Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A year in sewing

My SWAP collection.

Can't believe it's time for a new year already! Anyhow, here comes a quick round up of my year of sewing.

Proudest achievements:
That I taught myself screen printing and placed fourth in the Timmel SWAP with my 11 piece collection (see the image above).

Favorite garments:
The screen printed dress, the knit tie cardigan and my new winter jacket.

Biggest flop:
My numerous attempts at making tennis skort/shorts. So far four wadders have been thrown in the bin.

Garments sewn:
I've lost count, but it has to be at least 30 pieces if I include the bags and the clothes I've made for the kids and my BF as well.

Stuff learned:
That preservance pays off. I've sewn regularly for 25 years and sucked royally the first 20. Now all of a sudden it's like I'm blessed with super powers or something - almost all my projects turn out exactly like I'd envisioned them. It feels both weird and wonderful.

I've also gotten started on a new project - making a pair of corduroy jeans. Pants always gives me the biggest headache, I hardly ever find something that fits in stores and making them myself is no picnic either. I managed to sew a pair of cords this spring that I really liked, but this brown corduroy has a slightly different hand, it's stiffer with less drape which is something I suspect will influence the outcome.


The striped shirting will be used for pockets and lining the waistband. I've nicked the latter idea from the Boden catalog.



And last but not least:

Happy new year to everyone!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Yves Saint Laurent and Signe Chanel


A career in fashion should come with a complementary set of steely nerves. At least that's the impression I'm left with after watching a large chunk of fashion documentaries. The stress, the constant questioning of ones abilities, harsh critics and of course a lack of sales can probably bring down even the most sturdy personalties. No wonder some of them turn to chemical substances in search of relief.

Over the next few weeks I will post mini reviews of fashion documentaries I've seen lately. Here is the fist batch:

Yves Saint Laurent: His Life and Times: This is a very moving and candid portrait of the designer that helped modernize the way women dress. The movie is based on interviews with the designer and his family, friends and associates. Everyone talks really openly and personally and gives great insight to both his career and his often troubled personal life. Normally I don't like this "talking heads" format in documentaries, I prefer those who are mixed with fly on the wall shots, but this is really well executed. From 2002.


Yves Saint Laurent 5 avenue Marceau 75116 Paris: Same director but this movie shows the development of a couture collection. It must have been the longest 1,5 hour I've spent in front of a screen lately. Everything goes soo slow. The movie is centered around the evaluation process and is set in the show room where the fit models stride with their dresses in various stages of finishing.

There are a lot of awkward silences which I attribute to the fact that the collection is really not working. The styles look incredibly dated, although it's made in 2001 the clothes are dead ringers for the stuff I remember from the 80's Swedish fashion tv-program Modejournalen (The Fashion journal). I would've preferred to see more from the YSL seamstress ateliers instead.


Both YSL documentaries are available on the same DVD compilation.

Yves Saint Laurent 5 avenue.

Signe Chanel: If the YSL couture was a sleeping pill, the Signe Chanel documentary is more of an adrenaline shot. Again it's about the development of a couture collection, but this series makes the clever choice to focus on the seamstress, which makes for fascinating viewing and some subtle drama. Like blood on some precious silk, stress fueled all-nighters and the consequences of having Karl Lagerfeld making last minutes changes in some designs and all the hard work the seamstresses have put in is for nothing. This documentary is great for anyone who wants to understand what haute couture is all about.
Signe Chanel is available on YouTube.

Signe Chanel. The seamstresses takes a yogurt break.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

I wish you all a fabulous Christmas!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

My new jacket

Wool jacket with a high standing collar and bounded patch pockets.

It's warm and cuddly, and while I had to deviate a bit from my original design due to fabric shortage, I really like the way the jacket turned out. The fabric is a loosely woven wool with a jacquard surface, quite unusual, and I lined it with a creme and gray striped rayon fabric that is traditionally used for lining the sleeves in tailored garments. This kind of lining has a highly sentimental value for me since it harks back to my Smiths and Jesus and Mary Chain days in the 80's. An important componant of the Swedish indie kid uniform during that decade was a vintage menswear suit jacket with the sleeves rolled up exposing this kind of striped lining, the look was especially popular among girls. It was a signal, a secret code if you wish, that you belonged to the same clan. Dr Martens shoes was a similar tell. If any Swedes born in the 70's reads this blog you'll know what I mean :)


The pattern I drafted is pretty straightforward. Slightly curved bodice with bust darts and two piece set-in sleeves. The collar is basically an elongated collarstand that can be folded like in the pictures or kept up for a slightly Count Dracula effect.


The lining is attached without any hand sewing whatsoever using Kathleen Fasanella's lining tutorial. It was definitely hard getting my head around at first, but once I actually tried it was pretty easy to grasp. You do need to have a plan for how to turn the jacket afterwards since this method closes the hem. I left a 20 cm opening in one of the side seams (in both the lining and the fashion fabric) and it worked really well. Another thing is to double check the pattern pieces, everything has to be exact to make this method work.

I also used the lining draft method that she describes in her book which has you making the lining slightly longer than the shell.

As for the patch pockets they were also a first stab at a new technique, I was lured by the promise of "The no fail, perfectly shaped patch pocket" in the book Sewing secrets from the fashion industry. Since I wanted knit binding on the pockets I used a modified version of the method. The pocket is basically a sandwich consisting of fashion fabric, interfacing and lining that you sew and turn.

Pocket up close.

This is how you do it:

The three layer sandwhich: Interfacing, jacket fabric and lining.

The lining should be cut 1/16 inch/1.5 mm (!) smaller than the outer fabric. That kind of precision cutting doesn't compute well with this blogger, I was several mm off, and still got a good result. After cutting, interface the outer fabric with the fusible.


For the binding I used a foldable wool knit band that are used to mend thorn coat sleeves.

The binding needs to be done before attaching the lining.

Attach the lining. There might be some light stretching involved since the lining is a tad bit smaller than the outer fabric.
The stretch of the lining will make the pocket coupe inwards, which is exactly the look we are going for. Clip the seam to make a perfect round shape. As you can see I left a fold in the lining, that will go over the binding.

Then turn the pocket and topstitch the lining fold over the binding.

On the other side.

The end result is a little spongy - the pockets feels almost like oven mittens, and thus perfect for a winter jacket!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Behind the clothes


While Karl Lagerfeld's drawings are pretty visible, most modern designers never (get to) show the illustrations that lies behind their collections. Therefore I really appreciate these two books; Young Fashion Designers and Fashion Illustration by Fashion designers.
I got Fashion Illustration as a birthday gift from my boyfriend, and I can really recommend making this as a Christmas gift - for yourself or for someone else. The selection of designers are really good and I appreciate that the author Laird Borelli also has ventured outside the big fashion cities in her search for interesting illustrators.

I have to say I was completely blown away by some of the illustrations in this book. It's clear that several famous designers could easily have made an career as artists as well.

Pure perfection. By the designer Riccardo Tisci for Givenchy.

I love the scribble style of Sonia Rykiel's drawings.

Young Fashion Designers, as the name suggests, focus primarily on lesser famous designers with a certain bias towards Spanish designers. The illustrations are accompanied by a short Q&A with each designer, which is a great addition. I found it interesting to see that several designers answered "Pants" when asked what their biggest design challenge is. The Danish designer Peter Jensen says it best "you only need to go 2 cm wrong to look like an idiot". Something I can definitely relate to during my own pant drafting efforts.

Scrap book sketches by Spanish designer Raquel Micola.

As for my winter jacket, well that project is on the back burner since I got a really stubborn back pain this weekend. It's slowly getting better but so far the only tangible result (except the pattern) is this:

A lined patch pocket using a method described in the book Sewing Secrets from the Fashion Industry that I plan to review in the future, just need to try out some of the techniques first.

I have not decided if this pocket will make the final cut but I wanted to try this idea out anyway.

And last but not least, the premiere date of the new season of Project Runway Canada has been announced, and I'm psyched beyond belief. Just thinking about Iman purring out the words "You just don't measure up" brings shivers down my spine.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Winter jacket

My next project.

A lined wool jacket is up next. The project is somewhat accidental, as I ended up with this wool fabric when I misinterpreted the description "suitable for a cardigan" as being a knit. Well it's not, it's a woven but still soft and with a decent drape so I plan to make a slightly unstructured jacket out of it. I've toyed around with some ideas in Illustrator, and think I've settled on the design. I want the rounded shapes to be a recurring theme, and the yoke in the back will be rounded as well. Not sure on how to accomplish the curved pockets though, maybe I should make them as lined patch pockets?

Fabric, lining and buttons for the jacket.

I will line the jacket using the bagging method described by
Kathleen Fasanella and praised by Laura Lo and others. I have to admit that I feel a little nervous about it, as it's a new approach for me and sometimes I have a hard time grasping new sewing techniques. I'll probably try the tutorial first using her templates and some scraps. I plan to get started with the pattern this weekend, and hopefully by Sunday there might actually be some tangible result.

And a little update: The innovative pattern making class I was pondering in a previous post, well I registered for it yesterday, so now I'm really excited! I just wish it would start next week, instead of next summer...
I also got accepted to a textile overview distance course at the Swedish Textile University in Borås that will begin in January. The course is about learning how different fabrics are made, their properties and how to judge differences in qualities. It sounds wonderfully nerdy, and hopefully something I could blog about in the future.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Wool beret

Cashmere and wool beret from the book Simple sewing with a French twist.

After managing to lose both my berets in less than two weeks, including my all time favorite :( I found myself both cold, sad and somewhat desperate. Also I didn't want to commit yet again to something nice store bought that I would forget on the bus in a matter of weeks. So I decided to try the beret pattern from the book Simple sewing with a French twist by the stylist Céline Dupuy.

I bought the book on a whim a couple of years ago, lured by the amazing photos and styling, but was a bit disappointed with the content, mostly because the book is more eye candy than packed with exciting projects. This beret however stood out, and now I am really glad I finally gave it a try.
This beret was ridiculously easy to make and the whole project took about an hour. I have reviewed the pattern over at Pattern review. If I stick to these kinds of projects I might actually be able to update my blog with finished projects more than twice a month...

The original beret, which is made of felted wool and has the seams on the outside.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Stitch - first impressions


Yesterday I bought the first issue of Stitch, the new US sewing/craft magazine from Interweave. I paid a large amount for it: 129 Swedish kronor (~$15). The reason I did was that the magazine features skirt patterns from two of my favorite indie designers, Wiksten made and Uniform studio.

The skirt on the cover is from Uniform studio, and it's absolutely brilliant. The designer is also an architect and that shows in her clothes, they are structural and unorthodox in their shapes, but still highly wearable. I will make that skirt next summer using rayon/linen for the outer shell and line it with a red/white dotted fabric from Amy Butler. There was however a couple of errors in the magazine regarding the instructions and a pattern piece for this skirt, which you can read about here.

The magazine contains three full size skirt patterns in sizes XS-XL, with seam allowances included. The pattern and instructions for the other two skirts shown in the magazine must be downloaded as pdf:s from the Stitch website. There are also diagrams for several other projects such as a messenger bag and a cowl shawl.

Skirts designed by Jenny Gordy and Jil Cappuccio.

As for my impressions, it's a nice looking magazine with some cute projects but a bit thin on content and somewhat lacks a clear profile. There is not much to pull you in apart from the projects shown. And while the editorial topics they chosen are interesting, such as eco fabrics and an interview with Project Alabama founder Natalie Chanin, I find myself longing for something more. I guess it's meant to be an "inspirational" magazine - browsed but not digested, but I prefer a bit more words and substance for my bucks!

Also it's worth noting that this is not primarily a magazine about clothes sewing, it's more craft oriented. But I hope they continue doing patterns from skilled indie designers, I love that concept and have not seen it before.

Desicion angst

Should I take a class from this designer?

I am browsing the summer courses from my local pattern making college and there are two classes I really, really want to attend - tailored jacket and innovative pattern making. But I have only the time and money for one of them. The innovative pattern making class is taught by a semi famous local designer Rickard Lindqvist and he does some cool stuff. But to be honest, the tailored jacket class would probably be more useful, tailoring is my weak spot and therefore I shy away from making stuff like lapels and welt pockets. On the other hand, innovative pattern making taught by a recognized designer that has dressed several of my favorite musicians sounds more exciting, and yes, a little more glamorous...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Mail order inspiration


A frequent source of inspiration for me is mail order catalogs - I especially like the ones from Boden, Toast and Anthropologie. But what I enjoy even more are Dover's reproductions of vintage American mail order catalogs. I especially like the Everyday fashions series, since they portrait just that - everyday fashion, which I find more adaptable to modern life than the haute couture and high end fashion that tends to dominate 20th century fashion history books.

I've got four books so far, and I plan to buy the 60's book next. The books are also a great source for understanding what people actually wore back in the days and I suspect that costume designers frequently consult these books when making clothes for period productions.

Sears dresses from 1955.

Leasure wear in 1943.

Some things never change, sweaters from 1937.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Retro cardigan

Cardigan in wool jersey with pearl appliqués. The pattern is drafted by me using my personal knit top block as a starting point.

It took a bit longer than expected, mostly due to all the handstitching involved, but now my 50's style cardigan is finished. Since the fabric is so delicate I used snaps instead of buttonholes and the snaps took quite a while to attach. Sewing on the pearl appliqués on the other hand was really easy, with heads up to Ann and Luckylibbet for their helpful advice.

The fabric from Gorgeous fabrics is a wool jersey and is double faced. The inside fabric is white, making the fabric perfect for contrast details and my personal favorite - visible raw edges. I did toy with the idea to make use of this, but since I had such a clear idea going into this project I didn't want to temper with my concept.

Making cardigans like this is something of a challenge since it involves trying to mimic knitted cardigans, which obviously has things like neck ribbing and hem and sleeve finishing knitted into the pieces.
To accomplish decent results I have a few favorite methods:


I use grosgrain ribbon or twill tape on the inside to stabilize the buttoning. This method is common in vintage cardigans and I think it works pretty well. The drawback is a loss of stretch, but the upside is that the band keeps the front from stretching out when sewing


Inside the cardigan there are twill tape and metal snaps.

For the neckline I usually use ready made knit bias tape, folded ribbing or self fabric for a single-layer binding. I used the latter for this cardigan as it's the least bulky method. I just attach the band from the outside with right sides facing, then fold, press and lastly topstitch the binding with a narrow zigzag.

Neckline with folded single-layer binding topstitched with zigzag.

I use machine blind stitch for the hems. On knits it's virtually invisible on the outside and stretches well, without stretching the fabric while sewing.

Invisible blind hem on the inside.

I normally use snaps for fastening when making cardigans. This eliminates the problem with making buttonholes in stretchy materials. I have yet to try sewing buttonholes with elastic cording, but that seems like a good method for knits.

The mother of pearl buttons are for decoration purpose only.

So now I have to decide what's up next. I have so many possible projects lined up after this that I feel a bit overwhelmed. Apart from regular sewing I also want to do more screen printing and other mixed media projects. And I really ache to more pattern drafting experiments, and perhaps buy a few japanese pattern books. Overall I'm in a pretty inspired phase right now and the blogging definitely helps keeping the momentum up. But lack of time is always an issue and I don't want my sewing to feel stressful. I do have quite a few days off around Christmas this year though, so hopefully they will be productive!