From Inspiration to Garment part 4 – Starting with a block

Dear readers,

At this stage, you may rightfully ask yourself what is going on, well I could tell you that I will explain at the end of this post, but I won’t. I’ll say it right now. I’m moving back to NYC!!! Starting 1st of January, I will change jobs and will relocate in Manhattan. On the one hand, it’s a great news. On the other hand, it means that I’m swamped at work trying to close as many processes as possible, plus organizing my move, searching for an apartment etc. Don’t expect too much sewing or blogging to happen before I’m settled…

However, since I have a significant blogging backlog and I’m never post very often anyway, you may not even notice the difference! Enough about the logistics, let’s talk about sewing! For the 4th post of the serie (see part 1, part 2 and part 3), I gathered some inspiration pictures for simple tunic dresses (all found on Pinterest, as usual) :


If you want to know more about using block patterns, you can read this post of the Fashion-Incubator. Basically, it’s about iterative designs based on an initial pattern that fits well. In the home-sewing world, it’s what we call TNT (Tried and True) patterns. The benefit is that you reduce alterations and depending on cases, can skip the toile stage. I really liked the upper body fit of my chambray dress so I started working on this version almost right afterwards (yes it was a while ago).

Sewing Tidbits - Chambray Tunic-1

Sewing Tidbits - Chambray Tunic-3

For the pattern I simply took the bodice pattern of my previous version and lengthen it. I used french seams for the sides and added pockets. If you wonder about in-seam pockets and french seams, you can check out this tutorial.

My other construction change was to use bias binding as facing. It would have been quick and easy if I had used the self fabric but of course I decided to make things complicated and used some of the silk crepe remnants from my slip dress. It took a little more time but I love the contrast of the cream silk and the blue/grey chambray. I used this fabric before for a pair of Colette Madeleine pajamas. I bought it at Mood NYC back in 2013 and it’s very easy to work with. I used white thread for topstitching.  I stole the pocket pattern from my white shirt.

Sewing Tidbits - Chambray Tunic-5

Sewing Tidbits - Chambray Tunic-4

These days, I try to skip bust darts to simplify the lines for a cleaner/sharper look.  I love those simple straight silhouettes on other people but when it’s time for me to wear them I find them more flattering when belted. I have to apologize about the pictures, unfortunately The Old Man has not completely mastered the focus with my new lens!!

Sewing Tidbits - Chambray Tunic-6

Overall this project has been very cheap since everything came from stash and I made my own pattern. Regarding the fit however, I’m only 75% happy. I wish I had shaped the side seam a little to take in the waist and give more ease at the hips. I did add back darts as an afterthought to remove the excess when belted. Most importantly, I should have worn my previous version of this pattern more before using it as a block. I drafted a square angle under the arm that requires to be clipped. It’s a point of weakness for this design and I had to repair it on each side for the first dress.

Sewing Tidbits - Chambray Tunic-2Sewing Tidbits - Chambray Tunic-7

I believe that it’s the fundamental difference when you draft/drape your own pattern compared to buying patterns or RTW garments. Nobody did the testing for you!! Just like when buying a car, you have to take it for a ride before you commit! Standing straight in front of the mirror or for a 10 minutes photo session in your garden won’t give you all the insights you need to assess the fit, the durability and versatility of your design. Now let’s talk about it! How many times do you make a pattern before it becomes a block/TNT ?

From Inspiration to Garment – Part 3 – With a commercial pattern

Dear readers,

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!Bias silk dress by SewingTidbitsOne 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.Bias silk dress by SewingTidbitsMy 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.

Toiling a bias slip dress today. Can't cut into my delicious silk until I sharpen my scissors… Sigh… #sewing #isew

A post shared 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.
Bias silk dress by SewingTidbitsBias silk dress by SewingTidbitsI 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!!Bias silk dress by SewingTidbits
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!
Bias silk dress by SewingTidbitsFor 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!Bias silk dress by SewingTidbits
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!

From Inspiration to Garment – Part 2 – Sewing

Dear readers,

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!

chambray-dress-1If 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!

chambray-dress-3

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?

chambray-dress-2chambray-dress-5I 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…

chambray-dress-6 chambray-dress-7I’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!

Comparaison Chambray Dress

From Inspiration to Garment – Part 1 – Draping

Dear Readers,

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.

Picture courtesy of cupofjo.com
Picture courtesy of Cos

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.chambray-draping-2No 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. 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).

chambray-draping-1I 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.

chambray-draping-3 chambray-draping-4 chambray-draping-5When 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.

chambray-draping-6 chambray-draping-7The 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.chambray-draping-8 chambray-draping-9 chambray-draping-10Once 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…

chambray-draping-11chambray-draping-12My 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!

Slouchy white linen pants and thoughts on the online sewing world.

Dear readers,

Forgive me in advance for the ramblings. To ameliorate it, paragraphs will be separated by pictures from the white linen pants I made 3 months ago. Since then I change the waistband to the same rectangular waistband as my linen shorts.

The pattern is a very modified version of this Japanese book.
The pattern is a very modified version of this Japanese book.

I feel funny. I have pictures of finished garments to show and I don’t write the posts. I even love the said garments but talking about them is not as exciting anymore. The fact that they were all completed between 1 and 3 months ago may have something to do with that… So what to do? The blog is going to be 2 years old very soon. I keep enjoying it but I’m still looking for my “voice” (OMG that sounds so lame), or at least looking for something that sounds like who I am IRL.

Also, I just discovered GOMI… Such a relief to read what my little mean french inner voice has been saying!! Of course, I don’t agree with everything (who could?) but some points really resonated with me. Since sewing became so prominent online, maybe we lost something on the way.

The fabric is a linen blend from Mood NYC, extremely annoying to working (all about shifting and fraying)
The fabric is a linen blend from Mood NYC, extremely annoying to working (all about shifting and fraying)

When I started sewing, I also got internet access. But in 1999, not many sewing resources were available online, especially not in French! Everything was about forums back then and closed groups. I use to be part of one called affinitiz…

Thus to learn, I read books, bought burda magazines, took classes with an old lady and… I failed and failed and failed many projects. At least, there was no one to show them too. Except my critical French mom (hey mom!). Having them all around the blog would be kind of embarassing, with their unraveling seam allowances, blown seams from the absence of ANY wearing ease and their highly impractical sleeves.

However, since that day, I had the feeling that something was missing in the home sewing pattern industry. Something that would allow us to achieve results closer to high-end RTW: the ability to follow trends before they are translated in the mass-market, beautiful finishings, a focus on higher-end materials, etc.

Fast forward to the mid 2000s, this is IT! Burdastyle website has been launched, we are all talking about open source sewing, a website called “Inner French Girl” is around and awesome (do you remember??), fashion-incubator, the first sewing blogs . Such an exciting time!

White linen pants 3
I was very happy with my double welted pockets with flap, i took pictures of my pattern making and sewing process, but I don’t know if they are worth posting..

And now here we are, in 2014, and it’s all about pattern releases, book deals, fabric blogging networks, sewalongs and blog tours. I cannot say that I did not want to be part of it. I love shiny stuff! But I don’t have the time and the skills it takes to jump there. Plus, I miss the time when we were talking about collaborative sewing, when the Selfish Seamstress was throwing patterns at the world and when PR was a mandatory stop before spending 15 EUROS on a Vogue pattern!

Going back to GOMI, and to the pattern testing controversy, I’m not saying that bloggers should stop releasing patterns and getting book deals. As long as people buy them, they should keep on releasing them!! However, I believe that a collaborative approach could help the ones that are just bored with Peter Pan collar tutorials. The new sewing experts are here to teach beginners (and that’s great) or to underline stuff in silk organza (please don’t make me!! I promise I will be a good girl!!).

I don't think it shows in the pictures, but the (very) curved waistband I prepared initially made them slightly uncomfortable. So I ripped it off and put rectangular waistband. When pants sit that low, I think it suits me better.
I don’t think it shows in the pictures, but the (very) curved waistband I prepared initially made them slightly uncomfortable. So I ripped it off and put rectangular waistband. When pants sit that low, I think it suits me better.

So I’m offering an experiment. In the coming weeks, I will throw a free pattern on the blog. It will be a pencil skirt. Initially graded in 3 sizes, on the small spectrum of sizing range, because that’s the one I know. I will take pictures of my construction steps to put them here too. And then let’s all pattern test!! If people wants to tell me that explanations are poor, the pattern needs improvements, they can grade it to bigger sizes, the pdf layout is bad or whatever, let’s have it! And maybe, MAYBE, one pencil skirt at a time, we can work towards patterns fit (haha) our needs better. On the other hand, it is very possible that nobody cares, anyway, let’s at least talk about it!

DONE!! The PR contest skirt = Preen + Theory + Me

I’m so happy to have finished on time for the ongoing RTW contest of pattern review. It’s my favorite contest and actually the only one I manage to enter. Last year I made this skirt, inspired by McQ. For this year I really fell in love with this Preen Line skirt. I think it’s cute and it will fit my new life perfectly (more on that later).

Final result :

IMG_0188

 

I really like this skirt and it was pretty easy to make too. First I draped the body and the belt on my form with muslin to arrange the pleats.

IMG_0203

 

Then I trued the lines and transfered the drape on paper. I drafted back faux-flap-pockets and I traced the zipper front from my Lagarfeld skirt and I added sewing and hem allowances.

IMG_0207As you may see there is no side seam, I don’t think there is one on the original skirt either and it makes the construction SUPER fast.

IMG_0210

 

I interfaced the zipper area, the belt and the flaps. The rest is mostly topstitching…

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Now on the material side, the cotton is Poplin from Mood, here in NYC and it was from Theory. Zipper in from Pacific Trimmings and the snaps were in my stash. Yeeeeeaaaaars ago (yes many, ok maybe not so many, let say 10) I came across this snap/eyelet kit from Prym. At the time I was broke and in High School and the 30-40 euros felt like a big indulgence (time passes…). Well, I’m pleased to report that it was TOTALLY worth it. I’ve used it many times over the years, still have supplies in it and the tool+attachments is great and a lot better than using hammer or any other tool I tried.

 

For the challenge on PR I tried to take pictures similar to the one on the Outnet, it was actually fun! Do not try this by yourself with your camera on a stand, you need someone to look at the original picture and correct you (thaaaaank yoooouuuu Boyfriend!!!!). Trust me, I wasted A LOT of time. If you’d like and you are a PR member, you can look at the amazing garments made by the other contestants and vote here! As of now, my favorite entry is Kristine’s, I loved following her  process of making it!

Preen skirt

So finally (it’s a long one I know), I’ve been away from the blog the last few weeks but not from the sewing machine as I hope to show soon. Also it’s really cold in NY now and I don’t like to take pictures inside… Plus, most of the stuff I made is spring-summer. You may think that I’m transitioning early into spring but I found out last month that I MOVING TO HAITI, like next week. I’m going there for work and I’m super excited for the challenge and the opportunity to learn so much. Plus I secretely hope to meet La Karibane! How do I know? Thanks to the Great Idea (yes capital letters) from Another Sewing Scientist of a google map of sewingblogland!

Anyway, I have a few more things to post before I live but there will be a little break while I’m setting up in Port-au-Prince and wait for my sewing machines (coming by sea). See you soon!!

 

 

Vogue Patterns release (finally!!)…

They are here !! The spring patterns from Vogue were just released. Below my very limited selection (I WILL wait for a sale) :

Number 3 :

Beautifully draped Donna Karan dress :

V1342

Number 2  :

This ADORABLE Tracy Reese dress

V1343

and Number 1 …..

……

…… (suspens)

PAJAMAS !!

V8888

Yes my favorite pattern is for bedtime or loungewear if you prefer. I can just picture myself on a lazy saturday morning wrapped in my silk robe, reading on my couch and drinking tea. It may not be everyone’s ideal weekend but right now it is mine !! Anyone else wanting to make some expensive looking stay at home stuff ??