Author Archives: Juffrouw S

On the Joy of Having Made. Specifically: Terra Pants.

With experience comes self-criticism. As I grow more confident in my sewing skills, I would have expected to feel more satisfied with my makes. Turns out, that’s not what happens. Instead, I push myself to sew more and at an ever quicker pace, often without finding much pleasure in the process or the end results. Continue reading

Advertisements

An Exquisite Autumn (In a Messed-Up Climate)

Despite my very best efforts, my wardrobe planning is always juuust a bit behind on the season. I finish floaty dresses as late as September, only to get frustrated about the dropping temperatures. The penny doesn’t drop to think about a party frock until mid-December. And once I’m knee deep in snow, I kick myself for forgetting about cardigans. Want to see how I fared this year? Keep reading!

Tagged , , ,

Checking Off My Must-Have List: McCall’s 6800

Guys! Have I mentioned that I write blogs professionally nowadays? Ridiculous, right? Especially considering what a terrible job I’m doing here… But you’ll get no apology from me! This is my blog and I will post as irregularly as I damn well please. Except that, you know, I’m sorry and I’m working on it. 😉

Let’s chat about this year’s winter coat. It was on my must-have list for quite a while before I finally got around to it – much like my Minoru jacket, which I mentioned very briefly in my last post. Anyway, here it is: McCall’s 6800. Continue reading

Tagged , , ,

Getting Back on the Horse: Hits and Misses of 2014

Confession time: I’m a terrible blogger. Getting myself to update this thing on a more or less regular basis… It’s clearly not my strongest suit. So in the spirit of getting back on the horse, here’s a picture-heavy recap of my year in sewing projects.

First… the bad!

Deer & Doe Airelle, January 2014

Deer & Doe Airelle, January 2014

Not so bad at first sight, is it? Oh, but it is. Deer & Doe’s patterns are so adorable, but I should have learned by now that they’re just not made for my bosom. An FBA should have been the first thing on my mind. But it was not… so the top rises up over my bust, baring my stomach. This was also the last time I let myself fall for a polyester fabric. So on all accounts: no, no, no, no. I gave this top away.

BurdaStyle Anita: January 2014

BurdaStyle Anita, January 2014

Another January fail: my Anita jeans. Initially blogged here, I knew before I even finished them that I would never wear these. Sad crotch, saggy waistband and room for about half of my butt. Nope.

BurdaStyle shift dress with side panels, May 2014

BurdaStyle shift dress with side panels, May 2014

Oooooh. The sad little shift dress. I worked so hard on this one, and it’s been hanging in a dark corner of my closet ever since. Making it an absolute, undeniable miss of a dress. Its only virtue is having taught me to sew for my own style – even if it’s for a contest.

BurdaStyle cigarette pants, August 2014

BurdaStyle cigarette pants, August 2014

And just for funsies, here’s a fourth miss from this past year. That crotch! I tried everything with this pattern, but even after many alterations this was the best I could get out of it. In the bin it went – pattern and pants. Perhaps I should just stay away from Burda.

Now for the hits – and I must say, 2014 has been a very successful year for me, overall!

Butterick B5895, March 2014

Butterick B5895, March 2014

Who cares that I have yet to find a single occasion to wear this little ensemble to – I love it to pieces! This is Gertie’s retro top and high-waisted jeans for Butterick. If only I remember to size down next time, I’m thinking many reiterations of this one. And then maybe a rockabilly party.

Sewaholic Gabriola, May 2014

Sewaholic Gabriola, May 2014

Just look at her swish! My Gabby, she’s a winner. I whipped her up for Sew It Up back in May, before I knew I’d be eliminated in the round before this one. No matter; she and I spent an amazing summer together. I couldn’t even bear to put her in storage for winter.

By Hand London Victoria blazer, July 2014

By Hand London Victoria blazer, July 2014

Victoria, my go-to jacket for the summer. She’s completely reversible, so she combines with anything and everything. AWESOME.

Sewaholic Minoru jacket and Thread Theory Newcastle cardigan, November 2014

Sewaholic Minoru jacket and Thread Theory Newcastle cardigan, November 2014

Hah! Would you look at that – I snuck in a two-in-one. My Minoru jacket is entirely waxed on the outside and lined with faux-sheep. Cosy and dry, just how I like my autumns. Wim’s cardigan went from the bolt onto my sewing table and into this photoshoot within a week. He hasn’t taken it off since. (Seriously, I have to steal it off him to get it into the laundry.) Photo by Frieda Vanhauwaert – thanks Frieda!

I’d say 2014 was a good year for sewing. It was certainly intense, what with Sew It Up and my collaboration with Mon Depot. I met Anneke, Lieke, Hanne and Caroline. My homemade wardrobe exploded. And I completely forgot about my blog. I’m sorry, guys. Give me another chance in 2015?

A Bit of This and That

I’ve been quite the busy bee lately, mostly with moving into our new home, installing my very own sewing atelier and putting that lovely little room to good use. So. Let’s play catch up, shall we?

 

IMG_5575

This one is from before the move. That’s probably why I’m looking down at the floor so demurely/lovingly – our old place did have a pretty floor. This is McCall’s 6520, a raglan sleeve shirtdress with a drawstring waist and a very pretty curved hem. It is comfortable, summery, and there’s plenty of room for the occasional food tummy: a winner in my book. Other than shortening it to hit just above the knee and going down two sizes based on the actual measurements instead of the size chart, I didn’t change much about it. The fabric is a preppy black and white striped cotton mix with polo horsies on it. Horsies. Love.

IMG_5677

Hello, back yard! Yard = win. My smug face agrees.

In more or less the same category (comfy, sunny, great for eating and drinking) falls my wearable muslin of Butterick 5748. Interestingly, this fit me straight out of the envelope. I did not expect that, so I screwed up my first muslin with an FBA I then found out I didn’t need.

IMG_5675

This is a retro ’60s pattern, drafted to have a side zip and a mid-calf length circle skirt. I was going to be using an anachronistic invisible zip anyway, so I didn’t bother with the side zip (I don’t like them, for some reason) and moved it to the centre back. I also updated the skirt – meaning that I shortened it for 21st century nekkidness.

IMG_5674

It’s far from perfect: I’ll need to work on the fit some more, particularly to solve those wrinkles in the back, and let’s not even mention the horridly uneven hem. But it’s been getting a lot of wear, it’s perfect for cycling, and – most importantly – it twirls like a dream!

And then also, from just before the Belgian rain season swooped in to kill all August joy, there’s this:

IMG_5660

IKAT SHORTS YAY. I thought of using the fabric for a pair of Maritime shorts, and it turns out that would have been a great idea as I found out that great minds really do think alike and Kim‘s pair look totally rad. But I changed my mind and went with BurdaStyle’s Ruby shorts, and I’m not sorry I did.

IMG_5666

They are cute and just a little bit different with their side button closing. Too bad it doesn’t look like I’ll be able to wear these anymore in 2014… Damn you, Belgian summer!

 

Lastly, a few bits and pieces:

  • There’s a new edition of the Sew It Up contest coming up. To all Flemish and Dutch seamstresses out there: go ahead, don’t be shy and apply!
  • Meet Myrtle, my headless little helper.
  • Hemming circle skirts = YAWN.
  • Someone, quickly! Do something fun and exciting with this awesome fake cow skin fabric!

Sewing and Body Image

I’ve been eagerly following the Curvy Sewing Collective – not because I fall into the category of ‘plus-size’, but because I’ve noticed that no sewing pattern caters precisely to my body type, and I’m interested to see how others deal with such issues. I realise that for many, sewing their own clothes is a way to avoid the frustrations of RTW shopping where one size never really fits all, items that look pretty on a model are far from flattering on a real-life body, and the emphasis undeniably lies on the very skinny end of the spectrum. I, for one, never EVER manage to squeeze my thighs into pants that fit at the waist, so I inevitably have to size up and take my gaping waistbands as a bonus. Making my own clothes bypasses the impossibility of trying to fit into a ready-made size and I am thrilled to be able to do that. It is clear that many sewists share that experience.

The day I realised I needed to learn about swayback adjustments.

The day I realised I needed to learn about swayback adjustments.

HOWEVER. I’ve found the very same adage to be true for sewing as for buying off the rack: in order to be comfortable, you have to sew for the body you have, not for the body you want. The truth is that I feel more comfortable, more confident and more beautiful when wearing something that fits me perfectly, rather than anything that pinches, cinches, or is just two sizes too small. But when my measurements put me at a size 42 instead of the elusive but oh-so-desirable 38, I can only admit that I tend to cut a size 40. As a compromise. A compromise for the benefit of my self esteem or my preconceptions of what is acceptable as good, pretty or even healthy for a woman. But also, I am well aware, a compromise on comfort and even happiness.

Too small? Ohhh yes. DEFINITELY too small.

Too small? Ohhh yes. DEFINITELY too small.

Sewing changes nothing about that. Yes, I can alter patterns to achieve the perfect fit: smaller at the waist, larger at the thighs, and let’s not forget that I have that ampler-than-average chunk of meat on my rear as well. If done properly, my me-mades fit me well and flatter my figure. But it also takes courage and an almost cruelly honest eye. I need to know precisely how large my bottom is if I am to fit the perfect pair of pants around it. And I do find that an unpleasant confrontation. Does anyone else?

Old Is The New New

Here’s a less-than-glamorous truth: I’ve been in a bit of a pinch, money-wise. Quitting one’s job and buying a house are two things that do not combine well at all. Luckily, it turns out necessity is the mother of invention. I can’t very well stop sewing, so I’ve just had to be creative about cutting costs. Enter the upcycling rage: turning something old into something new is cheap, fun, and eco-friendly to boot. What’s not to like?!

 

My first upcycling project: long gathered wool skirt into By Hand London Charlotte. I reused the notions (zipper and button) from the original skirt as well.

My first upcycling project: long gathered wool skirt into By Hand London Charlotte. I reused the notions (zipper and button) from the original skirt as well.

 

Here are a few of the things I’ve learned about successful upcycling, summed up in a neat little list for your convenience.

  1. Buy old, not vintage. You wouldn’t want to cut into a good vintage piece anyway, but there’s also price to consider. The biggest thrill of upcycling, for me, is to find an unflattering, dirt cheap piece of clothing that I can give a second life as something I will actually wear. Big challenge, low cost is how I like it.

    Pretty colours, prettier pricetag. De Kringwinkel, Sint-Jorispoort 29, Antwerp.

    Pretty colours, prettier pricetag. De Kringwinkel, Sint-Jorispoort 29, Antwerp.

  2. Contrary to everything I believe and adhere to when shopping for fabric, when it comes to upcycling: don’t think. Follow your gut. You don’t have to see exactly what you can make out of your find when you pick it up. Take it home and let it inspire you.

    Think Twice: especially interesting when they get to their monthly sale. Everything goes for €1 on the final day.

    Think Twice: especially interesting when they get to their monthly sale. Everything goes for €1 on the final day.

  3. Look for quality of fabric rather than quality of construction. As a seamstress, I get turned off very quickly by badly constructed clothing and won’t take a second look at it on the rack. Try to see the fabric of your vintage item as it would look on the bolt.

    Think Twice, Sint-Jacobsmarkt 86, Antwerp.

    Think Twice, Sint-Jacobsmarkt 86, Antwerp.

  4. Beware of synthetics. A lot of vintage clothing, especially from the 60s and 80s, is made of polyester or acrylic fabrics. If you like that sort of thing, go for it, but be aware that fabrics of mysterious composition can behave unexpectedly as you’re cutting, sewing and pressing.

    Granny dress into Sigma skirt - and when I say granny, I mean that granny and her cat's bodily odours were all covered in the €1 pricetag of this dress.

    Granny dress into Sigma skirt – and when I say granny, I mean that granny and her cat’s bodily odours were all covered in the €1 pricetag of this dress.

  5. Be bold. Where’s the fun in simply taking a skirt in at the side seams when you can turn it into a top, a pair of shorts, or a funny hat if you’re so inclined? The sky is the limit – or rather, the amount of fabric in the item you’re about to refashion. Look for things like oversized dresses or pleated skirts: that way you’ll have plenty of fabric to work with.

    Calf-length pencil skirt into bib top (pattern from Salme Sewing Patterns), buttons from my stash.

    Calf-length pencil skirt into bib top (pattern from Salme Sewing Patterns), buttons from my stash.

  6. You’ll probably be working with a lot less yardage than you’re used to, so don’t be afraid of cutting some corners. For the top shown above, I used the side seams for my center front and back and never even touched the hem, saving time and fabric. Less unpicking = win!

These are just a few of the things I learned as I went along. What’s great about this method is that you’re spending so little that you don’t have to worry about ruining your fabric. Worst case, after a failed upcycling project you still end up with some scraps for pocketing and maybe a zipper for your stash. So what about you? Would you try upcycling old clothes? Or do you perhaps have some upcycling wisdom of your own to share?