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.

19 november 2018


If you follow me on instagram you've probably already seen these! My friend Laure organized  a drawing challenge along with a bunch of other illustrators, and this one was right up my alley! The challenge was to make seven folktale inspired illustrations, based on a list of prompts. I decided to base my drawings more on local folklore, and had a blast researching tales of witchcraft and ghosts!

Day 1: Forest

I decided to start the challenge with a pretty general subject. This is how most of these tales start: with a traveller walking home through the forest at night. Anything can happen!

Day 2: Magic

I looked into stories told by people who had been bewitched or knew about others who had been victims of witchcraft. Most of the effects seemed to be illness or other types of misfortune, but a few unlucky people got their feet turned backwards.

People would describe being touched by an 'Evil Hand' before suffering the effects of witchcraft. Or maybe they just got sick.

Day 3: Witch

A lot of the stories about people seeing witches are from men walking around at night who then stumble upon a bunch of witches dancing naked somewhere. Sounds like one hell of a party.

Day 4: Ghost

I started this drawing in my usual papercutting style but it looked too much like a shampoo commercial and I didn't have time to start over, so I worked on my sketch a little longer. These are Witte Wieven, the ghosts of witches or fairies who haunt burial places and lure people into swamps. They take the shape of women dressed in white or just plain wisps of fog.

Day 5: Insect

I don't know what the deal is with luring people into swamps, but a lot of creatures seem to enjoy it. This is a bit of a stretch theme-wise but one possible explanation for Dwaallichten (will-o'-the-wisps) are fireflies. So my drawing of a peasant woman sinking into a swamp is still sort of insect themed in a way.

(I just wanted to draw someone in a swamp, really)

Day 6: Mirror

A huge part of being bewitched was finding out who bewitched you, and there are loads of stories about that. Someone got sick, and someone else told him or her to go see someone who 'knows things' and uses magic to show them the face of the bad witch in a mirror. Fixing witchcraft with more witchcraft!

Day 7: Animal

I had something else planned for the last prompt, but then had to say goodbye to Jakkepoes, so I decided to honor him in a way and draw him as a witches' familiar. He would rock that hat.

So these are my drawings! I'm happy with some of them and would be happy with some others after a bit more work. I had planned to prepare this challenge but other things got in the way and I ended up making every drawing the night before. I hope it comes around again next year, because this was nice!

15 november 2018

Bye Buddy

This is going to be a pretty sad post. Some of you may remember that I have a very old cat friend called Jakkepoes who likes to help me out sometimes. On Monday evening we had to take the very sudden decision to have him put down.

Even though he was really old (19!) it came as a bit of a shock. Over the last two years he had slowly gone blind and deaf, and he was definitely getting old, but there were no major health problems. The vet said he could easily reach twenty if he carried on like that.

Sadly enough, something happened (a small stroke or heart attack, it's not sure) that damaged his heart and compromised his circulation. He was fine when I left for work in the morning, and suddenly I found myself rushing out to meet the boyfriend at the vet.

Jakkepoes couldn't walk because his blood couldn't reach his paws anymore. He was cold, exhausted and frustrated about not being able to move. We were told that we could keep him comfortable with medication but that he'd never walk again. He would need help to use the litter box and food put right in front of him. I don't feel like that's a good life for a cat. Even when he was blind and stiff with age, he still liked to walk around and explore.

So I said goodbye to my oldest friend. It's very strange to not have him around after such a long time with him.

Goodbye Jakkepoes, you will be so so missed.

07 november 2018

Jeans As Dark As My Soul

I made some solid black Ginger jeans last year, and basically wore them to death. The fabric was fading weirdly in the wash (even when washing them inside out) and I noticed the butt area was almost transparent. I didn't want to risk tearing through the seat of my pants while I was travelling, so the plan was to make new jeans before my road trip in September!

This plan failed.

I had made the Ginger jeans twice before and was pretty happy with how they fit, but the waist was always a little big and a little low on me. And I'm not a plumber. I could have easily adjusted the rise/waistband size, but instead my attention was drawn by a shiny new pattern: the Megan Nielsen Ash jeans.

Just so you know, the following pictures are my second version of this pattern.

Getting to these jeans was a SAGA. After my stretch jeans debacle with a Belgian online fabric store I ordered some black stretch denim from the Fabric Godmother. It arrived quickly, the quality was beautiful and it looked like I was going to get on my plane with some shiny new jeans on. I went for a size 27 based on my measurements, spent an evening and a day sewing and... They were too small. Not by much, but the waistband needed about 1,5 extra cm to be comfortable. They are wearable, but not on days with a lot of eating. So definitely not appropriate for a three week trip to the US. I wasn't going to pass on those pancakes.

So, bummer! I packed overalls instead and reordered the same fabric when I got home (because it was really awesome). And then they e-mailed me to say it was out of stock and would take about two weeks to come back in. They were perfectly nice about it, giving me the option of getting a full refund if I didn't want to wait, and replying very quickly when I had questions. A+ customer service, unlike during the stretch jeans debate from earlier.

Anyway, my fabric arrived on Monday (right before the Belgian post went on strike, finally caught a lucky break!) so I prewashed it and got started. This time I cut a size 28, hoping that would be enough room to make these comfortable.

Brand new- already dusty.

I followed the instructions, but did change the fly construction a tiny bit. The instructions tell you to stitch the zipper to the fly shield, attach the separate fly piece (which I like, I feel like the seam makes it more sturdy than a cut-on fly), baste the crotch seam, stitch zipper to fly, unpick the crotch seam and fold it out of the way, topstitch the fly, restitch the crotch seam and add bartacks and topstitching to keep the fly shield in place. I did this the first time and found it was very hard to get nice-looking topstitching with all the bulky fabric folded away (it seemed to still be in the way, no matter what), and stitching the crotch seam wasn't that easy either. So what I did: don't baste the crotch seam, just stitch it, fold the fly shield out of the way for the straight part of the topstitching and stop just before the curve, fold the fly extension into position and continue topstitching. I pulled all my threads to the back and made sure my stitching lines lined up, and you can't really tell I did it in two steps. That, and it also catches and secures the fly extension. Neat!

I used some of my precious Freesewing hardware, even if it's not a freesewing pattern. I am wearing a Huey hoodie in some of these pictures though!

The pattern offers two pocket sizes, which is awesome. I used a cotton lawn and went for the largest size. You can kind of see them through the fabric but I CAN FIT MY ENTIRE HAND IN.

Here's the obligatory butt shot! I like the rise on these, they stay up without a belt and I don't feel like my buttcheeks will be on show if I bend over. I never really liked the look of really high waisted skinny jeans, so these feel well-balanced.

This fabric feels like it's higher quality than the last pair, so I'm hoping these will last a while! In any case, they are stretchy enough to do this kind of stuff: