Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Plaid Winter Rooibos & Learning Techniques

After finishing my last medical school class on Friday a week ago, I sat my last end-of--year exams today. Well, the last ones before medical board exams next spring. I'm feeling kind of nostalgic... I only had three exams, too, instead of the usual seven-to-ten, so I had most of last week to relax, treating myself to a girl's afternoon at the Hamam and Vietnamese food and a indie pop concert afterwards, among other things. I love living in this wonderful city. :)

I also had time to make something that has been on my mind seemingly forever. Possibly since I saw the brown-cream-blue plaid in the FIDM scholarship store when I visited LA two falls ago. (Ali, have I ever thanked you for that incredible tip? :-) I was going to go for a princess seam sheath dress - possibly the same pattern as my teal wool dress - but was intimidated by the pattern matching. Which is obviously why I chose to use the Rooibos pattern in the end. Because of the minimal pattern matching. *sarcasm*

Well, in the end, my pattern matching did turn out mostly fine, although I chickened out and used a bias cut for the midriff band. It does make a nice contrast, I think.

I'm ridiculously pleased with this dress, possibly because of the fabric. It didn't have a tag but I suspect it's a wool-poly blend. It feels slightly scratchy, as if it has a pile, and it refuses to take a crease - even when pressing the seams, they wouldn't lie flat! It also washes well, so I hope this is going to be my never-to-be-ironed dress! ;-)

I added piping to the pockets, like last time, and also piped the neckline - which was a real pain. Something about those tight corners, many layers, and attaching it inside out... Using my facing fabric, which was a tad thick, for the piping also didn't help. It looks less than perfect, and in hindsight, I'd rather have piped the midriff band instead (which I meant to and totally forgot) - but it's ok. It's a lovely dress.

I also fully lined it, basically by making up another dress in lining fabric (except for the pockets, of course), basting the bodice part to the facing and then assembling everything. It worked out better than I thought, even with the slippery rayon lining - and I still love the Rooibos method of attaching the facing! :-)

In an incredibly unusual craving for perfection, I also hand-stitched the hem, with my homemade bias tape. Just for clarity, this is the very first time ever that I hand-stitched a hem. I also hand-stitched the lining to the zipper. This dress has untold (well, told, now) amounts of hand-stitching. (Btw, do you hyphenate hand-stitching? Hyphens confuse me. Compound verbs do, too...)

The Facts:
Fabric: 2.5 yards of plaid poly-wool mix, 1$/yd from the FIDM scholarship store, 0.5m possibly cotton twill 3€, 2m rayon lining 6€
Pattern: Colette Rooibos
Notions: two seafoam colored buttons, 0.20€ each, invisible zipper, fusible interfacing
Time to Complete: a week
First Worn: Sunday choir practice
Thoughts: Having made the pattern already, there was no tracing involved, I was pretty sure about the fit and construction was a breeze. Against the instructions, I left the side seams for last, to be able to adjust the fit better, since my last version, for which I graded from size 8 to 12 from the bust down, seemed a bit big in the waist. I had problems with notching and grading the many layers (lining, interfacing, facing, piping and fashion fabric) around the neckline.  Thoughts for next time: use lighter fabric for the piping or leave it off at the neckline. The hand-stitched hem actually didn't take all that long and I like how it turned out, although it could use another pressing.
I like the slightly old-fashioned, school-teachery look. The shorter length gives it enough playfulness to offset it, I think.

Oh, speaking of hand-stitched hems: Curves, Patterns & Pins has a project called Check the Technique, which I joined.
One of my sewing resolutions for this year is to take more time and care when sewing garments, which includes learning new techniques, of course. So now I've created a page (to be reached at the top of my blog) where I can tick off the techniques I learn. Yay for ticking stuff off lists! ;-)

How's it going in your part of the world? What are you sewing right now? Are there any techniques you've always wanted to learn?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Funny Dreams, Sketches and Me-Made-Mittwoch

Have you ever dreamed of meeting other sewing bloggers? Not just daydreaming about being able to jet to London or New York or Edinburgh but real early-morning, soon-it's-time-to-get-up REM sleep dreaming? This is the third time I can remember, that I had a dream like that. Funny, since I never seem to dream about sewing...

Anyway.  My croquis has turned out to be a lot of fun! I made a "sketching version" with grey lines instead of black and sketched out some ideas I've had in the back of my mind for quite a while.
Summer dresses. Because I want sun! The first, as you can see, is Colette's Chantilly, something I've already wanted to make last year, from rose-print cotton. Obstacle: I don't have the pattern. The other two are possibly self-drafted dresses, made from navy needle-dot and irregular dot rayon jersey, respectively.
I was a bit preoccupied with my polka-dot stash, as you can see. I've held onto some heavy-ish navy circle-dot cotton sateen from NZ for over a year. I think it may just be a yard or maybe one and a half. Enough for a simple dress with a peter pan collar, or a sleeveless dress with an A-line skirt? Notice that they all have a midriff band. Yes, I cling to the illusion of waist.
These are the ones with the grey lines. Better, no?
These first two are trying to recreate a dress that my great-grandma would wear frequently. Or was it a two-piece? I can't remember, it's been years. It was grey with small white polka-dots, a white button placket and notched collar. And white welt-pockets. I wonder if that's where I get my polka-dot obsession from...? ;) The next is red-and-white polka-dot jersey and a peter pan collar. Also: separates! A peter pan collared, back-buttoned blouse, possibly based on the Sorbetto. And a navy Kasia skirt.
Two refashioned sundresses in progress (meaning, I've already taken the original garment apart). One from a plaid men's shirt, one from a very ruffly, frilly navy eyelet dress. Also, a New Look 6000. I wonder if I should leave off the sleeves? And another pair of separates. A Jasmine blouse (don't have that pattern yet, either...) with Taffy sleeves, inspired by a blouse Sophie from Leverage wears. Also, pants. Because I do wear them... like 10 days out of a year. Although the blouse might look cuter with a pencil skirt. Or a black Meringue? I'll have to sketch that out...

So yeah, most of these are actual plans, for which I have the fabrics in my stash already. I think I could even make another set of eight, with more stash-busting garments that I have already half planned-out. Um, what does that say about my stash? ;)

Ok, before you fall asleep from my inconsequential ramblings about things-to-sew: a Me-Made-Mittwoch outfit.
Hum. I should possibly wear this dress with color-coordinating tights and longsleeves...

Sun! Yes! Hope you have a wonderful week!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sewaholic Renfrew Top

Hi everyone! Did you see that Tasia from Sewaholic has announced a new pattern? The Renfrew top, a knit top with three options for both necklines and sleeve lengths. Cool, right? What's even cooler is that I was among her pattern testers this time! Fun! :)

I chose to make the long-sleeved version with the round neckline, great for layering in winter and also good as a simple top for fall and spring.

The Facts:
Fabric: dark purple jersey with minimal stretch, 5€ for a 1.5m coupon at the Holland Fabric market
Pattern: Sewaholic Renfrew top, view A
Notions: none
Time to Complete: a couple of hours, I think
First Worn: mid-December
Thoughts: I cut out size 12 according to my measurements but found out that, for a knit pattern, this top has quite a bit of ease. Since I like my knit tops rather close to the body, in the end my pattern pieces were closer to a size 8, and possibly a 6 in the sleeves. I think I'd go down another size in a stretchier knit. Apart from the sizing, the instructions were very clear and easy to work with. Lots of little illustrations, too, and everything came together very easily. I love that all the finishings - sleeves, hem and neckline - are done with a fabric band. It makes constuction really easy and looks very neat! :) I also loved the instruction for the v-neck, I always wondered how to finish that type of neckline and I'll have to try that next. The top is meant to be made on a normal sewing machine (no serger/overlock), which I did and it worked out well. I fudged the neckband a bit, since it turned out fussier with the less stretchy knit than I was used to. (Also, I'm lazy.) I recommend using lots of pins.
I think it's a great top for 1. people who don't own a serger or 2. haven't sewn much with knits, yet. The thorough instructions also make it a good choice for beginner sewists, I think. Since the pattern gives three neckline options (round, v-neck and cowl, check out Karen's leopard version!) and also three sleeve lengths, you could actually make 9 different tops with this!

If you're thinking of buying the pattern, I recommend signing up for Tasia's newsletter. She's doing presales right now and you can get free shipping!

After making up this geared-for-beginners knit top, I've been thinking about writing a series of posts about how I sew my knit garments. I know there are lotsa tutorials out there, quite a few of which I read and learned from. I stumbled into sewing knits with zero knowledge, learning-by-doing and making many mistakes (should have read those tutorials first, huh?) and I think by now I have something that works for me (most of the time, see neckband above...). So, I was wondering. Would you guys like to read about how I sew with knits, and which techniques didn't work for me? With maybe a bit about frankenpatterning knit garments from clothes you already own?

Have a good week, everyone!

Monday, January 16, 2012

A Croquis and Body Proportions

It seems that winter has at long last decided to show its face around here. After a cold but brilliant day yesterday, we're now having snow. Well, sleet, mostly. There were a few nice snowflakes this morning. Since we had about a meter of snow around this time last year, I'm not complaining. I also managed to go for a walk around the park *and* go ice-skating in the brilliant weather yesterday, so no complaints at all. :)
Rooibos going ice-skating - also: polka-dot and stripe action ;)
I've slowly been making headway into the Colette Sewing Handbook (which is really a pleasure to read!) and today (after almost 8h of uni - emergency management, which is a practical course and actually pretty fun, the dummies breathe and have a pulse and everything) I actually managed to trace my croquis!
Not much surprise there, I'm pretty short and square (well, rectangular). I am kind of surprised that my body proportions seem to be rather well balanced. Apart from the fact that I'm 7 instead of 8 heads tall (which seems to make me petite, even though I'm 5'5"/164cm), my top-to-hip length is equal to my hip-to-feet length, making my body balanced overall. I'm missing half a head length around my waist and in my thigh length, which seems to make me "balanced with a short mid-body" - which is also the reason why I don't have a small waist and will never have one. There is only about 3 inches space between the bottom of my ribcage and the top of my hip bone - not much space for a waist to dip in.
It's actually kind of interesting to know, even though it doesn't tell me a lot of new things. I had already figured out that my garments need to be close-fitting right below the bust, that gathers along my true waist as well as waist-high skirts and trousers are mostly out, and that skirts work best around knee-length or slightly shorter. This confirms it in a very tangible way, though, so I will try to keep possible alterations (like raising the waistline of a dress to the midriff) in mind.

I've already printed out a few copies of my croquis to get sketching. Hehe, this is going to be fun! (Even though the weather has now turned bad *just* when I was getting in the mood for spring dresses!)
Are you planning on making a croquis? Have you already made one? Has it helped you, style wise?

Hope you have a lovely week!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Plaid Macaron & Me-Made Mittwoch

Gosh, it's gloomy today. Gloomy enough for me to decide that I had to spice up my first FO reveal of the year and first me-made Wednesday with a few happy props: my new red polka dot wellies, huge earrings and a ridiculously  huge bow in my hair.
the weather is making me all 'meh'...
I actually didn't mean to leave the house today, but then I had to drop off a letter at the post office, so I thought I could just as well pick up some facing and lining fabric for that plaid Rooibos I've been meaning to make. The fabric shop has its own remnant section, and look what I just had to buy:
Navy and cream polka dot jersey rayon. I may possibly be obsessed with blue polka dots, since now all of these fabrics are in my posession:
Is there such a thing as too many blue polka dot dresses? I'm unsure. We will see. But since it was the remnant part of the shop and I only paid 10€ for what amounts to almost 3 yards (2.7m), I really couldn't walk by. ;)

Anyway, back to the reveal part: my plaid winter Macaron with the long sleeves. Yes, I finally finished it this weekend and I'm already wearing it for the second time today! I think I like the other Macaron better (the floral fabric is just so pretty!) but this one has a comfy feel to it, perfect for fall and winter.
... but silly polka dot accessories make it all better!

The Facts:
Fabric: irregular teal plaid, bought in a Kentucky Walmart last year for maybe 3$/yd and navy interlock from one of the fabric markets in Berlin
Pattern: Colette Macaron, self-drafted yoke
Notions: invisible side zipper in bright green
Time to Complete: no idea - about five or six hours, spaced over 3 days
First Worn: January 7, 2012
Thoughts: I changed the darts to make the bodice sit higher on my chest and incorporated the waistband into the bodice, since I didn't want to do excessive pattern matching. This messed up the dart points a bit and I'll have to look out for that next time. I like the knit yoke and long sleeves, which make the dress comfy to wear and appropriate for colder weather. The plaid fabric is prone to crinkling, but since it feels more like a lounging-around dress than something to dress up in, that's totally fine.

I also finished a pair of woolen reading mitts for my mom and a black microfiber "regular guy" beanie for my stepdad. Totally forgot to take a picture of the hat before I sent it off today, which is a shame because I had totally thought of a fun pun to go with it! It's a regular guy beanie with a twist! (Meaning after two inches of 2x2 ribbing I made a stitch and then knitted k7p1, so there was a swirl of purl stitches going up the hat. No, I didn't think of it myself, but I seem to have lost my original inspiration..)
Maybe I can get my stepdad to send me a picture of him wearing it...

Before I finish for today, I wanted to thank you all for the lovely comments on my New Year's review&goal post! While I sew mostly because it makes me happy to wear all the fun garments I make, one of the coolest things about this whole sewing adventure is getting to be a part of a worldwide community of incredibly awesome and inspirational sewing bloggers. Yes, that means you! Thank you for being there, for writing blogs about your garments, about your successes and mistakes, for commenting, for thinking up awesome challenges, sew-alongs and tutorials. Thank you for being the bright spots among the jeans wearing masses, for being creative, for being inspirational!

Hope you have a wonderful week!

Friday, January 6, 2012

2011 Year in Review & Resolutions for 2012

Hum. I seem to have read a good two dozen review and resolutions posts in the last week, so I'm not all sure I should even post this. Then again, I started writing this post even before Christmas - I'm also kinda grumpy from a cold right now, and a deadline that is looming, so maybe it's just that. Also, this is the first year where I've been sewing from (almost) beginning to the end, so it's kinda nice to look back, see what I made and if I stuck to my resolutions! If you're bored by all the resolutioning, you may skip this post, though. :)

What I made: 11 dresses (and 3/4 of a 12th, which by now only needs hemming), 6 tops, 4 from-scratch and 3 refashioned bottoms (plus two refashions for friends). 26 garments in all, 5 of them refashioned! I also took up knitting and made: 8 scarflets, 1 scarf, 3 pairs of mittens (and the beginning of a hat). Not a bad year, eh?
three of this year's dresses, from the Summer Essentials sew-along
I also participated in various challenges and sewalongs, like the Colette Spring and Fall Palette challenges, participated in Me-Made-March and Me-Made-June, and I got to co-host the Summer and Fall Essentials Sew-along together with Ali and Sarah!
Summer Essential tops

Let's see how I fared with my resolutions:

1. Taking more time and an eye for the detail with my garments.
To be totally honest, this worked out a bit so-so. It seems I'm still a fan of quick'n'dirty, sometimes I feel in a hurry and just want to finish something, which works out in having to rip the seams and doing it again. It's very silly! However, I did my first muslin, found out how to insert an invisible zipper, found a nice method of attaching linings to dresses, used a serger for the first time...  The "taking more care with construction" will definitely stay on my list of resolutions.
Crepe dress - probably my best construction, I made my first muslin for this

2. Spring cleaning!
I think I cleaned out my wardrobe reasonably well this spring. I swapped quite a few items away during a garment swap-meet with my friends, the rest went to charity. I'd love to have my sewing stuff a bit more organized, but with the limited space I'll have to think about a system that'll work. I wasn't incredibly organised in my sewing, but I think that's just the way I roll. I have a list of potential things to sew, and some get done, some don't...

3. Making a Wardrobe Capsule.
This is something I haven't done, and I may attempt it now that I have the Colette Sewing Book in my hands. I like the idea of finding 5 favorites and extrapolating from there.
Fall Essentials dress

4. Begin creating a balanced wardrobe of handmade and existing RTW garments.
I think this is working out pretty well. At least I get the feeling that I manage to combine my handmades and my RTW garments pretty well.
5. Make at least every second garment from existing fabric.
Yes! This also worked out! 13 garments (including 3 refashions) were made with fabrics or garments that were already in my stash as of Jan 1st, 2011! That's exactly half! This is also something I'd like to continue.
fabrics used as of yet: four of these, two in the soon-to-sew list
So, what are my plans for 2012?

1. Taking more care with quality and construction! That includes starting to use other seam finishings than pinking and zigzagging. And not letting me rush myself!

2. Continue using my stash for at least every second garment, and not buy too much additional fabric. My stash isn't huge, but I don't have a dedicated sewing space and the fabric and all of my sewing utensils are sharing bookshelf space. Decluttering and finding a workable system for storing my notions would be good, too...
3. Use at least six of my yet-unused patterns this year! Like the Lonsdale dress, the Pendrell blouse, the Negroni shirt and New Look 6000, which I had to buy after seeing Scruffybadger's scrumptious version...

4. Spend a little more time on adjusting and drafting patterns. I'm still in love with the idea of having pattern blocks that can be adjusted with details to make practically any kind of garment.

5. Keep knitting - maybe even a sweater! - and start making those accessories that I've had on my to-make list for ages. Like, bags and purses, jewellery, brooches...
knit scarflet and fabric flower brooch
There are also a few more little goals I have. Occasionally joining the Sew Weekly, a (weekly?) me-made outfit post, taking part in Me-Made-May... I also liked the Colette Palette challenges a lot and will participate if there are going to be any this year.

I probably shouldn't make any more resolutions, since I'm starting on my year of internship come March, and while I know it to be far less gruelling than, say, portrayed in Grey's Anatomy, it will essentially be an unpaid full-time job. Ah well, lots of people work and sew. There's still the weekends. :)

Since I haven't said it yet (grumpy! ;) ) - Happy New Year and Happy Stitching in 2012 to all!