05 februari 2019

Bowie Goes To Hogwarts

Sometimes I get these ideas in my head. Ideas for things that aren't necessarily wearable on a daily basis, or things I just want to make without a clear reason or occasion. Like a suit/waistcoat combination in a slightly extravagant fabric. I knew I was probably going to look like a sofa, but still couldn't help looking at jacquards and velvets. And then I noticed this piece of burgundy/purple velvet I brought with me from my latest trip to London.

What kicked me into gear was the Sewcialists and their menswear month. I wanted this outfit to be inspired by menswear, but with a few feminine accents. The result just looks very seventies, which goes to show that those labels of 'masculine' and 'feminine' really don't mean much anymore.

I used the Palazzo pants by Kommatia because I made these before and like them a lot. They are very wide but don't actually use that much fabric: I cut these trousers (with added length so I could wear them with heels) and the waistcoat from 2 yards of fabric! I did cut the waistband in two pieces (inside and outside) instead of one folded piece because I thought a double layer of velvet would get too bulky.

For the waistcoat I looked through my stash of Burda magazines, and found what I was looking for in a bohemian hippie collection. The magazine version was lined in shearling with the lining peeking out at the edges, so I ignored these instructions and figured out my own way. I sewed the shoulder seams on both the shell and the lining, pinned these together with the right sides together and then sewed around the armholes and neckline, leaving a part of the bottom open. I turned everything to the right side, sewed the side seams in one go (shell and lining) and pressed the bottom hem up to attach the lining by hand. I also added a black sparkly trim because I can.

The next question was: what do I wear under this? I felt like it would have to be a shirt, but I didn't want things to get too overwhelming. I bought this very lightweight cotton voile at a Dries Van Noten stock sale last year and decided to adapt the Grainline Archer for my purposes. I left off the collar and sewed the stand as a band collar, and slashed and spread the sleeves to make them gathered (and more dramatic). This fabric was a bit shifty while cutting but surprisingly easy to sew, and I took care with my finishing, using french seams all over the place.

This was one of those projects that ended up going a lot smoother than expected. I find that some velvets are absolute hell to work with and need two lines of hand basting and a thousand pins just to stay in place, while others are just like 'yeah fine, sew me bitch'. This one only protested when I tried to attach slippery lining fabric (for the pockets and the inside of the waistcoat) to it, but nothing that basting thread couldn't help with.

So there you go! I wanted to try this and I'm happy to say it worked out. I feel like it's sometimes tempting to make 'safe' choices when you're sewing, especially with more complex projects. After all, if I'm putting so much time into my clothes, I kind of want to be sure that I'll actually want to wear them! But maybe I should go by my impulses a little bit more often.

29 januari 2019

It Has Come To This

A few years ago I said that making my own underwear was not on the horizon. I have a pretty standard size, and finding bras that fit me was never a problem. But recently I started thinking that it could save me some money (bras are maybe the only thing that are cheaper to make than to buy) and allow me to make things that look the way I want them to (I'm very picky about prints, lace and the way things feel!). And if it didn't work out I could always get something from Hanne.

The downside is that Belgium might be one of the worst places to look for lingerie supplies, so while I was waiting for my underwires to arrive in the mail I decided to get started with something easy and try the Watson bra. I liked the longline band and thought it could be supportive enough to wear under looser tees and sweaters, and the end result is even better than expected!

It took me two versions and some pattern adjustments to get to this version, made from a very thin (and stretchy) black and gold mesh. I was between band sizes and went for the smaller size first (32D), which was a mistake: it was uncomfortably tight in the band, but the cup size seemed ok. I tried again with a 34D and while the fit of the band was spot on this time the cups were gaping at the center and at the side. I took a wedge out of the bottom of the cup at both sides and out of the side of the cradle, making the bottom curve of the cup more exaggerated and the cradle a bit wider. This glitter version was the third one, and it fit really well!

I had been using plush back elastic for the bottom of the two first versions, but found this golden elastic in my stash and thought it matched the mesh too well to pass up. All I did was align the elastic with the bottom of the bra (with the wrong side of the elastic on the right side of the bra) and stitch it down at the top with a triple zig zag stitch. After that I trimmed the mesh underneath away, since this elastic has a very soft back and I wanted that on my skin.

I like the way the straps are attached and noticed my favourite bras have them sewn on the same way. Not entirely sure about having the sliders in front, I'm a little worried it might show through/look weird under some shirts.

After that little victory (and wearing it for an entire day) I steamed ahead and used the last scraps of my precious glitter scale fabric to make a second version. I had to throw print matching out the window, but feel like this looks pretty cool!

I pretty much constructed all these as per the instructions, with one major change: I lined the entire bra with powernet for support (especially in this stretchy mesh). At first I was a bit worried that this would be too firm for a pattern designed for pretty stretchy material, but as it turns out this resulted in something super comfortable that still looks good enough to wear as a proper bra (and not just for inside the house). 

Using a lining also makes the insides look very neat and tidy, except for that cup seam of course. I was a little worried that could get irritating, but it hasn't so far. I could probably figure out a way to cover that seam up but... who is going to inspect the insides of my underwear?

Now let's see what happens once those underwires get there...

25 januari 2019

My Inner Grandfather Is Wide Awake

I seem to have a subconscious goal in life to be able to dress myself head to toe in my hair colour. That would explain why I keep making things in different shades of dark green/teal. Or maybe I dye my hair that way because I like the colour?

We had this yarn in the shop for a while, and while I loved the colour (obviously) I never really paid it much attention. Until I realised how well the slighly fluffy mohair mix would work for a textured sweater, like the Brooklyn Tweed Cascades. And then we had a sale on yarn, with my employee discount added to that, so I caved and got it.

Now, I seem to still have a fear of knitting fitted things. I'll check the measurements, knit a swatch, measure it and then conclude that the size I should be making will be impossibly small, so then I'll size up. And then it usually turns out on the large size. I fought this instinct with my Stonecutter (with great results) but gave in on this one. The result is pretty baggy, but it's so nice and warm I don't even care anymore!

The sweater is knit in the round from the bottom, which gives a nice seamless finish, but makes checking the fit a bit tricky. I might also have been a bit enthusiastic while I was knitting the body and a bit tired during the sleeves, because this thing is quite long (and the sleeves are a bit short). It's a very nice stitch pattern though, after a few repeats I knew it by heart and didn't need the chart anymore, which made it a bit more relaxing to knit than the Stonecutter.

I like the combination of tiny cables and moss stitch, even if I did mess up the moss stitch in two places (and these rounds are LONG so going back 400 (cabled) stitches in this fluffy yarn to fix it was too much to bother with). The rows of cables give some interesting lines to a plain raglan sleeves sweater. There are a lot of twisted stitches in here, which give a subtle but interesting extra bit of texture.

I lovingly call this my grandpa sweater because, um, it kind of reminds me of a grandpa sweater. Which can be a great thing. It's cold and miserable in Belgium right now, and I'm happy to have a few handknit sweaters to wear on days like this!

11 januari 2019

Camouflage For The Urban Jungle

About a year and a half ago, I tried drafting a bodice block for the first time. It worked out all right, got a lot of use and still fit me reasonably well, but I had drafted it without sleeves, adapting the armscyes for a sleeveless body from the start. Recently I thought it would be a good idea to at least have the option of sleeves (and I wanted to know if I could draft them) so it was back to the drawing board!

I started from scratch instead of trying to reverse engineer the armscye, and a few days of scribbling and sewing muslins followed. The main problem was trying to find the perfect balance between the sleevecap height and the size of the armhole, but after a few tries (and some advice from sewing friends, thanks guys) I landed on something I was happy with (it looks like it fits AND I can lift my arms!).

So what does one do after going through all that? Why, make a sleeveless dress of course!

Look at this great picture from really far away so you don't see any details.
I bought this cotton lawn along with the fabric for my black jeans because it was pretty, and fully intended to make a floofy dress out of it. All I had to do was make my brand new block into a sleeveless bodice, scoop out the neckline and add two giant gathered rectangles for a skirt!

I'm quite pleased with how the fit on this bodice turned out! The instructions in the book I used were a bit... random at times. They don't tell you to go by measurements to place the bust point, but just say something like 'this much down and this much to the left'. I did it their way first and corrected this after the first muslin. I also changed the dart placement a bit and rotated the shoulder dart into the side seam.

The shoulder darts on the back were tiny so I just rotated them out entirely. I'd rather put that shoulder dart action into a back seam, especially on a print! I went with a v-neck in the back for this one, since that's nice when it's warmer. One thing I did make sure to do is mark the 'lowest' points on my block pattern, meaning te lowest a neckline can go before my bra shows/things get indecent. Same for how wide a neckline can get before I need extra action to keep bra straps in check.

I lined the bodice in cotton voile and used some leftover Venezia for the skirt lining. I did make sure to make the lining about half the size of the outer skirt since that was already poofy as hell and I didn't want to go too crazy! It gives a nice amount of volume now, and makes sure the cotton skirt doesn't stick to my tights.

I tried SO HARD to make the print match across the back, but the repeat was too big and I didn't have enough fabric. Boo! Thankfully it's not too obvious in this busy print, but it was still frustrating (because I know I can do it!). I do like how my poppy tattoo kind of looks like an extension of the dress. In black and white then.

All in all it's a pretty good first result from this new block. It fits well and I still have room for food. Maybe the next thing I use this for will have (gasp!) sleeves!

29 december 2018

Swishy Fish

I made these wide-legged trousers a while ago, and since they only made me stumble once (despite regular wear) I thought it would be safe to make a winter version. The idea of swishing around in shiny wool seemed like a good one, and I pulled out a fabric I'd bought in Toronto during my vacation there. The pieces were cut during an evening of work/play at my friend Karen's appartment, and we took some pictures when I visited her at work!

These are the Kommatia Palazzo pants, which I've made before in linen. This wool has a lot more body (although it's still quite drapey) and I really like how the shape gets more pronounced! Sewing these was very quick (the most time-consuming step is the fly front and even that is not such a big deal), these were done in two evenings!

I didn't topstitch the pockets on my first version and regretted that ever since because the pocket lining kept peeking out (it has been fixed with some hand stitching) so I made sure not to skip that step on these. It still shows a bit (which is what tends to happen with this type of pockets and bright contrast linings) but not nearly enough to bother me.

I also noticed in my previous versions that the waistband tended to grow and relax too much, even with interfacing. I had a leftover piece of an interfacing with rows of stitches running through it, which is usually used in jackets, and I used that for the waistband. The stitching runs parallel to the length of the waistband and acts as a kind of staystitching, so this thing does not give. They won't be my eating pants, but they won't fall down either!

I did forget that I had added length to my summer version (after a warning from Eleonore) and didn't do that for this one, so these are finished with the tiniest bias faced hem. I'm not exceptionally tall and having something come out short (when it's not intended to be short) is a rare occurence!

I like how these are both basic (dark wool herringbone fabric) and dramatic (there's some silver woven through the fabric and of course those wide legs! A heads up about fabric quantity: The pattern says you need 2,40 meters but I had 1,5 yards and got them cut out without puzzling. I'm not sure if this still applies to larger sizes, but you don't need as much fabric if you're making a size small!

The t-shirt I'm wearing with it is another slightly modified Renfrew (neckline raised, side seams straightened for a boxier fit). I made this to wear to our latest elections so cut out the word 'Lies!' in white flock foil stuff and ironed it on. It's gotten a lot of wear since then, and caused some confusion!

08 december 2018

You Have A Bug On You Heh Heh Heh

Life hasn't all been velvet coats and luxury lately. I also made some time to sew a few basics! Another thing that had been on my mind was a simple straight button-front skirt, sort of like a jean skirt. I was about to start searching for a pattern when I remembered I could mess with the Moss skirt and make it happen!

This was an easy alteration: I indicated the center front on the pattern pieces and added some width to create a cut on placket. These were then folded over and topstitched in place before constructing everything else. This worked out really well, but next time I would construct the pockets first so the edges are caught in the placket! I kind of forgot about that.

I had recently used this pattern for this dungaree dress and thought I'd be fine size-wise, but when I tried the skirt on before attaching the waistband it was too big in the waist. It's not such a big deal when you have straps holding it up (and I even prefer it a bit looser then) but no good on its own! I took the waist in by about five cm all around. It's still a little loose but at least it stays up! I traced a size 6 and according to the Grainline size chart I could use a size 4, but this felt like it was more than one size too big. Maybe I should write down the size I traced on my pattern pieces. Live and learn!

Have a wrinkly butt picture! I like how this skirt is a bit of a blank canvas, so I can let the corduroy do the talking. It's maybe a smidge too lightweight for this, but I loved the colour. I also felt a bit lazy so used jeans buttons down the front instead of hand-sewing all of them.

Did you notice the sweater? It's a fabric I printed a few months ago, and finally got around to using it! I used three hand-carved beetle stamps and silver block printing ink to stamp a random pattern on a length of cotton sweatshirting fabric. The fabric had a faded spot so the amount I could use was a bit limited, but it was just enough for a heavily modified Renfrew!

I cropped the top a bit so I could wear it with high-waisted things without tucking it in, straightened the side seams for a more relaxed fit and raised the neckline a bit. The cuffs, hem and neckline are finished with plain black ribbing. This thing has already had a ton of wear, and has resulted in a few jokes (hence the title of this post)!

I'm thinking of making another one of these skirts in plain black, that might become a true workhorse. I also have some glitter french terry around that would make another good sweater. Time for a winter uniform!

30 november 2018

The Velvet Dreamcoat

I had this idea in my head for about a year or two. You might have noticed over the years that I love me a good coat, and part of me really wanted an ankle-length velvet trench coat. But good quality velvet can be expensive, and I really couldn't justify spending that much on something as frivolous and impractical.

Enter Ikea, and the Sew Frosting challenge hosted by True Bias and Closet Case Patterns.

Me and Hanne took a trip to Ikea a while ago, and after finding our responsible and needed items (and lunch) we took a look at the sales corner before leaving. I stumbled upon a velvet curtain panel, in a gorgeous shade of green. I assumed it was going to be something gross and synthetic, but the label said 100% cotton. It was about 3 meters, and 20 euros.

The Named Isla Trench Coat has been on my list for a while, but I was waiting for the perfect fabric (since this is a bit of a fabric hog). And now I suddenly had an entire curtain!

I wasn't planning on entering the Sew Frosting Challenge when it was announced, since I had plans for some practical garments that I actually need, and none of them fit the bill. And then I got a brand new sewing machine, and this fabric!

I was going to try and get the full length version of this coat out of my 3 meters, but was willing to shorten it a bit if necessary. Using velvet meant that I had to place every piece in the same direction, which can useeven more fabric. I did find a few bits of black velvet in my stash that I used for the collar, pocket welts and sleeve strap details. This and a bit of pattern tetris meant I actually had enough!

Tracing the pattern and cutting all the pieces took ages, but sewing was very straightforward, apart from the 'working with velvet' part. I only used fusible interfacing to reinforce the pocket area, but basted a lightweight black cotton to all other pieces instead. My new machine (more on that later!) handles velvet pretty well but I did baste the longer seams before sewing to avoid shifting.

I wanted to take my time and finish this well, and since I was going for silver buttons I decided to include silver piping between the lining and the facing. The kind we sold in the shop was too silvery, bulky and scratchy for my liking, but I had a piece of lightweight silver fabric so I made my own. To make matters easier I changed the order of construction a bit, attaching the lining to the facing first and thenvsewing that to the rest of the coat. I also opted to finish the hem by hand. The instructions for the vent finish were completely ignored as well, because my brain just couldn't make sense of them anymore.

As I said before, I got a new sewing machine. My old one was almost ten years old, and still the mechanical beginner's model that started me sewing. I never had any problems with it until last year, when it ran smoothly again after some tlc. However, the same problem came back not even a year later, and I just had to face that it just wasn't good enough anymore for the amount of sewing I do. So I used the profits from my freelance work and invested in a major upgrade. Which also means: ten different kinds of automatic buttonholes! I actually had fun sewing all the buttonholes on this coat, which means a LOT.

In the end I'm really happy with the contrasting fabric. It started as a necessity, but it also gives the coat a bit more interest. That, and I feel like I walked out of Hogwarts, which is a bit of a style goal.

I did decide to go for single rows of topstitching instead of double, since velvet and topstitching don't always match. It doesn't look too bad on these fabrics because the pile is pretty short, but I didn't feel like the coat needed any more of it.

I didn't make a muslin (Named patterns fit me pretty well in the past) and the fit on this is pretty spot on! I made shoulder pads and sleeve heads out of cotton batting, and they give just the right amount of structure to this not-too-structured coat.

Did I need this coat? Not really. Is it going to make me feel like I'll be pulling a wand out of my pocket any second? Hell yeah. So definitely worth it.