Friday, 22 April 2016

I made my clothes / I made my fabrics

At the end of 2013 my youngest daughter quit her job as online marketeer to follow her dreams and make the world a better place. She founded Enschede Textielstad, an initiative to bring back textile industry to her home town Enschede. Last month she bought her first machines and she will soon be able to produce fair fabric from recycled threads. What better day than Earth Day (which happens to be her birthday as well) to share her amazing story.

In April 2013 the Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh made her ban fast fashion immediately. She did not want anyone to suffer on her behalf and she started making all her clothes as a protest against the terrible working conditions in the fashion industry. But she wanted to do more. She started asking herself who spun the threads and made the fabrics she now used. After doing some research she couldn't ignore the pictures of young children standing in polluted rivers while dyeing fabrics.
She wanted to raise awareness and initially thought about writing opinion pieces about the fashion industry. But people had already been doing that, and with little effect. In December 2013, during the long ride home from a business trip in Berlin she came up with a revolutionary plan. Enschede had been an important centre for the European textile industry until around 1970. The industry disappeared, but the knowledge was still there. Would it be possible to produce fabric again, locally and in an innovative and sustainable way?

Her first pitch touched an open nerve in the community. Retired weavers offered to help her, entrepeneurs volunteered to coach her and local politicians were very interested. That's when she quit her job to be able to investigate the full potential of her plans.
She describes those first months as Eat. Sleep. Pitch. Repeat. The pictures show her during that period, always wearing her lucky pitch dress. Handmade, of course.

On Wednesdays she had weaving lessons in the Enschede Textile Museum. Retired weaver Johan was more than happy to finally be able to pass on his knowledge to a new generation and under his guidance she soon produced her first dish cloth.

In the meantime she was earning a living by doing freelance jobs. She organized a congress, and she works on a freelance basis for Saxion University of Applied Sciences where, amongst other things, she organizes Tex Talks for the Fashion and Textile Technologies department.

It didn't take long before her plans attracted all sorts of media attention.

Newspaper interviews and television appearances for both local and national networks generated a lot of publicity and positive reactions, confirming she was really on to something.

She was nominated for the VIVA400 list, a list of powerwomen who made a difference in 2015, in the category Wereldverbeteraars (do-gooders).

This girl always had a talent to bring people together, a talent she used well to realise her plans. She built bridges, connected entrepeneurs, politicians, scientists and educational institutes.
Enschede is the home of UTwente, a technical university that works in close collaboration with the business community, making the region a hotspot for innovative product development. A company in a nearby town is recycling jeans fibers, producing threads suitable for weaving.

The first order for Enschede Textielstad rolled in: a manufaturer of maternity wear ordered 1000 meter chambray, made from these recycled threads.

Meanwhile the CEO had searched high and low for the right machines, helped by a team of retired weavers. She was looking for the type of loom her advisors new inside and out because they had worked with the machines before. Last month she used her hard earned savings and bought two Saurer W100 shuttle looms. Oldtimers, built in 1972 and found in a barn in Austria.

Ready for transport


A very exciting moment! More pictures can be found in this gallery

Even the national news had an item about it :)

You can watch an item on regional television here, starting from 8.54 min. (in Dutch)

The machines need a good clean and the hunt for spare parts is on. Daughter and her very skilful and supportive boyfriend are working hard in their spare time to get them ready for action. 

That's the story so far of a true Fashion Revolution hero, and the motto she lives by:

The best way to predict the future is to create it

Happy Earth Day, Happy Birthday!

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Cashmerette Concord T-shirt, a wearable muslin

Hi there! You just caught me during one of my favourite springtime jobs: inspecting future plum cakes in our mini orchard. 
At the end of each summer I traditionally ruin some tops while harvesting blackcurrants or bringing in the walnuts, giving me a good excuse to sew some fresh shirts during spring. 
This year the planning of new gardening gear coincided with the launch of the Concord T-shirt by Cashmerette Patterns. A classic t-shirt with three hem lengths, three necklines (high, V-neck, scoop) and, most importantly, three different cup sizes. Sold!

As this was my first Cashmerette pattern I checked the stash for muslin options. I found a lightweight cotton jersey of unknown origin, which to me looked like the result of drunk fabric shopping. Perfect muslin material!

Now to determine the right size.Sizing chart instructions tell you to use your full bust measurement to choose your bust size. Hmmm, I've never had any luck when following that rule. 
If your full bust could fit into two sizes, choose the size closest to your waistline.
Don't try this at home if you're middle aged and your waist has it's own agenda!

According to the above rules I had to cut a size 18 C/D cup (I have not been in those regions of the alphabet since high school, wearing a European 36HH bra)  I ignored the advice and went straight for the 18 G/H while adding some extra room for said waistline. This way I worked around the significant negative pattern ease. I can live with negative ease at the bust, negative ease at the back is a no go.

The design choices regarding length of sleeves and bodice were made by the fabric, I could just squeeze it out of 1 meter while avoiding the white horizontal band in the print ending up at apex height. 

When I'm making a new pattern I always start by basting the shoulders first. If the fit in the shoulders is off, the garment will never hang properly. I baste, adjust, and repeat the process till I'm happy. For the Concord tee  I made a shoulder adjustment that Liechty et al describe as Low Neck Base adjustment, so by reverse diagnosis I suppose that's what I have to deal with since I often make this type of adjustment.  I took in 3/8 inch at the neckline, tapering to zero at the armscye and used my calculator to determine the percentage of shortening needed for the neckband.

Cashmerette Concord

As mentioned before the Concord comes in three lengths. The pattern envelope is only showing two views, so what's what? The size chart is giving finished measurements for bust, waist and hip. It would be helpful to see finished back length measurements as well.

Come to think of it, if I remember correctly Cashmerette patterns are drafted for a 5'4" height, but nowhere in the instructions, nor in the size chart on the Cashmerette website could I check this.
It's a pet peeve of mine, but I feel the importance of the height issue is easily underestimated. I know I have sewing friends who are 5'1" as well as sewing friends of 6' tall and most probably Cashmerette customers come in very different heights as well. It's so much easier when you know the starting point!

For those of you who want an indication of the length: I am 5'8" and I cut the mid length, which I expected to be on the short side. Surprise! In the end I shortened it by 1,5 inch it's now finished at a length that's 1,5 inch longer than the crop length. 

The instructions are comprehensive, but when I look at the booklet through the eyes of a beginner I think some useful tips could be added. For instance, clear elastic for the shoulder seams is 'optional'.

When you consider these tiny seams as the anchor for both the neckline and the sleeves, I strongly recommend using clear elastic, or even a woven ribbon to reinforce the shoulder seams! It really helps the neckline to stay in place.

Also, but maybe I'm sounding like my nitpicking editor self now, the instructions tell you to sew side seam and sleeve seam at one go, starting at the waist and sewing to the end of the sleeve. From the waist? Technically the waist is where one of the notches is, about halfway between top and hem. When do we sew hem to waist, a beginner might wonder? I feel this could have been phrased more accurately to avoid confusion. 

O, and last but not least, sew the neckband using this Off the Cuff tutorial

Final verdict: after some minor adjustments I really like the fit of this pattern and there will be more Concord t-shirts in my near future. I'm planning a longer version for the gym, a fun print with a v-neck and a stripey one with medium sleeves.

Edit: as Jenny of Cashmerette mentions in the comments Cashmerette Patterns are drafted for 5'6" and that information can now be found on the sizing page.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Knipmode May 2016 and bonus tall/petite special

Just a quick post for those of you interested in a review of Knipmode magazine. Style wise it's not the most coherent issue of the year, for me the best part is the special. More on that later.

Hmmm. As much as I like Van Gogh, I think we've seen too many of these artsy panels on overly simplified elastic waist skirts. Blue dress #8 has interesting seam lines though.

Did I miss an 80s urban safari revival? 

What? Someone stole my 1985 wardrobe, I swear! I made that blue dress back then and even styled it with the exact same hat, coiffure and shoes. Those trousers, teal skirt and floral tops were in my 80s closet as well. It's like looking at my personal pattern archive! Well, perhaps a new generation will be attracted to this style once again.

Pattern overview Knipmode 5/2016

Jacket #1 is looking interesting, but what on earth is going on at the back?

By special request of Knipmode subscribers another asymmetric collection is included. The chocolate brown skirt above looks nice, but I'm not thrilled about these dresses:

For the time being I don't see anything in this issue that will make it's way into my sewing queue, and that's okay. The queue is long enough as it is and the sneak peek of next month's Knipmode  is inspiring!

I know some of you have been waiting impatiently for the bonus special, which has patterns for a capsule wardrobe drafted for 1.60 - 1.72 -1.84 cm height. The rather classic collection contains a jacket, pants, a blouse with two sleeve options, a dress in two views and a skirt. All patterns are available in European sizes 34 t/m 54.

The black and white collection is modelled in size 36, in the second part of the special the same patterns are modelled in size 46.

According to this pattern overview the patterns of the jacket and the dresses will be available as pdf, but they're not yet showing up in the pattern shop. (
If you want to order the magazine + special:

Happy weekend, and succesful sewing!

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

Monday, 4 April 2016

French jacket: the trim

This is the rough version of what will probably become the trim of my jacket. In my previous post I described how I wanted the vibrant colours of the lining to become part of the trim. I spent most of the long Easter weekend hand sewing and testing several ideas.

I started with a lightweight navy ribbon.

I used a chalk pencil and a quilters ruler to mark every half inch.

Using the narrowest satin ribbon (3 mm wide) I then made tiny stitches on the marks. This was a very slow process, as the ribbon had to be pulled through with extreme care to prevent damaging the base ribbon.

After many hours of peaceful stitching with nothing but the sound of singing birds in the garden to distract me, I finished all 4 meters.

The leftover lining, two strips of 2.25 m by 7 cm wide, didn't give me much to play with. I sewed tiny tubes and turned them right side out.

Together it looked like this:

Obviously I have to polish it up a bit. Some of the stitches got twisted during the threading process and in other parts the seam of the silk isn't in the right spot yet. I will go back and make it decent later on. I'm happy with the outcome. It's lightweight, flexible and will add a colourful touch to this summer jacket!
I'm taking a step back from the trim to pick up working on the sleeves.

Final decisions, like will I keep it straight and graphic, or add a more fancy effect,

whether I'll add fringe, and if so, how wide, straight of grain or cut on the bias, it can all be decided later. For now I'm happy with the options.

Back to more thread tracing and quilting!

Thursday, 24 March 2016

The continuing story of a French jacket

Fifteen months ago I took a break from working on my French jacket. It was meant to be a spring/summer jacket and once I had missed the time slot other sewing projects seemed more urgent. The jacket was carefully packed away in a box, together with thread, chain and every bit of leftover fabric. I hoped to pick it up again last March, but by then coral coat fabric had taken over my sewing room. Fast forward one year and the French jacket is back on top of my sewing list!

This is where I left it. Bodice seams were closed, sleeves cut and ready to be constructed. Once that's done it will be time to make a few design choices. I'm considering several neckline options and I'm still not sure whether I want patch pockets or not. Whenever I'm thinking about the different options I feel like I can't choose properly without envisioning the overall picture. And for that I definitely need to decide on the trim.

The jacket may have been out of sight for fifteen months, it was often on my mind. I experimented with the selvedges, used different fibers for crochet and visited haberdashery shops during the quest for the perfect trim. Wherever I went, from Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Utrecht to Liege, Edinburgh, Prague and Bratislava, I always had a quilted square of boucle in my handbag. No luck. Navy looked boring, white was either too white or too yellow-ish, mixing navy and white resulted in a overly classic look. If only I had enough fabric left to make fringe!

The more I thought about it, the more I realised I'm probably more in love with the lining than with the main fabric. And then I remembered the Chanel ensemble I admired two years ago at an exhibition in The Hague.

What if  I incorporated a tiny strip of that colourful lining in a trim? My fabric isn't as loosely woven as the example fabric, maybe layering will work?

Since last week my options doubled. Can you believe my luck when I unexpectedly stumbled upon a bolt of the same boucle? I had last seen that fabric for sale in 2014 and back then it sold out fast. I quickly bought enough to start experimenting with fringing bias strips as well!

Lots of things to try out during the upcoming long weekend!

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Bootstrap Fashion 42379, a cowl neck knit top

Although I was planning to work on a more challenging project, a chain of events made me change my sewing plans. More on that later. I needed a simple project, made from stash fabric as there was no time for fabric shopping. Maybe it was finally time for spring sewing? But then it started to snow again and I brought out a lacy wool knit fabric. Now what to make? While looking for a pattern I ended up at the Bootstrap Fashion website. For those of you not familiar with this brand, amongst a lot of other services Bootstrap offers custom fit sewing patterns. You enter your measurements and about ten minutes later you can pick up a made to measure PDF pattern from your inbox.

This cowl neck pattern came close to what I was looking for, except for the sleeve and hip bands. Not very hard to make a few changes and browsing the Bootstrap site made me want to try the patterns. I entered my height and measurements for bust, underbust, waist, hip, upper arm as well as fit adjustments like bust apex height, arm length, shoulder width and more.

The line drawing was the only image available. No artist's impression, and as far as I could see no one ever mentioned Bootstrap 42379 on the internet. So if there's only one image, it'd better be correct! 

Enter confusion. The line drawing shows a center back seam, which is nowhere to be found in the layout picture. To get an idea of the depth of the neckline I checked the red pattern piece above. It suggests the lowest point of the neckline is at the same height as the bottom of the armscye. Nice! 

After printing and assembling the pattern I was in for a surprise. No center back seam, and the back bodice pattern was much wider than the front bodice. I carry most of my weight on the front, and the 3D-illustration of my torso (gulp) showed I'd been very honest when I entered my measurements. What happened? Was the back seam planned but later omitted, without removing the seam allowances? Nope, the notches of the cowl seemed to match fine! 
Speaking of the cowl: the neckline was 7 cm higher than the layout image suggested. And wasn't that cowl on the tiny side? I warily started sewing. 

Hmmm. I made a test cowl from a scrap of jersey. Just as I thought, not very impressive.
And certainly not looking like the line drawing. 
So I changed the finished height of the cowl from 14 to 34 cm. Why 34? That was all I got ;)

Better! Now what about the fit? I had to remove 6 cm at the hip, the shoulders are a bit too wide and although I added the equivalent of the length of the removed hip band to the bodice the overall look is shorter, and certainly less fitted than the line drawing suggested. 

So what's the verdict about the pattern? It doesn't look like the line drawing. The bodice, shoulders and sleeves are too wide for a fitted top, the cowl (before my adjustments) looked like a droopy collar and I don't like seams showing up in the line drawing that are not in the actual pattern. There is no way to tell if the pattern was meant to look oversized and the line drawing was off, or the drawing was right and the pattern was off. 

In the end I do like the result but I feel that has more to do with the pretty fabric than with the pattern.
Bootstrap has not convinced me yet, but now that I've made an account and saved my set of measurements I may try some patterns for woven fabrics in the future. 

Although the daffodils make it look like spring, I still need a warm top for chilly dog walks!

Now there's something else I'd like to discuss about this pattern. When I was looking for other cowl neck top images to compare the size of the cowl with, it suddenly hit me that this pattern (at least the line drawing) was the spitting image of Sewaholic's Renfrew, view C. At first sight the only difference is the center back seam (remember, that same one that isn't really there). I've never seen the pattern pieces of the Renfrew, so I may be wrong, but even the sleeve and hip bands look similar. I've seen patterns on the Bootstrap site that obviously were designer knockoffs like this Armani jacket. Now what if Indie pattern companies start copying other small companies' designs? Is it the same? Or does it feel a bit awkward?
I'd like to hear your opinions on this one!

This will be my last winter sewing. I do have some plans for spring sewing, but I'm not sure if they're going to happen.
You see, Mr Foxgloves has a hobby too. I like cutting fabrics, he likes cutting wood. Ten days ago he had an unfortunate encounter with one of his lumberjack toys and we ended up in the Emergency Room. He cut a tendon, had surgery and ended with his hand in plaster.

He's not allowed to drive a car, so for at least the next six weeks I'll be the Chief of Transport, Operator of Buttons and Shoe Laces and Head Gardener of Foxgloves Manor.
Not sure how much sewing I can squeeze in. But mr Foxgloves is on the mend and we keep smiling!

See you later!

PS Thanks for the lovely comments on my previous post. I hope to catch up on blog reading and IG soon!