June 27, 2013

Strung out

After finishing E's trousers, I started on another un-selfish project:

My eighty-something grandmother had several skirts which got too big for her. So, I offered to alter them. Like many seamstresses, I hate doing alterations. But it is different if it's for my grandmother. Who wouldn't even ask this of me.
I've had those skirts at home for a while and started to feel kind of guilty about that.
I finished one of the summer skirts. The one in the picture is the second one. I stopped there because I didn't have sufficiently matching thread for topstitching. 
And then, I ran out of steam. Work is still pretty hectic so by the time I get home, I'm just tired. I haven't sewn at all this week...
I'm not worried, I know I'll be back in the sewing room soon, just not right now.

June 23, 2013

Dressing him

 Almost exactly a year ago, I've posted about this as well...
I've made another pair of trousers for E. When the weather gets warmer, his usual jeans are not so comfortable anymore and he just can't wear those me-made bermuda shorts for any occasion...

I used the same pattern (which I drafted myself, using Winifred Aldrich's Metric Pattern Cutting for Menswear) as last year but I made some minor alterations in an effort to fine-tune the fit (I added a little width to the seat, mostly). These trousers have scoop pockets at the front and patch pockets (I won't do back welt pockets for E anymore, he wears those to their destruction way too quickly...) at the back. And, per his request, belt loops.

All in all, a pretty straight-forward thing to sew. And hard to photograph properly, because these trousers are black. I made these in black twill, to be precise. 
The fit is fine now, I'll just have to hem them a little bit shorter.
I may make him yet another pair this year but for now, the summer weather seems gone again, so we'll see...

June 18, 2013

Finally summer

Today was the warmest day of the year so far. Feeling real summer weather again makes my mind rush to all sorts of summer things I might need (if such weather lasts, that is): tops, dresses, skirts, shorts, jumpsuits...

At least I finished a new pair of summer trousers this weekend.
I used my good old belt pleated trouser pattern. I just cut these to capri length and planned little slits at the bottoms of the side seams. 

The fabric is some narrowly striped black-and-white (or very dark blue and cream) stuff which was sold to me as cotton. Judging from the hand though, I would think there's linen in it. Anyway, it's sturdier than most of the linen available and yet nicely light-weight. 

I will probably wear these trousers with a top over them most of the time, like in the first picture. Of course, I can go all retro and tuck it in. It's a look I love for skirts, but it makes me feel self-consious to do it with trousers (except in the case of my shorts, oddly).

Please let me point out to you that I am wearing heels and leaning back a bit in this picture. Here is no fold under my bottom otherwise.

These will be great for warm weather and they are still work-appropriate. I have to say both the colour and the length will take some getting used to. The big-hip effect which belt pleated trousers always have is just a bit more obvious like this. And any fold and and crease shows in a light coloured fabric... 
Although I have to say I already felt better about the length today. 

Here's a close-up of one of those back pockets (note to self: place those a bit lower next time). Single welts with horizontal stripes

And here's a little trick I used for them. All back welt pockets tend to pull open a bit when you sit down. And they usually don't get back to the right position on their own. To avoid this (and, mostly, pockets hanging open on the rack), a lot of RTW brands tack the insides of back pockets together giving the costumer the choice between a neat looking back pocket or a functional one. Of course, the normal way of preventing this (also used a lot in RTW, although often in combination with tacks, which as mentioned before are largely for the sake of appearance in the store) is to button the pocket. For a single welt, that is done with a buttonhole just below the welt.
In this case, that would have placed the buttonholes half-way over the points of  the darts. Which would make them tricky to make, if they could be made at all. So, I thought I would try something else: I sewed (by hand) little snap to the inside of the welt and the back of the pocket. Invisible from the outside but it does the job. I wouldn't recommend this for all styles of trousers. On these, the seat is fairly loose so you don't pull very hard on those pockets when sitting down. I don't expect snaps to do such a good job on the back pockets of trousers which more closely fitted at the top.

I still have about 3 meters of this fabric left, so I could make plenty of other things with it as well. Should I try and make a matching jacket (my old linen jacket is getting rather tired...) or would that just be too much pale-grey-like fabric? A simple gathered skirt would be nice as well. And I could make both of those from the remaining fabric. On the other hand, one part of me wants to turn every bit fabric I get my hands on into a retro dress or a jumpsuit, and another part wonders if I really want a lot of this stuff in my wardrobe at the same time....

June 15, 2013


Recently, I was lucky enough to find several issues of the sewing magazine Bella for sale at a quite reasonable price. A total of 19 magazines, all from 1950 and 1951.
Like Marion and Gracieuse, Bella was a Dutch sewing magazine. I know its publication started earlier than Marion's (which must have had it's first issue in 1948, judging from the continuous numbering on the 1950's ones) because I've bought two issues from 1942 before. I don't know when the publication of Bella started and neither when Gracieuse's stopped, so those two may have overlapped as well.
The great thing about Bella, compared to all other vintage sewing magazines I know, is that all the patterns were included on tracing sheets. Just one size per design (other sizes could be obtained by mail order) and they obviously felt that 'real' women's sizes started at a bust circumference of 92, but still. 

Like Gracieuse, Bella also contained a short fashion report, knitting and craft patterns, a story and even a recipe. However, it's focus is very much on sewing.

The following images are from July 1 (the magazines appeared twice per month) 1951:

This is the fashion report, which has lovely photographs of garments which were made either is RTW or in couture at the time. These are meant to inspire and they are the only pictures of clothes in the entire magazine which don't come with patterns.

Then, there's some intricate crafting stuff. And slip and nightwear patterns. I kind of like the pyjama (unbelted, obviously) and the slip on the left (which is unfortunately for a bust circumference of 102...). 

Then, there are childrens' patterns. Like most magazines of the time, Bella assumes a woman will be sewing for her entire family, which, by the logic of all vintage sewing magazines, means women and children. 
The left page shows how one pattern can be adepted for various different looks. This is a returning feature in the magazine, although it's more often applied to a pattern for women.

Boys are not forgotten either. Those calf-length trousers were called "plus-four" in Dutch (which I think is French) but I have no idea what they were called in English.

Then, it's time for the ladies. I love the variaty and look at all the pocket options. My favorite is the first one on the right page: a slim skirt with some kind of stick-out pocket and a bodice with an integrated pelerine which forms the sleeves.

The next page is evening wear for those summer parties... Ah, when did we stop dressing up? 

And then, there are beachwear options. Each of these designs can be altered from some kind of beach version, to a city one. Not just sundresses with boleros or blouses on top, oh know. There's bathing suit with a buttoned skirt and a pelerine and what looks like a jumpsuit with an extra blouse.

And that's it for the sewing patterns. I didn't take pictures of the two remaining pages which contained the story, the recipe and a knitting pattern for baby clothes. I did think the back cover was kind of interesting though: not one but two craft projects. How to make a simple leather pencil case and how to crochet fine edges on a handkerchief.

I think it may be time for some more 1950's sewing...

June 13, 2013

And stripes!

Ready for the next instalment of "tops which are neither black, nor plain t-shirts"?
Ready or not, please allow me to present my new striped top. Yes, I know it has black in it but if it's mixed with at least as much of a clearly lighter colour, that doesn't count, does it? 
I like stripes. One of my much-worn twist tops has white and dark blue stripes and I've worn it loads (it was my first intentionally made twist top. The one before it was made as a muslin for my twist dress). And two weeks ago, it was in the laundry with other coloured clothes... Including my bright pink skirt which I had washed separately (both as fabric and as garment) three times before. Now, I thought it was safe, but I was wrong. The garments with clear colours were fine, but the cream coloured shirt was light pink and my trusty twist top was sort of OK apart from light pink spots under the arms (no idea why. I always knew that knit wasn't 100% cotton or viscose so that must be why it didn't take the dye that well, but I don't know anything about the fibre altering qualities of human sweat...). 
Ever since that unfortunate load of laundry, I've been on the lookout for new striped fabric. I found this stuff on sale for 1 euro a meter and bought 4 meters straight away. It is some sort of mystery fibre but it doesn't cling. It is, unfortunately, also a bit sheer so I lined/underlined this top with thin white cotton jersey. 

For this top, I used Pattern Magic 2's "different facings, different looks" design. Essentially, it's like a cowl neck (which I first wanted to make) but sewn to a fitted facing. I used the assymetrical option. 

And my facing isn't really a facing but part of the lining/underlining. 

Neckline and armscyes were finished blind, using the white cotton as a lining or all-in-one facing. I flatlocked the hem.

And I could convince E (who likes o make me laugh) to take a couple of pictures which gave him the opportunity to try out our new camera. One of those little digital ones, which can do this:

I like this top and expect to wear it a lot. And I have plenty of striped fabric left to play around with...

June 10, 2013


 In the comments to my previous post, several people mentioned those hems. Badmomgoodmom liked them as a reminder that you can do functional hems on a serger, while redpointtailor and Lakshmi Rajesh wanted to try the technique. 
So, for them and for those of you who thought the same thing, but didn't comment, I thought I'd better explain how to make this type of hem as best as I can.
There are probably a lot of other tutorials for this out there, and better ones as well, but I don't know them. So, to answer any questions, I'll just show you what I do.
In fact, I've only been using this technique for a little while. Before, I sort of knew about it, but it wasn't until my boyfriend bought a couple of RTW t-shirts with this type of finish that I was interested enough to try it out.

It all starts, as so much in sewing, with pressing. Press the amount of fabric you want as the hem up at the wrong side of the fabric (nothing special there, you'd do that for any kind of hem). 

The second bit of pressing is a bit more unusual: Press you hem to the right side of the garment along the line at which the raw edge has come to lie after the first pressing.

Now, it's time to get the serger ready. Normally, when making a garment in jersey, you'll be using two needles and four threads on your serger. For flatlocking, you need one needle (the one on the right) and three threads. The tension settings which work well on mine are: a normal setting, 4, on the upper and lower looper and a reduced tension, 2 (normal would be 4 as well) on the needle. 

And then you can start hemming. carefully guide the edge which has both a fold and the raw edge betweenthe needle and the blade. You don't want to cut anthing away. In fact, try to keep a millimeter or so between the serger blade and the edge of the fabric. (of course you could swivel the blade away but I don't. Having it in the normal position makes aiming easier IMHO).

When the serging is done, the hem will look like this (on the wrong side of the fabric).

Fold it open (on the right side) and pull a bit to open the stitches.

Press flat, and your hem is done!

June 9, 2013

Summer twist

In my ongoing mission to make tops which are neither plain t-shirts nor black, I've added yet another top with a twist to my wardrobe. A garment which was meant to be flattering, comfortable and practical for work. And I think I've achieved that. (sorry, no smiling pictures this time. In those, my eyes were closed ;)
I just used the pattern I've made back in November 2011 for my moss green twist top. A pattern which I had already re-used last year, to make the pale grey dress to wear to a friend's wedding.

What can say? I just like the look of the twist combined with the dropped shoulder... 
Like the dress, this new top has a short sleeve but I also made a new ehh... twist on the design. 

Instead of just finishing the edges, I added a band along the neckline. This gives a more modest amount of cleavage and it's an easy finish.
The top is a bit more close-fitting than the previous garments because those were made from rather soft and stretchy viscose jerseys while this one is in a thin but less stretchy brown cotton jersey. 

For the hems, I think I've now figured out a which tension setting my serger creates the best flatlock stitches. I really like this. It's quick, sturdy yet stretchy and I don't think it looks bad either.

June 5, 2013

Another crazy dress

Yesterday, I finally finished the dress I've been working on. Don't worry, there are pictures which show it better.
You may already recognise the silhouette though. I announced this dress in my "sewing plans" post.

I even posted this sketch back then.

It wasn't much later that I started drafting the pattern. In itself, that wasn't difficult but I wanted to incorporate the adjustment for the larger cupsize (other than that, I could just use the bodice pattern from a previous kimono sleeved dress as a starting point). And then, work was crazy these past weeks and we had plans in the weekend which didn't leave much time for sewing.

Anyway, this is what vintagesewing (with a big 'thank you' to lsaspacey for pointing out the webarchive page) calls a "cowl skirt". It also appears in Winifred Aldrich's Metric Pattern Cutting for Womenswear, which I sort of looked at while drafting. I own that book in Dutch and the name there translates as "tapering skirt with draped hipline". 

Whatever the name, this not your average skirt. Of course, playing with the proportions could yield less over-the-top looks but it's never going to everybody's cup of tea. I was torn between love and fear during much of the construction myself ;)

Other than that crazy skirt, the dress has fitted kimono sleeves with underarm gussets and a convertible collar with a bit of a twist. Normally, such a collar is drafted on a high and fitted neckline, I widened mine by 2 cm, made it quite a bit deeper and made a separate facing which allowed me to make the lower notches stick out past the straight lines of the front overlap.

At the back, there's a little detail I've been admiring in 1940's and 1950's patterns. It's pointed at center back. A small detail, but if the collar curves nicely at the back of the dress, I think it looks rather good.

I made the dress in a mystery fabric which I think is viscose. It's quite drapey (which was really needed for that skirt), of medium weight and has a really soft plush back (which does mean I'll really need a slip if I ever want to wear it with tights). I had remembered the colour as a dark teal but actually it's more like bottle green. 
And the belt, I made a couple of months ago from a piece of thick leather (which used to be a material sample at a furniture store) a purchased buckle which matched the colour perfectly and some heavy duty gormets.

All in all, it's not an 'everyday' kind of dress but I like it. 

June 3, 2013

Me-Made-May considerations

It is a bit late for a round-up of my experiences of Me-Made-May, so I thought I'd better get on with it. 
First of all, I did keep to my pledge of wearing only me-made clothes (which did make me realize how often I still reach for those black spaghetti strap tops, the basic black t-shirt and my vintage silk blouse) and I made the promised second bra with coordinating panties.
I didn't keep it up to document my outfits every day though. And although I was very interested in what others were doing, I didn't spend a lot of time browsing the Flickr pool after the second week. 
I have an excuse though. At my work, the months of May and June are always the busiest of the entire year. As a result, I spend five to six days a week in me-made, presentable, nice-ish but essentially not very exciting clothes without time to take proper pictures. After a week and a half of self-portraits in a mirror with a phone camera, I was sick of it and I couldn't imagine anyone else enjoying more of those pictures (although MMM commenters have been nothing but kind of them).
I did do something kind of new with the pictures though: On the weekends, I let E to take some snapshots of my outfits, either around the house or while we were outside. He has taken the occasional picture for the blog before, but somehow I never got around to asking him to that more often. And the results are nice: less posed, more smiles and more interesting surroundings than my usual bit of white wall between the living room door and the dining table... I think I may just keep doing that.

But, I don't think Me-Made-May is just about any individual seamstress. It seemed very much like a collective effort. All these lovely, creative individuals sharing the fruits of their labour and encouraging each other... Great! 
So, thank you, Zoe, for organizing this and thank you to every one who was there!