Tuesday, 29 September 2015

I've moved to York

I think it's time for a catch-up, don't you? As you can guess from the title, a lot has happened since the last post.
  1. I've moved to York (amazing place - I love it!)
  2. I've got a job at Cycle Heaven (best place ever to work!)
  3. I've started Year 2 in Fashion Design and Production at York College (major stress, but I'm getting into it now)
We'll, that's not a big list, but they're pretty big changes to my life. I'm loving it!

Moving to York

This place is like the Copenhagen of England. I've never seen so many bikes in one place in real life!
I live in a brilliant little flat with my landlord (who is lovely and put up my desk for me because it's heavy). I have my own room and private bathroom. I'm learning to cook (I can now do pizza, home-made bases and sauce). Tesco is across the road. College is literally (really "literally") two minutes bike ride away, so with stairs and everything, it's 10-15 minutes from my door to the classroom.
York Solar System Cycle Route
Part of the York Solar System Cycle Route
I live on the outskirts of York, not in the city centre, so I am not far from the country bike rides. Sometimes I just need to go for a bike ride in the quiet, and I can do that now. I've done the Solar System twice and taken lots of pictures (I'm also doing a Project 365 with my camera and my phone). Tip: tinted sunglasses make great filters for your camera. :)

Working at Cycle Heaven

One or two days after I moved in, I got a call from Cycle Heaven offering me the job for which I had previously applied and been interviewed. I don't think my enthusiasm came across on the phone, but there was some serious fist-pumping going on when I hung up! I did three week's full-time including a week's trial, and got the job. Now I work weekends and I love it! I actually look forward to going into work. I look forward to it from about Monday. Everyone there is so nice; it's like having another family.

Year 2 at York College

Because I have done a foundation degree at Bishop Burton College, I got straight onto Year 2 of the BA(Hons) Fashion Design and Production Degree at York College. After the very long Summer holiday we design students seem to get, it's like being thrown in the deep end when you get back to college. We get three modules at once! At Bishop we got one at a time in the second year. I suppose this might be more reflective of industry practice. I don't know. I think the only thing I can do is get organised and focus. I always say that you learn a lot at university that isn't on the syllabus.
So there are some big changes in my life, and they come with stress and a gigantic learning curve. What can I say? "I'm a damsel, I'm in distress, I can handle this." (Meg, Herucles).

Monday, 21 September 2015

Do You Like Fashion?

Maybe that seems like a funny question on a sewing blog (or maybe it doesn't). Personally, I can't say that I do like fashion. I don't like shopping. I'm not keen on marketing and sales. And yet, I like to look nice. I like some branding. I like designing. I like style.
The other day I went to the shops. It was kind of depressing, and not for the reasons you might think. I kept seeing stuff that was pretty much what I designed in college. I know vintage is on its way out and a more utilitarian, modern aesthetic is trickling down into the mass market, but it was everywhere.
Basically, I don't like the race of fashion. Either keeping up with it or keeping ahead of it. It's exhausting and it's expensive. And that, for me, makes it boring. I can't be bothered with it. It also quickly gets very unenjoyable and uninteresting to care what people think of you and your appearance. And all this is before we even touch the subjects of marketing ploys and corruption.
I'm not going to go into the whole ethical fashion subject. We've been there before. We know there is bad stuff going on and there is only so much we can do about it, which we do.
The next thing is marketing. I know the companies have to make money. They need it to live, the same as we do. They are doing it the way they learned because that's all anyone would teach them. They give us a dream and get us to buy things to build it. Then they change the dream and get us to buy something else. This, of course, only works as long as we succumb to the sales message and/or actually have the money to buy stuff.
Then there is planned obsolescence. A certain "fruit company" (as Forrest Gump put it) is well-known for this. Each phone they release has a different charger fitting, so instantly your previous phone's docks and accessories are obsolete. Lightbulbs are designed to last only so long (really). And there is 'fast fashion'. Impulse buying and things that last neither in wear nor in fashion.
Personally, I would rather spend my time doing something non-consumptive, like riding my bike, or painting (I know you use paints and paper etc. but it's less wasteful and more creative and relaxing than shopping).
Plus, I don't like being told what to do. (This is not necessarily a good thing as I've noticed I sometimes rebel against myself and don't do what I know I ought to do.) "X Must-have items" will meet with more than a raised eyebrow. Possibly a chuckle.
I was in danger of enjoying myself in a shop the other week. It was almost like when I used to make Barbie's outfits from her myriad clothes. Thankfully I have a few powerful reasons not to shop: one being ethics, another being the number of times I've gone on about ethics and thus don't want to be a hypocrite, and another being money. Also, I haven't room for many clothes, let alone shoes and bags.
You may wonder why I even go into shops. Well, sometimes it's just for a look. Sometimes I want to visually reverse-engineer something to see how it's sewn. Sometimes I actually need something (but I won't buy what I can make unless I need it right there and then like when I got caught in a heavy downpour recently and bought a waterproof jacket).
And yet, fashion is a fact of life. It's always been there and it always will be because that is how human civilisation works. People copy each other, then the first people get bored and do something else and everyone copies that. It's not a bad thing. It just depends who's copying whom. If the people at the front are setting a good example then that's good. And as long as that good example is thought to be normal and not a mere trend, then we're headed in the right direction. Like with recycling. People the public looked up to (celebrities) had to do it as part of their everyday lives for the public to first take it as a good thing to do, and then get used to it so they do it all the time. The same is happening with bikes and the CycleChic movement. It helps that Britain has had three Tour de France wins in the past four years. :)
Usually an aesthetic goes with a lifestyle movement. That's just part of getting people to like something. I suppose that's fine. It's just that I don't want to follow. I don't have to anyway. If last week's trip to the shops is anything to by, I'm at least right on time, if not early. But I bet I'm not the only one. How often have you, as a sewist, gone into a shop only to find that instead of getting inspiration, you get maker's déja vu?
Here's a good video:

Monday, 14 September 2015

My Cut21 Jeans -- The Test Ride

Last week I had a job interview at a bike shop in York and made some jeans for it. They were the Cut21 Jeans made over my jeans block, so the fit is a little different, partly because there were some changes I wanted to make, like narrowing the legs.
Cut21 Jeans test ride, worn with Cut21 Jacket Toile and Cut21 handbag.
The jeans are getting more comfortable as I'm breaking them in. I'm used to stretch denim or skirts. Mainly skirts. They were not comfortable to begin with.
Cut21 Jeans front view; they slip down a bit because the waistline stretched a little during sewing. That is why "wad" appears. If I had a belt that wouldn't happen.
Aldrich's jeans and trouser drafts go right to the floor, which is about 8cm longer than a garment's inside legs would be, which is roughly what I have as my turn ups. It's lucky they are this length. When I drafted the pattern months ago I evidently typed in 120cm instead of 102cm, so when I printed out my pattern it were frankly too long. I shortened it and narrowed the leg to get this fit. I've corrected my Illustrator pattern now. :)
Many of the features of these jeans you have already seen on the original Cut21 jeans but, as I said, I changed a few things. Specifically:
  • the narrower leg (measured round my ankle with the tape at an approximated circumference)
  • no yellow hand-topstitching (no time, haven't bothered since)
  • and the belt-loops are now uniform in length and made from the selvedge, which I thought was a nice touch.
Making the belt-loops
Making the belt-loops
The fit is pretty good (bear in mind that they are slightly crumpled here for having been worn while cycling). I can't really say whether the gusset improves comfort because I don't have any jeans without a gusset. It's not as nice as cycling in a skirt anyway.

Things I Would Like To Improve

  • The back pockets are a bit far apart. I think they could do to be 1.5cm nearer to the CB seam.
  • The little pocket that I was going to keep my keys in is too small for that, so it's really just for looks and I don't like that.
  • I still couldn't get the facing to be perfectly aligned at the CF. You can't tell from the outside, but still...
  • The waist is too low, and I think it stretched a bit during sewing. I suppose that is why they fuse waistbands in RTW jeans. I didn't do a higher back waistline either, so the whole waistline needs redesigning if I'm to make another pair.
  • The shape on the front waistline detail is not perfectly round.

Thinks I'm pleased with

  • Not one pin was used to sew these! (I've given up pins for sewing lately; I don't need them).
  • RTW fly front zip like in my brother's jeans (slightly different though as they use a felling attachment and make their patterns accordingly in RTW; you work with what you have)
  • The fit of the legs. It reminds me of Hiut denim (great company; I've never bought anything from them because I make my own, but they look good!)
  • The fit on the crutch -- no monobutt here!
  • They get more comfortable the more I wear them
  • They're real denim, not stretch stuff. It's so nice and the perfect step between weighty denim and soft denim, which is nice for women's wear. It got it from Merchant & Mills.
So they are my Cut21 jeans 2.0. They're going to look so cool with my Cut21 jacket (I'm working on a hack for that now)!
If you could make some dream jeans, what would they be like? Any special features? A particular fabric? Please do share in the comments below!

Monday, 7 September 2015

My 4-hour Graduation Dress

Now, as I mentioned in the previous post, there was some drama (by my standards) when it came to what I would wear for my graduation, namely, I changed my mind last minute and whipped up a dress in four hours (and very pleased with that am I too!)
To recap, the original plan had been to make a Cut21 shirt in my size, but lengthen it to make it a dress, and wear a matching camisole and shorts to prevent see-through, thereby avoiding the vintage dress look. Yes, I know vintage dresses are still quite big up here, but I tell you, they're on their way out, at least with so literal an interpretation. Something more industrial, more utilitarian is coming. It's already visible in some places and it won't take that long to seep into the mainstream. But I digress.
This is my dress:
graduation dress -- front
Now, as mentioned in the photograph, there are several features of this dress with which I am quite pleased. What is not mentioned in the photograph (because I didn't want to clutter it up with text) is that I didn't use a  single pin to sew it. Not one. I am super pleased with that. (I think I mentioned so last post.)
The fit is wonderful because I made it from my own block which has taken months to get right, and still may have a few tiny niggles to work out. The princess seams are contoured, the darting is balanced for my figure, not some fictional one in a pattern book, and it skims the figure, rather than hugging it (which is especially nice in this hot weather). As Edith Head said: "Your dress should be tight enough to show you are a woman, but loose enough to show you are a lady." For those who think Aldrich's block has too much ease, this is the fit you end up with it you use her Close-fitting Dress Block, shape the seams, and work out the darting so that you have 6cm waist ease. There is about 5cm of ease at the bust, but not at the armscye level, because the armscye level is higher than the bust. So when you draft the block with 10cm total ease, remember that that is not the final bust ease. You've got to shape the pattern's figure yet.
To get the flare in the skirt I swung out the darts (now you can see where the front darts were because they have left two great big triangular pleat-like flares where they use to be) and then still had to add some more flare. (I think this is a clue as to how to draft a cowl neck that stays as you want it to, but that's another story...) This is the minimum I would want for a flared dress, but I will admit that it means you sometimes have to be careful on a bicycle in the wind.
It is practically compulsory for my projects to have pockets. I like to sink my hands into them, so nice deep ones are good. They are, of course, also very handy for putting things in. At my graduation I had my bottle of water in one pocket and my camera in the other. You should have seen Alice's face when I showed her! I had my gown over it all so it didn't show, and it saved carrying a bag (I don't bother with clutch bags because the whole point of a bag is that it carry's stuff so you don't have to).
There is very little ease in the sleeve caps. I tried sewing the first one like a shirt sleeve, but it didn't work out very neatly (it's the thing that bothers me most about this dress). So for the second one I crowded the ease in as I learned in Sandra Betzina's Power Sewing book (which I gave to the college because, while there is good information in it, it is still home-sewing level, and I want RTW methods). Then I sewed it in shirt-sleeve style, matching up the top notch with the shoulder seam and spreading the eased cap over the armscye. No pins. :D
The hems of the sleeves are 0.5cm, 0.5cm double turn, single-stitch. The dress hem is 1cm, 1cm, double-turn, single-stitch. The measurements are by eye, so I think the dress hem is actually more like 1.2cm, 1.2cm, but that's just a matter of practice. It seems to have roped a bit, so next time I do such a curved hem, I'll do a narrower allowance. I had planned to, but sewing late at night, mistakes get made.
Which leads me to the zip. An invisible zip because I had only drafted a 1cm seam allowance with symmetrical backs. I used the method I learned on Fashion Incubator. Why don't all sewing instructions use this? It's so easy and gets a professional result! It's way better than the home-sewing ways you find in books and commercial patterns. I just don't understand it. Anyway, the mistake I made was that I sewed one end of the facing on with the rest of the facing twisted so I had to unpick it. Simple, but bothersome. I'll put it down to late night sewing (a very handy excuse).
BACK VIEW Please ignore the creases; I have been wearing this dress for about a week.
Please ignore the creases; I have been wearing this dress for about a week.
Because of the wider neckline, a lower back neck works well. The zip is just at the right level that I can fasten it in one go, without having to reach over my shoulder.
The lace is stitched on with a straight stitch. I used my rarely-useful flexible ruler to get symmetrical lines on the dress with chalk, well, symmetrical to the eye anyway, which is all they need to be. I don't know if they are perfectly perfect.
I mentioned that I have been wearing this dress for about a week. This may seem odd for a graduation dress, and I do think the lace looks a bit "occasion wear", but I wanted to make a dress that I could wear again, and I think the dull khaki green colour permits this. I haven't room for clothes I can rarely wear, nor do I particularly want them.
So, I am very pleased with this dress, not least because I sewed it pinlessly in four hours (counting drafting and cutting) with almost no unpicking. It's like wearing a trophy. :)
Have you made a special occasion dress lately? Or have you been speed sewing and/or made something you're super please with? Do share in the comments below!

Monday, 31 August 2015

Cut 21 -- Part 5 -- The Shirt

The shirt was the most difficult thing to make, mainly because of the plackets.
It is fitted at the front and dartless at the back (although the CB seam is shaped) to give an asymmetric modern, relaxed silhouette. The sleeves are three-quarter length so that you don't constantly have to roll them up, and you can see your watch.DSC05929Of course, the Cut21 shirt is neither going to be a weird, avant-garde shirt, nor a boring ordinary one. It is fairly subtle in style, but has a few unique features. In more detail:
The shadow pockets. Basically in-seam pockets, but sewn with a felled seam, a bound seam, and a French seam. Excessive? Perhaps, but definitely worth it because it looks so much nicer inside, and will withstand more washing.
Bias-faced neckline. Because I used a partial, asymmetric collar and did not want to use a traditional facing, I faced the neckline with bias binding. The trickiest part was at the front because of the placket bulk. With a fair bit of force and pressing, it turned out acceptable.
You can just see the hand-stitched label here on the inside of the yoke, and part of the collar. Also, notice the customised coat hanger! :D I carved the logo out with my craft knife. I'm pretty pleased with it, especially as I have not exactly got a lot of experience with woodwork.
La pièce de résistance! My hand-stitched buttonhole! It took me at least 4 months to learn how to stitch this neatly, and then it took me about 45 mins to sew it (Savile Row tailors take 7 mins for some perspective). I used the straight-stitch buttonhole on my Bernina 380 to make the guide, and that made it easier to get the sides the same width all the way down, and I suppose it strengthened the buttonhole too.
The placket. Now, admittedly, this is not as neat as I wanted it to be. This is partly because the fabric is quite springy. And it is a pretty tricky thing to sew in a fabric that frays like this. I had to recut a sleeve and start it again after a few goes at unpicking. That's how tricky it is. Would I do it again? Absolutely! You don't think I'll be beaten by fabric, do you? Anyway, I'm sure all it needs is practice. And pressing jigs, which I used (genius idea I got from Fashion Incubator). And hand-stitching. I admit, I had to hand-fell these down in some places (one mostly, and then machine top-stitched) just to be sure of catching the underside. I expect it would be easier in a shirting cotton like Oxford. It might also have helped if I had fused the placket pieces, and not stitched the placket on the bulky felled French seam. I very seldom make things easy for myself.
Also, the buttonholes were passable here. Passable. Not great, but not failures, exactly.
DSC05925The curved hem. This hem is specially designed, not just for looks, but so that you can sink your hands into your pockets without messing up the hang of your shirt. The hem allowance is not equal all the way around. This developed because the front needed extra turn-up for the bulk of the placket, and the concave curves at the side seams demanded a smaller turn up. As long as it's neat.
The back is longer than the front for asymmetry, and also it covers you when you're on your bike. No one wants builder's bum.
The hand-stitching on the yoke. I used the burrito technique to sew the yoke. Lovely clean finished insides! And to set it off, the hand-stitching. It's not much, but it makes a big difference.
The hidden-button placket. (toile shown with sewing error) This fits with the minimalism/modernism part of the concept. You can only see the top button and buttonhole. The hidden buttons are machine-stitched (as if I have time to hand-stitch -- what was it? -- 10 buttonholes!) There is a straight-stitch bar-tack at the waist level to keep the placket from gaping open and showing the buttons.
A pressing jig. As this is one of the most interesting parts of the project, in my eyes, I had to take a photograph and show you. It's basically two rectangles of card. The outer one has a space that is 2cm wide (BTW, a quick unpick makes an excellent scorer), while the inner one is just about 1.8cm wide to account for the thickness of the cloth and the folding of the card. If it were 2cm wide, you'd never get the outer one to close properly. The jig is made from a file divider.
The jig for the gauntlet is a separate one to the jig for the placket binding because they are different widths. It's a good idea to label the jigs and keep the pairs together.
I used different shaped jigs for the hems too. It's a habit I got into at Wayside Flower. We use it for pockets to make sure they are symmetrical and neat. (Neatness is our watchword).
The armscye seam is French seamed! I know! It's so rare that fabric will let you do that, but one nice thing I can say about this fabric (whatever it is -- bought it in Paris) is that it lets you French seam curves, even the very curvy armscyes and sleeve-heads I use. I am just so pleased with this! I didn't take a photo, but I don't really need to because you probably already know what a French seam looks like. :)
Another thing is that to get the nice point on the collar I used the shirtmaker's technique from Off the Cuff (it's farther down that page). This is a great technique -- it's almost like magic for getting nice corners!
Well, I think that will do for the shirt. I'm going to make a longer version with a simpler hem as my graduation dress, and in case the fabric is a little too see-through I've made some shorts (in 2 1/2 hours!) to wear underneath. If it is too see-through I'll make a camisole too.
Currently I am working on preparing the jacket pattern to add to my Craftsy store. Of course, I'll let you know when it's available. I'm thinking of doing two versions: on with seam allowances, and one without for more advanced stitchers who want to learn how to prepare seam allowances for proper production sewing on a simple machine (i.e. not on machines with all kinds of handy feet that do things automatically). They'll be the same price because it takes the same amount of work to make both -- one needs working out of seam allowances and their shapes, and one needs instructions.
Till next time,

Monday, 24 August 2015

Cut21 -- Part 4 -- The Jeans

The second part of the outfit is the jeans. I knew I wanted to make some for my FMP, and to begin with, the designs were fairly mainstream, though better-fitting. As it goes with designing, the more I sketch, the sooner I come to a good idea. I came to these (note: these are my sketchbook pages, not my scruffy-book pages):
1718Some features I chose to include in the jeans were: a slightly lower front waist so it doesn't dig into you; a gusset between the legs to avoid the "slicer seam" problem; and purposes, a contoured waist-facing instead of a traditional straight-cut waistband, giving a better fit and less bulk, as well as cleaner lines for the aesthetic. I wanted slim-fit legs, turn-ups, and, eventually, a back yoke shaped like a traditional shirt hem, just because.
Now, had I been able to make them in my size, I would have had more freedom to finesse the fit. As it was, I was required to make them in a tall size 12 (probably a shop size 10), and had no one the right size and height to test them on. I tried the toile on myself and had to pin a considerable amount out a the waist and turn the hems up a lot more. (Images here to save data).
These are the jeans I finished with.
Cut21 Jeans - Front
Notice the high back and low front, for comfort and security while riding.
Cut21 Jeans - backGranted, they would look better on a person. :)
Here are some detail shots:
The pockets feature the soft selvedge of this non-selvedge 11oz denim.
Inside the back pocket
Crutch gusset to make cycling more comfortable.
The gusset was quite tricky to sew. I had to clip into the corners to be able to get past the crutch point. I would have used a curved gusset like Kathleen Fasenella, but I couldn't get the curved edges to be the same length as where they had to go on the jeans, so I used a diamond gusset instead. She does on her jeans anyway so it must be acceptable.
Hand-topstitching using waxed embroidery floss.
Even though I used hand-topstitching, there is a lot of machine top-stitching on these jeans too. It's virtually invisible as I used the right colour Gutermann Sew-all thread (I can't remember the number for sure, but I think it was 512). I tested a couple of thread colours and put the sample and notes in my pattern file. That must get some points. :)
No waistband -- just a waist facing with its lower edge bound. There is a hook and bar at the top too, instead of a button and buttonhole.
If/when I make another pair, I will sort out this zip issue. I will have to stop lower down (would be easier to get the right length to begin with now I've time) because this comes close to showing when the jeans are fastened.
The other issue here was that the facings are not level inside. I don't know why, because the toile seemed okay, and the pattern, I think, was correct (must check). I want to find out what caused this because it annoys me to have that fairly noticeable (when you are getting dressed) fault. >:|
And, yes. That wobbly navy stitching on the binding on the zip guard does bother me.
All the garments in my collection feature hand-embroidered labels. Including labels is sure to get me a few marks! :)
The yoke line, which you can only see by the Sashiko-inspired stitching, is meant to resemble a shirt hem. The lines of the pockets echo this. I used extra long belt-loops for looks. They are backed with yellow bias because I refuse to use an overlocker on Cut21 stuff.
The back pockets were cut on the cross (not the bias, the cross, in case you use the wrong term) to take advantage of the selvedge, so when they are worn there is a shading differences, annoyingly. You can see in the photo that the grain doesn't match.
So much binding!
Side seams are bound to suggest the look of selvedge jeans. I tried opening the seams and binding separately, but it looked too sporty so I chose this option.
One thing I learned when doing all this binding is that it is much easier to sew on in one go if you press it in half first, perhaps with a little bit extra showing on the underside, just to make sure it gets caught in the stitching. If you have a really good binder attachment then maybe you won't need to do this, but I don't have one.
So these are the Cut21 Jeans. I would give them about an 8 out of 10, taking design into consideration, and the neatness inside. Plus the fabric is really nice! :)
Next week, you will see the shirt in more detail.
P.S. Sorry for posting late this week, I was doing a trial but I'm evidently too slow to work in an alterations shop.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Cut21 -- Part 3 -- The Jacket

Okay, now I'll get onto the jacket. It's an open jacket so it has not fastening. It's meant to be simple in style, which is why there is no closing. That's a feature I might change if I ever made it again.
A sketchbook page featuring the jacket
A sketchbook page featuring the jacket
Just because it's a simple style and has no closing, it doesn't mean to say that it was easy as pie to make. It's unlined (a lining would have made it easier in some ways) but as I refused to use a zigzag stitch or overlocker on this project, all of the seams had to be felled or bound, but the main two challenges were the pockets and facings. Cut21 Jacket Pocket ToileAs you can see, this was very fiddly to bind. This was an issue that had to be amended. I did this by introducing a full-length Princess seam at the front and sewing the front edge of the pocket into that. I also changed the shape of the other side of the pocket so that it had a much less acute angle to bind, a curve. Inside the jacketIn this photo you can see the side seam, the side of the pocket, and the back peplum seam. The hardest part was going over the bulky cross seams. You have to use some finger skills here, and a humper-jumper helps. The hem was originally going to be a simple double-turn hem, but that didn't work with the steep curve at the back. So I decided to use a bias facing.
There was the conundrum of what to do about the part where the hem goes into the facing seam -- how to sew it neatly by machine? The solution was to leave the facing topstitching undone at the bottom at first, tuck the bias into it, then TS it down, being careful to match up the TS lines as discreetly as possible.
So this is the final jacket (I must sort out a nice backdrop for photography):
Cut21 Jacket FrontCut21 Jacket Back
The back swoops down to cover you while you're riding a bike.
And a couple of detail shots:Cut21 Jacket Stitching DetailCut21 Jacket Pocket Detail
Cut21 Jacket Armscye binding
The armscyes are bound. The stitching at the top of this one is not perfect and now it's really bothering me. I won't be letting that happen again.
Binding, facing, felled seams and front TS -- all in one shot :)
Binding, facing, felled seams and front TS -- all in one shot :)
I hope you like it! It was actually the easiest part of the collection to make and took about two days, if memory serves. After I had made a few, I expect one day would suffice, especially as I wouldn't be taking photos during the process.