Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Ukraine meets Japan: a story of an embroidered dress

I left Ukraine 15 years ago, just after I got my degree, I was very naive and believed that everybody wished me well. I left my country thirsty for adventure; to meet new people. and experience different things. Over the years, I have lived in many places in Europe and in Asia, I have met people from different nationalities, beliefs and tribes, interweaving all of their stories into my own. As a result, I don’t feel like I belong to any particular country, but at the same time I feel like I belong to all of them/ like I am the world!

A couple of years ago, during a trip back to Ukraine, I stumbled upon a magazine “Українська вишиванка” (“Ukrainian embroidery”) in a book shop, and I bought a good dozen issues without hesitation. The majority of their patterns are traditional, but from time to time they post some tacky, sorry,  modern ones with hearts, angels and roses. To appeal to different audiences, I guess :) Sadly, they do not have a dedicated website to show you, but you are welcome to check some photos of the patterns, featured in the magazine, on this Facebook page. Seeing the most amazing embroidered traditional garments made me a bit homesick, so I decided to embroider something epic to have at my disposal to remind me of home. Why not a dress? An epic dress.

I fell in love with this pattern from the moment I laid my eyes on it, because of the colours, but also because it combines modern and traditional motifs. It might be interesting for you to know, that I used 25 colours to complete the ornament.

When you work with embroidery, first, you need to embellish the fabric and only then cut into it. Depending on the density of your embroidery, the fabric tends to shrink, therefore the pattern is marked on the fabric with a very strong marking tool, or using the thread tracing method. Alternatively, you can cut each pattern piece with very generous seam allowances. Once the embroidery is done, it’s always good to baste your garment for a trial and adjustments. Only after that, you are good to go and sew your garment together.

Since I did not really know which type of dress I wanted, I had to take all of my sewing magazines down and go one by one in search of a perfect pattern, which I found in a Japanese sewing book, Kimono remake! This book explains how to make modern garments from kimono fabric/old kimonos. As I mentioned in a post about a yukata, kimono fabric typically measures 33- 36cm in width. Therefore, most of the suggestions in the kimono re-make books are cut in a straight line.. You can obviously try something different, by making more structured garments, like Chie from Vivat Veritas does. This time, I decided to go simple and make a shapeless dress with interesting design details.

The construction of the dress was easy, consisting of six strips and two buttons. Four strips were cut so that they created sleeves and a sort of apron, which can be attached to the buttons in front. I also added the neckline facing to give it an extra reinforcement. The book suggested the cuffs as optional, but I decided to add them, thinking about my school uniform :)

The embroidery! It took me probably about 50 hours of work. I started the motif almost 2 years ago, but at some point I got bored and, same as with my tailored jacket, I put it away for an age, only to pick it up again in February, because I really hated the idea of having an unfinished project! The turning point for me was when the ornament was ⅔ done. After that moment, everything went really fast! Does this sound familiar? Without false modesty, I think this work is really epic. I feel some sort of devotion towards this new garment of mine, as if it were my grandmother’s.

Once the dress was finished, I could not believe how much work I had done! It almost brought tears to my eyes. There was something special and inspiring about this project so much that I decided to do more embroidery! Currently I am working on a little Japanese motif. Having said that, my biggest ambition is to sew and embroider a traditional Ukrainian shirt. How many years will that take me? Wish me luck!

Monday, 18 April 2016

Bike fashion for girls, who sew

Do you have a bike? Do you cycle to work? Do you spend most of your commuting time cycling? If you answered ‘yes’ to at least one to these three questions, then keep on reading this post.

Over the last two years, I have given a lot of thought to the subject of bike fashion. To make a long story short, I don’t like wearing sport clothes, when I cycle, and I want to wear whatever I feel like, regardless of my commute. Hail, rain or sunshine, I really dislike the idea of changing in the office toilet to look like my normal self again. Full stop!

With this in mind, over the last couple of years I have been trying to adapt my handmade wardrobe to be more bike-friendly and casual, avoiding tight or sophisticated garments for everyday wear. After many hit-and-miss handsewn garments, here is some wisdom, I would like to share with you. There is a big chance that most things are quite obvious to you, but I still decided to put them up on my blog. Also, because of my poetic mood at the moment, I put my suggestions as badly rhymed mottos. Please bear with me!

  1. Wear not a pencil skirt. Pencil skirts and bikes are incompatible, which results in ripped reams. As much as I love pencil skirts and the sharp look they create, I wore my Zaria skirt once and deeply regretted it afterwards. Despite the double vent, the area around the hips is pretty tight, so I ended up with some tears (ˊ̥̥̥̥̥ ³ ˋ̥̥̥̥̥)and had to walk back home, walking my bike next to me.
Named Patterns // Zaria skirt
  1. For a faster ride make your skirt wide. My Miss Chalmers skirt, which slightly narrows down towards the hem, does not like it when I cycle, wearing it, and tends to rip every now and then. Now, I simply pull it up a little bit higher, to mid-hip level, to make cycling easier. To avoid similar unpleasant issues, I have been making more A-line skirts, or even wider.
Papercut Patterns // Chalmers skirt
  1. Sit, if you want to wear knit.  More and more, I tend to privilege knits over wovens. As you all know, knit garments allow wider range of movements, unless you make a really tight skirt!
StyleArc // Jessica dress
  1. Yes to a maxi dress. No problem wearing a maxi dress, when you cycle. I tie it or simply use a hair elastic and a coin, to avoid the skirt being in the way of the chain or wheel.There’s even a TEDTalk about the latter! Although, from my personal experience, using a hair elastic and a coin damages fabric. So I often tie my long skirts in a knot! Alternatively, if the fabric is too thick to tie, I simply pull it up, put the front of the skirt between my legs and sit on it. I also used quilt pegs on a few occasions and they work brilliantly!
Ralph Pink // Maxi dress

  1. Leggings or shorts for mini skirts.  On some occasions, I wear leggings, long or cropped, underneath my shorter skirts. It takes few seconds to put them on and take them off and they don’t occupy a lot of space in my bag. This is an easy way of covering my legs, if I don’t feel like exposing them too much.
Victory Patterns // Lola dress
  1. Cardigans and coats to the rescue. If I do not want to damage a fashionable look with a pair of leggings, I may put on a longer coat or cardigan to cover my legs. It saves me from unpleasant looks that  drivers give me at red traffic lights.
Self-drafted skirt 
Named Patterns // Andy coat
  1. For a better ride make your trousers tight. Or, in the case that your trousers are wide legged, either  use some special trouser clips/bands or simply roll the hems up.
Named Patterns // Jamie Jeans
In addition to #4 and #7, you can equip your bike with a chain protector and skirt guards.
I would also like to hear you personal bike fashion tips and advice! Are there any cyclists who sew out there? What do you do to look fashionable on your bike?

P.S. When writing this article, I discovered an interesting gadget, which prevents skirts, cardigans or other pieces of clothes from flying away. I am so going to order one to try it! Meanwhile, I’ll continue using my old tricks :)

I hope you had a bit of giggle anyway.