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!

Monday, 31 December 2018

My year in patterns

This is what my sewing year looks like in line drawings. The bare bones of what I made.

It's interesting for me to look back on this very last day of the year as what I made is always a reflection of what my year looked like. I sew what I wear and I wear what I sew.
So if I made sleeveless tops that's a sign of a warm summer, or a holiday in southern Europe (actually both, in 2018) No new evening wear or party dresses means there were few formal or festive events this year. No coats, as my winter coats were still in good shape and I barely wore coats during summer.

In 2018 I made twenty garments. Nineteen for me, one for mr Foxgloves.
Let's take a closer look. I won't bore you with a ton of links but if you want to go to the original blogpost you'll find the links on the top of this page under 'Sewn'.

1) a pink Knipmode sweater (KM1801-25) with a lovely neckline. It's soft, warm and comfortable and I wear it a lot.
2) The black midi skirt Knipmode KM1711-08) is not worn that often, but it's a timeless classic and good to know it's there I want something dressy.
3) A pair of black Cashmerette Ames Jeans. It initially had wrinkles at the back of the leg, an issue that was fixed by taking the legs apart (imagine ripping serged-stitched-topstitched seams, all black on black), reducing the length of the back leg above the knee and adding the same amount at the hem. Worked incredibly well, worn very often.
4) Simplicity 1563. Very happy with the decision to line this robe with satin. Feels luxurious and I've worn it every morning, except during heatwaves. By far the most worn garment of 2018!

5) McCalls 6436, a button down shirt in viscose. No gaping at the bust, by far the best fitting shirt I've owned in the last decade. Note to self: make a plain version next year.
6/7) Two Helen's Closet Blackwood cardigans. Wardrobe staples.
8) A Cashmerette Concord Tshirt hack. V neck in the front and back with ties. An absolute summer favourite. The only downside: the rayon knit is growing and the shirt got longer and longer with each wear. I need to take up the hem when it comes out of winter storage.
9/10) Two knit tops from Ottobre 2/2014. The tops are lined, which gives them a very clean finish. Both tops are mostly worn under jackets or with a cardigan, perfect layering pieces. If I make them again I will alter the armholes and go down a size.

11) Vogue 8379. A wrap dress in a loud floral print. Definitely a winner!
12) A breezy blouse, Knipmode KM1708-24. Can't wait for the first sunshine to wear this again.
13/14 Two Helen's Closet Blackwood cardigans. The pink version is the least succesfull of the four I have made this year. The cotton jersey has barely enough stretch for the pattern. The emerald version is the best of the lot. Lovely colour that goes with everything and a super leightweight drapey rayon.
15) Fail! Nice Knipmode pattern, peasant blouse KM1803-103, beautiful broderie Anglaise in the most perfect royal blue. Just not a winning match between pattern and fabric.

16/17) Two renditions of the Cashmerette Concord T-shirt. A nightgown, finished with lingerie elastics. A refashioned blue and white tee with elbow length sleeves. Both in heavy rotation.
18) A navy Deer and Doe Plantain shirt. Very basic, very useful around the house.
19) Menswear! A Knipmode bomber jacket (KM1704-23). Mr F likes it, but due to my unseasonal finishing of this light summer jacket in late autumn it did not get much wear so far.
20) A peplum top, Knipmode KM1803-12. Nice pattern, lovely print but sadly the fabric is not wearing well as it is prone to snagging and pilling.

All in all a rather succesfull year with one fail out of 20 garments, and two cases of disappointing fabric. All garments but one (the failed peasant blouse) have been worn often or very often or probably will be worn often in the right season. In addition to the 19 items I've sewn for myself I only bought one pair of RTW jeans.

To keep my wardrobe balanced it's good to look at what I did NOT sew this year. I already mentioned the lack of coats, also no jackets for me. Next year I need a new winter coat and I can certainly use a few jackets. With just a single dress and a single skirt sewn in 2018 I'm looking forward to sewing more skirts and dresses next year! 

It's only a few years ago that I started sewing with knit fabrics on a regular basis. Things have changed, his year the knits are winning.

And finally some statistics for the patterns I've used:

O dear, that's not adding up to 20! Knipmode should be 6, but it's New Year's Eve and the traditional 'oliebollen' are waiting for me so this will have to do.

Thank you all for following along and for your support, helpful tips and wonderful comments.
Being part of this worldwide sewing community has truly broadened my horizon!

Happy New Year!

Friday, 21 December 2018

Sewing for men: a bomber jacket

Sewing menswear is one of my favourite things to do. Finding interesting patterns is often the hardest part, so I was very happy to see a men's capsule wardrobe pop up in pattern magazine Knipmode last year.
The April 2017 issue had a pattern for a bomber jacket that I wanted to make straight away. Well, sort of. It only took me 18 months to actually start ;)


The pattern is still available as pdf or printed pattern here in the Knipmode webshop

When I'm sewing for mr Foxgloves I always need to make length adjustments. He is 1.96 m tall and the pattern is drafted for 1.84 m. So before ordering the zippers I made flat pattern adjustments, followed by a muslin.

The muslin gave rise to mixed reactions. On IG someone mentioned it would make a nice garment for a 80-year old, while others (including mr F) liked it. Given the lack of plaid matching - amongst other flaws - I decided that no husband of mine would be seen out in public in this garment. I had to act fast and deconstruct it immediately, as mr Foxgloves had already declared this his perfect gardening jacket.

We had a little debate about the best length for a bomber jacket, which was settled when we saw the tv weather man sport two different bomber jackets on consecutive days. We agreed that one was obviously too long, while the other version was just right.

For the outer shell I used a navy cotton twill. The jacket is half lined and there was a request for a colourful paisley lining. I searched high and low but couldn't find it. We went for a flannel plaid in matching shades of blue from the stash, but there definitely needed to be more colour on the insides. Hong Kong seam finishing was the way to go!

When you go to the trouble of sewing over 9 meters of Hong Kong seams it's nice to see the recipient appreciates your efforts!


The pattern has a few nice details, like padded and quilted shoulder yokes, large pockets and a smaller zipped pocket on the left sleeve.

Except for the length adjustments and adding a hanging loop I didn't change a thing.

The tiny pocket is perfect for a bank card or some coins and is used on Saturday morning's bike run for freshly baked buns.

What more is there to say? Perhaps you're wondering about arm movement?


The back?

Yeah. When your model starts frolicking around you know the session is over.

One last one, just because.

Mr Foxgloves is very happy with his jacket and I'm planning to sew for him more often. On weekdays he's always wearing serious business attire so it's nice to have casual garments with a fun and personalized twist.

Ehm, did I mention serious business attire??

Happy holidays!