Sunday, May 30, 2010

Kimono Reform to Burda Jacket

This jacket in the April issue of Burda Style caught my eye.

The style of this jacket, waist length with a band and shirt type sleeves is what I have always referred to as a “battle jacket”. At least that is what we called in back in the early 70’s when my mom made me one, and a matching skirt, out of purple velvet. It was my piano recital outfit. (I hated recitals!) Burda showed the jacket made in a snakeskin embossed fabric and the copy reads. “Our short blouson jacket with buckled band collar, hem band, and wide lapels is very daring indeed. You’ll be dangerously sexy in the shimmering, beige/brown reptile print.”
I didn’t particularly like the brown snakeskin fabric, but it got me thinking about the other colors in snake skins; greens, grays, yellows, and it reminded me of fabric I had in my stash. It was a jacquard weave of grayed greens and yellows in an abstract diamond pattern. And many snakes’ skins have diamond patterns. I also liked that the wide lapels of the jacket were sewn on, instead of cut on, because the fabric was very narrow. There’s an illustrated sewing course for this jacket in the supplement which was very helpful. I tried to use my bodice sloper to adjust the pattern for my unique shape, but I still ended up making a lot of fitting adjustments while sewing it together. In the mean time, based on Vicki's and Myrna's recommendations, (Thanks ladies!) I ordered the self-published book De-Mystifying Fit by Lynda Maynard (order info at Kenneth King’s website book). This book is the only one I am aware of on the subject of how to use a personal sloper/moulage to adjust commercials patterns. It is very good, with pictures and step by step descriptions of the process using many different patterns and the slopers of many different sized/shaped ladies. Reading it, I learned what mistakes I was making, so hopefully the next time I do this, I will be more successful.

The hardest part of making this jacket was finding the two matching buckles, one 2” and one 1”. I finally found them in a shop on Philadelphia’s “Fabric Row” on the PR weekend.

Actually the fabric I used for the jacket was originally a Japanese kimono.

One I had purchased specifically for refashioning. Refashioning old garments into new ones is currently very popular. One variation is to take kimonos apart and reuse the fabric to make western style garments. It is called Kimono reform/restyling. The Japanese pattern magazine Lady Boutique has an article in each issue titled "Restyling Kimono". They show the original kimono, the directions for drafting the pattern and the finished garment. These articles and the wonderfully unique prints and weaves of kimono fabrics inspired me to try my own version of kimono remake.

Kimonos are constructed of about 12 yards of 14 or 15 inch wide fabric. There is very little cutting into the actual yardage when the kimono is constructed. So when it is taken apart you will have several very long pieces of fabric (equivalent to approximately 3 yards of 56” wide fabric). The patterns for the western clothing in the reform books and articles are designed specifically for 14 inch fabric and often incorporate unique seaming to provide enough width for a garment section or to incorporate the wonderful large motifs printed on some kimonos into the finished garments. I also find the patterns and the seam lines useful as ideas for solving a problem when I do not having enough fabrics for a pattern I am making or when I accidentally cut or serge a hole in the main piece of a garment.

Kimono fabrics range from lovely printed silks, and shibori dyed cottons to wool, rayon and synthetic jacquard weaves. Prices for vintage collectable kimonos can be thousands of dollars, but recent ones of less expensive fabrics are much more affordable for kimono reform. Still the only ones that I could afford, and actually liked, were the wool blend, jacquard weaves found in recent vintage men’s everyday kimono. The colors are subtle and the patterns interesting. I bought a couple from an Etsy vendor for $20 - 35 a kimono. The fabric from this one is a synthetic blend in a jacquard pattern of grey green and yellow. The seller described it as being from the Showa Era, which is from 1926 -1989. Doing some research I found that “during the Showa period the Japanese government curtailed silk production by taxing it to support the military buildup. Kimono designs during that that time became less complex and material was conserved.” Interesting how war has affected textile production and clothing styles in all cultures. The original construction sewing of this kimono was impressive. It was all hand stitched and all raw edges were hand overcast.

This took so long to make, it is now too hot to wear it. It will go in the closet until cooler weather comes back. Now to do some warm weather sewing.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Pattern Review Weekend in Philadelphia

I just returned from a long weekend in Philadelphia, organized by and attended by over 40 other sewing enthusiasts. We shopped for fabric, had show and tell of garments we had sewn, took a workshop with Kenneth King and viewed couture garments in the Philadelphia Museum of Art collection. It was wonderful! We stayed at the Sheraton Society Hill Hotel, located a short walk from streets lined with historic buildings, unique shops and restaurants. The weather was cool and dry. I took my camera, but ended up with only two pictures, neither very good. For pictures you will need to visit the blogs of other attendee such as LindsayT and Cidell Okay, part of the reason I don't have pictures is a bunch of us skipped the Museum activities to drive to the brick and morter location of our favorite on line fabric source It was worth it. Not only did they have all the web site fabrics, there were others at very nice discount prices, like silk prints for $2.00 yard.

This was in addition to the whole day spent fabric shopping, riding about town in a yellow school bus that looked like it was decommissioned from daily school runs, and was being used as inexpensive group transportation. For the price it was a value.

First stop that day was “Fabric Row”; several blocks of small, family run, fabric stores along 4th Street.
There I bought boucle trims and elastic with beaded edges for $0.60/yard, belt buckle covering kits, which are not available anywhere around where I live, and a "curve square" by Solange Brien, This tool is part french curve and part square ruler. It has both metric and imperial measurements along straight and curved edges, with slots for marking buttonholes and seam allowances. It will be great for adding seam allowances to Burda patterns after I lay them out on the fashion fabric.

We returned to the bus and rode over the river to Cherry Hill, NJ where London Textiles was located. This is a fabric wholesaler that opened for a couple hours just for us and let us dig through refrigerator size boxes of remnants. The remnants were 2 to 9 yards long, nice quality fabrics for $5 to 6 dollars per yard depending on the fabric content. The only rule was you had to buy the full piece. I found some teal burgundy crosswoven silk/wool remnants of a fabric I had been coveting at Waechters Silk Shop web site last fall. Also several silk prints in the teal and grey color combos I love, and a burgundy wool tweed.
The last stop was Jomar and by this time I was getting tired. It is one of those cavernous warehouse places with what looks like manufacturers lots of un-salable or past season clothes, cheap shoes, small appliances, and fabric. Some of the clothes had Chadwicks and Metro labels. I get mail order catalogs for these brands. A voluptuous under clad woman trying on 4 inch high heel, bright pink patent leather stilettos asked my opinion of the shoes. I murmured something about “lovely bright color”. They were great street shoes, if you know what I mean. I found a couple of soft wool twill weaves in colors I use as basics; brown based cream, grey, and a mid hue greens, all for $6.00/yard. These wools have already been through the washer and dryer and are destined to be used for pants.

Some learning’s from my trip:

-Fabric is heavy
-The space under the seats in school buses does not hold much fabric.
- I am able to skip lunch for more fabric shopping time. Maybe I can develop a "Fabriholic Diet"
- Internet friends with similar fabric taste are horrible enablers when they are shopping with you in person.
- Stores don't always have public restrooms.
- Ben Franklin is over exposed in Philly – His face appears in signs, on top of building, in sculptures, and of course on money

I was feverishly working on this Burda jacket (March 2010 issue , pattern 120) before the trip, hoping to have it finished in time to wear with my second pair of Burda"carrot pants". But I ran into fitting issues. I was able to find coordinating belt buckles in the right sizes on "Fashion Row" so maybe it is just as well I didn't finish it before the trip.

I hope to get it done soon.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Pants Play

Sewing Classes really cut into sewing time. I just completed Pattern Drafting II class - skirt and pants. I now have a pants sloper that fits me wonderfully, especially in the waist, hip and “saddle” or crotch area. Using the waist and hip area of this pants sloper, I can draft skirts or I can combine my bodice sloper with a skirt draft to create fitted sheath type dresses. This class and the other pattern drafting class were taught by Annette Hickman, a mainstay on the G Street Fabric stores teaching staff, and an excellent teacher. Typically sewing class attendees are all women. One of the students in this class was a 13 year old Asian boy, “J” who is interested in fashion design and who sews clothing for his mother and sister. His presence caused a bit of scrambling on the part of the female attendees, especially those that had expected to have their muslin fit while wearing only underwear. The second class everyone showed up with close fitting exercise/yoga shorts which maintained modesty, but don't add bulk. The young man drafted a pants pattern based on his father’s measurements and we got to watch Annette fit the muslin on his father.

It was done very professionally and with respect for personal dignity. Annette is a great advocate for "reading the creases" of the fabric in areas like the crotch and underarm where is it difficult, and downright dangerous to be sticking pins to take up excess fabric or scissor to snip too tight seams. The body heat and moisture in those areas acts like a little steam iron. For example when fitting my drafted crotch curve, which was not deep enough, the muslin fabric bunched up in that area. After taking off the muslin we looked at where the fabric was creased because of the poor fit. Annette instructed me to sew the new crotch seam along the lowest crease line. In my situation and several of the other attendees, the new seam gave me a perfect fit. Thanks to J’s dad for participating in the fitting exercise. I don't know many men that would have pants fitted in front of an audience. I personally learned a lot seeing a man fitted. Especially from the discussion about their saddle area shape and the resulting pattern, versus those of a female. I live with three guys, including two very tall and slender teenagers that are hard to buy pants for, so this was especially useful for me. I am now reading anything I can find on using slopers to alter commercial patterns. Past blog posts by Jkaori and HongKongShopper were very helpful, as was this article from the Threads magazine. Using sloper on commercial pattern

To use my pants sloper for the first time with a commercial pattern, I chose to make a wearable muslin of this pair of "carrot" pants from the Aug 2009 Burda. Carrot pants are named so because of their carrot-like shape–wide at the hips and tapered at the ankles.

SSASYCHIC has some helpful guidelines on wearing pleated pants which includes carrot pants. Pleated Pant Types

These pants have a shaped yoke and a shaped waistband, with front pleats and tapering legs. I chose this particular pattern because it was fitted in the waist and hip area with the pleats starting below the hip. A better silhouette for me than one with pleats starting at the waist. The pattern is in tall sizes. My sloper matched the seam lines in the hip and crotch area closely for the size 88. Good thing my self image is not tied to a size, that number is big! Weirdly, my front crotch length was 2 inches longer than the pattern. The back crotch length matched exactly. I checked the pattern markings and all the descriptions to see if the front waist was supposed to be lower than the natural waist. No indication, so I compromised and added 1” to the front crotch tapering to nothing at the side seam. The fabric used was a medium weight, but drapey twill weave ?rayon? off the $2.95 table at G Street. If you read blogs or pattern reviews by sewists that live near the DC area, you may have heard of the G Street $2.95 table. It is a wonderful source for low cost fabric. According to Annette the fabric on this table is remnants and pieces from NY clothing manufacturers. It arrives weekly on Thursdays, stuffed in bags, via tractor trailer truck. It is dumped on the receiving area floor and employees fold or roll it up into neat bundles. By Saturday the new arrivals are on the table, which is at least 40 feet long at the Rockville store. I have found both beautiful and beastly fabric on the table, but I always enjoy pilfering through the pile.

I certainly don't look like the model wearing these pants, but they are comfortable and fun to wear. I didn't really have the other items of clothing to style them like Burda did, or the way the fashion magazines are showing them for spring; with a fitted tank top under a vest, but you get the idea. The final pair will be in a med. grayish blue drapey blend so hopefully they will look a little slimmer than the cream ones. Sorry about the headless pictures,I was taking my own photos with a timer. My photographers were busy, No. 1 - blowing leaves out of the gutter, No. 2 on his way to Hampton Roads for his girlfriend's Jr. Prom and No. 3 at friends.

It is a beautiful day today, so next on the agenda is planting oriental lily bulbs, Dahlia tubers and gladiola bulbs in my flower beds. Gardening in my yard is a war against critters. I have to plant most bulbs in wire baskets to prevent them from becoming mole/vole treats. The wire mesh Easter baskets from the Dollar Store work great for this purpose otherwise I make my own out of chicken wire. Thinking of some of the jewelry I have seen that is knitted using metal wire, I wonder if I could knit my own wire planting pouches. Something to think about while I dig.