It Was all Yellow

Last summer I was having a serious love affair with almost the entire spectrum of yellow. Gold. Ochre. Lemon. Canary. Sunflower. Mustard. There were a couple of spring 2011 runways that were to blame for this. Marc Jacobs clever use of marigold and diaphanous yellow with plum and coral. And Salvatore Ferragamo’s sun-kissed yellows falling into skin tones. It wasn’t just the color; I was very taken with the 70s influences of both collections and wrote about my plans to hijack one of these peasant looks back in May 2011.

Knocking off the Ferragamo outfit was near the top of my list last year and a must-finish this summer.

Normally, I’m not into big skirts but something about the easy Italian glamour thing appealed to me, romanesque sandals and all. How to translate without feeling too costumey is always a good challenge when being inspired by runway looks. And since I’m past the age for cropped tops, I wanted a similar cotton-y blouse without the belly-show.

You got to see a sneak peak of the blouse earlier this week and I really love it to pieces! I’ve worn it a few times already. A few of you commented on my buttonholes, and I wish I could say I could do that by hand, but the hand-stitched parts were only the buttons themselves. I’ve been blessed for the last year or so to have a machine that makes buttonholes which don’t make me scream. I once spent a week of nights practicing tailored buttonholes with gimp and button thread and needless to say I think it would take me another year practicing until I actually put them on a garment.

Blouse: Simplicity 7892, dated 1977. I dug this gem up on Etsy. It’s been awhile since I’ve sewn from a vintage pattern and boy, this one is a beaut. I don’t know if it’s the 70s cut, but it has a narrow-to-wide shaping from bust to waist that’s perfect for a pear-ish figure like mine. Here’s how it looks untucked:

There are a lot of little details I really liked about this pattern, like a curved sleeve hem–a drafting detail that seemed to disappear from patterns after the 70s–and lots of little helpful dots and notches to get all that gathering lined up. I didn’t make any fit changes but trimmed the seam allowances on the tissue to 3/8″, and raised the sleeves to 3/4 length (which I liked in the Ferragamo blouse).

Skirt: I think both of my inspiration skirts are basically dirndls (two rectangles). So that’s what I cut. I measured my waist and multiplied by 3 to get the total skirt width and then measured down to mid-calf to get the length. I added a button stand to the front panel and a wide waistband with belt loops (which you can’t see because I couldn’t find a small enough belt!). That width is a good idea in theory, and true to the runway style, but the gathering was a beast and after an hour working it all out and trying it on, the cotton was so poofy it gave me an extra set of hips.

So I ended up unpicking and drawing in a hip curve at the side seams, taking in the waist by a good twenty inches. When you do this to a straight rectangle, the side seams will drop a bit. So I also drew up a little curve along the the hem to compensate.

Fabric: I really had in my mind a goldenrod colored cotton poplin to match the runway outfit. And I was absolutely delighted to find a Radiance silk/cotton poplin in–ooh, yes–butterscotch! Do you know about Radiance? It’s a lovely fabric, with a cotton-ish drape but one side has the silky sheen of a satin. It feels like heaven. I’ve used it before as a purse lining but never in a garment. Usually this fabric prettier and richer with the satin side facing out but I really didn’t want something that dressy, so I used the “homespun” side, and for a touch made the sash with the satin side.

Despite it being a waylaid project for so long, I’m glad I still feel inspired by it and think it adds some fun pieces to my wardrobe. Isn’t it fun to be surprised when a style risk clicks? And this golden Klimt yellow is surprising, bringing out the amber in my eyes.

And p.s. the photos were taken on a very grey day, in an uninhabited but historic art deco home that we’ve adored for years. At one point we trespassed (tsk tsk) just to get a look at the truly surreal deco fish tanks in the living room. We tried to get inside again but…


Taking Time to Finish

This is a little somethin’ somethin’ I’ve been sewing on the side of many other projects lately.

I’m sort of a classic finisher-type. I like having a checklist, checking off. I like the satisfaction of pulling off and crumpling sticky notes when a task is done. And this blouse, along with its counterpart skirt which I’ll share later, has been on that checklist for a year. In fact the whole outfit was cut, fused and carefully folded into a bag with all of its notions a year ago.

But here’s the funny thing. I’ll get down to the end of a sewing project and can’t be bothered to really finish-finish. I dislike hemming, for instance. I’m an accuracy nut but not at the end. I feel done once I can put it on and pretend it’s done. I didn’t finish the last baby hem on my Cambie, or hem this silk jersey dress (you’re next, buddy!). My fur coat is perfectly done except for the opening in the sleeve lining which was kept open to bag-line the coat. Yes, I wore this about ten times with a hole in the sleeve.

Perhaps I’ve been watching one too many videos of tailors hand-stitching in a calm but deft manner. And reading about folks who love to hand-stitch while watching their favorite TV program. I have a slapdash approach to button-sewing but this time I decided to take some pleasure in one of those end-tasks. I settled down into a comfy chair with a needle, thread and beeswax and an episode or two of Lie to Me. (My second time through this great but short-lived show–I love Tim Roth!) The problem is I can’t look at TV and buttons at the same time. How do you guys do that? Re-runs, where you know all the lines anyway?

Anyway, in all my 20-odd years of sewing, I’ve never really learned a proper way to sew a button that looks neat from front to back, and more importantly, stays put. So after a bunch of tutorial-hopping I decided to practice.

I got so into the hand-sewing that I almost… considered… hand-overcasting the sleeve edges before hemming them. Whoa. Personally, I like serging, and I think it looks neat and refined. Back when sergers/overlockers first became more available to home-sewers, they were expensive but a revelation after pinking edges. A neat and refined revelation, not a quick and dirty way out. But I digress. I stopped short of hand-overcasting because I’m very inexperienced at it. I was so happy with the way the blouse was turning out, and a little bit sad when the hand-sewing was done, that I needed one more thing to really finish-finish, with my hands.

I’ve had these labels for a couple of years and can you believe I’ve never used them? Probably because I’d have to hem first! Alright, so the stitches are unraveling but I’ll get more practice in…


Muslins & Yoke Pockets

It has been a wonderfully on-and-off overcast week here in Austin. I’m pretending it’s raining more than it really is and that I should be having an “inside” day. Which means sewing and lots of pattern-cutting. And blogging. And playing with new tech toys…

My silk shorts pattern is finished and I’ve decided to sew a couple of pairs at the same time. I love a little assembly-line sewing! Until I get them done, I thought I’d share a few things I learned along the way… Today is all about yoke pockets. Over the last year I’ve made several patterns that have had some form of hip yoke pocket. The Lonsdale, the Cambie dress and my shorts all have these pockets. And of course you’d be familiar with them from many trouser and most jeans patterns.

The top pocket is a pretty common Burda pocket in anything with a fly. In Burda patterns, there is often just one piece on the pattern sheet. You’d trace off two separate pieces from that–one for the yoke piece and one for the lining that sews into the front skirt or pant piece. (The little extension is sewn into the center front.) The example on the bottom is a folded yoke pocket that includes lining and pocket in one.

It seemed a bit laborious to sew entire pockets into the muslins of these patterns, but I did–four times! Now I’m guessing I may not be as clever as my readers, but I really didn’t think of a way around this till I started making several test runs of my silk shorts. To cut the pocket and front as one for a muslin, I lined up the yoke pocket piece with the side seams, making sure the grain lines of pocket and short fronts were parallel. The patterns with these pockets often have notches near the hipline and along the waistline where the pocket lines up, which helps lining them up.

When cutting them out, I kept weights on them to make sure they didn’t shift.

Once lined up and taped/weighted onto that front piece, I could draw in the hip shape, remove the pocket and then proceed to cut the front as one whole piece.

What I really want is a flexible shorts block that I can use for multiple styles. So after finally getting the fit I wanted, I ended up making two blocks, one for shorts with pockets and one without. Now I have possibilities for side zips!

If you’ve ever made something with these kind of pockets, you have probably noticed they pull and bulge a bit if there is not enough hip room. Sometimes bulging–or a draped pocket–is intentional, but the pocket and short/skirt front have to be cut that way. Once I did a muslin without pockets I got a much more accurate fit without depending on the ease of the pocket “give”.

Hmmm, now I might be playing around some cool draped pockets like these Philip Lim trousers…

p.s. Sorry all if you wanted or tried to comment on my last post. My offline blog writer played a tricksy on me. All should be working now!


If It Weren’t for the Skeeters

{update: Oops, I didn’t realize comments on this post were disabled. I had a conflict with one of my plugins. All is working now!}

I’ll go for months and months without shopping and then suddenly I get a get a bee in my bonnet to make a whole day of it. I rarely drive anywhere–most of my week happens within a five-block radius–but I love my car so it gives me an excuse to tool around town in my Ladybug.

A shopping day starts with a latte from my favorite coffee shop and then I visit a few local boutiques. There’s always a stop at Anthropologie, and mostly I just drool over their furniture and all the little knick-knack housewares. Sometimes I’ll cruise as far as the mall to check out lingerie sales at Nordstrom. But I really love small boutiques that have their own creative voice, that operate more like galleries rather than try to serve everyone at once. Kick Pleat is one of those shops, with a tightly edited, small collection of designers, mostly independent European brands you wouldn’t find elsewhere in Austin.

Two of my absolute musts for the summer were a blouse-y white tee shirt and silk shorts. I really thought I’d get around to making a tee by now, so I couldn’t resist this floaty white tee which has that right amount of haphazard slouch I like to throw on with everything.

{I’m a sucker for lady sandals, especially ones with bizarre slug ornaments…}

If it weren’t for the mean skeeters, I’d probably wear something short every day. I had a few pairs I planned to make this summer, including a remake of my pretty purple silk charmeuse shorts. They were one of those projects on which I spent more time working out the finishing techniques than fitting them properly and I accidentally cut the wrong size (down). I mocked up the next size up only to realize that the pattern is better suited for a more structured fabric than charmeuse. The original pattern was in the Burda June 2010 issue and is a sweet little short pattern, but has a bit of tailored fit and not quite the drapey loose-fitting style suited to something like charmeuse. (There were two looks in the magazine, which are both available at BurdaStyle here and here.)

My sewing hours the last week have been spent working out a new pattern, but keeping all the trouser-y details. A contour waistband, fly, options for cuffs and welts are all unexpected touches in silk, dontcha think? I’m working out sample #3 and I think I’ve got the pant leg just right. It’s almost a different pattern entirely and sometimes I wonder why I just don’t have a trouser block to begin with!

A few of my inspiration shorts:

{Credits: Shopbop, ForwardForward, Ralph Lauren}