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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Growing Up & Moving On

Today is my blog anniversary! 4 years ago I started this blog with the idea to write small stories about things that mattered or that caught my attention. At the time I had the feeling that I had lost contact somehow with the small things (objects, ideas, words, thoughts) that are often more interesting than big things. No heavy thoughts, no world changing ideas (if I could come up with any :)), no all-embracing theories. That’s where the name Small Things came from. This concept lasted only two blogposts long: the third post was titled “Something Big”. We went on a hiking trip to the Adirondacks (NY) that turned out to be quite the eye-opener. When I came back I felt like I needed a new challenge in my life. That’s when I decided to use this blog to document a year without buying any clothes and instead start sewing. I had been sewing on and off since I was 15 but never had any lessons. I also felt like there wasn't really anything I was really good at, and I wanted sewing to become this thing.

What was supposed to be one year became two years, and then I just kept going. I haven’t become as good as I want to be yet, there is always so much to learn! But there's progress with every project. And something happened that I never even expected when I started: I became part of this amazing sewing community that just keeps on growing. I never knew there would be so many awesome and kind people out there that are so passionate about the same thing and who just keep creating and innovating ways to interact, and to teach, and to learn.

Working in the afternoon sun
Our truck, often also my sewing studio 

The two major things this past year have been trying to get started with our own patterns, and of course moving out of our house and into the truck, travelling Europe. Not as easy a combination as we initially thought! When you look at the amount of hours in a day it’s possible and we did find a way where we had most afternoons for ourselves. But in a time-sense it’s very different from each other: with a business you’re always thinking ahead, planning and creating for a point in the future. When you’re travelling you want to be in the moment, not worry about past or future and just enjoy the place and time you are at right now. Switching between these two was difficult at first but after a couple of months we found a kind of balance. However, you’re still giving up a little on both sides: you find yourself discussing business strategies while working in the vineyards at sunrise, and mentally reluctant to think ahead more than a month when it comes to new pattern releases.

Vineyards at 6 AM

The fields around Coccore, Italy

Understand that I’m not whining or complaining: the past year has been really really awesome in many ways :) It’s just also been a learning experience, and I came to realise how much I want Paprika Patterns to succeed. I really can’t wait to start working full time and make all these ideas come true as fast as possible. Luckily for workaholic-me we’re about to settle down (for now) in France, where we’ll be living in a yurt this winter. A whole different story that you’ll probably hear more about in the coming months :).



When we were staying in Italy Stef broke his collar bone and we had to stay in this one place for 2,5 months instead of the one month we planned. Since we weren't wwoofing anymore there was enough time for other things and Noella, the girl we were staying with wanted to learn how to sew. It was so much fun to teach her, she was so exhilarated after making her first leggings. The first project we did was to make a simple jersey maxi skirt, and because I had some black jersey I decided to make one for myself too. The result was ok, it was perfect in the sense that it fit well and the outcome was exactly as it should be. I didn't find it that practical though, so I pulled up the hem to make it into a kind of bubble skirt.



It’s more practical that way and I like the tapered silhouette. I gathered the front toward the center to take some fullness out of the hips, and left the back evenly gathered across the waistband. I even got some compliments on it even though it’s such a simple skirt. The problem for me with this skirt is that I got no satisfaction out of making it. It’s just too simple! I had become used to pushing myself a little with everything I made, getting better at a technique or trying something new with every pattern. This make had nothing new: it’s just two side seams, some shirring (my favourite way of gathering) and a waistband. Boring!



That’s when I realised: I’ve outgrown these beginners projects. I didn't think about this because it seems only such a short time ago that I would make these kind of things. I can understand how a woven skirt can give you more satisfaction because at least there’s a zipper involved. I made a simple linen one for Noella at the same time and that was much more satisfying. So when I see this skirt I think: meh. This didn't bring me anything but an ok skirt, and apparently that isn't enough anymore.

And as I have outgrown beginners projects, so I have also outgrown this blog. I haven’t felt as much at home here for a while now as I used to. I have even felt reluctant to blog here because of that. A lot of stuff has been documented here and I will keep that, but it’s time to move on! The first part of the Paprika Patterns website is online now, and from this point on I’ll blog over there. And I really hope you’ve enjoyed this blog enough to move with me! A blog is nothing much without it’s readers and I am so very grateful for your support over these past years. I still get really excited when I read your comments and see the stats. To know that you're there, reading, has been my justification to continue and to take the next step towards pattern making. THANK YOU. Now before I get too sappy, hop on over to the new blog and add it to your reader! :) You'll find a new post there with the annual roundup I like to do. I hope to see you there!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Negroni the Second

Part two of the quest to create the Perfect Shirt for Stef! I can already tell you that there will be a part 3 somewhere in the future, because this one still needs some fine-tuning. For the second and what I hoped to be the final version I used a medium weight linen-viscose blend. The viscose gives the linen some stability and also some stretch, which makes for a lovely fluid fabric. I bought it in Italy for pretty cheap, but in this case that doesn't say much about the quality. I only got 2 meters instead of the recommended 2 7/8 yards, but it worked without too much trouble. I almost ruined this fabric by using the wrong detergent (a homemade one made from wood ashes). It has some light discolouring stains because of this, but they're pretty evenly spread out and Stef doesn't mind.





The adjustments I made were first to go down a size everywhere except the neckline. I sewed it up until the joining of the side seams and sleeves, and then did a fitting. It seemed good so I did the flat felled seams, proceeded with the cuffs, buttons and buttonholes, etc. But then when he tried it on it seemed too big again, at the waist but also the sleeves were a bit baggy. I apparently didn't pay enough attention, and so had to take out the flat felled seams again. I took in the sleeves and sides without altering the armhole, for about 2 cm on each side. I'll probably have to taper towards S at the waist next time. The shoulders are much better, although I think I'll take the armholes in just 0,5 cm (1/4") at the front.





The back looks a lot better with the 2cm dowagers hump adjustment. It hangs more towards the body at the center back, and the draglines at the armhole have diminished. I lowered the yoke by 1 cm, but I think it could use another cm. I topstitched it because that gives it a more finished look imo. The plackets turned out very nice, I'm getting better at sewing them and I enjoy trying to sew them as neat as possible.



The 6 buttons are definitely better than 5, no gaping when he moves. I do still need to reposition the buttons a bit, the fronts are slightly uneven as the pockets are showing. This shirt still needs some fine-tuning, but I'm happy with how it turned out and so is Stef! Next time I actually want to try and give it an under collar and a standard button placket. Peter of MPB has done a tutorial on this for the Negroni. The clean lines of the front are nice but the facing adds more bulk at the neckline and front than necessary. There's a soft cotton plaid waiting for me at my mom's that would make a perfect winter shirt. The quest for the perfect shirt is put on hold for now, but I'll get back to it this fall!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Negroni the First

Sewing for Stef has become something I actually like. He wants to have his clothes just so, which means that I have to be precise and not stop until it is exactly how he wants it. I don't have to sew for him often, fortunately he holds the philosophy that all you need is one good version of everything. His favourite item to wear is a button down shirt, and since that is quite a lot of work I promised him one for his birthday. I know already he has some specific issues around his shoulders so I made a toile first, using a cheap blue cotton. The pattern we chose is Colette's Negroni. The instructions are very clear and it was interesting to compare construction techniques with the Archer. I chose size L based on his measurements, but either this shirt has a lot of ease or I measured him wrong because it came out way too big. I'll walk through the issues and solutions below, and the next post I'll show you the improved second version.





When I first tried it on him as it was after basting the side seams, it was gigantic. It was basically too big everywhere but the neckline. The only adjustments I made in this shirt were to shorten the sleeves  by 2,5 cm (1") and taking in the side seams (both bodice and sleeve) by 8 cm (3.5") in total, which made it kind of wearable. It was too bad I had already sewn the plackets by then because now he has some trouble rolling up the sleeves. The shoulder seam is hanging off his shoulder too but I didn't want to go as far as taking out the flat felled seams, since it was a toile after all. It should be higher up by about 2 cm ( a little less than 1").



When it turns out too big you know you just have to size down, but what I don't get with this design is that it has only 5 buttons. This makes for big gaps every time he moves and makes the shirt more bulky looking. I've seen other people also use 6 buttons instead of 5 and I think this shirt really needs 6.





On to the back! There's a couple of things that could be improved here. First of all, there are some diagonal lines running from the pleats to the armhole. Sometimes this could be the result of sloping shoulders, and then the solution is to taper off the back towards the armhole along the top, lowering the armhole at the same time. (Peter from MPB writes about that here). In Stef's case I suspected it could also be the result of his rounded back, or dowagers hump. Seen from the side his back has an S shape. Because his shoulder blades kind of stick out, they pull up the fabric at the center back. The fabric pulls at the armholes because of that, and it also swings outward at the hem. By giving him more room in that area the diagonal creases should disappear, and the fabric should have more room to follow the curve of his back downward. Another tip I got from a professional seamstress we met a couple of weeks ago was to extend the yoke down by 2 cm. This doesn't do much for the fit but it would look better proportionally. Next up: the improved version!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Summer Outfit

I’ve started to read Sarai’s series The Wardrobe Architect and could very much relate to her first post. I am too much led by shiny fabrics instead of looking at how to complement my existing wardrobe. I make too much stand alone pieces that don’t go with much else in either fabric, colour, print or style. The result is a wardrobe without cohesion and time lost each morning when choosing what to wear. This outfit is a start to fixing my wardrobe.



I started with the top. I have discovered the bliss of wearing lightweight wovens instead of jersey in hot weather and this top was what I needed for the hot weather we’d been having in Slovenia. I found the fabric in an amazing store in Italy. I wasn't sure the print and the red would work on me but I took the gamble. The pattern is self drafted, a simple loose fitting top with dropped shoulders. I used facings instead of bias tape at the neckline and armholes and I really like the result. I have managed to get nice flat bias necklines using Grainlines' method, but a facing is still much easier. A tiny rolled hem done by machine to top it off and it made for a quick and nicely finished garment. The only problem with this top was that I had only jeans to wear them with. I decided to fill that wardrobe gap with something that could also go with other things my wardrobe.



Grey is the perfect basic colour for this and I already had the perfect summer fabric. Originally the grey linen was destined to be the same kind of top, but when I put these fabrics together I really wanted to be able to wear them together. I thought of a half circle skirt but reckoned I’d get much more wear out of shorts. Practicality is a factor now more than ever and I also haven’t made much pants and I want to get better at that. The pattern is self drafted but even though they are based on my measurements I had some big fit issues. They looked ridiculous and much too big when I first put them on. I was afraid I wouldn't be able to fix it as I had heard scary stories about how hard it is to fit pants.



In the end I didn't manage to make them perfect, but at least they are wearable. I’ll keep it short: I let out the crotch (which in the case of crotch seams means it moved up), took in side seams, fixed the gaping back and took in the back leg inseams. To see where exactly the issues were and how to solve that with which seams was a nice puzzle to solve. I copied the position and measurements of the yoke and back pockets from my jeans and I think the back looks rather nice. There’s a little bump still in the center back seam though, not sure where that comes from. The fly is wrong though: it should be right over left but I copied them from my jeans which are left over right. Ah well, I doubt I'll get comments on that! I attached cuffs and did some flat fell seams and topstitching, to give it more of a jeans look and make it more durable. I even did bar tacks on the pockets and fly. All this, and the fact that it’s made out of a lot of pieces and a zip fly made it almost a two day project. But I know how to adjust the pattern now so next time it’ll be perfect!





The zip fly gave me no problems. I only know one method (also used by Thread Theory for the Jedediah pants) and I find it quite easy. I’ll use a 12 cm zip next time, I made it 14 cm now because it looked better with the slightly low crotch. I lined the pockets and the waistband with remnants of the top fabric because it makes me happy when I look at it. I loved making these garments even more because I knew I’d wear them lots. I’ve discovered the joy of wearing lightweight natural fabrics and want more of that in my wardrobe.



These photos were taken on one of Croatia’s mountain slopes. We were camping in the wild and went for a walk at sunset. It was pretty cold and windy and I’d been wearing the shorts and top the days before so I could only give them to you as they were: wrinkled and combined with white legs and disheveled hair :) Right after the shoot I put my fleece sweater and pyjama pants back on and peed behind a bush. That’s how glamorous my life is right now, haha. But I’m curious: how good are you at creating a coherent wardrobe? Have you discovered the joy of lightweight natural wovens?

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

A Shirt to Match the Clouds

I wonder if you're not sick of looking at Archers... They seem to be everywhere! I'm not sick of making or wearing them though, so please bear with me :) I loved making my first Archer but it needed some serious adjustments to become the shirt I had envisioned. I wanted it big and slouchy and boyfriend-shirt-like, not preppy-office-shirt-like. Travel gear has to be comfortable! I ordered the fabric of this one straight after I made the first one, at the same store (guess where...). Before we hit the road back in December I cut our three projects and this was one of them.




So a couple of things needed to be done in order to achieve the fit I wanted. First of all I cut everything a size bigger. My first one was 6-4-8, this one ie 8-6-10. I needed more room around the shoulder and the hips, not the waist but for the sake of the style I went one up there too. Then I needed to fix the diagonal pulling lines from shoulder to bust, by doing a square shoulder adjustment. I think I only took out half a cm (1/4") but it made a big difference. Then I needed some more length: I added 7,5 cm (3") to the bodice and 2,5 cm (1") to the sleeves. Phew! Quite some work all in all but the result was there in one go. I really wanted to put in the work on this pattern instead of looking for a different shirt pattern. Most of these adjustments I would probably have to do with any pattern anyway.



The fabric is a charcoal wool flannel, and I hoped it'd be perfect for winter. And it really is, it's very nice to have something warm to wear that is not a big sweater. I still feel kind of dressed up when I wear this shirt, even though it's big and slouchy. I wanted a boyfriend-shirt, but it's even been called a Grandpa-shirt, so mission accomplished :). I also really love the way it turned out sewing wise, it went together pretty smoothly. I used Andrea's collar attaching method and I can really recommend it.



Pretty dramatic backdrop right? I haven't edited these photos at all, the weather was perfect like that with sun and the rainclouds in the background. The view here is amazing and we're enjoying it every day. We're still in Italy at the moment. Circumstances messed with our plans: Stef broke his collar bone a couple of weeks ago while mountain biking. He's been quite uncomfortable the past weeks and not been able to use his left arm (while he's a leftie), but he's getting better now. We should be on our way to Slovenia in a few weeks, as soon as he feels able to travel. And I've got a mint coloured batiste Archer cut out, so I'm ready for a summer in the Slovenian hills!