Thursday 25 July 2013

Shop till you drop: Leuven

What a wonderful day I had last Saturday! Not in Leuven - we'll get there in a minute - but in Brussels, for the first (probably?) Belgian sewing bloggers meet! Prepare for some text...

The day began at 10.30 and led us on a pretty thorough tour of central Brussels' best fabric stops and shops. We started with Berger, went on to Atchoum and the flea market at place Jeu de Balle, stopped for some epic lunching and swapping at Houstiplou, then, via craft shop De Banier, finally ended up at the city's most well-known fabric emporium: the Chien Vert. By going home time at 5.30pm, we were down to a weary but happy hardcore!

The group was surprisingly large - I'd had no idea so many people would come! : Anneke, Beata (who drove 3 hours from Holland, what dedication), Ilse and her gorgeous little daughter Lola, Joost, Kamila, Lelie, Louize, blogless Margot, Sigrid and Stéphanie. What really struck me all day was how laid back and lovely everyone was. Nothing got hectic, we just did just plenty of chatting about sewing under the pleasantly warm sun. I came away with some fabric bought, some swapped, and a great big smile on my face. Thank you so much, dear ladies and Joost!

My only regret of the whole day is that I failed to take a single photo. Which is a sign of a good time, but a shame nonetheless. Anneke, Louize and Sigrid have also blogged about the meet and have a few pictures on their blogs. Go check them out!

So while I was thinking about this little write up, I realised that although I have no photos of a sewists' day out in Brussels, I did have some sitting in the camera of a recent trip to the nearby town of Leuven. So, you know, I'll just show you around there instead.

Well, what I mean is - I'll show you the fabric shops :-) .This is Pauli, which, having walked past on several occasions, I'd been meaning to visit for ages.

I've learned to manage expectations by now: you never know if a fabric shop will be full of ugly duds or woven wonders. To my amazement, Pauli is chock full of knits.

It's an absolute treasure. It can be so hard to find decent knits either in store or online (where there's the added disadvantage of not being able to see or feel it properly), that I was rendered almost speechless by the stock here. All different colours and weights of jersey, sweatshirting, ribbing, sweater knit and stretch wovens - and the shelves in this window below are all stacked with knit prints:

I was incredibly disciplined and only came out with the two small pieces of skirt lining I had on my shopping list. Insert smug self-satisfaction here.  But I now know where I will be heading for all my stretch-related fabric needs from now on!

And then I went to Hexagoon.

It's a very little shop, piled high with every imaginable kind of trim, craft supplies, and - of course - fabric. A well-picked selection of the lovely stuff, mainly Liberty and Petit Pan.

I got some Petit Pan fat quarters and a button in here, hoping to turn them into a birthday dress for L (we'll see if I can eke the whole thing out of such little bits of fabric).

And then, I got on the train and went home. G had kindly let me have the day 'off' while he took the kids to see his grandmother and then to the swimming pool - it was the end of a full-on few weeks at work during which he'd been out a lot in the evenings, and I really needed it. That evening, we got the babysitter over and went out in Brussels.

A day with my favourite pastime and an evening in my favourite city. The cure for just about everything :-)

Clockwise from top left: café Flamingo, café Walvis, view over festival Couleur Café, the canal.


Thursday 18 July 2013

Twirly maxi popover sundress hack (+tutorial!)

I couldn't let a Kids' Clothes Week go by without making anything, now could I? And as it turned out, this dress was such a hit, I had to make two.  It's the Oliver & S free popover sundress pattern, hacked with a maxi-length half circle skirt instead of the original A-line. The above twirling speaks far more eloquently than I ever could about the result!

I uploaded this first version on flickr the other day and there were a few enthusiastic reactions, so I decided to photograph the making of the second one in case anyone's interested in doing the same.

So, here we go! Drum roll please...  my Twirly Maxi Popover Sundress Hack!

Before we get to the nuts and blots, a word on sizing. I drafted the skirt piece in exactly the same way as you would draft a half circle skirt, but using my daughter's chest measurement rather than her waist. As you can see in the picture above, because of the way the armholes are scooped out later, this gives a pretty loose fit. This dress will fit her for at least two years! So if you want a closer fit, I'd suggest taking an inch or two off the chest measurement and working from that to draft your half-circle.

I'm not going to explain how to draft a half-circle skirt, because the link above does it perfectly :-)  The thing to remember is that you want to cut it in two identical pieces, a front and a back.

For the popover sundress pattern pieces, cut the size that most closely corresponds to your child's measurements.

OK, ready? 

1.  Cut out your pieces: two each of your half-circle skirt (i.e. each piece is a quarter-circle plus seam allowance), the popover sundress yoke, and the bias straps

2.  Staystitch along the top of the skirt pieces, just inside the seam allowance. Mark the centre front of your circle skirt and yoke pieces.

3.  Align the centres together, with the right side of the yoke facing the wrong side of the skirt.

4.  Carefully notch the skirt seam allowance for approx. the length of the yoke. This will enable you to pin the straight yoke piece to the curved skirt much more easily. (I can't take credit for this excellent idea, it comes from Megan Nielsen's Tania pattern.)

5.  Sew the yoke to the skirt and press the seam allowance up towards the yoke.

6.  Following the popover sundress pattern instructions, fold over the other raw edge of the yoke, then fold the whole thing in half and edgestitch down on the right side of the skirt. This will cover your previous seam and staystitching. As the skirt edge is quite curved, I found it helped to very slightly pull or hold down the fabric as it was going under the needle - it kept everything flat.

7.  This is what you now have: the yoke attached to the top of the skirt.

8.  Grab the popover sundress skirt/bodice pattern piece (you only need the top part) and place the armhole between the yoke edge and side seam of your dress. You'll need to change the angle a bit compared to the original pattern; don't worry, this is just because your skirt is a different shape. Just make sure that the edges of the original armhole line up with the edges of your skirt piece.

9.  Using some chalk or whatever drawing instrument you have to hand, mark the armhole on your dress.

10.  Like so. (But perhaps you will be less messy about it?)

11.  Cut!

Cut the other armhole, then repeat the whole process for the other dress piece. You can now sew the dress together following the original popover sundress instructions, sewing the side seams and attaching the binding to make straps.

And you're done! Now TWIRL, girl!

Or, when it gets too hot for twirling, beat a hasty retreat to your local city beach for some ice cream and water pistol shoot outs.

Anyone else sewing along for the new summer KCW? Whatchamakin'?


Friday 12 July 2013

Shorts, shorter

Another idea done! The knee-length H&M shorts now hit mid-thigh.

No 'before' pictures because I was in a rush, and a slightly coy 'after' picture because, well: mid-thigh.  Not sure I'm quite ready to inflict that on the internet yet. I sure as heck feel better in them though - that denim around my knees was just too much for actual warm weather.

How short do you like your shorts?


Monday 8 July 2013

Tomato tee

Because it's summery and lush and red, like a tomato. Nothing exciting, it just is what it is - but what it is, is good.

More specifically, it's a knit Scout with a full swingy back, and it's also apparently ridiculously difficult to photograph. The above shows it off best, I think: all drapy and airy and cool. 

This picture is ok, but I feel like a twat just looking at it because I was resorting to desperate smiles at my sewing machine in an attempt to avoid face weirdness.  Let me distract you with the fact that this tee goes well with leggings as trousers. So ok, I will die a long, slow style death, but I don't care - I shall do it in comfort.
Some details:
  • Fabric is a medium-robust four-way stretch from the Chien Vert (again). It has great depth of colour; the closer you get to it, the more you see. It also has the absolute perfect balance of stretch, swish, sturdiness and breathability.
  • Pattern: Grainline Scout woven tee, except not woven. Size 8.
  • Pattern changes: my usual no-dart FBA, the above-mentioned full back, 4cm length added to the sleeves, and I scooped out the neckline a bit. With the full back and amount of stretch in this fabric, I think I could also have gone down a size and it would probably fit better - but the difference is pretty minimal.
  • Construction changes: I made this as I would a knit pattern, not following the instructions for the woven version. This meant doing a few things differently: I sewed one shoulder, then did the neck binding, then sewed the other shoulder and topstitched down the neck band seam allowance. Then I put the sleeves in flat before sewing the sleeve and side seams all in one go. I also just folded up the sleeve and lower hems, pinned and stitched them down with a long straight stitch - no edge finishing or pressing beforehand. I've recently found this gives me the least wibbly hem results. Does anyone know if this (i.e. not pressing up the hem allowance) is an actual technique, or am I just amateurishly winging it (again)?
  • And finally: apart from the hems/topstitching, I sewed it all on my serger

I've been not mentioning this baby for a few months, but I feel we know each other well enough now to introduce it to the world. It's a Janome 8002D, and understatement alert I like it a lot. Simple to use and excellent results. Like my other machine, it's from Espace Machines à Coudre, and if you're in the vicinity of Brussels I cannot recommend them highly enough.

And FINALLY finally - I am uploading this on Kollabora where there's a Scout sewalong happening. I just signed up, lured in by the promise of Scout prizes, which I'm under no illusions about winning :-) . I like the site and might take to using it regularly - it seems quite a bit like Burdastyle, but easier and prettier.

Are you on Kollabora too? Or do you just think this proliferation of social sewing stuff is getting out of hand? And how about making up woven patterns up in knit fabrics (or vice versa)? Have you done it - and if so, how did it go?

And the real burning question as far as I'm concerned: just how do you finish your (knit) hems?

PS. that's one idea complete!


Friday 5 July 2013

The little old lady who mends the King's clothes

As promised! What a lost art mending is: to get a letter from the King expressing his amazement at hardly being able to even see her patching up. I'm in awe. But then to be honest, I'm in awe of most spirited little old ladies. I hope I get to be at least half as wrinkled with character as this one, and still sewing all day aged 88.

(I'm afraid I could only find it in Dutch - the English-subtitled reports don't go online individually. But you get the picture, no? :-)


Thursday 4 July 2013

Hot off the press: great excitement in Belgium!

And I'm not talking about King Albert's forthcoming abdication. No, the big news in this part of the blogosphere is the forthcoming Belgian Sewists' Meet-Up! But here's a picture of Ol' King Al, as no-one calls him, to break up the text a bit:

The meet-up idea was mooted a little while ago on twitter by Anneke, and enough of us showed an interest for her to get us in gear and get organising - she's set up a doodle poll to help us find a date somewhere in July (like NOW July!) and anyone who's interested is, of course, very welcome! The list of potential attendees so far includes:

If you're in Belgium or anywhere nearby and fancy joining us, send Anneke an email to let her know: annekecaramin(at)hotmail(dot)com. Then head over to doodle and check out the dates - the more the merrier!

Back on the subject of the royal change of hands, I just watched a rather lovely interview with an 88 year-old Brussels seamstress who has been the official clothes-mender to the court for the last, um, many years, and plans to continue for many more. Darning all the while, she said Prince Philippe will no doubt make a good, modern king, because he's a young 'un. It was on my favourite local channel tv brussel; I'll add a link to the interview once it's online tomorrow (they do English subtitles too :-)

Now, who's for a round of "Name 10 Famous Belgians"? Thinking it sounds easy? You are Belgian, aren't you? The rule is: famous elsewhere. Hehe.

Back soon with another Scout tee. I was going to make some in any case, and then the Kollabora sewalong happened and I did two in a row, just like that. Bam!