Tidbits #2

Dear readers,

Welcome to the second edition Tidbits where I randomly link and talk about sewing and non-sewing things that have been on my mind lately! I really enjoyed the discussion and the links you shared on Tidbits #1 so I thought it would be worth to keep going…

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found on Sigrid Sewing Projects

Sewing Bits

Interesting thoughts from Debbie at Lily Sage & Co on why you may end up with more iterations of a trend when you sew then when you buy RTW. Refining a design does require more than one garment for most of us, but unlike Debbie I don’t do much transformation/refashion of my previous makes and no matter how slow I sew my wardrobe grows and grows and grows…

You may have read recent blog posts and reactions (here at Sew Liberated and at Noble&Daughter) about the pressure of blogging, which I thought was quite interesting. I would link it to the sewing blog transition almost exclusively towards showcasing finished items. I was enjoying recently the latest posts of Sigrid who has been in my reader for a very long time.Like Sigrid’s, a few years successful blogs were all about elaborate evening dresses, little french jackets or tailored coats sewalongs, highlighting the process of making things. I went back to Gertie‘s older posts too, when she was actually sewing her way through the Vogue Book (exciting sewing blog times!!), and her posts were definitely more about the making. Today, the frequency of finished garments posts  influences heavily the popularity of a blog. While, blogs showcasing the process of making complex garments still exist but they are just not the norm anymore.

It could explain the relative simplification of patterns offered by some Indie Designers, as they try to match our expectation to have a quick make to show. But of course, there is only so much content you can create around making a woven tank, so you only post about your finished garment. The vicious circle of consumption is activated and you are looking for the next tank pattern, to sew in 2 hours and blog in 1!

In addition, it puts pressure on the Indie designers to try to churn out patterns as quickly as possible. I guess that if you are StyleArc or Burda, you have professional patternmakers, samplemakers and graders on your payroll as well as a huge library of existing patterns to derive new designs from. It’s completely possible for you to do monthly releases, especially since instructions are rather sparse… But if you’re not one of those established companies and you have the pressure of delivering new patterns regularly, it can lead to disappointing or underwhelming patterns. In my opinion, the latest pattern from Tilly and the Buttons, the Marigold Jumpsuit is the perfect example of that.

As a disclaimer, I’ll say that I am not in T&TB’s target customer so this pattern is not intending to fit my expectations. I have also no idea if this pattern is actually selling or not. So it’s definitely a stretch for me to call it a bad pattern release. It may be selling like hot cakes (“comme des petits pains” for those of you who like French-isms). But in my eyes, it’s just so sad. I don’t see it flattering, well-designed, filling some kind of gap or even cute. I know we could enter the endless debate of what is a flattering fit, personal taste, good design, etc. and that’s not exactly where I want to go. I’m not even sure that it does match well the rest of this designer’s offering. In addition, there are several cheaper and better looking jumpsuit patterns available in Burda, Big4 and other Indies… I will direct you to this fun free pattern released on the French blog Essais & Erreurs, if you are looking for something different!

On the other hand, having some kind of trust issue with the more complex patterns of Indie designers, I rarely buy them and even more rarely make them. I want to remedy that and I bought the Françoise Jacket by République du Chiffon. Between the pattern price and the shipping to the US, I ended paying way more than I normally would allow myself for patterns so I hope it proves a success. I am in love with the proportions and the narrow collar but of course I want to make changes so I will have to make a muslin and take it from there. I would like to make 2-pieces sleeves with functional button vents, add a back vent (or 2) and see if I can forego the double closure. Lots of work ahead, so I’m not sure I will gather the energy to do it all.

francoise-jacket

and other bits

Because we cannot only talk and read about sewing, here is an interesting article in the NY Times about having more time to unwind, except if you are a woman

Today, I have grand plans of managing to go see the Manux X Machina exhibition at the Met, getting my nails done and taking pictures of finished makes all before 4pm (can I insert a nap somewhere??) so I’d better stop my ramblings, and get started!! Don’t hesitate to share your thoughts  and own tidbits in the comments, you know how much I love reading them!

The other white shirt

Dear readers,

It looks like the new blog format is working for me so far, I hope it is for you too. However it’s too soon to tell if I will be able to keep it up. It wouldn’t be the first time that I manage to maintain decent activity levels on the blog, only to let it completely go a month later… One thing I forgot to mention though is that I don’t currently plan on posting on other platforms than here and Instagram. No more PR, Kollabora (which never seemed to foster interactions or traffic anyway), Burdastyle or Thread and Needle. Traffic was never high on this blog and will certainly drop now but I kind of like the idea of a narrower little corner of the Internet, mostly with regular readers.

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But let’s talk about today’s topic, another big square white shirt. Whenever I sew a white top, I kick myself for not making more. It’s so easy to be seduced by colors and prints in pretty fabric, but there are not many garments as versatile as white tops and blouses.

When I made the Ralph Pink pattern I mentioned last week, I already had in mind a crisp poplin version. Probably because of this Burda pattern (coincidentally Mokosha just posted about it, and it’s reminding me that it would probably fit my current needs) and this Everlane number :

I decided to start with my silk-blend version so that the drape would help with the extra-volume. I really like my previous version, but decided to take in the sides even more (total of 5″ on each side seam, as opposed to 3″ last time) and shorten the sleeves (3″) to account for the stiffer fabric. Unfortunately this required redrafting almost completely the front since I was reaching the sleeve cuffs in a straight line. While I was redrafting, I took the opportunity to modify the curved seam line you can see in the front. On the original pattern the front seam is purely decorative, with no shaping. But since I was going with a shape closer to the body, I included a sort of bust dart.

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I’m not sure you can see very well above but the dotted paper is my modified front pattern and the white one the original pattern. I also modified the top collar pattern to create a smaller/more current collar.

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The fabric is the most beautiful Japanese 100% cotton shirting. I found it at Mood’s and I have just no word to describe how smooth and perfect it is. It sewed well but I had a little bit of puckering that I could not completely iron out, for which I have no explanation. There is also the always tricky curved underarm seam, which was made extra difficult by the use of French seams. For this shirt, I finally  remembered to make my buttonholes and sew the buttons BEFORE hemming. No one will believe but I swear that the CF matched exactly in length before, but I am no Beth of SunnyGal Studio and I cannot explain how the lower picture happened!

Some of you may have a serious eye twitch already and believe me I do too! Let me explain how ironic the situation is. Being French (I know it’s a lame lame excuse), I’m a very critical blog reader. Lately, I kept noticing garments with the traditional closure for womenswear (right over left, ALWAYS right over left) had been avoided/omitted. It’s quite disturbing to the eye in my opinion. Well guess what happened next… I marked my buttonholes actively thinking:”Ha! You are not going to catch me making THAT dumb mistake!!” [Smirk face]. I sewed all the buttonholes , all the buttons, hemmed the shirt only to realize that I had just done it! I inverted the closure!!! Oh well…. *Shameful Face*

I really love the final garment. It fits my current needs perfectly and has been through several wash and wear cycles. I hope not to outgrow it too fast because it’s a very office friendly option in my shrinking wardrobe. I don’t have a definite word on Ralph Pink’s Sahara Shirt Pattern, like most patterns it did require a certain level modifications to match the idea that I had in mind. I did appreciate that the pattern pieces were relatively simple and went together easily.

As you can see in the inspiration pictures, a crucial aspect to modeling a square shirt is to pretend you’re about to casually perform a set of crunches.  I will comply as long as I’m not required to do the actual crunches!

Squareshirt SewingTidbits-4

That’s it for today! Hopefully I will be back soon with more pictures of recent makes. This post is proof that I CAN take pictures inside my apartment, even if they are on the boring side… Oooh tropical background of Haiti, how I miss you!! Any tips for indoor pictures you would like to share?

Tidbits #1

Dear readers,

The other day, I wrote about short-form content and I never thought that with the blog name I chose (many moons ago, on a whim and without particularly liking it), maybe that’s what I meant to do all along!! So, welcome to Tidbits first edition, where I share stuff I saw, read, heard.

Dartless Top SewingTidbits-3Sewing Tidbits…

2 beautiful Instagram accounts : Notes of a Pattern Maker and Contour Affair.

Now that’s what I call a great post from Jen at Grainline Studios. I’ve been completely underwhelmed by the brand’s latest pattern releases but her voice hasn’t changed and is still ON POINT. There are no secrets to good sewing, only practice practice practice!!

I don’t think I really need a Cape Blazer in my closet (or do I??) but this is what I like to see from the Indie pattern designer!

A nice article about sewing in the Atlantic. I enjoyed the history part on the sewing kit but the text doesn’t really go anywhere at the end and I “stayed hungry” (that’s a litteral translation of the French expression “rester sur sa faim).

And other Bits!

I’m fairly recent listener to podcasts, and have been following the one produced by Leandra Medine of Man Repeller since the beginning. However, it’s been a few episodes that she is losing me. The last one is all about getting out of your comfort zone and I’m just getting tired of the constant run for improvement. Can’t you just be happy about where you are and what you have? Do you really have to “challenge yourself” all the time to become a “Better You”? Listen and tell me what you think!

A few weeks ago, I saw this great Cuban movie Viva and I highly recommend it! I’ve never been to Cuba but I could really feel the Carribbean vibe I have encountered in Haiti, the Dominican Republic or Panamá. The story is beautiful, the music is awesome and the photography is mind-blowing!

What are the words or images you enjoyed recently, please share!

What is going on with all the big shirts?

Dear readers,

From the reactions to my last post, I gather that you are still around and ready to engage and that’s pretty good news! So first I would like to thank all the commenters, I think there was a great conversations going on!

One of the reasons for my lack of posting is the fact that I sewed several items I ended up disliking. In my opinion, that’s the most discouraging thing that can happen to a seamstress. You have an idea, get excited, find the fabric, the pattern, spend hours making it, try it on and….. Meh. How anti climatic is that? It doesn’t help that once I reach  construction stage, I don’t like to interrupt myself.I finish all the seams and stop to try on items only just before hemming/adding closures. I usually can get away with it because I know what shapes work on me and I spend time adjusting patterns before cutting fabric. Except these days, I have no idea of how to fit myself because….

Squareshirt SewingTidbits-1
I’m growing a little human!! That’s another reason the blog hiatus, I really really didn’t feel like being in front of a camera and all my clothes feel weird.

I used to wear fairly fitted clothes, most of the time in the smallest size available, with a defined waist. Obviously all that is gone already and I’m not sure of what’s left… I don’t really feel like wearing a lot of those tight jersey dresses that seem to be screaming “LOOK AT MY BELLY” but I’m also not use to see myself hidden in voluminous shapes. Tricky time! So I thought about big shirts:

After seeing the version made by Paprika Patterns, I decided to try Ralph Pink’s Sahara Shirt pattern. I’ve been tempted several times by his patterns, on the basis that they look “different” from most other Indies, but the sizing seemed too big for me and I struggled finding a pattern I really liked. It probably doesn’t help that not a lot of other bloggers have made his garments (with notable exception by Inna and Oona) so I wasn’t sure what to expect.

I printed the pattern, found suitable cotton-silk in the stash (same as a Vogue 1247 skirt sewn in 2014), cut the smallest size (US 0), sewed and sewed and sewed. It’s a relatively quick make, without many seams (although I used french seams everywhere), and they matched well enough. I would recommend checking the length of the front button plackets (I think they were too long) and the side seams but there was nothing truly catastrophic… Until I tried on the shirt. I could not picture myself going around the city is what looked like A GIGANTIC TENT!!


I put it away my sewing friend from the Pattern Line came over and convinced me that all it needed was taking in the sides a little. By a little, I mean 3″ on each side seams… The total reduction is 12″ (!!) tapered to nothing at the underarm. I also removed some of the extra length at the back to soften the curved hem effect. But you know what? Now, I actually really like it!

 As you can see, I didn’t lie when I previously said that blog posts would have less pretty pictures… Next time I will tell you about my iteration in white poplin (in the first picture).

In the mean time, I would love to hear your thoughts on those pattern companies that seem less popular among sewing bloggers, does it stop you from trying them out?

 

 

Update and thoughts

Dear readers,

 

(Warning: this is a long one, so I’m putting some pictures from my Instagram feed to make it less heavy!!)

You may have completely forgotten about my existence and that would only be fair. Since moving back to New York 5 months ago, many many things have happened (some of them include sewing). For some time I didn’t have enough energy to blog, and there will be more on that later. I am grateful to have my energy back now but I haven’t figured out yet a way to take pictures that’s not too daunting.

My dress form stayed in Haiti, and that means all pictures of finished garments would have to be on me… Those of you who follow me on Instagram will know that I am still alive and sewing. But having a backlog of projects to show on the blog is adding to the paralysis. I do have a camera, a tripod and an apartment that gets decent sunlight (although only between 1 and 3pm). So that means little to no pictures, and really, what’s a sewing blog without pictures??

Are we still reading the sewing blogs in our feeds?

(she asks while typing and hoping that someone will reply…)

In addition, there are been several announcements recently of people quitting on their sewing blogs, sometimes to focus on Instagram, as you can read here and here. It feels like a recurrent discussion by now. Blogland looks like Real Estate sometimes, with cyclical highs and lows. From where I stand it does certainly look like we are hitting a low, but I may be wrong.

I currently have 294 sewing blogs in my Feedly. Granted, they are not all active, but still 294!! I enjoy reading blogs with my morning coffee, but can I really call this reading? It feels more  like skimming through repeated content. So why? I obviously don’t have an answer to that.

On the other hand, some  have also been implementing traditional sewing blog recipes for more than 5 years, and sometimes 10 and they are still going strong!! Through good writing and discipline they keep generating a lot of engagement, and I definitely don’t skim their posts… There are also new and not new gorgeous sewing blogs around that keep inspiring me to run to the sewing machine(s). But to be honest, both options require a lot of work, time and skills that I don’t have!

Enjoying the process

I’m a firm believer in that you should decide what you do based on how much you will “enjoy the process”. If I keep blogging in some form, it’s important for me that I enjoy the process of making it happen and not only the outcome of a pretty and up to date blog. Because let’s be honest, that is never going to happen. So let’s  start with lists, lists are FUN (you’re allowed to disagree) to see if it helps :

Things that I like :

  • Sewing
  • Thinking, Talking, Plotting, Reading, Watching all things about sewing
  • Changing my mind
  • Trying to take pretty pictures to emulate the bloggers I admire (and never succeeding)
  • Process pictures (because I don’t have to be in front of the camera, ha!)
  • Giving my opinion (I like that A LOT and probably too much)
  • Interacting with readers and other bloggers through comments&emails
  • Reading and sharing articles on things that are not sewing related

Things I don’t really like :

  • Getting myself ready to be in front of the camera
  • Taking pictures with a tripod
  • Reading my old posts and realizing my writing makes no sense (ugh)
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Restricting my opinions because I fear to be seen as not nice.

Are we allowed to disagree or to dislike ?

That last point is very important for me. For some reason, I don’t feel comfortable writing what I really think about brands, products and what is going on in the sewing world, because it’s often not going to be nice. Most of you don’t know me in real life, but if you did, you would know that “being nice” is not a very strong concern of mine!! So why here? Of course, there is a difference between expressing your opinion and being mean or disrespectful. The issue is that in order to avoid the latter, I also censor the  former.

This auto censorship is particularly striking to me as I literally have no ambition of having any commercial activity linked to my blog. I have no brand endorsements, nor am I seeking any. I don’t get asked to do reviews or pattern testing. Basically I can do whatever I want. But I don’t. I tried to be active on GOMI for while, but it also ended up boring and repetitive. The same “clique” impression it initially criticized appears to be re-forming there with the same people commenting over and over on the same things. I still read it occasionally but I don’t find the opinions expressed there as refreshing as I used to.

So, is this a space where i can say that I really don’t like what has been released these days in terms of Indie patterns? And then, am I allowed to change your mind later about a particular pattern (yes it happens, often)? Can you make an Indie pattern and find the drafting terrible for a somewhat  basic shape and then write about it? Can I once express excitement over the launch of a new sewing media, only to be disappointed one or two issues later? Can I comment on the fact that sewing podcasts seem to be restricted to the same 5 or 6 people being interviewed on different shows?

What to expect around here…

I read some opinions of people thinking that Instagram is killing blogs. I don’t think it’s completely true yet. For instance I feel self-conscious of posting repetitive content on Instagram. If I make a shirt, I don’t think I will be comfortable posting a picture of the shirt, then a close-up of the collar, another of the placket, a shot of the inside, etc. And yet, I love seeing those pictures on blogs. So I want to keep the blog active for now.

A lot of changes, obviously. I knew 2016 was going to be a year of change, I had just completely underestimated by how much! However, I feel that I have to make them in order to keep this space alive. I was never a long post type of blogger, but I really want to experiment with short-form content and I think there will be different type of posts :

  • I would like to do more process shots as I sew. A sort of a visual diary of a garment in the making  (but not tutorials) and blog them right away without too much commentary. I could follow them up with a wrap up post on that garment which would get written only AFTER it was worn for a day or two! Too often I made something, posted happy pictures, wore it the following day only to discover that there is something wrong with the fit.
  • I would like to share, inspiration, articles, podcasts and other reads that I found interesting. Some will be sewing related, some will not.
  • I want feel able to comment freely and constructively on what I think going on in our little corner of the internet, and hear what you think about it too!!

That’s it for today, I would really really love to hear your thoughts so please jump in the comments about what you think is still relevant content for sewing blogs, and let’s keep talking!!

 

 

 

 

RTW Shirt Making – Introduction to a new series

Dear readers,

As promised, I am back with a compilation of my favorite shirt making techniques and strategy. If you want to follow along, my first recommendation is to have 1 or 2 shirts with you for reference. I prefer men’s shirts because they tend to have more elegant finishes than women’s, at similar price points.Even top of the line Banana Republic, Ann Taylor and J. Crew can be used  references (not the outlet type).

My most important disclaimer is that I do not like David Coffin’s book. I’m a bit irrational about it but I will not use it as a reference for this post.I know it’s been tremendously helpful to a lot of you, I own it and I just don’t like it. I even gave it away.

The less important disclaimer is that you don’t need to have sewn shirts before to use the techniques I will describe but you do need to have sewing experience and a good handling of your machine. I use an industrial Juki for the entire process (except the buttonholes) but there is no reason it wouldn’t work on a home machine.

If you tried my free pencil skirt pattern (see here to subscribe to the mailing list to get the latest version of the skirt and updates) you know that one of my goals is to engineer as much of the construction in the pattern as I can. It requires preparation before cutting for me it helps with clean results and make the construction a smooth process.

The next post in the series will be about pattern changes but I first want to look into the features of the shirt so that you know the changes you want to apply and the ones you don’t!

Flat-felled seams throughout

This includes side seams, underarm seam AND the armhole. Actually, the sleeve is attached first, so the underarm and the side seams are sewn at once since I prefer to attach the shirt sleeves flat.

SewingTidbits Shirtmaking - Flatfelled seams

Man Linen Shirt-3

French-seamed darts

I’m actually not sure how they are called but it’s the principle of a french seam applied to a dart. It works well for deep darts and darts that extend all the way down to the bottom (or front) of the shirt.SewingTidbits Shirtmaking - French seamed darts

Separate button band

A very common feature on my RTW shirts that I love the look of! It does require you to wok with different front left and right pattern pieces but since I cut single layer it’s really not an issue !

SewingTidbits Shirtmaking - Buttonband

SewingTidbits Shirtmaking - Button Band

Alternative pocket and placement

I will provide the pocket template I copied from a RTW shirt but I really recommend that  you go in your closet and figure out which of your shirts has the best pocket size and placement for your shirt. I’m convinced that they make a huge difference when it comes to ensuring your shirt looks more professional!

SewingTidbits Shirtmaking - Alternative pockets

2-piece sleeve placket

I think that traditional plackets are just so much nicer than the continuous bound type. For this step, I use a combination of Off-the-Cuff tutorial and and Fashion Incubator.

SewingTidbits Shirtmaking - Sleeve placket

 

Cuffs attached and top stitched in one-go

This Fashion-Incubator technique is the way I do it and I don’t think I will ever go back. I’m trying to implement it collars too but I haven’t had the same level of success yet.

SewingTidbits Shirtmaking - The Cuff

The probability of this series being too ambitious for me is real, therefore I will not attach any time frame to it! It make take a month, a year, you never know!! What I can say for now is that I’m already working on the post detailing changes to the pattern. In the mean time, I would love to start a conversation here about shirt making here, please share your favorite resources and tutorials but also the ones you tried and did not work out!!

Striped Shirt dress to close the year (among other things)

Dear Readers,

Happy New Year!! I hope that you are enjoying a pleasant and peaceful holiday season. I have disappeared for a while again, and it’s likely that it will take me a few weeks before I can make it again on the blog. Since last weekend, I moved (semi) permanently back to New York City. Over the last month, I’ve been traveling to find an apartment (the whole lease thing is soooo complicated), getting my visa, going back to France for some cheese&wine time, packing all my things and settling down. As with every move, the mixture of excitement and sadness sometimes becomes overwhelming.

Sewing Tidbits - Striped Shirtdress-6

Regarding sewing, I now notice that I came to a full circle. Before coming to Haiti, I sewed and shirt dress (this one) and now a shirt dress will be the last thing that I’ve sewn there. I can say during the almost 3 years I spent in this country, I’ve improved my shirt making skills and this makes the entire process very enjoyable. One of the things that I enjoy the most about sewing shirts is that I can do it all on my industrial machine (except buttonholes) and that the inside is as clean as the outside.

Sewing Tidbits - Striped Shirtdress-4

The pattern is a lengthened version of my white shirt, which was initially derived from the Grainline Archer. Although it’s not perfect yet, it feels nice to have a pattern that can produce a decent shirt with major alterations. I do want to make some changes to future versions though :

  • While in France, I wore this dress with a sweater, tights and boots. My sleeves were not rolled-up and this is something that hasn’t happened in a while. It made me realize that i/ I was to radical when I shortened them, they are missing 1/2 to 1 inch and ii/ the cuff is way to wide, on my wrist.
  • I now find the collar a bit wide, especially in relation to the stand. I want to draft an alternative very narrow collar.
  • The length is manageable but maybe slightly on the short side, ahem ahem…
  • Finally, I’m still bothered by something that looks like an excess of length in the upper back. I pinned it out once (1 inch!!) but it would also require altering the sleeve head in some weird way which I still haven’t figured out…

Sewing Tidbits - Striped Shirtdress-3Sewing Tidbits - Striped Shirtdress-8

The fabric is a Japanese cotton purchased at Mood during spring trim to New York City and it’s probably the best thing out of this garment. It’s soft and strong at the same time, light but not too see-through and I have the feeling that it will age well. My main concern was using an interfacing that would not make it to heavy in the placket/collar/cuffs.

Sewing Tidbits - Striped Shirtdress-2

I do want to do a post where I round up the different tips/tutorials that I gathered over the last 3 years and that I know use as my standard for my all my shirt. I may do it before I manage to set up my sewing operation (yes, I’m serious like that). Let me know if you know of any resource that should not be overlooked!Sewing Tidbits - Striped Shirtdress-7

Finally, in January last year I had made only one resolution here, which was doubling my number of post. In 2014, I posted only 23 times so in 2015 I wanted to reach 46… …. …. (embarassed silence) …. Unfortunately, I ended up posting only 13 times… Oops!! It looks like regular blogging is just not compatible with my life, oh well…  In 2016, I will keep doing what I can and hopefully you will keep reading me! The good thing is that I can only (hopefully) improve from here!

That’s it for 2015, sewing and Haiti for now. I hope you are enjoying your loved ones and I will be back soon!