Monday, 21 April 2014

Escaping with my cocoon coat!

My handmade collection has a new addition, a silk cocoon coat by Ralph Pink. This coat is probably the most ambitious garment I've ever made both technically and time-wise: it took me 10 weeks to complete.

Since I've discovered and tried to sew Ralph Pink's patterns, he's become one of my favourite indie pattern designers. Why? His collections are very modern and edgy. Besides, the instructions are super clear and, accompanied by detailed technical drawings, are super nice to work with.

For the execution of this coat, I used 4.5 metres of sand-washed silk as the fashion fabric, 2 metres of silk parachute for the lining and approximately 1.5 metres of silk organza for the underlining.

The creative process included hours of hand sewing. I used tailor tacks to transfer all of the pattern pieces onto the silk, catch-stitched most of the seam allowances to the silk organza and also attached the sleeves' lining by hand.

A couple of hours went into top stitching the sleeves and back panel. Unfortunately, it does not show very well in the photos.

I've never worked with so much fabric before, including very long pattern pieces and also pieces with many corners.

I probably don't have to tell you that while working on the coat, I went through different phases from liking it to hating it to loving it again. Now that the coat is done, I think it's kind of chic and makes a statement.

By the way, the pair of jeans I am wearing is my first attempt at the Jamie Jeans. As I explained in my previous post, I did not like this pair because of the fabric's quality. But hey, they are pretty wearable!

Last but not least, I wanted to update you on my personal situation. After spending six months in London, I've decided that it's not my cup of tea. So next week I'll fly over to Dublin! Thankfully, I was able to find a new role within my company which definitely helps when you start your life in a new country. EXCITED!!!!!

I used to live in Dublin for three years before I moved to Tokyo. Before that, I did not appreciate my life in Dublin to the fullest, but at this stage, I feel that Dublin has a much better quality of life than London. So, I am really looking forward to the move and unpacking boxes!

And if, by any chance, you are a sewer or a blogger from Ireland, please do contact me! It'd be so much fun to sew and hang out together!

I'll see you in a month or so!

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Flat felled stitch tutorial

As promised, let me show you how to sew a flat fell stitch.

Here I used it for sewing my jeans, but you can also use this stitch to sew shirts, blouses or children's clothes. The flat fell stitch is very strong and durable, hence it's suitability for kids' wear.

You can sew the fell flat stitch two ways: with one or two stitches showing on the right side of the garment.

Step 1: To properly and precisely execute your stitches, you'll need a marking tool and a ruler.

Step 2: Put the fabric wrong sides together. With a marking tool, trace a 0.5cm line from the raw edge on one pattern piece. Lay another pattern piece on top, matching its raw edge with the marking line.

Step 3: Fold the fabric along the marked line using a hot iron so that is wraps the other piece of fabric.

Step 4: To keep the fabric in place, you can either pin it or hand baste it in the middle of the fold. In this example, I used pins as stitches.

Step 5: Align the raw edge of the folded piece of fabric with the needle and stitch along it, maybe 0.1cm from the raw edge.

In order to keep my stitches straight and not go beyond 0.1cm, I use a special foot for my sewing machine: the straight stitch foot. This foot features marking lines for seam allowances of different widths. With a foot like this, there is no need to fear any kind of fine stitching!

Once you have finished the first row of stitches, here's what you get!

Step 6: Now, with the first stitch facing you, turn it so that you create another fold encasing the raw edge.

Press it from both right and wrong sides.

To secure the fabric you can again either pin or thread baste it.

Step 7: Once you have pressed and secured the seam, align its edge with the needle on your sewing machine and stitch 0.1cm from the edge.


The flat felled seam right side up.

The flat felled seam wrong side up.

In case you want only one seam to show on the right side of the garment, when you start stitching, face the fabric right sides together instead of wrong sides. Then repeat all the steps the same.

I hope my explanations were clear enough for you to try to execute the flat fell seam on your next garment :) 

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Sparkly Jamie Jeans

Today was so sunny that I had to put on my new sparkly jeans by Named, Jamie Jeans. This is my second take on the pattern. The first pair was made from cheap denim and looked like it.

This fabric, 120cm-wide stretch denim with lurex, came from McCulloch & Wallis. According to the Named fabric requirements chart, I should have needed 175cm but I used only 140cm. A gold lurex thread woven into the fabric gives it a healthy amount of sparkle which I like.

I sewed the Jamie Jean in a size 40 without any major alterations: I only tweaked the crotch seam a little bit, adjusting it to the size of my bum. I did not add belt loops because the waistband ran around my waist perfectly, without gaping. It may expand after a few wears, but for the moment I'll wait and see.

I could not be happier with the fit. Although I still may improve the crotch. On the photos the Jamie Jeans look wrinkly, but they do fit me rather well. On the other hand, it was impossible to re-create a natural pose for the photos without showing some wrinkles. I wonder how models do it  (•ิ_•ิ)?

For this pair of jeans, I used flat felled seams to give them a special finish.

When I studied at ESMOD Tokyo, we used this seam for shirts and blouses but, if you examine your jeans, you will notice that they are treated with exactly the same seam. Some people even call this seam "the jeans seam".

The idea of the flat felled seam is somehow similar to the French seam but they differ in the execution. While the French seam will enclose both raw edges inside the stitching, with the flat felled seam you place one raw edge X inside the folded edge of fabric Y, then wrap the edge Y one more time and topstitch. If this is confusing, the diagram below may be more helpful. If not, I will blog a short tutorial on how to sew a flat felled seam next week.

Photo credit: source
The flat felled seam is super strong and that is why it's used for sewing jeans, shirts and children's clothes. If you watched The Great British Sewing Bee, the competitors had to use this seam when sewing a pair of children's dungarees.

Here's another advantage of this seam. When I turn my jeans inside out, they look as neat as they do normally. Isn't it amazing? 

I have to confess, the flat felled seam requires a lot of patience, precision and concentration. You have to pay very close attention to which seam goes where, otherwise you'll end up like me, unpicking two entire seams instead of one! But, seriously, the results are worth it!

After sewing the Alpi Chinos and the Jamie Jeans, I prefer the latter. As much as I like the relaxed style of the chinos, the Jamie Jeans give a more "dressed" look with interesting lines.

Expect to see more Jamie's in the future ( ´ ▽ ` )ノ

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Let's talk about cooking!

Have you also noticed that many sewing bloggers are very talented cooks? These talented seamstresses from around the globe make me jealous and hungry when looking at their Instagram photos and reading their posts with recipes. But unlike all of them, I am a very bad cook. Usually, when I invite friends for dinner, I ask them to bring their own sandwiches just in case! But there are two dishes with I am not ashamed of feeding people with: Thai curry and Ukrainian borsch and the aim of this post is to share the recipe of the latter.

There are as many borsch recipes as there families in Ukraine: each one adding or removing this or that ingredient. So the perfect borsch is the one that YOU make!

I will share with you my mum's recipe. If you are a culinary nerd then I'm going to disappoint you: it does not contain exact measurements. You can add as much veggies as you like, and each time your borsch will taste different. Because my borsch tasted really nice, I will describe what I used today and my observations :)

For a 5 litre pot, I bought:

  • 700g pork ribs (it can be any other pork meat on the bone)
  • 300g haricot/cannellini beans
  • 3 large potatoes
  • half a small cabbage
  • 4 large, ripe tomatoes
  • 1 large beetroot
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 large onion
  • 4-5 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper
  • crème fraîche
  • parsley or spring onions

Cut the carrot, beetroot and onion into small slices. Dice the potatoes. Shred the cabbage. Grate the tomatoes.

Cooking time is approximately 2 hours. But do not be scared! Both the meat and vegetables are going to cook in one pot. All you have to do it to chop all of the vegetables beforehand and add them sequentially.

My mum's recipe is based on the readiness of each vegetable: once a certain ingredient is cooked or half-cooked, you add the following one.  

As a rule of thumb, vegetables cook faster in the spring than they do in the winter.

Now, the steps:

  1. Put your beans in a pot, cover them with cold water and leave overnight until soft.
  2. The next morning, you will notice that beans' skin will be falling off. Remove it from all the beans. 
  3. Wash the meat and let it soak for a few minutes in water. Fill half of the cooking pot with water, add the meat and cook it for 30 minutes on a medium heat. At this stage, we are preparing the broth which is the key element of a successful borsch!
  4. From time to time, look at your borsch and remove the fat that will be gathering on the surface. 
  5. After the meat has been cooking for 30 minutes, add the beans and continue cooking on a medium heat until the beans are almost ready to eat. Depending on the quality of beans, the time they were soaking etc, it can take between 20 and 40 minutes for them to become soft. I take one bean after it's been cooking for 15 minutes, taste it and decide whether I am ready to go to the next step.
  6. Add the beetroot and cook until it starts losing its colour. Again, depending on your beetroot it can take between 10 and 20 minutes. 
  7. Add the potatoes and continue cooking on a low heat until they are half-done: another 15-20 minutes. As with the beans, I would taste them before deciding whether to proceed to the next ingredient. 
  8. Add the carrots, cabbage, onion and bay leaves.
  9. Add the tomatoes when the cabbage is cooked. This can take another 10-20 minutes. 
  10. Cook for another 10 minutes and add salt and pepper to your taste. Add parsley or spring onions.
  11. Bon appetit!
What I would do differently next time?
I would add more beans, potatoes and beetroot. In general, I prefer borsch when it contains more veggies than water and is really thick.

When serving, add a spoonful of crème fraîche and, if you can, eat it with black bread. It's yummy. And even better, when you have a shot or two of vodka from the freezer :) 

P.S. Since my last post on March 1st, I have been sewing less and following very closely the developments in Ukraine. Sewing was almost impossible because my mind was full of thoughts and worries about the crisis. Nevertheless, one garment is almost done and two others are ready to be cut. Within the next week, I'll share with you my latest projects.