31 juli 2017

Learn Your ABCs Or Die

(Just a heads up: this post contains references and images related to death, murder and suicide. They're all illustrations and not very graphic, but I'm posting a warning because you might not expect this on a sewing/drawing blog!)

A few weeks ago my old classmate Wouter Goudswaard organized a 24 hour comics day in his hometown Bergen op Zoom. For those who have no idea what that means: it's a challenge (the worldwide one is at the end of October) where artists gather together in a space and each try to finish a 24-page comic in 24 hours. I had done it once before and remembered the experience as gruelling but awesome, so I signed up!

There was some really good company there. Wouter, of course, but also Jangojim (aka the Boyfriend), Charlotte Dumortier, Wasco, Jeroen Funke and Boris Peeters from Lamelos, Ben Vranken and me.

Part of the challenge is that you have to be unprepared, meaning that you can have an idea of what you want to do, but you're not supposed to make any sketches or storyboards beforehand. I decided I wanted to illustrate an alphabet, which is maybe cheating because it's not a comic... But on the other hand, I made 26 pages instead of 24! I settles on an alphabet of death. As in, causes of death. My self-imposed restrictions were that I could not use any reference photos and work only in black on white paper. After 24 hours I was exhausted and my fingers were incredibly sore, but I finished my alphabet! Here are some of the illustrations:

It was fun to work on this with so many other great artists in the same space! Everyone kind of tried to help each other out when it was needed. I had finished 21 drawings at half past three in the morning, so I decided to curl up into a corner and rest for a while, since the hours between four and six are the toughest- you've been awake for so long but there's still a long way to go!

I'll probably print this slightly morbid abc as a zine, if I get around to drawing a cover for it!

23 juli 2017

Running In Slow Motion: Surprisingly Difficult

I tackled swimwear and won.

Well, I tried to make a bikini and ended up with something wearable and functional that I like!

super cliché jumping picture: check

I'm not particularly interested in sewing my own lingerie. I'm a pretty standard size and have no problem finding bras that I like within my budget. Swimwear is a different story though! I want to be able to actually swim without worrying about flashing everyone. I want to feel comfortable, not like I have to adjust my swimsuit every time I move. And I want something I like the look of.

Enter the Sophie swimsuit! I had looked at lots of different swimsuit patterns and settled on this one because it has an underwire, which reminded me of a great bikini I owned ten years ago and never found a replacement for. Hanne recently made me a great one piece (thanks again!) so I decided to go for the bikini version. It took me a while to get going because I had only a tiny bit of experience sewing swimwear (a half-finished Ohhh Lulu swimsuit that was just too revealing at the time- I might finish it though since I don't fill it out quite as much anymore) and no experience at all sewing lingerie.

The whole cup size thing scared me a bit as well. I bought the pattern without really looking at the size chart and only noticed later that I was about one cup size bigger than what the pattern is drafted for. Heather provides some excellent instructions for sizing up and finding the right underwires, but it still gave me a headache. In the end I had printed out the size 8, compared the cradle pattern pieces to an underwire from an old bra that fit me well in the cup, and decided to risk it. I can happily say that it fits pretty damn well, and a larger cup would definitely have been too big!

Sewing this wasn't difficult (the instructions are really clear and all in all it's pretty logical how things come together) but it was fiddly. There are lots of small pieces and tiny seam allowances (which get bulky at time!) and you have to be precise. I found hand-basting worked really well to keep things in place before stitching (cough cough underwire casing) but I also have to admit that part of the topstitching has been hand-embroidered because there was no way I was getting it exactly right by machine. Ahem.

I made a test version in a different fabric before cutting into my precious grey cloud print (how perfect is that) and found a few things I wanted to change. I used this spacer fabric I got in New York on our last trip there to construct the cups, and while it works great (it adds structure but it's not too stiff and still moves along with my body) it's probably a bit stretchier than the foam that would typically be used. The pattern instructions have you use a bit of bra lining to stabilize the cradle, but I noticed how on my (unpadded) bras the cups were also lined in this material, and thought it would give the spacer cups a bit more support. I underlined the foam cup pieces with the bra lining and covered the seams with strips of swimsuit lining. It totally worked! The cups are still supple, but there's just a bit more lift in them.

Baywatching the hell in there!

As you might have noticed, I also went for a different bottom. I made the bikini bottom as drafted (high waist and all) but don't really like the high-waisted look on me. At first I 'fixed' it by removing some of that height, but I realised I also don't really like the shape of the leg openings. I guess some people want to feel a bit more covered at the beach but I just felt like the shape made my legs look really short and stumpy, so instead I copied a bikini bottom I already owned, and added the colour blocking to match the top. It's similar to the type of underwear I prefer, so that's a win!

Another thing I noticed with the original pattern: the elastic lengths given for my size were TIGHT. And by that I mean that the leg openings gave me an extra pair of buttcheeks. In the end I just stitched the elastic on directly, stretching it as I went, and this worked way better.

So that's all fine and dandy for the sewing and fitting and stuff, but can I swim in it without the whole thing falling apart?

Yes, I can! For like, two seconds, and then I baywatched the hell out of there again. It was a bit cold.

My friend Karen took these pictures for me while I visited her at work at the seaside. I was scared I'd be uncomfortable taking these pictures and actually got pretty nervous beforehand, but she's good at making me laugh and forgetting about how little I'm wearing. Thanks Karen!

So hooray for swimsuits, hooray for swimming and hooray for summer! Will I make this again? Maybe when this one wears out.

16 juli 2017

Stretch, Stretch, Stretchy Stretch

One of the main things on my list of things I wanted to sew was a new pair of black skinny jeans. I wear my dark blue Ginger jeans all the time but black is more of a base colour to me than blue, and my only (storebought) pair of skinnies is way too big on me in the waist.

Hanne, Eleonore and me visited Stéphanie a few weeks ago and visited De Stoffenstraat (when in Rome...). I stumbled upon the perfect black stretch jeans and went for it!

So yeah, these are the Closet Case Ginger jeans, in a straight size 8, just like the first time. I tried them on before attaching the waistband and took the sides in a tiny bit at the waist, but apart from that I made no alterations. We also took some really weird photos for this, and none of them show the details very well. Sorry!

Sewing these was a breeze, it just takes a while because of all the small details and topstitching. The front fly gave me grief again though, and I did discover a mistake in the instructions: at the beginning of construction of the fly front it says to finish the fly extension on the right leg only, while this should be the left leg. The pictures in the instructions actually show the left leg, but with a coin pocket. It went better than last time, but I will probably try a different method if I make another front fly.

This was also super relevant underneath a picture of the back of the jeans.

All of our detail shots turned out blurry or way too dark, except for this one of my butt and some bits of the wall that stuck to it. I think I should have altered the waistband a bit since it gapes at the top, but I always wear a belt anyway so it doesn't bother me too much. I also think I stretched the waistband a bit whilst topstitching.

This fabric is super stretch and has great recovery (I've worn these a few times now and there's no bagging out). In fact, it's so stretchy it's almost creepy. As in, I feel like I'm not supposed to be this mobile in jeans. I can put my leg in my neck in these. For real.

"Do something."
Apart from making this wardrobe staple, I think I finally managed to perfect my tank top pattern. I copied an existing top that I like to wear and took a bit out of the sides to make it more fitted. This works well worn like this, tucked in or layered. The fabric for this version also came from De Stoffenstraat, and I have a few other jerseys from them to be made into tops, including one that was described by Stéphanie as 'only you can make that look cool'. No pressure there, then!

13 juli 2017

A Nightstand To Hold All My Nightmares

I have a history of covering cheap wooden furniture in paint to make it look a bit nicer (hopefully) and did it again!

For the longest time, I used an ancient side table as a nightstand (and when I say ancient I mean I took it with me when I moved out of my parents' house, where it had been for as long as I remember). It was all right, but I realised I could use a bit more storage space for some of the stuff that is just floating around in our bedroom and bathroom. Who knew the solution to a messy place would be storage!

So yeah, I got a super basic nightstand made from untreated wood and some acrylic paint, and then spent a few afternoons painting flowers and moths!

Most of these ware vaguely based on old biological illustrations. I didn't really have a plan apart from 'cover the sides in flowers' so just sketched them on in pencil. I used silver paint to roughly cover the areas where the flowers would go and then did the clear outline and details in black. Tiny brushes were used!

I also added a diferent knob than the one that came with the nightstand, because fancy glass is nices than basic wood. After painting this over a few days I put it together one night when I couldn't sleep (haha) and bam! New nightstand.

I painted a large moth on the top since more flowers might have been a bit much. (Of course, some people would say that covering furniture in drawings is a bit much in itself...). I arranged some pins and a little frame for the picture, normally this would be covered in books, bits of paper, hair ties and pencils.

So this is what it looks like in my bedroom! Also in the picture, if you look closely: the flashlight I can always reach if I wake up in a panic from a nightmare. Not pictured: a mountain of laundry.

I have a few more drawing projects to talk about, but since one of them involves scanning 26 pages so that might take a while!

05 juli 2017

Get Draped In The Silkiest Silk That Ever Silked

I mentioned wanting to use this pattern for a top, and did exactly that! In the exact fabric I intended to use for it! It was supposed to be a really simple project, but of course I used a silk chiffon-like fabric I got from the Fabric Sales ages ago (when their webshop was online) and made things way harder for myself.

I also got a haircut, as you might notice. Loving the breeze on my neck.

I used the pattern pieces for the dress bodice, lengthened a bit and obviously ungathered. Since the silk is too transparent to be worn as a single layer (even with pretty underwear) I decided to make it two layers and cut one slightly shorter than the other for a nice... layered effect. The straps are a piece of silver cord that I bought, they make for a nice accent and are a bit sturdier than self-fabric straps in this case.

Cutting this was relatively easy: the silk is very lightweight but it's not slippery, so once things were in position there was minimal shifting. I just had to make sure it didn't suddenly float off-grain in a breeze. I also cut this on the kitchen table instead of the floor because cat claws! Apart from lengthening the pattern pieces and omitting the center back seam, no modifications were made.

Sewing this wasn't hard as well, I used a very fine needle and made sure the fabric wasn't being pushed down into the feed dogs before I started stitching. My brain farts did lead to some unpicking: I used french seams on the entire thing and sewed a few bits with the wrong (or in this case, right) sides together. And then I messed up sewing the two layers together, so the bottom layer had the wrong side of the fabric on show. Unpicking silk chiffon is BAD for stress levels, I can tell you that now!

Hemming proved to be interesting as well. I was going to do a very narrow hem by basting a line of stitches, folding and pressing along the basting, stitching, folding and pressing again and stitching again but my machine was just not having it. Even with tension at its lowest the basting stitches just made the whole thing gather ever so slightly (which was not a problem with the side seams at all). In the end I cut the stitching at regular intervals to release the tension, used it as a guideline for pressing and finished the hem by hand.

My friend Karen and I took these pictures before going out for ice cream, and I think she should do more art direction. Here she had me model a hat that says 'Bart Kaëll in 't nieuw' and if you don't know what that's about I strongly recommend you click this link. We are currently contemplating our own custom hats.