Friday, March 11, 2016

Two More Tried And True Blouses - B5538

Edit: I seem to have resolved the issue - please alert me if you have further trouble. Big thanks to Caro and shams for their help!
Edit: Caro has let me know that pictures are still absent for some viewers, as well as the Google Photo album. I loaded the pictures up on Facebook where no one has had trouble so far. You can search for me as Stephanie Qich or try this link: photo album. I sincerely apologize and thank Caro for her help!

ON EDIT: Blogger has been changing their picture hosting settings, and the pictures did not appear when I first published this post. I believe I have fixed the issue, but if you have any issues you may view the images here: link to album.

As of two days ago I've made THREE more blouses! This post shows two of them. I used the same Connie Crawford for Butterick design as I did for the black eyelet Ivey Abitz inspired blouse, but made changes to the neckline, length and sleeve.  Adrienne of Wear The Hat has been working on multiples as well - check out her first Chanel style jacket! Absolute drop dead chic worn with jeans, well worth the effort. (Adrienne I had trouble responding to your comment on my last post so wanted to drop it here where i knew you'd see it.) Yes i love my readers!

Back to the blouses. I like collars that morph into ties. A few years ago I bought a Babeau pussy bow blouse and the neckline was just about perfect, so I based this neckline on that blouse. I made the collar/tie of a simple long rectangle which finishes at one inch wide, with varying length.

The polka dot blouse uses the sleeve from the original pattern. For the floral blouse, I added gathers and about half an inch to the cap height for a fuller look. These looks are very influenced by seventies French designers such as Yves Saint Laurent, Cacharel, and Chloe. All made very wearable blouses paired with full skirts. Worn with boots or oxfords, the resulting outfits are very practical as well as feminine and, when made up in more high end fabrications, quite luxe.

Which brings me to the focus of this post. These blouses really shine because they fit nicely, have subtle details, and are made with really beautiful garment fabrics. Many of us sew to get the most value for our dollar. As a consequence, we look for fabrics which cost less per yard. Indeed, many gorgeous, artful garments have sprung from humble quilting cottons, denim, and interior decorator specials.

However I encourage you to additionally take a look at the nicer fabrics made specifically for garments. No one would suggest that you neglect your construction skills, or leave off pressing during construction. Similarly, don't let the quality of materials you use fall behind your level of craftswomanship! I don't recommend compulsively buying top dollar, impractical fabrics. Simply make yourself aware, educate your hand and eye to what a really beautifully designed print looks like, how a fine Italian cotton jacquard feels to wear and work with. These experiences will inform your decisions when you shop the discount bin and enable you to find the gems.

I purchased the polka dot linen at Stone Mountain and Daughter in Berkeley, CA. I stop by frequently as I live fairly close by and visit Berkeley a few times monthly. They stock a wide variety of garment fabrics, including wool, knits, silks (prints, stretch, blends), linen. The beauty of shopping in person means I get to contemplate these fabrics for weeks or months before buying. I squeaked this blouse out of the yardage as I'd daydreamed about it so long there was only about one and a half yards left on the bolt!

This linen is finer than most medium weight linen, with fewer nubs as the threads are more regular. The blue, while dark, has a bright life to it, and I love the random placement of the dots. They're a light stone color, easier on my complexion than stark white. Finally, the fibres themselves shine with a lovely soft sheen. This fabric is much nicer than decorator linen when you're looking to make a blouse, as the weave, weight, color and pattern scale are all suited to the body rather than a couch.

I bought the floral cotton jacquard online from Marcy Tilton last summer. The base fabric is a beautiful cotton paisley jacquard. Very light and soft with a wonderful drape. I used a bit of spray starch and it was easy to work with.  I would have fallen for this fabric instantly for the colorful, gorgeously depicted floral print alone - combined with the impeccable base fabric I cannot imagine anything more delicious!

There are many options for buying garment fabrics online and in person today. The trick is to find a store whose aesthetic lies along similar lines to your own. I visit Britex in San Francisco from time to time, and while it is truly a world class fabric store I never find any fabric I want to buy. They buy for someone with more money and more special occasions than I sew for - as intoxicating as the Valentino silk chiffon prints may be, they fit neither my lifestyle nor my budget.

At the Tilton store, it's a different story. While she is known for edgy knits in neutral tones, Marcy Tilton buys fabric in a much wider range. I've been shopping from her long enough to have confidence in the quality of what she offers and to know to keep an eye out for specials and end cuts. There are many online fabric stores, and each has their own aesthetic and specialty. If you cannot find everything you'd like in brick and mortar stores near you, take the time to do some research to see if there's a store or two out there which could be worth your while. When you're getting to know a store, you can order samples if they offer that service, or buy a less expensive piece on sale, special, or end cut. After a couple of orders you should have a better feel for how you like the store without being out too much cash.

I'm not suggesting that everyone immediately drop everything and only buy $200 a yard cashmere for their work clothes. I'm just saying that it's worthwhile to take a look around at some of the nicer and newer stuff now and then. If any of it catches your fancy, and you think you would wear it, see if you can buy some at a reasonable rate. Every now and then take a look to see if there's any new vendors around who carry merchandise that speaks to you. Keeping up to date with what is on offer is an excellent way to keep your sewing fresh, creative and satisfying.

I'm wearing my staple Extasia jewelry here. I've combined a couple of the petite charms with my Benitez Jewelers rose studs to make dangling, "They go but they don't match" earrings. The charm you can see here was a lovely gift from Joanne, who works at the Extasia Outlet in Nevada City, CA. If you're up there be sure to visit the store! They have incredible deals on their outstanding jewelry, from everyday wear to elaborate statement pieces. Joanne herself is delightful and quite knowledgeable on matters esoteric, metaphysical, and philosophical. She is always an intriguing conversationalist and I am happy to have a keepsake from her.

If you know of any great online stores for sewing let us know in the comments!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Inspiration: Ivey Abitz

Since the inception of this blog, I've been on the trail of a few Tried And True (TNT) patterns to use for bulking up the closet. Recently I have nailed down another TNT pattern, and this one has some advantages over the rest. It is very easy and quick to construct, fits great, and allows a huge degree of flexibility in design details - you can make any version of sleeve from short to long, and the length of the blouse can vary from hi hip to dress length. Neckline and collar also allow many variations.

This new TNT is Connie Crawford's princess seamed blouse pattern for Butterick, 5538 (also available from Ms. Crawford's site here). This blouse pictured in this post is my second make using this pattern, inspired very heavily by Ivey Abitz designs. Now, you all know I am beyond picky when it comes to my clothes - I find things I would change in the Chanel boutique in Neiman Marcus, for goodness sake! However, Ms. Abitz's designs? I'll take several dozen, happily.

Sadly, my bank account has other ideas....but, in the ultimate ascent of this emotion-sartorial roller coaster ride, yay! I can sew! And Ms. Abitz uses quite economical materials in her designs.

This blouse is not a knock off or attempted copy of any particular design. What I did was prioritize the elements of Ivey Abitz clothing which I loved the most, the parts which really spoke to me. These I combined with what I know works for me in my own closet; in the practical, flattery, and aesthetic sense. This blouse is the result of that process. Here is a link to one of my favorite Ivey Abitz collections, Fall/Winter 2013, for those of you not yet obsessed with her clothing line.

What I wanted to take from the Abitz' designs:

Silhouette: IA offers a unique silhouette among lagenlook designers. She creates a classic fit in the bodice with waist emphasis created thru use of drapey fabrics with ties, buttons, and plackets in back rather than thru lots of darting or princess seams. The skirts are full, usually a-line, with lots of hem emphasis: ruffles, gathers, ruching both vertical and horizontal. I chose to create that silhouette using princess seams thru the shoulders. These seams offer ease of construction and fit, as well as perfect spots for embellishment if desired.

Fabric: luxe natural - cotton, linen, silk, a bit of wool. None of her fabrics are too heavy, all are quite drapey save the handkerchief linens. Colors are subdued, often overdyed, and IA often shows low-contrast prints, ginghams and stripes, as well as embroidered fabrics. No stretch for me, this is what i wear already.

Details: Ivey Abitz offers among the most subtle and small scale of lagenlook details. Signature touches include many small, vintage buttons down the entire front of garments; generously sized collars and cuffs, the aforementioned hem treatments, and small facings and plackets along center fronts.  Raw edges are also pretty common.

I'd purchased 8-10 yards of this beautiful cotton embroidered voile from Stone Mountain and Daughter - 2 yards at regular price, the rest when it went on half off later and i'd seen how well it held up. It would fit in perfectly Chez Abitz. I made a few changes to the Connie Crawford pattern (other than fitting thru the bust and shoulders): I lengthened by 4" and sewed up the side vents, shortened the sleeves and rolled them up to the elbow, and drafted a new collar based on the band from the Folkwear Gibson Girl blouse. I also changed the neckline, bringing it in to center front at the collar from a half inch overlap at the bust level and drafted an inch wide placket for center front.

To finish the princess seams, shoulder seams and hems I used 3/8" wide black rayon petersham ribbon. I sewed the seams inside out, pressed and trimmed, then topstitched the petersham over the allowances. So nice and clean inside, and a subtle embellishment. I handstitched the same ribbon on the neckline to the collar, with ends left hanging free at center front. In a change from the House of Abitz style, I only added buttons from bust level to a bit below waist. I just like this look, and it makes tying blouses at the waist much easier without added bulk from the buttons.

I'm really happy with this blouse and this TNT. My constant closet refrain is: 'I need more everyday clothes!". I cannot accumulate clothing if I'm reinventing the wheel every time I make a garment. This pattern is easy to make, easy to adapt for a variety of looks, easy to wear. It looks put together over a skirt, pants, or a slip dress which I appreciate when it is too warm for a jacket.

It's a bit strange when my style is known for being a bit on the eccentric side to find such a classic design works wonderfully in my closet. It goes to show that there are many many design decisions in any garment, and knowing your own signature style elements pays off big time. Now I am off to make version the third, and work on a post about the first version - a polka dotted pussybow.