Life of Johanna

Lots of work, very little sewing

Friday, October 31, 2008Johanna / 0 kommentarer
My hair is the only thing that's been cut this week. The picture was taken by photographer Per Hanstorp during a photo class he held at my job this week.

I've been pretty swamped at work with long days to boot so this week I've only spent about 30 min sewing. And that time was wasted since I manged to attach a bib to a dress the wrong way. So much for starting sewing after 10 pm on a weekday. The dress I am working on is a black rayon/silk dress with a tuxedo bib. Apart from the above sewing error it looks pretty promising, so hopefully I'll be able to finish it this weekend.

Instead of sewing most late evenings has been spent watching season 2 of Heroes. The first season rocked. I loved the multilayered story telling, the unorthodox format and the clever suspense building.
However I've been pretty disappointed with season 2 so far. Characters that should have been put to rest after season 1 is reused in what feels like a
concession to producer pressure and viewer popularities. Also the multilayered story telling is starting to spin a bit too far for my liking and I fear that Heroes will turn into nothing more than a high budget rendition of Days of our lives. I hope I'm wrong, I've only watched four (or five, can't remember) episodes, so maybe my harsh judgment is a bit premature?

As it's Halloween-times I'll end my ramblings with a parting shot of my daughters wearing their skull dresses.
The dresses is made in cotton/poly stretch velour. And the skulls are sew-on patches.
The black dress is made from Butterick 4177 and the blue one is Jalie 2005. Both patterns are really good, but sadly out of print.
Magazine madness

La Mia Boutique - first impressions

Tuesday, October 28, 2008Johanna / 0 kommentarer

I purchased my first issue of the Italian pattern magazine La Mia Boutique a couple a days ago (the October issue). In Sweden La Mia Boutique is readily available in most larger magazine stores, which is probably the reason why I haven't bought it until now. The thing is that I'm more likely to covet something if it requires a vast amount of researching and involves obscure Ebay sellers from far off countries. It's probably the same reason why I have only bought one issue of Patrones since it became available in Sweden last year. Somehow the luster seem to get lost when they suddenly are everywhere.

Anyhow, enough about my shopping dysfunctions and over to the review:

The setup of LMB is similar to Burda - i.e. multi pattern sheets without seam allowances. Another similarity that they share is the non-pictorial, bare minimum instructions. LMB actually reminds me of the old school Burda, before it's fashionista makeover. Back in the old days Burda used to be more like a generic women magazine, apart from patterns there was also stuff like recipes and beauty product reviews. LMB still has some of that, as well as a monthly horoscope!

As for the styles in LMB, there is a good range, everything from elegant lady wear to younger styles with stuff like visible seams and cool trimmings to a really nice looking plus size collection. In the October issue there are 39 styles, mostly unique ones - unlike Burda who tends to reuse many of the patterns several times in each issue. Most patterns comes in four sizes. The aesthetic is definitely southern Europe, fitted with a lot of shaping seams and there is a little bit of dramatic flare in some styles. As for the "fashion degree" in LMB, it's a bit lower than Burda's and Patrones.
Here are a few styles that stands out to me:

This coat is gorgeus, I love ribbed knit details on outerwear. But the way the sample is made annoys me a bit. The sleeves are clearly machine knitted especially for this coat, there are decreasing rows at the sleeve cap and the hem is not sewed.

I think this practice it's misleading, instead they should make the sample the same way us home sewers will since the instructions calls for placing the sleeve pattern on knit fabric and cutting it the regular way.
till it's a gorgeous coat.

This jersey top I will make. It has some really cool details and I like jersey tops that are constructed like regular shirts.

This plus size knit dress is beautiful. Although one can't really tell from the photo, it's constructed in a very nice way that I think could be very flattering on most body types.
Book corner

The Sew U series

Sunday, October 26, 2008Johanna / 3 kommentarer
Sew U books by designer Wendy Mullen

Sewing books comes in many forms and shapes, some are great while others are pretty redundant - I mean who needs yet another book with pictorials on how to sew an invisible zipper or hem a skirt? Especially if they show the same techniques that all the others sewing books do? I know I don't, I've already got a few too many.

Wendy Mullen's books, on the other hand, brings new stuff to the sewing table. Mullen is the designer behind the Built by Wendy brand. Her claim to fame started with
colorful guitar straps that soon became a hit among the indie crowd. Simultaneously the developed her own clothing line that now is sold in stores worldwide.
Her first book Sew U was published in 2006. It contains three different patterns - skirt, jeans and blouse and a lot of different ideas on how to customize them. The book also has a great visual layout with clear instructions for every step.

Her second book Sew U - Home Stretch came this year. This one is for knits and again there are three basic patterns - crewneck, raglan sweater and skirt/dress. And again she has a lot of great ideas on how to vary these seemingly simple styles.

So why are these books so great? Well they manage to be both educational and inspirational. And both beginners and those who are pretty experienced will benefit from her books. I've sewn for 20+ years and still learned a lot of new things from
Wendy. Her methods for how to sew jeans fly zippers, collars and assemble jeans are far superior to other methods I have tried, hers are both easier and looks much better. I suspect she uses methods that more resembles the clothing industry practices.

I think the reason Wendy Mullen's teaching style is so good is probably because she's both a home sewer and an industry professional. She has an understanding of both worlds that really shines through in her books.

Also anyone who names a chapter after one of the best songs ever, Love will tear us apart by Joy Division, just begs to be loved!

Of course the books are not without fault, there are some annoying typos for instance and she doesn't talk about fit at all, which I think is a pity since the books comes with patterns that many of us probably need to adjust in order to make them look good. I have tried all three patterns in the first book, they are pretty good, but not perfect for my body type, so I use my own basic patterns instead.
But that's really my only quibbles. In fact until Kathleen Fasanella
makes a book dedicated to sewing techniques, I'd say that Wendy Mullen's books are among the best sewing reading material available today.
But do feel free to argue that point with me, I'm always open for discussion!

Blocks - or how I like to repeat myself

Saturday, October 25, 2008Johanna / 0 kommentarer
Cotton dress with screen printed border.

Rayon dress with draped bodice.
Both dresses are based on the the same pattern

When it comes to clothes I am a creature of habit. In fact my style hasn't changed much since I was 17. I still favour vintage looking blouses, cardigans and fitted dresses with clean lines. The only new things that has sneaked into my wardrobe since 1989 are jeans and various lycra jersey garments. It's not that I'm not interested in new styles and fashion. I love reading fashion magazines, and have collected American Vogue since 1992. And my bookshelf is packed with issues of Patrones and Burda magazine, but to be honest, I seldom make anything from them.

Since I love making the same styles over and over I decided about a year ago to apply the concept of blocks to my sewing. A block is a basic pattern from which you create many different styles, for instance a coat block, a jeans block or a skirt block. This is standard in the clothes industry, but it's definitely something that can also be applied on a hobby level. The idea behind a personal block is that the fit is great and the style and shaping is exactly like you want it. It can be based on a pre made pattern or drafted from scratch using personal measurements. I have done the latter. I learned the basics in a pattern making class, and have learned the rest from pattern making books and just plain trial and horrors (there has been a large amount of wadders along the way, getting proper fit is hard). So far I have made the following blocks:

  • Jeans
  • Fitted top (for cardigans and sweaters made of stable knits)
  • Close fitting top (for lycra jersey)
  • Very close fitting top (for ribbed fabrics that tend to grow)
  • A-line skirt (for knits)
  • Darted a-line skirt (for wovens)
  • Fitted bodice for blouses and dresses
  • T-shirt

I make the blocks out of stable poster board. Ideally I would like to use oak tag, but it's only sold by rolls here in Sweden, and it's really expensive, both the price of the roll and the shipping.

This is what a couple of my blocks look like, it's the front bodice and skirt that were used for the dresses above.

Obviously it took a lot of alterations and additional drafting to turn my blocks into these two dresses, but the main benefit was that they both fit me perfectly without any tweaking.
You can see me wear the dresses over at my Flickr account. There you can also see a rough guide on how I drafted the brown/beige mod print dress.
Made by me Printing

Up Front

Friday, October 24, 2008Johanna / 0 kommentarer

Know of the Belgian electronic mavens Front 242? They have been going strong since 1981 and has been dubbed fathers of Electronic Body Music (EBM). Although I have been a huge fan of electronic music since I first heard Depeche Mode and Yazoo in the early 80's, I didn't really fell for Front 242 back in the days, despite really digging songs like Headhunter and Quite Unusual. Instead I preferred their compatriots Neon Judgement.
Fast forward many many years to when I met my boyfriend who is a huge fan of Front 242. He totally opened my eyes and I realized that the band has done loads of really amazing songs.

So how does this connect to the t-shirt designs above? Well their biggest hit Headhunter has a really suggestive refrain:

One you lock the target
Two you bait the line

Three you slowly spread the net
And four you catch the man

I got kind of obsessed with this 4-step plan and started to imagine different scenarios. So for my boyfriend's birthday in 2007 I decided to design t-shirts for every step. The black one is obviously the first one, and the green one is the one I gave him this year. Two more to go!
Both are sewn by me using a brilliant t-shirt pattern from
Burda (#7916).

The first design is a ink print transfer, that unfortunately has not stand the test of time in a satisfactory way (the transfer has peeled a bit).
The other is screen printed by me using the photo emulsion technique. I plan to write a tutorial on how to do screen printing at home in the future.
Fabrics Made by me

Liberty love

Thursday, October 23, 2008Johanna / 0 kommentarer
Yoked blouse made of lantern print Liberty lawn

Empire cut dress made with ribbon print Liberty lawn.
The design, pattern making and sewing on both accounts is by me.

Lawn cloth or lawn is a plain weave textile, originally linen but now chiefly cotton.
Lawn is designed using fine, high count yarns, which results in a silky feel.

Source: Wikipedia

Cotton lawn from Liberty of London is one of my favorite fabric. It's actually primarily made for quilting, but the softness of the cotton makes it perfect for garments. It's light, flattering, easy to iron and they have many wonderful prints. This is why Liberty stands out compared to other quilting fabric manufactures. Normally quilting fabrics are made in coarser cotton calico, which I don't really like in clothes. Liberty lawn can be very expensive, but you can find really good deals on, just type in Liberty lawn in the search box. I especially like Liberty's wonderful art nouveau inspired prints.