April 18, 2015

Dressing like a proper lady?

The jacket is finished and I like it. The skirt is largely finished but with this shifty fabric, it's absolutely essential to let it hang out before hemming. 

I wasn't really happy when I tried it on yesterday. I cut the skirt with center front on the fold and a seam with a zipper at center back. And slant pockets at the sides. Normally, that works very well but in this fabric, even after pressing, the side seams sort of fold in on themselves, making the skirt looks a look narrower (putting a petticoat under it makes the width show more but somehow isn't a good look either). I'm not panicking yet. Hemming always affects the drape of a skirt and usually, in full skirts, makes them stand out more. I plan on using a lightly interfaced hem facing for extra effect. 

While I'm waiting for that, I suddenly thought it would be nice to make a matching hat for this suit. I have black hats which might suit the style but one in the same fabric would be even better. And I've wanted to try and make hats for a while. 
In fact, the pattern I'm using now has been in my stash since well before I started taking pattern making lessons. It's Vogue V8008, a selection of hats which have a clear 1950's retro flavour (despite the fact that this is not officially a vintage reproduction pattern). I've tried the pill box shape a short time after I bought it but didn't like it then. I didn't keep that version so I don't know if it was down to the material I used, taste or some real flaw.

The annoying thing about this pattern is that all the designs are meant to be made in felt. Which, obviously has very different properties than normal fabric. I've decided to try out view C (the red one) anyway, using the suit fabric reinforced with some woven cotton interfacing. 
I've been tinkering with it for most of the afternoon. The pattern is simple enough: Four petal shaped pieces, with slightly longer curves on the side ones than on front and back. The interfaced pieces are nice and stable and keep their shape well. However, the hat in the picture encloses the lady's head neatly. When I first tried this thing on, all the sides were standing out. I've been going back and forth adjusting the shape to try and get a nice looking fit. In the process, I may just have changed the whole thing. Especially because I decided I don't like the look of this hat when tilted forward like in the picture. Not with my glasses and bangs. So, I'm shaping it to sit more at the back of the hat which kind of works against one of my motivations for making it in the first place. I want a hat that will work with the up-do's I like. 
I think I will go back to tinkering with it tonight. I'm starting to think I don't really like the petal shape...

When I started working on this, I though the hat might actually allow me to count the suit for the Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge. It is a retro pattern, even though it's not repro... 
I'll wait and see how much of the pattern I'll end up using. I could always try a pill box after all...

April 16, 2015

Jacket sleeves

If you follow this blog on Facebook, you may have seen this picture already: 

There has been quite a bit of progress on my new jacket! 
Since then, I've made a lining and now I just have to attach that, make buttonholes and do all those little bits of finishing which always take way more time than you'd expect. And I think it is looking good! The skirt should be quite simple: A half circle should do the trick. I'll just have to give it some serious time to hang out before hemming. This fabric is shifty on its own (which is why I block-fused the entire jacket using a very thin knit interfacing)...

This time, I thought I'd be clever and have a bit of a chat about the pattern before showing off the finished garment (because that often leads to questions about the pattern). 

As mentioned before, my inspiration was this picture. 
The darted lower bodice is pretty standard. You will find a shape like that in many patterns and, when drafting your own, you take it straight from the sloper. The notched collar is hardly unique either. I did a full-on jacket collar draft because I like that but you could probably get a result like in the drawing with a simple convertible collar as well. 
The stand-out feature of this design is the yoke. With the sleeves and pocket flaps grown on. I love unusual takes on fairly standard shapes, which is exactly what this is. 

At first, I thought it would be easy to draft this using my kimono sleeved block (I've made that based on the normal sloper, to speed up the drafting process for dresses with kimono sleeves. It's for a fairly fitted kimono sleeve with an underarm gusset). As soon as I got started, though, I found a problem. Proportions.
In the drawing, the lower bodice is long and lean and it is 'crowned' with that nice yoke and pocket flap arrangement. The pocket flaps look like they are right at the apex of the bust and the yoke seam is a straight line. On the kimono sleeved block, that isn't possible. A straight line at or just above bust level would end up in the sleeve. And I thought a curve would be rather noticeable.

Instead, I went for a different option, constructing the yoke-and-sleeve more or less like a raglan sleeve. So, I took the upper bodice pieces from the standard sloper and grafted those only the normal sleeve. To keep that rather soft, flat shoulder line, I put them on a bit under the sleeve head (never recommended in  pattern making instructions but I know my slopers and the result I want). 
With this drafting choice, several practical considerations came together: To make a sleeve like this properly, you need to preserve the lower part of the armscye. To achieve that and get the bust seam at the right height, I lowered the armscye by 2 or 3 centimeters. That should also help to get the looser look around the upper arms and improve the room for movement when combined with a small alteration on the sleeve. That particular sleeve treatment is something I explained in this post.
With the yoke-and-sleeve done, I studied the picture carefully for the placement of the pocket flap. To keep it from making the sewing more difficult, I just used a 1 cm seam allowance for the flap (the flap curled up when I took the picture).

I've tried the jacket on and the sleeves actually still look pretty slim but I can move properly. The proportions on the body look fine so I guess I should put the difference in the sleeve shape down to the inevitable issues you get when converting a drawing into an actual garment. 

Putting the ease for movement in the sleeves was not uncommon in 1950's suits though. These images come from the French Elle magazine, the collection special for autumn/winter 1953. 

These suits are quite different in style from the one I'm making but both have very fitted bodices and fairly full sleeves. It's a very clever feature really. Not only does it set off that super-slim bodice, it also means the wearer can still use her arms. I won't look quite so wasp waisted in my suit (not without a corset... although these model might be wearing some rather hard-core underpinnings themselves) but that is kind of the effect I am going for myself.

April 12, 2015

A spring suit

After last week's post about my to-sew list for spring, I really wanted to get started on that suit. I've thought about making a 1950's style spring suit for two years, it's about time!
However, I was second-guessing my choice. I absolutely adore this suit but I'm afraid it won't work with the fabric I had in mind.

The original was made from jersey. As I mentioned before, I suspect that 1950's jersey is not really like the modern kind. For one, I guess there wouldn't be lycra or a similar elastic fiber in it. It probably didn't stretch lengthwise and may not have had great recovery either. The way it is often sewn up, with darts and zippers, suggests that it wasn't very stretchy at all. If you know more about it, please tell me in the comments. I'd really like to have a bit more of a clue about this. 
Anyway, even with that in mind, jersey is always a knit fabric. So, it would have some stretch and a certain kind of drape. Things which are used in this design.
I may have a fabric in my stash which could work for it (although I'm a bit worried about how thick it is and how that would work with that big drape).

The fabric I used for this dress. It's a not-very-stretchy knit, it might be a bit too stiff but, on the other hand, the design seems to ask for a bit of bulk. However, this stuff is warm. The picture was published in October, the suit was part of a winter collection. This choice of fabric would definitely make it a winter outfit too. I still love this idea and I will make it, but not now, not when the weather is clearly getting warmer.

So, there's been a change of plan (I did mention I'm not one to meticulously plan my sewing, didn't I?). The fabric I wanted to use for my spring suit is the one I used before for this dress:

I know it's a bit dark and doesn't seem like a great choice for spring or summer but this is basically linen tweed. It isn't thin but because of the material, it's quite cool to wear. In fact, I haven't been able to wear that yet for that reason.
Being thick linen, this fabric has a peculiar hand, kind of limp and stiff at the same time. And it creases like any linen. Those qualities make it extremely unsuitable for my first choice of suit but very appropriate for the coming season.

So, I went back to looking for suit inspiration and soon settled on this one (which is also on my Pinterest board for vintage suits):

This drawing was published in Libelle magazine in 1956, as an illustration of an article about the proportions of the new fashion (that's why it has the dotted lines which indicate the length of the peplum). A full skirt like this would work well with my fabric and the short jacket works really well with it. I also really like the shape, with the sleeves and pocket flaps cut in one with the yoke. 

I drafted the jacket pattern yesterday. Because this was a sale fabric and I have a lot of it, I decided not to make a muslin. I've cut it out and I'm really curious to see how it will turn out.

April 8, 2015

Fashioning spring?

Does it already feel like spring where you are? Here in the Netherlands, we had a couple of nice days in March but the rest of that month was miserable. It seems to be warming up now though.

As you may know, I'm not really into planning my sewing. Of course, I have a long list in my head of things I would like to make. And if wardrobe needs make themselves felt, the items to meet those will jump the queue. But I don't try and commit myself to certain goals. For me, that takes too much of the fun out of my sewing. Which can make things complicated. Some things I love in theory end up spending a LOT of time on that mental list...

There are a couple of those which beg for attention again this spring.

There's the striped dress with the pleated tiers. I've got fabric and buttons and the pattern shouldn't be difficult. The only thing holding me back (apart from, so far, the weather) is the fear of having too many shirt dresses. Which might be silly because I love them.

Then, there's the idea of a spring suit. In vintage magazines, they always suggest that ladies carefully pick out a stylish suit for the warmer month and wear it for the first time on Easter day. I like the idea but I don't have summer-weight wool in my stash (and let's not even start about silk suiting) and I rather doubt I would have much of a chance to wear such a thing.
However, since last autumn, I have a fabric in my stash that might be suitable. It's linen but a bit heavier than usual and in a grey and black herringbone weave. It would be cool to wear but looks like a sporty wool fabric. Not very summer-y but I'm not sure I care too much about that (not for every single item I make, that is). I've been turning the idea around in my head for a while. All the most sophisticated 1950's style suits have narrow skirts but this fabric is linen so it would crease rather noticeably. And I'd like my spring suit to have some kind of extra interesting feature.

And then I remembered this from my Pinterest board. I found this picture of a grey jersey suit by Pierre Balmain in the magazine Margriet from 7 October 1950 (this was a weekly). According to the text, the panel on the skirt can either be worn as a simple, straight wrap-over or draped and pinned into the jacket pocket like this. I'm not so sure I could get that to work (I've often wondered about 1950's jersey. It's often treated like a woven. Here, some stretch would help with that drape but I wouldn't like to make that clean-cut collar and those pockets in a spongey, stretchy material like that) but I just love the look like this. And because all of the drama is actually in the skirt, I could make a much tamer pair of trousers to wear with the jacket for a very different look.

And then, there is my continued interest in draped and gathered 1940's styles. I have found some fabrics which should work for that. 

Now, I'll just have to decide between this dress from EvaDress (a shorter, daytime version), a design from my late 1940's Lutterloh book, something (even more risky) from my issues of the magazine La Femme Elegante from the late 1930's or drafting my own using one of these two Studio Faro tutorials. Oh, or giving the two repro Vogue patterns I bought years ago another chance. I tried one years ago and it didn't work out but maybe I should just have sized it down...
And all but one of the options would even count towards my Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge.

Speaking of which... If you take part in pledge or follow the posts about it, you've probably already seen this: Marie published the stash interview with yours truly on her blog yesterday. 
These interviews with participants are a new feature in the blog posts about this year's pledge and I was more than happy to take part. 
Reading blogs about (vintage) sewing, I sometimes get the impression that we all seem to be sewing with vintage patterns from the same, mostly American, companies (with the notable exception of the Lutterloh system). While this makes a lot of sense for American seamstresses and bloggers, it doesn't really for anyone who lives in a country which, back in the day, hardly imported those and instead produced its own patterns. 
Maybe it's my inner history geek taking over, but I love the designs and the social history I find in the magazines in my collection. 
I more than understand a stash like mine isn't for everyone. You have to be willing to do some very careful tracing. And be able to sew with little to no instruction. But I love it and I hope you will enjoy this little look in the stash.
Of course, I will continue to share the contents of one magazine or another, every once in a while. 

April 6, 2015

New jeans!

When I first tried these on, I felt a bit silly about my earlier post. The look of these is barely boot-cut. 
I wouldn't have wanted to miss out on the interesting and insightful comments though. It's nice to read about other people's preferences, practices and theories about their clothes. I enjoy trying out different styles and shapes but I tend to stick with a couple of things which (I think) work for me. Like the rise. 

These trousers are fairly basic, based on my sloper, with the usual jeans features and the fit adjusted for the stretch denim. I used topstitching thread (which my sewing machine doesn't really like) for the flat felled seams and on the pocket edges and fly. There's really not a lot to say about these jeans. I think I'll enjoy wearing them though.

I have enough fabric left over for another pair but I may first go back to some other trouser styles.  

April 4, 2015


I hate it when this happens. Yes, I know I'm showing you a ugly picture, taken with the aid of a cell phone picture and a dirty mirror but it makes the point.

This is my lovely new orange skirt. Ever since I made it, I've loved the look, the fit everything (except the slightly restricting hemline).
Yesterday, I washed it. I was a bit alarmed when I took it out of the washing machine and hung it on the line to dry. The lining was longer than the skirt. I reassured myself that some fabrics behave weirdly when they're wet. Surely, drying and ironing would fix this?

I ironed the skirt this morning. That helped a bit but, as you can see, not enough. It shrunk. Mostly in length although I think it got a bit tighter as well.

And this time I really think it shouldn't have happened. Three years ago, when I had just bought this fabric, I made a cute little skirt without pre-treating it in any way (I know many of you may pre-wash all fabrics but my pattern making teacher always taught me it's unnecessary for most and sometimes even causes grain line problems). It was lovely but it shrunk to an unwearable degree in its first laundry cycle. 
So, when I made this new orange skirt, I took care to pre-wash the fabric. Twice, at 40 degrees, knowing that I wash normal clothes a 30. And then, I made my new skirt. That should have worked but it didn't.

It's not even the first time this has happened to me this year (although it has hardly ever happened before. Only with two pieces of jersey which hadn't been washed before). My self-drafted green crepe 1930's style dress underwent the same fate....
That fabric was pre-treated as well, but shrunk anyway. About equally in length and width, in that case. I can still get into it but it's snug now. It should still be wearable if I re-set the zipper (which now has a strange bulge because it didn't shrink).  
I hated that little incident because this was one of my 'holy grail' fabrics and I had agonized endlessly over what to make of it. On the other hand, it was less bad because despite all the hard work, I never really loved that dress and didn't wear it a lot. I regret to say this about such a lovely fabric but this dress won't really be missed.
That's why I despise the fate of my skirt even more. This was a much cheaper fabric and a quicker make but I loved that skirt. I kept thinking of new combinations to wear it in. It was all set to be one of my most eye-catching and hard-working separates. 
I haven't decided what to do now. The skirt is still on my ironing board in the sewing room, mocking me. I could just hem that lining a bit shorter, the zipper doesn't look bad and the fit is a bit more snug but not really anything to worry about... BUT this was made to be my perfect-fitting narrow skirt and I loved it as such. I don't think I want an OK parody of it. I think I still have enough fabric left to make it again. I could do that and have it dry-cleaned in the future... 

April 1, 2015

Normal clothes

Before going on to pick out a 1940's design with pleating or gathers, I stopped considered if there was item of clothing I needed... 
And well, I could do with a spring jacket (although it's still wintercoat weather at the moment and a pair of jeans. 

So, I'm making jeans now. The fabric is a darker version of the stretch stuff I used for my skinny jeans so, again, I'm going for a fitted variety. 
In this case, I'm going for a more classic design: scoop pockets at the front, normal back yoke and patch pockets at the back and a curved waistband, the top of which should hit at the natural waist. And, after some consideration, I cut the legs with a slight flare from the knee. 

I've worn boot-cut jeans for most of my life. By the time they were really disappearing from stores, I had started making my own. It was only when I got some experience with pattern making that I even tried out other styles. And yet,  the boot-cut remained my default shape until about two years ago. There is a pattern I drafted which I made no less than four times... Those were my usual work-trousers too. Which is probably one of the reasons I got tired of the look. I haven't made new flares in the past two years. I've made just about any other trouser shape I could imagine though.

I'm trying again now. I have enough of this fabric for two pairs of jeans and I would like those two to be different from each other. And, with stretch denim like this, it makes sense that both with will be close fitting at the top (which is also a good idea because the fabric turned out to be a bit narrow). I think the other pair will be skinny again but for these, the mild flare seemed like the obvious choice.
Especially because I'm seeing 1970's styles again in magazines and shop windows... I kind of like that look but I'm not sure it suits me anymore. 
Oddly, when I had a look at H&M's website for some RTW jeans to link to, all I could find there were skinny jeans which looked spray-painted on and a few pairs with a 'boyfriend' cut. Despite the fact that I'm sure I've seen flares on display at their stores in town.

Of course, I'm not really worried about being on-trend here. I'm usually far away from RTW trends anyway. I just like to have a wide choice in trouser styles which work for me. 
And yet, seeing those 1970's inspired looks was a reason to cut these trousers the way I did. I don't mind a nod towards mainstream trends. And I have to say I'm curious to see whether this will finally be the trend which breaks the dominance of the skinny jeans. Over the past few years, we've seen other styles come and go without ever really making an impact.

By now, my jeans are almost finished and I'm not 100% sure about them yet... We'll have to see when they're really finished.
Do you have a preferred jeans style?