Brand New Leopard-Skin Formerly Pill-Box Hat

Leopard2During my millinery training, I made quite a few hats only to learn new techniques and not because I really wanted to make those particular hats. As a result I ended up with a small number of hats that I never wore and that were gathering dust (hats are dust magnets!) and… that started serving as nests for moths, eeew!

Leopard3
So one night I suddenly decided to take action and either simply throw away what had to be or clean and transform what I thought had potential.
Among the dusty wrecks was this leopard pillbox hat:

LeopardBefore
I thought the leopard print was fun (even though I hadn’t really chosen it when I made the first hat) but that print coupled with that shape looked too matronly to my liking and so I had never worn it, not even once. Come to think of it, I had never even taken the time to add the comb it needed to stay on the head.

Leopard4
I unpicked the petersham ribbon from the inside of the hat and washed everything thoroughly with warm water and soap. That’s what I did for the refashions of my collection and so far I’ve never encountered a problem with that method, be it with felt or straw.

Leopard5
Since the felt was already wet, there was no need for steam and I immediately shaped it on a block. I could have dried it with a blow dryer but I was in no hurry so I let it dry naturally for two days before I took it off the block. After that I added some millinery wire to strengthen the edge of the brim and I covered that with black bias binding, then I added the decoration (I guess all of my hats must sport either flowers or a bow of some sorts) and finally I sewed on the petersham ribbon inside (the old one was just a touch too short so I used a new length), and then I had a new hat!

Leopard6
It actually took me almost two weeks to finish the hat, but that’s because I did not work on it every day. Otherwise I guess it could have been made in two sessions, or maybe even one if I had used a blow dryer instead of leaving it to dry naturally.

Leopard7
Now we’ll see whether or not I wear this new hat more than the old one… Only time will tell! But one thing is for sure, now I store all of my wool hats (except for the ones I wear really often) in hat boxes. So much cleaner, duh!

Leopard1

Aubergine Aubépine

Aubépine1I had been wanting to sew the Aubépine dress in this fabric for a little over a year. I got the fabric at a swap last year and even though I didn’t like its colour, a very pale yellow, I thought it would be perfect for the dress once I had dyed it a beautiful purple.

BeforeAfterI was sure it was either all viscose or a viscose and cotton blend, but judging from the result of the dyeing, it must be a viscose and synthetic blend: the weft came out a perfect purple while the warp stayed the exact same pale yellow as before. Ah well I thought, it’s still a nice colour!

What I didn’t like (and still don’t) is that once dyed, the fabric got sort of a shiny quality. Not only do I not like that per se, but it also has the unwanted effect of emphasising each and every crease. And unfortunately, there are a lot of creases on this dress!

Aubépine2I knew the fabric was prone to distortion, so I had planned on using fusible bias tape to stabilise the neckline and armholes. But I didn’t have any in stock and I didn’t think to staystitch instead, so between the pressing and sewing of the tucks and darts and other manipulations, when I sewed the shell and lining together, the shell bodice had grown bigger than the lining bodice.

So while the lining is a perfect fit, the exterior fabric is kind of a mess. There are creases everywhere on the front bodice even after the most careful pressing. The back bodice is a little better except for a few centimetres at the sleeve seams.

Aubépine3Another bad choice I made was forgetting that the waist seam was going to be enclosed in the waist casing and using French seams there that were not only not needed, but that added bulk in the casing.

All of that is not bad enough that I don’t want to wear the dress, but it does make me a bit self-conscious at times, and then I have to remind myself that people who don’t sew won’t notice there’s anything wrong with my dress.

Aubépine4And the dress is so comfortable that it would be a shame not to wear it! I even replaced the drawstring with a piece of elastic for maximum comfort. For that I didn’t make two buttonholes at the front of the dress but only one buttonhole at the back of the lining, to be able to thread the elastic through the casing.

Aubépine5Except for the replacement of the drawstring with elastic, I followed the instructions to the letter. The step I dreaded most was making the tucks and this was actually a piece of cake. The part I found most tedious was basting the shell and lining waist seams together before sewing the casing: this took way too much time. Other than that, I really enjoyed the process of sewing this dress.

And I love the lining I used: it’s a beautiful silk that was a delight to sew and that is a delight to wear. I wasn’t keen on using the recommended cotton voile as a lining because of static cling with tights (it is a fall dress after all), and this silk is a perfect substitute.

Aubépine6As a matter of fact, the beauty of the lining, the fact that everything is French seamed and my issues with the outside bodice mean that the dress is almost prettier inside than outside!

Dirndl Blouse

Dirndl1The sewjo is back! I loved this dirndl blouse pattern I saw in the last September issue of Burda (magazine), and for once I didn’t forget about it and/or postpone it indefinitely! To tell the truth, the thing that motivated me to start this project and not another one was that I had just gotten this piece of fabric from a swap at Saki’s and it was such a weird shape that I didn’t want to bother trying to fold it neatly. I found it easier to start sewing it immediately! :-D

Dirndl3This was a pretty easy sew if not for the fact that I always have the hardest time understanding written sewing instructions. I’m not even going to try and blame it on Burda, whose language we know can be quite cryptic. This time the instructions were clear… I’m the one who couldn’t make any sense from them!

The thing is, I only understood what they were saying once I already knew what I had to do: so when I read a step in the sewing guide, I didn’t understand it, then once I had figured out what to do on my own, I came back to the instructions and thought: “So that’s what they were trying to tell me!”.

Dirndl4Not that you’d need that much handholding sewing this blouse; there’s nothing really complicated there. The only thing I truly needed the instructions for was the neck opening/facing. I have the worst spatial intelligence, so I had to resort to doing a paper simulation of that one in order to get it! Okay, please do not laugh, three paper simulations…

Dirndl5At least those simulations did help and I got a better result than I would have gotten had I dived right in. I just had to topstitch the neckline edge twice instead of once because there were a couple centimetres of the neckline facing that hadn’t been caught in the first line of stitching. I initially wanted to unpick this first line of stitching after sewing the second one, but I decided the two rows of stitching actually looked cute so both could stay.

Dirndl6Once I had understood them, I mainly followed the instructions. The first of the only two things I did differently was inverting two steps: Burda has you sew the sleeve hem first, then the side seams, but I prefer the finish of sewing the side seams first, then the sleeve hem.

While we’re talking about the side seams, I made the dumbest mistake there! I thought I was being clever by using French seams, but I forgot how curved those seams were: there was no way French seams were going to work! So I had to clip my beautiful French seams afterwards, not the perfect finish I was hoping for! I reinforced the underarm seams before clipping the seam allowances to avoid any unravelling.

The second thing I did differently from the instructions was drafting a facing for the top of the neckline. It was supposed to be left raw, which I didn’t fancy at all. That facing trick worked like a charm. No raw edges on any of my clothing, ever!

Vintage faux pearl button from my mother's stash.

Vintage faux pearl button from my mother’s stash.

I find this blouse really cute, it’s a style I’m very fond of. I love it tucked in high-waisted skirts, dirndl or not! Not that you could tell judging from the awful angle I took these pictures from, ahem!

I feared the weather would soon be too cold to wear such a light blouse, but when I put it on I forgot I was wearing a thermal cami and only realised that after taking the pictures, so I guess I can wear it with a cami under it and a cardigan over it and not have to wait for spring after all!

Dirndl2

The First Fall Dress

Smock1I bought this fabric and the book the pattern is from during the same trip to Paris, three years ago. I immediately knew I wanted to pair the two together, yet every year I let fall pass me by without taking the time to materialise my project. So this year, when wondering what to sew next after finishing my Centaurée and thinking I’d like to sew something that would be evocative of the beginning of fall, this old idea sprung to mind.

Smock2A few years ago, the Stylish Dress Book series and other Japanese pattern books were very popular on the French speaking blogosphere (about as popular as Deer&Doe nowadays, to give you an idea!). Then they fell out of fashion to the point that a lot of people started frowning upon them, lamenting that the patterns were unflattering and that they made even the thinnest person look fat. Well, I beg to differ!

It’s true that most patterns in these books are all but form-fitting, yet I don’t think they are unflattering at all. Of course, they are not flattering in the sense that they make you look thinner than you are, but does looking good always have to equate with looking your thinnest?

Smock3One of the main real problems of the Japanese pattern books was (is?) that the darts are usually insanely high (the other one being that the sizes are very restricted, stopping at a mere 93 cm/36 ½” bust for the Stylish Dress Book!). But this pattern (SDB3 Dress H) doesn’t have any, so I didn’t have to make any fitting adjustments, phew! So I didn’t make a muslin, thinking the fit of such a loose smock would be forgiving.

This would have been such an easy project had it not been for my fabric choice. I thought I knew what I was getting myself into with the plaid matching, but I had not counted on the shifty nature of the fabric… It’s a cotton flannel; I had no idea those could be that tricky, but I swear it had a life of its own! Plaid + shifty fabric = four-hour-long cutting nightmare. I was so relieved (and so proud!) when I sewed the pieces together and every line that could match, well, did!

Smock4The only thing I’m not entirely happy about is the yoke: I chose to cut it on the bias (thinking yay, no plaid matching there, then oops, still have to match the shoulders and the button bands!) and added a lining that I cut on the straight grain to stop the bias-cut yoke from stretching out of shape. It didn’t work that well: the fabric is so unstable that it still stretched out a little bit, so it doesn’t sit flush on the shoulders. It bothered me at first (WHY can’t ANY project ever be perfect?!), but having worn the dress a few times already, I had forgotten about it until writing this article.

SDB3HI made a few small modifications other than adding a lining to the yoke. As you can (sort of) see above, the dress doesn’t normally have any button bands. I added some length (3 cm/1 ¼”) to the front yoke pieces so that they’d overlap and form the button bands. I had planned on sewing some buttonholes there, but when I tried I quickly realised that with that fabric and the fact that that part was cut on the bias, I’d better settle for snaps. And I have to say I really like the result! I loathe snaps for garments that are worn open, but for this dress, which is going to be worn closed at all times, I find them very convenient.

Smock5Other things I changed in my version are omitting the yoke ruffles and adding patch pockets. When was the last time I sewed a dress and did not add patch pockets? I think this is the third dress in a row that gets the same treatment… I should rename my blog Rue des Patch Pockets or something. So I added patch pockets. And I love them.

The last change I made was not to add any seam allowance at the hem (I wanted a short dress!) and finishing it with black bias tape.

Smock6I took the pictures coming back from work, which is why the dress may seem a bit wrinkled in places. It’s a very comfortable dress to wear, albeit a bit short. If I need to raise my arms (for, say, write at the top of the blackboard), I have to be careful to push up the sleeves past the elbows first, otherwise the whole dress goes up and I risk flashing too much thigh (or worse!). But I’ve worn it at work a few times already, and there have been no problems in that respect.

All in all it’s a very cosy dress, perfect for fall and winter. It took me three years before finally sewing it, but a pattern/fabric match that hasn’t changed in three years could only mean success. And despite the small problem at the shoulders, I’m really proud of the finishing work I did.

The Last Summer Dress

Centaurée1According to my Instagram, I started sewing this Centaurée dress at the beginning of July, and I finished it two weeks ago. Two months from start to finish, wow… It didn’t help that I spent three weeks away from my sewing machine of course, but still; I couldn’t bear seeing it hang unfinished in my sewing space anymore! At least it was still summer when I finished it, so I was able to wear it once before storing it away!

Centaurée2What took me so long, you ask? Well, I had this great idea in my head of gold piping between the geometric panels. Which means I had to line the bodice. And shell fabric plus lining plus very thick piping equals way too many layers at the side seams for the zipper to lay smoothly. I tried inserting that zipper about five times; I even tried hand-picking it to get more control, but to no avail. I thought I had to either make do with a horribly shoddy zipper, or say goodbye to my gold piping dreams.

Centaurée4Then it occurred to me, I could sew the side seam shut and insert an exposed zipper at the back instead! I found this white zipper with gold teeth in Paris. I thought it was going to look perfect on the dress, but back home I realised it was a separating zip. I could have kicked myself! I looked for a replacement here in Brussels, but apparently metal teeth zippers are all separating?

Anyway, once again I had to think of a plan B, which was to cut off the bottom of the zipper, cover it with a piece of the gold bias tape I had used for the piping, and call that a design feature…

Centaurée5There was no way I was not finishing that dress after all the time I had spent sewing the bodice panels! And the piping, oh my! Not even the execrable fabric could stop me from soldiering on. When I bought it it was advertised as 100% cotton, but the last time I went to that place they had changed the sign to cotton/poly blend. You know how they say that blends take the best of each fibre? This one took the worst: it wrinkles like cotton, but it presses (more like, doesn’t press) like polyester.

Centaurée3After all the problems I had during the making of this dress, it took me a few days before I could tell whether I liked the result or not. It’s not perfect, but I love its shape, which I find very flattering (at least from the front. As you can see in the picture above, there’s a small risk of looking pregnant from the side, ah well!) and all the little details I added such as the flat piping, the gold topstitching and the patch pockets!

Centaurée6

Dahlia Top

Eucalypt6I sewed something – I repeat – I SEWED SOMETHING!!!

So I started this Eucalypt tank ages ago, in June to be precise, just before I sewed this dress. But my poor choice of bias tape had me think I had ruined everything and the tank was not worth finishing.

Eucalypt1I don’t know the composition of the fabric (I got it at a fabric swap), but I’m pretty sure it’s a natural fibre seeing how nicely it presses and how soft it feels against the skin. And what I’m absolutely sure of is that it’s very lightweight, so I shouldn’t have used that awful stiff store-bought bias tape to finish the armholes and neckline, what was I thinking?!

Eucalypt2The neckline especially was looking as if it was trying to escape as far away from my body as possible, ugh! I tried to arrange things as much as I could by pressing the heck out of that neckline tape, but I was not convinced by the result, so I hung the unfinished tank on a hanger and proceeded to give it the side eye every time I passed it in the next three months.

But last weekend, desperate to sew but feeling hampered by the unusual number of UFOs hanging in my sewing space, I thought I should finish this tank (it was only missing its bottom hem) and, worse comes to worst, wear it as a pyjama top.

Eucalypt3I didn’t bother finding/making lightweight bias tape for the hem (ruined for ruined…) and used the same stiff bias tape I had used for the neckline, only in a different colour because I had no more white bias tape in my stash and I didn’t feel like going out and buying some more. So the hem tape is lilac while the rest of the bias tape is white, so what?

Eucalypt5Not only is the stiff bias tape much less of a problem at the hem than at the neckline, but I also pressed the neckline again (and again!) and finally got a decent result! It’s still far from perfect of course, but it’s now inconspicuous enough that you don’t notice there’s anything wrong with the neckline unless looking for it specifically.

Eucalypt4The armholes are still gaping a little, depending on the way I’m holding my arms (see the first picture of this article), but once again, I don’t know who’s going to notice that when I’m wearing the top. So I’m definitely glad I finished it; it would have been a shame wasting that beautiful piece of fabric, even if I got it for free!

And I can see a lot of Eucalypt tanks in my future! If not for my stupid mistake, it was a very nice pattern to work with. It’s simple but not simplistic and it could look smashingly different depending on what fabric you use or what detail you add.

Adelfa Cardigan

Adelfa1Three knitted projects in a row, not a single sewn project in between. What can I say? Three weeks in Spain, far from my sewing machine, followed by the start of school and its unavoidable fatigue… Not the ideal conditions to get back to sewing!

Ah well, at least my beloved knitting needles can go everywhere with me and one row here, one row there, I ended up with a new cardigan!

Adelfa2Most of this cardigan was actually knit in Spain, on a stone bench next to an oleander – adelfa in Spanish. For my last two weeks there I was staying in a village where I didn’t have a lot to do but to knit or read (I’m not complaining here, this is my ideal kind of vacation!), so in those two weeks I finished the body and a sleeve and I knit more than half the second sleeve. Then I came back to Belgium (and to work), and the remaining half sleeve and neckband took me two whole new weeks to knit.

Adelfa4The (free) pattern is Que Sera by Kirsten Kapur and the yarn is Cascade 220, knit with bigger needles to get gauge. I made a few small modifications to the pattern: first, I added three buttonholes to the five of the pattern. I thought they looked a little too far apart in the pictures.

Then I lengthened the sleeves by one pattern repeat (12 rows) and I knit them in the round. I had to adapt the lace pattern a bit for it to work in the round (see my Ravelry notes), but that was really easy. Because of my knitting the sleeves in the round, I was afraid the sleeves would end up too wide for my taste (since there would be no seam allowance to take in account), so I knit them a size smaller than the body. Note that knitting the sleeves in the round also made them much more difficult to block correctly (which is why I’m particularly glad that I lengthened them a touch!). But I was very happy not to have to seam them up afterwards, so there’s that.

Adelfa3Also, when I first tried on the cardigan with the buttons closed, the button bands gaped like you wouldn’t believe. So I had to stabilise them with petersham ribbon. I used a method that is very similar to this one, except that I didn’t interface my petersham and that I took care to make all of my hand stitches virtually invisible because clearly I’m a psychopath. It took me four episodes of Murder, She Wrote (Have I ever told you about my passion for Murder, She Wrote?) to sew on the petersham but come on, look how pretty!Adelfa5So that’s it, I’m delighted with my new cardigan; I love its style and colour (closest to the detail picture of the petersham button bands, by the way) and I’m sure it will look great with a lot of my clothing pieces, existing or to come!

PS I forgot to mention this in my last two posts, but I’m on Instagram now!

Les vacances de Mademoiselle Hulot

Hulot1Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday is one of my favourite movies, and every time I watch it I fall in love again with the costumes (among so many other things!). I had been meaning to knit myself a summer sweater worthy of the holidaymakers of the movie for a few years, so in July, when I was trying to decide on my next knitting project, I settled on a striped cropped sweater that I thought would fulfill this need.

I knew I wanted navy and cream stripes on a cropped sweater with a fitted waist; I also wanted to try Drops Muskat, but I didn’t know what pattern to use. I hadn’t even thought about that option, but Mimolette convinced me that the kind of sweater I wanted would be pretty easy to design myself…

Hulot3And she was right! After all, the effect I was looking for didn’t need a lot of shaping; all it required were two rectangles, one for the front and one for the back, a few increases at the neckline and a lot of decreases at the waist, and that’s it!

I knit this sweater Andi Satterlund style, i.e. seamless and from the top down, knitting the top of the back, picking up the front shoulder stitches and knitting the top of the front then joining front and back and knitting in the round (see Ravelry notes for more details).

Hulot2As for the distribution of the stripes, I made it up as I went along. When I realised I wouldn’t have enough navy yarn to go on with my four navy rows, four cream rows design, I simply started knitting wider cream stripes. I was afraid until the end that I wouldn’t have enough yarn to finish the sweater, but I did (with less than a metre of either yarn left after I cast off)!

This sweater was knit in less than two weeks, so I could take it to Spain with me and I wore it a lot there both with the red Chardon you see in the pictures and my polka dot skirt. And I’ve already worn it here in Belgium, too, in the week I’ve been back!

Hulot4Now if only my last sewing projects could be as successful as my last knitting projects: I couldn’t finish either of the two summer dresses I’d started before my departure (a Centaurée and the Juni dress from this book that was my final choice for the Outfit Along), and I haven’t had enough energy to get back to sewing since my return. Sooo much easier to knit in the couch than to get up and sew!

Estoy de vacaciones!

LesVacances

The sweater you see in the picture is the only garment I managed to complete before my departure to Spain. Both the Centaurée and Outfit Along dresses will have to wait for my return, sniff!

But I still took a suitcase full of me-mades with me, as well as the materials for two knitting projects (two projects in three weeks, one can dream, right?): the first one will be this cardigan (I’m in love! Mine will be fuchsia pink!) and the second one  this stole I started in April but has been hibernating ever since.

I’d  better keep this article short and sweet as I am xanaxed to the max to be able to handle the plane trip, so let me just wish you a very nice month of August, whether you’re on holiday or working. See you in three weeks!

Navy Hetty

NavyHetty1It was HOT when I took these pictures, not the ideal weather to be wearing a 3/4 sleeve dress and a wool cardigan! But I was so happy for this cardigan to finally be over that I couldn’t wait for the weather to get colder before I took the pictures.

NavyHetty2I started knitting this cardigan at the very beginning of June, thinking I would be finished in no time. I thought I would knit it in about two weeks, ha! But when I reached the end of the body, I realised my gauge was tighter than I thought and I was probably going to end up with a too small cardigan seeing how tiny the body looked.

I was determined to start from scratch, but not very motivated to do so, so I let it rest for a few days. Then I read on lladybird’s blog that it was probably supposed to look that tiny before blocking, so I changed my mind and chose to go on with the same gauge/size after all.

NavyHetty3Still, I couldn’t shake the fear that I was in fact knitting a kiddie size cardigan (Mimolette laughing her ass off every time she saw how tiny it was didn’t help that fear either! ;-) ), so I lost part of my motivation. That and a very busy month of June meant that there were a lot of days where I didn’t even touch my knitting needles. Oh, and I had to start the first sleeve all over again because I had made a stupid mistake in the way I knit my yarn overs in the round.

NavyHetty4But the Hetty is such a fast knit that, even by knitting one row here, one row there, it was not that long before a whole cardigan fell off my needles.

I added two repeats of the pattern at the end of the sleeves and four rows to each button band to compensate for my gauge being so different from the pattern, but I didn’t add any length to the body because I usually need to shorten my other sweaters/cardigans.

I also picked up way more stitches than recommended (85 instead of 61!) for the button bands, thinking that way it would be easier to stretch them when blocking the cardigan. This meant adding some buttonholes, too: I made eleven instead of eight. Same with the neckband, I picked up 98 stitches instead of 78.

NavYHettyDétailI should have taken a picture of the cardigan before I blocked it (I finished it at night and I didn’t have the patience to wait for the morning light to block it) but believe me when I say it was kid sized: pre-blocking, I think it would have fit a four-year-old!

I can’t tell you how relieved I was when I tried it post-blocking and saw that it fit! It’s very short, but it hits me exactly where I wanted it to, right at the waist! The sleeves too are the perfect length. The whole sweater could stand to be a bit wider though; it is very tight. But luckily it is not so tight that it’s uncomfortable, and as you can see I can wear it over a dress with sleeves.

NavyHetty5You may remember this was the first part of my OAL participation. I’m thinking about changing my plans for the matching dress: I still want to use the same fabric, but I’m having second thoughts regarding the pattern. With the hot weather in Brussels right now and the fact that I’m going to Spain in August, I was thinking about replacing my chosen pattern with the Colette Parfait dress. Right now I have more use of a sundress with straps, so unless I don’t have enough fabric for the Parfait, I think I’ve made up my mind!