July 26, 2017

A little trick...

... with a facing and an invisible zipper. 
I am finally making a dress from a lovely African wax print that I couldn't resist buying earlier this year. When I was about to attach the facing, I realized this would be a great time to show you a little trick I had to find out for myself.
It's about how to get a neat point where the top of the zipper and the neckline meet.

It is possible that this technique is explained in lots of books on sewing technique. Books which I never bothered to read in their entirety. If you did, and all this is old hat to you, please ignore the rest of this post. 
I found out about this when I was still doing wedding dress alterations. At the first store where I worked, a lot of the dresses came with invisible zippers which sometimes broke (standard strapless wedding dresses usually contain too many layers of fabric and are pulled on too tight to make invisible zippers a good idea)  and then had to be replaced.
Whenever I took out one of those broken zippers, I noticed how neat and tidy those top points were. And so square! For all my careful zipper insertion, those points always came out a bit rounded because so much material was meeting there. 
Gradually, I came to understand that the secret was all about planning ahead and making the right folds and the right stitches at the right time. 

This is how it is done (works for facings and linings):

Press back the center back seam allowances before you even start pinning the facing to the neckline. On the outside, you already attached the zipper so that pressed line is already there. Press a little more back on the facing (assuming both pattern pieces were the same width). Pin the neckline an stitch, STOPPING at the pressed line on the facing.

Press the neckline seam allowances. Clip them where necessary and press them first open and then to the wrong side of the garment. 
At the edge of the zipper, on both outside and facing, fold the neckline seam allowance down first and then fold the center back seam allowance over it. 

This gives you edges without bits of seam allowance poking out along the center back. At this point, you could hand-stitch the facing to the zipper tape. I've done that for years. But you can do it by machine without messing up that nice corner.

Flip the whole thing inside out again and pin the pressed line on the facing to the zipper tape (make sure that fold arrangement at the top stays as it is).

At the other side, on the wrong side of the outside fabric, this should give you a little fold of excess fabric. That is what you want, it is the fabric which will cover the zipper teeth on the outside of the garment. Stitch where you pinned, stopping at the neckline stitching. It doesn't really matter whether or not you sew down the neckline seam allowance on the facing but leave the outside neckline seam allowance.

Turn right side out again. You make have to pull and push a bit to get all the layers back where they belong but when you have done that, this is the result!
I'm really glad I learned this trick and I hope it will be useful to some of you as well. 

July 23, 2017

Well suited

A few weeks ago, with the last classes taught and just some meetings left to wrap up the school year, I was looking for another sewing project. And still, I felt a bit tired and didn't quite feel up to doing everything myself (something which I usually enjoy...).

After my little adventure with the Thai fisherman pants it was time for something more girly. A dress. So, I had a look at all the pretty dresses from Studio Faro's pattern puzzles (I still miss the weekly Pattern Puzzle, even though the timing was a bit unpractical for me. It was like a regular meeting for pattern making geeks!) and quickly decided to go for one in jersey.
That still left a couple of options but I decided to go with this one:

It is from 2014 and can, for that reason, only be found on the old blog. But fortunately, it's still there!  
For those of you who are not familiar with Studio Faro: it is (as far as I can tell from the blog posts and site info) a one-woman company in Australia specializing in both pattern making for fashion companies and pattern making lessons for fashion students and enthusiastic amateurs. For years, she also ran the "Pattern Puzzle" on the Studio Faro Facebook page. This meant that she would post a picture of random pattern pieces and readers would guess what it was. I found that quite addictive, and I know I'm not the only one...

And if that wasn't enough, in the week following the Pattern Puzzle, there would be a blog post showing the design and describing how to create the pattern from your own slopers. There is just one catch: these tend to be designs, ideas, experiments, not tried-and-tested projects. So there is no guarantee each one will work out well. 
If, like me, you are used to drafting your own patterns, that will be familiar territory though.

Anyway, I went to work on the Jersey Ruche Dress. An interesting design idea in which you slash and spread the front and back pieces of the fitted dress block for jersey fabrics in such a way that you can line them up to form one big pattern piece. There will just be a line of gathering where a side seam would have been (the smooth side has the one remaining side seam). And there is a set-in sleeve at the side with the shoulder gathers and a kind of raglan sleeve at the other side.
This time, I didn't try to be clever and drafted the pattern according to the instructions. I just had to fudge a bit with the main piece because my jersey block probably has a bigger waist-to-hip ratio that usual. And I planned for short sleeves instead of long ones.

Choosing a fabric wasn't that easy. I wanted to use something from my stash (should always be possible, it is huge). The pattern pieces were less big than I had feared (some of these pattern puzzles and really terrible when it comes to fabric economy, again because they are just design ideas) but not every fabric would work for a design like this. It would have to have the right hand, be soft and drape well. That means cotton was out. Cotton jerseys are lovely but they tend to have a bit of 'body', a stiffness which would not work here. And the fabric had to be light and thin enough for all those gathers. Some viscose/rayon jerseys, although they drape wonderfully, can be really heavy and get bulky when gathered. Stretch and recovery were less important in this case (although don't want to use one of those knits which only every keep on growing, ever again)
But I had something in my stash which was certainly thin enough, but maybe a bit too thin. A sort of marled grey/green jersey. A mystery blend containing (probably among other things) viscose and a tiny bit of wool.   

This fabric works really well with those gathers but it is a bit transparant. I picked those pictures in which it doesn't really show. It did in some of those I didn't choose. So, I guess this will be an indoor dress (I often like to slip on a comfortable dress when I come home from work, so having one which is only suitable for that purpose is fine with me). I thought about making a full lining but that felt like more trouble than this dress was worth. 
I did make a sort of all-in-one facing which holds the neckline and armscyes together. I decided on that after I had sewn the outside pieces. The neckline moved around in a way I didn't like: the gathers at front and back crept up and there was also kind of issue with the raglan sleeve (I forgot what that was). I made the facing for those pieces without the gathers and stabilized it with some very light-weight knit interfacing. Sewing that in helped. 

I still wonder if it would have been better to cut the neckline a little lower, or to put in denser gathering. I don't know.
Oh, and I used the rolled hem setting on my serger to hem the dress. That is often the easiest options on very flared-out hemlines, especially in thin fabrics. I had to be careful with the tension: It still had to be stretchy but I didn't want one of those "lettuce edge" hems (which are just serged rolled hems on very stretched-out edges). The result is OK but it looks like the edge of stitching is pulling a little bit if the light falls on it in a certain way. 

All in all, it's not one of my best dresses but certainly not one of the worst either. And it was fun to make, the right kind of project for the time in which I made it.   

July 19, 2017

And another one...

As I mentioned yesterday, my first pair of Thai fisherman pants was kind of nice but not really what I had expected. When I was "researching" the look, I mostly liked examples which were a bit wider (at the top of this Pinterest board of mine, you can see some). 
So, I tried again this time using this tutorial from salty*mom. This pattern has piecing in the legs and the downloadable pattern pieces are for the pointy and curved pieces which form the crotch curve and inner leg pieces. All other pattern pieces are just rectangles.

This time, I made the top piece from a double layer of fabric and I attached the ties well below the middle of its height at center back. This is because I think it looks nicer if, when folded over, the top of the top panel covers the seam which attaches it to the bottom panels. 
And I added a simple patch pocket. I miss pockets in the first version...

These are wide, really wide. They can look a bit like a skirt if I stand with my legs close to each other. And the back looks a bit odd but I don't think I did anything wrong there. It is just a feature of this kind of flat shape, I should not expect this thing to fit like normal trousers...

I hemmed at calf length because I thought that looked better with this width (I had cut these long enough for full length). They're a bit odd, but for casual summer wear, they're quite nice. 

July 18, 2017

A trouser experiment

Thank you for the nice comments on my previous post! Now that someone has brought it up, it would make a lot of sense that the combination of knitted and woven fabric is a reason why not many other people have made things like that dress. But take it from me: if you can make a simple t-shirt, you can certainly make a dress like that!

Now, on to the next thing. I kind of announced I would put two items in one post, but now I think I will save the second one for tomorrow.
A few weeks ago, while I was still working hard on all the end-of-year stuff that comes with teaching, I decided I wanted a simple, fun sewing project. Something kind of relaxing. And for some reason, I remembered Thai fisherman pants (I know I always insist on using the word trousers for trousers, not "pants" but in this case the idiom seems pretty much fixed on pants). 
I spent some time looking on Pinterest for inspiration pictures and pattern suggestions and I found a lot.

So, one Saturday morning, I used this very simple sketch as a guide and cut into some black linen from my stash. 
I went with a single layer top panel with flat-felled seams and a turn-over hem.

The end result wasn't bad but didn't quite look like these things do in most pictures.

At some point during sewing, I even wondered they might be too tight around the thighs, but they're not.

In fact, this strange shape actually allows a lot of room for movement.

This, just in case you are not familiar with this phenomenon of Thai fisherman pant, is that strange shape:

You've got the completely flat shape of a huge pair of trousers (without shaping on the crotch seam, that is why they are flat) which is wrapped around the wearers body and tied with ties attached to the center back of the top panel. After tying, you fold over the top half of the top panel, covering the ties.

There are a few different options to construct the legs and I think this is one of the simplest. I made these pretty much the way the pattern tells you to (although I may have forgotten to add seam allowance on some straight seam somewhere). Based on the result, I wouldn't recommend doing that if you wear more than, about, a Burdastyle size 38. If you do, add some width and height and go from there, or use one of the many other tutorials floating around on the internet.
The beauty of this style should be that it is truly "free-size" and this version isn't really. It still makes for a nice pair of summer trousers for me though.
Tomorrow I will show you my version of one of those other tutorials.

July 14, 2017

a super-simple dress

So, things got busy in the past two months. The end of the school year brought extra events in my teaching job, good weather meant more climbing trips and then, there was my ongoing effort to get better at route setting in the climbing hall. So, not a lot of time for sewing. I did make some simple things but didn't really find the time and/or motivation to take picture and write blog posts. Yet, that is. 
The school year has ended now so I have a bit more time on my hands and I have some projects I would rather like to show off and talk about.
I've decided to try and post about all the things I made over the this past couple of months although I can't promise long, in-depth posts and great photoshoots about all of them.

I'll start out with this super-simple dress (with E's help, I took pictures of four items today which will be in three blog posts. I didn't really have a lot time or feel like posing for pictures so I hope you can put up with fairly bad hair and the occasional weird facial expression).

It's just my favorite go-to self-drafted jersey top with the cut-on cap sleeves (it would be wrong to call it is a T-shirt because it is not in the shape of the letter T...) with a circle skirt attached to it. I shortened the top to about 10 cm below the waistline (12 at the back) and tightened the waistline a little. I cut the skirt to size to attach to that line. No zipper needed. 

Super quick to make, super easy to wear.
The top is made from black viscose/rayon jersey, the skirt from a fairly lightweight, but a bit stiff cotton. I like the way the checks on the skirt shift in angle because I just cut a full circle from this fabric an used it like that. 

In fact, making a dress like this is so simple I am very surprised I haven't really seen any others on sewing blogs and Facebook groups. Just take a tried-and-tested t-shirt pattern, find a point on you body where it is not at its smallest and where the start of a full skirt would be flattering and add a full or half circle skirt...

May 15, 2017

Sportswear in action (once again)

And here are finally the pictures of my new climbing trousers in action! 
Some day, I should ask a third person to either take pictures or belay, so I can show off my me-made sportswear when lead climbing (or, more likely in Dutch climbing halls, toprope climbing). Both of those involve climbing on high walls. The climber wears a harness with a rope attached to it for protection and to lower him/her down after reaching the top (in a toprope set-up, those ropes are hung from anchor points at the top of the wall, when lead climbing you take them up yourself, fixing them to the wall at about 2 to 3 meter intervals). 

Where clothes are concerned, both bouldering (climbing on low walls with thick mats on the floor for protection, which is what I am doing in these pictures) and sport climbing require a huge range of movement but the boulder does not have to consider the fit of clothes under a harness. 

Anyway, in this picture, I am not really trying to climb the boulder properly but you get to see both my outfit and the bouldering wall. 
In most of the other pictures, you can see my design choices are working out: I can bend my knees without baring them and thanks to that gusset, I can get my legs in any position I am capable of, without being held back by my clothes.

I'm happy with these, I guess I'll have to make some more!

May 4, 2017

I'm back!

In fact, I have returned a few days ago, after spending a week at the Gorge du Tarn in the south of France. 

I went there with E and four other climbers (who are to thank for the pictures you see here) and we climbed both in the Gorge du Tarn and the nearby Gorge de la Jonte. In fact, we kind of had to because both climbing areas have mostly routes which are too hard for us. 
We had two days of nice weather but after that, the temperature dropped to just over 10 degrees Celsius (at midday) and we had a lot of rain in the evenings. Not ideal when you are camping.  

Nevertheless, we were able to climb every day. And we loved it. For me, E and two of the other, this was the first time climbing in France. And the first time climbing on real rock for more than two days in a row. 
As a result, I think we all made some progress, getting more comfortable at lead climbing (most climbing halls here in the Netherlands are set up for toprope climbing so that is what we are used to) and at moving on chalkstone. 
In fact, I am really keen to do more outdoor climbing this summer!

I'll just have to reconsider my wardrobe... I bought some items for which the fabrics would be hard to find but I am a bit unhappy with the fit of those. I don't mind a slightly too boxy jacket but I hate the fact that the waistband on my warm outdoor trousers is so low that my lower back gets exposed whenever I sit down or make certain climbing moves. I think I will adjust that pair of trousers, making a new, higher waistband and look for supplier of outdoor fabrics for the future.

April 20, 2017

Sewing for climbing

People wear lots of different kinds of clothing for indoor climbing. Those who just come for a day out often wear their regular clothes while people who practice climbing as a sport usually choose some form of sportswear. There are brands dedicated to climbing wear too.

At the moment, I am usually wearing my old RTW sports trousers (sort of capri length). The trousers I made back in 2015 served me well for over a year but the fabric has suffered too much by now. I do usually wear some kind of me-made top though.
Because I know it can be hard to find the right fabric for sportswear (or outdoor stuff, for that matter), I thought I wouldn't mind buying new trousers for climbing.
And then I found out all you can buy are leggings... (and sweatpants, which are way to warm). Often bright, printed or shiny ones. And don't get me started about so-called yoga pants. Those are just leggings with a slight below the knee. I'm not sure I have pointed this out before but I really don't feel comfortable wearing leggings in a sport in which I am often suspended above any spectators...

Anyway, to make a long story short, I decided I would be better off trying to invent my own perfect version.
I sewed them up in a single evening and wore them the next. They're still on the washing line now, but here is a quick technical drawing:

I used a wide stretchy waistband which turned out to be way too loose (if I had not been wearing my harness, I'm not sure the trousers would have stayed on). I plan on cutting it off, making it smaller and inserting elastic for some added firm stretch.
The fabric I used for the rest is my favorite cotton/linen blend which is really comfortable but might not be durable enough for sportswear. 
I am very happy with the special climbing details I added: The long crotch gusset allows for an excellent range of movement and the pleats at the knees seem to work too. I may just pleat them the other way in the next version (they seem too tight the first time I bend my knees but are absolutely fine once they have been pushed open by that movement).
I will take pictures once the trousers are ready to be put on again...

April 12, 2017


A new pair of retro-style jeans, that's what I promised you, isn't it? 
Well, I finished sewing them before last weekend and I was quite happy with the result. All I needed to do was pose for pictures... 
Which I did, in a bit of a hurry, on Sunday. But sometimes pictures just don't turn out that great. The lighting is rather bad on these (they're just a bit too bright) , my apologies.

I used the pattern I drafted for my favorite calf length jeans. I just made them full length this time. And I adjusted the fit. I ended up taking in the side seams by a whopping 1.5 cm per seam at the hips and waist (so where-ever it is anywhere near close-fitting). 1.5 cm may not sound like much, but a it means loosing that amount on both the front and back pattern piece on both sides. So that's total circumference of loss of 6 cm. If you know that the usual difference in circumference between dress sizes is between 4 and 6 cm, that's a lot. Especially for a custom drafted pattern. Of course, the pattern is a year-and-a-half old and I have been very sporty in that time. Clearly, that made a difference.

I am quite happy with the finished product. I like the fit and the feel of the fabric. I like the retro feel of the design but I'm glad I didn't try to go completely   "period". Jeans with wide legs were worn in the 1940's but those would have a much lower crotch. Despite having the waistband at the natural waist, I went for a much more modern kind of fit. I've tried the vintage style and I kind of like it but I think I still prefer a fit like this. 

As usual, I used flat-felled seams on the back yoke, center back seam and inner leg seams and stitched those with thick, golden yellow jeans thread. 

It's a nice new shape which I am sure will be very welcome in my collection of trousers... 

April 8, 2017

Confession time...

Fellow sewing blogger Tanit-Isis has an interesting statement on her blog (it is written under her profile picture): "Sewing is what I do when I'm cheating on all my other hobbies..."
Nice, isn't it? I don't know how demanding her other hobbies are but for me, sewing was the undisputed first hobby for many years. I didn't bring any sewing with when on holiday and I could sometimes get distracted by machine knitting but overall I was pretty faithful. That is, until some point between now and about two years ago when a sport started to get in the way. I have never been the sporty type but I did really fall hard for sport-climbing (no pun intended).

Now, I also have a more demanding job than before, and my transformation into a climber is still going on. Lately, I have had even less time to sew because I have found something which combines my love for making things with my love for climbing: I'm learning to be a route setter at my local climbing hall!
For the uninitiated, route setters are the people who screw the plastic holds to the wall in artificial climbing areas. Each route is set in one colour and there are different levels of difficulty. And the routes are changed regularly (in this place, a route stays on the wall for about 6 months, unless there is something wrong with it and it taken down sooner). I've set six routes so far and apart from the first one, they are all still on the walls. And I feel like learning with each new one...

This is the card I made for the latest addition:

This blog's namesake! (and for those of you in the know: Here in the Netherlands, climbing halls use the French grading system. So this route would be something like a 6 in IUAA and a 5.10a in the USA) At this climbing hall, route setters do not only get to name the climbing routes they created, they also get to design a card for it. The card should include the route's name and grade but the design is completely up to one's own choices. Right from the start, I thought it would be nice to try and stick with vintage fashion as a theme for mine...

Oh, and please don't be too worried. I might cheating on my sewing hobby but I will never leave it. In fact, I have a new pair of 1940's style jeans to show you tomorrow.  

March 27, 2017

That matching bra

And this is the bra I made to match those experimental panties-with-straps. 

I used my tried-and-tested racerback design but I did make some changes: I used the higher shape for the band, the one which is adjusted to the shape of the underwires. I also cut down the center front of the cup a bit more. On me, this still doesn't look like much of a plunge but it is lower than what I used in my previous two racerback bras (you can see them in older blog posts: the first and second one). 

This may be the first bra I have ever made without lace... Ok, I think I have made a lycra and fold-over elastic bralette once but that doesn't really count. I used the opaque and sheer striped lycra, fold-over elastic and beige-ish foam. The simple look of the materials meant the sewing had to be extra-careful. I had to unpick and re-do the binding on the cups once because the lycra had shifted and bunched a little bit over the foam. It is really rare for me to have to unpick anything because of sloppy sewing work... I'm glad I did it though. The sloppiness of the first try might have put me off wearing this bra and now, I think I will wear it a lot. It is just as comfortable as this design always is. 

March 18, 2017

Panty party

It looks like my sewing is done on a "run or stand still" (this is a literal translation of the Dutch expression. I know it is not a common expression in English but this one doesn't become incomprehensible in translation) basis at the moment. After those nice clothes at the end of January I haven't done much sewing that is worth writing about. 
I made the same very basic t-shirt with cut-on cap sleeves in three different colour of jersey because I had noticed a lack of tops to wear under jackets or cardigan (at least, with the teaching job, I am actually wearing my jackets now). I shortened some second-hand belts to fit me. And I made two pairs of panties.
I may show you the first two projects in the next post but they are not that interesting so I may also not do it. This post is about the panties.

The first pair was made using one of my usual patterns. My self-drafted lace-back thong. I felt I kind of had to make these because when I looked at my lingerie supplies, I found one of the lace pieces already cut. I guess I had cut two pieces for the same side by accident while cutting a previous pair. 
I think I may have forgotten to add seam allowance at the front waistline but I think it will be OK (I really should be more consistent with seam allowance on my lingerie patterns...).

The second pair of panties is a new experiment, based on designs I have seen online, mostly on Pinterest and the Lingerie Addict blog. Basically, it is just my high-waist, low-leg pattern with a big chunk cut out from the waistline to about the height where the top of bikini style panties would be. 
The fabric I used is an interesting (but probably low quality) lycra with thin transparant stripes which I found on sale at the market. All the edges are bound with thin fold-over elastic and the waistband is a type of elastic I would also use for shoulder straps on bras.

I have not subjected this pair to the "wear it all day" test yet but I don't think it will uncomfortable.
It's funny: These actually cover more of the body than many other, more common styles of panties and yet, the strappy-ness makes them look kind of sexy. 
Now, I'll just have to come up with a matching bra design...
In fact, I have had some time to think about this and I will probably make a racerback bra in this fabric but without any extra straps (I'd like a new bra from that pattern but it doesn't lend itself well to adding straps) and keep thinking about the perfect strappy bra design...

March 8, 2017

...and a dress

And here is the last item of my early February sewing spree: It's a dress!
To be precise, it is a dress made from the same fabric I used waaaaaay back, for my last dress of 2010. I still have that dress although it is looking rather worn by now. It is looking worn for all the right reasons: I've loved it ever since I made it and I have worn it a lot. 

The fabric is a peculiar material: I would definitely describe it as 'mystery fiber' with quite a bit of synthetic in it but there is no static cling. There is a serious bit of stretch but it is along the length of the bolt (which is why now, like back in 2010, I have cut my pattern pieces on the cross grain). The base of the fabric is a beige-ish knit with black corduroy-like ridges on the good side. It is quite stiff and has basically no drape at all. The wrong side is sort of scratchy but in a nice way.

For a long time, I thought I would just re-make that first dress but somehow I never did... Maybe it just didn't feel quite right to do that.
I'm glad I finally made another dress from this material (and I think I even have enough of it left for another one...) 

Because the fabric is nearly back, it hard to show the details in a picture. So, I thought it might be better to include a technical drawing. 

The new dress has long raglan sleeves, a fitted bodice with princess seams and kick pleats at the back and a casual sweater-style short zipper and collar.

And I have to say it is just as comfortable as the old dress.