August 27, 2014

Things considered

There is still a new garment I haven't shown you but I thought I would break up the relentless stream of things with some pondering about sewing...
I'm kind of torn about what to make next. 

I got started on this 1930's dress. I measured the bodice pieces and was fairly confident that the stamped numbers may indeed be the bust and waist size of the wearer this pattern is intended for. 

When getting the pattern out of its envelope, I was very impressed to find it in what seemed to be its original factory folds. It seemed pristine apart from a rather obvious repair (yellow tape) of the sleeve/yoke. This pattern belonged to a lady who thought nothing of tearing a pattern sheet to shreds with her tracing wheel (that happened to two or three Gracieuse pattern sheets. The ones from which the most designs were sewn) so it makes me assumed she never used this pattern. Maybe she got it as a free sample, an attempt to convince professional dress makers to use patterns from this company? Of course, I'll never find out.

Anyway, I decided to use a stash fabric: blue mystery fibre stuff, fairly lightweight and drapey. It seemed a good match for the flowing skirt and softly shaped body. It's been in the stash for a while and was bought cheaply. Perfect for a wearable muslin.
It was a bit annoying that there were no straight grain markings on the pattern. It's an unprinted pattern and there were no other markings than the points of darts and pleats and the notches. 

The, extremely limited, instructions tell you to "baste the shoulder pleats, try on and adjust when necessary" and then sew. Which seems like sound advice until you realize you can't actually test the fit until those shoulder pieces are in place, holding up the dress. 

I've started sewing them and I'm not happy. The illustration makes the shoulder pleats look like perfectly even pin tucks but in fact, each one has a different width and lies at a different angle. The ones which are where a shoulder seam would usually be actually contain fairly substantial darts. It's clever, but really difficult to get right in a somewhat shifty fabric. And they were even regularly space to in the pattern itself...

On the seconds one, I missed one notch and didn't find out until I had sewn up the next three pleats at the wrong angle. I'm not really feeling like unpicking and reverse-engineering all that...

In fact, I had just about decided to stop working on this dress but blogging about it kind of makes me feel like I should go on...

There are some other considerations though.
I'm going on holiday next week, and this time it won't be just hiking and other sporty stuff. So, I want to bring some nice things to wear as well. 
However, dresses with big skirts don't make for practical packing (fortunately, we're not flying so I don't have to deal with restrictions on luggage) and bringing things which will need a ironing doesn't seem like a great idea either.
Plus, we are going to Scotland so the weather is a bit of an issue as well. Here in the Netherlands, we've just had a week and a half of autumn (after many weeks of serious summer) but today is looking a bit brighter again. I know Scottish weather to be sort of similar but more extreme. Four seasons in a day. That kind of thing. Not the easiest climate to pack for.
The gathered dress that didn't work out was supposed to be for my 'travel wardrobe'. In its absence, I guess I should try and make another nice dress in jersey. Or a another nice-but-simple dress in a fabric that doesn't require a lot of attention. Or separates. I never quite caught up with my need for nice tops...

Or I should just give up on the wish to overhaul my wardrobe for this particular trip and pack from what I have. It's not like I'm being judged on how I look on holiday...

The thing is, there are a couple of projects clamoring to be made:

This jumpsuit. It's been on my mental to-sew list for at least a year although it has evolved over time. I have the fabric for it: fairly thick black linen with a feint windowpane texture (of course, you might ask if it's wise to sew linen in late August).

This dress. First featured here, it hasn't been far from my mind since. I've got fabric for it. Orange and white stripes. And since last week, I even have the perfect orange buttons. Orange usually looks good on me but I have some doubts about this fabric. However, not enough to make me stop loving it and the idea of making this dress from it.

And this dress. The most recent of these ideas, and always envisioned as a red dress. Every girl should have dress, don't you think? I though my crepe was going to be red (when I used Dylon dye in Tulip Red) and started thinking about designs for it. The crepe came out hot pink and I used it in my bias cut experiments. The wish for a red dress stayed with me and this design came into being when I knew I wasn't going to use that crepe.
There's also fabric for this one. Fairly soft (but still with a bit of body) cotton in that slightly dulled red which does work on me.

These three distract me from more practical sewing plans.
Oh, and there are still my grandmother's blouse and skirt and my aunt's coat and dress to alter...
What's seamstress to do? ;)

August 25, 2014

Freeform retro top

And this is the other project I made using instructions from Studio Faro's blog. It's called 'retro shrug' there, even though it is always pictured as a wrap top. 
Now, this is a design I have certainly seen on the internet before. I've seen pictures of it before (I believe it's out there as repro pattern or something like that) and I've looked at them and tried to figure out how this would work. I didn't manage so I was quite happy to try this tutorial and see how it should be done.

To be honest, this green top is my second version.

This is the first one. When worn tucked in, as suggested in the tutorial, it looks fine. It isn't easy to get it in position though and it doesn't really like to stay in place. 

In its untucked state, the issue is revealed.

Some of the pictures I've seen of tops like this didn't show it tucked in. Instead, it was pinned down at waistline with a brooch and the points fell to the front like those of a vest. 
In my top/shrug, the points fall to the sides (I know it's hard to see. E helped me to re-take the pictures of these tops and even though he did a great job overall, he didn't really mind the light with these). The fit is pretty similar to what you see on Studio Faro's dummy, I followed pattern and instruction exactly and I don't usually think of myself as having a large waist circumference. 

So, I decided to make another version with one crucial change:

I know my sketch isn't easy to read but just consider it an addition to the tutorial: In the original pattern the 'center back seam' was 24 cm. In my new version, it's only 19 cm.


The larger amount of fabric from the back which is now used for the waistline means that the points will fold to the front without trouble and you don't have to tuck the top in. It has a tendency to gape at the neckline, so I've pinned it there with a hidden safety pin.

When I asked E which top he preferred, he said he thought the first one was a nice shrug and the second one a nice top. He didn't even really consider the two as being the same kind of garment. And, in the role they will get in my wardrobe, he's absolutely right. 

P.S. I know styles like this add a lot of bulk around the upper body. I don't mind that. I think it can provide really nice looks when properly styled but I realize it won't be everybody's cup of tea. 
If you're kind of interested in the look but not sure about it, make sure you pick a really soft drapey jersey for it and remember that the look is less overwhelming when you wear this thing as a shrug than as a top. That may also make it a lot easier to give it a place in a wardrobe with less vintage influence than mine.
And if you are unsure about the look and/or fit you want to go for (It's a two seam garment, so the length of that back seam really makes a difference. I actually really like my first try as a shrug, the second one, not so much), start with the shorter back seam. It's easy to close it up further later on if you decide you prefer that than to have to unpick that serged seam.

August 22, 2014

The retro wrap

After the gathered dress fiasco (and I really appreciate your nice comments. However, I'm just going to walk away from this one. Because I don't usually do that, I'm going to call that a learning experience in itself) I needed a bit of a palate cleanser. 
And I thought about some of the nice things I had found on the well-suited blog.  This top in particular:

The retro wrap top was a pattern puzzle last year, inspired by this image of a vintage pattern from Red Point Tailor's Pinterest page. In this post, Studio Faro tells you how to make this pattern. It's kind of a free-form pattern, so no slopers required.
I'm a big fan of both vintage and odd patterns, so it's obvious why this particular project attracted me. 

I drafted it as instructed (the narrowed sleeve version) and used a nice viscose jersey from my stash (with 4-way stretch, which is really important for this design). I had only one meter of this fabric, so I cut 10 cm off the sleeve so I would have enough fabric for the waist tie.
I don't mind three quarter length sleeves and having one's sleeves at less than full length is period accurate for the 1950's anyway.

When seeing the finished top, I think the original sleeve length would have been too much for me. It may have to do with the size, which is given as 'fits up to a size 12'. I don't know what an Australian size 12 is, but I suppose it's close to either a British or an American 12. Which would mean a bit bigger than I am. Because it's a one-pattern-piece garment, the relation between length and width can be complicated. I am wondering how someone with a substantially larger chest would feel with this front length though. For me, the ties pull the front edge taut, making the wrap feel quite secure. On a larger bust, it might be too tight.

By the way, I apologize for the (lack of) quality of the pictures. I'm a bit out of practice with self-timer photography and the light was difficult too. 

As a result, you can't really see the fabric in these pictures but I really like it. It's a very fine stripe in brown and beige. The stripes are way too narrow to bother with matching them, but somehow, they do so on their own here on the sleeve curve. When worn, I think this makes for a really nice detail on the back. But that may be entirely down to my sewing-geekiness. 

And you may have noticed in the vintage pattern illustration that you are also supposed to be able to wear this top the other way round. So, of course I had to try.


I didn't find it as bad as Studio Faro, but it kind of feel like the top is trying to me. That's not the only issue though. 
In the pictures above, I've pulled the top to sit on my shoulder kind of like in the illustration. 

However, if you do something crazy like moving around, it slides down and ends up looking like this. 
I don't think I will wear the top like this. Even though it has an odd kind of Japanese pattern appeal...

All in all, I'm really happy with this top. It's also the first waist length item I've ever tried which stays in place when you sit down and stand up again. That's a really big plus and contributes a lot to its wearability.
I've made another vintage via Studio Faro top but I think this post is long enough already, so that will have to wait till later. 

P.S. You may notice I've got a bit of a 'sweater girl' look going on. Which, by the way, I think is quite right for this design. And it's the result of wearing my new bra 

August 20, 2014

Fail

It doesn't happen to me that often anymore, but sometimes something just doesn't work out. And it would be unfair to keep those items from the blog, wouldn't it?
Case in point:

File this one under: Don't try to be too clever.
I was having misgivings about this dress even when drafting. Gathers don't always work for me, which is why I usually confine them to small sections or one side of a pattern piece (as in a twist). However, I silenced them, and blogged about how I made the pattern... Famous last words.

I will insist that the design idea itself isn't wrong. It should be possible to make a dress with lots of gathered sections. It just requires very fine, well controlled gathering and negative ease and/or gravity to pull those gathers taut. 
I kind of knew that but I was too worried about this fabric creating a straightjacket-like fit so I stuck with the basic shape of my new sloper. And I had forgotten the slight stiff-ness of this fabric. Which meant it didn't like being gathered by methods which involve machine stitching. 
I used basting thread instead but that made the gathers too big and too easily moved about.

I started to see the issues last night but decided to soldier on and at least finish the bodice. So, I continued, pinning carefully.
I hadn't made things easy for myself. Remember those sections in which I had eliminated the side seam? Those meant that there was only one possible order of construction and I really had to pay attention to that. All the while dealing with fiddly pieces of thin lycra lining and heavy gathered jersey full of pins...

The creative seam lines also mean that I can't take the bodice in at the sides to try and fix the fit. I'm sure the hip yokes would look a bit better if I attached the skirt, which would weigh them down and make the gathering look better. However, I don't think it's worth it. It wouldn't fix the top of the bodice. 
I have been too clever for my own good here, I've over-complicated things. And although I made this design to try and cope with the qualities of this particular fabric, it definitely didn't do the job. This fabric has simply too much bulk to work with so many gathers.
I've thrown out the bodice. I'm keeping the skirt pieces and the sleeves. The skirt consists of large rectangles (with curved tops) which could be cut up for something like a top and the sleeves have been drafted without gathers so they are probably OK...

Time for something else now.

August 18, 2014

That odd pattern

That dress I told you about in the previous post... Ehm... I haven't had a chance to do anything else about it yet. 
To be honest, that was also because I was still working on something else which hasn't even made it to the blog yet. But still...
Hopefully, I'll get started tomorrow.

In the mean time, I thought I could talk a bit more about the pattern. 

I posted this picture before, showing the bodice pieces laid out on the fabric. Those pieces may need some de-mystifying, so here it is.

Without the gathers (which will be in every piece except the sleeves) drawn in, the design for the dress looks like this. The front is at the left, the back on the right.
To draft it, you obviously have to mirror both the front and back pattern pieces at their center lines and then draw in the design lines. I tried to pay attention to the placement of those: Not right over the bust point and not too low at the hip.

And then, I made sure the lines wouldn't form those awkward points at the side seams. Of course, you can do that either by making sure they are at a right angle to the side seam or by lining up the sides and continuing the line at the angle it was at. I also wanted to eliminate the side seams in some places.

In the end, this is what I went with. The coloured sections all belong to the same piece. The waist/hip pieces are separate and have normal side seams. 

At this is how those pieces were combined. No shoulder seams! 
After making these pieces, I slashed them at a right angle to the neckline and spread them to about double size. 
Gathered designs like this are always fabric-hungry and I knew I only had a limited amount of fabric. To deal with that, I decided to spread the bodice pieces in such a way that the neckline became a straight line and cut that along the straight grain. Which is how you get the odd pieces which I placed along the selvedges. 
Then, it was just an issue of paying A LOT of attention to the placement of each piece because all of them are asymmetrical.
I will make lining pieces without gathers, to avoid issues but for the outside, this should do it.

August 15, 2014

Working on it...

Has this ever happened to you? 
You think up a project which seems like a bit of fun, nothing too complicated. However, when you get started it increases in complexity, growing and growing until it has taken over all of your day and every available surface in your house...

In fact, it happens to me fairly regularly. I suppose it comes with pattern making. I pick my next project based on an idea in my head and/or a quick sketch rather and then start with my slopers and some blank paper. I start drafting once I have thought the thing out but that doesn't mean I've calculated whether or not it's worth all the steps needed.
On the up side, I usually start thinking of construction and pattern at the same time, so I rarely get surprised while sewing.

Today was one of those days. I had been thinking for a while about what to do with a particular piece of fabric from my stash. Cotton jersey, in a sort of warm brown which looks really good on me. Sounds like a great fabric, doesn't it? Well, it is also a bit thin and hardly stretchy. I made a top from this stuff last year. I've worn it a lot but I always think it would have been better if the fabric were just a bit softer or had a bit more give.
So, I knew I had to deal with those issues when making something from the rest of the fabric. And that made it attractive to think up one slightly more involved and fabric-consuming item rather than several tops.


So, I was thinking dresses. These three were the latest considerations. I started with the bottom two: One with a twist at the waist and a fairly common design with gathers. I wasn't particular keen on either one though. I knew gathers were ideal for this fabric but I wanted something a little more original. Which is why I came up with the third design. Which is what I started drafting today. 

It's not that it's particularly difficult design. It's just asymmetrical and has a lot of gathers. Which means a lot of tracing. And I wanted the back to be interesting too. And the seams to match up at the sides and run smoothly where they join and, if possible, to eliminate some now irrelevant usual seams (like side seams and shoulder seams...)

So, this all started on the table in my sewing room but as soon as I came to slashing and spreading pattern pieces for the gathered bits, I ran out of space there. 


Which is when I moved the work to the floor of the living room. Making large, odd looking pattern pieces. When I was done with the bodice pieces, I seriously doubted I would be able to cut this whole thing out of my fabric.


So, I tried it out. Fortunately, all was fine. I guess I'm just so used to seeing my paper pattern pieces as half of what I need to cut in fabric... 
So, I went on to draft the skirt pieces and the sleeves (without gathers!) and I cut the fabric. And then it was high time to start cooking...

Tomorrow, I still have (inter)lining pieces to cut and I want to create a kind of piping between the gathered sections. And not a lot of time.
I guess it's one of those projects... 

August 12, 2014

Facebook?

Believe it or not, but I've never had a Facebook profile. Until today. I decided to make a profile as Lauriana, for my sewing-related stuff. I'm kind of scared about Facebook's tendency to scan through some very old email-contactlist and I wonder if that means it will also start suggesting me as a contact to people I used to know a long time ago and may not necessarily want to be in contact with... 
However, with a Facebook profile, I can join in Studio Faro's pattern puzzle and some other bloggers seem to enjoy interacting through this platform... So, I'm trying it out. The name I use there is Lauriana Petit Main Sauvage, with the same email address as the one here on the right. And with the current settings, anyone can contact me.
I don't really know how it works yet and I get the distinct impression that I'm trying to use Facebook in a slightly unusual way (the site seems to assume you'd want to be friends with anyone you've ever exchanged email with and I don't see any options to contacts people you may know through other means, like blogs). 
Anyway, if you'd like to contact me on Facebook, please do!