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.

July 11, 2014


That jacket for E is almost done. All that remains to be done are hems, buttons and buttonholes.
Which brings me to the question: What kind of buttons?
I asked E what he wanted but, typically, he told me to do what I thought best because, and I quote: "You know about fashion".

These are the options available (both from my stash):

Simple black buttons. The exact same black buttons as I used for his old jacket and for the trousers I made him in this fabric. Un-obstrusive and there's nothing wrong with them.
However, those silver coloured zippers at the top pockets also suggest another option:

Silver coloured buttons. These draw a lot more attention to themselves and increase the uniform-like look of the jacket. They might be a bit much. But it would make the new jacket a bit more different from the old ones, it's not a strange look in menswear at all and might be kind of cool...

I took these pictures to help myself decide and then I realized that with them, I could ask for a second, third etc. opinion... Yours. So what do you think: Black buttons or silver ones?

July 9, 2014

His pockets

So, I'm finally really sewing again: making that jacket for E. It was about time too, the fabric of his old jackets is pretty much worn out (those were both made from a cotton twill which, in retrospect wasn't such good quality).
I stuck with the design idea I had earlier.

This is my sketch. Pockets at the front, convertible collar, fitted back with a pleat. Vaguely inspired by those 1930's and 1940's sporty men's blazers.

Last weekend, I worked on the pattern. I started out with the casual jacket sloper which I have used for most of E's coats and jackets. I think the thicker wool coats I made from it were great but it was always a bit baggy for a thin summer jacket. This time, I wanted to make it a bit more fitted and yet still give E enough room to move. It should be a jacket he can wear every day.

I'm using the same cotton/linen blend I used for my jumpsuit and I decided not to line this jacket (which kind of means I'll have to make one for in-between weather later on). Because it's going to be unlined, I'm taking care about a neat finish on the inside. I make flat-felled seams wherever possible and use bias tape for seam binding everywhere else. 

This is the back of jacket. Outside...

and in. You clearly can see the wide pleat at center back.
And I don't normally do this, but on this jacket, I've topstitched all the folds in each pleat.

You can see it here, in the bottom pockets. It should keep them from getting too much out of shape.

And I thought I would share the construction of those bottom pockets in a bit more detail.
It's basically a cross between a regular patch pocket and a cargo pocket but less work than the latter.

You start out normally: Finish the top of the pocket and press in the sides. My pockets have pleats in the middle, both for looks and to allow them to expand a bit width-wise.

The position of the finished pocket should be marked on the wrong side of the front piece. 

Put pins through the bottom corners to make them visible on the right side and position the bottom edge of the pocket between them.

Pin down and stitch.

Put pins through the marks for the top corners and turn the pocket up, positioning the top corners at the pins.
You should now have some excess length in the pocket (for this type of pocket, you need the pocket pieces to be about 3 cm longer than for a patch pocket).

Pin the pocket sides from the top down.

When you almost reach seam allowance at the bottom, fold the excess fabric harmonica-like.

Stitch the sides.

And there is the pocket. Just a bit more three-dimensional and spacious than a patch pocket without being much more work.  

At the moment, I really enjoy making this jacket. I may be able to finish it tomorrow and I hope I can persuade E to model it in the weekend.

July 6, 2014

knitwork result!

Ok, it took me a while to finish this sweater. I had all the knitting finished before my holiday but there were a lot of pieces to sew together. And then, there were the usual issues with E being busy and the weather turning first too warm for wool and then so rainy that it got dark early.

But, here we are. Knitted from a pattern from a Passap breigids booklet from the 1950's (which I wrote about here). These knitting books don't contain sizing charts but in other Dutch magazines from the same era, I'm between sizes 38 and 40. This pattern was in 40, 42 and 44, so I made the size 40.
And by the look of it, my guess about the size was spot on.

I knitted the body in sand coloured wool and the facings in ocher yellow. I had used the yellow yarn to set up the stitches and I really liked how the two looked together, so I used a contrast colour, as the pattern  describes.
And in the end, I rather like the bow.

One annoying thing though: Judging from the photograph in the booklet, you'd expect the sweater to be shaped at the waist... In fact, it isn't. If you follow the pattern, you start at the waistband and then add stitches every few rows. It's only getting wider. 

I consider sewing some elastic at the back to pull in the waist but I'm not sure yet. I think I'll see how the top works in normal wear first.