Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Thank you Christina and Cindy for nominating me as a Kreativ blogger. I'm very surprised and incredibly flattered :)

Since the great thing about the Kreativ nominations is that it helps bringing attention to new bloggers I’ll throw in some Nordic bloggers into my award mix.

Camilla Engman: This amazing Swedish artist and sometime knitter also has a great blog in English. And I love her everyday photos, they make ordinary things look very extraordinary.

Hello Mustafa: She sews, knits, crochets, prints and is a mean photographer on top of that. The blog is written in Swedish but the pics speak for themselves. Please click on Äldre inlägg (Previous posts) to see all her craft stuff, since she hasn’t had much time crafting lately. Another tip is to click on the Barnkläder (children clothes) links in the right side menu.

Retro Elephant: If you want ideas on how to reuse vintage fabrics for cute stuff, Retro Elephant is the place. This cool blogger from Finland encompasses the style of the Nordic crafter blogging community.

And internationally....

Craftsanity: A fellow crafty journalist who also, amazingly, has the energy to interview crafty people during her free time for her splendid podcasts. I admire her so much for that.

Fehr trade: The best UK sewing blogger in the world. I don’t know how Melissa finds the time to make all her cool stuff, but I’m very grateful that she does.

Dress a day: Erin doesn’t just whip out great retro dresses, she also writes very well on all things dress related.

Wikstenmade: I know I said in a previous post that I want to be the designer Alexandre Plokhov when I grow up. But if that doesn't work out I want to be Jenny Gordy of Wikstenmade. She is an amazing clothes designer who puts out the most beautiful collections four times a year. Her blog is always a wealth of inspiration to me.


If you who are awarded and want to continue this thread of blogger recognitions here are the rules:

1. Copy the award to your site
2. Link to the person from whom you received the award
3. Nominate 7 other bloggers
4. Link to those on your blog
5. Leave a message on the blogs you nominated

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Sewing for kids

My toughest critic.

So my youngest child is turning 7 in February and I want to sew her something as a present. But this actually makes me a bit nervous. The thing is that some of the stuff I've made for my kids in recent years hasn’t really gone down that well (i.e. they don’t wear the clothes) and this kinda hurts my feelings.

Though admittedly, looking back, I can see what caused some of the problems. Firstly most of the projects have been a bit half assed on behalf of both parts and secondly children are very concerned with things like fit and feel of a garment. Not to mention sensitive to colour choices…

So this time I want to make it right. My youngest is really into matchy-matchy comfort wear (preferably a pajamas or a long sleeve top/long-johns combo) and prone to wearing a beanie hat indoors at all times (although they don’t allow her to do that in school, much to her dismay).

Therefore I’m thinking of making a top/leggings/beanie/scarf combo in matching striped cotton interlock. I will use Ottobre patterns and carefully compare them to her favourite garments in order to get the fit right.

And after that, all I can do is to keep my fingers crossed….

Monday, January 26, 2009

Fashion in moving pictures - Part 4

Designer Doo Ri Chung in a scene from the movie Seamless.

Yes, your perennial fashion documentary reviewer is back! This time I want to talk about Seamless, which is a little gem of a film that hasn't gotten the recognition it deserves.

While Seamless is not pushing any envelopes when it comes to story telling or cinematography, it provides a very compelling and eye opening insight to the struggles of young designers. Designers who, despite being kinda famous, still have a lot of obstacles to overcome.

The movie follows three of the ten finalists for the first CDFA/Vogue awards up until the moment when the winner of the $200.000 prize is revealed. The three designers featured are; Doo Ri Chung, Alexandre Plokhov of Cloak (now sadly out of business due to a partnership dispute) and Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough of Proenza Schouler.

Alexandre Plokhov of the now defunct Cloak.
When I grow up I want to be him, he is the best menswear designer I've ever seen and has dressed bands like Interpol.

When I first saw the list of the 10 nominees in Vogue back in 2005, I was like "why are these famous designers up for support, aren't they all like established already?"

Well now I know why. Or as someone says in the intro scene "this is a business where you can be perceived as successful without making any money, because a lot of the success is just hype in the press."

Like the guys behind the pretty famous Proenza Schouler brand. In the movie they have yet to be able to pay themselves any money, instead all the money goes to studio rent, production costs and salaries for their assistants. Making no money also means that they have to live in their studio. There is one touching scene where Jack and Lazaro decides to move apart (they are also a couple) in order to get more personal space. Well, "moving apart" in their case just means shuffling Jack's furniture to another part of the studio!

Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough in an attempt to get personal space.

Both Doo Ri and Alexandre Plokhov have to make similar sacrifices. I'm actually amazed by what they are prepared to do just to keep designing clothes.

Not the fashion district. The New Jersey dry cleaner store whose basement Doo Ri works from.

The movie is directed by Douglas Keeve of Unzipped fame, but Seamless lacks some of the intensity and passion that Unzipped has. The best documentaries are often the ones that follow their subjects during a long time. Seamless doesn't do that, due to time and/or financial restrictions I presume, which is a bit of a let down. But the movie is still really good. I especially like that Seamless tells you like it is, instead of just letting the designers blabbing on about how they are inspired by the skyline on a Moroccan beach or how their muse is a girl in a green dress who eats macaroons for breakfast.

Also for all you Isaac Mizrahi lovers out there, he makes a quick cameo in Seamless. He is one of the speakers during the winner banquet, and in classic Isaac deadpan style he sums up the whole fashion biz dilemma:
"So I don't know what to say to the new guard except 'run!'"

LOL! Keepin' it real, Isaac!

This review is the last one in my suite of fashion documentary reviews. Not because I'm quitting, but because I don't have any more films to review right now :(

Therefore I'd love to get more suggestions from you (good and bad fashion documenteries, it doesn't matter).

Friday, January 23, 2009

Skinny black jeans

A couple of weeks ago I was prepared to toss this project in the bin, but after two dismal, and frankly demoralizing, visits to my favorite jeans store, I decided to give the jeans another try. This is my first attempt ever making a pair of skinny jeans and I had to draft the pattern pretty much from scratch.
All in all I'm pretty pleased, and the fit is way better than the stuff I can currently find in stores. And despite them being tight, the jeans are still comfortable which I credit to the fact that the pattern is custom made for my body.


Side view. There is some small folds of excess fabric going on at the back of the thighs. Ideally I would like to get rid of them, and I'd love to hear suggestions on how to do it.


Kitchen towel punk. The dotted Amy Butler fabric didn't work with the overall look. Instead I went out to find some black and white checker board fabric, but couldn't find any, so I bought this red/white gingham fabric that is normally used for things like kitchen towels and cloths.

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How to achieve razor sharp patch pockets:
Getting the corners on jeans patch pockets looking even and crisp can be quite difficult, but with the help of paper templates the process becomes really simple and quick.

Step 1. A paper template is basically the pattern piece with the seam allowance trimmed off. The template should be made out of thick paper, like the cardboard you can find on the back of notepads. Place the template on top of the pocket piece and on an iron board.

Step 2. Press in the seam allowances using the template as a guide. Loads of steam and pressure is recommended to make the press stay.

Step 3. The opening should then be folded twice and top stitched.

Step 4. Top stitch the upper fold with thick thread in the upper spool and regular thread in the bobbin. A special top stitch needle is highly recommended.

Step 5. For good measure press again. As you hopefully can see this pocket looks really crisp and because of this there is no need to baste before attaching the pocket. Just a couple of pins is all you need. This works for pockets in knits as well, but then I use some spray starch to secure the shape.

The end result. I made the inner side of the pocket a little slanted to give it a more interesting shape. The cross stitch tack is used as a substitute for rivets.

A little note: Sorry if some of the pictures are a little dark and blurry. The days are so dark and grim right now in Sweden that it's virtually impossible to get decent photos using natural light. A good flash and some simple studio lamps and reflectors are on my current to do/wish-list.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The skinny jeans project

Red and black.
The dotted fabric is from Amy Butler and will be used as pocket and waist lining. I also plan to do some hand stitching, thus the red embroidery floss. The jeans fabric is a heavy weight stretch denim.


I've finally gotten started on my skinny black jeans. I had originally planned to use the Patrones pattern, but when I measured the pattern it turned out that the pants were not that skinny at all, for instance they had almost 3 inches of ease around the thighs! I don't know what's up with that, Patrones has always been true to size before, and on the model they look almost like leggings. While I love loose fitting regular jeans, baggy skinny jeans is not a look I'm keen to wear.

So I ended up drafting my own pattern, using my regular jeans block and scaling it down to make the fit snug. I've sewn up two muslins now and am pleased with what I see in the mirror. To be honest I can hardly sit down in them, but right now I don't care, I just want my skinny black jeans! And jeans grow with wear, don't they?


Inspiration.
Lee and Wrangler often has wonderful details on their jeans, and I want to incorporate some of those ideas into my own jeans.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sewing secrets
from the fashion industry


It's been a while since I last reviewed a book, so here comes my thoughts on the book Sewing secrets from the fashion industry. The book claims to reveal the best and fastest sewing techniques straight from the garment industry.
It contains three long chapters and talks about everything from standard industry seam allowances (quite different from the home pattern companies) to the difference between various interfacings. There are also step-by-step photo instructions on things like how to make single welt pockets, shirt collars and a piped waistband on a skirt.

So is it any good? My answer would be both yes and no. If you are an intermediate to advanced sewer and expect this book to teach you some incredible new techniques, I'd say that you'll probably be disappointed. Most of the sewing techniques covered in the book can be found in most comprehensive sewing books - and with better illustrations
. The redeeming factor for SSFTFI is that some instructions do show a different, and perhaps better, way of doing it. One good example is how to attach a lining to a vest without any hand sewing (called bagging) and sewing the shirt cuffs by attaching the right sides side of the cuff to the wrong side of the sleeve to eliminate the need for pins and make for perfect topstitching. I tried both these methods and can vouch for that they work, although the cuff method takes some practice. My one criticism of the lining section is that it doesn't cover the most common lining project i.e. a jacket/coat. Why they left this out is a mystery to me and very annoying.

Should come with a pair of complementary glasses. Some pictures are really dark and often they don't use contrasting thread so it's hard to see what's going on.

But for me this book's biggest value doesn't lie in the technique section. Instead the biggest gems can be found in the other two chapters. For instance there is a great burn test chart with accompanying pictures to help identifying fiber contents in fabrics. Also the seam allowance guide is priceless, and can save a lot of headache for the home sewer. The interfacing guide is equally good.

I noticed that several people over at Pattern review expressed some disappointment with this book, and I think part of the problem lies in the title. SSFTFI promise to uncover some well hidden secrets, and on that part this book doesn't deliver. Also personally, I'm allergic to sewing books that claims to reveal "secrets", like the sewing industry was some obscure guild where cape clad druids was doing the sewing with the help of little elves.

The conclusion: Don't expect to get a whole new approach to sewing from reading this book. But what you will get are some useful tips that can't be found in other sewing books. I'll give it 3.5 stars out of 5. The book is out of print, but used copies are still readily available.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Blouse with lace insert

A blouse and some art.
The blouse is done by me and the artwork by Jens Tjerngren


The skinny jeans are on the backburner for a variety of reasons so I decided to dive into my stash and sew up this retro print rayon from Fashionista fabrics instead. The pattern is a reuse, I made it originally for my Liberty print blouse and the pattern worked well for this soft rayon too. The only modification is the eyelet border insert as I wanted the dress to look vaguely retro, a mix of something art nouveau and a 1920's summer's blouse.


Detail of the eyelet embroidery insert.

In the shop display the embroidered border was a little yellow, but it turned out it was just a tint caused by the sun. The actual border was stark white, which would have been too much contrast to the cream colored rayon. I knew I had to dye it, but finding a textile color in "unbleached" seemed unlikely so instead I had a flashback to my Project Runway watching days (there are a lot of those, I've seen every episode at least two times, as well as most non-US ones) and I recalled that some contestants used tea bags when dying fabrics.

Without any further research I brewed a strong cup of tea (using regular Ceylon tea) and let the border soak for 5 minutes. The result was great! The tea added a slight yellow/pinkish tone that looked pretty much exactly like what I'd hoped for. I rinsed the border several times afterwards to ensure that the dye was colorfast, and it was.


All the tools you need to make a new lace look vintage.

Not your usual brew. 5 minutes in the cup was all it took. I tried dipping a sample of the eyelet lace a second time to see if the color would turn out stronger, and it did, but only by a little.

Speaking of Project Runway I often watch episodes as a way to motivate myself to sew. The thing is I don't really enjoy the actual sewing all that much, I'm more of a concept person, so I need all the help I can get with the execution. So in order to find the motivation to finish this blouse I spent an hour listening to this great interview with season 2 finalist Daniel Vosovic. It might sound weird, but I swear that this method works. I guess it's my equivalent of the motivational tapes that some athletes uses when prepping for a competition :)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Liberty sighting


A while ago I declared my love for Liberty of London's cotton lawn. So you can imagine that I became excited when I spotted this book cover of the Swedish pastry chef Mia Öhrn. The blouse she's wearing is made in Liberty's Capel print. I suspect that the blouse was custom made for this book, in another picture she is wearing a sundress in the same fabric. While the Capel print is a bit too cutiecute for me, in general Liberty lawn is a wonderful choice for clothes. The fabric has an amazing hand and some of Liberty's prints are simply TDF.


Sunday, January 11, 2009

Unzipped

A fashion moment from Unzipped. Extra fashionista points to anyone who can identify the young bespectacled assistant to the right.

Unzipped: If there is one movie that deserves the title "classic" in the rather narrow genre of fashion documentaries it's Unzipped. The movie follows Isaac Mizrahi during the creation of his fall 1994 collection and makes for hilarious viewing. The movie actually starts a bit gloomy with Isaac reading a critical review of his spring 1994 collection. "What he dubbed as a mix was more of a mess" concludes the reviewer and Isaac confesses that he feels horrible after a show "it's just the worst day in the world".

But there is no time to dwell, a new collection must be made. Inspiration comes in the unexpected form of the Eskimo silent movie Nanook from the North and Isaac starts to fantasize about fur jumpsuits and hairy pants that his Upper East Side clients could wear with a bra when walking the dog!


Isaac is having an Eureka moment.

Another hilarious moment is when the superstitious Isaac talks about how an Ouija board session gave the direction of his collection. But Unzipped isn't just pure comedy material, it also does a great job portraying the NY fashion scene and the emotional roller coaster that comes with being a fashion designer. It's also really interesting to see how he incorporates his love for vintage American movies in his work.

The movie is done by Isaac's then boyfriend Douglas Keeve and shot mostly in grainy black and white. I'd say that this and Signe Chanel are the two best fashion documentaries I've seen so far. Unzipped is much better than the 6.0 average that IMDB users have given it. My only criticisms are that it could have been 10-20 minutes longer, some things are skipped upon, and I think that a comment voice or written commentaries between some scenes could have been beneficial since some things lacks context. But all in all, this movie is absolutely fashionable fabulous!

Friday, January 9, 2009

How shopping happens


Apparently I just bought these.

I was just checking my e-mails the other day when a mail from Boden suddenly arrived in my box announcing that their sale was down to a 70% reduction. After that I’m not really sure what happened. I do know that I said to myself that Boden’s stuff sell out really quickly and that there is no point checking the sale out. The next thing I remember is that I see a confirmation page that shows that I have just bought over £60 worth of wool sweaters. I like to think of myself as someone who carefully considers everything before making purchases. But now I think I’m someone who needs to work a bit more on my self perception.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Marc Jacobs/Louis Vuitton and Karl Lagerfeld Confidential

Well the holidays are over and tomorrow I'll go back to my regular work schedule. It feels a bit weird as I gotten used to a very laxed way of life. I've worked only three days during the last fortnight and have had a lot of spare time for both sewing and blogging.
Anyhow, as promised, here comes two more fashion movie mini reviews:


Marc Jacobs and Louis Vuitton: This documentary portraits Marc Jacobs as a very hands-on designer, constantly tweaking, cutting, ironing and everything goes fast fast fast. Watching the movie I got a bit worried about his stress levels. Actually, shortly after the filming he had to check into rehab for a relapse into substance abuse. Apparently he came out strong and now has daily (!) therapy sessions, as well as daily workouts and specially prepared meals. Being a fashion designer is not for the faint of heart, that's for sure! Anyway this is a great movie, it really gives the viewer insight to the design process and how ideas are developed. The movie is made by the same director as Signe Chanel, Loïc Prigent.

Marc Jacobs and Louis Vuitton is available on YouTube (but lacking the last 10 minutes) and on DVD. I actually downloaded the movie from the French channel Artevod for not much money, the only drawback was that I had some problems following the French voice-over commentaries. Anyway I wish that more channels would follow Artevod's example and offer all their documentaries as downloads.


Karl Lagerfeld Confidential: Karl Lagerfeld on the other hand appears to be more "hands-off". He sits mostly behinds his black shiny desk churning out sketches by the minute and lets the assistants do the tweaking. One thing that struck me is how large his entourage is. It actually reminds of the bedroom scene in the Coppola movie Marie Antoinette where there is about 40 people in the room before she even wakes up. I'd say that the nickname Emperor Karl is very fitting. But although he is seldom alone, he appears to be rather lonely and hides behind a shield of clever comments and a know-it-all attitude.

My one criticism is that the director seems to have an almost unhealthy respect for Karl's coolness and doesn't really tries to get close to the designer - i.e the movie isn't all that confidential, despite the title. Thus the movie is a bit of a "Karl show". Still interesting to watch though.


Karl Lagerfeld Confidential. Love the skirt.

As for my own fashion I'm anxiously waiting for a parcel from Gorgeous Fabrics containing a dark navy stretch denim. Finding decent stretch denim fabric in Sweden is impossible, all the washes screams "cheapo jeans from a mail-order catalog" and the fabrics have so much lycra in them that they feel like denim latex, which isn't a sexy feel at all if you ask me.

The pattern I'll use as a starting point: Miss Sixty Jeans from Patrones issue nr 270.

I bought the Patrones issue because I wanted to make a pair of red stretch jeans. I got the idea this summer when a friend of my brother-in-law wore a pair that looked very cool. But I've still not found the right red denim (or the courage perhaps for such statement jeans) so I'll start with a more conservative look.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Brown cords

After broken-in jeans I think cords are my favorite pair of pants. And I'm not alone in my adoration of corduroy (or manchester as it's called in Sweden) - check this club out.

This is the second pair of cords I've sewn this year based on the jeans block that I drafted last winter. The corduroy is from the now defunct Timmel's fabric and was part of my prize for the SWAP. It's dressier and stiffer than most cords, so I was a bit worried it wouldn't be slouchy enough for casual pants, but I think it works.

Waistband lined with cotton shirting. This was trickiest part since the lining kept slipping during topstitching. I ended up using iron-on adhesive tape between the waistband lining and pants, which worked really well.

For the pockets I used the same cotton shirting.

For making jeans I recommend reading
Wendy Mullen's book Sew U. Her step-by-step guide is extremely helpful The assembly order is completely different from the "normal" home sewing way and the end result is pretty similar to RTW jeans. Another tip is to always cut the waistband across the grain per Kathleen Fasanella's recommendations. No more shrinking waistbands for me. This was a real eye opener, so many times I thought "hmm, my waistline must be expanding rapidly" after putting the jeans on after washing. When it was the waistband all along!