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06 April 2014

First SWAP pair: Vogue 8751 pants and Vogue 7903 blouse

So here is the first outfit that I completed as part of my Stitchers' Guild 2014 SWAP plan. It's a silk blouse and wide leg trousers in a woolen herringbone.

The blouse is Vogue 7903 by Sandra Betzina and the trousers are Vogue 8751.

I have made this blouse before in the short sleeved version so I don't have anything new to say about the pattern. This time, my fabric is silk georgette and I didn't want it too fitted so I didn't make all six waist darts at front, I only made two. The only other change I made was bringing the shoulder point up by ±1cm (no change to the sleeve itself). Funny how different the same pattern looks when it is made in a totally different fabric!

The trousers, I first saw them on the lovely Ruth of Core Couture. After seeing hers, I immediately went and ordered this pattern, foolishly forgetting that she is much taller and leggier than I am. Once I was ready to start sewing them, I luckily realized that I needed to make a muslin to see how they fit my body type. Us pears, we cannot just wear any kind of trouser...

And indeed, from the muslin I decided that the pant legs were too wide for me. I tried on my favorite trousers for comparison and the legs are narrower by 8cm at the hem!

So that's what I did, tapered each side of each pant leg by 2cm giving me 8cm less all around and I do like the proportions better on my body shape.

Now here is the funny thing about this pattern. I typically have to make a 1.5cm swayback adjustment, but not with this pattern. I'm not sure why not, but the back looked perfect just "out of the box". I'm guessing that the yoke pattern pieces are somehow responsible, but I am not sure how exactly.

Anyway, I don't often wear pants because I haven't found many that fit, but this one does so it is a welcome addition to my wardrobe! Oh and my review of Vogue 8751 is here at Pattern Review.

31 March 2014

My radiant orchid coat, Vogue 1321 by Donna Karan

My new coat has been done for a couple of weeks now, but it took me a long time to get all the photos done. And then another while to write this post. It's just that I am so proud of this one that I want to give you more details. I hope you won't mind the longer post and gazillion photos.

We begin with a first impression photo. Came out nice, no?

Please forgive the sunglasses, one of my superpowers is to always know precisely when to close my eyes just in time for the photo. After so many tries I just decided to give up and make use of camouflage. Mmmmmhh, that hem needs another good pressing...

Anyway, my fashion fabric is a wool knit that was felted in some way and then bonded to a much thinner and silkier knit at the back. Its thickness and the backing fabric give it a stiff drape. It falls in wide folds, standing away from the body. With the silky backing I can easily get in and out of the sleeves without needing a lining. It also means that I cannot use any fusible interfacing.

All of these qualities make this fabric perfect for Vogue 1321 by Donna Karan, a full-skirted coat with a dramatic collar.

Before cutting into my fabric I made a proper full body muslin. I didn't have any muslin fabric as thick and heavy as the actual fashion fabric, but the muslin could still tell me about the fit, even if not so much about the drape. And I am soooo glad that I did!

In the muslin I could see that the sleeves were too wide and there was too much fabric around the sleeve at the bodice and especially at the underarm. In fact you can see this also on the pattern photo, but because the model is so thin, she still looks stylish even with all that extra fabric around. Me? Probably not so much.

So I removed a total of 6cm from the sleeve, making it narrower all along its length. I divided the 6cm between the underarm piece and the front sleeve piece, 3cm each, parallel to the grainline.

Then I also raised the armhole by 6cm. I also redrew the armhole shapes to match both sides, on the bodice and the sleeve. This was not much change at all since the sleeves are not deeply set.

All the seams are lapped, including the darts on the bodice and on the collar. I had never sewn darts using lapped seams so I made some tests. Lucky for me since the dart point ended up with a gaping hole because the overlap becomes too small for the stitching to grab the underlayer. Nobody wants holes like that, and especially not on an attention grabbing collar! I first tried sewing a normal dart and then topstitching it, but it looked too raised compared to the lapped seams. So in the end I just didn't cut the dart all the way to the dart point as the instructions said to do. I stopped cutting ±5cm before the end point and voila, hole averted!

With all those lapped seams to mark and sew do you know what was my absolutely unmissable tool? A 5/8" gauge, homemade out of cardboard. Completely free and totally invaluable :-)

Except for my choice to narrow the sleeve, it is a rather easy coat to make. There is no interfacing, no shaping with heat and moisture, no lining and only two buttonholes (which you could omit if you decided not to make the sleeve tabs). It did take me forever to hide all those thread ends, but then the inside looks sooooo pretty and neat, doesn't it?

For the pockets I used some leftover silk charmeuse for a lovely feeling on my hands. I used an overlock thread chain to keep the pockets from flapping too far around.

OK. I've tortured you enough with all these details, so here are the three views of my coat. I'm really loving it. The color makes me happy, the collar is actually very nice against the wind and the wide skirt goes perfectly with all my full-skirted dresses.

I did have to rummage through my belt collection to find the longest possible belts since all that fabric requires quite a few more centimeters than usual. And this is not a coat you want to wear without a belt. Saying it looks shapeless doesn't fully describe the mess of fabric swinging all around.

I've submitted my review of Vogue 1321 by Donna Karan to Pattern Review.

BTW, tomorrow is the last day to sew for the Stitcher's Guild 2014 SWAP and this coat is only my second garment posted! Yup, I'm afraid I'm not going to make it... I've actually sewn 6 of the garments in my 2014 SWAP plan, but it is obviously not the full eleven. From the beginning I knew that SWAP was too ambitious for my skill level and speed, but you know what else I discovered? I got a bit bored. Bored of working with the same fabrics and color scheme, but also bored with knowing exactly what I was going to sew for the coming 3 months... I kept getting new ideas that I really wanted to get to, instead of these old ideas I had long time ago. So, I'm officially bowing out, though I will still try to post the rest of the garments I sewed for the SWAP. Here's a sneak preview. Thanks for reading!

08 March 2014

Another peplum, knit jacket Vogue 2989

I've kinda gone astray from my plans for the Stitcher's Guild SWAP 2014. I was in dire need of a warm jacket or sweater or anything that could help to keep me warm in our newly redecorated offices which for some reason have also become colder.

So, I rummaged through my stash looking for the thickest, warmest fabric that I could find and I turned it into this:

Does look warm, doesn't it? It is also super, super comfortable. The pattern is the jacket from Vogue 2989.

A simple jacket with lovely lines, raglan sleeves, a peplum and a sort of scarf collar. I totally love the pattern but the actual jacket came out kinda wide, don't you think? I made my usual size 14 and the waist fits fine. But the sleeves and the upper chest is where I think there's too much fabric. Actually, looking at the side view there is also too much fabric at the underarm. If I make it again I will try to bring the armhole a bit higher. Perhaps even also a small bust adjustment?

Even though it is a bit too wide I am still very happy with my new jacket. It was super easy to make and came together very quickly. Because my knit had a tendency to curl at the edges I topstitched all the seams, holding the seam allowances in place. The knit is very fluffy so the topstitching is relatively discreet, which I think is nice.

One change I made was to leave the collar drape bits "single ply". The pattern asks you to cut 4 pieces of the collar drape, two for each side, one at top and one at bottom. But I thought my thick knit would look too thick and more importantly, I didn't have enough fabric to cut all 4 pieces. In fact, I didn't even have enough to cut 2 collar pieces. I nearly panicked when I noticed this but then I realized that in a real knit like this I could "graft" two pieces of fabric just like I do with my hand knits. It worked beautifully, you can't even see where I grafted the fabric together (it's ~10cm below the shoulder seam. I told you it wasn't visible!).

It closes with a simple hook and eye at the waist.

Despite the extra fabric under the arms it is a warm and welcome addition to my wardrobe.

My review of Vogue 2989 is here at Pattern Review.

15 February 2014

White peplum blouse Vogue 1915 by Anne Klein

I still remember my promise to show you my first finished garment for the SG 2014 SWAP I'm just being my usual forget-to-blog self... But finally, without further ado:

The pattern is an oldie but goodie: Vogue 1915 by Anne Klein. As you can see in the technical drawing, the blouse is shaped with a triangular piece at the sides. The bottom third then flares out forming a peplum.

This is my second version of this blouse. My first version of this blouse fitted just fine but was ruined by a very, VERY poor choice of interfacing. Armed with this painful experience, I chose an embroidered cotton for this new version. The all-over embroidery gives the fabric quite a lot of body, so I skipped all interfacings this time. Avoiding the problem is also a way of resolving it, no?

The pattern calls for self lining, but that would just be silly with this fabric. Much too stiff and probably scratchy against the skin. Instead, my thrifty self immediately thought to re-use the lining of the first version. I looooved that soft cotton voile, so I'm very glad that I could rescue at least half of it to use it in this new version.

I have to tell you that at first I was worried that this re-use would break the rules of the SG 2014 SWAP. After all, the lining was already constructed some 10 years ago (eep!). But freeing the lining from the old blouse took soooo much time, removing all that topstitching and stitching and then carefully keeping all the clipped edges from fraying. Ugh! Let's just say more than once I thought to just forget it and make the lining from scratch. But I persevered and now I am very glad that I did. The soft voile is so silky against the body; My skin has no clue there is all that embroidery going on.

Just as with the first version, I shortened the peplum by a good 8cm to a length that I find more flattering on my pear body. Independent of how long you make the peplum however, this is definitely a blouse to wear with a high-waisted bottom since the peplum is shaped to open up beyond the lowest button. Yup, that's my belly button peeking through, sorry about that!

If I want to be really picky then I have to mention a mistake I made: because the blouse is not self-lined, at the neckline you can see the cotton voile just under the collar, when the revers open up a bit. I didn't think about this at all until the blouse was fully constructed. Sigh... so now it is just a feature. No-one else will notice, right?

My review of Vogue 1915 by Anne Klein is here at Pattern Review.

31 January 2014

A Parisian giraffe wrap

Just in the nick of time! Ever since I missed last year's launch of Anne's Jungle January I planned to join the next time. As soon as January got here I started planning. I looked through my fabrics (a beloved pastime) to find the animal prints, and began rummaging for patterns.

Then, what do you know, it's already the last week of January. Eeep! Panic, panic! A snake print coat? Yeah right! A zebra cotton blouse? Not at my usual speed. A snake print pencil skirt? Maybe but not in real leather. A giraffe wrap it is then!

I call it my Parisian giraffe wrap because this plushy awesomeness is my first souvenir fabric. Bought in 1996 during my first visit to Paris. I was sightseeing in Montmartre when I spotted the fabric shops at the base of the hill. I couldn't run fast enough down there and spent the rest of the day going crazy through all the various shops. This tiny piece of gorgeousness was just too good to leave behind, but on a graduate student salary all I could get was a scant 1/2 meter.

So what to do with half a meter? I always thought it was destined to be the furry collar on a coat or jacket. But I don't dare to cut a collar until I do have a coat to put it onto. How else would I know the precise shape it should have? So for now all I did was line the entire rectangle of fabric.

Which I can then wear as a sort of fur vest if I help it stay in place with a belt.

Then I thought about adding buttons and loops so that I could close the "vest".

And if I add the buttons and loops on both sides, I can also button it up into a cylinder that makes a couple of sleeves. And so voila, I have a furry bolero!

Well, the sleeves are a bit too wide and they pull to the front. Plus the back is definitely poorly shaped with all that bunching going on. But hey, I made it into Jungle January!

20 January 2014

Two great office dresses, Burda 10-2012-118

My first item in the SG 2014 SWAP is now done, woohoo! I made Vogue 1915 Anne Klein's blouse again. This second version is also white and it turns out to be impossible to photograph... Every photo I took was overexposed. I will have to wait until next weekend when I can enlist my husband's better camera and skills.

So instead, I will share with you here a couple of dresses that I made last spring but hadn't gotten around to blogging about them. Both are made using that famous and well-reviewed pattern Burda 10-2012-118. My own review of this pattern is here at Pattern Review.

I first made this version in a pinstripe wool. I thought it would be perfect for the office. The traditionally masculine pinstripe wool balancing the very feminine shape of the dress with the side-draping and cowl neckline.

I barely had enough fabric for the dress, so I had to make a sleeveless version. I simply skipped the sleeves and finished the armholes with a lining bias strip. I also added a lining. I find that a lining makes dresses more comfortable to wear, plus also more appropriate for the office. To reduce bulk, I didn't want the lining to be gathered like the front. Instead, I took the paper pattern for the front, folded the gathers and held them with tape to create a "plain" front pattern. I also removed the top portion that is folded over from the draping cowl.

Also, since the cowl neckline is wide enough to fit my head without a zipper, I moved the zipper from the back to the side (the side that is not gathered). Back zippers often require gymnastics beyond my capabilities. A side zipper is much easier!

Finally, I converted the back walking slit into a kick pleat. I think that kick pleats look more polished and is definitely more demure, showing less leg.

After wearing this dress for a month or two, I liked it so much that I decided to make another one, this time with sleeves.

For the second version I chose a much less stable "Armani-look" fabric. I love the look of the fabric, and being less tightly woven it is very comfortable to wear. Unfortunately, after a whole day wearing the dress it begins to droop, which is what you can see in the photo. The fabric regains its shape after a washing, so that's how I've been wearing it. One wear, one wash, one wear, one wash.

I made all the same modifications as with the first dress, except that I forgot the kick pleat. Since I was forced to make a walking slit, I figured I could practice a tack to keep the slit from tearing open under the strain of walking and biking. I followed instructions for an arrowhead tack from Sherry's blog Pattern, Scissors, Cloth.

I'm quite pleased with how the tack turned out, even if not so much with the slit itself... I guess I should have interfaced it, huh?

Going back to why I love these dresses, can I tell you what is the best thing about them?

They are washable! Seriously, even the pinstripe wool!

All my hand-knitted wool sweaters are supposed to be washed by hand, but lately I've just been throwing them in the wool-program in my washing machine, and they turn out beautifully. So I got to thinking why couldn't I do that with wool fabric too. I hate bringing my clothes to the dry cleaners. They don't come back cleaner at all. I have a powder blue felt wool coat that came back from the dry cleaners with a "greige" layer. Ugh, just thinking about it makes me hugely upset all over again!

So, ever since this dress I've been pre-washing my wool fabric in the wool cycle of my washing machine and then drying them in the dryer with cool air. And it works perfectly. I do have to do some light ironing with an ironing cloth, but I don't mind doing that at all.

Of course, I would never attempt to wash a garment that has been tailored. Any shaping would be completely destroyed by the wash. But this dress has not been shaped with heat or steam at all, so washing is safe.

It is no wonder that this pinstriped dress is one of my favorites!

08 January 2014

A coat that will stop traffic, Vogue 8548

The phrase "stop traffic" means to command attention. Few things have that sort of power. Things like:

A traffic agent

a traffic cone,

or a beautiful woman.

Imagine then the effect of a beautiful woman wearing a traffic cone!

Oh, the folly! I adore my new coat, even though I don't think I dare to wear this out in public, sober Dutch public, mind you.

It actually falls under the category of a wearable muslin. The pattern is Vogue 8548, which I had been wanting to try for a while. I especially wondered if I could make that wide collar stand out as it should, and whether it was practical to wear for real.

The fabric is a mid-quality wool double cloth remnant that I picked up for $20 at the fabric market. Up close you can see that the fabric nap is not as dense as in the high-end versions. But it does have a robust hand and that was precisely what I was hoping to try. I've always admired what people like Geoffrey Beene can do with this type of fabric, but had never tried to sew it up myself. This remnant offered the perfect no-worry opportunity.

The technical details are in my review of Vogue 8548 at Pattern Review. Here instead I'll tell you that sewing this as a wearable muslin was a fantastic experience. It freed me to try new techniques, like a fused hem (I know, don't wince, it's just a muslin, remember?) and to practice old ones, like topstitching.

Plus, once I embraced the folly of my traffic cone jacket, I just kept on going...

Wait, is that...? Yup, that is a carnival-print lining! Sure! Because why not? (and it truly was the best match from my stash, I swear).

02 January 2014

Call me the "voorjaar" blogger

Happy New Year to all my sewing friends!

Oh, I know, I've done it again... I just went MIA and stopped blogging. And believe me, I've got lots of excuses: we finished renovating the house so my sewing room was plastic-wrapped, I hurt my back and it took weeks (and a miraculous infrared lamp from the 70's!) to recover, I moved to a new position at work, I gained a few pounds and got depressed about sewing one size bigger, blah, blah, blah. Whatever the reasons I think I see a pattern developing. In 2012 I also stopped blogging sometime before the fall.

Now, the Dutch think of the year in two halves. The first half they call voorjaar, the second najaar. So it would seem that I am a voorjaar blogger :-)

Well, better get on with it if I've only got 6 months to go... :-)

Since this is a New Year's blog post let me share with you my latest machinations:

Ambitious much? I know! It all started with a fabric binge, eh, visit to Mood Fabrics in LA. You see, the way I managed to justify buying so many fabrics was by making sure they all coordinate with each other. Then, back at home and catching up on sewing blogs I read about the Stitcher's Guild's SWAP 2014 Contest. And bingo! the wardrobe began taking shape.

Now, in my defense, the red brocade and the white embroidered cotton (middle on the set at right, not looking very white at all!) were already in my stash. And the knitted poncho is already done. It is one of the things I made while not sewing last year. In fact, I had a more modest wardrobe in mind, but I had to make it this big to comply with the contest rules. Reach for the stars, right?

And then it turns out that Pantone has declared Radiant Orchid the Color of the Year 2014. That is precisely the dominant color in my coordinated group. I'm taking that as a good omen!