First hand sewn leather item!!

Dear readers,

It’s already in April and I am completely ignoring my only commitment for this year : to post twice more than in 2014 – 46 times. As a wannabe M&E expert, I have tell you we are NOT on track to meet the target!

I have been sewing, but since it’s 5 black or white t-shirts and a knit wrap dress, my excitement to take pictures and write about them is pretty low. On the other hand, I got something in the mail last thursday and it’s A LOT more exciting!!

craft-sha-leathercraft-leather-hand-sewing-set-light-15-tools-book-kit-[2]-242-p

It’s CraftSha Leather Light Hand Sewing Set and it’s pretty amazing, because 1/ I ordered it from Japan (GoodsJapan, in case you are interested) and 2/ it came in the mail. IN THE MAIL! You may know that there is no mail in Haiti… I’m not entirely sure how it all happened but I don’t care, it is soooo nice!! I also bought a very fancy knife, specially made for left-handed people, which makes me feel like a leather samurai!!

Leather case-3

Of course I had to start right away and The Old Man very conveniently lost the previous leather phone case I had made him, and the one before that was eaten/destroyed/buried in the garden by our dog (yes, adorable but evil). As the third iteration of the same pattern I made for his phone (Samsung Galaxy S4, I think), it is a lot more special because it’s hand sewn (the others were ruthlessly thrown under the machine) with Japanese tools.

Leather case-1

The set comes with a little booklet (in Japanese) for a basic project. I am very partial when it comes to all things Japanese  and this is no exception. The pictures are very clear so you can follow along without understanding a single sign. I always wonder how much I would learn if I could read Japanese instructions. Their diagrams are so informative already, I cannot help but think what is written must be mind blowing (like, this adjustable uniform shared by Very Purple Person).

Leather case-5

All the tools were a nice to use, but for such a small project you have a lot of steps. Cutting, filing, applying the thingie on the edges, glueing, punching holes, stitching (with 2 needles at a time), more edge thingie, etc. In addition, there is a learning curve. As you can see my stitching leaves a lot to be desired. What I learnt so far:

  1. Pay a lot of attention when punching the holes, 1mm difference is HUGE in the final look
  2. Hand sewing requires regular tension and not too much of it, the stitches tend look better a little looser.

Leather case-2The leather is a from a skin The Old Man bought years ago in Colombia. It’s softer than the vegetable tanned leather used in the booklet and dyed (but only the upper layer) so that also made a difference on how it reacted to the tools.

Leather case-4

It’s not my first time working with leather, I’ve made handbags, wallets and garments by machine, using a teflon foot and a special needle. Lately, I started to find the results disappointing since I don’t own a machine that would handle the thickness well. My industrial hates it, the feed dogs leave marks on the skin and it skips stitches. The home machine does a slightly better job but topstitching is very unpredictable. So hand sewing seems to be a good solution for small projects.

That’s it, the case is not perfect but I’m reasonably happy with it as a first project. I can’t wait to experiment more, maybe with a clutch for myself. Have you tried hand sewing leather or do you avoid it completely? Share your tips!!

Open Skirt Project: final sample in floral

Dear readers,

I have been talking about this project for a good 6 months and I think I am almost there. I showed you toiles and I felt quite of bad for not updating the blog about it… I always wanted to know what it took to develop pdf sewing patterns from scratch to a product usable by others than me. I did learn a lot and I still have a lot of work to do. So far, my 2 main take-away are:

  • It’s not the patternmaking or the grading that takes the most time.
  • Writing instructions is really really hard.

OSP floral-13
I will probably write a post or two when I have some time about what I learnt. I feel some secrecy I cannot explain around the process. For instance, the tiling in Illustrator. Nobody explains clearly how they do it. I have to say that it is a bit annoying to figure it out but once you do your grid you can reuse it for any pattern. So I decided that I will share my grid with you and maybe save some time to people who wants to tile their patterns. Hopefully it will lead to more time to be spent on the patterns themselves!

For this last (?) version of the pattern, I smoothed the hip curve, updated the vent construction and fused the whole hem and vent area. But most of the work went to the pdf, making sure that lines were showing up everywhere they should. Also it is layered, if you use Acrobat Reader, you can choose which size you want to print.

OSP floral-12I took step by step pictures of the construction and tried to write an ebook. However I am not entirely convinced that it makes the process crystal clear. Now I also started doing some illustrations in Illustrator. I have 0 drawing skills so the process is quite painful! In case you download the instructions, I would very much welcome any feedback. You will also see that I added a “reference” section to highlight blogs, books and patterns that have guided me through my choices. In a way, I think of it as something between instructions and a mini-ebook.

OSP floral-6

On the seam finish I went back and forth between serged and and snug hug. Finally I decided for the snug hug. I talked about my obsession with this tape before so I will not repeat it! I also think it will appeal to more people (who may not have a serger). But what I like the most about it is that you can construct and finish everything with a straight stitch. In my case, it means everything on my industrial Juki. Fast and pretty results!!

OSP floral-1 OSP floral-2 OSP floral-3 OSP floral-4

Sorry for the pictures on my form. The form was made to measure 3 years ago in NYC but I lost some weight since (sigh…) and the skirt cannot close, but it does close on me!! I had this fabric for a year in my stash and I love love love it. I knew I wanted to use it for something special so this project was the one! It’s a floral stretch cotton from Mood and it’s all kind of perfect. Easy to work with, does not fray, presses well, etc. I made the smallest of the 3 sizes available and it’s comfortable thanks to the stretch factor and the slightly higher back vent than usual.

Size Chart

Final words, , the PDF contains more pages than you may be used to for a simple skirt. First, pieces are divided between self fabric and fusible. All are intended to be cut single layer so the pieces for the self fabric are are laid on 21 pages and the fusible on 5.

OSP floral-5

If you are interested in downloading the pattern and receive the updates, please sign up for the newsletter (sent once a month if you get lucky). What I love the most about this project. is the email conversations I have with some readers since I started it. Feel free to tell me any of your thoughts in the comments or by email! I’m committed to making the best pattern I can with my limited time and amateur skills. What do you think, any advice already?

 

Moooaaar Shirts – Sewaholic Granville, a review

Dear readers,

I am showing you 3 shirts in a row. For the sake of diversity, I probably should have broken it up with something else  but it’s not like I’m posting every day (haha, posting everyday !!) so bear with me!

Granville Shirt-2

So yes, third shirt. I thought I was done with them, especially after sewing what I considered my TNT and then Sewaholic released the Granville shirt. Nice pockets + fitted lines + indie pattern company I meant to try = download the very day of the release. Let’s jump right in the review.

First, the PDF. Everything lined up well and I had the impression that efforts were made to spread each piece on a limited number of pages. Nice. I needed size 0 and since this pattern goes up to size 20 (which is awesome), I felt I was using a lot more paper that I would need for my size. I guess you can’t really have it all but maybe it could be an option to spread the size range from 0 to 12 and from 8 to 20 (so that people can still blend between sizes).

My second concern is regarding the V notches, they look too thick/messy on the PDF. The issue is actually more general. Sewaholic patterns are very close to the standards of the Big 4. It makes them an easy entry in the Indie pattern world if you come from a Big 4 sewing background but I haven’t sewn Big 4 in a while. 5/8″ seam allowances and V notches annoy me. A. LOT.

Granville Shirt-5I wanted to try the fit of the pattern out of the printer so I made only one substantial change. I measured my last shirt and shortened the sleeve pattern accordingly… BY 3 1/2 INCHES !! Now, I mentioned several times being aware of my short arms situation. But all the reviews of the Granville pattern I read so far mentioned shortening the sleeves as an alteration. Sewaholic: patterns for pear-shaped ladies with Gibbon arms? (Gibbons are cute though).

I did not use the instructions for the construction. I read them, they were standard and I think that the series of post written by Tasia provides great information if you are into the Coffin’s method. I’m not. If sewing was like being part of a sect, my shirtmaking guru would be Shimazaki. Therefore, I HAD to change ALL the seam allowances : a mixture of 1/4, 3/8 and occasionally 1/2. I could get into details but I don’t know how interesting it is for you, is it? I will say thought that IMO, sewing a collar + stand with 5/8″ makes no sense. Call me clumsy, but I don’t see how you can be precise (without a template, which is a good idea). 1/4″ forever!!

Lastly, the hem allowance is way too big: 3/4″ is hard to fold twice and a final hem of 3/8″looks too wide IMO. I went with the Grainline approach: 1/2 folded twice.

Granville Shirt-4

The construction was smooth and without major challenges. I read other reviews finding the instructions unclear for the sleeve placket but I followed them and I was fine. The amount of ease in the sleeve cap is limited and I managed to set them in flat and sew the side seam afterwards.

Now let’s talk about the final product: I like the shirt, I really do. The small collar is adorable and very modern. The pockets are perfect (size and placement). The shoulders are where they should. However, I probably won’t wear it much, which is a shame considering all the flat-felling and topstitching that went into it. Why? Because the arms are OMG so tight!!! See below for an illustration:

Granville Shirt-1

Yes, that tight. I feel like I’m about to incredible-hulk my shirt every time I brush my hair, put eyeliner or drive… I don’t believe that I have particularly muscular arms for my frame. I do work out but I wear (mostly RTW) shirts probably 6 day/week and this has never been an issue. As much as I would like to tell you that this is my new favorite shirt I can’t, it’s too restrictive. I’m not against some tight clothing but not for woven shirts… Rolling up the sleeves does help a little. Which is good because The Old Man LOVES the shirt.

You may recognize the fabric from my Lekala/Michael Kors dress, it’s the same lightweight denim that looks like linen. Interfacing and buttons are from stash.

Granville Shirt-3

Final verdict: I still like my shirt and I think with some tweaking I could have 2 TNT patterns. One unfitted from the Archer and this one if I want a closer fit. Next version would include : using the sleeves and armholes from size 2, shortening the body above the waist and reducing the flare at the hips. What do you think, would you recommend additional alterations?

Ryuchiro Shimazaki – a linen shirt for The Old Man

Dear readers,

I have a long-distance/one way love affair with Japan. it all started 10 years ago, reading mangas and buying Gosu Rori magazines (fashion and sewing magazines about the Gothic Lolita). Yes…. Later, I spent 2 years studying converational Japanese with the plan to do internship in Japan. Other job opportunities came, I never went to Japan and I forgot the limited number of words that I managed to memorize. In the mean time I fell in I love Japanese sewing. What is Japanese sewing ? I don’t know, but I never encountered a Japanese/japan-based sewing blogger, pattern company, sewing instructions, pattern making book or actual Japanese fellow student at FIT that I did not find fascinating. Yes, I sound creepy… Unfortunately, the styles of the patterns rarely suit me, but I cannot help but marvel at the quality of the drafting, the clarity of the instructions and the consistency of the garments produced.

Man Linen Shirt-1

Junku in Paris and Kinokuniya in New York enabled my weakness for Japanese sewing books. Living in Midtown East in Manhattan meant that 1/ I could walk to the Garment District (which I did almost every weekend) and stop by Kinokuniya on my way back. Over the years, I have been accumulating books: the Pattern Magic serie, Drape Drape, Bunka drafting books, etc. One of them is THE shirt book by  Ryuichiro Shimazaki. For shirts, I know that to many people David Coffin’s book is the reference. I own that book too. I read it. And I dislike it soooo much. I just do. I find everything unclear, wordy and not well presented. I have no idea if Ryuchiro Shimazaki’s book is wordy, because I can’t read any word in it but what is for sure is that you can make a shirt from that book without the words. You cannot make a shirt from David Coffin’s book without the words. I realize that I’m being unfair, since it’s a book and you can be expected to read it on order to access the information…

Man Linen Shirt-4

I would not recommend this book for your first attempt at shirt making (at least, if you don’t read Japanese), because the construction is unusual. I found that having 2 nice RTW shirts by your side and taking your time help a lot. For the pattern itself, I used model 3, with the pocket of model 11. I picked size M after measuring The Old Man’s favorite shirt and comparing with the pattern measurements. At customer’s request, I redrew the collar points to match the favorite shirt. I’m so nice. I shortened the front and back A LOT since he wants to wear it untucked. The construction relies varying seam allowances: anywhere between 1/4″ to 3/4″ depending on the seam.. To make that easier, the book recommends to create some pressing templates: pocket, sleeve head and a pressing gauge.

Man Linen Shirt-1

For an idea of how different the construction is, the front and back are hemmed first, before the side seam is sewn. It’s  confusing at first, but it works quite well. A lot of pre-pressing is required, for instance pressing the wider SA of the flat-felled seams in half before attaching tot the narrow side of the side seam. The one thing that I was totally unable to do was the hem, I could not fold and press 7mm and then refold for a final hem of 4mm. I burnt myself and I blame it on my thick European fingers! I ended up folding 1/4 twice, as for my Archers. The hem is finished at the sides with the little triangles that you often find on RTW’s shirt.

Man Linen Shirt-5

The collar construction worked fairly well too. I still prefer to do what Nancy Ziemann call a “wrapped corner”, or described at Fashion Incubator. Meaning you sew the long edge of the collar, fold the SA towards the non-interfaced collar and sew the short edges. The seam will roll naturally on the undercollar side. The collar stand attachement to the shirt was also a little unusual and I believe that with some practice it can come out very nicely.

Man Linen Shirt-3For the cuffs, I am entirely converted to Fashion-Incubator’s attachment in one pass. It worked perfectly well since my very first try and I guess it will be hard to convince me to do it any other way now… The tower placket is 2-piece and made following the book’s instructions. I could have used Off-the-Cuff’s tutorial which may be a little less fiddly.

Man Linen Shirt-6

The fabric is a delicious navy linen, purchased in Paris, at Sacré Coupons, during my June trip. It was picked by The Old Man himself and I remember paying 22 euros for 3 meters. Not too bad. Buttons are from stash, as well as interfacing. The only thing I am not totally happy with is the button placement. Since I had to shorten the shirt a lot compared to the pattern, I think I should have repositioned all the buttons starting at the bottom. The last one is awkwardly low. Of course, The Old Man does not care at all but it bothers me… Also, I realized after cutting that I was out of Navy thread, so I used black everywhere. David Coffin must be choking out of disgust right now! (Sorry David, I’ll do better next time!)

Man Linen Shirt-2

OK,  now we can also discuss the obvious, the good looks of The Old Man! By the way, please refrain from questioning his nickname. For the record, he IS substantially older than me and it does NOT make me feel good when people say we look like we are the same age. We are not, he just happens to have better genes… But of course, he enjoys those comments a lot so I will allow them exceptionally. This is not the first time I’ve sewn for him, I also made two pairs of pajamas/boxer shorts (all flat-felled seams and everything) and I even have pictures but I don’t want to risk breaking the Internet with all this handsomeness. I don’t think they will make it on the blog, sorry…. Now I go back to my Granville selfish sewing!

Classic white shirt – From Archer to TNT

Dear Readers,

First things first: Happy New Year! I won’t do a review of my year because I only posted 23 times, so there would not be much to say… My goal for 2015 is to double this number! Now, without any transition, let’s look at my new favorite shirt! The shirt was finished at least 3 weeks ago but I hate making buttonholes so much that it waited in a dusty corner until I made another shirt, for The Old Man this time, and then did all the buttonholes at once.

wpid1008-White-cotton-shirt-9.jpgI wanted this shirt to be as close as possible to a man classic Oxford shirt but with an appropriate fit. I believe that I achieved my goal.The initial pattern for this shirt is my modified Archer. Additional changes included using the collar and stand of my white shirtdress (from the Japanese book Blouse, Skirts, Pants), adding back darts, removing the CB box pleat and shortening sleeves AGAIN by 2″. They look embarrassingly short on the hanger but just right when worn. #Creepybabyarms, again.

wpid998-White-cotton-shirt-4.jpg

I can now officially say that no pattern piece is the same as the original Archer and that I am very close to a TNT pattern. Why, not a TNT yet? Because of some pooling in the upper back. I tried to pin out a horizontal take of 1″ just under the yoke and it looked so much better. However, I have not figured out how to remove it without completely killing my armhole… I’m waiting for an Eureka moment that may or may not come!

wpid996-White-cotton-shirt-3.jpgThe fabric is cotton I bought in Panajachel, Guatemala (by the beautiful lake Atitlán). It was cheap, has some texture and looks like washed cotton. I’m not sure if it has a name but it can get almost a paper feeling. I think it works well for this shirt but I would not recommend it for any project.

wpid1000-White-cotton-shirt-5.jpgMy shirtmaking skills are work in progress but they are improving each time. Compared to my last shirt, I went back to a classic collar construction order and I used different seam allowances for the flat-felled seams. Everything came together painlessly EXCEPT when I prepared, attached and topstitched BOTH sleeves to the body, only to realize that the wrong sides were on the outside. A lot of seam ripping/self cursing. Not fun.

wpid1004-White-cotton-shirt-7.jpgThe shirt is definitely filling a gap in my wardrobe. I cannot remember for how long I’ve wanted a 100% cotton white shirt. They seem to have become a rare commodity and I hate the blends that are sold currently from H&M to Ann Taylor. In addition to yellowing and aging badly, they also tend to be see-through, which is puzzling to me since their primary use is for the office.

wpid1006-White-cotton-shirt-8.jpgFinally, the pictures were all taken with my new camera, in full manual mode! I know it seems normal to a lot of you but I’m very happy about it. Also I quit on trying to keep the dog out of the pictures. He loves being in the middle of things…

After this shirt, I decided I was comfortable enough to go up one step: a man’s shirt. I will be back in a few days with pictures of The Old Man in his fancy linen shirt! I thought I would be done with those 2 shirts for a while, but then I saw the beautiful one Sasha just posted and Sewaholic released the Granville pattern. So… Granville is already printed and taped, I guess I will be back with more shirts soon! What about you? Are you getting closer to your TNT patterns in 2015?

Open Skirt Project

Dear Readers,

 

I will not apologize for the long absence, as it seems to be too common around sewing blogs (especially this one). There is a flu going around Haiti and I’ve been so sick that I could not participate in round 2 of the PRSewingBee. For me, that means very VERY sick… Enough on my disappointment, let’s have a look at V3 of the Open Skirt Project! For my next versions I will start using Size 1 for myself instead of size 2 as I like a closer fit. I’m very happy with the lowering of center front:

V3 Open Skirt Project

I did manage to send out the first newsletter of the Open Skirt Project and to update the pattern based on feedback and my own toile of version 3 (up). If you are interested in trying it out check out the size chart below:

Size Chart

Please take into account that although there will be instructions in the future, currently you have to be able to sew it on your own! For version 4, The PDF layout has been entirely redone and now you can use the layers in acrobat reader to print only the size(s) that you want!

If you are interested in trying out V4 of the pattern and receive the updates, please sign up for the newsletter (I promise I’m way too busy to send it often so there is no way you feel spammed).

I will be off for a week to Dominican Republic and I have not been doing much sewing lately but hopefully I will have things to show before the end of the year…

Open Skirt Project: an update + PR Sewing Bee

Dear readers,

 

First of all, I’m super happy to report that I have passed round #1 of the PR Sewing Bee contest, along with 55 amazing other seamstresses. The bad news that the second challenge is a man shirt refashion. And I hate refashions, they don’t suit my style. So it’s going to be a real real challenge this time: make a refashion looking polished… I also needto buy a thrifted shirt in a Pèpè (second hand stuff sold on the sidewalks) because The Old Man will not commit one of his!

To keep pretending that I follow-up on my announcements, I wanted to update you on the free skirt pattern that I have been talking about here. I created the first draft from the Muller&Sohn book and ran a first toile.

photo

I decided on a number of changes such as bringing some ease at the waist and shortening the back darts. I also offset the vent by 3/8″ to make it appear more closed.

For the second toile, I ran out of muslin and used the cheap gingham reserved for school uniforms in Haiti. By accident, I created the vent on the wrong side (and realized only after taking pictures).

Openskirt V2

I decided to bring the front darts a bit closer and to change some of the construction details of the vent. Also, the back is a bit big on me but I am a slightly smaller than my sample size.

I have been exchanging emails with Miranda, a super nice reader, and a New York patternmaker friend about this project. Their input have been invaluable. Thus, I would like to extend the discussion to whoever is interested. I have a lot of questions about what would people prefer (serged edges, favorite zipper type, number of pages for the PDF, etc.) If you feel like telling me what you believe is the best way to sew a vent, to layout a pdf or you just want to sew the pattern for yourself, let me know. The pattern is currently available in my sample size (that I’m arbitrary named size 2).
I already able to send V3 of the pattern in the sample size. Measurements are the following:

Sewing Tidbits – Skirt 1101 – Size 2
Cm Inches
Body Measurements
Waist 63 24 6/8
Hip 90 35 3/8
Hip Length 20.5 8 1/8
Finished Measurements
Waist 65.4 25 6/8
Hip 94 37
Skirt Length 55 21 5/8

Ultimately, i want to release 3 sizes, 1 up and 1 down from the sample size. If you want to participate in this discussion, please email me. I promise to send a weekly update on the project.

Wow, promises… Dangerous.