May 28, 2012

Bag Sewing Disaster

I have a friend who likes sewing, just like me. Unlike me, she doesn't sew garments, instead she makes bags and cushions. I have to say that I never felt very motivated to sew any bags or decorating stuff. I wanted to make a bag about three months ago, and I cut out the fabric and then forgot about it. It is still lying around somewhere, unsewn. But seeing all the nice things my friend made, and with a beautiful fabric I found this week in my Bernina shop, I wanted to try again to make a bag. So I prepared for it, took my new fabric and bought the recommended bag sewing book.

I knew it would be a lot of work, but I also thought it would be easy. Stupid me. It wasn't.
Obviously there is a difference between sewing garments and sewing bags that I cannot explain. I just had difficulties in understanding the instructions, and I also found it technically not that easy to sew those seams. I felt like when I started sewing garments about six years ago, where I struggled to get those pieces together without really knowing what I was doing.

This is the result of an afternoon of painstaking work (please don't look at it too closely, it looks a lot better from far!):

The bag is huge! I didn't expect it to be that big when I saw the photo in the book, and I still wasn't suspicious when I copied the pattern, but it is about twice the size I expected (and wanted) it to be!

I lined the whole bag in pink cotton poplin, and added an inner pocket to it to use up the fabric scraps. Nice idea, but for some unknown reason I put it much too deep into the bag, so the inner pocket now ends where the bottom of the bag is. Although I had to put it in two times, because the first time I forgot to close the bottom of the pocket, so that everything would have fallen out.

I gave up the moment I had sewn the straps together and wanted to turn them over. After I had finally turned over the first centimeters, it was obvious that I didn't want to spend the whole night and tomorrow just for turning over the shoulder straps.

So I cut them again but wider and shorter, which went a lot better.
At the end, I didn't get the bag I had in my mind, but at least a complete bag. Maybe I can take it to the lake with some lemonade and a good book in it in summer!
And now I'm off to sew only garments again, phew!

May 20, 2012

Burda magazine from the past

By chance I stumbled across an old Burda magazine in an online store, which wasn't too expensive, so that I didn't think twice and bought it.

It does not have a date (I looked several times for it but no, there isn't), but looking at the pictures I would say it dates from the late sixties or early seventies. And it seems to be a special issue and not a regular one, and it's titled something like "new fashion for leisurewear and in the style of traditional costumes".

It's funny to see how the magazine has changed over the years - or not. I think the title still looks quite similar!

There is  a lot of nice vintage patterns in the magazine:


dresses for gardening,

outfits for the "young and dynamic people",

tennis garments,

a dress with an interesting use of plaids,

and a fancy outfit with a patent rain coat and a nice mod dress!

Some of the patterns remind me of what my grandmother has in her closet...

...but there is also the nicest dirndl (traditional german dress) I ever saw in a Burda magazine (or on their websites)! Isn't the one in the middle just darling?

The pattern sheet also looks different than what Burda provides us in their magazines today. Every pattern comes only in one size!

The instruction booklet contains drawings of the garments, but they are much less detailed than the technical drawings we have today. Apart from that, it looks pretty similar.

What is also interesting is the size measurement table. Here are both, the one from the old Burda first and then the one of the newest Burdastyle magazine. Look at the three first rows, there are the measurements for Oberweite (bust), Taille (waist), Hüfte (hip).

Size measurement table from the old Burda magazine
Size measurement table from Burdastyle magazine 6/2012

Look at size 36: the measurements for bust and hips are the same, but  the waist circumference is now bigger than it was back then (I'm still wondering how anyone can have such a small waist, though).
Also, they had an additional size 38/40, which seems to be our size 38 from today.
What I am wondering about is that, although there is a size 36 in the table, the smallest patterns which are in the magazine come in size 38/40, there is not a single pattern in size 36. Have the women been bigger sized back then? On the other hand, they must have been smaller/shorter than the average woman today, as the measurements for back length (Rückenlänge), front bodice length (vord. Taillenlänge) and even sleeve length (Ärmellänge) are bigger in the today's measurement table. Big mystery (at least for me).
As I usually use size 36 in Burda patterns, I'll have to downgrade the patterns of this old magazine if I want to sew them up. I am awfully tempted to make that dirndl, though!

May 16, 2012

The Vienna Gala Evening Dress: First Try-On

I was really, really excited when I slipped into my dress this first time. The intended fit is quite snug and I want to be sure that the dress will fit, so I decided to baste it all together first for a fitting, something I've never done before, I usually just rely on my muslin. But this time I did not want to take any risk.

I found the perfect fabric for it already some months ago in my favorite fabric store, it is a very nice taffeta in a silk-cotton blend with a soft lustre. I decided to underline the whole dress with silk organza to get a crispy touch.
(Sad news: my favorite fabric store doesn't have any silk organza any more, and they will not be able to sell it any more in the future. So I'll have to look for another source for that stuff, as I don't get it anywhere else around here.)

I also added a second layer of underlining to the back bodice and lower front bodice parts to which I attached the boning channels (cotton twill tape in my case).

The instructions to do so come from Susan Khalje's "Bridal Couture", which is sort of my "teacher" in making this dress.

I also cut the spiral steel boning, which I'm glad that it's done now.

Then I basted the dress together by hand. I also basted a zipper in the back, as there is nobody to pin me into and out of the dress.

The first thought when I had the dress put on? It looks a lot better made up in a nice black fabric than in the muslin (which is actually an old bedsheet). Phew!

I am really glad that I did the basting before actually sewing it, though. The bedsheet fabric stretched out more than the taffeta, so the dress is a bit too snug around the lower bodice. I also decided to lower the skirt for about 1.5 cm (given that my seam allowances are only 2 cm, that means I'll lower the skirt as much as possible).

And I will gather the front skirt only at the sides, because the gathering all the front long does look good in the front view, but in the side view it makes a funny bump that is not very flattering!

And this is how it looks like at the back:

Not too bad, I think. The excess fabric at the bottom is the vent underlap, as this is not a critical part to be fitted I just left it open.

Altogether, I am really happy with it, the fitting issues are easy enough to solve and I'm happy that I do know about them now. Better for my nerves. And hand basting the whole thing didn't take as much time as I expected but was well worth it. I already took the dress apart again and now I'm off to putting it all together!

May 14, 2012

The Vienna Gala Evening Dress: The Muslin

I will be attending a congress in June, together with some colleagues (who are also my friends). The congress will take part in Vienna, and there will be also a gala evening as a part of it. So I need a dress for it.
After discussing the topic with my colleagues, it was quite clear that it had to be a long evening dress, as highly recommended by those who know the event dresscodes. Being a short person, I usually prefer knee length dresses, I just think they work better for me. But of course I don't want to be the only person wearing a short dress among all the other women in long gowns. And then I thought, when it has to be a long dress anyway, then it should be a really great one.

And the most classy, elegant and stylish long evening dress of all times is certainly:

Photo from Valeria Manferto de Fabianis: "A Matter of style - Intimate portraits of 10 women who changed fashion"
Photo from Valeria Manferto de Fabianis: "A Matter of style - Intimate portraits of 10 women who changed fashion"
The long black Givenchy evening dress worn by Audrey Hepburn in "Breakfast at Tiffany's". A real classic that might also work for a short person.

And I don't even have to search a lot for a pattern, nor do I have to draft the pattern myself. There was a  quite similar pattern in the Burdastyle magazine 8/2010:

It is quite similar at the back, although not totally the same, but I have to say that I like it a bit better with the bowy thing in the back.

I made some alterations to the pattern before even making the muslin: I altered the front neckline to be a bit more boat neck like, and instead of the Burda skirt I made my own, long skirt, basically from two rectangles that are gathered at the waistline. And I shortened the bodice so that the skirt sits right at the waistline instead of 2 cm below.

This is how the muslin came out (already worn with high heels):

The front neckline is gaping (it usually does, no surprise here), and the bodice is a bit too long.
Here it is after pinning out the excess fabric:

Yes, I am really that short waisted! The neckline looks better, at least at my left side. There isn't anyone to help me with fitting, so the pinned out lines are often crooked. This is also the reason why I put a zipper in all my muslins.

This is the muslin seen from the back. You can see that I left the bottom of the skirt open to make a vent in the real dress, which the original movie dress doesn't have. I just think it might be easier for walking or climbing into a car.

I also decided to bone the bodice, because I wanted to try boning since a while and because I think it might help with getting a nice and snug bodice without wrinkling, but of course I know that boning isn't essential in a dress like this. To check the result, sewed the pinned out alterations and added boning to the muslin. I also took out a bit of the fulness of the skirt in the front, and took in at the side seams to have it tapering down.

So, that's it. I am okay with this, as I think it is the closest to the original I can get, as of course Audrey Hepburn was a very slim person, and not a short and stocky one like me. But I think that it will also look different made up in a black, sturdier fabric instead of an old bedsheet! I'm off to transfer my changes to the pattern and cutting out!

May 10, 2012

The Aizenkobo Workshop and Dress

What is the best souvenir for a home seamstress when she travels abroad? Fabric, of course!
So when a dream came true and I traveled to Japan last year, I brought some fabric. A very special fabric.
I visited the Aizenkobo indgo dyeing workshop in Kyoto, where Mr. Utsuki dyes mainly cotton fabrics with indigo colors. He uses traditional japanese methods to do so, and there is a lot of handwork and time involved to get those gorgeous patterns on the fabrics.

Here you can see Mr. Utsuki with his indigo barrel:

Even if you cannot see the potential when looking at those barrels, Mr. Utsuki makes the most awesome patterns on fabrics, with very detailed and small lines. The fabrics also have a typical indigo smell which is pleasant, and according to what Mr. Utsuki told me the indigo also keeps the mosquitos away in summer.

So I chose a fabric with a nice pattern, which was a tough job as they were all so beautiful. Just selecting more fabric was not an option, as this was by far the most expensive fabric I've ever bought. And by that I mean not too expensive concerning all the hard work and lots of time that are involved in making such a fabric.

What was also wonderful to see was the old japanese house where the workshop is located. I just love old japanese houses!

So, what did I make up from the precious fabric I bought?

I made a dress, of course, as dresses are my preferred sort of garment, and I made it a summer dress, because the fabric is really perfect for that (remember the mosquito thing) and it will be worn a lot.

Did you notice my japanese shoes to go with it?
Making the dress was quite a challenge, though, for two reasons. First, it was more difficult to find a style that goes well with the diagonal pattern design of the fabric. Second, the fabric is made up as a traditional kimono fabric, which means it is only 39 cm (about 15") wide.
So after lots of thinking I made the bodice with V-stripes from a self-drafted bodice pattern. The skirt is four parts of the fabric sewn together to a rectangle and gathered at the waist. The midriff was necessary because I didn't have enough fabric to cut the whole bodice parts, but I think it is also nice with the horizontal stripes. I ran quite short on fabric, though, so the stripes are not matched on the sides (but who cares?).

I am really happy with this dress, as it is comfortable, easy to wear, perfect for summer and also the best souvenir I could bring from Japan. As you can see, the dress is also great for playing with little nieces!

You can read a good article about the Aizenkobo workshop here: Just in case you are planning a travel to Japan, too!

May 7, 2012

60's Style Dress Remake

When I was looking for self-made garments in my closet to wear at MMM12, I got hold of this dark green wool crepe dress again. (Please excuse the mess in the background...)

I made it about a year ago from a vintage Simplicity pattern from 1968. That was also the first time I tried myself in pattern grading, as the pattern came in one-and-a-half size too big (grading went surprisingly easy and well!).

I wanted to go with version 1 (the green one at left), but for some reason I put on another self-drafted collar, which I removed a bit later because I didn't like it.
The sad thing is, I only wore the dress once or twice, and then it stayed in my closet to be never worn again. I don't know why, but I felt rather like wearing a period costume in it than wearing a modern 60's style dress. Maybe it just wasn't my style, but I didn't really like it (although I liked the fabric it is made of, a nice wool crepe!). I also found that the pattern looked somehow plain made up in this dark green color.

So when I pulled the dress out of my closet yesterday, I started thinking over again of what was the reason I didn't like it, and if I could maybe change that. So I decided to try it with cutting off the sleeves and making it short sleeved. I also took in the waist at the back darts a little bit. 

So here is the result:

Ok, it's still not the best dress I've ever made, but it does reflect my style more than before, and in any way, it now can be worn even for a weather like we have these days in may, not only in winter (long wool crepe sleeves can be amazingly warm!). And I don't feel like being in disguise any more!

May 5, 2012

Spring coat finished!

Finally my coat is finished! Like always, I lost a bit patience near the end of garment construction, especially as I had planned to get it finished by end of april. And although there wasn't a lot of things to do, I found that all the finishing takes quite a lot of time, though.

I set the lining in completely by hand, which was an awful lot of work. Not the hand sewing itself, but pinning it in place! I had to do it several times. I think I will not do this again in the future. Or maybe I will make my own mixture of machine and hand sewing (I am a sucker for hand sewn lining...).

I also added some white piping between the facing and the lining, and I covered the inner snap with lining fabric, which I find is so so nice (and it was even easy and quick to do)!

So now I only have to wear it, which I think will not happen so much until autumn, as - like any other coat so far - I finished it on time for when I don't need it any more for the season!

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