June 29, 2014

I'm back!

Hi everyone! Work should be really finished (although I did get a text from my former boss during my holiday about a bride whose dress is the perfect length and yet she wants it shorter... sounds very odd. I didn't investigate. I'll have to deal with that if and when I hear from her) and I've just returned from holiday.
E and I spent a lovely week in Austria. We planned this as our 'active' holiday, with lots of hiking and other assorted activities. 
We arrived on a wonderful day. Sunny and about 20 degrees Celsius. We kept hearing that the weather might change soon but, apart from a drizzly Tuesday (on which we went hiking anyway) that didn't happen.

 We went canyoning in the Almbachklamm with these guys. Canyoning is basically walking and swimming in a gorge, and jumping into the deep pools from the rocks. When you do this wearing clothes and go with a guide who knows the place, it's a lot of fun. I think I'm the jumper in the picture. Only the girls had yellow helmets and I was the only girl doing the higher jumps.
It also gave E the first real opportunity to try out the waterproof digital compact camera we bought last year.

Which made pictures like this possible.

We also went paragliding. It's one of those things we'd been looking at from a distance before and now decided to try. A tandem flight, obviously. 
People usually assume paragliding would be scary but it actually isn't (of course, knowing that control is in the hands of a seasoned professional helps). It's exciting and peaceful at the same time. If you don't have a fear of heights, of course. 

We booked a short flight this time, but we're already thinking about doing a longer one, starting higher, next year.

We did a lot of hiking as well. One of those trips took us through this place: the Kitzlochklamm. A spectacular gorge cut out by a small river, made accessible with footpaths, stairs and walk bridges. 

It's an easy route which we walked as part of a round trip and the landscape is great. 
Other hikes were more challenging and took us up some of the region's smaller mountains.

And we went rock climbing. Another guided event, of course (booked via the same people as the canyoning trip). This took place at a small bit of rock face where hooks had been made in the rock, especially for the purpose of climbing. We've done some indoor climbing in the past, but this was our first time on real rocks. More fun.
I don't have pictures because rock climbing is a two person activity. One climbs, the other holds the rope to catch the climber if necessary. Our guide said he was impressed with our teamwork :)
Another activity we'd love to do again.

On our last day there, our legs were tired and we figured we wouldn't really enjoy another hike, so we went to a spa instead.
And then, yesterday, we drove home again. It was a great holiday.

Today we're just getting some groceries and doing laundry. From tomorrow, I'll try to reclaim my full sewing mojo and look into options for work.

P.S. We paid for all of the activities with our own money. Any endorsement given here is only an expression of my appreciation, nothing else.

June 19, 2014

Vintage sweater in progress

I've finished knitting the pieces for this sweater from my new vintage patterns. It's sleeveless so the main pieces are simple enough: just front and back. And I've finally mastered the trick for making a scooped neckline on the knitting machine, so that went well. It was interesting to find out that this top is knitted with a bust dart. I've never seen that in a knitting pattern before (not that I'm an expert on knitting patterns, of course).
What surprised me is the number of detail and finishing pieces. I expected a collar piece, but facings?

Have you ever seen a knitting pattern with facings? 

The original pattern is described for grey and white yarn, with the white used for the facings, one side of the bow (which is also a double layer) and inside collar. I chose this mixed, sand coloured yarn because it was the only thing in my stash that seemed to have the right gauge. I used the ocher to set up for the bottom edges and I really liked how the two colours looked together. So, even though yellow is not a good colour for me, I decided to use it for the 'white' pieces.
For the sleeve bands, you were supposed to pick up stitches but I couldn't make that work. This is a pattern for a thin yarn, so the stitches are close together. And the needles on a knitting machine are in a fixed position. Picking up those stitches at the armholes would pull them all out of alignment. So, I knitted separate bands and sewed them on. 

You are actually supposed to have the purl side showing on all the detail pieces but I think I won't do that. 
As you can see, the sleeve bands and facings are on. Now, I only have the collar, bow and sides to go... I hope all the pieces will fit.

June 17, 2014

Deja vu

Can you spot the difference?

 This picture was taken today,

This one a little over two years ago. And you can neglect any (small) changes to my hair and glasses.
That was such a great jumpsuit. I've worn it a lot. I always had a slight issue with the fit at the hip/crotch. I had that with all my wide trousers from that era. Although they were a bit wider at the hip, they would still crease badly in that area while worn. Which is a natural thing in more closely fitted trousers but for wide ones, I wanted that effortless, flow-y look. It's not a flaw you've ever seen here because I usually took pictures of new garments when I just put them on for the first time or after ironing. This 'problem' (if you can call it that) only showed up after sitting in the trousers in question. 
It was never so much of an issue that it made me not want to wear this jumpsuit though.

However, when taking it out of my wardrobe for the first time this year, I discovered that I was now at risk of making the buttons pop off when straightening my shoulders. Interesting. There are about 7 cm of bust circumference between now and 2012 but only about 2 of those in the last year. I've worn the jumpsuit last summer so apparently, up to that point, I was just filling up ease.
Now, it really didn't feel right anymore though. And the increased amount of space taken up by my breasts wasn't just horizontal of course. They now made the jumpsuit noticeably  tighter at the crotch. 
Of course, I can't complain about getting the change of my physique which I secretly wanted. However, I wanted my jumpsuit.

So, I re-made it. With some minor changes. Most importantly, I used the trouser shape I made last month for my sailor front jeans. Which, obviously solved all creasing issues. I also cut the front facings separate this time, rather than on the front bodice and trouser pieces. This was mostly a matter fabric economy. And I made a small change to the look of the neckline by applying the collar to a   slightly deeper neckline. This brings the a bit further down on the body. It's a tiny difference and I don't think anyone will notice but I like experimenting with things like that.

Oh, and of course I used the same fabric: a dark/blue black cotton/linen with thin grey/blue stripes. Because it is also the fabric I used for E's favorite summer trousers (three pairs now) and it's so nice to wear and durable, I knew I would want to use this fabric again. So, I bought more (about 4 meters at a time) on three occasions and, early this spring, the last 18 meters left on the bolt. This should keep us in summery wardrobe essentials for years to come.

So, there you have it. My latest new garment: My old favorite jumpsuit, now with more curves!

June 12, 2014

Thanks to him

At the moment, I'm still working on those very last wedding dresses. Almost done now.
On top of that, E is working for four weeks (the past two, this one and the next) on a project which keeps him away from home for six days a week. However, out of sight does not mean out of mind. This man knows me.

Last week, this image showed up on his 'funny things and random interesting stuff' app (9gag) and he immediately thought of me and saved it on his phone so he could show it to me when he got home on Sunday.
It was just titled "fabulous 1950's necklines" and I wouldn't know where to start to find any information about it. It is fabulous though. The models and location look very glamorous and of course, those necklines are amazing. They also all have a distinctive draped quality and are shown down to the waist at most. Those last two things make me wonder if this is an example of the work of one of the 'draping performers' of the day (I know I saw a recording of that on a blog a while ago, I just don't remember where). The upper right design looks kind of impractical for a real garment... So, maybe these are the top parts of fabulous dresses or maybe there's nothing more there...
Anyway, this photograph makes me want to experiment with beautiful, softy draped necklines. 

June 10, 2014

The summer of '14

There is a generally accepted bit of fashion theory which states that, for many reasons, people don't dress as similar today as they did back in, say, the 1950's. Back then, it says, the dictates of Paris and other fashion capitals were consistent and dominant and the general public just had to follow, all be it at a safe distance. Now, the looks on the street form the main inspiration for many designers and they offer such a varied view that there is bound to be something for everyone, every season. And with clothes being comparatively cheaper and living standards higher, a much larger percentage of the population has the chance to play this game of fashion.

There is some truth to the theory, but I think as much could be said against it. 
Last weekend, sitting on a sunny terrace next to one of central The Hague's busiest shopping streets, I had a good chance to study the people passing by. And I think I've been able to identify the 'key looks of the season'. No matter what the fashion magazines may say, these are the first truly summer-y days and this is what women were wearing:
All these pictures come from the H&M website. I've used them as examples to illustrate each look although I have little doubt I've seen some of these actual designs. I picked these neither to promote the store, nor to say anything against it.

First of all: Short shorts. Usually not elegantly styled with a jacket, like in this picture but worn simply with a t-shirt or tank top or with a more loose fitting top. And I don't think they're called hot pants, although they are of that length. About 80% of all the shorts worn were jeans cut-offs, like in the picture. Many with the pocket bags hanging out, which I think looks terrible. Back in the olden days, we made our own cut-offs by simply cutting the legs of our old jeans short. I suspect most ladies who were wearer this look last weekend bought their jeans shorts, frayed hems and all. After all, they may be fitted but they're nowhere near as tight as their usual skinny jeans. 
As worn on the street, this really is a great casual look for the young and skinny on a hot summer's day. Of course, with careful selection and styling, it is possible to deviate from each of the points I've just stated, but not from all four of them.

Secondly, and going in a different direction: the maxi dress. Like the short shorts, the maxi dress has been a summer favorite for a while and exists in many different versions. But now, one clear favorite appeared: A full length jersey dress with the shaping of a tank top at the top. It can be in plain black or in one of those hard to describe pastels (sort of like mint green, or like salmon but not quite as sweet) or it can have stripes. It can be fairly fitted or be essentially a straight shape. Side slit(s) optional. 
Another easy-breezy piece which can be quite casual but could be worn in more situations than the aforementioned shorts. Easier to wear as well. And these seemed to be worn by women of between, roughly, 12 and 45. 
There is one danger with this dress: Being made of jersey, it is, of course, quite stretchy. This seems to invite some people to buy it at least two sizes too small. Which causes their dresses to look like sausage casings.

Number three: I don't think these have a special name but they are loose fitting trousers, usually made from viscose/rayon or polyester, and they typically have some form of elasticated waistband and tapered legs. They already appeared in larger numbers earlier in spring but of course, the non-sticky varieties make good summer wear too. Wild prints are popular with young women but there are similar shapes in plain black and other less eye-catching hues as well.
On a warm summer's day, these are usually worn with fitted t-shirts or tank tops. The only thing that really surprises me about the more 'trendy' versions is the often very low rise. I would like the waistband of, well anything really, to hit at least above the widest point of my hip. You know, so that gravity with help keep my trousers or skirt on.

This fourth item is kind of related to the previous two: the maxi skirt. It's often made in a similar way (those gathers) and from similar materials as the trousers above although you won't see it in those busy prints. These skirts are worn in plain colours, most often the not-quite-pastels I mentioned before. They may be the successor to last year's hi-low skirts. And given the choice, I really prefer these.

There is a fifth 'key item' which I didn't find at H&M. It's a sort of cross-breed of items number three and four: loose fitting, stretch waisted trousers with straight legs (sometimes with drawstrings at the bottom) in plain fabrics. Very much like the skirt, but you can ride a bicycle wearing one (always an important consideration in the Netherlands). 
The really interesting thing about this 'look' is that it really seems to be for everyone. This is an item which might as well be worn by a 14-year-old as by a 50-year-old. And it was. 
That makes it an unexpected and, I would guess, quite welcome addition to a fashion landscape which is often, and often correctly, criticized for only dressing the young and/or skinny.

And what was I wearing, amid this parade of summer 2014 street fashion? Well, I didn't join in. I wore this dress:

A 1950's inspired cotton dress which I made way back in 2010 (picture is from the original blog post. This was clearly before I started working in bridal... I made a lot of dresses that summer. I didn't have time for that in the years that followed). I still love it and I will continue to wear it. I kind of stuck out though.

And what's your take on 'looks for summer'? Do you try to get new looks for each new season or do you prefer to let your wardrobe slowly evolve with you? And what does this summer look like where you live? Any similarities with The Hague, the Netherlands? Any big differences? Interesting items? Inspiration?

June 7, 2014

Vintage (machine) knitting (again)

First of all, thank you all so much for your kind comments on my previous post. Those mean a lot to me.
For now, I'm working on to finish those final weeks and after that, I have a holiday planned. After that week away, I hope to be ready for a fresh start. 
I'll let you know when there is news.

For now, I thought I'd return to regular posting. I've done some sewing but I don't have any pictures yet.
Instead, I thought I'd share a new vintage find of mine which I'm quite excited about: 

These little knitting magazines. When I found them on Marktplaats (the Dutch Ebay offshoot), I recognized the name "Passap". That's a brand of knitting machines. So, I emailed the seller to ask if that was what those magazines were for and she wrote back that they were. Obviously, I then bought them straight away.

They are small, thin booklets which were published jointly by Passap and yarn manufacturer "Scheepjeswol". They were real magazines though, 11 were published each year and you could subscribe to them. The text suggests a clear attempt to create a community of Passap knitters through these (which is really interesting because that's exactly what crafting websites, whether or not they are connected to brands, are doing today). There is regular mention of meetings and contests and many magazines contain a feature on how to make special stitches, many of which are suggested by readers.
The ones I bought are from 1955 to 1960.

At first, I was a bit disappointed about the selection of patterns. The members of the Passap knitting community were certainly knitting for the whole family. 

There are lots of children's patterns. 

And the men are not forgotten either. In fact, there are, on average, only one or two ladies' patterns per magazine.

However, I've got over 50 magazines and (after the mysterious breast growth of 12/13) I now fit into normal Dutch 1950's and 60's ladies' sizes. 
And there is some great stuff in there. Oh, and how great is it that they use photographs to show each and every design?

Of course, my knitting machine is a "Brother" not a "Passap". From what I've seen in vintage machines, it looks like the Passap had some special features which make it work differently from other brands and of course you need a double bed/ribber for many patterns. However, I think I'm 'experienced' enough to recognize those issues (and there are some 'single bed' patterns) and work around them. 
It will be nice to work with patterns designed for the knitting machine. Of course you can use normal patterns, but it can take quite a bit of 'translating'. Some things which are easy when knitting by hand, are difficult on a machine and vice versa. Whatever the differences between the brands, these patterns were made with the logic of machine knitting in mind.

I think it will be best to start fairly simple. I've picked this lovely top. It doesn't have ribbed edges so it can all be knitted on my machine and I should be able to wear it straight away (except on really warm days of course). I may leave the bow off though.

June 4, 2014

The last leg

OK, I'm going to level with you. Normally I try to keep my everyday troubles off the blog but this one has been affecting me for quite a while and it's kind of troubling my sewing as well.

The work situation. As I've mentioned here once before, I've worked as an alteration seamstress for a bridal store for about three years now. In that time, I've worked for two different stores. Or, as I should say, via two stores because technically, I'm self-employed.
I didn't get into this because I felt drawn to it. I took the first and the second position because I didn't manage to find any other work. 
Now, I know sewing for a living may sound good, and a lot of people seem to think it has to be nice to work in bridal fashion. However, it isn't. Not to me. 

Picture this: You're basically doing alterations all the time. For demanding people who want to pay as little as possible and who will nit-pick about the smallest things (and never the ones you're expecting). And even the nicest women get nervous about their wedding dresses which makes them difficult to deal with. And I'm not really a people person.
And it's always crazily busy in spring and early summer and there's no work in November and January. And it's always the same, there's no way to develop what you're doing.

In fact, I'm a fairly intelligent and reasonably well-educated person and I'd love an opportunity to use my brain in my work. 
For quite a while, I've been frustrated and miserable with this job. Back in March/April I decided to quit. Unfortunately, because of the way fittings are planned there is no opportunity to leave with months' notice (you just gotta love the freedom of being your own boss. NOT). I'm finally on the last leg now. Just two more weeks. Only five dresses to finish now.
I'm feeling tired and strung out and I know getting out of this is not solving all my issues with finding work. However, I'm confident I'll get out just in time to make sure I won't get annoyed with sewing itself as a result of this.

June 1, 2014

A simple thing

All my sewing/crafting time this past week was spent on this rather modest project: It's an infinity scarf.

It took that long because I kind of made the fabric. Rather than using jersey, I knitted using the full width of my knitting machine and some of the very thin yarns in my stash. Because I bought some cones of yarn before I really knew anything about machine knitting, I've got quite a few of this super thin stuff. I made a loop scarf before, sewing three strands together which worked well. This time, I decided to try and see if it was even possible to knit properly with a single strand (I've been kind of worried those cones were actually some kind of weaving thread).
As it turns out, it is possible to knit this stuff although I would like the knitting to be a bit more dense and stable for clothing. For a scarf, this loosely knitted 'fabric' is just fine.

My decision to try the thin yarn allowed me to knit with some of the brightest colours in my yarn stash. I'm quite happy with the combination of the turquoise and red. 
Even with the speed of machine knitting (and no shaping to worry about), it took me a while finish this thing. There are 1320 rows of knitting in that scarf...

Soon, I'll be back to sewing and to experimenting with knitting cables.