Life of Johanna


Wednesday, July 29, 2009Johanna / 14 kommentarer

Am I the only one who gets these? They are burn marks that comes from accidentally touching the rim of a hot iron when pressing seams. It usually doesn't hurt much, but the scar takes at least a year to fully fade away, at least on me. I even had one on my stomach for a while when I was ironing without a shirt and somehow managed to brush my tummy against the iron. So now I am curious, do you have any sewing related injuries? I have yet to sew into my fingers, but even after four years of use, I am still a little scared of my serger.
Rain coat project


Monday, July 27, 2009Johanna / 10 kommentarer

It's finally official - I won third place in the My pattern contest! I am super thrilled and really flattered, I honestly didn't expect to place so high since my design was more conventional than many other entries. And a big thanks to all you readers who helped me pick the design. And it feels like I have already (and unknowingly) celebrated the victory - since we had strawberry cake for lunch today :)

The prize is $65 worth of software from Wild ginger. I am a long time user of their Pattern master program, but for the last couple of years I have switched more to manual pattern drafting since it's nice to be able to use a pen and paper sometimes - I spend so much time in front of the computer anyway. The program I am most excited about is Wild things vintage, looks like a lot of cool vintage designs are included.

The best deal

Sunday, July 26, 2009Johanna / 2 kommentarer
Inside a H&M skirt.

Many years ago I read an interview with a Swedish veteran businessman from the retail sector. I no longer recall his name, but I do remember the advice that he gave: "The best deal on the market is the higher end ranges from Ikea and H&M, which is something most people don't realise ". At the time I thought that it was a very novel advice. While most Swedes spend a large chunk of money at these places, it's a love/hate thing and we routinely (and not without cause) dis them for the mass produced personality and the lack of quality.

But I have also followed the businessman's advice to some degree and I have to say he was absolutely right. The attention to detail and quality combined with large volume sourcing and other cost effective methods make this a very winning concept. While there are of course a lot to be said about the big retail companies and how they manage to keep their prizes down, it ain't all evil in my opinion. They provide work opportunities in many countries and both Ikea and H&M have tried to clean up their act when it comes to their code of conduct and to give the foreign workers better conditions. And many high end designers also produce some of their lines in those factories, but no one seems to question them. Although that said, it's still a long way to go for both H&M and others. And I do wish people was prepared to pay a bit more for what they wear. At least those who can afford it.

The zipper and lining up close.

Which brings me to this H&M skirt that I snatched on a sale the other week. It's from one of their higher end ranges and the workmanship is very impressive. Just take a look at this zipper treatment. I have no idea how they made it so clean, but if someone has a clue please drop me a line. There are clearly no hand sewing going on, just clever engineering. Another nice detail is the binding on the facing - overall the skirt looks like it cost three times more than it originally retailed for. So that would be my consumer tip for the day. Not all cats are grey, and sometimes the best deals can be found in the most unlikely of places.
Made by me

Burda dress with puff sleeves

Saturday, July 25, 2009Johanna / 11 kommentarer

Do I need one more summer dress? Probably not. But they are one of the things I enjoy sewing the most. And wearing. I love the sensation of airy cotton against my skin and summer dresses make me feel light and joyful. Although the smiley face in the photo doesn't tell the complete picture, I'm actually not entirely happy with the outcome of the Burda magazine dress. Mostly because some design quirks on Burda's behalf, like the insanely low d├ęcolletage and the snug shape around the hips which doesn't really work with the suggested batiste. This dress would probably look better in something slinky and drapey, like the wedding version, which is sensational.

I was a little surprised by the shortcomings of this pattern. Burda are usually very reliable and I have the exact chest/waist/hip measurements of their size 38, so I didn't really expect the fit to be slightly off. But then again sheath dresses are generally hard to fit and in hindsight I should have used my personal sloper instead and my own puff sleeve draft.
Because another object of discontent are the sleeves - they're huge. I ended up pressing the puffs into pleats to make them more subtle.

The puff sleeves before I pressed them down.

The neckline up close.

All things said, the end result looks pretty good and the overall design is very nice. I will definitely wear the dress, at least if the darn weather could be more cooperative. The two week heatwave was wonderful, but now we are back to a classic Swedish summer. i.e. mostly cold and rainy. So I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

For more info on the pattern see my review.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009Johanna / 1 kommentarer

We have been out in the sticks, with neither internet or a sewing machine in any tangible proximity. Hence the blogging silence. It was wonderful with a break, but I did feel a whiff of blogging withdrawal symptoms for the first few days. Strange. Also I forgot my camera at home, which annoyed me to death. I must be a total documentation junkie, that's for sure. Luckily my BF brought his camera, so I can still show you some photos from our cottage holiday out in the Swedish woods.

Also it looks like I won the third prize in the My pattern contest over at Pattern review for my rain coat, but I have yet to see any official announcement of the contest results. So it feels a little premature to actually celebrate this outcome, but I'll get back to it when I know some more.
Life of Johanna


Friday, July 10, 2009Johanna / 6 kommentarer

Apparently this vacation thingie has already put me out of my regular routine. So here I'm up at 2 A.M, my head spinning with seemingly grand ideas (aka insomnia hubris) while my stomach is growling for some food. Staying up late can be nice, but tomorrow morning my kids will come home from a tour de relatives that has lasted for over two weeks. And I don't want to be a bleary eyed, dizzy mess when they arrive. Especially since this is the longest period we have ever been apart.

[pause to get some cereals]

Anyhow, in this state of clarity/confusion I have decided on my next project. I will make a dress from Burda magazine no 3/2008 (aka as one of my all time favorite issues). Dawn has already done a fab version of this pattern. So that's what I'm aiming for, using one of my London fabrics. Though that dress wont' happen tonight, since I really need to wind down, not up.

And I might cringe when I see this collage tomorrow.

Made by me

Cornelia skirt

Wednesday, July 08, 2009Johanna / 2 kommentarer

Judging by all the black clothes that I’m currently churning out you wouldn’t belive that we have the biggest heatwave in years here in Sweden. But we have, it's hot like a sauna some days, even indoors at night. So perhaps sewing black is my way of chilling out.

This velvet skirt I have named Cornelia and it’s in the same spirit as Leslie – i.e. an attempt to translate something vintage into a modern wearable. The inspiration for the skirt are the heavy velvet curtains that was popular during the Art nouveau period. I love the richness and imaginative embellishing of that period, but it can sometimes be a bit too fussy and overadorned. So I wanted to do something that has a turn-of-the-last-century feel, but not as overpowering as a literal design. Although I didn't have a specific image for this project, so this skirt is more of an interpretation of my memories of these curtains. Traditionally these curtains are made in red and gold, but I decided to use a more toned down palette of grey and black.

Close-up of the ribbon embellishment.

The skirt is made of cotton velvet and the embellishment is done with a velvet ribbon. I wont lie, the ribbon embellishing was hard, it took me several tries to get it right. In order to make it to stick to the fabric I used a combination of washable glue stick and textile glue, and then machine stitched the ribbon into place. To prevent the fabric from puckering I also interfaced the back with a lightweight knit fusible.

The other tricky part was the zipper. I am looking for a more effective and cleaner looking zipper assembly method so I tried Kathleen Fasanella's tutorial for a centered zipper. Some of her methods might look a little mind boggling at first, at least if you come from the home sewing world. But the result, once you master them, makes a lot of sense and gives very nice looking results. That said it will take me a few more practice rounds before I get this perfect. Her tutorial is for a back seam, but it worked really well for a curved side seam too. The seam lies perfectly flat, no stretching, no bubbles, and I didn’t have to use interfacing or any other special tricks to make it that way.

The lining is cotton voile.

I am actually writing this on the road, or on a bus to be more precise. I have been visiting a friend for a few days and luckily the coach offers both wireless internet and an electrical socket so I was able to plug in my laptop. I finished the skirt last weekend but never got the time blogging about it then. Also my summer holiday has finally begun and today was the first day this year that I was able to swim in the ocean (in my new bathing suit). And even though I nearly suffered a heart failure from the cold water, it was still a fantastic experience.

Edit: Sorry for all the typos in the original post, I think I have fixed most of them now. Writing and riding a bus is clearly not a combo that works for me.

Life of Johanna

Ten things about me

Thursday, July 02, 2009Johanna / 3 kommentarer

No blog is complete without a meme. From Clevergirl.

1. When I was a child I used to entertain myself with learning all the lines from The Cosby show episodes. My all time favorite episode is the one where Denise sews a shirt for Theo.

2. I would say that two of my best and worst traits are my stubbornness and competitiveness. They are the main reasons why I have achieved a lot of things in life, but they can also be an annoyance, both for myself and for the people around me.

3. I have a knack for predicting people's actions, which puts me in a slight advantage when playing rock, paper and scissors. When I played an IRL poker tournament it worked too, but on-line that skill seems useless.

4. When I was a 22-year old vegan I swore that I would never eat diary again. Three years later I was eating both milk products and fish. Although, somewhat ironically, I have recently developed a lactose intolerance.

5. I'm much more comfortable being a parent now that my kids have passed the baby/toddler age. But I do fear the teenage years.

6. When it comes to aging my biggest fear is becoming a slow person who has a hard times grasping new things. I have always been a fast learner with little patience for slowness, so this will be a very tough and humbling adjustment for me.

7. I feel a little embarrassed that I don't have a high enough IQ for joining the Mensa club. Not that I would if I could, but I would like to have the option...

8. I have bought nearly every issue of American Vogue since 1992. But during our last move I knew it was time to get rid of my collection. Still feel a little sad about it though.

9. I love to dance when the music is right. Love. Love. Love. Apart from my family, that is my biggest love high. Don't do it enough though.

10. Speaking of highs, I would love to be one of those people who bungy jump and climb mountains. But unfortunately I suffer from a terrible vertigo, that seems to get worse every year.
Fashion on TV

Thoughts on The Fashion show

Thursday, July 02, 2009Johanna / 5 kommentarer

As we are gearing up for the finale, I thought I should give my views on Bravo's attempt to corner the competition from Project runway, who jumped ship last year to the Lifetime channel. The Fashion show was clearly up for a tough ride from the start. The concept had already been done, with great success, and it's inevitable that every little thing in the show will be compared with the original. While Project runway, when it started, could ride on the wave of innovation and excitement, The Fashion show struggles with the stigma of "been there done that".

So was The Fashion show a doomed project from the start? Perhaps, but not necessary. Other reality shows has survived new spins on the same concept, like Gordon Ramsey's Hells kitchen vs Top Chef or the various talent shows that has been popping in the aftermath of American idol.

Instead I think The Fashion show main problem lies in it's execution. To me it looks a bit sloppy, like it was rushed and done on a shoestring. One of the issues that I have with the production is that it doesn't allow us to connect with the contestants. After nine episodes we know hardly anything about them, which makes it hard to get involved in what will happen to the participants. As for watching a reality show without caring about the outcome - well it doesn't make for exciting viewing.
I know it's easy to say "I only care about the clothes" when dissing the reality show format with it's focus on strong personalities and drama. I know I have said similar things myself in the past. But after watching The Fashion show, I realized I was wrong. A good reality show needs it's characters, needs the drama, needs to be compelling.

Another problem with The Fashion show is that it doesn't put Isaac Mizrahi into good use. He should have been more hands on, more involved in what goes on in the design room. Then his funny and often compelling side would have shined through. Actually Tom and Lorenzo of Project rungay has a great suggestion for how to improve the show - let them work for Isaac, like they did in episode 7.

So will the The Fashion show get a second season? My guess is no. And even if there will be a next season, I doubt it's staying power in the current format. Although I do think there are some potential if they tweak the concept. As for whom I think will be the winner? My money is on Anna, while not super inventive, she is consistent and I think will make a very cohesive final collection.