I am currently flying back from Guatemala and Honduras where I visited the amazing mayan ruins of Copán which partly explains the lack of activity around here! If you followed me on Instagram during #sewphotohop, you will have seen some sewing happening. I made that tee on a whim while keeping up my resolution to sew more from my ideal closet items pinned on Pinterest. Below are the two shirts that triggered my crush for widely open back tees.
For a reason I cannot explain, there is something intrinsically italian in my mind about those shirts. I picture myself in the countryside (maybe where Sasha lives?), leaning on the door frame of my imaginary bungalow, drinking delicious coffee and gazing at my olive trees in the horizon… When the tropical backgrounds of Haiti are not exactly Italian landscape, I can at least have my shirt and drink coffee!!
One Saturday, I went to hide in the heat of my sewing for an hour or two and pulled out my Nettie pattern. To turn it into a hip length tee, I stopped the patterns where it indicates to add for dress length and decided on the high front, mid-low back and short sleeves. Since I made this pattern twice already (here and here), there is not much more to report.
The fabric came from my stash, I bought it in Port-au-Prince and it’s a left over of a Shadi skirt I made last year. The entire shirt was sewn on my serger and I am still not perfectly good at matching stripes with that machine… I changed the order of construction slightly so that I can attach the neck band and the sleeves flat. I was so determined to own this tee that when I realized that I actually didn’t have enough fabric for the front, I decided to piece it. Not very professional since you can see it in my shoulder area, but I don’t really mind.
As soon as I finished it, I threw it on and ran to The Old Man to get his opinion on my Italian tee. His comment sounded appreciative but was along those lines: “OOOooh a French tee!!”. I guess the stripes betrayed me… No matter how much leaning on the door frame I did with a coffee mug in my hands, he would NOT see the Italian side of it…
In other news, I just moved houses so this will be the last time you get to the garden in the background I’ve been using for the last two years. Our new apartment is smaller but I still have a sewing room (most important thing about housing!!). Also, it’s higher in the mountains which means fresher air and amazing view!!
I still have some posts coming up but since there will also be more traveling it’s hard to commit to regular updating… In the mean time, let me know what you think, French or Italian tee??
It’s the third part of my little serie and I want to talk about those times when you feel too lazy to draft or drape the pattern! For several years now (yes, several), I have been thinking about slip dresses. I was a teenager in the 90’s so I will always be convinced that calvin klein epurated slip dresses are the coolest. Kate Moss and Rachel from Friends shaped my idea of style (for the best and the worst!!)! Twice a year, when the idea of making a bias slip would sudden become urgent, I’d frantically research patterns meant to be cut on the bias, take note of linings in some Vogue patterns and forget about it. Until next time. But not this time! Let’s look at the inspiration first, all collected on Pinterest, with of course, queen Moss:
As stated before, some Vogue patterns include a slip which is meant to be cut on the bias. Carolyn of Handmade by Carolyn made a beautiful version. I myself own New Look 6244 but it’s at my parents’ house… in France… I actually made this dress 10 years ago but purposefully ignore the bias for the lining (so stubborn) because I did not see the point. Ahem Ahem… I have to admit that in my early sewing years, I was (still am) very stubborn and I did not see the point of many things . Those things included seam finishes, easing sleeves, aligning the grain, wearing ease and many more… Slowly but surely I integrated them in my sewing for the better!One detail, I dislike in current Vogue slips such as 1287 is the bust dart. I was convinced I could get away without one since the bias could do the minimal shaping I require. I finally decided to go with the lining of Lekala 2021. It doesn’t not specify that it’s meant to be cut on the bias, (at least Google Translate does not say so) but since I got to start with a pattern customized to my measurement, so I figured it was worth it.My first step was to do a toile. I used regular muslin even though my silk was going to be behave differently. I figured a “skin” tight fit on my form (slightly bigger than me) in muslin would result in appropriate amount in and the 2 layers of silk would have appropriate wearing ease on me. It was a bit risky but it worked! I also used the toile to check the neckline and position and measure the straps. I had to take in 1/2″ from each side at the bust and waist, tapering to nothing at the hips and I made no changes to the neckline.
A photo posted by SewingTidbits (@sewingtidbits) on
The most challenging part for me in working with with silk is cutting, especially on the bias. It takes forever and I’m always tempted to cut corners. However, this time I did not. I lied my 23mm silk crepe from Calamo New York on a first layer of paper, aligning the selvage with the straight edge of the paper to prevent distortion. I created a “marker”, which is another layer of paper with all the pieces to be cut drawn in their cutting position. I added my “marker” on top and pinned between the pieces to avoid marking the silk. I then cut through the 3 layers. I have an important piece of information that some of you may resist. It’s OK to cut through paper with your fabric scissors! Yes… I know what the home sewing police says but really, you’ll be fine! And it will actually dull your blades a lot less than cutting wool or tweed!! I stabilized both layers of the neckline with fusible strips and attached the sides with french seams. For a reason I cannot explain, sewing went well for the first pass of the french seam but my industrial Juki refused, yes refused (!!), to go through the second one with a repeated mess of skipped stitches. I was confused and about to cry but I decided to add a layer of paper on top of the seam and tear it off after stitching and it did the trick! For the straps I used the method described by my friend E. on her blog. The only thing I would add would be to not be afraid to use a rather large strip of bias, such as 2.5 or 3″ as the allowance will “fill” the tube. For the hem, on top of providing the tutorial, E. gifted my ban-roll. I don’t know why I never tried before. Actually I do know why (see stubborness mentionned above) but I regret it deeply. This thing is absolutely AMAZING: perfect baby hem on silk. Every. Time. No need to say more. I actually want to try it to hem shirts with it too! That’s it for my notes. I love love love the final dress and I wore it for my birthday (30… yikes). We went dining and dancing and I felt very comfortable in this simple yet dressed-up silhouette. I am now thinking of making a single layer one out of thicker black silk crepe. And tank tops, a lot of tank tops, I may have opened the pandora box of bias project! Do you have favorite patterns for bias cuts ? I would love to see what you recommend!
A few month ago, I finally indulged in beautiful box of Japanese leather tools and sewn a phone case for The Old Man to try it out. Pretty soon afterwards, I worked on the project I’m showing you today. As with any new craft, the learning curve is quite steep in the beginning. It reminds me a lot of learning how to sew:
You are not sure how to handle your tools
You make wrong choices when it comes to material/fabric but
You love the results despite all the very visible imperfections.
One thing about leather work that I definitely appreciate is that it is relatively short compared to sewing. Of course, my inexperience makes me totally biased. I only tackle simple projects and I’m probably not putting in the level of efforts that professional finish would require. Sewing taught me that you don’t have to be patient from the beginning, it’s an acquired skill that develops once I get tired of making the same mistakes over and over. Only then I’ll take the time to do things properly and wonder why I waited so long. Oh well…
If you read my blog regularly, by now you have realized that I am more a copycat than a designer. My design “research” (haha), usually starts by endless Pinterest perusing, and for leather items, I find Etsy very useful too. For this project, I wanted to make something for The Old Man (again!! How unselfish of me…) in the same leather as his phone case. We travel regularly and we try so simplify packing. We both carry 2 passeports each and various electronics so I wanted to make a case that could hold an Ipad, travel documents, a pen and a few cards.
The positive point is that I’m happy with the design, I think it’s functional, nice looking and not too girly. On the negative side, the list a bit longer… First of all is the leather. It’s definitely too soft for a structured case. When full and closed it’s ok because the Ipad provides the structure, but the document side lacks firmness. I tried to remedy temporarily by inserting a piece of cardboard. Unfortunately the only solution will be to make is in a more appropriate leather (more on that later!).
My second issue is with my hand stitching. Applying constant thread tension while saddle stitching is definitely a challenge. One that can only be remedied by hours and hours of practice I guess. The last problem is something that was just reported by the user. Apparently, the leather stretched out on the document side and things tend to fall out…
Of course, it’s a little disappointing to admit that this is not the perfect case that I had in mind, but I decided to treat it as a learning experience. When I was in New York recently I bought a BEAUTIFUL vegetable tanned hide, some more tools/finishing products as well as a Japanese book of bag patterns.
After leaving Canada, I am doing a quick stop over in Guatemala but I can’t wait to be back in Haiti to start scheming my next leather project!! Last time I posted about leather, one of my lovely readers recommended the blog of Gillian, Sew Unravelled, as she and her husband make beautiful leather items! I highly recommend taking a look at it, as well as at the blog of my NY friend E., The Pattern Line, where she just posted a leather corset belt she made for class at FIT. Do you have any other leather blogger recommendations to share?
Canadian weather seems to make me lazy, and since I’m not a very prolific blogger already, it’s getting sad around here. But here I am! As promised, I have pictures to show you of the finished chambray dress I draped in my previous post. I mentioned before that sewing your own patterns is completely different experience than sewing commercial patterns. Since you don’t have instructions it may seem counterintuitive, but it’s much easier. Steps just flow naturally. Of course you have to figure out a lot of things, but hopefully you did that in the patternmaking stage!
If you remember the original dress, it had a kind of funnel collar, which I don’t find attractive. Instead, I decided to do a “visible facing”. There may be a real name for that but I don’t know. I stole the idea from my new favorite sewing book: Sewing for Fashion Designers by Anette Fischer. I plan on doing a book review of it because I am truly impressed by it. Considering the number of sewing books I read, this is quite exceptional.
Another design change is the little turn up detail in the sleeve. The construction of the entire dress was pretty straightforward. I used a lot of my fusible tape to stabilize the neckline, the pocket opening and the zipper area. For the neckline, I dumbly interfaced the wrong side when, with my inverted, I should have done it on the right side. Oh well…
If you saw this dress on my instagram, you may have thought that I was very fitted but in fact it’s not. I love how comfortable it is, the style is relaxed and it makes it a perfect weekend dress!
The fabric is from Rag&Bone, purchased at Mood during my last trip to New York. It does wrinkle and the sleeve style tends to accentuate the wrinkling but It doesn’t bother me for a relaxed dress. I used some of of my muslin for my pocket bags, I always think muslin is the perfect match for denim and chambray and it feels less wasteful about the whole process. I didn’t make my pocket bags deep enough for my taste, which is a recurrent issue. I always eyeball it and it’s systematically to shallow. I wonder if there is a rule of thumb out there… Any hint?
I love the upper body fit and I may iterate from this style and see what I can turn it into. I’m currently thinking and tunic/dress length without waistband of gathers to be worn with a belt. It looks clean and simple in my head and if I could sketch I would share with you. But my drawing skills are … let’s say limited (understatement…) so I guess you will have to take my word for it!
I only wish I had checked the ironing before taking the pictures because the back looks quite terrible. It looks like the waistband does not match at the zipper, when in fact, it does!! The fancy camera does not do it all, I have to put more efforts in my pictures…
I’m trying to turn those posts in a little serie that i call “From Inspiration to Garment”. Now that I wrote it, I may lose all my interest in doing it (yes…). But in case I don’t, I like the idea of exploring different ways to draw from inspiration to make an aspirational wardrobe materialize and work in real life. Next post will be unrelated (it’s a leather one) but I will get back into it shortly! In the mean time, I leave you with a side by side comparison picture, do you think it looks close enough (except for the bad pose)?I’d love to here your approach to sewing from inspiration!
I mentioned in my last post that my sew-jo has been low since the beginning of the year. I can think at least of 2 reasons. One, I cleaned out my closet (and the whole house while in my Marie Kondo phase) and I like owning less things, which tends to be incompatible with sewing. Second, I’m quite satisfied with my wardrobe. It sounds counterintuitive but after cleaning it , I see less gaps than before. Probably because I actually know what I own now. If you add the fact that I also shop RTW, it means that I’ll have to empty my wardrobe regularly and focus on less but better quality items.
When I cleaned out my closet, I had to part with a lot of handmade items. I never managed to do it before. The Konmari approach helped me realized that they were garments that performed their “Joy-Giving function” by being made but no longer did it by being worn. They had to go, and they did. However, it was not a very pleasant and to avoid it in the future, I want to focus on sewing what I will really enjoy wearing. Different tools are available for that (Capsule planners, Wardrobe architect, etc.) but they are all too formal/definitive for my taste. So I decided to be simple and shop my own Pinterest fashion board for ideas. I created a Sewing Queue board to gather my ideas and help me maintain focus when fabric shopping.
After finding a pretty Rag&Bone Chambray at Moods during my last trip to New York City, I decided to start by the first above picture. I believed that it has been pinned thousands of time. I went to find the original dress on the Cos website (see 2nd picture) and I was stunned at how this dress would never have caught my attention without Pinterest!
Since I am also to renew my sewing appetite, I decided to brush up on my draping skills. I attended several FIT courses when I lived in New York, and this is probably what I miss the most from the city! When draping by myself, I have a draping book open for guidance and reference. I actually don’t use it much but I like to have it next to me. I own several and my favorite is still one of the first books I bought: Draping – Art and Craftmanship for Fashion Design, by Annette Duburg. In my opinion, it has the clearest step-by-step instructions both for basic and advanced designs.No matter what book you use, the steps to draping are always the same and I will try to outline them. Before starting, this is what I did:
Design analysis – in this case I noted kimono sleeves, front and back gathers for the bodice, font and back darts in the skirt, italian pockets and an invisible zipper at center back.
Preparing the form – it includes adding style lines and in this case attaching my (self-made) arm which I taped to a cupboard to keep it way from the body (for the kimono sleeve).
Prepping the muslin – cutting the different pieces, straightening the grain, pressing it and adding the main lines (center front, center back, bust, hip and others as necessary).
I then proceeded with the actual draping. There is a general order to this (neckline at center front, waist, bust at side seam, neckline at the shoulder, etc.) and it becomes natural once you have done it a few times because it’s quite logical.
I like to use style tape not only to mark the line on the form but also on the muslin. You may need to re-do it a few times and it will help keeping the toile relatively clean until you are ready to mark on it. Tape is also very useful to drape pleats or gathers.
When one think about draping, we tend to picture ourselves creating beautiful “drapés” and laboring over tiny gathers. The reality is that you spend a lot of time removing the muslin from the form, ironing it flat, “true-ing” your lines, cutting the excess of fabric, repining together and putting it back on the form. After each change, you repeat the process to assess whether it works or not. In that sense, draping is not necessarily much faster than flat pattern making. Of course, it depends on the design and your own preference.
The waistband is a simple straight band, nothing particularly is particularly challenging about it. The only thing you have to get right is the positioning. In my case, I realized that it looked better a little higher than what I initially thought.Once I was happy with the bodice and the waistband, the next step was the skirt. You can see it below but I was unsatisfied with the hip curve. I ended up using the pattern of my open skirt project. I removed the pegging at the hem and I widened the side seams to match the waistband.
I have to add that the overall this is tighter than how you should drape. I lost some weight since my form was made to measure 4 years ago. My solution is to drape “skin tight” on the form and I get a comfortable garment on myself. I never had bad surprises so far…
My least favorite step is next: copying onto paper. I find it an intrinsically imprecise process. Once done, I added my seam allowances, drafted all the details such as facings, closures and pockets. It’s the perfect time to mentally sew the garment to make sure the process is engineered in the pattern as much as possible. Doing this, you will be amazed at how much easier it is to sew a pattern you drafted compared to one you bought. Everything just comes naturally and I make less mistakes.
I don’t do many process posts so I hope this was useful to you. If you follow me on Instagram you may have seen the dress finished already! Let me know if you have any questions or if you have any draping tip you would like to share!
One final point, I’m currently spending the month in Ottawa, Canada (for work). If any of you are around, I would love to engage in some sewing gossiping/fabric shopping/coffee drinking!
Coming back from Guatemala in March to a clean and organized sewing room had the most surprising effect. I lost all my inspiration. After a week of indecisiveness, I bit the bullet and decided to use a pattern from my stash you probably all know, since Mccalls was running a sew along on their blog. My inability to participate in social events around the sewing community is well documented un-documented. As soon as I decide to take part in a sew-along, contest or anything, my excitement for the project drops entirely. In addition, not getting many opportunities to sew during the week, when I do, I clock several hours at once. The step by step approach of sewalongs – attach the collar and next week we’ll tackle the sleeves – does not work for me. I’m more a #sewuntilyoureyeshurt and #oopsthatsleeveisinsideout kind of person. But I’ll admit it, I am weak. I did not know what to sew, I had the pattern in my stash, I love thinkingI’m copying designers. So I went for it…
I think I wrote several time about how rarely I work with Big4 patterns and why. I will NOT use 5/8″ seam allowances on a knit. Reading the instructions, I realized there was ease in the cap sleeve. Ease in a t-shirt sleeve!! I also checked the many many PR reviews and saw that the skirt is considered very full. I draped size 8 on my form with the paper pattern.
The picture is blurry but you can see how different it looks from the illustration. I decided to redraw the side seam and remove a lot of length. The final skirt length is 20″ and the hem circumference is 74″. I was surprised to find the waistline hitting at the right spot. I assume that it should be lengthen for none petite bodies. Other than that, the bust measurement is quite high, do they believe bust level is where the circled cross is??? I removed 1/4 where the point of the wrap at the bodice meets the waistline to prevent gaping and changed all the SA’s to 3/8″. I removed 1/4″ on each side seam of the bodice, thus a 1″ overall.
I found around 1″ of ease in the sleeve cap. To remove it, I lowered the cap by 3/8″flatten the back portion and remove about 1/2″ on each side of the underarm seam (1/4″ being due to my intake in the bodice side seam). The dress was sewn entirely on the serger and what took the most time was probably finding the motivation of catch stitching the facing and the hem. The good parts in my procrastination is that with 2 weeks on the form, the skirt had all the times it needed to stretch out so I could safely mark and hem without risking further stretching.
I only did a passable job at making my catch stitching invisible and it bothers me a little. But definitely not enough to redo it! The fabric is the last piece of a black jersey which at this stage I’m not entirely sure I bought it in Paris or in NYC. I get very worried about my memory. When I hear other seamstresses with stashes 20 times the size of mine (yes, it’s small), saying that they can remember buying each piece, I’m embarrassed. My entire stash holds in one drawer and although I think I know everything I own and could mention it from the top of my head, I get surprises every time! Am I the only one? Is my memory particularly bad?
I didn’t like spending all this time on the pattern of what I consider a relatively basic knit dress. If you add my low sew-jo and The Old Man’s not-so-subtle-comments about spending time on dresses when I mostly wear jeans & shirts, I was about the quit several times. Even when I finished it, I was disappointed. I was planning a pathetic blog post about how I AGAIN sewed something I don’t need and how The Old Man was right. But last week I had a work cocktail and it ended up being very useful. I got a lot of compliments, including from The Old Man.
I am now convinced that this dress induced a major blogging break. Yes, I blame it on a dress ;-) . I started this review a month ago and could not manage to finish it. Final verdict: I will probably wear that dress but I can’t say that I love it. I decided to take it as a lesson. Recently I was discussing with the very smart Seamripped if we sew what we want to wear or wear what we want to sew. In that case I believe I have been wanting to make a wrap dress for a long time (blame it on the DVF patterns) but I never pictured myself wearing one. So in the future I want to take let what I want to wear (my fashion board on Pinterest VS my sewing board). If you follow me in Instagram you saw that I put it into practice twice already…
If this was a competition about boring sewing, I believe I would win “haut la main” (I had to google translate this, apparently appropriate English translation is “hands down”, funny because in French in “hand high”, interesting…). Not only I’m showing you basic t-shirts from a pattern I used before, but I used only black and white knit. I did not even buy the fabric, I used tshirts from The Old Man. That’s not actually true, I had one cut out for months in a corner of my sewing room, but my serger was threaded in white, and the knit was black…
So there you have it : 2 white t-shirts, 3 black ones. 4 made from existing tshirts. I did not even remove the labels at center back, because I got really lazy! Because it’s not that interesting, I will spare you and show you only two of them. I used SBCC free tonic tee pattern. On some I save the neck ribbing which makes it very close to the neck and on other I used the original hem and made a band out of the excess I cut off the sides. I also used size XXS or XS to have a more relaxed fit for 2 of them. It was all done in a few hours. The longest operation was probably switching the serger from white to black.
This is obviously a weekend outfit for me, and they already got tons of wear, as expected. Since there is not much more that can be said about super basic tees, I figured we could talk a little about the idea of uniform. I don’t know if you noticed, but these days it feels like one cannot open its reader or Facebook without stumbling on an article about a woman who decided to wear “a uniform”. Some take it very seriously, like wearing the same clothes everyday, some a little less. The rational is more or less always the same : “I have super important things to do in my life, so I decided to figure out what to wear once and for all, like men do, (really ? do they?) and now I can focus on the rest (usually career)”.
I have to admit, it is seductive. In general, radical approaches tend to do very well on the Internet. Wether it’s sewing all the dresses in a vintage book (but then you don’t finish ;-)), or cooking all the recipes, it “sells”. I love reading about those big projects but I’m incapable of making such decisive commitments. Or maybe I just don’t have time. Actually, maybe this is why they are so seductive, because we know we would do it. Personnally, I’m a good audience for them. After all, I did quit smoking with Allen Carr and cleaned my house with Marie Kondo.
Going back to the uniform, it looks like the latest wardrobe craze. Remember when we were looking for our “signature style”, our “10 essential” or creating “capsules” ? Well now, we need a uniform. It doesn’t matter if you actually lead 1 or 3 lives (work, evening out and weekends) or leave in an environment with 4 seasons. You just need to say that you have a uniform. Because it shows how much more focused on important things you are than the rest of us.
In Haiti, we have about 2 seasons, one when it rains and one when it does not. And you actually don’t need to dress any differently. Because it’s hot. All the time. You just add a rain coat. I have to admit, I started wearing a variation of pretty much the same thing everyday : skinny jeans/pencil skirt, button-up/t-shirt and the occasional dress. You can combine it and you will know how I’m dressed wether in the office, at the supermarket or dining out. So I guess, yes, I have a uniform. If I was to participate in Me-Made-May (I’m not), I would bore the hell out of all of you!
But here is the problem, I don’t want to to call it like that because it already became a cliché. Trends go so fast online that you can get tired of them before even adopting them! Just like when everyone started “curating” inspiration on Pinterest and their blog. Maybe I can skip to the next wardrobe trend ? Please jump in, do you have a uniform, or a minimalist wardrobe? What do you think will be the next wardrobe trend?
Lastly, I am about to board the plane to New York for a week, in case you are there and want to shop at Mood or just gossip email me!