Friday, September 28, 2012

Polka dots Belladone dress

I wrote so much about Deer and Doe lately, that it seems only fair to finally show you my first make from one of these wonderful patterns. I was so excited when I received them all in the mail (yes, I splurged), that I didn't know where to start.
By the way, how awesome it was for once to pay very small shipping fees and receive my patterns in two days, instead of waiting for them for 10 to 20 days, like I do when I have to buy them from the US or the UK? Yay for geographical vicinity.
Anyway, I decided to tackle Belladone first, mainly because I've had the perfect fabric for it in my stash for a while. This polka dot print was a present from my mother (who definitely knows my taste in fabrics) and it's a heavy weight cotton with a slight stretch (which is not recommended in the pattern, but worked just fine anyway). For contrast, I used hot pink bias tape (after a long moment of indecision between hot pink and aqua), which makes a color combo I adore, although probably not for everyone's taste.

The pattern per se was a pleasure to work with: super cute packaging, everything is in a nice big envelope (slightly bigger than Megan Nielsen's patterns) and it's printed on sturdy, recycled paper. I trace almost all my patterns anyway, but working with high quality paper makes the task so much nicer. I can fold the pieces without being afraid to destroy them or to find a crumpled mess when I take them out of the envelope.
I cut a size 38 in the shoulders, grading up to a size 40 at the waist and a 44 in the hips. The result? Perfect fit. Seriously, no modification at all and it fits like a glove. You can see in the detail photo below that the bust darts are a bit higher than the apex of my bust, but frankly, I don't care. This bodice is so perfectly shaped to my torso that I don't mean to change anything.
You're free do disagree, but I find this dress incredibly flattering on me. The little pleats on the skirt create just the right amount of volume, the pockets are adorable and need I say anything on the peekaboo at the back? I can't say how happy I was  that the pattern includes a hem facing, which makes the curved hem so incredibly easy and fast to sew.

The instruction booklet is written in French (as I wrote, there is an English translation coming soon), but it's full of illustrations to help you. Although I won't lie, I'm fluent in French (much like Roobeedoo, I'm very good at reading and less so at speaking and writing), so I didn't have any problem to follow the written instructions.
If you're an absolute beginner and you don't speak French, maybe it's a good idea to wait for the English instructions, and even then, you might want to have a sewing book (or the Internet) to refer to, since some steps are not fully explained (for example attaching the bias tape). If instead you're quite experienced and don't need too much guidance to construct a garment, the illustrations and a little Google Translate (I'm a trained translator, so it pains me to write this) should be enough. 

Finally, a little thing that made me smile: the type of pocket of this dress is called in French "poches à l'italienne", basically "Italian pockets", and I realized I have no idea how they're called neither in Italian nor in English... Can you help me out?

If you want to see more Deer and Doe makes, you can check the Flickr group and the Addicts' blog.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Deer and Doe giveaway winner... and sew-along?

Aaaand the winner is... Jane!

Congratulations! Please check your inbox for an email from yours truly.

I was very happy to see how much enthusiasm you showed for this new pattern line, I think it's so well deserved. I've already started working on these patterns and they're not just cute designs, they are extremely high quality, a real pleasure to work with.

Eléonore and I have been exchanging emails about organizing a sew-along. The rough plan would be to both have a sew-along for the Sureau dress at the same time, with her writing posts in French and I in English. We'd cover the main steps of the construction and some variations to the pattern (like adding a collar, as she did here). The idea is to start in late October/ November.

Since nothing is set in stone yet, but I'd love to have a sew-along here on my blog, I wanted to test the waters and know if anyone of you was interested.

What do you guys say?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

La Mia Boutique 10/2012

If you go back to my first reviews of this magazine on my blog, you'll notice that I had a newfound interest in La Mia Boutique, which instead had never appealed too much to me. The fact is, the patterns were very often "weird", for lack of a better term.
With this latest October issue, I got that old feeling again. While there are some nice and ok patterns, quite a few of them feel unrelatable to me, clothes I'd never see myself wear and, in some cases, that I'd never see anyone wear.
But let's start with the good stuff:

The focus this month is on outerwear, and these two trench coats patterns are really gorgeous, both feminine and flattering at the same time. I especially like the collar of the second one and the length of both.

And there are also coats, both nice although not earth-shattering. The pockets of the second one are very interesting.

I like this dress, although I'm not too crazy about the proportions and I wish they had tied the little scarf-thing in the photo to see how it looks.

And here's the outlandish stuff I was talking about.
The jacket, I quite like, but the quilting totally kills it for me. The dress is not too bad; I don't see myself wearing something with asymmetrical sleeves too soon, but, personal taste aside, there's something in the proportions of this dress that is not working. Maybe that sleeve is too long and the skirt too short?
Anyway, the real problem here is the fabric choice. While a pleather outfit can make a beautiful editorial, I don't think it could inspire the average woman or make these patterns alluring.
This is the perfect example of one of the issues I have with sewing magazines: they should tone down the fashion magazine aspect they so desperately want to convey, because as much as we all like to look at nice pictures, I think their average client is more interested in clear photos of the garments in all its details.

And on the same note of what I was writing above, who would wear this dress? I mean, there is nothing wrong with it (maybe except for the poor fit on the model), but when would anyone wear something like this?

Finally, I wanted to give you a peek of the plus size section, which features mostly knit patterns. Size apart, nothing here is really my cup of tea, and I find most of these outfits on the line between demure and matronly.
As always, all the technical drawings are here.

What do you guys think?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Interview: Deer & Doe sewing patterns

I'm so very happy to have Eléonore on my blog today, with her spanking new sewing pattern line, Deer and Doe. I'm a huge supporter of this lovely French girl who I had the pleasure to know a little better thanks to her brilliant new project. I hope you'll enjoy a peek in her world!

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your background? When did you start sewing?
My name is Eléonore, and I'm a 25 years old girl living in Paris with my boyfriend and my lazy cat. Beside sewing, I love drawing, photography,  and sciences :) .
I started sewing when I was studying computers engineering in Toulouse seven years ago, and it grew from a hobby to a passion! I graduated in computer sciences, and for the next 4 years, I worked as a web developer, growing my sewing skills on the side and creating a French sewing community.
And now I've taken the big leap to become a full-time pattern designer!

How did you start Deer&Doe? How did you choose the name?
My work as a web developer was taking me more and more time and energy, and I was slowly giving up on all the things I love (sewing, managing my community, developing my creativity). I wasn't really happy, and one day I woke up and decided I couldn't be like this anymore!
I've always wanted to start my own creative business, and I saw a real need for modern, fitted and easy-to-sew patterns among French seamstresses (the independent sewing patterns industry is not as developed here in France as it is in the US). It was really scary because it was a total career change and I knew it would be a LOT of work, but with the support of my family and the encouragements of my friends I took the plunge !
I knew from the start I wanted to convey a relaxed, stylish but nature-conscious vibe. I have a special thing for forest, and being in the woods gives me such peace and serenity, so I chose a symbol linked to fashion and to nature : the deer and the doe (and the duality of the name flatters my inner Gemini ^^).

Do you have formal training (art, design, sewing, etc.)?
I have a master degree in computers engineering, so I was destined to a very different career ^^. When I first started to think about creating my own patterns, I talked about it with a designer friend, who taught me pattern making was in fact geometry.  I realized it wasn't very different from the problems I used to solve in school, so I bought and borrowed a lot of books about pattern making and nerded my way into pattern design ! I love to learn new things, and I'm constantly looking for new techniques to master :)
I've also been doing design and illustration during my spare time, and it helped me a lot to master the softwares needed for pattern drawing and grading.

What are your main sources of inspiration? Your favorite designers or style icons?
At first, I tried very hard to find specific sources of inspiration (style icons, actresses, making moodboards with pieces of fabric and fashion sketches), but I found that "doing it by the rules" was not working for me.
So now I just have a huge Pinterest board named "Style" where I pin everything I like (fashion shows, ready-to-wear, fashion bloggers outfits, pictures of friends, old magazines). Basically, I try as much as possible to draw garments I want to wear (and would wear everyday), and not to be too influenced by what I think other people want.

Where do you see your pattern company in the future?
I've just opened my shop (and have received so much support already through the blog, Facebook and Twitter! Thank you!), but my dream is to be able to make a living selling my patterns! (and -let's dream- be able to hire an assistant and create employment in my community!)
For the moment, the patterns are in French only, but I plan to translate them to English as soon as possible! And I'm already working on a spring/summer collection :)

Do you still sew for yourself?
I don't exaggerate when I say that starting a pattern company means sewing A LOT (and sadly not for you!). I've managed to sew some garments for myself during the summer, but being made from my patterns they couldn't be shown before september... how frustrating! But I plan to sew a lot of variations for me in the next months, and also  to continue discovering other independent pattern designers! (I love the special care all indie designers put in their products).


Thanks, Eléonore!
I don't know about you, but I've been in love with these designs ever since I saw them a month ago (I was lucky enough to have a little preview), so I snatched them all as soon as they were available.
If you don't speak French, you should know that the instructions of these patterns are heavily illustrated, so it shouldn't  be too big of a problem if you have some sewing experience. They will be translated into English eventually, but you'll need to wait a little longer because Eléonore is still working on it.

Finally, Eléonore has a present for you: a giveaway!
If you want to win a Deer and Doe pattern, just comment below telling me which design is your favorite (you can take a better look at them here). Mine is definitely the Bleuet dress, the perfect shirt dress with adorable details that I've been wanting for ages!

The giveaway closes Wednesday, September 26 at 12 pm GMT, the winner will be selected at random.  Please remember to leave your email address.

Good luck!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Burdastyle Magazine 10/2012

Although typing the word "October" makes me cringe, the full preview is up on the Russian site of Burda, and since I don't have anything else to blog about this week, let's dig in!
This issue seems to have some very nice outerwear patterns:

I have a soft spot for military jackets and Burda periodically includes one; this one is not bad at all. The skirt is a pattern as well, a nice, draped twist on the pencil skirt.

I think this is the designer pattern of the month, but I don't know; I really like the proportions of this coat, the pockets, the collar and the little buttons. Of course the fact that it's made in black fabric and the terrible lighting of the picture make it impossible to figure out more about it.

This cape is in the plus size section (which I always neglect) and I find it super cute. I love the length and the arm openings, which make it much more practical.

I'm not 100% sold on this blouse, but at least it's interesting from a design point of view, a nice twist on collars.

Like the previous pattern, I'm a bit on the fence with this one. I wonder how much bulk all those bodice pleats/darts can create (assuming that's what they are) and how flattering they can be. I wish, ONCE AGAIN, that there were a better photo to show the garment. We should fill a petition and send it to the Burda headquarters asking for clearer pictures.
One thing is for sure, though: I hate the bell bottom sleeves, they scream early 90's and Medieval fair to me.

Gorgeous, gorgeous dress. I think this might look good on many body shapes, and it's so chic and effortless. That cowl is really beautiful.

And finally, a couple WTF moments, because we all love to hate:
NO. Just NO.

The pattern is not bad at all, but I had to comment on the photo. Length, fabric and styling are probably the ugliest, most unflattering combo I've ever seen.

UPDATE: Silvia kindly created a petition for a better Burda. Please sign it and let's make our opinions heard!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Sew Colette 2.0.: My Third Macaron

The second pattern of the Sew Colette 2.0. sew along was the Macaron, one of my ultimate favorites. You don't believe it? I've already made it twice and the first one was one of my first successful projects, one of those that make you say: "Wow, I'm really learning something great here".
For my third version I wanted to try something a little different and I decided to add a peter pan collar. I think I won't stop until every garment in my wardrobe has a collar and I'll finally look undoubtedly  like a first toddler.
My plan was to make a pointy collar, but decided for a curved one in order not to clash too much with the sweetheart lines of the bodice.

I'm very happy I decided to make a muslin for this dress, not having touched this pattern for almost two years and being aware that my previous versions had some minor fit issues. I think I had idealized this pattern quite a bit, because it was less smooth to work with than I remembered.

First of all: the fit is kind of weird, definitely different than what I'm used with Colette Patterns. In particular, the waist is unbelievably small; I usually have to grade down at the waist or use the same size I use for the bust, but this time I went from a size 4 for the top part to a size 8 for the waist and skirt portion and it was still very snug. I also had quite a few pieces not aligning, which forced me to trim excess fabric here and there; the worst effect of this was that one of the side edges of the zipper ended up being slanted (if that makes sense), so my zipper is a bit wonky.
I don't know if the pattern has been revised since (I own the first "edition", with the old artwork that I much prefer to the new one), or if I'm the only one who had this kind of problems.
Another issue I had, also mentioned by Rochelle, is how snug the neck opening is. Adding a collar and finishing the edge with bias tape doesn't help, I assure you. If you decide to add a collar, consider making some kind of keyhole wither in the front or in the back, I certainly regret not doing so, since I can't put this dress on or off if I'm wearing my glasses or if my hair is tied.
I also forgot that this dress is quite short, so instead of hemming it I finished the skirt edge with bias tape.
One last thing: can anybody explain to me why the midriff pieces are curved? Even notching and clipping, I couldn't make the seams lie perfectly nice and flat, as you can see in the photos.

Although making this dress wasn't a walk in the park, I like my new Macaron quite a bit. I'm not 100% satisfied with my fabric choices, because the black chiffon isn't as sheer as I would have wanted it to be and the printed cotton I used for the rest of the dress looks a bit cheap (but the print looks like a bunch of teeny tiny balloons and that makes me happy.). This chiffon was the most tempered, difficult fabric I've ever worked with (you can see I had some problems with the sleeve edges).
But I know I love the style of this dress, the sweetheart neckline, the hidden pockets, the shape of the skirt, and this time I have a collar for added cuteness, so I'm sure I'll wear this a lot.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Burda Easy F/W 2012

A little disclaimer before I start this review: I recently realized how rarely I reach for Burda and LMB anymore. My collection of patterns (both commercial and from indie designers) is growing and it appeals to me much more than my magazines. Instructions are FAR better, designs are more interesting and you don't need to lose your eyesight with those super busy pattern sheets. This is why I lost quite a bit of interest in sewing magazines; I'm not at the stage of stopping to buy them altogether yet, but if you sense a lack of enthusiasm in my words, now you know why.

When I started to sew a few years ago, Burda Easy (or Young, depending on how it's called in your country) was a real treat for me. There were super cute designs, very young and fresh, with illustrated instructions. Now, I cannot imagine something like this in one of those issues from 4-5 years ago:

I'm sorry, but this just pisses me off. This is something that anyone could do, without buying a magazine and even without knowing how to sew. It's just lazy.
Fortunately, the rest of the magazine is less tragic:

Apparently, Burda editors like their dropped waistline. As you can see, the dresses above are all variations of the same pattern. It's definitely not my cup of tea: the skirt part of the first dress looks ridiculous, and I find that this silhouette is just unflattering on anyone. You might think I like the third dress, but a peter pan collar is not enough to fool me. Not to mention that those two huge pockets so close together look incredibly cheap to me.

Another variation of the previous pattern (seriously, lazy much?), but at least this time it's a cute, basic top that reminds me of the Pendrell blouse. The skirt is a pattern as well, but it's as basic as it gets.

And speaking of basics, this skirt seems like a perfect project for a beginner.
The top, I hate. Sorry, I just can't stand all those unnecessary seams.

There are a couple cute coats in this issue, although once again they're not exactly my taste. I love the fabric choice and the contrast trim, but the non existent waist + the ruffle-y bottom is not for everyone, definitely not me.

This is the only actual pattern that attracts me in this issue. I don't know why, I don't even know how I would wear it... Do you have any suggestions for me?

In conclusion, I'd say that this issue could be a nice purchase for a beginner who still doesn't have a big pattern library, or for someone who likes dresses with a dropped waist. Here in Italy, it retails for 5,90 euros, which is more than the "regular" Burdastyle magazine and, IMHO, a lot for the number of patterns it contains. What are your thoughts?
I hope I wasn't too sour for anyone, but I like to be honest on my blog.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Black and Blue Roxanne dress

Do you remember me raving about Victory Patterns' new collection? Kristiann, the brilliant mind behind these wonderful designs, was so kind to ask me if I wanted to try one and while it was a tough choice, I was too in love with the collar of the Roxanne blouse not to pick it.
My only problem was I wasn't too sure of this blouse lenght, because I feel it only looks good when paired with leggings or skinny jeans, two type of garments I fell extremely uncomfortable wearing.
Since I loved other design features like the little pocket, the back yoke and the back pleats, I decided to simply lenghten the pattern and make it into a dress.

What I did was to slash the pattern pieces at the lenghten/shorten line and extend the lines until I added about 35 cm. I must have done something wrong, though, because I didn't intend to replicate the asymmetrical hem of the original design. I don't know if the fabric just shifted while I was cutting, or it wasn't on the grain, but when I sewed the front and back pieces together, the front was significantly shorter than the back. After a few moments of swearing and head scratching, I tried it on and found out I didn't mind it at all. I quite like this lenght, actually, and although the front is a teeny tiny too short for my taste to be worn with bare legs, I'm writing you 4 days after shooting this pictures with rain pouring out my window and a temperature of 11°C, so I guess it's time to wear it with tights (YAY!).

The pattern was a pleasure to work with, it's very simple to construct and the instructions are super clear. I love the "Victory!" exclamation at the end. 
If you decide to make Roxanne yourselves, please be aware that this gorgeous pleated collar is quite bulky, and keep it in mind when you choose your fabric. I used the same IKEA cotton my Lily dress was made of, and while everything worked out great in the end, I had to grade and trim seam as much as possible and steam and press the life out of it to keep it flat and nice looking. Just FYI.

I'm pretty much in love with this dress and all of its features, it's quite edgy and eye-catching. The contrast between the bright blue and the tiny polka dots is bold but very "me".
I know in photos the dress looks better without a belt, but in real life I think I need a bit more definition at the waist, especially when I don't wear 12 cm heels like in these pictures (i.e. always).

I'm sure I'll wear my Roxanne a lot with tights and a cardigan and I really want to try and adapt the collar to other tops, just like Nettie and Lee did.