May 31, 2010

One weekend, two dresses

Although I finished my lovely leather dress last week, I have mostly been sewing for other people lately. Which meant dealing with a lot of issues I'm not used to (like people loosing weight rather quickly...).
This weekend, I really wanted to make something nice, easy and wearable for myself. And here they are: dresses nr. 3 and 6 from my line-up.

Who said I never wear colour? This is a rather bright (picture doesn't do it justice) turquoise viscose/rayon which I bought at the crazy price of 0,50 euro a meter. I liked it hanging free at the back but not at the front, and had made it without side seams, so I sewed a belt and made buttonholes at the side. The partly belted dress is certainly a different look, but I'm not entirely sure about its wearability. I can always wear it belted though.

This dress was made from fairly thick olive-y and thin black knit from my stash. Not very summery in colour, I know, but stash busting was also one of my resolutions... The batwing/kimono sleeves are set in with square points at front and meet in a point at center back (I hope you can see that in the picture). This was one of those crazy pattern ideas which I couldn't get out of my mind. I've known how I wanted the front for months, but couldn't get my head around a good idea for the back until last week. After that, I had to make it, although I thought it would be a hit-or-miss kind of thing. As it turned out, I love it. No doubts here.

Two down, seven to go. And several others waiting in the wings... I think there's a whole flock of retro dresses coming up for this summer, but we'll see.

May 28, 2010

The crazy idea dress - finished

Who still remembers that day, somewhere last week, when I announced my intention to make a strapless dress from a big second hand leather skirt?
It's done now!
Last weekend, I made a muslin for the strapless top and tweeked it to fit well. During the week, when I had time, I carefully cut the skirt. In the end, I couldn't keep that topstitched center front seam and I had to be very careful to keep as much length as possible on the skirt. I used the skirt's original lining to line the dress and a metal zipper from my stash to close it at center back (I tried to take a picture of the back, but there was so much shadow in it, you couldn't even see the zipper). As it is now, there is no boning in the top. It wrinkles a bit when I move around, but in my experience, poly boning wouldn't really help against that and once bent, it would stay bent, making the bulge permanent.

I don't know how much I will wear this dress, it's not what you call a 'you can wear it anywhere' item. However, I am quite pleased with it and with a top and tights underneath, I should be able to get it worn a bit more...

May 21, 2010

Instant gratification project causes headache

Before starting on miss R's suit, as I should, or on my leather dress, as I want to, I thought it would be a good idea to cram in a nice, quick and very wearable top for myself. Sounds like a plan, right?
The weather is finally heating up this week, but near the coast (where I live) the temperature remains at that 'great in the sun and out of the wind, but otherwise just a bit chilly' stage.

I have been thinking about making a striped top for a while and I still had this fabric in my stash. Stripes on kimono sleeves, matched at that arm seam, really seemed like a good idea at the time... Well, right.
I knew there was something wrong with this fabric, that was why I got it very cheaply. You see, the stripes are yarn dyed, however they still manage to be horrendously off grain. I think this is because the fabric was knit in the round and than cut rather carelessly. I tried pulling, I tried washing and drying carefully, I tried pressing. No good. So, for this top, I thought I would just look only at the stripes when cutting. Yeah, time for another surprise. Whether it was like that from the start or got pulled out as a result of line drying, I don't know, but the stripes themselves were not straight... I messed about with it getting the pieces out as well as I could last night. Finally stopping with a bit of a headache.

I sewed the top together today, which didn't bring any new problems, until I could first try it on. I'm not entirely sure I like it. Since then, I added the cuffs, which help, but I'm still wondering if this fabric is just a bit to bulky and stiff for a volumous sleeve like this. Or if horizontal stripes and a pattern like this are just, and always should be, a big fashion no-no. And yet, different combination, move around in front of the mirror/camera and it looks OK... Oh, and it is really comfortable. I will add a strap at the back neckline though, to keep it from sagging forward.
Oh, I guess this is obvious from the pictures, but I completely forgot to mention it: this is a kimono sleeved top fitted to the waist with a surplice back. I don't use this sleeve style a lot, but when I do, I like to make I don't have to cut both front and back on the fold. It takes quite enough fabric already (although in this case, I'm glad to be finished with that stuff)

May 20, 2010

From crazy idea to dress, part 1

This is just a quick sketch of what the dress from the leather skirt should look like. Obviously, the hems will be horizontal. I only noticed just how wonky they were in the sketch when I was scanning it.

The skirt is not just long, but also wide, so the skirt-bit will have to be adjusted to fit at the waistline. I think I can get away with taking it in at the side seams and center back. I will have to make another center back seam anyway because there will be need for a different zipper. I will keep te topstitched center front seam and chop off the skirt at the topstitched horizontal seam. I think I will keep (most of) the original width at the new hemline, so it will be slightly A-line.
The top part will be a very simple strapless top. I know I will not be able to make a perfect match for that center front topstitching, so I'm just not going to bother with it. I will try to match the bodice seams to the pocket edges and back darts.
I'm planning to line the top with grey cotton and sew poly boning along the seams (but stopping the bust at the front seams) if necessary.
The skirt will be a bit mini, just not as much as the one in the picture. I like to be able to sit down without fear for indecent exposure, thank you.

May 19, 2010

Just another crazy idea

Over coffee today, I was looking through an old magazine (UK Vogue November 2009, to be precise. The 'more dash that cash' issue, which I bought because it seemed very promising, but found rather disappointing because of its less that practical approach of the topic and liberal notion of budget. And it didn't include as much of the normal snobbery I find amusing) when this picture caught my eye.

I'm sure I didn't see it for the first time. But I'm equally sure this is the first time it gave me an idea... It may have to do with the fact that a couple of friends have been spamming me all day with plans for a cocktail party... A party involving nice dresses and optional heels...
I mean, this is a nice dress, right? Cute and kind of cool at the same time. If you're model-shaped, of course. Which I'm not quite. I may be skinny, but I don't have those legs. However, it has to be possible to make a more wearable variation.
You see, I've had this giant grey leather skirt in my stash for a while now. It was destined to become two bags, but there are more skirts for that and the whole bag making-and-selling thing got kind of side-tracked a while ago. It is big enough for a dress, look.
On me, the zipper does close. However, that is an open back pleat and those are (in fact rather nice) pockets which would end up on my boobs... Not a good look. So, now I'm thinking: how about chopping it up at the waistband and at that horizontal seam, using the top of the skirt as skirt and making a strapless top bit from the bottom of the skirt (I did comtemplate sewing a fabric top on, like the dress in the picture, but I'm not so sure. It's cute but I could layer the strapless dress over tops, which would be more practical for cleaning purposes).
Oh, and by the way, this won't become little dress no.1, sewing bra-bits is fiddly enough on its own, without the added handicap of slippery, sticky, 'you can't pin this' leather.
So this dress may be up next. Or later.

May 18, 2010

The tale of nine little dresses...

Which, for the time being, exist only in my head and on this sheet of paper. Which I've scanned for your benefit.

These are the spring/summer dresses I would love to make. All of them, right now. The is even a tenth dress, but it didn't fit on the scan and it's a bit of an oddball anyway, I'm not so sure it would work. So for now, nine it is. I even have 'possible' fabrics in my stash for most of them. Although, of course, it's the one for which I certainly don't have any fabric which I want most...
I already know I probably won't even make half of these dresses this summer. After all, I can't be sewing all the time and there are other garment which need/want to be made as well. And that's not even including assignments... However after the succes of the twist-dress, I thought it might be a good plan to share some more of my resolutions for sewing. Especially because I've been thinking about these little lovelies rather a lot lately...

If look you at these sketches (and I'm not at all good at drawing, I know. I used a wire croqui and even with that help, this is the best I can do), you can sort of see I my design/technical mind works. There's a twist-dress variation in there, and a dress with bra-style cups (guess who just adjusted her bra-pattern for better fit?) and although strapless dresses are used by some to avoid setting sleeves, they are kind of new, and therefore a bit of a challenge to me.
I bet I'm not the only one dreaming of way more clothes than I could ever make or even need...

May 14, 2010

Tying up loose ends

There's not a lot of interesting sewing going here, this week. It's more like tying up loose ends. I just finished this skirt.

I copied the pattern from the favorite skirt of a collegue of miss V's. Before you think I've gone crazy and am now sewing for everyone, she will be paying me. Well beyond the cost of the fabric etc. This skirt is sort of a try-out, which she will get at a reduced price. The fabric has been in my stash for over a year, and I know I cannot vouch for the longevity of this woven floral. I bought it because I loved this jaquard-like pattern, but never made it into anything because it just seemed so 'different' for me. Now, I'm starting to like it again. I may just make myself a jacket from what's left.
I'm slightly worried about the match with the jersey top though. In some light, it matches the blues in the flowers rather perfectly. In other light, it ehh, doesn't quite do the trick. I hope she'll like it. The colours in this fabric are just so hard to match (especially knowing that this lady tends to think black stands out too much...)

May 9, 2010

Random update

Hopefully, I'll get around to doing a proper post later today, however, I kind of feel like sharing assorted experiences from last week with you.

First of all, thank you so much for all your nice comments on my twist dress! Of course I'll keep you informed of other developments at that front.

Secondly, sewing for other people... Hmm, how can this be so rewarding and so so frustrating at the same time. Miss V came and went yesterday. She has managed to loose quite a bit of weight and circumference recently, forcing me to alter the dress and corset I made for her. So, both are back on the to-do pile. Argh. However, she loved the look of both, actually sort of appologized for changing shape so much and is really looking forward to these pieces...
And it's not just her, I'm also finally going to make a real start (as in, with the real fabric) on miss R's suit. I will just keep my fingers crossed and hope she will stay at her current size. Which is very good, by the way.

And then, I was helping out at M's this week and we decided we needed another dress for a fashion show for sustainable brands which is coming up this week. She pulled out an old pattern. It was a dress with a one piece body. Not one pattern piece, cut out twice, but really just one piece and sleeves. Of course, it was a free form kind of garment, but a rather interesting one. Two tucks, a center back seam and some gathering... I'm sorry I can't show you a picture, but I don't have any and it doesn't seem right to show you the fruit of someone else's creativity and hard work without her knowing it and approving.
Let's just say this is why I love to hang around there. Still so much to learn. So many other ways to look at design and pattern making. So much experience and flair...

And lastly, for now, how about some more books? Did I ever point out my love for my local library? I should. Most 'nice to look at all those pictures' kind of books and even quite a lot of pattern making ones, I don't buy, I borrow. Some of them again and again. This pile is in my house right now.

It includes biographies of Chanel and Dior, a big book of fashion prints from the 17th till late 19th century, a book on fashion theory, David Page Coffin's trouser making book, another pattern making book and this beauty: Waisted efforts by Robert Doyle.

This is nothing less than a guide to recreating period corsetry (although not the corset in the picture on the cover. that's an S-curve one and although the book mentions those, it doesn't give any information on making the pattern. this might be for health reasons, those things are supposed to bend your back in a very bad way) to size. It is intended for use by costume makers and it is utterly brillant. Just look at some pictures inside:

The book starts by having you create a 'French block', then introduces different corset shapes in chronological order and explains how to create those from the block. It also contains a lot of background information and scale reproductions of 19th century corset patterns.
I haven't made anything from it yet. I just keep borrowing it to read and stare at it all. There are always so many other, more practical things I 'need' to make... Which is also why I haven't yet been able to justify the expense of buying this book, but believe me, I want to. If you are more into corset-making than I am, and you would love to learn more about its history and draft patterns to size (although, to be honest, a majority of the instructions are, like the one above, for Renaissance-style corsets), this book is not to be missed!

May 5, 2010

The twist dress - finished!

Despite this being a very busy week, I managed to steal a moment yesterday to take some pictures of the twist dress. I actually finished it Sunday evening.
Now, I remember why I usually take my pictures the way I do (slightly twisted in front of the camera). The only wall in my house which makes a suitable backdrop for self-timer pictures happens to be bathed in light from one side. If I turn fully towards the camera, all details at the front will get lost in shadows.

I am happy with the dress. The more quiet fabric may make the twist less striking than it was on the muslin, but shows of the overall shape better. I was a bit nervous about using this fabric because it's rather thin and drapey but it turned out fine. I just had to use it. The print, faint blue spirals on a grey background, seemed to be just right for the vintage-y feel I wanted for this dress.
The neckline is deep, but thanks to my shoulder-line fix, it doesn't gape or sag. I went for the horizontal seam at the back, but I don't think it makes much of a difference. To really match it up, I should have curved it more but I didn't want it to go any lower. The sleeves are simple flared ones. I thought about gathering them into cuffs at their hems, but liked the look as they are now. My inspiration for this dress may have come from the 1930's, but I think I have plenty of shoulder in it for this day and age, without the help of puffs or pads.
I kept the skirt on the the long side. I think it sort balances out the neckline.

I'm thrilled at having this twist-thing figured out. This dress may make a rather classic use of it, but I'm starting to dream up other options. I may just stitch up the muslin properly, just for starters. And I'd like to make a top using striped fabric for the twist and adding gathers at a dropped front shoulder. I would like to have fairly wide black and white stripes and plain black for the other parts. And this very dress would be great with a long skirt (maybe without the pleat, I'm not sure yet) and no sleeves. I imagine that dress in a deep red, with the shoulders gathered to something like a strap. And I would really, really like to make very different patterns, experimenting with the twist in other, more unexpected places and shapes.

May 1, 2010

Twist dress muslin

Lo and behold: I'm actually making something I planned to make!
In this post, over a month ago, I told you of my long overdue plan to make a twist dress... and after that, I went on to do other things. Although I seem to do that quite a bit, I'm really happy to have returned to that dress-idea today.
Rather than messing about aimlessly, trying to combine the Burda twisttop and my knit sloper, I studied this post by Karin of Ancien Nouveau. It explains how to construct a twist, follow the instructions of the Japanese book 'Pattern Magic'. I changed quite a bit to get the result I wanted. Basically, in most examples, the twist part is on the bust area. I wanted it to sit between bust and waist, with the lower edge of the upper part curving from the armhole, under the bust to the twist and with the lower part ending well below the waist.

To test the drape, I made a quick muslin top. I used some jersey from my stash which has a print I don't like. That same print makes is rather difficult to make out any details, however, the border print is helping here.
You also may be able to spot the heads of the pins at the shoulder. I will pull up the front neckline quite a bit (you always expect a bit of that, whenever you cut into a sloper to make a V-neck), but after that I should have a plunging but narrow V-neck which doesn't gape any time I move.

Now, I will make the pattern pieces for the skirt. I think I will still want that front pleat, but I haven't decided about the back yet. Usually, I want front and back to be 'related'. For that reason, I planned to have a horizontal seam there, matching the lowest ends of the twist at the side seams. On the other hand, I might just as well leave the back plain and save myself the trouble of matching those seams up.
Any suggestions?
I will also wait untill the body of the dress is finished until I decide on the sleeve shape. It will have to be some kind of short sleeve but at this point there are several options for the exact shape. Plain, puff or with vertical gathers at the hem to name the front runners.
I'll get back to you soon and show the progress!