30 juli 2019

Business In The Front, Party In The Back!

I actually had the fabric (and the idea) for this dress around for a long time. And then I got a new tattoo that would make this dress idea even better and decided to get started! This was an adventure in pattern drafting that ended really well, and I had a lot of fun figuring out construction!


Looks pretty basic so far, right? Sleeveless bodice, waistband, gathered rectangles for a skirt? I drafted the bodice myself, but this isn't all that adventurous, right?


BAM! It's a mullet dress. I wanted to make a bra-friendly cut out in the back so I got out the block I drafted a while ago and tried to figure it out. The block has high necklines, but I marked a few key points when I made it (the lowest points in the front and back before underwear becomes visible) and those turned out pretty helpful. I wanted the back to look a bit like a bow, so I figured it would be the easiest to rotate the back waist dart to the center back seam and turn it into gathers!


The bodice is fully lined, which was the hardest part to figure out (because I wanted a clean finish on the waistband as well). In the end I left the gathered edges open and stitched those together last, since they were going to be covered up with the little tab anyway. That little tab isn't just decorative by the way! Instead of stitching it closed I added a snap fastener and now I can loop it around my bra band to keep things in place. It's a bit fiddly but it works very well! I loved the idea of this back cutout before I got this really cute bat from Lozzybones but now it just makes it ten times better. I'm not sure if you can see it in this picture but HIS FACE.


I wanted an invisible zipper on the side (so the back would look as clean as possible) but I also wanted pockets! I had done this combination of a zipper/inseam pocket before but I rarely sew side zippers so it had been a while. I followed a tutorial online and it turned out fine, not my neatest sewing ever but it'll probably be better the next time!


I'm not sure if my way of finishing the insides was the most logical one, but it worked! There was some hand stitching involved to attach the inside waistband and the lining to the zipper, and I really enjoyed trying to figure it out. That's the thing with drafting your own patterns: you have no instructions to go on, and once you veer away from basic things it's not like you can rely on instructions for similar garments!


This turned out as a perfect little summer dress! I haven't made a quilting cotton dress in a while, and don't really have that kind of fabric in my stash anymore, but I'm happy I could turn this into something that still feels very 'me'.

26 juli 2019

The Quest For Underthings

I dipped my toes into bra-making a while ago, and made a few very successful Watson bras. After this I tried the Harriet, and after a few attempts I managed to make one that fit fairly well, but it wasn't exactly right yet... I didn't feel confident enough to keep tweaking the pattern, so I put the whole project to the side for a while. My underwear drawer was starting to look pretty sad and worn out though (and I couldn't really justify buying new bras with a box full of supplies at the ready) so when Emerald Erin released the Black Beauty bra I didn't really hesitate!


It took some work, and I should revisit this pattern at a later date and work on it some more, but for now I ended up with three brand new and wearable bras! I did make a few changes, as you might be able to see. My first version fit fine in terms of cup volume, but the horizontal seam really didn't work on me- the combination of a seam that didn't stretch and a lightweight cup fabric that still had some give led to some weird bumps. I turned the horizontal seam into a vertical one (aligning the starting point with the power bar) and this solved that issue.


My other main problem was the straps: I loved the idea of the double straps made from the fold-over elastic, but the reality is that my skin is pretty sensitive and the thin elastic straps just felt scratchy. instead I turned the fold-over elastic into a little loop and attached a normal strap. Maybe not as pretty, but way more wearable for me!


I used mostly stash materials for this, including the last scraps of my precious birthday bee tulle. Emerald Erin actually had bra kits with this exact fabric, but I had it already! I am going to fray check the hell out of those bees though, one or two were starting to unravel on the dress I made and I don't want that to happen to this bra!


My first version was more of a toile: I had a piece of this tulle around and wouldn't really mind if it didn't turn out great. I saw it as a chance to test out techniques before cutting into the precious stuff. Another change that I made was to line the entire bra. The version I made is for non-stretch fabrics so it could be fine with one layer, but the thought of an unlined tulle seam going straight across my nipple is a big fat nope from me. I cut all the cup and bridge pieces from a very thin bra tulle, assembled the pieces separately and then basted the cups together before finishing/inserting them. It looks super clean and because the bra tulle is so sheer it still looks very lightweight.


My second version is made using some stretchy mesh with flocked dots that I had lying around for a while. I used the same method for lining (which was an absolute necessity with the stretchy outer fabric) and used some glorious velvet fold-over elastic and strapping that I got from the new Small Bobbins webshop (check her out if you're in Belgium and want to sew lingerie: she has really cool stuff and the shipping is reasonable for once!). This one is super comfortable, I can see it become a favourite. The only downside is that the combo of stretchy outer/non-stretch inner makes for some wrinkling here and there.


I actually made my bee version twice. The first one had this gold fold-over elastic that looked really cool but was an absolute bitch to work with (it was super lightweight and just stretched/warped/wiggled all over the place). It looked fine from a distance but up close the top of the cups was gaping and the whole thing looked messy. So I did it again with matte black elastic, and all was well.

I like the shape these have, so I'll probably keep working with this pattern. The three bras that I made are wearable and very welcome in my wardrobe, but I feel there's room for improvement! The main thing is that the bridge doesn't lie as flat against my chest as it should. I was thinking of narrowing it a smidge and adding a bit of width to the cup at the center front. Not much, just enough to give it more room to curve towards my sternum. But that's for a later date. I kind of want to sew some heavyweight denim now.

12 juli 2019

There's A Rat On My Left Shoulder

I made this dress a while ago, but only just got around to photographing it! I came across this pattern when I was making a wrap dress for my mother and used it as a starting point (changing it almost completely, the only parts left of the original were the bodice and the sleeve head). After this I decided to make the real deal for myself!


This is the Highlands Wrap Dress by Allie Olson, made in a linen-viscose mix that I dyed burdgundy (it started out as off white!). I've experimented with dyeing fabrics recently, and so far it's always been successful. It's a great thing to do when you like the texture of a fabric, but not the colour!


I really enjoyed sewing this pattern. The instructions make for a very clean and neat finish, but it's still easy to follow. I had made a muslin for my mother's dress based on this pattern and it fit her really well from the start, so I took the risk and didn't muslin my version (my mother and I are kind of similar in size and shape). It's maybe a smidge too big, but nothing too bad.


I followed the instructions to the letter, except for the finishing of the facings. There is some hand embroidery on the shoulder of this dress, which was done before the pattern piece was cut out or stitched together, and I didn't want any visible topstitching to interfere with that. So instead of topstitching all around the neckline and armholes I sewed the facings down with a blind stitch, and finished the hem in the same way. That hem is where I hit my only snafu by the way, and it's only due to me being an idiot: I had seen in the finished measurements that the pattern was drafted for someone quite a bit taller than me, but somehow thought it would still be fine (on a full length maxi dress). So I went ahead and hemmed the thing with gorgeous mitered corners and some more hand sewing, and of course it was too long. I put it away for a while, then gathered the courage to unpick everything and shorten it.


The real star of this dress is of course the embroidery! I knew I wanted to add some before I started making it, but wasn't sure about what. Then the elections happened in Belgium and it suddenly became really clear that I needed a rat on my left shoulder. This probably won't really make any sense to readers outside of Belgium, but this rat here isn't going to roll up anything!

I traced my pattern piece onto a piece of paper to sketch the rat, and then used yellow carbon paper to put it onto the fabric. I had cut out most of the pattern piece but left a piece of fabric around the area where it would be embroidered, so I could put it in a hoop. I did the majority of the rat like this and then added the tail once the shoulder seam was sewn. It was a really easy way to add something to a solid dress!


I like this dress on me and it will get worn, but I did notice it's not very bike-friendly. We went to a bit of wood nearby to take these pictures and I had to hold the dress closed with one hand to keep things decent. It's not a problem when I'm walking, but I do ride my bike almost every day so I probably won't make another one for this reason. So if you don't frequently ride a bike, don't hesitate to give this pattern a go!

03 juli 2019

I'm Going On An Adventure!

So I'll need a nice backpack!

Not really. But I wanted to make a backpack for a while. I'd been looking at patterns, but everything I found looked very... homemade? I wanted something really sturdy and functional, something I could really carry around all day, even with my terrible shoulders. There are some patterns for roll-top backpacks out there but I don't really like the look of those. I toyed with the idea of drafting my own but got a bit overwhelmed with having to figure the whole construction out and sourcing the materials as well. Then I stumbled upon Niizo bags. They had patterns for bags that looked very professional, and they sold kits that included everything! I thought it wouldn't hurt to have some extra handholding when dipping my toes into something new, so I bought the Be Strong backpack kit in black. And here it is:


I was pretty impressed with the kit when it arrived. Everything was nicely packaged and labeled, so there was no confusion. I had already downloaded and printed the pattern, and cut everything out in one evening. The instructions tell you to mind your fabric layout since the quantity you get is only just enough, and they were definitely right! I cut everything on a single layer and paid very close attention to how many pieces I needed of each pattern piece. I did goof up once when I forgot to cut a second lining piece for the body of the bag, but that was easily remedied by piecing two pieces together.


This whole thing came together much quicker than expected! I basically put it together in two afternoons/evenings. I did follow the instructions word for word. Bag construction is really new for me and while the techniques themselves are not complicated I had to pay close attention so things didn't go together the wrong way! The finish on this bag is pretty impressive. It's fully lined (with loads of interior pockets) and the only seam that's on show is enclosed in a binding (which I attached by hand because the thought of putting the whole thing under the machine again and stitching that binding neatly was too much)

Hanne took some nice action shots for me. So much action.

I was a bit worried about how my sewing machine would handle the heavy canvas, but it wasn't that big of a deal. There was a bit of protest on the very bulky parts, but I didn't break a single needle! The trickiest bit was sewing the body of the bag together, when the entire thing has to move underneath the machine. The canvas was so easy to work with, it's a waxed fabric so you can actually finger press it in place and it holds a crease so well.


I made one change to the bag, as you can see here. The kit came with a red and white polka dot fabric as a contrast for the bottom of the straps and the inside of the pocket flaps, but that didn't really feel like 'me'. So instead I dug out this kitten print canvas I once got in Leipzig and used that instead! If I'd make this again (probably not anytime soon) I would either use a matching fabric for the bottom of the straps or make the top pattern piece a bit wider so the contrast edges don't really show, but that's just me being nitpicky.


My favourite part might just be the back. The foam makes it nice and sturdy and very professional looking, and the small zipper pocket in the side is so handy and neat-looking.

I took this bag with me on a daytrip to Amsterdam and it did great! I'm curious to see how it will hold up, but I'm having high hopes!

19 juni 2019

A Jumpsuit On A Bandwagon

To be completely honest, I'm not easily tempted by indie patterns these days. A lot of new releases feel like more of the same thing, or just way too simple to spend money on... And then the Zadie jumpsuit exploded all over the internet. I liked the shape and how it seemed to flatter a host of body shapes, so I decided to give it a go!


I got this plain black linen-viscose blend especially for this on a recent trip to Pauli, and it worked really well for the pattern. There's a good combination of drape and body, so you end up with something soft and flowy that doesn't show every lump and bump!


I noticed that a lot of people size down on this pattern, and after checking the finished measurements I decided to do the same. It turned out really well, and I'm happy I did! I think this would overwhelm my frame if it was larger. I took a risk and didn't make a muslin, and when I quickly tried the pants on (before attaching the top) I was a bit worried it would look like a clown suit, but once the bodice and waist ties were on it looked so much better!


For your information, I'm around 1,65 m (with a short upper torso) and the proportions are fine on me. The waist is in the right place and the rise is low enough to keep me mobile (no wedgies!). There is a bit of extra fabric in the back that suggests I might need a sway back adjustment, but I also feel like there is always going to be excess fabric there because these are wide pants being tied together with a belt... Any thoughts? On the other hand, it's not like I can see my butt, so should I let it bother me?


I followed the instructions for the most part, but I did have a little brain fart and put the tie opening on the wrong side. Woops! It doesn't really matter, but the wrap feels a bit counterintuitive. I also attached the neck binding in two steps instead of one and hand-sewed the inside of the binding and all the hems so I wouldn't have any visible stitches on the outside.


I'll end this with an obligatory jumping jumpsuit picture, because I was feeling cheesy.

The verdict: the hype for this pattern feels justified! It came together very quickly (an afternoon and an evening), the instructions are excellent and I'm very happy with the final product. I won't be making the sleeved version anytime soon (this just screams summer to me) but I do have a length of burgundy linen earmarked for a short version...

28 mei 2019

Clothes With Friends

I might have made a jacket for one specific patch. Is that ridiculous? Maybe, but I think it was worth it! Thijs embroidered a bat patch for my birthday, and I didn't really have a jacket to put it on. Things clicked when I found a heavy dark green denim at Pauli, and I decided to make the Hampton Jean Jacket again, but for myself!


I had made this jacket once before for an art show, but never really wore it. It was made as an art piece so I don't really consider it clothing, if that makes sense? Also, it's not really my colour. (Should I put it up for sale? Let me know if you're interested)


I did like the fit of that first version, so didn't make any changes to the pattern, apart from enlarging the front pockets. The ones on the original pattern are only just big enough to fit my hands into, and I felt like I needed more room for them to be useful. Giant hands strike again!


I really like how this pattern comes together. The instructions are very clear, especially with the sewalong to help you through the trickier bits! I used a triple stitch instead of topstitching thread for the topstitching, and almost ran out of thread. There is a LOT of topstitching in there, so make sure you're well-stocked if you plan on making this.


This denim is 100% cotton and quite thick, so some of the bulkier parts were a bit of a struggle. I managed to get through this project without breaking a single needle though! The standard presser foot on my machine has a really handy button that keeps it level when you start on a bulky seam, which was really helpful as well. I find sewing denim to be really satisfying, because the fabric itself isn't that hard to handle (no shifting!) it's just a bit bulky and heavy. 


Apart from the bat I got for my birthday (thanks again Thijs!) I also added a few patches I'd collected on our roadtrip through the US last September. They had been lying around for a while and all kind of magically went with this jacket. I put this whole thing together over the span of a few days, and finished it in time to take to the Paris Sewcial! 


I had a really really fun weekend in Paris. There wasn't that much fabric shopping for me (apart from something at Malhia Kent I just couldn't let get away) but I met up with Brecht one evening and he very kindly gifted me some pieces of fabric he's once designed for a clothing label. One of them was this poly charmeuse type stuff, and it was just big enough for an Ogden cami!


I've made the Ogden more times than I can count. It's a perfect stashbuster: if I cut the lining parts out of another fabric it only takes around 60 cm. I tried to use some nicer seam finishes on this since the fabric tends to fray a bit: the side seams are french seamed and I tried my best to do a decent narrow hem.


The real star of this top is obviously the print! I love Brecht's work, and I'm thrilled to have it in my wardrobe now. The other piece of fabric is a beautiful jacquard. There's quite a lot of it, so I'll have to do some careful thinking about what to use it for!

16 mei 2019

Birthday Bee

I usually don't have many occasions to wear or sew fancy dresses in my day-to-day life, so when an occasion arises I just go all out! One of those occasions is my birthday. I tend to keep my parties very quiet and low key (people I like gather at my house and we eat all day) so I'm usually ridiculously overdressed, but hey, my party! This year was the year I turned 30, so I went all out and grabbed some embroidered tulle that had been in my stash for a while!


I loved the Deer & Doe Magnolia dress the moment it was released, and thought it would be a perfect candidate for this dress! I loved the deep neckline but decided to go with the higher one just to stay bra-friendly. This has been a good idea because even the 'higher' neckline is pretty deep!


I have to be honest and admit that I didn't really look at the instructions for this one. I've made enough dresses by now to figure out my own preferred way of construction, and I was going to do the skirt differently anyway! I wanted a plain underskirt with at least one tulle overskirt, and it took a little bit of thinking to figure out how to construct all this and install the zipper.


The bodice is made from a very light black viscose. I lined the front and back but kept the sleeves unlined for floatiness. The fit is pretty good (which is often the case for me with Deer & Doe patterns) but the princess seam could use some tweaking. There is a bit of bubbling at the top, so I'll have to take a look at that if I made this again!


The skirt has three layers: a base layer made from plain black cotton lining, a second layer of plain black tulle for volume and an overskirt of embroidered tulle. I used the skirt pattern pieces for the lining and black tulle layer, but didn't have enough embroidered tulle to do that, so just gathered the entire width of the fabric. It's not as voluminous as I would have liked, but that's entirely my own fault (for not getting enough fabric, AGAIN). I had a good long think about the zipper situation because I wanted all three layers to be separate and only be attached at the waist. In the end I basted them together and folded the seam allowances of the tulle layers back at the seam, so the zipper would only go through the top of the dress and the lining. Does that make sense?


Because of how soft this fabric is the dress tends to relax and stretch a bit, so the waist ties help a bit to cinch it in. I was surprisingly comfortable for how much I ate during the day, although I did switch to a skirt with an elastic waist and a t-shirt later (but mostly so I could sit on the floor with my friends).


Would I make this dress again? Maybe, but in a different fabric, so it's a bit more 'daily wear'. I did enjoy floating around with all my (bee) friends all day!

22 april 2019

Reincarnation

A good long while ago, Hanne and Astrid hosted a sale where they sold some of their old stock of materials, costumes and clothes. One of the items was a vintage maxi dress, all black floral chiffon and viscose that looked pretty awesome, but also a bit small. Hanne convinced me to try it on anyway, and it magically fit like it was made for me! I took it home and there it waited for warmer days. I then wore it once, washed it on a cold delicate cycle and discovered the chiffon layer had shrunk in super weird ways, making the dress unwearable.

Damn.

I sulked for a while and then unpicked the entire thing to make a pattern out of the lining. After a quick muslin to check the fit I cut into some precious viscose from my stash and made this regeneration happen:


It's not a super complicated dress, but it has some interesting details! Which are very hard to spot in this dark and busy print. My bad! The front bodice has a sort of pointy yoke with gathered cups attached to it, the back has a v-neck. All neck and underarm edges are finished with bias tape that extends into ribbons to form shoulder straps and tie into a bow, but there is a separate shoulder strap underneath (which prevents wardrobe malfunctions if the bows become untied!).


The hardest part was figuring out the order of construction! I didn't write anything down (obviously) but did manage to find a way to get a clean finish on the inside. The bodice is lined in a cotton voile to give the viscose some extra structure and stability. I thought about lining the skirt since that would allow for a cleaner waist seam finish but decided I'd be happier if this was as light and airy as possible.


I used this project as a way to get more familiar with my new sewing machine, by trying out some of the different feet that came with it. I fell in love with the edgestitching foot! I don't really have a problem getting straight topstitching on sturdier fabrics (like jeans) but find it a bit of a challenge on light or fiddly stuff, and this foot really helped. I used it to topstitch the bias binding on the bodice and it looks so neat. I also tried the rolled hem foot on the (haha) hem, but that was less of a success. I probably just need more practice but found it a bit challenging to get a neat result: in some places it worked perfectly but sometimes it wouldn't properly catch the fabric or only fold it once. In the end I folded the cole thing over once again and stitched it down, since the fabric is fine enough to get away with that without things getting bulky.


Another thing I'll need to spend some more time on is my invisible zipper installation. I need to figure out the best needle position to hit that sweet spot of stitching close enough to the zipper teeth so it's invisible, but not so close that it interferes with the zipper! This one works (thankfully) but it's not going as smoothly as it should and I'm praying it doesn't break.

I'm really glad that I got to save this dress in a way! The original might be gone, but I think I like this one even more...

10 april 2019

The Lady, The Hare And The Hawk

More drawing!

A while ago my friend Dennis told me about a group exhibition he was putting together. The theme was 'Coupe' (cut) and of course, my papercutting work would fit right in... I had plenty of time but ended up doing most of the work at the last minute, as usual!

The hardest part was that almost everything I make is cut out, so anything would fit the theme, really. I toyed with a few different ideas about surgeries and anatomical illustrations, but in the end I went back to things I like: animals, ladies and skulls.




These are among the largest papercut pieces I've ever made! They are around 70 by 50 cm, which allowed me to get in a lot of detail, but also made things a bit more unwieldy to work with. If I make pieces like this (where the original is presented and not an edited scan or print) I'll draw a mirrored version of the image on the back of the paper to use as a guide for cutting. This also makes things a bit more complex at times, especially with text! (If something has to be edited anyway I don't bother with this, just draw it the way I want it and mirror everything in photoshop)

The opening of the show is on April 11th at E²/Sterput in Brussels! I'll be there in the evening, so come say hello if you're around. There's a lot of cool stuff being made by others as well, and I'm looking forward to seeing it! You can find some more information here.

01 april 2019

This Is Where I Draw The Line

I've been drawing a lot lately. If you already follow me on Instagram you might have seen some of these pop up. I'm working on a big project that I'm very excited about (you can still send me stories! I'm working on very rough storyboards so it will be a while before I can actually show anything interesting, but stuff is being done!). But there are some other things I've been doing/working on that got me inspired! One of them is the weekly Zine Club at Muntpunt in Brussels, where my friend Gabri (and guests) shares his wisdom. Every workshop has a theme but it feels very free and low pressure, and allows me to just make stuff for fun. A few weeks ago me and Hélène collaborated on a zine about an Emily Dickinson poem, and we were surprised by how much we liked the result!


Tomorrow is the last workshop, but I hope we can keep this vibe going somehow. It's very inspiring!

Hélène and I did recently discover that we seem to work well together, and had an idea for a series of drawings about disappointing mythical creatures. This is another low pressure thing to work on when we have the time, and it makes me laugh. Here are the two I've made so far, the first one is a mermaid, but both her halves are fish. The second one is a unicorn with two horns. There's a vampire who just feels more comfortable in his bat form in the pipeline.


I've also done some more serious work when Thijs invited me to come draw for one of the Relaas podcast evenings. It's a monthly event where people come tell a story about something that happened to them, and illustrators make illustrations to go with these stories. I love this kind of stuff, and had some fun making these! One story was about a girl who got hot tea spilled on her legs at a bar and suffered some serious burns, the other was about an improvised arm wrestling championship in Kyrgystan.







Right now I'm working on a few larger pieces for a group exhibition I'm in, keep an eye out for those!