Saturday, 2 September 2017

Review Knipmode August 2017

The August issue of Knipmode can best be described as the pre-fall collection. Brrr, fall? It feels like summer still hasn't started properly in The Netherlands. It's been a strange season so far!

What's new? All patterns shown in the magazine used to be included on the tracing sheets. But not anymore. Three patterns, the ones marked with the red and and purple dot, have to be downloaded as pdf, free with a code included in the magazine.

It looks like Knipmode is hoping to spark more interest in their pdf patterns, which I can understand. But it's my opinion that by doing it via the magazine they're barking up the wrong tree.

Traditionally Dutch sewists are tracers. My grandmother traced, my mom traced and now my daughters also trace their patterns. Pattern magazines are available in most supermarkets and bookshops and they're cheap. A single copy of Knipmode will set you back 7,99 euro for about 25 new patterns. My subscription costs only 3 euro per magazine. Even when there's nothing in the magazine that I want to make I consider that 3 euro money well spent as I like to read about trends, look at new fabric collections and accessories.
The price of a single pdf pattern is 4,95 euro. Very reasonable, compared to the prices of other pattern companies. But compared to the price of the magazine it is steep.
I have never bought a Knipmode pdf and it's not likely I will do so as long as the magazine is around.

I do buy pdf patterns from companies in Australia and the US. No postage and instant gratification makes it worth my while to go through the tedious printing and taping process. I can absolutely see how that could work the other way around and sewists from other parts of the world would love to buy Knipmode pdf's instead of waiting for the magazine to arrive.
 I contacted Knipmode two years ago to inform them about the growing amount of messages I got from sewing friends all over the world who couldn't find their way around the Knipmode website. It is rather difficult to order a subscription or pattern when you don't speak Dutch. Wouldn't it be wise to make an English version of the website? I never got an answer to this email. Typical. Lately Knipmode is spending money on nondescript vlogs in Dutch, excluding foreign sewists even more.
The recent launch and blogtour of the English edition of Belgian pattern magazine La Maison Victor got a lot of attention in the online sewing world. Maybe it's time for Knipmode to reconsider the navel gazing and start making the site and shop more user friendly for those of you that would love to try the patterns but are discouraged by the Dutch language.

In the meantime Dutch readers are not impressed by Knipmode's move. I've seen comments by readers saying they don't have access to a printer, others don't consider the pdf's free because of the cost of toner and paper. The editoral staff insists the free pdf's are extra patterns that couldn't be placed on the tracing papers. Fact checking: the August 2016 magazine contained 26 patterns. August 2017: 25 patterns + 3 pdf + 1 knitting pattern, At first glance there are indeed more patterns, however, some are just different views of the same model. Obviously top 2 is a shorter version of dress 1 and as far as I can see the only difference between trousers 3 and 4 are the pockets, to name a few.
We'll see how this evolves.

On to the collections!

A classic collection in ivory and camel. From left to right cardigan 13, dress 15 and and jacket 7, skirt 12 and top 24. I do like the seam lines of dress 15, although the details are hard to see.

Another version of dress 15, skirt 20 and top 2 and dress 18. More on top 2 later on.

Jacket 5 (left) has an interesting collar and asymmetric zipper. As much as I like the look, I do have some reservations about this pattern. The jacket is unlined, which I don't find very comfortable to wear considering it's made of faux leather. When you take a close look at the dress in the middle you can see that it's made from the same pattern. I don't know about you, but I like my jackets to have more wearing ease than my dresses! Trousers 10 (on the right) are on my shortlist.

This month's designer dress looks nice and trendy, but again very simple.

I've seen some lovely versions of dress 23 pop up on social media. I expect this dress to show up soon on the blog of my Bavarian sewing pal Chris at

At the beginning of the year I set myself a challenge to sew more Knipmode patterns. At the moment I'm experimenting to improve the bodice fit. Knipmode drafts for a B-cup, which means I need a serious FBA as I'm wearing a H-cup. I'm considering making pattern adjustments to these three tops, from left to right top 2, top 17 and top 24. The first one is a knit pattern, the other two are for woven fabric. With horizontal darts, diagonal seams and shoulder pleats these patterns all need a different FBA approach.

So far I finished a muslin of top 2. Not too bad, but a little snug. I'll check again when I've had more time to deal with the inevitable extra pounds I took home from my culinary Belgian holiday.

To be continued!

Disclaimer: this review contains no affiliate links. I paid for my copy and all opinions are my own. Photocredits: Knipmode

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Review Knipmode April, May and June 2017

At the beginning of spring I stopped reviewing new Knipmode magazines. For no particular reason, other than being busy. Recently there were few signs that people might be missing these reviews. In a discussion at the Curvy Sewing Collection site it was mentioned that there used to be much more information on pattern magazines available before bloggers shifted from blogging to Instagram. I decided to check the stats for my blog to see if anyone was actually reading my reviews. Guess what?  This week alone over 250 people read the old post about the August 2016 issue, I presume most of them were looking for news about August 2017. The biggest surprise of all was the number one search entry: книпмоде. Coming from a Russian sewing forum. Hi there!
So I thought I might do a quick recap of recent months to see what's new. Today it's April, May and June, later this week July and August. All patterns can be downloaded as pdf here.

The regular April issue had some useful patterns, but nothing that really caught my eye. One of the new trends: lingerie inspired tops and dresses. What do you think? I'm afraid it will make me look like I've lost my marbles and forgot my dressing routine. Does a slipdress worn over a shirt become a dress?

My favourite item in this issue was again the menswear. This pattern is already traced to make for mr Foxgloves in a wonderful navy twill.

Bomber jacket

The April supplement was a bridal special, containing a three piece bridal gown and several pretty dresses for wedding guests.

Dress, overskirt and top

Colourful and summery dresses for all guests, except for the poor mother of the bride who is all buttoned up in beige.

May was the month we'd all been looking forward to ever since Knipmode announced a new designer collaboration. De jurken van Janice (dresses by Janice) is a new monthly feature. The dresses are accompanied by an instruction video on the Knipmode YouTube channel. Ready for the first 'designer dress'?

Not a top notch first impression, to put it mildly. The only thing distinguishing this dress from a regular Knipmode pattern is the use of a finer fabric. (The feature is sponsored by a higher end fabric shop). In fact this dress looks like a simplified version of for instance dress # 1 from April (check the pattern overview above). The designer tells us this dress was inspired by the 30s charleston style. Blahblahblah. Curious to see where this is going.

The rest of the May issue has a patriotic vibe with red, white and blue, tulips and orange. Both the colour and the House of Orange as once again a collection is inspired by Queen Maxima.

June was all about dresses. The bodice of dress 5 (below in orange, second from the right) has interesting seam lines. The pink dress on the left (14) is not an A-line dress but has a waistband behind the models arm.

One of the benefits of delayed reviews is seeing some of these patterns pop up in the blogosphere.
Camelia made a lovely version of the dress on the left (#10), you can find her blogpost here

June designer dress
The designer dress (26) looks somewhat more interesting than last month's, but apart from the slightly more glamorous styling it's not really different from the rest of the dresses in this issue.

All patterns come in EU sizes 34-54, except for the bikinis

Polo shirt
Menswear comes in European sizes 46-58 and is drafted for a height of 184 cm.

Well, that was a long and picture heavy post! Another catch up post will follow soon and then it's back to monthly reviews. And sewing of course! I have a few unblogged items waiting for pictures but unfortunately my iron broke down and I'm not ready for a wrinkle fest.
To be continued!

Disclaimer: this review contains no affiliate links. I paid for my copy and all opinions are my own. Photocredits: Knipmode

Saturday, 1 July 2017

A polka dot wrap dress

....Or the story of a twice forgotten dress. Last month I checked my Instagram account to see at what date in 2016 an event took place. (Do you also use Instagram as a picture diary? It's my favourite data source when I want to know when and where I bought that floral fabric, at what time last year I picked the first sweet peas or when we visited a concert or exhibition. But I digress) What I was going to say was I rediscovered this picture:

Posted in June 2016, when I was cleaning my sewing room and found a shoe box with a neatly labeled Vogue 8379 wrap dress. I cut it out during the summer of 2015 and then completely forgot. Salient detail: the print on the sticky notes says 'don't forget'.

Apparently I finished the dress at the end of August 2016, given this photographic evidence of hand stitching the hem in the garden.

The dress was put away in the back of my closet and if I hadn't seen that IG picture again I'm afraid it would still be there. Well, it's re-rediscovered now!

It's a remake of the  Jungle January dress, with short sleeves. I made my standard adjustments for this pattern: lengthened the bodice, skipped the facings and lengthened the ties.

It's still my favourite wrap dress pattern. I like the look of the diagonal pleats, the neckline lies flat and there is plenty of overlap in the skirt, making it suitable to wear on a bicycle.

No wardrobe malfunctions during a typical Dutch breeze, so what's not to like? I'm not sure. What are the odds of a twice forgotten dress turning ever into a wardrobe staple? Time will tell!

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Foxgloves and tees

After finishing two time consuming projects in a row, a winter coat and a French jacket, I felt the need to change my sewing pace. I wanted to make something quick and easy. Around this time of year the garden is seriously eating up my spare time so it was not just a matter of looking for instant gratification. When there is little time even simple projects can take ages so I steered away from my usual habit of overthinking and overcomplicating things and went straight into the sewing room to look for inspiration.

I found a piece of jersey in my stash that was just waiting to become a Cashmerette Concord tee. Number six, or seven, I lost count.

As you can see the Concord Tee is an essential part of my gardener's uniform. I've already made all views: high neck, scoop neck, v-neck, short, medium and long sleeves, cropped length, mid length and long curved hem. This time around the length of my fabric did not give me many options: short sleeves and then hoping for the best regarding pattern matching.

Although I liked the idea of a short sleeved v-neck tee I was worried the angle of the triangles in the print would look weird with the different angle of the v-neck. So scoop neck it was, meaning it was an exact remake of this Concord. Shoulder adjustments, size 18 G/H and a bit of extra ease at the waist.

The jersey is rather thin and clingy, which means it works better as a layering piece. Or for showing off those biceps, after carrying around watering cans....

Now that this pattern is still on my sewing table I'm making a few adjustments to try a different shape. Giving the bodice some flare and doing a front and back v-neck. We'll see how this ends!

Friday, 9 June 2017

Vogue 7975, finished French jacket

Two years and nine months after I first mentioned my plans for this French jacket it's finished. I loved every minute of the quilting and hand sewing. I love the lining, the trim,.....I'm just not sure I like it on me.
Actually I finished it a month ago (does two years and eight months sound marginally better?) but I needed some time to collect my thoughts before writing a blog post. But let's save the reflections for later and continue with the construction details.

This is where I left in my previous post. Ready to add the trim. (More details about the trim can be found here) I hand stitched the ribbon to a double layer of 5 cm wide fringe, cut on the straight grain.

I hand stitched the trim along the neckline and front before closing the lining. Last step: threading strips of lining through the horizontal ribbon stitches.

After careful consideration I decided against adding trim at the hemline and sleeves. I preferred the vertical line as a focal point.
So far, so good!

Pretty insides! Now let's put in on me:

Hmm. A rather dull outfit on someone who loves colourful clothes.

These pictures were taken during the first outing of the jacket. Mr Foxgloves took me out for dinner in a lovely orangerie. Wonderful occasion to wear something new!
Confession: this was before I added the chain and it definitely affected the hang.

I already knew the jacket was going to be too big. Even after a delicious four course meal I could easily take out 10 cm at the hip and slightly less at the waist and high bust. I did try to open up the seams before I added the trim but using a seamripper with bouclé that's falling apart when you just look at it? Mission impossible.
Well, too small would be worse. I'm so grateful to be in better shape than I was when I started this project while recovering from a back injury.

Now is there anything else I can do to improve the look of what I now consider a wearable muslin of a French jacket?

Add colour? I usually wear my jackets open. When I don't use the hooks and eyes it is less obvious the jacket isn't as well fitted as it should be (at least in my mind). One of my daughters suggested rolling up the sleeves to show more of the lining, it also enhances the more casual look. I'm thinking of making a pink bow blouse and slim white pants for a smarter summer look. As you can see in the various pictures this jacket easily picks up colour from the environment and looks rather different in a sunny garden than on a cloudy day. I'll try a scarf, necklaces and different coloured tops underneath. Not giving up yet!

Regrets, I have a few.
The fit isn't one of them. The original muslin had a good fit and so did the basted jacket when I checked after quilting and before sewing the seams. This could not have been avoided. Even if I had finished it sooner it would now be too big. That's life.

My biggest regret? I wasn't sure about buying the bouclé until I paired it with the lining. The lining was love at first sight. But hey, it's LINING. That's on the inside when you're done!!! Lesson learned. Ouch.
In hindsight, I think I lost my enthusiasm at this stage:

Although I didn't put my finger on it at the time I don't think it's a coincidence that this was the moment the focus shifted from working on the insides (quilting, finishing all thread tails) to working on the outer shell. Red flags were neglected. I even took a fifteen months break whereas my usual modus operandi for an exciting sewing project is more like order pizza and spend long nights in the sewing room till it's done. If only I had chosen a red bouclé, or royal blue...

So what do we have so far. Too big, wrong colour.
But..... Did I already tell you how divine this jackets feels?
Those of you who felt the magic of quilting two fabrics to become one know what I'm talking about.
So soft, so luxurious.

This jacket may have some serious flaws but it's such a joy to wear. And I often do!
Had it turned out better it might have become 'special occasion' wear, as it is I wear it as my new favourite cardigan. To the grocery shop, to the pub, to the vet's.

It's been a long journey and an interesting one. I've learned new techniques, read many couture books, visited exhibitions and met new online sewing friends from all over the world working on similar projects. Thanks everyone for your helpful and supportive comments and special thanks to Leisa of A Challenging Sew and Inna of Thewallinna for starting the Little French Jacket Sewalong with special contributions by Susan Khalje. If you're ever considering making a French jacket make sure to check those sewalong posts for inspiration, resources and tutorials. I know I will when I'm starting the next one. Which I most certainly will. I didn't spend 100+ hours on this muslin to stop here!

Thursday, 13 April 2017

It's alive!

It's been exactly a year since I last posted about my adventures in French jacket sewing. Last Easter I started making a trim and from there it was one step forward, two steps back.

When I started this project back in 2014 (!) I was still recovering from a back injury and was rather limited in my choice of exercise. My return to the gym apparently resulted in losing some inches, so when I finally unboxed the ufo jacket and tried it on it was too big. The muslin had been taken apart to be used as the pattern, making it impossible to go back and come up with an action plan for adjustments based on that muslin. Time out.
Life happened and sewing was on the back burner for the rest of spring and summer. By the time I was ready for a more involved project autumn had arrived and the jacket ended up hibernating in the box. Again.

Last month, when I was spring cleaning the sewing room, I stumbled upon the box of doom. I tried the jacket on, still too big. Fix it or dump it?
I decided to give it one last chance. After all the time and energy spent on this project the least I could do was finish it, practice a few new techniques and enjoy hand sewing that fabulous lining!

First I opened up the sleeve seams and took out 4,5 cm of the circumference. It was a tricky job to remove the almost invisible stitches that disappeared into the boucle. Of course the fabric was fraying like crazy, making unpicking a slow and challenging process, but it was well worth the effort. The sleeves look much better now. I also made minor adjustments at the bodice seams from the waist down.

After adding the hooks and eyes I was able to check the fit once more. Still a little roomy at the hips. Not sure if it's worth opening up the seams again, there's always the risk of making things worse by over working those fraying parts! In an ideal situation I would also take out some width at the high bust and shoulder but at this stage I don't think it's wise to mess with the crossing princess seams and shoulder seams. 

What's left to do: 
- close the lining at the armholes
- add the trim
- close the front and neckline
- hem the sleeves
- sew the lining to the hem, on bodice and sleeves
- add the chain

It's all hand sewing. Perfect job for a cold and rainy long weekend.

Happy Easter!