May 15, 2017

Sportswear in action (once again)

And here are finally the pictures of my new climbing trousers in action! 
Some day, I should ask a third person to either take pictures or belay, so I can show off my me-made sportswear when lead climbing (or, more likely in Dutch climbing halls, toprope climbing). Both of those involve climbing on high walls. The climber wears a harness with a rope attached to it for protection and to lower him/her down after reaching the top (in a toprope set-up, those ropes are hung from anchor points at the top of the wall, when lead climbing you take them up yourself, fixing them to the wall at about 2 to 3 meter intervals). 

Where clothes are concerned, both bouldering (climbing on low walls with thick mats on the floor for protection, which is what I am doing in these pictures) and sport climbing require a huge range of movement but the boulder does not have to consider the fit of clothes under a harness. 

Anyway, in this picture, I am not really trying to climb the boulder properly but you get to see both my outfit and the bouldering wall. 
In most of the other pictures, you can see my design choices are working out: I can bend my knees without baring them and thanks to that gusset, I can get my legs in any position I am capable of, without being held back by my clothes.

I'm happy with these, I guess I'll have to make some more!

May 4, 2017

I'm back!

In fact, I have returned a few days ago, after spending a week at the Gorge du Tarn in the south of France. 

I went there with E and four other climbers (who are to thank for the pictures you see here) and we climbed both in the Gorge du Tarn and the nearby Gorge de la Jonte. In fact, we kind of had to because both climbing areas have mostly routes which are too hard for us. 
We had two days of nice weather but after that, the temperature dropped to just over 10 degrees Celsius (at midday) and we had a lot of rain in the evenings. Not ideal when you are camping.  

Nevertheless, we were able to climb every day. And we loved it. For me, E and two of the other, this was the first time climbing in France. And the first time climbing on real rock for more than two days in a row. 
As a result, I think we all made some progress, getting more comfortable at lead climbing (most climbing halls here in the Netherlands are set up for toprope climbing so that is what we are used to) and at moving on chalkstone. 
In fact, I am really keen to do more outdoor climbing this summer!

I'll just have to reconsider my wardrobe... I bought some items for which the fabrics would be hard to find but I am a bit unhappy with the fit of those. I don't mind a slightly too boxy jacket but I hate the fact that the waistband on my warm outdoor trousers is so low that my lower back gets exposed whenever I sit down or make certain climbing moves. I think I will adjust that pair of trousers, making a new, higher waistband and look for supplier of outdoor fabrics for the future.

April 20, 2017

Sewing for climbing

People wear lots of different kinds of clothing for indoor climbing. Those who just come for a day out often wear their regular clothes while people who practice climbing as a sport usually choose some form of sportswear. There are brands dedicated to climbing wear too.

At the moment, I am usually wearing my old RTW sports trousers (sort of capri length). The trousers I made back in 2015 served me well for over a year but the fabric has suffered too much by now. I do usually wear some kind of me-made top though.
Because I know it can be hard to find the right fabric for sportswear (or outdoor stuff, for that matter), I thought I wouldn't mind buying new trousers for climbing.
And then I found out all you can buy are leggings... (and sweatpants, which are way to warm). Often bright, printed or shiny ones. And don't get me started about so-called yoga pants. Those are just leggings with a slight below the knee. I'm not sure I have pointed this out before but I really don't feel comfortable wearing leggings in a sport in which I am often suspended above any spectators...

Anyway, to make a long story short, I decided I would be better off trying to invent my own perfect version.
I sewed them up in a single evening and wore them the next. They're still on the washing line now, but here is a quick technical drawing:

I used a wide stretchy waistband which turned out to be way too loose (if I had not been wearing my harness, I'm not sure the trousers would have stayed on). I plan on cutting it off, making it smaller and inserting elastic for some added firm stretch.
The fabric I used for the rest is my favorite cotton/linen blend which is really comfortable but might not be durable enough for sportswear. 
I am very happy with the special climbing details I added: The long crotch gusset allows for an excellent range of movement and the pleats at the knees seem to work too. I may just pleat them the other way in the next version (they seem too tight the first time I bend my knees but are absolutely fine once they have been pushed open by that movement).
I will take pictures once the trousers are ready to be put on again...

April 12, 2017


A new pair of retro-style jeans, that's what I promised you, isn't it? 
Well, I finished sewing them before last weekend and I was quite happy with the result. All I needed to do was pose for pictures... 
Which I did, in a bit of a hurry, on Sunday. But sometimes pictures just don't turn out that great. The lighting is rather bad on these (they're just a bit too bright) , my apologies.

I used the pattern I drafted for my favorite calf length jeans. I just made them full length this time. And I adjusted the fit. I ended up taking in the side seams by a whopping 1.5 cm per seam at the hips and waist (so where-ever it is anywhere near close-fitting). 1.5 cm may not sound like much, but a it means loosing that amount on both the front and back pattern piece on both sides. So that's total circumference of loss of 6 cm. If you know that the usual difference in circumference between dress sizes is between 4 and 6 cm, that's a lot. Especially for a custom drafted pattern. Of course, the pattern is a year-and-a-half old and I have been very sporty in that time. Clearly, that made a difference.

I am quite happy with the finished product. I like the fit and the feel of the fabric. I like the retro feel of the design but I'm glad I didn't try to go completely   "period". Jeans with wide legs were worn in the 1940's but those would have a much lower crotch. Despite having the waistband at the natural waist, I went for a much more modern kind of fit. I've tried the vintage style and I kind of like it but I think I still prefer a fit like this. 

As usual, I used flat-felled seams on the back yoke, center back seam and inner leg seams and stitched those with thick, golden yellow jeans thread. 

It's a nice new shape which I am sure will be very welcome in my collection of trousers... 

April 8, 2017

Confession time...

Fellow sewing blogger Tanit-Isis has an interesting statement on her blog (it is written under her profile picture): "Sewing is what I do when I'm cheating on all my other hobbies..."
Nice, isn't it? I don't know how demanding her other hobbies are but for me, sewing was the undisputed first hobby for many years. I didn't bring any sewing with when on holiday and I could sometimes get distracted by machine knitting but overall I was pretty faithful. That is, until some point between now and about two years ago when a sport started to get in the way. I have never been the sporty type but I did really fall hard for sport-climbing (no pun intended).

Now, I also have a more demanding job than before, and my transformation into a climber is still going on. Lately, I have had even less time to sew because I have found something which combines my love for making things with my love for climbing: I'm learning to be a route setter at my local climbing hall!
For the uninitiated, route setters are the people who screw the plastic holds to the wall in artificial climbing areas. Each route is set in one colour and there are different levels of difficulty. And the routes are changed regularly (in this place, a route stays on the wall for about 6 months, unless there is something wrong with it and it taken down sooner). I've set six routes so far and apart from the first one, they are all still on the walls. And I feel like learning with each new one...

This is the card I made for the latest addition:

This blog's namesake! (and for those of you in the know: Here in the Netherlands, climbing halls use the French grading system. So this route would be something like a 6 in IUAA and a 5.10a in the USA) At this climbing hall, route setters do not only get to name the climbing routes they created, they also get to design a card for it. The card should include the route's name and grade but the design is completely up to one's own choices. Right from the start, I thought it would be nice to try and stick with vintage fashion as a theme for mine...

Oh, and please don't be too worried. I might cheating on my sewing hobby but I will never leave it. In fact, I have a new pair of 1940's style jeans to show you tomorrow.  

March 27, 2017

That matching bra

And this is the bra I made to match those experimental panties-with-straps. 

I used my tried-and-tested racerback design but I did make some changes: I used the higher shape for the band, the one which is adjusted to the shape of the underwires. I also cut down the center front of the cup a bit more. On me, this still doesn't look like much of a plunge but it is lower than what I used in my previous two racerback bras (you can see them in older blog posts: the first and second one). 

This may be the first bra I have ever made without lace... Ok, I think I have made a lycra and fold-over elastic bralette once but that doesn't really count. I used the opaque and sheer striped lycra, fold-over elastic and beige-ish foam. The simple look of the materials meant the sewing had to be extra-careful. I had to unpick and re-do the binding on the cups once because the lycra had shifted and bunched a little bit over the foam. It is really rare for me to have to unpick anything because of sloppy sewing work... I'm glad I did it though. The sloppiness of the first try might have put me off wearing this bra and now, I think I will wear it a lot. It is just as comfortable as this design always is. 

March 18, 2017

Panty party

It looks like my sewing is done on a "run or stand still" (this is a literal translation of the Dutch expression. I know it is not a common expression in English but this one doesn't become incomprehensible in translation) basis at the moment. After those nice clothes at the end of January I haven't done much sewing that is worth writing about. 
I made the same very basic t-shirt with cut-on cap sleeves in three different colour of jersey because I had noticed a lack of tops to wear under jackets or cardigan (at least, with the teaching job, I am actually wearing my jackets now). I shortened some second-hand belts to fit me. And I made two pairs of panties.
I may show you the first two projects in the next post but they are not that interesting so I may also not do it. This post is about the panties.

The first pair was made using one of my usual patterns. My self-drafted lace-back thong. I felt I kind of had to make these because when I looked at my lingerie supplies, I found one of the lace pieces already cut. I guess I had cut two pieces for the same side by accident while cutting a previous pair. 
I think I may have forgotten to add seam allowance at the front waistline but I think it will be OK (I really should be more consistent with seam allowance on my lingerie patterns...).

The second pair of panties is a new experiment, based on designs I have seen online, mostly on Pinterest and the Lingerie Addict blog. Basically, it is just my high-waist, low-leg pattern with a big chunk cut out from the waistline to about the height where the top of bikini style panties would be. 
The fabric I used is an interesting (but probably low quality) lycra with thin transparant stripes which I found on sale at the market. All the edges are bound with thin fold-over elastic and the waistband is a type of elastic I would also use for shoulder straps on bras.

I have not subjected this pair to the "wear it all day" test yet but I don't think it will uncomfortable.
It's funny: These actually cover more of the body than many other, more common styles of panties and yet, the strappy-ness makes them look kind of sexy. 
Now, I'll just have to come up with a matching bra design...
In fact, I have had some time to think about this and I will probably make a racerback bra in this fabric but without any extra straps (I'd like a new bra from that pattern but it doesn't lend itself well to adding straps) and keep thinking about the perfect strappy bra design...

March 8, 2017

...and a dress

And here is the last item of my early February sewing spree: It's a dress!
To be precise, it is a dress made from the same fabric I used waaaaaay back, for my last dress of 2010. I still have that dress although it is looking rather worn by now. It is looking worn for all the right reasons: I've loved it ever since I made it and I have worn it a lot. 

The fabric is a peculiar material: I would definitely describe it as 'mystery fiber' with quite a bit of synthetic in it but there is no static cling. There is a serious bit of stretch but it is along the length of the bolt (which is why now, like back in 2010, I have cut my pattern pieces on the cross grain). The base of the fabric is a beige-ish knit with black corduroy-like ridges on the good side. It is quite stiff and has basically no drape at all. The wrong side is sort of scratchy but in a nice way.

For a long time, I thought I would just re-make that first dress but somehow I never did... Maybe it just didn't feel quite right to do that.
I'm glad I finally made another dress from this material (and I think I even have enough of it left for another one...) 

Because the fabric is nearly back, it hard to show the details in a picture. So, I thought it might be better to include a technical drawing. 

The new dress has long raglan sleeves, a fitted bodice with princess seams and kick pleats at the back and a casual sweater-style short zipper and collar.

And I have to say it is just as comfortable as the old dress. 

March 4, 2017

Skirt tutorial!

When I posted some pictures of my blue skirt on the We Sew Retro Facebook group, some commenters asked about the pattern... 

I usually mention that my clothes are self-drafted but I forgot to add that this time. Of course, like all full skirts, half-circle skirts are easy to draft. And splitting the skirt pattern into gores and adding a pocket aren't exactly rocket science either.

The starting point for this skirt is simple (and very similar to drafting a circle skirt). You only need one measurement: the waist (with any ease you may want added to it. If you want your skirt to sit below the natural waist, use the measurement of that point on your body. Just keep in mind that a straight waistband might not work so well in that case).
To find the radius of your half circle, use this formula: (waist measurement x 2): 6.28
It's the formula you use to calculate a circle skirt, times two. Use this number to draw the waistline of your skirt.
Measure from the waistline down to determine the length of the skirt

If, like me, you have used the corner of a piece of paper as your starting point, you now have a pattern which will give you a custom-sized half circle skirt if you cut it on the fold and add seam allowance at the open edge. 
I usually don't cut skirts like this in one piece, it's not very economical. I normally split the pattern in half and cut one half on the fold and the other half in the other direction along the selvedge (which gives me a skirt with sides seams and a center back seam). 
Using this fabric, I had the nap to think of though (and piecing skirts which are segments of circles changes the grainline which influences the drape of the skirt) so I halved those to pieces again.
Four pattern pieces, for a skirt made up of eight gores.

And then, there is the pocket. Adding pockets to a gored skirt is simple: Just take one of the gores (which now becomes the side front) and draw a line where you want the top of the pocket to be. I like to place it at an angle. Also determine how deep you want the pocket to be and draw its bottom edge.

To make the fold-back flap, first draw it in where you want it to be in the finished product (the blue lines). Then, mirror it over the pocket top edge.

If you have done this, you just have to cut the pieces correctly: You should end up with a top piece/back of the pocket (top of the gore, down to the bottom edge of the inside of the pocket, to be cut from your fashion fabric), a bottom piece with flap (lower part of the skirt with what will become the underside of the pocket flap, fashion fabric) and a piece for the inside of the pocket and the flap (I usually split this piece. I cut the flap and a little bit more from the fashion fabric and interface that. The rest of the inside of the pocket is cut from a lining material) 

When sewing the skirt, you will have to decide whether or not you want to sew the flap into the seams (I did this on the front seams). In that case, you only have to sew the bottom edges of the flaps. If you want free-hanging corners, you also have to sew to side. Sew it to the exact point where the flap ends and clip the seam allowances to that point. That will allow you to turn the flap right-side-out while still having normal sides for your skirt seam.

And of course, you will need to finish the waistline. For a skirt which is worn at the natural waist, I like a straight waistband of about 4 cm high. If you want to wear the skirt lower, that might not work so well. In that case, you could also finish the top edge with a binding or make a shaped waistband.

I hope this description helps if you want to make a skirt like this. As usual, if you have any questions, just ask (just remember to give me a way to reply to you directly or you'll have to check the comments to this post regularly) and if you make something using this tutorial, I'd love to see the result! 

February 22, 2017


Sometimes, there is really no reason to try and be original. It can be very nice to just make something which is very typical for an era in fashion that you like or even for your own 'signature look'.

I think this skirt is like that. The shape, a half circle, would not have looked out of place in the early 1950's (when high fabric cost kept hems in everyday life narrower than you'd expect by looking at the couture creations of the time). The pockets, with their folded-back flaps suit that style too. 

And personally, I've always loved half-circle skirts. Nicely full but more economical and a lot more practical than their full-circle relatives. For example, riding a bicycle in a half-circle skirt is fine.

The only special thing about this skirt has to be the fabric: A mid-weight, fairly stiff corduroy in a lovely sky-blue colour. Although the pile of this particular corduroy is really low, I treated it as a "fabric with nap" anyway. I cut the skirt in eight gores which were all cut out of the fabric in the same direction. Of course, this way to cut the skirt also made this pocket design possible. 

There is not much more to say about it really... It's a fun skirt which will work well with lots of different tops. 

February 19, 2017

New loose shapes

This past month, I have been sewing and I have enjoyed it... It just took me a long time to take pictures of what I had made. I finally caught up. Today, E took pictures of three different new garments. Actually, four new garments but two of those are in the same outfit. That's the one I will show you today.

I've had this heavy mystery-fiber (definitely synthetic but luckily without static cling) crepe in my stash for a while. Originally, I had it earmarked for a dress with elaborate draped and pleated details but I never quite got around to making it. I think I was right not to. This stuff is too bulky for such use. So, some weeks ago, I decided to make something else I liked the idea of: Retro-style very wide trousers.

I always liked the idea of culottes/trousers and I have made a pair before. And now that my increased level of exercise (all that climbing!) has made me loose some of the roundness on my hips, they look even better than before.
So, I thought that would be a great use for that fabric. And did I mention I love the colour? That bronze-ish tone tends to look very good on me and it can be combined with so many other colours I like!

The previous pair of full-length culottes were drafted as culottes, based on a skirt sloper. This new pair isn't, these are actually very wide trousers. The only real difference is in the shaping of the crotch seam and in the angle of the center back seam. 

I also made a better informed choice about the pockets: The old pair had in-seam pockets. Not the best choice in a garment that is at its most fitted from waist to hip. Here, I have made slightly curved slanted pockets.

Oh, and I didn't want to make a fly front in a fabric with so much drape. Nor put a zipper a the side seam, come to think of it. So, the closure of these trousers is another of my odd zipper-less inventions. There is a button on the waistband at the left pocket, not a the right side. The inside of the left pocket extends to center front and is buttoned to the inside of the waistband there. So, the trousers open far enough through the side of that pocket for me to get in and out of them. 

Making these trousers, I was thinking about vintage lounge pyjama's, like these from Beyer's Mode from 1937,

or these from Gracieuse magazine from 1931.

I have some patterns for those but I drafted my own anyway. I have studied the patterns of those 1930's examples and they all have very loose and low fit at the crotch. I didn't really want that here, I think it would have made the trousers less wearable in a "normal" setting...

Oh, and I also made the top (this is not a great picture, E took it while I was putting on my shoes. It looks a bit odd but it does show my work with those stripes). I used the loose fitting, dropped shoulder shape I made earlier this winter and tried my best at matching those very thin wavy stripes (and gave up on that half-way through). It's simple and comfortable and in this thin jersey, it is perfect for tucking into high waistbands. 
The combination is quite loose all-over by standards but I still really like it. There is a sort of laid-back glamour about wearing lots of flowing fabric... 
And I actually like the idea of these trousers so much that I'm already dreaming up lots of other outfits to create using them. Outfits for which some parts still have to be created...

February 5, 2017

Back in time again!

It's been a while since I shared any vintage goodness here. How could I forget to do that!
I'll try to make it up to you.

Today, I am happy to present an issue of one of my favorite Dutch sewing magazines: Bella, het nieuwe modeblad (= Bella, the new fashion magazine). Bella is a favorite of mine because, unlike many other magazines of the time, it includes all the designs which are printed in the magazine on the pattern sheet. Just in one size each though (I have yet to find multi-size printed patterns pre-dating the mid-1960's).

This is the first (of two) January issue of 1954. I'm not sure this coat with the crazy chest pockets is a Bella design. The covers of Marion always showcase designs readers could make for themselves but Bella is a bit inconsistent with that. 

On the reverse of the cover, we have this "big sister, little sister" feature. The looks for the big sister are in small(ish) lady's sizes.

Then, there are sporty coats for men and children,

and this issue's "four variations to draft from these instructions" feature (I once made a blouse using one of these. It worked way better than I had expected. You can see the blouse itself here. I shared the pattern for it in this post and another one, a dress in a larger size, here).
If you are wondering if there is something wrong with the illustration because the skirt on the dress on the left seems wider than the other ones, there isn't. This pattern includes instructions to turn the skirt form sort-of-pencil to A-line. 

This is another "one pattern" two options feature. It includes two patterns for what is basically the same design in different sizes. They both have a dropped shoulder which can be used on its own or with an added three-quarter length sleeve. 

This spread includes some of the most interesting designs in this issue. You may even have seen it before because I tried out one of these patterns for last year's Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge. The toile I made of the second dress from the left is still on the dummy in my sewing room. I still don't really know what to do with it. I've just never been able to decide on the right fabric for it.

Then, there are designs for children,

and the inevitable nightwear. Really, it never ceases to amaze me just how often all these vintage magazines feature "lingerie", by which they usually mean pyjama's and nightgowns. Maybe I should try one of these designs some day but... meh. There are so many more interesting things to sew.

And then there is a knitting pattern. And quite a serious one at that. A whole dress, with a full-ish skirt. Did anyone ever really make one of these? It must take forever to knit and surely that skirt would be quite heavy... I really should ask my grandmother.

And after that, on the inside of the back cover, there are the most glamorous designs: Two cocktail dresses with a stole and a bolero. They are supposed to be made from silk with details in georgette, organza or tule.
If only I ever had excuses to wear things like this...