Thursday 31 December 2015

My year in patterns

New Year's Eve. Can't think of a better moment for reflections on the past year. Don't you love reading all sewing hits and misses posts? When I was looking back at my sewing I found it hard to select five hits and five misses, so I tried something else. Sewing statistics! This year I sewed a total of 15 garments. Only one of them was a dress. I don't believe in rules for the sewing room, but I had a vague plan in the back of my mind to sew less dresses and more separates. Win!

Four tops (one unblogged), three skirts (one unblogged), two jackets, two sweaters, a cardigan, a blouse, a dress and a coat. All of my garments have been worn. Some an awful lot, like the jackets and the coat, others less, due to the nature of the garment.

Most worn: Ottobre trenchcoat
This coat took a big chunk out of my sewing time, yet it was worth every minute!

Least worn: M6696

My Christmas dress , finished too late for Christmas 2014, was my least worn handmade garment of 2015. I still call it a big hit because it was there when I needed it: for an opening night at the ballet, a formal dinner in September and, as you can see above, this year's Christmas dinner with the family!

No misses this year, although some projects were more challenging than others....

....but  eventually everything turned out fine and although not very productive measured by the number of finished garments I call it a succesfull sewing year. All handmades in regular rotation, that's what it's all about, right?

During my first year of blogging I discovered a lot of new to me pattern companies and I wanted to try them ALL. This year I'm pretty much back to my regular routine. 

More on the philosophy behind my pattern selection in my next post. For now I want to end with my nine most popular pictures of 2015 on Instagram. If you haven't joined IG yet, please consider to do so because it is so much fun!

Thanks everyone for another year full of sewing inspiration, and I wish you all a very happy, healthy and creative New Year!

Monday 28 December 2015

Free Knipmode pattern

As a special Christmas gift Knipmode magazine offers a free pdf download of any pattern in their shop. It's a thank you to everyone who showed an interest in the magazine by following their blog, Facebook page or subscribing to their newsletter. All you have to do is enter the code KERST, valid until December 31.

I think it's a wonderful opportunity to check the fit of a new to you pattern company or perhaps rediscover the Knipmode patterns. The announcement was made in a video, so unfortunately Google translate can't come to the rescue for non Dutch speakers. I got some emails from foreign Knipmode fans, asking for help. So here's a quick guide to the Knipmode pattern shop.

You can scroll until you find a pattern to your liking, or search by category: vrouw (woman), bruidskleding (bridal), zwangerschap (maternity wear) and more.
When you found your pattern of choice push button Aan mandje toevoegen (add to shopping cart)
Go to winkelwagen (shopping cart) and push button betalen (payment)
If you already have an account you can now enter the code KERST and push bestelling plaatsen (place your order). If you don't have an account yet, just fill in the required name, mail, address and create a wachtwoord (password).

That's all! The newer patterns (since September 2015) all come in an extended size range (European size 34-54), older patterns come in regular and Plus sizes.Seam allowances are not included. Have fun browsing around!

Thursday 24 December 2015

Burda/Plantain for the holidays!

Hi all! I'm typing this post with sticky fingers as I'm in between making vanilla fudge, baking almond  cookies and making ice cream. You know, the type of job you don't want to do while wearing your new Christmas dress. Last week I finally finished a sweater I cut out last winter, right in time to wear it while cutting holly and other evergreens from the garden, decorating the tree and, well, baking and more baking. 

It started out as a Burda magazine pattern which turned out too short and boxy, so I only used the shoulder and neckline section of that pattern (can't remember what issue it was in, around 2003 I think) and used my tried and tested Deer & Doe Plantain from the bust down.

My earlier Plantains all had a scooped neckline and I'm quite happy with the v-neck for a change. I used a light weight wool knit fabric, bought some time ago because I both liked the colour combo and the houndstooth print. Instead of the neckband I cut a facing, the hems were serged, fold over once to reduce bulk and then hand stitched.

It was getting dark during my photoshoot and I finally managed to get a picture of the back.......

......After several failed attempts to be in the right position in time ;)


The upside of last year's disaster, when I failed to finish my Christmas dress in time, is this year's dress has been ready since January. So relaxed!
Today I'm turning the sewing room into a guest room, carefully removing all pins and seam rippers from the floor. I'm ready to party and spend quality time with my loved ones.

Wishing you all a wonderful time!

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday 9 December 2015

Knipmode A-line skirt

Look! Living proof that there's still some sewing going on chez Foxgloves! And it's a first, as I've surprised myself by making an A-line skirt. I can't remember ever owning one before. My skirts are either pencil skirts, half or 3/4 circle skirts or flowy gored skirts. Why not try some other styles?
When I saw the line drawings of an A-line skirt in the Knipmode December issue I remembered an end of the bolt piece of fabric that was waiting for the right pattern to come along. It's a mix of velvet and shiny jacquard roses and it was a dream to sew.

The only picture of the skirt in the magazine was this one:

Not very helpful, to say the least. Fabric suggestions were a bit confusing. The cutting layout shows the skirt is cut on the cross grain of a non stretch fabric. Yet stretch lining was advised?? I could not think of any reason to follow that suggestion, especially as the only stretch lining I can get locally is the thin, clingy, inferior quality that doesn't go well with tights. I had some nice Bemberg lining in the stash that looked much better. Last change I made was to go for a black velvet waistband, instead of the pattern's faux leather. Much softer to the skin!

When you end up with some giant roses on your bum, pattern matching is a must. Even when there's not much fabric to work with. It kind of worked, and the lapped zipper is well hidden too. Hooray for busy prints!

On the left you can just see the black bias tape I used to hem the outer shell. The lining could have been a tad longer, don't know what happened. Slight miscalculation I guess. On the right a close up of the lapped zipper. I hardly ever do this anymore, but for once I obediently followed instructions and I'm glad I did. Invisible zippers usually are my first choice, but on heavier fabrics the good old regular ones are a safer choice.
The fit of the skirt was spot on, I didn't change a thing!

Happy moment. No changes!

When I use Knipmode patterns for a pencil skirt I usually have to change the hip curve, the drafted hip curve sits too low on me. No need to do so on an A-line. The skirt length, 62 cm, is the original length of the pattern. Knipmode drafts for 172 cm and I'm 173 cm, but from the picture in the magazine I could never have guessed that is was over the knee! (By the way, those are not bra straps. It's a shirt by Dutch designer Mart Visser with a double neckline band for special effects in front and back)

So. Now I'm the owner of my first A-line skirt. What else can I do with it?

Casual, with a cardigan and boots

Dressed up with a jacket

What's the verdict? It's comfortable, the pattern was flawless and quick to make. I'm not sure about the A-line being the best shape for me, here's the same jacket paired with a pencil skirt, but let's see what I think after wearing this new to me style for a while.
I can think of more combinations to try out but this is as far I got before it started raining again.

Window dummy look. Just unscrew the arms to give her a different outfit ;)

 That's all for now. I'm going back to the Donna Karan jacket I cut out last night, more on that soon!

Thursday 3 December 2015

Next up: Vogue 1465, a Donna Karan jacket

Just a quick post to share what's going on in my sewing room. I finished a pencil skirt, a lace top, a warm sweater and an A-line skirt, all Knipmode patterns and all unblogged. We've had an usually warm but wet November in The Netherlands. Whenever I was trying to take blog photos it was either raining cats and dogs or gale force winds would blow my outfit over my head. Forecasts changed from bad to unpredictable now, so maybe in the next few days I'll find a dry spell to drag all my new stuff outside!

Sewing room view

For my next project I picked Vogue 1465, a Donna Karan jacket. It's an unlined jacket with front and back princess seams and two-piece sleeves. Mitered corners, a shaped hemline, five rows of top stitching and 12+ meters of bound seams. Just the kind of project I was looking for!

As you can see the wrong side of the fabric shows in the lapels so initially I was looking for a fabric with different textures on both sides, as used in the original. All I could find were fabrics with different colours or prints, resulting in contrasting lapels. The longer I looked at the line drawings, the more I liked the idea of keeping it simple, to highlight the design.

Luckily one of my favourite fabric suppliers had a high quality Punta di Roma in stock in a lovely deep, warm red. I also bought Bemberg lining in a slightly darker colour to make the bias seam binding.

I was surprised to see how few images showed up when I googled V1465 for inspiration. Just two reviews on PR? (both with contrasting lapels) Is anyone else planning to make this jacket?

Happy sewing!

Wednesday 18 November 2015

Review Knipmode December 2015

As a long time subscriber to Knipmode I've always been very strict on the twelve issues in, twelve issues out rule. With one exception: the December issue was always a keeper. Not sure about this one though, as I'm a little underwhelmed. Look at the cover. Perhaps it would make a good January front page with all the grey, but does it say Christmas, or New Year's Eve?

Looking at the technical drawings I don't see much that makes me change my mind. Even though some of the dresses are made up in lace and one of the tops has sequins, design wise they're not very different from linen dresses and tops we saw in the spring and summer issues. It's all a

Let's take a look at some of the older December issues.

Designer evening wear, not one or two, but 20 Little Black Dresses in different styles, patterns for stylish accessories like clutches, bow ties, evening coats. 

It's not just about Christmas. The box with my treasured December Knipmode magazines is where I will be looking first when I need a pattern for a cocktail dress for a Midsummer night's party, where I found Prom dress patterns for my daughters, evening wear for a Gala or a dress pattern suitable to attend a formal wedding. I know of students and musicians using the designer patterns to make affordable  outfits for events with a 'white tie' dresscode or stage performances. With eleven magazines a year full of everyday wear, can we please, please have a festive December issue?

End of rant. When you're not looking at the collection through my disappointed eyes you may find some useful patterns.

 I'm all for relaxed family gatherings during the holidays but even secret pyamas can be a little more glamourous in December!

Deck the halls?
The styling of these patterns is definitely more festive, but a tank top, a t-shirt, rectangular skirts with elastic waists and a simple sleeveless dress? Make these patterns up in bright or floral cottons and it's called a summer holiday capsule wardrobe. 

A pencil skirt and a jacket, modeled in two different sizes. The classic skirt is looking good, but something is off with the jacket (#23 and #24). Is it the collar that looks too tiny? The centre front that looks a bit frumpy when the jacket is closed? Is there just too much going on with prints and colour blocking? Or is it the placement of the princess seams and the extra darts? I'll pass.

Now finally, here's a dress with interesting seams! Maybe in red to show off the design details? (The Knipmode website is down, so I can't add any details from the pattern shop)

Let's end this review in a positive mood. Is it all bad? No, it's not. I've already traced A-line skirt #5, I'll keep dress #17 in mind as a summer dress and maybe cardigan 13 will end op in my sewing queue. But is it a collectors item? Certainly not.
This December, and for all events in the next year, I'll be looking at Vogue or Burda for evening wear and cocktail dresses. Or, of course, my trusty box of older Knipmode December issues.

What brought on the change, I wonder? Of course Knipmode found its niche by selling patterns for busy and active women. Not as fashionable or experimental as Burda, not as basic as Ottobre. Over the years I've read several columns by chief editors suggesting we don't want to dress up anymore, all we want to do in December is put up our feet in lounge wear, play games and watch Netflix. But is that really true? Theaters all over the country are sold out for ten days in a row around Christmas, restaurants are fully booked. Whenever I go to the ballet, or a concert hall, I see lots of people dressed to the nines. We need patterns for that!

How about you? Do you like to dress up whenever you can or are you in Team lounge wear? 
What's your favourite source for evening wear and cocktail dresses?

Sunday 8 November 2015

Brushing up my French with Dior and Carmen

Early this summer, when we were in the Francophone parts of Belgium for a wedding, I felt the need to work on my rusty language skills. After successfully practicing my culinary French in restaurants and bars (très important, non?) I wanted to find some books to bring home to keep up the good work. Of course I went straight to the sewing books when we found a lovely bookstore in Liège. What else? Sewing wise I could not find anything interesting, but there were some very pretty fashion books!
After spending an hour in the reading nook of the store I bought La révolution du New Look.

Great read, and brilliant pictures!

In case you ever wondered about the perfect skirt length, here's Christian Dior telling us all hems should be 40 cm above the floor. No more, no less.

As I was slowly making progress reading this book I received a surprise email by Carmen of CarmencitaB blog : I won her book in a giveaway!

Carmen is the winner of Cousu Main, the French equivalent of the Great British Sewing Bee. She wrote a beginner friendly sewing book including 11 patterns. The book is a joy to read and the patterns for pants, blouses, la petite robe noire, a button down shirt, pencil skirts and more are looking great. The styling is fun, just like Carmen and her blog!

Hi Carmen!

Carmen also sent me a pretty tote bag. If you're part of #bpsewvember on Instagram you'll have seen today's question 'Why I sew?'. Here's one of the many answers:

Merci beaucoup, Carmen!

Monday 2 November 2015

Why I skipped my birthday dress

Look at that sweater! Sewing doesn't get any easier than that! Just what I was thinking when I started working on a fitness outfit. Quick project, could easily be finished in an evening or two and then over to making a glorious birthday dress. To speed things up I skipped making a muslin.

Clever thinking, Mrs Foxgloves. What went wrong? I used a Knipmode pattern (KM 1510-13) in my usual size 48. It looked a bit big, but as I wanted to wear it as a layering piece it didn't worry me too much.

When I looked at the technical drawing I assumed it was rather short. Something to do with the over all proportions, and the sleeves looking longer than the I added 6 cm extra length. Huge mistake! I was completely misreading the shape. It looked almost wider than long but it was not caused by the sweater being short, but by it being extremely wide! Not too worry, as a commenter on Instagram said: look at the bright side, it isn't too small!

After some chopping and going down two sizes I had another wadder.

Was this thing growing overnight? I recut again. Luckily there was so much excess fabric that I could just cut off all serged seams again, including the raglan seams. I finally ended up with something wearable, but I made three sweaters to get there. Waste of time de luxe. I equally blame the pattern, my own bad judgement and the fabric, which is a very soft, lightweight cotton/poly knit.

I attached the cowl neck twice on the final garment. Brilliant. Depending on how the cowl is worn you see the seam on the inside or the outside of the garment. The only way to get a clean finish both ways was by using French seams. On a very unstable knit. Holy cow, it never stopped!

That'll have to do. I finished my sweatshirt this morning, twenty minutes before my first serious fitness training in well over three years. I recently did some try-outs and my back and various other protesting body parts were finally holding up fine, so my return to the gym was planned for the first Monday in November. Wait, that's my birthday! As you can guess by now I didn't even start sewing my birthday dress. Well, who cares. It's the perfect day to start working on my health again and I'm very grateful to be able to reach a new level of exercise. I enrolled for a year of training and I'm wondering where I'll stand same time next year. I hope to rebuild my strength and, if possible, regain my former shape and size. And look, who needs a birthday dress when you can have a party in the gym???

It'll be quite a journey, for me as well as for my trainer. Cause I'm such a natural ;) See?

Monday 19 October 2015

Review Knipmode November 2015

Lots of highlights in the November issue of Knipmode: a corset, designs for (faux) leather and a mix & match dress pattern. The cover shouts 'Feest', which is the Dutch word for party. Hurry up, go sew yourself a dress in Christmas lights fabric! I don't know about you, to me it feels like dressing up as a Christmas tree, but lots of people seem to like the bright lights print. I do like the neckline of the shirt on the left!

Bright lights, big city collection

 It's not all about party wear this month. There is also a collection based on Pantone's colour of the year Marsala containing some practical day to day wear patterns. I love the colour mix.

Drum roll! Ever since the November Knipmode collection by Annicke Shireen and Marloes Dadswell, winners of the Dutch Sewing Bee, was announced Dutch sewists have been looking forward to it.  During the show they made some very pretty corsets and some edgy designs in leather, all under extreme time pressure. The items they designed for Knipmode are a fresh breath of air and, just like all other patterns, available in 11 European sizes, from 34-54, that's 83-131 cm bust, 67-113 cm waist and 92-138 cm hip.


My personal favourite from this issue is the mix & match dress pattern. A bodice with six different neckline options, four different sleeves and five skirt options. Going over your personal fit adjustments just once and make over a 100 different styles? Yes, please! 

If you download one of the pdf patterns of the dresses 7-11 all other options will be added for free.
The patterns marked with @ are available as pdf:

My must-have list is not as big as my list from the September and October issues, but I can live with that. (Just as well!) It's my impression that there are a lot of patterns in this magazine that appeal to younger sewists, without being overly simplified and aimed at the beginners-only-segment. Feest!

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