Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Dream projects

Hedy Lamarr, illustrated by Lars Wallin. From the book Rita mönster.

Do you have projects that you have been mulling over for years, but never got around doing? I realized this morning that I have one, one that I had nearly forgotten about. I was looking for some ideas on how to draft a buttoned fly and decided to check out the first pattern making book that I ever bought. And there it was, my old dream project, on page 87. A sketch of the actress Hedy Lamarr wearing a zipped blouse with a gathered front, with the drafting instructions
for the blouse on the opposite page.

For a moment I was transformed to my 17 year old self. The one that was very prone to escapism and wanted every day to have a certain magical feeling to it. Preferable in a beautiful non-modern setting . A desire similar, I suspect, to that of the posse of young : female : vintage
: bloggers that have popped up recently (the latter is a local girl and shop owner whom I have interviewed and photographed for my day job).

I also remembered my long
search for that perfect seafoam green rayon crepe to use for the blouse. Every time I entered a fabric store I would scan the selection and fondle the surfaces. But I always ended up empty handed, the perfect fabric never materialized. Perhaps I was also was a little bit intimidated by the project, as I was very new to pattern drafting at the time.

But now I don't feel so intimidated anymore and the style is still appealing to me. Also access to great fabrics has vastly improved since the 80's. Writing this I became curious to see if I could find the original photograph. And I did, in the Google/Life archive.

Hedy Lamarr in 1938 by Alfred Eisenstaedt.

It could be a sign.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

A bra


As I've written about before, I have a stash of underwear patterns that has been gathering dust for several years and I want to start using them. This time I did
a bra, using the pattern Kwik Sew 3300. It's actually not my first bra - back in 1989 when I was in my young and enthusiastic "I'll try anything-phase" I made one too. The bustier pattern I used was from Burda and to get hold of the necessary notions and hardware I had to slaughter an old bra. I did the bra in black lace and it looked pretty good, but the stiff nylon lace made it a little itchy.

So here I am 20 years later, having just finished my second attempt at bra making. This time of course, I had a lot more materials and information at my disposal. There is no way around it - the net has really revolutionized my sewing. Now there are an abundance of bra patterns, easily accessible, and I was even able to buy a bra kit on-line from Germany, with all necessary notions included. Also there are several great resources were people share information on bra-making - I especially recommend Sigrid's tutorials.


Regarding the design I had to take into account that I prefer to wear seamless, heat molded bras. A style that is technically impossible to mimic at home. Also I don't like fussy bras. So the challenge was to make something that has smooth lines, but looks a little hotter than my regular flesh coloured t-shirt bras.


The black fabric and most notions are from E-lingeria. The bra kit include everything you need such as hooks, rings and elastic, plus fabric and stretch lace. The quality is very good, though I have a couple of minor complaints. Firstly the rings were in see-through plastic and not black, which I think brings the look down a bit. So I bought some black ones from a local notion store. And secondly the microfibre lingerie black fabric is thick with a rugged backing. Very soft and nice to the body but heftier than regular bra fabric. Perhaps a good thing if you are well endowed, but too thick and warm for me, especially since you are supposed to use two layers of it. So I lined the bra with power net instead to make the bra more streamlined, The contrasting panel is made of the same soft power net and I used foldover elastic for the finishing. For more info on the pattern and the assembly, see my review over at Pattern Review.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Creating a slideshow

Gail wanted to know how I made the slideshow on my blog, so I'd thought I'll give you an overview on how to make and add a flash slideshow to Blogger using the program Flash slideshow maker.

While sites like Flickr, Picasa and Photobucket offer their own slideshow applications, I wanted something more customizable so I googled and found this program. I used the free version which has the "trade-off" that you see their banner at the end of the show, which I personally don't have a problem with. What I like with this program is that it's very easy to tweak. To be honest slideshows can be something of an eyesore if they are not done right, so I was a bit weary about whether it would be right for my blog because I want to keep the layout clean.

Anyhow, this is how I did it
(click on the images to get a bigger view):


Step 1. Start the slideshow maker. Using the Explorer view, drag and drop the images that you want included in the slideshow.


Step 2. Pick a transition effect. There are a loads of options, but only a handful that aren't crazy ugly. You can also tweak the transitions by changing the time values. Make sure that you click Apply to All when you have decided.


Step 3. Pick a theme. There are even more options here and even more ugly. But a few nice ones too. I picked the Paper theme. Also here is were you determine the size of the slideshow. Very important since it has to fit into one of your blog columns.
A few words on the size of the slideshow: If you place it at the bottom of the large column, you will have no problem fitting in the slideshow. But if you want the slideshow in the right column for instance, you need to know that the default width for Minima classic is only 220 pix and for Rounders the width is 240 pix. I have tweaked my Minima template by changing the html code to make it bigger so that a 250 pix wide slideshow will fit in. Read this tutorial
for info on how to change the size of your columns.


Step 4. Publish your project. This will convert your selection into a flash file (.swf). After this step, save your project as a project file so that you can keep adding files and update your slideshow.


Step 5. Upload the flash file to a host. I recommend using Google sites, they allow a 10 Mb upload and that would be enough for most slideshows (mine are currently 3 Mb).



Step 6. Copy the url of the .swf file. You will need it soon.


Step 7. Open Blogger to add your slide show.
Pick Layout and Add Gadgets.


Step 8. Pick HTML/JavaScript. Do not use the the Add slideshow option for this method. It only works for streams like Picasa's.


Step 9. Name your slideshow and paste the following code, remembering to change the url and size so it's corresponds to your .swf-file:

<embed pluginspage="http://www.macromedia.com/go/getflashplayer" quality="high" allowscriptaccess="sameDomain" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" src="http://sites.google.com/site/me/Home/myslideshow.swf" align="middle" height="400" width="250"></embed>


Step 10. Click Save and the window will close. Now pick Preview to see if it looks alright on your blog. Are you satisfied with the result, just click Save, and the slide show will now appear on all your blog pages. Voilá! If you want to add more images just open the project in the slideshow maker and publish and upload the file again. No need to do anything in Blogger, it will just pick up the updated file automatically.

P.S. If you end up hating the slideshow layout after you saved, just open the Gadget again and chose Remove.


Hope this will be helpful!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Cravings

1.A.P.C. shirt from Creatures of Comfort, 2.Tulle blouse from Mod Cloth, 3.Orla silk jersey dress from Orla Kiely, 4.Fred Perry dress by Jessica Ogden from Asos.

I hardly ever buy clothes these days, mostly because I find most store offerings very uninspiring. It's not that the clothes in stores are bad, really, but all this sewing has made my taste so specific, so particular, that it's becoming harder and harder to find anything that matches my preferences. But these four gems are another story - they are giving me serious cravings. And also a whiff of consumer guilt. It's weird that I seldom flinch when spending money on fabrics and notions, but feel queasy when I think about forking up money on a pre-made garment. Clearly my thought process lacks a certain stringency in this area. That said, it's nice to see that I can still find things that makes my heart tick, pre-made or not.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Leslie cardigan


I've had a long love affair with a classic 60's menswear staple - the suede cardigan. That said, the combo of fake suede and acrylic doesn't excite me much. And the real deal requires regular visits to the dry cleaner. So I wanted a version that was less of a retro novelty and more something that I'd want to wear today. So instead of faux suede I have used a soft midwale corduroy and thick high quality cotton/lycra rib. Also I made the cardigan more fitted. And named it Leslie in the process. I love gender neutral names, we hardly have any of those in the Swedish language. Almost all girl names end with an -a and most boy names end with a consonant.

The basis of the pattern is my semi fitted knit block. I only had to make a few minor adjustments to make it work with the corduroy front (like adding some ease in the front and taking away some from the back).

The buttons are the classic football style, but I used plastic ones instead of leather, since they last much longer.


The welt pockets were made using the quick self fabric method from Reader's digest sewing book. While I don't find welt pockets all that difficult to do, they are still a bit intimidating since it involves cutting out a big hole in the garments. But now that I have used them on both the rain coat and on this jacket, they feel much more doable.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Chaos managment

Firstly, thank you for all the wonderful comments about the rain coat. Those are really encouraging and I feel very flattered too :)

The rain coat project, however, left my sewing table in a complete state of chaos. Normally I enjoy cleaning up after I've finished a project, but this time the thought of touching the mess just made me feel nauseous. Part of the problem was various metalware (snaps, eyelets, etcetera) that had taken over both my table and my button drawer. So I decided that it was time to create some proper order in the button department.


First I purchased some plastic inserts.

Then I spent an hour franticly sorting until I ran out of inserts.

The next day I bought some more inserts and moved to a place more comfortable (with episode five of The fashion show as my companion)

45 minutes later I was able to install the inserts into my wooden drawer, colour coordinated and all. I'm hoping that this system will be foolproof.

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And some reader questions about my workout wear post. Fellow Europeans Uta and Anette asked about buying from US/Canada vendors. Although the prices differs depending on what you buy of course, for around $40 (including shipping) you can get at least 2 yards of high quality functional fabrics from America. That is enough to make 1-2 tops and 1 pair of capris, so it's a real bargain. Also Pennine outdoor that I recommended is located in the UK. Another well stocked European option is the Finnish store Shelby. I have not bought anything there myself yet, but I have heard good things about it.

Anette also wanted to know about how I get my hands on Kwik-Sew and Jalie patterns, as they are not readily available in Europe. I buy them from Sewing patterns and Pattern review, who both have (almost?) the complete range.
Also check out Ebay, I have just bought a Kwik-Sew pattern there from an UK seller. E-lingeria is another option for Kwik-Sew.

Anette also asked for some London tips. As for fabric shopping in London: Go to Goldhawk road (Shepards Bush tube station). The street is lined with fabric stores. And check out Melissa's guide for notions shopping. As for fashion books, you must visit out the Victoria and Albert museum book store, they have a wonderful selection.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Rain coat is done - phew!


It's not often these days that I spend a month working on the same sewing project. But this rain coat has been a handful, that's for sure. Apart from the sleeve incident, I've melted fabric, created permanent holes in the wrong places and watched eyelets come loose after the assembly. But somehow I've managed to solve most of the mishaps and learned to overlook the remaining ones.


I finished the rain coat 11 pm last night and luckily it was pouring this morning, so I have already been test driving the coat - and it's waterproof! And I love it. Love it! I won't exhaust myself (or you) with all the details of the making today, but I will talk about how to sew waterproof garments in a separate post.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

School update

Working on a sloper that I draped on a dress form.

The class turned out even better than expected. The tempo is brisk and the level is much higher than the basic pattern making class I took a year ago. I was also a bit surprised when I realized that I'm just about the only one who is a hobby sewer/drafter.
The rest are either professionals (like costume designers, pattern makers and teachers) or design students. That made me a feel a little self conscious at first (and compelled me to blurt out " but I do sew a lot" during the presentation). Though I'm not the brightest or fastest kid on the block, I still find that I can keep up pretty well during the class.

The teacher is Rickard Lindqvist, a local designer specializing in tailored styles with innovative cuts. The first day we learned how to make patterns out of finished garments and how to grade them in different sizes. I traced one of his pants from the spring/summer collection.

The style is based on an ancient pair of riding pants and the pattern is just one big piece.

Day number two we used historical patterns from reference books and sewed up muslins. I did
an evening gown based on a pattern from Madame Vionnet. This was also my first encounter with an industrial sewing machine - I was shocked by how fast they are, it was a rather scary experience if you ask me, but the other students praised the machines.

The dress is adapted from a diagram in the Japanese book Vionnet. The pattern is also available in Betty Kirke's book Madeleine Vionnet, but the diagrams are much clearer in the Japanese book.

Today we have draped patterns straight on a dress form, another first for me. It was easier than I thought, but I still had to fiddle a lot to get the muslin pieces to look decent.

Although Karl Lagerfeld won't be calling for my services anytime soon, I'm still pretty proud that I managed to drape a blazer straight on a dress form without any prior experience.

A back view of the blazer. The only thing that isn't draped are the sleeves (we used a flat pattern for that).

Now I have only two days left, and I feel a little sad thinking about it. Right now this feels like the best class I have ever taken, I don't think I ever have learned so much in so little time before.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Back to school


Today is the first day of the pattern making class that I signed up for in December. The theme is innovative pattern making and amongst the things we will learn are how to make patterns out of finished garments, how to grade for different sizes, how to use geometric shapes and how to drape. It sounds pretty exciting so I hope the class will live up to my expectations. Also truth to be told, I'm pretty nervous and a lot of thoughts has been racing through my head this morning. What will my classmates be like? Young and fashion conscious? Will I find someone I can talk to? And lunch, will that be a social matter? And if not should I bring a book to keep me occupied during the lunch hour? I'm not a shy person by any means, but new settings always makes me a bit jittery.

Angst aside, I will definitely blog about my experience later this week. Now I'm off to catch a tram!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Sewing workout wear

Jalie 2005 sewn with wickaway jersey from Rose City Textiles.

Since my sewing is on hold for a while, I have more time for blogging. And that's a great oppertunity to talk a bit about sewing workout wear. It's something I enjoy and also want to encourage others to do. It's really easy and can also save you a lot of money (unlike many other sewing projects) since high end workout wear often cost a small fortune in stores.

Patterns from Sewing swim and action wear and wickaway fabrics from Rockywoods and Rose City Textiles respectively. The top is more than six years old and shows no sign of wear whatsoever.

You can get great wickaway fabrics at a low cost from many on-line fabric stores. They sell the same fabrics that the big name manufacturers use and the fabrics I bought five-six years ago still holds up, unlike the cheapo workout wear from chain stores that starts to pill and wear down in less than a year.

Burda magazine #11/2007 capris in power dry fleece from Rose City Textiles.

So here are my best resources for sewing workout wear:

Favorite pattern makers:
Kwik-Sew
Jalie
Burda magazine
The Green Pepper

Favorite fabric stores:
Rose City Textiles
Wazoodle
Rockywoods
Pennine Outdoor

Please note that I have not ordered from these stores for a while (due to my long exercise hiatus), but in the past the service and quality has always been great. I especially love RCT and RW for their huge range of functional fabrics.

Best beginner's book:
Sewing swim and action wear

Best overall resource:
Specialty outdoor

The stuff I have made myself are really simple designs as you can see - I don't like being too frilly when working out. Also, most of the workout clothes that I own were made many years ago when I had just bought my serger and was less proficient. But of course there are options for those who likes to bring more fashion to their workout gear. Burda magazine for instance have really cool designs on some of their workout patterns.

Regrouping

Thank you for the sympathies and encouragements! I felt so stupid when I realized what I had done and since the fabric is expensive I hadn't bought any extra for scenarios like this. But as Ann noted, at least the fabric was still available for reorder. That was my biggest worry, I even closed my eyes while I was waiting for the fabric page to load!

Antoinette suggested that use
those sleeve remnants to make a matching hat for my kids. That's a great idea, but my oldest have already snatched the sleeves and plan to make some kind of refashion poncho combo with it. I'll keep you updated if that project pans out.
Meanwhile my youngest borrowed what will become the hood later on...


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A mishap

The first rain coat causality.

So I sewed the two back pieces of the raglan sleeves together instead of the front and back. No big deal, right? Just rip it apart and start over. Weeell, except that I went on and heat sealed the seam with tape before discovering my mistake. And the tape is stuck like a super glue. And I'm out of fabric.

I spent an unfruitful hour trying to squeeze in the pattern piece on the small fabric remaints. Then I ate some chips. Then I ordered one more yard of the fabric. It will arrive next week, hopefully. But I'm still a little bummed, and it's hard to do other rain coat stuff in the meantime because a lot of the construction is dependent on having the sleeves in place. Damn!