Monday 29 December 2014

Mabel meets a prince!

Ha! Do I look pleased with myself? I promised you better pictures of my latest Mabel skirt. Here it is, accessorized with a handsome prince!

Just before Christmas my husband and I went to see Dutch National Ballet perform Christopher Wheeldon's Cinderella in Amsterdam. It was one of the occasions I planned to wear my (still unfinished) Christmas dress to, but sometimes you need a Plan B. My red and black Mabel skirt was just what I needed.

During intermission and after the show I checked out the prince's costumes,  beautifully made garments with lots of hand sewn details.

After the show we waited patiently while the prince was signing autographs for his fans and talking to little Cinderella's, probably all dreaming of a ballet career.

When there were no booklets or posters left to be signed it was time for a very important question. "Wanna grab a beer?"

"Sure!", said Prince Guillaume, also known as Mr. Canal Couture. The prince quickly changed into his jeans, and that night Mr. Foxgloves, Miss Canal Couture, the prince and I drank beer and partied happily ever after!

Sunday 28 December 2014

Muslin marathon and Dahlia disaster

This is my third muslin of Colette patterns Dahlia dress. When I first laid my eyes on the pattern I considered it a candidate for this year's Christmas dress. I bought some nice plaid fabric and blue lining and was ready to go.

Then  alarming pictures started to show up on blogs, Instagram and Twitter. It looked like lots of sewists had fitting issues, especially around the shoulder section. O well, no need to worry. Not with my extra broad swimmer shoulders. Gaping neckline? Are you kidding? That never happens to me. Matter of lady cargo distribution, I presume. Boy, was I wrong! 
When I cut my usual size for Colette patterns it resulted in a bodice with enough room in the shoulders to wear a linebacker outfit underneath. Which was quite unexpected, since I had to widen the shoulders of my Moneta dresses. No need for a FBA, in fact I could take the muslin in at the bust. What??!! That's a first!
From the waist downwards things looked pretty good so I kept focusing on the bodice. The problem seems to be caused by the one piece raglan sleeve. I started by adding a dart, them I changed to a two piece sleeve and although the fit improved, I'm still not satisfied. Time was running out, so I put this conundrum aside for a while and looked for another pattern for a Christmas dress. Why not kill two birds with one stone and make a shirt dress for the autumn of 1000 shirtdresses challenge?

After tracing the bodice of M6696 I found the neckline too high for a festive dress. Burda Style 5/2010 #137 was another option, but after tracing that bodice it seemed too low. I don't want to sound like Goldilocks but when you have a larger bust size the line between just right and absolutely indecent is a very thin line indeed. I added an extra inch to the Burda bodice, adjusted the collar and lapels and changed the sleeves for the M6696 sleeves. For the skirt I wanted a 3/4 circle, which I drew on an old duvet cover to make a muslin.

The skirt looked fine, so I divided it into three parts (two front skirts with added button bands and a back skirt) and was ready to cut into a beautiful black jacquard. Only to discover my piece of fabric could not accommodate a wide midi skirt AND long sleeves. Back to the drawing board for a half circle skirt. To make a long story short: three days before Christmas my dress still looked like a frumpy duvet cover turned muslin.

Basically I had the choice to hurry along and try to finish this dress in time, or to sit down by the fire with a glass of wine, watch some movies, bake more cookies. Wine and cookies won.

Christmas was great, with good food and wonderful company. And of course when Foxgloves and thimbles, Canal couture and Sartorial sweatshop are celebrating Christmas together lots of sewing related gifts turn up under the tree!

Happy holidays!

Monday 15 December 2014

Mabel by candlelight

I finished another Mabel skirt. This time I used a red and black double knit, bought a few months ago at the Utrecht fabric market. The result: very comfortable party wear! Construction wise there's nothing new, so I thought I'd let the pictures tell the story. 

That's me, modelling my Mabel skirt at a party. Take a close look and you might just see the waistband. Fashion pic fail! Not to worry, mr Foxgloves would take some pictures when we went to a concert last week. 

Same outfit, another glas of wine, candlelight and an iPhone camera. Sorry! December parties, great atmosphere, crappy pictures. Cheers!

Sunday 30 November 2014

Around the sewing world in 30 days

Imagine having a look around in sewing rooms all over the world, taking a peek at pattern stashes, sewing room organization, the craziest fabrics you've ever seen and as a bonus seeing a variety of views of the world outside those sewing rooms, including mountain tops, back yards, rivers, traffic lights, meadows, woodlands, rooftops and crowded streets. Instagram challenge #bpSewvember showed it all, and more!

When Amanda of Bimble and pimble announced the sewing photo a day-challenge she wrote: "This challenge is for all rad sewing people out there. It’s a chance to share a glimpse of your sewing world. Sewing can often be a solitary pastime and for some of us it can be hard to find other sewists nearby. So let’s share our sewing spaces, our pattern stashes (eep!) and epic wins. It’ll be like having a gang of sewing buddies popping by everyday!"

Amanda was right! What I did not foresee though was how this challenge made me contemplate on where I am coming from and heading to as a sewist. What do you consider your best make? And why? How did your early makes look? What is your best finish, where do you get your inspiration? Sewing soul searching! I absolutely loved this challenge. For those of you who did not take part, here are the 30 daily themes and my 30 pictures.

From left to right and top to bottom: Sewing space, Technique, Stash, WiP, Tools, You, Insides, Signature style, Next project.

Inspiration, Early make, Favourite finish, View, UFO, Sewing library, Organisation, Planning, Fun.

Fit, Notions, Craziest fabric, Tried and true, Patterns, Challenge, Complete, Red hot mess, Best make.

Hem, Learning, Top tip.

I want to thank Amanda for this brilliant idea and I want to thank all sewing buddies, old and new, for popping by each day. You were inspiring! What a success it was, over 12.600 tagged pictures on Instagram, and still counting. Take a look (#bpSewvember) and if you don't have an Instagram account yet, you might consider getting one cause it's FUN!

Monday 10 November 2014

The 'Hepburn' buttonhole scarf

This summer Julie of JetSetSewing shared a pattern for a 1950s inspired scarf. Julie made the scarf with her 'Swiss intern Karl', a Bernina 560. Last time I looked there were no handsome interns around chez Foxgloves but I do have one of Karl's ancestors working for me. His great-grandaunt happens to be my long term employee, since 1987. She recently underwent major surgery after a silly act of spontaneous combustion but she's fine now. Tough broad.
Just like her owner, she's always in for a good challenge. So when I found some pretty silk dupioni during a shopping trip in Amsterdam the two of us were ready for pattern testing!

The pattern can be found as a free download at We all sew . It's only 8 pages and it's a fun job to match up the stars while taping. On to the instructions!

The scarf is taken from an original 1950s design, and it has a little secret . . . it holds its flirty shape with some inside tucks and a big buttonhole.

Some tucks?  THERE'S 24 OF THEM!!

(Julie refers to them as 'tedious tucks' and the scarf will be fine without them) We're going for the full 50s 'oomph' and if 24 tucks is what it takes, well, 24 it is! 

Auntie may not have the looks, she still has the muscles and when she puts on her dancing shoes she makes a mean corded buttonhole!

Some more stitching and pressing and it's done! 

If you're looking for a nice little sewing project or a pretty Christmas gift I really recommend this pattern. Thanks for sharing, Julie & Karl!

Tuesday 4 November 2014

French jacket, construction

Ahh, the never ending story of the French jacket! After finishing quilting the lining to the bouclé it was time to start assembling. Mind you, this is by NO means a tutorial. Just me documenting my struggle using various resources in an attempt to make my first couture cardigan jacket. Usually you would sew the outer shell from your fashion fabric, the inner shell from your lining pieces and then sew the two together. With lining and fashion fabric already joined a different order was needed. First I pinned and basted all vertical seams in the bouclé. The lining was carefully folded out of the way.

The seam lines were stitched by machine. (These pictures were taken very early in the morning, hence the blue undertone). This is what it looked like when all princess seams and side seams were sewn.

After pressing the seams, using a silk organza press cloth, the seam allowances had to be trimmed. I cut them so that the seam allowances lined up with the first row of quilting. A very precise job! When all seam allowances lay flat I carefully trimmed the lining. The lining seams were pinned as lapped seams with one lining piece pinned just passed the bouclé seam, the other one folded just over it, the final seam ending up directly over the bouclé seam. Hmmm, not the best explanation but if you like to see more of this technique I do recommend these video's by Leisa of A Challenging Sew. The seams were then closed by hand, using a fell stitch. 

Cutting, cleaning and hand stitching of the seams took me about an hour for each seam. There are six in the bodice and four in the sleeves.

As much as I like hand stitching, it is of course very time consuming. There is still so much more to do! Putting in the sleeves, finishing front edges and hems, sewing on trim, a chain, maybe pockets. This could easily take up all available sewing time till Christmas. Now that I finished the bodice seams, cut the sleeves and basted the shoulders I feel like it's time for a different approach. Just three pieces to deal with now, it's on a hanger and I can easily put it out of the way. I will continue working on this jacket, but since it's a summer jacket there is no rush. From now on it will be a side project, instead of dominating all work spaces in my sewing room. I'll put in some hours when I have the time, but it will no longer be an obstacle that's keeping me from my autumn/winter sewing plans.

This is what it looks like now. A hot mess, slowly taking shape. 

To be continued!

Thursday 23 October 2014

Barneveld blogger meetup

Twice a year the Stoffenspektakel stops by close to where I live. It's a wonderful opportunity to buy fabrics from 80-100 different sellers from all over the country. During my visit at the spring event I posted some pics on Instagram. When I got home I noticed how another Dutch blogger, Beata of Red Point Tailor, had been tweeting from the same spot. If only we'd been using the same platform we could have met for coffee and a chat!

This time around we planned to actually meet at Stoffenspektakel Barneveld. I arrived early and waited near the main entrance. And waited. And waited some more. We skipped the most sensible part of planning a meetup: exchanging phone numbers. Darn! Just as I started thinking something unexpected had come up, Beata posted a picture on Instagram. She arrived from another entrance! Okay. Spot-Redpointtailor-time! Where to start in an enormous hall with hundreds of fabric shoppers? I just started walking the lanes, looking at fabrics and keeping an eye out for a familiar face. When we finally bumped into each other it was a true facepalm moment. Come on, sewing Sherlock! You could have known! The best fabric seller around, Kruyff Couture Fabrics, has a magic spell on both of us. We can smell their fine fabrics from a distance!

Beata and I immediately started discussing all fabrics. 'That beautiful wool crepe is awesome for your Marfy 0303 dress' and 'What do you think of this bouclé for your next French jacket?' When we told the sales lady we had never met before she said: 'Really? Who would have guessed? You know really well what the other is looking for!' When we started repeating sentences like 'You should soooo buy that. Of course it's expensive but it's beau-ti-ful!!!' we decided to take a time out for coffee and apple pie. Good call!

It was so much fun to talk about sewing habits and not getting a blank stare in return but 'O, I totally do that too!' Thanks Beata, for a wonderful afternoon. It was fun meeting you! 

Wednesday 15 October 2014

French jacket, thread tracing and quilting

After sewing some Vogue and Indie patterns with included seam allowances it was such a relief to work with marked seamlines once again! To quote Claire Shaeffer: 'The cutting and marking process is very different from that of home sewing. The couture method of construction is to match the seamlines, not the cut edges; therefore, seam allowances can be any width and are often trimmed after the garment sections are stitched together." (source: The Couture Cardigan Jacket). What??! In my neighbourhood that's the definition of regular home sewing! Who would have thought that even the first Barbie coats and aprons I produced during my childhood sewing experiments, as ugly as they looked, were made using couture methods! 

Over the years about 80% of my sewing projects started with thread tracing. And when I don't, I feel guilty for cutting corners. Goody two-shoes? Who knows, but it's really working for me. The markings are accurate, visible on both sides of the fabric, and unlike chalk markings, they do not disappear unless I want them to. Specially when it comes to putting in sleeves I really like the guidance of properly marked seamlines. Also, back in the glorious days of fewer fitting issues, using ample seam allowances near critical spots enabled fitting on the go, as opposed to making toiles. But I digress.

Speaking of ample seam allowances! I used 7 cm at the seamlines and about 10-12 cm at the hems. And I needed it, because that bouclé is fraying like mad.

After marking all seams and grainlines the next step was quilting lining and fabric together. Oi! How? Where? After comparing all instructions I could find in books and on the internet I started with a test run to determine the right stitch length and tension. I also had to pick a colour for the thread. Since the lining had all colours of the rainbow in an ever changing pattern there was no way I could find a colour that would match each and every flower on it. It was just as arbitrary to choose pink as it was to choose blue on the bobbin. Blue felt safer, in case the bobbin thread incidentally showed on the right side. The fashion fabric consists of threads going from white to dark navy and at least five shades of blue in between. Laying out several spools of blue thread on the bouclé showed how the middle tone almost disappeared, as could be expected.
After fiddling around I settled for stitch length 4.5 and tension 7. (The test row on the right)

Since the order of construction of a cardigan jacket is very different from a tailored jacket the quilting rows have to be placed very carefully. The quilting rows are all parallel to the grainline but they stop 3-5 cm from all seams and hemlines. You need that space later to turn under seam allowances and hems. I used a quilt ruler to determine where the first and last quilting row would be and then decided on the spacing of the rows in between.

This is the first panel. I'm happy to report the execution standard improved after a little more practice on the next panels. Also, this was before pressing and with long thread tails still showing at the beginning and end of each row.

Ahh, those tails! A gazillion of them, all waiting to be pulled between layers where they end up in a double or triple knot. Here's another reason why you should not work on a French jacket with any time schedule whatsoever on your mind. Because, seriously, how long can it take to tie those knots? Forever, when you're in a hurry. Not nearly long enough when you're mindfully working your way through these tiny knots on a sunny autumn day. 

Tuesday 7 October 2014

French jacket: the final preparations

A year ago I was ready to start a French jacket. At least, that's what I thought. Finished my muslin, bought fabric, lining and thread and with some relatively quiet weeks at work ahead I was all set to join the sewalong. Uh oh. By the time I got to the second blogpost I found out I needed silk organza, silk basting thread and a walking foot. My usual fabric suppliers gave me the side eye when I asked for such fancy stuff. Silk what?? 

The age of my good old sewing machine, anno 1987, complicated the search for a walking foot. Never mind, I had to wait anyway for my basting silk to arrive from Japan and the silk organza from Hong Kong. In the meantime I tracked down an old school walking foot. It came at the price of two new sewing machines at Ikea. Eeek! I'm happy to report though it's worth every penny. 

The magic time slot passed and the project was put in a box. Pandora's box ready to be opened when I had lots and lots of sewing time. When pigs fly.
In short that's why I'm working on a summer jacket now. Because I discovered there's never a right time for such a big project. And if there's never a right time, there's also never a wrong time! At least that's what I keep telling myself. Don't laugh. 

Next I made a muslin, but forgot to take pictures of me wearing it. This is rapidly turning into a real success story ;) I tweaked the muslin and then took it apart. After removing the seam allowances the muslin was used as working pattern.

As I was cutting a single layer I needed the biggest working space I could think of: the garden table.

With a forecast of heavy showers my time outside was limited. To be continued!

Thursday 2 October 2014

French jacket, design choices

 Aren't those French jackets Chanel-inspired and thus boxy and square, with high rounded necklines and made from pastel coloured tweed? Boxy jackets don't look good on my curvy frame, high necklines are to be avoided at all costs and I don't do pastels. It's no surprise that when I visited the Chanel exhibition in The Hague the overall look of a lot of the garments on display did not really appeal to me. Of course I admired the details, the beautiful fabrics and the stunning techniques. I just could not picture myself wearing the 1960s iconic jackets.

We followed the exhibition's timeline and when we reached the Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel collections the look and feel of the jackets definitely changed. Especially the yellow 'Scuba' jacket from the 1991 spring/summer collection caught my attention. Not because of the colour, or the sequins. This jacket had a v-neck, a zipper, it was a bit longer, had a sleeker outline and waist definition!

Or how about this cropped jacket?

Finally the penny dropped. It was never my intention to knock off an existing jacket. All I wanted was to learn some new techniques and create a soft tailored, comfortable jacket in beautiful fabrics. The only way to go was by choosing a pattern with the right style lines for me.  A pattern however that would have to meet the needs for making a quilted jacket. 

Bouclé or tweed are the most suitable fabrics for making a couture cardigan jacket. The lining is quilted to the fashion fabric and you need texture and loft to hide the quilting lines on the outside. Working with a textured fabric means you don't want to work with darts because they may end up bulky. Princess seams, and especially princess seams ending at the shoulder, are the best to create shaping in a French jacket. I own lots of beautiful jacket patterns but most of them had design details like yokes or double darts in front and back that made them useless for this project. Guess what I ended up with: V7975. Quelle surprise!

After mixing up all views I'll make the longer jacket with abutting front edges and bracelet length sleeves. I redrafted the neckline to a v-neck.

I found my fabrics at Harry's Stoffen in Enschede, The Netherlands. The cotton bouclé is very soft and the lining is so beautiful, love at first sight. My only regret is that I did not think of buying more to make a matching blouse. Unfortunately it is out of stock now. It will be a pleasure to look at those colourful flowers during my countless hours of hand stitching!

Monday 29 September 2014

French jacket, books and blogs

During summer I did a lot of research about construction techniques used for a couture cardigan jacket. For future reference, and by special request, I'll write some blogposts on resources for couture techniques, design inspiration and fabrics and supplies. 

Over the years I bookmarked the epic tales of six bloggers who wrote about the Classic French Jacket Class they took with Susan Khalje in Baltimore. If you're in for some jawdropping stories read the adventures of Marina (Frabjous Couture), Karen (Fifty Dresses), Melanie (Poppykettle), Sarah (Goodbye Valentino), Leisa (A Challenging Sew) and Inna (Thewallinna)

Last year Leisa and Inna hosted a French Jacket Sewalong, with wonderfully detailed posts and video's. During the construction of my jacket their posts will be my lifeline!

For general couture techniques I rewatched Susan Khalje's Craftsy class: The Couture Dress.

The Couture Cardigan Jacket, sewing secrets from a Chanel collector by Claire Shaeffer, a step by step guide including a dvd.
Couture Sewing Techniques by Claire Shaeffer, a useful reference book
Cool couture by Kenneth D King, construction details for runway style 

The next best thing to going to Baltimore for a couture class must be watching Susan Khalje's video course on the French jacket. It's coming soon! There is no release date yet, and I want to start my jacket now.  I can see more cardigan jackets in my future so I'm looking forward to this video!

For now take a look at this wonderful video from the Chanel atelier!

Saturday 27 September 2014

And now for something completely different

As a freelance writer and editor (you have to take my word for it I'm much more eloquent in my native language) I work from home. During writing sessions in my home office I wear jeans or a skirt with a knit top. When I go out to visit a client, or do an interview, I always add a jacket to finish my outfit. Sometimes I'm multitasking and taking the pictures for my articles as well. The last thing you need when juggling pen, paper and camera is a restrictive jacket!

Over the years I bookmarked every post I found about couture methods for constructing a Chanel inspired jacket. Coco Chanel's revolutionary cardigan jacket was designed to be stylish, yet comfortable. It has the look of a jacket and the feel of a cardigan, as Chanel wanted women to be able to move and drive a car without bursting their seams. Just what I need!

So I'm moving from one extreme to another. After seven months of simple knit sewing I'm in for 100+ hours work on a garment with lots of hand stitching involved. I'm fond of hand stitching and I think I'll enjoy every minute of this project!