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BurdaStyle Summer Sewing Contest: I’m in the Top 10!

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I’m so excited to have made the top 10 finalists selected by BurdaStyle’s judges. Now the winner is selected by votes over the next few days. Please vote for my Retro Rocker Playsuit (based on adaptations of 2 BurdaStyle designs) here – my user name is darkhorse and it’s the blue striped and black playsuit:

http://www.burdastyle.com/blog/summer-sewing-challenge-finalists-vote-for-your-favorite-submission#read-on

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x Rena

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Rockin’ Retro Romper – BurdaStyle Variation Playsuit

My finished romper playsuit.

Here’s my entry for the BurdaStyle ‘Summer Sewing Challenge’ – I’m calling it the ‘Retro Rocker Tonia Playsuit with Cut Out Bustline’. The romper is a bit big for my mannequin, but I’m camera shy, so please forgive me.

The front of the romper in all its glory.

I have had visions of retro style playsuits dancing in my head for ages. When I saw the challenge, I thought it was time to step it up as a self-taught sewist – more than anything, to challenge myself and the limits of my poor sewing machine (did she ever yell, whew!). This has been the most advanced project I’ve ever dared take on. Suffice it to say there’s been blood, sweat and tears poured into this project that’s obsessed me – with no small amount of heart!

BurdaStyle’s full skirted dress with cut out bustline.

BurdaStyle’s Tonia shorts.

I fell in love with the retro style dress on BurdaStyle with the cut-out bustline, and I knew that had to be the base for the bodice. I’ve also been coveting the Tonia shorts for a long time. I decided to put them together for a custom playsuit romper based on these two patterns as a true variation and did some sketching. The playsuit prep involved some pattern grading (up) and pattern adjustments to unify the two patterns – and to the right size. I also wanted the romper to have some real edge so I added black shorts for contrast with black piping and a black external zipper, along with lavender and blue striped shirting fabric.

My playsuit sketch based on the two patterns.

The playsuit is fully lined and I used fuchsia Hong Kong seam finishes to keep that rock and roll feel going. I added extra pleats at the front of the shorts and an extra pair of darts on the reverse of the sorts. I eliminated the fly due to the rear zip. I added the striped shirting to the hip yoke for fun and also the shorts cuff.

My striped fabric rose pin.

I also made a fabric flower pin that I think looks great with this playsuit! I might be addicted – I want to make a 4-5 gore wrap skirt to go with this based on the cut out bustline pattern. I’ll be sure to post it when I get to it – what retro style playsuit wouldn’t look awesome with a cover-up wrap skirt?

And FYI here’s my BurdaStyle page on the project.

Exposed zipper on the playsuit.

Happy summer romping!

x Rena

PS – If you want to see more pics or have any questions, just leave a comment!

Make Your Own Bra: Lingerie Series Part I

Fabulous lingerie. Source: Agent Provocateur.

Love Agent Provocateur and Victoria’s Secret? Love making things? I get so excited about the idea of sewing my own lingerie, particularly bras, that I want to hop from one foot to another. Odd behaviour aside, I know I’m not the only one fascinated by the idea of making my own lingerie. Who doesn’t want their own custom made stuff? Starting with bras, I will write a series that will hopefully inspire you to make your own intimates. Consider these a sort of tutorial in the spirit of my earlier corset posts The Art of Corsetry and Corset Making. I admit I haven’t tried bra making myself, but I have it up there on my to do list.

Quick, get measuring!

Where to begin, you might ask? The very beginning, as with everything sewing, is measuring. Accurate measurements of your body are key – you might want a helper with the measuring tape if you haven’t measured yourself before. My tip if you’re measuring is to wear lightweight form-fitting clothing, and if you’re measuring on your own, use a full-length mirror to make sure the tape measure isn’t going all crooked on you. Measure twice to make sure the tape measure is level across your body and that you’re getting an accurate measurement. Here’s a helpful diagram:

Taking your measurements. Source: Blush Lingerie.

Basic measurements you’ll need include: 1) Full Bust; 2) Underbust; 3) Waist and 4) Hips. Once you have these measurements down, then you’re ready for the next fun bit – picking out a pattern.

Elan bra patterns. Source: Vena Cava Design.

Bra pattern. Source: Kwik Sew.

Hunting down a bra pattern isn’t as easy as  you might think. Sometimes they’re quite dated when you find them, but often times you can’t find them at all from the major pattern makers. I’ve put together a list of some of your best bets for patterns, including Elan (through Sew Sassy), my top pick for stylish lingerie patterns, Kwik Sew, and Netherlands-based merckwaerdigh on Etsy. Etsy is a great source for vintage bra patterns in general and worth checking out. Be sure to keep in mind that vintage sizes are not the same as modern sizes and you’ll need to rely on your measurements to check out the pattern measurements for the right fit. If you’re experienced at sewing, you may want to make your own custom bra pattern based on a sloper as described at BurdaStyle, one of my favourite websites. There’s a few bra patterns available at BurdaStyle too, some of them free!

Poly satin fabric. Source: Bra-makers Supply.

Bra kit. Source: Sewing Chest.

Once you’ve sorted out the pattern, your next trick is to figure out materials. Often, you can get pre-made packages of bra materials from the vendor selling the bra, for the quickest route. Sometimes tracking down notions can be an adventure, although I personally think it’s a lot of fun – but remember, I also like to hop from one foot to another, so my idea of fun can be a bit twisted at times.  Basic materials you’ll need: fabric with some two-way stretch (like a stretch tricot / satin), bra elastic, underwire, hooks and eyes, bra adjusters, padding (optional), interfacing (optional), ribbon (optional), and/or lace (optional). A few major online lingerie supply shops are Sew Sassy, Bra-makers Supply and Sewing Chest.

Then the real fun begins – sewing! Be sure to go through your instructions carefully and if you like, you can prepare a sample muslin or toile of your bra before using your expensive good fabric. You can even get a toile kit from Sewing Chest. This is a great way to make adjustments before beginning the real deal.

Bra making tutorial. Source: Threads Magazine.

I found a couple of great tutorials for you on bra making. I love Threads Magazine and I’m always so pleased to see what they have online – the Threads tutorial is not to be missed. Hilarious as it is helpful, the Make Your Own Damn Bras tutorial is also really helpful if you have a bra that you love that you want to copy. There’s also a helpful bra tutorial on Instructables.

Have any of you made your own bras before? If you haven’t, are you ready to try?
x Rena

Love Vintage Style Fashion? Introducing The Red Fox and Gown

So you’ve probably been wondering where that Rena has gotten to… why isn’t she blogging as regularly as last month? Well, I have a great excuse. I’ve been busy at work getting ready to launch my second Etsy shop, The Red Fox and Gown, a shop dedicated to upcycled and reproduction vintage style fashion.

Upcycled 60s mod style dress with inverted front pleat available from TheRedFoxandGown.

I’ve been sewing up a storm, with a 60s mod dress recently finished, and a 50s princess dress and retro sunsuit in the works. My sewing machine has been busy. I promise to post pictures when everything is done, but here’s some pattern peeks in the meantime.

Pin up sundress playsuit.

50s Princess Dress (short sleeve version).

And I was unable to resist these awesome tags from a seller on Etsy to include with all The Red Fox and Gown creations.

I also have plans to make 40s / 50s style bikini tops, playsuits with shorts and aprons in the near future, so keep checking! Here’s a peek:

50s bikini playsuit.

50s playsuit with shorts.

50s apron dress.

I’ll also do my best to post a couple vintage patterns for you tonight at TheVintageDesignShop! My vintage pattern stock has been flying out the door lately.

x Rena

Bomber Jacket Update: Who Needs Two Sleeves Anyway?

My bomber jacket in progress. No need to correct your screen: there is only one sleeve.

I’ve ambitiously taken on a sewing project to sew myself a lightweight spring / summer bomber jacket. If you’re following my blog, you may have heard already about this escapade. You can read about the project launch here if you’re curious and reading this blog for the first time!

As already stated, I’m an intermediate level sewer at best. And jackets turn out to be tricky, especially when making modifications. It’s the first time I’ve ever tackled a sewing project of this scale. I used this Burdastyle pattern as my base. As an aside, any fur you may or may not see in the following pictures is courtesy of my cat Ben, who kindly slept on my project.

Zipper goes up.

Zipper goes down.

I had to face my zipper fear early on in the project to make the pockets. And thanks to the helpful tutorial I found (and linked to in my other post about the project), I would say it went fairly well overall with minimal trauma. I also decided to change the jacket from asymmetrical to symmetrical since it was a better fit for me. I’m making size 44 which is the maximum size available on the pattern. So yes, count them – that’s three entire zippers! Not bad for someone with a zipper phobia. I think the pockets make the jacket so far and make it feel more bomber-ish.

Hood goes up.

Hood goes down.

There’s lots of shaping, darts and top-stitching on this jacket, which has kept me busy. I also attached a hood, my other major modification. I like the hood, although I’m not entirely sure about the attaching part. I might need to revisit this.

And, amusingly, I’ve only attached one sleeve so far. I will get to attaching the second sleeve. I do have two arms after all. Doing the set-in sleeve business does take a bit of patience and wrangling. It’s very easy to pucker the fabric during the seam sewing for the sleeve, I discovered, so there were a couple of fixes. I did try on the one attached sleeve and it’s a tight fit for my bicep. Must be those muscles, ha. In hindsight, I probably I could have used a larger size, which the pattern unfortunately didn’t have.

Nice hood. Now about that other sleeve…

What’s left? The other sleeve, obviously. And the fun pink polka dot lining too. I’m debating whether to change the cuff closure as well, from a button called for in the pattern to a zipper for a more bomber look. Yes, I also have a fear of making buttonholes! But I can face that down if need be. What do you think?

x Rena

PS –  After this, I think my next project will be a sleeveless dress, ha!

50s Sewing Pattern Inspiration

50s dress pattern with full or slim skirt options. Available from TheVintageDesignShop.

I simply love vintage patterns. I especially love the vintage fashion illustration of 50s dress fashions. I’m going to share a few patterns for you to consider trying out! I have some really great patterns in the shop – on sale too I might add.  And I’ll also a couple modern patterns to consider below. I still need to finish my spring jacket (so close!)  so I’m cut off from any new projects for the time being.

50s vintage princess dress pattern. Available from TheVintageDesignShop.

50s sheath dress pattern. Available from TheVintageDesignShop.

50s princess dress pattern. Available from TheVintageDesignShop.

50s dress or separates pattern. Available from TheVintageDesignShop.

If you’d like to try a modern pattern with a retro style, there are some fine choices out there. Here’s a couple of my favourites by Vogue (they’re also having a sale, too):

Lovely 50s full skirted dress pattern. Available from Vogue Patterns.

Vogue evening gown. Available from Vogue Patterns.

Happy sewing!

x Rena

Corset Making

Model wears a King and Company corset.

I admit I’ve never made a corset before, but I’m very excited to try one day soon. I’m truly fascinated by lingerie. I would make all my underthings if I could. If I’m not careful, that might be a new goal. Better reign myself in!

If you fancy yourself a corsetmaker, or are keen to give it a go for the first time, there are some brilliant patterns and tutorials out there. I had a great deal of fun following up the Art of Corsetry blog post today chasing up patterns and tutorials. A great book available about corsetmaking is The Basics of Corset Building: A Handbook For Beginners. Pair this with Couture Sewing Techniques and you’re guaranteed to have a great time and learn a thing or two.

Vintage cloth tape measure.

The very first place to start with making your corset is by taking your measurements. This way, you will know what is the right size pattern for you to purchase, or, for the particularly ambitious, so that you can draft your very own custom corset pattern.

Celine Underbust Corset by King and Company on Etsy.

Mantua Maker late Victorian corset pattern available from voguefabricstore.

Arguably the safer place to start is with a purchased pattern, particularly for the rookie corsetmaker. My advice is to go with the specialist corset patterns rather than the big sewing pattern companies, who make corsets as part of costumes. A few great companies to check out are King and Company, Laughing Moon, Past Patterns and Ralph Pink.

Corset pieces.

There are also great tutorials out there if you want to make a corset from scratch and custom made to fit your body. I will say it helps to have a bit of sewing experience under your belt before tackling this approach. But if you’re determined, why not? I was never one to do things the ‘easy’ way either. Here’s an underbust corset tutorial from Katafalk and another from Leena’s.

If you’re really keen, there is a great series of corsetry video tutorials from Ralph Pink, I believe nine in all.  His videos have fantastic, detailed information to use with his free (yes, I said free) corset patterns. Ralph Pink’s website smacks of awesomeness, so I recommend you check it out sometime.

Rye and Ginger’s steampunk corset kit.

If you want to get on with the corsetmaking quickly with minimum fuss, there are kits already prepared with all the fabric and notions you will need. Farthingale’s has a corset kit ready for a Laughing Moon corset pattern. Rye and Ginger have kits made for their own underbust corset patterns with fabric pieces even pre-cut for you if you don’t want to mess about with tissue and too much measuring.

Glorious peach-pink coutil fabric from bettylabamba on Etsy.

Do you want to know a secret? The secret to creating a fabulous corset is using coutil fabric. It is a special cotton fabric, often with a herringbone pattern – it’s very durable and does not stretch. You can most easily find this from corsetmaking suppliers online. Then there is the matter of boning. Purists will argue that steel stays are the only way to go, although I’d say that plastic boning is surely fine for your first time out.

Spiral steel bones for your corset.

White metal spring steel bones.

A bit of burlesque inspiration before you begin to fashion your corset…

What Katie Did burlesque corsets.

Alice in Wonderland burlesque corset byolgaitaly.

Have you ever made a corset? How did it turn out?

x Rena

Hello Project Runway? Behind Most Jackets Lies a Zipper (or Three) in Wait

My new Burda pattern before all the taping began. If you look carefully, you can find instructions in Russian.

I need a spring jacket in a desperate way. People are starting to give me that peculiar sort of stare lately as I stubbornly continue to wear my beloved black heavy wool DKNY coat day in and day out. 18 C you say? No problem! I’m usually cold anyway, I’m quick to assure you. But even I am starting to admit that we’re halfway through spring with the dawning of May. And I may, reluctantly, soon have to admit defeat.

The quest for a spring jacket is no ordinary thing. It needs to be the jacket, the go-to statement jacket, casually cool and elegant and topping everything from perfectly broken in jeans to classic vintage dresses. It’s a commitment. And I have a knack for finding jackets that I would absolutely love… starting from $300. Ha.

Seeing as my budget isn’t about to burst forth in blossom anytime soon like the cherry trees in Vancouver these days, I decided to take matters into my own hands. Sure, you’d think that someone like me with a shop like TheVintageDesignShop selling vintage patterns has the prowess of a lioness around a sewing machine, but think twice my friends. I can generously allow that at best I’m an intermediate-level sewer. I can do the basics, but I’ve been reluctant to go to that next level… until now.

have to have that spring jacket. I can see it now perfectly in my mind’s eye: bomber style in a black as night cotton twill with a visible asymmetrical silver zipper on the front, two zipper pockets, and an over-sized collar and/or hood. Preferably with hood. Oh yes. I can practically taste it.

So, with some determination I scoured the internet for suitable patterns. Vogue 8600 was a contender. But those Rick Owens bomber jackets kept haunting me. I continued to hunt. Eventually, I found a Burda pattern that with a couple of modifications should do the trick. It was either that or sketch a jacket from scratch, which even with my idealism I thought twice about, considering I’ve never made a jacket before.

I settled on the Burda pattern with a couple of modifications. Did I mention that the mods are the collar and two zipper pockets? And may I point out that this brings the total number of zippers in this jacket to three? And… I have a fear of zippers. Sure, I can tackle them on pillowcases, but front and centre on what is going to be the go-to jacket? Oh boy, have I bit off something to chew. I headed off to the fabric store with great optimism and scouted out some finds, including a fantastic fuchsia polka dot cotton that will serve as the jacket lining (though not for the hood, if I get that far).

My new fabrics and notions for the spring jacket. Note zippers in question to right. My concession to spring is the fuchsia fabric lining.

The Burda pattern in question, looking deceptively straight forward.

The very first step, after cutting out the pattern pieces which I will get to tomorrow, is tackling the zipper pockets. I suspect I will spend no small amount of time staring at this bomber jacket zipper tutorial.Nothing like facing fear down straight in the face. Sometimes, we just need to suffer for our art or take risks in fashion.

x Rena