Sunday, September 30, 2012

Fabric shopping in Italy

A little while ago I was lucky enough to spend two fabulous weeks in Italy. High on my "To Do" list (crazy I know) was fabric shopping. I had been warned that the fabric was expensive but I was determined to buy Italian fabric in Italy and so I did.

First stop:
Casa Del Tessuto, Rome

Street entrance
This place is enormous. There are bolts of fabric two stories high with everything from fine silks and wools to home ware fabrics. A word of advice, have a pretty good idea of what you want before you get there otherwise it's completely overwhelming. And be prepared to ask for what you need because it impossible to see the fabric without help. Also be prepared for the prices especially for silk and wool.

Next stop:
Casa dei Tessuti, Florence
view as you walk in the front door

While Casa Del Tessuto feels like a warehouse, this lovely store is a step back in time with lovely old fashioned service. The service is very personalised which can also be a little intimidating if you're just browsing but the fabric are gorgeous. They have the most wonderful selection of lace and linen. Once again be prepared for the prices, they are much higher than I'm use to.

Last stop:
small fabric store, Milan (sorry, can't recall details - not helpful, I know)

This was a stumble upon small fabric store in the fabulously upmarket shopping district near the Duomo. Again, the prices were up there so I immediately gravitated towards the remnants on sale and snagged a delightful piece of Italian made silk blend fabric.

If any one else has some tips, I'd love to hear about them for future trips.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Inspiration Board: 1930s/40s glamour loungewear

1940s loungewear

1940s loungewear by sewindigo featuring pink slippers

A word about housecoats (also known as dust coats) - not too glamorous sounding are they? But don't confuse them with the everyday "dressing gown" we know now. In the past, dressing gowns were  associated with male clothing. Housecoats were a feminine item, popular in the 1940s. They were used to put over day clothes to protect them when doing chores in the home, hence the long sleeves and longer hemlines.

Housecoats were usually made of a lightweight fabric or sometimes quilted for warmth and would fasten down the front with either a zipper or buttons.  The red housecoat in this board is by Mainboucher from 1950s (in the Met Museum). Hardly a frumpy style "dressing gown"! The McCall housecoat pattern is from 1939.

Overtime the purpose of the housecoat changed and women starting wearing them in the evening when hosting guests. The term housecoat is rarely used now has merged with the dressing gown into a unisex item worn at home. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Duchess of Windsor as a designer

While the controversial  Duchess of Windsor had a reputation as a woman of style, I never knew she was a pattern designer. Did you?

From the late 1950s and well into the 60s, the Duchess of Windsor worked with the Spadea pattern company to design patterns. Spadea patterns have a reputation of being some of the best pattern produced in the 20th century and worked with a number of American designers and celebrities over the years. If you're interested, you can find an excellent overview of the history and design of Spadea patterns here.

Here's some examples of the Duchess of Windsor patterns and I think if you look back through some of her photographs they definitely reflect here sense of fashion.

one of mine from 1960


Sunday, May 27, 2012

Fitting a commercial pattern: Pants

Recently I  attended my second class on fitting and modifying a commercial pattern. Last time it was a dress, this time pants.

I have wanted to make the Colette Clover pants for sometime - so cute and versatile but I was intimidated mainly because they are PANTS and they are fitted! Plus I've never made a pair of pants before.


So best to get help from professionals - I'm glad I did. So, I completed a muslin (in calico) based on the sizing on the chart I thought. Not good - too small around the hips and way too low at the back. Also there's something strange going on in the crotch area of the pattern and it was a bit full at the front.

Source - not my pants btw
So quite a few modifications needed and a second muslin will have to be done. Having read other blogs on the Clover pants, fitting this pattern (or maybe all pants) can be an issue but when people get it right, they seemed to be happy with them.

My suggestions:-
- definitely make a test garment (ideally in a similar stretch fabric)
- Colette as a series of blogs for her Clover Sewalong which includes fabric select and fitting - definitely worth a look

Despite making the muslin in calico (I couldn't find any cheap fabric with the right stretch), I will be using fabric with stretch for comfort. So I'll be checking the fit again in the fashion fabric. I want to include stretchable interlining in the pants to help minimise the stretch fabric growing as I wear it (I hope). And I'll be lining them for luxury and comfort. This could be overkill but I'll see how we go.

I've found a thick French blue cotton with some stretch which will be excellent for my first attempt. Fingers crossed.....

Monday, May 21, 2012

Finished garment: Vintage red sheath dress

You may remember I finished a couple of courses recently:-
- Susan's Khaljie's online The Couture Dress course
- Fitting a commercial pattern course

I decided to apply what I had learned to a vintage sheath dress pattern I'd collected some time ago. It ticked all the right boxes for us curvy girls:-

  • the bodice and skirt darts allowed for figure flattering fitting
  • the skirt was not quite pencil straight so was hip/thigh skimming
  • the 2 side slits allowed for ease of movement
  • there was a nice V neck feature at the back of the dress
  • there were some subtle tucks at the waist making the stomach area more flattering
  • I left the overskirt option off but having seen the dress, it could be quite cute in the right fabric
So to the fabric and construction:-

  • Fashion fabric: Red/black digital print cotton with a subtle sateen finish. Originally I was thinking silk but I chose a lower cost option so I could test the outcome and also wear it more often. I also wanted a slightly retro look in the fabric
  • Interlining: lightweight cotton (not my best choice as it did not have great body and was difficult to handle but then I did want a washable option)
  • Lining: Red poly acetate - cost related choice again but it was a pain to handle (especially during cutting and marking)
Not the greatest photos but I promise to post photos of me wearing the dress...
Front - boat neck fitted bodice

Side view
Side view - hand inserted side zip

Back view - V neckline

Here's what I learned:-
  • After the muslin fitting, I spent ages adjusting the muslin (darts etc) and reassembling the toile to make sure I had the fit correct. It was worth it. It was so fantastic to have a garment that fitted regardless of size or shape. It make a huge difference
  • I followed Susan's assembly techniques pretty much to the letter. Hand basting, interlining, inserting the lining by hand - the whole nine yards. Again, it was so worth it - the dress is an absolute dream to wear! The interlining and lining makes the garment feel more "substantial", "luxurious" and comfortable to wear.
  • I enjoyed the handsewing! Not so much the thread tracing but inserting the lining and zip by hand was easier than I thought and you get more control. Even prick stitching the lining so it didn't roll past the fashion fabric was really satisfying to do. 
  • I will absolutely use this muslin pattern again. I could use it to adjust the front neckline for variety. Because the shape is so classic - it lends itself to variation in fabric and some alterations eg. sleeves.
  • I learned lots of patience and I can still hear my other half say "is it worth it?" The answer is "yes, absolutely!".
  • I've resolved to make fewer garment (not than I'm a prolific sewer anyway) but make them better. I'm aiming for a couple of garments a season. 
How do you feel about the garments you make? Which ones do you enjoy wearing often or make again?

Monday, May 7, 2012

My Sewing (and Knitting) "To Do" list

I'm not a "Do To" list kind of person. I tend to flit from project to project depending on what takes my fancy at the time.

But....I started one on this blog. Mostly to give me visual inspiration and keep me focussed - I get distracted easily by other possibilities.

You can  find my list on this page (we're heading into winter now). I'll continue to add to it but the main purpose is to  do a good job on things on the list and not get too ambitious. Let's see.....

Do you have a "To Do" list? What projects have you got planned for the upcoming season?

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Inspiration Board: Vintage Cocktail Bodice

Here's a rather OTT inspiration board thanks mostly to the Dolce & Gabbana crystal  bustier. The basis for the inspiration is this lovely versatile fitted (and boned) top pattern for cocktail or evening wear. The fabulous thing about this pattern is:

  • it has a number of variations to it ie. strapless, shoestring straps, train (unusual), gathered bust and a shoulder drape
  • it can be used to fit with any skirt options eg, full, pencil or feathered as in the board

Do you think this pattern is too over the top to be practical? Do you like the variations? Have you seen this kind of train on a bodice before?

PS Don't you love these shoes?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Vintage patterns: Survey results

Sometime ago you may remember I asked for some feedback from you on buying vintage patterns.

Firstly, I would like to say a big "thank you" those of you who kindly took the time to respond. As a vintage pattern collector and seller, it's really useful to understand what sewers look for when buying a vintage pattern.

I would like to share some of the survey results you may find interesting.

1. 80% of respondents use vintage patterns. Those who don't use them tend to be concerned about the fit of vintage sizes (they can run small).

2. The most important criteria (in percent) for respondents when selecting vintage patterns are....

Overall design and style is the most important criteria however other criteria that features is larger sizing, looking for design aspects that not available on modern patterns and a complete pattern set.

Once again, thanks for your help. It's great to get the feedback. I've left the survey open until the end of April in case anyone else would like to participate.

I hope you've found this interesting. I know I did.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Inspiration Board: Jacques Griffe cocktail dress

I'm mad about the vintage patterns of the French designer Jacques Griffe of the 50s. He designs such beautifully elegant clothes and his evening and cocktail dresses are superb and a favourite of mine.

Here's one of his cocktail dresses with a wonderfully full skirt and deep V neckline. It was wonderful to find a photo showing the pattern made up as a wedding dress.

Do you have a favourite pattern designer? Or pattern brand? Do you collect any particular patterns?

Friday, April 6, 2012

Anyone making an Easter Bonnet?

To celebrate the holidays (if you're feeling crafty) here's a vintage pattern for making Easter hats from the Tacoma News Tribune -Society in 1963. There's a wide brimmed version and a pillbox version. Maybe you'll feel inspired...

Happy Easter everyone. I hope you have a safe and happy holiday. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Fitting commercial patterns

As part of my effort to continually improve my sewing skills, I attended a Modification of Commercial Patterns course here with the delightful Megan.
The course involved us (a small group) making and bringing a toile (or muslin) made from the pattern of our choice.  The the selection was varied and ranged from tops, blouse, princess seamed dress and my vintage pattern dress without the overskirt (I was ambitious to say the least). I selected this pattern for these reasons:-
  • Basically I liked it and thought it would make a great basic shift dress. It also has a very cute V neckline at the back
  • My shape suits this style but I've never been brave enough to make it because of fit concerns
  • Vintage pattern sizing is very different to commercial sizing so custom fitting is very useful
  • I liked the boat neck but wasn't sure it would suit me
  • I wanted to tackle something challenging (typical)
1950s Simplicity pattern dress 
We then each had a fitting and Megan talked us through the adjustments for each toile. Once the adjustments are made to the toile, they are transferred back to the pattern for future reference. I really enjoyed the process and here's what I learned:-
  • custom fitting and adjustments can make the difference between frumpy (thinking of myself here) and fabulous, seriously. Small adjustments make a huge difference in the look of the garment, even in the toile.
  • Every commercial pattern will need some adjustment - no two bodies are the same and some patterns aren't well designed either.
  • You can't do this yourself. You do need help.
  • If you make the effort on a "basic" pattern eg. pants, dress, jacket etc., you should be able to use this pattern again and again, knowing it fits well. 
  • Making the toile gives you a sense of freedom because you can experiment on cheap fabric and then have confidence cutting into your expensive fabric. 
Some of the adjustments made to my toile were:-
  • The dart was lowered. I did a FBA prior to making the toile and made a hash of the dart...
  • Some of the fullness from the FBA was taken in the bodice
  • The neckline was lowered a little (it was too high)
  • The armhole was enlarged (too tight)
  • The allowance was eased across the hips
So, my toile is now in pieces. The next step is to transfer the adjustments back to the pattern, make the changes on the toile, refit to double check, then cut my fashion fabric. I'll keep you updated on the progress.

If you want to read more on making toile and fitting, go here. In the meantime, what are you thoughts on fitting and making a toile? Do you always make one? Only for expensive fabric? How do you check fit and make adjustments? Who helps you?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Colette Negroni pattern giveaway winner

I pleased to announce that the winner (randomly selected) of this giveaway is Lou. Congratulations. I'll pop your pattern in the post very soon.

Thank you so much for everyone for entering. I hope to run these more regularly over time.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Help! Why do you buy or not buy vintage patterns?

Dear readers

I need your help.

I would like some feedback on what affects your choices on buying patterns (vintage ones in particular)? I have a project in mind and would like your advice on vintage patterns? Could I ask for 2 minutes of your time to complete this survey. All responses are anonymous and confidential.

If you would prefer just to leave a comment, please feel free or drop me an email. Any feedback and advice is very welcome. I'll leave this survey active until the end of next week.

Click here to take survey

Thanks in advance for your help.

PS Don't forget to enter the Colette pattern giveaway here.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Inspiration Board: 1950s cocktail dress with train

Today I have two looks from the same gorgeous vintage McCalls cocktail dress pattern from the 1950s:-

This first look is sleek and modern with a classic silhouette of the dress focussing on the waist and feature train completed with a pair of killer red heels.

While this second look has a much more "lady-like' feel with the lace bodice, gloves the dainty turquoise kitten heels.
1950s lace bodice cocktails dress

1950s lace bodice cocktails dress by sewindigo featuring mid heels

Do you have any preferences for the look? What are your thoughts on the lace bodice and feature train? Do you prefer the pencil or flared skirt.

PS Don't forget to enter the Colette pattern giveaway here. If you already follow, just leave a comment letting me know you'd like to be in the running. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Colette pattern mid week giveaway

This week I'm giving away a brand new Colette Patterns Negroni Mens Shirt pattern. 

About the pattern:
Source: Colette Patterns

For men that like a classic, slightly retro shirt with a more modern cut, this shirt pattern is just the thing. The instructions will guide you gently through every step of creating a well-crafted casual shirt: felled seams, a lined back yoke, and sleeve plackets on the long sleeve version. Subtle details include a convertible collar (also known as a "camp collar") and midcentury style collar loop detail.
This shirt can be made in a variety of fabrics, such as crisp shirting, warm flannel for winter, or cool rayon for summer. Check out the pattern info for more details and suggested fabrics.
Version 1 has long sleeves finished with a placket and cuff. Version 2 has short sleeves.

To enter: Simply, do one of the following...
- Like Sew Indigo in Facebook  
- Like Sew Indigo at Etsy
- Follow this blog

Then leave a comment on this post letting me know you've entered. For extra chances to win, action two or more of the above items and again leave a comment letting me know. This is open to your friends and followers, so please feel free to tell them about the giveaway. The winner will be drawn at random next Thursday 22 March.

Good luck and thanks for entering!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Japanese Stylish Dress Book - Patten C

I saw this pattern made up sometime ago and it had been on my "To Do" list for summer and I recently bought this Liberty lawn especially for this pattern. Time to get sewing.

Liberty - Becci Navy/Red Tana Lawn

Being a fairly simple pattern, I decided to practise my new found dressmaking techniques. So.....

1. I traced the pattern. I always find this part a little tedious.

2. I made some pattern adjustments. Firstly I assumed the pattern did not include seam allowances - I'm never really sure but as the sizes are generally on the small side, I included seam allowances anyway. I also did a full bust adjustment (FBA).

3. I made a muslin to check fit and sizing.
No calico at the time so I improvised
4. I hand basted everything - yep's the proof...


So what did I learn:-
  • The FBA was probably a good idea. This was my first attempt at the adjustment, and I'm not sure I have this entirely right yet. Something a bit strange happens with the armscye. It seems so get shorter. The final top gaped under the arm a little. 
  • My bias technique is improving but still needs work. All the basting helped a lot. I read something recently about stretching the bias, I'll try this next time. 
  • Liberty lawn is a delight to work with.
  • I would definitely make this pattern again. 
Does anyone have any tips on the full bust adjustment? What method do you use? How do you keep the armscye under control? If you have a fuller bust do you do a FBA for every pattern?

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Making of Chanel Couture

This video has been around for a while but the couture process is fascinating. Enjoy.

Couture dressing making on L Plates

Let's face it - I'm not a particularly good sewer. I'm keen. I can follow instructions. I can put pieces together but somehow the clothes don't turn out as I imagined. The fit's not quite right and the fabric doesn't always work with the pattern design. The finished garment then gets relegated to the back of the closet. Sound familiar or is it just me?

You see, I'm mostly self taught. I kind of learned as I went along by reading and following pattern instructions (apart from a few short lessons - thank you Gay).

Recently I had a enforced rest and decided to use the time to improve my technical sewing knowledge and skills. So I enrolled in Susan Khajle's online course in the The Couture Dress and absolutely loved it. I learnt a heap of stuff. You can ask questions, take notes and revisit sections whenever you like - it's a great resource.

The Couture Course at
The approach is so entirely different from what I have learned in the past but it also make a whole lot more sense. Here's what I've learned:-
  • Respect the grain. 
    • If you don't understand the fabric and the fabric grain and take particular care when lining the pattern pieces up on the grain, the garment will never sit right, ever.
  • Focus on the stitching/seam line, not the cutting line. 
    • The seam line is what determines the fit of the dress, not the cutting line. Leaving extra seam allowance will allow for fit adjustments.
  • Make a muslin. 
    • This will allow you to test the garment fit and make any changes before cutting into your expensive fashion fabric. It can then be used as your pattern again later.
  • Hand baste, hand baste, hand baste.
    • Yes, time consuming but you regain control of what you're sewing the the machine. At least I do anyway.
  • Interlining and lining
    • Gives more body and luxury to the garment. You can also hide construction elements like hand stitching or reinforcing pieces. 
  • Hand stitching the zip
    • Looked a whole lot easier than trying to get a machine stitched zipper right. But that may be in Susan's capable hands, I'll report back when I've tried it. 
  • Lastly...take the time, be patient and enjoy the process.  Oh and now I know why these dresses cost so much!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Liebster Blog Award

I was so surprised and flattered to receive a Liebster Blog Award from the lovely Evelyn of Hand Sewn Home Grown from her blog about sewing and gardening.

What is the Liebster blog award you ask? Good question. The origins are unclear but it's a method to showcase blogs with fewer than 200 followers. "Liebster" is a German word for favourite. I was a little uncertain about these Awards as it has a "chain-mail" feel to it - remember those from school?

However, there is a difference...The difference is that someone has taken the time to read and appreciate your blog and let other people know. When there are so many blogs out there, it's nice to get the recognition. So here are the "rules" (no pressure. the choice to participate is yours)....

1 - thank your Liebster blog award presenter on your blog. 
2 - link back to the blogger who presented the award to you. 
3 - copy/paste the blog award on your blog. 
4 - present the liebster blog award to 5 blogs (with 200 followers or less). 
5 - let them know they have been chosen by leaving a comment.

Here are my 5 Liebster Blog Award recipients:-

1. Gay from Handmade - And sew it seams... a wonderful and generous sewing teacher
2. Jane from Lempo Bee - a lovely blog about sewing, family and now photography
3. Nick from Collecting Feathers - a very clever and creative vintage lover
4. EvaDress - glamorous reproduction vintage patterns and pattern making
5. Megan from Style Meganzine - a cool style blog

Monday, February 27, 2012

Top 5 Gowns at the 2012 Oscars

Yipee more frocks! Here are my top 5 gowns at todays Academy Awards. What are yours?

Milla Jovovich wears an Elie Saab dress, Jacob & Co jewelry and an Edie Parker clutch.
Source: via Suellen on Pinterest

Rose Byrne wears a black sequined Vivienne Westwood gown with Chanel Fine Jewelry and Jimmy Choo shoes.
Source: via Suellen on Pinterest

Emma Stone hits the Oscar carpet in Giambattista Valli gown, complete with a large bow and Louis Vuitton jewels.
Source: via Suellen on Pinterest

Jessica Chastain wears a hand-embroidered black-and-gold gown from Alexander McQueen. 
Source: via Suellen on Pinterest

The Descendants star Judy Greer, wearing a Monique Lhuillier gown
Source: via Suellen on Pinterest
And Honourable Mention...for the dress (not the hair)..

Kelly Osbourne wears a Georges Hobeika gown and Montblanc jewellerySource: via Suellen on Pinterest

Monday, February 20, 2012

Inspiration Board: Cowl neck cocktail dress

You may remember my post about inspiration boards on some of my vintage patterns. I started this because...well...Polyvore is just plain fun and often it helps to see the potential in a pattern, especially a vintage one where we would prefer a contemporary look.

Cowl neck cocktail dress

Cowl neck cocktail dress by sewindigo featuring a silk dress

What I like about this pattern is it looks comfortable, elegant and effortless to wear. Depending on fabric and accessories it can be dressed up or dressed down. It's also flexible - waist tie, neck tie or no tie. It can be worn short or long with a side slit.

In a pretty floral print it could be a sweet summer dress, gorgeous in a vivid silk or perhaps a show stopper in sequins.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Costumes - Games of Thrones

One of my favourite programs at the moment is Game of Thrones. It's based on a series of novels called "A Song of Ice and Fire" by George RR Martin. Set in the the mythical Seven Kingdoms of the Westeros, it chronicles the violent struggles of the kingdom's noble families to gain control over the Iron Throne. Its brutal, complex and fascinating. You can read and see more about it here.

What I think is fascinating from a costume point of view, is that although the series has a medieval flavour to it, it also has a key fantasy element which allows the clothing to be less about period costume and more about the story and the characters. It's a blend of styles from many countries and period making it a fantastic looking series.

Costume Designer: Michele Clapton

Here's a fabulous video with Michele discussing the costume design detail for the series including the though process behind the colours, textiles and styles selected for the characters.

I really enjoyed it, I hope you do to.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Grace Kelly was fashion thrifty

Grace Kelly was thrifty with her approach to her clothes - apparently. She's also a huge movie style icon of mine. I have written about her previously here and her modern influence here.

In a recent newspaper article, her wardrobe mistress from Monaco, Maryel Giraden speaks of her as beautiful and stylish but frugal with her fashion. She would often re-wear favourites, get them altered or get a Ms Giraden to whip up a Vogue pattern she fancied. On the day she tragically plunged off the cliff on the Cote D'Azur, she was taking clothes to be altered and reworked for the next season's wardrobe.

One piece of Kelly fashion history that has captured my imagination was the dress she wore to her first meeting with her future husband, the Prince. It was 1955, Kelly was in the middle of a hectic trip to the Cannes Film Festival and the hotel electricity had gone out. With no way to iron an outfit, she pulled out the least crushed dress, a long sleeved floral silk taffeta dress inspired by a "easy to sew" McCall pattern from a pattern book. The fabric featured splashes of pink, yellow and white flowers on a black background.

Excerpt from "Grace Kelly Style"

Her hair was pulled back (no blow dry possible) and finished with a  floral headpiece. The effect was stunning and and the rest (as they say) is history....

Do you have any style or fashion icons? What do you think of the dress?
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