Sunday, May 31, 2009

The swimsuit - a fashion history


Although I already own the perfect bathing suit and won't be making one myself anytime soon, the book The swimsuit was a very inspiring read. And this book is not just about pretty pictures of vintage bathing suits, it also does a great job telling the history of the swimsuit. And while doing so it also tells the story of female emancipation and how our views of the body has changed over the last century.

Did you know that in the early 1900's there were guards at the beaches who made sure that the women was not revealing too much legs? And that the police could arrest those who broke the rules? There is in fact a very disturbing picture in the book showing just that - a woman being carried away into a police car because she wearing a men's swimming unitard. And it's easy to understand why women protested - the first female bathing suits was in fact so restrictive and elaborate that they caused a few deaths from drowning.

The author has also collected many vintage bathing suits that are displayed throughout the book, it's pretty fascinating to see them all up close.




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And what do we have here? Well, not a finished raincoat (I wish!). But today I did sew the single welt pockets, as I figured it would be best to do the hardest thing first.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

NASA lab coat - aka the muslin

Some spend Friday nights at a pub or at a club. Others are up really really late drafting patterns and sewing muslins. But burning the midnight oil at my sewing table have certainly paid off. Today I put the finishing touches on my first muslin for the rain jacket. The scrubs like muslin fabric doesn't have quite the pizazz of the actual rain coat fabric, but the shape looks pretty much the way I want it to.

But how can you tell if a raglan sleeve fits the way it's supposed to? I consulted all my sewing and fitting books and no one mention this. I guess the authors assume that the sleeve is always drafted by pros and not by clots so they only address body type related fitting issues.

I had two major challenges when drafting this pattern that I will talk about a bit.

The hood. Really tricky this one. Firstly a hood can come in many shapes and sizes. I actually knew what I wanted, a fitted hood with a band in the middle, but none of my pattern books got this right, I think the major problem is that they didn't take into account the size and ease of the hood. Both the instructions I tried just gave out some generic numbers to work with and both hoods ended up way to big. Luckily Cidell came to the rescue and mailed me pages from her pattern making book that included instructions on how to make a hood based on your own measurements.

The raglan sleeve. I think that the pattern making book writers need to make up their mind on which method is the best. So far I've seen five different methods, all resulting in pretty different shapes. Totally confusing. I ended up using an amalgam of two drafting instructions and I think it worked out okay.

Are everyone familiar with the principles behind a raglan sleeve? If not, what you do is cutting away the upper part of the back and front bodice.
Then you attach them to the regular sleeve.



I did a two piece raglan sleeve so after placing the bodice pieces on the sleeve I cut it all in half.
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And finally a parting shot. What does a Swedish indie pop band do when posing for their press photos? Well they put on their rain coats of course!

Laakso by Ulf Palm.

Friday, May 29, 2009

A running pygmy?

Nope it's just me.

The race went really well. Much better than I had anticipated and I felt more exhilarated than exhausted afterwards. The time was 31:49, not a killer time by any means, but I blame that entirely on the crowded starting field ;) Now I'm toying with the idea of running a 10k race.

The top and capri leggings are from Kwik-Sew
Swim & Actionwear book (a little dated, but great for basics and instructions) and the jacket around my waist is Kwik-Sew 2615.

Hopefully this runner's high can somehow translate into my rain coat project. I plan an all-weekender to get the ball rolling properly. The goal is to have at least a muslin done by Sunday.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Lots of work - little progress


I started drafting the pattern for my raincoat this weekend. But I still don't have much tangible result to show - it's mostly trial and error at this point. Yesterday I drafted a hood for instance, only to realize that the shape and size was all wrong for what I had intended. All the pattern books I own was originally written in the 80's and there are some oversize trappings in them. So today I started fresh, using a hood from a Burda jacket as a guide and drafting instructions from the Metric Pattern Cutting book.

I've had similar struggles with the raglan sleeves, so at this point all I can say is that the proof will be in the muslin. But I don't feel like making seven muslins this time, that's for sure!


And tomorrow is my (well, not so) big race! I picked up the number tag today, so now I'm very committed. Haven't run a mile in two weeks though, due to travel and illness, but it felt really good last time I ran so I still feel pretty optimistic. The only issue is that I am by default a very competitive person and the time will probably be something of a disappointment. But I really need to let go of emotions like that anyway, so it will probably be a good thing in the end. And since this is a sewing blog, I want to mention that I'll be decked out in some home sewn running gear, most likely some old stuff from the classic Kwik Sew book. I'm just not a very fashionable runner to be honest :)

Friday, May 22, 2009

Swinging 60's fashion style



What a gem of a book this is. I was browsing through Selfridges fashion book section in London and was just about to leave when I suddenly saw this wonderful Japanese book, Swinging 60's fashion style. The book contains loads of clippings showing everyday fashion from the 60's. No credits has been given (shame on you Pie books!) but I suspect the material is picked primarily from English mail order catalogs. When you are a fashion history book junkie like me you notice that the same photos pop up in every book so it was really refreshing to see completely fresh images from this decade.



This is a fantastic reference book and the graphic design is really delicious, by making collages of the old tears and incorporating different colour blocks they make the images look even fresher. I give this book a five out five and wish they would do books for other decades too.

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And reader question from Jenaveve: I have to ask about the image of the Neo-Edwardian gear in Camden - don't suppose you recall which shop it was?

I don't know the name of the store, sorry, but it's on Camden street, very close to the Camden tube station. It could be one of these and if so most likely Dark side of Camden. I found the goth/romantic/gothic lolita wear to be all over the place in Camden - from overpriced tacky to some really cool stuff. Also a tip for anyone who plans to visit Camden is the vintage store Lost and found in the Camden stable market, they have a wonderful selection with really desirable pieces from 1900 and forward, and the prices was great too. There was generally quite a bit of rubbish in the Camden markets, but Lost and found is definitely worth a visit.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

My fabric finds

Printed cotton lawn and striped seersucker cotton shirting.

Black silk/rayon jersey and red cotton poplin.

Soft black powernet and stretch lace ribbon.

Coming home from a trip can be such a strange feeling. I've been back in Sweden since Tuesday morning, but today is the first day that I feel truly at home again. There has been a lot of adjustments for sure, even though I was gone only four nights. Also I caught some strange bug in England, that left me with a slight fever and some nauseousness for a few days.

Anyhow, today is a national holiday so I was able to take some pictures of the fabrics that I purchased in London. Shopping with Melissa was so much fun. We really hit it off - really nice to have someone you can talk about sewing for hours with and it turned out that she was a music buff too. Goldhawk road in Shepherds Bush was also truly a treasure, the selections was great and the prices excellent. The stores are lined up next to each other on a short strip so everything is very convenient. They were all really crowded and brimming with fabrics. Pretty different from most Swedish fabric stores where the selections are very edited. On Goldhawk road you really need eyes like a hawk if you know what I mean, because some of the gems were well hidden, there was some really nice silk and wool jerseys for instance.

I think we visited around five stores and I ended up buying four fabrics. I wasn't really looking for a binge and also I was traveling with just a rucksack - you have to pay an extra fee to Ryanair if you check-in your luggage. So that was a good incitement to keep my shopping in check! You can see some of Melissa's purchases over at her blog. She then took me to a great notions store just off the High street (Oxford street) MacCulloch & Wallis. Though I only bought some large snaps there.

I am so grateful that Melissa showed me the good places. Exactly how fantastic Goldhawk road is became even clearer when, after we parted, I checked out the inner city fabrics stores on Berwick Street in Soho. Everything there was at least three times as expensive compared to Goldhawk road. I know that the rents are probably three times as high in Soho, but I know what I rather be paying for! The department store John Lewis I liked though, and found the red cotton poplin there which will become a shirt for my boyfriend just like the ones Kraftwerk are wearing on the cover of The Man-Machine.

The stretch lace is from a haberdashery store in Soho called Kleins, again very expensive, but this lace doesn't have the flossy fuzzines that most stretch laces does, so I just had to buy it - I've been looking forever for something like this. I also went to Liberty but was so overwhelmed by their fabric selection that I ended up buying nothing!


Overall I'd say that London is a great town for buying fabrics and notions, the fact that there are lot of designers and fashion schools in London are really reflected in the wast offerings. Melissa told me that Goldhawk road is a #1 stop for many fashion students because of the good prices and great selections, and we did see loads of them during our Saturday morning visit.

But the sewing will have to wait, I need to get started on the pattern for my rain coat.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

London in pictures

I'm too tired to write something eloquent about my trip and fabric finds, so that will have to wait a bit. But here are some pictures in the meantime:

Neo-Edwardian fashion in Camden.

Tutti frutti houses. I'll take one in each flavor please.

Meeting up Melissa at Goldhawk road for a fun and successful day of fabric shopping.

Apparently sewing machines can have religious beliefs.

Dayglo shopping at Cyberdog.

A fabric print based on an x-ray photograph of crystals.
At Victoria and Albert museum.

Cracked asphalt and some leafs in Chelsea.

Rounding up the day with a bean salad and a glass of wine.

Friday, May 15, 2009

London calling


Tonight I boarding a plane to London for an extended weekend trip. I'm traveling alone this time, something I have not done in over a decade, and I plan to do all the stuff that would bore my kids/partner/friends senseless, i.e. just a lot of fashion and fabric stuff. A visit to Victoria and Albert museum is on the list, as is Liberty of London and a trip to the Hoxton/Shoreditch area (where I have never been before). And of course my date with Melissa tomorrow!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Running for some steam


Four years ago I stopped exercising. It was a time of big life changes, such as a divorce and a subsequent move. Which I think was why I lost my mojo. But it was still strange in some ways, because for most of my adult life I have been an avid exerciser and never thought I would just stop one day.

Last winter I decided to do something about my slump and bought a gym card. Since then I've been going once a week. I've been pretty consistent, which I'm proud of, but working out only once a week isn't enough to give me the sort of addictive buzz that I got when I was exercising 3-4 times a week. Another reason for my lack of passion is a lack of goals. I am happy with my body and have no strenuous adventures lined up either. So to give me a bit of a boost I have signed up for a 5k run. It's in late May and I'm pretty sure I will be able to crank 5k out of my legs, even though I've done very little running training so far. It won't be what I'd call a pleasurable experience, but at least I'm out there running!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

And we have a winner...

The circle coat it is! The fabric and the practicality of this design seems to be what won people over. The victory was something of a landslide - 11 votes against 4 for the blue one. A big thanks to everyone for casting your votes. This was super exciting, I kept checking my e-mail all day at work (like I didn't have other pressing matters that should have gotten my attention!).

The suspension was however driving me crazy at times. When Christina casted the first vote for style A I was like "yeah, of course the blue one is the best choice". Then a whole bunch voted for the circle coat and I started thinking
"yeah, of course the circle coat is a more exciting choice". Then people started voting for style A again and I was like; "So A is the best style after all". A thought that was quickly followed by a conclusion - I gotta stop checking my e-mail every five minutes! I think my reactions was pretty telling on how indecisive I was about the coats. So your opinions was a very helpful thing.

Also I got a few questions in the comment box that I will try to answer.

Mary Nanna said...I'm intrigued by the band detail on coat B, with the 3 circles on it. How does that work exactly?

Oh, it's not that intriguing I'm afraid, it's just the placket folded open (I think need to work on my illustration skills...)
I plan to either use just snaps or a combination of snaps and a zipper for the fastening.


kbenco said...B looks as if would cope better with serious rain, and the fabric is terrific. I enjoyed looking at the fabric site. Is it a breathable waterproof or a coated fabric? I wish I spoke Swedish.

It's a coated fabric, the backing is a polyester interlock and the coating is a PVC-free plastic. Sadly it won't be breathable, so I plan to put a few ventilation eyelets under the sleeves. The fabric is however extremely durable and doesn't loose its water resistance over time. I also plan to seal the seams with tape. And yes Stoff och Stil (translates to Fabric and Style) is as awesome as it looks. Twice a year I get a 150 pages thick mail order catalog featuring their own range of fabrics, patterns and notions. And everything is so well presented. I really think they should expand their business (they currently only sell to Scandinavia).

A spread from the Stoff och Stil catalog.

luckylibbet said....Both look pretty difficult to me - good luck!

Thank you! Yes I think it will be a bit tricky, both the sewing and the drafting. I have never drafted a two part raglan sleeve before or a hood for that matter and never sewn this kind of fabric before either. I will buy a teflon foot for this purpose. Ideally I would like to get a walking foot, but Bernina has the courtesy of charging an obscene amount for it. I don't want to buy a presser foot that will cost me half the prize that I payed for the actual machine. We have a saying in Sweden that roughly translates to "What you lose on the entrance fee you can regain on the carousels". I think Bernina is applying this business model to their spare parts range.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Vote for a coat


First thing first - thank you all for nice comments about the bag! And secondly, I need a little help. I'm making a raincoat for Pattern review's pattern making competition and have sketched out two designs. But I can't decide which one to make - I like them both. My wardrobe, however, doesn't need two raincoats so that's why I'm having a readers poll. Just post which one you think I should choose and the one who gets the most votes will be the one I'll make.

Style A: Blue raincoat. It's inspired by a vintage leather jacket that I own, which in turn has taken it's cue from the classic trenchcoat. I want the coat to have a naval theme and plan to use white snaps or buttons. There will also be a detachable hood under the collar. I'm a little partial to this coat since it already has it's own song.

Style B: Circle coat. This is the quintessential Scandinavian raincoat with a built-in hood. The circle print waterproof fabric is from Stoff och Stil and the jacket is designed with this print in mind.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Diana bag with owls


After more mishaps than usual, it's done. Again everything is interfaced with heavy duty Vlieseline and I used a side piece instead of the darts that are called for in the original pattern. I plan to use the bag when I travel to London next Friday for three days of fashion, food and fabrics (a Goldhawk road visit with Melissa is on the agenda!).

The bag is lined with oilcloth because I'm a total slob. To be honest I think that my Nikon 50mm lens lies a bit here, the bag looks somewhat better in the photos than IRL. One problem was that the cotton canvas didn't like being ironed - I got shiny areas, just like when you press wool with too much heat/too little steam. Weird.

The printing frame that I used. The blue/green area is the photo emulsion. On a funny side note, as you might remember I labeled the first print session a disaster and after photographing the print I threw the fabric in my paper bin. But yesterday my 10 year old saw it, dug it up and cut the owls out. Now she plans to use them as appliqués. It's always good to get a fresh eye on things!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The pursuit of a print

An owl screen print that will become the lid of Burdastyle's Diana bag.

After borrowing my daughter's Diana bag for a day, I felt a sudden urge to have one for myself as well. It's very practical and the size is perfect. As I didn't want a plain bag I also decided to add a print. The owl is designed by my boyfriend - actually what you see is only half of the print, there is a second part that is meant to be printed in a contrasting colour. But I wanted to keep it simple this time, since it's much trickier printing two tones.

The complete owl design.

I love, love, love this print and one day want to use it as a hem decoration on a skirt. I have already printed it on a rayon/lycra t-shirt, but the stretchy fabric made the print crack a bit. Understanding all the printing variables is an ongoing process for sure.

I'm however very grateful for having someone with graphical skills at my disposal, he also designed this print for my favorite dress.
As for the actual screen printing session it reminded me of a lesson I should have learned a long time ago - never start a tricky crafty pursuit when being stressed or in a bad mood. Yesterday was a particularly trying day at work and that really threw me off. To make my evening funnier and to give me a sense of accomplishment I decided to screen print the bag lid. The thing is, screen printing is no picnic - a lot of things can go wrong and you need to be either experienced or at least in a state of concentration to pull it off. I was neither and of course things went wrong. The first print bled like crazy because I was pushing the colour too hard into the fabric.

My first and disastrous printing attempt using the reversed pattern.

My second and final attempt, which you see in the first picture, went much better, but there are still some small mishaps that I fret over. I get a bit angry with myself for being like that. Why can't I just accept those small spots of imperfection and be proud of what I have accomplished?

I plan to make tutorial some day on how to screen print, but here are some recourses for those of who want to learn more: This one for photo emolusion (which I use) and this one for a more lo-tech emulsion approach.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

A castle outing



Lisette M asked me to share a little on my castle outing and I am happy to oblige. What you see here are some of the pictures that I took of Tjolöholm castle yesterday.

The building is inspired by Tudor castles and the interior is done completely in
arts and crafts/art nouveau style - Liberty of London even designed one of the rooms. Photographing is however not allowed inside, so I don't have any pictures to show of the impressive interiors (it's intact from the beginning of the last century) and I can't find any on-line sources either.

I
was pretty inspired by what I saw and wish I could have shared things like the velvet curtain with an art nouveau ribbon pattern that would look wonderful on a skirt or the beautiful early 1900's ivory linen blouse with pleated panels... but, alas, I didn't want to risk being kicked out from the castle.

There are loads of castles in Sweden hailing from 1500's and onwards and we usually try to visit at least a couple of castles every year. Luckily most of the really old ones are open to the public.
Now if only castle visiting could be turned into a profession, then I would definitely consider a career switch...


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A little parting shot since spring has finally arrived in Sweden!

New Kwik Sew top


Since all I want to do when I get home from work is slipping into my Kwik Sew cami I decided to make a second one. In the spirit of yesterday's post this one is made of organic ribbed cotton. It's the softest cotton I have ever laid my hands on, the quality is superior. The drawback though is that it grows like crazy, which makes it both a bit hard to sew and hard to wear. I have actually drafted a special sloper just for this knit that's only 85% of my chest circumference, but even that is too big. This Kwik Sew project was however perfect since the elastic keeps the fabric in check.

Hope you all will have a nice weekend. I'm off to visit a castle - which is one of my favorite outings!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Green is the new black


Do you have the environment in mind when sewing and buying clothes? I seldom do and I am also very weary of calling my sewing ecologically sound. While I use a lot organic cotton knits these days, I am also guilty of driving several miles just for a yard of fabric and every year I throw away obscene amounts of fabric scraps. Also I hardly ever refashion or use vintage fabrics and notions. And while I appreciate that some stores now offer a selection of organic clothes - I have yet to buy any, since none of the styles appeals to me.

Green is the new black is a book by English fashion journalist Tasmin Blanchard and is clearly geared towards a fashionista who wants to make more conscious choices. While there is bit too much celebrity fluff and it-bags for my liking in the book, I appreciate that the book is blissfully free of guilttripping - the main focus of the book is showing what ecological and ethical options that are currently available. There are also several DIY-clothes projects included, such as skirt and apron patterns and a couple of t-shirt refashion ideas - the latter ones are however not illustrated which makes the instructions a bit tricky to understand. The author also talks about home dyes using teas and onion skins. I did my first tea dye project a while ago and was impressed with the result, and apparently you can achieve quite a few shades depending on which tea you use.

The books also include several interviews with designers, predominantly English ones, and especially Kathrine Hamnett and Stella McCartney have a lot of wisdom to share. There is however one chapter that should have been edited out and it's called "Can celebrities change the world?". It includes meaningless snippets of "wisdom" from models and lists actors that makes ethical choices. I guess the book wants to be like a fashion magazine, a little glamorous and escapistic, which I get, but that chapter is just too much fluff.

Other topics that are covered in the book are cosmetics, shoes, shopping for vintage clothing and ethic jewelry, again with several DIY-suggestions.
There is also a thorough directory covering all sorts of ethical companies. Sometimes I found myself longing for a bit more science to back up some of the statements, but all in all I think the book does a good job inspiring people to become more conscious consumers. So if you can stand a little bit of upper-class glamour fluff (think Vogue/Elle/Tatler), this book is well worth checking out - it makes for a very informative read with a lot of useful suggestions.