Sunday 29 December 2013

The Christmas dress


I hope you're all having a happy holiday! I've been staying at my mother's in Stockholm, celebrating Christmas the swedish way (traditional swedish food and hanging out with the family on Christmas eve). Also, there's been the usual running around Stockholm to meet up with everyone... =)

Last year I bought 2 metres of jersey and 2 metres of lace and figured I'd make it into a Christmas dress for this year. I came close to stumbling on the finish line here... I started drafting the jersey on Friday evening the 20th, sewed the jersey on Saturday morning, drafted and toiled the lace on the afternoon/evening. Sunday I packed for Christmas and sewed the lace-dress.

The bottom layer is a plain jersey dress, without sleeves. The top layer is more interesting - it's lace cut on bias. The lace has no stretch on it's own, but it's a loose weave lace, so it has some natural stretch due to that. But as I didn't want to join the two layers, I also didn't want the opening a waistseam would require. This was my solution:

A bias cut diamond shape in the side. I first got this idea from one of the dresses in the Hollywood exhibition at Albert & Victoria museum in London last year. I'm not sure how period accurate it is, but they did use paneling during the early 30s.

The front was also a new to me: I made a high cowl neck, with the bodice pleated to a midriff piece.

The skirt is my by now trusty bias A-line pattern. The back is also cut on the bias.
One of the trickiest part was figuring out the pattern layout, so that the weave strength on both sides of all seams matched each other.

This was a really fun project, and I'm thrilled I managed to get it done in such a short time!

Happy holidays!
Love, Erika

Monday 9 December 2013

A dress for blues dancing

A dance night that comes only once every 6th month is a special event, right? And it’s made to feel even more special with something new, special to wear! =)

As per usual my carefully laid sewing plans this fall went straight to… *erhm* They didn’t work out as I had planned. Or at all. That meant my grand vision that included a gorgeous rayon, matching chiffon with embroidery and sequins, and of course a smashing 30s silhouette, that vision had to be put on hold for a later date if I wanted a finished dress to wear to the dance instead of just an idea. So what to do instead?

I wavered between the three drawings to the left above, but even though I decided for the one to the farthest left, it was never a “Yay! I’m going to love this dress!”. At first I tried to ignore it and stick to my chosen path, but as I picked out the jersey I bought in London last year (intended for a bluesdress) and the pattern pieces, a new dress just seemed to grow out of what was in front of me. The result was the dress on the right, minus the split (when test-dancing the dress, I realised I didn't need the split).

Ever had that happen; that a project seems to change itself, and take an ok idea to something totally different? The end result was a lot more suited to the occasion, to the fabric and to what I really really deep deep down wanted. It’s strange what can come out of being true to one’s gut feeling and just follow the intuition. I’m not sure I can say I drafted this dress, it more or less drafted itself.

The entire front bodice got an overlay of lace, pleated to the neckline. The skirt was cut (on-grain) from my bias 30s skirt pattern, so made long + slim. Sleeves also got a cover of lace.

The best is the back! Covered with lace, the jersey beneth dives into a deep V. This is a style I’ve dreamed of wearing, forever! But with my bust, skipping the bra just isn’t an option. However, when I realized the Glamour Corselette I also got in London would be ideal under the thin jersey skirt, my mind raced to the conclusion “Holy Moses, I can make a deep back!”. As a deep back isn’t ideal when dancing - the lead’s hand goes right over there, and as I’ve discovered myself when leading followers wearing tank tops with spaggetti-straps, it really is a much more pleasant experience to have some fabric between hand and back – I kept the full lace back, and just cut out the jersey.

Due to the cut out back, my slips wouldn't work, so I made a lining from knit stretch lining.

Dress inside-out with the back lining visible...

...and the front.

Did I lose something with this change of plans? Yes and no. The original jersey dress would have been an allround Little Back Dress, usuable for many occasions, from dancing to dinner parties. The dress that I ended up making is a pure Blues Dance Dress (ok, I may wear it for New Years Eve as well ; ) ). However, a multi-purpose allround LBD wasn't really what I desired deep down. I wanted a dress that walked the narrow line between classy, but not "funeral". Elegant and simple, but interesting. Sensual, but not sexy nor slutty. A bit like blues dancing =)
Also, from a more practical point of view, this jersey isn't of a very high quality and I fear it wouldn't make it long as a much-in-use allround LBD...

 And I did my first attempt on fingerwaves!!! The rest of the hair is brushed through and pinned up in a faux bob.

The dress was fantastic to dance in, and we had a wonderful Blues Dance Night! Above is me and my sister Kajsa during clean-up after the dance. We didn't coordinate or anything, but I love how our outfits matched with black jerseys, textured bodices, matt skirts and long-ish sleeves =)

All for now!
Love, Erika

Tuesday 19 November 2013

Sewlution on the way! And resources for learning shirtmaking =)

It's been awfully quiet over here, but it's been a busy beehive behind the scene =) So much going on, but not a lot to show for it as it's a project that has turned out to be just as tricky as I feared. So what am I up to? It's really all about this:

Karen from Did you make that? posted an idea past January: A jar with sewing-resolutions. Anyone could put their name and resolution in the jar, and at the end of the year everyone would be asked to answer: had they fulfilled their chosen task? I took this as an opportunity to give myself a kick in the derriere about facing a project I’ve long wanted to tackle but has been a little bit afraid of: drafting and sewing a menswear dresshirt.

In fact, my exact words were:
During 2013 I will draft and sew a men’s shirt.
Oh dear, cuffs, collarstands, buttonplackets… Not to mention fitting a man! I know about FBAs and hips, but fitting guys is a whole other page. This will be a real challenge for me! Time to order those books and get reading.”

Still a bit afraid of the project, I managed to procastinate all spring – always saying “I’ll just make this first, then I’ll have plenty of time to start the shirt-project after that”. Did I start? Of course not! ;)
Then summer was all of a sudden over and I knew that it was now or never or I would have to confess to the mistress of the jar that I had fled my promise. I’m certain there would have been an easier way to do this: buy a pattern and follow the instructions. I never do it the easy way, it’s a curse…

In sewing there’s always a hundred ways to do something. I’m indecisive when it comes to choosing ice-cream flavors at a store, and choosing a sewing method is a lot more complicated. I’ve also found that one source almost never provides me with all the details and options I’d like. So my prefered method is to read up on the subject in different ways, books, blogs, on-line classes, pattern instructions (if I have any nearby), studying existing garments etc. Ask mom is always high on the list as well =) Then I look at all the (often conflicting) information and puzzle together the pieces that makes the most sense to me, my available tools and materials, and the vision I have in mind of the finished garment.

In this case I found the following resources the most valuable:

Metric pattern cutting for Menswear – Excellent drafting book, pattern came out looking good and needing just minor adjustments (mostly style issues, a few fitting issues but less than RTW poses). However, I wouldn’t recommend this as your first pattern drafting book, it skips steps and is at places pretty hard to keep track of. Personally, I felt the included seam allowance made it harder for me to make alterations, but that might be ‘cause I’m used to working with “net”-patterns (no SA included). If you’ve dabbled a little bit in drafting before, this book is a winner. Just make sure you get the latest edition! The earlier one's apparently have a distinct 80s feel to the cut...

Shirtmaking by David Page Coffin – The standard book on shirt sewing. This book would require a review-post on it’s own. Let’s just say mr Coffin writes an extensive guide to sewing your own shirt. I found many things to love about this book, but I also have some issues with it.

Peter from Male Pattern Boldness shirt-sewalong – great for browsing and getting a first idea of how it all goes together. Peter works from a pattern and partly just refers to the pattern instructions, so lot’s of steps are missing (unless you choose to sew from the same pattern), but it was a huge help to me to see more detailed step-by-step photos of the trickier parts.

Craftsy class The classic tailored shirt – Class led by Pam Howard. Pam works from a Kwick sew pattern, but the class is set up so you don’t need the pattern. Excellent and thorough, it does take some hours to view all the lessons. Totally worth it, in my book. I’d do a few things differently from how the class suggests (like not working with an all-around 1,5 cm SA, amongst other things), but seeing it done on video is for me the best way to learn (after IRL-classes). For instance, both Coffin and Peter explains the yoke-trick with words and images, but it wasn’t until I saw Pam do it that I finally got it.

Pam from Off the cuff’s collar-tutorial – cool way of turning the collar points.

Andrea from Four square wall’s post on sewing shirt-stands – always like different takes on the same detail.

Coletterie has two great tutorials on sewing flat felled seams – without a special fellingfoot and with one.

So where am I in the process? I’ve drafted the pattern, made a toile and fit it, made my adjustments on the draft, and traced the pattern to fresh tracing paper, adjusting the SA from the overall 1 cm given by the drafting instructions to the SA's that will actually be needed. The shirt has been cut out from a tea-dyed linen and I'm halfway through the assembly process. It's still a long way to go, and I already know details that needs to be altered or sewn differently. My boyfriend very sweetly says that of course he'll wear this shirt, but I'm not sure it will be wearable. Still, when learning a new skill, something has to be the first attempt!

Second half of November and still a way to go... Wish me luck! I so very much don’t want to have to explain myself to the mistress of the jar… ; )
Love, Erika

Sunday 27 October 2013

Underneth it all

I don’t know what it’s like in your part of the world, but here fall is coming to its spectacular, grand, multi-coloured crescendo. Along with the chilling air, for some weird reason I start dreaming about lingerie… Anyone else do that? Seems a bit strange, but on the other hand, when it’s too hot outside, I have zero inclination to wear polyester (and most lingerie is polyester, even WKD so-called “silk”-pieces are made of artificial silk) or craving for tight shapewear. But during fall… oh, I dream of tap-pants, slips, stockings, elegant dressing-gowns…

In the name of honesty, this post is long overdue. I shot the pictures in my old apartment, before summer *blushes*  For some reason, spring also brings out this craving for fancy lingerie! Not too warm, not too cold outside and boom!, I’m dreaming of girdles =) 

And isn't it just perfect that a while ago, I had a shopping spree on lingerie! A couple of happy coincidences (and me being a bit slow to blog about purchases) and I now have a whole new set to show you =) On the dress-dummy, though, too shy to take pictures while wearing it...

First, I had an amazing luck months of stalking Tradera/swedish Ebay payed off and I won the auction for this vintage ruby slip.

Love the lace bodice and cutlines in the back!

Second, I splurged on What Katie Did goodies =) Initially I ordered the Hollywood dressing robe, and both the Glamour and the Cabaret girdle. I wanted to see how they felt on, as I only tried on the Glamour girdle in London, not realizing there was a similar one in the Cabaret collection.

It was a total no-brainer, I kept the Cabaret girdle. WKD lingerie is proportioned for a standard figure regarding waist-hip ratio, and my hips are wider than standard. The Glamour girdle was really uncomfortably tight around the hips, digging in at the front thighs and reducing leg-movement. I wanted to be able to blues dance in it, so limited leg-movement was a no-no.

The Cabaret was much comfier! I could even do legsweeps in it. It has boning down the front, and while I didn't find the "flattening" effect to be more than the one the Glamour girdle had, it does help control the tummy. And the boning is surpisingly comfortable when I'm sitting down! Not comfy as a pair of sweats, of course, but better than a corset, or the Glamour Merry Widow.

So why is the Cabaret girdle stretchier than the Glamour? This puzzled me, they're the same size, the same brand, the website gives the same measurments for them. But... the Cabaret girdle has a single layer powermesh in the big panels, while the Glamour has a double layer, cut out in different directions, so the stretch is reduced significally. So if you're considering a girdle from WKD, and like me you have a larger than standard difference waist-hip, then I'd recommend the Cabaret.

Cabaret girdle and bra

I sent the Glamour girdle back to WKD, who by the way has en excellent return service and ships any exchanges free. All my orders and questions were handled super-fast, and I couldn't be happier with the customer service! (my own personal opinion, I'm in no way what so ever affiliated with the company). In exchange I asked for a Cabaret bra (I'd tried it out in London) and now I have a set! Yay! Hmm, might have to send for the panties eventually... ;)

I also exchanged the Hollywood robe for a smaller size. I figured "It's a dressing robe - it should be comfy roomy! I'll order one size larger than all my other stuff, then it will also match my waist measurment." I'm not sure why, but it seems like all WKD fits so that I should go down one size in comparising to what they recommend as waist measurment. This was true for this one as well - in the larger size the front wrap ended up all wrong, so the piping peeked out 10 cm beneth the waist-tie. I'm quite happy with this smaller size, though! On the question if I couldn't make it myself with a better fit and a smaller cost (in real silk, instead of synthetic) the answer is of course I could. And judging by my sewing list it would be done about the same time this will be worn out. Sometimes I find it worth to focus on the ready in ReadyToWear =)

The slip and the robe goes beautifully together! Also, you can see the how the robe ties on the inside, to keep the left side skirt from drooping.

The good part of this post being so miserably late is that I've road-tested the cabaret girdle! It' behaved really well during blues dancing, swing dancing and even dining out.
That's all from the lingerie-front! =)

Love, Erika

Thursday 17 October 2013

Bobbin lace!

I’ve taken up bobbin lace weaving again! While this is a hobby I love, my last class finished when I was at a very tricky starting point (the pace of the classes is individual, so the bad timing was totally my own fault). So I figured I’d wait until next semester, I anyway had lots of stuff I wanted to sew. Then there was too few participants… for four semesters in a row! (and there’s 2 semesters/year in this school). I could have removed the new, tricky pattern and just worked on a pattern I knew, but I got out of the habit… 

Oh, and btw, did you notice I now know the correct term for this craft?! In Swedish it’s called “knyppling”, but apparently the English term is “bobbin lace”, since it’s made from wrapping yarn/thread around a “bobbin” and then moving the bobbins around (no resemblance what so ever to a bobbin that goes into a sewing machine). They look like this:

In Swedish we just call it a “stick”. Not very inventive… ; ) However, these can look very different depending on where in the world you’re weaving. Just take a look at this video, which will also give you an idea of how the lace is made:

Wish I had that speed and control over the bobbins! Maybe if I practice very hard for the next 40 years or so... =)

I’ve also seen this type of lace refered to as “pillow lace”, since it’s woven on a pillow. Personally I think it gets a bit confusing as the pillow used is called “a lace pillow”.
“So, what’s your hobby?” “I make pillow lace on a lace pillow.” Really??? =)

Anyway, this is a fun, meditative craft. No sudden progress, no smash and dash-glamour, certainly no “I’ll just make a shortcut here, no-one will know” cause here anyone looking at the finished lace will know. Sure, small mistakes can be hidden from an amateurs eyes, but there’s no covering up big mistakes or turning misguided shortcuts into design features. Then what’s the thrill? It’s seeing the lace take shape, inch by slow inch. It’s crossing, twisting, crossing, twisting, place a needle, and do the whole thing all over. Relaxed, calm and focused.

When I sew I have music on, I like chatting with people, my mind tend to wander to all sorts of interesting topics and daydreams. Hemming and the like is best done in front of the TV. But for weaving lace I need total silence. No talking, no music. No daydreaming of sewing a blouse to attach the finished lace to. I usually make a cup of tea, I usually don’t finish it. It stands half-full, forgotten as I’m lost in total concentration of moving the bobbins over the pillow. Why on earth haven’t I’ve done this in TWO YEARS?! Well, the class has finally started, I’m back on track and this time I’ll keep the skill alive.

For a little bit of fun, here’s a video from the 40s about Swedish laceweaving. It’s a lot of panorama over landscapes and so on, and if that’s not your cup of tea, I’d suggest skipping ahed to 2.20 and then 8.2o in the video.

Here, you’ll also see another geographic style-difference: the hand-placement. In some of the videos I found they hold the bobbins very differently from how I was taught (using thumbs). The way they handle the bobbins in this old clip is how I've been taught.

Anyone else who’s weaving bobbin lace?
Love, Erika

Wednesday 25 September 2013

Completed: two 30's outfits!

Inspired by my love for the 30s look, my realisation that maybe I've been avoiding the 30s for all the wrong reasons, and of course all the lovely comments from you guys on whether I should try it, I decided before summer to make a 30s summer outfit with a skirt and a blouse. "Summer?", you may be wondering, "but Erika, it's fall now!"
I know, I know! But... well, I didn't get done in time... and the skirt fought back... and somehow I ended up making a second skirt + top outfit...

Alright, outfit number one:

A bias cut A-line skirt with side-buttons, and a blouse with a tie-collar and snaps in the side. The skirt is in a lovely faric, it's matka silk! Matka is a plain weave with double strands in both warp and weft. The fabric is coarse and has a lot of body, but at the same time it has a slight slight lustre that's too polite to be called a shine, and even though it has body, it still has some drape. Wonderful!

So how did the skirt fight back? Basically, it was the fabric. When I bought it they said it could be machine washed, but even after a gentle wash with silk-detergent it came out stiff as cardboard. After a good rinse with fabric softener (worked better than vineger, tried both on test squares. And yes, of course I should have machine washed a test square as well...) and ironing it dry, it regained some softness and drape. I'd seriously recommend against machine washing matka, no matter what the salespeople say!

The skirt closes in the side with buttons and handmade buttonholes.

The skirt sits in my natural waist and the waistband is straight, folded. I lenghtened it considerably after looking at old fashion- and pattern magazines, and measuring the few 30s pattern I own, so it hits just below mid-calf.

The blouse is made from leftovers from last year's big dress+jacket project. I used a combination of different patterns I've made before, it took a couple of toilles, and the fit is still a bit off. I have two major issues I need to adress before making it again, first is the bubbliness at the front, second is the excess in the peplum. 30s peplum laid very slim and close to the hips, while the bodice bloused against the waist (opposite that of 50s peplum blouses/dresses). I love the style, though! So easy to wear, cool and soft, not restricting the movement at all, yet with a feeling of elegance.

The blouse closes in the side with snaps.

Second outfit!

Remeber the jerseydress I showed you in the last post? I loved that fabric so much I went back for another 1,5 metre! I had already found a nice linen on a 50% sale, so I figured it would be great to have a 30s outfit that's easier to wash and iron. Hence a linen skirt and a jersey top!

The skirt is tea-dyed (I bought it as a bleached white) and cut on the bias. However, since the first skirt has a tendency to pull a little over the hips I figured it would be better with a bit more room in the skirt and made it just a few cm wider. Unfortunatly, it didn't make the sideseam lay flat, quite the opposite...

Another part in the problem may be that I was a little bit short on fabric, and did a "design feature" at the top. It might be a coincidence that the skirt pulls the most just below the "V", but I doubt it.

Also, the zipper buggled. This is the third installation, and I've done all I can think of. I'm leaving it be, it's time for fall sewing and either the fabric will shrink a little during washing, or I'll wear something over the top of the skirt, or... It's a later problem =)

The top is a version of my by now TNT jerseydress pattern, not much to say about it.

Except that I love the fit in the back!!! With my narrow back, nothing RTW has ever fit and I still get a little giddy everytime I see myself wearing a garment that fits my back =)

This is just a short presentation, I'll be returning soon with some thoughts on drafting patterns that are based on a specific period, and of course a bit more about the silk skirt. It was an epic make ; )

Love, Erika

Monday 16 September 2013

A jersey dress

Gee, moving takes a lot of time! And energy. But now it's done, I'm settled into the new place and I even had some time this weekend to play around with fabric. First time in two months (vacation one month and moving the second). Yay!!! So far not much to show, I'm embarking on an exciting new project: drafting and sewing a dress shirt for my man! So much to learn... can't wait! =)

I did do some last-minute sewing before summer vacation. This jersey caught my eye in the fabric store, and I bought 1,5 metres on pure impuls. Went home, re-drafted my jersey dress-pattern a little bit. Cutting and sewing went very smooth, with a couple of jersey-projects finished this year, I'm starting to feel I'm getting the hang of it.

You've seen this one before, in the previous post. I tried a new version of sleeve, with a little gathering at the cap:

Not sure I'm loving the sleevecap, though. It's very... sweet. Little girl with pony tail-sweet.

For fit, I tried adjusting the shoulder-width and think I'm step closer.

Bodice and skirt both meet the midriff-piece with a single knife-pleat.

And that's this little dress! I also made a 30s blouse and skirt-combi, more about them next time =)

Love, Erika

Thursday 15 August 2013

Summertime and the living is easy... may even be jumping... =)

I read somewhere that internet stress during vacation is a rising population health issue. Stressing about Facebook, blogs and so on prevents one from relaxing, resting and get the full benefit of a vacation. While I can understand the problem, it's one I have no personal experience of. My only stress was feeling bad about not being online, writing posts, commenting. Reading my mail... So even though I this year brought my swanky new computer (allright, maybe not so fancy, but compared to my 8 year old laptop, it's basically a spaceship) on the road, did I use it for anything else than installing needed software (thanks Dad!) and check public transportation info? No, of course, not. I was feeling a little teeny, tiny bit bad about it, until I read the article =) It's amazing how we can choose to give credit to newspaper articles when they fit into how we would like the world to be, and ignore them when they don't.

I've had a wonderfully relaxed vacation. Me and the mr went on a roadtrip through Sweden, something I haven't done since I was a child. We visited family and friends, totally driving approx 3400 kilometres (1 mile = 1.6 km). It was great to not have any fixed days for travelling, just go with the flow and have room to alter any plans whenever we'd choose.

Here's some of my favorite pictures from the past two months...

 Midsummer at Norrbyskär, trying to keep my balance and failing miserably =)

 Feeling like a giant in the minature houses at Norrbyskär museum.

Visiting friends in Hjo, a cute little town next to one of Swedens largest lakes. The shoes, hat, scarf and handbag were my go-to's this summer =)

 The lake was stunning, and we couldn't have asked for better weather!

 Hjo is an old town, with plenty of beautiful wood houses.

Back in northern Sweden, me and mom visited an old iron work. Thought you guy's might like this, it's the early 20th century workroom of the director.

To get power to run the iron work, they used the natural stream and altered it to get more force out it. This stream has been used in this capacity since th 17th c (with different iron works, and new machinery from time to time).

At the end of the vacation, we spent a few days in the Swedish moutins. Clear air, gorgeous midnight light (this is taken at 11.30 at night) and time for both body, soul and mind to relax.

And to sum this up - something sewing related! At a second hand shop I stumbled over this darling. It was set to such a low price, I opened the case mostly to study the broken 70s wreck I assumed resided inside. I probebly startled half the store with my screetch when I opened it and found a Husqvarna CB (they were made between 1903-1934, so it's from somewhere around there). The electricity actually works, and it sews, I tested it in the store. Now, despite it's beauty I was a bit hesitant. Would my boyfriend be ok with A) helping me bring it up to snuff and B) having a third sewing machine in the appartement, with the knowledge that there will be a fourth as soon as I can afford a coverlock? He surprised me in the best sense of the word with not only saying yes to the above but even gifting me with the machine!!!

So that's the quick version of my summer! Not a lot of sewing, I haven't been home eunough for that, but I have made a few garments. Right now my sewing supplies, along with everything else I own, is in a semi-organized chaos, also known as moving. In two weeks I'll be settled into my new place (I'm just moving within the city), and I'm sooooo looking forward to sewing again!

Hope everyone has had a great summer!
Love, Erika