26 October, 2010

Are five white shirts too many? Never!

As I said in the last post - for me, this is a most timely initiative, and the little white shirt button at left will take you to Barbara's "sewing on the edge" blog, where you'll have the opportunity to admire other sewists' pristine creations.

I have the following :  midweight textured linen, lightweight textured linen, lightweight smooth linen in cream (not white), a midweight crinkle cotton, and a floaty striped cotton voile.  Three of them will definitely become shirts, but the two midweight fabrics might turn into something a little more jackety - we'll see.

As to patterns:

One will definitely be the Vogue 1054 Chado Ralph Rucci overshirt.  I wrote the review for it a year ago, and it's still languishing in private mode, because I haven't yet photographed the shirt nor the shirtdress that I based on the same pattern.  Interestingly, though the shirt is a bit too casual, I wear the dress all the time - it's a classic, a dark grey self-patterned silk wool, perfect for work, perfect for accessorizing in any colour of the rainbow, and it garners lots of positive attention.  So, when I tear myself away from my sewing machine, finishing that review will move from my to-do to the done list.  That's the plan.

The second pattern I'm interested in is the blouse made by Terri, a very talented theatrical costume tailor who writes A Tailor Made It.  Her creations are fascinating, and they're usually for men, so a simple white lady's blouse coming from her is a unique treat. I'd have to adapt a simple darted bodice pattern to one with curves, but it should be doable, as she posted both the original German draft and her own pattern pieces.  New Look 6598 has similar bones: a cut-on collar and vertical front & back darts, so I'll start with that.

Thirdly, a crisp white blouse  made its debut within the last few days at Handmade by Carolyn.  It's a Burda pattern, with a charming curve to the fronts, and sashes for tying.  Beautifully feminine.

Fourthly, Irene, who started her Irene's Studio blog only this month, posted a perfect classic white blouse: bust plus vertical front & back darts - just last week.   Not only that, but she gave a few tips on how to slash-and-shrink as opposed to slash-and-spread; nice & useful for the skinny minnies among us.  Go over and visit her - up for barely three weeks and she's posted some luverly stuff already.

I'm sure there are plenty more white blouses out there in blogland - why not make your own linked list? 

In fact, let me just add a link to Les Merveilleuses - a for-ladies section of the Cutter and Tailor forum.  Not just about shirts, but some of the retro topics do include scans of various 20th C pattern magazines, if nothing else, to inspire us to maybe think of a different white blouse.  Later! right now I have to return to those four waistbands.  The clock's aticking!

25 October, 2010

Trolling for trousers

I haven't fallen off the face of the earth. I've been madly rushing my olde Kenmore to Produce, Produce... and Produce even more.

The biggest hurdle of my upcoming high hot desert wardrobe was the fact that I have NO summer slacks. None. In summer I wear dresses.  I admit to having made two pairs in lightweight black silk a couple of years ago - one dupioni, one jacquard -  and have already worn one of them literally to death.  But traipsing around China's sights during a very hot couple of weeks one September not long ago convinced me that no no matter how light, black will cook you.  They did.  Black at 44C would be hazardous to my health (and, given the wardrobe directive I'm subscribing to, I'd be correctly suspected of being mentally defective).

When pressed to the wall, I'll concede to wearing RTW tops, blouses, etc, especially in a not too sartorially demanding working environment.  But finding lightweight heat-tolerant slacks in the Great White North in December?  Methinks not.  So my most critical need was for pants, trousers, slacks.    Remember, they'll have to ride me through both winter & summer seasons, in a dirty, dusty adventure.  And I'll be sharing laundry facilities (no, I won't be doing it myself, heavens!) with 4000 likewise dirty & dusty companions.

I gave myself October to produce as many as I could.  With 6 days to go, the count stands at (HOW many?!!!) seventeen.  Count'em.  Please.  Dirty. Dusty. Wear once, then throw in the wash. 

I made the first two (that's the olive linen and brown crinkle rayon in the left column) using standard trouser technique:  darts, zipper, zipper guard, waistband.  Of course, this took some time, and I literally freaked. At that rate, I'd still be producing trousers in January! And have no time to build a proper wardrobe! EEEEK!

Now, speaking of proper wardrobe, I decided it'll have to consist of:
1. trousers: see above ;)
2a. in winter, rayon knit and merino wool tees per Jalie patterns
2b. in summer, linen, cotton, and silk crepe (yep! I love it!) sleeveless tops
3a. jackets & 3b. lightweight shirting overblouses over 2a & 2b as the obligatory long-sleeved cover-ups.
4. a few sunhats

I'll make one warm fleece jacket, and likely purchase a 3 in 1 parka (breathable rainproof & windproof shell with zip-out fleece lining jacket inside, for you out there unfamiliar with the term), if out of time to make.  

Back to my eeek moment, I switched technique to elasticated pull-ons.  Boy that really helped me put on some speed!

As things stand, two are crinkle rayon; two crinkle cotton; four stretch cotton; one a techno stretch cotton-nylon; one a linen-rayon; one an amazing lightweight linen-silk; and the rest are plain linen, in various weights.

I varied them with different degrees of relaxed fit; different pocket shapes and placements; and even added faux front zippers, cuffs, and sewn-in front & back creases to a few.  You'll have to forgive me for not boring you to tears with a pictorial of each pair on my behind, but 1. there's no time, and 2. you might just start getting the "look of the dusty day" in four months or so.  Stay tuned!

By Saturday, I felt I could afford to return to tailored shapes, and cut out four jeans-style pairs, using the jeans construction but Jalie's more relaxed trouser rather than skintight jeans overall fit, so as not to feel like a steamed sausage.  Lucky me, I already made each of these in the recent past, so I could cut, sew, and not worry about fit in the slightest.   I added large patch style cargo pockets, and pretty much finished the four over the weekend, excepting the waistbands and hems.  Exhausting, much?  Yep, it was a sweatshop here. Especially with two of them being in a check that needed to be matchy-matched.  Painful, 'twas. 

Oh, and some four others still need hemming.  If worse comes to worst, and I run out of time, I can always hem them "over there".  That's the plan.

Next up:  blouses and tanktops.  I joined Sewing on the Edge's "never too many white shirts" for that - timely, oh yea.  Impeccably timed: thank you, Barbara.

Courtesy of the internet.
 Roll on Tanktop (or is that, top of the tank?) November.

06 October, 2010

Planning the Plan

The time has come, the walrus said, to speak of many things.  Thank you Lewis Carroll, that's one of your best lines ever.

Many things?  Many garments! Many, very many garments, actually; and to plan making them.  Plan carefully, judiciously, parsimoniously - and, probably the hardest for me, to stick to the plan.  The fabrics, the garments, the patterns - all the specifics, including a schedule, which is limited to the four coming months.  No more.  In four  months the clock will strike midnight, my sewing machines will all turn into rotten pumpkins, and my needle steeds into rusty little mice. 

I have to create a "field" wardrobe for an extended away from home professional engagement.  The time span includes both winter and summer months - so, in effect, I'll need a full year's wardrobe in a suitcase.  Actually, "winter" won't really be all that bad for this snow-loving, wool-embracing Canuck, but "summer" is guaranteed to be "fry your egg on the pavement" style of Hades for increasingly heat-intolerant moi.

In addition to the climatic considerations, my wardrobe will have to fulfill a draconian dress code:  ultra-modest!!!!!  No dresses, skirts, shorts, or capris/cutoffs.  All limbs must be - or, at least able to be, on demand, covered to ankle/wrist. And no decently feminine shoes, either:  practical boots, I'm devastated to report.  Ugh, and sigh.

90% of my workmates will look like this:

 and the other 10% will, I guess, sort of, look like me.  I'm hoping to produce a practical wardrobe that'll also ensure they won't look TOO MUCH like me. 

What would you, dear reader, come up with for, say, a week in a horrid hot and arid working environment?

05 October, 2010

Le Sac!

... aka More Sewing But Not For Me.

Secure in her knowledge that Things Can Be Dyed, Kimono Girl arrived on my doorstep with a large 100% cotton - according to the label - carpetbagger style bag and a packet of fiber reactive black dye. We both agreed the purple bag could do with a makeover. After a lazy afternoon in a hot and salty dye bath, a rinse, and a dry, the bag was still  purple (!) but, if possible, even uglier.  The dye didn't take!  Could it have had some sort of surface treatment?  Any ideas?

Being a cheerful and creative sort of Girl, KG proceeded to diss the purple object as too small, too ugly, too wrong a colour, too poorly proportioned, lacking in this'n that...altogether too objectionable. Then suggested that we (cough, cough) should make a replacement that'll cure all of the aforementioned pitiful purple's ailments.

Out of my ginormous stash, we picked out suitable fabrics: a dark olive micro-suede for the outside, and a tight-weave light grey cotton poly for the lining (her pick, not mine - I'd have used a gorgeous green-grey-black poly tie silk that matched the outer fabric beautifully, but alas, it was much too grown up for the young milady).

Then, leaving me the photo above, along with a 24" brass-coloured zipper and instructions to "Make it BEEEEG!", KG left town and "we" (cough, cough) proceeded to design and sew Le Sac.

Interestingly, the inspiration bag's upper width is in a golden ratio (1.6) to its vertical height (not counting the handles) and bottom width.  I first modeled it using two 24 cm paper napkins, sewed together along three sides, and then mitered on the two bottom corners to make a rectangular base 8 x 16 cm.  That convinced me that this simple approach created a trapezoid just like the inspiration bag.  A separate bottom piece simply wasn't needed

In reality, to create the illusion of a 24" width at the top, the bag had to be wider along its upper edge by at least 3", to allow for the width of the zipper and its attachment to the bag's body.  

The pic above shows the apparent trapezoidal body shape of the bag at left, a side view with the side seam and the mitered bottom seam at centre, and the actual pattern piece at right.  I cut both sides as one - the "join" is indicated by the red line - and each "half" is 24" high, 24" wide across the red line, and 28" wide at the top.  The grey rectangle, 8 x 16",  indicates extra interfacing (2 layers fusible + 1 layer hair canvas) which was also stitched down to the fashion fabric.The entire bag is interfaced. 

In addition to two short handles, Le Sac has a long, adjustable shoulder strap for secure cross-body wear while biking..

and two external zipped pockets for  the miscellaneous flotsam and jetsam that students routinely accumulate....

The lining holds another zipped pocket, and two open pockets - for the cell phone and house keys, readily accessible.

As ordered requested, Le Sac is big! It'll do a good job as KG's weekender bag for intercity commuting.  

(le sac is also truly olive green, not grey:  blame the evils of this camera chip's photoresponse properties).

03 October, 2010

A tale of two kimonos

My pants-sewing and general me-sewing have been gently shoved to the side this week, partly because  my lovely college kid who is sharing living quarters with roomies, requested a cover up. Call it what you wish: housecoat, bathrobe, dressing gown - everyone needs one.  Luckily, I have one of my own - made ever so many years ago by my own mom - and it did a perfect job as a model.  Thanks to it, I was able to make my girl's kimono robe without a pattern. 

This robe is very similar to a traditional Japanese cotton kimono, aka yukata. 

In the pic above, the traditional yukata is on the left, my version is at right.  Since I once owned a genuine yukata, I knew how to change the pattern to suit modern living. The overly long, overhanging sleeves had to go;  so did the excess body length, which requires double belting.  Logistically, the fabric I used was only 115 cm (45") so the sleeves had to be sewn on - not cut on, as they could've been with a 60" width.  Another difference, not shown here, is the front/neckline band:  the traditional yukata's band ends in a blunt chop at the bottom of the V, while mine continues smoothly to the bottom hem.  Notice too that I scooped out the back neckline, while the traditional neck is straight across.  I also added belt loops (shown), and, just below them but not shown, side seam pockets. 

Except for the side pockets and belt loops, the garment is made out of five lengths of fabric, all of them rectangular, which made preparation all the easier:  each piece was ripped, not cut.

The pieces are as follows:  (each includes a 1 cm seam allowance)
Body front + back:  262 cm x 75 cm.  This includes a 5 cm hem plus a 1 cm SA fold-over, for a finished length of 125 cm.  The entire piece is folded in half so that there is no seam along the shoulder. 
Each sleeve:  45 x 60 cm.  Folded in half and hemmed, the sleeve is 35 cm wide x 28 cm high. The sleeve hem is 8 cm deep (plus a 1 cm SA fold-over).
Front band:  I prepared 280 x 12 cm, and cut off the excess 5 cm or so at the bottom hem after attaching it all the way around the fronts and neckline.  It's not interfaced. 
Belt:  220 x 12 cm.  I interfaced it.

I found it very helpful to press all the important folds, hems and important seams into the fabric in the flat, even using a little starch to keep the creases, before I started to put everything together.  In the expectation that the garment would see a lot of laundering, I french-seamed and flat-felled it: even the side seam pockets.  If not for that,  it would've taken just a morning to put together.  As it was, it took the day.

That's the first version.  She had her heart set on blue cotton batik. What's more fun than snowflakes in mid-summer?  Oh, and have I mentioned that I love winter?

For myself, I made the body 5 cm narrower and 5 cm taller.  I also omitted the side seam pockets - you know how much I abhore those, right?  Instead, I added a secret pocket on the inside of the right front, below the belt-line.  One edge of the pocket is caught into the front band, while the other, except for being tacked to the body front at its upper corner, hangs loose. It's completely invisible from the outside. 

I realized while making robe #2 that the sleeves are wide enough that they can be flat-felled in the round.  I also took advantage of the relatively narrow fabric and the fact that the print is perfect selvedge-to-selvedge, to use the selvedges productively:  the entire one side of the kimono and its sleeve SA are selvedge, as is the top of the secret pocket, and the inside of the front band. 

I have two more of those to put together:  big his and little his.... with dinosaurs.  Rawr! goes t-rex!