Saturday, August 31, 2013

Quick Hello from Fabric Wonderland

On our way back from my partner's hometown in the countryside today, we managed to stop by Kinna, the heart of the Swedish textile industry (which I vote should be re-baptized "Fabric Wonderland" from now on). Pretty amazing place.
I'm so glad such a place exists less than 100 KM from my house, because I was seriously getting concerned about the lack of fabric choices in Sweden. Today's trip was mostly business, though -- I was looking for a high quality double knit in a very particular shade for a custom dress I'm making. But mission failure today.
Panic! I can't find the right fabric!
Has anyone seen such a fabric around the internet or their local fabric shop? I'm looking for a high quality double knit or heavy-weight knit in royal blue or rusty orange. I'm pretty desperate!

p.s.: Thank you to Johanna for her great fabric shopping guide. Very useful today!

p.p.s: I cannot, for the life of me, wrap my head around Swedish pronunciation. How on earth can a word spelled "Kinna" be pronounced "Sheennna". It simply makes no sense.

UPDATE: Thanks to PoldaPop, I've found the fabric.... Gorgeous Fabrics to the rescue with royal blue double knit samples on their way as I type!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The best things about sewing-blogging... that we get to meet like-minded people both online and off. In this case, "like-minded person" is a definite understatement.

I met up with Joëlle from The Handstitched Files in Malmo last week (our tandem trip went very well, if you're wondering!). I only discovered Joëlle's blog quite recently, but I'm so glad I did because it turns out we have several things in common. Aside from a common passion for sewing, the both of us are Quebeckers exiled in Sweden... although Joëlle would be more accurately described as "a Swede originally from Québec". Lol. You see, Joëlle is practically Swedish by now. And as of a few days, she is more than practically, she is officially Swedish! Her new Swedish citizenship was quite the occasion to celebrate. Not that we needed one. Lol.
To see how well Joëlle has integrated into Swedish society and to hear her perfect command of the Swedish language was quite inspiring to poor little me, struggling so very much with both of these at the moment. But Joëlle understood perfectly well my situation (I believe her exact words were: "I know exactly how you feel") and promised that things would get better sooner rather than later. I hope she's right, because I'm feeling quite marginal to Swedish society in many ways at the moment.

Anyhoo, Joëlle turned out to be the funnest, most adorable host. And she wore the prettiest, self-stitched Simplicity 2444 dress and jacket, wore the same colour of lipstick that I always wear (coral pink), with matching shoes (to die for).

All this to say that if you find yourself passing through a town where you know a fellow blogger lives, I highly recommend reaching out to them. Meeting Joëlle has only solidified my belief that the online sewing community is a really special place with really wonderful people. Likewise, if any of you, dear readers, are passing through my city, it would be my greatest pleasure to meet you! :-)

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Next UP in the pipeline

As if one "what's on my sewing table" post wasn't enough this week, here's another one...

But I wouldn't want to be TOO cruel, so here's another hint...

Defos having a good feeling about this one.

Yours truly,
the tandeming seamstress

Friday, August 23, 2013

Top Secret

Hey guys! Guess what?

I've been invited to be a pattern tester by a new pattern company, and I've been hard at work lately fulfilling my mission. Without giving away too much, it's so nice to see a fellow sewing blogger take their aspirations seriously and going after their dreams. It seems there's been a boom of indie pattern companies lately, which can only mean that the sewing bug is definitely spreading!

In great anticipation of revealing the finished make which I love very much already, I leave you with a sneak peek at this Top Secret project:

Happy sewing everyone!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Lycra vs. spandex


To continue on last posts' theme, here's another useful tidbit I learnt at swimwear workshop:

Ever wondered what the difference was between Lycra and spandex?

Well, there is none.

That's right. Lycra and spandex are two and the same.

"Lycra" simply refers to the brand name fiber invented and copyrighted by the company Invista, while "spandex" is its generic name. A North American analogy would be when we say "Kleenex" as opposed to "tissue paper".

Fun fact: Did you know that "spandex" is the anagram of "expands"?

Other fun fact: While "spandex" is mostly used in North America, "elastane" is most widely used in France and the rest of Europe.

*      *      *

All this talk about bathing suits -- and the picture above... talk about glamorous! -- sure makes me want to make my own. I've really enjoyed seeing this massive wave of sewing bloggers getting over their corporeal insecurities and posting pictures of themselves in a bathing suit over the internet. It seems to be a really empowering experience for a lot of you, as if you're saying: "My body is not perfect but it's my own so tough sh*t". Am I right?

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Caring for your Swimwear

I know a lot of you are either totally immersed (forgive me) in making your swimwear or totally enjoying your newly-finished bathing suit, either by the sea or by your local pool. But how to you care for the swimwear you've worked so hard on?

I recently attended a seminar on swimwear that really opened my eyes about the fragility of Lycra, present in the great majority of swimwear fabrics. Here is how to extent the duration of your beautiful handmade bathing suit:

1- Lycra hates sun. Obvs, being in the sun is kind of the whole point of making a bathing suit. (Duh.) However, drying your bathing suit in the sun is avoidable, so hang it in the shade to dry.

2 - Lycra hates heat. The best way to speed up the degradation of Lycra fibers is to lounge around the spa, hot tub, jacuzzi or sauna. If going in your birthday suit is not an option (ahem), wear either an old, a second-hand bathing suit reserved for these purposes.

3 - Lycra hates chlorine.... but it loves vinegar! Rinse your swimwear with clean water and vinegar after going in chlorinated water. Pat it to remove the excess of water and hang to dry.

There you go! I hope these tips were helpful and if you put them in practice your swimwear will thank you.

Have a nice weekend everyone!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Bike Fashion

Tandem with woman in front (source)
In response to my last post, Many of you wanted to know: "What's so wrong with riding a tandem around Stockholm?" Well, I didn't really get it myself, but it seems that a tandem is a sort of caricature of cheesiness, like seeing a newlywed couple wearing identical outfits on their honeymoon... sort of literal. Go figure! But I want to point out that we also brought a lot of joy to people, I think. One person called our bike the "kärlek cykel," the love bike. Pretty cute!

But oh, I'm so happy to report that we have made it safely back to Göteborg with not additional car malfunction. (Phew!) We are now planning our upcoming trip to Malmö, Lund and Copenhagen for the rest of the summer. Only this time, we'll be resorting to a far more relying means of transportation: our new tandem. If you're in the area, do get it touch. I would love nothing more than meeting fellow sewists or some of you, dear readers, for a beer or coffee! You can find my contact info in the navigation bar above!

Today, I'll be busy planning for and packing.We'll be mostly camping, carrying all our gear and clothes in four little bags, so I must tackle the challenge of looking stylish in extreme conditions. I refuse to believe that looking like a potato sack should be a necessary part of the camping experience! I love being outdoors, I love biking, and I also happen to love fashion. I think all those things are compatible!

So, what do you think? Is it possible to be stylish and practical, with a strong emphasis on practical? What are your tips for bike and camping fashion? My Minoru jacket comes to mind, but what else?

Thanks for reading everyone and happy sewing!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Finished: New Look 6872

So I finished my skirt and I FINALLY have a black skirt in my wardrobe, but now I have nothing to occupy my hand with.

A road trip that was supposed to be a quick in and out to Uppsala turned into a four-day affaire following the breaking down of our car not once, but twice.

After renting a car the first time it broke down, we rebelled against it this time. After all, we did have a tandem bike hanging on our roof -- might as well use it! So now we are doing what everyone told us NOT to do: riding our tandem in Stockholm. It seems to be the source of great amusement, for some reason, but we are telling ourselves they're just jealous. ;-)

It's great fun.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

You can take the girl away from the sewing machine...

 ...but you can't take the sewing away from the girl.

Not letting the lack of sewing machine get in my way, I'm working on my current sewing project -- black Tencel skirt -- in the car on our way to Uppsala, where we're picking up our new tandem bike.

I'm just about to finish the hand-insertion of my exposed gold zipper here, and I can't tell you how nice it's going to be to finally have a black skirt in my wardrobe. How many time in the past two years I've opened my closet and reached for my black skirt only to realize I DIDN'T HAVE ONE. Life's been hard, I tell you.

Next up, I'll show you my finished skirt, hopefully.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Festival Fashion

I wanted to share with you some of the best outfits of Way Out West festival. These are now part of my visual + fashion imaginary and will inform my future designs, I'm sure. I hope this post gave you a taste of the fashion landscape at the festival... pretty amazing!

Thank you to all the sweet people who posed for me.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Quick Hello from Way Out West Festival

A quick post to report from Way Out West festival. I've never been to such a large-scale music event before but all I can say is that it was high time that I did. Big festivals are an integral part of summer here in Europe but not as common where I come from. We've heard amazing music, and I even "danced with" Alexander Skarsgård (standing a few feet away from me at Grimes concert, lol).

But the fashion and people watching has been super entertaining as well, and because I'm always thinking of you, readers, I've been keeping a photo diary of my favourite festival fashion which you will see in my next post.

In the meanwhile, I leave you with my own festival outfit.... my trusty pyjama dress and leggings. Sooo comfortable. When you're spending 16 hours out and about walking in the mud and standing, the last thing you want is feel restricted by what you're wearing.

Until next time everyone!


Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Why I Now Love Commercial Patterns

I've been thinking for a while now about my relationship to patterns: how it's evolved with time and how it's deeply intertwined with how I relate to my body. My relationship with patterns has gone through three stages:

Phase 1 -- Naivete and confusion

In the very beginning, when I didn't know how to sew, I would cut out the pieces straight out of the envelope and be surprised when I ended up looking like a potato sack. This period probably peaked when I made the muslin for Colette's Rooibos dress. I just felt so deeply discouraged. EVERYONE on the internet was making Colette patterns. Why couldn't I make Colette Patterns too?

Publicly, I blamed Colette (or whichever pattern of the day) and how their patterns were "poorly designed" and "made for boxy figures". But secretly -- and don't be fooled here -- I blamed my body. Because things I sewed did not look good, my conclusions were that there was something wrong with my body. Even when I somewhat caught on that I might need to perhaps alter the patterns, I lacked the know-how to do that properly. So instead of realising that my pattern-alteration skills (or lack thereof) were the problem, I concluded that it was not possible to be well-dressed with the body that I had.

Phase 2 -- Falling Out

So in light of this, I felt that there was something wrong with my body that prevented me from being a good dressmaker. At some point I became so fed up and frustrated from the continuous poor dressmaking results, that I simply decided to reject patterns altogether. If no one could make patterns that fit me, I would make MY OWN. So for a while, I did that. I found eSewing Workshops, and I made my own bodice and skirt blocs that I could modify ad infinitum. This was quite an empowering process and allowed me to derive a lot of joy from dressmaking. I drafted my Lobster Dress pattern in that period, for example.

But the problem with this total rejection of commercial patterns is that I wasn't really learning new sewing techniques, and I wasn't being pushed outside of my comfort zone. This is what a new, difficult pattern can do for us after all; it gives us headaches, but it also allows us to grow as a dressmaker. When you're sewing skills are limited (as mine were, and continue to be, in many ways), your pattern drafting skills are equally limited.

Phase 3 -- Reconciliation

Several events in the past months have led to a new era in my dressmaking marked by a renewed appreciation for commercial patterns. The first event was reading the book Fit for Real People (which I talked about here, here and here). The second was attending Lorraine Henry's seminars at the Creativ Festival this spring (I talked about it here and here). And the third was discovering, through Lorraine Henry, this book.

Here's what I've come to understand:

1) The Big 4 pattern companies are the same. They use virtually the same slopers as a base for their designs. What this means is that the same alterations come up again and again and again. Once you know what your figure variations are, and how to adjust the patterns for it, sewing from commercial patterns can be really fast and rewarding.

2) Pattern-drafting is not that difficult, but it does take time. It's not exactly true that once you have your own made-to-measure slopers you can make anything you want in the blink of an eye. It's still a pretty long process. You have to make several muslins, tweak the style lines, adjust the proportions... it takes a lot of time and effort. So in this light, buying commercial patterns is kind of a bargain. I don't feel bad paying $15 for a particular pattern anymore simply because I like a detail (collar, frill, etc.). In comparison to the time it would take to draft it myself, it's nothing.

3) You can't make your body do things that it doesn't want to do. What do I mean by that? You have to accept that there are styles that you will never be able to wear, and that's OK. In my case, I've learnt to stay away from shift dresses, pencil dresses and anything that assumes your body is vertically straight, and I try to stick with styles that delineate the waist.

*              *             * 

Since reaching my "Reconciliation Phase", I feel that the sky is the limit. I know I can confidently pick up any pattern -- Big 4 or indie -- and make it look good, as long as the cut is suitable for my figure type and the fabric pairing is right. As I'm becoming more comfortable with alterations, I'm finding it increasingly rewarding to sew.

I remember how I used to read blogs by more experiences dressmakers and they just made dressmaking seem SO EASY and I wondered why it was that they were always getting good results. I finally feel that I'm getting closer to their secrets. :-)

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Sewing and Goals

It's no secret among those who know me that I'm motivated by goals. I'm never as productive as when I set goals for myself. I will never run as much when I'm not signed up for a marathon, for example. I simply end up going out less frequently and my long runs get shorter. Having a goal -- a race to run -- keeps me on my toes.

I've found the same to be true for sewing. As I've mentioned before, I've never been as productive as during my Seven-Week Project. It was definitely stressful and intense at times, but I was sewing SO MUCH and it made me really happy.

Right now, my Big-Picture sewing goal is very clear to me, as I explain on my About page:
1) Improve my technical sewing and pattern-drafting skills.
2) Develop a visual language that feels so deeply natural to me that everything I make one day should scream "Adrienne".

As for my "medium-term" sewing goals, I committed to making pants with a fly zipper this year as a sewlution over on Did you make that? That's about as defined as it goes.

So although I've talked about my own sewing goals so far, the main point of today's post is really to ask you: How do go about setting your sewing goals? What do your sewing goals look like? How effective has this system been working for you?

I know some of you really liked the Sew Weekly for exactly these reasons -- it gave you little goals and kept your sewing momentum going. (By the way, does anyone know what the deal is with the Sew Weekly these days?) I know other bloggers have a goal of publishing two finished projects per month on their blogs. Other bloggers, like Miss P, do a finished projects round-up every month to hold themselves accountable, which instill, I imagine, a little bit of fear throughout the month.

So tell me, what's your approach? Are you a goals person? I really look forward to reading your advice and inspiration!
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