Monday, 29 October 2012

Paco's Apron skirt

I was very fortunate this week to receive as a gift two new patterns from Paco Peralta. They are the Treky top and the Apron skirt. I don't have any fabric in the stash for the Treky top and due to circumstances beyond my control, I have been rather house-bound for a few days and didn't get out to go fabric shopping. However, I did have a length of fine checked wool so opted to make the apron skirt first.

You may already know of Paco and his designs - simple, elegant with exquisite cutting and finishing details. I've made quite a few of his patterns and I'm never disappointed. Just go to the Labels box on the right and click Paco for a sample of previous makes.

You’ve got to love Paco and his simple but elegant and classic designs and the very fact that he releases the patterns to the world at large and lets home sewers loose on them but let’s face it, his instructions are weak – actually non-existent. He does a brilliant job of showing construction details and tricks on his blog - but the rest is left up to you.

While I was making this I kept a photo journal and have written instruction sheets, so if you decide to purchase and make this skirt, then download the PDF here. If you want to see how I made the skirt just for the heck of it, download it anyway.

Paco has labelled this skirt as Very Easy: I don't think I'd go that far - there are a few tricky bits - but on the whole it is straightforward.

The front panel is the 'apron'. It is cut separately and sewn in place over the curved front piece.
To make a little bit of interest I cut the apron on a different grainline - hence the darker colour.

My fabric has a fine check (plaid) and I would have liked to try cutting it on the bias but alas, not enough fabric.

I fell stitched the apron by hand so that I could keep control of the curved corners. I must say however, that the pattern pieces fit together flawlessly. See the curve at the top of the side panels? This is shaped so that it is cut on the bias, there is a slight stretch, and so fits perfectly around the hips - genius!

A perfect fitting skirt that will work at the office, home and, made in the right fabric, a night out too.

The back has four panels, invisible zipper and a centre split

The skirt is fully lined, which I also attached by hand. It is straight but not tight, quite conservative but with unique design, formal but just a little bit sexy. Happy girl with her well fitting skirt.

2 days after final construction.

 Worn today with Draped Top from 3 Hours past.. (unfortunately no longer available but if you plague Stephanie, she might re-draft it - it is invaluable) made in a brown knit with chiffon edging, lace up boots and the high waist of the skirt emphasised with a hand made snake skin belt.

Go on, get it. You know you need a good workhorse of a skirt like this.
Disclaimer - not getting paid for this endorsement.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

From the Heart...

If you've been following the blog for a few weeks or so it may appear that I do a lot of sewing and apparently little else - the reality is somewhat different, of course. We all have work to do, dinners to make, ironing, shopping and lives to lead. Some care for others, whether it's elderly parents, children,(our own or others'), darling grandchildren, neighbours or friends. Some of us worry about and/or concerned for others and this can take up most of our waking hours.

I am blonde (a little help is now required from a bottle), fair but not pale, and have 487 moles. I counted them once when I was a teenager thinking that the answer to life, the universe and everything was somehow imprinted on my skin, just like the stars. I no longer have 487 moles as various dermatologists in recent years have regarded my answer-to-everything moles as a risk to my life. Five years ago I was diagnosed with malignant melanoma and went through 3 months of surgery, wild mental anguish and zombie-like existence. The offending mole was removed and then about 3" diameter of extra skin around it just to make sure. Every suspicious mole has been subsequently hacked off - so far 9 to date. This usually means I have a 2-3" slash cut into the skin at a depth of least 1cm, many stitches, bit of pain and discomfort and then out the other side.

I've had every type of skin cancer going- melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, dysplastic cells, I think the only one I'm missing is squamous. I believe the dermatologists regard me as a living research and teaching tool and look forward to my bi-annual visits with relish!

Sewing may been seen as a frivolous hobby, an innocent pastime, a creative outlet, saving of money - whatever. The real reason I went back to sewing, and I've only just realised this myself, is skin cancer.

Here's the connection -

After the melanoma, I was warned about the sun, especially with my skin type. I haven't actually sunbathed proper for nigh on 30 years as I was more concerned with wrinkles than cancer, but the doctors told me quite emphatically - no skin exposure to the sun. Folks, you have to try and get your heads around this - I live in Ireland! We don't have sun! But when it shines on the occasional day we like to get out in it, walk around, turn our faces to the sky and smile and feel all warm and content inside. Now this little pleasure was practically denied to me.

Five years ago the over riding fashion was sleeveless - blouses, dresses, I even remember a sleeveless sweater. You may have read in my posts over the months that I don't do sleeveless - my upper arms are nothing to write home about but now you know the real reason why I cover them up. Sewing my own clothes allowed me to put sleeves in everything - not be dictated to by what was selling in the shops. You may think that being diagnosed with cancer would put fashion way down the list of things to think about - almost the opposite - I had to think very carefully about what I wore. I still wanted to look good, fashionable and be covered up. I also now have some huge scars where there once were moles and to prevent people asking me what happened, I cover them up. Hence my return to sewing and I haven't looked back since.

As I sit and write this I have two new gashes in either thigh and haven't slept properly in four nights as I can't get comfortable in bed. I took the week off work as I knew I would be sore and mostly worried that I'd bump into desk edges and the like. I sewed like a maniac, maybe as distraction. But, I'm coming out the other side now and the stitches will be removed in a week's time. Two new giant scars to add to all the others. I'll get the results of the biopsies a week after that. Mind you, I don't wear shorts any more so my sewing style will not have to adapt dramatically for these new scars.

When I posted about the first DK top I put up a photo of the back and for the first time in my life I saw the scar of the melanoma site. It's right in the middle of my back between shoulder blades and I've never been able to see it in a mirror. I'm guessing you're looking at it and saying "Where is it?" but it's a bit like our own sewing - we know the faults and mistakes while other people just see a wonderful garment.

And it's funny how some things work out and fit together.
Just a little while ago Thornberry linked to my most recent What Do You Think? post. I was flattered but the post upset one of Thornberry's readers and then that upset me. The reader was annoyed, I was annoyed that I'd annoyed her. These posts were never intended to insult or hurt and I began to think that it was time to stop blogging - I'd over stepped the mark. For the record, I happen to think that this particular sewer is very talented and looks damn good too.

Then this morning I was just checking Thornberry's blog to make sure I hadn't inadvertently offended anyone else when she wrote about covering up in the sun - that got me started on this post. Coincidence or what?

I have never done the "Why me?" thing, or "life's not fair" - this is just the way it is now.
We look at people and think they have wonderful lives, when really we don't know them at all. I often wonder do we even really know ourselves? In writing this I have addressed a few truths about myself that I hadn't realised.

Thanks for reading.  Remember folks, use SPF and cover up!


Friday, 26 October 2012

My New BFF - DK

The Montana-sized front piece was cut out....

The Burdaesque markings were marked....all round the edge and up the middle... and a few on the sleeves..

A new sleeve was cut and made after the first one had a run in with a too-hot iron.....

Pleating and gathering and folding and matching and sewing and ripping and more sewing was completed and just like magic, out of acres of poly satin emerges a Donna Karan blouse.....

And after all that I didn't really like it much!

By sheer happenstance I came across the original Donna Karan satin blouse - which retails at £2,010. Yes, you read that correctly and I didn't make a typo! It is currently On Sale at a measly £750.  

Buy V1324 from Vogue patterns for $32 and purchase 2.5m of soft, shiny satin and you've still got a bargain.

So now I love my blouse
 Some little details to note: I didn't add the bottom band like the original because the iron also put a hole in it and there was no more fabric left!

I think my pleats on the sleeves are folded the wrong direction but hopefully no one will really notice.

My cowl neck is not as flat and pressed as the original due to the fabric qualities of my poly satin.

There's a keyhole hidden the centre back pleat which I though might gape - but it doesn't - see? And it sits above the bra strap line just in case there is a moment's gaping while bending over to tie my shoelaces and pull my socks up.

So after the argument and disappointment with Donna's batwing top, we're friends again. Isn't that nice? 

Party season or just wear it everyday?

Your valued opinions please.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

The 62 Years Suit

These two were made for each other and there's only 62 years separating them. The skirt from Vogue DK 1324 circa 2012 and the opera coat, also from Vogue vintage 1950. Perhaps the longest 6PAC to complete ever!

I made the skirt previously in leather so I knew what the pitfalls and hazards were,  however, sewing it up in a wool woven was so much easier.

First up, the lining is an integral part of the skirt: it is sewn to the middle waistband and then turned to the inside. I also caught my lining into the back split. I couldn't quite make heads nor tails of the instructions for that part so I just went with what worked.

Trickiest bit - the side waistbands! Yet another of my pet hates and things I'm miserable at - sewing into a point, pivot, and sew. I just cannot do this with a machine so I either resort to hand stitching or working out an alternative construction method. As every seam on the skirt is top stitched (even the darts) I used this as my alternative method - folded in the seam allowances and topstitched to the skirt; similar technique to the Issey Miyake shirt collar but used the machine instead of hand stitching.

The skirt has triangular side panels rather than side seams and these create interest and shape. I find them to be somewhat slimming and flattering but that might just be wishful thinking and my rose tinted glasses.
This is a better picture for the actual colours of the fabric - it is duck-egg blue and taupe in wiggly, zig-zaggy lines.

Next thing to keep your eye on is the invisible zip closure at centre back - match those waistbands on either side as the zip extends all the way to the top. Mine went in twice!

The matching coat is fabulous - not my particular making of - but the style and wearability is just excellent. The pattern is for a reversible coat, patch pockets, 3/4 length kimono sleeves, stand up collar and huge cuffs. I did search for a suitable matching/coordinating fabric with which to make the reverse but came up empty. I couldn't take a chance on internet shopping because of colour matching. I went ahead and made the coat in an unlined version.

The fabric frays like mad and the seams would be on show without a lining, so I flat felled them all, like in a man's shirt. 

The top stitching on the coat now reflects the topstitching on the skirt! The coat is loose and swingy - no buttons or closures - but you could add them. For the front facings I used the interfacing pattern piece and slip stitched the collar over the raw edges.

 I didn't pay attention to how the stripes of the fabric would lie so there is a kind of mixed up pattern thing going on. The pockets are self lined and the big flap is loose and just folds over. I'll be wearing this with jeans and trousers and pyjamas and anything else I can possibly get away with - I love it so much. Big winter blanket comes to mind - but be warned the sleeves are extremely narrow just below the elbow and would need widening with a thicker, chunkier fabric.

Worn above with the wierdo Donna Karan batwing top and worn below with the Issey Miyake shirt

 My first attempt at a coordinated, planned (LOL), synchronised sewing set.

If you have been waiting on pics of the leather pants, I'm afraid you'll have to wait a little longer. My sewing machine isn't playing so most of the stitching is now being done by hand. If they ever get finished and don't fall apart on first fitting it will be a miracle. Could well be made into a bag yet......

Sunday, 21 October 2012

I can't Stand Like That.....

I now know why the Vogue models have to perform such unusual poses............
I have been attempting to sew a Stitchers Guild 6-PAC over the last few weeks and all will be revealed soon and one of the 6 pieces was this Donna Karan Vogue top. The pattern's been hanging around the stash box since the last Vogue sale so I thought it was time to make it up.
The whole back of the top is open but not mine! I sewed it up like a centre back seam and left about 6" free at the neck so that I could get it over my head. the gathered high neck is secured with 9 snaps - though I got away with 5.

Anyway, look at the size of the single front piece! Thank goodness there's only one.

This is the front with the pleats pinned in place and it reaches to the floor! 

The really scary bit is having to cut this piece right up the middle.

Once this bit is done the rest of the construction is relatively straightforward until you come to the hip hugging wraps. Mine were far too loose and didn't quite look like the line drawing above. So ripped out and tightened the whole thing ignoring the notches and marks. It's a better fit with more gathers, so overall much more pleasing to the eye. This could be the reason the model is wearing a belt too - to hide the bagginess.

Having tried it on I am now in a position to advise and caution you - if you don't stand with your hands on your hips the entire time of wearing this top the voluminous front flops forwards and hides all the meticulous pleating that is wrapped around the hips. It is also nearly impossible to lift (even move) your arms and you lose the entire bottom half of the sleeve. It just looked like I had taken 3m of jersey and slung it round my neck - absolutely shapeless. 

So, unless you perpetually stand like this.....

 ...or this....
this top ain't gonna work!
Solution to this problem was two-fold. I lifted most of the batwingedness and made three pleats on either side of the shoulders. Tacked them firmly on the inside along the shoulder seam. This has a rather pleasant effect of creating a draped front while also revealing the hip wraps and letting me move my arms too. Winner!

 Second stage is to wear it tucked in....

I am also convinced that not only do you need instructions to make this top, you also need instructions on how to put it on and wear it!

And here is the rest of the 6-PAC. Tones of duck-egg blue and taupe. Though I did cheat and pulled the wool camel trousers out of the wardrobe (made last winter) to make up the six pieces. Sorry!

And if I didn't have enough to figure out with this DK top, I've got the blouse from V1324 cut out and ready to start and it comes with another front piece the size of Montana. 

Sunday, 14 October 2012

What do YOU think?


We only like young, thin people - even when we are old and not so thin!

The second instalment in the open discussion forum - where you are free to speak your mind and comment how you see fit.

OK, a sweeping generalisation statement perhaps but pay attention - this is the science part:

Psychological research has shown that people who are perceived to be beautiful are given higher scores in job interviews; are generally more successful (financially) in life; receive more promotions than less attractive people; receive lesser sentences in criminal court; and so on. This is known as as the Heuristic Effect - beautiful people are good while unattractive people are bad. We look at the outward appearance and judge the character. It's common, we all use it as a short cut to difficult decision making processes: risk, danger, financial investments, and people we don't know.

Full size - Not plus size!
Now the not so scientific bit - anecdotal evidence (AKA my independent research of sewing blogs) has shown that those bloggers, who shall rename nameless, who are thin (size 4-10 both Uk & US), who are young (20-35) demonstrably have more followers than the more traditional, and much more common sewers - who are a more standard size 14-18 and over 35.

It's worse. On Pattern Review, pictures of slim sewers in their clothes get more views and comments than regular sized people. Really. Go and check for yourself. Just pick at random a page of reviews and compare the skinny with the normal. Regardless of complexity or perfection of the sewn garment - young, thin girls are rewarded with more hits and favourable comments.

OK OK OK. There are always exceptions to any rule and I am making generalisations here - some people have been blogging for years and have built up their supporters; others are extremely talented and worthy of following - others???? I'm not so sure.

Wait... I'm not getting a dig in at young, thin sewers by the way, I'm merely using you as an example. It's more a social comment on the acceptability of older, rounder women as fashion icons or role models for younger girls.

So why?

Two year s ago a German womans' magazine - Brigitte - decided to use real models in their photoshoots. They did not employ models and every woman chosen was 'average' size and 'normal' looking.

The editor, Lebart,  said "Today’s models weigh around 23% less than normal women.” The move was a response to complaints by readers who said they had no connection with the women depicted in fashion.

The magazine did retouch the photos of normal women but then they do that with professional skinny models too and full makeup and styling was applied, as you would expect for a fashion magazine. However........

In two years subscriptions to Brigitte have dropped by nearly 22 per cent while 35 per cent fewer copies were sold in shops since the 'real people policy was introduced. This is Germany's best selling women's magazine by the way, not some little provincial rag. In September this year they went back to the professional model, but, at least, no size zeros.So while we do not like to be reminded of how physically imperfect we are, we apparently do not like to see it in others either. Darling Karl L called the move to real people as absurd as fashion was all about "dreams and illusions."So, it seems we are still tempted by youth and a media reinforced ideal of beauty. We like thin. We like young. Regardless of culture or country.

Personally, I'm a UK 14. It has taken me a long time to accept that I will NEVER have Scandinavian thighs, Audrey Hepburn's neck, Bridgette Bardot's lips, Marilyn's waist or Farah Fawcett hair. I'm over it. I dress now to suit my shape and possibly my age (most of the time, but that's for another post.....). Making my own clothes has provided the opportunity to select better and better suited clothes than if I was shopping. It is the reason I went back to sewing in the first place, I just couldn't find what I wanted in the shops.

What do YOU think?

Photo credits: all over the place on Google Images.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Donald, Where's yer Troosers?

I am sitting rather gingerly while I type this post. The reason is this...
My very first attempt at sewing with leather and I'm not 100% confident in the integrity of the seams, so I'm taking it a little easy on movement and stretching. This is actually 'left-over' leather from the intended jeans (which are cut out but yet to be sewn) and was a really good learning exercise: stitch length, type of needle, speed of machine, how many layers I can actually sew through and generally all about how the fabric behaves (or not).

The skirt pattern is Vogue 1324 and maybe not the best choice for a first leather garment. There are no side seams but a triangular side inset, hence the seams lie towards the knees at the front and back. All seams are topstitched and there's an invisible zipper - ha ha ha - so the instructions say! It is a very fitted pencil skirt as you can see from the photo, whereas, mine is not.
Darts in leathers are a wee bit of fun. Sew as usual, then slice through the centre as far as is safe to do so, glue the flaps down and bash with a hammer instead of pressing the living daylights out of them. There's something rather rewarding bashing things with a hammer.
There was tiny cut in the leather which I only noticed after I had sewed the centre front to the side triangles, so it was patched with a piece of lining and more glue. It has held up remarkably well - so far. 

Detail of the topstitching and if you look very carefully, many skipped stitches. Apparently this is common when sewing with thicker leather and is remedied by hand stitching through the holes to grasp the thread into a stitch-like look.

This is my kind of hemming - glue and clothes pegs. Let set for 24 hours.

Finished article. You can't press the dart points flat, heat only stretches leather. DH (who knows everything) says the only way to 'press' the skirt is to wear it. It should take on my shape (dear help us all!) and the little bumps will smooth out with time. He says leather only gets better with age - like him!

No photographer this evening as he is at choir practice so I used the self timer in teenage son's bedroom. Some shots have my reflection in the mirrored wardrobe door for 360 viewing pleasure.

The zip was a real hassle. I did use an invisible one but inserted it more like a regular lapped zip. At the waistband there were just too many layers for the machine to cope with that I ended up sewing the top bit rather badly by hand. It's holding.

So the jeans are cut and rolled - don't fold leather - it creases, ready to be sewn.

I think I'll test drive the skirt first to judge the quality of the sewing before commencing on the jeans. I did not enjoy sewing with leather but this may be down to the pattern rather than the activity. 

Wearing it is even stranger. 

Hope your sewing activities are going well and even if I don't always comment, I'm always reading, keeping up to date and silently admiring from afar.