Monday 30 September 2013

The Berry picking dress

Smart doggy. She can tell there's a loooong story coming up about the making of another dress. So here it is. Remember this dress? A few days after I finished it I was picking strawberries and got all tangled up in some bushes. Note to self: think again before wearing chiffon while gardening.
 I'm not much into dungarees or overalls so I decided to go for a sturdy remake of the dress and wear the chiffon one only on ladylike occasions. Since most of the fruits we're growing in our kitchen garden are red, making a red cotton dress seemed like the most sensible choice. Not that I can spill red currants or raspberries totally unnoticed, but it never hurts to pick a  forgiving colour and busy print for garden jobs.

We had an extraordinary summer, so there was very relaxed hand basting in the sun. I shortened the skirt by six inches and changed the front neckline to a deep v-neck. The dress was fully lined and I hemmed the skirts with contrasting bias tape.

 I made the red bias tape for the lining following the continous bias tape tutorial on the Colette Patterns blog.

The hems were seamed by hand on yet another sunny day in the garden.

The finished hems.

Inside out.


Someday I will find that tripod....

Thursday 26 September 2013

My first weeks as a blogger and a happy dance!

Can't remember why it took me so long to start a blog. If anyone out there reads this and is wondering whether or not to start one: go for it, it's so much fun!

Quick recap: In the first week I joined two sewalongs. The first one is the Little French Jacket sewalong, hosted by Leisa of A Challenging Sew and Inna of Thewallinna. Inna kicked off with some awesome posts about colour theory and body shapes while Leisa wrote some indepth information about fabric and lining. When using couture techniques you can spend as many as 100 hours on sewing your LFJ, so careful selection of fabrics and patterns is in order to make sure the finished jacket is flattering both colour and stylewise.
Obviously the best fabric options for a Chanel style jacket are wool boucles and tweeds with textured surfaces. As I'm allergic to wool I asked if anyone could give me suggestions for non wool fabric that could work. I immediately discovered how supportive the online sewing community is. Leisa spent ages reading fiber contents on different sites. She was concerned lighter weight cotton or silk tweeds would not have the loft needed for quilting. Belinda in Singapore test quilted some samples of non wool tweeds and posted the results in the LFJ Flickr group. Other sewists sent links to fabric suppliers where I ordered some swatches.Thanks girls, really helpful!

I also joined the By Hand London Anna dress sewalong. So far it's the extras that makes this sewalong very worthwhile. The BHL girls have been posting interesting information on full bust adjustments (looking at me??) and adding a 3/4 sleeve to the pattern.

And.....Remember that Negroni shirt I blogged about here and here ?

It was my entry to the Super Online Community Sewing Match, hosted by Sew Mama Sew. And guess what? I won a prize! A $35 gift certificate from Colette Patterns. Yay, happy dance!

Wednesday 18 September 2013

The Joi dress

The Anna dress is slowly progressing, but there's not much to show yet. So I might as well post a dress I made earlier this summer. The pattern is from the Dutch sewing magazine Knipmode.

Knipmode 4/2013-8

Since my fabric, a flowery chiffon, was very sheer I decided to underline the bodice with black cotton poplin. I handbasted the two layers together which resulted in opaque and stabilized pieces. Lauren wrote a very educational post about the why and how of underlining.

For the skirt I wanted to preserve the drape of the chiffon, so I finished fabric and lining separately with french seams. To my surprise the pattern did not use facings for either the front scoop neck or the deep v-neck in the back. I prefer my necklines to keep their shape, so I drafted facings and added a light fusible interfacing. I used satin tape to sew the facing to the lining. Just for the fun of it.

I handpicked my zipper, a tutorial can be found here.

When it came to hemming chiffon I had absolutely no clue about the best way to deal with it. Google to the rescue. Google came up with a YouTube video of a very brave lady, hemming an intricate bridesmaid dress by using a candle. A burning candle. What the....? Call the fire brigade in order to rescue my french seams and handpicked zipper? Never! After some more surfing the interwebs I decided to stitch once, cut off the seam allowance and roll over again. It took some time to finish that tiny hem in the sheer and slippery fabric but I preferred the look over the curled edges that were the result of the scary burning process.

Hemming the lining skirt was much quicker  could have been a quicker job but I decided to go a little overboard for the sake of prettiness. I finished the hem with some black lace.

 Black on black, on the inside, mmm. Oh, well. Did I mention going a little overboard?

 Yo! Can you blame me for flashing my skirt when I get into my car?

The finished dress, with the scoop neck in the front:

And the deep v-neck at the back:

Monday 16 September 2013

Next up: By Hand London's Anna dress

My scissors are sharpened, my sewing machine is freshly oiled and last but not least: my pattern arrived! All is ready to start my next project: the Anna dress. I originally planned to make this dress two weeks ago, just in time to wear it to the season's opening gala of the Dutch National Ballet.
The pattern was supposed to arrive four days before the gala but got lost in the mail. When I contacted BHL's Charlotte about the RoyalMailFail she immediately shipped my order again, unfortunately it arrived a week late.Wondering what that other By Hand London pattern is doing on my sewing table? Charlotte popped in an Elisalex to make up for the disappointment. That girl certainly knows how to keep her customers happy!

Once the I've-got-nothing-to-wear-to-the-gala-panic settled down (of course there was a plan B in my closet, isn't there always?) everything turned out just fine. The gala was absolutely brilliant, for my upcoming birthday I'll be making a new Elisalex dress, and the Anna pattern arrived just in time for the official sewalong that's starting today.
Ready steady sew!

Tuesday 10 September 2013

Negroni, the big reveal

I enjoyed every minute working on this pattern. It came together like a dream, my seamripper stayed in its box during the entire project. The inside of the shirt looks very sharp and clean with it´s flatfelled seams. For more construction details read here.

The construction of the sleeve plackets looked a bit complicated at first, but after applying some origami folds as described in the instruction it almost sewed itself.

Contrasting fabric was also used on the inner back yoke, the inner cuffs and inner pocket flaps.

At the hem of the sideseams I added little contrast pieces. I drafted a little patternpiece to mirror the form of the sleeve plackets.                                                                                                                   

Men and buttons. I really sewed that second button from the bottom, dear!
Testdrive! For my 6 foot 5 inches tall husband (1.95 m) I decided to make size XL, based on the size chart. I somehow could not imagine long and patient fitting sessions in my sewing room, so I asked him to hand over his favorite shirt so I could work from there. Even after all my measuring and comparing the Negroni ended up a little big. And, for the first time ever: the sleeves were TOO LONG! (Even after shortening them with almost an inch). Next time, and I'm pretty sure there will be a next time, I will go one size down.

My husbands verdict on the shirt: nice feel, great finish: 'I think this will be my new favourite!' For the second Negroni he asked for some more.... extravaganza. The next Negroni will be even more bright and detailed. Well, count me in!

Constructing the Negroni shirt

It's been said before, and I'll say it again: Colette's instructions are excellent. Designer Sarai Mitnick and her team aim at making 'Sewing Patterns that Teach'. The 25 pages instruction booklet that came with the Negroni pattern certainly taught me some new tricks. One of them involved cutting a template out of cardboard to assist in pressing perfectly formed patch pockets.

In addition to the instruction booklet I found some useful tutorials on various blogs. The best advice on how to get perfect collar points was found on Pamela Erny's blog Off the Cuff. Pamela shares the secrets of Custom Shirtmakers: "When we want a point, we SEW a point, we do not pivot." And: "We TURN collars, we don't poke them out with pointy objects." Makes sense to me! 
So I turned the collar following Pamela's rules. It's clean, easy and fast. 

Then there was that moment of fear that everyone who sewed the Negroni shirt will recognize. 

Bummer! Is this really how it is supposed to look?
Peter Lappin to the rescue! I checked the pictures of his famous Men's shirt Sew-along and discovered that my mess looked a lot like Peter's mess. There was light at the end of the tunnel!

Glueing in the garden

Since I had no time to waste I bought a downloadable pattern from the Colette shop. The PDF contained 48 pattern pages that had to be glued together. Not a job I was particularly looking forward to, so I waited for a sunny day and took the whole shebang outside. Note to self: there are downsides to working in a garden. Especially on a windy day.

Eventually the pattern was assembled, matching up all letters and numbers. The end result: a piece of paper that measured 1.25 x 1.60 meter. So glad I confiscated the garden table for this job!

Diving in, head first

When I spotted the Colette Negroni shirts, created by the contestants of the Super Online Sewing Match, I immediately knew I wanted to make one for my husband. Since Sew Mama Sew also hosted a Super Online Sewing Community Match I told myself now was a good time to enter the online sewing world. No more procrastination, my entry for the contest should be finished by September 10th.

Three weeks to buy fabric, download the pattern, start a blog and open a Flickr account. Oh, and stitch up a men's shirt with convertible collar, flat felled seams, sleeve plackets and a lined back yoke. Right.

First things first. Fabrics. I wanted my husband to be involved in the selection process, but he did not seem overjoyed by the prospect of going through multiple pages of online fabric stores. Neither was I. Over to another cunning plan. It took some persuasion from my side but promising to buy him a nice meal in the nearby town was enough to get him to accompany me to the weekly fabric market. Food bribing. Always works.

It did not take long for him to find the fabrics of his choice. Considering the retro feel of the Negroni shirt I was very pleased he chose a fine cotton with a vintage print in two matching colours. He also picked the buttons in bright yellow. Love that combination! The guy certainly deserved his meal.


A few months ago, when an injury narrowed my world down to my chair and an iPad, I discovered the online sewing community. So much inspiration, so many great tutorials, sewalongs and contests. I wanted to be part of this community! I love to sew, I love my garden, and sewing in my garden is definitely the best of both worlds. Foxgloves and thimbles was born.