10 December, 2014

Ziggi lace overlay jacket, part 1

I found a lace overlay fabric at our local store over a year ago.  It's a wool-rayon boiled knit in winter white, with black cotton-poly lace bonded to its face.  The bond is pretty good, though I could pull the two layers apart with a little effort.  Still, not wishing to damage the bond, I decided to omit any pre-treating, though I did spray each piece liberally with water during pressing.

Even when I first got this fabric it was destined to become a moto aka biker jacket.  I love the incongruous juxtaposition of classic biker tough with the femininity of lace.  And, again, as with the lace dresses I discussed previously, there are many versions out there, as lace biker jacket shows. Some are sheer, others coloured... while black lace trench coat and black lace overlay jacket give some more variations on the theme.

But then I got sidetracked, and drifted into activities other than for-me sewing.

Fast forward 12 months.... time to find a pattern. Pattern Review is a great resource for that.  It gave me sixteen hits for a "biker jacket" search. Three of those are Burda 12-2009-111 and eleven are the Style Arc Ziggi.  These are really fantastic creations, in a wide variety of fabrics, I am wowed by the leather versions.  And the reviews are so informative!  I found Jrhee's review (if you're not a signed-in member, you  may not be able to see it) particularly useful, as she includes some thoughts on shaping and a very on point comparison with a gorgeous Montana biker pattern from Vogue (V2973).

I went with the Ziggi. Based on others' comments on ease, I checked the bust and hip dimensions of size 8, and muslined that.  Apart from some diagonal drag lines due to extra fabric along the sides, which I got rid of via pinching out the under-arm excess, it seemed to fit very well. But, you  know, Jrhee's comment that the jacket is a little boxy definitely resonated.  It is.  It has all those vertical lines and very little waist shaping.  So I thought, why not add a little pizzazz to this already great pattern, and REALLY make it my own?

Here's what I did:
Enlarged the collar by 2 cm  along its outer edge
Raised the peplum waistline by 2 cm
Gave the main front and back vertical seam (aka princess) lines more of a diagonal angle by shifting them 2 cm to the side at the top and 1 cm towards the centre at the bottom (at the back, the bottom is the peplum waistline).  This also widened the front lapels, of course.
Gave the peplum more of a flare by widening it 1 cm each side at the bottom.
Narrowed each side of the back sleeve seam (the one with the zipper) by 2 cm at the hem, tapering to zero at 20 cm above the hem.

Here's the first test fitting with the fashion fabric and gold trim along the main seam lines:

I do like the new shape of the back seams and the peplum.

The front seems a tad too big.  
And I'm not crazy about the trim on the secondary (princess) seam lines.

The above pic shows that there's more fabric in the upper back than there ought to be. Just look at the gap above the shoulder!  I see that now, but it wasn't apparent in the muslin.  So, in the next version - if there ever is one - I'll reduce the upper back length by 1.5 cm.  This version got shoulder pads.

Also, the photos above are a good demo that emphasizing every seam with trim is not always a good idea.....  

 ...and a test removal of the trim showed how much better the front and sides look when that seam is allowed to blend into the fabric. 

But the front still felt a bit too big and shapeless, so  I pinched out a little on the upper princess seams for a better fit over the bust. And then I took in the side seams about 2 cm each side.  In retrospect, with all those reductions, perhaps I ought to have started with a size 6?

09 December, 2014

LBD refashion and a comment on sizing

I have one Little Black Dress.  Just the one.   Does anyone need more than one?  I surely can't answer that - I've made do with just this one forever.  The dress code at Canadian universities runs more to jeans than cocktail dresses even for the professorial lot, so I never felt the need for more than one. More on point, I've had this LBD for so long, its life with me is to be counted in decades, not years. While not exactly a starving student when I acquired it, it was pretty close.  So this frock and I have a history.

This LBD is definitely not anyone's couture item. It's a pretty basic RTW garment:  polyester crepe, acetate lining. Still, it's pretty nice:   fully lined, with an illusion mesh upper bodice, an empire waistline, great waist to hip shaping, and the neckline, armscyes, back zipper, and the empire seam are finished with satin ribbon for some visual interest.  And it fits me!  Yes, still, or I might say again.... since there were on and off periods during those two decades when it just wouldn't slide over my hips.   Right now, the fit is bang on:  I've been shrinking.

But my little frock is starting to show its age.  A spot on one hip has developed a serious patch of snagged threads, I think from a rough-edged purse or some such.   Plus, consequent to my sewing endeavours, I've become more discerning in what I'd like to wear.  So, great fit notwithstanding, it was time for an update. 

Still, I just wasn't willing to let it go.  It was as close as you can get to a made for me frock.  Therefore, rather than ditching it and starting from scratch, I decided on a little experiment:  an eyecatching overlay!

If you look at the big online fashion stores, you'll see there are tons of lace frocks out there right now. Just do an image search for  lace cocktail dress, sleeveless. Looking at these, and keeping in mind local availability, I had a little brain wave:  why not overlay a lace on my goode olde standebye?  My result might then look somewhat like these:

Bearing in mind that my LBD was, well, obviously black, I wanted a colour that would look good on that background.  Local fabric availability included red, magenta, peppermint green, bright blue, and navy.   I crossed out the nonstarters for you - I won't be caught dead in magenta lace. But red, well, yes, I like red.  It's one of my all time favourite colours. 

And red always looks great with black and on black:

....even when the red is orange:  

But... but.  A couple of days I was struck by a comment on this very demure long sleeved red frock: 

"this is the couture version of the ugly Christmas sweater".  OUCH.  I didn't think it was THAT bad. Call me weak willed, call me sensitive, yet I decided that maybe, just maybe, red would be too bright for me.  Also, the red lace at the local store somehow lacked textural detail. Honestly. 

So I went with this look: midnight navy on black.  The navy lace I found has a fabulous raised texture, and it comes off as pretty subtle: clearly not all black during the day, yet mocking a true LBD under evening lights.  

I sprang for one meter of the navy lace:  nine bucks! (Canadian $ - only eight to my southern friends). 

To create the lace overlay, I plonked me olde LBDe onto the table and traced its sections. I combined the upper illusion mesh and lower bodice into one piece, converting the pieced shaping to bust darts at the front, so ultimately there are only four pieces:  upper front, lower front, upper back, lower back.  All except upper back are shaped with darts.

On the basis of those, I machine sewed and serge finished the lace overlay.  Then I hand sewed the overlay to the dress, folding over at neckline, armscyes and hem, and stay stitching along the back zipper and empire waist seam.  The hand sewing took most of the time, so the exercise took nearly all day, but I was done before dark.

The next day, I added matching blue satin ribbon to the empire seam.  

And that's it!  Out of one meter of poly/acetate stretch lace, I have a new, quite current and stylish navy-on-black riff on an LBD:  

In closing, I want to poke fun make a gentle comment about garment and pattern sizing.  
My old LBD?  Beecher's Brook, size 4. 
My most recent jacket:  Style Arc, size 8, reduced by about 1" on each side seam, so really a 6/8.  
My Big Four patterns:  normally I start with 12, but more and more 10 seems to be a better starting point. 
My Burda/BurdaStyle patterns:  generally a 38.

Wouldn't it be oh so nice if the RTW manufacturers and the various pattern makers all decided to use the same number for the same body measurements?  Right. Dream on. 

04 December, 2014

Inspiration retrospective #1

This is just to close the loop on my previously published grey wardrobe.

To reiterate, my latest jacket was based on New Look 6516.  It looks like the classic French Cardigan Jacket aka FCJ but was constructed using a not-quite-the-oft-promoted-classic-Chanel method:  the quilting attached the fashion fabric to an underlining, while the lining was inserted using the classic "bagged lining" technique.  However...  I took some time to examine the ins and outs of a large number of genuine Chanel cardigan jackets, and discovered that quite a few of them have a standard rather than the quilted lining. So "quilted lining" isn't necessarily the defining characteristic of all Chanel cardigan jackets.  Surprised?

How is mine one different from my previous FCJ's?  Well, let's just say it's furry with a fringe on top. For the allusion and the treat of a young Hugh Jackman in his early musical theatre days, see below:


Indeed, my jacket is fringed, and fringed, and then fringed some more.  After fringing the front, neckline, and all hems, I went back and made some more fringe for the upper armscye:  call me a masochist.  But, this little decorative conceit is often observed in true Chanel jackets, as in here:

and here:

and here:

And the theme of armscye decoration is also applied to merely braided trim, as in here:


and here:

BTW, all photos come from my internet's image search engine.  I've no doubt you can find more examples if you beat the bushes of the internet for a bit.

In closing, here's a little forward looking inspiration from the incomparable Maison de Couture of which we speak:

Now THAT's some Tyrolean bling!

30 November, 2014

Grey boucle/tweed wardrobe

Today was a beautiful day:  dry and, relatively speaking, warm.  No rain, no snow, temp well above freezing.  Tomorrow, I hear, it'll be quite the contrary.  So I prevailed upon the Hubs to take a few pics of my new grey wardrobe. To wit:

1. Chanel-style jacket, wool bouclé, cotton broadcloth underlining, silk twill lining and trim
2. A-line pleated skirt, wool bouclé, silk organza underlining, bemberg rayon lining
3. Blouse, out of the same silk twill as the jacket's lining and trim
4. Grey bouclé and black ponte top to work with the skirt for a two-piece dress
5. Standard lightweight wool black trousers, made long ago and a beloved wardrobe basic

Jacket:  New Look 6516

My new hair goes very well with this new outfit, doncha think? (...beats being bald....)

With bouclé top and skirt for a very unified look

Methinks the proportions are a bit top heavy. Next time, I'll shorten the jacket by at least 2 inches/5cm!

Unobstructed view
Edge stitching of  the outside  edges of the pleats
 keeps them sharp, while edge stitching of the pleats' inside
prevents them from falling open. 
Front pleats are faced with lining fabric to reduce bulk, otherwise those pleats just wouldn't behave.
 Elsewhere, the fashion fabric is folded up and edgestitched.

With matching silk blouse.  But just look at that chain: the links are so poorly closed that they slip right out of the thread!

Bouclé-ponte top: Go 4001

I went for grey-black-grey-black-grey-black. 

Love this pattern's strong princess lines. And look at the matching sleeve trim!

 Boucle side back with black ponte on either side.

Honey, does this make me look wide in the beam? 

Half-length sleeves with self-covered buttons. 

Love the belt carriers on the skirt's yoke.   Need new, skinny belt.
From a distance the blouse looks a nice pearly grey.  But actually, it's a very fine print in cool pink and black.  I like how the print size reflects the pink loops of the bouclé.

You have to be pretty close to the garments to spot the pattern: 
If you look closely, you'll note that the rows of pink are not evenly spaced,
but at 1/2" and 1" intervals. I had to remember that when cutting out the pockets,
to match them to the underlying fronts. 

The look with trousers: The slacks are from a very old Burda paper pattern.  I've tweaked them to death so they fit me no matter what, and now I don't dare try any other pattern. 

I will, of course, add to this little wardrobe, at the very least a couple more matching tops.  

Da-da-da-dat's all folks!  

25 November, 2014

A little tweed top

I have a small remnant of my grey boucle/tweed.  It's just enough for the front of a top.  There's not enough for the back or sleeves.  Those sections will be made out of a black poly/rayon/spandex knit, a nice ponte.  I had to fall off my Stashbusting wagon (gasp!), and purchase one meter of the ponte to accomplish this.

I've been pondering how to sew up this top.  My initial idea was a top based on the Go 4001 dress, a side princess pattern, similar to the one I made for my brown suit. I made the full dress, too.

However, the boucle remnant is just barely too narrow for the two front pattern pieces.  It's only wide enough for the front if cut out of a single pattern piece, with a side or bottom dart for bust shaping. Arrrgh, right?

What has held me back from using a single front piece is, first, that it would look a bit boring, with limited shaping. More importantly, such a top would play to one of my favourite pet peeves of fashion, and that is what's known as "coffin clothes", i.e., garments that look interesting from the front only but have a dull, non-matching back.  I see dresses like this on the web pages of high end stores all the time:  sewn up out of beautiful front fabrics or with interesting front details, only to disappoint with truly nothing to look at, dull, dull, dull backs.  Not only does this generate an instinctive emotional ugh in me, but it also gets my back up that one is expected to pay through the nose for a supposedly designer garment that looks good only from one vantage point. My top, due to the remnant width limitation, was in danger of becoming just such a coffin item.

Then I thought, why not colour block it?  The boucle is wide enough for a centre front and side back panels. The black knit could make up the sleeves, side fronts and centre back pieces.  That way, the boucle side back pieces would add some interest to the back of the garment.   Colour blocking is also slimming.  Not really of importance, but heck, when fate offers you a little freebie along the way, why not grab it. And the knit sections will allow me to eliminate the CB zipper.

Here's the colour-blocked layout on the two fabrics:
Boucle:  side back and centre front pieces.  
Black ponte:  centre back, side front, and sleeves.  
The Go 4001 dress is sleeveless, with a very lovely boat neckline and slightly cut-in armscye.  I compared its neck, shoulder, and armscye shape to to the Jalie 2805 tee pattern, and adjusted accordingly so the sleeves fit correctly.

Pins in the boucle mark a slight widening of the armscye to match Jalie 2805 and the Jalie sleeve.

The back shoulder is also widened from 3" to 4", but the increase is centered on the existing shoulder in order to prevent gaposis. 

Inside front:  I lined all three boucle panels with grey bemberg lining, and sewed them together in such a way that the raw seam edges  are neatly enclosed between the boucle and the  lining.

Inside back.

Outside front:  the raw edges are caught by a narrow zigzag on the tweed, along the seamline.  Thanks to the texture of the boucle, the zigzag is completely invisible.
Outside back.

This is the stage I reached by this afternoon, when it started to get dark.  But it's finished now:  an easy day's work from layout to hiding that last knotted thread.  If not for those lining pieces, and my wish to hide all the raw seams instead of just serging the lot together, plus some completely superfluous but cute (I think!) additional details, it would have taken no more than half the day to sew up.  

Oh, the skirt, and jacket, and silk blouse are also finished.  Whoever guesses correctly what I'll show in my next post gets a bright gold star!  I have lots of them to go around, btw!  ;)

19 November, 2014

The Ch*anel tweed skirt

With the grey boucle jacket all but finished - except for the hooks and eyes along its front opening - I turned my attention to making a matching skirt that, once completed, will give me a work-worthy little suit.

If you've ever given a little thought to Chanel's overall look and feel you might notice that Karl likes the A-line silhouette.  Just look at these:

 I found all these examples by googling "Chanel skirt".  There are lots of others, many with stratospherically high, lap-dancing-only hems, so I picked out just those that I thought could easily be translateable to real life scenarios.
 ....and in pretty sedate colours, too.
 A little air conditioning between the thighs is very nicely offset here by a giant let's keep my ears warm-and-toasty collar.  The overall silhouette is great, and I like how the thick turned-up cuffs offer a stark contrast to the model's delicate wrists.  She looks like a fragile little shore bird safely coccooned in a cozy warm blanket.
 This one is very fierce. And comfortable at the same time.
Although I'm not crazy about the colour and the armscyes look huge on the model, the skirt shape makes my point very nicely.

I've made my point? Indeed. So you won't be surprised to learn that I decided on an A-line skirt for this outfit. For the pattern, I turned to New Look 6511.  Unfortunately this pattern is no longer in print, but I did see it's on offer on etsy today.

Several years ago I had made the midi version view A of this pattern in an olive coloured ultra-suede. This time, I thought the short pleated skirt - view D - was giving off just the Ch*anel vibe I was looking for. I was particularly encouraged by the fact that it's shown in a boucle or tweed in the picture. Yesssss!

I cut a straight size 12, but upon fitting just the yokes found I had to take at least 5/8" off each side of both front and back. Later, after the skirt panels were attached to the yoke, I took out a big wedge out of the centre of the back yoke.  Interestingly, this is exactly the same alteration I did to the back yoke of my view A version.

I interfaced the yokes with a fusible, and that made them nice and smooth while maximizing their stability.  The skirt panels, however, are quilted to a silk organza underlining. It took a lot of basting at fairly narrow (3-4 cm) intervals, but  I'm getting reconciled to these time consuming tricks, and with good reason:  I had used silk organza underlining in a skirt once before, and very much like how it looks and wears.  A lesson well learned.

Before it got too dark to sew, I completed the outer shell:

 Inside front:  the difference between the interfaced yoke and organza-underlined lower panels is clear.  The front has two wide box pleats.
 Inside back:  there's a big difference between my butt and my waist, so the back yoke needed to be severely narrowed at the top.  The lower back is made of three flaring panels.
Front:  these box pleats make it really really cute.  The edges are basted at the  moment; they'll  be edge-stitched once the skirt is hemmed. The  zipper is set into the left side.  Of course you can't see it:  it's invisible!

Tomorrow morning I'll burrow into my stash for a thin, lightweight grey wool for the hem facing.  A facing seems like the best solution for those box pleats, as the tweed is quite thick and I'm sure would prove very troublesome when folded upon itself so many times.