On sewing the basics (SBCC Tonic Tee) and having a uniform

Dear Readers,

If this was a competition about boring sewing, I believe I would win “haut la main” (I had to google translate this, apparently appropriate English translation is “hands down”, funny because in French in “hand high”, interesting…). Not only I’m showing you basic t-shirts from a pattern I used before, but I used only black and white knit. I did not even buy the fabric, I used tshirts from The Old Man. That’s not actually true, I had one cut out for months in a corner of my sewing room, but my serger was threaded in white, and the knit was black… basic-tee-2

So there you have it : 2 white t-shirts, 3 black ones. 4 made from existing tshirts. I did not even remove the labels at center back, because I got really lazy! Because it’s not that interesting, I will spare you and show you only two of them. I used SBCC free tonic tee pattern. On some I save the neck ribbing which makes it very close to the neck and on other I used the original hem and made a band out of the excess I cut off the sides. I also used size XXS or XS to have a more relaxed fit for 2 of them. It was all done in a few hours. The longest operation was probably switching the serger from white to black.

basic-tee-6This is obviously a weekend outfit for me, and they already got tons of wear, as expected. Since there is not much more that can be said about super basic tees, I figured we could talk a little about the idea of uniform. I don’t know if you noticed, but these days it feels like one cannot open its reader or Facebook without stumbling on an article about a woman who decided to wear “a uniform”. Some take it very seriously, like wearing the same clothes everyday, some a little less. The rational is more or less always the same : “I have super important things to do in my life, so I decided to figure out what to wear once and for all, like men do, (really ? do they?) and now I can focus on the rest (usually career)”.

basic-tee-3I have to admit, it is seductive. In general, radical approaches tend to do very well on the Internet. Wether it’s sewing all the dresses in a vintage book (but then you don’t finish ;-)), or cooking all the recipes, it “sells”. I love reading about those big projects but I’m incapable of making such decisive commitments. Or maybe I just don’t have time. Actually, maybe this is why they are so seductive, because we know we would do it. Personnally, I’m a good audience for them. After all, I did quit smoking with Allen Carr and cleaned my house with Marie Kondo.

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Going back to the uniform, it looks like the latest wardrobe craze. Remember when we were looking for our “signature style”, our “10 essential” or creating “capsules” ? Well now, we need a uniform. It doesn’t matter if you actually lead 1 or 3 lives (work, evening out and weekends) or leave in an environment with 4 seasons. You just need to say that you have a uniform. Because it shows how much more focused on important things you are than the rest of us.

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In Haiti, we have about 2 seasons, one when it rains and one when it does not. And you actually don’t need to dress any differently. Because it’s hot. All the time. You just add a rain coat. I have to admit, I started wearing a variation of pretty much the same thing everyday : skinny jeans/pencil skirt, button-up/t-shirt and the occasional dress. You can combine it and you will know how I’m dressed wether in the office, at the supermarket or dining out. So I guess, yes, I have a uniform. If I was to participate in Me-Made-May (I’m not), I would bore the hell out of all of you!

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But here is the problem, I don’t want to to call it like that because it already became a cliché. Trends go so fast online that you can get tired of them before even adopting them! Just like when everyone started “curating” inspiration on Pinterest and their blog. Maybe I can skip to the next wardrobe trend ? Please jump in, do you have a uniform, or a minimalist wardrobe? What do you think will be the next wardrobe trend?

Lastly, I am about to board the plane to New York for a week, in case you are there and want to shop at Mood or just gossip email me!

 

 

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First hand sewn leather item!!

Dear readers,

It’s already in April and I am completely ignoring my only commitment for this year : to post twice more than in 2014 – 46 times. As a wannabe M&E expert, I have tell you we are NOT on track to meet the target!

I have been sewing, but since it’s 5 black or white t-shirts and a knit wrap dress, my excitement to take pictures and write about them is pretty low. On the other hand, I got something in the mail last thursday and it’s A LOT more exciting!!

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It’s CraftSha Leather Light Hand Sewing Set and it’s pretty amazing, because 1/ I ordered it from Japan (GoodsJapan, in case you are interested) and 2/ it came in the mail. IN THE MAIL! You may know that there is no mail in Haiti… I’m not entirely sure how it all happened but I don’t care, it is soooo nice!! I also bought a very fancy knife, specially made for left-handed people, which makes me feel like a leather samurai!!

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Of course I had to start right away and The Old Man very conveniently lost the previous leather phone case I had made him, and the one before that was eaten/destroyed/buried in the garden by our dog (yes, adorable but evil). As the third iteration of the same pattern I made for his phone (Samsung Galaxy S4, I think), it is a lot more special because it’s hand sewn (the others were ruthlessly thrown under the machine) with Japanese tools.

Leather case-1

The set comes with a little booklet (in Japanese) for a basic project. I am very partial when it comes to all things Japanese  and this is no exception. The pictures are very clear so you can follow along without understanding a single sign. I always wonder how much I would learn if I could read Japanese instructions. Their diagrams are so informative already, I cannot help but think what is written must be mind blowing (like, this adjustable uniform shared by Very Purple Person).

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All the tools were a nice to use, but for such a small project you have a lot of steps. Cutting, filing, applying the thingie on the edges, glueing, punching holes, stitching (with 2 needles at a time), more edge thingie, etc. In addition, there is a learning curve. As you can see my stitching leaves a lot to be desired. What I learnt so far:

  1. Pay a lot of attention when punching the holes, 1mm difference is HUGE in the final look
  2. Hand sewing requires regular tension and not too much of it, the stitches tend look better a little looser.

Leather case-2The leather is a from a skin The Old Man bought years ago in Colombia. It’s softer than the vegetable tanned leather used in the booklet and dyed (but only the upper layer) so that also made a difference on how it reacted to the tools.

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It’s not my first time working with leather, I’ve made handbags, wallets and garments by machine, using a teflon foot and a special needle. Lately, I started to find the results disappointing since I don’t own a machine that would handle the thickness well. My industrial hates it, the feed dogs leave marks on the skin and it skips stitches. The home machine does a slightly better job but topstitching is very unpredictable. So hand sewing seems to be a good solution for small projects.

That’s it, the case is not perfect but I’m reasonably happy with it as a first project. I can’t wait to experiment more, maybe with a clutch for myself. Have you tried hand sewing leather or do you avoid it completely? Share your tips!!

A simple black Nettie dress

Dear readers,

Do you realize that as seamstresses, we tend to overanalyze our wardrobe? I mean who else spends these hours reading about the Wardrobe Architect, or every current and vintage wardrobe/style advice ever printed? I, for example, am having a massive style crush on Un-fancy. Even though her style is much much more casual than mine, and I have 0 plans to get dressed with 37 items, I am addicted to her daily remixes and the clean feeling of her pictures. And even after all our careful analyze and planning we get distracted by the latest pattern release or a nice print at the fabric store…

Finally let’s also be honest about one point: having a blog does change what you sew, because for instance neon color will pop on the screen and social media, as well as pretty prints. For some of us it’s ok, because it is actually our uniform, but for others it is not. As I am now just 1 year before 30, and I’m starting to admit that I don’t wear that many eye-popping color and prints. I will keep enjoying them on other blogs and once in a while fall for distraction bu, sewing my “birthday dress” meant sewing something that will come out of my closet every time I need to “fancy” up myself!

What can be better than a black Nettie dress from Closet Case files then ?? Nothing.wpid830-Black-nettie-dress-35.jpg wpid828-Black-nettie-dress-29.jpg wpid819-Black-nettie-dress-15.jpg

I made this dress before, so I did not change anything, except that I did not add bra cups inside. The fabric is a viscose jersey bought in Paris while I was there in June (at Sacré Coupons), and although it is very soft, it is slightly less stretchy than the printed lace I used for my previous version. Therefore, I am trying to feel what the reviewers stated about the arms being on the tight side. However, please note that I use the smallest side of the initial pattern release, before Heather corrected it.

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I have several garments to show here, including some that are not even photographed yet. Last weekend I did try the Named Shadi skirt and made 2 (knit skirts, so fast…). BUT it is this time, you know the one that comes every 8 weeks. I will be traveling to Guatemala (for rest) and Panama (for work). I have hopes to take pictures before and write blog posts during my holidays. We will see how this goes.

Now, I would really like to hear about your strategies to make clothes that suit your lifestyle and not be distracted by pretty prints and patterns releases !

 

 

Linen dresses Part II

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Ok, so now that I confessed that I let The Old Man design one dress and that I realized that I’m not the only one after reading your comments on my last post, I can go further in my confessions. In addition to cooking for me, cleaning my wounds (a not-so-funny story in the streets of Port-au-Prince) and driving me around, The Old Man keeps a Pinterest board of LADIES outfits, for me. Yep. I said it.

I know…. Now, let’s move on to the dress. This is the second linen dress on which I worked with The Old Man. The selected inspiration dress was an Asos ponte knit number. Try to explain that ponte and linen do not behave in the same way and you will get a blank stare back at you… So I decided to keep the technical challenges for myself and try to make it work in a Tim Gunn’s manner!

Inspiration picture

 

As it is extremely difficult to show the seamlines in the pictures, I hope you will get a closer idea in the dressform shots and the inside-outs. As for my previous linen number, I used my now TNT sheath dress pattern Lekala 5166. This time I kept the center back shaping. I made the dress longer (OBVIOUSLY) and tapered the seam at the hem up to 1″ on the front and back side seams. In total that represents 4″ less in the knee area so adding a back vent was mandatory if I intended to do more than standing straight in that dress. I created the underbust seam and I closed that section at the princess seam to just keep a pleat under the bust. My other modification for the front was to extend the bottom of the side dart into a pocket. For some reason I find these type of pockets visually interesting as well as practical. If you remember I already used it in my Reiss inspired coat last year. So instead of a 1 piece front you get a front and a side panel that acts also as the pocket bag.

After the pattern work, the construction was fairly simple :

  • the upper front pieces  sewn at center front on the SA
  • on the main front a attached the pocket facing and then added the side panel and then attached to the rest of front,
  • Attach the upper front and the front together
  • Sew the back darts
  • Join front and back at shoulder seams, do the same for the front self lining and back facing
  • Insert the invisible zipper (still with the Fashion-Incubator technique), sew the center back seam (and the vent)
  • Attach the facing all around the neckline and armholes. Turn out the whole thing like a sock. I hope you are all familiar with the all-in-one facing technique. If not, I think Salme patterns did a good job at illustrating the concept.
  • Sew the side seams in 1 step, from hem to facings
  • hem, topstitch the vent and done!

You can see that I left some of the process regarding seam finishes out. I mostly used seam binding as you can see on the inside out post!

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I really like this dress and I wear it quite often even though it is a bit formal for the everyday look at my work place. Thus, it’s great for these I-have-a-meeting type of days. However the décolleté is a bit on the osé (bold?)  side…

Overall it was a great experience and I officially awarded TOM with a special advisory title on my sewing. I know it’s been a while since my last post, but in the mean time I’ve been to NY (brought fabric that you will see very soon), to Guatemala, sewed 2 pencil skirts, currently looking at relaxed wide linen pants and worked on a special project that you should be able to enjoy soon if things go according to plan. Yes, I’ve been busy…

My last word are on press cloth, I will admit to be a wild presser. I press everything heavily and I try to pretend that I don’t see the shiny marks that I am creating… But to be honest it’s bothering me more and more. Recently I read this post on Sunny Gal Studio’s blog and I think it’s time. Time to stop being lazy and start using a press cloth! In my 14 years of sewing, I had to fight my laziness many times : stop ignoring that you have to “set in” a sleeve, stop cutting double layer for silk, stop thinking it’s ok not to finish seams, etc…. Overall this is how my sewing improves, gradually and in steps. BUT I know very little about press cloth. Do I need more than one ? Is a piece of muslin ok ? Does it depend on fabric ? I will have to do some research…

What is your favorite source of information when it comes to press cloths ? And I would love to hear what was the latest step you took to take your sewing to the next level!

 

 

Linen dresses part I

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OK I know I announced a lot of posts, or at least weekly ones, but of course life/work got in the way. I’m currently enjoying freezing in the streets of NYC for a quick 5 days and then I will be off to Guatemala. I made this dress before the end of 2013, and it is sort of an experiment than could be entitled “what happens when you let your boyfriend design your dress?”.

First of all, I have to say that he is very interested in women dressing. Like we shop together, for real. He does not wait around the entrance looking like he’s trying to escape. He selects clothes on the rack, wait around the dressing rooms, gives his opinion about fit and quality of material, etc. I’ve never been so much of a group shopper but for some reason it works well and generally if I follow his advice I get a lot of compliments by strangers later… So ok I give in, a guy may have better taste than me to dress me… After doing a closet clean-out due to some weight loss and style evolutions, I talked him into defining a dress he would like to see me in.

Overall no big surprises : it’s short, it’s fitted and in a solid color… Men… He also made the specific requirement that it should be linen (and navy). Which is good because it’s the only natural fiber readily available in Haiti (at high cost though).

For the pattern I used the made to measure lekala 5166 that I used for my little 90’s dress. I altered the pattern to make a sleeveless dress (bring the underarm seam up and in), removed the back seam and its shaping so it’s a bit more loose in the waist, raise the neck line and create a placket opening, and finally lengthen it  a little. I’m sticking to my strategy of working based on Lekala patterns, and it has been very rewarding so far!

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Construction was fairly simple, I finished the seams with french seams and the front placket unbuttons down to the waist so no need for other closures. I fused the placket pieces and the opening on the dress. Unfortunately I only had white interfacing but it’s on the inside so it does not bother me too much. Since I made that dress well over 3 months ago, it got a lot of wear already. Comfortable + flattering + easy to wash = heavy rotation!!

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Overall the experiment was a total success so we tried a second time. I already have the pictures of that second (linen… again…) dress and should be able to post it soon! What about you ? Have you ever let someone else decide on all the aspects of a garment you were going to sew for yourself? Is your partner a good source of advice for clothing or does he run away when you say you are looking for constructive criticism ?

Grainline Studio Archer Shirt dress by Sewing Tidbits

Late Archer appreciation: it’s a shirt, it’s a dress, it’s a shirtdress!

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What, a new post??? I warned you, it’s going to be crazy blogging weeks with at least a post a week… It will be probably followed by the usual hiatus. Not because I haven’t been sewing (I have, 2 pencil skirts in one weekend, so proud!) but because I travel every 2 months so that usually put everything on hold. This time, I will be going back to NYC for 5 days (YAY!!! FRIENDS !!! DOUBLE YAY!!! MOOD FABRICS!!! TRIPLE YAY!!!) and then joining The Old Man) in Guatemala (3rd time now).

Now going to this dress, if you follow me on Pinterest, you know that I have a limited number but very pronounced obsessions (hum hum Miranda Kerr… hum hum). Among them you can count skinny jeans, pumps, shirts, maxi skirts, pencil skirts and SHIRTDRESSES. All these pretty much define how I dress on a daily basis.

I already made one last year but since then I started thinking about a dress that would be basically a long loose shirt. And what would be more perfect than Grainline Studio’s Archer pattern for that purpose ? That’s right, NOTHING!

Following the advice on Twitter from A Stitching Odyssey, I used size 0 for bust and waist and graded out to a 2 in the hips. In addition, to turn this shirt pattern into a dress I just added 10 inches below the hips area. I think it’s important to do the lengthening below the hip level other wise you end up elongating the curve between the waist and the hip. Other than that I did 0 alterations. Yes, you read well zero.Knowing me you could have expected a debauch of 1/4″ seam allowances, redrafting of the under collar, changing the button placket, etc. But, I wanted to follow the sewalong to the letter, so i did NONE of that, ET VOILA! I finished all seams with french seams, including the armholes (I recommend it, it’s really really nice).

The fabric is something synthetic that I found here in Port-au-Prince, I would go for something like rayon. Actually, The Old Man found it and made me buy it. He is EXTREMELY proud of it, so every time I got a compliment for the dress, he is beaming (men..). As much as I like to contradict him, I have to admit that it’s nice to wear, easy to wash and to iron. I already used the remnants to make one of the pencil skirts mentioned above. But of course it will probably take me an additional 2 months to blog about those.

So anyway, I did not make it on time for the Archer Appreciation month launched by Lucky Lucille and Miss Crayola Creepy back in December (part of my love/hate relationship with sewalongs) but I really love this dress. It’s a great option for these days when you have nothing to wear! I have a white 23mm silk crepe in my stash that is screaming to be made into something similar to this very popular pinterest picture… I may remove 3/4″ to the shoulder length though, because they are dropping a bit.

Have a great day everybody, I will finish this post with a gratuitous picture of where I was last weekend, this is  Ile-a-Vache, an island in the South of Haiti.

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I’m alive… And I took pictures!!

Sooooo, from what I read on other seamstresses blogs I’m not the only one struggling to take pictures. To be honest when it’s between some sewing time and some picture taking time, sewing wins every time… But I managed to make an effort. I praised so much the Lekala patterns that you deserve to see what they look like. CIMG2327 So as I said in my previous post, I started with Lekala 4285. It’s a nice pencil skirt with some shaping and pleats at the back. CIMG2308 The fabric is a stretch cotton pique from Mood. If I remember properly it was from Theory. It has quite a lot of stretch so it’s actually perfect for a pencil skirt to make the walk easy. CIMG2321 I made one alteration that is going to sound major but it’s actually kind of my fault. Between the stretch of the fabric and me being scared of not having enough ease in the hip area (so I stated a bigger hip measurement that usual when I ordered my pattern), the skirt was really big when I tried it on (before adding the facing). I ended up removing 1/2″on each side (total reduction 2″!!). Other than that, I made no alteration, not even the length!! CIMG2322 I used seam binding for all the seams. I’m sort of a seam binder maniac. I only got a serger this year and sometimes I get very upset that I don’t get good results right away. Because of my classes at FIT, I took the habit of binding the raw edges of my muslin samples (yes I like to get As…) so I bind quite fast now… But I promised that I’m improving my use of the serger, I try to use it at least once per project.

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I think the skirt will get a lot of wear, mostly at work. Of course, being white, it does suffer from a typical Murphy’s Law. Everytime I wear it, I have a 50% chance to drop something on it (think coffee, blood, anything that will show A LOT) in the first hour that I arrive in the office. It would be way too easy if it happened before I left the house, because I could change and where would be the fun of trying to conceal a stain for the whole day!

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The fabric definitely appears more wrinkly in the pictures than it is in real life. All the back seams are top stitched as well as the top of the pleats.

IMG_2197If you plan on making of these patterns, don’t rely on the instructions. Google Translate will NOT do a good job translating sewing stuff from russian to any other language. However the technical drawings are quite accurate so they are worth taking a look (or 2, or more…) at. IMG_2199

For the invisible zipper, I used my favorite technique (from Fashion Incubator), I know some people do it differently but I really don’t know why. It works perfectly every time! The adjustments that you need to your pattern are the followings:

  • The seam allowances in the zipper area is 1/2″, from the top to 1.5″ lower than the finishing point of the zipper.
  • The rest of the back seam is the way you like it (for me it’s 3/8″).
  • The facings have 0 seam allowance where they are going to be sewn onto the zipper.
  • Once you did this, you can refer to this post for the sewing order (includes pictures for the visual learners). I never even made the pressing jig (I’m too lazy).

So in my configuration, the pattern looks like this :

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And the finish zipper on the inside :IMG_2203

What’s your favorite zipper insertion method? Have you tried the Fashion-Incubator ones ?

Next time I will show you the little 90’s dress but I also already made a variation from that pattern and I finished the Jedediah shorts (YAY!!) so stay tuned, updates are coming!