Sunday, 13 October 2019

Wiksten Haori: the middle aged lady uniform?

I spent the entire winter debating whether to make a Sapporo coat for myself. My previous Sapporos have been sad things, best given away and enjoyed by others (here). At no point did I set myself up with success, using a fabric that I might actually want to wear.  I had perused all online Sapporos at length, and was considering shortening the pattern.

I thought of making other coats.
Winter basically came to an end. And I discovered the Wiksten Haori.  Shapeless things like this don't catch my eye initially, but it's been made in some heavier weight fabrics and the pattern's simplicity lends itself to easy and rapid coat making (like if you have a dodgy fabric, or want a coat Right Now!).  I became totally obsessed and started trying to figure out what fabric to use.  I spent over a month debating and considering fabrics, and finally basically gave up, when I found this combination in Auckland at The Fabric Store.  This was it!  The exterior is heavyweight linen and the lining is Marc Jacobs silk twill.

I dithered over the size but went for the XS instead of sizing down. Mid-length.

The making is easy.  I didn't trim my neckline prior to enclosing it, so I have hairy silk bits sticking out that will hopefully eventually vanish in the wash.  With precision ironing I was happy with the hem and everything matched up reasonably well, considering that I didn't pin the silk when I cut it and it shifted like mad.  (Why did I think silk twill was well behaved?)

I do think that the pockets are better not lined with lining fabric.  I had considered this ahead of time and accepted that colourful bits would stick out on the edges, and I think overall it's more professional without that.  I would probably do something different with the pockets next time around, either just not lining them, or lining them with a very stable matching fabric that wouldn't show.

It fits, it's substantial, comfortable and I love the cozy neck.  I actually would consider making this from one of my many coatings lurking about.  I didn't interface the neckband and that makes it floppy, which is what I was going for. 

However, really, is this the middle aged lady uniform?  Do I need to accept my status as a crazy middle aged lady?  I'm about to make matching pants with the leftover linen.  Will that really be too much?  

Friday, 11 October 2019

Maynard Dress by Elbe Textiles

I decided to dive in with my first version of this dress and use some Liberty yardage that has been sitting around for so long.  I planned to make this for a friend because I am short and I expected to need to shorten the pattern for myself, but I wanted to try it out just as the pattern was meant to be before modifying.

I made a Size B. I think size C matches my measurements a bit better but I expected to be pretty overwhelmed in this dress with so much in the way of crisp folds, and so I sized down.

I was very excited about the Maynard when it came out - cool concept!  Interesting design lines!  For some reason I wasn't that excited anymore when I cut it out - which I did awhile ago in a free moment.  My lack of enthusiasm persisted and means that the process dragged on.

It is not difficult to follow the instructions but because you have no idea what happens next it requires concentration (or is a constant surprise!)  It is important to use fabric that will behave with a double fold hem, as each piece is basically hemmed all the way round prior to uniting them.

The waist straps are cut out of the sides of the yardage, and as my fabric was EXACTLY the width required by the pattern, the selvedge included a frayed edge which wasn't very solid.  No way could I turn loops made from this right side out.  I did two of them like jeans belt loops, with one side overlocked and folded over the raw edge.  I used two random other scraps for the inside two pieces.

I was a bit confused with overlapping the fronts over the backs because you are told to use the same stitch lines as before, and that seems to be a big overlap (of more than a cm.) I ended up just stitching kind of randomly because my fabric is pretty busy!

I skipped the pockets, not because I dislike them, but because after trying this on it was a total no-go.  It seems too large in all ways.  The straps are tied at the very limits of as tight as they can go.  I should do the shoulder adjustment using pieces of the pockets to add a part to the shoulder - that would help the shoulders sit better, but the waist is loose, the top overwhelms me and the right side pleat poufs out in a funny way.  I feel very thoroughly wrapped up, but I honestly wouldn't wear this dress.

I'm sending it over to my friend Tessa to see if it fits her better - she's been very curious to see how the pattern went! Chalk this one up as an interesting experiment.

Thursday, 10 October 2019

Two layer silk Grainline Willow

This was one of the super precious projects that I thought up in my final month or so in Arizona, the first time I was in Arizona, when I was still pretending I'd have time to sew prior to moving.  I cut it out and then have carried it with me and it made the trip mainly by dint of being few pieces and being really small flat pieces.

The outer fabric is silk-cotton from Ramieandlinen on etsy.  I used it here for the lining of a Stylearc jacket, and it was terrible lining fabric because it's basically sheer and far too lightweight for such an application.  So the second layer is plain white silk, which I did gelatin prior to cutting out.  Comparing the two layers, the gelatin seems to have done well as the silk layer isn't too grossly different shaped than the top layer.

I used the same size (4) as on my first successful Willow, with the same extra cm added to the centre back.

The method for attaching was the burrito method -
Sew shoulders
attach the neck seams, understitch and cut
burrito and sew the armholes
pull through shoulders
sew side seams continuously

I then thought I would hand sew the bottom because the key feature I'd thought up for this was to do a shy amount of embroidery over it along the hem lines.  I reckoned this would hide the seams which you can see through the fabric, it would keep the neck and sleeves more stable, and it would make the hem more interesting.  I thought it would wrinkle if I did a machine hem.

Because of all this thinking, of course nothing got done, so here we are two years later.  I gave it all a good iron, picked out some thread and set a long stitch length.  I'll embroider some other project, some other day!

Also you can see how my Dawn Jeans are wearing in - not quite a perfect fit but totally wearable and they definitely impress everyone.  This is a totally me-made outfit!  My sandals are from the Shoe Camaraderie workshop last April. 

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

True Bias Lodo dress masterpiece

I have been trying to choose a pattern for a certain summer dress and while browsing I came across this pattern.  It's meant for moderately stable knits and has facings. 

Then while on night shifts last weekend (always a creative time...) I suddenly had A Vision!  I bought the dress and it went from idea to reality in about 4 days. Took so long only because I have been cementing some other sewing visions simultaneously, plus recuperating sleep from those night shifts.

I traced a size 2 at the top and went out to a size 6 at the hips to avoid too much pooling in my lower back. The photos don't really show how amazingly successful this was because of course layers of knit will cling.  But I'm really pleased with the fit. 

My vision involved this pale lime coloured bamboo blend that I got in Otara, cheap fabric mecca of Auckland.  The colour made it impossible to say no to.  It is definitely see through.  I cut two of the front and back.  For the hem band, I folded away the hem, and then cut off the bottom 10 cm.  I mirror imaged it so that I would fold it over at the hem.  In this way my two layer dress is fully enclosed with only one visible overlocked seam.  Obviously, no facings were necessary.  Also, the weight of the bamboo meant I got a basically perfect neckline with no effort on my part. 

SECRET PAJAMAS, dress style!

I did the entire dress on the overlocker except for the neck.  I did the neck with the sewing machine and then overlocked that edge.  This way it is more stable and I had the sewing machine control to get a perfect v. 

Order for a two layer dress like this:

-shoulder seams
-sew both dresses together at the neck, iron.
-burrito for the armholes.
-sew each side seam continuously, up one side and down the other.
-attach hem band.

It took about an hour. 
I'm so pleased and I haven't taken it off since making it!  Win! 

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Szeki 7115 & the Japanese dress

Otherwise known as Japanese pattern-copy-hell.

We all know from Japanese pattern books that the pattern pieces are deceptively simple.  A few pleats here, a slight angle there, and a pattern piece which is functionally a big square turns into an amazing, truly ingeniously draped work of art.

Despite which, when one of my work colleagues offered to let me borrow this nice dress from the pattern designer Szeki, I said yes with enthusiasm instead of with foreboding.  The dress was still on the website as the "kimono dress" in another colour, though I believe the one I was borrowing is a few seasons old.

Here is the original dress that I'm trying to copy.

The fabric is a blend of linen and viscose which gives it a lot of weight, a certain crispness, but also luxurious drape.  I had to search to find a similar fabric, which I got from Germany on Etsy. The seller has vanished, but the fabric is great - it was about 50/50 tencel and linen with a slubbed texture - just what I wanted.

In the meantime I had some cotton that I had bought in preparation for this pattern, just plain lawn.  However what happened is that I tried to trace the dress onto paper, and something in the middle was getting lost.  This dress is 2 copies of one just about rectangular pattern piece, with a mid front seam and a mid back seam.  There's a shoulder seam that creates the armholes.  So simple...yet not.

I could not properly capture the curve at the shoulder.
I had to cave in and use my fabric to make a muslin.  I basically pinned it onto the dress and cut around it and then copied my "muslin" and basted the two pieces together.  Then I laid the dress over it and tried to figure out what I'd done wrong.

The complexity was compounded because both the front and the back are V shapes, and I kept mixing them up.

I was excited and so I bought some fabric in the interim, from Miss Maude.  It's the viscose by Atelier Brunette so it's still luxury expensive stuff, but much lighter and floatier than the Japanese dress.

After the muslin, I traced that fabric onto a piece of tracing paper, lined *that one* up with the dress again, and finally decided it was as good as I could get.  I cut out my first attempt.  Here you go:

I had planned to make it shorter than the original anyway, but I only ordered 2 metres of fabric so I ended up also not having enough for the full length.  I reshaped the hem after cutting, to try to approach the semi-tulip of the original, and probably overdid it.  I just overlocked everything because I had little faith in my final outcome.  

On my version the shoulders sit a bit further forward and I originally thought I had it way off.  I realised after some tugging that the weight of this dress does not pull it backwards enough, but that my v shapes were close to the original - the back V is a bit smaller.  My armholes are much bigger. 

I modified the pattern after this, taking a strip out of the pattern piece that would functionally decrease volume and decrease how big the sleeve opening was.  I didn't change the V neck.

And finally in the viscose-linen:

I felt very frustrated at the end of all this and glad to be done with it.  My second copy mimics the original with all french seams on the inside.  It doesn't feel the same as the original when I have it on, but I was really surprised by my photos.  They look so similar!

This experience was hard!  I'm going to be even more appreciative of complex yet simple patterns, especially Japanese ones, after this.  The original dress & the identical copy go back to the owner, but I'm keeping the viscose version for myself.  I think it'll do as a summer dress.

Friday, 13 September 2019

Virginia legging experiment in stretch suede

Last year sometime, I discovered Stouls, who are in France and make washable suede clothing. The quality is exquisite and the prices are sphincter-tightening, especially when a relatively weak currency like the kiwidollar is involved.

In the States there is better access so while I was there, I took the opportunity to investigate.  I determined that although they are great quality, they are made with the assumption that you are about 185 cm tall.  And the fit is nothing spectacular.

Well, I can make leggings.

Thus began another sewing odyssey.  A lot of time was spent thinking, for instance, what would I do with the waistband?  Would it require special management?  Could I get away without using elastic? How to sew it together?  I assumed that overlocking would be impossible. 

I bought some stretch suede from the Fabric Store, managing to score it on a day there was huge sale on.  I bought 3 skins. My leather legging cost: 200 dollars.  Stouls leather leggings: 1500 dollars.  I reckon I'm winning here.  

I made a practice pair from some black fleece that had similar stretch characteristics.  High waist, size XS.  They were amazing!  In fact they were so great that a friend begged me for them and I gave them to her.  They confirmed the fit, and I just used a piece of the fleece for the waistband.  I cut about 3" off it to make it tight enough. With the high waist that was perfect.  They were a little tight on my calves, and I reckoned 3" too long.

Another investigation: I washed a piece of my beautiful blue stretch suede.  It seemed to do ok, confirming that they could be washed in an emergency, but I wasn't sure if the stretch was just a bit lazy after that.  So better not to wash them. 

To prep the pattern, I cut off 3" of the bottom of the legs, and I used that same length of waistband that worked on the fleece pants.  I traced all my pattern pieces and then started chopping the piece up until it fit on my skins.  I ended up with a lower leg piece, a horizontal seam, and two thigh pieces with a vertical seam.  I cut the waistband in 2 pieces.

This suede is pretty thin, so after only minimal hesitation I went for it and used the overlocker.  Absolute success. I overlocked the crotch seam, inseam and the waistband, but just straight stitched the pieces together on the sides, and also straight stitched the lower calves onto the upper legs.  Some topstitching was involved to help strengthen those seams, and I topstitched the back crotch to add stability.  I found that the topstitching decreases the tension on the seam, which obviously is a good thing on stretch leather trousers as who wants the butt seam to fall apart?

Added pockets.  I measured them to be the size I wanted, where I wanted.

When I tried these on I discovered an interesting technical feature of stretch suede.  What stretch it has widthwise ends up shortening the fabric lengthwise.  So the fixes that I borrowed due to the fit of fleece leggings were not helpful - the leggings are much shorter and the crotch height is much lower.  The waistband, because the stretch is horizontal, was too loose. I ended up fixing this by opening up the back seam and adding in some elastic. I hadn't wanted elastic but now I'm really glad for it as it makes the pants feel more secure.  They feel a bit tighter than the practice pair but overall I'm happy with the fit. 

So the best thing about doing it yourself is that you can add pockets!  I have pockets!  They are so stretchy that I should have reinforced the pocket tops by folding them over, otherwise they are great, and of course the right size for my phone (left pocket) and my car keys (right pocket).

Verdict: some learning and a huge amount of thinking for an awesome result.  I'm so proud of my suede pants and I think I'll get a lot of wear out of them before the weather gets too warm.  I finally feel like a fashion success when I'm strolling around town after surfing!