2012 inspirations and 2013 goals

I’m running a bit late with this, given that it’s now 12th night so we’re well into 2013. But here are the last two top fives!

Top 5 of 2012

It is really difficult to pick only five bloggers that inspired me in 2012. I get half my sewing inspiration from other people’s blogs. But here are five who particularly influenced me this year.

  • Allison‘s blog is one of the first I ever discovered. I love her style. This year I shamelessly copied her Burda 116-08-2011 dress, including the way she fastens the belt, and it’s my current favourite dress.
  • Kazz‘s style is a riot of colour and interesting shapes. She inspires me to be bolder!
  • Chanel No. 6 is always sharp, witty, and full of interesting observations. Her series on safari style has got me seriously considering trying it out.
  • Pretty Grievances posts hilarious critiques of designer fashion on Wednesdays and always makes me see things I wouldn’t have spotted on my own.
  • Petit Main Sauvage is the most amazingly talented seamstress. If I ever get round to drafting my own sloper it’ll be because of seeing the beautiful things she drafts for herself.

And finally goals for 2013. When it comes to sewing I am not a good planner. I have a huge but ever-changing sewing queue and I sew what I feel like at the moment I feel like it. But here’s what’s on my list at the moment. Any resemblance to what I actually produce this year is unlikely!

  • Make the sparkly Christopher Kane knock-off dress I was planning before Christmas.
  • Vogue 8825, a very 70s raglan-sleeved dress with amazing bell sleeves. I want to make it in electric blue chiffon. This is a huge gamble because the pattern is for knits!
  • Burda 138-11-2012, a vintage sheath dress with a lovely high collar and interesting front pleats. I have some dark green stretch fabric that ought to be perfect.
  • I want to make something from the Drape Drape books. Not quite sure what yet. I got the English edition of the first one for Christmas.
  • And finally one that isn’t a sewing project: get brave enough to take outfit photos somewhere more interesting. Right now most of the photos we take are in front of the brick wall of the garages on my street. It’s a nice backdrop (and amuses my neighbours) but some variety would be nice.

Having said all that, right now I’m hard at work on my sister’s birthday dress. I forgot how difficult it is to match checks so it might be a while!

Oooh sparkly

This is about a dress that is coming about purely through luck.

Back in November Marie and Kat organised a blogger meetup in Birmingham. It was a lot of fun and amongst other things I came back with this fabric, a doubleknit with a metallic fibre on one side. I didn’t spot it myself; Kat pointed it out to me.

Sparkly heavy knit

I was originally planning to make Burda 118A-10-2012, a long-sleeved cowl necked dress with waist gathers. But recently I was flipping through my pile of pages ripped out of fashion mags inspiration folder and came across this picture. It’s a Christopher Kane. The picture had no date but a bit of trawling through style.com showed it’s from fall 2007. Clearly the sparkly fabric was meant to be a knock-off of this dress.

Christopher Kane Autumn 2007

The Christopher Kane dress has raglan sleeves. Also strange bolt-like bits on the shoulders that I am not going to copy.

I went through my whole pattern collection and found I didn’t have a single close-fitting raglan-sleeved knit dress or t-shirt pattern. Even my collection of Burdas had nothing. I vaguely thought about drafting something; I even got Metric Pattern Cutting off the shelf and looked up the appropriate chapter. And then I put it back because drafting involves rearranging furniture to make enough space to draw, and also requires daylight which is short supply in the UK in December.

Then a three-for-one Vogue pattern sale happened and I realised the knit dress from Vogue 8866 could save me from the dreaded drafting. The collar and sleeves should be fairly easy to extend.

Vogue 8866 line art

Of course no sewing has actually happened yet, what with Christmas and all. But the fabric’s in the washing machine and the pattern has been ironed ready for when things return to normal.

Have a great Christmas!

The one that nearly got away

A thought occurred to me today. I was wearing one of my three versions of Burda 116-08-2011. I have pretty much decided this pattern is my perfect garment. It has pockets. It works in hot weather on its own or in cold weather with a long-sleeved t-shirt and leggings. It’s incredibly comfortable to wear. Oh and it takes no time to make.
Burda 116-08-2011

But I very nearly didn’t make it at all. When I got the August 2011 Burda this pattern didn’t stand out. Burda made their version up in a drapey pale pink fabric and styled it without a belt. It looked pretty shapeless on the model and the pastel colour didn’t make it any more attractive. (I admit it is in fact pretty shapeless when not belted.) The technical drawing looked a bit more promising than the model photo but not enough to get it on the sewing list.

And then Allison made a version of it that I loved. She put a belt on hers. And around the same time Melissa mentioned she got some great stretch fabrics from Tissu Fabrics. They were new to me and I needed some double-knit so I checked them out. As well as the double-knit they had a stretch cotton poplin that cost next to nothing, so I bought a bit to try the Burda pattern out. And then went back for other colours to make more. And then went to the local craft market to get another belt made to go with the dresses.

I’m now wearing this pattern about twice a week. I’ll probably make more versions when I find suitable fabric in different colours to the ones I have already. It’s amazing to think I might never have made it at all if I hadn’t come across those blog posts. Thanks, Allison and Melissa!

Does the camera lie? Realism in project pictures

Ever had the experience of not being able to get a decent picture of a garment you’re really pleased with? Or then there’s the project that you’re not very happy with that nevertheless seems to photograph well. How much effort do you go to for project pictures?

I started thinking about this because recently I was looking for feedback on a failed project. I made an effort to photograph it in the way I would for something that had worked: put some makeup and pretty shoes on, took quite a few shots and picked the better ones. It doesn’t look as bad in the pictures as it feels. But I really would not wear this dress out of the house. And going in the other direction, here’s a dress that I do wear but that didn’t photograph at all well.

So while photos are very interesting to look at, and I certainly enjoy looking at pictures on sewing blogs, can we really trust what we see? The acid test has got to be how something actually feels to wear.

I rarely wear things in real life in exactly the way I photograph them. If I’m getting dressed for work there are lower heels, rather more layers, and usually I forget to put lipstick on. So the pictures aren’t realistic in that sense. But for me a part of the fun of blogging is styling things in a way that I’d like to be able to wear them; if only I didn’t walk to work and have a job that involves climbing ladders and heavy lifting. I should say, I like the job and I like the walking. I just wish they were more compatible with my favourite shoes.

Here’s a rare picture of one of my projects styled as it is usually worn, although you’ll have to imagine the pockets stuffed full of the junk I drag around with me at work.

Burda 116-08-2011

And here’s the grey version of the same dress styled in the way I usually do for blog photos.

Burda 116-08-2011

I tried wearing the shoes I’ve paired with the grey dress to work one time. I ended up walking around in my socks and getting the bus home. So I can’t say the above picture is realistic in the sense that this how I normally wear the dress, but I don’t have a problem with putting it out there. It’s how I’d like to wear the dress, and I think getting close to the look you aspire to have is a big part of the fun of sewing for yourself. I really like blogs which project the owner’s personal style. Check out Ooobop!, Kazz, and Alice‘s blogs for the sort of thing I mean.

Finally there’s the question of how much editing to do. My normal procedure is to get a lot of shots, pick the better ones, crop them, and maybe adjust the contrast. If the colour’s really off I’ll adjust that too. For me, doing any more editing than this crosses a line between an image that’s real, even if not representative of daily life, and one that’s artifical. I don’t have any objection to photo editing to produce a good image, but I’m avoiding it on my own blog because here I’m trying to achieve looks that exist in real life. Full discolosure: I did once edit some flyaway hair and a lamp post out of a set of photos. But I try not to make a habit of it.

So I’m pretty sure my own photos are not truly ‘realistic’ in some senses of the word, although I try to keep them ‘real’. But I’ll keep on producing them this way for the blog because it’s enjoyable.

Do you prefer realism or fantasy on sewing blogs? Which do you aim for?

Protocol droid legs

So I guess the first attempt at trousers is officially a success! Thanks for all the kind comments. I wore them to work this week – always a good test – and they were pretty comfortable but I realised I’d ideally like the waist a bit lower and the legs longer. Now as I don’t wear trousers much I wasn’t going to rush out and look for fabric for a second pair. But I was sorting my stash looking for things to potentially swap at Claire’s Walthamstow meetup next week and found some silver-painted denim. And I’ve always had a bit of a thing about silver trousers. My inspiration folder contains a large section of images of shiny trousers, including Balenciaga’s notorious C-3PO leggings. Here’s a few.

collage of shiny trouser pictures

I’ve never actually owned a pair of silver trousers, so I squeezed the Burda trouser pattern onto the silver denim and cut it out again. This is all a bit of a gamble. The silver denim has no stretch, unlike the black stuff I used last time, and the painting is a bit uneven in tone which could lead to some unfortunate contrast effects at the seams. I didn’t have enough of the fabric left to have any useful choice over how I laid the pieces out so I’m just going with what I’ve got. If they don’t work out they can at least be used for dressing up as a droid. Wish me luck.

Go see this – Yohji Yamamoto at the V&A

I’m back from my break from blogging. Teaching and marking are over for this academic year and I’m really looking forward to having some more free time to sew.

One of the few sewing-and-style-related things I have managed to do over the last couple of weeks was get to the Yohji Yamamoto restrospective at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. And it was great. It’s on until July 10th, and if you get a chance to go and see it I really recommend it.

It’s not just that the clothes are fascinating – and they are – but the way they are displayed is so much better for the viewer than most exhibitions. Normally the light level is kept low and everything is up on stands or inside glass cases to protect it from damage. This exhibition hall is brilliantly lit like a stage show. The clothes are presented on dress forms dotted around the floor. You can walk all the way round each one and get close enough to see all the details of the garment. You get so much more out of it than most fashion retrospectives. You can’t touch anything of course, but I was able to take a peek at the inside construction of the skirt of one of the more unusual dresses by sitting on the floor, and no one seemed to mind.

The clothes themselves are great. The exhibition has both mens and womenswear. The womens’ clothes vary from the clever but rather unwearable – for example a long black evening dress with an integrated sequinned handbag on the backside – to things I immediately wanted to reproduce. There’s a lot of unusual construction and structure to admire. Plenty of black and some wonderful bright orangey reds. There’s also a small group of coloured dresses where the fabric has very fine patterns produced by unusual dyeing techniques. The techniques had names I didn’t know but they looked like variants of tie-dye and batik to me. The fabrics in general were beautiful, although apparently they are all specially made for the designer so that’s not so surprising.

The menswear is not as wearable in general but I do like the suits with attached oversized tartan wraps and the colours. There were also videos of many of the collections to watch.

The exhibition spills out into the rest of the museum with five or six groups of garments placed outside the exhibition hall in various parts of the building. The V&A is huge so it took a while to track them all down, and in the process I saw parts of the collections I’d never gone into before.

Anyway, do go if you get the chance. I’ve certainly come back with some new ideas, and it’s not often you get the chance to look at this sort of clothing so closely. I hope the V&A does more of these.

I should know better – Burda April 2011

I’ve been meaning to get around to reviewing Burda’s April 2011 issue for a couple of weeks. It keeps coming to work with me so that I can scan in a few of the pictures, and then it comes home with me again because I never quite get round to it. And that really says it all about this particular issue – I just can’t get excited about it. To be fair to Burda, the reason for this is that the themes for this month’s stories are pretty much a listing of my pet fashion dislikes. All links go to the German site by the way.

Nomad style? I don’t normally do floaty, hippy or anything tie-dyed. Another story is called ‘flower girl‘. You wouldn’t catch me dead in a small-scale pastel floral print. And then there’s maritime de luxe. I know the maritime look is classic and easy and looks good on everyone…but I don’t like it. Never have, never will. I think it’s the blue. My school had blue PE kit and it’s put me off for life.

That leaves ‘mother-daughter style‘ – which seems to consist of dressy satin pieces. Finally we have the best story in the magazine, ‘the layered look‘ in beautiful Jil Sander style saturated colours. But it’s the plus-size story so only good to me for looking at, not making.

Mother-daughter style has some possibilities. I really like the lines of this leather dress, model 119:

I think that could work in a stretch cotton twill if I drafted facings or lined it. It also has pockets which is a really nice touch. Burda are doing lots of dresses with pockets lately. This is a Good Thing and should be encouraged.

I might also make this top from the maritime story, just not in navy blue.

And then there is another style I keep coming back to, even though I know it will not work on me. It barely works on the model. It’s this T-shaped dress, also from the maritime story.

Even on the model you can see it’s falling off the shoulders, and I have very narrow shoulders to start with so this would just swallow me. But I keep coming back to it. I should know better!

Despite this I still love Burda and I’m looking forward to the next issue, where we are promised Mad Men style and brightly coloured dresses. Roll on May.

Check this out – Computational Couture

One of my colleagues drew my attention to a really interesting project called Continuum. The idea is that you go to a website, scribble a drawing of a dress, and a program translates that into a pattern sized to your measurements. You can then download the pattern and sew the dress. It’s only a demo so far, but you can have a play with it at http://www.continuumfashion.com/Ddress/.

Mary Huang, the designer behind it, has made three real dresses from patterns generated by the software. You can see them at her project website here although you’ll need to scroll down a bit. The styles produced are very futuristic and angular because the software works by generating a grid of triangles based on the original sketch. Personally I love that sort of thing and I really hope this becomes more than just a demo. She’s currently trying to raise funding to set up production via Kickstarter. This is a pledge bank arrangement – you can pledge to support a project, usually in exchange for promised rewards, but if the project doesn’t reach its target level of support by its deadline then no money changes hands. One of the possible rewards on this project (for a pledge of $25 or more) is your own Continuum dressmaking pattern! So I’ve signed up, and fingers crossed the project becomes a reality.

I should say I have no affiliation with Kickstarter or the Continuum project beyond having signed up – I just think it’s a great idea and wanted to spread the word.

In search of skull-print fabric

There is a very talented webcomic artist called John Allison whose work I’ve been reading for, erm, more years than I like to think about. One of the things I really like about his creations is the clothes the characters wear. His ladies are usually very fashionable or very cool or both.

Last summer he did a picture which included one of the characters from his old webcomic Scary-go-round wearing a maxidress in skull-print fabric. You can see the picture at the link below.
http://sgrblog.blogspot.com/2010/08/ms-tackleford-beauty-pageant.html

So I’ve been keeping an eye out for skull-print fabric ever since. MacCulloch and Wallis had some a while back but I dithered and it sold out. Since then of course I have realised that their fabric is exactly what I wanted and I was a fool not to buy it while it was available because I’ve found nothing else as good anywhere since. Other places have skull prints but they are not the same.

So on Saturday I was fabric shopping on Goldhawk Road in London, having long ago given up looking for skull prints. And there it was in the window of one of the smaller shops: the exact same fabric. At about a third of the price, too. So I snapped it up. Now all I have to do is draft the pattern.

Skull print fabric

This may be slightly easier said than done as the fabric is only 45 inches wide and the print runs along the crossgrain rather than the straight grain so there’s not as much length to play with as I would like. Still I’m sure there’s a way to make it work.

Clown or chic? Burda March 2011

I love BurdaStyle magazine but I confess I was a little disappointed by the March 2011 issue. It’s the wedding special so I can’t say I was really surprised – I’ve been married for nearly twelve years, so I’m not likely to want to to make a wedding dress any time soon. You can see the the styles here on the French Burda site, although that URL doesn’t look stable to me so who knows how long it will last. The rest of the issue was OK but nothing leapt out at me as a must-sew.

However my eye kept being drawn to model 106, which is one of the wedding dresses. I’m not quite sure how to describe it. Sleeveless, floor length, and, well, egg-shaped. Here’s the line art.

Common sense says that this dress is likely to make me look (at best) heavily pregnant. I can’t quite translate the French captions on the website but I’m pretty sure it says something about requiring a slim figure (‘une silhouette mince’) to wear it, which I fear might be fashion editor code for ‘only size zero need apply’. The English-language magazine, incidentally, simply says ‘you will look charming in this dress’. A case of the French editors being more realistic than the Brits?

Anyway I can’t help wanting to give this one a go, in a really loud print. Although as it requires three and a half metres of fabric it’s also going to have to be a really cheap print. Not like these John Kaldor ones, beautiful though they are.

So am I insane or could this work? I shall certainly be looking out for cheap prints in the next few months.