Thursday, 9 June 2016

Rules are for Breaking - my Birkin Flares

I've always said I wouldn't make jeans. I didn't see the point - I hardly wear jeans, and have spent time selling them in a professional capacity and understood how much work went into them, something I wasn't really interested in. I have plenty of pairs already (many of them gifts from when I worked in denim, which mostly go unworn), and I don't have any particular fit issues with this garment and so don't have a need for making them.

But then I saw the Birkin Flare by Baste + Gather (I can't remember where) and they intrigued me. 

birkin flares-8.jpg
Birkin Flares from Baste + Gather

If I do wear jeans, I like them either black and slim, or retro and wide. But I think I'd been looking at a lot of fashion gumph about how the 70's was back in fashion, and this was a shape I didn't have. Rules broken!

It is a PDF pattern, which is not my favourite method, but I did like the way you could choose what size(s) to print. I didn't print the instructions as they're 48 pages and I don't have a home printer - just had to sew with the lap-top on! But they are VERY well written - if you do make these trousers, read through the instructions before you start as there are little tips on printing, needles, thread tension, and stitch size.

I messed up when it came to choosing my size. I have a tendency to make things a bit too big and I wanted these to fit pretty closely. After comparing the pattern measurements to a favourite pair of high waisted J-Brand jeans, I opted for the size 29

Finished measurements
Luckily I made a toile, because this was most definitely not my size! It was way too small especially in the waist, so I ultimately went for the size 30. I think I made the mistake of comparing this waist, which is about 1" below the natural waist, to my high wasited J-Brands, which because they sit higher are naturally a smaller measurement.

Sizing issues over, I found some really cool black stretch twill on Walthamstow Market at only £3 per metre that was a denim weight. I stocked up on denim weight needles, got several spools of topstitching thread, and ripped a zip out of some worn out jeans which were being disposed of. 

And off I went! There is a fair bit of work in jeans - nearly every seam is stitched twice for strength, little bar tacks are sprinkled about, and you have to jump from top stitching and normal thread all the time. But the instructions with this pattern are really clear and well illustrated - if you follow them exactly, you won't make a mistake!

So here they are:

I followed the instructions pretty much to the letter, and everything went pretty well. All the guidance in regards to the stitching of the pockets, the order in which to assemble, and so on, is excellent. 

Construction of the back leg - ignore all the creasing and chalk marks

The only time I took my eye off the ball - when I was putting in the zip - was when I made a mistake. I think I got distracted, and ended up putting the zip on the wrong side as according to the pattern. But no big deal - they still work!

I know a lot of people are going to see the creases in the picture above and say it's a fitting issue, but I had been sitting down for some time before I took these pictures. They fit fine! They fit 'closely' over the hips and thighs, but I don't feel they are too small. Anyway, my experience with jeans is that they loosen up with time.

And here's the back view:

The only thing I'd change if I made these again would be to change the belt loop placing. Instead of the one belt loop at the center back, I'd prefer two placed just to the left and right of the center back.

I also didn't bother with the rivets at the corners of the pockets because I wanted to keep the trousers as 'plain' and simple as possible. And these are fashion trousers - they aren't going to be worn every day and I don't think the pockets will actually get that much use.

I noticed in many of the reviews these trousers have been styled in a sort of boho, hippy, gypsy-esque style. What drew me to the pattern was the late 60's/70's feel of the shape; I see it more as something you'd see on a go-go dancer in the background of nightclub scenes:

Love Ann Margret's polka dot flares!

Plus, I've been watching the series 'Aquarius', which besides exploring the Manson Family, also depicts the clash of generations in the late 60's. The costumes aren't always accurate, but there are lots of great bell bottoms!

But I think the biggest inspiration for making these trousers has been this photo of Bruce Lee which I randomly came across. I immediately became obsessed with his trousers:

If you like this, just Google image Bruce Lee - he was so f***ing cool! I don't really have any interest in martial arts, but I can confirm that these trousers are suitable for dramatic karate kicks:

See you soon!

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Matchy Matchy - Flamingo Blouse and Jacket

Hello! Today I'm delving into the 1930's and the 1990's by way of patterns, mixing them all up, and linking them together with the magic of fabric. 

I made a version of the long sleeved blouse below about 20 years ago, before I really understood about altering a pattern correctly to fit:

I remember I added extra width to the front and back, but the armholes and neck were all wrong - I wore it anyway. It didn't really work; I wore it a few times before I gave up on it and just resolved this pattern wasn't for me.

Now I know better - I know how to grade a pattern up to the correct size, and then adjust it for my specific figure. And now I know it's wise to make a muslin/toile, something I never used to do. I was too impatient, and I just thought it was just a waste of fabric.

Out came the rulers and the tracing paper and I traced and slashed and adjusted until I had something that looked right. This was fairly involved, and I'll probably cover it in another blog post. I made a toile out of some old curtains that were in our house when we moved in:

It came out surprisingly well - the fit was pretty good, and just a few minor adjustments were needed, like a wider front facing allowance and so on. 

Now for the fabric, which was this beauty below:

I picked this fabric up from Hamid's on Ridley Road Market in Dalston, for the lovely price of £1 per metre. You'll notice that the flamingos are at a right angle to the selvedge, which I thought was weird; surely you'd want them to run parallel to the selvedge? This meant I had to break all the sewing rules and lay the pattern out on the cross grain - I didn't want sideways flamingos!

I said earlier that I used to find toiles annoying because I'm really impatient - I just want to get to the sewing part and then the wearing part! But the toile was really helpful in that it made the sewing go really quickly - all the fiddly bits had been worked out in the practice run, as it were.

Here it is:

There are some really nice little details on the blouse, like pleats in the sleeve head and the tucks at the shoulder:

Pleats on the sleeve head

Tucks running from the front shoulder to nearly the bust
I didn't really fancy using any of the closure methods on the packet - a zip looked too bulky, and who has time to make all those rouleau loops? I just extended the centre front to create a self-facing band with buttonholes:

Once the blouse was done, I was left with a pretty sizable amount; I suppose cutting it crosswise didn't use as much up? I'm on a mission to reduce my pile of stash fabrics, and I had the perfect use for the rest of it: a jazzy lining for my replacement Burda bomber jacket.

I made version A, but without the unnecessary shoulder/yoke section

I made this jacket once before a couple of summers ago, as detailed here. I absolutely loved this jacket, and wore it non-stop in the milder months - it was the ideal weight for summer evenings. But in a moment of confusion, it was left on a train - the first time I've ever lost a piece of clothing! I did everything I could to get it back, which mostly involved filling out a Transport for London lost property form, but it was not to be. Someone out there has a custom made bomber jacket; I hope they appreciate it!

Anyway - I'd been meaning to replace it for a while. With the weather improving a little, now seemed the right time. And because I had the previous blog post to refer to, I didn't really have to think much this time round. Here's the finished item, made with fabric from the Textile Centre on Walthamstow Market:

I only deviated from my original version in a couple of places. First, I used exposed zips on the front pockets, rather than the welts I used before:

Cheeky flamingos peeking out!

I love exposed zips - so easy, and they look so impressive!

For the second moderation I added a little placket to the front of the jacket, to sit behind the zip. I noticed this piece is usually present on the classic MA-1 bomber jackets and Harrington's, but for some reason is often left off of domestic sewing patterns. I just guess-timated the size and length; I had it stop short of the zip top a few inches, for no reason other than I liked the look of it:

And here's the flamingo lining:

And together with the blouse in all it's flamingo glory:

Again, this has proven to be one of my favourite jackets and I've worn it almost every chance I get. I'm thinking I'll have to make more in other colours, or maybe tackle a satin embroidered version. 

I'm off to ponder all of those possibilities - see you soon!

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Never Not Knitting

I'm a fidgety, impatient person. I can't just sit in front of the television and not do something, whether it's sewing, blogging, looking at social media, and so on. It can mean I sometimes find it hard to truly focus - I've been known to sew, surf the web, flip through a magazine, and watch T.V. all at once. And I believe I'm probably succumbing to that modern malaise of being over stimulated, with too many distractions and ideas buzzing around my head to the point where relaxing, even sleeping, can be difficult. 

So knitting helps with this. When I'm tired of sewing, and especially when I want to focus on a film, show, or podcast, knitting is the ideal pastime. It's repetitive enough that it's relaxing, but it fulfills the fidgety part of my personality. I always have 1 (or more!) knitting projects on the go, and since around January I've finished several. But unlike sewing which can be (but not always!) fast, and I almost always document, knitting is slow for me. So this blog post is a catch up on knitting pieces I've completed over the last 6 months or so.

First up is this little red cardigan which I've been knitting for a looooong time - I can't remember how long, but at least a year. I used Drops Baby Merino in red from Love Knitting, which is a 4 ply; being fine, it took a long time to actually get anywhere, but I think it's been worth it in the end because the result is a lovely, lightweight but warm knit. 

The whole cardigan is knitted in stocking stitch, which is pretty boring to execute. I added the little heart motifs around the waist and sleeves myself, just to make it a little less tedious to knit. The inspiration, and actual pattern for it came from here

The other change I made was to knit the front band and neck band all in one with the body of the sweater. I hate sewing knitting up, so the less sewing up the better. The only draw back was that I did the 2 sides differently; you'll notice the line along the right side where I worked a row of ribbing to show the start and finish of the button band, but forgot to do that on the other side. But I'd got too far at that stage, and couldn't bothered to rip it back, so I'm stuck with it.

Next, some unselfish knitting for Mr Needles. He always complains of being cold, but hates the itchiness of wool. I managed to find this Drops Alpaca from Wool Warehouse, which is super soft, ideal for this hat Tin Can knits:

And a sleeveless vest from this pattern:

He wasn't in a mood to model it - this is the best you're going to get.

That kept him warm over the Christmas period!

Back to me - I finished these socks in January, which at first appear fairly plain, but have this interesting afterthought heel. (I realize this is only interesting to knitters, and means nothing to anyone else!) The pattern was from the Knitter, the wool was again Drops, this time Fabel which is a sock weight 4 ply.

There was a little bit of the wool left over from the cardigan above. I hate waste, so I found this interesting scarf pattern from Kidsknits which was quick and easy:

Then, back in June, I started this lovely pattern which I found on the Chawed Rosin blog, which I found through the Vintage Pattern Files. (By the way, shout out to Wendy who runs this blog - it's an excellent resource for patterns, almost always free)

Bernard Ullman Pattern, circa 1965
The detail on the front looks complicated, but was really easy once you get the hang of it. This was one of my fastest knits ever, due to the fact it was knitted in Drops Nepal (again from Love Knitting), which is an Aran weight and so a bit chunkier than all the previous wools. You cover ground fast with this one! Here it is in orange:

Waiting for buttons...

And currently I'm working on these 2:

First, I'm slowly finishing off this jumper, which is a free pattern from Rowan (You have to set up an account to download it). 

This has taken FOREVER for me to get anywhere, not because I don't like it, it's just that I've realised I don't like knitting in cotton. For this one, I'm using Wendy Supreme Luxury Cotton, from Love Knitting. I did also decide halfway through to rip it back and start again because I decided I was knitting the wrong size - you live and learn... Here's what I've done so far:

A front, a back, and one and a half sleeves - not long to go...
And finally - thanks for sticking with me this far! - I've just started this purple cardigan, knitted from a 1950's pattern, again found through the Vintage Pattern Files here

I only started this one about a week ago, and have already made great progress. This is mostly because it's a clever pattern where the sleeves are knitted as one with the body, so the whole pattern is made up of only 3 main pieces instead of 5. Here's a shot of the nearly complete back piece:

Whew! And that's it for knitting for now. See you soon!