Sunday 31 July 2011

PoodlePants Fan Club

AnniinBC may become our winner! She says she loved it when:

 the Glamourai, (click there) whom I admire enormously, wore the Poodle Pants on her blog last September, and there is  a veritable crush of people, a whole tribe, commenting over there that they desire, nay, crave a pair. I guess it's our sewist community duty to alert the Poodlers that they can have a pair now, but then Glamourai's crowd may also know that what looked good to them last September may seem a tad stale now. To Burda's credit, they at least gave us the option sooner than the staid Big 4 who are lovestuck on dresses, dresses, dresses.

So I keep my promise and if you, AnniinBC of Misty Isle sewing blog, make a pair of poodle pants, you win a free copy of my comic novel A Visit From Voltaire. Quite appropriate because Voltaire was, as well as being an incredibly funny guy, a real clotheshorse.

Thursday 28 July 2011

Part III Styling the Kimono

I hope you've been patient enough to wade through Part I and II below, about this project to see my finished Burda 124 July 2011 kimono, here. Let me assure you, I've spent far more time doing these blogs than sewing the garment. It's really easy to sew and, depending on the simplicity of your fabric choice, very versatile.

My color choice won't suit everybody, which is why we sew, right? I can heartily urge you, once you've found a color that flatters your hair and eye color, to learn how to dye natural silks. It's a sure way of knowing you'll be able to build a wardrobe with separates that work with things you already have, sort of Dyeing with a Plan.
Here I've used a silk velvet from Thai Silks' mail order service to get the right drape and pure blue I wanted as described in this post: dyeing the natural silk. You can use any weight of fabric but make sure it has a very soft, fine "hand" or drape.

 I'm using the traditional Japanese way of displaying a kimono with the sleeves supported by a rod, (here just a bamboo stick from a garden shop.)  Of course, when not worthy of display, a normal kimono would be folded into squares and stacked in the closet, not hung on a western clothes hanger. But if  you've silk-screened, potato-printed, hand-painted or laboriously embroidered your fabric, your kimono should hang on your wall! 

The flat rectangles that make up this garment lend themselves readily to fabric arts.

Here are some close-ups of the interior, showing how I was able to machine-finish the entire lining using the steps explained in Part II's diagram. I used a lighter dilution of the same silk dye on China silk from Thai Silks because I wanted a hue of blue lining that highlighted the velvet cutwork outer shell, but didn't clash as much as pure white.

Burda takes their kimono dressing into the lounging-in-jeans direction, which is very hip.
For an artist-at-her-day-job look, I've used a Korean scarf as a belt, below, a coral necklace from Hong Kong and a jade pendant from the antique market in Xian, China. The neck pieces pick up the sandy brown in the scarf print.

Below we're going in the Noel Coward 1930's evening salon direction. I've layered my blue satin Burda blouse from the December 2010 issue underneath and added assorted pearl necklaces. Very Kristen Scott Thomas and country house weekend in the mood of an Agatha Christie mystery.

Wednesday 27 July 2011

Part II Sewing the Kimono

Well, I really haven't the slightest idea what Burda thought I was going to do with their instructions. I have to buy my copies in French, but when the instructions just break out into German accidentally, I sign off.

So I just got out my antique kimono, which is exquisite and figured it out from that. Also, I wasn't using finished lace so Burda's instructions regarding keeping the lace hem distinct from the lining weren't applicable. If you are using lace, you won't want your seam margins of the lace showing through to the outside, a mistake I see a lot of girls making when they back lace shift dresses. So in that case, you would stitch lace and lining together in one seam (lining used as underlining, technically) and finish the seams on the interior.

First, I stitched the front and back long edges of the two side inserts to the body fronts and back,
then both shoulder seams for the basic shell.

I did the same for the lining.

Notice the the interior of my Tokyo original has no open seams or even French seams but is completely enclosed. So this became my goal as well—no visible seams surplus. In the end, I was able to sew the entire Burda kimono using my machine, except for closing the interior edge of the bands and the hem. I have to tell you, though, that my antique is completely hand-stitched, so that's not only okay, but mega-kosher.

Now for the rectangular pocket sleeves, the key feature of any kimono. 

1. Sew the botton seam of each sleeve part to make a closed circle, i.e. two tubes of lining and two tubes of velvet.
2. Taking each piece separately, sew closed the outside edge of the sleeve down from the notch to the bottom seam. Leave open the upper part of the sleeve on both sides where your arm will emerge. This seam meeting the bottom seam at right angles is the beginning of the  deep rectangular sleeve cachement where you will hide your love letters. You'll do this for both lining and velvet = four pieces.

3. Now you're going to connect each sleeve to its lining at the outer armhole, laying the lining and shell of a sleeve right side to right side, stitching around the outer armhole, velvet to lining, and then turning the sleeve right side out.

4. You've now got two sleeves instead of four pieces. Push the lining, right side facing out, into the bag of the velvet and make sure the closed outer lower corner of the lining nestles neatly into the closed corner of the shell.

5. You're going to finish their lower inner edges, lining to velvet, below the armhole notch before attaching the sleeves to the body. Pin the lining to the shell, right side to right side, stitching from front to the back, so that when you turn it back out, you have a closed seam of velvet to lining below the notch, but an open loop of sleeve unlike the opposite lower "closed bag" corner. Above the notch, you have raw sleeve edges in both velvet and lining. Put the sleeves aside.

6. Now you have to finish the lower half of your body's armhole before attaching the sleeve. There is an open "breathing" area between the sleeve and the body at the lower half, and you shouldn't be trying to attach the sleeve to the body all the way around. You want what I'll call an "armpit window" for lack of its Japanese term (which is no doubt far more poetic around Tokyo's tailoring shops.) Notice what I'm calling the square "jog" at the top edge of the body's side insert, underneath the armholes of both the authentic kimono and the Burda design:

And take note: your armpit window must make two sharp corners where both sides of the side body insert meet the front and back. So sew right side to right side, in three hops, breaking your stitching at the seams you've ironed flat beforehand. Don't cheat by trying to just stitch your way around the corners.
(The Kimono Gods are Watching.)

Turn your kimono body inside out and breathe deeply, reciting the words, "Toshiro Mifune" ten times. Press well.

6. Now, stitch the upper half of the velvet body armhole to the upper shoulder edge of the velvet sleeve, leaving the lining of both to be finished as a last step, (also by machine.) The best way to pin and stitch the linings right side to right side was by coming up between the layers from the open hems.

7. The rest is straightforward, as you've got only the raw front edges and bottom hem edges of the kimono to worry about. If you're using lace, do whatever Burda says. The bands are sewn along one long edge to the kimono edge, turned and pressed halfway, edges turned in again once the seams are pressed band-ward and enclosed and hand-stitched or topstitched.

(If you're top-stitching your kimono band to avoid hand-stitching the whole band down, well, I know you're tired, but it won't impress the Sushi Authorities at all.)

 Make sure when you finish your band, you attach the ties at the inner edge on the inside and that they peek out from behind the width of the band. Do not, repeat, do not, attach your ties at the outer edge of the bands somehow. No, no, no, no, no. I know it's not logical.
It's Japanese. But actually it makes sense, because when you wear your kimono untied, the ties dangle down invisibly inside.

9. Finish the hem any way you want. You've earned it. If you want to bag the hem somehow, well, that would be grand.

Notice that the ties on my Tokyo garment are actually looped through a loop on the garment, so that they swing nicely down out of the way when the garment is worn open. I stitched my little ties and turned them inside out and felt like I was making real progress, because I hate turning little ties, especially when using velvet! But silk velvet turns like a dream. Also, btw, silk/rayon velvet presses like a dream. But when I attached them I simply hand-stitched them down well inside the band.

Part III The finished blue velvet kimono

Sunday 24 July 2011

Part I: Kimono Dressing, a primer inspired by Burda 124 July 2011

So Deska! This is a long post, so make yourself some green tea and order up the sushi for tomorrow's Part II.

While we're on the subject of kimono dressing, inspired by CyberDaze's full-length kimono, I was reflecting on my past with kimonos. What do we do need to know about kimono dressing and as our Sewing Objective goes, Making It Our Own?
I'm lucky enough to have been given a real antique Japanese "short" kimono by the parents of my model (literally!) god-daughter when they were posted for a few years to his branch office in Tokyo. It's made of heavy crepe, with hand-painted gold accents on the stylized flowers, has a braided and embroidered tie rotating on a little loop at the center front and contrasting silk yellow patterned lining.

In making the Burda kimono, my cherished antique served as a hands-on guide to finishing the inside (the Tokyo garment was made entirely by hand,) as well as the authentic little square jog across the side insert under the large square sleeves and open armholes, which makes the Burda 7/2011/124 model really quite authentic:
 I'll talk details with photos of the construction of this antique kimono and my blue velvet Burda project in Part II. 

But before we do any actual work, (ugh,) let's get inspired!

Obviously it's all about sleeves, this kind of dressing. Promise me that if you do follow my example and make the Burda kimono, you won't cook over a gas flame or set a candlelight dinner in this garment. (I know, I sound like Billy Connelly in Muppet Treasure Island saying, "Jimmy, Jim, Jim, beware....running with scissors or any other pointy objects," but I mean it! You can see why:

We're going for lady of leisure here, and obviously, the sleeves are the point. Notice that none of these Honourable Models is anywhere near an open flame.
Safety lesson over.
Here's an Elle styling of a Chinese dressing gown capturing the slightly louche effect one seeks. How do I know it's Chinese? The sleeves.

Different generations do this look their own way. Notice this designer pattern from the 1980's where Oscar de la Renta took the feeling and flow of a kimono but chickened out when it came to the traditional square sleeve.

Then  in the 90's the Platts gave us a wonderful pattern, in varying lengths, which I sewed up in a livid red, yellow and black Chinese silk:

Notice however that the Platt duo also chickened out when it came to the traditional Japanese rectangular closed sleeve, although they got as far as the shape. The result, open at the bottom hem, gives a fluttery butterfly effect. Also, they cheated us of the authentic square cut jog at the armhole underarm and skipped the side insert which makes it possible:

However, Vogue Patterns mag devoted an entire article to possible embellishments of the banding on this pattern.

If all of this "flow" seems a little overwhelming, there's a more slimming version of this look from across the sea. Veering away from the kimono T-shape, Marcy Tilton explored a Ching Dynasty-feeling embroidered Chinese mandarin robe on the left, with a modified kimono option on the right, (notice the difference in collar and hem treatment) inserting real feathers into boxes stitched into plain organza, which I think is pretty cool, but never had the guts to try:

I sewed the right hand version up in Jim Thompson silk brought home by my husband from an Int. Red Cross mission to South East Asia:

Mixing prints is very much in order when referencing Japanese style. Here I've belted my interpretation of the Marcy Tilton robe with a second Jim Thompson scarf of the exact same rough silk texture, echoing the darker print:
Can you mix prints like that? Look at this fabulous photo from Elle a few years back which matches the sweet pepper red in both chiffon dress and silk crepe kimono to make a wonderful combination, even adding patterned stockings with abandon.

To their credit, Burda has grabbed the kimono nettle, giving us the real deal complete with the little tie in front— just like on my authentic gem— and the box sleeves closed along the bottom hem. If you know your Lady Murasaki's Pillow Book and her lover Prince Genji lore, ladies, you know that this deep sleeve pocket is there to hold love letters, mementos and various romance toiletries on the run. I won't go into details on that last one.

Sort of the ancient Asian version of the Burda Travelling Cape with deep pockets, come to think of it!

Ready to Sew? Move right on to Part II of this Primer (next post) on construction, sayonara!

Friday 22 July 2011

Trust a Parisian with the name of a heroine

Now Carlotta Stermaria (which is a very glamorous name, btw) in Paris kindly located the original of Miu Miu's poodle pants off, which were copied in the Burda August edition coming up. Will this trigger a queue of wannabe poodlers at the newstands?

With heartfelt thanks to Carlotta for hunting down this reference, I have to say sorry, MM, all the shiny belting in the world hasn't sold me yet on this bizarre silhouette. I can't quite make out the bodice decorations, but they might be medals for fashion bravery?

Saturday 16 July 2011

Are they kidding? Burda joke trousers or (thks Val!) Poodle Pants!

Here I was, thinking that Burda was on a really beautiful roll, with their lace tea dresses, military jackets and the Travel Cape for the Terrorized by Security at Airport, when they give us these flounced skinnies in the full preview of their August edition. I wouldn't leave the house in these, but maybe I'm missing something here? Are they all the rage in Polish clubs? German Soccer Mom gabfests? English Yummy Mummy school runs?
I will send a free copy of A Visit From Voltaire to the first gal who makes these. Promise. (And yes, I mean the trousers on the left, not the right. No cheating. And I'll make a gender exception for Male Patttern Boldness.)

The velvet kimono is cut out and interfaced...

Monday 11 July 2011

Burda's August looks offer Travel Cape. Handbag, officer? What handbag?

Can't say I'm bowled over by the August Burda preview, but I like the post-Balmain echo of the ruffled blouse under a military jacket with tight jeans, above. Both the blouse and jacket are in this issue, I think.

Then I have an observation which I hope will be of use to those of us flying cheapo airlines around Europe. Have you noticed that Luton Airport and others don't even let you carry a handbag on board, in addition to your carryon? Cruel and unusual punishment for would-be terrorist ladies in their later years fumbling like near-sighted bats at security to stuff their handbags into their carryon's at the very last gate.

YES, I have a solution! Wear a raincoat or this cape with its very capacious pockets, for your camera, mobile, tickets, hairbrush, makeup bag, and everything else you would have put into that handbag. And you sail through security, essentially having disguised your handbag as a garment! For this, Burda has given us the perfect throw cape. Notice the two pockets. I bet they could store even an Ipad.

shifting projects and fabric around, Burda July 124 kimono coming up

Because of our family medical issues and various distractions, I bombed/failed/epically let down the Vintage SewAlong gang. However, in waiting to get back to the sewing room, I played around with the velvet I'd dyed for that project and realized that three layers of velvet meant it was too thick to tie and drape properly in the Adele Simpson Vogue design I'd chosen without looking like I'd grown a huge royal blue barnacle on my lower tum.
 I've decided to order much slinkier crepe de chine for the Vintage dress, and meanwhile use the blue velvet and matching silk lining for the Burda kimono design, above. I've always been a sucker for kimono dressing, and years ago made two Vogue kimonos from a now-discontinued pattern, I am also the happy recipient of an authentic antique Japanese kimono from friends in Japan which I've worn for years when entertaining at home. I adore the kimono CyberDaze sewed for herself recently, too, because it signaled to me that the world of sewing people much cooler than myself was giving the green light to kimonos, which really haven't been "in" since Noel Coward and cigarette holders held sway.
One of the quirks of my protagonist in the Handover Mysteries, the journalist Claire Raymond, is that she collects antique kimonos and Chinese dressing gowns for relaxing away from the newsroom. That's one of the great things about writing fiction: your imaginary world is streaks ahead of your terrestrial limitations, especially when it comes to wardrobe, lovers and happy endings.