Monday, May 9, 2016

Liza Dress

This is an excellent excuse to comment on this beautiful book:

Famous Frocks: The Little Black Dress 

The edition is gorgeous, as it is the concept, the pictures and, as I have been able to test, the patterns. At least this one is accurate and becoming. The belt piece seems to be missing though. Nothing is perfect. And I do not like the instructions. As in most commercial patterns from the UK and the US, they are based in mass production, but they are not, in my opinion, suitable for home sewing. For me, home sewing is about doing slowly, carefully and as accurately as possible, fitting and becoming to our unique body. So, the approach I prefer goes preferably toward haute couture than mass production. Of course, that is a personal option, but let us see an example.

The instructions of this dress, which pattern includes seam allowances to be sewn in the machine with only pins holding it together, direct us to sew the open sleeve heads or the neck band to the bodice, with shoulder seams sewn only. If I had done that, the sleeve heads would have started 2cm down my shoulder points. The neck band was in place, but I had also to correct the tightness of it.
Anyways, as I explained in many other projects, I follow the system my mum taught me. She learned it from the 60s seamstress, as did most of the girls in Catalonia at that time, as part of their preparation from becoming good homemakers. My aunts and neighbours, now in their 60s and 70s, share the same approach to sewing. As I have been studying in recent years, their method is close to haute couture in the construction of the piece, although most of them took their flat paper patterns from magazines, mostly Burda. In couture they mostly drape to construct the exclusive patterns.

So the first step is to take the 1.5cm seam allowance off the pattern, after tracing it in tissue paper. There was some modifications to do to the pattern, since this was one of the variations on a Liza Minelly dress.

So you must trace the pattern, give more flare to the skirt and add some sleeves from another famous frock. The different dresses and their variations have interchangeable pieces and sizes, so that gives you lots of different dresses. I love this about this book because it teaches you to work with paper patterns.

To make sure the pattern was near accurate, I put it over the dressform. The only seemingly problem was that the bodice's waist was short. When I tried the dress on, the waist was in place because the fabric weight puts it into place. The author won my respect on that one.

As always, I marked the pattern pieces with tailor tucks, and basted all the dress (only one sleeve) together for the first fitting. There I realized the sleeves hanged low. The rest, including the waist placement, the neck cut, width, length, and sizing was just perfect. Amazing. All the patterns in the book are for a C cup, so I did not even have to do the FBA as usual. HURRAY!!!
After checking it fitted me, I finished the neck band first. Here I had to tighten it more to prevent it from gaping. Baste, sew and topstitch with the double needle. Best wrap dress neck opening I've ever sewn, thank to the book instructions this time. The lengthwise band is such a good idea to keep the neck in shape... but of course we have to thank Diane von Furstenberg here for this design.

I chose this viscose-wool from Stone fabrics, which is natural, warm, perfect thickness, hang and drape. Next season I will have a red one, probably.
After closing the bodice I put in the closed sleeves, mounting them 2 cm higher. They are fine now.
I sewed the skirt pieces together and attach it to the finished bodice, with its belt and all.
Jersey does not fray, so I left all the hem allowances cut at 1 cm and raw. I hand sewed the skirt bottom and side hems, as well as the sleeve hems.
Once finished, I realized another small fault of the pattern that I had not realized before. The back neck was too high and wide. The wide issue might be due to the band sewing, but I have to take some neck off from the paper pattern for next time. A couple of cm at least. Lacking a better solution, I solved the excessive width with a dart.
For the rest, a wonderful dress and a wonderful wool. I will definitely sew more patterns from it in the near future.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Wool Wrap Miniskirt

This is the second version of this skirt, and I am afraid it is not to be the last. 
I got this wool from Stone Fabrics. It is quite expensive, but I only bought 50 cm and it was enough.
The pattern is mine, devived from the long skirt I made, a success in my wardrobe. The wrap gives this skirt the perfect amount of ease to comfortably walk and sit, and still be around my contours. 
I took some fullness off the side seams, after I saw it was too wide at the bottom.

I lined the skirt with silk from HongKong, stitching it around the sides and the top of the skirt, folding it over, and topstitching it. I sew the bottom hem by hand and the lining to the hem allowance.
I love it, the colour and hang are perfect.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

My First Knitted Jumper!!

After knitting a beanie and a cowl, I was up for serious action and I decided to knit a jumper. It took me 1.5 years to finish it, but I do not knit as often as I sew, not by far. The think hooked me though, and I can't wait to knit me another one.
I used Katia's Merino 100% grey and black wool and 4.5 mm straight and circular needles.
For the pattern, I copied an old jumper of mine, and I'd like to record here all the measures and process. 
First, I knitted a 10 square cm swatch to get the measurements. I knitted the back and the front till the armpits where they were to be attached to the sleeves. Then I knitted both sleeves to the armpit, all of it with straight needles, garter stitch (knit all the rows) at the base and stockinette stitch (knit even rows, purl odd rows).
CO 118 st
12 rows garter stitch
120 rows stockinette stitch
CO 118 st
12 rows garter stitch
120 rows stockinette stitch (start black star with intarsia technique at row 80. We start using five different wool balls: grey-black-grey-black-grey. I drew the star at the computer and printed it. I then drew the star in a gridded paper that resembles my gauche, and followed the pattern row by row)
CO 52 st
12 rows garter stitch
128 rows stockinette stitch increasing one stitch every five rows, in an odd one (when knitting). At the end of the sleeve, we will have 90 st.
At this point The Knitters Handy Book for Sweater Patterns became really handy! With the help of my knitting teacher, we came up with a scheme for the raglan sleeves:
First, we close 6 stitches at the ends of both sleeves, front and back, and mount everything in the circular needles. We start to knit, and we have two tasks at hand: finishing the upper point of the intarsia star and decreasing the raglan sleeves. For the star, we follow the pattern in the grid, only this time we have to drag both yarns to the other side of the triangle. This part of the star has a different texture, becoming a little bit bulky, but I like this!
For the raglan decrease, we better put four markers, one for every decrease line. There are several ways to decrease them, but I choose the most simple:
K2TOG... knit through the front and two st before the marker: SSK, K2TOG...knit through the sleeve, two st before the marker: SSK, K2TOG...knit through the back and two stitches before the marker of the other sleeve, the same: SSK, K2TOG, knit through the sleeve and two st before the marker: SSK. We have made a whole round now. Next one, we knit knit knit without decreasing. And the third one will be as the first one, decreasing in the odd rows till we arrive at the front neck opening.
We also followed the instructions the the Handy book:
At the row 40 counting from the beginning of the raglan, we close 8 st counting from the center front. 
We knit all around till we arrive at the center front again, and come back purling: close 8 st.
3rd row (knit): close 3 st
4th row (purl): close 3 st
5th row: close 3st
6th row: close 3 st
7th row: clos 2 st
8th row: close 2 st
9th row: close 2 st
10th row: close 2 st
11th row: close 1 st
12 row: close 1st
13th row: close 1 st
14th row: close 1 st
In all the odd rows above, when knitting, I went on decreasing at the raglan sleeves.
At this point I realized my neck opening was too big, so I knitted a couple of rows more decreasing the raglans and closing more points. The neck was still a bit too big, so I closed all the points working with my yarn really tight. 
I knitted the neck band apart to squeeze as much neck opening as possible when I hand sewed it to the jumper with a back stitch. It worked. Next time, I have to have more control on that neck opening though.
For my first jumper, I am super happy with the result, and I will wear it a lot, I find it super cool!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Linton Wool Couture Jacket

This is my second cardigan couture jacket, Chanel style. 
I just wanted a black one to go with everything. And it does, I would wear it everyday.
I used the same pattern and method of construction than for my first one, which was a total success. Let's review some of the steps
Patterns do no include seam allowances and are transferred to the fabric (folded, so we get two of each) by tailor tucks.
We interline the front panels and sleeve bottoms (I use fusible interlining to make my life easier).The lining pieces are quilted into the fabric pieces of bodice and sleeves with the machine.
We assemble the pieces together basting them first. 
Then we machine stitch all the seams, we remove the basting thread and press seams open. I applied some silk strips in the shoulder seams to hold their shape.
Sleeves are sewn to the bodice by hand, using a backstitch, after gathering the cap tops with basting thread, ironing them round and basting them to the bodice.
 Bottom hems are handsewn to the jacket.
The lining pieces are handsewn together, I use a ruler under the sewing to avoid catching the fabric underneath. 

I even copied the trimmings, this time using some velvet ribbon in the middle of a wool unpicked strip. This is made by cutting a strip of the same fabric as the jacket and removing the woven threads all along it, leaving only a solid cm at the middle, on top of which we sew the ribbon. It is then applied to the jacket by hand.
I applied a plastic silvel zipper at the front and two at the sleeves bottoms, surrounded also by trimming.
This time I used real wool from Linton (1.5m), which I selected from some swatches they sent me. It is absolutely perfect, soft, heavy, with great structure. I used black silk for the lining.
Pockets are lined also in silk, and handsewn to the front of the jacket. They are so practical for keys, card, some change... to rush out and survive, as Coco herlself imagined.
And that is a perfect Chanel jacket!

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Fabric Shopping in London

Last spring holidays we traveled to London for five days, mainly to concerts and fabric hunting. With the excuse of fabric shopping, we toured the British capital under its typical bad weather (it even hailed!) and we enjoyed it big time! In the above picture you can see the whole bounty, 10 fabrics in total.

Our first stop was at Liberty's. It was a very nice feeling to be able to touch all that tana lawn I knew by heart from the internet! Carlos was the sweetest of husbands and he not only came with me to ALL the shops, but he took pictures, helped me choose, carried the heavy backpack, and even paid for some of my fabrics as a present. LOVE!

After Liberty we hit the Soho and its multiple shops. I found luxurious silks, brocades, wool suiting, shirting, organic. I fell into expensive temptation and bought silk fabric for a dress I had not planned, I could not resist the silk allure! I also bought gorgeous black silk jersey, one of the few reasons I think I could play the lottery one day.

Next day it was saturday, so we travelled to Walthamstow market. I found the famous MAN OUTSIDE SAINBURY'S, and he did not let me down! He has a wonderful stall full of treasures. He was very busy taking care of his customers, to whom he knew by name. He was honest and helpful with me, telling me the real composition of fabrics, even though their touch had tricked my senses. "It seems wool -he said- but it is 100% polyester" Very very nice shop! If I lived in London, he would be one of my main sources of fabric! Finally I bought almost 4 m of black thick cotton (3 pounds the metre) and two metres of wonderful blue silk for a dress. 

In the street of the market there are a handful of fabric shops, some specialized in African, Indian textiles. It was wonderful only to see. Saeed's might be the biggest and better provided shop. Here I bought some pink cotton stretch jersey for a summer dress. Carlos picked that one. 

I regret not taking pictures of Ray Stitch in Islington, but I took some pictures of the neighbourhood I liked best in this visit. It is a hipster place packed with interesting restaurants, shops and bars. I bought some organic cotton sweat jersey and some stretch cotton. Prices there are too expensive, tough. I saw how they were sewing downstairs, 90 pounds for a course of t-shirt making, it is a thriving business and I am glad.
Pity we could not make it to The Village Haberdashery, I kept it for the last day, and I quited when we found our tube station closed. We'd rather do not risk it, and thanks to that sensitive decision we did not loose our plane in the most difficult trip to an airport ever. London transport system is not reliable at all, I am afraid, as it is its weather. But fabric shops... WOW! After such a productive journey and we leave with more places to visit in the future. That is a good sign. London and the UK are heading the sewing hobby, it is popular and fashionable over there. Good for them!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Leather Shorts

It happened again. Just when I was so glad I was three days from doing a trip and not madly sewing, it occurred to me I just needed leather shorts to go to the Prong concert in London. I had the pattern (my own), I had leather left form my leather dress, so I started sewing. 
I know the procedure to make some trousers by heart, so I cut the leather, I first did the fly and the pockets, and went on from there. I applied surgical tape next to the seams that can stretch, I hammered my seams open and then topstitched, I glued seams, all the procedure to sew leather is special. 
My Bernina sometimes breaks or unravels the thread, specially if the needle goes near the surgical tape. Avoid that and problem solver. Sometimes the machine skips stitches when there are too much layers, and that is a real problem and a small disappointment in my VERY expensive machine.
In spite of trying on the pants during construction, it is when we finish them that we really see if the are the right size. They have to be tight without pulling, and these were a little loose on the bum part, so I had to undo the waist band, enter the centre back seam 3 cm each side, and finish the waistband again. 
I used some organic cotton as lining, hanging form the waistband.
The result is almost perfect, oh yeah!

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Black Wool Short Coco

Another of the fabrics I bought from Stone Fabrics this winter is this black viscose/wool. It is almost perfect, a bit itchy, but not to the point of being uncomfortable.

I decided to make a short Coco out of it, to test the wearability of the desing. It is perfect for jeans, but the wide bottom does not go well with A-shaped skirts.

This is my third Coco, and the pattern, as I explained in my first, is my own drawing. 
I still have some remaining fabric, so I ordered some more to make a dress out of it.