Holsten, or, a thing that makes me think of Nicolas Ghesquiere

Nicolas Ghesquiere is a designer I watch fairly closely, first at Balenciaga and now at Louis Vuitton. He’s one of those guys with a seemingly bottomless well of ideas and a knack for making things work even when they maybe shouldn’t. Recently, I have been paying extra attention to the way he uses color blocking to emphasize shoulders, first with large contrasting collars in the fall 2014 collection, and then with this beauty from resort 2015. (Photo courtesy Vogue.com.)


The way the color blocking carries across the sleeves is interesting and cool. Designers lately have been putting an emphasis on broadening the appearance of that part of the body, making it blocky or boxy, but this striped effect creates the same sort of emphasis in a very bodycon way. I like this idea quite a lot, so it was a natural that I would end up knitting the Holsten sweater designed by Ankestrick. (All knitting links are ravlinks.)


Forgive the blocking-board photo. At some point, I’m going to find someone to take pictures of me modeling some of these garments, and then the photos will be far less boring. One hopes.

In any case, I had knit another Ankestrick pattern last year, the gorgeous Organic, which I ended up frogging after it became big enough to double as a slanket. Yay for dropping from a 22 to an 8, boo for having to unravel all that knitting! I’ll reknit Organic someday, and in the meantime, I’ll yearn to knit all of Anke’s patterns I can get my hands on. She’s brilliant, and her patterns are so remarkably clear and detailed. She uses a wonderful top-down contiguous construction method developed by SusieM on ravelry, and this construction method gives me the best fit at shoulders and armscyes of any sweater construction method I’ve ever used. I have become, in fact, something of a contiguous cheerleader. ::shakes poms:: Go SusieM!

The sweater is knit from Berroco Ultra Alpaca Fine purchased from Windy Knitty last spring for just this purpose. The entire project knit very quickly for a fingering weight sweater. I was shocked by how quickly, really, but I’ve noticed that the contiguous shoulder does knit quickly. I suspect this method requires less yarn in that shoulder/arm area.

So, it’s not a clone of the Ghesquiere top, but rather an asymmetrical spin on it. I really like that asymmetry. It adds a cool, casual touch. I’ve only worn this sweater once so far (because summer in Chicago), but it’s comfortable and relaxed enough to wear with jeans, and unique enough to dress up with a skirt for dinner out. So we’ll rate this one a winner, not a wadder.

What do you think of the new designs that broaden and flatten a woman’s torso? Are these garments you’re excited to wear?




Lawn Pajama Pants

I’m in a weird limbo state with my size right now. I’m about 14 pounds from goal weight, which is enough to make a difference in the way fitted clothes will fit. But it’s also close enough that I can start making some items in my goal-weight size and wear them now. Anything that’s fairly loose or flowing, anything that requires only minimal fitting and tailoring, can work now. Sort of.

Which leads to this pair of pajama pants. Until I made these, I had zero pairs of pajama pants in an appropriate size. Now I have one.

018The fabric is a gorgeous, lightweight, smooth-as-glass lawn purchased a year or two ago from The Needle Shop. I was browsing their inventory, brushed my hand across this bolt, and had to have a couple of yards. I wasn’t sure what I would make with it — the print is a little too loud for ordinary day wear, but it worked out perfectly for pajama pants. I tend not to actually sleep in pajama pants, but I like to have a couple of pairs on hand for at-home days. They’re comfortable and relaxed, and sometimes we all need a day where we lounge around in lazy clothing. Now I can do that again, with my one and only pair of pajama pants that fit. lol

Here’s one of my favorite tips for working with a very light cotton such as lawn, voile, or batiste. Pretreat the fabric twice. In this case, because I plan to wash and dry the pants in the machines, I ran the fabric through the washer, then the dryer, then the washer again, then the dryer again. Light cottons sometimes need the double treatment to complete any preshrinking. That was certainly the case with this fabric. It shrunk pretty well on the first washing, but it came out of the dryer off-grain. The second trip through the laundry room shrunk another inch out of the overall yardage and restored perfect grain.

The pattern is McCall’s 6249, a very basic pajama set. I made minimal changes to the full-length pants — shortening 3/4″ above the hip and 1-3/4″ below the hip. It has a cut-on waistband, and ordinarily, I refuse to use a pattern with a cut-on waistband. I mean, I’m not making RTW in a third-world factory. I don’t need to rely on cheap shortcuts that prioritize corporate profits over quality and wearability. (Not that I have strong opinions on the current state of RTW offerings, cough cough.) I can use a sewn-on waistband and get a better fit and finish. So I debated altering the pattern to create a true waistband, but in the end, I just went with the pattern as drafted. I will have to take in the waistband elastic around the time I reach goal, and I’m probably going to regret this waistband decision right around the time I have to use my seam ripper on this delicate, perfect lawn. A sewn-on waistband just stands up better to this kind of repair.




Inspired by Ungaro

I pay attention to runway fashion shows because it’s a great source of inspiration. Resort 2015 wrapped up recently, and I’ve made a couple of items inspired by pieces I saw there. The first I’ll show you came from Emmanuel Ungaro’s collection (photo courtesy of Vogue.com).

emanuel-ungaro-resort-2015-daisy-skirt I noticed two things right away about this skirt. First,the skirt is not a mini and it has a flounce at the knee. I just happen to have a pattern like that, and I think flounced skirts are a good summer option, a little casual, a little playful. So right away, I started thinking about a riff on this skirt.

The second thing I noticed was the print — white daisies on a blue background. Fausto Puglisi, the new Ungaro designer, also used a similar print in black daisies on a white background. He’s also continuing the Ungaro tradition of mixed prints, which is not something I wear but it intrigues me. Here is some of the black daisy print.

emanuel-ungaro-resort-2015-runway-black daisies Mixed with zebra print — there was a lot of animal and floral mixing in this set. But I really liked the mood of the daisy print, so I made a flounced skirt in the spirit of the flounced skirt above, but in the black and white palette.

003 I didn’t have enough fabric to add a waterfall flounce down the front, but the hem is flounced and the length is just below the knee. It’s a lightweight cotton, so I underlined it with some plain white cotton shirting that I keep in my stash for just such needs. I use Simplicity 1807 as my base pattern, but I modified it.  I started with view A, the shorter view, and I removed three inches at the waistband seam. Then I added four darts, two front and two back, to taper the hip area to the waistband. This removed some of the extra fullness at the hips but left enough for the elastic and drawstring waistband to gather slightly. This also shortened the skirt without requiring me to redraft the flounce — this waist modification was definitely easier than redrafting the flounce would have been. The flounce came from view B-C (the midi lengths), and I did have to remove about 4″ in width to fit this flounce to the view A knee-length hem, but that did not compromise the shape of the flounce. I ended up with a shape that approximates the inspiration piece but is not an exact clone. I’m happy with it.

My Sewing Pattern Review can be found here.



Polka dots!

How can anyone not like polka dots? They’re cheerful, casual, and bubbly. Some prints are distracting, but polka dots tend to scan a little softer on the eyes. So when I saw this lightweight cotton in my perennial favorite, gray, covered in all these pretty polka dots, I had to have a bit of yardage for a skirt. This one was on clearance at QuiltFabric.com locally, and I do like a light summer skirt made in a fun quilt print.


skirt gray polka dot I used Simplicity 1807, view C, but I omitted the drawstring for the waistband and the flounce for the hem. This is a great pattern that yields fast, easy, reliable results, the kind of pattern you can use over and over again. I’m nearly finished with another variation on this same pattern and will post that one in a few days.

Because this fabric was lightweight and might have lacked a little body, I decided to interline it. I used to always use bleached muslin for interlinings, but when I prewashed the last two lengths in my stash, neither help up well. I don’t know what’s going on in the world of muslin lately, but these were both of very poor quality. Anyone know where to find good muslin that’s sturdier than tissue in the washer?

So I ended up using a length of white cotton shirting from Fishman’s for the interlining. My original plan for this shirting was to make a nightgown, but after deducting some for the skirt interlining, it will now be used to make a shirt. Using a shirting fabric to make a shirt? I guess sometimes I do play by the rules, after all.

skirt gray polka dot interlining and seamsI used a water soluble spray glue to adhere the layers together, and then French seamed the side seams. I’m a sucker for a French seam. I just love them and use them wherever possible. In this case, because the French seams plus the double layer of fabric added some complication to the hem area, and because this is a super casual skirt in the first place, I decided to use a sewn hem. I toyed with the idea of doing a blind him, but by this point, the spray basting was losing its grip and the layers were beginning to slide around on each other. And I’m just not all that into a machine blind hem, anyway, and the thought of trying to hand hem those sliding layers — yeah. A sewn hem is just fine. It’s casual, but it works. See?

skirt gray polka dot hem Here’s a close-up of the sewn hem, basically just machine rolled with both layers together.

I used elastic in the waistband, but no drawstring, only because I ran out of fabric and couldn’t cut the pieces for the string. I looked for ribbon at several shops, including Soutache, a store that really sparks my creativity. She carries amazing buttons and ribbons, but this time, she didn’t have a simple grosgrain in the color I wanted. So, no drawstring, which is just fine.

This is a skirt to be worn with simple tees and tanks, except I did stumble on this ivory lace tee at an area thrift store that repeats the circle motif. Love it!

skirt gray polka dot lace tee So I have a feeling I will almost always wear this lace tee with this skirt, because it’s just too perfect. I like looking pulled together even when I’ve being casual, and this just works.

My review on Sewing Pattern Reviews is here.