31 augustus 2012

Book Review: Make your own Dress Patterns

People had been recommending this classic (the first edition is from 1959!) left and right, and since I had started to get interested in making my own patterns, I ordered it. The cover isn't very attractive and the illustrations inside look quite outdated, but once I got over that (we're way too spoiled with nicely-designed books these days...) I started to see just how much information there is in this book.

This is not exactly a book about drafting patterns completely from scratch, instead it starts with a few basic slopers (bodice, skirt, pants, sleeve,...) and shows how you can alter the basic pattern to get some new and exciting effects. Some of these suggestions are slightly scary and not something I'd make:

(But hey, at least I now know how it's done!)

But there are loads of great ideas and tricks in there! I am totally fascinated by the chapters on darts and control seams, and can't wait to try some of the things she suggests. 

Here you see how to create special shapes by shifting darts and slashing the pattern. There are loads of cute ideas like these.

Here a sleeve is shaped by turning an elbow dart into a control seam. The chapter on control seams is called 'Control is what it seams', by the way. Ha! Puns!

Overall, this has turned out to be a great reference and help since I wandered into pattern-drafting territory. The instructions are very well written, I've never come across a passage that made me go 'huh?'. At this moment I'm planning a few projects, one of them being a coat. Since I really want to alter the pattern, I'm expecting this book to be very useful in the future!

I'll finish this post with a sneak peek of what I've been working on. Spoiler: it has to do with denim! I took this picture yesterday because I was quite pleased with how my patch pockets and lined front pockets turned out.

27 augustus 2012

The Whale Dress, and a Love Letter to Double Gauze

I realize this might not be the best name ever for a dress, but what else could I call it? there's hundreds of 'em!

I also have to apologize for the poor quality of these pictures: my dear photographer is a little busy at the moment so I had to manage with a tripod and some timing.

On to the dress! This was a super quick project I whipped up in a day or two, from a self-drafted pattern. I gave it a slighly wider neckline, an a-line skirt with four inverted pleats and a heart cut-out in the back: 

The fabric is a super soft double gauze I picked up here. Can I just say how much I love this fabric? It's so light and comfortable so I feel like I'm wearing pyjamas all day, but still has some body.

The red is a bit darker in real life, but I like that because it makes the whole thing look a little bit more grown up. I stole these pockets from a pair of Burdastyle pants I also managed to finish, more on that later!

I am going to end this post by mentioning that our Mr. Van Dam has fully recovered from his surgery (he's happy to be without the lampshade collar thing!) and just singing the praise for double gauze fabric one more time:

Double gauze,
even though you fray like crazy,
I still think you're quite awesome.

19 augustus 2012

Everyday I'm Muslinin'

Blame that horrible title on the heat, please.

So, how about the Dress of Shame? I started putting it together, full of fresh courage, when I encountered an unexpected problem with the front darts on the bodice. They worked on the muslin, but came out horribly wrong in the dres fabric. think freaky double-pointed nipples.

I think I fixed the problem but felt like an additional fitting was in order, so I contacted my friend and found out she wouldn't be available for the next couple of days.

And that's not all! One of my dear old cats underwent surgery to remove his eye on Friday (The eye was blind already and he got more and more infections so the vet advised us to have it removed). He got through it really well but isn't exactly in top shape at the moment. He's wearing one of those collar things and since he's still on painkillers we try to keep an eye on him as much as possible; especially in this heat. I'm now giving him water by dripping it into his mouth with a small siringe because we noticed he had some problems drinking with the collar on. This is our little Mr. Van Dam now:

I've given him a little eyepatch because the stitches look a bit gruesome. He doesn't seem to be too bothered by them though, he's more annoyed about not being able to lick his tummy (that's why we are brushing him several times a day).

Anyway, since the Dress of Shame has been postponed I figured this would be a good time to work on some muslins. I'll be in New York in early September and wanted to finish a few garments by then. Two of those have a princess-seamed bodice, which I first wanted to draft myself, but when Grainline had a sale going on I picked up the pattern for the Kat dress:

Here is the bodice muslin I made last night:

The fit is fine, but I felt the bodice was a bit too short to work for what I wanted to do. I also didn't need the curved waistline. So today I spent the afternoon slashing and spreading the pattern pieces to add some length. Let's hope it works out! This is a kind of basic bodice shape I really love, and it can be used in many different ways.

I hope to have some proper pictures of other finished garments by next weekend! The past two days have been so hot I didn't even want to wear clothes, let alone pose in them.

16 augustus 2012

The Dress of Shame

This lovely fabric has been lying around my house for ages now. It's meant to be turned into a dress, one I like to call the Dress of Shame.

Why? Because a friend of mine picked this fabric, and the pattern to use it for, to make it into a beautiful dress, made especially for her. This one, to be precise:

(That's Vogue 2902, for the ones who want to know)

And why is this the Dress of Shame? Because she asked me to do this around TWO YEARS AGO.


It seems like I'm still a bit too chicken to really sew for someone else. I tend to fit as I go when making something for myself, and sewing with only measurements and a muslin seems slightly scary. What if I finish the dress and there's something terribly wrong with the fit, despite the muslins? It will go on my alteration pile and linger around even longer!

I do have to say this lovely friend lost a lot of weight between the first fittings. And we couldn't always match our schedules to meet for a fitting. But there really is no excuse for this to lie around for so long.

So before going to bed... I'll be sewing darts.

13 augustus 2012

Do you remember the festival?

Last Saturday, my brother Jonathan returned from a long trip to Tanzania with a beard and awesome stories. So the most logical thing for him to do was to go see our younger brother Tim perform at the Linkerwoofer festival with his band New Rising Sun. I decided to wear one of my most comfortable dresses so far: it's the same pattern as the map dress, but with a gathered skirt instead of a pleated one. I also used a rather lightweight fabric by Petit Pan, purchased here. The cotton lining gives it a bit more body but the outer fabric is more like a shirting.

I really love the print on this fabric, the colors are very bold but somehow not that overwhelming on me. I lined the dress in a bright red cotton sateen with just a hint of stretch. This dress might not be appropriate for super hot weather because of the two layers of fabric, but it's just fine on regular summer days!

Jonathan got a craving for some real Belgian fries (I can't blame him) so we sat down by the riverside while he was eating. This is on the left bank of the river, where you have a great view of the city center.

And Tim? He definitely has the cool factor down! 

11 augustus 2012

All over the World

I spotted this fabric at a local fabric market and loved the print immediately, but it was obviously meant for home decor. However, I just kept coming back to it. (The fact that the rest of the market was mainly the same old cutesy prints meant for children's clothing and polyester monstrosities surely did help). In the end, I figured it might work as a very structured dress and took it home with me.

So that's what I made! This is the first pattern I drafted from scratch, starting from a bodice block. I hardly made any changes, apart from lowering the neckline and giving it a v-shaped back. The skirt is just a rectangle with wide box pleats.

I really like how the combination of the print and the stiffness of the fabric make this look like a paper dress. It turned out to be a great conversation starter as well! This was a project with a lot of 'first times' in it: my first self-drafted pattern, the first time I fully lined a dress, the first time using topstitching thread (around the neckline and armholes).

I would have done a few things differently, would I make this dress again. I used an invisible zipper but it isn't very invisible, since the fabric is so heavy (and the bodice is tight). This is definitely not a dress for long dinners either, I made the muslin without accounting for the extra bulk of a heavy fabric and a lining, so there isn't that much ease. I do really love wearing it though, it's one of my favourite handmade items so far!

09 augustus 2012

Knocking off the knockoff

I have to give credit where credit is due: I got the idea for this dress from the Selfish Seamstress, and from her alone. When I read the post about her own version of a Kate Spade dress I was struck by this picture:

How could I not.

I admit, I copied the Selfish Seamstress in almost every way. I even used the same base for the bodice! (the Coffee Date Dress) I made some changes to it, drafted a new skirt and the midriff drape. This is the result:

I have a bad case of serious face going on and the dress could use some ironing, but I really like the result. I used a cheap cotton with very dark blue polka dots and an even cheaper off white cotton for the lining. The dress is super comfortable and still appropriate for 'fancier occasions'.

I will end this post by thanking the Selfish Seamstress for the inspiration, and my two assistents for helping out with the pictures:

Flash, who is so modest he won't even look into the camera, and my boyfriend (the foot).

07 augustus 2012

Sewing basics

Here's a little confession for you all: this particular skirt is probably one of the only wearable items I ever made that can be considered a 'basic'.

The pattern is the Ginger skirt from Colette patterns, and I often refer to it as my TARDIS skirt. The blue is slightly more vibrant in real life, not unlike a certain police box! I love the pattern and I love the fit of the skirt, even though it could be considered a bit of an exception in my handmade wardrobe.

You see, when I'm shopping for t-shirts or sweaters or underwear, I tend to go for the 'goes-with-anything' kind. It will probably be navy, grey or white and not look weird in a year. But when I'm thinking up new projects I seem to find it impossible to make anything simple and solid, something to go with everything...

I'm currently working on my floral linen Ceylon dress, and the initial idea for this dress was entirely different. I had linen in my head, but off-white, solid, with fabric-covered buttons. It would make the lines of the dress stand out and be something I could wear all spring and summer on different occasions. But something strange happened at the fabric store: I stood in front of the linen section and all the solids just looked... bland. The pretty white picture vanished and I returned home with a floral print.

So even if I have the intention of sewing something simple and basic, I rarely go through with it. Truth is, I'd rather work on something slightly mad or outrageous than on something ordinary. If I go through all the effort of making a garment for myself, I want it to be fun to look at. So I'll skip the beige and make a bright red trenchcoat instead.

What do you think? Should I give the basics a chance or is there nothing wrong with a wardrobe full of prints?

06 augustus 2012


I've recently made this dress using a very special fabric: one of my own designs I got printed on Spoonflower! The print consists of hundreds of small rainbows on a blue background, and a border of hand-drawn girls with umbrellas. The fabric is available in my Spoonflower shop.

I drafted my own pattern for this, starting from a basic bodice block and adding sleeves and a collar. I was worried it would look way too cutesy in the end, but I kind of like it now! It reminds me of a dress you'd really really want as a little girl.

It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon and I felt this dress should be pictured near the water, so my boyfriend and I went to the riverside to get some shots.

It was very windy and the sun was right in my eyes, but I think the pictures turned out ok!

I had worn the dress the night before to a performance by Antwerp legend Vitalski. His brother Serge Baeken gave me an amazing temporary tattoo to match my dress!

04 augustus 2012

A very first post!

Hello everyone! Even though the internet is full of sewing blogs, I was hoping there would be room for one more. I feel like I should briefly introduce myself: My name is Anneke, I'm currently studying comics and illustration in Brussels, Belgium, and a huge part of my spare time is devoted to sewing. I started sewing out of interest and because I simply like making things, but as my skills progressed I found out that I really liked making garments that fit me and my budget better than what I can find in stores.

So what will be posted here? I thought I'd start documenting the things I make and write about sewing-related things I bump into. Even if nobody ever reads this blog, it might be fun for me to see the progress I'm making. One of these days my boyfriend and I will set up a little shoot so I can post about garments I've made before, but until then, here's what's on my table right now:

I went fabric shopping today and found a beautiful cotton-silk blend that will be turned into my first chantilly dress. I've loved the look of this pattern for a while now and felt like I could use a slightly fancier summer dress than the simple printed cottons I usually wear! The second fabric find is a linen-cotton blend to make into a ceylon dress (another one from Colette Patterns). I've made this one before in a cotton with a fine blue stripe and while I love the shape, it sometimes reminds me of a little girl's school dress. Time for a remake!