July 29, 2011

Little silk blouse

Yesterday, I spent a lot of words on how much fabric to buy for what project. Today, I'm off in an altogether different direction. Re-fashioning.

As you may know (especially if you've been following this blog for a while), I often make things from second hand leather clothing. No problem there.
I buy second hand stuff more often than I use it. It's like having a double stash. On rare occasions, it will be an item too interesting to pass up but more often it's unappealing clothes which attract the fibre-snob in me.

That way, I have, slowly but surely, built quite a collection of silk shirts. They are all 100% silk, most were for sale at 1 euro a piece and they are all big, blocky and probably from the 1980's (or 90's. A lot of what we think of as typical 80's fashion happened in the early 90's for most people).
At some point, I used one silk shirt for my first draping experiment. Which was interesting and (un)fortunately taught me that Mary has a bit of a posture problem which I don't really share with her. That particular shirt was made of a slightly heavier and more matt silk than all the others.

Now, I have decided to do something about the silk shirt stash. After all, that silk would be great to wear if we are still getting a bit of summer and even in autumn and winter, nice silk tops could make great pieces for layering.

This little blouse is my first attempt. The shape is rather simple, but I thought that between that and its shy nude tone of colour (which is impossible to get right in a photograph), it could use something to jazz it up a bit. And I don't usually do decoration. At all.
The material wasn't easy to work with. Very thin, slippery and very stretchy when used even the slightest bit off grain (like in say, bust darts, or shoulder seams or even just slightly shaped side seams)

Susan wrote a post, a while ago about making a vintage-style chemise, using a double needle as a quick and easy way to make narrow pintucks. That is what I decided to try here.
And I had this narrow lace in my stash which matched the colour of the shirt quite well (bought way back, when I just started sewing and thought decoration was nice). I sewed that on using a small zigzag and cut out the narrow bits between the lines of stitching. I used a zigzag because I did a test in which I could just tear the fabric away if it had been attached to the lace with a straight stitch...
The buttons are mother of pearl and come from a very old card of buttons which I found in one of the little sewing boxes from my grandmother.

I'm reasonably happy with the blouse. The fit is Ok, I think I will mostly wear it tucked into a high waistband and I'll have yet to see how well it holds up with wearing and washing.

July 28, 2011

One meter wonders

Last week, Lady Tiny left a comment with an interesting question. A question, in fact, which I think is very common for anyone who sews and even more so for a beginner: she will soon have a 1 meter piece of beautiful fabric left-over and is looking for a suitable project.
Now, I think it might be useful to give you my personal tips for guessing how much fabric is needed for what kind of garment, but first, I will attend to Lady Tiny's case.

Her fabric is kashmir (wow!). As far as I know, kashmir fabrics come in lots of different weights, mostly ranging from suiting to coating variaties. This matters when you have to decide what to make from it.
For a coating weight fabric, I'd recommend looking for a pattern for a fairly short jacket with three-quarter length sleeves or, considering the information in your profile, a short cape (Lady Tiny, if you can read even the smallest bit of German, check out Natron und Soda for tutorials for fantasy clothing. It's on my little list of links)
For a suiting weight fabric, you've got plenty of options. A skirt always works, even if your piece of fabric is a bit smaller that 1m. Depending on the length you want for your skirt, you can pick from several styles: 1m of fabric would make a long straight or A-line skirt, a knee-length semi-circle, pleated or gored (I made a tutorial for one of those here) skirt or a short circle skirt. A pair of trousers might be possible, if you are slightly below average height and have a small enough size that you can cut out the trouser legs side-by-side. And there is still the option of a little jacket or cape.
Because you are using beautiful and probably quite expensive fabric, I'd recommend making a muslin: just try out the pattern, without any seam finishes in a very cheap fabric.

A lot of this advice can be applied to any fabric you may want to plan for. Personally, I tend to think that buying as much fabric as pattern tells you to, plus a bit extra to be on the safe side, is a recipe for a huge stash of left over pieces. Of course, that attitude may be strengthened by the fact that I make my own patterns. However, I have quite often heard fabric sellers recommend fairly outrageous amounts of fabric to their customers (sometimes I interfere).
As with everthing in sewing, there's nothing like experience to get your fabric-buying right.

In a lot of cases, you can actually place your pattern pieces closer together than the drawing on the pattern says you can (without compromising the grainline or seam allowances). Also, pattern-manufacturers tend to group sizes, recommending the same amount of fabric them. If you are at the smaller size, you may be able to make do with less fabric.
It also pays off to keep your 'standard pattern changes' in mind when fabric shopping. If you are below the pattern's standard height, you will (with experience) know how to alter it to fit you. Which means you will need less fabric.
If you often buy fabric without a specific project in mind, it is also good to develop a 'rule of thumb' for the amounts of fabric needed for styles you like to sew (there are cards available to help with this but don't have any personal experience with those).
Mine is as follows:

- 70 cm will make me a straight or A-line skirt at knee-length. Or a vest, or shorts, or if it's jersey, a top.
- 1 m will make me a fuller or longer skirt, capri-length trousers or a short-sleeved top. In jersey, it will make a sleeveless or cap-sleeved dress.
- 1,20 m will make me a pair of trousers, a more complex top or a short-sleeved dress
- 1,50 m will make me a blouse, a jacket or a fairly full skirted, short sleeved dress.
- 2 m is needed for a jacket with a big collar or a dress.
- If I'm going to make a true 50's style dress, with a very full skirt, I will need 3 to 4 meters, depending on the design and the skirt length.

These are the rules I buy by, given for fabric which is 140 cm wide (which most are). In all cases, I am refering to basic styles of each garment, added details may require more fabric.
It is worth knowing your leg length (waist to ankle) and hip circumference. You can always make a straight skirt out of a piece of fabric which is of the desired length plus seam allowance and a bit extra for waistband or facing, if it's width is more that your hip circumference plus seam allowance (if it is less, you will need twice the desired skirt length).
For trousers, the calculation is more complicated and only those with the smallest sizes can really place the legs side by side. Keep in mind that, on a fabric without nap or directional print, you can often put one leg up and the other one down. Most of people will be safe when buying 1 and a half times the desired length (and again, twice the desired length for large sizes).
For all tops and some dresses, it's sleeves which take up a lot of fabric. The general rule here is that you will need garment length plus sleeve length.

Ok, that's a lot of text, I hope it is helpful and don't hesitate to ask any questions which remain or are raised now.

July 22, 2011

Short(s) story

When I was a child, we always went on camping trips during the summer holidays. We would spend several weeks traveling around some nice bit of European countryside, going on long walks, taking in the sights, visiting local sites of interest and sleeping in our small tents on campsites in the middle of nowhere. As long as the weather wasn't too cold or wet, it was great.

Because there were five of us and all our camping gear, including the tents, had to fit into one car, packing for these trips was a special kind of operation. As one would expect, my mother was in charge of that.
She had made special packing list on the computer including all the things we would need. We, kids, were trusted to pack our clothes, books and toys as listed (NO bringing extra toys unless you were prepared to hold those in your lap for the entire trip ;)

The clothes listed would be practical ones. The kind that made sense for outdoor activities and would allow us to cope with unpredictable weather. There would be so many t-shirts, so many sweaters, trousers and shorts...
But shorts were getting extremely unfashionable...

When I was about 14 years old, my sister (who is two years younger) and I were sent to the shop to buy some shorts for each of us, for the summer holidays. We each bought one pair of shorts and two summer skirts. Those were the last shorts I ever bought. They were aqua-blue with a whiter check print. They didn't fit great, I didn't like them and didn't wear them much...

Fast forward ehm... many years, and I've just done the unthinkable and made a short legged jumpsuit. And I like the look.
So, I gave it a go. Shorts.

Made from the same black twill which I used for my boyfriend's bermuda shorts, with scoop pockets at the front and single welt pockets at the back. Vintage-inspired high waistline.
Photographed here at their most vintage-y: with a wide (vintage) silk blouse tucked into that waistband.
I enjoy this look but they work equally well with t-shirts. I may even be tempted to try and style these with tights and a jacket in autumn.

July 18, 2011

Stripes again

Usually, I'm not that into sewing with obvious prints. But sometimes, a fabric just calls out to me.
This one was like that, and it could only ever be one thing: a dress which is all about the print.

It's a very simple t-shirt dress with a straight skirt and a fairly wide neckline which dips to a shallow V at the front. I made it using my knit sloper.
It's always tempting to keep dresses like these sleeveless, but I'm happy I decided to add the sleeves. The skirt length is a bit unusual for me, but this was as much fabric as I had, when placing the dark bit at the waist. And I really like how it shows the repeat of the fabric.

I tried to match the stripes at the side seams, but I was too lazy to sew them on the sewing machine before serging, so they're a little bit off.

Personally, I think the combination of the longer skirt and sleeves really works with such a fitted style. Modest yet sexy, at least, I hope so.

July 17, 2011

It's a wrap!

Apperently, I hadn't used that silly pun here before. Probably because my wrap dress pre-dates this blog. Hm, not being a native speaker may just make me a bit limited in the expression-department...

Anyway, my wrap-top is finished. Thank you all for your comments on the flat v. gathers post. As you can see, I went with the flat front in the end.
This top is pretty far out of my comfort-zone but I think it does pretty much look the way I intended it to.

The shape of the collar reminds me a bit of a 'fichu', a shoulder cloth worn with 18th century dresses. Or that may just be down to my period-drama-addled brain...

The actual inspiration for it is much more recent in date.
When I started sewing, I actually did use patterns. With Burda and Knipmode being the obvious choices here in the Netherlands. Even when I started to learn how to draft my own patterns, I still bought some magazines. Which led to my modest collection of un-used Knipmodes from 2007.

In the April issue of that year they did a feature on catwalk-inspired clothes. Among those was this blouse. I never cared for Knipmode's interpretation, but the Armani original remained somewhere in the back of my mind for all those years.
There was something quite different about that collar, something which made it much more intriguing than Knip's middle-of-the-road one. I used to think the collar had been cut in one with the bodice, but I don't think so anymore. By studying the tiny picture in detail, I did find out what I believe to be the secret to its interesting, sloping-down-the-shoulders shape: darts. It has darts at the shoulder. Two on each shoulder are to be seen in the picture, but I bet there are third ones at the back of the shoulders.

So, when I drafted my pattern, I didn't make the usual rounded piece for the big collar. I made a straight piece, with three darts at the shoulder which was cut on the bias.
I was never going for a carbon-copy of that Armani blouse. I was just doing what I do very often: I had seen something which provided a challenge to my drafting skills and my spatial awareness and I took it on.
I sometimes tell people my wardrobe is about 50% useful pieces, and 50% wearable experiments... in fact it may be more like 70 to 30% but there is a lot of truth to that statement....

July 13, 2011

I'm still here!

Oh dear, quite a bit more that a week came and went without a blog post... I really didn't mean to do that. I've been here all the time, but work has been crazy and I'm really looking forward to a holiday now. But I'll have to wait a bit longer.

Because of the work situation, not a lot of sewing has been going on lately. I've only just started on a new top.
I find that among sewing interesting things like dresses and a jumpsuit and useful things like trousers, tops tend to get less attention than they deserve in my sewing life. All this year, when sewing tops, I've tried to move outside my comfort zone. No black, no fully fitted shapes.

This is the latest experiment I'm working on. A sleeveless wrap blouse with a huge collar. I'll tell you more about the design and its details later.
Right now, I need to make a choice: flat front or with gathers?
I made the gathered one because I wasn't quite sure I liked the flat one, but now that it's done and I've seen both, I think I prefer the first...
(Don't get me wrong, I think the gathers would work well for a lot of people, but I consider it a strength of my figure that I don't have tummy fat to conceal)

Your insight would be very welcome...