Tuesday, 16 September 2014

OWOP - results!

Well now. I didn't quite keep to my end of the bargain with my OWOP challenge - I did wear me-made blouses all week (only photographed during the workdays though), but didn't manage to complete the two extra blouses I wanted.

First, the pictures:

The order on this picture is a bit random, but I think:
Monday - refashioned Zara men's shirt
Tuesday - silvery Afternoon blouse
Wednesday - Belacarra blouse
Thursday - blue Afternoon blouse
Friday - refashioned silk dress. I don't think I ever did post this one but it was a silk dress that was too drapey for its own good, and now is a blouse.

I managed to cut the pattern for the Bellini blouse on Sunday. This only happened on Sunday because I spent all week nights crocheting (shawl close to being done), and spent the weekend finishing my rain coat. Here's a sneak peek, I'm planning to take proper pictures at the weekend:

I'm hoping to finish my Bellini tonight. I had one slight mishap with the collar (sewed down the wrong long seam - why oh why!!!!), but now I think I'm ready to: sew the remaining 3 seams, bind the armholes, and make buttons.

Monday, 8 September 2014

OneWeekOnePattern - maybe, possibly?

I must admit I really enjoyed taking part in OWOP last time around - but as the date looms closer now, I realize I don't have enough repeat makes to sustain me through a whole week.

I have three skirts which I think are made from the same pattern, but we have lovely 25 degree weather this week and I'd much rather not wear wool yet - and two of three are wool. I have two Afternoon Blouses but I'd need at least one more to get through all of the next five days. Everything else is single edition.

So I'm doing something else instead. To honor OWOP, I'm going to tag along by wearing one-week-blouse-patterns (OWBP), where the me-makes will be tops. I will also endeavor to wear both my Afternoon Blouses (mini-OWOP), and also complete two new tops by the end of the week.

For the tops, I have decided to use this prized Liberty tana lawn that my London team gave me before I left (hi team!):

I am planning to make a Sewaholic Belacarra and a Capital Chic Bellini. I have 2 meters of the stuff, so that should be enough for both, and tana lawn is absolutely perfect for blouses. I'm giving myself 7 days to make the tops, since I'm still not done with the rain coat.

The update on that is that after a snafu with the sleeves which left me unable to take it to Ireland, I have eased myself into it last week, and to date I have bias bound the arm seams and have attached silk organza to the sleeve hems. The major hold up now is that I need to cut the sleeve lining, which hopefully I'll do tonight.

In the meanwhile, as some of you might have seen on Instagram, I am working on a crochet shawl, which is going quite well - I'm more than half way through:

I won't be posting outfits every day, but I'll do an update post at the end, and in the meanwhile you can follow me on Instagram to see daily updates.

Friday, 5 September 2014

V1351: almost there

When I thinking about the party dress I posted about last week two weeks how-did-this-become-three-weeks-ago-when-I-wrote-the-post-already(!), I initially started from V1351. That's this DKNY pattern in case you have no idea what I'm talking about:

Vogue 1351 / voguepatterns.com

It's a bias cut dress with a cowl. I thought it was perfect for the party dress, but that I needed something other than muslin to try it out, as the drapey-ness requirements are different.

As an aside, I'm not really sure how draping drapey designs works with muslin. I bought this Draping book from amazon to learn, but now I'm blocked by the fact that muslin is 10-francs-a-metre-in-Zurich - this has to be the one item in Switzerland that I find really expensive. Luckily muslin is cheaper in Romania, so I have instructed people coming over by car to buy me a whole bolt.

Back on the subject at hand, I had this polyester Kaufman drapey mystery fabric in my stash for about two years, it was a birthday present from someone at work, and it was perfect for the project.

The dress is bias cut for the fashion fabric, has a grain-cut bodice lining, and a bias-cut skirt lining. The bodice is very smartly done: the lining actually makes the cowl sit in place. I was a bit meh about the whole thing when I finished - this was the picture I took before I hemmed:

I cut a straight size 12, and it was quite easy to put together. I ended up making various tucks and pleats by hand to make the cowl sit as I wanted it to. One of the things this has taught me is that I don't really like cowls. At all. No that I think about it, I quite disliked the cowl on my Vogue 1250s as well, both on the dress, and on the top. The problem is that I just don't know what to do with it! You live and you learn, eh? Maybe they'd be easier to handle if there was less fabric.

One of the cool things about this pattern, however, it that it's really good. No need for a sway back, nothing changed, the dress looks great. Great instructions for a machine narrow hem - I think I'm finally getting the difference between a narrow hem and a rolled hem.

Obviously, this isn't a fitted garment, but I quite like how much movement one gets It looks excellent with a belt as well:

Turns out I like bias cut things. Who-would-have thought!

One word of advice - the skirt is cut quite long, I had to trim a good deal from it. Size 12 as drafted is really more of a midi length for me (163cm / 5'4").

I decided in the end that I didn't want to use this pattern for the party dress (*cowl* ahem), but I did cut the party dress skirt from the skirt pattern, so I had that going for me :) And I got to wear it a few times at work, although the skirt lining just will not stay put - I need to add thread tacks to it - it's only going to happen next year though now that winter is coming in Zurich. Although we are heading to Mallorca for a team offsite soon, so I might just get that done before I go.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

A very special party dress

I was calling this "The Dress" but then I realized that I called the party dress I made last year "The Dress" as well so that won't do. I haven't thought of a name yet, but I can tell you that this dress took a  loooong time to make.

Obligatory Auto Awesome:

Looking at these pictures I'm not quite sure I'm that happy with this dress (boo!).

Fabric is Liberty Silk Crepe (I didn't know this existed!!) from Truro fabrics - they don't have this exact fabric in stock anymore, but they have some other options - see here. The dress is my own pattern, and it took just under 3 meters of fabric.

The top is made from my sloper - the back is a normal one, I just made a V-neck out of it, the front I made one-shouldered and then added a gathered strap. The back can be lower, but I'm happy with how it turned out nonetheless.

This is full of couture techniques (and some non-couture ones too!). I underlined with silk organza - the delicious Italian one that MacCulloch and Wallis stocks (here). I added a China silk lining to the bodice, which I stitched and understitched by hand.

I watched-and-rewatched-and-rewatched the Susan Khaljie Craftsy class for this make - it's a great class. Truth be told, by the time I decided what I wanted, her new cocktail dress class would have been perfect (including perfect pattern), but the pattern wouldn't have arrived on time, so I skipped it for now.

I have to give a shout out to the China silk supplier I found in Zurich  - it is the best quality habotai I have EVER seen. The shop is called Keck (link), and the stuff is pretty very stupidly steep at 35 francs/meter, but I swear it is worth it for those special makes! It's not the flimsy stuff that I was used to with China silk -  it's the real deal, I didn't even know you could buy such good quality habotai.  By the way, the term for China silk here is "Seidefutter" - Futter meaning lining, and Seide means silk - obviously, the only possible silk item to be used for lining out there! Much like Romania, silk materials are just "seide", rather than "seide something" like charmeuse or whatever. A bit annoying, but you get used to it.

I also found, in the same shop, an interesting Gutterman silk thread - not the shiny-made-of-multiple-strands kind I used to find in the UK, but one that seems to be made of one strand of silk, and glides beautifully. I stocked up several spools because it's perfect for tailor tacks and basting, and will probably go back often for more. It's also pretty cheap at around 3 francs / spool.

But I digress. The skirt is cut on the bias, and I used the Vogue 1351 skirt pattern as a starting point. I wanted a high-low hem, so a lining wouldn't have worked - instead I underlined in the same China silk that I used to line the bodice. I didn't use silk organza to underline the skirt because I wanted to dress to keep flowing, and organza would have made it too stiff. I finished with a hand rolled hem, as per instructions in Susan Khaljie's Couture Sewing Techniques , which is a wonderful book, well worth reading.

I also added a bit of interest to the low part of the skirt:

I'm not sure it's very visible in these photos, but the hem in front has a pleated overlay that adds a bit of visual interest. I achieved this by cutting the front, then making the overlay and attaching it by hand. This is what it looks like from the wrong side:

The pleat detail is mirrored in the belt, which is wide and made of 3 identical pleats:

The belt has in a fake bow at the back, and it closes with snaps:

The dress closes with a side zipper, and has, on the opposite side, some boning to mirror the draping that results from the zipper. It's not metal boning (it would have been too stiff!), but some very flexible plastic one - the type you would never use in a corset or bustier. The boning is attached to the lining rather than the dress - I'm not sure that's the right way, but it does what it's intended to:

I also added bra holders, in three places. A bit of advice: for the shoulder seam, the holder needs to be on the side close to the neckline - the one I made first is on the side close to the shoulder joint and doesn't work.

I think I need to work on my fell stitch, and also need to be more careful with the lining - the inside doesn't look as nice as it could have!

I did get my grandma's seal of approval though :)

I'm ending this with a few full shots of the dress on the dummy:


Back - in this picture the bias draping doesn't look right, as if I messed up the grain - any ideas?

Front - the hem is even, but the dress was tilted in this photo

PS I just went back through my posts last year and realized I never posted about last year's party dress! Here's a picture - some silk my mom brought back from Thailand, made from the Laurel pattern for friends' wedding:

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Raincoat muslin and sewing plans

I bought this really nice chocolate waterproof silk back in February with the idea of turning it into a summer rain coat. I think it's a twill, here's a bad picture with some buttons on top. My phone camera doesn't really do it justice though (weird corners!):

A particularly wet summer later, I'm finally starting this project. I'm making Sewaholic's Robson coat, and I'm just finished with the muslin.

I cut a size 8 at the bust, and moved out to a size 6 for the rest. However, I needn't have bothered - I think an 8 overall, despite not matching my measurements, will be absolutely fine. I didn't cut the full length for the muslin, mostly because I didn't have enough muslin to cut it from. I think the coat as designed is a bit long, so I'll shorten it somewhat, but the length that I made for the muslin is a bit too short.

In fact, the fit seems spot on - very good in the front and back, including no swayback needed!

The only issue I can spot is the princess seem gaping a bit at the top. But most of that will be needed by by the sleeves anyway, so I'm not particularly worried about this. I'll baste things together first to make sure it looks ok.

I didn't make a muslin of the sleeves, but I measured the size 8 and it gives me about 4 inches of ease- I think it will be fine.

I was keen to make an unlined coat because I wanted it to work well for summer, but this means most tailoring techniques (couture or ready to wear) won't work very well because you can't cover the interior work. Truth be told, lining and underlining would not make it too warm for summer - I made two dresses which are both underlined&lined with silk and they are really comfortable even in 35+ degree weather. Still, I haven't got enough organza to underline the whole thing and I haven't yet found a local supplier for silk organza so if I wanted to make a lined coat I'd have at least a few weeks of downtime while I get more - a few weeks this late in summer means next year, so I'm just going the unlined route.

Here's what I plan to do:
- I will use fusible interfacing for everything required by the pattern; I got this really nice fusible from
McCullough and Wallis when I bought the fabric so it matches the weight of the silk well
- for some reason, the belt isn't on the interfacing list in the pattern instructions (haven't checked the pattern piece itself though, it might be listed there), but I think I'll need to interface it too
- I will underline the front, up to the facing edge, with silk organza
- I will try to add a back stay (under the back facing)
- I will stay the neckline and front princess seams with organza selvage; still looking to see if there are any other curves that need such stiff staying
- I will interface all hems - probably using a stiffer silk organza for this as per Nordheim's Vintage Couture Tailoring, and I need to make sure it won't show, so it will be cut narrower than the book requires
- I will might use a chain to weigh down the bottom hem if the stiff organza isn't enough
- I will line the sleeves; I have a nice original Chanel silk lining that I am thinking of using, but I'm not decided yet as it might be a tad too heavy; alternatively I will go get some China silk from one of the local suppliers, the quality I can get here is very good
- I'm planning to use flat felled seams throughout - the pattern calls for binding (which I bought 6000000 meters of) but I like flat felling more as a finish.

The initial plan was to use turquoise accents for the topstitching, buttons and binding, but now I've decided against binding, I'm thinking that maybe yellow would be a good accent instead. Or fuchsia? The stiffer organza I have is fuchsia - I'm not quite sure why the only organza that is made from silk sold by Join Lewis is fuchsia now, but that's how I ended up with that color.

One of the things I dread with this one is constantly switching thread, at every seam, in my machine. I'm using brown chocolate thread for the seams, and the accent thread for topstitching. I'm considering borrowing a machine to do the topstitching on. Maybe the local Bernina supplier can get me one to try out for a weekend, although I an not quite sure how that conversation would go with my German to be honest.

And on that bombshell, it's time to get sewing!

Monday, 11 August 2014

A trio of dresses

I spent most of my recent sewing time finishing what I'm currently calling THE DRESS, however I wanted to post the full trio of dresses which I haven't blogged about yet.


Two grey and one colorful dress:
 -  The grey-with-circles is THE DRESS. It is so called because I spent something like 6 days making it, and it's my own design
 -  The colorful is one is an early prototype of the above, made from Vogue 1351. I was very meh about it but it might not be as bad
 - The boring grey dress has a special story - it's a simple sheath dress made using Colette's Truffle dress and my sloper. Also called the "I have no idea what I'm doing but whatever it is, it's wrong"

I'm mostly sharing these because I want to shame myself into taking proper pictures and doing proper blogposts. Maybe next time it's sunny in Zurich...

Friday, 1 August 2014

Disappointing blog article of the day...

I don't particularly like ranting in public, and try to keep these topics off the blog usually, but upon opening my feed reader today I was greeted by this title: "How to Read a Ruler". ?!?!?!?!

This seemed rather trivial so I had to open the article and see for myself the reference I was missing.... none it seems:

This post really seems to be about reading a ruler. Disclosure: I did not click through to the full article.

Really? How to read a ruler, with a quick measurement cheat sheet ? Really-really? This is mildly mind-boggling to tell the truth.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Jeb Trousers: Details

Now, Mr T absolutely refuses to do a photoshoot for zee internet, so sadly only details on the Jeb's I made for him. However, the cool thing is that my dad saw him wearing them and now wants a pair himself! So if I make those for him, I might get some photos for the blog anyway since he's not as sensitive about it.

This pattern is very very good - the final result is very close to RTW. I am extremely pleased with it

I made these from a light-to-medium weight linen, which feels amazing to the touch. I bought it at John Lewis, especially for Mr T - although I was planning to make him a shirt initially.

The inside is mostly finished with binding - I used binding for the waist band, the crotch seam, and the outseams. The inseams and the yoke seams are flat felled. The crotch seam is "fake felled" - it's finished with binding and then topstiched.

I did all seam finishes as per instructions, with the exception of the outseams, where I didn't press open the seams: instead, I pressed to the back, bound both sides of the seam, then did a very narrow (1/8") topstich - my RTW jeans have that feature, and I like it. Here's a picture while Mr T is wearing them:

As a contrast, this is one of the inseams - they are done with real flat felled stitches (sew right sides together, trim one seam, press the other over). It also shows some of the very best topstiching I have ever done - I'm sooo proud of it. It's because Mr T will not wear something that's not perfect, so I take more care with his stuff than mine (you should see how long it took me to hem his dress trousers).

The front pockets are done in a silk twill leftover from one of the few things I made that looked REALLY homemade. I didn't expect how drapey the fabric was, and made a terrible pattern choice, so it went into the bin. I had enough leftovers for these though, and actually the silk is suuuuper smooth and nice. 

The picture above also shows one of the many reinforcing bar tacks in these. 

On the outside, I made a mistake with the pockets - the two designs should have been mirrored, but TBH, I have huuuuge issues with mirror facing pattern pieces. My brain just doesn't do geometry right. Anyway, I don't think anyone will notice.

I love the little Swiss logo I put on there. I went to the shop and explained (in my very broken German) that I'm making trousers for my husband, and he really wants a Swiss logo on the pocket. The lady there laughed when I said it :)

And this is the right front pocket, which has a small grosgrain ribbon flavour (only on the right one though). Also, one two of those bar tacks, one at the bottom of the pocket, and one at the top.

Finally, this is the fly front - pretty good for a first try, no? The waistband is topstiched 1/8" from the waist seam, and the button has a crown on it - straight from my button drawer!

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Party dress update

I'm at the stage where I'm sewing in the lining. I did a proper "couture" dress (not really couture but meh).

This was the dress as I let it hang on Sunday night:

The bodice is made from my sloper, and it has a dropped waist. It is underlined in silk organza. The skirt is underlined in China silk (a particularly nice one!), and cut on the bias.

The front currently hits me mid-thigh, and the back mid calf. I'll put the back up a bit I think. Hemming using narrow hems.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Front bodice placement

A fairly brief post tonight to ask my readers: what do you think of this bodice placement?

The outline in the picture is the front bodice (green wins), and I was trying pretty hard to place the big flowers away from the top of the darts.

I have two options:
1. Leave as is. Easy and I got the grain right, which isn't easy in this silk crepe. The darker area, together with the two big flowers, hit at the empire waist
2. Move the whole thing up a bit, so the big flowers and the blackish area in thr fabric hit at my waist (indicated by the middle of the darts). Advantage: darker area around the waist is a good optical illusion.

What do you think? I'm leaning towards (2) which somewhat sucks because I already basted the organza to the fabric at the bottom of the bodice. At least it was hand basting.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Sneak peek at the finished Jebs / other musings

Mr T has said he will absolutely, positively NOT model these for me, so I'll just do a construction post later in the week.

In the meanwhile, here's a sneak peek at parts of the finished item:

I'm really happy with how everything turned up!

I'm also planning to use my sloper to make a party dress, for a fancy affair I have coming up in 10 days (*gulp* last minute sewing).

This is my original inspiration - I drew this 3 weeks ago:

I upgraded the design to this in the meanwhile:

  • one shoulder design
  • second shoulder will have a wide strap covered in smocked silk chiffon (might or might not iron that one - it looks like scales if you iron!)
  • waist seam
  • band below waist to high hip also covered in smocked silk chiffon (a bit like this)
  • high-low skirt, with maybe a godet in the skirt piece (not sure about that one)
  • from the "bare" shoulder (not really bare), a draped silk chiffon drop to the waist - this will catch in the side seam of the band
Let's see how I fare in doing all this....

Friday, 18 July 2014

Making the Jeb Trousers: sewing in 30 degree weather

It is really hot around here, and I'm loving it! Of course, sewing with the windows closed (mosquitoes), with a steam iron, a TV and a computer makes the experience a wee bit difficult but I'm not complaining...

My sewing room is a bit cramped, but I like it. My cutting table is sharing a desk with my old computer (now I just use it to Chormecast stuff like Craftsy courses to the TV). The pressing station is what's cramping everything up really, but I don't have anywhere else to put it so it has to do.  It's way better than the previous incarnation of my sewing room - a bit of the dining room table - where I always had to move the machine around when I wasn't using it!

I was busy with other things all week, so the cut-last-Sunday Jebediah trousers have been sitting in my sewing room, waiting for a free evening so I could get to them. I regret nothing, I had a very good week, with a pretty good grill on Tuesday and a lively night out in Zurich on Wednesday.

Anyway, I still need to pick up a trouser zipper for these, and some grey topstiching thread. I didn't lose much, since you can't do much before doing the zipper.

I think the instructions have you do the outseams first, then the inseam, crotch seam and then the zipper, but that just sounds harder to me. I think the easiest order of construction is inseam, crotch seam, zipper then outseams - that way, almost everything is sewed in the straight. You also don't cut any corners on the central part, which needs really hardy seams, but you can baste the outseams together to check fit. Hopefully this line of reasoning will actually work.

This is where I am at:

Of course, making trousers means that you do lots of things twice. That includes French seams on pockets. I thought about using cream thread for the pockets, but at least one of the visible stitch lines (the diagonal one) would still be in black, since it's visible on the right side of the fabric, so I figured it wasn't going to change much in the end. I finished both front pockets tonight - it took me about an hour and a half - actually this is the one reason I don't like price tags on self-made things. If you put a price on something, you have to consider everything, including time spent and materials, even hardware depreciation!

I'm was hoping to finish this this weekend - however, Mr T has requested a Laughing Man logo (complete with writing) for the back pockets. Now that's something you can't find in ready to wear. It will be an achievement in itself if I manage to get it done! I think I have to practice first though, so it might take quite a while to finish everything.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

A dream of (silvery) summer

We had a bit of sun over the weekend, so I took the opportunity to take pictures of another make from the last month or so.

Disclaimer: despite my last garment post being roughly a month ago, I actually sewed, sewed, sewed this month and have no less than 3 (or 4?) things to photograph. I also have plans for three more things: a pair of linen trousers for Mr T (already cut!), and for me a party dress  (I'm making the pattern on this one too) and a work dress. And that's just from full lengths of fabric!

Let me not digress, and present you with an obligatory auto-awesome of my new Afternoon Blouse:

Silly auto-awesome cuts off my head and I can't fix it!

This version is 100% linen that I bought in my grandma's town. It is light-weight, so something that doesn't have much structure is better suited I thought. I managed to squeeze both this and a shift dress from about 2 meters of fabric. I'll try to take pictures of the shift dress for my next post.

I really fell in love with the shade of gray - it's rather perfect for summer, and goes with everything, especially my Totoro jeans. I style it with the jeans for "casual" outings... including work :)... and having recently discovered that one can wear scarves in a way that doesn't scream "I'm over 50" (hopefully; I might feel like I'm 50 inside which would explain the newly-found acceptability of such an accessory but truth be told I'd rather not dwell on the idea for too long), I started wearing those too - this blouse works with every single scarf I own.

Pattern-wise, this version incorporates the changes I mentioned in my last post on slopers. I'm happy to report that the front wedge is gone.In a happy turn of events, with the removal of the wedge, the V-neck also sits better.

Here's a side-by-side comparison of the two makes:

The linen wears quite well, although being linen it's quite wrinkly. I didn't do anything like underlining, because I wanted this to be a simple top. As before, no swayback, and I'm really grateful that this pattern doesn't require that particular alteration:

For the facing, I used a matching grey cotton since I didn't have enough linen for that as well. I used the overcast stitch on my machine to finish the edges for it, but I wasn't very happy:

... So I decided to turn under and topstich for the rest of the blouse. I find this is a decent finish. It also makes for a fully topstitched garment, and roughly an extra hour of sewing. I used cream thread, which is invisible from afar but an interesting detail close by.

One benefit of topstitching everything is that I didn't have to tack down the facing, since it got caught it:

For the button, I used a fairly heavy sun button I picked up in a local shop called Manor. I bought this about a year ago, before I moved to Switzerland:

It's quite pretty, and it matches the general summer-sun-happy state that I get from this blouse.

How about you? Do you have a favorite style or fabric type that makes you think of summer?