Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Oooh la la! A classic French jacket

The very cold weather we have been having in these parts lately has meant quite a  few nights on the lounge under a blanket but it has resulted in me finally finishing my classic French jacket. Sure, it's many months after I started making this jacket at Susan Khaljie's week long course in February but to be honest, I still can't quite believe how many hours of work has gone into this jacket - all that hand-stitching certainly takes time.

Admittedly, since I last posted about this jacket back in February I didn't do much work on it because the weather had been too hot - I couldn't find the motivation when I knew I wouldn't wear it straight away. But this is very much needed though, and even though my outer fabric is quite lightweight and loosely woven, with the silk fabric lining it's a very warm jacket.

Sewing on the trim is quite time consuming, and luckily I kept my trim quite simple so I had less work to do than some of the ladies in my course. The white grosgrain ribbon is hand-stitched down the centre of the ribbon, and the black gimp braid is hand-stitched on both edges. It's about 5m around the jacket and cuffs, so that is 15m of hand-stitching of the trim alone!

I agonised over that trim and buttons. There aren't many stores in Sydney with a wide range, so it wasn't easy finding something that would work. I was lucky to have stumbled across the white grosgrain ribbon from Tessuti, but I couldn't find any flat black ribbon to my liking so I went with braided gimp. The buttons are from a store called Buttons Buttons Buttons now located in the Dymocks Building on George St - if you are ever in the Sydney CBD you should definitely drop in because there are literally thousands there to choose from. I narrowed it down to three choices, but went with the white and black stripe button in the end because I thought it looked a bit more modern.

The other big area of hand-stitching is the lining. All the lining seams internally are hand-stitched, and then the lining is stitched to the edge of the jacket around the entire edge of the jacket and cuffs. The traditional chain, which is placed along the bottom of the hem to help the jacket hang properly, is also hand-stitched:

My jacket is cropped to hip length so I've decided to leave off the pockets at the front but now I'm wondering if the front looks too plain. After all, the pockets (either two or four) are a signature look of the classic French jacket.

When I wore this jacket to work last week I kept the jacket done up because it's really cold in my office and I like the symmetry of the trim along the centre front. The neckline is really high though so I had to leave the top hook & eye undone so that I could hunch over my computer without choking. Susan advised making the neckline quite high because the eye would be drawn to the lower edge of the white trim due to the high contrast between black and white and not the upper edge of the jacket. 

My favourite aspect of this jacket is the fit - with Susan's expert pinning and tweaking I've managed to get a very close fit around the shoulders and the lower back which are areas I always struggle with. I think the fit of a jacket around the shoulder is the key to a good looking garment, but with my narrow and forward sloping shoulders I don't always achieve a close fit.

I've even bought a vintage bakelite brooch off ebay to wear with this jacket, which I think is a very sweet look:

Being a classic black and white jacket its pretty easy to find many things to wear it with, including my recently re-made wide leg pants:

So will I make another classic French jacket? Definitely! I may leave off the trim in future versions because that is the time consuming part and it makes the jacket very distinctive, and instead just make a simple collarless jacket which would suit my corporate wardrobe really well. I've done the hard yards with Susan's help to get the pattern to fit me perfectly, so it would be a waste not to make more. Watch this space....

Friday, 16 June 2017

Burda pants again and bonus Style Arc top

Usually when I make a dud project I put it into a big box with all the other less than ideal projects with the vague idea that one day I'll remake it into something else. That box is as large as my UFO box! Unfortunately the allure of a new project, from a fresh length of fabric is too strong and those projects sit there for a long time.

Not this time though - I've remade the ridiculous wide leg pants that I made last month (posted here). Partly because my refashion box is in storage with the rest of my sewing room supplies, but mainly because I really love this beautiful rust coloured wool fabric.

The original pants (3/2017 #115) had very wide legs, pleats at the front and angled pockets at the side. I remade them using Burda 10/2016 #113 which I made last year in white and blue pinstripe fabric (posted here), which I thought were really wide leg pants until I made this pair!

These new pants are flat fronted with a wider waistband and slightly narrower legs. I decided to leave off those curved patch pockets because I think that's more of a casual look and I wanted to be able to wear these to work. I also hemmed these short enough to wear flat shoes with them, which works because of the slightly narrower legs:

I still have those annoying wrinkles at the back of my legs though - the combination of my saddlebag thighs and prominent calves make fitting my legs an absolute nightmare. 

Now I am much happier with these pants, they are far more wearable in this form. I wore these to work with my new top and a white tailored jacket I made back in 2015 from an old Vogue pattern (posted here) - a far more interesting combination than my usual matching top and bottom suits!

The top I'm wearing in these photos is new too - it's the Style Arc Skye top. This top is super simple - it took me less than 3 hours to cut it out and sew it up at a sewing weekend away I went to in May, but it took me 3 weeks to sew a button on the back to finish it! My approach to sewing is so illogical sometimes....

image via Style Arc
The fabric I've used is a polyester woven fabric called 'Shooting Star' from Pitt Trading, which they still have on their on-line store if you're interested. I don't normally sew with polyester fabric because I don't like wearing it, but this graphic print really caught my eye. The fabric is really spongy though and it was quite difficult to press, although it doesn't wrinkle when wearing it so I guess that's the trade off! 

The top is essentially a front and a back with facings so it made up quite quickly. The hem has two curved facings which makes it far easier to finish off the rather than trying to turn up a hem.

I do think the method of sewing the top could be even more simplified though. The back is sewn in two pieces, with the facings sewn to the right side and flipped to the inside, and then the centre back seam sewn below the facings. The Burda method for this style of top - sewing the facing as one piece, stitching a long 'v' down the centre back and then cutting it before flipping it to the inside is far neater, quicker and means you can cut on the fold.

Likewise, the sleeves are finished by turning under twice, and then sewing the side seams from the marked point down which I think could be made simpler and neater simply by folding it over once only so that it goes from the sleeve hem into the pressed open seam allowances without the need for clipping.

The only change I would make to the pattern itself would be to lengthen it slightly. The sides curve up quite high, and if I'm not wearing something high waisted a bit of skin peeks out which is not a good look.

I'm happy that I made the effort to remake these pants and that it turned out far better than the original, which is fortunate because I have a few other projects I've made recently that I've stuffed up haven't turned out as well as expected and now need the same treatment!

Monday, 12 June 2017

de ja vu: my Castaway to Couture competition entry

I wasn't planning on entering this year's Castaway to Couture competition run by the Australian Sewing Guild, despite the amazing prizes on offer. I was just plain out of ideas, but the weekend before the competition closed I happened to find myself in an op shop where a large box pleat skirt made from wool in a bold print caught my eye. And in that instant I decided to enter the competition with only a few days to go.

Using New Look 6968, which is my go to sheath dress pattern, I turned the oversized skirt into a fitted sheath dress which is perfect for me to wear to work:

If you're thinking this refashion looks very familiar, you'd be right! I guess I am a one trick pony because this year's entry is pretty much exactly like last year's entry (posted here) which was also a large box pleat skirt I made into a fitted sheath dress using New Look 6968. I wear this grey dress frequently and there's always space for another great dress in my wardrobe, so despite being unimaginative I decided to stick with what I know works best and what I knew I could make in a short time:

In an attempt to be a little more creative, I decided to use the border print vertically instead of around the bottom of the skirt. There was enough fabric to make it either way, which is why a box pleat skirt is a perfect candidate for a refashion - once you've unpicked it and pressed the pleats out you have two large rectangular pieces of fabric just as though you had bought it fresh cut from a roll.

This skirt started life as a size 20 Fletcher Jones skirt, which was an iconic Australian label known for using Australian wool but has sadly since closed. I bought this on a 50% off day, so it cost me $6:

Using Claire Schaeffer's brown paper and vinegar method I managed to press the pleats mostly out, and although they are slightly still there it gives a bit of texture to the fabric.

I decided to place the coloured stripes on one side of my body, which meant that I had to cut one side out upside down. If you look closely you can see some white horizontal stripes within the grey and yellow vertical stripes which are on opposing sides on the front and back, but I doubt anyone else will notice this little detail.

I tried my best to line those stripes up vertically and horizontally, but the darts made that impossible:

I had to eke out the sleeves from the leftover fabric which meant that I couldn't match the stripes there either, but I think all these mismatched stripes makes the dress look very RTW. And the fact that several people have complimented me on the dress but no one has mentioned the stripes not lining up exactly just proves that no one cares about these details as much as we do!

Because I've made this dress so many times before, it came together quickly and fitted like a glove first time. The original skirt was unlined and had a short invisible zip, so I had to use new lining and a new invisible zip but I'll reuse the original zip in another project and there was hardly any fabric left of the original garment, and overall it was a good reuse of the original garment. The whole point of refashioning and recycling is to reduce waste, and it makes little sense to me when I see refashioning projects that use just a little bit of several garments - so much leftover scraps which absolutely no one needs anymore of. I'm also a little bit horrified when I see beautiful garments 'refashioned' just by chopping off sleeves or the skirt to make a mini dress, it makes me wonder if that project won't be worn often or last too long and is in effect just fast fashion as well.

Anyway, if you've read this far can I ask one more favour from you? You can vote for your favourite project over at the ASG website - there are some great other entries in the gallery, but if you like mine the best vote for entry 19 (vote here)!

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Burda of the month: 1/2017 #119 cowl neck top

Burda drape top in bronze knit fabric

I made my January Burda project way back in April, but I held off posting about it because I wasn't entirely happy with it and wanted to make some tweaks to it. I'm still not happy with it, so I'm recording here for posterity while I think what else I can do to make it better (probably a complete refashion).

This is 1/2017 #119, which Burda refers to as cowl neck shirt:
It's a typical Burda top which is very low cut thanks to that deep cowl, but interestingly for Burda this time they have included a camisole to wear under for modesty. You just know that if Burda think it needs an top to wear under it then it definitely it scandalously low!

The fabric I used is a cotton knit in dark brown with a metallic gold finish that gives it a bronze sheen, bought from The Fabric Store eariler this year during one of their sales. It really is lovely fabric, which is why I was so keen to make this work:

Unfortunately this top has turned out very frumpy. I do love a cowl neck, but the whole front of this top is essentially draped, and it just feels very big on me:

Burda drape top in bronze knit fabric

Burda drape knit top in bronze knit fabric

I cut out a straight size 36, even though according to my measurements I should have used a 42 at the hips and this still turned out huge. There's just way too much fabric across the front, and a bit too much at the back as well:

I did wear this top out to dinner and drinks one night back in April, and I found myself constantly adjusting it all night long. Tucking it in didn't look any good and nor did pinning out excess at the sides work because that just spread out the folds at the front but didn't make it fit any closer.

So I did what I usually do - let it sit in a little ball in my half made projects box for two months while I thought about it. Finally I decided to try sewing clear elastic along the side seams to gather the bottom half of the top and hopefully create some ruching across the middle that would reduce the length and maybe tighten it up a bit.

Well, that didn't work out that well either - it still looks frumpy:

Enough of the negative hey? The things I do like about this top beside the fabric is the shoulder pleats because they are a nice feature at the shoulder but also help the top drape in the front:

Construction wise this is pretty straightforward and simple to make. I didn't have enough fabric to make the camisole style top to wear underneath, so I literally have made a strapless crop top by sewing a tube with an elastic casing at the top, using the last bit of fabric I had left. This covers the necessary bits so it works.

So overall, I don't love this top at all and as I said at the outset I'm thinking of pulling it apart and making it into another top. There is plenty of fabric to work with, and I have loads of other cowl neck patterns that I can use, so I'll add this to my to do list.

But if you have a far better endowed bust line that I do, this top may look great on you so don't let my failure here put you off this pattern!

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Burda of the month: 3/2017 #115 the ridiculously wide pants

I've made my Burda of the month project from the March issue, but I am currently unmaking it, because frankly it's a big fat failure. Ah well, they all can't turn out amazing and it's only fabric and a bit of time after all.

I made the palazzo trousers 3/2017 #115, which for a change the photo in the magazine made it obvious just how wide legged these pants are:

I really don't know what I was thinking making these pants - I know that pleats at the waist line add bulk to my already bottom heavy figure so that should have been an automatic no. I also know that after so many years of wearing slim leg pants that I'm still not that comfortable wearing wider or even straight leg pants - I am yet to wear these white pin stripe wide leg pants I made last November out of the house!

But I've seen some really great examples of wide leg pants in the stores and on other people, and since I've never been able to make a properly fitting pair of slim leg pants I thought I would take a chance. The fabric I used is a lightweight wool crepe in a gorgeous rust colour that was given to me from a sewing friend at my local ASG group recently. I thought it would have enough drape for those pleats to sit nicely at the front, but those pleats are so deep that they are quite bulky:

There is an invisible zipper in the side seam and pockets which only add to the bulk but suit this style of pants:

And even though these are the widest pant legs ever, I still have drag lines at the back leg! Clearly adding extra width to the legs isn't the fitting solution I need to make to my pants.

Overall, I think this is bit too much of a look for me to pull off - the extra wide legs plus all those pleats is just too much for me and as someone commented on my IG that the pants are wearing me instead of the other way around!

I was inspired by this level of sophistication by @iconaccidental

But instead, I feel like I'm wearing clown pants!

I do like the colour and the fabric, and luckily there is so much fabric to work with that I will be able to easily refashion these into a slimmer leg style. As I mentioned I'm already in the process of unpicking the seams and hopefully I can turn these into something wearable.

But if you like this style of pants or want to try it out for yourself, the pattern itself is fine. It comes together quite easily because it has a side zip instead of a fly front which I find is the longest step in pants making, and all the notches and pattern pieces line up properly as per Burda's usual good drafting.

So I hope you've had a good laugh at my silliness in making this pattern because I am certainly am. The irony is that there were several other lovely patterns in this issue that I could have made and been really happy with, but where's the fun in not taking any style chances?