July 1, 2015

Museum fabric

Do you like fabric? Do you like cotton fabrics? Do you like vintage prints?

If you answered "no" to the first question, I suppose you are here because you got lost... Surely everyone who sews, loves fabric!
If you also answered "yes" to the other questions and happen to be in the Netherlands on 9 July, you may find this event interesting. 

Museum Rotterdam hosts a tour through its archive, focussing on the sample books of the Rotterdam Cotton Company. There are two tours, one at 10.30 and one at 14.00 and they are organized in collaboration with Modemuze (I think I mentioned that website before. They are an online platform about fashion and fashion history on which you can search the costume collections from seven Dutch museums. It is only in Dutch though)

June 29, 2015

Making plans again

At the moment, I'm looking at things and making plans. I have two simple t-shirt-like tops and a pair of shorts which haven't made it to the blog yet but those are not particularly exciting. 
Oh and fortunately, that blue top for my grandmother turned out well, it looks very good on her and she really likes it.

I was all set to make that striped 1950's dress because it would be great for the not very warm summer weather we've had so far but this week, the weather is turning. 
I was also enjoying lingerie making again and I don't think I'm quite done with that yet. Oh, and I could actually use a practical, sort of sporty swimsuit or bikini...  

But right now, I am looking at other things. Vintage patterns. I am considering trying a 1930's look once more. Third time lucky maybe?
I've already brought this up in the We Sew Retro Facebook group and the ladies there gave me some very good advice. The thing is: Those fashion drawings look great but after two failed attempts, I keep asking myself "How would that dress look with hips?".
To make up my mind, I've made a Pinterest board with all those designs from Gracieuse magazine which I like and have a pattern for in a size sort of near mine. 

I already see I should pick the year carefully. In 1930, dresses are still quite loose and the waistline sort of wanders somewhere a bit below the natural waist (still on the way up after a decade lower down). By mid-1931 a waistline is forming. Those dresses often have a bodice which blouses over the skirt at from the waist up. I think that could be an option. Later, you start to see more wide belts. And then, by 1934 those shoulders are really starting show...

I've never been a fan of the giant shoulder look which is why I think I may go for a design from 1932 or 1933. Those dresses often have volume at the top of the body but it's soft, for example in the form of capelets or flounce sleeves.

Gracieuse stopped including a pattern sheet in 1934 and the original owner of that part of my collection didn't renew her subscription. After that year, she seems to have relied on occasionally buying other magazines. So, I have some magazines from later in the decade which still include patterns too. Maybe I should add those to my list of options as well...

Of the things I like so far, many day dresses seem a bit too warm for this time of year. 

I also can't stop loving jumpsuits but I kind of want a dress...

And today, I just realized this: So far, I thought a day dress would give me the best chance of making something which I could wear normally (which is what I want) but I might be wrong. Like in many summers, the maxi-dress is once more a fashionable warm weather option this year. 


So, I wouldn't stand out that much in what is actually a 1930's summer evening gown design... These were even meant to be made in printed fabrics and I think I mostly have printed cottons with the right kind of hand.

June 24, 2015

I really don't know...

I decided to make another top for my grandmother. I've already made her two but in those cases, she showed me the design she wanted and picked the fabric.  The first one turned out great and she wears it a lot. For the second one, she bought fabric without me. A really soft viscose jersey which was a bad match for the jacket-like design she wanted. I did my best but I'm really not proud of the result. And I don't think it gets much wear.
This time, I wanted to surprise her. My grandmother is in her eighties and has all the fit issues you'd expect from a lady of such advanced age: hollow chest, sloping shoulders, rounded back. I made fit alterations on a basic t-shirt pattern when I made the first top but it's still a good idea to think about styles which might flatter. She also prefers tops which she doesn't have to pull over her head. 


I thought some kind of wrap top would be nice. One with gathers or with a collar. I went so far as to draft the pattern for the one with the asymmetric collar.

However, fabric choice was an issue too... For some reason, a lot of the jersey fabric in my stash is grey-ish or black. Neither of those are likely to look good on her. I wanted to buy new fabric especially for this project, but I couldn't find anything suitable. Just a lot of synthetic stuff and really flimsy jersey...

The one fabric in my stash which might work was this bright blue stuff. Fairly heavy cotton jersey with a very soft, sweatshirt-like brushed back. The only problem? I had just one meter of it. Nowhere near enough for that wrap design. 

So, I made a new design. A zip front cardigan with small pleats along the center front. I had just enough fabric for that. But the only separating zipper I could find in a matching colour was this chunky plastic one... For myself, I might have gone with a metal zipper with a zipper tape in a contrasting colour, maybe red. In this case, I thought it might be better to go for the matching one. 

As it is now, the top only needs hemming and some little bits of finishing, like tacking down the facing at the shoulder seams. I can easily have it finished before I see may grandmother tomorrow evening. I just really can't predict whether she'll like it... 

June 22, 2015

New undies

I've made a new lingerie set. In lace with a lovely rich aubergine colour which happened to be very hard to photograph accurately. 

That's part of the reason for this picture on my sewing table. 

It's a strapless bra from my own pattern. I've made it three times before, once strapless, twice as a balconette. Each time, I've made slight tweaks to the pattern. As a result, I think this is the nicest version yet. 
I was going to make this one with straps but I think the amount of lace, lycra and elastic I have should be enough for two bras and three pairs of panties (hopefully four, that would be ideal). However, I only have shoulder strap elastic for one bra. This design can easily be made strapless but the racerback version, which I want to make as the second one, can't. So, this lace bra became a strapless one.

The outside of the bra is fully made from the lace. 

On the inside, there is the foam material (matching the lace in colour) from which I've made the cups and non-stretch skin coloured net. That stuff stands out in these pictures but it doesn't really when I wear the bra. For me, this material has a pretty spot-on skin colour. Like I usually do, I've added bits of boning at the sides and in the lower cups. Both are normal features in strapless bras for larger cup sizes but I like to use that bone in the cup to give it slightly point-y 1950's style shape. 
I sewed the elastic at the bottom behind the lace, to keep the scalloped edge. 

The panties are a new-to-me design. The shape is based on the lace-back thong I've made several times. This one has lace at front and back, sewn unto a lycra crotch piece. I think it looks nice but the rise is fairly low. I may experiment with that next time.
This set looks like it's pretty much all lace, which is nice. For the next pieces, I'll have to mix up those proportions a bit. After I've bought more thread... 


June 20, 2015

UFO... Which UFO?

UFO. Probably the most surprising term an unsuspecting individual can come across on a sewing blog. Of course, most blog readers are well-versed in the lingo but just in case: In the sewing blogosphere, UFO means Un-Finished Object. 
I tend to take pride in not making them. I make something or I don't. Starting and then stopping half-way through is not what I do. I think that attitude is a result of being a pattern maker. It's very understandable for a seamstress to get disillusioned if the project she (or he) has worked so hard on doesn't fit. Or doesn't suit him or her. If you make your own patterns and have done so long enough to have a reasonable idea of what suits you, that's different. 
And yet, of course I'm not immune to the occasional failure. 

Last year, I wanted to make a red dress, a dress with gathers, loosely inspired by the styles of the 1940's.
I managed to find a fabric in a tone of red which actually suits me (most don't). A cotton with a nice, soft hand which made it very suitable for this design. The quality of the fabric wasn't great but you can't have everything, can you?
I made my design, a wrap dress with ray-of-the-sun gathers. I tried to be clever with it too and made a skirt which can't be blown open by a gust of wind. Only the sleeves weren't drafted straight away. With those, I waited to see how the dress would look and how the fabric would really behave. 
After that, I did the hard work, gathering, fusing and sewing. Then, I tried the dress on... And I wasn't impressed. It just didn't seem very flattering. And there was no real way to fix it. 

I put the dress aside and worked on other things. In fact, I didn't look at it for a whole year. Until this year, when I got once more interested in gathered designs. I tried the UFO on again... And it didn't seem so unflattering now. 
I decided I could at least try and finish my red dress. It only needed sleeves and a hem. 

And this is it. Red fabric, wrap style, gathers, flutter sleeves.

Not so bad after all.

And just in case you were wondering about that clever skirt design of mine, this is it:



The over- and underlapping parts of the skirt are connected. It's just one big, wide skirt that folds back on itself. The bodice has a normal overlap. 
It makes for a dress that's easy to wear. I could even ride a bicycle in this one. 

It's still a look I have to get used to but I'm glad I finished this dress. I think I'll enjoy wearing it.

June 17, 2015

Summer sewing in 1932

Today, I thought I would share the designs from one of my vintage magazines. This is Gracieuse magazine nr. 11 from 1932. This magazine appeared twice a month which makes this the first of its issues for June. 
There is a pattern sheet with a few of the designs on it (about a third of them and each in one size only), the rest was available through a mail order service.













All those lovely clothes and then some embroidery designs, recipes and this, an article in the category "the care for our appearance". This week's topic is "sport and beauty" and seeks to answer the question "does the practice of sport make you ugly. Just in case you are wondering, the answer they come to is "No, on the contrary. At least, if sport is practiced in moderation and one steers away from un-feminine sports like boxing and football"


And my favorite design from this magazine? The black-and-white dress in the fourth picture. And the pattern is included, just one (or two) size too big for me. The miniature sketch on the pattern sheet reveals even more of its charm: Those raglan sleeves also form the entire back bodice of the dress. A back bodice which has a cut-out at center back. 
If only I had suitable fabric for it in my stash...

June 14, 2015

Man and skirt

Can you think of a more awkward pairing of words in a blog title? 
If you have any inclination to dress the average bloke in a non-bifurcated garment, you had better avoid the s-word. 
In association, skirts are for women and girls. And even though there's no problem with women wearing trousers in this day and age, men willing to try out skirts are very few and far between. Especially if you keep talking about skirts...

Every now and then, some fashion designer has a go at the man-skirt. Vivianne Westwood and Jean-Paul Gaultier were the best-known trailblazers here but they weren't alone (this article on Modemuze, in English this time, tells more on that topic). This year (in the collections for A/W 2015/2016 to be precise) it's Givenchy and Dries van Noten who try it (images from vogue.co.uk).




And are they even really trying? Both collections exclusively layer their "skirts" over trousers. Givenchy's narrow buttoned skirts end up looking more like insanely long and fitting shirt tails and Van Noten's wrap looks aren't trying much harder. Surely a true skirt is a garment in its own right and negates the need for trousers? 

There were and are, of course, many skirt-like or skirted garments for men in the traditional costume of countries all over the world. Garments which have long traditions and are often only worn in just that way by men (even when the garments for men and women are basically similar in shape, there will be clearly defined differences. For example in the proportions and belting of kimono's for men and women or the material, colour and style of wrapping of sarongs). You'd have to be a very stupid tourist to call items like that skirts or dresses...
For me, in the Netherlands, the best known and geographically closest example of such a garment is the kilt. And I would guess that might be the best-known example for most of you. 


The kilt is an unquestionably masculine garment with many devotees, not just in Scotland. Any quick google search will give you lots of pictures and lots of instructions for sewing a kilt (for general information on the subject, this site is a great starting point). 
If you've seen the episode in the last season of Great British Sewing Bee in which they had to make kilts, you may remember how the very nature of the kilt (made, as it is, from an uncut piece of, usually tartan, cloth) makes it nearly impossible to a woman's body. In fact, although you can buy lots of kilt-inspired women's skirts they are never constructed like true kilts. 

I think we all know kilts are not skirts. This traditional Scottish garment is, at least in common romantic fantasy, imbued with the raw masculine power of Europe's last noble savages: The Highlanders. 
And it is interesting to see how versatile it can be. It can be worn in a very civilized way by male members of the British royal family to show their connection with Scotland but is equally at home as a symbol of non-conformism in the punk scene...
But of course, the real home of the kilt is in Scotland. I've spent enough time there to know that kilts are no longer every-day wear for the vast majority of men. However, lots of real Scots do still own a kilt and wear it for special occasions. And, based on what I've seen, they get to wear them enough to know how to move in such a garment.

Last year, when E and I were on holiday in Scotland, I insisted he would at least try on a kilt. Of course, I knew there's a vast difference between a real made-to-measure 100% wool kilt and the kilt-derived items sold to tourists. 
But E had never tried anything of the sort. And he never gets cold and easily feels overheated. So, lots of wool didn't sound appealing to him.
Towards the end of our time in Scotland, he relented and tried on a better quality tourist version in Edinburgh. That taught us a few things: 1. A waistband at the natural waist really doesn't suit him 2. You really can't just get a kilt. The accessories, sporran, long socks, are an essential part of the look 3. Proportions vary, in men too. This is why proper kilts are made-to-measure and we couldn't get this one to sit right on E 4. E is really not used to the dynamics of a vaguely skirt-like garment.

And yet, he came to the conclusion that it might be nice to have a casual kilt-inspired garment in a light fabric. Just something to wear at home in summer instead of bermuda length shorts. 
And that's what I've made for him this weekend.



I started out by drafting a normal straight skirt sloper and made a toile of that to determine the waistline for the eh... kilt-inspired garment. 
Fitting it was kind funny. E immediately complained about the restrictive nature of the straight skirt shape. In fact, he said it was too tight at the lower hip. It wasn't. He's just used to being able to do things like squatting down or standing with his legs further apart than hip width ;)

Based on the sloper and the result of the fitting, I made a very simple garment, meeting his requirements and loosely inspired on the kilt. 
The rise is much lower than on the waist-high traditional kilts (not a unique feature, there are modern kilt makers who go for a fit like that and so do makers of casual kilt-like garments). To suit E's body shape, I even made to rise higher at the back than at the front. 
The main thing that really makes this not a kilt is that it doesn't have pleats. At all. It wraps pretty much like a kilt, with an overlap of most of the entire front but the room for movement comes from a modest A-line shape. All I did was take the slight curve from the "waist"line down and draw lengthen it in a straight line. Of course this won't make the thing move like a real kilt but it did deal with all of the issues E had with the sloper while still giving a masculine silhouette. 

For the closure, I used three buttons: one on the edge of underlying part of the wrap and two which meet the edge of the overlapping part. 
And to reinforce the kilt effect, I cut, folded at sewed the fabric on the edge of the overlapping front part to show off the selvedge (of course I know the frayed edge a real kilt would have there is not the selvedge but a purpose-made bit of frayed fabric but this cotton-linen material can't really be frayed in such an appealing way and the selvedge does sort-of look the part). 

All in all, we are both happy with the result. I don't expect E will ever wear this outside but he was OK with me taking pictures and blogging about it. As long as I don't call it a skirt ;)
I kind of want to make him a more sophisticated version, maybe with pleats. And/or pockets. Just in case he might ever consider wearing a kilt-inspired garment out of the comfort of our own home...