July 31, 2014

heat wave survival...

Ok, I know many of you may come from places where high temperatures are much more normal than over here. And you will probably laugh out loud whenever people like me complain about heat. It's true, we don't get real heat here in the Netherlands but between the humidity and the fact that neither our houses nor the infrastructure nor the way in which we normally live our lives are adapted to dealing with hot weather, it can get pretty uncomfortable on those rare 30 degrees Celsius days. Like we had last week.

In hot weather, I tend to live in two cropped jumpsuits (this one and this one) I've made a while ago. The cotton dresses I normally love are just too fitted and too covered-up under those circumstances. 
So, last week I decided to make another little thing to wear when the weather gets hot.

This new one is even more for wearing at home than the old ones. It's not meant to be pretty or flattering, just to be comfortable during a heat wave.
In fact, it kind of looks like some classic piece of lingerie, a teddy or combination. In reality, it is a strange hybrid between a lacy camisole and a playsuit/cropped jumpsuit.

It is made from the same crepe fabric I've been talking a lot about lately, the blue/grey colour I made first. The brown lace insert is mostly backed with the same fabric. 
Pattern-wise, there are short, wide little trousers with slanted pockets and a very simple camisole-like top. Because fitted things are warm to wear, this thing isn't fitted. And because, with an item like this, it kind of makes sense to make it without closures, it has been made just like that. So, everything above the hips had to be wide so I can step into the garment. It has elastic at the waistline to gather it up a bit and to give a bit of shape and there is elastic in the top edge at the back, to keep the top from gaping. 
I was pretty sure what effect the elastic at the waist would have (because I had used that many times before, though mostly at M's) but I'm pretty glad that top edge worked out.
Because this fabric likes to stretch out during wear, I pulled pieces of ribbon into the tubes of fabric for the shoulder straps. That keeps them nice and stable.

I've worn this thing already and it really does the job. And as I said, I don't really mean to wear this out in the street but considering what people there are wearing when it's warm, I don't think I would attract any attention if I did decide to go to the supermarket dressed like this on some hot summer's day.

July 28, 2014

The 1920's dress - 1

After looking at the options for a few days, I've decided to make this dress:

 I just love that back. To be honest, I'm a lot less sure about the front but I'm willing to take that risk.
Even when I started to trace the pattern, I almost got distracted by the robes de stile on the same sheet. That shape is a bit more familiar to me, and I can imagine it being more flattering. However, I had good reason deciding against those: I want more of a quintessential 1920's silhouette.

So, I traced. I think I've shown you the Gracieuse patterns sheets before, but this is what they look like. No fun. That said, this one seemed a little bit less confusing than the 1930's sheet I've tried before. Probably because although the amount of patterns featured in each issue is about the same, the patterns from the 1930's tend to be more complicated and consist of more pieces than the 1920's ones. 

Tomorrow, I'll cut the fabric. There is no picture of the pattern lay-out and no text explaining how many times to cut what.

This is all the instruction which is given. For the pattern, cutting and sewing. It was helpful though. I had expected those curves strips at the hip to be bands which should be made double and probably interfaced but the instructions tell to narrowly hem them at the bottom and then apply them. So they are more like small flounces. In fact, according to the instructions, not a single piece should be made double or get any kind of stabilizing. Narrow hems even at the neckline. The lines which look like a neck band are actually decorative stitching. And that for a pattern designed for crepe satin...
I plan on using my crepe and that is a fabric which really likes to grow so I'm not so sure. Maybe I'll separate those neck edges and make an interfaced band after all...

July 25, 2014

The roaring twenties

Did you hear about the Vintage Pattern Pledge? And do you remember that I took that pledge back in February?
Although I'm usually pretty bad at anything sew-along-like, I thought I should be able to live up to my promise to sew up five vintage patterns this year...
So far, I've done nothing of the sort. I feel like I can kind of blame the work-trouble but that's not really an excuse. I plan to make amends though.

I thought I could start with an era I've never sewn from, which is way out of my comfort zone and which might not work for my body type: The 1920's.
My only source of patterns for this decade are my wonderful Gracieuse magazines. So, that will mean tracing the pattern from a very complicated pattern sheet and sewing barely-there instructions.

The magazines I own are not evenly distributed across the decade. Gracieuse was published two times per month and I have most issues between nr. 14 from 1920 and nr. 15 from 1923, then nothing until nr. 2 from 1926 and then every issue between 1 from 1927 and 24 from 1929. As a result of that, I think I miss a few steps in the development of look of the decade.
Oh, and there's only a selection of patterns from the magazine on each pattern sheet, with only one size per design. I have focussed on designs which are my size, or the one above or below. And I didn't pick anything with impossible details like plissee.

Without further ado, I'll show you my picks from the roaring twenties, in chronological order:

In the early twenties, garment shapes are very loose and rather similar in shape. They are often fabulously decorated though. 

1. I thought I could make the middle dress: It has a decoration which I could make (unlike the many embroidered examples) and with that collar, there is more definition to the bodice than in a lot of the dresses from these years.
It is a pattern for a teenage girl but with a shape as roomy as this, I think that wouldn't be a problem.

2. The blouse on the left. Pretty much the standard shape for the years 1918 to 1922 but with the added flavour of that draped sash bit at the bottom. Embroidery design is included with the pattern. 
It might just work in a very non-period-accurate way when worn with trousers.

3. Towards the end of 1923, the silhouette starts to slim down. I was rather happy to see that. The second dress from the right is in my size. However, I've found so many nicer patterns in the magazines that came after this one...

4. And then there is that single issue from 1926... 2 is always a good one with lots of designs for late New Year's and upcoming Carnival's parties and this one has some wonderful flapper dresses. The fabulousness of this single issue makes me sorry to miss out on 1924 and 5. It would have been nice to see more of the transition to this year.
The dresses in the first picture are both on the pattern sheet in close enough sizes. The dresses in the second picture are wonderful and I wish I had the patterns for those.

5. The narrower fit continues for the rest of the decade, with variations in hem length and height of the waistline (although it always remains below the natural waist). These designs are both in my size, but the it's that casual coat which I think is worth considering.

6. The dress on the left. A chic day dress with an interesting front drape.

7. Hats! That iconic hat shape of the 1920: The cloche. The two on the right are on the pattern sheet. Actual cut-and-sew patterns for the hats themselves, not just for the decoration.

8. The dress in the middle, with the cute capelet. This style is known in Dutch as "stijljapon" which translates to English as "style dress". It's the name given to dresses with a full skirt gathered to a short-ish (for the era) bodice. As an alternative to the usual sleek look at the time, it was popular in summer and party dresses for slender (and probably young) women.

9. The dress on the left. Another cute caplet, now on a dress with the slim silhouette you would expect from the 1920's  I also like the diagonal waistline and the flounce at the side.

10. Another hat! And that scarf is connected to it at the back.

11. The dress on the left. I'm not completely convinced but I kind of like that flouncy decoration on the bodice.

12. Both of these party dresses are in my size and they are both nice (the one on the right is another "stijljapon")

13. The classy day dress on the left is the one I'm thinking about here. And yes, I seem to like the skirts with asymmetrical and/or different length flounces.

14. The one on the left and the one on the right. Yes, those flounces again.

15. I could actually make all of these: The two dresses on the left are the same one, in front and back view. It's a simple dress with a cape-bit at the back and just one size too large. The style dress is in my size but maybe a bit too sweet. The third dress (fourth picture) displays a great use of different materials and the last one has such clean lines that it might still look edgy and modern today.

Oh, just an intermezzo. These are period photographs of ladies wearing suck party frocks.

16. More party wear! There is no pattern for second dress but it's the third one I like the best anyway.

17. And more. Here, there is no pattern for the second dress from right and it's the one on the left I really like.

18. And more yet. Here the ones on the left and the right come with patterns. The one on the right is an interesting variation on the style dress.

19. Tired of party dresses yet? I hadn't realized they were all so close together. The three on the left have patterns in or near my size. And it's the first one I prefer. Quirky and glamorous.

20. Oh, and what about this very stylish coat with cape?

21. And more party dresses. The very frilly one on the right is in my size, the chic sleek black one unfortunately not. However, that pretty thing on the left is only one size too big...

22. These dresses were intended for wedding guests. The second one is for a mother of the bride and comes in a large size. The others are options. I really like that first one.

23. Bridal dresses... Both are possible but I think the second one is really classy. 1920's wedding dresses are not as different in shape from 'normal' formal wear as those of today, so I could use a pattern like this.

24. Back to daydresses. The middle one, in the business-like check fabric and with the jaunty flounce.

25. And these sporty numbers. Mostly the one in the middle. Those interesting shapes are largely just stitched-on decoration.

26. And another bride... But isn't that a great dress? The guest's dress on the right is another option.

27. And some daywear to finish: two great dresses with flouncy details.

28. The suit (yes, according to the text, that's a suit) on the left and the coat on the right.

To be honest, I want to start with a something I could wear in this time of year and make from the materials I have in my stash. So, that counts out the coats and suits. I am quite keen on trying a hat though. 
For dresses, I think my 'short-list' now consists of: 9, 13, 15 (all of them), 16, 19, 21 and 22 (the ones I pointed out above)...
What do you think? Any favorites?

July 24, 2014

An update

I haven't done much this week. It's partly because of the heat and my still-in-recovery sewing mojo and partly because of this (my apologies for the terrible bathroom-mirror selfie):

I had dental surgery on Tuesday. It wasn't anything major. They just removed an inflammation at the root of a molar. It doesn't exactly hurt but it is kind of annoying and it feels like the healing conspires with the weather to sap the energy I'd like to have for doing things... It took me about a day to realize that fighting it wasn't going to help. So now, I'm just laying low and waiting for it to get better.

There are some small things I have been doing this week which I could show you. With more information about all of them to come later.

First of all, there has been some sewing. I started on Sunday on a new little thing to wear in hot weather. The fabric is blue/grey crepe left over from last summer's drapey jumpsuit. I thought it would be a quick little project, but I only finished it this morning. I'll model it when the swelling on my jaw has disappeared.

Then, I bought things. It has been a while since I bought patterns or pattern making books but this week, I bought both.

First up was this envelope containing two patterns from 1963. They are from the pattern catalogue Regina which was published four times a year (if I remember correctly). I own several issues of the magazine but had never seen the patterns for sale. This weekend, one seller put several of them on Marktplaats (Dutch Ebay). Most were too large for me and there was one in my size which I didn't like but I had to have this cute dress. The suit is a maternity pattern but it might be easy to adapt for normal wear. 
They were in the same envelope which I think means they were originally purchased at the same time. And which was why they were now sold as one lot. And they weren't expensive. They are unprinted patterns with sparse instructions. If you're interested, this link should take you to the remaining patterns on the seller's page.

Then, a couple of days later, I found this book.

The title translates as A Second Skin and it's a book on pattern making for lingerie. It is, in fact, the book M uses in her lingerie workshop which I took years ago. The writer is Margreet van Dam who is the designer behind the Merckwaerdigh lingerie patterns, which may be familiar to Dutch readers, or those of you who have bought lingerie supplies from Dutch webshops. It's not a thick book and it doesn't give you a ton of drafts for different kinds of lingerie. Rather, it focusses on how to draft well-fitting 'sloper' versions and giving you the tools to develop your own designs from those. I like that in a pattern making  book.
I had been looking for this book before but it seems that it has only had two print runs in 1998 so it's not easy to find. And now I have my own copy and in mint condition, no less.

And I've been 'shopping the stash', the pattern and magazine stash, that is. 

I decided now would be good time to get close and personal with the Gracieuses from the 1920's (I had already looked through the other half from the 1930's). They are old, strange, fragile and intriguing.

And I had another look at some pattern envelopes which had come from the same box and re-discovered (I thought I hadn't opened these before but a look at the original post about this vintage pattern haul taught me otherwise) what they are. Glorious dresses and suits from, I would guess, the late 1930's. There are no dates, no sizes and no more instructions than what you can see on the sheets of paper with the drawings but they look quite fabulous anyway.

I'm considering all the patterns I mentioned in this post for the Vintage Pattern Pledge (which I didn't forget about, although I didn't make anything for it yet), but more about that later...

July 19, 2014

Pretty as a picture

There hasn't been much sewing these past few days. I finished the bias cut wearable muslin but I'm having doubts about it so I didn't feel confident to move on to the real design. And then, yesterday and today, the weather was very warm. I know a Dutch heatwave will sound like a silly little thing for those of you coming from countries with warmer or more extreme climates but believe me, temperatures of over 30 degrees Celsius are not nice here. I find it very hard to be productive in such weather.
And, to be honest, despite the fact that I enjoyed making E's jacket, I'd be lying if I said my sewing mojo had fully recovered. I tried to but I had to admit it might need some more time.

So, today, I'll just show you some pretty pictures. 
Last week, I went to the small book and antiques market which is held on Thursdays at the Lange Voorhout (I should have taken a picture of the place. It's a wide, tree lined street in the centre of The Hague, across from the Binnenhof and surrounded by other beautiful old buildings. I believe I have read somewhere that this space was kept open because it was where the counts of Holland and later the Stadholders and their retainers gathered for the hunt. Having lived in this city for years, it's surprisingly easy to overlook that it has many beautiful and interesting parts). 
One of the stalls was selling vintage postcards and I decided to have a look.

I bought these. I was looking for images of pretty clothes but in the "ladies and couples" drawer, most half of all the pictures were portraits and many were rather too sweet. 
My purchases can be grouped in three categories: outfits, funny and a story. I'll leave the latter two for now and show you the nice outfit pictures.

I would say this lovely lady is from the 1930's. This photograph looks rather spontaneous and it seems like it was taken in a lovely outdoor setting (most images on the postcards were studio pictures. I love her dress with the little caplet and the hairstyle with its carefully set curls at the side of the head.

And then there's this one. To be honest, I find the colouring a bit off-putting but just look at the shape and detail of her coat. A fabulous 1920's creation, I would say.On closer inspection, I think the orange of the coat, the blue in the sky and the slight yellow of her hair and the buttons are original but the bright purple was coloured in at some more recent date, by some bored individual with a felt-tip pen. 

Maybe I'll put these into frames so I can hang them in my sewing room for inspiration... 
Of course I have fashion magazines from the times these pictures are from, but there's something more 'real' about a photograph. A drawing of a pretty dress is very nice but it could be complete imagination. A photograph, even a highly stylized one which was made for commercial distribution, is an account of a real person posing in that dress or that coat. 

July 17, 2014

The bias cut

Many years ago, back in the early zeros, I had a bias cut dress. I bought it either just before or just after I met E. It was a sleeveless ankle length dress with a gathered flounce at the neckline and an asymmetrical gathered tier at the bottom. The fabric was a thin and soft cream coloured cotton with a dense blue ditzy print. I know goth-y old me loved that dress and wanted to buy it from the moment she saw it in the shop window. And I did.
E used to describe the dress as "horrible but so beautiful on you" and has had a soft spot for the idea of a bias cut dress ever since.

Maybe surprisingly after this build-up, I didn't do a lot of bias cut stuff after I started sewing seriously. There are not a lot of sewing patterns for them and maybe the whole look was a bit 90's anyway. 
One of my first big project when I took pattern making classes with M was a dress to wear to the wedding of friends of ours. It was ever so vaguely inspired by a Vionnet evening dress. That dress was knee length, with a half circle skirt, a bias cut waist piece (from under the bust to high hip) and a one shouldered upper bodice. It was made from a soft mid-grey crepe.
It was a success as a dress for a wedding guest but I didn't get many other chances to wear it. And, like most of the designs I made under M's close supervision, it didn't really feel like 'me' in the end (Which is really peculiar. M is a great teacher and I couldn't have started with pattern making as easily as I did but in the effort to just get her students started on things, she will steer their designs in certain directions. And although I really like her and she's a great designer, my own aesthetic choices for myself always turn out quite differently from hers).
Oh, and I went and checked but although that dress doesn't pre-date my Burdastyle membership, I never posted it there. So, unfortunately I can't show you any evidence of its existence.

Then, four years ago, there was my first attempt at a bias cut summer dress. I used pin stripe linen and wasn't very keen on the result. It went on the shelve and when I was packing for a holiday two years later, I liked it better and brought it with me to wear on that trip. At which time I found out that those shoulder straps will stretch out over the course of the day.

And know, I've decided to try again. Being able to use the bias cut well would just be such a great addition to my sewing and pattern making arsenal. 
And I keep being interested in early 1930's designs but not quite knowing what to do with them...
Obviously, some types of fabric work better than others for bias cut things. Right now, I'm using the same peculiar 'dye it and shrink it and it will become viscose crepe' stuff which I used for this jumpsuit. Last week, I dyed to batches of the stuff. Both using Dylon dyes for use in the washing machine. One of them in Tulip red, the other one in black. I got probably my best dyeing results yet. 
Even so, the tulip red is a bit of an odd colour which looks hot pink in some kinds or light and slightly muted red in others. I wasn't too sure if that would suit me at all.

So, I'm using it for the first version of this new bias cut attempt. 

I started out with my sloper and the instructions for 'lingerie and evening wear' from Winifred Aldrich's Metric pattern cutting for womenswear. I didn't follow the instructions to the letter but just used them as starting point for the adjustment of the width and the placement of the shoulder straps.

Then, I cut the dress from the red/pink crepe (bust pieces with the grain parallel to the neckline, skirt pieces on the bias) and sewed it up. And then, I put it on and started tweaking the fit.

As I had expected, I ended up taking it in just about anywhere. In these pictures, there is still a lot of excess fabric in the side seams, with a lot of stitching so I expect less pulling there after I've clearer up those seam allowances. I kept it all in so I could transfer it onto the pattern. 
The armholes and neckline are still unfinished so they will be a little deeper and have their edges pulled in a little more in the finished article.
After all the tweaking, I'm not unhappy with the dress. Definitely a wearable muslin. 
I think I may give this test version some kind of little flutter sleeve and just finish the insides, the hem (which I kind of like at this length. I should have cut it a little longer...) and the neckline. 
After that, I could make the long version with the flared inserts in the skirt which I have been planning... And I'm starting to come up with more variations on the theme. If this works, I'll be able to make some really nice dresses for hot weather (and just in time).

July 15, 2014

t-shirt reloaded

There is something else I made last week. I just didn't blog about it yet because the items themselves aren't exactly interesting to look at. It is interesting for me to have them though.

I re-made my knit sloper. I had been putting that off ever since I made my new slopers. After all, because jersey is stretchy, most of my old t-shirts still fit. However, some (especially those made from less stretchy varieties of jersey) are now a bit snug across the chest and others suffer from the fact that many kinds of jersey are less stretchy vertically than horizontally. Their center front pull up and, as a result, the side seams pull to the front. It's not noticeable when I wear the tops tucked in but eh... It's not how it should be.

Before showing the top, I should explain that this knit sloper, in both the old and the new version, is not designed with negative ease. It is meant as a starting point for drafting all kinds of jersey garments for normal daily wear and is derived (in a fairly arbitrary way) from my normal bodice sloper. If I'd be making a tube top or a fitted tank top, I would use the body sloper from my lingerie patterns, which is drafted with negative ease (which reminds me: I haven't re-made that one yet).

I first tried the new sloper (with its full, high neck) in some ugly old knit fabric and adjusted it to get the fit right. Then, I decided to make a simple, basic t-shirt variation to see if it really worked.

Which became this modest black V-necked number. The fabric is a bit of eco-cotton left over from an old collection of M's. As such, it contains very little lycra (2%, if any) and is a kind of faded black (it was difficult to achieve saturated dark colours with early fully eco-friendly dyes) but it's also really nice to the touch.
I think this top will be a nice simple basic, once the weather cools down.

Then, with some fabric left (but not enough for a similar top) I made another top.

This one, with its wide low boat neck. I own two tops with similar necklines, one with short sleeves and one with three quarter length ones. The first one was one my first makes in jersey (from a Burda pattern which I lost a couple of years ago), sewn on my old Toyota sewing machine which ate fabrics like that. I just used straight stitching to limit the amount of damage the machine would do. As a result, it's far from perfect but it still gets worn. The other top is even older: Bought at H&M years ago, it is one of the few RTW items I still wear.
If you've been reading my blog for a while, you've seen both of these tops more than once because I often pick them out to complement 'statement' skirts.
So, obviously, I needed a new version. This time from a pattern drafted by me, based on that new knit sloper.
So, that's what I did. I've already been wearing this top and I love it. I think I will need several more in different colours and with different sleeve lengths...   

July 13, 2014

His new jacket

E's jacket is finished! And I'll mention it straight away: I ended up going against the advice of the majority of you when it came to the buttons.
I had asked E about buttons before I realized I had both options in stash. When I found them, he wasn't at home. I blogged about the buttons and showed them to him later. When he saw both options, he picked the silver buttons straight away. And because he will be the one wearing the jacket, his vote is the most important. So, silver buttons it is.

I thought it would be nice to take pictures on the little balcony at the street side of our apartment. It is, but unfortunately, the contrast with the (overcast) sky meant that it became really difficult to show any of the details of the dark coloured jacket. 

Fortunately, I showed you the back and the pockets earlier.

I am really happy with the fit at the neckline, shoulder and armscye. I finally found the reason for the issues I've had there before: Not only does E have a much larger neck circumference than 'average' for his size (I've known about that since before I started sewing for him and I've always tried my best to accommodate for that), the big muscles in his shoulders also mean that those shoulders are sloping down a bit. Which caused fit issues in his earlier summer jackets. 

All in all, I think it suits him and I hope he will enjoy wearing this jacket.