Spring in Paris – The Yellow Skirt

Hello!

I spent the last week in Paris with my mother, a trip she had long wanted to make. As my employer decided generously to add one extra week of holidays to everyone in 2015, I thought it would be a good chance to use the extra week for the purpose of accompanying her and also discovering Paris for the first time.

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I must say if you ever plan to go to Paris in spring, do it in April-May. Currently it was nastily cold! There is something about the cold in warmer climates – during the years I lived in Cyprus and Greece, I was also always cold in winter, especially indoors and fell ill once every year. This rarely happens to me here up North!

It was also slightly early because the trees were still leafless, which surely had an impact on my visual impression of Paris. It just means another trip has to be planned!

Thankfully, I had just finished a mustardy-yellow skirt to brighten things up.

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The pattern is from BurdaStyle October 2011 issue, model 119A and B mixed together.

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I cut size 38 at the waist and smoothed to size 40 at the hips. The fabric I used is from my trip to Portugal. I don´t know the composition if the fabric, but it is a weird one, dense and heavy and quite elastic lengthwise. I had just enough fabric for the skirt, as the pockets are self-lined and pretty big, requiring a lot of fabric.

Sewing this weird material was a pleasure, although it got tiresome at the waist, where I needed all my strength to press the basting needle through the layers.

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The skirt is unlined and i did not finish the seam allowances, since the fabric doesn´t fray at all and it would only have added extra bulk. The waistband is also hand stitched from the inside.

I really love the shape and extravagant size of the pockets. The buttonholes are only stitched, not cut through and the buttons are sewn onto those.

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Traditionally, I had done some homework on fabric shops in Paris and luckily there is a whole district of fabric shops of all sorts right on the base of the hilltop where the spectacular Sacre Coeur church sits.

Some of these shops are specialized on Halloween and other carnaval fabrics, others are selling everything in coupons of 3 meters, others have a bit of everything. I didn´t see anything too special or too expensive, the prices are rather low.

The most interesting one was perhaps Tissus Reine, a huge store with a large variety of fabrics from Liberty cottons to curtain and furniture fabrics, also a wide range of notions. The ground floor is dedicated to dressmaking fabrics and they have used smaller than human size dummies for decoration, who are dressed up in clothes made of the fabrics that are for sale.

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The other one, Les Coupons de Saint Pierre, is bigger online than in reality. They are selling everything in coupons of 3 meters, including silks. I spotted some beautiful pieces of bright yellow and green silks, but most of this was good fabric waisted for weird prints – like tiny Chinese working on ricefields or strolling with sunshades, However, I managed to find a piece of beautiful silk and paid just 20 euros for the whole 3 meters!

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Here is what I got:

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The first is a microfibre fabric that looks a bit like suede, I am not yet sure whether it will become a jacket or a minimalistic dress one day. The second one is a 3 meter coupon of cotton for a summer dress and the last is the silk fabric coupon.

The notions include shoulder pads, cover buttons and 3 shades (grey, dark blue and black) of jersey bias tape, something I have not seen before.

What I loved about Paris was the remarkable Musee d´Orsay, which will be one of the main reasons for my return and also the cheese and wine 🙂

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Hello, Africa!

Hey, everyone!

It has been a while, but I haven´t been idle, as soon as I get some photos taken, I will be able to show you this year’s holiday party dress and there are some other projects on the verge of completion, too!

But what I actually wanted to do today, was to share one interesting blog post with you. It is written by my dear colleague, Kadi (seen here with her Burgundy Wedding Guest Dress made by me) who currently is doing some great volunteer work in Uganda, Africa. Her task is to help the local school for children with special needs to develop some kind of production unit for young people with special needs who are not attending the school anymore but continue living there, so that by selling their goods they would be able to cover the expenses and have an income.

The idea is to produce several hand-made goods for sale and also take orders for sewing services. Of course now you know where I am getting at – fabrics!

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Over our long Skype chat Kadi sent me several photos of some of the most fantastic kitenge prints and I got very enthusiastic about the possibility of her actually bringing something along for me when she returns in January.

Below you can read a copy of her blog post that describes the local fabric shopping/sewing life, that I found very interesting. With her permission, I have only copied the English version of her original Estonian/English text that is available here.

For more details about the whole production unit, the little shop the volunteers have helped to start and of course, more supercool fabrics!, please look here.

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Tailoring business.

Moving around together with the tailors has brought along many interesting activities and discoveries regarding the textile and tailoring industry in Uganda. Firstly, I have learned about many new places for finding good fabrics and the important shops have been written down and memorized. Interestingly the shops are mostly organized so that similar businesses are all located in one place, e g there is the Energy Center for all kinds of eletrical materials, Majestic Plaza is the place for buying beads and pearls and other handicraft things (+ men who do your nails located on the ground floor) and many textile centers are packed tightly around two streets in downtown. From the outside it looks as if there were only a few shops but after entering the building one discoveries that every house is a labyrinth where all salespersons try to convince you to buy their products (hello sister, come and have a look, welcome, do you want some kitenge etc). After shopping there a few times you locate some shops that have good variety, reasonable prices, and friendly salespersons. One of the best experiences was to go fabric shopping together with teacher Winnie from the women’s project. She walked in front on crutches and me and Liina followed her along the lines of shops helping to choose materials and carry the shopping bags. While accompanying her we felt a lot less shouting and unnecessary attention around us. While moving around on your own, it still happens that the usual price of 25 000 – 35 000 for 6 yards of fabric turns suddenly into 60 000 and in that case I have often just left the shop because the bargaining and explaining would take too long. In some ways this kind of asking for a double price is also a bit disrespectful. Especially when I am bargaining in Luganda and state clearly that I know the real price anyway. The fabric shops have also specialized further – there are separate places for buying kitenge, materials for gomezis, for suits and so on. The surroundings of fabric shops are always filled with humming of the sewing machines and tailors with sewing machines have been squeezed into tiniest corners possible.
Besides textiles I also had to learn a lot about the sales and prices of sewing machines. Apparently the sewing machines sold in downtown Kampala are all brought in second hand from Asia. The prices vary between 350 000 and 500 000. The main factors affecting the price being the different stitches (they call it ‘designs’ here) the machine can make and whether it has a table and/or motor included. Only new machines I saw were manual Singer machines that are most probably also manufactured in China. While still searching for sewing machines for the tailors, we came across an easier and cheaper solution – getting four sewing machines from Bluesky. Due to having only solar energy, Bluesky was not using these machines anyway and we could repair four instead of buying one.
Ruth (left) and Night with some of their handicraft.
Handmade tie-dye fabric.
Shopping for fabrics.
Second hand sewing machines from Asia.
Olivia and the great artwork done by me : p
A welcoming light in our shop.
My home-office

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Portugal Fun

Hey everyone!

I am back from my wonderful 10-day holiday to Portugal for nearly two weeks now and it feels like it all happened ages ago. Probably  the autumn really kicking in here in Estonia makes it hard to believe that just some days ago I was sweating on a bicycle ride along the coast of the Atlantic ocean.

Portugal is amazing, it was my first time there and I was lucky in several ways – first of all, having enough time to explore the country, secondly having maybe the best travel companion with me and thirdly, the itinerary we had set up enabled us to see a great deal of Portugal.

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Out of the ten days we spent four in Lisbon, then headed to South to Albufeira and from there up North to Porto via Coimbra. From Porto to the oceanside Figueira da Foz and then on the last day dropped by Obidos as well.

A few photos (most of them in this post have been taken by my friend Triin) here before getting to the fabric stores 🙂

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Yeah, to the fabric store then…

The first thing that I noticed and it kind of struck me was that being as busy as I was before departure, I didn´t find a moment to do any research on the fabric shops in Lisbon or anywhere else, but as it turned out, there was no need, as it is impossible to miss them in any city center. I guess it has something to do with the history of trading that Portugal is known for.

The first one of the many in Lisbon was Feira dos Tecidos, very close to the Rossi train station. It is a peculiar shop, lots of space but really not so much variety to choose from. Some fabrics are sold as 1,5 m coupons, some are on the rolls. However, they had some interesting faux leather and some doubleknits in beautiful autumn shades.

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The whole touristic city center of Lisbon is full of smaller fabric shops, that are not always very welcoming for photographing so I cannot show you many photos, but once you find the Feira dos Tecidos and then wander around the network of streets around the area, you will run into most of them anyway.

Some of them are pretty modest on the outside, but hide great, expensive fabric treasures, especially lace. There are also streets lined with small shops selling haberdashery, but I cannot buy buttons without a certain fabric and pattern in my mind, so I passed them with a heavy heart.

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As we were on our way to Porto, we made a stop for a lunch and stroll in Coimbra.

An once again, a fabric store suddenly just stood in front of me! As I discovered later, Avenida 7 is a whole chain of high-end fabric retailers. They mostly stock designer fabrics, expensive silks and amazing lace.

The following photos are taken in their Coimbra shop, but there is also one in Porto. Neither of them can be missed if you happen to walk around in the city center!

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As you can see, in addition to the goodies I got from Lisbon, I couldn´t resist the ones in Coimbra, either.

Altogether I got three fabrics:

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The mustard fabric is from Avenida 7, I am not sure about the composition, however, it has lengthwise stretch and it is quite heavy. I loved the texture and color and I imagine a nice fall skirt made of this.

The quilt-effect sweater jersey got me with its color combo. I only got a small piece and I should sew up a sweater asap, combining it with some plain black jersey.

The striped one is probably viscose. Again the colors where what sold me, I think I can recall a RTW maxi dress made of a very similar fabric. As it was sold in coupons, I got 3 of them, each 1.5 m wide and long. Hopefully enough for a dress at some point.

Unfortunately I haven´t had much time for sewing recently and it makes me stressed. I wanted to finish one interesting summer dress right on time for the trip so that I could have taken beautiful photos, but work and fun (and also the heatwave of early August) got in my way so I have a few unfinished projects waiting for their turn. I cannot afford all this fabric gathering up in my little flat, should turn it into garments at a faster rate!

However, I wouldn´t exchange my trip to Portugal to no matter how much time for sewing because it was a real time-out and I am also very grateful to my dear friend Triin, who put up with my fabric stores tour, did the driving and also took these beautiful photos!

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Burgundy Wedding Guest Dress

One would think that if the whole month passes without a post, there is not much going on about sewing in my life, but it is quite the opposite! Actually the reason for not posting is that I was frantically working on two dresses simultaneously and just as I got them finished with, went off for a great long weekend in Copenhagen.

So the first dress that nearly made me give it up, is for my friend and colleague Kadi. She had a wedding to attend close to Stuttgart, Germany the same weekend as I had a wonderful concert to attend in Copenhagen. More about that in the next post, related to my own dress.

Two events, two girls, of course two dresses needed!

I started off with hers as I surely did not want to mess it up and not be able to deliver on time. And oh boy, that was a good decision as the dress caused me lots of trouble.

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I have to apologize for the quality of the photos, but as winter approaches Estonia as well as Germany, it is extremely difficult to get good light conditions for photographing, so the photos in this post are not so clear.

The pattern we chose for her together is Simplicity 2442, view B:

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Although Kadi´s measurements seemed to fit size 40, I decided to cut 38. I am afraid some of the problems I faced with the dress occurred because of this too, but then again I feel that with the bigger size I would have had just different issues. For example, the shoulder yokes seem to fit her fine, but would definitely have been too large in size 40. But where things got tough was the gathered waistband. I ended up making two, one in size 38 (too small!) and the other one in 40 (also nearly too small!!). Thankfully we could eventually use the smaller one to make her a small purse to match the dress.

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The fabric is polyester taffeta, also chosen together. I am not a big fan of red, but this shade fits Kadi very well and has somewhat of a grace that fit the occasion perfectly.

Here she is with her charming boyfriend and the beautiful bride:

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The whole process gave us the opportunity of quite a few tea drinking and sewing evenings together. Everything went faster when Kadi was around, as I could try the dress on anytime I needed and also felt more pressure to stay focused rather than get lazy.

The bodice is lined and I used bias tape (if I remember correctly,nearly 10 meters!) for the seam allowances of the skirt. The hemline is hand stitched.

Here are a few photos with the dress on the hanger:

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The most peculiar thing was that although I had taken the measurements with her wearing the bra she wanted to wear with the dress,  the neckline just did not fit her at all! So one day, in despair, I took the bodice to work to try it on again after some alterations and she told me she was wearing a different bra that day. We tried the dress anyway and whoa! it fit her perfectly! So the trick was to change the bra 😀 Oh well, I am not anything close to a professional seamstress, I guess a professional would have worked her way around any bra.

But eventually I finished the task just four days short of Kadi´s trip and she is happy with the result, so all is good!

The Tribal Print Skirt

Hey everyone!

It has been quite a long time since my last post, but I am telling you, summer in this tiny town I live in, Haapsalu, is full of life and it is really hard to find time for sewing lately!

Nevertheless, there are a few projects on the finishing line and the tribal print skirt has been finished for at least two weeks already, just never found time to take the photos.

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The fabric is stretch polyester sateen, one of the fabrics I got from my trip to Austria in May.  Of course when I saw the fabric, I wanted to make a dress again, but firstly because it was quite expensive and secondly because I have too many dresses already, I allowed myself to get only 70 cm of it. It was exactly enough to use it for Burda April 2013 model 117b skirt.

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I cut Burda size 38 which fits just fine. I omitted the vent in the back, because my skirt is wide enough to allow comfortable walking. Another thing I changed was the width of the waistband, the one according to the pattern was way too narrow to my taste (2 cm), so I made a new one, which is 3.5 cm wide. I also added a hook and eye to the waistband as the zipper was inserted only up to the waistband.

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The skirt is obviously very easy to sew and it has a nice fit. The seam allowances are finished with bias tape. (Yes, I am wearing a matching nail polish! :))

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The shoes are also bought from Austria, must be somewhat of a private label by Humanic.

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Last weekend I had a wonderful time, as my good friends came to visit me and also helped me take the photos. Here is to summer and friendship!

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The Jewel Dress

I am so glad that I can FINALLY show you something that isn´t from Out Of The Closet series again! It is the first finished object since I started working in Estonia and the available time and energy for my hobby diminished remarkably.

As I have mentioned before, I wanted to finish the dress for the Christmas party with the colleagues and I managed right on time. The photos were taken during the party and after some prolonged sitting at the table, so forgive me the slightly wrinkled look of the dress.

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The pattern is rather old – Burda 11/2008 issue, model 135, but I think it is kind of an evergreen style. There is a really nice version of the dress here. This is what actually made me fall in love with the pattern in the first place, the black Burda version is not really inspiring.

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Burda 11-2008-135 dress

During my long holiday in Estonia in summer, I borrowed a bunch of Burdas from the local library and traced quite a lot of patterns (because I never thought that just a couple of months later I would make such a huge step of moving here for a longer period). This is one of them.

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Burda 11-2008-135

Burda 11-2008-135

The pattern is easy to sew and the only more complicated part is the front pleating and maybe the shoulder seams, since the upper part of the dress is lined.

The material, slightly stretchy cotton sateen, is probably my favorite fabric to sew with. I got the fabric among some others just before leaving Athens and it was bought having this pattern in mind already.

I didnt make any major alterations to the dress, apart from having to take in at the shoulder seams, in order to bring the whole thing up a bit. It is a bit of a nuisance as anyone who has sewn similar shoulder seams knows, but I chewed myself through and thankfully this fixed the problem.

I also had to take in slightly at the side seams, which was somewhat of a surprise. I didn´t use double needle for hemming although this is what the pattern calls for. Instead, I folded the hem over and hand stitched it so that the stitches are not visible on the outside. I thought it would look nicer but actually the fold still shows so I don´t think I gained much from all the hand sewing. If I made the dress again, I would probably go for the double needle.

Burda 11-2008-135 dress

Burda 11-2008-135

Due to the lighting conditions when taking the close-ups, my skin resembles remarkably to a very famous lady 😀 :

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The seam allowances were finished off with bias tape. I actually like that the tape is not in an identical shade with the fabric. The lining (or should I call it facing?) is attached at the side seams and front by a few hand stitches.

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The photos were taken by my sweet colleague Merle:

Burda 11-2008-135 dress

Burda 11-2008-135 dress

The shoes I am wearing are Bourne Christy. Probably my favourite party shoes, they are not too high and they always catch a lot of positive attention.

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The Christmas party was fun as well, I danced quite a lot which is good, since I can´t remember the last time I did so!

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To my great surprise, I noticed that I made this last dress of the year in The Color Of The Year 2013, according to Pantone  (“known worldwide as the standard language for color communication from designer to manufacturer to retailer to customer” as they say on their website) – emerald.

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Anyone who is more interested in the topic, can also check out their fashion color report for spring 2013, that includes more shades in addition to the emerald.

Stefania´s Dress

Yesterday was a big day! Stefania came over to get her dress, that has actually been finished for some time now, we just didn´t have the chance to meet.

As during the whole process she tried it on only twice, you can imagine how my hands were shaking when she slipped into it and I pulled the zipper to close it. I was even afraid to look over her shoulder to the mirror and was ready for her to say “Eemmm, I want it tighter here” or “Why is it like this here?”, but…. it was perfect. As I mentioned before starting the dress, I wanted to use a waist stay to make it absolutely secure and comfortable for her, but apparently I miraculously managed to make it exactly tight enough for no need for a waist stay. I actually had added it and just wanted to add the hooks as the last step, but in the end I ripped the waist stay out, there was simply no need for it.

I must admit I got goosebumps when I saw her twirling in her dress, fitting her just right. Honestly, I am proud! It was the first time for me to make a strapless bodice, the first time to use boning and the first time making someone else a garment that requires such a precise fit. Another stress factor was that the dress will be worn for Stefania’s sister’s wedding in December, making it even more important to look nice on her.

I must disappoint you though, because my friend refused to have any of the photos we took yesterday uploaded here, as she was on her way to work, wearing very little make up and having her hair casually loose. I was too happy for the fit of her dress, so I agreed to wait until she sends me some photos of her in the dress that she wouldn’t mind sharing with you. In the meanwhile, I cannot even show it on the dressmaking dummy, because as it appears, Stefania is still a tad smaller than the smallest setting of my dummy, and the dress just wouldn’t go over the shoulders of the dummy. I am trying to tell myself that patience is a virtue, but I am not very good at it.

This is an earlier photo of the dress, while it didn’t have the zipper attached yet and thus no problem to show it on the dummy:

Notice that it doesn’t have the belt detail yet.

So, as already said, the pattern I used is Simplicity 4070, view C:

The pattern was relatively easy to work with, but as I understand, it requires sewing the bodice and skirt together, treating the lining and fabric layers as one, which would not look very nice on the inside. So what I did differently, was that I sewed the fabric skirt to fabric bodice and the lining skirt to the lining bodice, so basically it looks like a dress you could wear inside out as well. I then sewed the zipper only to the fabric layer and folded the lining layer away very close to the zipper and hand stitched it into place.

For the boning I used rigilene boning and I sewed it onto the seam allowances of the lining with a wide zig-zag stitch. The pattern requires for plastic or metal wire boning to be sewn into cases, but I think the rigilene worked just fine with less fuss. According to some instructions I found online, I melted the sharp ends of each strip with a lighter, so they became smooth and would not cause any discomfort by poking through the fabric against the skin. On the bust, I cut the strips short enough to end right under the bust, not run over it. Since the seams are curved over the bust, I didn’t see a way to sew the boning on such seams.

I cut size 8 according to the size chart and Stefania’s measurements, but there must be too much ease in the pattern, because I had to take in quite a lot on the bodice, maybe a size smaller would have worked better (I am still waiting for a sewing disaster to happen to force me to consider making a muslin).

A few photos here of the finished dress lying flat on my sofa:

The inside of the dress

I didn’t realize the quality of the last two photos was so bad until I opened them in my computer but then it was too late. I am keeping my fingers crossed to get some decent pics from Stefania soon!

The belt detail of the dress is sewn into the zipper seam and then just attached with a few hand stitches at every seam of the bodice. When worn, it fits snugly around the waist, not loose as it looks when not worn.

I got a lot of self assurance with this project and celebrated the success with…. fabric shopping and a glass of cool rosé wine with a friend from the Estonian Embassy in Athens 🙂