Friday, July 18, 2014


... mm mmmmm, it looks just exactly like Bessie has had a giant big vat of melted chocolate poured all over her, yes?
So, after I cut the pockets out of this delicious chocolate brown silk charmeuse for my suede jacket I wondered if I still had enough of it to make up what I had originally earmarked it to be.  Which was a petticoat.  So I just went ahead with it, whimsically; since I actually have no designated thing to wear it under yet and now it's hanging all alone on its hanger in the wardrobe.  An orphan, a sad and lonely little thing, the petticoat with no dress.  And it's such gorgeous fabric too.  Shimmery soft and delightfully whispery against the skin.  I'm going to looooove wearing it, one day.  
Maybe I'll be totally, wickedly, gloriously self-indulgent and give it to myself for a summer nightie this year.  Maybe.  If I'm good  ;)
The fabric was from Fabulous Fabrics and the pattern is Vogue 1160, which is really a dress pattern.  This is the accompanying petticoat, which is a very nice, quick and simple little pattern.  The pieces are all cut on the bias which makes for a beautiful drape.  I looked at the underbust darts on each bodice piece; two of them, both quite wide, and just had to laugh.  Not with my bust!  I eliminated some bodice width by folding the pattern piece a little between the 2 dart markings and in lieu of darts gathered excess width into the relevant area of the skirt front.  Silk charmeuse gathers just beautifully and imo the soft gathers are prettier and look much nicer than a dart.
The side seams are sewn in French seams and the shoulder straps are tiny spaghetti straps.  Turning out skinny straps is usually a pain in the neck, but not with this slippery stuff which turns out like a absolute dream.  A dream, I tell you!!  
I almost feel like making another one straight away just so I can turn out more spaghetti straps.  :)

Friday, July 11, 2014

my Milanese Panther dress

Not the real Milanese panther of course which I understand is a very rare animal...
I bought this fabric in Milan during our trip there two years ago.  I realised after making up my caramel suede from Denmark that, well *blush* all of the fabric I bought on our Paris/Italy trip was still sitting in my stash virtually untouched.  It's a bad habit of mine, buying precious fabrics and then finding myself completely unable to cut into them.  Fear of destroying them, you know.  Fortunately this beautiful fabric has been successfully not-destroyed ....I don't know whether to call it velvet or fur, it's not really like one or the other but a kind of hybrid of both.  Thicker and more directionally "brushed" than velvet, and lighter than most furs.  The pile is deep midnight black over a brilliant, almost neon, rusty-orange backing that reveals itself in the folds of the dress and in motion as sort of inner fiery glow, like the embers of a dying fire.
please excuse that a vampire appears to be wearing the dress here but instead note the interesting inner glow and the luxurious velvet-y furry pile of the fabric, as mentioned above..
The pattern is Vogue 1220; and the design is, in short, lovely.  In not-short; it achieves the trifecta of interesting and feminine and figure flattering; the neckline is pleated into a softly draped shawl collar with a slightly retro feel in its volume, the wide belt cinches the softly blowsy cocoon shape into a tiny waist, and a pegged hemline accentuates the hourglass effect further.  I wasn't keen on that tie belt at first, especially the way it's been tied like a big juvenile birthday-bow in the middle of the model's tummy on the pattern envelope; but the dress does look nicer with the extra waist definition that a wide belt gives and I like it wrapped around twice and with the ties hanging down at the back like this.  
The tie belt is supposed to be unlined and simply finished with a narrow hem, meaning the wrong side of the fabric is exposed.  And the bright rusty-orange reverse of my fabric would have shown in a very distracting and very not-good way!  So I underlined the belt using a very thin, slippery black poly-crepe from Fabulous Fabrics.  
Also I like my winter-y skirts to be lined, so I improvised a lining for the skirt portion of the dress, using the same poly-crepe.  It is cut the same as the skirt parts of the pattern pieces, the pleats and darts simply folded in position and the top edge sewed right sides together to the back skirt/ back seam.  The skirt lining fronts have the raw edges turned under and are hand stitched invisibly to the dress front, and the raw edges of the lining at the side edges and lower edge are encased within the folded back front facings and the hem facing pieces.  I hemmed the skirt facings by hand, to the skirt lining.
The pocket linings are cut from the same poly-crepe; and due to my improvised lining the pockets are nicely hidden away between the layers of the skirt and lining, as seen above.  Or not seen, I guess...
The sleeve cuffs are supposed to be folded out so the wrong side of the fabric shows on the outside too; instead I sewed them in a deep inside hem, which I turned back outside on itself and hand-stitched invisibly in position to the sleeve about 0.5cm inside the edge of the cuff.
How is it to wear? Well... first outing, I wore it out to dinner and found that when seated a little more inner/upper thigh is revealed than I am comfortable with!  And also that attractive pegged hemline does make the skirt rather tight around the thighs, which, if you want, can be easily and quickly remedied by some discreet bottom-button undoing.  Leading however, to even more revealing.  Thank goodness for tablecloths and the ginormous linenware that restaurants drape across your lap!  
Anyhoo, I rapidly formed the opinion that a separate petticoat or slip is pretty much an essential accessory for this design.
So: upon getting home I dug out of my wardrobe an old black satin and lace petticoat that I made about seven? eight? even more? years ago using NewLook 6035; I've re-hemmed it to the requisite length and will wear this underneath.  
I'm actually super happy about this, to be honest it's actually an absolutely brilliant turn of events ... why? because I pretty much haven't worn this black petticoat for years.  Years!  But I've hung onto it, thinking surely! it'll come in handy again, someday!  And now it has!  Finally!  Woooooot!
Just to give some perspective to the issue: seated, with petticoat... see wot I mean? Essential!!

Dress; Vogue 1220, black/orange brushed velvet
Petticoat; NewLook 6035, black satin and lace, first seen here
Shoes; Zomp, from Zomp shoes

no real reason for this picture other than that the sun broke through the clouds and I just liked it  :)

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Caramel suede cardigan/jacket

o hello  :)
I've made a suede cardigan for myself, or is it a jacket?  The pattern says "jacket" but I tend to think of jackets as being kinda involved, time-consuming things to make, with lining and so forth.  While cardigans are unstructured, unlined things one can whizz up in a blink of an eye.  Which actually describes this thing pretty well.
The pattern is jacket 132 from Burda style magazine 11/2012, which Philippa sent to me in a giveaway, thank you so much Philippa!  I lurve Burda magazines, the designs are usually both interesting and stylish, the cost per pattern is very very low, and still not bad even if you do only make a few things in an issue.  I reckon they deserve to be a heckuvva lot more popular than they are.  You don't need every issue but I generally get maybe one magazine in a year and manage to make several things in each one.  This design caught my eye straight away, and was firmly in my mind when I bought my leather.  I actually made a muslin for it, which is only worth mentioning because it's such a rare thing for me to do.  Well my leather was kinda precious and I did not want to stuff it up!  I did a minor sway back adjustment and shortened the bust darts by a few inches.
I used my two pieces of caramel brown pigskin, bought in Copenhagen on our trip.  I liked both sides; the smoother, leather-y side has some interesting brand marks, but the suede side has the most glorious, rich caramel colour.  Colour trumped brand marks.
The cardigan is quite long in the body with wide-ish front flaps so it took some layout wizardry to get the pattern pieces out!  I re-laid the pieces down over and over and over again, trying to fit them all in and cut it with the skinniest little 5mm seam allowances.  I did have to do just one little fill-in piecing on the left back back, but I managed to position this at the very top, centre back, so it's as un-noticeable as I think it could possibly be!
The pattern has pockets; which I cut to be nice and huge, to accommodate my nice huge hands, hehe.  Burda magazine patterns have the teeniest tiniest child-sized pockets of all, I swear.  Very cute, but seriously?!  Maybe it's just me; I like to plunge my hands right down deep into my pockets  :)  I used chocolate brown silk charmeuse, which I fortuitously just happened to have in my stash already,  hanging around, in the perfect colour, you know, as you do  ;)  Hopefully cutting those pockets out of it won't mean I now don't have enough for it to fulfil its original destiny.
below left; I have no idea why the colour is so off in this picture here, but... pocket! 
The pattern called for a waist tie, to be sewn in the side seams.  I preferred the idea of a separate belt that I could wear or not wear, whichever I wanted, however whim and whimsy struck, and not to have the ties dangling uselessly and annoyingly at my sides whenever I was wearing the cardigan loose.  So I put little belt loops in the side seams, seen at top left in the picture above, and made a very long skinny belt as a separate thing.  This has tonnes of mad bias-cut piecing  all along it, as I was dealing with mere scraps of leather by the time I had cut out the main pieces of the jacket.  But I don't think that matters much, you can barely see all the joins when it's on. This is simply folded in two lengthwise and topstitched.

I think worn loose, as at top, it looks quite modern, and with the waist tied up it looks a little bit boho 70's, yes?

I am very happy with, and am very much going to enjoy wearing my Copenhagen souvenir!

Later edit: some technical details on sewing with leather, and thank you so much to Erica for asking  :)
 This is the first leather thing I have made so I learned a few things... I used a denim needle and regular polyester all-purpose thread, and used paper clips to hold edges together in lieu of pins. Lots of experimenting to get the tension right, I ended up with a medium-loose tension and a long stitch. The leather didn't move through my machine very easily, so I used strips of tissue paper while stitching the seams, which helped a lot. Fortunately, this jacket had few seams! I used tissue paper both top and bottom, and did this by folding a wide, single strip and wrapping it closely around the edges before clipping it all together with paper clips, then sewed the seam; which was easier to hold in place than I imagine two separate strips would be, and also made it easier to follow an even seam allowance while stitching too.  
For short seams, like piecing the belt pieces together; I started stitching from halfway along and ended at the edge, then turned the piece over and stitched the other half of the seam from the same halfway point to the other edge, because my machine didn't like "starting" on an edge, and behaved badly on these. If I was to do more sewing with leather I think it would probably be very well worth getting a teflon foot for my machine, which will enable the leather to glide through more smoothly.

Cardigan; Burdastyle magazine 11/2012-132, caramel pigskin suede
Jeans, Burda 7863, white denim, details here and my review of this pattern here
Tshirt; self-drafted, white cotton jersey, details here
Socks; hand-knitted by me, details here
Shoes; Francesco Morichetti, from Zomp shoes

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

On tights and socks...

After wearing only my own self-made tights throughout 2013 during my year of all-handmade, I have worn some RTW tights a few times lately.  And made a surprising discovery.

I actually prefer my self-made tights.
Funny, hmm?  One of the things I had been most looking forward to was getting back to wearing RTW tights again.  For some reason I think I had convinced myself that factory made, seamless tights would be sooooo superior; comfier, warmer, better fitting.  And NO inside leg seam, hurrah!  Life was going to be so great once I ditched those!
Well, nice, smooth, perfectly seam-free legs is a plus in the looks department, I grant them that; but otherwise I've found myself strangely disappointed with my RTW tights, almost immediately.  The fit is horrible.  I buy my designated size Talls, but find they still sink at the crotch over the course of a day, which is hyper annoying.  Meaning I have to find a discreet moment to hoink up each leg and redistribute them every now and then.  Annoying!
I have never had that problem with my own self-drafted tights.  I guess I had forgotten that a sinking crotch was ever a thing, at all!
Perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised.  After all, my self-made tights are drafted to fit my legs perfectly, so um, they do.  Most RTW tights have two unshaped tubes for legs, the same circumference from thigh to ankle.  Obviously most women's legs do not have the same circumference all the way down.  My own tights are bigger around the thigh, going in to smaller around the knee, going out to a bit bigger at the calf and shrinking in to skinnier around the ankle again.  What this means is that the tendency for an elasticated thing to migrate to an area of lesser girth, like from the thigh and down to the knee, which is what happens inevitably in an unshaped RTW tight; is not an issue.
The inside leg seam that is an unavoidable feature of my own tights; well undoubtably it is a less perfect look.  But it is also a helpful aid to putting on the tights correctly.  When you have a featureless tube it can sometimes be difficult to keep the legs straight and also to tell where you put your heel the last time you wore the tights, and they can easily get twisted up.  You never ever have this confusion with an inside leg seam there.
So I'm eating my own words, and as my current crop of rtw tights start to hole-up and die I might just go back to making my own again.  Ha!

In related news, I've been checking out the old sock drawer and found ew HOLES! the horror!  A whole bunch of poor sad hole-y socks were shoved hastily and lazily back into the drawer undarned at the end of winter last year and forgotten about.  Out of sight out of mind.  Bad me.
Fortunately I like darning; it's old-fashioned but I find it quietly contemplative and a small meditation on slow "fashion".  Not simply tossing out but pausing and thinking and doing; taking a few minutes to mend and prolong the life of a thing.

This one was particularly bad... yikes!!

However, when it came to the holes in my merino tights my approach was a little less holistic and a whole lot more expeditious!
Ugly yes, but well, hopefully it will keep them keeping on for just a little bit longer!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Jim jams

Mundane, but oh so welcome and necessary.  I've been absolutely freezing!!! at night lately and my old winter jammies were as thin as! so this was highest of high on my list of priorities.  But it had to still sit waiting patiently in the wings for the all important Magicka robe to get made first, ahem.
Both top and bottom are made from nice and warm fluffy cotton flannel from Spotlight; the top is a modified version of pattern 121/122 from Burdastyle magazine 10/2009 and the bottoms are kinda self-drafted.
The top: actually I've been eyeing off this Burda magazine pattern for yonks and dreaming of making it up in a suedette and this new jammie top is sort of my "muslin", if you like.   I loathe wasting fabric on muslins and nearly always prefer to make something hopefully wearable, even when testing out a new pattern for the first time.  So; this PJ top.  It was a little bit hideous in its first, unmodified state; I ended up shortening it by about 12cm; slanted off the front neckline to be a V-neck and sewed the slit together at three spots which were covered up with three little buttons.
All the seams are sort of a faux version of flat felled seams.  By this I mean I sewed all the seams normally, overlocked the raw edges cutting close to the seam stitching and then laid the seam allowances to one side and top-stitched them down 5mm (1/4") away from the seam stitching.
at left, "looks" like a properly flat felled seam, but on the inside, o noes! it's plain to see now that this is the cheat's version...
I also added an interesting breast pocket; this was also a rough try-out for this pocket that I pinned a while ago.
The bottoms; standard regular baggy trouser bottoms with an elasticated waist.  I made them the same way I've been making my PJ bottoms for yonks now: namely years ago I saved an OK-fitting RTW pair that had had it, and cut it up for a pattern.  I'm saying "self-drafted" because I've made multiple minor modifications, in this case an added a faux fly front, narrowed the waist and raised the waist rise, made them wider in the leg and longer in the leg and added in-seam side pockets.  My advice, PJ bottoms are like the easiest thing in the entire world, so when you are looking for a good pattern, just cut up an old pair for a pattern and make your own little modifications, do whatever you like, it's almost impossible to stuff up PJ bottoms.  Easy peasy, and you can spend that money saved on the fabric for your new pair instead!

Top, modified version of Burdastyle magazine 10/2009, 121-122, cotton flannelette,
Bottoms; self cobbled together, cotton flannelette
Socks; hand-knitted by me to a 60's pattern, details here

the spoils from Scandinavia...

I totally should have posted this before, sorry!... some fellow fabric enthusiasts expressed interest in seeing my Scandinavian purchases; the spoils sought and acquired, packed and repacked, schlepped through cities, one cobble-stoned street after another; and once safely home to be borne triumphantly aloft with pomp and circumstance and deposited with due ceremony unto the bottomless black pit that is The Fabric Stash.  Haha, only joking, hopefully I will get around to making some things up without too much delay!  I have already muslined up a highly possible "maybe" for the caramel leather.
Anyhoo, without further ado here are the goods:
leather from Copenhagen...
two pieces of the caramel and one small piece of the yellow

from Stockholm;
an enormously expensive upholstery fabric which may prove too scary to actually cut into... eeeek! and below; a linen mix that is a modern Swedish design.  I fell in love with this straight away and bought the rest of the roll, which wasn't very much!  I'm really hoping I can get out of it the summer frock that I have firmly in mind.

from Norway;
it might not look traditionally Norwegian but somehow this fresh navy and white gingham print does seem both nautical and Norwegian to me.  I'm thinking of a little summer-weight, boxy, zip-up hoodie of some kind.

from Iceland:
fish leather, from left green wolffish (catfish), black cod, salmon.. well, salmon! and aqua blue perch leather.
and a knitting book;

Also in Iceland;  on our last day I just couldn't resist a visit to the brick and mortar store whose online site is one of my favourite to visit and merely drool over the eye candy within, KronKron.  Long ago I succumbed to an online purchase from these cooler than cool Icelandic shoe designers.  Well, I would have hated myself forever if I had left Iceland without popping into the real deal.
Take a look at these details.  Obviously I was helpless to resist, of course.