March 28, 2010

I can always do a bag first...

I'm so happy at least some of you are familiar with chaotic sewing and posting ;)
Yesterday, I was trying to decide which sewing project to tackle first, when my eyes strayed across the shelf in my sewing room where I keep my less useful thriftshop finds... Hats, gloves and small handbags. About three of each.
Now the gloves and hats are all in fine condition but only one of the bags is. The other two were bought together. I was at the market stall one day admiring them for their nice frames and closures when the seller offered me the two for 7 euros... Of course I couldn't say no! They were both made from what looked like plastic coated paper, printed to look like animal skin, and looking very, very tired.

When I saw them on the self now, it hit me: I know you can't reuse a handbag frame which has the bag materials squeezed in (rather than sewn on), but I can always add a layer! The inside of the bag still looked great, and the sides weren't bad at all. It was just the front and the strap.

I took some pieces of thin black leather (once part of a large coat and left over from making the jacket pictured in the banner) and sewed them together so they were large enough to cover the bag. Then, I used spray glue to put the leather on the bag surface. I trimmed the edges to about 1,5 cm past the corners of the bag and folded those narrow edges over (mitering
the sharp corners).

I made a new strap by sewing the longest scrap of leather together to form a tube and turning it right side out. I inserted a piece of not-suitable-for-its-normal-use electrical wired, and sewed along the edges using a zipper foot. Then came the fiddly bit of attaching the strap to the bag frame. I stitched extra bits of leather to the strap ends and glued those around thin straps of leather, pulled through the loops on the frame, they I put rivets in.
The new strap is a bit longer than the old one used to be, so the bag can now be carried on the shoulder as well. I know there's a loose end visible on the strap in the picture, but I glued that down afterwards.

I'm happy with how the bag turned out, but I think it could use some spicing up. I made a button robot but it doesn't look half as cute when it is hanging down (the arms almost disappear inside the body). And maybe I shouldn't have used such dark buttons. I'm not good at decorations, so I think it will take several tries to come up with something. Do you have any suggestions for me?

March 27, 2010

Of plans and resolutions

Ok, I admit, I should REALLY stop promising to write another post 'tomorrow'. Because it seems that whenever I do, something gets in the way. I couldn't even really tell what got in the way this time. The week just went by pretty fast, and loads of different things are going on over here.

One thing I worked on this week was this dress for a friend.

This is my sketch of what I am going to make, based on a sketch she gave me several months ago. I made a first muslin a while back but had a lot of trouble finding the right fabric. I found it two weeks ago: a very nice, not too heavy, black stretch twill and lycra netting for the sleeves. So this week, I made a more serious muslin in a fairly similar fabric for a final fitting.
I wouldn't be so fussy about muslins and fittings when making something for myself but this is nice fabric, she will pay for the dress, I know she has been trying to loose weight since the last fitting and I just want her to be happy with it.
She came over yesterday, so I now know what bits of the pattern need to be
tweaked. Overall, she was happy with it though.

I also promised to post some of my spring sewing plans. Well, I have scanned some sketches, but these won't be the first things I'll make. I'm not great at sketching so some things, I just can't put on paper and I usually don't plan ahead very rigidly. These things however, I've been wanting to make for about a year now, and this time I WILL make them.

First up: my bathing suit!
I've got some good double knit lycra which has a dull and a glossy side. I plan on using both sides for the suit's panels. It is supposed to be inspired by 50's pin-up style bathing suits but made up from modern materials with modern day comfort kept in mind.
I know it's got a lot of coverage for a bathing suit, but I really, really don't mind. Tanning and me never go well together anyway.
By the way, for anyone else who considers trying to make swimwear, this website has loads of useful information (although I think the lady behind it wouldn't rate my bathing suit design at all... she and I seem to go to very different beaches)

Second: a twist dress!
I loved the dress in this picture (from a 1930's Sears catalog), and realised it used the same twist detail as the (in)famous Burda twist-top. Interestingly, the catalog calls it a 'Vionnet drape'.
I made a muslin of the Burda twist top last year, just to try and understand the twist, and found more information about it online. I know how it works now and I should be able to make the pattern (the twist on the dress is not in the same place as the one in the Burda top, so lengthening that is just not an option). I will try it out in a grey jersey with a blue spiralling print.

I am really looking forward to making these, however, first I will finish another shirt for E, maybe make something for my sister as birthday gift and make one or two t-shirts and a pair of belt pleated trousers...
Please tell me I'm not the only chaotic planner in the sewing places of the wide wild internet...

March 19, 2010

A jacket and some planning

I've been working on this before the lingerie-project, but only finished it after that. My (rather un-authentic) version of a Chanel-jacket. I think these things can often be a bit dowdy, but between seeing cool versions on catwalks and in fashion magazines for the past two winters, watching 'Coco avant Chanel' and coming across and lurking around this blog the look started to grow on me. I just had to give it a try. And I still had about 4 meters of this wool/polyesther/viscose boucle sitting in my stash without a clear plan what to make of it.

So a Chanel jacket it had to be. I borrowed Claire Schafer's 'Couture sewing techniques' from the library, but far from followed all the instructions of Chanel jackets. This fabric just isn't worth it.
I drafted my own pattern, as usual. It's a simple fitted shell, cropped to waist length (to make it look a bit younger). I changed the shoulderline a little bit to allow for small shoulder pads. It has two-piece sleeves with buttoned vents (normal jacket-style vents, not the official Chanel-style fully functional ones). It is lined normally (no quilting), the pockets are lined and sewn on by hand, once I find the needed supplies, it will have a hooks-and-eyes closure, the trim was made from the fabric selvedge and sewn on by hand and those golden coloured buttons are sailor-style buttons from my grandmother's button stash.

I think I'll be going on to make more summery stuff from now on. Spring has finally, and rather suddenly, hit the Netherlands this week and all I can think about are big skirts made of light cotton, new trouser shapes in lighter fabric, inventively shaped t-shirts and all kinds of summery dresses. And that bathing suit of course. and sewing for other people.
I may even put the vague spring-coat plan I had back on the shelf. I may make a post tomorrow about the things I definately want to make from fabrics I already have, just to keep myself on track. In that post, I'll also try to answer a couple of questions which have come up in the comments lately.

March 14, 2010

Because there's always more to learn

I don't think anyone has noticed but, unlike many other experienced seamstresses, I've never made lingerie. So far.
The truth of the matter is, I have tried before. I took part in a lingerie workshop which included drafting a pattern for basic bikini style panties (used as a sloper to base other shapes on). Of course, I had no trouble at all with the pattern making bit but I soon found out that my sewing machine didn't agree at all with my new endevour. This was my old sewing machine, which had some 'minor' transport issues. I could work with those, when dealing with woven fabrics. I was even capable (with a lot of time and effort put in) to force it to produce a few items in jersey. But lycra was a different matter and the sewing of stretched out elastic ,
essential to making lingerie, was absolutely out of the question.
Before the workshop, I had already bought some black lycra and different kinds of trim, but after a few tries with the machine, I just had to give up. Especially when M tried out my machine and gave as her professional opinion that it was absolutely incapable of sewing lingerie, and the experience had made her understand my difficulties with sewing jersey...

These things are all in the past. I now own a beautiful, powerful new sewing machine now, and a serger. I even mentioned my intention to sew 'everything, from leather to jeans, to lingerie' when I went shopping for them.
And yet, so far I had not tried again.
Until last week.
The thought of sewing lingerie had started to sneak its way back into my mind for a little while now, and I found myself trying to decide what to do with some scraps of nice blue jersey. Scraps which were not long enough for a top...
The answer was obvious. I have seen it so many times on Wardrobe Refashion and on other blogs: panties! What better way to overcome my fears of sewing lingerie than to start with a more forgiving fabric?

I tried three different shapes, and a variaty of trims. From left to right: thong (fold over elastic and stretch lace), low legged briefs (picot edged elastic and FOE), and shorts (picot and hemming). They're not perfect, but definately wearable and it wasn't as hard as I thought.

Encouraged by the succes of the panties, I decided to take the plunge and try a
bra as well. I made a pattern as a part of the workshop, but unlike the panty pattern, it had never really been tried out for size. I just made it anyway.

The size is Ok, but it should be tweaked for a better fit and shape. I wanted to insert the underwires from an old bra, but found them slightly too long and not the right shape (they came from a push up bra, I guess). As I used the jersey scraps, and stretch lining and trim of which I have plenty more in stash, and an improvised hook and eye closure (and the shoulder straps are hook-on ones from a too big bra), I don't think it's such a loss. I'm very proud it actually looks like a bra, and now I will know what changes to try and make to the pattern.

I will certainly try again. Next challenge: lycra. And I am once more dreaming of making the perfect retro style bathing suit (my own design and pattern, of course ;)

March 10, 2010

Gored skirt tutorial

I've just realised I should use clear titles, for the benefit of those following this blog through rss or google following (or any other gizmos I haven't heard of). Well, I don't think this one leaves much to the imagination...

As promised, this is a tutorial for the purple skirt pattern.
This is not that difficult to make and doesn't require any previous experience with pattern making (to some people, it is even simpler than fitting a commercial skirt pattern).

A bit of a disclaimer before I start: In some pictures, the pattern piece looks a bit distorted, this is due to the camera angle and it's very hard to avoid. In other pictures the lines are smudged, I didn't mean to do that, but I just bought new pencil leads and all they hard at the store were soft ones (very dark, nearly impossible to erase).

1. To draft this pattern you'll need three measurements, and one decision. You need your waist measurement (nr. 3 on the Burdastyle doll), hip measurement (nr. 4). These are both measure going around your body.
Then, you'll need the vertical distance between these two imaginary lines. The easiest way to do this is with help. Place your own hand at your waistline, and have your helper measure straight up to it from where (s)he just took hip measurement. If you don't have any help, or can't figure it out, 20 cm is about avarage for this.
The decision you need to make is your skirt length (waist to hem).
One more thing: of course finished skirt doesn't have to start at the natural waist but for pattern making purposes that is where we start. You can add or substract from the waistline of the finished pattern piece if desired.

2. Divide waist measurement + 1 cm by 10 (e.g. 69+1=70, 70/10=7) and draw a straight line with that length at the top of a large sheet of paper (not too close to the side, this narrowest bit of your pattern).
At a 90 degree angle to this, draw a line. The length of this line is your skirt length.

3. Measure along the vertical line and make a mark at the waist-to-hip measurement. At this mark, you draw a horizontal line the lenght of which is hip measurement + 1 cm divided by 10 (e.g. 93+1=94, 94/10=9,4). The line extends for a similar distance at both sides of the vertical line.

4. Draw lines between waist and hip line. Determine how wide you want your hem (my skirt was about 48 cm long, with 25 cm measured straight from point to point of the flare) and draw help lines.

5. Decide on the shape you want for your skirt. For a gentle bell shape, keep the flare lines straight, for a the twirly look of the purple skirt, curve them a little.

6. Measure along the side line of your pattern piece (use a tapemeasure on it's side for accuracy) and mark the point where it's 0,5 cm shorter than the middle line. Draw a curved hemline.

7. Add seam allowance if desired. Fold the pattern piece in half along the center line and cut it out (this way, you ensure both curves are the same). This is your finished pattern piece.
Now you can decide on the 'waist' line you want. My purple skirt sits 2 cm under the natural waist, but you could go down as far as 7 cm or go higher. If your want to make a high waisted skirt, you can go straight up for about 3 cm but if you go higher, you will have to make the pattern a little bit wider at the top (measure yourself where you want your skirt to end to find out how much).

8. To finish the skirt at the top, you can make a straight waistband ('waist' measurement + 1 cm + 3 cm overlap for closure), sew bais tape along the top edge or make a facing by tracing the top edges of pattern piece side by side, as shown.

Cutting and sewing:
Cut this pattern piece five times out of a double layer of fabric and sew all side seams together. Sew a zipper (of about 20 cm) between two of the gores. Finish the top of the skirt as described above. Hem the skirt, either by making a rolled hem or by sewing bais tape to the edge, pressing it to the inside and sewing it down (I'll show that if there are any questions).

- You are by no means restricted to 10 gores here. The same method can be used from 6 to any higher number you like. Just substitude '10' in the describtion by whatever number you are using. Just keep in mind that the number of gores has to be even (same amount on front and back) and determines the look and style of your skirt.
- In this pattern, the flare starts at the hip, but you can make a mermaid skirt using the same method. Mermaid skirts usually have 6 gores (sometimes 8) and go down in a straight line (or even a bit tapered, if you never need to take big steps) from the hip line to about 10 cm above the knee and flare out from there.
- Of course you could use different fabrics of similar weight. That would work best in a skirt with at least 10 gores and it would be a great way to use up leftovers.
- This pattern is for woven fabrics. If you are using a stretchy woven, you could do without the added centimeters (which are for wearing ease). If you are using jersey or something like that, you can do without the ease and the zipper. In that case, cut out about 3 cm extra at the top and fold that in to make a tunnel for elastic.

As ever, good luck sewing! Drop a comment if you have any questions, and of course, I would love to see your results.

P.S. several people asked me how I painted those boots. The answer is very simple. I used acrylic paint (the same kind you would use on paper) and a big brush. The boots are suede and I treated them with weather protection spray first. Then I painted them, let them dry, checked the paint and touched it up a couple of times and then used the spray again (acrylic paint is water based, that's why). Close up, it's not perfect and the material got a bit stiffer than before but I would never have worn them in the boring beige they were and love them now.

March 8, 2010

Purple skirt from leftovers

Well, here it is, my purple skirt (worn with the boots I painted). I used up all the fabric I had left from making the purple dress. It couldn't be any longer. It couldn't be any wider. It needed to have a (straight) center back seam just to allow me to get all the pieces out of the fabric.

Because I have often made pencil skirts from small bits of fabric and I now this stuff drapes nicely, I decided it had to be a flared skirt. It is made from ten pieces, which are all the same. It's a very easy pattern to make to your own size. I'll make sure there's a tutorial up by Wednesday.

This skirt is great for twirling!

March 4, 2010

Museum tip

If you love fashion (and let's face it, which girl doesn't?) and you find yourself anywhere near The Hague (Den Haag) in the Netherlands in the coming months, don't miss the 'Voici Paris' exhibit at the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag.
It will cover the history of haute couture from the second half of the nineteenth century till today, so there just have to be some marvellous creations on display. Just follow the link to find out what the good people of the museum have to say about it (in English).
By the way, the dress in the picture is by Givenchy and was worn by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's.

I haven't been to see it yet (I heard reports about waiting endlessly) but, with The Hague being my home town, I definately will in a month or so. And I'll let you know what I thought of it.