Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Dash for the Deadline

The end of January is fast approaching (hooray - pay day!) and the first Jungle January is drawing to a close. In a last ditch attempt to 'move' into animal prints I online purchased a rather cheap poly chiffon that incorporates, zebra, snake, cheetah, tiger, leopard, spots and a few fleur-de-ly for good measure.  I think the postage was more expensive than the fabric!

The pattern is a mis-mash of a very easy Vogue shirt and Rachel Comey V1247: there is a back yoke, back pleat, kimono sleeves, a few darts in the front for shaping, shirt tail hem with the back longer than the front, 3/4 sleeves and bias bound V neck. - There, a bit of everything to match the fabric.

Didn't take too long to make either as there is no fitting, no sleeve insertion and the hem is just rolled and machine sewn.

More importantly to me are the jeans.
They are Issey Miyake Vogue 1204, not quite skinny but straight legged with front slant pockets and all the usual jean accoutrement. An unusual departure in style for me but I thought I'd give them a go. I normally make boot cut style jeans to balance out the child-bearing hips and I was rather concerned about the front slant pockets bulging out when I sat down. I made them long enough to cover the tops of the snakeskin ankle boots - but short enough so that you can see the boots.

There are a staggering 12 pieces sewn together to make these jeans, including pocket linings and double of everything apart from the left and right fly - 22 bits plus 5 belt carriers. I think that's a lot of pieces for two legs and a waistband.

Fabric is a stretch denim that was brown until it was washed and then became olive green. That's OK, I've got lots of things that co-ordinate with them - not least the animal chiffon!

Most of the fears of the style were unfounded. However, these jeans are LOW, especially in comparison to my usual fit.

I did my own unique method of achieving the perfect fit in jeans - it goes like this in 10 easy steps:

1. Cut out a 14
2. Make the fronts and backs with all the pockets and fly
3. Sew up the inside legs as real
4. Stitch the outside legs and centre back with 5mm machine baste stitch
5. Try on inside out and pin out all the excess on the outside legs and centre, especially at the waist.
6. Rip out the basting and stitch on the pin lines.
7. Try on again and pin out any new wrinkles and bagginess
8. Rip and stitch.
9. Fit the waistband to the new size.
10. Attach a button and hem

Works every time!
But that's the problem... I never adjust the paper pattern to take account of these changes so every time I make a pair, I have to go through the whole rigmarole again. However, I have also found that even with a pattern I have adjusted and altered the fit still needs tweaking with every new fabric used. One stretch denim does not behave the same as another stretch denim.

Money shot coming up.......

There, I've tried animal print twice this month and I'll have to admit - it's not for me. I will be wearing my animal print lined dress at a very important meeting this week and if I can muster the courage I might just accessorise with the matching scarf.

Anne, it's been fun and you've made me go where no other sewer or designer has enticed me to go before. A big thank you for hosting and managing Jungle January; hunting down and displaying all those animal print inspired garments - Meow to you!

For me, it's time to go back to SWAP.

Saturday, 26 January 2013


Thanks for all the encouraging positive feedback on "For Your erudition" post. I enjoyed reading and researching Balenciaga and will definitely be writing more about the other greats.

I put up a photo of a garment and then asked you to guess what it was going to be. Many of you guessed correctly - knowledgeable sewists that you are - but I may have given you one too many clues. I also published a pic of the pattern piece, that, when enlarged, had the garment actually printed on it! Silly me!
This has now been removed to keep future readers guessing and by special request of the Centre for Pattern Design, as it is a copyrighted item and some unscrupulous individual may try to replicate the pattern from my crappy photos! Shame on you!

 Thanks to you all who notified me of this silly mistake by commenting or e-mailing. It was too late to remove the pic and I've been really busy away from the computer for the better part of a week so never got the time to rectify the problem. Please also regard this post as a 'catch-all' reply to your lovely comments.
All the images (apart from my 2 photos) are Balenciaga designs. All vintage - nothing new.

Anyway - I shall honour the giveaway promise regardless - for all of you who commented with the correct answer, I put all the names in a hat and pulled out TWOTOAST, who happens to have this quote as her mission statement -  “Dress shabbily and they remember the dress; dress impeccably and they remember the woman.” Coco Chanel.lI shall be contacting you soon to see what pattern I have and which one you would like.

For those of you who missed the post or couldn't figure out the garment - I shall now put you out of your misery.

But a blouse with no side seams, no sleeve insertion, one pattern piece and your choice of neck finishes.
This full scale pattern is fashioned after one demonstrated by Salvador who managed Monsieur Balenciaga’s tailoring atelier during the Golden Age of Couture in the mid-20th Century.  It is a single bias-cut pattern piece which comprises the front, back and spiral sleeve of an easy fitting top.  The back hangs in a cowl at the hip and there are no side or shoulder seams.  It may be worn open or closed in front.  Fits 8 - 16 with adjustments.  

The pattern is from the Centre for Pattern DesignOur mission here is to recognize the skill of pattern designing, to educate and provide research for professional development and to explore contemporary applications. 

They take iconic designs, refine, manipulate, adapt them and produce purchasable patterns that have as few pieces as possible but with impeccable fit and cut: in other words, a brilliant design aesthetic.

This blouse is inspired by Christobel Balenciaga - remember the simplicity of cut and innovative sleeves are his trademark.

The back of the blouse gently folds into a cowl just above the waist - so this is ideal for anyone, like me, with a sway back - the folds disguise all hint of a sticky-out bum.

The blouse is cut on the bias, so generally there is no need to finish the seams as they won't fray. The two seams that hold the blouse together spiral down from the centre back neckline, around the sleeves to finish at the wrist.

My first attempt was in a chiffon, so these seams were frenched - look, there's only two seams and a hem!

 The pattern comes with a simple round neckline and I kept this. I sewed poppers along the centre fronts as closures and generally leave the neck to flop open.

 Second one was made in a slightly fancier fabric, patterned poly satin, but this time I added a short tie as a collar; made 6 button holes and used pearl buttons as closures.
 Finally, a printed cotton with a collar. I took the collar pattern from another shirt pattern and just slightly changed the size to fit the neckline of the CB blouse.

If you're wondering where the finished silver satin version is - it's in the bin! It had a run-in with a too-hot iron. That's the problem with single piece sewing, mess up one area and the whole lot is ruined.

Please check out the CPD website - they have beautiful patterns for sale, books, classes and lots of information and nice things to look at - another procrastination site!

Friday, 18 January 2013

For Your Erudition

Christobal Balenciaga

Time to get serious..... New series on the history, legacy and benefits of past designers. Hopefully you'll learn something, or at least appreciate today's fashion. Because, folks, not surprisingly, nothing's new!
Having recently completed my third Chanel style jacket I was personally interested in the legacy these iconic designers have bequeathed us modern day sewers. 

What's this going to be?

Today we starting with a Spanish designer - Christobel Balenciagia.

Balenciaga worked from the body; he knew its failings and how to distract from them.

He used the stomach, shoulders, and hips as points of construction and support and knew how to flatten, straighten and smooth them with fabric. What more could you ask of an item of clothing?

I want to concentrate on is what Balenciaga gave us today - his inheritance if you like. I am not going to reproduce an autobiography, you can find that anywhere on the internet, I am concentrating on the legacy.

However, a short biography to set the scene - Balenciaga started in the tailoring business at age 14 and this served him throughout his time in couture and design, always basing ideas on the fundamentals of the properties of cloth and the shape of the body.  True to learning the hard and long way, Balenciaga came up through the ranks of the tailoring business, learning the basics, cutting and then moving into fitting. Due to a fortunate patroness of the aristocracy he became famous in his native Spain. But political and social upheaval (namely the Civil War) prevented him from remaining in his home and he moved first to London (tailoring) and then settled in Paris (couture).

He hardly ever incorporated stiffeners and wires (bones) to a dress but let interfacing, cut and design replace the restrictions of corseted clothing, unlike Dior at the same time. Comfort and flexibility were the imperatives of his design ethic – similar to Chanel’s – allowing a woman to move and breathe without constriction. A perfectionist, he inspired and mentored Dior, Oscar de la Renta, Hubert de Givenchy, Courreges and Ungaro.  At the time Balenciaga was competing against Dior and the two both admired and rivalled each other – giving us the complex and contrasting designs of the time.

Balenciaga clothes did not come cheap – in the 1950s a suit would cost in old money Fr 110,000 about £ $220,300, €169,000 £ 100,00.00 in today's money - so not cheap by any standards.

He was adept at creating different sleeve styles (please note Rhonda!) and sought perfection in every design. He manipulated kimono style, Magyar, and set-in to exacting standards and this has resulted in the vast variety of designs we see today.

Remember, Balenciaga started in 1918 : after moving from Spain to France the first house of Balenciaga opened in 1937. That is when our Grandmothers, Great mothers were alive! His influence and enduring style has impacted on all our lives whether you have even heard of him or not.

Knee-high boots - Balenciaga started the trend
Baby-doll dresses - those are his!
Shift dresses (or sack as they were called then) - he started these as well
Asymmetrical hemlines - another of his creations

All these are Balenciaga’s ideas that we have incorporated and are still using today.
From 1967 Balenciaga was creating dresses with raised hemlines at the front - we still use this design ethic today.

Donna Karen drapes?
CB was there first with this gorgeous 1966 silk draped dress - on the right - perfection! BTW, the photo on the left is CB too, not DK.

It is staggering the ideas than emanated from Paris from 1939 onwards; as though a floodgate had been opened.

The innovations that Balenciaga made after 1939 were mainly in cutting techniques and it all started with the sleeve.  He was as much interested in the back of garment as the front and added darts, seams and ‘tricks’ to create lightness and movement for the fortunate wearer of his clothes. He was interested in the responsiveness of a garment to the wearer’s movements.

Look at this coat from 1964 made in wool. 
There are no side seams, so from the front it looks intact - one piece. At the back you can see the construction - three panels: lower incorporating the whole of the front; middle, incorporating the lower sleeves; upper, incorporating the upper sleeves and shoulders. Streamlined, that's what I call it.

Trippen shoes? Balenciaga was already inspiring designers way back in 1938. Made of silk and wood these represent architectural influences in fashion.

Published in Vogue 1939 as a design for Balenciaga, this pair of extraordinary shoes is actually the work of designer Steven Arpad. Like many designers at the time most of Arpad's work seems to have been done anonymously and released under the name of an established fashion house. 

Stella McCartney - sorry my dear - you are not original
Originally showcased in 1950 made from silk this dress/coat arguably initiates the oversized/cocoon style of 2011A/W collections.

Remind you of something?
Tilton sisters - I fear you are subconsciously inspired by CB: no bad thing in my opinion. I love your designs and am glad I own your Vogue patterns.

You may know already that I have a small weakness for Paco Peralta's designs and patterns. Just in case you are unsure of this admiration just click on this link and you'll find unabashed adoration. Well, between you and me he quite recently admitted that his design ethic is similar to Balenciaga's - drape the fabric; see how it falls; cut to fit. Simple, classic and beautifully fitting clothing.

Dare I... Yes I do... Spanish design is apparently inherent in simple, classic, stylish and timeless design. Peralta and Balenciagia cut from the same cloth? Yes, but different times, different economic influences, different outcomes.

If you are interested in discovering more about Balenciaga's legacy please visit the following sites for designs and their history: believe me, it's fascinating and will easily divert you from sewing for 2 hours minimum. Procrastination - I'm giving it to you on a plate.




And please, if you don't want to read anything but just look at pictures then go to http://www.metmuseum.org/collections/search-the-collections?who=House+of+Balenciaga&ft=*&rpp=60&pg=1  for a wonderful collection of original pieces.

Finally - those of you who guess what garment the pattern piece will morph into will win a prize, a pattern and you chose the item - dress, skirt, jacket, coat, blouse, top, shirt - I'll select one from my stash and gift it. Post anywhere - needless to say - your answer has to be correct in order to win. I'll check with you first if it's something you'd like - we can come to a compromise if necessary.

Emmm - Paco - you are forbidden from entering this competition! Although if I have a designer pattern in my collection that you'd like, I'll give it to you, even if you guess right or not, 'cause you're the best living, accessible designer for us amateurs and I know you like Vogue designer patterns.

I hope you all have learned something from this and found it interesting.

Would you like to know more about those designers who have influenced the designs and fashions of today? Send your preferred designers to comments section and I'll do the work - 'cause I'm not doing sewing at the moment.....

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Put the Blame on Anne, Boys, Put the Blame on Anne..

I have never been one for clothes made in animal print. UK readers will know of one of the longest running soap operas here - Coronation Street - and it used to have a character called Bet Lynch: big, bold, brassy, busty, peroxide hair piled on top of her head - she smoked and drank and spoke her mind, and yes, she wore animal prints. I don't watch, nor ever have, Coronation Street but everybody knows about Bet. This is what I associate with animal print - trash! There, I've said it!

Neither Dior, Burberry, Armani or Gucci or any other design house has managed to rid me of the horror of Bet.

Then, sweet and darling Anne at Prttynpnk starts a sort of sew-along thing and the theme is animal print! I like to please Anne, cause she's scary when she's annoyed so I tried my best. Here's my contribution to Jungle January 2013.

Way back in July last year, Anne unexpectedly gifted a genuine vintage Vogue pattern to me.

One piece dress. Slim skirt joins the bloused bodice at the waist-line. Left side front buttoned closing above released pleat. Oval neckline, below elbow or short kimono sleeves. Self tied or novelty belt.

Unfortunately a size 14 then is NOT a size 14 today - the pattern needed grading, 2" on the bust and 4" on the hips in order to fit little ol' me.  I put SWAP aside and brought out the tissue paper and got to work. I've been reading about the slash and spread method for enlarging patterns, but THIS IS VOGUE - you can't do that to a genuine vintage vogue - so I diligently set to work measuring and drawing and adding and folding, so that the original tissue is intact.

The instructions for the pattern are exquisite - lots of drawings and arrows - but this was not an easy make. Five bound buttonholes to hold the dress closed, darts in the back sleeves (lovely little detail), it's not a wrap but a pleated front, and of course, I made it even more difficult by lining it and adding pockets in the side seams. The facings have to be slashed after sewing in place to release the button holes - a really scary moment when everything you've sewn so far could be trashed.

Anyway, the dress is finished. I had to lighten the pics to show a bit of detail but our weather is so gloomy right now that even photos shot outside are dim.

 I love the wide neckline, the darts in the sleeves make for a shaped sleeve that bends easily with the natural lie of the arm, I like my pockets and the 5 buttons are surprisingly secure.

 The Fabric is a wool and poly mix from local store and sewed up a treat and creased excellently under steam but doesn't wrinkle when wearing. It's a dark grey with a fine pinstripe - very business like. I made another button belt to complete the dress.

But where are the animals, you cry?

Well, I wore my new shoes......(Clarkes 50% off) Does that count? No.....

I made a tie belt (scarf) and hankie for the vent pocket from satin leopard print. Does that count? Getting closer......

 Let's look inside....

Animal print used, sewn and worn. I contributed to Jungle January and my style integrity is intact. Everyone is happy and Anne won't be round to our house for a fight!

Go check out the more adventurous sewers than I on Anne's blog to see what wonderful and scary creations they are making - inspirational!

To add to your reading pleasure click here to watch and hear Rita singing - now that's a girl who could wear animal prints!

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

More than a Dress

The matching dress for the Chanel jacket is completed. What's brilliant about this dress is that it can be skirt and a pinafore too. Watch and be amazed....

Dress on its own = dress

blouse worn on top = skirt

Dress with jacket = suit

I made a matching belt, using two leftover buttons as a buckle. Just measure your waist and add a few inches for overlap: cut some interfacing to size to stabilise the fabric; mark buttonhole placement so that you can breathe comfortably: make button holes and sew on buttons.

Dress with shirt underneath = pinafore

Isn't that brilliant?

The pattern for the dress is Vogue Vintage V1137 (and as I write this Vogue are having a 48 hour $4.99 sale on all vintage patterns). This is the dress that goes with the opera coat.

No real major alterations done except that I lined the whole dress whereas the pattern only calls for the bodice to be lined. Seemed a bit silly to me to line half a dress. I didn't add the pockets.

There's a pretty little V at the back too but the shoulders do lie right on the edge of the natural shoulder and so ribbons to hold bra straps may be in order. Because the tweedy-boucle fabric was a bit bulky I sewed the zip in by hand. It's not invisible, but then the pattern doesn't call for an invisible zip - it being 1950 and all that.

SWAP '13 item number 2 from Audrey completed.
Was that a leopard I hear roaring?