Saturday 29 January 2011

The Burda blue satin blouse

I'm pretty happy with this one, and it'll go out tonight to a fairly glam evening in Geneva over black suede trousers and peep-toe black suede heels. It's very easy, although Burda doesn't give us details on how to properly finish the ruffle-to-bodice seam, and clearly just ironing it into the ruffle wouldn't satisfy some of you. It really wouldn't cost Burda much to say, "Finish the seam according to taste," or something like that.

I not only top stitched the ruffle with seam down next to the edge of the ruffle itself as instructed, but finished the seam inside with a zigzag stitch—below my usual standards, but happily, not as visible as I feared. Also, I'm not satisfied with Burda's finish of the outer ruffle edge, which I chose to "clean finish" by turning over, stitching at 1.4 inch, pressing and turning again, stitching and pressing. In their photo, they have more of a "lettuce" edge while mine is smooth.

A note from a reader over on pattern review prompts me to add, don't try to make this blouse with anything synthetic. Only genuine silk charmeuse, georgette or crepe de chine will have the "hand" to drape as softly down the front as you need for this amount of ruffle. I know there are some great synthetics out there, but this is one instance when you'll end up with something different from what you hoped.

 There's something about the design, perhaps the fact it attaches at the upper left collar seam, that makes me think of Russia, although there's no high-turned collar. Who's my favourite Russian?
 For all time, actually, it's Yul Brynner, in his best role in "The Journey,"  (possibly closest to his real personality). By all accounts, he was a pretty ruthless guy after a very rough youth. He had a Swiss grandfather who migrated to Siberia and married a Russian, and after Paris and Hollywood, ended up back here in Switzerland, which claims him as a lost son. But let's face it, Swiss men just don't radiate this level of testosterone. I've never seen a movie to match this one for sexual tension. I think if Lady Ashmore had worn this blouse, the clinch with Yul wouldn't have taken so long to happen.

Wednesday 26 January 2011

I'm way, way behind.

Thai Silks got the Adele cut velvet to me in record time. I've got to get lining and dye. Also, I've got to finish the blue satin Burda blouse for a house concert Saturday night, to make way for pajama bottoms for my husband's birthday Feb. 12, and still haven't cut out the Badgley Mischka underdress, nor traced the two new Burda skirts for which I bought dark cottons and linings.

This is a woeful lack of administrative competence. That's a polite way of putting it.

On the other hand, I finished an 18-page synopsis for a historical political thriller and sent it to my agent in London. She still hasn't sold my 360-page domestic comic novel, so now she's the one who's got the backlog! hahahaha...I gloated while I took down the Xmas tree in blistering bright Swiss mountain sunshine. Happy Chinese New Year of the Rabbit to all and yours!

Does anybody really read novels on the Kindle? I've got a trilogy of mystery novels set in Hong Kong, Tibet and Guangdong Province and wondering if it's worth putting them up on the site. Mixed reviews about the Kindle contract make me hesitate. Only one got into hardcover in New York, and it was always weird to see Volume II just floating out there.

Better to brood over the sewing machine...

Friday 21 January 2011

Quickie Burda blouse filling the gap

While waiting for my cut velvet to arrive from Thai Silks for my Vintage Adele, I felt the breath of spring. All the snow on our mountain has melted away, we now enjoy that burning Swiss sun that is the envy of visitors fleeing the English weather. My bird feeder has attracted not only a flock of orioles, but a very greedy, but bewildered red squirrel who followed the birds to the Buffet of Seeds only to find himself on a windowsill three floors up by mistake. I suppose he jumped from a neighbouring pine, but couldn't see a way back. Anyway, he's gone with no furry corpse below...
I've gotten a lot of compliments on the sleeveless Burda ruffled blouse I sewed last year, navy with polka dots (see archive item What I've sewn) perhaps because with slouchy grey pants and my mother's long knotted pearls, it exudes a vintage Marlene/Katherine Hepburn mix of 1930's play on feminine/masculine. So I'm trying another one of the Burda ruffled blouses, this one from the December edition. With its straight waist, this would be closer to the 1920's silhouette than 30's, and probably asks for a slimmer trouser or skirt.

It's a very easy pattern, except for the strange little cuffs which have two ends, but attach to a closed sleeve.
I'm doing it in sapphire blue silk charmeuse. Photos soon!

Wednesday 19 January 2011

Ordered cut velvet for Adele...

What am I thinking? I couldn't find appropriate fabric to do my muslin this afternoon at the local, so I just freak out, go ahead and order 2.5 yards of 54 inch cut velvet from Thai Silks which suddenly I envisaged dying a lovely blue-grey to keep the 1920's feeling of the design.
Have I lost my mind? Is this what happens when you join a sewalong? Next thing you know, I'll be ordering an ivory cigarette holder to go with it, and I certainly don't even smoke.

Sunday 16 January 2011

The Thoughtful Dresser by Linda Grant

Just finished a marvelous book, The Thoughtful Dresser, by Linda Grant. It delves deep into the meaning of clothes for all of us, especially women, and their purpose in helping us express our deepest spiritual wishes for renewal, uniqueness, or attractiveness. She explores the role of clothes in healing our souls, defining our place in society, and uplifting our spirits. One of the best books I've read on what's going on with my lifetime of sewing for myself, having learned at fifteen that I would never find a pair of trousers in a store that fit me.
I could find only one thing wrong with the book, especially its sections dealing with the process of shopping, searching and finding the perfect dress/shoes/coat. She entirely omitted the sense of mastery, entitlement and individuality to be achieved by learning to sew for yourself using the perfect fabric, the right design, the garment you know you need or desire, even though it's not in the shops, or the minds of loony designers. (One little correction, too. Radiation doesn't make your hair fall out during cancer treatment, chemo does.)

Thursday 13 January 2011

Spring 2011 Vogues

Since I started picking up Burda mags for a song at the local newsstands every month, I've started to yawn when I see Vogue trot out their rare new collections, knowing that I'm going to be looking at these items for months and months and months. So it is with some anticipated ennui that I cast my eyes over the new offering and have to say, it's more lightweight dresses, dresses, dresses with few of the snazzy separates that used to spell summer. Whatever happened to those amazing Indochine-inspired ensembles from Yves St. Laurent or the safari jackets and dresses from Ralph Lauren or the capri-cum-sarong-with-camisole and overshirt from Calvin Klein for us commoners? (These are all in my vintage box.) Where are some new trouser shapes? Why are we stuck with these dippy, girly dresses from Pamela Rolland, Tracy Reese and who the hell is Vena Cava? I know, up-and-coming talents, but I think they all look much the same, sort of second generation Anna Sui, and again, it's cross- your-heart styling from Donna Karan (which we all did last winter) and draping, which is so last summer. So, I've set aside two of the SS selection, above, for the following reasons: both of them cover the armpits, which in our air-conditioned times, means that we're not shivering from sun to shade, and those of us over 30 can breathe easy about crepey upper arms. Both can come in heat-friendly breathable cotton and or silk crepe-de-chine and don't require nasty poly knit or heavy stretch jersey that work your deo to the max.

The Donna Karan looks pulled together for office or party, depending on the fabric, yet with the bow is a feminine take on the classic shirtwaist dress. The Rebecca Taylor can be a tunic or a dress, and has a lovely fluidity that keeps you cool in the summer while featuring, again, a single draped ruffle down the front. You would wear this more than one season.

I'm just going to assume that younger American women have impeccable arms and shoulders these day to be wearing all these sundresses to work. Otherwise, why don't the designers offer some cover-ups, jackets or shrug/boleros to go with?

Monday 10 January 2011

Wadder or Muslin? Badgley Mishmash!

I'm sorry to report that so far, I'm not enthusiastic about the Badgley Mischka dress I'd planned for my first 2011 project. The fabric that seemed so interesting in a Chanel kind of way, black roses on poly chiffon, looks more like a cheap bathroom rug from a distance. With very narrow shoulders, I perhaps shouldn't have chosen this style. It features a V-neck in front and a V-back, and I think you need the shoulders of Charlene Wittstock
 (the future Princess of Monaco and a former swimming champion built like a linebacker) to hold up this design. Frankly, can any dress have a V in both front and back and stay on? Although I used a size eight for the neck, (I'm usually a 12) it was still way too wide and low and required a "dirty fix" of a centre dart immediately:
And of course, that killed a lot of my excitement about the project, especially when it had to be done at the back as well, (the thing was still just falling off...)
Having finally got the neckline to a manageable position, of course my beautiful bound buttonholes for the inserted belt were now higher than my waist, but not a convincing "empire" height. A lose-lose that I didn't see coming.

The chalk markings for the side seams had by now disappeared and were completely irrelevant as the hang of the garment was adusted, so I tried basting new side seams but couldn't get the thing on. Finally, I decided to forget Vogue's markings altogether and have now stitched up one side (windowside in the photo above) to see if this style works at all.

I'm beginning to think it looks like a bat costume. I have to decide whether to go ahead and finish the ensemble by cutting the very expensive black silk charmeuse I invested in for the underdress or whether to just bin this number.

Sunday 2 January 2011

Vintage Sewalong 2011, my Adele Simpson, Vogue 1346

I'm going to join my first sew-along, Joanne M's The Vintage Sewalong 2011 but it's a bit of a cheat, as I was planning to sew this Adele Simpson design anyway:
This contest has great potential, because my "vintage" and your "vintage" might be quite different things. It reminds me of the New Yorker cartoon where the lady my age tells the salesgirl, "I can't wear vintage, because I am vintage." But I trust my choice isn't too costumey. It came out in the early 1980's which to my astonishment and horror was thirty years ago, duh. But I bought this "vintage" pattern myself when it was the very latest thing.  I hope the short version will make a great spring concert-going dress, and I love the way the drape can be hung around your hips for a 1920's effect or wrapped tight for a more modern sheath silhouette. 

Simpson was a New-York designer trained at the Pratt Institute who launched her Manhattan design company in 1949 and continued her collections into the early 80's. I can see going with jewelled tassels on the ends of the drape if I do the hip version, but then at this stage, I often think bigger than my budget.

I will not be put off by the fact that Simpson dressed Lady Bird Johnson, Pat Nixon and Barbara Bush, none a personal style icon.  I mean, anybody can walk into a store, right? 

Ideally, this should be made in a great silk crepe, and that means ordering from overseas...Meanwhile, I'm supposed to be prepping a new manuscript for submission to a London-based publisher and this dress may be my reward for a job wrapped up!