Sunday, October 31, 2010

why did you start sewing?

I first began sewing at home when I was a kid, where I had access to Mum's sewing machine and her stash of patterns and fabrics - there is nothing like the raw materials to get inspired!  Like a lot of us I started with fabric scraps and a Barbie doll, and soon progressed to decent yardages and 'real' clothes. 

We lived in a rural community with no clothing stores, so as a fashion conscious teenager being able to sew was a definite advantage!  I used to love the days we would go to town and pick out some new patterns and fabrics from the local department store H&J's.  I know this is why I am so fond of patterns from that era - I even recognise some of those classics online today! 

So why did I pursue sewing?  I really liked the process of creating things, but also being able to make garments no-one else had, bring my own designs to fruition, and create what I needed not what was proffered to me.  And these are the same reasons I still sew today.

I suppose I have to thank my mother for:
  1. letting me near her sewing machine in the first place
  2. letting me plunder cut up her fabric stash
  3. encouraging my creativity by buying more fabric and patterns
  4. lending me the overlocker when I left home for university so I could keep sewing
  5. buying a new overlocker for herself when she realised the old one wasn't coming home... ! 
So for all the mothers out there - if you want your youngsters to learn to sew, my advice is to provide the environment by doing 1, 2, and 3, - 4 and 5 are entirely optional!

So that's me - what inspired you to begin sewing?
Was it to mend something, copy something, or create something that you could not find in the shops? Was it to save money, to make garments that actually fit, or to express your creativity, your individuality?  I am sure there are many more reasons we all started sewing - what are yours?

Friday, October 29, 2010

~tricks of the trade: continuous bound sleeve placket~

A continuous bound placket is one of my favourite methods for a sleeve placket where lightweight fabrics are used, such as on a blouse or dress.  It is easily inserted into a one piece sleeve - not at the sleeve seam, but at the little finger where a vertical split is made.

You will need to cut the binding twice the length of the split, and a cut width of 25mm  (1") will give a finished width of 6mm.  The binding should be cut on grain, not the bias.

Here I have laid the opened out sleeve split over top of the binding, with the right side of the binding to the wrong side of the sleeve.  The raw edges align at either end of the split, but at the apex of the split they are offset by 5mm - this is how it will be sewn:

Stitch using a 6mm (1/4") seam width towards the apex of the split...

...where you leave the needle down to reposition the fabric, and  continue stitching to the other end.

 It should look like this:

From the right side of the sleeve, turn the unattached long edge of the binding in 6mm, and fold it over again to just overlap your previous stitching.  Edgestitch the binding down along its length.

If you are finding this a bit tricky - sew the first few stitches and stop with your needle down, then you can position your fabric again.  Making the binding taut by pulling it slightly towards you helps to form an even binding width.  Pull both top and bottom layers evenly so that the binding does not twist like a rope.

It is best not to press the edge down first, with a bit of practise you will actually achieve a neater result if it is pressed after you have edgestitched.

Fold the edgestitched binding in half, right sides of sleeve together, and backtack diagonally across the fold like so:

The finished binding will look like this:

The front side will be folded under as it is inserted into the cuff... 

...and the back remains flat when it is inserted into the cuff:

Now all that is needed is to attach the cuff, and sew the buttonhole and button.  When the cuff is buttoned, the placket is practically invisible and looks just like a tuck in the fabric.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

~antique french lace~

The first question I inevitably get asked when people discover I make wedding dresses is: "Do you have many Bridezillas?"  So far my answer has been a resounding No - because in my experience the complete opposite is true!  My brides have been so happy and excited about their dress that they are a joy to work with, and we both have a lot of fun at our fittings.

And often they show their appreciation by a gift of flowers or bubbly when they pick up their dress, or by writing beautiful letters with photos of  the big day enclosed, or in this case...

.....some absolutely gorgeous, exquisite, divine, dainty, antique, edging lace!

This bride was lucky enough to have a six week honeymoon in Europe, giving her plenty of time to browse the antique markets of Paris where she picked up this lace for me.  I have to say I was pretty blown away by her generosity!  Apparently both pieces are from the late 1800's, and I think I can believe this as I haven't seen anything like this quality before.  I haven't tested the fibre content, but I think the gold one could possibly be silk, as it has that gorgeous silk lustre and gritty texture that silk often has. 

The craftsmanship is so fine, that the reverse side is barely detectable.  I presume they are machine-made, as lace making machines were developed in the early 1800's and would have been quite widespread later in the century.  But I don't know much else about these laces, so if anyone can enlighten me with further information, or reading recommendations, I'll definitely appreciate it!

The bride knew I'd love them and told me to make something gorgeous for myself, but I think they are quite fragile and I would be sure to wreck them!  I think am going to be happy to simply admiring them in the piece - maybe I'll frame some tiny swatches.....

And this bride's dress?
Very sophisticated, minimal and svelte - ivory, strapless, empire-line, with a silk satin crumb-catcher bodice, fastening at the back with pearl buttons, and a double layered bias silk chiffon skirt with a 1m train.  And a lot of carefully hidden internal architecture to ensure it stayed put - it is true that the simplest of designs can be the most complicated!  It looks a little wonky and short on my mannequin, but amazing on the real thing.....

Saturday, October 16, 2010

~tricks of the trade: attaching a shirt cuff~

Earlier this year I made this dress in a dark plum viscose georgette, and I have never shown you, because other than trying it on for size, I have never actually worn it! 

It really needs boots to give it an edge, and my wardrobe lacks a pair of them at the moment, so the poor thing sits there in the back of my wardrobe a bit lost and lonely and semi-forgotton.....

Anyway, I took a few photos while making it so I could make a tutorial on how to attach a shirt style cuff.   This is a method used in manufacturing - there is no handsewing involved and it is so quick you'll be wondering if you left out a step!

The cuff I am attaching is a narrow one piece cuff, where the lower edge is folded, but you can easily attach a two piece cuff the same way. 
  • Press the seam allowance of one long edge of the cuff to the wrong side.  This edge will be on the outer cuff when finished, and often on shirts it is simply stitched down at 6mm.
  • If your cuff is one-piece like mine, fold it in half lengthwise, right sides together.  Then fold the seam allowance of the unpressed long edge around the pressed edge, towards you, as shown.  Stitch across the end, and do this for both ends of the cuff.  (You can see I pressed both long edges by mistake, it is best if you don't do that!)
  •  Turn the cuff and press - the inside edge should be 1-2mm wider than the outside edge:
  • Slot the lower end of your sleeve into the cuff to begin edgestitching.  Because the inside edge of the cuff is slightly wider, it will automatically be caught when you edgestitch.  Make sure the end of the cuff wraps around the sleeve vent neatly, and that the raw edges are lined up inside the cuff so your seam allowance is accurate:
  •  As you edgestitch the cuff to the sleeve you can align any notches, such as this one for the sleeve seam:
  •  As you reach the end, ensure the end of the cuff wraps neatly around the sleeve vent again:
  •  You can either stop stitching at the sleeve vent, or continue edgestitching right around the cuff:
  •  Just as I did on this one:
  • And see the inside?  The inner cuff is automatically caught in your edgestitching and looks really neat - no handsewing required!

As usual, accuracy is fairly important.  To ensure your cuff goes on smoothly make sure you:
  • Check your pattern pieces fit accurately!  Line up your cuff pattern with your sleeve pattern and make sure they match - you will be surprised how many patterns don't.  Remember to account for the sleeve vent and any pleats.
  • And blockfuse your cuff pieces for cutting accuracy.
  • Note the lack of pins in these photos - you don't need to pin everything before you sew it!   Not only is pinning time consuming, it is also less accurate as it prevents the fabric layers from lying truely flat.  Scandalous, I know!
Using this method I find that those corners where the cuff joins the sleeve are consistently neater than any other way.  Try it out for yourself!
I also took some photos during construction of the bound sleeve placket on this dress, so watch out for a tutorial on that next - happy sewing!

Friday, October 15, 2010

~antique, vintage or retro?~

How do you know if a style is antique, vintage or retro?  And what is the difference anyway?  It is so common to see these three terms used interchangeably, but they actually do have different meanings!  

Following are the definitions I was taught, and these seem to be followed by most dealers of vintage clothing and accessories:

Antique - older than 100 years (currently pre 1910)
Vintage - older than 50 years (currently pre 1960)
Retro - older than 25 years (currently pre 1985)

Using these definitions, each period is not actually fixed but evolves with time.  This means that in the year 2020, fashions from the year 1970 will be vintage - now that does make me feel old!!




Personally I tend to put the fifties-influenced early sixties fashion in the vintage category too, and classify the later sixties fashion as strictly retro.  What about you - are these the same definitions that you use to define Antique, Vintage and Retro?  I'm really interested to hear your comments!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

~early inspiration~

I'm so pleased to hear that I am not alone in my 'style rut', and that some of you are planning to make inspiration boards too - I really look forward to seeing all your results!

While rummaging around my house looking for tit-bits to place on my inspiration board, I found a real blast from the past - the very first notebook of a wannabe fashion designer called you-know-who!

What a hoot! It is full of wonkily sketched design ideas - some that I am too embarrassed to reveal, and others that eventually did come to fruition. Here is a little peek, but I must emphasise that it was 1989!

I never did make the 'peacock dress' - lol - but I did make something very similar to the belted dress with the draped pleats!

And yes - I actually wore high waisted skirts the first time around!  I made the one with pleating and velvet ribbon above.

 And can you believe I am wearing an exact replica of the 'school skirt' below (left one) right now?!  Only the one I am wearing is not quite so short ;)

I thought it was quite interesting that some of my ideas way back then, still grab my attention 20 years later!    Graphic lines and shapes, shift dresses, Chanelisms, futuristic and mod looks - all these recur throughout the book, and throughout my career.

I figure that these things that have stood my taste test of time are definitely part of my personal style, and they are going to be incorporated in my inspiration board.

What about you?  Do you have any style elements that you have returned to again and again over the years, whether they were in or out of fashion?  Do share!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

~a style quandary~

Have you ever got into a style rut? 
I've decided I'm in one right now - nothing in my wardrobe seems to work anymore.  I've been aware of it for a while, and think it's from a combination of factors:
  • changing shape - I've gone up a size and my waistline has increased proportionally more - and nothing fits!
  • changing occupations - I've switched from a career where dressing well was important, to working from home where dressing up is important some of the time, and dressing down is important some of the time too (I also paint things, garden, do housework, and run)
  • a major clean-out, where I threw half my wardrobe contents away..... darn it!
  • Darn it is literally what I need to do to a lot of my clothes now as they are wearing out, or have paint splatters on them, and they need replacing.
  • No money to replace them - but I do have lots of stash!
  • Getting older - suddenly it is like a corner has been turned, and some things just need to be ditched - like short skirts, or covered up - like knees. 
  • After giving up on fashion for a while, I am gradually becoming re-inspired.  I blame my fave sewing bloggers for that ;)
  • and the most idiotic factor of all is that I used to be a clothing designer, so you would think I would have this style thing completely sorted - right? No, not at all!  
My conclusion is:
  • I really need to stop giving my wardrobe zero thought and refocus on building it up again
  • I need to stop making oddments that don't go with anything else
So when I was in the library the other day and saw this book, I quickly added it to my already-heavy-pile-of-books-to-get-out:

Isaac Mizrahi seems really down to earth, and I kinda liked his realistic approach:

(click to enlarge)
Mmm... I get the feeling he has dealt with women having a mid-life crisis before...

In his book Isaac recommends making an inspiration board for a week or so to help define your style.  I used to do storyboards for every collection, but it is obviously about time I did one for myself.  So that is my project for the next month - I promise to share it when it's done!

Making an inspiration board is a fun exercise, and you can continually update and rearrange it as your whims change. Some images will come and go quickly, and some will stay on your storyboard for years - I think these are the ones that really define your style.  Here are some examples of inspiration boards of the women featured in the book:

What about you - have you ever made an inspiration board to help define your style?  If you haven't - join me in an inspiration-board-a-long!  Grab a corkboard and some pins and gather images that really connect with and inspire you.  Here is some suggestions of Isaac's to get you started:

Interiors and architecture, Crafty bits and pieces, Books, Music, Advertising, Fabric and paint swatches, Fashion icons, Photos, Flowers, Movies, History, Memories, Nature, Art, Travel.....
oh, and Fashion of course!

Make sure you share it on your blog!

Now I'm off to get my magazines and some scissors....