Sunday, July 27, 2014

"watercolour" floral lingerie set

Another lingerie set, and a new-to-me bra pattern.  This is pattern 2610 for a balconette style bra by makeBra, a Finnish lingerie pattern company.  The two pairs of matching knickers are my usual McCalls 2772.
The watercolour fabric is from Fabulous Fabrics.  When I made my floral birthday dress last year, I originally wanted to make a lingerie set from the fabric and was talked out of it.  Obviously I do not regret making that dress instead; it's one of my favourites! but that floral lingerie set was still in my head, crying out to be made.  I really really wanted realise it, too.  So recently I snuck out and sneakily bought 50cm of a different splashy floral stretch knit and quietly made it without showing the fabric to anyone who might talk me around hehehe...  Note to self; 50cm is the perfect length to cut out a bra and two pairs of matching knickers.
The makeBra pattern; well, I LOVE it!!  I've been hankering after a balconette style bra, one designed specifically for a foam lining.  I really do prefer a foam lining. All my current bras are made using KwikSew 3300 which is an absolutely terrific little pattern, but it's not specially designed for a foam lining.  I usually forced a foam cup lining on it, found a way to make it happen, but it was always flying against the spirit of the pattern, if you know what I mean.
I bought a paper pattern in one size, which is a money saver.  You can get it in a multisized pattern if you're not sure of your exact size and that costs more.  I'm familiar enough with my needed size that I decided to go with the single size  and I'm happy to report that it does fit me beautifully and the sizing is spot on.
At the same time I bought two basic lingerie kits; black and ivory.  THESE ARE FABULOUS!!!!!
It was a real pleasure, and so much easier, to sew a bra using such high quality materials and findings.  Up until now I'd been making my own shoulder straps and underwire casings as per the KwikSew pattern instructions, and using rings, sliders and underwear elastic from Spotlight, which is meh, kinda-ok standard.  Hey, absolutely nothing "wrong" with that of course, but now my eyes have been opened to how using proper underwire casings and really nice lingerie elastic is SO MUCH BETTER.  I'm talking rtw quality here.
The makeBra website also has this absolutely brilliant video where you can watch someone making a bra.  I was soooo impressed at how quickly and easily that girl whizzed up a beautiful bra in the video, I cannot tell you.  Gobsmacked.  It was a revelation!   On viewing that video I realised how difficult I'd been making it for myself, by using less than good quality materials available and "making do".  She didn't even pin her underwire casings anywhere to sew them on, compared to my homemade, bias-cut, double folded voile underwire casings requiring 7000 pins to hold it evenly in place.... man!   Well, now; I know.  I didn't use pins either this time and I think the finish turned out pretty nice!
And her machine...  *drool*  My poor little old Janome is nowhere near that smooth.  But I'm banishing any and all machine envy thoughts.  I love my dear faithful little Janome.
I do have one tiny hmph with the makeBra pattern; you have to go to the website to get the full instructions, including elastic lengths etc.  I mean, no real biggie, I've noted the relevant elastic lengths in with my pattern now, but would it have been really so hard to include that info in with the pattern?  What if your internet was down when you wanted to use your new pattern?  I would say that is my one pet peeve with modern-day online pattern services: I think when you buy a pattern, you should get with it everything you need by way of instructions, and you should not have to search through some website to find necessary information.
But small grumps aside; essentially a fantastic pattern, went together like an absolute dream.  There will be lots more of these in my life  :)

Friday, July 25, 2014

Cocoa silk georgette dress

Ok, so I'm on the fence... I'm not sure if my new dress is just an ultra feminine style that I'm not quite used to it yet, or um, sorta hideous.  I hope it's not hideous, that would be pretty tragic considering I've poured a massive amount of meticulous fiddling into this thing.  And silk georgette too, grrr.  Like, only the most difficult freakin' fabric ever!  
A recent Vogue magazine editorial informed all of us bright-eyed, eager and devoted little fashion mavenettes, aka their readers; that a longer, elegant tea- or midi-length was the Next Big Thing in dresses and skirts.  An edict accompanied by loads of pictures of lovely young things striding the streets trailing beautiful long fluttery floaty tea dresses in their respective wakes.  Well, I was inspired!  aw hells yeah, I definitely need to get me one of those badass elegant tea dresses so I can look all freakin' feminine and ladylike, yo!
Et voila.  But hmmm.  Technically speaking, this dress is rather lovely, if I say so myself; I put a lot of effort into finishing as well as I could; doubled-layered the bodice with all seams enclosed within the layers, French seams throughout and a hand-rolled and -stitched baby hem around that long looooong lower edge.
The dress looks charming on the model on the envelope but not as tea-length as I was envisioning, so I lengthened all the skirt pieces by 15cm.  Maybe that was a mistake, although I still think the length looks quite lovely on Bessie.  Maybe a little Pride and Prejudice, or 70's Faye Dunaway or something.  I should get one of those wide brimmed felt hats maybe...
The front skirt panel is supposed to be cut wider and heavily gathered into the front of the bodice, and if you think it looks a bit fluffy in this version you should have seen it with those gathers!!  I painstakingly unpicked that middle panel and re-cut it narrower at the top to fit the bodice portion assigned to it, eliminating all the gathering.  The skirt is a LOT more sleek now, believe it or not!
The sleeves at their intended length were a bit puffy and perky and juvenile for my tastes,  so I carefully picked those off too and re-drafted and re-cut new ones.  My re-drafted sleeves are 16cm longer than the pattern and have had the sleeve cap flattened a little AND reduced in length to eliminate nearly all gathering to fit it to the arm scye.  I do like my modified sleeves a lot, actually one of the few things about the dress with which I'm unequivocally happy.  I LOVE the interesting cross-over sleeve cuffs.  In fact these, along with the petticoat pattern are what seduced me to buy the pattern in the first place.
 So maybe it's the empire waistline?  I think maybe empire waistlines are not for me...  But you know, a lot of work went into it so I'll wear it.  It actually looks quite nice if I throw a coat over it, haha; like how I'm wearing it today!  The hemline is quite pretty, I think, and looks quite satisfyingly fluttery around your legs as you walk.  And it looks rather gorgeous while twirling too, although sadly my days generally involve very little girly twirling.  
Obviously I reserve all rights to suddenly decide I love it sometime down the track.  I do that sometimes because I'm, like, capricious and flighty.  When it suits me.  And if feminine floaty, twirlicious tea dresses do become the dernier cri then I'm well prepared!

Oh, one more thing; I have another copy of this pattern to give away to a reader.  When I ordered the pattern from Club BMV, for some weird reason I ordered two patterns exactly the same.  When they arrived I thought Club BMV had made a mistake, but then I checked my own record and oh deary me, it was all me.  I had clicked "2" in what I hope was late night fuzziness and not early dementia.
Anyway if you would like a pristine brand new copy of Vogue 1160, sizes 6-8-10-12 and still in factory folds, then please leave a comment on this post stating so, and next Tuesday 29th July I will randomly select a winner.  

LATER EDIT: thank you all very much for the kind comments and the great styling suggestions and I will be sure to try wearing the dress with different shoes in the future  :)  I drew a winner the old fashioned way...

Dress; Vogue 1160, pale cocoa brown silk georgette 
Petticoat (under) ; Vogue 1160, dark chocolate brown silk charmeuse, seen here
Tights; Kolotex
Boots; Sempre di, from Zomp shoes

Friday, July 18, 2014


... mm mmmmm, it looks just exactly like Bessie has had a giant big vat of melted chocolate poured all over her, yes?
So, after I cut the pockets out of this delicious chocolate brown silk charmeuse for my suede jacket I wondered if I still had enough of it to make up what I had originally earmarked it to be.  Which was a petticoat.  So I just went ahead with it, whimsically; since I actually have no designated thing to wear it under yet and now it's hanging all alone on its hanger in the wardrobe.  An orphan, a sad and lonely little thing, the petticoat with no dress.  And it's such gorgeous fabric too.  Shimmery soft and delightfully whispery against the skin.  I'm going to looooove wearing it, one day.  
Maybe I'll be totally, wickedly, gloriously self-indulgent and give it to myself for a summer nightie this year.  Maybe.  If I'm good  ;)
The fabric was from Fabulous Fabrics and the pattern is Vogue 1160, which is really a dress pattern.  This is the accompanying petticoat, which is a very nice, quick and simple little pattern.  The pieces are all cut on the bias which makes for a beautiful drape.  I looked at the underbust darts on each bodice piece; two of them, both quite wide, and just had to laugh.  Not with my bust!  I eliminated some bodice width by folding the pattern piece a little between the 2 dart markings and in lieu of darts gathered excess width into the relevant area of the skirt front.  Silk charmeuse gathers just beautifully and imo the soft gathers are prettier and look much nicer than a dart.
The side seams are sewn in French seams and the shoulder straps are tiny spaghetti straps.  Turning out skinny straps is usually a pain in the neck, but not with this slippery stuff which turns out like a absolute dream.  A dream, I tell you!!  
I almost feel like making another one straight away just so I can turn out more spaghetti straps.  :)

Friday, July 11, 2014

my Milanese Panther dress

Not the real Milanese panther of course which I understand is a very rare animal...
I bought this fabric in Milan during our trip there two years ago.  I realised after making up my caramel suede from Denmark that, well *blush* all of the fabric I bought on our Paris/Italy trip was still sitting in my stash virtually untouched.  It's a bad habit of mine, buying precious fabrics and then finding myself completely unable to cut into them.  Fear of destroying them, you know.  Fortunately this beautiful fabric has been successfully not-destroyed ....I don't know whether to call it velvet or fur, it's not really like one or the other but a kind of hybrid of both.  Thicker and more directionally "brushed" than velvet, and lighter than most furs.  The pile is deep midnight black over a brilliant, almost neon, rusty-orange backing that reveals itself in the folds of the dress and in motion as sort of inner fiery glow, like the embers of a dying fire.
please excuse that a vampire appears to be wearing the dress here but instead note the interesting inner glow and the luxurious velvet-y furry pile of the fabric, as mentioned above..
The pattern is Vogue 1220; and the design is, in short, lovely.  In not-short; it achieves the trifecta of interesting and feminine and figure flattering; the neckline is pleated into a softly draped shawl collar with a slightly retro feel in its volume, the wide belt cinches the softly blowsy cocoon shape into a tiny waist, and a pegged hemline accentuates the hourglass effect further.  I wasn't keen on that tie belt at first, especially the way it's been tied like a big juvenile birthday-bow in the middle of the model's tummy on the pattern envelope; but the dress does look nicer with the extra waist definition that a wide belt gives and I like it wrapped around twice and with the ties hanging down at the back like this.  
The tie belt is supposed to be unlined and simply finished with a narrow hem, meaning the wrong side of the fabric is exposed.  And the bright rusty-orange reverse of my fabric would have shown in a very distracting and very not-good way!  So I underlined the belt using a very thin, slippery black poly-crepe from Fabulous Fabrics.  
Also I like my winter-y skirts to be lined, so I improvised a lining for the skirt portion of the dress, using the same poly-crepe.  It is cut the same as the skirt parts of the pattern pieces, the pleats and darts simply folded in position and the top edge sewed right sides together to the back skirt/ back seam.  The skirt lining fronts have the raw edges turned under and are hand stitched invisibly to the dress front, and the raw edges of the lining at the side edges and lower edge are encased within the folded back front facings and the hem facing pieces.  I hemmed the skirt facings by hand, to the skirt lining.
The pocket linings are cut from the same poly-crepe; and due to my improvised lining the pockets are nicely hidden away between the layers of the skirt and lining, as seen above.  Or not seen, I guess...
The sleeve cuffs are supposed to be folded out so the wrong side of the fabric shows on the outside too; instead I sewed them in a deep inside hem, which I turned back outside on itself and hand-stitched invisibly in position to the sleeve about 0.5cm inside the edge of the cuff.
How is it to wear? Well... first outing, I wore it out to dinner and found that when seated a little more inner/upper thigh is revealed than I am comfortable with!  And also that attractive pegged hemline does make the skirt rather tight around the thighs, which, if you want, can be easily and quickly remedied by some discreet bottom-button undoing.  Leading however, to even more revealing.  Thank goodness for tablecloths and the ginormous linenware that restaurants drape across your lap!  
Anyhoo, I rapidly formed the opinion that a separate petticoat or slip is pretty much an essential accessory for this design.
So: upon getting home I dug out of my wardrobe an old black satin and lace petticoat that I made about seven? eight? even more? years ago using NewLook 6035; I've re-hemmed it to the requisite length and will wear this underneath.  
I'm actually super happy about this, to be honest it's actually an absolutely brilliant turn of events ... why? because I pretty much haven't worn this black petticoat for years.  Years!  But I've hung onto it, thinking surely! it'll come in handy again, someday!  And now it has!  Finally!  Woooooot!
Just to give some perspective to the issue: seated, with petticoat... see wot I mean? Essential!!

Dress; Vogue 1220, black/orange brushed velvet
Petticoat; NewLook 6035, black satin and lace, first seen here
Shoes; Zomp, from Zomp shoes

no real reason for this picture other than that the sun broke through the clouds and I just liked it  :)

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Caramel suede cardigan/jacket

o hello  :)
I've made a suede cardigan for myself, or is it a jacket?  The pattern says "jacket" but I tend to think of jackets as being kinda involved, time-consuming things to make, with lining and so forth.  While cardigans are unstructured, unlined things one can whizz up in a blink of an eye.  Which actually describes this thing pretty well.
The pattern is jacket 132 from Burda style magazine 11/2012, which Philippa sent to me in a giveaway, thank you so much Philippa!  I lurve Burda magazines, the designs are usually both interesting and stylish, the cost per pattern is very very low, and still not bad even if you do only make a few things in an issue.  I reckon they deserve to be a heckuvva lot more popular than they are.  You don't need every issue but I generally get maybe one magazine in a year and manage to make several things in each one.  This design caught my eye straight away, and was firmly in my mind when I bought my leather.  I actually made a muslin for it, which is only worth mentioning because it's such a rare thing for me to do.  Well my leather was kinda precious and I did not want to stuff it up!  I did a minor sway back adjustment and shortened the bust darts by a few inches.
I used my two pieces of caramel brown pigskin, bought in Copenhagen on our trip.  I liked both sides; the smoother, leather-y side has some interesting brand marks, but the suede side has the most glorious, rich caramel colour.  Colour trumped brand marks.
The cardigan is quite long in the body with wide-ish front flaps so it took some layout wizardry to get the pattern pieces out!  I re-laid the pieces down over and over and over again, trying to fit them all in and cut it with the skinniest little 5mm seam allowances.  I did have to do just one little fill-in piecing on the left back back, but I managed to position this at the very top, centre back, so it's as un-noticeable as I think it could possibly be!
The pattern has pockets; which I cut to be nice and huge, to accommodate my nice huge hands, hehe.  Burda magazine patterns have the teeniest tiniest child-sized pockets of all, I swear.  Very cute, but seriously?!  Maybe it's just me; I like to plunge my hands right down deep into my pockets  :)  I used chocolate brown silk charmeuse, which I fortuitously just happened to have in my stash already,  hanging around, in the perfect colour, you know, as you do  ;)  Hopefully cutting those pockets out of it won't mean I now don't have enough for it to fulfil its original destiny.
below left; I have no idea why the colour is so off in this picture here, but... pocket! 
The pattern called for a waist tie, to be sewn in the side seams.  I preferred the idea of a separate belt that I could wear or not wear, whichever I wanted, however whim and whimsy struck, and not to have the ties dangling uselessly and annoyingly at my sides whenever I was wearing the cardigan loose.  So I put little belt loops in the side seams, seen at top left in the picture above, and made a very long skinny belt as a separate thing.  This has tonnes of mad bias-cut piecing  all along it, as I was dealing with mere scraps of leather by the time I had cut out the main pieces of the jacket.  But I don't think that matters much, you can barely see all the joins when it's on. This is simply folded in two lengthwise and topstitched.

I think worn loose, as at top, it looks quite modern, and with the waist tied up it looks a little bit boho 70's, yes?

I am very happy with, and am very much going to enjoy wearing my Copenhagen souvenir!

Later edit: some technical details on sewing with leather, and thank you so much to Erica for asking  :)
 This is the first leather thing I have made so I learned a few things... I used a denim needle and regular polyester all-purpose thread, and used paper clips to hold edges together in lieu of pins. Lots of experimenting to get the tension right, I ended up with a medium-loose tension and a long stitch. The leather didn't move through my machine very easily, so I used strips of tissue paper while stitching the seams, which helped a lot. Fortunately, this jacket had few seams! I used tissue paper both top and bottom, and did this by folding a wide, single strip and wrapping it closely around the edges before clipping it all together with paper clips, then sewed the seam; which was easier to hold in place than I imagine two separate strips would be, and also made it easier to follow an even seam allowance while stitching too.  
For short seams, like piecing the belt pieces together; I started stitching from halfway along and ended at the edge, then turned the piece over and stitched the other half of the seam from the same halfway point to the other edge, because my machine didn't like "starting" on an edge, and behaved badly on these. If I was to do more sewing with leather I think it would probably be very well worth getting a teflon foot for my machine, which will enable the leather to glide through more smoothly.

Cardigan; Burdastyle magazine 11/2012-132, caramel pigskin suede
Jeans, Burda 7863, white denim, details here and my review of this pattern here
Tshirt; self-drafted, white cotton jersey, details here
Socks; hand-knitted by me, details here
Shoes; Francesco Morichetti, from Zomp shoes

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

On tights and socks...

After wearing only my own self-made tights throughout 2013 during my year of all-handmade, I have worn some RTW tights a few times lately.  And made a surprising discovery.

I actually prefer my self-made tights.
Funny, hmm?  One of the things I had been most looking forward to was getting back to wearing RTW tights again.  For some reason I think I had convinced myself that factory made, seamless tights would be sooooo superior; comfier, warmer, better fitting.  And NO inside leg seam, hurrah!  Life was going to be so great once I ditched those!
Well, nice, smooth, perfectly seam-free legs is a plus in the looks department, I grant them that; but otherwise I've found myself strangely disappointed with my RTW tights, almost immediately.  The fit is horrible.  I buy my designated size Talls, but find they still sink at the crotch over the course of a day, which is hyper annoying.  Meaning I have to find a discreet moment to hoink up each leg and redistribute them every now and then.  Annoying!
I have never had that problem with my own self-drafted tights.  I guess I had forgotten that a sinking crotch was ever a thing, at all!
Perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised.  After all, my self-made tights are drafted to fit my legs perfectly, so um, they do.  Most RTW tights have two unshaped tubes for legs, the same circumference from thigh to ankle.  Obviously most women's legs do not have the same circumference all the way down.  My own tights are bigger around the thigh, going in to smaller around the knee, going out to a bit bigger at the calf and shrinking in to skinnier around the ankle again.  What this means is that the tendency for an elasticated thing to migrate to an area of lesser girth, like from the thigh and down to the knee, which is what happens inevitably in an unshaped RTW tight; is not an issue.
The inside leg seam that is an unavoidable feature of my own tights; well undoubtably it is a less perfect look.  But it is also a helpful aid to putting on the tights correctly.  When you have a featureless tube it can sometimes be difficult to keep the legs straight and also to tell where you put your heel the last time you wore the tights, and they can easily get twisted up.  You never ever have this confusion with an inside leg seam there.
So I'm eating my own words, and as my current crop of rtw tights start to hole-up and die I might just go back to making my own again.  Ha!

In related news, I've been checking out the old sock drawer and found ew HOLES! the horror!  A whole bunch of poor sad hole-y socks were shoved hastily and lazily back into the drawer undarned at the end of winter last year and forgotten about.  Out of sight out of mind.  Bad me.
Fortunately I like darning; it's old-fashioned but I find it quietly contemplative and a small meditation on slow "fashion".  Not simply tossing out but pausing and thinking and doing; taking a few minutes to mend and prolong the life of a thing.

This one was particularly bad... yikes!!

However, when it came to the holes in my merino tights my approach was a little less holistic and a whole lot more expeditious!
Ugly yes, but well, hopefully it will keep them keeping on for just a little bit longer!