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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!