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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

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!

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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?

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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!

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?

Picture perfect

This week had me saying goodbye to Sew It Up. And that’s too bad, because what I had prepared for the next challenge was pretty awesome, if I do say so myself. Want to see it anyway? Why thanks, supportive reader!

The challenge was to create an outfit based on the work of an artist. Now I happen to know very little about the visual arts, but I do know a bit about literature. I inquired with the organisers about working with a poet, but in the spirit of keeping a level playing field, I had to change my plans. And as such things tend to go, the right piece of inspiration crossed my path just as I was about to give up in despair!

Enter Andrei Tarkovsky. This is what Facebook is for, people: a friend posts a beautiful, impressionistic polaroid picture and BAM – inspiration hits me!

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Andrei Tarkovsky’s polaroids project exactly the atmosphere I had in mind for this week’s challenge. I know – it’s a bit of a reversed logic. The truth is that the photograph caught my eye precisely because it depicts the mood and feeling I had on my mind. The diffuse light and faded colours, the simplicity of the subject matter and the emphasis on everyday beauty resonate with what I’ve been thinking and feeling of late.

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See what I mean? I felt like flowy fabrics and early morning hues would be the perfect fit for this project. So here’s what I went with:

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The skirt is nothing less than a dream wardrobe piece for me. The pattern is one of Sewaholic’s latest, Gabriola. I’m not usually one for maxi skirts, but this one… it just hits the spot. The fabric is a cotton satin that I got the fabric from Katelijne at Mondepot. It complements the pattern perfectly: it’s flowy but not flimsy, has a nice soft drape and keeps its shape well. The print works really well with the shape of the skirt, but I’m already dreaming of this skirt in a solid. Because look at it – the geometric panels in the Gabriola pattern skim over the hips so beautifully, it’s ridiculous. Owning only one of these just won’t do.

ImageThe top is another champion piece. You can get the pattern for free (!) from Fine Motor Skills, and I seriously recommend you make at least five of these for summer. The fit is just the right amount of slouchy but also a little bit sexy. The fabric is a super soft, thin micro modal from Mondepot.

The cardigan was a bonus garment. I felt like the outfit needed something to tie it together. When I saw this tie-dye knit at Pauli I knew it was going to come home with me. The pattern I used is the Karen cardigan from BurdaStyle; I did consider drafting something myself but I didn’t quite trust myself to pull it off.

To be honest, I feel like I nailed it for this challenge. I would have liked to continue in the contest, but I guess it just wasn’t meant to be! On the upside, now I have time for a few of my backburner projects. More on those soon.

Parallelepiped

Last week’s Sew It Up challenge was a success: you guys voted me onto the second round! This week’s challenge was to make a shift dress and specifically to show the techniques used in the details and finishings.

A shift dress. I’ll just come out and say it: noooo. It is said that every woman needs a shift dress, but this particular woman does not. I like my dresses fitted at the waist. I did my research and found an abundance of tent-like rectangles with arm- and neckholes, and shuddered in abhorrence. But things are the way they are – I was going to have to make a shift dress and make it work. So I took it in stride and out of my comfort zone I went… with EVERYTHING. Fabric. Style. Finishings. The result is a great dress which I’m not sure I’ll ever wear.

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Best thing about this picture has to be the sneaky garden gnome.

Introducing The Way Out There Dress. Don’t get me wrong, I do love everything about it. I love the fabric: it’s a silky crepe with a golden sheen that makes my feel like I’m the queen of Sheba. I love the cut, because it’s still a shift but I also have a waist. And I LOVE the lace, probably because there’s no way I’d otherwise have worked with lace for anything other than lingerie.

ImageI had so much fun putting this old gal together, too! I overlayed the side panels with the lace and slashed the shoulders for a little lacey detail, then spent hours matching the panels precisely at the side seams. The left side seam has an invisible zipper, making the matching part even more fun. I must have unpicked the zipper three times before I was happy with it.

ImageI added a full viscose lining, which of course meant having to repeat all the weirdly angled inserts for the side panels. And then I hand-stitched the lining to the outer fabric with a lace ribbon at the hem. Yes, really.

ImageAnd then I was done and tried to think of an occassion to wear this little number. Couldn’t think of one. Cried a little. Ended up deciding to make new friends of the variety that hosts cocktail parties. Just for you, my little parallelepiped love.

I beg of you, friends: host that cocktail party for me. And while I’m begging… maybe vote for me this week?

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Pierrot

I won’t say that I’m losing sleep over the Sew It Up contest… but maybe I am a bit. It could also be that I’m finally learning to drive (night terrors galore on that front), that we are in the midst of making very adult decisions at Miss S Headquarters, or just that I should really lower my coffee intake. In any case this contest has me very excited. Allow me to present the first challenge: the Pierrot jacket!

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Please excuse the grainy pictures… The weather around here has been terrible and, consequently, so has the light.

This week’s challenge was all about making it your own. All contestants were sent the Jackie pattern from La Maison Victor, which is a classic Chanel-inspired tailored jacket, intended to be made with frayed edges and ribbon at the cuffs, neck and front. So classic, in fact, that I felt like an old lady just looking at it. It is beautiful and timeless, but I just couldn’t see myself wearing it. So I took the pattern and ran with it.

ImageThere was no way I was going to make the jacket in a tweed. I just don’t like the stuff – sorry. My fabric choice ended up being a no-brainer: I saw this slightly quilted, super soft cotton at Stoffen Joëlle and had to have it. I knew I wanted to do a full lining and chose a happy irregular polka dot that fit the bill.

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Caution: lining success may lead to smug smiling.

The truth is that I didn’t need to alter the pattern very much. It is well designed and the sizing chart told me I could probably get away with a straight size 38. So that’s what I cut, including my standard extra cm of width at the shoulder. I then drafted the pattern pieces for a full lining, added hem allowances and called it a day. Yay for easy alterations, I say!

It looks like the Jackie jacket is going to be a wardrobe staple for me. I can totally see myself going on job interviews wearing this jacket – it says “I’m a bit serious but also a bit fun” before I’ve even had to open my mouth. Good thing, too, because once I do open my mouth things tend to get ugly.

I made the dress with the same goal in mind, but I’ll be honest: there is absolutely no way I would show this much leg for a job interview. Damn you, Sigma! I thought I was being smart by adding 4cm of length and doing a facing for the hem to save length… But still it turned out leggier than I would like. This dress is getting reassigned to comfortable party duty.ImageSo that’s what Sew It Up is getting out of me this week. Next week’s challenge is already on the sewing table… so I do hope I’ll make it that far!

Oh, and… Why “Pierrot”, you ask?

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