December 5, 2016

Life and sewing

There's no point in denying it anymore: I just really don't have the kind of time and energy for sewing and blogging that I used to. Between work and climbing, there is just not that much left over. I tried to deny it for months, occasionally blaming myself for not sewing or blogging in the evenings I was at home. 
I'm not going to do that anymore. I love sewing and I love this blog but there are just 24 hours in a day and sometimes, I'm just tired.
I'll just have to change the way I plan my sewing projects. Plan them in way many of you probably always have. Just make simple things when I'm busy or prepare for a well-considered bigger project in the weekend and keep working on it in short little installments during the week. 

I started with the first option last weekend. I finally tried out Studio Faro's Kimono Twist Dress. Basically, it is just a variation on the kind of twist I have often used before but I thought it looked quite elegant from the first time I saw it. 
As usual, I didn't quite follow all the instructions. Those are for a dress in a woven fabric with a soft hand, with the twist at the high hip. I'm old-fashioned and I like the narrowest point of a dress to be at the narrowest point of me, so I put the twist at the waistline. I also made the dress in jersey so I used my sloper for fitted knitwear.
I also kept the pattern in two pieces. Much more economical in its use of fabric. 

I thought it was an easy pattern to draft but I was a bit nervous about the end result. In the original instructions, it is described as "a little daring, showing lots of leg and d├ęcolletage". That twist is the only thing holding the dress together at center front. 
My fears were justified. I will take pictures later this week. The dress covers enough if you are standing perfectly still but move around in it and it gets a bit too revealing. I'm not feeling to bad about it though. It will serve me well as a light robe and working on this helped me develop other ideas. 
More about those and pictures of the dress soon! 

November 21, 2016


In the previous post, I told you I would soon finish that black dress... In fact, I only finished it last Saturday and took pictures on Sunday. 
Last week was very busy with work and E was ill, all of which didn't leave me much time for sewing. 

I'm glad it is finished now. I like the skirt and I like sleeves but I'm not entirely happy about the fit of the bodice. I have used this pattern before but it was always in fabrics with just a bit more give. I checked the fit on those other dresses before cutting this one and I added little bits of room in the back bodice pieces and at the biceps. And yet, it is a bit snug in those areas. That's what I get with all that climbing I suppose...

It is not too tight to be wearable though. And as I said, there are other things I like about it. Would you believe I have never made a shirtdress with full-length sleeves before? I always thought that would just be a bit too much so I stuck with three quarter length. 
I did make the skirt a little bit shorter than most of my recent 1950's style skirts.
Interestingly, I think this dress looks a bit 1970's rather than 1950's. But I'm not absolutely sure...

As I mentioned before, I started making this dress to have something to wear with my new big scarves. I also mentioned that I usually end up wearing things like this without decoration. 
And this time may not be very different.

This is what it looks like with one of the scarves. It's just a bit too big to go with the dress, I think. Nice and warm though...

November 13, 2016

Sew slow

This must have been my longest break from blogging in quite a while... I didn't mean to do it, it just happened. 
I still couldn't figure out what to make from that flannel. I was very busy with work and social obligations. I spend another weekend climbing in the Ardennes (in the last weekend of warm sunny weather... It was great!). I was just very busy and didn't sew that much anyway...

In fact, I have done a bit of sewing during the time that I wasn't blogging. Because I couldn't decide on what to do with the flannel, I put it back on the shelf. Instead, I started on another dress, which I have been working on slowly, in left-over moments, for the past week and a half (which is not my normal kind of sewing progress at all!).

I'm making this dress, in black cotton. I made this technical drawing quickly in Illustrator so it is not very pretty but it does show the shape of what I'm working on. 
The bodice is the one I originally drafted for the flounce dress but this time, I gave it full length sleeves. I made those a little bit fuller and I'm going to add sleeve slits and cuffs. The skirt is a simple half circle with slant pockets with fold-back flaps (a very popular detail in original 1950's designs). I cut the skirt in six gores but didn't put that detail in the drawing. The center front pleat was a bit of an afterthought. When I was drafting the skirt pieces, I was a bit sleepy and I didn't realize that I had included the front overlap on the bodice in my measurement for the skirt piece. I only noticed that when I was pinning the waist seam. A pleat was by far the easiest way to fix the issue...

The dress should be finished at some point in the next week. It only needs cuffs and a hem now. When it is finished, I will show it and discuss any other issues I may have with it...

And just in case you were wondering how I went from colourful flannel to black cotton, there was a reason. This dress was planned as a kind of "background dress". The sort of garment which can be combined with other things to create different looks. Usually when I try something like that, I either end up always wearing it plain or I settle on one look and stay with that. Which doesn't mean I don't like the idea...

This time, I came back to it after buying these two scarves (my apologies for the horrible cell-phone pictures, taken with the use of a dirty mirror):

They're huge and soft and warm and a lady at my local market was selling them for 3 euros a piece or 5 euros for 2. I have looked at similar scarves before but I never bought them because I don't usually wear square scarves, but at that price, I couldn't resist. 
Now, these scarves are so big they can completely take over any outfit so I don't really have to make anything to wear them with (they look great with jeans and a long-sleeved t-shirt) but they were still my reason to start making this dress. I'm not sure it will end up looking good worn with either scarf but I suppose that's a risk worth taking. 

October 22, 2016


Why do today what you can put off till tomorrow? Especially if you are not quite sure what you should be doing anyway?
That's sort of where I am right now. I had some time off this week and hoped for a chance to catch up on housework (not nice but needed) and do some serious sewing. And then I wasn't feeling well for about three days. Not really ill, just a very low on energy and a bit feverish. If I had had a sewing project underway, I would probably still have enjoyed working on it but I wasn't really motivated to start on drafting something new in that state. 

And then, of course, I started to overthink things. What do I really want or need for my wardrobe? New work, slight figure changes (from the climbing, which I have mentioned before). Everything in life which changes may have an impact on the wardrobe you want or need. And even apart from that, preferences can still change...
As I said, overthinking.

Of course, the fact is that not everything I sew has to be perfectly useful. I have things to wear, both at work and at home so, even though I could come up with useful wardrobe additions, I can afford to just sew something I like. However, once you start overthinking your sewing plans, it's hard to shake that off again. It is to me, at least. At this point, I started second-guessing what I wanted too. 
(I don't usually get like this at all when I'm doing a lot of sewing. When I'm on a roll, I just keep going. It is especially when I know my sewing time is limited and I want to make it count that this sometimes happens) 

Now, one of the things I am considering right now is to make another nice, cozy, flannel dress. I bought these two pieces of cotton flannel earlier this year. I love the one on the left and I bought 4 or 5 meters of it. I'm not as fond of the other one. I think that fabric would only look good on me if I cut it on the bias. Which I may do at some point in the future. 

For now, I am focussing on the fabric on the left. Good colours for me and plenty of fabric. An early idea (once I was past the obligatory "full skirted 1950's dress") was to make a shirtdress with a long skirt, sort of 1970's style. Probably with a center front and back seam to use those checks in an interesting way.

Then, I started looking at my vintage patterns and came across this design. A Dutch unprinted pattern by the company Harmien's. Undated but I would guess it came from the late 1940's. It has a gored skirt which would not work for this fabric but the top part looks really nice. 
I made a muslin of the whole dress which was less than encouraging (I'll show it in a later post).
Then, I had another look at the fabric and tried on the dress for which I drafted my favorite shirtdress bodice.
This dress, which I still love:

The flounce dress has been a firm favorite since the moment I finished it. It is quite comfortable but also special and stylish enough for all kinds of occasions. I've worn it to all those events where I felt I had to "look the part" without really knowing what to expect. And it always made me feel good. The dress is still in great condition so I am definitely not looking to replace it. Having more like it is a different matter though...
Trying it on again taught me a two things: 1. This bodice still fits well, especially in a fairly soft fabric like flannel. I also still love it. 2. I love a flounce skirt. Full skirts and pencil skirts are all well and good but nothing beats a skirt which combines the two and puts an unexpected twist on both.

So, now I am doubting again. How about a shirtdress with a flounce skirt. I could make a different kind of flounce this time. 
It's a difficult thing to draw in Illustrator so I kind of gave up that but I think you get the idea. Maybe I'll pull the fabric together at the waistline this time, rather than lower down. Or I'll do something else...And I still have another piece of fabric in my stash which has been earmarked for a second flounce dress all along.

On the other hand, that Harmien's top also still looks like a good idea...

In fact, I might have enough fabric to make two dresses. I'm just not sure yet. And it is not like I don't have other ideas either... So. Procrastinating...

October 18, 2016


Terrible light, self-timer pictures, freshly washed (still wet, except for the blow-dried fringe) hair and bare feet... What's not to love about today's pictures?
I had wanted to take better ones but I also didn't want to put off posting about this new top I made. So, I had to make do and I hope you can still kind of see the clothes in these shots. 

A couple of years ago, I bought this fabric, a black cotton jersey with that 'loop' texture at the back and very little stretch, on sale. I made a top from it. It had kimono sleeves and a collar and it seems like I didn't blog about it or post it on Burdastyle. At least, not in a place where I can find it now. That garment was OK... The fabric was comfortable but its lack of stretch was less than ideal for this design. The leftover fabric just stayed in my stash for years. Until last Saturday, when I decided to deal with it once and for all. Using up just about all of it, I made this:

A loose-fitting sweater. The bodice is completely straight, with a wide but shallow scoop for the neckline. Its back hemline curves down by about 5 cm. The sleeves have a very low sleeve-head and they taper towards the hem. 
Simply said, it's a sack-shaped top.

I've never had many of those. There is usually plenty of wide stuff in RTW but most of my sewing is more fitted. It can be nice to have a bit of variety though. And I found myself struggling to make nice combinations when wearing my more fitted trousers (like these, or my new jeans). And most of all, this fabric is perfect for a design like this!

In my experience, the look of loose-fitting clothes can depend enormously on the fabric you use. My lovely twice-made wintercoat is very wide and that works because the wool fabric has quite a bit of body.
It worked the first time:

And maybe even better the second time around.
But there was also a time when I decided to use a striped sweater knit to make a cardigan with those same lines... A thinner fabric, with a softer hand. It didn't work at all. Where the coats with lovely pieces of soft sculpture, the cardigan with just a baggy sack. In the end I took it in quite a bit which made it wearable. It's not pretty but it is very comfortable which is why it still has a place in my wardrobe as a warm extra layer to snuggle up in on cold days.

You see, with "loose-fitting" anything, it's all about the interaction between the fabric, the design and your own body. The bulky fabric of the coats allowed them to have a life of their own, just hanging from my shoulders. 
This new sweater of mine has to play a more subtle role. Like a game of hide and seek with points and curves. In a thicker fabric, my body would end up really looking like a rectangle. And if I tried to make up this same pattern in a more stretchy and drape-y jersey, I would just repeat the cardigan fiasco... But for this fabric, I think I got the fit spot-on.

Some people wear shapes like this a lot. Sometimes to obscure parts of their body they are not happy with, sometimes as a statement. Sack-like clothes can be used to say things like "I don't do obvious sexy dressing, I'm more creative, more clever than that". A bit snobbish? Maybe, but is it really more so than the "if you've got it, flaunt it" approach? 
It was never my style but can't help but admire the look of confidence it has on those who wear it well.
So far, I could only ever make that kind of look work for me in coats. For a long time, it was my working theory that, with my A cup, there just wasn't enough there between shoulders and hips to make that game between garment and body work. Now, I'm starting to wonder if it is just all about the dimensions...

October 15, 2016

lingerie, bras and shapewear

Last weekend, I spent a couple of hours asking the same question on three different Facebook groups of which I am a member (We Sew Retro Sew & Tell, Learn how to make Corsets like a pro and a Dutch group about corset making, to be precise). I got a lot of kind comments and good advice but nothing like a single solution emerged. 
I was looking for advice on how to improve on this thing which I made last year. 

My lingerie corset isn't bad but it is not flawless either. I'm sure I can fix the minor fit issues it has but I really need to find a good fabric for it. The opaque stuff I used here is a bit too stiff and doesn't breathe. And I was also not happy with the way this garment creates more tummy than I actually have. One of the people who commented on my question mentioned something important about that though: Flat stomachs are a modern obsession, a fit like this would have been completely fine in the 1950's (which tends to be the era I look at for this kind of thing).
I also spent some time looking at repro patterns for shapewear (I know Mrs. Depew has a few, if you have other recommendations, please comment). 

I really should try and order some samples of the fabrics which were suggested to me (and some more lingerie supplies besides that) and experiment with the pattern or try a repro one. Instead, I started with supplies from stash and a design which is between normal bra a retro shapewear: A longline bra.

It is strapless for now but I plan on adding straps. I put ribbons in the cup seam to allow for that but I am all out of rings and sliders. 
I made it using non-stretch silk (for the upper cups and the center front), that mesh I also used for my body suits and some beige/pink lingerie foam for the cups. And I used my usual underwires and polyester boing covered in velvet ribbon along the bodice seams. Unfortunately, I only had fairly wide boning in black and proper bone casings would have been better with this sheer fabric... 

And the use of interlocking rigid pieces like the bones and the underwires means the fabric between those pieces has to fit perfectly. The center front is just a tiny bit off in its center, below the underwires. It is nothing that can't be fixed in a new version but it would be much more trouble than it is worth to try and fix it in this finished product. 
In a new version, I would also slightly change the angle of the cups, put a tiny bit more room in the upper edge of the cups and use wider elastic at the bottom edge of the bodice (note to self: Buy such elastic...) and probably lengthen the bodice  by 1 to 1.5 cm to make it reach my waist.
Despite all that, I like this for a first try. 

October 9, 2016

Finished jeans!

And here are those jeans I blogged about earlier:

The pattern is a tried-and-tested one. Self-drafted as usual and intended to be made up using stretch denim, what this fabric is. 
As I mentioned before, I had only just enough fabric to cut out all the pieces for this pair of trousers so I was limited both in the leg length (this was absolutely the longest I could possibly make them) and in the flare of the leg. I might have gone for a more pronounced boot-cut shape if there had been more fabric.

The rest is pretty straight-forward: a fairly high rise, to the natural waist, which I find comfortable. I will normally wear tops over it.
Scoop pockets at the front, patch pockets at the back. And that deep-curving back yoke. A waistband, but no belt-loops. I find adding belt-loops a very fiddly and annoying job and I never use them anyway (on me, to fit well, any waistband below the waist has to be quite strongly shaped so there is no way a straight belt will sit well along such a line).

All in all, not a very exciting but certainly a very welcome and useful addition to my wardrobe.