February 28, 2015

the suit

Ahem. I had a look in my blog archives and I actually made this jacket way back in 2011... What possessed me to wait this long to make matching bottoms? It was the intention all along and I know it has been among my sewing plans for winter for at least the past two years and very likely ever since I made the jacket. It took a lot of time and effort to make this jacket and I am still proud of it. Unfortunately, it's also a rather peculiar shape so it doesn't can't be worn with a lot of different things. The combination has made it one of those 'too good to wear items'... Which is always a pity. 
I hope that finally having a complete suit can put an end to that silliness. 

I already talked a bit about the trousers in my previous post. They are fairly basic: A shape with a slightly lowered crotch and some extra ease around the seat and thighs, tapered legs hemmed at ankle length (I know loads of people don't like that but I do. It somehow makes the whole silhouette a bit lighter and more playful. And I think it may just make me look a bit taller), front fly, narrow waistband at the natural waist, slash pockets at the front and double welt pockets with button loops at the back. 
I tried to get some pictures of the details but the camera didn't agree with so much black. That was even a problem with quite a few of the normal pictures. That and the fact that I was frowning in at least half of them. I don't know why. 

At least you can see the pockets here.

And actually, this suit is fun to wear.

I even did a pirouette...

which is more effective in a wide skirt but I don't think I have to be all serious just because I'm wearing a suit.

Oh well...

February 25, 2015

Inside my trousers...

or, not to worry, waistband considerations. 
I was just finishing up my new pair of trousers and realized some of my issues and choices about the waistband treatment might be worth sharing. I have to apologize for the pictures though: Each and every garment that was photographed for this post was either black or dark grey and you know what that means.
It's not very common for me to discuss construction details here but you may have noticed that I don't have a single style of trousers and/or waistbands and/or closures. I may make trousers with any kind of legs shapes, variety of rises, straight or shaped waistbands or faced edges above or below the waist. 

This time, I was making a pair of trousers to go with a jacket which has been waiting in my wardrobe for longer than I dare to admit. The fabric is a lovely mid-weight black wool suiting in a slight twill weave (as in, it has a twill weave but it doesn't stand out). The chosen shape is has a easy fit, tapered legs to the ankle and a narrow straight waistband at the natural waist. 
Because I hate that little fold you often get at the top of the zipper, I cut the fly shield with a bit of an extension which can close on the inside of the waistband. I think that's what you do to take care of that issue because it takes the pressure off at the top of the zipper and the button. 
It's a feature you sometimes see in RTW and I've used it before although usually on trousers without a waistband.

To get to grips with the industry standard, I took a look at E's only pair of formal trousers:

Here we get the extended fly shield with a button just under the waistband, a trouser hook and a small waistband extension with a button. It seems a bit much but of course, this type of treatment may have been developed for and by a group of people who don't have to undo all of that for a bathroom break... Or do they? I'm not sure.
Anyway, I think there's a lot of stuff going on at this waistband. The folded layers of the inner waistband itself, all that closure-stuff, lining at the front, pocket bags sewn into the waistband at the back (I tried that for E once and found he was more likely to tear those. I wouldn't do this for myself because there's a great big dart in that area) and that extra material at center back which allows you to make adjustments. 
I don't think I would do it like this if I were making E a pair of formal trousers but on the other hand, it's nice to see such a great deal of finishing and detail in RTW. At least they will do that for men's formal wear...

The inside of my trousers is more quiet. I used a straight waistband cut in one piece and a full lining. My fly shield extension, which was drafted, cut and sewn before I thought about looking inside E's trousers, has a very similar shape. 
I didn't really think about the fasteners themselves until after I had finished the waistband. Which was a mistake. I've had these hammer-in trouser hooks in my stash for a year and I've never used them even though I bought them because I suspected their performance might be superior to that of their sew-on relatives. 

I wanted these trousers to be really nice and they will go with a jacket which has fabric-covered buttons, so now was the time. Which meant I had to unpick part of the waistband to be able to prick those little prongs through one side only, slide on the back plate and hammer the prongs down to fix the whole thing in place. A bit nerve-wrecking because when you poke a hole in your brand-new, nearly finished piece of clothing, there's really no going back. 
I'm glad I did it though. It looks and feels a lot better than the alternative.

I had another issue when it came to the fly shield extension. I'm using that as a sort of secondary closure so it has to attach to the inner waistband in some way.

When I made these before, I've always put a buttonhole in the fly shield extension and a flat button on the inside of the waistband or facing. It works but I'm not that keen on the button gets pressed into my skin when I don't tuck anything in those trousers.
E's trouser have the button facing away from the body. And now I know why it's placed lower: They couldn't put a buttonhole in that waistband material. 
In my case, I could, if I had thought about it earlier, have come up with a way to put a buttonhole in, on or just below the inside of the waistband. But I didn't think of it earlier and I didn't want to unpick even more of a perfectly finished waistband for a solution I wasn't that sure about.
So, I compromised. I made a thread loop at the very end of the waistband at the fly extension and attached a small flat button to the inside of the waistband. At least this button will not sit on the thickest pile of fabric in the whole waistband. 

Oh, and I did, for a split second, consider using commercial waistband material. But the stuff I have has these plastic threads on the inside. I suppose those are meant to keep your shirt tucked in but if, like me, you wear your trousers without tucked-in things half the time, those get really, really scratchy and annoying. 
And on this skirt (I've used that stuff twice, on a pair of trousers and on a skirt and they were both hanging on the line to dry when I wanted to take these pictures, so that explains the wrinkles) you can also see a sewn-on trouser hook in situ. 

I think I'll take pictures of the finished trousers this weekend. In the mean time, I hope you like this bit of technical sewing geekiness.

February 23, 2015

Pattern pieces and bits of planning

In the comments to my previous post, some of you asked for a picture of the pattern pieces for my top. 

With a not-really-logical design like this, that is of course a perfectly reasonable request. So here they are:

I don't think you need any help with the back and sleeve, which are perfectly normal. The Studio Faro top is made in one piece but because my twist is at the neckline, I found it much easier to separate the underlying top piece. 
My top also includes a partial neckline binding which tapers down to nothing in the seams which connect the upper bust pieces to the 'shoulder straps'. 
I hope this makes it a bit clearer, and as mentioned before, I just winged this with the help of this tutorial

I didn't get round to taking more and nicer pictures of the top but I am convinced I will enjoy wearing it. 
I also have a yet-un-blogged sweater I made on the knitting machine and right now, I'm working on a pair of trousers to go with a jacket I made two years ago. I'm actually feeling a bit embarrassed it took me so long to do so. Especially since this fabric is a joy to work with and my idea about the general shape for these hasn't changed in the past year or so... Better late than never, I guess.

I find this a bit of an awkward time of year to plan sewing anyway: Obviously, it will be spring soon and I know lots of people have already started sewing for it but I still have so many nice ideas for warm clothes. Wool fabrics are my favorite to work with and my favorite looks are sort of dressy and tailored... And all of that is much more appropriate for winter-wear.
Maybe I should just go and make the corduroy or flannel dress I was thinking about before... At least those could be worn well into spring. But I'm also very temped to try and make a 1950's style suit...
And of course it's time to get started on my Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge. I suppose in that case, the obstacle is my plan to explore some new-to-me fashion eras. Those things are harder to plan because I still have to get used to the looks and I don't really think I have a lot of 1930's and 1940's appropriate fabric in my stash.
To be honest, I think I will just go on sewing until the weather really warms up.

February 19, 2015

Quite similar, yet very different

Last week, I did a modest wardrobe clear-out. I mainly just removed things which didn't fit properly and those I really didn't like anymore. Of course, it's always a great moment to get a clear picture of what kind of clothes you need. Or don't need. I was reminded that I really don't need more jackets because I kept all the ones I have and I don't have many occasions to wear them. Which is a shame because I'm still sorely tempted to try and make a really 1950's style skirt suit... But that's a story for another blog post. 
What I do need are tops. Preferably in other colours than black which do suit at least some of my colourful skirts. And no plain long-sleeved t-shirts either. I like tops with a bit of interest...

Although that's not a short list of demands, it shouldn't be difficult. After all, there are loads of great patterns for tops out there and I'm not even limited to patterns. But it always seems difficult to come up with the right kind of top. Most of my skirts are kind of 1950's in style, but not all of them. Trouser styles are all over the place, from 1930's to eh... right now. It's been a year or so since I realized that I will never find any style of top which will work with all of them, and I'm OK with that now.
And yet: What was it to be this time?

After some brainstorming and looking at pretty pictures in search of inspiration, I ended up staring at this great little sweater on a picture in a Libelle magazine from 1956. The article was about high-quality French knitwear.

It's a lovely thing and I thought I would be able to create a shape like this in jersey. 
As you know, I've made plenty of twist-designs before but this is not quite the same. There are no visible seams in the lower bodice and yet at the top the right crosses over the left...
I think I should have been able to figure this out on my own but why try to re-invent the wheel? I was pretty sure I had seen a Studio Faro pattern puzzle tutorial that should work for this.

I had two options in mind:

The Double Drape Tee, which has criss-crossing draped bits at the neckline but at a very different angle

and the Drape & Twist Jersey which has draped bits which are more similar to those of my vintage inspiration but in the middle of the top.

I decided to start drafting the thing with a look at both tutorials and quickly found out it was the second one which would work in this case. 

And this is my end-result! The pictures aren't great. I had to use the self-timer again and I guess I'm out of practice with that and went back to that boring corner next to the dining table. Maybe I'll ask E to take some nicer pictures this weekend...
My vintage silk plissee skirt is looking pretty good in these though. I should wear it more often.

I took this picture to allow you a proper look at that drape detail. It's not quite the same as in the original image, partly because of the proportions which I had to make up as I went along (and I really don't understand the model's anatomy: her drape seems to be at the same point of her chest as mine yet it is wider even though here the cleavage of the top looks deeper...) and partly because I twisted part of the top drape when sewing it down. The shoulders on mine are also a bit wider. That and the long sleeves where by choice.
I think it looks good though.

The instructions for the drape were pretty clear but you can only see how it comes together when sewing. In this case, I already suspected the folds under the draped parts might be pulled open when wearing the top, and they did. I fixed that by sewing together the pleat seams at inside and tacking down the bottom pleat on the right (left in the picture. It's more visible like this than when I wear the top).

I'm happy with this addition to my wardrobe and I think I may try and make another version with a wider drape later.

February 17, 2015


Most of my vintage style sewing, and most of my vintage pattern and magazine collection, focusses on the period after 1947. Last year, I tried to use the Vintage Pattern Pledge to explore some other eras but I still steered clear from late 1930's and early 1940's. Those big shoulders just really put me off. And yet... I do quite like some of those interestingly draped styles (this is probably why I love 1948 to about 1952: round shoulders and long skirts but still quite a bit of that interesting stuff). And 1940's looks can look quite good on other people, so why not on me... I will definitely try it for this year's pledge and I guess I'm now starting to 'get my eye in' by looking at some early 1940's magazines from my collection.

Of course, there is another issue with the first half of the 1940's: I've occasionally read posts on other blogs in which 1940 was mentioned as a "favorite year in fashion" (apparently, McCall's had a really good year back then)  and that always seems strange to me. The reason is simple: To me, 1940 is not a  year in fashion, just in history. Of course, I realize that's a local view: I live in the Netherlands. For people here, the Second World War started with the nazi invasion of the country on 10 May 1940. 
In other places, the war came at different points in time.

Interestingly, among the other publications in the two boxes which contained my Gracieuse magazines, there were some German magazines. My theory about the whole collection is that it belonged to a professional seamstress. That alone can explain the sheer volume of magazines from just before 1920 to the early 1960's and the obvious preference for magazines with pattern sheets. The majority of the German magazines are of this brand: Beyer's. The earliest one is from 1937, there are a number from 1940 to 1942 and some from the mid-1950's. She must have liked this publication, probably because a lot of the designs in each issue are included on the pattern sheet.   
I should also add that there is only one reference to nazi rule in the entire collection: A small black-and-white advertisement at the back of one of the 1940 magazines, which promotes thriftiness in support of the war effort, carries a logo of a swastika in an iron cross. 

The images I will show you here today are from February 1940 (so, from a time at which there was nothing special about that year yet). 

Although Beyer's magazine gets thinner throughout the war, it always includes photographs, which I really like.

This issue includes quite a lot of designs which are promoted for their limited use of fabric (oddly, more so than later issues)

And there is a bit of everything: Mostly day dresses but also coat, suits and separates,

evening wear,

and even wedding gowns.

From the 70 designs in this magazine, 45 are included on the pattern sheet. I'm not sure I have all of those because there is only one, double sided pattern sheet while the 1937 magazine has two (although 60 patterns are included with that one). As usual with vintage sewing magazines, each pattern is only given in one size and Beyer defines its sizes by bust measurement (which is nice because it's clear what they're talking about. And there's even a sizing table which tells how what waist and hip measurements go with which bust sizes). The pattern sheet is scarily densely printed though...

February 13, 2015

Twist top pattern tutorial

The promised tutorial! You can make a top like mine using a tried-and-tested t-shirt pattern as a starting point. It doesn't matter if it has bust darts, you can transfer that width into the excess material for the twist. For this design, you want a top which a good waist shape but isn't skin-tight. Oh, and obviously, this design is only suitable for jersey fabrics.

This is what the bodice pieces for a normal t-shirt will look like. As usual, it's much easier to do any pattern alterations without seam allowance.

Before you do anything about the twist, the basic shape of this top has to be made. To do this, you raise the shoulder point by 1 cm and extend the line from neck to shoulder by about 12.5 cm (to decide how much, put the normal t-shirt on and measure down your arm from the shoulder point. In my tops, the sleeve which attaches the seam is at the bicep). From that new off-shoulder 'shoulder' point, draw a line down to the body, at a 90 degree angle, and merge it into the side seam. 

Shape the new neckline. The basic pattern in this drawing has a close fitting neckline, the top we're making has has a wide V. Widen the neckline so that only 7 cm of the original shoulder line is left. At the back, the neckline needs to be lowered by about half the amount it was widened. At the front, make a V which ends at the bust line. 
If you don't intend to finish the neckline with a band, you definitely have to make gape darts at this stage too. I'd say 1.5.

Then there's the sleeve to think about. This will be a very simple shape. I'll give you the measurement I used for mine but I know I have fairly skinny arms, so only use these as a starting point. You want to make a sleeve which is a bit loose at the top and tapers to a closer fit at the wrist. The sleeve will be a bit wider at its top than the original sleeve-with-sleevehead was at that that point.
Draw the line for the top. Mine is 30 cm (the circumference of the middle of my upper arm is 27). Draw a line from the middle of this one, straight down. The length of this one should be the desired sleeve length (which you can measure on a straight arm). With the bottom of that line as a center point, draw the bottom of the sleeve, for which you can use your wrist measurement. Draw straight lines for the sides. I like to make a very shallow sleeve head by making the top of the sleeve 1.5 cm higher and drawing a smooth curve from it to the sides. 

And now it is time to start the twist! For the shape of this top it is important that the twist itself sits at bust level and there is no extra width added below the waistline. 
So, draw in the lines with that in mind. The actual seam will line up with the sleeve so it will end at 15 cm below the shoulder point. 
All the blue lines in the picture are where you will slash the pattern to form the twist. The red circle has a diameter of about 5 cm and is there only to help you add the extra width which the twist will need (which is easier to work with when drafting the pattern but really tricky to get into this drawing...)
I usually slash the pieces above and below the seam into 5 pieces, connected through that circle. In practice, this is a point where it's easy to go wrong. To avoid confusion after cutting, I like to number the corresponding pieces from the seamline out: So the pieces right above and below the seam are 1, the next ones are 2 etc. This may sound very obvious but as soon as these pieces are cut, it will become very easy to get them confused. This is also a good way to make extra-sure you've made the same number of pieces in both parts. Keep in mind that that lower body piece also counts!

And after all those warnings, it's time to slash and spread (you will see that I've suddenly gone from 5 pieces to 4. Please ignore that. I had made a mistake while drawing these and I didn't have an intermediate stage saved. And I didn't want to start all over again. For the principle of the twist, it doesn't matter).
Start with the largest piece, the lower body and match each next piece at the outer edge. Add about 5 cm between the tips. Mirror this with the upper parts, with the '1' pieces meeting at the tips and the '5' pieces having diameter of the circle, about 5 cm, between them (the drawing is wrong about this as well, my apologies). If you had any darts (bust darts or gape darts) fold them closed at this stage. 

Trace the pieces and smooth the edges to draw the new outline of your pattern. Don't forget to make notches for the twist. 

The neckband is a very simple thing: measure the neckline at front and back and subtract 10%. Draw a straight band of that measurement and 6 cm high and take out a piece at one end at 45 degrees (or more or less, if your neckline is far from a 45 degree angle to center front). 

Now, add seam and hem allowances to all pieces (if you prefer working with pattern with seam allowance). The neckband will be cut with the short straight side on the fold, the sleeve has its center line along the straight grain, the center back of the top is cut on the fold. The front should actually have the lower center front on the straight grain but if you're working with something like a stripe, it's often much more fun to put the neckline or one of the edges at the twist along the stripes.

I just added this image to clarify things.
When sewing, you start with the twist: If necessary, finish the raw edge of the fabric between the twist notches. 
Sew the twist seam on one of the front pieces from side to notches. Pull the other front piece through the remaining hole until its twist notches are on either side of it. Make sure none of the pieces are twisted back to front. 
Sew the twist seam on the second piece and the center front seam. 
Sew the shoulders and attach the sleeves with their tops at the shoulder seam. 
Sew the side seams and sleeve seams in one go.
Now the main construction on your top is finished. For the neckband, start by sewing the pointed bit together as it was pinned when you cut the pattern piece.  Clip the seam allowance to the point, turn right side out and press flat. Now you've got your V-shaped neckband. 
Pin it to the neckline, carefully distributing the excess ease (that 10%...). The twist notches should end up at about 1.5 cm from the tip of the neckband seam allowance. Starting at the tip, sew on the neck band. 

I usually do the entire construction of this top, apart from the center front seam of the neckband (I sew that using a very short straight stitch), on the overlocker/serger. But, if it's your first time making a design like this, I would definitely recommend sewing the seams around the twist first in a way which gives you a lot of control and will allow for easy unpicking. 
If you don't have a serger, you can use all the same stretch stitches on a the sewing machine which you would use for any other project using stretchy knits.

I hope this is clear to you. As usual, feel free to ask questions and I'd love to hear from you if you make something using this tutorial.