Lovely bookshop

London used to have an excellent book and magazine shop called R.D. Franks which catered to fashion students. It sold all sorts of interesting things, including La Mia Boutique and every fashion mag I’ve ever heard of. I only got to visit it a couple of times before it closed down last year, and since then I’ve been on the lookout for something similar.

Yesterday I was in London and visited Claire de Rouen Books on Charing Cross Road. It’s a ‘photography and fashion’ bookshop and while it doesn’t stock any sewing magazines, it does have lots of fashion mags and some very good sewing-related books. I bought Drape Drape 2, and I noticed the Pattern Magic books were also there. The selection of photography books was also great, for those who are into that.

I’d still like to find somewhere in London that stocks the more exotic pattern magazines though. If anyone knows of such a place do tell!

High tech solutions

As I mentioned before, it took me most of a day to cut out Vogue 1239. It’s a complicated pattern with a lot of pieces, but at least part of the problem is that I am really slow at cutting. My usual method for a big pattern is to put up both leaves of the dining table and cut on that, weighing my pattern and fabric down with food cans. This involves moving all the houseplants into the garden and rearranging the living room to find space for the dining chairs but there’s not a lot I can do about that.

The main thing slowing me down that I can actually do something about is that I find the food cans get in my way, so I have to keep rearranging them to avoid bumping my hands into them while cutting. A while ago someone (I wish I could remember who so I could link to them) mentioned on their blog that they use large washers as pattern weights, which would solve that problem nicely.

So today I went to the hardware store and had a look. Washers are not on display so I had to ask for them. They showed me some tiny little steel things. I tried to explain what I wanted them for, but obviously failed because then they offered me rubber ones. I eventually asked to see the biggest metal ones they had. They produced these, which are 7cm across, and then looked very surprised when I bought them. I realised afterwards they must have just heard ‘dressmaking’ and have been thinking I wanted to sew them to something! No wonder they looked rather dubious.

I think these will be a big improvement over food cans.

Time sink

Thanks for all the nice comments about my kimono! And yes, the gravel in the garden is pretty uncomfortable on bare feet but it was the only way to get the Japanese maple tree into the shot and given its name it just had to be done. Normal service of pictures taken in front of the wall will be resumed with the next project.

The next project is Vogue 1239, the dress that looks like a labcoat. I’m going to make my version in black cotton poplin so as not to be mistaken for one of the scientists at work.

Vogue 1239 pattern photo

The sewing rating for this pattern is ‘average’. I’ve previously made Vogue 1087 which has a sewing rating of ‘advanced’ so I figured 1239 would be quite achievable, if not a one weekend project.

I probably should have realised I was slightly wrong about what was involved when it took me two whole evenings to cut out the tissue. And another hour to lengthen all the pieces that needed lengthening.

I started pressing and cutting out the actual fabric and lining at about midday on Saturday. I think I finished transferring markings to the last piece of fabric at seven in the evening and my back still aches. Most of the fashion fabric is cut using a single layer layout so you have to cut the same pieces out several times over – and you really have to pay attention because a few pieces have multiple cutting lines and you have to cut one along each line. Piece 8 sticks in my mind in particular as you have to cut three different versions of that one.

None of this is terribly difficult if you’re concentrating so I can’t complain about the sewing rating too much. But if you make this one, allow yourself plenty of time. I haven’t even started sewing it yet.

Zen and the art of sewing

My kimono is finished. And here I am trying to radiate zen-like calm in front of the Japanese maple in the garden.

I have to say it has probably come out a touch too large, but on the other hand this means it’s an effective coverup. Which I was quite glad of on Saturday morning when one of the neighbours came round before I’d got dressed.

The thing about kimonos is that you don’t use a pattern, you just cut a bunch of rectangles. So for anyone else trying to make one and get the sizing right, I’m a 10 or 12 in Big Four patterns and I used the layout in my previous post. I made the smallest French seams I could, so the seam allowance is probably half an inch at most.

The sleeves are huge. I suspect I am going to knock cups of coffee over with them. I also had to make a very deep hem on them or they’d have covered my hands.

And here’s the back view.

I think this is a success.

If I was doing it again I’d do a few things differently. In particular I’d finish the edges before sewing the pieces together. Traditional kimonos are made out of very narrow widths of fabric, so there is no need to finish seams as all your edges are selevedge. You fit them by varying the seam allowance. I’d also make it a bit longer so I could make a deeper hem on the body. And I think I’d go for a solid colour or a larger print. Not that I shall need to make another one of these for a while!

Breaking my duck – making a kimono

I’ve somehow managed to not do any sewing for the last few weeks. This morning I had a few hours free, with husband out of the house and nothing to do until lunchtime. I got out the pattern pieces and fabric for the Burda pattern I’ve been intending to make…looked at them and put them back in the cupboard because I couldn’t bring myself to cut the pattern out of my good fabric. Despite having gone to all the bother of tracing the pattern, making a muslin, making a new copy of the pattern with corrections on it I think I’m giving up on this project. Something about the dress just isn’t grabbing me.

So I decided to start on my kimono instead. I had a brilliant kimono dressing gown years ago that I wore until the fabric shredded, and I’ve always wanted another. I bought fabric for this a few weeks ago at Karen’s Fabulous Fabric Fandango on Goldhawk Road. It’s the multicoloured cotton one on top of the pile.

Now the thing about making a kimono is that (apparently) you don’t need a pattern. It’s just a bunch of rectangles sewn together. So this is a good easy project to get me back in the sewing groove. I’ve been basing it on the information at these three sites:

Having measured myself (and my fabric) I came up with this layout which will fit on 45″ fabric and hopefully produce a kimono big enough to go around me. I’m a lot wider than the average Japanese lady! I haven’t really worried about seam allowances. I shall make them as small as I can and hope it works out. Kimono are supposed to have tiny seams anyway.

The broken lines on the diagram are fold lines where the garment hits the shoulder. My fabric doesn’t have much of a selvedge, although there is a manufacturer’s name printed down one side that reduces the patterned width of the fabric to about 44″ from the full 45″. I am going to use the unpatterned bit in the collar piece, which can be reduced in width slightly without breaking anything, and in the hem of the sleeves where it will be folded under.

That diagram is probably only going to make sense read in conjunction with which explains how all those pieces go together.

Then it was just a case of drawing the layout on the wrong side of the fabric with chalk and chopping away with the scissors. A rotary cutter would been even easier but I didn’t think of that until I’d started cutting. I have to say this fabric was perfect for this style of constructing shapes directly on the fabric. The pattern has lots of perfectly horizontal and vertical lines of symmetry which made it really easy to mark the lines without doing a lot of measuring. I’d have gone insane with something like my skull print fabric where what appear to be vertical lines of symmetry are in fact very slightly slanted. A complete accident, but something I’ll try to remember for the future.

Of course the proof of all this will be in the sewing, which I haven’t actually started yet, but I’m really pleased I’ve got some pattern pieces cut out at last. Even if they’re all rectangles.

New old patterns

I’ve still not done any sewing. But I have acquired some new patterns, despite already having about four projects lined up. It seems I can’t resist 1970s Simplicity patterns. It’s something about the envelope art.

First up is a maxi dress. I never used to like these, but since I made one last year I am in love with them. I think the reason I never used to like them is that I am pretty tall, so hems on RTW maxis would hit me well above the ankle. If I make my own they can be as long as I like, although I found out the hard way that floor-sweeping hems are not the best thing for going up and down stairs in!

I really like the big collar option on this one, and unlike my first one it’s not backless so I could wear it for work. I’m not sure what colours to make it in though. The white collar on the envelope looks good, but I wonder if it would work if I made the whole dress, including the collar, in a bright solid.

The next one also has a contrast collar. I bought this for the dress rather than the tunic and trousers. I’m not keen on the print on the envelope picture but I know there’s a really great dress hiding in there somewhere. Again I am not sure about what colours to use. Both this one and the one above are from ZipZapKap.

Finally, I found this jumpsuit pattern that I’ve wanted for a while, and in my size too! I might also make the dress, although I have to say I don’t go a bundle on the poncho (although yes, I am the same woman who made the space curtains top). I’m seeing this one in bright orange rather than the coral shade on the envelope.

This pattern was from LovelyLove Patterns.

So many patterns, so little time!