Ghosts of garments past

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If you’re a hoarder – whether out of a natural knack to ‘make do and mend’ or (like me) you are just indecisive and hate to throw things away because ‘you never know’ when you might need them – then you’ll likely have a box somewhere of fabric remnants that you don’t know what to do with. The hope is that these fabric scraps will one day make a perfect contrast yoke, a pocket lining, a covered button, or maybe some bias binding.

But when it becomes apparent that the fabric you are hoarding probably won’t be used again for dressmaking, one good option is to make something relatively simple, such as a zip pouch. I don’t do much non-clothing sewing so when my Mum asked me to make a few zip pouches for a friend of hers I thought it was a good opportunity to sew something that didn’t involve fitting. 🙂

What I really like about these pouches is that when I look at them they tell me stories: I see the ghosts of my previous dressmaking projects!

Let’s see what they have to say:

When I look at this pouch I see sewing highs and sewing lows. This grey quilted outer fabric was bought in Berger last May for the Sew it Up challenge. It has previously appeared in my République du Chiffon Viviane dress which is my biggest sewing fail to date – love the pattern but I made a bad fabric choice and it’s pretty ill-fitting. The fabric then made its second appearance in one of my biggest sewing successes to date – my Papercut Patterns Clover dress which I wear all the time! The lining was bought on GoldHawk Road and I used it for a Anna/Lilou hybrid dress, which I really like in theory but don’t wear that often.

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And when I look at this pouch I see
one of my favourite most-worn skirts
Tilly and the Buttons’ Clémence. The flowery fabric came from an old pinny salvaged from Belgian charity shop Petits Riens. The skirt has been significantly shortened since I blogged about it – hence all the extra fabric offshoots!

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Do you hoard scraps of fabric? Do you have a favourite non-dressmaking sewing project?

Static noise

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“Your jumper is like the fuzz that was on telly before the cartoons started!”

This was along the lines of how my dear friend David greeted me when I met him recently wearing this jumper. And true enough – it does bear a strong resemblance to the static noise that filled the screen after the watershed was over and before the early morning cartoons began. Or if the TV aerial had been blown down in a particularly dramatic storm. Oh, nostalgia for an information age before 24 hour programming, multiple channels, and indeed the internet. Apparently young David would often sit watching this static noise waiting for his favourite cartoons to come on, so cute!

When I picked this grey thick Raf Simons knit up in November at the Fabric Sales just outside Leuven I didn’t see any TV test screens however, all I saw were some abstract cloud patterns. And heading back to Brussels on the train I started to picture a slouchy jumper – and I’m happy I managed to make it pretty much how I pictured it in my head.

To make the pattern I rubbed off an H&M jumper I own that I love the style of. The original jumper is longer than this one, but I wanted a shorter style to wear with skirts.

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You can get an idea of the pattern piece shapes in this picture:
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On the left is the front and back pieces which are cut on the fold. I made them both the same size so there is no real front or back to this jumper. On the right is the sleeve piece which starts half way down the upper arm.

You can get an idea of the construction by looking at the seams on the inside of the jumper in this photo:
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The construction process was really simple:

Step 1: Sew shoulder seams

Step 2: Sew sleeves to bodice pieces at armhole

Step 3: Sew side seams and sleeve seams together in one fell swoop.

Step 4: Finish hem and cuffs

Step 5: Finish neckline

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Alternatively you could do the neckline first before the front and back pieces are joined.

I finished my neckline with some makeshift ribbing from the fabric. It’s not perfect and I’m not sure how it will stand up to wear and tear. The ribbing might also look nice turned to the inside.

I’ve got loads of this fabric left so I’m going to have another go at it in any case – perhaps in a slightly longer style or with a raglan sleeve, or a classic sleeve. Tilly recently posted some tips on using the Coco pattern to sew a jumper so that could be another good pattern option for this fabric.

I sewed the seams on my sewing machine and finished them on my overlocker. The twin needle was used for top stitching the cuffs and hem. Before I hemmed it the fabric sat nice and flat but after hemming it kind of puckers. It’s not really a problem for this style but it would be nice to know how to avoid the puckering if possible! Maybe it just needs a good press – what do you think?

The skirt in these photos was bought at the ‘brocante’ on my street last September. The best thing is that if you see stuff you like you don’t have to carry your finds far to get it home – as well as the skirt I got a mirror, a cupboard, and a rug…probably a good thing it only happens once a year!

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The Ma Campagne market, September 2014.

When I saw this mustard yellow skirt (originally from H&M) I was delighted as it looked exactly like my ‘dream skirt’! And for 2 euros, bargain! Sadly it was way too big for me. So I unpicked the waist band and the pleats and recalculated how much would need to be taken out in the pleats for it to fit me properly. I then positioned box pleats accordingly and gathered the rest before resewing on the (now shortened) waistband. I managed to keep as much of the original skirt in tact – the pockets, the lapped zip, the side seams, and the hem.

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There’s only one snag with sewing a knitted jumper – I feel like a cheat! From rubbing off the pattern, cutting out, and sewing, it took me an afternoon – if I was to have knitted a jumper by hand it it would have taken me months!

What do you think? Is it ‘cheating’?

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Application to join the Archer appreciation society

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There are some patterns that you can’t help want to have a go at. One, because they look great, and two, well, because they are all over the internet! The Archer shirt is a case in point – I’ve been working on this for a few months actually, just picking up the project every so often. I wanted to take my time as I was actually really nervous about getting to the collar stand!

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The fabric is a chambray from Pauli Stoffen in Leuven which I got on a mini-blogger meet up there last June. I knew this fabric was destined for an Archer as soon as I saw this amazing version from Lucky Lucille.

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The buttons are from one of my button jars so no idea where they came from – either from one of the collections I inherited from both my Grannys or from a ‘brocante’ find. I think they go really well with this fabric.

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One of my button jars

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I can only add my voice to the throngs of Archer appreciation out there – my only gripe with my version is that it is really tight around my neck but I’m happy with the rest of the fit so I’d need to adjust that if I was to make it up again. I probably won’t wear it buttoned all the way up all that often anyway.

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I finish a lot of blog posts with ‘when I make it again’ or ‘the next time’, but sometimes it’s probably best to be more realistic and say ‘if I make it again’. While I love the pattern, in reality I don’t actually wear that many shirts, and I have enough for the moment.

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One thing I like a lot about sewing (and by extension blogging) is that it is my very own little project that occupies a lot of my thoughts – I set myself deadlines, goals, challenges, and by the same token I strike them all out and replace them with new ones if I feel like it. I strive to learn as much as I can and make things as well as I can (or want to) because, to put it simply, it makes me happy. Whether I’m organising and planning, learning things and feeling elated, messing things up and feeling frustrated, or simply at my machine putting in some time with the presser foot, it’s an important part of my life, and as Karen put it, a metaphor for life in so many ways.

Sewing helps me control my thoughts, it helps me be organised, it makes me take pleasure in small details, it makes me live in the here and now, it gives me an opportunity to really enjoy the time I spend by myself, and it forces me to face up to my own inabilities as well as my abilities. Vive la couture!

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Ban the bomb

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Like many others who took part in #rigelbomberjanuary, the Rigel bomber jacket had been languishing in my ‘to sew’ pile for months. A collective online sew-a-long was just what I needed to push me into finally making it. (I did make this jacket in the first month of 2015 so I hope that it can still count as a #rigelbomberjanuary effort – despite the fact that I’m posting this in mid-February!)

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(Tree sticking out of head – photography fail 1)

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(Oh hi, Emily in the mirror – photography fail 2)

The fabric I used came from a cut-up old second-hand jacket. As it was quilted it was essentially already lined so I didn’t want to add a ‘real’ lining. I left out the facings and I finished the inside seams with my overlocker and added some black bias binding to neaten them where possible.

Close-ups of insides:

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I omitted the welt pockets (I know – the best bit!) as I didn’t want the pocket bags wafting about. It’s a bit ironic that I didn’t make them as the welt pocket feature was actually one of the reasons why I bought the pattern in the first place and I was really looking forward to learning this new technique! I’ll need to incorporate welt pockets into a project soon to make up for it!

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“OK I admit it – I was too lazy to add the welt pockets. What you gonna do about it?”

I was also slightly unsure about the finished zip placement in relation to the neck ribbing. I was worried I’d got it too low, but after much analysis of other Rigels online I think it’s more or less in the right place. The ribbing is not quite parallel but the print and grey ribbing are forgiving colour tones unless you are as close as in this photo.

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While the bomber would definitely be better with the welts it’s still great with out them. Now I know that I like the Rigel on me and that it is super easy (yes, I was a bit apprehensive about the ribbing) I might plan a more thought-out version and source my supplies accordingly. But in the meantime I’m looking forward to swanning about the mean streets of Brussels in this once the days get warmer.

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I don’t know about you, but I sure feel part of a global hard-as-nails super cool sewing gang when I’m wearing my bomber! How does your Rigel make you feel?

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(Tree still sticking out of head – photography fail 3)

Orybany


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One fine day at the beginning of January I was wandering in the Marolles when suddenly I was stopped in my tracks by what I saw before me –  a new sewing shop on the corner of the street!
I couldn’t walk by without popping in to find out more. Over a cup of tea and a slice of bread and honey, I learn about the work of the four women who run this sewing space in the heart of the Marolles.

Un beau jour, début janvier je flânais dans les Marolles et tout d’un coup je suis coupée dans mon élan par ce que je vois devant moi  – il y a un nouveau magasin couture qui fait le coin de la rue ! Obligé que je rentre dedans pour en savoir plus. Autour d’un thé et une tranche du pain au miel, je découvre ce qu’elles font exactement les quatre femmes qui gèrent cet espace couture au cœur des Marolles.

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The project was founded by Liliane Malemo and Juliette Berguet a year and a half ago, before Béatrice Flameng and Maia Rosangela joined the team, completing the line-up and giving Orybany its current aesthetic. It’s both a shop and a workshop; it’s a place for making and a place for selling creations from their own ethical labels.
Oryginis‘, run by Lilianne and Juliette, is a womenswear label with an emphasis on high-quality fabrics. ‘Marcel‘ is run by Béatrice who specialises in women’s (and sometimes kids) accessories made from second hand materials. And finally there is ‘Ethika‘ run by Maia, a buyer who sources interesting brands selling organic wares.
At Orybany you can also take part in sewing workshops.

“The Orybany ethos is that we take a different approach to consumption. For us this project was an awakening. We hope to appeal to people who appreciate organic and ethical products or to people who are just looking for something a bit different, those who think outside the box,” says Béatrice.

Orybany a été fondé par Liliane Malemo et Juliette Berguet  il y un an et demie, ensuite Béatrice Flameng et Maia Rosangela ont rejoint l’équipe, et voilà Orybany comme c’est aujourd’hui est né. À la fois une boutique et un atelier ; c’est un endroit de fabrication et de vente de créations des leurs marques différentes.
Oryginis‘, par Lilianne et Juliette, est une marque de vêtements et d’accessoires pour femmes réalisées à partir de matières nobles. ‘Marcel‘ par Béatrice, est une marque d’accessoires réalisés à partir de la récupération.
Et le troisième marque de la maison c’est ‘Ethika‘ par Maia
, une ‘buyer’ qui cherche les produits des petits marques bio et éthiques intéressantes et les amène au magasin pour les vendre.
Chez Orybany il y aussi les ateliers
de couture.

« La philosophie d’Orybany est que on essaie de porter un regard diffèrent – de regarder au travers la consommation. Pour nous ce projet a été une prise de conscience. On espère intéresser aux gens qui apprécient des produits bio et éthiques ou des gens qui cherchent quelque choses un peu diffèrent, » dit Béatrice.

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What I really appreciated, aside from their creativity, enthusiasm, and humour, was that the Orybany girls are not unaware of the contradictions that are unavoidable when trying to set up such an ‘ethical’ project, as Liliane explains:

“We’re aware not everyone can afford the clothes we sell; of course it is cheaper for people living on the breadline to buy ‘fast fashion’. It’s a luxury to be able to make choices like buying organic products. But just because it is hard to compete with fast fashion doesn’t mean you should not try to construct an alternative. At the end of the day cheap clothes still come at a price. We’ve tried our best to make the prices affordable while at the same time taking into consideration the financial realities of working in design – and especially ethical fashion. Sourcing fabric is a big expense, and we have to make a living too.”

One advantage of working together is that it makes it easier to face these financial realities.

“Collaboration was certainly a way to reduce our costs,” continues Liliane. “Working as a designer like this on your own would be near impossible! And together we can fill up a whole shop! But the biggest advantages are the creative ones that working in collaboration with others brings.
Everyone brings something to the table – Béatrice really inspired us as she showed us that everything can be transformed if you put your mind to it. And Maia’s experience is crucial as she really knows what will sell and what won’t.”

“We have had to get used to being together, to collaborating and compromising. We get along really well because we don’t cross each other’s boundaries. We complement each other because we don’t step on each other’s toes creatively; each of us has quite distinct areas of work so we are not competing with each other.”

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Ce que j’appréciais beaucoup – sans parler de leur enthousiasme, créativité, et humour, – c’était le fait qu’elles sont consciente des contradictions qui sont difficile d’éviter en montant un tel projet dit ‘éthique’, comme Liliane m’a expliqué :
« On n’ignore pas que nos produits ne sont pas accessibles aux gens avec des moyens réduits – bien sûr c’est moins cher pour ceux qui vivent sous le seuil de pauvreté d’acheter des vêtements dit ‘fast-fashion’. C’est un luxe de pouvoir acheter des produits bios ou éthiques. Mais même si il est très dur de faire la concurrence avec ‘fast-fashion’, ça ne vaut pas dire qu’il n’y a pas de la place pour construire les alternatives, en espèrent que un jour ces alternatives seront les normes. Les vêtements pas chers ont un cout quand-même quelque part. On a fait notre mieux de faire que les prix soient abordables tout en tenant en compte des réalités financières de travailler dans la création – et surtout l’éthique – le tissu c’est une grande dépense, par exemple. On doit pouvoir gagner notre vie aussi. »

Travailler ensemble alors c’est un moyen de faire face à ces difficultés financières.

« On s’est toutes mis en collaboration bien sûr pour diminuer les charges, » continue Lilianne. « En faisons-nous même ça aurait été impossible ! Ensemble on arrive à remplir tout une boutique ! Mais ce sont les avantages
créatifs qui nous inspirent le plus. On apporte toutes des compétences différents – Béatrice nous a vraiment inspiré en nous montrant que on peut tout transformer si on s’applique. L’expérience de Maia est essentiel ; elle a une super connaissance du marché donc elle sait nous dire si une création va intéresser aux clients ou pas. »

« On a du toutes s’habituer au fait de travailler ensemble, de la collaboration, et du compromis. On s’entend super bien parce qu’on a du respect pour les limites de chacune. On se complète parce que on ne marche pas sur les
pieds des autres en matière de la créativité ; chacune travaille sur les projets très diverse en fait donc on n’est pas en concurrence.»

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I love discovering these types of projects. So much respect for people who got for it with their creative ideas!
Good luck girls!

J’adore découvrir ce genre de projet – j’ai beaucoup de respect pour des gens qui osent monter un tel projet ! Je leur souhaite beaucoup de succès !

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For more info / Pour en savoir plus : www.orybany.com/

50 rue de Tanneurs, 1000 Bruxelles

Check out this beast of an industrial overlocker! / Quelle surgeteuse !
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