Thursday, October 23, 2014

TBT: Japanese pattern book wool cardi coat

Let's talk about fabric shall we. Now I am definitely not an expert in textiles. Everything I've learnt has come from my experience with sewing. When my youngest was just a baby, and I was just learning to sew, we were living in Sydney, and not too far from what is historically known as the garment district. Anybody who has a small baby knows that mums need to get out of the house. Once I moved beyond foraging at Spotlight (the equivalent to Jo-Ann here), my favourite weekly outing with bubs became a trip to Tessuti Fabrics. Every now and then, I threw in a trip to the Fabric Store for good measure, but my regular haunt was Tessuti's, and not just for the fabric, but also for the great staff, and of course, their most fabulous of fabulous remnants table.

I didn't always walk away with a purchase, but I would walk up and down those walls of fabric, dreaming, feeling and learning about amazing textiles. I also spent a fair bit of time rummaging through their remnant table to find fabric gems that are were discounted by 40-50%. I picked up LOADS of amazing remnants during my time in Sydney; the softest wool jerseys, silks, printed linen, and lots of ponte knits. I also picked up this heavy-weight, striped, pure wool knit that I turned into a coat for Miss Six. 


 



 
 
 
I made this coat more than 18 months ago, well before I started blogging. I took these pictures a few days ago. Past Debbie didn't know much about interfacing or turn of cloth so the collar could certainly be improved. But even so, the jacket has withstood the test of time. I used a pattern from one of my Japanese Pattern Books (Neat and lovely girl's dresses by Yuki Araki). It is such a lovely design and Miss Six simply adores it. It's probably the absolute favourite thing that I've ever made for her. She wears it every day in cool weather. If it weren't so cute, I'd be sick of the sight of it by now. 

I wash it on a gentle machine cycle, as infrequently as possible, and it still looks and feels as good as new. The fabric wasn't cheap but it is clearly robust enough to withstand the activities of a school kid. It hasn't pilled like a poly blend wool. It hasn't faded, felted, shrunk or stretched out of shape. It's in such great shape that it will likely be passed down to my middle girl next. At nearly $60 a pop (or should I say metre) the price of this wool fabric will make some people cringe. I was lucky enough to pick it up for about half this, but it would have been worth every penny at full price too.

 
So thinking about this coat had me thinking about how I evaluate the cost of fabric. I'm going to disregard quilting cottons for a minute, because they are always going to be fabulous value for wear. I've also experienced some great longevity out of budget corduroy. But when it comes to knits and wool fabrics, there is something to be said for purchasing quality, natural fibers. Yes, they cost more, but in my experience, they are a lot more comfortable, they look better for longer, and they are often well and truly worth the amount spent. 

I'm still seduced by cheap synthetic blend fabrics on occasion and I probably always will be, but I mostly live to regret it. Sure, I might get a few wears out of the item, but within weeks it's often terribly pilled or felted, and ready for an early retirement (in our house, this means they get sent to the dress up box, my clothes included). I can't stand pilled clothes. I did a little stocktake recently and sadly, these dresses are already out of commission.

 
I'm guessing there's at least $60 worth of fabric in all those dresses combined. If it weren't for the enjoyment the dress up box brings and the fact that I enjoy sewing, I'd be thinking that this time and money could have been better spent. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Winter white drop waist dress: AKA Chanel knock off

 
This dress falls squarely into the 'what was I thinking' category. It is pure white, dry-clean only, Ralph Lauren wool suiting, made up in a dress for a mother of three. Go on, tell me that isn't just a little bit crazy. However, in my defence, the fabric was already in my stash, and nothing was ever going to make it more wearable, no matter how long I left it there. I'm going to chalk this purchase up to jet lag.

 
 
 
 

Obviously, it's another drop waist dress. The pattern is my own. You've seen it before on more occasions than you'd care to remember. This time, I switched the zipper to the back, added sleeves and some little front pockets. I drafted a new set of facings and lined the bodice with silk jersey.

 
Yep,  those are darts you see facing inside out. I'm not quite sure how I managed that one. Thankfully I got the back lining right.
 
 
 
My inspiration for this dress came from a picture I found on Pinterest. The link took me to an Asian website, so using my great powers of deduction, I'm going to have a stab at guessing that this is either a Chanel dress or one that is inspired by the great fashion house. It was the only picture of this dress I could find online. Aside from the gathers in the sleeve caps, I fell in love with everything about it.
  
It was one of those rare occasions that I had the pattern (drop waist, hello!), I had the perfect fabric, and I had a pretty keen desire to put some impractical stash to good use. I would rarely copy my source of inspiration outright (she says as she gathers fabric for her Dior coat knock off), but guys, this is Chanel!
 
Should I open up a can of worms here and ask what you guys think about copying designers? My personal feelings are that if you are giving credit where credit is due and not mass producing the items for sale, then it's no big deal. I'll always reference my point of inspiration, and since there was no chance of me ever purchasing the item in the first place, I'm hardly affecting anyone's bottom line. I do still feel like a bit of a cheat though.
 
 
 
 

 

 









Sunday, October 19, 2014

Japanese corduroy culottes

My last pair of culottes are getting so much wear right now that I knew another pair wouldn't go astray. This time I played around with the design a little. I kept the length, not just because I quite like the longer hem trend, but also because it keeps my legs warm in Winter.


Once again, I started with my Esther shorts pattern. I made the same modifications as with my green culottes, but simply skipped the pleats. I also widened the waistband a smidgen, moved the zipper to the back and added side seam pockets.




 
 
 
I also tried something new in the construction of these culottes. Have you noticed that RTW pants never have waistbands like we sew at home? I've had these suit pants for about seven years now. Have a look at how beautiful their innards are.


The edge of the inside waistband is bound with pretty binding. It's so simple to do and it means that you don't have to bother with folding the edge under and painstakingly pin it to ensure you catch it all perfectly as you stitch blindly from the other side. I actually don't know why it's taken me this long to try this technique. It looks better and it's way easier. I bound the inside of my waistband with Liberty of London and stitched in the ditch from the other side. Next time I will bind the pocket edges too.


There is a lot less fabric in these culottes compared to my last version. This is just because I took out the pleats. This cord is also a lot lighter in weight. I could see this style of pant working well for Summer in either linen or cotton, at this length or just below the knee. If it weren't Fall here, I'd be making myself a slightly shorter version in denim. In fact, I might still do so...