23 maart 2013

Book Review: Couture Sewing Techniques by Claire Shaeffer

I don't think this book really needs an introduction. Claire Shaeffer is a household name, and her books come highly recommended. I bought this book on couture sewing techniques on a whim, when seeing it on sale somewhere. And boy, it didn't disappoint!

Just for your information: this book contains loads of interesting photos and drawings, but there is a lot of text as well. A lot of things are only explained in the text, with no accompanying diagrams or anything. So having a vivid imagination certainly helps to understand certain things!

The book starts with an extensive chapter on what couture actually is, a brief history, and a description of how one would go about purchasing a couture garment. This is an interesting read by itself: after learning just how much work and thought goes into a couture garment you might just understand where those prices come from...

Then the practical part of the book starts. Couture garments are mostly sewn by hand (!!) so an entire chapter on hand stitches is in place. Each stitch is shown in a little illustration, with a short text describing the function and use of this particular stitch. This chapter has definitely inspired me to try my hand at hand-stitching a bit more and I find it very relaxing and useful. Hand-basting might be slower than using a machine, bit it's very precise, while hand sewing hems is the perfect thing to do on a quiet evening. I found the instructions on the different stitches very extensive and comprehensible. The rest of the chapter is dedicated to different seams, with special attention for lace appliqué seams. This is something I hadn't seen in any other sewing book before, and I find it very intriguing! If I ever end up making something with lace I'll be sure to look back here.

The next chapter is all about finishing edges. She describes all kinds of different ways to finish a hem, the use of binding or facings. Most of the steps involve a lot of hand sewing and basting, but seem to provide a beautiful finish. A few things are illustrated with pictures of garments from the author's collection (lucky!) or from museums. There are a lot of interesting photographs in the book, but I would have liked to see even more, or see bigger versions. Sometimes the photo is printed quite small, and it gets harder to see the small details (which is what it's all about here)

The next chapter deals with closures, and I don't think I've ever seen so much information about buttons and buttonholes in one place. I've been meaning to learn how to make better hand-worked buttonholes for a while now (meaning: making buttonholes that don't look like creepy mouths) so I'll have to look into the instructions provided here. I love the photos in this chapter: they show fabric-covered buttons that were made to match the print on the fabric, or buttonholes on a checked shirt that change colour halfway. Such attention to details makes me geek out, and then feel inadequate.

The second part of the book is about applying all these techniques to your own sewing. The chapters are about specific types of garments, walk you through the construction of them and provide instructions on how to use couture techniques. You get a few different ways to make a waistband, how to fit a dress pattern, make a waist stay, make shoulder pads, ... There's an entire chapter on sleeves as well. And one on pockets. The apount of information can get a bit overwhelming, so I mostly read the book in small parts instead of in one sitting as I'd usually do.

The chapter on jackets and coats is one of my favourites. It describes a hand-tailored couture jacket in great detail and then goes on to describe the entire process of making one for yourself. I've been reading up on tailoring and would love to make a real, tailored coat that will last ma a long time by next winter. The instructions are very clear, even if this stuff is considered advanced sewing. I really like how she manages to explain these things so clearly, not only making them seem less intimidating but even doable for a home seamstress.

The final chapters are mostly focused on special occasion garments, with information on using lace fabrics, stripes and appliques in your designs. There's a lot of information about the inner structure of special occasion dresses, with instructions on how to make your own. I'm not sure if I'll be using this information in my own sewing right away, but if I ever have a really special occasion... Who knows.

All in all, this is a really great and extensive source of information for any seamstress interested in couture. There is a lot to take in, but it's all being presented in a way most average or intermediate sewers will understand. The only downside I could see were the (sometimes) small photographs, so I'd say this book is definitely worth looking into!

17 maart 2013

The Birdsong Dress

Here's one of the first projects from my New Year's project list I managed to finish, and I'm so happy about the outcome! I spotted the fabric at www.bambiblauw.be and immediately loved it. The print was dark enough to work with tights and cardigans and be worn during the colder months, always a plus in my book!

The pattern for this dress is nothing more than my usual basic bodice sloper with a self-drafted peter pan collar and an a-line skirt. I love starting dresses like this, since I'm sure they will fit me well. I also added inseam pockets to the skirt.

The dress closes in the back with a lapped and hand-picked zipper, and is fully lined in black cotton voile. It's not super tight in the waist, which I like. It's a comfortable dress to wear all day, but the print makes it stand out enough to feel a bit special.

Drafting a collar like this is super easy: I fold back the seam allowance on the shoulders of my front and back bodice pieces and tape them together on the seam line. I then put a sheet of pattern paper on top of this, trace the neckline and draw the collar the way I want it. Add seam allowance and voilà! A collar pattern. This one is lightly interfaced so it's not too stiff.

Have I mentioned how much I love the print? It's made by Timeless Treasures and just ticks all my boxes: there's animals, some colour and a certain fun factor, but it doesn't feel too childish. That's one item to cross off my New Year's list!

I'm ending this post with a note to readers who use Pinterest: I finally caved and made an account, and added a little button to this blog that allows you to pin anything you see on here. You can find it above the blog archive!

04 maart 2013

The Moss Skirts

I haven't blogged any finished garments in a while, but that doesn't mean I haven't made anything new! There just wasn't any time to get dressed properly, meet up with my boyfriend/photographer and get some photos in natural light. But this Sunday we did make some time during the afternoon and pictured a few garments at once, so you can expect a few other blog posts in the next few weeks!

The first garments we documented were these two skirts. They are both made from the Moss skirt pattern sold by Grainline, a pattern company I can't recommend enough. Not only are the designs great and versatile, her blog is full of great and clear tutorials. This skirt meant inserting a fly front zip for the first time, and I'm really glad with the super clear explanation provided on the blog!

The first version I made is straight from the pattern, without any alterations. I used a great boiled wool I bought at a Dries Van Noten stock sale recently. I loved the colour and feel of the fabric but only had about a yard of it so I was a little hesitant to cut into it. The entire skirt is underlined with cotton voile to keep it from stretching too much, all the facings are cut from a regular cotton to avoid bulk, and the hem is made with bias tape.

First fly front ever! I love the colour of the wool, too bad it doesn't photograph better. It's a bit warmer in real life.

Love the pockets as well, the pattern has you sew them into the front seam so they stay in place. No bunching up, which is a plus with such a tight fitting skirt.

My cat Jakkepoes came by to say hello and see what we were up to...

But I couldn't convince him to come take a closer look.

I really liked how this skirt turned out, it's a pretty basic item that goes with a lot of different tops, and proved to be a great canvas for extravagant tights:

I love these! I bought them from Etsy seller Teja Jamilla, she has a load of other cool things in stock.

Anyway, after making this skirt I was pretty satisfied with the fit, but thought it would be more wearable with a bit more length. I don't wear a lot of short skirts because I tend to get a bit uncomfortable in them after a while, so I went for a few extra inches with the second one:

... But yeah, if you start adding length I better make up for it by using the boldest floral pattern in my stash! This is a piece of vintage fabric I bought online on a whim, and again i didn't have a lot of it. This pattern is great for using up smaller pieces of fabric, you can squeeze it out of even less than a yard if you cut your facings in a different fabric!

I didn't change anything about the fit for this second one, just added a bit of length at the hem. This skirt fits a tiny bit wider than the wool one, probably because it's less bulky. The cotton does wrinkle quite badly though!

I will leave you with a demonstration of my mad photoshop skills:

Yes, I know the lighting is totally different on the second me. I had to go change and all! The picture itself is accurate though, First me wouldn't be too happy about Second me suddenly popping up. That would mean sharing food/clothing/boyfriend!