Tuesday 16 December 2014

TNT replacement pencil skirt in crocodile 'leather', Burda Easy AW 2008-2009, Tribute to Peter Pan's crocodile?

(I read that the recent 'live' update of the beloved Peter Pan musical starring Mary Martin in my childhood days was a complete bust. That is sad, but the fantastic original is out there on DVD. Let's hear it for the ticking crocodile!)

Sometimes, if you haven't been sewing with a plan, or even shopping with a plan, you find that something languishes in the back of the closet because it has no 'friends.' Some years ago, on a whim, I bought an expensive brown leather coat that went with nothing. Not only was it not in a stylish motorcycle cut, but on an off day, it made me look something like a Stasi interrogator from the 1970's.
(In case you're too young or whatever to know what that implies, you're lucky.)

I had also restyled the Ralph Lauren brown tweed hacking jacket my daughter found in a vintage store last year, but again, it got less wear than I would have liked, because it was missing a match for the bottom.

Not that I didn't once have a brown skirt. Some years ago, using a pattern from Burda Easy I had sewn up a skirt in antiqued pleather with a bronzy leaf pattern on it. But as you only get what you pay for, it has now lost all its sheen and, cracked and shabby, joined the 'rack of shame' with other overloved items I can't bear to let go.

(I just read that hoarding is a possible sign of impending dementia. If that doesn't motivate me to donate half my closet to charity, what will?)

 In better days...

So, I realized that I would get a lot more wear from my chocolate-brown genuine-leather jacket, brown tights, brown turtleneck, brown shoes, brown boots, and various blouses with brown notes, not to mention my Bobbi Brown lipsticks :) if I filled in the gap with a new hard-ass brown skirt.

All I could find was crocodile pleather. Now, frankly, there are a lot of textures I find alluring, but generic man-eating reptile isn't one of them.

Still, that was what I could find. So I used the same Burda Easy pattern as above, (eliminating pockets, bows, etc. and leaving off any facing, but attaching the lining to the upper edge and turning down. The outer 'fabric' was too substantial to include facings with darts as well as lining.)
and with some care, produced a new skirt for wintry, wettish weather. And here's a better shot of the 'crocodile' finish:

Here I am, above, in Nyon, committed to lunch  a la croc. with friends(Please ignore Nyon's weird orange street planters. It's a charming town otherwise, with a Roman Museum, lots of music and film festivals and very friendly people.)
 I made the skirt slightly longer than before to accommodate high heels on occasion. The skirt also had to be carefully calibrated at the sides, so as not to be left ripping out seams. Below is the fitting progress of a side seam at the butt level to find the best fit using what is, basically, fancy plastic. I pegged the skirt in at the hem one inch on each side. Glueing the hem up three inches wa also a bit of an experiment. The first glue was too liquid and in the end, a variety of Elmer's worked best.

Sunday 16 November 2014

Back at the machine! Burda 2-2012-117A, the much-beloved black knit cheongsam dress for me, at last!

Whew, I've been AWOL for a while! One reason was the coming of the third newborn in our circle of family and friends in a row, necessitating yet another baby sweater in a lighter blue than the navy and pink one. No surprises here, but each one this summer was a labor of love and each a better rendition of this Elizabeth Zimmerman classic design that expands as the baby grows;

Then something for myself. I rarely make a design twice but I was quite frustrated that my earlier multi-blue version of the cheongsam knit dress didn't turn out so well, plus its combination of colorblocking made it a summer staple at best. So I ran up a black version in a thick black doubleknit that really was satisfying to work with compared to the cotton and viscose materials I used for the blue.
I've already worn this into London for a quick visit to the children and to a Sunday lunch today. A very versatile dress that I can highly recommend as the perfect LBD to dress up or down.

Friday 29 August 2014

A Last Graduation and the Simplest Mom Dress of All, Burda cover dress, April 2014, Model 108

This last Wednesday we
had in our family one more graduation, only daughter's BSc at University College London, of which we're very proud.
Why are we so proud? Because after a very scary start the first year, in which she sobbed long distance, 'She couldn't do it,' and failed one class outright, she pulled up to the finishing line with upper second class honors, (2.1) in Natural Sciences/Zoology, a credit to her guts, smarts, (and sibling pride not to be outdone by her brothers.) And all this when she's been pursuing her acting and modelling career in London, and part-earning her way, too. The littlest one of the family has determination-plus. She even painted the soles of her M&S shoes with red paint to have "Louboutins" for her appearance on the podium.

 I planned a simple white linen dress based on the Burda trapeze dress on the April cover, but without the 'wings' or pockets. I got away just with 1.2 metres of fabric, plus lining, because the English weather promised to be iffy, with a red pashmina. I didn't notice until I sewed it that it had a raised waistline in front and a lowered one back, a nice feature, but one that prevents finishing the waist with a  belt. It had too square a shaping to be flattering at my age. I also had to add two darts on either side of the back zipper to allow for a shallow back. Otherwise, the 38-44 worked without any fitting problems and I sewed most of the dress and lining together before doing the side seams last for the best silhouette I could muster.

Yet, my dress itself turned out to be a 'beast' (to quote Heather in the Great British Sewing Bee,) because the viscose linen and lining I chose were so thick to prevent see-through, my plan to use the sewn-in lining method, where you turn the two back sides of the dress through the sewn shoulders turned out to launch WWIII between dress and me. Fingers were rubbed raw, blood was spilt, dress had to be handwashed with blood remover and left to dry for two days on a hanger, then carefully pressed all over again.

Now, to look at the photos, it's a bit of a blah wash-out—more Mom in Sack than Jackie Kennedy or Michele Obama as such shifts are supposed to look, but folks, it had been a long journey, a long and emotional day, and the important thing is, we were all together. It looked simple enough on the day and when it comes to young adult children, it met one criterion: it didn't embarrass them. I changed into a more flattering dress, the off-the-shoulder ruffled 'Carmen' dress from an older Burda issue for dinner at Joe Allen's in the theater district. The night before she took me to see The Crucible starring Richard Armitage. A great visit to London. A meh dress.

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Another 'Best Baby Sweater in the World'

I have 'committed sweater' again, using that Elizabeth Zimmerman pattern that grows with the infant up to nine months, so my apologies to the sewing fans who have noticed by now that the sewing has slowed.

Part of the reason for a sewing hiatus is a weight gain that has discouraged my enthusiasm for trying to fit things around my waist and part of the reason is a flurry of health emergencies and summer visitors combining to distract me from both work and hobbies.

In the meantime, the coming grandchild of old friend is going to be a girl, hence I'm sending the previous blue sweater posted below to a niece expecting her third boy in October and this pink one to the other mother-to-be.

In the process, I've changed back to the traditional stitch just to show you how the pattern should look when the non-butterfly lace rows are done knit-purl instead of knit-knit.

(The wool is washable merino.)

Monday 2 June 2014

Finishing Projects...the Audrey Hepburn Skirt 05-2012-106B

One month ended up as two in order to make progress:

1. Two 'Japanese' patchwork duvet covers from old shirts, kimonos, pyjamas are done, see blog post below.

2. The Burda safari vest-blouse from the recycled chinos, photo in a previous below, below.

3. The baby sweater only waiting for the right buttons, (now 70% chance of a girl!) see blog post below.

4. A new white linen pencil skirt to resuscitate my civil-wedding Dior skirt suit, after downsizing the late-80's shoulder pads in the jacket, ready to cut out. Photos to come.

5. A two-year-old project, the Audrey Hepburn-Roman Holiday skirt from Burda, 05-2012-106B. Audrey Hepburn Roman Holiday Skirt Original Post  I didn't like it at first because it seemed that the heavy linen skirt combined with the IKEA 'Ditta" cotton lining was too much weight, but I finally wore it through a couple of rainy summer days and realized that it is perfect when you want to look summery but actually need to be protected from near-winter Swiss May temperatures. There is a lot of fabric in that baby and if I made it again, I'd definitely choose lighter weight materials, but it's not quite the wadder I feared. I wore it with a black belt, but for purposes of illustration here, left the belt off. I kept all the buttons inside the placket instead of leaving three up top on the outside. I only realized this booboo when I saw another nice version on Pattern Review. But since I'm wearing a belt over it, maybe it's best that the buttons are concealed.

 I feel like leaving the crafts to one side for a while, unless something really grabs me. Still looking for the right affordable fabric for that dream jumpsuit.

Friday 23 May 2014

Safari Shirt-Vest Burda 5-2010-129 Finished! and invitation to a free concert at the RAM, London

I guess this is my obligatory safari item for 2014, and Lord knows, I have a lot of safari clothes, but it's such a dependable look for me that I've finally scratched my longtime itch to make this Burda cover model from a favorite safari issue years ago. This is my third garment from one theme in a single issue—definitely a sign that they were hitting the mark for me.

Normally, I don't look good in the modified halter-style cut-in sleeve as it only emphasizes my pear-shape, but this particular design is very flattering because of the fitted waist and modified peplum.

I used only recycled khakis, buttons, and zip, so the entire garment cost me nothing but time. There were a few little squeaks due to limiting myself to recycled fabric, including having to use a slighter darker trouser for the inner facing and (having flubbed the cutting of the shorter the left side front band although I remembered to cut the right side long and pointed and the inner side shorter and straight, I forgot that the shorter end also needed a seam allowance added—my bad) I was forced to resort to a 'dirty fix.' This will never be visible except to you, my friends, below.

I am very happy with this, and if the UK weather is warm enough, I'll be wearing it on Wednesday to fly over to London. Why? Son T. is giving a MA violin concert open to the public on Thursday, May 29, at the Royal Academy of Music, Marylebone Street, at 1:45. If you're in in the mood for a FREE concert of Bach, Brahms, Englund and Vieuxtemps, please join us! (Doors to the Duke's Hall close around 1:30. Free seating.)

Saturday 17 May 2014

The Best Baby Sweater in the World by Elizabeth Zimmerman

I know. You didn't know I could knit, did you? You thought the only one who could knit was The Sewing Lawyer? Hah!  I did have a knitting passion in the 80's, when in my opinion, knitting really was high fashion and Vogue Knitting was one of the greatest magazines for crafts around. They actually sold it on every newstand in those days, even in Hong Kong! And I made some great sweaters that I still wear, by Donna Karan, Perry Ellis, Calvin Klein and other top designers.

But knitting for fashion no longer interests me, even though I live in a cold climate. A 'knitter's elbow' did me in after two Kaffe Fassett sweaters for the boys. Here I was with a growing family and I couldn't so much as lift a milk carton. One cortisone shot later, I'd sworn off major knitting projects.

On the other hand, when one of your friends is going to become a grandmother (a young one!) for the first time, it's a good occasion to pull out the old bag of needles. I'm zipping through my variation of the Vogue Knitting baby classic by Elizabeth Zimmerman, featured back in the 80's as the best sweater for newborns. It's also in the Knitters Almanac. This model expands for months, thanks to the extensible lace pattern which I modified by accident once and now stick to—just to be stubborn.

(Instead of doing stockinette stitch between the 'gull' rows, I use garter stitch. The result is less refined, totally chunky, and looks something like chain mail in yarn.)

As the child grows to six months, the lace stretches out and the pattern becomes more and more distinct. This is how it's supposed to look—

Mine (just below) isn't quite so polite, what with a very tweedy alpaca/wool yarn, but it will take on more refinement when we know whether it needs boy buttons or girl buttons later in the summer!

But I'm relieved to see somebody who was even more radical than me, and just ignored the lace pattern entirely, and went hog-wild with buttons instead! Lilac Baby, up top, skipped the bottoms below the yoke, too.
In principle, you could do any kind of stitch pattern underneath the yoke. It takes about two-three days to knit up, even for a rusty knitter like myself. I had a long car ride planned to attend an 80th birthday party in another party of the country, and got most of the first half done during those hours, even though I had to refresh a lot of basic skills and actually had to start three times over. Not a bad thing in principle, and perhaps a reason to check and see if I can still rollerblade, play Grieg on the piano and do a respectable backstroke. (Sort of a week-long retreat of time-travel to see what happened to the Me of twenty-five years ago.)

Thursday 8 May 2014

A Safari Shirt from old khakis, Burda 5-2010-129

Next up, another reclamation project from two pairs of chinos found unwearably frayed around the edges and left in forgotten closets upstairs, cut up,

and re-pieced for this, now in progress.

Friday 2 May 2014

A Humble Muslin of Burda Wrap Blouse 04-2014-115 goes "Celine" and some tips on avoiding problems!

I still hope  to make a classy linen version of the wrap-around blouse that is selling out on the Burda US website, and once I had cut out a muslin in IKEA cotton to check the fit and length, I suddenly thought, why not go "Celine"? By which I mean, this, and this:

So here in progress, is my wearable muslin of the blouse, waiting to be stitched up and maybe even worn over the Burda black cotton "sharkfin" skirt which has a very high waist.

Yes, I know I still have to sew this thing up,
but I couldn't resist leaving it on my fitting stand just to wake up in an art gallery this morning.

TIPS: I'm glad I'm doing a muslin of this on IKEA cotton and not on an expensive silk. As simple as this design is, there are already a few hiccoughs I'm encountering. One is that I wasn't clear on whether the whole hem of the shirt, front side as well as bottom was supposed to be 4 cm so I used a 1.5 cm seam surplus on the slanted side and a 4 cm on the bottoms of all sides. As it turns out I need the 4cm to give me just a 1.5 hem turned in .5 and then again 1 cm. That way I've got a finished look, but a longer shirt. I suspect I was supposed to do 4 cm all the way around. (My French isn't perfect and I'm using the French edition of Burda.)

Second, make sure you don't catch the overlapped front into your shoulder seam at the side, but only at the top.

Third, the instructions tell you to do a mitred corner on both the front hanging angles. Watch OUT. If you do a standard mitred corner you're assuming a 90 degree angled corner and this has an oblique corner that you should baste and adjust so it lies flat once it's sewn and trimmed. Otherwise it pulls too tightly on the shirt hem.

UPDATE; Finished this in record time, so the rating in Burda is on the nose. All it needs is a press, because I test-washed the corner to see if it was colorfast. Notice how I color-matched the red stripe running off the shoulder and down the arm? 

Thursday 10 April 2014

Great British Sewing Bee, Episodes 7 and 8 (Final)

So Heather Jacks is the winner! I predicted she might win, simply because she was so steady and precise. It doesn't hurt that she displayed a great sense of pacing herself, probably acquired over a career of participating in disciplined dressage competitions.

The final challenge of the Final was not only to make a couture gown, but to express yourself through your design. While Chinelo's gown was exquisite, Heather's was a take on a riding habit in red and black accessorized with a top hat and whip, modelled by her 'bestie' who also rides and competes. I think Tamara went off the rails at this point. She had always overgarnished, overtrimmed and overdid the binding on so many of her garments, that this Final gown kind of drowned her in OTT elements. Glueing instead of hand-stitching a hundred flowers on her odd 'fertilizer sack garden dress' showed she might be unfamiliar with what 'couture' means as opposed to 'designer runway.'

As far as I could see, the humor and panache of Heather's stunning outfit with the invisibly hand-stitched sunburst corsetted bodice, not to mention the gorgeous multi-layered taffeta silk skirts with the handsewn detachable bustle put her over the top. (last hurdle, should I say?) Ralph Lauren would have been proud of that look. Chinelo's gown was just as gorgeous but said a little less about the designer herself and let's face it, she flubbed up following the handsewn men's tie instructions royally.

All the contestants seemed personable, helpful, and team-spirited people, which made the show lovely to watch. But I admit Heather won me over the day she moaned, "I want to drown in a bucket of gin." She is such a Counties Lady, of an old-fashioned type and not apologizing for it. Her humor was self-deprecating, tart, and witty, and she was graceful when she didn't do so well. I noticed how often she was criticized for 'playing it safe,' but maybe she had the experience to know that the devil is in the details, while some of the others boasted once or thrice, "I'll do it my way instead."

(Skipping required features or methods was not a good move where Judge Patrick is so clear on what he's looking for and Judge May leans in, saying, "You failed to do the...")

If anybody's going through a GBSB withdrawal crisis, here are some nice follow-up features on some of the players:

Nice feature on the lovely, graceful Chinelo Bally and her plans for a dressmaking career.
Interview with Chinelo Bally

blog by Lynda's daughter

Surrey feature on the 'copper contestant' David Dawson ('Do I wear leggings? No. Will I ever wear leggings? Noooooo)

Leicester Mercury on local girl Heather Jacks

If you need to catch up to the end of the episodes, here are links
Links for overseas viewers of the GBSB Season Two I used the Vodlocker one without too much trouble.

Maybe you didn't agree with the choice of finalists? Here's a useful flow chart of how they did until the semifinals, done by Burda UK.

Saturday 29 March 2014

A 'Vintage' Duffel Coat in a Weekend, Vogue 2571, Great British Sewing Bee, Season 2 Episode 6, Up at last for free

This week the Great British Sewing Bee Episode 6 gave the contestants a coat challenge. (btw, I think Heather should now get her own show putting that horrible Katie Hopkins six feet under. Heather is a hoot.)

Normally sewing a coat is a very big deal and the vintage twist in this episode added another layer of complication and interest to the task.  (They got to cut out their pieces at home, at least.)

Meanwhile, sewing a coat can be easy peasy if you choose a simple design. I did this one in a weekend and I suppose it sort of qualifies as 'vintage.' This 2571 Vogue Five Easy Pieces wardrobe pattern (sadly OOP, but there is at least ONE for sale on Etsy here; Five Easy Pieces Vogue 2571 and there are many others out there along the same lines) was just the right thing for a quickie duffel coat that is amazingly versatile. Not only is it easy to sew, with in-seam pockets, dropped shoulder seam for the armholes and another for the hood, but its finishing is simply a fold-over binding that edges the two coats into one. No lining or interfacing are needed for structure, given hefty enough outer fabrics. There is no collar, as the hood is seamed straight to the body.

It's a reversible miracle, belying the assumption that you can't get a sturdy coat without a lot of interfacing, finishing, and other kinds of tailoring faff. The hardest part is doing two sets of buttons and fastenings through doubled thick coating.

Here it is, last weekend, in camel wool and toggles with jeans and turtleneck, taking a walk in the snowfields above our farmhouse,  The wool combined with the ready-quilted fabric meant that no interfacing was required and this baby is WARM!
And here is its dressier incarnation this week taking an English houseguest through her 'local paces' in its more 'Chanel'-ly incarnation with the pre-quilted black cotton velvet turned to the outside, after a fresh layer of spring snowfall.

Same coat, two looks, more time in the snow than at the sewing machine. 
Here's how Vogue styled their version in tweed and pre-quilted fabric.

They finally posted the links for free to Episode 6, here, just on the day when Episode 7 is about to air:

Thursday 20 March 2014

A More Respectable Expression of Utter Madness, the "Lake of Zug Quilt," Quiltivate, Great British Sewing Bee Season 2 Episode 5 is UP!

About once a year, I go through the closets and sort out the stuff no one is wearing any longer. Now that the kids have gone, that's not as much as I used to have. After I've given away usable clothing to the local charity collection, I cut off and save all the buttons and zips on the rags that are left and shove them into shopping bags for recycling. I use them up in quilted duvet covers, which are far from perfectly pieced or sewn, but hey, sue me.

Here's a double bed duvet cover I made to illustrate the Lake of Zug where we holiday with the Swiss relatives. One thing to understand about this place is that it is funky, unglamorous and rather private, just a bunch of family cottages and sheds for a day's swimming or windsurfing. No disco here. The stretch of lake frontage that you see below was once the Walchwil town garbage dump, but was recovered and reclaimed for the clan by my father-in-law and his siblings after WWII.

Talk about recycling!

The two little heads in the water are my husband and myself.

So the quilt fits in rather well.

(The half circles are the waves in the water, then come the ducks and swans that beg for food underneath the boat house and then the polka-dot "rain," which you can't see in the photo.)  Pretty hokey, but it looks quite at home when I slip it over the duvet in the small bedroom at the lakehouse up there.

By the way, the duck and swan squares came from a great resource book, 1000 Great Quilt Blocks by Maggi McCormick Gordon, a warm Tennessean who has come to tea at my house with her husband and mutual friends.

I'm now stitching together the second of the patchwork single bed duvet covers made from more genuine scraps, using a pattern found in Susan Briscoe's book, Japanese Quilt Blocks. "Second Sock Syndrome" is nothing to "Second Patchwork Quilt" Syndrome, right? But it's got to be done. After our last sleepover ski party given by the (adult) kids over Christmas, middle child reported to me that our duvet covers were an embarrassment of shabbiness.
Well, after twenty years of washing, they would be.
So here are two new duvet covers from old scraps. Still embarrassing—but in a totally original way, right kids?
While the original pattern produces a lovely basketweave when you use only two colors, as in my pillow here and an internet sample below:

I was stuck with bushels of various cotton remannts, used napkins and ripped shirts in purples, whites, blues, grays and green.  So I ended up with this rather psychedelic 'stepladder' project which doesn't seem too conducive to sleepytime tranquility. But then, nobody sleeps at those ski parties anyway.

Here's how far I've got while watching the Great British Sewing Bee. You can see the second cover on the floor where I haven't yet staggered the piece directions, so you can get an idea of how a quilt would look if I'd left the white stripes running unbroken across. If you want to preview a quilt idea, I can heartily recommend this incredibly fun interactive quilt-planner; Quiltivate

(I used it and the result is turning out to be remarkably similar to my online test. I can't say Quiltivate didn't warn me. But Quilterbee.com just bought Quiltivate since I posted this, and the site is down for a couple of weeks. Let's hope it stays as accessible and useful as before without a lot of registering/fee rigarmarole.)

When entering our bedroom and seeing this new production, my husband reeled back, and then said only, 'Well, I've seen less respectable expressions of utter madness."

As for the Great British Sewing Bee, how did you like Episode Five? Here's a link for those of you who are outside the UK. (I wouldn't advise downloading, just click on the arrow on the lower bar to watch directly on your screen. Some of these could be dicey sites, considering their popup ads for war games and babelicious "friends.")

What courage! I have often wondered how many of us tackle those wonderful Burda variations on anoraks, so much trendier than the commonplace ones they sell in Switzerland sports shops, BUT I'm still not persuaded that I could handle the technical sports fabric, even after seeing the contestants do their best with great equipment and Patrick's guidance. Don't you love his Comments of Doom, e.g. "You're going to want to ask yourself whether you want to use steam with that," as somebody goes up in clouds of humid steam trying to apply a dry sealing tape to the nylon seams.

Great British Sewing Bee, Episode 5

This one was a bit terrifying, using all the materials that are the most difficult, even for seasoned sewers. I've done a suede dress from a Burda pattern which was a fantastic experience, but I hardly ever wear it for fear of spillage. I love sewing with velvet so I could have survived that segment, just.