and bottom of the pocket opening. They are not yet attached to each other at the sides. Now, you can make a buttonhole in the outside fabric and the pocket piece attached to the bottom of the pocket. Then, you attach the button to the other piece and finish sewing the pocket.

I guess it would be possible to make a hidden buttonhole by only making it in the pocket piece. However that is the piece which is always made from lining fabric so it would kind of defeat the original purpose of the button (which is keeping the pocket neatly in place. the lining fabric would just be pulled up by the back of the pocket). And most buttonhole feet would not be able to cope with the stacked seam nearby (when make the visible buttonhole, you're placing the foot on top of it, making it invisible, you would have to fold the pocket bits in a way which makes the seam allowances at the bottom of the pocket stand up).

I hope this is useful. Let me know if anything needs clarifying.

November 27, 2010

Another dress to consider

With the colder weather (we had the first stray flakes of wet snow today! I know it's nothing compared to the weather in other parts of the world, but it is definate proof of the arrival of winter) I wear mostly separates. In summer, I loved my dresses but in winter I find it harder to wear them well. Don't get me wrong, I have and love a few but generally speaking... A lot of styles just don't look very nice with a long sleeve. Three quarter sleeves can solve that problem but they can also be cold.
Then there's the issue of fabric. I love wool but they can easily be too thick, look too 'buttoned-up' and require lining. Of course, thicker knits work fine but I don't like my skirts sticking to tights.And if you're going to do lining: should you line the entire dress? And with what? Standard lining fabrics prevent 'sticking' but aren't very nice to wear on one's skin and for the likes of thin cotton, the opposite is true (don't mention more expensive lining fabrics, like Bemberg, I know that might work but I can't afford to spend that kind of money on lining a possibly experimental dress).
So, I largely stick with seperates and occasionally try out one option, or another. It's one of those I have on my mind right now, but I'll really need your help.

This fabric has been in my stash for at least two years. It's a cotton velvet knit in a deep gray. I love the look and feel of it, but find it very hard to envision it in my wardrobe (completely apart from the fact that it may just be an inadmissable transgression of my A/W colour scheme...)

I have thought about using it in a vaguely 30's shape (sleek, longish skirt, higher waistline and drapey, wider top bit) and I really like this dress.

Lanvin, winter 2009/2010. It's perfect, and would be very easy to knock off, but I want a more practical dress. Sleeves, people. Normal winter dresses need sleeves, don't they?
Of course, this is an evening dress but in this country, formal dressing is hardly ever required. Or even welcomed.
And despite long skirts getting more fashionable now, a full length skirt AND long sleeves, all of it in dark velvet is a bit too 'Ms. Morticia' for my taste.

So, I've been making some sketches. I'm not really happy with any of them but I feel like I'm stuck. Your imput might give me an opportunity to look at fabric differently...
All these are rough pencil sketches. I'm not going to put in a lot of time making no-good sketches in Illustrator, I'm not that good at it.

First up: Sleek skirt just past the knee, long fitted sleeves, big cowl neck with pleats on one side. I sort of like it, but fear it might be too frumpy.

Secondly, the same skirt and belt but a fuller top with a V-neck and a pleat at center front. Full-ish three quarter length raglan sleeves with pleat. I figured showing a bit more skin might do the trick but this doesn't feel like me and might just be more frumpy in that velvet.

Number three. Basics never fail. A simple fitted T-shirt dress with long sleeves and a fairly big cowl. It would work. But be boring.

Four. I have, so far, avoided gathers because they would get very bulky in this fabric. But how about tiny gathers or pleats? I didn't really have a clear picture of this in my head, hence the un-clear drawing. It has a fuller skirt than the other ones, and long fitted sleeves. I don't see myself in this dress...

Five is based on a wedding dress in "Revue". It has a gored skirt which flares out a bit at the knee and extends to a point above the waist, kimono sleeves and a surplice bodice with a wide, slightly draped neckline. It is pretty but there is another skirt on my to-do list with the same kind of skirt. And I'm not so sure a wide-open, has-to-be-filled-up-a-bit neckline is a thing for me.

So, this is where I am now. I guess I'll go and work on something else first... But seriously, I would love your imput on this. What do you think of my ideas so far? Did I miss any obvious hits? Do you have any suggestions or know anything I should look at (it doesn't need to be a pattern, I'm going to draft this myself anyway. It inspiration I'm after)?

November 26, 2010

Oh la la, it's Revue

Yes! Today I managed to get home early so there was still a bit of daylight left. At least, just enough to take some pictures of "Revue de la mode", the other vintage sewing magazine I bougth a few weeks ago.
"Revue" is printed in a larger size, A4 times 1,5 or something like that, so scanning it is out of the question. But, enough technicalities for now.
Here it is: Revue de la mode, winter 1951

It looks like the editor of "Record" wasn't lying when she mentioned full skirts as a new trend for the spring of 1952...
Full skirts are definately not as much in evidence 3 months (or 15 months??) earlier. Not even for those fashion-forward French ladies.

They are fashion-forward and flamboyant though, compared to their Dutch counterparts. See how they are all prancing about, while the Dutch illustrated ladies were just minding their own bussiness?
And all those big collars and crazy pockets... Even 'simple' day dresses like those in the picture above have some rather striking details. I bet the winter 1951 "Record" didn't come close to that.
This might just be conclusive proof that "Record" was, in reality, a Dutch magazine just claiming some sort of affiliation with the French.

These styles are great fun to look at, however, I am a Dutch woman... Even today, and even though I consider myself a fairly adventurous dresser, the more quiet styles of "Record" appeal more to my personal taste than the extravagance of "Revue" (although, of course, there are some looks I like).

It's not such a great disappointment then, that only 20 styles shown in the magazine are actually on the pattern sheet (and 4 of them are for children). The rest of the illustrations are advertising patterns to order. The pattern sheet itself look more familiar and less incomprehensible than Revue's. Not much of a challenge, I guess, since they didn't try to fit as many patterns onto it.
These patterns are all one size only as well, and I still haven't been able to find out what sizes they are... (which is not a language problem. my French isn't great at all, but good enough to decipher the texts in this magazine)

What do you think you are, early 50's style-wise? Dutch or French?

(added later: ) I went over the Revue pattern sheets again and finally found the instructions about size. Revue patterns in general are sized "0" to "III". "0" is for 88 cm bust and 94 cm hips and sizes go up in steps of 4 cm at a time. Most of the patterns printed are I's and II's with a single III thrown in. I'm really wondering about this sizing. I always thought people used to be smaller/thinner back then and assumed my size would be to my advantage when it came to finding vintage patterns...

November 21, 2010

'Effortless' is so hard to do...

It's a favorite fashion buzz-word: Effortless. Usually, it's part of a construct like 'effortless chic' or 'effortless cool'. As such, it carries connotations of comfort and not-trying-too-hard. While still looking chic, cool, hip and/or glamorous, of course.

It is, obviously, one of the fashion-system's (magazines, and production and promotion industry) little cruelties. A look which seems easy enough to achieve and can look like it would actually work in the real world.
However, to get the effect seen in the fashion spreads, you need the looks of one of their models. Tall, skinny and with a flawless complection. And some extremely careful editing of your 'look'.
Anything less and you risk looking like you just threw on the first thing you found in your closet...

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you may have developed a certain notition about my style (both in sewing and dressing). I think I tend towards a more put-together look, contemporary with a retro edge (hey, a girl can try...). 'Effortless' doesn't usually feature in my personal style vocabulary. And yet, it's not without a certain appeal.

Sometimes, I try. And whenever I do, I always seem to make trousers. Of course, the clothes for any 'effortless' look should not be visibly confining in any way and allow for full freedom of movement. This excludes things straight away, like strictly tailored jackets and pencil skirts. Both in cut and material, the should be comfortable without being plain or sloppy.

I gave the look another try with this.
(Obviously, I'm not really sleeping in this picture. I was using a self-timer and happened to look down in most shots. The end-result: my eyes seem to be closed in every otherwise-decent picture)
High waisted, belt pleated trousers (I know lots of people hate this shape but I have made other versions of it and I actually believe I got it to work on me) in dark green flannel-like cotton fabric with a mustard coloured lambswool jumper. The jumper was refashioned from a large sized second-hand one.

I wanted a big drapey cowl, but didn't have enough material. For the shape was made by a combination of tracing an existing jumper for the body and using my knit sloper for the shoulder and armscye.
I'm OK with the final look, but it takes some getting used to.

I wonder, is it strange to sometimes wonder about this 'effortless look'-thing? Do you ever chase it? Are you succesful? Or do you just think it is one of those annoying fashion-press inventions by which women are made to fret about what should be simple, comfortable every-day clothes?

November 19, 2010

"Record" time

Yes! I sort of promised a weekly feature, didn't I?
These are practical garments and sports clothes for spring 1952. Hm, I would wear the outfit on the right. And the trench-like coat.

When I first showed these magazines, several of you asked for a glimpse of the pattern sheets. Well, take a deep breath and hold on to your chair because this is what they look like in "Record":

And we complain about Burda's pattern sheets....
As you may be able to make out in this labyrinth of lines, there are no multisize patterns, like those we're used to. Although many of the patterns in this magazine are available in two sizes, the techinque of showing the sizes nested together on the pattern sheet doesn't seem 'en vogue' in 1952.

The pattern sheets came with this sheet of lovely technical drawings. Honestly, I would gladly have paid those 5 euros (for which I bought the two magazines, with their pattern sheets) for this sheet alone. The tech drawings themselves are less clear and less necessary than those of today's sewing magazines. After all, they are just line versions of the (already quite clear) fashion drawings on the other pages. However, this sheet shows all the pattern pieces, giving the pattern geek I am a wonderful glimpse of the bare bones of the fashions shown. Without hours of painstaking tracing.

Of course, I will try and trace some of these patterns. The smallest bust size mentioned is 88 cm, which is still a lot bigger than mine. But I think I'll just try and make a muslin of one of the (few) patterns in that size anyway. For all I know, they are talking finished measurement, rather than body size. Or they presume you'd be wearing a cone bra. In which case everything but the bust might sort of fit.
The annoying thing is that no other measurements are given. No waist or hip width, no waist length. Nothing. I can't believe all women in the 1950's had the same proportions. Although, of course, the wearing of girdles and longline bras may have helped a bit there...
Another surprise is the absence of anything like sewing instructions. Although amounts and kinds of fabric needed are mentioned on the fashion pages and there are those nice tech drawings, that's it. There isn't even a fabric lay-out drawing. Apperently, the home seamstress was supposed to know how to put together a dress or coat. Collars and pockets and flounces and finishes were probably supposed to have been part of a young lady's upbringing. I should ask my grandmother about that...

November 16, 2010

Readers, dear readers, write on the wall...

Which is the fairest skirt of them all?

It's official: I now have not one but two mustard yellow skirts. And I'm starting to get obsessed with this fabric (I had to buy all 4,5 meters left on the bolt, or pay the same for the 1,5 I orginally wanted... so have enough left even now). I've wanted to find this colour since last winter and it now seems to be the star of my autumn/winter colour plan. A strong colour, but not too saturated for a pale girl like me. Golden, but not in such a way that it makes my hair look colourless... While working on this skirt, I realised it's also like the colour of one of my favorite Indian curries ;)

Fortunately, I don't have to choose between my skirts. The only choice I have to make is which one to wear today.

In my latest post, I told you about my problems with the pattern and assembly of this skirt. I'm happy to report that it is finished now, and the problems have been sorted out. I do like the look, although it wouldn't work in every fabric. The interesting alignment of the front pleats throws them massively off grain. You need a fabric which hold the pleats when pressed and doesn't stretch too much on the crossgrain. My wool fabric has those qualities and I must say the off-grain pleats give the skirt a nice swing.

The back (cut as one piece, so no perfectly on-grain pleating there either) has normal pleats, a double at the center and a single one on each side.
I made the skirt a bit longer than most other winter skirts I own, hemming it to a length well past the knee. I'm reading everywhere how midi-skirts are back and, like with my summer dresses, I think the sweep of a full skirt needs a bit of length.

And this, of course, is my first skirt in this fabric. A (also a bit longer) pencil skirt with a double box pleat at the back. I have blogged about it before and you don't really have to make me choose between the two, but it was the one which worked better with my new top. This fabric has been in my stash for years. I bought it quite cheaply, swayed by the sellers claim that it is a silk/viscose mix. It stayed in my stash because of the colour. I like grey, but this blue/grey was really too boring. Until I came up with the option of wearing it with a nice, rich colour like mustard yellow. I'm still not so sure about it, but I think it looks good with this skirt.
The pattern is basically the same as this one, I just made longer sleeves. And I changed the top bit: scoop neckline instead of little standing collar, side seam bust darts instead of tucks at the neckline and instead of that nice keyhole, I made this:

Just to keep the top from being too plain and boring. I made individual facings for each hole and the neckline, which were then joined together with pressed in edges and hand-sewing. They are my favorite feature of this top.

November 14, 2010

Autumn wheather

I have a new skirt and top to show you, but it has been too dark to take pictures all day. Cloudy and rainy, a typical Dutch autumn day.
I hope I will get a better opportunity on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, this is the skirt I've made. I hope you can see it in the picture. I was drafting this on a dark day as well. There's a sketch on the left page in this picture. A flared, pleated skirt with overlapping front pleats. It's from a patternmaking book I own (I've discussed this book before, and, then as now, I don't recommend it).

Using a flared skirt block I made over a year ago, the pattern was easy enough to draft (the back has normal pleats, the front is shown in the book, on the right page). Contrary to my habit, I used tracing paper to draft it. I figured that would allow me to fold it, in order to figure out how the pleating would really work. As I suspected, the pattern as shown results in a crazy heap of pleating at center front. And since this book is totally devoid of any form of practical information (instructions are all along the lines of 'go from point A2 to C6'. I didn't use them to draft the skirt and I think they are headache inducing and don't stimulate the reader to develop an insight in patterns), it didn't offer any help.
After considering hidden seams at the front and complicated fabric origami, I found a solution by cutting out a small section of the bottom front pleat.
When making the skirt, I had to do that bit twice because I had overlapped the pleats too far at first, making the skirt too small.
It's a long time since I have had to do so much frustrating fiddling on what seems to be such a simple garment. There's still a little flaw to the fit. But I'm just going to hope no-one will notice.
By the way, it's another mustard-yellow skirt. Now, I'm off now to make an aubergine top to go with it (maybe another drape-neck top... I know it's getting boring but they're so easy to make and so flattering).

November 12, 2010

A peek inside "Record"

Thanks for all your reactions to my great thrift shop find! Of course I'll show you more! "Revue" is in a rather-more-than-A4 size, so don't think scanning is an option there, but I thought I could try that with "Record".
"Record", with the subtitle "Charmant et Chic" seems to be a Dutch publication, translated from French. Or a Dutch publication pretending to have a French connection...

This is the first spread: The drawings come with the title "Eenvoudige Japonnen" (=Simple Dresses). There are desciptions per dress (the green suit is listed as a mock two piece dress) including size (bust sizes 96 and 102 cm for two of them, 92 and 96 for the others, ehhh...) and the needed kind and amount of fabric (different kinds of wool fabrics for these. The little drawings show the backs of the dresses and, at the right side at the feet of green, the same dress without the detachable peplum.

The other page entitled "Het voorjaar heeft zijn intocht gehouden" (= "Spring has come") features a photograph of moviestar Jane Hilton in a light blue cotton dress decorated with black lace. This is not a dress you can make. The text tells about the new spring fashion for 1952. I loved this bit: "the spring fashion brings no sensational changes, because to do so would not suit this time. Only in the details do we find some nice novelties."
A fashion magazine telling its readers they won't need a whole new wardrobe! When is the last time you've seen that?
The text goes on to describe the 'in' shapes and styles: a natural silhouet with slightly hanging shoulders/ fuller skirts, although narrow ones have far from disappeared/ puffed, gathered, raglan and kimono sleeves/ the, in transitional seasons always important, suits and coats, the latter mostly in classic shapes.

This is basically the 'letter from the editor' about the styles of the season. It is the longest text in the entire magazine and pretty much sums up what to expect from it. I have to admit I like the fairly down-to-earth tone of it. In rather old-fashioned language, that is.

If you like, I could do 'pictures from the magazines' as a weekly post. I also have a book containing reprints of an 1880's fashion/craft magazine which you might enjoy...

November 11, 2010

Best thrift store find EVER!

Looking around at the place where I usually find my 1 euro second hand silk shirts, I spotted these:
At first I thought they were fashion magazines, but then I read the red text on the right one, which said: "patronen op radarblad" (=traceble patterns included)
These were sewing magazines. The left one, "Revue de la mode", is French and from winter 1951, the one on the right, "Record", is Dutch and from spring 1952. Both have adorable fashion drawings inside, "Record" also has some photographs and both have an incredibly densely printed pattern sheet (which may just feature each pattern in one size only) included. And no sewing instructions in sight.

I was so thrilled to find these. I've never seen anything like this being sold there. The seller let me have them for just 5 euros. For the two. Isn't that amazing?

November 10, 2010

Useful autumn sewing

Are you getting sick of olive/brown jersey yet? I hope not because here it is again.

I made this raglan sleeved cardigan in thickest fabric in this colour I had in my stash. No crazy shape experiments this time, just a useful piece for my autumn/winter wardrobe. And doesn't it look lovely with my new favorite colours?

In fact, this is more experimental for me than it might seem. I always thought long, wide cardigans didn't work for me. On a small busted girl like me, those from the shops look like sacks. However, I'm still very pleased with the look and fit of last year's coat... So I thought I could apply roughly the same principles to a cardigan.
I thought about using the same sort of square set-in sleeve, but decided against it. Actually I sort of free-handed these raglan sleeves. Definately NOT recommended in most other circumstances, but I figured I sort of know what I'm doing and knits are very forgiving...
I also added a sort of kangaroo pocket (I normally don't often do patch pockets at all and certainly not on knits) which is really cozy. The sleeves could have been a little longer, but they're OK. Neck and sleeve bands were stretched to fit, the bottom band wasn't. The closure is with jersey snaps.

I'm fairly pleased with the overall result. As I suspected: with a shape like this, it's all about proportion.
I also like the fact that it can be worn in several ways: not just open or closed but also belted and there's even a strange thing where close the bottom snap behind you back which looks nice (sorry, no pictures of that).

Seeing all these new olive/brown things, I realised they would look really good with and extra added pop of colour. So, from a scrap of red cotton (plain woven cotton), I made this little camisole. I just used the top bit of the pattern for my not very succesful bias cut pinstripe dress.
Bias cut panels with side and center front and back seams, bust darts. Self fabric bias tape around the top edges and ribbon shoulder straps (because by the time I got to those, I had run out of fabric).
The cotton will get a bit softer after being washed a few times, so I think it's OK. Yeah, autumn/winter colours!

November 8, 2010

A practical experiment

After the self-indulgent sewing extravaganza which was the leather jacket, it was time to tackle one of the few obvious gaps in my self-made wardrobe: simple tops.

After years of sewing, I still find myself wearing the same old black turtle necks from H&M whenever the weather starts to cool. Especially if I want to wear an eye-catching skirt. The olive drape-neck top was definately a step in the right direction, but I needed more. And I've got brown/olive knit in three different weights. And that colour looks good with most of the colours of skirts and trousers I've got. And it fits my A/W colour plan...

I couldn't resist a pattern experiment, so I didn't make a basic which will go with anything. However, I did make a long-sleeved top which will go with trousers and some skirts and it taught me more about my strange free-form pattern. It also provides the right amount of warmth for the weather we're having now.
And M mentioned liking my sleeves when I wore it today (and she's a designer/pattern maker with many years of experience, so I really rate her opinion).

November 6, 2010

Confession of a sewing addict

First of all: thank you all for the nice comments on my leather jacket! I really appreciate it.

Now, on to the matter at hand: did I really need a fabulous, edgy, original, new leather jacket? (even if it's made from used material) Of course not. In fact, apart from motorcycle gear, I can't imagine a set of circumstances in which one would really, REALLY, need a leather jacket...
And yet, I'm happy having made it. Even though it may soon be too cold to wear it outside, and I personally think leather is usually too warm to wear indoors, I'm still happy with it.
It's an achievement. In design, in execution, in style. It suits that 'ideal me'-dress up doll in my head... not to mention my inner perfectionist seamstress...

Coming to think of it, I've done this sort of thing before, and I will most certainly do it again.
These are some of my best loved creations from the past two years. I still love all of them, but I haven't worn them that much (they're all either too warm or too formal for my every-day life): My first jacket from re-used leather, my lovingly tailored tweed jacket, the 'tsarina' jacket with its labouriously made fake-fur striped edges and the heavy wool block-y jacket which was a triumph in use of the fabric and has my first self-drafted raglan sleeve.
I loved designing these, drafting the patterns, checking and fitting them with muslins and finally sewing them. And I love how they look. Even if they don't really have a place in my day-to-day wardrobe. And it's not just jackets either. Some of my more spectacular summer dresses fall into the same category (shelf-bust dress, anyone?).
And then there's a whole seperate category which deserves the title of "experiments which may or may not work out". Things like my free-form top or my recycled and draped silk shirt.
Fortunately my track record of succes in these endevours is rather good and many of these items make it from experiment to wardrobe staple. Or something to 'achievement project' (see above)...

To sum up: Yes, I am a sewing addict and I freely admit it. Although I sew my entire wardrobe and I try to sort of plan to sew what I will need, I am easily distracted. I love to go for projects which allow me to test or expand my skills or to try out new shapes and looks. I sometimes feel silly for making things I don't actually need, but I can't help myself. Fortunately, I am adventurous enough in dressing to wear all these things out at least sometimes...

What I'm wondering now is this: What is your view on this? Do you sometimes make complicated things just for the sake of making them? Or so can look at them from time to time and feel proud? And if, in doing so, you learn and love it, was it really such a waste of time, effort or material?

November 3, 2010

My leather jacket is finished!

No inspiration for a witty title today. I just want to get straight to the good stuff: presenting my new-from-old leather jacket.

As I told before, I 'harvested' the leather last year from a much loved and very worn-out coat of boyfriend's. It had a lot of seams, leaving me with small pieces of leather and I used some of them as decoration for a costume back then.
Because I wanted long sleeves on my jacket (way more practical), I decided it couldn't be leather-only. I used black wool crepe from the stash for the side panels, the undercollar and the sleeves. The jacket has black lining and closes with a seperating zipper which I made shorter to use it here.

Because it's hard to show the detail of a black-on-black jacket in the pictures, I've enlisted Mary's help once more. It seems like she's having a better modeling day than me right now ;)
As you can see, I cut the leather to suit the shape of the pattern (not the most practical thing for 'pattern-tetris' purposes, but, at least in my opinion, the most flattering). The front partially overlaps (for pattern makers among you: the overlap is to the position of the front waist dart in the sloper) with the left side of the zipper inserted in the princess seam.

And something I'm really pleased about: it may just look even better when worn open.