Tuesday, 20 August 2019

A Blackwood cardigan with 3/4 sleeves

One day I woke up with the urge to sew something yellow. Don't ask me why, as I hadn't worn yellow in ages, but I'm glad I listened to that inner voice.

This sight made me smile everytime I entered my sewing room.

The only fabric I could find in a shade that worked for me was a lightweight cotton jersey. So the fabric determined what I would make: Blackwood cardigan #5.

Blackwood cardigan by Helen's Closet

I started with big plans. The long version with trumpet sleeves, or ruffles? When I draped myself in the fabric the amount of yellow was ... overwhelming, so I decided to make the shorter version. Statement sleeves were still an option. 

I had made the shorter version twice before and did not like how the horizontal line of the wide bottom band hit me at the high hip. So the first change I made was cut the bottom band the same width as the front bands. Then I added the difference to the length of front and back bodice so the overall length stayed the same.

For the sleeves I experimented with a half circle flounce, a pleated band and a gathered ruffle, all starting just below the elbow. None of it worked. The Blackwood has rather strong and clean style lines with those parallel front bands and the 90 degrees angle with the hem band. Just doesn't blend well with a softer sleeve finish. So I made the next logical change and cut sleeve bands that had the same width as the other bands. And all of a sudden it looked like a balanced hack!

I've shared most of my thoughts about this pattern in earlier posts (Blackwood 1&2#3#4) and I like how they all look so different. This summer edition gets tons of wear. The short sleeves are very practical in the kitchen and in the garden (see top picture). Instead of a static photo shoot I'll end with a few action shots of this new favourite.  

During a city trip, with a sleeveless Ottobre top and Cashmerette Ames Jeans.

Enjoying music and Mexican food at a bluegrass festival

And in the sewing room, celebrating the first anniversary of Sewover50.

Speaking of the Sewover50 birthday, a small group of sewists was interviewed by Susan Young and I was one of them. You can read the interview here if you're interested.

That's it for now. My head is spinning with sewing plans and summer is coming back at the end of this week. No fall sewing for me yet!

Till later!

Sunday, 11 August 2019

Back with a Zadie jumpsuit!

Hi! It's been a while! In my previous post I was standing in the snow having zero intention of putting this blog on halt for over six months. But then a string of unrelated medical issues interfered with my plans. I kept sewing, but it's not hard to imagine that when you're on a diet of painkillers and antibiotics taking selfies is not high on the list. I'm as good as new now and happy to be back!

At the beginning of the year I promised myself to make 2019 more adventurous sewing wise. Ah, little did I know... Well, I did manage to make a few unexpected choices in recent months. Who knew I'd want to sew a jumpsuit? I checked, and the last time I did was in 1982!

I think it was the wrap that got me interested in the Zadie Jumpsuit by Paper Theory. My wrap dresses are firm favourites, so why not try something related?
My measurements put me in a size 20 and I decided to make a quick toile.

Uhm, no. Unfinished and unpressed, as I was about to throw it in the bin at this stage. I decided to give mr Foxgloves a good laugh first but much to my surprise he saw the potential of this garment. The verdict: overall too big, fabric on the heavy side and 'weird spoilers' above the bust. All excellent observations!

I decided to go down a size, do a small FBA and add darts. I found the fabric of my dreams during a trip to Rotterdam. It's a drapy rayon from Schroder modestoffen.

Apart from the FBA / bust darts I made a few other changes. I used lightweight interfacing to give the ties a crisp look and angled the ends. I also changed the finished width of the ties from 3 to 4.5 cm for better proportions and lengthened them by 10 cm.

Sizing down was a good call, and perhaps I could have gone down another size. Hard to tell with these loose fitting styles. When does a wide leg turn into a too wide leg?

Despite the FBA and bust darts there is still some folding above the bust. Probably inevitable with cut on sleeves on my busty frame. The folds disappear when I move my arms and I did not want to over fit. Same goes for the crotch length. The crotch felt a little low at first, but a trial run to the supermarket proved the extra length is much appreciated when bending over or reaching for high shelves.

There's one thing I will change for a next version. My front waist seam ended up a little too low as a result of the FBA. The ties automatically sit at my true waist and the waist seam does not. (Back waist seam is fine) For the time being I'm okay with that. Taking out any length will make wiggling into this jumpsuit even harder than it already is. (One of my medical issues was an acute hernia so my acrobatic skills aren't top notch at the moment)

I'm very happy with this style experiment! I'm considering making a navy version for autumn. Perhaps turn the pleats into darts and change the bias tape finish for a facing to create a slightly more formal look.

But now it's harvest time Chez Foxgloves! Apples, plums, raspberries. All kinds of cooking, baking and freezing going on. Till next time!

Saturday, 2 February 2019

A plaid designer dress

It's only the first of February and I've already matched last year's dress production! And what's more, I've made an A-line dress (last worn by me in the late 70s) and I used a plaid fabric. I've checked my wardrobe and this is officially the only plaid garment I own. So, quite adventurous for someone who made too many safe sewing choices in 2018. In retrospection I worked on automatic pilot last year and got a little bored by my own sewing. For instance, that one and only dress I made last year was my sixth version of Vogue 8379. All the more reason to do things differently this year!
 I want to try new silhouettes, work with a wide range of fabrics, colours and prints and use different pattern brands. It's been ages since I've sewn Burda or Butterick, to name a few.
And of course I'm going to sew ALL the dresses.


The pattern I chose for my first dress of 2019 is a Knipmode designer dress from the 'Jurken van Janice" collection. It appeared in the November 2018 magazine and is also available online as pdf or paper pattern in European sizes 34-54 (bust 83-131 cm / 33-52 ", hips 92-138 cm / 36-54 ")

What caught my attention were the pretty design details. The bodice is cut on the bias, sleeves on the straight grain. A collar with ties and fringe at the bottom of the sleeves. There were no specifics given for the fabric that was used for the sample and I had a length of wool blend suiting that looked like a perfect match. I made a quick toile, mostly to check dart placement and to determine on the length so I had the best possible start for matching the plaid.

Everything came together well until I constructed the collar. Note to self: Shortcuts will backfire. Always include collar to test model!

Per the instructions I used lightweight fusible interfacing and the collar collapsed. I tried extra interfacing, a layer of silk organza and even a strip of horsehair canvas but the collar still looked limp, no matter what. I could make it look like the Knipmode sample for five seconds, but the slightest movement would throw the neckline off. 
I checked social media for other versions of this dress and everyone mentioned the same issue with the collar, except for sewists that were using a more firm fabric like ponte. But then of course the fabric lacked the drape needed for the bias cut bodice. 

I took the collar off and tried a few different options, like a cowl and an asymmetric collar. Nothing looked good, or in line with the rest of the design. I slept over it and then decided to go for what looked like the most obvious route. I reduced the neckline width by taking in the raglan seams and finished the neckline with bias tape and more fringe.

The dress is unlined. If I made it again I would probably use some type of very lightweight underling for the bodice, although it wears well as it is.

Making the fringe required some patience as this fabric has such a fine weave.

The threads were pulled out with a pin, right up to a line of zigzag stitches, placed to stop any further unravelling. And then I made another layer because I wanted more volume. For the sleeves I made a double strip and used it as a facing. The strips were serged together, stitched on the sleeves with right sides together and then understitched on the inside of the sleeve. A little press was enough to skip the topstitching as I liked the clean look of the pattern matched plaid and fringe.

Inside (left) and right side of the sleeve hem

Although this dress is not my usual style and I absolutely prefer brighter fabrics and some kind of waist definition, I quite like it. The plaid was a nice experiment but it feels a little too classic for me, especially when styled with pantyhose and heels. Tights, ankle boots and a chunky necklace make it work and I've already worn it for a variety of occasions. Apart from the initial collar issue it was a joy to make and the fabric was lovely to work with. 

Many thanks to Mr Foxgloves for patiently taking pictures in the snow and to the Furry Assistant for being the best support act during this production.

On to the next sewing adventure!

Saturday, 26 January 2019

Casual winter wear: a half zip sweatshirt

Winter is here! And what better time to model your new sweater than during a snow shower?

When the January issue of Knipmode arrived there was one pattern that immediately attracted my attention. It reminded me of one of my all time favourite sweatshirts and I had not seen anything like this pattern in the last decade. At the same time I noticed many RTW brands carrying this type of half zip sweater, which was reassuring as apparently the style was on trend and I was not just recreating an image from the past.

KM1901-15 is online available as pdf or printed pattern in the Knipmode webshop.

Although it looks very comfortable as a dress as well (and I've seen a few pretty versions with contrasting fabric for the under collar pop up on Instagram), I really wanted a sweater version first. I'm not of fan of pockets in knits so I just cut off the pattern at my desired length.
It was easy sailing from there on, as the oversized nature and dropped shoulders meant that there were no fitting issues of any kind. The only adjustment I made was lengthening the sleeves with 5 cm, and then taking 1 cm off again after the final fitting round.

The fabric is a lovely pine green cotton knit with a brushed back. It is almost impossible to capture the shade, as inside it looks rather grey and in the garden it is, well, as green as the taxus and pines in the backdrop.

I'm pleased with the metal zipper as it provides a subtle focus point, like adding piping to the collar. This was one of the first garments sewn on my new machine and it was a perfect project to try out different feet, play with presser foot pressure and practice topstitching with the wider feed dogs. Very happy so far!

Back view

Side view

I prefer to wear the collar open and I like the look of some of my scoop neck Concord and Plantain tees underneath. 

But when it's -8 Celsius it's nice to zip up!

Whatever the weather, happy weekend!

Thursday, 24 January 2019

Giveaway winner

And the winner is.......................................Mary-pdxsquared.

Congratulations Mary! Time to roll up your sleeves and start tracing!
If you contact me on the January Knipmode magazine will be shipped to you as soon as possible.

The winner was selected by numbering the comments from those of you who wanted their name in the hat, in chronological order. The randomizer did the rest.

Thank you all for your comments!

Thursday, 17 January 2019

Review Knipmode January and February 2019 and a giveaway

Back by popular demand: the monthly review of pattern magazine Knipmode. A double edition, because although we're barely two weeks into 2019 I'm already two months behind!

Pattern overview Knipmode January 2019

The January issue offers a few winter coats, as well as jackets and cardigans.

The long camel coat comes with separate pattern pieces for a large detachable faux fur collar for a dramatic look. The line drawing for the jacket on the left (#25) suggests more of a flare in the peplum than the sample shows, something that is seen more often lately. (I just put the toile for a Knipmode blouse aside where the statement sleeve wasn't making much of a statement at all)

Plenty of useful basics in this issue, some of them are pictured in a 'seven days, seven ways' mix & match collection. Nice way of showing how to make a capsule wardrobe by choosing coordinated colours and fabrics.

This month's designer dress (21) is on trend with Victorian style pintucks, bowneck and puff sleeves. Not sure why the designer chose a busy cat print for such a detailed design?

The new quick and easy category is aimed at young beginners. The dress and hooded cardigan share the same pattern pieces and there's also a sweater version with a cowl in the mix. I like this idea of offering an easy to fit pattern with the option to learn new skills like adding pockets or a zipper on the next version.

A sleek jersey dress, a romantic skirt and high waisted stretch pants with a side zipper. All nice patterns that could be wardrobe staples when paired with the right fabric.

For me the January highlight was the sweater dress on the left. So much so that I'm already wearing it as we speak. I made a sweater version in a pine green sweater knit and that zippered neckline is wonderful.

Read on for a giveaway of the January magazine!

But first more on the February edition.

This issue seems to be in the 'love it or hate it' category. On social media readers are either saying they want to make absolutely everything, or they won't bother to take out the pattern sheets at all. 
I'm surprised by these strong reactions as so many different styles made it into this magazine.
The first impression is that of a rather sporty vibe.

A solid active wear collection. At least the accessories suggest this is meant to be worn in the gym. 
Or not?

Hybrids? The most puzzling of this lot is the dress on the right, which has a kangaroo style pocket that goes all the way from waistline to hem. Imagine your phone ringing at knee level! Not to mention diving down your skirt to track down tiny dog treats. 

And now for something completely different: Parisian chic. A classic dress, Chanel style jacket, also in a longer robe manteau version, and a silk pussy bow blouse.

And in the miscellaneous section there are several pants, tunics and skirts.

Last but not least the designer dress (21). A beautiful wrap bodice and a pretty ruched skirt.

Earlier I mentioned a giveaway. One that marks a special, albeit forgotten, occasion. 
I completely forgot to celebrate my first lustrum as a blogger! 
In September 2013 I started my blog, mostly to document what I made and as a way to remember the pattern adjustments I made. Blogging may be a wee bit more time consuming than writing on a sticky note, it's also much safer. I've never lost my project notes again!

Five years ago I could never imagine I would still be blogging today. And I certainly could not foresee how this blog would lead to meeting so many wonderful sewing friends from all over the world, both online and in real life. 

To celebrate this milestone I will send a copy of the January Knipmode magazine to one follower of this blog who is brave enough to trace, who is not easily scared by pattern pieces without seam allowances and who will fearlessly tackle that other (sorry!) minor roadblock, formed by Dutch instructions.

Just let me know if you're in for the challenge, I will send worldwide.
Your comments and support are always much appreciated. Thank you all so much for following along!

Disclaimer: this review contains no affiliate links. I paid for my copies and all opinions are my own. Patterns are available as pdf or printed pattern in the Knipmode webshop. Photocredits: Knipmode

Saturday, 5 January 2019

Five changes that will affect my sewing in 2019

This is what my sewing room looked like at the beginning of 2018. Many things have changed, both in- and outside the sewing room and these changes will all affect my sewing in the coming year.

I'm not much of a planner so I thought that instead of doing a #makenine or show a list of patterns I want to make any time soon I'd tell more about those small and not so small changes to picture the context of my sewing choices for 2019.

#1 Changing the layout of my sewing room

At the beginning of the year mr Foxgloves helped me create a cutting table by changing the legs of one of my tables for Ikea Skarsta sit/stand height adjustable legs. More on that here.
This makes me more productive as my back doesn't need a few days to recover from tracing or cutting.

What else could be improved? I'd been using this room for six years and I decided it was time for a comprehensive evaluation. I started by moving the furniture around.

The L-shape worked much better! I always thought I wouldn't like looking at a wall but I was wrong. It feels like my workspace has doubled, since I can use the cutting/handsewing table for extra bits and bobs while I'm sewing.

I also moved my sewing books. They were out of reach behind the ironing board, not the best place for easy access. So I moved some wooden boxes with older pattern magazines to that spot and now have my reference books right where I need them. It only took me six years to come up with this brilliant plan.

Next. Well, you can't overhaul the sewing room and ignore the fabric collection, right? So I took everything out.

#2 Sorting and measuring my fabrics

Back in the days when the systems weren't as refined as they are now, I had my colours done and one of the things I took away from that was that blue was a good colour for me. Over the years I bought all kinds of blue fabric. I loved them all, but they didn't all love me back. I found out the hard way when 100+ hours of handsewing on a Chanel jacket ended in a garment that looked better on the hanger than it did on me.

Last year I scheduled a new appointment with a colour consultant who asked me to bring a few garments. I bended the rules a little by bringing a suitcase of potential garments in the form of fabrics. She had never had a dressmaker come in for a consult before and we had some interesting discussions about the freedom to create your own style and the challenges that come with making a garment from scratch. She acknowledged it was a waste of precious sewing time to work with fabrics that did not fully suit me and we tackled that suitcase, one piece at the time. At the end of the day I knew the distinction between warm and cool blue, muted, bright and dark blue and what worked for me and what didn't. And of course I learned a lot about other colours, colour depths and levels of contrast as well.

I used my newfound knowledge to sort my stash. I put fabrics aside to use for toiles and donated a few pieces to friends with different colourings. Some of these fabrics had been there for two decades and I knew I'd never use them. Can you picture me in beige? Me neither.

While all the fabrics were out of storage I thought I might as well measure everything before it went back into the closet. I now have a binder with swatches, lengths and other relevant information of all pieces. After 42 years of collecting fabrics the penny finally dropped.

My fabric cabinet is an old baby dresser that is 60 cm deep. I fold the fabrics over a piece of cardboard to make the best use of the limited space.

The curated collection. Not perfect yet, but slowly getting there. (These are all woven fabrics, there's also a smaller cabinet with knits)

#3 Joining Susan Khalje's Couture Sewing Club

Then, at the end of the summer, I realised I didn't challenge myself enough sewing wise. As nice as it is to have well fitting tees and cardigans in my wardrobe, making them hardly gives me a sense of accomplishment. I wanted to learn new skills and make better use of the skills I already have. Right at that time Susan Khalje launched her Couture Sewing Club. I jumped on board immediately!

So far it's been wonderful to be part of this group and I have learned a lot, both from Susan and from other members. The reason I have not started my first project, a couture skirt, has to do with yet another set of changes.

#4 Weight loss

In July I made a few lifestyle changes. As a result I have lost over 10 kg/22 lbs during the second half of 2018. Although I don't think I look that different, I can go in and out of my jeans without using the zipper. I have put off using my best fabrics for a while, but now I really need to make a few things that don't fall down when I move. The question is: will I make a fitted skirt, at least one that fits temporarily, or shall I wear wrap dresses until I know where my waist measurements will end?

#5 A new sewing machine

While I couldn't decide on what to make next I made another big change, at least for me it is. After sewing on my (mechanical) Bernina 1030 for 31 years I bought a new Bernina 570 QE.

Here she is, right after the unboxing ritual. Protective plastic and all, oops.
It's my first computerized machine, and there most definitely is a learning curve. We gave each other the side eye more than once, but after a few weeks I can say we're bonding.

I've made a start on creating a stitch library and am now exploring the endless possibilities of this beautiful machine. Dual feed, adjustable and automatic presser foot pressure, the pivot/hover function, it's all new to me. I'm working my way through the manual and I found a workbook and plenty of videos online, which is a nice way to get acquainted with this machine at my own pace. My dealer suggested I'd schedule my lessons at a later time so we wouldn't waste one-on-one time on the basics that I could easily find out myself. Sound advice! I'm creating a little list with subjects I'd like to delve in deeper during my lessons. I will write a sewing machine review, as some of you have asked for on Instagram, in a few weeks time when I hopefully master all ins and outs.

Now how will all these changes influence my 2019 sewing plans?

With the improved sewing room flow, sorted stash and new machine everything is ready for action!
The weight loss means I need to take in my clothes where possible and start building a new wardrobe later on. Ideally I'll alternate quick and practical projects to fill wardrobe gaps with more involved projects and I aim to use couture techniques on a few timeless pieces.

I'm really excited about this new sewing year!