Friday, February 27, 2009

Summer stash

Having been home with my sick DD for the last few days, I've had plenty of time to contemplate my summer wardrobe. Ironically, I intended to go fabric shopping this week, which my daughter's illness prevented me from doing. So I shopped the stash. Surprise(?)! For almost every project I have in mind (that doesn't mean I'll get to it), I have the fabric right here.

For starters: Top/blouse fabrics.

The top linen print has been bought for a Duro-style top, BWOF 07/3 No. 103. I really ought to make this since I already meant to last year, and still love the fabric and the pattern.
The print bastiste, 2nd from top, might look good as a little drawstring blouse, BWOF 07/3 no. 107 or 108, another pattern I loved at first sight.
The rest are knit fabrics that I'm not quite decided on. The rust colored one might become the knot top from BWOF 07/5, no. 111, but I' not sure this style looks good on anyone over the age of 25... I also like the henley top from this year's January BWOF, no. 125.
Since I'm not sure how much sewing I'll get done, I'm not going to worry about using up all the stash!

Second, the bottoms.

The top one, a loosely woven linen, might become a wide skirt, maybe the wrap skirt no. 122 from BWOF 08/6.
The bottom is a really gorgeous linen-structure (probably not linen material, it is very supple and has some stretch) in brown shot through with yellow/gold. I'd like to make some cropped pants, hoping they'll not make my legs look too short. I'm considering BWOF02/5 no. 116A. I remember how I loved that issue. Suddenly a lot of the styles look so dated. When did that happen?
The middle ones could be for long shorts, maybe from Burda EF summer 2006. One's a stretch poplin, one's a linen structure, probably rayon material (I hope it's not all polyester).

Last, my treasure.
I bought this pure linen fabric, with a batic background and a floral print, to make a summer coat. Then again, how often do I wear a summer coat, especially one that's this pretty (have I said I love this fabric?)? Maybe a jacket? I like February BWOF's jacket no. 102. But I would have to cut up all the pretty flowers; as you can see below, the're almost 35 cm (about one foot) long.

Also, I have 2 meters of this fabric and would hate to "waste" it by choosing a style that doesn't use it all up. A less tailored jacket in this flowery fabric - might look dowdy, I'm afraid.
A dress could be wonderful, but I'm rather pale, and this fabric has all that cream color base. All right in a jacket that I could wear something bright underneath, but in a dress?

Help! I need a stylist!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

German sewers - like mother, like daughter

Handmade (Gay) asked if all German mothers sew their children's carnival costumes. Not at all. Most costumes are store-bought, and you can indeed buy them everywhere: the grocery store, ALDI, department stores, toy stores... And there is at least one huge specialty shop in Cologne that has every costume, uniform, and all the props imaginable.
Judging from the online sewing community and the very lively fabric markets, it may seem as if a lot of people sew, but I personally only know (of) a couple who do. One of these is a cousin of mine who, along with me, sort of continues our family's tradition.
When my mother and her four sisters were little, they had no money for clothes, but my grandma sewed them matching dresses for all major occasions (sewing at night when the family was asleep). Later, all but one sister sewed and made each other suits and dresses. My mother told me recently that the one sister who didn't sew was the most fastidious; everything had to be sewn "just so"!
When I was little, my mother sometimes made holiday dresses for me, and she sewed for my grandma who by then had shrunk a bit, with a rounded back, and therefore couldn't wear RTW. When I got older, I started to sew a little, but also started "ordering clothes" from my mother, so much better than trying to find RTW that has the right styles and colors.
When I was a teenager and about to go on a foreign exchange year in the USA, she sewed me a small wardrobe, a couple of shirts, very short shorts (that I wasn't allowed to wear at an American high school, of course!), and a shiny brocade skirt for dress-up. In hindsight this was an unusually high number of home-sewn garments; maybe she wanted to send as much of her with her almost 16-year-old daughter as she could!
These days, I hear the usual "You know you could buy something like this very cheaply, don't you?", but she also takes a lively interest in everything I make and sometimes even sits with me and helps me put the finishing touches on a garment.
We also share one sewing machine. She always had a treadle machine with zig zag stitching as the most sophisticated feature. About fifteen years ago my dad gifted her an electric machine. When I wished for one as well, she offered to let me have it; I only have to give it back for a day now and then when she has new curtains or so; other than home dec she hasn't done any sewing in a long time.
And it's only the internet sewing community that's made me realize that a 15 yo non-brand sewing machine isn't the height of technical sophistication!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Second, the angel

I have a few issues with blogger. How come if I start writing a post on Sunday, finish it on Wednesday and hit "publish" on Thursday, it shows Sunday's date? Also, why won't my pictures show up where I want them? Then again, I'm rather computer illiterate, so things can only get better.

Tomorrow's Ash Wednesday, so I'd better finish my costume reviews. The angel was also self-drafted, roughly along the lines of the witch costume, only bigger for my DS. I had intended to have some folds underneath the blue neck band/facing for a slightly billowy effect, and I thought I'd drafted it accordingly, but when I sewed the blue band/facing to the front, the lengths fit exactly without any ease. Oh well. I like how it turned out, so it's all right. When we went to Thursday's parade, DS rode his bike, wings flying behind him, which was a really nice effect!

A little note on the wings which turned out quite well - stiff enough to stand out, supple enough not to break or crease. I used the fashion fabric for front and back (all polyester satin), interfaced the outwards part with fleece fabric and quilted in some "feathers", and interfaced the inwards part with a very stiff interfacing meant for bags (incidentally, not stiff enough for bags really, but great for wings). Then I sewed it all together with a tight zig-zag-stitch (no serger here, regrettably) and hand-stitched it to the back of the costume.

The kindergarten party was a great success!

Friday, February 20, 2009

First, the witch

As with the vampire cape below, I let my creative juices flow and tried some random association with "witch", coming up with... Hänsel and Gretel, both of my children's favorite fairy tale for bedtime reading (and yes, they sleep soundly). As you may know, that witch bakes and eats children. Eeeeew... no!

Back to the start, then. A broom for flying. Check. A black cat for company. Check. Moon and stars for her favorite, nighttime. Check. A few pumpkins and bats thrown in for general scariness (scary pumpkins??). Check.

I drafted the pattern in the simplest lines possible, a T-shape with cut-on sleeves, to save time and space for the decorative work. The pumpkins and the bristle part of the broom were appliquéd with a fleece underlining, an effect I liked for the pumpkins but not for the broom, which was possibly too large for this kind of padding. The rest of the applications were simply ironed on and the stitched around.

Witchy enough?

BWOF 3/09

Isn't it a giddy feeling to hold a hot-off-the-presses BWOF magazine in your hands? Even for me, that I've never used the current issue for my sewing, it warrants a nice cup of coffee and some dedicated dreaming of the closet that might be...
This month I didn't see a lot of patterns that immediately "spoke" to me. Of those, one (no. 114) is the typically work-intensive jacket/coat, with trench details on top that I shy away from, afraid it would take half a year's worth of my sewing time, and a full year's worth of my sewing mojo. Maybe I ought to quit worrying and just do it.
The second pattern (dress no. 116) belongs in my beloved 1940's design era, and also has some flattering lines for those short of leg and long of! It is, however, a petite size, which I am nowhere near, being about 5'8''. Altering this first to a normal size, then for a long torso, seems impossible, especially with the design's lines being as they are.
Even if I never make up these two patterns though, I know I'll keep going back to this issue and someday find just the pant/skirt/blouse I have in mind in this old BWOF magazine, vintage 2009!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

German carnival. Made famous by BWOF.

First, the costumes.
The witch and angel costumes were finished in time. Thank you for your optimism! Seeing as I started writing the second part of this post first, and it's, ahem, rather lengthy, I'll leave the costume review for another time.

Second, German carnival.
Before my vacation, I listened to Cidell and Trena's podcast (, and said to my husband, "Why on earth would two Americans discuss German carnival costumes?", not realizing that good old German Burda which is now Burda World of Fashion obviously only translates its content, but has the same patterns all over the world, including carnival costumes. Duh! So Trena's comment on my last post inspired me to write up a little cultural history and information on German carnival. I am by no means an expert, but I have lived near Cologne all my life, which is one of the epicentres of German carnival, so here goes:

Street carnival
This is where we went today. In our area, every town has several carnival parades, taking place on different days, usually between today (Thursday) and Tuesday, Wednesday being Ash Wednesday, the beginning of lent and thus the official end of the carnival season.

The parades consist of groups on foot and floats. There are short parades, like today's, with maybe 10 foot groups and 10 floats or so, going for 1 or two miles through a rural/suburbian area, the floats being small devices, maybe 4-6 metres high at most, pulled by small tractors. The big parades go on for hours, have several hundred groups, and cover a lot of ground. Those are also shown live on national TV.

The people on the floats and the foot groups throw candy and flowers. The audience is expected to shout "Kamelle" (Candy) and "Strüsscher" (flowers) to be thus rewarded. You may have to kiss the person giving you flowers if he/she is of the opposite sex ("Bützchen"). There is a lot of Bützchen going on, legalized by carnival. Firing up the mood is also a lot of loud carnival music, usually in the Cologne dialect (, and lots of Cologne specialty beer ("Kölsch"). Helped along by this party mood, street carnival also means large crowds of costumed people meeting in traditional carnival places, usually in the city centre, and dancing, singing, drinking and Bützchen-ing. You couldn't be in Cologne anywhere now without meeting costumed, singing people in various states of intoxication.

This word translates to "women's carnival" and means that today in many towns the women symbolically enter City Hall, take the keys from the mayor, and rule for the day. This made sense when the mayors and city governors were all male, and it's still carried on as a tradition. In offices, women cut off the men's ties, also symbolizing cutting off male dominance, I guess. When my parents first moved here, my dad wore his good tie on Weiberfastnacht and was in for a nasty surprise! Here, in carnival homecountry (not in all of Germany) most of the public life shuts down early on Weiberfastnacht, and school children go in costume and usually also have a big party at school today. On Monday, called "Rosenmontag", schools, administrations, and most businesses/shops are closed. It's sort of a public holiday by general consent.
Session carnival
A large part of carnival is made up of gatherings with eating, drinking and watching a show consisting of this season's star acts in (carnival) music, (carnival) comedy, (carnival) dancing troupes, and an appearance of the local carnival royalty (prince, princess and farmer or maiden, which can all three be men!) with their royal guard (a lot of carnival takes place in uniforms; that's supposed to have started several hundred years ago when the Cologne area was occupied by the French).
Phew! Not sure you really wanted to know all this, but at least now you have an idea why carnival is such a big deal that BWOF has to publish costume patterns all over the world!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Creatures of the night

Hello again! I'm back from our vacation. As good intentions go... I have managed to sew some, put my feet up some more (after chasing the children around all day, of course!), but have not completely finished the childrens' costumes - the witch needs some elastic and hemming, and the angel needs wings. (I have tried to persuade my son that angels don't necessarily have wings, to no avail, of course.) There is also a deadline; this Thursday will be "Weiberfastnacht" which is one of the high days of German carnival, and the whole kindergarten will be in costume.

But... as I promised I'd be back after my vacation, I didn't want to leave this spot unattended until I finish the costumes, and will give a little retrospective on my son's vampire cape and a preview on the witch. (Gotta love it when a three-year-old goes all dangerous and "witchy"!)

First, the cape (and the ds):

It looks a bit limp here, but it has nice, bat-like spikes all around. I searched high and low for inspiration - what to make (to wear) for a vampire party? For a 5yo? A cape, but with what? All right, try free association... Death? hmmm... Graves? Headstones? Coffins? Maybe not... Blood? Not too much... In the end all that remained was the bat motive, and I hope it doesn't come off as too Batman-like!
I drafted this freehand, as I am wont to do whenever possible - childrens' costumes are a good opportunity for this. It's basically a half circle - or more like a half oval, the measurements derived from ds's spread out arm-span and shoulder-to-knee-length. I used black and red polyester satin, and Vliesofix - an iron-on-interfacing - for applying the bat. I drew the bat freehand as well, and I'm sure not very correctly! I used a fairly long velcro strip on the neck for extra party-fastness, and afterwards discovered this makes the cape truly one-size-fits-all; when I have a dark moment, I can wear it as a capelet, and it fits quite well!

This may well have been my last back project review for a while.
I'm a bit scared - now I'll have to start sewing faster I guess! So here are at least two teaser pictures from the next project - my material collection and inspiration drawings for the witch costume.
Live pictures to follow! Happy sewing!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Girls in the forest

One last show-and-tell before I leave on vacation; hopefully I'll have something new to write up then!

This dress marks my return to (more frequent) garment sewing last year. I figured a dress for little el might fit the bill of being fun, fast, and satisfying my decorating urges.

Pattern: Ottobre spring 2008, model no. 3.
Size: probably the 92 with generous seam allowances!
Fabric: linen and scraps from Koenigreich der Stoffe, label appliqué and border with forest motif by Farbenmix also from KdS, just like the squirrel buttons.
Difficulties: I might give up on lined bodices and just line the whole dress in the future; I can't seem to wrap my head around getting it all sewn together neatly on the inside. This lining as drafted also doesn't include the armscyes, which you're supposed to just fold inwards and sew. This looked stretched out and less than neat even from the outside, so I put another decorative border on the seam allowance. Fiddly to say the least, with the little armholes already sewn together.

I sort of had in mind a whole forest-themed wardrobe for DD, but only got as far as the next dress:

Other than the front crossing over in the other direction, and a slightly slimmer cut to account for different figures, this is an exact copy of the turquoise dress posted earlier (actually, I sewed this first, so it's the original). I have to admit, I get bored easily; before I've even come close to perfecting one pattern I'd rather go and try another. But I diverted myself by playing with fabrics and notions, so this was okay to do twice.

Pattern: Ottobre winter 2007, model no. 9
Size? The pattern only goes up to size 92 - about 1 1/2 years - and my DD was 2 1/2 at the time, so I probably scaled it up a bit.
Fabric: green small whale (sp?) soft corduroy, and cotton flower print for the half lining, from Red-and-white gingham bias tape. Small ladybug button and hedgehog appliqué from Karstadt.
I'd recommend this pattern; no fiddly closures, few buttons, easy to alter for bigger or smaller toddler tummies.

This makes me itch to start another overdecorated girls' project. I detect a pattern here!
On another note, I'd appreciate any input on yesterday's posting question. See you in two weeks!


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