March 31, 2013

It's a bird...

It's a plane... it is...Super Baby!
Of course, I don't really know but isn't that the way any proud new parent feels about his/her bundle of joy? 

In fact, I didn't go out of my way to make the baby jumpsuit look like a Superman outfit, it just sort of turned out that way because of the colours. This bright blue was just about the only not-too-girly and not-too-gloomy/grown-up jersey I could find and the dull red was the colour from my stash which looked best with it.

As I announced before, I used pattern number 4 from Knippie magazine April/May 2012. A knit fabric jumpsuit in sizes 50 to 80. I made it in size 74 which should, according to my mother, be the size my niece/nephew will wear in the autumn. I had been thinking about adding a hood, just because I thought it would look nice, but in her comment on my previous post, new mother Ri-Twenty adviced against that, for practical reasons. I took her expert opinion on board and didn't make a hood.

I changed some things about the construction because I thought I knew better. I didn't make the chest pocket because I didn't really like the look of it. And I didn't like the treatment of the front opening: a curved strip which you have to apply like an inside-out facing, then press in the raw edge and edgestitch down. Fussy and potentially quite bulky. Instead, I just cut a straight strip on the crossgrain which was slightly shorter than the front and neck opening, pressed it in half lengthwise with the wrong side on the inside and serged it to the front opening, stretching it to fit (obviously, I stretched it out more at the neckline). Much easier, and, incidentally, the way this sort of thing would be finished in RTW...
Wake up! People at Knipmode...

Oh, and I added a decoration at the back. It's a combination of the first letters of the father's and mother's names, J and F. I simply sketched the 'logo' onto the fabric (after trying out on paper, of course), cut it out, pinned it to the back pattern piece (before any sewing had been done) and zigzagged it on. Carefully, to make sure I didn't stretch the fabric. It's jersey so it won't unravel. 
I just hope the parents-to-be will like this little touch. 

March 26, 2013

For baby

I'm going to be an auntie soon... My sister is going to have her baby within the next month. 
Over the past weeks, I've been giving her sewing advice over the phone about such things as refashioning the hood of a baby stroller (not that I know anything about strollers, but I do know what needles to use for what kind of fabric etc.). 
So far, I haven't really sewn for the baby yet. My sister has been given a lot of stuff already (by in-laws and friends with older children) and adviced us not to add randomly to the growing pile of baby sweaters and stuffed animals. And our grandmother has been knitting a lot of baby clothes.
So, I asked for both my sister's wishes and insight in her baby's wardrobe and for our mother's advice about sizing.
And I did just finish a rug/quilt/thing for the baby to play on. In cute dinosaur camoflage fabric (I'll add a picture later). 
That was a request from the soon-to-be grandmother. 

However, I've got my information now, and I borrowed this issue of Knippie magazine (the children's version of Knipmode). 

I'm planning on making this cute little jumpsuit. I've got some soft thick-ish bright blue cotton jersey in my stash which could work really well. That would be OK for a boy or a girl, wouldn't it?
And maybe I'll add a hood...

Wish me luck and give me your advice because I really am new to sewing on this scale... (well, except for this one thing of which I should still have the pattern. but it's a sweater so it doesn't really fit the bill)

March 23, 2013

Velvet dress

Finally, I've made a dress using a piece of fabric which I think I bought back in the autumn of 2008. I've been obsessing about it on the blog before (way back in November 2010) and more recently, I thought I had come up with a great design for it (which, on closer inspection looks a lot like one of the options from more than two years ago...). I even drafted the pattern only to find out that with the limited yardage available (1.50 m of 1.80 m wide fabric) and the obvious nap (luscious velvet...) there was no way I could cut that design from that fabric. So, back to the drawing board I went and this is what I came up with:

You've heard of "business at the front, party at the back". I think this is related to that idea, but not quite the shame. It's more of a eh... sexy secretary at the front, pattern maker's game at the back" kind of deal.
At the front, it's just a fitted dress (based on my knit sloper) with long sleeves and a high turtle neck-like collar. At the back, the neckline dips deeper into a sort of back scoop neck and the collar opens at center back. The back bodice is a lot wider at the bottom and gathered tightly to join the fitted back skirt, creating a loose, bloused back. To keep the close fit at the front and prevent the blousing bit from hanging too low, I made a fitted back lining (in lycra). 

This is the difference between the two back pieces (I later decided to curve the sides of the outside back piece in as well, because that creates a better silhouette at the front). 

The dress is really comfortable to wear although I wonder if should make a lycra slip to stop it sticking to my tights. And I'm happy I've finally used this fabric. There is still a bit left over which might be enough for a top...

March 16, 2013

Fabulous frocks

I'm glad I didn't end up making plans to meet any of you at the fabric market tomorrow... The cold I had a week ago has returned with a vengeance. I am dressed and walking around but that's about it. I don't think I would have made charming company and I prefer not to infect anyone if I can avoid it...

Obviously, this type of cold slows down activities such as sewing and blogging. I may be home more than I would be otherwise but I have preciously little energy to spare. On those good days earlier in the week, I managed to finish the stretch velvet dress, but I won't take pictures until I'm a bit more... eh... model-ready.

Today, I thought I'd share a splendid fashion article from the vintage magazines I'm currently reading: Libelle from the second half of 1949.
I thought it would be nice to try and translate the original text.

Bad Habits

Because of the war, we have automatically become much more nonchalant with regard to clothing. One of the many bad habits, which seems difficult to get rid of, is not dressing up if we go out at night. Of course, that's very easy and maybe it's even a reason why we would, tired from a day's hard work, sooner be inclined to go out anyway, but it still is a pity. Everything is so much more festive if we dress up for it. However, one of the great enemies of formal evening attire is "the man".
It even happens a lot that he will set an ultimatum: "No evening dress, or I won't come". Of course, he can hardly object to the minimum of a dark suit, but if he has to put on a tuxedo or tails, he seems to be faced with an impossible task and usually turns to sabotage. Obviously, a woman can't put on a formal evening dress if her knight shows up in a regular suit, which is why small evening attire, the so-called cocktail dress or the dressy suit, is used more and more for all kinds of festive events. This season, Lady Fashion has paid special attention to specifically summery evening dress. Next to the usual variaties of silk, of which taffeta and ottoman are the most prominent at the moment, she has worked a lot with cotton and linen this time. The preference, currently lavished on the so-called cocktaildress, which is a happy medium between formal evening wear and a normal pretty dress, fits in well with the economy required today because it can be used for so many occasions. 
The skirt is a bit longer than the current standard of 32 cm from the ground and, in many cases, it has an uneven hem. Despite the cheap material, these fancy dresses of cotton or linen are not a way to save money, especially not because they are decorated way above their humble station with fine embroidery, beading, sequins, gold- and silver thread and sometimes even with strass. 
Back in the days when it used to be the general habit to dress up or concerts or the theatre or for evening time visits, people cared more for such outings. The only way to really make those pretty formal dresses, which one has to buy for special occasions anyway, worth their cost, is to wear them, like we used to, to diners out, to the theatre, a concert or a dance evening.

I told you those fashion editors of old were strict, didn't I? The demise of formal dressing would be a pet peeve at the various lady's magazines for at least a decade. 
In this case, the somewhat sour and preachy article is illustrated with fabulous designer cocktail dresses.

Very simple dresses made from cotton or linen are often richly decorated with strass, sequins, embroidery in gold or silver and beading. (Christian Dior)
A cotton shirt dress with a shawl collar decorated with this baroque foliage pattern which is at least partially made up of beads or sequins. The skirt doesn't even look 'longer than 32 cm off the ground'. It's absolutely lovely, I wish they would have told the reader what the colour of the was.

A dressy silk suit is equally well suited for a walk on a summer's day as it is to wear to the theatre. (New York Dress Institute)
It's a great suit. The jacket seems pretty standard for the era but the skirt, straight at the front with a full flare at the back could be pretty spectacular.

Such a silk dress would be appropriate for the theatre, the concert hall but also for dining out or for a dance evening. (Jacques Fath-Dorvyne)
I don't know about the dancing... narrow skirts don't seem ideal for that purpose but I don't know what the fashionable dances of the late 1940's were... but it is a great dress with that skirt drape which turns into a peplum.

This shirt dress of grey-blue linen is richly decorated with small disks of gold leather and... cork. (Pierre Balmain)
Another richly decorated shirt dress. Of all the dresses on this page, this one speaks to me least. Maybe it's because the scarf hides half the bodice or because the busy background doesn't show it off to its full well. It may even be because the padded shoulders and moderately flared skirt give it a slightly dated silhouette among these obviously post-New Look beauties. 

A cocktail dress of black silk taffeta, the champagne-coloured upper bodice of which has been richly embroidered. (Nina Ricci) 
Sigh... another fabulous dress. This one has most of the volume of the skirt at center front and of course, a very flattering placement of light and dart material.

What I like about Libelle, Beatrijs and Margriet is how they tend to illustrate their articles about general trends in fashion with wonderful Paris couture designs. 
Photographed at the time they were made, alongside their contemporaries, styled and worn by the lady-like models of the day, these dresses tell a different story from the yellowed pages of these old magazines than they would, displayed in full colour on white or transparant dummies in today's museums... Less detailed maybe, but more evocative.

March 14, 2013


Look at that!
You can ignore the Binnenhof (the buildings in which the Dutch Parliament has met since 1446, description of it is here, tourist information here), looking splendid in the the late afternoon sunlight, and the modern skyline of The Hague behind the trees... 
Just look at that white sign on the post holding the wires for the tram: Stoffenbeurs  will be in town this Sunday!
Stoffenbeurs is a fabric market which is held in twice a year in several cities around the Netherlands (its rival, Stoffenspektakel is held in the same period in other places, including locations in Belgium and the north of France). In The Hague, the market is held on the square near the modern town hall. 
It's quite near where I live, so I'll be going anyway. However, it just occured to me that this is the sort of event a lot of seamstresses attend... I know most of you are not exactly from around here, but maybe some of you are closer than I think. So, if you are going to the Stoffenbeurs in The Hague this Sunday and you fancy meeting up for fabric shopping and coffee/lunch/drinks, just say so in the comments or email me! 

March 13, 2013

Still not a problem...

 Not tired of lingerie yet? 

Good, then I can show you this. In my last post about the lace back panties, I mentioned how you could adept this style from cheeky short to low-cut thong. Obviously, I was already planning to try. The fabric and lace aren't that nice but I had these on hand and they were cheap. So, ideal for a wearable muslin. 

The pattern now looks like this.
I cut the crotch as a seperate piece and finished it in a way I have never seen in sewing instructions but occasionally in RTW: I put the elastic on the sides in 'blind'. This means sewing the outside and lining together at the sides first and serging on uncovered elastic (the stuff that's just rubber, no fabric) at the same time. Then, you turn the crotch piece right side out and sew it to the front and back. 

I'm happy with these panties as proof of concept but they're not perfect. I've learned now that edging elastic should not, or just barely, be stretched when you sew it to the fabric. It's tiny bit tighter than I'd like here. And for a next pair, I would raise the center back about 1 to 1.5 cm. 
I want to make the next pair using that grey/green lace again. Lace at front and back, lycra only for the crotch piece. Another pair of panties to match my bra (which I've worn a couple of times now. It really fits well!).

Oh, and about the first pair of panties I made in those materials, the start to this new addiction of mine, Melissa's lacy thong pattern: I've altered my pair taking length out of the crotch piece. It fits much better now but it's still a bit wide at the hip. Next time I'll go down a size. Based on my experience with this pair that should work perfectly. (as I've mentioned before, I think the crotch length issue only comes up if you're using a fabric with vertical stretch)

March 10, 2013

Warm and cozy

Tired of all the lingerie-talk? I have to say the addiction has kicked in but I did make something else last week.
On Monday, the day that spring actually started, carefully, here in the Netherlands, I made this nice warm sweater... Yeah, great timing, I know. In all fairness, I haven't been able to enjoy the nice weather because I've had a nasty cold all week (I shouldn't complain, I rarely have any health issues at all, and it was just a cold) and today, the weather turned colder again.

The sweater is very simple, but not a kind I have lots of. Last year, I bought a knitted sweater at COS which I've worn a lot this past winter. A navy sweater with white stripes. A simple, straight, semi-fitted body with slim sleeves. I thought I'd copy the shape and use it for a design of my own. 
The body of this sweater is made from a curious cotton/fleece blend I've had in my stash for years (I made another, fitted, sweater from it before but that one tends to be too warm and a bit too fitted) and the sleeves are in a thick-ish brick red jersey. To make it a bit more interesting in these plain fabrics, I drafted raglan sleeves. The band at the neckline is made from the same fabric as the sleeves. 
It was a very simple thing to make but I like the way it looks with narrow trousers (and it would probably be nice with shorts too) and it's quite comfortable. I'm sure I'll wear it a lot, eventually...

March 6, 2013

Lace back panties - some extra information

Because of some nice comments from people who wanted to try the idea of lace-back panties for themselves, I had sort of promissed to post a bit more about them. Well, I remembered that now.

First of all, as I've mentioned before, I drafted the pattern using Pattern School's Cheeky Shorts tutorial. I basically just followed it except that I used my own lingerie bottom block as a base and I didn't take out crotch length. 
Pattern School also provides tutorials for lingerie/swimwear block, so you don't need your own ones to their designs. Because I was using my own sloper, I don't know whether I lowered the waistline as much as or less than the instructions tell you to. Pattern School designs always look quite skimpy in the photographs, so I tend to err on the side of caution there. 

My patterns look like this:

The one on top is the pattern for the blue panties, the one on the bottom is the adepted version which I used for the lace back panties (backs on the left, fronts on the right). You can see I cut the leg higher and changed the angle of the back crotch (this is recommended and explained in the tutorial). I've worn both pairs of panties and both fit well and are comfortable.

Obviously, if you want to make panties with lace at the back like this, you have to have a (nearly) straight line at the back legs. Which automatically means you need a style with a center back seam. These Cheeky Shorts fit the bill, but you could also use the Boy Leg Shorts pattern or maybe even some kinds of thong patterns with a low leg line (there's no such pattern on Pattern School, but you may know the style from RTW). 
As with all lingerie making, you can only really judge the fit when the item is finished, so I would recommend making a muslin in lycra or jersey with normal picot edging before cutting into your good lace. Not putting elastic on the legs would be fine in this case. 
Judge the fit and alter when necessary. You don't want the panties to be very snug because stretchy lace is not as stretchy as lycra (don't worry about it too much though, it doesn't require alteration of the pattern)

When cutting, make sure your pattern piece doesn't have seam allowance at the back leg line. Place that back leg line along the edge of the lace.

Fold or cut the crotch piece away where it curves. Cut out with seam allowance. The crotch piece is then added to the front crotch piece and the whole thing is cut from lycra (cut on the fold). Also cut a crotch liner from jersey. Mine is about twice as long as the piece removed from the back. 

The order of assembly is as follows:
- Finish the front edge of crotch liner (I didn't sew mine down at the front. If you prefer, you can add and extra seam at the front of the crotch and encase both ends of the liner) 
- Sew the center back seam
- Pin the crotch seam, sandwiching the back piece between front and crotch liner. Sew and turn right side out.
- Apply elastic to the leg line (front and crotch)
- Sew side seams, carefully matching lace and elasticated edge at the bottom.
- Apply elastic to the waistline. 

Enjoy wearing!

March 4, 2013

Bra success!

At last! Victory comes to those who, eh... DON'T GIVE UP ;)

As I've shown you before, I changed my bra pattern. Fortunately, I still had enough fabric, lace and assorted elastics and I thought I had found an underwire which would do. I continued sewing the new bra in little bits of time I could find for that purpose last week. In the end, it looked promising but I wasn't happy with that rather deeply curved wire. It seemed to leave and un-filled area below my breasts and fit just a bit too close at the sides...
So, I did something which is very new to me: I turned to the internet for supplies. More specifically, I googled Dutch sewing supply webshops (as awesome as Kantje Boord is, it's isn't really around the corner from where I live. It would take me half a day to get there and back. A great trip with a fellow enthousiast, but not that easy to fit into a busy week). The ones I looked at in detail were (Melissa recently bought from that site and was happy with both the supplies and the service) and Both offer a wide range of lingerie supplies and, which was quite important to me, both sell underwires not just by circumference and cup size. Oh no, they tell you both the length of the wire and its diameter. Great! 
I ended up ordering from because they sold wires closest in size to measurements I took from both my pattern and my existing bras. And because they charge a flat rate for shipment (as long as you don't order items which can't be packed flat, like foam cups), I splurged on some other lingerie stuff as well. 
I ordered on Friday evening and the package was in the mail today.

Look at all my new goodies...
I bought two different sizes of normal underwire, both close to what I thought I needed, to find out which of their sizes works best for me. I also bought a push-up wire, or more specifically, an underwire for a bra which is cut low at the center front. And black picot elastic, black bone casing, 6 spiral steel bones (I should have bought 8 or 9...), 1 meter of solid plastic boning and a piece of skin tone padding. 
The padding is for another bra, the rest of the stuff is for a lingerie corset I plan on making. 

But let's get back to that bra. As soon as I got my hands on the new supplies, I tried the underwires. The smallest normal ones fit just right into the casing and, more importantly, the bra fit really well with those in place (the bigger ones are just 1 cm longer. I think those may serve well in a bra with cups made from that thin padding).
So now, I finally have a me-made, me-drafted bra which fits well. In profile, the bust shape is different to what I'm used to. Definately a bit more pointy. I'm not alarmed by that because I know I'm used to bras with moulded foam cups and those things are positively globular. I think this bra follows the natural shape of the breasts more closely. 
And of course, I've been reading a lot of 50's magazines and in those days, the ideal shape was seriously pointy (not that they talk about such 'unmentionables' in magazines for good honest Dutch housewives...).

I think I should get back to sewing outerwear now but I'm already planning one or two other bras and, of course, that corset.... 

March 3, 2013

Real vintage

This is something I should have shown you already but, until today, I didn't have a chance to take pictures.
Two weeks ago, when browsing through the racks of the second hand stall at the market, an unusually decorated bit of fabric caught my eye. When I pulled the garment out, I saw it was a circle skirt. The seller's tag just read "vintage, wool, size S" and I guessed (just from holding the waistband up to my waist) that it would fit me. Oh, and it was just 5 euros.
Because it was wool, of course I put it in the freezer first, to kill any creepy crawlies which might be hiding in its plush folds. 

Now, I can show it. First of all, it does, in fact, fit me very well. Of course circle skirts are about the easiest thing to find in the right size, but still, I really like it. I would guess the skirt is from the 1950's. 

According to the label it was made or retailed (retailers sometimes put their own tags in, depending on their deal with the manufacturer) by H. Both, in Rotterdam and Arnhem. Neither Google nor Wikipedia came up with any useful information when I tried researching the name. So, all the label tells me is that this skirt was a real Dutch product. 

It has a metal zipper at the side, with both hooks and thread loops and a metal snap closing the waistband above it. It looks like the zipper was inserted sort of half-blind. By this I mean that it's a normal zipper but it wasn't just machine-stitched in on both sides. The stitches on the zipper look like a very regular running stitch, with each stitch just anchoring the fabric on the outside of the skirt, but without really showing thread there. I could only imagine how to do this by hand. At one side, the top of the zipper has come loose a bit so I will have to try and replicate the effect. 
Zipper insertion must have been made more complicated by the fact that this skirt also has in-seam pockets. 

The main attraction however, is the surface decoration. My vintage magazines would call this "soutache". It's a very thin braid stitched all over the skirt, from seam to seam and from the waistband to about 10 cm above the hemline, in swirling lines like abstract flowers and leaves. The braid has been machine stitched, I'd say after the skirt pieces were cut but before they were sewn. Regardles of the work order, creating this lovely dense design must have taken ages. 

The finishing of the skirt is interesting as well: the seam allowances all show the selvedge of the fabric (which makes sense, when cutting a long circle skirt). The hem has been made by stitching black cotton biais tape to the cut edge and stitching that down by hand so it is invisible on the outside. I like this because it is how I hem full skirts. It also makes me wonder. All the other work on the skirt has been done to a very high standard. The stitching here is different: although none of the stitches shows on the right side of the fabric, on wrong side you can see they are irregular, both in size and in distance. In fact, I could do a hemline neater than that. It makes me think this hem may not be the work of a highly experienced professional seamstress. And then there's the tape itself: I've been told that the 'old-fashioned rule' (so, in the 1950's probably 'the rule) is to use cotton biais tape on cotton fabrics and satin on wool fabrics.
Maybe the previous owner changed the hemline to make the skirt suit either her height or the new fashion better. Whatever the truth of this matter, I don't think the skirt length was changed a lot because the soutache design would have been a bit weird if the undecorated bit was significantly longer. 

About the length... You may have noticed that it's a rather long skirt. Based on my experience with vintage Marion patterns, I'd say I'm a little bit taller than the average Dutch woman in the 1950's. And in the picture, I'm wearing high heels. This skirt is 82 cm from waistband to hem. 
1950's fashionable skirt lengths were measured in cm off the ground (with the lady wearing 'correct' shoes for the style). Fashionable lengths for daytime skirts tended to fluctuate between 30 and 40 cm (at least, in the early 50's, in later years the dictates are less strict). Dressy styles for late afternoon, cocktail skirts and short evening skirts were usually longer. 
Judging by its length and decoration I think this was one of those festive skirts. Dutch magazines really promoted separates for dress-up occasions. A skirt like this could have been teamed with a black jacket for a formal afternoon visit, with a feminine sweater for the cocktail hour and with an organdy blouse for a party which required 'small' evening attire (which means shorter-than-floorlength skirts are allowed).  
Now, I'm happy to have it and I will have to see what to wear it with.