Thursday 8 December 2011

Colette sewing book and personal style

As those reading sewing blogs may have noticed, Sarai who owns Colette patterns released a sewing book during November, The Colette Sewing Handbook. I've been reading reviews of it all over the internet, and everyone loves it! It seems like a great book for beginner-intermediate sewists, it comes with 5 patterns and it covers some areas I usually miss in sewing books, namely planning, choosing a pattern and fitting. The chapter on finishing also sounds interesting, new techniques are always good.

Tasia from Sewaholic wrote a great review here, focusing on the part about wardrobe planning. Casey also adressed this part of the book in her review, and she had some more pages from the book for us to read. Sarai's tip is to pick out 5 garments/outfits/accessoiries that you really love and feel good while wearing (meaning that you not just love the idea of them, but actually enjoy wearing them as well). Then analyze these pieces and see if you can find some common feature, like type of colour, fabrics, fitting, etc. Tasia wrote a follow up post where she did this, found here. I liked this idea, so I figured I'd try it myself! =)

Red doubleknit cotton-jersey dress, swing/40s style (me-made). Pattern made from my blockpattern. I love the colour, the heavy weight of the fabric and how extremly comfortable it is to wear.

Wool winter skirt with grey cardigan. Wool is my all-time favorite fabric! And this is my favorite cardigan; I love the length, the loose-fitting sleeves, the lacepattern on the bodice and the little tie-band just beneth the bust which ensures that the cardigan fits correctly.

Blue cotton skirt (me-made) with purple knit top. This skirt is perfect! It never wrinkles, it's mostley cotton so it breathes, it moves beautifully when I'm dancing, the pleating makes it comfortable to sit in all day at work. I love the top, the sleeves are just my length and I adore the detail with the lace inset and the small covered buttons.

It goes without saying that of course The Coat is a favorite to wear. For the first time in my life outerwear actually fits! The back isn't too wide or long, the overbust isn't too small, the waist fits, and the width of the skirt means the coat is loose over the hips and doesn't gape open when I walk.

Thrifted green vintage dress of unclear decade. This dress is just so nice to wear. Simple as that. =)

A few things springs to mind about my taste:
-Solid colours, dark or jewel, are a favorite.
-Fitted in the waistarea, loose around the hips, not overly loose around the bust but with enough width for easy movement. Waistseams sits in the natural waist.
-Natural fibers; wool, cotton, linen, silk. Jerseytops and cotton cardigans.
-Necklines that are not tight but not deep enough to show cleavege.
-Hemlines on skirts right beneth the knees, 2" longer on winter skirts.
-Always some sort of sleeve, either short or full-length, seldom elbow or three-quarter for every-day wear (too hard to layer).

Now, these things were far from new to me, and I already sew with this in mind. For example I know that the fitted over the hip/calf long/blous-y at the waist - dresses of the 30s  that I just love isn't what I feel most comfortable in. Instead, I'm sewing 40s style and 50s style skirts and dresses to wear at work.

However, while I knew this in the back of my head, this was still a very useful exercise. Maybe it's time to focus on making more of the styles I know I like? Maybe it's not boring to plan more clothes in the same category as the one's I have, it's insightful of me to know what I feel good in =) And perhaps my taste is not the flashiest, lot's of people would feel grey and frumpy in it, but since I feel good in it, why should I strive toward other styles?

This brings me back to the Colette Sewing Handbook... Take a look at the patterns that comes with this book (I'll just link as I don't want to steal photos):
The Truffle dress and the licorice dress. Both very cute, but the sleeves are all wrong for me and the parts I do like (the fitted bodice) would be a lot easier to do using my block pattern than doing the 1 million alterations I'd need to do on the bodice. The skirts are not quite my taste...
The pastille dress. Adorable, but not my kind of sleeve nor skirt. See above about the fitted bodice.
The Taffy blouse and the Meringue skirt. Again, the sleeves on the blouse are not my style, the bodice on the blouse is too loose for me. The skirt pattern I could do myself in less than an hour, with the length, waistband, opening and pockets I prefer.

What I'm trying to do here is to decide whether or not to get the book. The patterns are super cute, all of them, but they really don't fit into my style. Of course referece books on sewing techniques are always fun, but I have a bunch of them and shouldn't I read them all before I can justify getting a new one? But at the same time this one seems so very interesting... And maybe some of my friends who sews would find these patterns useful? =) Having a major case of in-decision here!

Ah well, no need to get it now before Christmas, I can think about it for a while. I did really like the wardrobe analysis though, it was great fun to do, and a big help to being comfortable about my style and thereby likely helpful in the future for choosing sewing projects. Maybe the book have many more of those thoughtful gems, and I can justify buying it for that reason?

What do you think, have you bought the Colette sewing handbook? Do you plan to? Have you done any similar wardrobe analysis and what did you come up with? Should I buy the book?!!! =) I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Love, Erika

Wednesday 30 November 2011

Stockholm weekend

Stockholm! Swedens capital, my old home town (my birthtown even) and where the majority of my family lives. Last weekend I took the chance to visit family and friends before the holiday madness kicks in. I was supposed to attend a sewing class at one of  the few more advanced sewing schools in Sweden, but the class got cancelled just a week before =( I anyway had the plane-tickets, so instead of a weekend of sewing I had a weekend of food, cakes and talks. Quite nice, and very relaxing =)

Saturday morning at moms place. We made scones and listned to the "music-crossword", a radio show that has aired for ages. My mom, aunt and paternal grandmother used to do this crossword every week, calling each other when it was something they didn't know. Everyone knew never to call between 10 and 11 on Saturday mornings =) Granny's been gone for 15 years (rip) but my mom and my aunt carry on the tradition.

Scones, tea, homemade marmelade, music on the radio and a dog sleeping on the bed in the other room. A very relaxing way to start the weekend.

Said dog on said bed. Love how she matches mom's new bed cover! =) Mom claims it wasn't intentional...

During Saturday Stockholm showed her best side, all sunshine and lovely colours. It's utterly bizarre to see green grass at the end of November! I took the oppurtunity to wear my favorite hat (it's a tad too cold for hats in Umeå now), teamed up with the new coat, red gloves and my trusty handbag.

Sunday was a whole other story - windy, dark and a constant drizzle. Brr! Here I'm the Old Town, Stockholms oldest part, after a long lunch and fika with dad and my aunt.

A new blouse! I've been working on it for ages (or rather, not working on it) as I'm not 100% happy with the pattern. The sleeves look ok like this, but with the arm relaxed a bunch of strainlines appear. Also, the shoulder seam falls back. I'll re-do the pattern before cutting into any silk, but I've decided that this blouse is ready. Just like that =) I'm not thrilled about it, but it's ok and I like the fabric, so while I won't devote any more sewing hours to it, I will still wear it and be happy about it.

How adorable is Elsa?! We're all sitting in the living room, celebrating my brother's 25th birthday, and she naturally wants to be a part of it. Sitting in the sofa, with one paw on Joakim's legs to ensure that he won't run away =)

It was of course a huge disappointment that my class got cancelled, and I hope there will be other weekend classes in the future, but am a bit hesitant to sign up if they're in the habit of cancelling in the 11th hour. We'll see... While it would have been fun to sew the entire weekend, I instead had a very relaxed weekend with family and friends. Just the thing to fight the December darkness!

Love, Erika

Tuesday 22 November 2011

Swingin it with friends

There's been a lot more "in vintage" than "swingin' it" lately, hasen't it? Have you begun to wonder if I've stopped dancing? Let me lay your worries to rest, I'm still swingin' it! =) I have however been awfully bad at documenting these evenings, but let me at least give you a hint of the fun last weekend offered.

Last weekend Mattias and Lisette, two great international lindy hop teachers visited Umeå. They gave a two day class for my local society, Swingum, and we hosted two social dance nights (Friday and Saturday), with live bands both evenings. It was a wonderful weekend! It's always such a treat to take classes, and for such experienced teachers... The socials were great fun as well, lot's of talented dancers on the floor!

During class. We did dance stop, sooo much fun! Dance until the music suddenly stops and then freeze. Lot's of laughs during this exercise, I can tell you.

As great as the dancing was, one of the biggest highs for the weekend was Malin and Johannes coming to visit, all the way from Luleå. They brought the kids, and the whole family stayed at my place during the weekend. Turned out three adults and two kids actually sleeps very comfortable in my 2 rooms (that's 1 bedroom and 1 living room for the non-Swedes reading). It was just wonderful having them here! Above is a photo from Saturday night dinner...

...and Erik and Rita was also at the dinner, they also wanted to hang out with 2 year old Alva, and cuddle 5 month old Milo =)

On the dancefloor. Yup, the kids were there as well! They really are the easiest going children! Both evenings they slept in the stroller while their parents danced the nights away =) Here is Alva, she was up on the dancefloor for a while during Saturday night, before falling alseep. And the doll also wanted to dance =)

It's been a while since I was in the show group, my problems with my legs prevented me from practicing that much and that intense dance, plus I don't really have the time. But my friends in Swingum Lindy Hoppers have continued, and they've taken the group to a whole new level. I was awed during their perfomance, such great dancing! I mean, the style, the moves, the whole set-up! So watch, and enjoy! Erik, Elin, Jimmy, Mia, Henrik and Barbara, swingin' it! =)

Love, Erika

Friday 4 November 2011

Tailoring a cut-on shawl collar

Thank you so much everyone for the amazing response to the coat! Sewing it this past year has been a huge project, but a very fun one. There are few projects that have taken so much time and so much head-scratching but that I've still loved the entire time (in fact I think this would have to be the only one...) =) I've learned so much, and I wanted to share the solution I worked out for the one thing I couldn't find the answer to in either the Tailoring book or Gertie's posts: tailoring a cut on shawl collar. The book, and Gertie, talks of sewn-on shawl collars, but cut-on presents a few problems with the order of sewing. So here's what I worked out! Heads up: long and very, very geeky post ahed =) All the pictures are in full size if you click on them, for clearer details.

Click on the post title to continue reading...

Saturday 29 October 2011

It's a coat!

It's ready! It's finally ready! Got the idea two years ago, bought fabric one year ago, cut coat fabric in January, and now it's ready!!!  (Warning for long, picture heavy post...)

The pattern, found on Tradera (Swedish ebay). Won after a fierce bidding, where I questioned if I really needed a pattern. So very, very happy I followed through on the bidding! Without this pattern I wouldn't have known what pieces a coat requires, and that was just the start of the process.

The fabrics, from left: green wool, woven fusible, 100% lambswool interlining, brown lining. Of course I later discovered I needed more stuff, like horse-hair canvas, shoulder pads, buttons, waaay more coat thread than I have here.

And all that material somehow turned into this. =)

Of course it was not as simple as that, there was no magic wand, but lots of sewing needles, pressing, and all kinds of new to me construction techniques. To my aid I had the classic Tailoring book, which was great. One thing it did not adress was how to pad-stitch a cut-on shawl collar, or how the assembly order changes for shawl collars in comparison to ordinary collars. I plan to post the solution I worked out =)

The fabrics were a pure joy to work with. In the end, nothing behaves as friendly as woven wool that has been treated. This had a Melton finish, making it impossible to pull out any strands, meaning no seam-finishing needed. Very helpful, since basically all the seam allowances were trimmed at one time or another, some down to 0.25 cm. Tightly woven and felted wool is a great idea then! Also, making invisible stitching is a breeze with a thick, tight wool.

Happy blogger! Also a demonstration of why it looks a bit uneven around the bust in the previous photo; it needs the ease so that my arms can move. But mostley: Happy blogger! =)

Of course, thick wool is a nightmare to press, but hey! Now I had to learn how to do it! I'll readily admit; not all seams are perfectly pressed, even though I did a lot of press-testing on scraps. I don't really care though, I love the coat!

Naturally the pattern didn't work straight out of the package, there were some huge fitting alterations: shortening the back, shortening the front (different amounts), Full Bust Adjustment, re-directing the bustdarts, adding width on waist and hips, and lots of small fiddly things. Still, the back worked as it was (with a lenght reduction), which was a first for me!
The only style alteration I did was to alter the collar slightly, it was way too high on the neck in the original pattern. I did keep the original skirt length, though. In old catalog photos the coat always covers the skirt/dress, and keeping that detail gives the coat a nice vintage flair, I feel.

So happy with the silhouette! Just like I envisioned!

There is huge amounts of handstitches inside this coat. To begin with all seams were handbasted, machine sewn,basting removed, seam pressed open, then both seam allowances cross stitched to the coat to ensure the seam would lie flat. The collar is pad stitched by hand, lining attached with slip stitches and of course all the hems are hand worked. Plus a lot more minor details... That was fun parts though, I love hand sewing!

A hint of the lining, the light from the street light does something weird to the colour though. Also the inside of my bound buttonholes. First time I've done any of those, so it was... interesting =) Of course some details could have been better, but I'm generally pleased with them.

Phew! A long post for conveying a long journey. I've enjoyed lot's of it, I've sworn quite a few times, I've learned tons, and now I'm very happy it has come to an end so I can go on to next step: using the coat! Come on winter, bring me that snow! =)

And finally: Thank you so much Elin, for being my photographer for a day!

Love, Erika

Wednesday 26 October 2011

Outrunners for winter

The air is beginning to taste of winter. Don't get me wrong, it's still (Thank heavens!) very much fall, leaves are yellow and the grass is still green. However, some trees stands bare and naked against the cold and today there has been three sure signs that winter is on the way:

1. Frost! =) Everything has been covered with frost in the mornings, so pretty.

2. I've put away all my cottonskirts and now the favorite wool skirt is back on, all fresh from the dry cleaners.

There's still a small, small dot on it, but I sincerely doubt anyone sees it.

3. I've bought new winter boots, as the old ones were falling apart...

All warm and fuzzy!

While I'm happy with all these things, I'm hoping winter doesn't hurry too much. Fall is so beautiful the way it is now!
Just ouside work, the red brick building is the office.

And with this bite in the air we've been having, I'm ready to put on my new winter coat.

 In the afternoon. Having a bit of a cold spell...

100% humidity and around zero celsius. The cold creeps in to the marrow!

Oh, the coat? Yes, there will indeed soon be pictures! I just need to find someone to take them... Using the timer on my compact camera, in a dark living room, will just not do the coat full justice... =)

Talk to you soon!
/Love, Erika

Tuesday 18 October 2011

Coat in progress, and changes at work

Still working on it! The coat, that is. For those who have (mercifully) missed this multi-volume epos, I've been working on a coat for a while. Let's see... I got the idea in September 2009, bought the pattern that fall, bought books, found the fabric August 2010, wrestled with the toile the rest of 2010. I cut the coat fabric in January, but spring beat me to the finish line, so I decided to let it rest during summer. Now it's back on, and I'm so almost ready that I can taste it! I would have been ready if the flu hadn't got me last week... Five days with fever! I didn't sew a stitch for a week, I missed a great dance night, and - worst of all - I missed Milo's baptism! It would have been just too selfish to risk everyone's health by coming, plus I was pretty wrung out...

 Currently slip-stitching the lining to the facing

I usually don't write a lot about work, but I have a major change soming up soon. I don't know what it will mean for the blog (hopefully I won't blog less, as I'm hardly blogging as it is!), but I just wanted to let you know... =) Maybe I've told you before, but I work for an outsourcing company, as a receptionist (I answer the phone as well, and do minor administrative work). That means I don't have a fixed work-place, I move around between 3-4 different places depending on where I'm needed. Some weeks I work full-time, other weeks it's a lot less, always with the same monthly wages though (yes, I get paid even when I'm not working, for beeing on-call). This has huge benefits; I've met so many wonderful people, learned different systems and programs, had an insight in different kind of companies, plus the occasional sleep in or leaving work early - or not working at all for a full day (doesn't happen every month). However, I have for a while been wishing for an office to call my own. To work in one place, with the same people every week, to have routines and be able to plan my week ahed. To step into a position and be able to grow within that, to make it my job, not someone else's I'm just filling in for.
So of course I was thrilled when my boss asked me if I was interested in working full time in one of the receptions that have been in my "circle"! It's a great office, so many nice people and a wonderful work-atmosphere, and the job is full-time. So looking forward to this! =) I start on Friday, and have part-time bookings tomorrow and an on Thursday, so today is my last "whoops, nobody called, guess I'm home sewing today!". What I made of it:

The goal is to finish the coat before Friday, but that depends a bit on how much I'm working the next two days (Ha! Story of my everyday life, but soon no more!). Alright, back to sewing!
Sorry, long chatty post... =)

Love, Erika

Thursday 6 October 2011

A love story

The search is over! They've been on the top of my shoe-wishlist for years: They had to be from the 40s, have a distinct but not too high heel (6-7 cm), lace up, be suitable for colder weather. Unless I wanted to spend a fortune on taxes and custom for shoes I didn't even know would fit, by buying from etsy or ebay, they seemed be impossible to find. But now they're standing next to me looking lovely =)

The short version of how I got them: Umeå may be a small town but we have an amazing shoemaker, Mr Löfström. He adores vintage shoes, came by these by chance and sold them to me. Read on for a longer version of the story, or just enjoy the pictures =)

I heard through the grapevine (yes, Facebook) that shoemaker Löfström was selling a lot of vintage shoes from an old lady. Off I went in search of pretty shoes, but discovered upon my arrival that they were all too new for me, mostly 70s and 80s. He showed me some of them, and I agreed they were in great condition and very cute, but explained they just were not my style.

Pointing at the shoes I was wearing I explained that I needed my everyday shoes to be orthopaedic, and for dressing up I preferred that style, pointing instead to his beautiful collection of unused, mint-condition 30s and 40s shoes (Which I already knew was not for sale, regardless of the price offered, they are for show only. A true shoe-lover!). He showed me a pair left by another client for a new sole and heel, explaining how vintage shoes needed to be treated to that unless the sole would be ruined when worn outside (old leather fall apart eventualy. Trust me, I've done that to a pair of 60s shoes...)

He then hesitated a bit, judged my reaction, weighed how I was dressed, and said slowly... "I do have a remarkable pair of 40s shoes in the storage. A lady came in to have the soles done for outside-wear, I offered to buy them to have for my show-collection, but she'd rather wear them. So I gave them a new sole and heel, she picked them up. A few days later she came back: the shoes were a tad too small. Did I still want to buy them? They were too beautiful for me to pass over, so I bought them. But they're no longer original, and can't go in my collection... Do you want me to take them here for you to try on?". Did I?!!!

Yesterday, I tried them on and they were perfect. Perfect! Not tight, not loose, beautiful and oh so comfortable to walk in! So I of course asked how much he wanted, and he hesitated, starting to almost talk himself into not selling them (I swear it wasn't a salestrick - you could tell the notion of letting them go was almost painful to him) so before he succeded in doing that I told him of my love for vintage and vintage craftmanship. When I told him of the coat I'm tailoring from a 1951 pattern, he changed his mind and gave me a price. He said that he hoped to one day see them worn, so I promised to swing by in full vintage gear =)

And now they're all mine! Two amazing features on them, besides the fabulous collar and the leafs on the ties, is the shape of the heel. Look at any true 30s and 40s shoes, and you'll notice they flat out at the heel, the angle different depending on the height of the heel. Modern shoes just aren't shaped that way, which is a pity. Wonder why they stopped... Another nice touch is the flannel lining, making them nice and warm, perfect for our not too hot northern weather.

Looking at them, I still can't believe they're real, or that they're really mine =)

Friday 23 September 2011

Books, shoes and tights

Today is national shopping day, also known as payday =) I of course felt I had to do my part (it's all about keeping the economy rolling, you see...) and here's what's new in the house:

Sewing books! These were mailorder, of course, but I timed it so I'd get them and the invoice this week =) The Fabric sewing guide is one of the best sewing books I've read. I originally checked it out at the local library, but soon realised this was a keeper. And now I have my very own! It's a great reference book, although I'm not sure I'd recommend it for beginners. It might be good if this is not the first sewing book you see the inside of. However, if you're an intermediate sewist looking for books to take you to next level, any of Claire Shaeffers books are worth looking into.

The Trouser sewing book is perfect! It shows all the tricky techniques, provides pictures of sample trouser's (loooved the vintage custom ones from 1932), and it even comes with a dvd where the author demonstrates the techniques. I will definatley buy the shirtmaking book by the same author.

I haven't had the need to consult the serger guide yet, but from browsing through it I'd say it looks promising. We'll see how it holds up when trouble arises with my overlock =)

Shoes! And no, they're not pretty. They are not supposed to be pretty, it's not their mission in life. They are however supposed to protect my feet from water and the pavement, and with gore-tex and super-cushioning they're just the right pair for getting the job done. No more sore feet! No more wet socks! You see, my old walking shoes were working on overtime... =) From Gå och löp-kliniken.

Just stacking up on knitted goods for fall/winter. A new cardigan is always nice, and I loved this colour. Then I went a bit crazy on the thights (didn't even know one could do that)... There was an offer, "3 for 2", which I took as a sign that it really was time to throw away the old tights that has to be worn with ancle socks to cover the holes in the heels (my old winter boots ate heels).
I cleaned out the underwear drawer not so long ago, thinking I'd sew new. That hasn't happened, so I've been washing a lot lately =) 3 pairs of knickers for 100 SEK (approx 11 euro), made of organic cotton, seemed like a great solution. If they fit, maybe I'll get a couple more boxes...
All this was from Lindex.

The weekend is about to start, and I'm off to a medieval dance event. I'll be teaching some, I'm hoping to learn a new dance as well, and I'm giving a lecture on SCA and how to behave during court and banquet. Oh dear, maybe I should actually prepare that lecture? Promise to take lots of pictures! If any of them are good, I'll post them next week ; )

Have a great weekend!
Love, Erika

Wednesday 14 September 2011

Playtime for the kids

Last weekend I went to Luleå to visit Malin, Johannes, their daughter Alva and baby son Milo. They moved to Luleå in January, and I miss them so very, very much. At a dance-night recently I missed them like crazy and I decided I had to see them. Now! =)
It's a 4,5 hour train-ride so I sewed together the trouser-toile I'd failed to sew the evening prior used the time to hand baste the new toile for Johannes trousers. I love travelling by train!

One of the delightful things about spending time with kids is that in the pretense of playing with them, one can forget about acting one's age and enjoy good ol' fashioned playtime. Like swinging. In a swing, not on a dancefloor. Can't remember the last time I did that!

I love the look of Malin in this picture - like a shepherd guiding the lamb =)

Johannes found a contraption one could swing back and forth, using the whole body. After the photo was taken we all climbed up and got the pole moving =) 

A tradional slide-ride is a must, and it was apparently much better with daddy making a tunnel at the end. Alva deemed me and Malin too short to make good tunnels...

The hat also wanted to take a slide ride. We know this to be true since Alva said so =)

And adorable little Milo slept through the entire thing.

The rest of the weekend I played with Alva, cuddled Milo, drank tea, ate food and just sat around talking. A wonderfully relaxed and relaxing time! Now that I've discovered it's fairly easy to quick-visit them, I plan to go to Luleå a bit more often.

Thanks for a great weekend, Malin and Johannes!

Love, Erika