Archive for May, 2010

Vintage Max Studio Skirt Mod

May 23rd, 2010 2 comments

This skirt belonged to my sister decades ago; it’s a vintage (just barely) piece from Max Studio, which is still around, and still doing interesting stuff with wrinkled fabric.  This particular skirt is made of acetate, pre-crumpled, and, until this week, had a heavy knit band with a drawstring attached to the top.  I’ve just laid the original waist band over the skirt to give the effect here; I’m kicking myself for not having taken a picture before I removed it:

The skirt goes to my ankles, and I’ve always loved it.  It feels like silk, and floats like a dream, all the while drifting around, and clinging to, my body as if I were a sylph.  But I’ve always hated that bulky waistband!  It  just seemed to me to weigh the skirt down, to no good effect.  (Yeah, yeah, I know — it’s “art”.)  Not to mention that all that rib knit was thick and lumpy under the tops I wore with it.  Or that I hate drawstrings.

So I removed the original waist band this week.

Which was no small feat.  The ribbing wasn’t just slapped on; it sandwiched the top edge of the skirt perfectly, and ripping those stitches — rows and rows of them — took forever, and great care.  When I was done, I replaced it with a deep  stretch lace waist:

The lace can be worn all the way up, kind of corset-style, or folded double, and I can wear the skirt pulled up, or push it lower, depending on the length or effect I want.  Much better now.  Here’s what the whole skirt looks like:

(That wacky stretch lace?  From Jomar; it’s five inches wide.  I paid $5.00 USD for an industrial-sized spool.  How could I not??  If I never do anything else with it, it’s already been a bargain.)

Note:  I realize that I’ve just left a comment on Peter’s blog about my general disdain for designer labels, the current poor quality of “designer” apparel and accessories, etc., and my unwillingness to buy into the whole concept.  In my defense, I’d like to point out that I didn’t buy this skirt!  I did look it up though — now that it’s “vintage” I wondered what Max Studio was up to.  I can’t vouch for the quality for their clothing these, days, though.  You’ll have to check that out yourself.

Categories: Skirts Tags:

The Elusive BurdaStyle

May 20th, 2010 No comments

May, 2010 edition (with the truly awful shirt on the cover) is at Barnes and Noble in Exton, PA.

Or, at least, two copies were, two days ago. A survey, over the past few months, of Barnes and Noble and Borders stores in several area states revealed that this B&N appears to be the only such store carrying BurdaStyle.  Get ’em while they’re hot.  Or available, whichever.

Categories: Misc Tags:

The LBD (Times 365)

May 19th, 2010 4 comments

Uniforms.  It’s what we sewists hate, right?  But what if you only had one dress — say, one LBD, like this one:

Here's the front, with an inverted pleat.

And the back, with a full-button opening.

Sheena Matheiken began an experiment in fashion sustainability in May, 2009.  What if she were to wear only one dress for an entire year?  365 days?

How do you design a dress that can be worn all year around? We took inspiration from one of my staple dresses, improving upon the shape and fit to add on some seasonal versatility. The dress is designed so it can be worn both ways, front and back, and also as an open tunic. It’s made from a durable, breathable cotton, good for New York summers and good for layering in cooler seasons. With deep hidden pockets to appease my deep aversion for carrying purses.

Actually, there were seven dresses, all identical, because, I suppose, doing laundry every night isn’t anybody’s idea of sustainability.

The dress part of the project was intriguing enough, but Sheena and her crew went one step further.  They called the exercise The Uniform Project, and turned it into a fundraiser for a group that educated children in India.  Here’s how Sheena described the other part of her mission:

The Uniform Project is also a year-long fundraiser for the Akanksha Foundation, a grassroots movement that is revolutionizing education in India. At the end of the year, all contributions will go toward Akanksha’s School Project to fund uniforms and other educational expenses for children living in Indian slums.

Here she is on July 10, wearing her LBD as an over-dress.  The red trim is under the dress, and then picked up again by the belt:

Halfway through, celebrating the sixth month anniversary of the Project.  The front pleat gave her enough room to add a petticoat beneath.  Add a collar, a satin cummerbund and those great gloves — and wow:

On January 5, with a t-shirt under and a sweatshirt pastiche-of-a-corset providing a burst of color:

On March 24, with just a big belt, a cowl and exuberant tights:

On January 21st, an over-T and a wrap belt:

There’s more, much more at The Uniform Project.  Click through the calendar at the left to see each day’s image.  Sheena is adorable and gamine, but there’s plenty of inspiration for those of us who are neither.

Sheena’s styles get quite wild and crazy; I’ve deliberately chosen the most conservative in deference to those of us who like character, but who aren’t gamine types (or very young women) ourselves.  But every day of Sheena’s project is worth viewing — it’s a real treat.  And, though the Project is over,  it’s not too late to donate to Arkanksha, either, if you like.

For fashionistas, there are notes for each image describing the accessories, etc., all of which were thrifted or donated to the Project.  As of today (May 19, 2010) the Uniform Project has raised $94,742.00, enough, they say, to keep 263 kids in school through the Arkanksha Foundation.  The fashion may veer toward the wacky, but there’s no more down-to-earth goal than educating tomorrow’s adults.  Good work, on all fronts, Sheena and crew!

Categories: DIY, Fun Tags:

PR Weekend Diary

May 17th, 2010 15 comments

Ever wonder what a PR Weekend is like?  Here’s a whirlwind recap of the last few days in Philadelphia:

First, the incomparable Kenneth King put on a wildly entertaining show, hauling out a number of amazing garments from his bright red suitcase and describing how he went about designing them.  He was wearing an ornately embellished blazer he got at a thrift shop or consignment store, to which he added incredible frogs to replace the buttons and buttonholes:

He was very, very funny, extremely personable, and completely accessible.  His presentation was an off-the-wall,  rip-roaring way to start a fun weekend.  There wasn’t much ice left unmelted by the time he was packing up.

He started off by telling anyone who hated fur to just shut up.  So we did.  Kenneth King is a force of nature; you don’t argue with that.  Ignoring the fur part (see?  I’m still not talking fur), the lining on this bolero was incredible.

He started with a photo of trees (with snow on the branches?), used the photo to turn the limbs to shadows, then pin-pricked the pattern, dusted through the holes to reproduce the pattern on the lining, and so on.  I hope I’m describing this particular garment — I may be conflating this with another.  There was lots and lots of awesome “so on”.  If Kenneth King is in town, get on the train!

The topic of the day was embellishment, and we’d all come with kits of goodies so that we could play and experiement.  Kenneth showed us a bunch of useful techniques, and brought along samples, too:

Interestingly, he did not bring any books for sale, owing, he said, to an agreement with his publisher.  He had quite a few tales to tell of working with his publisher, so any would-be authors also walked away with a bunch of information that was likely to come in handy.

I kept trying to get just the right shot of his gadget kit, but, hey, it’s a real tool box, and he was using it, so this was all I ended up with:

I’m pretty sure that’s an industrial-strength cosmetics kit.  Clever, and perfect for the job!

Then we were on our own for lunch in the area; my two companions were almost too-patient with my peculiar food needs, even though I tried to liberate them several times, but in the end we were rewarded when we found Asian Bistro, and bento lunches at a very reasonable price, including, in  my case, miso soup:

Yeah, I know.  No fur, but I eat fish.  Neurological issues; it doesn’t seem safe not to.  (I’d like to note that it’s not easy escaping meat in Philadelphia, whether or not you consider that Cheesesteak sandwiches contain actual “meat”.)

Afterwards we caught the Phlash loop to the Philadelphia Museum of Art for a behind the scenes look at the textile collection.

Oh.  My.  We gasped and ooohed our way through a half-dozen garments.  This bodice is from one of the gowns; the flowers are paper, and the fringe is thread.  Carolyn was standing next to me, plotting how she was going to duplicate this amazing finery at home, so I’m counting on her to come up with her version ASAP.

The curator was very accommodating, turning edges and folding each garment so that we could get a really good look at the details.

I’m a local, so I went home at this point (I was up at 5 AM catching the train after only four hours sleep), but dinner at a pizza place near the hotel was included in the weekend fee.  Not pizza, it turned out, but a full-fledged Italian dinner,  with cannoli for dessert (be still, my heart!).

The next morning it was into the big yellow school bus (really!) for a trip to Philadelphia’s Fabric Row.  Lee had her hands full with 39 of us on the bus; she resorted to counting us, largely, I think, because the din was overwhelming, and there was no other way to make sure all the chickens were in the coup.

The driver looked as if he were flying gang colors what with the headgear and the pants, but he couldn’t have been nicer, and, although he got lost twice in New Jersey, he got us back on track quickly.

Philadelphia’s Fabric Row is a little thin if you’re used to NYC, but somehow it looked as if most of us found at least something to buy.  Lines were long at PA Fabric Outlet, where prices were seriously low, especially for lace, trims, buttons, and one of my favorite vices, tapestry-like wide trims.  This was probably the busiest Saturday in memory for them, but everybody managed just fine.

Lunch was on our own on Saturday, too; I ate early (breakfast had been at 5 AM)  at Moaz Falafel, but I won’t do that again.  As I was  munching at the front counter, a guy in a filthy white van pulled up and honked.  A Moaz employee came out of the restaurant,  threw open the sliding door and dragged a huge plastic container — just like the ones I use for clothes storage — across the (dirty, dirty) empty van floor.  Then he replaced the lid, which had apparently popped off while the van was in transit.

The container, obviously not food-grade or anything close to it,  was full of the cilantro sauce I had just put on my falafel.  Swipes someone had obviously made with a cloth or sponge were clearly visible inside the top half of the container.   My falafel was a little gritty; now I didn’t want to think about why.   The employee shot me a very worried look (I was alone at the counter), as well he should have.  Gag.  No more Moaz for me.

Nonetheless, I lived to shop again.  Shudder.

We met back at the bus and headed for London Textiles across the bridge in New Jersey, which is where things got crazy.  London is a wholesale operation, so it’s like a large warehouse.  We were handed a price list, based on type of fabric, but what really got us mobilized were the last two lines:  wool or silk remnants $5/yard, all other remnants $3/yard, must take whole piece.  Remnants?  Must take whole piece?  Honey, take this box of Godiva, and you have to keep it ALL!

It looked as if the locusts had descended.  There were a half-dozen or so deep bins full of fabric, mostly from one to six yard pieces (that is to say, from $3 to $25 for the piece), everyone of them with a crowd of women ducking in and out, fishing for gold.  Some people were surprised to realize that the cost was per yard, not per piece, but this didn’t seem to discourage anyone, and I’d be surprised if anyone left without at least one remnant.  Volume in the bins was noticeably down by the time we left, but there were beautiful silks, linens and cottons from rolls flying out the door too.

No pictures.  That would have required focus that I just couldn’t muster.  Also, I was climbing into the remnant bins along with everyone else.  I was busy.

Thence to Jomar, kind of a Philadelphia sewing institution, and one upon which many of us are heavily dependent.

On the website, it’s the Swanson store, but it’s on Jackson Street, a few blocks behind IKEA, over by the water.  Jomar stores sell huge quantities of junk liquidated goods, but each store also has a huge (and widely varying) selection of cheap, cheap, cheap yard goods.  You name it, Jomar has it:  everything from the most coarse burlap to filmy designer silks to home dec.  Mimi, a PR volunteer, told me that Jomar started out selling returns from places like Garfinckel’s, the venerable Washington department store.  That merchandise would be several hundred grades above what’s currently sold on the first floors, but there are  amazing finds to be had upstairs at any Jomar if sewing is what you have in mind.

Jomar is notorious for very slow service at the cutting tables (if you go, consider a weekday during business hours for best service), but they had been warned by the PR team, and they really rose to the occasion.  The staff was whipping through the cuts as if they were slicing butter.  Because we’d run a little late at London Textiles, we’d all chipped in a dollar to hold the bus for an extra hour, but if people were held up, it was because they couldn’t stop shopping, not because Jomar wasn’t on the ball.

Several of us had trains to catch, and couldn’t stay later, so our PR coordinators arranged with Connie and  Andrea for transportation back to the hotel or to the train.  It was great that everyone was so accommodating, and I was really pleased that I hadn’t had to skip the afternoon in order to get home when I needed to.  Sheila, Elizabeth and I had just enough time for a quick bit at Cosi at the 30th Street station before our trains.  (There was one last joke on the quasi-vegetarian — the Cosi guys accidentally served me a roast beef sandwich instead of my roasted veggie.  Just after I had determined that the portobello I was looking at had a strange texture, they came chortling up to make the switch.  I hadn’t taken a bite, and the veggie sandwich — way under 400 calories, was satisfying and delicious. (Salad, by the way, involved 1.5 times the calories.  Gotta love labels.)

What was the best part of a completely great weekend?  Seeing so many women wearing clothes they’d made themselves.  An amazing number of attendees wore their own creations, many of which I recognized from blogs.  It was so cool to see them in person!  Auntie Allyn’s dress looked great in her PR review, but was even more smashing on her.  (Vogue 8659, here I come, and may  you look 1/6 as good on me as you do on Allyn!),  Connie’s Vogue 1090 suits her to a tee, and I loved seeing Lee’s just-finished turquoise tunic.

Paula McP’s “happy pants”/linen top were so much fun, and her Asian jacket was gorgeous.  (She doesn’t have a sewing blog, so I lobbied for one.  She’s hiding treasures from us!) There were  so many wonderful garments, all of them great reflections of the women who made them, and a treat for the eyes — not to mention inspiration for the fingers.

The garment that took my breath away in its perfect simplicity, in part because it suited the wearer so perfectly?  Claudine’s linen dress with chevrons:

This picture doesn’t do it justice; you have to see it on Claudine to realize how perfectly it suits her.  (In fact, Claudine’s blog pictures don’t do her justice:  She’s always so serious.  In person she has a lovely smile, and is the soul of grace.)

Claudine embroiders.  Really, really well.  What you can’t see clearly on this dress (although there’s a close up on her blog, and a larger image available) are the beautifully worked and placed chevrons at the bodice and along the sides.  Meticulous work, and so perfect for the dress as well as on Claudine.

PR coordinators and volunteers Karen, Andrea, Lee, Kisha, Mimi, Annette and Elaine did a great job coordinating this first Philadelphia weekend, and rolling with the few bumps.  I especially appreciated the booklet we all received with bios, the itinerary, maps, and a list of the stores we visited (includinf contact information).  My only suggestion?  Make sure that everyone’s blog is included in her (and potentially his) bio, as well as their PR names.  I want to keep tabs on what all these creative people are doing!  (Prior to the weekend, I made up this list, but I’m sure I missed someone .  .  . )

Plash photo credit:

I see my shorthand got away with me:  This is a recap of a weekend in Philadelphia organized through Pattern Review, popularly known as “PR”.

Categories: Fun Tags:

Vogue 7997: The Real Thing

May 10th, 2010 2 comments

I recently made a “muslin” of this top, which you can read about here.  (When you click, the new post will look the same, but if you scroll down, you’ll see it’s not.)  This post is about the “real” top, which is based on Vogue 7997:

Vogue uses elastic to gather the sides of both the shirt body and the collar, but I eliminated that step.  I wanted to be able to bunch up or stretch the body length according to my mood, and using elastic in the cowl sides would have prevented me from using my modifications as I planned to.  Here’s my finished shirt, in a cotton/lycra blend, with my (modified) collar arranged a little differently from Vogue’s illustration:

Along with eliminating the elastic, I made a few other modificationa.  To recap a bit from my previous post, what I wanted was a top similar to this one (below), made by Coutourwear (more information about it on that earlier post):

I altered the Vogue collar, making it 16 inches longer than the one in the pattern, which lets me wear it in a bunch of different ways, including as a hoodie.  Here are a couple of neckline variations:

With the cowl crumpled, up almost like a wide, scrunchy turtleneck:

And the hoodie version (it’s a little surreal; my duct tape dummy doesn’t have a head, so I improvised):

My version can also be worn completely off the shoulder, just like the Vogue pattern, but apparently I failed to photograph it that way.  (There’s a good picture of how it looks on that earlier post, though, in sage green.  Link below and in the text above.)  I may add a photo of it arranged later, but wrestling this skinny, stretchy top onto my dummy is no small job.

The biggest change I made to the pattern, other than the collar?  I added straps:

I love the bare-shoulder look, but I’m not a slight adorable 22-year-old ingénue, and no way I am suffering through wearing a strapless bra under a soft, comfy shirt.  The visible bra straps had to go.

I also added thumb openings to the extra-long sleeves.  These little “catches” are featured on a lot of contemporary sports/hiking/travel wear.  The thumb openings keep the sleeves in place over my hands in cool weather:

I don’t know if the Contourwear top has these; there’s no detail about it at all on the site.    (I’ve got a microfleece zip hoodie from another company that has them.)  I thought they were silly when I bought the fleece — wouldn’t I just use gloves?  But, to my surprise, I often pull the sleeves down over my hands in weather that’s a little too warm for gloves, but too cold for bare hands. They’re perfect for a top that can go from bare-shouldered to fully covered in ten seconds.

The sleeves on my version can be scrunched up to 3/4ths length, or they can cover my hands.   (The Vogue sleeves are already extra-long on me; if you want the thumb-catch feature, you  may  need to lengthen the pattern piece.)

End of pattern review.  Less-relevant rant follows:

Countourwear in general is well worth a look.  If you have the budget, check out their AnyWear travel wardrobe; you’ll be amazed at how much you could get into a small suitcase.  This is not your grandma’s travel wardrobe!  Be prepared to suffer, though.  The website is pretty to look at, however it  has minimal information, and is a pain to navigate.  There are absolutely no detailed descriptions for any of their garments, for example.  (As if I’m going to buy ANYTHING for these prices, sight unseen, without knowing a lot more than how it looks in a single commercial photo!)

There’s nowhere you can view their whole product line — you have to pick by fiber category.   What’s up with that???  Just to make things worse, there’s no search function (!).   Good luck finding their hoodie — or anything else.  It took me forever because, for some strange reason, I couldn’t remember what it was made of.  (Why would I???)  I had to scroll through each garment, under each fiber menu, until I found it.  And no, I still don’t remember what it’s made of.

Previously:  Vogue 7997:  “Muslin” Version

Categories: Tops Tags:

Skirt i: Japanese Pattern Book

May 7th, 2010 4 comments

This skirt (actually, it’s called “skirt/pant”)  is the cover shot on the Japanese pattern book We Wear Clothes Onself:

Inside the cover is a pattern sheet a lot like the ones in BurdaStyle.  Every pattern piece you need to make all the garments in the book are on one small sheet of paper that’s printed on both sides.

All of the instructions are printed in Japanese, but the illustrations are superb, so figuring out the construction of this skirt wasn’t particularly difficult.  The patterns are all named with English letters — in this case, the letter “i” — so it’s possible to locate the pattern pieces by looking for those letters as a clue.  I did end up checking the kanji to make sure I had the right pieces, though.  You don’t need to read Japanese to do this; just compare the figures to see where they match.

I marked each of the pieces I needed to trace in red pen before I started, which saved me a lot of grief.  No size was indicated (or at least, I had no way of figuring out what size the skirt was meant to be), so I checked the measurements, and then added a 5/8inch seam allowance all around.  That turned out to be perfect; however, the wench in the photo is clearly a lot smaller than I am, so I suspect that seam allowances were included for the intended size.  Here’s the front:

Wrestling the skirt onto Miss Bedelia was a bit of a challenge, and I see she looks a bit tipsy below.  A firm elastic waist and a dressmaker dummy are not necessarily the best combination.  (And, boy, did I crumple the fabric in the process.  Good thing I’m in love with wrinkled linen!)  The curve on the back is a different shape from the smaller arch on the front of the skirt:

There’s a center panel on the front and the back, both neatly top-stitched.  The hem arches are faced, but the rest of the hem is essentially straight, and just turned up and top-stitched.  My kind of finish!

The quirky curves in front and in back (below) are functional — kind of.  The skirt can be buttoned back to front to make it into “pants”.   The look is something like a gang-banger gone wronger than usual, but you gotta love the option:

The buttons and buttonholes are artfully designed to allow this, but you’ll have to figure out the placement yourself by referring to the photographs in the book.  They’re not marked on the pattern.

You can also twist the skirt a quarter-turn to the side and button each curve to itself to make the skirt angle inward at the ankle, too, but that doesn’t work quite as well, since the side seams do hug the hip.  This inevitably means that they bulge a bit when you rotate the skirt.  Or you can just button the arches closed for yet another look:

The variations are all photographed in the book; some of them might work better in a lighter-weight fabric than the the Jo-Mar mystery yardage I used.   (I think it’s linen.)

The pattern is drafted very nicely; I was really impressed at how well it went together.  It’s a whole different aesthetic from anything European/American, though, and that’s obvious even in the shape of the basic skirt.   In the most fundamental way, the design is conceptually  completely “other” from my perspective.  So cool!

The waist is supposed to have a drawstring, but I hate them almost as much as I hate skinny elastic, so I constructed the waistband the way I was supposed to, and then threaded the wide elastic through instead of making a channel for the drawstring.  The top of the skirt is a bit bulky, owing to the substantial fabric, but it’s very comfortable to wear, either at the waist, or further down on my hips.  I love this skirt, and expect it to become a favorite.

Related:  We Wear Clothes Oneself:  Japanese Pattern Book

Categories: Skirts Tags:

Vogue 7997: “Muslin” Version

May 6th, 2010 No comments

It’s an off-the-shoulder tee (essentially), sleeveless, with 3/4ths sleeves, or with long sleeves:

This one turned out to be a genuine muslin.  I’m never going to finish it!  Even so, I’m very, very happy with it:

Yeah, my collar’s completely different.  That’s because the Vogue collar isn’t wide enough to gather at the sides as shown in the pattern.  Or at least it didn’t work at all in my rayon/spandex knit.  It just lay there, limpishly, looking kind of cheap.  If you really want the look of the collar on the pattern envelope, I’d recommend cutting it at least 50% deeper so that there’s something to gather, and some substance to the thing.

However, I said I’m happy!  Here’s why:  Ever since I first saw Countourwear‘s hoodie, I’ve wanted it.  Making this pattern was the first step toward recreating this:

The point of the exaggerated hood is versatility.  It can be a hood; it can be a cowl worn backwards or forwards; it can be an over-sized, off-the-shoulder “cuff”; it can rest around the neck like a loopy, over-sized turtleneck.  All things to all women!

But I wanted it to fit me just the way I preferred, and that meant making it myself.  (Not to mention that it’s no longer available at Countourwear.) Wrong!  A new version is available; it’s just impossible to find anything on their website.  Not to mention that you don’t get even the slightest hint of how versatile this top is from anything on the current website.  Here’s the hoodie available now (I can’t link directly to their current page, thanks to their really dumb web design):

The princess seams are a really, really nice touch that the original didn’t have.  Mine doesn’t have them either, but that’s OK; it’s exactly what I wanted.  I made my “muslin” version with three-quarters length sleeves:

When the Vogue collar on my muslin flopped, I drafted the collar I really wanted — it’s just an extended version of the old one. Really extended — it’s 16 inches longer.  I just grafted on the extension for this practice run; that’s the ugly serged seam you can see in each picture.  When I added the new cowl, I sewed it onto the shirt opposite to Vogue’s instructions.  Attaching the collar right side to right side means that the finished seams show when I’m wearing this as a hoodie.  Here’s the hood, in the draped configuration, in back:

The collar piecing is ugly — that’s why I’ll never finish it — but later in the week I’ll be making the real top.  Size-wise, I cut a 10 everywhere but the bust, where I enlarged it to a 12.  This quasi-FBA works well for me with the right knit.  I did use thin twill tape to stabilize the back of the neck from shoulder seam to shoulder seam to keep it from stretching; the fit there was nice, and I wanted to keep it that way.

Vogue calls for elastic in the side seams as well as the collar, to make the top look gathered, but I wanted to control the look each time I wear it, and liked the top extra long, so I skipped that step.

Related —  Vogue 7997: The Real Thing

Categories: Tops Tags:

We Wear Clothes Oneself: Japanese Pattern Book

May 5th, 2010 No comments

I fell in love with this book at Kinokuniya in New York last summer:

Google translates the title as “we wear clothes oneself“, with the subtitle “when you change from a three dimensional plane“.  (No wonder I loved it!)  To be accurate, what I fell in love with was the skirt on the cover, which has functional cut-outs on the hem that allow it to be worn a multitude of ways:  With the cut-outs in front; to the sides; buttoned together to form pant legs; buttoned to form pleats at the hem.  Whoo, baby, this is my kind of fun!  Which is not to say that there isn’t a lot of other interesting stuff in the book.  There is!

Here’s the list of garments from Amazon Japan (as translated by Google):

a – scarf two yen (I think this name must refer to the shape of a yen coin: it’s a clever scarf made of two circles sewn together to form an “s”shape)
b – to be worn with a light bolero top and bottom of the cloth accents (a light bolero jacket that can be worn two ways, making two different necklines)
c – semi + c flared dirndl (a faux wrap skirt made in two different fabrics)
d – ribashiburuberuto  with pocket (a cute, decorative hip band with a hidden pocket)
e – double skirt (a tube skirt that can be pulled inside out to make several different looks)
f –  best open-back + stall (a scarf that can also be worn as a vest-like topper)
g -furenchisuribuburausu pleated shoulder (simple blouse with a fluttery, pleated sleeve and two neckline variations)
h –  bolero towel (a short bolero-style jacket – maybe possibly made from a Japanese towel?)
i – skirt + pants (my favorite, and the one on the cover)
j – best long scarf (a scarf with two armholes, and a pleat formed by a snap in back)
k – 1 of the marks sheet wrap skirt (a nicely-shaped wrapped skirt with mitered corners on the hem)
l – cloth accents – spiral corsage (OK, this is the only thing I ‘m not impressed with – it looks like a spiral of cloth with ragged edges stuck onto a blouse.  I can’t find the directions for it, either, but I’m thinking that’s no loss)

There’s also an item b1, which is a choker with a fabric “medallion”; the instructions are hidden on page 57 in the back.  And speaking of hidden, if you remove the beautiful dust jacket, there’s another  nice garment shot underneath.

This is one of those Japanese sewing books that have no English instructions.  All the patterns are included on paper sheets in the back of the book.  You fold out the sheets, find the garment you intend to make and trace the pattern pieces.  The saving grace for those of us who don’t read Japanese is that the instructions are beautifully illustrated.  This isn’t a book for a novice sewist, but assembling the garments here should be no problem at all for someone with a bit of experience — or a ton of patience!

We Wear Clothes Oneself was written by Natsuno Hiraiwa (that’s the Japanese form of the name; the surname is Natsuno); the ISBN is  978-4-579-11236-4.  You can order it using the ISBN through Kinokuniya in the USA, or see it on, where it can also be ordered.  These books are exceptionally beautiful.  The photos are printed on heavy, glossy paper, and they are a pleasure both to see and to handle.  Not to mention that the aesthetic is deliciously different, even if you never sew a thing and only feast your eyes!

Categories: Books/Magazines, Skirts Tags:

Hot Patterns 1092: Nouveau Pyramid

May 3rd, 2010 2 comments

It’s the really, really big bag:

First, the good news:  This really is a fun bag, in the sense that it’s got a lot of style and dash.  I love it, and, although it’s not really appropriate for everyday use, it’s just perfect for certain circumstances.  More on that later.

The bad news:  The instructions are, well,  really terrible.  More on that later, too.  In the meantime, here’s how mine turned out.  I reduced the size — see below — and this shot gives you an idea of how it fits on me — or rather, on the me-sized Miss Bedelia:

The shape of the main pattern pieces is pretty cool.  See the “wings” off to the sides?  You can see that the hidden part of the bag is as large as what you see when it’s assembled.  You can really see the “wings” when you lay the pattern out.  I thought of this as my “sting ray” bag:

Other reviewers have commented that this bag is HUGE — and it is.  I took the pattern to my local copy shop, and had them reduce it to 80% of it’s original size.  (Cost:  $4.00 US — bringing the price of the pattern to close to $20.00.)  It’s still a big bag, but now it’s day bag, not suitcase-size.  Here’s the finished bag, lying open, with a 24-inch-plus ruler next to it:

If you decide to reduce the size, keep a couple of things in mind.  First, you can’t use 5/8th of an inch seam allowances, because they’ve been down-scaled, too. The new allowance works out to something a little over 1 cm; I settled for 1 cm, which worked fine, EXCEPT for the facing pieces, which meet at an angle.  Too late I realized that I should have re-drafted those pieces, so I have four neat little pleats in the facings to take up the (relatively minor) slack.  If I make it again, I’ll fix that.

I used a quarter-inch seam on the handles.  That gave me straps just about the size of the originals.  The narrow seam was a huge plus, as it simplified turning and minimized trimming.

Secondly, you’ll need a 22 inch zipper instead of a 26 inch zipper.  Do yourself a favor and get a separating zipper.  Do yourself an even greater favor, and get one that opens from both ends.  (I didn’t, and I’m sorry.  With a bag this formless, it’s a pain having to open the whole zipper to get to the far side.)

Thirdly, if you shrink the pattern, you’ll have to enlarge the handle pieces.  At 80%, they wouldn’t go over my shoulder, and the width of the handles where they attach to the bag was too narrow.

I added 3 1/2 inches to the lower panel, and added 2 1/2 inches to the length of the straps.  (Next time I’ll add more; the straps  overlap at the top, and the slight extra padding is a nice feature.  Mine don’t have enough of that.)

I customized my bag in a number of ways.

  • Because I like to clip things into bags, especially deep ones, I added a couple of lightweight hooks and some D-rings inside the bag.
  • I thought the Hot Patterns “small pockets” were wrong for every piece of equipment I own, so I re-configured them, and I suspect most people will get more use out of them if they design their own.
  • There’s an inside zipper pocket, which I enlarged to fit my Sony e-reader.
  • There’s a cargo pocket on both sides of the bag (HP calls it a “bellows” pocket), but I left out the bellows and the closing flap on the back side.  I like to have an open pocket for a notebook, the mail, whatever:

  • There’s a small tab on the cargo pocket flap, which I left off.
  • HP has you use hook and loop fasteners to close the flap; I used purse magnets instead, one on each side, and I’m really happy with the way they work.
  • Inside this front cargo pocket, I made a hidden phone pocket with a hook and loop strap, and added a key hook:

  • I gently gathered the bottom of the phone pocket, instead of pleating it
  • I interfaced and lined all the pockets; the extra support makes them easier to use, and I hate having raw edges inside my pockets

I used a square of plastic mesh to give shape to the bottom; the bag was too formless and flat without it, and having the extra stabilization helps when wrangling it. (HP recommends heavy-duty interfacing.) Because the “pyramid”  is formed by the sides of the bag, which fold in between the front and the back, the shape shifts around.  Stabilizing the base helps the bag to look a bit more symmetrical.

The stabilization was important for a critical reason:  This isn’t a bag you can just reach into.  In order to keep it shut, you have to keep the straps together; slipping one strap off your shoulder leaves you with a massive amount of fabric falling off your body. In addition, the bag is open on both ends (each end of the zipper), so, at all times, you have to be aware of the possibility of small things falling out.

Because the zipper runs crosswise from front to back, the bag needs support when you open it; because it’s so big, arms as short as mine have trouble providing that support.  If I’m going to open this bag, it has to be on my lap or a table.  It’s kind of a gaping cavern when the zipper is open:

Even reduced to 80%, it’s still big enough to hold a six-month-old baby, should you decide you need an extra baby nest.  (I don’t know what’s up with the color.  I should learn how to take proper photos — but it’s not happening this month.)

So what’s not to love?  The instructions (and too much of the pattern) are kind of an inexcusable mess.  Here’s the list:

  • The sloppy drafting.  What’s up with this?

Yeah, those are the (narrow) straps.  No, I didn’t cut this; this is how the pattern piece is printed.  Which line am I supposed to follow?  Which line matches the other side of the (symmetrical) pattern piece?  Who knows?  Plan to re-draw this.  Call me crazy, but this is something a proof-reader should  have caught, even on a bad day.

  • Know how to make a “bellows” pocket?  I hope so, because you’re not going to get any help here
  • Several people wondered why they had so much trouble putting the zipper in.  Here’s a clue:  there is virtually no information explaining how to do it, and what’s there is confusing as all get-out.  Did HP even test this pattern with anyone who didn’t already understand how to make it up?
  • Illustrations in the instructions are inadequate or misleading
  • The top strip for the zipper pocket is larger than the pocket itself, which means they don’t match, and also, not coincidentally, that the notches on both pieces don’t match up.  Huh?  This is basic stuff, guys.
  • HP says to cut “one pair” of the zipper opening pattern piece.  This is wrong; you  need two pair, one pair for each side of the zipper.
  • Speaking of notches, would it kill HP to use them?  Would it kill HP to identify grainlines so that they’re actually noticeable?  Would it kill HP to name the edges of the pattern pieces for a bag like this, which has an odd geometry?  I think not.

The pattern’s labeled “advanced beginner” but I think anyone could make this bag if the instructions were, well, instructive.  That’s too bad, because the Nouveau Pyramid really is a pretty cool bag; it’s too bad that the pain factor is higher than necessary.

If I make it again (and I might), I’ll seriously consider adding some way to fasten the handles together at the bag top.  Oversized button(s) maybe?  This bag would be easier to manage if the top edges connected.

Because it’s so ungainly, I’ll only be using it as a city bag — I’ll take it with me in fair weather when I need to carry a light sweater or wrap, which can easily hide in the cavernous mid-section.  That means going to museums, etc., where I won’t be shopping or running errands and won’t need frequent access to the bag.  It’s just too unwieldy to take anywhere I’d actually have to dip into it frequently.  In the end, this bag is kind of high maintenance —  rather like the instructions you follow to make it.

Categories: Bags Tags:

A Sewing Weekend

May 1st, 2010 6 comments

I’m looking forward to an upcoming sewing event — it will be the first time in a long time that I’ve gathered with a group of sewists I haven’t met.

Because I’m awful at keeping people straight, I’m reading all the blogs I can find that are written by those who have signed up.  It’s really exciting to see how varied the attendees are, in every way.  All kinds of sewing styles, abilities, and interests are represented — it’s going to be a fun couple of days!  Here’s the list of blogs I’ve captured, below, in no particular order.  Have I missed anyone?


Lindsay T Sews

Sweet Notions

Adventures in Couture

Sewing by the Seat of my Pants

When Ladies Dressed

Dressed to a “Tee”

Happy Sewing, Happy Knitting

Diary of a Sewing Fanatic

Curtain to Coats (Deepika’s blog; made invitation-only on 4/9/2010)

Miss Celie’s Pants

The Slapdash Sewist


Another Creation

Vacuuming the Lawn

FabriCate & Mira

Nancy K Sews

sewl sista #1

Capitol Sew and Sew


Red’s Threads

The Mahogany Stylist

Mia’s Sewing Room

DD’s World

Sew Tawdry

La Cubanita Cose

Update — two blogs I didn’t catch earlier:

Shiela Crochetz Threadz & Knitz

Sew A Beginner

By the way, a note to Blogger bloggers:  Do you realize that you may be missing out on comments because of your settings?  If you don’t allow name/URL comments, and/or anonymous comments, people who don’t have (or who don’t want) Google IDs or Blogger IDs can’t contribute to your blog, or praise your work!  I often want to leave comments, but can’t because of the settings you’ve chosen.

Since many of you also don’t include any contact information, I can’t even let you know that I wanted to comment, but couldn’t.

By the way, a safe way to write an email address for contact purposes is to put it in your profile and write it out:  sewist [at] sewingblog [dot] com.  That makes it difficult  for spammers to collect your email in an automated fashion for their nefarious purposes.

Related:  A couple of geographically-related Noile posts — Organization, 1798 Style and Early Olfas and, also, Embellishments

Categories: Fun Tags: