Sunday, 24 January 2010

A new treasure in the library, Vionnet

After a long wait... it's arrived! My christmas-parcel from Yesasia. I ordered it on the 26th of December, it arrived on the 21:st of January.

It contained: Drape-drape (a gift from my younger brother) and Vionnet (a gift from me, myself & I).

I love them both.

First up; Vionnet. 29 reproduced patterns, mainly dresses but also a couple of jackets, a coat and a simple neck-scarf.

For those of you who haven't heard of Madeleine Vionnet; she was one of a handful talented ladies who revolutionised fashion and the way women dressed in the 1920's and 1930's. Among the others were Madame Grès, Jeanne Lanvin, Elsa Schiaparelli and Coco Chanel.

Madeleine Vionnet was one of the first fashion-designers to cut fabric on the bias, in order to achieve more comfortable and figure flattering clothes. She used a method of draping on the dress-form, and her designs have been known to be almost impossible to reproduce, so, naturally, a book with reproductions of her patterns is a tresure for those interested in pattern construction.

I've seen pictures of a few of the dresses floating around the internet, nice enough to make me want the book. I would have assumed they were the nicest ones, so it was a pleasant surprice to find that there are, in fact, quite a few dresses I like even better!

This is one of them. It's a bit hard to tell the exact design of the dress, as is the case with quite a few of the dresses, but other than that the pictures are clear and the instructions are quite easy to understand even for those of us who can't read japanese. Line-drawings of the dresses would have been a great help though (anyone up for sewing them all and posting pictures?).

These are the instructions for the dress above. The instructions are quite brief, but the letters and numbers are very instructive and makes the pictures easy to read. In most cases that is (one of the dresses seems impossible to decode, ah such a challenge!).

I made simple scetches of my favourite dresses to try to understand how they are constructed, posted below.

These dresses are SO on my to-sew list! The blue one on the left reminds me of the infinity-dress, was it in fact invented by Ms Vionnet? It wouldn't surprise me, after looking through this book a few times I am truly in awe by her skills.

The green dress on the right has a very sophisticated halter-neckline with a slight gather in the back and little folds on the neck-strap (it was hard to draw, it looks more wonky in my picture than it should).

I think I will make the blue dress on the right of this picture first of all. I love the simple lines and the sophisticated but still rather simple construction.

The green dress on the left is my attempt to dechifer the dress I posted photographs of above. It has a gathered front with a belt-buckle. I'm not quite sure how it's constructed... (so I guess I have to try to make it!).

The red dress on the left is actually a two-piece dress with a bare tummy. Would one expect that from a 1937-design? I love it! The skirt is very wide, cut on the bias like - I think - all other garments in the book.

The black dress has long, flowy sleeves way below the hands. It kind of reminds me of The Lord of the Rings... wonder if the costume-designer knew his (or her) Vionnet?

I love the red dress on the left. Even though it's completely assymetric, it's perfectly well balanced. I'm not sure I would pull it off though, I think I might look totally shapeless and very short in it.... (ah, the curse of the tiny women, but we do look good in jeans!).

The green dress on the right has a pearl-embroidery that emphasizes the cut. It's one of the dresses I had seen prior to buying the book, and although it's a typical 1920's-style, I really like it (I normally go for more curve-inducing styles, my shape needs it!).

I haven't quite figured out what size the patterns are made for, except that they fit a size 9AR, a japanese standard size S. The only indication I've found on how big that actually is was on E-bay, where a used blouse is size 9AR. The seller writes "fit S", and provides a chart where size S has the following measurements: Bust 76-81cm, waist 53-58cm and hips 81-86cm. Quite small, yes... I have to choose the most simple project of them all (a blouse I think) and make a toile to find out.
Update: I found a conversion table for clothing sizes that includes japanese sizes, and a 9 seems to equal a European 36, or an international S.  That means it's probably just a tad too big for me. We'll see.

The only thing that puts me off jumping into a project pronto (despite 40 hours of work a week + a red & pink dress to be sewn, first of all) is the fact that the patterns come as diagrams built around 10cm-squares. If I had a big table or floor I might pull off scaling them up, but I just don't. Hurdle too high.

But I do have access to an A1/A0-plotter, AutoCad and an A3 scanner at work. All that combined = a plan to scan the patterns, scale them up in AutoCad (a piece of cake) and plot them in A1 or A0. If you're lazy you must be clever. Just got to ask the boss for permisson to plot them first.... ;-).

For those of you near Paris, there's right now an exhibition of Vionnets designs at the Musée de la mode. But you've got to hurry, it's only on until the 31:st of january! Otherwise the catalogue looks interesting too, it's for sale at the museum for 55 Euro's.

Update: Here's a quite interesting article at Fashion Incubator about the Vionnet Moebius Scarf that can be found in both the Japanese Vionnet and the one writen by Betty Kirke (I think I want that one too..). And here's a comparison between the two books with the Japanese intro translated to English. Courtesy of the great Fashion Incubator!

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Puffy sleeve test-run tee (30's style)

I've been testing my new overlock-machine for nearly a week now, and after sewing a bunch of scraps I began to itch to make something real. So here it is, my first serged t-shirt. A proper trial and error-project!

I based it loosely on a short sleeved cardigan that I like a lot, but since I didn't use a pattern and really wasn't as careful as I usually am it was a pleasant surprise that it actually came out wearable! Though I'm not sure how long it will be, 90-needles are not good for thin jersey, as I learned the hard way; the flatlock-seams in the center front and center back are lined with little holes (apparently that's what happens when you use a too thick needle in an overlock).

Hopefully I can mend it if it becomes too bad...

Like I mentioned, I made a rough copy of the puffy sleeves on the cardigan above. I can really recommend those of you who like puffy sleeves to try the method used in that cardigan to keep the puff high enough. As you can see below, high puffs are not a problem in this t-shirt!

 There's a strip of elastic sewn into the sleeve, on the wrong side of the fabric, that ruffles it in the middle as well as on the sides (where all the ruffles would be normally).

It was very easy to sew, I simply pinned the elastic ends and middle to the sleeve cap and to the part of the sleeve that I wanted to ruffle and stretched it as I sewed a narrow zig-zag along the elastic on my "normal sewing machine (a Pfaff Select 3.0, you can see its top-feed-dog in the picture right behind the presser-foot, it's such a great feature!). It ruffled up nicely as I went.

I think that this elastic-method would be especially helpful in drapey fabrics, that may not have body enough to create a puff otherwise.

The sleeve from the front and side, and the sleeve-pattern. I shortened the sleeve (below the armpit that is) to about half of what's shown in the pattern, I liked it better that way.
I made pleats rather than ruffles around the sleeve-cap, like I learned to when I made a toile for a 1930's dress-pattern before christmas.

So, what seams did I try for this test-run-project (the purpose of which was to try out different kind of seams)? Well, I did pretty well with the overlock side-and shoulder-seams, not so good on the flatlock middle front and back-seams (the fat needle punched holes along it), the coverstitch hem could have been a bit more elastic and the rolled hem around the neckl-line is a bit too rough for this particular style, but all in all... I'm pleased! The machine (a Baby Lock Evolve) is a dream to work on, and really really easy to use, even to change between coverstitch and overlock-seams, and it's no hassle at all to re-thread it (which I did quite a bit to try out the different seams).

And how many threads do I use (you can use up to eight)? Well.... three. It's a magic number, right (it's not that I'm lazy)?

Friday, 15 January 2010

I'm not the only one...

...who was inspired by the Lanvin dress with a twist on the shoulder. I think. This one (I LOVE it):

I made a dress for christmas that was much inspired by it (but not as elaborate, one step at a time...).

Roberto Rodriguez made a top that looks like it's related to both my dress and to the Lanvin dress for his fall 09-line. I found it when reading Project Rungay (I love the name of that blog, it's hilarious, esp. since it's run by two gay men from what I gather) about a recent spread in Elle Canada with a "normal"-size model. Or plus-size, or whatever. She's neither skinny nor fat, and she's absolutely beautiful. So is the spread.
I hope in the future models of her kind will be a more common sight in fashion magazines (but I also want to see thin models). Check it out here.

This is the Roberto Rodriguez top, I think the picture is from the original presentation of the collection (I knicked the picture from Project Rungay).

And here it is in the Elle spread. I like this picture so much more than the "original" one above... but I guess that's part of the point with fashion-spreads, to fill the pictures with magic rather than to simply show the clothes, and I do like magic...

Makes me think of trying my pattern in a more silky kind of fabric, maybe as a top, in powder or pink... (ie just like in the Elle-picture!). We'll see.

In case you haven't seen it, here's my dress again:

The drape on the shoulder is an actual twist, which will be much easier to handle now that I've got an overlock-sewing machine to sew neat rolled hems (rather than to hand-sew a bias-strip all around the neck-opening...).

Speaking of magic, the world was covered in frost earlier this week, all of it! We happened to test lighting up a couple of big trees in a project right then, and it was pure magic. The trees sparkled with the light, almost like they came to life, even with very weak lamps. Of course, it said nothing about the reality, so we still don't know whether to choose 35 or 70w lamps, but it's ok. We'll just have to do it again, with less magic...

Now that was a fun day at work, but my toes were happy to get home afterwards (and jump into thick, warm wool-socks)!

Monday, 11 January 2010

My machines!

Well, I've finally gotten my new baby-toy, the Baby Lock Evolve overlock-machine that I made a decision before christmas to buy when I came home from the holidays. I had asked the shop to have it ready for me on the 4th (this monday) but when I went there to pick it up, they had forgotten to order it.
They ordered it for me (in a panic) to be shipped from Norway immediately and it was supposed to arrive this thursay, but a snow-storm got in the way and it arrived just before closing-time on friday. Fortunately I work just a couple of blocks from the shop, so when they called to let me know it had arrived I went straight there and bought it.
I spent all day saturday ice-skating in the archipelago, and half the day today organising my room (I live in a one-room flat, one room + a kitchen, a bathroom, a very small walk-in closet and a big balcony that is), it somehow seemed unwrthy to pick up such a precious machine in the middle of a mess!
You can't spend all the rest of the weekend cleaning when you have a new sewing machine though, so here it is:

Oh, beauty! I love how small it is (though heavy! I had to carry it home, passing by a sportwear shop toget a backpack and skating-poles for the ice-skating on saturday, and boy, did I have to bring out the most stubborn me to get it all the way home without loosing my temper!), and the rounded corners. You can see the remains of the mess I was trying to clear on the bed behind it...

As pretty as it is it's still kind of useless since they sent the wrong pedal with it...

That plug does not fit the kind of sockets we have here (on the left). Square plugs + round holes = no no!

Kind of strange since the manual is in Swedish. I don't get it. Well. Once again I'm glad the shop is close to work, fingers crossed they keep spare baby-lock pedals in stock or I'll have to wait until thursday to use it...

So, I thought I'd grab the chance to show you my other sewing machines, the rest of my babies!

The first one, a Husqvarna Selectronic 6570 (or Viking 6570 as it was called abroad) was a gift from my parents when I graduated from high school. It was used but restored at the shop to a condition as new, and I've used it loads and loads. I've now had it for nearly 16 years...

It has this very inventive system with colour-coded wheels that you change to access new seams. It has a whole number of decorative seams that I haven't used much at all but who knows, I might want to make a peasant-blouse one day? I'll sure pick it out and use them then.

I also really like how all the parts are made to fit togehter so that you can pack them all away really neatly. Even the instruction manual that I was stupid enough not to pack with the machine a couple of years ago, so it got lost among my books when I moved. I'm sure I still have it, I just have no idea where it is...
Here's from above with everything in its place before the cover is on it (it has a hard plastic cover that fits neatly around it all):

It still works really well but I began to think it was a bit slow, and when I used my mum's new top-fed Pfaff
and realised the difference when sewing delicate fabrics and jersey is huge I got the urge to get a Pfaff myself... so about a year ago I did:

The first sewing machine I bought myself! A Pfaff Select 3.0 (I find it a bit amusing that I have one "selectronic" and one "select"!). I'm so glad I wanted the 3.0 and not the 2.0 or 4.0 since this deep pink is one of my favourite colours, and defenitely my favourite among those of the :-)!

It's just back from service, it hasn't run as smoothly as it should for quite a while so I took it back to the shop where I got it to make sure it got a good service before the guarantee-period ran out... I hope it's alrigth now, I haven't had the time to try it since I got it back (been busy organising my drawers).

It has fewer seams than the Husqvarna, but it has all that you need along with straight stitch and zig-zag; a few stretch seams, invisible hemming-seams, button-holes (that are so easy to use!) and a few decorative seams.

I really like the top-feed-function and that it bareley ever pulls the fabric into the machinery (that happens a lot more with the Husqvarna).

I think that with the Baby-lock-addition I will live happily ever after with these machines and no more, but then I was totally convinced only a year ago that I would not need an overlock-machine, so I guess you never know...

Stangely, I feel quite alright about the fact that I still haven't been able to use the Baby Lock that I had planned to use a lot this week (I had monday, tuesday and wednesday off work thanks to a holiday here in Sweden!), I think it must be because skating on saturday was so very nice. It's been really really cold this winter, and despite loads of snow there is new but thick ice with no snow on it, all skater's dream.

The ice looks like a mirror, doesn't it? There's open water to the left, but the ice was really thick right up to it (we use ice-picks to see how thick it is to be sure).

You could skate this close to the edge, closer even, without any risk of the ice breaking. But you have to be careful with ice, it's not always like this. And there were loads of open spots, so you had to be careful not to accidently fall into one. My brother's friend did earlier this week, when he was skating alone (I would never skate alone!) and he was convinced he was going to die. Fortunately, he didn't! It's a good thing there's a load of safety equipment that you just do carry with you in case you would fall in the water, or the ice would break)

Lunch break. Hot chocolate, sandwiches and oranges are a classic out-of door-winter-lunch here.

The sun actually felt a bit warm, that's a big sign of spring here. But we'll still have to wait for a couple of moths before we get any spring flowers or anything like that (I love that time of the year!)... until then I plan to make the best of this winter, it's the best one we've had for years in this region, splendid!

Happy after a full day out in the sun, very rare this time of the year!

Update: here's a video that a friend of mine shot... I flash by a second or so, with a black + orange back-pack (that's actually a floating-device, full of dry clothes and air). And I've now borrowed a "new" (used) pedal from the shop, so tonight I'll get sewing, yey!

Monday, 4 January 2010

Paper-tape dress-form

I FINALLY have a dress-form! Yippiee!

If you had followed my account on Burdastyle you would have seen a long search for a dress form that might work for me, through two different store-bought ones that didn't fit so I returned them both. The smallest "normal" one was still too big around the chest and too long in the back, and the petite one that I could actually adjust to my measurements had the tinyest, most narrow shoulders I have ever seen. Not good enough since I want to use it to pin sleeves (and to drape of course!)... And they both had really rounded hips - mine are almost completely straight, though at an angle - and a convex lower back, mine is concave...  (yup, I'm a classic sway-back!).

I was then about to buy a Diana-doll, since they have the right overall shape for me, but they're over 2000sek here (=about 200euro's, or 300US$) and at second thought I think it's a bit much when I can't make them fit me properly... so I dedided to make one instead. It would end up a bit bigger than me, I figured, but it would still be more like me than the store-bought ones, and at a MUCH lower cost...

Another search began! To cut it short it ended in me finding out about dress-forms made from gummed paper-tape, that looked good enough to be worth the effort (I'm too much of a perfectionist!) and easy enough to make. Apparently they were used a lot before commercial dress-forms became fashionable. I like that!

Since I needed someone to wrap me and couldn't really ask any of my equally busy friends to help me (it takes quite a while...) I had to wait until I went to visit my parents for christmas (that way my mum and I could make one each).

Then search no 3 began. To cut that short, in Sweden you can't buy the gummed paper-tape I needed in office-,  hobby- or hardware-supply-stores like I had though, but you have to search in art-supply-stores. It was such a relief to find it in the last possible shop (I'm visiting a small town)! It was a bit more than expected (Sweden is an expensive country...), I had to pay 185sek a roll (=about 19 euro's or 26 US$), not 5 US$ like I had read on the internet, but still, it's not much.

I also bought us both cheap turtleneck-t-shirts with long sleeves (very tight ones) at the post-christmas sale (yey!), and made a simple tube-skirt to cover my bum (since I wanted a long form, to be able to fit skirts and dresses properly). My mum's shirt was long enough in itself.

In my google-search for instructions, I found a couple of helpful sets, an old one at (my favourite, it's from a 1920's book and was very helpful), a newer one that was a great help too, another new one with some good hints and tips and another one, with good pictures, at Threads Magazine. I also found a quite interesting set of photo's that demonstrate the difference between a store-bought dress-form and a custom made one, as well as how to mount the form on a stand (which I won't do, I intend to use it hanging. I have a serious lack of floor-space).

Here's how to make it:

Materials needed: Gummed paper tape (one big roll was enough for two dress-forms in our case, one for my mum and one for me, but we're quite petite both of us, a size 34 and a size 36, or XS and S), very tight fitting clothes (that will be cut up with the form, so nothing you want to keep!), a good pair of scissors, some masking tape, a clothes-hanger or a suitable stand. A sponge is also handy to dampen the paper-strips. Dark clothes are good, since they show any areas that are wrapped with too little tape better than light coloured clothes.

1. Pre-cut a whole bunch of strips of tape. I cut it in half lengthwise, and then cut it into strips between 5cm's and 35cm's long. Cut the ends at an angle. Cut more strips than you think you will need!

2. Dress in the tight fitting clothes. You may want to wear your favourite bra underneath, to get the right shape (I wanted it to be the shape I am when I wear nicer clothes, so I dressed in my favourite bra, control-top tights, hehe, and I also wore a pair of boots with heels when I was being wrapped, otherwise it would get the wrong shape). Remeber to take off any necklaces, I accidently cut my mum's necklace when I cut her out of the form...

3. Begin wrapping. Crosswise on the chest or the back is a good way to start. Use shorter strips for more shaped areas, and cut little nips into the tape if it's hard to make it lie flat. I also found that it's easier to shape the tape if you dampen it from both sides before using it (both the gummed and the non-gummed side, it makes it much more flexible). I used that a lot at the end, when I was finishing the forms off. Not sure it's the best way to begin though (it's important not to use TOO much water, in order not to loose too much of the glue), and for some areas it's probably better to leave it dry on the non-gummed side (areas that don't have too much shape but are more flat).

4. Wrap, wrap, wrap. If you're being wrapped, try hard to not move too much... It's very hard to not flex the hips, which will create creases around the waist/lower back. Both our dress-forms got quite creased around the back (try not to move for 2-3 hours, I'm not sure it's possible... but do try as hard as you can!). The pictures show how I started off wrapping my mum. For my dressform we wrapped the top part first and then moved on the the bottom half. I'm not sure which method worked better...

5. Once the form seems thick enough (about three layers of tape is enough), dry it as much as possible with a blow-dryer. Then draw a vertical line across the chest and one in the middle of the back, with a few lines crossing it (to make it easier to tape the form back together with both halves in the right posistions). Cut along the vertical lines.

6. Join the halves again temporarily using masking tape. Compare your chest- waist- and hip-measurements to those of the form. If your measurements are smaller than the form's (my chest-measurement was just right but the other two differed by 5 cm's, it must be from breathing...), cut a strip, 1/4 of the amount it differs from each side of both halves (in my case 1.25cm's from the waist and hip-parts of the form). Taper the strips if necessary, to make it easier to join the halves again.

7. Join the halves with a few temporary strips of masking-tape. It's much easier to get it right that way than if you start off with the gummed paper-tape only, since the gummed tape slips a bit when it's still wet. Then tape the two halves using the gummed paper. Remove the masking tape before finishing it. If you want to be able to hang the dress-form you may insert a a clothes-hanger into the shoulders before joining the halves (I did, it's quite handy).

8. Trim all edges and finish them with strips of gummed tape that you fold over the edge and tape to the back of the form too (so that they cover the openings neatly) . Add more paper-tape to any thin areas.

9. If you want, you can now cover any uneven areas of the form with strips of gummed tape to make the surface smoother. I got rid of quite a bit of the creases around the waist by attaching strips that I stretched a bit over the creases, and it looked much nicer when I had covered large areas of it in very short stips that I dampened from both sides first.

It's not perfect, it doesn't look just like me (I actually think it looks a bit better than me, hehe), but I think it will do the job quite well!

Now I've just got to make a cover for it! I plan to spray it with spray-glue before putting the cover on it, to avoid it from slipping around on the very smooth surface. And before doing that I might cover it in a layer or two of varnish to make it more resistant to humidity and water. But first I plan to use it to fit a few ill-fitting toiles that were to complicated to fit on myself!

Princess-tutu for Julia

As much as I'd love to give my 3,5 year old niece toy-cars and toboggans for christmas, that wouldn't get me far in terms of popularity, so I resist and walk the girly path (and I love that too!). And she's already got a toboggan. Plus, I give her books whenever I find good ones..!
And all she wanted for christmas was princess-clothes. 
This skirt was actually a commission (in return I got to be a part of the gift-giving constellation) from my brother (her uncle, I have three younger brothers...), who wanted to give her a princess-skirt for christmas. I would never have chosen the pink material, so I'm happy I wasn't responsible for that part of the process because she loves the colour and the sparkly sequins (her favourite colours by the way are pink and purple).
The skirt is made from double layers of white, rather soft tulle, and one single layer of pink, sequined tulle.  The waist-band is made with a bought bias satin-ribbon with a narrow strip of elastic in it.

How to make it:

Materials needed (for a rather small 3,5 year-old): About 60 cm's of elastic tape for the waist, about 70cm's of (wide enough!) satin bias-tape for the waist, two buttons, tulle - about 2x the desired length of the skirt (in this case about 60cm's), provided the tulle is wide enough, in this case it was 150cm's wide which was enough. The pink tulle was much more narrow, but since we had two layers of white tulle underneath, it was enough (ie 60cm's of tulle was cut in two strips and used for one layer of pink).  

1. Cut the tulle in long strips, about 30cm's wide (depending on the desired length of the skirt).
2. Hand-sew (or machine-sew if you're in a hurry and brave) gathering-threads in the tulle, one in the double layers of white and one in the pink. I sewed them really close to the edge and gathered a bit as I went, to make it all more managable.
3. Measure the waist. Julia's was between 48 and 54cm's depending on how much she had eaten... so I realised I had to make the skirt a bit flexible, and thus decided to put elastic in it.
4. Gather the waist to about 10-15cm's more than the waist-measurement to allow for some ease, Sew one edge of the bias-ribbon onto the front of the skirt and then fold it over the waist of the skirt and pin the front with the elastic enclosed. I pinned it so that I could sew it right along the edge of the first seam in order make sure I wouldn't catch the elastic. Tie little knots in the ends of the elastic and gather the skirt to the right waist-measurement after finishing sewing the satin ribbon. Sew across the elastic to lock the gathering to the right waist-measurement. I hand-stitched the ends of the satin-ribbon to the back of the waistband to make it look nice from the front.

5. Hand stitch the tulle closed, just a few stitches, where the short ends meet (I overlapped them a bit first), make a button-hole in one end of the satin ribbon and sew a couple of buttons on the other end of it to close the skirt with. Not that Julia uses the buttons, but they look kind of nice...
And it's all done!
Julia has worn it almost non-stop since we gave it to her (through a delayed santa) and loves to spin around and to jump in it, it flips around in a flowy way thanks to the soft, white tulle. And isn't she pretty in it?

Here's a site with loads of information about tutus, and here's a tutorial on making a no-sew tutu.
Related Posts with Thumbnails